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Home | Tag Archives: 1st Armored Division

Tag Archives: 1st Armored Division

Gallery+Story: Ft. Bliss Engineers Prepare to Demolish at Best Sapper Competition

FORT BLISS – Fifty teams, fifty miles, in just fifty hours. Those are the odds stacked against the first Fort Bliss team to take on the Army’s elite combat engineer competition in three years.

1st Lt. Denys Villatoro, an operations officer and native of Homestead, Florida, and 2nd Lt. Kevin Steiner, a reconnaissance officer and native of Fairfax, Virginia, both assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, will represent America’s Tank Division in the 14th Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition (BSC) from Mar. 30 to Apr. 1 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

The Army’s premier engineer competition, which was renamed in 2018 in honor of the 50th Chief of Engineers, tests the mental and physical tenacity and grit of America’s top combat engineer Soldiers. Sappers will travel more than 50 miles in 50 hours throughout the rugged Ozarks during the grueling competition while carrying a ruck sack that weighs more than 80 pounds and competing in a variety of events, testing them to their mental and physical breaking point.

Physical fitness is key, but a large part of the competition is to solve problems engineers may see on the battlefield. “Sappers are experts in solving complex problems,” said Steiner. “If there’s an issue that somebody doesn’t know how to solve, we come in because we’re experts in different niche fields, like mountaineering, waterborne operations, and pathfinder operations.”

Sappers are also experts in mobility, countermobility and survivability. “If you need to get people from point A to point B, or you need to stop people from getting from point A to point B, we’re the people you call to facilitate that movement,” Steiner added. “Regardless of whether it’s over a lake, a river, or a mountain cliffside, we have the means and ability to get people where they need to go.”

During the course of three days, they will compete on limited amounts of sleep and will have to complete a series of combat engineer tasks including demolition and land navigation, as well as a ruck march, exam, team-building events, strength and endurance events, an X-Mile run and jumping out of a helicopter into a lake.

As of this year, both members of the team must be Sapper Leader Course graduates, whereas previous competition rules required only one.

Coaching the Fort Bliss Best Sapper team is Sgt. 1st Class Zachery Stiles, an operations sergeant from Denver, Colorado, also assigned to HHC, 16th BEB, 1st ABCT, 1AD.

Previously Stiles served as an instructor for two years at the Sapper Leader Course, a rigorous leadership program operated by the U.S. Army Engineer School and prerequisite for competing in the BSC.

In fact, the Sapper school is where Stiles first met Villatoro.

While building a Best Sapper Competition training program at Fort Bliss, Stiles tapped the Sapper- and Ranger- qualified, U.S. Military Academy at West Point alumni first, knowing the full extent of his capabilities.

His partner Steiner, a James Madison University alumni, just arrived fresh from completing the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course (EBOLC) and Sapper school.

Knowing he would have the most current U.S. Army Engineer School training possible, Stiles pulled him in to join Villatoro who had already been training for some time.

Together they will be the first team to represent Fort Bliss at the national competition in three years.

According to Villatoro, this may not come as a surprise to some. “People kind of get this mentality that an armored division is more laid back, but it’s not true,” he explained.

The teammates and their coach are hoping to amend that perception with a strong showing at the competition.

“We’re trying to change the way people think about an armored division,” said Stiles. “Trucks break down, machines will always fail you. We don’t rely on machines, we rely on the toughness of the individual. Sappers don’t break down when times get tough; you can lean on them and get the mission done.”

For Steiner, becoming a Sapper is the pinnacle of an engineer in the Army, so he jumped at the chance to compete in the name of the division.

“We want to do the best that we can since we’re representing the 1st Armored Division,” said Steiner. “It gives us a great sense of pride that we’re going to be the faces for the division at this competition.”

Preparations in El Paso have been extremely challenging for the two Sappers. Both Soldiers are first-time participants in the competition.

A basic week consists of nearly four hours of various physical training every morning and weekly visits to the aquatic center and obstacle course.

There are also hands-on and academic classes with Stiles regarding demolition calculations, unexploded ordnances, knots, and anything else that the team might encounter in the competition.

“We’re enablers. We clear the way so that infantry or armored units can get through,” said Villatoro. “Any obstacles there are, we can either take them down or build them. If there’s a bridge we need to tear down to prevent enemy advancement or a bridge we need to build so that we can use it to our advantage, we make it happen.”

El Paso is well known for its dry desert landscape with flat lands and temperate airy climate.

On the other side of the spectrum, Fort Leonard Wood is home to the Lake of the Ozarks and can be best described as heavily wooded with rolling hills and cold winters.

Despite El Paso and Fort Leonard Wood being polar opposites in terms of climate and environment, Steiner and Villatoro agree that training in El Paso has its advantages.

According to Steiner, their weekend trail runs high up in the Franklin Mountains are not only great for preparing for Fort Leonard Wood’s hilly terrain, but also for building endurance.

“My first month and a half here, I could barely run because I wasn’t used to the altitude,” said Steiner. “Now that we’ve both adjusted to the elevation, it’ll be a completely different ball game in terms of readiness once we get to Fort Leonard Wood.”

As part of their preparation, both are competing in the 31st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in March.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging 26.2 mile march through high desert terrain conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health, and lives.

Competing in such an intense march less than two weeks before the BSC might be daunting to most, but the Sappers are up for the challenge.

“It’s definitely something good for us. The 26 miles will prep our feet and get them ready for Best Sapper,” said Villatoro.

“We could not be more proud and excited for the Catamounts battalion to represent the Iron Division at the 14th Annual Best Sapper Competition,” said Lt. Col. Jason Legro, Battalion Commander, 16th BEB.

“The team’s commitment to the Regiment is nothing short of outstanding. We are looking forward to seeing them compete.”

For those that cannot make it to Fort Leonard Wood in person, you can follow their progress on the Best Sapper Competition Facebook page and the BSC website.

Author:  Jean Han – 1st Armored Division

Gallery+Story: Iron Brigade holds colors casing ceremony

FORT BLISS, Texas – The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team ‘Iron Brigade’, 1st Armored Division marked the start of a deployment in support of DEFENDER-Europe 20 with a colors casing ceremony on Strike Field February 28.

The casing of the colors is a traditional ceremony held by United States Army.

From the earliest of times, Warriors used a banner or other symbols to identify specific units, and to serve as a rallying point for troops. Today, the Colors, with battle streamers attached, join their unit in formations during ceremonies to signify their presence during past battles.

This ceremony symbolizes the unit’s movement of operations from its home station to the U.S. Army Europe Command area of operations in support of DEFENDER-Europe 20.

DEFENDER-Europe 20 demonstrates the U.S. military’s ability to rapidly deploy a large combat-credible force from the U.S. to Europe to support NATO and respond to a crisis. Once in Europe, U.S. service members will spread out across the region to participate in various annual exercises with our allies and partners. DEFENDER-Europe 20 will conclude with the redeployment of U.S.-based forces and equipment.

“The brigade is in stride of its deployment to the EUCOM area of responsibility where we will execute DEFENDER-Europe 20,” said Col. Chad C. Chalfont, the 2ABCT commander. “This exercise will include 30,000 Soldiers and will occur across multiple countries in central and eastern Europe. The continent has not seen an exercise of this size in over 25 years. Through this exercise we will build readiness, set the theater, and increase the strength of our allies and partners.”

Approximately 3,500 Soldiers from the ‘Iron Brigade’ and subordinate units will deploy to Europe.

“The Iron Brigade’s return to Europe is important,” said Chalfont. “We are going to be a part of something special. As we rapidly move into and across Europe, integrate into our allies formations, and conduct live-fire maneuver training I know we will get better every day.”

The 2ABCT commander closed his remarks by expressing his gratitude for the families of the Soldiers.

“I offer my deepest thanks to the families of our Soldiers who are deploying,” he said. “We do our job in the Army with the love and support of our spouses, sons, daughters, family members and loved ones. What we do matters and your support surely matters more. Thank you and we will be home soon.”

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Michael West – 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

A Little Bit of Bliss: A Crafty Solution to Spouse Employment

FORT BLISS, Texas – Tucked away in a nondescript brown building on Chaffee Road is a little gem of a gift shop bursting with color and charm.

Cleverly named A Little Bit of Bliss, the Fort Bliss Spouses’ Association (FBSA)-operated store is a brick-and-mortar solution to something that 1st Armored Division and U.S. Army leaders care about very much- spouse employment and quality of life. Since reopening in October 2019 with a new look, the gift shop has become a haven for military spouses looking for a creative outlet, hobby, comradery or to promote a side business and make some extra cash.

“It’s our service that we want to give to our spouses,” said Angelina Edwards, manager of the gift shop and a military spouse herself. “We want to give them that platform to be able to not only make a little extra money but to keep them busy and have something for them to do.”

While employment challenges are not unique to military spouses, they face additional obstacles due to the transient nature of military life. Deployments, frequent moves, remote locations of military bases, and child care needs are just some of the many challenges that military spouses deal with on a regular basis.

This is the case for one of the gift shop’s vendors, Misty Hofmann, a native of Mount Dora, Florida, whose husband is assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion,1AD.

Hofmann is an Air Force veteran with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and several years working as a DoD-contracted satellite imagery analyst under her belt.

Yet due to frequent relocations and having to become the primary child caregiver, she has not had a job since 2011. “It just became too difficult to find a job that correlates to my skill set at those different locations and for that small amount of time that we’d actually be there,” said Hofmann. When Hofmann discovered A Little Bit of Bliss, she was overjoyed. She had found a way to occupy her time and feel a sense of accomplishment.

“It’s rewarding for me, because as a homemaker, there are a whole lot of things that I do that never actually get finished. I don’t feel that sense of completion that I found when I was working, but my side business gave me something to focus on and feel that sense of completion,” said Hofmann.

Many military bases are located in rural or remote areas, leading to fierce competition in the job market. Living in an area like El Paso brings the additional challenge of a job market that often expects employees to be bilingual.

“I’ve had a hard time finding a job because I don’t speak Spanish, and it’s kind of required to work at a hospital in this area. I’ve been looking off and on for three years,” said Little Bit of Bliss vendor Meagan McCullough, whose husband is assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1AD.

Despite having career experience and an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology, the Suwanee, Georgia, native said she has found the job hunt to be difficult.

According to Edwards, this is par for the course. “It’s really hard to get jobs here because we live in a place that is highly populated,” said Edwards. “About half of the spouses that sell their crafts here can’t find jobs and are just trying to make ends meet the best way they can.”

The store features many items with military, patriotic, Texas and El Paso among its popular themes. A percentage of the price of each item goes to the FBSA for its programming, and the rest the vendors keep.

The FBSA provides the opportunity for members to participate in social and creative activities while supporting worthwhile service and community activities. The FBSA also operates the Fort Bliss Thrift Shop, with proceeds providing community non-profits with grants and members and their local family members with merit-based scholarships.

Aside from independent opportunities like A Little Bit of Bliss, the Army is improving career and employment opportunities for military spouses through new programs and existing partnerships.

In a bid to support military families, the Army is taking an active approach to help military spouses find jobs, build careers and improve their quality of life.

Supporting Army spouses in continuing their work in a new place of residence with minimal delay and additional expense is important.

Spouses in professionally licensed fields face challenges resulting from delays and the cost of transferring licenses to a new state.

Many spouses may qualify for help in covering the costs of transferring those credentials when they experience a permanent-change-of-station move with their service member spouse.

Under the National Defense Authorization Act 2020, civilian spouses can now receive up to $1,000 in reimbursements for relicensing costs during permanent change-of-station relocations.

Policy details and reimbursement procedures vary by service branch. Spouses are eligible for reimbursement after getting their new license or certification.

Information for each service branch is available on the Military OneSource website.

For those who are interested in joining the A Little Bit of Bliss team for a more local, personal start to employment at Fort Bliss, Edwards encourages spouses to try their hand at crafting.

The shop currently has 23 spouses and service members that are selling their goods there, although typically the average is 50.

“Anyone who might be crafty or wants to try it should come on down, because we have plenty of space for more crafts!” said Edwards.

Useful Links:
A Little Bit of Bliss gift shop  |   Fort Bliss Spouse Association (FBSA)   |   Employment Readiness Program (ERP) 
Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO)   |   Military One Source

Author: Jean Han  – 1st Armored Division

Brigade signal company maintains combat communications and readiness

Signal soldiers with 16th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division conducted a communications exercise at Doña Ana Base Camp, New Mexico, 27 to 31 January.

The purpose of the exercise was to certify crews on new equipment to enable the Brigade to use upper tactical internet communications and conduct re-transmission operations.

C company, “Charlie Rock,” is the 1/1 AD’s signal company. Charlie Rock offers line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight communications support for the Ready First Brigade. Signal soldiers facilitate their units to take over more battle space by communicating across a wider footprint.

The company transitioned from a Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 to an Increment 1 back in December 2019. WIN-T Inc. 1 provides a high-speed, inter-operable voice and data communications network on the field. They also trained on a new Satellite Transportable Terminal.

“The difference is the Inc. 1 is less mobile than the Inc. 2 but offers the same services with a smaller footprint,” said 2nd Lt. Erik Swanson, platoon leader, and signal officer with Charlie Rock.

Junior enlisted from different signal-related, military occupational specialties had the opportunity to do their jobs in an austere environment as well as cross-train each other on their special skill-sets.

“We constantly create faults and then fix them so we can progress and learn more from the equipment,” said Pfc. Jeremy Fincham, a multi-channel transmission systems operator maintainer. “I really enjoyed the cross-training and learning about the radios.”

“We mainly cross-train with the 25Qs (multi-channel transmission systems operator maintainer) because without the STT we would not have the connection to keep the Joint Network Node-Network running,” said Pfc. Deshawn Esannason, a nodal network systems operator-maintainer.

For Pfc Angel Herrera, a signal support system specialist, this was an opportunity to step into the boots of a noncommissioned officer and mentor his peers.

“My mission was to set up re-transmissions and teach soldiers how to install, maintain and use radios,” said Herrera. “I created faults on the radios inside the Humvees and then they had to find the problem. These soldiers now know how to troubleshoot and solve their own radio problems. I learned how to instruct other soldiers and the additional capabilities of the radios.”

For many of the young Soldiers, this was their first field exercise since basic training. They had the opportunity to conduct convoy operations, night drivers training, self-recovery operations, field repair, and camouflaging and security.

Author: Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet  – 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division  

Iron Soldiers from 1st Armored Division recognized as Master gunners for expertise, knowledge

FORT BLISS  – Excellence, knowledge and expertise were on full display as 18 Iron Soldiers from across 1st Armored Division were recognized with the newly implemented Master Gunner Identification Badge (MGIB), on February 4.

“It’s an honor to receive the MGIB and I’m very happy that I have received it,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Holubik, a recipient of the MGIB and an M1 armor crewman and master gunner assigned to 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team and native of Plainfield, Illinois. “I know there are a lot of Soldiers before me who are excited about the MGIB and deserve the honor too.”

The Army’s former acting Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Raymond Horoho, initially approved the MGIB in January 2018. The process finalized in May 2019 and the badge is retroactive to 1975.

In order to qualify for the badge, Soldiers must complete one of eight master gunner courses specializing in a combat arms branch that trains weapon systems mastery, such as armor or field artillery.

“We had to prepare to become master gunners with the month long Master Gunner Common Core course which included basics like army machine guns and gunnery,” said Holubik. “Following the course, there are two months of training on specific platforms, which for me is the M1 Abrams tank. The instructors went in depth about gun tube technology, the fire control systems and the ballistics of different ammunition.”

Master gunners provide an essential skillset throughout the division, incorporating their weapons knowledge mastery with advanced training techniques to assist and advise commanders in the planning and execution of weapons-based training.

“The master gunner in 1AD is the commander’s subject matter expert on his respective platform, allowing any commander regardless of echelon to properly plan and train his company, battalion or brigade to a high level of proficiency,” said Master Sgt. Elidio Avila, the 1AD master gunner and native of Los Angeles. “Master gunners go above and beyond the normal duties and scope of their assigned Military Occupational Specialty. More will be asked out of the master gunner than his peers of the same rank.”

Effective training of Iron Soldiers provided by master gunners is a key component of 1AD’s capabilities and readiness, ensuring that 1AD remains a lethal fighting force able to engage and defeat any enemy.

“The master gunner in an armor unit will plan and train from individual weapons qualifications to collective qualifications for all echelons of training,” said Avila. “As to where a light unit trains on the same weapon systems as any other unit in the Army, the armor unit has special areas of emphasis that only master gunners can develop, train and certify.”

As 1AD continues to train and increase their combat readiness and effectiveness, master gunners from across the division will play a vital role in ensuring their Soldier’s success in the future.

“We will make sure that everyone in our unit is up to the task,” said Holubik. “They will be ready to deploy and engage the enemy in a moment’s notice.”

The value and necessity of master gunners has been recognized across the Army, resulting in a greater emphasis on their training and viability as advisors.

“Master gunners across the force are being strengthened to build lethality in our armored units,” said Avila. “The current priority of the Army is to grow the population across all echelons of master gunners and create a more structured and stable career path for the master gunner.”

Author: Pvt. Matthew Marcellus – 1st Armored Division 

A Soldier’s journey: Texas-based National Guard Soldier turns his life around

For Sgt. James Green, his path to the U.S. Army could be described as a rocky one.

He was born in San Angelo, Texas as a “military brat,” being the son of an Air Force tech sergeant. During his formative years his family bounced around between various places, including several stateside and overseas locations such as Maryland, Texas, Washington, Hawaii, and Japan. His family finally settled in El Paso, Texas following the completion of his father’s term of service in the U.S. Air Force.

Green describes his early life as “chaotic, and unstable.” “As soon as I would make a good friend, I’d have to leave,” he said.

This is an unfortunate fact of life for many military children, but Green had other issues to deal with as well – the eventual divorce of his parents and some extremely challenging anger issues. His mom thought his anger stemmed from the divorce, but Green says there were other concerns beyond the surface.

“I was angry and I was diagnosed with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder]. I had a ton of energy and nowhere to put it,” he said. “I was a very destructive child; I was hard to deal with as a child.”

Green went through years of medication and therapy for his ADHD and anger issues, none of which seemed to help. One day he decided to stop taking the medication out of frustration and found other outlets to deal with his ADHD. Unfortunately, he states he turned to “illegal” means to deal with his issues.

Juvenile delinquency followed, with various forays into theft, drugs, and other illicit behavior. Green got a wake-up call, however, when he got arrested. The arrest was for a minor offense, but it was enough to make him want to turn his life around. He felt military service would help him find structure in his life, so he enlisted as a Soldier in the Texas Army National Guard in 2003 as a cable systems installer-maintainer and deployed to Iraq within a year of his enlistment.

During Green’s first deployment to Iraq, he gained additional clarity and focus through dealing with difficult circumstances. Green’s combat deployment to Iraq was harsh and violent. He was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor device for his actions when his guard tower was attacked by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) and small arms fire.

In a different incident, some Iraqi children were killed by a roadside IED that was intended to target him and his fellow Soldiers. The attack took place in a location where Green had been interacting with those same children the day before during a combat patrol, and the lone surviving child came to the gate of his unit’s outpost after the tragedy to inform him of what happened.

“It was at that point that all the anger I had been holding on to, all that energy was gone. It was a completely reality-shattering moment for me, and everything changed in my life,” said Green.

Green has since deployed three more times with the Texas Army National Guard: two more tours in Iraq, and he is currently deployed to Afghanistan, where he is an invaluable member of the communications section during his assignment at Task Force-Southeast, based in Southeastern Afghanistan. He assists with everything computer-related and keeps communications running smoothly throughout the task force as the help desk administrator.

Green is a proud member of the 1st Armored Division’s Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment, known as the 1AD MCP-OD, a relatively new Texas Army National Guard unit that is a company-level element for the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, based at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Sgt. James Green, native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD), Texas Army National Guard, kisses his wife Hannah on their wedding day, May 12, 2017. Green’s journey into the U.S. Army has been filled with challenges, but he values the lessons the Army has given him. | Photo Courtesy of Sgt. James Green

1AD MCP-OD Soldiers work side-by-side with the division’s active duty Soldiers, providing essential skillsets needed during major training exercises and frequent deployments. It is a rare opportunity for a National Guard Soldier to work so closely intermingled with the active component.

“I really enjoy a lot of facets of it,” Green said. “We have a lot more reach and a lot more opportunity to do the jobs that we originally signed up to do.” Green also enjoys the MCP-OD’s frequent opportunities for training missions and overseas deployments.

In addition to his military achievements, Green has educational goals as well. He currently holds an Associate’s Degree in Information Systems & Security from Western Technical Institute, and aspires to earn both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the future.

He hopes to re-class his military occupational specialty (MOS) to 35 series, Intelligence, and hopes to get the opportunity to work within the Department of Defense in the future. As for his Texas Army National Guard career, Green plans to take full advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by his unit, saying “This MCP-OD will keep me until my military retirement.”

Author: Sgt. Karen Lawshae  – 1st Armored Division 

Regulars Battalion honors memory of fallen alongside former Prisoner of War

FORT BLISS, Texas – “Ask yourself…Where would I be? What would my life be like; were it not for our veterans who have stepped up for us all time and time again over the course of this Nation’s history…”

Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, our mission to Remember, Honor and Teach is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 1,600 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.

Soldiers and leaders from 4th Battalion “Regulars”, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog”, 1st Armored Division, participated in the Wreaths Across America Memorial Ceremony at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, Dec. 14.

“Today is a wonderful example of partnership with Fort Bliss and the local El Paso community to honor our veterans and honor our fallen,” said Lt. Col. Colin Mahle, native of Sacramento, California, commander of 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., 3rd ABCT, 1st AD. “A number of great organizations here today that I’m very happy to see: the local Boy Scouts (chapter), a number of volunteers from across Fort Bliss and El Paso, and other veterans’ organizations such as the Freedom Riders.”

Mahle was joined by Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Holmes, native of Beaufort, South Carolina, senior enlisted advisor for 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., 3rd ABCT, 1st AD, and a number of other Soldiers from his organization of whom participated as members of the Color Guard and Honor Guard teams during the ceremony.

“When we got the invitation to come out and to support this event, I was all for it,” said Holmes. “I think it’s important for our junior Soldiers to see some of the veterans that have come before us, who paved the way for us, and to come out and honor their sacrifice. These veterans who are resting in peace here in this cemetery, today, have paved the way for our service.”

Retired Army Spc. Joseph Hudson, currently residing in Alamogordo, New Mexico, member of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club, and former Prisoner of War during Operation Iraqi Freedom, laid the wreath at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Monument during the ceremony and does so because it’s a good way to promote awareness and show veterans and their families they are not alone.

“It gives them (veterans) hope to understand what other people went through,” said Hudson. “We’re not alone in our experiences we go through in war. We are not alone… We are not alone… And it’s great our Vietnam veterans have reached out so much to younger generations to thank them for their service and to provide an open hand saying, ‘We understand. We understand what you went through.’ And it’s wonderful that older generation veterans do not forget about us.”

Hudson openly recounted his story during the interview.

On March 23, 2003, Hudson’s unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, came under attack during the Battle of Nasiriyah, Iraq, in day four of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Eleven Soldiers were killed in action, and a total of eight were taken as prisoners of war.

Two died in captivity, Jessica Lynch was rescued on April 1, and Hudson and four others were rescued on April 13.

“It’s good to talk about it,” Hudson exclaimed. “And that’s one thing I encourage young veterans to do. Talk about what you went through because there are people out there who still care.”

Author: Maj. Anthony Clas  – 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs

Gallery+Story: Bulldog Brigade stress systems during Command Post Exercise

“The main command post is a facility containing the majority of the staff designed to control current operations, conduct detailed analysis, and plan future operations.” That’s the definition provided by Department of the Army, in FM 3-96 Brigade Combat Team.

Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog”, 1st Armored Division, are conducting a Command Post Exercise at Fort Bliss, from December 9-13.

“We’re here putting up all the equipment (required for the command post) to get it operational,” said Spc. Ricardo Cantu, native of Rock Island, Illinois, cavalry scout and radiotelephone operator for the operations section with HHC, 3rd ABCT, 1st AD. “My responsibility is to relay information (received from subordinate units) to the battle captains and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) to help paint the picture (in the battle space).”

If you cannot sustain systems in a field environment, it’s not a valid system.

“The purpose of the command post is to push out the commander guidance to all the battalions, be able to run our operations, and get the complete the mission,” said Sgt. Jose Osollo, native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, infantryman and assistant operations non-commissioned officer in charge of operations for HHC, 3rd ABCT, 1st AD. “We will also receive information (from the subordinate battalions), and disseminate it to members of the staff, so everyone is on the same page.”

Brigade staff personnel operating within the command post represent each of the warfighting functions of whom work collectively to maintain operations, analyze information collected from subordinate elements, and generate a common operating picture for the commander to make informed decisions during contingency or combat operations.

“We are the backbone that runs the brigade essentially,” said Capt. Caleb Pittman, native of Memphis, Tennessee, infantryman and assistant operations officer with HHC, 3rd ABCT, 1st AD. “After we receive information, we analyze it, then push out the resources they (subordinate units) need; whether that’s fire support, UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems), or any sustainment support they need as well.”

The Bulldog Brigade CPX will culminate with validating the different framework configurations that may be required to operate effectively in different areas of operation, at any time, to fight and win in any domain.

Author: Maj. Anthony Clas – 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs

2nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd ABCT commemorates 69th Burning of the Colors Ceremony

FORT BLISS – The mood was somber as the 2nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division’s unit colors were set alight on the Bulldog Field, Fort Bliss, December 5th, in remembrance of the Soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Kunu-Ri during the Korean War.

This is the 69th Anniversary of the burning of colors, a tradition that the 3rd Brigade Combat Team honors every year.

“We are here this evening to recognize the service of the battalion and it’s soldiers in the most desperate times 69 years ago,” said Lt. Col. Jeremiah J. Willis, commander of the 2nd BEB.

In the late fall of 1950, the 2nd BEB was attached to the 2nd Infantry Division. During the battle, the battalion was instructed to hold down Kunu-Ri, a small Korean town, defending the right and rear flanks of the retreating Eighth Army.

The engineer battalion was the only unit standing protecting the rear flank. The Chinese Soldiers overran the ridgeline and U.S. troops withdrew.

“The battalion committed itself and fought to the end with courage, honor and determination to preserve the 2nd Engineer [Battalion]

A Soldier with the 2nd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, sets fire to the colors during the 69th annual Burning of the Colors ceremony, Dec. 5th, on Bulldog field, Fort Bliss. | U.S. Army photo by: Pfc. Autumn Rogers

and it’s RoK allies,” said Willis.

Realizing that they were being overrun by the Chinese, battalion commander Lt. Col. Alarich Zacherle ordered the men to burn the battalion colors so it would not be used as a Chinese trophy. The battalion reached friendly lines after 18 hours of combat.

Starting with 977 brave men, the battalion was down to only 266 by the end of the battle. The selfless service and sacrifice of the brave soldiers that served with Zacherle, stands as a patriotic reminder of honor, heroism, and making the ultimate sacrifice in dire times.

“Remember those who came before us, they were us and we are them,” Willis said. “We must remain steady to complete our assigned mission in a moments notice. We must remain focused on the awesome responsibility we have to each other, our families and our country; for we too may be asked one day to make a similar sacrifice.”

Author: Pfc. Autumn Rogers – 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element

Meet the Gallardos: Younger sister outranks older sister on deployment

Imagine being the younger sister, in a traditional Mexican house, where your older sister is the boss while mom works a night job. Now imagine, many years later, you outrank your older sister. Let payback begin.

Meet the Gallardo sisters, Master Sgt. Eliana Y. Gallardo, operations noncommissioned officer in charge, and Capt. Carla J. Gallardo, operations officer, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade Resolute Sustainment Support Brigade, (1AD RSSB), who are now deployed together to Afghanistan supporting Operation Resolute Support.

They were born in Mexico but raised in Stockton, Calif., from 1990 to 2001. Both have been in the Army for over 11 years, but this is their first opportunity to serve together. Deploying with a sibling is not uncommon but a younger sister outranking the older sister, there has to be some karma in that.

“Being from a traditional Mexican family, the older siblings take care of the younger siblings,” said Carla. “With our mom working at night, that left the job for the older sisters to act as mom for the younger kids. We didn’t form a bond until later in life as she (Eliana) was very mean to me growing up, very bossy.”

They were raised with strong Mexican culture. Both parents worked to provide a better life for their six children. Their father worked as a farmer during the day and their mom worked a night job to make ends meet. The Gallardo sisters are five years apart in age and while they are close today, this was not the case growing up.

“My job was to take care of Carla and our youngest sister Eunice,” said Eliana. “Did I enjoy the power? What big sister doesn’t?”

During the early years, their relationship was more of a “mother/daughter” dynamic. This proved to be impactful when Carla watched her older sister Eliana graduate high school and join the Army.

“Everyone was still at home and never left; that was our culture,” said Eliana. “I just wanted to get away and see the world. I had no idea Carla would follow in my footsteps many years later.”

Carla did carve her own path. After high school, she decided to go to college first and become the first in her family to graduate with a college degree. After graduation, she was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army and with that, the power shifted.

“I decided I wanted to be the first in my family to graduate college and then join the military as an officer,” said Carla. “The thought did cross my mind many times that one day Eliana might have to salute me and do what I say.”

Today they laugh about the older sister saluting the younger, but military customs and courtesies do not distinguish or give credit for being the older sister. Enlisted must pay respect to the officer ranks by rendering a salute and using “Sir” and “Ma’am.”

“I remember saluting her for the first time,” said Eliana. It was in Fort Bragg and I just thought, oh, I can’t believe years ago I changed her diaper and now I’m saluting her. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

When they are not deployed , they live two blocks away from each other outside Fort Bliss, Texas where they are both stationed. They have formed a bond through the years as the age difference became less relevant and the thing they have most in common, their Army careers, helped solidify their friendship.

“We live two blocks away from each other which is pretty cool,” said Eliana. “We do a lot of things together, hiking, CrossFit, running and we love binge watching Game of Thrones.”

The deployment for the 1AD RSSB to support operations in Afghanistan meant both sisters would have to leave Texas to support their unit. Deployments for Soldiers are nothing new but deploying with a sister brings some unique benefits for the Gallardo sisters.

“I love being deployed with my sister; I can have conversations about military stuff and she understands,” said Eliana. “With other family members, that don’t serve, it’s more difficult because they don’t know the culture. She understands the burdens you sometimes have in the military.”

“Having a family member here, a friend, to experience everything that is going on in real time is amazing,” said Carla. “It’s also nice having each other during holidays when it can sometimes be lonely.”

Both sisters work in the logistics field which puts them right in the middle of the action for this deployment. The mission for the 1AD RSSB is to provide logistical support and sustainment for warfighters operating in Afghanistan. Support includes, but is not limited to, all classes of supplies, equipment, maintenance, transportation and anything else a warfighter needs to conduct combat operations. Sustainment brigade’s also coordinate how the supplies are delivered; airdrops, convoy’s, helicopters and boats.

“For 18 years I have been perfecting my trade as a logistician,” said Eliana. “To have the opportunity to use those skills for a mission that relies completely on logistics is rewarding.”

The Gallardo’s said they are appreciative of the support they’ve received from the leadership of the 1AD RSSB and said they were grateful for the opportunity to serve on this deployment together.

Author: Sgt. Briaira Tolbert – 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade

Regulars Battalion masters the fundamentals during squad live-fire exercise

FORT BLISS, Texas – “Cover me while I move! I got you covered battle buddy!”

Soldiers with Company A, 4th Battalion “Regulars”, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team,1st Armored Division, conducted squad live-fire exercises to refine tactics, techniques and procedures, and build a more ready and lethal force at Fort Bliss, October 7-18.

“We are mechanized (Infantry), and we have Bradleys (M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles) at our disposal, but they can only go so far,” said 1st Lt. Sean Murphy, native of Orange County, California, platoon leader for Company A, 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., 3rd ABCT, 1st AD.

“At that last 50 meters of fight our dismounts (light infantry Soldiers) will have to get out of the Bradley and engage the enemy. That’s what they’re practicing, refining, and mastering out here.”

Some of the maneuver training included reacting to an ambush, setting up support by fire positions, while maintaining contact and engaging the enemy.

“I like how in depth this training is,” said Sgt. Taylor Tracy, native of Salt Lake City, Utah, team Leader in Company A, 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., 3rd ABCT, 1st AD. “This range gives leaders control of how things would actually be done, and it gives us freedom of maneuver to train as we fight.”

Repetition increases a team’s situational understanding of the tactics they’ll use making them a more lethal force when facing an enemy in combat.

“Mastery of the fundamentals is the same in any environment,” said Capt. Travis Edwards, native of Spring Hill, Kansas, commander of Company A, 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt., 3rd ABCT, 1st AD.

“We are assessing marksmanship in field conditions, fire distribution, fire commands, and synchronization of fires and that is applicable to whatever operational environment these Soldiers will go to.”

Author: Maj. Anthony Clas  – 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs

Iron Supporter receives El Paso County Commissioner’s Award

Fort Bliss is El Paso and El Paso is Fort Bliss, a motto well known by members of the El Paso community.

Sgt. Ryan Soares, mortuary affairs specialist with 123rd Support Battalion “Iron Support”, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, received the El Paso County Commissioner’s Award in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 7.

“It’s an honor to receive this award from the county commissioner because I read in his biography that he’s a veteran himself,” said Soares.

Carl Robinson, commissioner of El Paso County Commission Precinct 4, also a U.S. Army veteran with 25 years of service, presented Sgt. Soares with a plaque and American Flag to recognize him for his hard work and achievements over the past year.

“Fort Bliss has been a part of our community for decades,” said Robinson. “Soldiers at Fort Bliss have been outstanding, and provide many different resources in our community… mainly their presence.”

Sgt. Soares stated what made the event even more memorable was being able to share this moment with his family.

“My wife has motivated me and supported me 100 percent,” said Soares. “Everything I do is for my wife, my daughter, and my family.”

Author: Maj. Anthony Clas – 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public

1st Armored Division NIA Chapter Hosts Awards Ceremony

FORT BLISS, Texas — Why is the sky blue? Ask any Soldier serving in an infantry capacity and you’ll surely get your answer.

Soldiers from 4th Battalion “Regulars”, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division: Capt. Gregory Gaines, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Aaron Smith, 1st Sgt. Moises Arreola, 1st Sgt. Christian Beyer; and Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Howerton, G3 Operations for 1st Armored Division, were inducted into the Order of Saint Maurice; and Mrs. Christy Beyer, family readiness group leader for 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was awarded the Shield of Sparta during the 1st Armored Division National Infantry Association Awards Ceremony at Fort Bliss, Texas, Sept. 12.

“It’s important to have a professional organization to honor infantrymen and non-infantrymen today is something special,” said Lt. Col. Colin Mahle, native of Sacramento, California, commander of 4th Battalion “Regulars”, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and president of the 1st Armored Division National Infantry Association Chapter. “To echo what Maj. Gen. Patrick Matlock said, ‘the framework of any world-class maneuver formation is world-class infantrymen.'”

The Order of Saint Maurice and the Shield of Sparta are awarded by the National Infantry Association and the U.S. Army’s Chief of Infantry. This is to recognize the significant contributions made by Infantrymen, Infantry supporters, and spouses.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Aaron Smith, native of Boulder, Colorado, maintenance technician with 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd ABCT, 1st AD, prides himself on his 19 years, of 24 years of service, supporting infantry and armor units.

“I think any infantryman, or, armor individual cannot do their job without sustained readiness being a focus at some point,” said Smith. “It’s a combined effort on all levels. We need infantrymen to do what they do best, but they cannot do their job without me or my mechanics making sure they have the platform to maneuver them onto the battlefield. It’s a collective balance of skills and relationships.”

When Chief Warrant Officer 3 Smith was asked how it felt to be inducted into the Order of Saint Maurice? He responded with the following sentiment.

“I can’t even describe it, I’m humbled by it because supporting them (infantry units) for so many years, I never would’ve imagined this was even an option for me,” said Smith. “But to have an infantry command recognize me for my support, it means more than any award I’ve ever received so far.”

Author:  Maj. Anthony Clas  – 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs

Combat team receives first tanks following armor conversion

FORT BLISS, Texas – Soldiers with 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, received their first M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks August 21.

Fourteen tanks arrived as part of the 1st ABCT conversion from a Stryker brigade to the Army’s sixteenth armored brigade combat team June 20.

Ready First Brigade was chosen based on a military value analysis (MVA) of Fort Bliss demonstrating efficiency and effectiveness in aspects such as training facilities, land for maneuvering, deployment infrastructure, and quality of life for Soldiers and families.

The division will now be made up of three armored brigade combat teams and meet the Army’s intent of having a more lethal and capable force better able to overmatch any potential near-peer adversaries.

“Now we have the ability to decisively engage the enemy whenever our scout troops come into contact with them,” said 1st Lt. Daniel

Serrano, troop executive officer with 6-1 CAV. “This gives the squadron a lot more firepower as opposed to (before with) the Strykers.”

The entire training and certification process will be supervised by an Abrams Operator-New Equipment Training team from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. The process will give the armor crewmen both classroom and hands-on training before testing the tanks on a field during a gunnery live-fire exercise this year.

Soldiers with 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, conduct preventive maintenance checks and services on newly acquired M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks at Fort Bliss, Texas, Aug. 22. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet

“Every tank has an OPNET instructor on it and they are taking them (the Soldiers) through that training,” said David McLelland, an OPNET instructors. “They are being instructed on the correct way to do safety checks on the driver, commander, loader and gunner crew compartment stations. And then we get them ready for gunnery.”

Pvt. Jacob Valenzuela, an armor crewman with 6-1 CAV, was one of various Soldiers who waited eagerly for the arrival of the tanks. He graduated one-station unit training and arrived at his unit back in February.

“Before the tanks arrived, I was learning the concepts of tactical movement and patrolling,” said Valenzuela. “After six months, it was surreal to see everything come to fruition; seeing it all come together. I feel satisfied.”

The Ready First Brigade is also expecting to receive Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Paladin artillery systems and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) as part of the conversion later this year.

Author: Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet – 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

Soldiers with 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, conduct preventive maintenance checks and services on newly acquired M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks at Fort Bliss, Texas, Aug. 22. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet

Ft. Bliss’ Bulldog Brigade Retains the Best while in South Korea

CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – “Giving all I got. I ain’t never going to stop. Army changed my life…” Lyrics to the “Giving All I Got” U.S. Army Recruiter Anthem plays on as 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog”, 1st Armored Division (Rotational), 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, exceeds their retention expectations while forward deployed to the Republic of Korea for a nine-month rotation.

The 3ABCT, 1AD deployed to the Korean Peninsula and has been conducting combined training with their ROK Army allies since September 2018 to provide 2ID/ROK-US Combined Division with fully trained units for an increased overall readiness posture and still managed to exceed the Army retention standard.

“First of all, I would like to say that our Soldiers out here (Republic of Korea) were very motivated, and pure readiness played a factor in our retention program,” said Command Sgt. Major Michael Oliver, native of Detroit, Michigan and senior enlisted advisor to 3ABCT, 1AD. “We were the first brigade to close out our mission from the three large brigades in 1st Armored Division – Strike, Ready, and us Bulldogs.”

Bulldog Brigade has conducted more than 230 training and cultural events, in terms of combined training exercises to increase interoperability; as well as community partnership activities to further strengthen the ROK-US alliance throughout their deployment. However, meeting retention goals did not come without its challenges.

“We exceeded what we were supposed to for the first half (of the fiscal year), but it was definitely one of the more challenging missions I’ve ever had because we began with a huge disadvantage,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Thompson, native of Las Cruces, New Mexico and career counselor for 3ABCT, 1AD.

“When the mission started on October 1st, Main Body 1 (first deployment flight from home station to Korea) was leaving, so we really didn’t even start retention actions until mid-November, almost December.”

Bonuses, duty station and assignments of choice are some of the incentives offered to Soldiers by career counselors to entice retention, however, career counselors at each unit also have to take other aspects into consideration that may impact a Soldiers decision to re-enlist.

“What is making the soldiers disgruntled? What is the problem? Are they being taken care of as far as their finances go?” he said. “We get involved in their personal stuff. We’ll even have spouses call and ask questions because it’s their career too. There’s a lot involved.”

Unit career counselors also have to consider the quality of individuals they are able to retain because continuation of service is not guaranteed. Military service is regarded as a privilege, not a right, due to the responsibility, risk, and high-operational tempo each service member will be required to face during their tour of duty.

“I believe serving in the Army is a privilege and we should only retain the best of the best in the military,” said Oliver. “We’re glad to have Soldiers serve, and we appreciate all of those who want to stay, but this is a hard job and we need the best for the Army from our American society.”

Author: Maj. Anthony Clas  – 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs  

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