Monday, August 08, 2011

Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers aim to be Best Warriors

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers Sgt. Steven Dahl, of Oconto, Wis., and Sgt. Brandon Swanson, of St. Croix Falls, Wis., share the same unit - 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry - and the same long-term goal: to be command sergeant major for the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

They also share the same short-term goal - to win the National Guard Bureau's Best Warrior Competition, which concludes today (Aug. 8) at the Warrior Training Center in Fort Benning, Ga.

This is the third straight year that the Wisconsin Army National Guard has sent a competitor to the national Best Warrior contest, but the first year that it has sent two competitors. Dahl - who was a specialist with the Menomonee-based Company A when unit-level competition began last fall – is competing for Soldier of the Year honors, while Swanson, of Detachment 1, Headquarters Company in Chippewa Falls, is competing for Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. The National Guard Bureau's Soldier and NCO of the Year will advance to the Army-wide Best Warrior Competition at Fort Lee, Va., in October.

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and other senior leaders traveled to Fort Benning on Aug. 5 to encourage their Soldiers.

32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, whose job Dahl and Swanson covet, said he expected they would do well at the competition. But to be safe, he said they arrived at Fort Benning a week early to acclimate to the hot and humid Georgia summer.

The competition began the evening of Aug. 4 with an essay and written exam. Friday began early with a physical fitness test, followed by weapon qualifications and something called "Warrior Stakes" - a series of tests on various Soldier skills such as clearing, disassembling and reassembling various crew-served weapons, as well as ensuring they function properly afterward. Other tasks tested in Warrior Stakes included medical, communication and protective actions for chemical, biological or nuclear environments.

Both Dahl and Swanson said the event was going well.

"It's not more difficult, but there are changes" from the regional Best Warrior competition, Dahl explained.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Ward, Dahl's sponsor, said that competitors were asked to train each other on some of the upcoming events, which is a change in the competitive mindset.

"When faced with changes, Soldiers adapt and overcome," Ward said.

Conde acknowledged that the competition level was very high and that Dahl and Swanson were competing against the best Soldiers and noncommissioned officers in the National Guard.

"At this level, the difference between number one and number seven is more mental than anything," Conde said. "They understand that this competition is a marathon, not a sprint."

State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper wished Dahl and Swanson success.

"We have total confidence in you," he said. "You just have to have confidence in yourselves."

Anderson said that Dahl and Swanson had already accomplished much.

"Whether you're first or not, you're in the top 14 in the entire National Guard," he said. "That's pretty good."

"We're really proud of you," added Col. Martin Seifer, commander of the 32nd Brigade.

The winners of the National Guard Best Warrior event will be announced on Friday (Aug. 12) in Washington, D.C.

Leaders Offer Condolences in Wake of Helicopter Crash

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2011 – Senior U.S. leaders today extended condolences to the families of American and Afghan forces lost in an International Security Assistance Force helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan.

Thirty ISAF service members, a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos were killed when a coalition CH-47 Chinook crashed earlier today, ISAF Joint Command officials said in a news release. All of the ISAF service members on board were from the United States.

The incident, officials said, represents the highest number of U.S. forces killed during a single event in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

An investigation is under way to determine the exact cause of the crash, officials added, noting that additional details will be provided as they become available.

In the wake of the crash, senior leaders issued statements to offer their condolences to the service members’ loved ones.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said. “Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan.

“We also mourn the Afghans who died alongside our troops in pursuit of a more peaceful and hopeful future for their country,” the president added.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also expressed his sorrow for the loss.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of many outstanding Americans in uniform and of their Afghan counterparts earlier today in Afghanistan,” he said. “Their courage was exemplary, as was their determination to make this a safer world for their countries and for their fellow citizens.

“We will stay the course to complete that mission, for which they and all who have served and lost their lives in Afghanistan have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he continued. “They and their families are in my thoughts, in my prayers and in my heart."

Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, ISAF commander, added his condolences.

“No words describe the sorrow we feel in the wake of this tragic loss,” the general said. “All of those killed in this operation were true heroes who had already given so much in the defense of freedom. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are now waiting for their loved ones to return home,” he continued. “We will do everything in our power to support them in this time of need.

“We also mourn the loss of our heroic Afghan partners who fight with us shoulder to shoulder, every day,” Allen added.

The United States will draw inspiration from the lives of those who were lost, Obama said, and continue the work of securing the country and standing up for the values they embodied.

“At this difficult hour," the president added, “all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security.”

Face of Defense: City Commends Fort Riley Soldier

By Army Sgt. Roland Hale
Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division

FORT RILEY, Kan., Aug. 5, 2011 – A soldier assigned here received a certificate of appreciation Aug. 2 from Mayor Pat Landers of Junction City, Kan., for his help in apprehending a suspect fleeing from local police June 26.

Army Sgt. Steven Zimmerman was on his way home from a store when he saw the suspect running away from Geary County sheriff’s deputies. Zimmerman, who was closer to the suspect, stopped his vehicle and took up the chase.

“There wasn’t much of a thought process,” Zimmerman said. “I just saw some brothers in trouble that needed help, so I put the car in park and did what I could.”

Zimmerman tackled the suspect and detained him until the deputies caught up.

“We worked for several weeks to make the arrest of that individual, and almost lost him,” Police Chief Tim Brown said, “but thanks to Sergeant Zimmerman, we didn’t.”

Zimmerman serves with the 601st Aviation Support Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade. Several senior leaders of the unit turned out to show their support, including Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Thomson, the brigade’s senior enlisted soldier.

“Sergeant Zimmerman’s actions speak volumes about his character and are a great example of our [noncommissioned officer] Corps today,” Thomson said. “His quick thinking and deliberate engagement exemplify our NCO Creed and have made a positive impact on the local community.

“[He] is the type of leader who steps up and takes action,” Thomson continued, whether in the sands of Iraq or on the streets of Junction City. We’re tremendously proud of him.”

Zimmerman has been in the Army for three years, and has prior service in the Marines. He said while his actions were mostly triggered by instinct, his military training also taught him it was the right thing to do.

“The recognition is way more than I thought it would be,” he said. “At the time, it was that quick. I was just helping out someone in trouble. Seeing the command represented out here, and to get the thanks from Junction City police, I really appreciate it.”

Zimmerman also will receive the Army Commendation Medal, which can be presented to individuals who distinguish themselves by heroism, extraordinary achievement or meritorious service, officials said.

Quartermasters Keep Australian/American Exercise Supplied

By Army Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo
New York National Guard

CAMP GROWL, Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Australia (8/5/11) - The uniforms are different, and there are subtle differences in terminology used, but the results are the same for both Australian and American quartermasters: ensuring Soldiers get what they need.

Quartermasters here focused on making sure both U.S. and Australian troops got the gear the needed to train with during Talisman Sabre exercises in Australia, July 11 to 29.

Talisman Sabre brings together over 20,000 personnel from the different branches of the U.S. and Australian military to exchange combat skills and techniques through joint land force, maritime and air operations maneuvers.

The Australians call it a stretcher; the U.S. Soldier calls it a cot. A torch is a flashlight; a skivie, a T-shirt; a swag becomes an individual sleeping tent when translated, and jenny is a generator. Regardless of what it’s called, if it’s needed, the quartermaster team is prepared to provide it.

“Our job is to take care of soldiers, regardless of the uniform - a soldier’s a soldier,” said Sgt. Ernest Kruger, Quartermaster Sergeant assigned to the 9th Combat Services Support Battalion, Australian Defence Force, stationed at Warradale Barracks, Adalaide, South Australia.

“I really enjoy my job because I care about soldiers and like looking after people. It’s quite important because soldiers run on their stomachs, if they don’t eat, they can’t perform their mission,” Krugar added.Krugar added.

Thousands of U.S. and Australian forces landed on beaches or took to the bush in simulated combat field training during Talisman Sabre 2011. Moving together throughout central and northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Coral, Timor and Arafura Seas, with one goal in mind – defeat a common enemy.

Ground and mounted personnel from both friendly and fictitious enemy forces crossed steep elevations and varied terrains, denying their opponent the capability to conduct counter attacks. Concealing their movements and setting up hasty defense positions.

The biennial training exercises use fictional scenarios incorporated in combined land force maneuvers, amphibious landings, urban and air operations, Special Forces operations, and coordinated firing of live ammunition from a range of in-service weapons systems used by exercise participants.

The multitude of items required to feed, house and keep soldiers on the move can be staggering. The quartermaster provides just about anything needed, from tents and sleeping bags to ration packs and some replacement clothing. They also provide the always needed toilet paper.

For many of the participants it was their first opportunity to train with military personnel from a different culture with different weapons systems.

“It has been great getting to know our Australian counterparts and sharing experiences,” said Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Strother, a radio operator with the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division, Sacramento. Strother volunteered to help the supply section for Talisman Sabre and jokingly says he’s learning a new language while he’s here.

Whether its necessities or comfort items, the quartermaster team has gone out of their way to ensure military personnel have what they need to make Talisman Sabre a success.

Here at Camp Growl the quartermaster or the ‘Q-Store’ as it’s called, has become a center hub of activity, open virtually 24-hours a day, ready to assist in soldier care.

They have gone so far as to set up a make-shift shop they call a goffars, were you can purchase the comforts of home, such as a coke and a candy bar.

“It’s a place soldiers can relax for a few minutes and often identify shortages out in the field,” Kruger said. “It works well since we can quickly either provide them what they need or pass the information onto the leadership who can fix it.”

Navy's First Female Master Chief Passes Away at Age 90

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Abraham Essenmacher, Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's first female master chief died Aug. 4 at the age of 90 while residing at Vinson Hall Retirement Community, in McLean, Va.

Master Chief Yeoman (Ret.) Anna Der-Vartanian began her military career in 1943 when she enlisted in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service program, or WAVES. In 1946, she transitioned to the Navy and 13 years later she became the first woman in any of the armed services to advance to E-9, the highest enlisted paygrade.

During her Navy career, Der-Vartanian was stationed in Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Pearl Harbor, and Paris. After retirement she went to work for the CIA as a junior analyst after retiring from the Navy in 1963, and later worked as a counterintelligence specialist.

"We are saddened by the loss of Master Chief Anna Der-Vartanian," said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SS/SW) Rick D. West. "She was an inspirational pioneer in our Navy, and a role model for courage and commitment to every Sailor in uniform during the last 50 years. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family."

West spoke at length on the impact Der-Vartanian had on the Navy and the chief petty officer community.

"Her life was dedicated to selflessly serving the nation in any way she could, a tireless aspiration that went far beyond the Navy and left a profound impact wherever she was involved," he said. "Anna's contributions as a Sailor, as a citizen, and as a master chief petty officer will long burn as one of the brightest lights in our proud Navy heritage."

"The Navy chief petty officer community will miss Anna's wit, her energy and the deep satisfaction she took in helping others," West continued. "She led people from the front by personal example, a virtue we strive to instill in every chief who wears anchors today. Anyone fortunate enough to spend time with Anna could not help but be impressed by her humility and strength of character. We were privileged to have her at several CPO events in recent years and she captured the undivided attention of everyone in the room when she was there. We won't forget her. "

Der-Vartanian is survived by numerous nieces and nephews. She was awarded the National Defense Medal and other various other decorations for her service.