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  • William E. Duvall V with his mother, Alicia, and father, Lt. Col. William E. Duvall IV, commander of 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, attend his high school Baccalaureate ceremony on June 1, 2014. William is the fourth generation of Duvalls to serve in the military. (Duvall family courtesy photo)

    By Capt. David Miller, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — The son of a First Army Division West battalion commander here answered a phone call accepting him into the U.S. Air Force Academy.

    Smiles were all around the Duvall household as the call made William E. Duvall V the fourth generation of his family to serve in the military.

    William has always wanted to go to a military school. “I have been around the military my entire life,” he said. “I enjoy the opportunities it has provided me and my family and I have always respected the work that my father and mother have done in the military; it just seems right for me to do this as well.”

    William’s father, Lt. Col. William E. Duvall IV, serving as a battalion commander in DIVWEST's 479th Field Artillery Brigade, is thrilled to see his son carrying on the military tradition. “William is an incredible young man and the Air Force is lucky to have him. He has worked very hard and his mother and I are so happy it has paid off for William.”

    The young Duvall declined a full scholarship to Baylor University and a three-year scholarship to The Citadel (the military college of South Carolina) to attend the Air Force Academy. “It (USAFA) was so impressive to see firsthand and I told my mom this is where I want to go,” he said.

    William E. Duvall V visits the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado during 2013. William is the fourth generation of Duvalls to serve in the military. (Duvall family courtesy photo)

     

    Cadets are selected based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, athletics, and character. William graduated from Harker Heights High School as an honor student and Eagle Scout.

    He knew he would be competitive, but with only about 10 percent of those applying getting in, he also knew it was still a long shot. “I worked very hard to put myself in a position to compete academically,” he explained. “I also have to give a lot of credit to my parents, especially my mom, who pushed me very hard both academically and through my scouting and other volunteer work.”

    Of his plans for wanting to fly coming out of the Air Force Academy, William simply said, “My goal is to get through the first year healthy and with good grades. Then we will see what options are out there; but yes, I would love to fly.”

    William did not get much of a summer, as he reported to the Air Force Academy during late June for Basic Cadet Training.

    His parents are enthused as well. “We are excited for William but it is also very difficult to watch your first child leave home knowing that he is starting the next chapter in his life,” Alicia Duvall said. “We are so very proud of him though and know he will do great.”

    Duvall family military service includes great-grandfather William E. Duvall Jr., who served in the South Carolina National Guard during World War II; grandfather William E. Duvall III is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served during the Vietnam War; and father Lt. Col. William E. Duvall IV, currently serving as commander of the commander of the 479th's 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, with tours in Iraq.

Headlines

  • William E. Duvall V with his mother, Alicia, and father, Lt. Col. William E. Duvall IV, commander of 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, attend his high school Baccalaureate ceremony on June 1, 2014. William is the fourth generation of Duvalls to serve in the military. (Duvall family courtesy photo)

    By Capt. David Miller, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — The son of a First Army Division West battalion commander here answered a phone call accepting him into the U.S. Air Force Academy.

    Smiles were all around the Duvall household as the call made William E. Duvall V the fourth generation of his family to serve in the military.

    William has always wanted to go to a military school. “I have been around the military my entire life,” he said. “I enjoy the opportunities it has provided me and my family and I have always respected the work that my father and mother have done in the military; it just seems right for me to do this as well.”

    William’s father, Lt. Col. William E. Duvall IV, serving as a battalion commander in DIVWEST's 479th Field Artillery Brigade, is thrilled to see his son carrying on the military tradition. “William is an incredible young man and the Air Force is lucky to have him. He has worked very hard and his mother and I are so happy it has paid off for William.”

    The young Duvall declined a full scholarship to Baylor University and a three-year scholarship to The Citadel (the military college of South Carolina) to attend the Air Force Academy. “It (USAFA) was so impressive to see firsthand and I told my mom this is where I want to go,” he said.

    William E. Duvall V visits the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado during 2013. William is the fourth generation of Duvalls to serve in the military. (Duvall family courtesy photo)

     

    Cadets are selected based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, athletics, and character. William graduated from Harker Heights High School as an honor student and Eagle Scout.

    He knew he would be competitive, but with only about 10 percent of those applying getting in, he also knew it was still a long shot. “I worked very hard to put myself in a position to compete academically,” he explained. “I also have to give a lot of credit to my parents, especially my mom, who pushed me very hard both academically and through my scouting and other volunteer work.”

    Of his plans for wanting to fly coming out of the Air Force Academy, William simply said, “My goal is to get through the first year healthy and with good grades. Then we will see what options are out there; but yes, I would love to fly.”

    William did not get much of a summer, as he reported to the Air Force Academy during late June for Basic Cadet Training.

    His parents are enthused as well. “We are excited for William but it is also very difficult to watch your first child leave home knowing that he is starting the next chapter in his life,” Alicia Duvall said. “We are so very proud of him though and know he will do great.”

    Duvall family military service includes great-grandfather William E. Duvall Jr., who served in the South Carolina National Guard during World War II; grandfather William E. Duvall III is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served during the Vietnam War; and father Lt. Col. William E. Duvall IV, currently serving as commander of the commander of the 479th's 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, with tours in Iraq.

  • Soldiers from 5th Armored Brigade spend a day with residents from the El Paso State Supported Living Center recently. These Soldiers played sports and assisted with assembling and disassembling electronics during a workshop session. These sessions give the residents an opportunity exercise their minds and stay sharp with tasks they don’t work on daily. (Photo by Capt. Jenni Armstrong, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. John A. Brimley, Mission Training Center Bliss Public Affairs

    EL PASO, Texas – “I believe in signs, and I don’t think it was a coincidence, as I stated, that I came across the article,” said Joyce Abigail Chavez, the El Paso State Supported Living Center family relations coordinator, citing her words after was reading the El Paso Times last year about the 5th Armored Brigade change of command ceremony article.

    A light bulb went off. This was her opportunity to make a dream come true for residents at the center, but Chavez had no idea that the forming partnership would be a match made in heaven. 

    First Army Division West’s 5th Armored Brigade spends a day with the residents of the El Paso State Supported Living Center here, recently.

    Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade Commander, jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Living Center.

    Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander, poses with a resident during a community outreach event to El Paso State Supported Living Center, recently. The 5th Armored Brigade Soldiers received a tour of the facilities and participated in the recreational workshop assembling and disassembling electronics. (Photo by Capt. Jenni Armstrong, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “I feel like we’re the right organization for this partnership,” said Gonzalez. “Not everybody enjoys this kind of work, but we have people that are passionate about it.”Colson Wright and Edna Rojo, two of the more patriotic residents at the living center, visited the Dagger Brigade along with 10 of their peers back in April and that event kicked off the beginning of a flourishing partnership with lasting effect.

    The El Paso State Supported Living Center is a residential home for mentally and physically disabled Texas residents.

    During that visit, the residents had a guided tour of Fort Bliss followed by lunch with Gonzalez and 5th Armored Brigade and an awards presentation.

    “Even though it’s impossible for them to be a part of the United States Army, so I could at least let them be around it,” said Chavez.

    Jennifer Gonzalez, wife of the brigade commander, baked cupcakes, Raul presented them with medals and Command Sgt. Major Neil McKinley, 5th Armored Brigade command sergeant major, posed for pictures.

    Capt. Kyle Ferrarini, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, 5th Armored Brigade, dissembles a computer hard drive with the assistance of a resident from the El Paso State Supported Living Center, recently. Soldiers were hands on with the Living Center residents during a tour. (Photo by Capt. Jenni Armstrong, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs) 

    The visit was a hit, but Raul had more in mind for the partnership and so did Chavez. Her foundation, Make-A-Dream Come True, fancies itself on literally making dreams come true as it was able to do with JoJo Alvarez, a resident of the EPSSLC, by renting a limousine for a day bringing to life a magazine photo cut out he around in his pocket.

    “Everybody has challenges. Our country was born by people who overcame challenges,” said Gonzalez. “This type of relationship is special and I believe we can offer a lot.”

    Last month, the Daggers took a visit to the living center for a tour, recreation and workshop, an experience that resonated with many.

    “There’s a lot to be gained by both organizations. It gives us a chance to affect lives,” said Lt. Col. Krista Soria, 5th Armored Brigade executive officer. “It also helps us to realize there’s more to life than what we have going on.”

    Capt. Barron Cole, 5th Armored Brigade information technology officer-in-charge, takes a break from workshop to pose with one of the residents from the El Paso State Supported Living Center during the Dagger Brigade’s visit to the center, recently. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    The Soldiers visited the pods where the residents lived. Several Soldiers participated in sports such as volleyball and trampoline. Others helped out in the workshop where the residents made patio lights, shredded paper and assembled and disassembled electronics. The residents clung to the Daggers’ every movement and every word.

    “Their behavior is all over the place, but when you guys are around it calms them down,” Chavez said. “It really warms their heart.”

    The residents from EPSSLC will visit the Dagger Brigade on Aug. 20 for Dagger Day.

    “God puts people in your path for a reason and I’m so grateful you all were put in mine to bless them,” said Chavez.

  • Soldiers with the California Army National Guard’s 1498th Transportation Company, 746th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, load M1A1 Abrams tanks on heavy equipment transporter trailers for an eight-hour convoy during the unit’s annual training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., July 19. The convoy required the 1498th’s entire fleet of HETTs to successfully accomplish the mission. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Imagine you’re in the blazing hot desert sun, in a dusty convoy transporting enormous Army tanks, and you’re under constant threat of enemy attack.

    Now imagine someone is watching closely over you, checking to see if you make the decisions that will keep your Soldiers alive and get the convoy to its destination.

    Sgt. Hugo Lopez, from Baja, Calif., 3rd platoon Bravo Team leader in the California Army National Guard’s 1498th Transportation Company746th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, directs an M1A1 Abrams tank driver to drive onto a heavy equipment transporter trailer during the 1498th’s annual training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., July 19. One convoy required the unit’s entire fleet of HETTs to successfully accomplish the mission. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    That was the scene at the National Training Center here recently, where Soldiers with the California Army National Guard’s 1498th Transportation Company (Heavy Equipment Transporter) conducted their two-week annual training.

    Watching closely over them were observer-coach/trainers from 1st Regiment, 363rd Combat Support/Combat Service Support Battalion, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West.

    The 1498th’s mission is to move large items from one location to another with their heavy equipment transporters. Working with the 189th O-C/Ts was a first-time experience for some of the troops from the 1498th’s 3rd platoon, the Road Warriors.

    A member of the California Army National Guard’s 1498th Transportation Company 746th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, prepares a litter for a simulated casualty during the unit’s annual training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., July 23. An ambush tested the platoon’s Army Warrior Task and Battle Drills. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “At first it seemed to be a little intimidating having an O-C/T, but, at the end of the day, it was beneficial to have him around,” said Sgt. Nataly Jerez, a 3rd platoon team leader from Los Angeles, Calif., who rose to platoon sergeant in a matter of minutes once training began.  “I feel as though I have gained a lot of knowledge from him, and I was able to look for guidance when needed.”

    Staff Sgt. Jason Farjardo, a 3rd platoon squad leader, also from Los Angeles, took on the role of platoon leader the second he walked into the company’s tactical command tent and met his O-C/T.

    “I have to say I was not prepared for it,” Fajardo said. “I knew about the [troop leading procedures], but never had to implement them.”  

    Team members of 3rd Platoon, 1498th Transportation Company, 746th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, carry their simulated severely injured platoon leader off to a safe area while they are being attacked during a simulated tactical mission at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., on July 23 as part of 1498th’s Annual Training Mission. A simulated ambush took place in order to test the platoon’s Army Warrior Task and Battle Drills. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “I was not sure how it was going to go at first,” Farjardo continued. “My foolish pride would not let me ask the other platoon sergeants [for help]…In the end, I drew my strength from my platoon. They were the reason I was there and together we would accomplish our mission.”

    Sgt. Hugo Lopez, from Baja, Calif., 3rd platoon Bravo Team leader, was also placed in a higher position of responsibility and said he felt as though he gained a lot from the experience.

    “I learned a lot from this year’s AT,” Lopez said. “The biggest thing that I learned was how to be an assistant convoy commander. It was challenging, but, with the help of my chain of command, I managed to complete the mission. I also learned how to be the assistant platoon sergeant.”

    A Soldier with the California Army National Guard’s 1498th Transportation Company, 746th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, provides security for his convoy after it escaped a simulated attack during the unit’s annual training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., July 23. The ambush tested the platoon’s Army Warrior Task and Battle Drills. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Working with an O-C/T was challenging but beneficial, Lopez added. “One of the benefits was that the O-C/T managed to give us feedback so our platoon can improve.”

    His O-C/T asked a lot of questions, Farjardo said.

    “The questions or tasks that were asked or recommended by the O-C/T were things that we could improve on,” he said.

    In the end, the biggest lesson Fajardo learned was about sharing the load of leadership. “I figured out that I did not have to have all the answers, or accomplish all the tasks by myself.”

  • Sgt. Robert Brumfield helps conduct run-up checks on his aircraft as the Kentucky National Guard's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 146th Aviation "Renegades" prepares to leave Pecos, Texas on the way to Fort Bliss, Texas for mobilization training during June. (Photo by Sgt. Tom Harrington, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs)

     

    By Spc. Jess Nemec, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas  – Task Force 34 conducted the first Aviation Training Exercise for approximately one week under the 166th Aviation Brigade here after two months of post-mobilization training.

    The 34th Combat Aviation Brigade of the Minnesota National Guard, is the first Guard combat aviation brigade to conduct an ATX at Fort Hood, according to Col. Christopher E. Albus, commander of the 166th Avn. Bde. It was the result of extensive coordination and collaboration with multiple agencies and units.

    “The Aviation Training Exercise is a brigade culminating training event to validate the headquarters’ ability to provide command and control, conduct deliberate planning, and to execute combat operations in a virtual, live, and constructive environment,” said Albus.

    Albus said that in the past, the ATX was held at Fort Rucker, Alabama. It was moved to Fort Hood to minimize travel time and maximize training time for Soldiers. Moving the ATX also reduced costs.

    “The total Army remains heavily reliant on the contributions of our Army Reserve and National Guard forces,” said Albus. “166th Avn. Bde. and First Army are committed to providing timely and relevant training and assistance to the units and leaders to ensure they are ready for the unique challenges of deployment. ‘Citizen Soldiers’ are still the foundation of our Army’s strength.”

    The training has been beneficial, said Col. Gregory Thingvold, commander of TF 34. The units have been training day and night throughout the past two months at Fort Hood.

    Albus said he hopes to keep the ATXs at Fort Hood in the future to allow the brigades to focus all their assets on training while also improving and increasing mission realism.

    Units from eight states form TF 34: Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Texas. The Task Force has deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

  • Click photo for high-resolution image

    Staff Sgt. Zachariah Hussey (top), an observer-coach/trainer with 2nd Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, 189th Infantry Brigade, reviews sectors of fire with Reserve Sgt. Megan Moore, a team leader assigned to the 338th Engineer Company, during Warrior Exercise 2014 at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 24. The 189th Infantry O-C/Ts provided feedback and facilitated training for more than 4,000 support Soldiers from the active duty, Reserve and National Guard components during the 14-day exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

     

    By Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment

    FORT HUNTER-LIGGETT, California  — Of the dozens of unique unit patches worn by more than 5,500 Reserve, National Guard and active Soldiers participating in Warrior Exercise 2014, one stands out – that of First Army worn by observer-coach/trainers from the 189th Infantry Brigade.

    Branded with a large “A” that covers most of the wearer’s shoulder, the patch is hard to miss, and even harder to ignore considering an O-C/T’s role as an objective set of eyes for Soldiers in training.

    “They see the big First Army patch coming,” said Col. Randall Wickman, commander of the 189th.

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    Staff Sgt. Zachariah Hussey, an observer-coach/trainer with 2nd Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, 189th Infantry Brigade, talks with Reserve Soldiers assigned to the 338th Engineer Company during Warrior Exercise 2014 at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 24. Warrior Exercise is an annual training event that strengthens the interoperability between Reserve, National Guard and active duty units. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)



    Wickman said he and his Soldiers, predominately battlefield-seasoned non-commissioned officers garrisoned at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, are trying to reverse a preconceived notion that O-C/Ts are “very egocentric” and have all the answers.

    “To remain humble and focused, we have volunteered ourselves to be observed and coached at the same time,” he added.

    Experts from the JBLM Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center partnered with 189th to develop the brigade’s Soldiers as coaches. At Warrior Exercise in July, two civilian counselors from the center shadowed O-C/Ts during their reviews with trained units and provided on-site feedback.

    “If you can be a good coach for yourself, then you can coach another,” Wickman said.

    By incorporating Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness techniques into the exercise, Wickman said he hopes to help “operationalize” a program originally designed to promote personal growth and well being.

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    Staff Sgt. Zachariah Hussey (left), an observer-coach/trainer with 2nd Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, 189th Infantry Brigade, talks with Reserve 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, a platoon leader with the 338th Engineer Company, during Warrior Exercise 2014 at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 24. The 189th Infantry Brigade, headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, provided O-C/Ts for the 14-day exercise designed for support units from the active, National Guard and Reserve components. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)



    “They focus mostly on individual person interaction. How do I speak to someone in a learning environment to coach them down the road without being superior?” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Reitmeier, the 189th’s command sergeant major.

    Adopting the training unit’s goals is one method O-C/Ts use to bridge the communication gap between the observer and the observed.

    “We do everything as a ‘we,’ as in we are part of that unit,” Reitmeier said.

    Staff Sgt. Zachariah J. Hussey, an O-C/T with the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, has served for 14 years and remembers the perception he and his fellow trainers are trying to debunk.

    “Last I knew of an OC was the dark, mysterious guy in the corner telling me I either did good stuff or bad stuff,” he said.

    Hussey tries early on during a training event to establish a connection with the Soldiers he observes, coaches, and trains. Maybe he relates to a Soldier through cars from his days working in an auto parts store with his father, or just by attempting to imitate a Soldier’s Boston accent.

    “It’s casual, everyday talk,” he said. “As an OC, I have to be an open person.”

    Openness is a characteristic far from the intimidating image the First Army patch wields, but closer to the perception 189th O-C/Ts are trying to create.

  • Click photo for high-resolution image  Army Reserve Pfc. Jaquau Stanley, an M249 machine-gunner with the 377th Military Police Company, clears a window during Warrior Exercise 2014 at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 22. More than 40 active, Reserve and National Guard support units from across the country participated in the 14-day exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

     

    By Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment

    FORT HUNTER-LIGGETT, California Flanked by Californian hills and sun burnt grass, Army Reserve Soldiers had a problem. They were manning an entry control point to a base as part of Warrior Exercise 2014, when a band of California National Guardsman launched an attack on their position.

    Simulated casualties littered the control point. Wounded attackers called for help, while others pretended to mourn the fallen. Two Soldiers from the Reserve unit, public affairs broadcasters by trade, stood frozen in the middle.

    “There is no right or wrong decision. The only wrong decision is not making one,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Ward, an observer-coach/trainer with the 189th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West.

     Click photo for high-resolution image Army Reserve Capt. Kimberly Weiss, a veterinarian, provides simulated medical aid to Spc. Ryan Calhoun, a food inspector, both assigned to 994th Medical Company (Veterinary Services), during Warrior Exercise 2014 at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 21. More than 40 active, Reserve and National Guard support units from across the country participated in the 14-day exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)


    The Warrior Exercise, held this year during July, serves as an annual culminating training event for combat support units throughout the Army.

    Though the majority of the more than 40 units training are from the Army Reserve, the 14-day exercise also tests and strengthens the interoperability of Soldiers from the active duty, Reserve and National Guard components, collectively known as the Army Total Force.

    “They’re weaving in much like they would do on the modern battlefield. We don’t necessarily ask what component somebody is. We just notice it says ‘U.S. Army’ on their uniform,” said Col. Randall Wickman, commander for 189th Infantry Brigade, garrisoned at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. “We have to train like that so it is less impact and less startling to the system when we do it in combat.”

    Click photo for high-resolution image 

    Capt. Casara Andre (left), an assistant military science instructor assigned to 104th Reserve Officer Training Corps Battalion, speaks with Capt. Amber Hampton, a veterinarian assigned to the 994th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services), during a tactical medical training event at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 21. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)


    The 189th itself is comprised of active and Reserve battalions, which Wickman said uniquely equips them to be the primary trainers during the multi-component and multi-echelon event.

    The active duty and Reserve partnership starts at the highest level of the exercise — the expeditionary sustainment command. Soldiers with 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, a Reserve unit out of Marysville, Washington, partnered with the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

    The two units, usually charged with coordinating support and logistics for thousands of Soldiers, will transfer responsibility of those tasks during the exercise just as they would while deployed.

    Below the expeditionary sustainment command, observer-coach/trainers, known as O-C/Ts, shadow units during both phases of Warrior Exercise: mission rehearsal and a simulated mission in an adaptive training environment.

    The O-C/Ts, like Ward at the entry control point, are predominately from the 189th Infantry Brigade and have backgrounds in combat occupations, like infantry and armor. They walk step-by-step through warrior tasks with the support units during the mission rehearsal phase.

     Click photo for high-resolution image California National Guard Spc. Christopher Sprague (left) a rifle team leader assigned to 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, gets stopped in his tracks during an attack on Army Reserve Capt. Kimberly Weiss, a veterinarian assigned to 994th Medical Company (Veterinary Services), during Warrior Exercise 2014 at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 21, 2014. More than 4,000 active, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers from across the country participated in the 14-day exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)



    Ward, a cavalry scout, said he keeps in mind that support Soldiers are often attached to combat units and could be attached to his in the future.

    All Soldiers, regardless of their occupation, are expected to know basic warrior tasks that range from convoy operations to room clearing. Most begin the exercise prepared to start with the basics.

    “They’re not coming in here with the preconceived notion that they know everything, so they’re more open to learn the actual doctrine and the fundamentals of something and then put it into practical application,” Ward said.

    In addition to refreshing individual skills, Warrior Exercise as an annual training event allows units to test their abilities to work as teams in a simulated combat zone.

    For Reserve 1st Lt. R.J. Salavec, commander of 409th Engineer Company out of Fort Collins, Colorado, the exercise was his third annual training event with the two prior being construction and humanitarian aid missions.

    “We try to do something four or five times a year to get out into the community and build something, but nothing as tactical as this, nothing this far out of Fort Collins,” he said.

    Company-level units like Salavec’s can train in their occupations at their home stations, whether that be building a bridge like the 409th Engineer Company or taking photos and video like the reserve public affairs Soldiers defending the entry control point.

    “We’re trying to stress the importance to these guys of making a decision,” Ward said.

    Warrior Exercise puts those Soldiers in situations they won’t find during a weekend drill but may encounter on the battlefield, where decisions can be the difference between success and failure.

  • Click photo for high-resolution image

    Staff Sgt. Joshua Elmer (right), an observer-coach/trainer with First Army Division West's 189th Infantry Brigade, conducts an after action review with a convoy commander and another Soldier during a Warfighter Exercise at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, July 21. The exercise involved units from all three Army components: active duty, National Guard and Reserve. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    By Lt. Col. James Wescott, First Army Public Affairs

    FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, California — A Warfighter Exercise being held here is training Army Reserve, Army National Guard, and active duty Army units for potential deployments.

    Col. Randall Wickman, commander of First Army Division West's 189th Infantry Brigade, said the exercise emphasizes multi-component, multi-echelon training interaction during forward operating base defense and convoy lanes training.

    Units being trained are the 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, of the California National Guard.

    More than 3,600 combat support and combat service support Soldiers are participating in the exercise, Wickman said. First Army is supporting the exercise with observer coach/trainers.

    "Our strength is to review the execution of actions in order to lead to further unit improvement," Wickman said. "We get units to see themselves clearly and ensure they leave better than when they arrived."

    For this exercise, First Army is working with the 75th Training Division, the 91st Training Support Division, and the California Army National Guard to facilitate integrated active duty-reserve component training, which helps sustain the operational reserve capabilities developed during the last 13 years of persistent conflict.

    Helping the 189th Infantry Brigade train Soldiers are the opposing force elements, comprising Soldiers from all three Army components. Besides helping the 189th Infantry Brigade conduct training, the OPFOR Soldiers enhance their own skills, according to Maj. Nakia Reddin of the 91st Training Support Division.

    Fort Hunter Liggett personnel are ensuring the exercise has all the necessary training areas, facilities and support, Wickman added. The installation's combination of fixed facilities and terrain adds significant value to the training experience, he said.

    First Army, in accordance with Title 11 and Army Total Force Policy, partners with United States Army Reserve and Army National Guard leadership to advise, assist and train reserve component formations to achieve Army Force Generation-directed readiness requirements during both pre- and post-mobilization through multi-component integrated collective training, enabling Forces Command to provide combatant commanders trained and ready forces in support of worldwide requirements.

  • Col. Gregory Reilly (center), Division West Chief of Staff, passes the battalion colors to Lt. Col. Eric Puls, as Lt. Col. Robert Donnelly, incoming commander, watches, during the 166th Aviation Brigade's 1st Battalion, 291st Aviation change of command ceremony on Cameron Field, Fort Hood, Texas, July 11. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    By Capt. Nicole Kruse, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — Command of the 166th Aviation Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 291st Aviation, changed hands July 11 during a ceremony on Cameron Field at First Army Division West headquarters here.

    Lt. Col. Eric Puls became the 6th "Punisher" commander, assuming command from Land O'Lakes, Florida native, Lt. Col. Robert Donnelly, who moved on to become executive officer for the commanding general at U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), in San Antonio, Texas.

    Puls, with 24 years of service, from Bangor, Maine, arrived at Division West after serving as operations officer at the Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

    Puls takes responsibility of training National Guard and Army Reserve aviation units during their pre-mobilization and post-mobilization training in support of upcoming deployments.

    Change of command ceremonies have been carried out for centuries. It is a military tradition steeped in heraldry and its purpose is to emphasize the continuity of leadership and unit identity despite changes in authority.

  • By Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas Mobilizing Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers enjoyed a day of respite from training on North Fort Hood, Texas, experiencing Texas heritage Sunday afternoon thanks to the Gatesville community.

    Spc. Abigail Morris, 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment from Baltimore, Oregon, shoots a re-curve bow and arrow at a still cougar target at the “Salute to Warrior Citizens” event on North Fort Hood. The community of Gatesville, Texas saluted over 1,000 mobilizing Soldiers. (Photo by Master Sgt. Roy Trevino, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Gatesville held a “Salute to Warrior Citizens” event for over 1,000 mobilizing Soldiers.

    Diana Fincher of Gatesville, lead coordinator for the event, said, “It is an honor to serve those who are serving us.”

    This is the city’s way of “saying thank you for the sacrifice of the citizen Soldier,” said Maj. Anthony Kazor of Bellevue, Nebraska, executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West. Kazor was the Army representative helping organize the event.

    After the Soldiers arrived, Fincher said, “It was particularly exciting to see the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment marching up in formation.”

    The “Salute to Warrior Citizens” opened with the Texas Heritage Riders presenting the American Flag on horseback during the National Anthem. 

    Next, North Foot Hood became a bustling site of wrangling, archery, horseback riding, and country music.

    Soldiers moved freely to different stations hosted by Gatesville residents. Stations included horseback riding, live goat roping and face painting for the children, simulated bull roping, recurve archery, visiting with Texas Rangers, animal demonstrations and much more.

      Sgt. Travis Knedel, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment from Vancouver, Washington, attempts to rope a bull at the “Salute to Warrior Citizens" event Sunday on North Fort Hood. The community of Gatesville, Texas saluted over 1,000 mobilizing Soldiers. (Photo by Master Sgt. Roy Trevino, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The sheepdog herding demonstration was a favorite with the Soldiers. There were feral pig hunting dogs too, but their owners were unable to bring in some wild hogs for their demonstrations.

    The large long horn cattle bulls were a hit too, for both Soldiers and the dozens of children present. The activities showcased the “Heart of Texas” to the Soldiers before they deploy to various locations around the world.

    “It was an honor for us to express our appreciation for their sacrifice,” said Fincher about all of the activities that were set up for the Soldiers.

    To top off the festivities, home-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs were served while country musicians Cliff Jansky and Jack Murphy performed for the Soldiers.

     

    The Texas Heritage Riders ride out with the American flag during the presentation of the colors during playing of the National Anthem. The community of Gatesville, Texas held a “Salute to Warrior Citizens” event for over 1,000 mobilizing Soldiers. (Photo by Master Sgt. Roy Trevino, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The 120th Infantry Brigade has developed a strong, lasting partnership with Gatesville. Those who attended the “Salute to Warrior Citizens” were very grateful to the Gatesville citizens.

    Carla Manning of Gatesville, and a Fort Hood Good Neighbor, said, “This is a such a small thing we could do for them, their sacrifice fighting for our freedom.”

    “In our small community, North Fort Hood is on our doorsteps," said Fincher. "In 2011 we realized that the function of North Fort Hood changed. We want to embrace them [mobilizing Soldiers]. We realize they are here for a short time and are restricted to post. We wanted to bring Texas to them and are honored to have the opportunity to do that.

    “The primary support for this event was from the Gatesville faith community," Fincher continued. "Although several businesses provided support, 16 churches were involved. Out of over 1,000 Soldiers present, 696 Soldiers requested prayer. The main mission of the 'Salute to Warrior Citizens' has just begun."

  • By 1st Lt. Ruby Hurd, Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Killeen, Texas – “One more rep! You can do it! Dig deep!” echoed through the gym of Timber Ridge Elementary School here.

    Lt. Col. Scott Ward (left), from Killeen, Texas, and commander of the 479th Field Artillery Brigade’s Medical Training Task Force, grades push-ups during a physical fitness test during a YMCA camp at Timber Ridge Elementary School in Killeen, Texas. (Photo by Maj. William B. Brown Jr., Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Soldiers of the Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West volunteered grading a grueling physical fitness test developed and sponsored by professional football player, Evan Oglesby formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins to combat childhood obesity and spread awareness against bullying during a YMCA camp.

    “We enjoyed showing the kids Army physical activities as well as team work through cheering each other on as each one performed the exercise,” said Sgt. Luis Molinar, from El Paso, TX., operations noncommissioned officer at the MTTF. “This showed them how to work together in a way to combat bullying. It was a day filled with energy, excitement, and learning experiences.”

    MTTF Soldiers graded the children in events that included push-ups, sit-ups, and hurdle jumps for 30 seconds per event. Students also learned the importance of anti-bullying through the “I’m Bully Free” program in which the Soldiers served as Bully Bear.

    Soldiers of the 479th Field Artillery Brigade’s Medical Training Task Force pose for a picture with Bully Bear, mascot for the “I’m Bully Free” program. The program is a Veteran-owned non-profit organization geared towards maintaining a bully-free, safe and secure environment. (Photo by Maj. William B. Brown Jr., Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “It felt really good to engage in and show concerns against bullying and to support their healthy lifestyles through physical activity,” said Sgt. Kristal Restrepo, from Houston, Texas, personnel noncommissioned officer with the MTTF.

    Both programs are scheduled to be given two more times during the summer to ensure the children remain focused on living healthy lifestyles to combat childhood obesity and bullying.

  • By Sgt. Adam Garlington, 24th Press Camp Headquarters

    FORT BLISS, Texas – The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade bid farewell to Col. Carolyn S. Birchfield and welcomed incoming commander Col. James J. Gallivan during a change-of-command ceremony at Noel Field here Wednesday.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., Division West commanding general, presents Col. Carolyn S. Birchfield, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade outgoing commander, with a farewell gift during the awards ceremony Wednesday at Noel Field right before the brigade change of command ceremony. (Photo by Sgt. Adam Garlington, 24th Press Camp Headquarters)

     

    “Today, we bid farewell to one of our division’s most dedicated leaders,” said Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., the Division West commanding general. “Carolyn’s philosophy has always been to make a difference in her life and the lives of her soldiers. She has been committed to that personal philosophy at the end of each day. Soldiers need only one thing to succeed, opportunity. Carolyn you have definitely given your Soldiers here the opportunity to succeed.”

    The 402nd received two Army Supply Excellence Awards, including first place for the Department of the Army during fiscal-year 2013, under Birchfield’s command. The “Rough Riders” also won the inaugural Longhorn Award, which is given to the Division West brigade that shows the greatest improvement in readiness between the first two quarters of the fiscal-year.

    “I thank you for all that you have done for your Soldiers and the Soldiers you’ve trained,” Phipps said of Birchfield. “You’ve been a tremendous commander, and you will be truly missed here at Fort Bliss.”

    Birchfield, is leaving the 402nd to serve as the director of operations for the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, U. S. Strategic Command, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. She thanked everyone in attendance, told her Soldiers they made the last two years the most rewarding years of her career, and shared a message with her replacement.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., Division West commanding general, passes the brigade guidon to incoming commander Col. James J. Gallivan as outgoing commander Col. Carolyn S. Birchfield watches during the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade change of command ceremony on Noel Field at Fort Bliss, Texas, Wednesday. (Photo by Sgt. Adam Garlington, 24th Press Camp Headquarters)

     

    “Jay, you’re the right leader at the right time to take this formation,” she said. “I envy you as you look across the formation, and I hope your time with them is as personally rewarding as mine has been.”

    Gallivan, who was the 1st Armored Division’s chief of staff with U.S. Central Command (Forward) Jordan before assuming command, thanked everyone in attendance and concluded the event by telling his new Soldiers how thrilled he is to serve them and their families.

    “This privilege isn’t something we take for granted,” he said. “I can think of no more important or exciting time in our history to serve in this brigade and the Division West team.”

    The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade is a training organization that helps provide combat ready forces for deployment to any theater of operation by supporting Reserve component units with mobilizing, training, deploying and demobilizing in accordance with Division West and higher command directives. The Rough Riders also execute training events for active Army, joint and combined forces, and validate Reserve component Deployment Expeditionary Force units.

  • To support cancer research, Maj. Tony Winters, DIVWEST’s deputy logistics officer (left), and his son Braden, 12, present a check for $2,366 to Katherine Fincher of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of Maj. Tony Winters)

    By Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas – A staff officer and his son recently created a superhero and hosted a 5-Kilometer Run/Walk in Grenada, Mississippi, raising awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

    “When I first saw all of the amazing work that St. Jude was doing, I knew that my son and I had to be part of this,” said Maj. Tony Winters, deputy logistics officer at First Army Division West.

    “Each year we try as a family to do charity work, but after speaking to my son Braden about St. Jude, we agreed to make this our every year, all year mission to help fight childhood cancer.”

    Braden Winters, (wearing orange), “Annihilator of Childhood Cancer” character co-creator and 12-year-old son of Maj. Tony Winters, DIVWEST’s deputy logistics officer, gives his all in the inaugural Annihilator 5-K Run/Walk. (Photo courtesy of Maj. Tony Winters)

     

    Winters and Braden, 12, created a character called the “Annihilator of Childhood Cancer” and also founded The Annihilator Running Club with friends to host the inaugural 5-kilometer Run/Walk, Kid’s Race, and Easter Egg Hunt during April at Grenada High School in Grenada, Mississippi.

    Winters approached family, friends, and local businesses in his hometown of Grenada to get support and sponsorship. From TLAB Clothing, owned by a high school classmate, Juan Shawn Green, to the Belle Flower Missionary Baptist Church, and even a local pizzeria, Lost Pizza Company, over 50 people assembled for an all-volunteer team which planned, coordinated, and put on the inaugural event.

    Maj. Tony Winters (left), deputy logistics officer for First Army Division West, presents an "Annihilator of Childhood Cancer" character t-shirt to Jerry Williams, principal at Grenada High School in Grenada, Mississippi, during the days leading up to the inaugural Annihilator 5-K Run/Walk. (Photo courtesy of Maj. Tony Winters)

     

    “Our family, friends, church, and entire Grenada community taught me the power of what can be accomplished by the passion of a few people with good hearts can do,” Winters said. “It further taught me how giving people from Mississippi naturally are.” 

    The first of planned annual Annihilator 5-K races raised $2,366 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, named the “Kid’s Race for Blake Kendall,” after a local child suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L.) being treated at St. Jude, and held a 2,500 Easter egg hunt. 

    "My heart goes out to the children suffering from any childhood cancer; it seems so unfair,” Winters said. “The truth is that this could be any of our families affected by cancer and for St. Jude to do this work at no charge to the families, it is my honor to be able to help.”

    (From left to right) The Bloodworth and Kendall families along with son and grandson, Blake Kendall, who is currently being treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, stand with Maj. Tony Winters, DIVWEST’s deputy logistics officer and his son Braden, 12, along with event co-hosts Shay Harris, a reporter and weekend anchor woman in Memphis, and Keith Goff, an actor and star of the new film, “Trey.”  (Photo courtesy of Maj. Tony Winters)

     

    An avid runner, Winters has taken part in over 100 full marathons, half-marathons, 10- and 5-K races, and is elated to see how Braden is running in his footsteps, tackling his third 5-K race. The elder Winters hopes to make running the family sport.

    First Army Division West is a multi-component training Division which mobilized 214 units and 15,503 Soldiers and demobilized 295 units and 19,349 Soldiers during 2013. These units ran the gamut from general officer headquarters to small detachments and included missions ranging from Sustainment, Aviation, Engineer, Military Police, Air Defense Artillery and Medical in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and other operations around the world.

  • By Sgt. Brandon K. Anderson, 13th Public Affairs Detachment

    FORT HOOD, Texas — The 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West, conducted a change of command and change of responsibility ceremony at Cameron Field here, Monday.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., DIVWEST commander, praised Col. Kevin A. Vizzarri and Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela, for their hard work and dedicated leadership during their time as the 166th’s command team.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr. (center), DIVWEST commanding general, stands ready Monday to preside over the 166th Aviation Brigade’s change of command between Col. Kevin A. Vizzarri (left), outgoing 166th commander, and Col. Christopher E. Albus, incoming brigade commander.  (Photo by Sgt. Brandon K. Anderson, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

     

    “We cannot shy away from change, therefore we embrace it,” said Phipps. “The 166th has been an exemplary standout in our organization.”

    The 166th “Grey Wings” is responsible for the training and certification of Reserve aviation units before deploying.

    Incoming Commander Col. Christopher E. Albus thanked Vizzarri for continuing the legacy of the 166th, and promised to remain building on it. Albus comes to the 166th after serving as director of the Aviation Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command on West Fort Hood, Texas.

    Vizzarri thanked the “Grey Wing” officers and Soldiers for the brigade’s continued success and for accomplishing their many difficult missions.

    He said the secret to success of any leader is to surround themselves with exceptional people, and the people in his command had definitely been very exceptional.

    Vizzarri said he could never have accomplished his mission had it not been for his wife Dominika, and sons Luca and Domenic.

    Echoing Vizzarri’s sentiments, Vela thanked his wife and high school sweet heart, Kathy, for being his strength and constant companion throughout his tenure here, as well as into the future.

    In his parting address, Vela charged incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Scott A. Bailey to take care of the 166th's Soldiers.

    Col. Christopher E. Albus, incoming 166th Aviation Brigade commander, passes the brigade colors to incoming 166th Command Sgt. Maj. Scott A. Bailey, as Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr. (left), DIVWEST commanding general, looks on during a change of command ceremony for the 166th Aviation Brigade Monday. (Photo by Sgt. Brandon K. Anderson, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

     

    “Take care of these outstanding warriors, and they will take care of you,” said Vela.

    He also reminded the Soldiers that even though they were here, their brothers and sisters in arms were putting their lives on the line in defense of the United States.

    “Let us not forget that we have friends taking the fight to the enemy, so remember them,” Vela said.

  • FORT HOOD, Texas — The 166th Aviation Brigade will receive a new commander during a change of command ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m., Monday, here at Cameron Field near Division West Headquarters, Building 410.

    Col. Christopher E. Albus will replace Col. Kevin A. Vizzarri, who has commanded the 166th since July 2012. Vizzarri plans to retire from the Army.

    Albus’ last assignment was as director of the Aviation Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command on West Fort Hood, Texas.

    Visitors may obtain a one-day special event pass and directions to Cameron Field at the Marvin Leath Visitors Center on T.J. Mills Boulevard.

    In case of inclement weather, the ceremony and will be held at Palmer Theater, Building 334, on 31st Street, Fort Hood, Texas.


    The 166th Aviation Brigade's mission is to mobilize, train, and validate Reserve Component Aviation units to provide trained and ready forces to combatant commanders. The unit’s officers, noncommissioned officers, soldiers and Department of the Army Civilian employees provide congressionally mandated training support to Reserve Component Aviation units which comprise 49 percent of the Army’s total Aviation force. Since January 2008, the 166th Aviation Brigade has provided post-mobilization training for 24,974 soldiers and 127 deploying units. Under Vizzarri’s command, the brigade trained 43 units and 5,477 Soldiers.

    Media representatives interested in attending the change of command ceremony should arrive at the Fort Hood Marvin Leath Visitors Center no later than 8:15 a.m. to be escorted to the event.


    For more information about the 166th Aviation Brigade or the change of command ceremony, contact Jay Adams of the Division West Public Affairs Office at (254) 553-5003 or email jay.r.adams3.civ@mail.mil

  • Sgt. Jose Silva, 379th Engineer Company noncommissioned officer, inside the vehicle, navigates through a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Obstacle Course, during day four of the 3rd Battalion, 360th Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, 40-hour M-RAP driver’s training course at McGregor Range, N.M., recently. (Photo taken by Staff Sgt. Thomas Wilson, 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Thomas M. Wilson 3rd Battalion, 360th Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    CAMP MCGREGOR, N.M. – Soldiers from the 379th Engineer Company completed a 40-hour Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected driver’s training course recently in preparation for their deployment to Iraq. 

    Third Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, gave a four-day training event for the engineer company where they received specialized training on maintaining and operating M-RAP vehicles.  Through a series of classroom instruction and practical exercises, the Soldiers received specific training to prepare them for overseas deployments.

    “I think the trails were a good part of the training” said Spc. Shawn Jenkins, engineer with 379th. “It prepared us for the types of driving conditions we’ll see overseas.”  

    During the practical exercises, each student had the opportunity to drive on paved highways, as well as dirt trails in both day and night.  The driving was facilitated in conjunction with the M-RAP Obstacle Course.  The course presented the students with the chance to test their driving skills as well as the capabilities of the vehicle through a sequence of obstacles.

    “I really enjoyed the obstacle course” said Spc. Sipho Kitner, 379th engineer. “It was a good test of what I’m able to do with the vehicle.”

    Upon completion of the course, students will be familiar with the vehicle and operating procedures. This will give them the foundation for licensing when returning to their unit. This will also better prepare them for operating the M-RAP vehicle throughout a varied of driving conditions in multiple areas of operations.

    “We want to provide the students with necessary tools they need in the future,” said Maj. Roger Ogden, TF Rough Rider observer-coach/trainer. 

  • Sgt. 1st Class Eduardo Lugaro and Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson, observer-coach/trainer with 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, demonstrate to the Soldiers of the 342nd Military Police Company the technique of taking down a detainee on the OC spray lane recently at McGregor Range, N.M. (Photo by Capt. Joseph L. Winkelman, 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

    By Capt. Joseph L. Winkelman, 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West

    MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – As part of the rigorous Detainee Operations training at 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, all Soldiers from the 342nd Military Police Company certified with OC spray, commonly known as pepper spray, recently.

    Soldiers from the 342nd are reserve soldiers from Ohio completing their mobilization training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before deploying to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Part of their training includes OC spray exposure. The Soldiers go through classroom instruction and direct exposure to OC spray. They will then go through a multiple scenarios to test every Soldier’s abilities to make the correct judgment on whether or not to deploy the spray.

    “Having prior deployments in detainee operations, I understand the value of being exposed to OC,” said Staff Sgt. Corey Stevick, 342nd Military Police Company platoon sergeant.

    TF Stallion observer-coach/trainer, Sgt. 1st Class Eduardo Lugaro believes exposing he Soldiers to OC spray tests his or her ability to fight through the adversity and discomfort.  It places the Soldiers in a situation where he or she must maintain focus in order to defend his or herself or subdue a detainee. 

    The purpose of the training is to place the service members in a stressful and dynamic situation which could be encountered while conducting detainee operations.  

    ”Training units in the procedures of how to subdue an individual once exposed to OC is critical to the units’ success should a disturbance occur while deployed,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson, TF Stallion O-C/T.

  • Capt. Nicole Kruse, 166th Aviation Brigade public affairs officer, joins the students in a tug-of-war match during the Gatesville Elementary Fun in the Sun Field Day in Gatesville, Texas, June 6. (Photo by Nicole Kruse, 166th Aviation. Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Jason Kim, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West

    As you pass the Gatesville Elementary School, you can see the “Sponsored by the 166th Aviation Brigade” sign hanging beneath the Gatesville School sign.  The 166th Aviation Brigade commander, Col. Kevin Vizzarri has always told his team that he wants to “earn our name on that sign by supporting this school and our great partner town of Gatesville.” 

    The 166th reached out to the Gatesville community volunteering and assisting in the school’s annual Gatesville Fun in the Sun Field Day in Gatesville, Texas, June 6. 

    This field day afforded the second and third graders from Gatesville Elementary an opportunity to interact with Soldiers, and ultimately to have one last fun-filled day of group activities before they headed off to their summer vacations.

    The 166th Aviation Brigade’s Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Murray demonstrates jump roping to onlooking students during Gatesville Elementary Fun in the Sun Field Day in Gatesville, Texas, June 6. (Photo by Nicole Kruse, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    This was the 166th’s second successful year helping out the teachers and faculty of the elementary school.  The brigade Soldiers helped out by assisting in setting up a round-robin of 16 events, which included an obstacle course, softball throwing competition, a military vehicle static display station, and other exciting activities.

    Fourty “GreyWing” Soldiers supported Gatesville Elementary and helped the kids have a fun and good time.  

    “I had so much fun with all of the different activities, and I’m impressed by how well-behaved the kids were as well as how supportive the Soldiers were,” said 1st Sgt. Cassandra Cox, with 166th Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

    Gatesville Elementary boasted an impressive 450 excited, energetic students, faculty and staff members.

    Soldiers with the 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West pose for a photo with the faculty of Gatesville Elementary after the completion of Fun in the Sun Field Day experience in Gatesville, Texas, June 6. (Photo by Nicole Kruse, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “The kids definitely had a great time, especially when they saw their teachers getting involved in the games, and competing with other teachers,” said Capt. Nicole Kruse, 166th Aviation Brigade Public Affairs officer.  

    Becky Byrom, the physical education coordinator and teacher for the elementary school, was in charge of this year’s event.

    “We just want to thank all the Soldiers for the hard work and dedication to our students, and we definitely look forward to doing this again with the GreyWing team next year,” said Byrom.

    In addition to this event, every Friday during the school year, the brigade send at least two Soldiers to eat lunch with the kids. In December, the school invited the GreyWings to their Christmas choir performance.  The Soldiers of 166th Aviation Brigade are looking forward to next year’s events and an opportunity to continue to earn privilege of being the school’s sponsor.

  • By Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Lt. Col. Thomas Wilson, 120th Infantry Brigade deputy commander, from Greenville, South Carolina, and William Rosser, Gatesville, Texas' Chairman for Americanism, fold the American flag at the Gatesville Exchange Club’s Flag Day ceremony Thursday. (Photo by Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    GATESVILLE, Texas – The Gatesville Exchange Club invited the 120th Infantry Brigade’s deputy commander to reflect on the significance and history of the American flag for Flag Week Thursday during breakfast at the Ranchers House and Grill here. 

    Lt. Col. Thomas Wilson, from Greenville, South Carolina, said, “Flag Day is a day for all Americans to celebrate and show respect for our flag, its designers and makers. 

    “Our flag is representative of our independence and our unity as a nation; one nation, under God, indivisible, "he continued. "Our flag has a rich history full of pride and glory and many Americans have died protecting it. It even stands proudly on the surface of the moon.” 

    Flag Day is a patriotic national holiday that is not as well known and celebrated as Veterans Day or Memorial Day. Celebrated to commemorate the adoption of the United States flag on June 14, 1777, it is also known as “Old Glory.”

    Lt. Col. Thomas Wilson, 120th Infantry Brigade deputy commander, from Greenville, South Carolina, and William Rosser, Gatesville, Texas' Chairman for Americanism, pose after folding the American flag together at the Gatesville Exchange Club’s Flag Day ceremony Thursda. (Photo by Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The Army’s 239th Birthday was also celebrated Saturday. 

    Wilson shared a few rare facts about the American flag. George Washington commissioned seamstress Betsy Ross from Philadelphia to create a flag for the new nation. Since then, there have been 27 official versions, and the American flag we see today became official on July 4, 1960 after Hawaii became the 50th state. President Truman established the June 14 of each year as National Flag Day. The week when June 14 falls is also designated as Flag Week. 

    Faye Nichols, a member of the Gatesville Exchange, said the club is a “National organization to support American values, prevent child abuse, support youth activities, and community service.” 

    Larry Kennedy, of Gatesville, the club’s president-elect, mentioned the organization also supports and awards those who serve the community as teachers, fire fighters, and police officers. 

    “Americanism is patriotism, love of country, flag, Veterans, and service people,” Kennedy said.

    William Rosser, of Gatesville, is the club’s Chairman for Americanism. He said, “Americanism is love. To serve your country with pride. Being able to give perpetuates the freedoms we have. 

    “Showing your true feelings of what American is — not just waking up free — but knowing,” he continued. Rosser served in Vietnam twice, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Bosnia, and Operation Iraqi Freedom I.

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Perez, 2nd Battalion, 395th Field Artillery Regiment commander sergeant major, from Hanford, Calif., tells the story of Staff Sgt. Du Hai Tran and to remember our fallen comrades during the 120th Brigade Hero Run at Andy Wells Park in Killeen, Texas, recently. (Photo by Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas - The 120th Infantry Brigade remembers a fallen Vietnamese-American Soldier, Staff Sgt. Du Hai Train, who died from an improvised explosive device blast in Iraq in 2008 during the brigade’s second Hero Run here recently.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Perez, 2nd Battalion, 395th Field Artillery Regiment commander sergeant major, from Hanford, Calif., was Tran’s first sergeant while they were deployed to Iraq in 2008.  He told the story about Tran’s life as a Vietnamese immigrant and eventually a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Hero Run.  It was an emotional ceremony, and Perez had to pause many times as he told Tran’s story.  

    “Stay in touch with the Families of the fallen,” said Perez. “Let them know we remember our fallen heroes.” 

    Tran was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. When he was two years old his father left Vietnam for asylum in America, because of his service in the South Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. Tran and his younger sister were raised by his aunt in Vietnam until he was nine.

    Around that time, they were forced to flee to a refugee camp in Thailand, where they remained for two years.  When he was 11 years old, he was reunited with his father in San Fernando, Calif. 

    The 120th Brigade and other Fort Hood Soldiers pose for a photo after running the 3-mile Hero Run at Andy Wells Park in Killeen, Texas, recently. The run was held in honor of a fallen Soldier, Staff Sgt. Du Hai Tran and fellow fallen heroes from our nation’s enduring fight for freedom. (Photo by Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    As a young man he joined the Army to prove to his father he could survive on his own, and to give back to the country that took his family in. Tran loved the Army and his brothers and sisters-in-arms.  He had three combat tours, even waiving his dwell time to go on his third tour. 

    During his third tour, he was a heavy-weapons squad leader on a dismounted patrol in Iraq in 2008.  He is remembered as always having a positive outlook on life and caring for his Soldiers.  In one instance, Tran nearly drowned during a river crossing. After he was pulled out, he looked at Perez and said, “I’m good, I’m going to make it.” 

    His optimism and resiliency was an inspiration to those he served with.  His father later told Perez that he was “proud to have had a son who protects the U.S.A.” Ten months into the deployment, Tran was killed by an IED blast while on patrol.

    “The Hero Run ceremony was created to recognize those that gave their lives for the freedom that we enjoy,” said Capt. Julian Benitezpenuelas, 120th Infantry Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company, from Guasave, Mexico. “We run for the fallen, for the fighting, and for the Gold Star Families, and to build a running community in our unit that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Harry L. Walker, 120th HHC from Chicago, Illl., started off the ceremony with a beautiful quote from the Fort Hood Memorial Day ceremony stating “to our fallen heroes giving up their tomorrow, so we can live for today.”  Staff Sgt. Du Hai Tran will always be remembered for paying the ultimate sacrifice for his country and for our freedom.

    The Hero Run took place at Andy Wells Park in Killeen, Texas.  Nearly 40 Soldiers volunteered to come for the ceremony, and participated in the 3-mile run afterwards.  The ceremony and run was open to all Fort Hood Soldiers, Family members, Gold Star Families, and also to the public. For more information about the Hero Run, contact the 120th Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company training room at (254) 553-4554.

  • By Sgt. First Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs 

    Camelback Mountain, Pennsylvania – Teamwork is a cornerstone to a successful operation as well as long-lasting friendships.

    Along with a group of friends he met at a gym while attending New York’s Columbia University as an Army Fellow, Col. Randall Wickman, commander of the 189th Infantry Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, competed May 17 in the Civilian Military Combine held at Camelback Mountain in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

    Col. Randall Wickman, commander of the 189th Infantry Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, works "The PIT" challenge during the Civilian Military Combine held at Camelback Mountain in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. The five-minute, "As Many Reps as Possible" first event of 26, levels the playing field at CMC, testing strength and endurance. (Courtesy photo)

     

    Wickman says he met his teammates for the CMC during a time where the country saw its greatest nightmare unfold on national television, 9/11. He said the men and women he attended class with during 2011 to 2012, rallied to support him as he deployed to Afghanistan a year after leaving Columbia.

    "I ran the event along with great friends and colleagues,” he said. “I flew back (to New York) to join them and compete together as a team. It's important to me because so many of them were there on 9/11 and this is our way of connecting with that and their way of getting involved."

    Competing in this kind of event seemed to be somewhat common for Wickman as he equates it to Army training. "The race in the Poconos was like a military obstacle course except the obstacles were at the top, middle and bottom of a huge ski hill, so you kept running up and down the hill between stations.”

    One obstacle for the event was "The PIT," a five-minute, "As Many Reps as Possible" shoulder press, kettle bell swing, and box jumps tested endurance. Within his team, Wickman had to rely on his friends as a support system in order to complete the mission and finish strong.

    Col. Randall Wickman, commander of the 189th Infantry Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, comes across the finish line wearing an "Army" jersey at the Civilian Military Combine held at Camelback Mountain in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Wickman linked up with friends he met while an Army Fellow attending New York’s Columbia University during 2011 to 2012 — friends who offered him support as he deployed to Afghanistan a year after leaving Columbia. (Courtesy photo)

     

    For Wickman, the nation’s 9/11 tragedy forged a long-lasting friendship that has joined him with a group of individuals, and the competition strengthens that bond.

    The event slogan was, "Pride of an Athlete. Heart of a Hero."

    Events held across the country aim to bring military and civilian athletes together for shared awareness and are bound by mutual respect for service men and women, those who support the military, and communities that reach out for the cause.

    The race is mostly obstacle course-based, including water immersion events, a wave pool, low crawling over ice and rocks, hill sprints, a rope climb, cargo nets, balance events, and generally covers 4 to 6 miles.

    Fort information on more CMC events across the country, see http://www.civilianmilitarycombine.com/

  • Lt. Col. Brian Warnock, incoming CONUS Replacement Center commander, accepts the CRC colors from Col. Carolyn Birchfield, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade commander, to symbolize his assumption of command of the CRC April 25 at Memorial Field on Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by 1st Lt. Bobby McDonald, 1st Battalion, 415th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West)

    By 1st Lt. Bobby McDonald, 1st Battalion, 415th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West

    FORT BLISS, Texas – The 3rd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, transferred authority of the the CONUS Replacement Center to the 1st Battalion, 415th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade during a Transfer of Authority ceremony April 25 at Memorial Field here.

    This is the first year that the whole cycle will occur at Fort Bliss. It was originally conducted at Fort Benning, Ga.

    Lt. Col. Brian Warnock, center, CONUS Replacement Center commander, addresses the outgoing unit thanking them for the past year of hard work and all they accomplished, and addressing the incoming unit on what he expects to accomplish during an assumption of command ceremony April 25 at Memorial Field on Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by 1st Lt. Bobby McDonald, 1st Battalion, 415th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West)

    “The 3-398th left us a great foundation for us to work off of,” said Lt. Col. Brian Warnock, 1-415th Regiment commander. “I feel confident that the 1-415th will have a seamless transfer and only improve upon the CRC.”

    This is where the outgoing unit teaches the incoming unit everything they need to know to be successful: what the battle rhythm is like, what worked well and what didn’t. This started two weeks prior to the TOA.

    “The 1-415th seems eager and ready to take control from the 3-398th of the CRC,” said Lt. Col. Brian Evans, commander of 3-398th.

    The 3-398th manned the CRC this year with 125 Soldiers entirely of all volunteers. The command team expects that this will help make the mission even better since each Soldier came on their own, and is willing to take ownership and pride in the work that they are doing.

    Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 415th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, during the transfer of authority ceremony, adorn the First Army patch and officially taking over the CONUS Replacement Center mission April 25 at Memorial Field on Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by 1st Lt. Bobby McDonald, 1st Battalion, 415th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West)

    Since December 1995, the CRC has been projecting military power worldwide; deploying personnel in support of five contingency operations to 36 locations worldwide. The mission is to receive, process, and validate individual non-unit related personnel from all military branches and components. Both military personnel and Department of the Army civilians, as well as other federal government agencies to include Army, Air Force Exchange Store and the American Red Cross are also included. The CRC currently facilitates the deployment of approximately 150 personnel each week.

    “I am proud to see what the 3-398th was able to accomplish and establish for the CRC here at Fort Bliss,” said Col. Carolyn Birchfield, 402nd commander.  “I expect that the 1-415th will set the bar even higher and only improve upon the CRC.”

    The CRC is made up from mobilized soldiers of the reserve component to train and prepare soldiers who are deploying and redeploying.

  • Capt. Daniel Crumby, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, hustles with the casualty evacuation carry, part of the concluding obstacle course event in the 2nd Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge, near Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, recently.  (Photo by Capt. Javita Facion, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Jeffery Harris, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West

    FORT HOOD, Texas – The 479th Field Artillery Brigade held its second Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge on the newly finished obstacle course near Division West headquarters here, recently.

    The WAFC goal was to sustain the rigor and camaraderie of a tactical fitness event, while expanding the field of competition to Soldiers, civilians, and family members of 479th. 

    “This iteration of the Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge had a few twists from the last one. We revamped the obstacle course events and made the ruck march longer,” said Capt. Jeffrey Harris, from Sandy, Utah, assistant operations officer, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade. “Also, the incentives were increased and a team concept was introduced.  All in all, it’s getting better every time we do it! ” 

    One of the key obstacles to successful training is building on past achievements to elevate performance standards and stretch the band of excellence. Furthermore, the scope of our revamped competitive model included individual and team participation, increased incentives, and improved challenges.

    The core of the WAFC remained the same, consisting of running over 3-miles in Army Combat Uniform with running shoes, a 5-mile ruck march, and completing the obstacle course for the fastest collective time. 

    Sgt. 1st Class Joey Wallace, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, negotiates the Rope Wall Climb Challenge, part of the obstacle course at the end of the 2nd Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge that took place recently near Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas.  (Photo by Capt. Javita Facion, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    The course for the running event challenged both cardiovascular and mental endurance, as participants negotiated the steep hills, treacherous water crossings, and unimproved terrain of the infamous “Turkey Run” tank trail from the western edge of Fort Hood.

    Transition to the ruck march was seamless, occurring immediately when each competitor reached his/her ruck sack, changed from shoes to combat boots, secured 35 pounds of gear, and strapped the load on their backs for a 4.7 mile trek on West Range Road toward East Fort Hood. 

    “When I considered entering the challenge two months ago. I thought to myself, I’ll be good to go physically, but I didn’t really train up for it at all,” said Sgt. 1st Class Julian Romo, of Los Angeles, Calif., with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 479th Field Artillery Brigade.   About a week out it was too late, so I did my best, gave it 110% and was happy with my results of fourth overall.”

    Participants encountered the first tweaks to the sequel WAFC at the obstacle course, as both landscape and competitive requirements reflected feedback offered after the first WAFC.  Competitors wrapped up the ruck march at the newly constructed course near the division headquarters, where they faced six vexing challenges, three that were new from the Inaugural WAFC. 

    Dawning the advanced combat helmet and improvised outer tactical vest, each participant negotiated the new rope wall climb, vaults and 25-meter brute force pull events, in addition to the sustained 50-meter sled drag, casualty evacuation carry, and culminating 400-meter dash.

    Maj. Glen Renfree, left, Capt. Jeffrey Harris, center, and Staff Sgt. David Rodriguez, all with 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, pose for a photo as the winning team of the 2nd Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge that concluded near Division West headquarters, recently. (Photo by Capt. Javita Facion, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Another improvement to the WAFC was the introduction of three person teams competing for the best-averaged completion time. This would add strategy to the event as participants sought to collectively balance talents in pursuit of Brigade and Battalion IMPACT Awards. 

    The first place winner was Team Steel Rain with 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, consisting of Maj. Glen Renfree, executive officer from Sacramento, Calif., Capt. Jeffrey Harris, and Staff Sgt. David Rodriguez from San Antonio, Texas. 

    Individual competition remained an option for WAFC participants, yet with the upgraded incentive of brigade or battalion IMPACT awards for the top two finishers overall.  The individual competition winner was Staff Sgt. William Satchell from Williston, S.C., an operations NCO with 1st Battalion 395th Engineer Regiment, the second place finisher was Romo, from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, and Capt. Lucas Leinberger of Linn, Mo., a logistics officer, 3rd Battalion 393rd Field Artillery took third place.

    The pivotal change for the second WAFC was broadening the pool of participation to include 479th Soldiers and civilians. In an effort to extend camaraderie beyond the organization and bolster the WAFC competitive edge, the battalion leveraged operational and advertisement means to promote the event with brigade command endorsed support. 

    Soldiers with the 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, at the start of the 3.2 mile run, the first event, of the 2nd Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge held recently on Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Javita Facion, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    The results were incredibly encouraging, as 14 individuals from 1-395AR, Medical Training Task Force, 2nd Battalion, 381st Combat Support Regiment, and 479th HHB performed admirably in both individual and team competition respectively.  Key to the increased emphasis on diversified participation was the courage and tenacity of Ms. Corrie Carbajal of Mandan, N.D., 479th Brigade Command Secretary, to train for and endure the rigors Army tactical fitness.  

    “It really challenged the intestinal fortitude of all participants and separated those that have "tiny heart" syndrome from those that have the stamina to go the distance.  Each event individually is not that challenging, but when you combine them and give it your all you will reach utter exhaustion,” said Carbajal. “Completing the Warrior Fitness Challenge as a civilian amongst Soldiers was one of the most satisfying experiences for me since arriving at Fort Hood and I would like to thank 3-393rd Field Artillery for allowing me to compete with the best of the best.”

    In short, how does one build on success and fight the urge to complacently not fix a proven commodity?  Challenge assumptions, broaden perspectives, and approach routine missions with a fresh perspective that accounts for the fluidity of situational dynamics.  In total, twenty-nine participants of varying profession from five different organizations in 479th Field Artillery Brigade negotiated and successfully completed the WAFC II without incident or injury.  We sincerely believe this is a humbling testament to the collective professional commitment of dynamic leaders willing to push the bar of training and advance the organizational band of excellence.      

  • By Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — The 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, held its change of command ceremony on Cameron Field near division headquarters Jun. 4. 

    Col. Daniel Hurlbut assumed command of the brigade from Col. Timothy Bush who commanded the brigade since June 2012.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., commanding general of Division West, illustrated the 120th’s service providing mobilizing reserve component units for deployment all over the world.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Johnson passes the NCO sword to outgoing 120th Infantry Brigade Commander Timothy Bush, who passes the sword to incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Raynard Shannon during the brigade’s change of command ceremony June 4. The brigade held a dual ceremony, switching out command sergeants major, followed by a change of command between outgoing Commander Col. Timothy Bush and incoming Commander Col. Daniel Hurlbut. (Photo by Master Sgt. Roy Trevino, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    During his 24 months of command, Bush oversaw the mobilization of 171 units totaling more than 14,200 Soldiers, and the demobilizing operations of over 151 units totaling 10,300 Soldiers. Under his command, the 120th successfully headed a pilot program to assist returning Reserve Soldiers to find jobs back at their home states. The brigade also had the highest Command Supply Discipline Program inspection across the First Army.  

     “Mission, Team, Family; that’s what it’s all about,” said Col. Bush. He acknowledged that the Army’s mission is to “fight and win our nation’s wars” but stressed the importance of working together as one team and spending time with our families.

    He praised the leaders and Soldiers of the 120th for their hard work and competence and said, “No meal has been served, no convoy has been launched in Afghanistan that has not been impacted by the Soldiers trained at Fort Hood.”

    Bush’s next assignment is the First Army operations director at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.

    Col. Hurlbut served the past 12 months as the Division West operations chief and recently completed a U.S. Army War College fellowship at Stanford University.

    The brigade’s mission is to plan, coordinate, and execute post-mobilization training and demobilizations of National Guard and Army Reserve units.

  • Soldiers with the 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West, pose for a photo after the brigade’s second annual softball tournament at Rodney Evans Softball Complex on Fort Hood, Texas, May 22. The tournament’s line-up was comprised of 166th’s five local battalions. (Photo by Capt. Joel Duqueestrada, 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

    By Capt. Joel Duqueestrada, 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West

    FORT HOOD, Texas – Five teams, representing each battalion of the 166th Aviation Brigade, “GreyWings,” Division West, met on the fields of the Rodney Evans Softball Complex here, May 22.

    Only one would walk away with the right to call themselves the softball champions of the brigade.  On arrival, intense battle quickly ensued.  Talent was tested.  Old muscles and joints were strained.  Blood was spilt.  Who would rise to claim ultimate victory and who would fall into bedazzlement?  All would be determined, on that day.

    It was a perfect day for softball.  The winds were light and the clouds stayed the Texas heat.  After countless hours of training and practice by the elite athletes of the 166th, the tournament was finally here.  A day where Soldiers, civilian workers, Family members and friends were able to come together for fun competition and build a more cohesive unit. 

    What lay ahead was each team facing off against every other team once in a rotating schedule.  The two best teams would then play in the championship game.  However, in the unlikely event that one team would be able to make it through the entire tournament undefeated, they would be the undisputed champion and there would be no need for a championship game. 

    As the defending champions, the headquarters and headquarters company, “Headhunters,” came into the tournament as the team to beat.

    “I want to win again,” said Sgt 1st Class Jose Martinez, a Texas native from San Antonio and the coach of the Headhunters. 

    The team’s biggest test came against 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, “Nighthawks,” another powerhouse team that was undefeated when they took the field against the Headhunters.  After trading runs back and forth inning after inning, it was all tied up with timing running out.  This was it.  The next run scored would win the game and the Headhunters held on to claim the victory with a 3-run homerun at the bottom of the inning by Sgt 1st Class Andrew Bursick, of Farbault, Minn.

    Now the only undefeated team left, the Headhunters had one final game to win to complete their sweep of the tournament.  Coming out strong after their close win over the Nighthawks, the Headhunters took a quick lead and continued to extend their lead with each inning against 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, “Warhawks.”  With only minutes left and down 11 runs to 1, the Warhawks began mounting a comeback, quickly scoring eight runs. 

    “I have officially bled for this brigade now,” said, Capt. Kyle Eberly, hailing from Albuquerque, N.M., and an observer-coach/trainer for the Warhawks, who, while sliding into home sacrificed his body by injuring his leg. 

    In the end, the comeback came too late and the clock expired, giving the Hoplites the victory 11 runs to 9, the last victory they needed.

    And so, the Headhunters beat the odds, beat every team, and did what seemed impossible.  They swept the tournament and took the championship for the second year in a row. 

  •  

    FORT HOOD, Texas — The 120th Infantry Brigade will receive a new commander during a change of command ceremony scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, here at Cameron Field near Division West Headquarters, Building 410.

    Col. Daniel Hurlbut will replace Col. Timothy Bush, who has commanded the 120th since June 2012.

    Bush will move on to become First Army’s director of operations at Rock Island, Ill.

    Hurlbut has served the past 12 months as Division West’s operations chief, and before that, completed a U.S. Army War College fellowship at Stanford University during 2012 to 2013.

    Visitors may obtain a one-day special event pass and directions to Cameron Field at the Marvin Leath Visitors Center on T.J. Mills Boulevard.

    In case of inclement weather, the ceremony and reception will be held at Howze Theater, Building 3000, located along Battalion Ave. between 75th and 76th streets.

    The 120th Infantry Brigade's mission is to plan, coordinate and execute post-mobilization training of National Guard and Army Reserve units. Under Bush’ command, the 120th trained and validated 163 units, with more than 13,273 Soldiers mobilized for deployment, while conducting 163 Culminating Training Exercises.  Its Demobilization Operations Section monitored and tracked demobilization activities for 151 units and over 10,378 Soldiers.

    Media representatives interested in attending the change of command ceremony should arrive at the Fort Hood Visitor Center no later than 8:45 a.m. to be escorted to the event.

    For more information about the 120th Infantry Brigade or the change of command ceremony, contact the Division West Public Affairs Office at (254) 553-5003 or email jay.r.adams3.civ@mail.mil.

  • Courtesy photo from Gatesville Chamber of Commerce

    First Army Division West’s Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., second from right, alongside, wife Sylvia, left, pose for a photo with David Byrom, mayor of Gatesville, Texas, and Carla Manning, Gatesville Chamber of Commerce military affairs representative during a softball game between a few of the division Soldiers and Gatesville leadership recently. The softball game was one of many such events held between Division West and Gatesville, who have maintain a long-standing and fruitful partnership during the division’s time on Fort Hood. (Courtesy photo from Gatesville Chamber of Commerce)

  • Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., center, First Army Division West commanding general gives a speech on the significance of Memorial Day at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial on Cameron Field near First Army Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, May 21. Phipps tells the gathering of Soldiers, Families and civilians to remember those who paid the full measure for their freedom. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas – First Army Division West held a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial here Wednesday, followed by a “Run to Remember” the next morning.

    “I am honored by having the opportunity to address you this morning to pay tribute to those brave men and women who have given their lives in defense of our nation,” said Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., Division West commanding general. “As Abraham Lincoln once proclaimed, ‘Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.’”

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., left, First Army Division West commanding general, Sgt. Britny Drummond, center, and Division West Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, Jr., render salutes to honor fallen servicemembers at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial on Cameron Field near First Army Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, May 21. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    It has been five years since the 4th Infantry Division cased its colors on Cameron Field. Left on the grounds is the “Ivy” Division’s memorial, dedicated and rededicated to honor those who fell in battle under 4th Infantry’s Task Force Iron Horse. 

    “The significance of today’s ceremony is to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our liberties,” said Division West’s Chaplain, (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Sorenson. “There’s no greater legacy to leave, then to lay down your life for others.”

    Phipps spoke of a particular responsibility to pay respects to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines memorialized on the DIVWEST’s own grounds – the men and women honored on the 4th ID memorial.

    Featured is a statue of a kneeling Soldier at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial on Cameron Field near First Army Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, May 21. Division West held a Memorial Day Remembrance ceremony and wreath-laying at the memorial in honor of 4th ID fallen Soldiers. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “It is a personal matter for us to renew our commitment – to renew our involvement in preserving a heritage that honors our dead,” said Phipps. “Today stands as that reminder that ‘freedom is not free.’”

    In conjunction with the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony, five DIVWEST outlying brigades held their own events on their respective posts at Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort McCoy, Wis., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., before one of the nation’s most celebrated holiday weekends.

    “I want to thank you for allowing me the honor of leading this morning’s run,” said 120th Infantry Brigade Commander, Col. Timothy Bush. “Amid the well-deserved celebrations of this weekend, don’t allow yourself to be blinded to the essence of this weekend. It is about memorializing the selfless service of our predecessors, remembering their sacrifice.”

    Col. Timothy Bush, center, 120th Infantry Brigade commander, alongside Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Johnson, 120th command sergeant major leads a formation of his Soldiers on Battalion Avenue in front of Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, for the division’s Run to Remember, May 22. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    With a more than decade-long conflict behind the nation, DIVWEST and her brigades will participate in various engagements around the command. Units will visit Veteran’s homes and participate in ceremonies at Veteran cemeteries. Soldiers and leaders are taking the time to pay respects and homage to the fallen that paved the way for today’s modern military.

    “Embrace your Soldier and do not take them for granted,” said Leslie Love, wife of Col. James Love, III Corps and Fort Hood chief of staff. “Love every second of being with them because you never know when or if they will be called to war.”

  • FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West stands ready to hold its commemorative Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony 9 a.m. Wednesday at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial here.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., DIVWEST commanding general, will host the event, paying tribute to those brave men and women who have given their lives in defense of our nation.

    Several Gold Star Families will attend the ceremony, along with Killeen and Copperas Cove city officials, Fort Hood Good Neighbors, and III Corps and Fort Hood Army leadership.

    First Army Division West's ceremonial 2013 Memorial Day wreath at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial embodies those who gave everything they had to ensure our nation remains the land of the free and the home of the brave. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    Division West, a subordinate unit of First Army, headquartered at Rock Island, Ill., trains and validates Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers for deployment to combat and other contingency operations. The division also trains units of the active Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and United States partner nations, for a total of nearly 40,000 service members every year.

    Division West’s eight subordinate training brigades are the 120th Infantry, 479th Field Artillery and 166th Aviation Brigades at Fort Hood, Texas; the 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, Wis.; the 189th and 191st Infantry Brigades at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; and the 402nd Field Artillery and 5th Armored Brigades at Fort Bliss, Texas.

    Media representatives interested in attending the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony should contact the Division West Public Affairs Office and arrive at the Fort Hood Visitor Center no later than 8:15 a.m. to be escorted to Cameron Field.

    For more information about the change of command, contact Jay Adams, Division West Public Affairs chief, at (254) 553-5003.

  • First Army Division West’s Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna Jr., right, presents a Commander’s Certificate to Antonio “Tony” F. Laguna, center, son of 115th Brigade Support Battalion’s Sgt. Frank Laguna and wife, Candace, on Fort Hood, Texas, May 16. Suffering from a terminal illness, Tony saw the division’s “A” patch on a water tower near the division headquarters and attributed it to his favorite superhero, Marvel Comic’s Captain America. Hearing this, Akuna was more than happy to present the certificate and other Division West items to the heroic young man on behalf of his comic book hero. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

  •   First Army Division West's Memorial Day commemoration ceremony will take place 9 a.m. Wednesday at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial, which stands adjacent to DIVWEST's Cameron Field on Fort Hood, Texas.

     

    FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West will hold a wreath laying ceremony here 9 a.m. Wednesday at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial to commemorate Memorial Day.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., DIVWEST commanding general, will host the event, paying tribute to those brave men and women who have given their lives in defense of our nation.

    Several Gold Star Families will attend the ceremony, along with Killeen and Copperas Cove city officials, Fort Hood Good Neighbors, and III Corps and Fort Hood Army leadership.

    Division West, a subordinate unit of First Army, headquartered at Rock Island, Ill., trains and validates Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers for deployment to combat and other contingency operations. The division also trains units of the active Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and United States partner nations, for a total of nearly 40,000 service members every year.

    Division West’s eight subordinate training brigades are the 120th Infantry, 479th Field Artillery and 166th Aviation Brigades at Fort Hood, Texas; the 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, Wis.; the 189th and 191st Infantry Brigades at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; and the 402nd Field Artillery and 5th Armored Brigades at Fort Bliss, Texas.

    Media representatives interested in attending the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony should contact the Division West Public Affairs Office and arrive at the Fort Hood Visitor Center no later than 8:15 a.m. to be escorted to Cameron Field.

    For more information about the change of command, contact Jay Adams, Division West Public Affairs chief, at (254) 553-5003.

  • Staff Sgt. Dustin Bell (far right), observer/coach-trainer for 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, observes an interaction between an Afghan National Army guard and a Soldier from 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. The Fort Hood unit, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, trained with TF Stallion to prepare for a mission to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – To gain practical experience for its mission deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Fort Hood, Texas' Crazy Horse (Charlie) Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, trained in detention operations here with Division West's 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armored Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade.

    Crazy Horse Troop faced an uphill climb in its preparation for the detention operations mission considering the unit primarily consists of combat arms Soldiers.

    “We’re a Stryker infantry troop,” said Capt. Andrew Oliver, of Billings, Montana, troop commander for Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. “We came down to develop skills essential to being successful in the GITMO mission and this allows us to test and evaluate skills in a simulated environment.”

    Staff Sgt. Dustin Bell (right), observer/coach-trainer for 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, evaluates Soldiers from 3rd Cavalry Regiment, an active duty regiment out of Fort Hood, Texas, on their ability to care for detainees during a recent training exercise at McGregor Range, N.M. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment trained with TF Stallion to prepare for a mission to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Oliver, who assumed command of the Crazy Horse Troop just days before arriving here, was involved in some of the planning. However, understanding the difficult transition his troops would make and the importance of their training was evident during their time on ground.

    “Task Force Stallion and the 3rd Cav. started several months ago tailoring our training to fit this mission,” said Oliver. “It’s quintessential certifying training that’s imperative for Soldier to be exposed to before going down to Guantanamo Bay.”

    Crazy Horse comprised a mixture of Soldiers ranging in varying levels of experience and some with little to none.

     Pvt. James Buchner, of Lexington, Kentucky, a rifleman with Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, is barely out of basic training, and said the cross training to a completely different skill set was not that big of a deal.

    Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, and 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, take notes during a briefing by an Afghan National Army soldier. The Fort Hood unit, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, trained with TF Stallion to prepare for a mission to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “Having that knowledge is important, but I’m able to learn a lot quicker,” said Buchner. “I haven’t been doing my job that long and this is helping me to learn more, even though it’s not my job.”

    Even for more experienced Soldiers in Crazy Horse, the transition wasn’t as big of a chore as expected.

    “It’s definitely a brand new mission,” said Sgt. Anthony Clemente, of Woodbury, Connecticut, fire support non-commissioned officer for 4th Platoon, Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. “It wasn’t that big of an adjustment because we started to prepare five months ago.”

    For TF Stallion, the mission was a bit different and the approach slightly changed, but the quality of training and level of professionalism never wavered.

    “It was a different mindset for the OCTs (observer/coach-trainer) because they have to keep in mind that they (Crazy Horse Troop) haven’t gone through that skillset,” said Capt. Benjamin Booth, of Dallas, Texas, team chief for detention operations at Task Force Stallion. “We kept it as simple as possible.”

    However, the success of the training took willing participants on both sides; Crazy Horse Troop and TF Stallion.

    “The coordination between both elements was extremely professional,” said Oliver, “and it was further confirmed by the cadre leading the training here.”

  • Capt. Sean Stapler, center, operations officer for 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West, poses with his 1-337th command team, Lt. Col. Jeff Amos, right, and Command Sgt. Maj. Patricia Wahl at his Air Assault School graduation on Fort Hood, Texas. Stapler was recognized as the distinguished honor graduate from the course here.  The Air Assault class started with 114 students and ended with a 50% attrition rate, graduating only 56 Soldiers. Stapler finished the course with a 98.5%; an average of his scores on the Army Physical Fitness Test, written and hands-on exams, and a 12-mile ruck march. Stapler has been in the Army for nine years with an ROTC commission as a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter pilot. (Photo by Sgt. Randall Copiskey, 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

    Photo by Sgt. Randall Copiskey, 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West

  •  

    Soldiers from the 335th Signal Command (Theater) deplane on U.S. soil at Biggs Army Airfield on Fort Bliss, Texas, April 20 for the first time since deploying last April to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Brig. Gen. Kaffia “Belle” Jones, 335th SC (T) deputy commanding general, greeted the Soldiers and shook hands one by one as they filed out of the aircraft. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. John Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    EL PASO, Texas – Soldiers from the 335th Signal Command (Theater) from East Point, Ga., arrived at Biggs Army Airfield here Sunday after a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan to cheers, hugs and handshakes.

    Brig. Gen. Kaffia “Belle” Jones, 335th Signal Command (Theater) deputy commanding general, congratulates Capt. ­­­­­­­­­­Randy Chambers, Soldier from 335th SC (T), on a successful completion of a yearlong deployment during the Welcome Home Ceremony at Bigg Army Airfield at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 20. Jones presented first-time deployers with a Welcome Home Warrior Citizen plaque. Those with multiple deployments, she presented them with certificates of appreciation. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Brig. Gen. Kaffia “Belle” Jones, 335th Signal Command (Theater) deputy commanding general, and her team lined the tarmac as unit members filed from the plane with grins as wide as the Nile River and squinted eyes to protect their pupils from the glowing Easter sun.

    “Honestly, I’m really tired and exhausted,” said Master Sgt. Jimmy Robinson, of Birmingham, Ala., and the 335th SC (T) forward operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “I’m just glad to be back home.”

    Not long after touching down at Biggs AAF, Jones greeted each of her Soldiers during the Welcome Home ceremony with either a Warrior-Citizen keepsake, the first-time deploying Soldiers, or a Certificate of Appreciation for the Soldiers who have deployed multiple times.

    Brig. Gen. Kaffia “Belle” Jones, 335th Signal Command (Theater) deputy commanding general, greets Col. Stephen Hager, Soldier from 335th SC (T), as he steps off the plane at Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 20. Hager and the 335th Soldiers just returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “It’s so great to see you back home,” said Jones. “I know just looking at you that you’ve had some great leaders and maintained the five pillars of strength: physically fit, socially intact, emotionally sound, spiritually focused, and fired up about family.”

    The camaraderie amongst the Soldiers was evident in the constant cheers and jovial laughter shared throughout the ceremony.

    “I’m excited to be home,” said Maj. Dan Sikes, of Starke, Fla., and command judge advocate general. “It was an awesome experience to serve with a group of truly great Americans.”

     

     

  • Olin Brewster, Texas U.S. Army Reserve Ambassador, talks with Col. Robert Thompson, commander of 1st Brigade, Southern Division, 75th Training Command, (at the right) during the 106th U.S. Army Reserve birthday Celebration April 23, 2014 at McGregor Range, N.M., while Anne Brewster, wife of Olin Brewster, chats with Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander, and Col. Carolyn Birchfield, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade commander (at the left). (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Capt. John Brimley, Mission Training Center Bliss, Division West Public Affairs

    McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – Mission Training Center Bliss celebrated the 106th U.S. Army Reserve birthday here April 23, 2014 with Texas Army Reserve Ambassador  Olin Brewster during ceremonial cake cutting traditions at the McGregor Range dining facility.

    Soldiers from all components — National Guard, Army Reserve and Active Duty — filled the dining hall. Some were on their regular lunch break, enjoying the chance to taste the commemorative black and gold Army Reserve birthday cake.

    Brewster’s message was clear: the Army Reserve has been a crucial part of the success in defending this nation for more than a century.

    Soldiers from the Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty crowd around tables in the Dining Facility at McGregor Range, N.M. to hear Olin Brewster, Texas U.S. Army Reserve Ambassador, give his commemorative speech April 23, 2014 in honor of the Army Reserve’s 106th birthday. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “The Army Reserve, just like the rest of us, is an institution built on trust and confidence,” said Brewster.

    The trust and confidence built upon by Reserve Soldiers like Staff Sgt. Heather Holter, of Hartford, Connecticut, training non-commissioned officer for 5th Armored Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, who has been with the brigade for six years.

    “I absolutely love it,” said Holter. “It’s really a privilege.”

    Holter has served in the Army Reserve for more than 10 years, and over half that has been on active duty in support of ongoing operations in the Middle East and Guantanamo Bay. In her civilian career before coming onto active duty, she worked as a preschool teacher.

    Olin Brewster (right), Texas U.S. Army Reserve Ambassador, cuts the U.S. Army Reserve 106th birthday cake with Col. Robert Thompson (left), commander of 1st Brigade, Southern Division, 75th Training Command, and Staff Sgt. Heather Holter (center), 5th Armored Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company training non-commissioned officer, during the ceremonial cake-cutting celebration at McGregor Range, N.M. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “I never saw myself growing to be a Soldier,” she said. “I get the best of both worlds. I get to be a Soldier and teach kids. I never saw that coming.”

    Holter stood with Brewster and Col. Robert Thompson, commander of 1st Brigade (Forward), Southern Division, 75th Training Command, to cut the commemorative cake.

    “It was an honor to share in the cake cutting to commemorate the 106th birthday for the U.S. Army Reserve,” Holter said.

  • By Maj. Holli Goddard, 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas – A company commander here earned distinction as First Army Division West’s 2013 Volunteer of the Year during ceremonies at Club Hood April 23.

    “Volunteering has always been a part of my life,” said Capt. William Brown, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade. “I believe identifying the needs of our community and taking steps to have an impact on them is our responsibility as citizens.”

    From left to right, Col. John Leffers, 479th Field Artillery Brigade commander; Tiffany Brown and her husband Capt. William Brown, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade; Sylvia Phipps wife of Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., Division West commander; Lt. Col. Scott Ward, commander of 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade; and DIVWEST Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna Jr., pose for a photo as Brown earns distinction as First Army Division West’s 2013 Volunteer of the Year during ceremonies at Club Hood April 23, 2014  (Photo by Brianna Ward, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Introduced to various organizations in Central Texas early on as an AmeriCorps volunteer during his college years, Brown found many people who were extremely passionate about making the world a better place.

    “My family, teachers, and mentors taught me the value of service by being active in our church and community as a kid,” he said. “I've had the good fortune of being able to help others with their visions of making the community a better place and have had the support of others with my own vision.

    Brown earned his first honor as 2013 Volunteer of the Year for the 479th Field Artillery Brigade. "It was an honor to be recognized as the Division West Volunteer of the Year and an even bigger honor to meet so many Soldiers, family members, and local citizens so deeply committed to making the great Fort Hood community a better place,” he said.

    From left to right, Hollyanne Milley and her husband Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commander; Capt. William Brown, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade; III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Schroeder and his wife Marla Schroeder, stand with Brown as he is recognized as First Army Division West’s 2013 Volunteer of the Year during ceremonies at Club Hood April 23, 2014. (Photo by Tiffany Brown, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    First Army Division West is a multi-component training Division which mobilized 214 units and 15,503 Soldiers and demobilized 295 units and 19,349 Soldiers during 2013. These units ran the gamut from general officer headquarters to small detachments and included missions ranging from Sustainment, Aviation, Engineer, Military Police, Air Defense Artillery and Medical in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and other operations around the world.

  • By  1st Lt. Kathren Dolloff and Lt. Col Robert Wagner, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    EL PASO, Texas — For the past five years, Lt. Col. Nils Wetzel, Deputy Commander of the German Air Defense Center here, has supported Fort Bliss units by hosting competitions for U.S. Soldiers to compete for coveted German Armed Forces Proficiency badges.

    There are two events hosted bi-annually, and, within the past two months more than 150 Fort Bliss Soldiers earned German Badges.

    Lt. Col. Nils Wetzel, deputy commander for the German Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, poses with Sgt. 1st Class Natasha Bailey, medic with 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, during presentation of the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge April 4, 2014 at the El Paso, Texas Chapter of 82nd Airborne Division Association. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Competing to earn the German Weapons Badge and the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge is an excellent opportunity for Soldiers and Airmen to gain a cultural understanding and appreciation for what German Soldiers have to do to remain qualified every year.

    The German Weapons Badge, known as the Schutzenschnur was conducted March 7 through 14, 2014. Seventy-five Soldiers earned their bronze, silver or gold badges. 

    “It was an awesome experience being a Reserve Soldier and getting the opportunity that normally only active duty gets,” said Sgt. Damian Robinson, with the 356th Transportation Company, 383rd Quartermaster Battalion, from Las Cruces, N.M. “It created a lot of motivation in our battalion seeing our guys out there.”

    The German Weapons Badge event took place at McGregor Range, with Soldiers competing in three categories: the stationary target P8 pistol, the pop-up target P8 pistol and the pop-up target G36 rifle.

    Each qualification has specific requirements which make the courses even more challenging.  For example, although there are only five rounds in the stationary target P8 Pistol qualification, you must have at least one round in each of three targets to qualify.

    The German Armed Forces Military Proficiency Badge was offered March 31 to April 4, 2014. This event began with a pre-qualification day where participants completed the swim portion, which has proven to be the most difficult of the requirements, completing a 100-meter swim challenge within four minutes while in uniform, trousers and blouse only; then taking the trousers and blouse off while treading water. There can be up to a 40 percent failure rate with this event, alone. Seventy-six Soldiers completed the events and earned their badges at the award ceremony the final day.

    Lt. Col. Nils Wetzel, deputy commander for the German Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, presents a certificate to Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lacy, of U.S. Army Operation Test Command, for his participation in the German Armed Forces Military Proficiency test. The test took place throughout Fort Bliss March 7 – 14, 2014. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The other requirements include the German Physical Fitness Test, a 110-meter shuttle run, pull-up hang and 1,000-meter sprint, Pistol Qualification with the stationary target P8 pistol, and a 12-kilomter (7.4-mile) rucksack march while carrying 33 pounds of additional weight. These events test many more areas of the body than the typical U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test that consists of the 2-mile run, sit-up and push-up events.

     “This event challenges every single Soldier, regardless of their background or physical shape,” said Spc. Jesus Rios, an Army Reserve Soldier who was awarded the Certificate of Excellence as the “best of the best” from the German Air Defense Center for his outstanding efforts in the event.  “this will be a long lasting memory for me because I was able to meet comrades who motivate you and push you to do great.”

    The wide range of participants included two U.S. Air Force Airmen, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers, a married couple, two colonels, three first sergeants and numerous Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets.

    In addition, Lt. Col. Robert Wagner, deputy commander of First Army Division West’s 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, who is the Fort Bliss Liaison for German events, earned his fifth Gold Badge in the German Armed Forces Military Proficiency event.

    His badge, which displays the number “5” was presented separately, at the end of the ceremony, by Wetzel and 1st Lt. Dominik Zeilmann, the German Air Defense Center’s officer-in-charge of the events. Zeilmann recently earned his 10th Gold badge and presented Wagner with the very badge he received upon completing his 5th event several years ago.

    The next German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge events will be held this fall.

  • Staff Sgt. LaKendra Johnson, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the DIVWEST chapel, sings a laudable rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during celebrations for the Army Reserve 106th birthday April 23, 2014. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — The Army Reserve’s 106th birthday rolled into Division West’s 25th Street Chapel here April 23, highlighting the component’s “Citizen Soldier” contributions to the nation.

    “This is the second time Division West has hosted the Army Reserve birthday and this is an initiative that’s really starting to gain traction across the Army Reserve,” said Brig. Gen. Gracus K. Dunn, Division West’s deputy commander for support, speaking about the Reserve, which was created in 1908.

    Dr. Henry J. Ostermann, Texas Army Reserve Ambassador, speaks during celebrations of the Army Reserve 106th birthday April 23, 2014. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Division West’s eight brigades also held Army Reserve 106th birthday celebrations at Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort McCoy, Wis., Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and at 28 Reserve battalions across the western United States.

    “As we celebrate this 106th birthday, I want you to reflect upon your leadership, your work relationships, and what you do — not only for this Army — but for this great nation,” Dunn said. “It’s a tough business. We’re here because it’s a labor of love, it’s a brotherhood, we love the challenge, and we just love the opportunity to do what’s right for our country.”

    From left to right, Col. Gregory D. Reilly, DIVWEST chief of staff; DIVWEST Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, Jr.; and 1st Sgt. Howard E. Scott, first sergeant of Headquarter and Headquarters Detachment, DIVWEST, listen on during the 106th Army Reserve Birthday celebration April 23, 2014. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Guest speaker Army Reserve Ambassador Dr. Henry J. Ostermann, from Spring, Texas, who serves as the eyes and the ears for the chief of the Army reserve, said, “As a community-based force, the Army Reserve maintains a strong connection to America’s industrial base and its people.

     “Many of them are employed by local businesses and live in the communities they serve,” he continued. “It is their professional competence, moral character, and resolute commitment that truly defines them as professionals and guarantees our sacred trust with the American people.”

    From left to right, Brig. Gen. Gracus K. Dunn, DIVWEST's deputy commanding general for support; 2nd Lt. Malcolm Clayton, the division's youngest Soldier with the 479th Field Artillery Brigade; Sgt. 1st Class Jasbert Billie, oldest division member also from the 479th; and Dr. Henry J. Ostermann, Texas Army Reserve Ambassador, cut the 106th Army Reserve birthday cake April 23, 2014. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Dunn highlighted and bestowed praise to Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella, a Civil Affairs Specialist from Fremont, Calif., currently serving in B Company, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, Mountain View, Calif., who — after 10 years in the Army — was selected as the Army’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for 2013.

    “For the first time, the Army’s NCO of the Year is an Army Reserve Soldier,” Dunn said. “That’s pretty astounding. But, it lets you know, that as a citizen who raised his right hand and volunteered to become a service member of the Reserve Component, this accomplishment speaks volumes of where the Army Reserve and the Army Guard has come today.”

    While also serving in a dual assignment as commanding general of the 85th Support Command based in Arlington Heights, Ill., Dunn told about the start of Division West’s part of Army Reserve history.

      Brig. Gen. Gracus K. Dunn, DIVWEST's deputy commanding general for support, speaks to multi-component Soldiers of the division during celebrations of the Army Reserve's 106th birthday April 23, 2014. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “First Army was led by Lt. Gen. John J. ‘Blackjack’ Pershing, then followed during World War II by Gen. Omar Bradley, so we have a legacy — a strong legacy,” he said.

    “Today is a special day for the Army,” Dunn continued. “When we think about the three components that make up the United States Army between the active, the National Guard, and Army Reserve, we’re talking about close to 1 million Soldiers in uniform. It is about 205,000 Army Reserve Soldiers who have the trust of the American people.”

    Dunn also said that for more than a century, the American people have looked to the Reserve to fill the gap by ensuring the Army meets its mission.

    “They have looked to us, not just to fight the wars, but to preserve the peace,” he said. “I will guarantee you that it is a tough assignment. And I know it is tough to do this every day. It’s even tougher when you have to do this, and do a civilian job, and bond with your family life, and also have peace of mind.”

      The crowd belts out "The Army Song" at the conclusion of Fort Hood's Army Reserve 106th birthday celebrations April 23, 2014 at the 25th Street Chapel. (Photo by Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The division's youngest Soldier, 2nd Lt. Malcolm Clayton, of the 479th Field Artillery Brigade from Killeen, Texas, along with Sgt. 1st Class Jasbert Billie, from Albuquerque, N.M., and the oldest division member also from the 479th, joined Ostermann and Dunn in cutting the 106th Army Reserve birthday cake, while Staff Sgt. LaKendra Johnson, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the DIVWEST Chapel from Longview, Texas, sang a powerful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

    First Army Division West is a multi-component training Division which mobilized 214 units and 15,503 Soldiers and demobilized 295 units and 19,349 Soldiers during 2013. These units ran the gamut from general officer headquarters to small detachments and included missions ranging from Sustainment, Aviation, Engineer, Military Police, Air Defense Artillery and Medical in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and other operations around the world.

  • 120th Infantry Brigade kids pose for a group photo after activities set to honor Month of the Military Child. (Photo by Capt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Capt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — Paving the way to build total unit resiliency, the 120th Infantry Brigade planned out some Esprit de Corps-building activities here April 10 and 11 to help build cohesion in the ranks.

    Honoring the Month of the Military Child was the starting point. Under cold, gray weather, Soldiers and their Families trekked out for an imaginative Junior Expert Infantry Badge competition, with nearly 50 children signing up, ranging from 1 to 18 years old. 

    Going through a round robin of eight stations, the young competitors modeled themselves going after the Expert Infantry Badge , learning map reading, first aid, MRE nutrition, individual and buddy movement, radio and weapons familiarization, camouflage, first aid, and even a water balloon hand grenade toss.

    Staff Sgt. Troy Graeve, a 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment Observer-Controller/Trainer, provides kids with a tutorial on how to prepare an MRE during 120th Infantry Brigade activities honoring the Month of the Military Child. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    While the actual EIB is a rigorous competition, Staff Sgt. Mark Sneed, a field artillery Soldier and Sgt. 1st Class Travis Loest, an infantry non-commissioned officer, each set about planning the day by creating fun demonstrations for the kids.

    As always, the thump of field artillery rounds could be heard off in the distant Fort Hood ranges as the youngsters endured a modified Army Physical Fitness Test, which included a run and sit-ups and pushups — still quite like how their Soldier-parents start their early mornings.

    Staff Sgt. Troy Graeve, an infantryman from Tucson, Ariz., ran the MRE station where he gave a terse overview of the 26 different kinds of field rations. Each child received an MRE, and the experience of eating what their parents have when they’re in the field. The playful advice to the kids: “Take the veggie burger, because it comes with a lot of candy inside.”

    Sgt. 1st Class James Lengele (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Benny Campbell, both Observer-Controller/Trainers with 2nd Battalion, 395th Field Artillery Regiment, give a quick class on first aid to children of the 120th Infantry Brigade while honoring the Month of the Military Child. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Sgt. 1st Class James Lengele, a field artilleryman from Kearns, Utah, and Sgt. 1st Class Benny Campbell, a field artilleryman from Beeville, Texas, led the medical station. Looking back on how children responded to the training, Lengele said, “Everyone wants to wrap themselves up to look like a mummy.”

    Soldiers and civilians from the 120th Infantry Brigade say a little prayer before they head out onto Fort Hood's Clear Creek Golf Course. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    For their participation, each child received a certificate from Lt. Col. Randy Jimenez, the 2nd Battalion, 395th Field Artillery regiment commander from San Jacinto, Calif., and the 2-395th’s Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Perez, of Hanford, Calif. After receiving their keepsakes, the children practiced the customary “grip-and-grin” photo opportunity before sitting down for one big group shot.

    Gathering for some outdoor fun-in-the- sun, Fort Hood’s Clear Creek Golf Course saw some friendly competition.

    Lt. Col. Michael Tremblay, 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment commander, makes his shot while the 2-393’s Command Sgt. Maj. William Montgomery looks on. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Golf scrambles are no stranger to many of the units on post, but the beautiful sunny day, perfect temperature and unit togetherness seemed especially much-needed.

    “It’s great team building, especially since some members can’t break away from work,” said 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment Command Sgt. Maj. William Montgomery. “It’s also good because they get to see their leadership out there having fun with them.”

  • Sgt. 1st Class Nick James, of Akron, Ohio, chief of electronics maintenance at U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and Sgt. 1st Class Evelyn Barajas, of Barstow, Calif., the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade’s intelligence operations non-commissioned officer, pose with the big spoon at the start of the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. March 23. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    By Capt. Wayne Welander, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — Six members of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade completed the 26.2 miles of the 25th Bataan Memorial Death March here March 23.

    “I did Bataan this year as a message to my daughter as well as to support the Army SHARP program by conveying the importance of staying strong and resilient,” said Sgt. 1st Class Doris Green, of Albuquerque, N.M., and the 402nd’s Sexual Harassment, Assault and Response Program representative.

    Green suffered a stress fracture through the second half of the march.

    Anyone who has ever participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March will testify to the difficulty of the course, including a steep uphill climb and deep sand. The Death March goes through the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range, and as difficult as it is, it only gives a small taste of the experience the Soldiers endured in the Philippines during 1942.

    On April 9, 1942, American forces in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese. These Soldiers, after surviving on half or even quarter rations for months, were forced to march for days in the scorching heat through the jungle. Malnourished and sick, thousands died during the march. Many of those were bayoneted or shot by the Japanese when they could no longer go on.

    From left to right: Sgt. Guadalupe Romero, of El Paso, Texas, chaplain’s assistant at the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade; Master Sgt. Jemellee Manaoat, of Oakley, Calif., mobilization non-commissioned officer-in-charge; Capt. Wayne Welander, of Anoka, Minn., commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade; and Sgt. 1st Class Doris Green, of Albuquerque, N.M., Sexual Harassment, Assault and Response Program representative at the 402nd, pause during the Bataan Death March to pose with the HHB guide-on. The Bataan Memorial Death March took place March 23 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    This was the first year some Soldiers did the Bataan Memorial Death March. Participating in the military light category, Sgt. 1st Class Evelyn Barajas, of Barstow, Calif., broke her right big toe three weeks before Bataan, but the 402nd’s intelligence operations non-commissioned officer decided to do the 26.2 miles anyway. 

    “Bataan was toe-tally brutal, but I couldn’t let the opportunity to do the event pass without being a part of it,” she said.

    Barajas, along with Sgt. 1st Class Nick James, of Akron, Ohio, and chief of electronics maintenance at U.S. Army Special Operations Command, carried a giant spoon through the entire course. It was a legacy gift for their instructor from the Battle Staff Course and is now on display at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.

    Master Sgt. Jemellee Manaoat, of Oakley, Calif., decided to do Bataan for the first time at the urging of friends. “People kept inviting me to do Bataan so I finally did it,” said the mobilization non-commissioned officer-in-charge for the 402nd. “I wanted to test my personal courage. I did it to support our country and the Philippine people along with the Veterans of Bataan. It was particularly inspiring to see the Wounded Warriors completing the course.”

    Another Soldier, Sgt. Guadalupe Romero, of El Paso, Texas, also did Bataan for the first time this year in the civilian light category.  The 402nd’s chaplain assistant said Bataan was more difficult than she expected, but she completed it without complaint. 

    Of all the 402nd’s marchers, Sgt. Jennifer Mai, of El Paso, Texas, was the most experienced Bataan veteran. As her brigade’s essential personnel services non-commissioned officer, she has completed three Bataan Memorial Death Marches in 2011, 2012, and 2014. 

    “Although the marches in 2011 and 2012 were windier than this year, all three years were very difficult,” said Mai.

    Kiersten Welander, daughter Capt. Wayne Welander, of Anoka, Minn., and commander of the 402nd’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, also participated in the march — not as a marcher, but as a volunteer. Kiersten helped register marchers on Saturday and then manned Water Point 3 on Sunday, where the course splits into the 14.2-mile route or the longer 26.2-mile route.

    Sgt. 1st Class Evelyn Barajas, front, from Barstow, Calif., intelligence operations non-commissioned officer for the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade; Greg Mai, husband of Sgt. Jennifer Mai, of El Paso, Texas, essential personnel services non-commissioned officer of the 402nd; and Sgt. 1st Class Nick James, of Akron, Ohio, chief of electronics maintenance at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, thumbs-up the camera during the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. March 23. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade donated a unit coin as a symbol of the unit’s participation in the event, which was placed on a coin rack made especially for the 2014 march. After Bataan, the coins and coin rack were moved to the White Sands Missile Range Museum to be displayed in the special Bataan Memorial Death March section.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Mark Perez, of San Antonio, Texas, an observer coach/trainer for 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Task Force Renegade, 5th Armored Brigade, reads the instructions for the Egg Guess game during the 5th Armored Brigade Easter Eggstravaganza at Kelly Park on April 5, 2014. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West  Public Affairs)

     

    By 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas — “Three, two, one, go!” yelled a voice into the megaphone. Next, over 100 Army children sprinted through Kelly Park here, gathering colored eggs, while searching for the elusive golden eggs, which promised a much larger prize.

    The 5th Armored Brigade held its annual Easter celebration April 5, allowing Soldiers and Family members a chance to come together on a weekend and celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday.

    “This is one of the three big events we do yearly that allows for all the families to come together,” said Col. Raul Gonzalez, brigade commander. “Each battalion chips in and works on their portion of the event, so you get to work on the cooperation and teamwork of the unit while our Families have a great time.”

    The event, which had participants from all seven battalions in the brigade, included events like an egg and spoon race, an egg toss, bunny hop races, an egg walking event, and a scavenger hunt to finish the day.

    Col. Raul Gonzalez (holding megaphone), of Bayomon, Puerto Rico, commander of 5th Armored Brigade, bellows instructions through a megaphone for the Easter Egg Hunt during the 5th Armored Brigade’s Easter Eggstravaganza at Kelly Park on April 5, 2014. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “The families were able to socialize together and see each other outside of just work,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Hogeboom, commander of the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade. “I wanted our Family members and Soldiers to get a feeling of community and know that although we live all over town, we can come together and have a great time.”

    The scavenger hunt was broken into three age groups, where each group had a designated area in the park to find eggs. A certain number of golden eggs were scattered among the colorful eggs, which would earn the lucky child that found it a large gift basket of candy.

    Albert Arellano Jr., son of Sgt. 1st Class Albert Arellano, of San Antonio, Texas, an equal opportunity advisor for 5th Armored Brigade, leads the pack during the egg and spoon race at the Easter Eggstravaganza at Kelly Park April 5, 2014. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “I wanted my daughter to be able to come out and be able to get to know some of the other kids in the battalion and brigade,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Robinson, an observer-coach/trainer with the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade. “The atmosphere was great, the weather was amazing, and everybody was able to participate in some way.”

    By early afternoon, the bouncy house was deflated, Easter baskets were full of opened eggs, and the kids begrudgingly made their way to the car with bellies full of chocolate, thinking of how they can’t wait for next year’s Easter event to come once more.

  • Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., First Army Division West commanding general, surveys the training with Spec. Adam Kaplan, a wheeled-vehicle mechanic from Michigan City, Ind., with the 511th Trailer Transfer Point Detachment, during the Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 86-14-02 at Fort McCoy, Wis., April 1. The 511th partnered with the 418th TTP during the exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT McCOY, Wis. — The Army Reserve’s 418th and 511th Trailer Transfer Point Detachments from Michigan City, Ind., combine forces for the Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 86-14-02 here, March 22 through April 11.

    “We’ve been augmenting each other on training missions, and we’ve had no issues with intermixing our units,” said 1st Lt. Christophe Eli, 511th commander from Valparaiso, Ind. “Our working relationship has been really well.”

    During this exercise, large quantities of supplies and equipment are utilized. The same can be said about many contingency operations overseas. These two units shed light on the inner-workings of how equipment is organized and distributed.

    “Our function as a TTP is to receive cargo at a midway point, and store and transfer it to other units to push the cargo to front-lying units,” said Eli.

    Both units throughout the exercise work on their functional tasks to expand skill levels. While mastering their military occupation abilities, they make sure not to neglect their common warrior tasks while acquiring new ones along the way.

    Soldiers with the Army Reserve’s 418th and 511th Trailer Transfer Point Detachments from Michigan City, Ind., set up 360 degree security around a transfer point during the Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 86-14-02 at Fort McCoy, Wis., April 1. The TTP units augmented each other during many training missions during the exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “We’ve got to apply old knowledge and receive new things to enhance what we already know,” said Spec. Darius Cox, a 418th TTP petroleum supply specialist from Fort Worth, Texas. “I’ve gotten to do things that I’ve never done before, like the Vertical Battle Space 2.0 (VBS2) and the convey simulator. I’ve gained new marksmanship skills that I can apply on my next firing range.”

    Each unit, alongside the other, continued to grow in operation skill and tactics, according to Division West observer-coach/trainers that worked with them during the duration of the training exercise.

    “They’ve been building on what they’ve learned, and overall from where they started, they have definitely progressed,” said Capt. Clinton Hopkins, a 479th Field Artillery O-C/T from Omaha, Neb. “They’ve shown us through every phase of training that they’ve retained what we’ve shared and that they will continue to build upon it back at home station.”

    With the exercise coming to a close, a few Soldiers reflected back on the benefits of training with the division trainers.

    “Our O-Cs had great input,” said Cox. “They basically got our brains working on different ways to see things and then applying what we’ve learned.”

    “They made sure the Soldiers knew their roles,” said Sgt. 1st Class Trenice Jenkins, 511th noncommissioned officer-in-charge and Windy City native. “The O-C/Ts made sure the Soldiers knew there is no such thing as a dumb question.”

    In the end, the TTP units not only attained new levels of skill and knowledge, but a greater appetite for more.

    “I wish we could have more of this,” said Eli. “More field training, more training with MOSs, and more training with other units.”

  • By Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    The 166th Aviation Brigade held the first Sergeant Audie Murphy Club selection board March 22 for Division West’s inaugural Sergeant Audie Murphy Award.

    When Division West’s Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna Jr. proposed the idea of a SAMC selection board four months ago, 166th’s Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela jumped at the opportunity.

    Candidate sponsor Master Sgt. Willie Brooks, 1st Battalion (Training Support), 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, looks on as his candidate, Sgt. 1st Class David Barnes answers board questions during the brigade's Sergeant Audie Murphy Award Board. The brigade was the only unit in Division West to send candidates to the Division's inaugural SAMA Board. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Audie Murphy was a decorated Soldier who grew through the Army’s enlisted, NCO, and officer during World War II, earning every award available including the Medal of Honor; he is the most decorated Soldier ever.

    Club membership distinction is awarded to Sergeants through Sergeants First Class annually. Nominations and boards begin at the battalion level, with all qualified Soldiers proceeding to their brigade boards. 

    “It’s a very prestigious club,” explained Vela, “It epitomizes the total Soldier; they made this as a model to be like Audie Murphy.”

    Being a member of the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club is an enormous honor recognized across the NCO Corps. “Being inducted into the SAMC distinguishes you from amongst your peers; the best of the best NCOs,” said Sgt. 1st Class Randall Copiskey, who earned his SAMC membership during 2011, and one of two boards members who are SAMC inductees.

    “As an NCO, when you aspire to be the best you can be, a common goal is to get the SAMA and be part of the club,” continued Copiskey, a cavalry scout and Observer-Coach/Trainer with 1st Battalion (Training Support), 337th Aviation Regiment. “It’s prestigious and [for] the cream of the crop.”

    Command Sgt. Maj. Glenn Rodney of 2nd Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment, listens as SFC Luke Steele, 1st Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment, responds to one of the board's questions during the brigade's Sergeant Audie Murphy Award Board. The brigade was the only unit in Division West to send candidates to the Division's inaugural SAMA Board. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Once NCOs become members of the SAMC, they’re expected to participate with the club; there is an SAMC on every Army installation, worldwide. “Getting it is only half the commitment,” explained Copiskey, “Ok, you got the award but now what are you going to do with it? You [have to] continue the legacy and mentor others to help attain this achievement.”

    Community outreach is an important part of being a SAMC member. “They do a lot of important details — a lot of veterans events,” said Copiskey. “The Adopt-A-School program is a way the installation club gives back; the (Fort Hood SAMC) sponsors the Audie Murphy Middle School.”

    Every candidate is assigned a sponsor who helps prepare, teach, and support the candidates. Sponsors are just as much responsible for their candidate’s success or failure and are tested and questioned almost as rigorously by members of the board.

    One of the battalion Command Sergeants Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Glenn Rodney of 2nd Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment said, “This is my first opportunity to sit in on a SAMC board. It’s a rewarding and educational experience to see the board process from inception, to the preparation for the NCOs, to the board.”

    Preparation for the board was intense. As the only brigade in the division that will send members for the division’s selection board, the standard was set very high. Candidates endured almost an hour-long inquiry on every subject from counseling a new Soldier, to the Army Song, to the seven war fighting functions, to MOS specific questions, to doctrine and tactics.

    “It is a ‘Go, No-Go’ process — there is not one winner and it’s not a competition; if you’re qualified and perform well, you continue to the next level,” explained Master Sergeant Laurence Minor, a sponsor for two NCOs from 1st Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment.

    “We had study sessions every Thursday. We visited the Army Community Service programs including Child Youth Services, Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, the sponsorship program,” said Sergeant First Class Luke Steele, a candidate and Unit Liaison Officer for 1-291st TSBn.

    Additionally, candidates had to build a leader book, write a 400-plus word essay on one of five topics provided, provide a valid physical fitness test score and weapons qualification, as well as take a written test of 60 questions.

    “This will be the hardest board you will ever experience. Everything is a test,” Vela said, forewarning the candidates and their sponsors. One-by-one the sponsors introduced their candidate, followed by a rigorous bevy of questions from each of the six board members made up of various battalion Command Sergeants Major, Vela, and Copiskey.

    Of the five candidates, three were selected to move on to the division board to be held the last week of March 2014. The Soldiers moving forward from 166th Aviation Brigade are Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Rodriguez, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company; Sgt. 1st Class David Barnes, of 1st Battalion (Training Support), 351st Aviation Regiment; and Sgt. 1st Class Luke Steele of 1st Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment.

    The 166th Aviation Brigade’s mission is to train and validate National Guard and Reserve aviation units, including brigade, battalion, company, and theater- to unit-level maintenance formations. The four training battalions concentrate on attack, lift, heavy lift, and MEDEVAC post-mobilization training as part of First Army Division West. The brigade also has two Reserve Component battalions tasked to conduct Personnel Recovery Training.

  • Brig. Gen. Gracus Dunn (left), First Army Division West deputy commanding general  for support, discusses training after the morning’s battle update brief with Brig. Gen. George Thompson, 86th Training Division commanding general, during the Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 86-14-02 at Fort McCoy, Wis., Mar. 25.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT McCOY, Wis. – Warrior Exercise 86-14-02 gathers Army Reserve units from across the nation here to reinforce warrior tasks and training from March 22 through April 11.

    “The idea of the WAREX is that Army Reserve Soldiers are able to come to Ft. McCoy and increase their functional capabilities,” said Brig. Gen. George Thompson, 86th Training Division commanding general. “If they were to deploy, they would be able to do what the Army has trained them to do and support that combatant commander in theatre.”

    Over 5,000 Soldiers ranging from chemical, engineer, human resources, medical, infantry, maintenance and other military occupations were selected to participate in the WAREX.

    Capt. Yannick Williams, 3rd Battalion, 340th Training Support, 181st Infantry Brigade Observer-Coach/Trainer, looks over Soldiers with the Army Reserve’s 418th and 511th Trailer Transfer Point Detachments performing 360 degree security during the Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 86-14-02, Mar. 30. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The exercise incorporates intense field training exercises, where the first eight days are driven through mission command and pre-cut fragmentary orders. This allows units and their Soldiers to go out and practice their functional training.

    “The Soldiers are motivated and we as the leaders are setting the environment to stress them in a good way. They’re able to perform, succeed and maybe fail at missions,” said Thompson. “Then we are able to pick them up, dust them off, and keep them working, so that if put in a real environment, they can be the best they can be.”

    Many other factors come into play with overall training of Soldiers during the exercise. Soldiers get to train on other warrior tasks such as the Vertical Base Space 2 (VBS2) simulator and Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer (RVTT), and in facilities like the Medical Simulation Training Center (MSTC).

    Several units and commands have corroborated to facilitate the training.

    “The 86th isn’t in this fight by themselves,” said Thompson. “181st Infantry Brigade, under Division West is running the ground teams — along with the 84th Training Command, 75th Division and the Medical Readiness Training Command also incorporated in this.”

    Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, center, Division West command sergeant major, views laundry operations with Staff Sgt. Jordan Willsey, a noncommissioned officer with the Army Reserve’s 855th Quartermaster Company from Southbend, Ind., on Forward Operating Base Freedom at Ft. McCoy, Wis., during the Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 86-14-02, Mar. 30. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    All these major flags fly here, putting on this training in a combat-like environment to aid Soldiers in answering the nation’s call.

    “Our mission here is to train the total force Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Yerger, 181st Infantry Brigade command sergeant major. “We’re all cohorts together, working hand-in-hand.”

    Along with their partner units, the 181st provides Observer-Coach/Trainers to aid in mentoring the Soldiers on ground during training.

    “Our training support battalion is providing embedded O-C/Ts at the platoon and company level, and facilitating their training within the hierarchy of the 86th,” said Maj. Troy Eck, 3rd Battalion, 335th Training Support executive officer.

    It’s a great relationship between Division West and the 86th Division, Thompson said. “Together we are providing a great opportunity for Soldiers to come practice their stills and get better at what they do,” he said.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Genaro Garcia (far right), maintenance NCOIC at 1st Regiment 363rd Combat Support/Combat Service Support (Training Battalion), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, walks the HMMWV line in the motor pool shouting instructions as members of his unit conduct preventative maintenance checks and services on vehicles for the road test portion of the drivers training class conducted recently at Parks Reserve Training Center, Dublin, Calif. The drivers training course lasted two months and culminated in day- and night-time driving. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rosario Urquieta, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Sgt 1st Class Rosario Urquieta, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    CAMP PARKS, Calif. — Skills are often lost when not used on a daily basis. For this reason the 1st Regiment 363rd Combat Support/Combat Service Support Training Battalion focuses its training on HMMWV’s with drivers training and troop leading procedures.

    The Maintenance NCOIC of the unit, Sgt. 1st Class Genaro Garcia, is responsible for vehicle maintenance at battalion level and is the subject matter expert for the drivers training program. Garcia emphasizes the importance of training to standard with vehicles used in the field. 

    “You got to get to know your equipment before you operate your equipment,” said Garcia. “Knowing how the vehicles operate, Soldiers are capable of preventing major issues from occurring.”  

    Garcia said Soldiers who know their vehicles have more confidence when maneuvering various vehicles. Garcia said lots of safety hazards happen due to negligence.

    Staff Sgt. Dale Wells (center), assigned to 1st Regiment 363rd Combat Support/Combat Service Support (Training Battalion), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, explains the driving course to the drivers training class before the day portion of the driver exam training at Parks Reserve Training Center, Dublin, Calif. The drivers training course lasted two months and culminated in day- and night-time driving. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rosario Urquieta, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs) 

     

    “The training manuals continuously show warning signs demonstrating the importance of safety when handling military vehicles,” Garcia said. “The more we enforce it and practice safety, the safer Soldiers (are).”

    A new soldier to the unit, Sgt. George Payopay, said the class was great.

    “Based on the training I have taken, this drivers training class is one of the best,” he said. “Being able to communicate and relate with the student is important cause I have gone through other classes and the information goes away right away, but by Sgt. Garcia basing the information on personal experiences, I was able to take the information and keep it based on what I have experienced. “

    2nd Lt. Joshua Cantu is new to the Army. He is also in a leadership role that keeps him close to troops. Cantu has never experienced a class such as drivers training, so this was a whole new opportunity to learn.

    “The only way to learn is to go out there and get the hands on perspective,” he said.” I feel like I actually built a lot of confidence — the fact that there was rain, that itself made the training more relevant.”

    One aspect of the training was getting used to the night vision goggles. Staff Sgt. Kassandra Boswell had previous experience with military drivers training but was able to learn and do something new.

    “Putting on the NVGs was really awesome,” she said. “It was completely different from how I thought it was going to be. I was able to see a lot more than what I thought I was going to be able to see.”

    During Boswell’s 10 years of service, drivers training actually stuck with her this time. “I think in this unit they really care about their Soldiers and drivers training shows how much they care about the development of their Soldiers.”

  • By Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Col. (Retired) Bruce R. Crandall, Medal of Honor recipient for actions in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, gives his thumbs-up approval of the 166th Aviation Brigade blanket presented to him by Brigade Commander Col. Kevin A. Vizzarri and Chief Warrant Officer 5 James O'Gorman (right), Chief Warrant Officer of the Brigade. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    FORT HOOD, Texas — The 166th Aviation Brigade was honored to host Medal of Honor recipient Col. (Retired) Bruce R. Crandall at its recent spring formal.

    Crandall was awarded the MOH for his actions in the first major conflict of the Vietnam War in the Ia Drang Valley during November 1965. He was immortalized by the movie “We Were Soldiers,” played by famous actor Greg Kinnear.

    He regaled the crowd of 250 Soldiers and Families with his stories; from long-time friend and wingman, Ed “Too Tall” Freeman to Col. Hal Moore, to his wife Arlene, and their experiences as part of the Engineer Corps in Libya, Venezuela, Vietnam, and all places in between.

    Col. (Retired) Bruce R. Crandall, Medal of Honor recipient for actions in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, along with the 166th Aviation Brigade's Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela, recounts stories and gives advice to Soldiers of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 230th Air Cavalry Regiment, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter unit of the Tennessee National Guard. The unit is going through post-mobilization training with the 166th’s 1st Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment, before deploying to support operations in Afghanistan. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    In anticipation of Crandall’s visit, the “Grey Wing” Soldiers watched a screening of the movie. “I’d seen the movie before — I was really excited to meet him,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Farmer, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter standardization instructor with the 166th’s 2nd Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment.

    Watching the movie was especially important for non-aviation Soldiers in the Brigade, to whom Bruce Crandall is not a household name.

    An engineer, Capt. Jason Kim, the event coordinator and Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander said, “I didn’t know who he was before this.” 

    Honored to meet an MOH recipient, Kim said, “I really appreciated (his speech). He was a humble man who had an incredible experience. He did a really good job portraying his experience and tying it into advice for the Army Soldiers today.”

    Soldiers of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 230th Air Cavalry Regiment, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter unit of the Tennessee National Guard, pose for a group picture with Col. (Retired) Bruce R. Crandall, Medal of Honor recipient for actions in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The unit is currently going through post-mobilization training under the watchful eyes of the 166th Aviation Brigade's 1st Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment, before heading off to support operations in Afghanistan. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Crandall also took time to speak with Soldiers of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 230th Air Cavalry Regiment, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter unit of the Tennessee National Guard going through post-mobilization training with 166th’s 1st Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment.

    Capt. Brendan Ballerd, Troop B commander, said, “He was awesome. He was like a grandfather figure with stories to share that anyone can listen to and enjoy and look up to.” 

    Ballerd especially appreciated having a role model for his Soldiers to emulate before their upcoming deployment. “He’s an exemplary figure to all of us for what he did during his service,” he said. “It was a real morale boost.” 

    The common theme among those who met and heard Crandall speak was his humility and what he taught them. “Take care of your Soldiers and they’ll take care of you,” said Ballerd.

    Quality Control Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge, Sgt. 1st Class Jackie Bailey agreed, and said, “He wasn’t arrogant; he was down to earth and genuine. And what it boils down to is taking care of each other.”

    Farmer was struck the same way. “He said it could’ve been any of us in that situation and we would do the same,” he said. “I think it takes a certain kind of person, but he doesn’t think he’s above anyone else — that makes him a real person.” 

    Crandall also took the time to award the Army Aviation Association of America’s Order of St. Michael medal to two of the brigade’s warrant officers, Chief Warrant Officer 4 (Retired) Carl Fox and Chief Warrant Officer 5 James O’Gorman. “It was such a surprise and honor to get the medal presented to me by Col. Crandall,” O’Gorman said.

    Crandall’s impact on young and old Soldiers alike, from aviation or logistician and everything in between is undeniable. His warm, unassuming demeanor speaks just as loudly as the medal around his neck; both signs of a true, humble hero who insists anyone would have done the same.

    Well into his 80s, the aviator travels over 200 days each year, sharing his love for the Army, helicopters, and his comrades-in-arms, both past and present. Soldiers of 166th Aviation Brigade and all who have had the good fortune to spend a few moments with him have the unforgettable honor of experiencing a true hero.

    The 166th Aviation Brigade’s mission is to train and validate National Guard and Reserve aviation units, including brigade, battalion, company, and theater- to unit-level maintenance formations. The four training battalions concentrate on attack, lift, heavy lift, and MEDEVAC post-mobilization training as part of First Army Division West. The brigade also has two Army Reserve battalions tasked to conduct personnel recovery training.

  •  

    Cadet George Levy of Houston, Texas, goes through some mounted drills on a convoy combat simulator at Fort Hood’s Close Combat Tactical Trainer and Warrior Skill Skills Trainer Center during The U.S. Military Academy rugby team’s spring break trip. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — When the U.S. Military Academy rugby team planned its spring break, First Army Division West reached out to arrange a tour here, including some exhibition games at local universities.

    The team also soaked up valuable leadership experience from Fort Hood officers and non-commissioned officers, who provided insight on leadership as it relates to both rugby and real life situations.

     

    While playing a scrimmage game against the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, the West Point rugby team pushes and shows its way to gain control over the ball during its spring break trip to Fort Hood. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    While visiting the motor pool at 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, the rugby team was shown Abrams main battle tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

    “We have some armor guys and infantry guys who split off to their respective vehicles,” said Cadet rugby Team Captain Jeff Ferebee of Primm Springs, Tenn. “We have been around these vehicles before, but they took us through the maintenance and the nitty-gritty.”

     

    Lt. Col. Robert B. Kuth, battalion commander of 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, points out the subtleties of leadership, as his senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Kerry N. Bassett surveys the West Point rugby team cadets during their spring break trip to Fort Hood. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    On to the 1st Cavalry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, the cadets toured the flight line where they were able to crawl around Apache, Black Hawk, and Chinook helicopters. “I am more interested in becoming an aviator, but I haven’t gotten my branch yet,” said Cadet Logan Pearce of North Royalton, Ohio.

    “They took us to the flight simulator and I got to fly with that a little bit,” Pearce continued. “It was everything I expected it to be. Of course, right now I can’t understand what all the buttons, levers and pulleys mean, but I am looking forward to it someday.”

     

    West Point Cadet rugby Team Captain, Jeff Ferebee of Primm Springs, Tenn., strong arms his way through practice at Fort Hood Stadium during the team’s spring break trip here. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    Two social highlights were scheduled on their tour: the first, a dinner at 1982 West Point graduate, and Div. West Commanding General Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr.’s on-post quarters.

    The dinner at Phipps’s home was Texas-themed, with barbecue brisket, Kahlúa pork, smoked sausage, corn casserole and Texas style beans to name a few menu items. “It was such a high-class meal by a high-class staff,” said Ferebee. “It was an awesome taste of Texas – we don’t get to have food like that all the time.”

     

    The U.S. Military Academy’s West Point rugby team runs warm-up laps before scrimmaging against the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, during their spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    Later, the team gathered at Legends Pub with members of the Heart of Texas West Point Society, a non-profit alumni organization that links graduates, families and candidates in Central Texas.

    The last stop on their tour was Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Battalion, where wounded Soldiers go to heal and transition. “West Point leadership felt the cadets needed to learn a little bit about what the WTU is about and it’s good for our Soldiers as well,” said Maj. Gustavo Diaz, operations officer for the Warrior Transition Battalion.

     

    The U.S. Military Academy’s West Point rugby stretches its self out before scrimmaging against the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, during their spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    Cadet Cody Brown of Fayetteville, N.C., whose father was a Special Forces enlisted soldier, said he learned the importance of taking care of Soldiers, especially while at the WTB.

    “Seeing the Wounded Warriors and the care that they need, I think is a big step forward for the Army,” he said. “I’ve been able to talk to the staff here and pick up on their stories about how they take care of Soldiers. We are getting a lot of old wisdom from older NCOs, and that’s what is important.

     

    West Point Cadet rugby Team Captain Jeff Ferebee of Primm Springs, Tenn., receives the line/out after the ball goes out of bounds while scrimmaging against the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, during their spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    “My dad instilled in me, ‘Listen to your NCOs and always take care of your Soldiers,’ and that is getting reinforced by all of these NCOs. Hearing their stories excites me, because that’s what leadership is all about.”

    Cadet team Vice Captain Aaron Bush of Dallas, Texas, said he was overwhelmed that so many senior NCOs took the time to teach him and his fellow cadets, while making them feel comfortable. “That had to be the most humbling aspect of the trip — how people have opened up and responded to us being here.

      Cadet Ryan McCollum of Warren, Oh., suffers a bloody cut to his forehead while scrimmaging against the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, during their spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    “Even the Military Police are checking in on us as, asking us are rugby scores every time we come through the gate, so it’s just been a humbling and great experience to see how much people here care.”

    Ferebee agreed and said there is no greater place than Fort Hood. “Being around real Soldiers in the real Army, this tour lets us see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

      West Point Athletic Trainer Ashley Hoogeveen (left) tends to Cadet Ryan McCollum of Warren, Oh., suffering a bloody cut to his forehead while scrimmaging against the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, during their spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

    West Point rugby won all exhibitions games at the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns (A side: 51-5, and B side 53-0); Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas (A side,:79-5); and Texas A&M University Aggies at College Station, Texas (A side: 46-12, and B side 101-0).

      U.S. Military Academy at West Point rugby team cadets huddled together at the halftime score of 43 – 0 during a scrimmage game with the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, during their spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

      Cadet Luke Heun of Palmer, Alaska, breaks away from the Baylor University Bears at Waco, Texas, during their spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

      Cadet Benjamin Lemon of Bountiful, Utah, steps off from a couple of Bears during a rugby scrimmage at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, during the West Point rugby team’s spring break trip to Central Texas. West Point’s A side beat out Baylor 79 – 5. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

      The U.S. Military Academy at West Point rugby team poses for a group photo under the goalpost at Baylor University, Waco, Texas during the team’s spring break trip to Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr. (left), commanding general of First Army Division West and former West Point rugby player from the class of 1982, chats with West Point rugby Head Coach Lt. Col. (Retired) Mike Mahan during a social gathering at Phipps’ home during the rugby team’s spring break trip to Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Julian A. Benitezpenuelas, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The U.S. Military Academy at West Point rugby team poses for a group photo with cadre at the Warrior Transition Brigade during the team’s spring break trip to Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr. (left), commanding general of First Army Division West and former West Point rugby player from the class of 1982, receives a rugby ball from West Point rugby team Cadet Vice Captain Aaron Bush, of Dallas, Texas, during a social gathering at Phipps’ home during the rugby team’s spring break trip to Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Julian A. Benitezpenuelas, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)
  • By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Nadja Y. West, the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., applauds the Live Oak Ridge Middle School Varsity Female Choir of Killeen, Texas for their rendition of the national anthem during the Fort Hood and III Corps Women’s History Month celebration on Fort Hood, Texas, Mar. 19. West was the event’s guest speaker. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    FORT HOOD, Texas – The Pentagon’s Joint Staff Surgeon laid out the theme for Women’s History Month celebrations at Club Hood here March 19.

    Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Nadja Y. West, who is no stranger to having several “firsts” throughout her military career, humbly regaled attentive listeners with stories of how women persevered through hardships, ridicule, and challenges to pave the way for future generations of leaders.

    “I wanted to talk about today’s national theme: celebrating women of character, courage and commitment,” she said. “How tiny that is, but how appropriate that we stir a significant historical change in our military.”

    The list of firsts include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was the first female African-American to hold that position in office, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, who was the first female four-star general in the U.S. military, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Angela R. Lowe, the first female Field Artillery Targeting Technician in Army history.

    The Live Oak Ridge Middle School Varsity Female Choir from Killeen, Texas, performs the song “Roar” by recording artist Katy Perry during the Fort Hood and III Corps Women’s History Month celebration on Fort Hood, Texas, Mar. 19. The program focused on the achievements and contributions that women have made in the military, government, society and academia. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “There needs to be more exposure and more mentoring to other young Soldiers to follow in our footsteps,” Lowe said.

    Many times, West reminded the audience of how women have been front-runners to the evolution of America’s society and military.

    She expounded on the major historical moves that women made in the past to the present, and said, “They were pioneers that took upon themselves the charge of leadership, even though they did not realize it at the time.”

    One of the most pivotal moves in women’s history was establishing the Women’s Army Corps/Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC/WAAC) during 1942.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr. (right), First Army Division West commanding general, poses for a photo with Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Nadja Y. West, the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., after the Fort Hood and III Corps Women’s History Month celebration on Fort Hood, Texas, Mar. 19. Division West’ 166th Aviation Brigade, along with the 36th Engineer Brigade, hosted and organized the day’s event. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    West continued to speak about the first six women graduates of the Drill Sergeant Academy during 1972, and how — in 1975 — President Ford signed Public Law 94-106, opening West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy to women. Approximately 327 women became the first to attend these officer-producing service academies.

    To close the program after West’s motivational speech, the Live Oak Ridge Middle School Varsity Female Choir of Killeen, Texas further roused the crowd by singing “Roar” by recording artist Katy Perry.

    After almost 50 years, women continue to rise to the challenges of society in academia, the military, and government. Women serving in the armed forces have risen from 2 percent to 14.6 percent during that time, which means the nation’s forces have swelled with more than 200,000 mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, all serving their country proudly.

    “As we honor the many women who have shaped our history, let us also celebrate those who make progress in our time. Let us remember that when women succeed, America succeeds,” recited Lowe, from the 2014 Presidential Proclamation for Women’s History Month.

    First Army Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade, along with the 36th Engineer Brigade, hosted the Women’s History Month celebration.

  • Staff Sgt. Leslie Moore, a noncommissioned officer with the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, reads to the students of Presa Elementary School during the annual Read Across America event on March 5, in El Paso, Texas. While the event is usually on March 3, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Presa Elementary School celebrates the event all week to encourage students to incorporate reading into their lives. Soldiers were given the opportunity to read to multiple classes throughout the day and spend time with the students in the library for a final reading session. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    El Paso, Texas - “Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am,” said Staff Sgt. Alsherdan Lopez, a noncommissioned officer with the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, to the 1st grade students of Presa Elementary School.

    Lopez, along with three other Soldiers from the same unit as well as the 5th Armored Brigade, joined together March 6 here for the school’s week long celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday for the annual Read Across America event.

    The event, which usually falls on the school day closest to March 2, encourages adults to pick up a book and read to a child, showing children the importance of reading in their lives.

    Staff Sgt. Alsherdan Lopez, a noncommissioned officer with the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, reads the book “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss to the students of Presa Elementary School, March 6 in El Paso, Texas. The school celebrated the Read Across America event all week and encouraged creativity with themed days. On March 5, the theme was wacky hair Wednesday, where students came to school with colored and styled hair like the characters in their favorite Dr. Seuss books. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    While this is usually a one day occasion, Presa Elementary takes it a step further, and has reading sessions and activities for a full week of classes. Each day of the week is themed, which this year included a crazy hair day, clothes inside out day, and a character day, where kids can come to school dressed as a Dr. Seuss character.

    The school invites local authors, FBI agents, Soldiers from Fort Bliss, and dressed-up characters from Dr. Seuss’s books to come in and take part in the festivities.

    “I thought, what an awesome and positive influence that the speakers have on the kids,” said Gabriella Barnes, Presa Elementary school project coordinator. “They see that reading isn’t just about teachers telling them that they have to read, but that people they admire read as well.”

    The Soldiers were able to pick from a selection of books, to include all of Dr. Seuss’s common favorites, before heading to a classroom to read. As the Soldiers stepped into the classrooms with their books at their sides to read, the children whispered amongst themselves in barely-contained awe. After reading to the kids, the Soldiers were bombarded with questions about their everyday lives as Soldiers before heading to another class to repeat the experience.

    Sgt. 1st Class Elevlyn Barajas, a noncommissioned officer with the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, reads a book to the students of Presa Elementary School during the Read Across America event on March 6, in El Paso, Texas. Barajas was able to read to multiple classes throughout the day and answer any questions that the students had about her life as a Soldier. Soldiers from the 402nd Field Artillery and 5th Armored Brigade teamed together for the event and covered most of the schools classes. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “Growing up, I wish someone like Soldiers or law enforcement had come to my school to read to us, said Lopez. “It was a good experience to be able to pass down some knowledge, as the kids had lots of questions for me.”

    Other guests for the week included local author Phillip Cortez and Dr. Anna Perez, the interim superintendent for the Ysleta Independent School District.

    “One of the things that I really enjoy is reading, and as a child, that is what opened up the world for me,” said Perez. “So I wanted that opportunity to share that with the children.”

    While the Read Across America event is over for the year, the Soldiers of the 402nd Field Artillery and 5th Armored Brigade hope they have left a lasting impression on the students of Presa Elementary School, or at least until they can come back next year and gift them again with the imaginative and creative words of Dr. Seuss.  

  • By Capt. Marcel M. Hickman, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Task Force Renegade, 5th Armored Brigade, sent an Organizational Readiness Evaluation team to the National Capital Region.

    For the second time during Jan. 27 – 31, the 362nd conducted evaluations on North Dakota National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, to again assess the unit’s ability to perform its mission in the NCR.

    TF Renegade, operating as subject matter experts on behalf of the South Carolina National Guard’s 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, evaluated the unit’s ability to conduct tactical operations on all sites in the NCR, for both the Avenger and Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile weapon systems, along with evaluating the unit’s over-arching maintenance operation throughout the region. 

    The Avenger and NASAMS weapon systems are all part of the NCR – Integrated Air Defense Systems and are linked together to provide missile defense coverage for key assets in the NCR.     

    This ORE was the second opportunity that Renegade observer-coach/trainers had to evaluate the 1-188th ADA battalion, since they assumed the mission last July, after completing their culminating training event at Fort Bliss, Texas.  This was also the first opportunity for new Renegade O-C/Ts to observe the mission in action. 

    “Having the opportunity to come up to the National Capital Region, and observe the unit conduct the mission, along with all site operations, has truly opened my eyes as to what my role as an OC/T in the battalion,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gary Marion, Renegade O-C/T. “It gave me a much better understanding of the mission, and what I am supposed to do as an O-C/T.”

  • Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander, speaks to Soldiers and Families during the 5th Armored Brigade Ready and Resilient Family Symposium Feb. 25, at Sage Hall on Fort Bliss, Texas. Gonzalez stressed comprehensive fitness for both Soldiers and Families. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas – Soldiers and Families from 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, filled Sage Hall here Feb. 25, for the brigade’s first ever Ready and Resilient Family Symposium.

    Family members got an opportunity to get up close and personal to see many of the resources available to them and their Soldiers.

    The symposium was a representation of agencies across Fort Bliss such as Army Career and Alumni Program, Child Youth Services, The Center for Integrative Medicine, Behavioral Health and many others.

    “The military stresses collective. What a better way for a Soldier to have the essential health of mind and body to perform than to provide his or her family the benefit of various agencies represented,” said Sharon Brewer, wife of Lt. Col. Blake Brewer, 5th AR deputy commander.

    Beth Alexander, center, wife of Maj. Dean Alexander, human resources officer-in-charge, discusses information presented at the Ready and Resilient Family Symposium Feb. 25, on Fort Bliss, Texas. Families got the opportunity to see all of the agencies available to them for support such as Army Community Service, Behavioral Health, The Center for Integrative Medicine and many others. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade Division West Public Affairs)

    Each task force within the brigade carries a tight training schedule that at times require 24-hour manning, but leadership saw a window and took advantage of the gap in the training schedule.

    “Right now with our mob load, we have time to focus on this (resilience) and bringing families in only strengthens our Soldiers,” said Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander.

    The brigade will begin to see a surge in troops mobilizing here for deployment in the spring, and that will drastically cut down on the opportunities for this kind of training.

    “During the time of the surge, our Soldiers will technically be on a deployment because when they’re not working, they’ll be resting for work,” said Gonzalez.

    The approach to exposing Families and spouses to the available resources was, by design, beyond just sitting them down for the mandatory deployment reintegration briefs or the pamphlets hanging in the unit facilities.

    Soldiers and Families of the 5th Armored Brigade fill Sage Hall for the brigade’s first ever Ready and Resilient Family Symposium Feb. 25, on Fort Bliss, Texas. Families and spouses got the opportunity to experience many of the resources available to Soldiers and Families for comprehensive fitness. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade Division West Public Affairs)

    “The more reliable and resilient I can make a family, the more the Soldier can focus on his job,” said Gonzalez.

    The symposium also absolved Soldiers from the responsibility of regurgitating this information to spouses and bringing home pamphlets.

    “As Soldiers, we know all of the services available,” said Maj. Dean Alexander, 5th Armored Brigade human resources officer-in-charge. “We don’t always do a good job of relaying this information to our spouses and Families.”

    At times, Soldiers have in their mind what the priorities are for themselves and the Family, and exposing spouses to these organizations and resources give the Family options they may not have known existed.

    “A spouse has priorities. Soldier has other priorities, and spouses being present bring another element,” said Gonzalez. “They see things from a different perspective that I can’t relate to because I’m Soldier every day.”

    But in all of the attendance of Soldiers and Family members, the proof will be in the use of those services offered by the agencies present.

    “Many of the tables got a lot attention during the breakout sessions,” said Gonzalez. “The ACS (Army Community Service) representative said she got more attention at the symposium than she normally gets.”

Events

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