Wednesday, April 28, 2010

HAMMER - hardships, hearts & heroes - Episodes 16

The top squads from every battalion met at COS Kalsu to vie for top squad honors. Follow along in HAMMER - hardships, hearts & heroes, Episode 16. Episode music courtesy Skillet

Monday, April 26, 2010

HAMMER - hardships, hearts & heroes - Episodes 15

Episode 15 of HAMMER follows along as NCO's of the Sledgehammer Brigade vie for membership in the exclusive Sergeant Audie Murphy Club

Sledgehammer - Halfway Home!

Sledgehammer Squads Square-off

Soldiers representing 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, start out on a five-mile march April 15, during the best-squad competition at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq. The competition tested the teamwork and physical abilities of teams representing the Sledgehammer Brigade's six battalions.

Story by Pfc. Erik Anderson

COS KALSU, Iraq – Squads representing each of the six battalions that make up the 3rd Heavy Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division met at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, April 15, to compete in a two-day event designed to test their strength and teamwork.

The first day represented traditional warrior tasks and drills with a surprise road-march to end the day. The following day, Soldiers squared-off in non-traditional events that brought some fun to the competition.

"Being in a combat zone, it is very important these Soldiers operate as a squad," said Sgt. Maj. Rick Hairston, 3rd HBCT. "The squad as a group is much stronger than any one individual can be."

Warrior tasks on the first day were completed in body armor, as if the squads were on patrol in the streets of Iraq.

The first event was a road march to an obstacle where teams carried a stretcher loaded with a simulated body weight. Teams traversed three trailers with the stretcher through a lane that required them to work together.

"It took teamwork, a lot of teamwork," said Spc. Derrick Hodges, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion. "Running with the flak vests on, that is something new. You have to be ready."

Squads flipped two, 500-pound military tires end-over-end for 80 meters before moving on to a grenade-throwing station. The next task was a weapons assembly station, where they were given a pile of parts and assembled working firearms while timed for points.

"Teamwork is important because it is what combat is based on," said Spc. William Johnson, 203rd BSB. "Without your battle buddy to your left or to your right, you're no good."

Moving to the next obstacle, squads were presented with a standard resupply point, consisting of water cans, pre-packaged meals and ammunition. The task was to move the supplies over a six-foot-tall wall, carry them across a water-filled ditch, and deliver them to a waiting military vehicle.

"If they don't have leadership directing them, they won't accomplish it that quick," said Hairston. "But if they work towards the same goal, and understand what each other's strengths and weaknesses are, they will be able to move quicker."

After the supplies were loaded onto the truck, squads moved to the COS Kalsu pistol range and were awarded points based on accuracy.

Following the range, teams were given a much-needed rest until the next event, a five-mile road march.

During the march, teams pushed a disabled humvee and carried a loaded stretcher the final 100 meters.

"We are trying to make them work as a squad," said Hairston. "Making the leadership think about what they are going to do and how they are going to plan the attack to do the next event."

The second day of competition had the participants tossing horseshoes, shooting hoops, throwing footballs, and trying to hit a barrel with a softball after some very dizzying bat maneuvers, to earn points for their squads.

"It's basically teamwork," said Johnson. "You start as a team and it's up to the team whether you are close-knit enough to actually finish as a team."

After the dust settled and the points were tallied, the squad representing 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment took top-squad bragging rights.

"I'm really proud of my guys," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Moore, 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt. "They worked hard and they deserve it."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Helping Deployed Soldiers Maintain Bonds

Chaplain (Capt.) Bruce Duty, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, reads a love poem to his wife back home in Fort Benning, Ga., during an internet communications event held at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq, Feb. 14. The 3rd HBCT has held several events and relationship-building classes to help its deployed Soldiers and their spouses strengthen their marriages.
Story by Spc. Ben Hutto

COS KALSU, Iraq -- The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division is helping married Soldiers improve their relationships with their spouses during their current mission in Iraq.

The 3rd HBCT mental health assessment, given three months into the brigade's current deployment, determined that marital stress was a main concern of the brigade's Soldiers.

"Strong Bonds marriage retreats, Family Life [program], and counselors are all examples of the support systems available to our married Soldiers to help them and their spouses during and after our deployment," said Col. Pete Jones, the commander of the 3rd HBCT. "We are near the mid-point of this deployment and our marriage retreats were designed to introduce techniques that maintain and build relationships."

In addition to counseling and retreats, the 3rd HBCT has sponsored the "Fireproof Your Marriage" peer study, a religious study based on the Christian film and held events via the Internet to help provide Soldiers more options to improve their marriage and stay connected with their spouses.

"A stable home life allows our Soldiers to focus on their mission and not be looking over their shoulder on what is going on back home," said Jones. "A Soldier with an unstable marriage will not have his mind on the mission. I think our leaders understand that a Soldier with a strong home life is a combat multiplier for the brigade."

Jones acknowledged that his Soldiers do have stressors that can affect their marriage. Being away from their families for a year, working long hours and having to be away when problems happen back home can be extremely difficult on a relationship.

"Being in the Army can pose difficulties for a marriage, but that doesn't mean those challenges are insurmountable," said Chaplain (Capt.) Bruce Duty, with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "It just means spouses need to invest more time and effort into 'battle proofing' their relationships."

Duty explained that people can have difficulty working on their marriages when they are separated by time and distance, but it is possible.

"It is more difficult when one half of the relationship is back home," Duty said. "It takes two individuals to make a marriage work; however, it does require an individual effort on each partner's part."

"I think that Soldiers and their spouses can use this time for personal reflection and start building good habits that can continue when they are reunited," he said.

Duty and Capt. Gina Wright, the 3rd HBCT's social worker, sponsored the six-week "Fireproof Your Marriage" peer study. It focused on strengthening a couple's marriage by using a Christian view as a base.

Wright recognized the group may not be for every Soldier, but said that she thinks it could be used as a springboard for more events. She frequently deals with Soldiers who have concerns about their marriage and hopes more of them will take advantage of services the brigade offers.

"I see it every day," she said. "If we, as a brigade, don't put out opportunities for couples to get help; we are not making a difference. I'm hoping that events like the Fireproof Your Marriage series will snowball into more opportunities and programs for married couples to improve their marriages."

While offering more programs and services to couples is a good start, Jones pointed out that they go to waste if Soldiers and their spouses don't use them.

"We can provide these resources, but it is ultimately up to the families to use them and communicate their needs to make it successful," he said. "Like any Army program, funds are set aside for it to be used. If they are not used, those same funds may not be there the next time around."

During his 22 years in the Army, Sgt. 1st Class Danny Waldrip, an operations noncommissioned officer in the 3rd HBCT, has been through a divorce. He encourages Soldiers to use the programs available to help their marriages.

"No matter how strong your marriage is, it can never be too strong," he said. "I would encourage any Soldier to take advantage of the opportunities the Army has provided us. Marriage counselors and seminars out in real world cost money. The fact that we, as Soldiers, have free access to them is a really good thing."

Waldrip encourages Soldiers to go into marriage with a serious mind-set.

"When you get married, you need to go into it with the mentality that it will not fail," he said. "The Soldier mentality you have about your military career needs to be infused in your marriage or it will not work...The words 'them' and 'they' cause divisions in a marriage. When you get married there should be no more 'you' and 'me'. It should be about 'we' and 'us'."

Waldrip knows first-hand how hard the time requirements of being Soldier can be on a marriage.
"An old football saying says that if you are the first one to practice and the last one to leave; you will be a good football player," he said. "With our job as Soldiers, we will always be the first one in the door and the last to leave. That isn't easy on a marriage. To be honest, cross-country truck drivers spend more time at home than we do... That being said, your marriage should never be something that takes a back seat to other things."

Duty agrees with Waldrip's assessment.

"In the Army, you get awards and accolades for doing well," said Duty. "In a marriage, doing well is expected. You won't get an award, but you will have the satisfaction of being in a good marriage and that should mean significantly more."

U.S. Army Conducts Board With Iraqi Counterparts

Pfc. John Young, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, of Marion, Ind., reports to the presidents of the board, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Aaron, 1st Bn., 10th FAR, and Command Sgt. Maj. Abas Abad Al Hussain, 8th Iraqi Army Motorized Transportation Regiment, March 6, at Contingency Operating Base Delta, Iraq

By Sgt. Matthew Hayes

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq -- Boards, in which a Soldier stands before a group of senior leaders and is examined for technical and general proficiency, are a common experience in the Army, but it is not so often that Soldiers have the opportunity to be examined by leadership from a host nation.

The Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, had just such an opportunity March 6, at Contingency Operating Base Delta.

Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Aaron, 1st Bn. command sergeant major, took his seat as the president of the battalion Non-commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Quarter boards that day with the usual first sergeants from the battalion to his left. On his right, however, was his Iraqi counterpart.

Command Sgt. Maj. Abas Abad Al Hussain, 8th Iraqi Army Motorized Transportation Regt., was an honorary guest and served as co-president for the prestigious board.

The board began like many other boards, with the participants reciting various military creeds, conducting facing movements, and reciting their biographies. Soldiers were asked questions about the military by members of the board, starting with Abas. His questions addressed topics such as the chain of command.

A military board is something that every non-commissioned officer must experience to obtain the rank of sergeant. The traditions of the NCO Corps run deep in the U.S. Army and these traditions are being passed on to the Iraqi NCO Corps. Every NCO from the newest sergeant to the command sergeant major of the Army has experienced a board at some time in their career.

U.S. Forces are now advising and assisting Iraq to become a self sustaining nation.

Geospatial Specialists Put Troops on the Map

Pfc. Scott Brayan, a geospatial analyst assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, pulls a map off a plotter in his office at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq, March 30. Since arriving to Iraq, Brayan and his section have produced 4,000 maps for the brigade.

Story by Spc. Ben Hutto

COS KALSU, Iraq -- The Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, know exactly where they are in the world thanks to the hard work and dedication of the brigade's geospatial section.

The five-Soldier section works around-the-clock to keep up with Contingency Operating Site Kalsu's map needs.

"Our section provides real-time geospatial projects that allow the brigade to see anywhere on earth at any time," said Staff Sgt. Randall Williams, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the section. "More specifically, we provide terrain analysis to help enable reconstruction efforts in our area of operations."

Using overhead satellites, the group deciphers the cluttered topographical images and turns them into workable maps. Their job, however, is much more intricate than just producing images. They also interpret what they see on these images and pass that operational information on to the 3rd HBCT's leadership.

"We've put out about 4,000 maps and 200 special projects so far," said Williams, a native of Deer River, Minn. "The biggest accomplishment for our section was, within six weeks of arriving in country, finding four weapons caches. That's 3,500 rounds that were seized because we did our job."

To add to his challenge, Williams is also working on training three of his Soldiers, who recently graduated from Advanced Individual Training. Still, they are responding positively to the challenge of learning on the fly, according to Williams.

"They are learning very fast," Williams said. "The challenge for me is finding the proper balance of battlefield operations and training. It requires me to double-check the quality of all the maps we do, but they do a great job. They still have a lot to learn, but they are coming along nicely."

Pfc. Scott Brayan, one of the newer Soldiers, said the training they have received in country builds well on their previous training.

"The training we received at AIT was solid, but it didn't prepare us for our job out in the field," said Brayan, a native of Inglewood, Calif. "We learned the basics there, but what we do out here is on a different level. I've learned a lot just by watching Sergeant Williams work."

According to Brayan and Spc. Nick Palmer, a native of Rochester, N.Y., part of what makes their jobs so difficult is the complex nature of the tools they employ to read what is on the earth's surface and how it could affect the brigade.

"I learn new things every day," said Brayan. "This is not an easy job. We use lot of in-depth programs. Most days we barely tap into 10 percent of what our programs can do. They are so complex."

Keeping those systems running smoothly is just as important, said Palmer.

"There are so many intricate machines that we have to work with," said Spc. Nick Palmer, a native of Rochester, N.Y. "If a plotter doesn't work, we can't print maps. If the computer doesn't work, we can't make maps. We constantly have to maintain and service our equipment. The dust, the heat, puts wear and tear on them."

Despite the busy nature of their jobs and the lack of experience in the section, they have performed their jobs well.

During the March 7 Iraqi national elections, the section produced more than 300 maps in a two-week span without Williams there.

"I was on leave, but I'm very proud of how they stepped up and accomplished the mission," he said. "A lot of our Soldiers are still learning their jobs and to see them work at that high a level is encouraging."

"I work with a great team," Brayan said. "Everyone has a great personality. We are a tight-knit group."

Williams agrees with his Soldiers assessment, but has his own opinions on why they get along so well.

"The operation tempo doesn't allow us to murder one another," Williams said. "We are too busy."

As the 3rd HBCT's deployment prepares to finish its mission in Iraq, Williams knows that he and his Soldiers will have even more work to complete, but he is confident they will finish strong.

"The more they get trained, the easier the work will become," he said. "I'm very happy with the direction we are going in. We'll be OK."

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm A Soldier's Mom


I'm a Soldier’s Mom ~ but do not weep for me
I'm waiting and praying
I'm on pins & needles
I toss and turn all night
He's my last thought before I
finally fall asleep at night
my first when I wake each morning

I'm a Soldier’s Mom - but do not weep for me
I hear his words, see his face and his posture as he says
"Mom, I'm ready to go
I'm prepared to go
It's my job to go
I'll volunteer to go
I need to get my mind set to go"

I'm a Soldier's Mom ~ but do not weep for me
For you
For our children
and our children's children
For our Country
For their Country

I'm a Soldier's Mom ~ but do not weep for me
I'm proud of my son's
Inner strength
I'm proud to be an American
I'm proud to be Free

Yes ~ I'm a Soldier's Mom ~ but do not weep for me!!!

HAMMER - hardships, hearts & heroes - Episodes 11, 12, 13 & 14

Join 1-10 FA as they honor the patron Saint of Field Artillery, no matter where they are.
Episode 12 highlights the Military Police at COB Delta and their experience working with their partners in the Iraqi Police Force.
Episode 13 of HAMMER highlights the Advise & Assist experience of troopers from Commanche Troop, 3-1 Cav., at COB Delta, Iraq.
Col. Peter Jones and many of the Sledgehammer Brigade's company commanders joined Iraqi leaders at the Iran-Iraq border for a tour and a history lesson about the conflict between the neighboring countries.
Pay close attention at 2:30 - Nick makes an appearance!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bumping Into Friends

It's always nice to bump into good friends but it's especially nice when you're out in the middle of the desert! Nick recently hooked up with buddy Will Garvin and had a few laughs to break the tension.