High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems are gaining more attention for their power and ability.
18th Field Artillery at Fort Bragg, which has two of the active-duty Army's five HIMARS units, knows that means deployments are likely.
I got to hang with 3-321st FAR, 18th Field Artillery this week to observer their training. The unit is set to deploy at some point this year.
The unit could play a key role if sent to the Middle East, where they would partly be taking out the enemy's anti-aircraft systems so the US Air Force could swiftly perform airstrikes.
You can read my story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/set-to-deploy-fort-bragg-artillery-unit-hones-precision-fire/article_37951a3e-0798-5bb9-b702-ae0104a679b3.html
Above photo: Sgt. Parsons takes us to the training area to observe 18th Field Artillery soldiers.
Left photo: Capt. Hicks and Capt. Thomas use a map to figure out how to get to our next destination to observe training.
Back in December 2015, the Army found a civilian had been living in the barracks of 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers.
How did this happen??
These soldiers are among the Army's most elite - and no one had any inkling a civilian had been living with them?? For months??
I immediately requested the Army's investigation into how this happened through the federal Freedom of Information Act. I was told the investigation wasn't complete and to try again in 60 days. In February, I filed another report and included my original request. U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) attempted to make this difficult by saying they would only accept FOIA requests made through their online form. For the sake of processing my request, I filled out the form, but also sent an email to that office citing the FOIA law, which clearly states a request must be accepted if the records described are reasonably clear.
The USASOC office called me on April 13 to let me know the report was completed and they would attempt to email it over. If it was too big, they warned, they would have to snail mail it. I offered to pick it up from the office - and dove right into it.
I was shocked to see the investigators redacted the name of the civilian, especially since he had been criminally charged related to this incident. Nonetheless, I was able to use state court records to match up the civilian described by the Army with Triston Chase. Both men had the same six felonies out of Harnett County with court appearances on the same days. Our crime reporter was able to track down the mug shot for Chase to appear with my story.
The USASOC office also redacted the case number and defendant name for the case in Harnett County that they said the civilian was charged for. The office claimed the redaction was for "personal privacy."
I am fighting those redactions. It's moot, but its the principle of the matter. State court records are public and USASOC had no right to redact public information.
My story showed how Chase exploited the lack of oversight in the barracks to obtain a room key, access the barracks and live there for months.
He was described by Army investigators as a "con-artist" who had never served in the armed forces, but had enough knowledge of the military to dupe others into believing he was a soldier.
You can read the full story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/civilian-found-living-in-rd-group-barracks-called-a-con/article_239685cb-7000-5975-b29a-0ec8d8ec0936.html
When I started this story, it was just supposed to be about Willenberg breaking a record for the fastest 12-mile foot march completed by a soldier at the DeGlopper Air Assault School. But the more we talked, the more special I realized he was.
My lede is below, and the full story is at: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/army-chaplain-connects-with-soldiers-through-physical-training/article_930e01a8-8b2b-5df1-8b58-28bb864cd2f3.html
When Father Luke pulls out his Bible, soldier scatter.
So when the chaplain was plopped into the middle of a combat zone less than a year after joining the Army, he knew he had to be creative to reach fellow soldiers.
He started Holy Smokes - a lounge time after Sunday night Mass when Capt. Lukasz J. Willenberg, who is affectionately called Father Luke, cracked open boxes of cigars shipped to Bagram Airfield from the states. A division band played jazz in the background as Willenberg led casual conversations about anything the soldiers could entertain.
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.