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  • Soldiers from the 716th (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, New Hampshire, treat a wounded team member after a simulated improvised explosive device explosion during the company’s Mission Readiness Exercise recently. The unit was enroute to their construction project in Karma’ Shah Village at McGregor Range, New Mexico. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    McGregor Range, New Mexico — During a time of tight budget constraints and shrinking personnel resources, one Fort Bliss, Texas unit managed to do more with less while saving the installation and the Army money.

    The 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, which was recently inactivated, made a habit of using vertical and horizontal construction engineer units to help build and maintain the infrastructure here while preparing them for impending deployment rotations.

    “Conducting post-mobilization training at MTC (Mobilization Training Center) Bliss affords the 5th Armored Brigade and Fort Bliss a great opportunity to provide real world training while capitalizing on the opportunity to provide construction efforts to needed projects,” said Lt. Col. David Woodruff, former commander, 3-364th Engineer Battalion.

    Over a two-year span, it’s estimated that the 3-364th and the engineer rotational training units have saved a substantial amount of money.

    “The units 5th Armored has trained have been able to save the government and the Army almost $3 million in troop construction for Fort Bliss, McGregor Range and Contingency Operating Location Westbrook,” said Woodruff.

    The construction units have built sunshades and gazebos, repaired levees, refurbished ranges, replaced culverts, repaved roads, constructed landing zones and rebuilt villages. Range 37 has been a particular problem area for McGregor because of its location and propensity to sustain water damage rolling off the hills. During the rainy season of 2013, the storms caused a levee to break, causing damage to many of the other lower ranges.  

    “One of the most important projects the unit’s assisted us in was the buildup of Range 37,” said Salvador Hernandez, McGregor Range Operations Supervisor. “With all of that damage, the unit that came in was able to build up that levee and blocked off certain areas with their development plan.”

    It was a large project for 5th AR to take part in, but the resources were available with a training unit scheduled to share the load. The repair work helped to stave off damages in Ranges 13-24 that would have continued if the attention were not given to Range 37.

    However, for the Directorate of Personnel, Training Management, and Security, the project was just too much to bear, as DPTMS did not have the resources.

    “For me to attempt to do something as big as what they did at Range 37, our heavy equipment is minimal,” Hernandez said. “We don’t have as many trucks, dump trucks, front end loaders, graders … so what the Army or engineers were able to do in one week, it would have taken our heavy equipment a longer time.”

    Spc. Albert Platerotti, a carpenter with the 716th (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, New Hampshire, cuts plywood during the construction of a sunshade at Range 11 at McGregor Range, New Mexico. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Currently, there is only one heavy equipment section of DPTMS at McGregor and it is comprised of six personnel responsible for Dona Ana, New Mexico, Oro Grande, New Mexico, McGregor Range and Westbrook. The use of Soldier labor allowed more focus to be placed on other areas around the installation and outside of McGregor Range by McGregor Range staff.

    “Any help that the engineers do here also assists our heavy equipment section because now they can concentrate on the other complexes,” Hernandez said.

    The 716th Engineer (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, New Hampshire, recently completed their Mission Readiness Exercise here before deploying. With four platoons, the unit constructed a sun shade at Range 10 and tore down and reconstructed several building structures at Karma’ shah Village. The construction work was conducted within the framework of their Mission Readiness Exercise, which takes place over five to seven days and incorporates full-scale convoy and construction operations.

    “The intent is to get the team leadership and company leadership to consider the entire project,” said Capt. Evan Wolf, operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade. “The idea is that they have to understand project management while thinking tactics at the same time.”

    The construction project itself was only a portion of the unit’s planning. They had to account for transporting material, tactical convoy operations, and then construction.

    “It makes the planning a little more rigorous to try and consider how you’re going to move tactically but get all of your equipment and materials to the jobsite, and then you’re working in an unsecured jobsite, so you have to figure that out,” said Wolf.

    Along those same lines, the incorporation of real world construction projects and convoy tactics prepares the unit in a way many have not experienced before.

    “This type of training is good for the Soldier, so they can experience this type of training and all of the motions you go through training here,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daryle Lamonica, lead engineer planner 716th EN CO, “and how real world missions overseas work and give them a perspective of how everything operates.”

    The partnership between the RTU, 5th AR and DPTMS is a symbiotic relationship where everyone leaves satisfied.

    “It is really a win-win for both the unit mobilizing and Team Bliss,” said Woodruff. “Units needed to train for their wartime mission in order to deploy and the 5th Armor had to provide real world construction projects in order for them to train.”

Headlines

  • Soldiers from the 716th (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, New Hampshire, treat a wounded team member after a simulated improvised explosive device explosion during the company’s Mission Readiness Exercise recently. The unit was enroute to their construction project in Karma’ Shah Village at McGregor Range, New Mexico. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    McGregor Range, New Mexico — During a time of tight budget constraints and shrinking personnel resources, one Fort Bliss, Texas unit managed to do more with less while saving the installation and the Army money.

    The 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, which was recently inactivated, made a habit of using vertical and horizontal construction engineer units to help build and maintain the infrastructure here while preparing them for impending deployment rotations.

    “Conducting post-mobilization training at MTC (Mobilization Training Center) Bliss affords the 5th Armored Brigade and Fort Bliss a great opportunity to provide real world training while capitalizing on the opportunity to provide construction efforts to needed projects,” said Lt. Col. David Woodruff, former commander, 3-364th Engineer Battalion.

    Over a two-year span, it’s estimated that the 3-364th and the engineer rotational training units have saved a substantial amount of money.

    “The units 5th Armored has trained have been able to save the government and the Army almost $3 million in troop construction for Fort Bliss, McGregor Range and Contingency Operating Location Westbrook,” said Woodruff.

    The construction units have built sunshades and gazebos, repaired levees, refurbished ranges, replaced culverts, repaved roads, constructed landing zones and rebuilt villages. Range 37 has been a particular problem area for McGregor because of its location and propensity to sustain water damage rolling off the hills. During the rainy season of 2013, the storms caused a levee to break, causing damage to many of the other lower ranges.  

    “One of the most important projects the unit’s assisted us in was the buildup of Range 37,” said Salvador Hernandez, McGregor Range Operations Supervisor. “With all of that damage, the unit that came in was able to build up that levee and blocked off certain areas with their development plan.”

    It was a large project for 5th AR to take part in, but the resources were available with a training unit scheduled to share the load. The repair work helped to stave off damages in Ranges 13-24 that would have continued if the attention were not given to Range 37.

    However, for the Directorate of Personnel, Training Management, and Security, the project was just too much to bear, as DPTMS did not have the resources.

    “For me to attempt to do something as big as what they did at Range 37, our heavy equipment is minimal,” Hernandez said. “We don’t have as many trucks, dump trucks, front end loaders, graders … so what the Army or engineers were able to do in one week, it would have taken our heavy equipment a longer time.”

    Spc. Albert Platerotti, a carpenter with the 716th (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, New Hampshire, cuts plywood during the construction of a sunshade at Range 11 at McGregor Range, New Mexico. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Currently, there is only one heavy equipment section of DPTMS at McGregor and it is comprised of six personnel responsible for Dona Ana, New Mexico, Oro Grande, New Mexico, McGregor Range and Westbrook. The use of Soldier labor allowed more focus to be placed on other areas around the installation and outside of McGregor Range by McGregor Range staff.

    “Any help that the engineers do here also assists our heavy equipment section because now they can concentrate on the other complexes,” Hernandez said.

    The 716th Engineer (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, New Hampshire, recently completed their Mission Readiness Exercise here before deploying. With four platoons, the unit constructed a sun shade at Range 10 and tore down and reconstructed several building structures at Karma’ shah Village. The construction work was conducted within the framework of their Mission Readiness Exercise, which takes place over five to seven days and incorporates full-scale convoy and construction operations.

    “The intent is to get the team leadership and company leadership to consider the entire project,” said Capt. Evan Wolf, operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade. “The idea is that they have to understand project management while thinking tactics at the same time.”

    The construction project itself was only a portion of the unit’s planning. They had to account for transporting material, tactical convoy operations, and then construction.

    “It makes the planning a little more rigorous to try and consider how you’re going to move tactically but get all of your equipment and materials to the jobsite, and then you’re working in an unsecured jobsite, so you have to figure that out,” said Wolf.

    Along those same lines, the incorporation of real world construction projects and convoy tactics prepares the unit in a way many have not experienced before.

    “This type of training is good for the Soldier, so they can experience this type of training and all of the motions you go through training here,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daryle Lamonica, lead engineer planner 716th EN CO, “and how real world missions overseas work and give them a perspective of how everything operates.”

    The partnership between the RTU, 5th AR and DPTMS is a symbiotic relationship where everyone leaves satisfied.

    “It is really a win-win for both the unit mobilizing and Team Bliss,” said Woodruff. “Units needed to train for their wartime mission in order to deploy and the 5th Armor had to provide real world construction projects in order for them to train.”

  • Chap. (Lt. Col.) Kenneth R. Sorenson, left, former First Army Division West command chaplain, and his wife, Patrice, pose for a photo with actor and martial artist, Chuck Norris, and his wife, Gena, after the Texas State Prayer Breakfast, April 24. Sorenson is currently attending the Air War College at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — A Division West officer becomes the first Army chaplain to attend the United States Air Force Air War College at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

    Chap. (Lt. Col.) Kenneth R. Sorenson, former First Army Division West command chaplain, went through a thorough selection process to gain a seat in this esteemed course.

    “It’s an amazing opportunity for him. He’s certainly earned his place in a very prestigious professional development environment,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general. “Resident attendance to Senior Service College is highly selective, and it’s even more selective to go to a sister Service College.”

    Sorenson further commented on the rarity of his selection to the course.

    “I’m the first Army chaplain to attend the Air War College,” said Sorenson. “Only five chaplains from the Army are allowed to attend the Army War College in residency per class, so I’m triply grateful for this rare opportunity.

    “I’m also overwhelmed by the goodness of God that I can go and represent the Army and the chaplaincy,” Sorenson added.

    The Air War College is the senior professional military education school of the Air Force. A part of the Air Force's Air University, AWC emphasizes the employment of air, space, and cyberspace in joint operations. The AWC resident program at Maxwell AFB consists of 10 months of graduate level courses for a total of 36 credit hours. Graduates receive a Masters of Strategic Studies.

    “My gratitude level for being selected is way off the charts,” said Sorenson. “I’m still simply just in awe.”

    AWC is one of six war colleges within the Department of Defense's Joint Professional Military Education. The U.S. military emphasizes and encourages joint efforts between the five services; an outlook also shared by Sorenson.

    “I’ve been praying for years to go to a school that is mixed with all services and components,” said Sorenson. “It’s a place to glean wisdom, knowledge and experience from everyone.”

    It was difficult for Sorenson’s wife, Patrice, to contain her excitement while sharing her thoughts on her husband’s selection for this joint professional environment.

    “I’m really excited for him,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for him as an officer and to represent the chaplains corps while there.

    “It will be good to see what he can bring to the table as an Army chaplain,” she added.

    The Sorensons also thank those who cultivated the chaplain before his departure to the AWC.

    “Division West is a community and family that helps people to thrive,” said the chaplain.

    “I believe that Ken was selected because of the people in Division West that have trained him and brought him to a place where he can go and represent the Army well,” added Patrice.

    This is a shared mindset from Division West personnel, especially those who have worked closely with the chaplain.

    “He’s a pioneer to the Army chaplaincy by attending this course,” said Master Sgt. Felix Ramos, Division West master religious affairs noncommissioned officer and Sorenson’s chaplain’s assistant.

    “He’s truly missed around the division,” added Ramos. “Not only for his humanity, but also his passion to take care of Soldiers.”

    Soldiers of the division and those mobilizing under Division West profited from Sorenson’s knowledge and heart. Colt spoke on how others may glean from his life as well.

    “I think a lot of other people in that program will benefit from his presence,” said Colt.

    Sorenson also gives a forecast for what he expects from the training.

    “Personally, I think it’s going to be an environment to grow in my appreciation for the military – all components and services, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard,” said Sorenson. “We’ll all serve the military well.”

    It suggests a great future for Chap. Sorenson, said Colt.

    “It’s about joint exposure,” said Colt. “Future operational environments mandate jointness and this requires an understanding these perspectives and the challenges of other services will stretch him and help him better understand how he can assist, not just Army forces and families, but sister service forces that he’ll be dealing with in the future.”

  • FORT HOOD, Texas — The 302nd Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force will hold a change of command ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday at Robert Gray Army Airfield here. 

    Lt. Col. Peter Grijspaardt will assume command from Lt. Col. IJmke Jellema, who has been in command of the 302nd under various unit designations since May 2008. 

    The 302nd Squadron’s origin at Fort Hood, Texas began during 1996. Then, the 301st Squadron, arrived for the Apache AH-64A Unit Fielding Training Program (UFTP). In 1999, the first of eight AH-64D Longbows were introduced to the Dutch fleet and the 301st Squadron’s training continued. During this time, it was decided that eight aircraft would remain behind at Fort Hood for continuation training, thus forming the Netherlands Apache Training Detachment (NATD). On 25 November 2013, the 302 Squadron was activated and assigned to the 21st Cavalry Brigade. 

    To date, 108 training classes have been conducted resulting in over 3,300 infantry and 1,250 aviation personnel trained. The 302 Squadron has flown a total of 19,571 flight hours, conducted 62 separate gunneries, fired in excess of 13,000 rockets, 125,000 rounds of 30mm ammunition, and countless totals of small arms training ammunition. 

    The 302 Squadron was reassigned to First Army Division West’s 120th Infantry Brigade, upon deactivation of the 21st Cavalry Brigade during June of 2015. 

    Media representatives interested in covering the event should contact Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West’s public affairs noncommissioned officer, at 254-553-5010, or email thomas.w.wheeler.mil@mail.mil no later than 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. 

    Media should arrive at the West Fort Hood Gate at Clark Road and Highway 190 Friday at 9:15 a.m., to be escorted to the event.

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Navarro, outgoing senior enlisted advisor, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, makes his final remarks during the battalion’s change of responsibility ceremony June 25. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Lt. Col. Thomas Genter and Capt. David Bogert, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West

    FORT BLISS, Texas — 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade welcomed a new command team and said farewell to the old one here, June 25-26.

    1-362nd held a change of command and responsibility ceremony June 25 that represented the changing of leadership between the outgoing command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Navarro, and incoming command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Stewart followed by a change of command ceremony June 26 between outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Clay Goff and incoming the commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Genter.

    “The unit performed magnificently and I am proud to serve with the Soldiers you see standing in front of you,” Navarro said during the change of responsibility.  

    He thanked the noncommissioned officers and officers for their support, professionalism and dedication to duty as they accomplished the unit’s “no fail” mission preparing National Guard Soldiers to provide integrated ground-based air defense of the National Capital Region. 

    Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip Stewart, incoming senior enlisted advisor, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, stands in front of his battalion for the first time after assuming responsibility June 25. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Stewart expressed his gratitude for the assistance he received from Navarro and Goff. 

    “They invited me to Washington D.C., to visit Soldiers they recently helped train and prepare for the mission,” said Stewart. “The trip was an eye-opening experience and helped me gain a comprehensive understanding of our mission.”

    Prior to the official ceremony on June 26, Col. James Gallivan, commander, 5th Armored Brigade, presented Goff with the Meritorious Service Medal and Goff’s wife, Janet, with the Yellow Rose of Texas award. 

    “With the caring and supporting network offered by spouses and Family members, our Soldiers are able to fully commit themselves to the profession of arms and defense of this great nation,” said Gallivan.

    Lt. Col. Thomas Genter, incoming commander, 1st Battalion, 362nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, receives the unit colors from Col. James Gallivan, commander, 5th Armored Brigade, during a change of command ceremony at Fort Bliss, Texas, to officially signify him as the commander of 1-362nd. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Gallivan went on to recognize Goff for his contributions and the importance of 1-362nd, TF Renegade. 

    “For the ‘Renegade Battalion’ this mission is unique,” said Gallivan. “They not only train units for deployment overseas in support of our national objectives, they are also the only First Army unit with the mission of training air defense artillery units for Operation Noble Eagle – air defense in support of the homeland,” he added.    

    Goff accepted Gallivan’s comments and proceeded to thank the brigade leadership, as well as the officers and Soldiers of the battalion. 

    “A battalion that is rich in history, but more importantly one that is tasked to train and certify Soldiers, crews, and units to protect the Nation’s capital,” said Goff. “I’m proud of the unit’s many accomplishments and the professionalism of the soldiers who bore the burden of mission accomplishment on a daily basis.”

  • An unnamed military firefighter climbs a ladder to rescue one of three simulated victims caught in a live fire during a mission readiness exercise held recently at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico — A Division West unit here recently wrapped up a four-day training exercise to prepare firefighting detachments for deployment to Romania.

    The 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade’s mission readiness exercise offered members of four Washington State firefighting detachments, the 907th, 702nd, 582nd, and 306th, a taste of live-firefighting while building unit cohesion and teamwork.

    “This place built a lot of camaraderie amongst the firefighters,” said Staff Sgt. Everard Lewis, assistant fire chief, 907th Firefighting Headquarters Detachment.

    On the last day of the mission readiness exercise, the detachments, with the 907th running command and control, worked in unison to tackle a two-story structure fire as well as search and rescue and ventilation operations.

    Sgt. 1st Class Jason Piercy, military fire chief, 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, ignites a fire to begin Day 4 of a mission readiness exercise for the 907th, 702nd, 582nd, and 306th Firefighting Detachments at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. (Photo by Capt. Jennie Armstrong, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

    Staff Sgt. Andrew Hayden, fire chief for the 907th, and his team, along with Lewis, was responsible for coordinating their response to each situation using radio communications amongst the other three detachments.

    “This just gave them an opportunity to work together and work on their SOPs (standard operating procedures) and figure out anything they might need to improve upon and figure what works for them,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Piercy, fire chief for 3-364th Engineer Regiment.

    Piercy is one of three firefighters in 5th Armored Brigade and because of the irregularity of firefighting units mobilizing through Mobilization Training Center Bliss, he and his fellow firefighters rarely get to use their skills. With that irregularity also comes increased resource coordination requirements.

    “Holloman Air Force Base, their fire department was a great asset to us,” Piercy said. “They were able to accommodate all of our training in one location with the ARFF (aircraft rescue and fire fighter) training.”

    Firefighters from 306th Firefighting Detachment provide ventilation through a roof during the units mission readiness exercise held recently at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. (Photo by Capt. Jennie Armstrong, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West) 

    Infrequent resources and training not only affect the trainers, but also those receiving the training.

    “The availability of live fire burns is not easy to get, so having the chance to do that before you go downrange is really important,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Stell, detachment commander for the 907th.

    This will be the first deployment for many assigned to these detachments, but for Lewis, this will be his third, and he couldn’t be happier that his team is getting comfortable during training before they have to execute the real thing downrange.

    “Without a doubt there’s something that’s going to happen down range, and I want them to be the most comfortable that they can be,” said Lewis. “Being in a situation like this where there’s high tensions and lots of fire, some smoke and rescue, a lot of climbing and a lot of hard work when you get down there, it’s going to make it a heck of a lot easier to do their job effectively and efficiently.”

  • Col. Randall Wickman, outgoing commander for the Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, Washington-based 189th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, passes the brigade colors to Maj. Gen Jeffrey N. Colt, commanding general, First Army Division West, during a traditional change of command ceremony July 22. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs

    JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Washington — The 189th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, welcomed a new command team here, July 22 in a traditional ceremony to the music of the 34th Infantry Division’s “Red Bull” band.

    After more than two years, both Col. Randall Wickman and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Reitmeier transferred command and responsibility for the 189th to Col. James P. Isenhower III and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny.

    “It’s an honor to come back to JBLM,” said Isenhower, who most recently served as Director, Chairman's Office of Reintegration, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    “I was here twice as a kid, and again as a major with 1-25 Stryker Brigade back 2005 and 2006,” said Isenhower. “It’s an honor to come back and join the 189th. They’ve got a terrific mission with a significant and profound impact across the total Army.”

    Kenny, whose most recent assignments included a short six months in the III Corp Equal Opportunity office at Fort Hood, Texas, and a tour as the Area Support Group Kuwait command sergeant major, echoed the sentiment.

    ”It’s a great team and I’m very excited about training other units for their wartime mission,” said Kenny, a native of Quantico, Virginia. “The family is excited to be here. It’s truly amazing and beautiful and we’ll hopefully get the chance to get out and explore.”

    Locations aside, both leaders emphasized their goals for the organization’s future.

    “I think partnership is primary in my mind in terms of the units with which we’ll work most, as well as partnerships with tenant’s here at JBLM,” said Isenhower. “We all share the same installation and it’s always fun to see old friends and work with them and find material for progress, and move on it.”

    “I want to maintain what the previous chain of command did,” said Kenny. “Keep moving them moving forward staying motivated, agile, and adaptive.”

    While welcoming the brigade’s new command team to the Division West Family, the ceremony’s reviewing officer, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general, led the field house floor to a round of applause in saying goodbye to the brigade’s former command team.

    Col. James P. Isenhower III (left), incoming commander for the Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, Washington, based 189th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, receives the brigade colors from Maj. Gen Jeffrey N. Colt, commanding general, First Army Division West, during a traditional change of command ceremony July 22. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

    “Today we farewell one of our division’s most innovative and committed leaders in Col. Randall Wickman, and his wife Lisa of 22 years, as Randall moves on to his next assignment as Assistant Director of Training for the Army,” said Colt.

    “We also say good-bye to Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Reitmeier, the 189th’s command sergeant major, and his wife of Wendy of 28 years,” added Colt. “The command sergeant major’s follow-on assignment is as the Sergeant Major for the Mission Command Center of Excellence, Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.”

    Colt went on to characterize the team’s accomplishments during their time at the wheel.

    “During the tour of leadership of Col. Wickman and Command Sgt. Maj. Reitmeier, the 189th Infantry Brigade changed mission from post-mobilization support of the Army Guard and Reserve towards training readiness; supporting other peer partner brigades as they sharpened their conventional war fighting skills’” said Colt. “The ‘Cold Steel’ Brigade fostered in this new evolution with their standing unofficial motto, ‘Any mission, anytime, anywhere.’”

    Colt went on to show his confidence in the new command team.

    “I have no doubt James will bring an enormous set of unique experiences and perspectives to lead the 189th Infantry Brigade into the future,” said Colt. “James, the mission here is critical; the units we train are motivated and skilled; the trainers you will lead are competent, confident, and committed to the training mission. I have little doubt you will find this position both challenging as well as rewarding.” 

    During his last time at the 189th podium, Wickman, had both words of praise for his former command and their families, but also words of wisdom.

    “On behalf of myself and Command Sgt. Maj. and Wendy Reitmeier we are humbled and grateful for the absolute privilege of being part of the ‘Cold Steel’ family,” said Wickman. “Command Sgt. Maj. Reitmeier and I hope we have served you well and that you don’t rest on what is now, but seek out what lies ahead. Eager to pursue any mission anytime, anywhere.

    “Jim and Sheryl, Command Sgt. Maj. and Lori Kenny, best of luck to you going forward with this incredible team of teams. The ‘Cold Steel’ family is proud, distinguished, and your precious two years go very quickly,” Wickman added.

    Wickman ended his time at the microphone with special words for the ones who make it all possible — the families.

    “Families of the ‘Cold Steel’ Brigade, a special thanks to you for letting your Soldiers do what they love and spend as much time as they need to train others,” he said. “It is vital that they do so and we are forever in your debt and an Army Strong Family. Cold Steel Brigade, continue your mission — carry on, Cold Steel Six out.”

  • Sgt. 1st Class Edward Fourquet, center, of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and member of the 2015 All-Army Taekwondo team, scores a head shot on his opponent during a match at the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships held in Austin, Texas, July 8. Team members from all over the world traveled to represent the U.S. Army against the nation’s best for the title of "National Champion." (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, First Army, Division West Public Affairs

    AUSTIN, Texas — The All-Army Taekwondo team joined hundreds of the Nation’s best to compete for top honors at the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships here July 8.

    “It’s awesome!” said Spc. Albert Lee, of Tucson, Arizona, a signal specialist assigned to the 207th Signal Company, 1st Cavalry Sustainment Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. “I really don’t know what else to say. It’s an honor, and I’m really glad I got this opportunity to compete with the Army team.”

    Lee, along with seven of his fellow team mates, just finished the All-Army Taekwondo Team trials held at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, where active duty, Army National Guard and Reserve taekwondo athletes from all over the world were invited to showcase their skills for a chance to represent their unit, and the Army, in national and international competition.

    “They did well,” said head coach, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fennell, referring to the team’s nationals performance.   

    Sgt. Kelly Lamonte Jr., 2015 All-Army Taekwondo Team member, Florida Army National Guard, scores an on-head shot to his opponent during a match at the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships held in Austin, Texas, July 8. Team members from all over the world traveled to represent the U.S. Army against the nation’s best for the title of "National Champion." (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    “They got out there, they were able to compete, they were able to defend themselves, and they were able to score,” added the mobilized Reservist from Savannah, Georgia. “So essentially what we trained for over the past two weeks, we made happen.”

    Results notwithstanding, being a Soldier-athlete is unique and comes with its own distinct challenges and pressure.

    “It’s a little overwhelming at times,” said Lee, a first time All-Army team member and first time nationals competitor. “There’s a lot of pressure because the Army has such a long history of competing at such high levels, so people expect a lot out of you so it’s a little over whelming at times.”

    1st Lt. Joshua Fletcher, an intelligence officer from Wayman, Michigan, by way of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, added time and funding challenges to the equation.

    “I think the biggest challenge is not being able to get to these international competitions and also these large competitions within the United States, whether its because of a lack of ability to travel, leave, or just funds or time,” said Fletcher.

    “Being in a sustainment brigade, we’re really busy so it’s hard,” said Lee. “You’re tired from work and PT and all that so it’s rough. At the end of the day you don’t want to practice but you just have to push yourself to do it.”

    2015 USA Taekwondo Silver medalist Staff Sgt. Ashley Sadlowski, 2015 All-Army Taekwondo Team member, from Oakland, California, drives a kick into her opponent’s mid-section during her finals match at the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships held in Austin, Texas, July 8. Team members from all over the world traveled to represent the U.S. Army against the nation’s best for the title of "National Champion." (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    The athletes aren’t the only ones on the team that face significant challenges.

    “Being in the military is a unique challenge,” said Fennell. “Instead of having my athletes year round, they’re in the Army. They may be deployed at times, they have their own jobs, and they have to train a lot of times on their own throughout the year unlike other athletes. When we finally get them, we only have them for two or three weeks.”

    Although Lee didn’t medal, the rookie appreciates the opportunity, and has shown he has learned from the experience.

    “I’m not as experienced as some of the other guys on the team,” said Lee.  I could have been more aggressive and engaged more. This is the first time I actually had the opportunity to fight someone my size so I think I should’ve taken advantage of that and been more aggressive.

    I’m just glad I got the chance to experience nationals for the first time and hopefully I’ll grow from it,” he added.

    Members of the U.S. Army Taekwondo Team gather for a team photo at the conclusion of the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships held in Austin, Texas, July 8. Team members from all over the world traveled to represent the U.S. Army against the Nation’s best for the title of "National Champion." (Left to right) Sgt. Kelly Lamonte Jr., Florida Army National Guard, Spc. Albert Lee, Fort Hood, Texas, Spc. Jin Choe, Fort Drum, New York, Tech. Sgt. Quinton Beach, U.S. Air Force, Assistant Coach Maj. Punnarin Koy, U.S. Army Reserve, Minnesota, Sgt. Michael Warner, Fort Richardson, Alaska, 1st Lt. Joshua Fletcher, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii, Head Coach Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fennell, USAR, Savannah, Ga., Sports Spc. Claudia A. Berwager, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, Sgt. 1st Class Edward Fourquet, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Master Sgt. Charity Beyer, U.S. Army Reserve, Virginia, and Trainer Lt. Col. David Skelley, Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Not pictured is USAR, and 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championship Silver Medalist Staff Sgt. Ashley Sadlowski, of Oakland, California. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    Fennell, a former Army and Armed Forces team member and world medalist himself, went on to say that they have high hopes for the team this year but it’s more about rebuilding the team and securing its future.

    “We have a good plan set in place for next year but this could be a growth year,” said Fennell. “It’s a brand new team. A lot of veterans left two years ago, so pretty much everyone on the team this year — this is their first time on the team.

    “I want to grow the program over the next couple of years. I want to have Soldier athletes in the U.S. team trials and I want some world medals over the next two to three years,” he said.

    “For me personally when it comes to the All-Army Taekwondo team I just want to see it get back to its former state,” said Fletcher. “A lot of older generation of taekwondo athletes and Army taekwondo athletes that I’d spoken to today talked about how it used to be a dynasty and how they used to crush everyone here and they were a threat to be reckoned with. I’d just like to see it get back to its former state.”

    The team’s next stop is the world military games in the Republic of Korea during October, where they will face national and Olympic champions from more than 100 nations.

    “We fight towards the end of the games so hopefully we’ll be able to watch some of the other sports compete,” said Fennell. “But towards the end of the games it will be time to put the game face back on and represent the U.S.A.”

  • All-Army Taekwondo team Head Coach Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fennell, left, a U.S. Army Reservist from Savannah, Georgia, gives advice to 2015 All-Army Taekwondo team member Spc. Albert Lee, of Tucson, Arizona, by way of Fort Hood, Texas, during a rest period in his match at the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships held in Austin, Texas, July 8. Team members from all over the world traveled to represent the U.S. Army against the nation’s best for the title of "National Champion." (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs

    AUSTIN, Texas — As hundreds of the nation’s top taekwondo athletes gathered here to compete for the title of “National Champion” July 8, one competitor stood tall with the weight of Fort Hood and the U.S. Army on his shoulders.

    Spc. Albert Lee, a signal support specialist with the 207th Signal Company, 1st Cavalry Sustainment Brigade, and native of Tucson, Arizona, was the sole representative from Fort Hood on the All-Army Taekwondo Team, competing at the 2015 United States of America Taekwondo national championships.

    “It’s awesome!” said Lee. “I really don’t know what else to say. It’s an honor and I’m really glad I got this opportunity to compete with the Army team.”

    Lee, along with seven of his fellow team mates, just finished the All-Army Taekwondo Team trials held at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, where active duty, Army National Guard and Reserve taekwondo athletes from all over the world were invited to showcase their skills for a chance to represent their unit, and the Army, in national and international competition.

    “They did well,” said head coach, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fennell, referring to the team’s national’s performance.

    “They got out there, they were able to compete, they were able to defend themselves, and they were able to score,” added the mobilized reservist from Savannah, Georgia. “So essentially what we trained for over the past two weeks, we made happen.”

    Results notwithstanding, being a Soldier-athlete is unique and comes with its own distinct challenges and pressure.

    “It’s a little overwhelming at times,” said Lee, a first time All-Army team member and first time nationals competitor. “There’s a lot of pressure because the Army has such a long history of competing at such high levels, so people expect a lot out of you. It’s a little over whelming at times.

     

    Spc. Albert Lee, of Tucson, Arizona, by way of Fort Hood, Texas, attempts to score against his opponent in the blue gear during the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships held in Austin, Texas, July 8. Lee’s team members, from all over the world, travelled to represent the U.S. Army against the nation’s best for the title of "National Champion." (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    “Being in a sustainment brigade we’re really busy so it’s hard. You’re tired from work and PT and all that, so it’s rough,” added Lee. “At the end of the day you don’t want to practice but you just have to push yourself to do it.”

    Those challenges aren’t restricted to just the athletes.

    “Being in the military is a unique challenge,” said Fennell. “Instead of having my athletes year round, they’re in the Army. They may be deployed at times, they have their own jobs, and they have to train a lot of times on their own throughout the year, unlike other athletes. When we finally get them, we only have them for two or three weeks.”

    Although Lee didn’t medal, the rookie appreciates the opportunity, and has shown he has learned from the experience.

    “I’m not as experienced as some of the other guys on the team,” said Lee. “I could have been more aggressive and engaged more. This is the first time I actually had the opportunity to fight someone my size so I think I should’ve taken advantage of that and been more aggressive.

    “I’m just glad I got the chance to experience nationals for the first time and hopefully I’ll grow from it,” he added.

    Fennell, a former Army and Armed Forces team member and world medalist himself, went on to say that they have high hopes for the team this year but it’s more about rebuilding the team and securing its future.

    “We have a good plan set in place for next year but this could be a growth year,” said Fennell. “It’s a brand new team. A lot of veterans left two years ago, so pretty much everyone on the team this year — this is their first time on the team.

    “I want to grow the program over the next couple of years. I want to have Soldier athletes in the U.S. team trials and I want some world medals over the next two to three years,” he said.

    The team’s next stop is the world military games in the Republic of Korea during October, where they will face national and Olympic champions from more than 100 nations.

    “We fight towards the end of the games so hopefully we’ll be able to watch some of the other sports compete,” said Fennell. “But towards the end of the games, it will be time to put the game face back on and represent the U.S.A.”

  • The 402nd Field Artillery command team, Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Bowen Jr., center, and Col. James Gallivan, left, along with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, Division West commander, cases the colors of the 402nd FA signifying the deactivation of the unit. (Photo by Capt. Jennie Armstrong, 5th Armored Brigade Division West)

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas — For nearly a decade, 5th Armored and 402nd Field Artillery Brigades worked side by side as both units served as training and operations brigades respectively to provide ready forces to combatant commanders throughout the world.

    On June 10th, the two units became one in a ceremony where 402nd FA bid farewell to its senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Bowen and cased its colors to merge with 5th AR.

    The command team of 5th AR, Col. Raul Gonzalez, and Command Sgt. Maj. Neil McKinley, relinquished command and responsibility to the incoming command team, Col. James Gallivan, former commander 402nd FA, and Command Sgt. Maj. Oscar Arroyo.

    “Today, we recognize some of the finest leaders I ever had the privilege to serve with,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, Division West commander. “They are committed, inspiring, adaptive, confident, dedicated and perhaps most of all they are all trusted and respected leaders.”

    Bowen and McKinley represent the senior enlisted leaders of the old 5th AR and 402nd FA that was responsible for mobilizing, training and demobilizing more than 20,000 service members during their two-year tenures.

    “I’d be remised if I didn’t recognize the Soldiers of the 5th Armored and 402nd,” said Colt. “I extend my pride and gratitude to the exemplary manner in which you trained units to assume the critical combat and noncombat missions tied to our nation’s security around the world, a mission that few truly appreciate and fewer truly understand.”

    The two brigades existed as separate parts, but their success and failure rest on each other. One unit could not function without the other and vice versa. The 402nd FA built the long range training plan for deploying units and 5th AR executed the plan as they trained units and Soldiers to deploy.

    “As a career cavalryman, the merge of two brigades is natural and a responsible change to enable maximum effectiveness in support of our Army,” Gallivan said.

    And June 10th represented the official merge of the two brigades, combined meetings, briefings and training indicates that the brigades have been one for quite a while.

    “Both of these commanders have prepared their respective formations for a complex but a relatively seamless transition while taking no pause in execution of our vital mission,” said Colt. “I have never seen more selfless teamwork that have been exhibited by these leaders and their Soldiers.”

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, Division West commander, pins the Legion of Merit on Col. Raul Gonzalez, outgoing commander 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, June 10, during an awards ceremony here at Noel Field, Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    After a year into Gonzalez’s and McKinley’s tenure and days into Gallivan’s, the leaders looked at their respective formations to figure the most responsible way to combine the two brigades without missing a beat.

    “We could not have asked for a more comprehensive transition,” said Gallivan.

    With Gallivan being the enduring commander, Gonzalez had no problems letting Gallivan take the lead.

    “Raul, thank you for your authentic leadership and genuine friendship,” said Gallivan.

    The seamless transition from two brigades to one, as noted by Colt, took adaptive and confident leadership.

    On Gonzalez’s way out, not only did Gallivan recognize his effectiveness as a commander, but Gonzalez praised his subordinates.

    “The brigade is not only blessed with an outstanding NCO Corps, but it is just as rich in the leadership amongst the officers,” said Gonzalez. “As OC/Ts, the officers within the Dagger Brigade demonstrated disciplined initiative, and versatility as they engaged and trained members across the total Army force and our sister services.”

    In the rarest of forms with four ceremonies taking place at once, many of the Soldiers of the new 5th AR witnessed a changing of the guard at Noel Field.

    However, in the same spirit of which Gonzalez and Colt recognized the professionalism of the Daggers, Gonzalez, Gallivan, Bowen and McKinley trained the focus of the day’s traditions on the Soldiers in the formation and the Soldiers out training at McGregor Range, New Mexico as the primary mission does not stop.

    The 402nd FA maintained active duty units here and Reserve component units across the Southwest, but with the deactivation and merge, some of those units were transferred to 5th AR and some were transferred to other places.

    “The legacy of the 402nd brigade lives on in our brigade, the 5th Armored Brigade,” said Gallivan.

    The merge is a part of larger transformation, Operation Bold Shift, which restructures First Army assets to better provide pre-and post-mobilization to meet Reserve Component and National Guard unit readiness.

  • Spec. Allante Gay, center left, a Fort Bliss CONUS Replacement Center Soldier, poses for a picture with First Army Division West commanding general Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, left, Division West NCO of the Year Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Haag, center right, and Division West senior enlisted advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Akuna, at the conclusion of the award ceremony held at Division West Chapel, Fort Hood, Texas, May 29. Gay finished first in the E-4 and below category and advances to the First Army Best Warrior Competition scheduled for later this summer. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Asa Leveaux, CONUS Replacement Center

    FORT HOOD, Texas — A CONUS Replacement Center Soldier competed and won the First Army Division West Soldier of the Year competition here May 26-29, 2015.

    After four days of physical and mental tests that measured the strength of the Division West’s best, Spec. Allante Gay, a Soldier assigned to the CONUS Replacement Center Soldier, Fort Bliss, Texas, won first place in the E-4 and below category the division’s Best Warrior Competition.

    The competition consisted of the Army Physical Fitness Test, a written exam, individual weapons qualification, an obstacle course, a 12-mile foot march, combative drills, day and night land navigation, and an appearance before a senior enlisted review board.

    Spec. Allante Gay, a Fort Bliss CONUS Replacement Center Soldier, acquires an azimuth during the day land navigation task of the First Army Division West Best Warrior competition held at Fort Hood, Texas, May 26-29. Gay finished first in the E-4 and below category and advances to the First Army Best Warrior Competition scheduled for later this summer. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, First Army Division West Public Affairs)

    “Knowing that other people believed in me enough to send me to compete was an honor in itself,” said Gay. “Internally I wanted to be successful at the competition. There was an added pressure to do well because I was representing something greater than myself. I am absolutely proud of all that I have accomplished but for me it is ’business as usual’.”

    Gay mobilized with the CRC as a Movement Specialist and since mobilizing he’s represented himself and the CRC with pride.

    “I have an obligation to myself and my fellow Soldiers to remain tactically and technically proficient,” added Gay. “I take that obligation very seriously, in garrison it’s shown through competition in an operational environment it could mean someone’s life. Win or lose my performance was in line with my personal expectations. Winning was just an affirmation for those who believe in me,” said Gay.

    Gay will move on to compete in the First Army Best Warrior Competition later this summer with the full support of his battalion leadership.

    “Specialist Gay is a great representative of the Soldiers of the 95th Training Division,” said Lt. Col. Brian Warnock, CRC commander. “In his first two months mobilized with Task Force Viper, CONUS Replacement Center mission, he has graduated from the Fort Bliss Air Assault Course and won the First Army Division West Best Warrior Competition. Simply outstanding.”

  • Col. Christopher E. Albus, left, former 166th Aviation Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Scott A. Bailey, former 166th senior enlisted advisor, fold the brigade colors before casing them in the aviator’s Consolidated Inactivation ceremony on Cameron Field near Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, June 24. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West deactivated the 166th Aviation and 479th Field Artillery Brigades on Cameron Field here, June 24-25.

    As part of the color-casing, the 166th and 479th leave the 120th Infantry Brigade as the lone Division West brigade on Fort Hood.

    “Over the past five months, Division West has undergone great change,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, commanding general for Division West. “We witnessed history once again as we deactivated the 166th Aviation Brigade.

    The 479th Field Artillery Brigade deactivation is our next to last major organization change. It solidifies the new foundation of Division West’s Bold Shift,” added Colt.

    With Division West down to four brigades, it continues on with its lead focus by providing more in depth and comprehensive training support to the Army National Guard and Reserve components.

    “We’re re-shaping,” said Colt. “The purpose of that is to provide more observer coach/trainers at a lower level, battalion level and below, that will allow us to generate more readiness at that level.”

    In both ceremonies, Colt spoke about each brigade’s proud history and lineage. He also praised the leadership of the “GreyWings” and “Strike Hard” brigades on their units training records and stellar transitions during Bold Shift.

    “Change is often hard and success is rarely guaranteed, but great leaders translate concepts into action,” said Colt.

    Col. John W. Leffers, left, former 479th Field Artillery Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. James R. Higgins, former 479th senior enlisted advisor, fold the brigade colors before casing them in the artillerymen’s Consolidated Inactivation ceremony on Cameron Field near Division West headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, June 24. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Each commander shares Colt’s commitment to Department of the Army directives as well as his view that the mission must go on.

    “Under the transformation of First Army and my brigade, we’ve reallocated units and drawn down in certain areas,” said Col. Christopher E. Albus, former 166th commander. “Understanding the importance that this unit had in the training, advising, assisting and validating of Reserve component aviation forces, we’ll still remain a battalion which will continue doing that same mission here at Fort Hood.”

    “This has been unquestionably the best team that I have ever had the privilege of serving with,” said Col. John W. Leffers, former 479th commander.  “I have little doubt that one day our Nation will reconstitute the brigade headquarters to active duty service to once again answer our Nation’s call.”

    Colt went on to comment about the path ahead and how confident he is that those who remain, remain mission first.

    “I know all of you will continue to place the mission first and needs of the Nation before all else,” said Colt.

    “This is an important step. These have been historic moments for Division West. The service, sacrifices and contributions that everybody has made along the way, will live on in the 120th,” he added. “We’ve got a great mission to do, and we’re just the unit ready to do it.”

    First Army will refocus its capabilities to advise, assist, and train Reserve component units during pre-mobilization all while improving and maintaining its ability to support RC unit readiness, maintain the necessary structure and know-how to support unit mobilization and post-mobilization training, and ensure First Army remains qualified in accordance with the 1993 National Defense Authorization Act.

  • The city of Gatesville gathered to salute Soldiers training and assigned to North Fort Hood, Texas, during the 2015 Heart of Texas Salute to Warrior Citizens, June 28, in Gatesville, Texas. Approximately 200 volunteers from throughout the Gatesville community came out to show a little Texas hospitality to an estimated 900 Soldiers with activities ranging from horseback riding and calf-roping to a barbeque. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs

    NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas — Approximately 200 volunteers from throughout the Gatesville community came out to show some Texas hospitality to an estimated 900 Soldiers here at the 2015 Heart of Texas Salute to Warrior-Citizens, June 28.

    "We see the sounds of freedom and sights of freedom every day from our golf courses and our back porches,” said event coordinator Diana Fincher.

    “This is our way of bringing our Families to the deploying Soldiers who are away from theirs,” she added.

    With activities ranging from horseback riding to barbeque, the fourth annual salute provided a much-needed break from the rigors of mobilization training for citizen Soldiers who, until recently, were back home with their Family and friends.

    "They have a full-time career and a Family of their own,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general.  “They put that aside in order to come out here and do our nation's bidding in a variety of roles.”

    Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory J. Clancy, senior enlisted advisor, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, said that although it was originally billed as “mandatory fun time,” much to his Soldiers surprise, after a few minutes they all seemed to feel right at home.

    “The folks of Gatesville set this up and it gets billed as mandatory fun but they [Soldiers] love it,” said Clancy. “I think it was a great stress reliever outside of the normal training to just kind of let your hair down and relax a little bit and have some fun.”

    The city of Gatesville gathered to salute Soldiers training and assigned to North Fort Hood, Texas, during the 2015 Heart of Texas Salute to Warrior Citizens, June 28, in Gatesville, Texas. Approximately 200 volunteers from throughout the Gatesville community came out to show a little Texas hospitality to an estimated 900 Soldiers with activities ranging from horseback riding and calf-roping to a barbeque. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    Colt also talked about how important communities like Gatesville are to supporting an Army that is vital to national security.

    "It's their communities, it's their employers, it's their Families,” said Colt.  “Everybody sacrificing to get these people out to go do instrumental jobs for national security either to defend freedom or extend freedom.”

    Both Colt and Clancy expressed their gratitude for all that the Gatesville community has done for their Soldiers.

    “We are very grateful to the community of Gatesville,” said Colt. “I think it’s important to remind everybody here that everybody wants to attend a great party but it takes something special to put it on, and to pick up after it. Especially for people you don’t even know.

    This community has a tradition of taking care of Soldiers year after year,” he added.

    “It’s awesome,” said Clancy. “Anytime you get folks who just, on their own, decide to come together to show their support and gratitude and put on a big shindig like this, it’s just awesome.”

    Donna Sweaney of Gatesville, Texas, stressed the importance of recognizing sacrifice.

    “They’re away from their families. So important for us to recognize those sacrifices. We hope that our Soldiers enjoy it and we hope that the Soldiers know we love and respect them here in Texas, especially right here in Gatesville,” said Sweaney. “We just want them to have a day where they don’t have to think about anything and just have a good time.”

  • FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West will deactivate its 479th Field Artillery Brigade here at Cameron Field near its headquarters Thursday at 9 a.m.

    Since July 2013, the 479th trained and validated 9,142 Soldiers and nearly 150 units mobilizing in support of overseas contingency operations.

    Units trained have varied, to include sustainment, infantry, cavalrym combat service support, transportation, movement, signal, intelligence and medical. Training included Counter-IED, medical training, Close Quarters Combat, driver’s training, logistics, small arms and crew-served weapons ranges, engagement skills training, language and cultural training, and mounted gunnery.

    The 479th will merge with the 120th Infantry Brigade as part of First Army’s Operation Bold Shift, leaving the 120th to continue the tradition of multi-composition training support on Fort Hood.

    Under Operation Bold Shift, Division West is reducing force structure in accordance with First Army’s concept plan, which calls for consolidating and converting eight brigades to four brigades. The process began at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, when DIVWEST’s 191st Infantry Brigade deactivated Jan. 8, and merged with the 189th Infantry Brigade (Combined Arms Training Brigade), assuming the role as DIVWEST’s sole training representative on the west coast.

    On June 10, DIVWEST’s 402nd Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas deactivated and merged with the 5th Armored Brigade there.

    On Wednesday, the Division’s 166th Aviation Brigade was also deactivated and merged with the 120th Infantry Brigade.

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

    Media representatives interested in attending the 479th deactivation ceremony should contact the Division West Public Affairs Office and arrive at the Fort Hood Visitor Center no later than 8:15 a.m. Thursday to be escorted to Cameron Field.

    For more information about the 479th deactivation ceremony, contact Michael Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs chief, or Sgt. First Class Thomas Wheeler at (254) 553-5003. Email: michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil

  • Lt. Col. Damar K. Jones, Division West Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention program manager, speaks to Soldiers assembled on Cameron Field for the “Run/Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event held on Fort Hood, Texas, to raise SHARP awareness. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West conducted a “Run/ Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event here Friday to show that Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention isn’t restricted to a given month on the calendar.

    Almost 250 Soldiers and civilians assembled on Cameron Field near the division headquarters to run or walk on Battalion Ave., for SHARP.

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general, leads a run for the division’s “Run/Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event held on Fort Hood, Texas, for Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention (SHARP). (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “The purpose of this morning’s run is to place emphasis on the fact of what good teams do,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general. “Good teams take care of teammates and they won’t let anything happen to them. It’s good professionalism and it’s the right way to treat people; with dignity and respect.”

    The Divisions command sergeant major said events like this prove that every day is a good day to observe and reflect on SHARP.

    “There’s a lot of problems within our Army just based off of upbringing personnel,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, Jr., Division West’s senior enlisted leader. “What we want to do is show that our division is really focused on showing that we educate all our NCOs, our leaders and our Soldiers on the prevention of this act.”

    First Army Division West held its “Run/Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event held on Fort Hood, Texas, to raise Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention awareness. Shoes of the brigade’s SHARP representatives line the parade stand on Cameron Field representing victims of sexual assault and harassment. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    The severity of the issue requires both education and awareness at all levels.

    “The awareness and education like today with our ‘Run/Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,’ shows the victims that we are here, we have your back, and we’re standing with you side-by-side,” said Lt. Col. Damar K. Jones, Division West SHARP program manager. “We will prevent this within our ranks.”

    For Soldiers assigned to Division West, it’s understood that sexual harassment and assault are not acceptable.

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general, speaks to Division West Soldiers gathered on Cameron Field after the “Run/ Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event held on Fort Hood, Texas, to raise Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention awareness. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “If our Soldiers come here, raise their right hand to fight for this country, but we can’t even protect ourselves within our own organization, it tears up the essence of the organization,” said Akuna. “We want to make sure that all Soldiers, both male and female, understand that we’re not going to have it in our Army. We’re going to fight it and make this an organization that they can be proud of.”

    Division West and its subordinate units continue on in the fight to raise its Soldiers consciousness on SHARP.

    “Not in my Army,” said Colt, quoting Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey on sexual harassment and sexual assault in our ranks.

    “Not in our division, not in our brigades, not in our battalions,” said Colt to the gathered Division West troops.

  • FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West will deactivate its 166th Aviation Brigade here at Cameron Field near its headquarters Wednesday at 9 a.m.

    Since 2013, the 166th validated 30 units for deployment, including two combat aviation brigade headquarters, totaling over 3,400 Soldiers and over 100 aircraft deploying to Kuwait. The 166th is the only unit in the Army with the authority to validate the post-mobilization training of Reserve component aviation units, which make up 48 percent of the Army's total aviation force.

    The 166th’s 2nd Aviation Battalion, 291st Regiment will merge into the 120th Infantry Brigade, allowing DIVWEST to retain the capability to train, deploy, and redeploy Army Aviation elements.

    Under Operation Bold Shift, Division West is reducing force structure in accordance with First Army’s concept plan, which calls for consolidating and converting eight brigades to four brigades. The process began at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, when DIVWEST’s 191st Infantry Brigade deactivated Jan. 8, and merged with the 189th Infantry Brigade (Combined Arms Training Brigade), assuming the role as DIVWEST’s sole training representative on the west coast.

    On June 10, DIVWEST’s 402nd Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas deactivated and merged with the 5th Armored Brigade there.

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

    Media representatives interested in attending the 166th deactivation ceremony should contact the Division West Public Affairs Office and arrive at the Fort Hood Visitor Center no later than 8:15 a.m. Wednesday to be escorted to Cameron Field.

    For more information about the 166th deactivation ceremony, contact Michael Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs chief, or Sgt. First Class Thomas Wheeler at (254) 553-5003. Email: michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil

  • FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West will hold a "Walk and Run a Mile in Their Shoes" here at Cameron Field near its headquarters Friday at 6:30 a.m., just moments after Reveille.

    The SHARP (Sexual Harrasment/Assault Response and Prevention) event is to open the door for a better understanding of what victims experience. To educate and advocate for this event, “A Walk and Run a Mile in Their Shoes” was developed to put all Soldiers on the road to demonstrate their support for the SHARP program.

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

    Media representatives interested in attending the "Walk and Run a Mile in Their Shoes," should contact the Division West Public Affairs Office and arrive at the Fort Hood Visitor Center no later than 5:45 a.m. to be escorted to Cameron Field.

    For more information about the "Walk and Run a Mile in Their Shoes" event, contact Michael Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs chief, or Sgt. First Class Thomas Wheeler at (254) 553-5003. Email: michael.m.novogradac.civ@mail.mil

  •  

    Staff Sgt. Becky Schneider, a combat medic with the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company, receives a simulated emergency call during a pre-mobilization training exercise at North Fort Hood, Texas, May 30. The unit is scheduled to deploy to in support of contingency operations and will work as an emergency response team. (Photo by Sgt. Kayla F. Benson, 96th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. Kayla F. Benson, 96th Sustainment Brigade

    NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas — A female Soldier sits on a bench along the inside of a green Army ambulance. Even though it’s mid-day, it is almost pitch black in the confined space of the ambulance.

    Light from a small window between the front seat and the trunk silhouettes her enough to make out short blond hair framing her round face. She is wearing an Army combat helmet, eye protection, and has a large, red emergency response bag at her side.

    Staff Sgt. Becky Schneider, with the Kentucky National Guard’s 1163rd Area Support Medical Company, and native of Frankfort, Kentucky, has been a combat medic for over seven years.

    She calls up to the driver, a fellow medic, through the small window. They go back and forth, discussing possible injuries and best practices before the vehicle comes to an abrupt stop. The back door opens and she is on the ground and assessing the scene in only seconds.

    Schneider and her team member, Sgt. Duncan Wooster, also a combat medic with the 1163rd ASMC, were participating in a pre-mobilization training exercise here, May 30, in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

      Staff Sgt. Becky Schneider, a combat medic with the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company, evaluates and treats a simulated casualty during a pre-mobilization training exercise at North Fort Hood, Texas, May 30. The unit is scheduled to deploy to in support of contingency operations and will work as an emergency response team. (Photo by Sgt. Kayla F. Benson, 96th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

    The team received its order: load into the ambulances and treat role players as if they were real-world casualties.

    “It’s hectic and it’s crazy and you kind of come out at the end of it like, ‘I just forgot to breath for 40 minutes,’” said Schneider.

    After assessing the scene, Schneider quickly approaches a role player on the ground with simulated burns and possible shrapnel wounds, surrounded by tall grass and a coiled metal fence. Wooster rushes to another role player with similar injuries underneath an observation tower. They call back up to address additional casualties.

    “It’s problem solving,” explained Schneider. “At the end of the day, you’re helping people and that’s what I really like to do. I like the puzzle of, ‘How do I put this back together again?’”

    The scene is chaotic and loud. Several role players surround the medics, attempting to use their medical gear and bombarding them with questions.

      Staff Sgt. Becky Schneider, a combat medic with the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company, awaits movement of simulated casualties during a pre-mobilization training exercise at North Fort Hood, Texas, May 30. The unit is scheduled to deploy to in support of contingency operations and will work as an emergency response team. (Photo by Sgt. Kayla F. Benson, 96th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)

    Backup arrives and the casualties are moved onto stretchers and into the ambulances. Schneider jumps back into the ambulance next to her patients. As they speed back to the emergency response treatment area, she continues to assess and care for the two Soldiers on either side of her, pulling various medical gear from the many pockets of her bag and verbalizing each action.

    Moments later, the ambulance stops: end exercise. She removes her helmet to reveal hair drenched in sweat. Once deployed, this scenario would only make up one hour of her 24-hour shift.

    “The training itself had very realistic patients, very realistic situations,” Schneider said. “It gives me a very real understanding of, ‘OK, in a 24-hour shift what am I going to have to do? How can I better take care of my people?’”

    Her face looks tired and she allows her shoulders to sink a little as she listens to feedback from the observer coach/trainer regarding her team’s actions in the day’s exercise. Overall, her team did well and the event was a success.

    “You’re constantly evolving, constantly learning, trying to build on every single run you make,” said Schneider. “You’re always trying to get just a little bit better.”

  • Observer coach/trainers with 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade and members of U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Delta Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment pose for a photograph with New Hampshire National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment during a Mission Readiness Exercise at McGregor Range, New Mexico, recently. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss, Division West Public Affairs)

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas — After seven months of planning and training, a Division West field artillery unit completed its final phase of transformation to a training support battalion.

    “It’s been a remarkable seven months,” said Lt. Col. Cobb Laslie, commander of 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, as he reflected back to when he received the mission in July 2014.

    The transformation was conducted in two phases. Phase One included the support of the 1st Armored Division artillery during Exercise Iron Strike, and Phase Two with the Mission Readiness Exercise for New Hampshire National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment.

    “We have a lot of experience in the battalion, but we had never done this before,” said Laslie. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

    The 2-362nd carried this training mission from the initial joint assessment more than a year ago. While they prepared and coordinated for the training plan for the 3-197th, they also were in the midst of their own transformation.

    They were venturing into unknown territory.

    The unit previously operated as a Plans, Exercise Movement Control battalion, which served as the initial contact for training units going to Fort Bliss for post mobilization, and also functioned as the battalion that provided long-range planning for those units.

     

    Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Rawls, operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, gives a hot wash to the New Hampshire National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, for their final partnership event with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Delta Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, during the Mission Readiness Exercise at McGregor Range, New Mexico, recently. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss, Division West Public Affairs)

    However, this time they were the executors of the long-range training plan that they once planned for other units to execute.

    “Not only was this a great opportunity for us to run ourselves through the exercise, but also helping the brigade establish some start points for additional standards to be developed,” said Laslie.

    This operation was different from the traditional way the 402nd and 5th Armored Brigade typically prepare and train units. The 2-362nd led the way for how the 5th AR plans to operate in the future.

    “We knew that in order to give this HIMARS battalion from New Hampshire a true workout, we weren’t going to be able go on the cheap,” said Laslie.

    There were not many stones Laslie and his team left unturned in preparation for their first CTE as observer coach/trainers. He sought resources far and wide to complement the robust training plan the unit built in anticipation of the 3-197’s arrival.

    “The only thing we let ourselves be limited by was our ability to coordinate and plan,” he said.

    In Laslie’s mind, he wanted to give the unit as realistic a training plan and MRX as possible, so he reached out to the Air Force Air National Guard and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The D-Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, located in El Paso, Texas, which is one of the few High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) batteries in the Marine Corps, provided a partnership with the National Guard unit similar to the relationship they will cultivate during their deployment.

    “The Marines were able to replicate future engagement techniques, tactics and practices with their host nation partnership military force,” said Capt. DeCarlos Ware, observer coach/trainer for 2-362nd.

     

    Soldiers from New Hampshire National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, rehearse load preparation of their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during the Mission Readiness Exercise recently at Biggs Army Air Field, Texas. (Photo by Capt. John Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss, Division West Public Affairs)

    The Air Guard provided air transportation via C-17 aircraft for the 3-197th during their MRX, which also gave them an opportunity to forge relationships across services.

    “The C-17 training with the Air Force gave the Soldiers and command teams confidence and assurance that they could load, unload and deliver long range munitions during decisive operations,” said Ware.

    “All of our external support in terms of the other services was great,” said Laslie.

    The transition and transformation turned out to be an exercise of the Army Total Force Policy, which integrates the Army's active and reserve components and represents the realization of the Total Force Concept.

    “This was truly a total force exercise,” Laslie said. “We used the Army Reserve Soldiers from our other task forces. Obviously, we’re an active duty battalion and we trained a National Guard battalion.”

    In the big picture, the 2-362nd’s transformation is a part of Operation Bold Shift, which restructures the First Army assets to better provide pre-and post-mobilization to meet Reserve Component and National Guard unit readiness.

    “There are a lot of other task forces who have been doing this a lot longer than us, but we have the opportunity to come in and do things with a fresh perspective with a lot of latitude to establish things for what I think is Col. (Jay) Gallivan’s vision,” Laslie said.

    The 402nd and 5th Armored officially merged with a 5th Armored Brigade change of command ceremony, June 10, as part of Operation Bold Shift.

  • Sgt. Nicholas Sencey, Division West honor sergeant, stands behind a wreath at the 4th ID memorial during a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony May 20 on Fort Hood, Texas. Sencey, along with Division West and 4th Infantry Division commanding generals, would lay the wreath at the the Battlefield Cross at 4th ID memorial to honor the nation’s fallen heroes. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West, alongside the 4th Infantry Division, held a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the 4th ID Memorial, here May 20.

    The ceremony was not only to honor the Ivy Division’s fallen, but to all those who gave their full measure for the country.

    “It’s a great honor to pay tribute to those men and women who willingly gave their dreams to preserve the hope and ideals of not only our nation, but that of their comrades and those they never knew,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general.

    This was the third year for DIVWEST to hold the ceremony, since its transition in 2009 from Fort Carson, Colorado, to take up ownership of the 4th ID’s former headquarters and stand watch over its pivotal memorial site.

    “Let this day remind us that there is a terribly exacting price for freedom,” said Colt.

     

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt (right), First Army Division West commanding general, and Maj. Gen. Ryan F. Gonsalves, 4th Infantry Division commanding general, stand ready to salute after laying a wreath at the base of the Battlefield Cross at the 4th ID memorial during a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony May 20 on Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    Many of Colt’s sentiments were shared by his counterpart, Maj. Gen. Ryan F. Gonsalves, 4th ID commanding general, and the first 4th ID commanding general to attend the remembrance ceremony since Division West began hosting it.

    “Having been a battalion commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom I, a couple of my Soldiers are represented here. It meant a lot to me to come here and pay me respects,” said Gonsalves.

    Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Crosby, 4th ID senior enlisted leader, said, “Ceremonies like these do two things. It reminds us of those that sacrificed and paid the ultimate price for this country. Also, we bring in the Gold Star families to establish those relationships with them and we remember your loved one provided the ultimate sacrifice.”

    As taps played, Colt and Gonsalves, along with Sgt. Nicholas Sencey, with DIVWEST’s honor sergeant, placed a wreath at the base of the memorial statue – a Soldier kneeling in front of a rifle, boots and a helmet (the Battlefield Cross), with a young girl standing near, consoling him.

    Maj. Gen. Ryan F. Gonsalves (right), 4th Infantry Division commanding general, and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general, pose for a photo with Carolyn Bright, widow and Gold Star spouse of 3rd Armored Cavalry Staff Sgt. Scottie Bright, after a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony May 20 on Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

     

    “I always look forward to honoring my late-husband for his selfless sacrifice,” said Carolyn Bright, widow and Gold Star spouse of 3rd Armored Cavalry Staff Sgt. Scottie Bright. “I really love that man. We must always recognize our fallen Soldiers.”

    After the wreath-laying, participants rendered a salute to the fallen 4th ID and U.S. Army heroes.

    “During this Memorial Day weekend, I hope every takes the time to remember those that sacrificed their lives,” said Gonsalves.

  •  

      The 4th Infantry Division Memorial stands adjacent to First Army Division West's Cameron Field on Fort Hood, Texas, and will be the site of DIVWEST's Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony Wednesday at 10 a.m.

     

    FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West will hold a wreath laying ceremony here 10 a.m. Wednesday at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial to commemorate Memorial Day.

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

    Maj. Gen. Ryan F. Gonsalves, 4th ID commanding general, will attend from Fort Carson, Colorado, home of the 4th ID.

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

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

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

    Media representatives interested in attending the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony should contact the Division West Public Affairs Office and arrive at the Fort Hood Visitor Center no later than 9:15 a.m. to be escorted to Cameron Field.

    For more information about the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony, contact Michael Novogradac, Division West Public Affairs chief, or Sgt. First Class Thomas Wheeler at (254) 553-5003.

  •  

    Command Sgt. Oscar Arroyo, right, a command sergeant major in 5th Armored Brigade, greeted Staff Sgt. Brian Eakins, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, after the graduation at Noel Field here on Wednesday. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David A. Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas — Excitement and relief filled the faces of three Division West Soldiers when they earned their air assault wings Wednesday at Noel Field.

    The Soldiers used the inaugural 5th Armored Brigade three-day Pre-Air Assault course, led by Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Dunlap, 5th Armored Brigade telecommunications noncommissioned officer, and his team as a gauge and training aid to prepare them for the grueling 10-day course.

    “The Pre-Air Assault totally set us up for success,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Caskin, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade observer coach/trainer.

    Caskin, Staff Sgt. Kenyunus Andrews, 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade observer-coach/trainer, and Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Eakins, 1st Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade observer coach/trainer, went to the course confident about skills acquired from the three-day course several weeks earlier.

    Soldiers from 5th Armored Brigade pose after the Air Assault graduation ceremony at Noel Field on Wednesday.  From left to right are Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Dunlap, Command Sgt. Maj. Neil McKinley, Staff Sgt. Brian Caskin, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Eakins, Staff Sgt. Kenyunus Andrews and Command Sgt. Maj. Oscar Arroyo. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David A. Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    The Soldiers agreed that the training beforehand provided them a leg up on other Soldiers.

    “It saved us a lot of time,” said Eakins.

    Many Soldiers stayed late to learn and practice what the 5th AR Soldiers experienced during the pre-course.

    “The Air Assault guys here gave me the tools and I was able to mimic what’s taught in the course, except slingload,” Dunlap said.

     

    Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Dunlap, Air Assault training non-commissioned officer-in-charge, congratulates two of the 5th Armored Brigade Soldiers after they graduated from the Fort Bliss Air Assault Course. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David A. Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    The course is broken down into three phases: Air Assault Operations, Sling Load Operations and Rappelling.

    Not much different than what Dunlap provided during the three-day training.

    “We didn’t have to focus on the things we learned in the three-day training,” said Andrews. “We were able to focus more on tips and hints the cadre provided us.”

    It was a short window for Dunlap and his team to assess and prepare the Soldiers, but each Soldier benefited because of the three individuals who earned their wings at Noel Field Wednesday. They all excelled in the pre-training.

    “The repetitions in the Air Assault training course built muscle memory for the actual Air Assault course,” said Eakins.

     

    The 5th Armored Brigade Air Assault training course team led by Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Dunlap, telecommunications non-commissioned officer, conducted air assault training previous to the course beginning to prepare the brigade aspirants for the 10-day Fort Bliss Air Assault course. From left to right are Staff Sgt. Karen Martinez, Staff Sgt. Javier Oropeza, Staff Sgt. Shane Carpenter and Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Dunlap. (U.S. Army photo)

    Command Sgt. Maj. Neil McKinley, 5th AR senior enlisted advisor, sparked the interest for the three-day course in a meeting with Dunlap.

    “Sergeant major told me I’d be the NCOIC of the Air Assault training course,” said Dunlap. “He gave me the guidelines and I went to work.”

    The final event to mark the completion and symbolize success for the three 5th AR Soldiers was the 12-mile foot march, an event the Soldiers were prepared to handle as evident by their presence in the graduation formation and the wings on their chest.

    McKinley and Dunlap congratulated each of them upon the completion of the ceremony, but they both recognize that it took preparation and hard work from Caskin, Eakin and Andrews to be successful.

    “You always want to set Soldiers up for success,” said McKinley, “and this was our opportunity to do so and I think we did.”

  •  

    Sgt. 1st Class Heather West, center, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade operations noncommissioned officer, serves food to destitute community members at the El Paso Opportunity Center, El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    Capt. John Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs

    EL PASO, Texas — A 402nd Field Artillery single Soldier and mother of three children spends most of her personal time away from home serving others.

    Between local homeless shelters, elementary schools and Circle K stores in Northeast El Paso, Sgt. 1st Class Heather West, a 402nd operations noncommissioned officer, manages not to miss a beat in all she has going on in her life. 

    While some Saturdays she works at Operation Santa Claus at Fort Bliss, Texas, other days she’s at one of the local convenience stores chatting with a person for whom she bought a soda and a bag of potato chips.

    But every first Sunday she can be found at the Opportunity Center of El Paso feeding the homeless.

    “I really just get an idea about wanting to volunteer, and I just go and do it,” said West.

    For West, her time is far more valuable than what she attributes monetarily, and having people alongside her with a like-minded approach is a win-win for all involved.

    West said she gets calls from people all around El Paso, but Councilman Carl Robinson is the one person who can get her to do almost anything and has helped fuel her efforts.

    “Heather’s very cooperative and responsive,” said Robinson. “It’s always good to know when you have a civic-minded person on your team.”

    Sgt. 1st Class Heather West, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade operations noncommissioned officer and a regular volunteer at the El Paso, Texas Opportunity Center, serves food to members of the community. West has been offering her time to the El Paso community for years. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

     With a packed work schedule as an Ops NCO and a single parent, it’s a wonder West finds time for all of her volunteer work.

    “Sometimes people sacrifice family to help out,” said Robinson.

    West doesn’t look at it as a sacrifice. In fact, the 13-year veteran just so happens to be the president of the Fort Bliss Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, which is also known for its volunteer efforts.

    “You make time for what you want to make time for,” said West. “You just really have to take advantage.”

    West isn’t out in the community going at it alone. Her daughter is a huge part of her efforts.

    Eleven year-old Dasanah West, received the Fort Bliss Volunteer Youth of the Year award. Her receipt of the award is evidence of her community involvement, but West and Dasanah are not the only ones in the family who have made community service a lifestyle.

    Her two teenage boys, C.J. West, 16, and Aaron West, 15, volunteer just as much as their sister, Dasanah, and they all do it together as a family.

    While C.J. wasn’t too thrilled about volunteering initially, he took a liking to it and it truly has become a family affair.

    “When she first introduced us to feeding the homeless, I wasn’t really skeptical and I wasn’t really up for it either because I wanted to stay home,” said C.J.

     

    Sgt. 1st Class Heather West, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West operations non-commissioned officer, poses with her kids, C.J. West, 16, Dasanah West, 11, and Aaron West 15, in El Paso, Texas. West started volunteering in the El Paso community three years ago and shortly thereafter brought her kids onboard. Dasanah received the Fort Bliss Youth Volunteer of the Year award on April 17, 2015. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    Aaron felt the same way. He said he wanted to stay home and sleep the whole day.

    “I’m glad she got me out the bed that day,” said Aaron.

    For the past three years, the Wests have made a life out of community service. While the people receiving the help reap the immediate benefit, the bond of the West family has been strengthened by these acts of kindness.

    “Before we started volunteering, everybody was pretty spaced out,” said West.

    That space has dwindled to almost nothing, said Dasanah.

    “It’s brought us pretty close,” she said. “The more we get to know one another, it’s actually pretty special.”

    With everything West keeps her hand in, from the 10- and 12-hour workdays to the countless hours she spends helping others, her efforts and impact on her own family is not lost. They value what she does in the community for the less fortunate just as much as what she does at home.

    Dasanah hopes to be there for her mom like her mom is there for everyone else.

    “Never in my life have I met a woman so persistent for the happiness of others to where she will go out of her way for the smallest things to make people happy,” said Aaron.

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas — The U.S. Army Reserve Command and 85th Support Command senior enlisted advisors recently spent some one-on-one time with Army Reserve Soldiers with the 5th Armored Brigade. Command Sgt. Maj. Luther Thomas Jr., USARC command sergeant major, discussed Operation Full Court Press, a deliberate operation that focuses on USAR leaders at every level helping to increase accessions, reduce controllable Soldier losses, increase promotions to sergeant and staff sergeant and improve the sponsorship program. While Thomas addressed big picture Army Reserve topics, Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Greene, 85th Support Command senior enlisted advisor, focused on Soldier issues such as the Noncommissioned Officer Education System and NCO promotions.

    Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Gerwing, a medical team observer coach/trainer with 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, talks about difficulties involved in enrolling and completing Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation System schools while on mobilized Reserve status with  Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Greene, 85th Support Command senior enlisted advisor. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Greene, 85th Support Command senior enlisted advisor, addressed a room full of Reserve Soldiers recently during a visit to Fort Bliss, Texas. During the visit, Greene stressed how important it is for Soldiers and non-commissioned officers to seek and complete their Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation System schools. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Greene, 85th Support Command senior enlisted advisor, recognizes four deserving Soldiers with “coins of excellence” during his recent visit to Soldiers assigned to 5th Armor Brigade, Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    Command Sgt. Maj. Luther Thomas Jr., U.S. Army Reserve Command senior enlisted advisor, addresses Reserve Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, recently. Thomas discussed Operation Full Court Press, a deliberate operation that focuses on USAR leaders at every level helping to increase accessions, reduce controllable Soldier losses, increase promotions to sergeant and staff sergeant and improve the sponsorship program. (Photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

  • By 1st Lt. Corey Roccograndi, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    MCGREGOR RANGE, New Mexico — Division West’s 5th Armored Brigade incorporated medical evacuation support and medical treatment into a culminating training exercise for Louisiana Army National Guard’s 1023rd Engineer Company in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan. The 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, provided the training in the previous days leading up to the CTE.

    Observer coach/trainers from 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, observe medical personnel assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve’s 244th Engineering Battalion, Denver, Colorado, during the unit’s culminating training event recently at McGregor Range, New Mexico. (Photo by Master Sgt. Vance Switzer, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)
    Sgt. 1st Class Tanya Rose, right, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Gerwing, both 2nd battalion 290th Training Support Regiment medical team observer coach/trainers, await the detonation of a simulated improvised explosive device during a recent culminating training event at McGregor Range, New Mexico, for the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 1023rd Engineer Company. (Photo by Master Sgt. Vance Switzer, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)
    Soldiers with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 1023rd Engineer Company react to simulated injuries sustained during a staged improvised explosive device attack during the unit’s recent culminating training event at McGregor Range, New Mexico, in preparation for the unit’s upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.  (Photo by Master Sgt. Vance Switzer, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Sgt. 1st Class Tanya Rose, front center, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Gerwing, bottom right, both medical team observer coach/trainers with 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, evaluate Soldiers of the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 1023rd Engineer Company during the unit’s culminating training event at McGregor Range, New Mexico, recently. (Photo by Master Sgt. Vance Switzer, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

  • Soldiers and civilians from 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, alongside German Air Force Capt. Norfried “Maxx” Paetz, pose for a photograph in front of the German Tornado fighter jet. (Photo courtesy of Luftwaffe Public Affairs, Holloman Air Force Base)

    By 1st Lt. Brandon VerSchuer, 2nd Battalion, 290th Training Support Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico — Soldiers and civilians from Division West recently met with the German Air Force Flying Training Center here and learned to fly a Tornado fighter jet in the flight simulator.

    Terri Balster, Association of the United States Army Vice President for Corporate Membership, coordinated the international relationship event. People attending this function were chosen based on their involvement with the German Armed Forces Badge competitions hosted at Fort Bliss earlier this year and their association with AUSA. 

    Balster, and German officer liaison to the 5th Armored Brigade, Capt. Norfried “Maxx” Paetz, met at the base Welcome Center and then continued to the GAF Squadron Headquarters. There, the crew met with Lt. Col. Karl F. Eppler, the Flying Training Center deputy commander. 

    “The training center at Holloman Air Force Base produces the best pilots and pilot instructors in the German Air Force,” said Eppler. 

    The GAF trains basic flight school, fighter weapons pilots, and flight instructors at Holloman AFB, he added.  

    After the meeting, Paetz escorted everyone over to the base Officer’s Club for lunch where Balster expressed AUSA’s appreciation for its members. 

    “The AUSA Omar Bradley Chapter is very involved and takes great pride in helping the Soldiers and their Families here at Fort Bliss; this includes all of our reserve components as well,” said Balster.

    After lunch, Paetz took the group to the flight simulation area where they met flight instructor, Capt. Kevin “Kurt” Kummer, who gave a briefing on aircraft orientation, flight plans, and the instrumentation for both pilots and co-pilots. The group was divided into two-man teams and received call signs, which seemed to be the highlight of the day.

    The flight crews took turns conducting simulated take-offs, landings, and bombing missions throughout the Fort Bliss training area.  

    This is definitely not a Playstation,” said Staff Sgt. Kelly Steidley, a Division West small arms instructor, while attempting to fly back to Holloman after his simulated bombing mission.

    “Gentlemen, if you crash the Tornado in the simulator, at least we won’t charge you 40 million dollars,” said Eppler.

  • By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    AUSTIN, Texas — Soldiers from Fort Hood and Camp Mabry, Texas, attended the Texas State Prayer Breakfast here, Monday morning, with the emphasis of spreading prayer and praise across America. The official National Day of Prayer is May 7. The event’s bible scripture came from 1 Kings 8:28, “Lord, Hear Our Cry.” The guest speaker was Chuck (Carlos) Norris, American actor, expert martial artist, producer and screenwriter. Norris, a U.S. Air Force veteran, thanked all the attending servicemembers for their hard work, selfless service and dedication to our Nation.

    Chuck Norris, center kneeling, poses with servicemembers from Fort Hood and Camp Mabry after the Texas State Prayer Breakfast in Austin, Texas, Monday. Norris was the guest speaker for the day’s event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Chuck Norris, right, and his wife, Gena, pose with Chap. (Lt. Col.) Kenneth R. Sorenson, left, Division West command chaplain, and his wife, Patrice, after the Texas State Prayer Breakfast in Austin, Texas, Monday. Norris was the guest speaker for the day’s event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Chuck Norris, American actor, martial artist, producer and screenwriter, spoke at the Texas State Prayer Breakfast Monday in Austin, Texas. Norris and wife, Gena, are head of Kickstart Kids, an anti-drug nonprofit organization he started in 1990. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    Soldiers from Fort Hood and Camp Mabry gather for a photo with Texas Governor Greg Abbott during the Texas State Prayer Breakfast in Austin, Monday. The event’s guest speaker was American actor, martial artist and producer, Chuck Norris. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

  • Lt. Col. Emco Jellema, center, 302nd Squadron, Royal Netherlandscommander, raises a drink to toast Dutch King William Alexander at the beginning of King’s Day, at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area April 25. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    BELTON, Texas — The Royal Netherlands’ 302nd Squadron held their King’s Birthday celebration at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, April 25.

    King’s Day is a holiday held in the Netherlands in which Dutch citizens wear their national color, orange, and engage in a day of festivities and fun for friends and family.

    “Today here at BLORA we are celebrating the birth of our king, William Alexander,” said Maj. Larry Hammers, 302nd Sqdn. executive officer. “This is how we celebrate in the Netherlands and we are enjoying doing it here in Texas with our families.”

    Hammers didn’t neglect to mention Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade, who recently received operational command of the Dutch airmen on Fort Hood  when the the 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat)  deactivated during March.

    “We also invite our neighbors,” Hammers added. “We want to enjoy this day with our partnerships as well.”

    The Grey Wing command team, Col. Christopher Albus and Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Bailey — also dawning orange for the occasion — had only the very best words for their Dutch partners.

    The 302nd Squadron, Royal Netherlands, with their partner organization, Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade, enjoy the Dutch national holiday, King’s Day, at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area April 25. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “I think it’s a great day to build a team and camaraderie with our new Dutch unit here and to recognize one of their important national holidays,” said Albus.

    Bailey followed adding comments about the cohesion between the two units.

    “I think we’re off to a great start,” Bailey said. “The relationship we have is very strong and it’s really neat to be able to work in this joint environment and help establish relationships with our allies.”

    As children played traditional Dutch games,adults engaged in laughter and merrymaking, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rob de Graap, 302nd Sqdn. loadmaster instructor and the event’s DJ, made sure the celebration stayed lively and had a touch of Dutch revelry.

    “The King’s Day for us Dutch people is very famous. It’s a lot of partying all day,” said de Graap. “We’re trying to do it the same here.”

    Maj. Gen. Kendall P. Cox, III Corps deputy commanding general, commented on the relationship between the two nation’s military forces as he enjoyed the orange party and conversations with Lt. Col. Emco Jellema, 302nd Sqdn. commander.

    “Our relationship with the Dutch began years ago,” said Cox. “The 21st Cavalry Brigade has had oversight for the past few years and now 166th Aviation Brigade is at the helm.

    “They share this celebration with us here in America and it’s wonderful,” Cox continued. “It’s a great opportunity for the 302nd Sqdn. to celebrate their king’s birthday.”

  • Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco, Jr., Commanding General, 85th Support Command and Deputy Commanding General at First Army Division West, speaks during the 107th birthday of the Army Reserve at the North Fort Hood Chapel Saturday. Maiocco, who also serves as commander of the 85th Support Command in Chicago, shared the capabilities of the Reserve and its unique relationship with its active Army partners. The official birth date of the Army Reserve is April 23, 1908. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anthony L. Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Anthony L. Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs

    NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas — Army Reserve and active component Soldiers from First Army held a ceremony Saturday at the North Fort Hood Chapel here to celebrate the 107th birthday of the Army Reserve.

    Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco, Jr., Commanding General, 85th Support Command, and Deputy Commanding General for Support at First Army Division West, attended along with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Commanding General, First Army Division West.

    Maiocco served as the ceremony’s guest speaker.

    “I just returned from the First Army commanders’ conference this week, and on behalf of

    Lieutenant General (Michael) Tucker and Major General (Jeffrey) Colt, we want to extend our congratulations to the Army Reserve, and a thanks to the incredible Citizen Soldiers who work and support all the (missions) taking place across, not only First Army, but across the Army as a whole,” said Maiocco.

    Active component and Army Reserve Soldiers applaud during the Army Reserve 107th birthday celebration at the North Fort Hood Chapel Saturday. Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco, Jr. Commanding General, 85th Support Command and Deputy Commanding General, First Army Division West, gave remarks. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anthony L. Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs)

    Maiocco discussed the three Army components and the recent dedicated recognition established for Reserve soldiers at the Pentagon.

    “The Army Reserve has been granted a special prominent place at the Pentagon where we have our history identified and recognized in a corridor there,” he said. “Without the support of our Army Reserve, its Soldiers, civilians, and families, our world may look very different than it does today.”

    Maiocco shared the different expertise fields in today’s Army Reserve, such as doctors, engineers, lab technicians and logisticians; and he said such career fields are vital to the success of communities and building families across the country.

    “All of you know that if you don the uniform, you (contribute) a commitment to service and pride in serving our nation and its armed forces,” said Maiocco. “But we also have another uniform that we wear, our civilian attire — because we pursue these additional professions, we bring an amazing unique skill set — this robust capability to the Army does not exist anywhere else.”

    The role for the Army Reserve, as an enabling force for our Army, began more than a century ago on its official birth date of April 23, 1908.

    “The Army Reserve began in an act to increase the efficiency of the medical department of the United States Army,” Maiocco explained. “The Army Reserve dates back to medical heritage. The challenges associated with the Civil War, where so many soldiers died, and there was such a need for medical care (brought attention) to the U.S. Congress (for) the need to have a corps of professionals to provide support. (This) began the Army Reserve as a medical tool to support warfare, and to be able to give our soldiers the kind of medical care that they deserve.”

    From left to right: Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Commanding General, First Army Division West; 2nd Lt. Natasha Hernandez, 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade; Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Maiocco, Jr. Commanding General, 85th Support Command and Deputy Commanding General, First Army Division West; and Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Michaels, 2nd Battalion, 381st Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, cut the Army Reserve birthday cake during 107th birthday celebration of the Army Reserve at the North Fort Hood Chapel Saturday. The official birth date of the Army Reserve is April 23, 1908. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anthony L. Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs)

    Maiocco discussed the history of the Army Reserve across its 107 years and its integration with the active component during the 1970s’ Army Total Force Policy. It allowed the Army to maintain an active force that was relatively small while still being able to access peacetime capability for contingency environments and contingency operations, and generate force when necessary in times of conflict.

    “We are able to do a full range of missions, everything from contingency operations,  force-on-force operations, to theater security cooperation response to homeland crisis, training and equipping the force, and partnering with other nation’s militaries, like host nation training support,” said Maiocco. “The Army Reserve has demonstrated its value as a federal force for the nation for over a century.”

    Taking a glance at the Army Reserve, Maiocco said that more than 50 percent of those serving as part of First Army observer coach/trainers are from the Reserve.

    Since September 11, 2001, more than 300,000 Citizen Soldiers have deployed to overseas contingencies with an Army Reserve force current strength of about 198,000.

    “I want to say thank you for your service and commitment in peace time and at war during the past 107 years. It’s been an amazing history for our Army Reserve,” said Maiocco. “You should be proud of your legacy as Army Reserve Soldiers. I am proud of our legacy as Army Reserve Soldiers.”

  • Capt. Robert Blome, left, an observer, coach/trainer with Division West’s Medical Training Task Force, and the 2015 Army Nurse Corps’ Reserve Component Award of Excellence award recipient, observes a nurse with the 115th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Polk, Louisiana, during the unit’s culminating training exercise, held at North Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas W. Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs

    Falls Church, Virginia — For the first time in its history, the C.J. Reddy Leadership Conference, the Army Nurse Corps’ premiere leadership symposium, was well represented with not one, but two First Army Division West nurses.

    Capt. Robert Blome, an observer, coach/trainer with the 479th Field Artillery Brigade’s Medical Training Task Force, and Capt. Brandi Lange, Division West’s clinical operations nurse, joined 45 peers from throughout the armed services, Department of Defense and Public Health Services, at the Defense Health Agency headquarters March 29 to April 2.

    Blome, this year’s recipient of the Nurse Corps’ Reserve Component Award of Excellence, was both excited and humbled by the experience.

    “I’m honored that my leadership even thought to nominate me for this,” said Blome. “To be in there with all the other components was really exciting. It’s a huge honor.”

    Blome recalls his thoughts and feelings just moments before the announcement.

    Capt. Brandi Lange, Division West clinical operations nurse, and 2015 C.J. Reddy Leadership Conference nominee, observes medical personnel assigned to the 115th Combat Support Hospital from Fort Polk, Louisiana, during the unit’s culminating training exercise at North Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    “Only two are awarded each year, one to Active Duty and one to the Reserves,” he said. “I remember sitting at the dinner and feeling extremely excited for Capt. [Anthony] Sabatini who won the 2015 Army Nurse Corps’ Active Duty Award of Excellence. When they called my name next, I was shocked, humbled, and speechless.”

    Lange, Division West’s active duty nominee, added what it meant for her to be nominated and selected.

    “Considering only company-grade officers from the entire Nurse Corps were selected to attend, it was a huge honor to be selected to represent FORSCOM and First Army,” she said. “It means a lot that my boss thought highly enough of me to nominate me for this honor.”

    Blome and Lange went on to describe the five-day course detailing numerous book discussions and presentations by ANC and Medical Command senior leaders covering a variety of topics to include leadership, thinking outside the box, AMEDD’s future, Arbinger Leadership Training, and talent management.

    “It was great learning the vision and future of the Army Health Care System directly from the top,” said Blome. “The collaboration with motivated, like-minded leaders was very rewarding.”

     

    Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, left, awards the Army Achievement Medal to Capt. Robert Blome, an observer, coach/trainer with Division West’s Medical Training Task Force, at the conclusion of the 2015 C.J. Reddy Leadership Conference held at Defense Health headquarters, Falls Church, Virginia, April 2. Blome was also awarded the 2015 Army Nurse Corps’ Reserve Component Award of Excellence. (Courtesy photo)

    Blome continued to speak highly of the conference and quickly identified the things he found to be most beneficial.

    “I feel the C.J. Reddy course provided me with a more holistic and global view, not only of Army health care, but also of military health,” he said.

    “As we collaborated in our groups, I learned how the Navy, Air Force, and Public Health Services address, or go through, some of the same issues Army health care faces. I feel there is so much we can learn from each other,” he added.

    Selection for C.J. Reddy is no easy task, and according to the Division West Surgeon Lt. Col. Timothy Haley, selection is highly-competitive and requires selectees to be nominated by their commands and thoroughly vetted by an ANC panel before receiving an invitation.

    The C.J. Reddy Leadership Conference was named in honor of Col. Charles J. Reddy, a long-time Army nurse most noted for his leadership qualities and enthusiasm for developing junior leaders. During his tenure, Reddy specialized in clinical practice, education, administration, and support and research.

    The conference was first organized and held in June of 1992 with the goal of encouraging junior officer leadership development. During the course, attendees are provided the opportunity to meet and work with ANC officers in key leadership positions, allowing them to gain a unique insight into the future of Army nursing.

  • Huw Priday, Welsh opera singer and Christian recording artist, sings an old Wales hymn during the First Army Division West Prayer Breakfast at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel on Fort Hood, Texas, April 17. Priday was joined by his English musical counterpart, Richard Lewis. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — First Army Division West hosted a prayer breakfast at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel here, April 17, featuring words of prayer and preparation from the incoming U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains.

    “The purpose of our gathering together is to reflect and ask ourselves, where am I in my own prayer life,” said Chap. (Col.) Paul K. Hurley, incoming Chief of Chaplains. “It’s in that prayer, it’s in that life that we will come to experience the awesomeness of our God working in us and through us and for us.”

    The morning’s breakfast started with about 189 people mingling to a medley of soft music presented by the 1st Cavalry Division Band followed with an invocation by Chap. (Lt. Col.) Kenneth R. Sorenson, Division West Command Chaplain.

    Following Sorenson, Lt. Col. Damar K. Jones, Division West Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program Manager, spoke to reflect on April as SHARP Awareness and Prevention Month.

    “April offers a unique opportunity to build an existing momentum to fight this crime and ensure that all servicemembers are treated with dignity and respect,” said Jones.

    She went on to explain the meaning of the color teal as it relates to the SHARP campaign, emphasizing that teal represents the idea of enriching the spirit while coinciding with the prayer breakfast’s theme.

    “Teal represents a touch of sophistication and richness,” said Jones.  “It also indicates trust, devotion, healing and spiritual guidance.”

    A scripture reading of Proverbs 3:5-6, was followed by musical selections from Staff Sgt. Chor Park, Division West’s senior driver, Richard Lewis, an English musician, and Huw Priday, a Welsh opera singer and Christian recording artist.

    Chap. (Col.) Paul K. Hurley, incoming U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, speaks to approximately 189 people at the First Army Division West Prayer Breakfast at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel on Fort Hood, Texas, April 17. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Before Priday began his rendition of what became known as “The Love Song of the Welsh Revival of 1904,” he gave affirming words to the crowd.

    “Wales stands firm with America. When we sang this morning, when you all faced the flag, I sensed such a heart of commitment and compassion for your Nation,” said Priday.  “I was reminded that this mission was founded on Christian principles, as is the land of Wales.”

    Patrice L. Sorenson, wife of Chap. Sorenson, had heart-felt words to reflect her thoughts toward the breakfast’s atmosphere.

    “I felt like it really prepared the people for what the speaker was about to say,” she said. “It was so quiet in the room once the song was done and we were all ready to hear a word from the Lord.”

    The event’s speaker was introduced by one of his chaplain counterparts, Chap. (Col.) Robert H. Whitlock, III Corps Command Chaplain.

    Hurley captured the audience with humorous statements which filled the room with laughter. He spoke on the need for spiritual preparation and paralleled it with the military profession’s own standard of being prepared.

    “We are masters of being prepared,” said Hurley. “Think about how much it takes to prepare a single Soldier and their family for deployment.”

    He stated how impressive the Army’s preparation skills are, but also intrigued the crowd with a question that was the foundation of his speech.

    Hurley asked, “Do we prepare ourselves in our spiritual life? Do we take a fraction of our time and resources to prepare ourselves in this way?”

    Chap. (Col.) Paul K. Hurley, fourth from left, incoming U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, poses with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, third from left, First Army Division West commanding general, and members of the Division West unit ministry team during the Division West Prayer Breakfast at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel on Fort Hood, Texas, April 17. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    As silence gripped the room, then Hurley continued with a quote from former General of the Army George C. Marshall, commenting on the importance of the spirit.

    “The Soldier’s heart, the Soldier’s spirit, the Soldier’s soul, are everything. Unless the Soldier’s soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his commander and his country in the end,” quoted Hurley.

    Marshall’s words emphasized the significance of working on the inward parts of ourselves that are more permanent and lasting.

    “We are building on a belief of a belief. We are building on things infinitely more potent,” said Hurley. “For it’s what men believe that makes them invincible.”

    He referenced Marshall’s words again to further explain our innate need to seek for something greater inside.

    “We have sought for something more than enthusiasm, something finer and higher than optimism or self-confidence, something not merely of the intellect or the emotions but rather something in the spirit of the man, something encompassed only by the soul,” said Hurley, quoting Marshall.

    Hurley concluded his sermon in the same way he began, with words about spiritual preparation and the need for a relationship with God.

    “We can’t do backwards planning for when we’ll meet our God,” he said. “Our lives are mysterious in that sense and there are aspects of our lives that are a complete mystery that we don’t entirely understand.

    “Our lives are awesome and have an element, that if we let it, will surprise us and put us in awe,” he continued. “That kind of life requires something of us that is to be prepared for those times. It’s in that prayer, it’s in that life that we will come to experience the awesomeness of our God working in us and through us and for us.”

  • Soldiers assigned to the South Carolina National Guard’s 351st Aviation Support Battalion perform perimeter support for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s B Company, 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, as part of Operation Road Block, a training exercise for Army National Guard aviation units at Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Battalion, 351st Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West, planned and facilitated the training, which allowed mobilizing National Guard units to work together on key mission tasks before deployment. (Photo by Capt. Michael D. Bales, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Michael D. Bales, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT BLISS, Texas — Division West observer-coach/trainers from Fort Hood, Texas recently traveled here for environmental flight training as part of the Ohio National Guard's mobilization training.

    1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade OC/Ts trained the Ohio Guard's 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment aviators and crews on proper high altitude flight procedures as well as appropriate take-off and dust landing techniques in an extreme dust filled environment.

    "The heavy dust in environments like Kuwait and Fort Bliss makes it more difficult to see, forcing pilots to use different techniques to control the helicopter than they would in a clear dust-free environment," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric Petricka, an instructor pilot with the 1-137th Aviation Regiment. "This opportunity will serve the Pale Riders well as they go forward."

     

    A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the New Mexico National Guard’s C Company, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, prepares to land and pick up a fictional patient on Fort Bliss, Texas, in response to a training 9-line medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) request. The 1st Battalion, 351st Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West, planned and facilitated the training, setting up multiple "injury" sites to allow MEDEVAC aircrews to exercise emergency evacuation flights and procedures in preparation for deployment. (Photo by Capt. Michael D. Bales, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    The 1-137th is an aviation task comprised of Guard elements from Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Mississippi, all training to deploy in support of worldwide contingency operations. To ensure the flight environment would resemble what the 137th would face downrange, the 351st temporarily deployed instructor pilots, crew chiefs, and support Soldiers from Fort Hood, to one of only a hand-full of locations in the United States that can pass for the real thing — Fort Bliss. 

    In true train-the-trainer fashion, 1-351st instructor pilots first demonstrated dust take-offs and flight and landing tactics and procedures in a desert environment to instructor pilots assigned to the 137th. The 137th instructors, in-turn, flew with, and certified their own pilots and crew chiefs, setting the tone and standards for all flights the 137th will make during its deployment. 

    “The integration of active component and National Guard training was aimed to fully support the Army Total Force Policy,” said Capt. Jeremy K. Walters, 1-351st Operations Officer.

    During the training, the 137th also completed more than 375 hours using night-vision goggles, completed individual proficiency training for organic aviators, and provided flight support for several Fort Bliss active component units as well as the German Air Defense Artillery School where Soldiers learned about air assault operations during an orientation flight. The 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, also conducted multiple iterations of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) training with 137th aviators. 

    Despite unfavorable weather, the 137th and 166th successfully redeployed all personnel and equipment to Fort Hood and are continuing to work together as they train and prepare the 137th for operations downrange.

  • Senior leaders from the 166th Aviation Brigade and the 302nd Squadron Royal Netherlands Air Force pose with 302nd Squadron Soldiers and Airmen after their graduation ceremony from the Fort Hood Army Air Assault School Class-006. From left to right standing, are Chief Warrant Officer 5 James E. O’Gorman, 1st Lt. Bart Havenaar, Lt. Col. IJmke (Emco) Jellema, Pfc. Antonius Van Dreumel, Pfc. Vladimir Gorshkov, Sgt. 1st Class Kevin De Jager, Command Sgt. Maj. James Put, and Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Bailey. From left to right kneeling are Cpl. Jorgen Duijndam and Sgt. Michel Prins. (Photo by Capt. Sean J. Davis, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Sean J. Davis, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — Recently, six Royal Netherlands airmen, all part of Class 006, graduated from the Fort Hood Army Air Assault School here. 

    The graduates are all assigned to the 11th Air Mobile Brigade based in Schaarsbergen,  Netherlands, but are temporarily attached to the 302nd Squadron, Royal Netherlands Air Force, Fort Hood, during their training.

    “Air assault operations are huge in my formation and the course provided a lot of excellent training in 10 days,” said 1st Lt. Bart Havenaar, 302nd Squadron, RNLAF. 

    The Army Air Assault School trains students in air assault and sling-load operations, as well as rappelling, ultimately arming Soldiers with the skills to maximize rotary wing assets in training and combat operations. 

    “It was a great experience to learn the way training is structured,” said Sgt. Michel Prins, 302nd Squadron RNLAF. 

    Along with the operations side of the course, the Dutch airmen faced both physical and weather challenges. 

    “The course was very challenging both physically and mentally,” said Havenaar. 

    The course included air assault physical training as well as a Espirit de Corps run, all overcoming the challenges that go hand-in-hand with Central Texas weather.

    “The first time I experienced four seasons of weather in a two-week period was right here at Fort Hood, Texas,” said Pfc. Antonius Van Dreumel, an airmen with the 302nd Squadron, RNLAF.  

    Participants concluded the course with the required 12-mile ruck march with full combat load and weapon, which all participants must complete in less than three hours to graduate.

    All of the 302nd Squadron Airmen and Soldiers completed the six- and 12-mile ruck marches in the top 10 of the class, finishing first and second for each distance. Additionally, Prins earned a certificate during the graduation ceremony for earning the fastest 12-mile time in the class at 2 hours,12 seconds. 

    All the RNLAF airmen emphasized their pride in successfully completing the Army Air Assault course and stressed that they would wear it with pride. 

    Since March 22, 2011, the 302nd Squadron has facilitated joint Air Assault training on Fort Hood for Royal Netherlands Army Air Assault Infantry and Royal Netherlands Air Force helicopter crews to prepare for future combat deployments.  Additionally, the 302nd Squadron conducts Mission Qualification Training (MQT) for RNLAF Apache and Chinook flight crews.

  • Col. Michael C. Kasales, First Army Division West chief of staff, speaks to a crowd of Soldiers and civilians about the importance of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) at the division’s Teal Garden Dedication Pledge ceremony on Fort Hood, Texas, April 15. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — Taking part in the fight against sexual assault and sexual harassment, First Army Division West held a Teal Garden Dedication Pledge ceremony at division headquarters here, April 15.

    “Thanks for coming to this simple, yet important recognition today,” said Col. Michael C. Kasales, the ceremonies keynote speaker and Division West chief of staff. “This is to symbolize and recognize those that have been victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and more importantly to remind us of our responsibility as Soldiers and leaders to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in the future.”

    Division West’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) team organized the event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month on a sunny Wednesday morning to a packed house to support one of the Army’s campaign.

    “Several years ago the Army recognized that sexual assault and sexual harassment was a significant issue within our ranks,” said Kasales. “We have the duty and obligation to point those people out to our chain of command. It takes everyone’s commitment.”

    The event began with an invocation by Chap. (Maj.) Mark B. Cisco, Division West deputy division chaplain, as well as brief remarks from Lt. Col. Damar K. Jones, Division West SHARP program manager.

    As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, First Army Division West senior leaders place flowers representing the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the division’s Teal Garden at the conclusion of the Division West Teal Garden Dedication Pledge ceremony held on Fort Hood, Texas, April 15. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “April is SHARP awareness month. Know your part, do your part,” said Jones. “It’s important to have a prevention campaign against sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

    Though sexual assault and sexual harassment are very serious issues, an upbeat medley of music from the 1st Cavalry Division Jazz Band, created a subtle, yet hopeful atmosphere for the participants to better receive the event’s message.

    After the Jazz Band sang a few songs, Kasales was called to the podium to share his thoughts on SHARP and the meaning behind the ceremony.

    “We know we’re all Soldiers, we know we’re all offered opportunities, and those opportunities should be available to us without the fear of being sexually assaulted or sexually harassed,” said Kasales. “We need to keep personal, personal, and professional, professional.

    It’s our responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t persist,” he added.

    Kasales then shared a personal experience to explain the importance of educating, not only Soldiers, but civilians, on sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention.

    “I volunteer with the Southwestern University Girl’s Lacrosse Team as the assistant coach and a couple of weeks ago we were at practice and they all had these teal ribbons in their hair,” said Kasales. “I asked them if they knew what that teal ribbon meant, and one said, ‘Something to do with sexual harassment or something.’ They had no real idea what it was about, so I had about a 10-minute session talking about what it truly represented.”

    Soldiers from First Army Division West sign the division’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) commitment pledge at the conclusion of the Division West Teal Garden Dedication Pledge ceremony held on Fort Hood, Texas, April 15. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Jones’ counterpart, Master Sgt. Darla K. Farr, Division West Lead Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, shared Kasales’ thoughts on properly informing people about the importance of speaking out and standing up for SHARP.

    “This program is here to advocate for the victims of sexual assault and harassment and it will not be tolerated in our organization,” said Farr. “I’d like people to take away from this ceremony that this isn’t just a check-the-block event. I want people to leave here feeling empowered to come forward and have the courage to see that what is being said or done is not acceptable.”

    Concluding the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general, Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, Jr., Division West’s senior enlisted leader, and Kasales, placed flowers that they received at the beginning of the ceremony into the teal garden and signed the division SHARP commitment pledge.

    “By offering the flowers, which symbolizes the victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, it allows people to be a part of the actual program,” said Farr. “The pledge affirms their commitment to the SHARP program and putting their name to something is really a promise that they’ll be accountable for.

    “Having an event like this — it’s small and simple — but it invites everyone to be a part of it. SHARP is important and we have to find different ways of getting it out there,” Farr added.

    Following the ceremony’s close, division leaders reflected on the impact of the dedication and pledge.

    “It was an outstanding ceremony,” said Akuna. “I think our bring-home from this event is our commitment to this fight at Division West. This is something we dedicated ourselves to.”

  • Sgt. 1st Class Christopher L. Dyer, a senior observer-coach/trainer with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, takes a written test to become a member of the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Dyer was selected to be apart of the SAMC, March 31. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas After months of preparation, one Division West noncommissioned officer joined the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, March 31.

    Sgt. 1st Class Christopher L. Dyer, a senior observer-coach/trainer with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, spent long hours and sacrificed much to attain the title of SAMC member.

    “I felt happiness and relief after I found out I was selected,” said Dyer. “I was happy to have gone through the process and relieved to have accomplished my goal.”

    The road to the SAMC was filled with rigorous tasks for Dyer. Would he not only have to take a written exam, physical fitness test, write a 700-word essay, but also prove to a panel of senior enlisted leaders, that he embodied the standards and spirit of the elite club.

    “The club shows how professional we are,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna Jr., Division West command sergeant major. “It’s about building the next generation of noncommissioned officers.”

    Spanning back six months, Dyer began his journey to the SAMC. He was compelled to pursue membership by his former battalion command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard A. Henson, and his mentor at the division level.

    “I didn’t know much about it, except it was a club for the prestigious NCOs,” said Dyer. “To prepare, I printed off every regulation on the MOI.”

    Meeting weekly with his mentor, Sgt. 1st Class Christie R. Holloway, Division West Career Counselor and a member of SAMC since 2004, Dyer prepped and allowed her to push him to achieve his goal.

    Sgt. 1st Class Christopher L. Dyer, left, a senior observer-coach/trainer with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, talks with Sgt. 1st Class Christie Holloway, Division West Retention noncommissioned officer, before his Sergeant Audie Murphy Club board appearance, March 31. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “We practiced reporting procedures and drill and ceremony, amongst other tasks,” said Holloway. “I found him to be a determined individual.”

    Dyer balanced out his SAMC studies with his everyday duties, to include his military and scholastic pursuits.

    “I had to split time studying for my master’s degree, regular duty and studying for the board,” said Dyer. “I finished a 25-page paper in five days in order to free up time to prepare for the board appearance.”

    Holloway said Dyer was a humble person. Personifying that virtue, he didn’t hesitate to attribute his success to his faith and loved ones.

    “Sgt. 1st Class Holloway kept me on track and pepped up, but my greatest supporters were my wife and daughter,” said Dyer. “They allowed me to break away from them during dinner or family time to study.

    Truly the only way I could’ve made it this far is with their help and the blessings of God getting me through,” he added.

    Quickly approaching the Division West board, Dyer re-read every regulation and bits of information pertaining to the SAMC. He said his wife would even go as far as to quiz and drill him while they were driving, presenting him with the toughest questions she thought he would encounter.

    “This whole process has definitely opened my eyes to how much information there is out there,” said Dyer. “Also that I don’t have to know it all, as long as I know where to find and reference it for me and my Soldiers.”

    The day of the division board, his leaders and peers rallied to support him.

    Sgt. 1st Class Christopher L. Dyer, a senior observer-coach/trainer with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, reports to a panel of Division West senior enlisted leaders for an opportunity to vie for membership in the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club at division headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, March 31. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “He’s always trying to get his Soldiers more engaged,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James L. Collins, 1-393rd senior enlisted leader. “He fully supports his Soldiers and I will support him the same.”

    After his selection, Akuna assured him that his journey starts now.

    “This is not a job, it’s a profession,” said Akuna, referring to Dyer’s future involvement as a member of the SAMC.

    Dyer, a faithful and dedicated volunteer with the Gatesville, Copperas Cove and Fort Hood communities, saw Akuna’s words as a pleasant challenge.

    “Now that I’m a member, more than ever, I have an opportunity to stand in front of Soldiers and show them what a professional looks like,” said Dyer. “I’ll let them know that they can achieve more than they think, if they can just put their mind to it.”

    As Dyer’s leader and mentor, Collins and Holloway express their confidence in the example that he will set for his Soldiers, subordinates and peers.

    “I believe he can get other Soldiers to follow in this path to SAMC,” said Collins.

    “I see greatness in him,” said Holloway. “He exemplifies what it means to be in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.”

    To learn more, visit www.hood.army.mil/samc.

  • Chap. (Lt. Col.) Paul Andreasen, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, gathered more than a dozen Soldiers and their families together for a Strong Bonds weekend full of family fun, bonding and skills enrichment at the Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, Texas, March 27-29. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs

    Grapevine, Texas — More than a dozen Soldiers and their families gathered for a weekend of family fun, bonding and skills enrichment here, March 27-29.          

    Showcasing their dedication to the Soldiers and families they serve, Chap. (Lt. Col.)  Paul Andreasen and the 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, ministry team planned the family retreat at the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park and resort to focus on couples’ communication skills, all while providing a much-needed respite from the daily rigors of life.

    “At this particular event we’re using “The 5 Languages of Love,” by Dr. Gary Chapman, which helps couples identify what love language they have been gifted with so they can learn to speak each other’s love language and in turn enhance their overall communication skills,” said Andreasen.

    However, “The 5 Languages of Love” is not the only instruction used during these events.         

    “We also use many other programs of instruction,” said Andreasen. “For our family events we also use ‘Couple Communication,’ which focuses primarily on communication skills and also a program called ‘Active Relationship,’ which includes a whole host of modules designed to enhance relationship skills.”

    Andreasen highlighted one particular program his team uses for their singles events called “How Not to Marry a Jerk.”

    “Perhaps the most popular singles program we have is called, “How Not to Marry a Jerk,” said Andreasen. “The program offers skills and techniques to individual Soldiers to help them side-step marrying somebody they would later regret and how to marry somebody they could live well with.”

    While identifying each other’s love languages was a key point of discovery at the event, the overall goal was to enhance each couples’ communications skills.

    “If families can walk away from this particular event with enhanced communications skills that they can carry with them through the trials and tribulations of marriage for years and years until death do us part, than that’s what I’m looking for,” said Andreasen.

    Couples invited to the 479th Field Artillery Brigade's family Strong Bonds event held at the Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, Texas, March 27-29, pose for one last photo before departing for home. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    For many of the attendees, the weekend served two purposes: providing tools to improve communications within their marriages, and providing much-needed family time.

    “Two things I took away from it were the original communications technique that we went over which referenced repeating back to the other person so they really know what you’re saying, and also acknowledging that your spouse is not going to change everything that you want them to change, and that’s okay,” said Capt. David Miller, 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade.

    “It was nice to be able to actually go and do something that we wouldn’t normally be able to do,” said Miller’s wife, Sharla.

    “It was also nice to work on our marriage,” she added. “Being in an Army marriage, you’re constantly apart and then thrown back together, so you have to get used to being apart and then you have to get used to being thrown back together again. It’s actually really difficult for a lot of people. You either figure it out or you don’t.”

    Whether a participant enjoyed the opportunity for family bonding or the discovery of their particular language of love, consensus was virtually unanimous — the Strong Bonds program is extremely important and needs to expand.

    “Next to MRT (Master Resiliency Training) it is probably the most efficacious program that the Army has,” said Andreasen. “I would like to see it expanded to help more families and help more single Soldiers.”

    “These are extremely important,” echoed Miller. “I just came out of company command and I can’t tell you how many marriages were not doing well because of optempo or other stressors the civilian world may not experience in the same way.

    “I would actually like to see more of these,” added Miller. “Maybe a variation of programs like advanced family or marriage retreats with a slightly different more advanced curriculum.”

    The chaplain said the Strong Bonds program is a Department of the Army program administered by the Chief of Chaplains Office. He added that the program includes instruction for both single Soldiers and married couples and encourages the spiritual aspect of relationships.

    Andreasen estimates that the 479th Field Artillery Brigade’s Strong Bonds program has served hundreds of Soldiers and family members since 2008. The 479th ministry team holds four events each year: two for singles and two for families. For more information on your unit’s Strong Bonds program, contact your unit chaplain.

  • Capt. Michael D. Bales, with the 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, conducts the flexed arm hang as part of requirements to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge ("Das Abzeichen fur Leistungen in Truppendienst") at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Command Sgt. Maj. Edgardo Cuadrado, 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

    By Capt. Michael D. Bales, 166th Aviation Brigade, First Army Division West

    FORT BLISS, Texas — A few Division West aviation Soldiers recently earned the German Armed Forces Proficiency and Marksmanship Badge during an event hosted by the German Air Defense School at Fort Bliss, Texas.

    The German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (“Das Abzeichen fur Leistungen in Truppendienst”) tests a Soldiers’ physical and mental toughness, requiring them to dig deep in order to qualify.

    Only German and Allied Soldiers who successfully complete a combat lifesaver test, 110-meter shuttle run, 1000-meter sprint, flexed-arm hang, 12-kilometer ruck march, 100-meter swim in uniform, and pistol marksmanship qualification earn the badge.

    Soldiers must complete all events within a prescribed time to earn points, earning a gold, silver, or bronze badge according to their overall score.

    Lt. Col. Sean Smith, 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade commander, conducts the 12-kilometer ruck march as part of the requirements to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge ("Das Abzeichen fur Leistungen in Truppendienst") at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Command Sgt. Maj. Edgardo Cuadrado, 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

    "I fell short of the gold standard for some events while practicing, but the added adrenaline of competing, especially with young ROTC cadets, was enough to push me over the top," said Lt. Col. Sean Smith, commander, 1st Battalion, 351st Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade. 

    The German Armed Forces Badge for Marksmanship (“Schutzenschnur”) is earned for proficiency firing the G36 rifle, P8 pistol and MG3 machine gun. Depending on the number of targets successfully engaged with each weapon, the Soldier can earn a gold, silver or bronze badge.

    The 1-351st Soldiers were grateful to German Master Sgt. Thomas Schade and the entire German Air Defense School for allowing the Nighthawks to participate in the marksmanship tests.

    "It was an honor to compete for and earn this badge, particularly as both my dad and wife earned it previously," said Capt. Mike D. Bales, 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment.

    During the three-day event, Smith, Bales, and Sgt. 1st Class Demis A. Valdez, 1st Battalion, 351st Regiment, earned the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charles M. Day, Sgt. 1st Classes Anthony D. Linton, Joseph A. Tijerina, Demis A. Valdez, and Spc. Lashawn D. Frazier, all earned German Armed Forces Badges for Marksmanship.

  • Sgt. Maj. Susan Hunter, 166th Aviation Brigade, stands with her Family during her retirement ceremony at the 25th Street Chapel on Fort Hood, Texas, Friday. (Photo by Capt. Sean J. Davis, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Capt. Sean J. Davis, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — A Women’s Army Corps enlistee retired after over 33 years of military service Friday at the 25th Street Chapel, here.

    “I've been everywhere,” said Sgt. Maj. Susan Hunter, as she referenced a song by Hank Snow.

    Hunter’s career allowed her family to travel across the United States as she held a myriad of positions.

    Sgt. Maj. Susan Hunter, 166th Aviation Brigade, poses with her husband, Jeff Hunter, as she receives her Army Certificate of Appreciation during her retirement ceremony at the 25th Street Chapel on Fort Hood, Texas, Friday.(Photo by Capt. Sean J. Davis, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    She began her career in the WAC during 1975 at a very different period of American history — before women were integrated into military formations. She now works as the 166th Aviation Brigade’s operations sergeant major.

    “As a young woman from Nebraska, I had dreamed of becoming a farmer/rancher's wife, not a career woman,” said Hunter.

    Hunter exceeded her expectations, leading a life and career that was only a dream of many women from her hometown of Arnold, Nebraska — population 510, as of the 2010 census. She progressed through the Army ranks from private to sergeant major.

    As a sergeant major, she was charged with the health and welfare of Soldiers and equipment, as well as being a senior adviser to field grade officers and commanders.

    “I’m so proud of my mother and she truly inspires me to follow in her footsteps and become a Chief Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Detrick Thomas, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Vehicles and Equipment Section, 91st Maintenance Operations Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota and Hunter’s son.

    Sgt. Maj. Susan Hunter, 166th Aviation Brigade, addresses the audience during her retirement ceremony at the 25th Street Chapel on Fort Hood, Texas, Friday. (Photo by Capt. Sean J. Davis, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    “Our families share all the hardships, know all of the fears and make personal sacrifices daily, all without rank, pay or recognition” said Col. Christopher E. Albus, 166th Aviation Brigade commander.

    Albus revealed the Hunters’ legacy and honored military family members as the real heroes of service.

    “When Jeff said, ‘I do,’ I informed him he had a responsibility as the spouse of a Soldier,” said Hunter. “To be a member of the Family Readiness Group.”

    Jeff took that challenge to heart and excelled as a volunteer and FRG advocate. Albus presented him with an Army Certificate of Appreciation signed by Army Chief of Staff General Ray T. Odierno, and an Army Certificate of Appreciation from the 166th for his support to his wife and countless unit FRG’s over Hunter’s 33-year career.

    ”Sgt. Maj. Hunter, your service to this great Army does not end here today. The scores of Soldiers you influenced and helped develop over your 33 years of service remain,” said Albus. “They carry forward your standards, your examples and marching in your footsteps into the Army of tomorrow. Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

  • Chap. (Maj.) David W. Peters, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 166th Aviation Brigade, posed for a photo during a book signing for the release of his memoir, “Death Letter:  God, Sex, and War” (Tactical 16 Press, 2014) at the Harker Heights Public Library, Harker Heights, Texas. (Photo by 1st Lt. Jocelyn L. White, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West)

    By 1st Lt. Jocelyn L. White, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West

    Fort Hood, Texas — When one Army chaplain, during a time of divorce, alienation, despair, rejection and betrayal, turned to reading memoirs of others, it did not help him understand his own problems.

    Not finding the single story that could help, Chap. (Maj.) David W. Peters wrote his own book.

    In “Death Letter: God, Sex and War,” Peters began with his 2006 deployment to Iraq with Fort Hood’s 62nd Engineer Battalion, and the trials of his homecoming. His dark and humorous picture of life after war has resonated with Soldiers, Families and veterans who have read his book.

    “One of my most cherished letters is from a woman whose son died in 2013. He was a homeless Vietnam veteran,” said Peters. “She said that she felt like her dead son was speaking to her through this book.”

    Now a Chaplain with First Army Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade, Peters finds he experiences the same numbness, anger, and the broken marriage awaiting when he returned from Iraq. His attempts to numb his symptoms with alcohol and sex sent him into even deeper despair. He wrote his memoir during this time as an attempt to say goodbye to the man he was before he deployed, with the hope that he could figure out who he should become.  

    “The biggest problem downrange for most Soldiers in my experience was shattered relationships,” said Peters. “When I came home, I found out my relationship had shattered, just like the Soldiers I served.”

    Peters also writes about his faith, and how he thought he’d lost that faith during war and homecoming. His fractured narrative, often explicit, gives the reader a snapshot of his struggles and challenges to continue to serve the many Soldiers that depended on him for spiritual support.

    “I’m always surprised about the book’s impact on people,” said Peters. “So many Family members and veterans have told me how the book helped them understand what happened to them or their loved one in war.”

    On a somber note, Peters talks about an account with a Soldier he consoled that suffered from double limb amputation and relationship issues.

    “I remember a young Army Ranger who was getting into frequent fights with his girlfriend. I went to his room one day and he was on the floor. His girlfriend was packing her bags, because she couldn’t take his anger anymore,” said Peters. “On the floor, he started sobbing. I just got down on the floor next to him and just stayed with him until he was ready to talk.”

    Peters recalls the difficulty of that moment and also how he had to be strong for fellow comrade.

    “There aren’t many words for those moments. ‘Where is God in those moments’ we might wonder,” said Peters. “All I could think, in that difficult moment, was that God was down there on the floor with him, weeping.”

    Peters recalls in ‘Death Letter’ that when he left for Iraq, he thought about the many things he could lose: An arm, a leg, or his life. He never expected to lose himself or the God he took with him to war. Now, Peters emphasizes the need for Soldiers to care for each other during our long journey home from war.

    “It’s like U2 wrote in their song,” Peters says, “We get to carry each other.”

    Peters, also a priest at Grace Episcopal Church in Georgetown, Texas, saw that there were few rituals to bring warriors home from war, founded the Episcopal Veterans Fellowship that meets weekly and conducts ‘Pilgrimages of Remembrance and Reconciliation’ at Central Texas churches.

    “These groups are designed to build community and process the spiritual changes that happen after combat,” said Peters. “We always have someone bring a Lament, a poem, song, or story, that helps them process their own experience in war.”

    The fellowship group has three regular meetings in Killeen, Georgetown and Austin. They soon plan to launch a group in Houston.

    Most of Peters’ work in the 166th is not always out in front. While he loves praying at ceremonies, promotions, changes of command, and balls, his greatest privilege is to be with someone during their time of need. Chaplains maintain the strictest confidentiality with Soldiers during difficult times, such as depression, divorce, alcoholism, and suicide.

    “World War I Army Chap. Paul Tillich said, ‘The first task of love is listening’,” sited Peters.

    Peters’ book “Death Letter: God, Sex, and War” can be purchased wherever books are sold.

  • Service members, their families and veterans alike gather for the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for military appreciation day here, March 4. Organizers provided a free meal, coupons for carnival rides and free entrance to a world-class rodeo and concert featuring country music star Hunter Hayes. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    Service members, their families and veterans alike gather to watch "chuck wagon" during the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's military appreciation day held here, March 4. Organizers provided a free meal, coupons for carnival rides and free entrance to a world-class rodeo and concert featuring country music star Hunter Hayes. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    Service members, their families and veterans alike gather to watch a musical performance by the U.S. Marine Corp Band, New Orleans, during the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's military appreciation day held here, March 4. Organizers provided a free meal, coupons for carnival rides and free entrance to a world-class rodeo and concert featuring country music star Hunter Hayes. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    Photos by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs

  • Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general converses with retirees over breakfast at the Blackjack Dining Facility on Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 26. The breakfast was an informal meet-and-greet the day before the formal III Corps retirement ceremony. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — III Corps and Fort Hood, alongside First Army Division West, held a breakfast for 15 Soldiers and a civilian retiring from active federal and civil service, Feb. 26.

    “The breakfast was intended to be an opportunity to meet the retirees at a more personal level,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general and speaker for the next day’s retirement ceremony. “It was a chance to hear some of their experiences and for them to meet others who are facing the same or similar life frustrations.”

    Attendees gathered at the Blackjack Dining Facility on Fort Hood to meet the Division West command team of Colt and Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, Division West command sergeant major. Soldiers, spouses and civilians sat together and conversed as they enjoyed breakfast.

    “The breakfast was different and unique,” said Sgt. 1st Class Niarcos de’Shong, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade noncommissioned officer.

    Not only was the breakfast an informal meet-and-greet, but a prequel to the formal retirement ceremony that would take place the very next morning.

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general, talks with Rosanna Honts, III Corps Mission Support Element financial management specialist, over breakfast at the Blackjack Dining Facility on Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 26. Honts was the only civilian to be offered in the formal retirement ceremony, Feb. 27. She is also a veteran of the Women’s Army Corps. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “I like it a lot, because we got to meet those that were going to conduct the ceremony. As I sat and listened, I realized that we had some of the same things in common,” added de’Shong.

    The room was filled with laughter and reminiscent memories of years of service. From the ranks staff sergeant to colonel as well as one Department of the Army civilian, all found common ground, and experiences to relate to.

    “I enjoyed getting to meet some of the other retirees and hearing their plans and what they’ve done in the past,” said Rosanna Honts, III Corps Mission Support Element financial management specialist and veteran of the Women’s Army Corps. “Maj. Gen. Colt was absolutely wonderful. He spoke with everyone with such ease.”

    The retirement ceremony began the next morning at III Corps headquarters. The retirees, their Families and supporters, all listened attentively to Colt as he gave words of appreciation.

    “Leaving the service for many is an understandably difficult transition to make and in most cases, whether we overtly admit it or not, the profession and its way of life, is really an addictive waver of love,” said Colt. “Love of challenges, love of teamwork, and most importantly, the love of a fellow Soldier and our Family members.”

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, second from right, First Army Division West commanding general, Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, right, Division West command sergeant major, pose for a photo with Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jesse E. McCoy, Jr. and his wife, during a retirement ceremony at III Corps headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 27. The previous day Division West command team hosted a breakfast for the retirees at the Blackjack Dining Facility on post. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    The retirees arouse when called upon, just as they did to serve their country, to receive their awards and flags for their dedicated service.

    At the conclusion of the ceremony and their careers, some had different feelings as they faced an excitingly new, yet unknown future.

    “It’s been a long, hard road to get here and it will be interesting tomorrow,” said Col. David Hinckley, deputy of III Corps Surgeon’s office. “It’s kind of closing a chapter to a book.”

    “Retirement is a big step,” said de’Shong. “You go from something you know to the unknown, which is no different than when you started in the Army.”

    In closing, Colt emphasized the pride, respect, and appreciation he personally has for each of the new retirees.

    “We owe the retiring Soldiers and Families our professional respect and personal appreciation,” said Colt. “They’ve certainly earned it. It makes me incredibly proud to serve with them and for them.”

  • Master Resiliency Training module “Avoid Thinking Traps” was taught to Soldiers in 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, on Jan. 10 at Parks Reserve Training Area in Dublin, California, in order to provide the Soldiers with “tools” when training units as observers-coach/trainers. The unit has conducted MRT for the past three months. (Photo by By Sgt. 1st Class Rosario Urquieta, 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)   

    By Sgt. 1st Class Rosario Urquieta, 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs

    DUBLIN, California – Reserve Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, recently received Master Resiliency Training over the past three months at Camp Parks, California.

    MRT is designed to help Soldiers cope with and adjust to various situations they may face in their private lives as well as military situations.

    There are several areas of concern within MRT. One such area is called “Thinking Traps.” Based on MRT conducted by the United States Army, thinking traps are easy to fall into and sometimes difficult to climb out of.

    “Thinking traps make you focus on one set way,” said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stickles, detachment sergeant and MRT instructor for the 363rd.

    Stickles also said that being aware of what your common thinking traps are and consistently training to avoid these traps can help you succeed, not only in the military, but also in your everyday life.

    “Mental agility is the primary goal to avoiding thinking traps”, said Stickles. “Doing this in a classroom set-up is fairly easy. But what you need to start thinking about is how can this help me outside of a classroom?”

    Soldiers were given worksheets to help them understand their own thinking traps and how to determine their individual triggers. This is one of the methods used to instruct the class along with interactive conversations and sharing personal experiences.

    Observers-coach/trainers from 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West, listen to a Master Resiliency Training class on “Thinking Traps” and how to spot and avoid them during the unit’s Feb. 8 battle assembly at Parks Reserve and Training Area in Dublin, California. The unit has conducted MRT for the past three months. (Photo by By Sgt. 1st Class Rosario Urquieta, 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

    Stickles stated that training and evaluating each individuals’ thinking traps and triggers will help in dealing with real life situations both at home and at the work.

    In an open-ended question Stickles asked the class, “How does this affect you?”

    Sgt. 1st Class Genaro Garcia, 363rd’s Maintenance NCO replied, “I think it affects us all in different ways. Thinking traps can affect us in things we do every day without us being aware of them.”

    Garcia’s answer prompted Stickles to ask a follow-up question. “How can you avoid thinking traps?”

    “By recognizing the thinking traps,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Payne, 363rd’s Medical NCO. Payne also said that by taking classes like MRT, it becomes easier to recognize the signs of thinking traps ahead of time.

    Stickles ended the class with this message, “Learn to think outside the box, take your blinders off. Most of us have the coping mechanisms built in; we just don’t know how to recognize them.”

    This is how observer-coach/trainers maintain and sharpen their mental skills in order to coach Soldiers in the field and maintain their readiness to detect and/or overcome mental obstacles.

    The 363rd supports units throughout the complete training cycle to achieve collective training readiness in accordance with United States Armed Forces Command, First Army, Division West and 120th Infantry Brigade directives in building competent and capable units able to meet the Army Force Generation requirements.

  • Maj. Jeremy Simmons, 3rd Battalion 393rd Field Artillery Operations Officer, bestows the Saint Barbara’s Medal on Sgt. 1st Class Jesse English of Kaunakakai, Hawaii during the annual Saint Barbara Ball hosted by 41st Fires Brigade on Killeen, Texas, recently. (Courtesy photo)

    By Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ismael Rodriguez, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    KILLEEN, Texas – A 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Soldier was recently inducted into the prestigious Order of Saint Barbara given to outstanding Soldiers from within the field artillery community.

    Over 900 Soldiers and family members from units across Fort Hood attended the Order of St. Barbara award ceremony during the annual St. Barbara’s Day Ball, held February 21 at the Killeen Civic Center.

    Sgt. 1st Class Jesse English from Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Field Artillery, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West was nominated by existing awardees and was selected by the Order of St. Barbara board from the Field Artillery Association.

    A rigorous vetting process ensures the future integrity of the honor. English currently serves an observer-coach/trainer and an operations noncommissioned officer.

    “To be considered and then awarded this award by very experienced and skilled field artillerymen is a great honor,” said English. “I am the kind of person who works hard at everything and then to be awarded this award is an honor beyond belief.”

    English began his career in the Hawaiian National Guard as an infantryman, then transferred to Air Force Special Operations as a weatherman. In 2006, he transferred to the Army as a field artillery meteorologist.

    The ceremony was hosted by Col. Patrick Gaydon, 41st Field Artillery Brigade commander and featured guest speaker, Lt. Gen. David C. Halverson, U.S. Army Installation Management Command and Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. 

    The Honorable Order of St. Barbara is given to Soldiers and civilians who have served the field artillery community with distinction, made a significant contribution in support of the field artillery, and represent the highest standards of integrity, moral character, professional competence, and dedication to duty.

  • Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, addresses Soldiers, families, veterans and community members with words of appreciation on behalf of Fort Hood service members during the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce’s seventh Annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry at the Coryell County Activities Complex in Gatesville, Texas, Friday. (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 seventh Annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry here Friday for Soldiers, families and veterans from their southern neighbor, Fort Hood.

    “This is the military appreciation fish fry we hold every year,” said Gary Chumley, Gatesville mayor. “It’s mainly to just touch base with our neighbors down at Fort Hood, and let them know how much we appreciate their service to our country and community.”

    The fish fry is deemed a very festive occasion, even though it was birthed from the unfortunate events from the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting.

    The incident spurred Gatesville residents to come to the aid of Soldiers and Families of Fort Hood; with one of the most notable events being the Military Appreciation Fish Fry held each year since then.

    “We’re just here to help out in any way we can” said Chumley.

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, right, First Army Division West commanding general, talks with Gary Chumley, mayor of Gatesville, Texas, during the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce’s seventh Annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry at the Coryell County Activities Complex Friday. The fire department prepared the catfish, hushpuppies and sides for the event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    The gathering began with a social hour of Soldiers, families and residents mingling together in the Coryell County Activities Complex. Retired Army chaplain Rev. Buddy Wheat gave the evening’s prayer.

    Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, addressed the crowd with gratefulness on behalf of Fort Hood.

    “Thank you very much for inviting us here tonight,” said MacFarland. “The hospitality of Gatesville is delightful, and the way that you’ve supported our troops is absolutely wonderful.”

    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general, followed MacFarland as the event’s guest speaker. Colt began his speech with not only words of adoration for Gatesville, but also of his predecessors.

    “The truth of the matter is, it was my high privilege to come in here after Warren Phipps and Perry Wiggins, people who established an unbelievable relationship, I think, with Gatesville,” said Colt. “I am marveled by how much time this community continues to contribute to our welfare.

    “The patriotism, hospitality and humility of this community makes it particularly special for us to be a part of,” Colt added.

    Soldiers, families, veterans, Gatesville residents and friends all gather to enjoy catfish, hushpuppies and sides prepared by the Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department for the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce’s seventh Annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry at the Coryell County Activities Complex in Gatesville, Texas, Friday. 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)

    Colt also paused to thank the mobilizing Guardsmen and Reserve Soldiers that attended the fish fry. The service members came from various units from Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan and Washington.

    “We recognize all that you have given; all your sacrifices in order to make a difference for all of us,” said Colt. “You have our tremendous respect and appreciation.”

    The Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department prepared the fish, hushpuppies and sides that were enjoyed by all.

    “We have a volunteer fire department that’s second-to-none in this state,” said Chumley. “In addition to that, they are also fantastic cooks.”

    One Washington National Guard aviators said the evening would have a lasting impact.

    “It was a great time,” he said. “It’s something I haven’t seen from communities back home. It’s a truly welcoming community.”

  • Capt. Jonathan Farwell, senior Observer-Coach/Trainer for 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, walks members of the brigade staff through a Rehearsal of Concept Drill recently at Fort Bliss, Texas. The ROC drill is designed to address potential causes for concern the mission commander might have prior to execution on the ground. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas — Leaders from 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, conducted a Rehearsal of Concept Drill here recently, in preparation for their first training support battalion observer-coach/trainer mission.

    “The ROC drill was very important,” said Capt. DeCarlos Ware, senior O-C/T, 2/362nd FA. “It allowed us as a unit and team to synchronize our efforts throughout the battle ensuring that every team player and role player understands where they need to be and when they need to be there.”

    Ware was one of three O-C/T’s to brief during the ROC drill giving Col. James Gallivan, commander of 402nd FA, a frame of reference for where the battalion is headed as they prepare to execute their mission.

    Col. Jay Gallivan, commander of 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, listens to 2nd Battalion, 362nd Field Artillery Regiment, brief his staff on an upcoming exercise during a Rehearsal of Concept Drill recently at Fort Bliss, Texas. ROC drills allow commanders to address concerns and ask questions of the Brigade staff prior to executing a mission set. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    “I think it was valuable to allow some of the brigade staff to see what we’ve done and once again understand where they can render some assistance,” said Maj. Stefan Hutnik, executive officer of 2/362nd FA,

    For the last couple of years, the battalion has served as the Plans, Exercise Movement Control battalion with the 402nd FA. However, as part of Operation Bold Shift, the unit is scheduled to transition to a training support battalion, a mission that the leadership and Soldiers in 2/362nd are looking forward to.

    “As we transition to a training support battalion, it gets us into the fight as far as training and preparing units to deploy,” said Ware.

    According to Hutnik, the transition is a two-phase operation. Phase I coincided with the unit being able to provide O-C/T support to the 1st Armored Division during Operation Iron Strike during December 2014, and Phase II coincides with the battalion’s upcoming O-C/T mission supporting the New Hampshire National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment.

    Staff members from the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade take notes and listen to the brigade commander’s feedback during a Rehearsal of Concept Drill here recently. During the ROC drill members of the staff as well as members from the units executing an upcoming mission are questioned by the commander. The commander addresses his concerns to ensure that his intent is being met. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, Mobilization Training Center Bliss Public Affairs)

    Capt. Jonathan Farwell, senior O-C/T with 2/362nd FA, didn’t experience the PEMC mission; however, his experience during Operation Iron Strike introduced him to the O-C/T mission set.

    “For me, that mission was a good mission to step in to becoming an O-C/T at the 402nd giving me guidance on how to look at things, how to conduct an AAR, and how to mentor my counterparts,” said Farwell.

    Lt. Col. James Laslie, commander of 2/362nd FA, Hutnik, Farwell, and other senior O-C/T’s presented their training plans to Gallivan and the 402nd staff in ROC drill format receiving his final approval and sincere gratitude for the team’s hard work.

    Hutnik said the battalion is not only excited about its new mission, but also to be artillerymen, and to train Soldiers.

    “Just getting back out there working with artillerymen, putting some rounds down range, is going to make everyone pretty happy,” Hutnik said.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Cynthia Pearson, 166th Aviation Brigade Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) volunteers her time at the Bell County Juvenile Education Center in Killeen, Texas, where she mentors children from ages eight through twelve. (Photo by Capt. Maria Orozco, 166th Aviation Brigade)

    By Spc. Carl Havlik, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

    Fort Hood, Texas — One 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West noncommissioned officer dedicates her time by aiding others in various locations, in different ways.

    “It’s the same thing.  The only thing that changes is the location,” said Sgt. 1st Class Cynthia Pearson, 166th Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

    Pearson devotes all of her free time serving others throughout her community.  She volunteers at Bell County Juvenile Detention Center working with at-risk youths, where she mentors children from ages eight through twelve. 

    On Wednesdays, Pearson provides a ninety minute intervention with students in the all volunteer group:  Building Empowering Appreciating Cultivating Our Neighborhood, the “BEACON” program.  

    Sgt. 1st Class Cynthia Pearson, 166th Aviation Brigade Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) volunteers her free time in various locations around the Fort Hood area and neighboring communities. (Courtesy photo)

    Being appointed as the brigade SARC has given Pearson insight and the knowledge to understand and mentor children.  Most at-risk children had no mentors or parents when they were growing up, so this was a way for her to give something back to them. 

    “It’s always been a passion of mine,” said Pearson. “I did not come from an at-risk upbringing, but I do have children and an opportunity to give back.”

    Pearson also teaches Sunday school at her church every Sunday.  When asked about the differences between teaching Sunday school and at-risk youths, Pearson said it was more biblical, yet for the most part they are the same. 

    The children she mentors have also made an impact on her life. Pearson retires in one year and already has dreams for the future.  According to Pearson, she wants to open a center of her own for at-risk youths in the future as she feels she can do more to help this population.

    Always striving to do more for others is why Pearson will be receiving the Volunteer of the Quarter Award for her selfless service, which continues to inspire others to do the same.  However, do not talk to her about awards, as she seeks her rewards elsewhere.

    “My reward is knowing I did something to help another person,” said Pearson.

  • Master Sgt. Jeffrey Fenlason, Raider Initiative Group leader, provides Bystander Intervention Training to the brigade and battalion command teams from 5th Armored and 402nd Field Artillery Brigades on Fort Bliss, Texas, recently. Col. Raul Gonzalez, commander of 5th AR BDE, and Col. James Gallivan, 402nd FA BDE, first experienced Fenlason and his team at a First Army commanders’ conference in Rock Island, Illinois. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, MTC Bliss Public Affairs)

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

    FORT BLISS, Texas — More than 45 Soldiers and leaders from both 5th Armored and 402nd Field Artillery Brigades received Bystander Intervention training here recently.

    The Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program Victim Advocates received the intense three-day session while brigade and battalion command teams participated in the five-hour executive session.

    Both courses were designed to provoke critical thought and spark dialogue about leader development, trust and their roles within the unit and as a potential bystander.

    Master Sgt. Jeffrey Fenlason, Fort Stewart, Georgia, Raider Initiative Group director, and his team travel throughout the Army teaching Bystander Intervention.

    “We believe we’re doing leader development and culture change work throughout the Army,” said Fenlason.

    While Bystander Intervention sheds light on SHARP-related incidents, it extends across the formation and focuses on the decision making process in that moment for individual witnesses.  

    “What we’re trying to do is poke a little bit through some very engaging scenarios that make you think about what you would do and why you would do it in a particular situation,” said Fenlason.

    For many training participants, it was eye-opening information and a refreshing experience. The training was a transition from typical SHARP-related training and provided a different perspective.

    “The class took us from not really acknowledging the bystander at all to actually being able to justify different actions that a bystander takes,” said Sgt. 1st Class Melliony Carter, 5th Armored Brigade personnel and administrative support non-commissioned officer-in-charge.

    Carter brings a unique perspective having been both a victim of sexual harassment and assault and a bystander.

    “Even with the education of this class, I think I would’ve dealt with it the same way,” said Carter. “You stick to what’s most familiar to you, and we resort back to ‘what’s safer for me’.”

    While the training didn’t change the way she views her own reactions in the incidents, she’s mindful and aware of how they transpire.

     

    Representatives from 5th Armored and 402nd Field Artillery Brigades listen attentively during the Bystander Intervention training on Fort Bliss, Texas, recently. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Parish, MTC Bliss Public Affairs)

    “You know the moments and the seconds that led up to yours,” said Carter. “You’re still in that frame of mind where you’re asking ‘is it truly happening, am I seeing something that’s really real or am I putting something in that’s not real.’”

    For Arellano and Carter, the inaction isn’t based on the individual’s unwillingness to get involved. There are many factors that play a role, but as Arellano sees it, individuals are bystanders to many infractions everyday such as Army uniform violations as well as customs and courtesies.

    “If you were to count up how many times you saw something and didn’t say a word about it, you’d probably lose count,” said Sgt.1st Class Albert Arellano, 5th Armored Brigade Equal Opportunity Advisor.

    The bystander intervention training recognizes and places emphasis on an individual’s decision-making process. Experiences, cultural biases, age, gender and other factors all play into how an individual reacts in the moment.

    “I think as we look at the overall climate of many units, a program like this fosters discussion,” said Fenlason. “People start to talk and in that talking we break down the barrier that stops people from getting involved.”

    Fenlason, one of the creators of this training, and his team, do not see this instruction as SHARP.

    “It combines a lot of different programs,” said Fenlason. “There are elements of the SHARP Program. There are elements of EO (Equal Opportunity). There are elements of Family Advocacy.”

    Col. Raul Gonzalez, commander of 5th Armored Brigade, see the benefits beyond SHARP and EO.

    “I look at it as a leader development session and the big thing is for Soldiers to be mindful of themselves, to understand and then start doing introspection,” he said. “From that, it’ll affect their judgment. Once you’re able to make decisions, you’re then accountable for those decisions. That bystander intervention [training] gets us to that.”

    Col. James Gallivan, commander of 402nd Field Artillery Brigade agrees.

    “We’re growing leaders,” he said. “It’s job one of what we do and it impacts all of our principles.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Ismaro Carrasquillo, victim advocate for the Army Reserve's 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), Fort Totten, New York, interviews Staff Sgt. Erica Cain, a 479th Field Artillery Brigade observer-coach/trainer, during the 389th's SHARP program evaluation. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas W. Wheeler, Division West Public Affairs

    NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas – With sexual harassment and assault response and prevention emerging as a hot button issue for the Army, First Army Division West is taking on a pointed approach to training.

    Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Sgt. 1st Class Tammy Potter, with the 479th Field Artillery Brigade, managed a SHARP “inject”, or evaluation, of the Army Reserve’s 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion during its pre-mobilization culminating training event here recently.

    An inject is a scenario-driven training event designed to check and evaluate leader response.

    “The purpose of a SHARP inject is to help units to practice protecting and caring for victims, to make sure that proper reporting procedures are followed, and to ensure that those that need to know, have the information they need,” said Master Sgt. Darla K. Farr, lead SARC for First Army Division West.

    It directly affects the readiness of the force, and according to Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, needs to be embraced by leaders at all levels to help eliminate sexual assaults and harassment from our formations.

    Farr also said that when setting up an inject, the observer-coach/ trainer’s primary focus should be to bring the unit to the self-realization of what was supposed to happen, what did happen, and what they can do to improve.

    Potter stressed the importance of conducting injects on all units, but especially those scheduled to deploy.

    Sgt. 1st Class Tammy S. Potter, center, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the 479th Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West, gives feedback to Sgt. 1st Class Ismaro Carrasquillo, left, victims advocate for the U.S. Army Reserves 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Fort Totten, New York, during the organizations SHARP program evaluation, held here, Jan. 30, 2015. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler Division West Public Affairs)

    “SHARP injects are vital to a command team when units are preparing to deploy,” said Potter. “Conducting injects like this helps us to ensure units are doing the right thing.”

    Farr stressed the need to always properly handle SHARP incidents, especially while down range.

    “In the heat of battle things happen that often disrupt commands and when complicated with a SHARP incident it is important for units to understand victim care and the steps they need to take to properly handle an incident,” said Farr.

    “Missing just one step, or simply not following the proper procedures, can easily violate a victim’s rights,” added Potter.

    For Lt. Col. Thomas P. Sullivan, commander of the Fort Totten, New York, and Queens, New York-based 389th CSSB, it is about the command gaining a better understanding of the process.

     “Injects help us to better understand the process and the importance of training,” said Sullivan. “The 389th has gone above and beyond when it comes to SHARP. We recognize the threat and we’ve developed policies and training to mitigate it where we can.”

    For the battalion’s victim advocate, and East Meadow, New York, native, Sgt. 1st Class Ismaro Carrasquillo, it’s about confidence gained.

    “It gave me the confidence I needed to know that I can handle this down range,” Carrasquillo said. “It was great information. It also helped us to identify deficiencies in our program that we can work on to make our program stronger, and more efficient.”

    Although the 389th has exceeded both the required SHARP training hours and qualified its SHARP representatives, Sullivan also stressed the need for the command to show compassion for the victim.

    “In the unfortunate event of an incident, we want to be compassionate to the victim. We want to do what we can to prevent future events from occurring and we want justice for the victim,” he added.

    Maj. Glenn R. Herbert, 389th support operations officer and head victims advocate, says it’s also about taking the training home at the end of the duty day.

    “Yes we are reservists, but we also take this home with us. We take it beyond the green suit. We need to change the culture, both in and out of uniform, “said Herbert.

  • Soldiers with First Army Division West’s 120th Infantry Brigade pose with bull riders at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, Feb. 2 for Military Appreciation Day. Division West Soldiers were part of a 300-Soldier group traveling from Fort Hood to the event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT WORTH, Texas Over 20 First Army Division West Soldiers attended the 119th Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo here, Feb. 2 for Military Appreciation Day.

    “Every year we declare one day as military appreciation day,” said Clayton Melton, Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo director and a retired U.S. Army brigadier general. “We worked the Joint Readiness Base here and with Fort Hood to open this up to as many personnel as possible.”

    The Longhorn troops counted among 300 Soldiers invited from Fort Hood to the event.

    Upon arrival at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, Soldiers were given time to explore the grounds before lunch. The morning’s affair included a long list of vendors, livestock showing, horse barrel races and tons of exhibits.

    “It was a great opportunity to see something that we don’t have locally at Fort Hood,” said Capt. Maria Orozco, 166th Aviation Brigade headquarters and headquarters company commander. “The food and festivities were awesome. It was a great experience.”

    As the Soldiers dined, the event directors and organizers gave words of admiration for the nation’s heroes.

    Soldiers from Fort Hood gathered at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, for a Military Appreciation Day, Feb. 2. Approximately 300 Soldiers from Fort Hood were in attendance for the event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “This is a great reunion for me seeing these great Soldiers here,” said Melton. “It brings me joy knowing that I was a part of that group at one time.”

    Music and mounds of great food filled the room, as the Soldiers laughed and conversed with a few of the riders and participants of the upcoming rodeo.

    Riders drifted through the crowd, speaking to the troops and showing gratitude for their selfless service on their behalf. There was a mutual sense of enthusiasm in both the riders’ and Soldiers’ words as they spoke.

    “Those guys do what they do, so we have the freedom to do what we do as Americans,” said Ardie Maier, professional bull rider with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. “With the military here, it gives us incentive to do better and entertain them.”

    The World’s Original Indoor rodeo began with a thunderous roar from the civilian crowd welcoming the legion of Soldiers attending.

    The few hours following that welcome were filled with calf-roping, chuck wagon racing, bull riding and jesting rodeo clowns.

    The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Veterans and Retirees were all in awe of the tremendous effort put forth on their behalf.

    “I thought it was entertaining and something that helps boost the morale of the Fort Hood Soldiers,” said Sgt. Nicholas Sencey, Division West human resources noncommissioned officer. “Being involved in all that made me feel like someone was looking out for the benefits of the Soldiers without expecting anything in return.”

  • Col. Christopher Albus, left, 166th Aviation Brigade commander, and Carla Manning, Gatesville Military Affairs representative, talk with First Army Division West and Gatesville leaders during a meet-and-greet lunch in Gatesville, Texas Jan. 29. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    GATESVILLE, Texas — Gatesville community leadership held a luncheon here Jan. 29 at an Italian restaurant to discuss and enhance the relationship with their partnership unit, First Army Division West.

    “This is a meet-and-greet with some of our local Gatesville leadership and the new commander of Division West, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Colt,” said Diana Fincher, North Fort Hood Ministry Unit Coordinator. “We hope to make our relationship with Division West bigger and better.”

    The assembly included some of the division’s local leadership from the 166th Aviation and 479th Field Artillery Brigades, as well as Fort Hood “Good Neighbors.”

    During the lunch, the leaders focused on what it would take to further develop relations between the two communities.

    “We are trying to build on the relationship that we have already, and find out what Division West needs,” said Carla Manning, Gatesville Military Affairs representative. “Furthermore, what the division can provide to help us support the Soldiers.”

    Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna Jr., Division West command sergeant major, observed the benefits of this meeting of the minds.

    Maj. Gen. Jeffery N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general, discusses the relationship between Division West and the city of Gatesville with Fort Hood Good Neighbor from Gatesville, David Barnard, during a lunch in Gatesville, Texas Jan. 29. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    “It was an outstanding opportunity for myself, as well as the commanding general to meet the civilian leadership of Gatesville,” said Akuna. “It gave him an opportunity to see what they do for us.”

    Akuna continued to explain the depth of the community partnership.

    “They’ve set up a huge list of events to support the Soldiers to include the Military Appreciation Fish Fry, Memorial and Veteran’s Day events, as well as Independence Day,” he said. “They go above and beyond to provide for the Soldiers, and that’s a great win.”

    By the end of the get-together, the Gatesville leadership further proved why there is such a wonderful relationship with the division.

    “We are trying to continue a fantastic relationship as a community that supports North Fort Hood Soldiers who are deploying and are a part of the training staff of Division West,” said Fincher.

    The division’s senior enlisted leader shared those sentiments.

    “I’ve never seen such a close-knit relationship between units and the civilian towns as with Gatesville, Fort Hood and Division West,” said Akuna.

  • Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, left, First Army Division West commanding general, discusses training opportunities with Air Commodore Jan Willem Westerbeek, right, of the Dutch Defense Helicopter Command, and Dutch Brig. Gen. C.J. (Kees) Matthijssen, center, 11th Airmobile Brigade commander, at division headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, Jan. 29. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    By Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, Texas — Dutch officers met with the Division West commanding general here Jan. 29 to discuss potential training opportunities for their units.

    “It was an office call between the commander of Division West and the Air Commodore of the Dutch Defense Helicopter Command, and the Dutch 11th Airmobile Brigade commander, to discuss possible cooperative opportunities,” said Col. Christopher Albus, 166th Aviation Brigade commander, who was present at the meeting.

    The Dutch armed forces have held a significant footprint on Fort Hood for some time now and look to further establish itself at the “Great Place.”

    “I think we already have a good working relationship with units on Fort Hood,” said Air Commodore Jan Willem Westerbeek.

    He further explained the reasons the Dutch train on Fort Hood.

    “We built a business case a few years back, in which we put down which effects we’d like to achieve on our training,” Westerbeek said. “The results of that business case, was that Fort Hood would give us the best opportunities to execute and conduct our training.”

    Col. John White, right, 21st Cavalry Brigade commander, shakes hands with Dutch Brig. Gen. C.J. (Kees) Matthijssen, left, 11th Airmobile Brigade commander, and Air Commodore Jan Willem Westerbeek, center, Dutch Defense Helicopter Command, after an office call with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, First Army Division West commanding general at division headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, Jan. 29. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Division West Public Affairs)

    Division West training alongside Dutch forces here has evolved over time.

    “I think that the Dutch-American relationship is strong,” said Albus. “There is a lot that we can gain from each other, especially as a First Army organization.

    “This is all contingent on whether the Army chooses to select First Army to handle the transition responsibilities from 21st Cavalry Brigade.”

    The idea of future training opportunities and the beneficial international relationship between the two organizations seemed to be a mutual feeling.

    “We are confident that we could have a good cooperation ahead of us,” said Dutch Brig. Gen. C.J. (Kees) Matthijssen, 11th Airmobile Brigade commander.

    Only time will tell what the Army has planned for these allied commanding generals and their units.

    “I rather look forward to the opportunity to potentially work with this great NATO partner,” said Albus. “I think there are benefits for both First Army Division West and the Dutch air and ground forces.”


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