National Guard Bureau

FAMILY PROGRAM OFFICE

 

March 15, 2004, Volume 1, Issue 52

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


      https://www.guardfamily.org/            http://www.guardfamilyyouth.org/

 

 


Index of Articles

March 15, 2004, Volume 1, Issue 52

                     

READINESS…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 3

Army Now Relying More on Guard, Reserves

Locals
Training for Combat

Vermont, New Hampshire Guard Members Get Ready for War

Army Retraining Soldiers To Meet Its Shifting Needs

Louisiana Guard Transformation

Maryland Guard Transformation

DEPLOYMENT…………………………………………………………………………………………… 14

Wolfowitz Addresses Guard, Reserve Deployment Concerns

Families Get Ready for Guard deployment  

National Guard deployments affect many Tennessee families

Wives Write Love Letters and
at Least One Soldier Has Second Thoughts as California Guardsmen Head for Duty
in Iraq

Spread Thin
Globally, Army Calls on Same Units for Back-to-Back Combat Tours in Iraq

GUARD IN IRAQ………………………………………………………………………………………… 23

Guardsmen Battled on Different Fronts

Milestone for Maine Soldiers

Guard Gets
Bigger Role In Iraq 

Guard Unit
Preparing To Go Home Delayed In Iraq

REUNION…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 31

Guard Troops Trade Hostile Iraq for a Warm Welcome Home             

Home at Last

Soldier Comes Home to Two-Thirds the Wife

FAMILY SUPPORT: RETURN ISSUES……………………………………………………….. 35

Family Readiness Groups Learn About Resource to Help with Return Problems

BENEFITS…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 36

Army Promises To Reduce Medical Holds For Reservists

Troops Get Federal Tax Break
For Combat Zone Service

FORCE STRUCTURE………………………………………………………………………………….. 39

Restructuring the National Guard
System

Balanced Guard

GENERAL……………………………………………………………………………… 42     

Minister Gets Support After Family Deaths 

Northeastern
Indiana Recruiters Say New Recruits Keep Coming



 

READINESS

Aberdeen American News (South Dakota)

March 7, 2004 Sunday

Army Now Relying More on Guard, Reserves

DATELINE: WASHINGTON

The warning order went out from Washington this week to three
enhanced brigades of the Army National
Guard.
”Get ready to go to Iraq late this year or early next.”

The Department of Defense also alerted 1,000 members of the
42nd Infantry Division headquarters from New York state that they would be the
first Guard headquarters of its size to be tapped for duty in Iraq. That
amounts to a total of 18,000 citizen soldiers.

Since the events of 9/11 changed the world, the National Guard and Reserves have been
carrying a heavy load in deployments to both peacekeeping missions in Bosnia
and Kosovo and combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this isn’t going to
change anytime soon.

Nearly half – 46 percent – of the 110,000 troops now rotating
into Iraq for a one-year tour of duty are Reserves and National Guard.

With the active duty Army skinned back to only 10 divisions
and a permanent strength of 480,000, there is no way all the missions the Army
has been assigned around the world could be carried out without the Reserves
and National Guard.

Even as troops fan out on tough and deadly missions, the
Pentagon is moving swiftly to reorganize the National Guard, streamlining an antiquated command structure that
was designed for mass mobilization for a world war.

The Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, is
determined to modernize and change the National
Guard
and make proper use of it. In return the Army would guarantee that a National Guard unit will not spend more
than 12 months on active duty during a five-year period.

The number of enhanced Guard brigades will be increased from
the present 15 to 22, and they will be trained and equipped to mirror the new
modular Army brigades. This will be achieved by converting excess artillery
battalions and air defense battalions into infantry units. Other Guard
battalions will be converted to needed specialties such as military police.

Even as this is under way, Schoomaker and the Army staff are
working to pull units critically needed in the early days of a deployment for
combat into the active duty Army. This includes such specialties as
port-opening units and civil-military affairs units. Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld has ordered the Army to balance the force in such a way that Guard
and Reserve units would not have to be called up during the first 30 days of
any combat operation.

The Army Guard and Reserves, totaling 555,000 troops,
outnumber the active duty Army. Army leaders know that these part-time soldiers
cost almost as much as active duty soldiers, and they are determined to get
their money’s worth out of them.

Army leaders hope that by making better use of a modernized
Army National Guard and Army
Reserve, and squeezing new combat soldier positions from a transformed active
duty force, they can avoid any costly permanent increases in the size of the
active Army.

Schoomaker believes privatization of soldier office jobs will
recapture 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers for combat duty. He also plans to reduce
the number of soldiers – now 75,000-plus – who are in movement at any given
time, such as transferring, going to or from schools, or entering or leaving
service. He believes that number can be reduced by at least 15,000 soldiers,
leaving them in their units doing the jobs they were hired to do.

With those 30,000 recaptured positions and the 30,000
additional troops approved by Rumsfeld as a temporary four-year increase in
Army strength, the Army chief believes he can get by without a large permanent
increase in the force, which would cost billions and be extremely difficult to
finance in future budgets.

Schoomaker hopes that the current high level of deployments in
Afghanistan and Iraq represents a peak, not a plateau. If the future turns out
to be just as busy as the present in the need for armed might, then the United
States may well need a bigger Army to do its business. If that is the case,
Schoomaker has told Congress and his bosses in the Department of Defense that
he will come back and say so and ask for the troops needed.

Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for
Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller ”We Were
Soldiers Once … and Young.” Readers may write to him at: Knight Ridder
Washington Bureau, 700 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045.

Chattanooga Times Free Press
(Tennessee)

March 8, 2004 Monday

Locals
Training for Combat

By Edward Lee Pitts

The
muddy woods of North Georgia are a long way from the desert sands of the Middle
East.

But for several hundred Southeast Tennessee National Guard soldiers recently put on
alert status for possible deployment to Iraq, the weekend’s Catoosa County
drills took on a new meaning.

About 4,000 guardsmen from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment,
with units in about 30 armories including Cleveland, Athens and Sweetwater,
Tenn., are among 18,000 guardsmen nationwide waiting for orders. Now they are
preparing for what they are told could be 12-month foreign tours.

During an anxiety-heightened regular weekend guard duty at a
sprawling military complex south of Ringgold, Ga., soldiers of the 278th said
fighting is what they are trained to do, and they are ready.

“Right now we don’t know for sure if we are going, when
we are going and what the mission is,” said Capt. Mitch Murray,
administrative officer of the 278th’s 1st Squadron based in Athens, Tenn.

The 278th, the largest National
Guard
unit in Tennessee, is the only enhanced cavalry regiment in the National Guard and one of only two in
the U.S. Army. It operates tanks and armored personnel carriers such as the
Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Capt. Dale Bradley, commander of the 278th’s Cleveland,
Tenn.-based Troop A, said it was business as usual over the weekend despite the
alert status. The troop members — nuclear physicists, lawyers, engineers,
police officers and teachers — left day jobs behind to train on the advanced
weaponry of 26-ton Bradleys and 70-ton tanks. They practiced until 3 a.m.
Friday and got an early start Saturday, shattering the image of guardsmen as
merely weekend warriors, Capt. Bradley said.

“We wear the same U.S. Army patch on our chest as the
regular Army does,” Capt. Bradley said.

Capt. Murray said the regiment is a reconnaissance and
surveillance force usually charged with maintaining close contact with the
enemy. The unit’s mission means operating alone for up to 72 hours as much as
100 kilometers from the main fighting force.

“The purpose of these vehicles is to defend and
kill,” he said. “So it gets real serious when the guys put the
uniform on. We are the eyes and ears of the commander. We go find the enemy’s
defenses. Or if we are on the defensive, our job is to keep them from getting
through.”

Capt. Bradley said half the regiment  volunteered for regular duty before the war in Iraq last year,
proving the guardsmen are ready to serve.

“We were told they had all the regiments they needed so
we couldn’t go anywhere,” Capt. Bradley said. “We are here out of a
sense of duty when we could be playing golf.”

Capt. Murray said he is not surprised the regiment is being
alerted now rather than during the actual war. He said the 278th’s expertise at
working independently and reacting to fast-changing situations close to the
enemy is a perfect fit for the unpredictable attacks the military faces in the
Middle East.

“We are used to looking out for things that don’t belong
or are just a little off,” Capt. Murray said.

Military leaders are learning the civilian mindset in reserve
forces is best suited for nation building, he said.

“They found the National
Guard,
not the regular soldier, is actually better at the stabilizing
methods,” he said. “We come at it, not as an Army guy, but as a
plumber, electrician or policeman.”

On Saturday, about 360 guardsmen from Southeast Tennessee kept
busy running practice mission scenarios using a high-tech laser feedback system.

Cpl. Aaron Scott, a Cleveland engineer, said the regiment
trains about 30 days a year on the complex equipment their regular Army
counterparts use 365 days a year.

While these soldiers fine-tuned their teamwork on the massive
Bradleys, others in the regiment sharpened their individual weapon skills at
the firing range. Some soldiers crammed in refresher classes on heavy machine
gun assembly, land navigation and vehicle maintenance.

“Anytime you stay away too long, it takes time to get
back into the swing of things,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kendall West, a
regular Army soldier from Fort Knox here to observe the training. “But
these guys know what they are doing.”

Capt. Murray said April’s drill will focus on completing the
paperwork needed when soldiers face a possible mobilization. The soldier
readiness packet includes birth certificates, wills, power of attorney, life
insurance, emergency notifications, physicals and a full series of mouth
X-rays.

Cpl. Scott said their hard training may be put to good use. But
he and his wife have yet to figure out how to explain the possible deployment
to their 5-year-old son.

Pfc. Steven Hammersmith, 19, who earns $187 before taxes for
each drill weekend, said the excitement is greater for the younger soldiers.

“I grew up playing army as a kid, so I might as well do
it for real now,” the Cleveland resident said. “As a bachelor there
is nothing holding me back. I want to go over there for the experience.”

Pfc. Gary Simonds, 21, of Cleveland, said stories he heard as
a young boy of his grandfather’s two tours as a gunner in Vietnam made serving
in combat a lifelong dream.

However, hearing the eagerness of his young men, Capt. Murray
was quick to teach them a lesson they may soon learn first-hand.

“There are no heroes, fellows,” Capt. Murray told
the privates. “If we go over, there are no heroes. Most heroes are
dead.”

The Associated Press 

March 7, 2004, Sunday, BC cycle

Vermont, New Hampshire Guard Members Get Ready for
War

By Wilson Ring, Associated Press Writer

DATELINE: Fort Dix,
N.J.

Groups of about 15 Vermont Army National Guard soldiers climbed into three Humvees, test fired
their heavy weapons and then set out to deliver humanitarian aid to Iraqi
civilians.

Over and over on Thursday, teams of Vermonters rolled to a
stop after spotting a roadside bomb, fought off an ambush and then dealt with
unarmed, Arabic speaking civilians swarming over their vehicles.

“This is as close as we’ll get to what we’ll be doing out
there,” said Frank Cannella of Stratton. The 40-year-old cardiac
technician joined the National Guard
two years ago in the aftermath of Sept. 11, years after serving in the military
as a younger man.

Thursday
was the final day of field training for the soldiers of the Williston,
Vt.-based 1st Battalion of the 86th Field Artillery Regiment. Colleagues from a
New Hampshire company were training at the same time elsewhere at Fort Dix.

On Friday the Vermont group was “validated,” meaning
the training was complete and they were entitled to put on the desert
camouflage uniforms they will wear overseas.

The army won’t be precise about when the Vermonters are
leaving New Jersey other than to say “within a 24-hour window” of
Sunday. The soldiers will first be flown to Kuwait and then, after additional
training that could run from several days to several weeks, into Iraq.

“In the back of your mind you’re scared, but there’s some
excitement, too,” said Michael Kelley, 32, of Orange a full-time
guardsman.

“As you get close to the mission, you feel it more,”
said Staff Sgt. Mark Cyr, 42, of Barre.

While the Vermonters were winding up their training, elsewhere
at Fort Dix about 180 soldiers from the Manchester, N.H.-based Company C, of
the 3rd Battalion of the 172 Infantry Regiment (Mountain) are going through
similar training. The New Hampshire soldiers are due to leave New Jersey later
this month.

Once overseas the two northern New England units are expected
to serve near one another.

Last month, another group of about 180 New Hampshire soldiers
left Fort Dix for Kuwait. They are now in Iraq, said New Hampshire National Guard spokesman Capt. Greg
Heilshorn.

“It’s a historic time,” Heilshorn said. “This
is the largest mobilization of (New Hampshire guard) soldiers since World War
II.”

There aren’t as many Vermonters on active duty as there are
from New Hampshire, but that could change.

As the United States prepares to begin its second year in
Iraq, the Pentagon is relying more heavily than ever on National Guard and reserve troops to replace the active duty
soldiers, some of whom have been in Iraq since before the war began.

The Vermonters are focused on learning their jobs.

“You’d expect to see people dozing off,” said Tracy
Provost, a two-year guard veteran from Winooski. “The young guys are
keeping their eyes and ears open.”

When the Vermonters spot just-returned Iraq veterans at Fort
Dix – they stand out because of their faded desert camouflage uniforms and
scuffed boots – they never miss the chance to ask what it will be like. And the
veterans are always willing to share the lessons they learned, the soldiers
said.

The Vermont National
Guard
members come from Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
New York and even California.

But six weeks of 18-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week training has
brought them together like many never expected. They have become a team that is
focused on its goal of completing its mission and bringing everyone home alive.

“I wasn’t expecting everybody to be as close as they
are,” said Kelley.

The 86th, which draws soldiers from armories in Berlin, Burlington,
Vergennes and Waterbury, is an artillery unit. But the Pentagon doesn’t need
soldiers who can fire the big guns. It needs policemen who can guard convoys or
bases, in what the military calls a force protection mission.

So about 2,500 National
Guard
soldiers from Vermont, New Hampshire and six other states are being
retrained at Fort Dix as military policemen.

“It’s been nonstop training. And I do mean nonstop,”
said Cannella. “I’ve learned how to live on four hours sleep.”

Even though Fort Dix is only a half day’s drive from northern
New England, none of the soldiers has seen family members since they said
goodbye back home.

The Guard members have left their wives, husbands, children
and families behind as they head off into the unknown. The soldiers are
grateful for the e-mail accounts the Army has set up on their behalf. And
they’ve learned to grab the occasional phone call, be it at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m.

But the soldiers know they will miss the births of their
children, first steps, birthdays, high school graduations and family crises. A
number left new brides behind.

“As hard as it is for us, it will be harder for our
families,” said Cannella, whose daughter had her first birthday since he
left Vermont.

But the Vermonters are eager to get on with their mission,
which includes a year in Iraq.

“The quicker we go the quicker we get back,” said
Cannella.

There are two women in the 86th. But it’s no longer unusual to
have women in army units.

“I’m a cook,” said Sgt. Ann Marie Bolton, 28, of
Vergennes, who left a toddler with her husband. “I’m doing all the same
things the others are doing.”

The convoy training mission was designed by Fort Dix officers
and Iraq veterans to be as realistic as possible. And the soldiers have
mastered the course and all the other training they have received.

There will be no ceremony when they leave. They’ll get on a
plane at McGuire Air Force Base, which is adjacent to Fort Dix, and get off in
Kuwait, where they’ll have to adjust to the heat and the reality of where they
are.

The time is coming when the freshly trained soldiers will be
on the lookout for roadside bombs that could kill them, the crowds of Iraqi
civilians will be real and they will be ready to kill an enemy that wants to
kill them.

“It’s a scary thought,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Wheeler
of Berlin, at 50 one of the oldest members of the 86th. He is a truck driver in
civilian life. “You just become very aware of things as you go into an
area where there is enemy. We’re good people. I feel good about it.”

New York Times

March
11, 2004

Army
Retraining Soldiers to Meet Its Shifting Needs

By Eric Schmitt

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Hard-pressed to  fill critical jobs in places like Iraq and
Afghanistan, the Army is retraining thousands of forces essential to the cold
war, like tank operators and artillerymen, to be military police officers,
civil affairs experts and intelligence analysts, positions the Pentagon needs
for long-term stabilizing operations.

The retraining is part of a larger effort that over the next
five years will reassign about 100,000 reservists and active-duty soldiers in
the Army’s biggest restructuring in 50 years. The Air Force, Navy and Marine
Corps are also rebalancing their forces for new missions: 50,000 positions
across the military will have been reassigned by the end of next year. But the
Army has the largest share of the changes and the most ambitious overhaul under
way.

The  aim is to reshape
the Army to be faster to the fight, to relieve the stress on a relatively small
number of Army National Guard and
Reserve soldiers who have been called up repeatedly in recent years and to tap
500,000 reservists from all services who have not been activated in the past
decade. According to the Defense Department, since 1990 the brunt of the duty
has been borne by only 7 percent of the 876,000 reserves assigned to units that
have been involuntarily mobilized more than once.

The
Army face-lift reflects Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s broader vision
of revamping the military to respond more quickly to an array of threats and to
be more deadly.

“What our transformation will do is permit us to deploy
more agile, lethal, adaptable forces,” Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army
chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 25.

But right now, the Army makeup, in particular, is out of sync
with those goals. Mr. Rumsfeld told a House appropriations subcommittee on Feb.
12, “We have too few Guard and
Reserve forces with certain skill sets that are in high demand and too many
Guard and Reserve with skills that are in little or no demand.”

Getting
this balance right is critical for the Army’s fighting abilities and the
long-term health of its recruiting and retention efforts. Army officials said
recently that retention rates for active-duty and Reserve soldiers were lagging
despite re-enlistment bonuses of at least $5,000.

“If we continue to stress these very high-use units, we
risk losing them,” said Thomas F. Hall, the assistant secretary of defense
for Reserve affairs.

In some cases, the restructuring means converting heavy combat
brigades of the Guard into lighter infantry units. In other instances, the
changes are more drastic.

In late February, the Army effort to regain its balance was in
full swing here at Fort Leonard Wood, a large training base in the Ozarks of
south-central Missouri. Tennessee
National Guard
artillerymen who had been trained to blast 155-millimeter
howitzers struggled as military police officers to master the nuances of rape
kits, domestic violence cases and traffic stops.

By early 2005, the Army plans to convert 18 National Guard
field artillery batteries, with about 2,200 soldiers, into military police
units. About 55 percent of the Army’s 38,500 military police officers are in
the National Guard or Reserve.

For
these soldiers and their trainers, who are also reservists, the challenges are
enormous. The eight-week course for military police trainees fresh from boot
camp has been compressed to four weeks for the Guard soldiers, largely because
they are familiar with soldiering.

In a mock village of about 12 brick buildings, the soldiers
tackled training situations familiar to any military police officer on the
beat. Earlier in the training, the soldiers rehearsed urban warfare tactics and
detainee procedures, essential tasks for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Inside a mock dormitory, Sgt. First Class Sean Shea, 36, a
military police instructor who is a Nashville police officer in civilian life,
gathered five trainees and ran through a list of dos and don’ts for their
assignment, a rape investigation.

“You
have to be careful how to talk to them,” Sergeant Shea said. “You
don’t ask a victim, `How’s it going?’ and you don’t use the R word with
them.”

But what were the first words out of the mouth of Specialist
Gary Mansfield after he entered the spartan room where a young woman,
role-played by Specialist Amanda Broom, sat on the corner of a bed?

“How you doing?” Specialist  Mansfield asked, shifting his feet
nervously.

It was a forehead-slapping 
moment for Sergeant Shea, but he patiently regrouped his charges and on
the second try, Specialist Mansfield, 23, a four-year Guard veteran from
Florence, Ala., and his partner, Sgt. William Martin, 39, of Lexington, Tenn.,
finished the interview while three other reservists examined fake blood stains
outside the room.

Specialist Broom, 25, a military police officer, stepped out
of character after the exercise to assess the soldiers’ performance.
“Don’t wring your hands, you look nervous,” she told Specialist
Mansfield. And to Sergeant Martin: “Make sure she can see you writing
things down. That makes her feel important.”

Their heads still swimming from the blur of procedures to
learn, both soldiers said they were nonetheless looking forward to the change.
“It’s going to make the Guard more relevant,” said Sergeant Martin,
who spent eight years in the Marines before switching to the Guard.

Across the street in the mock village, another group of
trainees learned the ins and outs of pulling over vehicles and dealing with
drunken drivers, assaults and worse. “It’s not that it’s hard to learn,
but it is a totally different thing,” said Sgt. William Ray, 47, of
Waynesboro, Tenn., who spent 14 years in National
Guard
artillery units.

Once the soldiers finish their training here, they are bound
for duty at bases in the continental United States, Hawaii and Germany, freeing
active-duty military police officers there to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Trainers
and some students say the change from artillery to law enforcement has been a
jolt for many in the Guard. “There’s a lot of resentment by some
reservists who didn’t sign up to be M.P.’s,” Staff Sgt. Sherry Sorensen,
25, a military police instructor from Lexington, Ky., said. “But they need
to understand this is something the Army has to do.”

Complaining aside, the transformation of armor, artillery and
engineering troops for the infantry mission can already be seen among soldiers
preparing for the stabilization operation in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste, commander of the First Infantry
Division, ordered his troops to undergo a sweeping reorganization before they
were deployed to take responsibility for north-central Iraq from departing
forces of the Fourth Infantry Division.

“Transformation is a reality of this mission,”
General Batiste said in an interview at Camp Udairi in Kuwait, where his troops
were preparing for convoys heading north into Iraq. “We have taken
engineers and our field artillery batteries and turned them into first-rate
infantry battalions. They will patrol territory. They will find and kill the
enemy. They will conduct stability operations.”

One of those soldiers, Capt. Travis Van Hecke, who normally
commands Paladin self-propelled howitzers, will enter Iraq as a member of Task
Force 1-6, under the division’s Third Brigade — “but without our big guns,”
he said. “We are now a patrol-type infantry battalion,” Captain Van
Hecke said. “We have a new focus. We are motorized infantry.”

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Kuwait for this
article.

Louisiana Guard Transformation

By Rick Breitenfeldt

National Guard Bureau

BATON ROUGE, La. (3/1/2004) — Nearly a year has passed since National
Guard leaders from the 54 states and U.S. territories gathered together in
Columbus, Ohio to listen to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. H
Steven Blum’s historic initiative for transforming their organization.

In the weeks and months since that announcement, states and territories have
each taken slightly different approaches to the chief’s vision of developing
ways to deploy more quickly, streamlining the integration with the active
components and organizing state headquarters into joint commands.

Louisiana National Guard officials started immediately with both the analysis
and planning process to ensure the Guard remains a reliable, ready, relevant
and accessible force for the 21st century.

“I think we’ve run with it straight forward and fast,” said Col. Ben Soileau,
deputy chief of staff for the Louisiana National Guard.

Soileau said some of benefits of the transformation are already starting to make
themselves clear.

During this year’s national championship college football game held in New
Orleans, for example, the Louisiana Guard was tasked with assisting law
enforcement officials with security and also providing access control into the
stadium.

Col. Ronnie D. Stuckey, director of operations for the Louisiana Guard, was
responsible for putting together several Special Reaction Teams (SRT) of both
soldiers and airmen to accomplish this mission.

Prior to becoming a joint staff, Stuckey said they would have all been thinking
Army for a mission like this because of the substantially larger number of
soldiers than airmen.
Now, Stuckey added, they try to pull from both sides of the house.

“The Air fell right in with the Army and both understood the joint mission and
that we were all one organization,” said Stuckey. “We were not a green
organization or a blue organization. It was a purple operation with one command
and control cell and one mission.”

“With this joint concept, we’ve institutionalized something that we’ve always
been doing,” said Soileau, “and because we’ve institutionalized it, it has made
everyone’s life a little bit easier.”

Col. Stephen C. Dabadie, Louisiana National Guard chief of staff said
performing joint mission requires a joint staff that supports both the
commander and adjutant general, in addition to supporting those units that are
performing the mission.

“This has gone much beyond just signage on doors or billets,” said Dabadie. “We
have truly taken state area commands (STARC) and the Headquarters for the Air
National Guard and combined them into a Joint Force Headquarters.”

“Active duty forces operate in a joint environment already,” said Soileau, “and
all we’re doing now with the Guard is aligning ourselves up with the rest of
the Department of Defense.”

Soileau said, in the true spirit of jointness, dialogues have also been
initiated with other services such as the Navy Reserve and the Coast Guard,
which are essential to a coastal state like Louisiana.

“We’re getting away from some Guard specific terminology and now speaking the
same language,” said Soileau. “We are now a joint operation and we will have to
work together in the future.”

Although there have been some growing pains associated with the changes, Dabadie
said his staff in Louisiana did everything possible to minimize disruptions.

“We did it deliberately and we did it slowly,” said Dabadie. “Ultimately, our
job as a joint staff is to support soldiers and airmen, and now we are clearly
best configured to do that.”

Maryland Guard Transformation

By Rick Breitenfeldt

National Guard Bureau Public Affairs

BALTIMORE, Md. (3/1/2004)
Walking through training facilities, readiness centers and staff offices of the
Maryland National Guard, most wouldn’t notice much of a change from years past,
but start talking to the soldiers and airmen who sit at those desks or run the
equipment and an entirely different message begins to emerge.

For nearly a year, the Maryland National Guard along with 53 other states and U.S.
territories have been changing the way they think, changing the way they do
business and transforming into a force that is more responsive for the American
people.

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, began the process
of transforming the Guard into a more modern and more responsive force for the
21st century in a plan unveiled at last May during the spring conference of the
Adjutant General Association of the United States in Columbus, Ohio.

“We fight jointly, and we need to train and operate on a daily basis in a joint
environment so we can make the transition (from citizen to soldier) very
quickly. After all, our symbol is the Minuteman,” Blum said after unveiling his
plan last year.

Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, adjutant general for the Maryland Guard, said his
organization has made significant progress in less than a year since the Guard
chief met with him and his counterparts.

“I see a lot of goodness in this,” said Tuxill, who believes one of the biggest
challenges he has faced is getting his staff to stop thinking on a service
specific stovepipe level and begin looking at the more macro and joint levels.

“Transformation is a state of mind; it is getting everybody thinking in
different ways to achieve different ends,” said Tuxill.

This different way of thinking was made abundantly clear as Hurricane Isabel
wreaked havoc in the state in September 2003, said Tuxill.

“We got real smart real quick. We knew we needed to utilize all the forces that
are available to this state for the benefit of this state,” said Tuxill.

Col. Grant L. Hayden, director of operations for the Maryland Guard, said the
Air Guard and Army Guard stood side by side in the joint operations center
during the storm, which is something that may not have happened before the
joint concept.

Hurricane Isabel, said Hayden, provided numerous examples of this new way of
thinking when it comes to sharing information and assets of other services.

In addition to using Warfield Airbase as a staging area for troops and
equipment and having a C-130 standing by to support the logistical aspects of
responding to a storm of this magnitude, the Maryland National Guard even
approached an engineering company of the Marine Corps Reserve located in the
state because of the number of Guard engineers who were deployed to support the
Global War on Terrorism.

“This was something we never would have though of before we started talking
joint,” said Hayden. “Transformation has brought us closer as an organization.
It has brought us together and we work more closely and support each other.”

Tuxill said Maryland is in many ways unique because transforming the Maryland
National Guard goes beyond state borders and also means greater cooperation
among neighboring states and the District of Columbia.

For the first time, the Maryland National Guard is working with D.C. and
Virginia within the National Capital Region to meet the terrorist threat, said
Tuxill.

“If we have another incident like we had on Sept 11, 2001, I would have like to
have seen the other guys business card and had the opportunity to talk to them
first,” said Tuxill. “Let’s not exchange cards after the event happens, let’s
exchange them prior to and talk about how we can best posture ourselves for
this threat.”

 


DEPLOYMENT

Wolfowitz Addresses Guard,
Reserve Deployment Concerns

By Sgt.
1st Class Doug Sample, USA

American
Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (3/1/2004) — Though reserve component forces are going
through a stressful time, the Defense Department is working hard to improve the
situation, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Guard and Reserve
leaders here today.

Wolfowitz, speaking at the Adjutants General Association of the United States
mid-winter meeting, told the group the nation is asking National Guard and
Reserve members to serve for longer periods and in larger numbers and
“with greater uncertainty than I think any of us ever envisioned.”

Wolfowitz cited several burdens being placed on both reserve components, noting
that National Guard and Reserve soldiers make up 40 percent of the new rotation
going into Iraq.

The deputy secretary said that when he flew into Iraq aboard a Tennessee Air
National Guard C-130 in July, he was told the unit had been on active duty 19
of the 23 previous months. He said that case begs a fair question: “Are we
distributing the burden fairly?” It’s impressive, however, that fair or
not, “people take of the burdens that are assigned to them,” he
added.

He said that case also illustrates the need for the Pentagon to look at tour
lengths and balancing skill areas for Guard and Reserve forces. “We are
doing that,” he said. “And in doing so, we are emphasizing how we use
our people, whether it’s for 39 days a year or for 365.”

He said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is committed to reducing
mobilization by looking at how to balance military commitments throughout the
total force.

“We need to ensure that we have the right kinds of capabilities that meet
the mission requirements we face,” he said. “We are looking hard at
it, and I think we are making lots of changes, and I know we are making
progress.”

Wolfowitz said the Pentagon is well aware that the process for calling up and
deploying National Guard and Reserve forces is “imperfect.” “As
you know, our top leader is engaged, and everyone who works for him is engaged,
including all of you in this room, to deal with this problem better,” he
said.

The deputy secretary said the Pentagon is working with the combatant commanders
and the services to ensure they are identifying requirements in a timely way
that allow for members of the Guard and Reserve to react “purposely and
methodically.”

“We are committed to not having one more soldier or airman than necessary
in any theater, nor one soldier or airman less than required,” he said.

Still, he reminded the room filled with top reserve component leaders that the
nation is fighting a long war against terrorism. He said that in the two and
half years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the country has made
“extraordinary progress.” But, he added, “there’s a great deal
more to do.”

Wolfowitz said he has enormous respect for and is grateful to guardsmen and
reservists for playing a critical role in the global war on terrorism and for
helping to strengthen the total force.

The nation “could not fight the war on terrorism without the support of
guardsmen and reservists, and the employers who support them,” he said.

Honolulu Advertiser

March 9, 2004

Families
Get Ready for Guard Deployment  

By Karen Blakeman, Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai’i National Guard
soldiers got a little down time with their families yesterday, a bit of a
breather before Company C, 193rd Aviation heads out to the Middle East later
this month.

For the next year, the Chinook helicopter unit — with about
200 of Hawai’i’s citizens — will ferry soldiers and supplies across hostile
territory and provide combat support in Iraq.

Since the Guardsmen
and women were taken out of their civilian jobs across the state and placed on
full-time military duty in January, they’ve worked long, hard hours preparing
for the trip, with little off-duty time for anything beyond sleep.

Yesterday,
the Guard threw Company C families a lu’au, which included long tables
decorated with orchids and pineapples and stretching the length of a hangar at
Wheeler Army Airfield, and inflatable bouncers for the children near the hangar
doors. A band, made up of Company C Guard soldiers, warmed up as Capt. Joe
Laurel, company commander, stood next to one of the two remaining CH-47 Chinook
helicopters and discussed the deployment.

“It’s been a challenging mobilization period,” he
said. “But the company is over the hump.”

Most of Company C’s Chinooks have been shipped out to the
Middle East, so flying time is down. The company has one more major exercise
this week: Its soldiers will learn, under realistic conditions, to protect
their ground convoy across Iraq should it come under fire.

“Real bullets, real vehicles — the culmination of a lot
of the training we’ve been through to date,” Laurel said.

How to
help the families

People and organizations interested in assisting the families
of the Guard’s Company C, 193rd Aviation may contact Leilani Kerr at
[email protected]

Organizations wishing to adopt a deploying platoon in Company
C or any other Guard, Reserve or active-duty unit may contact George Vickers at
[email protected]

But the primary focus of the next couple of weeks, Laurel
said, will be the soldiers’ families.

“The National
Guard
has ponied up with an aircraft and flown some of them over here from
the Neighbor Islands,” Laurel said. Families of some Ohio soldiers who
have been training and will deploy with the Hawai’i Guard soldiers also are
flying in over the next weeks, he said.

In addition to spending time with the soldiers, the next weeks
will be a time for family members to solidify the company’s Family Readiness
Group, an organization that will keep the families informed during the
company’s absence.

Leilani
Kerr, wife of the company’s executive officer, 1st Lt. Chris Kerr, said the
Family Readiness Group has been meeting in small gatherings since January. The
information passed on is extremely helpful for families of soldiers who were
part-timers and don’t fully understand the military benefits available to them now
that the spouses are on full-time active duty.

The first half-hour of the meetings are business, she said.
Trying to figure out how to get money so the families can get together several
times during the yearlong deployment has been a primary concern, and one that
hasn’t been worked out yet. The second part of each meeting is talk-story time.

“We vent to each other,” she said. “It makes it
feel like a load has been taken off. We share things and support each
other.”

The shopping lists the soldiers brought home for the
deployment prompted interesting discussions.

 “They had some
really weird things on those lists,” she said. “Like panty liners.
Why do they need panty liners? Well, to put in their helmets to absorb the
sweat.”

Leilani’s activities with the FSG won’t stop her from
snatching her husband away from work and taking him to some quiet place in the
coming days, where he can spend time with her and the couple’s four children.

Esther, 7, and Zachary, 5, don’t seem to fully understand what
is going on with their father, she said. The older two children, Titus, 9, and
Micah, 10, ask a lot of questions.

“Like: What if Daddy gets killed in the war?”
Leilani said. Esther, who stood at her mother’s knee, made a noise in a
singsong voice. Her mother kept talking.

The couple tell the children that Daddy has been working so
hard these past weeks so that he will be very well trained to survive the
deployment, she said.

“We reinforce our faith in God and say Daddy will be OK,
and he’ll be protected,” she said.

Esther looked up. She asked her question in a tiny voice:
“But how do you know?”

But she stepped away before Leilani had a chance to answer,
and she moved toward her father and climbed into his arms.

NBC News

March 9, 2004

National
Guard Deployments Affect Many Tennessee families

By Fred
Francis

KNOXVILLE –
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 143,000 National
Guard
members have been mobilized worldwide.

Tennessee’s
top National Guard unit, which
hasn’t been called to combat since the Korean War, is getting ready for Iraq.
The weekend warriors must go, but what happens after they return home?

The war in
Iraq has slammed into most of Tennessee like a tornado, crashing into the lives
of over 4,000 National Guard
families, jolting employers, surprising the troops.

 “A bit excited, but also a bit stunned,” said
19-year-old John Fogerty.

Scenes like
this are nationwide. Some say that’s because Pentagon planners didn’t plan so
well.

The
active-duty Army needs rest. The only option is sending Guard and Reserve troops to replace them, stressing weekend
warriors as never before.  Some 46
percent of the 110,000 troops needed in Iraq will be part-time soldiers.

Communities
like those around Knoxville are reeling. 
According to Lt. Col. Dennis Adams, commander of the 287th
Cavalry Regiment, “That’s lots of fathers, dads, foremen, professors,
architects, engineers, policemen, coaches. You name it – it’ll be a tremendous
gap.”

But the gap
the Pentagon is worried about is after tens of thousands of Guard soldiers
return home next year. Will many quit?

Right now
Guard units are above their quotas. 
Some officials say that is because of a poor job market, but a survey
done by the Guard, of 5,000 troops, suggests that over 20 percent will not
re-up after a year on active duty.

 “We are challenged at home because of the
wear and tear on our National Guard and our Reserve folks.  We are simply wearing out our people and our
military families,” said Adm. Norbert Ryan of the Military Association of America.

Capt. Owen Ray
of the Tennessee National Guard
won’t quit.  The bank where he works is
making up the difference in his salary. 
Most of his men are not so lucky. “When all this is said and done, there
will be a retention issue that many leaders are going to have to face. They are
going to have to rebuild the morale because soldiers will be gone so long.”

And the issue
is not just morale, being away from families and jobs.  A quarter of all the Army Guard is now on active duty, which is
not what most signed up for.  Most
expected to serve at home for disasters and homeland security, training on
Saturdays and Sundays and a few weeks in summer, not in an overseas war with no
end.

Los Angeles Times

March 14, 2004

Tears,
fanfare as troops depart

Wives Write Love Letters and at Least One Soldier
Has Second Thoughts as California Guardsmen Head for Duty in Iraq.

By Rone Tempest and Seema Mehta, Times Staff Writers

FT. IRWIN, Calif. — Not even the harsh desert sun could dry
the tears of sadness and pride on Saturday as hundreds of families bid adieu to
the largest contingent of overseas-bound California National Guard soldiers since the Korean War.

 “I’m extremely
proud of my son because he believes in what he is doing,” said Nancy
Navarro, mother of Spc. Nicholas Navarro, 24, of Victorville, “but for his
mother’s heart, it’s tough. I’m praying for him.”

 Also saying goodbye to
the young soldier, who worked in a skateboard-shoe shop before being called up,
were two sisters; his wife, Rhiannon, 25; and 10-month-old daughter, Makenna.

More than 2,500 troops from the National Guard 81st Separate
Armor Brigade, including 900 from California, depart, beginning today, for a
one-year assignment in Iraq, where they are to replace regular Army forces. By
the end of May, Pentagon officials say, nearly half of the 110,000 U.S. troops
in Iraq will be National Guard or reserve personnel.

It is the first time since Korea that the Guard and reserves
have played such a major overseas role. California, where polls show citizens
to be among the least supportive of the Iraq war effort, is sending more Guard
and reserve troops than any other state.

The largest California Guard unit is the 1st Battalion, 185th
Armor Regiment headquartered in San Bernardino, which is sending 612 soldiers
to Iraq. Most of the other California soldiers assembled on the tarmac of the
Ft. Irwin helicopter base were from the 160th Mechanized Infantry Battalion
from Riverside and the 579th Engineers from Manhattan Beach.

As the military band played martial tunes, four wives of men
in the 160th huddled in the grandstands in an impromptu support group. While
they waited for the ceremony to start, each of the four wrote a love letter for
her husband to read on the way to Iraq.

In her letter to Staff Sgt. Kevin Phillips, Colleen Phillips
wrote: “You are everything to me and I wanted to tell you how very proud I
am. I could not be luckier to have a man who is so brave and so
sensitive.” She signed the letter with the couple’s traditional
salutation: “noses, hearts and never-ending moonbeams.” In civilian
life, Sgt. Phillips, 42, is a Long Beach park policeman. Colleen Phillips is a
registered dental assistant. They have four children, ages 17, 15, 9 and 6.
They live in Lakewood.

The California “citizen soldiers” in the National Guard leave behind civilian
jobs ranging from schoolteacher to prison guard. They arrived this weekend by
bus from Southern California armories, in minivans jammed with kids and, in the
case of one millionaire enlisted man, a private airplane.

Greg Shirk, 44, of Visalia, made a small fortune in 2001 when
his family sold its chain of 12 grocery stores to a Texas company. For a time,
the tall, fair-skinned Shirk, a mere specialist in the National Guard, dabbled in business and politics.

A
computer venture failed. Running as a Republican, Shirk lost a race for Tulare
County supervisor. Two years ago, Shirk’s marriage to an attorney ended in
divorce. The final decree left his two-story, Southern-style mansion, modeled
on the plantation house at Tara in “Gone With the Wind,” to his
ex-wife and two sons, 6 and 4.

“This deployment came at a really good time for me,”
Shirk said, interviewed in Visalia while on a three-day leave before returning
to Ft. Irwin. “I was between jobs and just working at one of our ranches.
Besides, I never thought this should be a rich man’s war and a poor man’s
fight.” Shirk, tooling around town in his mother’s Jaguar sedan, spent
much of his leave visiting his two sons.

Sam, the 4-year-old, has his own camouflage fatigues and an
Army-issue Kevlar helmet. The boys’ mother, Jennifer Shirk, said that since
Greg Shirk’s assignment to Iraq, Sam has insisted on watching Fox News
broadcasts instead of cartoons.

Sam has memorized the lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s “God
Bless the U.S.A.” Singing it for a reporter in the sweeping grounds of the
country estate outside Visalia, his voice rose when he got to the lines:
“And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And I
won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” The youngster’s
fervent patriotism almost matches that of his father.

“Greg is probably the most patriotic person I know,”
said Greg’s brother Eric Shirk, 40, who piloted Greg to the Barstow-Doggett
airport in the private Cessna 182. “When I always wanted to go to Hawaii
and sit on the beach, Greg wanted to visit a battlefield someplace.”

At the airport, Greg Shirk embraced his stepfather, Visalia
grocery magnate Leonard Whitney, a World War II veteran of 33 B-17 missions
over Germany and a major influence in Greg’s life.

Afterward, in a car heading to Ft. Irwin, the infectiously
gung-ho Spc. Shirk had a brief tearful breakdown in which he wondered aloud
about his mission to Iraq. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” Shirk
told a photographer who accompanied him on the drive. “I should have had my
head examined. This stuff is for 18-year-olds.”

Most of the Guardsmen heading to Iraq do not have Shirk’s
privileged background.

Sgt. Carlos Lopez, 38, is a history teacher at North Park
Middle School in Pico Rivera. Spc. Jaime Castillo, 25, of Van Nuys, is a
college student who works as a phlebotomist, drawing blood from patients at
Kaiser Hospital West Hills.

The strapping, 6-foot-3 Castillo is a medic who, during four
years of service in the regular Army before joining the National Guard, served
overseas in Bosnia and Nicaragua. Castillo asked his parents, Jose and Rosa
Castillo, also of Van Nuys, not to attend the Saturday send-off at Ft. Irwin.
“These things get too sad,” he said.

Instead, he was seen off by his girlfriend and fellow
National  Guard trooper, Sgt. Sandra Del
Gadillo, 26, of Torrance. The two met in Bosnia, where they were both on
assignment in the Army. Sgt. Del Gadillo is not being deployed to Iraq.

According to Charmion Sellers, wife of Sgt. 1st Class David
Sellers of the San Bernardino-based 185th Armor Regiment, not all of the
spouses and girlfriends are prepared emotionally for the long separation ahead.

The mother of two, who is volunteer coordinator for the
regiment’s spouses, said monthly counseling sessions had been set up in Corona,
Orange and Long Beach for the spouses. “Some are having a really hard
time,” she said, “especially because it is the first time that their
soldiers are going for such a long time.”

The
separation got even more emotional last week when the National Guard command
threatened to cancel the soldiers’ final three-day leave after two weapons,
belonging to battalion commander Lt. Col. Barry Sayers and Command Sgt. Maj.
Anthony Hines, were stolen at the Ft. Irwin training site.

The 185th’s tent quarters on the edge of Ft. Irwin were
ordered locked down and the soldiers’ gear was subjected to several searches,
but the two weapons, 9-millimeter pistols normally carried by officers and
ranking non-commissioned officers, were never found.

When the leave was canceled, several National Guard soldiers
contacted reporters and local political representatives to complain. Several
had planned to get married during the three-day break.

“Some people were going to go, no matter what,” said
Spc. Victor DiCarlo, 22, of Irvine. DiCarlo interrupted his studies at
Saddleback College and a job at Macy’s to go to Iraq.

Finally, the commanders relented and restored the leave, but
not without adding to the strain already on the departing troops. “The gun
thing was a real roller-coaster ride for several days,” Castillo said.

Even Charmion Sellers, a veteran of several overseas
deployments during her husband’s 13-year career in the Marines, was feeling the
pressure.

“I just want them to go now,” she said. “These
four months in limbo since the deployment was announced have caused havoc. I
just want my husband to go and get it over with. He’s retiring after this
one.”

The Associated Press

March 13,
2004

Spread
Thin Globally, Army Calls on Same Units for Back-to-Back Combat Tours in Iraq

By Robert Burns, AP Military Writer

DATELINE: WASHINGTON

The Army is spread so thin around the globe that when it needs
fresh combat troops for Iraq this fall it will have little choice but to call
on the same soldiers who led the charge into Baghdad last spring.

The 3rd Infantry Division already has been given an official
“warning order” to prepare to return to Iraq as soon as Thanksgiving.
When those soldiers flew home from Iraq last summer to their bases in Georgia,
few of them could have known they were, in effect, on a roundtrip ticket.

They are not alone in facing back-to-back deployments to Iraq.
Some of the same Marines who teamed up with the 3rd Infantry to topple Baghdad
are already assembling again in Kuwait, only a matter of months after returning
home, and more Marines will go next year.

Other Army units that recently returned to the United States
or are preparing to come home this spring, including the 101st Airborne
Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood,
Texas, are candidates for a quick turnaround.

The Army has not announced which will join the 3rd Infantry in
the next rotation, although it has notified three National Guard brigades and a National
Guard
division headquarters that they are likely to go in early 2005.

When the Saddam Hussein government collapsed, U.S. troops in
Iraq figured the war was over, except for some mopping up.

But as the acting secretary of the Army, Les Brownlee,
acknowledged to Congress last week, “we simply were not prepared” for
the insurgency that developed in early summer, prolonging the war and taking
the lives of hundreds of American soldiers.

One 3rd Infantry soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wright, put it
this way in Iraq last June: “What was told to us was that we would fight
and win and go home.”

It’s not that simple.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said recently that the Marines and the Army are going to share
as equally as possible the burden of keeping forces in Iraq for the foreseeable
future.

But it has been and will remain predominantly an Army effort.

“At some point we’ll go back,” said Maj. Gen. David
Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne. He said it also was possible his
troops would be sent to Afghanistan next instead of Iraq. The 101st played a
major role in the initial invasion of Iraq and has only just returned home.

Some are concerned that the Army is being squeezed so hard
that soldiers will quit in droves. Statistics on reenlistments and recruiting
don’t show that to be the case – not yet, anyway. And some who know the Army
best say its soldiers are willing to accept the hectic pace.

“We’ve got an Army and we’re using it,” says retired
Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff and currently president of
the Association of the U.S. Army, a booster group.

Yet Sullivan, who recently visited U.S. troops in Iraq and
Kuwait, acknowledged that sending war veterans back for a second tour of duty
means the Army is stretched tighter than it has been in decades.

“Loosely, in a historical perspective, it’s not
dissimilar to what you saw in World War II in Europe,” he said in an
interview. “We’re just going to keep using them.”

The Army has 10 active-duty divisions, and parts or all of
each have been in Iraq or Afghanistan or are heading there this spring.

To make the challenge even greater, even as it struggles to
provide enough active-duty forces for Iraq, the Army is quietly undertaking a
fundamental reorganization of its combat divisions, starting with the 3rd
Infantry.

That
infantry division will have four combat brigades, of roughly 3,800 soldiers
each, instead of its traditional three, by the time it completes its training
this fall and heads back to Iraq. It will get that extra firepower by acquiring
some elements, such as artillery, military intelligence and military police,
from its division and corps headquarters.

A similar transformation is planned during the course of this
year for the 101st Airborne and the 10th Mountain divisions.

The Army also is relying more heavily on the National Guard and Reserve to maintain
a combat force in Iraq. Brigades from North Carolina, Arkansas and Washington
state are there or soon will be en route, as part of the 2004 rotation of
forces.

Another three brigades, from Tennessee, Louisiana and Idaho –
plus a division headquarters from the New York National Guard – have been alerted that they probably will be sent
to Iraq in the next rotation, in early 2005.

 


GUARD IN IRAQ

Colorado Springs Gazette

March 14, 2004

Guardsmen Battled on Different Fronts

By Tom Roeder, The Gazette

They didn’t see the heavy fighting that happened elsewhere in
Iraq, but Colorado National Guard
soldiers did battle lawlessness, loneliness, bureaucratic frustration and,
perhaps the most pervasive enemy, boredom.

 “One of my squads had
a mustache-growing contest,” said Lt. Russ Gibson of Bailey. “People would do
anything to be entertained.”

Jolted from their civilian jobs and families on notice as
short as one day, National Guard troops from Colorado followed the main Army
push toward Baghdad a year ago and brought law and order to Nasiriyah and the
surrounding highways, vital supply lines for the units fighting their way to
Baghdad.

Gibson
and 152 other members of the 220th Military Police Company were some of the first
National Guard soldiers to enter Iraq
.

A longtime member of the Guard who never had left the country
on a deployment, Gibson was told to pack up on 24 hours’ notice, leaving behind
his wife and his job as an environmental consultant with no time to tie up
loose ends.

 “My wife and I had a
quick heart-to-heart,” he said.

Sgt. James Lamkin of Denver, studying to become an investment
adviser, also was deployed on short notice. He joined the Guard after leaving
the Army, a move many soldiers make in pursuit of the retirement plan that
comes with 20 years or more of service. He hadn’t seen his girlfriend in
months, and she would have to wait another year for his return.

The Guardsmen marched into Iraq right behind the tanks, but
they weren’t going to Baghdad. They stopped at Talil outside Nasiriyah, one of
those places unnoticed in peacetime, but a crucial crossroads for war.

They held those roads and protected convoys that constantly
passed through to bring supplies from ships in the Persian Gulf to the occupying
force of 135,000.

Like so many soldiers in the war, the Guardsmen accomplished
what was expected of them by learning quickly and improvising.

Guarding the route wasn’t like duty farther north. These
soldiers dealt more with common criminals than guerrillas. On a regular basis,
they apprehended hijackers, thieves and smugglers.

Their most common foes, though, were boredom and loneliness.

At Talil, there was little to do. Many of the activities young
people in America seek out during their spare time are banned in the Islamic
country. There’s no alcohol and no dating.

 “I think the main
thing that helped us get through that was that it sucks just as bad for the
person right next to you as it does for you,” said Lamkin, who joined the unit
weeks after leaving the regular Army in 2002. “Trying to keep morale up was
near impossible.”

Lamkin was trained as a mechanic, not a police officer. Gibson
was an engineer with no police experience.

The worst time in Iraq was summer. On top of the scorching
heat, Army food and the long days on patrol came shattered hopes.

Gibson and Lamkin said word would come every few weeks that
the 220th was headed home. The news prompted cheers, then depression when it
turned out to be a false alarm.

“It is an extremely difficult thing to be ready to go home and
then be told that you are staying,” Gibson said.

Many Guardsmen had frustrating problems with their pay.

The Army has one pay system for full-time soldiers and another
for part-timers. Calling up Guardsmen taxed a balky accounting system that
hasn’t been fixed.

The problem was bad enough to draw an inquiry from the federal
General Accounting Office, which found more than a third of the 220th soldiers
were paid late, overpaid or underpaid.

Lamkin said the pay problems, some of them still continuing,
hurt morale.

Then there was the food. Army chow, either in individual
packets or in unit-sized servings.

“You’d just as soon stay hungry than eat that food,” Lamkin
said. “I lost a lot of weight.”

The saving grace was mail.

When it finally caught up with the 220th, it came in waves.
Soldiers cherished every letter.  
Lamkin has every note he got during the year.

It took months, but telephone lines came, too.

Gibson called his wife every couple of weeks. “It made it
easier,” he said.

Lamkin called his parents.

Ingenuity also played a role in keeping the men going.

After eight- or 10-hour patrols, the soldiers arranged
everything from football games to card tournaments. Anything to stave off the
boredom.

“People who have never really read a book started reading
volumes,” Gibson said.

Care packages from home with DVDs and CDs were prized. There’s
nothing like a year in Iraq to make people appreciate what they left behind.

Gibson
never appreciated his wife the way he does now. “There’s just no way I could do
justice to what she did.”

Lamkin said he’s learned to love the little details of life
back home. “I’ll never look at a toilet that flushes the same way again.”

Gibson is returning to his job as an environmental consultant
after he takes a vacation. He said almost all the men will return to their
employers after the war.

The exception is a handful of people in the company who ran
their own businesses.

 “You kind of fire
yourself,” Gibson said.

Lamkin, who trained to sell mutual funds before the war, is
unsure where he’s headed. There’s that girlfriend in Texas who stuck with him
during the war. There are also lots of things to do.

 “I have a lot of
different doors I could go through,” Lamkin said.

Portland Press Herald (Maine)

March 14,
2004

Milestone
for Maine Soldiers

More than half the
state’s National Guard units remain overseas nearly a year after the Iraq war
began.

By David Hench Staff Writer

A year after the U.S. launched its war against Iraq, more than
half of Maine’s National Guard units
remain overseas on missions that range from guarding prisoners outside Baghdad
to training the Afghan army.

Maine has the third-highest percentage of activated National Guard soldiers in the country,
in part because two of its major Army units were called upon early in the
conflict and its largest was just deployed this winter.

The 112th Medical Company, an air ambulance unit, arrived in
the Middle East just as the war broke out last March. The 1136th Transportation
Company, which hauls water, fuel and other cargo, followed a month later. They
spent a blistering hot summer in the Persian Gulf as the regime of Saddam
Hussein toppled and the U.S. asserted its control over the country.

Saturday, March 20, marks the one-year anniversary of the
invasion. It’s an important milestone for those soldiers and their families who
have been separated since the conflict started.

“Both those units are approaching their one year
boots-on-the-ground anniversary and have been pulled out of Iraq back to Kuwait
and are in the transition phase of coming home,” said Brig. Gen. John
Libby, head of the state’s National
Guard.

Meanwhile the 133rd Engineer Battalion, which builds roads,
buildings and other infrastructure, is funneling into northern Iraq, setting up
base in Mosul, part of the second wave of guard units dispatched in support of
military operations in Iraq. Some of the battalion’s companies have arrived in
Kuwait and others have yet to leave Fort Drum, N.Y.

The 152nd Field Artillery unit, which was deployed at the same
time as the engineers, is serving in a military police capacity, guarding a
prisoner compound just west of Baghdad.

In Afghanistan, the United States continues its hunt for
al-Qaida terrorists while helping a fledgling government survive. Twenty Mainers
have joined the 172nd Infantry Mountain Division, headquartered in Vermont, to
help train a new Afghan National Army in a country that has been dominated by
unregulated, undisciplined militias under the control of tribal warlords.

A handful of Air National
Guard
members are based in Qatar, Iraq and southwest Asia, while the bulk
are assigned to guard air installations here at home, including in Bangor.

The wide geographical spread of Maine forces is the result of
meshing their talents with the overall needs of the military.

“When integrated with active forces, they’re going to be
all over the place,” said Lt. Col. Dave Turner of the Maine Army National Guard. “That’s what
they’re trained to do – go where needed.”

Naval reservists are serving in a variety of roles. And
members of the Army Reserve’s 94th Military Police Company from Saco have been
working a series of assignments in different parts of Iraq, including
patrolling Baghdad and guarding prisoners in Fallujah.

Besides National Guardsmen and reservists who are stationed
around the world, roughly 400 active duty Navy personnel assigned to the VP-26
patrol squadron from Brunswick Naval Air Station are currently based in Italy
as part of a scheduled rotation.

While base officials would not discuss specifics of the
assignment, the squadron’s surveillance capabilities were used heavily during
the first Iraqi war and that role is likely to have continued.

The Coast Guard cutter Wrangell, with a crew of 16, also has
been deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For those National
Guard
and reserve members who shipped out early in the conflict, and for
their families, this week’s one-year anniversary has special significance.

“It kind of feels like you’re over the hump and on the
downslope,” said Tammy Lehnig of Sanford, whose husband Damon, a postal
worker, is with the 1136th, now working in the border region between Iraq and
Kuwait. “It makes you realize it’s been a year and kind of marks the time
period of the struggle we’ve gone through already.”

Lehnig, a flight attendant, said she refuses to get her hopes
up about when her husband is getting home.

In fact, she says the most important advice she would offer to
family members of the 133rd and 152nd is, don’t get your hopes up when you hear
they’re coming home.

“The rumor is always going to be they’re coming home. If
you believe every one of them, that’s going to make it hard,” she said.
“Save yourself some heartache. And stay busy.”

Like other soldiers, Damon Lehnig has experienced remarkable
things in Iraq, some of which make him long for home.

“The thing that blew him away was to see camels just
wandering around kind of like in a herd,” she said. “Like you see
deer here, over there it’s camels.” Then there was the camel spider, bigger
than a pack of cigarettes, that supposedly sprays an anesthetic on a person’s
skin so they can’t feel when it bites.

Auring Monette of Dresden, whose son George is with the
transportation unit, said she believes he will return home this month, though
the military does not provide dates to avoid dashing hopes.

“We are really, really anxious to see our son. We will be
happy to have him come home healthy in one piece,” she said. And he’s
eager to return, she said. “I think every one of them is homesick.”

She’ll be glad to have him back, but waiting for her son’s
return has been easier than when she was a young mother waiting for his father
to return from Navy deployments. Then she was raising four children in tiny
Dresden without a driver’s license.

“I drove to the market at 12 because that is when the
police were eating their lunch,” she recalls, chuckling.

For Jeffrey Blake, the approaching anniversary coincides
roughly with his own. A Naval Reserve corpsman, Blake got married on March 31,
the day he shipped out to join a U.S. Marine Corps armored unit as its medical
staff.

An hour after he landed in Kuwait, he was aboard an
eight-wheeled armored vehicle barreling north into the heart of the conflict.
He spent his first night napping in body armor against a street curb as bullets
whizzed overhead.

Heat and dehydration were almost as serious a health threat as
enemy gunman, he said.

“We actually peaked out at 147 degrees,” said Blake,
a paramedic-firefighter for the city of Gardiner. “It was 100 to 120
degrees every day through the summer and it rained twice in the seven months we
were there.”

The light and fast unit he was attached to shifted all over
the country, at one point doing security patrols along the Iranian border, he
said.

Blake came home in October, and he knows well the
uncertainties and adjustments the National
Guard
units may face as the end of their tour approaches.

“We got delayed a number of times. Our date to come home
kept changing,” he said. “We were the last Marine unit to leave. Any
time there were security issues that would pop up we would get delayed.”

His familiar life in Maine didn’t seem so familiar when he got
back. “It’s different not sleeping on the ground, not sleeping with one
eye open. I’m having to relearn all the normal sounds in the house,” he
said.

He and his wife Kerry plan to celebrate their one-year
anniversary with a real wedding this time, he said.

The Maine units return with skills and experience they could
never have obtained at home, Libby said.

But at the same time, the lengthy deployment – the third or
fourth in a decade for some Maine units – is taking a toll, on the Guardsmen,
their families and ultimately on the National
Guard’s
ability to retain its experienced personnel.

“All of them have given up something,” Libby said.
“They’ve given up time with their family. They’ve given up considerable
income. Some lose families over deployments like this.”

Libby said that so far, the latest word on deployments for the
third wave of Guardsmen that will be assigned to Iraq does not include any
Maine units.

Lehnig says she’s still won’t take anything for granted.

“I don’t think it’s going to be over soon,” she
said. “My biggest concern is hoping they’re not ever going to have to go
back.”

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Staff art/ Maine troops around the world/ As of March 12,
there were 1,143 Mainers with the Army and Air National Guard deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and
Operation Enduring Freedom.

Afghanistan (map):

·       
172nd Mountain Infantry, includes 12 Mainers helping to
train the Afghan National Army.

·       
120th Aviation. The bulk of this air traffic control
unit returned last month, but two members volunteered to stay on.

Irag (map):

·       
152nd Field Artillery Batallion, 124 personnel guarding
a prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad.

·       
133rd Engineer Batallion, 500 personnel. An advance
squad has set up in Mosul in northen Iraq, with the rest of the unit at Kuwait,
in transit or still at Fort Drum, N.Y.

·       
112th Medical Company, 135 personnel in northern
Kuwait.

·       
1136th Transportation Company, 151 personnel in
northern Kuwait.

Italy (map):

·       
VP-26 Navy patrol squadron, 400 members from the
Brunswick Naval Air Station are on a scheduled deployment at Sigonella Naval
Air Station in Sicily, Italy.

·       
169th Military Police Company has seven members
stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

·       
172nd Mountain Infantry has 31 members on active duty
providing security at the Bangor Air National
Guard
base.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Wrangell is deployed to the
Persian Gulf with a crew of 16.

Montgomery (AL) Advertiser

March
9, 2004

Guard Gets
Bigger Role In Iraq 

The Montgomery-based
group will work ‘hand in hand’ with active-duty personnel

By Crystal Bonvillian, Montgomery Advertiser

Members of the Alabama
Air National Guard
will be assuming a more active role in the Iraqi and
Afghanistan conflicts, becoming the backup to the force’s Network Operations
Security Center.

The
226th Combat Communications Group, based at Montgomery’s Abston Air National
Guard Station, will take over for the security center, or NOSC, in the event of
a natural or man-made disaster, Air Force officials say.

“It’s really a huge deal,” said Maj. Mike Dyer,
flight commander for the 226th. “The Air
National
Guard and active duty
will be working hand in hand.”

According to a report from the Ninth Air Force and the U.S.
Central Command Air Forces, the NOSC, based at Shaw Air Force Base in South
Carolina, is responsible for analyzing, protecting, monitoring and managing
communications throughout the central command’s 25-nation area. That area
includes Southwest Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa.

As the Iraqi conflict began to wind down, the report said,
military communications experts determined there was a need for an alternate
NOSC for times in which the South Carolina NOSC could not handle its duties.
Maj. Paul Griggs, public affairs spokesman for the Air National Guard, said the
station in Montgomery became a viable choice because of the communications
expertise Guardsmen here have.

“They have vast experience in computer networking,”
Griggs said. “Montgomery was a perfect fit.”

As such, it becomes the only one of its kind in the world,
Dyer said.

“This is the first facility of this type that the Air
National Guard will man,” Dyer said. “All other NOSCs — there is one
in Europe, in the Pacific and in Virginia — are handled by active
military.”

The Montgomery facility will be the only A-NOSC in the world,
he said. It will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will be
about 15 or 16 people on duty at any given time.

“There are only 35 people in the 226th,” Dyer said.
“But there are also subordinate squadrons, totaling between 600 and 800
people.”

Subordinate squadrons that report to the 226th combat group
are as close as Dothan and as far away as St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, Dyer
and Griggs said.

Dyer said the 226th’s new duties would be a good way to foster
a better relationship between Air National Guard troops.

“Guard troops in general need to work more closely than
they have in the past,” he said.

The Associated Press

March 9, 2004

Guard Unit
Preparing To Go Home Delayed In Iraq

DATELINE: SPEARFISH,
S.D.

A South Dakota National
Guard
unit that was preparing to go home after serving nearly a year in
Iraq won’t be leaving the Middle East after all – at least not now.

Members of the Guard’s 740th Transportation Co. had
transferred to Kuwait where they handed in their weapons, gave their vehicles
to replacement troops and shipped most of their personal belongings back to the
states.

Then they got word that they would be sent back to Iraq, minus
some of their military vehicles.

“It’s heart-wrenching for everyone,” said Maj.
Harold Walker, public information officer for the South Dakota Army National Guard. “By simple math,
this unit will reach 365 days ‘boots on ground’ on April 19. It may have
appeared they might go (home) a bit early, but there’s still work to do.”

South Dakota Army National
Guard
Lt. Col. Steven Dunn said the delay was “kind of typical”
of military operations. But he said the equipment substitution was unusual and
of concern.

More than 2,500 South Dakota guardsmen and reservists were
mobilized for duty in 2003. Most of the soldiers are in Iraq and beginning this
spring, many of the units will reach one year of service overseas.

Walker said the plight of the 740th is not an indication of
any difficulties.

“We haven’t heard about any problems with the rotations,
and we have no indications that rotations will push beyond 365 days ‘boots on
ground,”‘ he said. “As tough as it may sound, guard members know that
you don’t know when you’re leaving until you’re on the plane.”

The 740th Transportation Company is based out of Brookings and
Milbank and has 140 members.

The delay has received attention from members of South
Dakota’s congressional delegation.

“I have heard from many soldiers and families regarding
the 740th Transportation Company currently serving in Kuwait,” said Sen.
Tom Daschle, D-S.D. “I am particularly disturbed by reports that these
soldiers lack basic equipment to perform their duties safely.”

A spokesman for Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said he, too, was
looking into the matter.

 


REUNION

Miami Herald

March 7, 2004

Guard Troops Trade Hostile Iraq for a Warm Welcome
Home

A contingent of Florida National Guard troops returns
home to a tearful reunion with family and friends after nine months of combat
in Iraq.

By Tim Henderson

They
came home to greetings quite different from the ones they left behind in Iraq.

On Saturday, the C Company of the Florida National Guard’s 1st Infantry Battalion arrived at the
armory in North Miami after a year of duty in the Middle East.

”I
love Miami,” they shouted, still dressed in their desert camouflage,
surrounded by family members crying with joy.

Their mission in Iraq was to keep order and hunt down
insurgents. They spent nine months in Ramadi, a rural town in the so-called
Sunni Triangle, known for its hostility to U.S. troops. People on the street
sometimes showed the soles of their shoes in an Iraqi gesture of contempt.

”There
was a lot of ignorance,” said Specialist Enrique Hartmann of Miami Shores.
“The people who would have helped us were peer-pressured by the ones who
really hated us.”

Hartmann, a Florida International University student, said the
soldiers’ immigrant backgrounds gave them a special bond.

”A lot of the guys in this outfit are first-generation
Americans from countries that are under communism or are economically
disadvantaged,” he said. “So it’s a real duty for us to pay back that liberty
and opportunity that this country gave our parents.”

The
company suffered no combat deaths but saw 28 injuries that resulted in Purple
Hearts, the last one coming on the group’s final day in Iraq when the
commanding officer, Capt. Tad Warfel of Tallahassee, was hit with shrapnel in
the arm.

”All this group has accomplished, we couldn’t begin to tell
you. Everybody you talk to can tell you something. They’ve just been
wonderful,” said Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Tittle. “And the families and
employers have done everything they can to support them.”

Enrique Reyes of Pompano Beach, a native of Mexico, was met by
relatives wearing yellow T-shirts emblazoned with his picture and the words
“Enrique, Bién Venido.”

”It was very dangerous,” Reyes said, fingering a bouquet of
canna lilies and goldenrod.

”He’s my only son. It wasn’t easy when it fell to him to go
to Iraq,” said Enrique Reyes Sr. “When he wanted to sign up, he needed our
permission and his mother didn’t want him to go. But I felt we should go along
with his wishes.”

Getting back was a challenge, even for the combat platoon,
nicknamed the ”Voodoo Platoon,” that had spent the past year learning to
adapt to ever-changing conditions.

”You’re supposed to have a nice quiet plane ride, but the
flight got canceled because the plane was almost shot down. So you ride five
hours in a truck, bouncing and freezing and guns pointed everywhere,” Hartmann
said. “That’s Voodoo.”

Miami Herald

March 11, 2004

Home at Last

Hundreds Of Families Gather Wednesday At The
National Guard Armory To Reunite With Loved Ones Who Served In Iraq

By Emily T. Eckland

The past 14 months have been lonely and frustrating for Laurel
Justus.

The Hollywood resident’s husband, Daniel, is a captain in the Florida National Guard’s 124th Infantry
Regiment, and has been stationed in Iraq since January 2003.

But
on Wednesday, Laurel had a good reason to be happy: Daniel was finally coming
home.

”It’ll be good to be back together and be a family again,”
said Laurel, who was excited to see   
Daniel and take him to pick up their daughters Stephanie, 10, and
Delaney, 3, from school.

Laurel, waving an American flag and wearing red, white and
blue beads, arrived at Hollywood’s National Guard Armory with her mother, Carol
Nelson of Hollywood, and sister Kristi Tucker of Miami, just before noon.

More than 100 other National
Guard
families and friends also arrived to reunite with the approximately
120 members of the Alpha Company 1st Battalion of the 124th Infantry Regiment
upon their arrival by bus from Fort Stewart, Ga.

The
two buses pulled up to the armory minutes before 1 p.m. to a sea of ”Welcome
Home” banners and a cheering crowd. But family and friends got only a few hugs
and kisses in before their loved ones were whisked away into the armory for a
final check-in.

At
1:15 p.m., the soldiers began filing out of the building, peering over the mass
of people, banners and balloons to locate their admirers. A luncheon reception
on the armory’s Dowdy Field took place soon thereafter.

The reunion was joyful for Laurel, 31, and Daniel, 36. As soon
as Laurel saw her husband getting off the bus, she ran toward him and showered
him with kisses and hugs.

”It’s an unbelievable feeling. Nothing could ever compare to
this. I never thought this day would happen,” said Daniel, his arms wrapped
around Laurel.

National Guard
specialist and Miami resident Javier Ortiz decided he wanted to get home a
little early to see his fiancée, Yulieth Garcia, and so he bought a car in
Savannah and drove down early Wednesday morning.

”It
feels awesome to be home. [Iraq] was quite an experience. I couldn’t possibly
begin to describe it,” said Ortiz, who was stationed in Ar Ramaei.

Ortiz, who is a correctional officer at the Everglades
Correctional Facility, said he had big plans for the future: get married and go
on a vacation to Puerto Rico to see his parents.

”Hopefully, we won’t have to go back [to Iraq] ever again. It
was tough dealing with the constant attacks and the explosions on the side of
the road,” Ortiz, 33, said.

Pembroke Pines resident Marilys Mirabile said being without
her husband, battalion commander Hector Mirabile, for the past year and two
months was “horrible.”

”Right now I’m so nervous. We have a daughter and it’s been
tough for the both of us,” said Mirabile, whose daughter Anais, 12, was taking
the FCAT and could not come.

Although Hector Mirabile has been with the National Guard for 25 years, this was
his first time stationed overseas.

”It’s
great being home. It’s about time!” said Hector Mirabile, who planned to spend
the next few days relaxing with his wife and daughter and possibly vacationing
in Disney World.

Hollywood resident Shirley Edwards greeted her son Brent, an
E4 specialist, with a poster with his picture on it that read “Welcome Home
Crown Prince.”

”I’m just gonna love him, cuddle him and feed him up, feed
him up real well,” Edwards said.

Florida Today

March 11, 2004

Soldier
Comes Home to Two-Thirds the Wife

Gastric
bypass helps woman surprise spouse

By R. Norman Moody, Florida Today

Duane Hargis threw his arms open in awe, a broad smile on his
face.

He then wrapped his arms around his wife and held on for about
five minutes, not saying a word.

His surprise was showing, for all to see.

While her husband was serving in Iraq, Denise Hargis lost
about a third of her body weight after gastric-bypass surgery. The difference
was stunning, made doubly so by his absence.

“She looks just like she did 16 years ago when we first
got married,” said Duane Hargis, the excitement brimming.

Hargis never urged his wife to lose weight, even when she
reached nearly 300 pounds. But he supported her decision to have the surgery,
which has become more popular nationally over the last few years.

She has lost about 95 pounds. Now his enthusiasm is obvious.

“It’s like when we first fell in love,” he said.
“It’s like falling in love all over again.”

Denise Hargis waited eagerly for days at Fort Stewart, Ga.,
for his arrival from Iraq. It had been more than a year since she had seen her
husband and more than a decade since he has seen her at her present weight.

Specialist Hargis and the Cocoa-based citizen soldiers of the
1st Battalion, 124 Infantry of the Florida
National Guard
arrived last week in Fort Stewart, and most are expected
back home in Brevard County in the next few days.

“He
knows what I look like in the face,” Denise said as she awaited his return
last week.                    
“That’s all he’s seen because he made me send him a picture. He’s
begged me to send him photos.   I’ve told
him ‘No.’ I told him to imagine that he’s meeting me all over again.”

Denise Hargis wanted her trimmed-down size to be a surprise.

It was.

“He knew I had the surgery,” she said. “He
hasn’t seen me at this weight in 13 years.”

She now walks with a little bit of a spring in her step. She
hasn’t felt this healthy in a long time, she said.

“It’s been very positive for her,” said Lori Craig,
her close friend. “This is a whole new her. She looks so much like the
pictures when they were first married.”

Back then, in 1988, Denise Hargis weighed about 135 pounds.
She was 18. He was 20.

The couple have two children, Stephanie, 13, and Justin, 11.

After reaching 275 pounds in recent years and unable to shed
the pounds even after trying a series of diets, she sought the only resort she
felt she had.

“I’ve been heavy a long time,” she said. “I
went through a lot of depression. I tried the diets. I’d lose a little bit and
gain more.”

Her insurance company turned down paying for the surgery
because it considered the procedure cosmetic, Hargis said. Even after appeals
and a recommendation from a doctor that it was for health reasons, it was not
approved.

Then Duane Hargis found out he would be activated. It was
bittersweet news. She would be covered medically under his military insurance
plan, but he would deploy to a war.

“He came and told me, ‘I’m being activated, now you can
have your surgery,’ ” Denise Hargis said. “If it wasn’t for the
deployment, I’d still be 275 pounds or maybe even more.”

“He loved me skinny, he’s loved me fat,” she said.
“He just wanted me to be happy.”

But he may also have to adjust his eating, Denise Hargis said.

Craig believes Hargis will be happy with his wife’s new look.

“I think he’s going to see the bride that he
married,” she said. “She’s healthier now.”

 


FAMILY SUPPORT:  RETURN
ISSUES

The Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville,
TN) 

April 7, 2004 Wednesday

Family Readiness Groups Learn About Resource to Help with
Return Problems

By CHANTAL ESCOTO

About 150 Family Readiness Group leaders gathered at the
Campbell Club Tuesday to learn more about preparing hearts and homes for their
returning soldiers.

Nearly 18,000 101st Airborne Division troops deployed to Iraq
early last year and are slated to return within the next three months. More
than 600 soldiers from the division’s advance party are arriving this week to
prepare for the return.

The news of the Screaming Eagles’ return continued to stir
excitement Tuesday as spouses listened carefully about how to use a new
information tool called Army One Source.

Military members and their families will have a one-stop
source by telephone or via the Internet for topics from anonymous counseling to
finding a car repair shop in a city where an Army family is relocating.

A company called Ceridian, headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn.,
secured a $2.3 million contract with the Army last year and will offer help to
active duty, National Guard and reserves and their families on just
about anything concerning the military. Relocation, financial matters,
education, schooling, health, deployment, family support and relationships are
among the topics.

“It’s great because it’s a live person, not just
automated – and it’s anonymous,” said Lisa Harrison, wife of Col. Will
Harrison, 159th Aviation Brigade commander. About 80 of the brigade’s soldiers
will be on one of the flights coming in today. “This is a good other
resource.”

Although the asset has been available since August 2003, it’s
not usually publicized until the Ceridian representatives come to the military
installation to explain the services offered. The company also has contracts
with the other service branches.

“Usage usually goes up after each visit (to post),”
said deputy program manager, Kurt G. Kampfschulte. Most of the calls received
by subject experts are for those with emotional problems, but many questions
are also about parenting and child care issues.

Kampfschulte said whenever he briefs spouses, they tell him
how relieved they are to know their husbands have somewhere to turn if they
have problems, and it doesn’t have to go through their commander.

But Kampfschulte also said some officers have voiced worry to
him that such circumvention could risk the safety of the unit if there’s
trouble they don’t know about.

“That really hasn’t happened because the counselors talk
to the soldiers and (advise) them to bring it to their chain of command,”
he said. “They’ll respect them for solving their own problems.”

Deborah Malloy, Family Readiness Group leader for 2nd
Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, wished she knew about Army One Source
earlier because deployed soldiers could have used it via the Internet.

“A lot of guys won’t go to counseling, so this being
anonymous is great,” Malloy said. As for preparing for the homecoming,
most of the units already held their redeployment briefings and are eager for
the soldiers’ return.

“We’ve decorated our company areas and put welcome home
signs on the barracks’ doors,” Malloy said. “The wives are doing a
great job. It would have been a very hard deployment if we didn’t have each
other.”

 


BENEFITS

European Stars and Stripes

March 11, 2004

Army Promises To Reduce Medical Holds For Reservists

By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes

ARLINGTON, Va. — Army officials are promising reserve component soldiers
found medically unfit to serve that they will not languish waiting for a
discharge.

According to a policy issued March 3, Reserve or National Guard soldiers
who are being medically discharged or retired will now be released from active
duty no more than 30 days after the Army makes its final ruling, instead of a
three-month maximum previously in effect.

The Army’s official goal is to release such soldiers “within five working
days” once the service’s Physical Disability Agency issues its final
determination that the soldier is “unfit” for service, the policy says.

The 30-day window is a “worst-case” scenario, specified, “only to allow
installations flexibility to handle special cases,” according to the policy.

The full month might be needed, for example, if a soldier’s condition
takes a sudden turn for the worse while he or she is waiting for discharge
paperwork and must be re-evaluated by the medical board, said Col. Fred
Schumacher, executive officer and reserve component advisor on the Army
Physical Disability Agency.

The new policy “is a recognition that we need to get [reserve soldiers]
back to job and family as fast as we can, after appropriate medical treatment
and processing,”  schumacher said.

Previously, Army rules allowed officials to take up to 90 days to wrap up
out-processing for any soldier found medically unfit for service after he or
she went through the Army’s physical disability evaluation system.

Active-duty soldiers use the extended out-processing to “essentially begin
a career shift,” seeking employment outside the Army, as well as finding new
housing for their families, Schumacher said.

The 90-day out-processing maximum remains the standard for active-duty
soldiers.

But reserve component soldiers who have been “medically boarded” are in a
very different position, because they have civilian lives, Schumacher said.

The medical board process already takes “several months” beyond a
soldier’s actual medical treatment in Army hospitals.

So once the board has issued its final ruling, “it’s pointless to have
them just sitting around,” Schumacher said. “The soldier needs to get on with
his life.”

Delays in out-processing can place a special strain on reservists because
their jobs and families are often located far from the active-duty mobilization
station or an Army medical facility where soldier is required to stay until
officially discharged.

But the hardships posed by the 90-day out-processing window didn’t reach
the attention of Army officials until large numbers of Army Reserve and
National Guard soldiers began getting called up for Operations Iraqi Freedom
and Enduring Freedom.

The “medical hold” issue came to a head last spring with news stories
about hundreds of reservists stuck for months at Fort Stewart, Ga., waiting for
their conditions to be evaluated, treated by service doctors, and assessed by
the Army medical board.

American Forces Press Service 

Troops Get Federal Tax Break For
Combat Zone Service

By
Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2004 – American troops serving in designated combat zones
in support of the war against terrorism continue to get a tax break from Uncle
Sam.

Depending
upon rank, eligible service members can exclude from federal income tax either
all or some of their active duty pay – and certain other pays – earned in any
month during service in a designated combat zone.

The
Internal Revenue Service’s Armed Forces’ Tax Guide for 2003 says “a combat
zone is any area the president of the United States designates by executive
order as an area in which the U.S. armed forces are engaging or have engaged in
combat.”

Service
members who serve one or more days in a designated combat zone are entitled to
federal tax exclusion benefits for that entire month, according to the IRS.

Current
designated combat zones include, Afghanistan, Iraq and other specified parts of
the Persian Gulf region — to include Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain,
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – and parts of the Kosovo area.

Service
members in several other areas specified in law as “qualified hazardous
duty areas” are eligible for the same tax breaks. Bosnia-Herzegovina, the
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Croatia have been listed since 1995.

The
downloadable Armed Forces’ Tax Guide for 2003 can be accessed on the IRS Web
site. It lists many, but not all, designated combat zones.

Some
service members providing direct support for military operations within a
designated combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, such as Djibouti,
Africa, Turkey, Yemen, and the Philippines, are eligible for income tax
exclusions.

To be
in direct support of a combat zone, a service member must be serving in an area
the secretary of defense determines is directly supporting a combat zone.
Service members deployed to Mediterranean waters east of 30 degrees east
longitude also are eligible for combat zone tax relief, from March 19 to Aug.
1, 2003, as an “in direct support” area. Service members serving in
Israel from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, 2003, also were serving in an “in direct
support” area.

While
military members can use the tax guide in preparing their 2003 federal tax
returns, those who have specific questions about designated combat zones should
contact their unit personnel or pay officials or unit tax assistance officer.

The
IRS guide notes service members normally don’t need to claim the combat zone
exclusion or subtract eligible earnings on their federal tax returns. The
services normally have already excluded combat zone earnings from the taxable
gross income reported on service members’ Form W-2s, the guide says.

The
IRS points out that military retired pay and pensions aren’t eligible as combat
zone income tax exclusions.

In
other military pay news, The National Defense Authorization Act for 2004
extended the increase in imminent danger pay to $225 per month to eligible
service members through Dec. 31, 2004.

The
amount of service member federal tax relief depends upon a taxpayer’s rank. For
example, enlisted troops and warrant officers serving in a designated combat
zone or qualified hazardous duty area for any part of a month exclude all gross
income earned for military service that month from federal taxation.

For
commissioned officers, the monthly income exclusion is capped at the highest
enlisted member pay (E-9), plus any hostile fire or imminent danger pay
received. For example, in 2003, the most a commissioned officer could earn tax-
free each month was $5,957.70. For 2004, the cap increases to $6,315.90
($6,090.90, the highest monthly enlisted pay, plus $225 hostile fire or
imminent danger pay.)

The
IRS also allows troops deployed to an area entitled to combat zone tax
exclusion extra time to file their federal taxes, usually 180 days after the
service member leaves the combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area.

And,
the Military Family Tax Relief Act of 2003 provides certain above-the-line tax
deductions for reservists and National Guard members who travel more than 100
miles to attend military drills and meetings. This new provision allows
reservists and Guard members who cannot itemize deductions to still take these
deductions. This provision is effective for the 2003 tax year.

The
act also provides a $12,000 nontaxable death gratuity to families of service
members who die on active duty, retroactive to Sept. 10, 2001.



FORCE STRUCTURE

Monterey County Herald

March 7, 2004 Sunday

Restructuring the National Guard system

The warning order went out from Washington this week to three
enhanced brigades of the Army National
Guard
— the 256th Infantry from Louisiana, the 116th Cavalry from Idaho
and Oregon, and the 278th Armored Cavalry from Tennessee. “Get ready to go
to Iraq late this year or early next.”

The Department of Defense also alerted 1,000 members of the
42nd Infantry Division headquarters from New York state that they would be the
first Guard headquarters of its size to be tapped for duty in Iraq. That
amounts to a total of 18,000 citizen soldiers.

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001 changed the world, the National Guard and Reserves have been
carrying a heavy load in deployments to both peacekeeping missions in Bosnia
and Kosovo and combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this isn’t going to
change anytime soon.

Nearly half — 46 percent — of the 110,000 troops now
rotating into Iraq for a one-year tour of duty are reserves and National Guard. Experts at the Pentagon
say next year’s third shift of troops going into Iraq could include an even
higher percentage of reserve and Guard troops.

With the active duty Army skinned back to only 10 divisions
and a permanent strength of 480,000, there is no way all the missions the Army
has been assigned around the world could be carried out without the reserves
and National Guard.

Even as troops fan out on tough and deadly missions, the
Pentagon is moving swiftly to reorganize the National Guard, streamlining an antiquated command structure that
was designed for mass mobilization for a world war. The Pentagon also has added
offensive, defensive and communications capabilities to many Guard units,
creating “enhanced brigades” that can operate independently.

The Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, is
determined to modernize and change the National
Guard
and make proper use of it. In return, the Army would guarantee that a
National Guard unit will not spend
more than 12 months on active duty during a five-year period.

The number of enhanced Guard brigades will be increased from
the present 15 to 22, and they will be trained and equipped to mirror the new
modular Army brigades. This will be achieved by converting excess artillery
battalions and air defense battalions into infantry units. Other Guard
battalions will be converted to needed specialties such as military police.

Even as this is under way, Schoomaker and the Army staff are
working to pull units critically needed in the early days of a deployment for
combat into the active duty Army. This includes such specialties as
port-opening units and civil-military affairs units. Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld has ordered the Army to balance the force in such a way that Guard
and reserve units would not have to be called up during the first 30 days of
any combat operation.

The Army Guard and reserves, totaling 555,000 troops,
outnumber the active duty Army. Army leaders know that these part-time soldiers
cost almost as much as active duty soldiers, and they are determined to get
their money’s worth out of them.

Army leaders hope that by making better use of a modernized
Army National Guard and Army
Reserve, and squeezing new combat soldier positions from a transformed active
duty force, they can avoid any costly permanent increases in the size of the
active Army.

Schoomaker believes privatization of soldier office jobs will
recapture 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers for combat duty. He also plans to reduce
the number of soldiers — now 75,000-plus — who are in movement at any given
time, such as transferring, going to or from schools, or entering or leaving
service. He believes that number can be reduced by at least 15,000 soldiers,
leaving them in their units doing the jobs they were hired to do.

With those 30,000 recaptured positions and the 30,000
additional troops approved by Rumsfeld as a temporary four-year increase in
Army strength, the Army chief believes he can get by without a large permanent
increase in the force, which would cost billions and be extremely difficult to
finance in future budgets.

Schoomaker hopes that the current high level of deployments in
Afghanistan and Iraq represents a peak, not a plateau. If the future turns out
to be just as busy as the present in the need for armed might, then the United
States may well need a bigger Army to do its usiness. If that is the case
Schoomaker has told Congress and his bosses in the Department of Defense that
he will come back and say so and ask for the troops needed.

Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for
Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller ”We Were
Soldiers Once… and Young.” Readers may write to him at: Knight Ridder
Washington Bureau, 700 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045.

Balanced Guard

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON (3/1/2004) — Governors will be able to call on at
least 50 percent of their National Guard forces for homeland defense missions
and other state emergencies because of a plan to realign Army and Air Guard
units during the next few years, the chief of the National Guard Bureau
promised in late February.

“We will balance our forces, focusing on the right force mix and the right
kinds of units with the right capabilities in every state and territory,” vowed
Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum while addressing the National Governors Association’s
winter meeting here in the nation’s capital.

The intent is to have no more than 50 percent of the 460,000-member Guard force
involved in the nation’s war fighting effort at any given time so that between
50 and 75 percent of the force can be available “on a no-notice, immediate
basis” for missions on their home turf, the Guard Bureau chief told the
commanders-in-chief of the 54 states and territories.

“We must develop a predictive deployment model … that ensures the [Guard] force
is managed to permit approximately 25 percent to be deployed to the war-fight;
with another 25 percent training to replace those already deployed; and
ensuring that a minimum of 50 percent remains available to the governors for
state missions, homeland defense, and support for homeland security
operations,” Blum said.

“To get to this end-state, we are going through a top-to-bottom rebalancing
nationwide,” Blum explained. “It will result in a more evenly distributed
burden sharing throughout the Guard, enhanced capabilities in the National
Guard in each state, and a better level of predictability for when the force
may be needed.”

The model will be based on a goal of no more than one substantial deployment
every five or six years for Army Guard soldiers and one deployment every 15
months for members of the Air Guard, he added.

Blum also asked the governors to support legislation that the Defense
Department has proposed to expand the authority of Title 32 of the U.S. code.

“The proposal would permit expanded use of federally funded National Guard
forces, under the respective governor’s control, for homeland defense and
support for homeland security operations. This is the best of both worlds for
all concerned,” Blum said.

The 367-year-old National Guard has already transformed itself into a more
reliable, ready, relevant and accessible force for the global war against
terrorism, Blum assured the governors as he neared the end of the first of his
four years as the Guard Bureau’s chief.

“To date, your adjutants general have consolidated 162 … headquarters
organizations into 54 standing joint force headquarters,” said Blum, who
initiated the transformation last May.

“In times of emergency, your standing joint force headquarters provides for
rapid response and better integration of National Guard assistance from your
neighboring states through existing Emergency Mutual Assistance Compacts,” Blum
explained.

“Additionally, the standing joint force headquarters provide improved access to
all Department of Defense assets within your state or territory, should they be
needed,” he added.

“We do not foresee a reduction in the number of people in the Guard,” said
Blum. “We do see a National Guard with enhanced capabilities to perform all of
its missions.”

Guard members have performed extremely well during the war against terrorism,
Blum said.

“In combat, the performance of our soldiers and airmen has been magnificent,”
he observed. “They bring civilian acquired skills and life experiences
unmatched by their active counterparts and are even more effective because of
this. They are America’s home team. And they bring your communities and those
values to the fight.

At the current deployment rate, 80 percent of the Guard’s forces will be combat
veterans as well as homeland security veterans within the next 36 months, Blum
predicted.

“The numbers vary daily and have ranged as high as 75 percent of one state’s
National Guard being deployed,” Blum said. “Governors and adjutants general
have told me this is unacceptable.”

That is why it is time to even the load among all of the states, he asserted.

“I cannot deliver this model today because our Guard force is not properly
balanced … among the states, nor is it properly balanced among the active,
Guard and Reserve [forces],” Blum said.

“But when accomplished,” he said, “it will provide you, the
commanders-in-chief, the maximum possible capabilities at your disposal for
state missions, homeland defense and support for homeland security missions.

“This model will ensure that no governor is left without sufficient
capabilities in the state.”

 


GENERAL

Biloxi Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS)

March 12, 2004 Friday

Minister
Gets Support After Family Deaths 

By Robin Fitzgerald

A youth minister and military family support coordinator known
from Pascagoula to the Pearl River is getting some of the encouragement he
gives others.

The Rev. John Gallardo, whose 19-year-old daughter, Candy, and
7-month-old grandson, Matthew, died in a traffic accident Wednesday, is getting
moral and spiritual support from people across South Mississippi.

The crash on U.S. 49 in Saucier also injured another grandson,
5-year-old Aaron Gallardo, and the other driver, 17-year-old Tiffany Ladner.

The show of concern comes from those who know Gallardo through
his volunteer work with the Army National Guard 890th Engineering
Battalion, Youth for Christ’s Campus Life programs at schools and his youth
ministry job at Faithview Baptist Church in Saucier.

Before the accident, Gallardo was making arrangements for a
“welcome home” for soldiers returning from Iraq, but others have
stepped in to help, said Kathie Ladner, supervisor of the National Guard
Family Assistance Center. She is not related to Tiffany Ladner.

Others are calling, visiting and making donations to the
Gallardo Family Memorial Account at Hancock Bank. Many, such as students at
Trent Lott Middle School in Pascagoula, are praying.

A youth meeting before school at Bay St. Louis High School
also had a profound response, said Brad Holt, Youth for Christ executive
director.

“They prayed, and 13 teenagers made a first-time
profession of faith. What spurred it is what happened in John’s family,”
Holt said.

Aaron’s spleen was removed in surgery, and he may be moved out
of intensive care today.

“He’s asking for his Leap Pad and asking his Grandpa when
he can go home,” Ladner said.

Tiffany Ladner, who also is at Garden Park, suffered a broken
ankle and jaw, Holt said.

“We haven’t forgotten about her. I’ve spoken with her
parents and plan to visit her tonight,” he said.

The Associated Press

March 14,
2004

Northeastern
Indiana Recruiters Say New Recruits Keep Coming

DATELINE: FORT
WAYNE, Ind.

Defying a national trend, recruiters for National Guard and Army reserve units in northeastern Indiana say
they are having no trouble finding new recruits to join the part-time units.

“There’s probably not a better place in the Midwest to be
a recruiter,” said John Sylvestri, commander of the Army Reserve’s Fort
Wayne recruiting company. “We have a lot of patriotic men and women who
want to serve their country.”

Nationally, the ranks of the National Guard and Army Reserve have dwindled nationally since a
spike in recruitment after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But that’s not been the case across northeastern Indiana.

Two National Guard
units in the Fort Wayne area report being 100 percent manned.

And Sylvestri, whose office recruits for both the reserves and
the U.S. Army, said Fort Wayne’s local Army Reserve units have been at more
than 100 percent enlistment for the past three years.

Still, the shrinking ranks of the National Guard and Army Reserve in other states have Pentagon and
state government officials worried these forces will shrink even more as
thousands of reserve and guard troops return from operations in the Mideast.

Guard members and reservists are expected to make up 40
percent of the troops stationed in Iraq after a massive troop rotation this
spring.

Across the nation, state governors are concerned that a large number
of people leaving the service at one time – either for retirement or to join
the military full time – could hamper traditional guard duties such as disaster
response.

Lengthy deployments and the ongoing war in Iraq have not kept
candidates away from recruiters, Sylvestri said.

“If anything, it’s helping our regular Army
numbers,” he said. “Because we’re fighting a war on terrorism, they
decide to go into the regular Army.”

However, the U.S. Army put out an order temporarily stopping
any eligible service member from retiring, said Captain Lisa Kopczynski, state
public affairs officer for the Army and Air National Guard.

About 20 percent of Indiana’s Army National Guard units are currently deployed either overseas or to
domestic missions, Kopczynski said. She declined to give specific recruiting
numbers but said those numbers have remained steady over the past year.

Statewide, the Army Reserves has had steady recruiting numbers
until late 2003, when the number of new enlistments dropped from 192 in the fall
to 154 by the end of December. Enlistments are expected to hit the 200 mark by
the end of this month, said Mary Auer, public affairs officer for the Indiana
recruiting district.

The Indiana Air National
Guard
122nd fighter wing, based in Fort Wayne, has been at full strength
for more than four years, said Lt. Lauri Turpin, community manager for the
local unit.

Few Guard members retired last year and the fighter wing has
enough new recruits to fill those empty slots and man the air base, Turpin
said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–End—