Friday, February 26, 2010

Goodbye, Elsie!

It is never easy loosing the family pet but it is even harder when one of the family members is deployed. Wednesday, Elsie, the James family pet since March 6, 1995 passed away at approximately 1:15 AM Elsie lived a good and happy life and will be missed tremendously!
Our pets are such an integral part of our lives and loosing them after so many years leaves you it is devastating and leaves you with such an empty feeling. I know Nick would have liked to tell Elise goodbye and scratch his ears one more time he is off serving his country. This is just a tiny example of the many sacrifices that our Soldiers make for their country. There are so many things that our deployed Soldiers have to adjust to or go through from afar but to them, it is just part of their job. To me, it is an unselfish act of sacrifice for us to have our freedom. My heart goes out to Nick and his family on the loss of "Man's best friend, Elsie".
I know the James family has many fond memories with Elise and will find comfort in recalling all the fun times.

Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

Building Sustainable Agriculture in the Iraqi Heartland Share

By Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick, 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO

DIWANIYAH, Iraq – Leaders of the Diwaniyah Provincial Reconstruction Team and the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, recently completed the first step toward what is hoped to be a lasting source of income for many farmers in Diwaniyah.

While Company A, 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt. Soldiers provided security Feb. 16, 2010, unit leaders, along with PRT Agricultural Advisors, Dr. Mohamed, Dr. Abdul and Bill Baker, escorted representatives of the Director General of Agriculture to five farms to determine if they are suitable sites for plastic tunnel houses.

“Tunnel houses are like low-tech greenhouses,” said Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Paul Lively, 2nd Platoon, Co. A.

From the soil samples taken, PRT and 1st Bn. leaders will determine if the selected farms are eligible for micro-grants — part of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program — said 1st Lt. Matthew Dandola, a civil affairs team leader attached to 1st Bn.

Baker explained that Diwaniyah had been a large exporter of wheat, barley, and rice prior to the Saddam era. However, those large-field crops require a steady source of water for irrigation. Over the last 10 years, conflict and drought have reduced water flow in surrounding canals and severely limited the production of large-field crops.

“The rice was a good source of income but they were only farming 10% of their fields,” Baker said.
Mohamed explained that to fix this problem, farmers need to grow crops that take up less water and less land. In this sense, Cucumbers and tomatoes are the ideal crops..

In addition to finding the right crops, farmers need to make the best use of the limited water they have. Tunnel housing uses the greenhouse effect from sunlight to provide a growing environment warm enough to grow vegetables.

“Plastic tunnel houses allow the farmer to extend the vegetable growing season through the winter months,” Baker said.

While taking soil samples, Baker, Mohamed, and Abdul also taught the DG of Agriculture staff how to plot the points where the soil samples were taken. According to Lively, training the staff and providing the farmers with the tunnel houses will stimulate the economy. The goal is for these first five plastic tunnel houses to pave the way for more.

The end result will be a steady income for the local farmers, Dandola said. “This way they won’t have to go anywhere for money; they can avoid the temptation of taking money from the insurgency,” he said

Baker is pleased with the way the project is moving forward.

“[The Iraqi counterparts] have been involved from the very beginning,” he said. “We are working together as a great team.”

First Lt. Matthew Dandola, a civil affairs team leader attached to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, talks to local children Feb. 16, 2010, as leaders of the 1st Bn., 15 Inf. Regt., the Diwaniyah Provincial Reconstruction Team and members of the Director General take soil samples in Diwaniyah, Iraq. The samples were taken to determine if land was suitable for “tunnel houses,” low-tech versions of greenhouses. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick, 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Press Conference Reveals Progress in Babil

Maj. Jim Hathaway, operations officer for the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, speaks to Iraqi media during a press conference at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Feb. 15, 2010. The 2nd Bn., 69th AR have been working with the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team to rebuild Iraq's essential services and stimulate economic growth.

By Spc. Samuel Soza, 367th MPAD

Key leaders with the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team and the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, held a press conference Feb. 15, 2010, at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, to present U.S. personnel to the Iraqi media and discuss current and future efforts in rebuilding Iraq's essential services.

"It's important to keep an open relationship with the people of Iraq," said Maj. Jim Hathaway, operations officer with the 2nd Bn., 69th AR, during his opening remarks.

After Hathaway Rick Roberts, Babil PRT team leader, spoke.

"We are meeting not just as friends but as partners," he said, "And like all friends and partners, we need to talk."

The PRT coordinates and leads reconstruction in Iraq by communicating with the U.S. Department of State, the military, the United States Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Departments of Justice, Agriculture and Treasury, said Roberts.

"All our efforts focus toward stability, security, and prosperity," he said.

According to Roberts, the PRT has helped to complete more than 2,400 projects totaling nearly $155 million in the Babil Province.

These efforts ranged from micro-grants for farmers and widows to help them create or improve various industries, to multimillion dollar projects, such as the construction of a new local courthouse.

"It's a record worthy of note," he said.

The 2nd Bn., 69th AR have also completed four projects totaling over $1 million during their three months in Iraq, according to Hathaway.

They partners are now focusing on the 13 ongoing projects that total nearly $2.8 million and have 21 planned projects that focus on providing micro-loans for budding businesses and highway safety projects that facilitate the movement of commerce throughout the region.

These projects have made products more readily available to the people, reduced reliance on imported goods and, most importantly, generated jobs, said Roberts.

He also said that there have been efforts to encourage investment, such as a recent tourism conference a few months ago.

Babil Province is crossed by the Euphrates River and is home to the ruins of ancient Babylon. One of SaddamHussein's massive palaces overlooks the ruins.

Area studies are being done to establish how best to use the site, according to Roberts.
"Whatever happens, it will be an Iraqi decision, not ours," he said.

Investments are important to the future of Babil province, Roberts said.

Speaking about the industrial sector, he said that, although there have been projects aimed at maintaining existing infrastructure, the majority of investment opportunities lie within the private sector.

This sentiment was expressed often when Roberts began taking questions from Iraqi reporters.

Aside from funding for healthcare, childcare, residential housing and even development of the media, he noted the loans that have been made available for business ventures.

The reporters also asked about plans to provide reliable electricity. Roberts replied that the issue has been a challenge for a number of years.

"Is there anything big or hard for Americans to do?" said one journalist.

In light of the drawdown of U.S. forces, Roberts said that the one major hurdle is time.

"We will probably cease to function in Iraq in about 18 months," he said.

Once that time is up, Roberts hopes to have something tangible to show for it.

"The only monument we've wanted to leave is to see the people better off," said Roberts, "Freer and more secure."

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Comedians Keep FOB Echo Laughing

By Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ECHO, Iraq – “Who here has dogs?”

A few Soldiers in the audience raised their hands.

“What kind of dog do you have,” comedian Ray Barnett asked one chosen Soldier. “A bullmastiff? Those are the kind of dogs that, if he gets goin’ on your leg, you just let him finish.”

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and attached unit Soldiers and civilians were treated to the comedic relief of Barnett and two colleagues, Chase Durousseau and Donnie Johnson, during a show Feb. 13 at FOB Echo.

“This is a big show for us,” Johnson said. “It’s our way of showing our appreciation for what the Soldiers are doing over here.”

Each comedian brought his own dash of spice to the show while still remaining true to the military sense of humor.

“Everywhere we go we pick up new material,” Barnett explained. “Even here, I fell the other day and came up with ‘Fat Hog Down.’”

During the two-and-a-half hour show the comedians made light some of the everyday annoyances Soldiers at FOB Echo might face like cheap toilet paper and non-alcoholic beer.

“We get up-close and personal with Soldiers when we’re here,” Johnson said. “Most people back home only get stories. They don’t know what it’s really like.”

The comedians agree the experience of entertaining Soldiers while overseas is one that cannot be matched.

“To see the different people here, the Iraqis, the Ugandans, the Americans all here together working for one cause is amazing,” Barnett said. “This is my way of giving back. This is my way of serving.”

Comedian Ray Barnett entertains Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and attached unit Soldiers and civilians during a comedy show Feb. 13 at Forward Operating Base Echo, Iraq.
Comedians Chase Durousseau, and Ray Barnett, sit and eat dinner with Sgt. Crystal Thompson, Company F, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, before their show Feb. 13 at Forward Operating Base Echo, Iraq.

Work is a blast for 1-15 Inf. Regt. Soldiers

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, learn how to make a window charge in a demolition class Feb. 9 as part of the battalion, Team Leader Course at Forward Operating Base Echo, Iraq.
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and the 8th Iraqi Army Division, prepare to place and detonate their window charge during a demolition class Feb. 9 as part of the battalion, Team Leader Course at Forward Operating Base Echo, Iraq.
Sgt. Robert Morrell, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division places his window charge during a demolition class Feb. 9 as part of the battalion, Team Leader Course at Forward Operating Base Echo, Iraq.

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ECHO, Iraq – “This is the only thing I was looking forward to,” said Cpl. Sean Taylor, Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, in between the series of explosions.

Taylor was on day nine of the 15-day 1-15 Inf. Regt. Team Leader course which began Feb. 1 at FOB Echo. He, along with fellow “Can-Do” Soldiers and two Soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army Division, was completing four days of demolition training.

“When they get done with these classes, I guarantee most of them will say this is the most fun they’ve had in the course,” said Staff Sgt. Robie Stricklin, an engineer from Company E, 1-15 Inf. Regt.

Open to Soldiers new to the team leader position, the course allows Soldiers to test their skills in areas like demolition, mechanical breach, shotgun breach, reflexive fire, technicalities of different weapon systems, communication, and first aid. Students also learn the roles and responsibilities of several positions in the noncommissioned officer corps.

“It gives team leaders a chance to reaffirm training and new skills to improve the organization and accomplish the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Conrad Slyder, from Company B, 1-15 Inf. Regt.

“This course is a compact version of everything we joined the Army to do,” Taylor added.

The Team Leader Course is designed to expose new team leaders to variety of military occupational skills; including infantrymen, medics, mechanics, and military policemen. Many of the students agreed the demolition were their favorite piece.

“The other stuff we get to do every day,” Taylor, an infantryman said. “We don’t get to do stuff like this every day.”

Slyder agreed, “The demolition is my favorite because we get to blow stuff up. I’ve never done that before.”

Private Hassan Badder, one of two 8th IA Division Soldiers going through the course, found he was treated no differently than the American Soldiers he trained beside. Badder said he thought the Team Leader Course was very exciting and, since he was one of the few from his unit to go through the course, felt confident in taking what he learned back to his fellow Iraqi Soldiers.

The Team Leader Course was only one of the many opportunities Soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army Division were able to train with their American counterparts.

Several feet away, under the protection of a maintenance bay, three 8th IA Division drivers were elbow deep in grease and oil.

“My drivers need to improve their levels of training,” said Maj. Hussain Aziz, commander of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 30th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division. “With the help of Coalition Forces, they learn the correct maintenance of vehicles; especially humvees.”

Aziz said the Soldiers from the 1-15 Inf. Regt. are training his Soldiers on new technology that could benefit his unit.

Aziz feels confident that his Soldiers will be able to take their new found knowledge back to their unit’s. Stricklin, with what he taught during the Team Leader Course agree.

“These skills are definitely one’s they can teach their Soldiers,” he said. “It’s important they know this stuff.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Radhi, 8th Iraqi Army Division, sees the importance of noncommissioned officers, Iraqi and American alike, taking what they have learned to train their Soldiers. He explained in the old Iraqi Army, there was no such responsibility for the corps.

“One of our main focuses now is to educate the officers on the role of the NCO in the Army,” he said. “We are trying to give more responsibility to our NCOs. We are trying to model them off the NCOs in the U.S. Army.”

Assassin Troopers Get a Kick Out of Karate Class

Story by Spc. David Dyer, 3-1 Cav Public Affairs Liaison

CONTINGECY OPERATING STATION SHOCKER, Iraq – Most nights at COS Shocker a pile of 40 or more boots are sitting outside the entrance to an otherwise unremarkable tent. This is the Dojo for the Karate class. The students are a mixture of Dragoons from Troop A, 3-1 Cavalry and Saber contractors. Led by Major Rob Boone, a third degree black belt in Matasubuyashi Shurin-Ryu with over 12 years of martial arts experience, students there have the chance to learn and progress through the ranking system and earn belts that will be recognized wherever they may go after they leave Iraq. Boone, who has been a certified karate instructor for four years, is assisted in by Maj. Charles Krieger, a first degree black belt in Jujitsu with five years of experience.

“I really enjoy it” said Staff Sgt. Bill Morris of B Troop 3-1 Cavalry who is currently attached to Assassin Troop at COP Shocker, “I get to pick up new skills and work out at the same time.”

The temperature inside the crowed dojo tent climbs quickly as the students practice the various katas and work on conditioning drills. By the end of the night’s lesson smiles and jokes are exchanged as boots are pulled back on and laced up.

“It’s a great way to relieve stress…and a lot of fun,” said Falak Mir Shafi, a Soldier in Troop A.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Letters From War

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 5th of February, I was notified that HHC/2-69 AR suffered the loss of a Soldier. The next of kin has been notified. The Soldier passed away to unknown causes while on leave from Iraq in Melbourne, FL. I ask you for your prayers for this Sledgehammer Soldier's family.

Tom Woodie
Rear Detachment Commander
3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division
Fort Benning, GA

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In Service of Others

Spc. Mikail Lawal, a petroleum specialist assigned to Company A, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, reads from the Quran, the holy book of Islam, at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Jan.4. Lawal, a devout Muslim, is attempting to become a Muslim chaplain in service of his country.

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

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Before traveling to America, he was born in Nigeria and lived there for 22 years. His father, a village elder and Muslim religious leader, made an early impression on his life; an impression that is still left on him today as he attempts to become an Army chaplain.

He traveled to America, in 1995, to become an All-American tennis player at Morehouse University in Atlanta. While at Morehouse, he is also earned a Bachelors of Science degree in psychology

Unassuming and respectful, Spc. Mikail Lawal, a petroleum specialist assigned to Company A, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, has seen more of the world than his ranks would suggest.

Lawal, who is working as an attendant at the Forward Operating Base Kalsu airfield, does his best to be professional and helpful to the Soldiers and civilians who are leaving or coming to the FOB. Whether it be helping passengers with their bags or informing them of flight times, Lawal ensures that travelers get on the right helicopter at the proper time.

It can, at times, be a thankless job, but Lawal views it as another opportunity to help people.

“I can make money many ways,” he said. “The money will come no matter what job I do. Anything I do, I do because I really care about it. I know I will be successful; it’s a matter of when that will happen. What can I do in between those times to help people? That is the more important thing.”

His giving attitude comes from two sources; his deep faith in Islam and the example his father set for him at an early age. Not surprisingly, both are uniquely intertwined.

“He was a figure that everyone respected,” said Lawal. “No one wanted to wrong him; he was that peaceful of a man. He is my example as man and a teacher.”

Another lasting gift given to Lawal by his father was the opportunity to go on the annual Islamic Pilgrimage called the Hajj. As one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, a trip to Mecca is extremely important for any Muslim. To be able to go on the Hajj was an even greater honor, according to Lawal. It was an eternal gift from his father, the chance to deepen his understanding of the faith. He journeyed from Nigeria to Mecca with his mother and sister to participate in the spiritual event. Upon return, his life was changed forever

“It is a feeling you can never explain,” he said. “You leave there changed. It was like being touched by a spirit. To go through that was simply phenomenal. It is that simple.”

While his faith is his foundation, tennis is one of Lawal’s passions. He was so skilled at the sport; he was able to use his ability to secure a tennis scholarship to Morehouse. He played there from 1995 to 1997, where he became a collegiate All-American.

Lawal continues to teach tennis at his academy.

“I’m still playing tennis,” he said. “I don’t compete as vigorously now that I’m in the Army, but it will always be one of my professions. My tennis academy means a lot to me. On all my business cards for the school, the phrase “I teach because I care” is on them. For me, tennis is another way to help people.”

That spirit of service has also led Lawal to pursue becoming an Army chaplain.

“There are a small number of Muslim chaplains,” he said. “There are a lot of wrong misconceptions about the faith. It is a very noble faith. It requires a person to put everything in the hands of their creator. It requires total submission to the will of God. It is not what many people think.”

Lawal leads a small worship service for the FOB’s Muslims every Friday. He normally has 12 people who attend the meeting. Brigade Soldiers, security guards and contractors make the varied congregation.

“I think worship gives you more benefit if you have a congregation,” said Lawal. “There is a reward in seeing a change in person. It rubs off on everyone. I would say to be in the presence of Godly people makes someone stronger.”

Lawal doesn’t find being a spiritual teacher as a burden. He views his role as a way to demonstrate love to his fellow man.

“It is very simple,” he said. “You show people love. You don’t even have to say it. People just need to see that you care about them. You just need to be constant in your role. You cannot start off one way and change.”

Unit Goes Above and Beyond

By Sgt. Matthew Hayes 1-10 FA Public Affairs Liaison

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Milton, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, has been a career counselor for six years and he has never witnessed a reenlistment quite like this one.

When Spc. Bobby Ortiz, a West Hartford, Conn. native, was assigned to Headquarters Battery, 1-10 FA Regt. was asked if there were any special requests for his reenlistment, he responded, “I want to go to Germany and I want to reenlist in a Blackhawk”.

While most retention NCO’s would have given a look of surprise, Milton simply replied “I’ll see what I can do”.

Ortiz was then asked why he wanted to reenlist in a Blackhawk,

“Because, to my knowledge, no one else in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division has ever done it before,” he said. “More than likely not during a deployment.”

After leaders of 1-10 FA Regt. were notified of the Soldier’s request, they began making the necessary phone calls to leaders of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment, out of Phoenix, Arizona. They were happy to oblige.

January 26, Ortiz, along with the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Shaun E. Tooke and battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Aaron stepped into the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. The group set off to host the reenlistment which would guarantee a “Rock’s Support” Soldier’s future with the United States Army.

The battalion retention noncommissioned officer, battery commander and first sergeant, two of Ortiz’s friends, and the battalion public affairs liaison were also on the flight at Ortiz’s request. The only thing missing, according to the man of the hour, was family.

“I really wish my wife and son were here,” Oritz said. “That really would have been great.”

The entire flight lasted approximately 20 minutes; however it’s an event that will be talked about in the 1-10 FA Regt. for a long time.

“You know people are only going to try to top this re enlistment,” a spectator said to Milton.

“We will do what we can,” Milton replied with a smile.

The retention NCO and leaders of the 1-10 FA Regt. took that extra step to ensure this Soldier’s desire to reenlist on a UH-60 Blackhawk was fulfilled. That’s caring, and that’s what it’s all about.

Spc. Bobby Ortiz Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, reenlists Jan. 26 while riding in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter that flew over Forward Operating Base Delta, Iraq. (photo by Sgt Matthew Hayes)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

C Troop Change of Command Photos

Sunday, 31 Jan 10

Across the World

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

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Spc. Jon Calhoun, a Soldier in Company C, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, isn’t your typical specialist in the United States Army.

As 3rd HBCT’s lone x-ray technician, Calhoun, a native of Canton, Ohio, is responsible for maintaining and operating the brigade’s X-Ray machine. He is also responsible for taking the most accurate images he can to help ensure that the Soldiers under his care get the best possible diagnosis.

“I love doing my job,” he said. “I enjoy the technical aspects of it, the challenge of doing it well and meeting and helping people. Helping people is very fulfilling. It is really what we should all do.”

Service. The word sums up the 44 years Calhoun has been alive so far.

After he graduated from Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., with a master of divinity degree, he decided to join the Army as a combat medic.

“I initially joined the Army for three reasons,” he said. “I wanted to learn medicine, I wanted to pay off my school bills and I wanted to serve my country. The Army allowed me to do all three of those things.”

As combat medic serving in the 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armor Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, Calhoun learned skills that allowed him to help people.

“I initially wanted to work in a hospital, so when I was placed with a line unit I was disappointed,” he said. “It turned out to be the best thing that could happen to me. It gave me the opportunity to practice field medicine.”

Calhoun served as a field medic for four years. Then he decided to get out and pursue another calling his faith had placed on him.

For six years, Calhoun and his wife, Shelley, lived in a remote village in the Chimbu Province of New Guinea.

Serving as missionaries, the couple started a medical clinic and church in the small village of Kiari.

“No one directed us to go there,” he said. “It was just something the Lord put in our heart to do, so we went.”

Living in a remote mountain village had its challenges. The running water in the village was “the stream running by our house” he explained with a grin.

The roads he had to take to get to the village could better be described as paths. It was not uncommon for the couple to use very thin, narrow rope-bridges to cross streams and ravines. Those routes were also filled with bandits.

“I’ve been held up with home-made shotguns, bows and arrows, and spears,” he said. “Travel in New Guinea wasn’t always safe.”

Despite all of those struggles, he and his wife remember their time there fondly.

“We had a great time there,” he said. “It was very rewarding for me and my wife. When you are doing what the Lord wants you to do, it can bring you huge amounts of joy. You may not always be happy, happiness is a very temporary feeling sometimes, but you are always joyful.”

As the village’s doctor, Calhoun was called upon to provide minor surgeries, help treat such diseases such as malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis, and look after injuries.

“The Army helped prepare me for that time,” he said. “Physically, I was ready, I had practiced field medicine, and mentally I was used to working crazy hours.”

The health clinic also provided him an avenue to share his faith.

“I started a church with eight people,” he said. “When I left there, it had grown to close to a hundred people.”

Calhoun explained that Christians of the village helped welcome him and his wife into the village’s community.

“The original eight Christians of the village accepted us with open arms,” he said. “As a result, the entire village accepted us. Everyone felt comfortable going to the clinic and we were able to use that as a ministry to open doors.”

After six years of service to the people of Kiari and his faith, the Calhouns returned to America.

As the couple thought about what they should do next, the idea of serving in the Army again became more appealing to both of them.

“The benefits of the Army made it too good of an opportunity not to take advantage of,” he said. “Free schooling, the opportunity to practice medicine and the chance to become a physician’s assistant were all factors in why I chose to come back. It’s hard to get a better deal than what they can provide.”

As Calhoun serves his Lord, his country and his fellow Soldiers, he is excited about what he is doing and the direction his life is heading.

“I try to do the best I can in everything I do, mainly for God’s glory,” he said. “I am blessed in the fact that I love my job. Serving people can really be a reward in itself.”

As Calhoun continues to advance in his career, his spirit of service can not only continue to reward him, but it can, hopefully, continue to reward others.

Spc. Jon Calhoun, an X-ray technician assigned to Company C, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, examines an image at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Jan. 29. Calhoun, who served as a Christian missionary in New Guinea for six years before joining the Army, is responsible for maintaining and operating the 3rd HBCT’s X-ray equipment at FOB Kalsu.

Spc. Jon Calhoun, an X-ray technician assigned to Company C, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, preaches to villagers in Kiari, New Guinea, in the spring of 2003. Calhoun, who served as a Christian missionary there for six years before re-joining the Army, helped the village by running a medical clinic

The Eyes in the Sky

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

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Being a Soldier in the United States Army is a full-time job. No one understands that more than the Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division’s unmanned aerial vehicle cell. Twenty-four hours a day they monitor the 3rd HBCT’s area of operation from above.

“We are always on the lookout for the bad guys,” said Staff Sgt. Ray Lemlin, a platoon sergeant in Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “The goal is always to spot them before they can hurt us.”

Since their arrival to FOB Kalsu, Lemlin’s section has been vigilant in making sure that all of their aircrafts are ready to go. According to Lemlin, a UAV that can’t fly doesn’t do anyone any good.

“Our platoon is very meticulous when it comes to maintenance,” said Lemlin, a native of Miami. “We rarely have an aircraft down because of maintenance issues. We have never been at less than 75 percent strength. To be honest, we have never been at less than a hundred percent than for more than a couple of hours.”

The section’s commitment to excellence is shaped by their desire to keep their fellow Soldiers safe.

“It’s our job to keep our guys out of harm’s way,” said Sgt. Richard Knuth, a maintainer in Company A from Merkel, Texas. “It’s a good feeling, but it requires us to have a pretty high set of standards. We can have a lot of down time between flights so we’ve got to maintain our focus and not let duties become routine.”

According to Lemlin, his Soldiers must always be ready to launch a UAV, even when indirect fire is raining down on the FOB.

“Depending on where we have UAV operating, we may have to get another camera up when the bad guys try to throw indirect fire at us,” he said. “That means our guys have to have the UAV up in 15 minutes or less.”

Which, according to Merkel, is much harder than it sounds.

“When indirect starts coming in, it’s our job to grab a head-set, run the UAV out to the launcher, double check the vehicle, go through our pre-flight checks and launch,” he explained. “It takes three people to load the vehicle. Its 375 pounds. I wouldn’t say it’s heavy, but it takes a bit of work to get it ready to go.”

They do all of this as everyone else on the FOB is running for the cover of concrete shelters.

“It’s what we signed up for,” said Merkel. “If we aren’t out there in the open for those few minutes, we may miss a chance to catch the bad guys who are doing it.”

Pfc. Anthony McCormack, a controller assigned to Company A from San Diego, knows first-hand how dangerous that indirect fire can be.

“I was behind a concrete wall when a rocket landed about five feet from me,” he said. “It was scary, but it did definitely help create a better sense of urgency in me. I understand why what I do is important being on the receiving of something like that.”

McCormack admits that his first deployment isn’t exactly what he thought it would be, but he said that his motivation is still to keep his fellow Soldiers out of harm’s way.

“As an enlisted Soldier, this is as close as you can get to being a pilot,” he said. “It’s a fun job, but it feels good to know that I’m helping keep Soldiers safe by checking routes, by looking for signs for buried explosives and finding enemies that are shooting rockets at us.”

As the Soldiers of the 3rd HBCT continue their mission across five provinces in Iraq, they can rest assured they have an eye in the sky ensuring their safety.

Staff Sgt. Ray Lemlin, Staff Sgt. Ray Lemlin, a platoon sergeant in Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, checks the cameras an unmanned aerial vehicle before it is launched at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Jan. 25. Lemlin’s section maintains 24 hour aerial surveillance around the FOB.

Sgt. Richard Knuth, an unmanned aerial vehicle maintainer in Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, does a pre-flight check on one of his vehicles at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Jan. 25. In order to keep up with the demands of the 3rd HBCT’s mission, Knuth and his fellow maintainers in Company A maintain a throughout maintenance schedule to ensure all the aircrafts are ready to launch at a moment’s notice.

Sgt. Winston Chin (left), Sgt. Richard Knuth (middle) and Sgt. Craig Mulder, all assigned to Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, readjust an unmanned aerial vehicle launcher to better situate it with the direction of the wind, Jan. 25, at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. UAV’s typically launch into the wind in order to maintain proper lift.

Pfc. Anthony McCormack, a controller assigned to Company A, Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, wheels an unmanned aerial vehicle out to a launcher at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Jan. 25. The vehicle, which weighs over 300 pounds, requires three Soldiers to load it on to the launcher.

Sgt. Richard Knuth (left) and Sgt. Winston Chin (right), both assigned to Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, adjust an unmanned aerial vehicle on it’s a launcher, Jan. 25, at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq. Before they are launched, UAVs go through a pre-flight inspection to ensure all of their systems are in proper working order.