TOG Soldiers make lasting impression in Basel

Story by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Soldiers with the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Fife and Drum Corps (FDC) and U.S. Army Continental Color Guard (CCG) participated in Basel Tattoo 2017 in Basel, Switzerland, July 18-30.

Basel Tattoo is the world’s second largest military musical performance event. For 12 years the annual event has attracted drill teams, bands and fife and drum groups from around the globe.

“The United States’ participation in events like this is important because it strengthens international partnerships,” said Sgt. Maj. William White, sergeant major of the corps. “For the Fife and Drum Corps to be chosen to represent America and our national values is an honor.”

In November 2016, Basel event officials requested The Old Guard’s participation.

“Preparation for this mission began with a concept meeting in December 2016,” said White. “From there our staff of music and drill arrangers designed the show we performed.”

After the concept of the show was finalized, the FDC traveled to Fort Belvoir for two weeks to devote their full attention to mastering the new show.

On July 18, the Soldiers arrived in Basel and prepared to perform with musicians from around the world, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, among others.

“We brought 30 performers, which included a team from the Continental Color Guard,” said White. “They were a great addition to our show. On an international stage, it is really important to have the national colors on the field with us.”

The Soldiers’ busy performance schedule began after three days of rehearsals. They performed in 10 presentations for Basel Tattoo, in addition to parades, festivals and a variety of other smaller engagements.

“We averaged about two or three performances a day,” said White. “It was a busy schedule.”

Soldiers had the opportunity to create meaningful connection with fellow musicians.

“At first, everyone is really focused on their own performances,” said White. “Once the pace of the shows starts to settle, you start paying more attention to the other performances. This leads to interactions off stage. These relationships have staying power. I ran into someone I met last year at the Norway Tattoo, and we were able to pick up a conversation as if we had just seen each other yesterday.”

For White, the mission offered a unique tie to his musical craft.

“Fife and drum music began in Switzerland, so it was exciting to visit and perform at the birthplace of the art I’ve practiced for the last 35 years,” said White.

This was the first time the Soldiers performed at the prestigious event, however, it is not likely their last, according to White.

“I am thrilled with what our teams, both FDC and CCG, have accomplished during this mission,” said White. “I think we have represented the United States very well. I am certain that there is an appetite for more appearances by The Fife and Drum Corps and U.S. Military performance units in general. That’s the real measure of success, they want more!”

In for the long haul

Story by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes

JOINT BASE MYER – HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Growing up in Mulberry Grove, Illinois, a small rural farming community, Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Lewis, recalled spending hours in the forest near his home with his older sister and younger brother.

“We had an average childhood out in the country,” said Lewis. “We spent a lot of time in the woods hunting, fishing and just roaming around. I think that is what ultimately lead to me enjoying life as an infantryman.”

Lewis, formerly the operations sergeant major with 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) retired Aug. 1, 2017, after 30 years of dedicated serves.

Lewis originally enlisted in the Illinois National Guard and planned to take advantage of the educational benefits. However, attending basic combat training at Fort Benning, Georgia left a lasting impression on the then 17 year old.

“I just thought basic was the best thing ever,” said Lewis. “After training I went to college for a year and realized that wasn’t really where I was supposed to be.”

In December 1986, Lewis then 19, enlisted in to the Army as an infantryman.

“When I enlisted on that day, I knew that I was going to stay in until I retired,” He said with a grin. “I was in for the long haul.”

His first duty station was Fort Lewis, Washington where he was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division as a squad automatic weapons gunner.

“It was very intimidating to be the new private in the unit and realize that I didn’t know everything I thought I knew,” laughed Lewis. “But, I had a great team of leaders who took an interest in mentoring me. I think they saw something in me and started instilling leadership skills in me early.”

It was then when his platoon sergeant gave Lewis advice that would stay with him through his career.

“My first platoon sergeant would always say ‘Never expect a Soldier to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself as a leader,’” recalled Lewis.

That mind frame helped him become a highly decorated Soldier.

Lewis has earn many awards and decoration throughout his extensive career, including two bronze stars, combat infantry badge, Iraq Combat Medal, Afghanistan Combat Medal, multiple Army Achievement Medals, just to mention a few. Although, for a unique reason earning his Pathfinder’s Badge stands out to Lewis.

To be awarded the Pathfinder Badge, Soldiers must complete Pathfinder instruction in advanced land navigation, advanced scouting, tactical air traffic control in the field, and the control of parachute operations. The badge is awarded on completion of several examinations under field training exercise conditions.

“This was the hardest school I have gone through,” said Lewis. “Before I left to go to Fort Benning I told my first sergeant that I wanted to go to Airborne School and Pathfinders School. He told me that he didn’t see it happening for me because he didn’t see me getting through Pathfinder School.”

He used his discouraging words as motivation. After completing the course Lewis promptly mailed a photograph of himself at the Pathfinder School graduation to his former first sergeant.

“I never heard anything back from him, but I remember getting a lot of satisfaction from doing that anyway,” Chuckled Lewis.

While stationed at Fort Benning, Lewis also served as a drill sergeant for two years.

“I really enjoyed being a drill sergeant,” said Lewis. “I came to realize that not every private was going to make it through, but it was those privates that struggled in the beginning and finally made it to the end that made it very rewarding assignment.”

In 2006, while stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, Lewis deployed with 1st Infantry Division to Iraq as a platoon sergeant and in 2010 to Afghanistan as a first sergeant.

Lt. Col. Christopher Ricci, currently the future operations chief, with Alaskan Command, U.S. Northern Command, deployed with Lewis in 2010.

“I was the company commander and he was the company first sergeant,” said Ricci. “I have never worked with a more dedicated and competent infantryman. We were a true team and he was hands down the person I have enjoyed working with the most in the U.S. Army.”

These deployment had a profound effect on Lewis.

“The most difficult thing about those deployments was having casualty Soldiers,” he said before taking a long pause. “And knowing that these Soldiers never quit because they were doing their duty not only to their nation, but to their fellow Soldiers to their left and right.”

It was years before Lewis confronted these matters.

“I just compartmentalized it during the deployments and kept going on working harder,” said Lewis, as he stares off in the distance tapping the top of the desk with his finger. “It really wasn’t until about two years ago when I really started to come to terms with those issues.”

Lewis thought back to the advice he was given early in his career before confronting these lingering issues.

“I wasn’t a very pleasant person to be around and it got to the point that I didn’t like who I was being,” said Lewis. “I thought about what my first platoon sergeant said and I thought how could I expect Soldiers to take care of themselves when I haven’t?”

With the support of his chain of command and working with mental health professionals Lewis’ was able to come to terms with his internal conflicts.

“It is a difficult thing to talk about,” he said. “But, its part of my life and career so I feel it’s important to talk about.”

While with The Old Guard, Lewis served as operations sergeant major for 1st Battalion for two years before becoming the operations sergeant major for the Regiment. During this time he performed at memorial services for fallen service members at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia.

“I truly appreciate being part of the missions in Arlington National Cemetery,” said Lewis. “It never felt like work to me. It is an honor that few get to experience and I feel fortunate to have been afforded this opportunity.”

Lewis has participated in more than 400 memorial serves and completed his 50th ride with the Caisson Platoon through Arlington National Cemetery on July 20.

The Caisson Platoon is the last full time equestrian mounted unit in the Department of the Defense. The primary mission of the platoon is to serve as the mounted escort to our nation’s departed heroes.

The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment’s Caisson Platoon is the last full time equestrian mounted unit in the Department of Defense. The primary mission of the Caisson Platoon is to serve as the mounted escort to our nation’s departed heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.

“I was lucky I got to train and ride with the Caisson Platoon,” said Lewis. “Those guys really didn’t have to let me do that and I really appreciate the time they took to train me.”

Following his final ride with the platoon, Lewis was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal for his exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

“The Legion of Merit Medal is not an award guaranteed for retirement,” said Col. Jason T. Garkey, regimental commander. “This truly shows his dedication and commitment to serves. Not only did Sgt. Maj. Lewis put in a full career, but he exceeded the standard set by the Army.”

Seeing Soldiers development has been the most enjoyable part of Lewis career.

“I have had Soldiers who I lead who are now sergeant majors or first sergeants come and thank me for teaching different aspects of leadership,” said Lewis. “Knowing that I have played a positive role in developing those leaders is the highlight of my career. I enjoy seeing Soldiers progress.”

Lewis has left an everlasting impression on the Army and will continue to contribute to the country.

“He will be missed by the Soldiers, [noncommissioned officers] and officers he served with during his 30 year career,” said Ricci. “He is a humble man but his impact to our Army will be felt for years to come. I am grateful I was blessed with the opportunity to have him as my first sergeant and more importantly my friend.”

“We are really capping off a lifetime of service to the Army with this retirement,” said Garkey. “But, his serves to the Nation will continue with whatever he chooses to pursue in his local community, because that’s just the type of person he is.”

In the future Lewis plans to travel with his family. First stop is to travel to his hometown to visit family before joining the civilian workforce.

Soldiers participate in Alexandria’s 268th birthday

Story by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), joined music and entertainment groups to honor America’s birthday and the City of Alexandria’s 268th birthday at Oronoco Bay Park, Alexandria, Va., July 8.

“Today we have the honor of celebrating the birth of this great city we get to live in,” said Allison Silberberg, Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia.

During the event, Soldiers from the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps performed for the audience at the waterfront park.

The FDC is one of four premier musical organizations in the U.S. Army. Members perform using musical instruments and wear uniforms similar to those used by military musicians of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

“It’s always nice to see the Fife and Drums preform,” said Eric Anderson, an Alexandria, Virginia resident and artist. “I have seen them perform several times and they are always great. Their uniforms are also great to see, they just give me that patriotic feeling.”

Following their performance FDC Soldiers went into the crowds to meet the audience and performed for smaller groups.

“I really enjoyed meeting the performers,” said Sharon McCleskey, an Alexandria, Virginia resident. “They were all so nice and very talented. I am a retired music teacher so I have a real appreciation for their craft.”

During the grand finale fireworks display, Soldiers from the Presidential Salute Battery (PSB) provided cannon support. The fireworks display also included a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture performed by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.

The PSB, founded in 1953, fires cannon salutes in honor of the President of the United States, visiting foreign dignitaries, and official guests of the Unites States. The battery also fires in support of memorial affairs for all military services in Arlington National Cemetery.

“Hearing the orchestra play with the cannons shooting almost made me cry,” said Joanna Carey, an Alexandria, Virginia resident. “The cannons fired at the precise moments as the orchestra was playing and it was just so powerful. And then the fireworks at the end really just made this a special moment to remember.”

The event was a success, according Carey and others in attendance.

“This was a great time,” said Carey. “We just recently moved to the area from Charlottesville, [Virginia]. This was a great way get to know more about our new area. I can already tell that this is going to be a great area for us to settle into for a while.”

“This is our third year coming out to this event and it never disappoints,” said Tiffany Rogers, an Alexandria, Virginia resident and mother of three. “It is just a good, positive vibe out here. Everyone is here to just celebrate and have a good time with people in our community.”

Soldiers participate in Independence Day celebration

Story by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), participated in the National Independence Day celebration around the National Capital Region, July 4, 2017.

The day began with a performance by the U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps in front of the National Archives Museum, in Washington, District of Columbia.

The Fife and Drum Corps is one of four premier musical organizations in the U.S. Army. Members perform using musical instruments and wear uniforms similar to those used by military musicians of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

“I really liked hearing the drums, they were my favorite part,” said Timothy Jennings, a local resident and fourth grader. “It just gets me pumped up for everything that is happening around me.”

Later, Soldiers from the Presidential Salute Battery (PSB) fired a “National Salute” at 12 p.m. on Whipple Field, on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.

Since 1810, the “National Salute” has been defined by the War Department as equal to the number of states in the Union.

“Each round represents a salute for the state that has been announced,” said 1st Lt. Tony Ronchick, platoon leader with the PSB. “This is done to remind us that together we are one United States.”

This has been a tradition to commemorate the nation’s history, and occurs on Army installations.

“The Presidential Salute Battery’s motto is ‘The Highest Honor’,” said Ronchick. “Participating in this event is just that, the highest honor. We’re part of what people think of when they think about what today means and it’s a privilege to be a part of this.”

The PSB, founded in 1953, fires cannon salutes in honor of the President of the United States, visiting foreign dignitaries, and official guests of the Unites States. The battery also fires in support of memorial affairs for all military services in Arlington National Cemetery.

Later in the day, Soldiers participated in the National Independence Day Parade in D.C. The annual parade consists of bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, VIPs and national dignitaries, in a celebration in honor of America’s birthday.

“This has become a family tradition for us since we moved to the area in 2012,” said Roger Jennings, an Arlington, Virginia resident and father of two. “All of our family is still over on the west coast, being able to come out and be part of everything the city has to offer has become our way of creating lasting family memories together.”

Soldiers, Marines bond during 4th annual Urban Warrior Challenge

Story by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and Marines from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall competed against each other during the fourth annual Urban Warrior Challenge on June 22.

“Today we have the Soldiers of The Old Guard and Marines of Henderson Hall here to compete in a series of events,” said Cpt. Joseph Hicks, officer in charge of the event with The Old Guard. “We are doing this event to build the camaraderie between the two organizations.”

Following the opening ceremony speech, Soldiers and Marines in 10-man teams, competed against each other in a series of events, starting with a 250-yard swim at Zembiec Pool.

After completing the swim, each team ran one mile and competed in a 400 push-up challenge event.

During push-up event, members from each team alternated turns executing as many consecutive push-ups as possible until the teams completed a total of 400 push-ups. Additionally, participants were required to lift a 40-pound ammunition can above their heads 30 times before the next team member could start.

After this event, teams then moved to the litter-run portion of the competition. During this event, teams carried two 40-pound ammunition cans and transported a team member on a litter more than half a mile to the next event.

“The litter carry was the most difficult,” said Sgt. William Payne, a healthcare specialist with 529th Regimental Support Company. “It was hard because we had to work with individuals with different heights and fitness abilities to accomplish a common task, plus it was pretty hot out here today.”

The final event was the 80-yard High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle pull. Each team pulled the 5,900-pound vehicle as fast as they could across the finish line using rope attached to the front of the vehicle.

Throughout the day, other teams of Soldiers and Marines competed in open events, which included basketball, dodge ball, volleyball and bowling.

During lunch Soldiers, Marines and family members dined together while watching a military working dog demonstration conducted by Soldiers from the 947th Military Police Detachment, with 289th Military Police Company.

The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and the U.S. Army Drill team also preformed for the attendees.

The final event of the day was a tug-of-war challenge, between the Soldiers and the Marines. The Soldiers came out victorious for the second consecutive year.

However, the entire day was a win for both branches.

“Today was great,” said Payne. “We don’t get to interact with the Marines very often. It was great to get us all together for some friendly completion.”

The event also increased esprit de corp among the service members, according to Hicks.

“I think that today’s event went exceptionally well,” said Hicks. “It was great that everyone had the chance to come out in a less formal setting and bond with other organizations. I saw great participation across the board. I want to thank everyone for all of the support that went into making today a success.”

Twilight Tattoo honors the U.S Army’s 242nd Birthday

Story by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), conduct a Twilight Tattoo performance at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall, Va., on June 14, 2017.

Twilight Tattoo is a one-hour patriotic journey that captures 242 years of Soldiers’ stories spanning across generations of men and women who have answered the call to uphold America’s freedom and democracy.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey and Robert M. Speer, Acting United States Secretary of the Army hosted the special performance which commemorated the 242nd birthday of the Army.

“On 14 June 1775, a company of Pennsylvania riflemen got together while George Washington and a bunch of militia from the New England states were battling the British in and around Boston, and that formed the nucleus of what was the Continental Army and soon became the United States Army,” said Milley. “From that birth until today, for 242 years, the United States Army has stood proud, shoulder to shoulder, with our brothers and sisters in the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard in defending our liberties and freedoms.”

The date also marks the 100th year anniversary of World War I.

Prior to the performance, Milley and Speer presented Byron Derringer, a descendent of Cpt. James E. Miller, a WWI Soldier, with the Distinguished Flying Cross award for actions taken in the skies above Corberry and Barrieux, France on March 9, 1918.

During WWI, Miller was one of the individuals who assisted in the forming of the Army Air Corps.

“We have a privilege today to be able to recognize not only the heraldry of our total 242 years but also that point and time, where we recognize, late, a Distinguished Flying Cross for an American hero,” said Speer. “We’re very proud today to have some of the descendants here from James Miller’s family here and able to represent him and a lineage of what he achieved on those battlefields as the first individual who gave his life in that war in aviation.”

It was a spectacular moment and Derringer and his family were honored to be in attendance, said Derringer

Also during this event, Milley administered the oath of enlistment to 35 young men and women who joined the ranks of the U.S. Army, Army Reserves and Army National Guard during a future Soldier swearing-in ceremony.

“We’re the only country that takes an oath to an idea,” said Milley, before administering the oath. “An idea that’s embedded within a document called the constitution not too far from here. That idea is incredibly powerful. It’s an idea for which those of us in uniform are sworn to protect and defend, even at the cost of our life. That is the oath they are about to take.”

The future Soldiers were excited to begin training and honored to be part of such a significant day.

“I leave on Tuesday and I am very excited,” said Brittany S. Miller, a Chesapeake Beach, Maryland native and future Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Specialists. “It is an honor to be a part of all of all this tonight.”

This is really big, and I’m glad to be a part of this,” said Tate Perusse, a Lexington Park, Maryland native. “Not a lot of people get the opportunity to be sworn in by the chief of staff. I’m glad I get the chance.”

Twilight Tattoo weekly performances will run through Wednesday, Aug. 9, with exceptions on July 5 and July 12, when there will be no Twilight Tattoo scheduled. The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.twilight.mdw.army.mil

Old Guard lays former regimental commander to rest

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – Former regimental commander, retired Col. Stanley G. Bonta, was laid to rest on at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., June 9, 2017.

Bonta was the 63rd commander of The Old Guard from 1979-1982, and received a Special Full Honor Funeral for his service. Bonta passed away December 28, 2016.

The regiment’s chaplain, Maj. John E. Scott, reminded Bonta’s loved ones of his sacrifices.

“These sacred grounds stand as a lasting tribute to the men and women who have faithfully served our nation,” said Scott. “No place in Arlington National Cemetery can be purchased, each must be earned.”

Bonta not only earned his place in ANC, but he was inducted as a Distinguished Members of The Regiment (DMOR) in 1998.

Bonta’s legacy will forever live on.

“He answered the nations call and served with honor,” said Scott.

“Let us remember him for his love for his family, his country, his Army and Kentucky Wildcats basketball.”

Survivors of Bonta include his sons, Steve and Scott Bonta and his sister Frances Justice.