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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

Headlines

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

    Several units and commands have corroborated to facilitate the training.

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  

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

    By Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Diane Williams, 30-year Army veteran, discusses her rise through the ranks to become the first female aviation brigade command sergeant major during the 5th Armored Brigade Sisters-in-Arms program Feb. 27, at the Family Resilience Center in Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas - After hearing the f-word spew from her husband’s mouth during a discussion about joining the Army, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Diane Williams finds herself with countless achievements and accolades.

    Thirty years later that she shares experiences with female Soldiers looking to navigate the Army ranks.

    “My husband ‘forbid’ me,” said Williams. “The next day I joined the Army.” 

    Soldiers of the 5th Armored Brigade Sisters-in-Arms Chapter gathered at the Family Resiliency Center, Feb. 27, to listen as Williams spoke about her own experiences in the military and to offer advice for the future.

    Williams was selected as the speaker for the group due to her heavy involvement in the El Paso community, which is focused on empowering women as professionals, as well as for having such an inspiring story riddled with strife and adversity.

    Having answered the call to arms at the age of 20, before the disbandment of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, Williams was separated from the men. In that day and time, a typical morning at her physical training might include how to walk and dress like a proper woman, but that all disappeared soon thereafter.

    Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Diane Williams, Associate Professor at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, addresses the 5th Armored Brigade Sisters-in-Arms attendees Feb. 27, at the Family Resiliency Center on Fort Bliss, Texas. Williams discussed her rise to command sergeant major and the lessons she’s learned throughout her career. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “If we were going to be an integral part of the military, we had to be integrated,” said Williams.

    After the disbandment of the Corps in 1978, Williams went on to Fort Lewis, Wash., with a group of six other women, where their arrival marked the first females in the unit. Shortly after her arrival and during a field exercise, the murder of one of the six females would inspire the buddy system that the Army uses today.

    “The answer was not to separate the men from the women but instead, the answer was to educate men on how to deal with us because it was a new day, and we weren’t going anywhere,” said Williams.

    Although women had already been allowed in the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School for eight years by 1980, Williams attended at Fort Dix, N.J., where all females were told by the instructors ‘when you don’t make it, don’t worry about it, because we know that not all of you can be a drill sergeants.’ After hearing this, Williams made it her mission to graduate, and graduate she did; earning the title of Distinguished Military Graduate, Williams proved her instructors wrong.

    Williams blazed trails throughout her career in spite of the many trials along the way, but through hard work and support of leaders, she thrived.

    She was selected as the first Aviation Brigade CSM in the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry. Although she initially faced adversity in the unit, she eventually earned the nickname “Mufasa”, a reference to the respected yet powerful lion in the Disney movie “The Lion King”.

    Soldiers from the 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, listen intently during the Feb. 27, Sisters-in-Arms event at the Family Resilience Center on Fort Bliss, Texas. The guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Diane Williams, first female aviation brigade command sergeant major, shared her story of resolve and perseverance. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “What I find is that I love to teach and that is why I stayed at the Academy (U.S. Sergeants Major Academy). I wanted to have an influence on the senior non-commissioned officers of tomorrow,” said Williams.

    During her speech, she discussed her story as she traveled up the ranks and the hardships that she had to endure throughout her tenure. She also discussed the relationship between officers and NCO’s, and the importance of mentorship. Her inspiring words encouraged a plethora of questions at the end of the event, and she also offered her advice on the current problems facing women in today’s military, such as the integration of women into combat roles.

    “If you, as a woman, think that you can perform on the same level as a man and get the same results, the answer is no. You have to be two steps above and that is just reality,” said Williams.

    Issues such as these are a hot topic with the Sisters-in-Arms program, where monthly meetings and events aim to answer questions that develop from these changes.

    The program is mostly about mentorship but it’s also one of the Army’s responses to SHARP and many other issues, said Master Sgt. Eunice Ford, the 5th Armored Brigade’s co-leader of the Sisters-in-Arms Program.

    “It’s supposed to create an environment where women can be more comfortable in coming forward and addressing any of these issues,” said Ford.

     After hearing Williams’ inspirational story, the program is currently discussing ways that it can reach out to the local community, like Williams has, and contribute some of their time to empowering and mentoring the women in the El Paso area.

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

    "Caroline," played in Kushner’s “Calorine, or Change” by Staff Sgt. LaKendra Johnson, of the 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, stops for a photo opportunity with "The Navy Men," (left to right) Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Bowers, Lt. Col. Thomas Perry and Capt. Javora Collier, all Fort Hood, Texas Soldiers. The musical was Johnson's first lead role at the Killeen, Texas Vive Le Arts Performing Arts Theatre. (Courtesy photo by Kim Talbott)

    KILLEEN, Texas – A Division West Chaplain’s Assistant performed her first title role during a three-weekend run of Kushner’s Calorine, or Change,” at the Vive Le Arts Performing Arts Theatre here.

    Staff Sgt. LaKendra “LaLa” Johnson, with 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, was invited to audition after local Director Toschia Moffet heard her sing during Fort Hood’s Thanksgiving service.

    “I honestly went to the audition for two reasons: to honor the invitation, which I took as an amazing compliment, and for my own professional development,” she said. “Frankly, I went into the audition without any expectation of getting a specific part.”

    She was one of 10 women who auditioned for the lead role of "Caroline."

    Born in East Texas, Johnson can usually be found assisting with on-post religious services and training Reserve and National Guard Unit Ministry Teams as they prepare to deploy overseas.

    Local actors Tashonna Banks (left), playing the role of "Emmie," and Tabitha Perry (right), playing the role of "The Washing Machine," surround Staff Sgt. LaKendra Johnson, of 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, who played "Caroline," in a performance of Kushner’s “Calorine, or Change,” at the Killeen, Texas Vive Le Arts Performing Arts Theatre. (Courtesy photo by Toschia Moffett, director, "Caroline or Change")

     

    A classically-trained vocalist whose natural abilities originated in Gospel and R&B music, Johnson previously performed as the high-note “Dynamite” in Shaiman'sHairspray” at the Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas. She has also performed in Italy for a Christmas Gospel music tour during December 2011.

    Calorine, or Change,” was set in 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana where Caroline is a black single mother of four working as a Jewish family's maid in the midst of the American Civil Rights Movement. When money turns up missing, fragile friendships are threatened and Caroline, resistant to change, must face the reality of the evolving world around her.

    Johnson’s future looks bright in the significantly changing Army. She will continue as a Chaplain’s Assistant for another year here at Fort Hood.

    Her next major singing performance, aside from a party band she sings with on the weekends, is an international tour in April. She will provide live background vocals for Erykah Badu, internationally-known American singer-songwriter, record producer, activist, and actress, whose upcoming tour includes New Zealand and Australia.

  • Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., First Army Division West commanding general, addresses Soldiers, Families, veterans and community members with words of appreciation on behalf of Fort Hood servicemembers during the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce’s sixth annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry at the Coryell County Activities Complex in Gatesville, Texas, Feb. 27. Approximately 400 attended the event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    GATESVILLE, Texas – The Gatesville Chamber of Commerce held its sixth annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry Feb. 27, for Soldiers, veterans and their Families from neighboring Fort Hood.

    “We invite Soldiers and their Families from III Corps and Fort Hood, 1st Cavalry Division and First Army Division West, which is our partnership unit,” said Carla Manning, Gatesville’s military affairs representative.

    Though the fish fry is a jovial occasion, it was first held in response to the November 2009 shooting on Fort Hood.

    Servicemembers, Families, veterans, Gatesville residents and friends all gather together to enjoy catfish, hushpuppies and sides prepared by the Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department for the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce’s sixth annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry at the Coryell County Activities Complex in Gatesville, Texas, Feb. 27. Gatesville is the partner community of First Army Division West, and the community supports Soldiers training on North Fort Hood. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    The shooting galvanized Gatesville residents who in turn gave aid to Soldiers and Families of Fort Hood in several ways, including a gathering which evolved into the Military Appreciation Fish Fry held each year since then.

    “This is the first Soldier appreciation that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of,” said 1st Sgt. Howard Scott IV, the Division West Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment first sergeant. “This is outstanding how the community of Gatesville supports the military Families.”

    The evening’s event began with a social hour of Families, residents and servicemembers mingling together. Boy Scout Troop 272 presented the national colors, and retired Army chaplain Rev. Buddy Wheat gave the invocation.

    The Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department poses for a photo during the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce’s sixth annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry at the Coryell County Activities Complex in Gatesville, Texas, Feb. 27. The fire department prepared the catfish, hushpuppies and sides for the evening’s events. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., Division West’s commanding general, addressed the crowd with gratitude on behalf of Fort Hood and the division.

    “To the city of Gatesville, the chamber of commerce, the Coryell County commissioners … thank you so much,” said Phipps. “Your continued support means so much more than I can articulate with a few short words.”

    The Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department prepared the fish, hushpuppies and sides enjoyed by close to 400 attendees.

    Thanking Gatesville for its diligence and unwavering service to Fort Hood and its Families, Phipps said, “I’ve been in the Army a long time and I have never seen a community support and reach out as much as Gatesville.”

  • A group of 120th Infantry Brigade leaders pose with members of the Gatesville, Texas community in front of the brigade’s demobilization building at North Fort Hood, Texas, before heading to take the group out on a tour of the installation. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Genevieve Pena, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

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

    FORT HOOD, TX — During a recent two-day whirlwind of events, the 120th Infantry Brigade showed appreciation to its Gatesville, Texas community partner for the great contributions the city provided to Division West throughout 2013.    

    To kick things off, the 120th hosted an evening event recognizing and celebrating six families that sponsored several mobilized soldiers during the recent holiday season. 

    The deploying soldiers from Colorado and South Dakota ranged in rank from private first class up to a first lieutenant.

    Col. Timothy Bush, 120th’s commander, the unit overall responsible for validating many mobilized Reserve and National Guard units for deployment, said, “We did our best to get all the Soldiers home for the holidays but there were seven that were unable.”

    Fort Hood Good Neighbor Carla Manning, who is also military affairs chairman of the Gatesville chamber of commerce, and Diana Finch, of Gatesville First Baptist Church, pitched the “holiday sponsor a soldier” concept to their peers.

    Maj. Troy Wayman, an armor officer with the 120th Infantry Brigade, helps oversee and advise Gatesville, Texas civilians to ensure utmost safety as they practice target shooting with M-16 rifles. The group are members six families that sponsored several mobilized soldiers during the recent holiday season. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Genevieve Pena, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “Everybody I asked said ‘absolutely,’” said Fincher.  In turn, Soldiers were able to leave post for a day, and enjoy a Texas-style holiday experience with Gatesville families.

    Lynn and Tammy Barnett took Sgt. Jamey Hage of the 1742nd Trucking Company fishing on Christmas day. David and Pamela Hopson took Sgt. Mark Fenner, another 1742nd Soldier cattle roping. Gene and Joyce Edmonds took Pfc. McKenzie Warne horseback riding.

    Other Gatesville resident sponsors included Kenneth and Marsha Fowler, Maj. Jim and Marie Barrows, and Debbie Piller. Additional families like Sam and Nancy Golden were ready to host, but — unfortunately for them — had no remaining Soldiers to support.

    Joyce Edmonds, a first-time sponsor, said the event was “One of life’s little pleasures. We (she and her husband) were raised in a large family, so a big Christmas is normal for us.”

    The group of Soldiers are now deployed overseas, but many are keeping in touch with their holiday sponsors who have already sent care packages, and communicate with them via email and facebook, said Debbie Piller.

    Col. Timothy Bush, 120th Infantry Brigade Commander, presents a certificate of appreciation to Carla Manning, Carla Manning, Fort Hood Good Neighbor and military affairs chairman of the Gatesville, Texas chamber of commerce, while Diana Finch, of Gatesville First Baptist Church, looks on. The 120th thanked Gatesville residents for hosting deploying Soldiers with Texas-style holiday experiences during 2013. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Genevieve Pena, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The overwhelming feedback from the Gatesville families was that they had hoped for more Soldiers to welcome into their homes Christmas day.

    The Brigade provided the venue, and gave each family a Certificate of Appreciation, but it almost seemed as though the community was again thanking the Soldiers for their service. At the event, Finch and Manning laid out a lavish spread of food and drinks, while David and Paul Hopson, a father-son duo, played a number of acoustic guitar songs for the audience.

    Day two was an all-day event. The audience for this day was the individuals that contributed in December to a heartfelt holiday party at the Peacock Ranch in Gatesville. These were the individuals that donated, prepped, cooked and served food to the Soldiers and families of the entire 120th Infantry Brigade.

    To reciprocate and demonstrate their gratitude, the 120th in turn hosted an intimate group of Gatesville residents, shuttling them back and forth between North and South Fort Hood to engage in a number of training activities that are commonplace to Soldiers. 

    The civilians received generalized briefings from Bush to gain a better understanding of the unit’s overall mission and the Soldiers they prepare for combat on a daily basis.  

    The members took a break for lunch, and shared a meal in the Roosevelt Dining Facility with Bush’s staff sections. The civilians were interspersed between Army officers and NCOs, and the group shared stories about their worldwide travels, debated barbecue, and talked hobbies such as hunting and fishing. 

    Capt. Miguel Davis, a 120th logistics officer and a proud Alabaman, said, “You can always tell where a person is from by how they eat their grits.” He grilled Manning about grits in order to determine her origin. By Davis’s standards, Manning passed the test when she nonchalantly described her preference for grits: cheese, salt and pepper.

    According to Davis, and Maj. Michael Milliner, an intelligence officer, and also a native Alabaman, that is how most Southerners like their grits. “People from the North put sugar in their grits,” said Milliner.

    During lunch, Manning said that while the group loved the simulation center where they rode in HMVVs and played what seem like oversized target shooting video games, “Col. Bush’s brief gave us an overall, big-picture idea about Fort Hood, which you just don’t get typically as a civilian.”

    The unit and its partner civilians pressed on with more Army fun after lunch. The following day Bush sat down with his staff to begin brainstorming the next paired community event to further show his commitment and dedication to Gatesville.

  • By Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chivon Cyrus, 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Crewmembers from the Lousianna National Guard's Company F, 2nd Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, rush to a helicopter during medical evacuation training while using life-like weighted dummies to add a sense of urgency and training realism. (Photo by Capt. Jonathan Denton, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    FORT HOOD, Texas — With American forces in Afghanistan fully engaged in a dynamic drawdown and the recent end of conflict in Iraq, it is easy to forget the current peacekeeping operations American forces continue conducting in Kosovo.

    Recently, the 166th Aviation Brigade's 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment was given the mission to train, mobilize and validate an aviation task force for Kosovo. Training included conducting a Personnel Recovery Lane Training Exercise, a Collective Training Exercise, and Culminating Training Event during the mobilization process.

    While here, the Kosovo Force 18 unit brought together four National Guard companies from four different states: Utah, North Dakota, Iowa, and Louisiana, to form Task Force Warhorse. The companies include a headquarters element, aerial medical evacuation, CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk lift, as well as a maintenance support package.

    Soldiers of Task Force Warhorse pump fuel to a UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter at the TF’s Forward Arming and Refueling Point, prodived by the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command's 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. Becoming proficient at refueling is part of their mobilization training in preparing to deploy to Kosovo. (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Williams, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    The joining of these separate states to form one cohesive unit was spearheaded by Capt.  Jonathan Denton, Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade mobilization officer in charge of KFOR 18.

    “The training had to be realistic in order to fully prepare the National Guard unit for their upcoming mission,” Denton said. “It’s an enormous task of providing Medical Evacuation support and air movement force protection to the Kosovo units.”

    By the end of TF Warhorse’s mobilization, they flew over 160 training hours. Their training missions included one Forward Arming and Refueling Point, along with nine MEDEVAC missions simulating saving over 20 lives. “We used true-to-life heavy weight dummies which really helped to add a sense of urgency and training realism,” Denton said.

    Joining together four different units that have never trained together was an obstacle TF Warhorse’s leadership overcame. During the review of their training, Maj. Andre Jeansonne, the medical evacuation commander, said, “Consolidating the unit was my top priority and we accomplished this while at Fort Hood by mixing up the flight crews during training to expand comfort levels and build overall trust within the Task Force.” 

    Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Strater, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot from the Lousianna National Guard's Company F, 2nd Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, said, “This will be a good mission. The medical evacuation unit has real world impact.”

    Strater really enjoyed his time training at Fort Hood and said, “It’s an honor to have the mission to participate in something of this magnitude and having the chance to help out,” in the upcoming Kosovo mission.

    With training complete, Soldiers and leadership of TF Warhorse were validated by Division West aviation Observer-Coach/Trainers, proving ready to provide medical evacuation support, command and control operations, and air movement force protection to ground units currently deployed to Kosovo.

    They hit the ground running in Kosovo at the end of January and are now providing excellent medical and logistical support to the local communities and military.

  • By Staff Sgt. Thomas Wilson, 3rd Battalion, 360th Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    (From left to right) Maj. Erik Dye, executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 360th Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, and Observer-Coach/Trainers Sgt. Nicholas Savas, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Galvan, and Master Sgt. Bret Sieverts, pose for a snapshot after completing the inaugural Race for Care 5K in Las Cruces, N.M., Feb. 16. Dye walked off with an overall first place trophy in the race and the other Rough Rider runners received medals in their respective age groups. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Wilson, 3rd Battalion, 360th Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 360th Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, participated in the inaugural Race for Care 5K here Feb. 16, with one Soldier finishing with the overall first place trophy. 

    Maj. Erik Dye, executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 360th Regiment grabbed first place overall, while TF Rough Rider Observer-Coach/Trainers Master Sgt. Bret Sieverts, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Galvan, and Sgt. Nicholas Savas earned medals in their respective age groups.

    “It is just a small way we could show our support for the cancer patients and their families,” Sgt. 1st Class Shahand Alavian, TF Rough Rider O-C/T, said after completing the 5K race. 

    The mission of the Cancer Aid Resource and Education organization is to support cancer patients and their families throughout Dona Ana County. 

    “It is good that we know that the donations that we give are being spent locally,” said Sieverts.“I think that gives a little more peace of mind knowing that it is a legitimate fundraiser and that it will help our neighbors rather than being funneled to communities throughout the country or even just finding its way in somebody’s pocket.” 

    Through the Race for Care 5K, Soldiers of TF Rough Rider were able to contribute to the local community, but at the same time strengthen the cohesive bond of the battalion. 

    Sponsored by CARE, the race was dedicated to the memory of Emilio Rigales Sr.  Donations collected through race admissions and sponsorships will be used to support local cancer outreach programs.

  • By Sgt. 1st Class Wacinque Bemende, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas - The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade was recognized by the Armed Services Blood Program here recently for donating more than 95 units of blood during 2013.

    Receiving the award for the Soldiers of the 402nd, who gave 96 units, was Col. Carolyn Birchfield, 402nd Brigade commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Bowen, brigade command sergeant major; and Sgt. 1st Class Jai Haney, brigade medic.

    “When Soldiers give blood they create a special bond with the Soldier receiving blood, and it does not matter they mostly will never meet that specific Soldier,” said Bowen.  “It is a bond of support that says, ‘I’m here for you.’”

    With seven blood drives organized by Haney, the brigade managed to donate the 96 units.

    “Blood is the vital element within the body. We breathe air but it is blood that carries that O2 to your vital organs,” said Haney. “If you want to make difference for that wounded Soldier, make sure blood or blood products are in ample supply.”

    The ASBP is the official military blood program of U.S. since its inception over 50 years ago, and collected nearly 5 million blood units to support military service members and their families in both peace and war.

  • Col. Raul E. Gonzalez (left), 5th Armored Brigade commander, presents Abraham Arzola, a Compliance Assistance Specialist with the local Occupational Safety and Health Administration office, a Certificate of Appreciation for his participation in the bi-annual brigade Safety Stand Down Day. Soldiers also received lectures from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a local car dealership, and the El Paso Sheriff’s Office. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas — The 5th Armored Brigade conducted its bi-annual Safety Stand Down Day, at Biggs Park here recently.

    Soldiers gathered and braved the chilly weather to hear about various safety concerns for the upcoming summer while reiterating safety procedures that come along with being an observer-coach/trainer to deploying forces.

    Lt. Jack R. Waite (left), a 30-year veteran with the El Paso Sheriff’s Office, discusses gun safety with Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, during the bi-annual brigade Safety Stand Down Day. Waite discussed gun safety, carrying laws in Texas, and even handed out free gun locks to the Soldiers. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “As observer-coach/trainers, we are always constantly monitoring training units that are at different levels of training proficiency,” said Col. Raul E. Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander. “So it’s very important that our OC/Ts are tuned in to safety and that they can predict and prevent problems and be able to intervene before it’s an issue.”

    The training was broken into six different stations throughout the park, where Soldiers would spend up to 30 minutes hearing lectures and conducting practical exercises on the various topics.

    Mike Legarretta (left), a 30-year veteran game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, explains the indigenous species of rattle snakes in El Paso to the Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Rampant, 5th Armored Brigade during the bi-annual brigade Safety Stand Down Day. The game wardens also discussed the local wildlife soldiers might encounter while in the field and the various hunting rules in Texas and nearby Mexico. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Soldiers were expected to be able to properly fill out a Composite Risk Management worksheet, know what to do when it comes to emergency planning in their household, and know how to identify and properly handle chemicals in the workplace or at home.  A local car dealership also talked about vehicle safety and how to prepare a car for the summer.

    Turi Salinas, a 23-year game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, taught Soldiers   how to recognize local wildlife and know the various hunting rules in Texas and Mexico.

    “We were given an opportunity to come down here and talk to military personnel concerning the danger that they might face in the field concerning wildlife, such as the five types of rattlesnakes that are indigenous to this area as well as the other animals like the oryx, bobcats, and mountain lions,” said Salinas.

    Sgt. 1st Class Kirk P. Thompson (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Bruce L. Crenshaw, observer-coach/trainers with 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, fill out Composite Risk Management worksheets during the bi-annual brigade Safety Stand Down Day. Soldiers received a brief lecture on the worksheet and then were given a scenario and a blank CRM form. Throughout the day, Soldiers also received lectures from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the El Paso Sheriff’s Office. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Soldiers also interacted with Lt. Jack Waite, a 30-year veteran with the El Paso Sheriff’s Office, who is currently the training director at their training academy. Waite discussed gun safety, carrying laws in Texas, and even handed out free gun locks to Soldiers.

    The day closed with an awards presentation for the civilians that taught during the safety stand down.

    Maj. Richard Patrick, 5th Armored Brigade safety officer, explains the safety stand down activities to brigade Soldiers during the bi-annual brigade Safety Stand Down Day. While the safety stand down is a bi-annual occurrence, the Brigade Commander, Col. Raul E. Gonzalez, wanted the event to be different from the PowerPoint norm and had the event outside. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “All of this training is going to not only help the units we train or our units, but the individual Soldiers can translate this knowledge to their families,” said Gonzalez. “That way we don’t have vehicle or gun incidents, and those are the things that make this training a success.”

  • Carl Womack, manager of Fort Hood's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness training center, talks to First Army Division West senior leaders about ways to develop Army teams of physically healthy and psychologically strong Soldiers, Families, and Civilians. (Photo by Master Sgt. Javier Garcia, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Michael M. Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West is holding its first Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness course for its command teams here today through Friday.

    “CSF2 is a primary component of the Army's Ready and Resilience Campaign Plan,” said Maj. Jeffery C. Johnson, medical operations officer at DIVWEST. “The mission is to build and maintain ready and resilient Soldiers, Army Civilians, and Soldier Families.”

    Concepts of a ready and resilient Army family include having the mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn and grow from setbacks, Johnson said of the campaign.

    “This is about having ready and resilient Families,” said Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Jr., DIVWEST commanding general. “I want to empower every Soldier in the Division with tools to become better than when they arrived.”

    Phipps said a large percentage of Soldier problems are with personal relationships, due to too many geographical bachelors. “I am excited about building life skills that lead to tranquility in the household,” he said. “There is a great need for Family readiness.”

    Johnson said the executive course brings skills to those who have the responsibility of enforcing standards and creating a climate of resilience. “It is designed to train Army Leaders and familiarize them with the same Resilience and Performance Enhancement skills Master Resilience Trainers provide Soldiers, Family members and Army Civilians,” he said.

    “ArmyFit” is CSF2's online training environment for Soldiers, Family members and Army Civilians. After completion of the Global Assessment Tool (GAT) 2.0, users are placed in the “ArmyFit” environment and are provided with tailored videos, information and people/organizations to follow based on their GAT 2.0 scores.

    The new GAT 2.0 can be found at https://armyfit.army.mil/Protected/ and is designed for increased participation through an easy-to-sign-on website using Common Access Cards and Army Knowledge Online log-in. There is a link to create an “ArmyFit” logon for those Family Members who are registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) without CAC or AKO credentials.

  • Staff Sgt. Derek Bartelt, Airman with Class 00020, 4th Detachment, 602nd Training Group, simulates an injury so that Senior Airman Spencer Hicks, Airman with Class 00020, 4th Detachment, 602nd Training Group, can apply a dressing on him. The Airmen are putting into practice what they learned in the Combat Lifesaving Course at McGregor Range, N.M., Jan. 12.  Both service members will be deploying as part of a Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force to Afghanistan in the next few weeks. (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. – Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 360th Combat Support/Combat Service Support Regiment, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade and The Logistics Company trained Soldiers from the 269th Military Police Company.

    Tennessee’s Army National Guardsmen and Airmen from Class 00020, 4th Detachment, 602nd Training Group, U.S. Air Force train together on combat life saving skills during a four-day course here, Jan. 10-13.

    “Everybody that goes overseas gets this training because it is essential,” said Senior Medical Instructor Javier Resendez with The Logistics Company. “They will receive class instruction first and then they get hands on experience. On day four, they go out on the field and we make it more realistic for them.  It’s very strenuous on the field.”

    Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, right, first female Silver Star recipient since World War II, applies the skills she learned during a Combat Life Saving Course at McGregor Range, N.M., on Spc. Kurt Parsley, Jan. 12.  Parsley pretended to have an amputated leg and Hester, joined by Spc. Nicholas Moses, Soldier with 269th Military Police Company, applied a combat application tourniquet during a dry-run of the combat lane. (Photo by Maj. Amabilia Payen, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    In the 269th MP Co., skilled and seasoned veterans are amongst the ranks with multiple deployment experience.  This includes Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, the first female recipient of the Silver Star since World War II.

    “It’s my birthday today,” said Hester during the dry-run portion of the combat lanes on Day Three of the CLS course. 

    She humbly smiled and fell back into her ranks to train with her peers. 

    U.S. Air Force class 00020 will deploy at the same time with the 269th MP Co.  However, their mission is to join an expeditionary force in Afghanistan, primarily consisting of U.S. Air Force Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force, which is a rapidly deployable, specialized civil engineer unit. 

    Sgt. 1st Class Natasha Bailey, left, a medical instructor with 3rd Battalion, 360th Combat Support/Combat Service Support, Task Force Rough Rider, 5th Armored Brigade, evaluates Staff Sgt. Joseph Weidman, Airman with Class 00020, as he tends to Senior Airman Kyle P. Lewis, Airman with Class 00020, 4th Detachment, 602nd Training Group, simulated wounds during a Combat Live Saving Course at McGregor Range, N.M., Jan 12. (Photo by Maj. Amabilia Payen, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “This training makes me excited and a lot more confident.  In the event that we would have to use it, I feel well prepared,” said Senior Airmen Spencer Hicks, a Montello, Wis. native. 

    When the training is completed, all participants receive an official Combat Lifesaver Course Certification card that they will carry with them at all times.  The card gives them full authority to perform combat lifesaving techniques in a deployed environment.

    “We have a meeting in which we constantly coordinate any changes to our training, in order to provide the most up-to-date training,” said Resendez.  “We have personnel out there who see the most medical injuries that happen, so they bring that back here so that we can train everybody that comes through here on what those constant injuries are.” 

    The 269th MP Co. and Class 00020 will deploy within a matter of weeks after they complete more training.  The CLS course is an integral part of the training that the 5th Armored Brigade provides for all service members on their way to a combat zone.

  • Jeff Sarver, civilian contractor with the 181st Infantry Brigade, Division West, explains improvised explosive device displays that will be used to train eligible military personnel with the brigade on Fort McCoy, Wis. (Courtesy photo)

    By Rob Schuette, Fort McCoy Public Affairs

    FORT McCoy, Wis. – Homemade improvised explosive devices are a threat that service members likely will encounter if they are deployed during their military career, said Jeff Sarver.

    Sarver, a retired explosive ordnance disposal first sergeant, who now works as a contractor for the 181st Infantry Brigade, Division West, is sharing his expertise with military personnel who come to here to train. Although the training is aimed at members of the Army Reserve, Sarver said he will offer the instruction to any authorized personnel who are at Fort McCoy for training.

    Sarver has had multiple deployments to support military actions in Afghanistan and Kuwait, as well as other overseas locations.

    "I use the experience I gained during my deployments to help train the Soldiers," said Sarver, who is mechanically inclined and has trained in the past as a carpenter. "I recreate simulated IEDs based on what I saw on past deployments and from intelligence updates."

    Sarver's creations are on display in a building in the 1300 block on Fort McCoy. Service members who walk through the door immediately get a feel for what they might encounter during a deployment. The training is meant to complement other training Soldiers receive, and can be used to support pre-mobilization training, for example.

    A two to four-hour classroom training session helps students learn how to recognize IEDs and how IEDs might be hidden under common items, such as traffic cones or even buried in the ground. Sarver said that in the classroom, training is incorporated into field training scenarios.

    Insurgents will use almost anything to fabricate, disguise or deliver an IED, he said. Some common items include fire extinguishers, propane/gas tanks, motorcycles, bicycles, wheel bearings/brakes, etc.

    Sarver gets many of the materials he uses for the simulated IEDs from the installation's recycling or Re-Use-It centers, since most insurgents acquire some materials from the dumps of forward operating bases in a deployed theater.

    "The use of homemade IEDs isn't just for overseas deployments," he said. "Service members will face it in our hemisphere, as well."

    A prime domestic example of a homemade IED is the Boston Marathon bombers, who fabricated pressure cookers into lethal bombs using directions gleaned from the internet. Sarver said another example of IED use is in the drug wars in Columbia. Many of the homemade IEDs are detonated by remote control or victim operated when a targeted individual functions the device. IEDs can also be fabricated from unexploded ordnance, so service members need to be careful when reporting these items, he said.

    Sarver explained the training also teaches personnel how to identify, mark, report and secure a UXO or IED, so an EOD team or other qualified personnel safely can dispose of it. This also helps prevent the UXO from falling into enemy hands and being used against them.

    "Soldiers often don't react properly to IEDs or UXOs," he said. "The emplacement methods may be common to elaborate schemes. I play the role of an insurgent when we get to the field. I know how insurgents create IEDs and how they emplace the devices. I can train them on anything from UXOs, IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs to entry control point scenarios."

    Training is available for service members and other authorized personnel. For more information, call Jeff Sarver at 608-469-4127.

  • Spc. Achland Peau, left, and Spc. Francois Clerfe, right, conducts a two-man manual carry on Pvt. Michael McIntire during a medical evacuation scenario at McGregor Range, N.M., Jan. 18. During the two-day convoy live-fire exercise, Soldiers engaged targets while mounted then conducted a dismounted patrol where observer-coach/trainers for the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade added additional scenarios to include improvised explosive devices and indirect fire. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. - The 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West recently received a unique opportunity to train two companies from an active duty engineer battalion.

    TF Redhawk, which usually trains Army Reserve or National Guard units on the fundamentals of counter-IED, trained Soldiers of the 570th and 571st Engineer Companies, 14th Engineer Battalion, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

    The unit was originally expected to train at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., but found out that due to the large number of units going there at the same time, they would have had to fight for the limited, yet essential, training resources.

    Pfc. Darnell Bailey, a combat engineer originally from New Jersey and assigned to the 570th Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., uses the VMR-2 Minehound to search for possible improvised explosive devices in the area during the convoy-life fire exercise at McGregor Range, N.M., Jan. 18. Bailey, along with other members of his battalion, used the training opportunity to train for their upcoming deployment this year to Afghanistan. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “At McGregor Range, there wasn’t a unit scheduled to go through during the time period the two companies were going to be going through  JRTC, so we just started asking a bunch of questions as to whether or not they could support us and the answer was yes,” said Lt. Col. Douglas E. Brown, commander of the 14th Engineer Battalion. “The end result was really good and we are really happy about the fact that we came down here.”

    Throughout their time at McGregor Range, the 570th and 571st Engineers were able to sharpen their skills on the fundamentals of route clearance, perform situational training exercises, and execute a culminating training event. They spent their last two days with TF Redhawk conducting mounted and dismounted combat patrol live-fire exercises using route clearance equipment.

    During the dismounted portion of the combat patrol live-fire exercise, select Soldiers used metal detectors to search for possible improvised explosive devices. The remainder of the dismounted patrol maintained situational awareness, looking for anything out of the ordinary which might indicate a possible IED.

    From left to right, Spc. Luis Jugsliva, Pvt. Patrick Chamness, Spc. Francois Clerfe, and Spc. Achland Peau  carry Pvt. Kwame Presley to their designated aid and litter vehicle during the dismounted portion of the convoy-life fire exercise at McGregor Range, N.M., Jan. 18. Members of the 570th Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion came from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to sharpen their skills on the fundamentals of route clearance, perform situational training exercises, execute a culminating training event. The engineers spent their last two days with 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade conducting mounted and dismounted combat patrol live-fire exercises. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “The experience was very cool, but there was a lot of brass on the ground so I could easily get the wrong signal,” said Pvt. Kwame Presley, a combat engineer originally from Saginaw, Mich., and assigned to 2nd Platoon, 570th Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion. “It was a very big challenge because I have to listen for the correct sounds and I’m still new at it.”

    If anything suspicious was found, the unit would utilize their route clearance equipment, such as a robot or their mine protected vehicle to investigate. The unit was also expected to react to a casualty and conduct medical evacuation procedures during the dismounted patrol.  

    After two days of continuous training with TF Redhawk, both companies were validated for their upcoming deployment.

    “Task Force Redhawk was very helpful in altering their training plan from what they normally do to fit our training requirements, and we definitely appreciated that,” said Brown.

     

  • Lt. Col. Scott Ward, an officer with 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery, Division West, reads to a student from Gatesville Primary School during the launch of the O.T.T.E.R. (Our Time To Enjoy Reading) program in Gatesville, Texas, Jan. 27.  (Photo by Maj. Holli Goddard, 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    GATESVILLE, Texas – Today’s classrooms are full of academics and seldom do teachers have enough time to focus on reading. Gatesville Primary school joined forces with their Fort Hood military neighbors and Volunteers in Partnership to launch “O.T.T.E.R.”

    “Our Time To Enjoy Reading,” is a monthly reading program designed to refine students’ reading skills and comprehension. 

    “The volunteers fill a need,” said Scott Harper, Gatesville Primary School principal.

    Ten Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 38lst Regiment, 479th Field Artillery, Division West, along with six Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, also with 479th, spent over an hour at the school.  Teachers brought students to the library where they were paired with Soldiers. 

    Together, they selected interesting books, found a place to sit, and read for 20-minute sessions. Nearly 60 students read over 100 books with the volunteering Soldiers.

     

    Capt. William Brown, an officer with the 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, reads to a student from Gatesville Primary School during the launch of the O.T.T.E.R. (Our Time To Enjoy Reading) program in Gatesville, Texas, Jan. 27.  (Photo by Maj. Holli Goddard, 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery, Division West Public Affairs)

    “The second kid really had a blast when I read Shel Silverstein’s poem, ‘Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too,’ laughing and giggling and laying his head on my shoulder,” said Lt. Col. Scott Ward, commander of 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment.

    Three other Soldiers were split among three different grade levels and engaged with students in their respective rooms. Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Ellis was placed in a special education class where he helped make a penguin with a student.

    “I liked it so much, that I am planning on going back once a week,” said Ellis.

    It was a blast, Ellis said.

    “It was a great opportunity to have an impact in the community,” said Capt. William Brown, headquarters and headquarters detachment commander of 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment. “They have been so supportive of our unit.”

    The unit will return on Feb. 10 in an effort to encourage a love for continued reading.

  • By 1st Lt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Col. Timothy Bush (right), 120th Infantry Brigade commander, discusses the hilly course with 2nd Lt. Genevieve Pena (left), a human resources officer, and Sgt. Danielle Furgeson (center), a human resources non-commissioned officer, after completing the 11th Annual Miracle Match Marathon in Waco, Texas, Sunday. (Photo by 1st Lt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    WACO, Texas – Fourteen Soldiers of Division West’s 120th Infantry Brigade made their way to participate in the 11th Annual Miracle Match Marathon here, Sunday.

    Cold temperatures finally subsided and the sun showed its face on the gorgeous morning.

    The 120th’s marathon team gets together twice each week for long runs in preparation for the 2014 Army Marathon in Killeen, Texas, March 2. Along the way, they team up and participate in smaller marathons to train and build esprit de corps.

    Col. Timothy Bush, 120th Infantry Brigade commander, gives a big smile and a friendly wave before setting out on the half marathon portion of the 11th Annual Miracle Match Marathon in Waco, Texas, Sunday. (Photo by 1st Lt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Oddly enough, Waco’s Miracle Match Marathon is coined “the toughest little marathon around,” according to Race Administrator Debbie Mabry. What makes the run so difficult is twofold: first, if you look at the Marathon’s marketing materials, they specify in all caps, “We LOVE our hills.” Second, they incorporate an optional obstacle known as Jacobs Ladder at mile 11, towering at a very steep angle, and consisting of wooden logs with an unequal distance between each.

    Several Soldiers ran the course during 2013, so they knew what to expect.

    Maj. Michael Noriega, an operations officer at the 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, dons his medal after completing the half marathon and taking third place for his age bracket during the 11th Annual Miracle Match Marathon in Waco, Texas, Sunday. (Photo by 1st Lt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Col. Timothy Bush, 120th Infantry Brigade commander, said it was “an awesome run, but those hills were ridiculous. This is going to hurt tomorrow, but that was a great run!”

    Finding the right socks and shoes for longer runs is imperative. 2nd Lt. Genevieve Pena, a human resources officer and avid runner with the 120th, said, “The heels are what get me.”

    In describing the best parts of the race that day, at first Pena said “The zoo,” but then made a correction —  “The best, best part about the run was the bacon.” Apparently a local member of the community was cooking and handing out bacon to runners as they went by.

    An elated 2nd Lt. Genevieve Pena, a human resources officer for the 120th Infantry Brigade, finished third in her age bracket in the 11th Annual Miracle Match Marathon in Waco, Texas, Sunday. (Photo by 1st Lt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Pena, and Human Resources Non-commissioned Officer Sgt. Danielle Furgeson, the only two females on the 120th’s run team, did the half marathon together and finished with a strong time of 1:58.

    Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Hotz, an intelligence non-commissioned officer with the 120th, was thankful for the training leading up to the Miracle Match Marathon. “It’s not that bad,” he said. “When you run 4 to 5 miles here, and 8 to 9 miles there, after a while, it’s just a matter of not stopping.

    “The hills were ridiculous,” he added with a smirk. For Hotz, his knees left him pretty achy and in need of mild pain killers the next day.

    One hundred percent of net proceeds from the event support the “Be the Match Registry,” which connects donors with people in need, through blood type, world-wide.

    Approximately 1,400 adults participated in the 11th Annual Miracle Match Marathon, along with 700 children.

  • FORT HOOD, Texas – Approximately 17 members of the newly-formed 120th Infantry Brigade Marathon Team here, will compete in the Miracle Match Marathon Sunday, at the Waco Civic Center in Waco, Texas.

    The marathon team is led by Staff Sgt. Joseph Nigrelle and Capt. Julian Benitezpenuelas of the 120th Infantry Brigade, with runners ranging from 25 to 49 years old. The group, along with some of their family members, has been training together since September with a goal of competing in the 2014 Army Marathon in Killeen, Texas, March 2. This will be the unit’s second half marathon.

    “Participating in this half marathon not only enables this team to promote esprit de corps, but it strengthens our community bonds and really helps promote health conscious living in our unit,” said Col. Timothy Bush, 120th Infantry Brigade commander.

    The team, which was originally formed during late 2012 to compete in the first Army Marathon, in Killeen, Texas, during April 2013, regrouped in September to continue training. Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Ricketts leads the pack with an average time of 12:30 per mile with Maj. Michael Noriega looking to take the team title.

    The team is sponsored by Harker Heights Medical Clinic, Harker Heights, Texas.

    120th Infantry Brigade executes mission command for all mobilization and demobilization activities of Mobilization Training Center-Hood while coordinating and synchronizing all directives for Army National Guard and United States Army Reserves units to fully prepare and validate unit readiness for deployment.

    Media wishing to cover the 120th Infantry Brigade's participation should arrive at the Waco Civic Center Sunday at 7 a.m.

    For more information, contact 1st Lt. Katherine kaliski at 254-553-5393

  • By 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    On the right, Staff Sgt. Seth Detavernier and Staff Sgt. Jimmy Houle, observer-coach/trainers for the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, team up with Adrianna Weickhardt, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to grade 8th-graders Melissa Ramirez and Miranda Martinez’s science fair project on Jan. 9, 2014. The school, St. Pius X Catholic School, reached out to Task Force Redhawk and various other local organizations for help in judging their fourth annual science fair. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    EAST EL PASO, Texas Seven Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade and the 1st Armored Division teamed up to judge fourth annual science fair projects for 7th- and 8th-graders at St. Pius X Catholic School here.

    “The Army has always been a great help with this event,” said Sarah Achondo, St. Pius Middle School science teacher. “They always have a good science background.”

    On the right, Tenoch Benitez and Pia Frare from Western Refineries work with Lt. Col. Patrick Hogeboom, commander of 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, to grade the science fair project of 8th-graders Veronica Martinez, 13, and Naomi Ramirez, 14, (left). Their project was about the effects of dark colored beverages on teeth and the different whiteners that could be used to counteract stains. St. Pius X School conducts the science fair annually for their 7th- and 8th-graders using help from the local community to judge projects. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Before starting, Achondo gave the judges the grading rubric and split into groups of three, each forming a panel. Students then presented their project to one of the judging panels. Students were expected to follow the scientific method and clearly present steps they took to complete the project.

    Judges were able to grade a variety of science project categories such as behavioral, animal sciences, technical, and environmental science. Students were allotted several months to work on their projects and were able to answer the majority of the questions the judges posed.

    On the right, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Houle and Staff Sgt. Seth Detavernier, observer-coach/trainers for 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, team up with Mrs. Adrianna Weickhardt, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to grade 7th-grader Gabriel Quinones’ science fair project on Jan. 9, 2014. St. Pius X Catholic School reached out to Task Force Redhawk and various other local organizations for help in judging its fourth annual science fair. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Problems addressed by the students included topics such as the correlation between sleep and grades, eye color and the ability to see colors, or the effects of genetically modified organisms.

    “It was impressive, the way the event was planned and orchestrated,” said Staff Sgt. Jesus Zambrano, a two-year observer-coach/trainer for Task Force Redhawk. “In my eyes, the event solidified the idea that students in today’s society need to have a heavy science background in their schooling.”

    From left, Staff Sgt. Seth Detavernier and Staff Sgt. Jimmy Houle, observer-coach/trainers for the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, finish grading a project on alternative energy. Soldiers from Task Force Redhawk and 1st Armored Division teamed up to help judge the fourth annual science fair project for 7th- and 8th-graders of St. Pius X Catholic School. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    At the end of the day, winners in each category were announced and awarded with ribbons. An overall winner with the highest marks from the judges was also announced.

    Other organizations such as Western Refineries, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and students with science majors from the University of Texas at El Paso also served as science fair judges.

    From top left to bottom right, observer-coach/trainers with 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Sgt. First Class Vincent Adams, Staff Sgt. Seth Detavernier, Lt. Col. Patrick Hogeboom, Staff Sgt. Jesus Zambrano, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Houle, and 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley proudly display their volunteer certificates from St. Pius X Catholic School for their help in judging the fourth annual science fair. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

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

      Kira Hale, site supervisor for Open Heart Kitchen in Pleasanton, Calif., stirs a bowl of cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving dinner. Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, volunteer at Open Heart every Wednesday to help prepare free meals for the elderly and others in need in the Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin Tri-Valley areas of California. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    PLEASANTON, Calif. – It can be difficult to give time, money and resources, but Soldiers in a local Army unit manage to do all that for a good cause.

    Every week, the 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, partners with Open Heart Kitchen to provide free meals to those in need.

    Open Heart Kitchen, a volunteer-based organization, serves prepared meals free-of-charge in California’s Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin Tri-Valley areas. According to the organization’s website, Kitchen guests come from all walks of life: the homeless, seniors on fixed incomes, the unemployed and underemployed, and low-income families struggling to make ends meet.

     

    Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stickels an observer-coah/trainer from 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, listens to the morning brief of duties for Open Heart Kitchen in Pleasanton, Calif.  Soldiers in Stickels’ unit volunteer every Wednesday to help prepare free meals for the elderly and others in need in the Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin Tri-Valley areas of California. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Once each week, two or more Soldiers from 1-363rd spend their lunch break helping prepare dinner at the Kitchen.

    “I love helping the community and being helpful,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Lester, an observe-coach/trainer. “I like helping others and assisting the elderly.”

    Kira Hale, site supervisor at Open Heart Kitchen’s Pleasanton branch, said she began working with the organization because she always liked to “help other people out.” Doing her job is rewarding, she said, because it’s something that she was drawn to do.

    (From left to right) Sgt. 1st Class Genaro Garcia, Sgt 1st Class Ernest Cornwell, Staff Sgt. Arthur Welcome, Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Lester, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Payne, and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stickels, all observer-coach/trainers assigned to 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, pose for a picture after volunteering at the Open Heart Kitchen in Pleasanton, Calif. Troops from the 363rd volunteer two hours every Wednesday at the kitchen preparing hot meals for those in need  in the Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton tri-valley area of California. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Usually, Hale would face the monumental feat of fixing dinner for 60 to 70 people alone. “Thanks to the many volunteers — like Army guys — we get a lot of stuff done," she said.

    Hale said she appreciates that Soldiers will come in and do the job — no matter what.

    Kira Hale, site supervisor for Open Heart Kitchen in Pleasanton, Calif., shows Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Payne, an observer-coach/trainer with 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, how to slice a freshly roasted turkey. Soldiers in Payne’s unit volunteer every Wednesday to help prepare free meals for the elderly and others in need in the Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin Tri-Valley areas of California. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “There’s no question as to what will get done or what might get done,” she said. “It’s been nice for me to know that if it’s just me, (some Soldiers) and one other volunteer, I know that we’re gonna be able to get the meal ready and served.”

    There have been times when it was up to just Hale and one volunteer to get everything done.

    “If one person was making a meal for 60 people, there would be a lot of stress and scuttling around trying to get everything done,” she said. “The volunteers really make up a large portion of this organization.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stickels, an observer-coach/trainer assigned to 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, opens cans of mixed vegetables at Open heart Kitchen in Pleasanton, Calif. Dec. 18, as he prepares to make a Sheppard’s Pie for those who will eat at the kitchen. Troops from the 363rd volunteer two hours every Wednesday at the kitchen preparing hot meals for those in need  in the Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton tri-valley area of California. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    On one particular day, the Pleasanton branch was tasked to serve 115 people.

    “I love having the volunteers here,” Hale said, “because they make the overall experience that much better.”

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley, former Fort Bliss and 1st Armor Division command sergeant major, congratulates Staff Sgt. Fernando Terrazas, 2nd Battalion, 363rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Black Scorpion, 5th Armored Brigade, on his induction into the Fort Bliss Chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club recently at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Gina R. Nieto, 2nd Battalion, 363rd Armored Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West

    FORT BLISS, Texas – Staff Sgt. Fernando Terrazas, an observer-coach/trainer, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 363rd Armored Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, was the second Reserve Soldier to be inducted into the Fort Bliss Chapter, Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, recently.

    During the 4th Quarter FY 2013, out of the eight reserve noncommissioned officers ranging from sergeant to master sergeant, Terrazas was the only one that was inducted.

    “All board members at brigade and division levels were surprised when they found out I was a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier,” said Terrazas. “All components of the U.S. Army have the same uniform, traditions, warrior task and battle drills, and most important, one standard - The Army Standard - so with the right mentality and flawless execution any Soldier can do it.”

    Candidates for the SAMC spent numerous hours committing themselves in preparing for the board proceedings. Being a member of the SAMC is about being a strong disciplined leader that positively represents the U.S. Army.

    “Becoming a member of this prestigious and elite NCO organization was without a doubt the most difficult task I have encountered in my career. It took every bit of my patience, technical and tactical competence, professionalism and overall military knowledge,” said Terrazas. “After it was all said and done, it is the most rewarding experience any NCO can go through.”

    Terrazas committed and dedicated a lot of his time to prepare for the SAMC that it even took him away from spending time with his family.

    When asked what inspired him to become a member of the SAMC, Terrazas responded that his greatest inspiration is his Family.

    “Everything I do is with them in mind, they have supported me unconditionally and stood by my side every step of the way,” said Terrazas. “I will always do my best to excel in my military career; after all they are my #1 fans.”

    Terrazas continued to explain that the great leaders he has came in contact with in his current unit makes it easier for him to accomplish all of his goals. Soon, Terrazas will hit 13 years in the Army and will continue to contribute great leadership and commit his time to help others that are interested in becoming a member of the SAMC.

  • Photos by Sgt. First Class Marlon V. Miguel, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West

    SENECA, S.C. – The 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Task Force Renegade, 5th Armored Brigade, Soldiers visited Seneca, S.C., recently to prepare the 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment for their upcoming mission to the National Capital Region. The South Carolina National Guardsmen performed tasks on the Avenger Trainer and Stinger Training. This completed the second phase of their four phase training exercise to validate the unit for their deployment.

    Sgt. 1st Class Blake King, left, observer-coach/trainer for 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Task Force Renegade, 5th Armored Brigade, evaluated and observed members of the South Carolina National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, as they performed tasks on the Avenger Table Top Trainer during the Renegades’ visit recently to the unit’s armory in Seneca, S.C. (Photo by Sgt. First Class Marlon V. Miguel, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

    Soldiers with the South Carolina National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, performed march order and emplacement crew drills on the Avenger weapon system during the Renegades training visit to the unit recently at Seneca, S.C., to evaluate all crews on Air Defense tasks in relation to the unit’s upcoming mission in the National Capital Region date. (Photo by Sgt. First Class Marlon V. Miguel, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

    Sgt. 1st Class Gary D. Marion, an observer-coach/trainer from the 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Task Force Renegade, 5th Armored Brigade, demonstrated to members of the South Carolina National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, on how to properly perform a task on the Stinger Troop Proficiency Trainer during a weekend training visit at the unit’s armory recently located in Seneca, S.C. (Photo by Sgt. First Class Marlon V. Miguel, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

    Sgt. 1st Class Richard I. Wilson and Sgt. 1st Class Cuyler A. Jones, observer-coach/trainers from the 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment Task Force Renegade, 5th Armored Brigade, administered the Avenger General Knowledge test to all Avenger crew members of the South Carolina National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment during the Renegades’ training visit recently on location at the unit’s armory in Seneca, S.C. (Photo by Sgt. First Class Marlon V. Miguel, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

    Soldiers of the South Carolina National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment braved the cold weather and precipitation to conduct march order and emplacement crew drills during the unit’s weekend training event recently, while observer-coach/trainers evaluated all crews on their Air Defense tasks in relation to the unit’s upcoming mission in the National Capital Region. (Photo by Sgt. First Class Marlon V. Miguel, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

  • Capt. Robert Jones, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Edward Mullin from 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, speak to children of the Gatesville Intermediate School about their jobs in the Army for the school’s career day in Gatesville, Texas, recently. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By 1st Lt. Kat Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    GATESVILLE, Texas – Over two hundred sixth grade students from Gatesville Intermediate School gathered in their cafeteria to kick off their annual career day chaired by Becky Coward, the school’s guidance counselor.

    Coward secured 22 professionals with varying work backgrounds to speak to the children about their respective careers. 

    In preparation for the day’s events, Coward had each of the children rank their top three professions. The day of, she was able to split them into small groups and move them in a circuit fashion to discuss their top three potential jobs of interest.

    One professional area available to the children came from, Capt. Julian Benitezpenuelas, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander for the 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West. He coordinated for several of his colleagues to attend and speak to the wide-eyed sixth graders about what it means to be in the U.S. military.

    To give the kids more contexts, Benitezpenuelas also invited Soldiers from Alpha Battery, Fires Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment to give a demonstration on the M777A2 Howitzer.

    The adolescents asked an array of questions such as, “How big are the bullets [you shoot],” or “Why do you fire so many rounds at night?”

    Sgt. 1st Class Edward Mullin, 120th noncommissioned officer, responded with a motto from his specific branch in the Army, the Infantry - “We own the night.” Mullin went on to explain that Soldiers must be both proficient at both day and night to be effective. 

    Students from Gatesville Intermediate School look at a M777A2 Howitzer while Spec. Matthew Allen with Alpha Battery, Fires Squadron, 3rd Cavarly Regiment, stands by to answer questions during the school’s career day in Gatesville, Texas, recently. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Capt. Robert Jones, a 120th Infantry officer, addressed a number of the more hard-hitting questions that the children posed regarding training, ammo and equipment. 

    Capt. Sarah Gilbert, executive officer at one of the 120th battalions, offered insight into the delicate family/work-life balance that many Soldiers frequently have to manage.

    Benitezpenuelas posed a question to one of the groups, asking what the children might want to do should any of them decide to join the Army. The answers from the group ranged from tanker, sniper and mechanic.

    “This is your day to learn, investigate and explore what you may want to do in the future,” said Coward in her introductory speech for the career day.

    The 120th was honored to support the Gatesville Intermediate School. As part of their community partnership, the school made sure to enlist the assistance of the 120th. Walking down the hallways at the completion of the career day, many of the young children politely thanked the servicemembers for protecting the country.

    The 120th visits the Gatesville Intermediate School children on a weekly basis to spend time mentoring them during their lunch hour.

    For more pictures and information on the 120th Infantry Brigade, visit www.facebook.com/120thinfantrybrigade.

  • By Capt. Alan S. Moss, 11th Aviation Command Public Affairs

     

    New York National Guardsman Spc. Anthony Roberts, from B Company, 642nd Aviation Support Battalion in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., and Army Reserve Sgt. Jonathan Vermeulen, from B Company, 90th Aviation Support Battalion in Fort Worth, Texas, remove the scissor link on the airframe's main rotor head while atop a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter at the United States Army Reserve Aviation Support Facility, Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Alan S. Moss, 11th Aviation Command Public Affairs)

     

    NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas — Dedicated aviation mechanics of the Army Reserve and the New York National Guard have been improving critical skills and saving the Army money while training here.

    B Company, 642nd Aviation Support Battalion of the New York National Guard is completing pre-mobilization training for its upcoming deployment to Kuwait. North Fort Hood is a mobilization platform for the Reserve.

    The 11th Aviation Command recognized that there were aviation maintenance personnel from the New York National Guard mobilizing at Fort Hood and created a mutually beneficial arrangement: a hands-on training opportunity for the National Guard Soldiers which provides additional maintenance support for the 11th Aviation Command’s Aviation Support Facility (ASF) at Fort Hood.

    Enter 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, First Army Division West, which, according to Capt. Michael D. Bales, 1/351 operations officer, coordinates all aviation related training for the mobilizing reserve component units.

    “We contact resident units on Fort Hood — like the 4th Sustainment Brigade, the 615th Aviation Support Battalion of the 1st cavalry Division — to set up partnered training events,” Bales said. “In the case of 642nd, this included refueling, Downed Aircraft Recovery Team training, scheduled and unscheduled aircraft maintenance, vehicle recovery training, etc.”

    Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Risewick, specialty shop supervisor from B Company, 642nd ASB said, “This is a unique, mutually beneficial experience building opportunity for my Soldiers.  This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The timing and the situation were perfect. The USAR aviation support facility at Fort Hood is authorized eight aircraft but currently has 13.  They needed the assistance and our Soldiers benefitted from the training.”

    When a new aircraft arrives, it receives a 100 percent inspection, to include historical records of the aircraft and the evaluation of the airframe’s condition. Following inspection, if the aircraft is deemed airworthy, it undergoes a maintenance test flight to further evaluate the aircraft’s systems. Otherwise, the deficiencies found are noted and later corrected.

    The cooperation across components provided the National Guard training and freed USAR valuable man hours to address other critical tasks. The aircraft that the New York National Guard worked on have already completed the inspection process and are now in the repair/replace phase. Without pressure to complete the deficiencies associated with the aircraft, a better learning environment is present, producing a better-trained Soldier. This training better prepared the junior enlisted Soldiers for their wartime mission and creates a more balanced skill set.

    Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Kunzer, also from the 642nd, said, “From a supervisory standpoint, this training has allowed me to better evaluate not only my Soldiers’ skills, but also their leadership abilities prior to deploying.”

    Collaborations between Reserve and National Guard aviation Soldiers and units like the 642nd are uncommon, but are beneficial as the USAR saves money and the National Guard receives excellent training, all while operating in a resource constrained environment.

    Had the National Guard scheduled and executed this four week long training at their home units, it would have come at significant additional cost to achieve the same training benefit.

    Clint Ezell, the maintenance work supervisor at ASF Fort Hood, said, “Its right. It’s smart. It’s cheap.” 

    The Reserve aviation Soldiers resolved or corrected one-third to one-half of the current deficiencies for selected aircraft at a huge cost savings in man hours. It also increased the availability of the mechanics that are organic to ASF Fort Hood, freeing them to work on flyable aircraft that meet day-to-day mission requirements.

    “The primary day-to-day focus of an ASB is aircraft maintenance,” Bales said. “At their home state, the 642nd only gets to conduct aircraft maintenance when they drill. Coming to Fort Hood allowed them to plan, coordinate and execute maintenance on a daily basis, in addition to the other training, like refueling, communications, and staff work that they accomplished to prepare for its Kuwaiti deployment.

    “The 642nd was very proactive in reaching out to resident Fort Hood units after 1-351 made initial contact,” Bales continued. “The 642nd reached further and coordinated additional training on its own.”

    Army Reserve aviation maintains the highest Operational Readiness rating across the Department of the Army, including the active component and the National Guard. Roughly half of the Army's aviation force is in the Reserve component and all of those aviation units mobilizing for deployment do so under the watchful eyes of 166th Aviation trainers.

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

    There’s no better way to get into the Christmas spirit and shed all semblances of Scrooge and the Grinch than listening to children sing Christmas carols.

    It was such Christmas spirit that brought smiles across the faces of even the stoic of Soldiers from the 166th Aviation Brigade Dec. 18.

    166th has the honor of being the military sponsor to the second- and third-graders of Gatesville Elementary School.

    “We drove thru Gatesville when I first got out here and saw our name on the school’s sign. I asked ‘what do we do to earn it?’ I want us to be part of that school.  Whenever they ask for help, we will respond and support,” said Col. Kevin A. Vizzarri, the 166th’s brigade commander.

    Soldiers from Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade enjoy the second- and third-grade choir performance at Gatesville Elementary school Dec. 18. Gatesville Elementary is the 166th Aviation Brigade's adopted school. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Normally, every Friday, Soldiers from the 166th go to the school to have a special lunch with select students. “The kids just love to see the Soldiers,” said Ms. Jody Janek, a school counselor and liaison for 166th.  “It’s like having rock stars here on campus. It’s a very special event to get to eat with our Soldiers.”

    “I want these kids to have role models, but it’s good for us too,” explained Vizzarri.  “When we see the eyes of a child and how they see us, we up our game.  We get as much out of going to lunch with them as they get out of us going there.”

    Based on good behavior, the students put their names in a bucket to be chosen to eat with the Soldiers that week.  Two tables are decorated and the selected “winners” get a special ticket to allow them to eat at the Soldiers’ table. “It’s that human touch and that connection between the students and the Soldiers,” said Janek. “They get more out of the one-on-one.”

    But the unit wanted to do something special for Christmas.  “I wanted to do something for Christmas because Gatesville Elementary is a part of our family at 166th, and Christmas is a time for family,” Vizzarri explained.

    When Ms. Janek was approached, she and Pamela Bone, the school’s principal, decided that the school choir’s Christmas concert was the perfect venue.

    “We could do all kinds of things [but] we wanted to do something to let them know how we feel and how grateful we are,” said Bone. “This concert is the closest thing I could see to let them into our hearts and share the Christmas spirit. The program is the epitome of Christmas spirit.”

    This is the school’s first choir ever put together.  Ms. Mitzi Smith, a special education teacher, approached Principal Bone at the beginning of the school year with the idea.  “[She] wanted to be the choir director and have a children’s choir to put on a Christmas program. We don’t normally have a choir — this is a first,” Bone said.

    The kids who volunteered to be in the choir worked hard to prepare the half-dozen songs performed.  “Mondays and Tuesdays they prepared after school,” said Bone.

    The Soldiers’ arrival was a complete surprise to the inaugural choir.  “We didn’t tell them,” said Janek. “It was a surprise and their faces were just blown away when they saw (the Soldiers) walk in. They’ve put in a lot of hours practicing for this. They deserve that.”

  • By 1st Lt. Katherine Kaliski, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    The Gatesville Intermediate School Choir performs for the troops during their holiday lunch at Peacock Ranch in Gatesville, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    GATESVILLE, Texas - In typical Army fashion, the 120th Infantry Brigade planned and coordinated its winter holiday party to a T.  Beginning months out with initial planning meetings, everything ran as close to perfect as possible. 

    To help execute the holiday festivities, the brigade teamed with its Gatesville community partner.  In particular, Carla Manning, Military Affairs Chairman of the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce and Fort Hood Good Neighbor, along with Diana Fincher of First Baptist Church of Gatesville, were both at the forefront this holiday season. 

    The First Baptist Church’s mission fit perfectly with the 120th’s vision for the event.

    National Guard Soldiers with the 1742nd Transportation Company from South Dakota do a little sightseeing during the unit's Christmas party at the Peacock Ranch in Gatesville, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Fincher said, “The specific ministry of the church is to work with deploying military units.”

    Training and and validating units mobilized for deployment, at any given time, the Brigade as a number of inbound units that they are training simultaneously, and training doesn’t stop for holidays. Col. Timothy Bush, brigade commander, intended to provide a holiday celebration for those units under his control that will soon be down range in harm’s way.

    To make the event special, the group selected the Peacock River Ranch in Gatesville. Nestled away on a side street off one of the main drags in town, the venue is frequently the place of choice for weddings and special events.

    Sgt. 1st Class Luis Moreno, a 120th Infantry Brigade Observer-Coach/Trainer, helps serve a holiday meal for National Guard Soldiers from the 1742nd Transportation Company out of South Dakota. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    All-in-all, the 120th and Gatesville community members catered to over 500 Soldiers: 60 Soldiers from the 1460th Trucking Company; 50 from Kosovo Force-18; 20 from the 35th Infantry Division; 140 from the 1742 Trucking Company; and the remainder were service members and their families of the 120th Infantry Brigade and it’s subordinate battalions.

    Gatesville business and religious community leaders and members provided the food.  “The church ladies from around town did all of the deserts,” said Fincher.

    National Guard Soldiers from the 1742nd Transportation Company out of South Dakota enjoy music by the Gatesville Middle School Choir at the Peacock Ranch in Gatesville, Texas. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    Community members also served all of the Soldiers a hearty plate of good ole’ Texas barbecue as they went through the buffet line.  

    The Gatesville Intermediate, Junior and High School Choirs performed for the Soldiers and their families, as did the Gatesville Morning Song Choir.

    National Guard Soldiers from the 1742nd Transportation Company out of South Dakota, take a group photo at the Peacock Ranch in Gatesville, Texas. (U.S. Army photo)

     

    Another pivotal aspect of the brigade commander’s intent, was that no child was “left behind,” or without a holiday gift. Parents made sure to bring gifts so that each child had the opportunity to chat with “Santa,” (soon-to-retire 1st Sgt. Malcolm Stone of Headquarters Company) and receive a gift for good behavior.

  • A group of officers with the 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West, pose with a trophy, won from the second Annual Turkey Bowl held at Smith Middle School stadium, recently. The officers have won the Turkey Bowl two years in a row. (Photo by Maj. Chad Morehead, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

    By Capt. Jayson L. Hughes, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West

    FORT HOOD, Texas – Over 150 spectators braved freezing temperatures and 15 mph winds to watch 166th Aviation Brigade’s second Annual Turkey Bowl at the Smith Middle School stadium, recently.

    The 166th Aviation Brigade utilized the day before Thanksgiving to provide a fun-filled day for its Soldiers, civilians and Families.

    The Turkey Bowl was a tournament consisting of a three-game round robin between the noncommissioned officers, warrant officers, and officers.  To gear up for the game, each team had been practicing seven on seven plays weeks in advance.  As with last year’s football game, the brigade encouraged Family members to play along with their Soldiers.

    Col. Kevin Vizzarri, 166th Aviation Brigade commander gathered the team captains during pre-game warm up and changed the football game from seven on seven man teams to 11 on 11.  

    “With such a high turnout on each team, I want to increase participation as much as possible,” said Vizzarri.  “Our goal is to have fun and getting as many Soldiers on the field will do that.”

    The rule change came as a pleasant surprise to the players and coaches.  Capt. Michael Bales, 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment operations officer and the officer team coach had to make some quick changes to his game plan.  His team had over 30 members, so playing time would have been limited.  

    “We have some guys that can run and catch well and some guys that can block great so this rule change can get more guys in to play,” said Bales. “It’s a great idea.”

    The tournament started with the warrant officers challenging the officers.  The officers took an early lead and coasted to a 20-0 final.  In the second game, the warrant officers took a 14-0 lead, until NCOs battled back to win the game 15-14.  Since the NCOs and officers were undefeated, the NCO-officer game would decide the champion this year. 

    Both teams fought hard in a game that turned into a defensive stalemate until late into the game. With just four minutes left, Capt. Lionel Macklin threw a dump pass to the right hash to Adrian Duncan, step son of Maj. Kevin Boates, 166th operations planner.  Duncan then weaved through several defenders for a 55 yard score. 

    “It was just one of those plays when you get the ball and turn up field,” said Duncan while trying to catch his breath after the run. “I had some running room and a few blockers did the rest.” 

    The Officers went on to win 7-0 for the second consecutive year.

    Football wasn’t the only event.  The brigade set up a bouncy house and face-painting station for the children to enjoy. 

    “I always like coming to the Army events, because the unit always thinks of the kids and gets them involved,” said Angela Macklin, spouse of Capt. Macklin, 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment team chief.

    Historically, unit commanders utilize sporting events to increase unit participation in competitive team building.  These events also allow the unit to develop relationships across higher and lower echelons in order to increase communication flow within the unit as a whole.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Scott Heathcote, 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, plays the role of operation forces during the 211th Military Police Company culminating training event at McGregor Range, N.M., recently. (Photo by Capt. John Grant, 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armor Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. John Grant, 3rd Regiment, 362nd Armor Battalion, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – Several noncommissioned officers from 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West and Soldiers from the 211th Military Police Company recently trained on External Security Operations in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan.

    The military police trained, reviewed, and practiced skills such as entry control point operations, quick reaction force operations, and base defense operations. These skills were drilled over and over again, not only in preparation for their culminating training event, but more importantly for their upcoming deployment.

    The Soldiers of the 211th began their CTE by setting up an entry control point for the operation. They established a vehicle search area, personnel search area, and a traffic control area also. They worked with role players who were portraying local personnel and provided traffic through their entry control point.

    Soldiers from the 211th Military Police Company talk to role players portraying local nationals during entry control point training organized by the 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West at McGregor Range, N.M., recently. (Photo by Capt. John Grant, 3rd Battalion, 362nd Armor Regiment, Task Force Stallion, 5th Armor Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “The entry control point operation training better prepares the 211th Military Police for their deployment because it allows them to practice one of the many things they could be doing on their tour,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffery McQuade, a Task Force Stallion observer-controller/trainer.

    As the CTE ran its course, the Soldiers of the 211th MP Company were able to exercise their quick reaction force and respond to a variety of incidents including riots, forced cell extractions, and improvised explosive devices.

    The company command post was also able to participate in the training by receiving and processing reports, directing the quick reaction force, and organizing and deploying forces. 

    “The Soldiers of the 211th operate very well as a company. They are motivated and took away some good lessens from the training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Heathcote, a Task Force Stallion Senior observer-controller/trainer.

  • By Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Staff Sgt. Mitchell Burns (right), an Observer-Coach/Trainer for 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, and Command Sgt. Maj. William Montgomery (left), 2-393rd command sergeant major,  help decorate the Division West float for the Gatesville, Texas holiday parade Dec. 14. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    GATESVILLE, Texas —120th Infantry Brigade and the 1460th Transportation Company Soldiers took part  in the Gatesville Holiday Parade Dec. 14 on a float with holiday ornaments and a “Kandahar Bound” banner  Dec. 14.

    Twenty Michigan National Guard Soldiers from the 1460thout of Midland, Michigan walked alongside and rode the float while tossing candy to parade spectators.  They will be deploying soon and activities like this helps boost Soldier morale.

    Maj. Michael Noriega, 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment operations officer, assists Command Sgt. Maj. William Montgomery, 2-393rd command sergeant major, with the float decorations for the Gatesville, Texas holiday parade Dec. 14. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “The city of Gatesville is a big supporter of the United States military and our Army guys,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell Burns, Observer-Coach/Trainer for 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment.  “They’ve help us a lot and we want to help them by participating in their holiday parade.”

    Burns said part of the 120th’s job is to understand and help with Soldiers morale.

    ”They are here on North Fort Hood anywhere from 10 to 70 days before they deploy, which can bring the morale down to a lot of Soldiers who are far away from home, especially during the holidays,”  he said.

    This will be the first deployment for some of these Soldiers.

    Soldiers of the Michigan National Guard’s 1460th Transportation Company walk the Gatesville, Texas holiday parade Dec. 14. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Diana Fincher, a chairperson of First Baptist Church in Gatesville, and Carla Manning, Gatesville Chamber of Commerce board member, Fort Hood Good Neighbor, and a Gatesville Military Affairs representative, both volunteered and assisted in providing a trailer and decorations for the float. 

    “It means everything to be able to somehow show our appreciation and spend some time with the Soldiers because they come all over the country and they are here without their families,” said Fincher.  She also said that she wants to be able to provide some normal time for the Soldiers before they deploy and protect our country.

    Staff Sgt. Mitchell Burns, an Observer-Coach/Trainer for 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, waves at spectators during the Gatesville, Texas holiday parade Dec. 14. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Soldiers from Michigan National Guard’s 1460th Transportation Company take a group picture with Carla Manning (flanking left),  Gatesville Chamber of Commerce board member, Fort Hood Good Neighbor, and a Gatesville Military Affairs representative, and Diana Fincher (flanking right), a chairperson of First Baptist Church in Gatesville, Texas, before the city’s holiday parade Dec. 14. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

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

    Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 393rd Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, start off the Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge Dec. 3 with the 3.2 mile run. (Photo by Capt. Javita Facion, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    FORT HOOD, Texas – They were spent. All 22 participants of the inaugural Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge gave everything they had to finish.

    The three-event challenge consisted of a 3-mile run, 5-mile ruck march, ending with six obstacle course events.

    “The concept was inspired by what we used to do in the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (ABN) in Alaska, the Cavalry Fitness Test,” said Capt. Jeffrey Harris, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment’s assistant operations officer. “The difficulty, intensity and events of the Challenge were tailored to the unit.” 

    The run tested cardio endurance while being challenged by steep hills. The ruck march tested each Soldier’s ability to carry weight over distance combined with speed. Obstacle course events required agility, strength and heart, translated into to combat fitness.

    WAFC stretched from one side of Fort Hood to the other, beginning around 9 a.m. on a nearly perfect morning.

    Observer-Coach/Trainer Sgt. 1st Class Anriuj Alfred, of 3rd Battalion, 393rd Regiment, 479th Field Artillery, Division West, leads the 5-mile ruck march, the second event of the Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge. (Photo by Cpt. Javita Facion, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Soldiers started out down the long tank trail on Turkey Run Road towards the toughest part of the first event: a long and steep hill in the first half of the run. 

    “It brings out the inner Warrior inside of you by the time you get to the top of it,” said Staff Sgt. John Miller, personnel NCO with 3rd Bn., 393rd FA Rgmt.  The hilltop was where the tight group of Soldiers began to fan out. They then streamed up and down a series of hills and two water crossing points before arriving at the end of the first phase.

    The second phase of WAFC began as each Soldier arrived at the Ruck Up Point. Maj. Glen Renfree, battalion executive officer, was the first one to finish the run. “It was like a fire drill, he said. “I knew that my only hope was in a speedy transition to stay in front as long as possible.” 

    Everyone had to find their own ruck sack, put on their boots and ruck up. The ruck march had an additional challenge: temperature. It was as if Murphy’s Law came out on the only December day to reach 80 degrees and the Warriors were marching dead into the face of the sun. It was taxing to say the least, but they pressed on to the last event: the obstacle course.

    Observer-Coach/Trainer Staff Sgt. Nathan Hickson, of 3rd Battalion, 393rd Regiment, 479th Field Artillery, Division West, finishes the obstacle course, the third and final event of the Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge on December 3.  (Photo by Capt. Javita Facion 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Observer-Coach/Trainer Sgt. 1st Class Anriuj Alfred was able to overtake Renfree in the course of the ruck march to arrive at the obstacle course first. Those events included: a wall, a sled drag, monkey bars, cone drill, casualty evacuation and a 400-meter dash. All obstacle course events were done while wearing helmets, combat vests and ballistic eye protection.

    Each Warrior did his best to complete the WAFT in the shortest time possible. In the end, Alfred was able to hold on for the win.

    “I am extremely proud of the WARRIOR battalion and the amount of efforts that went into our very first Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenge,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Tyson Goolsby, battalion command sergeant major. “It was well planned and executed. The officers and NCOs did a phenomenal job both competing and facilitating. I am extremely proud to be a part of this organization and am so looking forward to future Warrior Artillery Fitness Challenges.”

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

    Mariessa Carrasco, daughter of Master Sgt. Johnny Carrasco, 5th Armored Brigade operations non-commissioned officer, thanks all of her family, coaches and teammates in a tear-filled speech during the signing of her National Letter of Intent to play volleyball at the University of New Mexico. Carrasco played at Captain John L. Chapin High School, El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    EL PASO, TX – The daughter of Master Sgt. Johnny Carrasco, operations non-commissioned officer with 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, recently received a volleyball scholarship to the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

    Mariessa Carrasco, senior volleyball player at Captain John L. Chapin High School, signed her letter in the library at Chapin High, with many of her high school teammates, classmates, family and friends attending.

    Despite offers to play in other parts of Texas and the country, her decision to go with UNM gives her family and friends an opportunity to see her play.

    With her family, friends and teammates in attendance, Mariessa Carrasco, daughter of Master Sgt. Johnny Carrasco, 5th Armored Brigade operations non-commissioned officer, signs her National Letter of Intent to play volleyball at the University of New Mexico. The NLI was signed Nov. 13 at Chapin High School, El Paso, Texas, where she holds several school records and earned Texas All State and District Most Valuable Player honors. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “I chose UNM because I felt as though I was at home,” said Mariessa. “The team is very family-oriented and I felt comfortable with the players, coaches and my surroundings.”

    The transition from high school to college is a difficult process, but for Mariessa, her upbringing as a military child has prepared her for that moment.

    “Being a military child and moving around a lot throughout my life, transitioning to different places and meeting new people is just another experience of life,” she said. “The military life has made me a more well-rounded person.”

    As Carla Gonzalez, principal at Chapin High School, and Joe Morales, Chapin High School volleyball coach, gave remarks about the team’s accomplishments along with Mariessa’s achievements, the library filled with cheers.

    “Mariessa tormented and terrorized the competition on and off the court,” said Gonzalez.

    Click photo for high-resolution image

    Col. Raul Gonzalez, brigade commander for 5th Armored Brigade, congratulates Mariessa Carrasco, daughter of Master Sgt. Johnny Carrasco, 5th Armored Brigade operations non-commissioned officer, after signing her National Letter of Intent Nov. 13 at Captain John L. Chapin High School, El Paso, Texas, to attend the University of New Mexico. Carrasco was voted to the Texas Volleyball All State team and the District Most Valuable Player. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Mariessa coach and principal heaped praise upon her, but just as was done throughout her volleyball career at Chapin High, she blocked and killed it deflecting all of the honor and adulation to her teammates.

    “I love you girls,” Mariessa said to her teammates. “Without you guys, this wouldn’t be possible.”

    Carrasco finished her the season with 428 kills and 104 total blocks. She recorded 128 blocks as a junior which set the Chapin High School record. She was also selected as the District 1-4A Most Valuable Player.

  •  

    Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Bowen Jr., command sergeant major of 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, provides tips for riding in a group during the Joint Motorcycle Mentorship Ride Oct. 24 that began on Fort Bliss, Texas. The group of riders was divided into groups of six with a mix of experienced and less experienced riders. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, Mission Training Center Bliss Public Affairs) 

     

    By Sgt. 1st Class Ernesto Camacho, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment Division West Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas – The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, held its first Joint Motorcycle Ride Oct. 24, which included riders from the 5th Armored Brigade, and 166th Aviation Brigade, out of Fort Hood.

    The ride teamed experience with inexperienced riders, but it gave all the motorcyclists an opportunity to gain group experience on their ride to Cloudcroft, N.M.

    “Rides like this give weak riders an idea of what needs to be done to get better,” said DJ Dryer, Mission Training Center Safety Manager. “Experienced can learn new skills as well, but sharpen their old skills.”

    The joint ride coordinated by Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Bowen Jr., 402nd Field Artillery Brigade command sergeant major, and Sgt. 1st Class Jae Haney, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade medic, included Division West Soldiers travelling from Fort Hood, Texas.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela, Division West motorcycle mentor, and Master Sgt. Ruben Samarripa, of the 166th Aviation Brigade, were among those that made the trek to Fort Bliss to join their comrades in the joint ride.

    Col. Raul Gonzalez, commander of 5th Armored Brigade, gives his motorcycle safety brief during the Joint Motorcycle Mentorship Ride Oct. 24 that began on Fort Bliss, Texas. The riders began the journey at Fort Bliss, Texas, and took a ride up through Alamogordo, N.M. and on to Cloudcroft, N.M. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, Mission Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    The day began with a thorough route and safety briefing conducted by Bowen. 

    “Anybody have a bike that doesn’t reach 70 miles an hour,” said Bowen. “The speed limit is there for a reason.”

    Upon completion of the briefing, all riders were issued a First-Aid pack along with emergency contacts and locations of medical facilities in case an emergency were to arise or they needed assistance during an accident.  The Soldiers conducted their final equipment and motorcycle checks and lined up in three groups of six riders per team, with the most experience riders of each team as their lead and began their ride to Cloudcroft followed by the 402nd's Recovery Team. 

    Enroute to Cloudcroft, the riders stopped at their designated rest areas along the way in Alamogordo and Oro Grande.  Upon arrival, riders arrived at Big Daddy’s Diner, where they ate barbecue and then continued on their way through the mountain side. 

    Passing through Mayhill, one of the riders experienced some minor difficulties and pulled off to the side of the rode into the gravel path to clear his eyes, where he layed his motorcycle down. He endured minor injuries along with minor damage to his motorcycle as well.

    Motorcycle riders from 5th Armored Brigade and 402nd Field Artillery Brigade line up to began the Joint Motorcycle Mentorship Ride Oct. 24, on Fort Bliss, Texas. The riders began the journey at Fort Bliss and took a ride up through Alamogordo, N.M. and on to Cloudcroft, N.M. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, Mission Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    “At the point of the incident, patient assessment, scene management and patient transport was performed flawlessly by all motorcycle riders and the scene was managed by numerous trained Accident Scene Management trained personnel,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jae Haney, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade medic.

    Haney provided medical aide until the Emergency Medical Service Technicians arrived on the scene.   The rider was transported from the accident scene to Alamogordo Medical Facility where he was treated and released with minor injuries. 

    “Everyone reacted in exact accordance to what was briefed,” said Col. Raul Gonzalez, brigade commander of 5th Armored Brigade. “He was treated and taken care of before the first responders arrived. We just passed off all of the medical notes to the responders.”

    Upon completion of the accident response, the Sherriff’s accident report, the riders recovered the Soldier’s motorcycle accordingly and continued along with their motorcycle ride around the mountain side back through Cloud Croft where, the teams conducted their After Action Review, and returned to Fort Bliss.

    For more information, or coverage on this article, you can contact the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment Unit Public Affairs Representative via phone at (915)568-4854/ (915)525-3614 or at hector.a.camacho@us.army.mil

  • Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander, addresses the University of Texas-El Paso Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets during the Sisters-in-Arms panel discussion Nov. 1 on the campus of UTEP. The panel was composed of a diverse group of Soldiers consisting of both officers and noncommissioned officers. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    EL PASO, Texas – A female Army captain made clear to the cadets at the University of Texas-El Paso Reserve Officer Training Corps during a 5th Armored Brigade Sisters-in-Arms panel discussion about the Army’s 2020 Integration on Nov. 1 that job performance is the key principle of success, regardless of any gender.

    “Commanding an infantry FSC (Forward Support Company) under Col. Weiss was one of the most rewarding jobs in my military career,” said Maj. Krista Soria, 5th Armored Brigade executive officer and Sisters-in-Arms director. “What made it successful was that he didn’t treat me or my company based on gender.”

    “The only thing that matters is if you can do the job,” Soria added. “It was a really great relationship and experience.”

    From February 2007-08, Soria served as the Foxtrot FSC commander in direct support to the Illinois National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment. The FSC’s were a new concept for the Army at that time and for a female Soldier and commander to be working directly for an infantry battalion was just as foreign.

    Despite her initial trepidation, she knew it ultimately came down to how she integrated her unit and herself into the mission.

    “I remember standing in an open field talking to Col. Weiss and a couple of other commanders when Col. Weiss decided to test our skills and our leadership,” said Soria. “Foxtrot company excelled during this impromptu test which was comprised of hooking up a HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle) slingload without error.”

    The test wasn’t so much an assessment to see if Soria and Foxtrot could do the job, as much as it was to show the units that her company was fully mission capable.

    Maj. Krista Soria, 5th Armored Brigade executive officer and Sisters-in-Arms director, looks on during the Sisters-in-Arms panel discussion as her peers impress upon the University of Texas-El Paso Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets the importance of embracing change at UTEP campus, Nov. 1.  (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “It was the first time we were able to show not only the commander, but the rest of the line units that we were competent in our skills,” said Soria. “We were there to support and we were there to stay.”

    Soria’s experience with combat arms Soldiers and units is that of many women who’ve worked alongside and in support of them over the last decade of war. Many female Soldiers on the panel shared a similar journey with Soria, and also the willingness to prove themselves and work hard. The panel consisted of a diverse group of male and female captains, sergeants first class, a first sergeant, a master sergeant, the brigade commander and brigade command sergeant major.

    “They all brought so many different experiences to the table to share with us,” said LaTondra Moultrie, cadet in UTEP ROTC program. “I think it’ll make a huge impact on females going forward.”

    Each person on the panel represented not only a different rank, but different experiences, branches, MOSs and perspectives.

    Maj. Robert Pantoja, career infantryman and operations officer for 1st Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Warhawg, 5th Armored Brigade, sat on the panel and delivered the message of mentorship and leadership.

    “These young men and women will see many issues and have discussions similar to this throughout their military careers and exposing them to this topic will prepare them for the future,” said Pantoja.

    As for 1st Sgt. Gloria Belk, Patriot Missile crewmember and first sergeant for Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the Army’s 2020 Integration is nothing more than an official backing to what she’s been doing her entire career.

    “I don’t know anything other than what I’ve been doing for 17 years in the Army,” said Belk. “It’s new to us but not new to me.”

    First Sgt. Gloria Belk, Patriot Missile crewmember and first sergeant for Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, discusses her experience as a female in combat arms during the Sisters-in-Arms panel discussion with the University of Texas-El Paso Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, Nov. 1 on UTEPs campus. Belk has served 17 years as a Patriot Missile crewmember. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    She, too, has had a career of proving herself and leveling the playing field, not because she had to do it but because she wanted to be treated equally.

    “People doubted me. They always tried to help me because I was female. They always tried to put me in the office because I was female,” Belk said. “I didn’t allow them to treat me any differently and because of that they accepted me with open arms.”

    The cadets were all ears. The Army’s 2020 integration was something the panel knew very little because of the novelty of it, but the cadets had less information than that.

    “I appreciate them for coming out and bringing that information because a lot of it I didn’t know at all or wasn’t very knowledgeable,” Moultrie said. “I hope when more information comes out about it, the group can come back out and share the new information.

    The 2020 Integration is a constant work in progress. With the gradual growth, more than 14,000 positions will be available in 2012. The goal is to open all jobs, positions, branches and MOSs to women by January 2016.

    “I’m an infantryman, but I’ve had females on the asymmetrical battlefield with me,” said Col. Raul Gonzalez, commander of 5th Armored Brigade. “It’s not out of the norm, as we’ve been doing it for a decade, but we’re just now making it official.”

    Soria and Belk, along with Sgt. 1st Class LaKenya Stokes, supply noncommissioned officer for 1st Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Rampant, 5th Armored Brigade, Sgt. 1st Class Lashawn Moore, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Task Force Renegade, 5th Armored Brigade and thousands of other females have similar experiences of fighting for equality and relishing in the gratitude from peers and supervisors of a job well done.

    “He treated everyone in the battalion the same, offered us the same training opportunities and expected us to perform as the same level as his line companies,” Soria said. “I believe it was because of Col. Weiss's command philosophy and directives to his staff, that his intent was to be fully integrated and that the battalion would seamlessly support.”

  • Sgt. 1st Class Isaac McMillan, observer-coach/trainer for the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, points out a newly injured Soldier to the Soldiers of the Louisianan National Guard’s 927th Engineer Company as they react to a medical evacuation situation during their mounted combat patrol live-fire exercise at McGregor Range, N.M., recently. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs) 

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

    McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. - The 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, recently conducted three days of counter-improvised explosive device training as well as a mounted combat patrol live-fire exercise.

    The Louisiana National Guardsmen of the 927th Engineer Company (Sapper), 769th Engineer Battalion, based out of Baton Rouge participated in the training events alongside TF Redhawk.

    Capt. James M. Hoover, left, Company commander for the Louisiana National Guard’s 927th Engineer Company, discusses their upcoming deployment with Col. Raul Gonzalez, commander for the 5th Armored Brigade, Division West. Both leaders observed the 927th as they conducted a mounted combat patrol live-fire exercise at McGregor Range, N.M., recently. The unit will be conducting route clearance operations during their tour in Afghanistan. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs) 

    Almost four months prior, the 927th only had about half the number of Soldiers required for the deployment. One of their sister companies, the 928th Engineer Company (Sapper) was told they would not be deploying anymore around the same time. Once the 928th was off-ramped, around 40 Soldiers asked to volunteer with the 927th and help fill their ranks for the deployment to Afghanistan.

    “I had many sleepless nights about four months ago,” said 1st Sgt. Tod Archote, the 927th first sergeant and 17-year veteran. “Half of our company are volunteers from the 928th.”

    Having already spent a year in Afghanistan from 2008-09, the engineer company is no stranger to training. With this recent deployment though, the unit was required to come to McGregor Range to validate their deployment readiness instead of Fort McCoy, Wisc., which was where they conducted pre-deployment training in 2008.

    Staff Sgt. Brendon S. Domingo, right, an observer-coach/trainer for the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, provides guidance as Soldiers from the Louisianan National Guard’s 927th Engineer Company prepare to receive a casualty on the simulated medical evacuation at McGregor Range, N.M., recently. Soldiers from the 927th trained with TF Redhawk on the proper medical evacuation procedures. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “One of my biggest focal points as a commander is the collective training,” said Capt. James Hoover, the 927th company commander. “We have had a lot of specific, individual tasks and skills training recently, but collective training is when you really find the chinks in your armor.”

    Throughout their training with TF Redhawk, the 927th Soldiers received instructions on the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures when it comes to defeating the IED threat in Afghanistan. Throughout three days of training, Soldiers were briefed, familiarized, and tested on all facets of the IED threat.  For their closing training event with TF Redhawk, the unit had to successfully complete a live-fire exercise that incorporates the C-IED training they recently received as well as a realistic medical evacuation that concludes the lane.

    Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Robinson, an observer-coach/trainer for the 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, watches for safety violations as Soldiers from the Louisianan National Guard’s 927th Engineer Company completed the mounted combat patrol live-fire exercise at McGregor Range, N.M., recently. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs) 

    After each iteration, the unit is briefed by TF Redhawk Soldiers during the after action review on the issues, mistakes, or even the good areas on the lane. In this way, the unit will learn from their mistakes during the next iteration.

    While they may be done with engineer battalion, they must complete a 4-day Culminating Training Event with the 3rd Engineer Battalion, 364th Regiment, Task Force Rampant, where they will be tested on everything they’ve been trained on during their time at McGregor Range to include route clearance.

    “The 927th has a very strong foundation,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Robinson, 2-year Task Force Redhawk observer-coach/trainer. “Their ability to take the basic fundamentals we taught them and turn them into a solid set of tactics, techniques, and procedures speaks well on their part.”

  • By 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Sgt. Verissa Lee, right, and Master Sgt. John Wells, left, Observer-Coach/Trainers with 2nd Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Task Force Black Scorpion, 5th Armored Brigade, work with cafeteria staff of Loma Linda Elementary School to serve students and their parents a Thanksgiving-themed lunch before the holiday break. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    ANTHONY, N.M. — The 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade and the 2nd Battalion, 363rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Black Scorpion, 5th Armored Brigade teamed up Monday to serve students and parents from Loma Linda Elementary School a hearty Thanksgiving lunch.

    Capt. Khoi Nguyen, left, and Capt. Monique Whyte, right, Observer-Coach/Trainers with 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, interact with the students of Loma Linda Elementary School. At the Thanksgiving lunch event, Soldiers served food and socialized with the students over a hearty meal. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    When an email was sent out from the Fort Bliss School Liaison Office asking for volunteers from Fort Bliss to help the school, Redhawk and Black Scorpion decided to step in and help the community.

     “Our kids don’t really get to see a lot of things or have a lot of different experiences,” said James Lawler, principle of Loma Linda Elementary School. “So this year we were just thinking about what we could do a little bit different and get the kids and parents more excited.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Adams, Observer-Coach/Trainer with 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, collects meal tickets at the Loma Linda Elementary School Thanksgiving lunch event. Soldiers from both Task Force Redhawk and Task Force Black Scorpion helped serve lunch before the Thanksgiving week break to students and parents of the school. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    During the lunch, Soldiers served food and socially interacted with the students throughout lunch period. Various states of Thanksgiving-themed dress could be found as the students wore anything from Indian headdresses to brightly colored turkey hats. Parents were welcome to come and sit with their children during lunch while the Soldiers entertained and socialized with the students who didn’t have their parents there.  

    “We were received with such warmth and excitement from the students,” said Capt. Monique Whyte, executive officer for TF Redhawk. “This event just opened our eyes and made us truly see the need for our Soldiers to work with these schools.”

     

    From back left, clockwise, Sgt. 1st Class Edward Martinez, Staff Sgt. Matthew Robinson, Sgt. First Class Vincent Adams, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Krogh, Observer-Coach/Trainers with 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, sit down in the teachers’ lounge for a Thanksgiving-themed lunch after serving students of Loma Linda Elementary School the same meal. The school wanted to try something different this year and invited Task Force Redhawk and Black Scorpion to come and serve lunch to the students and their parents. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Parents, teachers, and even the school newsletter crew took the opportunity to take photos of students with Soldiers during the event. Many smiles, photos, and conversations later, the Soldiers of Redhawk and Black Scorpion were able to sit down themselves with the cafeteria staff and enjoy the Thanksgiving feast. Ending the event with a warm slice of pumpkin pie, the Soldiers went home happy with their bellies full, and content that they were able to serve a community in need.

    Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Robinson, Observer-Coach/Trainer with 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, helps the cafeteria staff of Loma Linda Elementary School clean dishes. Robinson, along with 10 other Soldiers, helped serve students and their parents a Thanksgiving-themed lunch before the holiday break. (Photo by 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs) 

     

    Loma Linda Elementary School, which is the only school in southern New Mexico to include pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, educates over 400 students throughout the year. Because the school does not currently have a “Partners in Education” sponsor from Fort Bliss, Texas, the school went through the Fort Bliss School Liaison Office to seek help with the event.

  • Soldiers from the 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West take a group photo with the Gatesville Intermediate School Students during the “Say No with Camo!” day, Oct. 30 in Gatesville, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Jack K. Norris, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    GATESVILLE, Texas – Gatesville Intermediate School conducted a week long campaign to promote anti-bullying and anti-drug awareness during the last week of October. 

    “Say No with Camo!” day, Oct. 30, and that day’s events and messages were carried out by Col. Timothy W. Bush,  120th Infantry Brigade commander, and his Soldiers from the Bayonet Brigade at First Army Division West headquarters.

    Staff Sgt. Myresha Allen, center, a noncommissioned officer with the 120th Infantry Brigade talks with a student, while Sgt. 1st Class Rony Martinez, also with the 120th puts camouflage paint on a student during the “Say No with Camo!” day, Oct. 30 in Gatesville, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Each day was given an individual theme, whereby students could participate in a nonconventional manner and further internalized the positive messages from faculty, staff, and Army volunteers.  The 120th was responsible for the selection of the five most spirited students, per grade; and for going above and beyond with their participation with “Say No with Camo.”

    These students were introduced and recognized before their peers, receiving applause and appreciation.   After the recognitions were completed, the Soldiers of the infantry brigade conducted camouflage face painting, making it available to every student, and shared their own personal experiences related to anti-bullying and drug prevention. 

    The 120th Infantry Brigade volunteers during Red Ribbon Week in Gatesville Intermediate School during the “Say No with Camo!” day, Oct. 30 in Gatesville, Texas. (Photo by Capt. Soutira Graham, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    The students of Gatesville Intermediate were ecstatic and well-spirited.  Student’s wore varying degrees of camouflage—everything from a Mossy Oak or RealTree shirt or shorts, to hip waders or even full sets of the Army Combat Uniforms and Ghillie Suits. 

    It wasn’t only the students whom participated in the day’s events. Several staff members and cafeteria personnel were in full camouflage attire and even the principal, Charles Ament had their faces painted by the 120th Soldiers.

    By engaging with their adopted school, the 120th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, developed and nurtured positive relationships between the Gatesville Intermediate School, its students, and the future Gatesville. 

  • Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., First Army Division West commanding general, greets United States Armed Forces veterans Nov. 11 at a Veterans Day ceremony held in their honor on the school football field in Gatesville, Texas. The city of Gatesville, Gatesville school students and Division West all contributed to honoring veterans at the event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, First Army Division West Public Affairs

    GATESVILLE, Texas – The city of Gatesville, along with First Army Division West, honored veterans and servicemembers of the United States Armed Forces with a ceremony on the local football field Nov. 11.

    “President John F. Kennedy once said, ‘a nation reveals itself, not only by the men it produces, but by the men it honors, the men it remembers’," said Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., Division West commanding general and guest speaker for the event. “Today we share the commitment with the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed for our great nation."

    United States Armed Forces veterans all render a salute to the country’s flag during a Veteran’s Day ceremony held in their honor on the school football field in Gatesville, Texas, Nov. 11. The city of Gatesville, Gatesville school students and Division West all contributed to honoring veterans at the event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Division West, whose partnered with the community of Gatesville for many years now, provided a static display of military vehicles, for the Veterans Day ceremony. The day’s event, however, were presented and completely run by Gatesville students.

    The event started early in the morning with a complimentary breakfast in the high school cafeteria before the ceremony on the field.

    The master of ceremonies, Colton Abbott, and his fellow students, presented an array of vocations and talents to demonstrate their appreciation for the veterans. The Gatesville primary, elementary and intermediate school students, as well as the students from Jonesboro Independent School Districts, all joined in on the morning ceremony.

    Gatesville Intermediate School students sing in honor of the local veterans during the Veteran’s Day ceremony held at the school’s football field in Gatesville, Texas, Nov. 11. First Army Division West, whose partner community is Gatesville, provided the guest speaker for the event, plus a static display of military vehicle. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “As a school and student counsel, we try to honor veterans and by community program, we invite the entire school district…it’s just a way for our kids to realize that Veteran’s Day is a very important day,” said Mary Bruton, student counsel advisor and teacher with Gatesville ISD. “This was a huge turnout and we welcome Soldiers from the South Carolina and Minnesota National Guard. It was a beautiful day and it went very well.”

    The local veterans were thankful for the ceremony and all the accolades.

    One student explained it best from an essay she wrote, “with patriotism to kindle our flame, we as a nation, will never burn out.”

  • Sgt. 1st Class Edward Martinez, supply non-commissioned officer-in-charge of 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade, helped earn the Redhawk’s the U.S. Forces Command Supply Excellence Award. The award based on the unit’s Command Supply Discipline Program and Army Regulation 720-2, Inventory Supply Management. This is the second SEA Martinez has been a part of, with his first being awarded while he was stationed in Germany as a sergeant. (Courtesy photo by U.S. Army)

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

    McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – The 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, Task Force Redhawk, 5th Armored Brigade was recently awarded the U.S. Forces Command Supply Excellence Award.

    The Chief of Staff of the Army Supply Excellence Award (SEA) program was first brought to life in 1984, where the Army was looking to recognize supply excellence at all organizational levels of the Army. Since then, units have competed for the honors of the award each year. 

    The nomination for the engineer battalion started with an initial inspection from 5th Armored Brigade supply personnel, who deemed TF Redhawk worthy of competing for the award and receiving an inspection from the Fort Lee SEA program inspectors.

    The program, which is based out of Fort Lee, Va., seeks nominations from units who have achieved supply excellence. Units are divided up and placed in several different categories based on mission and type. Sgt. 1st Class Edward Martinez, the supply non-commissioned officer in charge for TF Redhawk, had a three-Soldier team working to get ready for the FORSCOM inspection.

    Martinez, a 20-year Army service member, has only been with the Redhawk’s for a year. In that time he and his team have managed to take their vast experience and knowledge and apply it to the battalion’s supply system. This year will be the second time one Martinez’s units has won the SEA, with his first being awarded when he was a sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment out of Friedberg, Germany.

    “I didn’t expect to win because we are such a unique unit in that we are very small,” said Martinez. “Knowing that we won in a competition that also evaluates much larger units made the award all the more special.”

    The inspectors from the SEA program are chosen from an unbiased unit and use a grading rubric based off the Command Supply Discipline Program in Army Regulation 720-2.  After inspection, the paperwork and grading rubric is submitted to the SEA program at Fort Lee so a winner can be chosen. Lt. Col. Patrick Hogeboom, TF Redhawk commander, will also be recognized along with Martinez for his contributions to the battalion supply system.

    “My focus was to build a team dedicated to improving internal systems while also providing the command with purpose, direction and motivation,” said Hogeboom. “Our CSDP priorities were logical and sound, which I think ultimately led to our battalion receiving this award.”

    Martinez, who doesn’t plan on retiring for years to come, hopes he can maintain the high standard that he has now set for his battalion and brigade.

    We can’t help but be proud of the work that his team put forth to win the award, Martinez said.

  • A group of “Dragon Strike” Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, led by Lt. Col. Scott Ward pose with picks, axes, rocks, and tree stumps at Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children in Killeen, Texas, Oct. 4..  The team battalion Soldiers resulted in two months worth of work being completed in four hours. (Photo by Tyler Duenas, Program Director for Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children)

    By Capt. William Brown, 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    KILLEEN, Texas – Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, took time out to volunteer at Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children here, Oct. 4.

    Thirty Soldiers volunteered their time cleaning buildings, gardening, grinding stumps, and removing brush from the 120 acre facility.  Volunteers were ecstatic to provide their time and efforts as they learned about Peaceable Kingdom’s mission and impact on children throughout Texas.

    Since 1984, Peaceable Kingdom has provided a place of solace for children who are chronically ill, children with disabilities, and their families.  The retreat specializes in modifying activities for children with visual impairments, Prader Willi Syndrome, missing limbs, and other various neurological differences.

    More than 5,000 visitors play basketball, go hiking, zip lining, fishing, and swimming at the retreat annually. Campers can even watch movies on a giant theater-sized screen in the camp theater.  Peaceable Kingdom is truly a place where children are empowered, differences don’t exist, and no one leaves unchanged.

    “It was extremely gratifying to learn about the mission of Peaceable Kingdom and know that our work was helping an organization that contributes so greatly to children in our community,” said Capt. Eric Lewis, a mobilized Army Reservist, who also serves as an elementary school teacher in Killeen Independent School District. “Additionally, it was a great way to build unit cohesion and esprit de corps.”

    Dragon Strike Soldiers were praised by Peaceable Kingdom’s staff for helping them accomplish more than two months worth of work in four hours.

    The Dragon Strike Battalion is committed to building strong bonds with local organizations and leaving a long-lasting positive impact on the surrounding community.

  • Staff Sgt. Andrew Mason, a noncommissioned officer with the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, evaluates a casualty during the 402nd's Accident Scene Management Course recently at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ernesto Camacho, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Ernesto A. Camacho, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West

    FORT BLISS, Texas – The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade conducted the first ever Motorcycle Accident Scene Management Course here recently.

    The course took place over a four day period and consisted of practical scenarios, hands-on training, and a culminating training event that included simulated accident scenes that had multiple situations happening simultaneously.

    “This is the first time the MASM course has ever been taught to Soldiers at Ft. Bliss and what a privilege it has been,” said Jimmie Barham, certified Motorcycle Accident Scene Management/Bystander Assistance Program trainer.

    Colleen Vetere, certified MASM/Bystander Assistance Program trainer, and Barham brought nearly 40 years experience as they both served as instructors.   

    Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Bowen, the brigade command sergeant major and brigade senior motorcycle mentor, along with other members from 402nd, 1st Armored Division, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, and the 5th Armored Brigade were in attendance.  As of Sep. 8, Team Bliss had certified 30 Soldiers and leaders as Accident Scene Management responders/trainers.

    Colleen Vertere and Tyke Barham demonstrate the proper technique to remove a motorcycle helmet after assessing the injured victim during the four-day Accident Scene Management Course, recently, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ernesto Camacho, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    During the course, Soldiers and leaders learned the importance of taking immediate action after an accident.  They learned and applied actions that could save lives by taking control at the scene and by providing proper life saving measures to casualties until emergency personnel arrived.   

    Through the use of realistic training aids, Soldiers and leaders learned how to render life saving aid and bridge the time between the accident and emergency medical staff response. Students learned using the ABCSS acronym of trauma: open the Airway using the ‘jaw thrust’ maneuver; assess Breathing; check for circulation and Control the bleeding; treat and prevent Shock; as well as how to conduct Spinal immobilization.

    Another technique learned during the course, was how to collect and disseminate vital information to the EMS personnel once they arrive. Students learned other techniques to treat victims by the acronym: SSAMPLE. It stands for Signs/Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, any Past medical problems, the Last food and drink the victim had, and the Events leading to the crash along with any witnesses on the scene.

    The instructors emphasized the use of gloves while treating personnel and when handling possible evidence. Aside from first aid procedures on the scene, the instructors gave lessons to prevent injury during motorcycle rides.

    The instructors taught motorcyclists about four types of collisions: head on collision, angular collision, ejection, and laying the motorcycle down.  Students also received training on full-face helmet removal for non-breathing victims.  During the course, all Soldiers receive hands-on training on assessing and treating life-threatening injuries such as head, neck, chest, abdominal, fractures and soft tissue injuries.

    After the basic course of MASM was completed, all trainees moved to the advance portion of the course. Soldiers learned about the chain of survival, priorities of treatment, handling special situations, roadside medical emergencies, and assisting EMS with long boarding procedures. They went through various training scenarios, situations and evaluations to be certified as a primary instructor and/or instructor assistant, and overall as ASM Responders.

    Colleen Vertere and Tyke Barham congratulate Soldiers from around Fort Bliss after completing the Accident Scene Management Course, recently, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ernesto Camacho, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “I was amazed at the technical skills and performance of the Soldiers and leaders,” said Vetere. “The instructors took away more than they taught the Soldiers and leaders of today.”

    Soldiers in attendance were already equipped with knowledge and experience as many of them displayed throughout the course.

    “We would be honored to come back again and share the wealth of knowledge on Accident Scene Management with Team Bliss as well as see the Soldiers that were certified on Accident Scene Management teach the course to Soldiers within their units,” said Barham.

    At the completion of the course, Bowen, who is a motorcyclist, left the students, instructors and other riders with a few words lessons from his experience on the road.

    “As riders, we can continue to learn, continue to get better, and by taking the Accident Scene Management Course we can continue to bridge and cover some of the gaps caused by accidents until proper medical help arrives,” said Bowen. “By taking the Accident Scene Management Course, we were able to have members of the 402nd certified upon completion of the course as instructors that will have the ability to train Soldiers in Accident Scene Management.”   

    “I learned a lot from the Accident Scene Management course,” said Bowen. “The Accident Scene Management Course is a nationally recognized course can be beneficial to anyone involved in an accident.  Graduates of the course will be able to respond and provide aid at any accident scene.”

  • Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Rampant, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, receive their safety brief before conducting firefighting operations at the Holloman Air Force Base Structural Live Fire Trainer on McGregor Range, N.M., recently. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Stephen Schwartz, 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Rampant, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Stephen Schwartz, 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Battalion, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – Several noncommissioned officers from the 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Rampant, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, and Airmen from Holloman Air Force Base conducted Joint-Firefighter Training to maintain military occupational specialty proficiency on Sept. 20.  

    On the training grounds at Holloman Air Force Base, TF Rampant Army Firefighters trained to maintain their yearly proficiency in Structural, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting, Wildland Fire Fighting, and Hazardous Material Training.

    The noncommissioned officers of Rampant have a unique mission at Fort Bliss, Texas. They are responsible for the training and deployment of all Army Reserve and Army National Guard Firefighter Soldiers to contingency operations around the world. 

    Before the Reserve and National Guard firefighting teams deploy they must complete their training at Fort Bliss, and the TF Rampant firefighting team poised to train those units used this training to remain up to date on the procedures and tactics in an ever changing environment. 

    “Today we are here to complete our quarterly structural live fire. We have to go into the Live Fire Trainer with the units we are training to provide safety and ensure they’re conducting operations safely and efficiently,” said Staff Sgt. Omar De La Cruz, a station chief/training officer with TF Rampant. 

    As the day progressed, firefighters from both Holloman and TF Rampant completed over 12 separate rotations.  Both Air Force and Army firefighters trained side by side through the smoke and heat coming from the Structural Live Fire Trainer. 

    “Temperatures can range from 700 to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit; we have to train for the real deal. The fire that is raging in an ASP (Ammunition Supply Point) or DFAC (dining facility) downrange will be much higher,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Piercy, the incoming TF Rampant Fire Chief. “What we are doing today is preparing to send fellow firefighters to those places.”

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

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Task Force Renegades, 5th Armored Brigade, recently deployed an Operational Readiness Evaluation team to the National Capital Region to conduct an evaluation on the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment 26-30 Aug.

    The Renegades, working in conjunction with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, conducted the evaluation on the battalion’s ability to conduct tactical and maintenance operations while they execute mission in the National Capital Region – Integrated Air Defense Systems mission, utilizing short-range air and missile defense to protect key assets within the NCR.

    This ORE was the first opportunity that the Renegade battalion had to interact and evaluate the 1-188th ADA since the completion of their Culminating Training Event this past June. 

    ”The battalion was one of the best battalions to complete a CTE with our battalion as evaluators, and continued to prove to us that they remained proficient in all aspects of their operations, even here in the NCR.” said Master Sgt. Steven P. Flack, TF Renegade senior observer controller/trainer. 

    The mission is also unique for the 1-188th because this is the first opportunity the battalion has had to actually conduct the mission compared to other short-range Air Defense Artillery battalions, who have conducted this mission on multiple rotations.

    The battalion’s leadership understands that it is also important to take advantage of their location by conducting professional development training with all members of the battalion and learn about their area of operations, not just in relation to the mission at hand.  Many members of the battalion have never been to the NCR and enjoy the opportunities they have to visit monuments and learn about the history of the nation’s capital. 

    “Even in deployed locations such as Afghanistan or Iraq, we as the active component Army, understand that it is important to learn about the history of our deployed locations and take advantage of what we can see while we are deployed,” said Master Sgt. Donald J. Keith, TF Renegade senior observer controller/trainer.  I am happy to see that the 1-188th ADA Bn. is doing that while they are up here on their mission.”

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