18, 2004, Volume 2, Issue 2
Index of Articles
Note: Topics below
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Signing Up To Serve: Even In War, Military Finding No Shortage
Minnesota National Guard: Recruiters Going Strong
Florida Air Guard
Receives New Space-Launch Tracking System
National Guard Says War Callups Won’t Affect Hurricane
Guard Being Mobilized
Up to 4,000 MS
National Guard Members Could be Deployed
When The Call
To Duty Comes A Second Time
Proud, Sad Over Call-Up To Iraq
Units Put On Alert for Possible Duty
Deploy To Greely
700 Iowa Troops Heading To
Welcomes Returning Reservists
GUARD IN IRAQ………………………………………………………………………………………… 21
Far From Virginia
WITH DEPLOYMENT………………………………………. 26
Soldiers of Fortune
Deployments Worry Some States
Leave: Guard, Families Ask Questions
HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH AFTERMATH………………………………………… 35
Man’s New Battleground Is In The Rehab Room
TO OUR FALLEN HEROES………………………………………………………… 41
Arkansas Soldier Killed In Iraq
Run/March 175 Miles Nonstop To Honor Michelle Witmer
in Iraq To Be Awarded USM Degree
Have Special Memorial At Fort Hood
Slain Guardsman Is Remembered For His Love of Life, Faith
Groups Arrange Foster Care for
Government Will Pay National Guard At G-8
Child Care Providers Across The Nation Volunteer Their Services To
Support Troops Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan
National Guard Family Program Online Communities for families and youth
TRICARE website for information on health benefits
Civilian Employment Information (CEI) Program Registration for
Cumulative roster of all National Guard
Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
Militarystudent.org is a website that helps
Disabled Soldiers Initiative (DS3)
This website provides information on the new DS3 program. Through DS3, the Army provides its most severely disabled Soldiers and their families with a system of advocacy and follow-up.
Have an article, announcement, or website that you’d like
to share with the National Guard Family Program Community? Send your suggestions in an e-mail to [email protected].
May 10, 2004 Monday
Signing Up To Serve: Even In War, Military Finding
No Shortage Of Recruits
By Tim Sturrock; Telegraph Staff Writer
Travis Gore wants to be an electrician and is willing to face
military combat in Iraq to get that training.
“I know if I go over there and do my electrical work, I
won’t be in the line of fire,” said the 17-year-old, who earlier this year
signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps. Gore will go into basic training a week
after graduating from Mary Persons High School this month.
And although the high school senior wants money for college
and electrician training, he said he’ll fight if he has to.
that’s what they need me to do, that’s what I’ll do,” he said.
With the appeal of future college money, experience and
serving their country, there is no shortage of young men and women willing to
serve in the military, recruiters said.
Even with 765 American military casualties in Iraq since March
19, 2003, and more soldiers being sent to war, all the big four military
branches are ahead or on schedule with recruitment goals for the fiscal year
that began Oct. 1.
The Marines have a goal of sending 35,824 soldiers to boot
camp this year, said Maj. Dave Griesmer, a public affairs officer at the Marine
Corps recruiting command in Quantico, Va. And though the Marines have sent only
15,294 to boot camp so far this year, the largest number of Marines will train
this summer, he said.
The Air Force has signed up 97 percent of the soldiers needed
to meet its fiscal 2004 goal of 36,020, said Tech. Sgt. John Asselin of the Air
Force Recruiting Service headquarters.
This fiscal year, the Army has recruited 41,467 soldiers,
slightly ahead of schedule of the 77,000-soldier goal, said Mark Schulz, an
Army public affairs officer in Atlanta.
And the Navy is on track to meet its goal of about 40,000 new
recruits, said Navy Lt. Amy Gilliland, who works at the Pentagon.
Standing in the Mary Persons lunchroom Friday, Sgt. Ross
Wafler, a Marine recruiter, said the war in Iraq deters some young people from
considering the military as an option.
“Some kids you talk to say, ‘I don’t want to go to war. I’m against the
war,”” he said.
But those young people would not necessarily join even during
peace time, he said. He’s not surprised that the war doesn’t seem to be
affecting recruitments, he said.
“Kids are a lot more patriotic than people give them
credit for,” Wafler said.
Wafler said he’s honest with new recruits, telling them that
going to war is a possibility. He said it usually takes about a year before a
new Marine recruit is deployed. Griesmer said that of the 175,000 U.S. Marines
around the world, 25,000 of them are in Iraq.
Lt. Bill Davis, deputy public affairs officer of U.S. Navy
recruiting command in Millington, Tenn., said that after the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks more people began giving military recruiters attention because they
were the most visible military presences in their communities.
Retirees would show up at recruitment stations and show
support, or offer to re-enlist, but the amount of eligible applicants has
stayed about the same, Davis said.
Anecdotal evidence shows that recruits are enlisting for the
same reasons as before – travel, training and discipline, but patriotism is in
the forefront of their minds, he said.
“We’re seeing they say, ‘Hey, what can I do for my
country?”” he said “At the same time, we’re seeing anecdotes that
some moms and dads are a bit concerned after seeing images on the television
screen and worrying that could be their child.”
The National Guard
historically has stayed in the United States but in recent years increasingly
has played a bigger role across the world. During the first six months of the
fiscal year, the Guard missed its recruitment goal by about 8 percent,
according to Maj. Hunt Kerrigan, public affairs officer for the National Guard bureau in Washington,
At Mary Persons High School last week, at least two of the
high school students that crowded around Wafler said they wouldn’t have a
problem going to war.
“What’s your story?” Wafler asked Michael Boswell,
an 18-year-old junior.
Boswell told Wafler he wants to join the Marines. Wafler told
him he can enlist in June after his junior year ends.
“If you know what you want to do, see me next
month,” Wafler tells him.
Boswell, who said he wants to serve his country, said he wants
to go to Iraq and isn’t afraid to die.
Boswell and his friend Adam Griffin, another junior, said they
both plan to sign up for the Marines. At the end of their senior year they plan
to begin basic training.
Griffin has wanted to be a Marine since he was 7 and said he
doesn’t care if he goes to Iraq or not.
“Mostly its the adventure,” he said. “I’ve
always wanted to see the world, and going into the military is the cheapest way
to do it.”
Saint Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)
May 10, 2004 Monday
National Guard: Recruiters Going Strong
By Phillip Pina; Pioneer Press
Within weeks of graduating next month from Woodbury High
School, seniors David Foster and Kyle Allen will ship off to boot camp as some
of the newest members of the Minnesota Army National Guard.
As news of ambush attacks and prolonged tours of duty in Iraq
swirl, a life in the military continues to attract young men and women. Guard
recruiters are as busy as ever. People continue to be driven to the military by
passion for adventure and patriotism.
There “is some apprehension” about possibly being
sent off to war, said the 17-year-old Allen. “But if the president tells
me to go somewhere, I will go.” He wanted a way to serve his country, he
said. And the benefits, such as a big break in college costs, help.
The Minnesota Army National
Guard remains a recruiting leader. For the first half of the current
military budget year — Oct. 1 through the end of March — the Minnesota Army National Guard has enlisted 844 people
with no prior military service. That is the most in the nation for that
category, said Lt. Col. Kevin Gerdes, recruiting retention commander for the
Minnesota Army National Guard. In
comparison, Texas had 676, and California had 690.
Minnesota’s 71 National
Guard recruiters average 2.52 new total enlistments each a month, the
nation’s highest rate.
The national average is about 1.4 monthly enlistments per
recruiter; the next highest state is Nevada with 2.1 enlistments. Minnesota led
the country the previous year as well when it enlisted 1,900 new members total
— those with and without prior military service — for its Army National Guard, Gerdes said. The
Minnesota Air National Guard also
had a strong recruiting year, finishing at 103 percent of its authorized
strength with 2,397 members.
“They are stepping forward,” said Gertes.
The success goes beyond Minnesota and its National Guard. The U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserves continue to
exceed their recruiting goals, said Douglas Smith, spokesman for the U.S. Army
Recruiting Command. Army and Army Reserve recruiters have exceeded their
enlistment goals every year since 1999.
Statistics from the most recent Army budget year, which ended
Sept. 30, show the Army enlisted 74,132 recruits, above a goal of 73,800. Of
those, 1,073 were from Minnesota. The Army Reserves enlisted 27,365, above its
goal of 26,400. Of these, 514 were from Minnesota.
“It’s hard to put what impact Sept. 11 and the wars
(Afghanistan, Iraq) have had, if any,” said Smith. “We continue to be
successful” when it comes to attracting men and women to the armed forces.
are the days when a person could sign up for the National Guard and never expect to serve beyond the regular
training requirements — one weekend a month and another 15 days each year.
The frequent deployments can be a strain on many, some of whom
also must juggle a family, job and home in their civilian lives. While
Minnesota’s Guard has been a success at attracting new members, the Army National Guard nationwide missed its
annual recruiting goal by 8,000 last year.
Military cutbacks and recent operations have led to a bigger
reliance on National Guard and other
reserves across the nation. Since the 9/11 attacks, the Minnesota National Guard has activated thousands
of its members for duty.
Minnesota’s Guard members were activated to provide security
at airports after the attacks and its members have played roles in the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan. About 1,000 members served in Kosovo and another 1,100 in
The Minnesota Army National
Guard has made a concentrated effort in area schools to recruit juniors and
seniors. What attracted Allen and Foster was a chance to serve, but also to
help them through college.
By joining the guard, they get benefits, such as reduced
tuition for college classes.
“I joined for the benefits and to help serve my
country,” added the 18-year-old Foster, a Woodbury High senior. He leaves
for basic training July 27. After 13 weeks, he expects to return to Minnesota,
begin weekend drill training and start college. Both he and Allen are thinking
of aviation careers.
Allen will leave for basic training two weeks after Foster.
When the recruiters came, he looked at all the pamphlets. And he decided to sit
and talk with them, to “figure out what it’s all about.” His father was
in the military reserves and he knew about the weekend training and the
commitment necessary. The recent wars and deployments were not going to stop
him from joining.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, since I was
little,” Allen said.
The Wichita Eagle
May 10, 2004
Given the continuing difficulties in Iraq, it would be easy to
guess that the re-enlistment rates for U.S. troops there are falling
significantly. On the contrary, just past the halfway point of fiscal 2004,
which ends Sept. 30, nearly all of the Army divisions stationed in Iraq have
met or exceeded their retention goals.
That speaks well of our troops’ dedication to their country.
These aren’t fresh-faced recruits (although they continue to join the fray in
high numbers) –we’re talking about experienced fighting men and women who
fully understand what they are getting themselves into.
For example, the 1st Armored Division, which broke up more
than 20 cells during months of counterinsurgency operations, pegged in at 120
percent of its goal. The 4th Infantry Division, which was assigned to the
harrowing Baghdad-to-Tikrit corridor and led the operation to capture Saddam
Hussein, reached 117 percent. And the 101st Airborne, which patrolled northern
Baghdad, hit 107 percent. Overall, at the midway point, the Army was at 99
percent of its re-enlistment goal.
Re-enlistment bonuses have no doubt helped, but when bullets
are flying you can’t buy that kind of loyalty — it comes from inside, from
belief in the mission and confidence that staying in the fight is the right
thing to do. In fact, the Army National
Guard’s re-upping rate was 130 percent for the first quarter of 2004, with
retention highest among soldiers just back from Iraq.
Other branches are seeing a similar phenomenon. The Navy and
Air Force have also surpassed their goals, with the latter reducing some
bonuses because retention efforts have inflated its roster to about 16,000 more
than the 359,000 authorized by Congress. And the Marine Corps, which has
endured heavy fighting in Iraq, already has reached 90 percent of its goal for
the entire fiscal year, which still has nearly five months to go.
There are still concerns, of course, about long-term trends.
The 30-year-old all-volunteer military has never been busier, and that can take
a toll on morale. The Washington Post and the military newspaper Stars and
Stripes recently conducted separate surveys of militarypersonnel based in Iraq,
and both found many respondents who said they were unlikely to re-enlist when
the time comes — primarily because of family stress.
Recent events — from April’s dramatic death toll to last
week’s news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved keeping up to
138,000 troops in Iraq — have surely added to that anxiety.
But the strength and commitment shown by our troops thus far
is inspiring. Those who have signed (again) on the dotted line deserve our
American Forces Press Service
Florida Air Guard Receives New
Space-Launch Tracking System
Senior Airman Thomas Kielbasa, USAF
to American Forces Press Service
Fla., May 11, 2004 – For nearly half a century, Florida has been at the
forefront of space-launch technology, and recently the state’s Air National
Guard acquired new equipment to help maintain that distinction.
April 30 members of the Florida Air National Guard received a state-of-the- art
mobile system designed to monitor space-vehicle launches from Cape Canaveral.
The Ballistic Missile Range Safety Technology, or BMRST, system will enable the
citizen-airmen to track – and if necessary assist in destroying – rockets or
launch vehicles after liftoff.
contractor Honeywell built the system, the second of its type manufactured and
delivered to the Air Force.
During a presentation at the
Honeywell plant here, Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett
accepted the ceremonial keys to the system from BMRST acquisition manager for
the Air Force Dr. Sam Kuennen. The general, in turn, presented the keys to
members of the 114th Combat Communications Squadron and 114th Range Flight –
the two Florida Air National Guard units that will use the new system.
BMRST system consists of a control center van and two trailer-mounted tracking
antennas. All data processing and range safety displays are housed in the
control center; the antennas are designed to receive data from launched rockets
and space vehicles and transmit the information back to the control center.
From the control center, the airmen will also be able to assist in destroying
an off-course rocket or launch vehicle for safety reasons.
manpower of the 114th Range Flight and the 114th Combat Communications Squadron
will be combined into the Air National Guard’s first range operations support
Col. Rembert Schofield, who will command the squadron, noted the mobile BMRST
would be tested at Cape Canaveral during upcoming rocket launches, as well as
in “various launch tracking sites along the East Coast.”
explained the Florida Air National Guard units – which are able to work
hand-in-hand with the active duty Air Force’s 45th Space Wing during launches –
are now even more invaluable to the space program with the addition of the
has a lot of potential uses from the 45th Space Wing’s perspective,”
Schofield said. “As opposed to keeping a seldom-used tracking site opened
and manned year-round, you can use this (mobile) system in place of that, and
only use it and pay for it when you need it. So you have a potential savings of
$50 or 60 million per year for the 45th Space Wing, and that is
units are able to track and assist in a variety of space launches from Cape
Canaveral, and past missions have included the Delta II rocket and the space
can track anything you want. It doesn’t matter what it is,” Schofield
said. “There is absolutely no other National Guard that has the type of
mission we do, or even does space-launch tracking. So this is the only space
unit in the National Guard.”
114th Range Flight has been working with a prototype of the BMRST, and last
year participated in a joint exercise with the Air Force in Alaska, where they
successfully tracked a rocket launch using the BMRST system. Schofield said the
addition of the new launch-tracking system to the Air National Guard’s
capabilities is not only important to Florida, but has a great potential for
other state National Guards.
obviously means a lot to Florida, but it also has a far-reaching potential for
more of the country,” Schofield explained. “A lot of the launches
coming out of the eastern range go either up the coast or down the coast, and
if your (launch) is going up the coast, you could have one of these (BMRST
systems) stationed in another state. And another Air National Guard unit could
simply pull it out and set it up, participate in a launch, and then shut it
down. You wouldn’t have to transport it up there, and you don’t have to pay a
is a big responsibility,” he added. “But this is the perfect mission
for the Guard.”
Schofield said the 114th could be ready to track rocket launches using the new
BMRST system as early as mid-May.
The Associated Press
May 15, 2004
National Guard Says War Callups Won’t Affect
By Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press Writer
In 13 years with Louisiana’s National Guard, Capt. Bryan Gardner has worked his share of
hurricanes. He has rescued flooded residents, hauled out soaked debris and
experienced what it’s like to be greeted as a hero.
“These people just went through the scariest night of
their lives, and they were thankful that we were there,” he says.
Now Gardner is training for deployment to the war on terror.
And while he couldn’t talk about his final destination, he knows “the
reception won’t be quite as warm.”
Gardner is far from alone; many troops who otherwise would be
preparing for another hurricane season are overseas or on their way. Still, National Guard officials say those who
remain on the homefront are fully capable of handling a big storm.
Nearly one-third of Louisiana’s Army and Air National Guard troops are in Iraq or
are getting ready to go overseas. North Carolina has sent 45 percent of its
soldiers to Iraq or Afghanistan, the largest such call-up since World War II.
Of all the Gulf Coast and Atlantic states likely to be slammed
by a hurricane, Louisiana’s and North Carolina’s Guards are the hardest hit by
the war on terror. But even they say there are plenty of soldiers ready to
respond if a hurricane strikes.
“Even with a large-scale disaster, that would not overtax
our abilities in the state,” says North Carolina Guard spokesman Lt. Col.
Barney Barnhill. “We can handle any disaster that may come up.”
Added Louisiana Guard spokesman Dusty Shenofsky: “We will
never be in a position that our community and state manpower is so low that we
cannot handle state emergencies.”
Mark Allen, a spokesman at National Guard headquarters in Arlington, Va., says there is no
legal requirement, but every state strives to have at least 50 percent of its
guard personnel at home to meet all kinds of natural or security disasters.
addition, states agree to help each other if they ever are short-handed. Those
deals are usually among adjacent states. Louisiana has agreements with
Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas.
North Carolina has agreements with Tennessee, South Carolina,
Virginia and Georgia, but sometimes sends its Guard even farther afield: It
sent troops to help California fight wildfires last year, even as Hurricane
The wartime pressure on Guard troops has come at a time when
their responsibilities on the homefront in the post-Sept. 11 era have moved far
beyond hurricanes and other natural disasters. They have been involved in
patrolling airports and guarding ports, and have provided security for special
events such as the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.
Guard is now 46 percent of active duty services, and are much more heavily
relied upon in times of combat than we ever used to be,” Shenofsky says.
“And our missions just keep increasing.”
North Carolina is tops among hurricane-prone states in both
the percentage and actual number of Guard soldiers deployed. Of 11,500 troops,
5,200 are overseas, most in Iraq and about a dozen in Afghanistan.
Louisiana’s Guard has 4,000 of its 12,500 troops either in
Iraq or training for duty there. That leaves 8,500 at home – more than enough,
officials say, to handle back-to-back storms such as those in 2002, when
Tropical Storm Isidore was followed a week later by Hurricane Lili.
Other hurricane-prone states appear to be better equipped in
case a big one hits.
Florida, Virginia and South Carolina have each deployed about
a quarter of their Guard troops deployed. Alabama is at 20 percent, Georgia
nearly 18 percent, and Texas and Mississippi have about 10 percent.
Florida’s Guard currently has more than 3,000 troops deployed,
out of 10,000 Army and 2,000 Air Guard members. Most of Florida’s deployed
troops are providing security for Air Force bases within the United States.
Even in the state’s worst storm – Andrew, which smashed
Florida with 145-mph winds and caused $30.5 billion damage in 1992 – only 4,000
troops were called in and most were home within a few weeks, says Florida National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Ron
Texas may be in the best shape of any big coastal state. Only
2,000 troops are deployed, leaving 18,000 that could be tapped to respond to a
Lt. Col. John Stanford says the Texas Guard usually responds
to a disaster on the scale of a hurricane with no more than 1,500 troops.
In Louisiana, there are still enough troops to make hurricane
duty a volunteer job in most storms. The current call-up is, of course,
May 10, 2004
Army National Guard
Elements of the Idaho
Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade are being mobilized to take
part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Jack Kane says the order affects about 750 members of the Idaho Guard. The
brigade has a total of about 35-hundred people from five different states, who
have all been on alert since the end of February.
The Defense Department has not announced when the rest of the
brigade will be moved. The mobilization is expected to last for 18 months.
May 11, 2004
4,000 MS National Guard Members Could be Deployed
National Guard has been told to expect orders in the next several weeks for
deployment of nearly 4,000 soldiers. The adjutant general’s office said in a
statement that the anticipated deployment involved the 155th Separate Armored
Brigade based in Tupelo.
While most of the 155th’s 49 units are in north and central
Mississippi, it also has units in McComb and Monticello in the southern part of
The alert gives members of the 155th the chance to start planning
and preparing for potential mobilization, said Maj. Danny Blanton of the Guard’s public affairs office in
“They’re going to make sure all their records are ready
to go. Likewise, they’re going to make sure that their equipment meets mobilization
standards, make sure the personnel strength meets mobilization standards,” he
said. “It just gives them the opportunity to be prepared so when the
mobilization does come down, they’ll be ready to go.”
said he has no specifics about when that order will be issued or where troops
will be headed.
“It could be as few as 30 days or as long as three
months,” Blanton said. “That’s up to the Army.”
said it’s even possible the troops would not be mobilized.
“We have had units that have been alerted and
de-alerted,” he said. “It just depends on the needs of the combatant
commander in the theater.”
While Guard members would be used to support Operation Iraqi
Freedom, the Guard said it had no information on their final destination.
“We won’t know if it’s Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan or here
in the United States until we receive the mobilization order,” Blanton said.
“Chances are if the order comes down, it will be for the entire unit, not
In a statement, Gov.
Haley Barbour said, “These are highly trained soldiers, and I know they
will do an excellent job supporting our national defense if called.”
If the brigade is
mobilized, the soldiers could go to Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg for
Christian Science Monitor
May 13, 2004
When The Call To Duty
Comes A Second Time
Washington State, extended tours are complicating the family life and civilian
jobs of part-time soldiers.
By Ann Scott Tyson, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Tacoma, Wash. – After a year crisscrossing Iraq and dodging
ambushes in Army convoys, truck driver Sgt. Michael Kunzelman was supposed to
reunite with his family this month. But while in Kuwait awaiting a flight out,
the Washington National Guard
soldier was ordered back into Iraq along with more than 4,100 other National Guard and Reserve members
whose terms of service had been extended.
Back home in Burien, Wash., the news hit hard. “I wasn’t
in a good mood, and then my son got mad and went out and was beating on a
tree,” says Sergeant Kunzelman’s wife, Pilar. At school, his teenage
daughter overheard cruel gossip predicting his demise.
On and off the battlefield, National Guard and Reserve members and their families are bearing a
particularly heavy burden as the Pentagon expands the US force in Iraq to
138,000 troops through 2005 to counter a surge in violence. The high rate of
deployment is fundamentally changing what it means to serve in reserve units
today, exacerbating problems of lost pay, fears of job insecurity, and the
isolation of dispersed families such as the Kunzelmans.
51 percent of the 350,000-strong Army
National Guard has been activated since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The
Pentagon projects that over the next three to five years, it will require
between 100,000 and 150,000 Guard and Reserve forces to support ongoing
military operations, according to a recent GAO report. More than 90 percent of
the Guard’s military police and special forces have deployed, along with
three-quarters of its engineers, combat battalions, and transportation units.
stark reality is making it harder to recruit. Pitches no longer center on
educational funds, but instead stress patriotism. “We have to look at kids
right in the face and say – ‘You’re signing up, and during your tour, you will
deploy,’ ” says Col. Mike Johnson, personnel director of the Washington
Army National Guard, which has
3,720 of its 6,200 personnel deployed.
Attracting soldiers from the active duty force is especially
hard. That pool, which has traditionally supplied 60 percent of the state’s
Guard recruits, is providing 10 percent to 20 percent fewer in fiscal year
2004. “We are getting a lot of reservations from guys who are just getting
out [of active duty]. They know if they join us they’ll have to go right back
in there [to Iraq],” says Colonel Johnson, who keeps lists of deployed
units on his office walls.
In the longer term, the Guard’s shift from a “strategic
reserve” to an “operational force” will not be sustainable
without greater resources, says the National Guard Bureau chief, Lt.
Gen. Steven Blum. “Congress needs to reevaluate the benefits, the
entitlements, the pay, the resourcing, the equipping, and the full-time manning
issues of the Army and Air Guard or we can’t be an operational force the
way you would like it to be,” he told a House hearing April 29.
Lacking such resources, the Guard has drawn on units staying
home – which now lack a third of their critical equipment – to fill shortages
in units called up for Iraq and Afghanistan, stated the GAO report released late last month. For
example, Army guard units nationwide initiated the transfer of 71,000 people
and 22,000 pieces of equipment to three deploying combat brigades. Meanwhile,
some state officials worry that remaining Guard units lack the manpower and
gear to carry out homeland security missions and respond to natural disasters.
For their part, soldiers and their families measure the cost
of a strained system in personal terms: lost pay and lost time. Indeed, as of
this February, 57,000 Army Guardsmen (16 percent of the total) had been
away from home for more than 220 days of the past year.
When Kunzelman’s 130-strong 1161th transportation company was
held back in Iraq, for example, employers at its home base of Ephrata, Wash.,
grew nervous. One manufacturing business there had three of its 12 employees
deployed. “How can they ensure the jobs [will be there] if business
production is suffering … and the company has to downsize?” asks Chris
Kunzelman, the sergeant’s sister and the coordinator of a Family Assistance
Center for the Washington National Guard.
Other guardsmen are struggling to hold onto their own
businesses, from trucking companies to family farms, she says. Nationwide, a
third of guardsmen and reservists suffer a loss in pay when deployed, and
Kunzelman says that figure rises to 60 percent in Washington State.
“I hope his job [driving trucks for a sanitation company]
is there” when he returns, says Pilar.
To discourage discrimination against citizen soldiers, Sen.
Patty Murray (D) of Washington has introduced legislation that offers small
businesses employing reservists up to $12,000 in tax breaks – money that would
secure their jobs and make up pay differentials. The bill would also provide
grants to defray childcare costs of spouses who must return to work.
Chesser, whose husband deployed to Iraq with the Washington Guard’s 81st Armor
Brigade in February, has struggled to make ends meet. A glitch in her husband’s
paycheck left her short of funds; lacking money for groceries to feed herself
and her two children, she relied on gift cards donated by Safeway. When she
couldn’t pay a $46.32 water bill, her water was shut off until the Salvation
Army forwarded funds.
Making matters worse, many families of deployed guardsmen are
geographically dispersed and far from sources of financial, medical, and moral
support. In Washington, families are scattered in 220 of the state’s 240 major
“I don’t know anyone around us that has anyone
deployed,” says Pilar, a homemaker, saying she has bouts of depression and
sometimes sleeps all day.
Support groups exist, but are often too far away for spouses
to attend. Only three wives of 81st Brigade guardsmen gathered at one recent
group meeting near Tacoma – though they were clearly buoyed by the chance to
share their woes and take a break from single parenthood.
Dusti Bevill wears a gray tank top, revealing her husband’s
name tattooed on her left arm. “I haven’t even moved his hat, his belt,
his toothbrush from the place he left it,” she says.
Penny Campbell, a mother of four, nods. “I wear his
shirts,” she says. “And I don’t want anyone to drive his van because
he was the last to drive it.” Tears start streaming down her cheeks: Hours
earlier, she’d learned that her husband’s hand was injured in an accident.
“Everything’s depressing,” she says, ticking off
problems. “I have a daughter going into early labor, a son with
nightmares, and a daughter who can’t sleep alone.” She also worries about
her oldest son, a 16-year-old, who she says feels he has to be the man of the
family. But now, he’s also planning to enlist in the military. “He says he
should go fight a war because his dad did.”
children often have difficulty grasping a parent’s lengthy absence, leading
boys to act out and girls to withdraw, says group leader Sherrill Hendrick.
Mrs. Chesser learned that firsthand one recent day when her
five-year-old son, Robby, took an entire tub of margarine and buttered the
floor, wall – and dog. “My dog went from a German Shepherd to a Lab,”
she says. “[Robby] thinks if he’s bad enough, Daddy will come home.”
May 16, 2004
278th Guardsmen Proud,
Sad Over Call-Up To Iraq
By Leon Alligood, Staff Writer
Ashland City —
Wayne Culbreth is going to war, finally.
”I’ve been in the military every day of my life I was legally
eligible,” said Culbreth, who joined the Army Reserves two days after his 17th
birthday, with his parents’ permission. That was 1988.
he is 32 years old, the father of a daughter,
a man with a baby son due in August. He is also one of more than 3,000
Tennesseans who soon will leave behind their families and regular jobs to head
to Iraq with the state’s largest National
Guard unit, the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
They face their task with a range of emotions — excitement and
pride for the tasks they will carry out in service to their country, sadness
for the loved ones they will be separated from.
”It’s hard for people outside the military to understand
the drive and desire to be involved in a conflict. It’s not so much that you
want to have a war, but if there’s one going on, you don’t want to
be sitting on the sidelines,” said Culbreth, who leads M
Company of the 278th’s 3rd Squadron, based at the Ashland City armory.
The 278th is a fast-reaction force whose
core mission of reconnaissance, surveillance and security calls for it to be
sent to the front line of a conflict.
But the war in Iraq
today seems to have few clear front lines.
Car bombings, mortar attacks and rocket-propelled grenade
blasts daily pepper CNN. In recent weeks, American civilians, including one
from Clarksville, have been mutilated and hanged from a bridge; the beheading
of another American was videotaped. Two Tennesseans in the active-duty military
have also lost their lives in Iraq in the past two weeks — an Army sergeant
from Marshall County and a Marine from Livingston.
As the 278th gets ready to go, 15 soldiers in Sgt. First Class
Michael Burke’s platoon have questions, wondering what they will face.
”It’s going to be intense because we’re never going to be out
of the area of engagement at any one time. And we’re facing a no-face enemy
right now. Somebody may be shooting at you who 15 minutes earlier was standing
next to you, talking to you,” said Burke, a FedEx dispatcher from Pleasant View who has been a Guardsman at
the Cheatham County armory for about 10 years.
The Guard veteran said he’s confident his unit is up to the
task. ”It’s a good group. We’ve trained hard. I expect a lot, and they know I
expect a lot,” he said.
Numerous Tennessee National Guard units have
gone to Iraq or other points in the Middle East in the past two years for the
war effort — some are still there, including the 168th Military Police
Battalion from Lebanon, with 68 soldiers, and the 771st Maintenance Company
from Columbia and Hohenwald, with 173 soldiers.
the 278th pulls out for Iraq, more than 3,000 families from across Tennessee
will be affected.
Burke said his oldest daughter would be leaving home in the
fall for her freshman year of college, while his youngest daughter enters high
school. ”That’s the hard part for me,” said Burke, who helped to start the
soccer program at Sycamore High years ago. ”I won’t get to see her play in her
Culbreth, who will miss the birth of his second child, a son,
said the separation will be hardest on his physician wife. ”Typically it’s
harder on the families,” he said.
Baxter agrees. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Blake Baxter of the 278th’s armory in Cleveland,
Tenn., will be leaving a family of six behind. The couple have five kids, four
of them living at home. The Ooltewah, Tenn., woman said she will fear for his
safety until he returns.
”I just pray that God will be with him and his unit. Right
now, with all these photos that have come out, people over there are against
us. I hope that all of them will be coming home sooner than later,” she said.
units can be mobilized for up to two years at a time, and many are spending a
lot more time in Iraq than originally planned. The 168th MPs from Lebanon have
been overseas a year.
For his service, Culbreth gave up his job as CEO of a Memphis
medical supply company. He was the company head for one week before learning he
would be deployed.
think I have the shortest tenure as CEO in corporate history,” he said.
Before heading to Iraq, the 278th will leave for training at
Camp Shelby, Miss., beginning June 7.
”They will depart on a staggered schedule that will continue
until near the end of June,” said Randy Harris, spokesman for the National
Guard in the state. By fall, the regiment is expected to arrive at their duty
station, undisclosed at this time, in Iraq.
At M Company in Ashland City, home to about 100 soldiers of a
tank unit, leaders are preparing for the upcoming deployment. Officers and some
noncommissioned officers — sergeants and corporals — have already left their
civilian jobs to become full-time soldiers.
Culbreth said he expects a lot of himself. Since he graduated
from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he served with the 1st Cavalry
Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and then became an officer in the National Guard.
his time as an active duty officer with his Guard post, ”there’s a whole
different level of accountability for me here,” the captain said. He explained
that, unlike active-duty service, where soldiers from all parts of the country
move in and out of a unit on a regular basis, ”we’ve got guys that have been
in this Ashland City unit for 15 or 20 years.”
”The difference for me as a commander here
is that I’m taking a community into harm’s way. That weighs heavily on me.”
The Associated Press
May 15, 2004,
National Guard Units Put On Alert for Possible
By The Associated Press
Oklahoma City (AP) – Three Oklahoma Army National Guard units may be activated for duty, the Oklahoma
Military Department announced Friday.
than 200 soldiers from Headquarters Company, 245th Aviation Battalion in Tulsa;
645th Personnel Services Company in Oklahoma City, and Company E, 245th
Aviation Battalion ATC in Lexington have been alerted, officials said.
The processing of soldiers, which is to prepare in the case of
actual mobilization, begins this weekend, Col. Pat Scully, chief spokesman for
the Oklahoma National Guard, said.
“It is important to note these units are on alert
only,” Scully said.
The Lexington soldiers are members of an air traffic control
unit, Scully said. The Tulsa unit is a command group and the Oklahoma City
soldiers deal with personnel matters.
Officials don’t know if the units will be deployed overseas or
remain stateside if mobilized, he said.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
May 16, 2004
Deploy To Greely
By Beth Ipsen, Staff Writer
Unlike other states that are seeing their part-time soldiers
go off to war in other parts of the world, Delta Junction is close to home for
the roughly 40 Alaska Army National
Guard soldiers federally activated Friday night to help guard the
Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.
“It’s better than being deployed overseas,” said
Fairbanksan Rufus King, a staff sergeant with the B Company of the 1st Scout
Battalion, 207th Infantry that’s being mobilized for at least nine months to
help with security at the site. “It’s only 100 miles down the road.”
For King and his family, however, “It’s still a serious
will leave his wife–who is recovering from recent knee surgery–to juggle care
of their four children and a full-time job. His oldest daughter graduates from
West Valley High School on Monday before heading off to college in Georgia in
Even as he and others were processing paperwork at the Fairbanks
National Guard Armory Saturday, King said he didn’t know if he would be
able to attend his daughter’s graduation before traveling to Fort Richardson
for two weeks of training with active-duty soldiers before heading to Greely.
For others in his company, which is being federally activated
for the first time since World War II, the site is much farther away.
Some, like Staff Sgt. Daniel Nanalook, are traveling from
Barrow, Dillingham and Bristol Bay.
Nanalook will leave his salmon fishing business to his sons
and wife while he guards the site and the workers building a weapons system
that touts itself as the nation’s first defense against intercontinental
ballistic missiles since the 1970s.
way I’m looking at it right now is to take things one day at a time and accept
things with positive attitude,” said his wife, Anecia, who accompanied him
to the armory on Saturday. “And looking forward to having him back
The only other mobilization for this company came when the
state asked them to help guard Alaska’s airports shortly after the terrorist
attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
“This obviously has national implications,” said
Maj. Chip Andrew, commander of the 1st Scout Battalion, 207th Infantry Group.
“The difference is they’re going to be carrying live ammunition, locked
and loaded, on day one of the mission.”
They’ll be augmenting the 47 Alaska Army National Guard soldiers serving a three-year term
guarding the missile site. These full-time Guard soldiers have schedules that
allow them to visit their families in Anchorage until there’s sufficient
housing for them at Fort Greely, a base that has seen increasing activity since
2000. It was put on the Department of Defense chopping block in the mid 1990s.
said the extra soldiers were needed as workers continue to build the silos to
house 26 missiles.
original security plan includes an enclosed area, but the entire site is not
yet fenced, Andrews said.
“They’re still putting the missile silos up, so there’s a
lot of construction workers moving in and out so they need more forces on the
ground to provide the additional security coming in and out of the site.”
he said. “This mission is no less important than going to Iraq or
Afghanistan, it just happens to be in our back yard.”
But unlike the full-time Guard soldiers with the 100th Missile
Defense Brigade, the Scouts won’t be
accompanied by family members.
“I am going to try to get as much time as possible for
the soldiers to go home. Morale is very important to me,” said Capt. Rich
Doering, who’s leading the group of mobilized soldiers. “We’re going to
make it as interesting as we can. Guarding is boring unless something happens
and then it’s five minutes of panic.”
The time spent at Fort Greely will also give the traditionally
part-time soldiers a chance to decide if they want to join the ranks of
full-time Guard members already working at the site.
“These soldiers will be in an excellent position that if
they like what they’re doing, they can go ahead and apply for a job with the
unit. They’re kind of getting a test drive,” Andrew said.
The Associated Press
May 16, 2004
Troops Heading To Afghanistan
Dateline: Des Moines, Iowa
700 Iowa troops are being deployed to help the reconstruction of Afghanistan,
the largest single unit being sent abroad by the Iowa Army National Guard since World War II.
The troops have been training for more than two months at Fort
Hood, Texas with Task Force 168, which will provide security in Afghanistan for
reconstruction teams. They are also preparing to launch combat patrols to kill
or capture Taliban or al-Qaida forces.
Some members of the task force could leave Texas as early as
Monday, and all of the Iowa soldiers are expected to be in Afghanistan within
the next two weeks. They are expected to be deployed for one year.
“If you are not scared, there is something wrong with
you,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Stogdill of Council Bluffs, who works for a
moving company in civilian life. “This is not flood duty. This is not
tornado duty. We are not sitting at an airport. This is a real-world mission
He said he has a simple goal for the next 12 months: “I
want to bring all my guys home,” said Stogdill, 32, an infantry squad
leader who is a married father of three children.
The task force is primarily drawn from the Iowa Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 168th
Infantry, which is headquartered in Council Bluffs. The force includes soldiers
from armories in 22 Iowa communities, plus about 80 troops from the Minnesota
Army National Guard and a few
dozen soldiers from other states.
Their training has focused on dealing with such threats as
suicide car bombers, snipers, roadside bombs, land mines and ambushes in
Afghanistan, where the war has been overshadowed by heavy fighting in Iraq.
“Nobody should be under any illusions. They are going
into an area where people get shot at. Certainly, it can’t be characterized as
the same violence we are seeing in Iraq, but it is not safe,” said Charles
Pea, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, a think tank in
The troops will be split into smaller units across Afghanistan
and assigned to remote areas affected by decades of war that have destroyed
schools, roads, bridges, police stations and other infrastructure.
Spc. Nick Russell, 19, of Winterset, an automatic rifleman who
works in civilian life installing voice and data lines for Baker Electric of
Des Moines, said he’s looking forward to heading to Afghanistan.
“I am of the mindset that I am ready to go, ready to get
out of here,” Russell said. The training has been “drilled into our
heads” so troops will react instinctively to dangerous situations, he
Sgt. Andrew Mortensen, 28, of Kiron, a farmworker in civilian
life, said he has a hard time explaining his thoughts about the mission to
family and friends back home.
“I would just as soon not go, but this is my job,”
Mortensen said. “It will be great once we get back, knowing you did
something for your country. If a guy ain’t proud after that, something is wrong
May 16, 2004
Welcomes Returning Reservists
Gov. Jeb Bush thanked returning reservists and members of the National Guard on Saturday, saying
their service in Iraq means the war on terror doesn’t have to be fought at
”In Florida, we appreciate the military every day of every
week of every month,” Bush told about 900 reservists representing the U.S.
Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Florida
As an example, Bush highlighted several bills the Legislature
has passed that have helped military families, including measures that allow
military spouses to collect unemployment if they leave a job because of a
service member’s transfer or activation orders and provide full-paid state
university scholarships to children of servicemen who are killed fighting the
war on terror.
May 16, 2004
Far From Virginia
In Iraqi desert, troops hanker for home
By Maya Alleruzzo, The Washington Times
Along The Iraq-Syria Border – The 372 miles of arid, hilly
border with Syria is a terrorist sieve, and the Virginia National Guard’s 276th Engineer Battalion is the plug.
Every day, about 75 young men drive bulldozers and earth
movers to fill in gaps in a massive sand berm running the length of the border;
U.S. officials say this is where insurgents pour through on their way to join
the fight against American forces.
for the guardsmen is minimal, consisting mainly of a green, 5-ton dump truck
with a black Iraqi tank turret welded to the top. Normally, half a dozen
soldiers keep watch from the “Iron Maiden,” as it is called, while
their colleagues perform their landscaping missions.
The berm-mending project is one of several missions juggled by
the 276th, which is made up of college students, plumbers, police officers,
bankers and computer technicians. Other duties include the construction of
roads and buildings, and security patrols in the city of Mosul.
It was on one such patrol that the battalion suffered its
first casualty in early April. A rocket-propelled grenade tore off the lower
leg of Pfc. Dean Schwartz, 23, and lightly injured two others. Pfc. Schwartz is
recovering at a military hospital in Germany and is due to come to Walter Reed
Hospital in Washington for rehabilitation.
Unit commanders would not say exactly how many guardsmen are
on duty in Iraq’s western desert, but the 276th is authorized to dispatch 528
However many they are, they all long for home while they risk
their lives to protect it. Most say they were looking for “weekend
warrior” duty when they joined the guard — a hurricane here, a flood
They certainly didn’t expect to be here in this desert as the
spring blossoms came to their hometowns in Virginia.
Spc. Kenny Ray Stanford, 40, from Jonesville, Va, watches the
sun set near the Syrian border as he cradles an M-16 and scans the distance for
trouble. But in his mind, the rangy soldier is 6,508 miles away.
“I’ve seen a lot of beautiful sunrises and a lot of
beautiful sunsets and full moons while holding her hand,” Spc. Stanford
says of his wife, Marsha, who normally rides along on the drive from Jonesville
to their jobs at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap, Va.
“The sunrise and sunset on this trip [to the Syrian
border] brought me a lot closer to her. No matter if it seems like we are a
million miles apart from each other, sometimes I still catch myself daydreaming
Circling the wagons
Back in Virginia, Marsha Stanford now makes the 80-minute
round trip alone each day.
When she gets home, she waits for her husband’s daily call,
setting her alarm for 1 a.m. One morning, she heard the sound of explosions
coming over the phone as they talked.
“Can’t you find somewhere it’s quiet, where you are
safe?” she remembers asking.
“This is how it is here,” he replied.
And indeed, even in
the Iraqi desert far from the battle fronts of Fallujah and Najaf, the war is a
deadly serious business. The guardsmen had been on the border only two days
when they saw Syrian forces across the line with prominently displayed
Marines died last month in an ambush in the border town of Husayba. The
militants exploded a roadside bomb to lure the troops from their base and fired
24 mortar rounds at them as they began to respond.
“As with many of the missions our coalition forces are
involved with, the restoration of this
earth berm is a significant effort to stop those who would infiltrate across
the border and cause instability in the pursuit of security and self-government
by the Iraqi people,” says Lt. Col. Edward Morgan, commander of the engineer
To Spc. Robert Flowers, 23, from Bluefield, Va., the berm is a
reminder of the Great Wall of China.
In the evening, in a throwback to the pioneers, the guardsmen
circle their Humvees and dump trucks like wagons to keep an eye out in every direction.
The cooks make breakfast in the dark, lit only by campfire. The desert
temperature dips near 30 degrees.
And they all pray for their brothers who are engaging in
another mission of danger six hours to the south, near Mosul.
“We’re no longer the National
Guard. We’re the international guard. We went from cutting trees and
clearing trees out of the road to this,” says Staff Sgt. Greg Morgan,
sitting in the black-topped parking lot of Saddam Hussein’s former palace in
The 40-year-old computer technician from Fredericksburg, who
recently began a one-year tour of duty with the 276th, has found a new job in
Iraq dealing with bombs: When soldiers find one of the enemy’s deadly roadside
devices, it is the National Guardsmen of the 276th who are called to destroy
Spc. John Williams, 21, says he first learned about the
dangers that Iraq presents 10 minutes after leaving the barracks on the way to
secure a town meeting in March.
“As soon as we get to this rural part of town, ‘BOOM,’
” he says. A roadside device had exploded just behind the last vehicle in
the convoy — fortunately, causing no injuries.
A week later, Spc. Williams and a fellow soldier, Pfc. Brian
Philpot, helped find and destroy 33 undetonated bombs.
The two are sure they didn’t sign up for this. They are, in
civilian life, business students — Spc. Williams at Virginia Commonwealth
University, and Pfc. Philpot at Northern Virginia Community College.
After two months of training earlier this year at Fort Dix,
N.J., they found themselves part of a 276th team assisting an Army division
root out buried artillery shells — one of many types of explosives used by
insurgents — in farmland outside Mosul.
The insurgents pack the shells with dynamite, then detonate
them with a remote switch.
The night before their first mission, roommates Spc. Williams
and Pfc. Philpot, who are “battle buddies,” laid out their gear
before they went to bed.
Spc. Williams cleaned his gun, including, delicately, each
bullet. He remembers setting out his earplugs.
It’s a tough way to avoid borrowing thousands of dollars for a college
education, which both cited as their reason for signing up.
Life and death
Every bomb call they answer sets their teeth on edge.
“It’s crazy how life is about quarters of inches and
eighths of seconds,” Spc. Williams says of the near miss on the road to
Mosul in March. “I was just shook.”
Later that same day, as they returned to base, an Iraqi driver
got too close to their truck. Spc. Williams and Pfc. Philpot recall aiming at
the man behind the wheel and tightening their fingers on their triggers before
the driver raised both hands from the steering wheel.
“I just kept thinking about how I could have killed an
innocent guy,” says Spc. Williams, who lives in Newport News. “You
can’t let that stuff eat at you. You’ll just get really bitter when you get
Pfc. Philpot, from Burke, says that first mission “made
me think about my chances of not making it home.”
“We’re supposed to be doing missions every day. How am I
going to keep surviving?” he asked.
With casualties mounting daily for American troops in Iraq,
just getting around town is hard work for the engineers of the 276th. Roadside
bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and ambushes are all hazards of traveling the
streets of Mosul.
“When they go outside the gate,” says Capt. Chris
Doss, from Richmond, who handles personnel matters for the 276th, “they
have to be able to pull the trigger. But when they come inside, they need to be
able to relax.”
Before each run, soldiers gather in a circle behind their
barracks to go over their game plan. After they review their route and
worst-case scenarios, Chaplain Eddie Barnett prays for their safe return:
“Almighty God, we praise You for another day of life.
Please, dear God, give us wisdom and courage for our upcoming mission and Your
divine protection in traveling to our location and a safe return.”
Lt. Denn Alaric, an 11-year police veteran from Blackstone, is
commanding a convoy to another base about an hour away when a soldier asks him
what to do if an Iraqi car gets too close to the convoy.
Lt. Alaric suggests the gunners in the back of the trucks
gather piles of rocks to keep on hand. “You do not engage a vehicle that
is not hostile. Throw rocks if you have to. I don’t mean boulders,” he
five-vehicle convoy will pass through a gauntlet of obstacles before reaching
its destination. Just outside the gate, bombs and small-arms fire have been
known to hit convoys. The traffic circle in central Mosul — where a U.S.
soldier died from a roadside bomb a week before — has to be navigated again.
On the way they pass through a bucolic landscape of Bedouin
sheep herders and dusty, smiling children. But seen through the window of an
armor-fortified Humvee, the postcard scenario becomes menacing.
Col. Edward Morgan, the battalion’s commander, looks out on
the land. “Green grass,” he says, “populated by a few
Back in his bunk after one such mission, Cpl. Nathan Almquist,
22, from Gloucester, cranks up the volume on his CD player for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s
“Sweet Home Alabama” to soothe his nerves.
The Southern-rock anthem reverberates through the alley in
front of the barracks, creating an almost MTV-like moment as the guardsmen
clean their dust-caked weapons.
“Sarah,” says Spc. David Ruhren, as he disassembles
the gun he named after his wayward girlfriend. “A pain in the butt as
Sarah — the girl, that is — told the 19-year-old student just
before he left for Iraq that she was leaving him to marry someone else.
Naming a weapon after a girlfriend, or former girlfriend, is a
common practice in the ranks.
Even the chaplain’s assistant, Desmond Night, 33, from
Sacramento, Calif., calls his M-16
“Melissa” after an ex-girlfriend.
“When she got fired up, she would just go off,” he
His flak jacket, “Suzie,” is named after another
woman, who, he says, “would lay her life down for me.”
Memories of home
So it is no surprise that amid the violence, with their
“women” constantly cradled in their arms, the soldiers’ thoughts and
chatter turn to the women and the lives they left back home.
Spc. Ruhren has been talking to another ex-girlfriend recently
over the Internet. “We talk now more than we did when we were
dating,” he says. ” I have to have something to look forward to at
the end of the day.”
But his mind also turns fondly to the back yard at his
mother’s house in Stafford.
“Being out waist-deep in my lake fly-fishing,” he
says. “Cool breeze in the air and my dog fast asleep on the shore in the
sunshine waiting for me to come back in. Simple things like that are what
really matter the most. Not cars and money like some others might think.”
The soldiers e-mail their wives and girlfriends constantly,
lining up each evening outside the base’s Internet cafe to chat or see their
sweethearts on a Web camera.
isn’t like cozying up on a porch amidst the smell of sweet springtime with the
Virginia crickets chirping. But for both people, it fills a gap.
Just across the border from Virginia in Jonesborough, Tenn.,
Renee Morris is a veteran at coping with the long deployments of her husband of
10 years, Capt. James Morris of the 276th.
The captain, in civilian life a public safety officer in
Johnson City, Tenn., is on his second deployment to the Iraq theater since early
last year. He hopes his family will understand.
“I think we’ve been together three out of those 10
years,” Mrs. Morris tells a visitor to her home in Jonesborough.
With daughter Kaitlyn, 3, and John Paul, 7 months, to care
for, Mrs. Morris has plenty to occupy her mind. “You just pick up and do
it,” she says.
But for Capt. Morris,
the pleasures of home are seldom far from his thoughts.
“I miss sitting in the deck swing at night with
Renee,” he says. “Cool nights we call sweatshirt weather. I miss the
smell of the grass and blooming trees.”
It is always the flora and the fauna that stick in the minds
of these troops, as if a soldier’s psyche is enveloped with the comforting
aromas of home.
For Spc. Josh Hylton, 25, of Hillsville, it is the dogwood
trees that inspire him to something like poetry.
“In Carroll County, there are still places where dogwood
trees grow wild in the woods,” he says.
“Some have pink blossoms, but the majority are the white
ones. One in particular grew by the creek in the holler behind our barn. Every
spring, it would bloom down there, like a bright white star in the shady green
forest. Each bloom had four delicate white petals with tips changing from pink
“The folk tale is that Jesus was crucified on a dogwood
tree, and when God saw the anguish of the tree so harshly used, He declared
that no dogwood would ever again grow straight or tall enough to be used for a
“There were a lot of beautiful things in those woods;
lady-slipper in a couple spots, daisies and dandelions, and the fresh new buds
and leaves of all the trees. The dogwood, though, was the one thing I always
May 12, 2004 Wednesday
Far From Soldiers of Fortune
Lengthy deployments have created financial
hardship for reservists, guardsmen and their families. The Frommes could lose
By P.J. Huffstutter, Times Staff Writer
Dateline: Ferdinand, Ind.
When Pat Fromme shipped out last year for a six-month tour in
Iraq with the Indiana National
Guard, the citizen soldier left behind a farm, a wife, three kids and
Six months turned into a year, then 15 months. He returned
home in March, and was promoted to another Guard unit. That unit has recently
been called up for duty in Afghanistan. He knows he will have to join it; he
just doesn’t know when.
His wife and family will struggle to do their best and wait
for him. The turkeys, however, may be gone by the time he gets back.
“If I have to go again right away, the farm won’t make
it,” said Fromme, 39, a sergeant major now with the 76th Infantry Brigade.
The conflicts in the Middle East have created unexpected
financial hardships for many of the estimated 364,000 part-time soldiers in the
reserves and the National Guard who
have been called up for service since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The deployment of citizen soldiers is the largest such effort
since World War II; it is also one of the longest. Today, reservists and
guardsmen are facing tours in Iraq as long as 20 months, as well as repeat
As a result, many soldiers have drained their savings to
support their families while they are gone. Some have lost their homes. Others
have lost their jobs at small businesses, which say they can’t afford to keep
the positions open — even though they’re breaking the law. And numerous
small-business owners have shut down their companies or have had to declare
Ted Valentini, an officer with the Army Reserve, lost his
business that makes molds for plastics and electronics after a second tour of
duty sent him to Iraq. The assets of the Beavercreek, Ohio, firm were sold off
Lewis, a chief warrant officer in the Marine Corps Reserve who is stationed in
Baghdad, faced an equally tough situation. Unable to find a replacement for himself,
Lewis closed his landscaping business in Moorseville, N.C., and laid off his
two employees soon after he was deployed.
Such troubling tales are expected to grow. Troop levels are
rising, not falling as had been anticipated. The Pentagon last week alerted
37,000 support soldiers — mostly in National
Guard or Reserve units — that they would be replacing troops leaving the
In Iraq, reservists and Guard troops are performing
fundamental duties, from frontline combat to military policing at the now
infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Military experts say the Pentagon relies heavily on
such call-ups and tour extensions to accomplish its mission overseas.
Desperate for help, reservists and National Guard soldiers have flooded state and federal agencies
with questions about bankruptcy protection, loan programs and rights in the
Despite a flurry of legislation — mostly at the state level
— there are few easy solutions.
“It’s one thing to leave your business for six months.
It’s another to leave it for two years or more,” said Dennis DeMolet, vice
chairman of the Small Business Administration’s advisory committee on veterans
“No one, not the military or the government, saw this
being a problem. It’s happening, and it’s devastating.”
Pat Fromme never imagined himself in this predicament. His
father bought this land decades ago, building a home and a small business amid
these gentle hills and a waterhole teeming with fish. The Fromme family farm is
a 10-minute drive to the center of Ferdinand and its 2,300 residents; the
closest city is Evansville, about 50 miles away.
For four generations, the Frommes have served in the military.
Pat joined the National Guard’s 1st
Battalion of the 152nd Infantry Division after serving in the Marines for five
years. His Guard duty was easy for the family business to handle: a few
weekends here, a month or two there.
Intellectually, said Pat and his wife, Lori, they realized the
Guard could demand far more from Pat. Emotionally, though, they didn’t make the
connection between the war and what it could mean to the family and their farm.
In December 2002, Fromme’s unit was called up. Pat left. So
did two of his brothers and two nephews. One of those nephews, 22-year-old
Zachary Fromme, had long worked with Pat and Lori on the farm.
“When he joined the Guard, I thought I knew what it
meant,” Lori said of her husband’s deployment. “But knowing that your
husband could be called away, and actually living with the reality of how long
tours are these days, are two totally different things. You just can’t really
understand what it’s going to be like until it happens.”
deployment took away two-thirds of the farm’s staff. Lori, 38, was on her own.
She was already a farmer and a mother. She also became an accountant and an
animal breeder, the tiny company’s chief executive and its chief manure
“I was scared,” Lori said. “Determined
Lori used some of the farm’s income and family savings to hire
part-time help. Pat’s aging father worked the land with Lori, until he suffered
a stroke last spring while operating a skid loader. Neighbors also came by to
help with the family’s small herd of cattle and the thousands of turkeys.
An automated system routinely spits feed into the bowls
scattered throughout the turkey houses. Someone needed to check on the turkeys
three times a day, weeding out the dead and the diseased. Someone needed to
make sure that the system had enough feed coming out, that the electronics were
functioning properly, that a bird hadn’t somehow crawled inside the piping,
that the doors were still locked and the turkeys safely inside.
Neighbors and hired help could assist with those chores. They
couldn’t walk Lori through convoluted government loan paperwork, or tell her
who to call for accounting and tax questions. They didn’t teach her which
farm-aid programs to apply for to reduce operational costs of running the
When Pat came home in March, he found a farm in need.
Paperwork for financial aid hadn’t been finished. The posts in the barn had
rotted. Buildings demanded repair.
Now, as Pat strides across the 410-acre farm, cleaning out
sheds and fixing the barn, he said he tried not to grimace at the long to-do
list or to worry about the uncertainty his future holds. He said he needed at
least a year before he was deployed again if the business was to survive.
“When you’re overseas, all you can think about is that
home is falling apart,” said Fromme. “When you’re home, all you can
think about is when you’ll have to go back, and whether you’ll be home long
enough to save everything you’ve built.”
This is a scene that’s being played out across the country. As
of last fall, as many as 60% of the part-time soldiers called up either worked
for themselves, owned a small- or medium-size business, or were employed by
such a company, government officials said.
For these businesses, losing one employee can be a genuine
hardship, but when that employee is the owner, it can be devastating.
“You are the business. If you don’t work, you don’t get
paid,” said Angela Lewis, 36, the wife of the landscaper who was forced to
close his business after his deployment. “Not only do I have the horrible
emotional strain of worrying that my husband is going to be killed walking down
the streets of Baghdad, but we’re dealing with this financial nightmare
By federal law, companies of any size cannot discriminate
against employees because of their military service, and therefore must ensure
that the jobs soldiers leave will still be there when they get back.
But soldiers aren’t protected if companies downsize or go out
of business. And some companies, either ignorant of the law or willing to take
the risk, fill the positions regardless, National
Guard officials said.
Adam Black of the Army Reserve returned home in February from Ft. Bliss, Texas,
where he trained contractors headed to Iraq. He found out that his job as a
warehouse foreman at a small interior-design company in Woodinville, Wash., had
been filled. Black has filed a complaint with a local military office that
handles such issues. He’s resigned to finding work elsewhere but has
encountered discrimination in his job search.
It’s illegal, but it’s happening.
“I’m proud of serving my country,” said Black, who
is still unemployed. “But as soon as I tell a potential boss that I’m in
the Reserves, the interview is over.”
Stories like Black’s have spread among the ranks.
“We’re getting phone calls from Texas, Wisconsin,
Nebraska, everywhere. They’re all looking for help, and we don’t know what to
say,” said Eric Schuller, a retired guardsman who works for the state of
Illinois, handling calls from soldiers with work and other financial problems.
“Everyone’s got a complaint; everyone needs help.”
Officials with the Small Business Administration say such
complaints are becoming more common.
Last fall, the Senate Committee on Small Business and
Entrepreneurship asked the Congressional Budget Office to examine how part-time
soldiers such as Pat Fromme were being affected by the extended deployments.
A report compiled by the Congressional Budget Office from data
coming from the Reserves, the National
Guard and each state’s adjutant general is expected this fall. Committee
members declined to comment, saying the review was incomplete. But Sen. John F.
Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president and
the ranking member on the small-business committee, has repeatedly and publicly
insisted that the laws need to be modified.
He introduced a bill in September that would give small
businesses a tax credit of up to $12,000 if employees were called up for active
duty. The bill is still under review in Congress.
Given the length of deployments, Kerry said last week, the
government needs to approve the tax credit and find other ways “to allow
[part-time soldiers] to rest assured that when they return from Iraq, their
homes and their jobs will be waiting for them.”
The sun rose on the Fromme farm a couple hours ago, and
already the air is thick and heavy. Inside the long, low rows of turkey houses,
the fowl give off the dense scent of ammonia. Thousands of turkeys, only a few
days old — each small enough to fit inside Lori’s hand — wait to be fed.
“If the turkeys are still sleeping, then so am I,”
said Pat Fromme, who was in charge of training 700 soldiers for security duty,
including protecting convoys and guarding encampments in Iraq and Kuwait.
“Thankfully, they don’t get up nearly as early as roosters.”
While the kids toast their Pop-Tarts, the parents open the
farm for business.
focuses on the office work: paying the bills for equipment, calling suppliers
to make sure there’s enough feed for the birds. Lori climbs into the truck and
trundles out to check on the turkeys.
They wait for Zachary, who also recently returned from Iraq.
When he arrives, the three head to the barn and the cattle. The calves have
grown large enough to be sent away from their mothers, to other fields to
graze. Zachary slips among the cattle, gently herding and lulling the
black-and-white animals down the corral. Pat carefully backs up a truck and
lines the trailer perfectly with a gate. Lori checks each animal off, and
ensures that the path between the corral and the trailer is secure.
With a yell from Zachary, the animals trudge into the trailer,
making the vehicle sway with their weight. When it’s full of calves bleating
with annoyance, the three drive off. Dust and dry hay roil the air, mixing with
their sweat and stinging their eyes.
They go through this routine over and over again until all 150
calves have been moved. In one day, they get done what it would have taken Lori
nearly five days to finish by herself.
There’s even time for them to sneak away from the farm for
lunch and get burgers in town.
“If Pat’s got to go, I hope we’ll be OK,” Lori said.
“That’s all you can do. Work and hope.”
The Associated Press
May 13, 2004
Guard Deployments Worry Some States
By Rebecca Cook; Associated Press Writer
With so many National
Guard troops in Iraq, officials in some states are worried they could be
caught short-handed if an emergency flares up at home.
More Guard members are deployed now than have been
since the Korean War, about a quarter of the 460,000 nationwide.
Their more frequent and longer overseas deployments
“absolutely” affect states’ emergency response, said Chris Reynolds,
a battalion fire chief in Tampa, Fla., who also teaches disaster management at
American Military University.
The effect is critical, Reynolds said, not just because so
many National Guard members are
gone, but because so many reservists work in public safety and emergency
“It’s the tenure and experience that’s missing, and you
can’t simply fill the hole with someone,” Reynolds said.
Governors rely on the Guard to serve as a last line of defense
during natural disasters and civil emergencies. And as the hurricane and
wildfire seasons begin, many states are uneasy and uncertain.
just have to hope their deployments coincide with the offseason for fires in
California,” said Jim Wright, deputy director of California’s Department
Guard leaders have assured states that remaining Guard units
can handle their emergency needs. A recently released General Accounting Office
report, however, warns that overseas deployments could strain the National Guard’s stateside mission.
“Equipment and personnel may not be available to the
states when they are needed because they have been deployed overseas,” the
GAO report concludes. “Moreover, the Guard may have difficulty ensuring
that each state has access to units with key specialized capabilities – such as
engineering or medical assets – needed for homeland security and other domestic
Some states expect to feel the squeeze less than others. In
Texas, for example, only 12 percent of the Army National Guard is deployed, while 81 percent of the Guard is
gone from Idaho.
“We’re in a whole lot better shape than some states that
don’t have many people to begin with,” said Lt. Col. John Stanford of the Texas
Army National Guard.
Texas and other Gulf states as well as those along the
Atlantic Coast are bracing for a rough hurricane season.
North Carolina, ravaged by Hurricane Isabel last year, has
been assured by Guard leaders that they are prepared for this season despite
the deployments, said Ernie Seneca, spokesman for Gov. Mike Easley.
The West is facing another summer of dry conditions and nasty
California’s wildfire season has already started, with 29,000
acres burning this month. The Golden State has its own fire crews, with U.S.
Forest Service and other federal agencies protecting government land. But Guard
members often are called to work at base camps, and can find themselves on the
fire lines during large blazes.
Wright, the forestry official, lives with the knowledge that
the California National Guard’s
Blackhawk helicopters and C-130 planes that helped douse the Southern
California fires could be sent to Iraq at any moment.
If necessary, Wright said, California could turn to private
contractors or call on other states for firefighting help.
When Oregon suffered its worst fire season in a century in
2002, about 1,400 Oregon Army Guard members helped fight the blazes. Oregon National Guard leaders told GAO
researchers they wouldn’t be able to repeat that performance today, because
forces and equipment are deployed overseas.
Washington state has already spent $200,000 to train
firefighting replacements for National
Guard troops now in Iraq. More than half the state’s Guard members are
deployed overseas. Gov. Gary Locke says he believes the 5,000 remaining Guard
members in the state will be able to handle whatever emergencies arise, but
their response time could be slower.
leaders acknowledge the need to change the way the Guard operates so some
states don’t have to bear the brunt of deployments.
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the Pentagon’s National Guard Bureau, has a plan to
ensure that every state has at least half of its Guard troops at home and
available for homeland security and other state missions.
“This model will ensure that no governor is left without
sufficient capabilities in the state,” Blum told a meeting of the National
Governors’ Association in February. However, he said, this
“rebalancing” effort will take several years.
Until then, states will continue to rely on mutual aid
agreements that allow them to get help from other states’ National Guard units.
In Idaho, state officials say they’re prepared, but still
“You’re never really certain you’ll have enough manpower
to deal with anything,” said Mike Journee, spokesman for Gov. Dirk
Kempthorne, “even at full strength.”
The Idaho Statesman
May 15, 2004 Saturday
They Leave: Guard, Families Ask Questions
Health insurance, harassment among issues
By Gregory Hahn
The commander and the general of the Idaho National Guard assured their soldiers
Friday that they would make sure Idaho doctors will treat their families while
2,600 Guardsmen and Guardswomen are deployed to Iraq.
They told their soldiers’ spouses that they will watch the
soldiers for any psychological problems while they’re at war, and train Idaho
teachers and doctors to recognize when the families of soldiers are having
And they told the children of the soldiers that they would
help stamp out harassment and problems any of the youth are facing at school.
The promises came as Idaho soldiers and their families
prepared for the largest deployment of troops in Idaho’s history.
haven’t received their orders, and though they’ll spend the summer training at
Fort Bliss, Texas, none of them know when deployment will happen.
Their spouses, most of them wives as just about one-tenth of
the 2,600 infantry soldiers are women, are wondering how they’ll pay their
bills and ensure their children are covered by health insurance.
than 300 soldiers and family members packed a room at Gowen Field Friday and
even more participated by videophone as Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho Adjutant
Gen. John Kane and a panel of Pentagon officials answered questions for two
hours. It was the first time that the Department of Defense had flown in
experts to answer the concerns of the state’s soon-to-be-deployed Guard.
Many worried about mental health and insurance
Denise Johnson, a soldier’s wife who trembled slightly with
emotion, asked what kind of psychiatric help would be available for the
soldiers when they return “so they don’t fall through the cracks and they
don’t suffer some of the same effects that our Vietnam vets have suffered in
the past,” she said.
Others asked similar questions about their children, such as
whether public school teachers will know how to recognize behavioral changes
that are stemming from the temporary loss of a parent.
Many others asked about health insurance. When the soldiers
leave their normal jobs, their families often have to switch to the federal
TRICARE insurance system, and they wanted to know when that switch might happen
and would they be able to go to their own doctors.
Kane and the Pentagon officials assured Johnson that soldiers
would be assessed for mental problems before they leave and while they’re in
Iraq. Doctors are being trained to recognize trauma in soldiers, wives and
children. The Pentagon also has a program for teachers that will help them
understand and work with military kids, they said.
Kane told the spouses to look for signs of mental stress in
the letters and communications they receive from their soldiers, and if they
suspect anything unusual to tell the Guard, he said.
Kane and Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Abel said the
changeover from private to federal health insurance should be simple, too. A
TRICARE official told one soldier that his son with a pre-existing medical
condition would have no trouble being covered.
One problem for Guard members who don’t live near military
bases is that there aren’t many doctors within the TRICARE system. The program
operates much like a regular insurance company, with better rates and coverage
available if the patient sees a physician within the system.
Kempthorne said he is sending letters to all the doctors in
the state asking them to join so that families can continue seeing the
professionals they’re used to.
The Idaho Guard is being called to duty and “that means
that all of us in the state are getting called to duty,” the governor
But student Carrie Waite, president of the statewide youth
support program for the National Guard,
raised an issue that children of soldiers are already facing — classmates
calling soldiers “baby killers.”
“I’ve heard scattered reports of this from other states as
well,” said John Molino, a Pentagon official.
Some schools protect children in that situation through
“If you give us the name and the location, we’ll work
it,” Kane said.
And Kempthorne, who was so upset by Waite’s news that he
missed the next question asked of him, gave her a message to tell others:
“Anybody that suggests that the role of our American
soldiers is to do anything but give hope and a future to the babies of the
world are totally off-base,” he said.
concerns are far-reaching and deep
Some soldiers asked about employment upon their return. Others
wanted to know whether they’d be outfitted in new equipment and weaponry.
An ROTC student on a scholarship asked whether the money for
school would be there when he comes back. (The answer was yes.)
Some of the families have an idea about what to expect. After
the meeting, wives of soldiers talked about the “game face” their
husbands will have in the two-week leave they’ll have after Fort Bliss and
For the younger families, the prospect of war is intimidating
and not something they’ve ever had to plan for.
One woman said soldiers and their families are feeling like
they’re “pulled left and right,” and she asked Kane what was being
done about convincing people to remain in the Guard after deployment.
“I think we’re trying to do everything we can,” he
“When they come back from deployment, they’ll come back
to the traditional National Guard
that they’ve known.”
But he said he’s not planning much beyond the tour that
When a soldier asked whether Guard units could be sent for two
trips to the war, Kane said there were no plans for it for Idaho Guard members.
“I think the thing you need to focus on is the tour
you’re getting ready for now,” he said.
But Assistant Secretary of Defense Abel said there are units
going back for a second time, adding that most active units will. Some of those
are on a third tour — one in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.
Some reserve units will go, too, but Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld has ordered that no reservist be sent back without his OK.
Questions and answers about the Guard’s deployment
Idaho National Guard
soldiers and their families had a chance to ask questions about the coming
months as 2,600 soldiers are being deployed to Iraq. They asked about money,
insurance, psychiatric help, parenting support and more. Gov. Dirk Kempthorne,
Idaho Adjutant Gen. John Kane and a panel of Pentagon experts answered them.
Here’s a sample of the concerns the soldiers and their
Will soldiers get any leave before they go to Iraq? Yes. Two
weeks after training in Fort Bliss in
El Paso, Texas. But it looks like the leave will begin and end in Texas, so the
soldiers will have to pay their own way to Idaho and back.
Can families visit Fort Bliss during the training? No.
the Guard know when the soldiers will be sent to Iraq? No.
Will families be able to video-conference with the soldiers in
Iraq? Hopefully, though the Guard hasn’t nailed that down yet. Also, soldiers
can call home through the Department of Defense or with international calling
cards available at military stores. Plus, if the soldiers are in Iraq for a
year, they will earn two weeks of leave, during which they can come home if
If soldiers have lost or do lose their jobs when deployed,
will they get help? Yes, on an individual basis.
Is there anything to help families of soldiers who have to
take a pay cut when they leave their jobs for active duty? There are bills in
Congress to provide some extra money, but they could be a long way from being
Is there help for day care and parenting costs? The Pentagon
provides it but each state hands it out differently.
Can soldiers be promoted while they’re activated? Seems
obvious, but it isn’t. For the most part, yes, but there are still some