TOG Blog – WO1 Brent Vestering – WOCS Honor Grad

WO1 Brent Vestering

WO1 Brent Vestering

I recently served for 15 months as the Regimental Legal NCOIC for The Old Guard.  During my tenure, I provided guidance and training to commanders, NCOs, and Soldiers concerning Military Justice and adverse administrative matters.  My team and I provided quality legal products and guidance that enabled leaders to resolve legal issues expeditiously while remaining focused on their respective missions.

I graduated from U.S. Army Warrant Officer Candidate School on 20 February 2014.  In recognition for my academic performance, I was recognized as an Honor Graduate.  This school is a rigorous five week course designed to train, assess, evaluate, and develop future Warrant Officers.  The course instructors trained, mentored, and advised myself and 60 other candidates as we served in various student leadership positions throughout the course.  My class represented 10 of the Army’s functional branches and all three components; Active Army, National Guard, and Army Reserve.

The course consisted of two Army Physical Fitness Test, a week long Field Leadership Exercise, Land Navigation, a Leadership Reaction Course, and a 6.2 mile Ruck March.  In addition, we received classroom instruction focusing on officership, Army values, ethics, military history, and other topics all of which were covered in five academic exams and a military brief.

The course established a foundation for my own development as a self-aware and adaptive leader.  It taught me to be resilient in times of difficulty and how to persevere in stressful situations.  Above all, this course reaffirmed what I knew 10 years ago when I entered the military; that I am but a humble servant to the people of the United States and to the Soldiers with whom I serve; and that I will serve in such a manner as to not bring discredit upon my country, my unit, or my family.

Old Guard Trains at NTC

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Soldiers of Delta Company,1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), raise an antenna at the National Training Center [NTC] on Fort Irwin, Calif. The antenna is used for multiple communications across the battlefield. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Klinton Smith)

 Story by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks:

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Feb. 7, 2014) — Soldiers assigned to Delta Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) returned from a month long deployment at the National Training Center [NTC] on Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 5-6, as part of a joint mission with 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The unit’s aren’t deploying anytime in the near future; however, they are using this exercise to perfect operational procedures and communication between aviation and Soldiers on the ground.

“We’ve learned the absolute importance of establishing standard operating procedures, conducting rehearsals and conducting pre-combat checks and inspections,” said Capt. Travis N. Reinold, commander, D Co. “We trained on what we’ve done over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan by conducting ‘force on force’ engagements against a conventional enemy.”

The unit spent the first few days at NTC getting equipped with the multiple integrated laser engagement system [MILES].

MILES is a training system that provides a realistic battlefield environment for Soldiers and vehicles involved in the training exercise.

D Co. then conducted daily operations with the Stryker Brigade, while also overcoming a few new challenges along the way.

“We learned a lot from our infantry counterparts,” said Reinold. “This NTC rotation was unique for the Army because it marked the first time ever a Stryker Brigade executed a ‘Decisive Action’ rotation.”

These rotations were developed by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to create a common training scenario for use throughout the Army. They are expected to expose troops to today’s threats, coupled with a realistic, challenging environment that mimics 21st century adversaries.

“These challenges seemed daunting, but the competence, professionalism and motivation of all the Soldiers and non-commissioned officers made it possible to succeed,” said Reinold. “I couldn’t be more proud or happy about how far this company has progressed since November.”

Staff Sgt. James Simmons agreed.

“The truth is that everyone has discovered something that they didn’t know before,” said Simmons, a D Co. squad leader. “I got to see my Soldiers do some really great things on a terrain that was an exact replica of Afghanistan, except the mountains are a whole lot higher in Afghanistan.”

“A big take away from this was that we reminded our Soldiers that our main job is to be a proficient infantry unit and work as a team,” he continued.

With the two units having worked together during the rotation, Reinold said he feels they are both well equipped for any mission.

“We learned how to be an effective team and to achieve the maximum desired effects for our training,” said Reinold. “These Soldiers are truly capable of accomplishing anything.”

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A Delta Company Soldier, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), stands guard during a training exercise at the National Training Center [NTC] on Fort Irwin, Calif. The training helped enhance the tactical skills of the Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Klinton Smith)

Sgt. Maj.’s 28-year career ends with one last fanfare

Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rock

Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rock

Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rock has used a combination of music and leadership to inspire people around the world. Now after 28 years of dedicated service to his country, seven presidential inaugurations and thousands of ceremonies and performances, Rock has finally hung up his colonial uniform patterned after Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army for good.

Soldiers from 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), held a retirement ceremony to honor Rock, a former U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps [FDC] sergeant major, at Conmy Hall on Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 13.

“I have spent a good portion of my adult life here in The Old Guard, and it has been an honor to serve as sergeant major of the Corps these last 11 years,” said Rock. “Retirement sneaks up on you when you are doing something you enjoy.”

When Rock first arrived at The Old Guard as a trombone player in 1988, however, he admitted to being very unsure about his military career.

“I came from the U.S. Army Field Band on Fort Meade, Md., so I felt like a duck out of water,” said Rock. “I had no idea where the Corps would take me.”

Rock would become only the third sergeant major in FDC’s 53-year history. He was the senior enlisted advisor to one of the U.S. Army’s premier musical organizations.

“I am the guy behind the scenes that makes sure everything and everyone is in the right place at the right time,” said Rock. “Everything that you see during a ceremony has a specific purpose. There is a history and a tradition behind what we do.”

Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rock (right) conducts a final inspection of troops during his retirement ceremony Jan. 13.

Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rock (right) conducts a final inspection of troops during his retirement ceremony Jan. 13.

Rock also had the task of maintaining continuity within FDC, and now that responsibility will be passed on to another noncommissioned officer.

Sgt. Maj. William White, the current Corps sergeant major, said he is honored to take over position from such a distinguished person.

“There was perhaps never a transition where someone was handed an organization as talented, gifted, put together and well-maintained as the one I inherited from him,” said White. “I learned a lot from Sgt. Maj. Rock.”

White said some people tend to get rattled when things become challenging and difficult, but Rock was the type of person to excel in just those situations.

“He brought a sense of calm to the job no matter how busy things got,” said White. “He called it ‘being in the eye of the hurricane.’”

Rock’s greatest memories were from the most mentally and physically demanding missions.

“Performing for Nelson Mandela and the Pope was crazy,” said Rock. “It was such a huge part of history, and I wouldn’t trade away those times for anything.”

Rock, his family and friends watch as The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps passes by the reviewing stand at his retirement ceremony.

Rock, his family and friends watch as The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps passes by the reviewing stand at his retirement ceremony.

Rock said the key to any success mission was surrounding himself with the right people.

“I did not make it this far without the help from people I have served with and those I love,” said Rock. “Every person that I have encountered in the military, good or bad, has taught me something.”

Rock said he doesn’t regret the instant when he decided to do something out of the box and join FDC.

“If I could give any advice to the next generation of Soldiers it would to push yourself outside your comfort zone, and trust the people around you,” said Rock. “It is the only way you’re going to grow as a leader.”

Rock said he has truly enjoyed being a part of FDC for so long, but he is looking forward to the next chapter in his life.

“I am glad to have my beautiful wife to share this journey with,” said Rock. “I am ending my time here with this great unit on the right note.”

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks, Old Guard Public Affairs

Old Guard Trains For NTC Rotation

Soldiers Train in PA

Old Guard Soldiers create a path through tall grass during a squad live-fire exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Dec. 4.

Gunfire rang out across the mountainside as Soldiers moved through the woods toward the target area and engaged the simulated enemy.  When the squad cleared the objective and had begun assessing the situation, the platoon leader came over the radio to tell his squad the mission was complete and to regroup on his position.

Although this was only a rehearsal for the Soldiers assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), this field training exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Dec. 2-13., will serve them well in the future.

Capt. Johnathan Green, executive officer, D Co., 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard) said the unit is excited about the exercise because it’s their culminating event prior to a deployment to the National Training Center [NTC] in Fort Irwin, Calif.

D Co. is slated to augment 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wa., during their pre-deployment rotation at the training center early next year.

“We are doing a lot of fun things out here that some of our newer Soldiers haven’t necessarily done before to get them and us ready for NTC,” said Green.  “We’ll be going over some of the basics first, and then get progressively harder at each level.”

So far this year, D Co. has also trained at other sites like Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. and Fort A.P. Hill, Va., all in anticipation for the deployment to NTC.

D Co. is slated to augment 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wa., during their pre-deployment rotation at the training center early next year.

Junior leaders, like Spc. Nicholas Corby, infantryman, D Co., 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard), began the first few days by calling for artillery support, requesting medical evacuation, and conducting squad-level live-fire drills.

Corby said the two-week long training at Indiantown Gap was a great learning experience on how to lead and control his team to accomplish their mission even in hectic situations.

“We are coached to be proficient in communicating to our guys to ensure they know exactly where they need to be and what they need to do,” said Corby.  “As a leader, making sure we are safe and together is the most important thing out here, especially because we are shooting live rounds.”

Soldiers assigned to D Co., 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), and his Soldiers fire a M240B machine gun during a squad live-fire exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Dec. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Soldiers assigned to D Co., 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), and his Soldiers fire a M240B machine gun during a squad live-fire exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Dec. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

The training D Co. did at Indiantown Gap is difficult to reproduce in the classroom.

“Unless we come out to places like this, we can’t verify that our training is paying off,” said Corby.  “This is definitely getting us ready for NTC.”

After the first three days, the unit went on to conduct platoon- and company-level operations.

Corby said the biggest challenge was the mountainous terrain, frigid temperatures and foreign surroundings; however they easily identified and overcame those issues.

“We weren’t used to walking over the rocks, and it took a little adjusting to get used to the unstable ground,” said Corby.  “The fog and snow is pretty crazy in this area because of the mountains.”

He explained that learning to adapt to different climates was a huge part of the exercise.

Aside from the many challenges, there have been several perks to this training as well.

“We are using the same equipment that we’ll be using at NTC, from communications to maintenance and vehicles,” said Corby.  “Soldiers are working with these systems now to transition smoothly when we get there.”

Green agreed.

“We have prepared to the standard,” said Green. “We will be ready to help 3rd Brigade in whatever way they need us.”

Capt. Wallace Rollins, platoon leader, Delta Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), directs his Soldiers to an objective over the radio during a squad live-fire exercise in the evening hours at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Dec. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Capt. Wallace Rollins, platoon leader, Delta Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), directs his Soldiers to an objective over the radio during a squad live-fire exercise in the evening hours at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Dec. 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Story by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

Old Guard officer’s passion for shooting nets him award

Capt. Michael Marano shows off his trophy for taking 1st place in the 2013 World Skeet Shooting Championship.

Capt. Michael Marano shows off his trophy for taking 1st place in the 2013 World Skeet Shooting Championship.

“I have to keep myself calm and focused when I am standing there with my shotgun waiting on that target to fly,” said Capt. Michael Marano. “The best feeling in the world is turning that clay disk into dust.”

Marano, ceremonies and special events officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), has enjoyed the sport of skeet and trap shooting since his sophomore year at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 2006. His passion and dedication to the sport would later lead him to a first place title at the 2013 World Skeet Championships.

Marano started shooting for sport because of an incident that sidelined him from his first love, football.

“I sustained a major injury to my shoulder and needed surgery,” said Marano. “I had to look for a less impact sport so I joined the skeet and trap team.”

Marano found that he was actually pretty good at it. He competed in many collegiate shooting competitions, and by his senior year, was named team captain by his coach and peers.

“I really enjoyed my time as a leader on the team,” said Marano. “We pushed each other to get better and to shoot more consistently.”

Marano destroys a clay pigeon at the 2013 World Skeet Shooting Championship in San Antonio.

Marano destroys a clay pigeon at the 2013 World Skeet Shooting Championship in San Antonio.

Marano received orders to Germany following his graduation from the academy.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring his shotguns or compete. Marano said he didn’t go a day without thinking about the sport he loved during the three years he spent overseas in Germany and his deployment to Afghanistan.

“It was pretty tough for me, but I knew that I would get back into the game when I got state side,” said Marano.

Marano’s prayers were answered when he was assigned to The Old Guard in Arlington, Va.

“I was excited about the unit and my opportunity to start shooting again,” said Marano. “I searched for different skeet and trap ranges in the area, and I went as often as I could.”

Marano connected with a member of the U.S. Army Shotgun Team [USAST] during one of his training sessions.

“We shot together very often so he knew what I could do,” said Marano. “He invited me to join the five-man team to contend with the best.”

The USAST competes in military, national, international and Olympic shooting competitions every year. The team finished in the middle of the pack during the 2013 Armed Forces Skeet Shooting Competition in Camp Lejuene, N.C.

“We did ok, but I felt as though I was still getting warmed-up,” said Marano. “We kicked our training into high gear after the competition.”

Marano takes aim at a clay pigeon during the 2013 World Skeet Shooting Championship in San Antonio.

Marano takes aim at a clay pigeon during the 2013 World Skeet Shooting Championship in San Antonio.

All of Marano’s hard-work paid-off during the 2013 World Skeet Championship at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas.  Marano placed first in the B class category, shooting 438 out of 450 targets.

“The competition was tough, but my team helped me stay focused,” said Marano. “I felt right at home on the range shooting those targets.”

Marano considers it an honor to be a part of a team that represents the Army while also doing something he loves. He plans to continue shooting with the USAST as long as they will allow him.

“I am a very competitive guy,” said Marano. “One great thing about this sport is that there is always something to learn.”

 

Story by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

SMA talks policy, Army future with Old Guard

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III speaks to Old Guard Soldiers at Conmy Hall Dec. 4.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III speaks to Old Guard Soldiers at Conmy Hall Dec. 4.

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Dec. 4, 2013) – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III, and his wife, Jeanne, visited with service members, Department of Defense civilians and families on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Tuesday.

During his visit, Chandler held an interactive discussion about Army policies, professionalism, and character, and answered a few questions at Conmy Hall. He also addressed major issues facing the Army today like suicide, hazing, and sexual assault.

“The first line in the Creed of the Non-Commissioned Officer says ‘No one is more professional than I,’” said Chandler. “It is one of the most important lines and we need to live up to it.”

He explained that if Soldiers would help one another and keep each other accountable, many of these challenges the Army faces now could be avoided.

Chandler spoke to the crowd about policies that affect all Soldiers; he even talked about individual goals and progression as the Army continues to downsize.

With the ongoing, Army-wide drawdown, promotions are an important topic on Soldiers’ minds, but they can still distinguish themselves in many ways, said Chandler. Gaining a civilian education or going to drill sergeant school or being a recruiter are all ways to take that next step, said Chandler.

At the end of the discussion period, Chandler took time to recognize 12 Soldiers and three DOD civilians for exceptional duty.

Chandler talked about the ongoing Army-wide drawdown, promotions, and other Army topics in a Q-and-A with the Soldiers.

Chandler talked about the ongoing Army-wide drawdown, promotions, and other Army topics in a Q-and-A with the Soldiers.

One of the Soldiers, Spc. Cameron Southhall, an illustrator with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said the discussion was short but very impactful.

“Everything he said was right on target,” said Southhall. “I am glad to serve my country when I know that our leaders have our best interests in mind.”

Southhall added how approachable and eager Chandler was to share his knowledge.

“He has been in the Army longer than I’ve been alive,” said Southhall. “His experience is really priceless.”

Chandler stayed after for photos before making a trip to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

“Seeing these men and women make me proud,” said Chandler. “They are the future of this Army.”

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Public Affairs

Soldiers ruck to fill shelves and hearts

With the onset of the winter months, many shelters across the national capital region will see an increase in people who are looking for a place to go in order to escape the cold. Soldiers of The Old Guard teamed up to ensure that those who are less fortunate would also have a warm meal when they got there.

80 Soldiers assigned to1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), carried more than 1300lbs of nonperishable food and supplies from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall [JBM-HH], Va. to the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C. during a road march, Nov. 14.

Capt. Matthew Canada, chaplain, 1st Bn., 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard), gathered the Soldiers together for a few words of encouragement prior to their journey.

Soldiers assigned to1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), carry more than 1300lbs of nonperishable food and supplies during a road march from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall [JBM-HH], Va. to the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

Soldiers assigned to1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), carry more than 1300lbs of nonperishable food and supplies during a road march from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall [JBM-HH], Va. to the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)                                                               

“I prayed with them and told them how what they were doing was important,” said Canada. “We wanted to extend a helping hand to fill stomachs and hearts on this trip.”

The Soldiers divided up the food and split into four groups. Spc. Jacob Caughey said it was easy to stay motivated throughout the five-mile march.

“All I could think about was how all the food we were carrying was going to help someone,” said Caughey, infantryman. “I felt great knowing that we were doing this public service.”

Once the Soldiers reached the shelter, Gary Hines, associate director of the Father McKenna Center, said it was exciting to open his door to a sea of Soldiers bearing gifts.

The center serves the physical, mental and spiritual needs of more than 29,000 men, women and children who have fallen on hard times.

“We are getting into our busiest time of the year so it was amazing how they walked from Fort Myer to bring all those packs of food,” said Hines. “They also helped pick-up trash and organized our building. They were great.”

12 of the 80 Soldiers also stayed behind to help serve during the morning meal.

“I know that having green-suitors here would resonate well with the guys,” said Hines. “A lot of them are veterans, and for me, that means a lot.”

Hines added the men at the center aren’t forgotten people and the Soldiers helped them realize that.

Kith Smith, a former service member who is also a frequent guest at the center, said it was really nice to see these Soldiers care for them.

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Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), serve food at the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14. The center serves the physical, mental and spiritual needs of more than 29,000 men, women and children who have fallen on hard times. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

“It really made my day,” said Smith. “It made me feel so good on the inside.”

After the shelves were stocked, the food was served, and the building was cleaned, the Soldiers and the guest at the center got a chance to sit down and get to know one another a little better.

“The Soldiers shared pieces of their stories along with their struggles and deployments. It was so encouraging,” said Canada. “I truly believed that’s when we realized that we are more in common.”