2004, Volume 2, Issue 1
Index of Articles
Note: Topics below are now bookmarked! Click on the underlined topic below to link to the pages on that topic.
Guard, Reserve Cited For Improved Homeland
Young Soldiers Learn How to Handle an Ambush
National Guard Holds On to Recruits
Alert Orders Announced for National Guard
375 Guard Members Could be Iraq-bound
More Hawaii Army National Guard Troops Off
Mother-soldiers prepare to Head Overseas
Troops Return From Iraq to Iowa After 14-Month
A Heartfelt Homecoming
Soldiers Extended in Iraq Get Extra $1K Monthly
GUARD IN IRAQ
Pentagon to Keep 135,000 Troops in Iraq
Alert Guardsmen Spot IED, Save Supply Route
Brigade Quietly Makes a Difference
HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH DEPLOYMENT
Guard Program Sends Volunteers to Aid Troops’
A Year Later, Public Safety Staffers Still
Lost to Military Duty
Sergeant’s Wife Knows How to Keep Home Fires
Medic Shrugs Off Hardships to Excel
On Home Front, Families Fight Battle of Their
HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH AFTERMATH
Soldier Sisters Report Back to Duty
Transition Back to Civilian Life After Difficult
Duty In Iraq
Murky Facts On Sick G.I.s
TRIBUTE TO OUR FALLEN HEROES
Two Soldiers Killed in Iraq Bring State’s
War Toll to 14
National Guard Releases Statistics, Stories
of Overseas Soldiers
One Final Salute
CW4 Kordsmeier Remembered at Arkansas Funeral
Military Community to Celebrate Military
Spouse Day May 7
Pilot logs 4,000 Hours Flying A-10s
Charlie Daniels Band Plays for T roops in
National Guard Family Program Online Communities for families and youth:
TRICARE website for information on health benefits
Civilian Employment Information (CEI) Program Registration for Army and Air National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard Reserve
Cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve who are currently on active duty
Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) contains links and information about schooling, distance education, scholarships, and organizations devoted to the military family
Militarystudent.org is a website that helps military children with transition and deployment issues. It has some great features for kids, parents, special needs families, school educators, and more—even safe chatrooms for kids.
| Disabled Soldiers Initiative
(DS3) This website provides information
on the new DS3 program. Through DS3, the
Army provides its most severely disabled
Soldiers and their families with a system
of advocacy and follow-up.
Have an article, announcement, or website that
you’d like to share with the National Guard Family
Program Community? Send your suggestions
in an e-mail to[email protected].
Forces Press Service
Cited For Improved Homeland Defense Capabilities
Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
May 3, 2004 — Despite great progress and improvements
in the nation’s defenses against another terrorist
attack, "we are not comfortable — we
are not satisfied," the assistant secretary
of defense for homeland defense told a House
subcommittee here April 29. Paul McHale, testifying
before a subcommittee looking into ways of
transforming the National Guard ,
emphasized that the Pentagon is "dedicated
with a real sense of urgency to ever-improving
homeland defense capabilities." However,
improving those capabilities so far has come
at the expense of thousands of National
Guard and Reserve members, he said.
McHale’s statement assessed the nation’s homeland
defense capability and addressed DoD’s new
mission requirements, particularly those of National
Guard and Reserve components that
have been expanded in the aftermath of the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United
States. He told the committee that protection
of critical infrastructure will likely become
a "core National Guard mission" during
the next decade. And he said the Defense Department
is working closely with the National
Guard Bureau to ensure Army
Guard forces will be "mission
ready" to provide immediate land security
forces within their own states.
Guard also has been given the task
of supporting civilian authorities following
a terrorist attack, he said. Last fall, the
Defense Department established 32 National
Guard weapons of mass destruction
civil support teams, with 12 new teams to be
created this year, "sufficient to ensure
that every state and territory will be served
by a team," he said. He told the committee
that if a more substantial WMD response is
required, the department has established, equipped
and organized large joint task forces to be
disbursed to locations throughout the United
States. The joint task forces, McHale added,
will enable the United States to sufficiently "respond
to multiple, near simultaneous terrorist attacks
involving weapons of mass destruction." McHale
noted several achievements by National
Guard and reservists. Guard and
Reserve pilots assigned to the North American
Aerospace Defense Command, he said, logged
thousands of hours patrolling the airspace
over Canada and the United States, flying more
than 34,000 air defense sorties and responding
to more than 1,700 requests from the Federal
Aviation Administration to intercept potential
air threats. "That is an extraordinary
achievement," he added. He also noted
that in fiscal 2004, the Air National
Guard flew 1,909 sorties and logged
6,926 hours guarding the nation’s skies. "This
level of air security is unprecedented in our
nation’s history," he said.
an added level of standard training, he said,
nearly every homeland defense exercise conducted
now includes a threat scenario involving a
terrorist takeover of a commercial airliner.
Such exercises, he said have resulted in air
defense training that is "realistic, focused
and subject to well understood rules of engagement." McHale
also address improvements in land and maritime
defense capabilities. He said there are now
active duty soldiers and Marines on alert "every
hour of every day" prepared to deploy
to any location within the United States. "Such
quick reaction forces did not exist on Sept.
11, 2001," he said. "They do now,
and they are both trained and ready." He
said the goal for the nation’s maritime defense
is to defeat "every enemy maritime threat
with an integrated layered defense, long before
such threats are able to enter our ports." McHale
said defending the nation’s ports and waterways
will require real-time tracking of threat vessels
and ships, as well as resources to support
maritime intercept operations on the high seas
against terrorists potentially armed with weapons
of mass destruction. DoD’s plan of action,
McHale said, makes it clear the department
is "fully committed to the most capable
homeland defense ever planned or executed in
Mobile (AL) Register
May 4, 2004
Young Soldiers Learn How to Handle
By Russ Henderson, Staff Reporter
Fort McClellan — The convoy was forced to
stop in just about the worst possible place.
The dozen men in face paint who were hunkered
down in the surrounding woods clutching assault
rifles and M-249 light machine guns had planned
it that way.
For hours Wednesday morning, the line of eight
Humvees and one 5-ton truck had inched along
miles of rocky, narrow dirt road as part of
an Alabama National Guard navigation
training exercise deep in the woods of Pelham
Range at Fort McClellan.
But now the convoy was unexpectedly thrown
into the middle of another kind of training
exercise. Here in their first-ever week of
real field training, the mostly teenage and
twentysomething soldiers of the Alabama
National Guard’s newest unit — the
Mobile-based 690th Chemical Company — were
about to become victims of their very first
The lead driver found himself boxed in, faced
with an obstacle that his 150-horsepower Humvee
couldn’t crash through — an improvised wall
of pine logs and fallen trees stacked 4 feet
high and bound together with razor wire. The
front of the convoy was downhill and around
a curve from its rear, making backing up a
The column of dusty green vehicles ground
to a halt. There was quiet for a moment. Then
the chest-thumping sounds of training grenades
exploding and automatic weapons firing blanks
filled the air as the men in the forest went
into action against the convoy.
ambushes that are getting us killed in Iraq
right now," said Lt. Col. David Brown,
the commanding officer of the Centreville,
Ala.-based 145th Chemical Battalion, which
commands the 690th. He squatted in the woods
with a reporter just as the ambush began. "It’s
a tight squeeze they’re in. I’ll be interested
to see how they fight their way out."
The 3-year-old 690th began its first two-week
training run on April 25 at the National
Guard facility at Fort McClellan
in Anniston. The unit will head back home on
May 8, officials said. In its short life span,
the group has grown from three soldiers to
96 — 73 percent of the full strength the unit
will need to be deployed, said Brown, a Snellville,
The 40 or so soldiers of the 690th participating
in the convoy exercise didn’t hesitate. They
leapt from their seats and began firing at
their assailants hidden in the forest.
One guardsman hit a tripwire after venturing
into the woods to his Humvee’s right. The flare
it set off left him "dead," but it
alerted the others in his unit that their attackers
had booby-trapped that side of the road. That
meant that their attackers were firing from
the opposite roadside, hoping to force as many
of them as possible into the traps.
The 690th quickly did just the opposite. They
threw smoke grenades to hide themselves, then
entered the very woods where their enemy was
located, firing and forcing the smaller group
of enemy soldiers up the hill and away from
the column of stopped and now empty vehicles.
"They did good. The guys in the first
vehicle popped smoke and were on me in about
two seconds," said Capt. Mike Davenport,
the Centreville resident who commands the 208th
Chemical Reconnaissance Company, the group
that ambushed the 690th.
Wednesday’s ambush was only a small part of
the two weeks of training the 690th had come
for. The night before, the company navigated
miles from point to point in the same woods,
but in the dark.
"They were tired at the end of it. They
were knocking their helmets against their door
frames to stay awake. But at the end they were
asking if they could do it again, which is
always encouraging," Brown said.
The company was scheduled to get training
in chemical decontamination later in the week,
Brown said. The unit planned to set up tents
to han dle different parts of the process.
During the exercise, soldiers, hit with a fictional
cloud of nerve or mustard gas, would be stripped
and washed down along with their gear, Brown
Decontamination is one of the 690th’s jobs.
The other is to provide smoke cover for "high-value" targets
such as radar systems or landed Black Hawk
helicopters, Brown said. Shortly after the
ambush, members of the 690th put on a smoke
show for a group of civilian observers Wednesday
It wasn’t the company’s first smoke exercise,
but it was among its first. The unit’s base
is right next to Mobile Regional Airport, making
smoke training at the site impossible, National
Guard officials said.
high-value targets are two Port-A-Lets and
a couple of junk cars," said a deadpan
Lt. John Hubbard, 23, of Centreville, who headed
up the smoke demonstration. Then he dropped
a green smoke grenade to the ground to signal
the start of the exercise.
The observers watched from a hilltop as two
Humvees mounted with M-56 Coyote smoke-generating
machines, in a matter of minutes, filled a
square mile of ground below with white smoke.
The portable toilets and the cars vanished.
"The enemy couldn’t lock on those targets
for missile or mortar fire now. They’d just
have to guess," Hubbard said.
Spc. Benton Jackson, 21, of Mobile, was one
of the Humvee and smoke machine operators.
He said that, in the real world, he’s a business
student at the University of South Alabama
and a waiter at Gambino Brothers on Hillcrest
Road. Jackson said the training he was getting
this week "isn’t fun sometimes, but it’s
Over the past few years, the group has mostly
done mock exercises without using real decontamination
equipment and without using real smoke.
"There’s something to be said for resourcefulness,
but there’s no substitute for field training," Jackson
said. National Guard officials
said no plans have been announced to send the
690th to Iraq or elsewhere.
"But there are only three kinds of units.
The ones that have gone, come back or are going," Jackson
said. "We haven’t gone or come back, so
that narrows the options. We have to get ready."
May 4, 2004
National Guard Holds On to Recruits
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
Washington — Army National Guard recruiters
across the country say that so far, the unprecedented
levels of guard deployment into theaters of
violent conflict for tours of 12 months or
longer have not had a negative impact on recruitment
and retention levels.
"There hasn’t been any impact to date," said
Lt. Col. Dennis Devery, spokesman for the New
Jersey Army National Guard, which
has about 1,500 troops mobilized for service
out of a force of 6,200.
"If we get 100 personnel per month, then
we’re doing OK, and we’ve had that for the
last six months, so that is a plus for our
side," Devery said. "We’re on track."
"We are approximately 80 enlistments
over what we were at this time last year, which
is fantastic," said Lt. Col. Alicia Tate-Nadeau,
spokeswoman for the Illinois Army
Guard officials offer a number of reasons why
recruitment or re-enlistments have stayed strong,
but concede the possibility a visible drop-off
may grow as the war wears on and more guard
troops return from long deployments.
"Recruiting trends are still fine but
it is a concern; we’re making sure we keep
our finger on the pulse, so to speak, of people
coming home from the field to see how they
feel," said Lt. Col. Doug Hart, spokesman
for the California Army National Guard ,
which has about 3,000 mobilized out of a total
guard force of 20,000 men and women.
Nationwide, numbers in recruiting are "slightly
down," while retention levels are higher
than last year, said Mark Allen, spokesman
for the Army National Guard Bureau in
Washington, D.C. The national recruitment goal
is 56,000 for 2004, of which the Guard would
need to recruit about another 26,000 to reach
"We’re doing the best we can to meet
our needs — we’re cautiously optimistic," said
Allen. "We understand the challenges in
front of us, there is no question about that."
Allen said the Army National Guard is
authorized for 350,000 troops and they have
about 98 percent of that number today. As of
the end of April, about 155,000 of these men
and women had been called up or were on alert
for active duty, with more than 43,000 in Iraq
and about 4,000 in Afghanistan.
As the Guard works to reach
its recruiting goals, lawmakers on the House
Armed Services Committee are
discussing the potential problems of stretching
active duty forces too thin, and creating an
over-reliance on part-time soldiers, who do
not get the same benefits and do not have the
same job security as their full-time counterparts.
"We have seen too much shrinking of numbers
in the active duty military and it has forced
us to rely on the National Guard components," said
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who added that he
disagrees with a Pentagon plan that would train
existing active duty troops for high-demand
skills rather than increase the number of recruits.
Rogers said the increased reliance on the National
Guard "has not caused an erosion
of retention and recruitment" yet. "But
when I talk to people in leadership positions,
they say it’s too early to tell, that it
will be six to 10 months from now before
we see a trend."
Jeff Kojac, a national security fellow for
the Center for Strategic and International
Studies warned that while soldiers doing one
or two tours may have great retention rates,
stretching them into a third tour will practically
Kojac added that he thinks the real cracks
in the system will appear as more recruits
realize that the National Guard is
no longer about protecting the homeland "in
a limited fashion."
"If things continue they way they are,
the National Guard and United
States Army Reserves are in danger of being
broken," he said. "If anyone is going
to suffer recruitment and retention, it is
Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., said she doesn’t
think the so-far positive trend will continue.
She said the military would continue to tap
the Guard for service, disproportionately taking
doctors, police officers and emergency medical
technicians from communities.
"Some of these folks are on a third tour
because they were in Afghanistan after 9/11," she
said. "It’s not like we have any sense
of success in Iraq that gives us a date-certain
time when we are going to relieve these folks."
Guard representatives in several states say
new recruits are taking risks. While it is
widely understood that unlike years’ past,
enlistment may mean overseas duty rather than
the one-weekend-a-month, two-weeks-a-year obligation.
They speculated that some recruits see the
promise of free college tuition and sign-up
bonuses as a worthwhile return for their enlistment.
Others have signed on because of the war,
emboldened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror
attacks and the ongoing operations against
"A lot of people join because they are
strong, patriotic people in the first place
and while we are at war what that does is sharpen
that patriotism," said Allen.
"People understand that someone had to
secure this state and our nation and New Jersey
has had special issues that we have been involved
with," said Devery, noting that many survivors
of the World Trade Center attacks live in the
state, which was also the target of anthrax
attacks not long afterward.
Guard officials say that re-enlistment rates
are slightly higher, with a fewer number of
dropouts than last year — particularly among
those who have already served overseas.
"There is great unit cohesion among people
who serve in stressful situations — once you
have done that, you don’t want to be a quitter," Devery
said. "There are lot of reasons (for the
low dropout rates), but I think that is a big
County Times (TN)
May 5, 2004
Alert Orders Announced for National
By Gina Oliver – Times staff writer
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld approved
the alerting of approximately 18,000 National
Guard soldiers for likely inclusion
in the rotation of forces to support operations
in Iraq. If needed, these forces would replace
deployed units starting in late 2004 and early
The Central Command commander continually
evaluates the need for U.S. and coalition forces
and makes recommendations and planning projections
as to the appropriate size and composition
of the force in Iraq. The National
Guard soldiers being alerted now
will be mobilized over the next several months
to conduct necessary training prior to deployment.
Mobilized National Guard forces could be deployed
for up to 12 months in theater. The total length
of mobilization is dependent on training requirements
and the requirements of the Central Command
The major commands being alerted are the 42nd
Infantry Division Headquarters from New York,
the 256th Separate Infantry Brigade from Louisiana,
the 116th Separate Armored Brigade from Idaho
and the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment from
Tennessee which consist of approximately 4,500
members from East Tennessee including the Lafayette
This early alert notification provides soldiers
time to plan for their deployment, providing
as much predictability as possible for service
members, their families, communities and employers.
As planning continues, it should be expected
that additional forces will be identified,
alerted, and mobilized.
A rumored date of the middle of June as well
as other information has been circulating through
the county. According to Lieutenant Colonel
Ken Jones of the Department of Public Affairs "No
deployment order has been issued. The members
of the guard in Lafayette are on alert and
are preparing for deployment, but so far we
have received nothing in writing."
Montgomery (AL) Advertiser
May 7, 2004
375 Guard Members Could Be Iraq-bound
By Kevin Taylor, Montgomery Advertiser
With two Alabama Army National Guard units – Alexander
City/Tuskegee’s 214th Military Police Company
and Fort McClellan’s 1151st engineer team – scheduled
to return home in a few weeks, about 375 more
Guard members could be heading to Iraq.
Four Guard units were notified on Tuesday
to prepare for mobilization and a yearlong
deployment to Iraq, according to Lt. Col. Robert
Horton, Alabama National Guard public
Approximately 126 members of the Selma-based
122nd Corps Support Group and 140 members of
the Camden-based 2101st Transportation Company
will prepare for deployment. A specific time
has not been given, Horton said.
News of the possible deployment of more soldiers
to Iraq comes on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement
by the Defense Department to deploy about 10,000
more service members to replace elements of
the 1st Armored Division and 2nd Light Cavalry
Regiment whose stays were extended in Iraq.
"I would rather see the reverse – of
our men coming home – than to see more being
deployed," said Selma Mayor James Perkins
Jr. "I’m in constant prayer for everyone
who is on the front lines fighting for freedom."
110 additional soldiers from two other units – the
200th Engineer Battalion of Linden and the
128th Medical Company of Ashland – have been
placed on alert.
"It’s sad that the guys are having to
go over there to do that and leave their families," said
Rickey Eppes, who is minister at the Camden
Church of Christ. "Everyone is worried
and sad they are leaving. We are praying for
Another unit, the 1165th Military Police Company
from Fairhope and Brewton, was expected to
return home sometime this month, but its stay
has been extended, Horton said.
Before returning home, the 1151st engineer
team was ambushed about 6 p.m. Iraqi time Saturday
just south of Baghdad, Horton said.
Four soldiers were wounded, none with life-threatening
injuries, and there were no fatalities, Horton
May 7, 2004
More Hawaii Army National Guard Troops
Off to Afghanistan
Dateline : Honolulu
Sixty Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers
shipped out Wednesday for an undisclosed location
The members of B Company, 193rd Aviation,
specialize in aviation maintenance, servicing
helicopters for the Army.
The soldiers will relieve an earlier contingent
of troops from B Company who deployed to the
same undisclosed location in Afghanistan about
nine months ago, state Adjutant General Robert
There was no scheduled date set for the return
of the first contingent to Hawaii, Lee said.
The Associated Press
May 8, 2004 Saturday
Mother-soldiers prepare to Head Overseas
By Kimberly Hefling; Associated Press Writer
Dateline: Evansville, Ind.
Spc. Jessica Ellington, who will soon deploy
to Iraq for up to 18 months, has tried to prepare
her 2-year-old daughter, Brianna, for her impending
"I told her that Mommy’s going bye-bye
for a long time," Ellington said. "Being
gone a day is a long time for her, so she really
ease the transition, Ellington recorded her
voice in a stuffed animal for Brianna to listen
to at night.
Ellington, 21, has plenty of company as she
juggles her dual roles as soldier and mother.
Nearly 70 percent of the 60 soldiers in her
Indiana National Guard detachment
are women, reflecting a trend that has seen
the number of women at war rise more than 700
percent since Vietnam.
Like Ellington, many are parents struggling
with leaving their children behind.
Retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning, who tracks
military issues for the Women’s Research and
Education Institute in Washington, says it’s
difficult for any parent to leave a child to
go to war.
"You worry whoever is taking care of
your child is doing well. You miss them every
morning and night and day," Manning said.
But many soldiers say the guilt tends to weigh
more heavily on women.
"Daddies go all the time. I understand
there’s a difference between a mother’s role
and a daddy’s role, but people don’t get heartbroken
over daddies leaving, and that’s important
to a child’s development too," said Ellington,
a nursing student who joined the National
Guard at 17.
More than 60,000 women have been deployed
overseas in support of the war in Iraq since
December 2002. During the Vietnam War, about
7,000 women served, most as nurses.
Since the Pentagon relaxed enlistment restrictions
in 1994, women have taken on additional roles
in medical, supply and other specialty units,
Ellington’s unit, Detachment 1, Company A,
113th Support Battalion, 76th Brigade, was
formed two years ago specifically to provide
an option for southern Indiana women interested
in joining the National Guard. Previously,
the area offered infantry units open only to
The 113th has reported to Camp Atterbury,
a mobilization station 30 miles south of Indianapolis.
The soldiers know Iraq, where 18 female soldiers
have died, is a likely destination.
With departure looming, Spc. Faith Whitney,
27, takes comfort knowing she isn’t the only
parent in her unit going to Iraq. Still, it
Her husband, Marine Lance Cpl. James Whitney,
spent eight months in Iraq last year and will
return this summer. Their four children, all
under the age of 6, are struggling to understand
why their mother must go, too.
"My oldest asked me, Daddy killed all
the bad guys, so why does Mommy have to go?" Whitney
Whitney’s children will stay with their grandparents
while both parents are gone. Ellington’s daughter
also will live with a grandparent during the
Ellington hopes her tour of duty sends her
daughter a message.
"Hopefully, what I do will set an example
for her and her future that she can do whatever
she wants to do if she sets her mind to it," Ellington
said. "Hopefully, she’ll understand."
Sherrie Folz, 27, who has two children ages
7 and 8, said she is trying to say focused
on the mission ahead.
"We all know what we have to do," Folz
said. "A female, male, it doesn’t matter
– we’re all in here to do the same job."
Troops Return From Iraq to Iowa After
By Todd Dvorak, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
For Spc. Nichole Willey, locked in her boyfriend’s
embrace and aside her flag-toting mother, life
is a little bit hard to believe – at least
Willey, a 21-year-old from the small eastern
Iowa town of Lowden, is one of 350 troops from
the Iowa National Guard’s 234th
Signal Battalion who returned home Saturday
after a 14-month deployment, most of which
was spent in Iraq.
"It’s just surreal," Willey said,
moments after she and others were cheered during
a homecoming ceremony at Veterans Stadium.
"It’s all too wonderful. It’s almost
too good to be true," Willey said between
hugs from her boyfriend, Ben Miller and parents,
Yvonne and Bruce Bright.
More than 3,500 parents, grandparents, sons,
daughters, relatives and friends filled the
lower grandstand of the minor league baseball
stadium for a homecoming most thought would
The unit, responsible for installing wireless
communication networks all across Iraq, was
deployed March 19, 2003, and arrived in Iraq
weeks later to begin an 8-month operation.
But the mission was prolonged last fall.
"We were shocked it got extended. But
we knew we were needed over there," said
Maj. Shawn Cheney, who was greeted by his wife
and two of his children.
"But it’s just a great experience to
be with the kids and family again. Now we’re
just going to spend some quality time together
and get reacquainted," said Cheney, of
The celebration in Cedar Rapids was one of
several across the state and Midwest marking
the unit’s return.
leaving Fort Riley, Kan., Saturday morning,
members were bussed to homecoming ceremonies
in Marshalltown, Clinton, Sparta, Ill., and
Kalamazoo, Mich., National Guard officials
"They performed their mission with distinction," Ron
Darden, Major General of the Iowa National
Guard, told the crowd. "All
of you altered your lives and made sacrifices.
You left one job for another to fight for this
country against the evils of terror.
"Today we thank you for your dedication
and your commitment," he said.
Several parents and spouses said it was also
time to acknowledge that everyone in the unit
returned home safely. Although several members
were injured in Iraq, none were severe and
not a single casualty was recorded, officials
Sandra Beets said her life the last 14 months
has been like a roller coaster, wondering and
worrying about the safety of her 21-year-old
daughter, Elizabeth McRae.
"I’m overjoyed and just feel blessed
that she is really back here," said Beets,
of Cedar Rapids. "I’d get up in the wee
hours of the morning just to check my e-mail.
When I’d hear of something on the news, I would
go back and forth from the television to the
computer to see if there was any news about
Members said the next few days and weeks would
be spent celebrating their return with friends,
relaxing around the house and taking long vacations
before returning to their civilian jobs.
But for many, a more pressing priority involved
"I was expecting to have to do something
special or fancy," said Laura Michalec,
whose husband Brian returned Saturday. "But
he phoned me two weeks ago saying all he wanted
was tacos for supper. How easy is that?"
May 9, 2004 Sunday
A Heartfelt Homecoming
By Melanie Evans; News Tribune Staff Writer
Welcoming Crowd Superior parade honors National
Guard’s returning 724th Engineering
"It’s great to be home."
In late March, Byron Little set foot on Wisconsin
soil after 11 months in Iraq’s arid, searing
heat and uncharacteristically knelt to kiss
the tarmac at Volk Field Air National
"I’ve never done that before," said
the 30-year veteran of Wisconsin’s Army National
Guard 724th Engineering Battalion;
the father of three has visited Germany three
times and has traveled to Panama and Nicaragua
while on deployment.
great to be home," Little said Saturday,
minutes before he joined an estimated 80 Guardsmen
and women being honored in a lunch-hour welcome-home
parade in downtown Superior.
Butch Liebert, a 30-year veteran of the Wisconsin
Army National Guard and a
former recruiter, helped organize the parade,
which was followed by a ceremony at the University
of Wisconsin-Superior’s Wessman Arena.
Liebert pushed for the public homecoming,
in part, because the soldiers’ deployment schedule
prevented much fanfare for their send-off.
"They served the country well for the
last year," he said. "They were in
a lot of people’s prayers while they were gone."
The Hayward-based 724th Engineer Battalion,
which has about 500 men and women from throughout
northern Wisconsin, was deployed to Kuwait
on May 8 and returned home in late March.
Members of the unit helped build schools and
fix and clear roads for coalition forces. Some
served alongside coalition forces in central
Don and Shannon Lindsey had no family among
the 724th Engineering Battalion, but they brought
their daughters, Taylor, 6, and Allie, 4, to
the parade to show support and gratitude for
the soldiers’ service.
"It’s the least we can do," Don
Returning soldiers and their families scattered
along Ogden Avenue and Belknap Street expressed
relief Saturday to be resuming lives interrupted
by a lengthy and dangerous deployment.
"It was a pretty hard year," said
Chris Dickenson, whose son, Michael, 24, is
a member of the 724th Engineering Battalion.
Chris Dickenson described his arrival home
as "a pretty joyous occasion."
Now her son faces changes and challenges that
unfolded while he was away.
Michael Dickenson was mobilized before his
son’s first birthday and just weeks after buying
"He didn’t even get to move into it," she
The University of Minnesota Duluth chemical
engineering student worked for grocery wholesaler
Fleming Cos. in Superior before he was mobilized,
but he returned to find his employer bankrupt
"He has a lot of adjustment to do," his
Retiree Bob Johnson continually e-mailed photos
of landscaping work to his brother, Michael
Johnson, during the Lake Nebagamon Guardsman’s
The close-knit siblings have long planned
to spend retirement running a sawmill and landscaping
operation — but on their own schedule. Michael,
whose son, Louis Johnson, is also a member
of the 724th, plans to retire this fall, Bob
looking forward to my second childhood with
Mike," Bob Johnson said.
Soldiers Extended in Iraq Get Extra $1K Monthly
By Gary Sheftick
Washington (Army News Service, April 27, 2004) – About
20,000 Soldiers who have been involuntarily
extended beyond their expected 12 months of
duty in Iraq or Kuwait will be eligible for
extra pay of $1,000 a month.
The incentive package includes an additional $200
in hardship duty pay (above the $100 already being
received) and $800 monthly in Assignment Incentive
Pay, or AIP. This pay will be available to Soldiers
in 42 units required to stay in theater past their
expected rotation date due to operational needs,
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the
unit extensions April 15, saying the period would
be for up to 90 days in Iraq plus another possible
30 days in theater before redeploying home.
The extra pay will only be available once a Soldier
exceeds 365 consecutive days in the Central Command
theater. That ‘ s 12 consecutive months or 365 days
out of a 15-month period, explained Lt. Col. Gerald
Barrett, chief of Compensation and Entitlements,
is the Department of the Army’s way of providing
for Soldiers in the identified units who were
promised that they were leaving at a certain
time, but because of operational requirements,
they were required to stay longer, Barrett
said earlier this year when the incentive-pay
program actually began.
The program began in February when about 1,500 Soldiers
from 12 units were required to stay in Iraq longer
than their expected 12-month rotation. Then the Army
offered the $200 hardship duty pay and either the
$800 Assignment Incentive Pay or a guaranteed stabilized
assignment once they redeployed. If they opted for
the stabilized tour, Soldiers were guaranteed to
spend at least the same amount of time at home station
as they did in theater.
No one opted for the stabilized tour, though, said
Deborah Holman, a senior compensation analyst for
the Army’s G1.
Barrett said the old stabilization option will no
longer be offered. He said this is contrary to what
was misreported in the Army Times. Only the extra
pay will be offered to troops recently extended.
In order to receive the $800 AIP, extended Soldiers
must sign a DA Form 4187, personnel action form,
recognizing that their extension was involuntary.
The signature is necessary because, by law, AIP
must be based on a written agreement between the
secretary of the Army and the Soldier, Holman said.
This is only the third time the Army has ever offered
Assignment Incentive Pay, Barrett said. He said the
Navy first used the special pay for a number of specific “ hard
to fill ” assignments.
In February, the Army offered AIP for the 1,500 Soldiers
extended in Iraq. Then in March, the Army offered
AIP in the amount of $300 per month to Soldiers who
extended in Korea for an additional year, volunteered
for a two-year unaccompanied or three-year accompanied
tour in Korea. Originally, the AIP program for Soldiers
in Iraq was to expire June 1, but now has been extended.
“In order to maintain equity, we will apply the involuntary
extension incentive to this group also,” Barrett said
referring to the 20,000 troops just extended. “We want
to be fair to Soldiers.”
The $200 extra hardship duty pay and $800 AIP will
both be given to Soldiers who serve in theater any
amount of time past 365 days.
“It will not be pro-rated,” Barrett said about the
extra pay. He explained that Soldiers who serve one
day of the extension period will receive the extra
pay for the entire month.
The pay will also be provided for time Soldiers spend
in Kuwait after departing Iraq, Barrett said. It
will be paid as long as “boots are on the ground” in
the Central Command theater, he said.
When Soldiers are calculating their time on the ground,
they should not subtract the time they spent away
on emergency or R&R leave, Holman said.
Units extended in Iraq include two brigade combat
teams from the 1st Armored Division based in Germany,
the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Light) from Fort Polk,
La., the 514th Maintenance Company from Fort Drum,
N.Y., the 57th Air Ambulance Company from Fort Bragg,
N.C., and the 98th Combat Stress Center Medical Team
from Fort Lewis, Wash.
(Editor’s note: Sgt. 1st Class Marcia Triggs contributed
to this report through an article about the pay
program’s inception in February.)
May 5, 2004
Pentagon to Keep 135,000 Troops in
By Matt Kelley
Washington (AP) – U.S. commanders plan to
keep U.S. troops at their current levels in
Iraq – about 135,000 – until the end of 2005,
Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
The decision acknowledges Iraq is much more
unstable and dangerous than U.S. generals had
hoped earlier this year, when they planned
to cut the number of troops occupying Iraq
to about 115,000.
Since then, violence by Sunni and Shiite Muslim
extremists has surged, making April the deadliest
month for American troops since the March 2003
invasion of Iraq. Several U.S. allies also
decided to pull their forces out, most notably
Spain, which had more than 2,300 troops in
one of the most volatile areas of south-central
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday
ordered about 10,000 active-duty Army soldiers
and Marines to prepare to ship out to Iraq
in the next few months. They will help replace
20,000 U.S. troops being kept in Iraq for as
long as three months past their one-year tours
Another 10,000 active-duty troops will be
called up to fill out the replacement forces,
The troops coming into Iraq will be more heavily
armed than the forces they replace, with more
tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored
Humvees, said Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz of the
Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
“The mission remains essentially the same.
It’s security and stability,” Schwartz told
reporters at the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld told a news conference that he approved
the 20,000 extra troops at the request of Gen.
John Abizaid, top commander of U.S. forces
in the Middle East.
In addition, the Army announced that about 37,000 National
Guard and Reserve troops are being called
to active duty to support three National
Guard combat brigades that will be sent
to Iraq late this year or early in 2005.
5,000 Marines and a contingent of about 5,000
soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, based
at Fort Drum, N.Y., will go this summer to
relieve the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd
Armored Cavalry Regiment, whose soldiers were
due to come home in April but were extended
The 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade will
go to Iraq. The Marine units are the 11th Marine
Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Pendleton,
Calif., and the 24th MEU, based at Camp Lejeune,
Pentagon officials had said in recent weeks
that they were prepared to replace a portion
or all of the 20,000 1st Armored and 2nd Cavalry
soldiers who are on extended duty in Iraq if
Gen. Abizaid believed they were needed.
Abizaid and his subordinate commanders have
used the 2nd Armored Cavalry and 1st Armored
to deal with outbreaks of violence in and around
the Shiite holy city of Najaf and elsewhere
in central Iraq.
The Army and Marine Corps are hard-pressed
to find substantial additional troops for Iraq
duty. Of the Army’s 10 divisions, parts or
all of nine are already deployed in Iraq or
The 10th Mountain Division, which is mainly
a light infantry unit, has soldiers in both
Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps has about 25,000 troops in
Iraq, mainly in the western area including
the restive city of Fallujah.
The 37,000 National Guard and
Reserve troops who are being alerted for Iraq
duty will provide support for the three National
Guard combat brigades that were notified
earlier this year that they will be going to
Iraq for one-year tours late this year or early
05/04/04 18:44 EDT
Alert Guardsmen Spot IED, Save Supply
By Spc. Andy Miller
Baghdad, Iraq (Army News Service, May 6, 2004)
— “BOOM!” The car exploded and there was nothing
left but nuts and bolts.
12 started out as an average day for Staff
Sgt. David Jensen and Sgt. Bruce Hartman of
Fox Battery, 202nd Air Defense Artillery,
part of the Illinois National Guard ,
attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. The past
week had been rough on them. They had been
involved in ambushes, attacks and firefights,
but today was just another day patrolling the
streets of Baghdad.
Then it happened. A broken down car was parked on
their patrol route.
“There was something suspicious about it, and we try
to check everything that is suspicious,” Maj. Michael
Kessel, the Fox Battery commander said. “If something
doesn’t look right, we stop and take a look at it.
That is pretty much our (standard operating procedure).”
After driving by the dubious-looking vehicle, Jensen
decided to turn his patrol convoy around for a better
look. His squad put up a security perimeter as Jensen
examined the vehicle.
“We were looking at it through the (binoculars),” Jensen
said. “We got closer and closer, and we were checking
every angle of it. I walked up, saw that there was
a cell phone sitting on the dash and a package on the
driver side and yelled out, ‘get the (heck) out of
here’, and ran back over.”
The patrol called an explosive ordnance disposal
crew to the site to take care of the improvised explosive
device. When the EOD Soldiers arrived, they noticed
Hartman’s M-14 sniper rifle and asked him for a favor.
“Hartman was the sniper who took out the detonating
device,” Kessel said. “The interesting thing is, he’s
trained as a cook. It took two shots, one to knock
out the windows, and then to knock out the detonation
With the windows shattered, and the detonation device
destroyed, the scene was safe for EOD. They blew
the vehicle up in place.
“After the explosion…we drove back and the car was
gone,” Hartman said. “The body of the car was gone,
the frame, the axels, the motor, everything was gone.
It was just nuts and bolts.”
In an instant, what could have turned into catastrophe
on a busy coalition supply route, turned into simple
nuts and bolts. Jensen and Hartman were awarded Army
Commendation Medals by Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli,
the 1st Cav. Div. commanding general, during a April
According to Jensen and Hartman, they were just doing
their jobs. Its one of those things, maybe something
you haven’t been trained to do, but you step up and
do it to the best of your ability, Hartman said.
“Neither of us are in it for awards, nobody is in it
for awards,” Jensen said. “At the time we didn’t think
about a bridge being blown up or anything. Just like
any IED, it would have done harm to somebody.”
Fayetteville (NC) Observer
May 10, 2004
Brigade Quietly Makes a Difference
By Justin Willett, Staff writer
While the nation’s attention is fixed on the
violence and scandal in Iraq, N.C.
Army National Guard soldiers are
quietly working with Iraqis to rebuild infrastructure
and thwart insurgents.
4,500 soldiers from the Clinton-based 30th
Heavy Separate Brigade (Mechanized) are spread
across an area the size of New Hampshire in
Iraq’s Diyala province, near the border with
The unit doesn’t get much attention in the
national media because its area is relatively
peaceful, as opposed to Fallujah, Baghdad and
cities in southern Iraq.
While battles flare daily in those hotspots,
the North Carolina soldiers are focused on
improving relations with Iraqis and rebuilding
They are scheduled to stay in Iraq for a year.
In telephone interviews, several members of
the unit said they have made progress in stabilizing
the area since arriving in February.
Capt. Hazel Williams, 35, is with the Fayetteville-based
1st Battalion of the 252nd Armor.
Williams, of Matthews, has been coordinating
with Iraqi contractors to complete public works
"We’re dealing with the local populace
as far as making a better life for them," he
"At the present time, our unit has 45
projects, ranging from renovating schools to
improving local roads and highways.
Williams said, for the most part, the locals
are pleased to have the soldiers around.
"They’re glad to see us here and enjoy
to see what we’re doing," he said.
The job in Iraq is a departure for the tank
and heavy equipment unit.
"There are no tanks here," Williams
said. "It has nothing relating to what
our previous jobs were."
The soldiers have also had to learn about
Williams said Iraqis, especially the businessmen
he deals with, have a different idea of personal
"They are accustomed to speaking real
up-close to you," he said. "That’s
something you have to get used to."
Learning on the job
Spc. Andrew Long, who is 23, said it’s not
as bad as he had thought.
"I had an idea that there was going to
be a hail of bullets every time we stepped
out the door," he said.
Long, with the 1st Battalion of the 252nd
Armor, tracks convoys and patrols that leave
Camp Cobra near Jalula, Iraq.
He said the unit’s training at Fort Polk,
La., and Fort Bragg helped them prepare for
their deployment, but most of the learning
has come while in Iraq.
feel that we had a substantial amount of training," Long
said. "In retrospect, there’s really nothing
that can prepare you for war."
Long said the danger level is "moderately
"We do have various attacks," he
said. "I’m not going to say we’re living
it up here and are in no danger.
"There are insurgents here. But, for
the most part, the people are really understanding
Capt. Matt Handley, a spokesman for the 30th
Heavy Separate Brigade, said the unit has encountered
some insurgents and found some explosives while
patrolling the Iranian border.
"We’ve caught some bad guys trying to
get things across the border," he said.
The unit is working to secure large quantities
of ordnance left in the area from the Iraq-Iran
war of the 1980s.
Handley said the unit’s accommodations have
Soldiers are spread among four camps. Each
is developed to a different extent. Camp Caldwell,
near the city of Balad-Ruz, is the unit’s headquarters
Before the unit arrived, Handley said, the
camp was being used by a much smaller unit.
"The first thing was to expand the base," he
said. "We had some growing pains here
in the beginning."
Most of the soldiers at Caldwell are still
living in tents. Engineers are busy renovating
old Iraqi army barracks and setting up other
more permanent housing.
Handley said the food is getting better, too.
They’ve moved from eating Army rations to having
fresh fruits and vegetables.
Handley said contractors from Kellogg, Brown & Root,
a branch of Dallas-based Halliburton Co., should
have a dining facility finished by July.
Communications are already up and running.
Soldiers at Caldwell have been able to keep
in touch with their loved ones in North Carolina
through 35 computer terminals and 12 phones.
Sgt. Maj. Tony Smith, who is 54, is the operations
sergeant major for the 1st Battalion of the
252nd Armor. The Vietnam veteran was an active-duty
member of the unit before it was called up
to go to Iraq.
Smith’s wife, Nancy, works in the Family Assistance
Center at the Fayetteville Armory on East Mountain
In their e-mail and phone conversations, Nancy
Smith said, her husband doesn’t go into detail
about what he’s doing in Iraq.
a good thing," she said.
Long’s girlfriend, 24-year-old Kelly Bryant,
said no news is good news. They try to talk
at least a few times a week by phone or e-mail.
"We try to not really talk about what
he’s doing," Bryant said. "We try
to talk about our days and leave the Army out
for one minute of the day."
May 2, 2004
Guard Program Sends Volunteers to
Aid Troops’ Families
By Sarah Post, The Dallas Morning News
Dozens of volunteers came to the aid Saturday
of the military’s strongest unit – the family – to
learn how to offer support to the loved ones
of deployed service members.
The National Guard’s Family
Readiness Program matches families facing hard
times with resources among other Guard families
and in the civilian community. The idea has
been around since 1986, but 9-11 prompted new
Web sites, materials and a renewed enthusiasm
for the effort.
"The military is trying to find new and
creative ways to care for families during deployment," said
Lt. Col. Timothy Red, the State Family Programs
coordinator for the Texas National
The volunteers will help families deal physically
and emotionally with a variety of tasks, from
preparing for deployment to handling finances
and child care during a spouse’s absence.
A military and a civilian volunteer from each
Guard unit have been assigned to coordinate
volunteer efforts. The pair might serve as
liaisons for between 50 and 200 families who
live on military installations or elsewhere.
Sgt. 1st Class James Wage, who attended Saturday’s
workshops in Dallas, has served in the Army
for 16 years. He was recently assigned to help
lead a Family Readiness Program in Marshall,
Texas, and he said that for people who are
just beginning to work as volunteers, "it
can be overwhelming."
Civilian Shirley Krueger has volunteered to
help military families for 41/2 years. She
said her work took on a new focus and urgency
when the military began mobilizing last year.
As a military wife, she knew the issues those
families faced and how to comfort the spouses
now struggling by themselves to hold their
there will be lonely days," Ms. Krueger
said. "The main thing is to encourage
them that they will get through it. After a
while, the programs start to build on each
other, and it all comes full circle."
Volunteers with the Family Readiness Program
help improve morale among soldiers and their
families, and that helps soldiers focus on
their missions, workshop instructors said.
But the skills they bring have value beyond
times of mobilization.
"They’re just good life skills," Col.
Red said. "Making sure that both caregivers
know how to use the insurance and pay the bills
is just good sense."
The Associated Press
May 2, 2004, Sunday, BC cycle
A Year Later, Public Safety Staffers
Still Lost to Military Duty
By Samira Jafari, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: Montgomery, Ala.
As a lieutenant colonel in the National
Guard , Ralph Hooks had expected
the war in Iraq to take a toll on his unit.
It hasn’t yet. But as warden of St. Clair
prison, he’s feeling pressure on his depleted
prison staff a year after the U.S. invasion.
Hooks currently has a dozen corrections officers
away on active duty, and like other state and
local agencies, he’s still trying to plug holes
as the need for troops in Iraq continues into
a second year of fighting.
Hundreds of Alabama’s public safety workers
also serve in the National Guard and
Army Reserve units, many called up for active
duty in the Iraq war.
"We fortunately allocated overtime to
make up for military losses. It still taxes
the facility," Hooks said. "Historically,
we’re always short of corrections officers
anyway, so this is just an added burden."
A burden that has no immediate end in sight.
In recent weeks, the Bush administration has
stood firm on keeping troops in Iraq and redeploying
units to the theater for an indefinite period
Meanwhile, the return of several units – including
the 1165th Military Police unit out of Fairhope
– has been delayed for at least another three
Alabama, which has one of the largest National
Guards of any state, deployed 1,400
troops to the theater in January and February
while another 2,000 are on duty and awaiting
Of the 15 units that were deployed last year,
eight have come back and now have returned
for a second tour in the Middle East, said
Col. Bob Horton, spokesman for the
Alabama National Guard.
our president has stated, the war on terror
will be long term," Horton said. "The
Alabama National Guard is committed to the
war on terror and we will continue to prepare
our units to support future operations."
The added burden on state and local agencies
has caught the attention of Gov. Bob Riley,
who by office is chief of Alabama’s National
Guard. While concerned, Riley said the soldiers’
military obligation outweighs the local staffing
"It is putting a strain on us, not just
on our law enforcement, but on our municipalities
as well," Riley said. "But it’s worth
Hooks’ own Birmingham-based logistics unit
has yet to be deployed, but he’s watched nearly
50 military members of his prison staff cycle
through tours around Iraq over the past three
years. And Hooks suspects he’ll be called into
active duty by the winter.
Corrections has 173 of its 485 military employees
on active duty. The Department of Public Safety
and individual sheriff, police and fire departments
have also had to find ways to fill position
Maj. Patrick Manning, chief of the Highway
Patrol division, said the deployments have
forced his troopers to scale back on preventative
patrols, including catching speeders. Nearly
30 of his 320 highway patrol employees are
on active duty.
Troopers, like Trooper Michael Britton, say
they will likely do another tour by next year.
"It reduces us to becoming almost totally
reactive, instead of proactive," Manning
said. "Our duty is preventative patrol,
but that’s hard when troopers are bouncing
from one wreck to another."
Manning called the end result a "vicious
cycle," where fewer troopers lead to more
accidents, and more accidents strain the troopers.
Most law enforcement agencies have relied
on their employees to work overtime to keep
up with the workload. But, during a statewide
budget crunch, that proves to be a very costly
Both Corrections and the Highway Patrol also
have stepped up efforts to recruit more officers
to training academies. Yet, with some training
sessions taking about six months, that has
not filled the drop in personnel.
Local sheriff, fire and police departments
– especially in Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery
counties – are struggling as much as state
Montgomery County has one of the largest deployment
groups, with 194 guardsmen on active duty.
"We absolutely feel the impact," said
Sheriff D.T. Marshall. "When you have
a small office with seven or eight folks gone,
you have other people taking up the slack."
The sheriff has asked his deputies to work
overtime and take on larger workloads, which
he says they do gladly.
we can do is best is filling in for them while
their fulfilling their duty for their country."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
May 1, 2004 Saturday
Sergeant’s Wife Knows How to Keep
Home Fires Burning
By Harry Levins
Last Sunday’s New York Times carried a front-page
story about the tribulations of the Tennessee
wives who stayed behind when a military police
company from the National Guard went
off to war in Iraq.
The story brought to mind Sal Alvarado, my
long-ago Army buddy who is now in Iraq as the
first sergeant of the 1775th MP Company, Michigan
When I met Sal, he was an 18-year-old clerk-typist
at an Army post in Germany. Now, he’s the father
of seven (and grandfather of two), and he’ll
turn 58 this month.
Four of his kids – ages 8 to 15 – are still
at home in Dearborn. After I read the story
in The Times, I called Sal’s wife, Kathy, to
ask whether she and the kids were OK.
"Oh, sure," she said. But she was
struck by my description of the woebegone attitude
of the wives in Tennessee.
In the Army, first sergeants don’t lament
problems. They solve problems. The same goes
for a first sergeant’s wife.
Kathy Alvarado keeps active in the family
support group for the 1775th.
Before her two youngest kids were born, she
ran it. Now, she’s the top aide to the group’s
chief – Thea Vigilates, the fiancee of the
company commander, Capt. Douglas McQuarie.
Vigilates feeds an e-mail network with word
she gets from the captain. Now that the 1775th
has moved into Iraq from Kuwait, e-mail has
become dicey. But Kathy Alvarado talks often
by phone with Sal and then uses the e-mail
network "to tell the wives what the soldiers
are doing – and how they’re doing."
The wives use their phones to call Kathy with
their own problems – financial, domestic, emotional.
"The wives are young, mostly from their
mid-20s to early 30s," says Kathy, a motherly
47. "Sometimes they’re overwhelmed with
worry about their husbands’ safety, and what
to tell their kids.
"I tell them what I tell my own kids:
‘Think of it as a schoolwork assignment. You’re
obliged to get it done. Well, your father is
a soldier. He has a mission – and he’s obliged
to get it done.’"
confessed to her own middle-of-the-night moments, "even
in the middle of the afternoon." Still,
she keeps her game face on around the kids, "although
I sometimes let myself cry along with the wives,
just to show them I’m not made out of steel."
The article in The Times included financial
horror stories from National Guard wives. Kathy
said, "I’m sure it’s rough on some of
the lower-ranking soldiers here, but I haven’t
heard much of that."
Instead, most of the calls she handles involve
emotional problems – or practical problems.
VFW to the rescue
"We’re negotiating with the Wayne County
Board of Commissioners on lawn service," she
said, "and we think we’ll get it."
Under this setup, minor criminal offenders
who get sentenced to community service can
pay their debt to society by mowing the lawns
of the families of the 1775th.
"We had it last summer, but there wasn’t
too much demand," Kathy said. "But
this year, now that the soldiers have been
extended for 120 days past their return date,
a lot of the women are at wit’s end."
Some wives call to report household repair
chores beyond their skills. "I tell them
to call the VFW," Kathy said.
"Every VFW post has lots of guys who
are carpenters, or electricians, or plumbers
– and they’ve told us they want to help out
as a way of showing their support for the troops."
(At the VFW’s national headquarters in Kansas
City, spokesman Jerry Newberry said VFW posts
in almost every city took part in the group’s
Military Assistance Program. He said military
families who needed help could call the national
headquarters at 1-816-756-3390 to get a local
referral. Information is also available on
the VFW’s Web site at www.vfw.org ,
under the headline “Programs.")
Kathy also tells the wives who call her about
the help available from an even higher level.
"My own feeling is that if you have a
religious background, a lot less anxiety will
come into play," said Kathy, a Roman Catholic. "I
try to show them strength – but I tell them
that my strength comes from God."
Fayetteville (NC) Observer
May 6, 2004
Medic Shrugs Off Hardships to Excel
By Justin Willett, Staff writer
Spc. Sourith Thammavong had three days left
in his Army National Guard commitment
when he got orders to deploy to Fort Bragg
had been warned that he might have to deploy
with his Rochester, N.Y.-based Army
National Guard unit,
the 249th Medical Company (Air Ambulance).
But Thammavong had hoped it wouldn’t happen
because, in addition to being close to the
end of his commitment, he was on inactive status
and his wife, Monica, was pregnant.
"I told my wife, ‘They won’t call me
up,’" Thammavong said last month during
an interview at his unit area on Simmons Army
He wasn’t too thrilled about being called
up. "My wife wasn’t too thrilled for me
to come here, either," he said.
It wouldn’t be the couple’s only hardship.
Thammavong returned to Rochester for Christmas.
During a routine doctor’s exam, the couple
learned that Monica had had a miscarriage.
Thammavong stayed with his wife an extra week.
By the time he returned to Fort Bragg, he had
fallen behind in flight-medic training.
First Sgt. Dave Bimber of the 249th said that
despite everything, Thammavong, or "T," has
become one of the most skilled medics in the
"Once he got the call, he really never
seemed to hesitate," he said.
The 249th replaced the Louisiana Army
National Guard’s 812th Medical
Company (Air Ambulance) at Fort Bragg.
Both the 249th and the 812th are part of the
641st Medical Evacuation Battalion, which has
overseen aeromedical evacuation missions on
Fort Bragg since May 2003, when Fort Bragg’s
56th Medical Battalion deployed to Iraq.
The 249th could be at Fort Bragg up to 760
days, Thammavong said.
Thammavong has been to Fort Bragg before.
He was stationed at Fort Bragg from 1995 to
1999 as a member of the 27th Engineer Battalion.
He spent his first year and a half of active
duty as a medic at West Point.
Another year was spent in Korea, and then
it was on to Haiti, where he spent five months
as a medic as multi-national forces built schools
on the Caribbean island.
"It’s almost like a second home to me," Thammavong
said of Bragg. "I don’t mind being here
His wife, Monica, has been with him at Fort
Bragg for 1 months and is supposed to stay
Thammavong said it was hard to concentrate
on his training right after learning of his
"That was one of the reasons I was so
far behind everyone else," he said.
is no longer behind his colleagues in experience.
He’s been on seven or eight calls in his six
"It seems like every time I’m on duty,
I get a call," he said. "I guess
I’m the lucky one."
Most of the calls have involved picking up
paratroopers who were injured while jumping.
The company also responds to car crashes around
Before coming to Fort Bragg, Thammavong worked
as an admissions coordinator for a drug and
alcohol treatment facility in Rochester and
had his sights on becoming a physician’s assistant.
Now, he leans toward re-enlisting and going
to flight school.
When he finishes his tour with the 249th in
December, Thammavong will have 10 years of
"I have 10 years in already," he
said. "What’s 10 more? I like what I’m
Bimber said whatever Thammavong chooses to
do, he will be successful.
"He’s highly regarded by the rest of
us," he said. "We’ve all faced challenges
coming into active-duty, but T has had some
"He and his family have exhibited tremendous
courage in the face of this."
Los Angeles Times
May 8, 2004
On Home Front, Families Fight Battle
of Their Own
With their husbands and fathers away in
Iraq, wives and children make do and count
By Geoffrey Mohan and Rone Tempest, Times
One in a series of occasional stories
about this National Guard unit.
Colleen Phillips fights back tears as she
slices through the tiny butter-cream firefighter
on her son’s birthday cake. Lisa Deucore, eight
months pregnant, thinks about giving birth
alone a few weeks from now.
These small private moments loom large in
the lives of the wives and children left behind
by the largest deployment of U.S. citizen soldiers
to combat roles since the Korean War.
More than 900 members of the National
Guard from California left for
Iraq seven weeks ago, part of a plan to replace
up to 40% of the active-duty soldiers with
National Guard and Reserve troops. They will
be gone at least a year, but their families
already count the days and the milestones
that pass with a bittersweet regularity.
Phillips turned 6 Sunday and, as he did last
year and the year before, he wanted a firefighter
on his birthday cake. Red-faced, his skinny
arms awhirl, he cavorted inside an inflatable
bounce house on the lawn. Firefighters from
Engine 94, just down the way from his Lakewood
house, dropped by to let him climb aboard their
rig for a few minutes. With his father, Staff
Sgt. Kevin Phillips, 42, a Long Beach parks
policeman, Connor has been a frequent visitor
to local firehouses.
Two weeks ago, Connor’s brother, Joshua, 10,
strode to the plate at his Little League baseball
game. He hadn’t shown much hitting promise
yet. Colleen, 40, searched for some encouragement. "I
shouted, ‘Do it for your dad!’ " she recalled. "He
hit it so far, so fast."
The wish that her husband could have been
there to see it remained unspoken.
"They never warn you about what it’s
really like," Phillips said. "You
become a single mom. You either get humbled,
if you’ve been one before, or you just don’t
know what to do with it. You’ve got to have
hugs and kisses. I mean, you’ve got to have
all that and when you don’t get it, it’s very
Harder still, added Elsa Versteeg, is "when
my daughter asks, ‘Is that where Daddy’s at?’
whenever she sees anything on TV. That’s the
hardest thing, because I don’t want to say
he’s over there."
Versteeg, 25, whose husband, Jake, 23, traded
a fencing job for combat duty, drove from Riverside
to join Phillips at Connor’s birthday party.
Patricia Gaskill, whose husband, Mike, 38,
was searching for a job when he was called
up, drove in from Fullerton. Since their husbands
were activated, the three women have come together
in an informal support group. Their husbands
are all attached to the 1st Battalion, 185th
Armored Regiment, headquartered in San Bernardino.
While their children frolicked, the mothers
tried to be stoical. Gaskill, 39, toyed with
a duplicate set of her husband’s dog tags,
which have not left her neck since he left
for Iraq. When the children swarmed inside
for birthday cake, she spoke of his letters
and telephone calls.
"He told the youngest one not to grow
up. And the other one, he just said to be strong," Gaskill
said. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke. "He
said to be strong and just to do your best.
"For us, the hardest part is we have
to wait for him to call us," Gaskill said. "We
can’t call him. You know, somebody is at work,
you can call them at work and say, ‘Hey, I
heard this happened down the street. Are you
OK?’ When they’re there, you can’t. You don’t
have a phone number to call and see if everything
is all right or just to say, ‘I miss you,’
The letters Gaskill gets are proof of life,
but they’re out of date from the moment they’re
posted. "You have to wait for their letter
to get to you while two weeks go by," Gaskill
said. "And then the letter finally gets
to you and you’re like, ‘OK, this was two weeks
ago and he was OK. How about today?’ "
The California soldiers are split among three
desolate desert camps along the main supply
route between Baghdad and Kuwait. One of the
camps, Convoy Support Center Scania, about
90 miles south of Baghdad, was described by
a visitor as having "all the ambience
of a landfill."
In letters and e-mails, the soldiers say camp
conditions are bleak but tolerable.
the National Guard troops
tend to be older and more settled into domestic
life, many saw active duty when they were younger.
Sgt. Sean Murphy, 32, a telephone lineman from
San Bernardino, said things had improved from
the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when he served in
Iraq as a young Air Force military policeman.
"We have [air conditioning], coolers
for cold water on our post, and we don’t sleep
outside in the weather," Murphy wrote
in a May 2 e-mail to The Times. "We also
have phone privileges and the Internet."
Compared to what his family faces back home
in the Inland Empire, Murphy said, "my
job is easy. They have to deal with everyday
His wife, Suzanne, 40, at home in San Bernardino,
focuses on the details close at hand to distract
her from constantly thinking about her husband.
"I just try to keep as busy as I humanly
can," she said. "I take a Jazzercise
class. I take care of an elderly woman who
needs assistance. I clean houses on the side.
Once a week, I take our 4-year-old son to a
But at night when the house is quiet, "I’m
just sitting there idle," she said. "You
turn on the news and most of what you see is
all bad, and that is what gets your mind going."
There are few idle moments for Jennifer Hamilton,
26, who must find time for her nursing studies
while seeing her 10-month-old daughter through
yet another ear infection. Her husband, Cpl.
Joshua Gay, 26, a mortgage loan processor,
has been gone since mid-March.
"The toughest part of all this," Hamilton
said, "is not having him around to help
out in day-to-day life and to participate in
our little milestones. He missed Tayler’s first
steps. He’s going to miss my graduation from
nursing school. He’s not here to coach our
9-year-old daughter’s soccer team."
Hamilton’s husband, weary after a three-year
hitch in the regular Army, switched to the
National Guard in Sacramento in September 2002.
As a guardsman, he thought there’d be less
chance of being summoned to active duty in
an impending war.
"It was really good for a while," said
Jennifer Hamilton. "His career was going
pretty well. I was in nursing school. We were
planning to buy a house. And then we got the
news that the National Guard was being sent.
Everything was just torn from underneath us."
Like the other wives, Hamilton is proud of
her husband. She cringes when she overhears
nurses at work bickering about the war. She
was heartbroken when someone kept tearing down
a yellow ribbon she affixed to her mother’s
The couple, married in Lake Tahoe four years
ago, had looked forward to renewing their vows. "I
can’t even plan for it now," Hamilton
said, "because I have no idea when he
will come back."
Deucore, 34, knows that her husband, a heavy
equipment operator, won’t be back home in time
to celebrate the birth of their second son
later this month. She and her husband, Sgt.
Darryn Deucore, have already chosen a name — Connor,
like Phillips’ 6-year-old.
At home near Murrieta, she tries not to break
down in front of her two other children when
a radio station plays their song, "I Cross
My Heart," by George Strait. " … And
if along the way we find a day it starts to
storm, you’ve got the promise of my love to
keep you warm. "
"It’s not good," she said, laughing
about her choice of music. "When he first
left, I’d throw the CD in the CD player in
our bedroom. It would help me go to sleep."
As Deucore spoke, Brandon, 4, interrupted
to ask, "Mommy, can I have a doughnut?"
When she put him off, the boy seemed on the
verge of throwing a tantrum.
"Oh, we’re going to have a fit?" Deucore
said. "Do you guys want to paint? Do you
want to paint pictures for Daddy? That will
keep you occupied for a while."
Megan, 6, set to work painting a heart with "I
love Daddy" in the center. Brandon started
with yellow and orange and ended with a brown
blob. He said it was a front-end loader.
"He’s going to fight in the war," Megan
said of her father. "Nobody can go over
and kill him," she added firmly.
"She was really concerned when they left,
when they said goodbye," Deucore said. "She
said, ‘My daddy’s going to die.’ She thought
if he went over there, that’s what that meant.
So we prayed and we talked about it."
Megan showed her the heart painting.
"Daddy’s going to love that," Deucore
Then Megan added a yellow stick figure of
herself. She paused, then daubed black dashes
on the cheeks.
"Mom, look at me," she said. "I’m
May 4, 2004 Tuesday
Soldier Sisters Report Back to Duty
Dateline: Madison, Wis.
Two soldiers who decided against returning
to combat in Iraq after their sister was killed
there returned to active duty Monday, a spokesman
for the Wisconsin National Guard said.
Rachel and Charity Witmer will be supporting
Operation Noble Eagle, which is the Defense
Department’s homeland security missions, Lt.
Col. Tim Donovan said. He would not specify
the sisters’ new assignments.
"They just want to quietly return to
new duties," Donovan said.
Spc. Michelle Witmer, 20, was with the 32nd
Military Police Company when she died April
9 in an ambush in Baghdad. Rachel, 24, served
in the same unit, while Michelle’s twin sister
Charity was a medic with the Guard’s 118th
Under Pentagon policy, when a soldier is killed
while serving in a hostile area, other close
family members in the military may request
a non-combat assignment.
The surviving sisters returned home April
12 for their sister’s funeral and remained
on extended leave until Monday, when they started
the administrative process of transferring
to new their new duties.
Donovan said the Witmers will remain in their
assignments until they fulfill the active duty
requirements of their original Guard units.
Rachel’s tour is expected to end in September;
Charity is expected to finish in February.
National Public Radio (NPR)
Weekend All Things Considered (8:00 PM ET)
May 8, 2004 Saturday
Transition Back to Civilian Life
After Difficult Duty In Iraq
Anchors: Cheryl Corley
Reporters: Anne Hawke
Cheryl Corley, host:
The 547th Transportation Company of the District
of Columbia Army National Guard came
home last month from Iraq. Now that the welcoming
ceremonies have quieted down, the Guardsmen
are reflecting back on what they lived through.
NPR’s Anne Hawke caught up with two soldiers
at the DC Armory.
Anne Hawke reporting:
Once the excitement of being home subsides,
there’s the paperwork.
Unidentified Woman: Lance Regan(ph), complete.
McGandi(ph) complete. Lloyd…
Hawke: Company Captain Malik Freeman, a 29-year-old
from Jessup, Maryland, has spent days demobilizing,
coming off of active duty. The war wasn’t easy
on his company.
Captain Malik Freeman (547th Transportation
Company): My soldiers were hauling supplies
and equipment from Baghdad to Fallujah to Tikrit.
So we were in the middle of the hot zone and
we had over 50 enemy contact situations and
we conducted over 1,200 combat missions.
As he reflects on that tough duty, Freeman
offers this image for anyone who’s never been
Capt. Freeman: Imagine driving on the Beltway
and then, boom, there’s an explosion. That
is what it’s like. You’re driving in the streets
with the Iraqi people. They’re going to work,
going to school. Ninety-five percent of them
don’t want any problems, but it’s that one
that may ride by you and shoot at you or throw
a grenade at you. You don’t know where it’s
going to come from. You don’t know when it’s
going to come.
Hawke: These days as Freeman drives the freeways
around Washington, he has to remind himself
that he’s home now, no longer at war.
Capt. Freeman: It is a transitional period.
Your mind’s still in Iraq ’cause you’ve been
in that environment for a whole year trying
to survive, stay alive, be alert, and then
you come back here and everybody’s happy and
relaxed and driving around, so you’re trying
to get yourself back in that groove and back
in that everyday life, you know?
Hawke: One thing that kept Freeman in sync
with everyday life was receiving and delivering
mail. His company escorted civilian contractors,
helping distribute 1.4 billion pounds of mail
to the troops. Freeman says the family members
writing those letters are the secret weapon
in any war.
Capt. Freeman: It’s the greatest thing you
can ever imagine because you know what? That
may be the last letter you get to write or
receive from your spouses or pictures. And
I’ll see pictures of my daughter. You know,
I felt like I kept up with what was going on
at home and that stuff really helps you go.
Hawke: Freeman’s two-year-old, Asiya, learned
to talk while he was away. He was surprised
she remembered him. Now he wants time to catch
up with his wife, maybe a vacation in Mexico.
Another soldier who came home to his wife
is 40-year-old Sergeant Anthony McKinney(ph).
He’s from Washington, DC, and was a supply
clerk in Freeman’s company. McKinney came home
once on emergency leave and took the opportunity
to get married.
Sergeant Anthony McKinney (547th Transportation
Company): I’m a brand-new newlywed. I got to
see my wife two days before I went back over.
So we have a whole lot of catching up to do.
Hawke: McKinney and Freeman say they’re relieved
to be home but they’re also quick to admit
they had good times whenever possible during
the war. McKinney says the troops often got
together for football, dancing and other activities.
Sgt. McKinney: I’m an entertainer. I’m the
clown of the company, so I sang in one or two
talent shows, did a James Brown one time and
thing. I like to walk around and joke and,
you know, just have a good time.
Hawke: And Freeman recalls a few moments of
levity during the conflict. One was in the
Freeman: Which is the secure zone in Baghdad,
and we were in Qusay Hussein, whose Saddam’s
son, one of his palaces. He had a swimming
pool in the back. And we’re back there swimming
in his pool and, you know, you hear gunfire
over the Euphrates River. So we dug down. After
it was done, got back up and kept swimming.
I mean, you know, so you had to find ways to
Hawke: Now that they’re back, the company
will disperse to their old jobs as police officers,
school principals, CIA employees. McKinney
returns to a security position at the National
Guard right away, and in a few weeks,
Freeman heads back to his job at the Department
of Transportation. Anne Hawke, NPR News, Washington.
York Daily News
May 6, 2004
Murky Facts On Sick G.I.s
By Juan Gonzalez
No soldier from a New York Army National
Guard unit that returned from Iraq
last month has so far tested positive for
depleted uranium, Pentagon doctors claimed
"None of the samples processed have measurable
amounts of DU," said Lt. Col. Mark Melanson
of the Army’s Center for Health Promotion and
Preventive Medicine in Aberdeen, Md.
The test results are preliminary, Melanson
said, and he is still waiting for complete
written reports on each soldier whose tests
have been analyzed. In total, 56 soldiers from
the442nd Military Police Company submitted
urine samples last month at Walter Reed Army
Medical Hospital in Washington or Fort Dix,
N.J., and the bulk have not yet been analyzed,
Even if some soldiers do show traces in their
bodies, Melanson said, "There are safe
levels of depleted uranium intake. An individual
could [safely] breathe in up to a gram per
year every year for 50 years."
"That’s total nonsense," said Dr.
Asaf Durakovic, a colonel in the Army Reserves
and a former head of nuclear medicine at a
Durakovic and a team of scientists tested
nine soldiers from the 442nd at the request
of the Daily News and concluded that four of
them were contaminated with depleted uranium.
The four, Durakovic said, had "almost
certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from
exploded American shells manufactured from
The first batch of soldiers tested by the
Army includes the nine Durakovic screened.
equipment is not able to accurately measure
certain uranium isotopes," said Durakovic,
who has reviewed the Army’s preliminary lab
Durakovic was the first Army doctor to discover
that a group of soldiers from the 1991 Persian
Gulf War had been contaminated with depleted
uranium. He has since become an expert on depleted
uranium and an opponent of its use in warfare.
Melanson is using a "faulty approach" that
assumes radiation is spread out evenly over
the whole body, Durakovic said.
"Depleted uranium dust that is inhaled
gets transferred from the lungs to the regional
lymph nodes, where they can bombard a small
number of cells in their immediate vicinity
with intense alpha radiation," Durakovic
Melanson’s claim of a depleted uranium safety
level also was questioned by Richard Leggett,
a senior researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
and a member of the National Council on Radiation
Protection and Measurements.
"There’s a lot of uncertainty in where
the hazard really starts with depleted uranium," Leggett
said. "Nobody knows for sure."
Since depleted uranium is an extremely heavy
metal, its "chemical toxicity" is
an even bigger problem than its radioactivity,
"All I know is I’m still sick and the
Army can’t tell me why," said Staff Sgt.
Ray Ramos, one of the soldiers caught in the
crossfire of the experts.
Ramos and others have suffered from chronic
fatigue, migraine headaches, urinary problems,
severe joint pain and other unexplained ailments
since last summer when they were stationed
in the Iraqi town of Samawah.
"The Army says I’m negative and Dr. Durakovic
says I’m positive, so now I want a third, independent
test done," Ramos said.
The soldiers say the Army agreed to test them
only after The News started reporting on their
In a memo last week that specifically cited
the publicity around the 442nd, Lt. Gen. James
Peake of Army medical headquarters reminded
all medical commanders of the existing depleted
uranium monitoring policy.
"If … a patient expresses a valid concern
about potential exposure to DU and requests
a urine bioassay, then one should be ordered," Peake
"It’s been the policy for quite some
time, but some people didn’t take it seriously
enough," admitted Col. Dallas Hack, head
of preventive medicine at Walter Reed.
Still, the Pentagon’s existing policy is not
nearly as careful about depleted uranium as
is Britain’s. Every British soldier dispatched
to Iraq is handed a wallet-sized card by the
Defense Ministry that states:
have been deployed to a theater where depleted
uranium munitions have been used. DU is a weakly
radioactive heavy metal, which has the potential
to cause ill health. You may have been exposed
to dust containing DU during your deployment."
The back of the card advises each soldier: "You
are eligible for a urine test to measure for
uranium. … Consult your unit medical officer
on return to your home base."
Biloxi Sun Herald
May 4, 2004 Tuesday
Two Soldiers Killed in Iraq Bring
State’s War Toll to 14
By Mary Louise Mason; Staff and Wire Reports
The deaths of two Mississippi soldiers in
Iraq reported in recent days bring the state’s
war dead to 14 and the number of Mississippi
National Guardsmen killed in action
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Dayton, 26, of Columbus
died Thursday in a car bombing south of Baghdad.
Mississippi National Guard Sgt.
Joshua Ladd, 20, of Port Gibson, died Saturday
near Mosul when a rocket propelled grenade
hit his vehicle.
Dayton’s parents, Jim and Sheila Dayton, said
they spoke to their son last week just before
he went on patrol. The Daytons were told of
Jeff’s death on Thursday.
Jim Dayton said, "We had a really nice
conversation with him, and that day was the
day he was killed."
Dayton’s death was confirmed on Saturday,
the same day Ladd died. Ladd was a member of
the 367th Maintenance Company of the Army National
Guard. He joined the Guard after
He was an Avenger System repairman and had
volunteered for service with the 367th soon
after it was mobilized last year.
Ladd’s family preferred not to speak publicly
about their son.
"The family’s taking it very, very hard,
and we can certainly understand that when a
family loses a loved one," said Lt. Col.
Tim Powell, spokesman for the Mississippi National
Officials also reported another member of
the 367th was injured in the incident.
Jim Dayton said the Army told them their son
and seven other soldiers with the 1st Armored
Division were killed Thursday. Jeff Dayton
was married and one of six children. Christie
Dayton, his wife of almost five years, lives
on base in Germany.
Daytons moved to Columbus from Tampa, Fla.,
"Jeff loves Columbus. I just wish he
were coming back home a different way, but
he is coming back to Columbus," Sheila
Dayton, a Caledonia High School graduate,
joined the military because he was looking
for bigger and better things in life, Jim Dayton
Dayton joined the National Guard at
17, served four years, and joined the Army
when his job didn’t prove fulfilling enough,
his father said. Jim Dayton said his son’s
year in Iraq was nearly up, but his deployment
was extended recently by three months.
"Jeff thrived in the military," his
father said. "He was a soldier’s soldier."
Funerals for the two will be scheduled when
their remains arrive in the U.S., a process
that usually take about a week.
The Associated Press
May 4, 2004, Tuesday
National Guard Releases Statistics,
Stories of Overseas Soldiers
Dateline: Newington, N.H.
In written statements released by military
officials, members of the New Hampshire National
Guard describe carrying on after
losing one of their own, fighting off ambushes
and sharing stories over a bonfire.
The statements were part of the guard’s monthly
update on New Hampshire’s 2,700 Air and Army National
Guard members, 1,000 of whom are
deployed overseas. Some 800 members are serving
in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there have been
nine injuries and one death.
Army Sgt. Jeremiah Holmes, 27, who was born
in Dover and lived in North Berwick, Maine,
was killed March 29 when a bomb rocked the
truck in which he was riding in a convoy.
"There is a void in the area without
Jay’s laughter and smile around to brighten
us up when we’re having a bad day," wrote
Capt. Mary Bergner of Hampton, commander of
the 744th Transportation Company. "We
will never forget him and he will always hold
a part in our heart for what a great person
and exceptional soldier he was."
Bergner said her group has pulled together,
and described thought-provoking discussions
over coffee or sitting around a bonfire.
Capt. Raymond Valas of Goffstown described
the convoy security work his unit has been
doing since arriving in Iraq in March.
one squad was ambushed, Spec. Paul Brassard
of Weare treated an American civilian whose
arm was severed, applying a tourniquet and
putting an intravenous line in the man’s foot
because the veins in his upper body had collapsed.
"He even had the presence of mind to
use his forceps to remove a piece of shrapnel’s
from the (civilian’s) chest, clean it off,
and put it in a container for him as a souvenir,
which cheered him up and helped him survive," wrote
Valas, commander of Company C, 3rd of the 172nd
In Afghanistan, the 210th Engineer Detachment
has been overseeing the rebuilding of a school
by local workers.
"These projects are a win-win situation
in that having the locals perform the work
puts money directly into the Afghan economy,
the kids get a great school and the people
see firsthand that Americans care about them," wrote
Capt. Craig Lapiana of Merrimack.
Wilkes Barre Times Leader
May 5, 2004 Wednesday
One Final Salute
Family, friends and admirers say goodbye
to Plymouth hero
By Mark E. Jones
Wilkes-Barre – The soldier’s funeral reflected
his life’s main devotions: family, the military
and, yes, music.
It started with Al Green’s "Let’s Stay
It ended with Toby Keith’s "An American
Hero," played on a stereo as the soldier’s
9-year-old son helped to push the flag-draped
casket out of First United Methodist Church.
In between those songs, mourners celebrated
the life – and paid tribute to the sacrifice
– of Sgt. Sherwood Russell Baker, a Plymouth
resident killed in action last week in Iraq.
He was 30 years old.
"Just a few minutes to convey the essence
of Sherwood is impossible," said Dante
Zappala, 28, as he eulogized his brother. "I’ve
spent my life trying to figure him out."
In his younger days, Baker’s personality bounced
between two extremes, hisfoster brother said.
He could be alternately "an instigator" and "a
bodyguard." He could be "surprisingly
difficult," yet "surprisingly open
"We can clearly see the work he did on
Earth, because it’s written on all of your
faces today," Zappala told the audience. "As
time passes, I’m sure Sherwood will continue
to surprise us all."
who served with the 109th Field Artillery,
is the first Pennsylvania National
Guard member to be killed in action
since World War II. His funeral drew hundreds
of people, including dignitaries such as Pennsylvania
Gov. Ed Rendell, former co-workers and many
area residents who barely knew him. "I
just came to pay respect," one woman said
as she settled into a back pew. "I lost
a cousin in World War II."
A Philadelphia native, Baker attended King’s
College in Wilkes-Barre, where he worked in
the student-run radio station. He continued
playing music after graduation, serving as
a dee-jay at weddings and other area gatherings.
Partygoers knew him as DJ DaPhantom.
Baker believed strongly in teaching children
about issues related to American history and
civil rights. He wanted schools to emphasize
the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr.,
and other people of color. He worked as a case
worker in the Luzerne County office of Mental
His death touched not only those in
attendance at the church, but people throughout
the Wyoming Valley.
Dozens of onlookers parked outside the Italian
Independent Cemetery’s wrought-iron fence in
West Wyoming. Among them were retired Sgt.
Frank Alaimo, who previously served in the
109th, and his wife. The Exeter couple merely
wanted to pay their respects from a distance.
While gazing toward the grave, Betty Alaimo
said, "I pray to God there’s no more."
Much later, after Baker’s family and other
mourners had departed, a man wishing to remain
anonymous marched to the foot of Baker’s grave.
"Present arms," he called.
He then saluted, held the position for at
least half a minute, turned on his toes and
marched wordlessly to his car. The private
gesture, seen only by a pair of reporters and
two cemetery caretakers, was one of many ways
that area residents chose to honor Baker.
At the 109th Field Artillery Armory on Market
Street, members of its five family support
groups prepared a meal for the Baker family
and its guests, which they anticipated might
top 500 people. Donations poured in from area
supermarkets and shops. Elsewhere, flags throughout
Luzerne and Lackawanna counties flew at half-staff.
Baker’s funeral began at about 12:30 p.m.,
on a warm, sunny spring day that, in most every
respect save for one, could best be described
as glorious. Cherry blossoms fluttered from
trees outside the Franklin Street church, covering
the sidewalk like confetti.
Yet, because of the circumstance, it was a
miserable day for the Wyoming Valley. May 4
was the day that men with chests full of medals
and commendations cried.
It was the day that Baker’s son, James-Dante
Baker, known as "J.D." climbed seven
stone steps into a church sanctuary, his feet
weighed down by big tan boots and a heavy heart.
And on this day, Baker’s wife, Debra, held
out her hands, accepting the carefully folded
American flag taken from atop her husband ‘s
The funeral was punctuated by patriotic music
including an organ prelude of "America
the Beautiful" and a soloist singing "Amazing
the service, Rev. Barbara J. Roberts addressed
Baker’s survivors, saying: "It has been
a blessing to be an honorary member of this
family this week. To watch how they care for
each other, pray for each other … love each
She noted how they had been swapping
stories, sharing laughter and tears about Baker
since the news of his April 26 death had traveled
home from Baghdad. She urged the family to
continue telling those stories, saying, "celebrate
them, cry about them."
She also urged family friends to ask to hear
those tales, as it likely will help the family
to recover. And, in a prayer, Roberts suggested
that people turn to God for strength. "It’s
only your Word that can cut through the fog
of our grief … and start the healing process," she
Rev. Thomas Carten, a King’s College
chaplain who oversaw Baker during his college
radio gig, also addressed the audience, suggesting
that people could learn from the soldier’s
Although Baker had flaws, like everyone, he
also had a trait worthy of emulating, Carten
said. "I hope if they put a picture up
of him at the 109 th (armory)," he said, "they
just put one word under it.
Carten then reminded the audience of
Baker’s devotion to family and country. "What
are we going to learn from Sherwood?" he
asked. "What are people going to say about
After the service, a police-led motorcade
escorted the hearse to Baker’s final resting
place. During a 21-gun salute at the cemetery,
sniffles gave way to sobs. White-gloved soldiers
gingerly lifted the flag off Baker’s casket.
Much later, after almost everyone had departed,
the casket was lowered into a grave dug by
caretaker Ed Koulik, a Vietnam veteran. The
site is surrounded by headstones bearing names
such as Felli, Marconeri and Sabbatini.
A nearby monument, installed long ago by the
Italian American Veterans of Luzerne County
Post No. 1, reads: "In grateful tribute
to the living and the dead for their valiant
efforts and great sacrifices we nobly dedicate
Although a member of the 109th’s Headquarters
Battery, Baker was serving with the 103rd Armor
Regiment, based in Scranton. He died while
performing security duty outside a suspected
chemical weapons factory.
The casualty stung particularly hard for Robert
Harvey, an 88-year-old World War II veteran
who lives near the cemetery.
Wounded twice while serving in Europe, Harvey
held a 19-year-old mortally wounded man in
his lap, he said. "I’m a veteran. But
I’m not a hero," he added. "The heroes
never come home. They pay the supreme sacrifice."
Hours before the funeral, Harvey propped his
cane against a porch railing and reached out
for the flag pole attached to his house. He
adjusted the flag so if would fly at half-staff.
His eyes welled with tears.
said he frequently cries these days because
of memories stirred by the U.S. troops serving
in Iraq. He cries for that soldier he once
held in his arms and for those he holds daily
in his prayers. "God rest them," he
The Associated Press
May 6, 2004
CW4 Kordsmeier Remembered at Arkansas
By Kelly P. Kissel, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: North Little Rock,
Mourners at the funeral for fallen Chief Warrant
Officer Patrick Kordsmeier were told that he
had the kind of faith that promised an eternal
In the final funeral for four men killed in
a rocket attack on the 39th Infantry Brigade
in Iraq on April 24, the Rev. William Define
said Wednesday that Kordsmeier’s death should
be viewed as a natural part of life.
"Death is holy. Death is God’s way of
gathering his people to himself," Define
told the standing-room-only crowd during a
funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
At death, he said, "Life is changed,
not taken away."
The service, which began after a single bell
tolled for 15 minutes, was conducted in Latin
and included prayers not heard in that form
on a widespread basis since the 1960s. Kordsmeier
was a member of the St. John the Baptist Latin
Mass community of North Little Rock.
Many female mourners work black lace veils.
Kordsmeier’s casket, which was draped by an
American flag during a rosary service Tuesday
night, was draped during Wednesday’s Mass with
a black shroud decorated with Christian symbols.
Define recounted the Gospel story of the death
of Lazarus and his sister Martha’s complaint
that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had
In an exchange, Martha expresses belief in
a resurrection on the last day, but Jesus says
that he is the resurrection and that if people
believe in him, they shall not die forever.
"Believest thou this?" Jesus asked
In the same way, Jesus wants all to believe,
Kordsmeier was buried at the Arkansas State
Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.
At Tuesday’s rosary service, conducted in
English, family members remembered gifts that
Kordsmeier had given them at Christmas and
talked of how he was able to hold his only
grandson, Brandon Patrick Kordsmeier, during
a trip home from training during the spring.
Maj. Gen. Don C. Morrow of the Arkansas Army National
Guard spoke of how he and Kordsmeier
shared a love of collecting military insignia,
and how it was appropriate that Kordsmeier
died while attending to others in a war zone.
and three others were killed in an 80mm rocket
strike against the 39th at Camp Cook north
of Baghdad. Another soldier was killed the
same weekend when a roadside bomb exploded.
Community to Celebrate Military Spouse Day
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Washington, May 6, 2004 — U.S. military installations
worldwide will host a wide range of activities — from
receptions to workshops to "pampering
parties" — in observance of Military
Spouse Day, May 7.
Military Spouse Day was first celebrated in
1984 when then-President Ronald Reagan proclaimed
the observance to honor the contributions of
military spouses. The military now sets aside
the Friday before Mother’s Day each year to
pay tribute to the spouses who play a vital
role in the nation’s defense.
But Defense Department leaders say recognizing
Military Spouse Day is particularly important
this year, when thousands of spouses tend the
homefront while their service members are deployed
in support of the war on terror.
"Military Spouse Day is just one day
of the year in which we stop to recognize the
immeasurable contribution our spouses make
to the true readiness of the force," said
John Molino, deputy undersecretary of defense
for military community and family policy.
"We are constantly aware that the stability
of the military family and our military communities
is attributable, in large part, to the self-sacrifice
and dedication of our military spouses," Molino
said. "As they strive daily to keep the
homefront strong, these capable and committed
spouses are a vital part of winning the global
war on terrorism."
Vice Adm. Gerry Hoewing, chief of Naval Personnel,
called military spouses "the heroes behind
the scenes," who he said often find themselves "forgoing
personal and professional aspirations, enduring
long periods of separation, and willingly moving
to foreign countries to become front-line American
"They demonstrate daily an unwavering
loyalty to both family and nation and deserve
our heartfelt thanks," Hoewing continued. "I
shudder to think where our Navy would be without
Retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael P.
Downs, director of the Marine Corps’ Personal
and Family Readiness Division, said there’s
no doubt that Marines carry out a tough duty, "but
it is often overlooked that Marine Corps spouses
have a tough duty, too." These spouses,
he said, "endure long separations often
fraught with anxiety and worry, all the while
continuing to parent children, pay the bills
and support their Marine."
said the Marine Corps has long known that family
readiness leads to mission readiness and retention. "These
spouses make great sacrifices in support of
their Marines and the Marine Corps, and deserve
this special day of appreciation," he
said. "Simply put, we couldn’t do it without
Lt. Gen. Richard E. Brown III, the Air Force’s
deputy chief of staff for personnel, called
military spouses "a vital link to the
success of our military" and praised military
spouses for their tremendous contribution to
the force’s quality of life.
"Our spouses serve our nation just as
we in uniform serve," he said, calling
the wide range of activities planned Air Force-wide
on May 7 an important time to express appreciation. "As
we pause on Military Spouse Day to recognize
the contributions, sacrifices, and extraordinary
efforts of our spouses, the Air Force renders
a very heartfelt ‘thank you’ to each of them," Brown
Col. Yvonne Tucker-Harris, deputy director
of Army Family Programs, agreed that spouses "have
always played a pivotal role in the readiness
of our force" — a role she acknowledged
has often gone unrecognized.
She called Military Spouse Day "an opportunity
for the services to salute the "unsung
heroes in our military families" for their "unparalleled
support" in fulfilling the military mission. "We
appreciate so much their sacrifices and keeping
the family intact when we are not available
because of mission requirements," she
The Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)
May 7, 2004
Pilot logs 4,000 Hours Flying A-10s
A rare feat
By Trace Christenson
A Battle Creek fighter pilot is the newest
member of an elite group after flying 4,000
hours in an A-10 fighter plane.
Lt. Col. Clifford W. Latta Jr. is one of only
about a half-dozen active duty pilots who have
flown the Warthog, as the aircraft also is
known, that many hours in their military career.
Latta reached the milestone on Sunday during
a flight from Fort Smith, Ark., to Battle Creek,
where he is assigned to the 110th Fighter
Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard
at W.K. Kellogg Airport.
Only a dozen or so pilots ever have logged
that many hours in the A-10, the close-range
support fighter first flown in the late 1970s
and assigned to the Battle Creek base in 1992.
"It’s really more about being old," Latta,
44, said Tuesday. "It just means you have
been around a long time. But it is kind of
a neat thing."
about 1 percent of the pilots who have flown
the A-10 ever reach the 4,000-hour mark, said
Maj. Robert DeCoster, a spokesman for the 110th
"And there are only about a half-dozen
other 4,000-plus pilots still on flying status,
so Latta is definitely a member of an elite
group," DeCoster said. "It is definitely
an indicator of experience. He has almost 167
days sitting in that seat."
Latta, a native of Toledo, Ohio, who now lives
in Baltimore, has been a member of the Michigan Air
National Guard and the 110th since
1992. In his civilian life, he is a 737 pilot
for American Airlines.
Latta grew up in Toledo watching airplanes
and knowing he wanted to fly. He attended the
University of Toledo and the Air Force Academy
and began piloting A-10s in 1986, three years
after graduation. He spent 10 years on active
duty before joining the air guard and now has
21 years of total military service.
He said most pilots who spend thousands of
hours in a single type of plane are often in
the guard because they are assigned to a unit
and don’t change aircraft as often.
"You just fly it a lot longer because
on active duty you may swap airplanes," he
Latta said he enjoys flying the A-10 and the
mission it flies. The plane, also called a
tank killer, is used to support ground troops.
"I love the mission of close air support,
of helping the grunts on the ground who are
being shot at," he said. "It is about
supporting the people who are getting shot
Latta has about 150 hours in combat during
Operation Allied Force in 1999 and Operation
Iraqi Freedom last year. He has earned two
Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Flying combat is intense, he said.
"It is everything you train for and some
things you can’t prepare for," he said. "It
is a little bit of a challenge, like night
refueling from a tanker with no lights on while
wearing night vision goggles."
"And you just don’t want to mess up and
do something that would hurt someone on the
While the plane is filled with technology,
the A-10 also is a plane that is flown close
to the action and one in which the pilot uses
more than the Global Positioning System and
radar to find targets.
"There is some old-fashioned eyes on," he
But he said the age of the fighter pilot may
be nearing an end as more drones and mechanically
operated aircraft are developed.
as the knights in armor were retired, manned
combat flights also will someday disappear.
"None of us wants to fly video games
for combat," he said. "It’s sad for
me. I was hoping my kids would have a chance
to fly fighters."
Latta is one of 35 pilots assigned to the
110th Fighter Wing, and he will begin wearing
a patch on his flight suit commemorating his
Although on leave from the airlines, he said
flying combat and flying commercial are different.
"Both are challenging in different ways," he
said, "but I don’t have to worry about
passenger comfort in an A-10 and I can throw
the airplane around in the sky."
Charlie Daniels Band Plays for Troops
in Kosovo, Germany
By Cassandra Kardeke
Germany (Army News Service, May 7, 2004) —
Charlie Daniels fiddled his way into the hearts
of Soldiers, civilians and family members at
Wiesbaden Army Airfield May 6 during a fee
concert to show support for U.S. troops.
“I was planning on just coming out here to check on
our troops,” said Maj. Gen.Gus Hargett Jr., Tennessee’s
adjutant general who helped coordinate the event with
U.S. Army Europe. “Charlie got wind of it and asked
if he could come along,” said the adjutant general
who has more than 200 Tennessee National Guardsmen
deployed to Kosovo and Germany.
Hargett said he called his friend and fellow Tennessee
native, Gen. B.B. Bell, U.S. Army Europe commander,
who then made it happen.
Six months later, Hargett and the band, along with
local media from Tennessee, began their trip, starting
in Ramstein with a visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical
Center May 4.
“The spirit and patriotism of these kids, some of whom
have arms or legs blown off, are just amazing,” Daniels
said. I expected to find low morale; instead
I found out that these kids want to go back downrange.”
Daniels talked about one Soldier in the hospital
who lost his leg in Iraq. “He told his commander
to get him a leg and ‘send me back to fight.’”
After visiting the wards in Landstuhl, the entourage
headed for the Balkans, where Daniels and his band
performed a free concert for Soldiers there and visited Tennessee
National Guardsmen .
“This is my way to serve [our country]. I can’t serve
myself, but I can certainly support those who do,” said
Daniels during a private lunch at the Wiesbaden Dining
Facility the next day.
More than 60 of the Tennessee National Guard Soldiers
were bused in from Mannheim, Stuttgart, Kaiserslautern
and Heidelberg to meet with Daniels, get autographs
and talk about “home.”
“We don’t get to see someone like this that often,
especially someone from our home. It’s a real honor
to meet with Mr. Daniels and the general,” said Spc.
Nick Oswalt of Chattanooga, Tenn.
“People don’t understand what the Guard does. They
think we’re different because we’re in the National
Guard . But we deployed to 38 countries last
year. We’re not different, we just choose not to be
on active duty all the time,” Hargett said.
“And now I’m here, and if there’s anything I can do
to make things better for these guys, I’ll do it.”
Later in the day, the guardsmen were back
at Wiesbaden, displaying the Tennessee state
flag among almost 1,000 other people at Hangar
1036 waiting to hear good ‘ol country music.
The concert was aired live on the American
Forces Network, AFN radio. The 75-minute
concert concluded with Daniels’ fiddling to
his well-known song, “The Devil Went Down to