Category Archives: NCO Newsfeed

Army’s top recruiter draws inspiration from troubled past


By DON WAGNER
Army News Service

For Staff Sgt. Ernie Nieves, the Army’s top recruiter for fiscal year 2016, being a recruiter is the perfect opportunity to give back to the community.

“I treat every applicant like they are family, like my own children,” he said. “My job gives me a platform to mentor, teach and motivate them to do better for themselves and those around them.”

In fiscal year 2016 his recruiting efforts resulted in 50 enlistments. But in his free time, Nieves also mentors high-risk kids from the urban streets of Chicago. Nieves estimates he has mentored about 24 kids since 1992, but he’s not keeping score.

On weekdays, weekends and evenings, he mentors kids in schools, in their home, and in parks — anywhere and everywhere he can. All kids need some form of mentoring, he believes.

With each new generation, kids seem to him further detached from core values, self worth and overall motivation. Nieves tells his kids not to accept or engage in the violence they are exposed to on the streets. He tells them that there is a better life.

“I never give up on people,” Nieves said. “Gang and gun violence is not normal. [Violence] is not and should not be accepted. A true hero inspires change, one life at a time.”

He believes that many kids who join gangs do so because they lack role models, financial resources, or stable families. For many of them, the gang lifestyle is all they know.

Reaching out

Nieves still remembers when the ice cream trucks would come around the neighborhoods; the gang leaders would buy ice cream for all the kids in hopes of recruiting them. They made the kids feel protected, like they belonged to something much greater than themselves.

Before mentoring directly to the youths, Nieves said, he would meet with gang leaders to request that they release the youths. The meetings actually surprised some leaders, who responded positively. But as the years have passed, Nieves has found this approach is becoming more difficult.

“Most of the leaders do not have any sense of tradition, respect or value for anything or anyone,” Nieves said.

On the other side, Nieves said, he has mentored kids whose parents are barely involved in their kids’ lives.

The last protégé he mentored was homeless only six months ago. Now that recruit is in Army basic training.

Drawing on a troubled past

Nieves believes his blended family and his own experiences as a gang-involved youth allow him to relate to the youths he helps. The Puerto Rico-born NCO moved to Chicago at age 5. Several years later, his parents divorced and his father left.

“This left a huge void in my life, and I was left to fill that void with the only example of family and fatherhood I knew, the local gang members,” Nieves said.

At 9, Nieves joined a gang. Two years later, he said, gang members betrayed him and stabbed him with an ice pick in his knee. So he joined an opposing gang to which several of his family members already belonged. He claims that he became gang president at age 13.

During his years in a gang, Nieves said, he was shot on three separate occasions. The first time, he was shot in the leg during a gunfight with an older man from an opposing gang. The second occurred after an ambush, when he was shot in the arm as he tried to run into a house.

“The entire house was shot up. Bullet holes through the door and windows,” Nieves recalled.

On the third occasion, he was hit in the foot by a ricocheting round.

At age 16, Nieves had a son, and he began having dreams of being shot while in a vehicle. In his dreams, the rounds would go through him and hit his son in the back seat. He decided it was time to leave the gang life behind.

“It was then that I decided that this was no life for my son,” he recalled. “I had to give him more.”

Nieves graduated from Chicago’s Wells Community Academy high school in 1990. After years of self-employment in real estate, he enlisted in the Army at age 31 in 2004. He joined the Army Reserve so he could stay close to his children.

Integrity

Today, Nieves considers integrity the most important Army value.

“You must be able to do what you ask others to do and, finally, you have to care about those you lead,” he said. “I admire people that inspire without seeking personal attention — everyone that makes a difference in the lives of those around them.”

Nieves loves the city of Chicago and said his “heart hurts with the lack of life-changing programs.”

“People here are very unique,” he said. “Unfortunately, Chicago still remains somewhat segregated racially.”

He heads a blended family household with eight children. He and his wife, a retired Chicago police officer, have two sons in the active Army. One is stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and the other is a Ranger stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Both are serving in military intelligence.

Nieves plans to retire in about 10 years. After retirement, he said, he plans to mentor full-time. Currently, he is researching ways to create an interactive mentorship program that can serve as a template for anyone who wants to become a mentor.

“I want to have a mentorship program in every major inner city throughout the country,” he said. “I want to light a fire in as many people as possible to inspire change, one person at a time.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley pins the Army Commendation Medal on Staff Sgt. Ernie Nieves while meeting Soldiers serving in the Chicago Recruiting Battalion on Nov. 12, 2016. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Burden)
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley pins the Army Commendation Medal on Staff Sgt. Ernie Nieves while meeting Soldiers serving in the Chicago Recruiting Battalion on Nov. 12, 2016. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Burden)

WCAP NCO named to Impact25 list of women who have made a difference


By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.

The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.

Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.

Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.

In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.

“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.

For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and exhaustive rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.

She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Less than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.

“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”

Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.

And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.

The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.

Soldiers, researchers delve into prototype uniforms during German exercise


Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Medium.

Army News Service

About 100 Soldiers wore prototype combat uniforms during a 21-day field exercise this summer while U.S. Army researchers collected their data. Their work will help move the mission to improve the comfort and safety of the garments Soldiers use in the future.

The Army has developed a fabric composed of 50 percent wool, 42 percent Nomex, 5 percent Kevlar and 3 percent P140 antistatic fiber. One goal of textile R&D underway is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made wholly from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.

“We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant. No topical treatments are added to provide FR,” Winterhalter said. “We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system.

“We don’t have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material.”

Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a Human Research Volunteer Soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a prototype uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. He is also wearing a MOLLE Medium Pack System and a conceptual load carriage vest system called the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel that is designed specifically for Airborne operations but will also be evaluated for non-Airborne operations, including jungle environments. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)
Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a Human Research Volunteer Soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a prototype uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. He is also wearing a MOLLE Medium Pack System and a conceptual load carriage vest system called the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel that is designed specifically for Airborne operations but will also be evaluated for non-Airborne operations, including jungle environments. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)

Three Army researchers traveled to Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 15 for Exercise Combined Resolve VII to work with about 100 Soldiers in testing and evaluating prototype uniforms composed of this fabric. The scientists joined John Riedener, the Field Assistance in Science and Technology advisor assigned to 7th Army Training Command. The regular exercise brings about 3,500 participants from NATO allies to the region.

“We were in the heat of summer here, and it was very warm during the exercise,” Riedener said. “The uniforms were lighter weight and breathed better. Soldiers were very happy with the material,” Riedener said.

FAST advisors are a component of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise, said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist, Soldier and Squad Optimization and Integration Team. The R&D team selected Hohenfels, Germany, because the previous FR wool undergarment evaluation took place there.

Each Soldier received three prototypes. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was “garment treated” with permethrin, an insecticide, and another “fabric treated” with permethrin. The third was untreated.

Soldiers wore each of the three uniforms for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. The testing and survey instructions asked Soldiers not to compare the prototypes with existing uniforms or camouflage patterns. Participating Soldiers came from multiple military occupational specialties.

Their feedback regarding comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance, and overall performance will help determine whether researchers continue this development effort, Winterhalter said.

Initial results suggest the majority of the Soldiers liked the fabric because it was lightweight and breathable; however, analysis of the survey data is not complete, said Shalli Sherman, NSRDEC program manager for the Office of Synchronization and Integration.

Winterhalter is optimistic about the prospect of a wool blend being incorporated into combat uniforms because of its environmental, manufacturing and economic benefits. She said the United States has about 80,000 wool growers, and the Army would like to include this material in the clothing system.

“Wool is 100 percent biodegradable. It’s easy to dye and absorbs moisture,” said Winterhalter, who is also the federal government’s chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute. “The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool. It’s been very successful.

“When blended with other fibers, the fabric does not shrink excessively when washed. The Super Wash line at Chargeurs in Jamestown, South Carolina, has exceeded its business estimates. It has revitalized wool manufacturing in this country. Something we initiated for the Army has resulted in economic benefits and new jobs for U.S. citizens.”

The new Super Wash process makes wool viable for combat clothing in nearly any application, including jackets, pants, underwear, headwear, gloves and socks, Winterhalter said.

NSRDEC researchers plan a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days. More data on comfort and durability is needed as the Army moves forward with this R&D effort, Winterhalter said.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission is to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a Human Research Volunteer Soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a prototype uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. He is also wearing a MOLLE Medium Pack System and a conceptual load carriage vest system called the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel that is designed specifically for Airborne operations but will also be evaluated for non-Airborne operations, including jungle environments. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)
Pvt. Antwan Williams, was one of about 100 Soldiers who served as a Human Research Volunteer during Exercise Combined Resolve VII in Germany. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command)

NCO killed in Afghanistan posthumously promoted, awarded Bronze Star


NCO Journal staff report

Sgt. John Perry, 30, was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star after being killed in a suicide bombing in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, who also died in the Veterans Day attack, served with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, which has been deployed to Afghanistan since late summer.

Two military contractors were also killed in the bombing.

“I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the fallen, and I want to reassure the loved ones of those injured that they are getting the best possible care,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a news release. “Force protection is always a top priority for us in Afghanistan, and we will investigate this tragedy to determine any steps we can take to improve it. For those who carried out this attack, my message is simple. We will not be deterred in our mission to protect our homeland and help Afghanistan secure its own future.”

PerryIubelt

Sixteen other U.S. service members and one Polish soldier were wounded in the Bagram blast by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest, the Pentagon said. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The attacker struck as people were gathering for a Veterans Day fun run.

Days earlier, six people were killed and more than 100 were wounded at the German Consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the Associated Press reported.

Perry joined the Army in 2008 and was a test, measurement and diagnostic equipment maintenance support specialist who had been at Bagram about two months, the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News reported. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, having served there from August 2010 to July 2011. Iubelt joined the Army last year and was a motor transport operator. He was on his first deployment, arriving in Afghanistan in September.

Perry’s father, Stewart Perry, told California television station Fox 40 that before the bombing, Perry had changed a training location, moving a group of Soldiers away from the larger crowd gathered for the run.

“He made a decision that saved a lot of people’s lives,” Stewart Perry said.

Perry’s father and other members of his family traveled to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to meet Staff Sgt. Perry’s remains. That trip made headlines after first-class passengers reportedly booed when Stewart Perry and his family were let off a plane early to catch a connecting flight.

Stewart Perry, though, commended the Army and the government for its treatment of his son and his family to Fox 40. Vice President Joe Biden was among the dignitaries who met the family at Dover Air Force Base.

“We really appreciate what Vice President Biden did and his care,” Stewart Perry said. “He stood on that flight line and saluted with his hand across his chest.”

 

SMA visits, talks professional development with Soldiers in Italy


By STAFF SGT. LANCE POUNDS
U.S. Army Africa

The 15th Sergeant Major of the Army visited Soldiers and senior enlisted leaders assigned to U.S. Army Garrison-Italy tenant units to discuss his Army-wide leader development initiatives.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey hosted two town hall meetings during his visit from Nov. 16-18 to Vicenza, Italy. The first was directed toward Soldiers in the ranks of staff sergeant and below; the second was directed toward sergeant first class and above. The intent was to share with them the changes that have been made, how it affects their careers, and the future of the profession.

Dailey first talked about Soldier readiness, the Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley’s number one priority. Dailey said NCO-led, individual and collective training is vital to the responsible drawdown of the force.

Sustain and retain the best

Dailey said the way to sustain and retain the best enlisted Soldiers is through NCO professional development schools. He said changes were being made to ensure noncommissioned officers throughout the Army received the training opportunities for career advancement.

The first professional development school Soldiers attend is called the Basic Leader Course. In this course, junior Soldiers in the ranks of private first class through specialist, sergeant, and in some cases staff sergeant, receive tactical-level leadership training needed to lead small groups of Soldiers.

The next school is the Advanced Leader Course. The curriculum of this course is intended to develop junior leaders, in the ranks of sergeant through staff sergeant, by exposing them to the operational-level leadership training needed to lead squad and platoon sized units. In addition, this course is branch-specific and is intended to develop the skill and proficiency of a Soldier’s military occupational specialty.

The Senior Leader Course, intended for Soldiers in the rank of sergeant first class through master sergeant, provides leadership, technical and tactical skills, knowledge and experience needed to lead platoon- and company-sized units.

Currently, the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy is the only NCO professional development school acknowledged by military and civilian organizations as an accredited academic institution. However, some colleges do recognize and provide lateral credit for successful completion of BLC, ALC and SLC.

Dailey said there are plans to increase the level of accreditation of all professional development schools. He added that in order to develop leaders “we must take opportunities to invest in the person.”

Investing in the person

“Someone saw the potential in me,” Dailey said, during a flashback story of how he was inspired to serve beyond his initial contract.

According to Dailey, in order to maintain the stewardship of the profession leaders must invest in their Soldiers. He said it is for this reason the Army is changing how leaders are evaluated.

On Jan. 1, the Army released a revised version of the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report intended to better assess the performance and future potential of enlisted leaders.

Dailey said the new evaluation will help restore balance to the reporting system. He added that previous reports indicated 80 percent of NCOs were evaluated as, “among the best.” Dailey said that system took away from those who truly earned top marks on their evaluations.

America’s perception

According to Dailey, last month was the first time in 20 years the Army ranked as the number one choice for civilians seeking a career in the military.

Dailey accredited this to ongoing efforts to change the way Americans perceive the Army. He gave an analogy that explained the perception of pride.

“All Marines, even those kicked out of service, if asked, proudly say they are ‘Marines for life,’” Dailey said. “We can train, educate and promote a Soldier through retirement; then pay them for the rest of their life, and we still suck.”

Dailey further explained perception with word-cloud graphics, which depicted words associated with each service. “Educated” was a word associated with both the Air Force and Navy, while “Dangerous” associated to the Marines and Army. The most disheartening word Dailey said was “Average”, which was only associated with the Army.

Other words associated with the Army were “ordinary” and “low skill,” which led Dailey to ask attendees, “Why is it less than other services?”

One attendee stated that while serving as a recruiter, he noticed people’s perception of the services began the moment they enter a recruiter’s office. Dailey agreed, and then added approximately 69 percent of those who join were influenced by current or former service members.

Setting the example

As the most senior enlisted leader of the Army, Dailey understands that every decision he makes will have an effect on those he leads.

“Good, bad, right or wrong, my presence influences people,” Dailey said, and on Nov. 17 Dailey’s influence would have a lasting effect on one Soldier’s career.

During his visit Dailey promoted Spc. James Sheridon, a USARAF command driver and native of Wayne, Mich., to the rank of sergeant.

“It was an honorable experience,” Sheridon said. “Dailey’s willingness to take time to recognize a junior Soldier sets an example for all NCOs to follow.”

“If he can make the time, we can, too,” said the newly promoted sergeant.

U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, promotes a junior enlisted Soldier, Spc. James Sheridan, one of U.S. Army Africa’s command drivers, to the rank of Sergeant, Nov. 17, 2016, in front of the USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. The promotion to sergeant marks a pivotal role change in a Solider’s career from one who is given tasks to one who gives tasks. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)
U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, promotes a junior enlisted Soldier, Spc. James Sheridan, one of U.S. Army Africa’s command drivers, to the rank of Sergeant, Nov. 17, 2016, in front of the USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. The promotion to sergeant marks a pivotal role change in a Solider’s career from one who is given tasks to one who gives tasks. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)