window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'UA-29484371-30');
Monday , March 30 2020
Utep Football Generic 728
Covid-19 Fund 728
BTU2020 728
8k Walkrun 728
West Texas Test Drive 728
EPCON_2020 728
Spring Training 728
Mountains 728
Home | Tag Archives: fort bliss

Tag Archives: fort bliss

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

Army leaders inspire JMC officer to become a leader in modernization

As a young enlisted Solider, Maj. Wesley Ward saw both good and bad commanders. Seeing both led him to want to become an officer himself.

“I had one company commander when I was enlisted that would fight as hard as any other soldier and place himself at risk alongside of his soldiers,” Ward said. “That truly inspired me. I have also served under a few battalion commanders who have taught and demonstrated that the Army — when run correctly — is a job of service.”

However …

“I also had a company commander who I wasn’t that thrilled with,” Ward said. “I think soldiers deserve a warfighter, someone willing to lead them in front of danger, and that’s what inspired me to go and do the transition to become an officer.”

Ward is now the lead planner in the Field Experiments Division at the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas. Ward’s desire to be at Fort Bliss is how he first learned of JMC.

“I learned about JMC through my assignments officer as a way to get here to Bliss,” Ward said. “It was a good transition back into the real Army. I had been working for four years at the Captain’s Career Course. I saw this as an opportunity to, one, look at the Army from a different angle than your typical company to battalion to brigade type of thing. To learn more about the larger picture. And two, it was a good way to get to a duty station that I really wanted to come to.”

Maj. Wesley Ward (fourth row, far left) with B Company, 1-5 Infantry soon after he first enlisted in the Army. | Photo courtesy Maj. Wesley Ward

JMC has tasked Ward with integrating Multi-Domain Operations-focused future concepts, capabilities, and formations into JointWarfighting Assessment 20 and Defender 20. In Army Futures Command, concepts are pre-doctrine ideas on how the Army will fight in the future, and capabilities are the equipment needed to fight in the future. JMC is a subordinate command of AFC.

JWA 20, planned for April 25 to May 15, 2020, in Germany and Poland, is the Army’s largest annual live, multinational experiment, focused on MDO.

JWAs focus on refining concepts, capabilities and formations through soldier and leader feedback at live experiments.

JWA 20 is nested with the 37,000-strong Defender 20 exercise. About 20,000 U.S. service members will deploy from the continental U.S. to Europe for the exercises, including active-duty units from multiple Army divisions, National Guard units from 11 states, and seven U.S. Army Reserve units, making Defender 20 the largest deployment of U.S.-based Army forces to Europe in 25 years.

Then-Capt. Wesley Ward (center) with the command team for B Troop, 6-4 Cavalry. | Photo courtesy Maj. Wesley Ward

Ward will spend the coming months assisting JMC Field Experiments Division system managers and team leaders, who are responsible for managing individual systems, with information requests to and from U.S. Army Europe to prepare for JWA 20 and Defender 20. He will also conduct general staff functions and answer information requests from the various system’s sponsors.

Ward said he originally enlisted in the Army go find some direction in his life, and his time at JMC has helped propel his Army career forward.

“My time at JMC has made me a better leader by enabling me to work in a non-standard environment and apply problem solving skills at a larger level,” Ward said. “I have been able to further my ability to solve complex problems and help, in at least a small part, the direction the Army will go in the future.”

Ward and his wife, Regina, have been married for 16 years, and they have two children. Ward said they are enjoying the culture of El Paso and love the sunny weather, which allows them to spend time playing baseball and driving in their JEEP.

Author: Jonathan Koester – Joint Modernization Command

New year brings new access, privileges to millions of military veterans

Fort Bliss access control points and lines at some on-post retail locations could be longer the first few weeks of the new year as part of a new policy implementation.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security are expanding commissary, Exchange, and certain Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation retail privileges to veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, those with service-connected disabilities, and individuals approved and designated as primary family caretakers of eligible veterans.

The change is part of the the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law in August.

To access their new privileges, Fort Bliss Military Personnel Division Chief Amy Rodick said eligible veterans must obtain a Veterans Health Identification Card from the Veterans Administration. The VHIC must display the veteran’s eligibility status as Purple Heart, former POW, or service connected.

“They can apply for the VHIC online, or by calling, 1-877-222-VETS,” she said. “The Fort Bliss ID card office does not issue these ID cards. It is through the VA, not the installation.”

Eligible veterans can also visit the El Paso VA Health Care System main campus to initiate the VHIC process. Current card holders do not need to obtain a new VHIC unless their card was issued prior to 2016, according to El Paso VA Public Affairs Officer Ginette Bocanegra.

She said if veterans have an older version of the card, they can update their information in the VA system on a walk-in basis at the El Paso VA main medical center located at 5001 North Piedras St., Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

“The cards are printed in Saint Louis, Missouri and mailed to the veteran’s home within three to four weeks,” Bocanegra said.

The VHIC can not be used to gain access to the installation upon first use. Before the veteran can visit participating facilities, they must first register their card at one of the Fort Bliss Visitor Control Centers.

In addition to the VHIC, veterans who drive will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license and proof of insurance, as well as be able to pass a basic, on-the-spot background check. Additionally, designated primary family caregivers must present an eligibility letter from the VA’s Office of Community Care.

If an eligible veteran is not eligible to obtain a VHIC, the DoD will temporarily accept the VA Health Eligibility Center Form H623A, indicating placement in Priority Group 8E, paired with an acceptable credential, such as a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport, until the DoD and the VA identify a scannable, secure acceptable credential. These documents should be taken to the Fort Bliss VCC upon first use.

Veterans eligible solely under this act, who are not enrolled in VA health care, or who are enrolled in VA health care, but do not possess a VHIC will not have access to DoD or Coast Guard installations for in-person commissary, Exchange, and FMWR retail privileges.

More information about VHIC eligibility is available at online.

Not all FMWR facilities are included with the new eligibility, only those classified as self-sustaining, or category C, activities, which do not rely on government appropriations to operate will be available; participating Fort Bliss facilities are listed below.

Only the eligible veterans and designated caregivers will have access to the privileges at participating facilities. Privileges do not extend to the veteran’s family members, unless the family member is designated as the primary family caregiver of the eligible veteran under the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

Participating Fort Bliss facilities include:

All Exchange facilities
Fort Bliss Commissary
Centennial Banquet and Conference Center
Desert Strike Lanes Bowling Center
Funky Rooster Coffee
Java Cafe Express
Pershing Pub
Rod and Gun Club
RV Storage Office
Underwood Golf Complex, Pro Shop and The Golden Tee Restaurant

Fort Bliss Garrison Commander Col. Stuart James said the first few days after launching such a complex effort could be challenging for some until all of the bugs are worked out of the process, but he is excited about the eligibility expansion.

“Team Bliss is ready to welcome back this portion of our veteran community,” he said. “They earned these privileges with their service and sacrifice, and it is our duty to ensure they are able to smoothly access the installation and show them why we offer the best quality-of-life program in the DoD.”

Author: Michelle Gordon  –  Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office 

Bliss housing town hall focuses on improvements, safety

Fort Bliss senior leaders, along with the installation housing partner, Balfour Beatty Communities, recently held a housing town hall, to provide an update on improvements and progress, as well as gather resident input.

“Senior Army and Fort Bliss leadership are proactive when it comes to engaging residents of privatized housing directly to ensure their concerns are captured and provided to our housing partner,” said Guy Volb, director of Fort Bliss Garrison public affairs. “In addition to resident town halls, they also visit individual homes and conduct drive-arounds throughout the housing areas to identify community deficiencies.”

Fort Bliss Garrison Commander Col. Stuart James opened the forum with brief remarks and then immediately turned the floor over to BBC Project Director Brian Beauregard and Community Manager Jessica Holston.

Holston said BBC is currently focused on reducing call wait times and increasing the overall phone experience for residents. She said now when a resident calls BBC, a person answers the phone, rather than an automated redirect. This change ensures residents do not get lost in a phone tree and they get answers to their questions.

“The ball was being dropped and we definitely saw it,” she said.

For routine maintenance requests, Holston encourages residents to use the online portal to submit work orders rather than calling. During the month of October, only 45 percent of total work orders were placed through the online portal and BBC representatives would like that number to increase over the next few months.

“It’s a great convenience factor for our families,” she said. “You can put as many details as you want and then someone will call you to schedule the work order. We’re always looking for ways to make things easier and better for our families.”

Holston added that the online portal for routine work orders frees up the phone line for residents with emergency work orders and urgent matters.

Beauregard provided an update on outstanding issues. He said all of the issues identified at the first housing town hall in February fall into five categories: policy changes, safety, customer service focus, standards, and health.

He spoke about two of the main safety concerns, animal control and playgrounds.

Now that the installation animal control contract is expanded to include the housing areas, residents can call (915) 642-5477 for animal control. Beauregard said between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. the response time is within one hour, and after hours, weekends and holidays, the response time is two hours.

James told the audience that the animal control issue gained command visibility because of an Interactive Customer Evaluation comment. ICE sites allow DoD customers to rate products and services provided by DoD offices and facilities worldwide. The Fort Bliss ICE site is

“Your ICE comments matter,” he said. “We got feedback from the community about an animal eager to get into the housing area, so we were able to rectify that issue. Keep your ICE comments coming because they allow us to see issues that we may not otherwise see.”

The on-post playgrounds are all receiving some much needed love and attention.

Beauregard said during 2019 his team invested more than $700,000 in playground upgrades, including: repairing and replacing equipment, replacing and replenishing fall protection materials, and providing shade structures.

“In 2019 we addressed a total of 16 playgrounds across six housing areas,” he said. “And for 2020, we’ve earmarked a million dollars for playgrounds. If approved, that will address between 20 and 26 playgrounds across nine different housing areas. It’s not going to address everything, because there are 60 playgrounds across Fort Bliss, but we are hoping that over the next two years we’ll be able to get to all of them.”

Ongoing BBC actions include: pre-clearing inspections, street lights, playgrounds, quality and completeness of work orders, and timeliness of work orders in historic homes.

“Our BBC partner has heard your concerns and they put their money where their mouth is by hiring additional people to take care of the issues on the installation,” James said. “The Army has also funded 11 more Army housing inspectors to assist in making sure our partners are held accountable and to ensure we are correcting the problems that have been identified in the Fort Bliss housing areas.”

One of the main concerns brought up during the forum had nothing to do with the quality of housing. Many of the attendees, as well as recent ICE comments, identified speeding as the biggest concern in the housing areas and near the elementary schools. Beauregard said while BBC is doing what they can with signs and speed cushions, they are working with the installation leadership to address the problem as a whole.

Fort Bliss Police Chief Mike Barnes was part of the town hall panel. He addressed the concerns of the attendees and assured them that his team is aware of the most prevalent speeding areas, and they are taking action.

“Speeding is a community effort,” James said. “We’ve had a speeding problem on Fort Bliss and we are addressing it through several means. We are strictly enforcing the speed limit and correcting the bad habit that has perpetuated across the installation.”

As part of the Army-wide focus on housing, Fort Bliss housing town halls are held quarterly at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center. The time of the event alternates between day and evening to provide an opportunity for all residents to attend. The September town hall was held at 6 p.m. to accommodate those who work during the day, while the most recent one started at 10 a.m. on December 4th, to allow parents with school-age children to attend during the school day.

The next town hall will be held in the spring.

Author: Michelle Gordon – Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office

Meet the Gallardos: Younger sister outranks older sister on deployment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st Armored Division’s Torch Week 2019: Honoring legacy, building camaraderie

FORT BLISS, Texas – Cheers of excitement and waves of applause cut through the crisp autumn air as 1st Armored Division Soldiers and veterans were recognized and celebrated at a ceremony closing the annual Torch Week commemoration.

Iron Soldiers from across 1AD participated in the division’s annual Torch Week event from November 4-7, participating in sporting competitions, demonstrations and celebrations designed to build morale across the unit, strengthen family readiness and fortify unit cohesion.

“Torch week is a planned event each year where we can bring in Soldiers, families, veterans and the community to come support and celebrate the division,” said Maj. Devin Henry, a native of Newport, Rhode Island, an operations officer for 1AD and the action officer for Torch Week. “Soldiers have the opportunity to have sporting competitions and events, spend time with family and also build morale within their units.”

The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1AD, won the 2019 Torch Week Award, an honor which was presented to the brigade that won the most sports competitions during the week. The sports events included combatives, basketball, flag football, softball and ultimate frisbee tournaments as well as 10k and 5k races, a golf scramble event and a bowling challenge.

“This week’s events and competitions are primarily tailored towards building espirit de corps and having fun,” said Henry. “Families can come and watch their Soldiers compete in sporting events, as we have gyms and facilities open for visitors. It’s usually difficult for families to come see competitions such as the best ranger, best tank or best warrior which are inaccessible to guests, so a lot of the sporting events were tailored to each brigade’s capabilities and facilities to allow for maximum participation.”

Torch Week is named for 1AD’s participation in Operation Torch, a World War II campaign focused on the invasion of North Africa in 1942.

“We took a memorable event for the Division, 1AD’s participation in Operation Torch, and we made it into an event for the week,” said Henry. “It’s not just about the sports or bringing units together, it’s also about the remembrance of the veterans who came before us and to commemorate them through the events that we have throughout the week, finishing with the Veterans Day ceremony and parade. It brings it all together in a culminating event to share that moment and remember all of their sacrifices.”

Six 1AD veterans and participating members of the 1st Armored Division Association, an organization composed of veterans and family members committed to preserving and honoring the legacy of the division, also participated in Torch Week by attending demonstrations, receiving tours and meeting Iron Soldiers. 1AD honored two World War II veterans who participated in Operation Torch, George Weese Jr., a native of St. Louis and retired private first class with the 16th Engineer Battalion, Horace Carratelli, a native of New York City and retired first sergeant with the 123rd Armored Ordnance Battalion, Vietnam War veteran John Lessick, a native of Chicago and retired specialist 4 with the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Gulf War veteran Joseph Theriot, a retired first sergeant with 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment and former 1AD command sergeants majors Roger Blackwood and David Davenport.

“I think events like Torch Week are great. It allows for Soldiers to take a break from training,” said Theriot. “Taking a break from training allows Soldiers to relax a little bit and to stand down. Relaxation time is needed, because if you’re constantly stressed, you lose that fighting edge.”

Soldiers had the opportunity to meet the veterans, listen to their stories and share their experiences with 1AD and the Army, learning and understanding about the division’s past.

“Most of the time, people ask what you did back then, and people talk about what went well. But it’s important to know what happened incorrectly or poorly too, so that we can learn from those mistakes in the past,” said Theriot. “The rank and file Soldier should talk with the veterans so they can learn what went wrong and what to avoid. You can always find something to take back when you talk with a veteran.”

Torch Week provides the opportunity for Soldiers to build morale within their units and to further solidify the bonds and partnerships that bind them, ensuring that 1AD remains a committed and capable force ready to meet any mission goals.

“Building morale for the unit is important, as happy soldiers can spread the word and be good spokesmen for the division,” said Henry. “What’s most important with our morale is that we take this spirit forward as we prepare for deployments and any rotational missions. Soldiers will bring these ideas and this ‘winning is everything’ competitive attitude towards their future in with the division.”

Author:  Pvt. Matthew Marcellus – 1st Armored Division

Gallery+Story: Fort Bliss soldiers receive new Expert Soldier Badge

In April 2017, 56 Soldiers from U.S. Army I Corps were selected to test the new Expert Soldier Badge test pilot program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Among the candidates, ranging from privates to lieutenants, Spc. Tyler Lewis, a field artillery firefinder radar operator and Moore, Oklahoma, native, with only three years of active duty service and Staff Sgt. Anthony Lodiong, an automated logistical specialist and New Orleans native, stood out among the rest.

Lewis earned the trust of his leadership and was selected by his division sergeant major to fly from Hawaii to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to compete.

“My platoon sergeant at the time, Sgt. 1st Class Quintanilla, gave me the opportunity to volunteer,” said Lewis. “He had faith that I would pass. He mentored me since the time he took over as my platoon sergeant.”

Two and a half years later, now a staff sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Lewis became one of 11 top-performing Soldiers to receive the first-ever ESB during the Eisenhower Luncheon at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition at Washington D.C., Oct. 15.

“Soldiers are the real asset the Army uses to accomplish missions,” said Lewis. “Everything else as far as equipment is just to aid us to complete the task. This course altogether is going to help improve the ultimate asset the army uses for lethality.”

Lodiong, currently a special operations recruiter assigned to Fort Bliss, says the ESB testing is challenging, but rewarding.

“The ESB is definitely not a participation trophy! The 9-line MEDVAC challenged me the most,” said Lodiong. “Earning the ESB means everything a Soldier should be for me! The knowledge I gained from the ESB will not only help me in my military career, but also in my entire life after the military.”

The ESB is a special skills badge designed to recognize a Soldier’s combat proficiency outside of the infantry, by measuring their “mastery of physical fitness, marksmanship, and other critical soldering skills necessary for combat readiness,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Moore, the noncommissioned officer in charge of validating ESB testing at the Army Center for Initial Military Training.

The pilot test, in which Lewis and Lodiong participated, consisted of multiple events: the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation courses, medical, weapons, and combat lanes, with each one having 10 testing stations, and a final 12-mile foot march.

Only 12 out of the 56 Soldiers passed the test, making the pass-fail rate similar to the Expert Infantryman and Expert Field Medical Badges.

Station after station, Lewis saw the number of participants decline with each passing challenge. But he never once doubted himself.

Lewis focused only on himself to have a clear mind, rehearsing each event while waiting for his turn. Fear of possible failure was present in his mind, but he was so focused on passing that he did not let it control him.

“The satellite communications were challenging, but not to the extent of being difficult,” said Lewis. “They are all simple tasks, but it’s crucial to perform them in the right sequence and timely manner. The most challenging part of the whole event was learning the standards in sequence and performing them with a short amount of time in training.”

Despite the challenges that Lewis and Lodiong faced, their determination to succeed was evident in their success. Lodiong offers some positive advice to future candidates interested in earning the badge.

“Go for it! It’s the best training I ever had in my entire military career,” said Lodiong. “If you earn it, excellent! If you don’t, you will still leave with a life-time of military skills from the five days of preparation training,” he continued.

Future testing will include the Army Combat Fitness Test and may also include five additional tasks selected by the brigade commander from the unit’s mission essential task list.

Example tasks include: react to an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, construct individual fighting positions, searching an individual in a tactical environment, employing progressive levels of individual force, and marking chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear (CBRN)-contaminated areas.

“The ESB gives units a baseline and ability to measure their Soldiers’ physical fitness and ensure they perform to standard all the critical tasks they’re supposed to have knowledge of,” said Master Sgt. Norbert Neumeyer, a U.S. Forces Command master gunner and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native, who oversaw the first ESB test. “It recognizes the next generation of competent, committed leaders who thrive in chaos, adapt, and win in a complex world. All the tasks can be a challenge for Soldiers that do not routinely train on basic army skills.”

Accomplishing an Army mission is a collective task, but challenges like the ESB, EIB and physical fitness tests are all about individual skills. With the ESB now ‘official,’ units can conduct testing annually just as they do with the EFMB and EIB.

Story by Master Sgt. Vin Stevens & Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet  – 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

Season of giving: Fort Bliss CFC season underway

With almost 200 campaigns underway across the country and around the world this fall, the Combined Federal Campaign, the world’s largest and most successful workforce charitable program, kicked off at Fort Bliss October 9 and will run until December 20.

Approximately 40,000 Team Bliss troops and civilians can choose from more than 20,000 charitable organizations to give monetary donations or volunteer time via the CFC website or through a traditional pledge form from their office or unit CFC project officer.

Last year, CFC donors contributed more than $93 million in funds and volunteer time. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, CFC pledges will be electronic-only after the 2021 campaign.

Retirees who receive an annuity can now also contribute through an allotment, or by credit card. Retirees accounted for $1.8 million worth of monetary and volunteer-hour contributions in 2018.

According to Marion Walker, a manager with the Fort Bliss Financial Readiness Program at Army Community Service, as well as this year’s installation CFC coordinator, CFC is a convenient way to help others, but, historically, it wasn’t always that way.

Yesterday’s federal charity drives

Although fundraising for charitable organizations in the federal workplace goes back to the 1940s, the authority to do so wasn’t established until 1961 when President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10927, which authorized the U.S. Civil Service Commission to lay the groundwork for fundraising within the ranks of federal service.

Because of multiple campaigns for various non-profit organizations throughout the year, many of which collected cash only through complicated envelope systems, in 1964, a pilot “combined” program was rolled out in six U.S. cities, consolidating all of the drives into one.

As a result, contributions went up, in some places by 125 percent, and the new once-a-year effort was well-received by managers and employees alike, leading to a formal adoption of today’s CFC during the Nixon Administration in 1971.

A barometer for success, donations swelled from $12.9 million in 1964 to $82.8 million in 1979.

Today’s CFC

Since 1961, the CFC has raised $8.2 billion for nonprofits, ranging from large organizations like the American Red Cross to less-visible local organizations, several of which reside in the Borderland, with 30 in El Paso alone.

Other than Army Emergency Relief, the CFC is the only effort that allows solicitation of troops and federal employees for donations. Project officers are volunteers within the federal workforce who oversee program communication and transparent facilitation of pledges from their organizations.

Fort Bliss is located in CFC’s zone nine, named “Desert Southwest,” which covers West Texas and all of New Mexico, one of 36 zones designated by the program. In 2018, donations from Bliss added up to almost $125,000, as well as 85 pledged volunteer hours.

With so many nonprofits to choose from, Walker said she encourages potential givers to check out the website or look through the printed listing of charities to find organizations they wish to support.

“We can choose something that is close to our hearts, that personally moved us at one point and now we want to support that cause,” Walker said. “If it is military families, veterans services, or if you are not sure who to donate to, consider your local charities that serve Fort Bliss or our El Paso community.”

She added that whether Team Bliss members donate money or time, regardless of the amounts they can spare, participating in CFC can have residual benefits.

“Volunteering your time at a local shelter or cause can give you a chance to meet new people and you will see the visible impact,” she said. “However, if you don’t think you can make the time, then consider a monetary contribution. A little time or money goes a long way.”

Author: David Poe – Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office

Gallery+Story: Field hospital returns to Bliss after first deployment

FORT BLISS, Texas – Smiles, laughter and jubilation danced across a crowd of family and friends as Fort Bliss welcomed home 88 Soldiers from Iraq, October 22.

The Soldiers were deployed in support of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) last February.

Soldiers of the 528th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, III Corps, U.S. Forces Command, served as the medical task force for CJTF-OIR, providing mission command for medical units across the area.

The 528th HC also provided role 3 hospitalization support to the theater, implementing a facility which is staffed and equipped to provide care to all categories of patients including resuscitation, specialty surgery and post-operative care.

This is the first deployment for the 528th HC since its activation in April 2018, as well as the first deployment of a hospital center since the Hospital Force Design Update was implemented by the Army in 2017 to reorganize and restructure combat support hospitals to better align battlefield healthcare with commander needs.

The 528th HC will be continue to train their skills and readiness in order to ensure that they are always prepared to deploy and meet any future mission requirements.

Author: Pvt. Matthew Marcellus  – 1st Armored Division

Modern Weapons: Newly fielded M17s used at ranges

MCGREGOR RANGE, New Mexico – Eager Soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, October 10. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.

“The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. “I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter.”

The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.

The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.

The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.

Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.

“When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts. “Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for Soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they’re carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go.”

The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

“Coyote brown” in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.

The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow point projectile. It provides improved

2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division and a native of Carmel, Indiana, fires an M17 pistol at a target, October 10. Among 1AD units, 3ABCT was the first brigade to field and fire the M17 pistol which is designed to provide increased accuracy and lethality for Soldiers through reduced weight and an improved ergonomic design. | U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus

terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow point cartridge.

The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full metal jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.

The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD Soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.

“I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have Soldiers who say ‘Cool, I’m so excited to go and shoot these’, so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun,” said Martin. “During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what’s different about them.”

The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army’s continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that Soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.

The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their Soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.

Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm Soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.

“Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality,” said Martin. “It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry.”

Author: Pvt. Matthew Marcellus – 1st Armored Division

Medical Outfitting and Transition program efforts continue at Ft. Bliss new WBAMC hospital

Huntsville’s U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Medical Outfitting and Transition (MO&T) program continues to oversee efforts to determine equipment needs, make purchases, currently estimated at $72 million, and plan and execute transition of staff, equipment and patients for the William Beaumont Army Medical Center replacement hospital at Fort Bliss.

MO&T is working in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District as it coordinates the project’s construction components.

According to a Fort Worth District news release, “The replacement hospital will be a new 1.1 million square foot medical center to serve the growing active duty and retiree population in and around the Fort Bliss and El Paso area. The campus will include a main hospital, inpatient and outpatient clinics, administrative building, research building, central utility plant, two access control points and surface parking with over 4,000 spaces.”

MO&T teams provide total turn-key project support for the equipping and transitioning of staff and patients associated with new and renovated military healthcare and medical research laboratory facility construction projects to support the medical mission throughout the world.

Brian Bezilla, MO&T project manager, says his role is to perform daily project management duties and serve as Contracting Officer’s Representative on the MO&T contract.

The MO&T contractor engages with WBAMC staff to determine equipment needs, make purchases (currently estimated at $72M) and plan and execute transition of staff, equipment and patients from existing to new spaces.

“The Health Facilities Planning Agency is my first line customer,” Bezilla said. ” At least 7 HNC programs support them in these efforts.

The individual HNC project delivery teams have partnered to organically function as a broad PDT committed to HFPA. HFPA is pleased

William Beaumont Army Medical Center | Photo by Denisha Braxton

that they can come to HNC and get their needs met under one roof.”

Bezilla notes, when completed, the WBAMC hospital will be the largest stateside medical center in the Army portfolio. The hospital is actually a campus of six buildings, including administration, a clinical investigation, two clinics, hospital and central utility Plant.

The facility is off post and will have two access control points off two major highways in East El Paso.

Bezilla credits his program’s success in the project to teamwork.

“The entirety of the HNC team deserves recognition and praise,” Bezilla said. “As the construction pace constantly changes, we are required to be agile and adaptable in how we build and execute contracts. HFPA tends to work with MO&T over a longer time frame (currently six years on Bliss) than other HNC programs, so they tend to ask me the status of other programs’ efforts. Across the board HNC teams have been ready and willing to coordinate with me, provide advice and even asked me to review their work. As a result I consider us one big informal PDT.”

William Beaumont Army Medical Center | Photo by Denisha Braxton

Huntsville Center is a unique U.S. Army Corps of Engineers organization. The Center is not defined by geographic boundaries; its missions provide specialized technical expertise, global engineering solutions, and cutting edge innovations through centrally managed programs in support of national interests.

Huntsville Center’s more than 1,000 employees manage nearly 3,000 ongoing projects at any given time. These projects fall into one of five portfolios: Medical, Facilities and Base Operations, Energy, Operational Technology, and Environmental. The portfolios comprise 42 different program areas, as well as six mandatory and six technical centers of expertise, and 17 centers of standardization.

Projects are generally broad in scope, require technical expertise, centralized management or are functions not normally accomplished by a Headquarters, USACE organizational element.

30th ABCT’s mobilization informs challenges of MFGI expansion at Fort Bliss

FORT BLISS, Texas – The 653rd Regional Support Group, mobilized here as the Fort Bliss Mobilization Brigade, is defining and refining the mobilization process with the arrival in August of almost 4,000 Soldiers of the Army National Guard’s 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team.

The unit is only the second BCT in more than a decade to mobilize in its entirety. And, as the largest unit the FBMB would mobilize during the 653rd RSG’s tenure, it would be the best opportunity to test processes for Mobilization Force Generation Installation Expansion.

The MFGI Expansion mission supports the housing, training, and logistical support requirements for the rapid mobilization and deployment of Army Reserve Component units at designated Army installations in an instance of a no-notice contingency operation.

“We’re improving processes so that they make sense and still meet all the requirements from Headquarters DA,” said Col. Chandra Roberts, commander of the FBMB.

Housing the large number of Soldiers in the 30th ABCT provided a unique challenge which was met using the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP. LOGCAP is a program under the Department of the Army and the Army Materiel Command that uses pre-existing corporate contracts.

“Army Materiel Command has LOGCAP contracts in place,” said Roberts. “It’s something quick we have on the shelf for contingencies, whether they be natural disasters, contingency exercises, or MFGI Expansion.”

According to Maj. Scott H. Breseman, officer of charge of FBMB Facilities, Doña Ana can house approximately 1,800 personnel organically, with LOGCAP providing living areas for an additional 2,400 personnel in tents. The LOGCAP contract is flexible, providing additional beds when needed.

In addition to the tent structures, LOGCAP provided environmental control units, power, restrooms, shower facilities and arranged for laundry services at Doña Ana training area. This enabled the FBMB to continue to provide the same services for the continuing flow of mobilizing and demobilizing units coming through the main base.

Life support operations were completed within two weeks from the approval of dig permits to being declared fully operational.

An operations and maintenance center remained on ground to keep services up and running. The top two major upkeep demands were generators and air conditioning. Maj. Donald R. Young, Mayor at Doña Ana Training Area, notes that Soldiers come with so many electronics now, that increasing the number of generators and power outlets for the tents would be beneficial in the future.

“The 30th ABCT’s M-RSO is informing our knowledge of MFGI expansion,” said Roberts.
Another process tested was the use of Tiger Teams, which were sent to all the battalions to support their Soldier Readiness Program Level II events. The teams consisted of subject matter experts from the FBMB, the 7220th Medical Support Unit, and several Fort Bliss enterprise partners.

The Tiger Teams ensured that everyone knew the proper SRP Level II requirements, reducing the number of Soldiers who end up REFRAD (released from active duty) due to medical disqualification, explained Douglas J. Vogel, chief of Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security.

Col. Heidi Otis, commander of the 7220th MSU, expounded, “The use of Tiger Teams, coupled with 90-60-30-day teleconferences with case management, was a definite win—both for the mobilizing Soldiers and our medical providers.” Otis explained the constant communication between the 30th ABCT and liaison officers at Fort Bliss ensured the unit understood the expectations.

Vogel mentioned that while the use of the Tiger Teams was a success in the mobilization of the 30th ABCT, it may not be as effective with MFGI expansion for lack of preparatory time.

Roberts shared that the FBMB was looking to increase efficiency, particularly in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center where hundreds of Soldiers would spend several hours a day. Due to the sheer number of Soldiers being processed through, the potential for extended backlogs was high.

According to Capt. Kristina W. Souza, officer in charge of SRPC operations, the center saw upwards of 400 to 650 Soldiers and contractors a day, peaking at 691.

“It opened our eyes to a lot of chokepoints we hadn’t seen, hadn’t been looking for,” said Souza.

The SRPC wasn’t the only part of the process where finite resources had to be carefully coordinated to support all the mobilizing and demobilizing units processing through Fort Bliss.

Sgt. Jonathan C. Swatman, primary transportation coordinator for the FBMB, explained that the transportation section revamped their routes along with buses and driver allocation to meet the need. The bus missions often exceeded 200 a day.

“We can backwards plan for everything for MFGI expansion by using historical data from the
30th,” said Swatman.

“Mobilizing the 30th ABCT through the Reception of the M-RSO process proved to be a successful, scaled proof of principal for the MFGI expansion mission”, said Roberts. “I’m proud of how Fort Bliss Mobilization Brigade has performed… I expect a smooth onward movement to get them (30th ABCT) where they need to go.”

Col. Robert Bumgardner, Commander, 30th ABCT, marveled at the process of deploying the nearly 4,000 Soldiers of his unit, “It’s a daunting experience being able to mobilize this many Soldiers from four states, the North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia Army National Guard, but I am proud of the team effort from everyone involved, especially with the partnerships we’ve forged here at Fort Bliss.”

Author: Capt. Joselyn Sydnor  – 653rd Regional Support Group

30th Armored Brigade Combat Team Sappers lead the way

Although their name Sapper originated centuries ago with the French translation for “trench digger,” today’s combat engineers, called Sappers, have specialized skills that far exceed the origins of their profession.

U.S. combat engineers in Alpha and Bravo companies, 236th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, North Carolina Army National Guard, conducted a live-fire exercise with M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs) and demolitions, in the vicinity of Fort Bliss, Texas, Sept. 26, 2019.

“This exercise builds on the skills of the Soldiers, including gunnery and dismount crews,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patrick Henderson, commander, 236th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team. “The event is associated with the mobility piece for the Armored Brigade Combat Team, and our Sappers ensuring they can maneuver unimpeded.”

During the exercise, four M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs) convoyed through desert terrain, then dispersed as they approached an obstacle. Two M2s moved outward and provided suppressive fire with machine guns, while the other vehicles stopped to allow the Sappers to dismount, use smoke to screen the area, then emplace demolitions.

According to Staff Sgt. Brennar Goree, a squad leader in Alpha company, 236th Brigade Engineer Battalion, the live-fire event simulated an enemy attempting to stop or divert maneuvering units. The six Sapper dismounts breached the obstacle using detonating cord. With a loud boom and flash of flame, the blockade was destroyed.

“The major tasks of the combat engineers are to provide mobility, counter-mobility and survivability support,” said Goree. “Sappers are the ones who help the brigade get to a location by defeating obstacles, or by constructing obstacles to prevent the enemy from getting to a location.”

Henderson said that the unit has extensive experience from previous deployments and the more senior Soldiers are sharing that knowledge with the junior Sappers.

“We are ensuring they are emplacing demolitions correctly, have knots tied properly, hooking-up initiators correctly, and keeping safety paramount,” said Goree. “It’s always great when the Soldiers can get out and showcase their skills. Sappers lead the way.”

The unit is mobilized to support Operation Spartan Shield, joining other units from the North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia Army National Guard, to support the 38th Infantry Division and Task Force Spartan in the Middle East.

Author: Lt. Col. Cynthia King  – 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team 

Fort Bliss commemorates POW/MIA Recognition Day, honors El Paso MIA

Fort Bliss leaders honored U.S. service members missing in action and prisoners of war during a solemn commemoration flag raising during national POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 20.

The event, held in front of the 1st Armored Division Headquarters, focused on remembering the more than 81,000 Americans that remain missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars, and other conflicts according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency.

The leaders placed a special emphasis on those POW and MIA soldiers from El Paso.

Lt. Col. Colin Mahle, battalion commander, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division assisted in raising the National POW/ MIA flag over the installation.

National POW/ MIA Recognition Day is one of six days a year that the flag must be flown- mandated by the Defense Authorization Act. The other events include Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

Col. Matthew Eichburg, acting senior commander, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb, 1st AD Command Sergeant Major and Fort Bliss, conducted a wreath-laying at the division’s Operation Iraqi Freedom-1 memorial as part of the event.

Operation Iraqi Freedom was the last conflict in which the United States had prisoners of war. In 2003, after almost three weeks in captivity, seven American POWs returned back to American Soil at Fort Bliss.

Following a moment of silence to honor POW/MIA service members and remember the incredible sacrifices borne by their loved ones and families, the solemn sunrise commemoration included a reading of names of El Paso citizens who have served and are still considered to be MIA. They are:

Cpl. Richard Aguilar, U.S. Army (Korean War)
Capt. Ronald Leonard Watson, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
1st Lt. Michael John Shea, U.S. Marine Corps (Vietnam War)
Sgt. Jesus Armando Gonzalez, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
Spc. Michael Burns, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
Pfc. Jose Jesus Gonzalez, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
Pvt. Arthur William Kerns, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed annually on the third Friday of September to remember and honor service members who were prisoners of war or are still considered missing in action. Out of the more than 81,000 missing, 75% of the losses are located in the Indo-Pacific, and more than 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea (i.e. ship losses, known aircraft water losses, etc.).

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency provides the fullest possible accounting for the nation’s missing service personnel and deploys its workforce worldwide in support of bringing closure to those families and to the nation.

Author: Maj. Lindsey Elder – 1st Armored Division 

Lasting legacy: Iraqi linguist becomes U.S. Soldier: Risks life to reunite with American flag

How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?

For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life – an American flag.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.
More than 200 Soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Remembering the Bandit legacy

In 2003 Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.

The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. Soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.

“I wanted to help these U.S. Soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”
Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.


Ahmed continued his work with the American Soldiers who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its Soldiers.

“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”

Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every Soldier survived.

“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These Soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”

When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the Soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the Soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.

“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great Soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”


Ahmed continued his work with the American Soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.

Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.

Why I Serve

Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. Soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.

In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.

“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”

The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.

“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these Soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these Soldiers did.”

For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.

“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”

*Editor’s note: Name has been changed to protect identity.

Author: Stephanie Santos – Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office

West Texas Test Drive 728
BTU2020 728
8k Walkrun 728
EPCON_2020 728
Spring Training 728
Mountains 728
Utep Football Generic 728
Covid-19 Fund 728