It’s a heart-wrenching job, but Capt. Justin Jacobs diligently works to ensure fallen troops are brought home to their families in noble and respectful measures.
“Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my job is returning our fallen service members back to the states where they can be reconnected with their loved ones,” Jacobs said. “We provide a dignified transfer for every member coming out of the various areas of responsibility, as well as the European theater to include the remains of those recovered in previous conflicts.”
For his efforts to revamp the Air Force’s training on dignified transfers, Jacobs has earned a prestigious distinction — the Air Mobility Command Company Grade Officer of the Year. He also is recognized for his efforts to reduce delivery time of packages to Africa and eliminating unnecessary steps in cargo-processing procedures.
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Drills buzzed while soldiers lay back, mouths open as dental specialists worked.
In one chair, a soldier relaxed as a dental specialist took X-rays of his molars. In another, a soldier was having his teeth cleaned.
The bustle was just like any dentist office – except these dental specialists worked off generators in tents with traces of sand on the floor.
“This helps our unit with our wartime mission,” said Col. Stacy Larsen, commander of the 257th Dental Company Area Support. “We’re making sure we’re ready for our inherent job to treat patients.”
The company — one of three in the Army — is scheduled to deploy to Kuwait as part of a regular rotation next spring. This week, these soldiers got out of their brick-and-mortar clinics to practice their skills in an austere environment.
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More than 60 years ago, in a move that would cost her a job, Mildred Poole moved to defend education for all children — regardless of their race.
She opened school doors for black children to join classes on Fort Bragg three years before Brown vs. Board of Education would force integration nationwide.
She was fired a few years later.
“I just did what my spirit told me was right and what I knew I had to do,” Poole told The Fayetteville Observer 33 years later. There’s no accounts of harassment Poole may have faced, but old reports said the general at Fort Bragg received a lot of crude telegrams about it.
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For decades, Phillip Gonzales moved from one war-torn country to the next, traveling through recluse villages with only his medical gear, ready to treat the needy — emaciated, parasite-infected, deformed people.
It was a job not many people wanted, but Gonzales never faltered as he sought out the sick.
“You have to go to them,” said Gonzales, now 70 and speaking from his home in Fayetteville.
Gonzales, who began his medical training at Fort Bragg in the 1970s, has traveled the world, treating people in places no one else would go. He retired as a first lieutenant in 1996 after serving 24 years in Special Forces and as a Reservist.
His career came full circle when he returned to Fort Bragg in 2012 to pull from his real-world experience to teach the next generation of special operations medics.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180322/medic-returns-home-to-train-next-generation
As a radio call blasted news of three soldiers injured in a firefight, medical soldiers braced themselves for the incoming chaos.
“Hey buddy, you alert?,” said a medic, as a soldier was rolled into the tent on a litter. Gauze was wrapped around the soldier’s chest.
The injuries — part of a simulated mass casualty exercise — tested soldiers from the 44th Medical Brigade’s 28th Combat Support Hospital to treat multiple soldiers with serious injuries. The soldiers worked with their Air Force partners to coordinate air transportation when injuries required a higher level of care.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180312/exercise-challenges-medical-soldiers-to-be-prepared
Over the past nine months, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have patrolled, secured polling sites for elections and flexed their strength training with foreign partners during their deployment to Kosovo.
“I think everybody here can be very proud of what they’ve done,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Taylor, commander of the division’s 3rd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. “It’s been an important mission.”
Last month, soldiers from the regiment received the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal during a ceremony in Kosovo. The soldiers have been deployed to the region for nine months, where they were charged with the longstanding peace-keeping mission.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180313/fort-bragg-soldiers-recognized-for-service-in-kosovo
Construction on a new, modern aerial gunnery range at Fort Bragg is ahead of schedule and could open to soldiers as soon as 2020.
The gunnery range, which will provide rotary wing aircraft bombing and target practice for aviators, is south of the Sicily, Normandy, Salerno and Holland drop zones. The $45 million range will include more than 350 automated targets and six observation towers with cameras.
“Getting this completed is great news for Fort Bragg,” said Wolf Amacker, the installation range officer. “We’ve got a huge need for this range.”
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180311/new-modern-gunnery-range-at-fort-bragg-ahead-of-schedule
By the time Jim Schmidt was 16 years old, he was a seasoned combat veteran who’d fired dozens of mortar rounds at German tanks before he was kicked out of the Army and the Navy.
Now 90 and living in Fayetteville, Schmidt’s hearing and airborne wing tattoos have faded a little, but not much else has changed. The surly veteran who jumped into Sicily with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II at the age of 14 doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about as he recalls his service.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180307/it-just-makes-me-so-proud-of-what-hes-done-for-our-country
Soldiers on guard duty were startled when a sharp, high-pitched whistle screeched near their fighting hole.
There was no mistaking the distinct sound — an enemy mortar had exploded not far from them.
“Incoming!” they yelled, hitting the ground and settling into position to return fire.
It was part of a simulation, challenging these soldiers from the 18th Field Artillery Brigade to react to an enemy attack on a forward operating base. Over the two-week exercise at Fort Bragg, the soldiers will conduct training that covers core skills, such as defensive fire reaction, to their specialized artillery skills, including launching rockets and working with helicopters to receive fresh munitions.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180304/field-artillery-soldiers-hone-skills-build-confidence
Soldiers who eliminate enemy objectives with bombs, missiles and artillery can soon ditch their heavy targeting equipment for new, lighter technology that streamlines plotting and speeds up fire missions.
The Joint Effects Targeting System — a lightweight, all-weather location module — could be fielded to soldiers across the Army as soon as October. Over the summer, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery’s 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment tested the equipment’s ability to be dropped from aircraft, then assembled on the battlefield.
“We didn’t have a system that every forward observer could use that was man-portable — especially in Afghanistan in the mountains,” said Capt. Eric Munn, assistant product manager for the target equipment. “Let’s give them something that weights 5.5 pounds so they can carry it around and do their job a lot better.”
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180303/fort-bragg-soldiers-test-new-equipment
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.