USAG Hawaii: 2008 Year in Review
January 9, 2009
<b><i>Deployments, increased support for Soldiers and families made 2008 a year to remember</b></i>
Four thousand Soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) rang in 2008 in Iraq. By the second week in January, the 58th Military Police (MP) Company (Co.) was also departing for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) to train Iraqi police and support maneuver operations.
"This unit is more than prepared to go," said 1st Sgt. Michael Cosper of 58th MP Co. "We have trained almost nonstop for the last twelve months. We spent two months at the National Training Center ... and we're more than ready to go, more than ready."
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI) hosted the Armed Forces Bowling Championship, Jan. 7-11. The Navy took everyone by surprise and triumphed.
Changes of command abounded in January. Among them, Brig. Gen. James Nixon assumed command of the 25th Infantry Division (ID) and Col. Walter Piatt of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (3IBCT), Jan. 11. Col. Mike Lundy took leadership of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), Jan. 17.
Also at Schofield Barracks, then Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, then commander, 25th ID, said his final goodbyes to the Tropic Lightning family in a relinquishment of command ceremony, Jan. 30. He was promoted and assumed leadership as commanding general, U.S. Army-Pacific (USARPAC).
Fort Shafter welcomed home the 7th Engineering Dive Team from a 15-month deployment in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iraq, Feb. 4.
"Our sole purpose is to help the wounded warrior in the mission to heal, whether they go back to the unit or back into the civilian world," said Heather Partain, director of the newly named Na Koa Puuhonua "Warrior Place of Refuge," the Warrior Assistance Center at Schofield, Feb. 5. The center provides professional staff and numerous amenities to help wounded warriors and their families recover.
The Pro Bowl was back in Hawaii for what would be its penultimate year, Feb. 9. Hundreds of Soldiers from 45th Sustainment Brigade (Bde.) and 25th Special Troops Battalion (STB) assisted with staging the halftime celebration. Then more than 4,000 Soldiers participated in the 24th Annual Great Aloha Run, Feb. 18.
"I can't tell you how good it is to be here today, given that we ran this (Great Aloha) run last year in Tikrit, Iraq. It is much better to be in Honolulu. I can guarantee you," said Lt. Gen. Mixon.
Cowboy boots and dinner-plate-sized belt buckles replaced combat boots and Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) when the KoleKole Jam II returned to Schofield, Feb. 23. Country headliner Montgomery Gentry, punk rockers Bowling for Soup, and the patriotic Katie Rae Davis, along with a myriad of free activities and booths, made the event a huge success.
The 516th Signal Bde.'s reigning Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Staff Sgt. Arshad Jones of the 30th Signal Battalion (Bn.), earned the 2008 African-American History Award at the Department of Defense's African-American Heritage Symposium, Feb. 25.
The U.S. Army-Hawaii Culinary Team put a gold medal in its cabinet that wasn't flour, after competing in the 33rd Annual Culinary Arts Competition in Fort Lee, Va., the first couple weeks in March. In all, the team nabbed one gold medal, 14 silvers and one commendation.
The Army welcomed five new members to its team as Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) during an investiture ceremony, March 27. CASAs help tell the Army story to their peers in the Pacific, while also advising top Army leaders about local community concerns on Army-related issues.
Before the month ended, the Hawaii State Senate and House of Representatives had assembled in two separate joint sessions, March 24-25, to recognize Army Reserve personnel who gave their lives in the war on terror.
Also, the garrison stiffened penalties for personnel who used their cell phones without a hands-free device while driving. Two offenses in the same year net violators the loss of driving privileges for two months.
"All of our fallen brothers are being recognized today by their sacrifices they have made to their country," said Spc. Jason Ambrose of the 47th MP Co., April 10, when the 8th MP "Watchdogs" planted a tree, symbolizing life, in memory of their comrades.
The Hawaii Army Family Action Plan (HAFAP) conference gave a voice to delegates hoping to "Build the Future of Hawaii." Delegates presented issues in the local Army community that need action to Army Hawaii Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond Mason, commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command (8th TSC), April 16.
Two days later, the Army announced its decision to permanently station the 2SBCT in Hawaii, and selected the 83rd Ordnance Bn., 10th Support Group, 8th TSC, as winner of the 2007 Army Exceptional Organization Award-Battalion for Safety, April 19.
Soldiers officially switched from the battle dress uniform (BDU) to the ACU's digitized camouflage pattern, April 30.
Old photos are fun to look at because they show how people and places have changed over time. This fact was so readily evident in the garrison's rehabilitation of Schofield's historic Quads C and E - dating back to the 1916 and 1920 - that the Historic Hawaii Foundation presented USAG-HI the Preservation Honor Award, May 1.
After nine months in Iraq, the Soldiers of 82nd Engineer (Eng.) Bn., 8th MP Bde. finally received much-anticipated welcome home aloha, hugs and lei during ceremonies at Wheeler Army Airfield (WAAF), May 17. The unit accomplished massive infrastructure improvements and enhanced joint security sites in Iraq.
A lunchtime shuttle service between Schofield and Wheeler began May 19 to provide Soldiers, civilian personnel and family members with an alternative form of transportation during record high gas prices, but it would halt within months due to low ridership.
Maj. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. took charge of the 25th ID, May 21, and elsewhere that same day, the Malama na Koa ("Caring for our Warriors") Hawaii Wounded Warrior Community Support Program, sponsored by the Hawaii District U.S. Attorney's Office opened in Honolulu.
To ease congestion created by the hospital's expansion, Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) added more than 300 additional parking stalls the first week of June. As well, the Pacific Regional Medical Command learned that it had closed out retention goals for the fiscal year, earlier than any other unit.
After a grueling week of enduring trials, Staff Sgt. Jacob Ferrara of 94th Army Air Missile Command (AAMDC) was named USARPAC's Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and and Sgt. Luke Solorzano of the 25th ID as USARPAC Soldier of the Year, June 14, during the command's annual Army Birthday Ball.
While deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Sgt. Maj. Ruben "Ben" Cavazos, 48, of the 8th Human Resources Sustainment Center (HRSC), learned he was named USARPAC Athlete of the Year.
To judge for himself how the Army Family Covenant was delivering on promises to families, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management Lt. Gen. Robert Wilson talked to family members and wounded warriors, then toured older facilities, June 27-30.
"We talked about the importance the FRSAs (family readiness support assistants) play in having a successful FRG," explained Lisa McCaffrey, senior FRG advisor, 2SBCT.
The "Watchdogs" of 8th MP Bde. dedicated a memorial to their fallen comrades, June 20.
Army Hawaii kicked off its largest-ever Fourth of July celebration. More than 50,000 residents, workers and guests flocked to see Billy Ray Cyrus; witness the signing of the Hawaii Army Community Covenant by the Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, local and military leaders; and participate in a scavenger hunt and pony rides.
Continuing a legacy began in 1957, the "Wolfhounds" of 27th Infantry Regiment hosted children from Holy Family Orphanage, Osaka, Japan, for 10 days, beginning July 21.
Army Hawaii Family Housing (AHFH) received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes Gold Certification for "green" efficiencies; Pohakuloa Training Area's Fire and Emergency Services personnel were selected as best in the small department category for the Army; and all Hawaii public schools on Army installations met No Child Left Behind standards.
Shouts and cries of joy preceded arrival of the 25th Transportation Company, Aug. 14, upon return from their 15-month deployment. Days later, Aug. 18, the 9th Mission Support Command dedicated Parker Pavilion, Fort Shafter Flats in honor of Sgt. Evan Parker, killed while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.
A rainbow chased away morning rains in time for the 25th ID to present a congressionally approved Medal of Honor flag to U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Aug. 20. The senior Hawaii senator said he was deeply honored to receive the flag on behalf of the famed World War II "Go For Broke" 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The 70th Eng. Co., part of the 65th Eng. Bn., deployed for Iraq, Aug. 28, and educators celebrated military contributions to public schools in Hawaii at the annual Joint Venture Education Forum.
A first for an intermediate school, Wheeler Middle School received the prestigious Norbert Commendation Award for exceptional support to military students.
"We have really ratcheted up what we're doing for families," said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey during his visit to Hawaii, Sept. 4. "The Army has doubled the amount of money we put towards Soldier and family programs, because it was clear to my wife and I as we traveled around the Army, that what we were asking of families with all the multiple deployments was a lot more than we had anticipated."
Casey presented his four-part plan for the Army during his visit.
Also during the month, USAG-HI shifted its energy conservation efforts into high gear, and the second family readiness group chili cook-off heated up.
Rounding out the month, the 8th HRSC traded the sandstorms of Kuwait for the sandy beaches of Hawaii when they returned home, Sept. 26.
USAG-HI Commander Col. Matthew Margotta shared Army vision with Native Hawaiians, Oct. 1. A few days later, families and friends of the 25th ID and the 3IBCT bid aloha and Godspeed to Tropic Lightning Soldiers during a deployment ceremony, Oct. 3.
K-Quad, a Schofield Barracks dining facility, was named best DFAC in the Pacific region; attendance at garrison's Oktoberfest more than quadrupled 2007's; and Fort Shafter began transforming Favreau Field into a new six-story Soldiers barracks complex.
"Forty years of history in the Deutschland (Germany) and then we move to
the topical environment of Hawaii," said Maj. Micheal Buxbaum, 130th Eng. Bde., when the unit relocated here, Oct. 24. Soon after, 8th MP "Watchdogs" prepared to embark for their first deployment to Iraq, Oct. 31.
The 2SBCT set re-enlistment records during fiscal year 2008; as well, the 500th Military Intelligence Bde. met its retention goals.
Army Hawaii formally recognized wounded warriors in November and celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Army Family Action Plan.
The 84th Eng. Bn. bid aloha to Hawaii and deployed to support OIF, Nov. 5. The 25th CAB tested combat readiness during an intense training series called "Mungadai," Nov. 6, while the 45th Sustainment Bde. conducted mission readiness exercises, Nov. 12-20.
The 552nd MP Co., 45th Sustainment Bde., returned from its 15-month deployment, Dec. 3. Meanwhile, the 25th ID took charge of Multinational Division-North in Iraq, Dec. 9.
2008 was beginning to close the same way 2007 ended - with a massive storm Dec. 10 that flooded Oahu. The storm dumped nearly 18 inches of rain on Schofield Barracks that washed out roads and damaged buildings. Many Ewa Beach commuters had to vary their routes to work at Schofield and Wheeler well into the new year as the storm washed away portions of Kunia Road's foundation.
The 2SBCT hosted a Satellite Honolulu Marathon at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 14, and Fort Shafter dedicated the 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom Community Center, Dec. 15. The fallen hero sacrificed his life to repel an attack at a remote outpost in Afghanistan.
An islandwide power outage left everyone in the dark for many hours, Dec. 26-27.