All of my stories from inside the box are now out there. It’s done.
Visiting the National Training Center and embedding with 3rd Brigade is something I will never forget, and I will never forget the people that made it possible.
I have to give a big thanks to Killeen Daily Herald for sending me on a trip that not only was expensive, but left the newsroom short an editor/reporter for a week. I appreciate everyone in editorial back in Killeen for picking up my slack and editing my stories as they started arriving closer and closer to deadline.
At the 1st Cavalry Division, Lt. Col. Kirk Luedeke was the man who planted this crazy idea in my head and helped make it happen. Also at division, Lt. Col. Chip Daniels for facilitating interviews with senior leadership and Capt. Ulrich for a ride around Fort Irwin.
Thank you to Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi for inviting me out for my first ever ride in a Black Hawk and that was an experience I will never forget. Riding in a helicopter is nothing like riding in an airplane. It’s way cooler. The trip also gave me a chance to see parts of the box I would have never made it to otherwise.
I also have to give a shout out to Gus Bahena and Maj. Ray McCullough for getting me out to the box and providing me the gear I needed to stay warm. Maj. McCullough also went out of his way to come get me and bring me within wi-fi range to file a story one night. This trip also required he lead me “awkward-prom-date-style” through the eerie darkness that is the box after sundown. As I left the box, his wife baked me homemade brownies still warm from the oven and delivered them to my hotel. I wish I could say I cut them into squares and ate them in a lady-like manner, but then I’d be lying.
The soldiers and leadership of 1-12 Cav were gracious enough to let me spend some time with them and learn what life is like down on the front lines. I have a newfound respect for these soldiers ability to tough it out.
Alpha Company let me tag along on their mission and let me get a couple hours sleep in a Bradley. Thanks to Capt. Daniel Vallone for taking me in and to Spc. Frank Sullivan who let me talk his ear off for many, many hours while we were trapped in the back of the Bradley. I know adding an extra person with gear to the mission made it that much more difficult, but I appreciate everything. And if you find an extra pair of gloves in your vehicle, sir, those are mine.
Each night I spent at brigade’s main command post, I was saved from sleeping outside in the 30-degree temperatures, because of the kindness of leadership in Headquarters and Headquarters Troop. They showed mercy on this poor civilian and allowed me to sleep in the warmth of their mobile command post. They put up with my gear, my chatter and, from what I’m told, my snoring. They also stood guard one morning so I could change clothes. I never knew the true value of clean clothes until that morning.
And of course, none of my stories would have been possible without 3rd Brigade’s amazing public affairs team. Capt. Mike Stewart and Sgt. 1st Class Chris Bridson walked with me in circles it seemed to find people to interview for each of my stories. On to of that, they let me borrow everything from toilet paper to a red flashlight. They helped carry my gear when I moved locations and answered the millions of questions I asked. Spc. Nicole Estes and Sgt. Tanangachi Mfuni, from the MPAD, also helped me out. As the two women on the public affairs team, they escorted me to the port-a-potties after dark and followed me as I tracked down reception to send stories and photos back.
My trip would have been pretty miserable and my stories lacking had all these people not stepped up and helped me out.
If you ever need anything, seriously anything at all, call me. I definitely owe each of you a favor or two.