NCO creates wartime art
September 10, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Surrounding most buildings at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, are giant reinforced concrete structures known colloquially as T-walls.
These monolithic monstrosities protect Soldiers in the event of indirect fire, and more often than not, bear the insignia of whatever unit they protect.
Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Soldiers have painted designs, pictures and signatures on the T-walls in front of their buildings to let everyone who passed know who resides therein.
Staff Sgt. Fernando Flores, the operations noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), took it a step further - he made the drawing three-dimensional.
"I just wanted something different, something that stood out," said Flores.
Flores decorated the three T-walls in front of HHC to the specifications of Capt. Pilar Restrepo, the HHC commander, said 1st Sgt. Frances Halmsteiner, senior enlisted adviser for the company. The designs might be traditional but, by using wood cutouts he fashioned at the self-help center here, Flores added a unique touch.
"The front T-wall depicts who we are, the one to the left of it shows the Texas flag because we deployed from Fort Hood, and the one to the right is Longhorn Orange with a Texas outline and a 13th ESC patch showing exactly where Fort Hood is located," said Halmsteiner.
The first sergeant said it was the first time he has seen someone use anything other than paint to decorate T-walls.
"They were a lot of work, but I enjoyed the challenge," said Flores, a Houston native and licensed contractor in his civilian life. "I've always believed the saying, 'Everything is bigger and better in Texas,' and since Fort Hood, the Army's largest base is in Texas, I wanted to reflect that saying."
Flores is not done with improvements around the company area.
Referred to by many as the 13th ESC contractor, he is working on a movie room for the company headquarters building, but the velvet ropes and popcorn machine seem to be the most difficult items to find.
"I'm not an office guy," said Flores. "I like to build things to keep busy. It reminds me of home."