2LT Daniel A. Vidny
A Company, STB, 42d ID
Richfield Springs, NY
Since 1863, Soldiers of the U.S. Army Signal Corps have provided commanders with the communication assets necessary to coordinate fires, movement and logistics in order to achieve mission success. Although the technology has advanced light years over the past century and a half, from the semaphore flags to mobile satellite communication networks, it has always been the responsibility of Army Signaliers to be the “Voice of Command”, enabling commanders to effectively direct their units and control the tempo of battle. Soldiers from C Company of the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion continue this tradition, applying their training and personal expertise to the task of managing the Brigade Headquarters’ communications nerve center.
Arriving on July 21st, the Signaliers of C Company immediately began establishing the foundation for the brigade network. Commo soldiers of newly arriving battalions into the training area were able to coordinate their resources and set up radio, satellite and internet communications without delay.
C Company’s acting first sergeant, Sergeant First Class Ronald Stabler, attributes the unit’s success to the hard work and efforts of the Soldiers and their enthusiasm. Although he and the company commander, 1LT Robert Rindfleisch, have successfully organized the unit for their current mission, the original task of the company was entirely different.
“Before we were Signal, the company was a Combat Engineer unit”, SFC Stabler said telling the story of how the C Company Signaliers came to be. “In 2005 we got reclassified and received new equipment. The JNN (Joint Network Node) we were issued was set up a year before any of our operators were actually certified to use it.”
The company continues to receive, train on and instruct other Soldiers in the use of new communications equipment as it gets fielded. Operators often drive out to different battalions and correct technical issues as well as share their experience with them, developing the brigade’s signal expertise as a whole.
“Whenever we have the opportunity to bring out and practice on any equipment we do it,” says SFC Stabler. “If there is an event, then we turn it into a training event.”
SFC Stabler also credited the unit’s accomplishments to their previous company commander. “The signal company would not be as successful as it is if it weren’t for the support and guidance of 1LT Kyle Slocum.”
The Signal Corps motto Pro Patria Vigilans, “Watchful for the Country”, reflects how the C Company and other 27th Brigade Signaliers continuously monitor and support the main effort, allowing the brigade to maintain a high level of coordination and efficiency throughout its large scale operation. The Soldiers of C Company remained with the 27th Brigade Headquarters as support till August 12th.
If you need something blown up, the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion’s engineers are just the people to call.
“We actually made it rain yesterday,” said 1st Lt. Justin Simon, the executive officer of A Company, 27 BSTB.
Simon said his engineers had used C4 cratering charge in a hole filled with water, and the effect had been impressive.
“The extra tampening force (from the water) created twice the size hole we’d normally get,” he said. The water, along with several hundred pounds of earth, had been blown into the air by the powerful charge, and created a brief, muddy rain shower on its way back down.
The A Company engineers can blow large craters in roads or airfields, rendering them unusable by enemy forces. They’re also handy with detonation cord, and can use just about anything on hand to open doors that have been inconveniently locked or sealed.
Staff Sgt. Justin Kaier, an A Company squad leader, showed new engineers in his company how to use two target silhouettes and 60 feet of det cord to create a charge that would make a roughly human-sized hole in door or wall partition. Taping the two silhouettes together end-to-end, the engineers wrapped the cord around in concentric loops around the edge, carefully taping it down.
Once the cord was placed, they used more tape to attach the “field-expedient” charge to a piece of particle board set up to simulate a door. Once everyone was clear, they ignited the charge, which ripped a neatly-shaped hole through the board.
During their time in the field, the engineers used a wide variety of items to create different effects -- an IV bag of fluids, for example, can punch through a metal door when combined with some appropriate explosives.
“It looks like it was punched by the Incredible Hulk,” Simon said.
The engineers can also use det cord to cut a door lengthwise, or a “donut” of C4 to blow out the doorknob and locking mechanism.
They can set traps, too -- small chunks of C4 attached to the legs of a chair can be rigged up to a pressure plate on the seat. The engineers simulated this (detonating the charge from behind the safety of a range bunker) with a desk chair they found on the explosives range.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a great time,” Simon said. “It’s a long day, though. We’re trying not to push it too hard, because when you’re tired, you can make stupid mistakes. So we’re getting lots of good sleep, too.”
A Company and the rest of the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion participated in annual training exercises on Fort Drum from July 24 - Aug. 7. The company is based in Lockport, N.Y.
There are times on the battlefield when large exploding things falling out of the sky and onto enemy targets is just what is needed, and the 27th Infantry Brigade’s mortar crews and forward observers are the guys who make this happen.
“Our mission is to destroy, suppress, or neutralize targets out here in the field,” said 2nd Lt. William Vilardo, a Fire Support Team (FiST) leader with Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment.
Vilardo and his team of forward observers were the “eyes on the range,” identifying and marking targets for 2/108 mortar crews, who had set up their tubes on an adjacent Fort Drum range Aug. 2. After spotting a target, the “Fisters” would radio its location to the mortars, giving the mortar crewmen the targets’ distance and direction from their position.
The mortar teams responded by launching appropriate munitions -- 61mm or 80mm high-explosive shells, white phosphorus rounds, or illumination, which light up the battlefield underneath them with either conventional light or infra-red radiation.
At a glance, the mortar teams’ mission is similar to that of field artillery, but Vilardo said there are important distinctions. The ranges of the weapons systems vary, of course, but there are tactical differences in the way they are put to use as well.
The 27th Brigade’s mortar squads are attached to infantry line companies, which means that an infantry company commander or platoon leader can talk directly to mortar crews in his own company. This is crucial in situations where an infantry squad needs an immediate effect.
Once the forward observers have confirmed that the mortar crews have a target “locked in,” they can instruct the crews to “fire for effect,” and the mortar crews will send anywhere from three to fifteen rounds downrange per tube, devastating the targeted area.
“It’s whatever we need to do to knock the enemy out,” said Sgt. Wil Cullins, a mortar crew squad leader with Headquarters Company, 2/108 Infantry.
In addition to several iterations of live-fire training, the 27th’s forward observers also learned from trainers from the FIRES Center of Excellence based in Fort Sill, Okla. Using a simulator program known as “Guard FIST,” new forward observers were able to learn the skills they would need to call for fire in the field.
“They’ve given us the foundation and ability to actually train and certify our own guys in the future,” Vilardo said.
The 2nd Battalion of the 108th Infantry Regiment, based in Utica, N.Y., participated in two weeks of annual training with the rest of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from July 24-Aug. 7.
The 427th Brigade Support Battalion’s Fuel Handlers pump over 3,000 gallons of fuel per day out of the Brigade Support Area to keep the 27th moving around the training area. Food, water, ammunition and the Soldiers themselves would not make it to where they need to go without the success of this critical operation.
The fuel point activity is highly regulated as pointed out by Staff Sgt. Tomasz Mroczek, “We received high marks from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for New York State when they came out to inspect us. The DEC told us that we have the best operation that they have ever seen on Ft. Drum, and that we are now the standard for other units to follow.”
AT 2010 is the first time that the 27th Brigade had a consolidated fuel point by bringing all of the Fuel Handlers together in one area rather than having decentralized operations in each of the forward support companies. The initiative enabled 24-hour fuel service while allowing for proper crew rest and the opportunity for all Fuel Handlers to participate in training events that included ranges, basic Soldier skills training and convoy operations.
“It’s good training for everybody. I really like working outdoors and being with these guys as part of a team,” stated Sgt. Richard Tietz. He went on to say, “We finally get to do the same training and have the same experiences as everyone else. In the past we were so busy doing the support mission that we couldn’t get the training time in.”
Fuelers from the 427th will remain on Ft. Drum until August 13.•
Brig. Gen. Steven Wickstrom, the commanding general of New York’s 42nd Infantry Division, visited the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team on Fort Drum last week.
As he toured the Orion Brigade’s area of operations on Fort Drum, he reviewed Soldiers’ training as the 27th IBCT prepares for a possible deployment.
“The 27th Brigade is the focus of effort for the entire State of New York,” Wickstrom said. “We do have other units that are deploying that are getting a lot of attention; however, the 27th needs to be successful.”
Wickstrom watched infantrymen from the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment as they practiced movement-to-contact drills on Range OP5A, following them up the lane as they ran the live-fire portion of the exercise.
He said he was impressed with “the quality and effectiveness of training, to the motivation and professionalism of the troops.”
During a visit to the 2/108’s mortar teams, Wickstrom did the honors for a promotion ceremony, pinning staff sergeant rank on George Klemish, a mortar crewman with C Company, from Gloversville, N.Y.
Wickstrom said the visit to the 27th was well worth the time.
"It’s important to come out of the office and go to the field so that you can learn and see the training success taking place,” he said. “You can hear about it in the office, but it’s just not the same... I’ve enjoyed talking to the Soldiers, which is something I don’t get to do as much these days, unfortunately, in the role that I’m in.” •
It must be admitted: as an accessory to the modern man’s attire, the mustache has seen better days. Once celebrated as a sign of class and virility, it is now generally regarded as something of an anachronism.
Certainly, there are cadres of holdouts. Hipsters in New York’s East Village and parts of Los Angeles wear them, but then more as an ironic or anarchistic gesture than with actual pride.
However, in a long-running military tradition, field exercises give the mustache a chance at a comeback. As annual training rolls into its second week, normally clean-shaven Soldiers will be seen with stubbly hair populating their upper lips.
This temporary mustache (and the facial hair we are talking about here is always temporary) goes by several names: “Field 'stache,” “AT 'stache,” and “Get that the hell off your face” seem to be the most popular.
“It’s a Cav 'stache,” said Spc. Justin Chandler, an analyst with the 27th Infantry Brigade’s intelligence section. “The field 'stache has always been a pastime of mine.”
Chandler, who spent several years on active duty with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment before joining the New York Army National Guard, said during time in the field, almost all of the junior enlisted Soldiers in his unit would grow temporary mustaches.
By July 31, Chandler had sprouted a distinct layer of fuzz under his nose.
“It’s weak, but it’s got potential,” he said.
While the field 'stache is usually an enlisted phenomenon, there are a few officers who have given it a try. Sgt. Michael Parrow, a mortar crewman with the brigade’s headquarters company, said he was growing his AT 'stache as a tribute to one grown Maj. Paul Hernandez, the brigade’s plans officer, while he was deployed with the 27th.
“When he was in Afghanistan, he grew a really nice 'stache,” Parrow said.
Hernandez said he had grown a mustache in Afghanistan over the course of five weeks.
“It was very intimidating,” he said.
Hernandez explained that in Afghan culture, facial hair remains an important symbol of masculinity.
“I think I got more respect from the Afghans when I had that big, monster mustache,” he said.
Parrow said that while he’s pleased with his AT 'stache so far, there are problems tenant to keeping one.
“It itches a little bit,” he said. “You get food stuck in it. You've got to maintain it, trim it up a bit.”
The final word on the field 'stache -- or any other mustache worn while in military uniform -- is of course Army Regulation 670-1, which is where you can find the standards for growing an authorized facial garden.
Just remember, when you see aspiring Tom Sellecks and Teddy Roosevelts along the Fort Drum tank trails, that these brave individuals are thumbing their noses at modern convention, for reasons that may be personal, psychological, or tactical. But whatever the immediate motivation might be, they are upholding the time-honored Army tradition of the “field 'stache.” Gentlemen, we salute you.
FORT DRUM, July 28 -- Moving supplies, equipment, and Soldiers is a critical aspect of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s mission, and it’s a job that is largely carried out by the truck drivers and transportation specialists of the unit’s 427th Brigade Support Battalion.
The 427th’s truckers are spending two weeks at Fort Drum, and on Wednesday were honing their skills as convoy crew members.
“We need to get the gunners to be alert and aware, and the drivers need to know how to react to the unusual,” said Sgt. Jodie Brassard, a truck driver with the 427th’s A Company “Road Dogs.” Brassard, a combat veteran of the 27th’s 2008 tour in Afghanistan as part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, was dressed as an Afghan Local National.
Brassard and Sgt. Guadalupe Garcia, another A Company combat veteran, were dressed in Afghan attire and waiting near two small buildings on the side of Fort Drum’s Fusa Boulevard for a B Company convoy of five Humvees. The Humvee crews would have to deal with a distraction from Brassard, who came running out of a building, waving her arms, while Garcia hid by the side of the road until the first vehicle had passed.
When the second vehicle in the convoy neared his position, Garcia rose, firing blanks at the trucks. The vehicle’s gunner spotted him and returned fire while the Soldier in the front passenger-side seat radioed the enemy contact to her convoy commander, Spc. Tyler Clough, a B Company truck driver from Geneseo.
“It was good to work together as a team,” Clough said after the blank-fire exercise was over. “Everyone [was] communicating, and that’s good.”
Sgt. Jason Knight, a driver with A Company, was working as an observer-controller for the exercise. He said the 427th’s wartime mission makes it crucial for the battalion’s drivers to have convoy skills down to the level of instinct.
“If we come under fire, they need to know what to do and what not to do,” he said. “It’s very important for everyone to know all the procedures.”
Elsewhere on Fort Drum, A Company drivers were feeding live rounds into the M-240B machine guns mounted on their Humvees. Convoys of five vehicles each began down a looping road, using their radios to communicate with each other and with their headquarters, set up in the range tower. On the opposite side of a high dirt berm, infantry targets popped up and the gunners engaged, launching tiny geysers of dirt as their rounds hit the targets and the terrain around them.
When the dust settled, the convoy commander called higher headquarters on his truck radio.
“We are black on ammo, green on water and equipment,” he said.
A voice from the tower headquarters crackled back, asking for information on any casualties. There were none.
“Proceed with mission,” the radio instructed.
The A Company Humvee gunners brushed brass ammo casings and links from their turrets, and the drivers put the trucks into gear, heading back to HQ.
The 427th will continue training on Fort Drum through Aug. 7.
By Spec. Ian Boudreau, 27th Brigade Combat Team
The road followed a more or less straight line through a sun-drenched field and into the village, still probably about 500 meters away from the nine Soldiers walking cautiously toward it. They were spread out, two teams of four men each and the squad leader, walking roughly in a crooked line abreast with their rifles held near the ready.
As they drew closer to a stand of trees between them and the village, two turbaned men armed with AK-47s rose from behind a small berm, about 200 meters away from the squad. They dropped to the ground, returning fire.
At the sound of a whistle from the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Coon, the squad’s second team took to their feet and began a flanking maneuver to the right, while Coon and team one continued providing suppressive fire. Team two made their way into the trees, well to the right of the attackers.
Coon directed team one to redirect their fire to the left of their targets, and sounded another whistle blast, letting the second team know to begin their assault from the right flank. As team two approached the enemy position, the two attackers fled, making their way back to the village another few hundred yards away. Team two brought one man down, and when Coon and the rest of team one met up with them in the woods, it was time to decide how to pursue their second attacker into the village.
They’d do it all again within an hour. Coon’s team had used blanks this time around, but the next time through, the rounds would be live. He and the rest of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment (headquartered in Utica) were practicing squad movement to contact drills on a Fort Drum range as part of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s annual training exercises.
“It’s the most basic battle drill,” said Capt. Shawn Tabankin, the battalion’s assistant plans and operations officer, who was running the range. “A squad is on patrol, reacting to enemy contact.”
Tabankin explained that the Soldiers were given a realistic training mission: enter the village and attempt to link up with local leaders in order to determine ways the new Afghan government could provide help. In the training scenario, the squads are attacked on their way into the village (by pop-up targets), and one of the attackers flees into a building. Soldiers must determine how to enter the building and either capture or kill him.
If that sounds incredibly specific for training, it’s because exercises are increasingly being tailored to real-world missions.
“We’re trying to provide theater-immersive training,” Tabankin said.
And it’s not just the squads and platoons that are testing their skills in these scenarios. Tabankin said exercise also was a chance for company leaders to coordinate their efforts with leaders at the platoon and squad levels, making the drill a “multi-echelon” training event.
Adding live rounds to the mix heightens the experience immeasurably.
“It’s the difference between a pilot using a simulator and actually going out and getting some air under his butt,” Tabankin said.
“It’s nice to actually get out and do this stuff in the field,” said Coon, a sniper section leader and scout squad leader from Lee Center, N.Y. “It’s something [Soldiers] need to do to get ready to deploy, if and when the 27th Brigade does deploy.”
The 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry arrived at Fort Drum July 24 and will conduct training with the rest of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team through Aug. 7.
FORT DRUM--By Sunday evening, more than one thousand New York Soldiers were encamped on remote ranges on Fort Drum, ready to begin the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s first brigade-level field exercise since the unit returned from Afghanistan in 2009. Cooks had set up two containerized kitchens in the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion’s mock Forward Operating Base at one end of the training area and had set to work making hot meals for the National Guardsmen, who were spread across 14 training sites in Fort Drum’s range area. In the brigade’s nerve center, several miles down the road from the BSTB’s FOB, staff officers and NCOs worked on filling briefing slides with up-to-the-minute data that would give the brigade commander, Col. Geoffrey Slack, the information he needed to direct a small town’s worth of Soldiers. “This is my first field exercise with the brigade,” Slack said Monday morning, after a quick sit-down with his staff. “As a relatively new brigade commander, I’m having to get my bearings.” Slack explained that the field exercise, which spans three weeks (although individual units generally spend two weeks each) will provide a kind of dual opportunity: on one level, he said, Soldiers need good squad- and platoon-level training to provide a foundation of basic Soldier skills and teamwork on which to build. On a second level, it’s a chance for Slack and his officers - his staff, as well as the commanders of the six battalions and 30 companies that fall under the 27th IBCT - to get to know one another and learn how best to work together. “I’m testing my staff to make sure they’re taking the problems I identify and solving them,” he said. “I’m getting to know my leaders. I want to spend quality time with my company commanders and battalion commanders and, to the degree possible, with the platoon leaders and platoon sergeants.” The 27th’s Soldiers, most of whom arrived on Fort Drum Saturday, lost no time in getting their own training schedules up and running. 1st Sgt. Ronald Patterson of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, was overseeing an M-4 qualification range for brigade Soldiers who hadn’t gotten a chance to qualify with their weapons earlier in the year. He said his company of infantrymen will be building toward a team live-fire event later in the two-week training period. “We’ve been training for the last six to eight months doing movement-to-contact,” said Patterson, referring to an infantry maneuver wherein Soldiers tactically - and quickly - move into position to engage an enemy. “We did dry runs at Camp Edwards in Cape Cod, and we’re doing three days of rehearsals here. I’m expecting a 100 percent success rate.” All the same, training exercises exist to iron out kinks before going into a combat zone. “Any mistakes we’re going to make, now is the time to make them,” Slack said. He said he had been impressed by what he’d seen from his Soldiers so far. “They’re so serious, and so professional,” he said. “It makes me look forward to getting in my truck and heading to the next training site.” The annual exercise had only just begun, however, and Slack struck a note of caution for his troops. “Safety has got to be paramount in everybody’s mind,” he said. “People have to give thought to everything they do out here, because everyone out here is precious.”