March 30, 2004, Volume 1, Issue 54
Index of Articles
Note: Topics below
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Considers Upgrading Security
Guard Unit Provides Eyes in the Sky over Nevada
Learn How the National Guard Prepares for Duty
Reserve Bear Growing Load
Isle Reservists, Guard Leave for
Duty In Iraq
National Guard and Reserve Mobilized
as of March 24, 2004
Guard Bars Brothers from Serving
National Guard Official: NH Has
National Guard Units Headed Home
Troops Return From Support Role in War
GUARD IN IRAQ……………………………………………………………………………… 19
State Guard Turns ‘Castle’ into
Training Facility for Iraqi Soldiers
Wicker Returns from Iraq Impressed With Soldiers’
Morale, Civilian Leaders; Je/Stf/Mv
Galva National Guard Leaving Soon to Convoy from
Kuwait to Baghdad
Get School Supplies
Squadron Conquers Afghan Weather, Terrain
United Way Chapter Raising Money for Soldiers’ Families
L.A. County Supervisor Pays Tribute to National Guard, Reserve Members:
Nearly 800 Reserve, Guard Workers from L.A. County, Some Called to Active Duty
Community Rushes to Help Troops
Alerted for Deployment Tie Knot
Their Turn to Pay; When Duty Calls, Life Put on Hold
He Served in Iraq, Loses Job Back Home
With War Behind Them, Soldiers Reflect on a Year in
Newer Technology Speeds Prosthetic Process, Offers
Soldiers More Choices
High-Tech Prosthetics Keep Soldiers Moving
California Soldiers Die After Being Wounded in Iraq
WorldPerks Miles Can Help Wounded Service Members
Working to Get Reserve, Guard Temporary Health Benefits in Place
Legislator Is Confident Missouri Will OK Citizen-Soldiers Aid Fund
Rapid City Company Helping Guard Soldiers Stay in Touch
March Through Cheyenne Recognizes
State Guard Organizations as Part of Homeland Defense
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March 23, 2004 Tuesday FL EDITION
State Considers Upgrading Security
If a House proposal passes, the state would spend an
extra $75 million on National Guard armories, port security patrols,
communications improvements and anti-terrorism training.
(AP) — The Florida House has proposed
spending an extra $75 million on the state’s security infrastructure next year,
with the largest portion going to fix up National Guard armories.
If the proposal goes through, it would mark
the first time the state spent money that wasn’t matched by the federal
government on homeland security needs, said Rep. Bruce Kyle, R-Fort Myers,
chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The proposal would send $35 million to
repair armories. Half of Florida’s 58 armories are more than 40 years old, said
Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, commander of the Florida National Guard.
The repairs would be a ”strong signal for
the support of this state” toward the National Guard, Burnett said.
Another $15 million would be earmarked for
port security patrols and access controls. Other portions of the money would go
toward communications improvements, antiterrorism training for first responders
and better coordination among departments.
By spending $1.5 million for law enforcement
data sharing, officials are hopeful all the state’s 355 police agencies could
be tied together over the next two to three years. Already, 45 agencies along
the Interstate 4 corridor are linked to share information, said Orange County
Sheriff Kevin Beary.
The suggestions stem from the work of a
House Coordinating Committee on Public Security, which toured the state to
determine law enforcement offices’ needs.
”These are just the next steps toward
better protecting all Floridians,” said committee chairman Rep. Dudley
Gov. Jeb Bush, speaking to reporters after
an elementary school visit in Orlando, said he couldn’t comment until he sees
”We have a proposal for refurbishing the
armories based on recommendations made by the adjutant general of the National
Guard,” Bush said. ”I would stick with that.”
24, 2004, Wednesday, BC cycle
Unit Provides Eyes in the Sky over Nevada
By Jace Radke, Las Vegas Sun
An inconspicuous group of helicopters quietly has joined more
familiar police choppers in the skies over Nevada, flying hundreds of security
and surveillance missions a year.
Using high-tech infrared cameras and OH-58 helicopters, the
specialized Army National Guard unit provides stealthy reconnaissance to
support local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“We don’t want the bad guys to know we’re up there,”
said Maj. Kim Labrie, who supervises Nevada’s Reconnaissance Aerial
Interdiction Detachment. “Secrecy is big-time for us if we don’t want to
compromise our mission.”
Reno also has two RAID helicopters. Each is equipped with a
video camera and a forward looking infrared system that can detect heat from
people and objects while the helicopter flies at altitudes of up to 3,500 feet.
The unit flew more than 400 missions in Nevada in fiscal 2003,
improving communication with law enforcers on the ground, providing security
for visiting dignitaries, offering search and rescue help and providing
surveillance during undercover drug stings.
“Our job is to go out and provide a specialized type of
support to law enforcement, but we don’t have powers of arrest,” Labrie
said. “We’re just the eye in the sky.”
New legislation being proposed in Congress could expand the role
of the country’s 37 RAID units, making them available to provide support for
In Las Vegas, RAID pilots already assist with homeland
security – flying over the Las Vegas Strip on New Year’s Eve, for example.
Jerry Bussell, Nevada state homeland security adviser, said
RAID and the National Guard are tremendous assets.
“Homeland security is the nation’s No. 1 priority, and at
the cutting edge of that sword is the National Guard,” Bussell said.
“There are skills and assets there that we can take advantage of. We can
really sculpt the manpower and equipment in the National Guard to fit a
homeland security mission.”
Unlike active duty military, the guard does not fall under the
Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prevents the military from acting as a
domestic police force.
Still, RAID limits its role to surveillance, although video
taken by the helicopters’ camera system is turned over to law enforcement
agencies and can be used as evidence, Labrie said.
RAID began nationally in 1993, and a full-time unit began
operating in Las Vegas in May 2001. The program is federally funded, with
Nevada’s unit costing about $3 million a year.
About 15 guardsmen, all but two of whom are full-time
employees, make up the Nevada RAID unit. The members of the unit are considered
undercover and not identified in this story because of the covert nature of
some of the drug arrests and other operations in which they are involved.
Kim Evans, a spokeswoman with the Nevada Department of Public
Safety, said RAID is an important part of the state’s ability to investigate
“They can provide surveillance from the air so that we
can see what is going on safely without risking any of our officers on the
ground,” Evans said.
Las Vegas police have four patrol helicopters and two heavy
rescue helicopters, but neighboring jurisdictions such as North Las Vegas and
Henderson do not have helicopters.
Las Vegas police aircraft are sometimes used for surveillance,
but their top priority is patrol, police officials said.
The department uses RAID helicopters to supplement its air
force. At first glance, the two RAID helicopters in Las Vegas appear to be
black, though they’re dark green.
RAID pilots have logged an average of 4,000 hours of flight
time over their careers, and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Usually we’ll get a call from a police agency asking us
if we can give them some support for a warrant or bust that is going down in 30
minutes to an hour,” said one pilot, a former North Carolina police
The pilots are trained to fly evasively, to avoid tipping
those who are being watched.
“When we’re up there we don’t just sit on top of who
we’re watching because at 3,000 feet it’s pretty easy to spot us,” the
former police officer said.
The aircraft also can illuminate buildings for SWAT and other
police operations using its sunburst light, an intense beam that can set grass
on fire if turned on while the helicopter is landed.
The helicopters are able to transmit real-time video to
officers on the ground through a black briefcase that opens to reveal a monitor
and controls. The briefcase can be plugged into the cigarette lighter of an
undercover patrol car and officers can observe their suspect from blocks away.
The helicopters also can be a broadcast platform, transferring
communications between police and other emergency responders.
The pilots face a variety of dangers, Labrie said.
“Las Vegas is one of the most extreme environments that
there is for helicopters,” Labrie said. “You’ve got the heat, the
extreme elevation shifts of Death Valley and the Spring Mountains, the winds
and an incredible amount of air traffic.
The OH-58 helicopters used by the unit were built in the 1970s
and are considered the workhorse of Army aircraft. They don’t have the power of
the larger Blackhawk or the newer McDonnell Douglas MD 500s used by Las Vegas
The RAID unit has five full-time mechanics constantly checking
the aircraft, spending much of their time tracking shorts that sometimes crop
up in the old wiring.
“They’re the John Deere of the helicopter market,”
one pilot said. “As long as you maintain these things they will never let
B. NADEAU, Staff Writer
EDITOR’S NOTE: Call staff writer Joseph B.
Nadeau is traveling with the Rhode Island National Guard and members of
the state’s business community to Fort Bragg, N.C., to spend three days touring
training facilities and other related operations. The trip is designed to show
Rhode Island employers the important work the guard is doing to prepare for
QUONSET POINT — If you’re sitting on the
red webbing seats of a military transport plane at this old Navy carrier base,
chances are good you’re a member of the Rhode Island National Guard heading out
on deployment to some theater of the war on terrorism.
That is, unless you are on trip to see how
those guard members prepare for such duty, as a group of local residents and
members of the Rhode Island business community headed out on Wednesday.
The inside of the big Mississippi Air
National Guard KC-135 tanker jet was all military, even though most of the
three dozen passengers wore causal business clothes, jeans and sneakers for
The crew members like Senior Master Sgt. Ed
Mikell, a fueling boom operator, all wore olive green flight suits, however,
and when the four turbo-fan jet engines started, there was enough noise to
require the wearing of foam ear plugs.
The plane has spent the past year and a
half flying regular missions to Southwest Asia to fuel everything from jet
fighters, stealth bombers and cargo planes.
That work is sometimes done in the dark of
night and far from land, and sometimes over places where the planes are shot
at, Mikell explained while giving visitors a tour of the aircraft.
Mikell and his fellow crew members had come
to Rhode Island to take the business group to Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, N.C.,
to spend three days touring the base’s 18th Airborne Corps training facilities
and related aviation operations at nearby Pope Air Force Base.
The powerful but
austere airborne fueling plane was as far from a comfortable passenger jet out
of T.F. Green as you can get.
military with the guard before, on even less comfortable C-130 propeller transports.
I became interested in this trip, organized by the Employer Support of the
Guard and Reserve (ESGR), after an employee of The Call, Eric Gamache, headed
out for duty in Southwest Asia earlier in the winter.
A resident of
Woonsocket, Gamache works as a part-time employee of The Call’s composing room
where he makes the plates that print these pages. He also has a job with Putnam
Investments and made the dean’s list at the Katharine Gibbs School where he
studies computer technology.
But since high school,
Gamache has been building his military career with the Rhode Island Army
National Guard’s Battery A artillery unit out of Providence.
holidays, Gamache learned his unit would be involved in the massive troop
rotation now under way.
He initially did
some pre-deployment training in Louisiana, and then headed out for Kuwait,
Walter Pristawa, his composing room supervisor said.
me recently to say he was being flown into Kuwait and from there into northern
Iraq, but he didn’t say where,” Pristawa said.
The news has left
Pristawa and Gamache’s other co-workers a little more attentive to the news
“I just hope
he stays out of the line of fire and that he doesn’t get into any
conflicts,” Pristawa said. “I would worry about anyone that’s in that
Diane Grenon, a
composing room employee for 18 years, said she worries about Gamache being in a
war zone. “He’s a great kid, and he’s a hard worker,” she said.
“He’s also got a great sense of humor.”
With the youngest
of her four sons, Jonathan, 22, also in the military and working on helicopters
flying out of Italy, Grenon has an understanding of how young people like
Gamache want to make a difference.
She also knows
they aren’t immune to the news that comes out of places like Iraq or
After he got the
call up, Grenon said, she knew Gamache was thinking about those things, too.
to go and he knew it was his duty, but at the same time there are those things
you don’t talk about but are just a feeling,” she said.
the ESGR group Wednesday morning, Maj. Gen. Reginald Centracchio, adjutant
general of Rhode Island National Guard, said there currently are 800 guard
members like Gamache stationed around the world, as the Rhode Island guard’s
contribution to the nation’s war against terrorism.
Some are in Army
units like Gamache’s, others are now returning after a year of service as
military police in Iraq and Afghanistan, and still others are flying air
transport missions to keep supplies and personnel moving in Southwest Asia and
other theaters of action.
The role played
by Rhode Island in such efforts has not been without cost.
three guard members killed in action and about a dozen others wounded in
bombings and accidents,” Centracchio said.
dangerous work,” he said.
confidence we can have is that these kids receive the best training possible
and have the best equipment available to do that job,” he said.
pre-flight briefing, Centracchio told the employers in the group that their
support was a key factor in helping the soldiers do their jobs well.
is necessary to have your support, and we could not do our job without your
support,” he said.
equated the wellbeing of the troops as requiring effort from the soldier, their
families and their employers. “If we lose any one of those three, the
guard suffers,” he said.
As it is, some
guard members may decide to take time away from their military lives, after
serving as long as a year under the current military force strength
requirements, Centracchio said.
But as soldiers,
those who do will eventually return, he believes.
the only people standing between you and people like Osama Bin Laden and people
like Saddam Hussein,” he said.
On duty at
Quonset Wednesday for her annual two weeks of training, North Smithfield Police
Dispatcher Regina Baker, 33, said she expects to be heading out to Southwest
Asia with the Air Guard 143rd Communications Flight.
in the military for 12 years and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Baker
During that time,
she’s seen many other guard members ship out of Quonset and now feels it’s time
for her to go, too.
She has orders to
head to an unspecified location in Southwest Asia sometime in June.
we’re doing all our ground training, re-qualifying with the M-16 and .9mm, CPR
and chemical warfare training,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.
This will be my opportunity to serve.”
March 28, 2004
Guard, Reserve Bear Growing Load
Rising demand, sinking
supply of troops shift more duty to part-time soldiers
By Jay Price, Staff Writer
FORT BRAGG — Spc. Jocelyn “Joce” Carrasquillo had
been in Iraq just a few hours when he became a somber reminder that the National
Guard’s citizen soldiers
will be carrying an outsized part of America’s military burden for the next
Carrasquillo, 28, an occupational therapy student and a Sam’s
Club cashier from Wrightsville Beach, died March 13 when an improvised bomb
exploded near his truck as he traveled from Kuwait to his unit’s new base in
northern Iraq. He was one of the first Guard soldiers to be killed in the
current troop rotation in Iraq.
There will be more: By May, Guard and Reserve troops — many of whom signed up expecting to
serve a weekend a month and two weeks in the summer — will compose nearly 40
percent of the U.S. occupation force.
The U.S. military is stretched thin. One need only drive past
Fort Bragg’s entrances to see the evidence: Civilian contractors now guard the
gates of one of the nation’s most important bases, freeing up soldiers.
Demand for troops is huge: 110,000 are needed to occupy Iraq,
and thousands more are required in Afghanistan and elsewhere. That demand
wouldn’t be as great a problem if the supply hadn’t been shrinking for more
than three decades. The trend began as U.S. involvement in Vietnam tapered, and
it continued with the end of the Cold War.
Since 1968, the number of Americans in active-duty service has
dropped from 3.6 million to 1.4 million.
“They are basically using everything in the active-duty
military that’s free,” said Charles Knight, a military policy expert with
the Commonwealth Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Cambridge, Mass.
If a given unit isn’t deployed, he said, it’s almost certainly
recovering from deployment or committed to some important arena such as Korea.
If another conflict arose, the U.S. military could respond, Knight said, but it
would mean that some units in Iraq would have to stay well past the time they
were scheduled to rotate out to recuperate.
In 1968, the U.S. military was big enough to put 543,000
soldiers into Vietnam while using only about 10,000 members of the Guard and
Reserve there at the peak of the war. Since then, the military’s shrinkage has
been particularly pronounced in the active-duty Army, which is the Pentagon’s
first choice for labor-intensive jobs such as the Iraq occupation. The Army’s
troop strength has fallen by two-thirds, to 480,000.
The old-and-new comparisons are complicated, however. The
Vietnam-era military consisted largely of draftees and those who enlisted
because the draft was inevitable. Today’s volunteer troops have technology,
training and commitment that make them a far more effective fighting force,
despite the reduction in ranks.
In recent months, Pentagon officials have begun talking
seriously about expansion. On Tuesday, acting Secretary of the Army Les
Brownlee announced plans to add 10 new brigades to the Army, or about 30,000
soldiers, saying it was a move to head off potential problems with the Army’s
recruitment and re-enlistment because so many soldiers have had to serve in
“I am concerned that in the long run, there could be some
impact,” Brownlee said in a news conference in Baghdad, according to The
Associated Press. “We’re looking at the ways we can take the stress off
Michael O’Hanlon, a military expert with the Brookings
Institution in Washington, welcomed the announcement. An advocate of a larger
military, O’Hanlon recently noted in a research paper that in 2003 and 2004,
nearly all of the Army’s 33 main active-force combat brigades were deployed
overseas at some point.
Without more troops, the military runs the risk of a crisis in
both active duty and reserves, he said, because large numbers of active-duty
and reserve troops could opt out of the military rather than lead lives that
force them to continually be deployed.
Retooling the military
The military is beginning to take other steps to increase the
supply of troops. Under a plan initiated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
the Pentagon is retraining thousands of active-duty and Reserve troops for new
jobs, shifting them from tasks that made sense during the Cold War — such as
driving tanks — and turning them into military police officers, civil-affairs
experts and other specialists that are more useful for missions such as
About 100,000 soldiers will be reassigned during the next five
years in the Army alone.
“You’re really just starting to see the beginning of this
process,” O’Hanlon said.
Further advanced are efforts to shift mundane jobs to
civilians to free more “trigger pullers.”
Many mess halls and laundries for the troops in Kuwait and
Iraq, for example, are staffed with civilians and run by a subsidiary of
Halliburton. This has freed troops from duties such as cooking, though there
have been controversies about the company’s political connections and
At Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division, the gates
are now guarded by a civilian security company with a five-year, $100 million
Steve Kressin, project manager at Bragg for Alutiiq-Wackenhut
Security Services Inc., said the company has similar contracts at eight other
military bases, including Fort Carson and West Point.
“I think it’s the future actually,” he said.
Contracting security work, he said, allows the Army to use its soldiers
“for their intended purpose.”
Still, even with the restructuring, wider use of contractors
and the addition of new soldiers to the Army, the Pentagon won’t be able to
ease the burden in Iraq any time soon. The standard tour there is one year, and
Defense experts have said the number of troops could remain at or near the
current level through 2006. Active-duty units that have already served a tour in
Iraq, such as the 3rd and 4th infantry divisions and the 101st Airborne, have
been advised that they could be called on to return.
The Pentagon also has told more Guard and Reserve units
that they’ll probably be going to Iraq, adding to the strain on part-time
soldiers, who in some cases have already been called up once since the
September 2001 attacks.
Today, 176,000 of the nation’s nearly 1 million Guard and Reserve soldiers are on duty,
not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere around
the globe. During the rotation that’s under way, the Arkansas and Washington
state Guards are sending forces to Iraq. Minnesota, Kansas and Pennsylvania
have been in the Balkans recently. A Michigan Guard unit is patrolling the
The load in Iraq has has fallen on Carrasquillo’s unit, the
N.C. Army National Guard’s 30th Heavy Separate Brigade. In the months before it
left for Iraq, it was quickly retooled from a Cold War-style heavy armor unit
to a light infantry unit more suited to peacekeeping and nation-building.
The Carrasquillo family might not be done carrying a part of
the load, either. Jocelyn’s twin brother Ronald — an Army reservist serving in
Iraq when his brother was killed — came home for the funeral but might have to
go back, said his mother, Isabel.
She noted that Jocelyn had been trained for duty with a supply
unit but found himself in a role that’s more and more common for Guard troops
— carrying a gun on a convoy.
Isle Reservists, Guard Leave for Duty in Iraq
Military families and Friends Say Goodbye as Their
Loved Ones Depart for a Year
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Since World War II, the parade ground at Schofield
Barracks’ historic C Quad has seen many tearful and emotional farewells as
soldiers headed for combat, and yesterday’s send-off for members of the Pacific
Reserve’s 411th Engineer Combat Battalion was no different.
After Jeanette Worthy hugged her son, Chief Warrant
Officer Brian Cox — one of several long goodbyes before he boarded a bus for
Hickam Air Force Base — she acknowledged that she never expected this moment.
“I’m proud, but at the same time I am very
sad,” said the Kaneohe resident. “I am talking through tears with a
lump in my throat.”
The 80 soldiers of the 411th Engineers are joining
another 168 Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers from the 193rd
Aviation’s Charlie Company for the flight to Kuwait. In all the 411th will send
600 soldiers to Kuwait and stay there 10 days before moving by truck convoy to
By the end of the week, the rest of the 411th, commanded by Lt. Col.
Jonathan Wung, will be in Kuwait. The reservists will be in Iraq for a year.
Cox, who has been a member of the Army Reserve for 16 years, also admitted
that he never dreamed that he would be mobilized for a war. “But I am
ready,” said Cox, 38, who in civilian life runs an Internet data center.
Worthy said it was ironic that her son is leaving, since just a year ago her
grandson, Andrew Ching, who was then contemplating enlisting in the Pacific
Army Reserve’s 100th Battalion, asked his uncle if there was any chance he
could be mobilized.
Worthy said her son’s answer was: “No way. They leave us alone here
in Hawaii. Just after he said that, he (Cox) got the word.”
Ching, a 2001 graduate of Kahuku High School, said the possibility of
being activated and going to war “may be a good experience.”
“If you got to go,” said Ching, now a medic with the 100th
Battalion, “you got to go.”
Anxiety was written on the faces of many of the soldiers as they waited
with their families. Many spent the time calling family or children on the
mainland. Bright and scented leis hung around their necks in contrast to an
M-16 rifle slung over a shoulder.
“I am just trying to keep my emotions under control,” said Pfc.
Boyd Hayselden, 19, who graduated from the Big Island’s Waiakea High School in
“I am just trying to focus, to get through today and get everything
Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division,
dropped by and told the reservists, “I am proud of all you have
accomplished … and I am impressed by your performance.”
Olson, who leaves next week for a year in Afghanistan to take over as head
of U.S. and coalition forces there, made a point to talk to soldiers, leaving
behind a personal message. “Stay safe. Thanks for everything you are
doing. We’ll see you in a year,” he told each group.
As a parting gift, Olson was given a black T-shirt that pictured a
hammerhead shark brandishing a M-16 rifle. The general promised that during his
year in Afghanistan he will visit the reservists, who will be stationed in
Baghdad with the 1st Cavalry Division.
Wung said the hammerhead was selected “as our informal mascot, not
only because it represents the Pacific, but because it is something
Then it was time for the 80 soldiers to board the buses and leave C Quad,
which has been their home since Jan. 5.
Many of the families had already left by then, trying to make the break a
little less painful.
Darcie Heth was one of those people. After several long hugs with her
husband, 1st Lt. Kelly Heth, she and their children, Rachel, Joshua and
Zachary, left the parade grounds, never looking back to wave.
Then Heth joined his platoon. Next stop: Kuwait, and 10 days later, Iraq
Guard and Reserve Mobilized as of March 24, 2004
week only the Coast Guard reported an increase while all other services saw a
decrease in the number of reservists on active duty in support of the partial
mobilization. The net collective result is 2,050 less reservists on active duty
than last week.
At any given time, services may mobilize some units and
individuals while demobilizing others, making it possible for these figures to
either increase or decrease. Total number currently on active duty in support
of the partial mobilization for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve
is 152,173; Naval Reserve 2,633; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve,
14,577; Marine Corps Reserve, 5,116; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 1,603. This
brings the total National Guard and Reserve on active duty to 176,102 including
both units and individual augmentees.
cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve who are currently on active
duty can be found at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2004/d20040324ngr.pdf.
March 24, 2004
Bars Brothers from Serving Together
By William Petroski, Register Staff Writer
Three brothers serving with an Iowa Army
National Guard infantry unit bound for Afghanistan are being split up,
prompting complaints from their parents who want them to serve together.
Mike, Scott and Tony Schon are members of
Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry of Carroll.
National Guard officials said they wanted
to avoid a tragedy similar to that of the five Sullivan brothers in World War
II. The Sullivans, sailors from Waterloo, all died in November 1942 when the
USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese submarine.
“You don’t want three Schon brothers
sitting in the same Humvee when it gets hit by a rocket-propelled
grenade,” said Maj. Gregory Hapgood, Iowa National Guard public affairs
All three brothers will still go to
Afghanistan with Task Force 168, the 800-soldier Guard organization assigned to
the mission, but they won’t be with each other, Hapgood said.
Dale and Lori Schon of Carroll, the
soldiers’ mother and father, said they want the three brothers to serve
together in the same western Iowa Guard unit they have trained in for years.
They said their sons have been told they will be stationed at least 50 miles
apart in Afghanistan. They have appealed for help from U.S. Rep. Steve King, an
Iowa Republican, and former Gov. Robert Ray.
“We believe in destiny, God’s will and
fate,” the Schon brothers’ parents said in a letter explaining their
stance. “We are not afraid to lose our sons knowing they served the way
they were recruited, promised, trained and are extremely proud of.”
Task Force 168, composed of Iowa and
Minnesota National Guard troops, is training at Fort Hood, Texas, for
deployment to Afghanistan in May, Hapgood said. Their one-year tour will
include combat operations, security assignments, and helping civilians rebuild
the nation’s infrastructure.
* Staff Sgt. Mike Schon, 29, of
Spencer, an agrimarketing consultant who has been a Guard member for 12 years.
* Sgt. Scott Schon, 26, of Omaha, a
marketer for Union Pacific Railroad who has served with the Carroll unit for
* Spc. Tony Schon, 19, a student at
Iowa State University who has been a Guard soldier for two years.
Another brother, Keith Schon, previously
spent nine years with Alpha Company.
The three brothers had all served until
recently with the same Carroll-based platoon. Mike Schon will remain with the
second platoon, while Tony Schon has been transferred to the first platoon,
which is also from Carroll. But Scott Schon has been assigned to a
Corning-based detachment that he hasn’t served with previously.
Lori Schon said her biggest concern is that
son Scott won’t be with the soldiers from Carroll whom he has spent years with
and is comfortable being around. While regular U.S. Army troops might not
object to serving with strangers, Iowa Guard troops enlist knowing they will
serve with other residents of their community if called to war, she said.
All three of the Schon sons had agreed to
sign an affidavit stating they would accept the risks of serving together and
the possibility of all being killed, Lori Schon said.
“They told us, “Mom and Dad, if
it happens, we will all be together,” ” she said.
Lt. Col. Scott Visser of Knoxville, the
task force commander, decided to separate the brothers. Maj. Gen. Ron Dardis,
the Iowa Guard’s adjutant general, has reaffirmed the choice, Hapgood said.
“In a lot of ways, this is not an easy
decision to make,” Hapgood said. “You can certainly feel for them as
a family. But on the other hand, the commander has to live with the decision,
and that is a decision he is entitled to make, and he made it.”
Hapgood said he was aware of at least two
other sets of brothers within Task Force 168 who have also been separated. In
addition, four family members from Strawberry Point were recently separated
when their Iowa National Guard task force served on a security mission in
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. They were Lt. Col. Ben Corell and his sons, Travis,
Tyler and Wade.
There is no official U.S. Department of
Defense policy that prohibits relatives from serving together in a combat zone,
but commanders are authorized to make such a decision, Hapgood said.
Another factor is that one Schon brother is
a squad leader and another is a team leader, Hapgood said.
“You don’t want to put those guys in
leadership positions where they have to make very critical decisions that may
include each other,” he said. One of those decisions could involve
ordering an infantryman to serve at the point of a combat patrol where he could
be in particular danger.
“Do you want to be remembered for
putting your brother on point and he gets killed? So you have quite varied
thought processes involved here in deciding what is best for these
brothers,” Hapgood said.
Melissa McKay, a spokeswoman for King in
Washington, D.C., said Tuesday that the congressman’s staff had discussed the
case with Guard officials and the Schon family, and that King accepted the
Guard commander’s decision.
“They are the reasons that the
military has, and we can’t really stand in the way of the military,” McKay
By WARREN HASTINGS
CONCORD — Men and women from the Air
and Army New Hampshire National Guard are playing increasingly
significant roles in the war on terrorism both at home and overseas.
Despite adverse conditions, morale is high,
according to e-mails from New Hampshire units already in the field in Iraq and
Afghanistan, New Hampshire Army National Guard Adjutant General John Blair said
in a press conference yesterday.
Blair spoke at the aviation flight support
center at the State Military Reservation.
Of the New Hampshire Army National Guard’s
1,700 members, 900 have been activated, mostly for overseas deployment, and 300
of the state’s 1,000 Air Guard personnel have been mobilized, mainly for work
at Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington, Blair said.
Later this month, 100 airmen from the 157th
Air Refueling Wing will be deployed to Turkey in a one-month mission in support
of American and Allied air operations.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the military
reservation in Concord has taken on the look of a regular Army post, complete
with manned gates. That’s in part because many of those who drill there and in
armories and reserve centers throughout the nation are spending more time on
active duty than at any time since World War II.
About 25 percent of the armed forces in
Iraq are National Guardsmen. By May, the National Guard will make up about 40
percent of the nation’s total force, it is estimated.
“It’s a different world,” said Capt. Greg
Heilshorn, a public information officer for the New Hampshire National Guard.
The war on terrorism has had a profound
effect on the New Hampshire National Guard and the nation’s entire reserve
component, Blair said. He added that at today’s deployment rate, 80 percent of
the National Guard will be combat veterans as well as Homeland Security
veterans within three years.
New Hampshire units in Iraq are performing two
missions. Mobilized last December and in Iraq now, the 744th Transportation Co.
will be transporting dry goods and fuel to units. Two field artillery units and
the mountain infantry unit will be performing security missions, guarding fixed
sites, transporting prisoners and training new Iraqi police personnel.
Blair expressed gratitude to Guard
employers across the state for their continued support of their employees
fulfilling their military obligations.
“Despite the strain, many employers,
including the state, have gone beyond the legal requirements by providing
differential pay and continuing health care and other benefits,” Blair said.
Blair also praised Guard family members for
their understanding and personal sacrifice in support of Guard missions.
E-mails from unit commanders show both
humor and high morale, he said. Capt. Mary Bergner of the 744th Transportation
Co. lauded her soldiers’ creativity in coping with less than ideal conditions
at their staging area in Kuwait.
“I think before the year is out, we’re
going to have a sun deck with a hot tub . . . they really know how to make the
best out of very little,” Bergner wrote.
Commander of Peterborough’s 210th Engineer
DEt in Afghanistan, Capt. Craig Lapiana wrote that his detachment is getting a
new compound built for them. They are utility engineers who work on military
and civil construction projects.
“It’s funny how well people treat you when
you are the new post Department of Public Works,” Lapiana said.
NH Guard units
Following is a list of unit deployments of
New Hampshire Air and Army National Guard members mobilized for mainly overseas
- Detachment 2, 169th
Military Police Co., Concord; six soldiers assigned to security operations
in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mobilized last August.
- Co. C, 3rd of the
172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), Manchester; eight soldiers in
Afghanistan training and patrolling with Afghan National Army; 180
soldiers in Kuwait preparing for security missions in Iraq.
- 744th Transportation
Co., Hillsborough, detachments in Claremont and Somersworth; 150 soldiers
staging in Kuwait and on their way to Iraq.
- Headquarters, 197th
Field Artillery, Manchester; 110 soldiers in Kuwait preparing for command
and control of security missions in Iraq.
- 2nd Battalion, 197th
Field Artillery, Berlin, armories in Lancaster, Littleton, Plymouth,
Lebanon, Franklin; 180 soldiers for security missions in Iraq.
- 1st Battalion, 172nd
Field Artillery, Manchester, with armories in Rochester, Portsmouth,
Milford and Nashua.
- 210th Engineer
Detachment Peterborough; 50 soldiers in Afghanistan providing engineering
and technical construction support to American and Allied operations.
- Logistics Readiness
Squadron, 157th Air Refueling Wing, Pease; five airmen in Kuwait preparing
to support U.S. Army missions in Iraq.
- 133rd Air Refueling
Squadron, 157th Air Refueling Wing, Pease; 100 airmen to deploy this month
for one-month rotation in Turkey to support American and Allied air
PIERRE, S.D. – Nearly one
year after being deployed to the Middle East, two South Dakota National
Guard units are days away from returning home.
The 122 members of the 727th
Transportation Company are scheduled to arrive in Brookings Friday afternoon
for a welcome parade and celebration.
The 173 soldiers in the 200th
Engineer Company arrived in the United States Tuesday. After outprocessing at
Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri the unit could return to Pierre sometime next
The South Dakota National Guard still has
seven units with more than 1,200 soldiers serving in Iraq and Kuwait.
March 24, 2004
Troops Return from Support Role in War
By Mara Lee, Dayton Daily News
BEAVERCREEK — Thirteen months after
105 men and 20 women left the Miami Valley to go to war, the 371st Corps
Support Group returned home Tuesday, to a standing ovation and ear-splitting
Most of Ohio National Guard soldiers
worked in logistics in Kuwait for 11 months. They made sure the shipments of
food and equipment were given to the transportation units that would get them
to the front in Iraq. They helped arriving soldiers set up, and helped those
Vineyard Christian Fellowship, a church in
Beavercreek not far from the National Guard headquarters in Kettering, was host
at the homecoming ceremony.
Col. Rufus Smith spoke to his troops,
telling them they left their footprint in the sands of Kuwait and Iraq.
He said simply: “We’re back,” and
the soldiers rumbled, “Hooah!”
“No, we didn’t always have fun. No, we
didn’t always get along,” Smith said. “But yes, we always remembered
to focus on the mission.”
Most importantly, Smith said he kept his
promise, that all his soldiers would return unharmed.
“All soldiers present and accounted
for. Mission accomplished,” he said.
First Lt. Tonia McCurdy, 35, spent most of
her time in Balad, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. She was a
liaison officer for generals responsible for a wider array of logistics and the
“I hate to say it, but you got used to
(rocket and mortar attacks) after awhile,” she said.
Luckily, she never had to fire a weapon,
Serving in Iraq changed her.
“You value life and death a lot
more,” she said.
She knew people who were killed. Also,
seeing the chasm between Sadaam’s palace and the Third World conditions of
Iraqi farmers made her appreciate how much she had at home in Dayton. One Iraqi
asked her if she’d give him a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Spc. John Eviston, 24, joined the National
Guard in 1999 for money for college, never dreaming he’d be called up to active
duty. Eviston, who has two years to go at Wright State University, said his
assignment in a support position in Kuwait was less stressful than being in
Iraq, but “you never really feel completely safe. It’s not like being back
Eviston of Enon said he has 14 more months
in the National Guard, and he won’t re-enlist. He said what he got out of his
service was “more money. I think I have close to $30,000.” That’s
enough to pay for the rest of his college studies with money left over, Eviston
Maj. Maria Kelly enlisted during her senior
year at Middletown High School “21 years ago today.” After a tour of
active duty, she joined the National Guard, and she worked in the Guard
full-time before being deployed for the first time in 2003.
Kelly had to leave four children at home
with her husband in West Jefferson, including her 1-year-old nephew they’d just
begun to take care of three months before. She’s not sure if he even remembers
her now, a year later.
March 23, 2004, Tuesday, BC cycle
State Guard Turns ‘Castle’ into Training
Facility for Iraqi Soldiers
By TOM GORDON, The Birmingham News
DATELINE: BIRMINGHAM, Ala.
The 877th Engineer Battalion spent about
five months working at “the Castle” near Mosul to convert the
building to a training facility.
The two-story building in northern Iraq is
called “The Castle” because it looks like one, but it never has been
home to royalty. In its previous incarnations, it served as an Iraqi Army
headquarters and as a prison for Iranian soldiers captured during the
eight-year Iran-Iraq war.
Now the massive structure with corners that
look like turrets has become a training facility for future Iraqi soldiers. Alabama
National Guard carpenters, plumbers, electricians and equipment operators
helped make it possible.
Members of the 877th Engineer Battalion spent
about five months working at “the Castle,” which is about 30 miles
west of the 877th’s main camp in the city of Mosul. Earlier this month, there
was a ribbon-cutting ceremony at which the Iraqi flag was raised, the Iraqi
anthem played and the Iraqi military formally took control of the renovated
“Our mission was to assist in the
upgrade of the roads and drainage around the Castle, build helicopter landing
pads and various training areas such as rifle ranges and PT (physical training)
fields,” said the 877th’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Randy Martin.
“We also helped build cabinets, shelving and weapons racks for use inside
When members of the 877th’s C Company,
along with some soldiers from A, B and Headquarters companies, arrived,
“The site was a massive mud hole,” said C Company commanding officer
Capt. Mac Griffin of Enterprise. “It was a chaos of Iraqi dump trucks,
contractors, Iraqi troops and mud. It was an intimidating mess and not how we
hoped to finish our rotation in Iraq.”
Griffin said the 877th teams started with
eight major projects “but they quickly grew into an ever-expanding
C Company 1st Lt. Steve Finan of Pelham
initially directed the 877th workers but later divided up the duty with 1st Lt.
Brent Williford of Slocomb, C Company’s executive officer.
During time at the Castle, the 877th
soldiers also had what Griffin described as “a more subtle mission” –
setting an example for a new generation of Iraqi soldiers.
“We are serving as role models and try
to maintain a neat and professional appearance,” he said. “We strive
to keep our areas neat and orderly. Cleanliness is not a trait possessed by
many Iraqis. Perhaps it comes from the nomadic mentality this culture arose
from, but they think nothing of dropping an item in place when they have no
further use for it … Simple concepts as garbage cans, trash bins and cleaning
as you go are not the norm here.”
More recently, B and C company members have
been working on a new hospital at Diamondback, a sprawling area of troop
quarters, support buildings and military-civilian offices around the Mosul
Airport. Diamondback is a short drive from the 877th’s Camp Alabama.
Spc. Tim Tucker of Carbon Hill, a member of
C Company, said the new hospital was necessary because the old one had become
the target of frequent mortar attacks.
He said B and C company teams have put up
“doors, windows, roofing and built a walkway with a covered roof from one
building to the other.”
The 877th, which is headquartered in
Hamilton, has more than 500 members in Iraq. The battalion has been in Iraq for
nearly nine months and expects to head for home in the next few weeks. It will
be leaving its equipment and some of its unfinished construction tasks to its
replacement unit from the Maine National Guard, the 133rd Engineer Battalion.
March 25, 2004, Thursday, BC cycle
Wicker Returns from Iraq Impressed with
Soldiers’ Morale, Civilian Leaders; Je/Stf/Mv
By JACK ELLIOTT JR., Associated Press
DATELINE: JACKSON, Miss.
Morale among American soldiers in Iraq
remains very high amid some frustration about criticism of the war effect back
home, says U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker.
Wicker, R-Miss., returned Tuesday from a
six-day trip to Iraq where he visited with troops – including members of the Mississippi
National Guard and Reserves – and representatives of the incoming civilian
“I had a number of good meetings with
our troops,” he said Wednesday. “I had a wonderful opportunity to
meet with several members of the new Iraqi governmental authority as well as
Ambassador (L. Paul) Bremer (chief of the U.S.-led administration).”
Wicker said the delegation visited areas of
Baghdad and the northern cities of Mosul and Valad.
“Morale is very high among the military
as well as the Iraqi civilian leadership. There is some frustration among our
military troops that the news back home is negative when actually there is so
much to be positive about,” He said.
Wicker serves on the House Foreign
Operations Subcommittee and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He was one
of six congressmen in the bipartisan delegation.
Bremer said Wednesday in a speech to Iraqi
leaders that the country is “on the path to full democracy” and has
made significant economic progress since Saddam Hussein was toppled nearly a
Wicker said he agreed with that assessment.
“The overriding impression is that
people are going about their business, that commerce is flourishing, that
roadside shops and markets are going full speed, and that these areas have
returned basically to normal,” he said. “The general impression that
is inescapable is that Iraq has gotten back to normal.”
Even if some members of Congress feel the
war in Iraq was the wrong course of action, Wicker said “the reality on the
ground is that having done what we did, it makes no sense to leave before the
job is completed. The United States is not going to leave this job half
“There is a freedom there that these
people haven’t seen in three decades and we have done it at great
sacrifice,” Wicker said.
Wicker said the results of the U.S. war on
terrorism is reflected in other developments: reformists speaking out in Iran,
Libya’s turnaround and North Korea agreeing to multinational talks.
CLARKE Of The Star Courier
GALVA, Ill. —
The Galva National Guard may be hours away from heading north to Baghdad
while three Bradford natives have already arrived at their home for the next
year 40 miles north of the Iraqi capital.
Word has been
received by family members that Galva’s Battery F, 1st Battalion, 202nd Air
Defense Artillery, may be leaving Kuwait as early as tomorrow and heading north
in convoy to their home for the next 12 months which, at last report, will be a
base located on the southwest edge of Baghdad. One soldier, Tom Wallenfeldt of
Galva, told his family in a five-minute phone call late last week that he may
be heading north as early as yesterday with what may be an advance team.
According to a
story in Sunday’s Peoria Journal-Star, which has reporters embedded with the
Peoria-based 106th Aviation Regiment, Illinois National Guard, the unit arrived
at its forward base, Camp Anaconda, in waves between March 10 and March 15.
Members of that
316-man unit include Luke Hewitt, Cory Noder and Eric Reay, all graduates of
Bradford High School.
Galva unit has been in Kuwait since March 5, preparing their vehicles for the
long trip north.
have been able to call home, although pay phones are the only method and lines
are reportedly one to two hours long.
Josh Newman of
Kewanee told his parents, Jerry and Pat Newman, in a recent call that they have
been busy lining their Humvees with sandbags and plywood for protection from bullets
and roadside bombs, a constant threat in almost any part of Iraq.
Jeanblanc of the 202nd ADA’s Headquarters Battery in Kewanee said Monday that
conditions have been “pretty primitive” at Battery F’s base camp in
Kuwait, according to word he has received from family members who have received
calls or Internet messages, which, at this point, seems to be the best and only
source of information from the region.
officials are not sure just where the local unit has been stationed, but most
of the staging has been at Camp New York, a major U.S. staging area in Kuwait.
Battery F is
also no longer a part of the 39th Infantry Brigade, an Arkansas National Guard
unit with which they trained at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Polk, La.
The Galva Guard
is now attached to the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, the
air defense element of the 1st Cavalry, based at Fort Hood.
1st Lt. Chris
Doherty, an artillery officer with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery of
the 1st Cavalry Division, who arrived in Kuwait on March 13 from Fort Hood,
sent a message to his parents, Jim and Pam Doherty in Galva on Saturday via the
Internet. His unit is staging at Camp Udairi, where he reported he has spent
most of his time either sleeping or teaching classes on ROE (rules of
engagement), convoy procedures, and going to different rifle ranges. He said
the tents are climate controlled and temperatures are in the 80s during the day
and 50s at night. Regular meals and snacks are available through Army/Air Force
Exchange Services and the PX, leaving MREs (meals ready to eat) for exercises
in the field.
Burger King trailer, but Doherty said the burgers “taste kind of funny —
more like camel burgers.” Doherty said he has encountered a herd of camels
which had to be driven off range for live fire exercises. “If you shoot a
camel, you have to pay the owner $3 a pound,” Doherty said.
He had his
first opportunity to check the Galva/Kewanee Armed Services page which he and
his father put online Feb. 17 so local soldiers and families could keep in
touch. The site is now up to 111 subscribers. “I hope our guys are
checking in now and then. It’s awesome to see this kind of support when
you are far from home.
March 25, 2004
Kids Get School Supplies
By Jason Chudy, Stars and Stripes
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — When Chief Warrant
Officer Susan Jordan left her job as an elementary school teacher last summer
to fly medical evacuation missions, she decided she couldn’t just leave her
Jordan, assigned to the 717th Medical
Evacuation Company (Air Ambulance), a National Guard unit, wanted to
involve the kids at Meadowlark Ridge Elementary School in Salina, Kansas, in
Before she left home, Jordan and other
teachers came up with the idea of making individual bags of school supplies for
Afghan students. Each bag would have items such as a writing pad, markers,
crayons, pencils, erasers and sharpeners.
Her “Project Kid to Kid” turned into a
learning experience for everyone involved.
Afghan and American school kids learned a
little bit about each other. Jordan learned that a small act of kindness can
grow to huge proportions.
“I hoped to get 500 [bags],” she said. “We
stopped counting at 1,500.”
What was supposed to be a project for
Meadowlark Ridge turned into one that involved groups from all over the
“In the beginning, our plans were just for
our school,” Jordan said. “We wanted to involve the students and make it real
for them, too.”
But teachers started talking to other
teachers, and the project grew.
From Sulfur, Okla., the Blue River Car Club
and kids from the First Baptist Church sent supplies. So did schools in North
Dakota, Virginia, Texas and Minnesota.
“About eight or nine states have participated,”
“We had stuff piled out here,” said Chief
Warrant Officer Mike Griffis. “It was overwhelming.”
Many of the bags contained handwritten
notes to the Afghans, and some kids included photographs. Some even sent small
When the school supplies started to come
in, Jordan worked with Task Force Nighthawk executive officer Maj. Nathan
Watanabe to set up convoys to deliver the supplies. A civil affairs unit found
Civil affairs soldiers took 100 bags to schools
in Deh Rawod, about 50 miles north of Kandahar. Convoys took Jordan and other
unit personnel to a school in Kandahar and another at a nearby orphanage.
“They were more needy than those in
Kandahar,” Jordan said about the orphans. “They really have nothing. Children
sat on the floor. They had chalkboards as teaching aides, but no chalk.”
They delivered 750 bags to the Kandahar
school, 600 to the orphanage, and even a few bags to Bedouin children living
Many of the kids were seeing some of the supplies
for the first time.
“They were extremely happy,” Griffis said.
“They didn’t want candy, they just wanted something to write with.
“I think we made a big contribution,” he
said. “I think education is the key to anti-terrorism … and education is the
only way we can win this war.”
Jordan will soon be turning the project
over to the Hawaii National Guard’s Company B, 193rd Aviation Intermediate
“The goal is to continue what she started,”
said Maj. Margaret Rains, the unit’s commander.
Rains said that her unit is excited to take
over the project.
“One soldier has already said his
4-year-old daughter has asked when she could start sending her toys to
Afghanistan,” Rains said.
March 28, 2004
Squadron Conquers Afghan Weather, Terrain
By Jason Chudy, Stars and Stripes
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Flying is always a challenge
in Afghanistan: The terrain is rugged and the weather severe. Yet the main mode
of transportation for military forces is by helicopter.
It takes strong soldiers with a strong aircraft to succeed
The Nomads of Company G, 104th Aviation Regiment have had more
than the weather and terrain to overcome since being mobilized early last year
for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
One of the biggest challenges the nearly 200 Connecticut
and Pennsylvania National Guard
soldiers faced was a last-minute shift from the rolling deserts of Kuwait to
the mountainous deserts of Afghanistan.
Now in their final few weeks before turning over their 14
CH-47D Chinook helicopters to Georgia and Alabama National Guard pilots, the
Nomads can proudly look back at their 10 months of service.
“I’m bringing everybody home and that’s the most important
thing,” said Maj. David Wood, Nomad company commander.
During their time in Afghanistan, the unit has flown more than
25,000 passengers, ranging from video camera-toting reporters to rocket
propelled grenade-carrying Afghan National Army soldiers.
They’ve also hauled 8¾ million pounds of cargo — either
internally or slung below the aircraft — between major bases and far-off
outposts, a few of which don’t technically have helicopter landing sites.
All told, their Chinooks have flown more than 4,600 hours
without major mishap or personnel injury.
These statistics have earned them recognition as the National Guard recipient of the 2003
Outstanding Army Aviation Unit of the Year Award.
It’s also brings them praise from operational commanders.
“What they bring to Afghanistan is experience because they’re
Guardsmen,” said Lt. Col. Orlando Lopez, Task Force Nighthorse commander.
“Their experience … allows them to fly their aircraft at maximum capabilities
where a less experienced pilot may not be able to.”
Nomad pilots average about 3,000 flying hours each, compared,
they say, to about 750 for their active-duty counterparts. Even many of the
aircraft crewmembers have more than 1,000 hours of flight time.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rich Curadi flew Apaches during the
first Gulf War and two of the unit’s pilots flew helicopters in Vietnam.
“They truly are citizen-soldiers, making not just one
sacrifice,” Wood said. “They are professionals — VPs of ‘Fortune 500’
companies, self-employed contractors, electrical engineers, school teachers,
and we’ve got a lot of students.”
The Nomads are made up about evenly between soldiers from the
two states. Afghanistan is the company’s first deployment as a whole unit.
“We trained together during peacetime,” Wood said. “This made
us more effective when we mobilized for war.”
Over the past year, the state lines have been blurred. “Our
unit has grown very close,” said Wood.
“I can’t tell who is from Connecticut and who is from Pennsylvania — I
can’t remember anymore.”
“We’ve done a fantastic job of meshing people … from two
different parts of the country who’ve got a common theme of flying,” said
These fantastic people are flying what they say is a fantastic
“In my opinion the CH-47 is the most important aircraft in
Afghanistan,” said Lopez. “It moves a lot of groceries.”
“Compared to other birds, it’s the oldest dog on the block,”
said Nomad mechanic Sgt. Benjamin Davis about their Chinooks. “But I wouldn’t
fly on any other bird. It’s big, it’s fast and it’s the lifeblood of
With the 14 Nomad Chinooks and eight more with the Bagram-based
Company C, 159th Aviation Regiment’s Flippers, that lifeblood keeps pumping.
“[The Flippers] fly in the northern part of the country, we
fly in both [northern and southern],” said Wood. During most of the deployment,
the Nomads based a few aircraft at Bagram.
Despite the Nomads entering their final few weeks of flying,
they haven’t slowed down.
“Right now, the operational temp is picking up,” said Curadi.
“We’re keeping the guys in the field supplied, we’re making the bad guys look
over their shoulders and we’re taking our guys out there to get those bad
But not all of their missions involved military units.
“We’ve brought some kids back that were hurt by landmines,”
Curadi said. “We brought the whole family to stay with them.
“We’ve seen them at both ends,” he continued, “with IVs in
their hands and then they come back with a teddy bear in that hand and a better
look on their faces than they had a month prior.”
“By us being here, whether it’s fighting terrorists or helping
the locals, it’s for the better,” said Davis.
March 24, 2004, Wednesday, BC cycle
2:54 AM Eastern Time
United Way Chapter Raising Money for Soldiers’ Families
By JAY HUGHES, Associated Press Writer
The United Way of Pulaski County is raising money to help
families of National Guard or reserve members who are on extended active
duty, which can sometimes leave their dependents in a bind.
The chapter created the Arkansas Homefront Fund to help those
left at home for a year or more and trying to cope with unexpected bills, other
financial obligations and unforeseen hardships.
“In my lifetime, we’ve never had a time when pulling
together as a community, state and country has been more important,” Lt.
Gov. Win Rockefeller, honorary chairman of the fund, said Tuesday.
Maj. Gen. Don Morrow, adjutant general of Arkansas, said
sending guard or reserve members overseas for extended periods places a greater
burden on their dependents than deploying active-duty troops. Morrow said the
families of active-duty troops usually live in military housing maintained by
the government and, in the on-base community, have a ready-made social safety
“The family of the reserve component soldier does not
have that built-in support mechanism,” Morrow said. “All of a sudden
the family is faced with all sorts of issues they never anticipated.”
About 4,500 Arkansas Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Air
National Guard troops are on active duty domestically and overseas.
John Nazzaro, president of the United Way of Pulaski County,
said the fund was set up in November after receiving requests for assistance
from activated soldiers’ families. He said with minimal effort, about $40,000
has been raised and 20 families have been helped so far.
Nazzaro said the chapter hopes to receive donations from
across the state.
A board comprised of a United Way representative and six
unlisted members from various components of the reserve armed forces evaluates
each request. Morrow said the board decides whether assistance is needed, at
what level and whether it will be considered a loan or a grant.
One cause of hardships is that active-duty pay is often less
than the paycheck reservists earn at civilian jobs, Morrow said. He said
several requests for assistance have been made because a soldier was
demobilized for health reasons, and there was a gap between receiving
active-duty pay and getting their pay through a med-pay program.
As another example, Morrow said a family on a suddenly tight
budget may need help to replace a washing machine or another needed resource
with a breadwinner absent.
Rockefeller said in addition to financial burdens, the
remaining spouse is often left with responsibility for the home and children
without anyone to assist.
“We just need to remember we’ve got folks overseas and
they need help,” he said.
LOS ANGELES —
Supervisor Mike Antonovich paid tribute Tuesday to the nearly 800 Los Angeles
County workers in the National Guard or military reserves including 93
called to active duty in the war on terror.
United States today, over 1 million Americans serve in the Guard and Reserve
forces representing one half of our total military forces,” Antonovich
to active duty, these citizen soldiers put their civilian career on hold to
preserve our protection, our freedom (and) our liberties.”
is a lieutenant colonel in the California State Military Reserve, asked 45
county employees from 20 departments and every military branch to stand and be
recognized at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Also lauded was
Rear Admiral David Janes, chair of the National Committee for Employer Support
of the Guard and Reserve, which encourages employers to support their employees
who are also reservists or in the National Guard.
He said the
county, and particularly Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, has shown loyalty
to those employees called to war.
sheriff has been exemplary in every way and has set a standard for all
municipalities throughout the United States, and I’m going to carry his message
everywhere I go,” Janes said.
Baca gave a card
offering assistance and support to the families and particularly the children
of deployed deputies, said Tony Bell, Antonovich’s press deputy.
essentially saying is that while your dad or mom is not here, I will be both
father and mother for you,” Janes said.
“If you get
in trouble anywhere in my county, call this number. There will be a squad car
to pick you up and take you home or to our station to make sure you’re
The ESGR gave
Baca an award last weekend for his actions, Janes said.
County supports our employees who are citizen soldiers and who are called for
active duty in many ways, which includes guaranteeing return to employment,
providing differential pay, and allowing continued accrual of sick and vacation
time during deployment,” Antonovich said.
March 28, 2004
Community Rushes to Help Troops Alerted for Deployment Tie Knot
By David McLemore, The Dallas Morning News
LAFAYETTE, La. – There was time for laughter and time for
weeping. Weddings are like that. This time, not all the tears were from joy.
It’s a good weekend for a wedding. Or seven, as it turns out.
Over three days, despite pressure-cooker deadlines, Merilyn Crain and a small
army of volunteers are staging seven weddings at L’Eglise, the old
church-turned-wedding-chapel she owns in a picturesque corner of southwestern
Louisiana outside Lafayette.
The marriage marathon, dubbed Operation Enduring Love, grew
out of necessity. On March 1, when the Pentagon alerted the 256th Infantry
Brigade of the Louisiana National Guard for possible
deployment to Iraq later this year, several soldiers in the 4,000-member
brigade decided to hurry up their wedding plans.
Enter Ms. Crain. In about two weeks, she engineered seven
full-scale weddings for the brigade’s couples, free of charge. It was, she
stresses, a community effort.
“It has nothing to do if you’re for the war or not,”
Ms. Crain said. “In this part of the world, taking care of family and
helping others are two very important values. People just wanted to show their
support for these kids who are putting their lives on hold for us.”
This is the heart of Cajun country. For more than two
centuries, descendants of French-Canadian emigres have carved out a living and
raised families in the cedar brakes and bayous of this part of Louisiana. The
heartache of love lost and found resonates with particular intensity here.
It is also a region of unbridled generosity and fierce
loyalties among neighbors, Ms. Crain said.
“There’s something magic about this place,” she
said. “People will do anything they can to help each other. It’s just what
you do here. What they’ve done for these beautiful kids is a perfect
Staff Sgt. Heath Comeaux, 24, works full time for the Guard. A
veteran of Bosnia, he knew that combat was a likelihood of his job. That
doesn’t make it easier to leave his new wife at home.
He and Taryn Hair, 21, met at a community barbecue a year ago
and fell in love. Two weeks before the alert order, they became engaged. She is
expecting their baby in September.
“Everything changed with that alert. We can’t make any
plans at all,” Sgt. Comeaux said. “I’ll be gone a year, and I won’t
be a part of what happens here with her.”
Mrs. Comeaux fought the tears in vain. “I’m not going to
cry,” she said. Then she did.
“I have to face the fact that he’s going,” she said.
“But it’s so hard. You get used to doing everything with someone, and you
think he won’t be there soon. He’s the one who keeps me going.”
On the day the mobilization alert came to the 256th brigade, a
couple who had planned their wedding with Ms. Crain for October called to see
whether they could reschedule. She agreed and discounted her charge. Other
young military affected by the alert began calling for help in quick weddings.
“It put a face to what we see on the news each day,”
Ms. Crain said. “These are our sons, our brothers, our neighbors. I just
felt we had to do something for these kids.”
The next day, while at the dentist’s, Ms. Crain had an epiphany.
She would provide weddings for as many as she could. The problem was that
L’Eglise is booked through mid-2005.
Then, that afternoon, a party scheduled at L’Eglise for the
last weekend in March fell through. When she stopped at Paul’s Jewelry in Lafayette
to get her watch fixed, Ms. Crain told owners Paul and Patricia Naomi about her
plans. Mr. Naomi immediately offered to provide gold wedding bands, complete
“When Merilyn told us what she was doing, it took my
brother two seconds to say we’d help,” Ms. Naomi said. “We’re doing
it for those young people. What they’re doing for us is worth more than a few
The demand, however, was overwhelming.
More than 40 couples from the 256th brigade initially
responded to Ms. Crain’s word-of-mouth offer of a free wedding. That number was
pared down to a dozen. With just one weekend available at L’Eglise and two
weeks for planning, there was time to provide only seven weddings. A drawing
was held and seven couples selected. Then the wedding army kicked into
Ms. Crain began calling caterers, florists, beauty shops and
others for help. Within a few days, nearly 30 businesses had agreed to donate
flowers, food, bridal gowns, tuxedos, photography services, makeup and hair
styling and all the accoutrements of a fairytale wedding.
Ms. Crain stressed that all the merchants insisted the couples
go first class. Chef Bobby and Dot Catering of Lafayette catered all seven
weddings, a service valued at $2,000 each. Antoinette’s Bridal & Formals
loaned $650 gowns for each bride. Each wedding was valued in excess of $10,000.
The couples didn’t pay a cent.
“I never dreamed I’d have a wedding like this. We were
just going to the courthouse,” said Rachel Granier, 22, an elementary
teacher in Lafayette. “And they don’t treat us like charity cases. We go
into some of the most exclusive shops in town, and we’re treated like valued
customers. This is helping make so many good memories.”
Planning a wedding is stressful, Ms. Crain said. Organizing
seven weddings in two weeks is a logistical nightmare.
People started calling, often complete strangers, offering
their help. The American Legion and a Vietnam veterans group offered to clean
the church between weddings. Former clients of Ms. Crain’s arrived unasked to help.
“This is an incredibly gracious thing these people are
doing for these young soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Robert S. Barker Jr.,
brigade chaplain. “Not only does it benefit the couples chosen, but it
tells every soldier in the brigade just how much this community supports
Col. Barker got into the act. He officiated at four of the
Keshia Bares’ wedding to Staff Sgt. Chris Etheridge at
L’Eglise is just more family history. Her father was an altar boy before the
church was desanctified more than 30 years ago. Her ancestors are buried in
some of the faded above-ground tombs that still lie behind the old chapel.
And like other 256th couples, the new Mr. and Mrs. Etheridge
accept the risks of being sent to a combat zone as part of being in the Guard.
Like delayed lives, it goes with the territory.
“I don’t like it that he’ll be gone, but it’s what we
have to do,” she said. “The uncertainty is the worst part. I’ll spend
my time getting things set up and finding us a place to live so we’ll be ready to
start our life when he gets back. I have no doubt in my mind he’ll be
For Spc. Daniel Stacks, 25, and his fiancee, Marka Johnson,
their wedding marked just one of the big changes in their lives. They learned
that she was pregnant with a daughter the day they heard they’d won one of the
“We’d thought about marriage, but the alert just meant I
had to have my heart speak up,” he said. “I wanted to make sure she would be taken care of if
something happened to me.”
After their wedding Saturday, they’ve opted to take the future
one day at a time.
“The wedding planning was trouble-free. Ms. Crain takes
care of everything like we were family. We’d come in frazzled, and she’d greet
us with hugs and kisses and tell us everything would be OK,” Spc. Stacks
said. “And it always was.”
March 28, 2004
Their Turn to
Pay; When Duty Calls, Life Put on Hold
Cmdr. Deborah Haven choked back tears, not from the constant
swirl of dust, but from the thought of Nadia.
Back home on Saturday, Nadia will be extra pretty for her
senior prom at Granville High School. In June, she’ll don cap and gown. Mom
will miss both events. She’s here in the desert, maybe for another nine months,
commanding the Columbus-based Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 9.
“Our orders are for a year,” said Haven, her eyes
welling. “It’s hard. It’s really hard.”
Haven, 46, missed the family’s annual spring break vacation to
Florida last week. But it is the big events in Nadia’s life, the memorable ones
every mother craves to share, that gnaw at Haven in the nighttime solitude of
“The way you deal with it here is just sort of block it
out because when you think about what’s going on at home, it bothers you,”
said Haven, who in civilian life is a customer service executive at the Defense
Supply Center, Columbus.
“This is the way I think about it: I’ve been a reservist
for 16 years and I really haven’t missed many soccer games. Everybody has to
pay, and this is my turn.”
Haven’s lament echoes across Kuwait and Iraq, and beyond. The
everyday lives of American citizen-soldiers have been interrupted by war. The
call-up of thousands of Reserve and National
Guard members — they comprise two-thirds of the U.S. support force in
Kuwait — has strained the routines and psyches of families, burdened
employers, stunted civilian careers, and put in harm’s way many who viewed
themselves as weekend warriors.
So far, the massive call-up appears not to have hurt
recruitment. Some experts, though, expect Reserve and Guard retention rates to
be lowered by stints that, in some cases, extend two years or more.
But in a briefing last week at Camp Arifjan, 110 miles south
of the Iraqi border, Brig. Gen. Michael Diamond predicted that wartime activation
will be “a boon” to retention.
“A lot of Guard and reservists coming over here are
getting to do what they trained for,” he said.
It is rare to hear a Reserve or Guard member here complain
about being activated — at least for publication. Most say they expected a
call-up during their part-time military tenure and accept it with various
senses of duty, patriotism, opportunity, excitement or resignation. But many
want more information about the length of their overseas service.
“It’s not a situation of they don’t want to be here, they
just want to know there’s a structure that will provide predictability on how
long they’ll be here,” Brig. Gen. Jack Stultz said.
The stress often is greater for families left behind, for moms
who also have to become dads, electricians, mechanics and coaches, and for
dads, like Don Haven, a teacher at Granville High School, who might feel
awkward fussing with Nadia’s prom dress.
“Nadia is real positive about this,” Cmdr. Haven
said. “She tells her friends, ‘My mom has to go so somebody else’s mom can
come home,’ or she tells them, ‘Mom is going so another mom doesn’t have to.’
Still, the separation is painful.
“I miss my kids’ smiles,” said Petty Officer 3rd
Class Esther Cramer, 32, of Newark, Ohio, as she guided Abrams tanks into the
cavernous hold of the Cape Horn, a cargo ship docked at the Port of Ash
Shuaybah near Kuwait City.
Cramer’s three daughters — ages 12, 7 and 4 — are staying
with her mother and sister, because her husband is on active duty in the Navy
On Feb. 3, Chief Petty Officer Frank Jacobs’ son was born back
home in Worthington. Jacobs was at Ash Shuaybah, doing his job in the sprawling
and dusty redeployment yard, making sure that tanks, trucks, helicopters and
myriad other equipment are put on the right ships for the states.
“I was there for my daughter’s birth and this time, with
me gone, was a little stressful for my wife, but she’s very supportive,”
said Jacobs, 44, owner of a physical-therapy clinic.
“I’m glad to do my part for these guys,” he said,
referring to nearby soldiers resting around their equipment after serving a
year or more in Iraq. “It’s a lot tougher for them than it is on us. They
put in a tough year.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Sam McKenzie, 52, of Hilliard can
contact part of his family without a phone or the Internet; he often eats chow
in the mess hall at Camp Spearhead near Kuwait City with his son, Jed, 24. Both
are members of Battalion 9.
“It’s nice to talk with him about home,” said the
elder McKenzie, a Vietnam War veteran. “Jed got married at my house in a
small ceremony three weeks before we came here. They pushed up the date and his
wife is keeping my wife company.”
McKenzie said his 22-year-old son, Brad, was preparing to join
the Air Force, “but then we got called up and he stayed home to help out
As he finished lunch at Camp Spearhead and prepared to head
for his job overseeing sailors handling cargo at the port, Petty Officer 1st
Class Donald “Brad” Knox of Plain City recalled the gift fellow
Columbus firefighters at Station 16 gave him before he was deployed with
Battalion 9 in January.
“When I told my lieutenant I could be here a year, he
worked it out with the other guys to cover my duty for almost a month before I
left so I could be home with my family,” said Knox, 36, father of children
ages 7, 5 and 1. “The support back home has really been terrific.”
With an omnipresent threat of terrorism, the members of
Battalion 9 don’t let their guard down, but they are safer and serving for
shorter periods of time than many of the Reserve and Guard troops in the
Persian Gulf region.
“Since 9/11 happened, this has been my real life,”
said Lt. Col. Thom Beirne as he piloted a jumbo C-5 cargo jet to Bahrain to
Before his New York Air National Guard unit was activated on Dec. 6, 2002, Beirne, 41, of
St. James, N.Y., flew the Delta Airlines shuttle connecting New York, Boston
and Washington. He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to resume his Delta job.
Beirne’s co-pilot, Lt. Col. John Healy, a New York state
trooper, is flying in and around Iraq as a guardsman for the second time since
“The last war, I flew B-52s and bombed Iraq, so this is
different for me,” said Healy, 45, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “The
first time I left about 250,000 pounds of bombs over there. I’d rather do cargo
runs any day. Nobody likes dropping bombs on people.”
And nobody likes dodging bombs, Master Sgt. Scott Johnson was
reminded last week when his Charleston-based West Virginia Air National Guard unit flew its
four-propeller C-130 cargo plane to Kirkuk, Iraq, to deliver two Humvees.
Sitting on one of the Humvees in the plane’s belly last week,
Johnson was explaining how flares automatically launch from the C-130 to divert
ground missiles when he heard an ominously familiar pop. The flares had fired.
He ran to a window, preparing to radio the pilot to put the plane in a dive and
roll. Seeing no enemy fire and only the sea below, he concluded that something
accidentally triggered the flares.
It was, nevertheless, another reminder to Johnson and the crew
that Guard duty can be perilous. Each crew member has flown between 60 and 70
missions to the Persian Gulf region since the unit was activated in March 2003.
During 43 flights in Iraq last year, Master Sgt. Rob Stinnett, a load master,
said “we know we got shot at about 12 times, and once it got real
He described what happened while flying into Baghdad at about
8:30 p.m. on Aug. 3:
“We were all blacked out at about 11,000 feet and
somebody fired an unguided rocket up at us. I radioed the pilot to break left
and he went into a 90-degree angle and dropped the plane about 2,000 feet. By
then we popped a bunch of flares. I looked out the window and there were tracer
bullets coming at us from the ground. The pilot radioed Baghdad and said we
were going to abort the mission — it was too hot.”
Stinnett, 35, already has missed one promotion opportunity as
a police officer in Huntington, W.Va., and his parents are worried that he’ll
miss much more.
“They like to remind me that I picked not only one job
but two that are dangerous,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being a
policeman again in Huntington where it’s much safer.”
March 24, 2004
He Served in Iraq, Loses Job Back Home
By Ray Rivera, Seattle Times staff reporter
Dana Beaudine was wounded in a mortar attack near the town of Basra in
Iraq. But after he came home a decorated war veteran, he found himself facing a
fight of another kind.
For the past six months, Beaudine has been trying to get his job back with
Securitas Security Services USA, the nation’s largest private security firm,
which counts among its clients the federal government.
Beaudine, 34, worked as a guard at the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building
in downtown Seattle before he was called up, serving in Iraq as a corporal in
an Oregon National Guard infantry unit.
Wounded in action, Beaudine also was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder, an ailment that alarmed Securitas but which Army psychiatrists said
does not prevent him from returning to work.
Today, Beaudine finds himself in the company of thousands of other citizen
soldiers who — despite federal law — are struggling to get back or keep the
jobs they left behind.
Nearly 3,200 job-related complaints have been filed with the U.S. Labor
Department by returning Guard and Reserve soldiers since the Sept. 11, 2001,
While that number is small compared with the 361,000 Guard members and
reservists mobilized in that time, labor officials acknowledged the numbers may
begin to spike upward. “We haven’t had a lot of problems so far because
most of the reservists in Iraq haven’t come home yet,” said Vern Hagen,
state ombudsman for the Employer Support for Guard and Reserves, a Defense
Department agency that uses volunteers to mediate disputes between soldiers and
Soldiers who come back with disabilities can face an added level of
difficulty in returning to their jobs. Under the American with Disabilities
Act, however, employers are required to find a job that can be performed by a
veteran with a disability.
Beaudine, who says he will sue Securitas in federal court to get his job
back, worked at the Jackson building for about 10 months before he was deployed
in December 2002.
Three months later, he was caught in a firefight and slammed to the ground
by an enemy mortar. Beaudine said the blast left permanent nerve damage in a
leg. He was sent home to recover at Fort Lewis, where his wife works as an Army
Initially, Beaudine said, he had difficulty readjusting to normal life.
Friends and family felt distant. “I wasn’t suicidal or homicidal or
anything like that,” he said. “I just found it difficult interacting
with my kids and friends.”
He saw an Army psychiatrist, who told him he had post-traumatic stress disorder,
which afflicts up to 30 percent of combat veterans, according to the National
Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Patients often relive the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks, have
difficulty sleeping and feel detached or estranged.
Beaudine said his symptoms were mild and he was never prescribed
medication. In October, the Army cleared him to work on weekends while he
awaited his honorable discharge.
At the time of his deployment, his employer was Argus Services, a
Spokane-based company that held the security contract for all federal buildings
in the Pacific Northwest. His record with the company was unblemished, he said.
When he came back, Securitas had taken over the $12 million contract.
Securitas initially returned him to his post at the federal building. His
duties consisted mainly of screening people as they entered the building. In
fact, he said, neither the nerve damage nor the post-traumatic stress disorder
kept him from doing anything in his job description.
But he was back on the job only a few days. The company, after learning
secondhand about his injuries, asked him not to return to work until he
supplied more information about his health, he said. In particular, Securitas
wanted to know more about his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The company asked him for a list of all his medications, a signed release
so it could review his medical records and a letter from Army psychiatrists
saying he was fit to work.
Beaudine said it took time working through Army channels, but he met the
company’s requests. In a November document to Securitas, the chief of
psychiatry at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis and a second Army
psychiatrist found Beaudine “mentally competent” to do his job.
Securitas then requested he undergo a “fitness-for-duty exam”
with a psychiatrist of its choosing. At that point, Beaudine balked, saying the
Labor Department had advised him such a screening was unnecessary.
“They just kept raising the bar on me,” said Beaudine, a father
of three from Spanaway.
Securitas declined to be interviewed for this story. A spokesman said the
company did not want to talk about employment practices nor its dealings with
Beaudine, describing that as a pending personnel dispute.
In a Jan. 26 letter to the company, the Labor Department stated that after
reviewing information from Securitas and Beaudine, it concluded the company was
in violation of the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, a
1994 law that stiffened job-protection guarantees for returning soldiers.
Securitas also got a warning letter from the human-resources director of the
Oregon National Guard, who recommended Beaudine be allowed to return to work.
The company, however, resisted. In a Jan. 27 letter, the company’s
regional human-resources director, Felecia Clarke, informed Beaudine that
unless he consented to the company’s psychiatric exam, “we have no choice
but to determine that you have chosen to quit.”
Beaudine said he also sought help from the Federal Protective Service, the
agency that oversees Securitas’ contract, but to no avail. Contacted by The
Seattle Times, the agency’s regional director, Ken Spitzer, said he would look
into the complaint. “I’ve asked for a brief on that this week, and I’ll
see what Securitas has to say also.”
Securitas, a subsidiary of Swedish security conglomerate Securitas AB,
employs some 93,000 people in the United States. In its literature, it states
that hundreds of its employees are Guard and Reserve members and that their
service to this country is appreciated.
Securitas also won an award last year from the Tennessee office of the
Employer Support for Guard and Reserves for its support of the men and women
deployed in the war on terror.
Which is what makes Beaudine’s case so perplexing, said his lawyer,
Beaudine, who received several war medals, including a Purple Heart that
soon will be awarded, said at this point all he wants is back pay and legal
He said his family has been scraping by on his unemployment checks and his
wife’s income. Meanwhile, he spends his days taking care of his three children
— a 7-month-old son, a 3-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter — and looking
for another job.
“You pull a National Guard guy out of his life and ask him to risk
his life over there,” said Meyer, “and this is how you treat
by Staff Sgt. Stephen Hudson
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Army News Service, March 25, 2004) -- They’re back now. The Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard’s three infantry battalions are home and the sands of a Southwest Asia desert are rapidly becoming a distant memory.
They returned home wearing smiles and faded desert camouflage fatigues. After a year of combat foot patrols in Iraq these Soldiers, now home, have an opportunity to reflect on a year in Iraq.
These citizen-Soldiers became part of the largest call-up of the Florida National Guard since World War II, when members of the 124th Infantry Regiment fought in such places as New Guinea and Italy.
Their trip started the day after Christmas in 2002 as the battalions received their alerts. From Florida the Soldiers headed to Fort Stewart, then to Southwest Asia protecting Patriot missile batteries and were part of the first ground troops into Iraq.
Spc. Derick Robinson, 21, a student at Tallahassee Community College, was a week away from starting the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy when his unit was called to active duty.
Robinson, whose grandfather served in Europe during World War II, said they now share common experiences: one a draftee, the other a volunteer, they both helped liberate countries from oppressive and brutal dictators.
Robinson said the United States needs to be in Iraq and liberating the Iraqi people was the right thing to do.
“At first the Iraqis were afraid of us,” said Robinson. “After they realized we were there to liberate them -- they warmed up to us. They were a big part of our success.”
Robinson said he is proud he never fired his weapon although he was shot at several times.
Spc. Jarett Frazier, a business major at Florida State University, echoed Robinson’s sentiments of the war: “I have no doubt we should have been there,” he said.
After the war ended these Soldiers spent countless hours patrolling Baghdad’s streets, working with locals citizens to capture weapons caches and arrest Saddam loyalists who were holdouts from the fallen regime.
1st Lt. Scott Slaughter, 38, who has been deployed twice with different Florida National Guard units since Sept. 11, 2001, served with the Guard’s 1st Battalion in Ar Ramadi and realized early on the importance of the Coalition in Iraq.
“What the war in Iraq has done has taken away a mechanism weapons of mass destruction could be used against our allies, or us,“ Slaughter said. “In my opinion it was only a matter of time before those weapons found their way into the hands of terrorists.”
In addition to their military duties, the Florida Soldiers helped renovate a soccer stadium and gave soccer balls to Iraqi kids. They even gave out Christmas gifts to children. The Florida National Guard was at the frontlines of rebuilding schools, restoring electrical power and training a new Iraqi police force.
The Florida Soldiers also earned numerous awards including Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medals, and the Bronze Star.
Three Florida Guardsmen lost their lives in Iraq, Cpl. Travis Rivero, Spc. Jeffrey Wershow and Spc. Robert A. Wise were killed while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
(Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Stephen Hudson writes for the Florida National Guard Public Affairs Office.)
by Spc. Lorie Jewell
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 25, 2004) –
On the day Spc. Sean Lewis was to put on his first prosthetic leg, he
discovered sometimes there is delayed gratification in healing quickly.
Lewis, 20, lost most of his right leg in a Jan.
21 mortar attack in Iraq. Since arriving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he
has been focused on getting up on two feet again – even if one is artificial.
A plastic socket had to be made before that
could happen. The socket fits over the residual limb, buffered by a silicone
liner, and then attaches to the prosthetic. It’s crucial for the socket to fit
right, prosthetist Dennis Clark explained.
Measurements of Lewis’ residual limb – necessary
to create the socket – were taken just five days before. But when Clark helped
Lewis put the socket on, they discovered it was too loose. The residual limb
had shrunk, which is normal as it heals.
By the next day, the limb shrank again. So much
so, a new socket had to be made. Lewis, who wants to stay on active duty and
resume running in marathons, was eventually fitted with his prosthetic. He’s
pleased, but at the same time anxious to meet his goals. There’s a marathon in
August he has his sights set on.
“I’ve been asked how I’m healing so fast and I
say, it’s because I want to,’’ Lewis said. “You can do anything your mind tells
you you can do. I want to do everything I can to get as close as I can to how I
Clark and other prosthetists know this attitude
well; it’s a common thread in the majority of Soldiers they work with.
“We tell them, don’t worry, you’ll get there,’’
Clark said, smiling. “But it’s going to take a few minutes.”
The path to making a Soldier as whole as
possible takes them through the hospital’s Orthotics and Prosthetics
laboratory, where prosthetists begin with a custom-made socket.
New technology – the Computer Aided Design and
Computer Aided Manufacturing system, or CAD CAM – enables prosthetists to
create the mold for a socket in 20 minutes or less, said research prosthetist
Joe Miller. Making a plaster cast of the limb, which is still done when
necessary, produces the mold in a day or two, Miller said.
“We’ve had this technology for about eight or
nine months,’’ Miller said. “It’s really brought us forward in the care we
provide, greatly reducing the turnaround time for sockets.”
Next, a sheet of plastic is put in an oven until
pliable, then formed over the foam mold. When cool, the socket is trimmed and
sanded until smooth. If it doesn’t fit right when a Soldier tries it on,
adjustments are made until it forms a snug, comfortable fit over the residual
limb. The socket then attaches to the prosthetic.
Because a residual limb continues to shrink
until it completely heals, a Soldier will get fitted for as many as eight
different sockets before leaving the hospital, Miller said.
The aim is to have a Soldier fitted with an
initial prosthetic – especially if it’s an upper extremity like an arm or hand
– within 30 days of arriving at the hospital, said Ralph Urgolites, who heads
the laboratory. Once they have a prosthetic that fits right, Soldiers move on
to Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy laboratories, a short walk down
“The more time that passes, the greater the
chance that the Soldier will grow accustomed to using the remaining arm and not
see the value of having the prosthetic,’’ Urgolites said. “The success rate in
the civilian sector tells us there is a 50 percent chance the person will
decide not to use the (prosthetic) arm.”
There isn’t as much concern about a prosthetic
leg being rejected because a Soldier needs two legs and feet for activities
like walking and running, Urgolites said.
Walter Reed’s success rate for prosthetic
acceptance is 100 percent, he added.
For Soldiers with upper extremity amputations,
the hospital’s protocol is to fit them with three different prosthetic arms – a
computer-programmed myoelectric, body powered, and cosmetic. The myoelectric
allows for more effortless movement than the body powered prosthetic, which is
operated with a harness and pulley system.
There are times when a Soldier may prefer to use
the body powered prosthetic because it’s more durable and won’t be damaged if
it gets wet, unlike the myoelectric, Urgolites said. An artist on staff creates
a cosmetic prosthetic identical to the other limb, which could be used when
appearance is desired more than function, he added.
“Some might say the cosmetic is unnecessary, but
self-image is an important part in the Soldier accepting the prosthetic,’’
Urgolites said. “If they view themselves as less than a whole person, they are
more likely to reject a limb. It’s not all about the money. It’s about making
the Soldier as whole as possible.”
Soldiers with prosthetic legs have a choice of
several different styles of feet.
“We let them pick and choose, get a feel for
what’s available and then decide what they like best,’’ Miller said.
There is also opportunity for creative input in
the appearance of the final socket, Miller said. A Soldier can opt to leave the
clear plastic as is, or have special artwork added. There are American flags,
NASCAR logos, and unit patches. Or Soldiers may come up with their own designs,
within limits, Miller said.
“We had one guy who wanted a black background
with pink Playboy bunnies all over it,’’ Miller said, grinning. “He got it.”
Lewis, who was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas,
with the 588th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division,
has already decided what his final socket will look like. It will bear the
Texas state flag and his unit patch.
by Spc. Lorie Jewell
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 25, 2004) – Advances in prosthetic technology are keeping Soldiers in the mainstream of life – and in some cases, on active duty – more than ever before, health care officials contend.
Soldiers benefiting from technological wonders like the Otto Bock microprocessor C-Leg knee unit or the myoelectric Utah 3 arm marvel not only at the existence of the devices, but that they are receiving such top-shelf products.
Spc. Sean Lewis, 20, for instance, knew very little about prosthetics just a few months ago.
“Lt. Dan from ‘Forrest Gump,’ that’s about it,” said Lewis, illustrating the extent of his knowledge with a reference to a movie character that lost both legs in the Vietnam War but who showed up toward the end of the movie using titanium alloy prosthetics the main character, Gump, called “magic legs.”
A Jan. 21 mortar attack on an Army camp near Baqubah, Iraq changed that.
Lewis was a communications equipment repair specialist attached to the 588th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. It was early evening and he was standing next to his vehicle, talking and smoking with two friends – Spc. Gabriel Palacios and Pfc. James David Parker – when, without warning, a mortar round hit them.
From the ground, Lewis recalled looking up to see most of his right leg completely severed from his body. Palacios and Parker were dead.
Two months later, Lewis was standing on two feet – one natural and the other rubber, attached to an aluminum pylon straight-leg prosthetic – in Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Orthotics and Prosthetics laboratory.
“I loved it,” Lewis said. “Even though I was using crutches, I felt like I was up on both legs again. The prosthetic helped with a lot of the phantom pain.”
Lewis was fitted the following week with the latest high-tech prosthetic for lower extremity amputees, the C-Leg. Equipped with a microprocessor knee and hydraulic pneumatic controls, the leg brings patients like Lewis as close as they can be to a natural gait, said Ralph Urgolites, head of the Orthotics and Prosthetics lab.
Whereas a traditional prosthetic leg is swung forward using body weight, the C-Leg moves according to information it collects through computerized sensors that send feedback data 50 times per second between the foot and the knee.
“It’s amazing what they can do now,’’ Lewis said. “I’ve met with lots of people here and until they told me, I didn’t even know they had a prosthetic on.”
As of mid-March, Urgolites has counted 83 Soldiers – including at least one woman – who have come through the prosthetics lab since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Several have also come from Afghanistan, where Soldiers continue to face danger while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Of those, 19 Soldiers have lost upper extremity limbs, he noted That’s an unusually high percentage, Urgolites noted, compared to the national average of 2.5 upper extremity cases for every 100 amputees.
The high volume of Soldiers in need of prosthetics forced the department to hire part-time help, increasing a normal staff of four or five prosthetists to seven or eight, depending on the need, Urgolites said. Twice, the need has been close to overwhelming – once in November and before that in August, when seven Soldiers with upper extremity amputations arrived at one time, he said.
“It’s very rare to see more than two upper extremities at a time,’’ Urgolites said.
One of the newest devices for such amputees is the computer-assisted myoelectric prosthetic. The Utah 3 arm allows the elbow and wrist to move simultaneously, while previous models were limited to separate movements, Urgolites said. The first six Utah 3 models off the production line went to Soldiers at Walter Reed following a round of tests last summer, he added.
Sgt. Steve Clark, 36, is one of the six. He lost his right arm above the elbow in October when the Humvee he was gunning on a road outside of Baghdad was hit by a remote-controlled improvised explosive device. Like Lewis, Clark said he knew nothing about prosthetics before being injured. Not only is he impressed with the technology, but that Soldiers are getting it as well. With the cost of each prosthetic device ranging from $20,000 to $100,000, Clark is grateful the Army is investing so much into the care of Soldiers.
The hardest part about wearing the prosthetic, he said, is remembering to use it. His natural instinct is to take the fastest route to getting something done, which sometimes leaves the prosthetic idle. The more he takes the time to manage the Utah 3, the easier it gets, Clark said.
Clark was a multiple launch rocket system crewmember with the 127th Field Artillery from Babenhausen, Germany. He’s planning to take a medical retirement and pursue a job as a resource counselor with the Veteran’s Administration, working with Soldiers at Walter Reed.
“Before all of this happened, I would have thought that losing an arm would be too devastating, that I would just want to crawl in a hole,’’ Clark said. “But that’s not the case.”
Going through the recovery process side by side with other Soldiers makes a big difference, Clark and Lewis said.
“There’s an unspoken brotherhood,’’ said Lewis. “We encourage each other. Sometimes we taunt each other.”
Added Clark: “There’s always someone who has it worse.”
For as much as Soldiers motivate each other, their can-do attitudes have an equally positive effect on the staff, Urgolites said.
“When a Soldier says ‘why can’t I do that?’ it makes us stop and ask ourselves ‘Why can’t we do that?’” Urgolites said. “We’ve come a long way from years past, when the attitude might have been to be satisfied with just getting them walking again. Now, it’s that we should do more, and we can.”
One innovation the staff is currently exploring is how to combine two existing prosthetic legs – one for use in the shower, with tiny suction cups on the sole, and the other for swimming – into a single prosthetic. That would eliminate the need to switch from one to the other, said research prosthetist Joe Miller.
Miller and others are hoping research will clear up some uncertainties as they push forward. They’d like to find out how much moisture or heat certain prosthetics can take, for instance. Or how to protect a Soldier on the battlefield who has a microprocessor in his prosthetic leg that might emit a signal, potentially exposing him to the enemy.
“We’re stretching the boundaries of rehabilitative care with prosthetics,’’ Miller said. “We believe it’s the right thing to do, and until that can be disproved, we’re moving forward.”
The ultimate goal is to make each Soldier as whole as possible and enable them to carry on with normal lives, Miller and Urgolites said. That includes remaining on active duty, if they so choose and the medical board determines they are fit to do so.
There are Soldiers who have shown it is possible to stay on active duty with a prosthetic – or two. Dana Bowman, for instance, lost both legs when he collided mid-air with a fellow member of the Golden Knights parachute team during a 1994 training exercise. With two prosthetic legs, Bowman jumped five months later while on a pass from Walter Reed. He re-enlisted nine months after the accident and completed more than 800 jumps with his prosthetics before retiring in 1996 as a sergeant first class. Bowman has been working since as a motivational speaker, including with the Army’s recruiting command.
Bowman has visited Soldiers at Walter Reed several times in the past year to share his experiences and offer whatever assistance he can provide. He’s amazed at the advancements in technology and gratified by the staff’s dedication.
“What they’re doing to help these Soldiers is remarkable,’’ Bowman said. “I’ve seen incredible patient care throughout.”
Some Soldiers have left Walter Reed with prosthetics and returned to active duty units while awaiting the medical board process, officials said, but an exact number wasn’t available. One Soldier, Staff Sgt. Andrew McAffrey, is back on duty at Fort Bragg, N.C., with a prosthetic right hand that replaced the one he lost in Afghanistan last year.
McAffrey and a few other Soldiers accompanied Urgolites last month to a program on the history of and advancements in prosthetics at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.
Urgolites gave a power point demonstration on what’s being done at Walter Reed that included a video clip of McAffrey using a microprocessor “Greifer” prosthetic to accomplish ordinary tasks, like picking up a bottle or unfastening a wristwatch. McAffrey also knocked out some push-ups, using a fingerless prosthetic hand he discovered in a catalog.
“He was having difficulty doing push ups with another prosthetic because the fingers kept bending,’’ Urgolites said. “So he found one that was designed for a child, got the largest size, and adapted it for what he needed to do.”
Lewis, 20, is also determined to return to his unit. From the time he was a little kid, all he’s ever wanted to be is a Soldier. Beyond that, he wants to be a marathon runner again and someday, wear the rank of command sergeant major. Those goals and unwavering support from Jessica, his wife of one year, and senior leaders in his chain of command, keeps Lewis focused on doing whatever he can to make it happen.
“I love the Army, I love everything about it,’’ Lewis said. “This is something I will do. I’m not going to let them kick me out.”
March 28, 2004
California Soldiers Die After Being Wounded in Iraq
By Mielikki Org, Associated Press Writer
When 1st Lt. Michael Vega joined the California National Guard three years ago, he was
following in the proud footsteps of his father and brothers, who had all served
in the military.
Army Maj. Mark D. Taylor, a surgeon, left his 6-year-old son
Conner with a set of dog tags, saying, “Wear them until Daddy comes
Both Vega, 41, and Taylor, 41, died on March 20 after being
wounded in Iraq – Vega when his military vehicle rolled on top of him during
fighting with Iraqi insurgents nine days before in Diwaniyah and Taylor when
his living area came under rocket attack in Fallujah.
On Sunday, in separate interviews, those who knew them well
remembered both Vega and Taylor as wonderful men serving their country.
“He believed in defending the country and was willing to
do anything for it,” said Vega’s girlfriend, Marisol Vazquez, who lived
with Vega in Lathrop, Calif. “He knew this is what he wanted to do,
because he was a soldier at heart.”
Vazquez described Vega as “an upbeat person, outgoing,
really happy. He could make anybody laugh,” she said.
In Stockton, Calif., longtime family friend Cathy Conrad
remembered Mark Taylor as a “brave guy and wonderful person.”
“It’s an incredible loss to us and the entire
country,” said Conrad, who met Taylor 24 years ago while the two were
studying at San Joaquin Delta College.
In addition to being an excellent surgeon and father, Taylor
loved skiing and finding ways to make people laugh, Conrad said.
“He was very intelligent, had a great sense of humor, and
was a compassionate person,” Conrad said. “There were lots of people
who just loved him, and he was a very driven individual,” she said.
Vega, who was stationed with the 223rd Battalion in
Sacramento, was a football star at Vallejo High School who enlisted in the Army
after graduation. He served as a helicopter mechanic for three years, going on
to earn a degree in aeronautics at Cal State Hayward several years later.
Taylor, who was stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division in
Fort Bragg, N.C., grew up in Stockton. He joined the Army National Guard before graduating from
UC Davis with a degree in biochemistry in 1982.
In 1991, Taylor received a pharmaceutical degree from UC San
Francisco and earned a medical degree four years later from George Washington
Medical School in Washington, D.C.
In the late 1990s, Taylor met his wife and had his son,
Conner, while doing a five-year surgery residency at the UC Irvine Medical
Center. The couple later divorced.
Taylor will be buried April 8 at Arlington National Cemetery.
He is survived by his parents, Doug and Roberta Taylor, and his son, Conner.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 23, 2004 -- Thanks to a partnership between Northwest Airlines and the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation, travelers can donate their miles from the airline's WorldPerks frequent-flyer program to help service members wounded or injured on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Northwest is providing travel through the use of donated WorldPerks miles for wounded or injured service members to take leave or pass from military hospitals, and for their families to visit them at their bedside. Jim Weiskopf, Fisher House spokesman, said the Northwest program is the second airline partnership involving the foundation. The first one, with American Airlines, uses donated "AAdvantage Award" certificates donated by Anheuser-Busch employees.
Other programs using donated frequent-flyer miles are restricted to military members coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan on emergency leave, Weiskopf said. Proposed legislation would permit the military to use the services of a nonprofit organization to administer a program for family members, and that would involve all participating airlines.
Best known for its network of comfort homes on the grounds of all the military's major medical centers, Fisher House Foundation has been named a Northwest Airlines designated "AirCares" charity. Northwest announced this special program to accept frequent-flyer miles from its customers and allow Fisher House to redeem miles for free airline tickets to support hospitalized service members.
The AirCares program depends on the support of the airline's WorldPerks member donations. To donate their miles, WorldPerks members can call (800) 327-2881, with their WorldPerks account and PIN numbers.
Although the Northwest program will continue through Dec. 31, mileage may be donated to the Fisher House Foundation only through Nov. 30. The minimum increments. All AirCares mileage donations are final, officials said, meaning unused miles cannot be restored to members' accounts.
Complete information is available on the Fisher House Foundation Web site.
Related Web Sites:
Fisher House Foundation [http://www.fisherhouse.org/]
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 24, 2004 -- The Defense Department is working as quickly as possible to implement enhanced Tricare healthcare benefits for reserve component sponsors and their family members, according to defense officials.
The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2004 authorized the new healthcare benefits, some permanent and some temporary.
Eligibility for some of the new temporary Tricare enhancements began Nov. 6, 2003, and ends for all on Dec. 31, 2004. Implementation of the new temporary provisions began in January and will continue over the next few months under the department's 2004 Temporary Reserve Health Benefit Program. Total expenditures for the new provisions may not exceed the $400 million limit established by Congress for fiscal 2004.
"These temporary benefits were designed to enhance access to care for our reserve component service members and their families and ultimately improve our readiness as a fightin g force," Richard A. Mayo, deputy director Tricare Management Activity explained in a recent interview. "We are establishing a totally new benefit that currently doesn't exist today. To implement this temporary program, we had to make modifications to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, which is the system utilized in the military to determine eligibility for any healthcare plan, and modifications to our managed-care support contracts before claims can be paid."
The first temporary program, implemented mid-February by TMA, temporarily extends Tricare eligibility under the Transitional Assistance Management Program from 60 or 120 days to 180 days for active duty and reserve component TAMP-eligible sponsors who separate from active federal service on or after Nov.6, 2003. That was the effective date for benefits under this program for sponsors and family members. On Jan. 1, 2005, Tricare eligibility under the transitional program returns to 60 or 120 days, even for those who separated in 2004 and whose orders may indicate eligibility for 180 days.
TAMP-eligible sponsors and family members who were saving their receipts may apply for Tricare reimbursement by submitting a Tricare claim form, a copy of their itemized bill, an explanation of benefits, and proof of payment if the bill was already paid to their Tricare regional claims processor.
The second temporary program is scheduled to be implemented by TMA in the next few weeks. It will authorize medical and dental benefits for reserve component sponsors activated in support of a contingency operation for more than 30 days. Family members enrolled in DEERS are also eligible for this benefit.
Under this program, Tricare eligibility for reserve component sponsors and their family members begins the day the sponsor receives delayed-effective-date active duty orders or 90 days before the active duty period begins, whichever is later. The effective date for benefits under this program was also Nov. 6, 2003.
Until TMA announces that the program has begun and members can begin submitting their claims to apply for reimbursement from Tricare, sponsors and family members should pay all medical and dental bills incurred and save their receipts.
The third, final temporary program, scheduled for implementation at a later date, is limited to reserve component sponsors who are either unemployed or employed but not eligible for employer-sponsored health coverage and their family members. Tricare coverage under this program is limited to medical care only. Eligibility for sponsors and family members will start the day that TMA implements the program. Officials point out that Tricare claims under this program are not paid retroactive to Nov. 6, 2003, but will be paid only from the date the program is implemented through the Dec. 31, 2004, expiration date for all benefits under the temporary program.
Mayo said the biggest challenge will be modifying the existing Tricare enrollment system to accept each reservist and his or her family member for each of these programs. He noted that's the part that takes an awful lot of time and work. There are also new regulations to be written and implementation guidance to be staffed with the services.
"There is a lot of detail work that needs to be done in modifying our systems to accept each and every one of these changes," he said. "On the surface it appears simple to say we have this new benefit and there it is. This is not a simple process, but we are committed to making these changes as quickly as possible to ensure eligible reserve component sponsors and family members have access to Tricare health benefits.
Congress placed the overall $400 million limit on expenditures under fiscal 2004 provisions to implement the temporary healthcare program slated to end Dec. 31. Mayo said Congress is reviewing the program, but that he would not speculate on whether it would extend past that date.
In addition to the temporary program, Congress also authorized three permanent health benefit provisions for reservists and guardsmen.
Those benefits include benefit counselors for the reserve component in each Tricare region, authorization for medical and dental screening and care for members alerted for mobilization, and Tricare eligibility for reserve officers pending orders to active duty following commissioning who do not have other health care insurance coverage.
More information for reserve component families who have questions regarding the Tricare benefits or need assistance processing Tricare claims is available on the Tricare and Reserve Affairs Web sites.
(The Tricare Management Activity staff contributed to this article.)
Related Web Sites:
Tricare Management Activity [http://www.tricare.osd.mil/]
Eligibility Reporting System [http://www.tricare.osd.mil/deers/default.cfm]
Reserve Affairs [http://www.defenselink.mil/ra]
March 28, 2004
Confident Missouri Will OK Citizen-Soldiers Aid Fund
By Harry Levins/ Post-Dispatch Senior Writer
The Missouri legislator sponsoring a bill to help
cash-strapped citizen-soldiers says he’s confident that his colleagues will
soon let the state catch up to Illinois.
The legislator is Sen. Harry Kennedy, D-St. Louis. He appeared
Thursday with Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn at a news conference at the
Wainwright State Office Building downtown.
His bill would set up the Missouri Military Family Relief Fund
and let Missouri taxpayers donate a part of their state tax refunds by checking
a box on their tax forms.
Illinois approved such a fund last year. Quinn said that
although this year’s tax forms were the first to feature a checkoff box, the
state had already aided more than 2,000 families of National Guard and Reserve members.
The early money came from interest from a $5 million state
endowment, plus $88,000 in voluntary donations. “Up in La Grange, seventh-
and eighth-graders at Guerrie Middle School held a bake sale last spring and
raised $1,546,” Quinn said.
And he singled out for praise AmerenUE, which gave $5,000.
“Good corporations come forward and help out,” he said.
Missouri’s Kennedy said he expected the Senate to pass his
bill next week and pass it along to the House. “I’ve talked to a few House
members,” he said, “and they see no problem with it.”
Missouri taxpayers would be free to donate any amount, as
Illinois taxpayers are this year. Quinn said, “We’ve had amounts from $1
to $100.” Although Quinn had no estimate how much would come in from
taxpayers, Missouri’s Kennedy said he expected donations of about $250,000 a
year, with an equal sum from other donations.
When Kennedy was asked whether Missouri would follow Illinois
in setting up an endowment, he said, “We’re looking at all options – but
we’re also in a budget crisis.”
The Missouri plan would take effect with next year’s tax
forms. Like the Illinois fund, Missouri’s would be administered by the state
adjutant general – the National Guard’s
top officer. Grants would range from $500 to $2,000.
Also speaking was Col. Bob Leeker, vice commander of the
Missouri Air National Guard’s
131st Fighter Wing at Lambert Field. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11,
2001, his 1,000-member unit has had up to half of its members on active duty
Leeker said, “This has caused real hardships at home –
broken-down cars and flooded basements, to say nothing of the disparities in
That hit home with one of the spectators at the news
conference, Lance Shaffer of Jefferson City. He wore the camouflage fatigues of
the Missouri National Guard. On his right collar were captain’s
bars; on his left were the crossed pistols of the military police, a specialty
much in demand.
After 9-11, Shaffer was called up for 10 months to guard
ammunition plants in the Midwest. After a brief spell back home, he went to
Kosovo for a year, getting home this month.
“One of our people in Kosovo got word from his wife that their
basement had flooded,” he said after the news conference. “Now, this
guy was a sergeant first class, so he might have been OK financially. But if
he’d been a private first class, he could have been in dire straits.”
Shaffer said his Guard soldiers in Kosovo “included
people with master’s degrees and good civilian jobs. But in the Guard, they’re
making half as much money – maybe only a third as much.”
Illinois’ Quinn said that helping out such citizen-soldiers
“isn’t charity. It’s an expression of our gratitude.”
Information on the Illinois program is available on the Web at
March 27, 2004
Rapid City Company
Helping Guard Soldiers Stay in Touch
A Rapid City company has donated computers and other equipment
to help South Dakota National
Guard soldiers serving overseas keep in touch with folks back home.
A system set up by technicians at Black Hills FiberCom lets
soldiers use technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to make
phone calls without paying international phone charges.
VoIP technology turns sound waves of voice into data,
transmits it on the Internet and turns the data back into sound waves at the
Black Hills FiberCom began experimenting with the technology
for the National Guard a couple
of months ago, said Linden Evans, vice president and general manager at
In January, the Guard installed a FiberCom VoIP laptop
computer at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. Since then, soldiers have
made 2,600 calls and logged 25,000 phone minutes.
The popularity of the Baghdad laptop inspired FiberCom to
expand its VoIP service to all five South Dakota Guard units deployed overseas,
Evans said Friday.
Using a satellite Internet connection, soldiers can get a
Rapid City dial tone from virtually anywhere in the world. From there, they can
call toll-free to anyone in Rapid City or the Northern Hills. Or they can pay
domestic calling card long-distance rates to family members in South Dakota or
other parts of the United States.
The company is donating 10 laptop computers to the South
Dakota National Guard, two for
each of the five South Dakota units currently deployed overseas in Iraq,
Afghanistan and Kosovo.
It also will pay up to $400 a month for each Guard unit to
cover costs for a full duplex satellite Internet subscription.
“One of the most important things you can have overseas
is the ability to talk to your family back home,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Gorman,
who accepted the donation on behalf of the South Dakota National Guard. “I can’t tell you how much this is
appreciated by the soldiers and their families.”
John Emick, one of the FiberCom employees who helped set up
the system, is also a major with the South Dakota National Guard. He was on hand during a news conference to talk
about the system.
As he spoke, he gestured to a laptop where Lt. Ryan Brekke of
Sioux Falls was listening in. Brekke is serving in Iraq with the
Watertown-based Second Battalion, 147th Field Artillery.
March 28, 2004
March Through Cheyenne
Recognizes Guard Troops
Carrying banners and flags, about 20 people braved the cold
and wind in a march across town to honor deployed Wyoming National Guard members.
About half of them walked the entire distance from the
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in south Cheyenne to the Wyoming National Guard base on the north side
of town Saturday.
The marchers waved to drivers who honked as they passed.
VFW Post 4343 has taken a special interest in the 1022nd, an
Army Guard unit serving in the Middle East.
“We want to let them know they aren’t forgotten while
they’re over there,” said Rick Ess, who fought in Vietnam with the U.S.
Wyoming military officials say more National Guard soldiers are fighting overseas now than ever
Earl Sellers, a VFW state commander, said a coordinator with
the 1022nd communicates with the post about what people in the unit need,
including shaving cream, playing cards and candy bars.
“We get it to them,” he said.
After the march, supporters returned to the post for lunch and
took donations for the Wyoming National
Guard Support Services.
March 27, 2004 Saturday
Organizations as Part of Homeland Defense
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
With 100,000 members of the National Guard deployed overseas, some states are turning to
volunteer groups to pick up the slack at home.
So-called state guards or state defense forces are now responding to
local disasters, searching for missing children and performing other duties.
Congress wants to encourage their spread nationwide. NPR’s Adam Hochberg reports.
ADAM HOCHBERG reporting:
State guards and defense organizations are a poorly understood
part of America’s homeland security force.
Their members wear military uniforms but aren’t part of the military.
They answer to state governors, not the Pentagon, and they serve domestically,
never overseas. South Carolina has one
of the nation’s more active guards, but member John Genes says few people in
the state know what it does.
Mr. JOHN GENES (South Carolina State Guard): I have to explain
it to them, and explain that the state guard is not the National Guard. That’s
been the main factor there. ‘Oh, you’re
in the National Guard,‘ and I
said, ‘No, sir, I’m not.’ And then I have to explain to them about the state
guard and how we are a civilian force who takes care of South Carolina people
in national disasters.
HOCHBERG: Last weekend, Genes and five colleagues from the
South Carolina State Guard gathered for a training exercise near Charleston.
(Soundbite of traffic)
HOCHBERG: Wearing camouflage fatigues, they marched 11 miles
along a busy beachfront highway.
Unidentified Man: OK?
All right. Form up. Laura first. I’ll take up the rear.
HOCHBERG: Sergeant Steven Petahovic(ph) says the march was
intended to increase the stamina of guardsmen and increase awareness of the
Sergeant STEVEN PETAHOVIC (South Carolina State Guard): The
captain felt like this would be a good opportunity for not only us to be as a
unit, but to get a little visibility.
HOCHBERG: So the motorists might see who you are.
Sgt. PETAHOVIC: Exactly.
And pose the question: Who are these crazy people?
HOCHBERG: Observers who investigate that question would learn
the six members of the South Carolina Guard are part of a statewide force of about
a thousand. They volunteer their time and buy their own uniforms and
equipment. Many have experience in the
armed forces. Sergeant Dave Schrader, a
former Army Ranger, says he joined the guard because he missed military life.
Sergeant DAVE SCHRADER (South Carolina State Guard): It
doesn’t give the full-time commitment that regular Army and/or National Guard requires. It just gives
me an opportunity to help out in times of need. A couple times there’s been missing children out in the forests
and stuff. This is an organization that
will help out with that.
HOCHBERG: Nationwide about 12,000 volunteers belong to state
guards and defense forces. Their
training varies widely. In some states,
guard members rarely meet at all, while in others they train monthly in such
skills as first aid and crowd control.
And from time to time, the volunteers are called into service. They’ve guarded oil pipelines in Alaska and
helped game wardens in Virginia. In New
York, they manned an emergency supply warehouse after September 11th. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson
envisions a greater role for the organizations. He’s sponsored legislation
encouraging every state to form one and urging federal officials to rely on
Representative JOE WILSON (South Carolina): We’re all
concerned about homeland security.
America has been attacked; we’ll be attacked again. And it’s so helpful
to have a state guard that can fill in with the National Guard, can back up the local sheriff’s departments and
maximize the ability of the National
Guard to serve our country.
HOCHBERG: Most of today’s state guards and defense forces were
founded in the 1980s, part of a program by President Reagan to protect the
homeland during the Cold War. Some groups got off to a rocky start. By 1984, the Texas Guard was being ridiculed
for doing battlefield training with high-power weapons, while Utah was forced
to restructure its guard after some members turned out to be neo-Nazis. Barry Stentiford is a military historian at
Grambling State University.
Mr. BARRY STENTIFORD (Grambling State University): Some
states, at least, didn’t put quite as much emphasis onto these state defense
forces as they probably should have, and so if, you know, 20 guys wanted to
join, there wasn’t a good screening process.
You know, what are these people?
Are they nuts? Are they
kooks? Are they white supremacists? Are
they–or are they just, you know, normal people? And some states just said–let in almost anybody.
HOCHBERG: Stentiford says for the most part those problems
have gone away.