Care Packages for Deployed Blue Spaders

Receiving a care package from home can be a real morale booster for a deployed soldier. Our soldiers will undoubtedly appreciate anything you send, but some things are particularly useful, and some items can’t be sent at all. Before putting together your care package, check the prohibited items list.

Packing tips:

Priority Mail packages take 10 to 14 days to reach their country of destination. When choosing what to send, keep in mind possible delays as well as any climate extremes the package may be subjected to.
Packages cannot be larger than 108 inches in total circumference (total width all the way around plus total length all the way around). It’s best to limit your care packages to the size of a shoebox. You can pick up free Priority Mail boxes at your post office. Use the #4 or #7 size box.
Enclose a card listing the contents of the package. Include the recipient’s name and your name on the card. That way, if the package breaks open and the contents scatter during shipping, mail handlers will know what to repack.
Place items that may spill or leak in heavy plastic zipper-lock bags. Freezer bags work well and soldiers will likely find other uses for the bags.
Use reusable packing material. Cushion fragile items with small packages of tissues; copies of the local newspaper; plastic zipper-lock bags filled with popped popcorn; small beanbag-style stuffed toys (for soldiers to hand out to local children); or anything else you can think of that Soldiers will be able to use.
Write out the complete address.
1SG Michael Starnes
C CO 1-26 IN, 2 BCT Union III
APO AE 09348

1SG Kevin Klepac
HHC 1-26 IN, 2BCT Union III
APO AE 09348

1SG Raymond Geise
D co 1-26 IN, 2BCT
Camp Taji
APO AE 09378

Do not send perishables to warm climates during spring or summer. Avoid sending anything that may spoil to a desert environment such as Iraq during warm months. The climate heats up rapidly between winter and spring and the temperature inside mail storage facilities may rise to over 120 degrees.

Food and drink:

Powdered drink mix. Soldiers appreciate anything that can be mixed with water. In cold months, send hot beverage mixes such as cocoa, instant coffee, tea bags, and creamer. During warmer months, sweetened drink mixes such as PowerAde, and Gatorade, are good choices.
Meal enhancers. Anything that can be mixed with MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), such as ramen noodles, seasoned salt, individual packets of hot sauce, mustard, relish, and ketchup.
Quick protein. Energy bars, tuna fish, sardines, non-perishable beef jerky, or beef summer sausage. Make sure the meat is labeled USDA Beef.
Snacks. Look for small, hard containers of chips, pretzels, and nuts. These are easier to carry than large containers. Avoid bags, which may burst under high pressure. If you do send large bags or containers, include small zipper-lock bags so soldiers can pack smaller amounts to carry. Snack cakes, cheese or peanut butter crackers, and cookies are in high demand. Salty snacks are good for those deployed in the desert, especially in the summer months, because they will encourage soldiers to drink more water.
Candy and gum. Avoid chocolate in spring and summer months, it will melt in the heat. Gum and other types of candy may soften and become gooey, so send these in plastic zipper-lock bags. Send plenty of extras for soldiers to share, especially if he or she comes into contact with children.

Personal care and clothing:

Choose small, travel-size containers of personal care products, and avoid aerosol cans. To keep liquids from spilling, cover the opening of the container with plastic wrap, then recap before shipping.

Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, cotton swabs, shaving lotion, disposable razors, shampoo, individually packaged tissues.

Personal care. Individually packaged baby wipes are in high demand. Eye drops, lip balm, lotion, aspirin or other pain reliever, feminine hygiene products for women.

Foot care. Moleskin, medicated foot powder, athlete’s-foot ointment.

Additional comfort items:

Disposable hand warmers.
Cotton socks and underwear. Make sure the garments are made of 100 percent cotton rather than a cotton blend.
You can purchase a gift certificate to the exchange. The program, Gifts from the Homefront, allows you to buy your service member a gift certificate good at any military exchange in the world.

Entertainment and communication:

Reading material. Paperback books, current magazines, comic books.
Word games and puzzles. Crossword puzzles, word searches, jigsaw puzzles.
Games. Foam footballs and basketballs, Frisbees, Hacky Sacks, playing cards, yo-yos.
Electronics. Portable DVD player, CD player, DVDs, CDs, handheld electronic games.
Batteries. Size AA and D batteries are in high demand. If you’re sending a battery-operated device, such as a CD player, remove the batteries so the appliance doesn’t accidentally turn on during shipment.
Writing material. Notepaper, envelopes, pens, pencils, and stamps.

Reminders of home:

In every care package, be sure to include a personal note.
Here are some more ideas:
Children’s art projects from a local school or Sunday school.
The Sunday comics from your local newspaper.
Homemade goodies, such as cookies or brownies. Just be sure to pack these in an airtight container.
No Firearms – Replicas or Toys
No Ammunition – Exploded or Unexploded
No Weapons – Parts or Accessories
No Knives
No Military TA-50 Gear
(Kevlar, Vest, Sappi Plates, Holsters, E-Tool, Gerber, Box Cutters, etc.
No Obscene Material
No Pornography
No Sexually Explicit Material
No Money
No Precious Metals
No Pork
No Alcohol

In the East Room of the White House

us flagThe invitation reads,”The President requests the pleasure of your company at a ceremony and reception to be held at The White House on Monday, June 2, 2008 at nine o’clock”. The first page of the program reads, “The President welcomes you to The White House on the occasion of the presentation of the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis, Untied States Army. Monday, June 2, 2008”

The invitation and program awaited each guest on each of the approximately 150 chairs arrayed around the low platform in the East Room of the White House. Against the wall, behind the slightly off-center podium stood the National Colors, the President’s flag, and the flag of the United States Army bearing all its campaign streamers.

To the viewer’s left of the podium stood an easel, bearing in a large gilded frame the light blue-grey, multi-starred personal standard of a Medal of Honor recipient.

Mute, and yet speaking volumes.

The event that took place that morning in the span of ten minutes was a high point in a story without either a distinct beginning or end. From our initial assembly that morning across the Potomac River in Crystal City to this room had taken three hours. We were an eclectic group: The Vice President, the civilian and uniformed leadership of the Department of the Army and the Joint Chiefs, members of Congress and the Executive Branch, White House Staff, the Fourth Estate, Medal of Honor recipients from past conflicts, citizens of Clarion County, Pennsylvania, Blue Spaders – active and retired, and four soldiers who owe their lives to Ross McGinnis. For some the trip to this room had taken just over 20 years.

When I agreed beforehand to report on the ceremony I should have foreseen that words spoken would have been well chosen, well presented, and very well reported. The invocation and the benediction by the Chief of Army Chaplains, the remarks by The President, the citation read by the Presidential military aide have been transcribed, recorded, and repeated by every conceivable media. My repeating them would be pointless. I should have demurred with the knowledge that I was not equal to the task.

But there were things that the news media had not seen, not heard, and not reported. Things in addition to the three buses for the guests of the family with the police escort riding on the wrong side of Constitution Avenue to get around the morning rush hour traffic; or the waiter’s reaction when one guest told another that the cranberry juice on the buffet line was white zinfandel; or the fact that nobody (except the Lieutenant Colonel from Army Public Affairs) wanted their picture taken in front of the portrait of the 42nd President.

It took a while (hurry up and wait) to move all the guests through security to finally reach the antechamber outside The East Room. No one seemed to really mind. It was there that I first observed what the media would overlook: The spader

We, this growing crowd that had come from different points around the United States and Germany, represented several distinct segments of Americana. How they were dressed was, of course, an indicator of their identity. But their eyes told what had brought them to this gathering.

  • In the eyes of the White House military aides you saw compassion and sympathy, an attempt to offer warmth and welcome to strangers who were awash in painful, silent memories; an attempt to honor the bravery of a single American soldier lost in the cauldron of war.
  • In the eyes of the little children you saw wonderment at their surroundings because God protects the innocent.
  • The eyes of those soldiers past and present who had served in other theaters on other continents, who had witnessed similar sacrifices and in some cases had barely survived themselves you could see both pain and pride in the brotherhood that is the American warrior.
  • The eyes of the uniformed soldiers who wore the Blue Spade (the distinctive insignia of the 26th Infantry Regiment) over their right breast pocket showed a hurt from having witnessed the willing sacrifice by their youngest comrade of everything that the future held in store for him.
  • In the eyes of the friends and cousins, most having come down from the environs of Knox in Clarion County, Pennsylvania you could see a hurting from the loss of close friend and from the fact that religious fanaticism half a world away had reached into their quiet corner of the Allegany’s and snuffed out a warm and happy light.
  • The eyes of his parents and his sisters showed a pain from looking into a void that had once been filled by the smiling face of an impish boy and will forever be dark and empty, save for memories.


No, the scrolling headlines and the ten-second sound bites did not report any of this. president bushThe USA Today newspaper devoted six lines of text and a picture at the bottom right hand corner of page four to the presentation of the Medal of Honor without mentioning Ross’s unit; but they devoted two columns of page one and a diagram to Teddy Kennedy’s brain. Maybe it is just as well that the privilege of knowing people like Ross McGinnis and his family should be reserved for those who can appreciate the value and significance of sacrifice for one’s friends and country.

I had never met Ross Andrew McGinnis. I have known soldiers like him and they are truly a joy to behold. They make being an infantryman fun. In garrison they will drive their superiors crazy. In a gunfight there is no one you would rather have by you side. They squeeze life for every minute of mirth that can be had; and the next moment they will stare death in the eye and never blink. We, as Blue Spaders, welcome Ross’ parents into our Association. Having come to know them I can understand Ross’ action in combat. I find them truly inspirational.



Blue Spaders 2010-2012 Afghanistan Deployment History

by LTC Jesse Pearson, Former Spader 6, 2010-2012

The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment Blue Spaders deployed from Fort Knox, Kentucky in December 2010 as the main effort of the 3d Duke Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. The battalion departed from Louisville International Airport, Kentucky with over 800 Soldiers on multiple passenger jets during multiple weeks in December 2010. We transited on multiple air sorties through Manas Airbase, Kyrgyzstan and Bagram, Afghanistan and eventually established our initial position at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Salerno to begin our relief in place with the 1st Battalion, 187 Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans) and 3d Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment (Red Knights). In January 2011, the platoons and companies loaded CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters at FOB Salerno and moved to six remote combat outposts around Khost Province to assume responsibility for their areas of operation.

The Blue Spaders established our battalion headquarters at FOB Salerno and we partnered with two Afghan National Army Battalions, two Afghan National Police Battalions, and seven Afghan District Police forces. Our area of responsibility included all of the eastern districts in Khost Province along the border with Pakistan as well as Khost City. With our Afghan partners, we were responsible for over 100 kilometers of the Afghan/Pakistan border and faced a challenging set of Haqqani Network and Taliban insurgent cells who continuously attempted to attack us and our partners with direct and indirect fire, ambushes, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and snipers. Our area of responsibility across Khost Province included over one million Afghan local national civilians.

Able Company (A Co) was responsible for partnering with the 3/2 Afghan Border Police Battalion and Afghan Local Police in Terezayi District. Able Company became border experts and superbly skilled at operating in this remote and dangerous region. They re-opened Combat Outpost Chergotah and transformed it from a remote patrol base into a fully functional operating base and dramatically enhanced our reach into enemy territory along the Pakistan border. Tragically, Able Company lost two Soldiers killed in action in Terezayi District, both from 2nd Platoon – First Lieutenant Demetrius Frison and Specialist Michael Elm. We honor their sacrifice, their memory, and their families’ courage and we keep them with us in our hearts.

Viper Company (B Co) operated in our most contested district – Sabari, and partnered with the 3/1 Afghan National Army Battalion, they also conducted multiple battalion and company air assault missions in the mountainous Musa Khel District above 8,000 feet altitude, hunting for Haqqani Network insurgent cells. Viper Company faced a committed and expert enemy force in Sabari and stopped them cold with their courage and professionalism. From indirect fire 75 and 82-mm Recoilless Rifle and 82- mm Mortar Cells, to IED bomb makers, to insurgent grenadiers – our enemies did everything they could possibly do to try to defeat Viper Company and their Afghan partners in Sabari, but they failed again and again. Copperhead Company (C Co) partnered with the 4/2 Afghan Border Police Battalion and 2/1 Afghan National Army Battalion in Gorbuz and Matun Districts.

Copperhead Company trained 4/2 ABP to be the premier Afghan National Security Force in all of Khost Province, capable of conducting independent targeting and combat operations. Copperhead was also responsible for the strategically critical Ghulum Khan Gate Point of Entry on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. Copperhead Company Soldiers became experts at Company level intelligence operations and targeting and their legacy is the superb combat capability of their Afghan partners in Gorbuz and Matun.

Dragoon Company (D Co) partnered with the 4/2 Afghan Border Police Battalion, the 2/1 Afghan National Army Battalion, and Afghan Local Police in Tani and Musa Khel Districts. Dragoon Company Soldiers operated in both the high altitude plains of Tani District and the rugged alpine mountains of Musa Khel. Delta Company provided superb operational reach to our Task Force and the Duke Brigade and conducted multiple successful battalion and company air assaults above 8,000 feet altitude in Musa Khel and routed the Haqqani Network cells operating in that district. It was truly awe inspiring to see Dragoon Soldiers and their Afghan partners inserting for continuous 5-7 day combat operations with 100+ lb. packs, relentlessly chasing insurgent cells up and over those mountains in their home territory again and again and breaking our enemies’ will to fight.

Hannibal Company (HHC) took on an extraordinary challenge by re-organizing as a maneuver company and fighting as a combat formation in Bak and Jaji Maidan Districts. Hannibal Company partnered with the 3/1 Afghan National Army Battalion and Afghan Local Police and transformed Bak District from an enemy sanctuary along the traditional Manzerra Route from Pakistan into an area of emerging Afghan governance and security. Hannibal Company Soldiers faced a tough fight in Bak and Jaji Maidan every day and performed brilliantly, providing fantastic flexibility and agility to our Task Force. Fletch Company (F Co) was responsible for supply distribution and maintenance for the six companies assigned to Task Force Spader, spread across over 1,000 square kilometers at six separate combat outposts

Fletch Company’s ability to accomplish every one of their combat resupply and recovery missions without fail over 12 months under incredibly difficult combat conditions is a testament to the courage and dedication of Fletch Company Soldiers. Fletch Company Combat Logistics Patrols braved attacks daily to deliver critical supplies and support to Task Force Spader Soldiers across the battlefield and we could not have operated for a single day in Afghanistan without their support.

Our attached 870th Military Police Company (Wolverine) from the California Army National Guard based at COP Matun Hill in Khost City. The Military Police of Wolverine Company partnered with the Khost City Afghan Police forces and provided outstanding training to them on community policing and investigative techniques. Wolverine Company also provided our Task Force Spader quick reaction force for combat in Khost City. Wolverine troops conducted multiple successful combat operations in Khost City and Khost Province that were critical to the success of Task Force Spader.

The Battalion Staff performed magnificently and ensured that our Soldiers had the resources and support they needed to conduct their combat mission 24 hours a day for the entire year in Khost Province, without a single pause or day off. The Staff provided administrative and logistical support and planned our Task Force operations throughout the deployment. The Staff synchronized our fire support and intelligence assets and flawlessly coordinated the deployment and redeployment of the Task Force. In January 2012, Task Force Spader completed our redeployment back to Fort Knox, Kentucky.