Granite Thunder ISSUE 7 | VOLUME 1 | DEC2016-JAN2017
Commander’s Corner COL John LeBlanc Hello from the Granite Thunder Brigade. The time has come to hand over our Force Field Artillery Headquarters and Target Acquisition responsibilities to the 169th Field Artillery Brigade and begin our journey home. As I write these comments, CPT Rey and his team have officially transferred authority of their mission to the 169th Target Acquisition Platoon in Iraq. The 197th Brigade Headquarters is in full transition mode as we hand over responsibility to the 169th Brigade Headquarters on 10 January 2017. Thank you all for your support, dedication and patience on the home front. Our new mission is to make it home safely and rejoin our family, friends and employers. In this endeavor, we will put forth as much, if not more effort as we have in support of theater wide operations. (Continued on page 2)
Top Stories CSM’s Corner……………………….page 3 Seeing Stars………..……………….page 4 GAFB Results…………...….………page 5 The Deployment in Pictures…........page 7
(Continued from page 1) Significant events for the month of December: On 18 December, COL LeBlanc and CSM May represented the 197th FA BDE in a Transition of Authority Ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait as the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia Army National Guard assumed responsibility for Operation Spartan Shield as Task Force Spartan. The 29th ID, headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and composed of Soldiers from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina will fill this new requirement in support of USARCENT. The 29th ID lineage includes World War I service in the Argonne Forest, landing in the first wave at Normandy on D-Day and leading the fight to take St. Lo during World War II, as well as peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our Relief in Place (RIP) and our transition back to the U.S. is well underway. The 169th completed a successful Mobilization Readiness Exercise at Fort Bliss, TX and arrived in theater on 24 December. Prior to their arrival, we packed up our military equipment for shipment back to New Hampshire. Following our handover to the 169th, the Soldiers from the 197th will consolidate at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait and await our flight to Fort Bliss, TX to conduct our demobilization process. The demobilization process is a 10-14 day requirement and includes medical/dental exams, finance/administrative reviews, equipment turn-in and briefings. Our best estimate is a return to NH at the end of January.
Steven Hall, SSG Scott Auditore, SGT Matthew Puleo, SPC Derek Rust and SPC William Dunton for earning the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. In closing, this has been a very demanding yet rewarding deployment. We deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield and ended up focusing much of our efforts supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. To recap, Operation Spartan Shield is the U.S. militaryâ€™s name for its shaping operations across the region (deter adversaries/reassure partners) while Operation Inherent Resolve is the U.S. military's name for the military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), including the campaign in Iraq and Syria. In support of both missions, our Soldiers performed exceptionally well and have garnered theater wide respect and admiration by the many commands we support, as well as from our Army senior leaders back in the United States. Our Soldiers motivation, professionalism, positive attitude, and dedication to duty has been the envy of many commands. As a Brigade Commander, I couldnâ€™t ask for anything better. I am very proud and blessed to have served with the Soldiers of the 197th Field Artillery Brigade. See you all soon, Granite Thunder 6 Out!
Congratulations to CPT Wesley Keniston, SGT Ryan Garland and PFC Noah Carle on their welldeserved promotions. Congratulations to LTC 2
CSM’s Corner CSM Victor May Hello Soldiers, family and friends of the Granite Thunder BDE! This is the last newsletter from the Middle East. It has been a great deployment. The Transition of Authority (TOA) is on January 10th. Two More days to go before we turn the mission over to the 169th Field Artillery Brigade. The Soldiers have given their counterparts all they need to be as successful as the 197th. Today a team of our Soldiers spent the day loading our vehicles on to flat beds to go to the port so that they could be shipped home. Everyone one is cleaning out their individual work space and shipping their personal gear home as well. Our Redleg Soldiers have lived at the British Camp since the 21st of December so that the 169th could move into our spaces on Camp Redleg. Echo Battery (E BTRY) and our Soldiers that lived and worked in Qatar are headed to Kuwait. Our Camp Redleg Soldiers will Join them a few day after the TOA. Once everyone is on ground in Kuwait we will hold our Awards Ceremony, knock out some Mandatory Training, and spend some MWR time enjoying each other’s company as this will be the first time the entire HHB and E BTRY have all been in one place since we departed Fort Bliss. After a few days in Kuwait we will get ready to Ship to Fort Bliss to Start the Demobilization process. We will all go through Physical exams and spend time making sure that everything is good to go with all of our administrative information and that any physical issue are
addressed and recorded. Ten to fourteen days later, we will be on the Freedom Bird Home. Once home we will come into Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) in Concord to complete our NH Reverse Soldier Readiness Process (RSRP) to make sure any and all issue have been addressed. Once complete our Soldiers will get a much deserved paid vacation. I am proud of every Soldier that I have had the honor and pleasure of working with on this deployment. I am humbled by the sacrifices that both our Soldiers and our families have endured during the build for the deployment and the deployment itself. We are a volunteer Army, which is second to none because of our Soldiers and our families. The Yellow Ribbon Event is locked in for Portsmouth in March. I hope to see everyone there. I have no doubt LTC Hunter, 1SG Canavan and LT Dumark have put together a great Program for us to attend, allowing us plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company. I leave you all with my favorite quote below, I am thankful every day when I read this quote. It reminds me that even though there are evils in the world like ISIL, The Soldiers of this Brigade the United State Military and our Coalition Partners freely chose to stand up and do something. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke See you all Soon! CSM Victor May 3
Seeing Stars 1LT Morgan Lemmon Camp Arifjan, KUWAIT — Chief of the National Guard Bureau and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph L. Lengyel, visited Soldiers in four countries during Thanksgiving. One of his stops was Camp Arifjan, Kuwait to visit the Soldiers of the 197th Field Artillery Brigade (FAB). Soldiers at the 197th FAB TAC were prepared to greet the four-star, and were pleasantly surprised to find his entourage included some additional distinguished guests. General Lengyel was joined by Lieutenant General Timothy J Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard. SGM Mark Bright welcomed the distinguished guests to the TAC and began explaining the 197th
FAB’s operational capabilities and its role in the strategic fight. In addition, General Lengyel was briefed on the new M30 alternative warhead, recently tested by the Brigade at Exercise Tungsten Steel. Showing interest in the targeting mission, SSG Scott Auditore briefed General Lengyel on the tools utilized to support target development. U.S. Army CSM Christopher Kepner was also present. As the Generals were briefed by the TAC Staff, CSM Kepner made his rounds. CSM Kepner personally greeted each Solider of the 197th FAB, taking interest in their Brigade position and their civilian jobs. One Soldier was recognized by the U.S. Army CSM and LTG Kadavy for his exemplary performance serving as medical readiness NCO to the 197 FAB. (Continued on page 5).
From Gen. Lengyel’s Facebook Page: “Myself, center row, seventh from left, with members of the New Hampshire National Guard's 197th Field Artillery Brigade during a Thanksgiving visit with troops serving in Kuwait, Nov. 25, 2016. Also shown: U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Kepner, center row, fourth from left, command sergeant major of the Army National Guard; United States Air Force Chief Mitch Brush, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of The National Guard Bureau, center row, fourth from right; and Army LTG Timothy J Kadavy, director, Army National Guard, center row, third from right. — with Chief Mitch Brush and LTG Timothy J Kadavy in Kuwait.”
(Continued from page 4). SGT Matthew Plantier provided expert medical care as a first responder during a real-world incident, while serving as medic at Udari Range. He received a coin from LTG Kadavy and was commended for his quick response and professionalism. General Lengyel also recognized two Soldiers. SSG David Lefebvre was coined for his attention to detail as the Supply NCOIC, locating over $100,000 of misappropriated equipment and reallocating it for the National Guard. In addition, 1LT Lemmon was coined for her role in the targeting mission. General Lengyel held an open discussion toward the end of his visits. Several topics were addressed, to include training costs, retention and the importance of FA Brigades in the current fight.
GAFB Results 1LT Morgan Lemmon Camp Arifjan, KUWAIT — Five Soldiers of the 197th FAB were honored in a ceremony at the Camp Arifjan Theatre on Wednesday, December 7th for their completion of the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (GAFPB) Test. Of 121 Soldiers that participated, a select 86 earned the coveted badge. There were 31 gold recipients, 44 silver and 11 bronze. LTC Steven Hall, SSG Scott Auditore, SGT Matthew Puleo, SPC Derek Rust and SPC Will Dunton each earned the silver GAFPB.
General Lengyel commended the families and employers of National Guard Soldiers, stating, “That’s what makes our business model work…your employers are a part of the defense of our nation.” "The Soldiers and Airmen here are happy and excited to be engaged in the fight, and they want to be a part of all the relevant missions. Nobody's upset about being asked to be flexible and pivot to a different task. They're proud to be doing what they're doing." As he left for his next visit, General Lengyel and his entourage posed for pictures with the 197th FAB. Morale was high in the TAC following that visit, and helped Soldiers to find comfort in knowing their role in Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield did not go unnoticed.
197th Soldiers at the GAFPB Awards Ceremony. From left to right: SSG Auditore, SPC Dunton, SPC Rust, SGT Puleo, LTC Hall.
Soldiers were commended in an opening speech by the German Officer, LTC Frank Gilisen. He expressed the significance of the GAFPB and explained to spectators, the process which the recipients went through. Over a period of four days, Soldiers met in the early hours of the morning to complete six events in order to demonstrate their overall military proficiency. (Continued on page 6) 5
(Continued from page 5) Day 1: Soldiers completed the 100m swim in full uniform within four minutes, shedding their uniform while treading water once complete.
Day 4: Soldiers demonstrated their pistol marksmanship skills at the Udari Range near Camp Buehring. They were required to engage three targets with five rounds in three positions, (standing, kneeling, prone). COL Sean Cannon, of 1st Theatre Sustainment Command, spoke about the importance of building relationships with Coalition partners through training events like the GAFPB. â€œWe couldn't get what we need to get done around the world without our strategic partners. Congratulations to the leadership and participants of the events.â€?
SGT Puleo treading water in preparation to remove his uniform during the final portion of the swim test..
Day 2: Soldiers completed the German Basic Fitness test consisting of the 110m sprint, 1000m run and flexed arm hang.
From left to right: SGT Puleo, SSG Auditore, SPC Rust, SPC Dunton, LTC Hall.
The diverse group of recipients included U.S. Soldiers, Airmen and Marines, Swiss Soldiers, Italian Soldiers, Canadian Airmen and British Royal Navy Midshipmen.
SPC Dunton hitting his stride on the 110m sprint.
In closing, LTC Gilisen chided with the recipients, telling them in a year they could all try for the gold badge again. His final comment being, "One mission many nations".
Day 3: Soldiers completed a 10km ruck march with 33lbs in their rucksack. 6
The Deployment in Pictures