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5 Things You May Have Missed in the Homeland Security Reauthorization Bill

The Homeland Security Department must launch a program offering cash rewards for hackable computer vulnerabilities discovered by non-government researchers under a reauthorization bill a Senate committee advanced last week.

The program, known as a bug bounty, would be limited to the department’s public-facing apps, websites and web tools, according to an amendment[1] to the reauthorization bill[2] the Senate Homeland Security Committee forwarded March 7.

The amendment, which was adopted on a voice vote, was sponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who also sponsored a standalone version of the bug bounty bill that the committee passed[3] in October.

Bug bounties are increasingly prevalent among major tech firms, such as Google and Microsoft, but are less common in government. The Pentagon, Army and Air Force have all run pilot bug bounties in recent years, but the civilian government has been more wary of the programs.

The amendment provides $250,000 to carry out the bug bounty program and requires a report to Congress six months later about who participated in the program, what they found and how much Homeland Security paid out for vulnerabilities

The bug bounty provision was not included in a House version of the reauthorization bill, which passed[4] that chamber in December, though a standalone version[5] of the plan was introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.

Cyber R&D Back to S&T

A separate amendment[6] to the Senate reauthorization bill would return authority for Homeland Security’s cybersecurity research and development programs to the department’s science and technology division.

The Trump administration shifted[7] that responsibility in its most recent budget proposal to the department’s cyber operations agency.

The move followed complaints that the Science and Technology Directorate’s cyber research was not closely aligned enough with the department’s immediate cybersecurity concerns.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., specifies major focus areas for the department’s cyber research, including cyber defense technologies, advanced encryption tools and ways to monitor systems for insider threats.

CISA’s on a Roll

In general, the Senate version of the reauthorization bill, sponsored by Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and ranking member Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., wraps in more priorities, while the House version is more pared back.

A proposal to elevate and rename the department’s main cyber division, for example, was included in the Senate legislation but not in the House where it passed as a standalone bill.

Both the House and Senate versions of that provision would rename the division that’s currently called the National Protection and Programs Directorate, or NPPD, as the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA.

That agency would have a director who reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security and assistant directors for cybersecurity and infrastructure security.

The Senate bill mandates a report from CISA within six months about the most efficient and effective way for the new agency to consolidate its facilities, personnel and programs.

A separate report, due within three months, would focus on how the agency is filling its cyber workforce needs.

The bill also mandates a privacy officer at CISA who’s responsible, among other things, for “ensuring that the use of technologies by the agency sustain, and do not erode, privacy protections relating to the use, collection, and disclosure of personal information.”

If a compromise version of the reauthorization bills becomes law it will mark the first time Homeland Security’s work has been codified in statute since the department was formed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Let’s Form a Commission

The Senate version of the reauthorization bill also breaks with its House counterpart by appointing a congressional commission to explore ways to pare back the morass of overlapping congressional committees that Homeland Security agencies must report to.

That complicated oversight structure is largely a result of Homeland Security’s ad hoc composition out of existing divisions and offices moved from other federal agencies.  

Johnson championed[8] the idea of a congressional commission early in the reauthorizing process and the idea was largely supported by Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

As described in the Senate bill, the commission would include six members—three Republicans and three Democrats—who would provide recommendations for reforming the department’s congressional reporting lines within nine months.

The commission would be able to hire staff and consultants and hold hearings with funding provided by Homeland Security. That funding could not exceed $1 million, according to the bill.

Commission members would be appointed two each by the Senate majority and minority leaders and one each by the House majority and minority leaders. All recommendations would require a majority vote of commissioners before being included in the final report.

Cloud Security as a Service

The Senate bill also mandates a report within four months on how Homeland Security is helping other civilian agencies ensure the cybersecurity of their computer cloud-based systems.

That report must include a briefing on the department’s efforts to provide “security operations center as a service” to agencies that lack the resources or expertise to manage their own security operations centers, or SOCs. SOCs are essentially central command centers where an organization evaluates and responds to cyber threats.

A group of technology advisers to the White House urged Homeland Security to consider developing such services in a December report[9].

The report must also focus on how Homeland Security is helping agencies buy commercial SOC services and how it’s adapting its Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program—essentially a suite of cybersecurity services the department provides to other agencies—for the cloud era.

Other provisions in the Senate reauthorization bill would:

  • Order a report within three months on U.S. cooperative efforts with China to combat illegal opioids shipments, including through dark web drug markets.
  • Order a report within four months on results, obstacles and future plans for cybersecurity grant funds provided by the department.
  • Establish a cyber workforce exchange[10] between Homeland Security and the private sector.
  • Require better communication between department divisions about contractors that have been barred or suspended from receiving federal contracts.
  • Urge the department to share as much unclassified cyber threat information as possible with state, local and tribal governments.
  • Require a report within six months on possible dangers of blockchain technology, including the possibility of individuals and nations using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to fund terrorist groups.  
  • Offer cash rewards to Homeland Security employees who report waste, fraud and abuse to government watchdogs.
  • Order a report from the department’s chief human capital officer on possible improvements to a Homeland Security career rotation program that’s meant to help employees broaden their experience and expertise.

References

  1. ^ amendment (www.nextgov.com)
  2. ^ reauthorization bill (www.nextgov.com)
  3. ^ passed (www.hassan.senate.gov)
  4. ^ passed (www.nextgov.com)
  5. ^ version (www.congress.gov)
  6. ^ amendment (www.nextgov.com)
  7. ^ shifted (www.nextgov.com)
  8. ^ championed (www.nextgov.com)
  9. ^ December report (itmodernization.cio.gov)
  10. ^ cyber workforce exchange (www.harris.senate.gov)
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Secretary of Homeland Security visits San Diego

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — A day before the President tours the border[1], a top member of his cabinet was in San Diego on Monday.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen spent the morning at the U.S. Coast Guard base.

It was Nielsen’s first visit to San Diego as Homeland Security Secretary. Not only did she speak to members of the Coast Guard, but she also went out on the water with them to see how they track down and stop illegal activity.

News 8 followed behind Nielsen as she got a first-hand look at the Coast Guard’s maritime security response team – one of just two specialized units in the United States.

Known as MSRT they respond to cases involving drug smuggling and illegal immigration, which may be the main reason behind the secretary’s last-minute visit.

It coincides with President Trump’s planned tour of the border wall prototypes on Tuesday.

Prior to being on the water, Nielsen was on board a helicopter taking a look at the prototypes herself.

Following her aerial tour, Nielsen addressed hundreds of coast guard members saying her first priority as Homeland Security Secretary is border security.

“True border security involves a wall system, which of course includes the physical infrastructure, but also mission-ready agents, patrol roads, sensor technology and support resources,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen told the crowd she’s also focused on encountering terrorism, preparing for natural disasters and combating cyber threats.

“A cyber-attack could in fact, today, have catastrophic effects on public health, safety, national security and our democracy,” Nielsen said.

She reiterated the importance of working together – that includes reaching across the aisle when it comes to immigration reform.

“That’s why we’re committed to working with Congress on both sides of the aisle,” said Nielsen. “This should not be a political issue to find legislative solutions to existing laws that are incompatible with public safety.”

The secretary spent the rest of her day meeting citizen immigration services. Tuesday, she will be with President Trump as he tours the border wall prototypes.

RELATED COVERAGE

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Xi Jinping's Military Might

Military delegates leave the Great Hall of the People after the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 5.

Military delegates leave the Great Hall of the People after the opening session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on March 5.


Photo:

nicolas asfouri/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

By

The Editorial Board

March 8, 2018 6:30 p.m. ET

The annual session of China’s rubber-stamp legislature opened this week, and Chinese Premier

Li Keqiang

announced an 8.1% increase in defense spending, the largest in three years. Lawmakers are expected to approve the military budget and constitutional changes to let supreme leader

Xi Jinping

serve as President indefinitely. All of this will amplify the angst in Asia about Beijing’s military buildup.

The budget of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) isn’t transparent, and the U.S. Defense Department estimates that spending is about 25% higher than Beijing’s figure. More important, Mr. Xi is remaking the military into an effective fighting force. Under previous leaders, the PLA became top-heavy with generals whose main mission was to line their own pockets. They padded the ranks with followers and offered promotions in return for bribes. An anticorruption campaign has netted 16 top generals in the past six years.

Mr. Xi has replaced them with loyalists, giving him the clout to reform the PLA. He replaced regional commands that were personal fiefdoms with theater commands that require the army, navy and air force to work together, much as the U.S. did after the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986. Beijing is reducing the military’s headcount and investing the savings in sophisticated weapons. Since 2015 the PLA has shed 300,000 troops. Instead of relying on human-wave attacks, it is racing the U.S. to develop artificial intelligence for the battlefield.

Under Mr. Xi the PLA is harassing U.S. forces in the international waters and airspace off China’s coast. Chinese vessels and aircraft are testing Japanese defenses around the disputed Senkaku Islands almost daily. Despite a promise by Mr. Xi that China would not militarize the seven artificial islands it reclaimed in the South China Sea, the PLA has built hangers for 72 fighter aircraft and 10 bombers.

Beijing is also stoking nationalism at home to an extent not seen since the death of

Mao Zedong.

Feature films such as “Wolf Warrior” show the PLA fighting abroad, while television documentaries extol the military’s reforms and growing strength. Mr. Xi’s “China Dream” slogan includes a “strong army dream,” and last year he reviewed troops on Army Day without other senior leaders present.

All of this raises questions about Mr. Xi’s intensions. The U.S. retains a military edge over China, but that is slipping as the PLA seeks to build a blue-water navy, and deploy weapons that could kill U.S. satellites and put American aircraft carriers at risk.

Mr. Xi’s predecessors also increased China’s military budget. But his success in amassing personal power and his record of using the PLA to intimidate neighbors mean his moves to build military might will be closely watched from Japan through the Straits of Malacca to the Indian Ocean. One lesson of history is that rising authoritarian powers often make the mistake of tempting conflict in the name of nationalist glory.

References

  1. ^ Biography (www.wsj.com)
  2. ^ @wsjopinion (twitter.com)
  3. ^ 5 COMMENTS (www.wsj.com)
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Finland develops 'bounding' mine as military deterrence

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland is developing a remotely-detonated mine designed to deter enemies with its “horror”, the country’s defense minister said on Thursday, referring to a device that springs into the air and fires projectiles at its target when triggered.

Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto meets the press to discuss topical security issues in Helsinki, Finland March 8, 2018, Lehtikuva/Emmi Korhonen/via REUTERS

Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto said the defense forces were developing the so-called bounding mine to replace landmines banned by a 1999 international treaty. Its main targets would be soldiers and vehicles.

“This is a remotely tripped explosive, which bounds in the air and fires steel or tungsten bullets downwards,” the minister told reporters.

“This gives quite a good regional effect and deterrence effect, the so called mine horror. This is being tested now.”

In 2011, Finland became the last European Union country to ratify the 1999 Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

Finland’s ratification has lately come in for criticism domestically from some Finns who argue landmines could be effective in defending the country’s long borders.

Finland shares a 1,340km (833 miles) border and a difficult history with Russia, and following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has stepped up military spending.

Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto meets the press to discuss topical security issues in Helsinki, Finland March 8, 2018, Lehtikuva/Emmi Korhonen/via REUTERS

Niinisto said he was not aware of a similar explosive being used somewhere else, and the Finnish weapon would always be fired by its operator.

According to the Ottawa Treaty, the launcher of such a mine must have direct visual contact with the location upon triggering it, a ministry official specified. The mines banned by the convention involve explosives set off by the proximity of, or contact with, the target.

“This is an explosive that fits well into the Finnish terrain… traditional mines explode upwards or sideways. This fires downwards, so it is more difficult to take cover from it,” Niinisto said.

He added that he had seen international interest for the weapon.

Niinisto, who considers the ratification of the Ottawa convention to have been a mistake, also said that Finland could relinquish the landmine ban during a crisis where “all agreements have become meaningless papers”.

Finland has compulsory military service for all men and it is one of six members of the EU that have not also joined NATO.

In recent years, however, it has forged closer ties with the Western military alliance, while stepping defense cooperation with other Nordic countries.

While backed by most countries, the Ottawa treaty has not been signed by a number of countries including the United States, China, India, and Russia.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, Editing by William Maclean

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
0

Alaska Troops Hold Annual Winter Games

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, March 6, 2018 —

As temperatures plummeted into the negative ’20s here, 17 teams of 10 soldiers each from across U.S. Army Alaska and the Canadian Army competed in a series of cold weather and mountainous warrior tasks Feb. 27-March 2. [1]

Team 15 from 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prevailed, scoring the highest point total.[2]

The annual U.S. Army Alaska Winter Games were held this year at the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area here. Events included a biathlon, a written test, ahkio — runnerless sledge towing — shooting on snowshoes, casualty evacuation and treatment, tent setup, downhill skiing, skijoring — which is skiing while pulled, in this case by a vehicle, but a horse or dog team can also be used — and land navigation.[3]

“It’s important because it helps individuals training on these specific events, that they can then take back to their units,” said Army 1st Lt. Michael McKeon, the winning team’s leader and a platoon leader with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Like for us, we’re the ski platoon for our troop, and we didn’t get really good at it until we trained for this competition,” he said. “Now, we’re excellent at skiing and can take that back to our unit.”

Building Arctic Skills

The games, as with any other military competition, serves a variety of purposes.

“This process started three-and-a-half to four months ago,” said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Rainsberger, the Arctic Warrior Games officer in charge and a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Events like this are extremely important for [U.S. Army Alaska] because one of the main things that the units up here focus on is Arctic mobility and Arctic skills,” Rainsberger said. “These events are an excellent way to train for that and to show how well your squad or your team is proficient at skiing, setting up 10-man tents and shooting in Arctic conditions under stress.”

“All the effort and the heart the teams put into practicing really shows the teams are competing,” he added. “The teams practice weeks and months before the event, and there’s a lot of camaraderie with those teams.”

References

  1. ^ U.S. Army Alaska (www.army.mil)
  2. ^ 25th Infantry Division (www.25idl.army.mil)
  3. ^ here (www.wainwright.army.mil)
0

Alaska Troops Hold Annual Winter Games

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, March 6, 2018 —

As temperatures plummeted into the negative ’20s here, 17 teams of 10 soldiers each from across U.S. Army Alaska and the Canadian Army competed in a series of cold weather and mountainous warrior tasks Feb. 27-March 2. [1]

Team 15 from 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prevailed, scoring the highest point total.[2]

The annual U.S. Army Alaska Winter Games were held this year at the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area here. Events included a biathlon, a written test, ahkio — runnerless sledge towing — shooting on snowshoes, casualty evacuation and treatment, tent setup, downhill skiing, skijoring — which is skiing while pulled, in this case by a vehicle, but a horse or dog team can also be used — and land navigation.[3]

“It’s important because it helps individuals training on these specific events, that they can then take back to their units,” said Army 1st Lt. Michael McKeon, the winning team’s leader and a platoon leader with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Like for us, we’re the ski platoon for our troop, and we didn’t get really good at it until we trained for this competition,” he said. “Now, we’re excellent at skiing and can take that back to our unit.”

Building Arctic Skills

The games, as with any other military competition, serves a variety of purposes.

“This process started three-and-a-half to four months ago,” said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Rainsberger, the Arctic Warrior Games officer in charge and a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Events like this are extremely important for [U.S. Army Alaska] because one of the main things that the units up here focus on is Arctic mobility and Arctic skills,” Rainsberger said. “These events are an excellent way to train for that and to show how well your squad or your team is proficient at skiing, setting up 10-man tents and shooting in Arctic conditions under stress.”

“All the effort and the heart the teams put into practicing really shows the teams are competing,” he added. “The teams practice weeks and months before the event, and there’s a lot of camaraderie with those teams.”

References

  1. ^ U.S. Army Alaska (www.army.mil)
  2. ^ 25th Infantry Division (www.25idl.army.mil)
  3. ^ here (www.wainwright.army.mil)
0

Alaska Troops Hold Annual Winter Games > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF …

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, March 6, 2018 —

As temperatures plummeted into the negative ’20s here, 17 teams of 10 soldiers each from across U.S. Army Alaska and the Canadian Army competed in a series of cold weather and mountainous warrior tasks Feb. 27-March 2. [1]

Team 15 from 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prevailed, scoring the highest point total.[2]

The annual U.S. Army Alaska Winter Games were held this year at the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area here. Events included a biathlon, a written test, ahkio — runnerless sledge towing — shooting on snowshoes, casualty evacuation and treatment, tent setup, downhill skiing, skijoring — which is skiing while pulled, in this case by a vehicle, but a horse or dog team can also be used — and land navigation.[3]

“It’s important because it helps individuals training on these specific events, that they can then take back to their units,” said Army 1st Lt. Michael McKeon, the winning team’s leader and a platoon leader with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Like for us, we’re the ski platoon for our troop, and we didn’t get really good at it until we trained for this competition,” he said. “Now, we’re excellent at skiing and can take that back to our unit.”

Building Arctic Skills

The games, as with any other military competition, serves a variety of purposes.

“This process started three-and-a-half to four months ago,” said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Rainsberger, the Arctic Warrior Games officer in charge and a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Events like this are extremely important for [U.S. Army Alaska] because one of the main things that the units up here focus on is Arctic mobility and Arctic skills,” Rainsberger said. “These events are an excellent way to train for that and to show how well your squad or your team is proficient at skiing, setting up 10-man tents and shooting in Arctic conditions under stress.”

“All the effort and the heart the teams put into practicing really shows the teams are competing,” he added. “The teams practice weeks and months before the event, and there’s a lot of camaraderie with those teams.”

References

  1. ^ U.S. Army Alaska (www.army.mil)
  2. ^ 25th Infantry Division (www.25idl.army.mil)
  3. ^ here (www.wainwright.army.mil)
0

Alaska Troops Hold Annual Winter Games > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF …

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, March 6, 2018 —

As temperatures plummeted into the negative ’20s here, 17 teams of 10 soldiers each from across U.S. Army Alaska and the Canadian Army competed in a series of cold weather and mountainous warrior tasks Feb. 27-March 2. [1]

Team 15 from 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prevailed, scoring the highest point total.[2]

The annual U.S. Army Alaska Winter Games were held this year at the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area here. Events included a biathlon, a written test, ahkio — runnerless sledge towing — shooting on snowshoes, casualty evacuation and treatment, tent setup, downhill skiing, skijoring — which is skiing while pulled, in this case by a vehicle, but a horse or dog team can also be used — and land navigation.[3]

“It’s important because it helps individuals training on these specific events, that they can then take back to their units,” said Army 1st Lt. Michael McKeon, the winning team’s leader and a platoon leader with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Like for us, we’re the ski platoon for our troop, and we didn’t get really good at it until we trained for this competition,” he said. “Now, we’re excellent at skiing and can take that back to our unit.”

Building Arctic Skills

The games, as with any other military competition, serves a variety of purposes.

“This process started three-and-a-half to four months ago,” said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Rainsberger, the Arctic Warrior Games officer in charge and a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“Events like this are extremely important for [U.S. Army Alaska] because one of the main things that the units up here focus on is Arctic mobility and Arctic skills,” Rainsberger said. “These events are an excellent way to train for that and to show how well your squad or your team is proficient at skiing, setting up 10-man tents and shooting in Arctic conditions under stress.”

“All the effort and the heart the teams put into practicing really shows the teams are competing,” he added. “The teams practice weeks and months before the event, and there’s a lot of camaraderie with those teams.”

References

  1. ^ U.S. Army Alaska (www.army.mil)
  2. ^ 25th Infantry Division (www.25idl.army.mil)
  3. ^ here (www.wainwright.army.mil)
0

1ST BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM: Best of Bastogne

Soldiers from across 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, competed for the right to be called “Best Battalion” during Bastogne Week. A total of 15 physical and mental events would determine who would hold bragging rights for the year.

The week began Feb. 20 with Soldiers forming up for what they thought would be another long brigade run, but to their surprise the route changed and they ended up on the division parade field. There, the Soldiers would get to see what their command teams were capable of.

“The commanders’ competition was intended to be a surprise,” said Capt. Keith Helminen, 1st BCT brigade engineer planner. “That was supposed to be the surprise kick-off event to get everyone excited for Bastogne Week by giving them the opportunity to go out and watch their command teams compete against each other in a high intensity competition.”

The commanders’ competition started the week’s events with everyone in different positions, Helminen said. Some battalions had to make up points while others had a nice buffer to start off. Overall, everyone gave their best effort in their individual competitions, but for some battalions the competition created a sense of urgency.

For others, that sense of urgency began a few hours later as the best mechanic and functional fitness competitions began. Soldiers also participated in heavy weapons and sniper competitions that same day. While all of these competitions had some sort of physical aspect to them, the main focus was to show skill proficiency and step away from the traditional organizational day events.

“I think showing off how good you are at your job better promotes morale versus going out and playing sports,” Helminen said.

Bastogne Week, that ended Friday, was intended to be a competition with a tactical focus to challenge each battalion to compete and assess the best battalion within the brigade. The intent was to strengthen the camaraderie of the brigade and to build pride within the organization.  “I think these events promote esprit de corps by letting them show their professionalism, but it was also carefully designed so that there was max participation across the different specialties,” Helminen said. “A major portion of the events were [military occupational skill]-specific, so different occupations had their chance to be in the competition.”

On the second day, rain became one of the biggest obstacles competitors would face, but it did not hinder the Soldiers of the brigade to continue the fight to be the best while spectators cheered them on in the 10K run, best squad, machine gun and M4 rifle competitions. The only competitors that were safe from the elements were those competing in the strongman competition, but they would have their own battles to win within the confines of Fratellenico Physical Fitness Center.

“I was pretty sure I was going to do well on the big three events, the bench squat and deadlift, but there are always freaks that are in units as well,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Walls, a section leader for D Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, and the overall winner of the strongman competition. “Some guys will come out and surprise you and some of these guys did surprise me, but I haven’t seen people lift too much here so I figured I was pretty good coming into it.”

Although Walls was looking forward to the competition, he also wanted to test his own abilities.

“I expected to win because it is what I have trained for, but I just wanted to have a good time and enjoy some competition,” Walls said. “In all reality, I was competing against everyone else, but I was also competing against myself.”

Walls emerged as the victor in four of the five events lifting a total of 1,605 pounds in the squat, bench press and deadlift, but for him the highlight of the event was not the win.

“I think it is always a good idea to do these kinds of things because my subordinates were here to support me. Anytime your guys like you enough to come out and support you, you know you are doing something right,” he said. “We had some of our guys competing in this that weren’t in leadership positions. They had their peers supporting them as well as their leadership, I think that really boosted their confidence in their leadership and their peers as well.”

The final day consisted of the top chef, human resources, intelligence analyst and best medic competitions. These allowed professionals from each career field to show off their job skills. The planners for the best medic event had a unique obstacle to overcome.

“We wanted the events to be not only physical, but fair because some of the medics we have in different battalions are line medics or they work in a Role II facility,” said 2nd Lt. Steven Herald, the ground ambulance platoon leader for C Co., 426 Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT. “We all need to be physically fit, but we all need to have the same skills. It had to be where a medic that worked in a Role II facility could do the same thing as someone who has only been in a line unit.”

The Friday awards ceremony honored the winners of each event and finally named 2-327th Inf. Regt. the overall winning battalion. Overall the competition determined a “best battalion” but it also meant more to the competitors.

“There were some extraordinary performances at some of these competitions. I think everyone appreciates seeing someone really excelling at a particular event,” Helminen said. “For instance, at the 10K run there are people that are running at very competitive paces. That makes you proud of your unit and you can say that guy is a part of my brigade and he could compete at almost an Olympic-level.”

As the week came to a close, both competitors and onlookers received an opportunity to attend the 1st BCT gala, a social gathering that offered a chance to unwind after a long week of competitive fun.

0

1ST BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM: Best of Bastogne

Soldiers from across 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, competed for the right to be called “Best Battalion” during Bastogne Week. A total of 15 physical and mental events would determine who would hold bragging rights for the year.

The week began Feb. 20 with Soldiers forming up for what they thought would be another long brigade run, but to their surprise the route changed and they ended up on the division parade field. There, the Soldiers would get to see what their command teams were capable of.

“The commanders’ competition was intended to be a surprise,” said Capt. Keith Helminen, 1st BCT brigade engineer planner. “That was supposed to be the surprise kick-off event to get everyone excited for Bastogne Week by giving them the opportunity to go out and watch their command teams compete against each other in a high intensity competition.”

The commanders’ competition started the week’s events with everyone in different positions, Helminen said. Some battalions had to make up points while others had a nice buffer to start off. Overall, everyone gave their best effort in their individual competitions, but for some battalions the competition created a sense of urgency.

For others, that sense of urgency began a few hours later as the best mechanic and functional fitness competitions began. Soldiers also participated in heavy weapons and sniper competitions that same day. While all of these competitions had some sort of physical aspect to them, the main focus was to show skill proficiency and step away from the traditional organizational day events.

“I think showing off how good you are at your job better promotes morale versus going out and playing sports,” Helminen said.

Bastogne Week, that ended Friday, was intended to be a competition with a tactical focus to challenge each battalion to compete and assess the best battalion within the brigade. The intent was to strengthen the camaraderie of the brigade and to build pride within the organization.  “I think these events promote esprit de corps by letting them show their professionalism, but it was also carefully designed so that there was max participation across the different specialties,” Helminen said. “A major portion of the events were [military occupational skill]-specific, so different occupations had their chance to be in the competition.”

On the second day, rain became one of the biggest obstacles competitors would face, but it did not hinder the Soldiers of the brigade to continue the fight to be the best while spectators cheered them on in the 10K run, best squad, machine gun and M4 rifle competitions. The only competitors that were safe from the elements were those competing in the strongman competition, but they would have their own battles to win within the confines of Fratellenico Physical Fitness Center.

“I was pretty sure I was going to do well on the big three events, the bench squat and deadlift, but there are always freaks that are in units as well,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Walls, a section leader for D Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, and the overall winner of the strongman competition. “Some guys will come out and surprise you and some of these guys did surprise me, but I haven’t seen people lift too much here so I figured I was pretty good coming into it.”

Although Walls was looking forward to the competition, he also wanted to test his own abilities.

“I expected to win because it is what I have trained for, but I just wanted to have a good time and enjoy some competition,” Walls said. “In all reality, I was competing against everyone else, but I was also competing against myself.”

Walls emerged as the victor in four of the five events lifting a total of 1,605 pounds in the squat, bench press and deadlift, but for him the highlight of the event was not the win.

“I think it is always a good idea to do these kinds of things because my subordinates were here to support me. Anytime your guys like you enough to come out and support you, you know you are doing something right,” he said. “We had some of our guys competing in this that weren’t in leadership positions. They had their peers supporting them as well as their leadership, I think that really boosted their confidence in their leadership and their peers as well.”

The final day consisted of the top chef, human resources, intelligence analyst and best medic competitions. These allowed professionals from each career field to show off their job skills. The planners for the best medic event had a unique obstacle to overcome.

“We wanted the events to be not only physical, but fair because some of the medics we have in different battalions are line medics or they work in a Role II facility,” said 2nd Lt. Steven Herald, the ground ambulance platoon leader for C Co., 426 Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT. “We all need to be physically fit, but we all need to have the same skills. It had to be where a medic that worked in a Role II facility could do the same thing as someone who has only been in a line unit.”

The Friday awards ceremony honored the winners of each event and finally named 2-327th Inf. Regt. the overall winning battalion. Overall the competition determined a “best battalion” but it also meant more to the competitors.

“There were some extraordinary performances at some of these competitions. I think everyone appreciates seeing someone really excelling at a particular event,” Helminen said. “For instance, at the 10K run there are people that are running at very competitive paces. That makes you proud of your unit and you can say that guy is a part of my brigade and he could compete at almost an Olympic-level.”

As the week came to a close, both competitors and onlookers received an opportunity to attend the 1st BCT gala, a social gathering that offered a chance to unwind after a long week of competitive fun.