Thursday, October 23, 2008

Utah Soldiers and NCOs Shine at CS 2008

Click here to see photo gallery of Utah Soldiers supporting Cooperative Spirit 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.

Visitors Bureau

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.”

Internet Cafe

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.”

Administrative Support

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.”