1 19, 2004,
Volume 1, Issue 57
Index of Articles
Note: Topics below
are now bookmarked! Click on the underlined
topic below to link to the pages on that topic.
Iraq Duty Deters Re-enlistment
National Guard and Reserve Mobilized as of April
National Guard Activated
National Guard puts 1,100 on Alert
Guard Members In Duluth May Be Deployed
Easter Reunions as Troops Return Home
Guard Unit Is Set to Return
National Guard’s 957th Back on U.S. soil
Guard’s 161st Arrives Friday
Welcome Home for Wounded GIs
National Guard Unit Returns to Families and to
W.Va. Army National Guard Members Return Sunday
Most College Costs Paid for National Guard Members
Phone Card Gifts Make
it Easy for Americans to Show Deployed Troops
Looks to Aid, Bolster National Guard Ranks
Politicians Push For Bill to Protect Guardsmen
and Reservists From Discrimination
Utah National Guardsman Awarded the Bronze Star
Mark Lyons is a Pilot of a C-130
They Save Lives Amid Hell of War
Memorial Service Honors Soldier Who Served With Two Sisters in Iraq
For Guard Unit’s Kin, No End to the Grieving
National Guard Deployment Could Cause Firefighter
Extended Tours in Iraq Dash Hopes and Raise Fears
Among Troops’ Families
Army Ignores Illness Complaints
National Guard Video Honors Sacrifices in War
Colorado Guard Forms Alliance With Kingdom of
CAS3 to Merge with Officer Advance Courses
Bush Fulfills Vow to Injured GI
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USA TODAY Back
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Duty Deters Re-Enlistment
By Dave Moniz
WASHINGTON — The number of soldiers staying in
the Army is falling just as the demand is increasing
March 17, nearly halfway through the fiscal year,
the Army fell about 1,000 short of meeting its
goal of keeping 25,786 soldiers whose enlistments
were ending or who were eligible to retire. That
works out to a 96% retention rate.
year, the retention figure was 106% because more
soldiers stayed than the Army had planned. The
retention goal assumes that not all eligible
to stay will remain.
personnel experts have warned that full-time
soldiers and members of the Guard and
Reserve could begin leaving this year because
of the strains of service, including longer and
more frequent overseas missions. Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged Thursday that the
Defense Department will extend duty in Iraq beyond
one year for 20,000 soldiers. Their time in Iraq
will grow as much as 90 days.
regret having to extend those individuals,” Rumsfeld
said. “The country is at war, and we need
to do what is necessary to succeed.”
Powell’s husband, Sgt. 1st Class Arnold Powell,
47, was scheduled to come home at the end of
the month. “I have something from every
holiday he’s missed,” said Powell, 44, of
Fort Polk, La. “I’ve got stale Easter candy
in this basket. I know it sounds stupid. That’s
just something I do for me to cope.”
extension comes after two weeks of violence in
Iraq, including the kidnappings of 40 people
and a series of deadly attacks on convoys and
States Department of Defense
Apr 14, 2004
National Guard and Reserve Mobilized as of
April 14, 2004
week all the services reported a decrease with
the exception of the Coast Guard who remain unchanged
in support of the partial mobilization. The net
collective result is 1,728 less reservists on
active duty than last week.
At any given time, services may
mobilize some units and individuals while demobilizing
others, making it possible for these figures
to either increase or decrease. Total number
currently on active duty in support of the partial
mobilization for the Army National Guard and
Army Reserve is 150,289; Naval Reserve 2,654; Air
National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 13,035;
Marine Corps Reserve, 5,086; and the Coast Guard
Reserve, 1,586. This brings the total National
Guard and Reserve on active duty to 172,650
including both units and individual augmentees.
roster of all National Guard and Reserve
who are currently on active duty can be found
LA National Guard Activated
Reported by KPLC Staff
A Louisiana National Guard brigade with
about four-thousand soldiers has been activated
for overseas service and about three-thousand Fort
Polk-based soldiers will remain in Iraq longer
One squadron of the Fort Polk-based Second Armored
Cavalry recently returned from Iraq, but the Pentagon
says the rest of the unit will remain.
Members of the Lafayette-based 256th Infantry
Enhanced Separate Brigade of the Louisiana National
Guard been activated.
The units are set to train at Ford
Hood, Texas, for deployment in support of the Iraq
April 15, 2004
Kansas National Guard
puts 1,100 on Alert
Citizen-soldiers may be sent to Iraq
By Chris Moon
Terresa Hoke watches the news about Iraq from
time to time.
She has been so busy, she said, it is difficult
to catch the daily dose of television clips.
Hoke, of Lawrence, does know about the escalating
violence in Iraq — she says the media tend to
focus on that more than on the “positive
news” coming out of the country. It is something
she has kept in mind as one of about 1,100 Kansas
Army National Guard soldiers who were told
this week they may be headed for Iraq.
has that initial fear,” she said. “But
some of these soldiers have been training for
20 years to do their jobs.”
Hoke, a captain, is commander of Topeka’s 74th
Quartermaster Company, a unit of about 100 citizen-soldiers
who are trained to run facilities that store and
issue water, food, fuel, construction materials,
clothing and equipment. The unit can support up
to 18,500 soldiers.
It is one of five Kansas Army National Guard
units, with mostly support and transportation
duties, that were put on alert Monday. News of
the possible mobilizations was released Wednesday.
“Alert status” means mobilization orders
could come later this year as part of a third rotation
of soldiers into Iraq. Monday’s alert was the largest
involving the Kansas National Guard since
the war started last year.
“We don’t have any time, dates or locations
right now,” said Hoke, a 13-year member of
the Army National Guard. “All we know is we
are on alert.”
The following units also were alerted:
• 778th Transportation Company (Heavy Combat),
headquartered in Kansas City, Kan., with detachments
in Manhattan, Emporia and Council Grove.
• Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of
the 169th Corps Support Battalion in Olathe.
• 891st Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Iola
with companies in Pittsburg, Coffeyville, Cherryvale,
Fort Scott and Chanute.
• 137th Transportation Company (Palletized Loading
System), headquartered in Olathe with a detachment
in St. Marys.
The 137th returned in January from serving in
Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit served in Fort
Bragg, N.C., although about 20 of its members were
sent to Iraq.
“The soldiers of the Kansas Army National
Guard always stand ready to answer their
country’s call,” said Maj. Gen. Tod M. Bunting,
the state adjutant general. “If they are
mobilized, I am confident that these guardsmen
will continue that long and proud tradition of
of Wednesday, nearly 173,000 National Guard and
Reserve forces were on active duty, many in Iraq
and Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon. Currently,
about 600 Kansas Army National Guard soldiers
Topeka’s 74th Quartermaster Company first started
training in January 2000. It is one of the younger
units, made up mostly of people in their late 20s.
Most of its members are married. Many have children.
One of the unit’s members gave birth a few days
ago, and another is due next month.
Members work an array of jobs, from teachers to
construction workers to police officers to full-time
Hoke is one of the latter. She works full time
coordinating training for Olathe’s 169th Corps
Support Battalion, another unit put on alert this
It means the 31-year-old has double-duty of sorts,
as her own unit and the 169th prepare for a possible
deployment. For the past three days, she said,
she has been running over checklists in her mind,
making sure her unit has done the drills, completed
the training, is ready for duty.
Hoke said she is satisfied it is. Unit members
operate forklifts, able to maneuver supplies sitting
on pallets to items as large as a small building.
They know their equipment, and they know how to
protect themselves, she said. For now, they must
get their families, finances and jobs squared away
as they prepare for a possible deployment.
Hoke said the transition has been made easier
by the fact her husband, Josh, is a recruiter with
the Kansas Army National Guard in Lawrence.
He spent four years on active duty and knows the
drill. The Hokes don’t have children.
Still, that is the difficult part — “leaving
my family for what could be up to two years,” Hoke
said. “My husband is my stabilizing factor,
and I won’t be able to call him five times a day.”
And despite the swirl of controversy surrounding
the war in Iraq — as the 2004 presidential election
begins to center on the conflict — Hoke remains
resolute. She joined the military after watching
her older brother serve in the first Iraq war.
It sounded exciting, she said, and this was a
way to give back to her country.
But her current hometown of Lawrence has as much
anti-war sentiment as any Kansas community. Hoke,
however, said she has gotten nothing but support
from her neighbors.
“I joined the military and signed my name
on the dotted line,” she said matter-of-factly. “I
will do for my country what is required of me.”
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has participated in numerous
activations and send-offs of Kansas National
Guard soldiers since taking office in January
2003. She said the ongoing war and a recent memorial
service for five soldiers from Fort Riley who were
killed in one attack heightens her concern for
the soldiers’ safety.
“My thoughts and prayers are with these soldiers
who may very well be sent into harm’s way in the
near future,” Sebelius said. “Each and
every soldier leaving their family, their job,
their life to serve deserves our respect and support.”
Nine Kansans — none from the Kansas National
Guard — have died in Iraq since the start
of the war.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
April 16, 2004
Guard Members in Duluth May be Deployed
By Chuck Frederick; News Tribune staff writer
About 75 Minnesota National Guard members
from Duluth are among 890 placed on alert for possible
mobilization, the guard announced Thursday.
Duluth’s D Company, an electronic maintenance
unit, is part of the 434th Main Support Battalion.
Based at Camp Ripley, Minn., other Minnesota 434th
companies also placed on alert include Austin,
St. Cloud, Long Prairie and Cottage Grove.
It’s not known where the 434th will be deployed
or whether it will be activated.
“There’s no certainty,” said the Minnesota
National Guard’s Col. Denny Shields. “It’s
likely they’ll be mobilized. But we don’t know
for sure. It could be anything from none of them
to all of them being called up.”
Giving the part-time military members notice of
a possible deployment allows them to arrange time
off with employers, arrange child care and take
care of other personal issues.
“This is a prudent measure to ensure that
these soldiers are prepared,” said Maj. Gen.
Larry Shellito, adjutant general of the Minnesota
National Guard. “This alert will enable
our soldiers to have predictability in order to
prepare their families, employers and schools.”
More than 1,800 National Guard soldiers and Air
Guard members from Minnesota are on federal
active duty. Many are serving in the war on terrorism
and in Iraq.
Duluth’s Company D drills this weekend at the National
Guard Armory on Airpark Boulevard. Members
at the armory Thursday declined to comment about
their alert status.
About 35 members of D Company had been activated
in February 2003. They stood guard and helped protect
fighter jets at the Duluth Air Guard base.
The company’s members are technicians trained
to repair computers, communications equipment,
electrical guidance systems and radar.
The San Francisco Chronicle
April 12, 2004
Easter Reunions as Troops Return Home
nerve-racking year in Iraq, soldiers happy to
be out of danger
By Meredith May, Delfin Vigil
About 120 members of the California National
Guard returned home Sunday after a year working
as prison guards and military police in some
of the most dangerous hotspots in Iraq.
Soldiers were euphoric to be out of the danger
zone as they greeted relatives after stepping off
chartered flights at the San Francisco and Oakland
Even the trip back to California was an ordeal
for 90 members of the 870th Military Police Company
based in Pittsburg. Scheduled to leave Iraq six
different times, the troops finally left for Kuwait
in mid-March, flew to Washington state last week
on Monday and finally arrived in Oakland about
7 a.m. Sunday.
Tearful Easter reunions played out on the tarmacs.
In Oakland, Spc. Dionicio Arevalo Jr. of Hollister,
who spent the past year as a gunner on a humvee,
saw his son Dionicio III for the first time.
“I had a dream about him before he was born,
and he looks just like I imagined,” said the
His wife, Rosse, said she played a recorded tape
of her husband’s voice to her baby during her pregnancy.
Later, she held the phone to her baby’s crib when
her husband was able to make a call out of Iraq,
and she also showed Dionicio photographs of dad.
“He got used to his father’s voice, because
he’d smile when he heard it,” she said.
Dionicio III let his father hold him, and he
stared intently at his father as he spoke.
“I think he recognizes my voice,” the
elder Dionicio said.
Bagpipe players performed “Scotland the Brave” behind
Terminal One. Nine-year-old Darren and his 5-year-old
sister Phoenix scanned the crowd for their mother,
27-year-old Heather Zongker of Oakley.
Phoenix spotted her and ran into her mother’s
“It’s such a relief,” said Zongker,
a supply sergeant who kept the military police
stocked with uniforms, water and boots.
Darren said he’s glad mom is back — he missed
Lt. Michael Drayton of Sacramento hadn’t held
his son, Jacob, since the day the boy was born
only a few hours before Drayton shipped out to
serve as a volunteer commander of an 870th military
On Sunday, Drayton said, “We’re both kind
of shocked. We’re both looking at each other like,
‘Who’s this?’ “
In Iraq, he had guarded areas in Karbala, Najaf
and the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad. He’s
proud that his unit was the only National Guard company
to return without a casualty.
“We were under mortar fire every day,” he
said. “We were in the holiest cities in Iraq,
and it was very tense. There’s nothing you can
do in that situation but just take it.”
It was much the same across the bay in San Francisco,
where about 30 members of the 2632nd Transportation
Company, based in San Bruno, were welcomed home.
John Edwards of Vallejo fought back tears as he
and his 7-year-old daughter, Jonelle, greeted her
mother, Sgt. Shannon Alvarez.
“We made mommy promise to stay home for a
long time,” Edwards said.
Not all of the returning soldiers had big welcoming
“We’re the lonely people,” said Cpl.
John Uyeda of Fresno, standing next to Spc. Katherine
Borden of San Diego.
They were among the few soldiers who did not have
family members able to greet them at the airport.
But they were still smiling.
“Tonight, I’m going to have a steak,” said
Borden, a 20-year-old San Diego City College student.
Guard Unit Is Set to Return
The 160 soldiers in the 253d Transportation
Company are in Kuwait, waiting to depart.
By Associated Press
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE N.J. – New Jersey’s first Army
National Guard unit deployed to Iraq will
soon head home after a year of duty with Operation
As the 253d Transportation Company, based in Cape
May Court House, prepares to return, 300 members
of the New Jersey National Guard’s 114th Infantry
– based in part in South Jersey – are getting ready
for a tour in the Middle East beginning next month.
The mobilization includes companies from Woodbury,
Mount Holly, Burlington City and Freehold. Some
are expected to be deployed to the Arabian Peninsula
and others to the Sinai Peninsula.
The 253d Transportation Company’s 160 soldiers,
meanwhile, are in Kuwait awaiting departure for
home, said retired Sgt. Maj. Michael Hughes, a
family-support coordinator for the unit. No arrival
date has been provided.
Some relatives have been planning celebrations,
while others are contemplating quieter welcomes.
Plans were dashed twice before when the unit’s
tour of duty was extended.
“You’re waiting for him to come home, and
he doesn’t come home,” said Veronica Perez
of Hammonton, referring to her husband, Luis. “They
got out just in time, because now there is so much
The 253d, which was mobilized in February 2003
at Fort Dix and arrived in Iraq last April to carry
out supply missions, suffered no casualties. Its
return is part of a major rotation of 125,000 U.S.
April 15, 2004
National Guard’s 957th
Back on U.S. Soil
of the North
Dakota National Guard’s 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company returned to the
United States on Tuesday, after a year of duty
in the Middle East.
awesome to know that you’re home,” said
Kayla Gartner, a member of the unit.
and about 170 other soldiers flew into an airport
near St. Louis around 6:30 p.m., and were en
route to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., by bus late
Tuesday night, Guard spokesman Capt. Dan Gaffney
group of about 30 North Dakotans, including Maj.
Gen. Mike Haugen, the Guard state commander,
greeted the troops when they stepped off the
Gaffney said the soldiers were thrilled to be
back on American soil.
“They were pretty excited to see a drinking
fountain with cold water,” he said.
The Bismarck-based unit will spend a little less
than a week in Missouri going through outprocessing,
before flying back to North Dakota.
“If things go as planned, we might be able
to get these guys out of here and back home on
Sunday,” Gaffney said.
The unit specializes in building bridges to move
troops and equipment over water. Three members
of the unit were killed in Iraq, and another four
The 957th arrived in the Middle East in April
2003. The soldiers’ return this week was briefly
put in doubt when the unit and several others preparing
to return to the United States were put on hold
last weekend because of the recent heavy fighting
“Sunday night, they called us together and
said we were going home, and everybody started
cheering,” said Brackston Mettler, a member
of the unit.
The 957th left Kuwait the following day.
April 16, 2004
161st Arrives Friday
Arrival time set for between 8 and 9 a.m. at
armory on Museum Drive in Spring Hill
By George Werneth, Staff Reporter
More than 100 members of the 161st Area Support
Medical Battalion are scheduled to return to their
home armory in west Mobile between 8 and 9 a.m.
Friday after spending a year overseas in support
of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Hundreds of family members and well-wishers are
expected to be on hand for the arrival of the unit
at Fort Hardema McLaughlin National Guard Armory,
also known as Spring Hill Armory, at 720 Museum
The soldiers – who had been stationed at camps
in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai – will be making
the 500-mile-plus last leg of their journey home
in buses from Fort Stewart, Ga., which is near
Savannah. The 161st arrived at Fort Stewart on
Friday to be processed out before returning home.
Gary Raymond, a member of the 161st involved
in coordinating the battalion’s arrival in Mobile,
asked that area residents line Spring Hill Avenue
between Interstate 65 and McGregor Avenue to
greet the Guard members Friday morning.
Raymond also requested that residents decorate
the fence around the armory with welcome home signs,
yellow ribbons and balloons to show their support.
The 161st provided medical care, laboratory services,
optometry services, dental care, medical logistics,
mental health services and other care for coalition
troops and civilians in the four Middle East nations.
They treated nearly 230,000 troops and provided
tens of thousands of immunizations to people who
otherwise would not have been immunized, a spokesman
“We would like to have an outpouring of support
along Spring Hill Avenue by people waving flags
and saluting the sacrifice” the Guard members
have made, Mobile City Councilman Steve Nodine
said. Nodine is the District 7 representative,
and his district includes the home armory for the
The 161st left Mobile on Feb. 1, 2003, for Fort
Stewart and arrived in Kuwait two months later.
number of unit members are police officers, firefighters
and emergency medical technicians in civilian
life, and their absence put a strain on area
public-safety agencies. The primary mission of
the battalion is to provide combat health support.
About 7,800 members of the Alabama Army and Air
National Guard have been mobilized since
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New
York and Washington. Alabama Guard spokesman
Norman Arnold recently reported that about 4,000
of them remain on active duty, including 2,000
stationed in Iraq.
161st arrived back in the United States shortly
before the Department of Defense announced it
was going to extend the deployment of thousands
of U.S troops in Iraq. The extensions were a
result of increased violence by insurgents and
because a number of experienced units were scheduled
to return home.
Welcome Home for Wounded GIs
Gonsalves knew last year that her husband was “on
a mission” to do something to help wounded
But she didn’t know what he had in mind until
November, when John Gonsalves, 37, called her at
work and told her to look at a Web site he’d created:
“I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, honey.’ I was very
shocked,” she recalls. “I had no idea
it had gone that far.”
John Gonsalves, a construction supervisor in Wareham,
Mass., had decided to create a charity to raise
money to build houses adapted for servicemembers
badly wounded in Iraq.
The project became a reality in March and has brought
in $60,000 in five weeks.
“Our motto is, essentially, ‘Homes for our
troops,’ ” John Gonsalves says. “It’s
not a (politically) left thing, it’s not a right
thing, it’s the right thing. As Americans, we have
a responsibility to these soldiers and their families.”
Gonsalves was looking for someone who could use
the help. In local news reports, he found Sgt.
Peter Damon, 31, an electrician and member of the Massachusetts
National Guard from Brockton.
Injured in tire explosion
Damon was changing a tire on a Black Hawk helicopter
in Iraq on Oct. 21 when the nitrogen-inflated tire
exploded. He lost his right arm above the elbow
and his left hand and wrist. Another soldier, Pfc.
Paul Bueche, 19, of Daphne, Ala., was killed.
Gonsalves first approached Damon in a series of
telephone calls that began in December. “He
was a little skeptical,” Gonsalves remembers.
As Damon recalls: “I got a message that a
guy called and said he wanted to build me a house.
And I said: ‘What’s up with that? This guy must
just be a little bit overexcited or something.’ ”
In February, Gonsalves visited Damon at Walter
Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where
the soldier was being treated. Gonsalves showed
Damon the legal papers that established the non-profit
organization to prove that it was real. Damon then
accepted Gonsalves’ offer to help build him a house.
“This is a huge burden lifted off my mind
right now, if we can get it done,” says Damon,
who is married and has two children.
Gonsalves got the idea from news reports out of
Iraq about soldiers losing limbs from explosions
and enemy attacks. “I just remember watching
it, wondering what happens to a guy from there
on,” he says.
In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs can
help disabled soldiers obtain up to $50,000 to
help adapt a house to meet their needs or to assist
in the purchase of a home. Most young soldiers,
Gonsalves learned, can’t afford to buy a house
and instead rent.
His dream was to generate money that would help
disabled GIs finance a house and then help them
build it with his construction experience.
“Whatever amount of grant money they have
to build a house, we want to be able to fund the
rest,” Gonsalves says.
He has no military background, but his grandfather
was killed in Normandy during World War II.
When Gonsalves visited at Walter Reed, he discovered
many soldiers who had lost limbs in Iraq and even
more inspiration for this charity. And he dreams
“We really need to raise, I think conservatively,
$20 million. We’ve got soldiers all over this country
that have been pretty badly injured. If we’re looking
at around 4,000 guys injured (in Iraq), I’ve got
to assume that there are several hundred who have
been really badly injured,” Gonsalves says. “If
we’re going to build hundreds of homes, it’s going
to take millions of dollars.”
For the past few months, he has been working on
his charity full time, living off family savings
and his wife’s income. She works for Talbot’s,
a clothing store chain. His effort has gotten media
attention, and that is beginning to change life
for him, his wife and their 4-year-old son, Hunter.
“I think part of my job is to keep us grounded,” says
Sherri Gonsalves, 40. She concedes that she worries
about their future finances as her husband launches
Bringing in donations
They have been moved by the response. Local hardware
and home-furnishing businesses have been donating
kitchen cabinets, flooring and windows for Damon’s
house. Children in the Wareham area are donating
money from lemonade sales or in lieu of birthday
gifts. An elderly woman sent $2 with a letter praising
He is looking for a piece of property to buy or
receive as a donation so construction on Damon’s
house can begin. Gonsalves is accepting contributions
mailed to Homes for Our Troops Inc., P.O. Box 615,
Buzzards Bay, MA 02532.
“This is really a true calling. He’s so passionate
about it,” Sherri Gonsalves says. “My
husband was very changed after 9/11, and he always
absolutely felt like there was something that he
needed to do. And so I think that it kept eating
away at him.”
Guard Unit Returns to Families and to Fanfare
By Jill P. Capuzzo
DATELINE: FORT DIX, N.J., April 17
Sgt. William Gaskill lost 89 pounds. Sgt. Michael
Sherno became a first-time homeowner. And Specialist
Kelly Wiest’s daughter went from being an infant
to a toddler.
These and dozens of other changes were revealed
Saturday as hundreds of relatives and friends welcomed
home New Jersey’s first National Guard unit
to return from Iraq, after serving there for the
The 160 soldiers of the 253rd Transportation Company
flew from Kuwait, landing at McGuire Air Force
base Saturday morning. From there, they were bused
to Fort Dix, where they were greeted by hand-painted
posters, flags, and brigades of relatives wearing
T-shirts bearing the soldiers’ names and pictures.
They marched in formation though the sea of well-wishers,
and after a short speech by Gov. James E. McGreevey,
they were released to their families, and hugs
and tears became the order of the day. Their commander,
Col. Charles Harvey, said proudly that they had
driven 1.4 million miles with no serious injuries.
Toni Presnall continued to squeeze the hand of
her 20-year-old son, Specialist James Presnall,
an hour after his arrival, shaking her head in
disbelief that he was actually standing beside
her. Like almost everyone in the room, the Presnalls
spent the last week monitoring rumors that the
unit might be called back for an extended duty,
as had been the case with two other units whose
troops thought they had finished their tours.
“On Friday, the members of our family support
group were saying it was 90 percent sure they were
coming, but still, it is the Army, and they can
make changes any time they want to,” said
Specialist Presnall’s father, Howard.
A transportation unit, the 253rd Company, based
in Cape May Court House, felt particularly vulnerable
to being recalled. So until their airplane left
the ground Friday evening, most of the soldiers
refused to believe they were coming home.
While the soldiers said it was nice to be back,
some, like Sergeant Sherno, 24, admitted it was
a little “overwhelming,” an understandable
reaction considering a contingent of 30 relatives,
all wearing tan T-shirts with his name on them,
were on hand to welcome him back.
“I have mixed feelings. Everybody’s so different,” he
said, looking a bit dazed. He will get to see the
new house his parents bought for him in Cape May
For Specialist Wiest, 22, the year abroad was
particularly difficult, having to leave behind
her 9-month-old daughter, Madison. Specialist Wiest’s
mother cared for the baby, who is now 21 months
old, sending a steady stream of pictures and video
When they signed up for the National Guard, many
of the unit’s members said, they did not think
they would see active duty, let alone spend a year
in a war zone.
Sergeant Gaskill, 39, said several soldiers in
his platoon asked what they were doing in Iraq
as National Guardsmen, to which he replied: “This
is what we’ve been training for. It’s time to earn
In fact, this was Sergeant. Gaskill’s second tour
of duty. A member of the National Guard for
22 years who lives in Lincoln, Del., he also served
nine months in the Persian Gulf war of 1991. Despite
the constant attacks on his unit — 22 in one day,
he said — and dropping from 319 pounds to 230,
he seemed to have taken his latest tour of duty
in stride. Not so his wife, Lisa, who was home
with their three children.
“It was pure hell. Every minute of it,” she
said. “In the beginning, it didn’t bother
me, but as time went by I got more and more worried
that he wouldn’t come back.”
The soldiers will spend the next week at Fort
Dix, getting physicals and being debriefed and
processed out of the active army and back into
the National Guard. As for being called
back to active duty in Iraq, Colonel Harvey said,
the chances were “slim to none.”
“They’re working their way across the country.
We’d have to have a bunch of new missions added
to be called again,” Colonel Harvey said. “But
then again, I never say ‘never.”
Army National Guard Members Return Sunday
DATELINE: CHARLESTON, W.Va.
More than three dozen members of the West Virginia
Army National Guard returned to Charleston
The soldiers, members of the 156th Military Police
Law and Order Detachment based in Logan, spent
a yearlong deployment in support of Operation Iraqi
Freedom. The soldiers, most of whom are police
officers in their civilian lives, helped train
more than 5,300 Iraqi police, fire and corrections
personnel in Mosul and Dohuk, focusing on defense
tactics, ethics, religious tolerance, Iraqi law
and other training.
The soldiers supervised the transfer of the training
program to Iraqi instructors before they left.
Family and friends waited anxiously at the West
Virginia Air National Guard facility in
Charleston Sunday for their return.
“This is awesome
to be home,” Maj. Scott Fuller told WCHS-TV. “I’ve
been waiting for it for 14 months.”
Also arriving back in West Virginia Sunday were
about 40 soldiers with the 99th Regional Readiness
Command’s 261st Ordnance Co., 1st Platoon, based
in Cross Lanes. The unit, which was mobilized in
February 2003, stored, inventoried, inspected and
shipped ammunition for the for the joint task force’s
use in the Kuwaiti theater of operations.
About 45 members of the 321st Ordnance Battalion,
who also had been in Kuwait, are scheduled to return
home Monday evening.
The Associated Press
April 15, 2004
Most College Costs Paid
for National Guard Members
LITTLE ROCK (AP) — More Arkansas Army
National Guard members are applying for college
grants now that they can attend for nearly no
Before this year, they could count on at least
75 percent of tuition and fees up to $4,000 from
a federal grant. Now, a new program has encouraged
seven Arkansas campuses to waive the rest of the
The Tuition Assistance Partnership Program, created
by the 2003 Legislature, authorizes colleges and
universities to waive 25 percent of tuition for guard members.
Since October, 411 soldiers have applied for the
75 percent funding for the spring semester and
smaller courses. At this time last year, 577 soldiers
had applied, but that group included students who
have since been deployed with the 39th Infantry
Brigade Enhanced, which makes up one-third of the Army
National Guard in the state.
Brandan Robbins, education services officer for
the Arkansas Army National Guard, said
schools use the waiver to attract more students.
For soldiers, he said, it’s a great opportunity
to improve their skills both on and off duty.
want people who can communicate what they see,
what they hear and what they want you to do,” Robbins
said. “You need to communicate with other
people. Going to college does that for you. It
helps you become a well-rounded person.”
So far, seven schools have chosen to use the waiver:
Southern Arkansas University, the University of
Arkansas at Little Rock, Pulaski Technical College,
the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Arkansas
State University in Newport, North Arkansas College
in Harrison and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Southern Arkansas University Technical College
in Camden is planning to waive the cost starting
The waivers apply to members of both the Arkansas
Army National Guard and the Air National
Guard. But only Army National Guard members
can get the 75 percent funding, which pays for
three-fourths of tuition up to $200 per credit
hour and three-fourths of fees up to $500 per
Airmen are given money to attend classes on Air
Force bases. Because they don’t receive the 75
percent funding when they attend public or private
colleges, the state gives them higher preference
for state grants of $1,000 per fall and spring
In addition to those scholarships, the GI Bill
pays $282 each month.
Mike Leach, public policy program director for
the nonprofit Good Faith Fund in Little Rock, said
financial aid is important in Arkansas, which has
relatively low levels of college-educated adults.
“We would like to see more colleges
participate in the program because not every college
that can is participating at this point,” Leach
said. “One of the biggest barriers to higher
education from Good Faith Fund’s perspective is
affordability … The more financial aid we can
make available, the greater access people can have
to higher education and, of course, that’s good
Phone Card Gifts
Make it Easy for Americans to Show Deployed
Troops They Care
DALLAS – Any
American can now help troops in contingency operations
telephone call home. The Army & Air Force
Exchange Service (AAFES) is now authorized to
sell prepaid calling cards to any individual
or organization that wishes to purchase cards
for troops who are deployed. Up until now, those
wishing to lend a helping hand had no other alternative,
but to purchase other retailer’s prepaid cards
that, in many cases, were not designed for affordable
international calling. Now, anyone (even those
not in the military) can help troops in contingency
operations call home from one of the many AAFES
call centers in Operations Iraqi and Enduring
Many of the prepaid
cards available to the general public from retailers
other than AAFES offer much higher rates and
connection charges. For service members to receive
the best calling rates from OIF/OEF, senders
should take advantage of the savings and purchase
the Military Exchange 550 Unit Prepaid Card as
it offers the best value when calling home with
minutes that never expire and no hidden charges
or connection fees. And senders don’t even need
to know the names or address of deployed personnel
to provide the great benefit of a phone call
Helping service members
stay in touch with friends and family has never
been easier. Anyone can log on to www.aafes.com <http://www.aafes.com> and click the “help our troops
call home” link. From there, those wishing
to pay for troops to call home can send a prepaid
calling card to an individual at his or her deployed
address or to “any service member” deployed
or hospitalized. AAFES will coordinate distribution
of donated cards addressed to “any service
member” via the American Red Cross, Air
Force Aid Society or the Fisher House Foundation.
AAFES currently operates
31 call centers in Iraq, 19 in Kuwait and four
in Afghanistan. All of these locations stay busy
playing a critical role in keeping the lines
of communication open between deployed troops
and their loved ones.
AAFES officials hailed
the Department of Defense’s foresight in allowing
it to offer phone cards to the general public. “A
phone call home can make a Soldiers day,” said
AAFES’ Chief of Communications LTC Debra Pressley. “This
initiative allows any American to make a direct
impact on the morale of deployed troops around
the world. We hope everyone takes advantage of
this opportunity to purchase a phone card that
will make a connection between the front lines
and the home front.”
In addition to the ability
to send phone cards, individuals and organizations
can further extend support to deployed troops
with a “Gift From the Homefront” gift
certificate. This innovative initiative allows
anyone to help deployed troops purchase merchandise
in one of 54 contingency stores. “Gifts
from the Homefront” can also be purchased
24 hours a day by logging on to www.aafes.com <http://www.aafes.com> or by calling 877-770-4438, seven
days a week, everyday of the year. From there,
the “Gift from the Homefront” can also
be sent to an individual service member (designated
by the purchaser) or distributed to “any
service member” through the American Red
Cross, Air Force Aid Society or Fisher House.
Reports from Iraq indicate
that the certificates distributed most recently
are being used for the latest CDs and DVDs, comfort
items such as snacks and beverages and phone
cards for those all-important calls home. “Gifts
from the Homefront” certificates are available
in denominations of $10, $20 or $25 and are subject
to a $4.95 shipping and handling processing fee.
As is the case with Military Exchange Prepaid
Phone Cards, “Gifts from the Homefront” can
be purchased by anyone with a U.S. credit card
or check, but only authorized military customers
can redeem them at AAFES facilities throughout
the world, including 54 locations in OIF/OEF.
The Army & Air Force
Exchange Service (AAFES) is a joint command of
the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, and is directed
by a Board of Directors who is responsible to
the Secretaries of the Army and the Air Force
through their Chiefs of Staff. AAFES has the
dual mission of providing authorized patrons
with articles of merchandise and services and
of generating non-appropriated fund earnings
as a supplemental source of funding for military
Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs.
To find out more about AAFES’ history and mission
or to view recent press releases please visit
our Web site at http://www.aafes.com/pa/default.asp.
For more information or to arrange an interview
with an AAFES representative please contact
Judd Anstey, 214-312-3861 or [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>.
As troops on the ground
know, the 550 Unit Global Military Exchange Prepaid
Card offers the best value when calling from
Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF)
back to the U.S as they. This and other Military
Exchange prepaid cards are now available to all
non-identification cardholders who wish to help
our troops call home.
April 17, 2004
Legislature Looks to
Aid, Bolster National Guard Ranks
By John Milburn, Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: PITTSBURG, Kan.
Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Smith’s job of recruiting National
Guard members is made a little easier by
the great location of his small office.
Smith works in the local
armory, a tan brick building near Lincoln Park,
where Pittsburg residents spend spring and summer
playing baseball, softball and golf. Scores of
young people drive past the armory on their way
to games, often taking Walnut Street because it
has fewer stoplights than other thoroughfares.
Now, legislators in Topeka are aiming to make
Smith’s job even easier.
Through proposals creating new incentives and
benefits, legislators are seeking to boost recruitment
and retention of Kansas National Guard soldiers
and in a small way thank them for serving their
state and country.
The effort in Topeka couldn’t come at a more stressful
time for Army and Air Guard members and their families.
Recently, approximately 1,100 Kansas Guard soldiers
were put on alert that they may be mobilized for
duty in Iraq, where several hundred of their comrades
are already on the ground.
“A question that is often asked is, ‘If I
sign up, will I have to go fight?”‘ Smith
said. “Anytime you sign that bottom line,
that is a possibility.”
The package of bills, awaiting legislators’ attention
when they reconvene April 28 following their spring
– Give National Guard members who are mobilized
or deployed an income tax credit to offset the
property taxes they have paid on their vehicles
– and refunds if the credit is larger than the
amount of income tax they owe.
– Expand the Kansas National Guard tuition
assistance program, funded in part from sales of
special Kansas Lottery tickets.
– Provide support services for families of deployed
Kansas National Guard members.
– Grant free hunting and fishing licenses and
access to state parks to Guard members.
– Give preference for state jobs to Guard members,
similar to the credit that veterans receive in
seeking federal jobs.
Legislators do not know how much the package would
cost the state, but House Speaker Doug Mays said
the service of men and women in the Guard is “invaluable” both
home and abroad.
“At a time when many of our men and women
are deployed abroad to protect our freedom, we
must ensure that adequate benefits are provided
for them,” Mays, R-Topeka, said in an interview.
About 600 Kansas National Guard soldiers
are currently deployed, either overseas – including
351 members of the 2nd Battalion, 130th Field Artillery
from Hiawatha sent to Iraq in January – or on homeland
security assignments in the United States, such
as those providing guard duty at Fort Riley and
Smith has been in the Guard for 16 years and recruiting
soldiers since October 1996. His primary focus
is on filling the ranks of the 891st Engineer Battalion,
especially Company A based in Pittsburg.
“Our retention is as good as it’s always
been. There’s no difference with the war going
on or without it,” said Smith, adding that
interest in the Guard is up among those with prior
Lt. Col. Lee Tafanelli, who is commander of the
891st Engineer Battalion and a Republican state
representative from Ozawkie, said anything the
state can do to encourage men and women to join
the National Guard would help.
“It’s a tremendous sacrifice. It’s important
that we have the next generation of Guardsmen for
a state or national emergency,” Tafanelli
said. The 891st also has been mobilized following
floods and tornadoes.
Tafanelli, who chairs the Legislature’s Select
Committee on Kansas Security, said it is important
to provide the right mix of incentives and benefits
to encourage recruitment and retention.
To Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, state adjutant general,
the incentive package reflects legislators’ realization
that Kansans may be asked at any time to give up
to 18 months of their lives separated from family,
friends and employment.
Incentives help soldiers adjust once their mobilizations
are complete, easing the fiscal strains incurred
during deployments, Bunting said.
Tuition assistance and free recreation licenses
may sound simple, but Bunting said they are significant
gestures of appreciation. And they make the state
an example to other employers by taking care of
soldiers’ needs, he added.
Bunting said mobilizations could continue at the
current level for several years, placing a renewed
importance on reserve forces.
“This is big stuff,” Bunting said. “Soldiers
have to start making plans right away. We’re very
cognizant that we’re asking a lot. There is only
a finite amount that you can ask.”
Push For Bill to Protect Guardsmen and Reservists
By Don Babwin, Associated Press Writer
As more Illinois National Guard troops
and Army reservists are ordered to stay longer
in Iraq, state officials are pushing legislation
to protect them and their families from job, housing
and financial discrimination at home.
“It is very important when they come back
to America … that they be treated in a fair
way with respect to the basic things that all of
us need in life – housing, jobs and access to credit,” Lt.
Gov. Pat Quinn said Sunday at a news conference,
just days after more than 600 Illinois National
Guard troops who expected to return home from
the Middle East were ordered to stay at least three
House Bill 4371, called the “Citizen Soldiers
Initiative,” would expand the state’s Human
Rights Act to include reservists and guard members.
Today, under the act it is illegal to discriminate
based on such factors as race, religion, sex, gender
and “military status.”
The problem, said Quinn and Sen. Barack Obama,
D-Chicago, is that “military status” could
be read to include only military personnel on active
duty and not reservists and guardsmen and guardswomen.
“We don’t want any doubt” that reservists
and guard members are also included, said Quinn.
Quinn said the bill, sponsored in the House by
Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, addresses complaints
of guardsmen and reservists about such problems
as landlords unwilling to rent them apartments
because of the uncertainty that they may be called
up for active duty.
The bill has already passed the House. Quinn and
Obama, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said they expected
the bill to be approved in the Senate this week,
and then signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich shortly
Obama said the bill will give guard members and
reservists the same avenue of recourse that others
who have been discriminated against because of
such factors as race, gender, age and military
“It’s more important than ever to make sure
that we as a state are ensuring that the strains
on those men and women as well as their families
are minimized,” he said.
The Associated Press
April 12, 2004
National Guardsman Awarded the Bronze Star
DATELINE: PROVO, Utah
Utah National Guard Lt. Matthew Cousins
has been awarded the Bronze Star for the discovery
by him and his team of a homemade bomb in the middle
of a road outside Baghdad.
The team closed the road and called in the experts.
“There was some close calls – that was one,” said
Cousins, who has returned to his home at Eagle
Mountain and is back at work as a linguist at Camp
A member of the 142nd Military Intelligence Unit,
Cousins led 70 missions from January 2003 until
he returned in March. There were no injuries among
his crew of 12.
Cousins said the award is a great honor, but he
was just doing his job.
“I am just a guy that is doing my duty,” he
said. “I am not much for awards; I don’t look
for these things.”
Sgt. Scott Faddis, a Utah National Guard spokesman,
said the Bronze Star is given for distinguished
service or heroic activities. It is the 10th-highest
award a soldier can receive.
“It is a fine achievement and a big deal
because it means they did something outstanding,” he
Lyons is a Pilot of a C-130
His plane takes the battle to the field
By Larry Lewis, Inquirer Staff Writer
Maj. Mark Lyons’ C-130 lifted off the desert terrain
of Iraq that morning last September carrying one
precious flag-covered casket in its cavernous hold.
The plane’s crew, which includes two pilots, a
navigator, a flight engineer and two loadmasters,
can be a little irreverent and funny at times.
But not that day.
“It was a pretty sobering mission,” said
Lyons, 37, of Lansdowne. “We didn’t ask any
questions, but the commanders of his unit were
with him. He was an Army guy.”
Lyons is one of more than 300 members of the Delaware
Air National Guard’s 166th Airlift Wing stationed
at New Castle County Airport on active duty since
the invasion of Iraq. They have served rotating
tours of duty for more than a year.
operate the C-130 planes that carry troops, supplies,
equipment and food into battle – and carry the
casualties out, on what the military calls “human
From the front lines, the short-range C-130 took
the body to a transfer point within Iraq. The casket
was placed into a jet-speed, intercontinental C-5
for the long journey to the military mortuary at
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Lyons, a 1990 graduate of the Air Force Academy,
is a pilot evaluator and the tactical officer for
the unit. “It’s kind of a planning job,” he
Much has changed in Lyons’ life since Sept. 11,
2001, and the war on terrorism began.
He was a pilot for United Airlines flying 767s
out of the Northeast to California on 9/11.
The planes that struck the World Trade Center
were hijacked out of Boston, but the flight crews
worked out of New York, Lyons said. “I could
have been flying one of those planes,” he
He and his wife, Sarita, 27, had just spent the
weekend in New York City, taking photos of themselves
in front of the World Trade Center, which they
developed after the attack.
Lyons wasn’t in the air on Sept. 11 because he
had taken a few days off for training exercises
with his Air National Guard unit. Then,
he was on part-time duty.
“We were getting ready for a flight, turned
on the television, and there were the news reports,” he
The subsequent drop in air travel after the attacks
caused cutbacks at the airlines. Lyons was furloughed
by United in 2002, although he remains on the callback
list. He hopes to resume his commercial career.
In the meantime, he went full-time with the Delaware
Air National Guard. Then the unit was deployed
to Iraq and his life changed again.
“I’ve been there for four tours of duty now,” he
said during an interview at home near Upper Darby
Lyons has been home since February.
He has been preparing for two night-training flights
in a row. One would take him to a drop zone northwest
of Atlantic City, where his crew would toss out
sandbags at 1,000 feet and be scored for accuracy
by a referee on the ground. The other would be
a test of night-vision equipment.
The overseas missions have been challenging for
his homelife. He managed to make it back briefly
for the birth of his son, Malachi, now 8 months
old. But he was in Afghanistan in December when
his wife told him on the phone they were expecting
again in August.
“I said if they keep shipping him over there,
we’ll have a football team,” Sarita Lyons
Mark Lyons was a pilot for US Airways when he
met Sarita, the daughter of an associate pastor
at Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
The switch from civilian to military life has been
difficult, she said.
“It’s easy to believe in God when things
are going well,” she said. “This has
tested our faith. But we are stronger as a family.”
Lyons, who was in the Air Force for nine years
after he left the academy, has always flown the
“It’s a big airplane, but you can fly low
– 300 to 500 feet above the ground,” he said.
He flew food to starving citizens of Somalia in
1992. “There were a lot of Marines on the
ground. We would transport them as well,” he
He was in Vietnam in 1996 to help retrieve the
bodies of two long-lost soldiers from a war-era
helicopter crash. He said the special fabric of
their flight suits was still intact.
He is not allowed to talk about the massive tent
city where the C-130 pilots and crews work overseas,
or say too much about the human remains missions.
But in Afghanistan, he said, “we have gotten
them right from the firefight, in body bags.”
Even in war, he said, there are moments of hope.
He said he and his crew had flown a young soldier
who was badly wounded in combat to a hospital in
time to save his life.
“He had his own doctors and nurses assigned
to him,” Lyons said. “They flew right
with him, and kept him alive until we got him there.”
Save Lives Amid Hell of War
Wis. medics on front line
By Lee Sensenbrenner
For the first time Sunday, the clinic that houses
part of the 118th Wisconsin National Guard Medical
Battalion was treating casualties from both sides
of a battle at once.
naked on a raised nylon stretcher that serves
as a surgery table, a man believed to be an Iraqi
gasped as doctors lightly touched his belly.
A bullet had hit him near the stomach and left
his body through his pelvis.
Dr. Patrick Mannebach of Milwaukee, a captain
with the 118th, said the man’s abdomen was filling
Two grade-school-age boys, said to be the man’s
sons, came with him when he was delivered to the
clinic by military police. One boy was unhurt but
the other, who reportedly had been firing at troops,
had a gunshot wound near his elbow.
In another room, Army Reserve Spc. Gerad Cody
had splinters of glass in his lip and face. Cody,
who is from Ellettsville, Ind., was driving the
lead truck in an Army fuel convoy that came under
attack close to this base, which is next to Baghdad
International Airport just west of Baghdad.
Cody and others in his convoy said they came under
heavy fire from all sides sometime before noon
Sunday. Two U.S. soldiers in the 1st Cavalry died
when their Apache helicopter, sent as part of a
rescue, crashed. Witnesses said it was hit with
a rocket-propelled grenade.
felt scared to death,” Cody said after he
was treated. “The only place where those
bullets didn’t go in that windshield was right
where my head was.”
Four other soldiers in the convoy were evacuated
by helicopter to the area’s major hospital. Cody
said he and the others drove on shredded tires
and rims, accompanied by 1st Cavalry members, to
get away from the ambush site.
Army Reserve Cpl. Brian Stewart, a northern Michigan
native who was also in the convoy, said they were
attacked over the span of three miles of highway,
and he was told there were more than 200 attackers
firing at them.
Wisconsin’s 118th Medical Battalion arrived in
Baghdad in February, and for weeks, the medics
said, it had been a routine schedule of sick calls
among soldiers — headaches, back pain and so on.
would come in every day for the same cough that
they’d had for a month,” said 19-year-old
medic Jennifer Frick, of Racine. “I think
they just wanted to get out of duty.”
Added Mike Migazzi, a medic from Mukwonago: “There
wasn’t much difference between a day off and the
slow days. The excitement was getting mail. Or
playing video games.”But now their caseload
has changed with the heavy attacks over the last
“Lately, all we have been seeing are major
injuries,” said Mannebach, a 32-year-old pulmonary
specialist from Milwaukee. “After this week,
it’s been harder to wind down at night.”
Later Sunday, Mannebach treated a 25-year-old
Army flight crew leader who had tried to kill himself
by taking 70 Tylenol pills. It’s a lethal dose,
Mannebach said, and if the man survives he may
still be facing a liver transplant. After initial
treatment, the crew leader was evacuated to a major
Lt. Col. Ellyn English, a Madison dentist, removed
shrapnel from an Iraqi man’s gums last week. All
her work is done with local anesthetics.
“Taking shrapnel out is a little different
experience,” she said. English was skipping
rope outside the clinic as she spoke, winding down
to stay upbeat.
Company B commander Lt. Col. Kenneth Lee, who
back home is the chief spinal cord injury doctor
at the Milwaukee veterans hospital, said it’s essential
for the medics to find ways to stay well while
they are treating the victims of the war.
“It is OK to bleed with your patients, but
you must stop the bleeding at a certain point and
replenish. You must be able to put an (emotional)
tourniquet on and stop it,” he said. “Replenish
and bleed again, that allows you to be empathetic.”
But lately, even though doctors and medics for
the most part seem to remain in good spirits, the
time for replenishing has been brief.
“In the past four or five days, the daily
trauma — the battle trauma that I’ve seen — is
quite different,” Lee said. “The war
trauma, the battle trauma. A lot of emotions. All
these patients come in with a lot of emotions.”
He also talked about how the experience is changing
him in some way he couldn’t define, then told of
a young soldier who was one of many recently treated
for gunshot wounds.
“A young kid. God, I couldn’t believe how
young he looked,” Lee said. “He had a
gunshot wound. That bullet went through his hand.
I was treating his hand and trying to save it,
and he’s saying, Hey, Doc, don’t worry, I’m going
to be OK. I’m going to be OK.’ I think what he
saw was the worry that I had. He was assuring me.
It was a different kind of feeling. We see the
war through the eyes of the patients.
“When it came time to take him out, I just
kind of held his hand and said, Hey, buddy, you’re
going out of here soon. You’re going to get a helicopter
ride.’ He just clamped my hand and wouldn’t let
go. He just wouldn’t let go.”
“I think that’s what’s changing me,” Lee
said. “You see these people going through
all these things, and I got nothing to complain
about. Maybe that’s what the change is, I don’t
“I’m realizing that there’s more to it than,
you know, simple problems of having a new car versus
an old car. Should I redo the siding on the house
or not? That’s the kind of thing I left when I
reporter in Iraq
Editors’ note: Reporter Lee Sensenbrenner of The
Capital Times will be in Iraq for the next 10 days
to tell the stories of Wisconsin soldiers. He is
with the 118th Medical Battalion of the Wisconsin
The unit has 63 active members in the Baghdad
area, including physicians, dentists, medics and
nurses. Some of their duties include treating prisoners
of war. The main clinic used by the 118th, where
Sensenbrenner is based, acts as an emergency room
and as a general health care facility. It is on
a base referred to as Baghdad International Airport,
or BIAP, which is nearby.
Service Honors Soldier Who Served With Two
Sisters in Iraq
Not Long before she
was killed in Iraq, Michelle Witmer gave her
twin sister a hug and kiss and told her that
she loved her.
“It was a gift
from God,” Charity Witmer, 20, told more
than 600 mourners at a memorial service Wednesday
night. “She was at such a good place when
she left this world.”
Michelle Witmer died
Friday when her Humvee was attacked in Baghdad,
where Charity and another sister, 24-year-old
Rachel, also serve with the National Guard.
The sisters were granted
leave and returned home Monday. They were still
deciding whether to return to Iraq.
Maj. Gen. Albert Wilkening,
adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard,
presented Witmer’s family with a Purple Heart,
a Bronze Star and the National Defense Service
Michelle Witmer, a specialist
with the 32nd Military Police Company, was the
first Wisconsin National Guard soldier to die
in military combat in 60 years.
Assigned to the Army
military police, she was stationed in Baghdad.
Rachel Witmer also served
in the 32nd, which was sent overseas last May.
Charity was sent to Iraq late last year as a
medic with Company B of the Wisconsin Guard’s
118th Medical Battalion.
Speakers at the service
included Gov. Jim Doyle and Brig. Gen. Kerry
Denson, commander of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Denson quoted an e-mail
from Sgt. Nate Olson, who was in the Humvee with
Michelle when they came under fire. He said Michelle
was attempting to return fire when she was hit.
“For her quick
reactions, she undoubtedly is the reason I am
here today. Thank you, Michelle,” Denson
quoted Olson as writing.
Michelle’s parents read
from their daughter’s e-mails, in which she described
her volunteer work at an orphanage.
“It was when I
was holding one of these children that I realized
I have so much to be thankful for,” she
wrote in an e-mail read by her father, John.
Michelle’s mother, Lori,
had to take a moment to compose herself before
she told the crowd that she wished she could
keep everyone there for three days to talk about
“I feel so privileged
to be her mother,” she said.
Outside the church auditorium,
large floral arrangements and collages of snapshots
of Witmer and her family and friends were displayed.
The 2nd Platoon of her
company sent flowers with a card that read: “Michelle,
you’re always one of us in our hearts and minds.”
Defense Department policy
allows soldiers from the family of someone who
dies while serving in a hostile area to request
an exemption from serving in such an area.
That request must come from the soldiers themselves,
but the family said the sisters were deferring
that decision for now.
For Guard Unit’s Kin,
No End to the Grieving
First came word of a soldier’s death. Then
families learned that troops’ Iraq duty had been
extended — again.
By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
OCONOMOWOC, Wis. — The soldiers had already started
sending home their DVD players, decks of cards
and extra deodorant. The National Guard had
organized a party so kids could paint welcome-home
mood here in southeastern Wisconsin was almost
festive: After an endless year in Iraq, the 157
soldiers of the 32nd Military Police Company
were coming home.
But last Friday, phones began ringing in the homes
of the soldiers’ spouses, parents and siblings.
Spc. Michelle Witmer, one of their own, had been
killed when her Humvee came under fire on a routine
patrol through Baghdad. Shaken, the families of
the 32nd reminded one another that the rest of
the troops were already packing.
Then the phones rang again.
On Easter Sunday, the soldiers of the 32nd had
learned that they would not be coming home next
month as planned.
The Pentagon had promised American forces in Iraq
that they would spend no more than 365 days in
hostile territory. But this week, officials said
they would order more than 10,000 troops to stay
on beyond their yearlong tour. The 32nd was one
of the first to get that order.
“We were so close to getting them home intact.
Then to rip our hopes away like that…. We were
devastated,” said Krista Sorenson of Waterloo,
Her husband, Sgt. Denis Sorenson, had planned
to be home by May 10 for their daughter’s eighth
birthday. He had missed her seventh.
“I have felt and thought of every terrible
emotion you can think of,” the sergeant wrote
his wife, hours after learning that he would not
make it home for Justine’s birthday. “We were
so close. I never saw this coming.”
News of the 120-day extension angered families
already strained with grief over Witmer’s death.
Many of the soldiers’ relatives felt they knew
the long-haired 20-year-old from New Berlin. She
and her older sister, Rachel, both served in the
32nd. Her identical twin, Charity, was also in
Iraq, with a medical battalion. The soldier-sisters,
who joined the Guard to help pay for college, had
been featured several times on local TV and in
Their parents even posted the girls’ letters online:
Michelle’s description of the filthy Iraqi police
station where she worked the night shift; photos
of the disabled children she cuddled at a Baghdad
orphanage; her request for a care package of lemonade
mix, flip-flops and “anything that is frivolous … [to
make me] feel like a girl again.”
“We’d gotten to know the sisters through
all the coverage of the family. We were grieving,” said
Janet Gatlin, who lives in this lakeside town midway
between Milwaukee and Madison. “Then to get
the news of the extension. It was like, ‘This can’t
be happening.’ We’re living a nightmare.”
Her husband, 2nd Lt. Anthony Gatlin, broke down
when he told his wife that she would be alone for
Several officers from the 32nd had been boarding
a plane for Kuwait to plan the unit’s demobilization
when the extension order arrived, Gatlin told her
in a phone call. The officers were pulled off the
plane. They were told not only that they’d be staying
in Iraq, but that they’d also be redeployed south
It had taken months for the soldiers to turn a
bombed-out palace into a comfortable base. Using
their civilian skills in plumbing, construction
and engineering, they had restored electricity
and water. They even set up a microwave, in which
they tried — not very successfully — to make pizza.
Now they face moving, most likely to a tent camp,
without air conditioning or e-mail access.
“That’s the first time,” Janet Gatlin
said, “that my husband has ever cried to me
on the phone.”
When the 32nd was activated on March 15, 2003,
their orders called for a year of active duty.
But last summer, the Pentagon set out a new policy:
A year of active duty meant a year of “boots
on the ground” in hostile territory. The two
months the 32nd had spent mobilizing, training
and deploying to Iraq did not count. Anxious relatives
back home circled a new date on their calendars:
May 9. That would mark precisely one year since
the 32nd had touched down in the Middle East.
The boots-on-the-ground policy had been designed
to boost troop morale by setting a fixed date for
homecomings. For the men and women of the 32nd,
it seemed to work. As their one-year deadline approached
this spring, the soldiers excitedly told their
families to stop sending mail. They’d soon be back
to hear all the news in person.
“The concentration of the unit has shifted
to packing up,” one soldier noted in a dispatch
for a family newsletter.
“As we start to count down the days, the
excitement can be heard in voices behind tired
and tested eyes,” another wrote.
Michelle Witmer was no less buoyant. For months,
she had been working 12-hour shifts in a police
station that often resembled an emergency ward,
with bloodied Iraqis staggering in seeking first
aid for gunshots, stab wounds and broken bones.
Patrolling a treacherous neighborhood, she had
several close calls with improvised explosive devices.
Members of her unit had earned more than 20 Purple
Hearts for combat injuries.
“Time does not fly,” she wrote her dad.
Last month, however, Michelle’s mood brightened
as she began planning for her homecoming. “There
is finally a light at the end of the tunnel!” she
Back in Wisconsin, soldiers’ relatives booked
summer trips to Disneyland or planned long-delayed
honeymoons. They debated what to bring when they
met the troops’ plane: Pizza? McDonald’s? Cheesecake?
Justine Sorenson came up with a long list of all
she wanted to do with her dad: Show him how well
she could read. Show him how she’d learned to hit
a softball. Show him her American Girl doll. Hug
“I just want to see him come off that plane,” she
Amid the frenzy, a few families managed to hold
their excitement in check.
“I’ve been a military wife for 20 years,” said
Keleen Soldner of Racine. “I know to plan
for the worst.” But few listened to her warnings.
Jessica Lopez, for one, was too busy planning
her wedding. She had married Staff Sgt. Agustin Lopez
in a hasty courthouse ceremony just before he deployed.
Now they wanted a formal church wedding. Lopez
reserved a date: June 12. She bought her dress,
hired a florist, ordered a cake. She mailed the
Then she learned of Witmer’s death.
Then she learned of the extension.
And now she’s calling caterers, asking for refunds — all
the while holding a running conversation with God.
“If I make it through the next 120 days without
him,” Lopez begs, “if I stay strong,
if I give up however many thousands we spent on
the wedding, will you please, please bring him
Like other family members, Lopez says she’s proud
of her husband, believes in his mission and supports
him — and the military action in Iraq — 100%. Then
she thinks of the Witmers.
She believes Michelle would still be alive if
the 32nd had returned home in March at the end
of its original one-year tour. She wonders whether
this second extension is a bad omen. She fears
another phone call.
Adding to the stress is the uncertainty. The 32nd
has not received a written order that confirms
the extension. And no one’s sure how to interpret
the verbal command that came down over the weekend.
Do the 120 days start now, or after the first year
of duty is up May 9? Will the Army count only days
on the ground in Iraq, or will the soldiers get
credit for the several weeks it can take to travel
home? Is 120 days a maximum? Or could the tour
of duty be extended yet again?
On the unlikely chance that there’s still time
to reverse the order before it’s sent in writing,
relatives have bombarded local politicians with
pleas for the unit’s return this spring.
“We want our husbands home,” Gatlin
said. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
But she’s not letting herself hope. “I can’t
bear to be disappointed again.”
Guard Deployment Could Cause Firefighter Shortage
DATELINE: ONTARIO, Ore.
The war in Iraq may leave the state short of resources
to battle forest fires, especially in drought-stricken
By May 1, an estimated 40 percent of personnel
in Iraq will be Guardsmen and reservists, officials
That poses a serious risk to every state in terms
of fire management given that one of the National
Guards main duties is providing disaster relief,
said Mike Hartwell, fire management officer for
the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Vale.
“There could be big fires in Oregon, Idaho
or Washington, all three, or none this year. We
just don’t know,” Hartwell said.
Oregon U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley said she is concerned
the deployment will leave a hole in Oregon’s security.
Kathie Eastman, spokeswoman for Oregon U.S. Rep.
Earl Blumenauer, said the congressman has similar
But Oregon National Guard spokesman Maj.
Arnold Strong dismissed the risk, pointing out
that the largest state deployment of the National
Guard since World War II occurred during the
summer of 2002, when wildfires in the southwestern
part of the state drained available resources.
Then, Oregon had more National Guard in
Iraq per capita than any other state. But even
so, there were still an estimated 60 percent of
Oregon Guardsmen left to deal with state security
matters, Strong said.
Strong did concede that with the drought in eastern
Oregon, a potential does exists for a particularly
severe fire season.
Eastern Oregon’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry
Brigade, headquartered in La Grande, was placed
on alert in March for a possible deployment overseas.
April 16, 2004
Tours in Iraq Dash Hopes and Raise Fears Among
By Andrew Jacobs; Ariel Hart in Atlanta, Eric
Schmitt in Washington and Abby Goodnough in Pensacola,
Fla., contributed reporting for this article.
DATELINE: FORT POLK, La., April 15
The triumphant display of fighter jets over the
nearby town of Leesville has been postponed. So,
too, has the celebratory parade down Third Street
and the floats featuring decorated veterans and
musicians playing big band music. At the Landmark
Hotel, just up the road from the entrance to this
expansive Army base, the military wives who had
traveled cross-country for promised reunions with
their husbands are packing their bags and heading
For Eboni Abrams, the “welcome home” signs
and the march of red, white and blue ribbons up
and down Colony Boulevard feel like cruel taunts,
now that her husband, Specialist Roy L. Abrams,
is spending an extra three months in Iraq along
with 2,800 other troops who were supposed to return
to Fort Polk in the coming weeks.
“I feel bad, real bad, like I have a hole
in my heart,” said Ms. Abrams, 25, who was
planning a surprise vacation to Disney World for
her husband this weekend.
Across the country, thousands of military families
who expected joyous reunions in the coming weeks
are now trying to grapple with dashed hopes and
renewed fears that their loved ones will have to
face several more months of perilous duty in Iraq.
In Utah, family members whose relatives are in
the 1457th engineer battalion of the Utah National
Guard had expected them home within days. They
were told at a tense meeting in Spanish Fork on
Thursday that after 14 months in Iraq the battalion’s
tour would be prolonged.
In announcing the extended tours of duty, Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the 20,000 troops
who are to remain in Iraq for up to three months
were needed to quell the latest surge in violence
and to protect supply convoys that have come under
increasing attack in the past two weeks. Gen. John
P. Abiziad, the top American officer in the Middle
East, said earlier this week that he needed an
additional two brigades of troops to keep the number
of American troops in Iraq at about 130,000.
The extension effectively cancels the Pentagon’s
plans for reducing troop levels to about 115,000,
or lower, this spring, and breaks a department
commitment last fall to limit troops’ time to 12
“We regret having to extend those individuals,” Mr.
Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. “But
the country is at war and we need to do what is
necessary to succeed.”
The Pentagon’s order affects a wide range of troops,
including infantry, helicopter crews, military
police and logistics specialists, in both Iraq
and Kuwait. The extensions affect about 11,000
soldiers from the First Armored Division, based
in Germany, 3,200 troops from the Second Armored
Cavalry Regiment and an unspecified number of soldiers
from other posts.
Lt. Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s deputy chief
of staff for operations, told reporters that about
6,000 Reserve and National Guard soldiers
from 20 states will have their tours extended,
raising concerns among some military personnel
Maj. Ron Elliott, a spokesman at Fort Polk, said
the extension had come in the middle of the Second Armored
Cavalry regiment’s “flowing” back home,
with about 700 servicemen having arrived at Fort
Polk and 2,800 still in the Iraq or Kuwait, all
of whom were expected to be back by May 11.
“In part, it’s because of their expertise
and their combat experience” that they were
chosen to stay, he said. Some had already reached
Kuwait for the journey home and were turned around
before they could board planes.
In Leesville, the homecoming party, billed as
the Louisiana Homefront Celebration, was scheduled
for June 19 and had been in the works since the
fall. Mayors from across central Louisiana and
the area’s Congressional delegation had been involved
in planning for the series of events, which were
expected to draw tens of thousands of people to
downtown Leesville, a town of 7,000 people whose
livelihoods are integrally linked to Fort Polk.
Paula Schlag, a community relations officer at
the base, said the event was to be inspired by
the joyous victory day celebrations that followed
the end of World War II but with a modern twist.
Fighter jets would screech across the sky, marching
bands would parade through town and at least one
unnamed Nascar celebrity was expected to join the
“Imagine a joint color guard and marching
units from all the services, with vehicles from
a horse to modern transport to show the transformation
of the Army,” she said. Like many others here,
she did her best to find a silver lining in the
disheartening news. “We’re going to use the
extra time to enhance an already phenomenal event,” Ms.
Jessica Halverson, whose husband, a second lieutenant,
has been in Iraq for more than a year, said it
was important not to complain. “I was disappointed,
of course, but you give yourself a few hours to
feel sorry for yourself, but then you put on your
good face for everybody else and just keep on,” Ms.
Halverson said. “You’ve got to have a lot
of strength to be a military wife, and how you
react affects the other wives.”
Forced to cancel a planned family holiday at the
beach, Ms. Halverson said she took her 3-year-old
daughter, Emma Kate, to the zoo and the movies
to distract her from the disappointment. “It’s
kind of like a blanket of sadness for the first
couple days,” she said.
Others were not so ready to hide their emotions.
Angela Macarini, whose husband, Henry, is in Kuwait
with an Air Force Special Operations unit out of
Hurlburt Field, near Pensacola, said she and her
husband were both losing faith in the war effort. “Sometimes
I think we did the right thing and sometimes I
think we didn’t,” said Ms. Macarini, a waitress
who was shopping at the Winn-Dixie in Navarre,
Fla., on Thursday afternoon. “It’s getting
more and more scary. I feel like the Iraqi people
are not prepared for democracy and it’s not the
Americans’ place to go fix the situation for them.”
She said she had been worried about the possibility
of soldiers having to stay longer than they had
planned, adding, “Hopefully my husband won’t
be one of them.”
Over at the Hairport in Leesville, a beauty salon
near the base entrance, the disappointment was
palpable. Ms. Abrams, who works as a hairdresser,
grew tearful as she described the phone call from
her husband last week to tell her about his delayed
return. He was already in Kuwait, on his way back
home, and he was weeping. “That’s the first
time I’ve ever heard him cry since we began dating
in high school,” she said.
Ms. Abrams had been living in South Carolina since
January, but she returned to the base in anticipation
of the reunion, loading her car with a few of Specialist
Abrams’s favorite things: boxes of Little Debbie
cakes, new jeans and four pairs of Timberland boots
she found on sale.
The plan was to surprise her husband with a trip
to Orlando, picking up their 2-year-old son in
South Carolina on the way to Disney World. The
letdown is immense, she said, but even more overpowering
is her anxiety over what might lay ahead in the
chaos of Iraq. “It hurts me because those
boys finally had a chance to catch their breath
and it’s been snatched away from them,” she
said. “At this point, I just want him home
safe and sound.”
The Associated Press
Soldiers: Army Ignores Illness Complaints
By Verena Dobnik
NEW YORK (AP) – Six soldiers who have fallen ill since their return from Iraq said Friday that the Army ignored their complaints about uranium poisoning from U.S. weapons fired during combat.
They also said they were denied testing for the radioactive substance.
We were all healthy when we left home. Now, I suffer from headaches, fatigue, dizziness, blood in the urine, unexplained rashes,” said Sgt. Jerry Ojeda, 28, who was stationed south of Baghdad with other National Guard members of the 442nd Military Police Company.
He said symptoms also include shortness of breath, migraines and nausea. Sgt. Herbert Reed, 50, said that when a dozen soldiers asked for treatment last fall, they initially were turned away.
Three of them persisted and were tested in December, said Reed, who has yet to receive his results.
The soldiers held a news conference at Ojeda’s home, joined by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who said he would work to get the victims extended health benefits after they are discharged.
Five of the men said they also were recently tested independently by Dr. Asaf Durakovic, a former Army doctor and nuclear medicine expert, who found traces of depleted uranium in their bloodstream, with four registering high levels. After their return from Iraq, “the Army was unfortunately not cooperative when they asked for testing,” Schumer said.
In Washington, an Army spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, said that the military would test any soldier who expressed concerns about uranium exposure.
The men said that Army officials are now testing urine samples they supplied. Results are expected in about three weeks.
Since the start of the Iraq war, U.S. forces reportedly have fired at least 120 tons of shells packed with depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium, which is left over from the process of enriching uranium for use as nuclear fuel, is an extremely dense material that the U.S. and British militaries use for tank armor and armor-piercing weapons. It is far less radioactive than natural uranium.
Veterans started reporting health problems as a result of depleted uranium shells in 1991, after the first Gulf War.
Some experts believe the nuclear component used in warfare is practically harmless, while others blame depleted uranium for cancers and other illnesses.
Special to American Forces Press Service
Guard Video Honors Sacrifices in War on Terror
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
ARLINGTON, Va., April 15, 2004 – Jeffrey Wershow died in Iraq in July. A year after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Wershow became a National Guard icon.
Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, is telling everyone he can about the 22-year-old infantry specialist from the Florida Army National Guard.
Blum tells Wershow’s story while showing a video about what National Guard soldiers and airmen have contributed to the global war against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.
The 3-minute, 37-second video is a collage of film clips and still photos set to the Toby Keith song “American Soldier,” which was No. 1 on the country music charts as the first year of the war in Iraq was coming to a close.
Veteran members of the National Guard Bureau’s public affairs team produced two videos to pay tribute to the fallen Guard members.
One is grounded in Toby Keith’s hit song “American Soldier.” It shows National Guard troops performing their duties in Afghanistan, Iraq and supporting homeland efforts.
The other is a memorial to the Guard members who have been killed during the war against terrorism. Their names are displayed against an American flag that is waving in the breeze. “Taps” is the mournful musical score. The 3-minute,
17-second video ends with the sobering message, “All Gave Some; Some Gave All.” Army Guard Sgts. 1st Class Paul Mouilleseaux and Tom Roberts shot most of footage and photographs and produced the videos that are being distributed to National Guard personnel throughout the country.
Blum presented the award-winning military journalists with Air Force Achievement Medals for their poignant portrayals of the National Guard at war.
“What the National Guard does and means was the message we tried to convey in the Toby Keith video,” said Mouilleseaux, who also has two Emmy Awards. He was a staff photographer on news teams for a Louisville, Ky., commercial television station, WHAS-TV, which won Midwestern regional Emmy Awards in 1994 and 2000.
“With the memorial video, we wanted to inject some honor and pride and emotion into the sacrifices that these Guard soldiers and airmen have made to make sure they are never forgotten,” Mouilleseaux added.
Wershow, who went to war with the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry, appears twice in that National Guard video that also speaks to the sacrifices that Guard soldiers and airmen have made during the war. Wershow is seen in the green haze of a night-vision lens, planting the American and Florida flags beside a breach in a defensive wall in northern Iraq.
Florida Army Guard and active Army soldiers invaded Iraq, Blum explains, in the dead of a night before coalition forces actually launched Operation Iraqi Freedom on the night of March 19, 2003.
Wershow did not have long to savor that moment, Blum relates a little later during the video as a casket covered with Old Glory is carried onto an Air National Guard plane. He was shot in the head and killed in Baghdad while buying a can of soda on July 6.
“Jeffrey Wershow was one of our Guard members who went into the fight before the fighting officially started,” Blum has observed. “And Jeffrey Wershow was one of the people who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
There have been many Jeffrey Wershows during the past year, as the National Guard has paid a dear price in blood and tears while holding up its end of the fight against tyranny and terrorism, against those who would do this country harm.
Sixty-five Guard members have died because they have been willing to go into harm’s way.
Fifty-five Army Guard soldiers and one Air National Guard officer had given their lives during the first year of operations against Iraq by March 20, according to Defense Department casualty reports.
That was the day that California Army Guard 1st Lt. Michael Vega, 41, died at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington from injuries suffered when his vehicle rolled over during a firefight in Iraq on March 11.
Another eight Guard soldiers and an airman have died while taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom, in which terrorists based in Afghanistan have been the focus of attention since April 2002.
Twenty-seven of the Iraqi casualties have been killed in action or have died of combat wounds, according to DoD reports. Three have been killed in action in Afghanistan.
Many others have been wounded and lost limbs and have begun coming to grips at places like Walter Reed with the reality of resuming their lives, which have been forever altered by warfare.
They will be remembered in many places. The 56 who have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom came from 25 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, based on Defense Department casualty reports.
Five belonged to Army Guard units in Iowa, the state that has been hardest hit.
California and Alabama have each lost four Guard soldiers. Indiana has lost three Guard soldiers engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom and another during Operation Enduring Freedom.
July and November were the deadliest months during the first year of the Iraqi War. Eight Guard Soldiers perished during each month. Seven more died during August, September and December.
Improvised explosive devices have taken many of the lives that will again be remembered with tears and “Taps” during Memorial Day observances in late May.
But the sacrifices have been made in many ways.
Illinois 1st Lt. Brian Slavenas and Iowa Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Smith and Sgt. Paul Fisher were killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 2.
Ohio Spec. Todd Bates drowned south of Baghdad on Dec. 10 after diving into the Tigris River to try to save his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Aaron Reese, who fell overboard during a river patrol. Both men with the 135th Military Police Company died.
And many people now know the story of Florida Spc. Jeffrey Wershow because the chief of the National Guard Bureau is telling everyone he can how the college student and aspiring politician left his Florida home to put his life on the line, as so many National Guard people have done when their country has called.
National Guard Casualties, War Against Terrorism
Following are the names of those who have died while participating in Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom operations. The list includes their ages, states or territories in which their Guard units are based, and the dates and countries of their deaths. KIA indicates they were killed in action. DOW indicates they died of wounds. All were members of the Army National Guard except for two who belonged to the Air National Guard, indicated by asterisks.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
1st Lt. Michael Vega, 41, California, March 20, Washington, DC.
Sgt. Ivory Phipps, 44, Illinois, March 17, Iraq, KIA.
Master Sgt. Thomas Thigpen Sr., 52, South Carolina, March 16, Kuwait.
Sgt. William Normandy, 42, Vermont, March 15, Kuwait.
Spc. Jocelyn Carrasquillo, 28, North Carolina, March 13, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Christopher Taylor, 25, Alabama, Feb. 16, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Eric Ramirez, 31, California, Feb. 12, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Elijah Wong, 42, Arizona, Feb. 9, Iraq.
Spc. Joshua Knowles, 23, Iowa, Feb. 5, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. Keith Smette, 25, North Dakota, Jan. 24, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hendrickson, 41, North Dakota, Jan. 24, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Michael Mihalakis, 18, California, Dec. 26, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Michael Sutter, 28, Michigan, Dec. 26, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Nathan Nakis, 19, Oregon, Dec. 16, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Reese, 31, Ohio, Dec. 10, Iraq.
Spc. Todd Bates, 20, Ohio, Dec. 10, Iraq.
Spc. Raphael Davis, 24, Mississippi, Dec. 2, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Aaron Sissel, 22, Iowa, Nov. 29, Iraq, KIA.
Cpl. Darrell Smith, 28, Indiana, Nov. 23, Iraq.
Spc. Robert Wise, 21, Florida, Nov. 12, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Nathan Bailey, 46, Tennessee, Nov. 12, Kuwait.
Sgt. Paul Fisher, 39, Iowa, Nov. 6, Germany, DOW.
Spc. James Chance III, 25, Mississippi, Nov. 6, Iraq, KIA.
1st Lt. Brian Slavenas, 30, Illinois, Nov. 2, Iraq, KIA.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bruce Smith, 41, Iowa, Nov. 2, Iraq, DOW.
Pvt. Algernon Adams, 36, South Carolina, Oct. 28, Iraq.
Sgt. Aubrey Bell, 33, Alabama, Oct. 27, Iraq, KIA.
Pfc. Paul Bueche, 19, Alabama, Oct. 21, Iraq.
Spc. Michael Williams, 46, New York, Oct. 17, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. Darrin Potter, 24, Kentucky, Sept. 29, Iraq.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rooney, 43, Massachusetts, Sept. 25, Kuwait.
Capt. Robert Lucero, 34, Wyoming, Sept. 25, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Michael Andrade, 28, Rhode Island, Sept. 24, Iraq.
Sgt. Charles Caldwell, 38, Rhode Island, Sept. 1, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara, 40, Rhode Island, Sept. 1, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Darryl Dent, 21, District of Columbia, Aug. 26, Iraq, KIA.
Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin, 38, North Carolina, Aug. 20, Iraq, KIA.
Pfc. David Kirchoff, 31, Iowa, Aug. 14, Germany.
Staff Sgt. David Perry, 36, California, Aug. 10, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. Floyd Knighten Jr., 55, Louisiana, Aug. 9, Iraq.
Pfc. Brandon Ramsey, 21, Illinois, Aug. 8, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. David Lloyd, 44, Tennessee, Aug. 5, Kuwait.
Sgt. Heath McMillin, 29, New York, July 27, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Jon Fettig, 30, North Dakota, July 22, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt.1st Class Christopher Willoughby, 29, Georgia, July 20, Iraq.
Spc. Joshua Neusche, 20, Missouri, July 12, Germany.
Sgt. Roger Rowe, 54, Tennessee, July 9, Iraq, KIA.
Sgt. 1st Class Craig Boling, 38, Indiana, July 8, Kuwait.
Spc. Jeffrey Wershow, 22, Florida, July 6, Iraq, KIA.
Spc. Richard Orengo, 32, Puerto Rico, June 26, Iraq.
Cpl. John Rivero, 23, Florida, April 17, Kuwait.
Spc. Richard Goward, 32, Michigan, April 14, Iraq.
Spc. William Jeffries, 39, Indiana, March 26, Spain.
*Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, Idaho, March 25, Kuwait.
Staff Sgt. Harold Best, 47, North Carolina, Oct. 7, 2003, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Spc. Jeremy Loveless, 22, Alabama, April 28, 2003, Fort Benning, Ga.
Operation Enduring Freedom
Sgt. Roy Wood, 47, Florida, Jan. 9, Afghanistan.
Sgt. Theodore Perreault, 33, Massachusetts, Dec. 23, Cuba.
Pfc. Kristian Parker, 23, Louisiana, Sept. 29, Qatar.
Sgt. Christopher Geiger, 38, Pennsylvania, July 9, Afghanistan.
*Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier, 24, Illinois, March 29, Afghanistan, KIA
Spc. Brian Clemens, 19, Indiana, Feb. 7, Kuwait.
Sgt. Michael Barry, 29, Missouri, Feb. 1, Qatar.
Sgt. Gene Vance Jr., 38, West Virginia, May 19, Afghanistan, KIA
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Romero, 31, Colorado, April 15, Afghanistan, KIA
to American Forces Press Service
Guard Forms Alliance With Kingdom of Jordan
Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
Va., April 13, 2004 – A new, landmark alliance
between the Kingdom of Jordan and the Colorado
National Guard may be one more step toward bringing
peace and stability to the Middle East.
is what Prince Feisal Ibn al-Hussein, a member
of Jordan’s royal family and commander of the
Royal Jordanian Air Force, said he hoped for
while visiting the National Guard Bureau’s joint
headquarters April 1 to endorse the new State
Partnership Program between his country and the
is the first time the National Guard’s 11-year-old
State Partnership Program has formed an alliance
with a Middle Eastern country to exchange military,
civil and cultural ideas.
Jordan-Colorado partnership is the 45th affiliation
between states and countries since January 1993.
Previous partnerships have been forged with Eastern
European nations that were former members of
the Warsaw Pact, 13 countries in Latin America
and the Philippines.
National Guard’s State
Partnership Program aligns states with nations
around the world to help them develop modern
military forces, learn the concept of civilian
control of the military, and establish civil-military
relationships that benefit the public during
part of the world is quite often misunderstood.
Understanding can’t but help (lead to) greater
stability, greater security and a greater opportunity
for peace,” said Feisal following a breakfast
meeting with Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, director
of the Air National Guard, and Air Guard
Maj. Gen. Mason Whitney, Colorado’s adjutant
we come from different cultures, we all face
very, very similar challenges in life. Being
able to work together, to be able to address
issues together and understand each other is
to the benefit of everybody,” said Feisal,
the younger brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah
II. “You don’t lose out from being able
to understand each other and work together,” added
Feisal, a two-star general, who has flown military
helicopters and jet fighter planes.
wore a lapel pin of the U.S. and Jordanian flags
on his gray suit to signify his support for the
40, has learned much about the American culture,
because he was educated at prep schools in Massachusetts
and Washington, D.C., and earned an electronic
engineering degree from Brown University in Rhode
Island in 1985.
asked to participate in the State Partnership
Program last December and asked to be affiliated
Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National
Guard Bureau, recommended that partnership
to the commander of the U.S. Central Command,
Gen. John Abizaid, on March 23. Central Command
is expected to endorse Blum’s recommendation.
are building on a friendship that already exists
between our two countries, (and) between Jordan
and Colorado,” James observed.
agreed. “We already had a good relationship
with Colorado from previous exercises,” he
said. “When we looked at the Guard assets
in Colorado, (we saw) there is actually a very,
very good fit between what we have in Jordan,
whether it is in the air force and army, and
what there is available in Colorado.”
partnership will encompass civil defense and
disaster response issues as well as the more
traditional military relationships, predicted
Feisal. “I think there is a lot that both
sides can learn,” he said.
strategic interests in the Middle East are enormous,
and we have seen by virtue of the State Partnership
Program that we can open a lot of doors in terms
of common interests,” Whitney observed. “We
feel it’s a great learning opportunity for our
United States military, not only the Colorado
National Guard, to be involved in relationships
with Middle Eastern cultures similar to Jordan.”
he pointed out, has maintained a partnership
with Slovenia since 1993.
feel that has been a great success for Slovenia
and for the Colorado National Guard. We’re
looking forward to having that similar success
with Jordan,” Whitney said.
was admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
with six other countries on March 29, three days
before Whitney met Feisal to discuss the new
partnership between Jordan and Colorado.
fly the F-16 and Jordan flies the F-16. We feel
that our Air National Guard has similar
interests with similar missions,” Whitney
added. “We have special forces in the Army
National Guard. We have aviation in the Army
National Guard. Jordan also has those missions
within their military organizations. We feel
there there’s going to be a great opportunity
to exchange information.”
has already asked that two of its Army helicopter
pilots train at the Colorado Army Guard’s High
Altitude Army Aviation Training Site, the only
one like it in the world, at Eagle County Airport,
is also familiar with the Air National Guard,
because of its exchanges with the 162nd Fighter
Wing in Tucson, Ariz.
Jordanian pilots were trained to fly F-16s in
Tucson in 1997 and about 50 Jordanian troops
received maintenance training there in 1998.
Pilots in the 162nd delivered the first F-16s
that Jordan purchased from the United States
to the Middle East nation in January 2003.
signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and
is now considered to be one of the countries
promoting peace and stability in that part of
Feisal said he hopes that participating in the
State Partnership Program will help.
wish that this would be the solution to the Arab-Israeli
problem and to all of our problems in the Middle
East,” he said. “In a small way, maybe
it can help. We will not know until we try it.”
by Gary Sheftick
(Army News Service, April 13, 2004) — The
last class of the Combined Arms and Services
Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., will
graduate May 19.
be consolidated into the various branch officer
advance courses, Army officials said. A one-week
combined arms exercise will be added to those advance
courses, which now last 18-20 weeks, depending
on the branch.
exercise, officials said, will provide captains
attending the branch schools with much of the combined-arms
experience critical to CAS3, which now lasts just
over five weeks.
Over the past
22 years, some instruction such as problem-solving
or military decision-making has become part of
the curriculum at both the advance courses and
CAS3, said Col. David Thompson, CAS3 director at
Fort Leavenworth. He said decision-making
is then stressed again at a higher echelon at the
Command and General Staff College.
repetition may be good,” Thompson said, for
the learning process. “What we’re trying to
do is eliminate any redundancy in instruction.”
redundancy was a suggestion resulting from the
Army Training and Leadership Development Panel
study, known as ATLDP, completed in May 2001. It
was also examined under the Officer Personnel Management
System XXI study about six years ago.
is not a knee-jerk reaction,” said Lt. Col.
Dennis Harrington, the G1 Officer Education System
liaison at the Pentagon. “This has been considered
planned as part of the Officer Education System
transformation, was originally scheduled for fiscal
year 2005, but is being moved up for operational
reasons, Army officials said.
the Army at war, captains need to get back to their
units,” Thompson said, and the change will
get them back to units almost four weeks earlier.
will affect about 3,100 captains annually. Fort
Leavenworth has been conducting seven classes per
year with about 450 students each. Active-duty
captains have been attending the five-week CAS3
course at Leavenworth immediately after finishing
advance course at their branch school. In
recent years, most captains have gone to their
advance course as a permanent-change-of-station
move. In the future, they will go in a temporary-duty
status and return to their units officials said. They
added this will be part of Force Stabilization.
National Guard and Army Reserve captains may
continue taking CAS3 at Reserve Forces Schools
at least through the end of the fiscal year when
existing courses finish. The reserve-component
officer advance courses are shorter and do not
include much combined arms curriculum, said Maj.
Larry Mosely, a training officer at the U.S. Army
Reserve Command in Atlanta, Ga.
he envisions what is now the two-week resident
phase of the Reserve Forces CAS3 becoming very
similar to the combined arms exercise for active-duty
captains. Mosely said the officer advance
course for reservists may adapt into a two-week
phase at a branch school, then a distance-learning
course, followed by a combined arms exercise.
pilot for the combined arms exercise is planned
for this summer at Fort Leavenworth. Then
the exercise may move to the combat arms branch
schools, Thompson said.
a compact course,” Thompson said about the
exercise being planned, adding that many important
elements of the current CAS3, such as problem-solving,
staff interaction and briefings will be part
of the program.
written requirements will fall to the wayside,” Thompson
said, such as formal memo assignments. “I
don’t think a captain in today’s Army needs to
know how many spaces to indent,” he said.
arms instruction will include either computer-simulated
exercises, Thompson said, or scenarios with staff
here is to ensure we don’t hinder the education
of our captains,” Thompson said. “I think
we have a great answer.”
its origins to the Army’s 1978 Review of Education
and Training of Officers Study, which recommended
establishing a course to teach staff skills. Planning
for CAS3 began in 1979, with the first class graduating
in 1981. CAS3 began full operations in 1982 with
a nine-week program of instruction. In October
1996, the class format changed to a five-week program
as part of the Training and Doctrine Command’s
effort to better integrate Captains Professional
Military Education across the branches and schools.
to establish a Reserve Component CAS3 was made
in 1984. The first classes were taught in U.S.
Army Reserve Forces Schools in 1986, and the program
was fully implemented in 1991.
Now as part
of OES transformation and changes to officer Intermediate-Level
Education, CAS3 will be combined with the officer
should be little difference,” Thompson said,
between the knowledge base of CAS3 graduates and
those who complete the new officer advance course
with the additional combined-arms exercise.
Bush Fulfills Vow to Injured GI
Jogs with soldier who lost his leg in Afghanistan
By Associated Press
Bush, fulfilling a 15-month-old promise, jogged
around the South Lawn yesterday with a soldier
who had been badly wounded in Afghanistan.
During a Jan. 17, 2003, visit to Walter Reed Army
Medical Center, Mr. Bush met Staff Sgt. Michael
McNaughton of Denham Springs, La.
On Jan. 8, Sgt. McNaughton, a member of the Louisiana
National Guard, had stepped on a land mine 30 miles
north of Kabul. His right leg had to be removed
above the knee, he lost two fingers on his right
hand and he suffered shrapnel wounds in his left
The president and Sgt. McNaughton had talked about
running, and Mr. Bush promised to run with the
soldier when he was “fully recovered and able
to run with his prosthetic leg,” said White
House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Mr. Bush has been plagued by knee troubles but
has been doing light running in recent weeks, Mr.
McClellan said. “He’s following his doctor’s
advice to just do it as he can,” Mr. McClellan
The president has been doing more bicycling, and
went on some bicycle rides while at his Crawford,
Texas, ranch last week, Mr. McClellan said.
The track on the South Lawn, installed by President
Clinton and upgraded during Mr. Bush’s term, is
covered by a shock-absorbing material.