Index of Articles
Note: Topics below are now bookmarked! Click on the underlined topic below to link to the pages on that topic.
Pre-Boot Camp Cuts Washouts
Blanco Gets Briefing from National Guard Leaders
Army Guard Division Commander Looks to Past,
The National Guard Changes
National Guard Brigade Prepares for Deployment
Army Fears Reservists are Stretched Thin
Reserve Components Among Units Extended in
North Dakota National Guard: Doctors Heading
151st Signal Battalion Gets Home Just in
N.D. National Guard Unit Returns Home
Guard Unit Gets Joyous Welcome
Twelve Members of the 1457th Return, Others
Expected Next Month
Town of Patriots Dusts off Flags for Guard
Legion Post Honors Guard Unit Back From
Bill Would Waive Pension Penalty for
Thrift Savings Plan: Good Way to Increase
Wealth, Executive Director Says
Washington Guard Unit Takes Over Iraq Supply
Two National Guard Soldiers Injured in
133rd Embraces Hero as One of
Guard Gives Sisters More Time to
Decide on Returning to Iraq
HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH DEPLOYMENT
Davenport Resumes Rallies for Troops
National Guard Opens Center to Aid Families
Wives Establish Group Concerned Over
Iraq Deployment Extensions
With Breadwinners Overseas, Guard Families
A Push to Get Troops Home
Boots on the Ground, and Anxiety at
Re-entering Life After Being Deployed
Guardsman Who Refused Anthrax Vaccine Discharged
Kentucky Guardsman Killed in Iraq
Guardsman with Fort Lewis Task Force Killed
Vermont Soldier Dies in Iraq Ambush
Freedom Calls Foundation Helps Soldiers in
Iraq Contact Home
Military Phone Card Donation Program Goes
TRICARE website for information on health benefits
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April 22, 2004
Pre-Boot Camp Cuts Washouts
Targets National Guard Recruits
By Jan Dennis, Associated Press
Marseilles, Ill. — The drill sergeant’s stomach-twisting
growl echoed through concrete barracks lined
with baby-faced recruits on a weekend pass
from high school.
"I want you to move like someone’s shooting
at you – because someday they might," Sgt.
James Locke barked, sending dozens of first-day
soldiers scrambling past long, neat rows of
cots and footlockers.
The one-weekend-a-month, pre-boot camp was
launched this spring by the Illinois
Army National Guard ,
which is banking that an early taste of the
military will help new recruits survive basic
training and trim a washout rate that reached
about 30 percent last year.
"It’s designed to remove that fear of
the unknown. When they get to basic training,
they’ll understand what their role is and not
only pass, but become honor graduates," said
Maj. Steven Rouse, an Army National
Nearly 300 newly enlisted privates – many
of them high school juniors and seniors committing
to a six-year enlistment in exchange for a
paid college education – got their first marching,
weapons and physical training April 3-4 at
the Army National Guard complex in Marseilles.
"I was extremely nervous. I have to go
to the bathroom right now, but I’m afraid to
ask," Andrew Bittenbender, a 17-year-old
junior, said during a hurried lunch on the
camp’s first day.
Keith Arvik, 17-year-old junior, said he liked
his first day as a private, but wondered how
many push-ups he’d have to do if he messed
up. Others offered advice for avoiding the
drill sergeants’ wrath – just look straight
ahead and shut up.
Not everyone appreciated the orientation.
"I just think the drill sergeants should
cool it down. We’re not in boot camp yet," said
Cindy Aguiler, 17.
fact, during the two-day camp, the instructors
were offering a slightly less-intense version
of the discipline recruits will face for nine
weeks when they’re at an out-of-state Army
base for basic training this summer.
Maj. Rouse said the experience is aimed at
teaching recruits that drill sergeants are
trying to build discipline and teamwork, not
dish out abuse.
"The biggest thing this will overcome
is the mental aspect of it because that far
outweighs the physical," said Maj. Rouse,
a 19-year military veteran.
Of 1,580 guardsmen recruited in Illinois last
year, 465 dropped out. The program should help
scale back those losses, said Lt. Col. Chris
Lawson, commander of recruiting for the Illinois
Army National Guard.
The Army National Guard began urging states
to implement the program last summer after
similar boot camps improved retention rates
in Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada, Lawson
said. Illinois was among the first states to
sign on, but every state now offers some variation
of the program, he said.
Nationwide, the Army National Guard hopes
the camps will ultimately help slice a 2002
washout rate of 27 percent to just 12 percent,
which would add more than 4,000 new soldiers
a year to the nation’s defense effort.
In Illinois, which averages about 2,000 new
recruits annually, recruiting is up by about
100 soldiers so far this year, surprising because
of the broad media coverage of casualties in
Iraq and Afghanistan, Maj. Rouse said.
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
Blanco Gets Briefing From National
Dateline: Baton Rouge, La.
The planned deployment of 3,000 Louisiana National
Guard soldiers overseas will leave
the state with just two-thirds of its guardsmen
at home, but it won’t harm the state’s ability
to protect itself, according to the commander
of the National Guard.
Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau said Thursday
he was "confident and secure" Louisiana’s
homeland security efforts would continue even
as a brigade with about 4,000 soldiers – 3,000
from Louisiana – has been activated for overseas
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said while it shows how
well-prepared Louisiana soldiers are, there
were times she felt like Louisiana was playing
a disproportionate role in the country’s overseas
operations, including the war in Iraq.
"After this deployment, I think our soldiers
should have a time of reprieve," Blanco
said after a private meeting with the leaders
of the 256th Infantry Brigade.
said when the 256th leaves, about 4,000 of
the 11,000 men and women in the Louisiana National
Guard would be deployed at the same
"It certainly does sober us up," Blanco
said of the large number of Louisiana troops
that will be overseas.
The 256th is set to train first at Ford Hood,
Texas, for deployment in support of the Iraq
war. It was unclear when the soldiers would
be moved overseas or when they would return.
Blanco and Landreneau asked employers to sign
a ceremonial statement of support for the troops
who are leaving their jobs behind because of
"It’s pulling a lot of people out of
our work force," the governor said.
Landreneau said employers so far have been
extremely supportive. Federal law requires
that employers must allow the men and women
to return to their jobs when they come back
from their deployment, but Landreneau said
the statement would "let that individual
know they’re going to be welcome when they
come back home."
Army Guard Division Commander Looks to Past,
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Fort A.P. Hill, Va., April 23, 2004 – Maj.
Gen. Daniel Long Jr. sounds like a man with
two sets of eyes when he talks about the Virginia
Army National Guard outfit he has
commanded since August 2002.
His eyes to the front are focused on training
the 11,500 citizen-soldiers in the 29th Infantry
Division for the kind of warfare the Army is
waging in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The eyes in the back of his head are looking
back 60 years when that Guard division began
fighting its way onto Omaha Beach at Normandy,
France, on June 6, 1944, to begin the liberation
of Europe from Nazi occupation.
Being trained and equipped to fight the right
kind of war against the enemy at hand is the
common denominator. It is why Long is devoting
a considerable amount of his time and energy
to, as he describes it, getting back to the
basics or "resetting the division."
"In light of what’s happening in Iraq
and Afghanistan and around the world right
now, I felt I needed to change the focus so
this light infantry division is prepared to
do a lot of things without knowing specifically
what’s going to be asked of it," Long
recently explained here, where many of his
soldiers were qualifying with their weapons.
"I think knowing the division’s history
helps us to understand why it’s so important
to train well," he added.
is why Long is leading 100 soldiers, including
60 or so junior enlisted people, to Normandy
this June to be a part of the 60th anniversary
of the D-Day landings.
The division’s band will be there. So will
an honor guard. So will a lot of young soldiers,
who will walk the beach and climb the cliffs
and talk to the aging veterans who survived
that dreadful time.
"I want those soldiers to talk to the
veterans and bring the stories back to the
rest of the division," Long said. "I
think it’s important to know the sacrifice
and the commitment those men made back then.
I think it’s important to see that they’re
just like you and me.
"The veterans are very proud of this
division," he added. "They were great
patriots then, and we have great patriots now."
That’s why Long insists it is time to get
back to the basics so his soldiers are prepared.
That means they will fight and defeat terrorists
who wear no regulation uniforms and who kill
with rocket-propelled grenades and improvised
explosive devices equally as well as their
forebears helped fight and defeat the more
easily defined German army in 1944 and 1945.
It’s a tall order, because his division is
spread over Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Connecticut and North Carolina. Furthermore,
7,000 of the 29th’s soldiers have been guarding
gates and patrolling airports in this country
and guarding detainees at Naval Station Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, since the global war against terrorism
"Those things are important, but they
really degrade your perishable infantry skills," he
observed. Long is a lean, soft-spoken man,
who balances his obligations as a one-man construction
firm in Fredericksburg, Va., with the full-time
demands Army Guard division
He has proven himself as a soldier and commander
by going through the Army’s Ranger and air
assault schools, by earning the Expert Infantryman
Badge, and while serving as deputy commander
of the Multinational Division North stabilization
force in Bosnia in 2001-02.
Therefore, Long has a good idea of what today’s
light infantry soldiers should be prepared
to do. He is determined to reset the division
at the grassroots level.
He envisions "multifunctional squads
or teams" with leaders who can command
and control them "for a pretty good period
Each squad, he said, should include a designated
marksman and spotter, who can hit targets 500
meters away and report on what the enemy is
doing. Each squad should include an engineer,
who can breach obstacles with high explosives,
and a couple of medics, who can keep wounded
soldiers alive while waiting to be transported
to a hospital.
He wants his soldiers to know how to patrol
and convoy through cities, how to deal with
civilians and imbedded members of the news
media, how to fly in helicopters and how to
fight at night.
division is supposed to own the night. The
war doesn’t knock off at 5 o’clock in the afternoon," Long
said. "So we have to train during the
night. This division counts an awful lot on
moving around the battlefield using aviation
assets," he added. "The soldiers
have to know how to carry their weapons and
rucksacks on helicopters, how to dismount and
what it’s like to fly in turbulent conditions.
And the soldiers have to know how to work their
way up a street and how to pull someone out
of a building."
Nearly 600 of his soldiers, in the 3rd Battalion,
116th Infantry, are now training to do those
things at Fort Bragg, N.C., before they deploy
to Afghanistan this summer.
Long wants all of his soldiers to be trained
in those skills in case they too are sent into
harm’s way. He wants his soldiers to have the
chance, like him, to go through Ranger and
air assault schools and to earn the Expert
Infantryman Badge so they will become better
combat leaders and more motivated trainers.
"War is bad business," Long said. "You
may only need your weapon for a few seconds,
but isn’t it great to know you can do it right?
"If we’re going to send our sons and
daughters and our grandchildren to do this,
I want to make sure we’ve done everything we
can for them to be successful," he added. "Failure
can be very expensive."
April 24, 2004
The National Guard Changes its Stripes
By George Cahlink
In March, on a dusty plateau at the Army’s
National Training Center in California’s Mojave
Desert, the strain of relying on an all-volunteer
military to fight the nation’s wars was evident
on Staff Sgt. Trevor Johnson’s face. In a few
weeks, Johnson and the rest of the Washington
state National Guard’s 81st
Armored Brigade would be in Iraq. But before
Johnson shipped out, the 43-year-old guardsman,
who normally works as a civilian federal supply
clerk at Camp Murray, Wash., was grimacing
as he was schooled on the finer points of establishing
a perimeter defense.
Johnson leads about 20 soldiers, whose normal
job while wearing the uniform is as behind-the-lines
logisticians. The Army, however, needs more
supply convoys and security personnel in Iraq,
so they are being retrained for those roles.
On this day, they are working on a drill that
has them providing perimeter security for a
Johnson tells his troops to spread out in
a 180-degree semicircle to secure the site;
a small hill will protect the other half. Suddenly,
a more senior soldier is in Johnson’s face
with a string of questions: What if the enemy
comes over the hill? What about guarding the
road that leads to the site? Johnson says nothing.
Finally, the instructor tells him what he wants
Johnson to know: Forces must guard the road
and form a 360-degree perimeter around the
tower. Johnson nods at the instructions and
redeploys his troops. "This is a lot different
than the training we’ve done before. It’s new,
and we’ve just got to go with it," Johnson
Johnson is not alone; the entire National
Guard is changing. "Today’s Guard is
not the Guard of the past," says Army
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the Pentagon’s
National Guard Bureau, which manages both the Army
National Guard and Air National
Guard . "The Guard’s mission
has shifted from a strategic reserve built
on a Cold War deterrence construct to an operational
reserve that must be capable of joint and expeditionary
Once derided as "weekend warriors" who
lacked modern equipment and skills, and long
known as the nation’s last line of defense,
the Army Guard and Air
Guard are now on the front lines
of military operations. Nearly 40 percent of
the 135,000 troops on the ground in Iraq today
are in the National Guard .
(In fact, about one-fifth of troops whose duty
in Iraq was recently extended are guardsmen.)
Moreover, 80 percent of all Army Guard and Air
Guard personnel will be called up
least once in the next three years, for missions
ranging from flying air patrols over major
U.S. cities to patrolling on foot the streets
of Falluja, Iraq, and Kandahar, Afghanistan.
As a result, the National Guard is undergoing
an unprecedented overhaul in how it’s organized,
equipped, and trained.
At a February meeting of the National Governors
Association, Blum, a Special Operations officer
who was the commanding general of forces in
Bosnia for six months in 2001 and 2002, called
for a major restructuring of the National
Guard . Otherwise, he said, the Guard
may not be able to meet both its state and
federal missions. Unlike each of the military
services’ federal reserve components — Army
Reserve, Naval Reserve, etc. — the National
Guard is a state force under the
command of each state’s governor and trains
normally only one weekend a month, unless the
president activates the force for a federal
mission. About 25 percent of the National Guard
today is on active duty.
One major problem, Blum points out, is that
active-duty call-ups are not split evenly among
states. He called it "unacceptable" that
some states have as many as 75 percent of their
guardsmen on active duty, while other states
have only a handful. Sen. Christopher (Kit)
Bond, R-Mo., co-chairman of the Senate National
Guard Caucus, agrees that the increased
reliance on the Guard has revealed "shortfalls" in
how it is structured. Blum says at least 50
percent of a state’s forces should be available
to a governor at all times for state emergencies.
Governors back that idea. Idaho Gov. Dirk
Kempthorne, a Republican who chairs the National
Governors Association, calls Blum’s proposal "workable" and
says Blum deserves credit for being one of
the first Guard leaders to address the governors
directly. "I appreciate his sensitivity
that you do not need to take all assets from
a state," Kempthorne added.
Washington Gov. Gary Locke, a Democrat, says
having 50 percent of forces available all the
time would allow him to meet the state’s emergency
needs. He says the current deployment of the
state’s largest Guard unit,
the more than 3,500 members of the 81st Armored
Brigade, has caused some delays in responding
to state emergencies because of equipment shortages
and too few forces. Also, Locke says, the state
spent an additional $200,000 training new forest
firefighters because guardsmen normally did
says the plan will benefit not just state executives
but soldiers and airmen as well by offering
a more predictable deployment schedule. Army
guardsmen would be deployed for no more than
18 months once every six years, Air
Guard personnel no more than three
months once every 15 months. Army Guard soldiers
would follow a six-year schedule during which
they would spend 18 to 24 months in intensive
training for a deployment, 12 to 18 months
deployed, and 36 to 48 months available for
state emergencies or homeland-security missions.
Col. Jim Barrineau, chief of the force management
division at the Guard Bureau ,
is planning the structural changes. Currently,
Guard units have an uneven mix of capabilities,
with some units being called up far more frequently
than others. As a result, states with units
in high demand routinely have fewer forces
to call on for local emergencies, while other
states’ units can go decades without ever being
called up for federal duty. Barrineau says
reconfiguring the National Guard will
ensure that all units more fairly shoulder
the burden of active-duty deployments.
Since the September 11 attacks, for example,
military police units have been in high demand
for both homeland-security missions and patrols
in Afghanistan and Iraq. Field artillery units,
however, have rarely been called up. Some artillery
units have already been retrained as military
police units and deployed. Barrineau says the Army
National Guard’s new force structure
will add about 10,000 military police, increasing
the total from 20,000 to 30,000 while cutting
the number of field artillery battalions in
the Guard by about 25 percent. Other military
jobs that will see increases include intelligence
analyst and combat engineer. Air defense and
combat support jobs, such as cooks and administrative
personnel, meanwhile, will be scaled back.
The National Guard currently
has 36 combat brigades. But only 15 of them
are "enhanced" brigades, the Guard’s
largest and most modern fighting units, which
can be ready for war within 30 days and can
integrate quickly with active-duty forces.
Other Guard brigades have some of the military’s
oldest equipment and require significant training
before they can be deployed.
The redesigned Guard will
have two fewer brigades overall, and the rest
will be far smaller and have lighter equipment
but will be more readily deployable for war.
The brigade design will match those in the
active Army, which is creating new units that
are lighter, more agile, and more modular.
Barrineau says the changes would cost billions
of dollars for both new training and equipment
— specifically, more Humvees for the additional
military police and more trucks as some heavy
combat vehicles are phased out. The Guard expects
to begin receiving money for the restructuring
in the 2005 Defense supplemental spending package
that the Bush administration has promised after
Election Day. The plan will aim to have all
34 brigades redesigned by 2011.
Ultimately, the size of the Army Guard would
shrink by about 46,000 troops to a total strength
of 342,000 by the end of this decade. Barrineau
says a handful of yet-to-be-determined states
will see "major" changes in their
force makeup, but most would see their personnel
trimmed back by only about 2 percent. Certain
capabilities would be available for every state,
among them military police and combat engineers,
plus transport, helicopter, medical, and chemical-warfare
units that can respond to weapons of mass destruction.
The Air Guard is expected
to make some changes to its force structure
as well, although those changes will likely
be far less significant than the Army Guard’s,
because the Air Guard is already closely aligned
with active Air Force units.
Bond says the National Guard Caucus backs
at the National Training Center, Guard troops
from the 81st Brigade were continuing to learn
new jobs as their mid-March deployment dates
neared. A captain who commanded an armor company
was learning how to negotiate with Iraqi villagers
to support humanitarian operations. An Army
logistician upgraded the scope on his rifle,
after learning he’d be providing convoy security.
Tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle drivers and
gunners were taught how to drive smaller Humvees
and learned the hand signals used by infantry
Blum says the changes under way with the 81st
Brigade are a harbinger of the changes coming
to the rest of his force and a sign of the
crucial role the National Guard now
plays in military operations. "I don’t
apologize at all for the rate we are using
the National Guard today.
We’re quite proud of the fact that the old
question — ‘Is the Guard relevant?’ — is
long gone. For the last two and half years,
even our worst critics realize the worst thing
they can say about us is that we are essential."
The Guard Now, and Next
* 25 percent of the 460,000 soldiers and airmen
in the Army National Guard and Air
National Guard are now on active
* 37 percent of the troops now on the ground
in Iraq (not counting those troops whose tours
were recently extended) are in the Army
* Eighty percent of all Army Guard and Air
Guard personnel will be called
up at least once in the next three years
for active duty.
Under the New Plan:
* Army Guard soldiers would
be deployed no more than once during a six-year
term, and Air Guard airmen
would be deployed for no more than 90 days
every 15 months.
* A given National Guard unit
would be available for state missions 50 percent
of the time, training for deployment 25 percent
of the time, and on deployment 25 percent of
* Over six years, Army guardsmen would be
activated full-time once, for 12 to 18 months.
The rest of the time, they would be under the
command of their state governors.
SOURCE: The National Guard Bureau
The Associated Press
April 20, 2004
National Guard Brigade Prepares for
Deployment to Iraq
Dateline: Lafyette, La.
The 256th Infantry Enhanced Separate Brigade
of the Louisiana National Guard should
be ready for deployment to Iraq within three
to four months, according to one of the men
coordinating the unit’s activation as a federal
The brigade is being assembled at Fort Hood,
"If there is one thing the families of
the 256th need to know, it is that we are going
to prepare them as best we can for where they
are going to go," said Lt. Col. Don Collett,
one of the men planning the brigade’s training
at Fort Hood. "Your soldiers will be taken
care of and looked after."
The National Guard unit
will be formally placed under U.S. Army command
upon arrival at Fort Hood, he said. Family
members will be able to keep in touch with
their loved ones via mail and, most of the
time, e-mail during the training, he said.
The 256th will be billeted at Fort Hood, but
final housing plans have not yet been worked
out, Collett said. The 256th’s first days will
be devoted to a Soldier Readiness Check, during
which military and legal paperwork is double-checked
and medical and training records are validated.
Once the paperwork is done, soldiers will begin
weapons qualification and receive any individual
training that is needed.
The 256th will then begin collective training,
working from the platoon to the brigade level.
Colett said that the 256th will be augmented
by individuals and units from other states
with any special support skills that may be
"It’s a national effort to get this brigade
out," Collett said. "They will get
the manpower and the modern equipment they
need to support their mission. They are going
with the most modern equipment we can give
them. They will be prepared."
Once the full-unit training at Fort Hood is
done, the 256th will be sent to a Combat Training
Center – either the National Training Center
in the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, Calif.,
or the Joint Readiness Center at Fort Polk
where it will be evaluated for mission readiness.
"This will be the final check to be certain
that the brigade is ready to do what it will
be asked to do," Collett said. "Once
that is verified, the brigade will begin preparations
for overseas deployment."
Dallas Morning News
April 21, 2004
Army Fears Reservists are Stretched
Major restructuring planned as concerns
about turnover rise
By Richard Whittle, The Dallas Morning News
Washington – In a video message mailed recently
to 300,000 Army Reserve soldiers and their
families, Lt. Gen. Ron Helmly explained the
problem his arm of the service faces "straight
up," as he puts it.
"I believe the news has accurately reported
that planning for postwar operations in Iraq
did not recognize the full potential for the
violence, instability and insecurity that has
occurred. So now we’re engaged in something that
we didn’t expect," the Army Reserve chief
Combined with the war on terrorism, the unexpected
turmoil in Iraq has boosted the Army’s demand for
Reserve and National Guard troops
to unprecedented levels – leaving their leaders worried
that many reservists may quit to avoid repeated and
often dangerous deployments.
Guard and Reserve troops, for example,
account for about a fourth of the 20,000 soldiers
who last week received word that their year-long
deployments to Iraq are being extended three months
because of an upswing in violence that Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged he didn’t anticipate.
In response to the demand for their troops, Gen.
Helmly and his National Guard counterpart,
Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, have embarked on the most
sweeping reorganizations of the Army’s two-pronged "reserve
component" since the Vietnam War.
"To relieve the pressure on our soldiers, I’m
restructuring our force to take the type units that
are no longer needed and reorganize them into units
that are needed and required for the global war on
terrorism," Gen. Helmly explained in his message
"Having more of the right kinds of units means
we don’t have to keep going back to the same soldiers,
their units and their families over and over."
Gen. Schultz is aiming to restructure the Army
Guard in similar fashion, but with the
additional aim of making sure at least 50 percent
of each state’s Guard troops remain available to
cope with natural disasters and other, more traditional
duties at home.
No mass exodus, yet
Recruitment and retention statistics don’t forecast
any exodus so far, Army Guard and
Army Reserve leaders report, though an informal survey
of reservists in Iraq recently found about a quarter
thinking of getting out.
Gen. Schultz said first-time Guard enlistments were "outstanding" in
2003. But the Guard missed its goal
for recruiting regular Army veterans last year.
Surveys of members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan "would
indicate turnover’s going to be a little higher,
retention’s going to be a little lower" when
they get home, Gen. Schultz said.
"Retention is still high," he said. And
surprisingly, turnover in the Guard is
lowest among those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan – about
12.4 percent, compared to 16.7 percent overall.
Staff Sgt. Juan Reyna, 37, a 20-year National
Guard veteran from Pharr, illustrates
one reason why. Shortly before the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, his South Texas Guard unit deployed
"Ever since then, it’s been one mission right
after the other," Staff Sgt. Reyna said.
Bosnia, he lost his civilian job in motorcycle sales.
Then the Guard called him up again
and sent him to Guantánamo, Cuba. Since early
last year, he’s participated in Operation Armored
Falcon, defending Air Force installations in the
Married and the father of two, Staff Sgt. Reyna
acknowledges that he’s "missed a lot of football
games and cheerleader tryouts." But his family "bears
with me," he said. And despite the strain, he
won’t be leaving the Guard.
"For me, it was a bit of a blessing," he
explained, "because now I have a steady job."
But no one knows how many reservists might decide
differently as thousands rotate home.
"We’ve got soldiers that are now returning
from 12 months of tough, tough duty," Gen. Schultz
noted. "I don’t see a crisis, but turnover is
going to be up."
Even after that rotation ends, Guard and
Reserve members will account for about 40 percent
of roughly 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. And while
no one knows how long U.S. troops will be needed
in Iraq, Army leaders are planning to keep 100,000
or more there through at least 2006 – about a fifth
of the regular force.
The regular Army’s congressionally mandated size
is 482,000. To cope with the Iraq occupation, Mr.
Rumsfeld has used emergency powers to add 30,000
troops to the force.
The Army National Guard is about
350,000 strong, the Army Reserve about 205,000. As
of April 14, more than 150,000 Army Guard and Army
Reserve members were mobilized, setting aside jobs
and families to go on active – and for many, hazardous – duty.
The reshaping of the Army Reserve and Army
National Guard mirrors a plan by Chief
of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker to reorganize the
regular Army. He is dividing its 10 divisions,
which generally have three brigades of about 5,000
soldiers each, into 48 smaller brigades that can
replace each other "plug and play" style.
The goal of the Army Reserve reorganization is to
make the force complement rather than supplement
the Army. Gen. Helmly aims to do that by "inactivating" some
units, reclassifying some soldiers, retraining others
and creating more flexibility in assignments.
The overall plan is to create 10 "packages" of
brigades that can be deployed for six months at a
time each, creating a rotation that will give most,
if not all Reserve members, four to five years between
"It is an immense change," Gen. Helmly
said in an interview. And one being done as his outfit
is busier than ever before. "We’re rebuilding
the whole damn engine while the car is running down
the highway at about 75 miles an hour," he quipped.
The Army National Guard , which
exists partly to provide governors with emergency
forces, has equally ambitious plans. Details must
be worked out, but the Guard is to disperse battalions,
brigades and smaller units of its eight divisions
to separate states.
One goal is to ensure that governors have enough
troops to handle state emergencies.
Guard also is converting one transportation
company and seven field artillery battalions from
six states – including Texas – into military police
units to meet a demand for 18 MP companies at U.S.
Military police, lodged entirely in the Guard and
Reserve, have been especially in demand for guard
duty in the United States and occupation duty in
Like the Army Reserve plan, the Army Guard reorganization
aims for a rotation schedule that limits mobilizations
of individuals or units to once every six years.
Some members of Congress say reorganizing isn’t
enough. Expanding the regular Army is the only way
to take the pressure off the Guard and Reserve, said
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.
The House Armed Services Committee member has introduced
legislation to permanently boost the regular Army
by 40,000. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Chuck Hagel,
R-Neb., have offered a similar bill.
The statistics on retention are misleading, they
contend, because "stop-loss orders" have
prevented many from getting out even if their contracts
"We have a stop loss on at least 200,000 active
duty and Guard and Reserves that have been activated,
so it’s hard to say what anybody’s retention numbers
are," Ms. Tauscher said.
Those stop-order losses typically expire 60-90 days
after a reservist finishes a deployment, Gen. Helmly
said, and are being used partly to create a cooling-off
period and prevent rash departures.
Gen. Helmly said surveys he has ordered suggest
that many of those deployed to Iraq were less unhappy
about the fact they got sent than about how it was
done and what they were told.
Some only got a few days’ notice, making it hard
to arrange details of family and job. Many had their
deployment unexpectedly extended to a year from six
months when peace failed to break out. Some say their
units were given inadequate equipment.
Sgt. Sean Reeder, 37, an oilfield technician from
Victoria, said his Texas Army National Guard artillery
unit, which spent 11 months in Iraq attached to the
Army’s 4th Infantry Division, faced the same dangers
as soldiers with active-duty units, but had to make
do with hand-me-down gear.
They were issued "old, Vietnam-era" flak
jackets that lacked new ceramic plates that stop
bullets and shrapnel better, he said. They got the
new plates about a month before they came home.
Many Guard soldiers had difficulties working out
problems with pay and benefits, Sgt. Reeder said,
and got inadequate help from the regular Army.
"Every time we’d go to check on our pay or
check on our promotions, we’d always hear, ‘Well,
we can’t do anything for you because you’re National
Guard,’ " he said.
deployment was rough on families, he said, estimating
that one in four soldiers experienced marital or
other family problems while in Iraq.
One way to make deployments easier for employers
and families, he said, would be to "have a defined
date and time that you’re going to go and return,
and try to stick by it as closely as possible."
Army News Service
April 22, 2004
Reserve Components Among Units Extended
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
Arlington, Va. (April 22, 2004) – More than 4,100 Army
National Guard Soldiers belonging to units
from 14 states will remain on duty in Iraq and Kuwait
for an additional three months or so to support the
global war against terrorism.
The Pentagon announced April 15 that the members
of the 21 units would remain in those countries longer
than their anticipated one-year tours of duty to
help meet the force requirements for Operation Iraqi
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that 20,000
Soldiers would serve over there for about 90 additional
Army Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers
make up about a quarter of that force, officials
“The period will be for up to an additional 90 days
in Iraq and up to 120 days total deployment,” Rumsfeld
explained. “Needless to say, we regret having to extend
those individuals. But the country is at war and we
need to do what is necessary to succeed.”
The purpose of the delayed redeployments is to provide
the combatant commander with the forces required
to defeat those elements threatening the security
of Iraq, officials explained.
affected Army Guard personnel are
in support units – primarily military police, transportation
and engineer companies and battalions. Four units
are from Illinois. Nearly 900 belong to three Missouri
units. Three more units come from Tennessee, and
two are from South Dakota.
The others come from Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan,
Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, the state of Washington,
Pentagon officials said military members will receive
$1,000 for each month or part of a month they serve
in Iraq beyond the date their units were due to return
to their home stations.
Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the United States
Central Command, asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff
for the additional force capability, Pentagon officials
explained. Rumsfeld approved the delay in redeployments
to support that combatant commander. The 20,000 retained
Soldiers will give Abizaid a total force of 135,000
troops in Iraq, officials explained.
“The Army – active, Guard and reserve – is
supporting the combatant commander as a single unified
team,” said Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National
Guard Bureau .
“Our units have fought together, endured together and
will remain together. The cohesion baptized by fire
and hardened in the crucible of combat is an invaluable
combat multiplier,” Blum added.
“The plan is capability based. When a unit’s capabilities
are not required, the combatant commander will release
those units,” National Guard officials
said. “The Iraqi military, civil defense forces and
Iraqi police are taking more responsibility for their
security situation with each passing day.”
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged the contributions and
sacrifices that the National Guard and
reserve Soldiers are making.
“Certainly to those families of those Soldiers, we
thank them for their continued sacrifice and to the
employers of the Guard and the reserve
for their continued contribution to this war on terrorism,” Pace
said. “It’s not an easy sacrifice, but as [Secretary
Rumsfeld] mentioned, it’s a very worthy cause.”
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
North Dakota National Guard: Doctors Heading
By Blake Nicholson, Associated Press
Bismarck – Eight North
Dakota National Guard doctors who normally
help other soldiers get ready for deployment are
now getting themselves ready to go to Iraq.
One of the physicians was mobilized March 5 and
already is overseas, Guard spokesman Rob Keller said
The other seven will be deployed at various intervals
within the next 10 months. All will serve four months
of active duty, including three months in Iraq supporting
medical units from other states. The rest of the
time is for processing at Fort Bliss, Texas.
doctors are members of the state Guard’s Medical
Detachment, a group of 45 doctors, nurses and other
medical professionals. Keller said their primary
duty is to help North Dakota soldiers get medically
ready for deployment, handling such things as physical
exams and smallpox vaccinations.
State (Columbia, SC)
April 19, 2004 Monday
151st Signal Battalion Gets Home Just in Time
Families Relieved Loved Ones Made it
Home Despite Pentagon Plan to Extend Deployments
By Paul Wachter; Staff Writer
For 24 hours, the 400 soldiers of the 151st
Signal Battalion were worried their return
to South Carolina from the Persian Gulf would
"After the Pentagon announced last week
that deployments were going to be extended,
we thought we might have to stay a few more
months," said Lt. Col. Heather Meeds,
commander of the Greenville-based S.C. National
Guard unit. "Thankfully, we
were able to go home."
Hundreds of family members greeted the 151st
Signal Battalion on Sunday at Fort Jackson’s
Weston Lake recreation center.
"I’m just so glad they were able to come
home," said Anna Hightower, of Greenville,
who was waiting for her husband, Sgt. 1st Class
Chad Hightower, with the couples’ three toddlers. "When
I heard about troop delays, it seemed as if
we might be starting all over again."
The soldiers of the 151st provided the telephone,
Internet and videoconferencing network that
the U.S. military uses in Iraq and Kuwait.
The unit was mobilized in February 2003, reached
Kuwait two months later and moved into Iraq
"There were a lot of challenges to our
mission at first," Meeds said. "For
one, we were asked to use a lot of commercial
equipment that we’d never used before."
Existing Iraqi infrastructure wasn’t of much
use, said Maj. Ronnie Finley.
"They had built some tunnels for fiber-optic
cables, but never started installing them," he
said. "We basically started from scratch."
During their service in the gulf, 151st troops
processed more than 9 million phone calls with
a call completion rate of 94 percent.
Though not traditionally a "front-line" unit,
the 151st came under frequent mortar attack
while operating around Baghdad and in southern
was dangerous," said Spc. James Cunningham,
of Laurens. "Just about every day we’d
be attacked by mortars."
Though none of the battalion’s troops was
killed in action, Master Sgt. Thomas Thigpen,
52, died of heart attack or stroke in Kuwait
on March 16, 2004.
"As a commander you want to return with
all your troops, and Thigpen’s death was a
big blow," said Meeds.
The soldiers said they were optimistic about
"At first the Iraqis were more aggressive,
but now, except for a small percentage, most
of them want us there and asked us to stay," Cunningham
"In our time there, we saw a lot of schools
built, new money introduced, and a lot more
electricity and construction," Meeds said. "Despite
what you hear on the news, most Iraqis are
happy we’re there."
Currently, there are about 500 S.C. National
Guard troops in Iraq, half as many
as in February.
After Sunday’s relaxation, the 151st reconvenes
today at Columbia’s McCrady National
Guard Training Center for demobilization
"There’ll be a lot of daddy time, and
then we’re going to drop the kids with my sister
and take a vacation," said Anna Hightower.
The Associated Press
April 21, 2004
N.D. National Guard Unit Returns Home
By James MacPherson
Bismark, N.D . (AP) – Gabriella
Sullivan’s daddy came home from war over the
weekend, a weary soldier in desert camouflage
eager to put down his gun, pick up diapers
and stare into the face of his 1-year-old daughter.
Spc. Kelly Sullivan was one of about 170 members
of the National Guard’s 957th
Multi-Role Bridge Company to return after about
a year in Iraq. Their unit was easily outnumbered
by the 3,000 supporters offering hugs, cheers
and tearful thanks.
The joyful scene at the local armory Sunday
was one that has been replayed across the country
in recent weeks as soldiers return to their
old lives – even as those lives have changed
as much as they have.
Sullivan said the first thing he intended
to do was “reconnect with my daughter,” a
little girl he could only dote on for two days
since her birth. She now has seven teeth and
has learned to say “Daddy” to his pictures
Though Sullivan helped build bridges to move
troops and equipment in a still-dangerous nation,
he said his wife pulled the most difficult
duty during his deployment.
had way more to deal with than I did over there,”
Cleone and Duane Hatzenbuehler decorated the
armory’s halls Sunday with posters drawn by
schoolchildren in their hometown of Hebron.
The Hatzenbuehlers’ son, Wade, and his wife,
Kelly, were deployed together with the 957th.
“We tortured ourselves every night watching
the evening news, yet we wanted to know what
was going on,” Cleone said. “It’s an awesome
day. It’s got to be one of the best days of
Sgt. Dan Olson, a firefighter from Bismarck,
was met by his wife, Tonya, and the couple’s
daughters, 7-year-old Emilee and 4-year-old
Amy. Emilee had marked off a space on the cast
on her broken arm for her dad to sign.
“It was unbelievable to be away so long,”
The 957th’s soldiers, whose average age is
22, left Bismarck on Feb. 12, 2003, and arrived
in the Middle East last April. “Many of these
soldiers left as kids, but they didn’t come
back as kids,” Col. Bill Seekins said. “They’re
full-blown soldiers now.”
Three of its members were killed in Iraq:
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hendrickson, 41, of Bismarck,
and Sgt. Keith Smette, 25, of Makoti, were
killed by a roadside bomb on Jan. 24. Spc.
Jon Fettig, 30, of Dickinson, was killed in
a rocket attack in July.
Fettig’s wife, Cody, was waiting for her brother,
Donny Ladwig, to return on Sunday. “I’m ecstatic
for every other family, and through this all
they’ve become my family.”
Jon Fettig’s sister, Tenille, is Cody Fettig’s
best friend and Ladwig’s fiancee. “Time hasn’t
moved fast enough,” she said while waiting
for Ladwig to arrive.
Besides the thousands of well-wishers who
packed the Raymond J. Bohn Armory, Seekins
said thousands more lined the streets for the
four-mile drive from the airport.
That caught the attention of Harlan Lyson,
a World War II veteran and a member of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard. He was
happy that people turned out to welcome the
“When I got discharged, I had to hitchhike
home,” he said.
Spc. Ashley Jahner was met by her parents,
Leroy and Joyce Jahner, of Linton. Their daughter
said the first thing she wanted to do was go
shopping. She said she then plans to re-enlist
and be a helicopter pilot.
a tough cookie,” said her mother.
April 22, 2004
Guard Unit Gets Joyous Welcome
Mission Finally Ends After 14 Months
By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff
Ayer — They figured they might be gone for
six months, when they went to Iraq at the start
of the war. But sometime late last summer,
after months of searing heat and sandstorms
and primitive living conditions, the Army
National Guard unit from Ayer got
the news that would leave its base shaken and
sullen for a week: They would have to spend
a full year on the ground and return sometime
The homecoming came yesterday — 14 months
after the dreary February morning when the
110th Maintenance Company left its base in
Massachusetts for Iraq. When they filed off
five charter buses into the bright midafternoon
sun and greeted their families, a few of the
200 returning soldiers said they were sure
that, duty complete, their military days were
"Worst year of my life," said Walter
Loud, who celebrated his 50th birthday in Iraq.
He had served in the Navy for 16 years and
the Guard for 13, but had never had an overseas
"I’m a family man," he said, as
he hoisted his 3-year-old grandson into the
air. "I don’t like being away."
Not every soldier regretted the Iraq experience;
many talked about the appreciation they received
from most Iraqis they met, the feeling that
they’d helped their country, and the way their
relatives at home had grown stronger and more
"I felt as though I was doing my job,
and I know in the big scheme of things, it’s
all going to work out for us," said Charles
Williams, 39, of Stoughton. "I know I’m
not the same guy as a year ago."
He and others expressed relief that the bulk
of their unit, which maintained vehicles and
repaired electronics and weapons, was stationed
at an air base five hours from Baghdad, away
from the fiercest fighting.
But all of them appeared thrilled to be home
as they walked through the parking lot, wearing
the sand-colored fatigues that they had worn
They blinked hard, in part because the sun
was so bright, and in part, some said, from
disbelief at being in a familiar place again.
It was the same old armory, but with the trappings
of a carnival: bunches of yellow balloons and
a moon bounce, dozens of children carrying
small American flags.
were posted on trees and street signs, or tied
to the chain-link fence in front of the amory: "Welcome
Home Dad, I’m Proud of You," "We
Love You Nate," "We’re Proud of the
There were dozens of strollers and carriages,
holding the soldiers’ nephews and nieces, granddaughters
and grandsons, sons and daughters — including
Jacquelyn Gradito, 9 months old, who was born
when her father was in Iraq. Peter Gradito,
37, a Fitchburg firefighter, got a chance to
see her shortly after her birth, when he returned
home for a two-week leave.
But his wife, Jill, 37, and his 3-year-old
daughter, Gianna, were left aching for more
"It’s been 408 days," Jill Gradito
said. "Not that I’m counting. I’m just
ready to start as a family again." The
tears, it turned out, didn’t overwhelm her
when her husband stepped off the bus, snuck
up behind her, and said "hello." She
figured more would come later, once she got
home, before she served the chicken piccata
dinner she had ordered for his relatives and
Other families had planned similar celebrations,
barbecues, and rituals, old and new. Mallory
Whitney, 16, of Orange, looked forward to showing
her father, Frank, her new driving skills.
"When he left, I didn’t even have my
permit," she said. "Now I’ve got
my license. I’m going to drive him home."
She and her 13-year-old brother, Bryan, had
made it through the long year on short phone
calls from Iraq and gifts.
Bryan wore a dog-tag necklace that said, "My
Dad is serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom;" Mallory
had a necklace with her name in Arabic. Though
some of the soldiers had taken advantage of
two weeks of leave, their father stayed in
"He figured it would be too hard to come
home, be here for two weeks, and say goodbye
all over again," said his friend Rhonda
Now, many families said, their lives could
return to normal. For some that will mean tuning
into war news again. Many relatives said they
had shut out coverage of the war because it
was too upsetting.
For others, it will mean an end to subterfuge:
Erika Reinikainen, 27, of Gardner, did not
tell her father about a trip to Baghdad to
see some of Saddam Hussein’s palaces — until
after it was over. Bruce Reinikainen, 53, had
not been thrilled about that. He wasn’t happy
about the war.
But since he got the news that his daughter
was coming home, something about the world
had lightened again.
we heard," he said, "I was dancing
all the way."
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
Twelve Members of the 1457th Return,
Others Expected Next Month
Dateline: Salt Lake City
Twelve members of the Utah National
Guard’s 1457th Combat Engineer
Battalion have returned from Iraq and the
rest are scheduled to follow them soon.
Amid the rejoicing by the Guard families,
the relatives of Army Reservists from the Salt
Lake City-based 419th Transportation Company,
who have been ordered to remain in the region
indefinitely, fear their loved ones are being
"The Reservists seem to be invisible," said
Kristen Merrill of Layton. Her husband is among
the 175 soldiers in the company. "My husband
says they’re all worried that everyone has
forgotten about them."
Merrill said she understands that the soldiers
will be driving convoys from Kuwait to somewhere
north of Baghdad.
On Sunday, families members are to meet at
the Reserve center in Salt Lake City for information
on the unit’s mission.
The meeting is closed to the public.
Like the 419th, the Guard’s 1457th had been
slated to return and then was told its service
in the Middle East was being extended.
But Pentagon officials confirmed Thursday
that the battalion would be coming come next
month after all. They said the change in orders
occurred after officials reviewed what types
of units would still be needed in Iraq.
The 12 members who returned Thursday all were
near the maximum two years of active duty.
"It’s kind of exciting," said Staff
Sgt. Kira Weimer of Salt Lake City said on
arrival at the airport. "It hasn’t quite
hit me all yet, but it probably will when I
Staff Sgt. Charles Barkey of Spanish Fork
had no one to greet him because he had not
told his wife he was returning.
"I’m surprising her. As soon as we get
out of here, I’m surprising her at work," he
Weimer said she had mixed feelings, knowing
her 24 months of active duty would be over
but friends would be left in the Mideast.
was kind of wrenching when I had to leave pretty
much my family there," she said. "I
feel better knowing that they might be coming
In the beginning, the work was scary, she
said. A security perimeter was set up, and
if the soldiers left the perimeter, they were "locked
and loaded and ready to shoot if anything happened."
Los Angeles Times
April 24, 2004
Town of Patriots Dusts off Flags for Guard
The 1058th of Hingham, Mass., Comes Home
With All its Troops — Just As it Did in
the Gulf War .
Elizabeth Mehren, Times Staff Writer
Hingham, Mass. — In Iraq, they drove more
than a million miles, escorting convoys and
steering trucks through the desert. But on
Friday, it was one final mile through this
quaint New England town that brought tears
to the 1058th National Guard unit — and
cheers to several thousand family and friends
who lined their route home.
"This is just amazing," said Billy
Chiu, 29, descending from a Pumpkin Lines transit
bus after a year in Iraq, as a bagpipe played "Give
My Regards to Broadway."
For much of the day, a chilly spring rain
fell on Main Street — where 140 signs, each
bearing the name of one member of the Hingham-based
transportation unit, were tacked to telephone
poles. "Great job!" they read.
Five buses filled with returning troops rolled
down the historic boulevard of the town, founded
in 1633, that had proudly sent Benjamin Lincoln,
forebear of the president, off to fight in
the Revolutionary War.
The 1058th arrived in Ft. Drumm, N.Y., this
week. But it was the ride down what Eleanor
Roosevelt called the most beautiful Main Street
in America that showed them they were home
Giant oaks and maples sported yellow ribbons.
Children climbed on car roofs, waving flags
and banners. A delegation from the South Shore
Baptist Church stood on the corner of Main
and Free streets, waiting to clap for Bobby
Stockbridge — a member of the congregation
who also belonged to the 1058th. "Thank
God for Bob and the 1058th," read a sign
outside the church.
On another corner, 10-year-old Olivia Vita
carried a hand-colored sign that said: "Thank
You, 1058th." She explained, "My
whole class came to wave them goodbye when
they left. I just had to be here when they
20,000 residents of Hingham — which hugs the
seacoast midway between Boston and Plymouth — need
little excuse to wave their American flags.
Flags come out throughout the year: on Memorial
Day, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, Patriot’s Day
and, of course, on Flag Day. The major social
event here is the flag-filled Fourth of July
parade, led each year by the town’s oldest
It was during last summer’s parade that Marion
White decided to mobilize the town when the
1058th came home. With their children overseas,
White and other parents marched in the parade
in their place, carrying a banner identifying
themselves as the families of the 1058th.
"That was when I knew this town believed
in its soldiers," said White, a seventh-grade
teacher from Raynham, about 25 miles from Hingham. "They
cheered and they cheered, and I realized Hingham
was 100% behind these soldiers."
White’s daughter Kathleen, 29, left her job
at a nuclear power plant to serve as a trucker
in Iraq. She ended up as a gunner, operating
a .50-caliber weapon.
"They were a transportation unit. Supposedly,
it was a safe job," said her brother,
Christian White, 31. He whipped out his cellphone
to show a picture of Kathleen on duty in Iraq — standing
atop a truck, her giant gun beside her.
"The hardest part of her being over there
for 14 months was listening to the reports
every day of another death," he said. "Every
unit that was hit, you thought it might be
her. Your stomach dropped. Your heart raced.
And it just got worse by the day. It never
"Every person here has a soldier that
was directly involved in a convoy unit," Christian
White said. "These families know that
we are still at war."
Scanning the crowd for his stepfather, Hanniff
Brown, 16-year-old Ewan Scott of the Dorchester
section of Boston said he tried to keep his
little brother, Dominique, from watching television
while their dad was in Iraq.
"Every morning you wake up, this one
died, that one died — and you know it could
have been him," the teenager said.
Whether through luck, providence or a combination
of the two, the 1058th returned intact. The
day they came back to the Hingham Armory, newspapers
and television stations across America were
displaying previously suppressed pictures of
soldiers’ flag-draped coffins arriving in the
U.S. They arrived home as Pentagon officials
were announcing the highest death toll for
any month since the U.S.-led invasion began — at
least 100 American soldiers dead so far in
As he embraced his wife, Spec. Jude Forsythe,
40, had an explanation for how the unit had
avoided fatalities in Iraq.
"Togetherness," he said. "Working
together as a team. We never went anywhere
Reluctantly, Felicity Forsythe pulled away
from her husband. "Hold your daughter;
she needs you," she said as her husband
embraced a weeping Alexis Forsythe, 11.
"We knew he was coming home today," Felicity
Forsythe said. "But none of this was real
until just now…. He is safe, and we’re going
to take good care of him now."
Forsythe had this to say about planting his
feet back on the Massachusetts soil: "Sweet."
the steps of the armory, a group of veterans
applauded the versatility of the returning
"They went to do one job, transportation,
and ended up as an armored escort," said
Bob Beal, who served in the Pacific in World
War II with the Marine Corps and also fought
in the Korean War.
"There’s only one thing to account for
getting them all back here safely," Beal
Lt. Col. Chris Henes, head of the Massachusetts
National Guard in Milford, said
he was too superstitious to talk about why
the 1058th had fared so well.
"I don’t want to say it’s unusual, and
I don’t want to jinx us, but going back to
Desert Storm [the Persian Gulf War], we have
been lucky," he said.
Henes said the future plans of the unit were
uncertain. He also said the 1058th was fortunate
to be home, while so many other units in Iraq
have seen their tours extended.
While waiting to greet her son Paul, 36, Janice
Ferrone of Woburn, Mass., said she was glad
the Pentagon had released the pictures of coffins
returning to the U.S. mortuary at Delaware’s
Dover Air Force Base.
"This is a war, and [death] happens," she
said. "It should be acknowledged. It shouldn’t
be covered up."
Acknowledging the soldiers in the 1058th was
what Marion White had in mind when she began
working with Hingham officials to plan a festive
"This is small-town America, and we wanted
to make sure they got the hero’s welcome they
deserved," she said. "Between the
signs and the flowers and … all these people
turning out to cheer for them, I’d say they
White looked for a moment at her daughter,
who had dropped more than 60 pounds while in
Iraq. "Mom, all we had to eat were little
cups of chicken noodle soup," Kathleen
As the crowd headed home, Marion White said
she would be back in Hingham this summer to
march in the Fourth of July parade.
"But this time," she said, "I’m
going to march with my soldier."
Winston-Salem Journal (Winston Salem, NC)
April 25, 2004
Legion Post Honors Guard Unit Back
From Active Duty
They served in U.S.; Army Reserve Unit
Still Serving in Iraq and Kuwait
By Mary Giunca and Jim Sparks Journal Reporters
chief warrant officer Wayne Church’s National
Guard unit was called to active duty
almost a year ago, Church wasn’t certain how
much excitement he would see. After all, he
is 53 years old and the unit was being deployed
in the United States.
The quiet family man found himself jumping
out of airplanes as part of his training with
the 18th Airborne Corps. Church and three other
members of the unit earned their wings while
at Fort Bragg.
"I wasn’t sure if I’d get a chance to
do it," Church said. "They don’t
have an old-man standard. They have a 17- to
Church and 43 other members of the 105th Engineer
Group of the N.C. Army National Guard received
a hero’s welcome yesterday at American Legion
Post 55 on Miller Street.
The welcome was a formal one – the soldiers
have been home anywhere from a few days to
The group, which has its headquarters in Winston-Salem,
was on active duty for 11 months. Members of
the group were split up and sent to three different
locations. One group went to Fort Bragg, another
group went to Fort Belvoir in Virginia and
the third group provided protection for a national
security agency near Fort Meade, in Maryland.
Bryan E. Beatty, the secretary of the N.C.
Department of Crime Control and Public Safety,
thanked the soldiers for doing their duty.
"We want you to know we feel safer, we
sleep better at night because of heroes like
you," he said.
Though yesterday was a time of celebration
for the 105th, the mood was quite different
for families of local soldiers serving overseas
in the 846th Transportation Company of the
U.S. Army Reserve.
The 846th, a trucking unit based in Salisbury
that has been operating in Iraq and Kuwait
for a year, was supposed to return to Fort
Bragg on Easter Sunday.
However, the unit’s 106 soldiers were told
that they were being held back just hours before
they were to board planes from Kuwait for home.
Christine Van Lew of Kernersville, whose boyfriend,
Travis Schenck, of Midway is in the 846th,
said that it hit her hard when she heard last
week that the 105th, a unit deployed in the
United States, was being released while her
soldier’s unit was still overseas. Schenck
worked in maintenance for the town of Kernersville
before his deployment.
"It really ticked me off," Van Lew
The 846th is made up of soldiers from counties
throughout the Central Piedmont, including
Forsyth, Davidson, Guilford, Randolph and Yadkin.
Yesterday, Army officials held a closed meeting
at the Salisbury Civic Center to answer questions
from families of soldiers in the 846th.
The meeting lasted an hour longer than expected.
they left, several in attendance said that
the atmosphere in the meeting room was heated
as the soldiers’ relatives vented their anger.
They said that the frustration grew as Army
officials dodged questions about the extended
deployment, including exactly how long their
loved ones would be expected to stay in a war
zone that had grown more dangerous over the
past several months.
Family members and soldiers of the 846th were
told at first that the unit would remain overseas
for an additional two months.
Army officials said yesterday that the unit’s
deployment has been extended four months, until
August, but that it could possibly be moved
back even more.
Van Lew said that having the unit held at
the last minute was bad enough without the
uncertainty surrounding how much longer it
will have to stay.
"If they need them there longer, that’s
fine, just be up front about it," Van
Lew said. "Give us a deadline and stick
to it. Don’t jerk it out from under us."
During their deployment, most of the soldiers
in the 105th were able to come back and visit
their families regularly, but several of them
spoke of missing their usual routines.
Church felt his age every morning when the
airborne training call came at 4 a.m., he said.
He had to run a 71/2-minute mile for four miles.
Members of his unit called him "Grandpa" and "Geritol," he
Church said that, in time, his example inspired
younger members of the unit.
"A lot of them told me, ‘Every time I
wanted to fall (drop) out, I’d see you and
I couldn’t fall out,’" he said.
Spc. Lisa Burkholder Dumas, who was in the
105th, was transferred to the 211th National
Guard unit and sent to Iraq.
Dumas is with the military police and said
she wasn’t allowed to say where she was in
Iraq. She worked with security patrols there.
"Of course, you’re always scared of what’s
to come," she said, "but it wasn’t
something I didn’t want to do."
Dumas spent part of her tour of duty in Kuwait.
"It was awful in Kuwait," she said, "with
the sandstorms, the heat, the humidity. It’s
like beach sand. The storms last for days at
Dumas said she missed vegetables most of all.
"I think I ate salad for two weeks straight
when I got home," she said.
Dumas had been married for just six months
when she was sent to Iraq in March. Even though
she is happy to be home, a part of her waits
for another call, she said.
Alexander, who serves as family-readiness coordinator
for the unit, said that although Guard members
and their families were celebrating, they are
conscious that the war is not over.
"That threat hangs over their head," she
said. "That’s always been hanging out
there. We don’t know what the future may hold."
Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio)
April 22, 2004
Bill Would Waive Pension Penalty for
House Plan for Troops to Use Retirement
Funds Called ‘Pathetic’ Effort
The House voted unanimously Wednesday to let
financially pinched National Guard and
Reserve troops tap into retirement savings
without penalty, although some Democrats called
the effort to support the troops ”pathetic”
and ”rather pitiful.”
The House voted 415-0 to waive the 10 percent
penalty imposed on early withdrawals from retirement
accounts and pensions for National
Guard and Reserve troops deployed
six months or longer since the Sept. 11 terrorist
Those taking advantage of the waiver could
still owe income taxes on withdrawn savings.
Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., said the bill aims
to help the one-third of reserve troops who
took a pay cut when activated to duty.
”The house payments go on. The grocery bills
continue to pile up,” he said.
Democrats voted unanimously for the bill,
but many said the country should make a much
bigger effort to support troops fighting in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
”That is a really pathetic gesture,” said
John Tanner, D-Tenn. ”Active duty guard and
reservists and their families are the only
people in this country who have been asked
to sacrifice anything, anything whatsoever.”
Employers are not required to pay workers
activated to duty, nor do they have to continue
providing health insurance and other benefits.
Employers are required to give the same or
equal job to the soldier when active duty ends.
The bill waiving penalties on early retirement
withdrawals would apply to National
Guard and Reserve troops activated
between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 12, 2005.
Those military personnel would be given two
years after they return to civilian life to
replenish the accounts.
asked Republicans to push additional legislation
supporting National Guard and
Reserve troops, including better child tax
credits and access to health insurance, along
with tax credits for employers who make up
the difference between civilian and military
”It is no profile in courage for us to say
you are now able to borrow money from your
pension fund and can have it penalty free,”
said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
A few questioned whether families that borrow
from their retirement funds would have the
means to refill the funds.
”They have to invade their retirement plans
and their savings to subsidize this war effort
because their families are under some serious
economic stress,” said Rep. George Miller,
D-Calif. ”They’re getting penalized by destroying
their long-term retirement to subsidize this
The Senate has not yet considered the bill.
American Forces Press Service
Thrift Savings Plan: Good Way to Increase
Wealth, Executive Director Says
By Rudi Williams
Washington, April 23, 2004 – Defense Department
officials want thousands more service members
to invest in their future through the Thrift
Savings Plan, or TSP.
And now is a good time for service members
to start paying themselves. The Current TSP
open season started April 15 and runs until
June 30. This is the time Service members can
start or change their contributions to their
Service members can contribute up to 9 percent
of their basic pay each month, and up to 100
percent of incentive pay and special pay, including
bonus and combat pay. But their total contributions
from taxable pay may not exceed the Internal
Revenue Service limit of $13,000 for 2004.
"You’re never too young or too old to
start a savings account in TSP," said
Gary A. Amelio, executive director of the Federal
Retirement Thrift Investment Board and chief
executive and managing fiduciary of TSP for
federal employees. "The tax deferral benefits
are excellent and compounded earnings are simply
a phenomenal way to increase your wealth."
TSP assets total more than $110 billion. The
plan maintains retirement savings accounts
for more than 3 million participants. This
includes federal civilian employees in all
branches of government, U.S. Postal Service
employees and members of the seven uniformed
Created by the Federal Employees’ Retirement
System Act of 1986, TSP is a tax-deferred savings
option and lowers the taxable income for participants
in the 2004 tax year. The savings plan is similar
to 401k plans offered by many private employers.
It’s separate from and in addition to the military
retirement system, which is based on years
of service and rank.
by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment
Board, TSP was available only to civilian employees
until October 2001, when the program was extended
to active and reserve component service members,
including the Coast Guard. The program also
was extended to members of the Public Health
Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Members of the National Guard and
Reserve who are also federal civilians are
allowed to have both a military and civilian
TSP. "If you’re part of both work forces,
you can have two different accounts," Amelio
noted. "And you can combine the accounts
after you separate from either service."
But Amelio said if TSP participants with military
and civilian accounts exceed the
IRS limit of $13,000 before the end of the
calendar year, the plan will return the excess
contributions. "It’s called an excess
deferral," Amelio noted.
The government gives matching funds to Federal
Employees’ Retirement System TSP participants.
Uniformed services and Civil Service Retirement
System participants normally don’t receive
matching funds, but the service secretaries
can authorize matching funds for service members
in critical military occupational specialties.
"FERS employees have a less lucrative
defined benefit plan than does CSRS and
them uniformed services," Amelio explained. "So
the TSP is intended to make up the difference
for FERS participants."
He also pointed out that CSRS and military
participants are limited to contributing up
to 9 percent of their base pay, while FERS
members are allowed to contribute up to 14
percent of their base pay.
When service members leave active duty, they
have several options. They can leave their
money in TSP, allowing it to continue to grow,
take a partial or full withdrawal, roll the
money into another plan or an Individual Retirement
Account, or purchase an annuity. They also
could choose to make periodic distributions
to themselves, Amelia said.
More than 220,000 uniformed service members
signed up for TSP in 2002, the first year they
were eligible. By December 2003, more than
390,000 people were investing in TSP.
"Participation numbers have been rising
steadily since the plan was made available," Amelio
noted. "Today, we have about 410,000 members
of the armed services participating. We’ve
been putting a special focus with DoD on getting
more and more armed service members to participate.
So we’re very pleased that the numbers continue
to go up, and DoD is helping us get the word
out to the members."
Amelio attributes the increase in participation
to knowledge, familiarity and comfort.
"As members of the armed services become
more familiar with TSP, the more they like
it," he said. "They find that it’s
a wonderful saving program, easy to participate
in, and doesn’t cost them anything. The more
they talk to their colleagues in the armed
forces about it, they become more comfortable
about the plan, and they like it more and more.
That’s why the participation is going up."
has investment funds, which vary in risk and
investment mixture: government securities investment
(G fund); fixed-income investment (F fund);
common stock index investment (C fund); small
capitalization stock index investment (S fund);
and international stock index investment (I
TSP enrollment can be done online through
the MyPay Web site, or by completing a TSP
enrollment form (TSP-U-1) and turning it in
at the local pay or personnel office. Enrollment
forms are available online at the TSP Web site.
The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington)
April 22, 2004
Washington Guard Unit Takes Over
Iraq Supply Hub
By Adam Lynn, The News Tribune
Members of a Washington National
Guard brigade are in charge of
security at one of the most important bases
The 82nd Airborne Division transferred responsibility
for defending Logistical Support Area Anaconda
to the 81st Brigade Combat Team on Sunday,
the brigade reported. The base, about 50 miles
north of Baghdad in Balad, is the main supply
hub for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Soldiers of the 81st will staff checkpoints
and security towers and run patrols around
the base. They also will help train members
of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Capt. Anne
Marie Peacock, the brigade’s deputy public
affairs officer, reported via e-mail.
The 81st has about 4,000 soldiers in Iraq,
the largest deployment by the Washington National
Guard since World War II. The vast
majority of brigade soldiers are from Washington
state. Formerly known as the 81st Armor Brigade,
the unit is based at Camp Murray, south of
Col. James Chambers, commander of the Army’s
13th Corps Support Command, said protecting
Anaconda is vital to Operation Iraqi Freedom,
according to Peacock’s e-mail. The 13th Support
Command is responsible for supplying U.S. military
units throughout the country.
Anaconda is in the "Sunni triangle," an
area of central Iraq where anti-American sentiment
runs deep. The base has been attacked a number
Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, the 81st’s commanding
officer, said the brigade would try to integrate
members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps into
all operations, according to Peacock. The U.S.
government hopes to turn over authority to
Iraqi citizens July 1.
of the 81st took over security at two other
bases this past weekend, Peacock said.
The 1st Battalion, 303rd Armor Regiment assumed
control at Camp Victory South near Baghdad
on Saturday. The 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry
Regiment took over the defense of Forward Operation
Base Gunner, between Baghdad and Balad.
The 81st is serving a one-year deployment.
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
Two National Guard Soldiers Injured
in Iraq Attacks
Dateline: Raleigh, N.C.
Two National Guard soldiers
from North Carolina were injured in attacks
by Iraqi insurgents – one burned and the other
hit by small arms fire.
Lt. Matthew Delk, 33, of Roanoke Rapids was
burned Tuesday during an ambush in Mosul. Delk,
who has been the Halifax County manager since
November 2001, is a member of South Carolina’s
268th Engineer Firefighters Detachment.
Pfc. McKenzie Callihan, 22, a member of the N.C. National
Guard’s 30th Heavy Separate Brigade,
was wounded by small arms fire at a traffic
checkpoint in northeastern Iraq.
Delk sent an e-mail message Wednesday to his
staff in Halifax County from Camp Diamondback
"Yesterday, I was commander of a small convoy
going to do a fire assessment recon of Tall Afar
airfield," Delk wrote. "We had 4 humvees
and 13 people. Today, one of us is dead, one
is critical, and 6 or 7 more of us are wounded.
"My vehicle bore the brunt of the IED," he
wrote. "They opened up on us with AKs, and a
firefight ensued. We know that we got at least four
of them, they had others that were able to drag away
the bodies during the fight."
His vehicle was destroyed and out of four vehicles,
only one could drive away, Delk wrote. Eventually,
the attackers were driven away and the area secured.
Delk said he had burns and blisters over his hands
and face, and bruises everywhere. He expected to
spend several weeks in Germany recuperating.
In Bladen County, Terry Callihan said he was told
that his son, McKenzie Callihan, a Bladenboro High
School graduate, was "in a firefight, and he
took three rounds in the legs and maybe the hip,
and that they airlifted him out," Callihan said.
The wounded soldier was in stable condition, said
Capt. Robert Carver, the N.C. National
Guard’s spokesman. The wounded man was
initially taken to a Baghdad hospital, and was being
transferred to the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical
Center in Germany.
reports indicated that the wounded soldier was working
at a traffic checkpoint near the town of Tuz about
10 p.m. when a car tried to avoid the checkpoint,
Carver said. Several anti-coalition fighters were
killed in the incident. There were no reports of
other U.S. injuries.
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
April 24, 2004
133rd Embraces Hero as One of its Own
Troops From Maine Are On Hand as the South Carolina
Soldier Gets a Purple Heart for Risking His Life
in an Ambush.
By Bill Nemitz staff writer
Dateline: Mosul, Iraq
He walked slowly into the small room just off the
entrance to the small hospital at Camp Diamondback,
his face and left hand covered with burns, his lower
right arm buried beneath a mound of gauze.
"Hey, sir, how you doin’?" Lt. Matthew
Delk said in his deep southern accent as Maj. Dwaine
Drummond, executive officer of the Maine Army National
Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion, stepped
forward to greet him.
"I’m fine," Drummond said softly, taking
Delk’s left hand. "How are you?"
"I’m doin’ great," Delk said. "I’m
He isn’t, of course. It will be months before Delk
fully recovers from the injuries he suffered Tuesday
when the Humvee in which he and two Maine soldiers
were riding was blown 75 feet sideways by a roadside
bomb in western Mosul.
But this is the military, where some days it’s good
enough just to be alive. And where acts of heroism
under enemy fire do not go unnoticed.
Friday morning, as a light drizzle turned Mosul’s
dust into a sticky quagmire, a small contingent piled
into a pair of Humvees and made the five-minute trip
down the hill from Camp Marez to the hospital at
Their official mission: To formally present Delk,
a member of South Carolina’s 268th Engineer Firefighters
Detachment assigned to the 133rd, with a Purple Heart
for the wounds he sustained during Tuesday’s ambush
by anti-American insurgents.
Their unofficial mission: To thank him for risking
his life to save a mortally wounded Spc. Christopher
Gelineau of Portland and for saving Spc. Craig Ardry
of Pittsfield, who is now recovering from his own
burns and other injuries at a military hospital in
Germany. And to embrace Delk as one of their own.
While Drummond read the citation in a loud voice,
Lt. Col. John Jansen, commander of the 133rd, pinned
the medal on Delk’s blue hospital pajamas, speaking
the whole time in hushed words meant only for the
young lieutenant from Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
When Jansen finished, Delk nodded his thanks and,
with tears in his eyes, placed his left hand on
Jansen’s shoulder. Stepping back, he then lifted
his bandaged right hand to his forehead in painful
Then he spoke.
"Everybody there did tremendous things," said
Delk, who commanded the convoy of 12 soldiers – six
from Maine, three from New York and three from South
Carolina. "And I’m really sad and sorry that
we lost a wonderful soldier. My prayers are with
his family and with him."
Jansen quietly assured Delk that he did everything
he could, that Gelineau’s wounds were too severe
for anyone to save him.
Delk, flanked by his two somber comrades from the
268th – Sgt. Dave Sandy and Sgt. Charles Boone –
looked down and nodded. And for a few moments, he
was back there.
"I don’t know how I got out onto the street," he
said, staring at the floor. "I still don’t know."
But he does know that he somehow got Gelineau and
Ardry away from the burning Humvee. And that when
he picked up his M-16 with burned hands to return
the insurgents’ small arms fire, the hand guard of
his weapon had been blown off by the explosion. He
fired it anyway.
"It’s a pleasure to have you as part of our
family," Jansen said, now in a voice loud enough
for all to hear. "And it’s a personal privilege
to know you."
Finally, one by one, Delk’s visitors stepped forward
and embraced him: Jansen, Drummond, Chaplain David
Sivret, Spc. Ryan Estes, Spc. Ryan Chapman and 1st
Lt. Christopher Elgee, who took Delk’s calls for
help over the 133rd’s radio.
"I’m sorry I called you all those names, man," Delk
"Don’t worry about it," Elgee replied
with a smile.
Last in line stood Sgt. Carrie Fletcher. She approached
Delk, held out her hand and said, "I’m Sgt.
Fletcher and I spoke with Spc. Ardry’s wife . . .
and she asked me to thank you for her."
And with that, Fletcher gently hugged the young
man with the Purple Heart on his pajamas.
New York Times
April 24, 2004
Guard Gives Sisters More Time to Decide
on Returning to Iraq
By Jo Napolitano
Chicago, April 23 — Rachel and Charity Witmer, members
of the Wisconsin National Guard serving
in Iraq, have been granted another 15 days of leave
to decide whether to seek reassignment after their
sister, Michelle, was killed in Baghdad.
"Everyone has an opinion on how they think
my daughters should be responding," said Lori
Witmer from her home in New Berlin, Wis. "We
aren’t making any comments right now just to protect
Rachel, 24, and Charity, Michelle’s 20-year-old
twin, did not want to speak publicly about their
decision. But military officials said the two remaining
sisters felt a strong allegiance to their two families:
the one in Wisconsin and their unit outside Baghdad.
"They have such a sense of duty and they want
to not only honor their sister’s memory and her dedication
to serve in the mission, but they also feel that
they have built a family with their fellow soldiers
and the units that they serve," said Lt. Col.
Mark Bruns, commander of the 641st Battalion, to
which the three women were assigned.
At the same time, after watching their mother, father
and two brothers suffer Michelle’s loss, Colonel
Bruns said, they fear jeopardizing their own lives
and the possibility of their parents losing another
"They don’t want to be responsible for anything
that could happen in the future by putting themselves
in harms way again," he said.
Specialist Michelle M. Witmer, who was serving with
the 32nd Military Police Company, was killed on April
9 when her Humvee was attacked in Baghdad. Her sisters
returned to Wisconsin on April 12 and her body came
back on April 15.
After their sister’s death, Rachel and Charity spoke
about the agony of deciding whether to return to
their comrades in a statement on April 13. "We
are conflicted, because we have two families and
we can’t be with both at the same time," they
The women’s parents said that their family had made
a tremendous sacrifice and that their daughters should
be brought home immediately.
Lt. Col. Tim Donovan said he could understand their
desire to be with their unit. "Serving in a
military unit creates very strong bonds between the
soldiers who live and work together and those bonds
are further strengthened when that service is in
a hostile environment with danger all around," he
said. "They depend on each other not just for
friendship and camaraderie, but for their security."
Rachel Witmer serves in the 32nd Military Police
Company, and Sgt. Charity Witmer is a medic in the
118th Medical Battalion.
Mary Kay Kulla, whose husband, Scott, is serving
in the same unit that Michelle served in, said she
hoped the sisters decided to stay home.
"I speak from the perspective of a family member
and wife never having been a soldier, so my perspective
is yes, please stay home," Ms. Kulla said. "Things
are just escalating overseas, and it’s scarier and
scarier by the day. Everything is becoming more and
more uncertain. I don’t think anyone could fault
them for making a decision to stay, if that’s what
April 19, 2004
Davenport Resumes Rallies for Troops
Dateline : Davenport, Iowa
Residents have returned to a city intersection
for weekly rallies to show their support for
U.S. troops in Iraq.
Last Friday, about a dozen people showed up
during rush-hour traffic, turning the intersection
north of downtown into a noisy display of patriotism.
About 70 flags decorated the corners.
"I think we should have a challenge to
every city in America to do this," said
Joan Stupka of Davenport, who said it was her
first time at the intersection. "I support
our troops and I support our president."
Motorists honked their horns or waved.
"I’m taking pictures to e-mail to my
son. It means a lot to him," said Annette
Wood of Davenport, whose son serves with the
106th Aviation unit of the Iowa National
Guard. Families with loved ones in
the unit learned Thursday that the unit’s stay
had been extended for another 90 to 120 days.
"I’m not apprehensive. I’m anxious for
us to win. I’m anxious for our troops to come
home," she said.
The Friday rallies began after the war started,
then faded. They have now resumed with this
month’s fierce fighting and heavy casualties.
A weekend of new fighting pushed the death
toll for U.S. troops in April to 99, already
the record for a single-month in Iraq and approaching
the number killed during the invasion that
toppled Saddam Hussein last year.
On Friday, an American soldier was taken hostage.
"That might be why we’re hearing all of
this (horn-honking)," said AnnaBelle Meredith
of Coal Valley, Ill. "How dare they take
one of ours."
Four soldiers with ties to Davenport have been killed
– Cpl. Michael R. Speer, 24, a Kansas native who
joined the Marine Corps in Davenport, killed April
9 in hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, west of Baghdad.
– Army Sgt. Paul Fisher, 39, of Cedar Rapids, died
Nov. 6, 2003, at a hospital in Hamburg, Germany,
following a Nov. 2 missile attack on a Chinook helicopter
near Fallujah; assigned to Detachment 1, Company
F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Army National
Guard, based in Davenport.
– Army Chief Warrant Officer Bruce A. Smith, 41,
West Liberty, killed in the Nov. 2, 2003, attack
on a Chinook helicopter near Fallujah; assigned to
Detachment 1, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion.
– Marine Sgt. Bradley S. Korthaus, 29, Davenport,
drowned March 24, 2003, while trying to cross the
Saddam Canal in southeastern Iraq; assigned to the
6th Engineer Support Battalion.
New Jersey Star Ledger
April 20, 2004
National Guard Opens Center to Aid Families
Somerset Facility Will Seek to Relieve Burdens
By Rick Hepp Star-Ledger Staff
When her mother is deployed to Iraq later this year
with the National Guard’s 42nd
Infantry Division, Laura Fitzgerald knows the duties
of caring for her extended family will fall to her.
"Often people don’t realize the hardship on
the families left behind. There are lots of things
that come into play," said Fitzgerald, 31, of
North Brunswick. "My mother is the rock of our
family. Now, I have the job of stepping in and being
Her mother, Eveleen Fitzgerald, 54, of North Brunswick
is an administrative specialist in the National Guard
who works as a Highland Park police officer in her
civilian life. She and roughly 2,500 other troops
from units based in Somerset, Lawrenceville and Teaneck
will report next month to Fort Dix for readiness
training before being shipped to Iraq as early as
An additional 900 National Guard soldiers
are to report in May for duty guarding terrorism
detainees at the U.S. military prison camp at Guantánamo
Bay, Cuba. All told, nearly 70 percent of the New
Jersey Army National Guard is expected to be deployed
within the next year for missions around the globe.
ease the transition for the families of the soldiers,
the National Guard opened a family
assistance center Sunday at the National Guard Armory
in the Somerset section of Franklin Township where
family members can get advice on issues ranging from
dealing with the separation to home finances. It
will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and
a family support hotline, (888) 859-0325, has been
established for off-hour emergencies.
"These soldiers are going to need to be focused
on their jobs, and that’s what this program is all
about," Brig. Gen. Maria Falca- Dodson, the
deputy adjutant general of the New Jersey National
Guard, told the troops and their families Sunday
during the ribbon- cutting ceremony.
The center will offer counseling sessions, discounted
professional services for home and automotive repair,
and household and school- related items for the families.
There is also a recreation room so children can play
together while adults attend various meetings.
Col. Bill Rochelle, commander of the 42nd Infantry
Division Support Command, said, "As a soldier,
the No. 1 thought in their mind is taking care of
their families while they’re away. This family assistance
center is one of the answers to that."
"This gives you a place to go when you have
a problem. It gives you a place to go when you need
to talk to someone. It gives you a shoulder to cry
on. It gives you a friend. And it gives the soldiers
a piece of mind," Rochelle said.
Laura Fitzgerald said the center will help take
some of the burden off her while filling in temporarily
for her mother.
"I’m her only daughter and although I’m the
youngest I’ve been chosen as the one to take over
all the responsibilities. I need some place that
I can say, ‘Listen, this is what I need,’" she
said. "It’s a big burden, so this is going to
be extremely helpful."
The Associated Press
April 20, 2004
Wives Establish Group Concerned Over Iraq
Dateline : Salt Lake City
Three wives of Utah National
Guard and Army Reserve soldiers whose
deployment in Middle East has been extended have
established what they hope will become a national
organization to voice their concerns.
"The idea was to create a unified voice and
develop a platform addressing the concerns," said
Linda Dexter, a Saratoga Springs resident and wife
of Staff Sgt. Kevin Dexter.
Members of the Utah National Guard’s 1457th
Combat Engineers and the Army Reserve’s 419th Transportation
Company have been away from their families nearly
15 months, and their deployments were extended last
When the 1457th left Utah, the general belief was
they would be gone six months, maximum, Dexter said. "And
that seemed an impossible length of time at that
point," she said.
they left for Iraq, officials said troops could serve
up to a year in the war theater. Time at training
camps didn’t count toward the year.
They served nearly all of that period. Then came
Guard families are proud and have a great sense
of patriotism, said Dexter, whose family had to move
to another home last year when their rent was raised.
we are also absolutely weary and so are our soldiers," she
She is one of two vice presidents of the new organization,
Rights for American Citizen Soldiers, which was formed
after families met with military officials last week.
They want to be supportive of the National
Guard and not protesters in an anti-war
sense, Dexter said.
Natalie Whatcott of Lehi is president of RACS.
"We’re disheartened and we’re disappointed
and we’d like some answers," said Whatcott,
wife of the 419th Transportation Company’s Sgt. 1st
Class Steve Whatcott.
Linda Dexter and her husband have four children, "and
certainly it’s affected them," she said.
The last time they saw their dad was for a two-week
leave in November.
Their 8-year-old son spends a lot of time "kind
of brooding," Linda Dexter said. "One poignant
question he asked me was, ‘I wonder each day, has
someone killed my daddy or has my daddy had to kill
someone?’ That is a tremendous burden."
Portland (ME) Press Herald
April 20, 2004
Guard Families Demanding Answers to Constant
By John Richardson, Portland Press Herald Writer
Nancy Durst says she wants an explanation, and she
may go to the Pentagon to get it.
Durst’s husband, Scott, is a reservist in the 94th
Military Police Company and one of about 5,000 part-time
soldiers told this month to cancel plans for their
long-awaited homecoming because they’re staying in
the Middle East for another three or four months.
Scott Durst left his family and full-time job as
a Maine Drug Enforcement agent in December 2002,
about 17 months after returning from Bosnia.
"He’s been deployed two-and-a-half of the five
years we’ve been married," Durst said. "They
signed up to serve their country. But the reason
they are not active duty is that they have other
civilian jobs to go to . . . They have done their
Durst asks, are members of the Reserve and National
Guard spending more time in war zones than
some active duty units?
That question is being asked by a growing number
of families and political leaders around the country.
Maine’s two U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan
Collins, are even trying to set up a meeting with
Department of Defense officials and the families
of the 94th, Durst says.
"We want answers," she said.
The explanation may not be the one Durst and other
relatives hope for.
The elevated role of part-time soldiers, made more
obvious by the nature of the conflict in Iraq, is
the product of 34 years of U.S. military reform triggered
by the Vietnam War. Now, the Iraq war may well lead
to another long-term shift in the structure of the
military and the role of citizen-soldiers.
Already, the Iraq experience is changing the perception
of the Guard and Reserve, and causing
concern about their ability to retain members who
feel they, their families and employers have been
pushed to the limit.
"When they have to choose between their part-time
job – which is me – and their full-time job, they’re
going to choose their full-time job," said Brig.
Gen. John W. "Bill" Libby, head of the Maine
Army National Guard .
Libby spent part of last week at Fort Dix in New
Jersey, welcoming home the 150 members of the 1136th
Transportation Company in Bangor. Despite Libby’s
gratitude and the Guard’s support for the soldiers
and their families, he expects some members to leave
the Guard after a long, frustrating deployment in
Iraq. "I think that unit’s going to be a challenge
for us," he said.
There are 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and it is
estimated that 40 percent of them will soon be members
of Guard and Reserve units. Part-time soldiers, people
who have jobs such as teaching and truck driving,
are not only serving next to career soldiers. They
are dying with them.
Sgt. Jeremiah Holmes of North Berwick was killed
March 29 in Iraq when an explosive device knocked
his truck off a bridge while his unit was delivering
supplies to Marines west of Baghdad.
Holmes, a former active duty soldier who had a wife
and 11-month-old son, was a member of the Army
National Guard 744th Transportation Company
with headquarters in Hillsboro, N.H. His unit was
deployed for training in late December, and sent
to Iraq in February for 18 months.
The fact that Guard and Reserve units are in harm’s
way should not come as a surprise to the soldiers
or their families, military officials say.
"Nowadays, when people sign up, they’re briefed
that there is always the potential for activation," said
Maj. Peter Rogers, spokesman for the Maine
Knowing it might happen and believing it will, however,
are two different things.
shouldn’t be surprised, but we still have people
that think oh, gosh, I never thought I’d be activated," Rogers
More likely, they are surprised at how often they’re
being activated and how long they’re being deployed. "Some
of the families and soldiers have been called up
three times in the past six to 10 years," Rogers
Guard officials in Maine agree with frustrated relatives
that the frequency and duration of deployments show
an overreliance on the Guard and Reserve. "It’s
clear that we’ve got an inappropriate mix," Libby
Guard and Reserve troops were deployed in large
numbers during World War II and Korea. The United
States avoided large-scale activations during the
Vietnam War, however, relying instead on drafting
soldiers who had less training and motivation. It
was during Vietnam that enlisting in the Guard became
known as a way to avoid getting sent to war.
Vietnam, and the experience with the draft, would
change the structure of the military. Along with
wanting a better fighting force, military officials
believed that using part-time units would have generated
more support for troops.
In 1970, the Defense Department adopted the so-called
Total Force concept, calling for active, Guard and
Reserve units to all be part of a coordinated fighting
force. The policy continues, in part as a way to
adapt to changing threats and to reduce the costs
of a modern military. Over time, active duty units
were trained for combat while Guard and Reserve units
were trained for traditional support missions, such
as engineering, transportation and policing.
By the 1990s, experiences in the Gulf War and in
Bosnia sent a clear message to reservists and guardsmen
that their roles had changed. There was more to the
job than training for one weekend a month and two
weeks in the summer.
Those recent conflicts, however, did not prepare
military families for the war in Iraq, or the war
Aside from the larger scale of this war, the stabilization
of Iraq demanded the specialties that now exist almost
entirely in the Guard and Reserve. The nature of
the job in Iraq often means that a specialized Guard
unit, such as the 94th Military Police, is extended
for more than a year while an active duty combat
unit is sent home.
Many part-time soldiers and military families fully
understand that the world and the military have changed,
says Sam Jackson of Farmington. His son, Cpl. Samuel "Craig" Jackson,
was deployed in January and is in Iraq with the 152nd
Field Artillery Battalion from Waterville.
"This has become the new look of the Guard.
This is the answer to not having a solid draft. You’ve
got to have something to back up the Army," he
Jackson says he understands that some other families
are frustrated and losing patience. But he says the
military needs to be able to react to threats in
Iraq or anywhere.
no way of foreseeing that this could have happened
the way it did," he said. "I understand
them wanting their soldiers back, but when you pull
20,000 troops out of there with what’s going on,
you’re putting a lot of other people at risk."
Nancy Durst says her husband was proud to go to
Iraq, even after having just served in Bosnia. But
after two extensions, the second one only 10 hours
before flying home, he and others are demoralized
and planning to get out. "He’s done," she
The fact that the 94th provides a specialized and
much-needed role in Iraq doesn’t appease Durst. "These
MPs are being penalized for being MPs, when the military
has known . . . we are short of MPs," she said.
Durst says she knows that a trip to the Pentagon
to question defense officials won’t reverse three
decades of military policy, or bring her husband
back before the summer. But she and other relatives
want the military to consider the 94th’s service
during the past five years before it gets extended
Frustration among families is a growing concern
for the Guard. Patience of employers is another.
While employers are required to protect the jobs
of activated troops, they may be less supportive
after repeated and prolonged deployments. Many members
also are self-employed, and may decide they can’t
leave their businesses any more.
"We couldn’t function without the families
and without the employers," Rogers said.
Military officials and politicians at the national
level are now re-examining the role of the citizen
soldiers, and reconsidering decades of reform that
left active forces without the support specialists
needed in the war on terror. It’s become a hot political
issue, with Democratic presidential candidate Sen.
John Kerry criticizing the Bush administration for
relying too heavily on the Guard and
In the short term, Congress and military officials
also are discussing ways to improve benefits and
incentives, such as medical and dental insurance,
for part-time soldiers who they hope will re-enlist.
Many part-time troops also said they would not re-enlist
after the first Gulf War in 1991, then changed their
minds and stayed. Given the short duration of that
war, however, that doesn’t provide a lot of reassurance
to the head of Maine’s Army National Guard .
"We’re going to have some problems with retention
in all of our units that we didn’t experience after
Desert Storm, because this operation isn’t over," Libby
said. "The deployments continue, and there’s
no end in sight."
New York Times
April 25, 2004
With Breadwinners Overseas, Guard Families
By Andrew Jacobs
Nashville, April 22 — It took Jay Johnson seven
years to build up his mobile catering business and
a year to nearly lose it all. When he enlisted in
the Tennessee National Guard , Mr.
Johnson thought he might be away from home for six
months, a year at most. But as he and other members
of the 269th Military Police Company enter their
18th month of deployment, his well-laid plans for
keeping the business afloat in absentia, and ensuring
his family’s financial security, have begun to falter.
Mr. Johnson’s business, Johnson & Son Catering,
is down to one lunch truck, from three before he
left for Iraq, leaving his wife, Candace, and two
young children to scrape by with half as much money.
Although she has eliminated contributions to the
family’s college and retirement accounts, and cut
all but the most essential spending, Ms. Johnson
is still struggling to make ends meet.
"If he doesn’t come back soon, we’re going
to lose it all, and he’s going to have to start all
over again," said Ms. Johnson, who works full
time as an insurance adjustor. "He’s proud to
serve his country, but the Army doesn’t seem to care
about him or us."
As the war in Iraq continues, and the Pentagon prolongs
the mobilization of tens of thousands of troops,
the toll on both the soldiers, and the families they
have left behind, is mounting. But while the war
has been hard on all military personnel and their
loved ones, the financial and emotional impact has
been particularly acute for the members of the Guard
and the Reserve who have been forced to give up civilian
jobs, in a few cases, for 20 months. Among members
of the 269th Military Police Company, about 170 men
and women from across central Tennessee, the financial
hardships are rising as deployments stretch far beyond
the traditional six-month mobilization.
"It’s been hell," said Brandie Broersma,
whose husband, Specialist Will Broersma, is serving
in Iraq. Mr. Broersma declared bankruptcy and gave
up the couple’s mobile home after their income plummeted. "I
don’t think National Guard families
were prepared for such long deployments," Ms.
Congress, recognizing the predicament of many members
of the Guard and the Reserves, approved a bill this
week that would allow them to tap into private retirement
accounts without penalty, although some lawmakers,
particularly Democrats, say that provision is not
those serving in what is the largest and longest
mobilization of civilian soldiers since World War
II, multiple extensions of their tours of duty have
been a drain on troop morale and an added stress
on the families at home. "How can we as soldiers
fight effectively knowing how our loved ones, our
lives and our futures are suffering needlessly back
home?" Specialist Richard Hodgkinson, a member
of the 269th, asked in an e-mail message. "We
were told we would return home within 5 to 9 months
and now we are being told it will be 22 months. How
much is enough?"
Two weeks after announcing 90-day extensions for
20,000 troops, about a quarter of them in the Guard
or Reserves, the Pentagon said last week that those
returns might be further delayed, adding to the distress
of some military families. Although most say they
support the president’s decision to go to war and
are proud of their relatives’ service, many question
why part-time soldiers who traditionally handled
domestic unrest and hurricane cleanups are spending
so much time in a perilous war zone.
Bob Wennerstrand, whose son, Specialist Derek Wennerstrand,
has been deployed with the New Hampshire Army Reserve
since December 2002, says he and other families still
support the war. But in many cases, he said, Guard
and Reserve members have been in Iraq longer than
some full- time members of the military. "The
guys truly feel like they’ve been forgotten, and
they feel like they’re being treated like second-class
citizens," he said. "This has been stressful
The Pentagon’s decision this month to reverse some
homecomings, sometimes days before scheduled returns,
has also fueled widespread disillusionment among
units. "We’re all still reeling," said
Specialist Josh Blanchett, a member of the Illinois
National Guard , who said his platoon had
been deployed for 447 days and had already sent home
most of their belongings. When extensions were announced
at midnight on Easter Sunday, he said his unit was
already disheartened by a previous 24-day extension
that had just expired. In a telephone interview from
Iraq, he said his fellow troops were convinced the
extensions would just keep coming.
"The uncertainty is just killing us," he
said. "It’s like checking on a turkey in the
oven 24 hours a day. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all
doing our job for the country. We’re just tired as
John Goheen, a spokesman for the National Guard
Association, an advocacy group, said many soldiers
would be willing to serve for long stints, but they
wanted a clear sense of when their time was up. "The
big thing is predictability," he said. "Soldiers
want to know when they’re going and when they’re
coming back so they can plan their lives."
Some of the mounting disquiet among family members
stems from their belief that the Pentagon is placing
National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers in jobs
that would be better served by full-time soldiers.
There is also lingering resentment from the early
days of the conflict, when some Guard units complained
about an inadequate supply of body armor or drinking
water. Many, like Josey Blanchett, the wife of Specialist
Blanchett, believe their loved ones are not properly
trained to handle the challenges of life in a combat
zone. "These are not career soldiers; they’re
supposed to be weekend warriors," she said. "In
many cases, they signed up to get college loans."
Mr. Goheen said that although the Pentagon needed
to make some changes to the way civilian soldiers
were used in wartime, he believed that enlistees
were well aware that their potential duties extend
beyond occasional civil defense tasks like filling
sandbags during floods. He said he was bothered by
some of the criticism that the Guard has been misused
nation is paying for their school, giving them a
paycheck while they’re in school, so they will be
there when the nation needs them," he said. "That’s
like saying: `I come to work because they pay me.
I don’t expect to ever have to do anything.’ "
But the lack of predictability, coupled with the
recent surge of violence in Iraq, has made this conflict
even more fraught for families.
Week after week, pictures of servicemen and women
pinned to the flag of honor at Woodlawn Elementary
in Clarkesville, Tenn., disappear in batches of four
or five, marking a homecoming and a child’s release
from longing and anxiety. More than 100 children
there have had a relative in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Manny Souza, 8, is still waiting to pull down the
photograph of his father, Specialist Sean Souza,
a member of the 269th. Last Wednesday, when his mother,
Sherri, told him his father would not be coming home
next week for trout season, Manny cried until he
was red in the face.
"It’s hard because they let you take a day
off from school when your daddy comes back and all
the other kids brag about it," he said. "I
just want mine back, too."
Ms. Souza tries to stay positive in front of her
two boys but admits the extensions have been rough
on her, too. She says she takes anti-anxiety medication
but still barely sleeps these days and smokes through
a pack and a half a day.
"Sean’s depressed and I’m depressed," she
The most difficult moments come when her husband
fails to send an e-mail message or to call at the
appointed time. "On those days, I just stay
in bed, call in sick and put the phone under my pillow," said
Ms. Souza, 39, who works as a phlebotomist for the
Red Cross. "I can’t breathe until I hear from
Ms. Souza tries to channel her nervous energy into
home improvements, Cub Scout activities and chores
her husband once performed. She prods friends to
write letters to the Pentagon and the president appealing
for the 269th’s speedy return. This week, four black
footlockers arrived packed with her husband’s possessions,
including souvenirs he bought in Baghdad, a set of
desert fatigues and the good luck talismans he holds
in times of trouble.
"We’ve never been apart for more than two weeks," she
said, flipping through photographs of her husband
posed atop a Humvee or clutching his assault rifle. "I
just want to grow old with Sean."
April 25, 2004
A Push to Get Troops Home
Families Press U.S. Over Longer Duties
By Bill Glauber, Tribune staff reporter
Ill. — A determined band of Illinois families is
appealing to the Pentagon to bring home the 333rd
MP National Guard Company, a unit
that was headed to the U.S. before being ordered
back to Iraq.
The unit’s citizen-soldiers–activated in February
2003 and dispatched to Iraq last May–had already
sent home much of their gear before arriving in Kuwait
They had expected to head home from Kuwait within
Instead, the unit’s troops were among 20,000 soldiers
whose deployments were extended 90 days by the Pentagon
as violence surged in Iraq.
A captain in the unit said the soldiers themselves
are "rightfully upset" but prepared to
fulfill their mission.
On the homefront, though, families have mounted
a letter-writing and petition campaign to get the
unit’s remaining troops–about 150–airlifted to
the U.S. immediately.
"I want them home," said Sue Warneke,
who heads the unit’s Family Readiness Group. "They
have done their tour of duty."
The bid to bring home the 333rd MP Company, based
in Freeport, is an extraordinary tale of citizens
respectfully standing up to the government. It’s
also a sign of the mounting strain endured by troops
in the field and by families at home as the U.S.-led
occupation of Iraq enters a dangerous phase near
the June 30 deadline to hand over sovereignty to
the Iraqi people.
Deployments for three other Illinois National Guard
units also were extended–the 933rd MP Company based
in Chicago, the 1244th Transportation Company based
in North Riverside, and Company F, 106th Aviation,
based in Peoria.
The Family Readiness Group of the 333rd MP unit
has taken its grievances to the top, sending a letter
to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld requesting that
the troops return home as soon as possible.
They’ve also gathered more than 1,000 signatures
on a petition.
"Their tour in Iraq has already been extended
once, and the strain of another tour of duty in Iraq
is becoming a health concern for these soldiers," the
The office of U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.)
delivered the letter to Rumsfeld and will forward
the petitions, a spokesman said, adding that the
congressman urged the defense secretary to send home
the unit "sooner rather than later."
"If you get enough support and enough pushing,
you might get something accomplished," said
Warneke, mother of 23-year-old Army Spec. Jeremy
Warneke. "I know they have a job to do, but
they have already done their job."
Members of the 333rd MP Company, who have left jobs
and families for an extended tour overseas, were
in Kuwait last week preparing to head back to Iraq,
back to war.
The unit initially arrived in Kuwait last April
and moved into Iraq on May 9. They had anticipated
that they fulfilled their duty of serving a year
in Iraq. Family members said they were due home the
last week of April.
Wescott, 52, has two children serving with the unit,
Army Spec. Kirk Bausman and Army Spec. Erin Bausman.
Wescott, vice president of the Family Readiness Group,
was among those who signed the letter to Rumsfeld,
though she did not sign the petition. While she wants
her children to return home quickly, she recognizes
they have a job to fulfill.
"I’m as scared as hell as the next person," said
Wescott, a nurse whose uniform is adorned with American
flag pins. "I know these kids are in the National
Guard, and whoever expected this when they signed
up. They are military. We have a lot of soldiers
over there and everyone wants them home."
Others want their loved ones out, immediately.
Ramona Richter hasn’t seen her live-in boyfriend,
Sgt. Enzo DeCristafaro, since a Christmas leave.
"It’s hard to support something that has taken
someone you love away from you for so long," said
Richter, 24, a special-education teacher who lives
Father-son journey delayed
Matt Holst, 23, keeps postponing the motorcycle
trip he plans to take with his father, Sgt. 1st Class
Patrick Holst, 49, a trucker.
Gathering petition signatures and trying to rally
support to bring the troops home gives him a purpose
in life as he waits for his dad.
"My dad has already sent half his stuff home,
three footlockers full of clothes," said Holst,
a student at Northern Illinois University.
Susan Bo-nesz, 32, a mortgage underwriter, canceled
a July vacation to Las Vegas she had planned to take
with her husband, Capt. Ronald Bonesz, who leads
the unit. She said she forfeited $1,488.37.
But she said she would gladly give that up and more
to see her husband reunited with their 2 1/2-year-old
"They need a break, all of the Guard, all of
the soldiers," she said. "There are American
soldiers all over the world who would love to serve
their country like these soldiers. These soldiers
are tired and exhausted."
So are the family members.
Katie Reifsteck of Lanark, Ill., is a former member
of the National Guard unit married to Staff Sgt.
Dan Reifsteck, who is overseas.
She has experienced an eventful year that included
the birth of a daughter by emergency Caesarean section,
a car accident that injured her back, and a storm
that caved in the roof of her home.
An area veterans group paid for half the $3,000
bill to rebuild the roof, she said. Family members
have helped her care for her children, Natalie, 7
months, and Stephen, 2.
said that when the news hit of the extended deployment,
her son "tore a picture of my husband up and
said, `No more.’"
Reifsteck said she was left "with a lump in
my throat and a lump in my heart."
The troops, themselves, are coping with the extended
"Most of the soldiers are rightfully upset," said
Capt. Bonesz, 32, in an e-mail correspondence with
"After being told that soldiers would be in
Iraq for only one year, any extension is a hard pill
to swallow, but we will all get through this and
we will complete our mission," he wrote.
The unit–which was based south of Baghdad–trained
its replacements and left them armored vehicles,
radios and weapons systems, items that the Army worked
to replace to make the troops "combat ready."
Troops also left behind toiletries, water coolers,
fans and DVD players for their replacements, according
to family members, and have spent "in excess
of $200" each to replace the items, Bonesz said.
` They are also human’
Bonesz said "it is easy to say that this is
OK or the soldier will get over [the disappointment
of the extended deployment], but until someone has
had to go through it, it is not the same. The soldiers
here are strong, but they are also human and have
He concluded his note by stating the soldiers are
the best he has worked with. "Deep down [they]
know they have a job to do," and whether they
know it or not, they "are making history."
"This company will get through this deployment
and get home to their loved ones," said Bonesz,
Army Spec. Amy Popurella, said in an e-mail that
there was "anger and sadness" in the unit,
adding that when she left Iraq in the "rear-view
mirror," she had a feeling the experience "wasn’t
"I know people may think we sound like whiners
but we are real soldiers that have done our time
and are ready to go home," she wrote. "The
government asked for 365 [days], we gave them 365,
now please just let us go home and get some rest.
All of us know we will be back here one day to do
it again. But right now to win this war they need
fresh troops in, not tired ones."
The New York Times
April 25, 2004
Boots on the Ground, and Anxiety at Home
By Jill P. Capuzzo
Dateline: Toms River
The photograph being passed around the room Monday
night showed a smiling young man in tan Army fatigues
in front of a shimmering pool and vast Arabic-style
mansion. Janet Interdonato explained that her son,
Kevin, was standing before the palace of one of Saddam
Hussein’s slain sons.
The group murmured its approval. Later, there was
applause for the two families that sold the most
yellow ribbons, and for the visiting soldier who
was granted a leave so he could meet his 5-week-old
son, and for the young mother who was here with her
mother and baby for the first time.
While this was only the third meeting of the Toms
River " Family Readiness Group," created
in February as 124 members of the 112th Field Artillery
division of the National Guard were
shipping out to Iraq, this hodge-podge of parents,
wives, girlfriends and siblings had already started
to coalesce around a common goal – providing support
and hope to anxious family members left behind.
Two days earlier, the anxiety of hundreds of other National
Guard families was lifted when they laid
eyes on the soldiers of the 253rd Transportation
Company, the first National Guard unit
in New Jersey to return after serving a yearlong
tour of duty in Iraq. But in the meantime, several
hundred members of the Guard from throughout the
state have been put on alert that they are next
on the list to be called up, joining the state’s
1,600 Guard members currently mobilized.
In the coming months, New Jersey’s National
Guard members will be called up in numbers
not seen since World War II, with an estimated
70 percent of the state’s 7,000 members expected
to see active duty by the end of 2004, according
to Col. Charles Harvey, head of the state’s Joint
Forces Headquarters and the 57th Troop Command.
Most of those soldiers will be sent to Iraq or
to related operations elsewhere in the Mideast
or in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the colonel said.
Around the country, about 100,000 National
Guard members (of a total 460,000 members)
and 75,000 reservists have been called to active
duty since the war began. In the first year, Guard
members and reservists accounted for about 25 percent
of the 135,000 troops serving in Iraq. Now heading
into the next phase of the operation in Iraq, the National
Guard is expected to make up closer to
40 percent of the ground forces.
this is the largest and most complex mobilization
since the Korean War," said John Goheen, a spokesman
for the National Guard Association,
a Washington-based lobbying group. "You have
your peacekeeping troops, your homeland security
troops, and the troops in Iraq and elsewhere in the
Sometimes referred to as "weekend warriors" or "citizen
soldiers" for their normally limited duty providing
local security or emergency cleanup, this mobilization
of the National Guard has caught
some Guard members and their families by surprise.
And with the mounting number of deaths — more than
100 so far this month alone — and taking of hostages
during this time of intense fighting, the relatives
of many National Guardsmen are asking what their
spouses, sons or daughters are doing at war, and,
more importantly, when they will be home?
"In my opinion, we had to know for sure why
we were going over there," said Maria Cecelia,
whose son, Sgt. Juan Perez, just returned from Iraq. "You
don’t just go there because somebody told you something."
An embittered Ms. Cecelia, who lives in Woodbine,
called the war a "waste of time," adding
that the Iraqis "want to live the life they
live, and everybody has to respect that."
Her daughter-in-law, Michelle Perez, also believes
her husband was called to duty for "not the
And though Ms. Perez, a secretary from Mays Landing,
fully supports the service her husband has provided,
she said she had put her life on hold since her husband
was deployed last April and was even reluctant to
go out in case her husband should call. Then when
he did call, she said, she could hear gunfire in
the background and the phone would go dead. It could
be several hours before she would hear from him again
and know everything was all right. While 70 members
of the National Guard have died
so far in Iraq, none have been from New Jersey.
Like many of the family members waiting for the
Guard unit, which is based in Cape May Courthouse,
to return last weekend, Ms. Perez was cautiously
optimistic that the tour of duty would not be extended.
Indeed, the 253rd Transportation Company, of which
Sergeant Perez is a member, was rumored to be heading
home last December. Then family members got word
that the military’s "365-days-boots-on-the-ground" order
was going to be strictly enforced, and that the unit
would not be back until this April. Their return
to the United States appeared more likely when the
unit was flown to Kuwait two weeks ago. But with
last week’s announcement that tours were being extended
for 20,000 soldiers — including 6,000 National
Guard and Reserve members — to counter
insurgencies, most family members refused to get
their hopes up until they saw the soldiers marching
along the tarmac at Fort Dix last Saturday.
"I’ll believe it when I can actually touch
him and know it’s real," said Ms. Perez, 35,
who married Sergeant Perez two days before his unit
left for basic training.
Like many who join the National Guard, Ms.
Cecelia said both her sons signed up for the educational
benefits – tuition-free access to any of the state
colleges or universities. And while they accept the
possibility of being called to active duty, either
by the state or the country, for years Guard members’
service has been largely limited to one weekend of
drills a month and two weeks during the summer, required
to maintain their federal Guard status.
she signed up in 2001, Specialist Nicola Harvey said
she was primarily interested in the free tuition
that came with joining the National Guard. During
her second semester at Atlantic Cape Community College,
the 28-year-old Atlantic City resident found herself
being called to active duty.
"I was thinking of the weekend warrior kind
of thing," said Specialist Harvey, a driver
with the 253rd Company. "Not going to war. That’s
not what the recruiter said."
In fact, she got a lot more war than she was bargaining
for. While transporting equipment along a road north
of Baghdad last August her convoy was cut off by
a vehicle that exploded in front of her truck, filling
her eyes with shards of glass and bits of shrapnel
and leaving her temporarily blinded. She is still
suffering from damage to both eyes.
Specialist Harvey received a Purple Heart for her
injuries, which she gladly displayed during the welcome
home celebration at Fort Dix last weekend. And while
she said she was proud she survived a year in Iraq,
she was uncertain if she would renew her commitment.
In addition to their military obligations, most
Guard members have full-time jobs or attend school,
so the uncertainty of the scope of the operation
in Iraq and the broader "war on terrorism" has
created an added level of distress.
"It’s not a World War II situation, where you
have the whole nation committed to a war and a place," said
Mr. Goheen of the National Guard Association. "This
is an open-ended mission. So they want to know, ‘How
long am I going to be there?’ Unlike active duty,
most Guardsmen have to juggle families, school, jobs.
They need to tell their employers when they’ll be
Also different from the enlisted army, where families
live together on military bases with a support system
in place, the families of National Guard members
have few networking opportunities. In response, family
assistance centers have begun springing up at National
Guard armories over the last year. In the
last two months alone, five new centers have opened
in New Jersey, adding to the three that opened soon
after the war began. In her 23 years with the military,
Jane Hackbarth, a retired master sergeant, said she
has not witnessed such a gearing up of support systems
for the Guard.
"Our families are geographically separated
and they don’t know each other," Ms. Hackbarth
said. "They only become a support group because
of the reality of this deployment."
Ms. Hackbarth, who runs the family assistance center
in Lawrenceville, said, "Once the soldier leaves,
we become the one-stop shop, helping family members
understand the language of the military, coping with
pay problems, and getting to meet each other and
bond as military folks."
Like the family readiness group in Toms River, most
of the support meetings try to maintain a positive
attitude. Back for a two-week leave to meet his newborn
son, Specialist Ronald Wentworth drew some laughs
when he shared news from the front with the group
– "no, the mechanics still don’t have any tools;" "yes,
the bugs are driving us crazy;" and "no,
no one has had time to play with the balls and mitts
the group sent over."
The upbeat tenor is not only meant to provide support
for the family members, but also ease the concerns
of the soldiers.
keeps our minds clear knowing that you guys are good
and safe and supporting each other at home," Specialist
Wentworth told the group on Monday.
But that does not mean emotions are not running
After passing around the photograph of her son,
Kevin, who just turned 25, tears began to well up
in Ms. Interdonato’s eyes as she talked about the
day she had to say goodbye to him in February.
"I never thought 24 years ago, when I held
this baby in my arms, I’d ever have to send him off
to war," she said. "It was the hardest
day of my life, and I hope I never have to do it
Capt. Kevin Williams, a chaplain and the coordinator
of the assistance center in Toms River, put it this
way: "People have been in the Guard for 20 to
25 years and never gone anywhere. We’re citizen soldiers
and expected to stay that way. Suddenly, we’re shoulder
to shoulder with active duty. This is clearly a shock
Many of those left behind latch onto superstitions,
develop coping skills or find other distractions
to help pass the time.
Ms. Perez said she decided not to cut her hair until
her husband came home. Faith Parker said she started
a diary, which she writes in every day, then mails
the entries to her boyfriend, Specialist Billy Davies,
every three days "so he doesn’t miss out on
Jamie Burrows has been busy buying a house in Dorchester
and selecting bridesmaids and dresses for the wedding
she is planning for August now that her husband,
Specialist James Burrows, is back from Iraq. They,
too, were married in a rushed ceremony just days
before her husband’s unit was mobilized.
"We don’t really remember it," Ms. Burrows,
21, said of the small wedding held at Fort Dix. "They
gave us a wedding planner, but it was all so rushed.
There was a couple right before us, and another right
Of the August wedding, she admitted that her husband
was "not quite as excited about it as I am,
but he promised me so we’re doing it."
One subject many spouses and mates were reluctant
to talk about was the psychological effect the year
apart might have on the relationship.
Ms. Parker said she thought her relationship with
Mr. Davies would get stronger. Ms. Perez is planning
a honeymoon so they can "get to know each other
all over again." Ms. Burrows said she didn’t
expect much of a transition.
"We weren’t married for very long, so there
were not assigned duties yet," said Ms. Burrows. "It
will be like starting over."
Despite these optimistic views, military family
counselors say the issue is very real.
big question is: what happens when they come back?" said
Ms. Hackbarth, noting that the adjustment can be
particularly difficult for National Guard families
who are not so indoctrinated into the military way
of life to start. "No one who goes there comes
back the same person. They will be forever changed."
And while being in a war zone can have long-range
effects on the soldiers, those left behind may have
changed also, according to Sgt. Maj. John Hughes,
the family assistance coordinator for the 253rd,
the Cape May Courthouse company that just returned
"The spouses have taken on the breadwinner
role, writing checks, making big decisions," Major
Hughes said. "Now the soldier comes back and
the spouse might not be so ready to relinquish that
After completing their first contractual tour of
six years, Guard members can renew their contracts
for one to six years. A minimum of 20 years of service
in good standing is required to be eligible for the
military’s pension plan. The question now facing
many National Guard soldiers as
they return from active duty is whether they wish
to remain in the Guard.
Guard members can be called for active duty for
up to two years, so some families are concerned that
their soldiers might get called back for another
rotation in the war-torn country. For soldiers providing
services most in demand, like the military police,
civil affairs and transportation, Mr. Goheen said
that is a real possibility.
"There’s no predictability," said Ray
Martyniuk, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department
of Veteran and Military Affairs. "The National
Guard exists for the sole purpose to be
ready for emergencies. If there are three emergencies
in a row, they will get called three times."
And while many families may have discussed retiring
from the military during this long year apart, Mr.
Goheen noted that once the soldiers are back home
their outlook might change.
"Soldiers on their way home told their wives:
‘I’m done. I’m not going to do this anymore,"’
said Mr. Goheen. "But after they’ve been here
for a few months, their attitude changes. They say,
‘Let’s go back and get this thing done."’
April 21, 2004
Re-entering Life After Being Deployed
By Matthew Dolan
Chesapeake — What happens afterward? After
the ecstatic moment when the bus wheezes to
a halt and spits out a war-weary soldier into
the arms of loved ones.
the first night spent in a hotel room with
a wife who’s been on her own for the better
part of two years. After the homecoming roses
have wilted, the congratulations cheers have
quieted and the neighbors have stopped asking,
So what was it really like?
Staff Sgt. Burton Harrison knows the answer
now. And it’s hardly the one he predicted four
He returned on the eve before New Year’s Eve.
As a National Guardsman whose
ranks have carried the heavy burden of multiple
deployments, he was gone for 10 months after
Sept. 11, 2001, to protect military bases near
Washington, D.C., and another 10 months at
war to guard an Iraqi prison.
Since then, Harrison, 36 , has tried to reclaim
the life he left behind, piece by piece. But
he said the peace and quiet at home still unnerves
Today, the rest of his 229th Military
Police Virginia National Guard unit
arrives back at the armory in Virginia Beach.
When they do, they’ll begin the same readjustment
that Harrison has reveled in – and suffered
from – since his own homecoming .
“It’s been harder than I ever thought,” he
To find Burton Harrison when he’s not working,
a good guess is in his chair.
The puffy brown recliner takes center stage
in the living room of his two-story, semi-detached
house in Great Bridge. Here, he can lounge
in a blue Old Navy T-shirt, jeans and bare
feet. He’s grown a goatee now – definitely
not Army regulation – to please his wife.
The TV flickers a few feet away, and his mug
of black coffee sits nearby on the floor. This,
he says, is paradise.
“I feel like I was in a time warp,” Harrison
said in an interview Saturday. “I’ve come back
and everything changed without me.”
His eldest, Christina, went from pre-adolescent
to full-blown teenager. His youngest, Dylan,
transformed from a timid toddler to a babbling
5-year-old who loves to dress up in his own
Harrison no longer fears what might happen
when he sleeps or whether he’d have to use
the 9-mm gun that he used to keep under his
pillow. He no longer lives in a world where
he couldn’t trust prisoners who would sweetly
call him “Mr. Harrison” one day and pelt him
with stones the next.
He is no longer oppressively hot all the time,
or worried about eating food that could cause
diarrhea, or aggravated by the three hours
it would take to make a five-minute phone call
He is, however, still afraid of spiders. “The
guys gave him a hard time about that over there,” his
wife, Tina, said, laughing.
On his homecoming day, there were grand plans.
Tina, 33 , and their four kids wanted to throw
a big party.
said no. He wanted instead a slower re-entry
into civilian life. He even took a couple of
days before he visited his mother. The couple
talked too about taking a far-away vacation,
but reconsidered once they took a second look
at their shaky finances.
He wears his service on his sleeve. His truck
has a military police window sticker. And the
public’s reaction, he said, has ranged from
the man who called him a callous killer to
the elderly anonymous woman who gave him a
Hardest of all, Harrison said, his employer
seemed to abandon him.
During his first deployment, they hailed him
as a hero. Tina said she received the same
treatment at a company Christmas party last
But when he returned and, as required by law,
tried to resume work as an elevator mechanic,
his boss told him that he couldn’t come back
right away. When he finally returned, the company
tried to lay him off, he said. An advocacy
group for the National Guard and
his union brokered the problem.
“They were not yet up on the law,” he said. “But
it still hurt real bad. I feel like I left
one war only to come back to another one.”
Only today do the Harrisons feel like they’re
on solid footing. They no longer worry about
the income that dropped with Harrison’s military
activation and forced Tina to get a job driving
a school bus.
The kids’ grades appear to be back on track,
Less and less frequently, Tina Harrison finds
herself reminding her husband that he should
talk to his family with a tone more gentle
than the one he would use with his soldiers.
“We never thought it would take this long,” she
said of the readjustment.
Harrison enjoys telling war stories. Many
are filled with harrowing images of mortar
fire, roadside bombs and occasional bloodshed
in the prison just outside Baghdad. But he
also recalls quaint moments of practical jokes,
silly nicknames and innocent Iraqi children
who wanted nothing more than a hug.
Reminders of the war in his home are everywhere.
Yellow ribbons have been tied around the four
pine trees in the front yard.
Pictures on a living room table show Harrison
in uniform on Sept. 11, a nervous Tina at his
side. A slender green book on a living room
shelf holds a war journal Harrison kept with
details of everything from the morbid to the
Sounds of ordinary life also bring back memories.
At a recent trip to McDonald’s, he heard the
sharp whizzing sound of a soft drink machine.
In a flash, he was back in Iraq, listening
to bullets getting closer and closer to his
Harrison credits the open lines of communication
with his wife as a balm to ease the stress.
From the war, he tried to call her every three
“We’re married, but we’re also best friends,” Tina
also credits the Army for keeping in touch.
About once a month, he now receives a call
from an Army counselor, asking about his job,
his family life and his health.
Some in his unit aren’t doing as well. A couple
of soldiers, he said, cracked under the pressure.
A few saw their marriage break apart.
Harrison said five National Guardsmen who
were deployed have already left the unit after
their return. He expects more to take a pass
“Some were really young, kids who only joined
up for the college money,” he said. “But some
had a lot more experience.”
For Harrison, the deployment was more of an
awakening. He said he wants to be more decisive,
more bold, after coming so close to death.
On his to-do list: buy instead of renting a
house, look into a new career, and rededicate
himself to military service, no matter the
toll it requires.
“I’m not a hero. I consider myself an American
patriot,” he said. “If called tomorrow, I’d
Tina nodded in agreement, but her speech seemed
to be paralyzed at the thought. Then she spoke.
“It’s in his blood,” she said.
Health & Medicine Week
April 19, 2004
Guardsman Who Refused Anthrax Vaccine
Discharged from Army
An Ohio National Guardsman has
been discharged from the Army for refusing
another order to be vaccinated against anthrax,
this time while in Kuwait.
Specialist Kurt Hickman, 20, of Granville,
arrived in Kuwait on February 11. He was ordered
to take the vaccine 2 days later.
When he refused, he was escorted back to Camp
Atterbury in Edinburgh, Indiana, on February
25. He stayed there until he was discharged
on March 28, 2004, Guard spokesman James Sims
Troops going to high-risk areas for more than
15 days have been required to be vaccinated
since 1999 to protect them against biological
Hickman’s attorney, Kenneth Levine, said Hickman
always wanted to serve his country, but didn’t
want to expose himself to what he considers
to be a dangerous vaccine.
Hickman’s discharge notes that he received four
medals during his service.
Sims said the Army gave Hickman an honorable
discharge and demoted him from specialist to
private. He likely will receive a similar discharge
from the National Guard, Sims
Hickman, a sophomore journalism major at Ohio
University, will have to repay the money the
Guard paid for his tuition along with any bonuses
he received for meritorious work.
Sims said privacy policies prohibit the disclosure
of how much Hickman earned and how much he
will have to repay.
Hickman joined the Guard in 2001. He was first
charged in November with disobeying an order
for not being vaccinated with his unit, the
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
He was court-martialed in December. A military
judge recommended a sentence of 40 days in
jail and a bad-conduct discharge.
Hickman’s Ohio penalty was put on hold after
U.S. District Judge Emmit Sullivan ruled that
the military could not force troops to take
shots against their will without an order of
the president. The ban was lifted after the
FDA said the vaccine was safe and effective
for use against inhaled anthrax.
At Camp Atterbury, Hickman, then under the
jurisdiction of the regular Army, again refused
to take the vaccine and was charged with disobeying
That charge was dropped when Lt. Gen. Joseph
Inge decided to allow Hickman to be deployed.
In 1999, five Ohio Air National Guard members
based in Cincinnati were discharged for refusing
April 20, 2004
Kentucky Guardsman Killed in Iraq
By Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press Writer
Dateline : Louisville, Ky.
A Kentucky Army National Guard officer
killed in Iraq during an ambush on his military
convoy was remembered Monday as a leader who
set an example for fellow soldiers.
First Lt. Robert Henderson II was killed Saturday
near Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, the state
Department of Military Affairs said.
The convoy was supporting the Army’s 1st Armored
Division when it was attacked by insurgents
about 70 miles south of Baghdad, said Lt. Col.
Phil Miller, a National Guard public
affairs officer in Frankfort.
"It’s our understanding the convoy came
under small-arms attack by enemy forces," Miller
Henderson, 33, of Alvaton, is survived by
his wife, Lisa, who is pregnant with their
first child, according to family friends. His
mother, Lillian, said her son had been in the
Guard since he was 17.
"He loved it," she said in a statement
from the Department of Military Affairs. "He
always wanted to do what was right. He was
Henderson was a platoon leader in the Owensboro-based
Detachment 1, 2123rd Transportation Company.
The unit hauls tanks and other heavy armored
vehicles, artillery equipment and engineering
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon,
a friend of the family, said high-ranking Guard
officials told him that Henderson displayed "strong
leadership" during the attack. The convoy
was ambushed as it slowed down to go around
an overturned trailer, Buchanon said.
"He was shot twice and continued to lead
his platoon through the ambush to safety," Buchanon
He said Henderson was taken to a field hospital,
where he died.
Henderson was the second Kentucky Guard casualty
in the Iraq conflict.
Sgt. Darrin Potter, a member of the 223rd
Military Company in Louisville, died in September
when his military vehicle overturned and was
submerged in a canal in Baghdad.
A comrade remembered Henderson as "a
good man and a good soldier."
"He definitely set the example when it
comes to what the soldiers should be aspiring
to be," said Kentucky National
Guard 1st Sgt. Michael Oliver, who
formerly served in the same unit with Henderson.
Oliver said Henderson was a hands-on officer.
"He loved driving the trucks," Oliver
said. "Normally, as an officer you sit
back, supervise and direct. Lieutenant Henderson
loved … to get right in there and ask that
driver to scoot over and let him have the opportunity
to actually drive the vehicle."
Oliver, of Bowling Green, was transferred
to the 2113th Transportation Company, based
in Paducah, after his promotion to first sergeant.
That happened 10 days before his former comrades
"Right now there’s a tremendous sense
of guilt that I carry with me because I’m not
there with them," Oliver said, his voiced
choked with emotion. "They are a great
bunch of soldiers."
The 2123rd deployed to southwest Asia in January.
Frankfort, Gov. Ernie Fletcher said Henderson "paid
the ultimate sacrifice while serving his country."
"Our commonwealth has truly lost one
of its finest," he said.
Kentucky Adjutant General Donald C. Storm
said he was "deeply saddened" by
Henderson’s death, but said "our resolve
is not shaken."
"He was a true patriot who answered the
call of his nation," Storm said. "Our
hearts, thoughts, prayers and support go out
to his family."
Henderson graduated from Warren Central High
School in 1989 and attended Western Kentucky
University from 1990 to 1994, Miller said.
Henderson worked as a sales manager at the
Lowes home improvement store in Bowling Green
for several years. Robert Castle, operations
manager at the store, said Henderson was well
"He was the type of person when he was
faced with a challenge, his eyes would light
up and he’d get this look on his face and you
just knew it was going be taken care of," Castle
Buchanon watched Henderson grow up. Henderson’s
mother is a bookkeeper at a floral and greenhouse
business run by Buchanon’s wife.
"He was dedicated to the National
Guard and to the military service," Buchanon
Henderson’s comrades held a memorial service
on Sunday at the unit’s base camp in Kuwait.
Kentucky currently has 365 Guardsmen deployed
in Iraq, Storm said. He said they have been "in
the eye of the storm."
"They’re not on the peripheral here," he
said. "These soldiers are part of the
front lines. And as you know … the front
line in this war is 360 degrees."
Funeral arrangements for Henderson are pending.
The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington)
April 21, 2004
Guardsman with Fort Lewis Task Force
By Michael Gilbert, The News Tribune
A Maine National Guardsman attached
to the Fort Lewis-based Task Force Olympia
was killed Tuesday and four other soldiers
were wounded when their convoy was struck by
a roadside bomb in northern Iraq.
The attack occurred Tuesday morning west of
Mosul, according to a U.S. military press release
and news service reports.
The soldier who was killed and three of the
injured are from the 133rd Engineer Battalion
of the Maine National Guard, according
to the Portland Press Herald, which has a columnist
and photographer embedded with the battalion.
paper reported that one soldier was seriously
injured while the other two suffered minor
injuries. A fifth soldier who is not part of
the 133rd also suffered minor injuries.
The 8,800-soldier Task Force Olympia includes
the Stryker brigade and other units from Fort
Lewis, as well as active-duty, Reserve and National
Guard troops from other posts and
A spokesman with the Maine National
Guard said families of the killed
and wounded soldiers had been notified. He
said the soldiers fought back and "neutralized" the
insurgents who attacked them.
A Task Force Olympia press release said two
of the soldiers were taken to the 67th Combat
Support Hospital at Mosul Airfield, where one
died of his injuries.
The other three soldiers were treated and
returned to duty, according to the press release.
The task force press release contained few
additional details, such as the location of
the attack, the number of vehicles in the convoy,
the type of vehicle the slain soldier was riding
in or a description of the soldiers’ injuries.
Otherwise, U.S. military officials Tuesday
characterized the Task Force Olympia zone as "quiet."
Iraqi police arrested four people who attacked
their headquarters with small-arms fire and
rocket-propelled grenades, and U.S. troops
captured five people suspected of attacking
coalition forces in Mosul on Monday night,
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director
of coalition operations, told reporters in
A coalition soldier was wounded near Tall
Afar, about 35 miles west of Mosul, when his
patrol was attacked with a hand grenade. The
patrol captured two of the attackers, Kimmitt
said, according to a transcript of his Tuesday
Kimmitt also said authorities in Mosul are
concerned about rhetoric from the mosques and
in the local media following the killing of
Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, assassinated
by an Israeli missile strike Saturday in Gaza
On Monday, Stryker brigade soldiers detained
eight people wanted for "anti-coalition
activities" and recovered weapons and
ammunition, according to another Task Force
Olympia press release.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry
Regiment raided what U.S. officials called
four terrorist safe houses and captured eight
men suspected of planning and carrying out
attacks on coalition forces, according to the
Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry
regiment recovered a small number of fuses
and rockets north of Qayyarah and troops from
the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion found four
120 mm artillery rounds near at Iraqi Civil
Defense Corps checkpoint 13 miles west of Mosul,
the task force reported.
The Associated Press
April 22, 2004
Vermont Soldier Dies in Iraq Ambush
Dateline : Montpelier, Vt.
Christopher D. Gelineau, a Vermont high school
graduate who was in Iraq with the Maine National
Guard, died Tuesday after enemy fighters
ambushed his convoy.
Gelineau, 23, is the seventh soldier with
Vermont roots to be killed in combat since
the war began over a year ago.
A 1999 graduate of Mount Abraham Union High
School in Bristol, Gelineau was a specialist
with the 133rd Engineer Battalion. Before being
deployed to Iraq in March he lived in Portland,
Maine, where he attended the University of
"He was a very nice boy. He was patient
and quiet," said aunt Pam Gelineau of
Eden Wednesday night. "I don’t know what
else to say."
Gelineau’s mother and stepfather, Victoria
and Jesse Chicoine, live in Starksboro, and
his father, John, lives in Eden.
The families left early Wednesday for Maine
to be with Gelineau’s wife of one year, Lavinia,
Pam Gelineau said.
Those who knew Gelineau described him as a
quiet, friendly, reliable young man who loved
working with computers.
Gelineau was one of about 500 members of the
133rd Engineer Battalion sent for a one-year
tour of duty in Iraq, based in the northern
city of Mosul.
Several members of the 133rd, including Gelineau,
were driving in a convoy Tuesday in Mosul,
serving as a protective escort to military
firefighters from South Carolina, Maine National
Guard officials said.
Gelineau was in the lead Humvee when a roadside
bomb exploded and heavily damaged the vehicle.
Enemy fighters then began shooting at the soldiers.
and three others were injured in the explosion
and battle. Gelineau and the others were taken
to a nearby military hospital, officials said.
They said they were unsure whether Gelineau
died of his wounds en route or at the aid station.
Gelineau is the first member of the Maine National
Guard to be killed in Iraq.
Freedom Calls Foundation Helps Soldiers
in Iraq Contact Home
By Stephen Larson
April 20, 2004
(Army News Service, April 20, 2004) — Many
of the Soldiers in Iraq are young parents and
won’t see their spouses or children for a year
or more. But Soldiers will soon be able to
more easily send e-mail to or call their loved
ones at home due to the donation of millions
of dollars of telecommunications equipment
and services to the Army.
Freedom Calls Foundation has collected $10 million
worth of donations for equipment and services to
provide free Internet, voice over Internet Protocol
telephone and video teleconference services for up
to 10,000 troops. The Army officially accepted the
donation April 6.
Ed Bukstel, operations director of Freedom Calls,
said country music star Rodney Atkins has pledged
to help launch the Freedom Calls network with a live
concert that will be video teleconferenced to Iraq
from a military base.
“I can’t imagine how happy the families of these Soldiers
will be when this program is fully operational,” Atkins
said. “I think it’s a wonderful use of this exciting
Started with an e-mail
The initiative started in August, when Bukstel, the
executive vice president of SkyFrames Inc., a satellite
telecommunications company, of Costa Mesa, Calif.,
received an e-mail “out of the blue,” from a sergeant
“She (the sergeant) wrote to me that communications
available for Soldiers in her unit to contact home
were very poor and that it would be helpful to troop
morale if they could get Internet access and e-mail
so they could stay in touch with loved ones,” said
Bukstel. “She asked if I had any ideas that might help.”
SkyFrames issued a press release to ask for donations
to help out this unit in Iraq. John Harlow, a Wall
Street lawyer, read the release, contacted Bukstel,
and together they established the Freedom Calls Foundation,
a non-profit entity incorporated in the state of
New York and registered with the Charities Bureau
of the state of New York Department of Law.
the larger donors, Bukstel said, Hewlett-Packard
donated 1,000 laptop computers, 100 printers and
scanners; Logitech donated 500 web cameras and microphones;
Loral Space & Communications
donated Very-Small Aperture Terminal satellite
dishes, hub connections and a full-year subscription
of free bandwidth; Motorola donated a wireless
broadband platform that will allow troops in
a 15-mile radius to tie into the network; and
FedEx donated about $300,000 of cargo space
to get the gear to Iraq. Bukstel said that
an American engineer is working with an Iraqi
telecom company to provide installation and
The waiting is the hardest part
Among those helping Freedom Calls navigate through
Army channels for approval of the donations have
been Lt. Col. Michael Kwak, the Army’s Product Manager,
Defense Wide Transmission Systems and then his successor,
Lt. Col. Earl Noble, and Janice Starek, a project
leader for PM DWTS.
Some of the issues to be ironed out, Starek said,
have been who will be responsible for the donated
equipment when it’s in Iraq, and what will happen
to it after the troops come home.
Starek said the equipment will be signed for by local
Morale, Welfare and Recreation personnel in Iraq
and that at the completion of the mission, PM DWTS
will be responsible for determining disposition.
“The equipment will either be transferred to other
MWR activities, placed on long-term storage or disposed
of, if the equipment is obsolete at that point,” said
But in the end, the waiting was worth it. Just ask
"Calling home is the biggest morale booster there
is," said Spc. Johanna Adams, a personnel specialist
with the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
PM DWTS got a taste of how sweet it can be to help
Soldiers in Iraq stay in touch with loved ones on
June 6 parents deployed to Iraq got to watch their
children graduate from Vicenza High School, a Department
of Defense school in Vicenza, Italy. After the ceremony,
students and parents spoke to each other through
the VTC link. Through the VTC link there were personal
face-to-face congratulations and tearful reunions.
A commander in Iraq wrote that the VTC “had to
be the biggest morale booster I’ve witnessed in
25 years of military service. The VTC brought a
once-in-a-lifetime event to the battlefield of
Iraq. The joy I witnessed on both ends of the video
monitor will be in war stories for many generations
Bukstel said that he plans to go to Iraq after the
first installation is operational.
“It’s going to bring tears to my eyes when this happens,” he
said. “One guy told me when he was in Vietnam he didn’t
talk to his family for over a year. Well that was years
ago – now we have technology, so that doesn’t have
(Editor’s note: Stephen Larsen is the public affairs
officer for Program Executive Officer, Enterprise
Information Systems at Fort Monmouth, N.J.)
United States Department of Defense
April 23, 2004
Military Phone Card Donation Program Goes
The Department of Defense announced today
that any American can now help troops in contingency
operations call home. The
Defense Department has authorized the Armed
Services Exchanges to sell prepaid calling
cards to any individual or organization that
wishes to purchase cards for troops who are
deployed. The “Help Our Troops Call Home” program
is designed to help servicemembers call home
from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation
For those wishing to donate a prepaid calling
card to a military member may log on to any
of the three Armed Services Exchange web sites:
the Army and Air Force Exchange Service http://www.aafes.com/,
the Navy Exchange Service Command http://www.navy-nex.com/,
and the Marine Corps Exchange http://www.usmc-mccs.org/.
Click the “Help Our Troops Call Home” link.
From there, a prepaid calling card may be purchased
for an individual at his or her deployed address
or to “any service member” deployed or hospitalized.
The Armed Services Exchanges will distribute
cards donated to “any service member” through
the American Red Cross, Air Force Aid Society
and the Fisher House Foundation.
The Armed Services Exchanges operate telephone
call centers in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan,
and other countries and aboard ships — anywhere
servicemembers are deployed in support of Operation
Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
All of these locations stay busy around the
clock to keep up communication between deployed
troops and their loved ones. The cards available
through the “Help Our Troops Call Home” program
offer the best value for calls made from the
call centers, never expire, and there are no
added charges or connection fees.
Individuals and organizations also can show
their support to deployed troops and their
families with gift certificates. The “Gift
of Groceries” program allows anyone to purchase
commissary gift certificates at http://www.commissaries.com or
by calling toll free 1 (877) 770-GIFT. The
Armed Services Exchanges offer the “Gift From
the Homefront” gift certificate for merchandise
at these exchange web sites: http://www.aafes.com
and http://www.navy-nex.com or by calling toll
free 1 (877) 770-GIFT. Gift certificates may
be purchased to be mailed to servicemembers
and family members or will be distributed to “any
servicemember.” Only authorized commissary
and exchange patrons may redeem the gift certificates
at military commissaries and exchanges, including
those stores supporting deployed personnel
around the globe.