At Fort Bragg this week, soldiers are preparing for what could be the worst day of their lives.
Tracking blood supplies and rescue teams pulling people from rubble, dozens of soldiers are simulating a response to a nuclear crisis as part of an exercise to prepare them for a year-long stint as part of a task force that responds to domestic emergencies.
Elements of the 18th Airborne Corps are training for the mission at Fort Bragg before a similar exercise in Indiana later this year.
At a command post on one of Fort Bragg’s training areas, digital maps are lit up with paths of plume from the simulated nuclear explosion, while the soldiers determine where to send ambulances and medical helicopters. They’re calm, but working with urgency.
“This would be after potentially the worst day in our nation’s history,” said Col. Larry Dewey, commander of the 16th Military Police Brigade.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180228/fort-bragg-soldiers-are-training-for-nuclear-nightmare
Paratroopers who miss a jump within the required three-month time frame because aircraft aren’t available or other unforeseen circumstances can make it up and still receive parachute hazardous duty pay, according to a revamped Department of Defense instruction.
The change will allow paratroopers to keep their pay when circumstances out of their control prevent them from performing jumps. Paratroopers are required to jump once every three months as a standard for remaining proficient on airborne operations.
The change was recommended by Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and approved last month by the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
Airborne leaders also are discussing a possible increase in compensation for jump masters, who inspect paratrooper equipment and lead aircraft actions during airborne operations.
Read the story here:
A sliver of the moon poked through clouds over Fort Bragg just after 6 a.m., offering meager illumination at the Main Post Flag Pole.
Soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps’ headquarters company marched toward the flag pole. The detail’s leader, Staff Sgt. Frederick Tuisl, began unfolding the flag as the soldiers moved into position.
The stillness of the early morning was broken as soldiers pounded the pavement, huffing on their runs through the neighborhood nearby.
As a bugler came over the post’s loudspeakers, the soldiers rapidly moved the flag up the pole. By the time reveille had finished playing, signaling the start of the day, the flag was rippling in the wind.
“It’s an honor for me to be able to put up the flag,” Tuisl said.
At Fort Bragg, units rotate soldiers each week to conduct flag security for reveille and retreat, which marks the end of the duty day. Reveille and retreat are held at the Main Post Flag Pole, but soldiers across post must stand at attention and salute while the bugler plays.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180211/flag-detail-marks-beginning-end-of-day-at-fort-bragg
In between lessons on global awareness and civics, Ruby Murray is probably running around looking for cleats or choir robes or whatever else her students need.
She smiles when she talks about how she connected a student who’d never met her mother to a beautician who volunteered to do the girl’s hair. And she recalls frantic phone calls across the region searching for a specially sized dress uniform for a student who thought he’d have to drop Murray’s JROTC class because he couldn’t find a uniform that fit.
“I don’t let them give up on their dreams because they don’t have the material things,” she said.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180210/meet-jrotc-instructor-ruby-murray
Although planning for a military parade requested by President Donald Trump is in the early stages, it’s likely troops from Fort Bragg — the nation’s largest military installation — could be called to participate.
Trump has called on the Department of Defense to plan a military parade in Washington, D.C. Officials from the Department of the Army, which would alert Fort Bragg troops, have not announced plans for specific units.
In a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the Pentagon was working on parade plans to present to Trump.
“I think we’re all aware in this country of the president’s affection and respect for the military,” he said. “We’ve been putting together some options. We’ll send them up to the White House for decision.”
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180207/fort-bragg-troops-could-be-called-for-military-parade
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is urging the Army to reconsider its initial rejection to discipline a supervisor at Womack Army Medical Center for retaliating against an employee who reported issues with infection control to a higher authority that led to a stand-down of hospital operations in 2014.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180205/army-urged-to-discipline-womack-employee
Above: I interview Spc. Lexus Reaves, who is the care taker for Porter. [Staff photo Melissa Sue Gerrits]
Just before noon, Porter lumbered through the hallway at the 44th Medical Brigade headquarters seeking out soldiers who needed a quick cuddle as they made their way to appointments and meetings.
Brig. Gen. Porter, a 10-year-old Bluetick Coonhound, had already completed his physical training for the day so he lazily strolled the hallway. He’s a sucker for ear rubs, and stood perfectly still while soldiers doted on him.
“A lot of people will stop and shout, ‘Porter!’ They’ll stop and come down to see him,” said Spc. Lexus Reaves, his caretaker. “I can see the happiness come over their faces.”
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180202/retired-from-military-hound-enjoys-mascot-role
Even as flames from a wrecked vehicle grew larger, Spc. Elvis Romero stayed calm and worked quickly to free the vehicle’s driver, a soldier who was unconscious and pinned inside.
Romero watched the flames spark in the smashed engine while he and another soldier unbuckled the unconscious man and carefully pulled him from the vehicle.
Romero never hesitated. Walking away was unfathomable, he said.
“I wanted to make sure he was OK,” Romero said, recalling the multiple vehicle crash that happened outside Simmons Army Airfield in December 2016.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180131/specialist-recognized-for-heroic-actions-in-fiery-crash
Female officers in infantry and armor jobs will be heading to three additional installations, leading the way for women who are choosing jobs on the frontlines.
Col. Michael Lawhorn, a spokesman for U.S. Army Forces Command, said women in combat jobs can now be assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The move expands opportunities for women, who have previously been assigned only to Fort Bragg and Fort Hood, Texas.
“Forces Command plans to provide a long-term plan to its units in the next 30 days,” Lawhorn said, noting the expansion is based on commander recommendations.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180128/army-expanding-installations-to-assign-women-in-combat-jobs
Soldiers from the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion traveled to Wilmington last week to learn about port operations ahead of an upcoming deployment.
The soldiers will be partnered with the Navy for the deployment across several countries in the Pacific Command theater, where they could be called upon to advise on port operations. They are scheduled to leave at the end of February.
“We’re learning how ports operate so we can be one step ahead,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Peckenpaugh, a Civil Affairs specialist.
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180127/civil-affairs-soldiers-learn-port-operations-ahead-of-deployment
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.