Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gators Fire 2nd BCT’s First Rounds Since Iraq

By 1st Lt. Zach Alessi-Friedlander
Contributing Writer

The howitzers had been quiet since the first of November of 2007, but that changed on April 23.
For fifteen long months, the Battery A “Gators,” 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, provided fire support for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in its expansive area of operations comprising the farms, fields and cities south of Baghdad. During that time, the Gators shot almost 3,000 rounds in support of BCT operations.
Last week, the guns roared back to life as the Gators traveled to the field for three days to complete section-level certification. Fort Drum’s notoriously fickle weather cooperated, allowing the Gators to qualify all eight of their howitzer sections and both of their fire-direction sections.
Section certification is a major training gate for a firing battery because successful completion of what the field artillery world calls “Table VIII” is mandatory for the unit to continue with its more advanced training and live-fire exercises.
The post-deployment phase of reconstituting the formation and resetting equipment forced the Gators to grapple with many of the same challenges imposed upon other units in 2nd BCT.
The battery’s Soldiers spent long hours in the classroom and doing dry-fire crew drills, refining the tasks required of them for Table VIII, but this live-fire exercise presented the battery with the opportunity to translate these skills from drill to practice.
“Table VIII gave the [fire-direction sections] the chance to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and put it into practice,” said 1st Lt. Tom Campbell, the fire direction officer in first platoon. “It’s one thing to learn in the classroom, but it’s a totally different experience to give actual firing data to gun sections that are chucking rounds down range.”
This field exercise also allowed the battalion’s various support elements to contribute to an artillery live fire. Specifically, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery provided medics; their survey section, which provided the firing unit with accurate direction and distance information for the firing site; and their meteorological section, which provided the fire-direction centers with the weather information that they must take into account when determining firing data for the howitzers.
Battery G, the battalion’s support and service battery, provided a large maintenance crew to attend to any vehicle, weapons, or mechanical problems the Gators might have experienced during their time in the field.
Because of the current operating environment, artillerymen are often forced to perform in a number of different roles while deployed. During the deployment, the Gators not only provided fire support for the entire BCT, but they also conducted numerous combat patrols in the Sayyid-Abdullah Corridor and within Mahmudiyah.
But artillerymen must always remain sharp and ready on their core skill set.
“The live-fire exercise afforded the battery the opportunity to allow our new Soldiers to experience rigorous field artillery training for the first time,” said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip DeVos. “It also allowed our more seasoned Soldiers, who spent large parts of the deployment doing maneuver tasks, to re-embrace their basic artillery skill sets.”
The experience of training for and successfully executing Table VIII has inspired confidence amongst Btry. A’s leaders and Soldiers.
"Today is my birthday, and as I turn 31, the battery has given me the greatest gift they could think of,” said Capt. Lee North, the battery commander. “They have safely and accurately fired over 250 rounds of 105mm artillery projectiles as part of Table VIII certification. I am honored and humbled to be in the presence of these fine Soldiers."

Gators take heavy weapons for an aerial spin

By 2nd Lt. Mike Schulman
2nd Bn., 15th FAR Fire Direction Officer

For some members of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT, the air assault and sling load training they participated in on May 27 was second nature. Battery A ran an air assault school for the Iraqi Army during their last deployment in 2007. Those NCOs that were with the ‘Gators’ in Iraq passed on their knowledge and skill on Tuesday to the new Soldiers that have since joined the unit.
The goal of the day’s training was to prepare the Soldiers of Btry. A, under the command of Capt. Lee North, for air assault missions that they will carry out in the future. One of the things artillerymen pride themselves on is their ability to accurately fire their weapons in any weather, terrain, or environment. With this training and the aid of the Blackhawk helicopters, Btry. A’s Soldiers can bring the fight to the enemy, no matter where the battlefield may be.
The day started as classes were given by Sgt. Matthew Konapatski and Staff Sgt. Barry Belles on how to rig a M119 Howitzer for a sling-load mission. In addition, a class on how to prepare a cargo net bag was given by staff sergeants James Claymore and Charles Bruckner. The Soldiers watched attentively as their NCOs went over every detail on how to prepare equipment for the helicopters. They also showed their Soldiers how to properly inspect their Howitzers and bags for mistakes and improper rigging.
“This training is good stuff; it’s realistic and gets everyone involved,” Konapatski said. By everyone, he meant everyone in the battery. North was the first Soldier in the battery to do a live hook up on Tuesday. In addition, both fire direction officers, 2nd Lt. Mike Schulman and 2nd Lt. Tom Upton, did hands-on training with their Soldiers.
“It was a good experience to be able to work with other units in the 10th Mountain Division,” said Pfc. Gregg Swanson, a gunner. “It’s good to see how an operation comes together with two completely different types of units - artillery and aviation, working towards completing the same mission.”
“You learn to respect the helicopters,” one of the officers said. “I got blown over when they were coming in to land.”
Once the Soldiers learned how to rig their equipment, the real training began. The helicopters came in and began to hover only 15 feet off the ground. From there, the Soldiers would stand on top of either their cannon or cargo net bag and hook their equipment up to the bird. The helicopters were only inches above the Soldier’s helmets as they worked together. Once hooked, all the Soldiers involved would quickly run to the left of the helicopter and wait for it to take off.
Battery A, who will be doing air assault missions this summer while training cadets at West Point, gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from the training. As part of the Global Reaction Force mission that the 2nd BCT has taken on, the Gators can take their cannons anywhere, and bring their firepower wherever it is needed.

Iron Sappers have blast at range

2nd Lt. Philip Lee
Contributing writer

In a war that requires Soldiers to fight, conduct civil-affairs missions, and form alliances with local citizens, often in the same day, sometimes its fun just to blow things up.
The Company A “Iron Sappers” of the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, successfully executed their explosive breaching mission May 27 through 29.
All of the Soldiers are now proficient in breaching a door with explosives using a variety of techniques. Using plastic explosives, more than 50 wooden and steel doors were safely blasted off their hinges.
Combat Engineers specialize in breaching obstacles in order to assist maneuver elements such as infantry, armor, and cavalry. Breaching doors with explosives is one of three methods. The two others are ballistic - the use of shotguns - or mechanical, using a Halligan tool to pry or break the door.
The need for breaching is especially important in today’s war because of the urban environment in which Soldiers operate. Combat engineers are often attached to maneuver units for this distinctive skill.
2nd Lt. Kenneth Stover, a platoon leader with the company who served as the range’s officer in charge, said that the Iron Sappers used the flex-linear, silhouette, donut, water-impulse, and C-charge techniques to breach the doors. The difference among these methods of breaching is the level of collateral damage. Factors such as the environment, possibility of non-combatants, and resources will dictate the method of breaching.
“The range was a great experience for new and seasoned Sappers alike,” said Spec. Scott Kelly, a combat engineer.
This is the last range for the Iron Sappers before departing to West Point as part of Task Force 4-31 for the United States Military Academy support mission, where they will train USMA Cadets in the conduct of live demolition training.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Polar Bears remember the fallen and missing

By Sgt. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO

Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team gathered on Fort Drum Monday May 12 to remember the two Soldiers still missing from their ranks after a terrorist attack one year ago near Qarghuli Village, Iraq.
Members of the 31st Infantry Regiment Association attended the ceremony to present the battalion with a statuette – the boots, upright rifle and helmet that symbolize a fallen Soldier – in honor of the missing and fallen.
Pfc. Byron Fouty and Sgt. Alex Jimenez, both of Company D, 4-31, were part of a patrol on Route Malibu near the village. The Humvees were attacked at about 4:45 a.m. Five other 4-31 Soldiers were killed in or just after the attack, along with an Iraqi soldier that was with the patrol.
Pfc. Vincent DeFrank, a gunner with Co. B, 4-31, accepted the statuette from regiment veteran Jack Considine, who served with the 31st in Korea.
“I was really honored to accept such an award for the battalion,” said DeFrank. “I’m only a private, and they chose me to go up there. It was really meaningful for me, and I think it was even more meaningful for the Soldiers that were (in Iraq) longer than I was. These are our brothers that are missing, and we still hope they get home safely.”
Considine, who left the regiment after the war ended, spent his nine-month tour in Korea as a specialist, but is a staunch member of the association.
“When we saw what had happened, we said, ‘They deserve this for what they did,’ said Considine. “We always care about the Soldiers of the regiment, and I really enjoy being up here with these guys.”
Ron Corson commanded Co. A, 6th Bn., 31st Inf. Regt. in Vietnam, and retired as a colonel. He now serves as the commander of the regiment’s 1200-plus membership. The organization hopes that being involved with the Soldiers who currently serve in the regiment will help them build strong bonds. The association has members who were in the Bataan death march as well as those who saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, and now the War on Terror.
“It took Vietnam veterans about 30 years to start attending reunions,” said Corson, who hopes to avoid that situation. “Every year the numbers grow. Soldiers in combat have a relationship; there’s a bond with the unit that they didn’t share with anyone else.”
An official award was given a few months ago, but the ceremony was postponed until the anniversary of the attack.
“The membership came up with the idea …and we decided this was a fitting time to do it, a good time to present it publicly,” Corson said.
“It’s important that the unit pause and acknowledge this day,” said Sonny Mitchell, former command sergeant major of the battalion. “It impacted a lot of lives, and the heart and soul of this battalion. It’s one of those things we have to remember.”
There was no mention of the anniversary in the news.
“The lives of two Soldiers who stepped up to serve the country should be acknowledged,” said Mitchell. “But the great Americans who serve give others the ability to go through their day without thinking about the cruelty and ugliness of war.”
The statuette, while a small token, is a symbol of the continuity of the 31st Infantry.
“We’re passing on the memories and the history,” Mitchell said. “That’s the lifeblood of the unit.”

Commando Providers Visit Cooperstown

By Chaplain (Capt.) Lew Messinger

Eighteen Soldiers from the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York on May 1. Cooperstown has traditionally been known as the birthplace of the modern game of baseball.
The Commando Provider Soldiers were asked why the field was named “Doubleday Field.”
Pvt. Wesley Johns of Company B quickly replied, “Well, sir, maybe it’s because they used to play two games a day here.”
Legend attributed the game of baseball to Abner Doubleday in 1839. The sport – which had been developing already - quickly grew into a professionally-played sport and America’s national pastime.
While the Hall of Fame primarily venerates high-performing individuals who have given their all to the game, it also celebrates the many great teams that have graced America’s ballparks for over 100 years: the Knickerbockers, the Red Stockings, the Bronx Bombers, the Whiz Kids, the Big Red Machine, and many others.
Abner Doubleday himself was a man of action. A company-grade officer stationed at Fort Sumter at the outbreak of the Civil War, Doubleday eventually rose to the rank of major general.
“Everybody wants to be part of a great team,” said Col. David Miller, commander of the 2nd BCT, during his command in-brief. “But great teams don’t just happen. Individuals collectively make it happen.”
George Herman “Babe” Ruth hit a lot of home runs for the New York Yankees in the 1920s, but he didn’t make it America’s winning team all by himself!
Indeed, a “team” which emphasizes personal ambition and achievement over cohesion and camaraderie often amount to little more than a tragic group of individuals. Winning teams know that the greater whole is worth more than the sum of its parts (“1 + 1 = 3”), where each part complements the other, each building on another’s strength or compensating for another’s weakness.
The Commando Providers did not travel the three hours to Cooperstown to play any games. While there, they received training in the core Army Values and team building.
“Life is not a spectator sport, where you sit on the sidelines and watch other people play it out,” said 210th BSB Chaplain (Capt.) Lew Messinger. “While many things we experience are beyond our immediate control, life does not simply happen to us. We make it happen!”

Volunteers recognized at brigade ceremony

By Sgt. Chris McCann

When a Soldier is deployed and his daughter has her tonsils taken out, who brings a meal for the Family? Who can a spouse new to the area turn to when his wife is training in the field and he needs to get to the commissary? There is no military occupational specialty for the myriad little things that need to be done.
These acts of kindness are done by volunteers – spouses and sometimes Soldiers – who give their free time to help others.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team held a ceremony May 8, honoring more than 100 volunteers who helped the brigade through its recent 15-month deployment and the reset process, at the Commons on Fort Drum.
“So much could not be done without volunteers,” said Col. David Miller, commander of the 2nd BCT. “Their work really affects us. There isn’t much that happens that doesn’t have the touch of a volunteer.”
He said that amid the changes going on in the brigade as Soldiers change duty stations, the efforts of volunteers offer stability.
“They did an outstanding job throughout the brigade,” Miller said.
Command Sergeant Major Clinton Reiss, senior enlisted Soldier with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, echoed that sentiment.
“Volunteers are invaluable to us. Soldiers couldn’t feel safe training unless they knew things were taken care of at home – and that’s what volunteers do,” said Reiss.
Michelle Vargas was one of those recognized for her efforts. Her husband, Capt. Joe Vargas, commanded Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1-89, and then took command of Trp. D. In both cases, Michelle led the troops’ Family Readiness Groups.
“We’d take meals when a spouse or a child had surgery; if someone needed a ride, we’d do that too,” she said. She thought that the ceremony was a nice recognition of the efforts of the volunteers.
“I’m glad to see that they know we’re here, and that they’re recognizing what we do,” Michelle added.
Tanya Manns’ husband, Maj. Mark Manns, serves as the executive officer for the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT. Tanya was one of three women honored with the Dr. Mary E. Walker Award for excellence in volunteer work.
“The company FRG leaders did so much – without them, there’s no way I’d be here today,” said Tanya. “During the deployment, I was advising Families. We held a back-to-school bash, an Easter-egg hunt, and Christmas activities, for example. Anytime there was a death, we’d visit the Family and bring a meal, and try to comfort them. We also sent a memorial package with a stained-glass yellow star, a memory box engraved with the Soldier’s name and a card, and let them know we were here for them.”
She said she felt that she hadn’t earned the award, and that others did more.
“The company FRG leaders are so amazing, and they do so much. But I’m very appreciative of this,” she said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones of the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion said that the most important thing that volunteer work had done was to build a strong battalion team.
“They built an integrated team, and brought in all the new families as other volunteers departed due to change of station or the end of their contracts. They’re filling the team with new volunteers that make our strong organization just that much stronger.”

Troops take time to remember horrors of Holocaust

By Sgt. Chris McCann

The whole family was taken. The teenage girl held an older sister’s baby in her arms as they got off the train, not knowing that young mothers with their infants, along with the elderly or infirm, were taken to the gas chambers immediately. As she stepped up to the desk, an older woman ran up to her and grabbed the infant from her arms.
“You live. You tell this story. I’m dead already,” the woman said.
“I don’t know who she was,” Rabbi Yaakov Roth said, with tears in his eyes. “But I thank her, because without her I would not be here.” The teenage girl later became his mother.
Roth was the guest speaker as Fort Drum observed the Days of Remembrance with a ceremony May 8, honoring the 11 million people who died in the concentration camps under the Nazi regime. About six million were Jews, but Poles, Gypsies, homosexual men and the disabled also perished en masse.
Roth noted that Holocaust Remembrance Day falls not long after Passover, and that one of the prayers during the Passover seder addresses God as “He who stood for us and our forefathers, because not once, but in every generation someone rises up against us.”
Many people – himself included, Roth said – have asked how the people living in Germany could have allowed the situation that led to the Holocaust.
“I asked my parents, ‘How did you allow yourselves to go through this? Why did no one stop it?’ But later I realized, no one could believe the scope of the horror. Like Sept. 11, 2001; we were watching it live on TV and not believing it. ‘It can’t happen here,’ ‘People don’t do things like that.’”
The Holocaust has had a massive impact on the entire world, especially on the Jews, and children and grandchildren of camp survivors have often been raised in an atmosphere that says life is good now, but could change at any moment.
And despite the fact that the horrific events before and during WWII took place within living memory, parts of the world continue to sanction antisemitism. He mentioned three articles in the news that day, including Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertion that the state of Israel is a “stinking corpse bound for destruction.”
“It is through the generosity and magnificence of the United States that Israel holds on, both physically and financially,” said Roth. “My parents talk about the assistance they received from Americans, from the liberation of the camps to life in the displaced-persons camps and afterward. Jews are very thankful for U.S. support for Israel. But we cannot forget the cruelty that existed in what was one of the most cultured countries in the world.”
The laws under Hitler were “cruelty for the sake of cruelty,” he said.
Pfc. Robert Pruitt, a maintenance specialist with Company B, 10th Sustainment Brigade Troop Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, attended the ceremony to honor and remember a Jewish friend.
“Specialist Lewis was very knowledgeable and wanted to come back into the Army as a rabbi, a chaplain. He was a great Soldier and always got the job done. This really helped me remember him,” Pruitt said.
“It was a moving experience,” said Sgt. Joseph Leighton, a Jewish Soldier with Co. A, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. “It was great to have Rabbi Roth relate experiences that really brought it home and made it less like history and more personal.”
Roth, who provides support for Jewish Soldiers and community members, said he was honored to speak and felt it was necessary.
“I feel that as the generation who survived passes on, it’s more incumbent upon we, the children, to tell the stories of the atrocities and the heroes so people remember - especially today, when evil for the sake of evil is rearing its head in the world again.”
Soldiers are an important force in the fight against evil.
“I thank Soldiers for their help and how it has had an effect in the Middle East,” said Roth. “It’s helping keep Israel’s borders secure. In Judaism, we have an obligation to acknowledge help and good deeds, even those done in the past, so it is incumbent to thank the U.S. military for its part in the liberation of the camps.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Golden Dragons test mine-resistant vehicles

By Spec. Jennie Burrett
2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist

Company C, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team is deployed to Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Ariz., to test types of Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Vehicles.
The 2-14 battalion commander and sergeant major went to Yuma to observe the company between March 18 and 20. Company C was deployed Feb. 24 and will return March 28; Company A will replace them for the month of April.
MRAPs are a family of armored fighting vehicles designed to survive improvised explosive devices attacks and ambushes. IEDs cause 63 percent of U.S. military deaths in Iraq; to combat this, MRAP vehicles usually have a V-shaped hull to deflect any explosions from below the vehicle, protecting the vehicle and its passenger compartment. The concept is to augment the fleet of Humvees with a more survivable option.
“The purpose of the testing process is to get an unbiased picture of the vehicles’ performance given mission scenarios, crew training, and operating conditions,” said Maj. Phil Clark, the Joint Test Team officer in charge of visitors.
Lt. Col. John Petkosek, the 2-14 commander, is glad that his Soldiers are involved in this important mission.
“Our troops testing the MRAPs are making a significant contribution to the Army's effort to quickly field a vehicle specifically designed to protect our Soldiers from IEDs,” said Petkosek.
“The reason we are here is not for training, it is to assist the military in the testing of these vehicles, and we are making the best out of the opportunity,” said Capt. David Ike, commander of Co. C. “Half of the Soldiers in my company are fresh out of basic training, and this is the first time they have had to learn how to fight with a vehicle. The familiarization and the exposure is really good for not only the new Soldiers, but also the Soldiers that just got back from the overseas deployment.”
The purpose of the MRAP vehicles is to provide improved armor and mobility for personnel operating in a threat environment that includes mines and IED’s. Some types of MRAP vehicles are already being utilized in Iraq.
“I think it is a positive aspect to be involved in the testing,” said Spec. Dain Neininer, a team leader who deployed with 2nd BCT and returned in November. “They are relying on combat veteran experience to get feedback on the operations of the equipment. I also like seeing what the Army has in store for the Soldiers.”
Some of the testing missions conducted by Co. C were convoy operations, raids, quick reaction operations, and vehicle recovery. The also compared the operations of the crew-served weapons on the MRAP to those on the Humvee.
“I am very proud of the way the guys have been handling themselves in this mission,” said Ike.

Polar Bears Hosts Grand Get Together

1st Lt. Michael Ip
Contributing writer

Finding an indoor venue to assemble the Families of an entire battalion of Soldiers can be a difficult task. But when Lt. Col. Richard G. Greene, commander of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, started working with Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director Hal Greer, they found the answer to the dilemma.
The result of their efforts took place on Saturday at the Pine Plains Gym.
There, the 4-31 Family Readiness Group and MWR teamed up to organize a battalion pot-luck luncheon.
The event, free to Soldiers and their Family Members, presented an opportunity for Greene to meet and greet the Family Members.
“Holding this kind of event lets the commanders see all the Soldiers’ families at once,” said Greene. “An FRG is run at the company level, but we need a place to start.”
Greene continued to stress the importance of the FRG. “We want to send a message that the Soldiers are not alone. The Army is a family, and this event is the first step in this battalion coming closer as a family.”
While Soldiers and their Families ate lunch, most of which consisted of homemade dishes, desserts and snacks, Greene spoke to the families. He introduced himself with some amusing pictures and anecdotes from his past, then spoke about the importance of the FRG. The speech concluded with a brief slideshow on the battalion’s training schedule for the next year, which is slated to include a cadet-training mission for several weeks at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
To create a Family atmosphere, MWR provided numerous facilities for the children of the Soldiers, including two bounce rooms, an indoor paintball course, an indoor pool and a popcorn kiosk.
According to Greer, Pine Plains is not normally reserved for a battalion function.
“Pine Plains is usually only reserved for a brigade. 4-31 is only the third battalion we have closed Pine Plains for,” said Greer. “Lt. Col. Greene made a conscious decision (to organize an event) in the winter. He brings a lot of energy, and MWR fully supports such events.”
Greene publicly showed his appreciation the efforts of MWR.
“Mr. Greer couldn’t have provided more support. The battalions and brigades are in his debt. He’s very enthusiastic and will always say yes.”
Overall, the luncheon was a success.
“Any time we can get the Families together and have a good time, it is a success,” Greene said. “Today’s large turnout is one of those.”

Rangers squeak by SUNY Cortland 22-21

By Spec. Jennie Burrett
2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist

In the eight consecutive years that Fort Drum has hosted the Blue Balls Rugby tournament, the Fort Drum Barracks Rangers captured their first tournament win against SUNY Cortland 22-21 April 5 with Randy Bielski’s final, last-second kick.
“This was a terrific win for the players and the team,” said Bob Connell, the coach of the Barracks Rangers. “It has been almost 10 years since we have won our tournament, and there are over 100 alumni that will be happy to hear that.”
The SUNY Cortland rugby club was on a mission to repeat last year’s performance of beating the Barrack Rangers 21-7. Cortland was up 21-5 at the half and seemed to be well on their way to a back-to-back tournament championship.
Bielski scored on a sixty-yard breakaway minutes after the second-half restart, his second of the day, to bring the Rangers within 11 points. It was not long after that long score that the Rangers got the ball back around mid-field and they used their freshly-subbed players to maintain possession of the ball for the next few minutes, driving to within five yards out.
With six minutes left in the game, Cortland held a dominating 21-10 lead. After six unsuccessful runs from just outside the end zone, the Rangers finally broke into the goal with Justin Veverka, who played the position of hooker; the name is derived from the fact that they use their feet to hook the ball in the scrum, bringing the score to 21-15.
The ensuing kickoff went to Cortland and they tried to maintain possession of the ball and kill the clock. A lucky break gave the ball back to the Rangers and they had to work with no time left on the clock. If the ball would have gone out of bounds, or a penalty taken place, Cortland team would have won the championship game.
The Rangers were able to drive their way to within five yards out again and continued to pound the ball toward the goal line. Cortland’s defense was not bending, as they continued to keep the Rangers out of the end zone. The last try came when Ranger scrumhalf Simona Totive, with a bit of trickery and no time left on the clock, faked a pass to one of the bigger Ranger players and caught the defenders off guard, driving his way in from three yards out. The Rangers were still down two points, until the conversion kick by Bielski, which won the game.
“This win is a nice way to welcome the spring,” said Bielski, who played flyhalf, making key tactical decisions during a game. “It’s nice for the Rangers to finally win the tournament they hosted. Hopefully this is the first of many wins.”
This year marked the tournament’s 14th consecutive year, held initially at Sackets Harbor from 1994 to 1999, and on Fort Drum since 2000. During the tournament, 40 teams competed in 48 games from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with almost 350 rugby players, male and female.
“This was one of the most successfully-run tournaments over the years thanks to the support of Morale, Welfare and Recreation and everyone involved,” said Connell. “The level of rugby played by the mix of newer and experienced players meshed very well throughout the day. I have been here for 10 of the 14 years of the team’s existence, so it was a great day for me and the other four players that started the team back then and are still playing here today.”
In the women’s bracket of the tournament, Cornell University defeated Ithaca College 19-0. Cornell is ranked 11th in the nation for Division I colleges. Unfortunately, Fort Drum does not yet have a women’s team.
“We are looking to start a women’s team, if anyone is interested in playing,” said Coach Connell.
Any men or women interested in learning the game, or becoming a part of the Fort Drum Barracks Rangers, rangersrugby@yahoo.com. Information also is available by visiting http://www.rangersrugby.org/. The next scheduled rugby game is April 19 at Syracuse. See sidebar for full schedule details.

Here is the schedule:

April 19 @Syracuse
April 26 @ Oswego State Greased Weasel tourney
May 3 @ St. Lawrence University Mud and Blood tourney
June 07 Quantico @ Drum (tentative)
June 11 Trip to Kingston to watch USA v. Ireland
June 14 @ Rochester Dead Ants tourney
July 12 @ Ottawa Indians Summer tourney
Aug 02 @ Lake Placid Can/Am (over 100 teams)
Sept 17 @ Ft. Bragg (tentative)
Sept 20 @ Quantico (tentative)
Nov 08 @ Cortland Deer and Beer tourney

July, Aug, Sept League games vs. Utica, Cortland, Saratoga, Binghamton, Saranac Lake, Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo.

Passing on their knowledge: Medics train at sim center

Sgt. Chris McCann

He’s already sweaty and exhausted from carrying casualties through water and over walls. But when he gets into the smoky, noisy room he nearly trips over two more Soldiers – badly wounded. Then the shooting starts.
It’s just training, but it has the ring of authenticity, which is exactly what the staff here wants.
The Bridgewater-Vaccaro Medical Simulation Center, just off Nash Boulevard, offers some of the most realistic training available in the northeast. Medics from all over the region and from every branch of service train here, said Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Belleville, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the center.
“We’re a regional medical center, so we get all types of people in for training,” he said. “All medics come here to revalidate their military occupational specialty, and people come for emergency medical technician, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and basic life saver courses.”
Capt. Bradley Frey, officer in charge of the center, said that they place a primary focus on hands-on training, and the Soldiers aren’t just going through the motions.
“All of it is tactical combat training,” he said. There is some classroom teaching, and then students go into the “validation room” – complete with smoke, dirt on the floor, and mannequins that react to treatment.
Between 60 and 70 students come through during a busy week, certifying as Combat Life Savers or completing the Mountain Medic course, and some units conduct battalion-level CLS courses using the facility’s equipment.
“When a person goes into the validation room, it’s dark, smoky, loud and hot,” said Frey. “They find two casualties with amputations in there. There’s an initial shock, because they don’t know what to expect, and they make mistakes – which is good. They make them here in a realistic environment, so they don’t make them downrange.”
“By the time they come in, they’re exhausted by the physical activity of the obstacle course,” said Belleville. “Then they have to do patient care. They’re physically and mentally ‘smoked’ at the end.”
Belleville and Frey are certainly not the only trainers at the facility; there are civilian and other military employees. And they’re not afraid to draw experience where they find it; the facility has requested two combat medics from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) to help teach the techniques learned during their most recent rotation in Iraq.
“They bring (their experience) to the fight – they’re teaching from experience,” Belleville said. The benefit goes both ways, he added.
“We’ll get six or eight months with the Soldiers from 2nd BCT, and when they go back to their unit they’ll be trained better. They’ll have passed on their knowledge to other troops – because war is constantly changing, the mechanics of injuries are changing. The tactics and improvised explosive devices are changing.”
The facility has received tremendous support from Co. C, 3-10th General Aviation Support Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, the leaders said, which allows troops to conduct medical evacuation training.
“They essentially built the unit out of nothing,” Frey explained. “They’re training now to deploy later on, and they’ve been very interested and very supportive. We’re trying to get them to work with us weekly; right now it’s about every two weeks.”
Training with real helicopters is very important, said Frey, because there are things that just can’t be duplicated without them.
“Aviation Soldiers give the instruction. It’s loud, it’s windy, the wash is bad,” he said. “We don’t want the first time a medic sees traumatic injury to be the first time they’re trying to load a casualty into the helicopter. This isn’t exactly the same, but it’s similar.”
The number of Soldiers who die of their wounds in the Global War on Terrorism is the lowest in history, Belleville said, because of training like that done at the center.
“It’s because of Soldiers being combat life savers, the aviation support – it’s a combined effort. Guys are coming back, and they’re living. I never went through this as a private – I got my advanced individual training and that was it.”
Belleville and Frey both credit tremendous command support for what goes on at the center, and an overall shift in the military emphasizing the role of medics.
“Higher headquarters is very invested in this and very supportive of what we’re doing,” Belleville said, noting that the simulation center is slated for expansion.
“Headquarters has told us we can have another building for highly-advanced medical training. That will raise it to a whole new standard,” he said.
They hope to use tactical simulated ammunition in scenarios to emphasize the importance of combat safety and teach troops to fire back as well as caring for the casualties.
“When the opposition force fires back, it can be a painful reminder to work on tactics,” Frey said. “We use a lot of tactical movements here, all the time. If you’re not doing it like combat, it’s not worth doing.”
Students at the center also get involved with ‘shadow’ programs, riding in ambulances and spending time at the State Univerity of New York–Syracuse’s emergency room.
“They can only watch, they may not do anything,” Frey specified. “But they get to see it in real life. And since it’s a teaching hospital, they’re seeing the best of the best, the right way to do it. They’re getting exposure to trauma before getting into it like they will overseas.”
The center is named for Horace Bridgewater, a medic with the 10th Mountain Division who was killed in WWII, and Angelo Vaccaro, a medic with the division who was killed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Both were Silver Star recipients.

Operation Education helps Iraqi kids

Jennie Burrett

Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) are participating in Operation Education while deployed to Iraq, changing the country from the very bottom – the children.
The program was started by 1st BCT during their deployment in 2005, said Sue Paschal, wife of 1st BCT commander Col. David Paschal. The program collects school supplies and organizes them into kits which are sent to Iraq for Soldiers to hand to the children in their area of operation.
“Since its beginning, we’ve probably sent between 1,800 and 2,000 school supply kits which have been given to Iraqi school children,” said Carrie Fulgium, wife of Maj. Richard Fulgium, a military transition team chief in 1st BCT.
Many schools in Iraq have no sewage system, desks, fans or school supplies – often not even chalk for the blackboards. About 200 schools have benefitted from the Operation Education program.
Each kit contains a pair of blunt-end scissors, a 12-inch ruler with metric markings, 12 new pencils with erasers, a small pencil sharpener, a large eraser, a box of colored pencils (crayons melt in the heat), a package of notebook paper, a composition book or a one-subject spiral notebook, three folders with inside pockets, and a zippered pencil bag.
Children seem very grateful for the program, Soldiers said. That goes both ways.
“The Soldiers really seem to enjoy it,” Fulgium said. “That was one of the reason the program was started – the Soldiers couldn’t get enough supplies to hand out, and they said that they love interacting with the kids this way.”
When 1st BCT came back from deployment in 2006, they passed the program to 2nd BCT, which was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. Now the program has been passed back to 1st BCT for their ongoing deployment.
Operation Education is a modeled on Operation Iraqi Children, which was founded by actor Gary Sinise and author Laura Hillenbrand. OIC has distributed about 200,000 school supply kits since it began in 2004.
Each kit contains a pair of blunt-end scissors, a 12-inch ruler with metric markings, 12 new pencils with erasers, a small pencil sharpener, a large eraser, a box of colored pencils (crayons melt in the heat), a package of notebook paper, a composition book or a one-subject spiral notebook, three folders with inside pockets, and a zippered pencil bag.
The Fort Drum-area schools are taking raising donations for supplies, said Miri MacNeilly, wife of 1st BCT planning officer Maj. Matthew MacNeilly. Once the schools have the supplies, then MacNeilly and Fulgium then go pick them up and ship them to the soldiers in Iraq.
“We’ve been working with a Utica business, Max Cowen’s Student Stores,” said Fulgium. “People can go to the Web site and fill out their information, and the store prepares and mails a kit for them.
“Or they can go to our local drop-off point, which is School Daze at 902 Arsenal Street, in Watertown. People can purchase items there, or buy them elsewhere and drop them off at School Daze.”
Operation Education has a tremendous effect, Fulgium said. A Soldier involved with the project told her that one little Iraqi boy swam across the river that separated his home from the school three times to bring kits for his two younger siblings as well as himself.
“It costs between $10 and $15 to make a kit,” said Fulgium, noting that the cost is almost negligible in the United States. “We spend more than that at a fast-food restaurant, for one family. But it means so much to them just to have basic school supplies.”
Donations are always welcome, Fulgium said. Kits can be purchased for $10 through the Web at http://www.maxcowen.com/operationeducation/
For more information about Operation Education, contact Carrie Fulgium at carriefulgium@yahoo.com or Miri MacNeilly at mmtmacneilly@yahoo.com.

Chemical training teaches Soldiers to save lives

Sgt. Chris McCann

No “weapons of mass destruction” were found in Iraq – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of terribly destructive substances there. Explosives, toxic chemicals and unknown matter are found with surprising regularity. But the average Soldier can’t be equipped for every eventuality; that’s what chemical Soldiers are for.
Recently, Soldiers from around the 10th Mountain Division conducted Toxic Industrial Chemical Protection and Detection Equipment training at the old Nash Gym on south post to learn how to deal quickly – and safely – with hazardous material.
“It’s sensitive site exploitation,” said Staff Sgt. Nygree Poole, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT. “For example, if a patrol finds a building that contains a trashcan filled with liquids, they can call in a team in suit level A, and check out the substance.”
Explosives are destroyed by explosive ordnance disposal with a controlled detonation, but that’s not safe when it comes to possible chemicals, said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Meacham, the chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear noncommissioned officer for 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT.
“When they come into a facility with unknown stuff, the patrol can pull back and get the chemical Soldiers – usually a supporting unit – that goes in,” said Meacham. “EOD does the boom, we do the chemical part.”
And while the enemy is making explosives in bathtub labs, the Soldiers are using some of the most high-tech equipment available to make identification and disposal or destruction easy.
The Multirae is a hand-held tool that samples air continuously and alerts specialists to explosive environments and volatile organic compounds like benzene or acetone.
A box a little deeper than a laptop computer holds the HazMat ID – a compact, watertight spectrographic machine that uses a laser to read the molecular ‘print’ of a substance placed on a lens. If the HazMat ID can’t identify it with certainty, Soldiers trained in TICPDE can sample the material to send to a lab, triple-sealed and decontaminated between layers, for additional testing.
Perhaps one of the most ingenious devices is a handheld computer called a Cobra, a heavily cross-indexed database of chemicals and elements. If a Soldier who was possibly exposed to harmful substances, symptoms can be put into the Cobra, which offers choices at every stage, narrowing down the possibilities and indicating immediate assistance measures, said one of the contractors teaching the class. Alternately, if the substance is identified by HazMat ID, the Cobra can indicate the threats it poses to troops and the civilians in the area. It also gives data for the material’s physical forms, reactivity, health hazards, and possible uses.
Of course, using such tools requires plenty of training.
“This is outstanding,” said Meacham. “We’ve been doing this for two and a half weeks now. We’re in 11-man teams, and two are the reconnaissance team who take the most direct route to the possibly contaminated area, mark the clean areas, photograph the hazards, sketch it out, and report to the rest of the team.
“Two people take the HazMat ID and tools and identify the substance as best as possible, then come back, put the data together, and brief the commander.”
Meacham said he wishes the 2nd BCT had access to the training and tools during their most recent deployment to Iraq; units around the brigade found chlorine gas, nitric acid, canisters of PCB, and other dangerous substances. During the 2nd BCT’s previous rotation in 2005, Meacham was called upon to identify unknown materials.
“We found rat poison and other things – if we’d had this, it would’ve been much easier,” he said.
Spc. Michael Taube, a CBRN Soldier with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, said it was good practice even if the specific skills were not needed.
“It’s good hands-on training – the civilians teaching us brought enough equipment that we can train to standard. And I’ve learned a lot about identifying chemicals and mitigating their effects, instead of the identify-and-destroy idea.”
Hands-on training in a tactical environment was a positive for Sgt. Jason Seeds, also of the 2nd BSTB.
“I loved the hands-on, realistic training,” said Seeds. “Now we’re working with real agents.”
The test substances were real, offering Soldiers a chance to identify muriatic acid and other agents that could be safely confined.
“When units find homemade explosives, we could do on-the-spot evaluation, and that would save time,” Seeds said. “And it would help the intelligence Soldiers identify where they came from.”
After identifying the substances, the Soldiers decontaminated, passing under a wash booth before having another Soldier pass a Multirae wand over them to sample the plastic chemical suit for any remaining contaminants.
“This is a lot of good knowledge,” said Taube. “Especially about how everything works together, and teamwork.”

Fort Drum’s outdoor adventure program offers plenty to do

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT Journalist

Now, no one can complain, “there’s nothing to do around Fort Drum!” Skiing, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing have long been a part of the North Country’s heritage. But having fun just got a little easier for Soldiers and Family Members.
Fort Drum’s new Outdoor Adventure Training program began in October. Gene Spencer, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) Brigade Support Battalion, received command backing for the program, which he said is sorely needed.
“The operational tempo we’re maintaining in the Army means that even when they redeploy, Soldiers want to maintain the high adrenaline of a combat situation,” said Spencer. “These activities let Soldiers maintain that without, say, getting into a fast car and speeding and causing injury to themselves.”
Spencer is a one-man show, although he is hiring other people to assist him with the program, which is becoming Army-wide. But Fort Drum is the first post to have a Morale, Welfare and Recreation Outdoor Adventure Training program.
The program offers a host of activities - paintball, guided hunting and fishing trips, orienteering, geo-caching, guided all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trips, mountain biking and archery and shotgun shooting. And that’s just a few.
For those with edgier tastes, there are more extreme activities like hang gliding, free-fall and static parachuting, bungee-jumping from balloons and intensive rock climbing.
“People can do hiking and ice and rock technical climbing based on their skills – working with a professional,” said Spencer.
Paintball is offered indoors at the Pine Plains Gym “megarena” and offers three-on-three combat, with a variety of cover and concealment. Outdoor play is seven-on-seven, and the facilities can be reserved for unit training, hail-and-farewells, birthday parties and even physical training.
“It can be real combat training,” Spencer said. A paintball gun, called a “marker,” sits on his desk, a replica of an M-4 carbine a Soldier might carry in combat, complete with flashlight and bipod. Spencer also sells, repairs and upgrades paintball equipment through the program.
Recently Soldiers and Family Members held a three-on-three speedball tournament, said Spencer. Twenty-five teams participated, and the program provided food and trophies for the winning team. He envisions having more tournaments and scenario play, he said.
Snowmobile and ATV courses are offered the first Saturday of each month, and Soldiers and Family Members with certification can go on guided trips or take the snowmobiles out on their own. The rides are free, and equipment, including snowmobile and helmet, is provided. “I deliver the vehicles to the Soldiers,” said Spencer. “I even provide the fuel.”
A 14-year Fort Drum resident, Spencer is committed to tying in the activities with 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum history, he said; geo-caching ‘clues’ might be installation points of interest, and ATV trips could be linked to historical sites.
“I want to tie it all in with Mountainfest,” he said, noting that the Fort Drum area “has a fascinating history.”
Skeet and trap shooting as well as an archery range provide a chance to shoot just for fun or to keep hunting skills honed.
Spencer added that he is hoping to create a program to help wounded Soldiers continue to fish and hunt deer, turkey and pheasant in the area, regardless of their injuries.
An ice-climbing trip is planned for Feb. 22 through 24 in the Adirondacks.
Spencer credits division leadership, especially Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, division commander, with making the program possible.
“There’s been a need for this,” he said. “But some leadership didn’t want the risk. Oates is all about this, and he’s a great supporter…he’s a leader who reaches out and relates to Soldiers.”
The Outdoor Adventure Training office is located on Iraqi Freedom Drive, formerly Memorial Drive, in Bldg. P-11115, near the Car Care Center. Those interested can also call 772-0045 or e-mail mwrodr@conus.army.mil

Commando Avalanche recalls history, trains leaders

By Spec. Jennie Burrett
2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist

Heritage, tradition and values tie into the military life of a Soldier.
This was demonstrated when the leadership in 2nd Brigade Combat Team conducted a team building exercise call Commando Avalanche March 27. This exercise involved a six-mile road march with stations along the route that required the leaders to answer questions about each battalion in the brigade.
“The purpose of this event is to lengthen the roots of this BCT into its rich and proud history,” said Col. David Miller, the brigade commander. “As we reset, this is the right time to gain and maintain contact with out history and fellow leaders within the brigade.”
This type of event was started by the first commander of 2nd BCT, Col. Michael Plummer. The tradition continues.
The intent of Commando Avalanche is team building, tradition and Esprit de Core,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Mahoney, the senior noncommissioned office of 2nd BCT. “The leadership has come closer to each other and has learned more about each other as well as themselves.”
There are different opinions on what was achieved by the event.
“This event was similar to other events I have participated in where the unit pride is stressed as well as challenging the soldier no matter the rank,” said Capt. Edward Walter, company commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT. “Commando Avalanche helped to foster personal and professional achievement that we can pass on to our younger Soldiers.”
Another opinion was offered by another company commander.
“This team building exercise helped reinforce our focus in the brigade after the return from the deployment,” said Capt. John Lamkin, the commander of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. “It was good to get with all the other leaders from the other battalions.”
Seven teams participated in the course; members from each battalion were on every team. Each battalion set up a station that was unique to them. When the group made it to the stations they were required to answer questions on that particular battalion history.
“My favorite station was 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, because while I am a brigade staff officer, the short time I spent a 2-15 station reminded me that I am at heart an artilleryman,” said Maj. Brett Kessler, the brigade fire support officer. “The 2-15 station, like all stations, had two parts. In answering the questions, I recalled with ease the cumulative number of rounds fired and Lt. Durham’s action in Vietnam, for which he was awarded a Medal of Honor.”
Second Lt. Harold Durham was serving with C Btry., 6th Bn., 15th Artillery Regiment, 1st Inf. Div. in 1967, and requested artillery when his unit was in danger of being overrun, saving the lives of many of his comrades. Despite mortal wounds, he continued calling in fire and alerted other Soldiers to infiltrating Viet Cong.
“The second part required us to spin a M119A2 Howitzer 360 degrees and reestablish a good site picture in preparation for firing — no easy task on uneven, frozen snow with no trail handspike,” Kessler said.
Different activities offered something for everyone.
“I liked the Brigade Support Battalion’s station. The task was to simulate transporting a casualty up a hill and back down, while wearing a silly little hat,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Sterling, acting first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT. “That was fun”
This road march and stations were designed to challenge physically and mentally.
“I thought the BSB station was the best because it was a good physical challenge dragging someone up the hill on a sled,” said Lamkin. “The helmets were a nice touch.”
After the road march the next phase of Commando Avalanche was appearing before a board of brigade and battalion commanders and sergeants major. Here they asked a series of questions of each team. In this part of Commando Avalanche the board looked at each teams performance at the road march portion and the board questions and determined if the teams were worthy of being Commandos.
Once the teams were deemed worthy, the last part of the event was a grog ceremony to induct all the leadership into the Commandos.
“In a Commando I want to see them demonstrate and enforce standards,” said Miller. “I also want them to have the desire to live up to the Soldiers before them.”