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BAGHDAD — One of the elements that make servicemembers from the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., distinctive is the nicknames they bestow on their units and one another.

The troops, who play the role of opposing forces or “OpFor,” use the names, or “call signs,” not only for fun, but also to help hide their identities against rotating units, according to Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hester of Company B, 1st Battalion 509th Airborne Infantry Regiment

Hester, from Mount Sterling, N.Y., and a platoon leader with Company B, said the unit has no intention of changing that practice now that it is in Iraq doing real combat operations.

Company B has its own name, the “Geronimoes,” after the famous American Indian of the same name. Sometimes the soldiers’ nicknames also have obvious origins.

For example, Staff Sgt. John Wilbanks of Picayune, Miss., of the Geronimoes’ 2nd Platoon, is called “Willy.”

Others are a bit more obscure, such as Pfc. Brett Erickson, age 18, who is known as Lilo — “Because,” said Erickson, “I’m from Hilo, Hawaii,” which also happens to be the state where the animated film “Lilo and Stitch” was set.

Some names, like Hester’s own “Ammo Can,” are given because of something the soldier did. Hester’s moniker apparently has to do with the amount of ammunition he expended while training for Iraq, since OpFor units carry “MILES,” computerized laser-tag weapons, not the real thing.

And, finally, like many call signs, other OpFor names just aren’t printable in their full form, at least in a family newspaper. Such is the case with the “B.B.” that was bestowed on Hester’s platoon leader, 1st Lt. R. Dennis Eller. It reportedly has to do with a popular hemorrhoid remedy.

Iraqi firefighters

TIKRIT, Iraq — The 1st Infantry Division recently donated more than $80,000 in firefighting equipment to Iraqis living in Tikrit.

The equipment includes 20 firefighter uniforms, helmets, jackets, pants, boots, door pounders and pry-bars. The order was placed with the same vendor that provides equipment to the New York Fire Department, according to a 1st ID news release.

Funds for the equipment came from the Commanders Emergency Relief Program.

The 1st ID’s gift not only bolsters security in Tikrit, it also enhances the military's already strong relationship with Iraqi Emergency Services in Tikrit, the release said.

Serving together

With the active role taken by members of the National Guard and Reserves in the war on terrorism, it is not unusual for family members to find themselves serving together.

But Chief Warrant Officer 5 Grant Pearsoll and his four sons have outdone just about everyone.

Pearsoll, a 55-year-old pilot of the Utah National Guard, has flown Army aircraft over a period spanning 37 years — from Vietnam to Southwest Asia, where he is currently serving as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Earlier this summer, the Desert Voice of Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, reported that Pearsoll has been joined in the service by four sons — Christopher, 30, who works in Navy intelligence; Adam. 27, a loadmaster with the Air Force; and twins Joe and Steve, 23, both Marines. All four have joined their dad in serving in OIF, with as many as three of them in theater at once, according to the publication.

“They grew up with the military,” Pearsoll was quoted as saying. As for the diversity of services represented by father and sons he added: “We’ve got all the bases covered.”

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