Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kentucky Army National Guard Soldiers fast rope into training

By Army Sgt. David Bolton
1133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

ARTEMUS, Ky.  - Artillery simulators, grenades, convoy attacks, casualty evacuations and fast roping from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were all part of the training that Soldiers of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment experienced at the Harold L. Disney Training Center outside Barbourville, Ky.

“A lot of these guys are new recruits fresh out of basic, so it’s good training for them,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Bumgardner, with B Company, 1st Bn., 149th Inf. Regt.

 The training these Soldiers received was not just to improve their skills in various fieldcrafts, but also to prepare them for stressful combat situations.

“We want these guys to get a feeling of what combat is like,” said Spc. Thomas D. Gross, an indirect-fire infantryman and acting trainer with Company A, 1st Bn., 149th Inf. Regt. “Being here lets us spend more time with the new guys and gives us a chance to train them to be comfortable under stress.”

Adding to the stress, daily rain showers kept the training areas constantly muddy. Grass, mud, and water covered their uniforms as the Soldiers crawled under barbed-wire obstacles, ran through the soggy underbrush and dangled from ropes in the cloudy skies.

 To enhance their training, Soldiers from another Kentucky Army Guard unit—the 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment—augmented the infantry Soldiers by providing the aircraft and aerial support for casualty evacuations and fast rope insertions and extractions, which for many Soldiers added to the excitement of the training and brought it all together.

“The training gets us where we need to be,” said Army Pfc. Markus W. Higgs, an infantryman with B Co., 1st Bn., 149th Inf. Regt. “It’s nice to be able to get a sense of the heat of the moment.”

Louisiana Air National Guard Airmen react quickly, save the lives of three boaters

By Air Force 1st Lt. Alex Juan
159th Fighter Wing

NEW ORLEANS – It was supposed to be a relaxing day for members of the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Security Forces Squadron. During down time while taking part in training exercises at Volk Field, Wis., several members of the squadron rented a boat to spend time out on nearby Castle Rock Lake.

They anchored their boat near an island to fish and relax and, said squadron members, after a few hours, another boat with a group of women celebrating a bachelorette party anchored up near them.

One of the women jumped into the shallow water and quickly surfaced covered in blood and screaming in pain. A second person on the boat also jumped into the water, but surfaced motionless.

 “My first thought was that this isn’t good,” said Senior Airman Raenell M. Dubroc. “I honestly thought she might be dead.”

In total, seven Airmen rushed to render aid to the woman. Tech. Sgt. Edward J. Griffin, a trained medic, was credited with creative, quick thinking by ensuring the victim was stabilized and calm throughout the rescue.

“We used her arms to stabilize her spine, rolled her over and lifted her onto the boat,” said Griffin, adding that a life vest was used as a make shift cervical collar and other floatation devices were used to stabilize her body.

Griffin then assessed the patient’s condition.

“I conducted a neurological assessment and knew it was critical to get medical attention immediately,” said Griffin, who, from his responsibilities during the training event, knew there was limited medical response in the area. He said the boat ride seemed to take a long time as they were trying to keep the ride slow and steady to not further injure the woman.

 Griffin stayed with the patient as others in her party piloted the boat to shore. Squadron members followed behind in their own boat.

Senior Airman Steven Mehrtens, 159th SFS fire team leader, from Metairie, La., spoke

During the ride to shore, another member of the bachelorette party fell from the boat while calling for local emergency response. That individual suffered a head injury in the fall and was also rescued from the water by squadron members.

The Airmen said it was their training that kicked in and helped their response that day. 

“It’s not something that I think about on a daily basis …  how all of this training makes me a better person, but now that this happened, I am glad that I know how to react,” said Senior Airman Jared M Vignes.

 The injured woman, Katie Wahl Johnson, fractured two vertebrae in her neck, shattered a third and sustained a spinal cord injury. She was airlifted to the University of Wisconsin Hospital where she underwent a six-hour surgery. She was then sent to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for recovery.

The accident left Johnson paralyzed from the chest down and with partial use of her hands, but she said she is incredibly grateful to the Airmen who she says saved her life.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s father, Bill Wahl, tracked down those who helped his daughter on that day. He persistently contacted the training center and recently made contact with the squadron commander.

“I just want to thank them for saving my daughter’s life,” said Wahl. “The timing of their response, the way they protected her body … it maximized her opportunity to recover, and we are just so grateful.”

Johnson and her fiancé, Jeremy Johnson, were married at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

“It was a beautiful wedding,” said Wahl, adding that it is still very emotional for him to discuss the events but he is eternally grateful for the quick response of the Airmen.

'No Zebras, No Excuses' Bring Sexual Assault Awareness to Naval Base San Diego

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eddie Harrison, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 500 Sailors at Naval Base San Diego attended a live performance, Aug. 14, in the base theater, to raise awareness about sexual assault and how to prevent it.

Performing on stage were students from the Central Michigan University (CMU) 'No Zebras, No Excuses' performance group, which acted out a variety of vignettes to address and recognize forms of assault and ask the audience questions such as: What will you do when it occurs? How would you make a difference?

"Our acts portray different areas of sexual aggression," said cast member Paul Carbini. "In between the vignettes, there is an explanation on what the audience saw and how to interpret and intervene on that situation. The training is not sugar-coated; we put it right in the audience's face."

The acts featured scenarios ranging from situations at parties to predators using alcohol and drugs to target individuals.

According to Stephen Thompson, CMU faculty member and sexual aggression services director, these situations are taken from hundreds of real life experiences.

"What if you or someone you loved were in a situation dealing with sexual assault?" Thompson asked. "What would you want done? These situations point out behaviors that cause a reasonable person to be uncomfortable, threatened, offended, intimidated and afraid."

"These incidents do not happen in a vacuum," said Thompson. "Other people know, but they just don't know what to do about it and that's why we are here. The first thing you have to do is notice behavior."

"Doing nothing is the zebra," said Thompson, referring to an earlier analogy of bystanders being similar to a herd of zebras. "You can't change what you were before you walked in those doors. You can change what you are now and what you are going to be after today. Choose not to be a zebra."

Some of the acts incorporated comedy and emotion to keep the audience members engaged.

"A lot of times I do training that sounds very scripted and people fade out," said Ensign Kelli Gardner, attendee and sexual assault prevention and response representative for USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). "This seems like a way to engage people more, a better way to present situations."

As the performance came to a close the 12-member cast encompassed the entire theater and expressed messages ranging from sexual assault statistics to living up to the Navy's Core Values. But the final message asked the audience: Now that you know, what are you going to do?

Other stops along the Zebras' tour include USS Boxer (LHD 4), Aug. 15; and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 16-17.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is an element of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Department of the Navy is working aggressively to prevent sexual assaults, support sexual assault victims, and hold offenders accountable.

Help raise awareness by joining the conversation on social media using #SAAM.