Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spartans host “Paratrooper Experience"

by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

11/27/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- South-central Alaska community leaders joined forces with paratroopers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division for a day of arctic airborne activities Nov. 13 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The group of more than 20 Alaska leaders spanned many professions vital to the community including police, city officials, school leaders, and congressional staffs.
The event's coordinator, Army Capt. Matthew Hickey, said the event was to demonstrate the 4-25th IBCT's unique capabilities.

"As our Army's only arctic airborne brigade, we have special resources and equipment that we must use to accomplish our vast array of potential missions," he said. "It's that equipment and resources that we're showcasing to the people who provide it for us."

At the Joint Mobility Complex, the guests watched as Army riggers performed intensive quality-control checks and safety inspections while packing the Army's new T-11 personnel parachutes.

They learned how the Army and the Air Force work closely together to accomplish missions, not only in rapid personnel forced entry, but also in heavy drop operations.
The guests enjoyed taking part in "The Paratrooper Experience" by donning T-11 Parachute harnesses complete with reserve parachutes.

Emphasizing safety, paratroopers performed a complete Jump Master Pre-Inspection for the group to see. The inspection was performed by highly trained airborne professionals who qualified as jump masters after extensive training and selection. After initially donning parachuting equipment, paratroopers underwent a JMPI to check for deficiencies in their secured equipment, overall harness alignment and fit, static line, and fastening devices before preparing to jump.

Dr. Deena Paramo, superintendent for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, tried on one of the parachutes. She said it was heavy and a little uncomfortable, but was confident in its ability to safely bring paratroopers to the ground.

"I was very impressed with all of the safety checks and the precision that goes into packing the parachutes and getting them on the Soldiers," Paramo said.

"This gives us details about what is happening with our men and women and what they are training to do, and what they do with the training," said Sharon Anderson, Alaska's civilian aid to the secretary of the Army. "We don't really get to see behind the scenes very often."

"It's always great to come back and visit because things change, the barracks, the equipment, and to some extent, the techniques," said retired Army Col. George Vakalis, a 28-year veteran, who is now the city manager with the Municipality of Anchorage.
Paratroopers with the 4-25 said they enjoyed the event because it gave them an opportunity to showcase their abilities. It was also an opportunity to get to know some key Alaskan leaders.

The 4-25th IBCT's commander, Army Col. Matthew McFarlane, said it is important to continue to establish bonds with the Alaska community.

"It was a great event because it provided an opportunity to improve our ties with the greater Anchorage community," McFarlane said. "We were able to educate them on some different aspects of our operations, so they could see the leadership and care that is involved in everything we do."

"It's a wonderful opportunity to connect with the community and show our airborne capabilities," said Sgt. 1st Class John Young, an operations noncommissioned officer with the 4-25th IBCT.

In addition to "The Paratrooper Experience," the Spartan brigade is involved in several community engagements.

Members of the brigade volunteer in seven schools across the Municipality of Anchorage. The brigade's School Partnership Program enhances community ties while providing close relations with educators and families.

The 4-25th IBCT recently welcomed nursing students from the University of Alaska Anchorage's nursing school to JBER. The students educated paratroopers on domestic violence awareness, prevention, and response as part of their graduation capstone project.

Just before departing for the day, the group joined paratroopers at the brigade's memorial in front of its headquarters for a moment of silence, remembrance, and prayer for the Spartan heroes who lost their lives in defense of America.

Spartan leaders plan to continue community partnerships efforts in the future. Connecting with the community builds closer ties with the greater Anchorage area and educates the community about the brigade's capabilities and priorities as it shifts focus from the global war on terrorism to providing crisis and contingency response forces in support of U.S. interests in the Asian-Pacific region.

Centurion Paratrooper wins Alaska State’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu championship

by Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

11/27/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Pfc. Jason Hayden, a paratrooper with B Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, took the top spot on the podium at this year's Alaska State Jiu-Jitsu Championship tournament Nov. 2 hosted at the Lumen Christie High School in Anchorage, Alaska.

Hayden won two titles at the tournament by besting the competition in his weight class and by beating out a much heavier fighter in the overall "absolute" category.

Jiu-jitsu is a grappling style of fighting, which emphasizes submission through holds like arm and leg-locks. Jiu-jitsu has been a passion for Hayden since he began training in the sport during his sophomore year in high school at the age of 17.

A native of Owensboro, Ky., Hayden said he knew he had a knack for it jiu-jitsu immediately. After just two months, he was competing in tournaments, winning gold medals in local tournaments along the way.

Hayden competes in the advanced category in the weight class 149 pounds and under. Advanced fighters are purple belt holders and they have four or more years of experience in jiu-jitsu.

Hayden beat out an experienced opponent, who was also undefeated in the Alaska Fighting Championship organization, to win his weight class at the Alaska State Jiu-Jitsu Championships. He then beat out a heavy weight fighter on his way to winning the overall "Absolute" category, which includes any advanced fighter in any weight class.

"I was the smallest guy, and I won," Hayden said.

But, for Hayden, it's not all about winning tournaments.

"Jiu-jitsu is not a sport to me. It's a way of life," he said.

"Jiu-jitsu has helped me so much in my life. It has given me the confidence and the discipline to fight through adversity. It has given me something to work for."

Hayden is also successful in Army Combatives. He has earned qualifications in levels 1 and 2, and has used his skills in jiu-jitsu and Army Combatives to win two tournaments hosted at JBER recently.

"Combatives is my passion. I love teaching it. I love competing. It's my passion."

Hayden is one of three siblings in his family who are competitive fighters.

His oldest brother, Army Spc. Troy Hayden, who is also Combatives level 1 and 2 certified and stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, regularly competes in Army Combatives tournaments at his home station.

Another brother, Josh Hayden, is one of America's best jiu-jitsu competitors. He recently won the North American Trials to go on to Beijing to compete in the largest grappling tournament in the world hosted by the Abu Dhabi Combat Club.

Hayden's dad is very supportive of his sons' efforts and proud of their accomplishments.
"My dad is pretty pumped about it," he said. "He always has pushed us to do sports, play football, run track, and baseball. So, he really likes it that we fight."

Leaders at the Centurion Battalion are also proud of Hayden's drive and accomplishments.
"I don't know anyone who is as determined as he is, and with his skill set and his natural ability, I think he could be top in the world," said Army 1st Lt. Mark Vryhof a platoon leader with B/725th BSTB.

Determined, confident, and focused are words used to describe Hayden's talent and love for jiu-jitsu.

"I like jiu-jitsu most because it is the rawest type of competition," Hayden said. "It's like real combat. Man versus man, and I feel like it's something that human beings have been doing since we've been here on earth. I honestly feel like my body was built to just fight and do jiu-jitsu.

"Whenever I'm training or I'm fighting, or I'm going into a match, it's a life or death struggle. That's the way I look at it."

Yet, with all of his confidence, Hayden finds a way to stay humble and grounded.

"The best way to learn is to get tapped, and know your faults. Be true to yourself, I don't want to get complacent, and feel like, okay I'm the best. I'm not. There is always someone out there better, and I will be training for that good fight."

Hayden will continue to train and look for new opportunities along the way. He plans to do more regional competitions and hopes to join the All Army Team in the future. He also wants to attain level 3 and 4 Army Combatives and become a Modern Army Combatives Program instructor.

Another dream of Hayden's is to compete in the tournament his brother competed in at Beijing, the ADCC world championships. The championships are scheduled to be hosted this time in Brazil in 2015.

"Go to Brazil and compete. That would be the best. That would be a dream," Hayden said."It would be tough, but I feel like I have just as much potential to win as anybody else.
I look at my opponent as another man. He wakes up in the morning like I wake up. He puts his pants on like I do. He eats like I eat. I breathe like he breathes, we're the same. I have the same capabilities of being a world champion as anybody else, so that's how I look at it.
"2015, I'm going to worlds, definitely. I'm going to make it happen."

Alaska and the Pacific rebalance: Top-of-the-line troops at the top of the world

Commentary by Lt. Gen. Russell Handy
Commander, Alaskan Command, Joint Task Force-Alaska, Alaskan NORAD Region, Eleventh Air Force

11/27/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- First, I want to sincerely thank all the Arctic Warriors who were part of our  welcome back to our old Alaska neighborhood.

It is an incredible privilege for JoAnn and me to serve here again, in the Pacific, among many friends and in a place so important to our nation's future.

On that subject, I truly believe this is a very important time to serve in Alaska - isn't it?
Think for a moment: our president has announced a "rebalance" (in effect, a refocusing of our attention) to the Pacific.

If you look at where we sit - literally on top of the world, and directly between the U.S. and the hot spots in the Pacific - it becomes immediately clear just how important you are to the rebalance effort. We are uniquely positioned to "reach out and touch someone" with combat power and rapid mobility in a matter of hours - more so than any other Department of Defense entity.

Fortunately, we have the most capable forces in the nation to meet that challenge - you.
You all operate and maintain the most advanced weapons systems in our inventory and you routinely develop innovative and creative ways to run one of the most complex joint bases in the DoD.

To top that off, you do it in some of the harshest environmental conditions on the planet. I applaud your hard work, your excellence, and your resiliency.

My job is to clearly articulate expectations, give you the tools you need to accomplish your mission, and then listen when you tell me how we can do things better.

Part of this obligation our commanders and I have to you is to ensure you understand our intent and priorities, along with how you fit into the big or two steps up your chain of command. Each of your units has a mission statement and I hold you accountable for knowing and understanding it.

On a broader scale, I want you to examine how you fit into the overall theater strategy.
We will continue to push information on command intent and priorities to your units for publication on your web sites and social media outlets.

These are tremendous resources for your continued education and understanding of where your team fits into our theater and global mission requirements.

As I get around to visit you and your families, I look forward to talking to you all about this and what I can do to support you.

At the close of World War II, B.H. Liddell Hart concluded, "It should be the duty of every soldier to reflect on the experiences of the past, in the endeavor to discover improvements, in his particular sphere of action, which are practical to the immediate future."

You face incredible challenges and obstacles each and every day - I know that.
As we strive to protect our great nation while simultaneously fighting the fiscal tide, we need courageous leadership at the national level coupled with expert advice, insight, and ideas from the men and women who serve - and that's where you come in. Don't sweat the 'small stuff.'

Your immense talent, positive attitude, creativity and ingenuity will carry the day. Thanks again for what you do every day for America to protect her interests from on top of the world.

Spartans take to the air again with unmanned aerial systems

by Army Staff Sgt. Mark Shrewsbury
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

11/27/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The paratroopers of the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, launched an unmanned aircraft system on Forward Operating Base Sparta for the first time since 2008 on Nov. 15.
The Spartan Brigade was recently given Federal Aviation Administration clearance to fly UAS on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The RQ-7 Shadow UAS is a small aircraft operated remotely from the ground by paratroopers assigned to the 425th BSTB. It is approximately 14 feet in length and width but only three feet in height. The aircraft weighs nearly 375 pounds.

The Shadow is launched from a trailer-mounted pneumatic catapult. Once launched, the UAS propels from zero to 81 miles per hour after only 30 feet. It provides real-time video relay via a line-of-sight data link to the ground control station. The UAS is then recovered with the aid of arresting gear similar to the same cable used to stop jets on an aircraft carrier once its mission is complete.

"The launch was actually a test," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nicholas Jones, the Spartan Brigade's UAS operations officer and native of Bloomington, Ind. "It was conducted to ensure the validity of the new authorization to fly in the airspace belonging to JBER. While my unit's intent was to be as safe as possible, and not interfere with business being conducted by the various entities around JBER utilizing the airspace, it was necessary to test the process of launching the UAS from FOB Sparta."

Jones said his unit did a communications exercise Nov. 14. The process required paratroopers operating the UAS to call all of the different agencies they would have to notify if they were actually launching. For the COMEX, however, they began the notification by clearly stating they were conducting an exercise.

"All aspects of the exercise went well," Jones said.

He also said the 425th BSTB works with the same UAS as every other unit in the Army despite the extreme winter temperatures.

"The Warrior battalion has one distinct advantage. The paratroopers who control and guide the UAS for the Spartan Brigade are the best at what they do," Jones said.
The UAS will not likely be flown again on JBER this calendar year due to the extreme temperatures in Alaska during the winter.

When flights are conducted, the UAS will stay over JBER and mostly in restricted airspace. A notice to airmen will additionally be published prior to any flights to alert pilots of the presence of UAS in the air.

Dicemen walk in each other’s shoes

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Blake Mize
JBER Public Affairs

11/27/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- An F-22 Raptor squadron on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has implemented a program designed to help its pilots and maintainers better understand each other's mission.

The 3rd Wing's 90th Fighter Squadron and 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit recently began an integration program allowing pilots to see what goes into maintaining their aircraft and maintainers to get a sense of what it takes to prepare to fly the technologically advanced fighter.

The first group of maintainers took part in the program Nov. 15.

"We're trying to give them an appreciation for what the [operations] side has to do," said Air Force Capt. Ryan Sivertsen, 90th FS fighter pilot. "All they really see is us stepping out to the jet, taking their jet airborne, bringing it back and that's it. So we're just trying to show them the work that goes into preparing for that flight, what we do to debrief and what our average day is like, just to try to help them gain an appreciation for that full picture."
Sivertsen said the program initially began during a deployment this past summer when pilots got to step into the roles of maintainers.

"It was nice to learn about the different aspects that I don't really see," he said. "I understand that I need this stuff for the system, but I don't really ever get to get my hands dirty and actually change the oil, see how missiles are loaded and things like that. Instead, I just know what to look for. But now, I actually know all the work that goes into getting a fully functional jet."

The goal of the program is to get everyone in the 90th on the same page, the squadron's commander explained.

"The idea is to set up days when 'Dicemen' operations and maintenance personnel can learn about each other's portion of our intertwined mission," said Air Force Lt. Col. Nick Reed, 90th FS commander. "Many times, the lack of cross-talk and understanding, as well as misperceptions, can lead to unnecessary friction. Over the years, I've seen many versions of this idea and they all have merit."

Air Force Col. David Nahom, 3rd Wing commander, was the catalyst for the integration program.

"Colonel Nahom really wanted [operations] and maintenance to try and get to know each other's career field a little better, see how we interact with each other and, hopefully, develop a better working unit, a better fighting force," Sivertsen said.

Because of time and space limitations, the program is reserved for the most outstanding 90th AMU maintainers.

"Today, 10 of our best maintenance personnel, chosen by their supervisors, are receiving mission briefs, getting exposure to the step decision process, looking at aircrew flight equipment gear and getting a look at the [F-22] simulator," Reed said Nov. 15.

The step decision process occurs just before an aircraft is scheduled to take off. Pilots work with maintainers and weather personnel to determine which jet they are flying that day and if weather and mechanical conditions permit them to fly safely.

Sivertsen said although this was the first opportunity the 90th had to carry out an integration day, he hopes more can occur in the futur

Paratroopers rededicate new memorial

by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

11/27/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alasak -- The 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, hosted a rededication ceremony for the 1-501st Infantry memorial outside their headquarters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Nov. 15.

Members of the 1-501st Infantry removed the sidewalk that passed between the memorial rocks and replaced it with the Geronimo diamond emblazoned with the Geronimo head in the center, said Army 1st Lt. Matthew Carstensen, the narrator of the rededication ceremony, assigned to Headquarters Company.

"The significance of the diamond-shaped memorial is rooted in the battalion's history," Carstensen said. "During World War II, the four regiments under the 101st (Airborne Division) were told to wear one of the four suits from a deck of cards on their helmets to make them easily recognizable on the drop zone after an airborne operation. The 501st used the suit of diamonds, a tradition that is still used today by all paratroopers assigned to the 1st of the 501st. As service members, family members and visitors walk across the diamond, they will be able to see all four memorial rocks facing them towards the center."
Carstensen then explained the significance of the rocks.

"The monument rocks in front of the battalion have stood vigilant as a constant reminder of the sacrifices all Geronimo's have made," he said. "The first rock seated at the front left of the memorial diamond depicts a placard of our first commander, Col. Howard 'Jumpy' Johnson, killed in action during Operation Market garden. This placard and rock represents all the paratroopers from the 501st who have given their lives in defense of this great nation since World War II. The remaining three rocks and placards seated around the diamond represent the ultimate sacrifices made by 26 Geronimos while the battalion was deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq in support of combat operations during the global war on terror."

After the playing of the national anthem and a brief invocation given by 1 Geronimo's Army Chaplain (Capt.) Matthew Miller, the guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj Bernie Knight, current senior-enlisted advisor to United States Army Alaska and former Geronimo 7, was introduced.

"Geronimo!" Knight yelled at the paratrooper formation standing in front of him.
"There's nothing more proud to be than a paratrooper, especially a paratrooper serving in the United States Army Alaska. Imagine that. Who would have thought? I know 'Jumpy' Johnson didn't think we were going to be in Alaska jumping into the snow."

Knight talked about Johnson and his accomplishments, notably taking care of his Soldiers.
"He looked out for his paratroopers," Knight said. "He said, 'You don't have to be nuts to jump out of an airplane, but it helps.'"

Knight also acknowledged the hard fact that comes with serving in a time of war.

"To forget those who gave their lives for the defense of our nation, our fellow paratroopers would be ashamed," he said. "This is very important that as your loved ones and friends and family of Geronimo come back here to Alaska, they see that we pay some homage to our fallen comrades that are listed right here on these rocks. "

"When we put the first one out here, we didn't think we would have to put out any more, but the sad truth is, it happens."

Knight concluded with his enthusiasm for his old unit.

"I'm proud to be part of the Geronimos," he said. "I'll always be a Geronimo. It will always be right here and so will these paratroopers that stand before you on these rocks. Geronimo!"

The memorial was designed and painted by two 1-501st Infantry paratroopers.
Spc. Michael Driscoll, a mortar gunner assigned to Comanche Company, who gained recognition for his handy work during the recent deployment to Afghanistan, was approached by his command to paint the unit crest on a diamond measuring roughly 48 feet by 33 feet.

"They asked me if I could do something like this and I said it shouldn't be a problem with my skills in drafting and land surveying," the former land surveyor from Rochester, N.Y., said.

Driscoll enlisted the help of another paratrooper, Spc. Corey Acres, assigned to Headquarters Company, to help with the three-week project, which included a fight against the Alaska elements.

"I helped paint," Acres, a native from Spokane, Wash., said. "He did most of the drafting and we drew it onto the concrete. From there we painted for the next few weeks."

The ceremony was also an opportunity to recognize recent Geronimo achievements.
During the ceremony, Easy Company, 1-501st Infantry was awarded the unit level physical fitness award streamer for having a company Army Physical Fitness Test average of 270 or more.

Two Army National Guard members test Soldier skills against peers

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau

FORT LEE, Va. (11/25/13) - Two members of the Army National Guard were among those competing to be named the Army's Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year during the Department of the Army's Best Warrior Competition here.

Sgt. Piero Lopez, a combat medic with the Arkansas Army Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment competed for Soldier of the Year while Sgt. Anthony Calvi, an infantryman with the Florida Army Guard's Company A, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment competed in the NCO category.

For Lopez, who was promoted to sergeant in the time after he won preliminary Best Warrior Competitions, the competition was a chance to test his Soldier skills against the best of the Army.
"It's been more of trying to mentally prepare myself for thins next competition," he said. "It's up to a level where pretty much every skill a Soldier has will be tested."

But, going into the competition, Lopez said he had a plan and mindset on how he was going to approach things.

"Every competition I've done I've always had a plan," he said. "I'm always going to be on my toes. I'm going to be prepared for anything. And, I'm just going to do my best and give it my all. It's the last competition I'm going to do, so there's no reason I should be nervous or crack under stress. I'm going to give it my all."

The competition began with the Army Physical Fitness Test and from there competitors were tested on a variety of skills including reacting to indirect fire and a close ambush, casualty care and medical evacuation as well as basic leadership skills and problem solving and the manual or arms among other tasks.

Navigating through each of the event scenarios provided enough challenges on their own, but getting to each station involved traversing a roughly 14-mile course.

"I'm a bit tired and sore," said Calvi after the first day of the two-day competition. "I feel good. I think I've done pretty well. I've talked with the other competitors and everybody seems to be struggling with the same events and excelling in the same events."

Calvi said many of the events were physically demanding, but they were also mentally challenging as well, including several where competitors had to use items like rope and boards to transport items across a certain area.

"They gave you a fire team and you (had) about six different stations where they give you a task and you have to complete it. Whether it was getting a barrel across using a rope and some chain and you have to get it over an objective and there's only so many ways you can do it. You really have to think on your feet and use your team wisely. I really enjoyed that."

For all the competitors, being able to work under stress was key.

"In these competitions, stress is a huge factor," said Lopez. "People under stress will begin to break down."

The key, said Lopez, is to work through that stress by determining what to focus on.

"A lot of times people under stress will just act because of the stress factor, because somebody is yelling in the background," he said. "You have to take a deep breath, think about what you're doing and then make a decision."

And Calvi agreed, adding that many elements at each event such as simulated artillery or people yelling was a way to up the stress factor.

"Going from event to event there was always loud noises or people firing weapons or artillery or sim grenades, but the whole point is to focus and that's what I did," said Calvi. "I just focused on the mission and all of that was just background noise and I was just really focused on getting the mission done."

Calvi added that some of the responses during the scenarios may have been outside of his experiences, but the elements behind the scenario pushed him forward.

"The stress behind it and that motivation to push yourself hard because you're traveling a lot and carrying a lot, that was realistic," he said. "For the competition itself, that did a great job."

The competition also allowed Calvi to further assess his abilities and add items he could pass on to Soldiers in his unit.

"This has shown me all my weaknesses, all my strengths and I can use that to train Soldiers from now on, motivate them and just show them that anyone can get this far and further through dedication and hard work," he said.

And that is the point of the competition, said Lopez, adding that it also built a further sense of being part of a team.

"We're competing against each other but in the end we're all brothers in arms," he said. "At the end of the day I can go back to the barracks and talk to them like they're my brothers. It's one team, one fight in the end."