Task Force Viper Family Readiness Group Newsletter
January 17, 2012
TF Viper Commander's Comments
Wow! Another month has already passed. The Soldiers of the mighty 14th, now known as Task Force Viper, continue to do great things each and every day. I'm very proud of their performance and they are truly setting the bar high.
Two of our Soldiers received battlefield promotions this month, Staff Sgt. Justin Potter and Sgt. Leo Pate, for their outstanding performance in a combat zone. Both were very deserving and were about as happy as could be when they received the news. Additionally, three other outstanding Soldiers were promoted this month: SSG Shand, SPC Clement and PFC Bennett.
The weather here continues to be very cold, hitting lows around 20 degrees at night. I expected a white Christmas, but other than the surrounding mountains, it was not to be. Not to worry though, as the Christmas spirit was alive and well here on the FOB [forward operating base]. Everywhere you looked there were signs of the holiday: cookies, Santa hats, Christmas lights, secret Santa present swaps, and even a visit from Santa -- and no, it wasn't Capt. Matthew Barry this time.
The chaplain put on a great midnight service, which ended with all participants entering the very cold Afghan night with lighted candles singing Silent Night -- truly an inspiring event.
Most of the Soldiers I talked to had a chance to call home to family and you could see the joy shine through when asked the question: did you get a chance to talk to your family tonight?
Continued thanks to all the families and different support groups that continue to flood the mail room with care packages; we were truly blessed this Christmas. Keep us in your prayers, and again, thanks for all the support.
Victory through Intelligence
TF Viper Command Sergeant Major's Comments
The battalion has now settled into a sustainable battle rhythm after two months of fine-tuning mission procedures. The Soldiers continue to impress interagency partners with their technical skills and ability to perform tasks in a professional manner, in keeping with the recent implementation of the Profession of Arms Campaign. Our Soldiers have been leading from the front in support of community improvement projects, mission accomplishment and basic Soldiering. They truly stand out among the service members and civilians that comprise the facility. Their ability to maintain focus in spite of the distractions that accompany a family separation during the holidays is a tribute to their inner character.
While there is no opportune time to leave friends and family behind, we are probably fortunate to have encountered this Christmas holiday early on in the deployment while the memories from home are still fresh in everyone's minds. Our holiday, however, did not go entirely unnoticed. Care packages from home, Christmas caroling, secret Santa gift ex-changes and the occasional Santa hat served as subtle reminders that the holidays were upon us.
Two of the battalion's Soldiers were even rewarded with belated Christmas presents in the form of battlefield promotions for out-standing accomplishment in the combat zone. Congratulations to Staff Sgt. JustinPotter and Sgt. Leo Pate for this rare and noteworthy recognition. We hope to see more deserving Soldiers receive this prestigious acknowledgement of accomplishment, but the competition is fierce and spread throughout the entire theater, with limited opportunities. Only time will tell what the new year brings. Here's hoping your new year is happy, healthy and prosperous.
Battalion Fun Day
By Capt. Lauren Nowak
I hope that everyone is doing well for the holidays. December was a good month for us.
We ended the month with two battlefield promotions: Sgt. Justin Potter is now Staff Sgt., and Cpl. Leo Pate is now Sgt.
Sergeant Potter has done an outstanding job supporting the battalion in vehicle maintenance and logistics. He has ensured the all of our vehicles are washed regularly and regularly receive repairs. He also took his personal time to help our Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility to stand up a Burger King and Pizza Hut. He provided materials and his welding skills so both facilities could be finished in a timely manner. He has also provided generators and parts for the generators. This tireless work has made life here easier for the battalion.
Sergeant Pate has been invaluable in helping keep track of our battalion's personnel paperwork. Our J1 keeps track of the entire Theater Intelligence Group. This includes awards, evaluation reports, tracking personnel who go on leave or emergency leave or assigned to temporary duty.
Both have worked very hard for our unit and their work was noticed by Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Kris Arnold and our Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Fanelli. The battalion commander and command sergeant major ensured that all of the battlefield promotions went through a rigorous verification process and ensured that each packet went to our higher headquarters within the short timeline that our battalion was provided.
Soldiers were able to celebrate Christmas Eve with the chaplains of Camp Sabalu-Harrison. Each faith held a special service. The final service was held at 11 p.m. to bring in the holiday. The evening consisted of carols sung by Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians. Two of our Soldiers had solos: 2nd Lt. Anna Wyatt and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Crawford Clark. Between each carol and hymn was a scriptural reading -- also conducted by our military and civilians. Maj. Douglas Zimmerman, Sgt. Bre'anna Cisneros, Chaplain Mel Baars and Lt. Col. Kris Arnold all read passages from the Bible that each built up to the Christmas story of Christ's birth. After the services everyone lit a candle and walked outside to welcome Christmas day at midnight.
Thanks to the hard work of Chaplain Baars and Pfc. Kyle Fischer, we have had caroling, cookies, stockings, and holiday festivities for all.
Christmas day was a great day full of food, candy and cooperation.
Our dining facility made sure that we had a great meal to enjoy with ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, yams and cranberry sauce. Our unit's time to eat was at 2:30 p.m., and all of the leadership took the opportunity to serve food to our service members and civilians.
Chaplain Baars and Private Fischer put together a great holiday celebration for all of us at the MWR. Each military member and civilian in the TIG received a stocking with goodies, some hot cocoa, coffee and cookies.
Our ministry team ensured that although we're away from family and friends for the holidays, we can still enjoy the fellowship we have among our fellow Soldiers and civilians. While deployed, we have the opportunity to make relationships that can last forever. And because of our ministry team's efforts, we have ample opportunities to bond and build morale -- especially during the holiday season.
Alpha Company Commander's Comments
Hey, everyone! We are starting to get into a good rhythm now. Everyone has moved in to their rooms, which made our lives a lot better. We also had our first TIG [Tactical Intelligence Group] Fun Day. At the fun day, we played volleyball, basketball, poker, video games, pool and many other fun activities. We had tons of food and soda for everyone to enjoy.
We also had our TIG Holiday Party. Even Santa decided to show up! We all very much enjoyed the cookies that the Family Readiness Group sent us. They were delicious, and we all appreciate it!
Alpha Company First Sergeant's Comments
Looks like it's that time of year again! Unfortunately, Soldiers are away from their loved ones once again; however, rest assured you are foremost in their minds. The Soldiers are continuing to do great things and receiving recognition, once again setting the standard for those to follow. The Soldiers are now all settled into their rooms so they can have a little feeling of home and can start setting up their rooms to be homier. The facilities here are really nice and it gives the Soldiers the opportunity to unwind and relax. The organization day was a big success and the competition was pretty fierce. The R&R [rest and recuperation] rotation is beginning to start here soon so this is something nice for the Soldiers and families to look forward to. The weather is starting to get cooler, but no snow yet. Keep those letters and packages coming for your loved ones! They really do mean the world to them. Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Thanks for all of the support!
Performer of the Month
This month's top performer is Sgt. William Henderson. He always has a positive attitude and is a great example for all of the younger Soldiers in the unit. Congrats, and keep up the good work!
Bravo Company First Sergeant's Comments
Awww, the American dream! Here in Afghanistan some of our Soldiers (yours truly included) are trying to believe in the American dream according to Mr. Krieger minus the nourishing the wallet part. After all, gambling is against our General Order #1. As for our soul, intellect and spirit, we take care of them during the weekly MWR Texas Hold'em tournaments. So many of our Soldiers have been taking part in the tournament that it has grown from 20 or so participants to more than 40! Many Soldiers take advantage of the free tournaments to sharpen their skills or just to kill time. As Sgt. Brandon Jones said, "I play because it kills time before the football games, and it helps my math skills."
The competition has been getting better each week as more participants continue to play deeper into the tournament. Everyone is vying for the valuable points earned by the top 10 players each week. Tenth place earns one point, and each place increases the point value to first place, which earns 10 points. The points are totaled up after four weeks to determine the qualifiers for the championship game. The top 15 players in the standings will play for prizes donated by some poker-related merchants back in the good ol' US of A.
Everyone has been having a great time even though there has been the occasional "I can't believe you played that hand!" or the "Where did you learn to play?" over-heard during the tournaments. Well, I guess you can't blame participants for being competitive; after all, that is part of what has made America great, which brings us back to the American dream.
Out here, each one of us through these tournaments is trying to be-come a little more enhanced, a little sharper, and a little more spiritually healed although sometimes it's hard when you only have a chip and a chair.
I hope everyone back home had a great holiday season and don't you worry, your loved ones out here are doing a great at their jobs and taking care of each other!
Bravo Company Soldier's Story
By Pfc. Cody Phipps
With this being my first deployment, I really didn't know what to expect. But I have spoken with other members of my unit about their prior deployment experiences to try to grasp an idea of it. I guess the biggest question is what will I do in my free time?
I have found that there are a plethora of things to do. The MWR has an array of activities to constructively occupy my free time such as guitar lessons, poker and pool tournaments, and salsa dancing lessons.
My favorite thing to do in my off time is compete in the billiards tournaments. Prior to this deployment I only played pool on a few occasions, although it has been something that I have been interested in. In the two months I have been "in country," I have actually become quite proficient at it. I even won the Organizational Day Pool Championship.
This time has also given me a chance to catch up on a few television series I wanted to watch, but didn't get a chance to in the States. This gives me a chance to unwind after a long day at work. All in all, you just try to find things that pass the time by. These two months went by pretty fast for me.
Chaplain's Corner: Operation Enduring Egyptian Hospital
By Pfc. Kyle Fischer, Chaplain's Assistant
Over this past month, the Task Force Viper Religious Support Team has reached out to the Egyptian Hospital to provide the Afghan citizens with knitted clothing. This past December we successfully distributed numerous knitted items including hats, scarves, sweaters and even hand-knitted teddy bears.
To say that these gifts were greatly received is an understatement; in some cases they were fought over, literally. Despite the early chaos, everything went fine. Chaplain Baars passed out the items with the help of some faithful Soldiers from our unit.
My job was to make sure people kept moving and didn't come back for seconds. I also received help from my fellow Soldiers. The best part of the experience for me though was working alongside some of the Egyptian soldiers and a couple of the secu-rity officers who were helping us.
I was saddened when a 14-year-old Afghan girl asked me if she was going to get shoes. I had met this girl once before on a previous mission to the hospital with Operation Pencil, and we became acquainted. At first, I thought that she would get a pair of shoes, but as the day wore on, I found out that I was mistaken. I looked into her eyes and her disappointment. I wish that I could have given her that pair of shoes or had the ability to get something for her right then and there. As fate had it, I couldn't. It made me think of how fortunate we are, and how much God has given me.
In the end, everyone received a gift from us, and I hope it is serving them well in this cold weather.