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Home | Tag Archives: fort bliss

Tag Archives: fort bliss

Ceremony recognizes Fort Bliss fallen heroes

Courage. Commitment. Bravery. Strength. These words resonated through the quiet gathering of friends, families and community members during the Fort Bliss Field of Honor Ceremony May 17 on West Bliss.

Guest speaker Brig. Gen Leigh R. Tingey, deputy commanding general for 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, spoke on the relentless dedication to service that defined the life of Spec. Avadon A. Chaves.

“He made the decision to serve and embodied everything the Army and the nation looks for in a Soldier, said Tingey. “Spec. Chaves was known for being a kind and loving family man. His selfless service is a lesson to us all.”

His surviving spouse, Tesa Chaves lovingly remembered her husband’s sense of humor.

“He made everyone laugh and had a huge heart for family and friends. “My best memories are of our wedding day, they will stay with me forever,” she said.

Chaves was remembered on a bronze monument that displays the names of 1st Armored Division Soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The California native was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Bliss. He entered the U.S. Army on Aug. 8, 2015. His first assignment was B Company1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment as a Grenadier. Chaves died Dec. 20 2017 in Iraq.

“Let this Soldier’s name, and the name of the 94 other Soldiers be a reminder of why we serve,” Tingey said. “I implore you to visit this monument and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country.”

The Fort Bliss Memorial Day Ceremony will be held May 27, 9 a.m. at the Fort Bliss National, Cemetery.

Author: Stephanie Santos  – 1st Armored Division 

WBAMC hosts Fort Bliss Days of Remembrance observance

The Equal Opportunity team at William Beaumont Army Medical Center hosted Fort Bliss’ annual Days of Remembrance observance at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center, April 17.

The US Congress established Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year’s Days of Remembrance will be officially commemorated on Thursday, May 2, 2019.

More observances and remembrance activities will occur nationwide April 28 through May 5.

“The brutality of the Holocaust was a crime against men, women, and children. It was a crime against humanity. It was a crime against God,” reads a presidential message from President Donald J. Trump, published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27. “To remember these men and women—those who perished and those who survived—is to strive to prevent such suffering from happening again. Any denial or indifference to the horror of this chapter in the history of humankind diminishes all men and women everywhere and invites repetition of this great evil.”

During the observance, an ensemble of children from the El Paso Jewish Academy recited Ani Ma’amin, an ancient Hebrew affirmation of faith which is interpreted as “I believe”. Following the rendition, WBAMC leaders lit candles in remembrance of those who did and did not survive the world’s deadliest genocide.

The observance also welcomed guest speaker Rabbi Ben Zeidman, of Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso, who spoke about his grandfather, a Navy veteran, and stories he heard growing up.

“(My grandfather) took great pride in his service. When I was old enough, I would hang out with him and the rest of the group of Jewish War Veterans,” said Zeidman. “One of the greatest lessons I learned from them was how our country was willing to fight when confronted by those who are motivated by hatred, destruction, fascism, and corruption, it’s a matter of our country’s values.”

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in the aftermath of World War I, Germans struggled to understand their country’s uncertain future. Citizens faced poor economic conditions, skyrocketing unemployment, political instability and profound social change. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party used these factors to offer solutions, exploit people’s fears, frustrations and hopes to win broad support.

The 1920s and 30s saw the rise of support for the Nazi Party, eventually leading to Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, and later declaring himself Führer and Reich Chancellor, leader of the nation and head of the government, leaving no authority above or beside him. Germany’s armed forces, civil servants, including teachers and police, members of parliament and the judiciary, swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler, not to any constitution.

Hitler further drew on the population’s fears by insisting “superior” races must battle “inferior” races or be corrupted by them, leading to the mass genocide of millions of Europeans.

“Hitler created a common enemy, and that rallies people together to do things, they thought they could never do,” said Col. Erik Rude, commander, WBAMC. “It’s never going to happen again because in America, we don’t swear to a dictator or a monarch, we swear to a constitution. We swear an oath to an ideal, a constitution that guarantees freedom for all.”

Originally, Nazis established ghettos to concentrate Jews and segregate them. Later, Germans and their collaborators deported roughly 2.7 million Jews and others to killing centers in German-occupied Poland.

“What I’ve noticed, 75 years after it ended, (discussions have) become very soft when we talk about (the holocaust), and it doesn’t need to be soft. If it gets soft, we forget how horrendous it really was,” said Rude. “It’s one of the most awful things that has happened since the beginning of mankind, so when we explain this to our children, It has to be (realistic), we have to explain how bad this really was.”

“I became a rabbi because I felt called to serve the Jewish people after the flames of the holocaust destroyed two thirds of the Jewish people in Europe, more than a third of Jewish people worldwide,” said Zeidman. “I also became a rabbi because I’m an American and a Jew, and my faith teaches me the pursuit of a perfect world is the obligation of my Judaism and my citizenship.

“We are here to remember that all bear responsibility to ensure nothing like what happened happens again. And if it happens, to recognize it is a disastrous loss of life and an attack on all we as Americans hold dear,” said Zeidman.

“Evil knows no borders, and the destruction of life must be fought. It goes beyond religious boundaries.”

Author/Photos by: Marcy Sanchez  William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

Fort Bliss Mobilization Brigade holds Transfer of Authority ceremony

The 210th Regional Support Group transferred authority to the Fort Bliss Mobilization Brigade mission to the 653rd Regional Support Group at the Fort Bliss Museum.

The transfer of authority between the 653rd RSG and 210th RSG symbolized a changing of the guard where the 653rd RSG assumes control of the Fort Bliss Mobilization Brigade.

In conjunction with the CONUS Replacement Center and 5th Armored Brigade, the Fort Bliss Mobilization Brigade supports mobilizing and demobilizing Army Reserve and National Guard units with a cradle to grave approach which provides the training, logistical, administrative, personnel and quality of needs that units and Soldiers require prior to and after mobilization.

The Army Reserve and National Guard make up over half of the total Army, and the 210th RSG helped to mobilize and prepare more than 70,000 Soldiers and civilians for operations all over the world.

“In the past 17 years of sustained conflict, we’ve become very reliant on RC (Reserve component) units to mobilize, train, deploy, fight and win on behalf of our nation,” said Col. Steve O. Murphy, Fort Bliss Garrison commander. “Hence, the mobilization brigade‘s impact isn’t localized here to Fort Bliss, but across all theaters of conflict to where we deploy our RC Forces.”

The 210th RSG of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, mobilized a year during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which decimated the island, but the unit still succeeded in the face of adversity.

“Simply put, and unequivocally, the 210th RSG excelled in their role as the Fort Bliss Mobilization Brigade since their assumption of authority last May,” said Murphy.

The 653rd RSG of Mesa, AZ, assumes control of a mission that serves as force generator throughout the force around the world. And while the mobilization for the 653rd RSG is a stateside deployment, the mission is just as critical.

“We know the bottom line is taking care of the sons and daughters of this nation and ensuring the combatant commanders get their capabilities on time,” said Col. Chandra Roberts, 653rd RSG commander. “We know we’ve got to be flexible, we’ve got to be adaptive and anticipate things.”
Just as the many Reserve component units and Soldiers who mobilized in support of the mission here, each unit’s approach to the mission is typically the same.

“We executed every mission like we were going to fight,” said Col. Javier Rivera, 210th RSG commander. “My admiration to all the NCOs (non-commissioned officers) and Soldiers who executed their mission to perfection.”

The 210th RSG will redeploy to Puerto Rico near the end of the month.  The transfer was held on April 15, 2019.

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

Dakota Family ‘Leads the Way’ as Staff Sgt. Earns Ranger Tab

“Rangers Lead the Way!” The U.S. Army Ranger motto symbolizes its unique mission set; the ability to deploy forces within 18 hours of notification.

One of the requirements to be an Army Ranger is to complete the grueling 61-day Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. This arduous task requires training and support from loved ones.

Staff Sgt. Austin Forby, cavalry scout, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment “Dakota,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (Rotational), graduated from Ranger Class 04-19 at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 5. His wife, Emily, and son, Kason, were there to see him earn the highly-coveted Ranger Tab.

“Without a strong family support network I would have never made it through Ranger School,” said Forby. “The letters I received from my family and friends really helped push me through the hard times.”

The Forby family comes from the small town of Benton, Illinois, which continued to support them throughout Cole’s military service and multiple deployments.

“I, along with different family members and community members at home wrote him over 100 letters,” said Emily Forby, who is also the family readiness group leader for Troop A, 2-13th Cav. Regt. “We come from a small town that really supports Cole in everything he does.”

Cole is preparing to join the rest of 2-13th Cav. Regt. forward in the Republic of Korea assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division in the coming weeks.

Emily and Kason will continue to support their troop as he goes forward along with the rest of his support network from back home, who kept him going through Ranger School.

“After I made some posts on Facebook about Austin being at Ranger School, I had lots of people ask for his address so they could write him,” she said. “Our hometown is amazing with support.”

Graduates and cadre members of Ranger School Class 04-19 gather for a class photo at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 5, 2019. Ranger School is a 61-day combat leadership school designed to test the physical and mental toughness of Soldiers who volunteered to join the elite ranks of U.S. Army Rangers or who have desired to master the fundamentals of small-unit tactics. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of Emily Forby)

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

Local U.S. Army Reservists head to the field for battle assembly

DONA ANA, N.M. – The U.S. Army Reserve 383rd Quartermaster Battalion, headquartered in El Paso, conducted a readiness focused field training exercise last weekend, April 4 – 7, 2019.

Time is always a challenge for the Army Reserve as traditional drilling Soldiers only conduct their military duties one weekend a month with fourteen to twenty nine additional training days to use sometime during the fiscal year. Field training exercises like this one allow units to maximize their training time, focusing on tasks and drills that build capability and increase their combat-readiness.

Lt. Col Marc Braswell is the commander of the 383rd QM BN. He said he planned this four-day FTX to get Soldiers out of the classroom and into a realistic training environment.

“Soldiers need training on basic soldier skills so they have to get out of the reserve center,” said Braswell. “We have to get out of the classrooms and get into the field environment where we can have real combat training.”

When Braswell took command a year ago, he saw a missed opportunity in the way the unit trained. He reorganized his weekend battle assemblies to allow the unit to go into a field environment every quarter.

“No one joins the army to sit in a classroom, Soldiers want to get out and train,” said Braswell. “When I took command, I told the Soldiers, if you every feel like I’m wasting your time, and not giving you realistic training, you need to tell me. That’s the promise I made.”

The transition hasn’t been completely smooth, but that’s what Braswell expected, it’s what he wanted. He says that he wants his unit to hit bumps and work them out in training so they are ready and experienced if they are called upon for deployment.

“Bottom line is, we are going to make this happen,” said Braswell. “Whatever hiccups we have, whatever problems we encounter, those are natural parts of the growing process, so I expect friction but we are pushing through it.”

1st Sgt. Anthony Rogers, with the 356th Transportation Company, part of the 383rd QM BN, said he had challenges to overcome to get his Soldiers to the FTX. As a new Ready-Force unit, they are still being filled with equipment and only had five vehicles, not nearly enough to carry all their Soldiers to the field.

“We will overcome it by pure will and ingenuity,” laughed Rogers. “Our higher command knows the challenge, and we are working it, but the mission doesn’t stop.”

Rogers and the 356th’s brand new commander, Capt. Zachary Wise, coordinated with other units in the BN for transportation support. That’s exactly the kind of solutions Braswell expects his leaders to come up with.

“It comes down to a paradigm shift,” said Braswell, “I am helping people understand that this is what we are going to do now and this is a different experience than they’ve had the past four years.”

Another challenge came once the communications team arrived at the training site. They set up two OE-254 communication antennas and the command post’s communication kit, then immediately ran into a problem with power.

“Right now we are trying to get another generator so we can run on our own,” said Spc. Demetrus Jacobs, a signal support specialist with the 383rd QM BN. “When we go to the field, we put out heads together to make sure we have everything we need and make it work.”

Jacobs prefers field training to sitting in a classroom. He recognizes the value it brings to him and his fellow Soldiers. He says it’s important because his unit has to be ready to mobilize and deploy if they are needed.

“I think hands on is always more valuable,” said Jacobs. “You get more out of it than sitting in a class.”

Braswell feels very positive about these FTXs. Soldiers are practicing their skills, morale is going up and the units are overcoming challenges. Most importantly, the BN’s combat-readiness is improving.

“If we don’t get the Soldiers out here to train on these tasks we are really cheating them,” said Braswell. “We have to stick with it and move forward because just getting the BN out here and working the process is a win.”

Soldiers from the US Army Reserve 383rd Quartermaster Battalion set up lighting equipment in their tactical operation center during a field training exercise in Dona Ana, New Mexico, on April 4, 2019. Field training exercises allow Army Reserve units to maximize their training time, focusing on tasks and drills that build capability and increase their combat-readiness. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Brandon R. Mace)
Soldiers from the US Army Reserve 383rd Quartermaster Battalion settle into their sleeping tents during a field training exercise in Dona Ana, New Mexico, on April 4, 2019. Field training exercises allow Army Reserve units to maximize their training time, focusing on tasks and drills that build capability and increase their combat-readiness. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Maj. Brandon R. Mace)

Author: Maj. Brandon Mace  – 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

Fort Bliss’ 2nd ABCT Strengthening U.S., Polish alliance one exercise at a time

DRAWSKO POMORSKIE, Poland – Spectators watch closely as U.S. and Polish tanks crawl over the hill in a tactical formation before firing, sending shock waves across the training area as the artillery rounds hit the impact area.

Mariusz Blaszczak, the Polish Minister of National Defense, and Col. Patrick Michaelis, the commander of the Mission Command Element in Poznan, Poland, are among the crowd observing a multinational maneuvering demonstration in Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

“Today’s training could have only happened with the close coordination between our two nations,” said Michaelis. “It shows the strength of the alliance and our friendship.”

The demonstration featured Soldiers from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas, and Polish Soldiers with the 12th Mechanized Brigade, 12th Mechanized Division out of Szczecin, Poland participating in a live-fire exercise and a static display of Polish and American armored military vehicles.

The 1st Armored Division Soldiers deployed to Europe at the direction of the Secretary of Defense to exercise the U.S. Army’s ability to rapidly alert, recall and deploy under emergency conditions.

“What we have just witnessed was the exercise between the Polish Armed forces and U.S. troops in Drawsko Pomorskie,” said Blaszczak. “This is very important because it shows this was an allied training within the North Atlantic Alliance. The commander of this exercise [Col. Chad Chalfont, commander of 2ABCT] approached me and said this exercise is not organized because the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Poland visited this training arrangement, this is daily training being conducted in Drawsko Pomorskie.”

This exercise highlighted the U.S. and Polish strong partnership, cooperation, and U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance by working closely with each other.

“I have to say that the 12th Brigade is very proud to be a part of this training. Because of the unique training opportunity, we were able to use U.S. military equipment and understand their operational functions,” said Col. Slawomir Dudczak, the commander of the 12th Mechanized Division out of Szczecin, Poland. “We really gained a new experience. I’m very happy that my sub-units will be able to participate in the training for the next seven days to implement new strategies that we have learned over this exercise.”

The Soldiers work together, shoulder to shoulder, to integrate and build stronger relations for future joint exercises.

“Today, three days before the 70th Anniversary of NATO, an alliance we are all committed to, we are well represented by Polish and the U.S. Soldiers that you see,” said Michaelis.

“As they sharpen the art and science of putting steel on target, it is a clear expression of combined strength, interoperability and determination. Today’s demonstration of the dynamic enforcement of U.S. forces across oceans, across continents without warning and without notice, serves as a demonstration of our capacity, of our mutual commitment, and our mutual resolve…it’s an Atlantic Resolve.”

Author: Spc. Christina Westover  – 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element

School Days: Fort Bliss NCO earns coveted spot in prestigious academic program

There’s an incomparable force of energy that always travels right alongside this dedicated Soldier as she readily takes on new challenges and excels during her assigned missions.

It’s a passion heard in her voice and an intrigue seen in her eyes. These positive vibes define her as she continues to raise the bar and motivate other service members to follow her lead.

Her energetic passion is what led Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt, who serves as the public affairs non-commissioned officer in charge for the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, to earn a coveted seat in the Military Visual Journalism Program at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.

This 10-month curriculum focuses on teaching its students to become better storytellers taking courses in communications, photo and digital journalism, photography, design, sound and documentary production. Upon completion, students will earn 30 credits of college coursework.

Jagdatt competed among her peers for one of only four Army slots awarded to public affairs professionals. She will begin her course of study this summer, and said she is looking forward to starting this new chapter in her career.

“I was so excited, and at first I couldn’t believe it,” she said, “It took a while for me to absorb everything, then I ran to tell my commander and called my family members.”

The 28-year-old expressed that she is not only hoping that this experience will enhance her storytelling abilities to tell the U.S. Army’s story in our society’s ever-changing information environment, but it will also help her become a better leader to mentor her future Soldiers.

“Our future is information-and a big part of every war is information skills,” said the New York native. “I want to become a better mentor and teacher to our Soldiers. Any person that has a skill-and then develops that skill-becomes an asset to the entire Army.”

This fast-paced noncommissioned officer is no stranger to hard work. She monitors her career progression and personal goals through detailed Excel spreadsheets. She said these reminders keep her career path goals on track and within reach.

“I use these spreadsheets daily to stay challenged and competitive. These stats help track where I should be at this point of my career. It puts my ‘Why’ into perspective and keeps me moving,” she said.

So how else does this seven-year Army veteran stay motivated? By telling the Soldier’s story!

As a military public affairs professional, she says that taking photos, producing videos and writing stories is her passion, as well as getting to know each Soldier and bringing their story to light.

Although she has already earned her Master’s degree in Policy and Government, Jagdatt said she ‘loves the idea of going back to school’ and is ready to take on her new role as a communication and journalism student.

“This new experience gives me a chance to indulge with my peers from all of the branches of service, share my perspective, and learn from theirs,” she said “I want to absorb all the pockets of the military. This will help me experience the moving and diverse pieces of this puzzle that makes us so powerful.”

The Newhouse School’s Military Visual Journalism program has four competitive slots throughout each of the Armed Services including the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. The goal is to cross train each student, take them out of their comfort zone and bring their storytelling skills to an advanced level to share with other service members and better communicate the military’s story with the American people.

One of the key pieces leading to Jagdatt being considered for the program was her strong application, which included a firm print and video portfolio, as well as letters of recommendation from senior leadership. She has been recognized by the El Paso community as well as Army leaders assigned to Fort Bliss.

Capt. Lindsay Roman, the public affairs officer for the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, described Jagdatt as hardworking and professional. Roman said that although has only worked with Jagdatt for less than a year, she has seen this NCO grow. “She always keeps herself one step ahead and brings her ‘A game’ to the table every day.”

Jagadatt’s key mentor throughout the application process was Master Sgt. Alex Licea, assigned as the NCOIC for the 1st Armored Division’s Public Affairs office. Licea said her passion, motivation and great personality emulate what every leader looks for in a Soldier and NCO.

“She’s a self- motivated, positive force who is consistently growing and learning,” said Licea. “Jagdatt is not afraid to ask for advice and guidance, and she is always looking to challenge herself. I know she will continue to grow within the public affairs career field and our Army.”

Throughout his 17 years in the Army, Licea noted that he has trained Soldiers across the globe, and Jagdatt stands out as being one of the best Soldiers and junior NCOs he has ever mentored; demonstrating all of the attributes to become a future leader.

“I know that she will move forward and this broadening opportunity can elevate her to the next level. She is meant to be a future leader and is completely dedicated to telling the Army and the Soldier story,” said Licea. “If she continues on this path, without a doubt, she is a future sergeant major.”

Author: Stephanie Santos – 1st Armored Division

Trump’s emergency declaration could mean Texas’ military installations lose millions for future projects

Texas’ largest military bases could lose tens of millions of dollars already earmarked for future projects if President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a border barrier withstands legal challenges and the administration diverts money from the military for wall construction.

The bases include U.S. Army and Air Force installations at Joint Base San Antonio, Army installations at Fort Bliss in El Paso and Fort Hood in Killeen, and the Naval Reserve center in Galveston, according to the office of U.S. Rep Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

In all, about $265 million for construction and other projects on military bases in Texas could be diverted to build walls on the southern border, according to a list of potential projects the Department of Defense released to lawmakers Monday.

The president signed his emergency declaration after a five-week government shutdown spurred when Congress refused to approve $5.7 billion that Trump requested for border barriers. The president issued a national emergency declaration last month that would divert billions in defense spending to construct the barriers. The U.S. House and Senate voted recently to oppose the declaration, but the president vetoed the measure.

“After failing to convince the Government of Mexico or U.S. Congress to pay for his ineffective wall, the President is trying to bypass constitutional authority and undermine the training, readiness, and quality of life of our military and their families in Texas,” Cuellar said in a written statement.

Joint Base San Antonio could lose about $10 million for an air traffic control tower, $10 million for an aerospace operations facility, $38 million for a military training classroom and dining hall, and more than $13 million for a vehicle maintenance shop. Fort Bliss could lose $20 million for defense access roads, more than $8 million for a blood processing center and $24 million for supply support.

At least seven lawsuits have been filed to halt any wall construction under the emergency declaration, including litigation filed by El Paso County and the Laredo-based Rio Grande International Study Center.

“It’s clear that @realDonaldTrump’s political stunt only hurts our troops and endangers our national security. This must end!” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D- El Paso, tweeted Monday after learning about the potential cuts.

It’s not clear which projects will be chosen or when that decision will be made. The Department of Defense noted that construction projects already awarded and other projects awarded during the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, won’t be affected. If money for a border wall is included in the next federal budget, none of the projects listed will be affected, the fact sheet states.

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Cuellar’s statements.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Gallery+Story: Final Air Assault Class graduates at Fort Bliss

Ten days of building mental and physical endurance. Ten days of concentration and commitment.

Ten days of rigorous training that began with 271 Service Members on Day 0 and ended with a total of 160 graduates who earned the coveted Air Assault wings March 11 during a graduation ceremony for the Air Assault Course at the 1st Armored Division Parade Field.

The course brings a series of challenges: Attention to layout detail, hands-on and written exams, rappelling, a full obstacle course, and timed sling-load inspections. Leading up to the morning of graduation, students could not celebrate their success until they each completed a rigorous 12-mile foot march with a 35-pound ruck in less than three hours.

“We push each Soldier physically and mentally. They learn the importance of detail. There is no rank here…a Pvt. can help a Sgt. 1st Class and a Spc. can help a Capt.,” said Air Assault Instructor Sgt. Clinton Sargent. “The focus is never on rank, but on what each service member can do to help each other.”

The course stressed maintaining standards and discipline at all times. Students agreed that Day 0 allowed no room for error, and one layout mistake could get them sent back to their unit.

Even after 21 years in the Army, Command Sgt. Maj. Jose Palomino assigned to 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, said the course was intimidating, but he had to meet the promise that he made to his fellow Soldiers.

“I have to lead by example. I’m doing this for my Soldiers and yes, it’s scary to be the oldest person here,”said the 42-year-old leader.

Palomino felt that the air assault training built confidence and the class became closer while learning how to work together. He noted that every student was held accountable, and there was no chance to redo something that was incorrect.

“As leaders, we are never done with training, and we can’t sit in our comfort zone,” he said. “This course taught us to remember the basics and what it is to be a Soldier, remain resilient and never quit. I put myself through this to show that it is never too late to develop yourself.”

After rapelling from the 34-foot tower, Pfc. Lillyanna Puig assigned to the 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, said a lot of her motivation came from proving to herself that she could push herself to the next level. Puig was one of four female service members to graduate from the course.

“A lot of times as females in the Army we put ourselves in a gender box, but we are all Soldiers. We have to stay motivated,” she said. “I want to achieve as much as possible in my Army career.”

Instructors concurred that although the course is a physical shock, its benefits prepare Soldiers to better train their forces, build more confidence and be an example to their peers.

Building ‘esprit de corps’ is how Air Assault Course Chief Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell Levart defined the intense instruction. He stressed that the school opens new doors for all military personnel, and can serve as a basis for career progression.

“It’s always been my dream to run an air assault school, he said “I feel like I am doing something that they will always remember.”

In response to Class 004-19 being the last class to graduate from Fort Bliss, Staff Sgt. Matthew Heckman explained that the class values and new strengths developed will still travel with each person regardless of where they are stationed in the future.

“It’s rewarding to know that we have affected these graduates in a positive way and knowing they will make a difference,” said Heckman, who was named instructor of the cycle. “Even though the class here has ended, the Air Assault Course legacy will continue to live on.”

Author & Photographer:  Stephanie Santos  – 1st Armored Division

2019 Army Trials at Fort Bliss: Games Give Soldiers, Veterans More Than Competition

Over 80 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans came to Fort Bliss to compete for a spot on Team Army for this year’s 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games.

After 10 days of intense competition in 14 different sports, the 2019 Army Trials is coming to a close.

Returning Army Trials athletes like Staff Sgt. Samuel Daniels, who was also a 2018 Team Army member, are making the most of their second Army Trials, while also mentoring first-time participants.

“I’m one of the big dogs now, whereas last year we were the trainees,” Daniels said. “I was here last year so I knew what to expect, but I also did two new sports (archery and shooting) so I could identify with that ‘new’ feeling this year too. I’m excited and nervous and I hope I (make Team Army) again.”

Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Beth King participated in her first Army Trials this year and was humbled by the opportunity.

“It is truly an honor to be [at Army Trials]. When you have an injury that changes your abilities it is easy to lose yourself in the diagnosis and in the list of things you can no longer do,” said King.

While Army Trials is a competition, with a chance to go to Warrior Games on the line, behind the scenes it’s an opportunity, particularly for veterans, to be around others with similar injuries and in similar situations, something they may not have readily available where they live.

“As a veteran, it’s easy to feel invisible or even forgotten. I came here only knowing one other person and believing that cycling was all I was really good at. Being here I’ve found new allies, people who see me and want me to succeed at more than just my specialized event,” King said.

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Olson, another first-time participant, also enjoyed the opportunity to compete at Army Trials and be around other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. “Watching people overcome whatever (injury or illness) they have to overcome every day and come out here and compete the way we are is amazing,” Olson said. “It’s motivating and inspiring and being around others facing similar challenges is great for me.”

Now that the Army Trials competition has come to an end, its participants will head home and wait to hear if they will be one of 40 athletes selected to represent Team Army at the DoD Warrior Games at Tampa. Those who are not selected for Team Army this year may try again next year, something Daniels encourages them to do for one simple reason: family.

“Being at Army Trials is like a family reunion. We all keep in touch and motivate and support each other, not just with adaptive sports, but in life too,” said Daniels. “It’s great to be able to see everyone in person and that alone is worth the trip.”

Author: Christopher Fields – U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

2019 Army Trials at Fort Bliss: Understanding archery and mental healing

Toeing the line, controlled breathing, then slowly drawing back the bowstring is a mental and physical exercise each athlete executed while participating in the archery event, during the 2019 Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas.

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Jonathan Alexander, Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion, started participating in archery about eight months ago. “I never picked up a bow until I got to the WTB,” he explained. “Archery gets you out of the mindset that you’re hurt and can’t do anything.”

Alexander has observed his teammates pushing through their injuries and credits the adaptive nature and coaching they have received in the sport of archery as something that is helpful in recovery.

“It’s a lot more of a mental recovery as opposed to physical,” he said. “Archery helps you to calm down and realize you can do things regardless of injury. I’ve got a lower body injury. It makes you feel good about not being locked to a chair. (Archery) has given me an outlet.”

Retired Sgt. Harvey Boyd, an Atlanta native, echoed Alexander’s assessment. “Because of our injuries there is camaraderie,” said Boyd. “Some of the athletes have some serious injuries, but it’s not holding them back from competing. I have a lower back injury, but the concentration… when I take that first shot, I actually don’t feel the pain. But, after I take that last shot and exhale, my back is like ‘I’m here’!”

Participants in the archery event can shoot in either compound or recurve bow categories, from the standing or seated position, and compete in different classification categories based on functional abilities, including impaired muscle power/range of movement, limb deficiency and visual impairment. Visually-impaired archers compete in a separate classification than other archers and wear blindfolds and shoot with a tactile sight.

Both Alexander and Boyd shot in the compound bow category.

Retired Army Sgt. Harvey Boyd, Atlanta, Georgia, takes aim at his target during the compound bow archery event, March 12, at the Army Trials. (U.S. Army photo by Robert A. Whetstone)

Boyd described the difference between the compound and recurve bows, stating compound bows minimize the necessary strength to fully draw the bow, while recurve bows require more strength to draw and hold prior to releasing the arrow.

Alexander and Boyd credit adaptive sports for their continued recovery and a start to the next chapter in their lives.

“It does wonders for a lot of us,” said Alexander. “Just to get out of the barracks and get your mind free and be with people that are in the same boat as you are, and have a good time for a couple of hours during the day does wonders for mentality and even physical therapy.”

“I’ve been shooting all my life, but the WTB introduced the competitive aspect of the sport to me,” said Boyd.

For Soldiers and veterans just getting introduced to adaptive reconditioning, Alexander has some great advice: “Be coachable in everything you do.”

Author:  Robert Whetstone  – U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

Vietnam Veterans Visit 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss

Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

The gravity of these words resonate especially with the men and women who wear the U.S. Army tape on their chest, since their work directly influences the geopolitical direction of the world.

From the beginning of time, people have passed down stories by word of mouth from generation to generation. Late last week, Iron Soldiers with the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment met with Veterans who had also stood in their ranks during the Vietnam War to listen to their stories.

“A meeting such as this has many purposes, but the greatest of them is having present day Soldiers understand their legacy and they are apart of something way bigger then themselves,” said Capt. Brendan Duke, assistant operations officer at the squadron. “Knowing that these men went to great lengths to ensure that I can stand where I am today gives me a sense of peace to know that what I am doing will help pave paths for those who will eventually stand even further than where I am today.”

Each Veteran was given a moment to tell their stories- the good and the bad- and when they did, it seemed as if they took a time machine and flew right back into those moments.

One gentlemen said, “I took a helicopter, and I landed in hell,” as his eyes glossed over to a moment that no one in that room could begin to imagine, besides the men who walked those red dirt roads alongside him.

These men cried when asked how it felt to come back home because, for many of them, home was so far away and not even thought of as possible.

“The greatest of my accomplishments was bringing home as many men as I could,” said Maj. Walter Reed (RET), who was once the troop commander of Troop Bravo “Bandits” in Vietnam. “I wish I could of done many things different like moving my men ten meters to the left or letting that Soldier stay back on this one mission. Maybe he would have came home if I did that.”

“To live with all of these people in my mind who had faces, personalities, stories of their own and to know that they can’t stand here and tell them in their own words leaves my heart in a bad place,” said another Vietnam Veteran. “We get through it, though. We live with it, but we understand some parts of it. I didn’t understand the point of the war besides having a mission and knowing it was my duty to fulfill it.”

In the end, every Soldier who served in the war regardless of the bad moments said, “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if I had to.”

They expressed deep concern for Soldiers who suffered from mental illnesses today, and one of the Veterans said he, “hopes that they know this is just one small part of a life that has so many folds. It is hard to get over at first, and sometimes it doesn’t get easy; but, most of the time, it is easier because we have our brothers who we can talk it through and who will understand.”

The purpose of the visit to the Iron Brigade’s headquarters was two fold: the first being to hold a reunion for these men and their Families to get together, and the second to receive a painting that the late Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Boggs painted of his time in Vietnam.

His wife, Tyra Dean, wanted to give this memento to the regiment because it represents history of great men who did something beyond themselves.

She went on to express that because we have the men and women who fight and sacrifice all over the world, we don’t have other countries entering our lands and making us feel unsafe.

“It was an honor to meet everyone of these men and their Families,” said Duke. “More events like this need to happen to remind us of how great we are as a country and, even more, how great we are as a team of brothers and sisters standing besides each other for one cause.”

Author: Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt  – 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

2019 Army Trials at Fort Bliss: In the field at the Army Trials

Grunts and yells were loud and clear at the Army Trials Field events at Fort Bliss.

Throwing the shot put is an event that is said to have originated in the Scottish Highlands.

At the 2019 Army Trials, don’t be surprised when you hear guttural noises as Soldiers and veterans throw the shot put or discus, and maybe see a competitor or two donning a kilt while throwing.

Throwing the shot put or the discus is much more complex than picking up the apparatus, walking into the pit and tossing it any way you feel comfortable. There are rules and techniques involved to level the playing field, and reduce injuries.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ricardo Berry is growing very familiar with what he feels is the most difficult aspect of throwing the shot put.

“You have to know technique, said Berry, 1st Air Combat Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood. “You have to practice, and it comes down to actually (throwing the shot put) without hurting yourself.”

Lt. Col. Ted Sobocienski, commander, 3rd Battalion 38th Mountain Infantry Regiment, Warrior Transition Battalion from Fort Drum, New York, traveled to the trials to support his four Soldiers. As of today, Sobocienski’s Soldiers have earned four gold medals and two bronze. But, the Army Trials are more than simply competing and earning medals.

“I told all of my athletes I would be equally as proud if they came home with nothing,” said Sobocienski. “I told two of my athletes last

U.S. Army Sgt. Ricardo Berry, 1st Air Combat Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood Texas, takes a practice throw with the shot put before the field event officially begins at the Army Trials. (U.S. Army photo by Robert A. Whetstone)

night, I am ‘dad’ proud, not battalion commander proud. It is beyond amazing what these athletes can do.”

Sobocienski said the entire intent of adaptive reconditioning is to heal and transition, and to get Soldiers physically and socially engaged. “It is preparing them for being outside of the WTB,” he said.

Field events are one of the adaptive sports in the program that first-time participants like Berry uses to help provide the focus necessary to heal.

“The first time I threw the shot put was at the regional games in Hawaii (November 2018),” said Berry. “It still takes some getting used to. What’s next for me, hopefully, is to participate and represent the Army at the Warrior Games. Adaptive sports helped out a lot. It gave me the ability and confidence to still compete at the (same) level (I did) before I got injured.”

Field events include seated shot put, standing shot put, seated discus, and standing discus. The weights of the shot put and discus vary for men and women in all events. Athletes compete in different classification categories based on functional abilities, including impaired muscle power/range of movement, limb deficiency and visual impairment. Athletes with lower extremity injuries or impaired balance use specialized equipment, such as the field throwing chair.

“Way back in another lifetime when I was a lot younger I threw the shot put,” said Sobocienski. “Some of these throws are out classing and out distancing what I was throwing in high school, and they are using a heavier shot. Some of the discus throws are landing in the next field over. They’re doing awesome!”

Soldiers and veterans who are not aware of adaptive reconditioning are encouraged to witness the opportunities available to them.

“You really need to come out and watch the spirit of the games,” explained Sobocienski. “They’re competing against each other, but also cheering each other on. This is a huge team effort.”

Author: Robert Whetstone  – U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition 

Army Warrior Care and Transition’s 2019 Army Trials Competition Week Underway at Fort Bliss

Wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans will join together at Fort Bliss to compete in the U.S. Army Trials 2019, March 7th through the 15th.

Army Trials include Soldier and Veteran athletes who will face off in powerlifting, archery, shooting, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair basketball.

Participants include athletes with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment, serious illnesses and amputations.

The Army Warrior Care and Transition conducts the Army Trials annually to help determine which athletes get selected for Team Army and go on to compete at the DOD Warrior Games.

This year’s Warrior Games will take place this summer in Tampa, Florida.

Schedule of events:

Thursday, March 7                  8:30 a.m. Rowing, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Training: Powerlifting, Track, Cycling, and Tennis

Friday, March 8                      9 a.m. Powerlifting, 1 p.m.-4 p.m., Field, Cycling, Shooting, Archery

                                                2 p.m. Tennis

Saturday, March 9                  8 a.m. Track, 3 p.m. Powerlifting, Golf, Tennis, Medal Ceremony

Sunday, March 10                   8 a.m. Cycling timed trials, Road Race, 3 p.m. Track Medal Ceremony

Monday, March 11                 8 a.m. Field, 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m., Training: Golf, Swimming, Shooting, Archery, Sitting Volleyball, 4 p.m. Cycling Medal Ceremony

Tuesday, March 12                 8 a.m. Archery, 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Training: Golf, Swimming, Shooting, Wheelchair Basketball, 4 p.m. Field Medal Ceremony

Wednesday, March 13            8 a.m. Shooting, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Training: Golf, Swimming Wheelchair Rugby

Thursday, March 14                8 a.m. Swimming, 2 p.m. Golf, 4 p.m. Shooting, Archery Medal Ceremony

Friday, March 15                    Team Sports Day: 8 a.m. Sitting Volleyball, 10:30 a.m. Wheelchair Basketball, 1:30 Wheelchair Rugby, 4 p.m. Golf and Swimming Medal Ceremony, 6 p.m. Closing Ceremony

2019 Army Trials at Fort Bliss: The word can’t is now the fuel for her fire

ARLINGTON, Va. – Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Beth King was used to flying as a former Chinook helicopter maintainer and crew chief. Her flying came to an end on July 25, 2011 when her helicopter was hit with a rocket propelled grenade in Regional Command East Afghanistan while trying to land.

“I was four feet from the blast in which I sustained a traumatic brain injury, injuries to my jaw and spine, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The married mother of one son did not want to leave her house and struggled to feel whole again as she recovered from the blast. “I felt very much like I was just an empty shell physically, as well as emotionally. I was very depressed and really struggled with the ‘why’ of it,” said King.

Finally, after denying the idea for a time, King began participating in adaptive sports.

“What is the point of a life on the sidelines when I have always been in the middle of it all,” King recalled asking herself. “My occupational therapist told me I should try out cycling. In my mind, I was sure I couldn’t do it, but figured I would just appease her and try it.”

King is now the queen of adaptive cycling. She has come a long way in a short time, overcoming many things including her own self-doubt.

“At first it was a battle. I had spent years not being active, but the more I got out, the more I pedaled, and the more I could see there was a way out of the darkness,” King said. “I was not as worthless as I had been feeling. Slowly I began to go further, and then I started getting faster. I made it to my goal to do the Tour de El Paso, 50 miles!”

She completed the Tour de El Paso and followed it up by riding from San Antonio to Fort Worth, Texas in six days and joining the Texas

Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Beth King rides her recumbent bike as she trains for the 2019 Army Trials. (Photo courtesy Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Beth King)

Challenge bike ride.

Because of her new found love of cycling, King will compete at the 2019 Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas 5 – 16 March in hopes of

garnering a spot on Team Army for the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida in June.

“I went from feeling isolated and alone, unable to connect with anyone to being able to talk with and connect with people,” King said. “I went from feeling there was no point in life or in continuing to breathe to being excited to be here, if only to prove I can do anything I put my mind to. The word ‘can’t’ is now the fuel for my fire.”

King will compete in cycling, air rifle and rowing at the 2019 Army Trials. She wants to be a member of Team Army, but she also wants to be a positive influence to others.

“I want to share my passion for adaptive cycling. If only one person sees me out there competing and is inspired to get outside and ride, then I feel like I have made a difference.”

Author: MaryTherese Griffin – Warrior Care and Transition

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