A silence procession for Ret. Gen. Robert Cone, marches through Arlington National Cemetery, Dec. 9, 2016, in Arlington, Va. The caisson platoon and it horses have the honor of carrying a comrade for their last ride to Arlington National Cemetery, where they will rest in peace with other honored dead. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes)

Caisson Platoon prepares to ‘get back in the saddle’ during 58th Presidential Inauguration

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

This is part 3 of 4 of a news story series

FORT MYER, Va – Famous author Winston Churchill once wrote “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle”. The same can be said about the Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Caisson Platoon as they prepare for President elect Donald Trump’s first Presidential Inauguration Jan. 20.

Caisson Soldiers will report to the horse stables as early as 2 a.m. to prepare the horses for the big day. Next, the Soldiers have to complete multiple tasks ranging from grooming each horse, shining the brass and haircuts for each horse. Finally, the horses and their riders are transported to the parade starting point to wait until the inauguration starts.

“We want to show the public that units like ours, are still in existence,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan English, operations sergeant of the Caisson platoon. “We are the last full-time equestrian unit, so it’s important to represent not only ourselves but the Army as a whole,” continued English.

The Inauguration will give the world a chance see to our elegant horses at work. With 15 full-dress horses and rider it show just how capable the unit can be, added English.

The Caisson Soldiers understand the recognition and adoration comes with marching in the inauguration.

“All of our Soldiers are excited to be serving in the parade,” said Cpt. Austin Hatch, caisson platoon leader. “Whether we are on the side walker detail, helping prepare the horses and tack, or riding in the parade, we are all honored to serve,” added Hatch.

Each horse brings their own personality to the caisson team, but there is one that stands out.

“Waylon is one of Caisson’s most unique horses because of his coloring,” said Hatch “He is a dapple grey color. Waylon used to serve with the black team, but now serves on the white team due to his color change,” continued Hatch.

Units like Caisson platoon are far and few throughout the Army, so it’s important for the soldiers to seize this opportunity.

“I didn’t know this unit existed, until I came here,” said English. “Working with this group of guys is the most humbling and gratifying experience in my entire military career. I wouldn’t won’t to carry out this mission with any other group of Soldiers and horses,” said English

“This has been a mind-blowing experience.”

The Presidential Salute Battery (PSB), 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), fire their M5, 75mm antitank cannons to indicate the arrival of Harald Sunde, Chief of Defense, Norway, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Aug. 13, 2012. PSB was founded in 1953, they fire cannon salutes in honor of the President of the United States, visiting foreign dignitaries, and official guests of the Unites States. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

Presidential Salute Battery prepares to render highest honor for 2017 Inauguration

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

This is part 2 of 4 of a news story series

FORT MYER, Va. – While the nation prepares for the 2017 Inauguration in where President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Presidential Salute Battery (PSB), will have their ‘big guns’ standing by to fire.

Founded in 1953, the PSB salutes in honor of visiting foreign dignitaries, official guests of the United States and for the incoming President of the United States.

“Our number one task is to give the president his first 21-round gun salute”, said Sgt. Jordan Goodman, escort officer for the PSB. “It is the highest honor that we can render to the president.”

Beginning in the colonial period, the United States fired one shot for each state in the Union. This continued until 1841 when it was reduced from 26 to 21. Although it had been in use for more than 30 years, the 21-gun salute was not formally adopted until Aug. 18, 1875.

During the Inauguration, there will be a sequence of events leading up to the 21-gun salute.

First, the team has to get in place and set-up, then wait for certain cues that will be given before the rounds are fired.

“It’s important for each member on our team to know their roles,” said Goodman. “We spend hours of training for mission like these,” continued Goodman.

The battery will use four vintage, 75mm, anti-tank cannons from World War II mounted the M6 howitzer carriage, with a five-man staff and a two-man team for each gun. The staff consists of an officer-in-charge, Sgt. Goodman who initiates the firing commands.

Staff Sgt. Eric Wintzell, the noncommissioned officer in charge, will march the battery into position and control the firing of the backup gun.

“It’s an honor to lead the Soldiers onto the battery for the Inauguration,” said Wintzell. “This is one of the reason I came to the old guard, is so that I could render honors to our president,” continued Wintzell.

Awards, medals and coins can be exciting, but nothing compares to the highest honor in the land.

“There’s nothing higher that an individual can get from the military than the respect that comes with a 21-gun salute,” said Goodman.

Caisson horse finds a sure-fire home

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Kelvin Ringold

FORT BELVOIR, Va.– As the official escort to the President of the United States and the nation’s premiere memorial affairs and ceremonial unit, Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) everyday mission is to honor those service members and who are no longer with us.  Along with these Soldiers, the hardworking horses of the Caisson platoon are crucial to that same mission.  After years of dedicated service, these horses are able to ride off into the sunset and find their forever home.

Soldiers from the Caisson Platoon, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard), gathered on December 18, 2016 at the Caisson stables at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to finalize the adoption of one of their most seasoned horses.

Described as, “a great horse with a calm demeanor,” Surefire has supported The Old Guard Soldiers for 13 years, and has even been recognized for his efforts.

“Surefire is most well-known for serving in our Twilight Tattoo shows,” explained Cpt. Austin Hatch, Caisson Platoon Leader.  “He even received an Army Achievement Medal from 4th Battalion after his last show.”

Like with any of these loyal, mission critical horses, finding them a great place to retire is a task the leaders take seriously.

 

shouse

Lt. Col. Jody Shouse, commander, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, meets Michael and Marissa Murphy before they take their newly adopted horse home. After 13 years of dedicated service, Surefire, a Caisson horse from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was officially adopted Dec. 18 here and moved to his new farm.

aam

Michael Murphy, Caisson horse adopter, goes through Surefire’s adoption packet and reads his award. A stable of the regiment’s Twilight Tattoo shows, Surefire received the Army Achievement Award for his efforts this summer.

marissa

Before placing Surefire in their trailer, Marissa Murphy, Caisson horse adopter, introduces herself to him to start building their new relationship. Soldiers from the Caisson Platoon, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), gathered December 18, 2016 at the Caisson stables at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to finalize the adoption of one of their most seasoned horses.

trailer
Michael Murphy, Caisson horse adopter, prepares Surefire for the ride back to his farm in Orange County, Va. After 13 years of dedicated service, Surefire, a Caisson horse from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was officially adopted Dec. 18 here and moved to his new farm.

“It’s extremely important to find our horses a good home after their service,” said Lt. Col. Jody Shouse, commander, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt.  “They give a life of service to the military and deserve just as much as anyone to have a normal life afterwards.”

After the latest cycle of adoption applications were processed, that is when Michael and Marisa Murphy emerged as the proud new owners of Surefire.

This was Murphy’s first time applying to adopt one of the Caisson horses, but he has been a horse owner for many years, and the opportunity to own a Caisson horse was an opportunity he did not want to miss.

“What got me particularly interested in a Caisson horse is that I was actually with The Old Guard in Vietnam,” said Murphy.  “When the opportunity arose to take a retiree it was something I really wanted to do [since] these horses have given years of service to our fallen.”

Since Murphy has a large farm with four other horses in Orange County, Virginia called Danton Farm, he wanted the opportunity to give a Caisson horse a place they could call home.

“I thought he would make a perfect addition to the herd,” added Murphy.  “It will be a nice place for him to spend the rest of his life.  I was happy to make this contribution for the horse, but also in a small way to the service.”

As another long-tenured Caisson horse finds a place to roam free after serving in The Old Guard, it’s a somber day for Caisson Soldiers, but one they are happy to see.

“We look at it as an honor to work with such a great animal,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan English, Caisson Platoon.  “It is bitter sweet to see him go but we know he has worked hard here. So, it is comforting to know he is going to live out the rest of his days being cared for and just getting to be a normal horse.”

Col. James C. Markert, Regimental Commander, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), leads the Joint Task Force-National Capitol Region marching element during inaugural practice, Jan. 10, on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. The marching element will escort President Barack Obama to the White House during his inauguration, Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose Torres, Jr.)

Old Guard Soldiers prepare for 58th Presidential Inauguration

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

This is part 1 of 4 of a news story series

FORT MYER, Va – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) are ramping up to support President elect Donald Trump’s first Presidential Inauguration.

Traditionally, military units from each of the five branches have marched in the Presidential escort and in the Inaugural Parade. More than 2,000 soldiers from The Old Guard will support this Inauguration.

“Supporting the peaceful transition of government after a presidential election is a historic event and one that many countries do not have,” said Col. Jason Garkey, the regimental commander of the 3d.U.S. Inf. Regt. (TOG). “I have participated in two previous inaugurations (Clinton – 1997 and Bush – 2005) and they both highlighted the unique characteristics of our government and how it brings the nation together.”

Though there will be numerous representatives in this 58th Presidential Inauguration, The Old Guard will play a vital role in this event. Garkey will represents the commander of troops. The Presidential Salute Battery [PSB], Fife and Drum Corps, an honor company, along with the Army Street Cordon will be in full participation.

Military involvement in the Presidential Inauguration is a centuries-old tradition. The U.S. military has participated in this important American tradition since April 30, 1789, when members of the U.S. Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted President George Washington to his first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in New York City.

Service members involved in the 2017 Presidential Inauguration represent an integrated Total Force. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guard members proudly serving their country at home and abroad. This support comprises musical units, marching bands, color guards, salute batteries and honor cordons, which render appropriate ceremonial honors to the commander in chief.

Just as military men and women show their commitment to this country during deployments and stationed abroad, participation in this traditional event demonstrates the military’s support to the nation’s new commander in chief.

The inauguration will kick off at noon on Jan. 20. The parade will follow immediately after the ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Public entrances to the parade generally open at 6:30 a.m.

Two Former Old Guard Soldiers Recieve Silver Star

gary-birka-and-rick-adlerAlmost 50 years ago, two privates first class in Delta Company, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) were ambushed by a battalion of North Vietnamese. The Soldiers were outnumbered 10-1.

Those men, Rick Adler, from Washington state, and Gary Birka, from Ohio, were awarded the Silver Star on September 30, 2016, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wa. Adler and Birka fought valiantly despite being wounded in the battle on August 29, 1969.

The 110 U.S. Soldiers involved were under heavy small arms and motor fire. Only 64 survived.

Adler, according to Army records, set up a perimeter and held his position with a machine gun for several hours. Motor fire wounded Adler, but he continued redistributing ammunition and encouraging the men nearby.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-6-12-11-pmSoon after, Adler was wounded a second and third time and collapsed. Birka, saw Adler in trouble, so he stopped firing his machine gun and rushed into an open area to save his friend.

Birka was struck by motor fire during the rescue, but a camcorder he was carrying in his rucksack shielded him from the explosion and saved his life.

The two men were sent to different hospitals in Japan when they were evacuated and didn’t see each other again for 40 years.

Through social media, the two men were reunited in 2015.

Adler and Birka’s former platoon leader, Tom Pearson, never forgot the gallantry displayed silverstar-1-of-1by these two men. Pearson made it his mission to make sure the two men would be recognized for their actions.

Pearson contacted the U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, and lobbied on their behalf to be awarded for their bravery in action. Johnson serves as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The Army finally agreed, and the two men were awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest decoration a Soldier can receive for valor, 47 years after the battle.

 

JBM-HH’s Central Issue Facility has unique perspective​ of Veteran’s Day

cif-62            Veteran’s Day is celebrated every November 11th. It honors those that have served in the United States Armed Forces.

At Joint Base Myer-Henderson-Hall’s Central Issue facility (CIF), a cross section of veterans from every conflict since Vietnam come together to issue the equipment and ceremonial uniforms that are needed to carry out the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiments missions.

This eclectic staff has a unique perspective of Veteran’s Day, since practically every member has served.

Former and current service members come together and have a bond that is hard to replicate which exemplifies the Army’s Soldier for Life standard.

cif-vets-1-of-4            “Its an honor,” said Aleshia R. Billingslea, a former reservist from Long island, NY, who served from 1988-2004 and responded to Ground Zero at the World Trade Center attacks. “We all come together as a team, we’re like a family.”

Supervisor David B. Fertig agrees.

“Being prior service, you get to be apart of a team,” said Fertig, who served from January 1985 to January 2010 and deployed to Iraq three times and once to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. “It is a real tight group we’ve got here.”

Ramon Ortiz sees a parallel with his prior service and CIF.cif-vets-4-of-4

“I like it a lot, in the military, we had the camaraderie, we worked together as a unit,” said Ortiz. “So this is almost the same thing.”

Cobbler Paul Plaisance sees how the varied perspectives help with problem-solving.

“Everyone has their own point of view,” Plaisance, originally from Louisiana who from 1987-1996 deployed to various theaters including Panama. “Everyone cobbler-16has ideas about things you would never think about, they’d come up with.”

Master Sgt. Ilya Basyuk appreciates how the team convalesces around their shared backgrounds.

“Its amazing, because I feel these veterans that served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we’re together in solidarity,” said Basyuk, originally from Kazan, Russia who has served from 2000 to present with a year break in service in 2004. “Some of these veterans have taken off their uniforms, but they are still serving Soldiers in some capacity.”

“Everyday, a veteran should be taken care of,” said Billingslea. “In any kind of way that you can take care of them.”

Priscilla A. Guzman likes how much she is able to learn from her co-workers.

“You get to learn a little bit more about the history of the Army, why they served,” cif-vets-3-of-4continued Guzman served from 1984-1989, and 2005 to present day as a supply technician. “Couple of them served before I did, you get to learn what their experience is and how the Army has changed from when they were in to when I’m in now.”

“The most interesting thing to me is to hear some of the stories, from like Mr. Jones who served in Vietnam,” added Fertig.“The detail that he remembers, I’m the opposite way, I have trouble remembering stuff.”

Elbert W. Jones, a retired Vietnam veteran who served in the Army for 21-years, and works as a supply technician at the CIF.

Jones said there is a huge difference between the quality of equipment he was issued in the 1960’s and what Soldiers are issued today.

The basic sleeping bag is Jones’ prime example.

“For example their sleep system, they have a five piece sleep system,” said Jones. “Most of these old Soldiers know we only got one sleeping bag, a big OD (olive drab) green one.”

“These young men and young ladies here, they are well taken care of,” said Jones. “I’m old school, this is your new model Army and I salute them.”

A record of service is not the only thing many of these veterans have in common. Many had parents that served over three decades in service, some have spouses that are currently serving or have served in the military, and some have children looking to carry on the tradition of military service.

Billingslea’s parents were both career service members. Fertig’s father was in the Navy for 30 years and his wife is currently on active duty. And for supply technician Ortiz, who served from 1988-1994fertigold and 1997-2001, he rejoined active duty with his wife. Ortiz also has a family tradition of military service.

The staff at JBM-HH CIF has a unique perspective of Veteran’s Day.
“I think Veteran’s Day today is different than it was in the past,” added Fertig. “It brings the struggles of the service members a lot more to the forefront… more widespread, mocif-vets-2-of-4re celebrated than it was in the past.”

Guzman said in the past, Soldiers returning from Vietnam didn’t have the same level of community support returning Soldiers have now, so the change over time have been positive.

Basyuk describes Veteran’s Day with empathy for the Soldiers that have served or are still serving. His own experiences being deployed have given the Veteran’s Day Holiday a deeper meaning.

“Its kind of a touchy subject, because some of my friends in the Army have lost their

cif-12lives, and I really appreciate all of those currently serving worldwide,” said Basyuk. “I know how it feels, you are missing your children, your spouses, and you hope someone still remembers you.”

Veterans day means something different for all of these former service members at JBM-HH CIF, but ultimately for the staff, the day is about remembering the sacrifices men and women like that have made the worlilya_iraq03_borderd a better place.

Old Guard sends first female NCO to infantry training

sylvester-rivera-1-of-2On December 3, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter removed gender restrictions to all military occupational specialties (MOS). Combat arms positions in the infantry (11B), formerly only open to males, would become fully integrated.

The newly adopted integration policy interested Sgt, Brittany Sylvester-Rivera. She wanted to switch her MOS, but there was a small problem initially.

“When this first came out, they said I wasn’t in my window to re-class,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

But on August 1 of 2016, the Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A Dailey published a memo urging female non-commissioned officers (NCO’s) to volunteer for combat roles.

“We need leaders to help shape the next generation of combat soldiers,” Dailey wrote. “I know we have female soldiers with the drive and ability to be successful in ground combat arms formations. If you think you have what it takes, I am personally asking you to consider transferring to these select combat arms specialties.”

“When I received that email, I went straight to the retention NCO,” Sylvester-Rivera said.

Sylvester-Rivera has served as a signal support systems specialist for seven and a half years. Currently, she is assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), and is re-classing to the infantry. Sylvester-Rivera is the first female NCO accepted into infantry.

“Its really what I wanted to do, it is a dream of mine,” added Sylvester-Rivera.

femalecombat

2nd Lt. Leah Mullenix, Team 23, 326th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), crawls under barbed wire with her individual assigned weapon during a low crawl event of the “x-mile” portion of the Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., April 21, 2016. (U.S. Army photo courtesy of Fort Leonardwood Public Affairs)

Being the first female to do something is not uncharted territory for Sylvester-Rivera. In Airborne School, Sylvester-Rivera was the first female honor graduate.

 

Describing herself as a “physical person”, Sylvester-Rivera doesn’t doubt her ability to adapt to the physicality of her new role. However, she will be challenged to learn the nuances of her new position.

“Mentally, I really did not know everything that went into the MOS being an 11B,” continued Sylvester-Rivera. “The more I study on it, and get taught.”

The Houston native will be leaving in May of 2017 to begin infantry training. In anticipation, Sylvester-Rivera is learning the verbiage used in the infantry and how to conduct a patrol from current infantry Soldiers assigned at The Old Guard.

In addition to the support she is receiving from other Old Guard Soldiers, Sylvester-Rivera can also count on her parents.

“My mom is like hey, this is your dream, if anyone can achieve it, you can,” Sylvester-Rivera continued.

Sylvester-Rivera doesn’t necessarily see herself as a role model for women, but simply someone going after a life long calling.

“Its a good thing I’m going to make a path,” added Sylvester-Rivera. “If I help other females along the way, great. But I want to help anybody, females and males.”

Yet she does want to be an example for her son.

“I want him to see no matter what, you can follow your dreams,” said Sylvester-Rivera. “I really want to show my son this is something that I’ve wanted to do, and I want to show him he can do anything he wants to do.”

Master Sgt. Phillip A. Durousseau, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment Signal Noncommissioned officer-in-charge, is Sylvester-Rivera’s supervisor. He has assisted Sylvester-Rivera and another female officer re-classing into the infantry.

“They are go getters, alpha type personalities,” said Durousseau. “They have the drive and the mental acuity to be successful.”

womencombat

Maj. Lisa Jaster participates in the Darby Queen obstacle course as part of their training at the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., June 28, 2015. She became the third woman to earn the Ranger Tab. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Brooks/ Released)

Integrating the combat arms fields is a positive for the Army, Durousseau added. Durousseau worked with a female airman performing in a combat capacity, as a gunner, while in Afghanistan.

“Some people think females can’t handle what a male can handle,” said Sylvester-Rivera. “It has nothing to do with gender.”

Sylvester-Rivera’s goals as an infantry NCO have more to do with her role as a team leader and less as the first female infantry NCO.

“Make sure I bring my men back alive and take care of my men.” continued Sylvester-Rivera.

The pressure to prove herself is not something Sylvester-Rivera is worried about. She will earn the respect of her men through her actions, she said.

“I am capable of doing the same thing that you are, or better,” said Sylvester-Rivera. “As long as I know what I’m doing.”

The long-term career goal for Sylvester-Rivera is to eventually become the Sergeant Major of the Army, she said. It is a role that can help Soldiers in a tangible way and have the most positive impact on their lives, she said.

In the meantime, Sylvester-Rivera has a mix of emotions about the challenge that awaits her in May of 2017. She estimated around 19 other females will be embarking on this new chapter for the infantry.

“I’m really excited, I’m thrilled,” Sylvester-Rivera said. “I’m honored.”