27th Brigade females making a difference

I am so glad to see my old Brigade, the 27th “Orion” Brigade Combat Team, is in the news for thinking outside the box and using everything in their tool-box to make a difference on their next tour.

I was in the 27th when I deployed in 2006 as my team was sort of a forward recon party for the Brigade’s deployment that happened in 2008-2009. In fact because I knew my son would be deploying with the Brigade in 2008, I wanted to deploy earlier so we both would not both be gone at the same time.

Now hear it is a meager 2 1/2 years after the Brigade got back from Afghanistan and here they are getting ready to go back. Amazing that once again a bunch of citizen-soldiers are stepping away from families, friends, loved-ones, and jobs to go back into the country of Afghanistan in order to make a difference.

But this time they are doing something a little different, and that is creating special teams of Females. These Female Engagement Teams (FET) made up of Forty or so women will engage women of Afghanistan to help bridge the gap in culture. There have been some of these FETs already deployed by the Marines and I think some Army units and from what I have heard, they have made a difference and done well.

Lets hope that the 27th FETs can do the same thing and leave Afghanistan and its people a little better off when they leave then when they get there.

An Albany woman who graduated with a master’s degree from Harvard University and once taught English in South Korea will coordinate a new U.S. military effort to reach out to women in Afghanistan.

The New York National Guard recently tapped 2nd Lt. Dawn Hersey, 30, to manage its two new Female Engagement Teams, which will mobilize for Afghanistan with the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in November. The 40 or so Guardswomen from New York will serve as cultural mediators to Afghan women, to whom male soldiers are not permitted to speak because of the country’s traditional customs.

The engagement teams will attach to combat units. They will meet with women in Afghanistan to build trust, glean intelligence and improve relations.

The challenge appears to be a good fit for Hersey, an Ivy League intellectual with sky-blue eyes who listens intently and answers questions forthrightly. She joined the military later than most because she wanted to lead soldiers in combat and someday take that experience into classrooms as a college professor.

“I always wanted to feel what I am doing has meaning,” Hersey said in a recent interview. “This is something in which I think I can make a real impact.”

Female soldiers can attach to, but not be assigned to, military combat units. Female Engagement Teams were introduced by the Marines in 2009. The groups bring female troops into war zones.

The National Guard women will accompany male soldiers during raids and other missions in which Americans segregate Afghan men from women and children for questioning. It will be during such information-gathering that the female soldiers will meet with Afghan women and children to try to build relationships and direct them to resources like health care. While officers used to peel female mechanics and drivers from their military jobs to accompany them on combat missions, the 27th BCT’s Female Engagement Team represents the first time in which National Guard women will concentrate solely on reaching Afghan women.

Read the whole story at http://www.military.com/news/article/soldiers-train-to-work-with-afghan-women.html

Next National Guard units to deploy is official

The 27th is my old brigade that and the home to many friends, old Army buddies and soldiers whom I used to lead but are now leaders themselves. It is the Brigade my son deployed with in 2008-2009. Now here it is 2011 and they are going again. Boy we ask a lot of our citizen-soldiers.

DOD Identifies Units for Upcoming Afghanistan and Kuwait Rotation

The Department of Defense announced today the alert of two units to deploy as part of upcoming rotations of forces operating in Afghanistan and Kuwait. The scheduled rotation for these replacement forces will begin in early 2012.

The announcement involves two Army National Guard brigade combat teams totaling approximately 7,520 personnel.

Specific units:

27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York National Guard

55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Pennsylvania National Guard

The 27th IBCT is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan to perform security force assistance, and the 55th HBCT is scheduled to deploy to Kuwait to provide force protection and convoy security.


New York Soldier remembered at portrait presentation ceremony

By Lt. Col. Paul Fanning

JAMAICA ARMORY, QUEENS — A painted portrait of the late New York Army National Guard Sergeant First Class Joseph McKay of Queens was presented to his family at a special ceremony at the Jamaica Armory on Friday, 10 July.

Mrs. Rose McKay and members of the McKay family were joined by friends and dozens of Soldiers of the 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery, for a special presentation and remembrance.

“That’s my Joseph,” said Rose as looked on the painting through tear-filled eyes with her son Shane, age 15 and daughter Tanisha, age 23. “Thank you. This means so much to us,” she said.

Joseph McKay was among 1700 members of the New York National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team that were mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 as Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII. Sergeant First Class McKay, Specialist Mark Palmateer from Poughkeepsie and Sergeant First Class Matthew Hilton of Livonia, Michigan were killed in an ambush on their convoy on June 26th 2008 when an Improvised Explosive Device struck their vehicle in Eastern, Afghanistan.

McKay was a career New York National Guard Soldier who first joined in 1977 and served continuously until his death last year. He was a naturalized American citizen from Guyana, South America and lived with his wife and two children in Queens. He was called to State Active Duty following the 9-11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and continued to serve as a volunteer with the Guard’s Task Force Empire Shield providing security support to the civil authorities at New York City’s airports, train stations and other sites until his mobilization and deployment last year for Afghanistan.

Texas artist Phil Taylor and his wife Lisa of the American Fallen Soldiers Project came to New York to personally present the portrait to the family. At the family’s request, a ceremony was organized at McKay’s former armory so that friends and fellow soldiers could attend.

The American Fallen Soldiers Project is a 501© 3 non-profit organization committed to honoring the memory of fallen military personnel by presenting the next of kin with custom portraits of their late loved one at no cost. The project is supported by American Airlines which transports the portraits and the artist free of charge from Texas to locations around the country for in-person presentations. For more information go to www.americanfallensoldiers.com

Portrait Presentation

Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion 258th Field Artillery join the family in a group photo.

Good story on a good friend

My good friend and sometimes contributing blogger, LTC Paul Fanning was recently profiled in the Schenectady, NY Daily Gazette. Paul is the NY State Public Affairs Officer and deployed to Afghanistan with the 27th BCT to serve as the Task Force Phoenix VII Public Affairs Officer.

“During his deployment, Fanning wrote a blog for The Daily Gazette. In 30 entries, he shared his impressions of daily life in Afghanistan and told stories about the soldiers. He said it’s difficult for people in the Capital Region to understand what’s going on in Afghanistan or how the U.S. military and National Guard are trying to rebuild the country, which is about the size of Texas.”

Read the whole story here, http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2009/jan/09/0109_fanning/

27th BCT 9/11 Memorial Video

The following video was released by the New York National Guard’s 27th BCT in honor of 9/11. The 27th BCT is currently in charge of Task Force Phoenix, which is overseeing the training of Afghanistan Army and Police on the front lines in Afghanistan.

COL Brian Balfe is the person talking with members of the Task Force behind him.