Final Training - MRX
The last week of our stay at Camp Shelby was more than enough to write about, as it filled our days with 24 hour operations, designed to stress us as individuals and as a team. The goal seemed to be to cram about six months worth of likely experiences we will face into one week long exercise. It made for some intense training.
The good news for me is that I finally got my team assembled. I have two real professionals now assigned to the public affairs cell. 1st Lieutenant Catherin Fraker, from the Wyoming National Guard, and Sgt. 1st Class Tom Roberts from National Guard Bureau. Catherin proved herself as a PAO during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Tom is a bit of a legend in the PA world of the National Guard. He is a first rate camera man and video producer who also doubles as a talented noncom leader of soldieers. Together, I think we are going to make an awesome team.
Our exercise concluded in the most frustratingly realistic way imaginable. On the last evening of our training operation, we conducted a "Fallen Soldier" memorial service. Unfortunately, the leadership of this team is already trained in this task, having executed it at least nine times in the past two years. When BG Pritt stood before us to discuss "Specialist John Doe" he ehlpd to put it into context. But when Command Sgt. Maj. Conley stood before us, it took the breath out of everyone. COnley had conducted ceremonies very similar to this nine times in Iraq; in theatre, before his men. He said "I am not going to speak about Specialist John Doe, because he is a notional soldier that died a notional death. But I will tell you that I am a "T" (Trained) at this task and I want to make myself a "U" (Untrained) at it in the future. General Pritt, Sir. Let's make this the last time we ever do this, Sir."
After that night, everyone pretty much slept deep. The emotional finale to a long week of training excellence, was to be followed by closing our accounts at Camp Shelby, and preparing for our "Pass in Review." After a quick transformation from an "Army in the Field" to an "Army on Parade" we formed a pretty cool formation to commemorate the 41st Brigade and its members. The Sunset Patch formation was shot by my old friend Maj. Anthony Bolante from a Huey helicopter. It turned out pretty nice and will be in our archives for years to come. The shot is shown above.
Although we had few family members make the trek from Oregon, there were several that made it from Oklahoma and the closer states. It was a beautiful day. Governor Ted Kulongoski and Congressman Peter DeFazio joined Lt. Gen. Honore' and Brig. Gen. Pritt in addressing all of us on the parade field before we signed out on leave.
It is good to be done with the training and the experience of 'Shelbystan.' I have several weeks until it is my time to depart, but soon may we all go forward into Afghanistan with our heads held high.