Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Seventh Velvet Hammer

A velvet hammer is sent when there is a loss in the the brigade. Peace be with the family of our fallen soldier. God bless our troops!
On the 29th of May I was notified by LTC Gale (3rd Infantry Division Rear-Detachment Commander) that our Brigade has suffered the loss of one oursoldiers from E/2-69 AR. The nature of the loss is currently underinvestigation. The next of kin of our fallen soldier has been notified. Iask you for your prayers for this Sledgehammer soldier and family.
LTC Scott Quagliata

1-15 Inf. Detains Suspects, Finds Weapons Near Salman Pak

1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Soldiers display the contents
of a cache they discovered north of Salman Pak Sunday

1-15 Inf. Detains Suspects, Finds Weapons Near Salman Pak

Three men were detained and a weapons were found by Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Soldiers north of Salman Pak Sunday.

The weapons confiscated consisted of one rocket propelled grenade launcher, two RPG rounds, three RPG propellants, one bag of magazines and one bag of small arms ammunition.

The detained individuals were found transporting electrical wire, a common component of roadside bombs.

Company B was engaged by two roadside bombs during the mission to eliminate cache sites and interdict infiltration routes in the area. No one was injured
during the incident.

1-15 Medic Helps Child

1-15 Medic Helps Child
By Spc. Ben Hutto, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs
May 29, 2007 - 5:39:35 PM

Blackanthem Military News, FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – A badly burned infant was provided treatment at the Salman Pak hospital Friday by a 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment Civil Affairs Team medic during a medical facility assessment.

While talking with the hospital’s ambulance drivers, several hospital workers rushed up to Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Smith, 34, San Antonio, and took him to a small room where an 18-month-old boy was being kept.

The child, who had second degree burns over 80 percent of his body, was suffering from dehydration and having difficulty breathing.

Smith and two of the hospital’s two doctor’s assistants removed dead tissue, cleared the child’s airway, and gave the child formula to rehydrate him as the child’s parents, three aunts and grandmother watched.

“I’ve done a follow-up on the child, and he is doing better,” said Smith. “The infection looks like it is decreasing so I am happy. The child will be scarred, but he will live, so I’m very happy.”

Smith showed the two doctor’s assistants, whom he has befriended, how to apply the treatments the child will need over the following weeks. He also supplied the child with badly needed antibiotics.

In addition to the assistants’ daily home treatment, Smith plans to check on the child weekly. “The people here are very thankful for everything we have done to help,” said Smith. “We are very welcome here and the people here appreciate that we are helping make Salman Pak a safer more secure place.”

Greetings from PB Assassin

May 30, 2007

Greetings, Assassin Family,
I sincerely hope this letter finds everyone doing well. As it leaves me it leaves the men and I doing well.Well, another month has passed and a lot has happened during the past month. To start with the month of May brought many things with it…such as heat. It has been hot all month with most days reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the heat, the men have still performed superbly in executing over 90 combat patrols. To further add, we have executed combined operations with both the Iraqi National Police and the Iraqi Police, continuing to build on their confidence and build on the rapport between coalition forces. Unfortunately the entire month has not been very well for us. As you all may know by now, three Assassins have been taken out of the fight and are in hospitals recovering from their injuries; thank God that none of those injuries are life-threatening. However, I continue to ask that you keep all the service members over here in your prayers, but please add a special prayer request for SGT Santos, SPC McQuiston, and SPC Grenier. All three are in separate hospitals so please assist the families in keeping these young men’s spirits up as they may feel alone during this time of struggle. Considering that I am still receiving treatment for my wound in which I learned recently that there is nerve damage, I can only imagine what thoughts can be running through our young heroes’ minds.

Not to change the subject, but we have moved to Patrol Base Assassin. The men have been working their butts off for the past couple of days to get our force protection up and satisfactory living conditions sustainable. We will continue to work as such for the next day in an effort of being fully operational. Later today I will announce to the men that we do have one phone and one computer to call or send emails home. As I type, the computer specialist got both systems working. Later down the road we hope to have more systems available and have a fully functional MWR for our men. The men are living inside buildings and we are working as fast as possible to have operating air conditioning units in their rooms. 1st Platoon is complete with this requirement. 2nd Platoon should be complete today. Mortars and Headquarters section, which both sections reside in the same building, should also be complete today. As for snail mail, we will conduct patrols periodically back to FOB Hammer to retrieve the mail.

Yesterday I received two packages from PFC Cattey’s mother, Ms. Donna Cattey. She has been working diligently to collect us beanie babies to pass to the Iraqi children while on our patrols. It is a great idea and I look forward to handing them out in our needier villages when we resume our patrols.

During this past month we have experienced the difference between rumors and news. I ask that all back there please remember to be responsible with the information being passed through unofficial channels. None of us wants to hear “bad” news and when news comes that is inaccurate, it makes the situation worse than it should be. So please be careful in our words and actions.

Lastly, the 1st day of this month also brought news that I will be moving to command Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. The exact date is still not known, but the change of command will take place sometime early July. The individual that will replace me is Captain Troy Thomas who currently works in the Squadron Operations Center. He is a great guy and will perform well for the men. Some of you may be asking yourself, “I thought he was staying in command until they returned?” I can only reply with, I thought I was also. However, the move is not a bad move and is a good career move for me. As a combat arms officer, your records look good if you have two successful commands. A lot of people are only afforded one. The Brigade Commander has been impressed with the Assassins enough to give me a second command. So with a heavy heart I formally announce to you that I will be leaving during the summer. But as I mentioned before, the men will be in outstanding hands and I have the utmost confidence in CPT Thomas that he will do a better job than I have.

Well, I think I have rambled on long enough. Oh yeah, May also brought the start of R&R Leave in which some of you have Soldiers back home with you. Next month will see approximately another nine Assassins return home for R&R Leave. Considering the difficulties it has been with getting some of the Soldiers out of FOB Hammer, I will not attempt to tell you when they are coming home. Rather, I will allow them to contact you personally when they receive their travel plans in Kuwait.

Take care, God bless, and please remember to keep SGT Santos, SPC McQuiston, and SPC Grenier in your thoughts and prayers.

Captain Arthur L. McGrue III
Troop Commander
Alpha Troop, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry

3rd ID Memorial Day Ceremony

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I-15 Infantry Finds Bomb Making Materials

Multi-National Division - Center
Media Release
HQ, MND-Center
Baghdad, Iraq


1-15 Infantry Finds Bomb Making Materials
By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team found a weapons cache Monday north of Salman Pak.

The unit located two barrels dug into the ground. One barrel contained various bomb making materials and weapons including one mortar, eight projectiles, a battery, two sticks of dynamite, a roll of crush wire, and detonation cord.

A bomb disposal unit destroyed the cache.

3rd HBCT Opens Aid Station

Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., the commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Pearson, the Command Sergeant Major of the 3rd HBCT, and Pfc. Relaine Hughs, the youngest medic in the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, from Chicago, cut the ribbon on the doorway of the Forward Operating Base Hammer SGT Robertson Aid Station Monday.
Multi-National Division - Center
Media Release
HQ, MND-Center
Baghdad, Iraq


3rd HBCT Opens Aid Station At FOB Hammer
Story by Spc. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq –The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team unveiled its combat aide station at Forward Operating Base Hammer Monday.
Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., the commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Pearson, the Command Sergeant Major of the 3rd HBCT, and Pfc. Relaine Hughs, the youngest medic in the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, from Chicago, cut the ribbon on the doorway of the FOB Hammer SGT Robertson Aid Station.

“The first thing we started setting up on this FOB was this aid station because we wanted to make sure our Soldiers are taken care of,” said Grigsby addressing the Soldiers present.

The new aid station will be used by 3rd HBCT medics to help treat injured and sick Soldiers.

“The main benefit that this building provides is that we are all now consolidated,” said Sgt. 1st Class Coree Dansler, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the station, Company C, 203rd BSB, from Chauvin, La. “The weather here makes it difficult to maintain a sterile environment. This building will be much easier to keep clean. The heat out here is also a problem. The air conditioning in this building will help us more effectively treat casualties. The patients here will be our top priority.”

3rd HBCT Conducts Memorial Day Ceremony

An honor guard comprised of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Soldiers fires volleys to pay tribute to their fallen comrades during the 3rd HBCT’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday at Forward Operating Base Hammer.

Multi-National Division - Center
Media Release
HQ, MND-Center
Baghdad, Iraq


3rd HBCT Conducts Memorial Day Ceremony
Story by Spc. Ben Hutto, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq –Soldiers from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team honored their fallen brethren, past and present, in a ceremony at FOB Hammer Monday.
Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., the commander of the 3rd HBCT, addressed 3rd HBCT Soldiers and reflected on the ultimate sacrifice that members of the 3rd HBCT have made in service to their country during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Today is a tough day,” said Grigsby. “This day is different for each and every one of you because of this (deployment), but … don’t feel bad. Absorb this day and remember it. It will become even more important to you as you grow older.”

A roll call of every 3rd HBCT Soldier that has given his life during OIF preceded a firing of the volleys.

“I feel very proud to be a part of the ceremony and to honor our fallen comrades, past and present,” said 1st Sgt. Rene I. Gonzalez, the Command Sergeant Major of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion from San Juan, Puerto Rico, who was among one of the roll call readers. “It is very important to for us to never forget them and to always pay tribute to their sacrifice.”

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rough Men and Women Stand Ready on This Memorial Day

3-1 CAV is so fortunate to have Chaplain Randall. He is my daily inspiration and I know he has helped SO many Soldiers. I feel blessed that the guys and gals of FOB Hammer have Chaplain Randall to lead them and inspire them to keep their faith. My thanks to Chaplain Randall for all the lives he touches!

Rough Men and Women Stand Ready on This Memorial Day
(An article that will appear in the Hammer Times)
by Chaplain Anthony Randall

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell. This is the most difficult Memorial Day I have ever experienced as we remembered the lives of SPC Jonathan Winterbottom and SPC Victor Toledo-Pulido, two of our finest 3-1 CAV Soldiers, and members of the “rough men” (and women) of the Sledgehammer Brigade Combat Team.

It is a somber day, a day of lament, when we pause to reflect on those who gave the fullest measure of devotion…their lives for the preservation of our great Republic and the principles and freedoms it has stood for over 200 years.

It is a weekend where most Americans gather for a family barbeque, a softball game, an early morning golf tournament, putting the boat on the water for the first time with the water skis, or enjoying America’s pastime in a ballpark to see their child in a Little League game or follow their favorite major league team. Most Americans see it as a three or four day weekend to escape work and as the opening weekend to the summer months all because “rough men (and women) stand ready”…

On Sunday I walked the line as the Troopers from A/3-1 CAV staged their vehicles under the cover of darkness prepared and ready to SP in order to establish a patrol base in AO Hammer. As I walked up to each vehicle, dark shadows transformed into the faces of “rough men” silhouetted in the incandescent glow of radio and computer screens and burning ambers at the ends of cigarettes.

“How are we doing Men?” I ask. “Hey Chap, we’re good.” As they recognize the familiar voice of “Blackhawk Shepherd.” “Are you really? How ya’ feelin?” I reply. “Well, a little nervous, and a little anxious I guess” comes a reply from the chapped lips of a cavalry scout. “May the Lord surround you with horses and chariots of fire just as he did Elisha” I respond. “Hey, that’s from the Kuwait sermon before we deployed to Iraq right Chap?” “Yep, 2 Kings 6, Brother. The Lord delivers Elisha’s enemies into his hands. Whenever you are fearful or anxious ask the Lord to give you eyes to see his heavenly hosts surrounding you, and may you know there will always be more of us than there are of them.” I try not to sound to “preachy” and grab one of their arms with an affirming grip. “Chariots of horses and fire. Huah. I like that one Chap, that’s tight.” We pray and I walk on to another vehicle.

On the hood of a vehicle sits two Soldiers, PFC T, a fellow Colorado native, and CPL G who just pulled a “bad guy” out of a vehicle and detained him 24 hours beforehand. I stopped and chatted for a few minutes complimenting CPL G on his decisive actions from a day before and then agreeing with PFC T that we were going to spend a day skiing the chutes and steeps at Steamboat when we get home. He grew up in Steamboat and that is my favorite place to ski in to Arapahoe Basin that is. I've had all of my near death experiences and injuries at those two places. A moment of sentiment for separated shoulders, bruised ribs, lacerations, and nearly catching hypothermia. Thank you.

“Can I pray for you guys?” already putting my hands on their shoulders. “Absolutely Sir” and we prayed. When finished PFC Taylor told me he had to show me something, and proceeded to pull out a small velvet pouch. He handled it reverently as he slowly opened each flap to expose a St. Michael’s medallion and a Crucifix. “They were my grandfather’s. Before I came to Iraq my grandmother gave them to me. He carried them in the D-Day assault on Normandy and throughout the entire war in Europe.” I affirmed him in how awesome of a gift that was, and that as he carries those icons into battle may they remind him of God’s constant presence and protection in his life.What is your tradition? Why do you serve today in the long line of so many who have served in the past? It reminded me of why I joined the military. My dad got his start in the military as an enlisted man who loaded nuclear weapons on fighter jets in the early 60s in Germany. Then there was the WWII veteran, Mr. Julian, at church who was like a grandfather to me as a child. Upon my graduation and commissioning as a 2LT from West Point he gave me one of his Lieutenant bars that he wore in the Normandy Invasion as a platoon leader, and by the end of the war had liberated concentration and POW camps as a company commander. And there was Mr. Pfeifer on my paper route who jumped into Normandy with the 101st ABN DIV. He landed in a tree. Stuck in his harness and shot in the leg he continued to engage the enemy until his comrades could cut him down.

My uncle the Army Dentist, my aunt the Army Nurse, my crazy Uncle Ronnie the Devil Dawg whose stories are always just a little to “stretched” to believe, my father in law, Harry, who was a Pearl Harbor veteran, or my nephew, Chris, another Devil Dawg Recon Sniper and Desert Shield/Storm vet.

And what is it that you remember about those who have fallen? I think of two men, CPT Russell Rippetoe and CPT Josh Byers, both killed in action in Iraq in 2003. Russell and I are from the same home town, went to rival high schools, even had mutual friends, but we never met each other from my recollection. He served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion during OIF I. While in seminary and serving as a pastor in Colorado I had several favorite run routes. My favorite was the CPT Russell “Ranger” Rippetoe run route. About 1 ½ miles from my house his parents had erected a flag pole and small garden next to the running path by their house in his memory. No matter my split times, my heart rate, the freezing temperatures, or the heat of the day I always stopped, saluted, took a knee, and prayed to God to always keep fresh in my mind why and how I serve.

CPT Josh Byers was my classmate from West Point. He was an incredible Christian and combat leader as a troop commander in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. We were friends through mutual acquaintances at school, but did not hang out to much together because at the time I wasn’t exactly walking the “straight and narrow.” I admired him from a distance, for his faith, for his example…and I still do today.

And that my Sledgehammer Brother’s and Sister’s is how we celebrate and remember Memorial Day. We remember and emulate the “rough men” (and women) who have stood in the face of evil and said, “Not today, not tonight, not tomorrow.” And so now it is our turn, this Memorial Day to stand in that same gap, “rough men and women” prepared and ready to take the fight to the enemy for the peace of our country and our families. Steadfast and determined. Army Strong. Sledgehammer.

– Blessings

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Cost Of A Soldier

The Cost Of A Soldier

A True Soldier is tough indeed
standing tall and strong when there is a need.
A Soldier also feels sadness, pain, and sorrow
Sometimes not looking forward to the trials of tomorrow.

When a Soldier is wounded in battle
the nerves of his buddies it does rattle.
When news reaches friends and family at home
how their worries and minds begin to roam.

A wounded Soldier feels inadequate at best
stopping him from much needed healing rest.
A wounded Soldiers wonders will he ever be alright,
trusting in God that he’ll make it through the night.

When a Soldier is wounded far beyond repair
the loss and pain felt can not compare.
The Cost of a Soldier is set so very high
they assure our freedom will always apply.

To stand beside a Soldier and walk through his pain
will humble a civilian, no longer to complain.
Love, patience, trust and hope is what a Soldier needs
to get them through some very treacherous deeds.

Dear Lord please watch over our Military today
as they work to keep our freedom everyday.
For the wounded and the families of Soldiers lost
Please bless them with abundant love, for we know not the cost.

The Cost of a Soldier is set so very high
our support for them we should never deny.

by Denise Girod

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorial Service For HHT, 3-1 CAV Fallen Soldiers

It has been a tough week for the Troopers of 3-1 CAV SQDN. On Wednesday, 23 May 2007, two magnificent Soldiers, SPC Jonathan Winterbottom and SPC Victor Toledo-Pulido, killed in action east of Baghdad, Iraq when an IED explosion hit their vehicle. They were responding to another unit that had also hit an IED and had 3 wounded personnel from A Troop, 3-1 CAV. One Soldier was treated and released and the other two were sent to Germany. Seven Soldiers were wounded in the incident. Their fellow Soldiers responded courageously and their quick reaction and thinking saved lives of the wounded Soldiers.

Today was the memorial service for the fallen HHT, 3-1 CAV Soldiers at FOB Hammer

In remembrance of
SPC Jonathan D. Winterbottom, of Falls Church, Virginia
SPC Victor H. Toledo-Pulido, of Hanford, California

26 May 2007 Memorial Ceremony Message
CH (CPT) Anthony Randall

My times are secure in God’s hands. Our times are secure in God’s hands. And today we are here to remember SPC Jonathon Winterbottom and SPC Victor Toledo-Pulido times are secure in God’s hands. We were all fortunate to experience their time here on earth. The Psalmist’s encouraging words from 2500 years ago comfort us still today as we react to the loss of our two comrades on 23 May 2007. Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are secure in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.”

My time is in your hands means that my time, your time, our time, does not belong to us; it is only lent to us by God, and can at any time be recalled and taken from us. The question always asked in moments like today is, “Who were you in your time?” As we have heard Jon and Victor’s commander’s and friends speak today, they were larger than life in their time, setting the example for all of us on how to live a life full of passion and devotion to God, country, and family.

The original Hebrew text of Psalm 31:15 translated “my time” as “my destiny.” My time, your time, Jonathan and Victor’s time on this earth is our destiny. It makes up our life story. It makes up how people will remember us. The 20th Century theologian Karl Barth said, “My time is my whole life story, with all that I have endured or accomplished and perhaps shall still endure or accomplish-my life story with each and everything that I was and am and shall be. This life story of mine, this is secure in your hands!” SPC Winterbottom and SPC Toledo Pulido lived their destiny to the fullest and left their amazing stories and personal impact with us in which we will always remember them.

I am thankful that my time and their time, our destinies crossed paths. From the first day I met Jonathan Winterbottom to every day after that I saw him; I always had to remind myself “Combat Medic, Combat Medic, Combat Medic” because he carried himself like an expert infantryman. He was the epitome of a combat Infantryman and combat Medic molded together into one incredibly impressive SPC Jonathan Winterbottom. He and SPC Forbes were very close and so that leads me to remember some very interesting conversations that I always seemingly walked into with the two of them together. Actually now that I think of it, there are always interesting conversations and Burt Reynolds posters hanging about in the medics tent. They are a tight bunch, just like the CSD and TST. Jon was a friend to all and enemy to none. He also was a fantastic artist specifically with tattoos. His creativity will go with many of you today who actually have a design or tattoo that Jonathan created for you. That is just another way to always remember Jon’s time with us.

SPC Toledo-Pulido was a quiet professional. He never said much, but when he did people listened. I will never forget his warm smile and confidant stare. He was determined to be the best Cavalry Scout in the unit. He used to get teased about his height, and being 5’6” myself, I can appreciate the sarcasm. I also appreciated his view on life…he was down to earth, and I’m not just talking about his vertical challenges. And that is how he will be remembered, a man of the earth, a man of grit, a man who despite the odds, the risks, and the unknown sought out to give his family a better life, and then once reaching the United States willingly signed up to protect and defend the great nation he longed to live in with his family. Today we remember SPC Winterbottom’s and SPC Toledo-Pulido’s times as great Americans and great Soldiers.
As human beings we can walk in faith that we can live our time to the fullest, however long or short that may be because we are secure in God’s hands. How are we secure in God’s hands? When we believe in the promises, the hopes, and the security of God’s hands we know where our eternal security lies. It lies in the hands of a loving God who desires us to take comfort in the safety of his constant presence.

What does it mean to be in God’s hands? It means we are in the presence of a loving God, and are not succumbed or controlled by evil or sit in the hands of a “dark, unfeeling fate, at which one could not help shuddering and feeling afraid, with which one might argue and struggle, with which one would have to keep u p a running battle inwardly and outwardly.” Barth’s quote reminds us that we can choose to either be in God’s hands or isolated by evil.
In times of tragedy, in times of evil, in times of suffering, in times of war may we find it relieving that we are in God’s hands and as Barth again says, “It is good that I’m not my own master, that my time is not in my own hands. But my time, my life-story, I myself, am secure in God’s hands.” And that is where I pray Jonathan and Victor are today, it’s where I pray we may all find ourselves during this difficult time. God has well defined hands, stronger, better, more skillful in molding us into who we are and who we will become, and far better than placing our trust in ourselves. “God’s hands are his deeds, his works, his words, which whether we know it and want it or not, surround and embrace us, bears and sustains us all on all sides.”
And so as we take time today to remember the times of two great friends and Soldiers, may we gain faith in the hope and peace of God’s plan for all of our lives. May we find the peace that passes all understanding in our hearts and minds through our Lord as the Apostle Paul consoles us with his words that we are pressed but not crushed, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.

And how would it be tonight and again in the morning that as we lay our heads to rest or arose to a new day, we pause and say ever so softly, or loudly to God, “My time is secure in your hands.” May we find the truth in that statement, that God is in control of each of our lives, our time, our destiny’s, and desires us to live in the truth and believe the truth of the eternal life we have with our Lord Jesus Christ. - Amen

My times are secure in your hands;
deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15

Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13
Please pray for the families of these courageous men who paid the ultimate price for their country. Also, please pray for HHT

Thank You

Thank You
by Hank Brake

Hank's new song, "Thank You", in honor of our Armed Forces is destined to become an important song in the history of patriotism and the support of our troops. This song is getting rave reviews, inspiring people to join in the support for the troops. The song honors ALL veterans for their service to our country, past and present.


Red Cross Name Being Used In Scam

The FRG sent this to us this morning. Please be aware! This is a horrible scam. It is beyond me how people can prey on us families who are already going through so much mentally. Hopefully this scam will be put to a stop soon and the people responsbile for the sick scam will be held accountable.

Our office has been alerted to a scam targeting military personnel/families.We wanted to pass this information on to you in case you receive a similar call.

The callers introduce themselves as being a part of the Red Cross. They stated to the victim of this initial call that her spouse had been woundedin Iraq and medevac'd out to Germany. The caller then further stated that notreatment could be started until paperwork was accomplished, and that inorder to start the paperwork they needed the spouse to verify her husband's social security number and date of birth. The spouse caught on and did not provide information - but please be aware that this is happening. Be carefulnot to give out any personal information over the phone if contacted byunknown or unverified individuals (to include confirmation that your spouse/son/daughter is deployed).

That being stated, our notification officer would like to remind you all ofthe following: The United States Department of Defense and all subordinate agencies, to include the Army, conducts notifications to family members for all wounded,missing, or killed soldiers. The American Red Cross plays no role inpeacetime or wartime casualty notification to family members. Furthermore, no Department of Defense entity would ask for identification information on a servicemember, since they have access to that information already.

Friday, May 25, 2007

This Week's Dog Face Daily

Best Buy Helping Our Heros

Fisher House and Best Buy
Connecting America’s Heroes and their Families

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 22 – “Connectivity,” helping wounded or injured service members stay connected with their families while hospital patients, is the theme of Best Buy’s Memorial Day through Fourth of July campaign to support the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation.

Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer, is partnering with the 38 Fisher Houses - large multi-family comfort homes on the grounds of 18 major military medical centers and nine VA medical centers - to donate lap top computers and other support to make it easier for service men and women at these medical centers stay in touch with their friends and families. The Campaign also gives Best Buy customers an easy way to support Fisher House, the troops and their families through in-store and online donations.

Beginning on Memorial Day Weekend and continuing through the week of July 4th, Best Buy customers can donate to Fisher House at any Best Buy register during check-out, or any time from the Best Buy website, Best Buy vendor partners, including Nintendo, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba are donating lap top computers, flat screen televisions, Wii gaming systems and other technology to the Campaign. Best Buy employees will volunteer at Fisher Houses and help install and service the new systems. All is part of an effort by Best Buy to provide the Fisher Houses with the most modern technology so the families can remain connected to their loved ones.

The Fisher House program began in 1990 when philanthropists and patriots Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher offered to build and donate to the government comfort homes on the grounds of military medical centers to permit service members to be close to their families during a hospitalization. The program at VA medical centers began later in 1994. Today, there is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center, and more are planned. Since September 11, 2001, Fisher House Foundation has made support to service men and women hospitalized as a result of their service in Iraq or Afghanistan, and their families, its highest priority. The six Fisher Houses that will start construction in 2007 are being built at locations where the combat casualties will receive long term rehabilitation. The equipment and services being donated by Best Buy will improve the quality of life for these service members and their families, and enable to them to stay connected with their families and friends.

Velvet Hammer Anxiety

The anxiety associated with getting a Velvet Hammer is overwhelming. Reality truly hits! Someone has paid the ultimate price for our freedom. When I see the Velvet Hammer in my inbox, my heart sinks to my stomach and I get a sick feeling. After a prayer for the family or families of the fallen soldiers, I immediately begin to worry even more than I do on a daily basis. Was Chris a part of what happened to these Soldiers? Is he okay? The time between the Velvet Hammer and the time I hear from Chris seems like an eternity. I am so proud that Chris is aware of how much I worry and has always tried to notify us as soon as he can that he is okay. Most of the time it is very short and sweet but that's all we need. Last night Chris called because he knew with this particular Velvet Hammer, I was probably on pins and needles...he was right. He was doing okay and was bummed about the losses. We all know this is part of the mission but none of us want to see it happen and it is difficult to go through.

Despite the news of his fellow HHT Soldiers, he was in good spirits. He said it is very hot and it's a challenge to sleep in the day. He also said that it appears that mail service is back on schedule. He had received several boxes but had been too hot and exhausted to open them. He also said that it was sort of weird...when he got to FOB Hammer it was dusty and every time you walked, you kicked up powder fine sand. Then, it rained and you sloshed around in mud for a few days. Now the mud has turned to what looks almost like concrete. He said he was disappointed that Toby Keith decided to cancel his visit to the FOB. It appears Keith decided to go to Camp Victory instead. Chris said he would have definitely been at his concert. It was so good to hear Chris' voice...especially after all the anxiety during the day with the Velvet Hammer. I appreciate his thoughtfulness SO much!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sixth Velvet Hammer

A velvet hammer is sent when there is a loss in the the brigade. Peace be with the families of our fallen soldiers. God bless our troops!

On the 23rd of May I was notified by LTC Quagliata (3rd BrigadeRear-Detachment Commander) that our Squadron has suffered the loss of two of our soldiers from HHT/3-1 CAV. The soldiers lost their lives whileconducting combat operations in Iraq. The next of kin of our fallen soldiers have been notified. I ask you for your prayers for these Blackhawk soldiers and their families.

Very Respectfully,
1LT Justin Below

Iraqi National Police apprehends three insurgents

Multi-National Division - Center Media Release
HQ, MND-Center Baghdad, Iraq

Iraqi National Police apprehends three insurgents
Story by Spc. Ben Hutto 3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq –The Iraqi National Police and Coalition Forces arrested three wanted insurgents Monday.

Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment Soldiers assisted policemen from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Iraqi National Police in a cordon and search that led to the arrest near Jisar, Diyala, Monday.

“This is one operation of many that we have conducted with the National Police,” said Maj. Jeremy B. Moore, the Iraqi Security Force chief, 3rd HBCT, from, Portland, Ore. “We look forward to continued success in interdicting extremist within (operating environment) Hammer.”

The captured insurgents were wanted for murder, kidnapping and displacing Shiia families.

1-15 Inf. Finds, Destroys Large Munitions Cache

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, uncover a weapons cache during a combat patrol Tuesday in an area west of Wahida, Iraq.

1-15 Inf. finds, destroys large munitions cache


Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, uncovered a weapons cache Tuesday during a combat patrol in an area west of Wahida, Iraq.

The cache consisted of 40 mortar rounds varying in size from 82mm to 120mm. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit detonated the cache soon after it was found.

“This is the largest cache found by 1-15 to date,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Powers, assistant operations officer for 1-15, from Decatur, Ga. “Our presence is bringing more security to the Wahida province and disrupting the enemy’s line of movement into Baghdad.”

Be A Hero...Donate Your Miles


Join the president of CNN in helping our Military Men and Women wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan and their families by donating your frequent flyer miles. to the Fisher House Foundation's "Hero Miles" program. Ten airlines have ageed to MATCH ALL DONATIONS: ( From 6am May 25th through 11:59pm May 28th ET )

“The president of CNN challenged his staff to do something over Memorial Day weekend,” Jim Weiskopf vice president of communications for the Fisher House Foundation, said. “They looked around at a couple options and they decided that they would like to do a drive to get us more ‘Hero Miles.’”

To get their newest project rolling, CNN contacted all of the 10 Hero Miles program airline partners and asked them to help with the challenge. The airlines agreed to match all of the frequent flyer miles that their passengers donate to the program between 6am May 25th and 11:59 pm on May 28th; the weekend before Memorial Day.

“As you might imagine, most of the ticketing we do is all at the last minute because it’s all connected to medical emergencies,” Weiskopf said. “Normally, the tickets we’re getting today are for flights leaving tomorrow and the day after.”

For the families of the injured servicemen, paying for the costs of those tickets averages more than $1,300 each. Hero Miles has provided more than 9,000 tickets for family members of wounded servicemembers, which calculates to more than $12 million. That is equivalent of approximately 450 million miles since the program began 3 1/2 years ago. Not only does the Hero Miles program cover family members, but what they consider “close friends” as well.
“I use the terminology ‘close friends’ because if you’re young and single, it’s nice to have your mother and father there, but you probably really want your boyfriend or girlfriend,” he said. “If that will help you recover, we’ll bring them in.”

This is also true for any other person who may be helpful in the wounded servicemember recover. The tickets are provided for medically necessary travel only. Regular leave requests are not included in the program.

Hero Miles accepts donations of frequent flyer miles year round. This weekend however, the frequent flyer miles will count for double. Links can be found to donate frequent flyer miles on the following airline’s websites: AirTran, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Midwest Airlines, Northwest Airlines, United and US Airways. You can find a link to these airlines at the Fisher House Foundation’s Hero Miles web page.

“We are so deeply appreciative for the generosity of the American flying public,” Weiskopf said. “Individually, (the airlines) have all told us that this is perhaps the most meaningful frequent flyer program that they have been associated with in the history of the airline, because (the miles) are going right to the people who need them the most.”

Live From Iraq With Major Sowers

Live From Iraq

Sorry for the late post...the link was not working until today

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gen. Petraeus Visits FOB Hammer

RELEASE 20070523-04
Photos by Spc. Ben Hutto3rd HBCT Public Affairs

General David Petraeus, the Multi-National Forces-Iraq commander, Visits FOB Hammer

1. Maj. David Fivecoat, the plans officer for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, welcomes Gen. David H. Petraeus,the Multi-National Forces-Iraq commander, to Forward Operating Base Hammer today.

2. Maj. David Fivecoat, the plans officer for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, welcomes Gen. David H. Petraeus, the Multi-National Forces-Iraq commander, to Forward Operating Base Hammer today.

3. Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, Commander of 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, talks about his troops with Gen. David H. Petraeus.

4. Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, the commander of 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, talks about his troops with Gen. David H. Petraeus.

5. Gen. David H. Petraeus shakes hands with Capt. Darrell Melton, the Commander of Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, as Capt. David S. Smith, the Troop B, 3-1 Cavalry commander, looks on. Petraeus met with 3-1 Cavalry leadership during his visit to Forward Operating Base Hammer.

6. Gen. David H. Petraeus walks with Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team commander.

7. Gen. David H. Petraeus talks with 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment senior leadership during his visit to Forward Operating Base Hammer today

"Off The Wall" Performs at FOB Hammer

Vocalist Tricia Kelly from the band “Off the Wall”, sings with Pvt. Shemika
Walker, from Brooklyn, N.Y, as Pfc. Mia Strickland, from Atlanta, both from
Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, provides backup
dancing during a concert Tuesday at FOB Hammer.

HAMMER, Iraq — The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers, enjoyed a night of music, dancing and performing Tuesday as the band “Off the Wall” held a concert at FOB Hammer.

“The band was very good,” said Maj. Carla Simmons, from Lindenhurst, N.Y. “I thought the lead singer had a really nice voice and what I enjoyed most of all was the wide genre of music
they played.”

Lead vocalist, Tricia Kelly along with fellow band members Martin Davis, lead guitarist; Anthony Rogers-Wright, bass and vocalist; Jon Bullock, drummer; and Mark Agnesi, also guitarist; started the band seven years ago and have traveled the world since. “We started this band for the sole purpose of entertaining the troops,” said Rogers-Wright.

During the concert, while in midsong, Kelly would leave the stage to mingle with the troops in the crowd, share the microphone with them and give them the chance to sing along. In some instances, 3rd HBCT Soldiers would make their way onstage to perform with the band.

“There are some very talented people in the Hammer brigade,” Rogers-Wright said. “The crowd was very energetic and their spirits were high.” Among those Soldiers who performed
were, trumpeter, Spc. Jermorio Kelly, from New Orleans, Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment singer, Capt. William Richardson, from Monticello, Ky., Company A, 97th Civil Affairs Team, and drummer, Pvt. Ken Demofonte, from Philadelphia, Headquarters
Troop, 3rd Squadron, 1st Calvary Regiment. “We like to see the other side of the military most civilians don’t get to see,” Davis said.

After the concert, the band signed posters and DVDs then mingled with concert goers. FOB Hammer was the fi nal stop on the band’s tour before heading back to Los Angeles, where the band is based, according to Davis.

“It was a great way to end our tour,” Davis said. “Hammer rocks! The conditions are rough but everyone here has been great.” “We are so proud to be here,” Rogers-Wright said. “I can’t wait to go back to the States and tell everyone what we’ve experienced. We really appreciate
all that (the Soldiers) do.”

Local Iraqis Trust, Request 1-15 Inf. Medic Often

Cpl. Rayshun Crawford, a medic with 2nd platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, provides aid to a local mukta, or mayor, in the Iraqi town of Arafina Monday. Crawford is from York, Ala. (A Company D, 1-15th Infantry photo)

Multi-National Division - Center Media Release HQ,

MND-Center Baghdad, Iraq

By Maj. Joe Sowers

3rd HBCT Public Affairs Officer
The citizens of Arafina know who to ask for when they have a medical problem, and that person is a 24-year-old from York, Ala. Cpl. Rayhsun Crawford, a medic with 2nd platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, has administered aid to multiple Iraqis for various injuries in the small town and is now considered a “go-to” guy for any ailment by the local citizens.

Soldiers of Company D patrol the small town to assist the local Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to improve security. In line with the Army’s new emphasis on counter-insurgency doctrine, units in 1-15th Inf. are working out of small combat outpost and joint security stations in the communities that they are tasked to protect. Leaders also emphasize interaction with the local populace, especially influential leaders.

While conducting a combat patrol on Monday, Company D Soldiers were informed that a local muktar, or mayor, had hurt his ankle earlier in the day and requested the attention of Crawford. Crawford administered aid to the muktar and got him back on his feet.
“Cpl. Crawford is now a local hero in the area,” said Capt. Simon McKenzie, a staff officer in 1-15th Inf., “The muktar was extremely pleased with the medical attention. Many locals that are injured in the AO (area of operations) request help from Cpl. Crawford, because he does such a great job.”

1-15th Inf. is a part of the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Benning, Ga., and is currently deployed west of Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cavalry squadron, IPs visit Nahrwan schools


Troopers of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, along with Iraqi Police, assessed 11 schools around the city of Nahrwan, Iraq, Saturday. During the visit, the troopers, IP and Nahrwan council members discussed the conditions of each site and how to make improvements. The installation of Artesian wells topped the list of priorities.
“It was a great deal,” said 2nd Lt. Mike Barth, of Los Angeles, the platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Troop B, 3-1 Cavalry. “It was a hands-on, eyes on assessment of each school. The lack
of water is their number one problem here.”

Currently, the city and schools have water trucked in from Baghdad. According to Barth, the installation of the wells will have a significant effect on the welfare of the students and citizens of
Nahrwan. He believes the installation of the wells will help build relationships with the populace of Nahrwan and instill faith in the local government. “Everywhere we went, we were
greeted with smiles,” said Barth. “They were very happy to see us and very receptive.”

3-1 Cavalry Protects Local Road Workers

Multi-National Division - Center Media Release HQ, MND-Center Baghdad, Iraq

3-1 Cavalry Protects Local Road Workers
Story by Spc. Ben Hutto, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers from Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, provided security for local road workers as they prepared roads outside of Al Zatia, 20 miles east of Baghdad, Thursday.

Local civilian contractors were hired to grade, repair and clean up roads in Al Zatia. The local workers will continue this “route sanitation” project all the way to the town of Sabah Nissan, nine miles east toward Baghdad.

“We are assisting the local population here,” said Capt. Tavares Tukes, the personnel officer for 3-1 Cavalry, from Savannah, Ga. “We are helping to provide jobs and a safe environment so the workers can ensure that the people there have safe transportation and a clean environment. This project really helps everyone involved.”

Workers are busy improving checkpoints, filling potholes, cleaning up trash and grading the roads in the area. “We are doing everything possible to work with the Iraqi police to ensure the safety of the workers,” explained Tukes. “We want to help make sure their progress is not hindered by (the enemy).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Go Spurs Go

Chris wrote today and was all pumped up about the Spurs winning against Phoenix and now playing Utah for the Western Conference Finals. He really misses being able to watch the games and enjoying the fun that we always have during the playoffs. He proudly displays his Spurs flag above his cot and has several Spurs shirts that he tries to wear the day the Spurs play. He has been getting game by game stats but it's just not the same. He sends a big GO SPURS GO!

As always, the email had a very upbeat and cheerful tone. Chris was doing good except that his air conditioner had gone out in his tent again. He said he finally got tired of tossing and turning and not being able to sleep because he was so hot that he went to his old buddies, the Assassins and camped out there and got a little rest.

It's amazing what a few short lines on an email can do for a person. I walked around the rest of the day with a smile on my face. If Chris can always be so upbeat and pleasant, even when it's 130 degrees in his tent and he's trying to sleep, I can smile and make the best of the situation too.

VFRG Update 05/20/07

Presented by Sledgehammer Public Affairs Section

A Soldier's Prayer

A Soldier’s Prayer

Lord Jesus, Mighty Warrior and Prince of Peace, all glory and power is yours. I offer myself and my military career for the welfare of our nation and for your glory. You said "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord"; make us mindful of our nation's heritage and of who we are.

You said "Be strong and of good courage", this is my prayer. You said "A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength"; be my protection and my strength.
While I defend the nation, may all of Heaven safeguard my family back home.

Almighty God, when you will to safely return me home, help me to see in each member of my family all that I am willing to fight for- life, liberty, freedom and justice. Give me wisdom to share what experiences would lead my sons to Christ-like valor, my daughters to Christian compassion. When Mary witnessed you falling wounded to the ground, she reaffirmed her trust in God her savior. Fill my spouse with surety in your divine plan for me, our family and our nation.You called me to be a soldier. March along side me. Jesus, I place my trust in you.


Lifting Morale

Spc. Derrian Richardson, 3/3rd Inf. Div., works out as his
workout partner, Sgt. Germele Smith, the targeting NCO for
the 3rd HBCT, spots him in the MWR weight room Friday.

HAMMER, Iraq — While others rush back to their tents to relax, one Soldier rushes to the Desert Grille dining facility to grab a quick to-go plate. “I’ll need it for after my workout,” explained Spc. Derrian Richardson, Charlotte, N.C., a fire support specialist for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

Unlike many of his fellow Soldiers who find reasons to skip a work out now and then, Richardson, a forward observer, hits the gym six days a week.

“It’s a stress-reliever after work, and it helps the time go by out here,” he said. On this day, the soft-spoken Soldier walks into the Morale, Welfare and Recreation weight room with his workout partner, Sgt. Germele Smith, the targeting NCO for the 3rd HBCT, from Roosevelt, N.Y., and quickly finds a flat bench. Many of the Soldiers around Richardson silently shake their heads in disbelief as Richardson puts 300 pounds on the bar and begins his warm up.
“Rich is a pusher,” Smith said. “Just when you are on your last repetition and are fatigued physically, mentally and spiritually; he motivates you to get that last rep up.”

Motivating others isn’t Richardson’s only strong point, however. “He pushes himself harder than he does us,” Smith continued. “His personal strength of will carries over in the weight room. He will not let himself down. Sometimes I think he’s done and try to help him. In the middle of the rep, he will tell me not to touch the weight and he finds a way to get it up. It’s amazing to watch.”

Richardson has earned every ounce of his strength through hard work. He started weight training eight years ago during his junior year of high school to help compete on the football fi eld at West Mecklenburg High School.

“I was really small at the time, but I enjoyed it,” Richardson said. “I’ve kept at it ever since.”
Last year at Fort Stewart, Ga., Richardson’s hard work paid off when he dominated his weight class at the bench press competition during Marne Week. As many other of the other competitors struggled with 250 pounds, Richardson added 50 pounds and easily lifted it.
“Nobody was near me,” explained Richardson, who was entered in the 170-pound division of the competition. “That’s why I only did that much. I wanted to bench a weight I was comfortable
with. I could have done a lot more.”

One of the surprising things about the Marne Week victory was that Richardson was thrown into it with 24-hour notice. “I needed to provide a Soldier at the last minute, and I knew
Rich would be the perfect choice,” said Sgt. Steven McKissock, one of the NCOs in 3rd HBCT’s fi re support element, from Pompano Beach, Fla. “I didn’t know he was going to be in a bench
press competition. The company said they needed athletes, and I knew he would be a good choice. He’s one of the guys that sets the standard at PT.”

Richardson is quick to help the Soldiers he works with. From being a spotter to providing workout tips, he encourages everyone in his section. “It’s a bonding experience for us,” said Richardson when he was asked to explain why he and his section work out so much.
“It has gotten us a lot closer. We all keep log books and compete against each other. During the week, we are constantly talking about what we are going to lift after work. We all want to come
back and win bench press competitions in our weight divisions.” McKissock acknowledges that the competition between his Soldiers is one of the enjoyable things about this deployment.
“Each shift talks trash to the other one,” said McKissock. “We all give each other a hard time and try to fire each other up. Well, everybody except for Rich. He doesn’t need to do that, and we all know he’s the man. He really helps everyone. He genuinely wants us all to be as big as he is.”

Richardson’s NCOs both agree that his dedication to getting bigger and stronger mirrors his dedication to being a good Soldier. “His strongest asset is his discipline,” said McKissock. “He’s
quick to do anything he’s asked to do. I appreciate how he goes out and finds out how to do something without asking a million questions. He just gets his orders and executes.” Smith agrees with McKissock’s assessment. “Working next to him is more of a privilege,” Smith said. “You tell him once to do something and you don’t have to worry about it. You know it will get done.” Smith also said that despite his rank, Richardson is an effective leader of those around him. “He’s humble, but he exceeds the standard as a Soldier and as a person,” he explained. “He obtains and delivers knowledge in an effective way, those are true skills of a good leader.”
Smith is certain that Richardson’s devotion to weight lifting has helped him as a Soldier. Fatigue trains the mind as well as the body,” he said. “It makes us stronger in every way. Rich is all about that.”

Richardson has some lofty workout goals to achieve before he leaves FOB Hammer next year.
“I want to be able to bench 405 pounds, dead-lift 450 and squat 350,” said the 180-pound Soldier. His NCOs have no doubt he will achieve it. “I don’t put anything past him,” Smith said. “If he says he’s going to do it; he’ll do it.”
Spc. Ben Hutto

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This Week's Dog Face Daily

May 19, 2007 (not available at this time)
May 18, 2007 (not available at this time)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Little Different

A Little Bit of Difference In The Two
Camp Victory

FOB Hammer at sunset

Chris sent a couple of pictures the other day and it's amazing the difference between Camp Victory and FOB Hammer. I now know why Chris refers to Camp Victory as a vacation to civilization.

Water Dawgs of 203rd BSB Become Firefighters

By Sgt. Kevin McSwainFOB HAMMER, Iraq — After doing it only once, Soldiers from Fort Benning, Ga., can build a fire truck in 45 minutes.

Soldiers from Company A, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, were tasked with the mission to establish a firefighting crew to support Forward Operating Base Hammer.

“We were chosen to become the base firefighters because we had the assets to get the job done,” said Capt. Fenicia Jackson, company commander.

Jackson said the unit, which consists of five support platoons, was able to create fire trucks using resources from their transportation and water treatment platoons.

“The two platoons worked together to build the equipment,” she said. “We used a palletized load system from the transportation platoon as a platform to hold water bladders supplied by the water treatment platoon.”

The configuration used to create the truck was the idea of Staff Sgt. Cleveland Randolph and Sgt. Michael Murray, both with the water treatment platoon.

“We sat down and thought about how the system was going to be set up,” said Randolph, platoon sergeant. “Once we put one together, we found that it worked perfectly.”

Randolph said the first fire truck took a few hours to build, but after the design was complete, the process became easy.

“The first day of building was trial and error,” he said. “Now we can have a fire truck built in 45 minutes.”

The platoon has built six trucks so far: three truck are on standby in the company area, two trucks support 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, and one truck supports 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment both with 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div.

“Our trucks are here to support emergencies on base,” Randolph said. “The other trucks are part of our forward deployed units. They provide support to the Soldiers who stay in areas outside of the forward operating base.”

The trucks, designed to be multiple purpose vehicles, allow Soldiers to drink the water inside the systems if needed.

“We wanted to create a water transportation system when we made the fire trucks,” said Murray, water site noncommissioned officer in charge. “Our job is to purify water delivered to us, so it is clean enough to drink.”

Randolph, from Meridian, Miss., said the trucks could carry 1,500 gallons of water.“Each truck has three forward area water point supply systems, which holds 500 gallons of water each,” he said.

The systems are linked together and connected to a pump, which shoots water out of a 10-foot hose.

“The idea the Soldiers came up with was better than I imagined,” Jackson said. “I told them what we needed and they produced a vehicle that can complete the mission and do much more.

”The Soldiers from the water treatment platoon are responsible for maintaining and operating the new equipment.

“No one in our unit has experience fighting fires,” Randolph said. “We are all learning to operate the pump and hose through daily training.”

Different Soldiers operate the equipment on the truck each day to ensure the entire crew is proficient.

“Personnel and time management allowed us to complete this mission as we established the daily operation of our unit,” Jackson said.

In addition to the creation of a firefighting team, the platoon is responsible for the treatment and storage of 600,000 gallons of water on the base.

Jackson said the challenge gave her Soldiers a chance to show how creative they can be to accomplish a mission.

“I was honored to be given such a great challenge,” she said. “This was an opportunity for our Soldiers to show that they are ready to accomplish any mission.”

Building FOB Hammer

Video of U.S. Army Engineers building an operating base from the ground up.
Produced by Staff Sgt. Angela Archie.

Building FOB Hammer

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bridge Repair

Iraqi engineers use heavy machinery to repair a bridge that was damaged
by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device May 14.
Iraqi government moves quickly to refurbish bridge

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Engineers from the Iraqi government and local governmental officials coordinated initial repairs for a bridge damaged in a May 11 vehicle-borne suicide bombing. Construction workers from Jisr, Diyala began working on the bridge Sunday afternoon, only 2 days after the bridge was damaged by a suicide bomb attack that ignited a fuel truck and closed the bridge to vehicular traffic.

The damaged bridge spans the Diyala River and connects eastern Baghdad to the town of Jisr, Diyala and the Mada’in Qada. Local construction crews cleared concrete rubble and began working on removing damaged rebar. Initially, Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security Forces partnered to secure the construction workers. CF have since been pulled off of the security mission, which is being conducted solely by ISF.

A portion of the bridge, which was formerly used for pedestrian traffic only, is now utilized for one-way traffic flow. “There is little doubt that the Qada mayor is aware of the needs of his people, and through the Government of Iraq, has the ability to provide for those needs,” said Maj. James Carlisle, civil military operations officer for 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd HBCT is a part of Multi-National Division – Center and is from Fort Benning, Ga.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Message In A Bottle

When Chris called me for Mother's Day he told me to be looking for something in the mail. He said it had his name written all over it. Well, I came home from work today and found a message in a bottle on my front had washed in from the Sands of Iraq! It was priceless! He was right, it was such an appropriate Mother's Day gift from Chris. It had sand, a small palm tree, sea shells, and a scroll rolled up with the following Mother's Day message:
Dear Mom
No matter how far we may go,
this one thing you should know:
My memories of you are full of love,
You're the best mom anyone could have.
Now I have my own sand....What an awesome gift! He's so thoughtful!

Fifth Velvet Hammer

A velvet hammer is sent when there is a loss in the the brigade. Peace be with the families of our fallen soldiers. God bless our troops!

On the 14th of May I was notified by LTC Gale (3rd Infantry DivisionRear-Detachment Commander) that our Brigade has suffered the loss of two of our soldiers from A/1-15 Infantry. The soldiers lost their lives while conducting combat operations in Iraq. The next of kin of our fallen soldiers have been notified. I ask you for your prayers for these Sledgehammer soldiers and their families.

LTC Scott Quagliata

3-1 Cavalry Detains Suspected Insurgent

Multi-National Corps – Iraq Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory

3-1 Cavalry detains suspected insurgent
Multi-National Division – Center PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment detained a suspected insurgent wanted in connection with a recent rocket attack on a Coalition Forces’ base near Baghdad May 14.

Soldiers of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, moved to the suspects’ house after receiving small-arms fire and quickly secured the area. The suspect had an AK-47, two magazines of ammunition and a cell phone at the time of his apprehension.

A Troop In Action

Here are a few pictures shared by one of the wives of A Troop.

VFRG Weekly Update 05/14/07

Monday, May 14, 2007

3rd HBCT Provides Soldiers 15 Days of Rest and Recovery

Multi-National Division - Center Media Release
HQ, MND-Center
Baghdad, Iraq

3rd HBCT provides Soldiers 15 days of Rest and Recovery
Story by Sgt. Natalie Rostek, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – While deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom V, Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team have one common milestone during their time in country.

Each Sledgehammer Soldier can look forward to taking a 15-day Environmental and Morale Leave to a location of their choice during their deployment.

“The program is designed to allow Soldiers a break from the deployment where they can take leave anywhere in the world,” said Maj. Joseph Pridgen, 48, Tampa, Fla., Personnel Officer for the 3rd HBCT.

EML is based on an eight month scale beginning May 11, 60 days after the 3rd HBCT arrived in country, and ending Jan. 11, 60 days before the brigade was originally scheduled to redeploy back to Fort Benning.

“Although the announcement was made to extend the deployment, we are still stopping leave in January just in case things were to change again, we want everyone in the brigade to get their leave,” Pridgen said.

According to Sgt. Maj. Willie Washington, Townsend, Ga., NCO in charge of the 3rd HBCT Personnel Office, Nov. and Dec. have been the most popular months requested for leave by 3rd HBCT Soldiers.

“People did want to take leave in May for their children’s high school graduations,” Washington said, “but with the extension, everyone wants to take leave later in the year. May, June, and July are now the unpopular months to go on leave.”

Along with the much needed break Soldiers get from the EML program, they are also able to save some money. The program is fully funded by the Army to get the Soldiers from their “home” Forward Operating Base or Outpost, to the airport closest to their final destination outside of Iraq.

Soldiers requesting to take their EML outside of the United States are required to comply with that country’s requirements regarding passports and visas, Pridgen said.

Before Soldiers leave for EML, they must strip their Interceptor Body Armor of everything but the front and back Enhanced Small-Arms Protective Inserts. This includes side plates, throat and groin protectors, and ammo pouches.

According to Pridgen, Soldiers will leave FOB Hammer, where the 3rd HBCT Headquarters is located, and fly to the Baghdad International Airport, FOB Hammer’s closest airbase. There, Soldiers will ensure they are on the manifest to fly to their final destination.

From BIAP, Soldiers will fly to Ali Al-Salem Airbase to turn in the rest of their gear to include helmet and IBA. If Soldiers plan on flying anywhere other than the Atlanta or Dallas Airport, the Army’s two stateside airhubs, they must make arrangements at the travel office.

Also, at AAS, Soldiers will be entered into a tracking system. This system will begin tracking when the Soldier enters the system and will be updated when the Soldier returns to AAS from the US.

“It’s done this way so Soldiers won’t have to check in with their rear detachment when they get home and before they come back,” Pridgen said. “All the information is in the computer so we know when they come back through Ali Al-Salim.”

Total travel time to the US should take approximately three days. The Soldiers’ 15 days of leave begin the day after they arrive in the US.

In addition to the EML program, 3rd HBCT Soldiers may be given the opportunity to participate in the Fighter Management Program, a four day pass program to either Baghdad or Qatar.

The Freedom Rest Center in Baghdad is a hotel-like establishment located in the former Republican Guard officer’s club, according to Pridgen. Soldiers will be able to use the dining facility, pool, internet, game room, fitness equipment, and movie theater all within the limits of the establishment.

Qatar, located on the eastern shore of Saudi Arabia, offers Soldiers a chance to visit areas outside of the center as well as taking advantage of the amenities on the base.

While relaxing within The Freedom Rest Center, Soldiers will be able to visit the pool, Chili’s restaurant, Morale, Welfare and Recreation center, movie theater, and various bar and club facilities where they will be allowed limited alcoholic beverages. Trips outside of the base include parasailing, fishing, shopping, and beach activities.

Regardless of their destination, Soldiers in the past have benefited tremendously from the leave and pass programs.

“Last time I was over here and went on leave, I rented a cabin in North Georgia,” said Spc. Aaron Schneider, 23, Milwaukee, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd HBCT. “With the travel time and the 15 days of leave I was away from work for almost a whole month. It was great.”

Those who have never been overseas are looking forward to their time away from the stresses of deployment.

“If I get a chance to go on pass I think I’ll just take advantage of the time off to relax,” said Pfc. Leslie Allen, 19, Buffalo, NY, Headquarters Troop, 3rd HBCT. “It’s a great idea, especially with the deployment extension, Soldiers deserve a break.”

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Military Mom's Prayer For Her Son

Military Mom's Prayer

Give me the greatness of heart to see,
The difference between duty and his love for me.
Give me understanding, so that I may know,
When duty calls him, he must go.
Give me a task to do each day,
To fill the time when he's away.
When he's in a foreign land,
Keep him safe in your loving hand.
And Lord, when duty is in the field,
Please protect him and be his shield.
And Lord, when deployment is so long,
Please stay with me and keep me strong.
Author Unknown

Happy Mother's Day

When You Were Little

When you were a little boy I always held your hand.
I held your hand to help your little legs up the porch steps.
To protect and shield you when we crossed the street.
I’d grab on to your hand in a crowd so I wouldn’t lose you.
I’d grab your hand to lift you when you fell, or going through the haunted house
or on a scary ride in the amusement park.
I held your hand to help you on to the bus that first day of school
and when you came home
I reached out my hand and helped you off.
I held your hand when we would take walks in the park.
Even through out your teenage years (although not cool),
when you were down I’d hold your hand
to assure you everything will be alright.
Now you are a soldier, so far away,
and I can’t hold your hand,
I must let go, but always know son that when I let go, God grabs on.
He will hold your hand when I cannot.
Author Unknown

Today is a day to honor our Mother’s as well as a day for those of us who are mothers, to be honored by our children. Having Chris in Iraq makes today a little tough but I am so thankful that I got a phone call the other morning! God entrusted me with raising two wonderful children. As a Mom, it has been my job to see that they are provided for, loved, protected and raised according to God. I am very proud of Chris and Christen...they turned out to be great kids. or I should say, young adults. A Mom is a always a Mom and her job is never done. When the kids were little it was easy to take away the pain, wipe away the tears and make the boogie man go away. As time goes on, and the kids get older, the job gets a little tougher. To help them through life's disappointments and challenges is a little harder because life is a little more complicated. But, no matter how old they are, it is still our job as a Mom to try to make it all matter what! This is the hardest part of Chris being in Iraq. There are so many times that I would like to wrap my arms around him and tell him it's going to be okay. Our hands are tied and we can only continue to encourage him, love him, pray for him and tell him how proud we are of him and continue to send him things to keep his morale up. I ask God everyday to wrap his arms around Chris and keep him safe and to help him feel his presence so he knows he's not alone. This Mother's Day I am so thankful that God blessed me with two wonderful children and I pray that I have been the mom God intended me to be!

I Kissed My Son Goodbye

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Through The Eyes of Sgt Martinez

Here are some pictures from Sgt. Anthony Martinez who deployed the same day as Chris from Ft. Bennig and is currently at FOB Hammer. He is quite the shutterbug. Thanks, Anthony for allowing me to share your photos!

Visit Anthony's complete album at

Hello America....It's Bub!

Got a very pleasant early morning phone call from Iraq. "Hello America...It's Bub!" He's such a goof. A Happy Mother's Day phone call a little early. As usual, he was in great spirits and full of energy. He said things are very hectic and busy for him but he doesn't mind because it makes the time go by so fast. He had actually gone out on patrol a few days ago and it was a great experience for him. It was a quite patrol, thank goodness, and he was with the guys from his old platoon, who are very special to him. He was pumped that there is a possibility that they may be getting a four day pass and getting to travel to a place where they can unwind and relax for a few days. He said if this happens, he is going to schedule his pass for a few months down the road so he has something to look forward to. After the pass, then he is hoping it won't be too many more months until he gets his R&R. He works seven days a week and at least 12 hours a day...and we complain? Shame on us!

He said it is getting very hot at the FOB...everyday is over 100 degrees. Right now the air conditioner is out in his tent and the temperatures inside the tent get up to about 140 degrees. Thank goodness for his's getting it's use! The sand is terrible and the sand storms are frequent. He said he is getting use to the sand now but in the beginning it made him sick. He wears a bandana over his nose and mouth and glasses or goggles to protect his eyes.

The care packages are still a big hit and a DEFINITE motivator. He said that the tent calls Mary, the bomb because she sends enough that everyone in the tent gets to benefit. He is so grateful for everyone's support! One of his favorite things that I make is Texas Trash, which is hot and spicy Chex mix. I sent a box recently containing 9 quarts of Trash and he said the guys turned it into an experience. Each person had their favorite ingredient so they were picking out the pieces they didn't like and bargaining with their buddies to get their favorites. Sounds hilarious. I also sent Chocolate Chip cookies that I had sealed in a Foodsaver and they arrived just fine. It makes me feel so good to know that they get so excited when packages come. He did mention that mail will take longer now that the bridges were bombed yesterday.

I am so thankful that Chris has such a positive attitude and is making the most out of this tour. He has ALWAYS been the type to try to find the good in everything. He always trys to pull others up when they are down and I'm sure that's what he is doing now. He's quite the comedian and I'm sure he keeps the tent in stitches.

It was so good to hear Chris' voice and hear what he is doing. I miss him so much! For some reason, this past week was really difficult...I was extra worried all week and down in the dumps. Hearing from his is the best medicine in the world! I reminded him that he should be very proud of himself...when he joined ROTC he said he wanted to be able to make a difference...and now he is! We are very proud of you, son and love you very much! Stay safe!