Sunday, May 13, 2012

Canadian military training with Red Arrow Brigade

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

The Wisconsin Army National Guard is training with its northern neighbors - Soldiers of the Canadian Land Force Command - as part of a joint Warfighter Exercise being held at Fort McCoy May 7-18.

Soldiers of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team are fully engaged in the Warfighter Exercise - which tests the Brigade's ability to use available units and equipment to respond to battle situations and meet different threats.

Warrant Officer Dan Merlin, a platoon sergeant with the 38th Canadian Brigade Group Artillery Tactical Group, has seen and done many things in his 35-year military career. He has served two tours in Germany, one tour in England, three tours in Bosnia as part of the 10-year NATO Stabilization Force effort, one U.N. peacekeeping tour in Cyprus, and two tours in Afghanistan. His time in service is almost evenly split between the active duty and reserve components of the Canadian Army, referred to as the Land Force Command. He has served in a joint environment in Afghanistan.

Still, he described the past week serving with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team during its Warfighter exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., as "a real learning experience."

"This is the first time I've ever worked with the National Guard in a warfighting environment," Merlin said. "That's brand new to me."

Merlin is one of seven Canadian soldiers who volunteered for the opportunity to train with the 32nd IBCT. The group consists of four officers and three enlisted, with skills ranging from artillery, infantry, logistics and armor. They originally had intended to serve individually in units with matching skill sets, but an issue with security clearances prevented the Canadians from using proprietary U.S. military equipment. Instead, they are serving as a "Canadian cell" tasked with planning the brigade's defense during the exercise.

"It's been a good experience," Merlin said. "There's definitely some points to improve on, but it's only going to get better. We understand that there are some issues to iron out for the next group to come down here."

Lt. Col. Dave Fraser, who works with the 38th Brigade Headquarters in Canada, said that most of the Canadian cell has never worked in a joint environment.

"Just going through the acronyms has been an experience," he said. "All in all, it's very value-added."

Canadian Brig. Gen. Paul Bury, deputy commander of Land Force Western Area, visited his troops at Fort McCoy on Wednesday (May 9), accompanied by Area Reserve Chief Warrant Officer Gordon Crossley, the equivalent to a sergeant major. Bury acknowledged the mission change for the Canadian soldiers.

"The processes are there for a reason," he said. "I'm glad you're integrated as much as possible."

"At least we found these things out right away," Fraser added.

Bury asked Col. Martin Seifer, 32nd Brigade commander, about future joint training opportunities.

"They're outstanding soldiers and individuals," Seifer said of the Canadians. "They bring a lot to the fight. It's good to have them on the team.
"I'm not averse to inviting them to the National Training Center with us next summer," he continued. "I think that would be a great opportunity for both."

Seifer noted that the Wisconsin Army National Guard may also have an opportunity to join in an upcoming Canadian exercise in the western provinces.

Planning for Canadian participation in the 32nd Brigade's Warfighter exercise began in January with the Wisconsin National Guard's Joint Staff. That discussion with the Canadian Army reserve led to a five-man squad from the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry taking part in a one-day military skills competition March 17 in Winnepeg, Manitoba, as well as the Warfighter exercise.

"We should have been doing this many, many years ago," Merlin said. "But this is the start of building a greater relationship with the Wisconsin Army National Guard. I couldn't have met a better group of people."

Chairman Urges Norwich Grads to Live ‘Uncommon Lives’

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2012 – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, today urged Norwich University graduates to live “uncommon lives” of leadership based on time-honored virtues.

Norwich, located in the town of Northfield, Vt., is the oldest of six senior military colleges and is considered the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

“Norwich has started you on an uncommon road of selflessness and courage, to go out and contribute and serve our nation,” Dempsey said in prepared remarks. “Realize it or not, you have internalized the Norwich virtues of courage, honesty, temperance and wisdom -- guideposts that will serve you as you lead our nation’s future.”

Norwich is a private university whose student body features a Corps of Cadets as well as traditional civilian students. Some of this year’s graduates are joining the U.S. military as commissioned officers. Others will go on to eventually take leadership roles in business, industry, politics, government, and other fields of endeavor.

The experiences the university provides will serve all of the graduates in good stead, because leadership is important in all aspects of life, Dempsey said.

Norwich University dates from 1819 and it boasts a long list of famous leaders as graduates, from Admiral of the Navy George Dewey of Spanish-American War fame to retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, who had served as the Army chief of staff in the early 1990s and now serves as president and chief operating officer of the Association of the United States Army headquartered in Arlington, Va.

Dempsey said the university “would be little more than a beautiful monument to the past glory of American leaders if not for you, its next generation of leaders.”

Now it is up to the graduates to make the most of their experiences at Norwich -- and the ones they will have in the future -- to make a difference and have an impact, he said.

Living an uncommon life means achieving “the outcome that is necessary in whatever particular line of work you choose.” Dempsey said.

Dempsey also spoke about trust. “It doesn’t get any more fundamental than trust,” he said. “It’s one of the pillars of the strength of our nation. At every level, trust wins, and it starts with trust in yourself.”

There’s also “a broader trust between the citizen and the nation, and nation-to-nation with our allies and partners, as well,” Dempsey said, noting that the pursuit of U.S. security interests today involves more than just military power.

“Our security commitments cut across the lines of diplomacy, intelligence, economics, and social progress,” he said. “It demands the support of an array of professions and skills as well as alliances, international systems and volunteer organizations. And it requires the best from each of us and all of us.”

In today’s changing world, the challenge for Americans involves “doing what’s right for ourselves, our family, our nation, and the global community,” Dempsey said.

“We can only make it work,” he added, “if we consistently and persistently leverage every opportunity to build confidence in each other, building trust.”

Sailors Attend US Battleship Premiere

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

LOS ANGELES (NNS) -- Universal Pictures hosted nearly 50 Sailors for the U.S. premiere of the movie "Battleship" at the Nokia Theater L.A. Live in Los Angeles May 10.

Sailors were given the "blue" carpet treatment alongside cast members of the movie and attended the special screening of the film prior to its release in more than 3,000 theaters nation-wide May 18.

"I'm happy that they finally made a film that highlights who we are and is an accurate depiction of what we do," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Tim Gutherperson, stationed aboard USS Benfold (DDG 65).

Cast members Taylor Kitsch, Alexander SkarsgÄrd, Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Col. Gregory D. Gadson, Hamish Linklater, Rico McClinton and Liam Neeson; director Peter Berg; writers Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber; and producers Brian Goldner, Scott Stuber, Sarah Aubrey, Duncan Henderson and Bennett Schneir were all in attendance signing autographs and interacting with Sailors prior to the screening.

Taylor Kitsch, who played the lead male character "Lt. Alex Hopper" in the movie said what really stands out for him is the sacrifices made by Sailors and their families.

"This film is really a tip of the hat to you guys; the true heros," said Kitsch.

Following Department of Defense approval in 2010, the film's production began, and principal photography took place during the U.S. Pacific Fleet's Rim of the Pacific training exercise later that year. Additional filming also took place in Hawaii, San Diego, and on a film set in Baton Rouge, La., constructed by Universal Studios. The movie's cast and crew spent time at-sea and witnessed life underway on U.S. Navy warships and lived side-by-side with Sailors.

"They taught us more than we ever knew about the Navy, which was pretty special," said Brooklyn Decker, who played the lead female character "Sam" in the movie. "We actors only play heros, so the fact that they were there helping us along was incredible, and it also gave something real to the movie. It's a big, fun, summer, alien action movie, so to have something real felt very special to us."

"It was one of the most amazing things watching that crew in action, throwing down, with what they do every day," said Jon Hoeber. "They granted us total access, and it was unbelievable. They were excited to have us there and we were dieing to be there. To be able to tell their stories and watch the United States of America 'Blue Water Navy' and all they do-stunning! People in this country do not know enough about that."

"Battleship" was made with the support of the Department of Defense and the Navy. According to Rear Adm. Denny Moynihan, U.S. Navy's Chief of Information, the Navy had to evaluate the idea of the movie and ask some critical questions before deciding to support the film.

"First, does the script accurately portray the Navy," said Moynihan. "Second, does it positively represent our service and our Sailors? Third, can we support the film without impacting our operations? And finally, do we believe that it could have a positive impact on recruiting? In the case of 'Battleship,' we felt the answer was 'Yes' to each of those questions."

Because filming took place during already scheduled training events, it did not impair operations and there was no cost to the Navy or American taxpayers.

"The end result is a film that provides movie-goers with a realistic look of the Navy and Sailors operating at sea - scenes that I think reflect well on the Navy," said Moynihan.

"The reason we do things like this, is because we would love to take everybody out to sea on an aircraft carrier, destroyer, or submarine to see what we do, but we can't." said Moynihan. "But we know that people go to movies, so this is one way we help the American people get get a better understanding of what their Navy does 24 hours a day 7 days a week."

Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), in coordination with Universal Studios, will be offering special screenings of Battleship to Sailors and their families prior to the nationwide release of the movie May 18.

The film's director, Peter Berg, will be present to kick off the free screenings at Naval Base Coronado and Naval Base San Diego Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island May 11. Special screenings will also take place this weekend at Camp Lejeune, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Naval Submarine Base New London and Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story May 12.

Berg, director of Battleship, will also attend the Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story screening. Future screenings will take place in Washington, D.C. May 14, at Naval Air Station Jacksonville May 15 and onboard USS Missouri May 16.

Wisconsin Soldiers advance careers while supporting peacekeeping mission in Kosovo

Spc. Joshua Barnett
Multi-National Battle Group East Public Affairs

Half-way through their year-long deployment, roughly 80 Soldiers - including 26 from the Wisconsin National Guard - have taken a major step in the advancement of their enlisted careers. The soldiers have taken time from their normal deployment duties to complete the Warrior Leader Course (WLC).

WLC is the first step in the Army's Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES), providing basic leadership training that allows Soldiers the opportunity to acquire the leader skills, knowledge and experience needed to lead small units, and serves as the foundation for the advanced NCOES courses. Essentially, the course's purpose is to teach soldiers how to be NCOs.

"WLC teaches all the core competencies of how to be a leader, and what the Army needs for leaders," said Staff Sgt. Sean Scales, an instructor with the Army Reserve's 7th Warrior Training Brigade based in Grafenwohr, Germany. "It teaches not only classroom and garrison leadership, but tactical leadership."

The course is built around an intense field training environment that involves hands-on, performance-oriented training. The 26 Wisconsin Soldiers to participate hail from three Wisconsin units: the 64th Troop Command, 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 32nd Military Police Company. Almost all of the 200 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers are assigned to Multi-National Battle Group East, a component of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission known as KFOR.

"A lot of people haven't done this stuff since basic training, and its basic soldiering that every soldier needs to know," said Spc. Mitch Hanson of DeForest, Wis., a horizontal construction engineer assigned to Headquarters & Headquarters Company , 157th MEB.

"WLC is great, coming in as a specialist it's going to be a great opportunity to get promoted to E-5, and coming into E-5 I'll be confident," he added. "That's what they teach you is confidence, so you become a good leader."

The course is taught at Camp Bondsteel by soldiers from the Army Reserve's 7th WTB. Two cycles of the course have been offered so far during this deployment, and leadership hopes to add a third this summer.

By bringing the cadre to Camp Bondsteel, and training National Guard soldiers who are already on active duty, the Army is able to save a significant amount of money and free up slots for other soldiers, Scales said.

"Really, it all boils down to money and availability," he said. "With the National Guard and Army Reservists already on orders here, it's a lot easier for the state and for the federal government to send a mobile training team to them, instead of having to mobilize a whole bunch of soldiers at the same time to send them to school; now they can bring the school to them."

According to Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Jarvis, a maintenance supervisor serving as the 157th training NCO, each class held here saves an estimated $98,000 in pay and allowances for the soldiers over activating them for training.

The overall cost savings are even greater now due to the newly-constructed Warrior Leader Complex computer lab, built to accommodate the WLC students as well as other training courses offered at Camp Bondsteel.

Before, a contract had to be arranged with a commercial satellite internet company to provide a distance learning environment for courses such as WLC and the officer-level Intermediate Level Education course. Now, however, they can tap into military's existing network on post to provide internet access to 17 workstations in the computer lab.

That translates into 10's of thousands of dollars in savings to the Army, potentially allowing for more courses to be made available at Camp Bondsteel.

Running the course in theatre does come with challenges, but Jarvis said that hard work and preparation before the WLC cadre arrived made for a smooth implementation.
"With all the planning and preparation that we did, from the preparation of the buildings where the soldiers live to the preparation of equipment; it really paved the way for a seamless transition for me handing the training complex over to the WLC instructors," he said. "I think it led to a great, successful course."

Perhaps even more importantly than the cost savings, offering the course to deployed soldiers allows them to return home and combine their deployment experience with their WLC training to become effective leaders.

"The opportunity to come here and do it while I don't have to take time away from my family, just get here and get it done, is a great deal to me," said Hanson "I'll come back and be on top of these boards back at my unit."