Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Soldiers celebrate birthdays in Iraq

Soldiers celebrate birthdays in Iraq

Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – Celebrating birthdays in foreign lands is not uncommon to most Soldiers, but celebrating as an entire unit is.
About thirty Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers from the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, were surprised at a birthday celebration hosted by the unit Sept. 22 here.
The 210th BSB command wanted to show their appreciation for the Soldiers by having a birthday celebration for all of those who had a birthday during the month of September.
“These Soldiers are working extra hard to do anything and everything to support the brigade,” said Lt. Col. Brian Rogers, 210th BSB commander and native of Montana. “And doing small things like this will go a long way to keep people’s heads in the game. We have the best BSB I have ever seen because of the warrior leaders and Soldiers here that will do whatever it takes to get the mission done.”
Having been in the Army for a very short while, Pvt. Giovanna Martinez, a Wimuama, Fla., native, who serves as a supply specialist in the 210th BSB, commented about the occasion.
“This is my second birthday in the Army and it feels a little like home,” Martinez said. “This celebration makes me feel confident in the command and I feel they care about me.”
Before the birthday events kicked off, “Happy Birthday” was sang to the celebrants followed by some caring words from the battalion commander.
“I know you could not be with your families right now,” Rogers said to the Soldiers. “But you are with your family here. I am glad to be here with you and I would not want to be anywhere else.”
During the event Soldiers participated in games and listened to music. It was a chance for them to unwind.
“I have been in the Army for eight years and I have never seen a birthday party like this before,” said Sgt. Arays Cruz, 210th BSB motor transport specialist. “I think the morale of the Soldiers will go up if these types of events continue. It was very thoughtful of the command to do this.”
Cruz is a native of Miami.
Since many other Soldiers will have birthdays during the deployment the 210th BSB command has decided to have parties regularly in order to recognize each Soldier’s special day.
“This is something new that we are starting,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Gray, 210th BSB command sergeant major. “It is a good morale booster and I am glad the leadership took the time to put this together for the Soldiers. We will have an event like this once a month.”
The Soldiers who were honored received a birthday card and presents from the command. Eventually, the command will have family members send presents for the Soldiers to open on their birthday.
Leaders who coordinated the event were Capt. Brian Batchelder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, 210th BSB; Chaplain (Capt.) Daniel Kang, 210th BSBB chaplain and Capt. Amanda Nalls, the 210th BSB personnel officer in charge.

Task Force Vigilant Soldiers train for mission

By Spec. Chris McCann2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – The 2nd Brigade Combat Team officially underwent transformation after returning from Baghdad, Iraq, last summer. But the unit, now headed to Baghdad again, is still flexible enough to recognize and fulfill, in a matter of weeks, the need for another unit.Task Force Vigilant is “a special unit stood up for a special mission,” said Maj. Brett Kessler, TF commander. Soldiers in the unit will staff guard towers and entry control points of Camp Victory, conduct combat patrols in three villages in the area to deny anti-Iraqi forces reconnaissance of the camp and defend the suburban and rural areas against the AIF.“It’s an ad-hoc organization brought together for this mission,” Kessler said, “so that the brigade can do the most important mission – training the Iraqi Army.”The need for such a task force was noted a few months ago, Kessler said. The brigade operations team and Col. Michael Kershaw, 2nd BCT commander, worked together on the administrative aspects of the unit, and Soldiers were chosen just before deploying.Most Soldiers in the brigade will be able to spend time in the task force, Kessler said.“Soldiers will have the opportunity to rotate from their areas of operation to Victory base camp,” he said. “It allows Soldiers to live in a place where conditions are better, get a different perspective, stay fresh and stay vigilant.”Combat platoons will rotate together; Soldiers in other units also can rotate into the task force as conditions allow.Training for such a delicate mission is difficult, however. There are many pro-coalition civilians including women and children in the areas, and the decision to shoot or not shoot becomes even more critical.Soldiers from the task force, chosen from a variety of units in the brigade, went to the Coalition Forces Land Component Command Military Operations in Urban Terrain training village here to use the Engagement Simulation Training area, an interactive virtual training device.Teams of five Soldiers would watch and react to three videotaped scenarios in which civilians and anti-Iraqi forces must be positively identified. Soldiers must watch closely for signs of threat and react lightning fast with laser-equipped M-4 rifles.Improvised explosive devices detonated, wounding civilians and Soldiers; friendly patrols came through entry points followed by anti-Iraqi personnel; and vehicles approached ECPs by the book, only to have AIF with rifles jump out and attack Soldiers.Each scenario required Soldiers to react differently – and quickly.“This training is intended for what this team’s going to be doing. We’re going to be doing entry control points, so this is hands-on training for us,” said Sgt. Charles Smith, who is assigned to 2nd Brigade Support Troops Battalion and the task force. While still essentially basic Soldier skills, the training is different from what 2nd BSTB Soldiers – mostly cooks, mechanics and other support troops – normally do, said Smith, a team leader. Although the rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., earlier this year offered similar training, the advanced laser-tag-type gear has limitations.“With this kind of gear, they don’t need (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System),” Smith said of the gear. “To me, this kind of training builds team cohesion. This is the best kind of training you can do.”“It’s the best training I’ve done,” said Pvt. Corry Negley.Spec. Colin Knight, a task force team leader from 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, said training with the team he will work with was helpful.“We all felt confident reacting with each other,” he said. “Everyone was OK with initiating action.”After the initial reactions, the scenario would replay, showing where each shot went, color-coding each one as a kill shot, wound or miss.Pfc. Alan Barnes, a member of Knight’s team, found the immediate feedback rewarding.“This is something that when you do it, you can see exactly what happened, where your rounds went,” he said.Leaders hope the training will have great impact on the mission in Iraq this coming year.“Whether manning a tower or entry control point or on patrol, they will be faced with a decision to shoot,” Kessler said. “Shooting is the easy part – it’s not shooting that’s hard. You don’t win against an insurgency by just shooting. Most often it’s not shooting that will win it. Today’s training reinforces when to shoot and when not to.”

Soldiers pay respect to fallen comrade

Soldiers honor memory of fallen comrade

Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq – Patriotic country songs and music from the movie “Braveheart” drifted out of the maintenance bay as Soldiers gathered to mourn the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s first loss in this rotation to Iraq.
Spc. Bobby Callahan was a squad leader in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment. Callahan, a mortarman and squad leader drowned when a Humvee overturned into a canal near Mahmudiyah. The Soldiers of his squad said he made sure they were out, but he was unable to get free in time despite their assistance.
It was Callahan’s second tour in Iraq.
Sgt. Eric Schultz, a close friend of Callahan’s, gave a tribute during the ceremony.
“I knew him for about two years,” he said. “We just hung out a lot and watched television.”
“He was a quiet leader,” Schultz said. “He led by example. And he was a young leader, in charge of that truck. He was always learning.”
Friends, laughing at the memories despite the somber occasion, recalled that Callahan was “really hard to wake up.”
“He’d do odd things (in his sleep),” said Staff Sgt. Terry Spiecher, a platoon sergeant for C Company 4-31. “He’d put on a fleece jacket as pants. …He could always make people smile. He had a broad sense of humor, loved to crack up,” Spiecher said.
“Everybody that met him got a good vibe from him,” Schultz said. “He was easy to carry on a conversation with, a simple guy. He loved to sing – (contemporary) rhythm and blues - anything.”
Callahan was married about eight months ago, said Sgt. Lucas Kinkade, a radio-telephone operator for HHC. His wife, Kristen, lives in Central Square, New York.
“I lived with him for awhile,” Kinkade said of Callahan. “We had an apartment off post. He loved to work on his car.”
When the roll was called at the ceremony and volleys fired, many Soldiers wept, and final respects were paid with coins and salutes, from Maj. Gen. James Thurman, 4th Infantry Division commander, to the privates in the company. Several knelt before the upright M-4 carbine and took the dangling dog tags in hand as if making sure of the name.
The Soldiers drifted away after the ceremony, back to work or to reminisce.
Although Callahan is no longer with them in body, he is in spirit, said Schultz.
“We can’t touch him with our hands, but we can carry him in our hearts.”
His awards and decorations include a Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal with “V” device, an Army Commendation Medal with an oak leaf cluster, a National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign medal, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, an Army Service Medal and a Combat Infantryman Badge.
Callahan was posthumously promoted to corporal Sept. 24.

2nd BCT Commandos take charge of southern Baghdad

Commando Brigade takes lead in southern Baghdad operations

2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

BAGHDAD – The first month of a deployment is always one of upheaval – for both the unit going home and the one arriving to replace them.
Militaries since time immemorial have used flags and banners to show their presence, and so 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s battalion and brigade colors being raised declare in no uncertain terms that the brigade is here to provide assistance to the Iraqi security forces and keep peace in their area of operations in southern Baghdad.
Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, a Chicago native, and commander of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, uncased the battalion colors in a brief ceremony on Sunday morning Sept. 17, and said that while the formalities were short, the meaning was great, and that 4-31 was now in charge of the north Mahmudiyah area of operations.
“You own it, you defend it, and you … establish an Iraqi government,” he told the formation of Soldiers.
Later that morning, the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, based on an Iraqi Army compound in south Mahmudiyah where they work in close conjunction with the 4th Battalion, 6th Iraqi Army Regiment, also uncased their colors, officially taking the reins from the 101st Airborne Division.
“(It’s) fun to have a ceremony with the Iraqi Army,” said Pvt. James Buron, a medic with Headquarters Battery and native to Phippsberg, Maine. “It’s good to get things underway. Hopefully no one will need to come after us; (the Iraqis) will be self-sufficient.”
The sentiment was echoed by Staff Sgt. James Smotherman, a squad leader from the battery from Las Cruces, N.M.
“I think it’s fantastic that we are uncasing here today as we assist them and enhance their ability to lead themselves and defend their country.”
“I’m excited,” said Spec. James Butler, a fire direction control specialist from Headquarters Battery, 2-15. He is from Galveston, Texas.
Colonel Michael Kershaw, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) commander, spoke briefly at the ceremony.
“We know from what our brothers in the Screaming Eagle (101 Air Assault) Brigade tell us that the Desert Lion brigade is the best in the Iraqi Army,” he said, and expressed hope for continued efforts in the sector to bring peace to Mahmudiyah.
Kershaw is from Huffman, Texas.
Col. Ali welcomed the newly arrived Soldiers to the area.
“I’m wishing you the best with your efforts and operations,” he said. “We hope you continue the efforts of the 101st.”
Baghdad has improved a lot during the 101st’s deployment, Ali said.
“I am very sure of the new unit because you have a great history, and I am sure you can improve this AO. …You are brothers in arms and in blood.”
Sgt. Robert Simonovich, a squad leader with A Battery, 2-15, commented on the uncasing ceremony.
“It was an important event,” he said. “It’s good that they can see we’re here working with them. It’s exciting to be working with the IA and see them taking the lead.”
Simonovich is from Cleveland, Ohio.
Two units under the 2nd BCT uncased their colors for the first time ever in combat; the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, and the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
Col. Jeffrey Harrison, commander of the 2nd BSTB, commented on the fact that the unit was writing the beginnings of its history with this deployment. He is from Snellville, Ga.
“We’re replacing an excellent unit,” he said. “We’ll go from what they’ve done and build on it.”
“This ceremony is significant in the fact that it’s the first uncasing of our colors on foreign soil,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Rees, signal platoon sergeant. “It’s the first time the unit has been together in a combat zone.”
And while growing pains are expected, Rees, a native of Muncie, Ind., has high hopes for the unit.
“We’ve got some challenges ahead,” he said. “We definitely will meet the challenges. We have nothing but a lot of professionals.”
The battalion contains companies of engineers, military intelligence, signal, and military police.
“We’ve learned a lot,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steve Plimpton, 2nd BSTB platoon sergeant. “We have a tough mission but we’re ready to accept it and be successful.”
Plimpton is from Springfield, Va.
The 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, also unfurled its flag for the first time in combat.
“We’re ready, prepared, and had a great transition with the 1st Battalion, 75th Cavalry Regiment, a great unit,” said Lt. Col. Mark Suich the 1-89 commander. “We plan on moving what they had started in the right direction, and establish security and control in the sector by gaining the confidence of people.”
Suich is from Greensville, Penn.
2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment uncased its colors for the third time on Iraqi soil, and many Soldiers of the unit are now on their third tour here.
“First Battalion, 502nd Airborne did a great job keeping the insurgents at bay,” said Capt. Dan McConnell, personnel officer in charge for 2-14. “We’re going to pick up where they left off, building the confidence of the locals so they can be self-sufficient and not need American presence anymore.”
McConnell is from Fairfax, Va.
Maj. Anthony Haycock, a native of Delavan, Ill., who serves as the battalion executive officer for the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, echoed the ideals.
“We had a very smooth transition,” he said. “The (2nd BCT, 101st Airborne) was very helpful and we look forward to building on their foundation and supporting the brigade with all our logistical assets.”
Task Force Vigilant, an ad-hoc group created to provide security around the Victory Base Camp, unveiled a sign in honor of the transition, and Maj. Brett Kessler, commander, expressed faith in the troops despite their difficult calling. He is from Flagstaff, Ariz.
The task force also will provide security for three Iraqi towns in the immediate vicinity of the camp.
“We’re patrolling in our sector of responsibility outside the wire,” said 2nd Lt. Curtis Lowry, a native of Martinsburg, W.Va., who serves as a battle captain with the task force.
The brigade officially took over operations as of the 20th of September, with high hopes for operations in south Baghdad.


210 BSB uncasing.
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – Col. Brian Rogers (left), commander of the 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and native of Missoula, Mont., helps Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Gray, the 2nd BSB command sergeant major and native of Thomaston, GA., uncase the battalion colors at a transfer of authority ceremony here.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie, 2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.)