29 August 2009

Cpl. Darby T. Morin

Via Newzjunky

FORT DRUM, N.Y., August 26, 2009 — Cpl. Darby T. Morin, 25, of Victoria, Canada, a 10th Mountain Division soldier from Fort Drum, died of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over on Aug. 22 in Logar province, Afghanistan.

Cpl. Morin served as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

He deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in January in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Cpl. Morin joined the Army in March 2004 and came to Fort Drum in April 2008.

He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Cpl. Morin's awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.

Pfc. Brian M. Wolverton

via Ventura County Star

A jet carrying the remains of Army Private 1st Class Brian M. Wolverton of Oak Park taxied slowly on the tarmac at the Van Nuys Airport on Thursday morning.

The 21-year-old soldier’s family — his mother, Miriam, father, Christopher, brother Michael, 17, and grandmother Silvia Yin — stood in a row with Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Brentlinger, a casualty assistance officer, at their side. Brentlinger, members of an Army honor guard and other military personnel saluted as the plane came to a stop and its rumbling engines were quieted.

The 2006 Oak Park High School graduate was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 20 after insurgents attacked his unit. He died from wounds suffered by indirect fire. Funeral services are scheduled Saturday in Westlake Village.

“His heart is in the right place,” Miriam Wolverton said about her son before the plane arrived. She said he often helped younger soldiers in his unit get out of jams with his own advice and advice culled from his mother. “He likes to help people,” she said.

Meanwhile, 38 members of the volunteer Patriot Guard Riders Southern California Chapter, many of them war veterans, waited near their motorcycles to help escort the fallen solider home.

Wolverton served with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y. He completed combat training in June.

‘A way of honoring Brian’

The call sign for a plane carrying a fallen soldier is “hero,” and thus the flights are known as hero flights. In February, an 18-year military ban on news media covering the return of war dead was lifted. Under the change in policy, the military grants access only with the consent of the service member’s family. Miriam and Christopher Wolverton gave their permission for coverage of Brian’s hero flight home.

“It’s a way of honoring Brian,” said Christopher Wolverton, who served three years in the Army. “It’s a free country and the story of our soldiers and the way they are treated, I think it’s a story to be told.”

The hatch of the Falcon 20 cargo jet opened, a member of the honor guard walked to the side of the plane. Wolverton’s casket, draped with the flag, was escorted by a member of his unit.

At Brentlinger’s signal, a black hearse pulled into position.

Wolverton’s casket was lowered from the plane onto a stand. The honor guard surrounded the casket and escorted it to the hearse, as family members wiped away tears.

Wolverton received an associate’s degree in 2008 from Moorpark College. Cultural anthropology sparked his interest and he hoped to major in the subject, Christopher Wolverton said.

In high school, his son ran track, specializing in hurdles but also participating in relays and sprints. As a child he spent six years playing baseball in the Agoura Pony League. While Wolverton attended Moorpark College, he returned to Oak Park High School as an assistant track coach.

A number of Wolverton’s friends told his parents how charming he was. His former track coach told his mother that her oldest son acted mature for his age. To his parents, Wolverton was a typical teenager. His mother joked with him, asking why he didn’t turn on the charm at home.

Wolverton also loved video games, often playing them with his younger brother.

“He was mostly like a friend to me,” Michael said.

The family would travel to Mammoth Mountain once or twice a year to ski.

“Brian had gotten quite good over the years,” Christopher Wolverton said. “He could zip down anything.”

Wolverton was a fourth-generation member of the military. Although his father, grandfather and great-grandfather served, Wolverton’s announcement of joining the military one day in January came as somewhat of a surprise. He had talked about it casually.

He reported for basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia.

“I was very proud of him,” Christopher Wolverton said.

Escort of Patriot Guard Riders

Once the casket was placed in the hearse, military personnel snapped into a salute as civilians placed their right hands over their hearts. Brentlinger escorted the Wolverton family to the hearse. The black limousine would take them to Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park.

Outside the aviation facility, members of the Patriot Guard Riders put on their helmets and prepared for the procession. The group was invited by the family to participate. Craig “Gunney” Donor, the chapter’s captain, said the group was happy to be of service to the families of fallen soldiers and to show their respect.

“They are never easy,” Donor said of the processions. “It’s very emotional for us whenever we see a young person’s life cut short.”

28 August 2009

Justin Pellerin’s family remembers fallen soldier

Via The Keene Sentinel

Last week, Melissa Farmer got a phone call from her son in Afghanistan.

He didn’t talk much about war. Instead, plans were spinning in Justin Pellerin’s head: When he got home, should he be a state trooper or a police officer? Or would he go to college, maybe become a physical trainer?

Pellerin, an Army infantryman from Concord, was killed Thursday by an improvised explosive device in the Wardak province of Afghanistan.

He was 21. His wife of a little more than a year, Chelsey Pellerin, turned 21 last week.

“You just assume it’s not going to happen to you,” Farmer said Saturday, sitting at her kitchen table in Concord next to her husband, Dale, her siblings and her mother. “He was so tough — that’s what we held onto.”

Pellerin was deployed in January and was due home in December. Military officials Saturday confirmed his death and said an IED had exploded near his vehicle, but said they could not yet provide further details about the incident.

He is the 30th soldier from New Hampshire killed in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2002. The principal at Concord High, Gene Connelly, said he believes Pellerin is the school’s only graduate to die in either conflict.

“I’m just heartbroken for (Chelsey), and for his family and friends,” Connelly said. “It’s just — he’s so young.”

Pellerin, who grew up in Concord and has sisters ages 14 and 9, was “always around a whole bunch of kids,” Melissa Farmer said. A camera ham who enjoyed attention, he’d do impassioned Enrique Iglesias impressions while singing karaoke, his family members recalled. A competitive guy, he liked being tough; if he got hurt, he’d show off his scars.

He was smart, but he grew disinterested in school, Farmer said, and he began talking to military recruiters when he was 16. He graduated through an alternative diploma program with the intention of joining the Army.

“He was really looking for some direction, and he knew he could do good things in the service,” Farmer said. “And he ended up being really good at what he did.”

Her son was proud of that, she said. “Of course, we were really proud of him, too.”

Chelsey Pellerin, who met Justin near the start of high school, said a number of their friends had talked about joining the military. But they talked about joining for mechanics, she said, and she was taken aback when Justin enlisted in the Army as an infantryman.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to kill him,’” she said Saturday.

“You don’t do infantry.”

Pellerin shipped off to Georgia in the summer of 2007 for training, his family said, before ending up at Fort Drum, N.Y., that fall.

He came home when he could — it was about a seven-hour drive — and though he always stopped by to visit his family, it was Chelsey he saw the most, his parents said.

“He was in love, you know?” said Dale Farmer.

“We didn’t consider ourselves just married,” Chelsey said. “It was, ‘Hey, you’re my best friend, no one can ever take your spot. You’re my best friend.’“

For months, there was talk of Justin deploying, but “the date kept switching,” Chelsey said. For a while, he thought he was going to Iraq.

“It really was December before we knew for sure,” Melissa Farmer said.

They drove down to Fort Drum before he left in January, to say goodbye.

Justin wanted to use his training — “He was a very good shot,” Dale Farmer said — and if he had qualms about going, he didn’t share many with his family.

“He was most concerned about how we felt. Definitely,” Melissa Farmer said. “He didn’t even want to tell me he was going into the infantry.”

It was the same when he got to Afghanistan, deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. When Justin called, he didn’t say much about what he’d been doing. “Especially with me, he didn’t want to tell me anything,” his mother said. “He would say, ’It’s really bad.’“

Daily Roundup (23-28 Aug)

Catching up for time missed, I will be back to the daily posting of news soon.

Appreciate military spouses who also serve
Letter to the Editor of the Watertown daily Times thanking Fort Drum families for their service.

1-star selections announced by DoD
Col. Jeffrey L. Bannister, 10th Mountain Division deputy commander (support) has been announced as 1 of 39 colonels selected for promotion.

Maj. Gen. Oates Posts Final Blog
Outgoing division commander asks for suggestions and advice to his replacement, Maj. Gen. James Terry.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michael "Sonny" Mitchell interviewed about Survivor Outreach Services for family members of fallen soldiers.

Daily (covering 15-22 Aug) roundup

Reporter's Notebook: In Afghanistan, Itching for a Fight that Never Comes
4/25 Artillery Battalion with a new role in Afghanistan.

Woman aims to fund aquatic therapy pool
Watertown Woman looks to help soldiers who have suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries recover.

Kharwar Flood: Supporting the rule of law in a distant insurgent haven
Fort Drum's 3/71 Cav operating in Afghanistan.

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan look to ensure safe presidential election
Ft Drum's 3rd Brigade Combat Team conducting security mission during the Afghanistan election.

Soldier's Wife Waits for Husband's Safe Return
Wife of deployed soldier talks about husband in Afghanistan

Miller soldier to be buried today in Arlington
3rd Brigade Combat Team's PFC Matthew Willard will be buried at Arlington National Cemetary

Philadelphia port to handle military cargo again
After a 2 year hiatus, Philadephia's port returns to the mission of transporting military cargo, the first load will be of 10th Mountain eqpt to either Iraq or Afghanistan

Gen. Oates prepares to leave Fort Drum
General Oates prepares to leave Fort Drum after almost 2 1/2 years as commander of the division.

Sister, Brother Reunite in Iraq
2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment pilot, meets sister assigned to Mn NG 34th Infantry Division in Iraq.

Sorry for the absence

Unexpected family issues kept me away, I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule very soon.

14 August 2009

Daily Roundup

Editor: I am looking at the layout of the site and it is starting to look cluttered and chaotic. Starting today, any stories not about fallen heroes will be in a compact form, with a synopsis of the story below a link to the story.

New campaign streamers available now for unit flags
The current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are now going to assigned to a time period and if a unit has had multiple deployments in more than 1 time period, they will be authorized a streamer for each time period.

Warriors train on the bayou
The 1st BCT has deployed to Ft Polk to trainup for a deployment to Iraq.

1-71 Cavalry recognizes Soldiers for extending contracts
Leaders of 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment recognized 32 service members who extended their current enlistments at a breakfast ceremony on July 23.

110th Transportation Company Soldiers hit road for Iraq
On Aug. 5, Fort Drum bid farewell to the 110th Transportation Company as they left for a tour in Iraq.

Tennessee officials name bridge for 10th Mountain Division Soldier
A bridge outside Smyrna, Tn was named after Raymond Neal Mitchell III, who was killed in action on Jan. 6, 2007.

VA outreach aims at seamless transition
The Obama administration's Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced several changes to the transition from active duty medical care to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mountain Community Homes announces new construction complete in Rhicard Hills
New home construction in the Rhicard Hills community was completed with the announcement of with 526 new homes built for soldiers and their families.

Directorate of Logistics will undergo conversion
The Directorate of Logistics is reorganizing into Directorate of Support Service, which will focus on support services including laundry, bulk petroleum, personnel movements, unit movements, Railhead Operations, to name a few tasks and the Directorate of Materiel, which will focus on materiel support like Supply Support Activity, Ammunition Supply Point, Central Issue Facility, heavy mobile equipment repair, left behind equipment, predeployment training equipment and National Maintenance Program, among others.

3rd Brigade Combat Team Soldiers will defend democracy in Afghanistan
3rd BCT and NATO troops will be a final backup and also supply fire and air support if needed to Afghan National Army forces who will be responsible for local security during the elections.

13 August 2009

War story, love story

Via The Independent

Call it fate, God, the universe working in the mysterious way it does, but something cosmic was going on for Ferris Butler and Laura Sauriol. Something was going to bring these two together.

It is a love story that started with a war.

Butler, a Port Tobacco native and graduate of Maurice J. McDonough High School, was a first lieutenant. with the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division when he was deployed to Iraq in February 2006.

The Butler family has a long tradition of military service. Along with his older brother, Fenoy, a member of the U.S. Navy, Butler is the ninth generation to enlist in the military — although his father insisted that Butler earn his college degree before signing up.

That a war was raging made little difference in Butler's decision.

"It was a deciding factor," he said of enlisting in a wartime Army. "There was no way I wasn't going to do it."

He was stationed south of Baghdad, in Yusufiyah, one of the towns that made up the "triangle of death," an area that was heavy with combat and violence.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Mount St. Mary's University student Laura Sauriol was seeking volunteer opportunities.

The Damascus-raised accounting major read a newspaper article on Operation Second Chance, a nonprofit group started in 2004 by Cindy McGrew, a Montgomery County resident, to help wounded service men and women.

"Laura is my right hand," McGrew said. "She is more than I could ever ask for. She is always helpful, always cheerful."

Sauriol was assigned to Ward 57 of Walter Reed Medical Center. Basically, she was a gofer and she loved every minute of it.

"I was instantly hooked on the hospital visits," Sauriol said.

If a patient recovering from battle wounds needed or wanted for something — a stroller for a visiting child, shorts that were more accommodating for their wounds and new hardware, anything really — it was Sauriol who was running out to pick it up.

Still, for Walter Reed's Washington, D.C., location, Sauriol wasn't running into any Maryland soldiers. That changed in December 2006.

While on patrol driving a Humvee, infantry leader Butler's front tire detonated an improvised explosive device — better known in American vernacular as an IED.

"It came up through the floorboard," Butler remembered. "My legs from mid-calf down were just shredded. Destroyed."

A stay at Landstuhl, Germany, led to a transfer to Walter Reed and the beginning of a four-month stay to salvage what was left of his legs. His parents, Fenoy Sr. and Carole visited almost every day and Sauriol began popping in each week.

When they first met, Butler admits he wasn't at the top of his game. Not only had he suffered devastating injuries, he was on powerful painkillers.

A raven-haired beauty shows up at his bedside asking if there was anything she could do, offering to bring him food. Real food from a restaurant? He was smitten.

"Not only was I getting food from an actual restaurant, here's this cute girl," Butler said.

But she was all business and had an unofficial rule not to let herself develop romantic feelings for any of the soldiers she met.

"But to be fair, he was heavily medicated at the time," said Sauriol, who was still juggling school with volunteer work. She wished Butler luck and continued her routine visits around Ward 57 while finishing up school.

Butler, 31, would embark on a mission to save his legs. Sure, veterans with artificial limbs would stop by his hospital room telling him life wasn't over just because of his injury, but Butler was determined to salvage his legs.

"I came in with 10 toes," he said. But he would undergo surgeries that he said "whittled" away those digits.

Soon enough, it was decided to amputate to his mid-right foot. He was still fighting to keep the left foot and spent time in a wheelchair.

The youngest of three boys, Butler grew up spending time outdoors, fishing and doing all that guy stuff. He couldn't exactly go mountain climbing in a wheelchair.

He had fought to keep his useless left foot, undergoing 52 surgeries and for what?

"It was absolutely miserable. It wasn't a foot, we called them hoofs," he said. "I was getting out of that wheelchair. It was like seeing the light at the end of the road. My 53rd and 54th were, ironically, elective amputations.

"I gave it the old college try, but it was limiting me. I still wear a size 9, even though [the foot] is fake," said Butler, while Sauriol stifles a laugh. "I haven't looked back since."

His left foot and ankle were amputated in January 2008 and he began his recovery and physical therapy, staying on the medical center's campus.

He was hanging out on post one day in February when the cute girl breezed in from out of nowhere.

Seeing Butler's new amputations, Sauriol, 22, decided they had some catching up to do.

One March night, while picking up dinner at a restaurant (the selections were slim. It was a Friday during Lent) Sauriol called Butler and asked if she could bring him dinner too? (It was lobster ravoli from the Macaroni Grill.)

March Madness was raging at the time, so for the next two months Friday night basketball and dinner became a ritual.

Soon, Sauriol started seeing Butler in a new light.

"He was so funny, so sweet," she said.

They hugged at the end of each "date" but one night Sauriol got butterflies in her stomach and that was it.

They soon made an "official" date and things just started coming together. Sauriol landed a job with a federal agency in D.C.; Butler got a condo in Rockville, was promoted to the rank of Captain and interned for a while in Sen. John McCain's office.

He just had one more thing to do.

While still in a wheelchair and with the moral support of a few friends, Butler went to a jeweler and designed an engagement ring for the cute girl. Now, he needed a perfect place to propose. Why not the White House?

Getting permission from former First Lady Laura Bush, the couple took a private tour of the executive mansion during the Christmas season winding up in the Blue Room in front of the Christmas tree. No dummy, Sauriol knew something was up. The president's photographer was clicking away like mad and they were alone in the Blue Room.

She said "yes," by the way.

Searching for a venue to hold the quintessential Maryland wedding, the couple eventually landed at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville. It was perfect. On the water, they could even have a crab feast at their reception if they wanted.

Touched by their story, management of the beach club opted to not only host the wedding, it will foot the bill and allow the couple to invite those who were with them each step of the way along the bumpy road that led to a bridal path.

Butler works with a nonprofit to further education about amputations and he and Sauriol have taken mentor training courses to better help the injured troops admitted to Walter Reed. Butler is now one of those guys coming into a newbie's room to tell him or her that life isn't over just because of an injury.

"So much of who I am today is because of those guys," he said. "It's that ‘Life's not over' mentality. All these things go through your head, ‘How am I ever going to love again?' ‘How is anyone going to ever love me again?'"

Day by day, little by little, Butler got his life back on track and it took him along a new route. He'll retire from the Army later this year and from there who knows what will happen? But Butler and Sauriol are in it together.

"Life is what you make it," he said, laughing at using a cliché before adding another. "With Laura, I have nothing but a positive outlook."

12 August 2009

Colonal Haight: "3rd Brigade Spartans are in Contact with the Enemy on a Daily Basis"


The 10th Mountain Division is routinely called upon to serve and represent the United States overseas and its presence in Afghanistan has been a valuable asset to the people and the nation, who rely on American soldiers for training, economic and infrastructal development, as well as security.

Colonal David Haight, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander, spoke about his unit's role in supporting the Afghan National Security Forces and how they have been battling insurgents to ensure a functioning government, a better quality of life for residents of the region and living in towns and villages to help keep those residents safe.

Haight says that a main quality of those serving in the brigade is experience and knowledge to adapting to several challeges, including climate changes, a different culture and lifestyle and an elusive enemy that changes tactics, but uses familiar weapons.

"35 percent of this brigade served in Afghanistan in the previous 16 month tour...there are many things that are hard to adapt to."

"The enemy is here and it does not like the fact that we have wrestled two provinces out of its control and it is desperate to get them back...they are trying to disrupt the elections."

The 3rd Brigade is no stranger to loss as 19 soldiers have been killed since May 2009 that were part of the brotherhood and team.

Colonal Haight says that there is nothing more heart breaking when a commrade falls in battle, but what we must do is honor those who have fallen by taking care of their families, remember them so that their sacrifices were not in vain and that the resolve to prevail will strengthen.

Ed note: On the WWNT website is an audio link to the interview that I would recommend listening to for any readers.

11 August 2009

Brigade Commander Sees Advantages To Adding Troops In Afghanistan


A 10th Mountain Division brigade commander says sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan is not a bad idea.

Colonel David Haight is the leader of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

His 3,500 troops are serving in the eastern province of Wardak.

His brigade has lost 17 soldiers in the past three months because of persistent attacks from the enemy.

Col. Haight says top generals will decide whether or not more troops get sent to Afghanistan - but he sees advantages to it.

"We filled up our regional command with what was necessary, but I think we're going to see additional troops having to head down south...There are some challenges there that additional troops will be able to meet," said Col. Haight.

You can hear more of what Col. Haight has to say about the war, the losses and the highly anticipated trip back home in an in-depth interview Wednesday on 7 News This Morning.

10 August 2009

Two Fort Drum Soldiers Die From Wounds Suffered In Afghanistan


Fort Drum announced Monday that two 10th Mountain Division soldiers have died from injuries suffered in Afghanistan.
Officials say 23 year old Sergeant Jerry R. Evans Jr. of Eufaula, Alabama was killed last Friday in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

Evans deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in January in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He served as an infantryman in the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

Sgt. Evans joined the Army in June 2005 and came to Fort Drum in December 2005. He is survived by his parents and sister.

Sgt. Evans awards and decorations include two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal w/distinguishing device for Valor, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Also on Monday, Fort Drum announced another 10th Mountain Division soldier has died at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, of injuries he suffered during a vehicle roll-over July 19 in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

Officials say 20 year old Specialist Matthew K.S. Swanson (pictured left) of Lake Forest, California, died Saturday.

He deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in January in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Specialist Swanson served as a combat engineer with the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

Spc. Swanson joined the Army in October 2007 and came to Fort Drum in May 2008.

He is survived by his parents and sister.

Spc. Swanson's awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.

In Afghanistan, chaplains share duties in effort to serve troops

Via The Catholic Spirit

In the middle of Afghanistan's war zone stands a plywood chapel with fluorescent lights and rows of black vinyl easy chairs. A simple iron cross hangs on the altar where the tin chalice and tin plate rest, ready for the sacrament of Communion.

On a Saturday evening in August, Father Mirek Jordanek, a Czech army chaplain dressed in a white robe with a camouflage stole, celebrated Mass in his limited English. A Protestant chaplain preached the homily at the weekend Mass.

"One day, we will see him face to face," said the Rev. Brent Sanders, the Protestant chaplain who holds the rank of captain. "Let us be ready."

It is a fitting message for the New York-based U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed force in the entire U.S. Army. At least 14 soldiers have been killed in action since January, four of them in the last two weeks of July. Where once only 10 of the faithful attended Catholic Mass, their numbers have grown to at least 30 regular attendees.

Although one out of five U.S. soldiers is Catholic, there are just 100 Catholic chaplains for the entire U.S. Army.

"We are very short," said the Rev. Bradley West, a Baptist and major assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.

"Especially when we deploy, many soldiers will not see a priest the whole time, especially the guys out at command outposts," he said.

There are just six priests for the 17,000 U.S. soldiers occupying eastern Afghanistan, a region the size of New York state.

Staff Sgt. Hugh Antsett coordinates flights for one of the priests, aiming to get him to a command outpost or forward operating base -- FOB -- at least once every 60-90 days.

"It works great on paper, but so many things happen, and it's not always easy," said Antsett.

"It's always about relationships with the people who are in charge," he added.

At FOB Shank, the chaplains have enlisted the help of Father Jordanek to celebrate regular weekend Masses. Father Jordanek has been a military chaplain for the Czech army for six years.

"The American chaplains asked me to care for Task Force Spartan soldiers. Sometimes the French come too, and civilians from India and Nepal," he said.

Father Jordanek sees his role very specifically: to carve out a time of relaxation and respite for weary soldiers.

"It's a peaceful hour. The soldiers, for one hour, are in a different world. I want them to feel accepted as they are. If they are weak or afraid, I want them to feel accepted," he said.

Lt. David Beale, 24, of Cheshire, Conn., said he comes to Mass every week, which is possible only because he's assigned to duties at the base.

"It's important to me because it keeps me grounded -- thinking about the right thing to do," he said.

"It's a good time to relax and do something I do at home," he added.

For Catholic soldiers, the Mass is also a time of fellowship -- a welcome oasis from the stark gravel roads and army-green tents that make up this base and the war waged beyond the barbed wire.

"This is our time to be together with other Catholics and have a sense of familiarity, a sense of community," said Lt. Col. Steven Osterholzer, a member of St. Michael's Parish in Fort Drum, N.Y., who regularly reads at Mass.

There are, of course, more sobering duties for army chaplains. Father Jordanek and Rev. West have attended the memorial services of each fallen soldier -- regardless of religious affiliation.

"We help soldiers make meaning of what's taking place," said Rev. West.

That can be a terrific challenge, as soldiers grapple with the meaning of life, the devastation of death, surrounded daily by uncertainty.

"We read about chaplains who lose their faith," said Rev. West, "and I don't want that to happen to my guys."

So, he said, he regularly meets with or calls the chaplains under his supervision, challenging them to develop answers to these hard life questions and to deliver the answers with compassion.

"You can be with them, suffer with them, cry with them, but ultimately you only have the answers that you've come up with yourself," he said. "You can say, 'This is what I believe, and this is what helps me.'"

With his limited English, Father Jordanek knows his actions will always speak louder than his words.

"They know I pray for them -- that I am the spiritual leader. I am trying to show them, through my personality, God's love," he said.

08 August 2009

Alexander J. Miller KIA

Via The Army Times

CLERMONT, Fla. —The Defense Department said Tuesday that Army Spc. Alexander J. Miller of Clermont, Fla., died Friday in Nuristan Province during an insurgent attack. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

A Fort Drum spokeswoman said Tuesday that Miller has been awarded the Purple Heart, among other medals.

Miller’s stepfather told the Orlando Sentinel that the 21-year-old “put everybody before himself.”

According to the Defense Department, as of Monday, at least 686 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began in late 2001.

07 August 2009

‘The Bullet Magnet’ is back in the fight in Afghanistan

Via Starts and Stripes

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Staff Sgt. Brandon Camacho was in a "pissing contest" with the enemy. He shot one guy, then another popped up.

He threw a grenade, but it bounced off the man and exploded in a ditch.

As the squad leader then zigzagged through a field, he felt someone tug at his shirt sleeve. Hours later, after the firefight, he’d discover that a bullet had whizzed right through it, narrowly missing his bicep. It tore a hole through his 10th Mountain Division patch and through a pack of cigarettes in his arm pocket, destroying all but one.

"So I pulled it out and had myself a cigarette," Camacho says, holding the patch over his arm. Then he lifts the patch to expose a scar. It’s not from that bullet in April, but from another one a month later, earning the 22-year-old his fourth Purple Heart for wounds in a war he just won’t quit.

Struck by shrapnel during heavy mortar bombardment in Iraq in 2003, Camacho has since been grazed by one bullet, hit in the shoulder with a tracer round and finally, in June, shot in the arm. His men call him "The Bullet Magnet" and joke that since all his injuries have been on his left side, if they just stand to his right, they’ll be fine.

The most Purple Hearts received by one person is eight, according to various sources, but receiving four remains a rare occurrence.

A soldier’s soldier with a penchant for military history, Camacho has risen from private to staff sergeant with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s Company B, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, through three deployments and four combat wounds. He’s been shot, mortared, came within seconds of being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. He’s watched colleagues die.

“He’s the most experienced guy I know,” said Sgt. Daniel Hernandez, 23, of Odessa, Texas, who is in Camacho’s squad. “He can take any bad situation and use it in our favor. If we could fight this war and pick a dream team, I’d pick him.”

Camacho dreams of digging his toes in the sand and sipping a drink by the ocean in his native Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory. And while he toys with the idea of getting out next year, he’s still in awe of the U.S. Army.

“I remember when I was a private. I’d look at my squad leader and think, ‘Look at him. He’s a staff sergeant. No one can touch these guys.’ Now I think, ‘God, I am the same,’ ” he says.

He recites the names of the men who didn’t make it: Maj. Douglas Sloan, the company commander with a great sense of humor they used to call “Lunch Box” because he was always looking for snacks, killed by a bomb in Wygal Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 31, 2006; Pfc. Alex Oceguera, who was killed with Sloan in the blast; Sgt. Russell Durgin, who died on June 13, 2006, in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, when his unit took small-arms fire; and Sgt. Brandon Adams, Camacho’s first roommate at Fort Drum, who taught him how to clean his boots and was killed in Iraq. Adams died of injuries sustained Feb. 16, 2004, when a grenade exploded as he was clearing a house in Fallujah.

“You meet the best people in the world in the Army,” Camacho says.

His first combat wound came in 2003, when his Army base near Fallujah came under mortar fire. Shrapnel was screaming into flesh and lit the tents on fire.

While Camacho was running to the bunker, a shard of burning metal struck just above his left knee, and a rocket hit the structure. He headed for another bunker but fell. Sgt. Ryan Haskins, who is deployed with him again now in Afghanistan, picked him up and pulled him to safety.

It was a singed flesh wound and Camacho was back in his unit two weeks later.

The son of a Saipan-born father and a American-born mother, and grandson of a U.S. Navy World War II veteran, Camacho grew up understanding what it is to be an American in a bigger world. His uncle is a command sergeant major with the 101st Airborne Division.

He was born in Saipan but moved to the States as a teen, joining the Army at 18, straight out of high school. It was shortly after 9/11, and he knew he’d be going to war.

He knows he’s fighting “on the right side of this war,” and takes his responsibility for his men seriously.

His uncle yelled at him for being the guy on point.

“He said I shouldn’t be doing that anymore,” Camacho says.

He smiles.

“They tell me I need to go back to basic training and practice IMT (individual movement technique) a lot more,” he says. “A lot of people say I am unlucky. But I think I am pretty damn lucky.”

He notes wryly that everyone in his platoon who has gotten hit has been in his squad. But even they trust Camacho to lead them through battle.

“The way he trained us back in Drum, I don’t want to be with no one else,” said Spc. Devin Johnson, of Chester, S.C., who was hit with bullet fragments in both legs in May when insurgents fired at the turret of a truck where he was gunning. “If something happens, we know what to do.”

Camacho’s second and third Purple Hearts came during his next deployment in Afghanistan’s northeastern Nuristan province. He had just come off a tough year back home. His father suffered a stroke and his grandfather died.

In July 2006, a bullet grazed his fingers as he pulled himself over a rock while chasing the enemy. He was hit again in April 2007, this time with a tracer round, after their deployment got extended beyond March. Both times, he finished the fight before realizing he was wounded. And both times, he was back to work within weeks.

Finally, in June 2007, Camacho went home, two more Purple Hearts in hand.

When it came time to redeploy this year, Camacho was assigned a recruiting job, which would have kept him out of harm’s way.

But the soldier was having none of it. He was thrilled when a captain intervened to get him back to the front lines.

Last May, Camacho, now a squad leader, and his men were chasing insurgents through tall grass in Afghanistan’s Logar province when a gunman jumped up and sprayed gunfire. Camacho reached back to get a magazine and felt like he’d been hit in the shoulder with a baseball bat. He was bleeding heavily. His arm froze up. But he kept firing until he got too dizzy and stumbled out to mounted units in trucks.

Camacho got his fourth Purple Heart and a two-week leave to go back home.

When he returned in July, the men greeted him warmly.

The next day, 1st Lt. Scott Davis, Camacho’s platoon leader, was talking to villagers at a girls school in the province’s Charkh District when shots rang out. Camacho was already at the forward position, where his men were returning fire from behind an orchard wall.

When the exchange was over, the men slid down behind the wall, smoking cigarettes as the adrenaline subsided.

“Welcome back, Sergeant,” one of the men called to Camacho.

“Right back in the game, huh, Sergeant?” said another.

Then Hernandez chimed in.

“‘The Bullet Magnet’ is back!”

1st Brigade NCO aids local police

Via Fort Drum Mountaineer

Officer Larry Jobson, a part-time police officer for the villages of Brownville, Glen Park and Dexter, thanks Staff Sgt. Peter Conklin, an infantryman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, for his help in apprehending a suspect who attempted to flee after a routine traffic stop in Brownville. Conklin received recognition from village and Jefferson County officials, as well as his command for his actions. Photo by Staff Sgt. John Queen

Village of Brownville officials honored a 10th Mountain Division (LI) noncommissioned officer July 16 for his quick actions in assisting law enforcement officials when a routine traffic stop went awry and a suspect tried to escape.
Staff Sgt. Peter Conklin, an infantryman assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team’s 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, was presented a letter of appreciation by the mayor on behalf of the village board and a certificate of recognition from the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.
In addition, Conklin was awarded the Army Commendation Medal by the command of 2-22 Infantry.
The incident happened last May while Conklin and his wife Shanan were driving home after work. Officer Larry Jobson, a part-time police officer for the villages of Brownville, Glen Park and Dexter, had stopped a motorist on Pike Street in Brownville for a minor traffic violation.
While conducting a standard background check, Jobson heard over his radio that the motorist had a suspended license. Jobson then attempted to take the individual into custody.
According to Jobson, the suspect became argumentative and began fighting with him.
“I was able to back off and call for assistance,” Jobson recalled.
As the scene was unfolding, Conklin was turning onto Pike Street.
“When I looked down street, I saw Officer Jobson was having an altercation with a young man (who) was being belligerent – yelling, screaming, pushing him, shoving him,” Conklin explained.
After they had driven past Jobson and the suspect, Conklin told his wife he was going to stop and give the officer a hand.
By the time Conklin was able to turn around and head back, another officer from a nearby village had arrived to assist Jobson.
As he drove past a second time, Conklin saw the two officers with the suspect and everything appeared to be under control.
“Both officers had him on the hood of the car, and the guy had his arms up over the hood,” he said.
Thinking the situation was in hand, Conklin again turned his vehicle around to head home. As he completed the turn, however, the suspect was able to knock both police officers off their feet and was running in Conklin’s direction.
“When we turned around, the guy threw an elbow back into Officer Jobson, sending him to the ground, and then shoved the other officer away and took off running (toward) our vehicle,” Conklin said.
Conklin stopped his car, got out and confronted the suspect. “I said, ‘hey, just stop. You’re caught. You’re not going anywhere.’”
The suspect yelled “get out of my way G.I. Joe” and began shouting obscenities at Conklin and physically threatening him.
“I don’t think so,” the infantryman shot back.
“He tried to throw a blow at me,” Conklin said. “I got behind him and put him in an ‘arm bar’ and held him until the police got there.”
“He was able to hold on to him and maintain control of him until the other officer and I were able to join him,” Jobson added. “The three of us were able to take him down and take him into custody.”
What the fleeing suspect did not know is Conklin has trained for more than 30 years in the martial arts. “I have a couple of different black belts, and I carry myself a little differently,” he said.
Jobson, who retired a year and a half ago after serving more than 26 years as an undersheriff, explained that people normally stand by and watch when an incident like this happens.
“Very rarely do you see someone jump in and help out,” Jobson said. “In this case, he jumped into action. He was a great help to the community.”
“I can still remember when I got up,” Jobson said. “I was thinking to myself ‘there is no way I’m going to catch him, and we’re going to have to do a search.’”
“When I saw Conklin coming across the street, a smile came across my face and I thought maybe this isn’t over yet,” he added. “It turned ugly in a hurry, and thanks to him, it ended quickly.”
He explained that the tri-village area is usually quiet and peaceful.
“Most people in this community do not resist us,” he said. “They don’t cause any problems. This was a strange situation.”
“I don’t think what I did was all that special or anything like that,” Conklin said humbly. “That’s just the kind of person I am.”
After serving 23 years in the Army, Conklin is preparing to retire. He plans to settle down in Brownville.

New housing available, Outside the wire

Via Outside the wire, Watertown Daily Times

526 new homes available for soldiers at Fort Drum

FORT DRUM — An additional 526 new homes are available for soldiers and families on post. Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes has completed construction in the Rhicard Hills community. The company, which constructs and operates the private housing, has built 934 units since 2005 and has 465 to finish by the end of 2011.

The 2,270 units that were built in the 1980s will be renovated. The housing will accommodate 36 percent of Fort Drum soldiers and families, and the company said it has spent approximately $183 million with local businesses and contractors.

Outside the wire

I think I might make this a weekly post to talk about the community surrounding Fort Drum. Everyone I’ve talked to about this topic (and it’s quite a long list) usually uses the same word or phrase to describe the relationship: Unique and one of a kind.

In June I was asked to contribute to a special section the paper dedicated to examining the community partnership. At one point when writing, I thought to myself “I’ve heard the same thing in every interview, how am I going to write this?”

That’s when it hit me. That’s what I would write. I would just reiterate everything that I had been told. I think some of the best interviews I’ve had were for that section of the paper. I got a chance to ask all the brigade commanders, garrison commander and commanding general what they loved so much about being stationed at Fort Drum. It was something they loved to talk about, so it made the conversation great.

When I first got here in June 2008, I was told that the relationship between Fort Drum and the community was different than at any other Army installation in the world. I figured that it was something that people just say. But that’s totally not true. The people most directly involved on the military and community side of the wire, are so dedicated and passionate about working with one another they don’t even take credit for their accomplisments.

Col. Jerome Penner, the former medical commander at Fort Drum, just left for a new post at Fort Lewis, Wash. When I asked him what he was most proud of during his two years here, he said “I can’t say me, I have to say we.” He said he couldn’t have done it without his staff on Fort Drum and the community network with the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and the several large hospitals in the region.

Maj. Gen. Michael L. Oates, the commanding general, said the same thing. I interviewed him for the last time about a week ago. We talked about his deployment to Iraq and his two and a half years as commander of Fort Drum. When asked the same question, he said “I didn’t do any of this alone. I had a great garrison commander and a great network or people.”

What do you think? Is the north country “the warmest place you’ll ever live,” like Col. David B. Haight, the commander of the 3rd Brigade, says it is?

USA MEDDAC welcomes new commander

Via Fort Drum Mountaineer

Col. Bertram C. Providence accepts the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity guidon from Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, signifying his assumption of command Friday, as Col. Jerome Penner III, outgoing commander looks on at right. Photo by Glenn Wagner

The U.S. Army Medical Department Activity changed leaders Friday during a ceremony at Fort Drum’s Sexton Field. Military and civilian men and women of the Army Medical Department participated in a change of command farewell to Col. Jerome Penner III, outgoing commander, and an official welcome to Col. Bertram C. Providence, incoming commander.

Commander of troops for the ceremony was Lt. Col. Alejandro Lopez-Duke, MEDDAC chief of staff and deputy commander for administration. Reviewing officer was Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, commander, North Atlantic Regional Medical Command.
Following a sequence of events that included formation of troops, honors, colors advance, honors to the nation and the change of command itself, Hawley-Bowland and Penner and Providence made remarks.

Hawley-Bowland recognized MEDDAC Soldiers and civilians for the “quality, compassionate medical care they provide every day,” and highlighted the Army Medical Department challenges under which Penner served.

“Col. Jerry Penner has commanded the Army Medical Department Activity at Fort Drum for the past two years with great distinction,” she said. “This has been a very critical period in the history of the Army Medical Department. Besides taking care of Soldiers and their Families, we have been extremely visible to, and held accountable by, the American people, who demand the best in health care and support for wounded warriors.”

Hawley-Bowland outlined Penner’s accomplishments, which included expanded health care capacity through newly opened or improved facilities on and post off; enhanced partnerships with the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and northern New York health care provider partners; establishing and operating “one of the Army’s most effective warrior transition units”; combining five behavioral health facilities into one convenient location; and spearheading ongoing construction efforts to better meet health care needs of 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers and Families.

The general then welcomed Providence.

“You bring with you an impressive resume of challenging and varied assignments as an AMEDD leader,” she said. “I know you’re up to the challenge of building upon the accomplishment of this great team. We all expect the current high tempo to continue, and we’re all committed to sustained excellence in warrior care here at Fort Drum. The North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and I pledge our full support.”

Penner spoke next. He thanked the NARMC, division, garrison and MEDDAC command for its support; Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and community medical partners for their vital role in making the unique Fort Drum medical model “work to benefit our military children, spouses and Soldiers,” and recognized MEDDAC Soldiers and civilian staff, as well as 3-85 Mountain Infantry warriors in transition.

“You (who) live and work in the North Country have made this the best assignment the Penners have experienced in 27 years,” he said in an emotional close. “Thank you for embracing us and allowing us to be part of your greater Fort Drum Family. Although we move on to a much bigger challenge, there is no way any place could be better.”

Following Penner’s remarks, Providence began his with a warm welcome to distinguished guests, visitors, members of MEDDAC, Family Members who traveled great distance to attend, and the Watertown and Fort Drum community.

“I am well aware that Col. Penner has left me with a very difficult act to follow,” he said. “I am very well aware of how highly he is regarded by you.
“I hope you will find me open to ideas and willing to learn. I, as the newcomer, must learn from you who know the area, its people and culture. Together, I hope we will achieve whatever is demanded of us. I hope that my experiences will enrich yours and that together we continue to make this the finest MEDDAC in the Army.

“To achieve our goal, we must always place the needs of the patients first,” he continued. “We are here to serve the Soldiers and their Family Members. … We must act as one team. … We must continue to strengthen our partnership with the local medical community to improve health care for all, and we must remember that quality is a race without a finish line. We must continue to improve.”

Providence received a bachelor of science in chemistry from St. John’s University, Queens; a doctor of medicine degree from the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Md.; a master’s degree in business administration - health care from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native entered the Army in 1987 as an ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate from St. John’s University.

He is fellowship trained in total joint replacement surgery, board certified in Orthopedic surgery, and board eligible in orthopedic sports medicine. Providence is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He is a member of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons; Society of Military Orthopedic Surgeons; Association of Military Surgeons of the United States; Orthopedic Trauma Association; and the American College of Physician Executives. He is an assistant professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University.

His past assignments include flight surgeon, Multinational Force and Observers, Sinai, Egypt; chief, Orthopedic Surgery Service, Fort Bragg, N.C.; staff orthopedic surgeon, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii; 2nd Infantry Division Surgeon, South Korea; and chief, Orthopedic Surgery Service, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C. Providence most recently served as staff orthopedic surgeon and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command orthopedic consultant at the newly created Walter Reed National Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

He deployed to Mindinow, Philippines, with the Joint Special Forces Task Force and to Bagram, Afghanistan, with Medical Task Force-44, both in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Providence’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Services Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Flight Surgeon Badge, Expert Field Medical Badge, Parachutist Badge, Order of Military Medical Merit and various service and campaign awards.

23rd MP Company Soldiers deploy to Iraq

Via Ft Drum Mountaineer

Capt. Nirav B. Patel, left, 23rd Military Police Company commander, and 1st Sgt. Timothy Watts case the unit's colors during a deployment ceremony Friday at Magrath Sports Center. Photo by Glenn Wagner

Family and friends gave more than 200 Fort Drum Soldiers a proper send-off last week as they prepare to deploy to Iraq.

The 23rd Military Police Company held a deployment ceremony Friday in Magrath Sports Center in preparation for a tour of duty that will see the North Country’s finest conduct detainee operations in Iraq.

“We are ready and we are trained to do what is asked of us,” said Pfc. Chase Bauer, Headquarters Platoon, 23rd MP Company, about his first deployment. “I am a little nervous, but hopefully we will all come back safe to our Families. Our leaders have prepared us, and now all we have to do is our job.”

The company’s mission will be to assist and train Iraqi police on how to process, transport and care for incarcerated individuals.

Wishing them a safe deployment is a leader the Soldiers know well.

“It has been interesting, sometimes challenging, watching this unit develop over time,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Nelden, 91st Military Police Battalion commander.
“The shortage of officers and senior noncommissioned officers during their buildup did not stop this unit from doing what had to be done.

“This will be a challenging mission, but one the unit has specifically trained for,” he added. “You are trained and ready for this deployment.”

The company’s leader joined in reassuring Families that their Soldiers are trained and prepared for the mission at hand and thanking the Family Members for their support.

“Together, we will be successful in any mission assigned to us during our deployment,” said Capt. Nirav B. Patel, 23rd MP Company commander. “While the Soldiers put countless hours into training for deployment, their spouses and significant others stood by the unit and their Soldier, providing superb support. Without the support of the Family Members, the unit could not be as successful as it is today.

“I thank all the Family Members for their continued support and dedication to the unit,” he added.

After the ceremony, Soldiers were released to be with Families and friends. Before leaving, they talked about how they can’t wait to come home.

“We are trained and prepared for what lies ahead,” said Spec. Bradley Muse, 3rd Platoon. “I am a little nervous, but once we get there and start doing our job, we will be fine. We are well-trained to accomplish our mission and come home to our Families.”

The unit relocated from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Fort Drum after its last deployment to Iraq in 2008. Seventeen Soldiers moved from Fort Bragg in May 2008 to re-establish the unit at Fort Drum.

Martin soldier stops at home on road to recovery

From NWTN Today

A SOLDIER’S GIFT – PFC Lindell Scott Pleasant of Martin treats 7-year-old J.T. White of Martin (left) to an airplane and a camoflauge hat with his name embroidered on the back during a trip home last week.

Although he might not consider himself a hero, in the eyes of others, U.S. Army Private First Class Lindell Scott Pleasant of Martin is a humble young man that feels he is just doing what he took an oath to do by serving the United States military.

Pleasant returned home for a brief stay last week in Martin to visit family and friends before heading back to Fort Drum, N.Y. with his wife, Jessica.
He spoke of the war in the Middle East with a strong spirit while he sported a cane that partly told his tale.

Pleasant suffered significant injury to his knees, right shoulder and left ankle when his vehicle struck an IED in Afghanistan during a route clearance in May of this year. The Martin soldier spent several weeks at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. before coming back to his hometown.

When he returns to his station in New York, Pleasant will undergo surgery to repair his shoulder and shattered ankle and have both knees replaced.

He said he will never be 100 percent physically, but that does not deter him from wanting to remain in the Armed Forces.

“I’m aggravated that I won’t be going back over there (Afghanistan),” Pleasant said. He added that life in the Middle East was everything that he had expected it to be from the training he was given by the U.S. Army.

“Nothing is routine, of course. Every day, you just fly by the seat of your pants. It does teach you to respect what you had on the home front,” Pleasant shared.
He said the landscape in Afghanistan is just as one would picture and the terrain allows military personnel to seek unconventional methods of comfort.

“When it rains, we would all strip down and grab our ammo cans and soap to take a shower. We would wash with one can and rinse with the other,” Pleasant said.

“There are no showers, no electricity and no running water. You are out in the middle of nowhere, eating three MRE’s every day and sleeping with one eye open,” he added.

With little or no frequent communication from home, Pleasant said receiving mail in the desert was something that would “make their day.”

“A lot of troops just need encouragement. Morale is pretty good, the sergeants don’t let you get down. There is a lot of loneliness. I missed the face-to-face conversations with my wife. Mail is essential. If you got something in the mail, you carry it with you everywhere you go until it just falls apart,” Pleasant added.
He received letters from second-graders at South Fulton Elementary School while he was deployed to Afghanistan.

“That was one of the best feelings, I can’t describe how much that meant to me,” the Martin soldier said.

Pleasant is considering re-enlisting in the Army in October. He hopes to be transferred to Ft. Campbell, Ky.

“I am going to stand behind him 100 percent no matter what he wants to do,” the Army wife said.

On the home front, Jessica said deployment took its toll while she spent her days thinking about what her husband’s doing and wondering if he’s o.k.

“I didn’t watch the news and I dealt with the deployment by myself. I didn’t know what to expect with the first deployment and I spent a lot of time by the phone,” she added.

“It’s not about money and it’s not about respect. I joined the Army because of the flag of the United States of America – our flag and what it stands for in this country,” Pleasant added.

He is the son of Lindell and Joy Pleasant of Martin.

Fort Drum welcomes new deputy commander

Fort Drum welcomes new deputy commander

FORT DRUM — The 10th Mountain Division welcomed in a new deputy commander for operations this week. Col. Jeffrey L. Bannister replaced Brig. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan on Tuesday. Gen. Buchanan was given a post at the U.S. Army Reserve Command, Fort McPherson, Ga., and was stationed there earlier this month.

Col. Bannister has deployed to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and has served in several battalion and brigade leadership positions since entering the Army in 1984. Before coming to Fort Drum, he was the commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo.

A collective sacrifice that is still made by individuals

From the Watertown Daily Times:

A collective sacrifice that is still made by individuals

AUG. 5, 2009: A Fort Drum soldier was killed in battle the other day. Or was it the week before? Maybe I have him confused with another soldier who died with his three buddies during an explosion. Or was it just two other soldiers?

And so it goes. The U.S. is losing soldiers at such a rapid clip in Afghanistan that names and faces of 10th Mountain Division soldiers are flashing by us, giving little time to reflect on the collective sacrifice being made by these individuals.

ED: Edited out several paragraphs for brevity

Some soldiers die in a firefight. Some die in a vehicle that is blown up. Should one get more attention than the other? The father of one dead 10th Mountain Division soldier was recently called by President Obama who said his son will be a Medal of Honor recipient. Was that soldier’s death more significant than another? His late son would likely say, “I was just doing my job. I know others who did things just as important and courageous. Why me? Why not them?”

How do you give equal attention to the death of each 10th Mountain Division soldier?

I often review our previous stories and look for balance, tone and perspective. And no matter what we produced on the deaths of Fort Drum soldiers, I know it was not enough.

Our reporters work to ensure these are not unknown soldiers, even if they were not know to anyone in our community. But in the end these soldiers, who gave the last full measure of devotion, are never known enough.

Honoring those fallen before us.

As I am just starting this site, I can think of no post that can be more fitting than the one that reminds us of our brothers and sisters who have been called upon to give the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
This link is to the Fort Drum Public Affairs site, which has a list of of service members assigned to Fort Drum who have died during the current operations.

As of August 4th 2009, There have been 109 casualties in Iraq, 73 casualties in Afghanistan, and 13 during training at Fort Drum.

Additions to this list will be added as new and separate posts as I am made aware of the names and locations.
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