Thursday, June 17, 2010

'Sledgehammers' Celebrate the Army's Birthday

Maj. David Guthrie, the executive officer of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, speaks to Soldiers during the brigade's celebration of the U.S. Army's 235th birthday at the dining facility at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq, June 14. Guthrie, a native of Hampton, Va., reminded the Soldiers in attendance of their great heritage and praised them for their service.

Story by Sgt. Ben Hutto,

COS KALSU, Iraq – Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division celebrated the U.S. Army’s 235th birthday June 14 at COS Kalsu.

Soldiers enjoyed one another’s company after a few words from the 3rd Bde. executive officer Maj. David Guthrie.

“It is truly humbling to be a part of this great Army that has defended our nation for the last 235 years,” said Guthrie. “For the last 235 years, Soldiers like you, whose names may not go into the history books with names like Washington, Alan York, Audie Murphy, Patton, Abrams, Powell and Petraeus, have served our country with distinction.”

Soldiers sang the national anthem and Army Song before the brigade’s oldest Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Tydious McCray of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, cut the brigade’s Army birthday cake with a bayonet and served the first piece to the brigade’s youngest Soldier, Pfc. Joshua Rhodes, a Soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

“Being the oldest Soldier in the brigade means I’m a blessed person,” said McCray, a native of Columbus, Ga. “Being able to connect with the youngest Soldier and pass along that symbolic knowledge was a great thing. The Army is the greatest organization in the world, in my opinion. As a group, you will not find a more balanced group of individuals from so many different backgrounds working so seamlessly alongside one another.”

Moving Forward

Commentary by Sgt. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT Public Affairs Office

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE KALSU, Iraq – As Soldiers, we’ve trained ourselves to ignore discomfort and keep working. If it is 100 degrees outside, we drink water and sweat though a mission. If it is freezing outside, we add more layers of clothing, put on gloves and grit our teeth when the wind kicks up around us. When we pull a muscle, most Soldiers I know hold off going to sick call to avoid getting a medical profile.

To put it simply, Soldiers find a way to keep moving forward.

What happens when the discomfort isn’t physical? What happens when there is pain that can’t be healed physically?

The battalions of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division held Memorial Day remembrance services at each of their bases Sept. 31 and there were quite a few looks of discomfort and pain at the one I attended.

I saw Soldiers struggling to keep tears from following. I saw senior leaders hold their fingers to their temples as they remembered fallen friends and leaders. I heard the catch in a speaker’s voice as he called out the names of one of his Soldiers he lost last deployment. As the 21 gun salute rang out and Taps was played, I saw more than a few heads bow a little lower.

Speaking for myself, a knot formed in my throat as I started picturing faces with the names I heard being called out.

The enormity of this understanding will always be hard for me to comprehend, but the importance of these Soldiers sacrifice does provide me with a reason to keep moving forward.

Our comrade’s death wasn’t given to provide us a reason to quit. It was given in service of something greater than ourselves.

We hear this all the time at memorial services, but when you think about the quality of our lives back in the United States it is something worth dying for.

Our families don’t worry about improvised explosive devices when they drive to work. A political debate doesn’t spark a car bombing at a busy strip mall. We don’t worry about security during our national elections. Our children go to functioning schools. We do not worry about days of having to go without electricity.

In short, we live in a country that, far and away, has more opportunities, security and a better quality of life than many of the countries we are attempting to help across the world.

People serve in the Army for a variety of reasons, but whatever their reason, what they accomplish in the Army makes the world a better place.

Our fallen Soldiers are perhaps the most powerful reminder of the sacrifices that are required to live in a peaceful world.

No one plans to die for freedom, but Soldiers set themselves on the front line knowing full well that it is a possibility. Memorial Day is meant to honor those us that met that unfortunate possibility so others wouldn’t have to.

We owe our fallen brothers and sisters many things for their sacrifice.

We owe them our thanks for serving, despite the danger; we owe them the honor of not forgetting what they gave up to keep our country safe; and we owe it to them to keep moving forward and finish accomplishing the mission they died for.

It is a lot to live up to, but Memorial Day reminds us that there are higher costs; not soon to be forgotten by me or any other Soldier.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Smile is Worth A Million Bucks!

It is so nice to see Nick enjoying a little fun time with one of the "goodies" in his latest care package. It is so much fun going shopping and putting packages together for the guys and when you know it brings a smile to their faces, it is a feeling like no other.

BSTB Soldiers Compete in Best Squad Competition

Spc. Ronald Yeager, a Soldier assigned to Headquarters Troop, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, helps hook a tow bar up to a broken vehicle during the battalion's best squad competition at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq, May 28. Yeager's squad bested three other companies' squads during the two-day competition.

Story by Spc. Ben Hutto

COS KALSU, Iraq –Soldiers assigned to the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division competed in their battalion's best squad competition at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, May 28 and 29.

Four teams assigned to each of the battalion's four companies sent a squad of seven Soldiers to compete in the two-day event.

Squads completed an Army Physical Fitness Test, competed in a ruck march, negotiated an obstacle course, battled in Army combatives matches, and conducted mock media interviews. Participants also completed a reflexive fire range, a vehicle maintenance competition, a mock improvised explosive device lane, and a game show-style Army knowledge competition.

Headquarters Troop was the eventual winner of the competition by a slim margin.
"The competition was really challenging," said Spc. Jeremy Driskel, an infantryman assigned to HHT, 3rd BSTB. "To be honest, I underestimated it. It was hard, but I really enjoyed it."

The competition was an idea Command Sgt. Maj. Antonio Jones, the senior noncommissioned officer of 3rd BSTB, brought with him when the 3rd HBCT deployed to Iraq in October.

"It was one of the first things I wanted to do when I got to Iraq," said Jones. "After seeing the brigade's best squad competition and the division's Soldier of the Month board, I got some more ideas. The whole point of this competition was to have a tough, realistic training event in a fun-type setting. We wanted to push our Soldiers and force them to dig deep."

Jones, a native of Lynchburg, Va., also wanted to use the competition to build camaraderie in his battalion and to see where his companies were in their technical proficiencies.

"The competition has given me an opportunity adjust and tailor our training to fix issues we saw during the competition," he said. "It was just a great event all the way around."
Driskel, a native of Cummings, Ga., said he was extremely pleased with how his team came together.

"Honestly, we were all thrown together at the last minute, but everyone was so motivated," he said. "I like working with people like that. We just kept each other going and picked each other up."

Jones is planning another competition when his unit gets back to Fort Benning, Ga., and hopes the event will help motivate his Soldiers to be as technically proficient and mentally tough as they can be.

"It was a great event, and I appreciate all the Soldiers who took part," he said. "I think everyone was a winner. Winning, to me, was to see that everyone performed the common tasks and demonstrated that they were proficient in their jobs."

Art Fair Held at COS Kalsu

Pfc. David Smith, a computer networks specialist assigned to Headquarters Troop, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division surveys paintings for sale at an art fair at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq, June 2 and 3. Artists in Babil province, where COS Kalsu is located, held a two-day art fair to sell their works and share their culture with U.S. Soldiers.

By Sgt. Ben Hutto

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE KALSU, Iraq – Local artists displayed their work as part of an art fair in the Contingency Operating Site Kalsu dining facility, June 2 and 3.

Paintings by 15 artists from the Babil province were put on display and offered for sale.

"The art is beautiful," said Spc. David Holcombe, a generator mechanic assigned to Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. "I thought the people around here were mostly farmers. I didn't know they had so many creative artists."

The event was put together by the 1411th Civil Affairs Company.

"We wanted to bring a little cultural experience to the [base]," said Capt. Kristen Brockman, the commander of the 1411th CA Company. "The artists in this area have a tough time selling their works to locals in the area, so this is an economic development project for them."

In order to attract Soldiers, the artists kept their products affordable. Pieces ranged in price from 30 to 50 dollars.

"We felt this was a good opportunity for the Soldiers here to carry home something meaningful," said Brockman, a native of Jackson, N.J. "I think a lot of the art speaks so well about the environment here. The art really captures what the people of this area are like."

Many of the artists whose work was represented at the event were happy so many Soldiers were interested in their work.

"So far, we have sold between 65 or 70 pieces," said Ali Ghason, a local artist. "We are very happy. This was our only outlet to express ourselves and show what we can do."

Ghason was happy that American Soldiers would be taking his work back to the United States with them.

"We hope our art is a good reflection of our culture to the U.S. people," he said.
For Holcomb, a native of Leominster, Mass., the piece he purchased is a good way to remember the two deployments he served in Iraq.

"It is something to keep from Iraq to say I was there," he said. "It will look really nice in my work room back home. Who knows? Some day it may be worth something."