Tuesday, July 27, 2010

USD-S Transfers Three Bases in Babil, Wasit

Story by Spc. Samuel Soza

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – During several ceremonies in Babil and Wasit provinces, July 25, U.S. forces handed over three bases to the Iraqi government – Contingency Operating Post Zulu, Patrol Base Mahawil, and Camp Shaheen.

These additions raise the number of U.S. bases closed or transferred in United States Division-South to 13 since February, with nine more scheduled to close before Sept. 1.
All of the transfers were completed with the signing of documents by Samir al-Haddad, the receivership secretariat for the Government of Iraq, and the respective former base commanders.

Capt. Ryan Pless, commander of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, signed for COP Zulu.

“We’ve been conducting retrograde operations for the last two to three months,” the Plant City, Fla., native said. “A lot of troopers have put in a lot of long hours and cleaned the place up; made it represent our high standards, so we could turn it over to the Government of Iraq in the best quality of shape we can.”

COP Zulu has been in operation since just before the surge of U.S. forces in 2007. The 3rd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt. has been working with three battalions of 32nd Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division for the past 10 months, Pless said.

Moments after signing for COP Zulu, Mr. Haddad and his staff walked to Camp Shaheen, a small post adjacent to COP Zulu and home to a unit of U.S. Special Forces, and signed the official documents there as well.

Capt. Michael Washburn, commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, signed over PB Mahawil.

The fair-market value of the property at Mahawil transferred by 2nd Bn., 69th Armor Regt. came to more than $500,000 according to the documents.

Company A has been at PB Mahawil since October 2009, working with the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 31st Brigade, 8th IA Div., commanded by Col. Muhammad Khudair Saloom. They will continue to work with the 2nd Bn, 31st Bde. from Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, including special training and advising with nightly patrols, until they return to the U.S. with the rest of their battalion later this year.

The 3rd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt. and 2nd Bn., 69th Armor Regt. are elements of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

“Our partnership has been very good,” said Washburn, a Yorktown, Va., native. “Myself and Col. Saloom have a great understanding of what needs to be accomplished and we agree on the final outcomes and how to get there.”

“We look forward to keeping working with them until our stay is done here [in Babil province],” Washburn said.

Lt. Col. Chris Kennedy, commander of 3rd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt., felt similarly about his Soldiers and their mission in Wasit province.

“Today’s a great day for the Iraqi army,” said Kennedy, a native of Fort Benning, Ga. “It’s the natural progression as we move to an advise and assist mission [and] assist them in the fight. It doesn’t mean our mission is ended here. We will continue to train with them throughout the province.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Carrying on the Legacy of Audie Murphy

Staff Sgt. Nhiem Chau, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, is congratulated by Sgt. Maj. Rick Hairston, operations sergeant major for 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, after being named to the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club July 8 at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, Iraq.

By Pfc. Erik Anderson

COS KALSU, Iraq – The original Sergeant Audie Murphy Club began at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1986. The group recognizes noncommissioned officers who have displayed the integrity, professionalism and commitment exemplified by Audie L. Murphy. In 1994, the SAMC spread throughout the Army, with individual commands performing the selection process for their own NCOs.

Ten soldiers currently deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division met at Contingency Operating Site Kalsu July 8 to vie for membership in the club.

The morning started out with a physical fitness test, followed by a land navigation course spanning across COS Kalsu that had the SAMC hopefuls performing common team leader tasks and firing their weapons.

For the potential members, the day marked an end to their rigorous preparation.

“I had 16 days to get things in order, and luckily, most of my soldier's information was updated so I had just a few things to fix,” said Staff Sgt. Nhiem Chau, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd HBCT. “I spent most of my time studying different regulations that most NCOs neglect or did not pay much attention to.”

Chau and the other competitors were sponsored by senior leaders in their quest for membership.

“First Sgt. (Jerimiah) Gan, Sgt. 1st Class (Matthew) Delisle, and myself conducted mock boards every day leading up to the actual date of the board,” said Sgt. 1st Class Oracio Pena, Jr., 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt. “We quizzed all nine individuals (from the battalion) on situational questions and questions referring to Audie Murphy and his life to ensure they knew every bit of information about Audie Murphy.”

For current members like Pena, membership is more than a medal to be worn around the neck

“Being a member of one of the most prestigious clubs is an honor,” Pena said. “It means that people expect more of me, and I am always up for the challenge no matter what.”
Each candidate faced a board comprised of senior NCOs asking situational questions as the final part of the selection process.

“To be honest, the entire board was intimidating but not difficult,” Chau said. “The questions that were asked are based on experience as a leader and how you would respond to different situations.”

When the dust had settled and the questions were answered, three staff sergeants from 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt., Audie Murphy’s former unit, were inducted.

“The benefit of knowing that when a VIP comes into a military post, and they ask for an escort, they look to the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club to provide a member due to the professionalism that comes from the club,” Pena said. “It is a great honor and a privilege to be a member.”

Chau, one of the newest Sergeant Audie Murphy Club members, wasn’t sure he was up for the challenges of the board.

“Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Moore, my battalion sergeant major, was the one that put me up to it, and I am glad that he did,” Chau said. “He somehow knew that I would do well and instilled the confidence in me.”

The Return

After months of looking forward to spending R&R having fun and relaxing, the return is always one of the saddest and most depressing timesof the deployment. It was so nice being able to pick up the phone and send a quick text message to Nick or just call and say "What's going on?".

I remember what a tough time it was for Chris when he went back after his R&R. However, it is so nice to see the two recent redeployment messags. The timing was great and it assures us that the end is definitely in sight!

I pray that Nick has a smooth transition from R&R to his daily routine back in Iraq. It's always tough for us to say goodbye but I always try to remember how hard it must be on the Soldier. It constantly amazes me of the positive attitude these guys have and how you NEVER hear them complain or be negative...a lesson I think we could all learn from them. We have so many things to be grateful for and reasons to be positive but instead, many times people are negative and constantly complaining...it's too hot outside, I don't get paid enough and on and on. Our Soldiers have legitimate reasons to complain about their conditions, atmosphere and sacrifices however they are upbeat and positive all the time. Maybe we should try to be more like our Soldiers...positive, appreciative, accepting, sacrificing, never compaining...Let's stop and remember how hard our troops are fighting for us to be able to enjoy our lives!!!

Redeployment Message #2

Dear Friends and Family,

The process for letting family members know of their Soldier’s return will work as follows: deployed Soldiers will need to provide the names and contact information of the family members they want the rear detachment to contact. Units will then input this data into the E-Army Family Messaging System. Once the data is in the system, and it is time for the Soldier to leave theater, the rear detachment at Fort Benning will work off of flight manifests to send a message to you (via phone, e-mail, or text – depending on the contact information provided by the Soldier) through the E-Army Family Messaging System with information on the Soldier's return flight. The system will also provide contact information to family members on how to get in touch with the rear detachment for any questions. The Battalion will ensure positive contact with family members through the system. Updates will also be sent this way with reminders to check the Fort Stewart Flight update for changes. If a Soldier’s information is not put into the system, or the contact information is incorrect, then the rear detachment at Fort Benning will call everyone personally like previous deployments.

Contact through the system will occur when the Soldier has arrived at his/her final location before leaving theater, and again when his/her plane has left theater and is en route to Fort Benning. Notification will also be made if there are any changes in the scheduled arrival of the flight to Fort Benning.

Due to constant changes in flight scheduling, and a need to maintain operational security, the rear detachment at Fort Benning will not be able to answer questions about flights prior to the flights taking off. Rear detachment will only be able to answer questions about Soldiers who have been officially manifested. Deployed Soldiers will be unable to give you an exact departure date.

Please let us know if you have any concerns that have yet to be answered.

We are all looking forward to being home and we know you are too. It’s not long now!


Redeployment Message

Dear Friends and Family,

The Sledgehammer PAO team is happy to be announcing some details on the unit’s upcoming redeployment. So we’ll just get right to it.

No doubt you are probably all aware of President Obama’s order to have no more than 50,000 advise and assist troops in Iraq by Sept. 1. This targeted mission required strength will allow the 3rd Brigade to maintain its partnership and support requirements, while requiring some Sledgehammer Soldiers to redeploy early. As part of the U.S. Forces drawdown, the 3rd Brigade has been ordered by the United States Division South Commander, MG Brooks, to send approximately 600 Soldiers home early to meet that strength requirement.

The Battalion Commanders and the Brigade Commander are the sole approval authorities on deciding which Soldiers to send. Mission priorities are the most important aspect for the Commander when making these decisions. Critical missions in Iraq may prevent some Soldiers from being able to leave early while critical missions at Fort Benning will require that some Soldiers do leave early. The next priority the Commander looks at when determining which Soldiers to send are those who have orders to PCS (permanent change of station), or ETS (end of time in service) before February, 2011. After that, Soldiers attending military schools, with start dates before October are considered. Last in the order of priority are Soldiers who made the 3rd Brigade football team or combatives team. Less than 10 percent of the Soldiers are those who are on the football team or combatives team. With approximately 600 slots to fill we anticipate that a good majority of the Soldiers who fall into any of these four categories will be going home early. However, it is very important to note that the mission in Iraq, and the support requirements at Fort Benning take precedence; this means that even if a Soldier falls into one of these four categories, it does not guarantee them leaving early. The majority of the Soldiers who do not fall into any of these categories will be returning as part of the main body flights.

Soldiers redeploying early are scheduled to arrive at Fort Benning starting the second week of August through the end of August. The main body flights are scheduled to arrive throughout September. The last main body flight is scheduled to arrive the first week in October.

Thank you, and SLEDGEHAMMER

What is a Cavalry Scout?

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

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – I was reading an old copy of “Armor” magazine the other day and came across an article titled, “What is a Cavalryman?” that was written in 1969.
The similarities and differences between the Dragoon’s (cavalrymen) from over forty years ago and those of today kept finding a way into my thoughts. I finally decided to lay them to rest by writing a short reply to that article that highlights the Cavalry Scout of today. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What is a Cavalry Scout?

Somewhere between the apple-cheeked innocence of the Armor School and the urbane worldliness of the veteran, we find a delightful creature known as a Cavalry Scout.
Cavalrymen come in assorted shapes and conditions; mostly in "peak condition". You find them everywhere, but mostly riding through "Indian Country" on Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, Humvees, Stryker Vehicles, and UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters.
Local merchants love them; the enemy hates them; the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team staff tolerates them; new platoon leaders frustrate them; infantrymen ignore them; and the combat medics protect them.
A cavalry scout is confusion with profanity on his tongue; experience with three deployments under his belt; imagination with a slice of C4 explosive in his mouth; and faith with body armor on his back.
A cavalry scout has the appetite of a shark in a feeding frenzy, the energy of a nuclear reactor, the curiosity of an old maid, the enthusiasm of a kid in an ice cream plant, the lungs of an umpire, and the shyness of a bull elephant in the mating season.
He likes women, beer, ice cream, Maxim magazine, e-mails from home, surf and turf dinners, energy drinks, mid-tour leave, hot showers, video games, and hot chow.
He isn't much for dust storms, rocket propelled grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, improvised explosive devices, spit and polish, broken torsion bars, MRE’s (meals ready to eat), powdered eggs, the enemy, walking, or waiting in line.
No one else is so early in the chow line, or so often at the beverage cooler. When you want him he's somewhere in the area. When you don't, he's hovering over your desk with 117 reasons why he should be promoted or be allowed to go on rest and recovery.
No one else can cram into one fighting vehicle, a double basic load of ammunition, 10 cases of MRE’s, two rolls of barbed wire, 14 shaped charges, a portable TV, one chaise lounge, three coolers, five cartons of cigarettes, an empty tool bag, six I-Pods, three heavy machineguns, an X-Box, and a pair of fuzzy dice for luck.
A cavalry scout is a shameless scrounger and ruthless forager. If an object will make his life more comfortable, or make him more mission capable, he will find the means to obtain it. Do not ask where he got the swimming pool and the two extra 25mm barrels for your Bradley. You don’t want to know.
A cavalry scout is a fabulous creature. You can frustrate his desires, but you can't frustrate his drive. You can top his jokes, but you can't top his combat record. He's your conscience, your shadow, your second set of eyes, your psychiatrist, and your despair. But when the chips are down and the bullets ricochet off your track, he's your pride and joy, your fair-haired boy; a slashing, hard-charging bundle of nerves and sheer guts.
When you return from three days of hard fighting, trudge wearily through the dust to your cot, and finally settle down with a hot cup of coffee, he can bring tears to your eyes with those tender, sympathetic, and understanding words, "Gee, I sure am sorry about your gun truck, sir, but we were just trying to beat the tanks to the fuel point ......".

Friday, July 23, 2010

Assassin Troopers Orient on Their Objective

Spc. Nicholas Leuthauser from Brighton, Colo., and serving with Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division assists in unloading equipment prior to map reading training conducted at Al-Taan, Iraq, July 13.

Story by: Sgt. David Dyer

COL SHOCKER, Iraq – Soldiers from Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division have it all mapped out when it comes to performing the advise and assist mission.

On a recent visit to Al-Taan on the Iraq-Iran border July 13, the Assassin Troopers trained their Iraqi partners on the finer points of map-reading.

“We are moving forward with a training program that will assist them in improving current skill levels and developing new skill sets,” said 1st Lt. Frederick Do, a West Covina, Calif., native.

Sgt. Shawn McClellon of Lorain, Ohio, led the map-reading class with the assistance of an interpreter. Most of the students were junior officers or noncommissioned officers from several of the outlying posts and border forts who will pass on the knowledge gained to their subordinates.

“The skills we pass along today will lay the foundation for future and more advanced training later,” McClellon said. “Every piece of information or new skill that we can pass along only helps to improve the security and stability in this region.”

A pair of enlisted cavalrymen shared new skills with their counterparts on the roof of the fort. The troopers had set up a Long-Range Advance Scout Surveillance System and were helping the DBE agents learn its uses.

The LRAS3 enables Army scouts to conduct 24-hour reconnaissance and surveillance missions, remaining outside threat acquisition and engagement ranges.

“The device is extremely useful in helping them [DBE] with their mission of interdicting smuggling operations along the border” said Spc. Nicholas Leuthauser from Brighton, Colo.

Leuthauser spoke on how smuggling operations are counter to the stability and sovereignty of Iraq.

“If we can assist the DBE in stopping just one [smuggler], it helps,” he said.

It was well into the night before the training was over and the cavalrymen of Assassin Troop loaded their vehicles and prepared for the trip back to COL Shocker. The Soldiers and their DBE partners looked forward to the next visit with a desire to build upon the relationship of training and trust in the future.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sledgehammers Fight to Represent Brigade

Courtesy Story

CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION KALSU, Iraq – The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division held a brigade-wide combatives tournament at Contingency Operating Station Kalsu that ended, July 10.

Fighters representing each of the brigade’s five battalions came together for two days of competition to determine who would go on to represent the “Sledgehammers” in the All-Army Combatives Tournament later this year.

“It’s unreal to me,” said Spc. Sarah Lanphear, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd HBCT. “I just started combatives in March. It really means a lot that I have achieved so much in such a short time.”

Winners of the tournament earned a plaque and a coin from brigade commander, Col. Peter Jones. They will continue their training at Fort Benning, Ga., in preparation for the All-Army tournament.

“We have had support from the brigade,” said Sgt. Seth Mendel, 3rd BSTB, “but to compete successfully at the All-Army level, it takes an incredible amount of personal dedication.”

The fighters said they are ready to work on improving their abilities.

“I need to work on my stand-up game,” said Lanphear. “Right now I’m really looking forward to working on my boxing skills.”

For Lanphear, winning is not all about brute strength.

“Some people might think that because I’m smaller, I might not be a very good fighter,” said Lanphear, “but I think it’s interesting that it doesn’t matter what size you are; it’s all about your heart.”

Lanphear credits more than heart for her success.

“Staff Sgt. [James] Vincent has been an incredible mentor to me,” she said. “He has really made it his goal to help me succeed, and Sgt. [Craig] Obeso, who calls himself my manager, has been my number one support channel. He pushed me and reminded me how much I like this sport.”

For Mendel, it is a chance to become a student again.

“I will be refining every aspect of my game,” he said. “It will be nice to have someone at a higher level train me and point out where I am weak so I can improve.”

Entering the All-Army ring is a natural progression for Mendel.

“What helped me was a long history of interest in martial arts and fighting, anything to do with combat,” he said.

As one of the brigade’s combatives instructors, Mendel trains fellow Soldiers in the Army Combatives Program.

“All that it takes to make every Soldier a hardcore fighter, something they can be proud of, is an instructor that has a passion for fighting,” he said.

Although he won his weight class at the brigade tournament, Pfc. Jeremy Myers, 3rd BSTB, is not satisfied.

“I wouldn’t call myself a success yet,” he said. “I can call myself a success after I win the All-Army tournament.”

While some identify coaches and friends as their driving force, Myers fights for someone else.

“I fight for everyone that says I shouldn’t be here,” he said. “I win for them.”