Ken Schram, a local TV persoanlity is irate over airport screeners requiring Fort Lewis soldiers to remove their shirts. Click here.
Ken Schram, a local TV persoanlity is irate over airport screeners requiring Fort Lewis soldiers to remove their shirts. Click here.
REMEMBRANCE AND TEARS
One soldier hailed from Indiana.
A second soldier hailed from Kansas.
And a third soldier hailed from California.
All three – Sgt. Christopher Kruse, Sgt. Kenneth Booker and Cpl. Peter Schmidt – are fallen American heroes.
“Thank you Christopher, Kenneth and Peter, for you have given your most precious possession, your lives, so that we can celebrate and have moments where we forget days and just live in the chaos of our everyday lives, said Maj. Chad Sundem, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, rear detachment commander, as he fought back tears. We should “honor their spirit with continued service to an ideal all three genuinely believed in and devoted their live to … the ideal of everlasting freedom,” he added.
The three soldiers, who served with 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, were honored in a memorial ceremony in an overflowing Evergreen Chapel yesterday afternoon.
The brigade had gone just over 50 days since its last lose. Kruse and Schmidt were killed Nov 13 in a bomb attack while on a foot northeast of Baqouba. Booker died the following day in an attack on his Stryker.
Their deaths bring to 30 the number of soldiers the brigade has lost since deploying to Iraq.
As the three soldiers were eulogized, warm tears flowed freely as a cold rain began to fall.
“Someone told me this gets less difficult with time,” said Capt. Andrew Marsh, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment’s read detachment commander. “But this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” he added. Marsh added that such memorials should never be easy; and that the three soldiers did not walk away from a difficult challenge.
The three soldiers were a wonderful mixture of dedication to duty, a knack for ingenuity and a willingness to not take themselves too seriously.
Sgt. Kenneth Booker
“Sgt. Booker took care of his men,” eulogized SSgt. Jonathan Taylor. “If more lived their lives with the integrity he did his, the world would be a better place,” he added. He was serving his third combat tour of his seven-year career in the Army.
Sgt. Christopher Kruse
The man could make Arnold Schwarzenegger look good.
“He could keep the squad loose with a perfect impression,” eulogized Spc. Jose Gutierrez.
And Kruse was good at fixing things.
“Chris could fix anything, whether it was a watch or a piece of equipment in the Stryker,” continued Gutierrez.
Cpl. Peter Schmidt
Spc. Andrew Johnson remembered how Schmidt would have wanted “no ties, no suits” at the memorial.
“Pete was that kind of guy,’ continued Johnson. “He would have wanted it laid back, everybody smiling, everyone happy,” he added.
One soldier hailed from Indiana.
A second soldier hailed from Kansas.
And a third soldier hailed from California.
All three are American heroes.
– J.M. Simpson
The Fallen 48 week finally arrived, and the anticipation and stress started to develop in accelerated fashion. The week before a regular race the stresses normally result in my just being fidgety to my being somewhat less concerned about or disconnected from those around me. I know that might sound odd to those who have followed my writing, but it’s just a race mind-set. I started to document the days leading up to the marathon, and as I did, things just seemed to happen. In the book I am writing, I’ve titled this part of my life “What can happen will happen.”
Monday morning I was driving to work, and a lug nut came loose on one of my tires, tossing my Jeep to the side of the road. With my luck, I didn’t have the certain tool to fix the problem, so I had to run home five miles and get the spiffy little tool to fix the problem. Running these five miles home was maybe the coldest temperature I have ever run in. The five-mile run back was like running with blocks on my feet. So 10 miles later and everything was fixed. I looked at my watch and realized that I was late, so I went for my cell phone, but it wasn’t there. It was back at the house, go figure. I drove back home, and by the time I got there, I realized I was late for first call. In four years in the service I have never been late, never. I called my leaders and told them the story. I then made my way to the post very melancholic to say the least. I was happy that no one second-guessed me on what had happened. I think my history proved as creditability.
The next evening Jerry Brewer from The Seattle Times contacted me for an interview. When I look back at this interview, this is what changed the whole week for me. Mr. Brewer gave me the opportunity to get the message out there, and doing that brought the news from ABC, NBC, FOX, CNN and other news outlets. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an opportunity to talk to The Ranger. The men and I are greatly appreciative of Mr. Brewer’s work and wisdom to project this message to the masses, especially on the front page of the most read paper in Seattle. As the days started getting closer to the race, I started to get a better sense of passion for the cause and direction. I spent time doing research on the course and making a conscientious plan for the race.
Wednesday came, and I found myself relaxing and trying to enjoy myself going into the Thanksgiving holiday. My plan since Iraq was to go back home for the holiday, but it was going to be for only one day and then back to Seattle to get my head in the game for the marathon. I got on the plane and made my way home. It’s always nice to get home and hang with the family and catch up. After eating some great turkey and catching up, I was on a plane back to Washington.
I arrived in Seattle and made my way to the Westin to check in. I had reserved a room in September, so I knew that getting a room wasn’t going to be a task. Well, what will happen, will happen. Somehow, my reservation had been canceled, so that really threw me for a loop. I was furious, but I kept my calm, because it wasn’t the person behind the desk who had messed it up. To go along with this, I found out later that the Westin had charged me $1,123 dollars on Sept. 26 and I was charged once again for this visit. So everything from a wheel almost falling off my Jeep to my bank account being eaten up, things were not as peachy as I wanted them to be.
That evening I found myself in bed looking out the window into the city. I got lost in my thoughts, and before I knew it, I was sleeping. I awoke the next morning and walked downstairs to see if there was anything cool going on in the marathon expo. As I walked out of the elevator and made my way through the lobby, I noticed that some folks sitting to my left were staring at me intently, and then I noticed that some more folks were looking my way. I just waved as if I knew these people. As I walked by, I looked to my right where a newsstand was, and there on the front cover of the paper was a picture of me running and the headline “Running in remembrance.” I quickly looked back at those who had been looking at me and laughed. One of the guys pointed at the front of the paper and mouthed, “Is that you?” I shrugged my shoulders and nodded my head “yes.” He gave me thumbs-up and then went back to reading the paper. I am a humble guy, and I don’t strive for attention, but in this situation, if I was a criminal on the run the authorities would have had a lot of people calling in reporting that they had seen me. I knew that people read The Ranger, but the Seattle Times drops you into a whole new ballpark of publicity. It was overwhelming at times. Just a normal walk down the streets of Seattle or walking in the mall I would come across people who wanted to shake my hand, take pictures, ask questions about my training and the men we lost. I even signed some of the shirts that we had made for the race. That was different to say the least.
The race was on my mind 24-7. I went over and over in my head everything from A to Z on race preparation, checking off the blocks for probable success. I think what really concerned me was my leg and what could happen if it locked up. I think I spent more time massaging my legs than eating and drinking. The whole weekend was rather interesting and very intense — but really fun too. I finally got used to coming downstairs from my room and having people come up and talk to me. That was big for me, because I like to stay in lane. I will say one thing: even though I had support from the locals, I still was on my own and alone. The last night before the race I wrote on a pad of paper where I had been writing all of my thoughts, “It seems like for once my voice has reached many people, but yet I am only a vessel for whom we lost. I may have the smiles and loving hugs and appreciative handshakes, but I am still alone in a sense.” However, I found comfort, love and focus from my very special lady, Alicia, with whom I had developed a wonderful friendship in the early weeks of coming home. She couldn’t make it to the race because she had prior commitments — such as going to her family’s house for the holiday. Between being inundated with press and worrying about my leg, I spoke to her, and she guided me and helped me immensely, making things easier and less stressful.
The night before the race I made a point to get out of the room and go into the city and just see the life. I walked around and occasionally sat down and just watched people walk around. Of course, I pulled out my little notepad and started to write. This was a very important hour in my weekend.
This is what I wrote: “I see smiling faces of little boys and girls full of life, and then I see people who love each other holding hands, walking around laughing and smiling. It’s life, and it’s freedom. The smell of food and the sounds of cars rush down the streets, and the hustle and bustle of people walking around consumes my thoughts on how lucky we are to be so free.” I closed my eyes and just took everything in and realized that this run was more than just another run. It was deeper than any sea and bigger than any mountain. It encompassed everything around me and the men who had allowed all of this to happen.
I went back to my room and got ready for the pasta feed that happened to be with John Kokes, the president of the Seattle Marathon. It was awesome. I was so touched by the way he introduced me to the room full of runners. He passionately told my story. He broke down and started to cry, becoming speechless. It was so moving and pure.
That night when I went back to my room, I knew I was ready mentally and physically to take on this mission of bringing these men across the finish line. I took my last call from a reporter from Fox News and then called my mom and dad and Alicia and told them that I loved them and that I would be thinking about them. I hung up, jumped in bed, closed my eyes, and fell sound asleep. It was the first time since April 14, 2004, that I slept soundly and purely without medication.
David B Hardt
Next Week: The 26.2 mission of remembrance
FORT LEWIS Release. — Major Brent A. Clemmer, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, will receive the Silver Star medal in a ceremony Thursday, Nov. 29 at 2:45 p.m. at the battalion’s headquarters.
Clemmer will receive the award for his gallant actions Jan. 28, 2007, near the town of An Najaf while serving as his battalion’s Company C commander.
According to the event narrative, Capt. Clemmer was notified of a downed AH-64 helicopter, and that coalition forces were receiving significant small arms and mortar fire in the area. He moved his unit approximately 100 kilometers to the site, linked up with the Special Forces team near the crash site, which had suffered casualties, and established a defensive perimeter between the wreckage and enemy forces.
He was also credited with putting in place rules of engagement to identify and destroy enemy forces while directing the recovery of the aircraft and pilot’s remains.
Clemmer was also cited for actions to direct his unit in repulsing several enemy counter attacks during the night. At daylight, Clemmer and his unit deployed forward to support his sister company’s assault of an enemy trench to the east. Clemmer and his men also accepted the surrender of several hundred personnel, many combatant and others non-combatant. He identified wounded and established a landing zone for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) and for bringing in additional medical supplies, water, and humanitarian rations. His actions and those of his soldiers resulted in approximately 250 enemy killed, 81 enemy wounded and 410 enemy captured. They also recovered several hundred weapons to include small arms, machine guns, mortars and RPGs, plus stockpiles of enemy ammunition, medical supplies and food.
John Simpson, photographer and reporter for the Fort Lewis Ranger is headed back to Iraq in December to capture the stories of the 4th Stryker Brigade during the holiday season. His reports and photos should start appearing here and in the Fort Lewis Ranger newspaper around December 13 through the end of the year.
This is Simpson's fourth trip to Iraq since the war began.
Army Pfc. Carson Beaver, a mechanic from Headquarters Support Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, hands a wrench to another mechanic while repairing a Humvee at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, Nov. 7. Beaver is a native of Milton, Pa.
By Spc. Micah E. Clare
4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan - It was 10 p.m. and the young Soldier rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He stumbled into the giant machinery garage, his vision flooded with harsh yellow light that pierced through the growingly crisp night air of Afghanistan. Even though he’d been working on various trucks and machines since 4 a.m. that morning, he still had a job to do – work on just one more.
Late nights are nothing new to deployed mechanics like Army Pfc. Carson Beaver, Headquarters Support Company, 864th Engineer Battalion out of Fort Lewis, Wash., and a native of Milton, Pa. whose main mission is providing “last stop” maintenance support for the continuing fight against the insurgency in Paktika province.
This night, Beaver and his team had to fix yet another damaged Humvee just returning from a late night patrol, a situation they were more than ready to handle.
After running some tests, they determined that the vehicle’s dirt-encrusted front differential needs to be replaced.
“This vehicle is a four-wheel drive, and right now, it’s not driving with all four wheels,” Beaver explained.
It will be at least a four to five hour job, but the vehicle will be ready to roll out the next morning, he said.
“We find ourselves fixing everything from gators (small utility vehicles) to five-tons (heavy transport vehicles),” Beaver said, lying on his back while unscrewing bolts, with several tons of metal inches above his head. “This is a very important job though, keeping units coming through here on their feet. When they come to us needing something be fixed, they know we’re reliable and they’ll be able to continue on their mission.”
“Missions would cease without proper vehicle maintenance because everyone relies so heavily on them out here,” explained Army Lt. Alex Faber, an HSC motor officer from Paragould, Ark. “We’re a last stop repair shop for units traveling into southern Paktika. Whether we’re just providing them with some parts or staying up all night to repair a broken vehicle, we’ll support anyone who comes through here.”
Because of the incredibly rough terrain and lack of paved roads that these vehicles drive on a daily basis, they take an unimaginable beating. Sometimes the team faces problems they don’t have any idea how to fix at first, which is definitely a brain storm for newer Soldiers, even after their extensive schooling, Faber said.
“I tell every one of my new guys, unless you’ve fixed something out here, it’s like you’re doing it for the first time,” he says. “Sometimes it comes right down to pulling out the manual and taking it step by step, by the numbers,” Faber said. “Our worst job was restoring a vehicle that had been submerged in water for an extended period of time…it took us over 30 straight hours to completely replace the front end with one from another broken vehicle.”
When the team finally completed a repair, the only way to find out whether it worked or not is to start it back up and take it for a test drive.
“You spend all this time fixing something, and you hope it works,” said Beaver as they finished replacing the Humvee’s differential around 2 a.m. “If not, you get right back to work. That’s the real job.”
“We work 12 hours days mostly,” says Army Sgt. Emmanuel Lamsangam, an HSC team sergeant from Manila, Philippines. “But we’ve learned sometimes that when we’re completely exhausted and not getting anywhere, we have to pack it up and start fresh in the morning. If it’s a mission priority though, we get it done. It just takes a lot of coffee.”
During those 12 hours, bloodied knuckles, grease stains, oil spills and many other unpleasant things are commonplace, said Spc. Rodolfo Sombra, another HSC mechanic from El Paso, Texas.
“These coveralls don’t always help,” he said while grinning and wiping fluid spillage off his face. “It makes a shower and a good night’s sleep pretty nice after a long day like this one.”
Even though the mechanic teams spend a lot of time working, they still make sure to get some off time every once in a while, said Beaver.
“You still have to have fun sometimes to keep you going,” he explained. “We play a lot of video games, mostly racing games. It’s funny when we custom create our racing cars with ease, replacing parts in seconds that would have taken us hours in the shop to do. I wish it was always that easy.”
On the few easy days they have, ones without the usual five to six vehicles to fix, they make the time to really clean up their work area. The large garage can often become quite a wreck in the hustle to crank vehicles back to life and send them on their way, said Beaver.
“Clean up will be tomorrow for sure,” said Faber, looking around at the garage, strewn with tools and oil spills. His team had finally been able to get the Humvee on its way.
His Soldiers were definitely going to be given a few extra hours of sleep that morning.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding to push yourself,” said Beaver as he slipped out of his messy coveralls. “I love this job, it’s the best thing I could be doing in the Army.”
To mechanics like Beaver, being a Soldier doesn’t have to mean being out on patrols, missions or firefights.
Wounded Warriors Entitled to Keep Bonus Payments
BY J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 21, 2007) – Soldiers who become ill or are wounded while on active duty are entitled to keep all recruitment bonuses due them.
The Army reiterated that policy today, after a Wounded Soldier inadvertently received a letter from the Army that stated he would be required to pay back any enlistment money he received.
“If you are ill or were injured while on duty, the Army will not ask you to repay any portion of your recruitment bonus,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Tucker, assistant surgeon general for Warrior Care and Transition. “This money will stay in the hands of our Soldiers.”
Army policy prohibits what is described as “recoupment” when it would be contrary to equity and good conscience, or would be contrary to the nation’s interests. Those circumstances include, for example, “an inability to complete a service agreement because of illness, injury, disability or other impairment that did not clearly result from misconduct.”
The Army is looking into the specifics behind former Soldier Jordan Fox, who was injured while serving in Iraq. Mr. Fox told news media he had received a letter from the Army stating he would be required to repay a $3,000 enlistment bonus.
The general said Soldiers who have received letters from the Army asking for repayment of a recruitment bonus should contact the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline to report the issue as soon as possible.
“If there’s a problem, we are going to fix it,” Brig. Gen. Tucker said. “We are committed to honoring our Warriors and Families in transition.”
The hotline is staffed by subject-matter experts 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help speed the resolution of issues pertaining to wounded Soldiers and their Families. Callers will receive responses within 24 hours. For those who reside within the United States, the hotline can be reached at 800-984-8523.
Soldiers and Families may also call from overseas assignments via the Defense Switch Network 312-328-0002 and within the U.S., 328-0002.
The hotline also receives messages via email at: email@example.com.
Improvements More Than Cosmetic at Troop Medical Clinic
By Spc. Angel D. Martinez
113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – In a war zone, casualties happen. Military medics and doctors have to be up-to-date in medical procedures and use of equipment in order to save lives.
That is why the 566th Area Support Medical Company is upgrading several areas of the Witmer Troop Medical Clinic, to give better service to the thousands of Soldiers on the base camp.
“The trauma room was functional, but not to the best that it could be set up,” said Pinole, Calif., native Capt. Nathan T. Boykin, an orthopedic physician’s assistant from the Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Wash., who serves in western Baghdad attached to 566th Area Support Medical Company. “I decided to take it as a project to do while we’re here and make it more functional and up-to-date for the treatment of casualties.”
In an effort to keep the medical clinic up-to-date, one defibrillator on each of the two beds in the trauma room and another on a crash cart to roll wherever it is needed are part of the room’s setup. That was probably the biggest upgrade, said Boykin.
“Before, we had one table in the center with a ‘Life Pack 10’ (an older defibrillator model), so if we had two patients who needed to be shocked, we only had one machine to do it,” said Boykin.
Unlike older defibrillators, these are approved for aviation use and can also be used to check all the important vital signs, such as temperature, monitor the amount of carbon dioxide which the patient inhales and measures blood pressure and the oxygen level in it, he added.
Personnel at the clinic said they feel it is their duty to provide the best care possible to troops.
“Our business is to take care of the Soldiers in this camp and the Soldiers outside the wire,” said Boykin. “Every day, I walk from my (trailer) to this clinic and I see the guys suiting up to go out side the wire. It really humbles us, because we have it pretty easy – we don’t have to (go out on missions). They deserve everything they can get.”
Another upgrade in the trauma room is the trauma beds. Now the beds are not just litters, but trauma tables on which the litters and other medical apparatus can be hooked onto conveniently for better access by medics when treating patients. These trauma tables also allow for fluid drainage.
Although only two patients can be seen simultaneously in the clinic’s trauma room, the clinic has five additional exam rooms for less critical patients.
The clinic also has its own laboratory, an X-ray room and a behavioral health specialist, as part of the team, for combat stress-related needs.
Sometimes casualties have to be treated on the move, and that is when speed and precision are needed. Most military ambulances have cases with supplies high inside the vehicle’s interior. These supplies are usually needed quickly, so Boykin came up with some changes inside his ambulances, as well.
“What we did here was put these cases on the doors and walls, so that you have easy access to all medical supplies,” said Boykin. “I don’t know if you have seen the ambulances rolling around with the chest strapped to the top, those are medical supplies up there. Someone has to go on top, grab the chest, throw it down, open the chest and get the supplies.”
The ambulances, the trauma room and the defibrillators are not the only upgrades in store for this TMC.
Other projects are on the list for the upcoming weeks are adding lights and building an awning for patients in the outside waiting area and extending the concrete floor to form a trauma pad for quick access from the ambulance to and from the trauma room. They also planned to replace the vinyl floor with approximately 6,000 sq. feet of tile.
FORT LEWIS Release - A memorial ceremony for Sgt. Christopher R. Kruse, Cpl. Peter W. Schmidt, and Sgt. Kenneth R. Booker, will be held Wednesday, Nov 28 at 1:30 p.m. in the Evergreen Chapel where they will be remembered by family, friends, Soldiers and the Fort Lewis community.
According to the Dept. of Defense, Kruse and Schmidt died Nov. 13 in Mukhisa, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated during dismounted combat operations. Booker died Nov. 14 in Mukhisa, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated during a mounted patrol.
Kruse, 23, of Emporia, Kan., enlisted Nov. 9, 2004, at Kansas City, Kan. and reported to Fort Benning, Ga., for initial entry training as an infantryman. On April 15, 2005, he reported to Fort Lewis and was assigned to 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He was assigned to the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry regiment on Jan. 6, 2007.
Schmidt, 30, of Eureka, Calif enlisted July 29, 2004 at Portland, Oregon and reported to Fort Knox, Ken. for initial entry training as an armored crewman. He reported to Fort Lewis on May 19, 2005 and was assigned to 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He was assigned to the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry regiment on Jan. 8, 2007.
Booker, 25, Vevay, Ind., enlisted June 26, 2000, at Jacksonville, Fla., and reported to Fort Benning, Ga., for initial entry training as an infantryman. Upon graduation, he was assigned to Fort Bragg, S.C., where he served with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Battalion. While at Fort Bragg, he deployed to Afghanistan from Jan. 17, 2003 to Aug. 3, 2003, and to Iraq from Jan. 16, 2004 to April 22, 2004. On May 11, 2005, he reported to Fort Lewis where he served with the 201st Military Intelligence Brigade and the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He was assigned to the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry regiment on Feb. 20, 2007.