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Fort Hood begins Operation Pegasus Strength, a series of suicide, sexual assault training for soldiers on post

The initiation of Operation Pegasus Strength comes after nearly 30 service members have died just this year, including the death of Vanessa Guillen.

FORT HOOD, Texas — *The video attached is from a previous story when Operation Pegasus Strength was first announced.

General Jeffery Broadwater, commander of the 1st Cav. Div. at Fort Hood announced the initiation of Operation Pegasus Strength during the Division’s 99th birthday celebration on Cooper Field on September 14.

Operation Pegasus Strength is an operation aimed to eradicate corrosives from the Army while also building cohesive teams. Suicide, sexual assault, sexual harassment and extremism have no place within the Army, a press release from Fort Hood said.

Operation Pegasus Strength kicked off this week.

“What this is about is building truly cohesive teams and giving the time and resources needed to really get to know each other,” Broadwater said. “We’ve been busy. We’ve been all over the world. Some are just getting back from Europe, some are just getting here, and we’re trying to form these cohesive teams each and every day. We really, really need to focus on our formations.”

Each week, a different battalion will participate in the round-robin style Operation Pegasus Strength, while they also ensure continued leader engagement throughout the year.

During the operation, the days start with physical readiness training competitions followed by a brief given by 1st Cav. Div. leadership. Then the day moves into small group training activities, according to Fort Hood.

“This week is about us,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Kenny said, the senior enlisted leader for the 1st Cav. Div., during his brief to the Troopers of 1-5 CAV. “Take the time to think about each other and make each other better. Take some time to reflect. Ask the questions, get to know each other a little better and find out what motivates you and your families. That’s the power of the First Team.”

Throughout Operation Pegasus Strength, troopers are assigned to 10-person squads where they engage in sexual harassment/assault response and prevention training, inclusivity training, value of life training and a psychological exercise with certified behavioral health specialists, according to Fort Hood. 

The SHARP 360 Training Center is required during the operation. It is an interactive training facility that is used for engagement training and is hands-on, scenario-based. 

“I enjoyed the training because it was hands-on and away from power points,” said Sgt. Alfonso Santiago, squad leader, A Co., 1-5 CAV. “This training is important, especially at the squad size level, it allows us to identify any issues that may come within our squad and helps us know how to ask the right questions.”

Inclusivity training encompasses scenario-based, equal opportunity vignettes where troopers are provided mentorship that concerns inclusivity in their teams and are given tools and resources that can be used to further their understanding of the Equal Opportunity program in which the 1st Cav. Div. and the Army fosters.

During the psychological exercise portion, troopers sit down with their squad and a behavioral health specialist to have group discussions that regard stressors and how to identify and react to them. The ability to know and understand stressors helps build mentally strong and resilient troopers, according to Fort Hood.

“The psychological exercise class kind of taught us a lot about understanding your soldiers and asking the right questions, and knowing the difference between punishment and reward,” said Spc. Jonathan Comerford, a Bradley gunner assigned to 1-5 CAV. “It’s about knowing what works best for your soldiers. This training is important because it builds that unit cohesion and gets everyone motivated together.”

The Unit Ministry Teams host the Value of Life small group training portion, which focuses on the spiritual well-being of the troopers. The portion concerns resiliency in order to grow and strengthen the bonds between troopers and their families.

“We have to take the time to put this on the schedule, to deliberately train with troopers, leaders and families in order to build inclusive and cohesive teams,” said Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of 1-5 CAV. “We are a team. We all have a purpose here, not only in the 1st Cav. Div., but within the Army. We are a family and we take care of each other, and it’s okay to communicate when we’re having stressors in our lives. We want our soldiers to trust us with stressors and issues so that we can resolve those issues and continue to build this great team of ours.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Allen, senior enlisted leader for 1-5 CAV,  created his own internal initiative titled, “Own the Knights,” in which troopers from the battalion will break into small groups monthly and continue the conversations and discussions had during Operation Pegasus Strength, in order to continue the momentum in building inclusive and cohesive teams.

Operation Pegasus Strength allows leaders to take a break from the rigorous training cycles and sets aside deliberate time to engage with and get to know the Troopers in their formations. The end of the week culminates with a team event such as a barbeque or sports day type of competition, according to Fort Hood. 

“I trust each and every one of you,” Broadwater said. “I hope that if your junior leader doesn’t get after a problem for you that you take that to your platoon sergeant, or your platoon leader, or the company commander and the first sergeant. I guarantee you that they will get after it because the only way that we can build a team that dominates is for us to trust each other and understand one another. That’s what it’s all about, building cohesive teams and really getting to know one another.”

Operation Pegasus Strength Two is on the training calendar for next year, according to Fort Hood. 

Vanessa Guillen was killed on post on April 22. A Fort Hood criminal complaint said she was killed by Aaron Robinson in an armory room. Then, with the help of Cecily Aguilar, he dismembered her body and buried the remains near the Leon River in Bell County. 

Guillen's tragic death has sparked many conversations on the treatment of women in the military and the demand for change at Fort Hood.