Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Fights This War? Warriors Reunited from 2004

Making new friends and saying goodbye to comrades in arms is a regular part of Army service, but sometimes chance and circumstances can reunite soldiers in new assignments after years apart. Just such a reunion happened in May when Alpha Company 1-106th, part of Pennsylvania-based Task Force Diablo, was assigned to support the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division commanded by Col. Peter Newell. In 2004 Alpha Company deployed to Joint Base Balad for 15 months as part of an Illinois-based Army National Guard Aviation Battalion. Part of their mission was support of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, commanded Newell, the lead Army unit in the Battle for Fallujah.
Because National Guard soldiers can often serve in the same unit for their entire career, sixteen of the 53 soldiers in this Air Assault Company deployed with Alpha in 2004-5. Alpha flies daily “Adder” missions in support of Newell and the 4-1. “Our mission is to support the ground mission,” said Capt. Jason Henderson, the Alpha Commander. “The Adder mission gets Colonel Newell and [Lt. Col.] Callahan and their staff out where they need to be.” Lt. Col. David Callahan is the Deputy Commander of 4-1.
When the Adder mission began Henderson would adapt the mission schedule to Newell’s needs. Initially there was resistance from aviation brigade headquarters “but they came around,” said Henderson. Chief Warrant Officer Herb Stevens said flying for Newell is easier than for many senior commanders. “Many commanders want dedicated aircraft. Colonel Newell will free up the Adder aircraft for other missions when he does not need them,” Stevens said. “He’s all about helping soldiers. If there is an empty seat, he will take soldiers waiting for flights on his missions.”
“The support provided by Alpha Company is essential for my brigade to operate effectively across three provinces in southern Iraq,” said Newell. “I’d fly with these guys again on any combat tour; and, consider them part of the Highlander Brigade’s family.”
“One Day Colonel Newell said a 4-1 patch would look good on the nose of his aircraft and we made it happen as soon as possible,” said Henderson.
Col. Teresa Gallagher, commander of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade—the former headquarters of Task Force Diablo—was initially against putting unit patches on the nose of aircraft. “But when I heard about the depth of the relationship between Alpha Company and Colonel Newell, I was in favor of it,” she said.
“Several books have been written about the Battle for Fallujah,” Stevens said. “We are proud to be flying Colonel Newell again.”
Together Again in Iraq
Of the sixteen members of Alpha Company who deployed in 2004 and are back in 2009, eight are in new jobs. First Sgt. Tom House was a platoon sergeant in 2004. Chief Warrant Officers Ashley Higar, Damien Germscheid, Thad Simpson and Nate McKean were enlisted in 2004, with Higar working in maintenance. McKean, Simpson and Germscheid were crew chiefs. Sergeants First Class Daren Cagle and Mike Simard moved from crew chief to platoon sergeant and Staff Sgt. Garath Mills to assistant platoon sergeant.
Eight are in the same seat they occupied in the previous deployment. Chief Warrant Officers Pat Schroeder, Herb Stevens, Dave Hammon, Greg Calvin, and Scott Wiley were all pilots on the previous deployment and are still flying with Alpha. Sergeants Robert Kulage, Joe Seitz, and Craig McGuire served then and now as crew chiefs.
Although not among the sixteen who were actually in Alpha, Staff Sgt. Mike Maass was a fueler and crew chief in 2004 in Headquarters Company and returned this tour as a door gunner. Henderson was a member of Alpha Company in 2004, but was at flight school during the deployment.
When a unit has this kind of continuity many procedures that other units must develop over time are already in place. Alpha uses a “Push Crew” system. Crew chiefs and door gunners who are not flying get missions ready to go, bringing weapons and equipment to the flight line, removing doors and windows in the summer and performing maintenance checks while the flight crews are going through briefings and planning. Alpha developed the system in 2004 and adapted it to operations at COB Adder.
New members of Alpha Company join a band of brothers, men who have served together for many years, rely on each others strengths and share a bond that only years of service and sacrifice can forge.

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