Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

Posts made in: 'Training' (27) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 27

December 8, 2014 at 11:41am

I Corps in Japan for Yama Sakura 67 exercise

Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, I Corps commanding general, speaks during the opening ceremony for Yama Sakura 67, on Camp Asaka, Japan. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Adam Keith

For the 34th time, U.S. and Japanese Soldiers stood side-by-side to kick off Japan's largest command post exercise at Camp Asaka, Japan, Dec. 8.

Yama Sakura 67 officially started with a brief ceremony in which commanders from I Corps and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Eastern Army lauded the long-standing partnership between the two nations and encouraged their troops to work closely together.

"This year's Yama Sakura will not only be challenging, but it should be a rewarding experience for all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general. "And over the next several days our teams will have the opportunity to train together, to work together, but more importantly to build those everlasting bonds of trust and partnership that are so critical to this alliance."

Yama Sakura pits about 4,500 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and about 2,000 U.S. Service members against a notional computer-generated invader, and simulates the full spectrum of military operations with an emphasis on bilateral counter-attack and amphibious operations.

Yama Sakura 67 is scheduled to run from Dec. 8 through Dec. 14, though many American Service members arrived a week or more ahead of time to prepare the exercise area, and to engage in cultural exchanges to build stronger relationships with their Japanese partners.

This year marks only the second time in about eight years I Corps has participated in Yama Sakura. It is the first time in six years for Eastern Army, as the exercise rotates between Japan's five regional armies.

According to Eastern Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Koichi Isobe, since the exercise's inception in 1982, during the Cold War era, it has changed and evolved to keep pace with real-world events.

Isobe said throughout the past three decades, Japan's American partners have been a crucial component in Japan Ground Self-Defense Force training.

"U.S. Forces are an irreplaceable partner of (Japan Ground Self-Defense Force). We will continue working together in response to new challenges and emerging threats," Isobe said.

Filed under: Army, I Corps, Military, Training,

October 24, 2014 at 5:59pm

JBLM 3-2 SBCT and the floating howitzers

Soldiers 1-37th Field Artillery Regiment rig a M777 howitzer to the bottom of a CH-47 Chinook during training at Yakima Training Center, Wash., Oct. 21, 2014. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Justin Naylor

Floating easily over the steep mountains of Yakima Training Center, Washington, the twin rotor CH-47 Chinook gracefully carried the massive weight of an M777 howitzer cannon and its crew toward their destination. Their mission was to drop in, quickly set up their guns and suppress simulated enemy air defense, allowing infantry units to advance forward with the help of close air support.

This training was the first time that 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team tested their howitzer crews, who have been training for months, with a full-scale air raid mission that culminated with firing live rounds.


October 10, 2014 at 3:25pm

555th Engineer Brigade conducts Sapper Helocast at American Lake

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter drops soldiers of the 555th Engineer Brigade into American Lake during Sapper Helocast at JBLM, Oct. 9. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Oct. 9 is a chilly, misty morning on American Lake. The water is still. It's quiet and peaceful as a pair of otters play nearby. Then a Ch-47 Chinook helicopter flies in low over the lake. The rotors spray water and kick up wind, violently disturbing the tranquility. One by one, soldiers jump out the back of the helicopter and swim to shore.

The soldiers shiver as they emerge from the lake, shaking and trying to keep warm. "That was awesome!" one of the soldiers shouts as he wades out of the water. Then they load up in vehicles waiting by the shore.

It's time to do it again.

The soldiers are members of the 555th Engineer Brigade, the Triple Nickel. They're conducting a Helocast - a water insertion by helicopter. I witnessed their confidence building exercise. About a quarter of the group is training to go to the elite Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. But more of them are training to go to Sapper School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Sappers are combat engineers. They specialize in building things - and destroying things - under the stress of combat conditions.

>>> Members of the 555th Engineer Brigade wait to board a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to conduct a Helocast - a water insertion by helicopter - into American Lake on Oct. 9. Many are training to go to either Ranger or Sapper school. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Master Sgt. Don Batchan is overseeing the exercise. He says it's important for the soldiers to have this experience, and that it's about more than just confidence. He says waterborne insertion is something they may one day have to do on the battlefield. They have to be ready for anything.

Even so, the engineers don't often get opportunities for this sort of training. It's largely reserved for Rangers and Special Forces troops. It's hard to get the helicopter and the rest of the equipment on the same day to pull it off. But every once and awhile the stars align.

"I keep pushing buttons until it goes through," Batchan says.

>>> Master Sgt. Don Batchan / photo credit: Kevin Knodell

He explains the 555th has a 75 percent graduation rate for students it sends to Sapper School. That's a staggering achievement, as the average rate is closer to about 40 percent. Batchan credits intense training and preparation for this unusually high success rate. "We don't want anyone to say they were exposed to anything they weren't prepared for," he says.

>>> Sgt. Robert Parish / photo credit: Kevin Knodell

"You don't get this kind of training unless you're at Bragg," Sgt. Robert Parish tells fellow soldiers as they wait on the lake in their boats. Parish is in charge of safety on the water, leading a mini fleet of boats to grab weak swimmers if they start to struggle - as well as keeping civilian boats from entering the drop zone.

The helicopter comes back, spraying us all with rotor wash as it comes in low, and drops the soldiers into the lake for round two. Many of them are dragging ruck sacks in tow this time. They constantly banter and jeer. Parish shouts out to a young soldier going slower than the others, asking him what's holding him back. "It's just that I don't really feel like swimming today Sergeant!" the soldier replies. Parish cracks a grin.

"I wish I could be out there right now," Parish looks over and tells me. "Those are my guys."

1st Lt. Travis Emery was the first soldier to make the jump. A graduate of air assault school he's no stranger to helicopters. But this is the first time he's jumped into water. "This is definitely the best experience I've had jumping out of a helicopter," the young officer says.

>>> 1st Lt. Travis Emery / photo credit: Kevin Knodell

This experience is important. Emery says he's going to Sapper School next month.

Batchan says he hopes they will be able to do exercises like this far more often. He'd like to see the, do one a year - if not more.

The engineers load up to leave, soaked and tired. As luck would have it, the sun starts to shine through the clouds. "That figures," remarks one of the soldiers. Sgt. Parrish - still dry - looks back at the lake as the others leave.

"Next time, I'm jumping too," he says.

>>> 555th Engineer Brigade Safety Team / photo credit: Kevin Knodell

>>> Soldiers of the 555th Engineer Brigade float in the water to avoid the breeze. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

September 15, 2014 at 4:21pm

1-37 Field Artillery Regiment NCOs focus on leadership, resiliency

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Quintanilla, C Battery, 1-37 37th FA Reg., demonstrates the proper position of an exercise during a Physical Readiness Training refresher course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sept. 3. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin

Professional athletes are known for their commitment to excellence. Physicality is only one aspect of their success. In order for the quarterback of a football team to be put his team in the position to win, he has to study his game - which often means that he watches hours of film. 

Similarly, an effective Army leader has to know their own strengths and weaknesses. But how does that leader scrutinize their own performance as a leader and a team member?

For the noncommissioned officers from 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, the answer was Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness training. The CSF2 program teaches skills related to resilience and enhanced performance to improve the professional and personal lives of Soldiers and their families.

The NCOs took part in a two-day course on effective leadership development and a Physical Readiness Training refresher course. Topics centered on situations the NCOs would encounter on a day-to-day basis from supplements usage to how adopt a leader philosophy with a heavy emphasis on group participation and discussion.

>>> Sgt. Pierce Burkhart, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, finishes an iteration of the rower during a Physical Readiness Training refresher course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sept. 3. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin

"We believe that where the rubber meets the road is with the staff sergeants and the sergeants first class. If we can work with them, we can make a (big impact) within the unit," said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Quintanilla, assigned to C Battery, 1-37 FA. Quintanilla is the battalion master fitness and master resiliency trainer and also an instructor for the PRT portion of the course.

Quintanilla said the NCOs possessed the main of the traits of strong leadership - empathy, confidence, and tactical and technical knowledge, but this training was designed to add to that base. He compared it to tightening a shot group at the weapons range: focused practice breeds meaningful results.

For PRT, he said that it's also important that soldiers understand the reason behind the movements. PRT is designed to mimic combat movements and to prevent injuries. If the movements are done correctly, they have a big impact on the soldier's ability to function in a combat zone with the added weight of their gear.

Additionally, Quintanilla said morning PRT sessions are the perfect opportunity to set the tone for the workday.

"This is how we kick off our day. I feel that if we are doing the right thing at 6:30 am, we'll carry that momentum throughout the rest of the day. We can't start the day by cutting corners," he said.

Quintanilla said more than 19 years into his career and several iterations of the course, he continues to learn from CSF2, his peers and even the most junior soldiers.

Sgt. Zachary Hoffman, an artilleryman with C Battery, 1-37 FA, and one of the NCOs taking the course, found that it was a chance to hear honest critique about his leadership style and to learn new skills for counseling and working with his soldiers.

"I didn't think this training would be that beneficial to me, because I was confident before, but I've learned a lot about communication. On how to be a clear, positive speaker and receiver," said Hoffman.

He said it was important to be flexible. Each member of the team might have an opinion on how to make a mission happen, but the role of the leader is to find the best way and then see that it gets done.

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin is with the 19th Public affairs Detachment.

>>> Sgt. 1st Class Raymond White, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, and other noncommissioned officers conduct Physical Readiness Training as part of a two-day leader development course. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin

September 4, 2014 at 9:15am

Cool Desk Job: 5-20th Infantry Regiment virtually prepares for anything at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

5-20th Infantry Regiment soldiers work the VBS2, an interactive simulated training software that uses video game graphics to simulate real world environments and training objectives. Photo credit: Sgt. James Bunn

"Enemy troops in the open, three o'clock," a soldier calls out. The gunner scans for the target and in less than a second identifies and engages the enemy combatants.

This was the scenario for soldiers with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team as they conducted Virtual Battlespace 2 training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Aug. 28.

The unit organized the training to familiarize soldiers with different terrain, weapons and vehicle procedures before an upcoming live-fire exercise next month at Yakima Training Center.

"The soldiers are getting used to the equipment," said 2nd Lt. John Howell, a platoon leader with 5-20th Inf. Bn. "They're going over fire commands today and learning to work together."

The VBS2 is an interactive simulated training software that uses video game graphics to simulate real world environments and training objectives. Since its introduction in 2007, the system has helped better prepare soldiers and units for deployments and saved the Army millions of dollars according to Jeffery T. Du, a VBS2 facilitator.

This training saves the Army money by allowing units to go through scenarios based on the terrain they will experience at the upcoming exercise without stressing vehicles, equipment or using live ammunition, said Du. The soldiers will be more efficient when they go to the range because they have practiced multiple times in the simulator.

Through an advanced program editing system, VBS2 instructors can tailor training to the needs of individual units based on mission requirements, create realistic battlefield situations and allow Soldiers to operate simulated land, sea, and air vehicles.

"This training allows for a diverse amount of situations that we can encounter with the Stryker," said Spc. Ryan Sweeney, a fire team leader with 5-20th Inf. Bn.

Soldiers focused on marksmanship with mounted weapons, calling for indirect fire, identifying targets and maneuvering through various fighting positions in a simulated Stryker combat vehicle.

The scalable VBS2 system is able to train small teams in urban tactics, entire combat teams in combined arms operations or even squad and platoon offensive, defensive, and patrolling operations.

Leaders can use VBS2 to assist them in developing the organizational skills required to execute successful missions. Soldiers can use the system to learn and validate the unit's tactics, techniques and procedures before any exercise.

 "We have a lot of new soldiers and this is an easy way for them to get a baseline of how to operate in a fire team and build good habits early," said Sweeney.

Although it's a simulation and not the real world, the VBS2 system provides diverse training opportunities for the soldiers of the 5-20th Inf. Bn. and the skills necessary as a modern fighting force said Du.

"I like that we are diversifying our training techniques to match all fronts," said Sweeney. "This system is a good way for us to build up our new training strategies to meet the battlefield of tomorrow." 

Sgt. James J. Bunn is with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

August 26, 2014 at 11:56am

I Corps mechanics assist 191st Inf. Bde. and Idaho Army National Guard at the Orchard Combat Training Center

Spc. Mark R Richards, a mechanic with 1st Corps’ headquarters support company, removes a starter from a Humvee during a during an exercise at the Orchard Combat Training Center, Id., on Aug. 15, 2014. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Adam C. Keith

Mechanics from 1st Corps' Headquarters Support Company are spending the month of August supporting the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, an Idaho Army National Guard unit, and the 191st Infantry Brigade, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, during a training rotation at the Orchard Combat Training Center, located just outside of Boise, Idaho.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jose A. Yanes, the 191st Brigade's maintenance technician, said the mechanics were needed to help augment his unit's maintenance capabilities.

"When the 1st Corps' soldiers arrived, we really didn't know what to expect, but they have been nothing but a great help to us," he said.

Yanes said the mechanics work has been vital because the units at the training areas are running 24-hour operations, so they have been working 12-hour shifts keeping the brigade's vehicles in working order.

"The Humvees are the main means of transportation for the observers, coaches, and trainers out here. They use these vehicles up to 20 hours a day and they have limited time to refit," he said. "When they come in here we have to fix any issues and get (the Humvees) on the way as quickly as possible."

>>> Spc. Chris J. Vetter, a mechanic with 1st Corps' headquarters support company, removes a starter from a Humvee during a during an exercise at the Orchard Combat Training Center, Id., Aug. 15, 2014. Vetter is part of a group of 1st Corps mechanics working around the clock to support the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, an Idaho Army National Guard unit, and the 191st Infantry Brigade during their training rotation at the OCTC. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Adam C. Keith

Sgt. Carlos Villa Jr., a heating and air conditioning technician with HSC 1st Corps, said the mechanics have also had the chance to perform six recovery operations while at the training area as well as cross train with each other.

"To be honest, I think I learn a lot more from my soldiers out here than they learn from me," he said. "Tomorrow we are going to swap out an engine in a Humvee and that's something I've always wanted to learn how to do; so I'm excited about that."

Villa said he also appreciates the time that being out in the field gives him to get to learn more about the soldiers he works with on a daily basis.

"One of the biggest things out here is the time we have to bond with other soldiers in our unit," said Villa. "Back in garrison you don't really have that opportunity all of the time, but over here you have 12 hours to talk and get to know each other."

Yanes said thanks to the efforts of the mechanics, the operational readiness rate for the 191st has been steady at over 98 percent.

"The 191st would be dead in the water if they weren't here; they are a great asset to have," added Yanes. "They are well motivated and have been doing nothing but great work."

August 25, 2014 at 6:53pm

Arrowhead soldiers and 62nd Airlift Wing airmen move quick at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Soldiers with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, load onto a C-17 aircraft during a training exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Aug. 21. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Justin Naylor

As they sat inside the troop holding area, you could tell it had been a long two days. Now they were waiting to wrap up the last event to prove that all their practice and hard work had paid off. All they needed to do was load their Stryker vehicles onto C-17 aircraft and it was mission complete.

Soldiers with Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, took part in a combined training exercise with airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Aug. 21-22.

The event was designed to test the readiness and quick response of the soldiers as they paired up with airmen.

The two-day event began with a pre-dawn phone call from leaders to their soldiers informing them that it was time to go. They then assembled and checked their equipment. soldiers who stayed in the barracks closed out their rooms and those with vehicles turned them in to the storage lot.

>>> U.S. Army Sgt. Kierra Ivey, an administrative clerk with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, takes part in a readiness training exercise at JBLM, Aug. 21. The event was designed to allow a platoon-sized group of Soldiers to practice going through the steps leading up to a short-notice deployment. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Justin Naylor

From there they went through the motions of a short-notification rapid deployment as they readied their gear and moved it to the airfield to be loaded onto an aircraft.

This event was the culmination of months of hard work and rehearsals that began at the ground floor.  

"We started at the basic level," said 2nd Lt. Clayton Shillings, a Houston native and platoon leader with A Co. "Every soldier was qualified on their respective weapon system. After that we went to Yakima (Training Center) for two weeks. We went into team live fire and each team was certified."

The training progressed through squad, platoon and company levels before the soldiers returned to JBLM. They then began their practices for this particular event.

"There was a whole bunch of rehearsals," said Capt. Bradley Goodyear, a York, Pa., native and A Co. commander. "We did rehearsals at the division, brigade, battalion and company levels. We did tabletop exercises; we actually did a terrain model all leading up to this."

The training and drills were all designed to help soldiers and leaders feel confident about the process.

"If the first time you do it is the actual call to go to war, the chances of something happening that you are not prepared for are high, so we do rehearsals to prepare ourselves...to work out any kinks," Goodyear said. "The more and more we do this, the more little things we find that we can tweak to make the whole process more efficient."

The practice beforehand helped the soldiers progress quickly through the two days worth of training events as they continually outperformed set timelines.

"It definitely paid off," Shillings said. "Everything went very smoothly to the point where we had more downtime than we thought we would. What that insures is that every level - including our own - is that we can tell we are ready to go, all our weapons systems will work when we get there, none of our night vision equipment will be broken when we arrive and everything is mission capable and we are able to execute whatever is given to us at the time."

>>> U.S. Army soldiers with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, and airmen with the 62nd Airlift Wing, load a Stryker vehicle on a C-17 aircraft during a training exercise at JBLM, Aug. 21. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Justin Naylor

Although the training was just a test for the soldiers, it opened their eyes to all the work that goes into getting an infantry unit off the base.

"I've never really been deployed," said Pfc. Erik Kanthak, a Cincinnati native and medic with A Co. "I've been to Yakima a few times and did the (National Training Center) thing. I think it made us more ready, more aware of what we need to do. I think with this training, now we will be able to do it even faster if we need to."

The soldiers weren't the only ones training during the event.

"I think the entire process will go faster now because the civilians and Air Force, those guys had more practice," Shillings said. "They had a lot of hand on training with some news guys that the Air Force was training while we were doing this operation and those guys took a while to get the Strykers tied down exactly right, which was good because they needed the practice, and I think now they've got it down to the point where they can be faster next time and everything will go smoother."

As the soldiers loaded the final Stryker and took their seats on the C-17, they knew that two days of hard work and months of training beforehand had paid off.  They are fast and ready for any mission that comes their way.

Staff Sgt. Justin Naylor is with the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs.

>>> A U.S. Air Force airman with the 62nd Airlift Wing guides a Stryker vehicle onto a C-17 aircraft during a training exercise at JBLM. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Justin Naylor

August 19, 2014 at 1:07pm

Terrorizing Rabbits: Washington National Guard trains for newest biological threat at Fircrest school

The simulated attack began at 7:35 a.m. when the fire alarm system at Wainwright Elementary School in Fircrest was activated. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The two soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard crinkled in their black hazardous materials suits as they walked through the darkened and deserted elementary school.

Movements were constricted; communication muffled.

Condensation streaked their masks reducing visibility.

At times, tempers got short.

After two hours of searching, the soldiers emerged from the building and headed back to their command post.

They had not found the bioweapon.

The simulated attack began at 7:35 a.m. when the fire alarm system at Wainwright Elementary School in Fircrest was activated.

Approximately 300 faculty and students exited the building and moved to areas of accountability. While in these areas, the school's sprinkler system inexplicably activated, drenching everyone.

When the school's janitor turned the sprinklers off, he noticed that someone had put a timer on the system with a hose running out of the shed and attached to one of the sprinklers.

Then things got worse.

At 7:45 a.m., multiple news agencies received an email from an unknown person or agency claiming credit for the biological attack on Wainwright.

The terrorist(s) claimed that the food and water at the school had been targeted and that the sprinkler system had been activated to spray students and faculty with a biological weapon of mass destruction.

The message ended by saying there would be more attacks.

"A biological attack is the toughest to deal with; you have to first find out what it is before you can deal with it," commented Maj. Jim Jack, the deputy commander of the Washington National Guard's 10th Civil Support Team.

"And in this scenario the terrorists have used a weapon that may be the next big bioweapon."

The news agencies contacted the police and fire departments. Both arrived on scene.

Fire personnel determined the fire alarm had been manually activated and began to investigate the report of the use of a bioweapon. In short order, decontamination assets were requested.

So too are the FBI, the Departments of Health and Ecology and the Washington National Guard's Civil Support Team, or CST.

The unit supports civil authorities at domestic incident sites involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives (CBRNE).

The team provides identification and assessment of hazards, advice to civil authorities and facilitates the arrival of follow-on military forces during emergencies and incidents of weapons of mass destruction terrorism.

>>> A member of North Dakota's National Guard's 81st Civil Support Team monitors for a chemical, radiological or biological element during a training exercise. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Joining the 10th CST at Wainwright Elementary Aug. 18 in Fircrest for this simulated multi-CST exercise were soldiers assigned to the 81st CST from North Dakota, the 82nd CST from South Dakota and the 102nd CST from Oregon.

After setting up an operations center, the CSTs comprised of about 80 soldiers quickly began to eliminate the known variables in an attempt to zero in on the biological agent.

>>> Water was the source of the attack, and soldiers from the North Dakota's 81st Civil Support Team search a kitchen sink. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The students and faculty were run through a decontamination process and found to be safe.  Parents were notified and assured that their children were not contaminated.

School officials were questioned about who had been in and out of the school over the past several weeks.

One item of interest that emerged was that about 30 students had been sick before the attack, and it was noted that the students came from certain areas of the school.

In each area there was a water source.

With instructions that a biological dispersal device had been used that may involve water, CSTs from North Dakota's 81st CST and Oregon's 102nd CST suited up.

The soldiers searched the exterior and interior of the school.  They moved deliberately; they used equipment to measure for radiation and gas; they took hundreds of pictures.

What they didn't know was what exactly the bioweapon was and how it had been dispersed.  All they knew is that water played a role.

The weapon brings to mind an image of a bunny rabbit.

Tularemia, sometimes referred to as rabbit fever, was the weapon.  It can be transferred through physical contact, the air or through water sources.

If untreated, the disease results in death.

>>> Working in the hot and muffled world of a hazardous material suit led to the build-up of sweat and condensation. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

In a recently published report, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that tularemia has been used as a bioweapon in other countries.

"Despite its importance for both public health and biodefense," said Geoffrey Feld at the most recent annual Biophysical Society Meeting, "tularensis pathogenesis isn't entirely understood, nor do we fully understand how the organism persists in the environment.

As the soldiers from the 81st CST began their search through the school, they focused on drinking foundations, sinks and other water sources.

The dispersal systems - a water foundation, a spray bottle and a sink in a classroom - were in the open.

Like a plastic spray bottle.

"The weapon is in the water; the spray bottle is used to clean the tables where the children sit to eat their breakfast; that's how the children become infected," pointed out Lt. Col. Scott Humphrey, the 10th CST's commander.

For the better part of two hours they searched the school's kitchen, classrooms and gymnasium.

Much, much later they found the dispersal systems.

"How operations are conducted can vary from state to state," continued Humphrey.

"The week long training we are involved in gives us the chance to train each other while challenging our skill sets. We only get better."

June 12, 2014 at 7:13am

Thursday Morning Joe: Fixing the VA, al-Qaeda returns, drones hit Taliban, Army laser, exercises at JBLM, world's biggest TV ...

Company G, 427th Brigade Support Battalion tosses a coffee during pre-mobilization. Original photo courtesy of the New York National Guard


U.S. drones fired missiles at Taliban hideouts in Pakistan killing at least 10 militants in response to a deadly attack on Karachi airport in the first such raids by unmanned CIA aircraft in six months.

On brink of disintegration: Another city falls in Iraq.

The al-Qaida-inspired group that led the charge in capturing two key Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq this week vowed to march on to Baghdad.

The return of al-Qaeda.

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday night that would allow appropriators to begin work on the 2015 Intelligence Appropriations bill.

The Veterans Affairs Department is, by many accounts, broken, and Congress has a lot of ideas to fix it.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed emergency legislation on Veterans Affairs Department health visits and administrator accountability, paving the way for the reforms to become law in a matter of days.

The House adopted an amendment to allow veterans to apply for food stamps while their disability claims are pending with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

After two overwhelming votes in two days, members of Congress say they are confident they can agree on a bill to improve veterans' health care and send it to the president's desk by the end of the month.

US House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat is a huge blow to the US defense sector, and could allow an up-and-coming GOP deficit hawk to replace Cantor, or even become House speaker.

Hagel testified before lawmakers, answering anger-laced questions about the negotiated release of Bowe Bergdahl.

The House Appropriations Committee approved funding for 38 of the fifth-generation fighters - four more than the Defense Department requested.

How the Army should pivot to Asia.

The Air Force just copped to its secret stealth drone.

Program offers partially paid break from Army.

Army develops first-of-its-kind phase-coherent fiber laser array system.

Networking brings international training to JBLM.

A 3,000 gallons per minute reverse osmosis water purification unit and two 3,000 gallon water bags were used in support of the Quartermaster Liquid Logistic Exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

NASA's real life Enterprise may take us to other star systems one day.

How a 3,000-car race would look if the Earth was the Moon.

The world's biggest TV can be yours for $1.7 million.

A new documentary tells the story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Finally: Puff Daddy/Diddy/Sean Combs released a music video inspired by Game of Thrones.

Be careful when you fry a drone over a beach in Connecticut. ...

LINK: Original photo courtesy of the New York National Guard

May 22, 2014 at 1:45pm

Defusing Defeat: 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion competes for national recognition

Staff Sgt. Michael Frechette, 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, explains one of the challenges soldiers faced in the EOD Team of the Year Competition. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The four plastic yellow jugs with the red tops have fuses running out of them.

Leaning next to the jugs was a canister full of nuts and bolts.

These were bombs of the homemade variety, and they all had to be defused.

"It's going to be a long day for the team that has to work this cache," said Staff Sgt. Michael Frechette, 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, as we stood in an underground bunker on Range 101.

"And if they make one mistake a buzzer will sound, meaning they made a mistake."

If the bombs were real, the mistake would be fatal.

"These teams have to be very careful and thorough," explained 1st Lt. Aaron Stutts as we left the bunker.

"It's what makes this competition as intense as it is."

Over the past several days, the 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion has been conducting an intensive ordnance disposal and military skills competition.

The battalion is assigned to the 71st Ordnance Group at Fort Carson, Colo.

>>> Four simulated bombs wait for a three-soldier team to defuse during the EOD Team of the Year Competition. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Over the past several months, the battalion has been conducting team and individual-level military training to prepare for the competition.

The competition's events include a physical fitness test, a 10-mile ruck march, a casualty evacuation from a minefield, an improvised explosive land, an unexploded chemical ordnance lane, a suicide vest situation and weapons marksmanship.

"It is intense, no doubt about it," commented 1st Lt. Kurt Peterson, the battalion's public affairs officer.

"These soldiers are repeatedly put to the test."

Three teams of three soldiers faced one different problem after another.  On each challenge their skills were judged and points tallied.

The team with the most points would win the competition and move on to Fort Carson to compete in the 71st Group competition.

"The team that goes on to represent JBLM on the national level, and that speaks of us," Stutts said.

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News and entertainment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s most awesome weekly newspapers - The Ranger, Northwest Airlifter and Weekly Volcano.

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