Category Archives: News

From the rifle to the mic, drill team musician gives back to wounded warriors

Staff Sgt. Nathan Fair shows off his American pride. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres, Jr.)

Staff Sgt. Nathan Fair shows off his American pride. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres, Jr.)

Staff Sgt. Nathan Fair found comfort in the strings of his guitar during stressful times as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I played because it was my way to unwind,” said Fair. “I needed it because I didn’t know if I would make it back from the battles that we were having three and four times a day.”

Fair added that he had played the guitar for about 12 years but not for more than an audience of a couple Soldiers.

“We would sit around a small fire, and I would play for these guys. I could see in their eyes that they really connected with my music. That really gave me confidence,” said Fair, infantryman, U.S. Army Drill Team, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “They would tell me that I was really good and I should keep going with this.”

The camaraderie between Fair and his fellow battle buddies enabled him to make it through some of the toughest times in war. When he had to deal with the unfortunate circumstance of losing one of them, he turned to his guitar.

“Everyone dealt with in their own way. I started writing music about experiences and hardships that many service members go through after losing someone,” said Fair. “I enjoyed sharing my music with other Soldiers, but I also wanted my music to reach further.”

Fair wasn’t sure where to take his passion for performing after returning home from his deployments. He eventually entered a singer, songwriter contest at the Huske Hardware House in Fayetteville, N.C. in 2011.

“I really didn’t want to go at first, but all my friends told me I should. I just went along with everyone just for fun,” said Fair. “I didn’t think that I would win anything.”

Fair was taken aback when he won first place with his song ‘Fallen Soldier,’ a song he and a friend wrote during a deployment.

“It was absolutely incredible,” said Fair. “From that moment, I started getting offers to open for different groups across the country.”

Fair’s most recent performance, the Country Music Television’s (CMT) Bike Week at the Legendary Sturgis Buffalo Chip (LSBC) in South Dakota, showcased dozens of rock/country bands and musicians, vendors and entertainment for more than 700,000 people.

Fair performs at Sturgis. (Courtesy photo)

Fair performs at Sturgis. (Courtesy photo)

“Some call this place the music and motorcycle Mecca because people come from all over to be a part of it,” said Fair.

Fair earned a spot through a referral from Madison Rising, a patriotic rock band who also performed at the event.

“I have opened for those guys many times, so after they got into CMT’s Bike Week, they fought to get me there too,” said Fair. “It was a dream come true to play there.”

Two Navy Seals killed in Benghazi were honored during a memorial ceremony before Fair went on stage.

He said because the crowd was cheering so loud after the ceremony, it made him somewhat nervous.

“My knees were getting weak. It literally scared the crap out of me because prior to this, the most I ever played for was around 6,000 people,” said Fair. “I looked out across the sea of leather, motorcycles and amped-up Americans, and I was just blown away.”

He began to feel something unexpected out on that stage in front of all the listeners; calmness.

“I just began to talk to the audience and all of a sudden I was relaxed. I introduced myself and said I was an active duty Soldier. The crowd just went crazy,” said Fair. “I told them my songs can be downloaded on iTunes and all proceeds go to Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Restore Warrior, and Wounded Wear.”

These non-profit organizations honor and empower severely injured service members by supporting and providing them with resources to fulfill any needs that they may have.

“I can’t say enough about these organizations and what they do for all Soldiers and some of my friends as well,” said Fair. “It is so important that we help these heroes because of their sacrifices.”

Fair’s performance lasted just a few minutes, but he said, it seemed more like an eternity.

“I guess I sang with such passion that I almost don’t remember a whole lot,” he said. “I just remember looking out over the audience and being lost in my words.”

While Fair was performing, he failed to notice the reaction he received from the viewers. Hundreds of thousands of bikers revved their engines as a sign of respect and love for his performance.

“I knew they appreciated my music when I heard that. I can’t put into words what that felt like,” said Fair. “It was really crazy to see that many people in one place listening to me.”

Fair has been through a lot of extreme situations, but nothing was more memorable than this performance.

“I was very honored and humbled to represent my unit and the U.S. Army,” said Fair. “I love the military, this country and everything we stand for.”

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Old Guard sweeps MDW Best Warrior Competition

Sgt. Robert Keifer, infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), administers a tourniquet to a simulated injured Soldier’s leg during the Military District of Washington’s [MDW] Best Warrior Competition, July 17, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. Keifer outperformed six noncommissioned officers [NCO] to earn the title of the MDW NCO of the year. He will advance to the Department of the Army level this October at Fort Lee, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Sgt. Robert Keifer, infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), administers a tourniquet to a simulated injured Soldier’s leg during the Military District of Washington’s [MDW] Best Warrior Competition, July 17, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.

 

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks

Two Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), swept opposing competition during the 2013 Military District of Washington’s Best Warrior Competition; earning the titles of the MDW noncommissioned officer and Soldier of the year.

“As I stood there waiting, I was pretty nervous until they called my name as the winner,” said Sgt. Robert Keifer, who was named the NCO of the year. “I was excited and proud that all the hard work paid off.”

The competition was held, July 15-19, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.

During the competition, seven noncommissioned officers and three Soldiers were tested on basic and advanced warrior tasks and battle drills, day and night land navigation, urban warfare simulations, physical fitness, rifle qualification, a written exam, a ruck march and a board interview.

The competition was no walk in the park according to Keifer, who said it was one of the toughest things he has been a part of.

“I have been in a couple events like this, but at this level, you see the best out here. The key for my success was to keep focus throughout the week,” said Keifer, infantryman, Honor Guard Company. “Not only were we battling against each other, we were battling the heat as well. We had to make sure we ate and stayed hydrated.”

However, with water and other proper safety precautions in place, Soldiers demonstrated their mental and physical skills in temperatures well into the 90s. In the end, only two found themselves on top.

Spc. Michael Sands, infantryman, Delta Company, 1st Bn, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard), assembles four types of weapon systems during the MDW Best Warrior Competition.

Spc. Michael Sands, infantryman, Delta Company, 1st Bn, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard), assembles four types of weapon systems during the MDW Best Warrior Competition.

Spc. Michael Sands, MDW Soldier of the year, was nearly speechless when explaining how it felt to claim one of the coveted spots.

“I can’t put it into words,” said Sands, infantryman, Delta Company. “It’s very special. I felt privileged just to be selected.”

Sands said it was an added bonus wining alongside a fellow Old Guard Soldier.

“It was really rewarding to see both of us win. The Old Guard delivered a one, two punch,” said Sands, “He and I would study as often as possible to make sure we had things memorized. We really worked hard together to get to this point.”

Keifer agreed it was great to win with someone from the same unit.

“It’s like winning with my little brother,” said Keifer. “We have grown really close because of this experience. I am really looking forward to moving on and getting ready for the next competition. I’m glad The Old Guard will be represented at the next level.”

Keifer and Sands will compete in the Department of the Army’s BWC this October at Fort Lee, Va.

Sgt. Robert Keifer (left), infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and Spc. Michael Sands, infantryman, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), tackle a 5-mile road march during the Military District of Washington’s [MDW] Best Warrior Competition [BWC], July 17, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. Keifer and Sands were named the MDW noncommissioned and Soldier of the year. They will represent The Old Guard at the Department of the Army’s BWC later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Keifer (left) and Sands tackle a 5-mile road march during the MDW Best Warrior Competition July 17, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. The two won Best NCO and Best Soldier, and will represent The Old Guard and MDW at the Department of the Army’s BWC in October.

 

Soldiers honor one of their own

Pvt. Brennan Cameron (left), infantryman, H Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), assists former Sgt. Luell L. Woods to his feet during Honor Flight Mississippi, Apr. 23, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Woods served in H Company during World War II. The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization which transports living veterans to their respective memorials in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Pvt. Kyle Standiford (left), infantryman, H Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), assists former Sgt. Luell L. Woods to his feet during Honor Flight Mississippi, Apr. 23, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Woods served in H Company during World War II. The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization which transports living veterans to their respective memorials in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Soldiers from H Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) were privileged to meet one of their own, former Sgt. Luell L. Woods, during Honor Flight Mississippi, Apr. 23.

The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization which transports living veterans to their respective memorials in Washington, D.C.

“It can’t be put into words what this experience means to me,” said Woods, who served in World War II while assigned to H Company. “This, right here, has always been a dream of mine, and I consider it a real honor to be here.”

Pvt. Brennan Cameron said he was humbled to meet him.

“It’s not every day that you meet someone who served in World War II and also served in your unit,” said Cameron, infantryman, H Company. “I think it is great that they get this chance to visit their memorial. This landmark is our way of saying how proud we are of them for the enduring standard they set for us.”

Cameron escorted Woods through the crowds gathered at the memorial. From time to time, Woods would ask if they could stop as they reached various sites.

“I remember my good buddies from back then,” said Woods, while he stared at the Freedom Wall full of 400 gold stars.

Each star on the Freedom Wall represents 100 servicemembers killed during World War II. Knowing that one of those stars could have been placed for him, Woods said he does not take for granted the fact that he is able to come to the memorial.

“I am happy to get all this support, but I was one of the fortunate ones who made it back,” said Woods. “I had a feeling that I would make it back. I just knew I had to.”

Woods made sure to also share the same encouraging words and values with the current generation of Soldiers.

“He has such an awesome personality,” said Cameron. “He first thanked us for our service, which made me think I should be thanking him. I saw that he has a love for Soldiers and country. I will never forget that.”

Cameron added how special it was to have a person like Woods affiliated with The Old Guard.

“This unit has such a great legacy, and it’s because of people like Woods. He made me want to continue to serve here,” said Cameron. “No matter the generation, The Old Guard represents the Army to the nation and the world.”

As their time came to an end, the veterans from Mississippi gathered for lunch and fellowship.

“I had a great time with all of the Soldiers from The Old Guard,” said Woods. “Many things have changed over the years, but the bond between Soldiers won’t.”

Sacramento PD travels 3000 miles to train with The Old Guard

“It would be a tragedy if we lost an officer in the line of duty, but it is our job to be prepared to render that officer their due honors just in case the worst happened,” said Sgt. Michael Lange, a member of the Sacramento Police Department Honor Guard [SPDHG]. “In order to provide the families with the best service, we had to learn how from the very best.”
Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), trained the SPDHG on memorial affairs, Apr. 8-12. The police officers, who traveled nearly 3,000 miles, learned the details of flag folding, casket carrying and the duties of a firing party during the five-days of instruction on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.
“We are getting training that normally takes a few weeks in just a few days,” said Lange. “When we head back, the goal is to be able to guide the rest of the team on what we learned here.”
However, this wasn’t the first time the Sacramento police department’s honor guard sought the expertise of the Soldiers.
“Six years ago we came here for training, and I remember just how great it was,” said Lange. “The guys with The Old Guard were very good and knowledgeable at what they do.”

Detective James Anderson, a traffic officer with the Sacramento P.D., waits for the command to begin folding a flag during memorial affairs training on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Apr. 9. Members of the S.P.D traveled nearly 3,000 miles to receive hands-on training and the expertise of Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the Army's premiere memorial and ceremonial unit.  (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Detective James Anderson, a traffic officer with the Sacramento P.D., waits for the command to begin folding a flag during memorial affairs training on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Apr. 9. Members of the S.P.D traveled nearly 3,000 miles to receive hands-on training and the expertise of Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the Army’s premiere memorial and ceremonial unit. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Old Guard Soldiers practice for many hours during the week in order to perform hundreds of funerals and ceremonies in the National Capitol Region and throughout the nation.
Sgt. Brent Austin, casket team leader, Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Inf. Reg. (The Old Guard), said it means a lot that other agencies look to Honor Guard Company to prepare them for ceremonial and memorial events.
“It is humbling to see all these people seek us for this training, and it really pushes us to remain passionate and on our toes,” said Austin. “It’s great to meet people who are from other parts of the country. We all have the same mission: to honor the fallen and their families.”
Austin has had the opportunity to teach various law and public services departments over the two and a half years he has been with The Old Guard.
“It blows me away that people see and appreciate what we do so much,” said Austin.

Sgt. Brent Austin, a casket team leader with The Old Guard, teaches members of the Sacramento P.D. how to properly fold a flag Apr. 9. The Old Guard's primary mission is to conduct funerals and ceremonies for fallen Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Sgt. Brent Austin, a casket team leader with The Old Guard, teaches members of the Sacramento P.D. how to properly fold a flag Apr. 9. The Old Guard’s primary mission is to conduct funerals and ceremonies for fallen Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Austin explained the importance of working with other organizations to help facilitate and improve their memorial affairs teams.
“If we can provide local responders with the tools to complete a funeral honorably, then I have done my job,” said Austin. “It is really important that we recognize those who have given their all in the line of duty.”
Throughout the week of training, the Sacramento Police Department spent nearly every moment soaking up the information the Soldiers had to offer.
“The most challenging part of the week was learning how to time the firing of the rifles just right,” said Lange. “I know that these Soldiers didn’t get this good overnight, so I know we have hope. We just have to continue to practice this.”
Lange also said that during the lesson on flag folding, he realized all of the small details that go into getting the flag to look just right.
“The sequence has a lot of steps, but by the end of the day we basically had it down solid,” said Lange. “I know with more practice we would be even better.”
As the week of training came closer to the end, Lange said his team once again understood why these Soldiers are considered the best.
“The Old Guard really cares that we learn everything that we came here to learn,” said Lange. “The Old Guard sets the highest standard when it comes to funerals, so we just want to emulate them.”

Military working cat program underway at ‘The Old Guard’

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The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), is doing its part to cut down on military spending with the implementation of a new cutting-edge program which will use military working cats to work alongside military police. 

Currently, U.S. Army Military Police, or MPs, most often use German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois dogs for narcotics detection, tracking criminals and for taking down criminals, thus reducing the risk of injury to MPs. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Radmall, platoon sergeant, 947th Military Police [MP] Detachment, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “There are so many homeless cats in the Virginia area. Not only will the Army have a more cost-effective working animal, but we will be doing our part in getting them off of the streets and finding them employment.” 

Officials hope to capitalize on cats’ olfactory and hearing prowess. While most people think of dogs as having sharp senses, cats actually have more acute senses.

For example, dogs can hear five times more acutely than humans, and cats about twice as acutely as dogs. Also, a domestic cat’s sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as a human’s.

Soldiers around the regiment have been doing their part to support the program by capturing stray cats in their neighborhoods and bringing them into the detachment located on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. More than 100 cats have been collected since the program started earlier this month. 

The cats will have to go through a screening process to determine their “trainability.” They will be assessed with regard to how quickly they learn tasks, what motivates them (play versus food), and their sociability. Cats that cannot be motivated to take direction, or that do not get along with humans or other animals, will be ejected from the program.

Cats that fail out of the program will be distributed to no-kill facilities and adoption centers throughout Northern Virginia.

While the program is new, and graduation rate data are not yet available, the MPs setting up the program have high hopes for the success.

“It’s better to use these cats because they are a lot quieter, sneakier and quicker than most of our dogs,” said Radmall. “They will also be able to get into some of the smaller crawl spaces to sniff out bombs if necessary.”

Radmall added this skill will especially help MPs who are deployed. However, he admitted the program has gotten off to a rocky start. Some of the strays collected for the program have “limited human interaction and social skills.” 

“It has been a rough process,” said Radmall. “A lot of our Soldiers were seen at the regimental aid station because they were scratched up pretty badly by the cats.” 

On the contrary, Radmall said this will be another great advantage of employing the military working cats. 

“Cats’ claws are razor sharp, so it makes for a good defense mechanism not only for the cat but for their handler as well,” said Radmall. “A young, healthy cat can jump over eight feet in a single bound so if an enemy approaches a cat, the cat will be able to jump on him and either disable him, or claw him to death if he fails to stop resisting capture.” 

Other issues have arose, of course, with integrating the two species. As the program is still in its infancy, funding is not yet available for separate kennels for the cats.

“It’s like sibling rivalry,” said Radmall. “We’ve had to break up quite a few fights between the felines and the K9s. You can definitely tell the dogs aren’t pleased with the possibility of the cats moving in on their territory.”

Radmall continued to say they will keep the dogs currently in the program, but will only accept cats from this point forward.

Radmall is confident that the kinks in the program will be worked out over time despite the issues they have had so far. 

“We’ve already had one cat successfully graduate through the program, and we’re looking forward to having many more to follow in his footsteps,” said Radmall. “While the other cats in the program might not understand the gravity of his achievement, Gino serves as a role model for them. He exemplifies the Army Values.” 

No cats were harmed in the writing of this story. Happy April Fools!

Soldiers support deployed servicemembers; host monthly blood drives

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The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) hosted their first of nine Armed Services Blood Program Blood Drives [ASBP], Mar. 11, at the community center on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. 
The blood collected from the drives will support service members who are wounded overseas. 
“I think it’s truly honorable because this precious commodity really saves lives in 
Afghanistan and other parts of the world,” said Price, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment transportation noncommissioned officer. “Blood donated to the ASBP is a game changer because it is specifically for those guys and girls who are still fighting and are getting hurt.”
Price was one of the first Soldiers to arrive to the community center for the event. He said his eagerness to give blood stemmed from his experiences of seeing the need for blood donations during his tour in Afghanistan. 
“When I was deployed, I heard an announcement that there were a lot of people that got badly hurt. We were asked to give blood if we had O-positive blood,” said Price, 529th Regimental Support Company [RSC]. “I showed up with a few Soldiers, and the line was very long. I will never forget that night, so now I try to give as often as possible.”
Spc. Edgar Rodriguez, who helped organize the drive, said he appreciated Price’s support and enthusiasm. 
“Price is always talking about the benefits of giving blood to other Soldiers,” said Rodriguez, transportation specialist, 529th RSC. “It is good to have someone who really believes in giving blood as much as he does.”
Rodriguez explained how time is of the essence when it comes to this program. 
“There is always a need, and once they collect the blood it is used within a week,” he said. “The blood isn’t frozen, just sitting in a blood bank; it is taken to a lab where it is prepared to be shipped overseas.”
Price said giving blood to an organization that sends it down range is certainly a reminder that there are still Soldiers in harm’s way. 
“I tell my Soldiers all the time that this is an opportunity to be a part of something that’s bigger than you,” said Price. “Those are our brothers and sisters out there. I really feel as though it is part of our duty to show up to give blood to help them out.” 
The last blood drive will take place Nov. 26. For more information about donating,
contact Rodriguez via email at edgar.r.rodriguezsolano2mil@mail.mil or Staff Sgt. Joshua D Montgomery, ASBP Manager, at joshua.montgomery2@us.army.mil.

Miranda McGuire pins her husband, Sgt. Erik McGuire, Tomb Sentinel, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), with The Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge, Aug. 30, at the Memorial Display Room in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. McGuire is the first military police in 11 years to earn the Tomb Badge; the second least awarded badge in the military after the Astronaut Badge. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Megan Garcia)

Few Soldiers have the honor of wearing The Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge, the second least awarded badge in the U.S. Army, after the Astronaut Badge. Even smaller is the number of military police who have earned the prestigious badge. On Aug. 30, Sgt. Erik McGuire became the first MP in 11 years to earn this right.
“It’s just a great honor to represent [the MP Corps, myself] and the whole Army,” said McGuire, Tomb Sentinel, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
The Tomb, which holds unidentified remains of Soldiers from World War I, World War II and the Korean War, is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in all weather conditions at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
In order to earn the right to be called a Tomb Sentinel, candidates must pass a series of five tests which can take up to nine months. These tests consist of outside performances, uniform inspection, and the history of the Army, Arlington National Cemetery and The Tomb.
“It’s very stressful and tiring,” said McGuire. “It’s probably the roughest training I’ve ever been through but I just kept on going with the support of my family.”
McGuire’s family drove from Birmingham, Ala., to share in his moment. His wife was honored with pinning the badge on him.
“I’m extremely proud of him,” said his wife, Miranda. “He has worked very hard for this. I’ve seen him stay up long nights and dedicate almost everything. All of his accomplishments are wonderful, but this is probably the best one.”
It can be revoked even after a servicemember leaves the Army if he or she brings discredit to the Tomb. McGuire said the additional principles he learned at the Tomb will assist him in upholding these high standards.
“I’m glad to have this duty of guarding the Unknowns,” said McGuire. “The Army helped me be a better person and a better man, but coming to the Tomb instilled those values a little more.”
McGuire is the 603rd Soldier to receive the badge since it was first issued in 1958