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Vanguard Bde transfers authority to 172nd Infantry Bde

Multi-National Division – Dec. 26, 2008 - Center PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, transferred authority to the 172nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team during a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Kalsu Dec. 18. The 4th BCT will return to Fort Stewart, Ga., after a 15-month deployment in the area of southern Iraq approximately the size of Switzerland.

“I am proud and honored to hand-off our established Iraqi partnership to a unit with such a strong reputation,” said Col. Thomas James, commander of the 4th BCT. “Throughout our interactions with your team during our transition, it is evident that we are passing our investment to a group of professional, patriotic and dedicated Soldiers that will take our established partnership and accomplishments to a higher level.” James transferred the reins of authority to Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, based in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

“We thank our brothers and sisters in the Vanguard Brigade who have served with honor and forged partnerships that allow us to succeed and continue the uninterrupted support to the citizens of Iraq,” said Sinclair.

The 4th BCT transferred an area of responsibility very different than the one they found when arriving in October 2007. At that time, Coalition forces were fighting a counterinsurgency battle aimed at stopping the flow of weapons and terrorists into Baghdad. As al-Qaeda in Iraq and militia influence in the area have diminished, efforts shifted to reconstruction and building the capacity of local government to serve the basic needs of citizens in the area.

James gave credit for his Soldiers’ success to the extraordinary efforts of both the Iraqi Security Forces and local Sons of Iraq programs. The 4th BCT Soldiers have increasingly worked with their Iraqi Security Force counterparts in missions to keep insurgents out and reduce the sectarian violence that once plagued the area.

“Most of us in the Blackhawk Brigade left only a short time ago when a stable and prosperous Iraq seemed like a long shot,” said Sinclair. “Now, we return to a nation full of brave leaders and Soldiers, new business opportunities and people who chose a path of opportunity as new global participants.”

“To my new Iraqi friends who serve in government positions or who live and work throughout the province, the Blackhawks are humbled by your warm welcome, and we absolutely look forward to serving with you on a sometimes bumpy road to a peaceful and prosperous Iraq,” said Sinclair.


 Christmas wish -- To walk again

by Carol Megathlin |

Friday, December 19, 2008 - According to the now-playing movie "Australia," aboriginal custom forbids the speaking of a person's name after his death. No reasons were given, but I suspect U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Shurtleff understands the prohibition instinctively. And he wasn't about to explain it to a lady in a Santa hat, crouched down in front of his wheel chair.

On Dec. 10, three planes landed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, loaded with jubilant Fort Stewart soldiers returning from 14 months in Iraq. I was there as a Red Cross volunteer to welcome them back.Thousands of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers are coming home a month early, just in time for Christmas. Sgt. Shurtleff beat his buddies back by three months. On a stretcher.

That he was able to show up at Hunter to greet them was nothing short of miraculous. It's difficult to do an impromptu interview, to ask the sensitive question with 600 happy soldiers milling about the terminal. So I knelt in front of Ryan's wheelchair, took a steadying breath, and said, "What happened to you?"
"I got blown up," he said, the hint of a smile on his lips.

On Sept. 25, Ryan was driving an MRAP vehicle (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) to Forward Operating Base Inskandaria near Baghdad for maintenance. En route, a roadside bomb exploded under the vehicle. Ryan's wounds were severe. Thirty bones broken - skull cracked, jaw fractured, spleen ruptured, brain concussed, skin and muscle stripped, shrapnel everywhere. In the hollow of his throat lies a vivid purple slash. "The trach," he said. Was anyone else wounded? "Yes, ma'am, the gunner. He healed up and went back to Iraq to get revenge." The gunner is Ryan's best friend.

"And," I hesitated. "Was anyone killed?" "Yes, my squad leader," Ryan said, shifting slightly in his chair. "Can you tell me his name?" I asked. "I'm sorry, ma'am, I won't say his name."

His voice shook faintly as his eyes strayed up to my Santa hat. I think I understand a little bit. An unspoken transaction occurred inside the MRAP, forever binding the three men in a sacred covenant. It is not to be discussed lightly, especially with those who cannot claim brotherhood.

As Ryan's medic wheeled him away to join his buddies, I stood talking with his mother, Phyllis. She has been by his side every day for the past three months. She recounted the call that came into her Manchester, N.H., home that night in September. The fear and confusion, the frantic call to her daughter three hours away, the rush to Walter Reed. "Sometimes," the Army official had said, "soldiers with wounds as severe as Ryan's survive."


At 23, Ryan is Phyllis's baby, the youngest of her children. "The doctors can't believe how quickly he's healing," she said. Her voice is soft, the exhaustion and worry still evident around her eyes. "He woke up happy to be alive. They say those are the ones who make the best recovery."

Before Ryan's medic took him to join his friends, I had asked him one last question. "Will you ever walk again?" His grin reminded me that joy is not dependent on our problems but on our attitude toward them, and that this is indeed the season of miracles.
"Yes, ma'am," he said. "The docs are going to let me start walking on Christmas Day."

Carol Megathlin is a Savannah writer.

© 2008 SavannahNOW and the Savannah Morning News.

Brigade applauded
Col. Grigsby says the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team is the Army’s best fighting brigade

BY MICK WALSH - mwalsh@ledger-enquirer.com --

Col. Wayne Grigsby Jr. and Col. Pete Jones embrace during a change of command ceremony Jan. 18.
Photo by Mike Haskey / mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

Jul. 29, 2008 - One should expect a certain amount of hyperbole at events such as change of command ceremonies. In their final addresses to their troops, outgoing commanders feel an urgency to tell the soldiers that they represent the best America has to offer, that they alone gave hope to the forlorn and weary of Iraq and Afghanistan, and, as we heard several times the past few weeks, that these brave young men and women are serving in the Army’s best fighting brigade. Not simply one of the best . . . but THE best. Though the Army doesn’t acknowledge which of its 30-plus combat brigades is No. 1, that doesn’t stop leaders like Col. Wayne Grigsby Jr. from releasing their own unofficial standings. And make no mistake: the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team is alone at the top.

Sure, Grigsby was its boss over the past two years and sure it looks good on his resume to have been in command of the Army’s top group of grunts. In what was one of his shortest ever speeches July 18, on the parade ground in front of the Infantry Center, just minutes after turning over his command, Grigsby continued to cheerlead for the 3,950 members of the brigade, which last month returned from a 15-month deployment to Iraq.

Reviewing the troops that day was 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo. The division’s Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews was on hand as well. So, too, was Col. Roger Cloutier, who is the new commander of the division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. All had made the trip from Fort Stewart.  All applauded when Grigsby hung the No. 1 tag on his soldiers. Even the 3rd HBCT’s new boss, Col. Pete Jones, didn’t hesitate calling the outfit “the Army’s best brigade.”

Could it be that the 3rd really is the Army’s best?

Consider this: both Cucolo, who took command of the division on July 14, and Andrews, his top NCO, are 3rd Brigaders. Cucolo was its commander from 1999 to 2001; Andrews was the brigade’s command sergeant major during its 2005 deployment and would have been in 2007 if he hadn’t been hand-picked by then division commander Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch to become his top non-commissioned officer.
“It is a great brigade,” said Andrews, who, in 2001, was Lt. Col. J.R. Sanderson’s sergeant major with the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment.

Cucolo, who served as the Army’s chief of public affairs, was promoted to brigadier general soon after leaving command of the 3rd Brigade. So was Dan Allyn, now the chief of staff of the Multi-National Corps — Iraq.  Steve Salazer, who succeeded Allyn in 2003 after the latter took the brigade into Baghdad during the invasion, is also a brigadier general. After a year at the National Training Center in California, Salazar became the deputy commanding general of the Coalition Army Advisory Training Team in Iraq.

Cloutier is also a former member of the 3rd Brigade, having been part of Salazar’s team from 2003-05 before spending a year at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He followed then Lt. Col. John Charlton as honcho of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, which, in 2005, was moved to Fort Stewart.


General Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced July 15, 2008 that the President has made the following nomination:
Army Col. Thomas S. Vandal for promotion to the grade of brigadier general. He is currently serving as deputy commander (maneuver), 3d Infantry Division (mechanized), Fort Stewart, Ga.


Col. Pete Jones takes control of 3rd Brigade
Unit's new leader plans literally to hit the ground running
BY MICK WALSH - mwalsh@ledger-enquirer.com --

Major General Anthony Cucolo, right, passes the colors to incoming commander, Colonel Peter L. Jones, as outgoing commander Colonel Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., second from right, and Command Sgt. Major James Pearson look on Friday morning.
Photo/Mike Haskey. 07/18/08

Jul. 19, 2008 - Soldiers from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team will find out Monday morning that Col. Pete Jones is every bit the stickler for physical training that his predecessor was. "We'll lock down Kelley Hill and start running at 0630," said Jones, shortly after taking the reins of the brigade from Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. in a change of command ceremony Friday outside Infantry Hall, attended by, among others, former 3rd Brigade commander and the current 3rd Infantry Division leader, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo.

Jones, a 1985 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, spent several weeks this spring at Forward Operating Base Hammer after he learned of his assignment to the brigade, getting to know Grigsby and his staff.  "You could see pride in the faces of the soldiers," he said. "I consider it the best brigade in the entire Army." The son of a retired Army general, Jones spent the past year as Chief of Strategic Threats and the Joint Interagency Task Force with Multinational Force-Iraq in Baghdad. "I was able to keep a close eye on FOB Hammer," he said. "They did a great job closing off the extremists." He called Grigsby, who became the unit's commander in June 2006, "a warrior, a leader and a friend."

Cucolo, who succeeded Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch at the helm of the Fort Stewart-based division, served as the 3rd Brigade's boss through the summer of 2001. "I want to thank Colonel Grigsby for scheduling this ceremony on today's date," he laughed. "Today's the day my household goods are being sent to our home at Fort Stewart. Anyone who knows about that knows I'd prefer to be here than there."

Cucolo began a streak of consecutive 3rd Brigade commanders who have reached the rank of general.
Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn took the brigade to Iraq in 2003; Brig. Gen. Steven Salazar was in charge during the unit's second deployment in 2005. Is there a star in Grigsby's future? "I'm happy being a colonel," he said, deftly dodging the question.
The Maryland native is off to the Pentagon, where he'll be assigned to the Joint Staff, and where they start work early.
"I'll be reporting for work at 0450 Monday at the Pentagon parking lot."

From left, Colonel Peter L. Jones, Colonel Wayne W. Grigsby jr., and Major General Anthony Cucolo inspect the troops during the change of command ceremony Friday morning on Fort Benning's York Field. Photo/Mike Haskey. 07/18/08

The brigade's six new battalion commanders -- Lt. Col. Kenneth J. Harvey, Lt. Col. Robert P. Ashe, Lt. Col. Christopher K. Kennedy, Lt. Col. Shaun E. Tooke, Lt. Col. Todd M. Zollinger and Lt. Col. William L. Marks II -- led their new outfits during the hourlong ceremony on York Field. Most of their predecessors were also on hand. "The Army couldn't have done a better job in providing the brigade with the battalion commanders I served with in Iraq. They got it done."

"Get 'er done" has been Grigsby's mantra since taking over the brigade from Salazar on the very same field as Friday's event. "Pete's going to have a great team as well."

Colonel Wayne W. Grigsby jr. salutes Major General Anthony Cucolo after Cucolo awarded Grigsby the Legion of Merit medal in a ceremony prior to the change of command ceremony. Photo/Mike Haskey. 07/18/08

Grigsby's wife, Cynthia, who was presented the Commander's Award for Public Service by Cucolo before the official ceremony (her husband was awarded a Legion of Merit), was accompanied by two of the couple's children, Stephanie and Katherine, and grandson Aiden. Their eldest daughter, Itzy, is a student at Kennesaw State University and a sergeant in the Army Reserves. She's awaiting deployment to Afghanistan. Son Wayne III is a rising senior at Columbus State and daughter Annette is a college freshman.

Jones is married to the former Stephanie Scott Fall of Virginia Beach, Va. They have two sons -- Lincoln Edward, 9, and Christopher Thayer, 5.

The 3rd Brigade retuned for its 15-month deployment to to Iraq in June. Though nothing is official, Lynch, then the division commander, said earlier this month that elements of the division could be headed back to Iraq in late 2009. It would mean the fourth deployment for the 3rd, which has already spent more time in the war than any other Army brigade.


Lynch praises dog faced soldiers

FORT STEWART, GA (WTOC) - Posted: June 3, 2008 -The man who commands the Third Infantry Division returned home to the Coastal Empire with more than 200 soldiers Monday. Major General Rick Lynch reflected on his division's success in Iraq and the support they felt from being back at home.

The man who commands the Third Infantry Division, Major General Rick Lynch, returned home to the Coastal Empire.

"In the course of life, you get a choice between reading history and making history, and by God, we made history over the past 15 months," he said to hundreds of family members and soldiers at Fort Stewart Monday. Minutes earlier at Hunter Army Airfield, he talked about the history Third Infantry made in Iraq.

"You can't go from tyranny to democracy overnight, you don't build up an economy overnight, so it was a struggle. We started at the bottom and worked our way up, 75 percent of my soldiers lived with the population," said Lynch. "Then the turning point started, when the people of Iraq saw that the enemy had been vanquished in that area and the coalition was there to stay, they said, 'how can we help?'

More than 200 soldiers also returned home Monday.

"We had 36,000 concerned citizens. We called them the Sons of Iraq and they secured their area and that happened in September and October and I saw a drastic drop in attacks and casualties. By the time we left, there was a 90 percent reduction in civilian casualties," he continued. "That's because the local people said, 'I'm tired of violence, I'm tired of attacks.'"

Lynch paused to remember 152 soldiers killed during the deployment and honored the heroes who continued the cause.

"I've changed my definition of what a hero is," said Lynch. "We held memorial services for each soldier killed and I attended 152 services. Someone who knew them would eulogize the soldier and everyone would be crying including the division commander. After the memorial services, we all donned the battle gear and went back out to fight the insurgents. That's the definition of hero to me."

Third Infantry Division soldiers marching across Cottrell Field on Fort Stewart.But he also praised those who maintained the home front for 15 months with soldiers away.

"We love you all more than you'll ever know. God bless each and every one of you. Rock of the Marne!" he said to a thunderous applause.

Lynch praised those who maintained the home front for 15 months with soldiers away.
Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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Fallen Soldiers Honored at Fort Stewart
By Alice Massimi

Photo By: Marc Casey

May 15, 2008 - There are now more than four hundred trees planted at Warriors Walk at Fort Stewart. Each tree represents a Third Infantry Division Soldier who has lost their life in the Global War on Terrorism. Three On Your Side Military Reporter Alice Massimi was there as ten more trees were added today.

Sergeant Anthony Reosti considers it an honor. Since the start of the year he's been at every Warriors Walk ceremony. “I sing at these to dedicate the memory of each soldier and to honor my country,” explains Reosti. A veteran of three deployments, Reosti has known some of the more than four hundred soldiers from the Third Infantry Division who have made the ultimate sacrifice. “I get caught up emotional every time I hear about a father that's been lost. I pray for their family and I hope that my family will never have to go through this tragic time,” says Reosti. A wish every military family has but one that doesn't always come true.

Felicia Kirkland's brother Specialist Charles Jankowski was 24-years old when he was killed by an IED in Iraq. One of the ten trees planted Thursday is for him. “Just to be able to come back and see it and even people who don't know him can stop and honor him and know what he did for his country,” says Kirkland.

The widow of Specialist Jose Rubio is hoping no one will forget the sacrifice made her husband and all of the other heroes.
“He was a very brave man, a loving husband, and a loving father and he loved his country and he died for his country,” says his wife Jennifer holding back tears.

Soldiers Honored Today:

Pvt. Tyler J. Smith, 22, of Bethel, Maine, died March 21 at Forward Operating Base Falcon near Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when the base received indirect fire. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

Four of the Soldiers to be honored died March 24 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive on March 23. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. Their names are:

Pvt. George Delgado, 21, of Palmdale, Calif.
Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Hake, 26, of Enid, Okla.
Pfc. Andrew J. Habsieger, 22, of Festus, Mo.
Spc. Jose A. Rubio Hernandez, 24, of Mission, Texas.

Spc. Charles A. Jankowski, 24, of Panama City, Fla., died March 28, in Arab Jabour, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Sgt. Jevon K. Jordan, 32, of Norfolk, Va., died March 29 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, from wounds suffered Mar.23 in Abu Jassim, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

Sgt. Dayne D. Dhanoolal, 26, of Brooklyn, died March 31 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Benning.

Staff Sgt. Jeffery L. Hartley, 25, of Hempstead, Texas, died April 8 in Kharguliah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Benning.

Spc.William E. Allmon, 25, of Ardmore, Okla., died April 12 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.


Fort Stewart Dedicates Trees to Five Fallen Comrades
Bomb adds Five Trees to Warriors Walk

A soldier returns to his place after removing the cover from granite marker honoring a fallen soldier,
part of Thursday tree dedication. Joe Parker Jr. / Coastal Courier

April 18, 2008 - The five soldiers honored in Thursday's tree dedication ceremony at Fort Stewart were all killed in a single incident in Iraq on March 10.All were members of Delta Company, First Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division and died of wounds suffered when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb near them.

Staff Sgt. Ernesto G. Cimarrusti, 25, of Douglas, Ariz. Cimarrusti, with Co. D, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was a tanker. He joined the Army in March 2001 and arrived at Fort Stewart in August 2001.

Staff Sgt. David D. Julian, 31, of Evanston, Wyo. Julian, with Co. D, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was a tanker. He joined the Army in May 1998 and arrived at Fort Stewart in August 2005.

Cpl. Robert T. McDavid III, 29, of Starkville, Miss. McDavid, with Co. D, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was a tanker. He joined the Army in January 2006 and arrived at Fort Stewart in June 2006.

Cpl. Scott A. McIntosh, 26, of Houston, Texas. McIntosh, with Co. D, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, joined the Army in March 2003 and arrived at Fort Stewart in July 2003.

Sgt. 1st. Class Shawn M. Suzch, 32, of Hilltown, Pa. Suzch, with Co. D, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was a tank commander. He joined the Army in August 1994 and arrived at Fort Stewart in June 2002.
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The addition of a memorial tree for each of these fallen Soldiers will bring the total number of trees on Warriors Walk to 398. These Eastern Red Bud trees planted on Warriors Walk serve as a living monument to the great men and women of the U.S. Army, the National Guard, and the 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers who were immortalized by their sacrifices. Thursday's ceremony honored these soldiers:

Widow Iliana Cimarrusti and daughter Vivianayn attach flower to tree memorializing their husband and father during Thursday's dedication on Warriors Walk.
Joe Parker Jr. / Coastal Courier


Iliana Cimarrusti, 26, right, places a rose at the root of a tree at Fort Stewart on Thursday that is dedicated to her husband, Staff Sgt. Ernesto Cimarrusti, who was killed in Iraq with four other soldiers in his unit during a foot patrol. Their daughter, Vivianaiy, 6, watches.
Hunter McRae/Savannah Morning News

Col. Todd Buchs, Fort Stewart garrison commander, briefly eulogized each tanker. Cimarrusti, a tank commander, loved the Army and his job in armor, but dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot. SSG and Mrs. Cimarrusti made their home in Glennville with their daughter Vivianayn, 6, and the sergeant is buried in the veterans' cemetery there. Ms. Cimarrusti said local people "have been just wonderful to me, everyone is so good," and she appreciates the small town environment. She felt a special kinship with her husband because they had both joined the Army together.

Tiffany McDavid, 29, and her mother Ginger Thornhill, 57, left, weep for Tiffany's husband, Cpl. Robert McDavid III, as a tree is dedicated to him at Fort Stewart on Thursday. McDavid was killed in Iraq with four other soldiers in his unit during a foot patrol. Hunter McRae/Savannah Morning News

McDavid loved tanks and had played with toy tanks as a small child. He loved the outdoors and Nascar racing.

McIntosh was a Texan with five years of service and spent much of his free time on church work. He had just re-enlisted for seven years.

Suzch was a man who set and achieved goals, such as joining the Army and marrying his wife. He had recently returned to Iraq from leave, determined to lead his soldiers to a successful and safe homecoming.

Julian, a veteran of deployments to Macedonia, Korea and three tours in Iraq, had a daughter born in December.

Buchs said, "So long as we have soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice in this righteous fight, we will have a place for their trees here at Warrior's Walk. Young and old, soldier and civilian alike will walk these paths. They will pause and read their names and reflect on the sacrifice they made for freedom."

http://www.coastalcourier.com/news/article/6694/      http://savannahnow.com/node/482162


Gilbert Wins MacArthur Leadership Award
By Spc. Ben Hutto
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd InfantryDivision

Capt. Brian Gilbert, from Boise, Idaho, commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, speaks with a local leader following a security meeting in Tameem, Iraq, March 2. Gilbert will receive the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership award in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon on May 13. 

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – April 6, 2008 - Capt. Brian Gilbert, the commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, will receive the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership award in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon on May 13. The award is given annually to the top company-grade officers who demonstrate the ideals of duty, honor and service to country. Gilbert, a native of Boise, Idaho, is one of 14 active duty officers who will receive the award.

“I was extremely surprised when I found out I would be receiving the award,” Gilbert said. “I didn’t think I had a chance. It is very humbling to be one of the recipients.” As surprised as Gilbert is to receive the award, his subordinates are not.

“I think he is very deserving of the award,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Bell, executive officer of Company D. “He is a great commander. He never loses his cool and is very knowledgeable. He is one of the most technically and tactically proficient officers I’ve ever been around.”

Bell, from San Antonio, Texas, credits Gilbert with many of the lessons he has learned during his current deployment. “He has always been available when I have had questions,” Bell said. “When he went home on leave, I had to try and fill his shoes; ‘try’ being the key word. I never realized how hard he worked until I had to do it. I have the utmost respect for him.” First Sgt. James Woody, from Portsmouth, Va., has worked side by side with Gilbert since he took over Company D in September.

“When I found out I was coming to Company D, I was excited,” he said. “Everyone I talked to told me how lucky I was to have him as a commander and they were right. We talk about everything and line up our plans. He is great about giving all his leaders the task and purpose, and letting them make their decisions.” Woody described how Gilbert directed his company on March 26 in Jisr Diyala, when they were ambushed during a combat patrol.

“He was on the ground with his troops within 15 minutes of them being ambushed,” Woody said. “He was directing five different elements at one time. To listen to it over the radio was amazing. It says something to your troops when their commander is there with them on the ground.” For six hours, Gilbert and his men fought criminals through the streets of Jisr Diyala. At the end of the engagement, 11 enemy fighters were dead and 24 were detained. Three of Gilbert’s men sustained minor injuries and returned to duty. “In my opinion, if you have troops in contact, your place as a commander is out there with them,” Gilbert said. “That is really the only way you can assess what is going on.”

Bell chuckled when he heard Gilbert’s explanation. “Capt. Gilbert is born for this fight,” he said. Woody said what makes his commander stand out is his ability to listen. “He is very low-key person, but he has the ability to listen and take in information,” he said. “He has been very successful with the local leaders here. He says what he means and means what he says. He never makes promises he can’t keep ... He is just as effective dealing with local leaders as he is in a kinetic operation.”

Bell said all the Company D Soldiers like and respect Gilbert. “Everyone loves him,” Bell said. “He has proven to them time and time again that he will make the right decision. He has always been fair when making decisions on rewards and punishments. “ That respect and admiration has translated into performance, said Woody.

“Our Soldiers have remained professional throughout this deployment,” Woody said. “The locals know we are operating in Jisr Diyala. We treat people with respect. The Soldiers have carried themselves like the professionals they are at all times when we have gone outside the wire. All of local leaders have noticed that. Capt. Gilbert is constantly complimented by them for that.” In turn, Gilbert credited his Soldiers’ performance for the award. “Your men make you who you are as a leader,” he said. “It really isn’t hard to be a company commander when you have Soldiers like we do.”

Gilbert’s commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., from Prince George’s County, Md., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, congratulated him on winning the award. Grigsby won the same award in 1987. “He told me he was proud of me,” Gilbert said. “It meant a lot coming from him. As a former winner of the award, it helped set him up for success. I hope I can emulate him and his success.” Grigsby said Gilbert is deserving of the award. “Brian Gilbert is a combat leader, who always leads from the front and has the mental toughness to deal with the complexities of a COIN (counterinsurgency) fight,” Grigsby said. “Simply put, he is the best.”

The 1-15 Inf. Regt., currently attached to the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, is assigned to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.


Bravery Under Fire: Remembering Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith
5 Years After Earning the Medal of Honor

Task Force Marne Soldiers, who organized a remembrance ceremony on April 4 for Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, stand in the courtyard where Smith gave his life in defense of others five years ago. For his selfless service, Smith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2005.
Date Taken: April 4th, 2008
Location: Camp Victory, IQ
Photographer: Sgt. Jasmine Chopra
302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment



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Married Troops Can Live Together in Iraq

By BRADLEY BROOKS and RUSS BYNUM BAGHDAD (AP) — When American soldiers get off duty in Iraq, the men usually return to their quarters, the women to theirs. But Staff Sgt. Marvin Frazier gets to go back to a small trailer with two pushed-together single beds that he shares with his wife.

In a historic but little-noticed change in policy, the Army is allowing scores of husband-and-wife soldiers to live and sleep together in the war zone — a move aimed at preserving marriages, boosting morale and perhaps bolstering re-enlistment rates at a time when the military is struggling to fill its ranks five years into the fighting.
"It makes a lot of things easier," said Frazier, 33, a helicopter maintenance supervisor in the 3rd Infantry Division. "It really adds a lot of stress, being separated. Now you can sit face-to-face and try to work out things and comfort each other."

Long-standing Army rules barred soldiers of the opposite sex from sharing sleeping quarters in war zones. Even married troops lived only in all-male or all-female quarters and had no private living space. But in May 2006, Army commanders in Iraq, with little fanfare, decided that it is in the military's interest to promote wedded bliss. In other words: What God has joined together, let no manual put asunder.

"It's better for the soldiers, which means overall it's better for the Army," said Command Maj. Mark Thornton of the 3rd Infantry.

Military analysts said this is the first war in which the Army even gave the idea any serious consideration — a reflection not only of the large number of couples sent to war this time, but also of the way the fighting has dragged on and strained marriages with repeated 12- and 15-month tours of duty. While some couples were also sent into the 1991 Gulf War, the fighting was over before their living arrangements became an issue, said Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain who studies how military policies affect women for the nonprofit Women's Research and Education Institute. More than 10,000 couples are in the Army. Exactly how many are serving in the war zone, and how many of those are living together, are not clear. The Army said it does not keep track.

But Frazier and his wife, Staff Sgt. Keisha Frazier, are among about 40 married Army couples living together on "Couples Row" at Camp Striker, which is on the outskirts of Baghdad and is one of more than 150 U.S. military camps in Iraq. Similarly, a Couples Row opened in October at nearby Camp Victory, though it has trailers for only seven of the many couples who have requested them.

Husbands and wives are still prohibited from public displays of affection, under the same strict regulations that govern unmarried men and women in uniform. Holding hands and kissing, whether on duty or in the chow hall, are against the rules. "It's rough on marriages when, over the course of years, you don't see each other," Manning said. "It would make sense, certainly from a morale perspective and for the Army, to try to preserve marriages." The only downside of married soldiers sharing sleeping quarters, she said, would be an increased risk of pregnancies.

John Pike, director of the military think tank Globalsecurity.org., said: "I think they are looking under the sofa cushions for anything they can do to improve retention. They spend a lot of money getting these people trained up."

After spending the first five months of their 15-month deployment on separate bases in tents with up to 15 other soldiers, all of the same sex, the Fraziers prize the small degree of privacy and intimacy they gained after moving in together in October. Still newlyweds, Sgt. Amanda Christoper, 25, and her husband, Sgt. Matthew Christopher, 22, said the change in rules has been a blessing for their nearly year-old marriage, four months of which has been spent in Iraq. Both work at the military hospital in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, where Amanda is a licensed practical nurse and Matthew is in patient administration, which can include mortuary duties.

"Some of the stuff I've seen, if she weren't here, I'd be a lot less cool about it," Matthew said as the pair sat inside their potpourri-scented living quarters — a mere 120 square feet, with a TV set atop two black lockboxes, an impressive collection of stuffed animals and a Chicago Bears plaque. "There was one night in particular, I saw something and I just thought, 'Oh, God.' I came in here, talked to her for a few minutes, went outside, took a deep breath and I was good to go." Because of the prohibition on public displays of affection, the Christophers declined even to put their arms around each other for a photo. "It's not like in the civilian world where if you see your boyfriend at work you can just go, 'Oh, hi, Babe,'" Amanda said. "We're in uniform, and we have to maintain a professional demeanor at work."

Capt. Jessica Hegenbart and her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Brian Hegenbart, had to live separately for two months when they arrived at Camp Striker because all the trailers for couples were full and were mostly allotted by rank. They finally moved in together in June. "It's nice to come back to our trailer. I just feel bad for all those guys who don't have that to come home to every day," said Brian, a 32-year-old Black Hawk helicopter pilot. Living together, however, doesn't stop the Hegenbarts from worrying about each other's safety. Sometimes, it can make it harder. "Because we're so close out here, we know to the hour when our loved one's supposed to be home from a mission," Jessica said. "So if they're late, our brains starts going to that place where you start to wonder what went wrong. That happens more often than I'd like to admit."

Associated Press writer Russ Bynum reported from Savannah, Ga. AP writer Bradley Brooks reported from Baghdad.


Click on title to read Gen. McCaffrey's report
After Action Report—General Barry R McCaffrey USA (Ret)

General Barry McCaffrey visited Iraq in December of 2007. During his visit he spent a great deal of time with several soldiers from 3ID and 1-30 IN, where he was honored to present awards for valor and Purple Heart medals to three young soldiers, as well as receive update briefings on their counter-insurgency operations south of Baghdad from MG Rick Lynch, CG 3ID (Mech), Honorary President. General McCaffrey takes pride in being the 30th Infantry Regiment, Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, and is always happy and willing to support 3ID, 1-30 IN and The Watch on the Rhine whenever possible.
Enclosed are pictures of General McCaffrey pinning these Purple Heart medals on the soldiers, spending time with them at Camp Victory, and General McCaffrey and General Lynch at Task Force Marne Headquarters at Camp Victory. Also enclosed is a copy of his Iraq report.

MG Lynch and Gen McCaffrey


1st BCT cases colors, bids farewell to Ramadi
Spc. Ricardo Branch  1st BCT Public Affairs

1BCT Cases Colors Mar 20, 2008

Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division held a casing of the colors ceremony March 20 at the Morale Welfare and Recreation building on Camp Ramadi. The ceremony marked the end of the deployment for the 1st BCT as well as a transfer of authority to Regimental Combat Team 1, who will be controlling the Ramadi are after the brigade’s departure. “Today is a very important day, today is a day the members of the 1st Brigade thought would never happen,” said 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Ground Combat Element Commander Brig. Gen. Richard Mills. “After 15 long, hard months they are going home with the mission accomplished, and many thought they’d never go home on a day where there is security in Al Anbar province.” 

He said security came from the brilliant performance by the Soldiers and members of this brigade. “This unit was brilliant on the battlefield; within days of taking over, they were in urban combat in a tough fight in the city of Ramadi,” Mills said. “Their brilliant performance was signified by their continued success against the enemy.”
1st BCT commander Col. John Charlton echoed the word of security along with the brigade’s other goal for their mission in Ramadi. “When we arrived here last year, we had two goals: one was to clear Ramadi of terrorists in eight weeks, and the other was to make this area secure enough, so we would be the last brigade combat team to serve in central Anbar,” he said.

Col. John Charlton, Commander 1BCT
Click here to read Col Charlton's transcript

Charlton said the brigade didn’t achieve their goals like they planned because it took them only six weeks instead of eight, and the success was in large part due to the partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces. “We have always said that together we can do anything, and we proved that,” he said. “This effort did not come without a cost. During our deployment, 29 Coalition troops, 13 Iraqi Army Soldiers, and 59 Iraqi Policemen paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

In January 2007, downtown Ramadi laid in ruins. Half of the buildings were destroyed and just about every structure in Ramadi showed signs of battle damage. The insurgents had such a stranglehold on this city; they conducted a parade in downtown Ramadi, declaring it the capital city for Al Qaeda in Iraq. “Central Al Anbar averaged between 30-to-35 attacks a day,” Charlton said. “Ramadi was easily the most dangerous city in Iraq, if not the entire world.” Today, the city of Ramadi and Al Anbar province have been reborn. In a little over a year, the city has gone from the most dangerous, to one of the safest in Iraq.

All of the major damage has been repaired and only a few small signs of the fighting remain. The electrical system has been completely restored and hundreds of water and sewer pipes have been fixed. Children play outside and go to school and the economy is growing at a massive rate in the city. Charlton credits the success of Anbar to the people standing up against the oppression and violence brought about by terrorists. “To understand how this happened, we must start with the tribes of Anbar,” he said. “Starting in 2006, and led by Sheik Sittar Abu Risha and many other brave sheiks, the sons of Anbar stood in defiance of the terrorists and fought back to protect their land, their families and their way of life.”

Many including Sheik Sittar gave their lives for the cause of freedom, which inspired the people to join the Iraqi Security Forces. “They joined by the thousands,” Charlton said. “Tribes of Anbar formed a close friendship with the Coalition Forces and together we fought the terrorists.” Terrorists received no support from the people in the province after the tribes joined with the coalition. The combined efforts of the partnership got rid of the hold Al Qaeda had in the province.
Charlton said, “Without question it was the tribal leaders of Al Anbar who created the “Awakening” that is now spreading across the country and giving hope for a united and peaceful Iraq.”

He went on to talk about the Coalition and Iraqi Security Force units, which helped take back Ramadi and the countryside from terrorists before reminiscing about the strong emotions this deployments has caused. “This has been a tremendous experience for the Raider Brigade, but we leave here with mixed feelings,” Charlton said. “It’s a happy day for us because the Soldiers will soon go home to their families after a tough 15-month combat tour. For many of these Soldiers it’s their third deployment to Iraq and they and their families have sacrificed much, however, it’s also a sad day because we leave behind so many of our Iraqi friends.

He added, “We all have developed many close friendships with all of the Iraqis that we’ve worked with and it will be tough to say goodbye. We know that our friends will be in good hands … and that the close partnership between the Iraqis and Coalition Forces will grow even stronger.”


Lynch: 3rd Infantry Division marks fifth year of war in Iraq
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch | Monday, March 17, 2008

The Marne Division that led the initial attack into Baghdad is now leading stability efforts for the Iraqi people. BAGHDAD - Five years ago, the first unit to cross the Kuwait-Iraq border was the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 7th Calvary Regiment. The days following were the most rapid advance in the 3rd Infantry Division history, outpacing even the World War II invasions of Sicily when the Division advanced 100 miles in 12 days, and southern France when the Division advanced 400 miles in a month.

By March 31, 2003, the 3rd Infantry Division was within 50 miles of Baghdad. The first 10 days of April 2003 were the most crucial days of this initial campaign, and the Division became famous for its brave "Thunder Runs." Our First Brigade Combat Team seized the Saddam International Airport from the Republican Guard after 12 hours of heavy fighting. Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith of the 11th Engineer Battalion was killed while manning a .50 caliber machine gun, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. By April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell, and the 3rd Infantry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation - the first awarded since World War II.

The 3rd Infantry Division returned to Iraq in 2005. But rather than overthrow Saddam Hussein and his regime, the Division oversaw the transition from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's interim government to a freely and fairly elected representative Iraqi government. During this deployment, "dog face soldiers" protected the new Iraqi Transitional National Assembly which wrote the first popularly-ratified constitution for Iraq and oversaw the transition of Iraq to a government democratically elected by the Iraqi people of all ethnic and religious persuasions in a free and fair election.

When the President announced the surge in January 2007, the 3rd Infantry Division answered the call again. The Division Headquarters deployed six months ahead of schedule, and the Second and Third Brigade Combat Teams accelerated their deployment time lines. The Division stood up Multi-National Division/Center to focus on Baghdad's southern belts and the southern provinces. Attacks in this area decreased from over 25 per day in March 2007 to under two attacks per day in March 2008, and civilian casualties are down 75 percent.

Now, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers no longer "commute to work." They live in forward patrol bases with the Iraqi people. They not only secure them, but work hand-in-hand to provide essential services and a stable way of life. They are focused on all lines of operation equally. For the first time in the division's history, Operation Marne Piledriver will kick off next month to solely focus on the capacity building of the Iraqi security forces, Iraqi government, and Iraq's economic stability. The advantage of the division's multiple deployments to Iraq is that progress is evident.

Unlike the Iraqis of 2003 who lived in fear, the will the Iraqis of 2008 has turned against the insurgency and toward freedom. Iraqi security forces share the cost of defending their country, currently suffering casualties at a rate three times that of coalition forces. Iraqis are truly fighting for their country. Our soldiers are working at the local level - building schools, health clinics and governance centers. Sectarian divides have gone away and Sunnis and Shiites are working together to seek legitimacy at the most grass roots level.

The division's current campaign plan focuses completely on capacity building. A year ago I spent my time on large combat outposts planning major kinetic operations - operations requiring lethal force as the main effort. Now I walk through the local markets, visit fish farms and spend my time eating with and engaging the Iraqi people. I always tell the soldiers they have a choice in life - they can either read history or make history, and dog face soldiers are making history every day. They have set the standard for operating in a counterinsurgency environment.

When the division returned in 2007, it unfurled its colors on Iraqi soil for an unprecedented third time in four years. The Marne Division led the initial attack into Baghdad and is now leading stability efforts for the Iraqi people. At the heart of the division's history is its soldiers. They are doing amazing work every day.
Rock of the Marne!

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch is the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, now deployed in Iraq. Captain Allie Weiskopf Chase contributed to this column.


Local Shul (Temple) supports the troops
By Lois Goldrich

Nearly 100 volunteers turned out to stuff care packages for soldiers in Iraq.

Noah Herskovitz, a 22-year-old combat engineer in the U.S. army’s 3rd Infantry Division, now stationed outside Baghdad, felt a bit uncomfortable receiving so many more care packages than the other members of his unit. Nearly 100 volunteers turned out to stuff care packages for soldiers in Iraq.

"He told me he was getting self-conscious," said his mother, Linda Herskovitz, a member of Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, who has had sons serve in both the U.S. and Israeli military. "On one hand, I was proud of the Jewish community for reaching out to Jewish soldiers; on the other, I felt that it wasn’t right that the others weren’t getting anything. They’re doing the same job." To rectify the situation, she resolved to send a package to each of the 77 soldiers in her son’s unit. But after she mentioned her plan to shul president Pam Scheininger early this year, another idea took root, leading to participation by the entire synagogue.

On Sunday, Netivot Shalom congregants, together with student volunteers from the Frisch School as well as other members of the community — adults and children — gathered at the synagogue to assemble what Scheininger described as "substantial" care packages.
"We even have extras left over," she said, noting that in a short time, the volunteers collected or bought large quantities of candy, cookies, powdered drink mix, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, and basic tools.

Noah Herskovitz at work, as the gunner in a tank unit.

"We were glad to find a substantive way to support the brave soldiers serving in Iraq," said Weininger. "The personal connection stemming from the fact that one of our congregant’s sons is in the unit makes the project even more meaningful. The response from the congregation and the community at large has been overwhelming." "I’m still smiling," said Herskovitz, noting that some 100 volunteers turned out to help stuff the packages. "I was very surprised at the numbers, and degree of support, we received." In addition to filling boxes, volunteers, mostly children, wrote letters and drew pictures for the soldiers.

Congregant Richard Dukas said that it was only when packing simple items like batteries that he began to "feel a connection to the soldiers. I got a chill," he said. "We usually think of them as nameless and faceless." By pure chance, said Herskovitz, her son Noah — while not at Sunday’s event — had just been home for a two-week visit, during which he was invited, as a Frisch graduate, to address seniors at the school. "They were interested to know why an Orthodox Jewish boy joined the army," she said, adding that the talk went so well, the Frisch administration and parents association began to encourage participation in her care-package project.

"Originally it was an internal project," she said. "We posted a notice on TeaneckShuls when we realized the scope of what would be involved in filling 77 boxes." Not only did the posting help bring in the required items, but "I received calls from people who said they wanted to help support us financially," she said. "I’m overwhelmed by how many people seemed to get excited about his project."

The project "snowballed after Noah’s visit to Frisch," she added, resulting not only in additional supplies but in more than 10 additional volunteers for Sunday’s event. "We originally conceived of the project as a youth activity," said Herskovitz, pointing out that Noah had mentioned how moved the soldiers were by letters and drawings from children. "They have such a beautiful, innocent way of expressing themselves," she said. While the project ultimately became a social action event, targeted to the whole shul, a special room was reserved for young children, who were encouraged to write letters and draw pictures.

"I think it is important to write to the soldiers because they are in the middle of the war, and if we send them nice pictures and letters it will help take their minds off of the bad things," said Josh Dukas, age 8, of Teaneck. "We put one letter in every package," said Herskovitz. The boxes will be picked up by the post office and delivered to an APO address, awaiting shipment to Iraq. "Noah isn’t telling the other soldiers about it," she said. "He can’t wait to see their faces when the packages arrive."

Noah will be in Iraq for another year, said his mother, indicating that it was likely that the members of the unit would appreciate receiving another package before then. "We may do this again in the fall," she said. "I hope we do it again," said Scheininger. "It’s a great feeling. The shul never did anything like this before. It was an opportunity to look outside of ourselves to see and address the needs of other groups. It says a lot about the shul that the idea was so enthusiastically received."

"More than anything, the brave men and women serving in Iraq need to know that the people back home are thinking about them and care about them," said Herskovitz. "Because the number of Jewish soldiers in Iraq is so small, the American Jewish community has been able to shower them with many packages, which is wonderful, but it made me realize how important it is to show our support of all the soldiers—regardless of background."
Copyright 2008 - The Jewish Standard


Soldier in Iraq sends message to mom in St. Pete
By: Kathryn Bursch

St. Petersburg, Florida – The troop surge in Iraq is working. Compared to 10 months ago, there are fewer attacks on U.S. forces and more cooperation from the Iraqi people. That’s the word coming from U.S. Army officials in Baghdad Wednesday during satellite interviews arranged by the military. And one of the people pushing that message is Major Alayne Conway.

Maj. Alayne Conway

”We’re making progress every day,” says Conway, a public affairs officer for the 3rd Infantry Division. “It’s tough being over here, but the soldiers are doing great, morale is high, so we want to make sure the folks back home know that.” Conway, whose mother Mary Hoover lives in St. Petersburg, is based at Camp Victory in Baghdad. Her job is to help journalists connect with military leaders and soldiers in the field.

“We do media events and I get to facilitate those, but a lot of times I’m either chained to the desk or chained to the phone.”
And even though her days are busy, Conway says there are lighter moments. One photograph she e-mailed Tampa Bay’s 10 News shows her at her desk wearing a tiara for her birthday celebration.

And unlike most soldiers living in outposts, Camp Victory offers some advantages. When weather gets warmer there’s even some pool time. “I like to hang by the pool for a couple hours on Sunday before I go into work and collect my thoughts and get ready for the week ahead,” says Conway.

Conway is nearing the end of her 15-month deployment to Iraq and like most soldiers, she says it’s difficult to be away from home. This week she’ll miss her mom’s birthday, but she was able to send this message via Tampa Bay’s 10 News.
“She’s the best mom, my heart goes out to her and I love her very much.”
Kathryn Bursch, Tampa Bay's 10 News
© Copyright 2005-2008 WTSP-TV.

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Boxes back troops, win Iraqi fans

by TERRY DICKSON, The Times-Union

ST. SIMONS ISLAND-  March 9, 2008 - Wednesday morning, a few lodge members loaded an SUV with boxes of goods they had collected for the troops in Iraq. John Winslett Sr. and Jack Renfroe hauled out ramen noodles, Carmex lip balm, pencils, snacks, batteries, candy and enough toothpaste to supply a convention of TV news anchors. But most telling was the 144 rolls of Charmin toilet tissue. Other brands would have worked, so long as they were, Renfroe said, "un-John Wayne toilet paper.''
Charmin is a brand said to be squeezable. As a rule toilet paper commercials aren't like those for pickup trucks. Who wants toilet paper that's rugged and durable? Dependable? Of course, but in a gentle sort of way, even if you're an Army Ranger.

No man ever got a call on the cell phone from his wife saying, "Could you pick up some milk and bread on the way home? And we're out of toilet paper. Pick up a four pack, but be sure it's built Ford tough.'' This was the third time Golden Isles Lodge No. 707 F&AM had collected and shipped goods off to the troops, Renfroe said. This time it's for the 1/30th Infantry battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division.

It was formerly the 3/15th Infantry, whose most famous member was Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War II. Murphy went on to be a successful rancher and actor after the war. His name lived on at military training posts long after his death in 1971. If anyone did anything flamboyant in training, such as standing up and firing at a target, a sergeant would growl, "Get your -- down. You ain't Audie Murphy.'' Even with a Medal of Honor around his neck, one imagines Audie Murphy would have appreciated the qualities of Charmin and similar products.

While the 1/30th is in Iraq, Capt. Eric Motzenbecker commands the unit's rear detachment. He already did a tour in Iraq. This is likely among the last shipments the 1/30th will receive. They're due to come home this summer, and it takes a long time to get the stuff there, Motzenbecker said. Motzenbecker stressed that troops are well-supplied, especially at the battalion level, but shipments offer "comfort from home.'' Some units are on small patrol bases and those aren't as well-stocked; it's there that goods from home are most appreciated, he said. Bigger camps have plenty of beverage choices, but the powdered Gatorade that Lodge 707 sent will let the soldiers at smaller bases enjoy some sports drinks, Motzenbecker said. "And everyone likes the newspapers and magazines, like Sports Illustrated and Maxim,'' he said.

Renfroe made a huge sacrifice in sending his Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. By the way, Sports Illustrated must be going through hard times. They didn't have enough swimwear for all the models this year. By the time they get to Iraq, some of the magazines will be old enough to qualify for a doctor's waiting room, but they're still welcome, as are novels and DVDs, Motzenbecker said. 

The lodge also sent stuffed animals and candy, but not for the troops. They hand it out to Iraqi children, especially in new areas. "There are always a lot of kids,'' Motzenbecker said. "They're always the first ones to approach. It's something to win over the hearts and minds.'' Kids' hearts and minds can be won with comforts far from their own uncomfortable homes.

(912) 264-0405
© Copyright The Florida Times-Union.


U.S. General Dreams of Austin Retirement
Commander of 20,000-soldier task force
says he sees progress in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch commands 3rd Infantry Division.

By Robert W. Gee
Saturday, February 16, 2008

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 20,000-soldier Task Force Marne and an architect of the troop surge strategy in Iraq, likes to joke that when he grows up, he's going to open a bar in Austin. The growing-up part is a joke, but not the bar. It will be called the Black Lab Inn, he said, in a nod to his favorite breed of dog. "I've already got the sign made," he said. "I've just got to find a place to hang it."

Lynch, who has garnered attention for reducing violence and sectarian tension across a broad swath of south-central Iraq, grew up in Ohio but spent 14 years stationed at Fort Hood and met his wife, Sarah, when he was a young captain in Killeen. "I have no intent to leave (the Army) until the nation doesn't need me anymore," Lynch said. Come time to retire, though, he pictures himself on 160 acres in the Hill Country. Somewhere around Wimberley would be nice, he said. "We're going to have a whole bunch of Labrador retrievers. We're going to have horses. We're going to have cattle just to say we have cattle. I wouldn't know what to do with them."

Lynch, 52, recently marked 30 years in the Army and is in the midst of his second tour in Iraq. He commands the 3rd Infantry Division.
His office was once an Iraqi mint and was later converted to an Iraqi army barracks and then into a U.S. Army barracks. Near his desk stands a life-sized stuffed toy black Labrador, which reminds him of his two female Labs back home, 14-year-old Harley and 5-year-old Maggie.

The area he controls, like much of Iraq, has witnessed a steady improvement in security, even if services, such as electricity, are slow to recover. Attacks on U.S. troops have decreased from an average of 25 a day to three a day. Civilian casualties have diminished by 75 percent to one a day, according to Army statistics. Lynch attributes the improvements to the troop surge strategy of aggressively pursuing insurgents and moving U.S. forces into patrol bases in neighborhoods to maintain security gains.

Newly formed volunteer paramilitary forces, predominantly Sunni Arabs allied with the U.S. military, have also contributed to the downturn in violence, patrolling neighborhoods and warning of insurgent activity, he said. But in the same breath, he called the progress "tenuous." On Monday, the day he spoke, bombers killed 22 Iraqis, underscoring the challenges.

Lynch is scheduled to return home this summer – he lives outside 3rd Division headquarters in Fort Stewart, Ga. – and is awaiting his next assignment. His daughter, Susan, 24, is a graduate of Texas State University in San Marcos, and is now an aspiring actor in Hollywood. His son, Lucas, 22, is a part-time college student, part-time bartender in Georgia. Maj. Gen. Lynch said his first job was busing tables at age 14. He was promoted to grill cook and later painted houses. "What my parents taught me is a work ethic," he said.
His parents still live in Hamilton, Ohio, as does his half-brother, Jim Lynch.
"Ohio is great. But there's winter. I don't do winters anymore," the General said. "You got to love Texas. You got to love the people. You got to love the climate."


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In addition to deadlines, several other factors must be considered when sending mail downrange. For example, each country has customs regulations that apply to all incoming mail, pertaining to everything from food items to reading materials. Furthermore, military units may also have additional restrictions concerning incoming mail imposed by unit commanders relative to size and weight to ensure logistics support can handle the heavy mail load. Finally, all packages and mail must now be addressed to individual service members as required by U.S. Depart­ment of Defense regulations.

Free Packing Materials from the US Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is offering free packing materials to spouses
and families of military members who are deployed overseas.

To take advantage of this service call:1-800-610-8734 and press 1 (for English &
then 3 for an operator), alternate direct line 1-800-527-1950 and they will send you
free boxes, packing materials, tape and mailing labels. These products are to be
used to mail care packages to service members. Make sure you ask for CARE KIT 4.

You will  receive:
5 - 7"x7"x6" boxes
5 - 12"x12"x8" boxes
1 - Roll of tape
15 custom forms
10 address labels
5 - tyvek bags (water proof and non tear)
Call this number to order: 1-800-610-8734
(Press 1 for English and then 3 for operator).

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