Col. Pete Jones, commander of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, speaks with the Soldiers of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion during a question-and-answer session at Contingency Operating Location Kalsu, May 11, 2010. Jones and 3rd HBCT Command Sgt. Maj. James Pearson used the session to dispel rumors, answer questions and highlight the brigade's accomplishments during their current deployment.
By Sgt. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf Div PAO
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE KALSU, Iraq – The commander and command sergeant major of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, held a question-and-answer session with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, May 11, 2010, to connect more directly with their troops.
During the session, Col. Pete Jones and Command Sgt. Maj. James Pearson highlighted the brigade's current mission and accomplishments, explained their concerns about vehicular safety, asked team leaders to focus on combat drills and shared the brigade's projected plans for redeployment.
The leaders congratulated the BSTB Soldiers for all the hard work they have done in supporting the Iraqi people and helping train their security forces.
Jones praised the brigade's role in helping millions of Iraqi people celebrate the religious holidays, Ashura and Arba'een. He also credited the brigade for helping create a secure environment that enabled 9 million Iraqi citizens to vote in the March 7 national elections.
Despite the brigade's success, Jones stressed that his Soldiers continue to remain vigilant. He pointed to the eight recent bombings in Babil and Najaf provinces that targeted Iraqi security forces and civilians as proof that insurgents are still actively trying to undo progress in Iraq.
"While the threat target-level is low, this is still a dangerous place," he said. "We need to remain ready and not get complacent."
Pearson told his non-commissioned officers to continue to enforce the standards of the brigade.
"We need leaders to constantly practice their emergency procedures and rehearse battle drills," he said. "If you are an NCO, you need to take every opportunity to train your Soldiers. You are in charge of training the Army's future leaders. It is your responsibility. It's one of the reasons you were promoted and I expect you to do it."
Jones and Pearson placed emphasis on accident prevention during the session. Both leaders stressed that accidents, especially vehicular accidents, are preventable.
Pearson cited Soldiers driving too fast and choosing not to wear seatbelts as his primary concerns.
"Everyone is a safety officer," said Jones. "Everyone is responsible for ensuring that discipline and safety standards are met. Discipline is what this unit is known for, and discipline is what will get us home."
Jones also sent a very stern message to the battalion about the brigade's notification process for family members of dead or injured Soldiers.
"I abhor cutting the Internet and phones because I know many of you have set up a rhythm when it comes to contacting your loved ones back home," he said. "Unfortunately, some people do not have the discipline to wait for a chaplain and a uniformed officer to deliver the news to our families the correct way."
"Well, you are hearing this directly from me," he continued, "any Soldier caught sending that information home without permission from me will be subject to [punishment under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice]."
Jones explained that a family hearing about misfortune over Facebook or the Internet is wrong and he, as a commander, is prepared to take a firm stand to keep it from happening.
"There is no gray area on this issue," he said. "As a leader, I have an obligation to inform the families of our dead and injured Soldiers. Allow me to do that. I take this responsibility very seriously, and so should you."
Jones and Pearson also addressed redeployment and what it will mean to the brigade's Soldiers and their families. Jones dispelled rumors that the brigade will be leaving Iraq earlier than expected.
"We are still set to go home by the end of September," said Jones.
Jones is planning one extended block leave for Soldiers after redeployment; rather than two shorter block leaves. The plan still needs to be approved by the 3rd Inf. Div. leadership, however.
"Whatever happens when we get back, Col. Jones and I are proud of each and every one of you," said Pearson. "When you get back, be proud of what you've done. Tell your story to the people back home. Tell our story to your family and friends. You've all done a lot.
"You volunteered to join the Army during a time of war," he said. "You agreed to leave your friends and families to come over here. It is something you can look back on years from now and take pride."