Friday, October 9, 2009

NCOs Keep Soldiers Ready

Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, slowly file on to a plane destined for Kuwait at Lawson Army Air Field, Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 7. The 3rd HBCT will train in Kuwaitt before beginning their 12 month deployment in Iraq

Story and photos by Sgt. Ben Hutto, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORT BENNING, Ga. – A year in Iraq loomed large as one by one, Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division began to board a plane at Lawson Army Airfield. For many of them, this would be their first trip outside of the country. Many of the senior members of the 3rd HBCT have made the trip at least three times before.

As everyone waited for their time to leave, noncommissioned officers were there answering questions, directing their Soldiers and offering words on encouragement to their subordinates.

When the time to board the plane arrived, every Soldier was ready to go. Months of preparation had ensured that Soldiers’ families were prepared financially for the deployment, vehicles were stored safely away, medical records had been updated and countless other tasks were accomplished to ensure that every Soldier who got on the plane was prepared to go to Iraq and do their job effectively. The job of ensuring readiness will not end for the NCOs once they get on the plane, however.

“My NCOs are in charge during the whole deployment process,” said 1st Sgt. Lawrence Jordan, Headquarters Company. “Wherever our Soldiers will be, our NCOs will be there ensuring everything is running like it should. Whether it is clearing out of the barracks, zeroing weapons at the range, or attending classes in Kuwait, our NCOs will make sure that our Soldiers are doing what they are supposed to and getting everything they need.”

For the Sledgehammer Brigade’s NCOs, it is an important responsibility that extends beyond checking off a list of duties.

“I take my job very seriously,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Lopez, a platoon sergeant in Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. “I am responsible for 25 Soldiers and their families. My job is to ensure that 25 Soldiers are focused and not worrying about home. It is also to ensure 25 families will see their Soldiers return here safe and sound.”

Training is a key component for leaders like Jordan and Lopez. According to Lopez, training keeps Soldiers sharp and focused.

“We will continue to train in Kuwait,” he said. “We will continue to train in Iraq. The training never stops. The day our Soldiers quit training will be the day they leave the Army.”

Making training and readiness a priority is music to the ears of leaders like Command Sgt. Maj. Antonio Jones, Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

“I expect our NCOs to set the standard out front,” he said. “Our Soldiers need to know what is expected of them before we land in Kuwait and Iraq. We cannot allow them to go on vacation for a year.”

The new security agreement means less combat patrols and more time on the Forward Operating Bases. Unlike past deployments, Soldiers will not be required to kick in doors or search for high value targets. They will be asked to remain ready to assist their Iraqi counterparts. According to Jones, this will be a huge change for the 3rd HBCT’s combat veterans and may be a disappointment for Soldiers on their first deployment.

“All that work in the past, has set the stage for today,” said Jones. “Our new Soldiers will be an important part of this when this is over, whatever role they play. This is much bigger than 3rd Infantry Division. This is about making history.”

Lopez agrees. He was there with the 3rd HBCT the first time they deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has seen Iraq change from a country on the verge of economic collapse and torn apart by sectarian violence; to a country that is ready for America to leave.

“Whether a Soldier was there at the beginning or coming to Iraq for the first time, we are all doing something to help the change that has occurred in Iraq,” he said. “It is something that everyone can be proud of at the end of the day. My job is to ensure that my Soldiers will be able to finish what we started.”

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