Team Jedi includes, left to right (front row): Aaron Wentwoth, Mack Kelley, Luis Montes, Merv Brott, Raymond Dresch, and Timothy Boone (who trained with the team at Fort Riley but is not going with them to Iraq), (back row) Brian Parker, Richard Connaroe, Jeremy Alaniz, Kevin Connaughton, Gregory Murrell and Daniel Colon.

Team Jedi Episode 1: Combat Advisor Journal

Military transition group's leader chronicles mission in Iraq

(Editor's Note: Merv Brott and Kevin Connaughton were like many young men from Hopkins County who graduated from Sulphur Springs High School, not quite sure where their futures would lead them.

Today, they are headed for Iraq, part of a 10-man team tasked with training hundreds of Iraqi soldiers how to do the job of protecting their country.

Maj. Brott, the team leader, has graciously offered to write about the team's experiences for the News-Telegram. For the next year, Brott plans to file weekly journals about his experiences with "Team Jedi." These dispatches will appear in the News-Telegram as soon as possible, but will first be posted on the "Team Jedi" blog.)

Episode 1: The Jedis form

1 Aug 08, Ft. Riley, Kansas

August 8, 2008 - My name is Merv Brott, call sign "Jedi 6." I am a Major in the U. S. Army and a Team Chief for one of those Military Transition Teams (MiTT) that you may have heard about in the news recently. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_transition_team)

I am a Sulphur Springs, Texas, High School graduate (Class of 1987) and one of the men on my 11-soldier team, Sergeant First Class Kevin Connaughton, is also a Sulphur Springs High School graduate (1995). I will be periodically sending articles to the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram about our one-year tour in Iraq that begins in early August.

Actually, our story begins a few months ago in early May 2008 when we all met each other for the first time at Fort Riley, Kan. (http://www.riley.army.mil/) That is where we trained together as a team to prepare for our mission as advisors to the Iraqi Army. Specifically, our 11-man team will be advising an Iraqi Army Infantry Battalion (about 800 men) in the Baghdad area.

Our team is made up of soldiers who are experts in their field. Together, our experts will advise, teach, coach and mentor in the major functional areas of Operations/Command and Control, Logistics, Intelligence, Fires and Effects (aka: Artillery), Communications and Medical training.

Let me introduce the team, better known as "The Jedi":

  • Major Merv Brott, Team Chief -- Operations/Command and Control
  • SFC Brian Parker, Team NCOIC -- CSM Advisor/Lead NCO Trainer
  • CPT Aaron Wentworth, Executive Officer -- Intelligence Trainer Officer
  • SFC Kevin Connaughton, Sergeant First Class -- Intelligence Trainer NCO
  • CPT Mack Kelley, MRAP Gunner -- Logistics Trainer Officer
  • SFC Daniel Colon, MRAP Gunner -- Logistics Trainer NCO
  • CPT Rich Connaroe, Team Effects Coordinator -- Fire and Effects Trainer
  • CPT Ray Dresch, MRAP Driver -- Operations
  • 1LT Jeremy Alaniz, MRAP Gunner -- Administrator Trainer/Payroll Officer
  • SFC Luis Montes, Team Medic (aka: Bones) -- Medical Trainer
  • SSG Greg Murrell, MRAP Driver -- Communications Trainer

You will be learning more about everyone as the articles come in, including everyone's nickname and how they earned that name. As for myself, I am an Apache helicopter pilot, and this will be my third tour in Iraq, but this time I will be doing almost all of my work on the ground. Although I will miss flying on this assignment, I look forward to this important mission and look forward to making significant progress in Iraq this coming year with the Iraqi unit we will be advising.

For anyone who saw the first chapter in the epic series "Band of Brothers," our training at Fort Riley had many parallels with that Camp Currahee from the HBO show. We came together as a team, forged under tough training conditions through the heat, hail storms and tornadoes.

Our first month was mainly individual training, including medical training we all went through, learning how to stabilize wounded soldiers. We all also went through range qualifications on all the weapons and machine guns that our team will have. We even trained with the AK-47 assault rifle and other Iraqi weapons. We learned how to detect IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and what to do if our patrol gets hit by an IED.

Our second half of training at Fort Riley was focused on team/collective training. This is where we learned how to clear buildings on dismounted patrols. We also developed and refined our tactics while conducting mounted patrols.

Throughout the entire time, we spent many hours in intense physical training and a crash course in Iraqi culture and Arabic language.

As I look back over the last few months, we completed a lot of training over a wide array of subjects. As we prepare to depart in the next few days, I can say that we are ready as a team to do our mission.

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