198th Inf. Bde. CSM to deploy

FORT BENNING, GA - Multi-National Security Transition Command, Iraq, has named Fort Benning's 198th Infantry Brigade CSM John Calpena to serve as its top noncommissioned officer beginning in mid-August.

Calpena, who has been with the brigade since November 2007, will leave Fort Benning Aug. 14 to join MG Michael Barbero at the Baghdad-based MNSTC-I headquarters for a six-month rotation.

The mission of the MNSTC-I, in partnership with other organizations, is to help Iraq's ministries of the Interior, Defense and Counter Terrorism Bureau build and improve the quality of Iraqi security forces. Their ultimate goal is to develop and strengthen Iraqi security forces that can sustain themselves with limited involvement from coalition forces, according to MNSTC-I's Web site.

To meet this mission, Barbero selected a senior NCO from the Fort Benning team who has worked extensively in both the TRADOC and FORSCOM framework and in a variety of leadership positions, said CSM Earl Rice, U.S. Army Infantry Center command sergeant major.

"He has the right level of experience," Rice said. "He's going to be all over the battlefield seeing what's needed, what's working, what's not, and making the changes necessary so (Iraqi security forces) can rapidly take charge of their country."

"It is extremely important, now that we are pulling back our forces, to
leave (Iraq) with a good framework," Rice said.

Calpena said he would help develop a Training and Doctrine Command-type organization for Iraqi security forces.

The MNSTC-I is transitioning from an ad-hoc military transition team-based concept to an organization focusing on building strong leadership and an NCO Corps, he said.

"We need to get them to understand not only the way we train, but the bigger concept of developing strong (leaders)," Calpena said.

After nearly 27 years in the Army, developing leaders is something Calpena has had a lot of experience doing, he said. He's served as both a drill sergeant and Ranger instructor at Fort Benning in addition to numerous senior NCO assignments including command sergeant major for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, and the 3rd Infantry Division.

COL Daniel Kessler, the commander of the 198th Infantry Brigade, said Calpena's time at Fort Benning has prepared him well for his next job.

"He's got an incredible amount of experience training Soldiers and mentoring senior noncommissioned officers," said Kessler, who served with Calpena for 13 months with the 198th Inf. Bde.

Kessler said one of Calpena's greatest contributions was helping to rewrite drill sergeant school courses at Victory University in Fort Jackson, S.C. The new courses transformed the Army's approach to the way drill sergeants teach initial entry training to recruits, Kessler said.

"He's been very effective as a mentor and this will be extremely beneficial in his new position," he said.
Calpena said although he relishes the new challenge, he is sad to be leaving Fort Benning.

"It's been awesome working here being a part of something so big. I've seen first-hand how radically we are changing the philosophy of training and how I can directly impact it," he said.

"It's an honor to serve with these drill sergeants, meet their needs and be a part of their professional development, turning out better first sergeants and sergeants major for the Army."

Calpena will transfer responsibility of the 198th Infantry Brigade to CSM Richard Weik at 9 a.m. Aug. 10 in front of the brigade's headquarters on Sand Hill.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16