Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago, One Year Ago, Today


Today is September 11th, 2006. We have just emerged from a 48 hour internet and telephonic "Blackout." Two days ago, we lost two NCOs from CJTF Phoenix. As it has been 24 hours since the notifications, the prohibitions on identifying the fallen have lifted. I cannot speak to the legacy of Staff Sgt. Fuga of the Missouri Army National Guard, as I did not know him, but I can deduce a little from his commitment to service. A member of CJTF Phoenix since Phoenix III, he had recently extended to stay for a full second year tour.

Of Staff Sgt. Nathan Lindsey, I can tell you that I knew him for the four years I have served in the Oregon Army National Guard. A committed soldier, a veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Southern Relief (Katrina), he was always a smiling face and a firm handshake, a cup of coffee not far from his hands at any moment that he was always willing to share. Nathan was a good man that touched all of us. His loss is a loss all of us feel. We offer our prayers toward his family back home. His wife, a Guard supporter and mother and wife of veterans of Iraq, is on all of our minds.

We honor you, non-commissioned officers, leaders of men, who died as they lived...in uniform leading soldiers in harm's way.

-out here

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EDITORIAL I WROTE FOR THE STATESMAN JOURNAL (Salem, Oregon):

Five years ago today America was attacked. While we all remember what happened that morning, where we were, how we responded, there is one thing I remember with equal clarity. I remember the sound of F-15 Fighter jets flying over Portland and the Willamette Valley. That was the sound of the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard, the first fighter wing in the United States to be 100% operational, fully armed, and protecting the skies of America from any potential threat.

One year ago today, I was in a boat floating through a lake that had been a residential street only two weeks before. I realized the date when an emergency crew, also in a boat, cleared a home and marked it with a big red spray-painted “X” with number next to it “9-11.” Oregon’s 41st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) was amongst the first responders to the disastrous consequences of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, an entire brigade mustered, manifested and deployed into operational missions on the opposite side of the nation within 72 hours of their alert, on the Friday morning of Labor Day weekend, no less. In less than a month, we had conducted hundreds of rescues, evacuations, civil relief missions, security patrols and humanitarian assistance missions, a fortuitous preparatory for the future that would await us within months.

Today, I am again deployed as part of a great team led by the 41st BCT of the Oregon National Guard on September 11th. Re-designated Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, we are the fifth team to serve as the primary trainers and mentors of the Afghan National Army. In five years, this force has built an impressive track record thanks to the contributions of thousands of men and women from a dozen nations and the will power and support of the national leadership of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban regime, the Afghan National Army has emerged as the first fully deployed institution of the country. Like its namesake, the mission of Task Force Phoenix is to raise a force of strength from the ashes of over three decades of civil war.

For the first time, CJTF Phoenix is a fully joint and combined enterprise with service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps; men and women from both the Active and Reserve components. Under the leadership of fellow Salem resident Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Pritt and the headquarters of the 41st BCT of the Oregon National Guard, the task force includes thousands of members from 42 states, the District of Columbia, and the Territories of Guam and Puerto Rico as well as soldiers from partner nations Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mongolia, The Netherlands, Norway, The United Kingdom, Slovenia, and Spain. Each of these service members is fulfilling combat, logistical and administrative roles in addition to the task force main effort, the Embedded Training Teams or ETTs. In support of the diversity of this effort, we have temporarily changed our official motto from “Jungleers, Warriors, Oregonians” to “Jungleers, Warriors, Patriots.” Our team is spread across the nation of Afghanistan, often in remote and austere locations in rural areas where the trainers eat, sleep, train, fight and live alongside their Afghan counterparts. Truly, “Patriots” is a much more accurate title for these brave Soldiers.

While mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces is the primary mission of Phoenix, the task force is equally involved in the parallel objectives of facilitating development and mentoring stable local governance in the institutions that it touches daily. Whether building schools, helping to open community centers, or distributing much needed medical care, the warriors of CJTF Phoenix continue to set the standard in helping to renew a stable Afghanistan; a Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

We often rely on donations from organizations and individuals back in the states in order to facilitate this transformation from ash to renewal. To date, we have distributed backpacks full of school supplies, quilted pillows, food stuffs, socks and shoes to needy children, all donations from citizens and organizations back home. All of your contributions are already making a difference to that most impressionable and important audience of reform here in Afghanistan, the children. Every week, we are helping to build and open schools from the elementary through high school levels. But winter is fast approaching and we are hoping to help these children prepare for a cold winter. We need your help to do our work effectively.

The men and women that make up this task force are no different from you or your peers. They are simply motivated to serve their fellow citizens, whether within our borders or across the globe. We are so thankful for your thoughts, prayers and support during this time away from the beautiful Northwest. It is our honor and our privilege to serve. On this Patriot’s Day, we only ask that you will remember those that have fallen and those who serve, whether five years ago, one year ago, and today.



-Major Arnold V. Strong, a Salem resident, is deployed with the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan as part of its year long mission to train the Afghan National Army. The former spokesman for the Oregon National Guard, Strong served as Special Assistant to the President of TRM Corp. until being mobilized. He maintains a blog about the CJTF Phoenix mission at http://majorstrong.blogspot.com. He can be reached at arnold.strong@gmail.com.

3 Comments:

Blogger chtrbx said...

I could never forget the honorable men and women who serve our counrty so unselfishly.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Ditto to what Chtrbx said... we appreciate y'all... and our hearts & prayers are with the families of the fallen......

Thank you, sir, for all you do.

7:09 AM  
Blogger eat_tofu said...

Bless Sgt. Fuga and Sgt. Linsey for their unwavering service and allegiance to the United States.

9:20 AM  

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