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.
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.
It’s been said, “choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” There are variations of this quote, but the meaning behind it is clear, a good job is hard to beat.
This sentiment resonated with U.S. Soldiers from Delta Troop, 1-150th Cavalry Regiment, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, during their M1A1 Abrams Main Battle tank training in the vicinity of Fort Bliss, Texas, Sept. 16, 2019.
“It’s a tight group and a great unit,” said U.S. Army First Sgt. Raul Delacerda, First Sgt. of Delta Troop, 1-150th Cavalry Regiment, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team. “In my experience, there’s always comradery in a tank unit.”
The National Guard unit, headquartered in Sanford, North Carolina, was conducting Armament Accuracy Checks (AACs) and bore sight procedures with their M1 Abrams tanks. This training is part of the Live Fire Accuracy Screening Test (L-FAST) prior to their Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFX).
“Unit morale has been outstanding,” said Delacerda. “Our priorities have been focused on safety, ensuring all fire commands are set, and taking commands from the tower.”
According to U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Chris Brophy, master gunner in Delta Troop, 1-150th Cavalry Regiment, the range facilities around Fort Bliss, Texas have been challenging and realistic. He added that the crews have enjoyed the rigorous and tough training that goes with being a tanker.
“The ranges have been fantastic and the crews love that sense of accomplishment, seeing the results of their hard work,” said Brophy. “They have cultivated a great attitude of team work and the culture in our unit is one of the best I’ve seen.”
In agreement with Brophy was U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Gowens, a tank commander in Delta Troop, who moved to the North Carolina Army National Guard to become a 19K Military Occupational Skill (MOS) Armor Crewmember.
“I always wanted to be a tanker,” said Gowens. “Everything has been great and the guys really care about what they are doing. Whenever people care, things go smooth.”
Brophy, whose role as a master gunner includes ensuring ranges are conducted safety as well as advising the commander on training protocols, said that Soldiers who work in the Armor career field are outstanding problem solvers. He added that being a tanker combines technical and tactical skills and appeals to those who enjoy being outside in a rugged environment.
“You become very familiar with everybody because we live on our tanks,” said Brophy. “It’s a fun place to be, as we work hard and play hard, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Delta Troop Soldiers are part of the 1-150th Cavalry Regiment, headquartered with the West Virginia Army National Guard, in the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, and were recently mobilized to support Operation Spartan Shield in the Middle East.
“We are building on increased combat lethality and sustaining survivability on the battlefield, said Brophy. “We are ensuring our crews are fast, accurate, precise, and deadly to engage any enemy in any environment.”
According to Delacerda, many Soldiers in Delta Troop have had multiple deployments and are mentoring the Soldiers who have not deployed.
“It’s tough leaving home, it’s one of the toughest things to do,” said Delacerda. “Our guys who have deployed before want to help and will ensure everyone is taken care of.”
The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team includes Soldiers from the North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia Army National Guard who will support Task Force Spartan. Operation Spartan Shield builds partner capacity in the Middle East to promote regional self-reliance and increase security. Task Force Spartan strengthens these relationships through key leader engagements, joint exercises, conferences, symposia, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response planning.
As military officers with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) looked for ways to improve procurement processes and building interoperability with their partners, they attended a Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA) in Germany led by the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command (JMC).
After observing how the JMC incorporates Soldier feedback during live testing to modernize the Army, the UAE requested a visit to the command so they could learn more, and perhaps stand up their own assessment and modernization organization.
A land forces delegation from the UAE visited JMC headquarters on Fort Bliss, Texas, the first week in September to begin that process. UAE hosts Iron Union exercises with the U.S. four times a year and is working toward making sure their systems are interoperable with their allies, said Maj. Matthew W. St. Pierre, chief of plans at JMC.
“The UAE started to realize that in their procurement process, they were missing opportunities to make sure the systems they procure integrate correctly with coalition partners,” St. Pierre said. “They are trying to build interoperability, and they realized after watching JWA 18 in Germany that they want to emulate an organization like JMC.”
Lt. Col. Awad Ghareeb AlNuaimi, chief of training in UAE’s armament section, said he was impressed by JMC’s efforts to make systems joint and interoperable, while thinking about future needs. UAE’s armament section currently handles procurement. During the visit, AlNuaimi learned about JMC’s recent assessment of the newest positioning and navigation systems. He said developing a good navigation system that allies can use together is an important goal for the UAE.
“We need to build our evaluation procedures,” AlNuaimi said. “We use the procedure provided by the company that produces each system. We need independent procedures, like the JMC uses. That is our goal.”
The UAE is located across the Persian Gulf from Iran, and is a strategic partner with the U.S. The visit allowed the UAE delegation to understand how the JMC plans and conducts Soldier-led assessments, with civilian engineers, civilian computer programmers and others working alongside military assessors.
JMC plans and executes worldwide multi-echelon, joint and multinational live experiments in support of the Army’s modernization strategy. These live experiments assess and ensure the Army’s capability in Multi-Domain Operations. In addition to an annual JWA – the Army’s premier modernization and interoperability exercise – JMC assesses potential Army equipment year-round in smaller exercises.
The next JWA is scheduled for April and May 2020 in Germany and Poland, during which JMC will assess more than 50 concepts and capabilities to provide Soldiers with the best tools for future conflicts.
Usually during competitions, participants strive to be first place, trying to outdo, outwit, and defeat the other candidates in order to win.
But to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge, the competition is yourself.
What makes this badge hard to get is that medics have to overcome 43 medical evaluations within the time allotted without making a single mistake, while physically and mentally exhausted.
“This is my first time competing in the EFMB course, and hopefully I get it,” said Capt. Stephen Scott, a health services human resources officer with the 424th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, Pennsylvania Army National Guard. “They say what you do in your twenties lasts a lifetime. I’m 29 and I think that this will have a positive impact on my career.”
Medics from two active duty divisions, the Minnesota and Arizona National Guard and the Pennsylvania Reserve component, traveled to Fort Bliss to participate in the assessment alongside the 1st Armored Division’s medics.
This year’s event is being hosted by the 1st Armored Brigade Combat team. Soldiers were tested on lifesaving skills while under physical and mental stress at Fort Bliss, Texas, from Sept. 5 to 11, 2019.
Over half of the Soldiers that entered the competition have competed in the past and failed, but come back throughout their military career in the hopes of finally obtaining it.
“You have to carry your crown before you can wear it,” said Scott. “So needless to say, if I do not complete it here at this time, I will most definitely come again and knock it out of the park. You know what they say, ‘It’s better to take a bumpy road to success than a smooth road to failure.’”
The EFMB qualification measures Soldiers’ physical fitness, mental toughness and ability to perform to standards of excellence in a broad spectrum of critical medical and military skills.
While the events covered include basic Soldier tasks, such as land navigation and the Army physical fitness test, it also includes combat testing lanes that cover litter carries, extraction from a military vehicle and using a radio to call for medical evacuation.
The badge was established in June 1965 as a Department of the Army special skill award for the recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel and is considered one of the most prestigious awards Soldiers can earn.
“For a test that started as a validation of skills for the medical units of 5th Corps, the EFMB has become the standard by which we measure excellence,” said Command Sgt. Maj. William Vernon, Troop Command, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Fort Bliss. “For those of you that have earned your badge today, you have also earned the responsibility.”
“Today is a day of celebration, but tomorrow the real work starts,” said Vernon. “Others have made it possible for you to be here, so tomorrow, in addition to maintaining your level of excellence for as long as you wear the badge you are responsible for ensuring that we field the greatest, ready medical force possible.”
“We owe a debt to those that came before us – a debt that can only be paid by preparing those that come after us,” said Vernon. “That is only possible if you become the standard, and this test becomes a validation of readiness, not just a level of excellence.”
With only three percent of the Army’s medical community sporting the badge, the numbers speak for themselves.
By the end of the week-long event, only five Soldiers out of 126 – four percent – met all of the rigorous requirements to earn the badge, showcasing their exceptional skills as an expert field medic.
“My next goal is seeing the soldiers underneath succeed,” said Sgt. Richard Kennedy, combat medic with 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment and one of the five EFMB recipients. “I want them to get the badge as well, so I will do everything in power to make that happen.”
“I’d say (to Army medics), don’t focus on just one aspect of our job,” said Kennedy. “You should try to get as much out of the Army as you can. People are so full of knowledge, it’s up to us to absorb that and teach as well.”
Although the competition is hard, Soldiers need determination and dedication to not only earn the badge, but accept the fact that they may have someone’s life in their hands.
“We ask for blessings, as these hard working Soldiers are being awarded the EFMB today,” said Maj. Gino Hernandez, 1st Armored Brigade chaplain, during the invocation at the award ceremony, Sept. 11, 2019. “We realize that these badges are not mere decor upon a uniform, but emblems of responsibility to run towards disaster so that others may be saved.”
Fort Bliss Soldiers and agencies exercised the ability to deliver patients to level one trauma care for the first time in four years, during training on September 4, 2019.
Soldiers assigned to 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West coordinated a mass casualty exercise that helped North Carolina National Guard medics prepare for an upcoming deployment. At the same time, the exercise tested communication between ground units, air medical evacuation operations, and the emergency department at University Medical Center to ensure critically injured patients receive the highest level care available.
Right now, 5th AR is training and validating 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, North Carolina National Guard for their upcoming deployment to the middle-east. This mass casualty exercise began as a rehearsal to address one of the most dangerous situations that could arise during any unit’s training; a vehicle roll-over.
Master Sgt. Trey Albertson, medical operations noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to 5th AR said, “The incident was one of the big concerns of both the brigade commander and the Division West commanding general: a late night movement of Soldiers with a vehicle roll-over.”
Observer/ Coach Trainers assigned to 5th AR recreated that exact scenario using both medical training aids and live role-players. The 30th ABCT responded by sending more than 70 medical personnel over the two-day exercise to evaluate, treat and prepare the casualties for evacuation.
“The level of preparedness they had was impressive,” said Albertson. “Even the most deployed active-duty units have hiccups, that’s going to be part of everything we do. But [30th ABCT’s medics] overcame every single obstacle flawlessly and just kept moving.”
Casualties are sent to different treatment facilities depending on their level of injury. A UH-60 Blackhawk assigned to 2nd General Aviation Support Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Infantry Division transported the most severe cases to level one trauma care at El Paso, Texas’ University Medical Center.
“This allows us to rehearse the full circle of MEDEVAC coverage,” said Staff Sgt. Matt Oneill, a flight medic assigned to 2-4 GSAB. “We get to coordinate patient pick-up with medics on the ground, provide in-flight care, and practice patient transfer to the next level of care.”
Communication plays a key role in making sure everyone is prepared to play their part in providing care to injured people.
“Our main goal here is to improve the communication between us and [Fort Bliss],” said Ashby Payne, emergency department nurse educator at UMC. “Historically we’ve had a real problem communicating with Fort Bliss MEDEVACs when you guys have critical patients.”
Payne said an exercise like this hasn’t happened since 2015 and there are a lot of nurses that have come and gone in that four-year span. She said that new nurses come to UMC to gain experience in a level one trauma center and receiving air MEDEVAC patients.
“The reason why the military is different than our other helicopters is because they do not turn their rotors off,” said Payne. “Helicopter safety seems to be a little bit more intimidating for our civilian employees and frankly it’s more exciting.”
Albertson said at the end of the two-day event, both Army medics and UMC staff felt more confident in their ability to treat and transport patients to the level of care they need.
“In this case, every moving piece between the civilians, aviation, range control and the OC/Ts on the ground just came together in one well-oiled machine,” said Albertson.
U.S. combat medic Soldiers in the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team joined a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) crew from 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, to train on the critical skills of patient loading onto a UH-60 Black Hawk.
More than 50 combat medics from the North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia Army National Guard, who comprise the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, practiced loading a teammate on a gurney using what is called a hot-load method. This means the helicopter rotors were turning when they approached it, as opposed to a cold-load when the engines are shut down on the helicopter.
U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Meredith Kiser, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team Medical Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) said the exercise trained the combat medics on performing triage, treatment, and transport to a higher level of care. Kiser, who has deployed twice to Iraq, added they strive to train with Army aviation as much as possible because when troops are spread out, rotary-wing assets are the fastest method to get someone to treatment who is critically injured.
“Using an FLA (Field Litter Ambulance) is fine for shorter distances, but for major injuries it is better to transport with Army aviation,” said Kiser.
U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Alicia Faulk, a critical care nurse serving as an Observer/Controller Trainer (OCT) with 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, said safety is their number one concern.
“They must be focused on safety when putting a patient on a litter, for example, using the proper straps,” said Faulk. “My role is to watch the interventions placed on the casualty and to see if they are doing it properly and if there are things they need to work on, talk about or improve.”
The combat medics rotated in teams, approaching the MEDEVAC helicopter as the rotors turned, stirring up rocks and dust. Some of the medics were able to test the hoist attached to the helicopter, which is used for rescues and extractions.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Alisa Stoddard, the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team Medical Operations Officer said the overall goal was to synchronize the skills of the combat medics who serve in different battalions in their respective National Guard states that encompass the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team.
“Everybody brings something with different backgrounds and experiences,” said Stoddard. “It was great getting the medics together and on the same page, especially as we move forward as one big team.”
The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team is mobilized for approximately a year to support Operation Spartan Shield in the Middle East.
The training took place just before sunset in the vicinity of Fort Bliss, Texas, September 3, 2019.
The newest in Army vehicles have arrived on Fort Bliss.
The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command (JMC) has received 11 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, commonly known as JLTVs. Soldiers and civilians from the JMC spent two weeks in August training on driving and maintaining the JLTV, which is a light truck designed to hit the sweet spot between force protection and maneuverability. The JMC’s 11 JLTVs are the first on Fort Bliss.
The Army has designed the JLTV to be able to take on any type of terrain while still offering enough protection to take a hit from the enemy. It will do any number of jobs that heavier or lighter Army vehicles can’t.
As Sgt. First Class Vincent Storer, JMC’s master driver, said, “It’s a nice middle ground between a Humvee and an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle).”
The Army took Humvees into Iraq and Afghanistan, but found the vehicles didn’t provide enough protection from improvised explosive devices and other attacks.
In came the MRAP, which offered a lot of protection, but at as much as 20 tons in weight, couldn’t maneuver as well in battle.
“The JLTV is a good vehicle; it’s a step up from a Humvee,” Storer said. “There’s good ground clearance, and with the snorkel kit, you can ford deeper water. It handles well in a variety of terrain. All the BII (basic issue items) are stored securely outside the vehicle, so you don’t have to worry about those. And the rear-view camera makes it easier to back up, to park, or just for security, you can see what’s behind you.”
One of the features exciting Soldiers who have driven the JLTV is a hydraulics system that not only minimizes jarring bumps in all terrains but allows Soldiers to adjust the suspension to park on a hill and level the vehicle.
“We parked on the side of a hill, probably a 30 percent grade, then put the assist on,” Storer said. “It got us level to where I could open the door and step out and not have to worry about rolling over.”
Jason Lairson, JLTV training specialist for OshKosh Defense, which built the JLTV, said much of their training is focused on giving Soldiers familiarization and confidence handling the vehicle’s many advanced features.
“The JLTV has new technologies, new capabilities that they are not used to,” Lairson said. “We have to teach them how much more capable this truck is than anything they’ve ever operated before.”
Later this year, the JMC, in support of the TRADOC Capability Manager Stryker Brigade Combat Team (TCM-SBCT), will begin an independent assessment to determine the optimal number of JLTVs needed in light infantry brigades.
The JMC will be leading a one-year assessment of JLTVs in two light infantry brigades, said Dan Kinn, military analyst with JMC.
A critical part of Army modernization will be upgrading positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems to allow Soldiers to know exactly where they are, where friendly forces are and where autonomous information and attack systems are at all times.
A team from the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command (JMC) recently spent several weeks at White Sands Missile Range assessing the latest dismounted navigation systems, gathering Soldier feedback and observations on the latest technology available from industry.
The assessment was part of the Army’s PNT modernization effort led by the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) Cross-Functional Team (CFT), which is responsible for placing emerging PNT, Tactical Space and Navigation Warfare technologies into the hands of Soldiers.
The newest PNT systems have impressed Soldiers with the ability to maintain position accuracy while in a city, inside buildings, or other environments that interfere with the traditional Global Positioning System (GPS), said Capt. John Sexton, logistics applications officer at JMC, headquartered at Fort Bliss.
“There are a couple systems that use emerging technology, using multiple sources to correlate and pinpoint exactly where you are based on those different data sources that they’re pulling in,” Sexton said. “It’s fascinating because typically you think of GPS as the system to tell me where I’m at, but there are now other sensors they are adding to enhance positioning accuracy.”
As the Army faces a future of competing with peer or near-peer adversaries in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), Soldiers will need to be able to operate in challenged PNT environments where GPS may not be available, said Capt. Javier Martinez, observer/analyst at JMC. One of the new dismounted systems will replace the defense advanced GPS receiver, or DAGR, that the Army currently uses for PNT.
“This is important because it will enhance the ability of Soldiers to move and maneuver in combat situations and in contested environments,” Martinez said. “We’ve relied on GPS signal for almost 30 years. Now, we’re adding to GPS with other sources to increase accuracy to know where we are at, at any time.”
The dismounted systems being assessed by JMC are impressive not only for their accuracy, but for their easy portability, said Sgt. 1st Class Jorel Santiago, an air defense observer/controller Non-Commissioned Officer in the MDO Group at JMC.
“The mapping systems that they have are normally in heavier pieces of equipment, like a laptop,” Santiago said. “Now it’s becoming more hand held and on the Soldier, so those capabilities are going to be useful. The lighter they are, the easier they are for Soldiers to carry.”
JMC’s assessors worked with Soldiers with the Colorado National Guard to test the PNT systems in a variety of conditions at White Sands. JMC’s role is to assess the available PNT systems to help find the best one for the Army. The exacting process should help the Army save money while getting the best equipment possible into the hands of Soldiers.
“Our role is to assess the military feasibility of the dismounted systems,” Sexton said. “Does this dismounted system make sense for a Soldier to carry in the field? Will it get him through his dismounted mission? We’re looking at aspects of size, weight and power. Is it going to tangle up on things? Does it impede movement? Is it easy to use, for Soldiers to quickly adapt to it?”
This dismounted PNT assessment was one of the worldwide multi-echelon, joint and multinational live experiments JMC plans and executes in support of the Army’s modernization strategy. The JMC also leads a yearly Joint Warfighting Assessment – the Army’s premier modernization and interoperability exercise.
Once the equipment capabilities and Soldier feedback is assessed, the APNT CFT will use the information to build requirements for modernized PNT systems. Getting accurate, easy-to-use PNT systems into the hands of Soldiers is critical to the joint forces’ capability in MDO.
The sharp crack of an M110 semi-automatic sniper system and a faint plume of sand are the only signs of activity across the glinting sands of New Mexico, as sniper teams engaged targets with unparalleled proficiency.
Sniper teams from 1st Armored Division competed in the Iron Sniper 2019 competition, hosted by 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1AD, August 13-14 at Fort Bliss, Texas and Dona Ana Range Complex, New Mexico.
The competition determines the top sniper team from across 1AD to represent the division at the International Sniper Competition next April in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Sgt. John Sis, an infantryman assigned to 4th Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1 AD and native of Annapolis, Maryland, alongside teammate Spc. Colin Clayton, a cavalry scout assigned to 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1ABCT and a native of Denton, Texas, won the competition, receiving an Army Commendation medal and the chance to represent 1AD.
“This competition shows to me that we’re some of the best,” said Sis. “The next step is the International Sniper competition, an annual event held at Fort Benning where they have people come in from all branches of the service and other countries to compete to see who the best are.”
Throughout the first day of the competition, competitors used their physical fitness and endurance as well as their mental acuity and sniper proficiency to complete several exhausting tasks.
“They began the competition with the Army Combat Fitness Test in full kit and then proceeded to complete a written exam,” said Cpt. Nicholas Hurff, the assistant operations officer for 2-37 AR. “They further completed a six-mile ruck march in the summer heat out to a stalking event, where they were completely camouflaged and attempted to infiltrate an area in order to gain shooting positions on a target. They then completed an intelligence collection lane.”
On the second day of the competition, the competitors utilized their weapons skills and proficiencies as they shot and transitioned between their M110 sniper rifle, M4 carbine and Beretta M9 pistol as they competed against each other in a series of weapons tests.
Competitors engaged targets using their M110 sniper rifle, or long gun, then quickly switched to their M4 carbine or Beretta M9 pistol to engage shorter range targets while physically moving between objectives.
“The following day involved a day and night shooting competition,” said Hurff. “These events ranged from long gun stable firing to multiple engagements while moving during short-range stress shoots.”
Instructors at The United States Army Sniper Course educate and train Soldiers who are selected to be critical and creative thinkers, instilling traits of adaptiveness and tactical excellence in their Soldiers, all of which were on full display from the competitors during the competition.
“We’re trained to pick out the small and tiny deficiencies in the terrain that can lead us to help identify targets and engage the enemy faster,” said Sgt. Jacob Kehler, an infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania and a member of the runner-up team in the competition. “It just comes down to maintaining your proficiency as you’ve been taught it. We should be able to come out here and perform these tasks, even if they are challenging.”
Snipers play an integral role within 1AD and the Army as a whole, providing unique skills which are essential in providing superior combat capabilities.
“Snipers provide a dual purpose. Not only do they have the ability to be lethal at range, but they’re able to provide intelligence collection on objectives,” said Hurff. “So when you have Soldiers moving forward, actually hitting the objective, you’re able to have ground personnel watching the objective where they’re collecting information such as the number of people, disposition and composition, allowing Soldiers to be more effective and lethal on the objective and therefore able to save more lives.”
Sis and Clayton have the unique opportunity to represent 1AD at the International Sniper Competition, providing them the opportunity to further distinguish themselves among their peers and from other divisions.
“You want the best teams to represent you at the International Sniper Competition,” said Hurff. “Representing 1AD at these large scale competitions reflects greatly on the Soldiers, their unit and the division.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher D. Gunn had been wanting an appointment to the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command (JMC) for a long time – even if he didn’t yet know of JMC’s existence.
Gunn, who recently became the senior enlisted advisor for JMC, which is headquartered on Fort Bliss, had previously served as Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. for the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division as the brigade took on a regionally aligned force mission in Europe.
As the brigade worked on solutions for facing off with a newly powerful and aggressive Russia, they worked on tank decoys to make their footprint look larger and tested methods to hide their communications. For example, a Soldier in their intelligence company built small radio signal emitters that ran on 9-volt batteries. They then placed the emitters all over the area, thinking that with enough radio signals, they could potentially hide the brigade’s communications from the Russians. As the brigade worked through solutions on the fly, Gunn wondered if there was a better way.
“We were struggling with these problems,” Gunn said. “And these are real-world problems that every armored brigade in the Army is going to have to deal with when they come to Europe. I told myself then – if there was just a unit out there that did this for the Army, I’d really like to know what unit this is; I’d really like to get in contact with them.”
After a stint as command sergeant major of the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, where he again found himself testing equipment on the fly, wondering if there was a better way, he received a call from that better way. After speaking with JMC commander Brig. Gen. Johnny Davis, Gunn couldn’t wait to jump into the job.
“Once I received notification that I was going to compete for this job, I thought, ‘What is Joint Modernization Command?’” Gunn said. “I didn’t even know. I started doing the research, and I started getting excited. I knew this was the unit I had been looking for.”
JMC plans and executes worldwide multi-echelon, joint and multinational live experiments in support of the Army’s modernization strategy. These live experiments assess and ensure the Army’s capability in Multi-Domain Operations. In addition to a yearly Joint Warfighting Assessment – the Army’s premier modernization and interoperability exercise – JMC assesses potential Army equipment year-round in smaller exercises.
“When you look at what Joint Modernization Command does for the Army, we’re nested within Future Concepts Center and Army Futures Command,” Gunn said. “We are the exploration arm of Army Futures Command. We’re the organization that takes the concepts and capabilities, and we actually put them in the dirt with Soldiers. We let the Soldier give us the feedback that we need. That’s the central link. Once you give a piece of equipment to a Soldier, a Soldier is going to be brutally honest with you every time. They are going to tell you this works, or this does not work.”
Gunn and Davis both have children either serving in the military currently or who might be soon. Gunn said preparing the Army for the future is what inspires him at JMC.
“The other important role of JMC is concepts,” Gunn said. “We’re looking at how the Army is going to have to fight in the future, not how we fight right now. We’re doing this for the future generation of our forces. That’s why I take such pride in being here.”
Presence is a vital component of leadership, so it comes as no surprise that leaders across the Army ensure that they visit, observe and interact with components at every level.
Units across Fort Bliss hosted Gen. James C. McConville, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, during his visit to the installation July 21-22.
McConville received briefs, observed training, and monitored the progress of Soldiers within the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division as they undergo a conversion from a Stryker brigade to an armored brigade.
Soldiers of the Ready First Brigade led circuit-style physical training (PT) with McConville, consisting of comprehensive exercises including: a farmer’s carry with full water cans; fireman’s carry with sandbags; pull-ups and leg tucks; shuttle-run; and hand-release pushups.
“We conducted combat-focused PT with the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, consisting of five stations which lasted five minutes each,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jose Palomino, the senior enlisted advisor for 1-36 Infantry Regiment. “This training allows us to look more into what our combat-focused PT should be and allows for the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to see what we’re doing at the battalion level.”
The Soldiers rallied around McConville as he spoke about the importance of remaining physically fit, emphasizing comprehensive soldier fitness as a key aspect to success on and off of the battlefield.
“We are constantly ensuring that our Soldiers are combat prepared and combat trained, and that starts with PT,” said Palomino. “It’s our mission to be ready and able. That’s what the Army asks of us as leaders and Soldiers. It’s important to be vigilant and to remain always ready because you never know when you’re going to have to go fight.”
McConville also observed Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment training at the Close Combat Tactical Trainer, a facility which provides simulated combat scenarios to strengthen and maintain operational readiness.
McConville also met with Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, to tour their motor pool and company operations facility. The 6-1 Armor Reg. briefly demonstrated new equipment training and described the new equipment fielding progress to McConville.
“It’s important that the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army sees what 1ABCT has to offer and sees our energy,” said Palomino. “It’s very powerful and motivating to us that the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army visited.”
Throughout his visit, McConville recognized several Soldiers for their excellence, diligence and dedication by presenting challenge coins, distinguishing them in front of their unit.
“Being recognized means a lot to me. I try my hardest to be the best I can be and for me to be recognized from among my peers and receive a coin from a four star general is surreal,” said Pfc. Javonn King, a unit supply specialist assigned to 1-36 IN.
Soldiers from 1ABCT expressed to McConville their inspirations in the Army as well as the culture that surrounds them.
“The leadership around me is great; they inspire me to be better,” said King. “I try to motivate people, always keep a smile on my face, and to know where I came from and how great it is to be in the Army.”
Army leadership doctrine stresses the importance of a leader’s presence, as it serves to provide purpose, direction and motivation to Soldiers.
“McConville’s presence at every location invigorates and energizes our formations,” said Palomino. “It’s important that we see him, as his presence does matter.”
Five professional gamers from Complexity gaming, a professional esports organization, put their consoles down and a rucksack on as they spent a day in the life of a Soldier at Fort Bliss on June 14.
The event was a partnership between the Army & Air Force Exchange Service and U.S. Army Installation Management Command, which are bringing esports tournaments to installations around the world.
Esports has become a focus of the Army, and leaders recently created an Army esports team to compete in tournaments nationwide to attract potential recruits. As part of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) initiative, Complexity gamers lived and trained like Soldiers, learning skills such as discipline and resilience.
“My normal day I’m waking up at 10 or 11 o’clock, and today I was up bright and early at 5 a.m. to get ready for PT at 6,” said Complexity gamer Sam Hatch. “There’s so much that goes into being a Soldier. Until you walk a mile in their shoes you don’t understand how tough it is.”
Besides spending the day as a Soldier, the gamers also conducted a meet-and-greet and hosted an open play event in Fort Bliss Exchange’s PowerZone, giving Soldiers the opportunity to test their gaming skills against some of the best in the business.
“These events are a great way to spark Soldier curiosity and interest in esports and provide an outlet for them to recharge from the stresses of their everyday life while also strengthening retention and recruitment,” said Paula Bradford, Fort Bliss Exchange store manager.
The tables will turn later this month when 15 BOSS Soldiers travel to Complexity’s headquarters in Frisco, Texas, to get a first-hand look at what it takes to be a professional esports gamer.
Facebook-friendly version: Professional gamers from Complexity put their controllers down and rucksacks on as they lived a day in the life of a Soldier at Fort Bliss, with the help of the Exchange and IMCOM.
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence is now an accredited school under the academic governance of the Command and General Staff College.
Qualified graduates of the Sergeants Major Course can now attain a Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development through USASMA.
A Combined Arms Center Execution Order on March 21, 2018, officially made a branch campus at USASMA, the CGSC’s fourth school, thus placing USASMA under CGSC’s academic governance policies and processes.
“Achieving accreditation is also another way we are adding value to our Soldiers’ service,” Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said. “We are building readiness and developing highly-skilled leaders with competitive skill sets.”
The BA in LWD is a degree program which helps the Army develop better NCOs who are ready to lead and inspire Soldiers and units. There are 214 USASMA Class 69 students participating in the pilot program and more than 90 students are projected to be the first to confer their degree on 21 June.
“There has been a lot of emphasis as of late on the importance of education,” Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, commandant of the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, said. “We cannot underscore that education is important, but leadership is equally important and developing our NCOs to be leaders is something we cannot take our eye off of. This accreditation is paving the way for our NCO Corps to focus in on taking care of, and leading soldiers. It allows them to focus on leadership, to develop individually and spend less time in college classes.”
Soldiers who pursue the BA in LWD receive 47 college credit hours at the completion of the 10-month course and only need to complete 27 hours of LWD major requirements and 15 credit hours in electives to attain the bachelor’s degree. SMC Students not in the LWD degree program receive a total of 41 college credit hours towards their degree program.
The BA in LWD degree requirements focus on four areas: Leadership, Decision Sciences, Training Program Management and Communication and intentionally leverages the Army’s leader development program for NCOs, as well as an individual’s professional experience. The SMC educates master sergeants and sergeants major to effectively assist commanders and field grade officers in the accomplishment of the unit’s mission.
The accreditation process, which has been 10 years in the making, has now come to fruition for USASMA through the guidance and milestones of past and present commandants. Starting with the last officer commandant, Col. Donald E. Gentry.
Gentry, commandant from July 2007- June 2009, he introduced intellectual rigor to the Sergeants Major Course as it moved from training to education.
“My vision for the Academy was to be able to award degrees to our students as part of our curriculum just as many of the senior officer schools within the Department of Defense were doing,” Gentry said. “We worked very hard at trying to identify the path and, to be honest, convince the accrediting agencies that our students and the courses they were taking were deserving of that result.
“We realized that to do this, we were going to have to change our methods and content. The students were already worthy of the degree by their own accomplishments as evidenced by the fact that they were already earning degrees on their own.”
Gentry was also responsible for restructuring the USASMA staff to mirror the staff structure of the CGSC by splitting the staff between an academia, headed by the dean of academics, and a support organization headed by the chief of staff.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army (Retired) Raymond F. Chandler III, was the first NCO to be commandant of USASMA. He held the position from June 2009 – February 2011.
“When I became the command sergeant major of USASMA, the leadership directives received were to take a hard look at what we were teaching and why, and how it was connected to the rest of Army”.
Chandler’s goal was to provide relevant, sergeants major who were able to contribute immediately to their unit’s success in the operational sergeants major role.
“The advancement of NCO education has progressed, and the BA in LWD is a testament to the great strides occurring,” he said. “Soldiers need to get all the tools beyond the hardware to keep them successful in what they can achieve. Fighting a peer, and near peer force, or a vague and ambiguous force, makes it absolutely critical to have an educated NCO force.”
Continuing the momentum after Chandler, Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy assumed responsibility for USASMA from June 28, 2011- June 10, 2014. Malloy was responsible for the implementation of semesters within both the resident and non-resident Sergeants Major Course which students currently rotate through.
“This was needed to create a university model,” he said. “We increased the GPA from 70 to 80 percent in order to pass an exam which was in line with a graduate degree program and gained several graduate degree credits from the accreditation body. Finally, we redesigned the exams and course material to a challenging collegiate level.”
USASMA’s next commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, continued pushing toward accreditation by gaining approval for an enlisted fellowship program for selected sergeants major.
These fellows would earn a master’s in adult education and become instructors in-turn, which met another element of accreditation by having credentialed instructors.
Previous Training and Doctrine command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport recognized the importance of NCO education in creating a professional NCO Corps. Through his determination and guidance he helped push the key initiatives for accreditation across the finish line.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, with the help of the Sgt.Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, put the pieces together from the contributions of past commandants and built the framework for the USASMA to be documented as a regionally accredited institution within the academic councils of the Higher Learning Commission.
“This historic milestone will have a profound effect on the Army, the NCO Corps, and the legacy of our NCOs throughout history,” Dailey said. “An investment in our people is an investment in our future.”
“This is only the beginning,” Sellers said. “There’s more to come when it pertains to the education and development of our soldiers and noncommissioned officers.”
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence provides professional military education that develops enlisted leaders into fit, disciplined, well-educated professionals capable of meeting the challenges of an increasingly complex world. We develop, integrate and deliver education and training readiness. We are the premier institution driving innovative development for enlisted leaders; constantly focused on readiness.
Embarking on a new path of education, the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence hosted an official accreditation ceremony in the Kenneth W. Cooper Lecture Center on Fort Bliss, on June 14.
This event was held to commemorate the USASMA receiving an accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission and being named as a branch campus under the Command and General Staff College.
The NCOL CoE and USASMA spent the Army’s 244th birthday celebration by adding another milestone to Army history by unveiling the Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development diploma from the USASMA.
“What a great day it is to be a noncommissioned officer,” Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, the NCOL CoE commandant exclaimed. “We began today with a four mile run, and a great conversation. Now, we are here on the Army’s birthday to officially acknowledge the fact the USASMA is an accredited institution and branch campus under the CGSC.”
Receiving an accreditation was a dream for USASMA, after 10 years of an arduous and complex journey down a road less traveled, this dream is now a reality.
The initiative encompassed years of course catalog development, assessment plans, policy bulletins, and most importantly the development and credentialing of a collegiate faculty. Every piece of the puzzle was imperative in order to develop the supporting academic justification for the USASMA to become a branch campus under the CGSC.
“If you look backwards you will have a better appreciation on what has occurred and what it took to achieve the desired goal,” Sellers said.
The Year of the NCO, 2009, was the same year retired Sgt, Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler became the first enlisted commandant of the USASMA. His vision for the institution is what placed USASMA on a course for higher education.
“I wanted to provide relevant sergeants major who were able to contribute immediately to their units’ success in the operational sergeants major role,” said retired SMA Raymond Chandler. “There was a huge gap. We were in a bubble and not understood at the time. We were not in sync. We needed to align our curriculum with the CGSC.”
The next commandant to take charge of USASMA was Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, now retired. Malloy added rigor to the curriculum, and changed the passing scores on tests from 70 to 80 percent.
“My vision was to bring the academy well into the 21st century and to ensure the sergeants major had the tools needed to meet current and future wartime needs,” Malloy said.
The third enlisted commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, who is also retired, instituted the USASMA Fellowship program and was lauded by Sellers for his innovative thinking on credentialing instructors, which became the foundation of the degree process.
The road less traveled took another turn towards accreditation in January of 2017, when Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, Charles Guyette, William Ogletree and members of the Army University met in Austin, Texas to collaborate on a pathway for the USASMA students to take in order to attain their degree in a timely manner.
“We have been waiting a long time and finally, summer is here,” shouted Sellers. “Which brings us to this point of accreditation a year sooner than anticipated.”
Keynote speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. retired Philip Johndrow the former Combined Arms Center, command sergeant major, spoke to the long journey USASMA has endured to attain this historic milestone in NCO history.
“With true NCO Corps fashion, when we see something that is important to us we will continue to press forward until we are able to see the mission accomplished,” Johndrow said.
During his time as the CAC, CSM Johndrow noticed the inadequacies in the intermediate level of education for officers in the rank of major receiving a graduate degree versus the enlisted soldiers graduating the USASMA with only some college credits.
“This started a long chain of many amazing leaders who continued to look at our senior NCO capstone school the USASMA and how we could maximize its effectiveness,” he said.
Speaking to the history of USASMA Johndrow highlighted key points in history which made this monumental achievement possible.
“In 1971 the Army gave the NCO Corps a huge boost by making an enduring commitment to NCO education, with the establishment of the NCO Education System. In 1972 the Army established the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy as the capstone of its NCO Education System. In January 2019 they received notification that the resident Sergeants Major Course was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, he said”
He reminded the students to be prepared for the challenge as a leader and to continue to self-improve, and seek education.
“We must develop and exercise our mind just as we exercise our bodies. Education is PT for the mind,” he said. “The Leadership and Workforce Development degree program is making the process of receiving the education you require easier to obtain and giving you the college credits, you deserve and have earned in recognition for the time you have invested.”
The Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development is a degree program that helps the Army develop better NCOs who are ready to lead and inspire Soldiers and units. The core competencies of Leadership and Workforce Development are essential requirements for Army NCOs.
Using the motto of Sergeants Major Course, Class 69, Johndrow had one final word for the students.
“Embrace this opportunity and know that you will now be armed with tools necessary to BE THE DIFFERENCE,” he shouted!
Closing the event Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers thanked Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey, Maj. Gen. Jack Kem, former Army University provost, Dr. James Martin, CGSC Dean and the SMC developers Bill Backschieder, Lori Ramos, Jose Madero and Efrin Ordaz.
“On behalf of this institution and those receiving the degree on June 21, thank you, Sellers said. “Thank you for your hard work and dedication for bringing this accreditation to fruition. You changed the lives of at least 105 Soldiers this year and many more in the years to come.”
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence provides professional military education that develops enlisted leaders into fit, disciplined, well-educated professionals capable of meeting the challenges of an increasingly complex world. We develop, integrate and deliver education and training readiness. We are the premier institution driving innovative development for enlisted leaders; constantly focused on readiness.