National Guard Bureau

   May 25, 2004,
Volume 2, Issue 3

Index of Articles

Note: Topics below are now
bookmarked! Click on the underlined topic below to link to the pages on that



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

Guard Members Will Ready Camp Shelby For Troop Training


DEPLOYMENT…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 4

Army May Send Special Reserves To Active Duty

LA National Guard Heading Out

Guard Receives
Deployment Alert

Father of Triplets Braces for Duty in Iraq

REUNION…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8

National Guard Members Return From Iraq

MPs back from Iraq


BENEFITS…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10

As Many As
22,000 Iraq, Afghan War Veterans From Mississippi And Other States Already
Seek Care From VA System

DOD Begins New
Tricare West Region Transition

Metro; In Brief


GUARD IN IRAQ………………………………………………………………………………………… 14

North Dakota National
Guard: On The Road To a Safer Iraq

Military Honors Sergeant Who Rescued UND Student



………………………………………. 16

Keeping Up On The Home Front

War Takes Toll on Military Kids

Sergeant Dad Chafes At Home
While Wife Serves In Baghdad


TRIBUTE TO OUR FALLEN HEROES………………………………………………………… 24

170-mile Run For Slain GI Ends

Western Pa. Town Mourns Soldiers

Guard Pilot Loved Family and Flying


GENERAL…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 28

License Tag
Bill Touted To Help Kin of National Guard Troops In Iraq

Bring Comfort to Children of Deployed Service Members

Air National
Guard Takes Over Clear Station





National Guard
Family Program Online Communities for families and youth:



TRICARE website for information on health benefits



Civilian Employment Information (CEI) Program
for Army and Air National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard



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 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 chat rooms 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].




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National Guard
Members Will Ready Camp Shelby For Troop Training


Associated Press

May 20, 2004

About 700 Mississippi
National Guard members will report
to Camp Shelby to ready the training facility for its new mission as a
mobilization station.

soldiers will help prepare other troops for other missions, possibly
overseas. The Guard facility near Hattiesburg was designated as a 1st U.S.
Army Mobilization Center in March.

than 4,000 troops from the National Guard’s 278th Armored Calvary Regiment
based in Tennessee will arrive at Camp Shelby in mid-June for five months of
training before they are deployed.

officials said Tuesday that most of those activated to run the mobilization
station are Guardsmen assigned to units based at Camp Shelby. They will start
between June 7 and June 14.

Another 21 people from the 220th Finance Detachment
based in Jackson will spend about three weeks training at Camp McCoy, Wis.,
and then report to Camp Shelby. They will start June 16.

The soldiers are expected to be on active duty for a
year, though it could be as long as two, National Guard spokesman Maj. Danny
Blanton said.

The 220th was last deployed in 2002 to Bosnia as part
of a United Nations peacekeeping force, handling purchasing, payroll and
other finances in Tuzla, Bosnia.

Camp Shelby was last used as a mobilization station
during the Gulf War, officials said, and it is one of 17 stations in America.




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Army May Send Special Reserves To Active Duty


Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

May 19, 2004, Wednesday

By Joseph L. Galloway

Washington _ The U.S. Army is scraping up soldiers for
duty in Iraq wherever it can find them, and that includes places and people
long considered off-limits.

The Army on Tuesday confirmed that it pulled the files
of some 17,000 people in the Individual Ready Reserve, the nation’s pool of
former soldiers. The Army has been screening them for critically needed
specialists and has called about 100 of them since January.

Under the current authorization from Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Army could call as many as 6,500 back on active duty

“Yes we are screening them and, yes, we are
calling some of them up,” an Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, told
Knight Ridder. “We need certain specialties, including civil affairs,
military police, some advanced medical specialists, such as orthopedic
surgeons, psychological operations, military intelligence

The Army has been forced to look to the Individual
Ready Reserve pool and elsewhere for soldiers because it’s been stretched so
thin by a recent decision to maintain American troop levels in Iraq at
135,000 to 138,000 at least through 2005.

The Army is also considering a plan to close its
premier training center at Fort Irwin in California so the 11th Armored
Cavalry Regiment, the much-vaunted Opposition Force against which the Army’s
tank divisions hone their combat skills, would be available for combat duty
in Iraq.

No decision has been made on that plan.

In addition, the Defense Department this week
announced that one of the Army’s two mechanized infantry brigades in South
Korea _ a total of some 3,600 soldiers _ would be rotating to Iraq this
summer to pull 12-month combat tours, an unprecedented move.

The Individual Ready Reserve pool is comprised of
people who completed their active-duty tours but are subject to involuntary
recall for a period of years after leaving. A soldier who’s served a
four-year enlistment in the Army, for example, remains in the IRR for an
additional four years. During that time he or she receives no pay and doesn’t
drill with a Reserve or National Guard

Curtin said the fact that 17,000 files were being
screened “is not a reflection of how many will be called back.” He
said the Army has 118,732 people on the IRR rolls.

The last major call-up of Ready Reserve troops was
during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, when some 20,000 were returned to active
duty. In November 2001, the Army took a number of Ready Reserves who
volunteered back on active duty, and in November 2002 it took volunteers and

The spokesman said that about 100 Ready Reserves had
been recalled under the January authorization. About 7,000 Ready Reserves
have been recalled since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

More than 160,000 National
and Reserve forces from all the services are on active duty, many
of them in Iraq, where they comprise at least 50 percent of the total forces.

Earlier this week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
reported that the Department of Defense had proposed to Congress that it be
permitted to ask for the Internal Revenue Service’s help in locating more
than 50,000 people who have Individual Ready Reserve obligations to one of
the services but can’t be found.

Although those recently separated from service are
obligated to notify their branch of any change of address, many don’t. The
largest number of “missing” Ready Reserves belongs to the Army _
some 40,000.

The Defense Department would like to be able to tap
IRS records for the addresses of those it has lost touch with. The proposal
is likely to be challenged by privacy rights advocates.



LA National Guard
Heading Out

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May 20, 2004

Reported by KPLC Staff

As the fighting continues in
Iraq, troops from Southwest Louisiana are rising to the call.

On Wednesday, the 3rd
Infantry of the 156th Brigade left for Fort Hood, Texas for 90 days of
training, then they’ll head to Iraq.

 The final unit will come through the national guard armory in Lake Charles this morning.

Charley company out of
Crowley is the last unit of the 156th Infantry to leave for training at Fort




Guard Receives
Deployment Alert

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By Russell Hood

Winston County Journal

A Mississippi National Guard brigade that includes a unit based
in Louisville has been alerted for possible deployment.

The Guard announced last Monday that the adjutant general’s office had
received an alert notification for the nearly 4,000 soldiers of the 155th
Separate Armored Brigade, headquartered in Tupelo.

The notification alerts the command of the brigade and its units to
begin sensible planning and preparation for possible mobilization in support
of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a statement from the adjutant
general’s office.

The 155th SAB comprises units in 49 locations throughout the state. They
include the A/98 CAV of Louisville and the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field
Artillery headquartered in Starkville, which has an authorized strength of
607 soldiers. The unit includes Bravo Battery in Ackerman and Detachment 1 in
Eupora as well.

“These are highly trained soldiers, and I know they will do an
excellent job supporting our national defense if called,” said Gov.
Haley Barbour, commander in chief of the Mississippi National Guard.
“Marsha and I wish them well, and we certainly stand by all of them and
their families.”

Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, the Guard’s adjutant general, said,
“Although the brigade has received an alert, the decision to mobilize or
deploy these units has not occurred. Our troops are trained and ready to
provide any military support overseas if needed.”

Possible mobilization is expected to occur in the upcoming months,
according to the National Guard.

Maj. Danny Blanton of the Guard’s public affairs office in
Jackson told The Associated Press this week, “They’re going to make sure
all their records are ready to go. Likewise, they’re going to make sure that
their equipment meets mobilization standards, make sure the personnel
strength meets mobilization standards.”

Blanton told The AP he had no specifics about when the anticipated order
will be issued or where troops will be headed. “It could be as few as 30
days or as long as three months,” he said. “That’s up to the

Blanton also said it’s possible the troops would not be mobilized,
according to the report.

“We have had units that have been alerted and de-alerted,” he
said. “It just depends on the needs of the combatant commander in the




Father of Triplets Braces for Duty in Iraq

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Associated Press

May 22, 2004

Dateline: Billings

A man who became the father of triplets last fall
after he and his wife spent six years trying to conceive is preparing for
duty in Iraq with the Montana National Guard.

Staff Sgt. John Smith has been notified his infantry
battalion of about 700 soldiers will be mobilized at a date still to be
announced. First there will intensive training stateside, probably in Texas.

Smith, 38, is a Yellowstone County deputy sheriff and
has taken a month off work to spend time with his family.

He said he gets up at night with the triplets
“and I think, ‘When’s the next time I’m going to hold them?”‘

“Their first haircuts, the first time they walk.
Birthdays are a big thing,” he said. “It just feels weird to think
I’m not going to be there for a lot of those milestones.”

Joshua, Trey and Alexis were born in October.

Smith worries about leaving his wife, Lily, to manage
the daily routine of bottles, diapers and laundry. When he first got word of
deployment, he considered appealing for exemption from duty based on family
circumstances, but decided that was not something he could do with a clear

“I basically looked in the mirror, and I looked
at myself,” he said. “I couldn’t say ‘I’m going to do everything I
can to get out,”‘

“I’m going. It’s going to stink, but I’m

In 16 years with the National Guard, this will be his
first deployment.

“The Guard’s been good to us,” he said.
“This is just absolutely rotten timing.”

sister-in-law plans to move into a basement apartment at the Smith home and
help with the children, and two people have offered to stay with them on
Fridays and Saturdays, allowing Lily Smith to continue working as a
hairdresser two days a week. The Smiths also have an offer of lawn mowing and
snow shoveling.

“I can’t believe the outpouring of support we’ve
gotten,” Smith said.

The National Guard has family assistance
workers and support groups to help families deal with the trauma of




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National Guard
Members Return From Iraq


WKYT, KY       

May 17, 2004

The last eight members of Danville’s National Guard Unit
217 are home from Iraq.

They were deployed to Iraq on Valentine’s Day, last year
and they arrived home Saturday.

Sergeant First Class Mark Metcalf says deployment it more
difficult on the families than on the soldiers.


He returned from duty with the 217th Water Purification
Unit last month as part of another eight-man deployment.


After teary-eyed hugs the soldiers and their family
gathered briefly for a homecoming ceremony.


They were joined by the eight members of the 217th who
returned from their tour of duty in Iraq last month.



MPs back from Iraq

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Birmingham (AL) News
May 23, 2004

By Tom Gordon, News staff writer

Fort Benning, Ga. — They started by training hundreds
of Iraqi police officers while working out of three police stations in
Baghdad, then trained 3,000 Iraqi police cadets in a police academy.

They patrolled the streets of Baghdad, sought to
control riots in the war-torn city and lost one of their number to a bomb
attack. And 26 of them have Purple Hearts.

The memories of all that – plus the heat and dust and
other dangers they faced – may still have been very much on the minds of
members of the Alabama National Guard’s 214th Military Police Company as they
flew in here Saturday. But memories were no match for the joy they felt in
the open arms, cheers and tears of waiting family, friends and loved ones.

Shortly before noon eastern time, a C-17 touched down
at Lawson Army Airfield with 63 members of the Alexander City-based MP
Company, most of whom had not been home since they flew to the Persian Gulf
nearly a year ago. Nearly of all of them were carrying their weapons, their
packs and wearing desert camouflage. Many were wearing armbands that had
words in English and Arabic identifying them as military police.


After some processing inside a hangar, the soldiers
were to walk to waiting white buses that would carry them to a miles-distant
pavilion for a welcome ceremony. But most of them wanted some contact right
then and there with loved ones waiting and cheering and waving signs behind a
chain link fence. That fence became a reunion point where soldiers pushed
their lips through narrow openings for a first kiss with their spouses and
knelt to marvel at the changes in their no-longer baby children who looked
but did not seem to easily recognize them.

“That was the longest Guard drill weekend I’ve
had in my life,” said Sgt. Bryan Scroggins of Birmingham, who greeted
his wife, Denise, at the fence. “We went over there, we had a job to do,
we did it well, and we deserve to be back here.”

Sgt. Jeremy Holloway of Cusseta left the hangar
carrying the swallow-tailed green and gold 214th banner and headed for the
part of the fence where his wife, Kelley, and 20-month daughter, Grace,
waited. “About to cry,” is how he described his feelings. At the
fence, he did.

Also along the fence, all the while knowing the man he
called his daddy was not coming home with the 214th, was 11-year-old Kyser
Ezell of Tuskegee.

The man Kyser knew as daddy was Sgt. Aubrey Bell, a
member of the 214th’s Tuskegee detachment. Bell became the first Alabama
National Guard member to die in hostile fire in Iraq. He was killed last
October in a bomb attack on the police station where he was working. At the
welcome home ceremony, there was a moment of silence in tribute to Bell, and
Lt. Jim Napier, Bell’s platoon leader, spent some time with his arm around
Kyser, leaning over and quietly talking to him.

Asked about the day Bell died, Napier struggled to
keep his composure and took about 10 seconds to answer.

“It was probably the roughest day of my
life,” the Baxley, Ga., resident said in a hoarse voice.    “And I prefer not to talk about

Talking about what the 214th had done in Iraq – and
whether what it had done would be of lasting good – was easier.

“It’s just going to take time,” he said.
“Some days, you feel that what we’re doing is the right thing. Some days
you feel that – pardon the French – why the hell are we here. It’s going to
take a lot of patience on both sides to rectify what’s going on.

“There’s a lot of people there that don’t want us
there. The majority of the people do. The majority of the people see that,
you know, we want to do the right thing and they get frustrated just like the
American people get frustrated when we can’t get something and we know the
money or we know the time and we know the effort being put into it … They
want stuff that we promised them now, and it’s hard for them to understand
that it takes time.”

The final soldier to leave the 214th’s homecoming
aircraft was the unit’s commanding officer, Capt. Johnathan Clifton. He
walked across the hot tarmac with Sgt. Barry Denham of Dadeville, who had
broken a leg three weeks ago and was making his way with crutches.

A year ago, Clifton had left for Iraq with an Auburn
flag, and he left that flag flying above one of the buildings where he and
other 214th members trained Iraqi officers at the Baghdad Police Academy
complex. Clifton said he wished the unit could continue its training work
because the Iraqis needed more of it, but he was optimistic about their
ability to do the job down the road.

“Every class, we had’em for eight weeks, and so
that gave us plenty of time to try to instill discipline and democracy, being
proud of who you are, being proud of being a police officer like it is in
this country,” said Clifton, who is a canine officer with the Opelika
Police Department.

Standing nearby was Clifton’s wife, Tammy, a
schoolteacher who spent the year with 20 first-graders while he spent his
year with about 130 soldiers.

“I’ve been deployed longer than I have been
married,” Clifton said. “So it’s time for me and her to settle down
and start our relationship back over again … It’s going to be good.”

About 66 other members of the 214th are expected to
fly into Fort Benning on Monday. Their departure will leave only one other
active Alabama National Guard MP company – the 1165th out of Fairhope – still
in Iraq. The 1165th recently received a three-month duty extension, and is
expected back home by late summer.




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As Many As 22,000
Iraq, Afghan War Veterans From Mississippi And Other States Already Seek Care
From VA System


The Associated Press

May 18, 2004

By Larry Margasak, Associated Press Writer

Dateline: Washington

When Mississippian Willie Buckels applied for veterans
health care after returning from Iraq, the back and knee injuries he suffered
while rescuing a fuel truck during a mortar attack were not enough to
guarantee him treatment.

The reservist from Bogue Chitto had to bring along Army
paperwork proving his combat service because the Veterans Affairs Department
still lacks a computer system that tracks a new

applicant’s service record.

More than a half-century ago, soldiers who fought in
World War II were showing similar paper documents to ensure they got medical

“I took my paperwork, showed it to the VA, they
got me in the system, got me an ID card and made appointments for
doctors,” said Buckels, who did not complain about his experience.

More critical, however, are lawmakers who have pressed
the agency to make amends for the highly publicized problems it had serving
veterans of the first Iraq war a decade ago.

“In this technologically advanced age,”
proof of service “can’t be a sheet of paper crumbling around the
edges,” said Republican Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, chairman
of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Nearly 18,000 soldiers who have returned from Iraq
have sought care at VA health facilities, officials reported at the end of
March. A separate report in mid-April said 4,000 troops from the war in
Afghanistan sought care, although there is some overlap from those who served
in both conflicts.

About 60 percent of the Iraq veterans and 84 percent
of those from Afghanistan who sought VA care came from the National Guard and Reserves. The most
common problems affected joints and back, teeth and the digestive system.

Mental disorders were diagnosed in 16 percent of the
Afghanistan veterans and 15 percent of the Iraqi veterans.

The statistics reflect medical conditions regardless
of their origin. They are not broken down by causes such as bullet wounds,
blast injuries, accidents and illnesses.

With thousands more veterans expected to seek benefits
and health care, the VA faces its biggest challenge since the early 1990s.
Officials are well aware of the stakes.

“I believe the agency will be defined for
generations by how well we take care of these returning troops,”
Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, a combat-decorated Vietnam
veteran, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The agency has a mixed record in dealing with the
crush of new veterans.

The lack of a 21st-century computer operation is a
black eye. Recently the VA health care director, Dr. Robert Roswell, resigned
after the failure of a $472 million hospital computer system for veterans in
Florida that was supposed to become a national model.

The department, in a statement, said it does not now
have an automated way of identifying veterans who served in Iraq of
Afghanistan. “We rely on military records provided by the veteran,”
the VA said.

The Defense Department has compiled a computerized
roster of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for the VA, but the list has many
discrepancies, officials said.

Nonetheless, some returning veterans who expected long
delays in qualifying for medical treatment say they were surprised how
quickly they entered the VA system.

Sabrina Sue, a reservist from New York City, was told
by a veteran of the first Gulf War to expect a year’s wait to see a doctor
for a service-connected thyroid condition. She waited only two weeks.

“I was amazed,” said the supply specialist
with the 340th Military Police Company, who also is entering a VA educational

Also impressed by his first VA experience was First
Sgt. Gerry Mosley, also from Mississippi. He was injured with Buckels when
the two members of the Army’s 296th Transportation Co. freed the jammed air
brakes of a truck in their convoy and jumped to the ground as mortars
exploded around them.

“They’re just awesome representatives,”
Mosley said.

To address the backlog of cases that delayed
disability pay for veterans, the VA has hired 1,500 workers and formed
special teams to reduce the March, 2002 peak of 233 days for an initial
disability ruling. Today, the wait averages 171 days.

The agency also has extended hours at medical
facilities, added examination rooms and hired or moved employees to reduce
the backlog of veterans waiting for doctor’s appointments. There were 176,000
veterans waiting for their first doctor’s visit in July 2002, a number reduced
to 3,242 currently.

Principi, who worked as the top deputy at the VA
during the first Gulf War, is determined to avoid a repeat of the 1990s.
Backlogs then led a congressional committee to accuse the agency of having
“a “tin ear, cold heart and a closed mind” in caring for sick

The VA chief promises the new veterans, “I’m not
going to wait until every “i” is dotted and every “t” is
crossed to care for them.”

If costs and money were not enough to challenge, there
also is politics.

Veterans’ attitudes toward government are crucial this
election year, with President Bush’s conduct of the Iraq war a growing
campaign issue.

A Bush ad highlighted Democratic challenger John
Kerry’s vote last year against an $87 billion aid package for Iraq and
Afghanistan, contending the vote denied body armor and higher combat pay for
troops and better health care for reservists. Kerry has run ads featuring
fellow Vietnam veterans to boost his claim that he can confront Bush on
national security.

Veterans groups, who keep a close eye on the VA, give
the agency a passing grade in absorbing the new entries but are not fully
convinced the agency is up to the task.

“We’re encouraged that the VA is reaching out to
veterans” of the two recent wars, said Steve Robinson, executive
director of the National Gulf War Resource Center.

“But we feel it’s very important that the VA address
the veterans’ needs physically, emotionally and spiritually to include
psychological screenings, information pamphlets and hot lines for prevention
of suicides. It’s obvious to us that mental health disorders and
psychological injuries are going to play an important role for the next 20



DOD Begins New Tricare West Region Transition

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May 18, 2004


Department of Defense (DoD) announced that on June 1, 2004, beneficiaries in
the military healthcare plan, Tricare, in Oregon, Washington and northern
Idaho will transition to the new Tricare West region and will receive health
services and support through its new regional contractor, TriWest Healthcare
Alliance Corp. These states constitute the current Tricare Region 11 area.
This transition is part of DoD’s next generation of healthcare contracts in
which three new regional contractors will provide improved customer service,
easier access to care and a reduced need for transferring Prime
beneficiaries’ enrollments when moving.

“I am very pleased that the transition to TriWest is
proceeding as scheduled,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant
secretary of defense for health affairs. “While our military treatment
facilities remain the core of the military health system, our regional
contractors are important partners, providing additional providers and
facilities for our beneficiaries through a civilian network.”

The second
of the three-phase West Region transition will take place on July 1, when
beneficiaries in California, Hawaii and Alaska will become part of Tricare
West. The final phase of this new expanded West Region will take place on
Oct. 1 and will include the beneficiaries located in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa,
Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New
Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and Central Texas. The West
Region makes up the current Tricare Regions 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

“We are
committed to providing our beneficiaries with continuous, uninterrupted
access to the high quality of care that they expect from the Tricare
benefit,” said Winkenwerder; “their health and their satisfaction with their
health plan are very important to us.”

transition to new contractors will not change Tricare benefits and costs.
Beneficiaries in the West region, who are not enrolled in Tricare Prime, will
have the opportunity to enroll and all beneficiaries will receive TriWest
enrollment information before each of the current regions transition.
Beneficiaries also will receive information on network providers, procedures
for filing claims and points of contact for Tricare assistance.

The military health system has a
team that will monitor the transition to ensure it proceeds smoothly and that
contractors meet required performance standards. Procedures are in place to
ensure that claims sent to the former contractor by beneficiary providers,
after the start of the new contract, will be automatically forwarded to the
new West region claims contractor.

The national healthcare
information line will not be available under the new regional Tricare
contracts. Local healthcare information lines will be available in some
locations. Beneficiaries seeking local healthcare information should contact
their Tricare primary care manager or local military treatment facility for
assistance. Additionally, beneficiaries in the West Region may access health information
by calling (888) TRIWEST, (888) 874-9378. The number offers options for
accessing information about the Tricare benefit, as well as healthcare
information, including an audio health library. For information 24 hours a
day, seven days a week, beneficiaries may access the following Web sites.
Tricare online at
for healthcare information or the Tricare Web site at
for benefit information.

The next generation of Tricare contracts consists of a
suite of services that were competitively procured and awarded to provide
beneficiaries with the highest quality of care, a higher level of customer
service and added value in all aspects of the world-class Tricare benefit.
The new


contracts will make a strong program better, building on
the best aspects of the current system and providing a system of incentives
for improvements in quality care, access and claims payments for the 8.9
million Tricare beneficiaries. In addition to three regional contracts for
health services and support, specific contracts were awarded for: mail order
pharmacy, retiree dental, the uniformed services family health plan, Tricare
global remote overseas, Tricare healthcare for Puerto Rico, marketing and
education, information services, retail pharmacy, national quality
monitoring, and claims processing for ! Medicare-eligible beneficiaries.
Coming soon will be the new Tricare dental program for active duty families.

For more information on the contracts and the transition
schedule, visit the Tricare Web site at



Metro; In Brief

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The Washington Post

May 21, 2004 Friday 

D.C. Army and Air National Guard members would
each be eligible for as much as $2,500 in federal tuition assistance a year
as part of a bill passed yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives. The
bill authorizes $422 billion in defense expenditures.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Dave
Hobson (R-Ohio) introduced the amendment to the spending bill, Norton said. Residents
of the District, Maryland, Virginia and other states who serve in the D.C.
Guard could apply for the tuition assistance.

Norton noted that similar tuition programs are
financed by states for their National Guard units. Although governors
have authority over the units in the states, Norton said, the president has
authority over the D.C. National Guard. 




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North Dakota National Guard: On The Road To a Safer


Grand Forks Herald, ND

May 17, 2004

IraqSoldiers of the 141st Engineer
Combat Battalion are minding their own safety, and they’re working to ensure
others’ safety, as well.

The North Dakota battalion’s main mission is Task
Force Trailblazer. The mission involves clearing “improvised explosive
devices,” or roadside bombs, from roads in Iraq, as well as deterring
insurgents from placing new bombs or ambushing military convoys. The mission
makes the roads safer for soldiers and civilians.

“The mission at hand is an ever-changing
one,” said Spc. Casey Haught of Bismarck and a member of C Company’s
support platoon. “The insurgents are constantly changing the tactics
they use against our patrols and coalition forces’ convoys. This requires us
Trailblazers to be on our toes at all times.”

The soldiers remain alert, looking for anything
unusual in the ditches and medians. When a roadside bomb is found, the
soldiers use demolition materials to safely dispose of it or call in an
explosive ordnance disposal team to take care of it.

“Most of the time, our job is boring, but boring
is good,” said Staff Sgt. Greg Wanner, Bowman, N.D., of C Company.
“(It) means we didn’t find any weapons or IEDs today.”

 Patrol teams
often use specialized, blast-resistant equipment – some of which is robotically
operated – to search for improvised explosive devices.

Trailblazer patrols also move beyond searching for
bombs as they work for a safer Iraq. Teams set up traffic control points and
randomly search people and vehicles. They also put wire obstacles around
culverts to prevent bombs from being placed in them.

“We are trying to win the hearts and minds of the
Iraqi people, but it is hard to trust any of them when there are still a few
trying to kill you,” Wanner said.



Military Honors
Sergeant Who Rescued UND Student

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Brandon Erickson Recalls Bravery of Kevin Remington, Who Pulled Him to
Safety Under Fire in Iraq

May 20, 2004

By Sgt. Jonathan

Dateline: Bismarck

Joint Force
Headquarters North Dakota National

The man who
rescued Spc. Brandon Erickson, a UND student, from his bombed-out vehicle in
the middle of an ambush last year in Iraq has received the Silver Star.

Erickson and 1st Sgt. Kevin Remington,
members of the 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company based in Bismarck, were on
patrol in separate vehicles in July when their convoy was attacked northwest
of Baghdad. It started with an “improved explosive device” followed
by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Remington, of
Richardton, N.D., ordered the convoy to continue to a safe location, leaving
one disabled vehicle behind and returning fire as they went.

Then, he directed
his driver to turn around and “go back in.” Upon arriving at the
disabled vehicle, Remington jumped out to safeguard the soldiers in the
vehicle that was hit.


The soldiers in
the disabled vehicle were Spc. Jon Fettig, Dickinson, N.D., and Erickson,
Wilton, N.D.

Remington removed
Fettig and Erickson from their damaged vehicle, trading fire with the attackers
until the gun truck (a heavily armed vehicle in the convoy) could take them
to safety.

The gun truck made
four trips through the ambush site to remove the troops.

Fettig died of the
wounds suffered in the attack, but Erickson survived, although he lost part
of his right arm.

one thing that will forever stick in my mind was when 1st Sgt. Remington came
to my side of the truck after I had been hit and he told me that he was going
get me out of there,” Erickson said. “With his back to the enemy
fire, he completely put my life in front of his own well being.”

Gen. Thomas F. Metz decorated Remington with the Silver Star in January for
gallantry in action against enemy insurgent forces.

“It’s an
honor to be considered and receive the Silver Star,” Remington said.

“But there
will never be any joy associated with it.” The citation for the Silver
Star says Remington “displayed undaunted courage.

He made the
decision to put himself in harm’s way to save the life of a comrade.”

will be forever known as the man that saved my life,” said Erickson.
“I will be forever indebted to Remington and the men in that gun truck
… . I just pray every night that we could have all came home safe.”




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Keeping Up On The Home Front


May 17, 2004 Monday 

   When reservists are away, many companies

By Judith Crown, Special to the Tribune.

For Steven Rubin,
serving as a reservist has been interesting and rewarding, but not at all

As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, he
made six trips to the Middle East during the past 24 months, diverting
attention from his businesses: leasing mobile kitchens and

developing real estate.

The period has turned into a time of lost
opportunities for Rubin. His partner kept the kitchen business simmering, but
the pair had to live without the 20 percent growth that was expected had
Rubin been around to court new business.

At the same time, Rubin didn’t have time to line up
new retail tenants for his vacant parcels in Naperville and Lake County.

“You lose focus and momentum,” the
47-year-old said while on a recent training exercise in Alaska.

And Rubin isn’t alone.

Many small businesses suffer setbacks when their
owners or key staffers are called to active duty.

Usually, they lack the capital and other resources of
large and mid-size companies that can more readily hire temporary workers and
reallocate workloads.

Of course, uncertainty over how long workers will be
away is disruptive to companies of all sizes—current troop levels are being
maintained through 2005, instead of being scaled back this summer as
originally expected. Last month the tours of some mobilized troops, including
reservists, were extended by 90 days.

Reservists and members of the National Guard represent 57,000 of the 200,000 U.S. service
members deployed in the Middle East. There are nearly 170,000 guard members
and reservists mobilized around the world, including the U.S., according to a
Defense Department spokesman.

The disruption hits the smallest businesses
particularly hard. Some experts estimate income can drop by as much as 50 to
75 percent at these smaller concerns. Even worse, a company that was in the
black, or breaking even, can start generating losses if the key staffers are

That was the case with Francisco Perez, owner of South
Suburban Chemical and Supply, a commercial cleaning service. The Chicago
business was breaking even before Perez was sent to Afghanistan last year where
he served as a sergeant for a U.S. Army postal unit.

Perez’s wife kept the business operating, but she
wasn’t able to generate much new business, he said. She was forced to dip
into the company’s line of equity at the rate of $2,000 a month in order to pay

He owes about $21,000 on that loan to a unit of
American Express Co.

“I wasn’t prepared for the deployment, and the
business suffered economically,” said the 30-year-old Perez, adding that
the business is recovering with the help of a $22,200 Small Business
Administration loan.

 Perez was
among five Illinois recipients who received a total of $295,000.

SBA offers assistance


Since 2001, the SBA has awarded 285 grants worth $14.8
million to reservists whose business

was hurt as a result of time away for military
service. Small businesses are often sole proprietorships, or small
partnerships that lack the resources of even slightly larger concerns that
have 10 to 20 employees, noted SBA spokeswoman Carol Chastang.

“If the person with the expertise is gone,
there’s a huge decline in profits–the effect is devastating,” she said.

Losing expertise was a problem for Entec Services
Inc., a contractor near Peoria that installs and retrofits commercial and
industrial heating and cooling systems.

Entec President Mark Auer, 40, says it was difficult
enough when he was gone for about three months in the first half of 2003 when
he was mobilized as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force where he
coordinated air missions in the Middle East. While he was gone, his management
responsibilities were divided among other staffers.

“In a small business, you wear multiple hats, but
everyone is stretched thin,” he said. “When I came back everyone
was exhausted—they had been putting out so much energy.”

Even more difficult was the departure of a key
professional–33-year-old Mark Janco. The Air Force master sergeant spent a
year working overseas as a flight engineer before returning in February.

Auer said customers were sympathetic—but only up to a

“I noticed that patriotism lasted about 35
days,” he said. “The market is amoral–it didn’t care. It wanted to
be served.”

adds to costs

So Entec had to fly in technicians from Canada who
were knowledgeable about the computer codes that drive the equipment it was
handling. The company didn’t lose any projects, but costs soared, leading to
a 35 percent decrease in profits last year.

The firm has since hired another technician and
instituted cross-training. But Auer concluded that small business is at a

“We can’t have two or three people on the bench
just in case,” he said.

Occasionally, small businesses are fortunate enough to
support a reservist without taking a big financial hit.

Tony Sommer was in the process of moving to Evanston
from Houston to consult on consumer product sales and marketing at Cannondale
Associates when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks spurred the first big

He was called into service after only two weeks on the

During the next two years, the Air Force major served
in a series of assignments in the United

States and the Middle East—coordinating air strikes,
aerial refueling and air intercepts. The 36-year-old said he sent the office
weekly e-mails and appreciated that Cannondale helped support him

“In a small way, it was our contribution,”
said Cannondale partner Ken Harris.

Aside from providing that financial aid, Harris said
there wasn’t a big disruption because Sommer had just started and wasn’t deep
into projects.

And though the Evanston office has a staff of only
six, Harris contended, “We set up our company so that no one individual
is so important that [in their absence] the company goes away.”

The consulting firm has a staff of about 50

But more often than not, the departure of an owner or
key employee causes hardship. When Rubin was away, he was fortunate to have
his partner Fred Stowell pick up some of the work.

But there was no way to go after new contracts.

“We couldn’t move along at the rate we would have
liked,” Stowell said. “We lost business.”




War Takes Toll on Military Kids

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Friday, May 14, 2004

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

Washington — The War on Terror is taking a toll on the
children of American soldiers as public school and Pentagon officials report
an increase in behavior problems, failing grades and dropout rates.

“These kids are not doing well — they are not doing well
academically, they are not doing well socially, they are not doing well
emotionally. It’s wearing thin,” said Barbara Critchfield, a longtime
guidance counselor at Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas, which sits
right outside of Fort Hood, the largest Army base in the country.

At least 80 percent of the 2,000-member student body at Shoemaker lives
in a military household. A majority of them have parents who have
been or are currently deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Critchfield told of numerous teens who have stopped coming
to school altogether. Of the 396 expected graduates this June, 75 to 80 have
already either dropped out or have skipped too much school to graduate on
time, she said.

“They’re dropping like flies,” she said.

She reported that one teenage girl was living alone for a year before
her father returned home from Iraq. One student is adjusting to a returned
parent’s painful post-traumatic stress. Another

boy’s father never came home.

“I don’t think we will ever be the same,” Critchfield said, noting
that there have been three deaths and at least two serious injuries to
parents of students on campus. “For the most part, we just try to be
there for the kids, we roll with the punches, and every day brings a whole
new problem.”

Such are the circumstances for schools connected to the many
installations across the country that have been rotating troops since Sept.
11, 2001. Currently, about 135,000 American troops are serving in Iraq,
several thousand are deployed in Afghanistan, and still thousands more are in
the Gulf region or other hotspots across the globe.

Department of Defense officials dedicated to keeping watch over military
families say there are around 1.2 million school-age children of parents
in the military’s active duty force. Dr. Jean Silvernail, program analyst for
the Pentagon’s Military Children in Transition and Deployment, said the
Pentagon has no firm data for the number of children, including those whose
parents are serving in the National Guard and Reserves, directly affected by
current deployments. Recent reports have put the number served by public
schools at close to 650,000.

School officials say because of their location outside of major military
installments, they have always been prepared for transitory issues, since
children frequently come to and go from the school district when their
parents are transferred. But the war has tested the skills of many teachers,
some of whom are military spouses themselves.

“I have a husband who is about to be sent off again,” said
Amanda Tooke, assistant principal at Kenyon Hills Middle School in El Paso,
Texas, which serves a large number of families connected to Fort
Bliss. She has three children in the local schools, including one in the
middle school.

“It’s up and down, an emotional roller coaster,” she said.

Tooke said teachers are watching for warning signs and giving personal
attention where needed. For the most part, she said, they just try to keep up
a patriotic, positive atmosphere.

“The awareness is important,” she said, noting that they have
a student whose older brother was recently injured in a roadside bomb attack.
“Everyone is really supportive.”

Silvernail said the Department of Defense has enlisted the
help of organizations like Generations United , a group of retired
military personnel and veterans who go to school districts to offer tutoring
services. The Military Impacted Schools Association is also looking out
to make sure schools get the resources they need.

The Defense Department has put up a Web site,, which offers links to information,
resources and personal contacts for teachers, students and parents.
Silvernail said her department is also hiring regional counseling
coordinators for the most impacted districts.

“One of the things we know is that children under the stress of
deployment are affected academically, socially, and emotionally,” she
said. “We are truly trying hard to do the best we can for these

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., successfully
pushed through a House resolution honoring the teachers and administrators in
schools that are disproportionately affected by war. His district includes
Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, and he said he will continue to fight for federal
aid for these schools.

“It’s a pretty disruptive life,” he told
“This is something we tend to take for granted — that our school
personnel is stepping up to make things as seamless, and if at all possible,
as uninterrupted as they possibly can.”

Critchfield said spirits have been brightened by the prospect of
graduation day on May 30, for which there will be a teleconference between
mothers and fathers in Baghdad and their graduates at Ft. Hood. Not only will
they be able to see the commencement ceremony, but each parent will have a
few minutes afterward for a video chat with their children. In addition, the
whole event will be broadcast live on the Web.

The whole undertaking represents a huge gift for both the parents and
the students, who have, in many cases, been a bundle of nerves throughout the
entire school year, she said.

“We pretty much take it one day at a time. It’s tense, and



Sergeant Dad Chafes At Home
While Wife Serves In Baghdad

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Times (AL)
May 22, 2004                                                                                                                             

By Steve Nowottny

Times Staff Writer
[email protected]

Joe Cox may yet go to Iraq,
and so might eldest daughter

When the U.S. invaded Iraq
last year, Sgt. Joe Cox was ready to go to war.

Cox, an active duty member
of the Alabama National Guard’s 279th Signal Battalion, has been a
professional soldier for 22 years. A combat-trained infantryman, he served
with the regular Army before transferring to the National Guard, and was
stationed in Germany with the 3rd Armored Division.

But the military moves in
mysterious ways.

When the orders came
through, Joe was assigned to a desk job at the National Guard Armory
in Huntsville. And, the powers that be sent another Sgt. Cox – Joe’s wife,
Dana – to Baghdad.

“I never thought that
she’d go before I went,” Joe said in an interview last week. “I’m
trained for combat; she’s an office worker. I feel like if either of us
should be in harm’s way, it should be me.”

Dana left in February, and
with her tour likely to last a year, Joe has spent the last few months
playing “Mom” to their four children – Rachelle, 17; Marie, 14;
Stephen, 13; and Scott, 9.

“To be honest, I’d
rather be over there,” he said. “I talked about volunteering, but
she said, ‘No, the kids need you.’ ”

He may not need to
volunteer. Although the unstable situation in Iraq means next year’s troop
rotations are impossible to predict, Joe expects to be deployed to Iraq
himself after his wife comes home, in September 2005.

There’s more.

“My eldest daughter
Rachelle’s going to join the National Guard later this year and will
probably be in the unit with me,” he said. “We could all end up
over there.”

Mortar fire

Dana, a part-time member of
the 279th, was attached to the headquarters company of the 711th Signal
Battalion after she was activated. She is based in Camp Babylon, a relatively
safe compound in Baghdad.

“She does administrative
work, working on promotions for other soldiers,” said Joe. “The
day-to-day operations that you’d do over here, they do over there.”

Still, conditions in Iraq
are very different. Dana’s office is not air-conditioned, despite
temperatures regularly hitting 120 degrees, and she has to contend with
antiquated computers and patchy communications. Living conditions are
somewhat better – she shares a (air-conditioned) trailer with a roommate –
but the showers are unpredictable and the toilets unflushable.

Worst of all, in Baghdad
even office staff are on the front line.

“They get mortar fire
on their installation,” said Joe. “It seems like they’re really bad
shots, because they keep shooting over. But her compound has been hit.

“She said that it felt
like God had grabbed the base and just started shaking it.”

Rallying round

   Joe, meanwhile, has been thrust into an unfamiliar role.

“I’ve always been the
one to go, but now I’m mom and dad where she was always mom and dad,” he
said. “It’s so hard, there’s so much I took for granted.”

That includes grocery
shopping, ferrying kids to school, piles of dirty laundry and looking after
Scott, who has been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity

“She kept our home
spotless, and now it looks very lived in. It’s a constant battle to keep

Family have rallied around,

Rachelle takes care of the
transportation and Marie handles the housework. The grandparents have helped
out as well.

“If both parents are in
the service, then another member of your family has to be ready to take
custody of the children,” said Joe.

It turns out that Dana and
Joe being on separate rotations is by happy accident, not design. No Army
regulation prevents couples with children being activated simultaneously.

“They could call me
today and tell me ‘You have to go,’ ” said Joe.

He sounds almost hopeful.

Staying in touch

Despite the hardships, Joe
and Dana are counting their blessings. Both of them being in the military
means that they have access to secure communication systems, and can talk

In an emergency, Joe can
pick up his desk phone and direct-dial his wife in Baghdad. The line is full
of static, and drops out frequently, but it’s still nice to know she’s only a
phone call away.

“We’re lucky we can
communicate,” he said. “A civilian spouse may not have access to
the same phone lines or Internet access systems.”

They also e-mail each other
every day.

“I send a daily
paragraph about the kids. She’s missing the kids more than she’s missing
me,” he said. Joe signs off every time with “Love you, always have,
always will.” Dana puts various “silly names” in her e-mails,
he admits, but military gruffness stops him from revealing more.

They’ve been married eight

“I’ve finally met my
best friend,” he said.

Honorable work

Reports of the abuse of
Iraqi prisoners and mounting U.S. casualties have made the last few weeks
particularly hard for Joe and the children.

“It aggravated
me,” he said. “We’re trained better than that, we’re supposed to
set an example. My first reaction was, if my wife is taken prisoner and they
do something … how much better are we?”

Although he supported the
invasion of Iraq, Joe is frustrated by reports that the Army is unable to
fire on insurgents taking cover in mosques.

“Let us do our job – or
let us come home,” he said.

For now, home for the Cox
family is a difficult concept. In two weeks, Rachelle will go to Nashville to
start the application process for joining her mom and dad in the 279th. It’s
a process which could see her on active duty in Iraq in little more than a

For Joe, for years the
soldier of the family, it’s a painful decision, but one he proudly supports.

“I don’t want my girls
to go to war,” he said. “Does it pay the best? No. But it’s honorable





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170-mile Run For Slain GI Ends


A Hollywood man
completes a 170-mile run in honor of a Wisconsin woman killed in Iraq. He’s
accompanied  to the end by the
National Guardswoman’s mother.

By Daphne Duret

Alex Estrella, the Hollywood man who
embarked on a 170-mile run in honor of a Wisconsin woman killed in Iraq,
hobbled into his final destination Sunday in Key West — slumped in a
wheelchair, sunburned and blistered.

Pushing him was Lori Witmer, mother of Michelle Witmer
— the 20 year-old National
who died when a bomb tore apart her Humvee in Baghdad.

a mom, and it’s hard for me to see people in pain like that,” Lori Witmer,
who walked alongside Estrella for part of the trip, said in a phone interview
from Key West. “But I feel like my role in this whole thing was to bring him
in, and that’s what I did.”

story of Michelle Witmer’s death touched many across the United States,
especially since her two sisters were serving with her at the time.

Rachel and Charity Witmer, Michelle’s twin, are still
on active duty though not in a combat zone.

Estrella, a former U.S. Ranger who served in the Gulf
War, read about Witmer in the newspaper. He decided to march in her honor,
and to raise money for an orphanage in Baghdad where Witmer volunteered, and
for Project ChildHelp, a Miami-based group that supports programs for
abandoned, special-needs children in the Dominican Republic.

So far, though, Estrella’s efforts have only raised
$130. Organizers hope the news of his journey will bring in more donations.

From Thursday through Sunday, Estrella slept no more
than four hours a day and ate no solid meals as he jogged and walked to
complete his mission, continuing for a full 85 miles after doctors told him
he should stop.

The blisters came from heavy boots Estrella wore for
the first 10 miles of the journey in honor of Pat Tillman, the Army Ranger
killed in Afghanistan last month after giving up a multimillion dollar NFL
career to join the Armed Forces.

Estrella was resting Monday in a Key West hotel and
couldn’t be reached.

Lori Witmer, though, said that spending the weekend
with Estrella helped her understand why Michelle’s sisters struggled when deciding
whether they should return to Iraq after Michelle was killed.

”Ever since my daughters came back home, they’ve been
telling me that they have two families, and that’s why they wanted to go
back,” Witmer said.

“And being with Alex this weekend, I got more of a
sense that there is an Army family. I felt like now I am the mother
supporting a soldier.”

Donations can be made by calling Project ChildHelp at



Western Pa. Town Mourns Soldiers

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Philadelphia Inquirer
May 19, 2004

   Two members of the First Battalion, 107th
Field Artillery were killed near Fallujah.

By Charles Sheehan, Associated Press

New Castle, Pa. – Flags flew at half-staff in this
Western Pennsylvania town as residents heard news yesterday that two Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers
from the same unit had been killed in Iraq.

deaths of Spec. Carl F. Curran 2d, 22, of Union City, and Spec. Mark J.
Kasecky, 20, of McKees Rocks, marked the first time since World War II that
soldiers from the First Battalion, 107th Field Artillery had been killed in

Curran and Kasecky were riding in a Humvee near
Fallujah, Iraq, on Monday when it drove over a bridge, and an explosive
device detonated. The vehicle flipped over into a canal, where the men
drowned, officials said.

Robert Emerick of Monroeville, also assigned to the
Oil City-based unit, had minor injuries.

About 350 soldiers from the 107th were retrained as
military police before leaving for Iraq in February. Curran and Kasecky were
deployed to Kuwait on Feb. 8 and arrived in Baghdad 10 days later. The two
men were providing security in a four-vehicle convoy when they were killed.

Curran married his wife, Dianna, about a month before
he was deployed. The couple had an infant daughter.

Kasecky joined the Army National Guard two years ago,
his family said. He was scheduled to come home on leave last month, but the
leave was canceled as fighting intensified, relatives said.




Guard Pilot Loved Family and Flying

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Indianapolis Star

May 19, 2004

flights suspended until at least Thursday after fatal midair collision.

By Matthew Tully and Jason Thomas

Terre Haute, Ind. — His death came just five days shy
of his 10th wedding anniversary and a month before the birth of his third
son. But family and friends said Tuesday that Maj. William E. Burchett died
doing the work he loved.

Burchett was killed on a training mission with his
F-16 on Monday, flying along the Illinois border for the Indiana Air National Guard.

“He loved children and he loved his boys,”
said sister-in-law Carol Burchett, of Terre Haute. “He wasn’t just a
dad. He played with them. He was actively involved in the training of his
kids. . . . It’s not just saying, ‘You did something wrong,’ but training
them what to do correctly. He was just so good at that and so patient.”

Monday’s collision, which also involved a pilot from
Indianapolis who escaped with minor injuries, prompted the military to halt
practice flying missions by the Guard unit until at least Thursday afternoon.

“We don’t want grieving to get in the (way) of
flying,” said Capt. John Puckett, public affairs officer for the 181st
Fighter Wing in Terre Haute.

Maj. Thomas R. Sims, of Indianapolis, a 1986 graduate
of Perry Meridian High School, parachuted to safety after the collision. He
was treated and released from Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes on Monday.

A day after the accident, investigators searched for
evidence as Burchett’s family prepared for the funeral of a deeply spiritual
pilot whose call sign was “Padre.” Known for playing basketball and
the trumpet, he was remembered as a doting father to sons Eric, 6, and Sam,
2. He would have celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary with his wife,
Debbie, on Friday.

Burchett, a FedEx pilot who grew up in Michigan, moved
to Terre Haute after leaving active duty in 2000. He lived in Indiana until
recently and returned monthly from his new home in Tennessee for his Air
National Guard training.

Sims, who played football and ran track at Perry
Meridian, could not be reached for comment. But neighbors in Sims’
Far-Southside neighborhood said he works for American Airlines and is the
married father of four daughters.

American Airlines could not confirm whether Sims
worked for the company.

On Tuesday, an American flag flew from the front of
Sims’ house, and neighbors spoke of his annual Indianapolis 500 party.

“I feel sorry for what he must be going
through,” said Regina Langferman, who lives across the street from Sims.
“I’m sure the shock hasn’t quite worn off yet.”

Military officials are saying little about the
accident. In such cases, said Puckett, the 181st spokesman, an Air Force
investigation board conducts the review.

Officials recover any available evidence, Puckett
said, including the black boxes present in every aircraft. It could be months
before the Air Force team releases the official cause of the accident.

Meanwhile, Burchett’s remains have been taken to
Indianapolis, where a group of federal forensics specialists were expected to
take part in an autopsy Tuesday night, according to the Knox County coroner.

Burchett will be buried in Tennessee this weekend,
said his sister-in-law.

The military is refusing to specify the type of training
Burchett and Sims were taking part in Monday.

Peter Field, a Missouri-based aviation consultant and
a former U.S. Naval Test Pilot School director, said exercises range from
training with various weapons to practicing the many maneuvers the plane is capable
of or flying in formation.

“Training to shoot another airplane down is
probably the most difficult thing to train for,” Field said. “It
would be in this training where most midair collisions occur.”

State Sen. Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, who served in
the Air National Guard for 31 years, said flying aircraft close together at
high speeds is a dangerous but necessary duty. He said officials will use the
results of the investigation to prevent future accidents. But this accident,
he said, should serve as a reminder of the work Guard pilots perform.

“These guys are practicing the different parts of a
mission should they be called to duty,” Wyss said. “Here’s a guy
who is doing something he doesn’t have to — something he loves, but doesn’t
have to do.”


Burchett’s love of flying stood out, according to Mark
Grayless, Burchett’s pastor at Union Christian Church in Terre Haute.


“He just loved to fly, especially F-16s,”
Grayless said. “He flew for FedEx to make a living. But his joy was to
come here and fly the F-16s.”





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License Tag
Bill Touted To Help Kin of National Guard Troops In Iraq


Jacksonville Daily News

May 18, 2004

Patricia Smith

Daily News Staff

Morehead City – A proposed new vehicle license plate
will give Tar Heel motorists an opportunity to financially support families
of the N.C. National Guard serving
in Iraq and other countries.

Those who buy the specialty tags, if approved, will
also display the national motto, “In God We Trust,” adopted by
Congress in 1956.

“We felt it 
would give people an opportunity to express their support for the
national motto and to support our troops at the same time,” said Sen.
Scott Thomas, D-New Bern, who announced Monday at the National Guard Armory
in Morehead City that he will introduce a bill in the state Senate this week
to create the plates. Thomas also represents Carteret County.

Rep. Connie Wilson, R-Charlotte, introduced the bill
in the House Monday night.

The tags look similar to the regular North Carolina
license tags except there is no Wright Brother’s plane and “In God We
Trust” replaces the bold print “First in Flight.” To the right
of identifying numbers or letters is a yellow ribbon overlaid with the words
“Support Our Troops.”

Those who wish 
to purchase the tags will pay an additional $30 fee (for a total of
$50), $20 of which will go to The Chaplain Aubrey McLellan Soldier and Airman
Assistance Fund and $10 will go to a state specialized license tag fund that
supports such things as the Wildflowers Program and visitors centers.

The Chaplain Aubrey McLellan Soldier and Airman
Assistance Fund is a non-profit fund established during Desert Storm to
provide grants and loans to the families of deployed National Guardsmen who
are struggling financially, said Gen. Bill Ingram, commander of the N.C.
National Guard.

More than half of the 12,000 men and women of the N.C.
Army National Guard have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, Ingram
said. Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry, made up of Morehead City
and Jacksonville units, are in Iraq now, he said.

The 5,000 currently deployed have left probably 30,000
family members behind, Ingram said. With the regular military, a serviceman
stationed in North Carolina at bases like Camp Lejeune might not call this
state home. That’s not the case with the N.C. National Guard, Ingram said.

“Every one of these soldiers and airmen are North
Carolinians,” he said.

They have left behind regular jobs and careers to
serve their country. By now, many have served a complete 24-month stint and
some even longer, Ingram said.

“The vast majority of our force depends on their
civilian income to pay the bills,” Ingram said.

“Many have never anticipated long-term
deployments,” Thomas said.

Capt. Sherrell Murray, state family program
coordinator from the N.C. National Guard, said she often gets phone calls
from the wife of a deployed Guardsman who has never had to seek assistance
before but now finds herself running short on money.

Often the soldier or airman is making less in the National Guard than he was at home,
but not always, Murray said.

 “Sometimes you have soldiers that have their own business,
even if it’s a barber shop, and they had to fold the barber shop,”
Murray said.

Or it may be that a large appliance, such as a water
heater, went out and the husband is not there to fix it, she said.

With all the deployments, The Chaplain Aubrey McLellan
Soldier and Airman Assistance Fund has depleted and is now at about $30,000,
Thomas said.

The National
approached legislators for help, Thomas said.

At about the same time Wilson had seen “In God We
Trust” license tags in South Carolina and was interested in creating one
here, he said.

To meet General Assembly rules for consideration in
this year’s short session, the bill was approved by the Justice and Public
Safety Oversight Committee, which Thomas chairs.

A proposal to delete “In God We Trust” from
the tags was overwhelmingly defeated in committee, Thomas said.

On several occasions, the U.S. Supreme Court has
upheld the use of the motto as not in violation of the First Amendment
prohibition against establishment of a state religion, Thomas said.

Thomas said he voted with the committee majority.

“I think that ‘In God We Trust’ is a very popular
phrase and I think that will cause us to sell even more plates,” Thomas

“It’s a very patriotic phrase and for some people
an inspirational phrase also,” Wilson said.

The license tag is expected to raise between $300,000 and
$1 million for the fund, Ingram said.




Quilts Bring Comfort to
Children of Deployed Service Members

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Forces Press Service

Rudi Williams

May 18, 2004 – Ann Flaherty’s 18-month-old grandson was suffering from the
emotional stress of his father not coming home from work as he usually did.
He carried pictures of his dad around, and began having temper tantrums and
difficulty sleeping.

Flaherty came to the rescue with something that helps her grandson cope with
the absence of his father. And it may eventually help hundreds of children of
servicemen and women who are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of
the globe.

quilt artist, Flaherty made what she calls a “daddy quilt for her
grandson, Christian Roman. It was the beginning of what has become a big
program. In the case of a deployed mother, it’s a “mommy quilt.”
Pillows also are made for the children of deployed service members.

idea evolved out of watching her grandson’s reaction to the absence of his
father. Christian’s father, Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Roman, an
Apache helicopter pilot, was deployed to Iraq at the onset of the Iraqi war,
said Flaherty, whose daughter, son and son-in-law (Roman) all deployed to
Iraq. Roman is married to Flaherty’s daughter, Elisa.

started hoarding photographs,” she said. “He would go into the
living room and take all the framed photographs to his room and hide them. He
was having temper tantrums and difficulty sleeping – reacting to his dad
being gone.”

said she realized that she uses photography on many of her quilts. “So I
took his favorite pictures and some others, scanned them, printed them on
fabric and incorporated them into a quilt for him.”

her amazement, her grandson calmed down. “He slept better. He went to
bed with his daddy blanket and dragged it everywhere he went. And it
works!” said the pleased grandmother.

daughter told another family whose dad was deployed with Mike (Roman), and
the mom was in Afghanistan,” Flaherty said. “That little boy was
having a really hard time. He was in the same daycare with Christian, so I
made a quilt for him, and it worked for him, too.”

said children can’t cuddle up to a photograph, but a quilt is a daily soft,
tangible and comforting reminder of the parent.

word got around, Flaherty made daddy and mommy quilts for “another child
and another child, and I realized that this was going to be too much for me
to do by myself.”

asked Lynne Grates, executive director of the Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base,
N.C., Armed Services YMCA and Clitha Mason, the arts and humanities director,
for help. “They loved the idea. So we formed ‘Operation Kid Comfort,’
Flaherty said. “So it was born out of necessity.”

Kid Comfort is designed to serve children, ages 5 and under, of deployed
service members. The program addresses the emotional stress that children
suffer during a parent’s absence from home.

Kid Comfort was so successful that it earned the Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force
Base Armed Services YMCA branch the 2004 Raytheon Program Achievement Award
in the Best New Program category. The award was recently presented during the
ASYMCA’s 17th annual Recognition Luncheon on Capitol Hill.

said when the kids are given the quilts, they take instant, total possession
of them. “Immediately, no one else can touch them,” she said.
“They’re theirs. It’s amazing how quickly it works and how quickly they
react to having them.

just feel so happy that I can do something for them,” she said.

estimated that, so far, about 100 quilts have been made for children of
deployed military personnel. “We’re still setting up the program and
expect to exceed our goal of 1,500 by the end of the year,” she noted.

been approached by several units around the country asking for quilts,”
Flaherty noted. “One group has 3,000 service members being deployed, and
they came to us and asked us to make quilts for the kids. The 82nd Airborne
Division (Fort Bragg) is going back over, and they want quilts.”

had only one stipulation for recipients of the quilts: “On receiving a
quilt, the parent or guardian of the child should realize that the quilt is
for the child – to play with, sleep with or just carry around – not to be
used as a wall hanging for people to admire.”

winter, Georgia (Statesboro) Southern University’s assistant professor of
marketing, Kathleen Gruben, arranged for two of her classes to take on
Operation Kid Comfort as their class project. Flaherty said they developed
marketing and advertising strategies and a Web site. They divided into groups
according to geographic regions and developed strategies for each area and
where military bases are located.

example,” Flaherty noted, “when we’re ready to take Operation Kid
Comfort to Fort Hood, Texas, Fort Lewis, Wash., or to a Navy base, they’ve
made a book for us that tells us where the sources, quilt shops, quitter’s
guilds, grant money, who the competition is and where the media outlets

individuals and organizations are supporting Operation Kid Comfort, such as
the Junior League of Fayetteville (N.C.) donating money to purchase a
computer, monitor, software and a sewing machine. Staples donated software and
cables. Hewlett-Packard donated a digital camera and two specialized scanners
needed to do the photo transfers.

the International Quilt Festival held in Houston last November, Quilts, Inc.,
accepted the program as their charity of the year. Participants at the
festival donated about $16,500 worth of fabric, batting and sewing notions.
Kinko’s of Houston donated and delivered 1,500 flyers to the volunteers at
the festival, and Freeman Decorating Transportation Services donated the
shipping and delivery of the donated items.


Hour Koretizing in Fayetteville and Royal Cleaners on Fort Bragg washed and
pressed the fabric.

more people hear about Operation Kid Comfort, the more they call and say, ‘I
want to help with it,'” Flaherty said. “People are calling me from
all over the country saying, ‘Send me the fabric and I’ll make the quilts and
send them back.”

workshops are held at the Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base ASYMCA every
Wednesday. “We’re discussing scheduling other classes on different days
with family readiness groups,” she said. “We teach graphic arts,
including scanning, editing and cropping photographs and how to print them
onto fabric to make a quilt.”

addition to needing funds to support the program, Flaherty said Operation Kid
Comfort needs fabric, batting, threads, sewing equipment, tools and supplies
and photo transfer technology. All donations of goods are tax deductible.

more information on Operation Kid Comfort, write to:

of Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base Clitha Mason, Arts and Humanities Director
Bldg. 2-2411 Fort Bragg, NC 28307

call or write to: Operation Kid Comfort 208 Thorncliff Drive Fayetteville, NC
28303 Tel: (910) 436-0500




Air National Guard Takes Over Clear Station

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Associated Press

May 22, 2004, Saturday, BC cycle

Dateline: Fairbanks

The Alaska Air National Guard has taken over
operation of Clear Air Force Station and its early warning radar from active
duty troops.

Seven generals attended the ceremony Friday that
transferred power from the Air Force to the Air Guard.

“We call this a general overload,” joked
Lance Lord, a four-star general who heads the Air Force Space Command.

the first time in 40 years, the remote station 80 miles south of Fairbanks
will be staffed by permanent troops instead of airmen rotating through for a

The transition to 85 full-time and nine part-time Air
members will happen gradually over three years until only two
regular Air Force officers and two Royal Canadian Air members remain to act
as liaisons.

There are 23 Air Guard members in place now
with 20 slated to join them next year, 15 in 2006 and 11 more in 2007. By
that time, the airmen will become a separate entity called the 213th Space
Warning Squadron instead of functioning as a detachment of the guard’s
headquarters at Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage.

The Air Guard members will not only staff the
radar but also provide security and administrative duties.

There are also 264 civilian workers – 59 Department of
Defense and 205 contractors – who maintain the radar and station.

The change mirrors that of the Army National Guard
soldiers who operate and guard the national missile defense system site at
Fort Greely near Delta Junction.

The two National Guard units are linked because
the Clear radar’s primary mission is early detection of incoming enemy
missiles for the defense system that is designed to intercept the weapons in

The radar’s secondary mission is space surveillance.
The radar is capable of seeing 3,000 miles into space and relays information
to the Missile Warning Center at the North American Aerospace Defense Command
at Cheyenne Mountain, Colo.




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