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.”
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.”
CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – Combat medics, trained to provide care at a moment’s notice, demonstrated their technical competence as they performed lifesaving steps to a battle buddy clinging to life.
“I poked my head in (the room) and I saw him on his back,” said Sgt. Justin Shove, combat medic specialist and Marysville, Washington native, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment “Regulars,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (Rotational).
Shove ran into his suitemate’s room and witnessed Cpl. Michael Decoeur, Crawfordville, Florida, combat medic specialist, 4-6 Inf. Regt., unconscious, eyes wide open, his skin turning blue and gasping for air at Camp Humphreys, Republic of Korea, Feb. 20. Decoeur was having a heart attack.
“His body was compensating for the fact that his heart stopped,” said Shove.
Shove checked Decoeur’s pulse and noticed his heart rate was weak, but steady. He contacted Sgt. Juan Ramos, Phoenix, Arizona native, platoon sergeant, 4th Bn. 6th Inf. Regt., who called 911 to send emergency medical services to the barracks.
Shove then left the room and banged on Spc. Joel Galavez, 4-6 Inf. Regt. combat medic specialist and San Jacinto, California native, screaming his name, then returned to Decoeur’s side to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Ramos soon arrived and the three medics provided CPR in shifts until EMS arrived at the scene.
“The EMS personnel kind of worked around us,” said Ramos, 4-6 Inf. Regt. “They could tell we knew what we were doing. We kept performing CPR until the emergency medical technicians had to take Deceour to the hospital.”
Decoeur was transferred to Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital in Dongtan in critical condition. He was later medically evacuated to Tripler Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii for advanced care and rehabilitation.
Decoeur’s teammates credit constant training and the high state of readiness enforced throughout the brigade for their actions on that day.
“It was really no time to be scared,” said Ramos. “We saw what we needed to do and luckily we had a positive outcome to where he has the best chance to make a full recovery.”
Decoeur’s status has since improved.
“When your leadership says, ‘you gain muscle memory by doing it over and over again,’ it’s true,” said Ramos. “I was surprised at how fast it comes back to you when you are put in a situation that actually requires the knowledge.”
“Rangers Lead the Way!” The U.S. Army Ranger motto symbolizes its unique mission set; the ability to deploy forces within 18 hours of notification.
One of the requirements to be an Army Ranger is to complete the grueling 61-day Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. This arduous task requires training and support from loved ones.
Staff Sgt. Austin Forby, cavalry scout, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment “Dakota,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (Rotational), graduated from Ranger Class 04-19 at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 5. His wife, Emily, and son, Kason, were there to see him earn the highly-coveted Ranger Tab.
“Without a strong family support network I would have never made it through Ranger School,” said Forby. “The letters I received from my family and friends really helped push me through the hard times.”
The Forby family comes from the small town of Benton, Illinois, which continued to support them throughout Cole’s military service and multiple deployments.
“I, along with different family members and community members at home wrote him over 100 letters,” said Emily Forby, who is also the family readiness group leader for Troop A, 2-13th Cav. Regt. “We come from a small town that really supports Cole in everything he does.”
Cole is preparing to join the rest of 2-13th Cav. Regt. forward in the Republic of Korea assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division in the coming weeks.
Emily and Kason will continue to support their troop as he goes forward along with the rest of his support network from back home, who kept him going through Ranger School.
“After I made some posts on Facebook about Austin being at Ranger School, I had lots of people ask for his address so they could write him,” she said. “Our hometown is amazing with support.”
CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – The Army’s first priority is readiness – ensuring our Soldiers have the tools and training they need to be lethal and ready to fight and win, as stated by Army Secretary Mark Esper.
The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog,” 1st Armored Division (Rotational Unit) has been deployed to the Republic of Korea since September 2018 as the sixth rotational brigade to support the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division.
“When we arrived here on the ground last October, I told 2ID (2ID/RUCD) we were ready to take over from Raider Brigade (1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division) and support our U.S. and ROK Allies,” said Col. Marc Cloutier, Marlborough, Connecticut native and commander of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The Bulldog Brigade stayed busy maintaining their readiness posture during the first half of the deployment, conducting several combined small-arms and crew-served weapons ranges, field artillery gunnery ranges, sling-load and air assault exercises, and other training exercises to build the brigade’s proficiency in warrior tasks, which enhances their ability to shoot, move, communicate, survive, and adapt in any contingency.
“Since our arrival, Bulldog Soldiers have shown just that. We have done a number of individual and crew served weapons ranges; fired our Artillery and Mortar crews; maneuvered our tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, and participated in a number of combined operations with our ROK Allies,” said Cloutier. “Most notably, we were assigned 13 ROK officers to our brigade and battalion staffs to make us a truly combined staff. These officers just returned from a month-long training exercise at our National Training Center in California. These ROK officers and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) will become the continuity for the next rotational force, and that’s a great thing for the 2ID/RUCD.”
“Fight tonight” is a hallmark readiness phrase shared across the U.S. Army and allied militaries as if it were the new Army motto. However, training is not the only focus for Bulldog Brigade during its deployment. The rotational unit has circulated its personnel through several cultural awareness events across the Korean Peninsula to learn the customs and rich history of its ROK Allies.
“Our Soldiers are embedded in the social fabric here on the ROK,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Oliver, a native of Detroit, Michigan, senior enlisted advisor for 3rd ABCT, 1st AD. “We’ve experienced multiple cultural awareness events since we arrived to include the Shinhan University Head Start program, multiple outreach events in the surrounding communities at Camps Humphreys and Casey, and continue to learn and develop ourselves alongside our KATUSAs (Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army) and ROK Army Soldiers.”
The brigade has a multitude of cultural awareness and readiness training events planned for the remainder of their deployment. Future training opportunities will afford the rotational Soldiers the ability to increase interoperability with their ROK Army Allies and further immerse their Soldiers in Korean culture fostering the strong alliance shared between the combined force.
“Going forward, we have a great lineup in the next few months,” said Cloutier. “We’ll be on the ranges shooting gunnery, we’ll be conducting more combined operations with our ROK allies, and finally, we’ll be preparing our Soldiers and equipment to return this summer to our families at Ft. Bliss, Texas. They have been the stalwarts of our brigade, supporting us every day in the execution of our tasks. We couldn’t do this without their involvement.”
The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division assumed responsibility as the rotational armored brigade combat team in Korea during a transfer of authority (TOA) ceremony on October 22.
Soldiers from the “Bulldog” brigade began arriving here in late September to begin their nine-month rotation.
Bulldog Soldiers replaced the Raider Soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, who completed their first ever rotation to Korea after U.S. armored brigades began rotating on the Korean peninsula June 2015.
Hosted by Maj. Gen. Scott McKean, a San Jose, California native, commander of 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, the TOA ceremony completed the mission hand-off between the two armored BCTs.
“Over the last nine months, the Raider brigade from the great Rock of the Marne division, served with honor and distinction,” said McKean. “During their rotation they furthered interoperability with our ROK partners and demonstrated their Soldiers toughness throughout.”
“Raiders, you should be proud of all you’ve accomplished; Our Army is better because of all of your efforts. You are second to none,” he added.
The deployment marked an historic return of 3rd ID Soldiers to the Republic of Korea. This was the first time that Rock of the Marne troops have served in the ROK since fighting throughout the Korean War.
“At Fort Stewart, our battalions are all within walking distance of each other. Here we were split between Camp Humphreys, Camp Casey-Hovey and Rodriguez Live Fire Range with the world’s fifth largest metropolitan area in the middle,” said Col. Mike Adams, commander, 1st ABCT. “Our Soldiers trained and competed in everything they could across Korea.”
He also mentioned that some Raider troops represented 2ID/RUCD at the Sullivan Cup, competed in the military intelligence and best medic competitions, and qualified expert on all weapons platforms.
This will be a new mission for the Bulldog brigade and 1st AD as a whole. Nearly 10 Army units have completed rotations to the Republic of Korea since 2013, including armored brigades and various battalions. Brigade rotations began after the Army deactivated 2ID/RUCD’s organic brigade, the 1st “Iron” Brigade, in 2015.
“Our mission here in the Pacific is remarkable in the regard that it’s the first time a 1st Armored Division unit will conduct operations on the Korean Peninsula,” said Col. Marc A. Cloutier, a Marlborough, Connecticut native, commander, 3rd ABCT. “Many thanks to our new division leadership, the 2nd Infantry Division. We are certainly honored to become part of your storied legacy, Second to None!”
During their time in the ROK, the Bulldog Brigade will support the 2ID/RUCD in maintaining peace on the Peninsula.
“We look forward to building on Raider Brigade’s superb work they’ve done here. We are particularly excited to establish strong relationships with our Republic of Korea partners, and we know that our efforts will have a significant impact here in your country,” concluded Cloutier.
Deployment readiness does not fall solely on the shoulders of a Soldier alone. Family members of deployed Soldiers also have to prepare for the emotional strain at home while they’re separated from their Soldiers for an extended period of time.
One tactic being used by Dakota Squadron is the distribution of Soldier dolls to Families of Soldiers preparing for the unit’s upcoming deployment.
Chaplain (Capt.) Brian Funk and his assistant Spc. Monroig, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry “Dakota,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division facilitated the Soldier Doll distribution, Sept. 27, which is designed to shorten the distance between Families and their Soldiers during the unit’s deployment to the Republic of Korea this fall.
“The idea behind it (Soldier Doll Program) is for the dolls to be picked up by the parents and then the photo is inserted into the doll (for their children) to shorten the distance a little for the Soldiers while they’re deployed,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Brian Funk, chaplain for 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
Sgt. Christopher Smith, cavalry scout with 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division and father of a one-year old son and six-year old daughter, is grateful for the program.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone that worked on getting the dolls,” said Smith.
Smith also discusses other events orchestrated by the unit’s family readiness group and ministry team for Families.
“We’ve had a lot of family events that have been going on throughout the Squadron. We had the Spouse Spur Ride a couple weeks ago, and we got to go on a (Strong Bonds) couples retreat, about a month or so ago,” Smith added.
Katie Lubischer, family readiness group leader for Damage Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment is also very excited about the Soldier Doll program and adds insight from an expecting mother’s perspective.
“I think it’s great. We have a lot of wives that are expecting to give birth, including myself, while they’re gone,” said Lubischer. “I think it’s a great thing to put the picture in so they (the children) can get used to the face.”
A strong support network is important during times of separation and Lubischer and the rest of the Squadron’s Families are ready for the task.
“We’ve built up such a great support network and we also have a lot of events coming up including our Trunk or Treat, I’m so excited,” said Lubischer. “There’s so many things to look forward to and so many things that we’re providing the families with, so I think it’s going to be a great deployment.”
Author: Maj. Anthony Clas – 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs