Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: March, 2010 (33) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 33

March 2, 2010 at 4:44pm

I Corps starting return tomorrow

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - About 250 Soldiers assigned to the I

Corps Headquarters will be reunited with friends and family at Joint

Base Lewis-McChord with a "homecoming" ceremony at Wilson Gym, JBLM

Lewis North, currently scheduled for 9 p.m. March 3.

The I Corps Soldiers recently completed a 12-month deployment to Iraq,

where I Corps served as the headquarters element for Multi-National

Corps Iraq, supporting U.S. and multi-national units deployed in support

of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As MNC-I, the Corps' mission included command and control of

multi-national forces supporting Iraqi security operations and

coordinating the planned reduction of U.S. forces and equipment in Iraq

and ongoing transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi Security

Forces.

I Corps' staff worked closely with Iraqi Ground Force Command (IGFC),

establishing a Combined Partnership Operations Center (CPOC) at Camp

Victory to further improve communication and coordination with Iraqi

Security Forces. By June 30th, 2009, U.S. and multi-national coalition

forces had successfully withdrawn to bases outside urban city centers,

and Iraqi Security Forces assumed direct control for security operations

in Iraqi cities.

Multi-National Corps Iraq became U.S. Forces Iraq in January, 2010,

further consolidating command and control of U.S. forces deployed in

support of operations in Iraq, as part of the planned withdrawl of

forces stipulated in the January, 2009 Security Agreement with the Iraqi

government.

This will be the first large group of I Corps Soldiers to return since

approximately 100 returned with the unit's advance party about two weeks

ago. An additional 120 Soldiers assigned to I Corps' Analysis and

Control Element returned in December, 2009. The unit's remaining

Soldiers are expected to return to Joint Base Lewis-McChord within the

next several weeks.

Filed under: Army News,

March 4, 2010 at 5:59am

402nd BSB: Avengers, ANA Take Historic Trip

Capt. John Quinn from Limestone Maine, A. Company Commander, 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, delivers a brief to his company before heading out on a historic convoy of 140 vehicles.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Just a few short weeks ago a historic convoy traveled along two of arguably the most dangerous highways in southern Afghanistan and through several provinces to deliver a new fighting force to Helmand province and Operation Mostarak, the largest military operation since 2001. 

Answering the call from Regional Command (South), the 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, launched a 140-vehicle convoy, its longest ever, with a mission to escort and assist the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army from the Kandahar province into the embattled Helmand. 

The 215th Corps is the ANA's newest of seven existing corps and was developed to partner with the Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand province. 

"Our mission was fairly simple," said Capt. John Quinn, from Limestone, Maine, Alpha Company Commander, 402nd BSB. "Escort the ANA from Camp Hero to Camp Shorbak and make sure they got there with all equipment and personnel and assist them any way we can if they needed it. Turns out they were pretty self-sufficient."

The convoy was so large that it was broken up into serials to avoid causing serious traffic congestion. The convoy made it to Camp Shorbak in six hours without any major issues.

"The convoy went smoother than I thought it would," said Quinn. "We made very good time. The ANA were very organized and disciplined. There were no issues. It went faster than I anticipated."

Quinn said that they're not used to working with the ANA and a big move like this normally requires extensive coordination between the two militaries. 

"It was important for us to work with the ANA and to see how they operate and for them see how we operate so we can continue to work together and build that bond between militaries," said Quinn. 

The ANA have been training and are eager to get involved in the fight against the Taliban. The 215th Corps' movement to the Helmand province was a deliberate step toward increased ANA responsibility for an area tentatively to become RC (Southwest).

"Operation Moshtarak is a good operation," said Commander Touran Kamadi, 215th Corps. "People are fed up with the Taliban. That's why we are doing this operation."

The Afghan National Army has existed since at least the 1880s and now consists of more than 100,000 active troops. President Obama has called for an expansion of more than 250,000 Afghan soldiers over the next few years. 

Alpha Company, the "Avengers," typically runs resupply and recovery missions throughout Task Force Stryker's area of operation but in much smaller convoy elements. This mission, containing roughly three times the normal vehicle count, required an unprecedented coordination of Soldiers and vehicles. Still, the Avengers expertly accomplished their task, thereby playing a major part in helping the 215th Corps get established.

"I think it was a great opportunity for the BSB soldiers and for the Stryker Brigade to do this mission," Quinn added. "I think we did very well. It feels good to be a part of the impact we've made on this country in RC [South]."
RCS2010; Operation Moshtarak

March 4, 2010 at 6:00am

Strykers escape through their native tunes

FGHANISTAN -- Stryker Soldiers escape through their native tunes.

For many people in many cultures, music is an important part of their way of life and music has been a way for some Stryker Soldiers to put their minds at ease while deployed to Afghanistan. Two Soldiers from 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Spc. Vincent Cruz of Yoña, Guam and Spc. Landrew Sappa of the island of Aua, Pago Pago, American Samoa brought a little "peace" of home with them. Sappa and Cruz are from two different islands but share a common interest in playing the ukulele. 

On some days while taking a break Cruz and Sappa play the ukulele to relax and "mellow out." The music usually draws a crowd of listeners.

Many people associate the instrument's sound with the islands and rightfully so. The ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian interpretation of a small guitar-like instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants. The word "ukulele" means "jumping flea" in Hawaiian.

The ukulele, sometimes abbreviated as "uke," is a chordophone classified as a plucked lute. It is a subset of the guitar family generally made of wood and having four strings. 

"I play [the ukulele] because it helps to relieve stress and it reminds me of home," Sappa said, who started playing when he was five years old. "I enjoyed seeing my brothers and sisters play when I was growing up." 

Sappa dreamed of flying airplanes in the military as a child. Sappa joined the U.S. Army in 1997, chose a different path and his priorities shifted, leaving the ukulele behind.

"I joined the military and stopped playing for 13 years until I saw Cruz playing and started to pick it up again," said Sappa.

Cruz has been playing a soprano ukulele for about a year. He had his wife send it to him from back home. Cruz said he carries it with him most of the time. Though he's an accomplished player, he has never considered playing professionally. 

"I play for fun and to kick back," said Cruz. "I'm still learning. I'm teaching myself to play. Every time we see someone from the islands we go and see how they play and start picking it up little by little." 

The first song Cruz learned was "Over the Rainbow." 

The ukulele is becoming increasingly popular after a decline following the 1960's. In the late 1990s interest reappeared. The ukulele's popularity has not only spread across the Pacific, but also the Atlantic, according to Wikipedia.

Little kids are also learning to play.

"I have a son that will be two years old this year, said Sappa. "I will teach him to play the ukulele in a year or two." 

His son says, "Mama, song," to his mother when he wants to hear Sappa play his favorite song "Over the Rainbow." Sappa said it makes him sleepy, which he likes.

When deployment stresses weigh heavy, many Soldiers seek escape through things that remind them of home. For Cruz and Sappa that escape flows through the strumming of a ukulele's four familiar strings. It is the way they relax and reconnect with the place they left behind. Afghanistan holds no pristine beaches and boasts no palm tree groves, but for these two Soldiers, home is just four strings away.     

March 4, 2010 at 6:03am

4th Stryker Brigade, Iraq Leaders Join Together to Provide Fresh Water to Aqur Quf

Local shaykhs, U.S. Soldiers, and Iraqi security forces tour a newly refurbished water filtration plant in the Zydon area of Iraq, Feb. 28. The plant now has the capacity to serve an additional 4,000 to 5,000 people with clean, reliable drinking water due

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION NASIR WA SALAM, Iraq - Civil affairs Soldiers and leaders from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, joined with the Iraqi Ministry of Water, Feb. 28, to celebrate the opening of a refurbished water filtration plant near the village of Aqur Quf.

The Soldiers, from Company B, 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, and 4th Bn., 9th Infantry Regiment, assisted the Iraqi officials in the project at their request in order to provide clean drinking water to the Iraqis in the area.

The plant is one of three such plants expected to open in different regions in the coming months, said 1st Lt. James Hester, a civil affairs team leader and project manager assigned to Company B, 422nd CA Bn.

"This is the main water treatment plant of the area, and [it] now can connect more areas through water piping from this facility," said Hester. "The Iraqis did a tremendous amount of work on this project. We've had weekly meetings with the Ministry of Water, the plant manager and contractors to make sure things progressed properly."

The new plant will deliver fresh water to the people living in the Jeb Dafar and Zydon regions as well as an additional 4,000 to 5,000 people in the surrounding area. The plant can be renovated further to serve even more people as the need arises, said Hester.

Begun in the summer of 2009, the project has taken a long time to reach fruition, said Hester, requiring the efforts of all of them working side-by-side to complete.

The civil affairs team received some help along the way from 4-9, known as the "Manchu" battalion.

"The Manchus provided us with a platoon dedicated solely to helping us whenever we needed it," said Hester, "which provided us the opportunity to operate independently and check on progress frequently to keep things moving smoothly."

Iraqi security forces have hailed the project as one of many opportunities to prove their dedication to the local people, said Lt. Col. Mark Bieger, battalion commander for 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Regt. 

"We've been making an effort to step back and let the Iraqi leadership present humanitarian aid and projects like this one to the people of Iraq," Bieger said. "We want to generate a positive perception among the local populations that the ISF are here to support and protect them."

The water plant will be paramount in providing the areas around Aqur Quf, which are predominately made up of farming communities, with reliable water to support their crops, said Bieger. Water and electricity are the two main concerns among the residents.

Despite the project taking 18 months to complete, ISF and U.S. forces have managed to keep the area secure the entire time. According to Bieger, the ISF has stepped up its role in supporting security for projects such as this one to encourage future projects that provide basic necessities.

"This ribbon-cutting ceremony was clearly an Iraqi celebration of Iraq's dedication and ability to support themselves," said Bieger. "The ISF already had the area secure before we even arrived. So, even if the U.S. wasn't at the event, security would have been sufficient regardless."

As U.S. military leaders begin the responsible drawdown of the U.S. presence in Iraq and Iraqi leaders prepare for their first independent national elections since Americans set foot on Iraqi soil in 2003, Soldiers in attendance at the ceremony understood the significance of their efforts.

"We're trying to help the Iraqi people so that when we leave, they'll have clean drinking water," said Spc. Jared Bower, assigned to Company B, 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Regt. "I'm very proud of what we're doing out here; we're participating in a piece of history."    

Filed under: Strykers,

March 4, 2010 at 6:06am

U.S., Thai jump include jumpmasters from JBLM

Wing Commander Chaina Rong Pudehakarn speaks to his men of the Royal Thai Air Force Parachute team before boarding a 535th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III while at Dom Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand during Cope Tiger 2010, March 3. This e

Military jumpers from the U.S. and Royal Thai Air forces jumped out of a C-17 Globemaster III as part of the 2010 Cope Tiger Exercise, March 3.

More than 60 qualified Jumpmasters from the U. S. Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force Parachute Team completed three separate jumps over Bangkok, Thailand as the first major activity of Cope Tiger, which is an annual multilateral aerial large forces exercise conducted in the Asia-Pacific region that includes humanitarian and civic assistance programs.

It marked the first time that Thai forces jumped out of a C-17 in a static line format. 25 in all made the jump while 35 others performed High Altitude Low Observance jumps from the back end of the jet. Four U.S. Airmen also made the HALO jump. The jump mission was a huge success that allowed U.S. Air Force members from all around the country to participate in the event.

"It's an honor to be involved in a multilateral event like this and have the opportunity to train with others that share your job," said Floresville, Texas native Master Sgt. John Gaona whom is currently assigned to the Weather Squadron at Pope AFB, N.C.

Master Sgt. Gaona is a qualified jumper as well as a weatherman.

"I saw a message that they needed jump masters and I applied," said Gaona.

535th Airlift Squadron Loadmaster Staff Sgt. Todd Tichawa of Genoa, Ill., came along for the experience of the exercise.

"I came to help coordinate some of the missions here and it was a great opportunity to be part of the first-ever Royal Thai Air Force static line jump from one of our C-17's," said Tichawa.

Although the C-17 Globemaster used was based out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, it has been a team effort as the crew for this particular mission was comprised of pilots and loadmasters from Joint Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Elmendorf AFB and jump masters from Yokota Air Base, Japan, Eielson AFB, Alaska and Fort Lewis, Wash., in addition to Pope AFB. 

Thai media gathered to watch the collaboration of the event and interviewed several personnel from both forces on what they expected out of this exercise.

"I'm really looking forward to all of the coordination with the Thai Air Force and completing more joint missions," said Capt. Kevin Jackson, Tennessee native and 517th Airlift Squadron.

The U.S. Air Force has more than 21 aircraft participating in the exercise with a good balance of fighter type aircraft as well as heavies known as the cargo and personnel carriers. 

The two Air Forces will also conduct some humanitarian efforts to include dental and basic medical care to needed areas accompanied with a few donations as well.

Events like this illustrate the U.S. Air Force's stability in the Pacific Region through joint military efforts as well as humanitarian.    

Filed under: Army News,

March 4, 2010 at 2:54pm

Members of the Nisqually, Puyallup tribes participate in the annual Leschi-Quiemuth Honor Walk/Run

Grace Byrd takes a picture of Muck Creek as Col. Kenny Weldon, left, and Col. Thomas Brittain (carrying child) look on during the third annual Leschi-Quiemuth Honor Walk/Run along West Range Road Sunday. The 7.2-mile walk and 12.5-mile bus tour journeyed

They came to retrace the steps of their ancestors.

To see first hand "Yll-whaltz" or Muck Creek, where salmon have spawned for thousands of years. To journey past village sites and sacred burial grounds and walk along the Squally Plain, where Chief Leschi is said to have trained his warriors prior to the Indian Wars.

More than 200 Nisqually and Puyallup tribal members and friends arrived by bus at Range 91 on Sunday for the third annual Leschi-Quiemuth Honor Walk/Run.

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord command team of Col. Thomas Brittain, Col. Kenny Weldon and Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Barnes greeted the group as its members stepped off the bus.

"I want to welcome each and every one of you here today so that we can honor the Nisqually tribal history as we take this walk, tour and/or run," Brittain said.

The group of military and tribal members stood in a circle to say a prayer of blessing prior to the start of the event.

"I'm glad to see you young people here because this is your history," said Zelma McCloud, an 80-year-old Nisqually tribal elder who led the prayer.

"This land used to be where your ancestors lived; it was part of the reservation years and years ago."

In 1854, Isaac Stevens, governor of the Washington Territory, appointed Leschi and his brother, Quiemuth, as chiefs so they could sign the Medicine Creek Treaty.

The treaty officially formed South Sound Reservation lands that led to the Indian Wars of 1855-1856.

Chief Leschi, who had befriended many of the European settlers, believed the treaty was an act of trickery by Stevens.

Chief Leschi was hanged on Feb. 18, 1858. He had been charged with the murder of a colonel in the volunteer militia during the war.

According to Washington State Senate Resolution 8727, the Senate formally recognized the injustice on March 4, 2004. From that date, Chief Leschi has been regarded by the state as a courageous leader and a great and noble man.

The 7.2-mile walk and 12.5-mile bus tour journeyed along old Nisqually Reservation Allotments on JBLM Lewis Main that today are used as an artillery impact area. The tour ended at the Clear Creek Fish Hatchery.

The event first took place three years ago on neighboring Puyallup tribal lands, where Chief Leschi is now buried.

"For a time, Chief Leschi was buried here (JBLM) at a place that we'll be walking right by," said Dr. Bret Ruby, who works in the JBLM Public Works Environmental Division. "But then in 1917 when this part of the reservation was taken, they moved his body up to the Puyallup Reservation."

Last year the walk was moved to the present location after JBLM and Nisqually officials decided it would be a good way for tribal members to reconnect with the land.

"You might think taking 200 people through an impact area sounds like a crazy idea," Ruby said, "but (Col. Cynthia Murphy, former garrison commander, and Brittain) understood how important these places are to the people here and without question said, ‘This is the right thing to do. Let's make it happen.'"

As families made their way along the walk, they shared the stories their elders had told them about life on the old reservation.

For June Charles, 39, whose father was Nisqually and a World War II veteran, the walk along the prairie was the first time she'd seen the land from his stories.

"I've only seen the tribal side," she said. "I (had) to just come out and see for myself."

Grace Byrd, 39, a member of the Nisqually Tribe, said that five generations of her family showed up to walk.

"This is an honor to travel lands walked by our ancestors and our people," she said.

See more images from the walk at the following multimedia gallery:

Filed under: JBLM,

March 4, 2010 at 2:56pm

Transition program helps JBLM Air Force, Army police fight crime

L-r, Staff Sgt. Justin Corneau, Sgt. Brian Lane, Tech Sgt. Joshua O’Learn-ek, Lt. Clifford Messer, and Master Sgt. Milton Cowart pose for a photo. JBLM Photo.

Flashing red and blue lights signify the start of a traffic stop on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Lewis Main.

Instead of a Military Police Soldier, an Air Force Staff Sergeant from the 62nd Security Forces, steps out of the cruiser, ticket book in hand. After all, the emblem on the patrol car reads Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Army Military Police and Air Force Security Forces initiated a program swapping personnel and working side-by-side on Feb. 1.

62nd Security Forces Senior Master Sergeant Jennifer Kersey said the program is a natural evolution of joint basing.

"Our duties are almost synonymous," Kersey said.

The cooperative effort has been in the works for nearly three years, she said.

"It's a phase-in concept," Kersey said. "We want to set them up for success."

Kersey said that both Airmen and Soldiers seemed excited for the opportunity to take part in the exchange.

"We're working really well together," Kersey said. "The transition has been seamless this far."

From crime scene security to traffic patrols, from here on out Army green and Air Force blue can be seen working together, she said.

"These guys are paving the way for the future," Kersey said. "People should get used to seeing Air Force over there and Army over here."

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Olearnek said success of the program hinges on the cooperation between the services.

"Failure is not really an option," Olearnek said.

Working alongside the Army has been a smooth transition, he said.

"They've been pretty courteous," Olearnek said. "It's been great, actually."

The rollout of JBLM naturally means more Air Force and Army cooperation.

The two services already work together closely downrange.

"Law enforcement is pretty much law enforcement no matter where you do it," Olearnek said. "It's really not different at all."

Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Corneau, who has been working with traffic patrols on JBLM Lewis Main, said his Army counterparts have been very receptive to working alongside Airmen.

However, the reaction from people who are pulled over for possible infractions varies, he said.

"Some people (say), ‘Oh, you're Air Force,' or they ask what's going on," Corneau said.

The biggest adjustment comes from learning what similar things are called on the Army side of the house, he said.

"The verbiage is different," Corneau said.

Army Sgt. Brian Lane said the similarities between Air Force and Army military police operations greatly outweigh the differences.

"The program is really well done and really well thought out," Lane said.

Lane participated in a recertification course with the Air Force and said it matches up well with Army standards and procedures.

42nd Military Police Brigade Maj. Lawrence Grant said that a smooth rollout was a critical step in joint Security Forces/Military Police cooperation.

"We were already coordinating with the Security Forces 18 months ago on implementation," Grant said.

Working out kinks like synchronizing training and certifications for both Air Force and Army personnel has been a key part of developing the program, he said.

"So far, it's going very well," Grant said.

For the first exchanges, NCOs swapped places to learn leadership and management practices, he said.

"We are working very hard to make sure the same level of service offered won't be affected," Grant said.

The program continues to evolve best practices to ensure the highest quality of service and protection, he said.

March 4, 2010 at 2:57pm

Air Force recognizes 446th personnel flight among best

Reservists who seek assistance from the 446th Mission Support Squadron's Military Personnel Flight customer service desk can expect bright smiles and lightning-fast service, courtesy of professionals such as Senior Airman April Ranes. Apparently, word has gotten around.

Ranes and her teammates at the MPF and throughout the squadron were recently recognized as winners of the Fourth Air Force Gerrit D. Foster Jr. Award for outstanding military personnel program.

"The folks in the MPF have overcome a lot of obstacles over the last couple of years and continue to come out on top," said Col. Lisa Tank, 446th Airlift Wing vice commander. "This recognition is well deserved and earned."

The 446th MSS was also nominated for the award at the Air Force Reserve Command level, and for good reason. Among its numerous accomplishments in fiscal year 2009, the squadron directed in-processing and out-processing actions for nearly 1,300 deploying personnel, and processed more than 400 re-enlistments and extensions, nearly 2,000 ID cards and roughly 300 award packages and medals.

"I think this award illustrates the value of teamwork," said Capt. Vanessa Balint, 446th MSS/MPF commander. "We've capitalized on our strengths, and I think we've been doing a bang-up job."

Members of the 446th MSS go to great lengths to help their fellow Reservists. For those Airmen who took the opportunity to increase their personal growth, the MSS was there to help them along. The MSS warriors played a significant role in processing 70 Reservists assigned to the 446th AW who earned their Community College of the Air Force degrees in 2009.

"I think this really solidifies the fact that we have well-trained troops who are respected throughout the command," said Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Ellison, 446th MSS assistant chief of military personnel.

Ellison said that's a testament to the caliber of the 446th MSS commander, Lt. Col. William Pelster.

"Pelster leads by example, and the troops respond to that kind of leadership," said Ellison.

Despite low manning numbers and an increased operations tempo, the 446th MSS remains intensely focused on the mission.

March 4, 2010 at 2:58pm

47th CSH stayed agile, busy in Iraq

Lt. Col. T. Sloane Guy IV (right), chief of surgery with the 47th Combat Support Hospital, Mosul, Iraq, reviews an image of a patient’s chest with specialists located at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo by Maj. Allan Long.

The Soldiers of the 47th Combat Support Hospital returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord two weeks ago with the collective satisfaction of a job well done.

They deployed to Iraq in early 2009 at a time integral to the development of a democracy; its Soldiers found themselves in a complex environment that required them to also be trainers, diplomats, resource managers and partners to other services - host-nation medical personnel and Iraqi Security Forces.

The classic duality of purpose of deploying medical units, requiring preparation for medical and operational missions, was only the beginning for 47th CSH. Medical and warrior tasks dominated the training schedule before its Soldiers departed for their third tour to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Even before deployment, the leaders of "America's CSH" began to demonstrate the agility crucial to planning their complex, evolving missions.

Two months before the Feb. 12, 2009, casing ceremony, the commander, Col. Bryant E. Harp, was notified that unlike its previous mission from October 2005 to October 2006, the hospital would set up in three locations instead of two, adding al-Asad in Western Iraq's al-Anbar Province to locations in Tikrit and Mosul.

Though he lacked the allocations, Harp and his staff organized the CSH as a task force, creating a deputy commander at each site with the authority to locally manage assets, assure Soldier support, maintain property accountability and administer the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The operations officer immediately began firing requests to higher headquarters for authorizations to accommodate the modified organization into a large hospital and two surgical centers.

"You combine Col. Harp's vision with (S-3 Maj. Kevin Hamilton's) ability to go back to U.S. Army Medical Command to secure the resources to do that," said executive officer, Lt. Col. Daniel McGill, "because we had to request an extra company commander, and an extra hospital administrator, a trained medical service guy. The work those two officers did getting the leadership structure in place was hugely critical."

Complex challenges

Each of the three sites had solid leadership and clean lines of command, enabling Harp and the headquarters to train their sights across the entire battlespace - a daunting expanse. The area encompassed more than 105,000 square miles, the largest ever managed by a combat support hospital in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The mission was to provide Level III surgical, traumatic and intensive care, the highest available in a combat zone, in support of all Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and coalition partners in Multi-National Division-North and MND-West.

Upon arrival in theater, the 240-Soldier strength of 47th CSH doubled with doctors, nurses, physicians assistants and medical specialists provided by the Professional Filler System, starting the personnel and operations sections on a continuous process of managing, accounting for and requisitioning replacements for professionals on 90-day, six-month and yearlong rotations. At the mid-point of the tour, 180 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals were replaced.

"We were dealing with 90-day rotators, that is personnel coming in and out, 180-day rotators, which is half your force, and a forward surgical team attached to us," Hamilton said. "Redeployments and integration into theater. And you've got your operational stuff because you're getting missions. So it's not like you're a static hospital where you set up and that's all you do."

Meanwhile, the I Corps Headquarters arrived in Baghdad and took the reins of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, with its emphasis on overseeing the orderly draw-down of personnel and equipment throughout the theater. The 47th CSH logistics officer, Maj. Dean Rassmussen, fell in on 12 property books with a total value of $45 million in theater and organic property. By the time materiel draw-down directives arrived from MNC-I, Rassmussen had already coordinated with company commanders to begin turning in excesses. The cooperative efforts resulted in finding more than $6 million in excess property and turning in $11.5 million. During the first quarter, the hospital cut its rolling stock almost in half, by 48 percent, and reduced its container fleet by 31 percent - turning in 19 containers during the first month in-country and 61 in all.

Busy operations tempo

The CSH opened for business with its large hospital in Tikrit. Bravo Company took responsibility for the site and noted security concerns. The Bulldog Company leadership under Capt. Gerald Kellar formulated a new force-protection plan that was so well received, it was later adopted by most tenant units on Contingency Operating Base Speicher.

During the year, the Tikrit hospital recorded more than 28,000 patient encounters, including 535 behavioral health cases and evacuated 850 patients, 50 requiring urgent or intensive care. The facility admitted 1,250 patients and performed 180 surgeries with no adverse outcomes.

Charlie Company set up its facility at al-Asad, the western-most surgical hospital in the country, serving the largest and most diverse population of 25,000 coalition forces and Iraqi Security Forces. The Cobras met the challenge of integrating the Navy and Marine assets that predominated in Anbar Province into the 47th team. The TF al-Asad Hospital received high marks in four staff-assistance visits that evaluated the facility across the board and gained special recognition for its infection-control program, which earned Best Business Practice finding from the Office of the Surgeon General. It recorded more than 17,000 patient encounters and performed 250 surgical procedures.

Task Force Mosul coordinated medical capabilities in its area of responsibility, including a maneuver brigade, a combat engineer brigade and a variety of mobile training teams and provisional reconstruction teams. The TF Mosul Hospital provided training to all local forward-operating-base physicians while conducting more than 12,000 patient encounters and admitting 400. Alpha Company sent seven Soldiers from Mosul to a large detention center to study the principles for administering detainee health care. The Silverbacks also set up situational training lanes to teach combat lifesaving techniques under hostile conditions.

Ground-breaking medicine

One of the most innovative programs involving telemedicine took place in Mosul, in which surgeons conducted consults during surgery - a first, according to McGill.

"That's the first time that's been done," McGill said. "In the past, we've established T-med linkages that were from a T-med system over satellite to a T-med system. But actually to stream pictures and video with enough granularity over the Internet hadn't been done before."

The idea occurred to a cardio-thoracic surgeon in Mosul during a previous deployment in Afghanistan, where he was forced to perform neurosurgery because he was the only surgeon available.

"He ends up in surgery in an area he's not familiar with," McGill said. "He calls back to Brooke Army Medical Center (at Fort Sam Houston, Texas). He has a camera on his head. A guy at Brooke is looking at a screen, seeing what he's seeing and is able to provide consultation forward to Mosul in a specific subspecialty. (It) not only gives a boost of confidence to the surgeon, but it dramatically improves clinical outcomes."

Leadership clinic

Though all elements of the 47th CSH worked to keep up with the punishing operations tempo, enemy fighters reminded its Soldiers of why they were there. Six weeks from redeployment, insurgents fired rockets into COB Speicher, injuring three Soldiers.

"All did great, minor shrapnel injuries," McGill said. "When you're in a CSH, you expect to see Purple Hearts issued, but you don't expect it to be your own guys."

The incident also brought home for the executive officer the strength of the organization - NCOs who took charge during the chaos. Bravo Company's first sergeant was instantly at the scene, assessing, prioritizing, directing first aid, demonstrating the leadership required in a crisis.

"First Sgt. (Rachelle) Gattenby seized control of the situation," McGill said. "Not only do you have senior officers who are doctors and nurses in Tikrit, but you have all the senior officers from the headquarters. Everybody looks and says ‘First sergeant's got control of this.'"

McGill said the experienced team of Harp and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Mullaney set the tone for an exceptional leadership climate throughout America's CSH.

"That was like a daily seminar in leadership, watching those two work together," McGill said. "The strength of our NCOs was unbelievable, in particular the 7s and 8s. I've been doing this for 18 years and I've never seen a collection of NCOs like this."

March 4, 2010 at 3:00pm

JBLM C-12 pilots ‘ready to take on any mission’

A C-12 Huron waits at the JBLM Regional Flight Center to be deployed on a blood run.

The words "Army aviation" usually conjure up images of helicopters, laden with troops.

However, the fixed-wing C-12 Huron is an unsung workhorse of cargo and personnel transport within the Army.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Regional Flight Center has two C-12s available as air assets for Soldier or cargo transport.

Operational Support Airlift Command's commanding officer, Capt. Rana Korynta, said aircrews are prepared to take on multiple mission roles and destinations.

"We carry all Soldiers - all ranks," Korynta said.

Huron pilots average 20 to 25 hours of flight time per month, she said.

Operational Support Airlift Command at JBLM Main is made up of both Army National Guard and active-duty personnel.

One of the unit's pilots, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas Wall, said aviators look forward to taking on a variety of missions.

"We're here for you," Wall said. "Our pilots are ready to take on any mission we're handed."

The twin engine, 44-foot long C-12 has been in active service with the Army since 1975.

The $6 million C-12 typically has a two-person crew and can seat as many as 13 passengers.

Flight Operations NCO Staff Sgt. Marla Darby said the unit aims to get the word out about what they do and what services they can offer.

"We'd like to show that our assets can do many things of importance," Darby said.

Currently, the most common usage is VIP transport, she said.

The Huron can fly more than 1,200 miles on a single tank of fuel, which can easily put it within reach of many continental United States destinations, Darby said.

Soon, C-12 crews hope to carry a different kind of precious cargo: blood.

"We're hoping to support Madigan Army Medical Center's Armed Services Blood Bank Center with their blood transport," Darby said. "We can help them get the donated blood back quicker for processing."

The Armed Services Blood Bank Center at MAMC is currently the only military blood donor center in the Pacific Northwest and is supported by 18 donor centers across the region.

ASBBC Director Major Angel Colon said they look forward to having access to the C-12 transports.

"We're drawing the blood to save lives," Colon said. "Eighty percent of our blood comes from mobiles going out to different locations."

Time is of the essence when it comes to blood collection.

Once collected, the blood has to be processed within eight hours to preserve its safety and usability, he said.

"We want to make sure we put out the safest product," Colon said.

ASBBC collected more than 600 units of blood last month alone, he said.

The blood center plans to use the C-12 transport for the first time toward the end of the month during a blood drive at Whidbey Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island.

"It's great to have the C-12 available for our mission," Colon said. "Time is critical for our needs."

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