Friday, November 27, 2009

203rd Soldiers Stay Safe on Roads

3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Regardless of the mission, the situation or the experience levels of the Soldiers, no one is completely immune from being attacked or having something go wrong. The leaders of the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion have that thought continuously in their minds.

While the number of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq is down considerably from past years, 2nd Lt. Charles Van Dyke and his fellow leaders in the 203rd BSB still want their Soldiers alert and ready outside the wire, he said.

Despite leaving the Forward Operating Base almost every day to supply the various forward operating bases and combat outposts in the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division's area of operation, Van Dyke, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., still treats every patrol like it's his unit's first.

"I never take my job lightly," he said. "Security has to be the first thing we concentrate on. Nothing moves onto the road until I'm sure that everyone knows how we are going to react if something goes wrong."

While many Soldiers in the 203rd BSB are combat veterans, leaders in the battalion are still concerned whenever their troops leave the wire.

"Complacency is my biggest worry," said Staff Sgt. Fred Keon, a squad leader in B Company. "As a leader, you want everyone to take patrols seriously and not just take things for granted. It's my job to ensure that we are all on the same page no matter what happens."

For Keon, a native of Tallahassee, Fla., that means going over emergency procedures before every mission and quizzing all of his Soldiers on what they will do if certain situations arise.

Before the convoy rolls out, everyone in the convoy, from the lowest ranking private to the highest ranking officer, is asked what they will do if a vehicle breaks down, if a Soldier is wounded or if the convoy is attacked. Sometimes they answer correctly. Sometimes they forget part of the answer. Many times, the Soldiers don't know the answer. Whatever happens, Keon uses it as a teaching moment for the group.

These questions aren't meant to embarrass anyone, Keon said. In his mind, everyone is responsible for the safety of the convoy. If one person is unable to perform a part of the mission, then the safety of the whole convoy could potentially be in jeopardy.

The pre-mission questioning is designed to ensure his Soldiers know the information and help others remember it.

"I tell my Soldiers to make sure they are always taking care of one another," he said. "Outside the wire, we need to keep each other alert so we can all stay alive. These missions are important. We need to be able to stay safe and keep rolling. "

Leaders like Staff Sgt. Edrik Torres, a platoon sergeant in A Company, understand how important these logistic patrols are in keeping the 3rd HBCT running smoothly.

"Trucks don't run without fuel, Soldiers have to eat, FOBs need power: we ensure all that happens," Torres said. "Before every patrol, we have to be aware of what is going out, why it is going and who will be receiving it. There are a lot of pieces we have to get right."

Torres's job as a platoon sergeant is to ensure everyone underneath him is doing the proper checks to ensure safety and accuracy.

"We check and double-check everything that rolls out on these convoys," said Torres, a native of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. "We have to ensure that something essential isn't lost or delivered to the wrong place."

Even when all of that is done, the most important cargo his trucks carry are the troops transporting all of these materials, Torres said.

"It is important we implement what we learned in training," he said. "A lot of that is learning to trust the people around you and communicating with your peers. Before and after every patrol we need to keep talking and learning from our experience."

Torres cross-trains all of his Soldiers to ensure that if one Soldier is injured or sick, another can step up and take that place on a mission.

"It's about being prepared," he said. "Our whole time out here we will keep learning, keep drilling and keep working until we can get our patrols as close to perfect as we can get them. I think that is what will make us successful at the end of this deployment."

A logistics convoy navigates the roads in Iraq as it makes its way from Forward Operating Base Kalsu to Forward Operating Base Scania, Nov. 20. Soldiers assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion go out on frequent logistics patrols to ensure that the Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division have all the supplies they need at the various patrol bases in the Sledgehammer Brigade's area of operation.
Spc. Justin Camper, a mechanic in B Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, gives his part of a safety brief to his fellow Soldiers before leaving Forward Operating Base Scania, Iraq, on a logistics patrol, Nov. 20. Soldiers like Stamper, a native of Lexington, N.C., go out on daily logistics patrols to ensure that the battalions of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division have all the supplies they need to conduct operations efficiently.

Spc. Somkuan Promchote, a driver in B Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, checks the communications equipment in his vehicle before a logistics patrol at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 20. Promchote, a native of Lawrenceville, Ga., frequently does checks on all of his equipment to ensure that his patrols run smoothly and safely.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Soldier's Thanksgiving


Over there a soldier's thinking
Of a time not long ago,
When his loved ones got together;
'Twas Thanksgiving Day, you know.

Over there a soldier's dreaming
Of a turkey baked just right,
Mashed potatoes, golden gravy,
Chestnut dressing, pure delight!

Over there a soldier's hungry
For whipped cream on pumpkin pie.
Squares of cornbread, crusts so tender,
Homemade biscuits stacked up high.

Over there a soldier's wishing
He could have one buttered roll.
But he feasts on GI rations
While his unit's on patrol.

Over there a soldier's lying
In a ditch, his makeshift bed.
Mud and dirt are his companions;
Been awhile since he's been fed.

Over there a soldier's praying
That his open sores will heal.
He is sure that he'll feel better
Once he has a good hot meal.

Over there a soldier's hearing
Loud explosions, muffled cries.
Shrapnel killed his foxhole buddy
Right before his very eyes.

Over there a soldier's quoting
Scriptures learned at Mother's knee,
Proud that he's a mighty warrior,
Keeping all his loved ones free.

This Thanksgiving as you're eating
That sweet corn that grandpa grew,
Say a prayer for that dear soldier
Who would love to be with you.



© 2007 Mariane Holbrook


On this Thanksgiving, America remembers
the men and women of our military....
May God love, bless and protect you all.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lets Say Thanks...

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to say "thanks" to our men and women serving. As we enjoy our family and friends and a great meal, our Soldiers are away, doing their jobs...sacrificing time away from their families. The most unique part is our troops serve in stride and never complain, they simply say, they are just doing their job!

XEROX IS DOING SOMETHING COOL

If you go to this web site, http://www.letssaythanks.com you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can’t pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.

How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! It is FREE and it only takes a second.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these? Our soldiers need to know we are behind them.

This takes just 10 seconds and it’s a wonderful way to say thank you. Please take the time and please take the time to pass it on for others to do. We can never say enough thank you’s.

Iraq's Tasty Treasures

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq – When you ask a Soldier about Iraq, the first thing you expect to hear are stories of the dangers faced and anxiety experienced. However, it is very exciting and rewarding to be a part of a convoy and see how other Forward Operating Bases look and to experience the different things they have to offer.

In addition to the mission, something else which has quickly captured my attention are the Dining Facilities. DFACs are something everyone thinks about without realizing it a part of their daily planning process. Sitting back to enjoy a fresh smoothie, real silverware or a big, freshly cut slice of fruit can make a huge difference in breaking up the monotony.

No matter where you travel, you can always ask and quickly be pointed to the best dining facility on the FOB. There is always something tasty or specifically fascinating that one has and another does not. Any FOB resident can easily tell you what that special feature is. For example, FOB Hammer has freshly cut fruits; trust me, there is no fruit better than one cut in front of you and placed in your bowl. Or, at FOB Scania, you can find a salad bar that has everything you could ever want on your salad.

Many Soldiers, like 2nd Lt. Alden Jones from San Francisco, Calif., with the 396th Transportation Co., have experienced the hospitality at JSS Suj. Jones said, "The thing that excited me is the hot "marmite" meal for breakfast and dinner." Chow at JSS Suj is trucked in or "mermited" twice daily from a nearby FOB because there is no dining facility. So, for other meals it is Meals Ready to Eat also known as the MRE, an entire shelf-stable day's worth of meals in a vacuum sealed plastic wrapper. The arrangement at FOB Suj is another example of each FOB having unique features that those going out on mission can get excited about. DFAC visits are always part of the pre-mission discussion and more than likely a contributing factor to mission volunteerism. Officers, NCOs, and Soldiers conduct their missions with high hopes of getting lucky enough to rest over night and eat at the DFAC.

For me, the excitement and thrill is an everyday experience while assigned to Camp Liberty on Victory Base Complex. Liberty is one of many FOBs on Victory Base Complex, also known as VBC. I can think of more than seven DFACs in the area. Each of these DFACs has their own distinct feature. For example, Stryker DFAC, has pizza balls, which, by-the-way, are excellent. The Division DFAC is kept nice and clean, and the newly-named Raider DFAC has an unbelievable salad bar.

At lunchtime, my commander always knows how to put a smile on my face. When we load up in that Ford F-150 of his and head over to the Oasis Sports DFAC on Camp Victory, I know, soon we will be enjoying those fresh smoothies and milkshakes. To me, there is nothing better than digging into that white deep freezer and retrieving a freshly made smoothie or shake. Another advantage of so many DFACs is that you can have seafood or down home cooking any day of the week; or, you can just walk back to the room and eat those cold sardines that Mom sent in a care package, but where's the fun in that?

When you read this article, it'll probably only take a minute or two to realize just how true this is. I'd also be willing to bet if you walk up to anyone on the FOBs in Iraq, they can tell you the DFAC scheduled feeding times and which ones are open 24/7, which one has the best air conditioner or the quickest and nicest service or is the cleanest. It is so funny to think how something so small keeps troops motivated and excited and morale high. I know as I write this article, it makes me wonder where I can go tonight to get that cut-in-half crab leg just waiting for me to dip it in melted butter. Well, it is 5:00 pm and De Fleury DFAC is having just what I am craving, so, off I go. But, I am sure after reading this I will see you soon at the Oasis dining facility enjoying one of those smoothies.

Chow, whether served in the air conditioned comfort of a palatial DFAC or pulled from an MRE bag in the gritty sand, is always on a Soldiers mind.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Second Velvet Hammer - Fallen Soldier

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 22nd of November, I was notified that B/1-10 FA has suffered the loss of a Soldier and the next of kin has been notified. The Soldier lost his life due to hostile action in Numaniyah, Iraq. I ask you for your prayers for this Sledgehammer Soldier and his family.

3rd Brigade soldier killed in Iraq
BY LILY GORDON - lgordon@ledger-enquirer.com

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Fort Benning soldier in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Briand T. Williams, 25, of Sparks, Ga., died Sunday in Numaniyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd HBCT deployed to Iraq in October.

Williams was promoted to staff sergeant about two weeks ago, according to Fort Benning public affairs

3rd HBCT Assumes Control in Ceremony at FOB Kalsu

Photos by Sgt. Ben Hutto

An honor guard composed of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and 172nd Infantry Brigade Soldiers stood at attention during a transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. At the ceremony, the 3rd HBCT’s commander, Col. Pete Jones, stressed that his unit will continue to work with Iraqi Security Forces and support the U.S. State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams working in the Sledgehammer Brigade’s area.

An honor guard composed of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and 172nd Infantry Brigade Soldiers stand at attention during a transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. At the ceremony, the 3rd HBCT’s commander, Col. Pete Jones, stressed that his unit will continue to work with Iraqi Security Forces and support the U.S. State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams working in the Sledgehammer Brigade’s area.
Maj. Gen. Fadhil Radad, the Babil Provencial Police Chief (left), and Brig. Gen. Hamil, the district police chief of al Mahawil. salute the colors of Iraq and the United States of America during the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and 172nd Infantry Brigade’s transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. One of the 3rd HBCT’s responsibilities during their current deployment will be to support Iraqi Security Forces in the Babil, Wasit, Karbala, Najif and Diwayniah provinces.

Col. Jeffrey A. Sinclair (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Steven W. McClaffin case the colors of the 172nd Infantry Brigade during a transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. The 172nd Brigade, who turned their battle space over to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, helped provide security Iraq’s provincial elections in January as part of their deployment.

Col. Pete Jones (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. James Pearson uncase the colors of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division during a transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. The 3rd HBCT, who took over their battle space from the 172nd Infantry Brigade, is deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for the fourth time.

Brig. Gen. Elicerio, the deputy commander of the 34th Infantry Division (right), thanks Col. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, the commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, during the transfer of authority ceremony between Sinclair’s unit and the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. During their year-long deployment, Sinclair’s brigade was affected by the Status of Forces Security Agreement, which pulled all American forces out of Iraqi cities.

Lt. Col. Robert Ashe, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, speaks to Col. Sallum, the commander of 2/31 Iraqi Army Battalion, 8th Division, following the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and 172nd Infantry Brigade’s transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. During their up-coming deployment, 3rd HBCT battalion commanders, like Ashe, will be working with their Iraqi counter-parts to ensure that Iraqi Security Forces are fully trained and able to maintain security in their areas of operation.
Col. Jeffrey A. Sinclair (middle), the commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, speaks with Col. Sallum, the commander of the Hilla SWAT unit, following a transfer of authority ceremony between Sinclair’s unit and the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. During their deployment, the 172nd Brigade helped provide security in the in the Babil, Wasit, Karbala, Najif and Diwayniah provinces during Iraq’s provincial elections in January.

Col. Pete Jones, the commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, speaks with his Iraqi Security Forces counterparts following a transfer of authority ceremony between his unit and the 172nd Infantry Brigade at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 17. Jones ate with the Iraqi leaders and stressed his desire to continue the good relationship they have enjoyed with previous American units operating in the area

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Veterans Day: Got The T-shirt

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick, 3rd HBCT, 3rd ID

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – According to the Defense Manpower Data Center approximately 68 percent of Soldiers today have deployed to the Middle East at least once. That is especially true for Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. After their current deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the brigade will be the most deployed unit in the Army.

Spc. Matthew Lunsford, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd HBCT, humbly remembers those who fought before him.

“Veterans Day is a day of remembrance,” the two-time deployer said, “Not really me, but a day for people to remember the guys in the past.”

Staff Sgt. Jorge Sanchez, Headquarters Troop, 3rd HBCT, has been in the unit all nine years of his military career.

The Nicaragua native moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., when he was 14-years-old and said he didn’t really pay attention to the holiday despite his grandfather being a former Marine.

“For some kids it’s just a day off of school but now that I am grown up and I joined the service I really understand what it means,” he said.

Lunsford, a Greensboro, N.C. native, admitted he was one of those kids.

“When I was little it was a day I got out of school to go hunting,” the 23-year-old said. “But I respect it more now.”

Lunsford said although he is not a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he has visited outposts before and enjoys listening to the stories the veterans have to tell.

“It’s neat to hear what they did and how things are different,” he said.

Sanchez has seen the differences first hand having deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and to Iraq four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“New Soldiers need to understand this is the best deployment the 3rd Brigade has ever had,” he explained. “The conditions have improved 150 percent. This is pretty much a five star resort compared to what the unit has had in the past.”

Lunsford believes it is the support from home that makes it all worth it. His best memory comes from walking into the hanger at Lawson Army Airfield at Fort Benning, Ga. upon returning from his last deployment and hearing the cheers from all the families and friends who came to welcome home their Soldier.

“I got to see my daughter for the first time,” he said.

Sanchez has walked into that same hanger four times already and said he comes home from each deployment more knowledgeable than when he left.

Deployments submerge Soldiers in multiple cultures, not only from the country they are deployed to but also within the unit and supporting units from other nations, he explained. During his previous deployment Sanchez served beside soldiers from the country of Georgia who resided at the same combat outpost.

“The Army is the best school for life,” he said. “Going on the old Army slogan, ‘Be all that you can be,’ you can. You can do anything and go anywhere in the Army.”

Staff Sgt. Jorge Sanchez, Headquarters Troop, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, measures a table at his workshop Nov. 6 at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. The Nicaragua native has been in the brigade the entire nine years of his military career and currently serves as head of the brigade’s Repairs and Utilities section during his fifth deployment to the Middle East.

Staff Sgt. Jorge Sanchez, Headquarters Troop, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, measures a table at his workshop Nov. 6 at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. The Nicaragua native currently serves as head of the brigade’s Repairs and Utilities section and says Veterans Days means more to him now that he has served though five deployments to the Middle East.

Spc. Matthew Lunsford, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, prepares his vehicle for a mission Nov. 6 at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. The Greensboro, N.C. native humbly feels Veterans Day is a day to remember heroes who served in the past.

Spc. Matthew Lunsford, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, prepares his vehicle for a mission Nov. 6 at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. The Greensboro, N.C. native believes it is the support from home that makes deploying multiple times worth it.

First Time Deployers Take Pride In What They Do

Story and photos by Sgt. Ben Hutto

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – War stories. In the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the only brigade in the U.S. Army to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom four times, they aren’t hard to find.

Soldiers in the brigade, many who have been in the brigade for all four deployments, can tell stories of combat patrols, seeking cover from indirect fire and the excitement of riding on Blackhawk helicopter for the first time.

As the 3rd HBCT gears up to remember Veteran’s Day, many of the brigade’s Soldiers will soon be able to claim the title of combat veteran for the first time.

“About half of the brigade are first time deployers,” said Sgt. Maj. Richard Hairston, the 3rd HBCT’s operations non-commissioned officer.

For many Soldiers, this deployment is their chance to contribute to their country.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been outside the wire twice,” said Pfc. William Saunders, an infantryman assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. “On those two days, I felt I did more for my country than I did back home when I was working a nine to five job. It was a good feeling.”

For Saunders, a native of Houston, his job is much more than going out on patrols.

“Our job isn’t just about kicking in doors in here,” he said. “By showing them (the Iraqi people) that we are here to help their forces and let them do what they want to do, we are showing them that we aren’t here to take over. We came here to help them liberate their country from Saddam.”

For many Soldiers, becoming a veteran is part of a family tradition.

“My grandfather was in the Navy,” said Pvt. Allen White, a Soldier assigned to Company B, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion. “I grew up respecting him and what he did. I think it was natural to want to follow in his footsteps.”

Both White and Saunders understand that the 3rd HBCT’s current mission changes what their military jobs were in previous deployments.

Rather than do his job as a petroleum specialist, White, a native of Hampton, Ga., is now helping control and route passengers at the FOB Kalsu air terminal.

“I was expecting convoys and fuel missions this deployment, but we are Soldiers and we do whatever we are ordered to do,” he said.

Although his job isn’t what he expected, White is just ready to serve and help his fellow veterans.

“It’s a tremendous honor to serve over here,” he said. “After I spend a year over here, whether I’m in combat or not, I’ll always be proud of what I did for my country. Helping Soldiers get home and seeing that big smile on their faces has been a great feeling.”

After serving 15 years as a non-commissioned officer, 1st Lt. Jason Horton, a team leader in Headquarters’ Troop, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, is finally getting his chance to deploy as an officer.

“This deployment will be a point of personal pride,” he said. “I don’t flaunt things well, but I view this deployment as an opportunity.”

Having been a recruiter for a good part of his military career, Horton has experienced several Veterans Days. For he and the rest of the 3rd HBCT’s first time deployers, their first Memorial Day as a combat veteran will be experienced overseas.

“I think everything is magnified during a deployment,” said Horton, a native of Kalamazoo, Mich. “It will be a unique experience for me.”

Saunders agrees with Horton’s assessment.

“The holiday changes for me slightly,” he said. “It has always meant something for me, but now that I’m a part of it; it’s different. It feels good to not be on the sidelines anymore.”

Pfc. William Saunders, an infantryman assigned to Headquarters’ Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, checks the oil in his humvee at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 6. Saunders, who is deploying for the first time, takes the time to ensure all of his equipment is in good working order before leaving FOB Kalsu on missions.

Pfc. William Saunders, an infantryman assigned to Headquarters’ Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, checks his humvee’s radio at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Nov. 6. Saunders, who is deploying for the first time, takes the time to ensure all of his equipment is in good working order before leaving FOB Kalsu on missions.

Pvt. Allen White, a petroleum supply specialist assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, communicates with the flight tower at Forward Operating Base Kalsu’s air field, Nov. 6. White, a first time deployer to Iraq, is shifting his duties to help run the air field and ensure that Soldiers get to and from Kalsu with no problems

Pvt. Allen White, a petroleum supply specialist assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, leads a civilian off the airfield at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Nov. 6. Despite being a fueler, White, a first time deployer to Iraq, is being asked to help run air field operations during the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s current deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pvt. Allen White, a petroleum supply specialist assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, helps Soldiers with their bags as he guides them off the airfield at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Nov. 6. Despite being a fueler, White, a first time deployer to Iraq, is being asked to help run air field operations during the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s current deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.




Thursday, November 12, 2009

Here's To The Heroes: A Military Tribute

Everyday is a day to thank our Veterans!

A beautiful tribute sung by the Ten Tenors, an Australian group.
Enjoy and give thanks to those now serving and those that have served.

Here's To The Heroes: A Military Tribute

Veterans Return Desks

Too bad there aren't more people like Ms. Cothren...the world would be a better place!

A lesson that should be taught in all schools . . And colleges.

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

'Ms. Cothren, where're our desks?'

She replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.'

They thought, 'Well, maybe it's our grades.'

'No,' she said.

'Maybe it's our behavior.'

She told them, 'No, it's not even your behavior.'

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, 'Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.'

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.

Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned..

Martha said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it.'

By the way, this is a true story. Please consider passing this along so others won't forget that the freedoms we have in this great country were earned by U. S. Veterans.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soldiers Keep The Lines of Communication Open

Story and photos by Sgt. Ben Hutto

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – When Capt. Josh Beard, the commander of Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, arrived at FOB Kalsu, he knew his unit was prepared.

The countless hours his troops had spent preparing for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s current deployment had proven to him that Company B’s Soldiers could set up and tear down all of the brigade’s communications fast. He just didn’t know they would be lightning fast.

“In two days, we had the brigade’s net up,” said Beard, a native of Opelika, Ala. “As a leader, I didn’t expect it, but a year’s worth of training will make things like that possible. For my guys, it’s all muscle memory now.”

Company B has an important job, according to Sgt. Orlando Sarabia, the joint network nodes section sergeant from Truckee, Calif.

“Basically we are responsible for setting up and maintaining all the secure and non-secure Internet and communications,” he said. “We enable commanders to talk to their Soldiers on the battlefield.”

In order to ensure that they can complete their mission, the Soldiers of Company B must constantly maintain and protect their equipment, not the easiest of tasks in the sandy and hot environment of Iraq.

“Proper maintenance is one of the most important things we do out here,” said Sgt. Jason Sanders, a team leader from Bradenton, Fla. “We have a lot of complex equipment that takes years to understand and master, but it doesn’t do us any good if it’s not working.”

Sanders explained that maintaining equipment entails everything from blowing out air filters on a daily basis to ensuring that all computers are kept in a cool environment.

“The 52nd Signal Battalion has been a great unit to follow,” said Beard. “We learned things from them right off the bat. Not that we didn’t know what we were doing, but we relearned how to do some of the things they do really well. They are outstanding dealing with issues like power generation, cooling and maintenance.”

Using the experience they gained from the National Training Center and their predecessors, Company B non-commissioned officers are now trying to ensure that their first-time deployers are ready for whatever their current deployment is ready to throw at them.

“Training in a school environment is much different than what will happen here,” said Sarabia. “Out here our Soldiers are working against the clock. They need to processes information much more quickly.”

The NCOs of Company B are working hard to ensure that their new Soldiers are prepared to work through any obstacles they may encounter alone during their shift.

“We’ve had some Soldiers join the unit straight out of AIT (advanced individual training) and they didn’t get to go through Hammer Focus and NTC,” said Sanders. “We are working hard to get them to be able to logically think through problems. There is a process to what we do. It is just a matter of getting them to see it.”

Pfc. Alex Buza, one of Sander’s subordinates from Puyallup, Wash., is one of Anderson’s first-time deployers who are trying to learn as much as he can.

“For me, it is all about keeping a good attitude,” he said. “I’m working with some awesome people. If you like the people you are working with, it makes it easier to learn.”

Beard explained that his company will soon be taking over the communications node from the 52nd Signal Battalion.

“I anticipate the transition being seamless,” he said. “It will be the biggest thing we will do this deployment, but it isn’t something we haven’t done and done well.”
Sgt. Rich Sanchez, a Soldier in Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, takes a break from monitoring the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s communication network at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Nov. 2. Sanchez, a native of Kenedy, Texas, works twelve hour shifts to ensure that 3rd HBCT commanders are able to communicate with their troops on the battlefield.
Spc. Quindeil Hall, a Soldier in Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, maintains a communications satellite to at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Nov. 2. Hall, a native of Dallas, works hard to ensure that all of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s communications equipment at FOB Kalsu stays in good working order.
Pfc. Joshelyn Lovis , a Soldier in Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, checks a communications antenna to ensure it is secured properly at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Nov. 2. Lovis, a native of Orangeburg, S.C., and his fellow Soldiers in Company B must ensure that all of the brigade’s communication equipment is properly maintained and used.
Spc. Robert Ruiz , a Soldier in Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, maintains a communications satellite at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Nov. 2, to ensure that the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s communication node is working. Ruiz, a native of Minneapolis, and his fellow Soldiers in Company B set up all of the 3rd HBCT’s communications equipment at FOB Kalsu in two days.

Rumors Run Rampant

Commentary by Capt. Charles Barrett, 3rd HBCT, 3rd ID


FOB KALSU, Iraq –What’s in a rumor? I’d say two teaspoons of spilt beans, a pinch of boredom, a tablespoon of cold revenge, a dash of hope, 3 cups of embellishment, and an ounce of truth. It’s either a recipe for disaster, or bad clich├ęs - I’m not sure which.

This commentary, or rather this request, is meant to educate and then to enlist your help in quelling rumors during this rotation.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard the rumor that the brigade (3HBCT, 3ID) is coming home after the Iraqi elections early next year? How about the rumor about the brigade being redirected to Afghanistan? Okay, you can lower your hands. If you have heard these or other rumors did you ever stop and wonder where they came from?

Rumors are generated a number of different ways. Perhaps someone was trying to drive a leader and his or her Soldiers away from each other. Perhaps a disgruntled Soldier decided to get back at his unit because he felt wronged, or perhaps the anxiety of the unknown prompted someone to speculate in order to calm their own nerves.

Some rumors spread like wildfire while others sit and fester for a while before taking life. Keep the following things in mind: people often generate rumors out of fear of the unknown; the rumor must be plausible before people will accept it; people who the rumor doesn’t pertain to are less likely to spread it; and rumors lack supporting evidence, unlike news which is always verified through a credible source.

In the book Rumors and Rumor Control: A Manager-s Guide to Understanding and Combating Rumors by Allan J. Kimmel, it says, “In addition to ambiguous, unfamiliar, and unverifiable elements, rumors are generated and transmitted when conditions are emotionally disturbing or fear-arousing for group members. Presumably, the anxiety induced by emotionally unstable situations provides a motivating force for rumor mongering.”

Please don’t confuse rumors with gossip.

“By contrast, rumors can be more clearly distinguished from gossip in that the latter is likely to involve message content that is deemed trivial to the gossips (although probably not to the gossip target), always pertains to people, and is more likely than rumor to have a negative connotation,” Kimmel says in his book.

Rumors, like a zombie apocalypse, start with just one ill-informed rumormonger who infects a handful of others, who in turn infect dozens more until that rumor becomes fact and fact becomes ignored. So how do you stop rumors?

I recommend we all do the following: when the rumor is heard, immediately ask who or what the credible source is. “Oh really? Where did you hear that?” If that person can’t cite a credible source, then it is rumor. Suggest to the individual they do some research before telling anyone else what they’ve heard.

If you say, “This is just a rumor, but…” before telling the rumor, it is less likely to be passed on. However, this is not the preferred method because you’re still spreading the rumor.

Ask the people who should know the facts when presented with a rumor. If for some reason they don’t know, they should be obligated to do the research and provide you with the truth.

Speculating, no matter how innocent it may seem, is the same as a rumor. Speculation is not backed up by fact. It only takes a few hours of information saturation before people accept what they’ve heard as fact.

Beware of exaggeration. Some rumors may be based on fact, but have been embellished. Remember that 67.8 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot, like the one I just wrote.

The bottom line is that rumors are bad and we are the ones who have the ability to make them worse. Luckily for us, we also have the ability to make them go away.


Until next time, these have been my Observations from The Hill: Iraq Edition.

Veterans Day



Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans. However, most Americans confuse this holiday with Memorial Day, reports the Department of Veterans Affairs. What's more, some Americans don't know why we commemorate our Veterans on Nov.11. It's imperative that all Americans know the history of Veterans Day so that we can honor our former servicemembers properly.

A Brief History of Veterans Day

Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on November 11, 1918. In legislature that was passed in 1938, November 11 was "dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day.'" As such, this new legal holiday honored World War I veterans.

In 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress -- at the urging of the veterans service organizations -- amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

In 1968, the Uniforms Holiday Bill ensured three-day weekends for federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Under this bill, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday of October. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date. The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on Oct. 25, 1971.

Finally on September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978. Since then, the Veterans Day holiday has been observed on Nov. 11.

Celebrating the Veterans Day Holiday

If the Nov. 11 holiday falls on a non-workday — Saturday or Sunday — the holiday is observed by the federal government on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday). Federal government closings are established by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — a complete schedule can be found here. State and local government closings are determined locally, and non- government businesses can close or remain open as they see fit, regardless of federal, state or local government operation determinations.

United States Senate Resolution 143, which was passed on Aug. 4, 2001, designated the week of Nov.11 through Nov. 17, 2001, as "National Veterans Awareness Week." The resolution calls for educational efforts directed at elementary and secondary school students concerning the contributions and sacrifices of veterans.

The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

Memorial Day honors servicemembers who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle. Deceased veterans are also remembered on Veterans Day but the day is set aside to thank and honor living veterans who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime.

President Eisenhower’s letter to Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, designating him Chairman, Veterans Day National Committee

The White House Office
October 8, 1954

Dear Mr. Higley:

I have today signed a proclamation calling upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954 as Veterans Day. It is my earnest hope that all veterans, their organizations, and the entire citizenry will join hands to insure proper and widespread observance of this day. With the thought that it will be most helpful to coordinate the planning, I am suggesting the formation of a Veterans Day National Committee. In view of your great personal interest as well as your official responsibilities, I have designated you to serve as Chairman. You may include in the Committee membership such other persons as you desire to select and I am requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch to assist the Committee in its work in every way possible.

I have every confidence that our Nation will respond wholeheartedly in the appropriate observance of Veterans Day, 1954.

Sincerely,

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER


A Veterans Day Tribute


I Will Remember You

Memorial Service for Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre

U.S. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment honor fallen Soldier, Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre, at Forward Operating Base Delta, in southern Iraq, Nov. 10
U.S. Army Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment honor fallen Soldier, Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre, at Forward Operating Base Delta, in southern Iraq, Nov. 10
Dog tags hang from a rifle during a memorial ceremony for U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre, of the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Delta, in southern Iraq, Nov. 10.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steven Hite, commander of 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, pays his respects to fallen Soldier, Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre, at Forward Operating Base Delta, in southern Iraq, Nov. 10.
Tokens left by U.S. Soldiers lie next to boots during a memorial ceremony for U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre, of the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Delta, in southern Iraq, Nov. 10.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Shaune Tooke and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Aaron, commander and command sergeant major of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, render final respects to fallen Soldier, Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre, at Forward Operating Base Delta, in southern Iraq, Nov. 10.
U.S. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, honor fallen Soldier, Spc. Jonathan Sylvestre, at Forward Operating Base Delta, in southern Iraq, Nov. 10.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

From Rags To Riches

Nick's new home
Even a real bed and curtains...impressive!!!

Wow, I'm amazed at the difference between the last deployment and this one. FOB Delta seems to have MUCH better accomodations than FOB Hammer did. Compared to FOB Hammer, FOB Delta is the Ritz Carlton. It was so nice to get pictures today and see that the living conditions are much better than the ones that the Soldiers had when they first arrived at FOB Hammer.

In country less than a week and it's already starting to look like home. The old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words certainly holds true. Now I can visualize where Nick is and doesn't seem quite so gloomy now. Getting these pictures today was the highlight of the day. All seems to be going well and now they can get settled in and get on with the mission at hand.

I would hope that with housing accomodations this nice that they will also be able to enjoy other amneties as well. I'm so impressed...Nick has gone from "Rags to Riches".

THEN...FOB Hammer

NOW...FOB Delta...Much better!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Mili-kit" Provided Free By Post Office

Just wanted to remind everyone to take advantage of the "Mili-kit" that the Post Office will provide for our shipping needs to our Soldiers. It is great! All you have to do is call and within a few days, the kit arrives with everything you need. I appreciate the United States Postal Service making an effort to help out our Soldiers by making it a little easier for family and friend to send packages.

While it can’t cut postage costs, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) does provide help to military families and friends shipping care packages overseas to their deployed service members. Since Priority Mail® supplies are the packaging of choice for families and friends preparing care packages for service members overseas, the post office has created a "Mili-kit" based on the items most frequently requested by the military. This kit is available for free to military families.
It contains:
Three (3) each of flat rate boxes
Two each of Cube boxes
Address labels
One roll of Priority Mail tape
15 customs forms with envelopes
The kit may be requested by calling 1-800-610-8734 Choose your language (1 is English, 2 is Spanish).
Choose option 1 (it states it is for Express Mail®, Priority Mail or Global Express Guaranteed® products).
When you reach a live agent, request CAREKIT04, the “Military Kit. Allow 7-10 days for delivery. Note: These are free supplies only. Military families must still affix postage to the package.

You can order these kits as often as needed.
Hats off to the Post Office for helping out our soldiers, their friends and families!

Army Doctor Held in Ft. Hood Rampage

By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
An Army psychiatrist facing deployment to one of America’s war zones killed 13 people and wounded 30 others on Thursday in a shooting rampage with two handguns at the sprawling Fort Hood Army post in central Texas, military officials said.

It was one of the worst mass shootings ever at a military base in the United States.

The gunman, who was still alive after being shot four times, was identified by law enforcement authorities as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, who had been in the service since 1995. Major Hasan was about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas.

Clad in a military uniform and firing an automatic pistol and another weapon, Major Hasan, a balding, chubby-faced man with heavy eyebrows, sprayed bullets inside a crowded medical processing center for soldiers returning from or about to be sent overseas, military officials said.

The victims, nearly all military personnel but including two civilians, were cut down in clusters, the officials said. Witnesses told military investigators that medics working at the center tore open the clothing of the dead and wounded to get at the wounds and administer first aid.

As the shooting unfolded, military police and civilian officers of the Department of the Army responded and returned the gunman’s fire, officials said, adding that Major Hasan was shot by a first-responder, who was herself wounded in the exchange.

In the confusion of a day of wild and misleading reports, the major and the officer who shot him were both reported killed in the gun battle, but both reports were erroneous.

Eight hours after the shootings, Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, a base spokesmen, said Major Hasan, whom he described as the sole gunman, had been shot four times, but was hospitalized off the base, under around-the-clock guard, in stable condition and was not in imminent danger of dying.

Another military spokesman listed the major’s condition as critical. The condition of the officer who shot the gunman was not given.

Major Hasan was not speaking to investigators, and much about his background — and his motives — were unknown.

General Cone said that terrorism was not being ruled out, but that preliminary evidence did not suggest that the rampage had been an act of terrorism. Fox News quoted a retired Army colonel, Terry Lee, as saying that Major Hasan, with whom he worked, had voiced hope that President Obama would pull American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, had argued with military colleagues who supported the wars and had tried to prevent his own deployment.

As a parade of ambulances wailed to the scene of the shootings, officials said the extent of injuries to the wounded varied significantly, with some in critical condition and others lightly wounded. General Cone praised the first-responders and the medics who acted quickly to administer first aid at the scene.

“Horrible as this was, I think it could have been much worse,” the general said.

The rampage recalled other mass shootings in the United States, including 13 killed at a center for immigrants in upstate New York last April, the deaths of 10 during a gunman’s rampage in Alabama in March and 32 people killed at Virginia Tech in 2007, the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

As a widespread investigation by the military, the F.B.I., and other agencies began, much about the assault in Texas remained unclear. Department of Homeland Security officials said the Army would take the lead in the investigation.

A federal law enforcement official said the F.B.I. was sending more agents to join the inquiry. On Thursday night, F.B.I. agents were interviewing residents of a townhouse complex in the Washington suburb of Kensington, Md., where Major Hasan had lived before moving to Texas.

Mr. Obama called the shootings “a horrific outburst of violence” and urged Americans to pray for those who were killed and wounded.

“It is difficult enough when we lose these men and women in battles overseas,” he said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.”

The president pledged “to get answers to every single question about this horrible incident.”

Military records indicated that Major Hasan was single, had been born in Virginia, had never served abroad and listed “no religious preference” on his personnel records. Three other soldiers, their roles unclear, were taken into custody in connection with the rampage. The office of Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas, said they were later released, but a Fort Hood spokesman could not confirm that. General Cone said that more than 100 people had been questioned during the day.

Fort Hood, near Killeen and 100 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the largest active duty military post in the United States, 340 square miles of training and support facilities and homes, a virtual city for more than 50,000 military personnel and some 150,000 family members and civilian support personnel. It has been a major center for troops being deployed to or returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The base went into lockdown shortly after the shootings. Gates were closed and barriers put up at all entrance and exit checkpoints, and the military police turned away all but essential personnel. Schools on the base were closed, playgrounds were deserted and sidewalks were empty. Sirens wailed across the base through the afternoon, a warning to military personnel and their families to remain indoors.

Military commanders were instructed to account for all personnel on the base.

“The immediate concern is to make sure that all of our soldiers and family members are safe, and that’s what commanders have been instructed to do,” said Jay Adams of the First Army, Division West, at Ford Hood.

General Cone said the shooting took place about 1:30 p.m., inside a complex of buildings that he called a Soldier Readiness Processing Center. The type of weapons used was unclear, and it was not known whether the gunman had reloaded, although it seemed likely, given that 43 people were shot, perhaps more than once.

All the victims were gunned down “in the same area,” General Cone said.

As the shootings ended, scores of emergency vehicles rushed to the scene, which is in the center of the fort, and dozens of ambulances carried the shooting victims to hospitals in the region.

Both of the handguns used by Major Hasan were recovered at the scene, officials said. Investigators said the major’s computers, cellphones and papers would be examined, his past investigated and his friends, relatives and military acquaintances would be interviewed in an effort to develop a profile of him and try to learn what had motivated his deadly outburst.

Major Hasan was assigned to the Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood.

The weapons used in the attack were described as “civilian” handguns. Security experts said the fact that two handguns had been used suggested premeditation, as opposed to a spontaneous act.

Rifles and assault weapons are conspicuous and not ordinarily seen on the streets of a military post, and medical personnel would have no reason to carry any weapon, they said. Moreover, security experts noted, it took a lot of ammunition to shoot 43 people, another indication of premeditation.

It appeared certain that the shootings would generate a whole new look at questions of security on military posts of all the armed forces in the United States. Expressions of dismay were voiced by public officials across the country.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, speaking for many American Muslims, condemned the shootings as a “heinous incident” and said, “We share the sentiment of our president.”

The council added, “Our entire organization extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed as well as those wounded and their loved ones.”

General Cone said Fort Hood was “absolutely devastated.”

News of the shooting set off panic among families and friends of the base personnel. Alyssa Marie Seace’s husband, Pfc. Ray Seace Jr., sent her a text message just before 2 p.m. saying that someone had “shot up the S.R.P. building,” referring to the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. He told her he was “hiding.”

Ms. Seace, 18, who lives about five minutes from the base and had not been watching the news, reacted with alarm. She texted him back but got no response. She called her father in Connecticut, who told her not to call her husband because it might reveal his hiding place.

Finally, 45 minutes later, her husband, a mechanic who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February, texted back to say that three people from his unit had been hit and that a dozen people in all were dead.

By late afternoon, the sirens at Fort Hood had fallen silent. In Killeen, state troopers were parked on ridges overlooking the two main highways through town. In residential areas, the only signs of life were cars moving through the streets. In the business districts, people went about their business.

In 1991, Killeen was the scene of one of the worst mass killings in American history. A gunman drove his pickup truck through the window of a cafeteria, fatally shot 22 people with a handgun, then killed himself.

Fort Hood, opened in September 1942 as America geared up for World War II, was named for Gen. John Bell Hood of the Confederacy. It has been used continuously for armor training and is charged with maintaining readiness for combat missions.

It is a place that feels, on ordinary days, like one of the safest in the world, surrounded by those who protect the nation with their lives. It is home to nine schools — seven elementary schools and two middle schools, for the children of personnel. But on Thursday, the streets were lined with emergency vehicles, their lights flashing and sirens piercing the air as Texas Rangers and state troopers took up posts at the gates to seal the base.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the sirens sounded again and over the loudspeakers a woman’s voice that could be heard all over the base announced in a clipped military fashion: “Declared emergency no longer exists.”

The gates reopened, and a stream of cars and trucks that had been bottled up for hours began to move out.

Reporting was contributed by Michael Brick from Fort Hood, Tex., Michael Luo from New York, and David Stout from Washington.

Fort Hood Gunman in Custody After 12 Killed, 31 Injured in Rampage

Since this story was released this morning, one more person has died, bringing the total to 13 killed and 30 injured. This tragedy is beyond belief. Our Soldiers risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan only to come home and be shot by one of their own. My prayers go out for out to all the victims of this horrible incident.



Army: Fort Hood Gunman in Custody After 12 Killed, 31 Injured in Rampage
Friday , November 06, 2009



ADVERTISEMENTAn Army psychiatrist who reportedly feared an impending war deployment is in custody as the sole suspect in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas that left 12 dead and 31 wounded, an Army official said Thursday night.

The gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, first said to have been killed, was wounded but alive in a hospital under military guard, said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone at Fort Hood. He was shot four times, and was on a ventilator and unconscious, according to military officials. "I would say his death is not imminent," Cone said.

Two other soldiers who were taken into custody for questioning were later released, Cone said. A female first responder who shot at Hasan also survived, contrary to earlier reports that she had died.

The rampage was believed to be the deadliest at a U.S. military base in history.

Soldiers rushed to treat their injured colleagues by ripping their uniforms into makeshift bandages. Officials have not ruled out the possibility that some casualties may have been victims of "friendly fire," shot by authorities amid the mayhem and confusion at the scene, said a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that were under investigation.

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan, a Virginia native and a Muslim, was about to deploy overseas. Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News he was being sent to Afghanistan.

SLIDESHOW: Deadly rampage at Fort Hood Army Base

Lee said Hasan had hoped Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.

Before Thursday's shooting, Hasan reportedly gave away all of his furniture along with copies of the Koran to neighbors, KXXV-TV reported.

Video from the scene showed police patrolling the area with handguns and rifles, ducking behind buildings for cover. Sirens could be heard wailing while a woman's voice on a public-address system urged people to take cover.

"I was confused and just shocked," said Spc. Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the center but was not on duty during the shooting. "Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can't even defend yourself."

Soldiers at Fort Hood don't carry weapons unless they are doing training exercises.

Federal law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that Hasan had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that discussed homicide bombings and other threats. The officials said they are still trying to confirm that he was the author.

One of the Web postings that authorities reviewed is a blog that equates homicide bombers with a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades.

"To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate. Its more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause," said the Internet posting. "Scholars have paralled (sic) this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers."

They say an official investigation was not opened.

Hasan was working with soldiers at Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Hood after being transferred in July from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he had worked for six years before recently receiving a poor review.

Cone said the shooter used two guns, including a semi-automatic weapon. He added there was no indication they were military weapons.

The shooting took place 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the post's Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers undergo medical screening before being deployed or after returning from overseas.

"We have a terrible, tragic situation here," said Cone. "Soldiers, family members and the civilians that work here are absolutely devastated."

Cone said the injuries "vary significantly" among the victims wounded in the shooting.

The shooter's cousin, Nader Hasan, told Fox News that their family is in shock.

"We are trying to make sense of all this," Nader Hasan said. "He wasn't even someone who enjoyed going to the firing range."

He said his cousin, who was born and raised in Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech University, turned against the wars after hearing the stories of those who came back from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nader Hasan said his cousin, who was raised a Muslim, wanted to go into the military against his parent's wishes — but was taunted by others after the terror attacks of Sept. 11.

A former neighbor of Hasan's in Silver Spring, Md., told Fox News he lived there for two years with his brother and had the word "Allah" on the door.

She said the FBI interviewed her Thursday afternoon, adding she used to see a woman and a 3-year-old girl coming and going.

Authorities provided little information Thursday about the victims of the rampage at Fort Hood.

George Stratton's son, George Stratton III, was five feet away from the shooter at the Soldier Readiness Center and suffered a gunshot wound to his left shoulder.

"He said he was there doing medical stuff and all of a sudden someone came through the door, walked behind the desk and just started shooting," Stratton told FoxNews.com.

He said about 15 rounds went off and people started dropping to the floor.

"He peaked up over the desk and that's when he was shot in the shoulder, and he just went down again. He said he saw one of his NCOs get badly shot," Stratton told FoxNews.com after talking to his son in the hospital. "After he got shot he told me, 'Dad, I got up, held my arm and took off running.'"

Stratton said his son was expected to be deployed to Afghanistan in January after going to basic training exactly a year ago.

"It's pretty hard to believe something like this happened," Stratton told FoxNews.com. "I think he's probably had his fill of war already."

President Obama called the shooting a "horrific outburst of violence" on members of the nation's armed forces. "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil," he said

Obama said his thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and families of the fallen.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said they don't know anything about Hasan, and condemned the shooting at Fort Hood.

The group issued a statement calling the shooting as a "cowardly attack." They say no political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such violence.

The base and area schools were on lockdown after the mass shooting, and all those on the Army post were asked to gather for a head count, thought the lockdown was lifted Thursday night.

Covering 339 square miles, Fort Hood is the largest active duty armored post in the United States. Home to about 52,000 troops as of earlier this year, the sprawling base is located halfway between Austin and Waco.

FoxNews.com's Michelle Maskaly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Less Than A Week Away

Less than a week away until the package convoy can begin. I've started collecting things along the way so I'm ready to go. I know how much the packages mean to the troops and for me it is fun and exciting to be able to do something to bring a smile to their day! Watch out Post Office...

3rd ID Assumes Responsibility in Iraq Region

MG Tony Cucolo, commander Task Force Marne, and CSM Jesse Andrews, Task Force Marne command sergeant major, uncase the 3rd Infantry Division colors during a transfer of authority ceremony Tuesday. The ceremony marked the fourth time Task Force Marne has uncased its colors on Iraq.

By Sgt. Johnathan Jobson
Task Force Marne journalist

Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq - During a ceremony held at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, on Nov 3, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, Task Force Marne commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews, the task force command sergeant major, uncased the 3rd Infantry Division colors to signify the official transfer of authority from the 25th Infantry Division, out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

During Operations Iraqi Freedom I, III and V, 3rd Infantry Division transformed itself into Task Force Marne to command and control combat operations in its given portion of Iraq. In 2006 the division hit the ground in Baghdad as part of the Surge. Now for a fourth time the division once again becomes TF Marne, this time assigned to Multi-National Division - North.

"Today, our uncased colors symbolize a deep commitment by a group of professionals to give our absolute best effort in support of our Iraqi partners and to build on the progress already made," said Maj. Gen. Cucolo. "And most importantly our commitment to perform our duties in a manner worthy of the great sacrifices of those Americans and Iraqis who have gone before us."

During this deployment, TF Marne has scaled back its combat role, and will prove more of an advisory support and assistance to Iraqi forces.

"For an American Soldier, I would not want to be anywhere else in Iraq," Maj. Gen. Cucolo expressed. "The partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces has been outstanding, and the efforts of the civilian leadership in this part of Iraq have been superb. I just look forward to continuing that progress."

Major General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., commander of Task Force Lightning and out-going MND-N commander, had nothing but positive comments about Maj. Gen. Cucolo and Task Force Marne, and their upcoming mission.

"There is no one in the entire United States Army, I trust more to take this mission with all its complexity than Tony Cucolo," Maj. Gen Caslen stated. "I guarantee there will be no gaps in service support or mission accomplishment."

As the command element of MND-N, Task Force Marne will have a presence in numerous cities and villages, to include: Mosul and Tall Afar in the Ninewa province; Kirkuk City and Hawija in the Kirkuk province; Tikrit and Balad in the Salah ad-Din province and Baqubah in the Diyala province.

Under the division's command are four maneuver brigades: Task Force Marne now commands four maneuver brigades: 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, out of Fort Riley, Kan.; 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team both out of 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, out of Fort Lewis, Wash., and 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 130th Engineer Brigade, both from Hawaii. This winter, the 3rd Inf. Div.'s 2nd Brigade Combat Team will join the task force and replace 3 HBCT, 1st Cav. Div.
Since Maj. Gen. Cucolo has hit the ground he's heard how each of the brigades routinely work with their ISF counterparts to conduct air assaults, patrols and reconstruction projects. Interface between the troops and the IA has changed from just combat to discussions and practices to improve life for the Iraqi people.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Velvet Hammer - Fort Benning Soldier Dies in Iraq

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 2nd of November, I was notified that our Brigade has suffered the
loss of one of our soldiers from B/1-10 FA. The soldier lost his life
due to non-combat related injuries sustained at FOB Delta, Iraq. The
next of kin of our fallen soldier has been notified. I ask you for your
prayers for this Sledgehammer Soldier and his family.


Tom Woodie
LTC, EN
Rear Detachment Commander
3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Defense Department says a Fort Benning soldier from Colorado Springs has died in Iraq of injuries from a noncombat incident.

Military officials said Tuesday that 21-year-old Spc. Jonathon M. Sylvestre died Monday in Kut, Iraq. Details of his injuries weren’t released.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning.

The circumstances of his death are under investigation.