MONS, WAL, BELGIUM
Story by SFC Kelly Simon
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
SHAPE, Belgium – Command of Allied Forces North Battalion, U.S. Army NATO Brigade was transferred from LTC Frank F. Jefferson to LTC Gretchen J. Gardner on the Army’s 244th Birthday, June 14, 2019, at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe chapel in Mons, Belgium.
“In a unit such as this, you have to be creative and innovative to get after the mission, as well as have the ability to build long, lasting relationships,” said LTC Jefferson during his remarks to the Soldiers and Families of AFNORTH Battalion. He also said it was an honor to serve with such high caliber officers, non-commissioned officers and Soldiers and that his, “heart is always with AFNORTH and always will be.”
The reviewing officer for the ceremony was LTC Stefan King, the interim U.S. Army NATO Brigade Commander. “The tremendous leadership and initiative, paired with the balanced understanding of both operational and strategic, and I’ll also say national effects of your missions has resulted in the incredible readiness level of the U.S. service members stationed all across northern Europe,” LTC King said, continuing to praise the various community and professional development undertakings of LTC Jefferson during his time with AFNORTH Battalion. LTC King added that he looked forward to working with LTC Gardner and seeing her take the Battalion to new heights of success.
LTC Jefferson, an Adjutant General’s Corps officer and a native of Sandersville, GA, increased the Battalion’s readiness to over 95%, meaning that nearly the entire unit was deployable at a moment’s notice. He also organized and oversaw multiple joint training and social events, successfully integrating Soldiers and their Families into the Battalion, Brigade and NATO elements across northern Europe.
LTC Gardner, also an Adjutant General’s Corps officer from Springfield, VA, kept her remarks short saying she looked forward to working with the Soldiers, Families and NATO Allies throughout the Battalion’s footprint. “I’m confident that your reputation for excellence will continue to shine as we continue to build upon your past successes in all of our various locations across Europe,” LTC Gardner said.
The AFNORTH Battalion is responsible for the administrative care, readiness and training of more than 1,300 Soldiers and the well-being of their Families. The Battalion traces its roots to the USA NATO SHAPE Battalion activated in December 1950. Over the years the Battalion has undergone various changes resulting in the current configuration with Soldiers and units across 13 countries, 18 duty locations, and three time zones.
The puppet who went from being a superstar for children to the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association (AGCRA) Rock of the Marne (ROTM) Chapter’s Mascot.
By: David Curran and Chester “Beau” Bradley
If you have spent any time in 3rd Infantry Division, you know who Rocky is and you know his story well. You see, Rocky is a bulldog and the mascot of 3rd Infantry Division. Proud, humble, strong, and fierce, but gentle, quick-witted, and wise.
In 1965, MG Albert O. Connor began a dialogue with Walt Disney (yes, that Walt Disney) to seek a trademark based on the symbol of a Dog-Faced Soldier. After several drafts, a final drawing was accepted.
But now, let’s fast forward to the summer of 2009 when the Army Community Services (ACS) staff was cleaning out storage sheds and moving supplies. Mobilization and Deployment Specialist, “Beau” (pronounced Bo) Bradley, found puppet show scripts from 1997 and 1998, which was the auspicious beginning to the process that led to SGT Rocky being brought to life as a puppet. The go-ahead to pursue a kid-friendly SGT Rocky project was given by the ACS Director, William “Bill” Lukens after several brainstorming meetings.
A suitable puppet was obtained from a supply company in Orlando Florida that specialized in animal puppets. The next step was to find a uniform small enough for SGT Rocky to wear. Beau purchased a regular Army Combat Uniform (ACU) extra-small shirt, and another staff member sewed a pair of ACU pants – it was a team effort to get SGT Rocky clothed appropriately.
The first live action puppet show debuted in October 2009 with the 3rd ID Band and others participating in the event. SGT Rocky engaged children in discussions about deployments and reunions, and the kids also had the opportunity to ask SGT Rocky questions.
In 2011, ACS took SGT Rocky to the next level by creating short videos that discussed many issues. The first three videos were relatively simple, but the next nine videos were bigger productions and included adventures that took place all over Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. In 2012, SGT Rocky’s Neighborhood was determined to be an IMCOM Best Practice (https://www.army.mil/article/74036/sgt_rocky_tv_show_earned_army_best_practice_recognition), and in 2014, ACS won the prestigious MG Keith L. Ware Award for Exceptional Broadcast Events Servicing Military Communities (https://www.army.mil/article/74176/imcom_selects_public_affairs_award_winners). SGT Rocky still makes appearances for live action shows, but more often than not, puppeteers are older teenagers who help ACS as Red Cross volunteers in the summer.
So when did SGT Rocky become SGT AG Rocky? In September 2011, David Curran, Military Processing Branch Chief, and then CPT Beth Nelson from the 3ID G1, started talking about the AGCRA ROTM Chapter. While the Chapter was inactive at that time, they decided they wanted to work to make it an active Chapter again. Working with the Division G1 and the AGCRA National Executive Committee (NEC), elections were held on 13 January 2012, with over 250 HR Specialists, NCOs, Technicians, and Officers. The Chapter officers were elected by active AGCRA Members and the ROTM Chapter was reactivated.
During this same time, ACS was filming and producing SGT Rocky’s Neighborhood to help military children with their questions about deployment and redeployment. Several Adjutant General (AG) Soldiers and Civilians helped out in those projects. David was one of the Civilians who lent a hand, and came up with the idea to draw SGT Rocky in a suit, holding an AG Guidon and Shield. The drawing was adopted as the Chapter symbol along with a quote from LTG Timothy Maude as the Chapter motto. But that was not enough…
David really wanted to make the make the drawing come to life, so with the encouragement of his wife, he set out to create a 3D version of SGT AG Rocky. As luck would have it, the original SGT Rocky puppet had been retired and a replacement was used in its place. David then asked Bill Lukens (who himself is a retired AG Officer) if the Chapter could buy the retired version of SGT Rocky, and Bill said that the ROTM Chapter could have it under one condition: that it be used to honor the Chapter and the Corps.
And so began the transition (as though it had gone through the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program), of SGT Rocky to SGT AG Rocky. A suit was tailored to fit and a strong frame was made to help it stand tall and hold the AG Guidon and shield. David’s wife bought a pair of Chucks from the local Dollar General store to finalize the look of the new mascot. After two months of work, SGT AG Rocky was ready for business. On 28 April 2016, after all of the help and assistance that everyone provided, SGT AG Rocky was officially born. They like to call that SGT AG Rocky’s “De-Beau Day”.
To this day, SGT AG Rocky visits the 3ID’s Brigade and Battalion S1s for promotions, changes of AG command, and any time the Rock of the Marne Chapter gets together. Whether it is for an AG breakfast, presentation of an AGCRA Award, or a formal AG Ball, SGT AG Rocky is there smiling at the greatness of the AG Community.
Some of SGT Rocky’s videos are here: