Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: March, 2010 (92) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 92

March 2, 2010 at 7:58am

JBLM soldiers re-enlist in Haiti

Col. (promotable) Robin Akin issues the oath of enlistment to 19 Soldiers from across Joint Logistics Command - Haiti who took part in the first-ever mass re-enlistment for the 3rd ESC on water in Port au Prince, Haiti. The Soldiers pledged more than six

Joint Logistics Command - Haiti Soldiers deployed in support of Operation Unified Response gathered on U.S. Army vessel LSV 1 to re-enlist Feb. 27. 

Nineteen Soldiers from Fort Knox's 3rd Sustainment Command, Fort Eustis's 7th Sustainment Brigade, and Fort Lewis's 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion raised their right hands and recited the oath of enlistment with Col. (Promotable) Robin Akin, the 3rd Sustainment Command's commanding general who presided over the event. 

"We gather today to remind ourselves that our mission as fighting men and women must continue," Akin said. "And to continue - we must have those that are willing, able, and are inspired to raise their hands again and again to be counted with those that came before them." 

Akin drew the re-enlistees' attention to the significance of re-enlisting on this particular deployment.

"Like those fighting for survival here in Haiti - American Soldiers bring the hope of peace, freedom, and a better day. When others turned away, it was our Soldiers who were willing to stand up, be counted and put their lives on the line - yesterday, today and tomorrow," said Akin

At the conclusion of Akin's speech, the formation of service members raised their right hands and swore in - once again. 

"It was just an awesome feeling, re-upping with all those guys," said 3rd ESC Soldier, Spc. Brandon Bowen, who is from Dickson, Tenn.

The event was designed to honor the commitment of the re-enlistees and was the first ever mass re-enlistment in the 3rd Sustainment Command - on water. 

"It was pretty cool, the fact that we were on a big ship. The whole thing was enjoyable," added Bowen. 

Accumulatively, the Soldiers pledged more than six decades of additional service to their country. The Soldiers came from 10 different states and Puerto Rico. 

Upon conclusion of the ceremony, the re-enlistees were treated to a hot steak dinner and cake - a special treat for Soldiers who have been eating MREs since arriving in Haiti about a month ago. 

Since switching over to an all-volunteer force in 1973, the armed forces have depended on re-enlistments to retain qualified personnel, which has become more critical in the face of the ongoing operations around the world.    

March 2, 2010 at 4:41pm

Photos from 1-17th Infantry

U.S. Soldiers with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment provide security and search for improvised explosive devices in Badula Qulp, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 23, during Operation Helmand Spider. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez)

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


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


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 6:02am

4-9 Infantry work election day

Spc. Christian Duran, an infantryman assigned to Company B, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and a native of Tacoma, Wash., greets an Iraqi soldier guarding one of the polling sites, March 1, ne

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION NASIR WA SALAM, Iraq - A week before Iraqi elections, March 7, Soldiers from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted a presence patrol along the Kandahri marketplace near Abu Ghraib.

At the request of Iraqi security forces, the Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, joined them, March 1, to patrol along polling sites that will be used in the coming election to ensure the Iraqis were prepared to protect voters.

"We're here working together with the Iraqis for a common goal," said Spc. Yahir Macias, assigned to Company B. "If the Iraqis succeed, then U.S. forces succeed."

The patrol demonstrated U.S. willingness to support the Iraqi people when requested, said 1st Sgt. Mark Ohme, first sergeant of Company B.

"The ISF have a pretty good handle on security of the area," said Ohme, a native of Bermebaton, Wash. "They have a better understanding of security within their area than we do. We're here to support them when they need us."

As the patrol walked down the streets and alleys surrounding the Kandahri marketplace, children came out from alcoves to wave to the U.S. Soldiers as they passed. Macias waved back to a young boy standing in an archway.

"We're letting these people know we're still here for them," said Macias.

At the second polling site, they discovered Iraqi army and Iraqi police already providing security.

"Iraq has become a proficient security force," said Capt. Derek Noel, commander of Company B. "This is a sign of the success over the last seven years that the ISF are at the point they are at now."

Noel explained how the performance of the ISF has improved substantially from his last deployment to this one.

"There was a time where American forces were in the spotlight," said Noel, a Gettysburg, Pa., native, "but now we can place the Iraqis on their own pedestal and take on a different role as advisors and a supplemental combat force."

Macias said it has been good to see how far the Iraqis have come in standing on their own.

"It always makes someone feel good when helping someone else out," said Macias. 

"We're helping an entire nation, so the good feeling is even better."

Filed under: Strykers,

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 1:23pm

I Corps returns

Sgt. Danielle Wright is all smiles after being met by family and friends during a homecoming ceremony for 250 soldiers assigned to I Corps.

About 250 soldiers assigned to the I Corps Headquarters were reunited with family and friends last night at Joint Base Lewis-McChord during a homecoming ceremony at Wilson Gym.

The soldiers recently completed a 12-month deployment to Iraq, where they served as the headquarters element for Multi-National corps Iraq in support of US and multi-national unit deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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,

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