The Battlecry CHRISTMAS
THE OFFICIAL DEPLOYMENT MAGAZINE OF THE 172ND SEPARATE INFANTRY BRIGADE
War II-Korea-Vietnam-Iraq-Afgh Soldier’s World War I-World War II-Korea-
World War I-World War II-Kore Korea-Vietnam-Iraq-Afghanis
Christmas A BattleCry Special
Christmas During War: A Photographic journey of Christmas during war from WWI to the modern battlefields of Afghanistan
ea-Vietnam-Iraq-Afghanistan stan-World War I-World War II First Lady Offers Special Tribute: Then There Was Silence:
A Christmas miracle on the battlefied
Military Families are the focus at the White House during Holiday season
Giving as a Gift: How to give your Family the best gift you can while deployed
Blackhawk Christmas Greetings: Holiday Greetings from Blackhawk Families, friends & Soldiers
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
World War I
A Soldier’s Christmas
Then there was silence
A Christmas miracle on the battlefield. Story by Spc. Robert J. Holland
The sound of the German soldiers singing danced its way through the fog and into the ears of the stunned British soldiers. They listened to the carol they all knew. They did not understand German, Anderson recalled. However, there was no need to. The song was instantly recognizable as Silent Night. Some of the British soldiers sang along, but most of them just listened, not knowing how to feel or what to do.
or the boys, it was the beginning of an exciting adventure.
The year was 1914 and the war to end all war was underway.
At age 18, Alfred Anderson answered the call to duty in a time of conflict, enlisting in the British Army. Excited by the opportunity to fight the German war machine, he enticed his childhood friends to sign up to fight alongside him. By December, Anderson had been fighting on the frontlines for months. Fatigued by combat, his perspective changed. The hissing, cracking, and whining of bullets flying overhead, the constant roar of machine gun fire, and the brutal winter weather turned his childish adventure into a hellacious fight for survival. As the end of December approached, something inside Anderson collapsed, the
passion that once filled his eyes replaced with a vision of death. On December 24th, Anderson and his comrades found themselves in a trench fight against a German battalion across the muddy fields of Flanders in present-day Belgium. A mere 60 yards of forsaken landmass separated the enemy combatants. As Anderson settled in for a back-andforth duel, he became an unwitting witness to one of the strangest events in human history. The late afternoon saw an unannounced break in the gunfire. First the German guns fell suddenly silent, then the British. Flanders field itself seemed confused, overcome by fog and hauntingly beautiful quietude. “Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht.”
After the song ended, a single German soldier courageously climbed out of his fighting position carrying a tiny decorated Christmas tree, apparently sent by land from Germany. The German Soldier’s flashlight cut through the fog as he took a step towards the British trenchline, his hands trembling. “Merry Christmas,” The German soldier yelled out in tortured English. “We not shoot, you not shoot.” The British soldiers were frozen with shock, unsure if this act was a gesture of holiday fellowship or some sort of bizarre ambush. In the end, the Brits were too exhausted to care. They cautiously climbed out of their trenches, with all the Germans following suite. They came face-to-face on Flanders field and shook hands. The Christmas spirit overtook the Soldiers and their faces that had been deprived of any joy for months were now filled with boyish smiles; for a moment on a field of battle, the Soldiers were young men again.
They sang Christmas carols together, lit each other’s cigarettes and even played a friendly game of soccer.
which had come to pass.’ Then suddenly our opponents began to sing ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’ (Silent Night). They finished their carol and we thought that
Many of the Soldiers who the previous day had been exchanging bullets now exchanged mailing addresses hoping that one day, when the war was over, they could reconnect.
The truce was short-lived and once the holiday passed, the killing continued. “There was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see,” Anderson recounted. “The silence ended early in the afternoon, and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”
The brief Christmas respite from war did not just happen in one isolated area, it spread like wildfire over 500 miles of the Western front. Graham Williams, a British Soldier fighting with the 2nd Queen’s Regiment on the Western Front describes a scene similar to that of Flanders: “I was gazing toward the German lines and thinking what a different sort of Christmas Eve this was from any I had experienced in the past when suddenly lights began to appear along the top of the German trenches - these were Christmas trees which were adorned with lighted candles burning steadily in the still, frosty air! Other guards had, of course, seen the same thing, and quickly awoke those asleep in the shelters, to ‘come and see this thing
Come All Ye Faithful’ and the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words ‘Adeste Fideles.’ And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing - our nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”
The incredible events that occurred 97 years ago became known as the Christmas Truce. Anderson, the lastremaining soldier to witness the Christmas Truce first-hand died at the age 109 Nov. 21, 2005. He spent the rest of life his life trying to forget what he saw during the war that took 9 million lives. we ought to retaliate in the same way, so we sang ‘The First Nowell,’ and when we finished they all began clapping. And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until we started up with ‘O
“I’ll give Christmas Day 1914 a brief thought, as I do every year. I’ll think about all my friends who never made it home. But it is too sad to think too much about it,” He said. “Far too sad.”
A Soldier’s Christmas SFC Charles J. Benintende, We Are Wishing You A Very Very Safe Happy Holiday That’s Filled With ALL The Love In The World!! We Miss You So Very Much But Knowing The Days Are Getting Closer, Helps Us All & Getting So Very EXCITED!! Praying & Thinking Of You ALWAYS & FOREVER!! We Appreciate You & EVERYTHING You Do For Us & Our Country!! Love, Your Beloved Family
SFC Ronald Becker Jr, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and I can’t wait for R&R to hold you in my arms again. You are missed everyday. I can’t wait until Dixie sees you again! She is going to give you tons of puppy kisses! We love you very much! XOXO Your “wife” Brandy and your pup Dixie
PFC Brian Thompson, We can’t tell you how much we are going to miss our hero on Christmas. It’s just not going to be the same! Please be safe and try to stay warm! We all love you, miss you, and beam with pride at the thought of you!. We are counting down the days until your safe return home We love you, Your proud family
you, but we’ll make up for it next year! You’re family misses you and can’t wait for you to return home! Have a Merry Christmas and see you soon! Much Love, Your family
SPC Taylor Klausing, I can’t tell you enough how much I miss being near you. You’ve been an amazing husban through this difficult time in our lives and I love you so very much. Your my world babe, don’t forget that. Keep safe always. I am anxiously waiting until the next time I am at the airport waiting for you to come home! Love, Your Wife
SGT Andrew Pruitt, Your family back home would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a Happy Birthday! We are so proud of you and will always stand behind you. There is not a day that goes by that you are not in our thoughts and prayers we love and miss you so much. Stay safe!
1LT Quincey Johnson, You are a wonderful father, husband, and soldier- we are so proud of what you do for us. We love you so much and can’t express that enough. Know that we are constantly thinking of you and can’t wait to see you on R&R. We miss you and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. XOXOXO, Jennifer, Keira, and Caleb
PFC Aidan Hammond, We all miss you very very much this holiday season! Stay save and strong in god’s everlasting protection! Love, Mom, Jessy, Austin, Kyla, Alek, Autunn, and Avyn Rose.
SGT Kyle Blake, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Bobo! We miss you tons and love you so much Kyle. We really proud of you! Can’t wait to hold you again!! Stay Safe! XOXO, Bianca and Tara Lynn
Love always and forever, Jessica, Trey, Cortez, and Miami
SPC Anthony Cook,
We will miss you this christmas but know that we are so proud of you and love you very much!!
Hope all of you are staying warm in your new home. Enjoy your Christmas as best u can. Mentzer we love and miss you. Big HUGS, Godspeed to all of you
I miss you and love you. Christmas won’t be the same this year without
Stay safe! Sarah, Tricia, Arvie, Vin and Mom
Love, Your proud family in florida
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
MAJ Joseph Buccino
A Christmas wish to my Hero. This Christmas I wish you “ Peace on Earth and Many Blessings” Thank you for the wonderful person you are. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Love Always, Your Mom
PFC Matthew B. Thompson, May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through! Stay safe and well! Merry Christmas! Mom, Jim, Karli, Ashley, Andy, Jimmy, Paige & Skyler
Marcus Haywood, Merry Christmas and a happy new year from your family here at Fort Campbell. We love and miss you! Love, Tracy Katrina & Donte Haywood
PFC James T. Allen, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year son! We miss and love you! You are always in our hearts! Stay safe! Love, Mom, Dad, Mary, Jenni & Maggie
MAJ Stuart James Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my favorite son-in-law! M-YT-K Love, Ron & Mel
Nick Lencioni, Your family is all warmer than you right now, but we’re praying for you and sending our love. The guitar is packed in Ramen; hopefully it makes it in one piece. We love you Nickman, Barbara
Jake Cox, Merry Christmas, Jake! We are so proud of you and love you very much! Thank you for keeping us safe! Love, The Ried Family
SPC Curtis Mathews, I would like to let my husband Curtis Matthews know that Olivia, Madison and Hannah love and miss him very much. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday! Love Olivia, Madison & Hannah
PFC Jonathan Martin, Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday baby! I miss you more and more everyday, and I can’t wait until you’re home to celebrate both of these very special days! I love you very much and I think about you all day everyday. Love, Morgan
MAJ Michael LaPorte, Merry Christmas And Happy New
Years. We miss you and are so proud of you. Love, Mom & Tracy
Jake, The Jake! “You don’t get very far in life without having to be brave an awful lot. Because we all have our frightening moments and difficult trials and we don’t have much of a choice but to get through ‘em, and it takes a lot of bravery to do that. The most important thing about bravery is this — It’s not about not being scared — it’s about being scared and doing it anyway — that’s bravery.” ~Ysabella Brave We love you soo much and are always sending our hopes for tremendous adventure, endless amazing moments, and wisdom far beyond these years! We’ll see you soon, bud! Happy Holidays! Cheers~ to grand New Year! Love, The Kali Kids
Pouesi Ricky, Another Christmas without you, just want to let you know that we are always with you in spirit.You made my world a beautiful place to live in,& I want to thank you for coming into my life,For you are the most precious gift God has given to me, esp our babies, Ricky,Rosaline, &Richard..Be strong baby,you are always in our thoughts and our prayers. Come home safely. We will love u for now & forever. Happy Holidays darling! Love always, Sandra
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
World War II
A Soldier’s Christmas
First Lady offers special tribute
Military families are the focus during White House Holiday season
n a gesture of gratitude for their service and sacrifice, First Lady Michelle Obama this month invited military families, including families of the military fallen, to be among the first to see the White House decked out for this year’s holiday season. “I know for some of you this holiday season will be tough,” Obama said. “But hopefully it’s times like this that make you know that you live in a grateful nation, and that we are just so inspired by your sacrifice.”
A Gold Star Christmas tree, bright with gold star ornaments and framed Purple Heart medals, graces the visitor’s entrance on the East Wing landing. The tree was decorated by families of military fallen and features photos of fallen heroes and messages from their loved ones. A mom from Anchorage, Alaska, wrote this note to her son, Obama said: “I love and miss you, son. Thank you for all of the great memories we shared.”
This holiday season, she said, the White House is offering a special tribute to those who serve. Among the White House’s 37 Christmas trees scattered along the visitor tour route are two special Christmas trees intended to honor service members and their families.
In another card is a more matter-of-fact message, the first lady noted. “Hey Dad, it’s cool you’re in Italy. So when are you coming back, because I already know what I want for Christmas.”
These families deserve the gratitude of a thankful nation, the first lady said, particularly in light of the sacrifices they make each day. Spouses are raising kids alone while their loved ones are deployed and their children are taking on extra responsibilities to help. And she’s been inspired, she said, by the survivors of the fallen who continue to give back to their communities. Americans need to hear these stories, she said, and to understand what it’s like to be a military family. The Joining Forces campaign is intended to do just that, she said. The first lady and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, started the initiative earlier this year to raise awareness of military families’ sacrifices and to rally Americans around them.
The official White House Christmas tree, which is a towering 18-foot balsam fir in the Blue Room, is a salute to service members of all branches. The tree is decorated with holiday cards created by military children around the world; service medals, badges and patches; and military images adorned with pine cone frames and ribbons. Some of those cards are inspiring, Obama said, sharing one of the written messages. Five children in Medical Lake, Wash., wrote, “No matter how many Christmases our dad misses, he makes every Christmas special and we love him.”
and Gold Star families will be invited to inscribe a ceramic gold star ornament with a personalized note.
“We wanted to make sure that never again would someone have to ask the question: What is a Gold Star family and what does that sacrifice mean,” she said. “We all should know.” The tree is surrounded with photos and stories from more than 800 Gold Star families, the first lady noted. “Each one showcases the strength and resilience that characterizes our Gold Star families,” she said. In the coming weeks, visitors to the White House will be able to write notes to service members to express their gratitude,
Obama said that’s one of the reasons the troops and their families are highlighted at the White House this holiday season. The first lady wrapped up with her own message of gratitude. “I want to thank all of the Gold Star families for your enduring strength and commitment to this country,” she said. “And I want to thank all of the troops, all of our veterans, all of our military fami-
lies, whose service and sacrifice inspires us all.â€? The first lady then invited the military children lining the front rows to decorate holiday cookies and ornaments with her in the State Dining Room. She iced cookies alongside them as she praised their festive creations.
The military families also toured holiday decorations in several of the White Houseâ€™s ornate rooms. A big attraction was the White House gingerbread house, which is made up of 400 pounds of gingerbread, white chocolate and marzipan. But Obamaâ€™s dog, Bo, upstaged even the gingerbread house. Scattered throughout the tour route are five Bo topiaries made of various materials such as felt, buttons,
pom-poms, candy, and even trash bags. As the children did their crafts, they had the opportunity to compare the fake first dogs with the real deal when the first lady brought Bo to the State Dining Room for a visit.
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
SGT Morales, Merry Christmas ! We miss you and love you very much! Love, Shani, Shaki and Kael
To My Wonderful Husband, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my wonderful husband Franklin McAnally. I love you and miss you so much and can’t wait for you to be back home with Arianna and I. Always & Forever, Heather
PFC Corey Foster, Wishing you a blessed Christmas! You may be far away, but not in our hearts! We are so proud of you! Love & Prayers Always, Mom, Dad, Nana, Caleb & Taylor
SGT Dylon L. Eaton, Hey honey! Bella and I would like to wish you a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Your a blessing to us both and we want to say that your our HERO! We love you sweetie! Forever & Always, Sabryna & Bella
PFC Dustin C. Berry, You are my hero, and I am so proud of everything that you are doing. I cannot wait until you are home again, we will all be waiting for you when you get back to the states! Stay safe and keep your brothers safe too so
that I can meet all of them one day! I am so glad that you are part of my life, I love you to the moon and back!
Love, Mom, Dad, Andrew & Hunter
XOXO Tara Elise
SPC Michael Wasson,
Merry Christmas Jeremy Weyant! We are so proud of you!
We miss you and can’t wait to “see you” soon! Stay safe! Love and miss you! Mom, Dad, Kristen, Ryan, Zach and Rocky
PFC Christopher Peters, We are all so proud of you here at home. We miss you and can’t wait until you come home. All your birthday and christmas gifts will be waiting for you.
XOXO Cortney & Bella
PFC David Cassell We are so proud of you, volunteering to defend our country!! We love you very much! Godspeed, Mom, Dad & Dylan
SGT Jason Murphy,
Love, Your big sis Becca
Merry Christmas, babe! Missing you very much this holiday season! Stay safe and come home soon! I love you, forever!
To our Son,
XOXO Marisa Murphy
Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years to Nicholas Wrazen. We Love and Miss You so Very Much. A Very Happy Holiday to All the troops serving. you are thought about each and everyday. Much Love Nick! Dad, Laurie & Lilly too!
PFC Aaron P. Guenthner, We wish you Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Blessed New Year! We wish you were home but know you are doing your job helping keep us safe. The snow is waiting for you to hit the slopes on that snowboard son. We miss you so very much and love you even more!
SGT Chris Rodgers, It’s just too darned cold to ride around in your Razor right now, but we’ll still decorate a tree on the mountain just for you (and the birds and the deer) Merry Christmas Bud! Love, Mom, Dad & Zita
SPC Vernon Wilson, Merry Christmas, And A Happy New Year!! We Love and Miss you! Stay Safe and God Bless! Love Always, Kim & Aiden
A Soldier’s Christmas SSG Mercado,
PFC Quinton Ritter,
We think about you everyday we miss you, and are anxiously awaiting your safe return..
Thank you for all you are doing! Hope this finds you in good spirit. We miss you and can’t wait until you’re home safely!
We would like to say Merry Christmas to our son Sean Wiggin! We love you and miss you son!
We love you, Evee Richie & Ryan Mercado
SPC James England, Merry christmas. I miss you and I Love you with all my heart.I’m so proud of you!Your daughter cant wait to meet her daddy. so come home safe and soon. Love, Your wife, Natalie
PFC Robert Garner, We love you and miss you. But we are so very proud of you. I want to you we all wish you a Merry Christmas and let you know we will have Christmas when you come home. Love you, Mom & Christin
Jake Cox, We wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas Jshaque!! Konnor told me to tell you, ‘you’re the best uncle EVER!’ It was so fun to see you on your leave. You are so much fun to be around and the kids absolutely adore and idolize you! Know we are praying for you daily and can’t wait till you are home safe! Keep doing the videos and songs!!! We love you so much! May the Lord bless you for your service and sacrifice! Much Love, Kyle, karen, Kaylee, Konnor &Kase
We love you, Mom, Steve, Jamie Lee, Grandpa & Grandma Clark
1LT Justin Cartmill, We love and miss you and your family is so proud of you! Here’s hoping the Mountaineers win the Orange Bowl and you get to see the game!
Son, May you go out in joy & be led forth with peace; may the mountains & hills burst into song before you, & may all the trees of the field clap their hands. We Love & Miss You!
Lots and lots of love, Mom& Herb
Wishing you Happy Holidays. Your Love, Mama J, Herzer Daddie & the Puppies
PFC William H. Smith,
PFC Christopher Peters,
Merry Christmas! We love you and are very proud of you!
We are thinking of you every day. Have a Happy Birthday on 12/17 and a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the cupcakes and Dad will have a beer to celebrate your 21st birthday. Cheers
Love, Dad, Sherri, Jon, Ashley & Whitney
PFC Jonathan Martinez May you stay blessed during this holiday season. We love you and are extremely proud of you!! God Bless you and the 172 Infantry Brigade!! Love. Your proud Army Mom
I love & miss you very much, Mom We can’t believe you are 21, hope you have a Happy Birthday somewhere, and also a Merry Christmas, wish you were here. Much love, Nana & Bumbo
Edison F. Urquiza
Jordana and I are always thinking about you. We hope and pray you stay safe at all times. We’re so proud of you.!! You mean the world to us. :)
Merry Christmas Dad “Our Hero”!! We are counting down the days for you to come home We love and miss you!!
Love always. Austin, Madison & Mom
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
Story by Chaplain (Maj.) Kevin Forrester
Giving as a gift
ecember is the time of year that we focus on celebrating important holidays. With each of these holidays comes the sharing of presents and other special traditions. For the vast majority reading this, the holiday you are accustomed to celebrating is Christmas. For others in our midst, the holiday or observance you celebrate is Hanukkah. Others still observe Kwanzaa or simply do not observe any holiday during this time of year. Nonetheless, for Americans, the end of December has a concrete emphasis on joy, celebration, family connection, togetherness and giving. The roots of Christmas are known to most. The term literally means the Mass of Christ or a celebration of Christ. The word has its origin in the Old English and Middle English in which the term used
there was Christmasse. The term was first recorded in any preserved writing in 1038. Through the modernization of the English language, it eventually became the word we now use, Christmas. Biblical and historical scholars are generally agreed that the date for the original Christmas was not December 25. That date did not become part of our modern calendar until an early Church Father named John Chrysostom preached a sermon at the church at Antioch in 386 A.D. in which he established Christmas as occurring on December 25. Christmas for the Christian community is the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, known in the ancient Greek as Christos, and transliterated into English as Christ. It is the date the Christian Church celebrates as the day the Savior of all mankind came into
the world in the form of a baby to free people from their burden of sin and to make the way possible for man to have eternal fellowship with God through the atoning work of Jesus. Christmas is the second most important event in the history of Christianity. Easter would be the most important. Hanukkah, with its variant spellings of Hanukah, Chanukah, Chanukkah, or Chanuka, is a traditional Jewish celebration which is sometimes known as the Festival of Lights. The celebration has its origin dating back to the second century B.C. During the Maccabean Revolt the nation of Judah regained its independence after centuries of domination at the hands of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Ptolemaic Kingdom. Following the Jewish revolt to reclaim their country and purge the Second
Jewish Temple from the defilement of the pagan king, the victory was secured and the temple was cleansed. A new alter was built to replace the previously defiled one by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Hanukkah was established to celebrate the rededication of the temple and the alter. The menorah was lit and required to stay burning for eight consecutive days. However, there was only enough sacred oil to burn for one day. Miraculously, the menorah continued to burn for the full eight days and nights. This is how the celebration received the designation the Festival of Lights and the menorah lighting as a key part of the Hanukah celebration. Whether focused on Christmas or on Hanukkah, a key component with each of the religious celebrations is the idea of giving. With Hanukkah, the gift giving and the idea of serving as a blessing to others is an eight-day affair. Christmas is a single-day period of exchanging gifts. If you are down range, the holiday season appears to be a month-long affair, sas I have been getting boxes of goodies for Soldiers for several weeks now. The tradition behind the giving is
two-fold. For Hanukkah, the tradition of giving is called Hanukah Gelt (Yiddish word for money). It dates back to the 17th century in
Poland. It began as a custom of giving coins to children when they visited during the eight days of the celebration. From there it has expanded to giving coins to others who may come and visit, and it some circles it has become a season of gift giving in general. Some chocolate makers have tried to take advantage of the holiday by creating chocolate gelt to give during this time.
The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time can be traced back to the legend of St. Nicholas who was the bishop of Myra (now Demre in modern Turkey). The legend has him going to the house of a poor farmer who had three daughters and throwing a bag of money through the chimney into the house on the eve before each of the girls came of age. The reason for doing this was to provide the proper dowry for each of the girls and allow them to marry. If they could not marry, the girls most likely would have become prostitutes since they had no other means to support themselves once they became of age without a husband to provide for them. From this came the ever expanding legend until the idea of gift giving to children and then to all took over at Christmas. So this certainly is the season for giving. For quite some times merchants, store owners, department stores, online vendors and marketing firms have been working diligently and feverishly to get you and I to spend as much money as possible to satisfy the needs and perhaps more so the wants of other people in our lives during
A Soldier’s Christmas this grossly over commercialized holiday season. I wonder sometimes if we have not totally missed the point. I really do like to give gifts. I give to people, to organizations and to causes that mean a great deal to me. But I have discovered that it is not the gift that makes the difference in me. It is the spirit of the giver that makes the difference. Even the Lord is recorded to have said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” in the Bible. That is certainly true for me. So if we want to receive the real blessing of giving, we must examine the motive for which we do it. Do you give out of obligation or do you give out of the desire of your heart to bless another and do good things for him or her? Do you give so that you can get something I return or do you give to experience the satisfaction and enjoyment of seeing another’s face light up with a gift that has real meaning? These are the questions each must wrestle with during the holiday season, and I would hope, throughout the entire year. Within your family, I think there is something far greater than simply giving a gift to a spouse or a child to celebrate a holiday or special
occasions. In the grand scheme of things I think giving of a gift ought to be an extension of giving of myself. For example, I could give my son a football as a gift. How much better would it be if I gave him a football and then went out and spent time with him playing football? If a give my daughter a new doll house or a new doll, would her joy and thrill not be all the more higher if I then spent time playing dolls with her? When I play
football with my son or dolls with my daughter, I am communicating to them that I value them and the things that matter to them. I am really giving of myself. As a spouse or a parent, that is the greatest gift that I can give. Our consumer culture has largely presented the message that we can replace giving of ourselves with the giving of things. However, history has time and again taught us that the giving of things can never replace the giving of relationships
and fellowship. If you would like to see a really good modern day parable that teaches this point rather brilliantly, I would highly suggest the movie Nanny McPhee Returns. The giving of things without the accompanying relational investments does not do much to meet the emotional needs of the gift recipient. If it is indeed true that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and I believe it is, then we must understand how that is true. I believe the Lord’s perspective on this is that my giving ought to be a real reflection of what is in my heart. When I give from the heart, the giving includes a real part of me that is followed up with the ongoing relationship. Even though the deployment makes the physical connection of gift giving a real challenge, that does not mean that we cannot give from our hearts to the ones we love. That is really the greatest gift we can give. Rather than anything I could give, my family will always benefit most when I truly give of myself. Your family will absolutely do the same. The best gift of my giving is the gift of me. When I truly give of me, I give the best gift I have to give. It is giving as a gift.
A Wall of Cards Christmas cards fill an entire wall within
the 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment tactical operational center. â€œFalcon Firstâ€? Soldiers donated the cards they received from their friends and families.
A Soldier’s Christmas SPC Bryan White, Merry Christmas babe! We are so proud of you and everything you are doing, especially for our family. You are an amazing husband and father and our hero. I am so thankful to spend the rest of my life with you. We miss you so much and we can’t wait to have you home with us. I love you to the moon and back! Don’t ever forget it! Love, Samantha, Zander, Izabel, Cooper & Kendrick
the heart that puts Christmas in the air. ~W.T. Ellis”. We love you so much in our hearts! Merry Christmas and Happy New Years Mi Amor LOVE your wife, son, Castrodad Family and Algarin Family! Stay Safe! See you soon! Thank you for all that you and your men do! Much Love, Yaritza
SPC Christopher S. Delano, We are very proud of you, we miss you and we LOVE YOU! May your Christmas be special nd know that you are in our prayers, heart and souls. Merry Christmas Son!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year’s. We miss you so much this holiday season, wish you could be here with you. Have a safe Christmas. We Love you!
Love your Family, Your Wife
Love, Amber, Madison, Hannah & Jacob
Your family back home would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a Happy Birthday! We are so proud of you and will always stand behind you. There is not a day that goes by that you are not in our thoughts and prayers we love and miss you so much. Stay safe!
Daddy, Merry Christmas Daddy! We miss you very much and hope to see you soon. Thank you my birthday presents. I had a dance recital and did very good. James and john are being good for mommy (most of the time). Be safe! Lots of love, Alana
CPL Einar Perez, We miss you very much, but dont you worry we will have all the celebrations in one when you return! We are always under the same stars, so look up and know that we are looking at the same thing! “It is Christmas in
SGT Andrew Pruitt,
Love always and forever, Mom, Dad, Megan, Randy, Debbie, Kathryn, Zachary, Jimmy & Samantha
SSG James Farris, We miss you terribly. Hope your Christmas is filled with good food and relaxation. We cannot wait for R & R. Until we meet again, just know that you are always in our thoughts and we love you very much. Love Always, Joanna, Breanna, Mira, and Eli
To Our Brother, Merry Christmas to our brother Spc. Christopher S. Delano. We miss and love you so very much! Your Siblings, PFC James R. Delano, SPC Randall C. Delano & PVT Megan M. Delano
SFC Ronald Becker Jr, Merry Christmas! Your family loves you, we miss you, we support you. May God bless you, the 172nd and all of the men and women serving in our Armed Services - home and abroad. May God bless all of our Military Families. Love ya lots, Mom. Thank you Battle Cry staff for all that you do! Love you lots, Mom
PFC Jake “Ginger” Cox Make sure you find a chicken noodle MRE and chocolate pudding for Christmas! We love you, miss you and are so proud of you. Merry Christmas! All Love, Mom & Dad
SGT Keith Stevens, We miss you and love you. You are in our hearts. Have a blessed Christmas and stay safe! Love, Love, Mom, Dad, Nick, Ryan, & Penny
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
PFC Matthew C Golik, Here’s a great big hug across the miles to you, our brave young man. We sure love you and miss you, Matty! Hurry home to us so we can give you big hugs and kisses in person!!! Love, Your family
SGT Morris, I know we cannot be together this XMAS but you are in MY HEART! Stay Strong! I love you! Always thinking of you, Ursula
To my family back home, I would like to give shout out to the Statler and Cain Family back home enjoying the wonderful cold weather back home in Arkansas. I love you all and miss you all! I can’t wait to come home! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year Love & Prayers Always, PFC Michael L. Statler
SGT James Luckenbach, We love you and no matter how far away in distance you are, you will always be close to our hearts. Be safe out there my love and see you soon! Love, Ashleigh
Matthew, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Matthew! I want you to know
that I will love you forever, and I have never prayed in my life until I met you. I pray for your safety, our love, and our future together each and every day. You are my world, can’t wait to get to spend Christmas with you next year as husband and wife. Love always, J
SSG Jeffrey Jaramillo, Words can’t express how much we love and miss you! We are always thinking about you and you make us so PROUD for all that you do for us and this country. Can’t wait for you to come home, these girls need their daddy! Love, Barbara
Daddy, Merry Christmas Daddy!!! We miss you tons and tons, but love you WAY more! Love, Isabella & Bryn
SPC Kyle Vincent, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Kyle! Your wife and daughter love and miss you! Stay Safe! Love Savannah & Hailey
MAJ Jon DeLoach, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We are sending warm wishes from Hawaii to my sweet husband, Major Jon DeLoach in Afghanistan. We are having a blue Christmas without you, but will make up for it when
you get home this summer. Thanks for being such a wonderful husband and father, we adore you! Love & Aloha, Rebekah, Lexi, & Bella
SPC Erwin Villamil, All our love to you this holiday season. We are so grateful and proud of you! We can’t wait until you’re home. We love you! Love, The Peralta Family
SPC Joshua Ryan Reid I hold you in my heart ALWAYS; I cannot wait to hold you in my arms once again~ MERRY CHRISTMAS SON! Stay safe, stay POSITIVE, and COME HOME SOON!! I love you so much and WE ARE ALL VERY PROUD of the WORK you are doing for OUR COUNTRY!! Love, Mom
LT Wolfley, Your surprise homecoming was the greatest gift I could have asked for! Counting down the days until your safe return home. Merry Christmas!. Love always, Danessa
SGT Pablo Dominguez We love and miss you so much! Although you won’t be home this time, we hope you enjoy your Christmas :) stay safe and keep warm! Can’t wait to see you soon!!! Go Venom! Thinking of you always, Adrienne, Jermiah and Lina
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
A Soldier’s Christmas PFC Nolan Kalkwarf, Merry CHRISTmas Nolan!! We are all SO very proud of you!! And, we love you SO very much! Can’t wait to see you during your R&R!! GOD BLESS YOU! Hugs, Mom, Dad, Kait, Chelsea, Ethan & Nanny
SPC Adam Smith, I’d like to wish every family a Warm and Happy Holiday! Thank you to all our families for the sacrifices they have made and a special Merry Chirstmas to my husband Spc. Adam Smith for being the strong soldier and amazing father that he is. We love you! Love, Danielle and Morrigan
Wolfpack, We would like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to Andreas, Jeremy, Huff, Big Red, Cameron and all of the Soldiers in COP Yhosef Khel . Be Safe and we will see you all when you get back. Lots of love, Brad, Simone, Kevin & Jeremy
Nick Lencioni, Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!I miss you so much and the kids do too.I love you. Im thinking about you everyday and counting down. Stay safe and we´ll stay strong.Thanks for being that amazing man, husband, dadd and Soldier that you are. Much Love, Your wife, Hope, Mika & Lena
To my little girl SPC Stephanie Rae Carr, I found this and hope it gets to you. I know being away from home is the worst time in any soldiers life! Being your dad has made me the proudest man alive. I know we have had such a hard time you and I, sometimes being a father is the hardest thing in the world at least for some me included! But! Always know, there was never a time I was not proud of you and your decisions. You were always the type to do and learn things your own way and was always determined that nothing could stop you! You are now a second generation Army following your mother and I! I remember when you were little jumping from our 34 ft towers and becoming a part of our Airborne Community with the 1/507th PIR Ft.Benning,Ga. You grew up a Army brat and then became Army! You dad and all us who know you are proud of you! I would like to tell you Merry Christmas Girlie and I your dad loves you and wishes you were home! Always Watching, Your dad, SSG. Larry (Carr) Eagle bear, Air Delivery Services
SPC Robert Metz, Praying for a safe and merry Christmas season to you and the entire 172nd. Get well and back in action soon, Dad, Mom & Cash
1LT Mike Wey Happy Anniversary & Merry Christmas! We can’t wait until next year to have you home to help pick out our
Charlie Brown tree, visit the markets, shovel the snow off our walkway, and celebrate our “best decision ever!” Congrats on your promotion too! We love you & miss you so much. You are always in our thoughts. Love Always XOXO, Maryanne & the PuppyBeast
Ricky Higginbotham, Merry Christmas! We love you and we are very proud of you. Please stay safe. Dina, Dwayne & Daron
PFC Joshua Mahan, We all love and miss you. You may be far away but you are in our hearts and thoughts every day. Words can not say how proud we are to be your parents. Merry Christmas! Love. Mom & Dad
PFC O’Hala, We would like to wish all the troops a very merry christmas, especially our daughter. May God watch over you all and keep you safe. Love. Mom & Dad
1LT Sidney Talley, Merry Christmas Sidney! Blessings and God speed! Love. Dad, Mom & Ethan
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
SPC Christopher Mather,
Destined to Serve,
I am honored to call you my son. Your family & friends are so proud of all that you have accomplished and will in the future. You are an inspiration to so many including your niece and nephew that love you so much. Ever plane that Liam hears, he always says there goes Uncle Chris. We will have a place set for you during the holidays & even though you aren’t physically with us, you are with us every minute of every day! We love you & continue to pray for you & your brothers in arms.
We are proud of the man and soldier you have become. Thank you for the sacrifice you and your comrades are making each and every day of the year; our gratitude and best wishes to everyone. Christmas won’t be the same without you...hoping we’ll all be together again next Christmas. We look forward to seeing you in the coming year. Sending you our love, The folks back home
Love Always, Your Mom
SGT Timothy Deckard,
From all your loved ones we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year -we miss and love you very much-take care and see you soon
Merry Christmas son, we miss you today as we do everyday but we know that you are doing what you always wanted to do growing up! You are such a special person and extraordinary father, husband and son! We look so forward to the next time we are all together, that will be Christmas no matter what day of the year it is! We love you and think of you always! Love, Mom & Dad
SGT Mathew P. Steinhauer, Merry Chrismas soldier! It was great having you home for R&R, it was the best Christmas present a wife and son could ask for! I hope Christmas day brings you some joy even though you will be away from your family. We love you and miss you, stay safe and stay strong! Love, Jenn & Jack
SPC Taylor Klausing, I can’t tell you enough how much I miss being near you. You’ve been an amazing husband through this difficult time in our lives and I love you so much. You’re my world babe, don’t forget that. Keep safe always. Anxiously waiting until the next time I’m at an airport waiting for you. Love, Your Wife
SGT Larry Willism I can’t tell you enough how much I The real Heroes of this Country are the People who believe in it, Fight for it, defend it, and risk everything to protect it. You are our Hero. We love
and miss u a lot. We can’t wait to have u back home with us. Stay Safe. Your Girls, Manuela & Anna-Lena
A Soldierâ€™s Christmas
The Battlecry CHRISTMAS
Editorial Team Maj. Joseph Buccino
Editor-In-Chief TF Blackhawk Public Affairs Officer
Staff Sgt. Charles Crail
Writer/Photographer TF Blackhawk Public Affairs NCOIC
Spc. Robert Holland
Layout Editor/Writer/Photographer TF Blackhawk Public Affairs Specialist
Contributing Editors Sgt. Andrea Merritt
Want a hardcopy?
If you would like more information on how to purchase a hardcopy version of The Battlecry, at cost, go to:
Print service is provided by Hewlett-Packard and is neither funded nor hosted by the 172nd Infantry Brigade.
Spc. Jacob Kohrs
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment Photographer 55th Combat Camera
Staff@172Battlecry.com Task Force Blackhawk Public Affairs Office FOB Sharana APO, AE 09311
MESSAGES FROM THE 172ND SEPARATE INFANTRY BRIGADE
COL Edward T. Bohnemann
nother month has passed for Task Force Blackhawk here in Paktika Province and the Soldier’s focus and morale has never been higher. After many months of daily operations against a persistent insurgent force and continual partnering with our Afghan Partners, the fruits of our labor are being seen throughout the province. The Provincial Governor, the Provincial Council, and the Afghan Security Forces are beginning to provide effective governance and take responsibility for their security. Progress is often slow and measured in inches, but I can say we are on the right track and the insurgents are on their heels, having faced numerous defeats throughout this past fighting
season. While being deployed during the holidays is never an easy task, I want to say that the Blackhawk Family is stronger and more resilient because of the challenges that we have faced this past year. Our leaders at all levels, many with multiple deployments already behind them, have done a superb job wrapping their arms around their Soldiers and keeping them focused on the mission at hand. I would like to take this opportunity to again say “thank you” for the continued support all of the families and friends of TF Blackhawk have shown to our deployed Soldiers. The end-
less supply of holiday treats is always welcome. To all that have their Soldier home for the holidays, enjoy the special time you have with you loved one, and to all that are separated from their loved one during this holiday, know that they are with their brothers and sisters of Task Force Blackhawk. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! BLACKHAWKS!!
Edward T. Bohnemann
BRIEFS CSM Michael W. Boom
e wish you all the best Christmas Season whether you are in Germany or the States. We have many Soldiers who will be home on their mid-tour leave for the Holidays, but the vast majority will be in Afghanistan. They will not be alone but with their brothers and sisters on point for our Nation. We realize this will be a difficult time for many Families and Soldiers. However, this is our calling and what need to do. We do it to keep our Nation safe and we are here to ensure our enemies can never re-group and attack the USA as they did on that September 11th, over 10 years ago.
and sacrifice, we will finish this mission for the security of the American people. We will do our best to ensure your Soldier has the best Christmas here and hope all of our Families and friends have a very good Christmas wherever you are celebrating the season. It is very humbling to see what these Soldiers of our new greatest generation are doing everyday here. I know your all very proud of them as are their leaders.
We did not pick this fight or start it, but due to our Soldiersâ€™ daily courage
God Bless our Soldiers, Families and friends and have a very Merry
They are the best of our Nation and exemplify Selfless Service during the Christmas season and everyday here.
Christmas from the Blackhawks in Paktika province, Afghanistan.
Michael W. Boom
Snow-Capped ins Mounta The first sign of winter in Paktika
province this year was snow atop the mountains of Paktika. The Paktika mountain range normally presents a brown visage.
We Will Be Ready 1-2 Infantry Battalion, Black Scarves
LTC Earl B. Higgins Jr.
CSM Brian Woodall 1-2 Infantry
ACK IN BLACK!!!! Thatâ€™s right, folks, the Black Scarves are back with the Blackhawk brigade and back as a Task Force Family. All of your Soldiers will now belong to the one and only Black 6! As we continue to prepare to move to our new location, we want to thank you, our Families and supporters, for your incredible support throughout our journey. We hope that you have an awesome holiday season and that you keep us in your thoughts in prayers. We will be home soon and next year you will have
your Soldier back for the holidays! Our battalion staff and company leaders are doing some heavy lifting getting the Black Scarves moved and settled in. Once we are set in position, we will send out our new mailing address. Please discontinue sending mail to your Black Scarves Soldier until we let you know that we are ready to receive
Michael T. Whitney
mail at our new spot. We hope you are enjoying this great Battle Cry magazine. This is the greatest thing that we have ever read. It is not facetious to speak of this magazine as defining the culture of the war in Afghanistan. MAJ Joe Buccino, the editor of this publication, is a great guy, both charming and brilliant. He is handsome, smart, and funny.
Mrs. Chandani Buccino is one lucky lady! I mean, where has this guy been all my life! He is like a hip Dexter Filkins. Joe does a great job with this magazine and you should shake his hand when you see him back in Germany. If he ever runs for Congress, he definitely has our vote! The entire Task Force 1-2 wishes you, our friends, supporters, and Families, a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!
Earl Higgins & Brian Woodall
A Place to Sleep In qalats, on dirt, in freezing temperatures, Soldiers on days-long missions sleep when and where they can.
Apache Pride While the Spartans of Charlie company, 2-28 have become the center of international media attention, many consider Cpt. Jim Perkins, commander, Alpha company, 2-28 as the most consistent, effective and disciplined company commander in the brigade.
Grandma wears combat boots She’s not your typical 43-year old grandmother
Story by Sgt. Andrea Merritt
or Soldiers in the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment’s Scout Platoon, traversing the hellacious terrain in Paktika is a daily requirement. At times climbing sharp, jagged rocks that form the highest mountains or trekking kilometers on end through villages can be physically and mentally taxing on the toughest of Soldiers.
Stewart, a former commercial truck driver by trade, is currently attached to the Task Force Black Knight scout platoon as a female engagement team (FET) member.
slow down or stop because Spc. Stewart couldn’t keep up,” said Lima, Ohio native U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Swinehart, scout platoon sergeant.
“It’s different with the scouts,” Stewart said. “Being a female, I had to learn to fit in with them. You can’t be a wimp. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
For 43-year-old Spring, Texas native Spc. Tracie Stewart, it is exactly the challenge she was looking for when she enlisted in the U.S. Army last year. “I always wanted to join the military,” Stewart said with a slight southern drawl. “After my kids were old enough and [the military] raised the age limit, I told myself ‘I’m going to do it,’ and I haven’t regretted it since.”
Standing less than 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing less than 115 pounds, this mother of two and grandmother is proving war is not just for young men.
“She’s motivated and if there are times we don’t take her out on mission, she gets upset,” Swinehart said. “She’s atypical. She’s a 40-year-old woman and she can hang with the 19, 20 year old males.”
Despite her age and small frame, Stewart is deceptively tough and has earned the respect of her leadership and peers. “There has never been a time when we had to
As a FET member, Stewart converses with the local female population and searches them during clearing operations, which is something her male counterparts can’t do without offending the local population. In Afghan society, females are forbidden from interacting with males and the touching of females by unknown males
is a disgrace. Thus, Stewart’s role as a FET member is crucial to maintaining a positive relationship with the community elders. “Engagement with Afghan females is one area that my platoon leader and I don’t have to worry about,” Swinehart explained. “Sometimes the women will hide things on them. There are times when [Stewart] has found things of intelligence value.” Although important, Stewart’s responsibility on patrols can be demanding, especially when she has to keep track of 20 to 30 women at a time, each with three or four children with them. While Stewart’s job has its difficulties, it is something she fully enjoys. “I worked in a women’s clinic while I was
in Wazi Khwah and I loved it, working with the women and children,” Stewart said. “Now, when I go out with the scouts, I like to teach the kids how to play hopscotch.” Stewart’s cultural training prior to deployment prepared her to deal with local Afghan women while on mission and her role as a mother to two sons prepared her to deal with her role on a male-dominated team. Many of the Soldiers in scout platoon are the same age as her sons, 25 and 20, which enhances the family dynamic within the platoon. “She like the den mother to the scouts,” said San Antonio, Texas, native Spc. Chris Thorton, scout and all-source analyst with Scout Plt., who described Stewart as
tough, intelligent, and funny. “Most guys don’t like to admit it, but she’s got that motherly love and everybody needs that,” Thorton said. “Even if she’s not going out on mission, she makes sure the guys have snacks and things like that. She loves her job and I’m proud to serve with her.” While many service members her age are getting ready to retire, Stewart plans to continue her military career. She hopes to someday work as a FET member with the Special Forces. “I love the whole idea of the military. It’s an elite group. Only a small part of the population is a part of it,” Stewart said. “I like what it stands for and I think I was meant for it.”
The Men of Margah Here at The BattleCry, we are in the
business of making legends. Deshane Greaser’s Spartans at COP Margah make that job easy. Charlie company, Task Force 2-28, has been the focus of virtually every major media outlet, from Fox News and CNN to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. This month, Spartan Soldier Spc. Michael Miller, 23, from Palm Bay, Florida was selected as the 2011 American Icon by Time Magazine. CNN program manager Nigel Walsh said of the spartans, “These guys would surely rather just focus on the mission, but they are a natural fit for television. They are doing some incredibily courageous work along the border and the American public needs to see this.”
Taking Over Max Seitz has been a Black Lion virtually
his entire military career, waiting patiently for the opportunity to address his formation as a company commander. Finally, this month, as Cpt. Brad Vance relinquished command of Charlie Tank at FOB Tillman, Max has his opportunity to lead Soldiers in combat.
A Proud Legacy 2-28 Infantry Battalion, Black Lions
LTC John V. Meyer III
o all the families, friends and supporters of the Black Lions: greetings from Eastern Paktika Province, Afghanistan! Over the past month we have conducted operations throughout our area of operations, and worked tirelessly to improve the capabilities of our Afghan partners. November was our fifth month since taking over from our counterparts from the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Regiment. Over the past months we have increased our knowledge of local politics and conditions. While we may never completely understand all of the complex dynamics and tribal issues at work in the Afghan population, we are beginning to find ways to help the locals fix some of their problems. Tied to helping improve the lives of the local people is improving the security situation, and we have made strides in accomplishing this. As we build our Afghan Army and Police partners, the local population will increasingly trust them to keep the people safe. Throughout my travels visiting our companies, I’m constantly impressed with the high morale and esprit de corps among our young Soldiers. Each of them volunteered to serve, each with their own unique reasons; yet they have coalesced into a cohesive formation dedicated to completing every mission with determination. Their combined efforts are the driving force behind our success here in Paktika Province. It is an honor for me to command a formation of Soldiers, NonCommissioned Officers, and Officers as disciplined, skilled, and determined as these Black Lions have proven themselves to be. Every Soldier, regardless of rank or MOS is contributing daily to the success of our mission. I couldn’t be any more proud of them, and I’m sure that you share in this pride with me. Thank you for the continued support you provide your deployed Soldier. Keeping a solid connection with home is essential to maintaining morale, staying focused, and ensuring success. I am certain that your Soldier misses you, and you are all in our thoughts as we continue our mission in the next several months. Love of Country Conquers!
John V. Meyer III
CSM Joseph C Cornelison
riends of the Black Lions, throughout December your Soldiers continued to operate at a hectic pace throughout East Paktika. With roughly one quarter of combat under their belts, their confidence and skills are increasing daily. Our mission remains tough, but each of our Soldiers has risen to the occasion, and proven tougher. Each day the enemy is weakened, and our partnered Afghan National Security Forces continue to improve. We will continue to take the fight to the enemy. Throughout our formation, our Non-Commissioned Officers are performing superbly. Their enforcement of standards, attention to detail, and dedication to training are paying dividends every day. Our Soldiers are some of the most skilled, best trained, and lethal fighters thanks to their leaders’ efforts. Today’s Black Lions are upholding the proud legacy of past warriors of the 28th Infantry Regiment. I hope you enjoy seeing and reading in this newsletter about some of the feats of arms that our Soldiers have accomplished. I am immensely proud of the way our Soldiers have conducted themselves to this point of our deployment, and have no doubt that they will continue to steadfastly hold the line through the remainder of our time here. Love of Country Conquers!
No Pressure During a visit to the Blackhawk Soldiers
at FOB Sharana Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commanding general of United States Army Europe, observes a 1-77 Field Artillery Soldier during a Soldier of the Month board.
One Last Salute Cpt. Brad Vance gives one last salute to
the colors of C Company 3-66, Task Force 2-28 before transfering command to the Cpt. Max Seitz.
A bright future for judicial law in Paktika Province Story by Spc. Robert J. Holland
or citizens here a ribbon cutting ceremony signified a milestone in the modern history of the most impovershed region in Afghanistan.
Hans G. Klemm, Coordinating Director of Rule of Law and Law Enforcement in Afghanistan, also made the trip from Kabul celebrate this momentous event.
The official opening of the first provincial courthouse, Nov, 28, marked an end to a decade of lawlessness.
“This courthouse will be used to bring those who would bring violence to Paktika to justice,” Klemm said. “It must be filled with judges,
For a province of approximately 600,000 Afghans, the filled courtyard was a sign of vested interest in how this new building will shape the future of the province “Mother Afghanistan is calling. Islam is calling. Justice is calling. Today, we, the descendants of Genghis Khan, have answered this call,” said Abdul Hakim, the provincial chief appellate judge “Today, on this snake bitten landmass, on this cursed piece of dirt, we defy our history and define our future.” In attendance was US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker. “Ten years ago the Taliban reduced this country to ruin,” Crocker said. “It is heartening to see progress like this in 2011.”
lawyers, and those seeking resolution.” The central government, in Kabul, responded to the progress made in Paktika by assigning 8 new judges to the province in order to fill the courthouse. “Terrorist, beware! We no longer sleep in fear. Our eyes are open, we do not dread your gun,” Abdul Hakim, the provincial chief appellate judge, said. “ Tonight we own Paktika and you shall fear my pen
of justice.” The enthusiasm shown by Hakim and the audience present at the ceremony did not go unnoticed by Klemm. “Be confident of the commitment of the United States to Paktika,” Klemm said, “ In particular to rule of law.” Paktika’s governor, Mohibullah Samim, who has worked sideby-side with the State Department and Task Force Blackhawk to improve the infrastructure, governance, and security within the province, said that the situation currently faced by the people of Paktika is improving and that he sees a bright future for the people of Paktika. “Paktika is to Afghanistan what the mosque is to the diligent farmer: a lighthouse, a beacon, a symbol of the twin seedlings of hope and faith, a call to the community that we as Muslins place our gaze skyward, always looking up,” Samim said. “Paktika: Keep looking up!”
The Blackhawk Blackhawk helicopters play a huge role in everyday life for Soldiers in Paktika. The birds provide transportation through the rugged mountains as well as food, fuel, and security to even the most remote of combat outposts.
Making great strides 3-66 Armor Battalion, Black Knights
LTC Curtis D. Taylor
e have surpassed the first 100 days of deployment, the most dangerous time period for a deployed unit, and the campaign season is coming to an end. Even though the insurgency may be less active during the winter, expect the Soldiers in Task Force 3-66 AR to continue to bring the fight to the enemy. We plan to prepare and fully integrate the ANSF in the upcoming spring months to build capacity within our partners. Our Afghan National Security Force partners have come a long way since we’ve started this fight. Our ANSF Academies focused on training the ANSF to be a more capable security force with the ability to defend Afghanistan after we redeploy. Our main goal is to train the ANSF so that Afghans will be protecting Afghans, providing for a brighter future for the entire country. CPT Mark Gerasimas, after twelve months in command, will be leaving the Wolfpack. Although we all know commanders come and go it is still difficult to fathom. Mark and Katie will be missed. CPT Chad Kessling comes to us from Task Force 2-28 IN, and we welcome him as the new commander of A/1-2 IN. He will have a tough job filling CPT G’s shoes, but we are confident that he brings the right ingredients. Congratulations to John Kuterbach for his promotion to first lieutenant. Mounted and Ready!
Curtis D. Taylor
CSM Daniel V. Robbins
e are now wrapping up our fifth month of deployment, and the unit continues to make great strides towards a safer, secure Afghanistan. Congratulate your Black Knights for their dedication to the mission. Their hard work is setting the country up for success as we prepare to leave the future of Afghanistan in the hands of the Afghan National Security Forces. We have started our ANSF Academies which will help make the ANSF into a better trained, more professional, and more lethal force that can bring the fight to the Taliban. The weather is starting to cool as the Holiday Season comes upon us. The S4 shop is ordering Christmas supplies so that we’ll be able to have a festive holiday season. Before long, it will be snowing, and the Black Knights will be sniveling up as we operate in the winter. Don’t expect the hard work to stop; we’ll be taking full advantage of the weather and will continue to take the fight to the enemy. As the campaign season ends, we look forward to making significant achievements towards a more secure Afghanistan. Congratulations to SGT Parker, NCO of the month. Congratulations to SPC Chavez, Soldier of the month. Mounted and Ready!
Daniel V. Robbins
A Prized Possession Cows, goats, and other livestock provide a stable source of income for the citizens of Paktika.
A Free Moment Drinking water,consuming carbs,
replacing broken shoe laces, and resting. All are important tasks Soldiers must accomplish during free moments on patrol.
Success and sacrifice
Graduation highlights evolution of Afghan policing
Story by Maj. Joseph Buccino
t once he knew this was a defining moment. Yar Mohamnad heard his name and realized that, just like one of those people in one of those movies, his life had instantly been given a purpose, altered forever in a small ceremony in an isolated village in eastern Paktika province. The end of something? Perhaps. The beginning of something else? Certainly. As Mohamnad stepped forward he tried to contain his emotions, to quell the desire to break with rigid military formality, pump his fists, and let loose a sanguinary shout to those who wish his countrymen harm. It would, he realized, take all of the discipline he had developed in his three years as an Afghan
policemen to march forward, back straight, arms extended, with the type of bearing with which he was instructed. For Mohamnad, receiving his certificate from Brigadier General Dawlat Khan, commander of the AUP in Paktika province, as the honor graduate for the Police Combined Action Team (PCAT), this was a defining moment. For the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, this was but another small step in the transformation of a country haunted by international neglect, quarantined by unforgiving mountains, and defined by a snake bitten history of violence and poverty.
Mohmnad was the pride of the 31 Afghan Uniform Policemen from the districts of Zerok and Naka who graduated from the PCAT training in COP Zerok on 18 Nov. 11. The three-week course, run by the 172nd Infantry Brigadeâ€™s 554th Military Police Company, focused its students on the objectives of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A): assess, protect, advice, assist, and improve police capabilities to secure the population at the local level. The PCAT program represented both an expansion on the fundamentals taught at the basic AUP patrolmenâ€™s course and an introduction to modernized policing techniques. The first two weeks were spent in a classroom environ-
ment focused on principles foreign to the remote reaches of the country, such as crime investigation, evidence collection, and the constitutional rights of citizenry. In an effort to evolve the students’ understanding of human rights and ethics, the American instructors developed practical exercises based on actual recent events. The final week was spent conducting partnered patrolling in the districts of Naka and Zerok, with a focus on local policing with an appropriate balance between violence and discretion. “We knew how to patrol in this area,” said Mohamnad afterwards through a translator. “What we learned is how to treat the people and how to do our mission without embarrassing the villagers.” It is precisely this enlightenment, this increased level of awareness for the appropriate use of force and basic rights for their protected citizenry that the central government and NTM-A believe will hold areas such as Naka and Zerok after the withdrawal of US forces. According to a July press release by NTM-A, “the ANSF is committed to doing something the Taliban is not prepared to do: upholding the international principles of human rights to the citizens of Afghanistan.”
Dawhlat Khan, in his address to the graduating class, discussed the importance of treating the population with respect in order to abrogate a potential opening for
insurgents. “The terrorists are not Afghans. You are Afghans. Do not disturb your Afghan brothers or they may turn to the terrorists for security.” Across the landscape of Afghanistan, there are countless Yar Mohmnads, men with an intensity of purpose and an understanding that there are things in this world worth dying for. They are Pashtun, they are fierce, and they are fighters. 2014 is fast approaching, and with it, the advantages of western power. They are the future. For Yar Mohmnad, the future is now.
Laughter: the best medicine During a visit to the Blackhawk Soldiers
at FOB Sharana Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commanding general of United States Army Europe, jokes around with a Blackhawk Soldier wounded by direct fire.
Tidings of comfort 172nd Support Battalion, Black Talons
LTC Brad Eungard
his month I thought I would liven up my typically dull column with a music theme. I tried to pick a tune that best describes each company’s activities for past month. While it is a bit odd, I agree, it is at least different… and different in a deployed environment is usually good. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” comes to mind for HHC. The Dragons announced this month that the Black Talons are the WORLD LEADERs in aerial delivery operations! No other unit in the world air drops more food, fuel, and construction materials than we do. Our US Air Force partners rig and drop the loads while HHC sets up the schedule with the USAF and the battle space owners and calculates the required commodity amounts for the drops. Willie Nelson’s classic “On the Road Again” comes to mind for the A Co Assassins as they have spent over twothirds of the month away from Sharana supporting Task Force Blackhawk. The Assassins’ combat logistics patrols have travelled to remote locations that have not seen convoys for many months to retrograde damaged and excess equipment. Choosing a country music song also lends a nod to NASCAR for the Assassins as they have changed over 50 tires in pit crew like fashion while transiting the rocky trails. For Bravo Co I can’t go wrong with “All I need is a miracle” by Mike and the Mechanics. This is perfect for two reasons: first, CPT Mike Martin commands our great company of mechanics, and secondly, the Bandits have pulled off many a miracle this month keepings our fleet of vehicles rolling! Mr. Dervil and SFC Newman lead a tremendous team of professionals that “resurrect” many deadlined vehicles in time to go on the next mission.
And finally, for our great C Co Archangels I needed a little help from my kids who recommend “I Could Have Counted All Night,” by the Count from Sesame Street fame. After completing a very detailed change of command inventory in November, CPT George Goodwyn assumes command of C Co in early December. The Archangels said good bye to CPT Scott Anderson who will move to HHC and serve in the SPO shop. In between inventories this past month, the Archangels continued their outstanding health service support to the province. As we approach the holiday season, CSM B and I want to “Wish you a Merry Christmas” and a Happy New Year! I know all of us here in Sharana would love to be home to celebrate the holidays with our families; my hope is that we will all reach out to those near us and bring “glad tidings of comfort and joy.” Thanks for your continued prayers as we head into 2012! God speed!
Father and Son An Afghan boy snuggles with his father for warmth in the cold, winter air of Paktika province.
Miltary operation turns childish
he plan was to go in heavy causing the insurgents to flee from the village into the waiting muzzles of Polish Special Forces. What we found was something totally unexpected.
I’ve been fascinated with Afghanistan since my first visit back in 2008. On that visit I never left Bagram airbase. My only interaction with the Afghan people were with those who worked menial jobs on post or the privileged vendors in the base bazaar who were allowed to sell worthless trinkets. On this tour, I’ve gotten out much more. From remote mountain villages to farming communities and district centers, I’ve traveled the width and breadth of this province by air, by road and on foot. The people continue to fascinate me, their traditions intrigue me, the sights and sounds of their villages shock my sense, their interactions make every patrol a personal discovery. The gap in cultures makes them stand out in relief.
I’ve met men and boys in packs in market places and along country roads. Women remain hidden behind burkas and tucked away behind high compound walls. Reactions from the male children mix from abject fear to brazen attempts to swindle me for pens. Never have I truly felt welcomed into a community, always simply tolerated. That is, until this patrol.
Our plan to close with and destroy an elusive enemy collapsed almost immediately in a slippery wadi under a torrential downpour. The shadowy enemy had every advantage in the noisy, wet conditions. We nonetheless slogged on into the objective, a village that has been visited only twice by conventional forces. In 1988, the Russian Army marched in and were outgunned and outmanned over the course of a 6-hour gunfight. Two years ago, the 82nd Airborne patrolled these streets, only to retreat under signifi-
This time, with local police assistance, we began searching some compounds that held the distinct odor of the home-cooked explosives traditionally used by the insurgency. We found only confused clusters of women and children and their livestock. Courtyards thick with mud and animal waste starkly contrasted against the colorful clothing of Pashtun youth. I had never before entered the enclosed compounds of the Afghan people, at least not in rural Afghanistan. Behind the fortress-like outer walls, the inner sanctum of Afghan family life consisted of twisting corridors between elaborately built straw and clay structures. Small openings exploded into cluttered subterranean rooms overrun with sheep, cows and supplies. Off-kilter hand sculpted staircases climbed to rooftops littered with goat pellets. An inattentive guard dog yelped an alarm call when we woke her, then scampered to safety in the basement below.
Words and images by Staff Sgt. Charles Crail As we gathered back in the town square, the routine of interaction I typically experience continued. Kids clustered around while adults talked with the Soldiers. Boys came closer; girls remained in the distance watching from little clusters of femininity. Disappointed with the lack of kinetic action, I decided to try taking a few photos of the kids. This is nothing new; they typically stand there stone-faced, much like the adult males do when being entered into the futuristic-looking biometric system. This cluster avoided my lens. The first boy I cornered for a surprise photo, unintentionally changed the tone for the entire day as he looked at me with a slightly worried expression on his face. I snapped the photo and then turned the camera to show the group the image. Perhaps because of the festive mood for the recent Eid celebration, or, more likely, because they
were kids, the boys erupted in laughter at the photo and the contorted countenance of the subject.
children and their friends do in America.
Here I was, in a remote povertyWhat followed was a seemingly stricken village, playing with a unending stream of children posgroup of boisterous, yet amazingly ing for the camera and making the well-behaved children. Despite my silliest faces they could think of. As uniform, body armor and weapons, I shared the photos with them, the for a brief time these children crowd only grew larger. With the el- helped me to forget I was a Soldier ders approval, even the girls began in an incredibly savage war. I hope creeping closer. for that brief moment, I was also able to help them forget the war I began playing games with them, that has been raging in their counteaching simple words like “me,” try for longer than they have been “you,” “them,” and “us.” The kids alive. and I shook hands, did high fives and laughed together. I snuck As I’ve thought back on this event candy into their hands. Instead of over the past few days, I continue mobbing me, the group of fifty-plus to yearn for the chance to come children back here after the U.S. role in this all waited their turn to see if they conflict is complete, to come back would be the next to receive a treat with my own children and bridge and a photo shoot. the gaps between our people by just playing Despite our different appearance, like a child. starkly contrasted cultures and language barrier, we bonded like Maybe someday I will. any other well-meaning adult and Maybe someday I will be welcomed children. They reacted to my animated facial expressions again. and clowning just as my own three
History was made on December 14th, 2011, as the Honorable Leon Panetta, United States Secretary of Defense and former CIA director, made his first visit to Afghanistan. The only unit chosen by the Secretary for this stunning unannounced trip was Task Force Blackhawk, the 172nd Infantry Brigade. Mr. Panetta, sixth in the presidential line of succession, has authority, direction, and control over all defense assets.
Purple Heart The Purple Heart is the oldest American
military decoration in present use and the first American award made available to the common Soldier. It was initially created as the Badge of Military Merit by one of the world’s most famed and best loved heroes, General George Washington. The actual order includes the phrase, “let it be known that he who wears the military order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in teh defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.” The following Blackhawk Soldiers were presented with the Order of the Purple Heart by the United States Secretary of Defense: CPT Udvaldo Lopez SGT Corey Taylor SPC Jose Peralta SPC Lews Marshall PFC Zachary Davis CPL Mitchell Williams SFC MIguel Ortiz-Mercado SSG Matthew Golebiewski SPC Patrick Chaney SPC Kristopher Morder PFC Caleb Stanley PVT Trevor Nichols SGT Ruslan Khushenazarov
Keep ing Warm U.S. and Afghan soldiers keep warm
during a mission by huddling around a fire built by the ANSF soldiers.
Legacy: leading from the front
n November, five of the brigade’s most capable noncommissioned officers were accepted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. The club is a private U.S. Army organization for enlisted non-commissioned officers whose leadership achievements and performance merit special recognition. According to FORSCOM Reg. 6008, paragraph 1, Members must “... exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development, and welfare of Soldiers and concern for families of Soldiers.”
Charlie Tank, 3-66, Task Force 2-28
Each battalion screened, evaluated, and selected NCO’s that met these requirements. The selected group then went in front of a rigorous board examination process lead by Command Sergeant Major Boom. In the end, five were awarded entry into the elite group, all from Task Force 2-28, Black Lions The following individuals were accepted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club on December 3rd, 2011, and are authorized to wear the distinguished SAMC medallion. Sergeant First Class James S. Mastrodomenico, HHC, Task Force 2-28 Sergeant First Class Aaron L. Beckman, Bravo, 9E, Task Force 2-28 Staff Sergeant Leonado May, HHC, Task Force 2-28 Staff Sergeant Matthew W. Carter, Charlie Company, Task Force 2-28 Staff Sergeant Aldus B. Coffee,
Living Legend Over the last 30 days, Sergeant First Class James S. Mastrodomenico was selected for both the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and promotion to E-8. “Mastro” is widely recognized as one of the finest, most caring, most capable senior NCO’s serving our Army today.
Audie L. Murphy was the most decorated American Soldier of World War II. During twenty-seven months in action in the European Theatre he received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign awards including five awards from France and one from Belgium. Murphy’s heroism is legend in NCO circles. He has been the subject of popular music, movies, and books. Audie Murphy always led his Soldiers from the front. Now, five Blackhawk NCO’s fall in line with his incredible legacy.
Thanking The Family 9th Engineer Battalion, Gilas
LTC Jayson C. Gilberti
CSM Jason W. Stewart
appy Holidays & Frohe Weihnachten! Trust this month’s newsletter finds everyone in good health, secure, and warm in their homes busily readying for the Holidays. On behalf of Task Force Gila, we’d like to thank all the families and numerous FRG Volunteers for your herculean efforts to ship hundreds of Holiday Care Packages to Afghanistan. They have not only brightened up some areas and filled a few bellies but most definitely warmed up many hearts. Winter has descended upon us all. Your Soldiers continue to forge ahead developing our Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) counterparts. Over the past month, your Soldiers have enabled the successful and continued expansion of the Kabul Security Zone from Wardak to Ghazni Provinces, while enabling several combined arms operations that facilitated the opening of key and essential routes to position logistics for the winter. The Task Force and its Afghan Partners conducted over 287 patrols and assured the mobility along 12,283 Kms of roads and trails across Paktika since our transition of authority this summer. Every step of the way our ANSF partners grow stronger, more confident and capable. Only through our embedded and engaged partnership efforts has the Task Force been able to accelerate ANSF Development. This winter, we see as a brilliant opportunity to strengthen their resolve, technical and tactical skills and set conditions to bring added “Hope and Faith” to the Afghan People with the ANSF in the lead in 2012. Thanks to a combined leader, maintenance and operational focus, we’ve seen the Afghan National Army (ANA) Route Clearance Convoy (RCC) take the lead in Paktika and enable numerous unilateral tactical and logistical missions. Additionally, we launched our first Police Combined Action Training (PCAT) program in three vital districts within Paktika to further professionalize the AUP and build the people’s confidence in their security forces. Concurrently, we built more literate and able leaders with the assistance of the NATO Training MissionAfghanistan (NTM-A) and look to graduate nearly 100 AUP NCOs just after the New Year. Lastly, the combined-joint team has further informed & educated, trained, and established Afghan sustainable systems with our partners to better control operations, account for logistics and reduce waste and corrup-
9th Engineers tion; a credit to the entire Task Force. Be proud of your Soldier and all that the Task Force Gila Family have accomplished this year, whether it be back in Bavaria or here in Afghanistan alongside our ANSF Partners. We have much to be grateful and thankful for this year and look to a brighter future ahead in 2012, as we First to Cross! Blackhawks!
Jayson C. Gilberti
reetings once again from West Paktika! Our Soldiers and Sappers can’t thank you all enough for the tremendous support and generosity as we keep receiving care packages from families and nonprofit organizations in support of Task Force Gila. Highlights from the past month of November included our Thanksgiving celebration across the Task Force as well as a series of successful combined action patrols by our Sappers and Military Policemen in support of our ANSF partners. Also, we had the opportunity to award and promote some well deserving Soldiers and Sappers across the TF Gila AO. Progress continues to be made as we continue to train our ANSF partners with patrolmen courses and basic first aid classes. Last but not least, route repairs are being conducted across Paktika in order to improve freedom of movement as well as to bring commerce and stability to the local areas.
Throughout our battlefield circulation in November, I am pleased to report that the morale of your Soldiers and Sappers remains high. The partnership between our Soldiers and our ANSF partners continues to develop, and the discipline of the unit remains sharp. From FOB Rushmore, FOB Sharana, COP Curry, and COP Dash Towp, our Soldiers continue to do the right thing and our leaders continue to set the example for our Soldiers. Deyra manana (thank you) everyone for your love and support. Your encouragement is a source of strength for all our Soldiers, Sappers, Signaleers, Analysts & Collectors, and Policemen. Please continue to remain positive as we continue with the transition of securing Afghanistan. On behalf of Task Force Gila we would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. --First to Cross! Blackhawks!
Jason W. Stewart
Many Layers Afghan villagers wrap themselves in
many layers in order to keep warm during a four-hour shura hosted by provincial governor of Paktika.
Black Knights on the hunt:
Coalition Forces face off with insurgents in Ghazni
Story by Sgt. Andrea Merritt
n an operation conducted Dec. 7-9 in Ghazni Province, U.S. and Afghan National Security Forces disrupted a nest of Taliban fighters settled in Disi village. The key objectives of the mission were to train ANSF to conduct intelligence-driven operations, identify how the enemy used the village and moved through the area, and to connect the people with their government, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Curtis Taylor, commander of Task Forc 3-66. The focus of the operation quickly shifted from a fact-finding mission to a full tactical engagement when insurgents greeted the team with a hail of gunfire as soon as they
entered the village. Since the area hadn’t seen a sustained presence from Coalition Forces in a number of years, insurgents were able to build a stronghold in the village and proved they weren’t going to give it up without a fight. “Usually the enemy will lay down harassing fire which will allow them to withdraw,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Stuart Barnes, Greensburg, Ind. native and platoon leader .“It didn’t take long to realize they were willing to stick it out. It ended up being a four to six hour fire fight.” As villagers ran for cover in their
homes, squads moved forward without hesitation to find out from where the shooting was coming. While the Soldiers on the ground moved through the labyrinth of qalats, the unit’s snipers, who had eyes on the entire village from higher ground, worked to keep insurgent snipers off rooftops and even thwarted a rocket-propelled grenade attack. “Once the haze lifted, we were able to identify who the Taliban were,” said Staff. Sgt. Michael Mayor, a Scout Platoon squad leader with 3rd Bn., 66th Armd. Regt. “We saw men with weapons moving between the mosque, qalats and alleys and we were able to pin them
down.” During the exchange, two U.S. Soldiers were wounded; one shot in the chest, the other in the arm. Since Soldiers were able to render aid in timely manner, the casualties survived their injuries and are currently recovering at a medical treatment facility in Germany. “This fight was kind of like a knife fight in a phone booth because we were relatively close to the enemy,” Mayor said. “It was chaotic and tough, but everyone did a great job communicating and sending information up especially when we took casualties.” After the firefight, the unit regrouped with reinforcements from 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment were back in the village an hour later conducting search and clearance operations.
The unit swept through the village and searched the area until the sun set.
to them by the Taliban – an antiIslamic force that harmed women and children.
The following day, search and clearance efforts continued in the rest of the village, where ANSF and U.S. Forces discovered three IEDs and a weapons cache.
More importantly, Coalition Forces achieved the objectives originally set and in doing so, busted the biggest myth of all – that insurgents were safe operating in the remote village of Disi.
After the village was cleared, ANSF and Task Force 3-66. leadership conducted a shurah with village elders. “In the shura, we learned the people had little to no exposure to Coalition Forces,” said Taylor, a Harker Heights, Texas native. “The only impressions they had were what the Taliban told them.” Through their actions on the battlefield and positive interactions with villagers, the residents in Disi were able to see ANSF and U.S. Forces were not the myth described
“They thought we could not cross the Ghazni-Paktika border. They thought they were secure,” Taylor said. “We let them know we come anytime, we’re hunting for them and we will defeat them. We will own the ground.” “The enemy cannot resist our force and if the people are given a choice, they will choose their government over the Taliban,” Taylor said. “They just have to be given a realistic choice.”
Speaking of Success Provincial Reconstruction Team Paktika
Cmdr. Tim Young (USN)
Provincial Reconstruction Team Paktika appy Holidays from PRT Paktika! We may only have about three months left until we pass the reigns over to the new Provincial Reconstruction Team Paktika, but that doesn’t mean we’ll slow down our efforts in linking local governments and their people. If November’s successes are any indication, we’re primed to meet those goals in the first part of next year. Our team out in Orgun, the eastern edge of the province, has coordinated programs from Zerok to Bermel. To put the length of those efforts into perspective, you need only look at geography. A straight line between Zerok in the northeastern-most edge of the province is about 54 kilometers, or more than 33 miles, away from Bermel in the far eastern edge of the province. At the same time, Bermel sits just 11 miles Pakistan. Anyone who’s travelled in these areas knows there’s no such thing as a ‘straight shot’ to a village or town in Paktika. The roads wind, often moving through mountains, avoiding flood waters or at this time of year, snow. The team out east has done everything from meet with government officials in different cities to visit with the elders and even children of smaller villages. Most of the projects they work on include Afghans at the helm teaching them to expand their reach. One such effort will have success even when mountain snows prevent travel. With the majority of the employment involving agriculture and the popularity of radio, the team combined the two and worked with agriculture trainers to begin a radio show focusing on farming. The anchors and interviewees are Afghan, literally encouraging and spreading the idea that Afghans will lead and help each other for a better future; a major step needed for Coalition efforts to continue on the path for success in Afghanistan. Speaking of success, we had one small step toward that occur in the
village of Sarobi, south of Orgun recently that comes to mind. A newly established Afghan Local Police (ALP) station was periodically being mortared by the Taliban, leaving unexploded bombs in farm areas between a village and the police station. When we visited the station, the police shared with the PRT that mortars were found in the area. A local family and their children came out to tell the ALP where the bombs were. We partnered with the police and ended up destroying the unexpended bombs, making the area safer for the families. While seemingly a routine event, it shows the growth of the local’s trust and focus towards their local institutions, and marks a turn of events that would not have been witnessed until recently. When someone on our PRT asked two 7-year-old children what they do when they see the bombs, the children pointed at the nearby police station and said, “We know we’re not going to touch it. We tell the police and they deal with it.” This is a small sign that we’re having success. The people didn’t try and sell or reuse the bombs against U.S. or Afghan forces and they came out of their homes to meet with us when we showed up, showing the trust they have in who we are and what we do. At the same time, it shows that the people trust their local police enough to go to them with their issues. In many turbulent areas of Paktika, they’re gravitating to the idea that “Afghans need to lead and help Afghans.” We see it more and more as our tour continues here. Thus, we are thankful for even the smallest signs of progress we see each day. We are also thankful this holiday season for the enormous amount of support we receive from everyone at home. It truly makes a difference. And we are eternally thankful to those who have given so dearly for our freedoms.
Over 200 rounds 1-77 Field Artillery Battalion, Falcons First
LTC Christopher Cardoni
CSM Jerome S. Sligh
1-77 Field Artillery
1-77 Field Artillery
he holiday season and the winter chill are upon us here in Paktika, but the Task force Falcon Soldiers are still going strong. Last month we had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with a visit from Major General Allyn, the Division Commander, who took the time to sit down and share a meal with Soldiers. General Allyn could not emphasize enough how proud he was of not only the Soldiers who do the brunt of the fighting, but also the spouses and families who are our rock of support. As we all know, war doesn’t stop because of holidays. The platoons at FOB Orgun-E and FOB Tillman proved this by firing over 200 rounds in support of our maneuver brothers who were tiding the tough Afghan roads; also supported by the Battalion Ammunition section that prepared and moved over a hundred artillery rounds on no notice to support the fight. As I look back over the last five months of operations I couldn’t be more proud of this battalion. Whether it’s the firing platoons shooting
in support of maneuver elements, Service Battery Soldiers on ECP or QRF duty protecting Soldiers and civilians alike, or supply and maintenance personnel who keep the platoons supported, I am so proud of the precision and professionalism of which out Soldiers have executed their duties. As Christmas approaches and the fighting season comes to and end. We have to always remember to remain vigilant. That’s where the love and support of everyone back home comes into play. It cannot be overstated that we can’t do what we need to do here without everything you all do for us back in Schweinfurt. I can assure you that the Falcons First Battalion will continue to strive for the victory we were sent here to achieve, so that we can all come home and be together again. The care packages, kind words and letters of encouragement are an integral part of what allows up to achieve our goals. Falcons First!
Christopher Cardoni & Jerome Sligh
Winds of Change
As freezing temperatures visit Paktika, signaling the end of the fighting season, the brigade resets its company-level leadership for the spring 2012 offensive. C-Tank/2-28, A/9E, Service/1-77 FA, and A/1-2, Task Force 3-66 have all changed commands. Hungry Soldiers have been promoted into leadership positions and a few experienced master sergeants are now leading companies.
Afghan-led operation a success Operation Tolfan results in detainees, weapons cache
Story by Sgt. Andrea Merritt
ith Afghan National Security Forces scheduled to take the reins on operations this spring, the success of Operation Tolfan proved forces in Paktika are capable of protecting their own. During the Afghan-led operation conducted Nov. 30, ANSF, with little assistance from U.S. military assets, uncovered a weapons cache, captured suspected insurgents and killed two terrorists operating in the area. “Today, the people of Paktika can feel pride in their military and police force,” said U.S. Army Maj. Robert Gagnon, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment security transi-
tion team advisor to the Afghan National Army 6th Kandak. “Today was a perfect example that ANSF are ready to take the lead this spring in operations,” said Gagnon, a Lincoln, R.I., native. “In this case, they demonstrated ANSF personnel are able to conduct a battalion-level operation with little to no U.S. support.” After gathering intelligence that insurgents were operating an IED cell in the province, ANA soldiers and Afghan Uniformed Police planned and executed cordon and search operations in two villages. The only U.S. support requested for the mission was an air weapons
team. Soldiers from Scout Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Bn., 66th Armd. Regt. also accompanied ANSF on the mission in an advise and assist role. Just before daybreak, Afghan forces searched a qalat near Qara Khel village and two men with weapons fled the scene. The air weapons team spotted the men as they moved through the fields, ducking into empty riverbeds called wadis as they tried to get away. The air weapons team engaged and killed the two men. The men had AK-47s, ammunition, hand gre-
nades and bomb making material in their possession.
AUP did a great job. They were able to surround the enemy and take their weapons.”
As U.S. personnel processed the scene, Afghan forces continued with their mission recovering a weapons cache containing rocket propelled grenades, ammunition, and IED materials.
As the sun set, Operation Tolfan came to a close, but a new chapter was opened for Afghan forces. The success of the mission was another indication that the ANSF will soon be capable of providing for their nations security.
As ANSF moved through the area, a group engaged them with small arms fire. The Afghans returned fire and eventually detained the suspects. There were no casualties from the exchange.
“It was an Afghan solution to an Afghan problem,” said Fort Meyers, Fla., native U.S. Army Capt. Sam Rosenberg, commander of HHC, 3rd Bn., 66th Armd. Regt. “They were able to take intel-driven, time-sensitive information and conduct a battalion-level operation.”
“I am very happy,” said Maj. Abdul Ghafar, the 6th Kandak operations officer, who planned the operation. “ANA and
“They were also able to conduct follow on missions that developed as they were going through the villages,” Meyers said. “They did extremely well.”
3 up, 3 down
In Late last month, the brigade was honored by the news that 14 of our finest non-commissioned officers were selected by the Department of the Army to serve as master seargeants. Congratulations to the following: Christopher G. Albanes Annette M. Albino Aaron L. Beckman Marquise A. Goodwin Shane A. Hutchins David W. Jones Stacey L. Lamar Scottied J. Magrum Daniel F. Martinez James Mastrodomenico Wayne K. Norris Derrick E. Orea Gus E. Reiley Juan Vasquesjaquis
To Staff Sergeant
Congratulations to the following Task Force Blackhawk Soldiers promotoed this month to the rank of Sergeant:
Congratulations to the following Task Force Blackhawk Soldiers promotoed this month to the rank of Staff Sergeant:
Shannon A. Willingham Christopher C. Parker Anthony M. Robinson Jason S. Wolfington Steven D. Lundy Christopher S. Schultz Jeremy D. Turner Fennis R. Rodriguez Dorian T. Starks Tavorris D. Jones Anthony A. Martin Jonathan R. Smals Lucas A. Rocha Olanrewaju O.Alara Thomas F. Johnson Lorna Lawrence Darrin J. Davis Tianyi Li Adam I. Gibbs Garrett T. Poeggel Austin B. Peiffer Evgeny Sarychev Salvador Guerreroesparza Carlos I. Maldonado Anthony M. Robinson
John J. Ivanov Taylor M. Hollingsworth Jonathan D. Allen Barrett A. Jones Tyrus E. Reddick Christopher L. Dyer Cody C. Gull Bradley J. Taylor Adam W. Sines Michael Miranda Chaquetta Q. Smith Charles E. Sias Garrett E. Poole Kevin T. Dillard Dustin A. Anderson Lewis R. Sais Garrett H. Kile Travis Yazzie Samuel S. Tenney Kyle J. Wagner Antwan D. Deligar Jarred A. Jackson Bryon.K. Rush Raymond S. Soucy
To Sergeant First Class
Congratulations to the following Task Force Blackhawk Soldiers promotoed this month to the rank of Sergeant First Class: Richard M. Snader Derek E. Smith Adam S. Jacobs Kevin P. Hastings
Best of the Best
Last month Specialist Derick Hunter, 172 Support Battalion, and Private First Class Eric Benson, 1-77 FA, were selected as the brigadeâ€™s Soldiers of the Quarter. Benson and Hunter were selected by a panel of Command Sergeants Major over all other Soldiers in the brigade for their performance during combat operations. Meanwhile, Sergeant Audie Murphy Club selectee Staff Sergeant Leonado May of HHC, Task Force 2-28, was recognized as the brigadeâ€™s NCO of the quarter.
An Afghan Glance An Afgan villager watches as a crowd of
Afghan children play behind a group who were listening to the Paktika provincial governor speak at a shura.