Volume 31 - No. 6

Sgt. Edward Moore of Charlie Company, 3-112th Field Artillery motions to a car at a checkpoint outside Patton Barracks in Heidelberg, Germany. Behind him is the Company Commander Maj. Robert Hughes.

New Jersey Guards Europe
Photos and story by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDMAVA/PA

Imagine being alerted and told you were deploying to Europe. Not bad, you say. But then imagine being told it would be for more than18 months, that you would be working with a large number of Soldiers from different units whom you’ve never met, that you would be cross-training as Military Police (MP) and that you would be utilizing these brand new skills in a country where you did not speak the language.

That’s exactly what happened to the 248 members of the 50th Brigade, New Jersey Army National Guard as they deployed to Germany and Italy to perform their newly acquired force protection
skills both on and off post.

“Going through a mobilization process for the first time is always a new thing,” says newly-promoted Maj. Robert Hughes, company commander of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery. “Transitioning to a new branch, a new job was something else. It took a little getting acclimated to, but the Army asked us to do a job, and we’re here to do it.”

Members of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery stand in formation outside their barracks in Heidelberg, Germany.

The Soldiers, who deployed under the flag of the 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery, were comprised of members of Alpha and Charlie companies, as well as volunteers from the 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry; 2nd Battalion, 113th Infantry; 2nd Battalion, 102nd
Armor; and the 5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry. There was also one Soldier from outside the brigade, who had already deployed to Iraq for a year with the 253rd Transportation Company.

“The majority are Artillerymen, with a mix of Cavalry, Tankers and Infantrymen, who were all trained and awarded the 31B MOS at Ft. Leonard Wood prior to the overseas deployment,” notes Command
Sgt. Maj. Thomas Slowinski, Battalion CSM of the 3-112th. “While some will opt to remain in the 31B (MOS) Military Police career field, many others will return to the Artillery or their original MOS, but all will have that second MOS.”

While performing in a brand new MOS has its challenges, the Soldiers on this deployment had their own unique situation, according to Spc. Brad Farmer, of Charlie Troop, 5-117th Cavalry, who was stationed with the 3-112th at Camp Darby, Italy.

Pfc. Robert Francis stands before 50th Brigade Commander Col. Frank Caruso moments before being promoted to specialist.

“At first it was pretty rough - the language barrier was one of the key factors in getting around,” noted Farmer.

The Pennsville, N.J. native added that the transition went well after the first thirty days as the unit learned the language and had additional training.

Spc. Robert Francis of Charlie Company, 3-112th, stationed in Vicenza, Italy, noted that while school training was one thing, the real world offered the chance to gain important knowledge about the job. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here, a lot of hands-on training, working the road,” commented Francis. “We learned a lot at Fort Leonard Wood, but we learned a lot more here, actually doing the job. The training was good, but it was a real kick in the butt when we came over here and had to do everything without the classroom setting.” Francis, a Union, New Jersey native who was recently promoted to specialist, particularly enjoyed working the school zones with the military dependent school children.

In addition to performing their MP mission, many of these NJ Guard Soldiers have had an opportunity to fulfill their Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course (BNCOC) requirement and two Soldiers even earned the Air Assault badge at the base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, according to Slowinski. “All told, the overall feeling was that these Soldiers are making the best of the year-long deployment.” Given all they have been through, their performance has been extraordinary, according to Maj. Bryant Albert, Alpha Company commander.

“What we’ve accomplished to date has been all about you guys,” Albert noted during his recent promotion ceremony.
“On a daily basis you guys have gone out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doing this job. Especially in the midnight hours, when you’re out there by yourself day in and day out. It gets quite boring sometimes, but that’s just when all hell breaks lose. Just keep doing the great job that you guys are doing, we’ll be out of here in a couple of months, and
hopefully it’s been a positive experience for everybody that’s been here.” His comments were reinforced by Provost
Marshall Lt. Col. Shawn T. Driscoll at Vicenza, Italy. "These guys are the professionals. They’re one hell of a unit. I’d sign them up here. They could fall in right under the Area Support Group or the garrison. They’re good Soldiers. I appreciate their work."

These “good” Soldiers will remain on duty in Europe for the next three months before returning home in the spring.

© 2006 - NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs