172nd Infantry Brigade cases colors in Germany

From the Army News Service:

The 172nd Infantry Brigade cased its colors in Grafenwoehr, Germany, marking the  unit’s inactivation.

The 172nd Infantry Brigade shoulder sleeve insignia.
The 172nd Infantry Brigade shoulder sleeve insignia.

While the 172nd’s official history dates back to World War  I, its modern history in Germany began in March 2008, in Schweinfurt, when 2nd  “Dagger” Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, reflagged to become the 172nd “Blackhawk”  Infantry Brigade.  The brigade  headquarters and most of the brigade later moved to Grafenwoehr.

The brigade deployed twice, once to Iraq and and once to Afghanistan.  Nineteen of the brigade’s Soldiers died during those deployments.

“The sacrifices of the 19 Blackhawks who gave their lives in  Iraq and Afghanistan signify the most recent chapter in a legacy of service the  172nd has given to our Nation,” said Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell,  Jr., USAREUR’s commanding general, in his remarks during the ceremony.

After praising the unit’s performance in combat and acknowledging the challenges of the brigade’s final mission, the preparations for its inactivation, Campbell ended with words of encouragement and pride.

“The young privates, sergeants, and lieutenants who proudly  wear the Blackhawk combat patch today will likely be asked in 10 years, ‘What  unit is that?’

“They will know and carry your legacy into the future.  They will understand how you helped shape USAREUR into a more agile force in support of the Army’s ongoing  transformation and carry this accomplishment with pride,” Campbell said.

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Col. Edward T. Bohnemann, commander and Command Sgt. Major Michael W. Boom, senior enlisted advisor of the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade cases the colors after a ceremony Friday at the Grafenwoehr Fitness Center. (Photo by U.S. Army Europe)
Col. Edward T. Bohnemann, commander and Command Sgt. Major Michael W. Boom, senior enlisted advisor of the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade cases the colors after a ceremony Friday at the Grafenwoehr Fitness Center. (Photo by U.S. Army Europe)

DoD announces Safe HelpRoom, peer support chat sessions for sexual assault victims

The Department of Defense reiterated its commitment to fighting sexual assault in the military this week during an event to announce the launch of a new peer support service for sexual assault victims.

The Safe HelpRoom, a service of the Safe Helpline, was announced Thursday as a way to let victims connect with one another and give them a support outlet through chats in a secure online environment.

Both the Safe HelpRoom and Safe Helpline are administered by the Department of Defense and operated by the nonprofit organization Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network through a contract with the Department of Defense’s sexual assault prevention and response office, known as SAPRO.

“Survivors of sexual assault have told us that being able to discuss their concerns with peers can provide a level of support not available through other means,” said Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “Safe HelpRoom is a groundbreaking development in the department’s commitment to support military victims of sexual assault.”

The Safe HelpRoom is part of an ongoing effort to stamp out sexual assault from the military.

A report released by the Pentagon earlier this month estimated that 26,000 sexual assault crimes were committed within the U.S. military in 2012. The number represents a 37-percent increase from 2010. The findings have sparked outrage throughout the country and a focused response from military leaders.

Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, SAPRO director, said “assessing ourselves” is a priority in combating sexual assault, to ensure that programs and policies work. “SAPRO and RAINN are working together in prevention, investigation, accountability, victim support and assessment,” Patton said.

“We see ourselves as a national leader in sexual assault, its prevention and response,” Patton said. “Part of being a national leader is innovation, and the innovation you see today with the mobile app, the Safe HelpRoom — the first of its kind with a peer-to-peer, secure venue where victims of sexual assault — can chat in a closely moderated and very professional chat room.”

Safe HelpRoom sessions will last two hours and are available twice a week. The session schedule can be found at http://SafeHelpline.org.

When users visit Safe Helpline, the staff provides assistance and offers a variety of service referrals for resources on and off military bases and installations, officials said in a statement announcing Safe HelpRoom’s launch

The referral database also houses information for local civilian and Veterans Affairs Department resources for helpline users seeking information and crisis support away from the military response system, they added.

“Sexual assault is a crime DoD will not tolerate,” Wright said. “Our service members sign up to protect the United States, and they have to feel safe within our ranks. “I know what it’s like to be asked to do risky things, and we don’t want to put our service members at risk as they’re doing (their jobs).

Terri Moon Cronk of the American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.

Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director of the Department of Defense's sexual assault prevention and response office, left, and Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, right, present Dr. Kimberly “Toni” Korol-Evans with the 2013 Safe Helpline Operator of the Year award Thursday at the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network in Washington, D.C. Korol-Evans, who works with Department of Defense sexual-assault victims, received the award as part of the launch of  the Safe HelpRoom for service members and families. (Courtesy photo)
Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director of the Department of Defense’s sexual assault prevention and response office, left, and Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, right, present Dr. Kimberly “Toni” Korol-Evans with the 2013 Safe Helpline Operator of the Year award Thursday at the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network in Washington, D.C. Korol-Evans, who works with Department of Defense sexual assault victims, received the award as part of the launch of the Safe HelpRoom for service members and families. (Courtesy photo)

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Chandler brings message of resilience, accountability to Fort Hood

From the Army News Service:

FORT HOOD, Texas — Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III spent three days at the post near Killeen, Texas, this week and managed to cover a good portion of the largest military installation in the country during that time.

“I came to Fort Hood to meet with Soldiers and their families, talk to leadership, and see what’s going on at the ‘Great Place,'” he said, noting he has been stationed here a few times in his military career. “It was important for me to come down and listen to what Soldiers have on their minds, and deliver some messages from the Army leadership about where we are, where we’re going, and what we need to focus on.”

Chandler’s busy schedule included various events including a Memorial Day commemoration in Georgetown, Texas, and visits to a 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment tank range, assemblies, meals and functions in dining facilities and meeting rooms.

Along the way, he had positive things to say about the Soldiers he met.

“If you think about it, most of these young men and women came in the Army after 9/11,” he said. “They volunteered to serve their nation in a time of war, knowing they were probably going to be deployed in harm’s way. I came in the Army in 1981, during the Cold War. We mostly did training. I’m not sure, if I was 18 again, if I would choose to join the service knowing that.”

“All of the services add up to about 3.1 million people,” he noted. “There are about 330 million people in our country. You got the top one percent of the American people out here doing amazing things each and every day. If you can’t get excited by that, I don’t know what’s going to get you motivated.”

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Oklahoma Guardsman focuses on community ravaged by tornado

 From the Department of Defense:

MOORE, Okla – The May 20 tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma communities of Newcastle, Oklahoma City and Moore left a wide path of destruction for the families who live in the area as well as the first responders who rendered aid.

Much like the May 3, 1999, tornado that left Moore with miles of damage, families are again facing the reality of reclaiming their lives from the rubble, while first responders are tasked with ensuring the safety of impacted families.

Rarely does a man find himself on both sides. In the case of Master Sgt. Brian Hardee, a training noncommissioned officer for the 63rd Civil Support Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, worries of his own damaged property were set aside as he shifted thoughts to assisting his community first. He now found himself in roles both as a survivor and as a first responder.

When Hardee turned on the afternoon news Monday and saw the tornado forming, he did “the typical Oklahoman thing — went outside and watched the clouds,” he said.

Within seconds, the tornado touched down and was quickly nearing his home, Hardee said. His first reaction was to get his neighbor’s family into his underground shelter, and he hurriedly followed. Even with the shelter’s protection, the shaking, rumbling and violent sounds signaled the tornado’s arrival.

Light entered the room through the severely buckled and damaged garage door as they rose out of the shelter, he said.

“When I came out, I could see daylight, and I knew something wasn’t right,” Hardee said.

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By Example: The Army ‘raised me right’

By JENNIFER MATTSON
NCO Journal

First Sgt. Jack Essig is the first sergeant for the rear detachment company, Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Ky. In 1996, Essig joined the Army from his hometown of Cranston, R.I. He volunteers as a coach for football, baseball and basketball, and during the past five years, has logged more than 500 volunteer hours. Essig has also deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

First Sgt. Jack Essig (left) conducts a First Responder Course at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Jack Essig)
First Sgt. Jack Essig (left) conducts a First Responder Course at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Jack Essig)

Why did you join the Army?
I grew up in not such a good neighborhood. A lot of my friends and a lot of my seniors weren’t the best examples, and I knew I had to get away from my hometown. The Army was the best route. College wasn’t really an option because of financial reasons, and I knew the Army paid for schooling. My initial intent was to get a degree and get out. But here I am, 16 years later.

Why have you continued to serve as an NCO?
It’s made me a better man. It’s raised me right. It’s a career. I have friends who spent four years in college and are still scrounging for jobs 10 or 15 years later. As I excelled in the military, my best choice was to stay.

How have NCOs helped you in your career?
During my career, I’ve noticed everyone has his or her own leadership style. I’ve tried to pull out the positives, use them and put them in my kit bag as I’ve progressed through the ranks. Even poor leadership has shown me the right way of doing things, because I knew if and when I reached that rank, I wouldn’t do those things.

What would you like to see more NCOs do?
The Army has gotten away from sergeants’ time. I would like to see more NCOs implement that. It’s up to us to find the time and to make it mandatory training time. Any training is good because it makes a Soldier well-rounded and improves everything they do. 

How do you lead your Soldiers?
I try to do what they have to do. I always try to set the right example for them. If I’m not bogged down by additional duties as a first sergeant, I’ll be out there sweeping floors, checking vehicles for preventative maintenance or any Soldier tasks. I’m always right there with them to show them a better way from my experience or an easier way of doing the task. I always push on my guys to get a college degree, volunteer in the local community and show genuine character. I’ll pull my Soldiers into my office, sit them down and see how everything is going — just basically let them know I’m looking out for them.

What advice do you have for junior NCOs?
I always tell my junior NCOs to take the job that no one wants and excel at it. I believe that’s helped me in my career. Some of the assignments I’ve had in my career, you wouldn’t want to sign up for them. But when you do them, and do them well, it shows diversity over your peers when you’re being looked at for promotion. 

How does your role help the Army as a whole?
We have 200 Soldiers staying in the rear detachment during this deployment. It’s a complex company, with medical personnel who aren’t deploying and Soldiers who are going to different bases or leaving the Army. It’s trying to do the Army business with the diversity of military occupational specialities. It’s providing Soldiers with all of the assets they need, with all of their different concerns. It’s also assisting with our forward element, which is downrange. Anything and everything with deploying, we assist with that process.