Old Guard Drill Team shines at Joint Service Drill Expo

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

FORT MYER, Va. – On a sunny warm day in front of a crowd of hundreds, the U.S. Army Drill Team from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), and teams from the other military services, came together to perform during the 2017 Joint Service Drill Exhibition April 8, at the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.

The exhibition showcased all five military services drill teams at one place, which is a rare feat in itself.

Preparation for such a major event takes long hours and many repetitive rehearsals, something that’s not new to The Old Guard.

“Leading up to the drill exhibition, we spent three weeks down at Fort Benning, Ga., training and working on a new routine,” said Sgt. Wilfriedo Diaz, team leader with the drill team. “At the end of training we got nothing but positive feedback.”

That positive feedback was on display this past weekend.

“We try to prove to the civilians and the other branches of service drill teams that we are the best and we lead from the front,” added Diaz.

In the past, this exhibition was once a competition to showcase each of the branches drill team, but after the Army continued to win year after year, the powers that be changed the event into an exhibition, said the New York native.

There were a few minor setbacks from all the services drill teams during this year’s performance due to the wind and temperature.

Regardless of the setbacks, the drill teams were persistent and continue to execute each movement with precision and accuracy.

“No matter what happens we continue to try to perfect each move,” said Spc. Eric Neeley, a thrower for the drill team. “There were a few mistakes but I think we did a great job anyway.”

The Soldiers appreciated the cheers and the teams were fueled by the cheers from the crowd.

“We love the fans,” said Neeley. “It’s just really great to see everyone here to support all of the armed services, but especially the Army.”

The U.S Army Drill Team will perform as part of Twilight Tattoo this summer and Spirit of America later in the fall.

The Old Guard, Dream Foundation grant wishes for terminally ill participant

Story by Sgt. Nicholas Holmes

FORT MYER, Va. – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) escorted Dream Foundation recipient, Brandon Martz and his family, on an intimate tour of the installation April 4, 2017 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.

“This event was for the Dream Foundation and served to make Brandon Martz’s dream of visiting Washington D.C. and the Arlington National Cemetery come true,” said Maj. Mike Erlandson, executive officer and tour escort with 3d U.S. Inft. Regt.

The Dream Foundation provides end-of-life dreams to terminally-ill adults and their families.

In 2002, then 4 year old, Martz was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal genetic disorder which results in progressive loss of strength. He was given the prognosis of ten years to live.

“My dream was to go to Washington D.C. over my senior year spring break with my family,” said Martz. “I want to be able to go to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the White House.”

Martz, a Rives Junction, Michigan, native and now 18 years old, was selected by the Dream Foundation to have his dream come true after sharing his story in a letter.

His first stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Martz participated in an Army Full Honors Wreath laying Ceremony. Martz and his family, viewed the changing of the guard from a restricted area which provided them with prime viewing.

“[Arlington National Cemetery] is a place of great respect and it was phenomenal to see him lay the wreath,” said Doug Martz, Brandon’s father. “That is something that most people don’t have an opportunity to do, and now he is part of the history here.”

Second on the tour, Martz and his family visited the Caisson Stables. While there, they fed and interacted with the horses while learning the mission of the Caisson Platoon, the stables historical significance and daily commitment to the care of the horses.

Martz and his father agreed that under different circumstances, the military would have been a career he would have likely pursued.

“I believe he would have followed a path into the military,” added Doug Martz. “It’s a passion he has always had.”

“If I did not have DMD I would have joined the military after I graduate,” said Martz. “I had a recruiter call the house the other day, and it was so hard to tell him I was now in a wheelchair. He was nice, but we both knew that was the end of the conversation.”

The tour concluded at Summerall Field, where the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps conducted a musical demonstration for the Martz family.

Following the demonstration, Col. Jason Garkey, Regimental Commander and Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Beeson, discussed the important relationship and responsibilities the military has to the people. Afterwards they both presented Martz tokens of appreciation on behalf of The Old Guard to reinforce how honored the regiment was to be included in his request to the Dream Foundation.

This was the first time this year that every commander from the specialty platoons attend a tour of this magnitude. Outreach is a vital part of the regiments goal.

“It has been a great day,” said Brandon’s father. “It has been more of an emotional day then I expected.”

Both the family and Soldiers enjoyed the events of the day.

“This was by far the most rewarding tour I have participated in,” Erlandson said. “The entire organization put their best foot forward to honor this young man.”

 

The Old Guard first infantry female NCO pioneers the way ahead

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

FORT MYER, Va – Movies like “Saving Private Ryan”, “Full Metal Jacket” and “Blackhawk Down”, were just some of her favorites to watch as a young child. While most eleven-year –old girls were hanging out with their friends or getting new toys, Sgt. Brittany Sylvester-Rivera, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), was fascinated by the idea of infantrymen pushing forward on the battlefield and protecting her country.

“I grew up watching military movies, and after watching “Saving Private Ryan”, I told my mother that’s what I wanted to grow up and do,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

Like most mothers, she told her to wait. While she waited until she was of age to join the military, her passion to become what see saw in those movies continued to grow.

“Our country has given us so much, people have sacrificed their lives and you don’t want to look back years from now and say ‘we never honored them’ that’s the reason why I wanted to become an infantryman,” said the Houston native.

Her journey into becoming what she saw in those movies, wasn’t possible when she first joined in 2009.

“I went into the recruiter station and told them that I wanted to be and infantryman, and of course the denied me,” said Sylvester-Rivera. “So they told me that the closet thing I could get to being infantry was to become 25U [Signal Support Systems specialist] because I could be on the battlefield with infantrymen so I said yes.”

Her fortune changed in December 2015 when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that women could serve in combat military occupational specialty.

“As soon as I heard this I went and talked to my career counselor, and he told me that I wasn’t eligible to reenlist yet, so I had to continue to wait,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

It wasn’t until August 2016, when Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Dan Dailey, wrote a memo asking for female soldiers to transfer to combat arms jobs.

“As soon as I read that memo, I ran back to my career counselors’ office to see if he had seen this memo,” said Sylvester-Rivera. “He said told me he had just read it and he knew I would come see him.”

The process started for her to re-classify into her lifelong dream had started, but it had many hurdles it had to first get past.

“I had to sit down and talk to my company commander, then all the way up to the regimental commander. They wanted to see if I was mentally and physically ready for this new challenge, and to see if really I wanted to do this,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

After they saw my passion and determination about becoming an infantryman, my leadership had no doubts that I would go to school and be successful, added Sylvester-Rivera.

Training

“The first day I got there and walked into my quarters to sign in, the NCO on duty asked me, “are you lost,” chuckled Sylvester-Rivera. “I informed him that I was there to become an 11 bravo.”

With a confused look on the face of the NCO on duty, he finally realized who I was and that’s how my first day started, added Sylvester-Rivera.

Sylvester-Rivera knew she had to prove herself to become ‘one of the guys’ her first opportunity came during the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). “I scored a 300 points on my PT test and I finished my five-mile assessment run in less than 36 minutes,” said Sylvester-Rivera. “I think after those events, I prove to everybody that I really wanted to be there and to achieve my goal.

There were some obvious differences between a signal Soldier and an infantryman’s training.

“We were taught and trained much different from the regular Army. I learned how to do 50-meter dry fires, that was something I never experienced,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

She had to go back and relearn some of the basics.

“The way I used to low crawl is now considered high crawling,” laughed Sylvester-Rivera. “It took some time to get used to it, but I was able to adapt.”

When a Soldier has the title of ‘first’ in anything pertaining to the Army, the extra amount of pressure could cause some doubt.

“I believe if you’re going to shoot for the stars you need to be fully prepared to make it and not fail,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

Graduation Day

After completing each and every task along the way, Sylvester-Rivera was ready to be turned blue.

“My drill sergeants said out of the four females that were reclassing, that I was ‘the one’ who deserved this the most,” said Sylvester-Rivera. “I was honored to consider that great in their eyes.”

‘Turning Blue’ is a ceremony where newly qualified infantrymen receive their Infantry Blue Cords 16 weeks of One Station Unit Training (OSUT).
The Future

Though Sylvester-Rivera has graduated the real work now begins.
“I want to teach my Soldiers and groom them for the future. I want to show them that along the way nothing is ever given to you have to work hard for whatever you want to achieve in life,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

Her first step at mentoring Soldiers will come once she PCS’s (permanent change of station) to Fort Bragg, North Carolina this summer.

“I want to get an opportunity to have my own firing team, deploy as an infantryman and to develop the next set of great infantrymen that will follow after me,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

Regardless of the past and what is to come, Sylvester-Rivera knows how to make it through every test.

“Being humbled and continuing to learn everything that I can so that I can train up someone like me along the way,” said Sylvester-Rivera.

An Old Guard dual-military love story

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

FORT MYER, Va. – Love can be defined by people as many different things. Webster’s dictionary describes love as an intense feeling of deep affection. Some people believe love is not quantified by words, but rather a person’s actions that prove how much you love someone or something. This can be true when talking about the Bond Family.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bond, a native of Mansfield, Ohio, is a multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer and his wife, Sgt. Alexandria Bond, from Hopkins, South Carolina, is a signal support systems specialist.

They met for the first time back in 2013 when his privately owned vehicle died on the side of the road.

“My motorcycle broke down, it ran out of gas, chuckled Robert Bond. “It was one of those old bikes that didn’t have a fuel gauge so I had to call somebody back at my unit to come help me out, and it wound up being her,” added Robert Bond.

She wasn’t too happy about having to help out this new Soldier.

“At that time I felt like he was bothering me,” laughed Alexandria Bond. “I had so many other tasks to take care of, but I was like ‘whatever’ I’ll go help this guy,“ said Alexandria Bond.

Shortly after the incident Robert Bond asked her on a date.

“I was wondering why he didn’t ask someone else,” said Alexandria Bond. “He set me up,” she continued.

The two of them went out on a friendly date, at least that’s what she thought.

“I thought we were going out as friends, so I showed up looking terrible and he was all dressed up,” said Alexandria Bond. “So he decided to go back home and change, and we went out looking terrible together,” laughed Alexandria Bond.

The two of them dated for more than a year before getting married in January 2014.

Since then, the Bonds have experienced deployments, a new born baby boy and a permanent change of station.

“We deployed at the same time to, two different places,” said Robert Bond. “We just had our son [Robert Alexander Bond] so he had to go with his aunt while both of his parents were deployed,“ explained Robert Bond.

The couple experienced some of the many challenges that dual-military couples face while separated from each other.

“The hardest thing for me was not being able to talk to my husband and my son at the same time,” said Alexandria Bond.

The Bonds had a strong Family network that helped the two through the deployment.

“Every time things got rough we talked to our parents, they gave us sound advice,” said Robert Bond. “Another thing we did was keep a journal of what happened during the times we didn’t talk as well as how we felt about other things going on or each other. Writing everything down helped us keep our thoughts alive, “continued Robert Bond.

After returning from deployment the couple soon got orders to the 3d U.S.Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard.”

“We felt like coming to The Old Guard would be best for us as a Family and for career progression,” said Alexandria Bond.

The Bonds achieved a rare accomplishment for a dual military married couple by getting promoted in the same month.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to get promoted no matter who you are, but to be able to share the moment and date with my wife is incredible,” said Robert Bond.

His better half was also equally excited.

“I couldn’t believe we made it on the same day,” said Alexandria Bond. “I was so happy for him I couldn’t stop crying,” continued Alexandria Bond.

Through motorcycle breakdowns, first dates, deployments and promotions, the Bonds love for each other has never wavered.

ball_86-2“It’s a challenge but I wouldn’t trade her or the Army for anything in the world,” said Robert Bond, and they both looked at each other and smiled.

Old Guard Soldiers lend support during inauguration

By Staff Sgt. Kelvin Ringold The Old Guard Public Affairs Office

Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) joined service members from around the Department of Defense and various civil services in support of the 58th Presidential Inauguration Jan. 20.

After months of preparation, The Old Guard continued its long standing tradition of ceremonial support using elements from The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” The Fife and Drum Corps, Caisson, Continental Color Guard, Presidential Salute Battery and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, to commemorate the 45th President of the United States.

In a regiment of approximately 1,700 Soldiers, most of whom had a role in the inauguration, both first time participants and seasoned veterans walked away with lasting impressions and experiences from the event.

The Old Guard commander, Col. Jason T. Garkey, previously participated during the 1997 and 2005 Presidential Inaugurations, but this third one brought a different aspect to it.

“This was the first inauguration I participated in that involved a change of the administration,” explained Garkey. “The magnitude of the operation was immense. In previous inaugurations, I participated in specific parts, but as the regimental commander responsible for JTF [Joint Task Force] Ceremony, I had visibility on every detail involving the regiment.”

Looking back on the task and effort that went into it to make it a success is something Garkey said he appreciated.

“The complexity and amount of detail developed into the plan was extremely impressive,” said Garkey. “The seamless integration of our ceremonial and contingency tasks capitalized on every aspect of the regiment. It validated everything we have worked towards since this past summer.”

Chicago native Spc. Tabari Sibby, Company Honor Guard, 4th Battalion, 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), was part of the cordon for the departure of former President Barack Obama at Joint Base Andrews, Md., and it is a moment he will not soon forget after seeing his final wave.

“The experience was very honorable for me and my colleagues,” said Sibby. “I feel very honored that I was a part of the 58th [Presidential] Inauguration.”

At 22 years old and with less than a year in the military, Pfc. Austin Wolf, Company E, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), said he was in awe of all the events that transpired, but he will always remember what he did as part of the White House cordon.

 “As a ceremonial unit, this was the biggest event we have the honor to participate in,” said Wolf. “Opening the door for POTUS [President of the United States] was the honor of a lifetime and something that I will never forget.”
With the regiment having provided not only musical and ceremonial support for the inauguration itself, but also logistical and force protection efforts that spread throughout the National Capital Region, there is more than just the outcome of the ceremony for Soldiers and leaders to be excited about.
caisson

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the Caisson Platoon, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C., January 20, 2017. The Parade was held to celebrate the inauguration of 45th President of the United States President Donald Trump. (Photo by Sgt. George Huley)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the Caisson Platoon, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C., January 20, 2017. The Parade was held to celebrate the inauguration of 45th President of the United States President Donald Trump. (Photo by Sgt. George Huley)

 

 

inauguration_25

Members of The United States Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” play in front of the President’s reviewing stand along Pennsylvania Avenue during the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. During the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade, Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) continued their long standing tradition of ceremonial support using elements from the Presidential Salute Battery, the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Caisson platoon, Honor Guard Company, and the Color Guard to commemorate the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kelvin Ringold)

“Inaugurations are historical events and important for our nation to ensure the president publicly swears his oath to the Constitution,” said Garkey.

“Our Soldiers’ contributions to the inauguration permeate through multiple aspects of the event and extend far beyond the parade. Regardless of their roles, ceremonial, support or contingency, this inauguration was successful because of their contributions.

“Everyone played a part, and the synchronization of those parts culminating on January 20 made history.”

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.”

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.