Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Company 1-186th Infantry Battalion transitions to Kandahar


Story and photos courtesy Capt. David Gauthier, commander of A Company, 1-186th Infantry Battalion

With the coming of 2015, the war in Afghanistan transitioned from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom Sentinel; marking the end of U.S.-led offensive combat operations and the men of Alpha ‘Apache’ Company, 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment found themselves with a new mission. They transitioned from their previous deployment site and are now operating out of Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
Preparation for site transition required planning that began weeks in advance. Once the marching orders were given, the company’s staff coordinated with outside elements to facilitate movement of equipment and personnel. Once the plans and schedules were coordinated, then came the tedious task of slowly reconsolidating equipment for accountability, maintenance and final movement; all while sustaining 100 percent mission capability.
In addition to the company and platoon assets, Soldiers need to prepare themselves for moving. We all dislike moving houses back home, and those feelings transfer to military life as well. Packing all the equipment that they have been issued (plus the stuff they have acquired during deployment to make their off-duty time more bearable) is a tedious process; often more difficult than anticipated given the amount of room they have available for storage.
Upon arrival, the company hit the ground running. With a zero-dark-thirty arrival, it was a continuous rush to get a multitude of tasks done in order to begin operations. Assigning and receiving billeting, off-loading equipment, moving in, and establishing a new pattern of life is just the start of the resettlement process.
With the new mission came new equipment. Receiving vehicles and weapons systems from another unit is never an easy process and since they will be held accountable for all that they receive, the Soldiers painstakingly went through all the paperwork and equipment to ensure accuracy. Once the paperwork was finished, the Soldiers needed to familiarize themselves with the equipment they received; which is a mission in itself.
After a short nap, the company moved to the firing range in order to ensure that their weapons and equipment were functioning properly and accurately.  ‘Apache’ Company went on a four- mile, round-trip, dismounted patrol to the firing range and back. Preparation for the trip constituted planning, like every other combat patrol, rehearsal of battle drills, redundant contingency planning and gear inspections before they stepped off. Once the patrol reached the firing range, they confirmed the accuracy of their machine guns and practiced acquiring and engaging targets with accurate and sustained automatic fire. Upon return of the patrol, the Soldiers assumed their force protection mission and integrated into the complex defense of one of the largest operational bases in Afghanistan.
The New Year not only marked the transition of the majority of operations to the Afghanistan forces, but also the halfway point of the mobilization for ‘Apache’ Company, 1-186th Infantry Battalion. Missing the holiday season is tough for anybody, but for a Soldier half-a-world away from their families, it’s something to be respected and admired.
Despite being away from their friends and loved ones, the Soldiers have been receiving a morale boost in the ability to be together in cheering for the Oregon Ducks while watching their championship game. It was a nice reminder of home and why we are here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Strong for Veterans: Program on Crisis Awareness

Helping Veterans Facing a Tough Fight Back Home
We recognize that some veterans face enormous challenges once they leave active service, from feeling a profound loss of community to struggling to fit back into and relate to a civilian culture that doesn't understand their service experiences and values.

Program and Presentation Focus
Veterans may feel isolated and without strong support networks, leading to crisis situations in their lives, relationships and post-military careers. Outcomes can be devastating, from substance abuse and family conflicts to law enforcement troubles, unemployment, even suicide.

This program will focus on the crisis experience for veterans and resources available to help. Ex-military counselors and others will share affecting stories of hope and resilience, actionable info on accessing counseling and other services, and how to recognize and deal with the signs and symptoms of crisis. Speakers will share experiences and expertise to illuminate real-world examples of crises veterans face – and how they can be overcome.

Regional support organizations such as Returning Veterans Project will host walk-up tables and be available to provide information and resources for veterans and interested attendees. The entire program will be filmed and made accessible online at Veterans Legacies for the benefit of veterans across the country. A second Strong for Veterans program focusing on Post-Traumatic Stress is tentatively scheduled for May or June, 2015.

DETAILED EVENT & SPEAKER INFORMATION
- January 13th, 2015 – Stanford Theater, Tiger Woods Center at Nike World Headquarters
- 3:00 p.m., Rotunda open – meet participating organizations
- 4:00 p.m., Program followed by a reception in the Rotunda
- 90-minute presentation; 45 min. Panel Presentation, 45 min. Q&A
- Filmed program will be made available online at Veterans Legacies. www.veteranslegacies.com/

EMAIL SARA.CARLSON@NIKE.COM FOR TICKETS

Presentation Speakers
- Bill Dennings – Marine. VP, Chief Information Security Officer, Nike.
- Greg Fowler – Marine. Director of Investigations, Nike.
- Sara Carlson – Navy Brat. Rotarian. Moderator
- Col Eric Hastings (Ret) – Marine. Vietnam Veteran. Co-Founder & Chair, Warriors and Quiet Waters. Featured in the documentary “Not Yet Begun to Fight.”
- Pat Slack – Army Veteran. Vietnam Veteran. Was awarded the Bronze Star. Commander, Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force.
- Gabe Russell – Sergeant Major, WAARNG. Regional Director, Federal Protective Service.
- Officer Steve Redmond – Safety Officer, Seattle PD. One of the founders of Code for Northwest.
- S SGT Eddie Black – Co-Facilitator for CADRE Program. Resilience Coordinator for Oregon Army National Guard.
- Andrea Gardner, LMSW, CSWA – Coast Guard Veteran. Military Crisis Line Intervention Specialist, Lines for Life.
- Captain Matt Wegenknecht – Army Veteran. Portland Police Bureau Tactical Operations Division.
- Lt Col Bill Jacobus (Ret) – Air Force Veteran. Executive Director, US Military Endurance Sports.
- Shannon Stacy – Military Wife. Director of Family Programs, The Station Foundation.
- Josh Sweeney – Marine. Was awarded the Purple Heart. Josh is a Paralympic Gold Medalist in Sled Hockey and he received the Pat Tillman Award for Service.
- Amber Sweeney – Josh’s wife.
- Marissa Jones. Marissa’s fiancĂ©e PFC Andrew J. Keller was killed in Charkh, Afghanistan on August 15, 2012. He served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
- Jeff Keller – Andrew’s Dad.

Attending Organizations
- Warriors and Quiet Waters – www.warriorsandquietwaters.org/
- Code 4 Northwest – www.code4nw.org
- Returning Veterans Project – www.returningveterans.org/
- Lines for Life – www.linesforlife.org/
- US Military Endurance Sports – www.usmes.org/
- The Station Foundation – www.thestationfoundation.org/
- Historical Outreach Foundation – www.historicaloutreach.com/
- One Mind – www.onemind.org/

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New VA Secretary presents Bronze Star, Purple Heart to wounded hero

By Lori Newman

Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald presented Staff Sgt. Steven Tessitore the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart medal during a ceremony Dec. 19 at the Center for the Intrepid.

Brooke Army Medical Center Commander Col. Evan Renz hosted the ceremony, with Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also in attendance.

“It is heartwarming to see your family here today,” said McDonald who met with Tessitore and his family prior to the ceremony.

“Our nation is indebted to you and we are also indebted to your family as well.”

Tessitore, an infantryman with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, suffered a gunshot wound Nov. 15 while on a Quick Reaction Force in Afghanistan.

McDonald said he read Tessitore’s personal account of being wounded and the days that followed.

“He was shot in the throat, gravely wounded, and he received what he described as ‘the luckiest’ lethal wound,” McDonald said.

“By Nov. 19 he was communicating with friends, family and fellow Soldiers in Afghanistan. Apart from what that says about technology, think about what it says about our Soldiers -- about their focus, their fortitude and their skill in life-saving first aid in the direst of circumstance,” the secretary said.

“Think what it says about all the surgeons, doctors, nurses and support staff who attended to Sgt. Tessitore from the dirty, dusty streets of a faraway land to the pristine Brooke Army Medical Center.”

McDonald thanked Tessitore for his service and sacrifice, and promised that when it was time, the VA will be honored to care for him and his family, and “will provide all the services and benefits he has so richly earned.”

Tessitore received the Bronze Star for “his outstanding performance, expertise and dedication to duty which greatly contributed to the success of the unit’s mission during combat operations.”

The Bronze Star medal is the fourth highest individual military award and the ninth-highest by order of precedence in the U.S. military. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit or meritorious service in a combat zone.

The Purple Heart is the oldest U.S. military decoration in present use and the first American award made available to the common Soldier. The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hand of the enemy.

“Nobody in their right mind wants a Purple Heart, and I find myself receiving one today against everything that I have ever wanted, but I appreciate it,” Tessitore said. “The only reason I am here today to receive this medal is because of my unit and how well they prepared, so on behalf of Bravo Company 2-162 and my entire battalion, thank you very much for taking care of me and for allowing me to be here today.”

Following the ceremony McDonald and Winnefeld spoke with amputees about their care and toured the CFI and BAMC.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oregon military voters stationed overseas encouraged to submit absentee ballots early

If you are a registered Oregon voter who is stationed overseas, here is some information on voting in the general election.

There are several laws which apply to voters, and specific guidelines for absentee voting. In order to vote in U.S. elections you must be:

• A citizen of the United States on the date of the election in which you wish to vote.
• At least 18 years old on Election Day. (Some states allow 17-year olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 on or before the general election).

The absentee voting process applies to you if you are:

• An active duty member of the U.S. Uniformed Services, Merchant Marine or Activated National Guard.
• A family member (spouse or dependent).
• A U.S. citizen residing outside the U.S.

You must request your absentee ballot before Oct. 30, 2014, and your finished ballot must be received by 8:00 p.m. PST, on Nov. 4, 2014.  Keep in mind this is not a mailing deadline! You must mail your voting materials early enough to account for mail delivery times.

For Oregon-specific questions on voting and the process to request your absentee ballot, visit http://www.fvap.gov/oregon.  Here, you can also find links to review Oregon’s absentee voting guidelines, review the state’s election website, and find local election officials. You can also check the status of your submitted ballot.

If you are from another state, visit http://www.fvap.gov/military-voter, and click on your home state.  Keep in mind, each state has specific local and regional laws governing absentee voting and deadlines for submitting ballots.


For more information on military members registering to vote, returning ballots, or other questions about voting, visit http://www.fvap.gov/military-voter/overview.