Thursday, October 23, 2008
By LTC Hank McIntire
Utah National Guard Public Affairs
HOHENFELS, Germany — Making international headlines from Sept. 11 to October 10 were nearly 1,800 active-duty Soldiers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, training together in Germany as part of Cooperative Spirit 2008, an ABCA-sponsored exercise that tested the interoperability of the major English-speaking militaries of the world.
Significantly less visible—but equally important—cogs in the ABCA machinery were a few dozen Soldiers from the Utah National Guard, who augmented the mayor’s cell, the entity responsible for providing the logistical and maintenance support to the exercise.
The Utah contingent of approximately 60 Soldiers and officers, the majority of whom are assigned to Training Site Command at Camp Williams, Utah, formed the backbone of the operation, running the forward operating base at Hohenfels’ Camp Albertshof. Their responsibilities included housing, feeding, equipping, issuing ammunition, transporting, showcasing, offering gym and Internet services and providing medical care to the Soldiers of the five ABCA member nations.
Starting with just nine members of the Utah Guard’s advance party on the ground Sept. 3, officer-in-charge Maj. Stephan Jarvis, of La Verkin, and his team of miracle workers built a framework of goods and services that underpinned the entire operation.
“I brought some good people; they knew what they were doing,” said Jarvis. “There was a small number of us and a whole bunch of them. We had to do the work of 50 people, prep the ground for 2,000 more and clean up after 3,000 others who just left.”
It was a gargantuan task, but it was also one that was tailor-made for Utah’s Training Site Command, according to their commander, Col. Robert Dunton.
“It’s a pure M-Day (part-time) organization that helps support Army Garrison Camp Williams,” said Dunton. “Our mission is warfight support, and a mayor’s cell is what Army Garrison Camp Williams basically is.”
“Working FOB operations has been one of their primary specialties,” said Col. Gregory Berry, mayor (commander) of FOB Albertshof, a mobilized Reservist assigned to Headquarters, Department of the Army’s G3/5/7 at the Pentagon.
“They hit the ground running, knowing that we were behind the proverbial eight ball,” Berry continued. “We already had units on the ground, so they got everything up and running relatively quickly and efficiently.”
Housing, Feeding, Equipping, Fueling
Ensuring that every Soldier in the exercise had “beans, bullets, beds” and whatever else they needed to survive in a training environment was Master Sgt. Clair Hugie, a 37-year veteran of the Utah Guard, from Ogden, affectionately known as ‘Innkeeper’ at Camp Williams for his many years of service overseeing life-support operations there.
Hugie recalled “bouncing like a rubber ball from one end of the installation to the other” the first few days of the exercise as he and his staff sorted out a myriad of issues that exercise leaders needed solved:
Arranging for delivery and installation of modified adapters on individual and crew-served weapons so that the Australians and New Zealanders (Kiwis) could use the U.S.-provided MILES gear in their training.
- Relocating fuel distribution points for the U.K. and Australians to make the most efficient use of vehicles, fueling equipment and travel time.
- Coordinating the pickup of Coalition Soldiers at Munich Airport when planned-for buses suddenly became unavailable
- Receiving shipments of supplies and equipment at all hours, signing trucks in, unloading their cargoes and escorting them off post
- Dealing with five different countries and their expectations for food and rations
Being pulled in so many directions, Hugie quickly adopted this mantra: “You bring the problem to me, and we’ll fix it or we’ll find someone who can.”
The measure of truth of Hugie’s statement was borne out in the across-the-board accolades he received from all sides for his ability to solve problems. To a person, senior leaders of the exercise lauded Hugie for his ability to find a way to get the job done.
One afternoon about midway through the exercise, Hugie received a call from Jarvis, telling him to come immediately to the briefing building. Upon arriving Hugie found Lt. Gen. Gary Speer, deputy commander of U.S. Forces in Europe waiting for him. Spear told the packed room what a tremendous job Hugie had done in supporting the Cooperative Spirit exercise and presented him with his personal coin in appreciation for his efforts.
“It made me feel good in one aspect,” said Hugie a few days later, “but the only thing that makes me look good is the people underneath me. So I’m thinking, ‘How can I quarter this thing out?’ I’m not the only one who should get the recognition. I give the taskings, and they’re the ones who take care of it.”
“I’ve got a great group of people to work with,” Hugie continued, singling out Spc. Melissa Starwalt, of Riverton, for her work with Class II supplies (clothing, individual weapons and equipment, tools, administrative), Sgt. Jeffrey Leavitt, of Eagle Mountain, in handling building-maintenance issues and Sgt. Stephen Edwards, of Sandy, for managing troop transportation to and from Munich Airport.
With mandatory retirement not too far off for Hugie, he saw this exercise as “a great way to close out a career. I told my people, ‘Don’t expect this to be a dog-and-pony show. We have a mission to do.’”
Serving as gatekeeper for “bombing up the blokes,” the Australian equivalent for the issuing of ammunition, was Kearns resident Master Sgt. Michael Mellenthin, senior logistics technician at Camp Williams’ Training Site Command.
Drawing on his 38 years of service, Mellenthin and his team, consisting of Sgt. Douglas Miller, of Saratoga Springs, and Spc. Scott Young, of Manti, both of whom are 89B Ammunitions Explosives Handlers, oversaw the safety and security of the ammunition of the five nations involved in Cooperative Spirit.
While some nations shipped and controlled their own ammunition for the exercise, the Ammunition Holding Area, or AHA, had the ultimate responsibility for assuring compatibility, safe storage and proper use of munitions through enforcement of safety messages, regulations and ensuring that residue and ammunition are not stored together.
With safety messages, regulations and compatibility charts plastered all over the wall of the AHA, Mellenthin’s Soldiers’ familiarity with the letter of the law allowed them to identify potential problems. In one case, one unit expressed the intent to delink their ammunition and use it in the shoothouse. Specialist Young knew that the plan was not in accordance with AR 385-63, Range Safety, and he brought the issue to the attention of the exercise leadership, who resolved the problem through the chain of command.
In another situation the Australians wanted to use some training hand grenades for a building-clearing exercise. According to Mellenthin, once they were made aware that the U.S. grenades threw off small fragments of the fuze up to 30 meters, creating a shrapnel hazard, they opted not to use them, saying, “It’s good, mate. No problem.”
“They weren’t aware of these things because they’re a different nation,” said Mellenthin. “They don’t work with our ammo.”
Acknowledging that technical expertise is critical to AHA operations, Mellenthin believes that the ability to work with ABCA partners and the installation staff is the key to success.
“I look at our position here as being liaisons with the Coalition ammunition people and with our QUASIS (Quality Assurance Specialist in Mission Surveillance) and with Ammunition Supply Point no. 2, which is the one that has been taking care of all our ammunition,” said Mellenthin.
And the efforts of the Utah Soldiers in the AHA were not lost on their Coalition counterparts.
“They are providing a lot of support and we’re exchanging knowledge,” said ammunition technician Master Cpl. Martin Milot, a native of Quebec and assigned to Base Support at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick. “I’m more aware of techniques, which will make it easier [to do my job at home].”
Robert Linn, civilian QUASIS at Hohenfels agrees with Milot’s take on Utah Soldiers’ expertise.
“There have been other units here in the past, but I’ve never seen anybody who has been better than these guys as far as what they are doing with the ammo and the operation,” he said.
Miller credits the ammunition-handling and training system organized by Training Site Command and the diversity of prior experience of the Soldiers for the fluidity of operations at the AHA.
“We’re all cross-trained,” he said. “Each one of us can do the other person’s job. We work so closely together that we not only know our ammunition job, but we also take the time to learn what the other person does as well. And there’s a lot of depth in our shop: prior Marine Corps, infantry, a medic in the Navy and law enforcement.”
“I get a lot of input from the younger Soldiers who have been to the latest and greatest classes,” added Mellenthin, “and they bring that back and we let them do the hands-on training.”
“I think I work with the greatest guys I’ve ever worked with,” concluded Mellenthin. “I just see Utah Soldiers head and shoulders above any other I’ve ever worked with. It’s the work ethic. It’s the technical skills and the dedication to do the job right.”
Coordinating the use of fuel, scheduled maintenance and vehicle sign-out and turn-in at the Hohenfels motorpool was Taylorsville resident Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Smith, of Training Site Command. A full-time technician at Camp Williams with 12 service stripes on his sleeve (36-plus years) and a maintenance background, Smith had to shift gears slightly in taking on this job, but he had a good staff to work with.
Among Smith’s deep bench was “old hand” Sgt. 1st Class Alma Lund. One of the unit’s few remaining Vietnam veterans, Lund is employed by the city of Ephraim as a vehicle maintenance supervisor. Using his deployment and civilian work experience, “he brought a little bit of logic to it all,” said Smith. “He knows what to look for. If there’s a problem he’s more likely to recognize it. He often said, ‘Let’s stop and think about what we’re doing.’”
“And Lt. [Matthew] Kuhni (of Orem) really shined,” added Smith, calling him a “sincere and energetic liaison and buffer with the Pentagon people and the contractors.”
Having to adjust from initial agreements and expectations with contractors, as well as dealing with eight different units with their own thoughts on how things ought to go, serving in Iraq as a transportation NCO with the 115th Engineer Group in 2004-2005 came in handy for Smith.
“Deployment experience helps to have the patience to approach situations in a level-headed manner,” he said.
Smith also believes that the experience gained at Hohenfels will help him with his job back home.
“With my background in maintenance, this has given me more insight into the logistics side of this,” he said.
Augmenting the Combined Visitors Bureau for the ABCA exercise were officers and NCOs from the Utah National Guard. Their responsibilities included hosting distinguished visitors, transporting them to various locations to observe the training, coordinating briefings, meals, and other events and ensuring that proper rules of protocol were followed for the senior-level civilian and military visitors from the five countries.
Master Sgt. Reid Jarrett, assigned to the Utah Guard’s Joint Forces Headquarters, is noncommissioned officer in charge of the CVB. He and his Soldiers were responsible for setting up work schedules, coordinating transportation, compiling visitor bios and preparing briefings.
As part of the process of transporting their guests, Jarrett and his Soldiers had to sign out the buses from the motor pool because no one at the post visitors bureau was qualified to drive them.
“I own semis, so I can drive,” said Jarrett. “We own these vehicles on the outside. These are hometown guys used to running their own businesses and not being told everything to do. When something comes up we just grab it by the horns and go with it. That’s just the way we roll around here.”
Major Ryan King, of Clinton, S2 for 97th Troop Command, who was also assigned to the CVB, agreed.
“Some of our junior enlisted have more experience because of their civilian-acquired skills than their active-duty counterparts,” he said. “You can always rely on a Guardsman to pick up the mission and make sure it’s carried out.”
A farmer and grandfather from Nephi, Utah, Jarrett left his 23-year-old son in charge of his farm with hay and grain to be harvested.
“When your country calls you just go,” he said. “I spent a lot of time on my Blackberry, trying to keep things going back home.”
Jarrett used his man-of-the-soil background to establish a rapport with the visitors he escorted. When Maj. Gen. Michael Kelly, commander of Australian land forces, boarded the bus for a tour of the installation, he shook driver Jarrett’s calloused hands and said, “You must be a hard worker.”
Noting that he and four of the visiting generals were about the same age, Jarrett conversed with them throughout the tour and swapped stories about grandkids with his guests. He and a British general even discovered that they shared some common genealogy.
At the close of the tour Kelly gave Jarrett a heartfelt handshake, leaving his two-star coin in the Utah Guardsman’s hand.
“I was really impressed,” recalled Jarrett with emotion. “I’m an E-8 with 34 years in, and I’ve never received a coin before. It was very moving.”
In addition to taking home a souvenir, Jarrett will come back to Utah with an increased understanding of the importance of properly hosting distinguished guest.
“It’s important that these visitors are treated with dignity, to make sure their time isn’t wasted, and if they want to see something we know where it is and we take them there,” he said.
“I’m going to take away a lot of good feelings,” added Jarrett. “I’ve learned a lot of respect for the Utah officers whom I’ve worked with [here], and I’ve gained a lot of respect for the ABCA organization. I understand a lot more about what the United States is involved in worldwide.”
Keeping U.S. Soldiers in touch with the outside world is tough enough, but when you add forces from four more Coalition countries needing 24/7 access to the Web, the challenges and demands multiply. Getting Soldiers connected with home during their off-duty time was Staff Sgt. Todd Wilson, “the main brain guy,” according to his assistant, Sgt. Marck Bonifacio, who helped supervise the Internet Cafe.
“When Soldiers have spare time, they need to keep themselves busy and to communicate with their families,” said Orem resident Bonifacio, of Charlie Company, 1457th Engineers. “They share pictures and use the webcam.”
One Kiwi was particularly pleased with his access to the Web.
“It’s brilliant,” said Maj. Roger Hovenden, a logistics officer assigned to Headquarters, Third Task Force Group, Burnham Military Camp, near Christchurch, New Zealand, as he waited his turn to get online. “It saves you time. You can get on and find out the news and the latest rugby scores. That’s very important—especially when we beat the Australians.”
“It’s a very good idea,” continued Hovenden. “Morale’s really high and there’s good access to telephones and Internet communications. It almost feels like being back in New Zealand.”
“They have a good organization that is looking out for us really well,” he added. “Anything that is not quite right, they jump on and try to square it away as quickly as they can.”
Other comforts of home for ABCA participants included a complete gym and workout area, courtesy of Spc. Charles Cummins, 197th Special Troops Company. A 92S Shower and Laundry specialist from Helper, Cummins was assigned to be a driver for the medical aid station. When the demand for his services was much less than planned, he began looking for a way to use his talents productively.
He quickly noticed that the gym facility next door to the aid station was sparsely furnished. So he and Sgt. Jared Cornejo, 19th Special Forces Group, of Colorado Springs, arranged to borrow equipment from other areas on post, installed the treadmills and weights and Cummins volunteered to open the facility early every morning and lock it up at night.
During his workday, since Cummins is near the gym, those who wish to work out come and sign out the key from him and return it when they are finished.
“It provides a nice benefit that wouldn’t otherwise be available,” said Cummins, a driver/gunner with the 116th Convoy Security Company when they deployed in 2007-2008.
“People used the gym to work out their frustrations in Iraq. It’s the same here. A lot of people appreciate someone who will open up the gym at 5 a.m.”
One of those who took advantage of the facilities was Lance Sgt. Peter Owen of 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards, of the British Army, whose duties have included service at Buckingham Palace as a ceremonial guard.
“An American camp is better than a British one,” said Owen—a nine-year veteran from Llanelli, Wales—with a smile. “It has been quite pleasant to have the facilities to use during down time.”
Medical Aid Station
With the scope and size of Cooperative Spirit, support for the exercise would naturally include medical professionals. Heading up the aid station was Lt. Col. Kenneth Wade, medical officer for the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade of the Utah National Guard.
A Smithfield resident who is slated to retire at the end of this year with 38 years of service, Wade works as a physician’s assistant in Logan.
The medical staff includes reserve healthcare professionals from all five nations to include emergency-room doctors from Australia and the U.S., and Canadian and British general practitioners. Each nation has a miniclinic set up within the larger clinic, seeing and treating their own Soldiers.
Bringing together a diverse group of medical professionals such as this has created some challenges to include how to interoperate among the different nations, which is the fundamental purpose for the exercise.
“The different countries have different names for the same medications, and countries’ medics have different titles and different trainings than we do,” observed Wade, citing one example of a potential roadblock to effective cooperation.
And, of course, there are communication challenges—even among the five so-called English-speaking nations.
“Relations with other countries have been an eye-opener,” said Sgt. Jared Cornejo, medical section NCOIC, assigned to 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. “It can potentially become a volatile situation if others misunderstand our intentions. But we haven’t seen any of that.”
“I’m going to take home the ‘yeah,’ that you Americans say,” joked 1st Lt. Jennifer Lee, a Reservist and nursing officer with the Townsville unit in Far North Queensland, Australia, who works as a midwife in the civilian world. At present she pronounces it as “yahr,” but she is working on it.
“But it’s good for me to see equipment and bandages that we don’t have,” continued Lee on a more serious note. “And the physician’s assistant system would be fantastic to implement in Australia.”
Even with all the differences between countries, the quality of care has remained constant.
“Medically speaking, they pretty much follow the same protocols as we do,” said Cornejo. “And I’ve established rapport with the different officers and NCOs of the different countries. It’s a chance to come together and establish these relationships so that when we get on the ground we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” said Wade. “We’ve gotten along very well. We do have strong Allies. They do like working with us, and we like working with them.”
“This is my first time dealing with Americans,” added Lee. “The facilities are quite good and we’re very well looked after. [The FOB staff] has been nothing but helpful. We can’t thank them enough.”
Overseeing the administrative support to the exercise was 1st Sgt. Lynn Ostergaard, of American Fork, first sergeant from Training Site Camp Williams. As his Soldiers stepped into their roles, he sensed some concern from exercise leaders about the Utah Guard’s ability to do the job.
“When we first came here they were hesitant to let us take over and run the place,” he said. “We knew how to do it. They don’t have to follow up on us or remind us to do it. It’s just done. It’s taken care of.
As already noted, the Utah Guard brought a great deal of maturity to the job. Ostergaard said that Utah Soldiers’ average age is 41, with at least one deployment under their belt and service in a variety of multinational operations.
“Even if they don’t know the job, they’re trained to jump in there and do it,” observed Ostergaard. “We give them the job, the ownership and the responsibility.”
One Soldier who jumped in despite limited experience in administrative tasks was 18-year Guardsman Sgt. Steve Larsen, of Payson, who works as an electrician in his unit and in his civilian job.
“This job is quite a bit different,” he said. We’ve been thrown in here and had to adapt and learn different ways to do things. It’s been a battle to get things done, but we’re learning.”
Ostergaard praised Soldiers like Larsen for stepping up and doing the heavy lifting to make the exercise a success.
“We haven’t had to encourage them to get the job done; they are self-motivated,” he said. “They like to show their senior leaders that they know how to do the job. It’s just like out in the workforce; you hire good people and you don’t have to follow up on them.”
Senior NCOs working in the admin cell have also had to adapt to unfamiliar situations. Before he came to Germany, Eagle Mountain resident Sgt. 1st Class Keith Cartwright, of Training Site Command, was told he would be working in Transportation. However, when he arrived he was asked to fill in for the OPS Staff NCO, who was unable to make the trip.
Ostergaard sees Cartwright as his right-hand man, keeping him busy writing job descriptions for the various positions on the FOB staff, picking up supplies and equipment and ensuring that the CQ (Charge of Quarters) is staffed.
“I’m the last one out of the office at night,” said Cartwright.
A seasoned Guardsman with more than 20 years of service, Cartwright served in support of Operation Noble Eagle with the 1-145th Field Artillery at Dugway and Deseret Chemical, providing security for the Nation’s stockpile of chemical weapons in 2002-2003.
“It was the best thing that ever happened in my life,” he said. “Having to lead 43 men [as a platoon sergeant], I didn’t have time to worry about myself. Learning to deal with people on the deployment has helped me here.”
Cartwright has applied that experience to work though the institutional rivalry that sometimes crops up between the active and reserve components.
“Our Soldiers have developed relationships with their active-duty counterparts,” he said. “In one case one of my Soldiers broke the ice with a senior officer by talking about hunting and sports. We even made a birthday cake for Lt. Col. Chipchase (an active-duty officer in the Mayor’s cell). These are people we didn’t know two weeks ago. And now we’ve become quite close to them.”
On supply runs and during down time Cartwright has been able to see some of the country on his first-time visit to Germany.
“The land is manicured [in] little communities. It’s the same thing the bomber pilots in World War II looked down upon,” he said. “We went to Dachau. It was sad. I could feel the evil of the place.”
“And the best part of this experience is that it didn’t cost me a dime,” Cartwright added.
Ostergaard believes that his Soldiers will take away a sense of pride that they can hold their own with the regular Army.
“[Initially], the Army is hesitant about the National Guard, but they just love us when we get ready to leave,” he said. “They always ask, ‘When can you come back and work for us again?’”
The Small Picture
The purpose of this story is to focus the lens on a small but critical piece of the Cooperative Spirit 2008 exercise. While Utah Soldiers were not prominent in the media attention given to the ABCA exercise, they did earn the respect of their active-duty counterparts and leaders at the most senior levels of the U.S. Department of Defense and its Coalition equivalents.
“We would not be enjoying the success we’ve had in this exercise without the Utah Guard,” said Jim Freeman, U.S. national ABCA director and deputy executive director for this ABCA event. “They were a major player and have done a remarkable job in pulling it all together.”
Freeman was particularly pleased with the performance of Utah’s enlisted ranks at Hohenfels.
“Their NCOs are first-class,” he said. “They understand what is required to make something like this happen. And they went out and performed.”
“If all of the Utah Guard has the professionalism that these guys have brought to the exercise,” Freeman continued, “your state is very fortunate to have that kind of professionalism.”
According to Freeman, exercise planners knowingly organized and began the exercise without a standing SOP (standard operating procedure) for FOB operations. Once on the ground, the Utah Guard was asked to put together such an SOP—which they did—based on their extensive experience with FOB operations during deployment.
The final product will be presented to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels to be used for future FOB training rotations, Freeman said.
“We think it’s that [level of] quality,” he indicated.
Freeman was so pleased with Utah’s overall performance that he assured that he will recommend that the Utah Guard be called immediately to support the next U.S.-hosted ABCA activity.
“I’ve had absolutely no complaints from the tactical commanders on the ground,” he said, “Would I use them again? Very quickly.”
FOB mayor Col. Berry echoed Freeman’s views about how Utah performed, singling out Jarvis specifically, calling him “the jack of all trades at FOB Albertshof.”
“Major Jarvis is the primary pusher behind all of this,” said Berry. “He has made a significant impact in the organization, setup and the management of the logistics cell, which does everything.”
Jarvis was also praised by his peers and his subordinates—and rightly so; he put together a dream team to meet the mission—but he modestly deflected the spotlight, giving all the credit to his Soldiers, NCOs and junior officers.
“I work with a humble team of professional Citizen-Soldiers who are very good at what they do,” he said. “They are proud, but they’re humble, and that’s the beauty of it. I give credit to the Soldiers—all of them.”
And as for his formula for establishing ‘street cred’ with active-duty and Pentagon personnel?
“We brought a lot of good people with a lot of positive energy and lots of skill,” Jarvis said, “and I’ve seen that energy transferred to these other units and countries and our active-duty counterparts. Everywhere I have gone in the world, that’s happened. We had an opportunity to show them what we’re made of.”
Now Utah Soldiers will leave with the satisfaction of a job well done, as well as some treasured memories of who they served and what they saw.
“It’s been a pretty good trip; I’ll remember this for the rest of my life,” said Sgt. Steve Larsen. “I made arrangements with my job to be here to come and serve with my buddies whom I’ve been with in the Guard for years. These trips have been what have kept me in the Guard so long.”
“This has been an incredible experience for me here,” added Master Sgt. Reid Jarrett. “It’ll make me a better NCO in the Utah Guard, as well as a better person. I’m very proud to wear this patch, and these people around here respect it too.”
Friday, October 3, 2008
I was sitting down, so I couldn’t see anything but the blue skies above. Anyone just focusing in on my facial expressions would have thought I was on a roller coaster ride. Going over the “bumps” was just so exciting. What felt like bumps, I later found out was actually uneven terrain filled with water and mud. (Thanks 1SG T.)
1SG Thompson (5th MPAD) and I were literally flying high as we rode around in the Stryker. Next to my BMW, this just might be my second favorite off-road vehicle.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
-- Spc. Warren W. Wright, Jr.
JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER, Germany – Ngati Tumatauenga, the tribe of the God of War. That’s the phrase used in the Maori culture of New Zealand to define their country’s Army.
The New Zealand Army’s history spans 150 years, beginning with small units protecting little more then small villages. Its current force of Territorial and Regular units are key to enhancing the safety and security of the South Pacific, according to the New Zealand Army’s Web site.
In 1965, the New Zealand Army joined the American, British, Canadian and Australian Armies Program as an observer under the sponsorship of the Australian Army. Now, for the first time since their induction as a full member of ABCA in 2006, the New Zealand Army is participating in a test of interoperability between ABCA armies. The name of the test is Cooperative Spirit 2008, a multinational combat training center rotation.
New Zealand, along with the other ABCA armies, are at the Joint Multinational Training Center near Hohenfels, Germany, to train and operate effectively together in the execution of assigned missions and tasks.
Working with ABCA will help the New Zealand Army gain knowledge from the other nations’ experiences as well as open up the opportunity for more training, said New Zealand Army Sgt. Denton F. Paterson, a platoon sergeant in the 2nd / 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
The 2nd /1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment is currently the only light infantry battalion in the New Zealand Army which can trace its lineage back to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in the first World War. At present, the battalion and its sub-units have deployed to operations in multiple regions around the world and have continuously been supporting those operations since 2000.
Now, as a member of ABCA, the unit has the ability to get up to date coalition training and has the opportunity to see how other countries function as well as show those countries how the New Zealand Army operates, said New Zealand Army Sgt. Simon A. Perkins of the 2nd /1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
The 2nd / 1st Battalion has the opportunity to train in a variety of areas, from participating in a live-fire event at the shoothouse compound of the JMRC, to partaking in a full force-on-force exercise while wearing multiple integrated laser engagement system gear. MILES is a detection system worn by Soldiers and their vehicles in a training environment to simulate hits and to perform casualty assessment.
“It’s great training, especially for the younger soldiers who normally wouldn’t get this type of training back home,” said Paterson.
Participation in the ABCA program and in Cooperative Spirit 2008 “can do nothing but good,” he added.
New Zealand will benefit in multiple ways from the training received at the JMRC, said Perkins. From receiving hands-on training to working with helicopters, the unit has the ability to see what the other armies can provide for them as well as show the other nations what the New Zealand Army can offer ABCA. The New Zealand Army has years of experience in providing peace keeping around the world.
“Kiwi’s are very open people and are more then willing to work with other countries,” said Perkins.
With Soldiers like Paterson, who has five tours of duty in various countries, and Perkins, who is a 14-year veteran of the Army, New Zealand’s operational experience around the world and their willingness to share those experiences and their training with allied nations makes the New Zealand Army a valuable addition to the ABCA family.
-- Pfc. Joshua Sizemore
HOHENFELS, Germany – Healthcare professionals from around the world embrace the credo of Cooperative Spirit 2008 by fostering interoperability for the American, British, Canadian, Australia and New Zealand Armies Program.
Medical units from the ABCA nations, including the “Witch Doctors” from Company C, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, aim to collectively resolve issues encompassing patient care via an exchange of contemporary medicinal treatments, employed by patient care practitioners worldwide, with the intent of maintaining consistency between all participants.Australian Army Medical Officer Maj. Mark Harris attached to the1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, supporting this task said, “There are medical advances going on all the time, and they filter down through the national armies. Australians are more than willing participants in this activity, and we welcome any chance to work with coalition partners in this sort of way.”
Harris added that this was a golden opportunity to observe how health centers in other countries administer patient care.
BSB Physician’s Assistant 1st Lt. Christina Campbell, a 30-year old, Sarasota, Fla., native, said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for us as medical care providers to work with the providers from different nations. We can learn exactly how we treat the same kind of injuries that we would see (down range) and hopefully share our experiences with each other.”
The ABCA Coalition Aid Station at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center is situated to treat minor ailments, in addition to non-battle injuries regardless of a Soldier’s nationality. It is host to physicians and medics from each member-country.
Drug naming customs are one minor difference shared by each nation. Americans and Canadians prescribe Epinephrine to treat low-blood pressure and low-heart rate. British, Australians and New Zealanders call it Adrenaline. Americans and Canadians commonly administer Tylenol-Paracetamol as the other three nations call it, for fever and minor aches and pains.
Nonetheless, basic care is equivalent to each nation’s protocols. Personnel are able to implement care to any Soldier that enters their door.
“Each country takes care of their Soldiers as they see fit. In an emergency situation, we’re authorized to help that international Soldier as much as possible. Any provider would take care of that Soldier,” Campbell said.
For example, if a British doctor treats an American patient, mandate requires him to notify that Soldier’s chain-of-command by way of a runner who would fetch an American medic.
This environment provides coalition medical personnel an opportunity to exchange information to achieve a multilateral familiarization of the advancing changes in medicine.
“Medical advances progress so quickly that different armies will pick up on different aspects of that at different times,” Harris said. “We can really get our heads together and look at a whole raft of issues. We really have to see people face to face.”
Since the conclusion of World War II, ABCA doctors have been drawn into the mix to work out how to better save lives. Training at the JMRC assists doctors in preparing for combat.
“Unless we’ve done that in this sort of scenario, we’ll never be able to do that when a patient’s life is at risk,” Harris said. “We really need to interface with each other in the field or we won’t be successful.”
Campbell believes that no Soldier is ever fully prepared to confront the brutal realities of war. Only through continual training will her medics be equipped to fulfill their endeavor and save lives once they’ve deployed.
“(We’re learning) good tidbits that we could use and implement into our training and into our patient care. Our main mission is to keep those guys safe and get them back home safely,” Campbell said.
“This is extremely important for our junior Soldiers in the medical field and the ones out there doing maneuvers, because they understand that now, as a part of the different world-wide organizations that America is a part of, we’re working alongside many different countries,” Campbell said. “(Cooperative Spirit 2008) is a step up because everybody here speaks one form or another of English. It gets us a better bond to know that we’re part of a bigger race, the human race, and that we’re all here for the same mission.”
-- Pfc. Joshua Sizemore
HOHENFELS, Germany – Light infantrymen from Down Under engaged in air mobility insertion operations during Cooperative Spirit 2008 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center near Hohenfels, Germany, September 25.
The training fosters interoperability between the American, British, Canadian, Australia and New Zealand Armies.
Australian Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), commonly known as the “Big Blue One,” are participating in the ABCA Armies Program.
Helicopters were an ideal method of efficiently transporting large numbers of troops to avoid enemy ground hostility as the allied nations began the force-on-force training.
Exposed to the elements, the groups of infantrymen performed an air mobile insertion maneuver via four helicopters. Their doors flung wide-open for the duration of their flight, across enemy territory, only to dismount and begin patrolling their territory as Stryker vehicles provided over-watch to the position. This method enabled Soldiers to minimize potential losses by traveling in a manner less predictable.
“These guys have really eaten up the opportunity that they’ve had out here, operating in a combined arms environment. This is the type of training, we as commanders, dream about,” Australian Capt. Chris Rohan, second in-command of Charlie Company, said.
The mission began when Soldiers from 9 Platoon, Charlie Company, 1RAR, mounted American Stryker vehicles belonging to 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. Infantrymen from Fort Lewis, Wash., gave them a taste of what it’s like to travel in a Stryker so they could provide security over-watch at the landing zone. The real action was yet to come; the air mobile insertion with UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopters, their doors wide open.
The Aussies rehearsed on a bristling thatch that overlooked the brigade’s operating area. The chill of blustery weather muffled their conversations and nipped at their face and hands. Soldiers wedged into helicopters, bundled hip-to-hip. Their mammoth rucksacks weighed down on their laps and towered over their rose-colored veneers. The view of even the tallest lad obstructed, they leaped out into the prone position.
“I’m hopping on aircraft to go out on a few missions to help the locals that live out in the area,” Australian Pvt. Alexander Turner, currently stationed with 9th Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st BN., Royal Australian Regt., said.
These air-mobile operations are designed to allow Soldiers an opportunity to develop their dexterity in a controlled environment before they perform real-life combat missions. The JMRC is situated to prepare Soldiers for all sorts of battlefield scenarios.
“We’ve seen great improvements in their skill levels over a very short period of time,” Rohan said.
“This will be the highlight for a lot of these Soldiers, including myself,” Rohan continued. “This will certainly be something that I’ll remember for the remainder of my military career.”
This event has been a first for many new Soldiers to interact and build camaraderie with foreign units who they might rendezvous with during future coalition missions.
“The Canadians and the New Zealanders have a lot to say, and we have a lot to say back,” Turner said.
“We’re here to get a better understanding of urban tactics and techniques. We are directing all the people who are coming in on the ‘Hueys.’ When we’re out on patrols and stuff, we’re usually up front letting our section partner know what’s going on,” Australian Forward Scout Pvt. Jake Cellars, 8th Platoon, Charlie Company, 1RAR, said.
By defusing differences and standardizing operational procedures between the allied ground forces, future missions, as well as those that are ongoing, will wrap-up more conclusively.
“I think the realism is a large part of it. Having the opportunity to work amongst our coalition partners and the wide variety of vehicles and air frames whilst they’ve been here is certainly something that they’ll take away from this,” Rohan said. “The observer/controllers bring so much experience with them. Whether it be operating in Iraq or Afghanistan, certainly the lessons that they’ve learned, they’ve certainly passed onto us. It’s been great.”
However, if it wasn’t for the hard work and detailed computer knowledge of Staff Sgt. Adam D. Repcik of Long Beach, Calif., the computer communications systems would cease to function.
Repcik, a nine-year veteran of the Army, is an information security officer, responsible for ensuring communication interoperability among the coalition nations involved in Cooperative Spirit 2008, a multinational combat center rotation involving the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand armies.
Interoperability, or the ability of alliance forces to train and operate effectively together in the execution of assigned missions and tasks, is the main reason for ABCA coming together at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center near Hohenfels, Germany. Interoperability also means software compatibility, and without the computer expertise of Repcik, the test of interoperability would have never been able to happen.
“Part of interoperability is to allow for all the different nations to be able to talk to each other,” said Repcik.
Repcik was able to configure the networks of the nations’ computer systems to ensure that the various commands would have the ability to communicate effectively together and organize their tasks accordingly.
"He is always confident when it comes to his work,” he added. “He’s always sure about what he’s doing, and if he’s unsure, he won’t do it. He’s not afraid to ask for help.”
Repcik started his career at Fort Gordon, Ga., where he learned to work on the Army’s computers. His current duty station is at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he not only works on the Army’s computer systems, but he also builds computers in his free time, which he has been doing for the past 10 years.
He said he shares his passion for computers in the work place, and he can still see himself doing the same job five years from now, either as a Soldier or as a civilian.
"He’s very intelligent,” Davis added. “He shows it every day by his attitude and his initiative at work. He’s the type of person who never comes into work unhappy or depressed. He’s always in a good mood.”
There are frustrations involved with his job just like any other job in the Army, said Repcik. But so far he has always been able to find the solution to any problem he has encountered and he uses that knowledge to better help him solve similar problems in the future.
Not everyone is able to turn their passion into a career, but Repcik is able to use his enthusiasm for computer systems to help ensure that the 3/2 SBCT, along with its allies, have the ability to operate effectively and ensure success in their missions.
The infantrymen’s job is to train for situations like this, but if it wasn’t for the Soldiers who operate behind the scenes, the infantrymen would have no armored vehicles to ride into combat or a weapons system capable of providing devastating cover fire.
Scharfenberg and Magill are supporting the training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center near Hohenfels, Germany, during Cooperative Spirit 2008, which is a multinational combat training center rotation intended to test interoperability among the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand armies.
Magill is able to work on a variety of vehicles due to the Army’s use of interchangeable parts that can be swapped out with any number of various vehicles, he said. Mechanics can work on anything from high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles to wreckers or the brigade’s signature Stryker combat vehicles.
A mechanic’s job is extremely important, added Magill. If it wasn’t for the hard work and dedication of the mechanics in the motor pool, the Strykers and all the other vehicles operated by the Stryker brigade wouldn’t be able to function.
Also working with the “Black Knights” are the weapons repairers. The Strykers have a vast arrangement of weapons systems and sub-systems that must be maintained, said Scharfenberg.
Interoperability, or the ability of coalition forces to train and operate effectively together, is the main reason for coming together during Cooperative Spirit 2008, however, none of this would be possible without the support of Soldiers like Scharfenberg and Magill.
“If something breaks, you have to have someone available to fix it,” said Spc. Frank J. Nehs, a rifleman from Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. “I just fight, and without them (the support element), I can’t fight.”
JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER, Germany – American infantrymen began the step-by-step process of their military operations in urban terrain training by setting up “glass houses” Sept. 20 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.
The “glass houses” were the first steps for Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment to train for its live-fire training at the shoot house Sept. 21 at the JMRC.
“Up until about 10-15 years ago, we (American army) concentrated our battle drills on wood line and open areas. We train to prepare our men to win in what will be the center of gravity in future conflicts.” said Company A 1st Sgt. Joel P. Goodine.
The Soldiers used planks of wood and engineer tape to make an outline of the rooms in the shoot house at their motor pool Sept. 20. Using these “glass houses” were the initial approach, allowing Soldiers and leaders to observe those maneuvering through the simulated rooms.
Each platoon took turns leading their Soldiers through the simulated rooms with their assigned weapons and no gear. After the platoon leader and platoon sergeant felt that their Soldiers were confident with navigating the rooms as a unit, Soldiers then put on their helmets and body armor.
The Army refers to its step-by-step approach to training as the “crawl, walk, run” process.
“The ‘crawl, walk, run’ process is a visualization process for each Soldier to ensure they know the task from start to finish and let the leaders know they are ready to complete the task at hand,” said 3rd Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Michael B. Baliles.
The “crawl” phase is the first step in training Soldiers. From this phase, those training infantrymen can gradually increase the size of the unit moving through the simulation, the speed and the amount of stress added through different variables.
Using the “crawl, walk, run” method also allows instructors to gauge how well a unit works together and watch for anything that might endanger themselves or other Soldiers.
Third Platoon Sergeant Staff Sgt. Allen S. Clark, said, “Soldiers build muscle memory by repeating the steps. This way we don’t loose Soldiers in training so we can have them in combat.”
Soldiers’ stress levels went up by adding realism to the scenario at each step. Wearing all of their battle gear, entering rooms that have noncombatants, and taking care of casualties prepares Soldiers for the unpredictable variables that may arise on the battlefield.
The battalion is at the JMRC as part of the ABCA Armies Program along with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to improve training, interoperability, and confidence to prepare Soldiers for future missions.
The repetitiveness of training helps Soldiers deal with combat stress.
“When the stress level is high, we revert back to our basics. The ‘crawl, walk, run’ process makes our decision making process easier.” said Spc. John V. Russell Jr, an infantryman from 3rd Platoon.
Sept. 21 started the next step of training for the company. The day began with Soldiers using blank ammunition to simulate the noise and multiple integrated laser engagement systems to simulate casualties through sirens going off and then ended with Soldiers using live ammunition.
“Anytime you conduct training, you want to train as real as possible. You want your Soldiers to gain confidence and familiarity with using live rounds as well as working with the guy next them,” Ellison said.
The rigorous and repetitive training the unit went through built confidence between leaders and their Soldiers as well as infantrymen and their team mates.
“I expect them (my Soldiers) to have confidence in themselves and be able to trust the man next to them,” said Clark.
After a day and a half of training, Company A prepared themselves for the final stage of their MOUT training, the live-fire.
“It makes it more realistic and makes everyone more cognizant of what is going on around them,” said Staff Sgt. James T. Harris, a squad leader from 3rd platoon.
The unit started at a site away from the shoot house and rolled up in their stryker vehicles, tactically parking for Soldiers to dismount and enter the buildings.
Soldiers dismounted the stryker vehicles, ran to their positions outside the shoot house, and waited for the orders to enter. Once the command was given to enter, Soldiers filed through the doorways just as they trained.
From the outside, the noises heard consisted of sharp instructions from the leaders, doors being bashed open, shots being fired and “room clear” all the way up to the final command of “cease fire.”
The training session ended safely and with the clear result that Soldiers are better trained for urban combat.
“I think prior to the live-fire we trained to perform but the live-fire allowed them to gain confidence due to training with live bullets in a complex scenario,” Goodine said.
A helicopter circles the tiny village as the Soldiers move to the local police station to speak with the police chief. During the meeting a member of the community enters the station with information. The citizen informs the soldiers that there’s a hostile enemy located in a building across the village. The soldiers act, setting up a cordon of the village, keeping anyone from entering or leaving the area, and then they begin a search of the small town. A small team moves to the building and surrounds it. Then, with the order to go, they move in and assault the building. A fire fight ensues. Loud pops of gunfire echo through the town. After a short time, the enemy is subdued and the soldiers have completed their mission, they’ve captured their high value target.
While this may sound like a very real scenario, it isn’t. The village, while appearing to be very authentic, is a fake. The small village has been built at JMRC to help train Soldiers in counter-insurgency tactics and drills in a realistic environment.
During the scenario the unit had the opportunity to use a simulated medical evacuation with a real helicopter. The team threw smoke as the Huey helicopter moved into the evacuation site.
The smoke coiled around the blades of the chopper as it came in for a landing. Then, with a brisk movement, the Huey took off and the unit continued on.
Interoperability, or the ability of coalition forces to train and operate effectively together, is the main reason for coming here during this multinational training event, said New Zealand Army 2nd Lt. Tane D. North. “It’s a good chance for each nation to offer their experiences and views.”
The New Zealand Soldiers, out of Burnham, New Zealand, are at JMRC training along side coalition nations during Cooperative Spirit 2008, a multinational Combat Training Center rotation intended to test the interoperability of American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand armies (ABCA).
The New Zealand Army has the skill and the knowledge of being deployed in multiple regions around the world, said Lieutenant North.
Taking part in Cooperative Spirit 2008 is “a great opportunity for us to share where we’ve been and what we’ve done,” he added.
The Soldiers are being coached and mentored by JMRC observer/ controllers, or OCs, while they partake in the training missions. It’s the job of the OC to ensure that all training is conducted safely and that the Soldiers receive the feedback necessary to enhance their skills.
“I wish I could work with them longer,” North said of the U.S. Army’s OCs. “They’ve provided us with some excellent, accurate and awesome feedback.”
--By Spc. Matthew A. Thompson
HOHENFELS, Germany-- Australian infantrymen walked into town of Nurgal as their humvees trailed behind. They were in town to meet with the local mayor and police chief to pay respects as their unit moved through the area.
The conversation in the police station was translated through an interpreter covering the topics of supplies and any threats to the village. Their next stop after a quick conversation with the police chief was the hospital. The discussions went well as the police chief, platoon commander and another Soldier walked toward the hospital.As they approached the hospital, gunshots cut through the air injuring one Soldier. The police chief and his men ran to cover. Insurgents had taken over the hospital preventing anyone from receiving aid. The infantrymen of 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment reacted quickly to eliminate the threat.
“The realism is fantastic,” said Australian Maj. Gordon Wing, Officer Commanding, Combat Team Charlie from the ANZAC Battle Group. “The replication of the two current Middle East theaters is unbelievable ranging from the population to the cultural aspects. It’s like being there without actually being there.”
Their goal, Sept. 18, was to interact with the local leadership and offer assistance to the local population with the help of other coalition nations. A human intelligence collector from 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division accompanied the Australians on their mission to gain intelligence on possible enemy forces in the area.
“It’s a fantastic training opportunity getting to work with various aspects of coalition forces; assets like interpreters and civil military affairs teams,” Wing said.
The battalion is participating in Cooperative Spirit 2008 an American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies (ABCA) Program interoperability activity at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, near Hohenfels, Germany.
Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Parker, an observer/controller with the Vampire O/C team, said the Australians are really good. They had little trouble adapting from light infantry role to mechanized infantry, demonstrating they can adapt very well.
He said the Australians take our tactics, techniques and procedures and use them for what they do.
“What we see isn’t much different than what we see with American Soldiers, from their stacks, to breaching objectives and assaults,” Parker said. “There’s a quick strike to it. They’re very effective once they get inside. They leave no room for error.”
The Australians entered the hospital and with surgical precision took down the gunmen inside who were preventing the villagers of Nurgal from receiving medical treatment. A thorough inspection of the facilities revealed a weapons cache, an assembled bomb and bomb making materials.
Not everything they do is the same as the Americans though, Parker said. “They do different things that we can learn and pass on to our counterparts in the U.S. Army. The way they do an assault or questioning is a little different, and we can learn from that.”
Australian Sgt. Richard William Chapman, the platoon sergeant for 4th platoon, Bravo Company compared the training and operating with other coalition partners to a football match.
“You gotta pick the best. On the battlefield you’ve got your teams and everyone has to know where they are slotted in,” Chapman said. “The Australians may be the forwards and the Americans the backs running the ball. Each aspect of the team has to know where they’re slotted in to enhance that particular mission or goal.”
Following the action, the villagers of Nurgal again have a hospital that can be used for its’ proper purpose, now that the insurgents presence in the village was eliminated. With their mission in the town wrapped up, the Australians climbed into the vehicles and headed back to their base camp.
During the situational training lanes, the Kiwis acted as a quick reaction force that had to respond to reports of enemy forces in the area. Their job was to enter and clear buildings, capture or kill the enemy and search them for information.
“They have their way of doing things and their experiences,” Kennedy said. “We can take it and add it to the tool box.”
Other New Zealand Soldiers found the training to be a little difficult because it was different. Pvt. Jacque Wirihanae Hore, a rifleman with 5th platoon said, working side by side with the Americans helped the New Zealanders learn new skills.
The New Zealand Soldiers are here as part of the American, British, Canadian Australian and New Zealand’s Armies program interoperability test.
ABCA’s test may not be the only time some of these countries and Soldiers work together. New Zealand has worked alongside the Australian Army in East Timor and the Solomon Islands. There is also a Provincial Reconstruction team deployed to Afghanistan.
“With the way the world is going, it looks like we’ll be working together a long time,” Kennedy said.
No matter where they deploy or train the New Zealand Army is motivated to get the job done.
“New Zealand’s here, doing it hard, doing it Kiwi style,” Kennedy said. “Kura Takahi Puni, we are ready!”
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
by: Captain Marie-Noelle Blanchet, Canadian Public Affairs Officer
Sometime you have to dig deep to find the most amazing stories. By talking with people and simply taking a break from the "war", and by simply sitting and listening to what they have to say, you are able to share a small part of their experiences and their traditions. As a public affairs officer, I have to admit that I love to tell stories of the people I meet. In fact, telling the Canadian Forces Story is my primary mission. But the ones I like the most are the human stories that comes from the Soldiers themselves, like the Blue Monkey Story. The story is about a cute little stuffed animal that was once given to a soldier by an 8 year old little girl in 1998. Today, the Blue Monkey has become a legend. He is part of the history of the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment and many, many other people.
The Blue Monkey gets around, and in doing so has a become a legend.
It all started in Gagetown, New-Brunswick (Canada), when a young soldier, Corporal Brian Brophy, had a severe accident that nearly put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Thank God, today Brian Brophy is walking, but unfortunately may never fully recover from his injuries. In 1999, Brian was supposed to be deployed to Yugoslavia, along with his best pal, Corporal Steven McCormick, and the rest of the 2 RCR Soldiers. Not physically fit for the deployment, Brian had to stay back. Too young to understand, Brian’s Daughter, Morgan, did not want her father's best friend Steven to be all alone in a foreign country. She decided to send a care package to him, a little blue stuffed monkey.
Since then, the Blue Monkey has traveled considerably. He has now been deployed in Germany, and has been to Yugoslavia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Eritrea. Making some believe that the monkey is entitled to Canada's peace keeping mission medal. In 2010, he will be entitled to his country's Canadian Defense Medal as well. the Blue Monkey has traveled around the world. Missions, R&R (short period of rest during a deployment), HLTA (leave days during a deployment), and even on the personal vacations of Canadian Forces members. Just to name a few: the Blue Monkey has been to Orlando, Toronto, Montreal, Budapest, Ethiopia, Thailand, Las Vegas, Amsterdam, England, Scotland and has took a bath in the lake where supposedly lives the Loch Ness Monster. He has also completed some military qualification courses such as the the TQ4 Motorcycle dispatch course taken in Borden, Canada, and a few years ago he completed his Light Armored Vehicle course, where he was given his camouflage poncho. Several of his military buddies consider him very brave for his attactive blue color makes him a potential target for enemy. In the near future, he will jump out of an airplane and get his Airborne Wings.
Everywhere he goes there a picture to document his adventures. He is more than just a stuffed animal, the Blue Monkey is famous, but he symbolizes the life and stories of our Canadian Soldiers, their families and their friends. He symbolizes 'friendship.' If you see a Canadian Soldier, ask him about the Blue Monkey and he might have a picture of him somewhere in a souvenir box or on his computer. If you are lucky enough to see the Blue Monkey ask him where he is going next. You can be sure that will be keeping a Canadian Soldier from feeling lonely.
Morgan would be proud.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
--By LTC Rob Cain, ABCA blogger
LTC Eric Bloom, the director of the Coalition Press Information Center (CPIC), told me that I had to put my uniform away for a few hours. I was to play a role. No longer was I his deputy, but a blogger for the Chicago Tribune sent to cover a press conference held by the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The CPIC provided the reporters: the director, the deputy, the coalition officers, and additional soldiers from Holenfels gathered in civilian dress to wait for the brigade to send a vehicle to take us to the press conference. For realism we were badged – like real media – and we had the additional equipment that the media always brings with: cameras, tripods, notebooks, and even my laptop. We even wore MILES gear. The media can get shot like everyone else. For the next few hours I was to blog on site in – Nuristan (not really, for it was all playacting).
Someone (probably a very wise PAO) once said: “Herding the media, is like herding cats.” So we tended to stray – which is why media escorts make sure that we kept in a group. It was all playacting, so it was a chance to give the Soldiers a taste of what it is really like. I tried to wander away.
“Excuse me, sir? Could you rejoin the group?”
We are transformed from a very reasonable group of professional Soldiers and DA civilians to a group of tired and grumpy news people. Our media escorts came in the door to bring us to the Media Operations Center (MOC). “Bout time!” the reporter from the BBC grumbles. Which is another way of saying : Our time is precious. We’re on TV, you know.
The soldiers assigned to guide us do not react. They stay cool and professional. In public affairs “Never, ever…lose your cool in front of the media.” This is general good advice because you could wind up on the evening news. Headline: Army Public Affairs person acts like jerk.
The vehicles are loaded up. I introduced myself to the reporter sitting next to me. “Hi, my name is Rob Cain. I am a blogger for the Chicago Tribune.”
Captain Marie-Noelle Blanchet, Canadian Forces, playing Sara Simon from AFP, normally a very friendly person, is playing her part to the hilt: “I don’t talk to bloggers.” After all, she is Sara Simon from AFP, I am just… a blogger.
However, blogging is one of the fastest growing phenomena’s of the information age, and it is not uncommon for the military to invite bloggers to news conferences as easily as inviting a representative of NBC. The world is changing. Next time you hold a press conference, if a blogger calls for a seat…think about it first before you say “no.”
The press conference is in the open air with the coalition flags set up as a back drop. There is a table and chairs for the briefers and the media. The PAO hands out a press briefing packet that includes biographies of those that are available for questions, an information paper on the Stryker vehicle, and three press releases:
- Nuristan Police fend off AAF attack
- Patrol under attack while defending Asadabad
- Insurgents hit and run Coalition Forces near Jalabad
Now let’s make something clear…the 3rd Stryker Brigade is NOT in Afghanistan, nor are they here at the JMTC to prepare for Afghanistan for some future deployment. The Stryker Brigade is here to support and learn about interoperability with our coalition partners, but like any training atmosphere there are certain tasks that commands are required to perform: carry out orders, maintenance on their vehicles and weapons, AND talk to the media.
Dealing with the media is a commander’s responsibility and the scenario of what is going on ‘in the box’ has an Afghanistan scenario. So in this world of instant communication, knowing how to conduct a press conference is a skill that must be practiced. If you ever seen a press conference, it is an intricate ‘dance’ between reporters in the audience and the person being interviewed. A dance has rules (where you put your feet and hands – all depending if you’re doing a tango or a samba). A press conference has rules as well, called ground rules (the term meaning what the reporter can or do on the ground). These are made very clear by the public affairs officer. This part was played by Sergeant first Class Matthew Davio who gave us the length of time of the conference, and the number of questions each reporter was allowed to ask when they were called upon. Does that mean we would always follow the ground rules? No. We want the dance to be a samba. Like a samba we want the dance to go in the direction where the mood takes us. The command wants the news conference to be a tango where the steps are agreed upon. The command wants to answer our questions with a peppering of their command messages and for us to -- go away. A press conference is a tug of war between these two types of dance.
By the way a command message can be the following:
- We are superbly trained…
- We are well led…
- We are prepared to accomplish the mission
- And we will focus on taking care of our families left behind.
The press conference started when Col David Funk, commander of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team appeared. He walked out comfortably, and shook the hand of each and every reporter and looked them in the eye and introduced himself. It was not the most often done tactic, but it did put the conference on the following terms: I am in charge.
And he is, for he has the information, and he has the answers. We need him as much as he needs us to get the word out about his command.
What’s more he is prepared. He has an interpreter, subject matter experts, and his counterpart in the military from the Afghan Army who is really a Captain with the OPFOR. He introduces everyone, and gives a brief statement on why and the reason his command is in Afghanistan. When the preliminaries are concluded the questions begin.
The important thing to remember if you bring people out to stand up on the stage with the commander, they must be prepared to answer questions. This means the staff has to be prepared as well. A press conference is not just a commander’s show; it is an event that heavily involves the commander’s staff. The staff must be able to feed information to the commander on issues within their sections, help him formulate answers that might be asked. This means developing lists of possible Qs & As, and participating what sounds in an ominous sounding name called: a murder board. This is a situation where the commander, his PAO, and the staff sit in a room and try to prepare the commander with questions the media MIGHT ask.
Can it be a grueling experience? Yes.
Is it worthwhile? Yes.
This is the time where the commander can say: “Before I go out on in front of those guys G2 get me more info on that.”
A commander has a couple of choices when it comes to a press conference: have a public affairs officer handle the media while he or she is thinking of how to answer the question, or handle the mechanics of the press conference you. It is advisable to let the public affairs officer to do it for you. The most important thing is your answers to the questions, NOT who is being called upon, or how much time is left until the conference is over. You want time to mull over what is being asked.
Col Funk is bombarded with questions like the following:
There are rumors that American forces crossed the border into Pakistan. Is it true?Did you find bomb making material in a recent raid?
Some say the villagers were disappointed with the previous commands handling of things in this area? What do you have to say about that?
He answers each question calmly and to the point. Knowing who is coming to your press conference is a big help. This is another element of proper staffing. Sometimes, knowing who is coming can directly relate on what questions may be asked. The PAO should be able to tell you something about WHO is attending.
Most everyone in the CPIC is playing a reporter today. Troy Darr and Christina Wilson from the United States Holenfel Garrison Public Affairs Office joined us as international media. Ms. Nicole Munro-Johnson of the New Zealand Defense Force has transformed herself into Genevieve Westcott, from Campbell Live. Captain Dan O’Mara from the Australian Defense Force has decided to be Alastair Leithead from the BBC, LTC Eric Bloom is from NBC and questions come from Maj Juanita Chang who has transformed herself into a reporter named Molly Maquire from the Associated Press. I feel honored to be amongst such notable company -- including Captain Blanchet (i.e. Sara Simon from AFP) -- who doesn’t talk to bloggers, but managed to engage me in small talk anyway during the course of the press conference.
She was only kidding.
That is all the questions we have time for. Thank you for coming. SFC Davio will show you out.
Ending a press conference is an art. If it is abrupt, reporters tend to jump up and pound the commander with questions as he tries to make it out of the room. But if time is running out. The PAO can say: “We have time for three more questions.” This puts a time frame on how long the command is going to keep the floor open. The commander in addition can give a closing statement. It doesn’t mean the media won’t still try to pepper the commander with questions afterwards, but a closing statement gives the commander the opportunity to use his command messages.
The press conference is over. The PAO shows us to our vehicle. If we were REAL media, don’t you want to know what we have written about your command? Have someone do a quick media analysis and look at the result. Also, get your staff to take notes. You may find yourself in a position where you disagree with what is written.
"Did I really say that?"
"Yes, sir...you did."
In the meantime, want to do better at press conferences?
Talk to a Public Affairs Officer. Even if he is blogging at the time.
HOHENFELS, Germany -- The black top of the runway stretches out for a few hundred yards as a Soldier pushes an unmanned aerial vehicle toward the launcher designed to sling it into the air.
UAVs have been used since World War I. Their purpose on the battlefield evolved from weapons that destroy enemy targets during World War I to the Army’s modern mission of surveillance and reconnaissance without the loss of human life.
The Army uses a much more sophisticated system to observe enemy troop movements and warn Soldiers and allies of dangers that may be faced along the way. UAVs are known by the Soldiers who use them as the eyes in the sky.
“We can use a UAV to do route reconnaissance and spot differences in the pavement from an area we observed previously,” said Sgt. Anthony Perdue, a UAS flight line noncommissioned officer in charge with 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “We can catch the threat beforehand.”
The UAS squad here is a six member crew that includes their maintenance crew, operators and squad leader. Most of these personnel work out on the flight line while their squad leader works in the joint operations center.
The squad provides support to the coalition forces here which includes battalions from the British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies. Sgt. Edward Powell, squad leader and fore-sight noncommissioned officer in charge with 3-2 SBCT said, “We get an opportunity to show how great an asset UASs are here.”
Each nation has a remote video terminal so they can see what the UAS squad sees. Perdue said, “We offer them the same overhead protection and warning during the training here.”
Flying the UAV remotely, Spc. Joshua Thacker, a UAV operator for the brigade, operates the electronic camera and infrared camera attached to observe troop movements and possible enemy forces so that the Soldiers on the ground can avoid ambushes and other obstacles, such as improvised explosive devices, downed bridges or overpasses.
The brigade’s UAS squad gains valuable training while supporting other countries.
“The training is a great opportunity to learn more about interacting with other countries and incorporating what we learn (from the other nations) into our training,” Thacker said. “It’s also a good opportunity to create good will and connect with some countries on a personal level.”
The UAS squad with 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division is supporting the efforts at Cooperative Spirit 2008 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) near Hohenfels, Germany in support of the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies Program interoperability test. As the skies clear the following day, Soldiers wearing the flags of the five nations joined together in a common purpose can look up knowing the “eyes in the sky” are looking over them.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
“I’ve heard some pretty good things about it,” said Pfc. Skyler Eden, a 19-year old infantryman from Sierra Vista, Ariz. “It’s basically a vest that goes around (your body and) your helmet. The head piece is kind of heavy, but we carry heavy stuff anyway.”
The Syracuse, N.Y., native said, “(We) simulate combat conditions … without using actual bullets.”
The superiority of an armored personnel carrier belted with modern MILES is that it cannot be triggered by MILES mimicking rounds from an M-16 rifle. APCs are usually equipped with a belt consisting of modular sensors, which set off an amber light and siren when successfully targeted by the opposing team. A Soldier’s helmet and harness detect hits similarly.
“I’m a small and an easy buddy carry, so I die all the time,” Willsey joked, “(We) go out in the woods, run around and shoot each other.”
MILES irons out unit jitters, making for a well-rehearsed fighting force, he added.
“It increases unit cohesion – within your squad, your platoon – so you know how everybody works. That way, when you get on the ground, you can work together,” Willsey said.
MILES equipment can be used in any climate condition, however, inclement weather can interfere with its lasers. Willsey observed that sensors are less effective when a target is hiding behind wet foliage.
The onset of MILES gear throughout the 1980s failed to identify who shot whom during battle enactments. Mock fatalities could cheat by rebooting their device. Perhaps because of this, some Soldiers find MILES’ capabilities rather limiting, preferring blank adaptors that fire an encrypted signal in the path of an emitter’s bearing.
Simulated Area Weapons Effects in conjunction with radio frequency communication and a Global Positioning Satellite were put into practice at Hohenfels during the early 1990s, marking an evolution in MILES technology. This enabled dismounted soldiers and their APCs to be hit during replicated explosions. These hi-tech modifications now facilitate observers with a definitive view of tactical developments.
“I prefer working without it,” Willsey said. “I like to use sim-rounds whenever possible, but they’re expensive and you have to use special adapters for weapons to use them.”
Paintball-style rounds to replicate combat zone scenarios are also favored by many troops.
“They have paint rounds that can actually tell where you got hit,” Willsey said. “It works with an M-4 or .50 cal. If you get hit in a sensitive area, you don’t get hurt that much, but you know that you’re hit, and why you got hit.”
Where sim-rounds are expensive and paint ball is dangerous, MILES has continued to offer safe combat simulations and even received several upgrades.