Monday, June 12, 2017

‘Ghost Brigade’ holds change of command ceremony

Col. David Foley hands the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team colors to Maj. Gen. Thomas James, the 7th Infantry Division commander, as he relinquishes command of the Ghost Brigade June 8, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The 1-2 SBCT held a change of command ceremony at Watkins Field and bid farewell to outgoing commander Col. David Foley and welcomed the incoming commander Col. Jasper Jeffers. 

By Maj. Kelly Haux

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Ghost Brigade,” 2nd Infantry Division welcomed a new commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., with a change of command ceremony at Watkins Field Jun 8, 2017.

Col. Jasper Jeffers assumed duties as the commander, replacing Col. David Foley as the commander of the Ghost Brigade.

Maj. Gen. Thomas James, the 7th Infantry Division commander, described Jeffers as a man equal to the task of carrying on the legacy of the Ghost Brigade and Jeffers arrives at command with combat experience from Iraq, Afghanistan, North and West Africa as well as other locations throughout the Middle-East.

Col. Jasper Jeffers gives a speech June 8, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after assuming command of the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The 1-2 SBCT held a change of command ceremony at Watkins Field and bid farewell to outgoing commander Col. David Foley and welcomed the incoming commander Col. Jasper Jeffers.

“His predecessor, Col. Foley, aggressively built mission command,” said James, “which allowed the Ghost Brigade team to attend two decisive action rotations at the National Training center within 10 months, enhanced readiness through deploying formations to exercise Yudh Abhyas in India and on JBLM, plus simultaneously building interoperability with partnered nations in the Pacific Region through two Pacific Pathways iterations.”

For Foley, the change of command ceremony was the opportunity to reflect upon the lineage of the 1-2 SBCT as well as the brigade’s accomplishments.

“Over the course of this command,” said Foley, “I’ve watched with admiration as these ghost Soldiers have not only evolved into a contemporary Stryker brigade combat team, but also conducted countless operations, administrative requirements, and training initiatives in support of a multi-faceted operational strategy that justly encapsulates the strength of this Stryker warfighting formation.

“They have developed strong community partnerships and a health of the force campaign in support of both a comprehensive leader development strategy and the indoctrinated tenets of a values-based learning organization,” Foley added. “All of these major accomplishments could not have been realized without the strong support of the magnificent officers, non-commissioned officers and Soldiers in the bayonet division.”

Foley highlighted what he believes is the single most important element of the formation: the Soldiers and their development as leaders of character.

“The Soldiers of this brigade are the best the Army has to offer,” Foley said. “They are empowered leaders of character who possess the moral courage to do the right thing, who operate on disciplined initiative, fight and care for each other….and they do not quit.

“They emulate the Officer/NCO team as the centerpiece for accomplishing tasks to standard and for developing individual and unit strength of character,” he said. “Their physical and mental toughness is the cornerstone for ensuring competent, confident leaders, for inspiring a winning spirit and for achieving the kind of readiness essential to providing lethal and adaptable force projection in support of future national security requirements.”

This brigade change of command is the most recent in a series of changes within the subordinate battalions in the unit. Five of the six battalions that make up the Ghost Brigade changed command within recent months, with the final battalion scheduled to change in the near future.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Leaders discuss lessons learned in the Pacific Theater

Story by Maj. Kelly Haux


Maj. Stoney Portis, executive officer for 1-23 Infantry, speaks about the importance of building relationships for logistical and maintenance considerations when traveling overseas, May 31, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Portis was taking part in a Key Leader Symposium to discuss lessons and key strategies learned during Pacific Pathways 2017. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Kelly Haux)


From February to May 2017, Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry, developed their combat and interoperability skills in a series of joint bilateral exercises with allies in Thailand, Korea and the Philippines.

In order to expand upon the experience gained during these exercises, collectively known as Pacific Pathways, senior leaders of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Ghost Brigade, held a Key Leader Symposium, May 31, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to discuss key practices developed by 1-23 Infantry during Pacific Pathways.

“It’s about how we see ourselves now and where we see our formation, the Stryker Brigade, in the future” said Col. David Foley, the 1-2 SBCT commander and host of the KLS. “Our purpose is to examine the lessons learned from Pacific Pathways and how best to resource our formation.”

Pacific Pathways is an innovative training deployment or “pathway” for Army forces, linking existing exercises with partner-nation militaries and demonstrates U.S. commitment in the Pacific Region. 

Col. David Foley (facing away), commander of 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, speaks with Lt. Col. Teddy Kleisner, commander of 1-23 Infantry, about the importance of training frequency to build skills into muscle memory, May 31, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Both Foley and Kleisner were taking part in a Key Leader Symposium to discuss lessons and key strategies learned during Pacific Pathways 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Kelly Haux)

The overall assessment of Pacific Pathways was that it enabled the Soldiers of the Ghost Brigade to develop skills on the asymmetric battlefield similar to the situations they might encounter in the Middle East or in Africa. Not only did the training opportunity enable the Soldiers to grow in their tactics and skills but to learn from other nations’ professional military forces, increasing the reputation of the US Army as a premier fighting force.

During Pathways, military tactics was a common language among allied nations and an avenue of overcoming a perceived language barrier.

“A squad attack is a squad attack,” said Lt. Col. Teddy Kleisner, commander of the 1-23 Infantry. “Of course there are some nuance differences between how it is carried out between U.S. and partnered nations, but essentially it is an easy common language between Soldiers.”

The common terminology, along with the frequency of live fire maneuver training during Pacific Pathways allowed a strong muscle memory to be developed, which in turn creates better Soldiers and leader, Kleisner said.

Kleisner further explained interoperability with allies is much more than using the other nation’s military hardware. In some cases it requires keeping plans simple, assigning language-capable liaison Soldiers with radios to the right leaders, or using “old school” signal solutions such as signal flags to ensure everyone can communicate effectively.

Attendees at the leadership symposium later collaborated efforts and described what they learned when they participated in group break-out sessions, which were designed to develop strategies to enhance the Ghost Brigade’s future training and campaign plans.

Additionally, brigade staff sections presented future training opportunities, discussed training objectives, challenges, possible risks and concerns which would provide details for future combat training center rotations.

In his closing remarks, Foley praised the participants for their active engagement in the conversation about the Ghost Brigade’s future and how each of them has contributed to the unit’s success.

"This has really been a great opportunity for us to actively participate in discussions about what we’ve learned, and where we’re headed collectively as an organization,” Foley said. “We don’t look at this as an end state for we’re barely scratching the surface of what we can do as we empower, develop and grow our leaders and prepare for the future.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ghost Brigade’s War on Excess

Spc. Aaron Dumond (left), a team leader with D Company, 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, reads off a list of required items needed for turning in their Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter to the Logistics Readiness Center May 8, 2017, on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The DRASH turn in was part of 1-2 SBCT’s effort to rid the unit of excess equipment.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team has been taking part in an installation-wide material management program to synchronize and execute material management actions and increase on hand equipment readiness.

The process included equipment alignment, lateral transfers, and excess turn-in so units can maximize equipment readiness across Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The process started at company levels and expanded to include all 1-2 SBCT units. Units have also divested excess equipment to fill shortages off of JBLM.

“If transfers are not required within the brigade because everyone filled on the equipment, than the next step is to turn it in or ship it possibly to another post,” said Capt. Clayton Shillings, logistics director for 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry, 1-2 SBCT.

The program, which is known as Unit Equipping and Reuse Working Group – Expanded (UERWG-E), was directed by Forces Command and began in September 2016 with the identification of excess equipment, according to Maj. Joseph Baumbach, the logistics director for 1-2 SBCT. The brigade began with 6,500 pieces of excess equipment and 4,642 need to be divested by July 9.

“A piece of equipment can go anywhere, from another company in the brigade to the Army National Guard or Reserve component units,” Baumbach said. “Wherever it’s needed. It can also go to depots or to the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services where it will get stocked for future use or destroyed.

“This program is important in order to modernize the Army,” he added. “It is forcing us to get rid of our legacy equipment, whether it is old NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) equipment, old communication equipment, or old soft-skinned vehicles, while retaining the newer equipment.”

This is all based on the Modified Table of Organization (MTOE), said Shillings. There may be a new weapon that is being issued and a unit has an older weapon sitting on the books in place of it. By replacing and divesting equipment, the brigade can maintain readiness on an equal footing across the board.

“Getting rid of equipment that is excess also benefits us because we are not trying to perform maintenance on that equipment to keep it running or up-to-date,” said Shillings. “This saves time and money. If you have 20 weapons, but you only need 10. You can focus more on maintaining the 10 than on the 20, ensuring unit readiness.”

“We are only authorized to repair what in our unit by MTOE, so anything excess will eat into our training dollars in order to fix,” said Baumbach. “Reducing the amount of excess equipment also reduces our budget constraints – making us a better fighting force by having more money available for training.”

The 1-2 SBCT is the largest unit on JBLM to participate in UERWG-E, according to Baumbach. As of May 9, 2017, the unit has divested 3,075 out of 4,642 of equipment -- 66 percent during the 11 weeks of conducting UERWG.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

City of Lacey holds fundraiser for Veterans Services Hub

The City of Lacey held a fundraiser April 28, 2017, at Saint Martin’s University Marcus Pavilion, Lacey, Wash.

The fundraiser raised approximately $30, 000 for the Lacey Veterans Services Hub, an organization that assists veterans and their family members with housing and financial assistance, job training and employment, and more. Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, provided the color guard for the fundraiser.

“The city embraces partnerships with the military community through the Community Connector Program, the Lacey Subchapter of AUSA (Association of the United States Army), and the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership (SSMCP),” said Mary Coppin, the Lacey community liaison. “The Community Connector program allows us to develop coordinated opportunities for Soldiers to connect with the community and for our civilians to demonstrate support for military personnel and their families. On the leadership level, the SSMCP facilitates regional planning efforts for JBLM to meet the needs of the military and the surrounding communities.”

Through the initiative of the Lacey City Council, the city opened the Lacey Veterans Services Hub in October 2016, said Coppin. The Lacey Hub is a one-stop shop for assistance with benefits, counseling, peer-to-peer support, housing, employment, and education assistance. Since opening six months ago, the Lacey Hub has already served more than 900 Veterans and families.

“Additionally, Lacey is a partner in the Thurston Economic Development Council Center for Business and Innovation Veterans Microenterprise Program (VMP),” she said. “This program is designed to help veterans plan, open and operate a small business. Veterans who live in the City of Lacey or the Lacey Urban Growth area, plan to open a business in the City of Lacey may be eligible for enhanced services through VMP.

“We want to continue supporting our adopted brigade, the 1-2 SBCT, and remain a welcoming community to all military members, veterans, and their families.  Lacey celebrates the importance of their service, and we demonstrate this by proudly displaying over 800 U.S. flags throughout Lacey streets on all patriotic holidays. It is our goal to enhance the quality of life for military personnel and families by building quality neighborhoods, infrastructure, schools, recreation opportunities, and services.”

For the past two years, the city has partnered with the Lacey Subchapter of AUSA to host Ghost Brigade Field Day events at the Regional Athletic Facility (RAC) in Lacey.  These all-day events have featured free food, games, activities, door prizes, and tournaments for the members of the 1-2 SBCT and their families. The 3rd Annual 1-2 SBCT Field Day is currently scheduled for August 29, 2017.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

2-3 Inf. Soldiers provide demos for AUSA's 6th region spring meeting

Soldiers of 2-3 Infantry supported I Corps hosting of approximately 65 members from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter as part of their AUSA 6th region spring meeting to build and maintain community trust and increase awareness and support for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and I Corps, April 21, 2017.

AUSA members were guided to different stations where subject matter experts provided task conditions and standards of the stations (such as employ and recover an M18A1 Claymore, camouflage self and equipment, Objective Bull, and more), while Soldiers gave a demonstration. After the third station AUSA members were given the opportunity to view a Stryker static display, fire M4 Rifles, use radio equipment and interact with Soldiers.

AUSA is a non-profit organization that acts primarily as an advocacy group for the United States Army. Founded in 1950, it has 119 chapters worldwide. Membership is open to everyone, not just Army personnel. 

The Captain Meriwether Lewis Lacey Subchapter of AUSA has worked with the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team and other organizations such as 17th Field Artillery Brigade for a while, according to Tina Torfin, the subchapter president.

“We have hosted our Annual Family Day for two years running and are looking forward to 2017 (our 3rd year), which is scheduled on August 29, 2017,” Torfin said.

The Annual Family Day event is entirely free for the entire Brigade and their families, she added. They are invited out to The RAC at Lacey (Regional Athletic Center and Park).  AUSA procured over 65 supporters to come out and support the event with activities, goods and services ranging from free face painting, bounce houses, free haircuts and games.

“We all have full time careers, yet we dedicate hours of volunteer time each week, month, year and it is our honor to do so,” Torfin said. That said, this is not an endeavor we could accomplish alone, we absolutely reach out to our business community and our City Connector: The City of Lacey. Lacey is a huge support to us, as is the Lacey Police and Fire Departments."

The subchapter even assist 2nd SBCT, Lancer Foundation, to with their memorial. They hosted a fundraiser on their behalf to help build their Memorial on Post.

“Hands down what I enjoy most is serving our Military Families,” she added. “I work nights and weekends, I enlist my whole family to help out when I can! In addition to AUSA, I also serve as an Honorary Commander for the 62nd Airlift Wing OSS … serving the Military is an important and meaningful part of my life, I couldn't imagine it any other way.”

Thursday, April 27, 2017

‘Patriot’ Soldiers prepare for future conflicts at YTC

By Staff Sgt. Samuel Northrup

Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, move toward their objective during training March 16, 2017, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. Soldiers of 2-3 Inf., 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, conducted a live fire training exercise March 14-20 in order to help prepare themselves for future contingencies.

Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, conducted a live fire training exercise March 14-20 at Yakima Training Center, Wash., in order to help prepare themselves for future contingencies.

The training included mounted and dismounted infantry tasks in an isolated training environment across complex terrain. It involved an enemy counterattack once a friendly platoon had consolidated and reorganized after securing an objective. Higher headquarters and reconnaissance assets would report that an armored element was moving to the platoon's location on the objective.

Upon receiving word enemy armor was on the way, the platoon moved their dismounted and mounted assets off the objective behind defilade and deployed a Javelin Missile team with a security element to engage the armored threat from a secure position.

“Successful training events depend on a sufficient resources,” said 1st Lt. Chaka, a platoon leader with Charger Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. “In a resource-constrained environment, obtaining the necessary inputs to conduct realistic training is an ever-present obstacle to completing the mission.”

According to Chaka, his ability to provide timely command and control in an otherwise chaotic combat environment is what determines his value to the team.

“The training our battalion executed at YTC stressed my ability to coordinate multiple echelons of both direct and indirect fires, safely maneuver my Soldiers across the battlefield and provide situational updates to higher headquarters. That ultimately shapes operational and strategic decision-making that directly impact the welfare of my individual Soldiers,” he added.

The training mimics austere conditions their unit may encounter in a potential overseas deployment, according to Chaka. YTC provided a dynamic and challenging environment that stressed their battalion’s operational capabilities, as well as their ability to project sustained combat power in order to fight and win our nation’s wars abroad.

Pfc. Tyler Kowalchuk of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, fires the second Javelin shot of the day March 16, 2017, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. 

“Perhaps the most valuable benefit from training at YTC is that it provides a realistic assessment of our unit’s combat readiness at any given time,” said Chaka. “The long-distance movements to and from the training area stress our logistical and asset-recovery capabilities, which are arguably some of the most critical tasks required of a mechanized organization. YTC also enables our battalion to develop and refine standard operating procedures and best-practices that will benefit future generations of Soldiers.”

The training forces Soldiers at every echelon of leadership to hone their critical thinking and decision-making skills in real-time, Chaka said. Repetitive training in day and nighttime conditions while operating in difficult, unfamiliar terrain affords individual Soldiers the opportunity to gain confidence in themselves and each other.

“As a platoon leader at YTC, I learned the value of incorporating flexibility into my course-of-action development,” said Chaka. “Flexibility is a crucial element during the execution phase of any operation and remaining overly-fixed to the initial plan prevents leaders from recognizing and seizing the initiative, or on the other hand, exercising tactical patience when the conditions are not set to continue the mission. In future training exercises, I will use my subordinate leaders more effectively, trust them to exercise initiative and adapt to the situation on the ground as it changes.”

Prior to executing training operations at YTC, select Soldiers within 2-3 Inf. certified on the FGM-148 Javelin weapon system under the supervision of certified instructors from Jan. 30 to Feb. 17. The training allowed Soldiers across the battalion to develop the skills and confidence necessary to employ live javelin munitions as part of their individual platoon’s scheme of maneuver during platoon live fire exercises.