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Home | Tag Archives: 1st Armored Division

Tag Archives: 1st Armored Division

Modern Adjutants: Embracing Technology as AG Corps turns 245

FORT BLISS, Texas – One of the oldest basic branches in the U.S. Army, the Adjutant General’s Corps celebrated its 245th birthday on June 16.

While its origins and mission date back to the American Revolution and the formation of the Continental Army, today’s AG Soldiers use technology to provide the best in manpower, HR and music support to commanders in order to enhance readiness at all echelons and ensure success across the full spectrum of military operations.

In the 21st Century information-age, the Army is changing to best employ its personnel to most effectively achieve America’s national security requirements. AG officers and Noncommissioned officers manage functions from the HR life-cycle while continuously aiming to provide innovative solutions to optimize Army personnel readiness.

“As HR professionals, we provide support for Soldiers by making sure that all their personnel actions are processed in a timely manner because if their papers, leave, finances or mail do not get to them whenever they need it, it affects their morale,” said SGM Estela Delgado, a G-1 Human Resources Specialist at the 1st Armored Division.

“We make sure they have everything they need so they can focus on their tasks and carrying out their missions successfully,” she added.

Technology and more immediate interaction between Soldiers and their branch or assignment managers has transformed Army HR management in recent years.

A new initiative is the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP) — a decentralized, regulated, market-style hiring system — that aligns officers and units using the Assignment Interactive Module (AIM 2.0), a web-based talent management portal which allows officers to build professional resumes highlighting their unique Knowledge, Skills, Behaviors (KSBs) and preferences.

Talent Management is a deliberate approach to the processes and systems that enable the Army to better manage its people, starting with the Officer Corps.

According to CPT Margarita Quintana, a G-1 Human Resources Officer at the 1st Armored Division, one of the best parts of the AIM module is the ability for officers to connect with a unit directly to ask questions or even conduct interviews.

“Officers can interact and communicate with the unit straight on without having to wait a long time for results to come back like we did in the past,” said Quintana.

This initiative is part of the Army’s most comprehensive reform of its three officer personnel systems across the Total Force that include Active, Guard and Reserve, since the Officer Personnel Act of 1947.

Quintana has enjoyed seeing these new initiatives develop and improve after each assignment cycle.

“When the system was first deployed it was still in the testing process, but this last assignment cycle it was really truly implemented,” said Quintana. “In my experience, it was probably the biggest cycle we’ve had so far here at Fort Bliss; we were able to recruit many quality officers.”

Until now the ATAP system was only available to officers, as testing new programs was much easier to do with the smaller officer population. The Army is developing the Assignment Satisfaction Key-Enlisted Marketplace (ASK-EM) for 2021.

Modeled after the AIM 2.0 marketplace for officers, the enlisted virtual marketplace will allow staff sergeants through master sergeants to prioritize their preferences for valid and available worldwide assignments, giving them more control over their careers.

“Enlisted manning has changed so much over the years,” said Delgado. “Now they do it in cycles, five per year. In the past they used to put Soldiers on assignment almost every week.”

“With the new ASK-EM module, Enlisted Soldiers from E6 to E8 will be able to compete for positions and see how they measure up against the KSBs with full transparency,” she added.

ASK-EM marketplace will enable enlisted Soldiers to see all the jobs available during their permanent change of station (PCS) cycle, as well as the KSBs required for the positions. They will also be able to reach out to units directly to discuss what the jobs entail. It will also be provide enlisted Soldiers with their YMAVs (Year Month Available to Move) for the first time in Army history.

“The new enlisted talent marketplace is going to give us more predictability as to how long we’re going to be on installation, what jobs are available, where we can compete, how we can improve, and what we have to do to get ahead and get promoted,” said Delgado.

“In other words, it’s designed to place the right Soldier in the right position at the right time,” said Quintana.

The AG Corps is dedicated to taking care of Soldiers and manning the Army to enhance unit readiness to fight and win wars. In an environment where introduction of a new system, or one Military Personnel (MILPER) message can change everything, leader development among the AG Corps is more important than ever.

At the 1st Armored Division, the G-1 staff keep up with the ever-changing HR environment through a quarterly training program run with the MPD (Military Personnel Division) called “HR University”.

“It’s an opportunity for all of the HR entities on the installation to come together to train one another about any updated regulations or new techniques we’ve learned to do our jobs better,” said Delgado. “We share our knowledge across the board in order to keep things consistent, and to prevent misinformation from going back and forth.”

Open to all HR professionals at Fort Bliss, HR University is a full-day training workshop where HR professionals from across the installation can share insights and hone their skills and expertise to improve the HR community as a whole, as well as to better serve Soldiers.

“The Army keeps on changing, our HR systems keep on changing; We’re learning new things all the time” said Delgado.

The oldest members of the Adjutant General Corps are the Army bands. Since even before the U.S. Army was created in 1775, musicians have been an integral part of the military. From the signal corps drummers in the Revolutionary War, to the full jazz bands of WWII, music has been a critical part of the Army’s success. Army bands have provided music to instill in Soldiers the will to fight and win, foster the support of citizens, and promote national interests at home and abroad.

Modern Army bands provide resources like digital listening rooms where audiences can download recorded band music and make requests for support digitally. The 1st Armored Division Band regularly records concerts, live streams, and makes music features for social media in order to stay relevant and reach new audiences.

“We’ve been posting photos and videos on Facebook as early as 2011, but recently we’ve been posting much more due to live performances being restricted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said 1st Armored Division Band Commander, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Moore. “Lately we’ve been providing a lot of support by pre-recording our missions in lieu of live performances.”

Over the course of its long and distinguished history, the AG Corps has been responsible for several critical personnel and administrative support functions that have served to sustain the Army in peace and war. It will continue to adapt with technology for the next 245 years to serve the greatest resource our Army has: people.

Author: Jean Han –  1st Armored Division

Fuel for the Fight: Nutrition and Immunity During COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, Soldiers and their families have been forced to take on new lifestyles. For many, maintaining healthy dietary habits during this time is a struggle, but one that the Army has several programs to help with.

In this precarious environment, it has never been more important to maintain a healthy immune system, according to Capt. Michael Stablein, Registered Dietitian of 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

“You need to make sure that you’re taking care of your overall health and immunity. This new disease has brought to light that if you’re run down, it can really get a hold of you and potentially be fatal,” said Stablein. “The more you take care of yourself day to day, the better your body is going to be prepared to fight off things like this virus or anything else that your body encounters.”

The best way to boost the immune system is to eat a well-balanced diet, according to Army Public Health. Getting adequate nutrition can positively affect the body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, that means eating wholesome foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats in smaller portions. These foods are considered “nutrient dense”, meaning they are packed with essential nutrients.

“Try to eat real food, as in whole unprocessed foods. Eating a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables ensures that you receive a full range of essential vitamins and minerals,” said Capt. Asia Nakakura, Registered Dietitian of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

The USDA MyPlate food model recommends filling half your plate at each meal with vegetables and fruits, for a total of at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Grains, diary, and protein make up the rest.

“When it comes to good sources of protein, focus on chicken and fish, or lean cuts of pork, turkey and beef,” said Nakakura. “Most people associate protein with muscle, but it is also a big component of the immune system. Having adequate sources of good protein will help to keep the immune system strong.”

Key nutrients to help with immunity include:

– Zinc: A mineral with antiviral properties that may help to shorten respiratory tract infections including the common cold (shellfish, crab, beef, pork, chicken, avocados, legumes).
– Vitamin C: Protects the immune system and helps to fight off infections (citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwi).
– Vitamin D: Reduces the risk of a respiratory infection from flu-like viruses in people who start out deficient (egg yolks, cheese, salmon, mackerel, tuna).
– Probiotic rich foods: Help with your immune system (yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, pickles, tempeh, kombucha).
– Omega 3 rich foods: Help to boost your immune system (mackerel, salmon, sardines, flax seeds).
– Whole grains: Help to fight bacteria, especially grains rich in beta glucans (oats, barley).

ARMY DIETITIANS

Soldiers wanting individual nutrition consulting can seek the advice of their battalion or brigade dietitian.

As military dietitians, their main priority is to keep Soldiers combat ready at all times, which includes providing proactive health education and making sure a Soldier’s diet includes the necessary nutrients for optimal performance.

According to Nakakura, Soldiers will often stop to ask her questions in the hallway such as “What should I eat after I work out”, “What kind of protein powder should I choose,” “What supplements would you recommend”, and “What do you think about intermittent fasting?”

“Just being present helps”, said Nakakura.

Walk-ins are highly encouraged.

“They can drop in at any time. I usually will just take them and speak with them at that time,” said Nakakura. “If I happen to be with somebody, then I’ll simply schedule them for later that day or the next.”

For Soldiers wondering about the safety and efficacy of a supplement, Stablein advises to connect with a dietitian first.

“It’s best to reach out to a dietitian before they spend any money because that’s also one of our specialties,” said Stablein. “We can educate them on whether there is actually any scientific research behind it.”

Stablein also recommends checking out Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) online.

GO FOR GREEN

To take the guesswork out of healthy eating, Soldiers can look to the Go for Green (G4G) program for guidance.

Found at dining facilities (DFACs) on post, G4G indicates high-performance foods and beverages that boost the performance, readiness, and health of service members.

G4G labels foods and beverages with a stoplight system—Green for High-performance fuel, Yellow for Moderate-performance fuel, and Red for Low-performance fuel —to help Soldiers identify the best meal choices for peak health performance.

Foods are also labeled with Low, Moderate, or High sodium symbols to indicate sodium content as well.

NUTRITION GUIDE PROGRAM

Service members looking to prepare meals at home can take advantage of the Nutrition Guide Program (NGP) established at Defense Commissaries. Created to align as closely as possible to the G4G program, NGP labeling helps members of the military community to shop for nutritious healthy meals.

Food items that are DoD dietitian-approved are marked with a color-coded tag, making it easier to identify products that supplement wellness needs such as ‘low sodium’, ‘without added sugar’, ‘whole grain’, ‘low fat’, ‘a good source of fiber’ and ‘organic’.

Each category is assigned a color; a thumbs-up on the label indicates that the food meets high-nutrition and high-performance measures.

Some Soldiers may be concerned that shopping for healthy whole foods might get more expensive than purchasing packaged processed foods, but this is a common misconception, according to Stablein.

“When you actually plan it out right, it can actually be sometimes cheaper, if not on the same level as processed foods” said Stablein. “You just have to do a little bit of homework and research and make a grocery list in advance, that way you can stretch your groceries a little bit further and use up your fruits or vegetables before they spoil.”

“Eating healthy is very accessible,” he added.

RESOURCES

Go For Green (G4G)

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion

Fort Bliss Army Wellness Center (AWC)

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS)

Author:  Jean Han – 1st Armored Division 

Ft. Bliss’ 919th CBN Soldiers forge successes during Afghanistan deployment

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Soldiers from the 919th Contracting Battalion at Fort Bliss, who deployed to Afghanistan in August 2019 to lead Regional Contracting Center-Afghanistan are redeploying this week.

Commanded by Lt. Col. Eric Brooks, RCC-Afghanistan implemented effective contracting solutions to enable U.S. and coalition forces to build capacity and legitimacy for the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

The contracting center is a subordinate command of Army Contracting Command-Afghanistan and serves as the primary contract support agency for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. RCC-Afghanistan has a blended workforce of Defense Contract Management Agency employees, Department of the Army civilians, contractors and active-duty Soldiers.

Brooks, Master Sgt. Rachel Harris, 919th CBN senior enlisted adviser, Maj. Paula Harrell, the battalion executive officer, and Capt. Lawrence Forde, Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Ramirez and Staff Sgt. Cheryl Hood, 919th CBN contract specialists, departed from Fort Bliss to build relationships, strengthen readiness and deliver quick and efficient contracting solutions in support of 1st Armored Division.

RCC-Afghanistan delivered strategic and operational contracting support to more than 50,000 U.S. troops, coalition forces and civilian personnel throughout 27 forward operating bases in Afghanistan.

Headquartered at Bagram Airfield, the diversity of the workforce presented unique challenges and created opportunities to collaborate and share best practices. Two principles implemented by Brooks throughout RCC-Afghanistan were to treat others with dignity and respect, and ensure people are the first priority.

The command team worked as a single unit to synchronize direction, target the most effective priorities, and skillfully manage talent to accomplish its task of meeting the warfighter’s needs.

RCC-Afghanistan closed fiscal 2019 with 1,142 contract actions valued at $526 million and closed 435 contracts with 232 de-obligations totaling more than $124 million.

After end-of-fiscal year closeout operations, RCC-Afghanistan leadership hosted the entire workforce at a local restaurant for fellowship and presented coins for fiscal 2019 achievements.

ACC leadership visited with the RCC-A workforce in November 2019. The visit included leader professional development sessions for officers and noncommissioned officers from Maj. Gen. Paul Pardew and Command Sgt. Maj. Jill Crosby, fellowship luncheons and recognition of significant accomplishments by the workforce.

Contracting in Afghanistan is a fast-paced, dynamic environment highlighted by cradle-to-grave procurements for fuel, force-protection and private security contracts.

RCC-Afghanistan fuels contracts powered operations for the Afghan air force and Afghan national army throughout a geographically dispersed logistics network consisting of 28 aviation fuel delivery sites and 695 ground fuel delivery locations.

Force protection contracts for tall blast barriers, entry control points and perimeter fencing enhanced the survivability of the warfighter and private security contracts were essential to secure U.S. and coalition assets as well as ensure the freedom of maneuver for the Kandahar and Bagram flightlines.

Throughout the deployment, RCC-Afghanistan averaged a portfolio of 100 to 140 new requirements in conjunction with 117 active performance contracts.

Despite the size of the workload, the average procurement acquisition lead time for USFOR-Afghanistan was only 25 days. The battalion also encountered significant challenges with cultural corruption, contracting in an unstable security environment, changing requirements due to base closures and language barriers working with local Afghan vendors.

To meet these challenges, RCC-Afghanistan organized into multi-functional teams with a focus on customer alignment that integrated quality assurance and property administration representatives for maximum cradle-to-grave contract oversight.

In the pre-award contracting division, service team one aligned with USFOR-Afghanistan; service team two aligned with CSTC-Afghanistan; the construction team aligned with the USFOR-Afghanistan Joint Engineers section; and the fuels team aligned with the operations and sustainment logistics section with CSTC-Afghanistan.

The fuels team also joined the integrated product team for the counter corruption action group, resulting in more informed source selection decisions with Afghan fuel contractors. RCC-Afghanistan also imbedded an administrative contracting officer, procurement analyst and quality assurance representative with CSTC-Afghanistan at Hamid Karzai International Airport in order to deliver more responsive, on-site operational contract support for aviation and ground fuel.

In aggregate, the pre-award contracting division executed more than 700 contract actions valued at more than $400 million. The pre-award division also developed strategic contract vehicles for construction materials, heavy equipment and trash removal to meet urgent needs of the warfighter as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program footprint in Afghanistan downsized.

RCC-Afghanistan grew the training and education of the financial ordering officer program from 56 to a peak of more than 80 trained and appointed ordering officers operating at 22 locations with more than $1.5 million drawn. This increased capabilities for operational commanders to reduce acquisition lead times through use of cash as an acquisition strategy.

Operational contract support through RCC-Afghanistan touched the daily lives of every Soldier and civilian throughout Afghanistan, providing critical functions such as in- and outbound mail service, laundry, janitorial services, private security and dining facility services.

Other critical contract support missions included base optimization, tactical reset and contract closeouts to support base closures. De-obligation modifications through the closeout process, made more than $70 million available to be returned back to USFOR-Afghanistan and CSTC-Afghanistan.

These funds were reprogrammed to meet other critical mission requirements that directly impacted the safety, health and welfare of coalition forces at 16 forward operating bases throughout Afghanistan.

The Contingency Contracting Administration Services division managed a portfolio of 35 delegated contracts valued at $21 billion and was responsible for the management and oversight of more 12,000 contractors.

With 19 administrative contracting officers, the CCAS division managed the day-to-day operations of the LOGCAP IV contract, Task Orders 0004 and 0005, valued at $12 billion. LOGCAP encompasses more than 200 life support functions in Afghanistan, including food service operations, billeting management, emergency services, laundry, transportation and vehicle maintenance, facility management, handling of hazardous materials, and morale, welfare and recreation.

CCAS also provided contract administration for the National Afghan Trucking contract, also known as NAT 3.0. This contract provided extensive transportation support including hauling, pickup and delivery of Class I and III supplies.

The CCAS division was also instrumental in providing construction, waste management and power generation across the Train, Advise, and Assist Command-South, TAAC-Southwest, and TAAC-East missions executed by the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The RCC-Afghanistan property administration section, led by David Groell, oversaw eight contractors in theater and maintained custody of more than 142,891 pieces of government property valued in excess of $298 million.

In addition, the team provided reutilization and disposal direction for 287 Plant Clearance Automated Reutilization Screening System cases and established and directed reutilization priorities to ensure that $7.3 million in assets were re-appropriated within the LOGCAP enterprise.

Contracting in a contingency environment presented additional challenges, including the constant rotation of military units that provide contracting officer representative support for all service and construction contracts in theater, and expansion or de-scoping of performing contracts due to force reductions. To meet these challenges, the RCC-Afghanistan staff provided continuous customer education and outreach.

“We must provide the best customer service – meet the customers where they are, build relationships, and work with the customer to get to yes,” Brooks said during his initial leadership philosophy briefing to the workforce in August. “Meeting the customer where they are served as the foundation of frequent command team battlefield circulation visits to Kandahar, Fort Operating Base Fenty at Jalalabad, and the Hamid Karzai International Airport.”

RCC-Afghanistan invested in the training and development of the workforce and other members of the acquisition team through a rigorous internal and external training program.

Internally, weekly training sessions were executed weekly, ranging from topics such as Section 886 procedures, the bona fide need rule, contract action reports or market research, designed to enhance the technical proficiency of the workforce.

Externally, the regional contracting center invested heavily in the training of customers and external stakeholders.

A team of procurement analysts conducted recurring requirements package training for the CSTC-Afghanistan resource management, comptroller and operations and sustainment logistics groups.

Despite the high operational tempo from working seven days a week for more than 10 months, Brooks established a healthy unit environment by encouraging camaraderie through organizational events such a Halloween haunted house, Thanksgiving banquet, Christmas surprise gift opening and Super Bowl celebration with homemade breakfast for the troops.

“Everyone must take time to decompress. Allowing people to decompress is as important as meeting contract deadlines,” Harris said. “Staying spiritually, physically and mentally fit is critical to performing at the highest level. Our people are our greatest strength. We have to look out for one another and take care of each other.”

In the last quarter of their deployment the 919th CBN faced the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic changed every aspect of contracting operations across the combined joint operational area. COVID-19 had significant impacts to the workforce and its contracts.

All service and construction contracts were modified to include clauses implemented by the Cares Act. Movement of contractors and Soldiers were restricted throughout Afghanistan preventing contractors from entering the theater to execute performance on active contracts.

Soldiers in contract oversight roles could not execute routine travel to visit job sites and social distancing guidelines required working with LOGCAP providers to reconfigure our dining facilities to take-out service only.

In April, the RCC-Afghanistan workforce was reduced to 33% civilian strength and 36% strength for contracted contracting specialists due to the evacuation of high-risk personnel from Afghanistan. COVID-19 also increased the workload of our pre-award division by 10%. As a result, each member of the organization was required to go the extra mile to minimize degradation of services and ensure base life support contracts continued without interruption.

Despite workforce reductions, the contracting center pulled together to continue to provide timely contracting solutions to support and enable readiness for the warfighter and synchronize efforts across Afghanistan.

RCC-Afghanistan awarded a total of 13 contract actions for more than $4.3 million to combat COVID-19, providing critical supplies such as hand sanitizer, air purification filters, personal protective equipment and Food and Drug Administration approved rapid test kits to the Craig Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Role II hospital at the international airport and Role III hospital in Kandahar.

“RCC-Afghanistan is an exceptional organization that overcame adversity to enhance customer relationships and deliver contracting results to all mission partners across the CJOA,” said Brooks during the transfer of authority ceremony May 22. “It was my honor to serve as the RCC-A commander. There is a lot of talent on this team. Thank you for all the contributions you have made to the organization. I am extremely proud of the efforts to adapt and continue to deliver world class contracting support.”

Soldiers from the 919th CBN are returning home to their families in June after serving honorably on a 10-month deployment.

Author: Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Ramirez – Regional Contracting Center-Afghanistan

U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command

Ready First Soldier Command Sgt. Maj. Tony T. Towns to lead Army Armor School

FORT BLISS, Texas— Command Sgt. Maj. Tony T. Towns, the senior enlisted advisor with 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, is preparing to become the senior enlisted advisor for the U.S. Army Armor School at Fort Benning, Georgia, this summer.

Towns joined the U.S. Army in 1995 to become an M1A1/A2 Abrams armor crewman. Additionally, he has served as a tank driver, loader, gunner, and commander. He has also served as a platoon sergeant, operations noncommissioned officer, cavalry troop and headquarters and headquarters Troop first sergeant, operations sergeant major, and squadron command sergeant major.

Towns became a member of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and Excellence in Armor and won Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2006.

He is ready to go back to school.

“I am very excited about being selected,” said Towns. “It’s an opportunity to influence the entire armored community, which I am very passionate about. From the initial entry training Soldiers that come into the Army, to the maneuver captains that go to the Captains Career Course and all the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System, we have an opportunity to make sure that the Soldiers that come into the armored community are prepared for unified land operations across our Army, and arrive at their brigade combat team ready to contribute to the organization.”

Towns signed in as Ready 7 on November 2, 2018. He was part of the Ready First Brigade’s historic conversion from stryker to armored June 20, 2019. Since then, more than 80 tank crews and 200 tankers completed new equipment training on the brigade’s assigned tanks.

“My time with the Ready First and the 1AD has been very rewarding,” said Towns. “I arrived here right when we started the conversion from stryker to armored. During that process, I got a better understanding of force and personnel management, how we receive equipment and personnel. The Army doesn’t just have sergeants and staff sergeants waiting to come to a brigade combat team, so we started growing from the Initial Entry Training and On-Site Unit Training community. At one point, we had a lot of junior enlisted, but not many leaders. That was very profound.”

Towns is scheduled to relinquish responsibilities as brigade command sergeant major this July.

“Command Sgt. Maj. Towns was instrumental in leading the Ready First Combat Team through organizational change as they converted from a Stryker Brigade Combat Team to an Armor Brigade Combat Team,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb, 1st Armored Division senior enlisted advisor. “He has been passionate about developing subordinates into future leaders and ensuring that each interaction with Soldiers, peers, and superiors is a positive growth experience. I look forward to seeing all of the great things he will do for the Armor community in his next position as the Armor Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Major. 1st Armored Division’s loss is the Armor community’s gain.”

“As a people-person, it’s hard for me to leave after having built so many important relationships,” said Towns. I will always have the Ready First in my thoughts and prayers.”

Story by Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet and Maj. Danielle Covington  –1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

1st Armored Division marks Ninth Anniversary at Fort Bliss

FORT BLISS, Texas – America’s Tank Division marks the nine year anniversary of its historic return to U.S. soil after serving four decades abroad on May 13th.

After 1st Armored Division cased the colors on May 13, 2011 at Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany, the division command team uncased the colors to the booms of howitzer cannon fire echoing off El Paso’s Franklin Mountains on May 24, 2011, as an official welcome to Fort Bliss.

The occasion marked the first time the division colors were unfurled in the U.S. since 1971 and the homecoming of the last U.S. Army division to leave Germany.

It was also the start of the special bond and rapid growth of Fort Bliss and the City of El Paso. With the relocation of the 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss grew from 9,000 soldiers in 2005 to more than 34,000 in 2011.

Acting senior commander Brig. Gen. Matthew Eichburg previously served with 1AD from 2006-2009 when it was headquartered in Germany, as well as during two deployments with the division.

During that time, Eichburg initially served as the Executive Officer for 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade in 2006 and then transitioned to serve as the Brigade S-3 Operations Officer in 2007.

“To be a part of the division’s history across multiple continents is incredible. The increased opportunities for training here at Fort Bliss demonstrate that this was absolutely the right place for us to be, not to mention the welcome we received in becoming a part of the City of El Paso,” said Eichburg.

“If someone told me 11 years ago I would be a part of the Old Ironsides history at this level, I would never have believed it. It is an honor beyond belief,” he added.

The start of the division’s move to El Paso began in 2005, when the Pentagon determined that the division should move in accordance with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission’s recommendations.

The commission recommended developing Fort Bliss from an institutional training post to a major mounted maneuver training installation with the capacity for heavy armored units. With a vast 1.12 million acres of training area available, there was more than enough real estate to accommodate the 1st Armored Division’s 11,500 incoming troops.

The division did not move as a whole, as it was tasked with several deployments at the time, according to Kari Atkinson, Director of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss Museum.

“From 2003 to 2011, 1AD units were deployed to different countries at different times,” said Atkinson. “The physical move took about six years to complete because various units were moving back and forth, in and out. It was like moving a house one bedroom at a time.”

According to Master Sgt. Albert Apodaca, the Chief Ammunition NCO of G4 Plans & Operations, his unit – 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division – was the first to stand up in 2006 (which was later reflagged to 4/1AD in March 2008). Apodaca was able to experience the Fort Bliss growth firsthand as a platoon sergeant.

“Before my first deployment from Bliss in 2006, it was a ghost town,” said Apodaca. “There was hardly any infrastructure, roads or buildings.”

“It got much busier after I returned from my second deployment in 2010, but now after nine years, it’s become a full blown working division,” he added. “It’s like night and day.”

By the end of 2010, all the major brigades had relocated to Fort Bliss. Division headquarters joined the subordinate brigades the following year in May 2011.

Major construction projects went underway at Fort Bliss as a part of the expansion, which transformed the post on several fronts including operations facilities, training areas and Soldier quality of life functions.

New facilities included the battalion, brigade and division headquarters, company operations facilities, barracks and motor pools. Training areas and ranges also had to be updated to accommodate armored vehicles such as tanks, Abrams, Bradleys, and aircraft.

On top of orchestrating the move of thousands of troops, the division had to transport thousands of pieces of equipment such as bayonets, humvees and generators, all of which required carefully planned logistics and coordination.

Fort Bliss is considered to be one of the largest continental U.S. expansions of any installation in the last several decades in terms of population size, construction size and end state growth. It is the largest Forces Command installation in the Army, the second-largest in the Department of Defense overall. With the growth of Fort Bliss, so came the growth of the city of El Paso.

“The city of El Paso has grown a lot too. It’s become a great place for Soldiers and families to live,” said Apodaca. “There is a city right outside the gate and it’s more accommodating compared to other bases across America.”

On top of fueling the local economy, Fort Bliss directly employs more than 48,000 and supports more than 136,000 Texas jobs.

Due to the special relationship that Fort Bliss has with the city, the community worked with Fort Bliss to accommodate the influx of Soldiers and family members by building loops to connect the post to El Paso’s freeways and expanded transportation projects throughout the city.

Before saying Auf Wiedersehen, 1st Armored Division made Germany its home as part of the Army’s post-Vietnam reorganization in 1971. For the next 40 years, the division played a tremendous role as part of the American forces committed to a NATO defense of Europe.

1AD deployed to the Middle East in the early 90s to serve in major support operations including Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.

The late 90s saw Iron Soldiers deploying to the Balkans for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo. The new millennium saw the division deploy multiple times to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom.

While the division’s move to El Paso and the opportunities for expansion at Fort Bliss are just shy of a decade, 2020 brings with it another major milestone later this summer. On July 15, the division, also known by the moniker Old Ironsides, will be turning the ripe old age of 80.

Author:  Jean Han – 1st Armored Division

Bulldog Brigade: From the field to the classroom amidst pandemic

FORT BLISS, Texas – “What’s important to me from a field grade in my formation is: one, you’ve got to be an expert at your job; two, as a field grade, when given a task, even if it’s outside your expertise, you must contribute; lastly, field grade officers solve problems for the commander,” Col. Marc Cloutier, commander 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog”, 1st Armored Division.

Leaders from the brigade S4 (Logistics Operations Section) from 3rd ABCT, 1st AD, conducted a two-part, distributed-Logistics Forum with students taking a logistics operations elective at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, April 16 and April 23, to provide the cohort with feedback from peers conducting sustainment operations in a tactical-level organization.

“One of the opportunities I wish I had, while I was at the school house (CGSC), was to engage someone who was actually in the field, and ask them – ‘Did they (CGSC) prepare us well?’ the school (CGSC) just doesn’t have the ability to replicate that,” said Maj. Ryan Molina, native of Ashburn, Virginia, Brigade S4, for 3rd ABCT, 1st AD. Having the opportunity to ask the question – ‘What are you seeing at the tactical level?’ from somebody that’s about to go into that seat – that was our intention for the forum.”

The two-part logistics forum provided majors enrolled in the Logistics Operations Planner Course elective at CGSC the opportunity to hear firsthand from sustainment professionals in an armored brigade combat team.

Topics discussed during the forum included: Brigade Sustainment Operations Overview, Finance and Budget Management, Transportation and Mobility Considerations, Food Services Planning and Execution, Property Book Office Procedures; as well as Expectations and Feedback from the Bulldog Brigade Commander, Command Sgt. Maj., and Executive Officer.

Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Daniels, native of Washington D.C., non-commissioned officer in charge of sustainment operations for 3rd ABCT, 1st AD, discusses the mentality incoming brigade logistics officers should have as they take charge of sustainment operations for a tactical-level organization.

“The mentality they (Logistics Officers) have to have is to be open minded to who they’re going to be dealing with,” said Daniels. “Of course, they have to come in running and get their feet wet, but they have to know who’s on their team, who’s dependable, who’s not, and who can make something happen. The Brigade S4 Officer is in charge of everything that happens in the section. The PBO (Property Book Officer) is in charge of the (unit) property book, change command inventories, ordering and fielding, lateral transfers, equipment turn-in directives. The Mobility Officer deals with the movement of everything. They have to deal with the unit going from here to another training area just to support, and manage how the unit gets government contracted vehicles.”

There is a significant learning curve for junior field-grade officers as they transition from the year-long CGSC program to serving in a key-

Col. Marc Cloutier, commander of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog”, 1st Armored Division, delivers opening comments at the Logistics Forum, led by the Bulldog Brigade S4 Section, to students at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in the Logistics Operations Planner Course to provide insight of expectations from a brigade commander’s perspective of what is expected from a field grade officer upon arrival to the organization, April, 23. | U.S. Army photo by Maj. Anthony Clas

developmental assignment on a higher-headquarters staff to assume responsibility of sustainment operations in a high-tempo organization managing millions of dollars and thousands of personnel as a logistics officer.

“I’ve never been assigned to a BCT (Brigade Combat Team), light or heavy, so the electives here at CGSC (Command and General Staff College) really give me an opportunity to institutionally learn what I haven’t learned through personal experience,” said Maj. Ashian Azadi, native of Los Angeles, student at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Azadi participated in the two-part Logistics Forum, facilitated by Bulldog Brigade, via the Army University Blackboard virtual platform.

“There was a lot of value and a lot of things that I liked about the two sessions,” said Azadi. “I’ll tell you that at first, I thought it was going to maybe a few field grade officers from the Brigade BSB (Brigade Support Battalion) and SPO (Support Operations Officer) section. It seemed like most of the brigade participated, to include the brigade XO (Executive Officer) and the commander, Bulldog 6. That was impressive – they valued our time, our education, and this opportunity so much that they wanted to participate. There were so many participants willing to share information or answer our questions; and it helps to understand the layers of what’s important to whom, and how everybody has to work together to accomplish that same mission.”

Molina and his team generated a presentation for the cohort at CGSC, and worked through the challenges of adhering to social-distancing guidelines necessary during the logistics-forum event.

“The systems (command and control) we had in place required a lot of face to face meetings and engagements, so it very much shaped our thought process on not only decide what kind of systems we would use, whether it be CVR (Commercial, Virtual, Remote), whether it be DCS (Defense Connect System), or reaching out to the school house using blackboard,” said Molina.

The best practices gained while taking the initiative to ensure all subject-matter experts were able to field the questions from the virtual audience, of whom are preparing to meet the expectations of their gaining-unit leaders and Soldiers, served as a proof of principle as to how operations may continue even after we move beyond the constrained COVID-19 conditions.

“Even after COVID-19 allows us to go back to a more steady state operations, I think we’re going to use a lot of the systems we’ve established during this timeframe,” said Molina.

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

The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog”, 1st Armored Division, S4 section: Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Neniskus, Property Book Officer; Maj. Ryan Molina, Brigade S4; Capt. Avery Rucker, Finance Officer, Sgt 1st Class Alexander Daniels, Brigade S4 Non-commissioned Officer-in-Charge; and Capt. Malcom Perry, Assistant Brigade S4; lead a Logistics Forum for the students at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Logistics Operations Planner Course to provide firsthand insight to day-to-day sustainment operations at the tactical level. | U.S. Army photo by Maj. Anthony Clas

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

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