News: 5-1 Cav commander ready for the challenge
Story by Sgt. Michael Blalack
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Alaska has long been a prime destination for adventurers and thrill seekers. The vast forests and wilderness, breathtaking mountain scenery, dangerous wildlife and unforgiving winters appeal to our desire to pit ourselves against the odds and prove ourselves equal to the challenge of anything nature can throw at us.
For this reason the military, by nature of their profession a primarily hard-nosed swashbuckling lot, have embraced Alaska’s beautifully forbidding interior, and made a permanent home at Fort Wainwright and its neighboring communities.
Arriving in Alaska at the beginning of July, Lt. Col. Erik Krivda said he immediately felt confident and optimistic about his new position as the commander of the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, and about his new home.
“Alaska is definitely unique,” he said. “It’s a good fit for me. It’s more adventurous and outdoor. And the people are just amazingly nice. Everyone seems extremely friendly and helpful, and the moment they figure out you’re from Wainwright, part of the brigade, they’re more willing to talk to you, more open and really supportive. This seems like a really great community.”
To survive the winters and often times, the isolation of Alaska’s interior, residents must partake in the many outdoor activities and seek out new experiences. Krivda wasted no time in seeing what the local area has to offer.
“I’ve spent most of my career overseas,” Krivda said. “I’ve always had a hobby of traveling, of going out and seeing new things, and that’s one of the great things about being in Alaska - it’s all new to me. In just the two weeks I’ve been here I’ve already been over to Denali, and to Chena Hot Springs and it’s really impressive. I’m looking forward to see what it looks like in the winter.”
Krivda came to Alaska from California Polytechnic State University in San Louis Obispo, Calif., where he was a professor of military science in the school’s ROTC program.
“It was a nontraditional type of role,” Krivda said of his time there, “but incredibly rewarding, when you’re out there with a bunch of young cadets who want to be army officers and you train them and then get to commission them and see them complete that, it’s a great feeling.”
“Additionally it was a great opportunity to go out and engage the public. In that area there weren’t many people who had been in the military or had family in the military, really didn’t know much about it except what they see on TV. It was really a unique experience talking to those kinds of people and getting them to understand what we go through in the Army.”
Few things epitomize the idea of being on your own and confronting fear like a cavalry squadron, whose traditional role in the Army is to scout ahead of the main force for the enemy.
“We are unique in that we have a distinct mission as the eyes and ears of the brigade,” he said. “With that comes a lot of operating independently, particularly at the troop level. And that’s really where discipline kicks in, doing the right thing out there. We go forward, either to lay out screen lines and conduct observation points or to infiltrate and identify the targets, to verify where intelligence is projecting the enemy is and relay that information back to support the brigade’s overall mission. It’s a key aspect and we have to get it right.”
With a direct and simple approach, Krivda devises a plan to prepare the squadron for future success.
“The biggest focus of mine is getting back to basics,” Kivda said. “Now that we’re not on a short string to deploy back to Afghanistan in the near future I want to focus on our traditional mission, and that is the reconnaissance mission. But I also think this lull in the deployment cycle is a great opportunity to not only focus on our basic decisive action skills, but also to look internally, at the specific Army tasks that we have to do on a daily basis such as making sure we have a good soldier integration program, that families are taken care of, getting guys to schools at the right time in their career path, making sure the systems are in place and operating optimally to take care of the soldiers and their families, both in their career and personal lives.”
“I’m really big on high standards for discipline and fitness, both at the soldier and leader level,” Kivda said. And along with marksmanship and maintenance, those four things make up the core of what I expect from my leaders and soldiers. Those are the fundamental principles that I focus on.”
“And that’s not just physical fitness and maintenance of weapons systems. That includes spiritual and mental fitness, maintenance of families and of soldiers after duty hours. I’m talking about a comprehensive, all-encompassing soldier fitness.”
This will be Krivda’s first battalion command, and he’s already impressed with what he’s seen of 5-1 Cav’s motivation and professionalism.
“My first impression of the battalion is that there’s a high level of camaraderie - which there should be. It should come natural being a cavalry squadron,” he said. “The leaders and NCOs are really motivated - even down to young corporals taking charge and leading some outstanding PT. I’ve been impressed several times already with what I’ve seen in that area. They take care of each other and they take care of the soldiers.”
“My role as commander is to provide fair leadership and be someone who sets the example,” Krivda said, “and I like to be a commander who’s open to new ideas. I’ve got over 20 years of military experience, but there are still some lieutenants, there are some PFCs out there who have great ideas and I will gladly listen and put them into practice if they work. Understanding that sometimes there is a better way at the lowest level and whatever works should be there.”
Just as he’s sure of what he will be bringing to the battalion and the direction he’s taking it, Krivda said he is fully aware of where the battalion has been and what it means to command the 5-1st.
“It’s quite a humbling experience taking command,” he said. “I’ve very impressed by the history of the squadron and what they’ve already gone through. They’ve done a great job and have a great reputation. I’m happy to part be of this team, even more so because it’s so unique that I get to be serving in one of America’s oldest cavalry squadrons that’s still operating, and operating on America’s last frontier.”