Deployed Nevada Army National Guard unit has nine sets of siblings

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. — Drizzle falling from gray clouds dampened the helmet of Spc. William Lowell while he manned a machine gun atop a tan-colored Humvee on a muddy road flanked by stands of hickory and poplar trees.

His brother, 27-year-old Walter Lowell of Las Vegas, sat below, clutching his M-4 rifle as he peered out the rear-seat window, looking for any signs of movement in the dense, hardwood forest.

Ahead of them in the convoy, the Petersen brothers — Andrew, 26, and Derek, 24 — stood by with their radios ready to relay word of any ambushes or roadside bomb attacks to other patrols in the area.

The Lowells and the Petersens are just two of nine sets of brothers serving in this Nevada Army National Guard unit that will be heading out in a few weeks for some of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.

It was Wednesday, one of the last days for them to pass the convoy training drill before nearly 700 soldiers from Nevada’s 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry will join the fight over there.

And the fight gets more violent every day as Taliban militants dig in to confront an expectant surge of 21,000 U.S. troops in the NATO effort to oust the insurgents and rebuild roads, schools and the country’s infrastructure.

"It’s certainly a wake-up call when you hear about all the stuff going on over there," said Staff Sgt. Derek Petersen, a member of Silverado High School’s class of 2002.

"It makes you train harder here so we’ll do the right thing over there," he said.

Like their Army brothers in arms, these blood brothers said Wednesday they are committed to completing the squadron’s missions to provide security for provincial reconstruction teams and weed out the "bad guys" before they can attack convoys or forward operating bases.

"As far as the mission goes … I think it’s about time that we sent more soldiers over to Afghanistan because it’s just as important as Iraq," Spc. Andrew Petersen said.

The National Guard allows brothers to serve together in combat without special waivers and, in fact, encourages brothers and friends to join the unit together to build cohesion, said Lt. Col. Scott Cunningham, the squadron’s commander.

The Lowell brothers, both graduates of Las Vegas High School, volunteered for the Afghanistan tour even though their father, Frank W. Lowell, a Vietnam War Air Force veteran, didn’t want them to both to go to the war zone. He said he fears a so-called "Sullivan situation," named after five sailors, the Sullivan siblings from Iowa, who died when the USS Juneau sank during World War II.

"I don’t like the idea of both of them going over together to serve but it’s what they want," Frank Lowell said Friday. "I tried applying the Sullivan law to them but they didn’t want that, so I’m just going to let them go."

Spc. Walter Lowell, a cavalry scout, will be going into rural areas of Afghanistan to intercept insurgents before they can launch attacks on friendly forces. One of his objectives will be to patrol "outside the wire," so to speak, to keep the enemy out of range and from firing mortar rounds inside bases.

He said he feels comfortable in this role because as a kid he was "a little commando in the streets. Nobody was better at hide-and-seek than I was," he said.

His brother, William Lowell, 29, knows what to expect from having served active duty, which included a tour of Iraq, while his wife and two daughters waited for his return.

He said he wants to be there to support his brother and carry on the family’s long tradition of military service that dates back to ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War and most of the nation’s historic conflicts. One of their distant uncles fought in the battle for Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pa., with the 20th Maine Regiment.

Said Walter Lowell: "My brother and I are fevered patriots. We love this country. We love serving this country.

"If something were to happen to him, I would honor him as a fallen soldier more than a regular fallen soldier because he’s my brother," he said. "I know my family would want me to come home because they need emotional help, but I would want to continue on the mission."

Likewise, the Petersen brothers are going over to be there for each other.

That was one of the main reasons why Andrew Petersen joined the 1st Squadron. Another was to fulfill his childhood desire to be like Superman and, he said, "this is as close as you can get to being a superhero."

"A few years ago I always thought to myself that if my brother ever went, I’m going with him because there’s no way he’s going to take all of my thunder," he said. "It’s great. We’re all brothers in arms but it’s even better when you have your real brother with you."

Their mother, Sandra Gravett, of Las Vegas, said she is proud of her sons but "tries not to think about the negative."

Having them both deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom is "good and bad," she said.

"I really pray for them that they come back safely. I think it’s a good thing because they have each other there to support each other," she said. "I’m concerned, of course, because it’s a place that’s not real safe for anybody to be."

Derek Petersen said it would be "a crushing blow" to think he would have to carry on with the mission without his brother.

Andrew Petersen agreed. "It would crush me if I were to lose my brother over there, but I think he would want me to drive on and continue on the mission and worry about that grief later," he said.

In a nutshell, that’s what last week’s team training exercises were about: preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

On Wednesday, their task was to rehearse the right response to an ambush or an explosion from a roadside bomb, or IED, short for improvised explosive device.

Signs with the words, "Complacency Kills," on the side of the road served as a reminder to soldiers in the convoy to stay alert even though hours might pass before they encounter any action.

A bearded soldier wearing a robe with a scarf wrapped around his head hid in the shade of the forest ready to detonate a gun-powder charge concealed in a culvert. A black wire from the simulated IED ran for some 25 yards across the forest’s floor to a car battery at his hiding place behind a fallen log.

The would-be insurgent, who spoke on the condition that he be identified only as "Mitch" because of the sensitive nature of his job, described how he spent many months in Iraq "outside the wire" engaging the same type of terrorists in 2004 and 2005 that he’s now portraying.

"Our ultimate goal is to do it exactly like the insurgents," he said. "We don’t use any equipment that they wouldn’t have access to over there."

After about an hour, the first Humvee in one of three convoys to pass drove by the culvert without stopping. Mitch touched one of the terminals of the battery with a piece of metal to complete the circuit, causing the gunpowder to explode. The other trucks scrambled to respond to attach a tow strap to the Humvee that had been deemed hit, even though no shrapnel or projectiles were used in the drill.

About a half hour later, the convoy with the Lowells and the Petersens arrived. Their Humvees stopped and soldiers on foot scoured the area to find the simulated IED site.

Having completed that part of the drill correctly, the convoy rolled on only to encounter an ambush about two miles away with would-be militants attacking with simulated rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles firing paint balls. Orange and pink paint splattered on the windshield of one Humvee.

As the drill continued into the night, Lt. Col. Cunningham discussed the mission back at the barracks. He said the 221st Cavalry’s 1st Squadron will be in Afghanistan "at an absolutely critical time. It’s at the tipping point," he said.

"Counterinsurgency wars are not sprints, they’re marathons," he said. "People think we’re going to go in there and wave a magic wand and it’s over. But we’re going into a country that’s been in combat for 30 years."

So, Cunningham said, the mission is really "not a reconstruction effort. It’s a construction effort."

His soldiers, though, are prepared. "They’re ready. They’re ready to go," he said.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Mojave Poppy Bees
Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list. (Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology)
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like