By Spc. Lee Elder
133d Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAQUBAH, Iraq, Jan. 13, 2006 -
He's worn many hats throughout his military and civilian life €“ college football player, undercover narcotics police officer, expert field medic and Emmy-winning sports television producer.
Now, Sgt. 1st Class Victor R. Fermin is playing yet another new role as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Public Affairs Office for the outgoing 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. While it's been a different assignment for him, it's one he has excelled at, said his supervisor, Maj. Steven Warren, public affairs officer.
"He single-handedly doubled the PAO shop's effectiveness and efficiency," Warren said. "He's a very dynamic leader, and he understands soldiers and soldiering."
Fermin came to the office by accident. An Army Reserve soldier with Company C, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion from Shoreham, N.Y., he deployed to Iraq last spring to serve as the unit's medical sergeant.
"We just get plugged in where we are the best fit," Fermin said. "They pulled me from my unit and put me in the PAO when they saw there was a need."
It's been the latest of many career changes for the 36-year-old native of New York City. The son of a Spanish father and a mother from the Dominican Republic, Fermin grew up playing football in high school and wanted to go to college to be a history teacher.
Fermin continued playing football while attending Iona College in his native city.
However, he didn't wind up in the classroom after his college studies were concluded.
"I come from a family of cops," Fermin said in his thick New York accent. "My father is a retired cop, my brother is a lieutenant and my other brother is coming up for sergeant."
By the time Fermin turned 21, he had completed the police academy and was walking a beat. He was on the fast track to becoming a detective.
"I really enjoyed the hell out of that job," Fermin said. "Then I got stabbed and shot at, and I got tired of seeing the ugly side of people."
It was then that Fermin left the police force and joined the Army Reserve in 1996.
"I was always fascinated by the Army," Fermin said. "I always wondered if I was up to the challenge."
Among Fermin's greatest challenges was earning the Expert Field Medical Badge. It's attained by passing a grueling regimen of tests and physical challenges that culminates with a timed 12-mile road march.
"I worked really hard to get a couple of my doctors to let them send me," Fermin said. "I'll never forget coming back from the march all sweaty and nasty telling them, €˜Look, I did it!'"
After completing his basic and individual training, Fermin returned home. With two young sons, he needed to find a new civilian career.
An old college friend of Fermin's was working at ESPN, the New York City-based sports cable network. He used his connection to secure an entry-level position there.
"A week later, I was working in their video archives logging videotape and putting in a computer database," Fermin said. "Then, I started taking editing classes."
From there, Fermin became an assistant director, then a director and later an assistant producer. He then moved up once more to become a producer for the network.
"I've always been a good guy at getting things done," Fermin said. "You make your name in the business by networking and doing good work.
"That's how your name gets spread around."
In 1997, Fermin and others conceived the idea of profiling some of the best-known competitors of the 20th Century. It was decided the series would be called "The Century's Greatest Athletes."
The series was finished in 1999 and aired later in the year. The following year, the television industry honored the series with the Emmy - the highest award. Fermin and 33 others shared the victory.
"The winners included writers, producers, directors and filmographers," Fermin said. "I think even a couple of gophers who were dedicated to the project won awards."
Fermin said he loves working for the network. His coworkers also have been very supportive of his military career, which is helpful since he has mobilized three times during the past four years.
"They are always taking care of me," Fermin said. "They gave me a big sendoff and they are always sending me boxes full of stuff."
Fermin said he regularly receives magazines, books, football jerseys, baseball caps and other sports memorabilia from his civilian coworkers. Two days before his interview, he got another big package from his friends.
"I'm still getting stuff," Fermin said smiling.
As he prepares for a new role here during the final months of his tour, Fermin has enjoyed learning about the Army's public affairs operation. He said it has a long way to go until it can compete with its civilian counterparts.
"The most challenging part is the logistics of getting people out to cover the stories," Fermin said. "You don't just go call up a travel agent."
Warren, who is also prepared to depart the theater, said Fermin's success is due to his focus on mission accomplishment.
"Whether it's infantry, medical or public affairs, he knows it's all about accomplishing the mission," Warren said. "He came in and was able to get our soldiers to operate more efficiently."
By Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander
2nd Marine Division
CAMP AL QA'IM, Iraq, Jan. 12, 2006 -
It can be said communications is one of the central ingredients of modern combat operations in Iraq. Marines must be able to communicate with one another through the use of secure technology in order to plan, coordinate and execute missions vital to the success of the overall mission here.
This is where Sgt. Leonard C. Murray, tactical data networker and data chief, Communications Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, comes in.
[caption id="attachment_3181" align="alignleft" width="304"] Chicago native Sgt. Leonard C. Murray, data section chief with Communications Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, sits at his usual post -- behind the computer screen. Murray is in charge of the various networks Marines use aboard Camp Al Qa'im. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander[/caption]
Working with a team of eight Marines, Murray's responsibility is management of the communications networks on Camp Al Qa'im and various battle positions Marines of the battalion operate from.
"I'm in charge of various networks to include NIPR, SIPR and the EPLARS," said the 33-year-old native of Chicago', referring to the internet protocol routing network, the secure internet protocol routing network and the enhanced position and locating reporting system.Working with a team of eight Marines, Murray's responsibility is management of the communications networks on Camp Al Qa'im and various battle positions Marines of the battalion operate from.
"We build it as we go and it's constantly growing," Murray said. "We have to run the wire and have to monitor it."
His job also takes him out of Camp Al Qa'im. On a routine basis, Murray and the Marines under his charge head out to the various battle positions to install and troubleshoot the Enhanced Precision Locating And Reporting System.
"The EPLARS is a redundant link between the (battle positions) and the headquarters," said Murray. "They have the ability to call in (medical evacuations) and other reports over it."
The job, however, is not without its challenges.
"The biggest thing is the training of my Marines to be proficient in the gear we use out here," he said.
Added to this challenge is the fact that Murray originally started out in the Marine Corps as a machine-gunner.
"I went to the school, but out here it's been kind of a €˜learn-as-you-go' sort of thing," he said.
Murray doesn't let this affect him, however.
"Success comes to those who become success conscious," he stated.
According to Murray, the civilian equivalent of his job and responsibilities is that of a corporate network administrator, which has a salary anywhere from $60,000 up to $150,000.
So why does Murray stay a Marine?
"I love being a Marine because here I get to do this job in a combat environment," he said. "It's all about the uniform; I couldn't see myself in a suit and tie."
By Staff Sgt. Kevin Nichols
U.S. Central Command Air Forces News Team
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq, Jan. 11, 2006 - If a picture can say a thousand words, Staff Sgt. Bonnie McKinley's picture of herself would tell you of a time when she, at 5-foot-4-inches and 25 years old, weighed 215 pounds, putting her at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Not to mention, her Air Force career was in jeopardy.
She did something about it. She signed up for yoga.
When the Air Force mandated that she increase her exercise routine, she decided to try yoga because it had always interested her.
[caption id="attachment_3184" align="alignleft" width="304"] U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bonnie McKinley leads a yoga class during a break in her 15-hour shift at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base, Iraq. The 5-foot-4-inch respiratory therapist with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group weighs 140 pounds. But, a few years ago, she weighed 215 pounds. She attributes her weight loss and fitness increase to the practice of yoga and a healthy diet. She is deployed from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung[/caption]
"I fell in love with it from the beginning," said McKinley, a respiratory therapist at the Air Force Theater Hospital here.
Now 75 pounds lighter, she helps patients in the intensive care unit breathe a little easier. She loved yoga so much that she stuck with it and received a teaching license. Now, in a little room outside the hospital, she teaches medics and others here willing to give yoga a try."I fell in love with it from the beginning," said McKinley, a respiratory therapist at the Air Force Theater Hospital here.
"(Before the room was here) we'd get together and talk about exercising -- how difficult it was to get to sometimes after work," said McKinley who is deployed from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
McKinley decided to multipurpose a tent used for watching movies. She sent out an e-mail to see if anyone was interested in learning yoga and got a great response.
Her "fat picture," as she calls it, has become a centerpiece of her life now. It is a constant reminder of what she has lost and what she has gained.
"Have you seen my fat picture?" she asks co-workers. "I never want to be that unhealthy again."
Not only has she lost the weight, but she can now run six miles and teach an hour of yoga afterward.
Support Our Troops, Inc., announces the seminal member of its Heroes Board: The Honorable Sonny Montgomery. - Daytona Beach, FL, January 10, 2006
(Note: Sonny Montgomery passed on May 12, 2006 and his listing is continued posthumously on the Heroes Board of Support Our Troops®).
Support Our Troops, Inc. is proud and honored to announce that the Honorable Sonny Montgomery, has become the first member of its newly-created Heroes Board.
"We are absolutely humbled at Sonny's recognition of what we are building, and his pitching in with us to help build it,"said Hayes Dent, for Support Our Troops, Inc.
For Release 9 a.m. EDT, January 10, 2006
Because Support Our Troops is rapidly becoming a major and permanent national charity, it established the Heroes Board for guidance.
As Support Our Troops Chairman Martin C. Boire puts it, "every successful great project has Mentors who provide invaluable guidance, have charted the course before, know how to avoid the shoals, where lies the fairest wind, and which ships are friendly. These mentors are the people who are able to make good things happen quickly.
From Homers' Odyssey in antiquity to the present, these keystone individuals are those who provide wise advice, build bridges, locate funding, make connections and open doors to make great things happen for good causes. The Heroes Board will comprise just such magnanimous individuals, who will offer their wisdom to assist the greater good, and are shepherding this project to success for the benefit of America's troops and their families.
The directors of Support Our Troops are fortunate enough to benefit from their wisdom, advice and counsel." more Sonny Montgomery's sanction and involvement will enable Support Our Troops to move quickly for the troops and their families. Founded by civilians Support Our Troops, Inc. is a nationwide charity based in Daytona Beach, on a mission to bolster the families of our neighbors who are working daily to protect all the rest of us. SOT is doing this through the sale of DMV-issued official Support Our Troops specialty license plates in each state, an apparel and accessory line, various patriotic merchandise (stickers, pins, flags, ribbons and so forth) both online and at retail venues across the United States, and most recently, through the of Support Our Troops Custom Harley-Chopper 2006 Raffle.
Funds from these activities will help keep the troops' families intact while their parent(s) are engaged in protecting our families, whether it is a peacekeeping mission, a war, or a hurricane, flood, or other disaster. It is going to help pay for education, medical, home needs, emergency transportation, and the like -- the kinds of things that dad or mom could do if they were home. Sonny expressed his decision to help build the program thusly:
"I am quite impressed with the concept of Support Our Troops, Inc. and the rapid progress that has been made on the foundation's stated mission. I believe the philosophy, guiding principles and method of operation that has been laid out is right on target and will certainly prove to be of great benefit to the type of military families it targets to support."
Gillespie V. "Sonny" Montgomery was born in Meridian, Mississippi on August 5, 1920. He attended public schools in Meridian.
His father died when Sonny was about 12 years old and he remained in the public schools through the ninth grade. One of his aunts saw much promise in him and provided so that he could attend and graduate from The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. From McCallie, Sonny enrolled at Mississippi State College (now Mississippi State University) located in Starkville, Mississippi where his great grandfather, W.B. Montgomery had provided some land for a portion of the original campus and had served as one of the first trustees of the school.
Sonny Montgomery was well known on campus and excelled in every endeavor, including ROTC, President of Student Government and membership in Kappa Alpha Order. For Release 9 a.m. EDT, January 10, 2006 more Graduating in 1943, Sonny was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served on active duty in the European Theater, where he earned the Combat Infantryman Badge and was awarded the Bronze Star w/V devise.
After WW II, he returned to Meridian and engaged in business and was a leader in establishing a Mississippi National Guard unit in Meridian. He was later called to active duty with the National Guard during the Korean Conflict. He then was elected to the State Senate and served for 10 years, never missing a roll call vote. In 1967, G.V.
Sonny Montgomery was sworn into the U.S. Congress as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. On that day, he and George H.W. Bush began their congressional service as freshmen, standing side by side while taking the oath and have remained very close friends ever since. During his thirty years of congressional service, 1967 - 1997,
Sonny became the Champion of the Veterans of this country and was instrumental in the establishment of the volunteer armed forces through his untiring efforts to revamp and enhance veteran educational benefits through what came to be known as the Montgomery G.I. Bill. In joining the Board of Advisors, Sonny wrote,
"Support Our Troops has a truly bold vision of good things planned for our troops and their families over the next century, and I wholeheartedly endorse these efforts and encourage others to work with you and the board as well. This is a civilian organization involved in a major effort to forever put the civilians of our great nation behind their troops. I think it is a healthy thing for civilian run organizations to be openly behind their troops, because such an effort cannot be accomplished by government agencies, veteran groups or even the military itself with the same efficiency, responsiveness, and enthusiasm as a private organization can provide. Civilians are best suited to motivating other civilians for the sake of our troops and veterans. Support Our Troops, Inc., is well-organized, includes veterans in its management, and I am well acquainted with the trustworthiness of people in it."
After his retirement from the U.S. Congress in 1997, Sonny remained in Washington to continue to work on Capitol Hill in the area of national defense. He also For Release 9 a.m. EDT, January 10, 2006 more retired from the Mississippi National Guard at the rank of Major General. In 2004, he retired to his hometown, Meridian, Mississippi.
On November 9, 2005, G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, in a ceremony at The White House --the highest award that can be received by a civilian -- a fitting tribute to a Great American. Sonny summarized his motivation in joining the Support Our Troops Heroes Board as follows:
"I believe that in the end SOT's programs will augment the Montgomery G.I. Bill and other such military assistance packages in a very substantial and flexible way."
And he concluded with this prediction and a personal call to action:
"In my opinion, the accomplishment of the mission of Support Our Troops will also do tremendous good for those who protect this great nation. It is my hope that Legislators all across America will do everything they can to help Support Our Troops accomplish its innovative goals, and that civilians and the great businesses and corporations of America will help Support Our Troops build a truly great national charity for our troops and their families."
"What a truly great man", said Martin Boire, "the veteran's veteran, the man who works tirelessly to look out for those who look out for us. And for him to put in with us on this great American adventure calls us to an even higher level of service and honor. We are thankful and humbled that this titan of soldiers' rights and benefits recognized what we are creating and volunteered to help us in make it happen for America's troops and their families. With men like him, we can only do great things, and we look forward to working with him."
Sonny Montgomery's acceptance letter is attached.
Learn more about Support Our Troops, inc. at www.SupportOurTroops.org.
For Release 9 a.m. EDT, January 10, 2006 more Honorable G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Meridian, MS,
Postscript May, 2006 "" Sonny passed on May 12, 2006.
Death of G. V. Sonny Montgomery A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America President and Mrs. Bush
Saddened by Death of Sonny Montgomery As a mark of respect for the memory of G. V. Sonny Montgomery, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, that on the day of his interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on such day.
I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirtieth.
GEORGE W. BUSH
For Release 9 a.m. EDT, January 10, 2006
By Cpl. Adam C. Schnell
2nd Marine Division
HADITHA DAM, Iraq, Jan. 10, 2006 - When Staff Sgt. Barrett A. Kahl was a recruiter in South Boston, Va., he talked with prospective enlistees about the Marine Corps being the smallest, yet most respected organization in the U.S. military.
Little did he know that one day those words would apply in his own life when he got the chance to reminisce with one of his recruits while deployed to Iraq.
[caption id="attachment_3188" align="alignleft" width="306"] U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Barrett A Kahl, a former recruiter, and Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Fallen, Kahl's former recruit are stationed at the same base in Iraq. The two got a chance to reminisce recently during their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Barrett A. Kahl[/caption]
"I saw him here one day standing in the chow line," said Kahl, a native of Jarrettsville, Md. "It was weird how we were stationed at the same base in Iraq."
His former recruit, Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Fallen of Halifax, Va., is also serving here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While Fallen works as a machine gunner for the Dam Security Unit attached to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Kahl makes sure the DSU and other units attached to the battalion receive the food that keeps them going."I saw him here one day standing in the chow line," said Kahl, a native of Jarrettsville, Md. "It was weird how we were stationed at the same base in Iraq."
"I knew I would see him out here once he was done with recruiting duty," said 21-year-old Fallen.
In early 2003, Kahl first met Fallen and knew he was different than other future Marines. Graduating in the top five in his class at Halifax County High School, Fallen could have been accepted to any college but instead chose to go into the Marine Corps.
"Since I've known him, he has always had a lot of heart," Kahl said. "Even out here, I see it because he volunteered to come out here when he didn't have to."
Like most recruiters and their enlistees, they keep in contact with their Marines once they graduate basic training and go on to their units. Fallen kept in touch with his recruiter all the way through his enlistment and showed up at Kahl's office each time he went home on vacation.
"When he got back from Iraq the first time, we got together and had dinner," said Kahl, a mess chief attached to the battalion. "We have done lots of things together since he enlisted in the delayed entry program." Before crossing paths in Iraq, the two were both stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Once again, they would run into each other on a regular basis much like they do now in Iraq.
"It is really nice seeing him out here," Kahl said. "He brings a little taste of home whenever I see him."
By Lance Cpl. Roger L. Nelson
Marine Corps Base Hawaii
KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii, Jan. 4, 2006 - Sgt. Russell L. Bridges, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Base Operations, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, said the events of his past have made him push to be a better person.
"I've been on my own since I was 14, because I was emancipated from my parents," said Bridges. "They had their problems and it wasn't a good environment for me, so my grandmother was given guardianship of me.
[caption id="attachment_3192" align="alignleft" width="304"] U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Russell D. Bridges, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, base operations, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, has been in the Marine Corps for more than seven years, said his grandfather -- a former military police officer during Vietnam -- was only family member who pushed him to join the military. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Roger L. Nelson[/caption]
"Growing up with my grandma, I was really allowed to do pretty much whatever I wanted, as long as I stayed out of trouble," said 26-year-old Bridges. "She worked full-time in order to make ends meet, but did a good job raising me."
As a junior in high school Bridges decided he wanted to join the military with his friends."Growing up with my grandma, I was really allowed to do pretty much whatever I wanted, as long as I stayed out of trouble," said 26-year-old Bridges. "She worked full-time in order to make ends meet, but did a good job raising me."
"I originally was going to join the Army because all of my friends were doing it," he said. "We were going to do the whole buddy system thing. One of my friends actually took me to the Marine recruiter, and when I was talking to him, he asked what I was doing next summer. I told him I was going to Army boot camp, and he said, €˜No you're not, you're going to Marine Corps boot camp,' and that's how I got to be where I am today."
Bridges enlisted in the Marine Corps as an engineer, going through boot camp at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot, Parris Island, S.C.
"My family was very supportive of my decision to join the military," said the native of Alton, Ill. "My grandma just wasn't thrilled that I chose the Marine Corps over the others, but still backed me. My grandfather served as a military police officer in the Air Force during Vietnam and retired as a senior enlisted, so he was really the only person who pushed me to join."
Bridges explained that a lot of his friends ended up being "grunts," but he was interested in demolition, which is why he joined as an engineer.
"I didn't like doing humps; but I loved demolition, so I knew it was for me," said Bridges. "I'm glad I chose it because I really like it, and it turned out to be really cool."
Bridges has been in the Marines for more than seven years and has been to many different places.
"Before I was in the military, the only place I had ever been to was Mexico - on a church trip," he said. "Since I've been in, I've been to Iraq, all over Europe, Spain, Italy, Jordan, Egypt, and a lot of other interesting places."
Bridges was in Operation Iraqi Freedom and returned to Hawaii in March. While deployed, his job billet was staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge for information operations.
"I volunteered to go to Iraq, so it was awkward. I was scared from time to time, but was never in an actual fire fight," Bridges said. "Our biggest threat was indirect fire. You would hear bombs going off in the distance and then they would stop, so you would have no clue where the next one is going to go off."
He said that if it were up to him, he would not like to be deployed again, but wouldn't mind if he had to go.
"Everybody asks if it's a different lifestyle in Iraq," said Bridges. "They have their good and bad people there."
Bridges said that he is unsure as to what the future holds for him, but believes he will want to retire from the Marine Corps.
"As it looks now I'm going to do my 20 years and retire," he said. "But it's hard to say what's going to happen in the future. If I do decide to get out, I'd be interested in being on a special weapons and tactics team somewhere."