Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: January, 2010 (85) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 85

January 1, 2010 at 3:33pm

The story of 5th Brigade's Sgt. Robert Samuel's road to recovery

Great story here on Samuel's dedication to getting healthy.

Filed under: Strykers,

January 1, 2010 at 5:05pm

Local military kids do Polar Bear Swim on American Lake

Enjoy this video of kids of Fort Lewis and McChord service members ringing in the New Year today with a cold plunge into American Lake.

Filed under: Familes,

January 2, 2010 at 12:30pm

Michael Yon praises LTC Erik Kurilla

Here's Yon's recent piece on IEDS and the work Kurilla and others do in Afghanistan to keep Strykers safe.

Filed under: Strykers,

January 3, 2010 at 4:57am

Fort Lewis soldier earns Soldier's Medal

BAGHDAD -- After an improvised explosive device ripped through his vehicle, Staff Sgt. James Rivera needed medical attention and quick. It was 1st Sgt. Joshua Pentz who saved his life that day in Afghanistan in 2004, by getting him out, using his combat lifesaver skills and calling for a medevac. Nearly five years later, Rivera was the one saving the life of another - an action that earned him the Soldier's Medal Dec. 22. 


In the first 12 hours after arriving to Baghdad's Victory Base Complex in May, Rivera and his friend noticed a vehicle veering toward a lake.

"I kept telling my buddy 'it looks like he's going to go in the water' and then he did," said Rivera, a Woodberry Heights, N.J., native serving as the VBC convoy support team noncommissioned officer with the 81st Quartermaster Company, 593rd Sustainment Brigade, from Fort Lewis, Wash.

Rivera immediately dove in after the sinking vehicle, disregarding his own safety, to save whoever was inside. He was able to drag the driver, the only person inside, out of a window of the submerged vehicle and get him to safety until a medical team arrived.

Rivera said the only thing going through his mind was making sure that everyone got out safely.

"Staff Sergeant Rivera saved (the driver's) life at great risk to his own. That is exactly what we expect of our noncommissioned officers, placing someone above himself," said Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., commanding general of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. 

Before pinning on the Soldier's Medal, Jacoby took a moment to tell the story of the Soldier's Medal, a medal awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.

It was introduced by a law passed by United States Congress on July 2, 1926, and two of the first four medals awarded were presented to James K. Wilson and Cleophas C. Burnett for saving people from drowning.

"This really is an honor," Jacoby said, as he prepared to place the medal on Rivera's lapel. This was the first Soldier's Medal Jacoby has awarded a Soldier in his 32-year career in the Army.

Rivera joined the Army in February 2002, after serving as a life support technician in the Air National Guard.

"I always wanted to be a Soldier. At first, I joined the Air Force for the education, but I just really wanted to be in the fight," he said.

He had his chance to be "in the fight" when he deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light) in 2004. It was there that he provided support to safeguard coalition forces and destroyed the enemy during a conflict on Aug. 12, 2004. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for valor. Rivera, serving as a machine gunner, was struck by an IED that caused severe shrapnel wounds to his face and leg; he received a Purple Heart.

Pentz, the first sergeant who saved his life after the blast, will always be one of his heroes, he said.

"He's one of the first NCOs I ever looked up to. He taught me everything I know, and he represents everything the Army stands for," Rivera said.

Taking a cue from Pentz, Rivera strives to provide his junior Soldiers with the same knowledge and mentorship he received.

"As an NCO, you have to care. Not just about Soldiers, but about how you look and how you carry yourself," he said. "I always tell my guys to do their best no matter what. Take whatever menial task you get and exploit it. Make it look like you're the best at it. Even if it's cleaning a toilet, do it better than anyone else. People will notice that, and continue to give you more responsibility. If you can't be trusted to do the small things, how can they trust you to do anything else?"

In 2005, the 25th Inf. Div. (Light) recognized Rivera's achievements during Operation Enduring Freedom and selected him to be the model for a memorial honoring the fallen at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Rivera represents a modern-day Global War on Terrorism Soldier, and is seen standing and paying homage and final honors to a fallen comrade at the sight of a Soldier's cross.

"They call me a hero, but I'm a patriot. The true heroes are the ones that did not make it back home," Rivera said.

A photo of Rivera is here.

Filed under: Ceremony,

January 4, 2010 at 10:43am

FPs, Strykers celebrate graduation after culmination exercise

Policemen with the Iraqi Federal Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal Directorates stand in formation during a graduation ceremony held for them after completing the final event of Violator EOD security training course at Forward Operating Base Prosperity,

BAGHDAD - Like a family reunion, Soldiers with 2nd Platoon, Company F, 52nd Infantry Regiment and Iraqi Federal Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal directorates greeted each other with hugs, laughter and eccentric handshakes. 

While a normal welcoming for the two groups, there was a sense of excitement Dec. 31 as the five trainers from 2nd Platoon, Company F, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division prepped their eight EOD FP trainees for a culmination exercise leading to the first graduating class of Company F's Violator EOD Security Training Course on Forward Operating Base Prosperity.

After three weeks of training, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Gomez, a platoon sergeant with Company F, said he and his Soldiers are confident in the skills of the EOD FPs. 
"[My Soldiers] trained them to the point where they can actually feel comfortable fighting side-by-side with these guys," said Gomez, a Denver native. "I wouldn't have a problem doing a joint mission with those guys."

The EOD FPs showed their eagerness and willingness to learn every day of the course by training long hours and even staying later to make sure they learned all they could. They regularly asked the 2nd Plt., Company F Soldiers to teach them more. 

Training began with roping off sections of the platoon's area with 550 cord and engineer tape but progressively evolved into an intricate training exercise around FOB Prosperity. 
The final exercise included such tasks as reacting to enemy contact - mounted and on foot - and clearing buildings.

The EOD FPs kicked in doors, eliminated enemy threats and disarmed a suicide bomber as a part of the exercise.

During a react-to-enemy-contact scenario and a flank exercise lane, a policeman was required to perform first aid on a fellow policeman by placing a tourniquet around his gunshot-wounded leg. 

Pvt. Laith Mohammed, a policeman with the EOD FP, said he'll miss training with the 2nd Plt., Company F, 52nd Inf. Regt. Soldiers, who are attached to 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, but he is happy with the new skills and lessons he learned.
"My favorite part was reacting to an ambush and maneuvering because of the teamwork with security and EOD," said Laith.

At the end of the exercise, after the EOD FPs successfully completed their tasks, everyone regrouped at the platoon living area and held a graduation ceremony, where the 2nd Bn., 12th FAR commander, Lt. Col. Kevin Murphy, spoke.

"This is the first class, but there will be many more," Murphy said, adding that the success of the first class has paved the way for future classes to be given by the Company F Soldiers.

"The bottom line is they came in here with a little bit of skills," said Gomez, "and now they're leaving here three weeks later feeling more confident in themselves and their ability to handle any situation that they may encounter out in sector."    

Filed under: Strykers,

January 4, 2010 at 10:50am

2-1 Inf in Afghanistan - great article

The Washington Times has a long piece on the work 2-1 does in Afghanistan.  

Filed under: Strykers,

January 4, 2010 at 10:51am

Raider Tribe on newsstands now

Click here to see the most recent Raider Tribe from the 4th Stryker Brigade.  Great holiday pics.

Filed under: Strykers,

January 5, 2010 at 10:59am

From Vancouver to Fort Lewis

The Vancouver Barracks in southwest Washington state are closing and the 104th Division is moving to Fort Lewis.  The story is here.

Filed under: Reservists,

January 5, 2010 at 11:12am

Former Ranger tried to knock off attorney

Luke Sommer, a former Fort Lewis Army Ranger convicted of a Tacoma bank robbery, received 20 more years yesterday for trying to kill a, Assistant U.S. Attorney.  KOMO has the story here.

Filed under: Crime,

January 5, 2010 at 11:43am

Spc. Ryan Peplinski suffers second injury

5th Stryker Brigade's Spc. Ryan Peplinski is back in America after he was seriously injured a second time in his second tour of duty in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Livingston Daily story is here.   

Filed under: Strykers,

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