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.”

Fire Support Soldiers recertify

By Spec. Jennie Burrett
2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist

“Drop 50, fire for effect!”
All the fire support teams in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team −Commandos− recertified on job-specific tasks March 31 through April 4, at various locations across Fort Drum.
Forward observers and their fire support teams are responsible for calling down fire on the enemy. From establishing, maintaining and operating radio and wire communications to requesting and adjusting indirect fires on targets using artillery and mortars or attack aviation and close air support.
“Forward observers and their fire support teams must be proficient on those skills necessary to plan, integrate, synchronize and execute fire support into a maneuver commander’s plan,” said Maj. Brett Kessler, the brigade fire support officer. “The FIST certification is the first necessary part of a training program designed to return our ‘FISTers’ from their various non-artillery roles during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08 to the level of proficiency needed to fully integrate fires as part of full-spectrum operations. We’ll continue to build from here.”
Three different stations compose the Commando FIST certification. First, the forward observers took a skill-level-appropriate written test of 50 questions that evaluated their understanding of observed fire standards. Additionally, the first station tested the forward observer’s ability to establish secure communications. Second, forward observers were tested on their ability to locate points on the ground on the dismounted land navigation course, and their ability to reconnoiter, occupy, and establish an observation post. The last station was the conduct of artillery fire missions in the Guard FIST, the fire support simulator, which tested the forward observer’s ability to locate a target, develop an appropriate call-for-fire and execute fire techniques with necessary adjustments and refinements.
“We do this certification so that the Soldiers have the ability to call mortars or field artillery onto the enemy, day or night,” said Sgt. 1st Class Russell Crenshaw, the fire support noncommissioned officer in charge for 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT.
The certification is a test of current proficiency, but it also serves to focus future training.
“The recertification is a good base line to see where the entire brigade is at in skill level so we can improve and train from there,” said Sgt. Nicolas Andriulli, a fire support specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT.
The certifications are done about every six months, but this is the first one since the brigade’s redeployment.
“We are dong the recertification because it applies to our wartime mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kool, the fire support noncommissioned officer in charge for 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT. “The recertification is a tool for training to refine tasks that the Soldiers need to work on.”

2-15 remembers heroes

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT Journalist

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) gathered at the battalion’s headquarters Nov. 20 to honor comrades fallen during the brigade’s most recent unit to Iraq.
Four Soldiers – Capt. Kevin Landeck, Chief Warrant Officer Dwayne Moore, Sgt. Justin Wisniewski and Pfc. Matthew Bean – were remembered briefly by those who served alongside them. Their photos were then hung on the wall, next to engraved plaques recalling their biographies, on the “Hall of Honor.”
Capt. Bobby Temple, who served with Landeck, recalled him as “one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with” and said he was not only an outstanding infantryman, he was loved by his Soldiers.
1st Lt. Bethany Landeck, his widow, recently transitioned from the National Guard to the active-duty army, and now serves with the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT. They were married only two years.
She said that the plaques and photos serve a valuable purpose.
“It’s important that Soldiers are remembered,” said Landeck. “(These things) won’t let their memories be forgotten.”
Staff Sgt. Duriel Powell spoke fondly of Moore, and said that if his mentor could speak to the crowd, he’d tell them “Don’t worry about me – this was my home-going.” Powell also recalled Moore’s devotion to family, including his daughter.
Wisniewski was remembered by Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Klein.
“I could tell he was something special,” Klein said of the first time he met the Soldier everyone called ‘Ski.’ “This was a guy who loved life. The worse the conditions, the happier he was. He wanted to be in the lead vehicle, or out front on a patrol …when talk of re-enlistment came up, people couldn’t imagine Ski doing anything but being a Soldier. He will be sorely missed.”
Bean, the brigade’s last casualty, had always impressed other Soldiers, said Pfc. Michael Ogburn. “We always hoped he would make rank fast, because we knew he’d be an outstanding leader,” Ogburn said. “On a patrol, he’d carry an M-249 machine gun with its basic load of ammunition, plus an M-4 carbine and its basic load – and he’d always offer to help carry things for others. He was a young, talented guy, and he’ll be missed by his family, fiancĂ©e and friends.”
“I really think these plaques will have a lasting impact,” said Klein. “When I first came to the unit, there were two plaques from the previous deployment, and lots of stories were told about those guys. It’s very important to honor the fallen Soldiers and keep their memories alive as we continue to fight the war on terror.”

4-31 holds memorial breakfast for fallen

Jennie Burrett
2nd BCT Journalist

The 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team held a memorial ceremony breakfast Friday to honor their fallen comrades, at Remington Park Lodge.
The breakfast was dedicated to the memory of the 20 Soldiers and three Iraqi translators that were killed in action while deployed to Iraq, and the two missing in action from 4-31.
“It is good for the families, and it is good for my Soldiers that are here. I wanted the Soldiers to meet as many families that could make it. It’s good for both,” said Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, the battalion commander of the 4-31 “Polar Bears.”
The ceremony started with the families of the fallen and the Soldiers, who were with their loved ones, sitting and eating breakfast together and talking about the lost.
“It is an honor to be here,” said Joseph John Anzack, Sr., the father of Joseph John Anzack, Jr., whose son was killed in Iraq. “I am honored to be here in the presence of the men that served with my son. I enjoy getting the first-hand stories, talking to the people that were there. I am honored to be my son’s dad.”
After that, Maj. Mark Manns, battalion operations officer, and Infanti explained to the families what their loved ones were doing in Iraq during their deployment. Manns explained the area that they were in, and each platoon’s area of operation in the battalion. Infanti explained that 4-31 was in what used to be called the ‘Triangle of Death,’ and no unit wanted to operate in that area.
“It was a good idea to explain to all the families what was going on in Iraq,” said Spec. Samuel Rhodes, a Soldier of Company D, “especially the ones in Company D.”
Capt. Aaron Brooks, who serves as 4-31’s battalion medical officer, made a video of the fallen Soldiers, which was shown and distributed to families of the fallen Soldiers. They were also given a battalion deployment coin and a Polar Bear mug.
“My Soldiers have a fear that people will forget their buddies that have died,” said Infanti. “The memorial was for remembrance. I want my Soldiers to know that their buddies will not be forgotten and that they didn’t die for nothing. They made a difference.”
The ceremony was wrapped up by the unveiling of the memorial, made by Staff Sgt. Aaron Tabbert, a Soldier with Co. B, 4-31. He started the memorial about three weeks ago when they returned from Iraq; Infanti let him know the date of the ceremony so he could finish it in time.
The memorial consists of a nine-foot wooden case with pictures and names of all the fallen and the missing Soldiers, along with a flag in a shadow box. The case is lit on the inside and will be placed inside the 4-31 headquarters.
“The memorial was made by our Soldier for our Soldiers,” said Infanti. “Love of a fellow Soldier was put into the memorial for our fallen.”
The Soldier’s photos are topped with a plaque recalling one of history’s most famous war monuments – at Thermopylae. The inscription, by Simonides, remembers the Spartans who held the pass there against countless Persians under Xerxes. “Go tell the Spartans, passerby, that here, obedient to to their laws, we lie.”

2-14 remembers fallen Soldiers

Spc. Jennie Burrett
2nd BCT Journalist

The 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (LI) held a memorial ceremony Nov. 30 (Friday) to honor Golden Dragon comrades killed in action while deployed to Iraq.
The ceremony for the 10 Soldiers was held at the previous 2-14 headquarters, now used by the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT.
“We are gathered here for the first time since our redeployment as a united battalion to honor and pay tribute to 10 great men,” said Lt. Col. John C. Valledor, the battalion commander of 2-14 infantry regiment. “This was the first opportunity the battalion, complete, has had to honor our fallen.”
The names of the 10 fallen comrades were put on a memorial that was created after Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.5. There are names already existing on the monument of 2-14 soldiers that were killed in action from OIF 2.5, and Mogadishu.
The monument consists of a bronze “battle cross” - an upright M-16 rifle, bayonet down, with a pair of boots at its base and topped with a Kevlar helmet. The base displays plaques containing names of the fallen.
Surrounding the memorial are semicircular benches containing names of sponsors, and colorful shrubs, designed to honor the men and keep their memories alive.
Sgt. Jason C. Denfrund, 24, from Springville, N.Y., is survived by his wife Melissa, daughter Chloe, and son Jayden.
On Christmas Day of 2006, Denfrund spent most of the morning discovering and clearing improvised explosive devices along Route Pinto. He was unaware of the hidden device that mortally wounded him. As team leader he was credited for saving the life of fellow Soldier he told to move away prior to the detonation of the IED.
“He saved my life,” said Spc. Brandon M. Deaton, the Soldier who was directed to move away by Denfrund.
Spc. Raymond N. Mitchell, 21, was from West Memphis, Ark. On Jan. 6, 2007, Mitchell safeguarding Route Earnheardt, when he suffered wounds that caused the loss of his life. He is survived by his parents, Carolyn and Raymond.
Capt. Kevin Landeck, 26, was from Wheaton, Ill. He is survived by his wife, 1st Lt. Bethany Landeck.
“On Feb. 2, 2007, Landeck paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Valledor. “He was the only officer that we lost this year”
Landeck was killed when an IED detonated near his vehicle. Known as a prankster, he would take name tapes off body-armor vests to poke fun at fellow Soldiers in Iraq.
Sgt. Thomas L. Latham, 23, from Delmar, Md., is survived by his wife, Rachel, daughter Ariel, and stepson Caleb. Latham suffered fatal wounds when an IED when off near his Humvee on March 11, 2007.
Cpl. Wilfred Flores, Jr., 20, from Lawton, Okla. He was survived by his parents, Wilfred Sr. and Vicky; Staff Sgt. Jason Arnette, 24, from Amelia, Va., is survived by his wife Shenandoah Sky.