Monthly Archives: June 2010

Hogg takes command of U.S. Army Africa

By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs

VICENZA, Italy – During a ceremony today at Caserma Ederle’s Hoekstra Field, Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg assumed command of U.S. Army Africa.

Gen. William E. Ward, commanding general of U.S. Africa Command presided over the ceremony, which signaled the departure of outgoing commander, Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III.

Hogg, who recently served as deputy commanding general of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, said he is delighted to become part of the Vicenza military community.

“After 29 years of service and six overseas assignments to include Germany, Panama and Belgium, this is our first opportunity to be in Italy,” Hogg said. “We are absolutely thrilled to be here.”

Hogg said he is excited to be a part of U.S. Army Africa, the Army’s newest service component command, challenged with developing relationships with land forces in Africa and supporting U.S. Army efforts on the African continent.

Ward reminded the crowd that U.S. Army Africa has accomplished some great things since Dec. 2008, when it began its transformation to becoming the Army service component command for U.S. Africa Command.

“In that short time, the command has formed, grown, and matured into an active and effective outfit and has established strong strategic relationships with the ground forces in Africa,” Ward said. “U.S. Army Africa not only succeeded, they excelled. In fact, they thrived on the opportunities they were given.”

Garrett took command of the Southern European Task Force in 2008. He commanded SETAF throughout its transformation to U.S. Army Africa. Garrett now heads to Iraq, where he will serve as the chief of staff, U.S. Forces Iraq.

“We look forward to building upon the systems that Maj. Gen. Garrett and Mrs. Garrett have developed,” Hogg said. “We are truly thankful for the warm welcome that we have received from the community and, especially, the Garretts.”

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Tunisia Staff Ride – U.S. Army Africa Soldiers apply WWII North Africa campaign lessons to current mission – May 2010

U.S. Army Africa Soldiers apply lessons of WWII to current mission

By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa

KAIROUAN, Tunisia – Col. Stephen Mariano looked down into a foxhole carved atop a rocky hill top near El Guettar, where in March 1943, troops from U.S. Army II Corps battled German panzers.

Nearby, retired Army Col. Len Fullenkamp conjured tales of U.S. Army Rangers under Lt. Col. William Darby marching through darkness along a nearby ridge to surprise sleeping enemy infantrymen with fixed bayonets. Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division hacked fighting positions from solid rock as enemy tanks rumbled into the valley. U.S. Army artillery units skimmed shells across the desert at approaching German armor.

Mariano began to wonder, “Had my grandfather dug one of these foxholes? Was his artillery position somewhere nearby? Did he fire on Germans coming through this gap?”

Mariano, 45, of Redlands, Calif., was among several U.S. Army Africa officers who took part in a four-day “staff ride,” – onsite discussions of Tunisia’s World War II battlefields geared toward finding insights into U.S. Army Africa’s present challenge – building cooperative relationships with African land forces to increase security, stability and peace in the region.

For more information, go to: http://www.usaraf.army.mil

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AUSA Medical Symposium, San Antonio, Texas

Medical professionals discuss U.S. Army Africa’s role at annual symposium

By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa

VICENZA, Italy – As Col. Alfonso Alarcon stood before his medical colleagues at the Association of the United States Army medical symposium held this May in San Antonio, Texas, he discussed U.S. Army Africa’s role in supporting medical missions on the African continent.

Many were hearing about the command for the first time.

“There was tremendous interest expressed both at our exhibit booth and during breakout sessions,” said Alarcon, U.S. Army Africa’s senior medical officer. “This symposium was an opportunity to reinforce our message to senior Army medical leaders that Army medical personnel will play a key role in U.S. Army Africa’s future success.”

For more information go to: http://www.usaraf.army.mil

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Memorial Day Ceremony – North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial – May 31, 2010

All gave some, some gave all: U.S. Army Africa Soldiers honor World War II fallen during North Africa Memorial Day ceremony

By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa

TUNIS, Tunisia – As the lonely sound of “Taps” drifted over 2,833 bleached-white headstones Monday, dozens of U.S. Army Africa Soldiers raised their hands in salute at the North Africa American Cemetery.

They were among a group of U.S. service members who traveled to the cemetery to honor the fallen, men who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the North Africa campaign in World War II.

For U.S. Army Africa Soldiers, the Memorial Day service was the culmination of a four-day journey through Tunisia’s World War II battlefields.

For more information, go to http://www.usaraf.army.mil

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All gave some, some gave all: U.S. Army Africa Soldiers honor World War II fallen during North Africa Memorial Day ceremony

By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa

TUNIS, Tunisia – As the lonely sound of “Taps” drifted over 2,833 bleached-white headstones Monday, dozens of U.S. Army Africa Soldiers raised their hands in salute at the North African American Cemetery.

They were among a group of U.S. service members who traveled to the cemetery to honor the fallen, men who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the North African campaign in World War II.

The ceremony began with a prayer and remarks from Hon. Gordon Gray, U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia. Then Gen. William E. Ward, commander, U.S. Africa Command, stepped to the podium echoing the words of Gen. Omar Bradley, who led U.S. Army II Corps in North Africa.

“We are given one life. The decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act… and in acting, to live,” Ward said. “Those whom we honor today certainly embody this sentiment. The results of their sacrifice live within us and in our way of life.”

Wreaths were laid, anthems played and salutes rendered. But the most moving part of the event followed the ceremony, when U.S. service members fanned out among the seemingly endless rows of white markers.

A strong Mediterranean breeze caught the huge U.S. flag hung at half staff. Tiny American flags next to each grave marker fluttered. Single roses, wilted from the hot Tunisian sun, marked headstones of the unknown that read, “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”

In all, there are 2,841 burials in the cemetery, to included 240 unknowns. Amid the graves are fountains surrounded by flowers, where Soldiers sat to contemplate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom.

“This should be the first stop for any American planning to visit Tunisia,” said Maj. Philip Archer, a U.S. Army Africa officer who plans the command’s partnership engagements in North Africa. “This is a solemn place.”

For U.S. Army Africa Soldiers, the Memorial Day service was the culmination of a four-day journey through Tunisia’s World War II battlefields.

In late-1942, U.S. forces landed in North Africa with British troops. Their first fights were with Vichy French units, who later joined the Allied cause. Together, they pushed east into Tunisia, where they clashed with German and Italian troops among craggy, cactus-covered hills and washed out wadis.

The battles that followed were retold in detail by Rick Atkinson in his book “An Army at Dawn,” a historical novel that brought the ghosts of the winter of 1943 to life during U.S. Army Africa’s staff ride, dubbed “Lion Torch.”

Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa and roughly 30 members of his staff made visits to places of Army legend, such as El Guettar, Longstop Hill and Kasserine Pass. They also paid respects at the resting place of French and British Commonwealth troops who died during the North African campaign.

Retired Army Col. Len Fullenkamp, who guided U.S. Army Africa’s staff ride, said discussions touched on the human dimension of war and the human costs of war.

“When we walk through a cemetery, stop at a marker and read the name of the Soldier, you make a connection. You read out loud the date he was killed and make a connection with a particular battle,” Fullenkamp said. “But there’s also a silent communication between the Soldier living and Soldier dead that is so powerful it reduces grown men to tears.”

Col. Bill Phillips, U.S. Army Africa’s chaplain, walked along the 364-foot limestone wall listing the 3,724 names of those whose remains were buried at sea or never found.

“There are more lost and unknown than there are headstones here,” Phillips said. “That really hit me.”

Phillips also thought of his visit to Hill 609, where the 34th Infantry Division fought in the final days of combat in Tunisia.

“We stood at the foot of the hill looking up, thinking about how they fought their way to the top, now we are here where many of them are laid to rest,” Phillips said. “It’s overwhelming.”

Nearby, Sheila Perks, a Wisconsin-native whose husband works in Tunisia, walked with her daughters Holly, 6, and Lauren, 4. The girls curiously ducked between headstones, asking questions about the men who died.

They wondered why the grave marker of Pvt. Nicholas Minue has a gold star and gold lettering. Minue, a 1st Armored Division Soldier, was awarded the Medal of Honor after braving machine gun fire to charge the enemy with a fixed bayonet. Perks, who thought it was important to bring children to such a place, especially on Memorial Day, spoke to the girls in a way anyone could understand.

“I explained to them, this is why we have our freedom,” Perks said. “These men did not die for you, they lived for you.”

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