Tag Archives: 1st Cavalry Division

NCOs lead the charge with Gray Eagle UAVs

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

An NCO’s mind fills with doubt and apprehension as he leads his Soldiers toward an area where they have been ambushed in the past. But now, instead of waiting for a report from a scout or a pilot flying ahead, he can talk directly to the NCO operating an MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle and access the drone’s feed on a laptop to see what awaits his unit up the road and around the corner.

Staff Sgt. Mark Mushen works as the payload operator during the flight of a Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, monitoring all of the drone’s cameras and sensors from within a ground control station. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Mark Mushen works as the payload operator during the flight of a Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, monitoring all of the drone’s cameras and sensors from within a ground control station. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

“You can hear the relief in peoples’ voices when you talk to them on the radio,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Mushen, a 15W unmanned aerial vehicle operator in E Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. “They feel more prepared for their mission because we are looking over them. I know those leaders are worried about their Soldiers, and it makes me feel good to be able to say ‘I got you. You are going to be OK, and your Soldiers are going to be OK because I’m watching over you. I’m watching ahead of you. I’m watching behind you. I’m watching your right and your left. I got your back.’”

Sgt. Will Scott (top) and other unmanned aircraft systems repairers perform a preflight weight and balance check on a Gray Eagle UAV.  (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. Will Scott (top) and other unmanned aircraft systems repairers perform a preflight weight and balance check on a Gray Eagle UAV. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

Mushen has seen a lot of firsts when it comes to Gray Eagle UAVs, which are both maintained and operated by enlisted personnel. He was a graduate of the first Gray Eagle certification course at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and was sent to the Army’s first Gray Eagle unit at Fort Hood, the first unit to deploy with the new UAVs.

He has seen from the start how important NCOs are to the UAV program, and said teaching junior Soldiers to work with such valuable and high-tech equipment comes with its own set of rewards and challenges.

“Junior enlisted often work on aircraft, but it is uncommon for junior enlisted to be involved in the operation of aircraft like they are here. So as NCOs, we have to focus on keeping our Soldiers trained on flying this system as well as on other Army doctrine to make sure they master the basic soldiering skills,” Mushen said. “There is so much going on. As an operator, you’ve got to teach them how things on the ground are working, how convoys are going to move. You’ve got to teach them how to communicate properly on the radios. The main mission of an NCO is to train Soldiers, and we are training Soldiers constantly.”

Utilizing enlisted Soldiers to operate and maintain the Gray Eagles is saving the Army a lot of money, Mushen said, and the NCOs training them are leading the Army into a new era.

“Imagine the whole Army is a boat, all heading in the same direction. I feel like I’m on the front of the boat, among the first to see new territory,” Mushen said. “It’s good to be part of something so new and technologically advanced. I feel like I am ahead of the game.”

Maintenance and repair

Sgt. Joseph Crouch, an unmanned aircraft systems repairer, performs preflight operational checks on a Gray Eagle UAV’s landing gear. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. Joseph Crouch, an unmanned aircraft systems repairer, performs preflight operational checks on a Gray Eagle UAV’s landing gear. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

The Gray Eagles are used for reconnaissance as well as attack missions. The UAVs are equipped to carry up to four Hellfire missiles, and the drone’s lightweight composite body, small diesel engine and 56-foot wingspan allow it to stay up for approximately 16 hours, depending on the weight of its load.

“These are worth between $15 million and $18 million, and the payload itself – the camera on the front with all of the laser designators – is worth $8 million to $10 million,” Mushen said. “There is so much under that hood. You would be bedazzled at all of the computers and antennae in there.”

NCOs and junior enlisted connect a portable maintenance aid, or PMA, to the Gray Eagle UAVs to monitor preflight operational checks. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
NCOs and junior enlisted connect a portable maintenance aid, or PMA, to the Gray Eagle UAVs to monitor preflight operational checks. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

Sgt. Juan Trinidad, a 15E unmanned aircraft systems repairer, also in E Company, said the Gray Eagle is much more complex than the better-known R-Q7 Shadow UAV, and NCOs have their hands full teaching Soldiers to maintain the system.

Before a flight, maintainers charge batteries, check tires and fuel levels, run tests to ensure the landing gear is functioning properly and weigh and balance the aircraft. During a flight, they may need to fix a UAV’s link with the ground control station. Should the link be lost, the UAV is programmed to loiter in a safe space until it is fixed. It will default to a certain speed and altitude, then fly along predetermined points until the link is re-established.

“Our NCOs are good at their jobs, and we are responsible for training and supervising the junior enlisted who also work on the UAVs,” Trinidad said. “We always have an experienced guy working with a new guy. You let them do as much as they can so they can learn, and we have multiple checks to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.”

Spc. Michael Chartrand, a 15E unmanned aircraft systems repairer, performs a weight and balance check on a Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle to get the drone ready to fly. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Spc. Michael Chartrand, a 15E unmanned aircraft systems repairer, performs a weight and balance check on a Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle to get the drone ready to fly. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

Trinidad said his company is always flying and training. Weather permitting, the unit has Gray Eagles in the air every day. Lasers are used in the place of Hellfires, but everything else is done just as it would be during a deployment. Once the company is ready to move one of the unit’s other Gray Eagles, the maintainers break it down and pack it into a “coffin” for shipment, then rebuild it on location.

“I love what I do. I like the mechanics of it,” Trinidad said. “I take pride in learning my job, because as an NCO, you have to be an expert in what you do. It’s how you lead. It’s how you train your Soldiers and prep them for deployment. Here, there is no room for error.”

Flying the Gray Eagle

UAV operators follow almost all of the same guidelines as pilots, and even wear aircrew wings on their uniforms, but their daily work has a much different view. The ground control station is a small brown box filled with buttons, dials and screens, big enough to fit only three people. The payload – or camera – operator sits on the left, and the aircraft operator sits on the right, with barely enough room for an instructor to stand behind them.

Gray Eagle UAVs are operated from within a ground control station. Spc. Zachary Zimmerman, left, works as the aircraft operator, while Staff Sgt. Mark Mushen controls the cameras and sensors as the payload operator. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Gray Eagle UAVs are operated from within a ground control station. Spc. Zachary Zimmerman, left, works as the aircraft operator, while Staff Sgt. Mark Mushen controls the cameras and sensors as the payload operator. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

The aircraft operator controls the autopilot, specifying the altitude, speed, location and pattern in which the drone will fly, while the payload operator monitors the cameras and the UAV’s sensors. The mission coordinator, also a UAV operator, works in the main tent or building, checking the weather and gathering other pertinent information. The operators may not turn a joystick or feel the wind as the aircraft turns, Mushen said, but in many ways, these differences are advantages.

“Apache pilots are focused on so many different things at once,” he said. “I think we are more available to react to the situation at hand. It’s not as much of a sensory overload as it can be for an Apache pilot, and we are still right there listening to the people on the ground, hearing what is going on.”

Plus, AH-64 Apaches are loud.

Gray Eagle UAVs are operated from within a ground control station. The small room has space enough for only three people. The payload operator sits on the left and the aircraft operator sits on the right, with barely enough room for an instructor to stand behind them. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Gray Eagle UAVs are operated from within a ground control station. The small room has space enough for only three people. The payload operator sits on the left and the aircraft operator sits on the right, with barely enough room for an instructor to stand behind them. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

“We will be anywhere from 10 thousand to 25 thousand feet, and they won’t hear us. They won’t know the Gray Eagle is there,” Mushen said. “The only way you would be able to see us is if you are looking at exactly the right spot in the sky. Then you might barely see us, but only in perfect conditions. If we need to engage a target, they don’t see us coming. They don’t know how long we have been there or how long we can stay there, which is a long time.”

The Gray Eagle’s capabilities give a unit the upper hand, Mushen said. Operators are able to cut out any middle men and speak directly with the Soldiers they see on their screen. They can tell them what is happening right then and there, and even show them what the Gray Eagle sees with the help of the one system remote video terminal, or OSRVT.

The OSRVT allows an individual, usually a team or convoy leader, to view a Gray Eagle’s camera feed on a special laptop. Or, on missions when Gray Eagles and new models of the Apache are flying together, the OSRVT enables an Apache pilot to take control of the UAV camera. Pilots work closely with the operators in the ground control station so that they don’t waste time and fuel trying to acquire a target, and don’t put themselves in danger while doing so.

Lines from the ground control station can also be connected to a hub granting access to anyone with the credentials to log in. Special software picks up feeds not only from Gray Eagles, but also from UAVs flown by other branches of the military. Any commander wanting to monitor a particular mission, for example, can just click on a screen and view any feed in real time. Often on a deployment, Mushen said, there are so many UAVs in the air that you can see the entire battle space at any given time.

“While we are overseas, there are really no breaks,” he said. “If an aircraft is in working order and we are able to put it in the air, it is always in the air, because we’re a hot commodity. Everybody wants to have a UAV, and then when you tell them it can be up for hours, not be seen and also be armed and provide over-watch to any sort of unit, then we are like candy. Everybody wants us.”

An expanding field

Both Trinidad and Mushen jumped at the chance to train on the Gray Eagle UAV.

“When I talked to the recruiter, he told me this is something new,” Trinidad said. “I started on Shadow, but then I heard about the Gray Eagle. When I had the chance to go back to Fort Huachuca for that certification, I definitely didn’t hesitate.”

Though most operators and maintainers working with the Gray Eagles have previous experience with other UAVs, Mushen said the Army is looking to re-class more NCOs from other fields.

“What we need are NCOs who have experience in combat arms,” Mushen said. “If we can get NCOs in here with prior experience in those areas, it makes us even more useful to the units on the ground. We had a class last week on infantry movements, but if we have NCOs who can teach from experience and give us more than what is in the manual, then we can look at units on the ground and better anticipate their needs because we have had that cross-training from someone who has really been there.”

For those who are worried about their jobs being phased out, are unsure about what they will be able to do when they leave the Army, or just want to learn something new, this is a great option, Mushen said. Experience with UAVs qualifies NCOs for myriad jobs in the civilian market. The Army hires contractors to help train Soldiers to fly UAVs and to test new systems. Civilian companies that build the Gray Eagles, including General Atomics, Mercedes, Raytheon, AAI Corporation and L-3 Communications, also hire operators and maintainers. Jobs can even be found with the Forest Service, law enforcement, border patrol and cell-phone companies, all of which employ UAVs.

“For NCOs, this is a rapidly growing field,” Mushen said. “It’s not one of those fields you have to wonder, ‘Is there room? Can I squeeze in there?’ It’s an easy field to cross into because it’s growing faster than the Army can send us people. So I really encourage NCOs to come over to UAV and get into an exciting field that will set them up for success.”

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is the Army’s largest unmanned aircraft system. (U.S. Army photo)
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is the Army’s largest unmanned aircraft system. (U.S. Army photo)

By Example: Bradley maintenance NCO goes the extra mile

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

It’s not often that a staff sergeant serves as the logistics lead during a deployment, but that is exactly what Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a 1st Cavalry Division Soldier, did in Lithuania during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor for B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, discusses the role of the mechanic in the overall supply system and how maintenance and equipment is tracked during an Oct. 10 visit with senior Lithuanian logisticians in Rukla, Lithuania. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson / U.S. Army News Service)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor for B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, discusses the role of the mechanic in the overall supply system and how maintenance and equipment is tracked during an Oct. 10 visit with senior Lithuanian logisticians in Rukla, Lithuania. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson / U.S. Army News Service)

While on deployment in Rukla, Lithuania, Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor attached to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, created the standard operating procedures for logistics operations within the country and helped the Lithuanian military develop a maintenance program, all while training and mentoring his Soldiers in the motor pool.

“He had to run and plan all of the logistics for everything we did in that country as far as maintaining supplies for the training missions – ammunition and fuel, allocating maintenance support and getting parts. He would take care of all of that later in the day, and during the workday he would be with all the rest of us in the motor pool,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who was Nemier’s shop foreman in Lithuania. “He had three Soldiers, some brand new to the Army, and he made time to train them, as well as the vehicle operators, up to his own high standards.”

Upon his return from deployment in December 2014, Nemier was recognized by Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army, for the work he did with the Lithuanians and for excelling in mission command.

“I told Gen. Allyn that the success of any leader is because of the Soldiers he commands,” Nemier said. “Was I successful? Yes. Did I go above and beyond the aspects of my duty position? Yes. Because my other NCOs allotted me that time. They went above and beyond as well. I even had PFCs stepping up, because they saw what I was doing and knew why I was doing it.”

New place, new SOPs

Atlantic Resolve, led by U.S Army Europe, is a combined arms exercise taking place throughout Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to enhance multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate the United States’ commitment to NATO.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pictured at left, joins his team as they repair a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pictured at left, joins his team as they repair a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Nemier’s unit was the first to bring Bradleys into Lithuania, and as such, faced numerous challenges. One of those challenges was moving vehicles and equipment on Baltic trains, which are a different size than what the Soldiers are used to. Nemier worked with Lithuanian logistics officers and the Corps of Engineers from USAREUR to determine the best method for loading and unloading the vehicles, and the maintenance and logistics SOPs he put in place have paved the way for continued mission success. The division has adapted them for American Soldiers to use in Latvia, Estonia and Poland. Because Atlantic Resolve is an ongoing operation, units are still utilizing those SOPs – adding to them and adapting them as needed – long after Nemier’s departure.

“Normally I would place an officer as the leader of a forward logistics element, but with Nemier’s experience and his wealth of knowledge, he was the easy choice to make,” said Cpt. Jeremy Hunter, commander of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which is Nemier’s unit at Fort Hood. “Staff Sgt. Nemier had a lot more experience than the lieutenants I considered, and he had proved that he could not only lead the Soldiers in there but think critically and creatively to solve any of the issues that would come up in a theater that really hasn’t been developed. Lithuania has a smaller army, and I knew he would work closely with his Lithuanian counterparts to really accomplish the goal – to ensure them that the United States is with them, but also to deter the Russian aggression at that point. I had full confidence that he could take a team that we created, lead them and really take that mission and accomplish it without me having to give him direct guidance every day.”

Hunter said he values NCOs, such as Nemier, who show initiative.

“A good NCO will take the mission provided, find the shortfalls within that mission and point them out,” Hunter said. “What makes Nemier stand above the rest is that not only does he point out those shortfalls, but he comes up with solutions and presents them as well to other leaders.”

Working with Lithuanians

The Lithuanian military is very new, Nemier explained. The country didn’t join the European Union until 2004. Its soldiers are in a vulnerable situation and hungry for information.

“Even if [Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier] is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who served with Nemier in Lithuania. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
“Even if [Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier] is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who served with Nemier in Lithuania. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Some of the daily procedures and common precautions performed by U.S. Soldiers are not even considered in the Baltic countries, he said. For example, the Lithuanians were not prepared to deal with the environmental impact of moving equipment and using it in the field. If a humvee started leaking oil, for example, they would just let it leak. But when Nemier’s unit began showing them the proper way to dispose of the waste, they were eager to learn. Nemier and his team dug up the contaminated soil and showed the Lithuanian soldiers how to build drip pans from boxes and plastic liners. Nemier guided them in creating a hazardous material SOP based on European Union and NATO standards, and that same month, the country passed an inspection for the first time since joining the EU.

Nemier met with members of the Lithuanian Department of Defense, sharing what he could to strengthen the army.

“We were humble when we went in, and they responded very well, because they could see we wanted to set them up for success,” Nemier said. “They still hit me up on email with mechanical questions. It’s a friendship. It really is.”

Nemier also struck up a friendship with the Lithuanian motor sergeant who shared the motor pool with his team. Through broken English and Google Translate, they worked well together and still keep in touch.

The language barrier made everything more difficult, Nemier said, but it taught them patience.

“It forced us to be patient,” he said. “I would teach something on a Bradley, and I would have to go over it 10 times. I had to adjust my leadership style and, as an NCO, you have to be flexible like that. One leadership style is not going to work for ‘Joe A’ and ‘Joe B.’ We struggled for the first couple of weeks, but we figured it out. I think it really made us better leaders.”

Working with Soldiers

Nemier said he always knew patience was an important trait in a good NCO, but working with foreign soldiers really drove the point home. Now, he strives to have even more patience with his Soldiers at Fort Hood.

Private First Class Derrik Steinebach, a member of Nemier's crew within J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, repairs a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Private First Class Derrik Steinebach, a member of Nemier’s crew within J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, repairs a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“Patience is so important,” Nemier said. “NCOs need to figure out what the problem is before jumping to conclusions or freaking out. Find out what the problem is and try to come up with solutions. … I don’t scream and yell. I’ll do the 4857 – the counseling form and the paperwork – that is without a doubt, and they will be held accountable for their actions. But, especially a young Soldier who has never experienced anything this major before, I want to show him or her that though they are just a small pebble in a pond, they can create a ripple and affect the entire shoreline. You lose a Brad, you lose a wingman. You lose a flanking position. You lose an infantry squad. So what they do here in the motor pool is important. I want to help young Soldiers see that they can affect the entire pond.”

Helping Soldiers understand the importance of their work and how they fit into the big picture is a huge motivator, Nemier said.

“If I tell Joe to go over there and fix that Bradley, he is going to go over there and fix that Bradley,” he said. “But he doesn’t know why. … Because it’s broken? But, if I say, ‘Hey, you need to go over and fix that Bradley because we are getting ready to go shoot gunnery, and we want the Bradleys to be ready to go for the infantry guys so they don’t get hurt while they are rolling out to the ranges,’ I’ve just motivated that Soldier. He now knows what his work is affecting in the near future.”

Gassie said he appreciated Nemier’s honesty and the time he took to explain each task to his Soldiers.

“Across the board, he is fair and straightforward, whether you are a subordinate, a peer or a superior. He will give you a straight answer,” Gassie said. “And when he describes a maintenance task or a Soldier skill, it’s never ‘Do this because I say so.’ Even if he is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own.”

Hunter said a good NCO is one who, like Nemier – now attending the Senior Leader course at Fort Lee, Virginia – always strives to better himself and remains dedicated to every aspect of his Soldiers’ development.

“Staff Sgt. Nemier has continually pushed himself to learn more and more within his MOS and has also taken time to teach his Soldiers – some of them brand new out of basic training and Advanced Individual Training – so they can also become experts in their field. Above that, he is continually taking the time to develop them into complete Soldiers – really showing them how to succeed, not only in the Army, but in life as well.”

By Example: DFAC manager’s positive approach encourages creativity

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Word on the street is that Black Jack Inn Dining Facility at Fort Hood, Texas, is the place to be at meal time, and the leadership skills of the DFAC’s manager, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Myles with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, have a lot to do with that.

The dining facility serves about 2,400 diners per day, more than any other DFAC on post.

An average DFAC serves 400 Soldiers for lunch, Myles said, but Black Jack, which supports a brigade as well as the Basic Leader Course, often feeds 250 within the first 30 minutes.

Myles said he strives every day to create a positive environment for the 91 NCOs and Soldiers employed at the facility. By being generous with public praise and rewarding individuals who display stellar performance with an extra day off, he has enabled the DFAC personnel to be creative in a stressful and often thankless line of work.

—————————————————————————————

Why did you join the Army?

I joined because my brother joined. He was food service. He came home, looked like he had himself together, and I thought I should give it a shot. If he can do it, I can do it. Now, I’ve been in the Army longer than any of my brothers. I’ve continued to serve because it really is rewarding. I enjoy helping people and serving people. When I first came in, I thought I was going to do about three years. I moved up a lot faster than I thought I would and started seeing it from a different light. I was no longer a worker bee. I became an NCO who could actually help people. I love the Army, and I love working with Soldiers.

How does your role help the Army as a whole?

We keep everybody fed, but it’s bigger than that. It’s keeping everybody safe, maintaining proper temps. Two thousand four hundred people may come through here. If we mishandle something, it could be 2,400 who can’t do their jobs the next day. We could kill 2,400. So it is an important job, and one I tell my Soldiers they should be proud of. Food service is probably one of the biggest morale boosters for those Soldiers who come through that door. You can either see it as a thousand critics coming through, or you can see it as being showcased every day. People go to the motor pool on Mondays. They go to S1 when they need something. We service about 2,400 people a day every single day. So you should take pride in it and put the best out there for them. Show that you are creative and have fun with it.

How do you encourage NCOs to keep Soldiers motivated?

Because it is a thankless job, you can’t come down hard on them. You honestly can’t. It’s a stressful environment. It’s high tempo; it’s nonstop. You have to lighten the air. You have got to find the good stuff. Find something that is correct. Look for the positive. Give them public praise. If I see somebody really squared away, I will give them the rest of the day off. We allow them to play music in the kitchen. Sometimes we play music throughout the serving period and put it on the PA system. You can hear them singing right now.

And, if you do really well here, we can send you down to the actual culinary arts building – maybe you will get a week to go work on a different side of your craft. If we have special events, we might just have them stop working in here and work that particular event. Recently, General Martin Dempsey came in. So we took a team of people and said, “Get creative. Bounce ideas off of each other. This is your sole mission.” They really love stuff like that, because they get recognized for it.

What about your NCOs makes you proud?

Normally when you work this closely with people, not everybody gets along – especially the senior NCOs. As a sergeant first class, you could just make sure your people are in the building and then go on your way. But it’s really not like that here. I’m not the highest ranking sergeant first class here, but the others actually have no problem working for me. One of them was actually my Advanced Individual Training instructor. He taught me when I was a private, 13 years ago.

I think we all work well together because we share the same vision: For those 90 minutes [of service time,] we are going to be the best on the installation. Honestly, it is a competition. Nobody says it, but we want business from across post. We want everybody’s business. We want to be the best. The NCOs here, we truly share that vision. They’ll call me in the middle of the night, saying, “Hey man, what about this meal?” or, “How about we do this tomorrow?” They just bounce crazy ideas, and we run with it. Normally, in an environment this stressful, it is hard to be creative, much less find joy in your work, and they actually do that.

How have other NCOs helped you in your career?

I had good NCOs who actually care. Regardless of PCS moves, they were still just a phone call away. They expected a lot of me but were also approachable at the same time. They taught me more than just the food service side of the house. They taught me more than just how to cook. If you can help people and motivate them to want to do whatever it is that they do, I think that is kind of special. And that is what I had. I had only joined because my brother had joined. I was only a cook because my brother was a cook. Somewhere in there, a select few NCOs stood out and inspired me. They enjoyed their work. They taught me how to be a better person, how to be a better father, how to handle my finances. They were counselors to me, and I just try to mirror that and give that back.

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?

Be the example. Just remember somebody is watching, and wants to be you. You might not even know who it is, but a subordinate is watching you. You are creating another you. Somebody is going to emulate what it is that you do, be it right or wrong. You really are part of something bigger than yourself, especially when you become an NCO. It’s no longer just about you. You are responsible for more than yourself. People come from all different walks of life. You have to be approachable. You have to know your audience. What makes one person tick won’t make another person tick. You just have to find what works.

Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Myles speaks to the morning shift at Black Jack Inn Dining Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. Before each shift, Myles checks employees’ uniforms and hands, and lets them know their duties for the day. After each shift, he focuses on the positive during an After Action Review.  (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Myles speaks to the morning shift at Black Jack Inn Dining Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. Before each shift, Myles checks employees’ uniforms and hands, and lets them know their duties for the day. After each shift, he focuses on the positive during an After Action Review. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

NCO creates SHARP app to aid Soldiers in an emergency

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Whatley was taught to leave a unit better off than when she came to it, and that is exactly what she did.

Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Whatley created a mobile SHARP application to help the Soldiers of her brigade if they ever find themselves in a time of need. Whatley and her commanders think it is an effective tool that could benefit the entire Army. “It’s a simple question of is it being used? Did it help you? If I’m getting people telling me yes, I am using it and yes, it helped me, then this is something we need to sustain. I always said if the app helps even one person in a time of need, then it did its job,” Whatley said. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Whatley created a mobile SHARP application to help the Soldiers of her brigade if they ever find themselves in a time of need. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

Whatley, the brigade sexual assault response coordinator, or SARC, for 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, has created a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention application for mobile devices to help Soldiers and their leaders respond to sexual assaults. The app allows users to call the SHARP hotline, locate a hospital or contact brigade SARCs, victim advocates, the Family Advocacy Program, Child Protective Services, the military police or local police departments at the touch of a finger.

The app — SHARP 1ACB — is a free download in Google Play and in the iTunes App Store, and Whatley has encouraged every Soldier in her brigade to keep it on their phones.

“I hope this is a new step in bringing resources to Soldiers – especially now,” Whatley said. “Soldiers now are so technologically dependent. They come to us straight from basic training. They are in the reception battalion over there, and they don’t have a TV. They don’t have a car. They have a little duffel bag full of clothes and a few things they were issued in basic training. But they have the newest, latest, greatest phone with all the bells and whistles. And they never leave it behind.”

How will this app change things?

If a Soldier is assaulted and needs help, he or she may need to contact the brigade SARC, the hotline or a victim advocate. Many units have cards printed with SHARP information, but Soldiers often may not have access to them when they need it the most.

“You could tell a Soldier, ‘You have to carry this card,’ and it just goes in the stack of accountable item cards,” Whatley said. “They have the ACE (Ask, Care and Escort) suicide prevention cards, they have the taxi cab don’t-drink-and-drive cards. This is just another card in the stack. So if an assault does happen when they are out at a house party with some friends, at a club or something like that, not very often are they going to be like, ‘Oh, hold on, I have a card for that.’”

Most of the time, victims are upset. They are distraught. Alcohol or drugs may be involved. Yes, they could Google contact information or look on the SHARP Facebook page for guidance, but Whatley says that is not fast enough during an emergency.

Whatley was searching for a way to simplify things, and she and her commanders think this app is the answer. It puts any resource Soldiers may need only three taps away. With all of the numbers hyperlinked, users need only tap once to open the app, tap on the category of resources they need – hospital, police, SARC, etc. – and tap to dial.

The Army has a ton of programs out there to help Soldiers, but many don’t know about them, Whatley said. Advertisements abound on cluttered boards in offices and hallways, but how much are Soldiers really taking in? And how much of it would they think of in an emergency?

“Maybe we wouldn’t need to print out so much take-away material if we could say, ‘Hey, download this free app.’ It would save the Army a lot of money,” Whatley said.

Because Whatley did the legwork of developing and publishing the app, her brigade only pays $108 per year to keep it going.

“How much do you think it costs to print off one SHARP booklet?” Whatley asked. “Let alone that whole case of them I’ve got in there. And by the time I get those books passed out, they are going to have new ones made – a newer, updated version.”

With the app, Whatley can employ an unlimited number of live updates. If a SARC or victim advocate’s number is changed, all it takes is an update on Whatley’s computer for every single app user to have continued access to the latest information.

She said she hopes the Army will utilize apps as an avenue to save resources while more effectively helping Soldiers.

What does this mean for NCOs?

The app is also an invaluable tool in the hands of NCOs, as they are often the ones a Soldier turns to after an assault, Whatley said. They need to know the information contained in the app and how to handle any given situation appropriately.

Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Whatley created a mobile SHARP application for 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. “Maybe we can start a reaction Armywide,” Whatley said. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Whatley created a mobile SHARP application for 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

“Even if all of the Soldiers don’t have it, if their NCOs do, then that is one step forward,” Whatley said. “As an NCO, Soldiers are our business. We have to know them, be able to train them and look out for them. The Soldiers look to us to do that. And when it comes to a topic like sexual harassment or sexual assault, a whole other level of trust is put into play. That Soldier may trust that NCO wholeheartedly and [prefer to come to him or her instead of a SARC they don’t know.] It is vital that that NCO, one, knows how to handle that situation appropriately, and, two, knows how to get that Soldier to assistance. It may be hospital care, or they may need protection from the individual who assaulted them. They may want to be removed from the situation – temporarily reassigned out of the unit. NCOs need to react appropriately and get those Soldiers where they need to be.”

Sgt. 1st Class Yvonne Desfasses, a SARC currently assigned as the first sergeant for 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, presented the app to her battalion during a safety brief.

“I think it will be useful to our NCOs who have to come through and check the barracks, because if they come upon a situation, they may need those resources,” Desfasses said. “This way, they don’t have to hunt down a number. It’s just always there.”

Creating the app

Whatley has learned that, as an NCO, there is more than one way to reach out and help Soldiers. Creating this app was her way of being there for every Soldier in her brigade, even though she can’t give them individual attention.

“When I got into this position and was asked to be the brigade SARC,” Whatley said, “I thought, ‘This is my opportunity to really try to leave not just a company or a battalion, but a whole brigade better off and have an impact on that many Soldiers.’”

The idea for the app came to Whatley while she was on 24-hour hotline duty, discussing modern solutions to Soldiers’ needs with a victim advocate. As Whatley had never created an app before, her colleague pointed her to several websites that would guide her through the process. She decided to use appmakr.com, and found the process easier than she had anticipated.

“Instead of me having to build codes to have a function, they had preset codes, and I pulled and manipulated everything the way I wanted it,” she said. “They reviewed it for appropriate pixel resolution, data, made sure there were no copy-right issues, made sure everything functioned like it was supposed to, that everything was legitimate.

“Then, once I had my command’s approval, I had to go through a long legal process to justify funds so that the unit paid for the app. The unit and the unit command ensured we did everything appropriately, legally. I may have had the idea, I may have put it together, but it’s not mine. It’s the unit’s. I wanted it that way; I wanted it to belong to the unit instead of to me.”

When Whatley got the green light, she had to tackle the publishing process. It was important for her to publish the app in both Google Play and in the iTunes App Store so that all Soldiers would have access to the app, no matter what kind of phone they may have.

She submitted a coded file containing the finished app to Google, along with a one-time publishing fee, and the app was available to android users before the end of April, SHARP awareness month. The process to publish the app through the iTunes App Store was more complicated, she said, as Apple has different requirements and screens every app before publication. If an app does not have a clean, refined and user-friendly interface, for example, or has broken links or incomplete information, it will probably not make the cut.

“Apple doesn’t take apps from just anyone. But they took the app and it was published by the 18th of June,” Whatley said.

After Whatley created the app for the brigade, her commander, Col. Jeffery Thompson, had her brief her work to the 1st Cavalry Division commander, Brig. Gen. Michael Bills. Bills then had her present her work to the III Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, and every brigade commander on Fort Hood.

Whatley said success is hard to measure, but she will be tracking downloads.

“It’s a simple question of – is it being used? Did it help you?” Whatley said. “If I’m getting people telling me, ‘Yes, I am using it,’ and ‘Yes, it helped me,’ then this is something we need to sustain. I always said if the app helps even one person in a time of need, then it did its job.”

gt. 1st Class Sarah Whatley has created a mobile SHARP application for use by Soldiers in the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. The app is designed to bring life-saving contacts and information to Soldiers’ fingertips in the event of an emergency. Other brigades have been challenged to create something similar, and commanders have hopes of an Armywide app in the near future. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Whatley has created a mobile SHARP application for use by Soldiers in the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. The app is designed to bring life-saving contacts and information to Soldiers’ fingertips in the event of an emergency. Other brigades have been challenged to create something similar, and commanders have hopes of an Armywide app in the near future. (Photo by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

NCOs have been leaders of change throughout history of 1st Cavalry Division

By Meghan Portillo
NCO Journal

The 1st Cavalry Division has seen more change than any other division in U.S. history, but the way it has relied on the professionalism of NCOs has remained constant.

“Since we were on horseback a hundred years ago, that level of faith, trust and confidence in our NCO Corps has not changed,” said Sgt. Maj. James Norman, who until recently served as the command sergeant major of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. “Technology is the only thing that has changed. In the transitions from dismounted infantry to tanks to airborne operations or air assault operations, we have always had that confidence in our NCOs.”

Trust in the NCO Corps from the early days

The 1st Cavalry Division can trace its roots back to the organization of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in 1855. The unit, redesignated as the 5th Cavalry Regiment in 1861, fought in Civil War battles including Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Wilderness and Appomattox.

1st Cavalry Division units ride down the east side of Scenic Drive in El Paso, Texas, in the 1920s. (Courtesy of the El Paso Museum of History)
1st Cavalry Division units ride down the east side of Scenic Drive in El Paso, Texas, in the 1920s. (Courtesy of the El Paso Museum of History)

From the start, NCOs in cavalry units were given great responsibility, as the horses entrusted to them were of incredible value to the Army. Indeed, throughout the history of warfare, the horse was often considered more valuable than the Soldier who rode it.

“Cavalry was very rare in the early days because it was so expensive,” said Jack Dugan, an exhibit specialist at the 1st Cavalry Division Museum at Fort Hood. “You give an infantryman a musket, and it represents about a month’s salary. A cavalryman is riding 11 months’ worth of horse, not counting the saddle and bridle and all that. And, he has three weapons: a pistol, a carbine and a saber, each representing about a month’s worth of salary. The trooper was really the cheapest part of the assembly.”

Western expansion made the great expense a necessity, as horses were needed to cover vast distances.

The regiments that would initially make up the 1st Cavalry Division fought the Sioux, Arapaho, Cheyenne and Apache during the Indian Wars and patrolled the frontiers as pioneers moved west. Just before World War I, the cavalry was a key part of Gen. John J. Pershing’s Punitive Expedition into Mexico in search of Pancho Villa’s forces, maneuvers that helped prepare the regiments for the war to come.

A Soldier rides a new “iron horse” from Milwaukee.  (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)
A Soldier rides a new “iron horse” from Milwaukee. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)

“Even before the division was a division, when we were just separate cavalry regiments patrolling the Southwest and the western frontier, it was always a young corporal or a young sergeant with a bunch of troopers on horseback going out and settling the West,” Norman said. “Very rarely was a patrol conducted by an entire troop led by an officer. It was always small — six, eight, a dozen troopers on horseback, led by a young noncommissioned officer. Those are the ones who went out and did the heavy lifting that actually made our country what it is today.”

As World War I began, the National Defense Act of 1916 increased the number of cavalry regiments. However, throughout the course of the war in Europe, it became clear that horses did not fare well in the trenches against machine guns and artillery, and many cavalry units were converted to field artillery regiments. Even so, horses remained a key resource of the war. They still could move through mud and rough terrain more efficiently than wheeled vehicles, and were used for reconnaissance missions, carrying messengers and pulling artillery, ambulances and supplies.

World War I ended in 1918, and on Sept. 13, 1921, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated at Fort Bliss, Texas.

As before, NCOs continued to lead small groups on horseback to patrol the Mexican border. The horses allowed for swift travel across the area’s harsh desert terrain as the Soldiers searched for smugglers transporting firearms into Mexico and — because of high demand during Prohibition — tequila into the United States.

Transitions: World War II

The era of motorcycles, automobiles, tanks, aircraft and parachutes soon brought an end to the age of armed Soldiers on horses. The Louisiana Maneuvers of 1940, designed to evaluate training, logistics and doctrine, confirmed the need for mechanized mobile units, and the air attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, left no doubt.

1st Cavalry Division troops climb ashore during a Pacific island landing during World War II. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Musuem)
1st Cavalry Division troops climb ashore during a Pacific island landing during World War II. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Musuem)

In 1943, the 1st Cavalry Division became dismounted and was processed for deployment to the South Pacific, where they would fight throughout World War II as foot cavalry, island-hopping like Marines.

“Leaving their horses behind just broke everybody’s heart in the 1st Cav,” Dugan said.

After six months of training in Australia, the division deployed to the Admiralty Islands on Feb. 29, 1944. The division’s first Soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor earned it during the division’s first engagement on Los Negros Island.

On March 4, Sgt. Troy A. McGill led a squad of eight as they defended themselves against an attack by 200 enemy soldiers. McGill ordered his only able-bodied Soldier to retreat, while he remained and stood his ground. After McGill’s weapon failed, he faced his death as he left his cover to engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. According to information from the 1st Cavalry Division Association, the bodies of 105 enemy soldiers were found around McGill.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 11, 1944, six months after his death.

After Los Negros Island, the division fought on the island of Leyte, then moved on to Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. There, the division was the first into the city of Manila to free 3,700 civilian prisoners at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, earning it the famous nickname given by Gen. Douglas MacArthur — “First Team.”

After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and the sudden end to World War II, the “First Team” was the first to enter Tokyo, leading the Allied Occupation Army into the city.

Korean War: Legacies of honor

The 1st Cavalry Division continued to fight as dismounted infantry throughout the Korean War.

After weeks in combat, Task Force 777 — composed of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, the 70th Tank Battalion and the 77th Artillery Battalion under leadership of the 1st Cavalry Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Hobart Gay — led the breakout of the Pusan Perimeter. This allowed the division to connect with other U.S. forces landing to the north at Inchon. The task force covered more than 100 miles through heavy fighting in less than 21 hours. Their advance of 196 miles from Taegu to Osan became the longest advance in U.S. military history. On Oct. 19, 1950, the “First Team” was the first to enter Pyongyang, capturing the capital city of North Korea.

1st Cavalry Division Soldiers are shown during a tank recovery operation in the Korean War. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)
1st Cavalry Division Soldiers are shown during a tank recovery operation in the Korean War. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)

Several Medals of Honor were awarded to 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers who fought in the battles that followed to the north of the city against Chinese forces. One was awarded to a chaplain assigned to the division’s 8th Cavalry Regiment, Capt. Emil Kapaun, for his heroic actions during the battle of Unsan and while a prisoner of war. President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor posthumously earlier this year, and Kapaun has also been named a servant of god, the first step toward being declared a saint in the Catholic Church.

Another Medal of Honor was awarded to Cpl. Tibor “Ted” Rubin, also a member of the 8th Cavalry Regiment. Rubin, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, vowed to serve the Army that had saved him from the agony he suffered in the concentration camps. Though most military awards are given for a single act, Rubin was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor on the front lines of battle, as well as courage and selfless service to fellow prisoners of war over a two-and-a-half year period.

In 1950, the 8th Cavalry regiment faced thousands of Korean and Chinese troops. As Rubin’s unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, he was ordered to stay behind and keep open a vital road needed by the withdrawing troops. During the next 24 hours, Rubin single-handedly held off the enemy, allowing his regiment to withdraw safely and proceed into North Korea.

Then, during a nighttime assault by Chinese forces at Unsan, North Korea, on Oct. 30, 1950, Rubin manned the unit’s only remaining machine gun after the three previous gunners had been killed. He stood his ground until no ammunition was left, allowing the other surviving Soldiers of his unit to retreat. Rubin, however, was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese.

Rubin remained in a POW camp for 30 months, despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary. He frequently stole food from guards to share evenly among the prisoners, though he knew he would be tortured or killed if caught. Rubin kept hope alive in the camp, providing needed medical care to the sick and wounded. He would treat injuries, pick lice from the heads of comrades who had no strength left and even carried wounded Soldiers to the latrines. His Medal of Honor citation states he saved the lives of 40 other prisoners.

Rubin was nominated four times for the Medal of Honor by two of his commanding officers. Those officers were soon killed in battle, however, and the nominations were long overlooked. Finally, in 2005, Rubin was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush.

In all, 39 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of the 1st Cavalry Division, 24 of which were posthumous. Many of the recipients who are still living visit Fort Hood to inspire other cavalrymen and share the lessons they have learned.

“[Rubin] comes around here now and then,” Norman said. “He is a great American, just a hoot to listen to. A lot of the veterans from that time period still live in this area of Texas, and they are still around. We, as younger Soldiers, get to interact with them almost on a daily basis.”

Vietnam: The Cavalry adapts again

As new helicopter technology surfaced at the beginning of the Vietnam War, the division became the Army’s first “airmobile” division. The division used helicopters to land in combat zones and insert soldiers, as opposed to airborne units, which drop Soldiers with parachutes to the targeted area.

B Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, secures a hilltop during Operation Lejeune on April 24, 1967, in Vietnam. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)
B Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, secures a hilltop during Operation Lejeune on April 24, 1967, in Vietnam. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)

“We give a lot of credence to the 101st Airborne Division during that time, but the 1st Cav actually predominantly fought that way during Vietnam,” Norman said.

The first real test of its airmobile capability was in 1965 during the Pleiku campaign, when the division conducted 35 days of continuous airmobile operations. The division conquered two of three North Vietnamese regiments and was awarded the only Presidential Unit Citation given to a division during the Vietnam War. The battle was depicted in the 2002 film We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson, based on the book We Were Soldiers Once… And Young by retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and journalist Joseph L. Galloway.

In January 1966, the 1st Cavalry Division liberated the cities of Quang Tri and Hue, and “sky troopers” helped rescue the besieged Marine base at Khe Sanh. In 1969, the 1st Cavalry Division battled communist strongholds in the “Iron Triangle,” the southern-most tactical zone in South Vietnam. In May 1970, the division was the first into Cambodia, conquering what had been a communist sanctuary.

The 1st Cavalry Division had proven it could adapt easily in the transition to airmobile operations, and the 1970s brought even more change as Cold War tensions escalated. In 1971, the division returned to the United States, moving the headquarters previously based at Fort Benning, Ga., to the division’s current home at Fort Hood. There, the division was reorganized into the Triple Capability (TRICAP) Division with armored, air-mobility and air cavalry brigades. The division’s war-fighting capability used a mix of armored troops on the ground with cavalry and infantry Soldiers mounted in helicopters for quicker access onto a battlefield. Support troops were specifically trained to assist in the TRICAP philosophy.

The TRICAP Division operated as an experimental force for several years, but field trials and evaluations revealed the division needed more tanks and less airmobile infantry. The division was first reorganized with two armor brigades and one air cavalry combat brigade. Then, in 1975, the 1st Cavalry Division became the Army’s newest armored division.

Leaders of change

Force modernization has been a major focus of the 1st Cavalry Division since it first fielded the M1 Abrams tank in 1980. The division was also the first to field the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, M2 Bradley fighting vehicle, the High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (humvee) and the Multiple Launch Rocket System. As the crews manning the vehicles are led by NCOs, it was the NCOs who delivered much of the training that came with each advance in technology, said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory L. Malloy, the commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy who was previously the sergeant major of the 1st Cavalry Division.

The 1st Cavalry Division Museum at Fort Hood, Texas, was established in 1971. In addition to dioramas and exhibit cases housing historical uniforms and equipment, 12 galleries present an overview of the history of the division from the Revolutionary War to the start of the 20th Century. Surrounding the building, a vehicle park displays more than 70 vehicles that have been used throughout the division’s history. The M1230 MRAP shown above was the last U.S. vehicle to leave Iraq. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)
The 1st Cavalry Division Museum at Fort Hood, Texas, was established in 1971. In addition to dioramas and exhibit cases housing historical uniforms and equipment, 12 galleries present an overview of the history of the division from the Revolutionary War to the start of the 20th Century. Surrounding the building, a vehicle park displays more than 70 vehicles that have been used throughout the division’s history. The M1230 MRAP shown above was the last U.S. vehicle to leave Iraq. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)

“NCOs had to grasp the new concepts and training requirements and actually lead the change,” Malloy said. “Adding a weapon to a light infantry unit is a high-risk change, but the squad leader can look to his left and to his right and, within 100 meters, can see all of his Soldiers. When you start putting them in tanks and other vehicles, crews are operating inside small compartments where it is tough to see anything at all.”

Sergeants began to take on many of the duties traditionally reserved for lieutenants, Malloy said. Though they had a different level of responsibility, sergeants were in charge of identifying the target, maneuvering and firing the tank, directing other fire to a target when they could not engage it, and performing an analysis after a gunnery exercise to determine deficiencies and how to better their crew.

“There is a lot of faith that goes into the development of that person as an NCO to effectively lead those Soldiers with such an awesome piece of machinery on the battlefield,” Norman said.

Because of the nature of the equipment and the missions at hand, NCOs throughout the Army began operating more independently. In the 1990s, the Army coined the term “strategic corporal,” referring to an NCO who, for the first time in many Army units, began operating without direct officer leadership. During peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, Norman said, these NCOs manned checkpoints and strategic locations in the unit’s area.

“Because of technology, the decisions that young NCO made had implications at the national level — not just within that city block where they were operating,” Norman said. “The decisions he or she made could be worldwide on CNN in 30 minutes and could literally have someone in our national command giving a press conference in 45 minutes. It was quite a shift for the Army, but we had been operating that way all along.”

Malloy emphasized that placing trust in the NCO Corps was necessary to operate in this manner.

“We get the recognition we do as the ‘backbone of the Army’ because this trust is placed in the NCO Corps across all divisions,” Malloy said. “But NCOs in the Cav are often looked at very closely because a lot of the things they do are, and have always been, at that NCO level. Even before we had tanks, the upkeep and care of the horses, the training — it was all done by NCOs.”

A shift to modern organization

Tanks are prepared for an assault during Operation Desert Storm. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Mueum)
Tanks are prepared for an assault during Operation Desert Storm. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Mueum)

In August 1990, the 1st Cavalry Division prepared to deploy to the Middle East as part of Operation Desert Shield to defend Saudi Arabia against a potential Iraqi attack. During the ensuing Operation Desert Storm and liberation of Kuwait, the division was the first to defend along the Saudi-Iraq border, the first to fire Copperhead artillery rounds in combat, the first to conduct intensive MLRS artillery raids and the first to engage in mounted combat in Iraq. The division also lost the first three Army Soldiers killed in ground action.

After returning from Iraq, the 1st Cavalry Division became the largest division in the Army with the reactivation of the 3rd “Greywolf” Battle Team on May 21, 1991. The division was reorganized in ’92 and ’93, becoming the only armored contingency force ready for deployment.

In 1998, the 1st Cavalry Division conducted peace support operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, monitoring former warring factions and aiding in the return of refugees as part of Task Force Eagle.

On July 15, 2005, the 1st Cavalry Division transitioned to the brigade combat team format it uses today. Instead of elements composed purely of armor or infantry battalions, brigades are made up of combined arms battalions that include infantry, armor and support elements. The 1st Cavalry Division has operated this way in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

Future for the Cavalry

Throughout each period of change, the division proved to be agile and resilient, Norman said.

“Today’s changes may be new to the rest of the Army. But we as a division have been transitioning for 150 years,” Norman said. “Other units may say their transition was going from an M1 rifle to an M14 or an M16, but we have changed completely — not only the equipment that we used, but the amount of Soldiers in a troop, the makeup and construct of that troop and the ratio of officer to NCO to trooper. … Technology changes, but there will always be a need for the Cav.”

Norman said that as the Army moves forward, the 1st Cavalry Division will continue to adapt to the needs of the nation.

“When you look at other divisions in the Army, the infantry divisions maintain and continue to be infantry divisions; the Airborne divisions maintain and continue to be Airborne divisions. [But the 1st Cavalry Division has] constantly evolved: from horseback to where we are today. We will continue that for the future,” he said.

Malloy agreed, saying that the mobility, firepower and flexibility the division provides for reconnaissance and scout missions make it unique.

“The Cav will always be around,” Malloy said. “Over time, you will see changes based on what the threat is in the world and how the Cav is utilized. But at the end of the day, the Cav is always going to be there. We have always been in transition, and will continue to be in transition as a leader of change.”

To contact Meghan Portillo, email meghan.r.portillo.ctr@mail.mil.

 

Troops ride out of the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters at Fort Bliss, Texas, in the 1930s. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)
Troops ride out of the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters at Fort Bliss, Texas, in the 1930s. (Courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum)

Pride in the 1st Cavalry

The Patch: While commander of U.S. forces in Southeast Asia during Vietnam, Gen. Creighton Abrams Jr. said, “The big yellow patch does something to an individual that makes him a better Soldier, a better team member and a better American than he otherwise would have been.”

That patch, the largest of all U.S. Army divisional patches, carries great significance to the troopers who wear it proudly on their sleeves. Shortly after the division was activated, the patch was created by Gladys Finch Dorcy, the wife of Col. Ben Dorcy, commander of the 7th Regiment.

(Courtesy image)
(Courtesy image)

“The patch had to be large enough to be seen through the dust and sand of Fort Bliss, and we made it that way because it is worn by big men who do big things,” Gladys Dorcy is credited to have said.

The shape — that of a traditional shield from the Middle Ages — signifies honor and fidelity. The horse’s head and the traditional cavalry yellow of the dress patch represent the Division’s original organizational structure. The diagonal line represents a scaling ladder. The line also symbolizes the speed and shock of the horses at full charge going across the battlefield, Norman said.

“There is nothing like a full-horse charge,” he said.

Both Norman and Malloy tried to express what it is they identify with so strongly in the 1st Cav. They said it is often hard to understand for outsiders or Soldiers new to the division. Malloy has been in the Army for 29 years, and 24 of those years were spent in light infantry and airborne units. However, the patch he wears on his shoulder is almost always the 1st Cavalry Division patch.

“I’m often asked why I always wear the 1st Cav patch,” Malloy said. “It’s because there is just something special about that place. Once you get there, you never want to leave. The camaraderie, the pride in the unit, the deep rich history, the type of Soldiers who serve there. … It’s one of my most favorite units, and I served the shortest time there.”

He said riding a horse is a great experience, but that is not what it is all about.

“A lot of times when I was in the 1st Cav, people would see my big patch and say ‘Oh, so you’re a tanker.’ No, I’m not. I’m an infantryman by trade. ‘Oh, I thought you were a cavalryman,’ they’d say. I am a cavalryman. A cavalryman is not any specific branch or MOS. It is a way of life. It is an attitude.”

Tradition: The division’s motto is “Live the Legend,” and troopers certainly do just that. They incorporate meaningful traditions into everyday operations, ever aware of the legendary cavalrymen who have served before them.

One such tradition is the Spur Ride, which dates back to the 1800s, Norman said. After participating in a Spur Ride to demonstrate the warrior skills a cavalry trooper should possess, Soldiers are awarded silver spurs to be worn on appropriate occasions, along with the “Cav Hat,” the Stetson that was first worn by the entire Division in Vietnam. Gold spurs are awarded to Troopers who have earned their silver spurs and who conduct two or more combat patrols or missions during a deployment.

In the early days, a new Soldier was not a full member of the troop until he could operate the way his unit required. After training, NCOs would take the new Soldier out for a couple of days for him to demonstrate his horsemanship, rifle marksmanship and other tasks that would be required of him. This transitioned into the tradition of the Spur Ride, usually hosted by units twice a year for Soldiers to demonstrate competency in their MOS.

“Some people may look at us and say, ‘That’s just the Cav being tied to archaic traditions and lineages that don’t really mean anything in the 21st century,’” Norman said. “But there is a symbolism that goes with those spurs and wearing that big Stetson. What they symbolize is your individual level of training and competence to operate in your given career field within the unit. … We don’t just give them out. You have to earn it,” Norman said.

The Song: The regimental song of the 7th Cavalry, an Irish quickstep tune from the early 1860s titled “Garryowen,” was adopted as the official march of the 1st Cavalry Division in 1981, and has been played at all division functions since. To hear the song, click here. →

Chorus:

Instead of spa, we’ll drink down ale

And pay the reckoning on the nail,

For debt, no man shall go to jail;

From Garryowen in glory.

 

Timeline

1921: The 1st Cavalry Division is formally activated at Fort Bliss, Texas, on Sept. 13.

1930s: The division provides training for the Civilian Conservation Corps, which constructed barracks for 20,000 anti-aircraft troops at Fort Bliss.

1940-41: The 1st Cavalry Division participates in the Louisiana Maneuvers, designed to evaluate U.S. training, logistics, doctrine and overall effectiveness. Horses are used in the exercises in addition to tanks and vehicles, illustrating the march of progress that would leave horses behind.

1943: The 1st Cavalry Division is officially dismounted and prepares for deployment to the South Pacific as foot cavalry.

1944: On Feb. 29, the division sails to the Admiralty Islands for its first combat engagement of World War II. After fighting in Operation King II on the island of Leyte, the Division moves onto the main island of the Philippines, Luzon, where the Division’s feats lead Gen. Douglas MacArthur to nickname it the “First Team.”

1945: On Feb. 11, two squadrons of the 1st Cavalry Brigade form a “flying column” to cut a 100-mile path through Japanese-held territory, breaking through the gates of the Santo Tomas internment camp to free its prisoners. The division is the “First in Manila.” On Nov. 1, the 1st Cavalry Division lands on Kyushu as part of Operation Downfall, the invasion of mainland Japan. When the war suddenly comes to an end with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the “First Team” leads the Allied Occupation Army into Tokyo.

1950: The 1st Cavalry Division leaves Japan, and, on July 18, carries out the first amphibious landing of the Korean War along the shores of Pohang Dong, South Korea.  There, they help stop the North Korean army at the Pusan Perimeter.

1951: Allied forces withdraw south of Seoul. In a spring offensive, the division moves north and engages enemy forces throughout the mountains of central Korea.

1952: After 18 months of combat, the 1st Cavalry Division returns to Hokkaido, Japan, where troopers replace equipment and retrain.

1957: The division deploys again to Korea to patrol the Demilitarized Zone.

1965: Troopers leave Korea for the division’s new home at Fort Benning, Ga., where they become the Army’s first airmobile division. After a few months of preparation for the Pleiku Campaign, the division engages enemy forces in South Vietnam. On Oct. 29, troopers destroy two of three regiments of a North Vietnamese division, earning the division the only Presidential Unit Citation given to a division in Vietnam.

1970: In May, the 1st Cavalry Division is the first into Cambodia.

1971: The division returns home to its new headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas, on May 5. There it is reorganized into the Triple Capability (TRICAP) Division.

1975: In January, the division is reorganized once again into the Army’s newest armored division.

1980: The 1st Cavalry Division is the first to field the M1 Abrams tank.

1982: The division opens the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and begins rotations of realistic desert battle training.

1983: The “First Team” becomes the first U.S. force to deploy to Holland and northern Germany since World War II. Approximately 9,000 troopers conduct exercises as part of Return of Forces to Germany.

1990-91: In August, the 1st Cavalry Division prepares to deploy to the Middle East as part of Operation Desert Shield.

1991-92: The division returns to the United States and, with the reactivation of the 3rd “Greywolf” Battle Team on May 21, 1991, becomes the largest division in the Army.

1998: The 1st Cavalry Division conducts peace support operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of Task Force Eagle. In October, the Division takes over the Multinational Division North area of operations.

2001: After the Sept. 11 attacks, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division join the joint task force charged with protecting key national assets in Washington, D.C., as part of Operation Clear Skies. On Dec. 15, the Division’s 545th Military Police Company deploys to Bagram, Afghanistan, where they interrogate and process approximately 2,500 detainees as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

2003: At the beginning of the year, select units deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the fall, the entire division prepares for deployment.

2004: In April, the division assumes command of Task Force Baghdad.

2005: The division transfers authority to the 3rd Infantry Division and returns to the United States. In July, the division moves to its current brigade combat team format.

2006-07: The 1st Cavalry Division deploys to Iraq a second time.

2008: The United States and Iraq sign a security agreement to withdraw U.S. forces and organize U.S. troops’ activities during their temporary stay in the country. The 1st Cavalry Division is the first to take command of Multinational Division Baghdad.

2011: The Division begins deployment from Fort Hood to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and, on May 19, assumes command of Regional Command-East.

2012: The division turns command over to the 1st Infantry Division in April and begins its return to the United States. The 1st Air Cavalry Brigade returns in June, completing the division’s split deployment.

2013: The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (The Black Jack Brigade) and its subordinate units deploy as part of a force rotation in Afghanistan. The units will assist with base closures and the withdrawal of forces and equipment.

 

1st Cavalry Division

Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion “Maverick”

  • Division Band
  • Horse Detachment

1st Brigade Combat Team “Ironhorse”

  • 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry “Garryowen!”
  • 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry, “Lancers”
  • 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, “Stallions”
  • 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery “Dragons”
  • Special Troops Battalion “Centurions”
  • 115th Brigade Support Battalion “Muleskinners”

2nd Brigade Combat Team “Black Jack”

  • 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry “Black Knights”
  • 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry “Mustangs”
  • 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry “Darkhorse”
  • 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery “Red Dragons”
  • Special Troops Battalion “Spartans”
  • 15th Brigade Support Battalion “Gamblers”

3rd Brigade Combat Team “Greywolf”

  • 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry “Chargers”
  • 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry “Warhorse”
  • 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry “Sabers”
  • 2nd Battalion 82nd Field Artillery “Steel Dragons”
  • Special Troops Battalion “Gladiators”
  • 215th Brigade Support Battalion “Blacksmiths”

4th Brigade Combat Team “Longknife”

  • 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry “Head Hunters”
  • 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry “Ghost”
  • 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry “Thunderhorse”
  • 5th Battalion, 82nd Artillery “Black Dragons”
  • 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion “Vigilant”
  • 27th Brigade Support Battalion “Rough Riders”

1st Air Combat Brigade “Warriors”

  • 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment “First Attack”
  • 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment “Lobos”
  • 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment “Spearhead”
  • 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment “Guns Attack”
  • 615th Aviation Support Battalion “Cold Steel”

41st Fires Brigade “Railgunners”

  • 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 589th Brigade Support Battalion

4th Sustainment Brigade