Friday, June 27, 2008

XCTC 2008 Fort Chaffee Akansas

Photo by Sgt. Stevens

MOBILIZATION; Mission XCTC Spring / Summer 2008 Fort Chaffee AR
In the Spring of 2008, the Nine was ordered to complete its AT (annual training) as part of Illinois National Guard predeployment training . Our job as MP's in this mission was to provide force protection for the men and material present at Ft. Chaffee.
Ft. Chaffee is a fairly old and open post located near Fort Smith. I found Ft. Chaffee to be interesting on many different levels, including its history and its present role in current operations. As I was taken on my first tour of the post for training, I was shown two large temporary Forward Operatings Bases (FOB). One was called Bagrhami and the other was Illini (after the Illini Indians also a sports team from the University of Illinois "Fighting Illini")
Both FOBs were fairly large, occupying several acres of land. From a military perspective. I would say that both FOBs were well planned, well laid out and accurately represented, fortified defensive positions. Including the use of guard towers and concrete interlocking blocks to defend FOB entrances. Our initial mission at Chaffee was to guard these FOBs until relieved, provide force protection, render aid and guard sensitive items destined for the FOBs.
On the 07th of June, 2008, the troops from Illinois began to arrive at Fort Chaffee throughout the day and well into night time hours. Hundreds of Illinois Soldiers began to filter in as the 33 IBCT (Infantry Brigade Combat Team) arrived on post. The following day I went to the PX, which was filled with soldiers making purchases of items for both comfort at need. One clear cut observation was made as I looked the many soldiers, who were wearing campaign badges and realized that many of these soldiers had been deployed in the past and were most likely on a second or third tour of duty. I felt true admiration and envy for these soldiers and hoped that I would one day be shoulder to shoulder with them.
As the days at Fort Chaffe passed, the 933rd (Phase III) became more involved with daily operations. We handled some minor investigation, traffic control, convoy escorts and other general duties.
Sunday, June 16th 2008 FT. Chaffee, AR
The weather service had been predicting severe weather in our area during the entire day. They indicated that the storm would be packing high winds. The storm began to show itself at approx 2300 hrs, and as predicted, the storm had high winds, coupled with very intense lightening and a torrent of rain. As I stood outside of the barracks, and watched the front blow in, I was thankful that I was not at one of the FOBs.
The next morning, we were notified that FOB Illini had been hit particularly hard and that they had sustained damage and human casualties. Upon going on duty, we were sent to FOB Illini to relieve the last watch who had been tasked to provide security to the site. Once we were there, we found out the there had been several injuries, including broken bones and concusions. The medics were called in to tend to the wounded. Coincidentally, it was only a day or two prior when I spoke to my own soldiers about their safety and using common sense, as I have personaly witnessed my share of people killed and injured in normal daily ops, and in this case at FOB Illini, there was not even ops going on. The dangerous varible was weather. A factor which the military must consider at all times, whether on the battlefield or not..


Sweat hard, bleed less: Illinois Guardsmen prepare for deployment
By Becky

FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. -- The convoy of Humvees roars into Forward Operating Base Bagrami just after 3 p.m.Soldiers, hot, tired and covered with a thick layer of dust from the red Arkansas soil dismount from their vehicles after a long and grueling day of training.Their work is not done. They still have to secure their equipment and review the successes and failures of the day’s training missions before they can relax.Bagrami, at Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, is currently home sweet home to about 500 of the more than 2,700 Illinois Army National Guard members preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.The forward operating base, one of three housing the Guard on the center’s 66,000 acres, is set up to look like its counterparts in Iraq and in Afghanistan, where the soldiers will take part in Task Force Phoenix VIII later this year.Their mission in Afghanistan will include training and mentoring forces of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police in sustained, independent counter insurgency operations.The soldiers, most with the Illinois guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 404th Chemical Brigade, arrived in Arkansas on June 7 and will train on-site until Friday.The intensive training is designed to cut down on the total time the guard is deployed and reduce disruption of their civilian lives.“It’s hard, but the training part comes together. It’s hot and you’ve been up since 4:30 a.m. There are a lot of long days and meals are hit and miss, but that’s not the hardest part. The family separation is the hard part. I will miss all of my daughter’s softball games this year and next,” said Maj. Glen Petersen of Headquarters Company, 1-178th Infantry, based in Chicago. “But all soldiers make sacrifices because we believe in the mission and want it to succeed.”Petersen of LeRoy said the training is particularly important for those soldiers who have not yet seen action.“There are a variety of issues that soldiers need to be trained on to go active duty, especially for a lot of the young soldiers who have never been,” Petersen said.For those facing their first deployment, the training offers a chance to bond with their fellow soldiers.“This training has helped us a lot as a company,” Spc. Adam Anderson, 21, of Mason City said. “We might not have know each other before, but now we have a bond. It’s given us a lot of confidence and built us up as a team.”The training has also offered more experienced soldiers the opportunity to mentor their young comrades.“We have a lot of people with us who have been to Iraq and they have shared their insights,” Sgt. Barry Engelhardt, 28, of Pinckneyville said.For Sgt. Michael Brown, 26, the training also lays the groundwork for the upcoming deployment.“This helps us and our families be more prepared for what we will be in for when we are deployed,” Brown of Eldorado said.Sgt. David Morgan of West Frankfort has been with the guard for 25 years and has already seen action.“In my opinion, the training we are doing will benefit the soldiers when they deploy. The evaluators are trying to make this as real world as possible with scenarios similar to what we will experience overseas. Building bonds is important, but it’s not the most important thing.“The most important thing is for a person to know their job, their place and how to perform as needed,” Morgan said.Spc. Brent Corzine, 20, of Marion said his experience at the training center has helped him become a better soldier.“One day on a mission, we walked two or three miles in the woods here that are like a jungle. I even saw a copperhead. We were walking in water up to our knees, carrying all our gear. You could barely walk without getting caught on something, and we were having to stop every 100 or 200 meters and start doing different maneuvers,” Corzine said.“It’s hot and it’s tough, but it’s going to make me ready to do my job when we get over there.”No official date for the guard’s deployment to Afghanistan has been set, but these soldiers believe they will be well-prepared when they report to duty.“I can’t say it’s not been hard, because I’d be lying,” PFC Davin Mills, 20, of Anna said.“But it’s given me confidence in my ability to do the job and trust in the people who will be at my side. I think we can achieve any goal we set our mind to.”
A fort fit for ‘The King’-- Construction of Camp Chaffee, as it was then called, began in 1940. A key military installation during the early days of World War II, the post’s mission was to train U.S. soldiers for combat in Europe, America and the Pacific.-- Elvis Presley was inducted into the Army at the installation and began his basic training there in 1958. Presley received his first, and widely publicized, military haircut at Chaffee. Presley good-naturedly told the media, “Hair today, gone tomorrow,” after his locks were shorn.-- The installation in western Arkansas near the Oklahoma border was handed over to the Arkansas Army National Guard, which uses the facility’s 66,000 acres for training. Fort Chaffee is now formally called the Chaffee Maneuver Training Center.-- Fort Chaffee also served as a temporary housing center for foreign refugees, including 50,000 Southeast Asians.-- The movies “A Soldier’s Story” and “Biloxi Blues” were filmed at Fort Chaffee.

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