Tag Archives: Operation Enduring Freedom

Task Force Guam NCOs discuss return home, battalion’s future

By SGT. EDWARD SIGUENZA
1-294th Infantry Regiment

BARRIGADA, Guam — Close to two dozen of Task Force Guam’s senior enlisted Soldiers — amounting to nearly 200 years of collective military service — united Sept. 16-18 to plan and coordinate upcoming events for 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard.

Sergeants major, first sergeants, master sergeants and selected sergeants first class hosted a meeting of minds to prioritize the near and distant future for their nearly 800-member battalion. They discussed issues pertaining to their current Operation Enduring Freedom mission as well as the redeployment, reintegration and unit reset process scheduled for later this year, and other matters — such as the 2014 Annual Training — that’ll affect the battalion once it returns home.

“This conference gives us a way forward to support the battalion commander’s intent,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mel Hennegan, Task Force Guam’s command sergeant major. “This gives us an opportunity to gather information, analyze it and ensure the information gets down to the lowest level of leadership.”

All of Task Force Guam’s company first sergeants met for the first time since arriving in Afghanistan. It has been more than a year since they last gathered into one room, said Sgt. Maj. Manny Blas, operations sergeant major. The first sergeants brought some of their platoon sergeants and all engaged in positive discussions, Blas said.

“We came together to express the concerns of the battalion,” Blas explained. “We had to come up with ways forward to improve and enhance the battalion’s outcome.”

More than 500 are currently deployed and occupy all six ISAF Regional Commands throughout Afghanistan. More than 200 battalion Soldiers remain on Guam. Personnel issues, such as reorganization and manning the battalion, were the hot topics, Hennegan explained.

Task Force Guam’s seven companies will be required to reorganize upon their return; After the reorganization, the battalion should return to its original configuration with six units returning to pre-deployment strength, so placing Soldiers into proper units will be discussed continuously.

“This is one of our biggest challenges of the deployment — resetting the battalion upon our return home,” Hennegan said. “What we discussed will be a recommendation to leaders within the Guam Army National Guard Headquarters. What we plan will be taken into consideration by our leaders when they meet.

The battalion commander and leader of Task Force Guam, Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, commended the senior noncommissioned officers for stepping forward to set the right conditions for the battalion’s future. Tougher also sought their help, acknowledging a shortage of battalion officers. Tougher emphasized identifying and encouraging enlisted Soldiers who may be qualified and interested in a path that could result in their commission as officers within the 1-294th.

Hennegan supported Tougher’s effort.

“Junior enlistees are an area of interest because they are our future leaders,” Hennegan said.

The  Soldiers discussed preparations for Task Force Guam’s replacements — 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division — who are slated to arrive in December.

“We will not have an accountability problem, because all of the NCOs will be fully engaged,” Hennegan said.

The conference demonstrates unity within the battalion, Blas explained.

“It’s a collective effort of all the senior NCOs to come together to form one foundation,” Blas added.

The conference precedes the commander’s summit slated for late September. Like the senior enlistees, the battalion’s key officer leaders will unite to give their input for the battalion’s future needs and concerns.

Senior noncommissioned officers of 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard met Sept. 18 during Task Force Guam's Senior Enlisted Leader Conference at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. The meeting of minds was to discuss current and future operations of the battalion to include rotating personnel and Guam's return home later this year from Operation Enduring Freedom. Shown, clockwise from top: Master Sgt. Agnes Diaz, liaison noncommissioned officer, Headquarters-Headquarters Company; 1st Sgt. Jose Lizama, first sergeant, Alpha Company; 1st Sgt. Ken Cruz, first sergeant, Delta Company; 1st Sgt. John Carbullido, first sergeant, Foxtrot Company; Sgt. Maj. Manny Blas, operations sergeant major; 1st Sgt. Noel Leon Guerrero, first sergeant, Charlie Company; Master Sgt. Duane Perez, first sergeant, Echo Company; 1st Sgt. John Pangelinan, first sergeant, Bravo Company; Command Sgt. Maj. Mel Hennegan, command sergeant major, Task Force Guam; 1st Sgt. John T. Johnson, first sergeant, HHC; and Master Sgt. Roland Taitingfong, liaison noncommissioned officer, HHC. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)
Senior noncommissioned officers of 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard met Sept. 18 during Task Force Guam’s Senior Enlisted Leader Conference at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. The meeting of minds was to discuss current and future operations of the battalion to include rotating personnel and Guam’s return home later this year from Operation Enduring Freedom. Shown, clockwise from top: Master Sgt. Agnes Diaz, liaison noncommissioned officer, Headquarters-Headquarters Company; 1st Sgt. Jose Lizama, first sergeant, Alpha Company; 1st Sgt. Ken Cruz, first sergeant, Delta Company; 1st Sgt. John Carbullido, first sergeant, Foxtrot Company; Sgt. Maj. Manny Blas, operations sergeant major; 1st Sgt. Noel Leon Guerrero, first sergeant, Charlie Company; Master Sgt. Duane Perez, first sergeant, Echo Company; 1st Sgt. John Pangelinan, first sergeant, Bravo Company; Command Sgt. Maj. Mel Hennegan, command sergeant major, Task Force Guam; 1st Sgt. John T. Johnson, first sergeant, HHC; and Master Sgt. Roland Taitingfong, liaison noncommissioned officer, HHC. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

 

NCO, Medal of Honor recipient inducted into Pentagon Hall of Heroes

By LISA A. FERDINANDO
Army News Service

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient from Operation Enduring Freedom, was inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes last week just a day after he received the nation’s highest military honor.

Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell said Carter is a reminder to all of America that there are “modern day heroes who live and walk among us.”

In attendance at the ceremony were some of the Soldiers who fought alongside Carter during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle in Afghanistan, families of Soldiers who died in that battle, and four Medal of Honor recipients. Also in attendance were senior leaders of the U.S. military, including Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, Ph.D., Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter.

By honoring Carter, Campbell said, the nation is also honoring those who fought alongside him that day at the remote Combat Outpost Keating. Eight Soldiers died that day in a battle that
raged for more than 12 hours.

“He elevated the needs of his team and nation above his own safety,” Campbell said of Carter’s actions that day. “His great humility, and love for his fellow Soldiers are the hallmark of a true hero.”

Carter was among 53 Soldiers at COP Keating, located deep in a valley surrounded by towering mountains in the Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. The base was attacked by an estimated 300 Taliban fighters.

The then-specialist sprinted through a “barrage of fire” to resupply ammunition and fight alongside his “desperately outnumbered comrades,” Campbell said.

Carter rescued a wounded Soldier, rendered first aid and carried him to safety. He moved through “withering fire” to check on fellow Soldiers and secure a radio that later proved critical to saving the team, Campbell said.

“He fought fiercely and inspired those around him throughout the battle that brutal day of combat,” Campbell said. “Sergeant Carter’s gallant actions were those of a man, a Soldier, who was physically and mentally strong and well-prepared for combat.”

Carter said the brave men of Bravo “Black Knight” Troop 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, “quickly felt the weight of a Taliban force seven-to-eight times our size.”

“None of us should have survived,” he said. “Though the Taliban have every tactical advantage, what they could never have is the pure untainted sense of brotherhood that the men and women of
America’s Army feel for their battle buddies.”

There is simply no stronger bond then that of a group of Soldiers facing the impossible, Carter said.

“But [we] were determined not to give up, if only to ensure the safety of others. It’s stronger than blood,” he said.

Carter remembered his fallen comrades and, choking up as he spoke, said one of the biggest regrets of his life was that he could not do more for Spc. Stephan Mace, who he brought to safety but who later died.

Carter said more than half of the Soldiers at COP Keating were wounded and “almost everyone was left with deep, invisible wounds to their hearts and minds.”

“These are the unlikely heroes of Combat Outpost Keating, brave men, brothers and Soldiers for life,” he said.

Carter, who has been public about his struggle with post-traumatic stress, has a sense of purpose that will drive him to help others who have suffered the wounds of war, Westphal said.

“It takes the same courage that you showed on that day of battle to seek ways to heal,” Westphal said. “Leadership, loyalty, character are abundant in you. The love and companionship of your family will strengthen and heal you. Your fellow Soldiers will need you and you will need them.”

Family members of the fallen team members were recognized at the event. Campbell read the names of each of those who died in the battle: Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, Sgt. Christopher Griffin, Sgt. Joshua
Hardt, Sgt. Joshua Kirk, Spc. Stephan Mace, Staff Sgt. Vernon Martin, Sgt. Michael Scusa, and Pfc. Kevin Thomson.

Also remembered at the ceremony was Pvt. Edward Faulkner, who died after returning from Afghanistan “during a difficult struggle with post-traumatic stress,” Campbell said.

The 33-year-old Carter, who had his wife, their three children and other family members at the event, was honored at the White House, Aug. 26.

He is the second Soldier to receive the nation’s highest military decoration for actions that day at COP Keating. Former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha was presented the Medal of Honor on Feb. 11, 2013.

The Pentagon Hall of Heroes is a special room in the Defense Department headquarters that has enshrined all the service members who have received the Medal of Honor.

The hall is “hallowed ground” inside the Pentagon “to memorialize our nation’s warriors who have demonstrated conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty,” Campbell said.

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter and his wife, Shannon, hold the Medal of Honor flag after being presented with it during his induction ceremony Aug. 27 into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)
Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter and his wife, Shannon, hold the Medal of Honor flag after being presented with it during his induction ceremony Aug. 27 into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)

NCO to receive Medal of Honor for actions at COP Keating

By GARY SHEFTICK
Army News Service

President Barack Obama announced July 26 that Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter will receive the Medal of Honor next month for his “conspicuous gallantry” in Afghanistan.

Carter will receive the nation’s highest award for valor Aug. 26, 2013, for his defense of Combat Outpost Keating, in a remote mountain valley of Nuristan province in western Afghanistan. During a battle which raged for more than six hours, Carter was instrumental in keeping the southern flank of the outpost from being overrun Oct. 3, 2009, by an enemy that outnumbered the Americans almost eight to one.

Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, then with 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides overwatch on a road near Dahla Dam, Afghanistan, in July 2012. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)
Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, then with 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides overwatch on a road near Dahla Dam, Afghanistan, in July 2012. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

The 54 members of B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, were attacked by more than 400 enemy fighters with heavy automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, known as RPGs, firing from high ground surrounding the outpost. The enemy infiltrated two areas of the combat outpost, known as a COP, killing eight U.S. Soldiers and injuring more than 25.

Carter, who was a specialist at the time, ran a gauntlet of enemy fire to resupply ammo to fighting positions. He picked off numerous enemy with his sharpshooting and risked his life to carry an injured Soldier to cover, despite his own injuries from RPG rounds.

Carter will be the fifth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He’s also the second Soldier to receive the award for the defense of COP Keating, sometimes called the Battle of Kamdesh. Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha received the Medal of Honor Feb. 11, 2013, for defending the northern side of the outpost.

Carter’s platoon sergeant at COP Keating said he was extremely proud of the actions of his Soldiers that day and not too surprised when he heard about the second Medal of Honor.

“I was pleasantly surprised, but I wasn’t shocked,” said retired 1st Sgt. Jonathan G. Hill. “In my heart I knew deep down inside that it was going to happen eventually, because knowing what he (Carter) went through and knowing the extraordinary circumstances that he and everyone else had faced, there was no way that something like this could be passed up. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Carter and his family will join the president at the White House for the Medal of Honor ceremony.

Carter was born in Washington state and claims Antioch, Calif., as his home of record, despite growing up in Spokane, Wash. He is married to Shannon Carter and they have three children: Jayden Young, Madison Carter and Sehara Carter.

Carter enlisted in the Army in January 2008 as a cavalry scout, after serving in the Marine Corps. After completing training at Fort Knox, Ky., he was assigned to 3-61 Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, where he deployed to Afghanistan from May 2009 to May 2010.

In Oct 2010, he was assigned as a Stryker gunner with 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He completed a second deployment to Afghanistan in October 2012. He is currently stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and is assigned to the 7th Infantry Division.

Carter’s military decorations include: the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Navy Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NCO Professional Development Ribbon with numeral 2, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Air Assault Badge. He has also earned the Valorous Unit Award and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

NCO welder works to prevent casualties along Afghanistan’s most important highway

By SGT. JULIEANNE MORSE
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

In a hot tent on Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar province, Afghanistan, with an American flag hanging from the ceiling works a U.S. Army welder whose recent project can help save many lives in eastern Afghanistan.

Reggae, soul music and rhythm and blues pours out of Sgt. Patrick Lewis’s stereo as he goes to work welding together rebar to create culvert denial systems.

Sgt. Patrick Lewis, left, levels a piece of rebar that will reinforce a culvert denial system, with the help of Spc. Jonathan Carpenter on June 11, 2013. They are both in B Company, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Julieanne Morse)
Sgt. Patrick Lewis, left, levels a piece of rebar that will reinforce a culvert denial system, with the help of Spc. Jonathan Carpenter on June 11, 2013. They are both in B Company, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Julieanne Morse)

The systems will help prevent insurgents from placing improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, in culverts along Afghanistan’s Highway 1.

Lewis, who hails from Queens, N.Y., is originally from Jamaica, and moved to the United States in 2001.

He learned to weld at the Apex Technical School in Manhattan, N.Y., and joined the U.S. Army in 2007, as an allied trade specialist. He currently serves in Company B, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

Lewis, the primary welder in Company B, has completed many projects since arriving at FOB Shank, such as repairing radio towers and building steel gates, but this project is expanding his reach into Wardak and Logar provinces.

Preventing the emplacement of IEDs is essential to help prevent military and civilian casualties.

“Highway 1 is a main supply route going from [Bagram Airfield] to Ghazni, and a critical point of our mission here is to keep that safe,” said 1st Lt. Shane Hook, Company B executive officer.

The brigade counter-IED office passed a sketch of the system’s design down the chain of command to Lewis. Then, rebar was shipped from Bagram Airfield.

“We do just about anything,” Lewis said. “You name it, if you can come up with a picture and show us that, we can make it. It’s as simple as that.”

Lewis welds rebar to create a culvert denial system at Forward Operating Base Shank, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, June 11, 2013.
Lewis welds rebar to create a culvert denial system at Forward Operating Base Shank, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, June 11, 2013.

The static crackling sound can be heard as Lewis welds the rebar together into a cone-like shape.

Spc. Jonathan Carpenter, a native of Pendleton, S.C., and a wheeled vehicle mechanic in Company B, who helps Lewis when he’s not servicing vehicles, said the culvert denial system will allow water to flow through the culvert, but deny insurgents the ability to plant IEDs inside of them.

Lewis said the system would benefit all U.S. forces as well as Afghans who travel on Highway 1.

Lewis has a good reputation as a hard worker within the brigade.

“He’s a measure-twice, cut-once type of guy, which is good,” said Hook. “That is exactly the type you want.”

First Sgt. Robert Walker, a native of Bryant, Ala., and the Company B first sergeant, said Lewis is one of his better noncommissioned officers.

“He takes every opportunity he can to teach soldiers,” Walker explained.

Lewis’ good reputation stems from his enjoyment of his job.

“I love what I do,” Lewis said. “This is me playing my part. If this is what I can do to prevent the loss of another U.S. service member, then I’m more than willing to contribute in whatever way I can.”

ISAF CSM retiring after 36 years in the Army

By STAFF SGT. BRUCE COBBELDICK
International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs

Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel is handing over the reins of ISAF enlisted leadership in July, when he retires. For the past 36 years, Capel has gotten up in the morning, put on his uniform and been eager to work with Soldiers. For the last 18 months, he shouldered the duty of being the theater’s top noncommissioned officer.

Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces - Afghanistan senior enlisted leader, awards a U.S non-commissioned officer a leadership coin at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of ISAF Public Affairs.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan senior enlisted leader, awards a U.S non-commissioned officer a leadership coin at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of ISAF Public Affairs.

“When I joined the Army in October of 1977, I went to Basic Training. And it was shortly after the Vietnam War. But from what I saw back then, the noncommissioned officers had a lot to do in terms of getting Soldiers trained how to survive. I noticed it was their leadership that was so important to getting the mission done and done right,” Capel said. “Here in Operation Enduring Freedom, it’s no different for the Afghans. The [Afghan National Army] and the [Afghan National Police] rely on their trainers and NCOs in the same way.

“All the Afghan sergeants major in both the ANP and the ANA are doing a great job of getting their G-staff sergeants major positions filled to see to it that they make sure the right soldiers get to the right places and are able to perform the right tasks that are needed on the battlefield,” he said. “It’s the G-staff sergeants major who see to it that their soldiers have what it is needed to assist them in doing their jobs. And the [Afghan National Security Forces] have come a long way in developing their NCOs.”

Capel said he realized early in his career that he would be staying in the Army.

“Back when I was coming up in the Army, I saw what a difference having good, caring NCOs meant, and when I saw how the noncommissioned officers schools were taking the time to teach the Soldiers how to be professional and care for their people,” he said. “It was then I realized I had no plans of ever leaving. I saw some great leaders from when I was in the 82nd Airborne Division and when I was in Panama. Back in 1984, I had the chance to become a drill sergeant and it was there at Fort Jackson (S.C.) that I remember some of the combat veterans who were still around in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“My time with that group of NCOs changed my life and I learned what was good behavior and what was bad behavior. I learned what I needed to do to change,” Capel said. “So there is nothing better that I love to do than to wear the uniform and I am proud that I had the chance to be a United States Soldier.”

Capel realizes the impact his words have on people and he chooses to be positive with the men and women in uniform.

“I don’t think the folks back home understand all the sacrifices these guys and gals are making by raising their hand in the air and coming out here and trying to make better lives for the Afghan citizens here,” he said. “When you see the heroes, the ceremonies for our fallen, and you take into account the burn victims and those who have lost arms and legs in fighting the enemies of Afghanistan here in the name of freedom, one realizes what an honor it is to serve with these warriors. They give me the motivation to get up every single morning out here.”

Capel, 54, has served in Afghanistan for the past 18 months. He is quick to credit people for helping him to become the senior enlisted leader in theater.

“Anyone who thinks that they got what they earned without the help of a lot of Soldiers, families and civilians is sorely mistaken,” Capel said. “I have been helped by thousands and thousands of people.

“I never turn down a phone call from one of our guys or gals who call me up and seek some help,” he said. “I may hang up the uniform but my blood is still green and I will continue to help any organization or person in the Army who looks to me for some assistance. I do not see it that I am retiring per say; I am just taking a little break.”