Thursday, December 18, 2008

Soldiers lead physical training for the first time

They resemble the quintessential female athletes of this generation. Their bodies are well-proportioned, seemingly transported from Hellenistic Greek times. Their robust, trim, chiseled frames inspire both awe and admiration. Leading the unit in an Army Physical Training session, no problem, right?

“I was kind of scared,” said Pfc. Laura L. Johnson.

“I felt overwhelmed,” said Spc. Ashley M. Anderson.

Anderson and Johnson both came from athletic backgrounds prior to joining the Army. Anderson was a varsity athlete in three sports in high school and played volleyball in college. Johnson is a former kickboxing champion accustomed to grappling and weight-training. Both have recently been selected for leading Army PT for the first time.

Johnson counted on the support and guidance of Staff Sgt. Peter A. Ford for her first leadership PT session.

“Sgt. Ford helped prepare me”, Johnson said. “We went through the manuals together online to make sure the session was done correctly.”

For Johnson, there is no substitute for being in front of this formation. In the 211th, she is the most junior soldier deploying with the unit. She said there is plenty of anxiety leading a formation, but it is even more amplified when everyone outranks you.

Anderson was assisted by Staff Sgt. Mark C. Burrell for her first leadership PT session. He had her read a one-hundred page physical fitness manual in order to prepare. She said that once she realized the expectations, she was comfortable with the task.

“I wanted to make sure I got all the commands right,” Anderson said. “I wanted to run a well-organized session and prove to the rest of the group that I could lead PT.”

Interestingly, both Anderson and Johnson did something special for their first time leadership PT sessions. They were innovators, trying to keep the unit involved and enthusiastic through a muscle-strength fitness training regiment.

Johnson used circle training to take the group through grass drills and guerilla drills. Both drills focus on mobility and flexibility and take Soldiers through a series of exercises. Later, she incorporated relays into the session. It was a success. According to Ford, there were many in the unit who felt proud of Johnson, yet were too tired to express their true feelings.

Anderson carefully planned a workout session using station circuit training where Soldiers exercised for two minutes and then moved on to the next station. She explained each exercise and labeled them on the field so that Soldiers would know what to do. According to Burrell, her session went extraordinarily well. Soldiers felt the pain of working different muscle groups and none of them suffered any ant bites.

Anderson and Johnson have expressed confidence in knowing the commands for all the warm-up exercises, stretches and calisthenics and are eagerly anticipating their next PT assignment. They said that they are feeling like established veterans when it comes to leading PT.

According to Burrell and Ford, both Anderson and Johnson have done a solid job in their PT leadership roles.

Anderson and Johnson are used to sculpting their bodies like fine-tuned machines. As leaders of PT, they are helping Soldiers see how a well-oiled machine operates. This development in their lives is a big change from their past athletic achievements.

“It’s organized exercise and there’s no real competition,” Anderson said.

“I’m used to doing training barefoot,” Johnson said.

The 211th has a PT test Saturday December 20th. Best of luck to all who are participating and don’t forget to thank Anderson and Johnson for the motivation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Soldier stays in top form with public affairs duties

His recruiter wanted him to be a fire direction control specialist, someone who determines the trajectory of rounds needed to hit targets coming from various weapons. But, the 24-year old from Bountiful, Utah, knew that working with angles associated with artillery were not the kind of angles best suited for him. He wanted to be a journalist and tell the stories of fire direction control specialists. Fortunately, the recruiter found a position at the 426th Medical Unit in Salt Lake City, and Anthony J. Martinez found his calling.

These days, 1st Sgt. Martinez is training for another deployment to Baghdad, Iraq. His schedule has temporarily taken him away from a position at the U.S. Army Reserve Command Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Prior to his present assignment with the 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Bryan, Texas, Martinez participated as an integral part of the Army Reserve Command’s public affairs training and readiness branch. His assignment to the branch in 2006 came after more than 18 years as an Army public affairs specialist.

His wide-ranging public affairs services include: news writing, photojournalism, feature story writing, speeches, media relations, community relations, and broadcast news audio and video stories.

After returning from deployment and coming back to the Army Reserve Command, Martinez will continue to spend his time working on training regiments for all Army Reserve public affairs units. Martinez oversees operations and resources available that prepare Soldiers for public affairs missions. His biggest goal with the command center is to help establish more networking between PA units so that they are sharing lessons learned in the field.

Giving credit and providing coverage to servicemembers and to their accomplishments is what public affairs is all about, said Martinez. He added, “People back home can say that’s my son, my dad, my brother, my sister.”

Martinez has had an affinity for news and current events his whole life. “As a kid, I loved National Geographic articles,” he said. It is the process of getting the interview and capturing the story, using words and pictures, that keeps his focus.

Top is an unofficial greeting that is only attached to first sergeants. Soldiers from all over the world use it affectionately.

One of Top’s stories he fondly recalls was during a previous deployment in Iraq. He covered a former Army truck driver turned robotic repair specialist. Somebody discovered this Soldier had a knack for more than truck driving, and Top revealed that he had the specific responsibility for detonating bombs. Top said it was a nice surprise for the Soldier to be interviewed.

Martinez says he is right where he wants to be. He is happy with the progress of the 211th, and he is looking forward to covering more Soldiers’ stories. He works all the angles and continues to search for that keen story which tells what life is like being an Army fire direction control specialist.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

News and Notes...

The first all Specialist (Spc.) meeting was held December 6th at the EZ motel. All Specialists were present with the exception of Specialist Mitchell. We looked for you Spc. Mitchell, but, apparently, you were incognito or indecently exposed.

The meeting went off without a hitch. The agenda included picking officers and then following up with 'how you feel' questions.

Toilet paper was used in order to distinguish who's turn it was to talk. Spc. Logue said, "Let's roll with it!" The teepee took the place of the shield.

Spc. Anderson was elected President of the all Specialist club, with Spc. Soles elected as Treasurer and Spc. Alperin elected as scribe. Spc. Soles plans on watching carefully how much money is spent on tips when we go out to eat.

With regard to the question of how specialists are treated, there were varied responses. Spc. Anderson said, "I have to prove myself around people who don't know me." Spc. Anderson, later in the meeting, could be heard saying, "They need to know when to take our advice!"

When referring to the role of Specialist in Iraq, Spc. Soles said, Specialists do the grunt work. They are the gatherers who find and document.

Spc. Fardette added some wisdom as well, saying, "Ask not what you can do for your sergeants, ask what they can do for you!"

The clandestine specialist motto was created during this meeting and all the specialists who attended the first all specialist meeting ended up at Rudy's for spectacular Texas Bar-b-que. It was a night to remember.

Spc. Alperin summed things up well, "The great thing about this meeting is that no matter what you say, if you start your sentence with the first word as Specialist, your golden."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Treats and delicacies...

Training continues in Bryan/College Station, Texas and we are covering as many areas as possible. Training has been fun and educational because we always have soldiers in the unit that keep things light, but focused.

We have been keeping up with our public affairs guidance and doctrine which maintains our energies towards the mission. Mainly, we are trying to prepare for when we hit ground in Iraq, so that we are ready to cover the stories.

Our physical training continues as well. We are using the Bryan High School track to workout and keep our bodies fit. We do plenty of muscle failure and cardio activities.

But, the Golden Corral has been a major obstacle to keeping the weight down. The Golden Corral Buffet & Grill (GCBG) is our dining facility for lunch and dinner. The 'Corral', as many in the unit put it, is a cornucopia of tastes that leads to a cornucopia of smells later on.

Getting back to the room at the is always a big relief. Good times are had at the EZ where you can sit back, relax, and watch cable tv or just kick it with a battle buddy and listen to music. The EZ has lived up to its reputation by making our lives much easier. They have even given us gift baskets that include shaving kits, toothpaste, deodorants and peanuts.