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  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wayne Ming, 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment standardization pilot participates in the regiment-hosted blood drive at First Army Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, recently. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

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

    FORT HOOD, Texas – The 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, recently hosted a blood drive at First Army Division West headquarters, here, in honor of one of their own. 

    “We became aware of the need for blood when one of our family members was diagnosed with leukemia and had to get blood transfusions,” said Lt. Col. Phil Graham, commander of the 2-291st Aviation regiment commander.  “We wanted to find a way to help, to do our part and give back.”

    Fort Hood’s Robertson Blood Clinic brought their mobile blood collection team to Headquarters, First Army Division West, and setup a mobile collection site where donors quickly applied, were screened, and donated blood.

    Long-time blood donor, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wayne Ming, the regiment’s Standardization Pilot, enjoyed the experience. 

    “I thought it was well put together and organized,” said Ming. “They had stations to go through, it was quick and the nurses were professional.” 

    As a token of appreciation, every donor picked from an array of t-shirts, as well as the requisite cookies and juice. By the end of the day, more than 50 Soldiers and civilians participated and overall more than 30 units of blood were donated. 

    Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Marshall, the regiment’s CH-47 Chinook flight instructor observer-coach/trainer, organized the blood drive. 

    “It was very easy,” said Marshall.  “Robertson blood clinic did everything.  All you need is a date and they take care of everything else.” 

    While the regiment sponsored the event to help bring awareness to leukemia, the blood will actually be used for Soldiers, and will end up in theater within 4-5 days of donation. 

    “That’s why this is important; it’s Soldiers helping Soldiers,” added Marshall.

    The 2-291st mission is to train and validate National Guard and Army Reserve Aviation units, including brigade, battalion, company, and theater to unit level maintenance formations.  The battalions concentrate on lift, heavy-lift, and medical evacuation post-mobilization training as part of 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West and First Army.

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  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wayne Ming, 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment standardization pilot participates in the regiment-hosted blood drive at First Army Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, recently. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

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

    FORT HOOD, Texas – The 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, recently hosted a blood drive at First Army Division West headquarters, here, in honor of one of their own. 

    “We became aware of the need for blood when one of our family members was diagnosed with leukemia and had to get blood transfusions,” said Lt. Col. Phil Graham, commander of the 2-291st Aviation regiment commander.  “We wanted to find a way to help, to do our part and give back.”

    Fort Hood’s Robertson Blood Clinic brought their mobile blood collection team to Headquarters, First Army Division West, and setup a mobile collection site where donors quickly applied, were screened, and donated blood.

    Long-time blood donor, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wayne Ming, the regiment’s Standardization Pilot, enjoyed the experience. 

    “I thought it was well put together and organized,” said Ming. “They had stations to go through, it was quick and the nurses were professional.” 

    As a token of appreciation, every donor picked from an array of t-shirts, as well as the requisite cookies and juice. By the end of the day, more than 50 Soldiers and civilians participated and overall more than 30 units of blood were donated. 

    Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Marshall, the regiment’s CH-47 Chinook flight instructor observer-coach/trainer, organized the blood drive. 

    “It was very easy,” said Marshall.  “Robertson blood clinic did everything.  All you need is a date and they take care of everything else.” 

    While the regiment sponsored the event to help bring awareness to leukemia, the blood will actually be used for Soldiers, and will end up in theater within 4-5 days of donation. 

    “That’s why this is important; it’s Soldiers helping Soldiers,” added Marshall.

    The 2-291st mission is to train and validate National Guard and Army Reserve Aviation units, including brigade, battalion, company, and theater to unit level maintenance formations.  The battalions concentrate on lift, heavy-lift, and medical evacuation post-mobilization training as part of 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West and First Army.

  • Sgt. Robert Benskin, with 732nd Maintenance Company, share military service stories with Manny Widner and Amador Charo "AC" Guajardo, both of Gatesville, after eating breakfast during the Gatesville Community Veteran's Day Ceremony, Nov. 11. (Photo by Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    Gatesville, Texas – Gatesville Independent School District hosted a special Veteran’s Day recognition ceremony for its community veterans both active duty and past serving here, Nov. 11.

    The 120th Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Daniel S. Hurlbut was the guest speaker. Hurlbut thanked the city of Gatesville for their continued support and recognition of military veterans.

    He also thanked the veterans present and across the world who continue to sacrifice for the continued needs of our Nation.  “It is your selfless service and commitment to the nation and your community that is an inspiration to us all,” said Hurlbut.

    The main message Hurlbut gave was to the students directly. Hurlbut said Veteran’s Day “was about President George Washington insisting the citizens of our country take on the ‘debt of honor’ to replay and pay homage to the Continental Army Soldiers’ service by dedicating themselves to making their communities better.”

    To pay back this debt of honor, not just for the Continental Army Soldiers but for all veterans, Hurlbut urged each student, “you must serve a cause greater than yourself” through “education, service to others, and to never forget.”

    “For you to serve our Nation in the future and to pay your debt to these veterans you will need a quality education and skills beyond what you can earn through completing high school,” said Hurlbut.

    Col. Daniel Hurlbut gives his Veteran's Day speech to veterans and students at the Gatesville Community Veteran's Day Ceremony at the Gatesville High School's McKamie Stadium, Nov. 11. (Photo by Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Hurlbut encouraged the students to serve in civic activities at any level and to never forget those who are serving in 150 countries around the world. Not everyone will serve in the military but we can serve our country by serving “our church, community, veterans organizations, retirement community, or nation; just get after it,” said Hurlbut.  

    Gatesville students recognized the visiting veterans and the active duty members with a thunderous standing ovation at the school’s McKamie Stadium. .

    Gatesville High School culinary arts students partnered with the Gatesville Exchange Club to start off the morning with a Veteran’s Day breakfast free for all veterans and their families.

    The breakfast was well received and had a large showing of veterans from around the Gatesville community. Many reminisced with old friends and others shared their story with the younger generation of veterans; the active duty Soldiers who attended.

    The food was prepared by the high school’s culinary arts students and member of the Gatesville Exchange Club. Members of the high school football team served the food. The students were honored to do this for the veterans. Mariah Stidham, 10th grader at Gatesville High School said, “I loved making the muffins. My grandfather was a vet. He was in Vietnam.”

    Although it was a cold brisk day elementary to high school students packed McKamie Stadium for the ceremony. The Gatesville High School Band performed the Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force songs exceptionally well despite the cold winds.

    The City of Gatesville is very supportive of its troops and has a long tradition of welcoming them into their community. Capt. (retired) William Rosser of Gatesville said, “In this town it is an awesome thing. The City of Gatesville has an affinity and love for their vets.” Rosser served twice in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Bosnia as a helicopter pilot. 

    The Gatesville Exchange Club is a national organization to support American values, prevent child abuse, support youth activities, and promote community service. Larry Kennedy, of Gatesville, the club’s president said the club has been hosting the Veteran’s Day breakfast and ceremony for seven years.

  • First Army Division West Soldiers pose for a photo after a ceremony in which ten Soldiers were awarded the Order of St. Maurice during a ceremony at the Zum Edelweiss restaurant in Killeen, Texas, recently. The ceremony was hosted by the 2nd Battalion, 393th Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade. (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 – Ten First Army Division West Soldiers were recently awarded the Order of St. Maurice during a ceremony at the Zum Edelweiss restaurant in Killeen, Texas.

    The ceremony was hosted by the 2nd Battalion, 393th Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade.

    Soldiers awarded the honor included Maj. Grant Flynn, Capt. Robert Jones, Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Walton, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Davis, Maj. Gen. Warren Phipps Jr., Lt. Col. William Duvall IV, Lt. Col. Thomas Wilson Jr., Maj. Anthony Kazor, Maj. Daniel Hewerdine, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Moses.

    The Soldiers were nominated by existing awardees and were selected by the Order of Saint Maurice board at the National Infantry Association using a vigorous vetting process ensuring the future integrity of the honor.

    The Order of Saint Maurice is given to Soldiers and Civilians who have served the infantry community with distinction, made a significant contribution in support of the infantry, and represent the highest standards of integrity, moral character, professional competence, and dedication to duty.

    Lt. Col. William Duvall, a native of South Carolina and commander of 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade said, “23 years ago I started out as an infantryman. To finally get this award as an armor officer is very special. This is the most special honor I have received in my career.”

    The award was named in honor of Saint Maurice, who was the Primicerius of the Theban Legion in the Roman Army during the 3rd century. Saint Maurice and his men, all Christians, refused orders from Augustus Maximus Hercules to makes sacrifices to the Roman gods and to kill innocent civilians during a campaign. Eventually he and all of his men were massacred. 

    The United States Army created the Order of Saint Maurice in 1995 to honor those who display the virtues of Saint Maurice and who support the infantry. To date more than 14,000 Soldiers and civilians have been awarded the honor.

    “The infantryman is always there. He is always stickin-it to the enemy,” said Col. Daniel Hurlbut, 120th Brigade commander, during his impromptu speech.

    Being awarded the Order of Saint Maurice puts the individual into an elite group of people who have served in or supported the infantry. Notable awardees include Gen. Colin Powell, U.S. Army; Ross Perot, U.S. Navy; Command Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, U.S. Army; and Lt. Gen. Harold Moore Jr., U.S. Army.

     

     

  • Sgt. 1st Class Audra Edelen, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, clinical team noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West reading to a first grade student of Gatesville Primary School in Gatesville, Texas, recently. (Photo by Maj. William Brown, Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Ruby Hurd, Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    GATESVILLE, Texas – Soldiers of the Medical Training Task Force partnered with Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 393rd Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West began volunteering at the Gatesville Primary School in Gatesville, Texas, recently.

    Volunteers participate in one-on-one reading sessions with students in support of the O.T.T.E.R (Our Time to Enjoy Reading) Program.

    “While this program is designed for the students at Gatesville Primary, I have a blast being involved,” said Lt. Col. Scott Ward, MTTF commander and native of Killeen, Texas. “The simple task of reading to these children may seem menial, but I am always quickly reminded how they sometimes lack that one-on-one reading time at home or at school. Our efforts invaluably help the students and teachers. It’s just plain fun!”

    Staff Sgt. Tesha Crawford, from New York, N.Y., administrative noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West shares a story with a young first grader at Gatesville Primary School in Gatesville, Texas, recently. (Photo by Maj. William Brown, Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Oct. 14 kicked off the MTTF Eagle Strike Soldiers’ community outreach program to support 479th adopted school by spending time modeling fluency and growing a love for literature in a small group setting. O.T.T.E.R. is a reading program designed to refine students’ reading skills and comprehension.

    Each Soldier serves as a reading mentor for three children and spends approximately 20 minutes reading with their student. The program is done monthly in addition to the weekly support provided by Soldiers of the MTTF in the school’s reading development lab.

    “It’s always an incredible opportunity to help enrich young lives and foster a relationship with the students and staff of Gatesville Primary School,” said Maj. William Brown, MTTF executive officer from Copperas Cove, Texas.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Spencer Waters, mobilization liaison officer, 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Thunder, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, prepares for a casualty evacuation exercise while competing for the title of 3/410th Bn. Observer Coach/Trainer of the Year. (Courtesy photo by Tamiko Rodriguez)

    By Tamiko Rodriguez, Family Member with 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West

    FORT BLISS, Texas – Sgt. 1st Class Spencer Waters, mobilization liaison officer 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Thunder, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, could attest to exactly how flexible his unit needs to be considering his daily undertakings as an LNO are not only to make certain Soldiers are manned, equipped, and qualified to go downrange but also to maintain the skill set required of First Army Division West trainers in the event he is called upon to fulfill those duties.

    The preparation and mobilization of joint warfighters can be a formidable task. It is an assignment requiring commitment, proficiency, and most of all flexibility.

    Sgt. 1st Class Spencer Waters, mobilization liaison officer, 3rd Battalion, 410th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, earns first place in the battalion’s Observer-Coach/Trainer of the Year competition. The final evaluation took place over a two day period in which Waters bested fellow quarter finalists to win the top award. (Courtesy photo by Tamiko Rodriguez)

    “These Soldiers typically work in the capacity of either a liaison officer or Battle Noncommissioned Officer for our Information Operation Center and not as an observer-coach/trainer,” Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Rodriguez Sr. said. “We needed to incentivize a way to keep this skill set honed and ready.”

    After a year in the making, written tests, and a board of rigorous questions; TF Thunder awarded its first Observer-Coach/Trainer of the Year Award to MOB LNO, Waters on Sept. 26, 2014.

    Waters competed against quarterfinalists, Sgt. 1st Class Vicente Pantoja and Staff Sgt. Yanira Taylor, both observer/coach trainers TF Thunder, in a two day head-to-head competition that tested the Soldiers’ aptitude for fitness, casualty evaluation, preventative maintenance, composite risk management, and marksmanship. Fourth-quarter winner Sgt. 1st Class Theodore Braunch was unable to compete in the final evaluation.

    “It’s an honor and I feel privileged to be the first O-C/T of the Year for the battalion,” Waters said. “The competition made me realize how much fun it is being a Soldier.”

    Mobilization liaison officers, Sgt. 1st Class Spencer Waters, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Vicente Pantoja, 3rd Battalion, 410th Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West vie for top honors as 3/410th Observer-Coach/Trainer of the Year at the Fort Bliss Marksmanship Center using the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000. (Courtesy photo by Tamiko Rodriguez)

    Finalists agreed the competition was an opportunity to increase proficiency and strengthen camaraderie within the unit however, according to the evaluation committee, it provided much more.

    Sgt. 1st Class Vicente Guillencepeda, the 3/410th demobilization noncommissioned officer-in-charge, said the competition, “allows the Soldiers to get the experience for board proceedings…and ascertains their knowledge—how much they’ve gained, their growth and potential.”

    Rodriguez who conceptualized and developed the battalion O-C/T Recognition Program said the 3/410th Bn. is staffed as an Engineer Training Support Battalion but functionally serves as an operations battalion charged with the Mission Command of Fort Bliss’ Mobilization Training Center.

    “In this sense, their daily functions do not typically revolve around the skills exhibited in this competition… [but] it was necessary to challenge the Soldiers to keep these skills up to date,” said Rodriguez.

    Sgt. 1st Class Spencer Waters, center, mobilization liaison officer, 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Thunder, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, is awarded the coveted title of 3/410th Bn. Observer-Coach/Trainer of the Year. He is surrounded by (left to right) Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Rodriguez, battalion commander of the TF Thunder; Staff Sgt. Yanira Tayor, O-C/T supply sergeant; Sgt. 1st Class Vicente Pantoja, MOB LNO; and Maj. Dexter Bird, mobilization/demobilization operations center director. (Courtesy photo by Tamiko Rodriguez)

    Waters also relayed the importance of honing his training skills regularly and throughout the competition.

    “To be an O-C/T you have to be technically competent. If you feel like you’re going to train up a company commander or a first sergeant or even the whole unit, you have to be knowledgeable yourself. You can’t just talk and you don’t know what you’re talking about…[the competition] makes sure you don’t forget those skills which we need to know and they’re perishable skills if you don’t do them you can lose them,” said Waters.

    Taylor said these tools could also potentially be used in a civilian setting suggesting the casualty evaluation measure could be utilized in assessing a civilian emergency and aiding the injured until emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene.

    As to additional O-C/T competitions, Waters said, “I can’t wait until the next one.”

  • Lt. Col. Todd Wolford, masked commander of the 1-360th Infantry Battalion, 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, and his wife LaRisa made a fearsome pair while handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. Parents and Soldiers matched the little trick-or-treaters enthusiasm during the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade and 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, first of planned annual co-hosted Trunk-or-Treats on Fort Bliss, Texas, Friday. The brigades organized the event in their parking lot to bring Soldiers and their families closer together and allow the children to enjoy a “spooktacular-filled” evening. (Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas – Ninjas, zombies, and princesses scurried from car-to-car collecting candy when two First Army Division West brigades co-hosted their first of planned annual Trunk-or-Treats here Friday.

    The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade and 5th Armored Brigade organized the event in their parking lot to bring Soldiers and their families closer together and allow children to enjoy a “spooktacular-filled” evening.

    (From left to right) Sgt. Candace Snider, Capt. Dawne Divine, Maj. Jared Elliss, and Sgt. Richard Hernandez, each won a three-day pass for their “King Kong” themed trunk during the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade and 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, first of planned annual co-hosted Trunk-or-Treats on Fort Bliss, Texas, Friday. The brigades organized the event in their parking lot to bring Soldiers and their families closer together and allow the children to enjoy a “spooktacular-filled” evening. (Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “It starts with families,” said Col. Jay Gallivan, commander of the 402nd FA. “This is the first tangible step for our families as we execute Bold Shift and come together as one Army Family.”

    Jennie Gonzalez, wife of Col. Raul E. Gonzalez, commander of 5th AR, agreed it was the perfect opportunity for families from the two brigades to meet and begin to build family cohesion.

    “It’s a great way to get the families together and get to know one another,” said Jennie, while standing in front of her ghoulishly farm-themed trailer with skeletons and bales of hay. “The kids are the best part, seeing all the costumes.”

    Children weren’t the only ones in costume though. Parents and Soldiers matched the little trick-or-treaters’ enthusiasm and dressed in everything from the traditional costumes of vampires, zombies, and witches to the more popular movie characters in “The Adams Family,” “Ghostbusters,” and “King Kong.”

    Sullivan, 5, dressed as "Woody" from “Toy Story,” shows no fear as he snags candy from the devilish figure in the Haunted Ambulance during the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade and 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, first of planned annual co-hosted Trunk-or-Treats on Fort Bliss, Texas, Friday. The brigades organized the event in their parking lot to bring Soldiers and their families closer together and allow the children to enjoy a “spooktacular-filled” evening. (Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

     

    There were also carnival games, plenty of food, and an apple bobbing station for those more health-conscience parents.

    Capt. Jaimie Inman, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Conus Replacement Center, brought her son, Maksim, 6, dressed as the Red Power Ranger.

    “I like having family events, there are so many times we are pulled away from our families, it’s wonderful when we can include them,” Inman said. “It also allows us to see a whole other side of the people we work with, instead of just seeing someone as the S1, we can see them interact with their family and start to see them as a whole person.”

    More than 50 people handed out candy and the occasional trick. Several of the trunks featured fog machines, remote-controlled spiders, and other ghoulish wares.

      Alex, 4, dressed as "Optimus Prime," seemed unsure how to communicate with this new organic life form. The Transformer won best costume for the category, “5 and under boy” during the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade and 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, first of planned annual co-hosted Trunk-or-Treats on Fort Bliss, Texas, Friday. The brigades organized the event in their parking lot to bring Soldiers and their families closer together and allow the children to enjoy a “spooktacular-filled” evening. (Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Mikayla, 6, braved one of the large hairy spiders to get candy for her 2-year-old sister, Katelyn, who hid behind their father, Staff Sgt. Keith Rankin, an operations non-commissioned officer with 5th AR, as the six-legged monster sprung towards them from under a car.

    Rankin, who moved from Fort Benning, Georgia three months ago, said it was the perfect opportunity to meet other families and for the children to get to know one another.

    For parents like Sgt. 1st Class James Madison, operations non-commissioned officer-in-charge with Task Force Rampant, 5th AR, it’s the safety the event provides for his family that was paramount.

    “It’s a controlled environment, it’s with our own people, so we know its safe,” Madison said as his daughter Genesis, 4, dressed as Cinderella, dropped a handful of candy in the pink bag he carried.

    1st Sgt. Sheldon McCabe, HHC, 5th AR, agreed and helped arranged to have portable light towers to ensure families could enjoy the festivities even after the sun went down.

    “It’s a good event, in a nice safe environment,” said McCabe, has he helped his son Sullivan, 5, down from the Haunted Ambulance. “And it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know each other before we merge.”

      Col. Raul E. Gonzalez, commander of 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, and his wife Jennie Gonzalez, dressed as ghoulish farmers during the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade and 5th Armored Brigade, first of planned annual co-hosted Trunk-or-Treat on Fort Bliss, Texas, Friday. The brigades organized the event in their parking lot to bring Soldiers and their families closer together and allow the children to enjoy a “spooktacular-filled” evening. (Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The highlight of the night was a costume contest. Winners were judged on creativity, originality, effort, and authenticity.

    Capt. Dawne Divine, adjutant for the 402nd FA, and her team won a three-day pass for her car trunk themes after “King Kong,” which featured several Kongs and Ann Darrows handing out candy.

    “It was an unexpected victory because every car was fantastic,” said Divine, who dressed as Fay Wray from the 1933 version of the film. “Our team goal was to have fun with a classic American fantasy monster. The fact that we won best car reinforces the value of teamwork and collective spirit.”

  • Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander, speaks to a crowd of students, faculty members, retirees, fellow service members during the Fourth Annual Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala Military Appreciation Breakfast recently at the University of Texas at El Paso. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mission Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

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

    EL PASO, Texas – A brigade commander shared childhood memories and expressed gratitude to service members, veterans and other military supporters at a University of Texas at El Paso military appreciation breakfast here recently.

    “It’s an honor to be an American,” said Col. Raul Gonzalez, commander of First Army Division West’s 5th Armored Brigade.  “Thank you for all of your support.”

    The College of Business Administration kicked off homecoming weekend with their Fourth Annual Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala Military Appreciation Breakfast with Gonzalez as the guest speaker.

    Dr. Robert Nachtmann, Dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Texas at El Paso, presents Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander, with a framed photo of the business administration building after his remarks during the Fourth Annual Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala Military Appreciation Breakfast. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mission Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

     

    Gonzalez spent his early childhood in his hometown of Bayamon, Puerto Rico before moving to Connecticut at age 10.

    “My hometown in Puerto Rico isn’t much different than being here in Texas,” he said.

    Spending much of his time in Bayamon as a child running around barefoot, moving to the United States opened Gonzalez to a world of possibilities, including the hard work that has brought him to where he is today.

    “I didn’t speak the language, but I worked hard in school,” said Gonzalez.

    Gonzalez has committed 23 years in service to his country where the Soldiers Creed and the Army Values are what he what he preaches and lives by.

    “We have the Army values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage, and our Soldiers live by them,” he said. “Our Soldiers have the Warrior Ethos.”

    Dr. Robert Nachtmann, Dean of the College of Business Administration, introduced Gonzalez, but not before giving a brief history of how the appreciation breakfast was birthed.

    After being charged by the university president several years ago to develop a program honoring alumnus, Nachtmann reached out to one of the more successful El Pasoans, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala.

    “I made a few phone calls to contacts that I know and a few days later I had the number to Maj. Gen. Ayala’s office,” said Nachtmann. “I didn’t think I’d call his office and he’d be the one answering the phone.”

    From that phone call, Ayala became the first honoree at the Military Appreciation Breakfast and the namesake for years to follow.

    Much like Ayala, who Nachtmann knows to be both personable and approachable, Gonzalez ended his remarks with thanksgiving, and immediately following the program he thanked the retirees for their service and support and offered advice to the UTEP Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets in attendance.

    While speaking to two cadets interested in becoming Army Rangers, Gonzalez told a couple anecdotal stories about guys who had to stay longer and make it through the training. "Stick with it. Never give up. Work hard. Your tab isn't going to say how long it took you to get through it. It just says Ranger. Don’t take yourself too seriously and maintain your physical fitness.”

  • Leaders from 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Red Legs, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, receive Mission Command Exercise Planning training from Clyde Williams, First Army civilian plans and operations officer. The training was in preparation as the 402 Field Artillery Bridge postures to assume its role as First Army and Division West transition to meet new mission requirements and challenges. (Photo by Capt. Cynthia Perez, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Red Legs, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade)  

    By Capt. Cynthia Perez, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Red Legs, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West

    FORT BLISS, Texas – In support of First Army’s realignment, the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade provided First Army Mission Command Exercise Planning training Sept. 8-12, here.

    Leaders from the newly formed Plans and Exercise Cell participated in this critical event. The PLEX Cell is a new First Army exercise structure that will design, develop, plan, and execute culminating training exercises for deploying Reserve units.

    PLEX personnel gained the required knowledge to properly perform their duties as CTE planners through the MCEP training. Clyde Williams, First Army Chief of Operations, conducted the MCEP training and highlighted that the importance of this training is to “improve and standardize constructive exercise design, development, planning, and execution. Additionally, leaders will enhance their ability to integrate Live, Virtual, Constructive / Gaming enablers into RC Pre-mobilization training events”.

    Williams and David Rugger, First Army plans and operations officer, are training three First Army Mission Training Center personnel on MCEP to establish standardization across First Army. 

    Lt. Col. Santiago Archuleta, future PLEX director, sees the MCEP training as an exceptional educational opportunity that provides the PLEX Cell quality understanding on new planning roles.

    “Now we know what right looks like according to First Army's new standard,” Santiago said.

    The training provided an opportunity to build, develop and empower leaders as the 402nd continues to advise, assist, and train Reserve Component formations to achieve readiness during both pre- and post- mobilization training. The 402nd postures to assume its role as First Army and Division West transition to meet new mission requirements and challenges.  

  • Leaders from 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Red Legs, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, provide Concept Design Workshop training to the 192nd Military Police Battalion and 42nd Infantry Division personnel Sept. 8-12.The CDW is the key event during the year-long Exercise Life Cycle that sets the conditions for a successful pre and post mobilization of the training audiences. (Photo by Capt. Derrick Dew, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West)

    By Capt. Derrick Dew, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    McGREGOR RANGE, N.M.Leaders from the 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Red Legs, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, recently conducted a Concept Design Workshop, here, for elements of the New York Army National Guard.

    The 42nd Infantry Division, as well as for the Connecticut Army National Guard’s 192nd Military Police Battalion, are both preparing for their upcoming deployment in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

    The CDW is the key event during the year-long exercise life cycle, setting the conditions for a successful mobilization and works with the chain of command in identifying their Mission Essential Tasks and training objectives.

    The Soldiers of 192nd will provide key staff positions inside Joint Task Force-Guantanamo’s Joint Detention Group while staff elements within the 42nd will augment the JTF-GTMO staff.

    The overall mission of JTF-GTMO and the JDG includes the support and implementation of military commissions, detainee movements and operations, and destructive weather operations.

    In attendance was Maj. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr, 42nd ID commanding general, and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) James C. Lettko, former JTF-GTMO deputy commanding general.

    Lettko stressed the strategic and political importance of their mission and was astonished by the level of detail provided by the Red Legs team during the CDW.

    “The amount of detail you invest in planning and executing culminating training events has been quantified by the outstanding units that mobilize through Fort Bliss,” Lettko said.

    Sgts. 1st Class Jimmy Cativo and Richard Kramer, TF Red Legs plans NCO’s provided the block of instruction concerning command post operations focusing on the role of the NCO and their duties within a command post. The block of instruction included two practical exercises allowing the training audience to enhance their understanding of their pending mission.

  • Lt. Col. Martin Herter, the German Air Defense Center deputy commander, presents Lt. Col. Robert Wagner, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade deputy commander, with a certificate during the German Weapons Badge awards ceremony at the Benavidez-Patterson “All Airborne” Chapter building in El Paso, Texas, recently. Wagner upgraded his badge from silver to gold. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Lt. Col Robert Wagner, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. — Seventy Soldiers earned their bronze, silver or gold badges during the German Weapons Badge event held, recently.

    For the past five years, the German Air Force Air Defense Center has supported Fort Bliss units by hosting events for U.S. Soldiers to compete for coveted German Armed Forces Proficiency badges.

    Competing to earn the German Weapons 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.

    “This group was above average, with more than 50% shooting Gold; six Soldiers qualified with 16 of 16 on the rifle. This was the best group since I have been doing this, plus it was the first event with our new Commander, Lt. Col. (Martin) Herter,” Master Sgt. Thomas Schade, noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the German Air Force Air Defense Center.

     

    Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, pose for a photo at the German Weapons Badge award ceremony, recently at the 82nd Airborne Division Association, El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    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, a Soldier must have at least one round in each of three targets to qualify.

    The participants included three Army National Guard and several Army Reserve Soldiers. In addition, two Soldiers upgraded their badges from silver to gold.

    “Great Esprit de Corps and camaraderie was displayed between the United States and German Armed forces during this summer's Schützenschnur marksmanship proficiency event,” Said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Puccio, observer/coach-trainer, 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade.

    The next joint event sponsored by the German Air Force Air Defense Center is the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge which will begin training Oct. 2, and will be conducted Nov. 3-7.

  • Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, along with local city workers pitched in Sept. 22 to help repair the damage brought on by heavy storms at the Benavidez-Patterson “All Airborne” Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, Inc., in El Paso, Texas. (Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

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

    EL PASO, Texas – Thunderstorms pounded communities throughout El Paso over the past week leaving neighborhoods and local businesses struggling to find a safe pathway to open their doors.

    With a little help from Soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, along with local city employees, the Benavidez-Patterson “All Airborne” Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, Inc., was able to open its doors sooner than expected after water and mud flooded their headquarters and parking lot located on Fort Boulevard.

    This is a regular occurrence for members of the association. As storms and rain fall on El Paso, flood waters typically find their way inside the building. But this time instead of cleaning it up themselves or hiring someone to do it, TF Rough Rider stepped up to help out.

    Staff Sgt. Marshall Williams, observer/coach-trainer with 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, directs traffic during TF Rough Riders’ clean up Sept. 22 at the Benavidez-Patterson “All Airborne” Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, Inc., in El Paso, Texas. Williams’ efforts and quick thinking was crucial in getting assistance from city workers as they provided the dump truck and backhoe, which made the job a bit easier. (Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    “We were here on Friday and saw all of the debris that rolled off the mountain,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Davis, TF Rough Rider senior enlisted leader. “I thought it would be a good idea to come help clean it up.”

    These two organizations are no strangers to one another and the partnership between the two has allowed both groups to benefit from the close relationship.

    “We use the building, so it’s important to help out,” said Staff Sgt. Marshall Williams, TF Rough Rider observer/coach-trainer.

    Just as Williams and Davis recognize the debt of gratitude owed to the association for offering the building for unit events, the members are very thankful for the assistance provided by the Rough Riders.

    Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, and local city workers, take a break from the cleanup to take a group picture in front of the Benavidez-Patterson “All Airborne” Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, Inc., in El Paso, Texas, Sept. 22. (Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    “It means the world to us,” said Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Lee Walker, chapter chairman. “It‘s good to have a partnership with units that are willing to help.”

    Although much of the assistance came from green suitors, the Soldiers and “All Airborne” chapter members weren’t alone in this fight. Williams reached out to a few local city workers in the area who helped turn an all day job into a three-hour mission.

    “Heroes aren’t always the ones in uniform,” said Williams. “Sometimes they’re everyday people.” 

    The workers were able to access heavy equipment to clear the parking lot and transport the debris.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Michael Franka, in the black shirt, is the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Task Force Stallion unarmed self-defense team, 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armored Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade. He instructs Soldiers with California National Guard’s 670th Military Police Company on how to do an arm-bar takedown during USD training at McGregor Range, N.M., recently, in preparation for a deployment to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. (Photo by Maj. Amabilia Payen, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Maj. Amabilia Payen, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – The California National Guard’s 670th Military Police Company, spent a month training here as part of their mobilization and training requirements for a deployment to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, recently. 

    The MP company began with unarmed self-defense with the instructors from Task Force Stallion, 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armored Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Franka, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the TF Stallion USD team, felt the unit was pretty motivated and well-disciplined for the classes. 

    “They have done a good job catching on to the techniques,” said Franka.

    First Lt. Brock Young, 670th MP, 1st platoon leader, thinks the training is very informative and useful, should any of his Soldiers come face to face with a disgruntle detainee.

    “What the instructors are teaching us now is ultimately helping my Soldiers,” said Young.  “For the most part, no one in my platoon has been to Cuba before. I do have a lot of younger enlisted Soldiers who are looking forward to this mission.”

    This is entirely true for two 670th Soldiers, Spc. Karen Fieser and Pfc. Malachi Beasley. This will be the first deployment for both Soldiers. 

    Soldiers assigned to California National Guard’s 670th Military Police Company attempt to qualify on Berretta 9mm pistols at McGregor Range, N.M., recently in preparation for a deployment to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. (Photo by Maj. Amabilia Payen, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Fieser works for an armored courier company in her civilian life and she expresses her excitement for this deployment, mentioning how this deployment experience will contribute to her skills in being more prepared for the unexpected. 

    “I enjoyed the training. I like how it is a little bit mixed up compared to training we have had in the past,” said Fieser. “We are learning a bunch of different ways to do things, which for me, is more realistic.  I think I’ll react better in a real-live situation.”

    Beasley is a student at Westmount College majoring in communications and wants to get his education before starting a law enforcement career.  “This will be good for me,” he said with respect to the training he received with TF Stallion.

    “I’ve been enjoying the training a lot because I want to be able to apply it to my deployment, if it ever came down to that,” added Beasley.  “That is where my mindset is right now, I could be tired, but I have to be focused.”

    The 670th continued their training for GTMO, by conducting ranges in order to qualify for weapons including non-lethal, among other classes on military police tasks.  They rounded everything out with a cumulative training exercise at the end of their month’s preparation at the Forward Operating Base Westbrook prison compound in order to validate their knowledge and skills acquired. 

    The CTE is controlled by TF Stallion and it is intended to re-create scenarios that the Soldiers of the 670th MP Co. will be faced with when operating in GTMO.  This includes 24-hour operations for the company. 

    Soldiers assigned to California National Guard’s 670th Military Police Company practice handcuffing a detainee role-player in order to take him to a medical appointment as part of a Cumulative Training Exercise at Forward Operating Base Westbrook, McGregor Range, N.M., recently. The 670th MP Co. is training for a deployment to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. (Photo by Maj. Amabilia Payen, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “Our goal is to accomplish our mission without accident or incident,” said 1st Lt. James Stanfield, 670th MP Co. commander.  “We will treat our customers with dignity and respect.” 

    Stanfield thanks the trainers of the 5th AR Bde., and describes them as being really good at their jobs, especially in range operations where the 670th ran through effectively. 

    “I think the training we received was invaluable due to the fact that we came here as basic military policeman and we needed to learn to be interment and resettlement specialists,” said Stanfield.  “I believe the training we have received here will lay the foundation for our success at GTMO.”

    First Sgt. Arne Eastlund, the senior noncommissioned officer in the 670th MP Co., wanted to let the families of his Soldiers know that his priority will be to keep the Soldiers safe and ensure they all return to their Families.

    “I just want to let the Families know that we thank them for lending us their sons and daughters, wives and husbands to go far away from their home,” said Eastlund.  “I’d like to remind them that we are going to do the best job we can to take care of our Soldiers and motivate our Soldiers.” 

    “Please don’t hesitate to send those care packages and even an old-fashioned written letter mailed to their Soldier,” added Eastlund. “It’s generation after generation that when mail call comes up and they hear their name, it’s the best morale booster that the Soldiers can get.”

    The 670th MP Co. will conduct their GTMO mission within a year and return to Fort Bliss for demobilization before heading back to California. 

  • Zac, chaplain service dog, waits at Biggs Army Airfield before traveling to Kuwait and Afghanistan to meet his new chaplain team. Chap. (Maj.) Karen Hallett, Mobilization Training Center Bliss chaplain, escorted Zac to Kuwait to make the handoff. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    By Capt. John Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs

    BIGGS ARMY AIRFIELD, Texas – After arriving at Fort Bliss, Texas, Zac lay around the chaplain’s office. He only did what Zoey did, and Zoey only did what the chaplain allowed her to do, so he was really just following the example set for him.

    You see, Zac and Zoey are service dogs assigned to Chap. (Maj.) Karen Hallett of the Mobilization Training Center, Fort Bliss, Texas, and were trained to help treat Soldiers with traumatic event management and post traumatic stress.

    Though it seems insignificant to most, Zac’s mere presence is fulfillment enough for some Soldiers, and although he appears to be lying down on the job, that’s sort of what he was trained to do.

    Hallett provides spiritual guidance, as well as religious services to MTC Bliss Soldiers and other deploying service members. She’s also involved in the training of chaplain teams preparing to deploy.

    “I think I’m a very good chaplain,” Hallett said.

    Zac, chaplain service dog, rests on Mobilization Training Center Bliss Chap. (Maj.) Karen Hallett’s leg as he waits for the flight that will take him to Kuwait to meet his new handler. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    “But I see people every day because they want to pet Zoey,” she added.

    The dogs give her an opportunity with Soldiers she otherwise wouldn’t have.

    “I’ve treated Soldiers with severe PTSD. I’ve tried several times to have conversations with them to open up. One Soldier saw Zoey outside of my door and it turned into an hour and a half conversation,” Hallett said. “The Soldier still comes into my office to check on Zoey and that’s how I keep tabs on him and his treatment and recovery,” she added.

    Hallett has become well known for her travels with Zoey, and with a reputation that precedes them, Zac is on his way to stardom as well. For example, in Afghanistan Hallett became known as that “Chaplain with the dog.”

    Hallett recently traveled with Zac to Kuwait for hand-off to another chaplain team whom she helped train several months ago.

    “Chaplains I train see me with a service dog and want to deploy with one as well,” Hallett said.

    Chap. (Maj.) Karen Hallett, Mobilization Training Center Bliss chaplain, stares off into the distance as she awaits her flight to Kuwait to pass off Zac, chaplain service dog, to his new handler. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    Working dogs don’t typically get assigned to chaplains because it’s not in the regulations. However, Hallett was able to get approval for Zoey and so was the chaplain team for Zac, which is a big step.

    Donated by the American Legion, Zac’s name holds special meaning.

    “He was named for (Airman 1st Class) Zachary Cuddeback,” Hallett added.

    Cuddeback was killed in 2011 during a shooting at the Frankfurt Airport in Germany while awaiting transportation to Ramstein Air Base.

    Cuddeback was on his way to Afghanistan and so is Zac. While Zac’s mission will be different than Cuddeback’s, his services will be used to help Cuddeback’s brothers and sisters-in-arms.

    Zoey has become a staple at MTC Bliss with her black coat and friendly demeanor, but just as much as she’s noticed physically, her work with Soldiers around the brigade is noticed as well. That’s the expectation for Zac both overseas and once he redeploys as well.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Jose Flores, Division West signal noncommissioned officer, throws colored powder on a run during the 5 K’aos Run at the Gatesville Spurfest, Sep. 13, in Faunt Leroy Park, Gatesville, Texas. The Annual Spurfest is a day-long festival that included live music, Fort Hood Soldiers displaying military vehicles, the First Annual Little Miss Coryell County Spurfest Pageant, food and vendors selling various items to local and visiting participants. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Michael K. Murrell, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment Division West Commander

    GATESVILLE, Texas – Summer decided to hide this past Saturday, just in time for the Gatesville Spurfest, Sep. 13. 

    The annual festival kicked off with the Total 5 K'aos Run, a combination 5K run, obstacle course.  Temperatures dropped the night before, bringing the race time temperature down to a chilly 57 degrees.   

    "It's a great day.  A little chilly, but a great day to have a run in the morning," said Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., commanding general of First Army Division West.

    Division West volunteers from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment,  1st Battalion, 289th Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, and the 166th Aviation Brigade joined together to make the Total 5 K'aos Run a fun and safe event. 

    "We set up some of the obstacles and now we’re out here making sure the participants go through the obstacles the correct way," said Maj. Shannon Howerton of 1st Battalion, 289th Regiment.

    Volunteers assisted with the obstacles, ensured a safe environment for the runners, and participated in some of the chaos.

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr, First Army Division West commanding general, poses for a photo with students and volunteers from Gatesville at the conclusion of the 5 K’aos Run at the Gatesville Spurfest Sep. 13, in Faunt Leroy Park, Gatesville, Texas. The volunteers formed a “Spartan Wall” in which runners would have to run through the volunteers as they held of pads. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    The run had "a little of everything: zombies, obstacles and color," said Mrs. Carla Manning of the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce. 

    Many of the military volunteers were armed with color dye, to ensure that none of the runners finished the race with the same color shirt they started with.

    After the run, the Spurfest opened its gates at the Faunte LeRoy Park in Downtown Gatesville, greeting guests with a variety of local vendors and entertainment.  The First Annual Miss Coryell County Pageant started off the entertainment, with many musical acts following.  The festival topped off with a live performance by country star, Deryl Dodd later in the evening.

    The annual Spurfest celebration goes a long way in bringing the community of Gatesville together with the Soldiers of Fort Hood and is a great example of a military-local community partnership. 

    “Gatesville is extremely charitable and a very patriotic city that’s done tremendous things for all the Soldiers,” Phipps said.  “Anytime we get out here and join in with their activities, it just strengthens those bonds. Again I can’t show enough appreciation for what Gatesville has done for our Soldiers here at Fort Hood," Phipps added.

    Gatesville is a partnership city for First Army Division West, aligning with the Fort Hood community partnership program.

  • GATESVILLE, Texas — The Gatesville High Hornets storm onto the field through a tunnel of applauding Soldiers kicking off Military Appreciation night at McKamie Stadium Friday. Soldiers from various Reserve component units, currently training at North Fort Hood before mobilizing in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, were honored with thunderous applause before a crowd of hundreds of adoring fans. Gatesville High is sponsored by Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army Division West, as part of the III CORPS and Fort Hood Adopt-a-School program. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    GATESVILLE, Texas — Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., commanding general, First Army Division West, accepts a Gatesville Hornet team helmet Friday, signed by the entire team in appreciation for his dedicated support of the local community. Gatesville High is sponsored by Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army Division West, as part of the III CORPS and Fort Hood Adopt-a-School program.  Soldiers from various Reserve component units, currently training at North Fort Hood before mobilizing in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, were honored with thunderous applause before a crowd of hundreds of adoring fans during the Gatesville Hornets Military Appreciation night. The Hornets went on to rally past previously unbeaten Waco-Connally 34-20. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    GATESVILLE, Texas — Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., commanding general, First Army Division West, talks with announcers in the booth during the Gatesville High Military Appreciation Night at McKamie Stadium Friday. Soldiers from various Reserve component units, currently training at North Fort Hood before mobilizing in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, were honored with thunderous applause before a crowd of hundreds of adoring fans. Gatesville High is sponsored by Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army Division West, as part of the III CORPS and Fort Hood Adopt-a-School program. The Hornets went on to rally past previously unbeaten Waco-Connally 34-20. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

  • By Capt. Michael Wilson, 2nd Battalion 395th Field Artillery Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    A Battery of the Wyoming National Guard's 2nd Battalion 300th Field Artillery Regiment conducts its crew certification on newly assigned High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming. (Photo by Capt. Michael Wilson, 2nd Battalion 395th Field Artillery Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyoming – Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion 395th Field Artillery, 120th Infantry Brigade traveled to assess a Wyoming National Guard unit’s re-mission of their primary weapon systems recently.

    The 2nd Battalion 300th Field Artillery Regiment, based out of Casper and Lander, Wyoming, conducted its crew certifications during its annual training. The unit’s significant re-mission meant switching from towed M198 Howitzers to the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Thirteen Soldiers of the 2/395 FA assisted in the unit’s success by providing Observer-Coach/Trainer support.

    The 2/300 FA’s two-week annual training consisted of a three-day road march from several locations across the state, finally assembling at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming for artillery skill proficiency tests and certification of all rocket battery crews, followed by a road march back to their home station.

    This was the first training exercise this National Guard battalion conducted which involved all subordinated batteries. The Soldiers and their leadership were enthusiastic about the training and eager to learn.

     “There is a lot of amazing work going on here, despite the unit converting from cannons to HIMARS. The unit had a grasp on what training and tasks they needed to accomplish in order to certify their crews.” said Lt. Col. Randy Jimenez, 2/395 FA battalion commander.

    Sixty-six rockets were fired during the certification and all 12 crews qualified. Sgt 1st Class Ray Maiava, 2/395 FA, Charlie Team O-C/T said, “The unit was on target despite some delays due to receiving new equipment for fielding. The unit utilized the terrain to their advantage and spread out well.”

    120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Soldiers frequently travel across the country to O-C/T Army Reserve and National Guard units for various evaluations to prepare them for their upcoming missions.

    HIMARS is a light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicle truck chassis. It carries six rockets that can be fired as a volley or individually.

      The 2nd Battalion 300th Field Artillery Regiment, a National Guard unit based out of Casper and Lander, Wyoming, conducted its re-mission from M198 Howitzers to the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (pictured here), which carries a single six-pack of rockets on the Army's family of medium tactical vehicles. (U.S. Army file photo)

     

     

    The 2nd Battalion 300th Field Artillery Regiment, a National Guard unit based out of Casper and Lander, Wyoming, conducted its re-mission from the M198 Howitzer (pictured here), to the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. (U.S. Army file photo)

  • 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.

Events

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