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‘Lifeline’ Battalion earns red SABER award, 1st in division

By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 299th Brigade Support Battalion | December 20, 2013

Four formations of Soldiers stood proudly, watching as their company guidons were adorned – one-by-one – with a red streamer by Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, at a Nov. 26 awards ceremony on Custer Hill.

The ceremony was the first of its kind at Fort Riley. Soldiers with 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. worked for several months to be the first battalion-sized unit in division history to earn the red Sober Army Bravely Expedites Readiness, or SABER, streamers.

SABER is a program designed to enhance the spirit of competition and award units that are in strict compliance – no drug- or alcohol-related incidents – with the Army Substance Abuse Program.

The red streamer represents that a unit has gone an entire quarter of a year with zero incidents.

"I think it's a great thing. It shows that we are responsible and not only take care of ourselves, but also for our battle buddies," said Spc. Nicole Fox, human resources specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 299th BSB, 2nd ABCT, 1st Inf. Div. "I felt very proud. The words of encouragement were very touching. It reminded me why I joined the Army to begin with, to join something bigger than myself."

The battalion has used a unique program, where Soldiers and junior noncommissioned officers volunteer by serving as on-call designated drivers, to achieve its record.

Spc. Wesley Brown, medic, Co. C, 299th BSB, initiated the program in his company more than a year ago, and Fox borrowed the idea for HHC.

"It's something that's strictly confidential. It's not recorded, that way nobody feels intimidated or scared to get in trouble (by using it)," she said. "It gives Soldiers a chance to step up and be leaders, and take a little bit of the pressure off higher leadership. It demonstrates camaraderie on all levels."

"It's a great honor to be the first battalion to receive the SABER award for all four companies completing the requirements," said Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz, commander, 299th BSB. "For me, it's more than just an award, it's about the Soldiers and leaders who do the right thing every day. You can have 100 programs, but if the Soldiers don't buy into it and start believing in the program, it doesn't work. They're the ones who make this work."

The battalion recently returned from a two-week field exercise, where it performed its duties as the logistics hub of 2nd ABCT. They performed a wide range of missions, from food service to vehicle maintenance, while providing medical support.

"It's probably the most impressive I've seen our battalion in the field the past two years," Schwartz said. "Morale is high. Motivation is high. To see it all come together in one, final exercise, that's what it's all about."

After placing the streamers on all the guidons of the 299th BSB, Funk and 1st Inf. Div. Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, spoke with the Soldiers about staying on course and not getting carried away with their success.

"We are extremely proud of your efforts," Funk said. "It's about each one of you walking up to the man or woman next to you and saying, 'You know what, I'm not going to let them down.' It's about personal courage. It's about bravery, and it's about being responsible for your own actions. It's about setting the example and being on point."

With the battalion's quarterly success, the unit can begin to focus on its next target – a gold SABER streamer. Gold SABER streamers recognize units that go an entire year without incident, something the "Lifeline" Battalion seems determined to accomplish.

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