Military News

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Exercise Saber Strike 18 Participants Mull Lessons Learned

By Army 1st Lt. Erica Mitchell, Battle Group Poland

BEMOWO PISKIE, Poland -- As this year’s U.S. Army Europe-led Saber Strike 18 cooperative training exercise comes to an end, soldiers from NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Poland reflected on training, partnerships and interoperability.

“Through Saber Strike, I have learned that together, we are NATO. Once again, this multinational exercise has proven that all participating nations are strongly involved to achieve the same goal,” said Romanian 1st Lt. Alexandru Calinescu, specialist officer, Air Defense Detachment, Blue Scorpions, Battle Group Poland.

Enhancing Interoperability

Not only designed to enhance interoperability among allies and regional partners, this year’s exercise also focused on improving air and land operational capabilities with an additional key objective to train with NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence battle groups.

Battle Group Poland is uniquely comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian Soldiers, who serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a defense and deterrence force in northeast Poland.

Saber Strike 18 began with combined situational training exercises aimed to teach soldiers specific skills, tactics and battlefield techniques of the participating nations, giving soldiers the opportunity to learn from one another.

“This exercise allows us to work with the coalition forces of Battle Group Poland giving us the chance to learn how they move around the battlefield, how they communicate on the radio, how they send fire missions and ultimately understand their standards to send fires downrange,” said Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Peterson, a mortarman from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

An integrated, synchronized, deterrence-oriented field training exercise designed to enhance interoperability and improve readiness of Battle Group Poland culminated the 12-day exercise.

“As a member of the Fire Direction Center, I am aware of the importance of rapid and accurate fire support, in a complex multinational exercise such as Saber Strike 18. We have learned how to adjust to different nations’ tactics, techniques and procedures in order to become interoperable and to perform our tasks efficiently,” said Croatian Pvt. Domagoj Sabolek, Fire Direction Center, Mobile Multiple Rocket Launcher Battery, M-92 Vulkan.

Participation in multinational exercises such as Saber Strike enhances professional relationships, military capabilities and improves overall coordination with allies and partner militaries to conduct a full spectrum of military operations, officials said.

“Like our commander said, the five participating nations in Battle Group Poland are like the fingers of a hand, if there is need, we strike together like a fist,” said Capt. Anna Bielak-Pestka, press officer for Poland’s 15th Mechanized Brigade. “After this exercise, we can truly say that interoperability between the Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Poland and the 15th Mechanized Brigade soldiers is on the highest level and we are a ready force.”

Coast Guard Veteran Dedicates 43 years to Keeping Mariners Safe

By Walter Ham, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters

WASHINGTON -- One fateful evening in 1974 after dropping his girlfriend at home in Shelby County, Alabama, Bob Trainor heard a U.S. Coast Guard radio ad that would change his life.

“Within those 60 seconds, I was hooked,” Trainor said. “I visited the recruiter the next day and within a couple of months was on my way to Alameda, California.”

Trainor decided to join the Coast Guard because he wanted to drive boats and save lives. Little did he know at the time he was about to become a lifelong “Black Hull” sailor who would help maintain the U.S. Aids to Navigation system, orATON, -- the buoys and beacons that help to keep mariners and the U.S. economy on course.

Maintaining Navigation Buoys, Beacons

The Coast Guard maintains over 48,000 buoys and beacons across more than 25,000 miles of the U.S. navigable waterways that make up the U.S. Marine Transportation System. The Coast Guard ATON system mitigates maritime transit risks by promoting the safe, economic and efficient movement of vessel traffic. The U.S. MTS contributes more than $4.6 trillion to the U.S. economy annually.

“Joining the ATON community was blind luck, but once assigned to the Coast Guard buoy tender Rambler in 1975 out of Mobile, Alabama, I never looked back,” said Trainor, who was born in White Plains, New York, and raised in upstate New York and Massachusetts before moving to Alabama, while still in high school.

Trainor served 24 of his 31 active-duty years in the Coast Guard’s ATON mission. Of his 18 years of sea duty, he served on seven different ATON cutters and two Aids to Navigation Teams, including two commanding officer tours and one officer in charge tour. From the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast, he traveled thousands of miles and helped maintain thousands of the buoys and beacons that safely guide mariners transiting the MTS.

Early in his career on the Corpus Christi-based construction tender Anvil, Trainor and his crewmates demonstrated the multimission capabilities of ATON cutters following the 1979 blowout of a Campeche Bay, Mexico, oil rig.

Working from sunup to sundown for six weeks, the Anvil crew set oil containment booms across many of the inlets along the coast to protect Texas wetlands.

Saving Mariners’ Lives

ATON units also perform search-and-rescue missions. While on the Seattle-based seagoing buoy tender Fir, Trainor, then a chief petty officer, and Chief Warrant Officer Tom Murray rescued a man and his young son who were stranded on a rock island in Deception Pass, Washington, after their boat crashed into pieces on the rocks.

While serving as the commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Sledge, a Baltimore-based construction tender, Trainor helped to restore the ATON system in the waterways of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland following the 1999 Category 4 Hurricane Floyd. For three weeks following the hurricane, Sledge traveled more than 1,200 miles, rebuilt 45 beacons and corrected many other ATON discrepancies, restoring several critical waterways.

“There is a sense of accomplishment when a construction tender spuds down at severely damaged range light and within a few hours you’re underway with new aid to navigation in your wake lighting the way for our nation’s mariners,” Trainor said.

Trainor retired as a chief warrant officer in 2006. He then went to work as a civil servant at Coast Guard Headquarters here. He was assigned to the Office of Navigation Systems, Aids to Navigation and Position, Navigation and Timing Division.

Coast Guard Civilian Service

As a Coast Guard civilian, Trainor capitalized on his experience to help shape policy and introduce initiatives, improving both the design and maintenance of the ATON system. In addition, he helped shape global ATON standards as a committee member of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities.

One of his most memorable contributions was the establishment of range project in the Delaware River that vastly improved ship transits through a narrow bridge. One of the Delaware Bay Pilots commented, “You guys just made the most dangerous part of the river much safer.”

From the Coast Guard Headquarters to the Black Hull fleet, Trainor has helped to make U.S. waterways safer, more efficient and resilient.

“Saving lives is the foundation of everything the Coast Guard does,” Trainor said. “From actual rescues to keeping drugs out of the country, to maintaining a system of signals to mitigate transits risks, all Coast Guard missions aim to save lives.”

More than four decades after he joined the Coast Guard, Trainor retired for a second time, wrapping up his 43 years of uniformed and civilian Coast Guard service during a ceremony here in May 2018. His wife Cynthia, who was his girlfriend in 1974 on the night he heard the life-changing radio ad, was there with him.

Face of Defense: Oklahoma Guard Soldier’s Promotion Makes State History

By Army Maj. Geoff Legler, Oklahoma Army National Guard

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Army Sgt. Maj. Seretta Lawson of Enid, Oklahoma, is the first African-American female to attain the top enlisted rank in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

Lawson began her military career in 1993 as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, where she completed Army basic training while still in high school and attended her advanced individual training as an administrative specialist after graduation.

Once her initial training was complete, Lawson transitioned to the active Army and was stationed in South Korea for a year, followed by an assignment to Fort Bliss, Texas, for another year.

After completing two years of service, Lawson was transferred to Coleman Barracks near Mannheim, Germany, where she spent the remaining six years of her enlistment, still serving as an administrative specialist.

After eight years of active-Army service, Lawson decided it was time to return home, but she was not ready for her military career to end. She spoke to an Army National Guard recruiter in Enid and joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard as a communications specialist in 2002.

Iraq Deployment

Lawson deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the Louisiana National Guard’s 415th Military Intelligence Battalion and was promoted to the rank of sergeant. After completing 10 months in Iraq, she returned to Oklahoma and was reassigned to the Recruiting and Retention Battalion and was promoted to staff sergeant in September 2007.

Lawson was once again tapped for deployment in 2008, this time to Kuwait for nine months with Headquarter Battery, 45th Field Artillery Brigade, Oklahoma Army National Guard.

With another successful deployment behind her, Lawson transferred to the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and was assigned as the brigade communication security custodian, and before long was promoted to sergeant first class.

In 2011, Lawson was deployed to Afghanistan for ten months, where she served as signal communications specialist with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Upon her return, Lawson was given the opportunity to transfer to the 45th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and to serve as a platoon sergeant. While at the BTSB, she was promoted to first sergeant and had the distinction of being the BTSB’s first female first sergeant.

In March 2018, Lawson was promoted to sergeant major and assigned as the sergeant major for the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s military personnel section at the Oklahoma Joint Force Headquarters. With this promotion, she became the first African-American female sergeant major in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

New Responsibilities

In her new position with the military personnel section, Lawson oversees a process called “Crossroads.” All Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen are required to participate in the Crossroads program before separating from the Oklahoma National Guard. The program provides each separating soldier with a final review of their military personnel, medical and finance records and a final health evaluation before leaving the National Guard.

“Sgt. Maj. Lawson has always shown herself to be a courageous and dedicated member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard,” said Army Maj. Gen. Michael C. Thompson, adjutant general for Oklahoma. “She brings a perspective to her new position that will be to the benefit of every soldier in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.”

Lawson recently spent two weeks at the Oklahoma National Guard’s premier training site, Camp Gruber, which is located near Braggs, Oklahoma. While there, she served as the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of training support for the Air Assault, Pathfinder and Rappel Master schools. In this capacity, Lawson was responsible for any and all support needed by the instructors and students of the three courses. Support for the courses included food, housing, medical, safety and aviation coordination.

At the conclusion of the courses, instructors and students alike said they were well taken care of throughout their time at Camp Gruber.

During a recent conversation about her role as a sergeant major, Lawson said, “I feel it is my job and responsibility to educate younger soldiers; they are the next generation and need drive, motivation and, at the same time, they need mentorship [in order to] be successful in the Oklahoma National Guard.”
In her civilian profession, Lawson is a customer relations specialist with the commissary on Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma.