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Monday, 25 August 2014 13:50

Korean-American Soldiers Bridge Cultures

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Min Sung Cha pays a vendor for a microphone at the Yongsan Electronics Market in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 22, 2014. Cha is a Korean-American soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, which is currently stationed at Camp Yongin, South Korea, as part of Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Maj. Christopher Seaton  CAMP YONGIN, South Korea – The white Kia pulled through the gate near a fuel point at Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul as Army 1st Lt. Jae Hyun Lee made a verbal note to no one in particular, “Okay, I can’t drive like a Korean anymore.”

PHOTO: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Min Sung Cha pays a vendor for a microphone at the Yongsan Electronics Market in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 22, 2014. Cha is a Korean-American soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, which is currently stationed at Camp Yongin, South Korea, as part of Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Maj. Christopher Seaton 
 
Lee, a company executive officer, and Army Staff Sgt. Min Sung Cha, the unit supply sergeant, were on a mission for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps. The two U.S. soldiers had just completed the 1.5-hour drive north from the unit’s life support area in Yongin, where the corps stood up for Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2014. Since the two soldiers arrived in South Korea from their home station at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, they had made several runs like these.

Microphone-finding mission

Their goal that day was to find an omni-directional microphone on the local economy for the corps’ video teleconference suite. The two soldiers had to quickly find a specialty item in a foreign country -- no big deal, especially since they both grew up in Seoul.

Lee and Cha are part of a group of 10 native-Korean speakers assigned to I Corps. Four of those 10 speakers work for the headquarters battalion.

It’s a statistic that battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Woodrow Ishman Jr. says is extremely fortunate, given the unit’s focus on operations in the Pacific theater.

“It’s huge for us,” Ishman said. “It’s great to have somebody who can overcome the language barrier, knowing they have our best interest at heart. Because of them, it’s seamless for us to get supplies or make trips to the airport.”

Different backgrounds

The soldiers’ backgrounds prior to arriving at I Corps vary widely.

Lee, a 26-year-old Ranger-qualified infantry officer, was born in Philadelphia. He’s a second-generation American whose grandparents were displaced by the Korean War. When he was a baby, his father got an international job and the family moved to Seoul. Even in South Korea, Lee attended international schools and spoke primarily English at home.

Cha, 43, was raised in South Korea and Japan. His family moved to Olympia, Washington, in 1989 to follow opportunities. Cha got his green card, but moved back to South Korea after a few years. In 1997, when the Korean economy crashed, he joined the U.S. Army from the recruiting station at the American base in Seoul.

“When I joined the Army, my English was pretty bad,” Cha said.

“Was?” Lee joked. The two exchanged a playful laugh and chattered in Korean.

The two soldiers aren’t translators. Nor are they in specialty positions designed for Korean language speakers. Units that are based in South Korea are augmented by English-speaking Korean Army soldiers, known as KATUSAs -- Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army. American units training in the country don’t have KATUSAs.

Ishman says he considers soldiers like Lee and Cha as “extended linguists,” who also happen to be American soldiers working in vital roles for the corps.

“Their language is an additional asset that’s really critical to our mission,” Ishman said. “Our Korean counterparts see that and they trust us even more because we have them on our staff.”

Multi-faceted roles

Lee and Cha perform multi-faceted roles in the command. In addition to helping quickly integrate Korean army staff at the American joint operation center, they also play a role in preparing their American counterparts for major exercises in the unit’s new area of operations. Cha, who also speaks Japanese, first showed his value last year as I Corps prepared for the Japanese Exercise Yama Sakura.

“It all started in the motor-pool during [morning] formations with Staff Sgt. Cha teaching basic phrases,” Ishman said. “He was huge in Japan.”

Another Korean-American assigned to the battalion, Capt. Jae Woo Park, provided a detailed briefing for family members in preparation for the current exercise. Ishman said those briefings helped ease a lot of concerns for the families of I Corps soldiers.

For Ishman, the Korean-American soldiers go a long way in helping fulfill one of the major priorities of I Corps’ commander, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza. His guidance includes the edict that the corps will remain heavily invested in the Pacific.

“Having someone who knows what to ask, knows what to do, because he’s from the country is amazing,” Ishman said. “All those little things they can do to help us support the Corps staff make a big difference.”

For Lee and Cha, that impact doesn’t play a major role as they maneuver their white Kia through the streets of Seoul in search of the latest critical part needed to get a corps staff section back on its feet.

“A job is a job, so I’m not really focused on that,” Lee said. “I’m an American soldier and I do what the Army asks me to do.”

Written Aug. 25, 2014 By:
Army Sgt. Maj. Christopher Seaton
I Corps

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Friday, 22 August 2014 13:42

Marine Marksman Tests Skills in Australia

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Andrew H. Walker engages targets with the Beretta M9 pistol during the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting, May 3, 2014. The AASAM is an annual weapons based competition where armed forces from around the globe compete against one another. Walker is the assistant logistics officer for Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and a native of Raleigh, N.C. Walker was selected to join the Marine Corps shooting team for the AASAM as a result of his high placement during the 2014 Marine Corps Competition-in-Arms Program Western Division Matches and several years of civilian competitive shooting. Courtesy photoPUCKAPUNYAL MILITARY AREA, Australia – It’s not a cliché: every Marine is a rifleman, regardless if they are an infantryman or an administrative clerk. Annual requirements dictate qualifying on a known-distance rifle range and the occasional field exercise, but the minimum expectations don’t inspire Marines to excellence. What, then, if a Marine has a burning passion and the drive to master the fundamentals of marksmanship?

PHOTO: Marine Corps 1st Lt. Andrew H. Walker engages targets with the Beretta M9 pistol during the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting, May 3, 2014. The AASAM is an annual weapons based competition where armed forces from around the globe compete against one another. Walker is the assistant logistics officer for Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and a native of Raleigh, N.C. Walker was selected to join the Marine Corps shooting team for the AASAM as a result of his high placement during the 2014 Marine Corps Competition-in-Arms Program Western Division Matches and several years of civilian competitive shooting. Courtesy photo 
 
“My family didn’t have any guns, and aside from both of my grandfathers [who served], we weren’t a military family,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Andrew H. Walker, the assistant logistics officer for Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“It wasn’t until I was in college that I began hunting and fishing with some of the friends and fell in love with shooting,” Walker said.

Marksmanship instructors claim that some of the most accurate Marines are those who didn’t shoot growing up because they avoid developing bad habits or improper shooting postures. Such is the case with Walker, when, seven years after college, he represented the Marine Corps in shooting matches during the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting at the Puckapunyal Military Area, Victoria, Australia, in the early weeks of May, 2014.

The AASAM is an international combat shooting competition between approximately 20 nations from the Asia-Pacific and North American militaries, including the U.S., Brunei, New Caledonia, Canada, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

The competition consisted of a variety of combat shooting scenarios, from a traditional known-distance range to a modified biathlon where shooters run three kilometers with gear, rifles, and water jugs prior to shooting at targets from unknown distances.

“It was a very competitive and exciting event -- I loved the experience,” said Walker, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“The competition itself was very fast-paced, where we were on the range from 7 a.m. to about 6 p.m. every day,” he said. “But once the weapons were turned into the armory and we could sit back with [shooters from other nations], the best part of the experience came. [It was great] interacting with all the other military personnel who are as passionate about shooting as much as I am.”

Walker discovered his passion for shooting during hunting trips in North Carolina alongside college friends. He quickly loved every type of firearm he shot, whether it was rifles, shotguns or handguns. That wasn’t enough, though. He wanted to test his skills against the best in shooting competitions.

“I was at the Marine Corps Logistics Officer Course in 2010 when I participated in my first pistol competition,” Walker said. “It was some of the most fun I’d ever had and I knew I had to do more.”

From there, Walker participated in any shooting competition he could find, including civilian matches, which is a trend that continued at his current assignment with the 3/5, based in California. He has since competed in more than 25 events, excelling in pistol shoots and three-gun matches, in which the shooter uses rifles, pistols and shotguns.

"Our command encourages Marines to participate in recreational activities. There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of as a Marine regardless of [your] MOS,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Bryant C. Yee, logistics officer for BLT 3/5, 31st MEU. “Being able to take advantage of these unique experiences is, I think, a big difference in whether the individual enjoyed his or her time in the Marine Corps, which was the thought process behind the command's decision to let Lt. Walker compete on the Marine Corps shooting team.”

Walker’s inclusion on the shooting team came after he competed in the Marine Corps’ Competition-in-Arms Program Western Division Matches in early 2014 where he placed in the top fifth of all competitors. It was his proficiency in the matches as well as his accomplishments in civilian events that led the coaches of the shooting team to offer him a spot for the AASAM.

“The Marine team consisted of 10 shooters, mainly comprised of Marine Corps shooting team members with additional members drawn from around the Corps based on shooting experience,” Walker said. “I was temporarily assigned to Weapons Training Battalion, Marine Corps Training Command in Quantico, Virginia, and trained with the shooting team for three weeks before we headed to Australia for the competition.”

While in Australia, Walker and the team competed in individual shooting matches, squad competitions, sniper rifle shooting and other challenges. To Walker's disappointment, the only medal he received was a third place team medal in the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer division. The ISMT is a life-sized indoor computer system used for marksmanship training.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t shoot as well as I could have, but the Marines consistently placed within the top third of every competition,” Walker said. “But the real benefit of the competition was spending time with the shooters from the other militaries, joking around and learning more about shooting and each other rather than if we just shot and went our separate ways.”

The end of the competition signaled a break for Walker from competitive shooting for a time due to operational commitments with BLT 3/5. Once the battalion rotates back to California at the end of a six-month tour, he will begin practicing for matches again to achieve his goal of competing in professional three-gun and United States Practical Shooting Association [pistol specialty] matches.

“The Marine Corps has given me so many opportunities to refine my shooting, and even gave me the chance to go to a different country to represent the American military,” Walker said. “I’m looking forward to what else I may be able to accomplish, both with the Marine Corps and in civilian competitions.”

Walker and the Marines of BLT 3/5 are currently assigned to the 31st MEU as the ground combat element and are conducting pre-deployment preparations in support of the regularly scheduled Fall Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

Written Aug. 22, 2014 By:
Marine Corps Sgt. Jonathan Wright
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

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A medical group with the Danish Home Guard practices wound analysis, preparation and movement of a casualty to an aid station in Denmark, June 20, 2014. Exercises with American soldiers participating through the Military Reserve Exchange Program provide all involved with a joint training environment. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kyle Kennedy  SALT LAKE CITY – Through the Military Reserve Exchange Program, a computer operations officer with U.S. Strategic Command’s Army Reserve Element trained with the Danish Home Guard in Denmark.

PHOTO: A medical group with the Danish Home Guard practices wound analysis, preparation and movement of a casualty to an aid station in Denmark, June 20, 2014. Exercises with American soldiers participating through the Military Reserve Exchange Program provide all involved with a joint training environment. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kyle Kennedy 
 
“The entire trip was fun,” said Army 1st Lt. Kyle Kennedy, a Columbus, Nebraska, native. “The Home Guard liaisons made sure our days were packed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and they went above and beyond to make sure we got to see the whole country and experience the Danish Home Guard way of life.”

While working in Demark June 11-25, Kennedy learned how the Danish Home Guard runs its logistics, medical and armor operations, its shooting competitions, and its day-to-day activities.

Military Reserve Exchange Program provides reserve-component officers with training associated with mobilization duties while enhancing their ability to work and communicate with service members of the host nation.

“He is a unit role model and leader with impeccable character,” said Army Lt. Col. Mike Poss, commander of Stratcom’s Army Reserve Element. Based on these qualities, he added, Kennedy was a great selection to be an ambassador of the Army Reserve for the Denmark exchange program.

Through the program, soldiers gain an understanding of the training, doctrine and operations of a major alliance partner.

“The experience of working with allied militaries makes [soldiers] more experienced and teaches them how these other militaries operate,” said Army Maj. Benjamin Flosi, manager of the exchange program. “They build relationships so that later on in their careers, when they actually do work with allied militaries, they already have a point of contact, relationship and experience to fall back on.”

During his time in Denmark, Kennedy said, the Danish Guard’s shooting competitions stand out the most in his mind.

“The Home Guard’s shooting competitions were fantastic,” he said. “They had different stages and events, [including] distance shooting, movement shooting, close-contact firing, speed shooting, shooting at unique angles and shooting while on an elevated platform at pop-up targets. I placed first for the American group and third overall in the second-day shooting competition.”

Kennedy said he spent the first few days in Copenhagen, nine days in Skive and the remaining days in Tranum.

“Copenhagen was my favorite location,” he said. “Everyone there is so active, from people on bikes to kayaking to running. The prices were extremely high, but it helped you manage your money better and appreciate the things you have.”

Kennedy said he wanted to be in the Army and support his country ever since he was a boy, and with 17 of service, this was another unique experience that he was able to add to his list.


Written Aug. 14, 2014 By:
Army Staff Sgt. Kai Jensen
76th U.S. Army Reserve Operational Response Command

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Senior Airman Christopher Moore has been a mechanic for the Air Force for three years and is deployed to Southwest Asia from the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock  SOUTHWEST ASIA – What little boy doesn't like ripping apart his toys and making a mess of things? But the older most men get, the more expensive and fancier the toys become.

PHOTO: Senior Airman Christopher Moore has been a mechanic for the Air Force for three years and is deployed to Southwest Asia from the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock 
 
Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Moore, a vehicle mechanic with the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, is no exception. When it comes to tinkering and fixing things, he has a passion and curiosity for it all. Now, his toys are much bigger than they were when he was a boy, and they belong to the Air Force.

"Working on cars brings a sense of pride when you see what you've fixed," Moore said. "I recently replaced the engine in a truck. It took three days to take apart the entire vehicle, but it felt good to hear the engine fire up and to watch it drive away."

He said he likes to challenge himself and feels confident in his skills to try new projects and learn from them.

Moore grew up in Lebanon, Missouri, with his father after his parents divorced. He was 13, when he started working as a floor sweeper at a salvage yard. Throughout his teenage years, he spent his time working at his father's vehicle restoration shop, where he developed his skill for working on cars. In college, he worked as a mechanic at a major automotive business and continued to refine his maintenance skills.

"I went to college for two years, taking classes such as marine biology, science and other subjects, but I was really drawn to auto mechanics," said Moore, who is deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Moore said he decided to join the Air Force to continue his education, to travel, and to see the world while serving his country. "My grandfather, Peewee, served as a mail clerk in the Air Force and spent time in Germany," he said. “I felt it was a good way to give back.”

Moore said he lucked out when he was guaranteed a position in the Air Force as a vehicle mechanic.

"Growing up, I used to think the Air Force was cool," he said. "As a kid, you always aspire to be a pilot. But, when I got older, I had a new desire -- I wanted to work on cars. Since joining the Air Force, I've learned so much more about how vehicles run. Now, I get to work on large trucks and construction equipment that civil engineers operate."

Being in vehicle maintenance takes a lot of patience and anger management, Moore said. "Little things on the job that look or seem simple can test a mechanic's patience," he added. "What should be a quick fix can turn into an eight-hour project where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong."

Moore said he thoroughly enjoys his personal and professional life in Germany, and that he has found a great mentor in Air Force Master Sgt. Paul Bohn.

"When I first got to Germany, he was my shop foreman and made a lasting impression on my career," Moore said. "I only worked with him for a few months when I was a new airman. I made my share of mistakes, but he stood behind me through it all and he had faith in me."

Moore was promoted to senior airman below the zone -- earlier than his peers -- and he cited Bohn’s mentorship as a key factor in that achievement.

Written Aug. 7, 2014 By:
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock
386th Air Expeditionary Wing

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Senior Airman Christopher Moore has been a mechanic for the Air Force for three years and is deployed to Southwest Asia from the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock  SOUTHWEST ASIA – What little boy doesn't like ripping apart his toys and making a mess of things? But the older most men get, the more expensive and fancier the toys become.

PHOTO: Senior Airman Christopher Moore has been a mechanic for the Air Force for three years and is deployed to Southwest Asia from the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock 
 
Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Moore, a vehicle mechanic with the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, is no exception. When it comes to tinkering and fixing things, he has a passion and curiosity for it all. Now, his toys are much bigger than they were when he was a boy, and they belong to the Air Force.

"Working on cars brings a sense of pride when you see what you've fixed," Moore said. "I recently replaced the engine in a truck. It took three days to take apart the entire vehicle, but it felt good to hear the engine fire up and to watch it drive away."

He said he likes to challenge himself and feels confident in his skills to try new projects and learn from them.

Moore grew up in Lebanon, Missouri, with his father after his parents divorced. He was 13, when he started working as a floor sweeper at a salvage yard. Throughout his teenage years, he spent his time working at his father's vehicle restoration shop, where he developed his skill for working on cars. In college, he worked as a mechanic at a major automotive business and continued to refine his maintenance skills.

"I went to college for two years, taking classes such as marine biology, science and other subjects, but I was really drawn to auto mechanics," said Moore, who is deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Moore said he decided to join the Air Force to continue his education, to travel, and to see the world while serving his country. "My grandfather, Peewee, served as a mail clerk in the Air Force and spent time in Germany," he said. “I felt it was a good way to give back.”

Moore said he lucked out when he was guaranteed a position in the Air Force as a vehicle mechanic.

"Growing up, I used to think the Air Force was cool," he said. "As a kid, you always aspire to be a pilot. But, when I got older, I had a new desire -- I wanted to work on cars. Since joining the Air Force, I've learned so much more about how vehicles run. Now, I get to work on large trucks and construction equipment that civil engineers operate."

Being in vehicle maintenance takes a lot of patience and anger management, Moore said. "Little things on the job that look or seem simple can test a mechanic's patience," he added. "What should be a quick fix can turn into an eight-hour project where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong."

Moore said he thoroughly enjoys his personal and professional life in Germany, and that he has found a great mentor in Air Force Master Sgt. Paul Bohn.

"When I first got to Germany, he was my shop foreman and made a lasting impression on my career," Moore said. "I only worked with him for a few months when I was a new airman. I made my share of mistakes, but he stood behind me through it all and he had faith in me."

Moore was promoted to senior airman below the zone -- earlier than his peers -- and he cited Bohn’s mentorship as a key factor in that achievement.

Written Aug. 7, 2014 By:
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock
386th Air Expeditionary Wing

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Wednesday, 06 August 2014 10:09

Soldier Practices Search, Extraction

Army Pfc. Erica Haynes prepares to perform an extraction during the Vibrant Response 14 exercise at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., Aug. 2, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dani Salvatore  CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. – On a hot Saturday afternoon, Army Pfc. Erica Haynes of the Alabama National Guard’s 440th Chemical Company skillfully maneuvers over the debris of a collapsed structure, searching for survivors of a simulated nuclear explosion.

PHOTO: Army Pfc. Erica Haynes prepares to perform an extraction during the Vibrant Response 14 exercise at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., Aug. 2, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dani Salvatore 
 
This Aug. 2 search and extraction exercise was the first training session for her unit at Vibrant Response 14 at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center here.

Vibrant Response is a U.S. Northern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army North-led field training exercise for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive consequence management forces. It is designed to improve their ability to respond to catastrophic incidents.

“Is anybody in here?” Haynes called out as she struggled to find her footing on the unstable rubble. “Is anybody in here?”

On a hunch that someone could be trapped inside the structure below her, Haynes grabbed a large plank and began pounding the surface beneath her.

“Can you hear me?” she exclaimed. “If you can, knock back!”

A muffled reply from below cried out for help. Haynes was prepared to do whatever it took to rescue the survivor.

Search and extraction is her favorite skill to perform, she said.

“You have to think off the top of your head, and you never know what to expect,” she explained. A survivor’s injuries and the integrity of the structure can complicate the extraction, she added, thus requiring a great deal of thought and skill to perform the rescue.

“Are you hurt?” Haynes called out to the role-playing survivor trapped below her. The survivor’s right leg was injured, and he was unable to move it. Because he couldn’t move, Haynes and her team were unable to cut through the structure to perform the rescue without risking further injury to the survivor.

This situation did not discourage Haynes, and she began searching for another way to extract the survivor.

“The first time I met her, we were at training for search and extraction -- the same thing we are doing here today,” said Army Spc. Shanieka Abney an Alabama Guardsman with 690th Chemical Company‘s Task Force 46. “Nothing stops her. She was injured and still pushing on.”

Haynes and her team maneuvered around the structure to a tunnel that might offer access to the trapped survivor.

“Confined search and extraction can be challenging,” she said. “Small spaces limit the types of equipment that can be used, and rescuers do not have much room to maneuver.”

A soldier from Haynes’ team went into the tunnel in attempt to reach the survivor. As her teammate crawled through the opening to the tunnel, Haynes offered coaching and encouragement.

“Watch your leg on those wires,” she said. “There you go. You got it.”

In addition to her team’s safety, the survivor’s safety was a constant concern, Haynes said. One way to ensure survivors’ safety is to “package” them properly for extraction, she explained, a task she said is her strongest skill.

Various techniques and equipment can be used in extractions, she said, and using the method most appropriate for the scenario is vital to ensure the safety of the survivor and her rescue team.

But despite her team's efforts in the tunnel, they did not reach the survivor, so Haynes huddled with her team to consider additional strategies.

“She is highly motivated,” Abney said. “She doesn’t give up, and she won’t quit.”


Written Aug. 6, 2014 By:

Army Sgt. Dani Salvatore
27th Public Affairs Detachment

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Friday, 01 August 2014 10:01

Soldier Leads Troops in Woodshop

Army Spc. David Beachey from Highland, Ind., who serves with the 1413th Engineer Company, Indiana National Guard, examines his work in the woodshop at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 26, 2014. Beachey, the primary sign maker, works for Army Spc. Keith Harris, the shop’s leader. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ariel J. Solomon  KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The road to becoming a leader could be considered a long one. While some soldiers march along, others charge up the road.

PHOTO: Army Spc. David Beachey from Highland, Ind., who serves with the 1413th Engineer Company, Indiana National Guard, examines his work in the woodshop at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 26, 2014. Beachey, the primary sign maker, works for Army Spc. Keith Harris, the shop’s leader. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ariel J. Solomon 
 
Army Spc. Keith Harris of the Indiana National Guard’s 1413th Engineer Company has been earning leadership positions since he attended basic training.

Harris is in charge of his unit’s woodshop here. He leads several soldiers, each with varying amounts of woodworking knowledge. It's his job to form this group into a team and ensure their tasks are accomplished to the highest possible standard.

Harris credits the influence of his friend and mentor Darrell Harvey, because Harvey never gave up on him. Harris explained that he wants to be the same kind of person as he grows older.

“Growing up, I wasn't the best kid. I was sent to military schools and boarding schools,” said Harris, who hails from Cicero, Indiana. “For some reason, [Harvey] knew I was doing wrong, but he would just keep pushing me to be a better person. I'd keep saying I would change but never did. It wasn't until the last military school that I decided Darrell was right and that's why I joined the military, because I needed something in my life.”

Harris added: "It's like everything he ever said to me suddenly made sense. Ever since then we've been closer than we were when I was growing up.”

Harris said the National Guard has given him a place to grow and build his leadership skills. He believes a good leader commands with respect, instead of simply commanding respect. Army 1st Sgt. Michael Dunn of the 1413th Engineer Company, he said, has been one of his biggest influences in that regard.

“I feel we fall from the same tree,” Harris said of Dunn’s leadership style. “I like the way he's able to lead; he doesn't have to yell and scream at people. People just follow him. He walks into a room and people just listen, and that's what I want to be."

Harris’ soldiers describe his leadership style as adhering to the core value of selfless service. He puts the needs of his men above his own, taking extra time learning the various jobs and techniques used in the woodshop so that he can effectively train and impart knowledge to his soldiers.

Army Spc. Bevante Carlisle, a carpenter in the 1413th Engineer Company, from Franklin, Indiana, helps teach Harris some of the ropes.

"He’s pretty good at getting things done, but if he doesn't know something he'll come to me and instead of telling me to do it, he'll ask me to teach him,” Carlisle said of Harris.

The journey to effective leadership is not without trial. To get there, Harris said, he has some personal challenges to overcome.

Harris said one of his biggest challenges is self-control and he understands that a leader must keep a level head in the face of adversity. A big mentor for that has been Army 1st. Lt. Chad Harris of the 1413th.

“I call him ’Senior,’ he calls me ‘Junior.’ He's the one who is really teaching me self-control,” Harris said of the lieutenant’s guidance. I believe in order to be a good leader you have got to be able to control yourself before you can control somebody else.”

Learning self-control has been invaluable when leading people from different backgrounds and with personalities, Harris explained. Practicing self-control, he said, keeps him from becoming a catalyst in frustrating situations, ensuring his soldiers keep cool under stress.

Another leadership trait Harris said he’s learning is to recognize when he and his soldiers need to slow down. While having the desire to get a project done as fast as possible is an often sought-after quality, he said it sometimes can lead to sloppy work. He understands as he grows that sometimes you have to take a little more time to ensure the job gets done right.

Specialist Harris “is a pretty good leader and tries to do as much as he can for everyone,” said Army Spc. Robert Norman from Lake Station, Indiana, who serves with the 1413th as a member of Harris' crew. “As a specialist he's done a pretty good job.”

Harris’ team produces unit crests, support structures for equipment and other items for anyone in need of a carpenter. They've also been called upon to help dismantle some of the airfield’s non-permanent structures.

Sometimes building things is more than a simple physical matter of constructing something structurally sound, but also a matter of duty, honor and service. A leader must demonstrate all of the Army values and Harris is doing his best to be the leader his soldiers need.

Written Aug. 1, 2014 By:
Army Spc. Ariel J. Solomon
Regional Command South

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Thursday, 30 October 2014 09:50

Chicago Soldier Trains in Indonesia

Army Pvt. Juan Gonzalez, a rifleman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, performs security duties during patrol base operations for the Garuda Shield field training exercise, Sept. 8, 2014, in East Java, Indonesia. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brooks Fletcher  WASHINGTON – A 19-year-old Army private stands over a smoldering fire, cooking snake meat in the middle of a mango grove during a jungle survival training class in East Java, Indonesia.

PHOTO: Army Pvt. Juan Gonzalez, a rifleman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, performs security duties during patrol base operations for the Garuda Shield field training exercise, Sept. 8, 2014, in East Java, Indonesia. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brooks Fletcher 
 
In his short time in the Army, Pvt. Juan Gonzalez, a native of Chicago and an infantryman assigned to Blackwatch Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-Mchord, Washington, has transformed from a high school athlete to a squad automatic weapon gunner.

The “Legion” battalion is participating in exercise Garuda Shield and is partnered with the 411th Raider Infantry Battalion from the Tentara Nasional Indonesia, the Indonesian armed forces.

Garuda Shield is also part of the training pathway for the 2nd Stryker Brigade, linking home station training to a series of military-to-military exercises in the Pacific region.

Major training exercises

As part of the Legion Battalion, Gonzalez has found himself in two major field exercises in the past year, -- a month spent at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, and now a month in East Java.

The training in California wasn’t easy, Gonzalez said, but he feels it has better prepared him for his time he is spending in Southeast Asia.

“NTC was pretty rough, especially the temperatures and the hours we spent out there,” he said. “Being mentally prepared when the going gets tough, I feel like it has been handy here.”

Killing, eating snakes

One thing that NTC didn’t prepare him for was what he encountered during the jungle survival class on how to properly kill and cook a venomous snake commonly found in the jungles of Indonesia.

“I have a big fear of snakes and never thought I would be eating one,” Gonzalez said. “It was an awesome experience but I will probably never do it again.”

Still in his first unit, Gonzalez has gone from being the new private in the squad to the dependable and reliable SAW gunner within his first year.

“As a SAW gunner you possess the biggest fire power in your squad. It is your responsibility to bring that gun to the fight,” Gonzalez said.

He added that holding such a position means the team leader has trust in him and he has to be a reliable part of the team and know everything about the weapon and how it operates in every type of environment.

“[Gonzalez] is everything a private should be, he is outstanding, that is the reason he is the SAW gunner,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Baldwin, a squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry.

Pushing himself to excel

Gonzales says sometimes it gets tough carrying the weapon up hills, but he pushes himself knowing the other guys on the team are counting on him to get that weapon system there.

With his father’s motivation to participate in sports, he knows the importance of being a team player.

“My father always kept me and my younger brother involved in sports since we were old enough to play,” Gonzalez said. “I played football in the fall, and wrestling during the winter.”

“Working with the [Indonesian troops] has been awesome, I have learned a lot of tips from them,” Gonzalez said.

Building friendships with Indonesian troops

It was easy to bond to build friendships with the Indonesian soldiers, Gonzalez said, when you are placed in a harsh environment together, which was the case during their field training exercise portion of Garuda Shield.

The infantryman prides himself on his work ethic and drive.

“I always strive to shoulder my share of the task and then some,” Gonzalez said. “I always strive to be better than I was yesterday.”

Gonzalez says he constantly is setting both short- and long-term goals for himself.

Ranger School

“I want to go to Ranger School, I think it is a great leadership course,” he said. “I feel I could take a lot away from it.”

His squad leader believes he has what it takes to accomplish his goal.

“Gonzalez has the physical potential and the head for it, he has a great chance of passing,” Baldwin said.

On top of graduating Ranger School, Gonzalez wants to earn the Expert Infantry Badge.

Plans to re-enlist

The Chicago native plans on re-enlisting and staying in the Army.

“I feel that the Army is the place for me to be now,” Gonzalez said.

When the exercise in Indonesia ends, his unit will make the trip to Japan to take part in exercise Orient Shield, -- the final stop in the Pacific Pathway -- before making their way back to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“I really hope that I will be able to get to know and bond with them [Japanese soldiers] like we were able to do with the [Indonesian troops],” Gonzalez said.
 

Written Sept. 30, 2014 By:
Army Sgt. Brian Erickson
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

Republished and redistributed by permission of DoD.
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Published in Face of Defense
Monday, 29 September 2014 09:37

Food Services Trio Inseparable Since 8th Grade

Pfc. Derek Jones, Pvt. Joshua Anderson and Pfc. DeAndre Kinlaw, all now 19 years old, graduated from the Army’s Food Service Specialist Course on Sept. 10, 2014. The Jacksonville, Fla., natives have attended middle school, high school and college together and are now embarking on a stint with the Florida National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Terrance BellFORT LEE, Va– In middle school, three students made a pact to attend high school together, play football together, enroll in college together and follow the same career path.

PHOTO: Pfc. Derek Jones, Pvt. Joshua Anderson and Pfc. DeAndre Kinlaw, all now 19 years old, graduated from the Army’s Food Service Specialist Course on Sept. 10, 2014. The Jacksonville, Fla., natives have attended middle school, high school and college together and are now embarking on a stint with the Florida National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell
 
“We were in the eighth grade sitting at a table, and we planned our whole lives out right there that day in class,” recalled Army Pvt. DeAndre Kinlaw, a member of the trio.

One could argue their ambitions were simply notions of pre-adolescent romanticism, but it was far more than that.

It was about extending their reach far beyond the familiar, actively pursuing goals and drawing inspiration from each other along the way. Those dynamics also played part in the decision to take the plan one step further, joining the Army National Guard and completing basic combat and advanced individual training together as members of the same units.

The three 19 year olds -- Pvt. Joshua Anderson, Kinlaw and Pfc. Derek Jones -- graduated Sept. 10 after completing the Quartermaster School’s Food Service Specialist Course as members of Tango Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion. They are now on leave in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

Resilience, teamwork, common purpose

Army Capt. Constance Marable, Tango Company commander, manages more than 400 soldiers at any one time. It’s not every day she comes across soldiers from the same school, she said, adding that they should be commended for accomplishing such lofty goals. More importantly, she said, their shared experiences demonstrate resilience, teamwork and common purpose -- attributes that she said are critical to soldiering.

“My initial reaction when I heard that they were in middle school together and all the way through to college was sobering,” she said. “Then I thought of things like ‘band of brothers,’ ‘team’ and a ‘deep appreciation of bond’ -- the very things that complete the total soldier concept and the main ingredient needed to cultivate exceptional leaders.”

They met as residents of Palmdale, a working class neighborhood in the north-central portion of Jacksonville. While attending Ribault Middle School, they found that their ways and personalities were eerily similar.

“We’re the same person,” Kinlaw said. “We just look different. We can all be thinking about the same things, then one of us will say it out loud.”

Strong, supportive families

The three also came from strong, supportive families. Kinlaw and Jones said their mothers were influential.

“My mama didn’t play,” said Jones, shaking his head in a manner that suggested he would never defy her. “She didn’t want me on the streets and wanted me to get an education.” Anderson said the men in his family, including his dad, kept him focused. “My father was a straight disciplinarian,” he said.

Sharing a deep interest in sports, the youngsters used their athletic talents to support their academic goals and other aspirations, despite living in an environment where negative temptations lurked at every corner and dreams often were squashed. They earned spots on the football and track and field team rosters at Ribault High School, feeding off each’s positive energies.

“They were positive role models,” Jones said of his friends. “There were times when I didn’t want to do this or that, but they were always motivating me to do better, to be positive and continue to drive on.”

Jones said all of them had endeavored to gain football scholarships in high school then attend an NCAA Division 1 school. Jones was heavily recruited, but none of the three departed high school with an athletic scholarship. As a result, they all settled upon attending Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. The experience was less than ideal, as each struggled with financial and other issues. Jones remembers his tribulation well.

“I would stay in the library until 4 in the morning and had a class at 9,” he recalled. “There was so much pressure and so much going on. I was always thinking, ‘How I’m going to pay for school? How was I going to pay it back?’”

The preoccupation with finances had a negative effect on each, amplifying an inadequate support network. A military solution to their dilemma came to light during a late-night basketball shoot-around.

“I presented an idea [to join the military] to Derek,” Anderson said. “As soon as I said it, Derek said, ‘Man, I was just thinking about that. That’s something I want to do, too.’”

Enlisting in the Florida National Guard

Jones and Anderson made a decision to enlist and informed Kinlaw, who already had taken steps to join the school’s ROTC program to support his educational efforts. They had no service preference and wound up enlisting in the Florida National Guard, because “they were the only ones to pick up [the phone],” Kinlaw said.

Upon making their decision, he added, the three informed the recruiter they were in school and needed a way to pay for tuition and other expenses. Joining the Florida Guard would be a good decision, the sergeant told them, because it pays 100 percent of tuition immediately following advanced individual training, Kinlaw said.

Jones provided more context about the decision. “We’ve been through a lot together -- a lot of ups and downs; more downs than ups,” he said. “I feel like joining is our stepping-stone to being where we want to be in life right now.”

An opportunity to stay together

To do that, all three made some personal sacrifices. Each had different majors and could have pursued military occupational specialties that supported their academic interests, but food service was the only one that provided the opportunity for the three to stay together.

“I couldn’t imagine going through basic training without them,” Kinlaw said.

That statement brought to light the innocence of three young middle school kids who probably had no concept of foresight or the inherent difficulties of growing up. Whatever agreement they made as school-agers, they never imagined the blessings they have today.

“I thought that we would be friends just for a little bit, and then we would probably meet new ones,” Jones said. “They say you meet your real friends in college, but that really didn’t happen. I met my real friends in middle school.

Jones, Kinlaw and Anderson are scheduled to attend Airborne School together in the near future and will be assigned to the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne). The three also have plans to attend Florida International University for the spring semester.


Written Sept. 29, 2014 By:
Terrance Bell
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee


Republished and redistributed by permission of DoD.
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Published in Face of Defense
Thursday, 25 September 2014 09:16

Archery Helps Airman Overcome Adversity

Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena readies his compound bow to strike a target 25 meters away in San Antonio, Sept. 14, 2014. Pena will compete at the 2014 Warrior Games, taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Ellis  SAN ANTONIO – Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena, a highly decorated tactical air control party member who is noted for calling in coordinated close support airstrikes that killed up to 70 Taliban members in one fight, sat down with a crossbow draped across his lap and a target 25 meters in front of him, reminiscing about the night that changed his life forever.

PHOTO: Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena readies his compound bow to strike a target 25 meters away in San Antonio, Sept. 14, 2014. Pena will compete at the 2014 Warrior Games, taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Ellis 
 
"I have gone on multiple deployments, defeated the Taliban; I never thought another American would do this to me," he said.

One night while Pena was riding his motorcycle, a drunk driver ran a red light and crashed into him. As Pena was flung from his bike, the driver attempted to flee, but was apprehended by a service member who witnessed the incident.

Pena doesn't remember the event. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple broken bones and fractures, and he lost a lot of blood. He died immediately at the scene, but was resuscitated once medical personnel arrived.

"I actually died twice," Pena said with a sobering tone. "I also died in the helicopter ride to the hospital. The doctor had all my co-workers come into my hospital room, and they started screaming my name. Miraculously, my heart started pumping again."

Pena was in a coma for 20 days before he regained consciousness. The doctor told the nurses and his family not to mention that his left leg was amputated. Because Pena had suffered severe brain trauma, the doctor explained, he was unsure how he would accept the news.

"One day as the nurse came in to bathe me, she said that she wanted to show me something," Pena said. "She removed the wrap and I could see my leg was gone. I mean I knew my leg and ankle was hurting and in a lot of pain, but I had no clue until she showed me."

Six months later, Pena was able to leave the hospital and was transferred to the 59th Medical Wing Patient Squadron at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

"The patient squadron has been awesome," Pena said. "I remember when the general in charge came to greet us during the grand opening. You can tell that he really cared about the wounded warriors."

Pena described how coming to the patient squadron marked an incredible milestone with his treatment. "Instead of being an inpatient, you are treated as an outpatient where you get to do your own thing," he said.

While interacting with others in the patient squadron, Pena acquired a new hobby to occupy some of his free time. He started practicing archery for hours each week. "I injured my right elbow when I fell and they had to freeze it, so I started practicing with my left," Pena said. "I now shoot left-handed and am more accurate than before."

Pena has become so accurate that he has been selected to compete in the 2014 Warrior Games, taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He will compete with other elite athletes from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and special operations.

"The amount of stuff that had to happen in order for me to still be here -- quick-responding emergency crew, dying twice and waking out of a coma after 20 days -- my odds of surviving were as slim as winning the lottery," Pena said. "I thank God I'm still here. I got some adversity now, but I'm learning to live with it."

Written Sept. 25, 2014 By: Air Force Senior Airman Michael Ellis
59th Medical Wing
Republished and redistributed by permission of DoD.
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