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Briefing from National Guard Leaders
Army Guard Division Commander
Looks to Past, Future
The National Guard Changes its Stripes
National Guard Brigade Prepares for Deployment to Iraq
Army Fears Reservists are Stretched Thin
Components Among Units Extended in Iraq
North Dakota National Guard: Doctors Heading to Iraq
Battalion Gets Home Just in Time
N.D. National Guard
Unit Returns Home
Guard Unit Gets Joyous Welcome
Twelve Members of the 1457th Return, Others Expected Next
Town of Patriots Dusts off Flags
for Guard Unit’s Return
Legion Post Honors Guard Unit Back From Active Duty
Bill Would Waive Pension Penalty for Guard, Reserve
Thrift Savings Plan: Good Way to Increase Wealth, Executive Director Says
GUARD IN IRAQ………………………………………………………………………………………… 32
Washington Guard Unit Takes Over Iraq Supply Hub
Two National Guard Soldiers Injured in Iraq Attacks
133rd Embraces Hero as One of its Own
Guard Gives Sisters More Time to Decide on Returning to Iraq
Davenport Resumes Rallies for Troops
National Guard Opens
Center to Aid Families
Wives Establish Group
Concerned Over Iraq Deployment Extensions
With Breadwinners Overseas, Guard
Families Face Struggle
A Push to Get Troops Home
Boots on the Ground, and Anxiety at Home
Life After Being Deployed
Guardsman Who Refused Anthrax
Vaccine Discharged from Army
TO OUR FALLEN HEROES………………………………………………………… 58
Kentucky Guardsman Killed in Iraq
with Fort Lewis Task Force Killed
Vermont Soldier Dies in Iraq Ambush
Foundation Helps Soldiers in Iraq Contact Home
Military Phone Card Donation Program Goes Public
National Guard Family Program Online
TRICARE website for information on health
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
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to share with the National Guard Family Program Community? Send your suggestions in an e-mail to [email protected].
Pre-Boot Camp Cuts
National Guard Recruits
By Jan Dennis, Associated Press
Marseilles, Ill. — The drill sergeant’s stomach-twisting
growl echoed through concrete barracks lined with baby-faced recruits on a
weekend pass from high school.
“I want you to move like someone’s shooting at you –
because someday they might,” Sgt. James Locke barked, sending dozens of
first-day soldiers scrambling past long, neat rows of cots and footlockers.
The one-weekend-a-month, pre-boot camp was launched this
spring by the Illinois Army National
Guard, which is banking that an
early taste of the military will help new recruits survive basic training and
trim a washout rate that reached about 30 percent last year.
“It’s designed to remove that fear of the unknown. When
they get to basic training, they’ll understand what their role is and not only
pass, but become honor graduates,” said Maj. Steven Rouse, an Army National Guard recruiter.
Nearly 300 newly enlisted privates – many of them high school
juniors and seniors committing to a six-year enlistment in exchange for a paid
college education – got their first marching, weapons and physical training
April 3-4 at the Army National Guard complex in Marseilles.
“I was extremely nervous. I have to go to the bathroom
right now, but I’m afraid to ask,” Andrew Bittenbender, a 17-year-old
junior, said during a hurried lunch on the camp’s first day.
Keith Arvik, 17-year-old junior, said he liked his first day
as a private, but wondered how many push-ups he’d have to do if he messed up.
Others offered advice for avoiding the drill sergeants’ wrath – just look
straight ahead and shut up.
Not everyone appreciated the orientation.
“I just think the drill sergeants should cool it down.
We’re not in boot camp yet,” said Cindy Aguiler, 17.
In fact, during the two-day camp, the
instructors were offering a slightly less-intense version of the discipline
recruits will face for nine weeks when they’re at an out-of-state Army base for
basic training this summer.
Maj. Rouse said the experience is aimed at teaching recruits
that drill sergeants are trying to build discipline and teamwork, not dish out
“The biggest thing this will overcome is the mental
aspect of it because that far outweighs the physical,” said Maj. Rouse, a
19-year military veteran.
Of 1,580 guardsmen recruited in Illinois last year, 465
dropped out. The program should help scale back those losses, said Lt. Col.
Chris Lawson, commander of recruiting for the Illinois Army National Guard.
The Army National Guard began urging states to implement the
program last summer after similar boot camps improved retention rates in
Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada, Lawson said. Illinois was among the first
states to sign on, but every state now offers some variation of the program, he
Nationwide, the Army National Guard hopes the camps will
ultimately help slice a 2002 washout rate of 27 percent to just 12 percent,
which would add more than 4,000 new soldiers a year to the nation’s defense
In Illinois, which
averages about 2,000 new recruits annually, recruiting is up by about 100
soldiers so far this year, surprising because of the broad media coverage of
casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, Maj. Rouse said.
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
Gets Briefing From National Guard Leaders
Dateline: Baton Rouge, La.
The planned deployment of 3,000 Louisiana National Guard soldiers overseas will leave the state with just
two-thirds of its guardsmen at home, but it won’t harm the state’s ability to
protect itself, according to the commander of the National Guard.
Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau said Thursday he was
“confident and secure” Louisiana’s homeland security efforts would
continue even as a brigade with about 4,000 soldiers – 3,000 from Louisiana –
has been activated for overseas services.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco said while it shows how well-prepared
Louisiana soldiers are, there were times she felt like Louisiana was playing a
disproportionate role in the country’s overseas operations, including the war
“After this deployment, I think our soldiers should have
a time of reprieve,” Blanco said after a private meeting with the leaders
of the 256th Infantry Brigade.
said when the 256th leaves, about 4,000 of the 11,000 men and women in the Louisiana
National Guard would be deployed at
the same time.
“It certainly does sober us up,” Blanco said of the
large number of Louisiana troops that will be overseas.
The 256th is set to train first at Ford Hood, Texas, for
deployment in support of the Iraq war. It was unclear when the soldiers would
be moved overseas or when they would return.
Blanco and Landreneau asked employers to sign a ceremonial
statement of support for the troops who are leaving their jobs behind because
of the deployment.
“It’s pulling a lot of people out of our work
force,” the governor said.
Landreneau said employers
so far have been extremely supportive. Federal law requires that employers must
allow the men and women to return to their jobs when they come back from their
deployment, but Landreneau said the statement would “let that individual
know they’re going to be welcome when they come back home.”
Army Guard Division Commander Looks
to Past, Future
Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
to American Forces Press Service
A.P. Hill, Va., April 23, 2004 – Maj. Gen. Daniel Long Jr. sounds like a man
with two sets of eyes when he talks about the Virginia Army National Guard
outfit he has commanded since August 2002.
eyes to the front are focused on training the 11,500 citizen-soldiers in the
29th Infantry Division for the kind of warfare the Army is waging in Iraq and
eyes in the back of his head are looking back 60 years when that Guard division
began fighting its way onto Omaha Beach at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944,
to begin the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.
trained and equipped to fight the right kind of war against the enemy at hand
is the common denominator. It is why Long is devoting a considerable amount of
his time and energy to, as he describes it, getting back to the basics or
“resetting the division.”
light of what’s happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world right
now, I felt I needed to change the focus so this light infantry division is
prepared to do a lot of things without knowing specifically what’s going to be
asked of it,” Long recently explained here, where many of his soldiers
were qualifying with their weapons.
think knowing the division’s history helps us to understand why it’s so
important to train well,” he added.
That is why Long is leading 100
soldiers, including 60 or so junior enlisted people, to Normandy this June to
be a part of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
division’s band will be there. So will an honor guard. So will a lot of young
soldiers, who will walk the beach and climb the cliffs and talk to the aging
veterans who survived that dreadful time.
want those soldiers to talk to the veterans and bring the stories back to the
rest of the division,” Long said. “I think it’s important to know the
sacrifice and the commitment those men made back then. I think it’s important
to see that they’re just like you and me.
veterans are very proud of this division,” he added. “They were great
patriots then, and we have great patriots now.”
why Long insists it is time to get back to the basics so his soldiers are
prepared. That means they will fight and defeat terrorists who wear no
regulation uniforms and who kill with rocket-propelled grenades and improvised
explosive devices equally as well as their forebears helped fight and defeat
the more easily defined German army in 1944 and 1945.
tall order, because his division is spread over Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Connecticut and North Carolina. Furthermore, 7,000 of the 29th’s soldiers have
been guarding gates and patrolling airports in this country and guarding
detainees at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since the global war against
things are important, but they really degrade your perishable infantry
skills,” he observed. Long is a lean, soft-spoken man, who balances his
obligations as a one-man construction firm in Fredericksburg, Va., with the
full-time demands Army Guard division commander.
proven himself as a soldier and commander by going through the Army’s Ranger
and air assault schools, by earning the Expert Infantryman Badge, and while
serving as deputy commander of the Multinational Division North stabilization
force in Bosnia in 2001-02.
Long has a good idea of what today’s light infantry soldiers should be prepared
to do. He is determined to reset the division at the grassroots level.
envisions “multifunctional squads or teams” with leaders who can
command and control them “for a pretty good period of time.”
squad, he said, should include a designated marksman and spotter, who can hit
targets 500 meters away and report on what the enemy is doing. Each squad
should include an engineer, who can breach obstacles with high explosives, and
a couple of medics, who can keep wounded soldiers alive while waiting to be
transported to a hospital.
wants his soldiers to know how to patrol and convoy through cities, how to deal
with civilians and imbedded members of the news media, how to fly in
helicopters and how to fight at night.
“This division is supposed to
own the night. The war doesn’t knock off at 5 o’clock in the afternoon,”
Long said. “So we have to train during the night. This division counts an
awful lot on moving around the battlefield using aviation assets,” he
added. “The soldiers have to know how to carry their weapons and rucksacks
on helicopters, how to dismount and what it’s like to fly in turbulent
conditions. And the soldiers have to know how to work their way up a street and
how to pull someone out of a building.”
600 of his soldiers, in the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry, are now training to
do those things at Fort Bragg, N.C., before they deploy to Afghanistan this
April 24, 2004
The National Guard Changes its Stripes
In March, on a dusty plateau at the Army’s National Training
Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the strain of relying on an all-volunteer
military to fight the nation’s wars was evident on Staff Sgt. Trevor Johnson’s
face. In a few weeks, Johnson and the rest of the Washington state National Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade
would be in Iraq. But before Johnson shipped out, the 43-year-old guardsman,
who normally works as a civilian federal supply clerk at Camp Murray, Wash.,
was grimacing as he was schooled on the finer points of establishing a
Johnson leads about 20 soldiers, whose normal job while
wearing the uniform is as behind-the-lines logisticians. The Army, however,
needs more supply convoys and security personnel in Iraq, so they are being
retrained for those roles. On this day, they are working on a drill that has
them providing perimeter security for a radio-relay tower.
Johnson tells his troops to spread out in a 180-degree
semicircle to secure the site; a small hill will protect the other half.
Suddenly, a more senior soldier is in Johnson’s face with a string of
questions: What if the enemy comes over the hill? What about guarding the road
that leads to the site? Johnson says nothing. Finally, the instructor tells him
what he wants Johnson to know: Forces must guard the road and form a 360-degree
perimeter around the tower. Johnson nods at the instructions and redeploys his
troops. “This is a lot different than the training we’ve done before. It’s
new, and we’ve just got to go with it,” Johnson says.
Indeed, Johnson is not alone; the entire National
Guard is changing. “Today’s Guard
is not the Guard of the past,” says Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of
the Pentagon’s National Guard Bureau, which manages both the Army National
Guard and Air National Guard. “The Guard’s mission has shifted
from a strategic reserve built on a Cold War deterrence construct to an
operational reserve that must be capable of joint and expeditionary
derided as “weekend warriors” who lacked modern equipment and skills,
and long known as the nation’s last line of defense, the Army Guard and Air
Guard are now on the front lines of military operations. Nearly 40 percent
of the 135,000 troops on the ground in Iraq today are in the National Guard.
(In fact, about one-fifth of troops whose duty in Iraq was recently extended
are guardsmen.) Moreover, 80 percent of all Army Guard and Air Guard
personnel will be called up least once in the next three years, for missions
ranging from flying air patrols over major U.S. cities to patrolling on foot
the streets of Falluja, Iraq, and Kandahar, Afghanistan. As a result, the
National Guard is undergoing an unprecedented overhaul in how it’s organized,
equipped, and trained.
At a February meeting of the National Governors Association,
Blum, a Special Operations officer who was the commanding general of forces in
Bosnia for six months in 2001 and 2002, called for a major restructuring of the
National Guard. Otherwise, he said, the Guard may not be able to meet
both its state and federal missions. Unlike each of the military services’
federal reserve components — Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, etc. — the National
Guard is a state force under the command of each state’s governor and
trains normally only one weekend a month, unless the president activates the
force for a federal mission. About 25 percent of the National Guard today is on
One major problem, Blum points out, is that active-duty
call-ups are not split evenly among states. He called it
“unacceptable” that some states have as many as 75 percent of their
guardsmen on active duty, while other states have only a handful. Sen.
Christopher (Kit) Bond, R-Mo., co-chairman of the Senate National Guard
Caucus, agrees that the increased reliance on the Guard has revealed
“shortfalls” in how it is structured. Blum says at least 50 percent
of a state’s forces should be available
to a governor at all times for state emergencies.
Governors back that idea. Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a
Republican who chairs the National Governors Association, calls Blum’s proposal
“workable” and says Blum deserves credit for being one of the first
Guard leaders to address the governors directly. “I appreciate his
sensitivity that you do not need to take all assets from a state,”
Washington Gov. Gary Locke, a Democrat, says having 50 percent
of forces available all the time would allow him to meet the state’s emergency
needs. He says the current deployment of the state’s largest Guard unit,
the more than 3,500 members of the 81st Armored Brigade, has caused some delays
in responding to state emergencies because of equipment shortages and too few
forces. Also, Locke says, the state spent an additional $200,000 training new
forest firefighters because guardsmen normally did that job.
says the plan will benefit not just state executives but soldiers and airmen as
well by offering a more predictable deployment schedule. Army guardsmen would
be deployed for no more than 18 months once every six years, Air Guard
personnel no more than three months once every 15 months. Army Guard soldiers
would follow a six-year schedule during which they would spend 18 to 24 months
in intensive training for a deployment, 12 to 18 months deployed, and 36 to 48
months available for state emergencies or homeland-security missions.
Col. Jim Barrineau, chief of the force management division at
the Guard Bureau, is planning the structural changes. Currently, Guard
units have an uneven mix of capabilities, with some units being called up far
more frequently than others. As a result, states with units in high demand
routinely have fewer forces to call on for local emergencies, while other
states’ units can go decades without ever being called up for federal duty.
Barrineau says reconfiguring the National Guard will ensure that all
units more fairly shoulder the burden of active-duty deployments.
Since the September 11 attacks, for example, military police
units have been in high demand for both homeland-security missions and patrols
in Afghanistan and Iraq. Field artillery units, however, have rarely been
called up. Some artillery units have already been retrained as military police
units and deployed. Barrineau says the Army
National Guard’s new force structure will add about 10,000 military police,
increasing the total from 20,000 to 30,000 while cutting the number of field
artillery battalions in the Guard by about 25 percent. Other military jobs that
will see increases include intelligence analyst and combat engineer. Air
defense and combat support jobs, such as cooks and administrative personnel,
meanwhile, will be scaled back.
The National Guard currently has 36 combat brigades.
But only 15 of them are “enhanced” brigades, the Guard’s largest and
most modern fighting units, which can be ready for war within 30 days and can
integrate quickly with active-duty forces. Other Guard brigades have some of
the military’s oldest equipment and require significant training before they
can be deployed.
The redesigned Guard will have two fewer brigades
overall, and the rest will be far smaller and have lighter equipment but will
be more readily deployable for war. The brigade design will match those in the
active Army, which is creating new units that are lighter, more agile, and more
Barrineau says the changes would cost billions of dollars for
both new training and equipment — specifically, more Humvees for the
additional military police and more trucks as some heavy combat vehicles are
phased out. The Guard expects to begin receiving money for the restructuring in
the 2005 Defense supplemental spending package that the Bush administration has
promised after Election Day. The plan will aim to have all 34 brigades
redesigned by 2011.
Ultimately, the size of the Army Guard would shrink by
about 46,000 troops to a total strength of 342,000 by the end of this decade.
Barrineau says a handful of yet-to-be-determined states will see
“major” changes in their force makeup, but most would see their
personnel trimmed back by only about 2 percent. Certain capabilities would be
available for every state, among them military police and combat engineers,
plus transport, helicopter, medical, and chemical-warfare units that can
respond to weapons of mass destruction. The Air Guard is expected to
make some changes to its force structure as well, although those changes will
likely be far less significant than the Army Guard’s, because the Air Guard is
already closely aligned with active Air Force units.
Bond says the National Guard Caucus backs the restructuring.
at the National Training Center, Guard troops from the 81st Brigade were
continuing to learn new jobs as their mid-March deployment dates neared. A
captain who commanded an armor company was learning how to negotiate with Iraqi
villagers to support humanitarian operations. An Army logistician upgraded the
scope on his rifle, after learning he’d be providing convoy security. Tank and
Bradley Fighting Vehicle drivers and gunners were taught how to drive smaller
Humvees and learned the hand signals used by infantry soldiers.
Blum says the changes under way with the 81st Brigade are a
harbinger of the changes coming to the rest of his force and a sign of the
crucial role the National Guard now plays in military operations.
“I don’t apologize at all for the rate we are using the National Guard
today. We’re quite proud of the fact that the old question — ‘Is the Guard
relevant?’ — is long gone. For the last two and half years, even our worst
critics realize the worst thing they can say about us is that we are essential.”
The Guard Now, and Next
* 25 percent of the 460,000 soldiers and airmen in the Army
National Guard and Air National Guard are now on active duty.
* 37 percent of the troops now on the ground in Iraq (not
counting those troops whose tours were recently extended) are in the Army
* Eighty percent of all Army Guard and Air Guard
personnel will be called up at least once in the next three years for active
Under the New Plan:
* Army Guard soldiers would be deployed no more than
once during a six-year term, and Air Guard airmen would be deployed for
no more than 90 days every 15 months.
* A given National Guard unit would be available for
state missions 50 percent of the time, training for deployment 25 percent of
the time, and on deployment 25 percent of the time.
* Over six years, Army guardsmen would be activated full-time
once, for 12 to 18 months. The rest of the time, they would be under the
command of their state governors.
The Associated Press
April 20, 2004
Guard Brigade Prepares for Deployment to Iraq
Dateline: Lafyette, La.
The 256th Infantry Enhanced Separate Brigade of the Louisiana National Guard should be ready for
deployment to Iraq within three to four months, according to one of the men
coordinating the unit’s activation as a federal fighting force.
The brigade is being assembled at Fort Hood, Texas.
“If there is one
thing the families of the 256th need to know, it is that we are going to
prepare them as best we can for where they are going to go,” said Lt. Col.
Don Collett, one of the men planning the brigade’s training at Fort Hood.
“Your soldiers will be taken care of and looked after.”
The National Guard
unit will be formally placed under U.S. Army command upon arrival at Fort Hood,
he said. Family members will be able to keep in touch with their loved ones via
mail and, most of the time, e-mail during the training, he said.
The 256th will be billeted at Fort Hood, but final housing
plans have not yet been worked out, Collett said. The 256th’s first days will
be devoted to a Soldier Readiness Check, during which military and legal
paperwork is double-checked and medical and training records are validated.
Once the paperwork is done, soldiers will begin weapons qualification and receive
any individual training that is needed.
The 256th will then begin collective training, working from
the platoon to the brigade level. Colett said that the 256th will be augmented
by individuals and units from other states with any special support skills that
may be needed.
“It’s a national effort to get this brigade out,”
Collett said. “They will get the manpower and the modern equipment they
need to support their mission. They are going with the most modern equipment we
can give them. They will be prepared.”
Once the full-unit training at Fort Hood is done, the 256th
will be sent to a Combat Training Center – either the National Training Center
in the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, Calif., or the Joint Readiness Center at
Fort Polk where it will be evaluated for mission readiness.
“This will be the final check to be certain that the
brigade is ready to do what it will be asked to do,” Collett said.
“Once that is verified, the brigade will begin preparations for overseas
Reservists are Stretched Thin
Major restructuring planned as
concerns about turnover rise
By Richard Whittle, The Dallas Morning News
Washington – In a video message mailed recently to 300,000
Army Reserve soldiers and their families, Lt. Gen. Ron Helmly explained the
problem his arm of the service faces “straight up,” as he puts it.
“I believe the news has accurately reported that planning
for postwar operations in Iraq did not recognize the full potential for the
violence, instability and insecurity that has occurred. So now we’re engaged in
something that we didn’t expect,” the Army Reserve chief acknowledged.
Combined with the war on terrorism, the unexpected turmoil in
Iraq has boosted the Army’s demand for Reserve and National Guard troops to unprecedented levels – leaving their
leaders worried that many reservists may quit to avoid repeated and often
Guard and Reserve troops, for example, account for about a fourth
of the 20,000 soldiers who last week received word that their year-long
deployments to Iraq are being extended three months because of an upswing in
violence that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged he didn’t
In response to the demand for their troops, Gen. Helmly and
his National Guard counterpart, Lt.
Gen. Roger Schultz, have embarked on the most sweeping reorganizations of the
Army’s two-pronged “reserve component” since the Vietnam War.
relieve the pressure on our soldiers, I’m restructuring our force to take the
type units that are no longer needed and reorganize them into units that are
needed and required for the global war on terrorism,” Gen. Helmly
explained in his message to families.
“Having more of the right kinds of units
means we don’t have to keep going back to the same soldiers, their units and
their families over and over.”
Gen. Schultz is aiming to restructure the Army Guard in similar fashion, but with the additional aim of
making sure at least 50 percent of each state’s Guard troops remain available to
cope with natural disasters and other, more traditional duties at home.
No mass exodus, yet
Recruitment and retention statistics don’t forecast any exodus
so far, Army Guard and Army Reserve leaders report, though an informal
survey of reservists in Iraq recently found about a quarter thinking of getting
Gen. Schultz said first-time Guard enlistments were
“outstanding” in 2003. But the Guard missed its goal for
recruiting regular Army veterans last year.
Surveys of members
serving in Iraq and Afghanistan “would indicate turnover’s going to be a
little higher, retention’s going to be a little lower” when they get home,
Gen. Schultz said.
“Retention is still high,” he said. And
surprisingly, turnover in the Guard is lowest among those who have
served in Iraq and Afghanistan – about 12.4 percent, compared to 16.7 percent
Staff Sgt. Juan Reyna, 37, a 20-year National Guard
veteran from Pharr, illustrates one reason why. Shortly before the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, his South Texas Guard unit deployed to Bosnia.
“Ever since then, it’s been one mission right after the
other,” Staff Sgt. Reyna said.
Bosnia, he lost his civilian job in motorcycle sales. Then the Guard
called him up again and sent him to Guantánamo, Cuba. Since early last year,
he’s participated in Operation Armored Falcon, defending Air Force
installations in the United States.
Married and the father of two, Staff Sgt. Reyna acknowledges
that he’s “missed a lot of football games and cheerleader tryouts.”
But his family “bears with me,” he said. And despite the strain, he
won’t be leaving the Guard.
“For me, it was a bit of a blessing,” he explained,
“because now I have a steady job.”
But no one knows how many reservists might decide differently
as thousands rotate home.
“We’ve got soldiers that are now returning from 12 months
of tough, tough duty,” Gen. Schultz noted. “I don’t see a crisis, but
turnover is going to be up.”
Even after that rotation ends, Guard and Reserve members will account for about 40 percent of
roughly 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. And while no one knows how long U.S.
troops will be needed in Iraq, Army leaders are planning to keep 100,000 or
more there through at least 2006 – about a fifth of the regular force.
regular Army’s congressionally mandated size is 482,000. To cope with the Iraq
occupation, Mr. Rumsfeld has used emergency powers to add 30,000 troops to the
The Army National Guard is about 350,000 strong, the
Army Reserve about 205,000. As of April 14, more than 150,000 Army Guard and
Army Reserve members were mobilized, setting aside jobs and families to go on
active – and for many, hazardous – duty.
The reshaping of the Army Reserve and Army National Guard
mirrors a plan by Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker to reorganize the
regular Army. He is dividing its 10 divisions, which generally have three
brigades of about 5,000 soldiers each, into 48 smaller brigades that can
replace each other “plug and play” style.
The goal of the Army Reserve reorganization is to make the
force complement rather than supplement the Army. Gen. Helmly aims to do that
by “inactivating” some units, reclassifying some soldiers, retraining
others and creating more flexibility in assignments.
overall plan is to create 10 “packages” of brigades that can be
deployed for six months at a time each, creating a rotation that will give
most, if not all Reserve members, four to five years between possible
“It is an immense change,” Gen. Helmly said in an
interview. And one being done as his outfit is busier than ever before.
“We’re rebuilding the whole damn engine while the car is running down the
highway at about 75 miles an hour,” he quipped.
The Army National Guard,
which exists partly to provide governors with emergency forces, has equally
ambitious plans. Details must be worked out, but the Guard is to disperse
battalions, brigades and smaller units of its eight divisions to separate
One goal is to ensure that governors have enough troops to
handle state emergencies.
Army Guard also is converting one transportation company and seven field
artillery battalions from six states – including Texas – into military police
units to meet a demand for 18 MP companies at U.S. bases.
Military police, lodged entirely in the Guard and Reserve,
have been especially in demand for guard duty in the United States and
occupation duty in Iraq.
Like the Army Reserve plan, the Army Guard reorganization aims
for a rotation schedule that limits mobilizations of individuals or units to
once every six years.
Some members of Congress say reorganizing isn’t enough.
Expanding the regular Army is the only way to take the pressure off the Guard
and Reserve, said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.
The House Armed Services Committee member has introduced legislation
to permanently boost the regular Army by 40,000. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and
Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., have offered a similar bill.
The statistics on retention are misleading, they contend,
because “stop-loss orders” have prevented many from getting out even
if their contracts have expired.
“We have a stop loss on at least 200,000 active duty and
Guard and Reserves that have been activated, so it’s hard to say what anybody’s
retention numbers are,” Ms. Tauscher said.
Those stop-order losses typically expire 60-90 days after a
reservist finishes a deployment, Gen. Helmly said, and are being used partly to
create a cooling-off period and prevent rash departures.
Gen. Helmly said surveys he has ordered suggest that many of
those deployed to Iraq were less unhappy about the fact they got sent than
about how it was done and what they were told.
Some only got a few days’ notice, making it hard to arrange
details of family and job. Many had their deployment unexpectedly extended to a
year from six months when peace failed to break out. Some say their units were
given inadequate equipment.
Sgt. Sean Reeder, 37, an oilfield technician from Victoria,
said his Texas Army National Guard
artillery unit, which spent 11 months in Iraq attached to the Army’s 4th
Infantry Division, faced the same dangers as soldiers with active-duty units,
but had to make do with hand-me-down gear.
were issued “old, Vietnam-era” flak jackets that lacked new ceramic
plates that stop bullets and shrapnel better, he said. They got the new plates
about a month before they came home.
Many Guard soldiers had difficulties working out problems with
pay and benefits, Sgt. Reeder said, and got inadequate help from the regular
“Every time we’d go to check on our pay or check on our
promotions, we’d always hear, ‘Well, we can’t do anything for you because
you’re National Guard,’ ” he said.
deployment was rough on families, he said, estimating that one in four soldiers
experienced marital or other family problems while in Iraq.
One way to make deployments easier for employers and families,
he said, would be to “have a defined date and time that you’re going to go
and return, and try to stick by it as closely as possible.”
April 22, 2004
Components Among Units Extended in Iraq
Sgt. Bob Haskell
Arlington, Va. (April 22, 2004) – More than 4,100 Army National Guard
Soldiers belonging to units from 14 states will remain on duty in Iraq and
Kuwait for an additional three months or so to support the global war against
The Pentagon announced April 15 that the members of the 21 units would remain
in those countries longer than their anticipated one-year tours of duty to help
meet the force requirements for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that 20,000 Soldiers would serve over
there for about 90 additional days.
Army Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers make up about a quarter of that
force, officials said.
“The period will be for up to an additional 90 days in Iraq and up to 120 days
total deployment,” Rumsfeld explained. “Needless to say, we regret having to
extend those individuals. But the country is at war and we need to do what is
necessary to succeed.”
The purpose of the delayed redeployments is to provide the combatant commander
with the forces required to defeat those elements threatening the security of
Iraq, officials explained.
The affected Army Guard
personnel are in support units – primarily military police, transportation and
engineer companies and battalions. Four units are from Illinois. Nearly 900
belong to three Missouri units. Three more units come from Tennessee, and two
are from South Dakota.
The others come from Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico,
Ohio, Utah, the state of Washington, and Wisconsin.
Pentagon officials said military members will receive $1,000 for each month or
part of a month they serve in Iraq beyond the date their units were due to
return to their home stations.
Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the United States Central Command, asked the
Joint Chiefs of Staff for the additional force capability, Pentagon officials
explained. Rumsfeld approved the delay in redeployments to support that
combatant commander. The 20,000 retained Soldiers will give Abizaid a total
force of 135,000 troops in Iraq, officials explained.
“The Army – active, Guard and reserve – is supporting the combatant
commander as a single unified team,” said Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National
“Our units have fought together, endured together and will remain together. The
cohesion baptized by fire and hardened in the crucible of combat is an
invaluable combat multiplier,” Blum added.
“The plan is capability based. When a unit’s capabilities are not required, the
combatant commander will release those units,” National Guard officials
said. “The Iraqi military, civil defense forces and Iraqi police are taking
more responsibility for their security situation with each passing day.”
Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged the
contributions and sacrifices that the National Guard and reserve
Soldiers are making.
“Certainly to those families of those Soldiers, we thank them for their
continued sacrifice and to the employers of the Guard and the reserve
for their continued contribution to this war on terrorism,” Pace said. “It’s
not an easy sacrifice, but as [Secretary Rumsfeld] mentioned, it’s a very
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
North Dakota National
Guard: Doctors Heading to Iraq
Blake Nicholson, Associated Press
Bismarck – Eight North Dakota National Guard doctors who normally help other
soldiers get ready for deployment are now getting themselves ready to go to
One of the physicians was mobilized March 5 and already is
overseas, Guard spokesman Rob Keller said Thursday.
The other seven will be deployed at various intervals within
the next 10 months. All will serve four months of active duty, including three
months in Iraq supporting medical units from other states. The rest of the time
is for processing at Fort Bliss, Texas.
State (Columbia, SC)
April 19, 2004 Monday
151st Signal Battalion Gets Home Just in Time
Relieved Loved Ones Made it Home Despite Pentagon Plan to Extend Deployments
By Paul Wachter; Staff Writer
For 24 hours, the 400 soldiers of the 151st Signal Battalion
were worried their return to South Carolina from the Persian Gulf would be
“After the Pentagon announced last week that deployments
were going to be extended, we thought we might have to stay a few more
months,” said Lt. Col. Heather Meeds, commander of the Greenville-based
S.C. National Guard unit.
“Thankfully, we were able to go home.”
Hundreds of family members greeted the 151st Signal Battalion
on Sunday at Fort Jackson’s Weston Lake recreation center.
“I’m just so glad they were able to come home,” said
Anna Hightower, of Greenville, who was waiting for her husband, Sgt. 1st Class
Chad Hightower, with the couples’ three toddlers. “When I heard about
troop delays, it seemed as if we might be starting all over again.”
The soldiers of the 151st provided the telephone, Internet and
videoconferencing network that the U.S. military uses in Iraq and Kuwait.
The unit was mobilized in February 2003, reached Kuwait two
months later and moved into Iraq in June.
“There were a lot of challenges to our mission at
first,” Meeds said. “For one, we were asked to use a lot of
commercial equipment that we’d never used before.”
Existing Iraqi infrastructure wasn’t of much use, said Maj.
“They had built some tunnels for fiber-optic cables, but
never started installing them,” he said. “We basically started from
During their service in the gulf, 151st troops processed more
than 9 million phone calls with a call completion rate of 94 percent.
Though not traditionally a “front-line” unit, the
151st came under frequent mortar attack while operating around Baghdad and in
was dangerous,” said Spc. James Cunningham, of Laurens. “Just about
every day we’d be attacked by mortars.”
Though none of the battalion’s troops was killed in action,
Master Sgt. Thomas Thigpen, 52, died of heart attack or stroke in Kuwait on
March 16, 2004.
“As a commander you want to return with all your troops,
and Thigpen’s death was a big blow,” said Meeds.
The soldiers said they were optimistic about Iraq’s future.
“At first the Iraqis were more aggressive, but now,
except for a small percentage, most of them want us there and asked us to
stay,” Cunningham said.
“In our time there, we saw a lot of schools built, new
money introduced, and a lot more electricity and construction,” Meeds
said. “Despite what you hear on the news, most Iraqis are happy we’re
Currently, there are about 500 S.C. National Guard troops in Iraq, half as many as in February.
After Sunday’s relaxation, the 151st reconvenes today at
Columbia’s McCrady National Guard
Training Center for demobilization procedures.
“There’ll be a lot of daddy time, and then we’re going to
drop the kids with my sister and take a vacation,” said Anna Hightower.
The Associated Press
April 21, 2004
N.D. National Guard Unit Returns Home
By James MacPherson
Bismark, N.D. (AP) – Gabriella Sullivan’s daddy
came home from war over the weekend, a weary soldier in desert camouflage eager
to put down his gun, pick up diapers and stare into the face of his 1-year-old
daughter. Spc. Kelly Sullivan was one of about 170 members of the National Guard’s 957th Multi-Role Bridge
Company to return after about a year in Iraq. Their unit was easily outnumbered
by the 3,000 supporters offering hugs, cheers and tearful thanks.
The joyful scene at the local armory Sunday was one that has
been replayed across the country in recent weeks as soldiers return to their
old lives – even as those lives have changed as much as they have.
Sullivan said the first thing he intended to do was
“reconnect with my daughter,” a little girl he could only dote on for two
days since her birth. She now has seven teeth and has learned to say “Daddy”
to his pictures and videos.
Though Sullivan helped
build bridges to move troops and equipment in a still-dangerous nation, he said
his wife pulled the most difficult duty during his deployment.
had way more to deal with than I did over there,” he said.
Cleone and Duane Hatzenbuehler decorated the armory’s halls
Sunday with posters drawn by schoolchildren in their hometown of Hebron. The
Hatzenbuehlers’ son, Wade, and his wife, Kelly, were deployed together with the
“We tortured ourselves every night watching the evening news,
yet we wanted to know what was going on,” Cleone said. “It’s an awesome day.
It’s got to be one of the best days of our lives.”
Sgt. Dan Olson, a firefighter from Bismarck, was met by his
wife, Tonya, and the couple’s daughters, 7-year-old Emilee and 4-year-old Amy.
Emilee had marked off a space on the cast on her broken arm for her dad to
“It was unbelievable to be away so long,” he said.
The 957th’s soldiers, whose average age is 22, left Bismarck
on Feb. 12, 2003, and arrived in the Middle East last April. “Many of these
soldiers left as kids, but they didn’t come back as kids,” Col. Bill Seekins
said. “They’re full-blown soldiers now.”
Three of its members were killed in Iraq: Staff Sgt. Kenneth
Hendrickson, 41, of Bismarck, and Sgt. Keith Smette, 25, of Makoti, were
killed by a roadside bomb on Jan. 24.
Spc. Jon Fettig, 30, of Dickinson, was killed in a rocket attack in July.
Fettig’s wife, Cody,
was waiting for her brother, Donny Ladwig, to return on Sunday. “I’m ecstatic
for every other family, and through this all they’ve become my family.”
Jon Fettig’s sister, Tenille, is Cody Fettig’s best friend and
Ladwig’s fiancee. “Time hasn’t moved fast enough,” she said while waiting for
Ladwig to arrive.
Besides the thousands of well-wishers who packed the Raymond
J. Bohn Armory, Seekins said thousands more lined the streets for the four-mile
drive from the airport.
That caught the attention of Harlan Lyson, a World War II
veteran and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard. He was happy
that people turned out to welcome the soldiers home.
“When I got discharged, I had to hitchhike home,” he said.
Spc. Ashley Jahner was met by her parents, Leroy and Joyce
Jahner, of Linton. Their daughter said the first thing she wanted to do was go
shopping. She said she then plans to re-enlist and be a helicopter pilot.
April 22, 2004
Gets Joyous Welcome
Finally Ends After 14 Months in Iraq
By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff
Ayer — They figured they might be gone for six months, when
they went to Iraq at the start of the war. But sometime late last summer, after
months of searing heat and sandstorms
and primitive living conditions, the Army
National Guard unit from Ayer got the news that would leave its base shaken
and sullen for a week: They would have to spend a full year on the ground and
return sometime in 2004.
homecoming came yesterday — 14 months after the dreary February morning when
the 110th Maintenance Company left its base in Massachusetts for Iraq. When
they filed off five charter buses into the bright midafternoon sun and greeted
their families, a few of the 200 returning soldiers said they were sure that,
duty complete, their military days were done.
“Worst year of my life,” said Walter Loud, who
celebrated his 50th birthday in Iraq. He had served in the Navy for 16 years
and the Guard for 13, but had never had an overseas deployment.
“I’m a family man,” he said, as he hoisted his
3-year-old grandson into the air. “I don’t like being away.”
Not every soldier regretted the Iraq experience; many talked
about the appreciation they received from most Iraqis they met, the feeling
that they’d helped their country, and the way their relatives at home had grown
stronger and more self-sufficient.
“I felt as though I was doing my job, and I know in the
big scheme of things, it’s all going to work out for us,” said Charles
Williams, 39, of Stoughton. “I know I’m not the same guy as a year
He and others expressed relief that the bulk of their unit,
which maintained vehicles and repaired electronics and weapons, was stationed
at an air base five hours from Baghdad, away from the fiercest fighting.
But all of them appeared thrilled to be home as they walked
through the parking lot, wearing the sand-colored fatigues that they had worn
They blinked hard, in part because the sun was so bright, and
in part, some said, from disbelief at being in a familiar place again.
It was the same old armory, but with the trappings of a
carnival: bunches of yellow balloons and a moon bounce, dozens of children
carrying small American flags.
Signs were posted on trees and street signs,
or tied to the chain-link fence in front of the amory: “Welcome Home Dad,
I’m Proud of You,” “We Love You Nate,” “We’re Proud of the
There were dozens of strollers and carriages, holding the
soldiers’ nephews and nieces, granddaughters and grandsons, sons and daughters
— including Jacquelyn Gradito, 9 months old, who was born when her father was
in Iraq. Peter Gradito, 37, a Fitchburg firefighter, got a chance to see her
shortly after her birth, when he returned home for a two-week leave.
But his wife, Jill, 37, and his 3-year-old daughter, Gianna,
were left aching for more visits.
“It’s been 408 days,” Jill Gradito said. “Not
that I’m counting. I’m just ready to start as a family again.” The tears,
it turned out, didn’t overwhelm her when her husband stepped off the bus, snuck
up behind her, and said “hello.” She figured more would come later,
once she got home, before she served the chicken piccata dinner she had ordered
for his relatives and friends.
Other families had planned similar celebrations, barbecues,
and rituals, old and new. Mallory Whitney, 16, of Orange, looked forward to
showing her father, Frank, her new driving skills.
“When he left, I didn’t even have my permit,” she
said. “Now I’ve got my license. I’m going to drive him home.”
She and her 13-year-old brother, Bryan, had made it through
the long year on short phone calls from Iraq and gifts.
Bryan wore a dog-tag necklace that said, “My Dad is
serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom;” Mallory had a necklace with her name
in Arabic. Though some of the soldiers had taken advantage of two weeks of
leave, their father stayed in Iraq.
“He figured it would be too hard to come home, be here
for two weeks, and say goodbye all over again,” said his friend Rhonda
many families said, their lives could return to normal. For some that will mean
tuning into war news again. Many relatives said they had shut out coverage of
the war because it was too upsetting.
For others, it will mean an end to subterfuge: Erika
Reinikainen, 27, of Gardner, did not tell her father about a trip to Baghdad to
see some of Saddam Hussein’s palaces — until after it was over. Bruce
Reinikainen, 53, had not been thrilled about that. He wasn’t happy about the
But since he got the news that his daughter was coming home,
something about the world had lightened again.
we heard,” he said, “I was dancing all the way.”
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
Members of the 1457th Return, Others Expected Next Month
Dateline: Salt Lake City
Twelve members of the Utah National Guard’s 1457th Combat Engineer Battalion have returned
from Iraq and the rest are scheduled to follow them soon.
Amid the rejoicing by the
Guard families, the relatives of Army Reservists from the Salt Lake City-based
419th Transportation Company, who have been ordered to remain in the region
indefinitely, fear their loved ones are being forgotten.
“The Reservists seem to be invisible,” said Kristen
Merrill of Layton. Her husband is among the 175 soldiers in the company.
“My husband says they’re all worried that everyone has forgotten about
Merrill said she understands that the soldiers will be driving
convoys from Kuwait to somewhere north of Baghdad.
On Sunday, families members are to meet at the Reserve center
in Salt Lake City for information on the unit’s mission.
The meeting is closed to the public.
Like the 419th, the Guard’s 1457th had been slated to return
and then was told its service in the Middle East was being extended.
But Pentagon officials confirmed Thursday that the battalion
would be coming come next month after all. They said the change in orders
occurred after officials reviewed what types of units would still be needed in
The 12 members who returned Thursday all were near the maximum
two years of active duty.
“It’s kind of exciting,” said Staff Sgt. Kira Weimer
of Salt Lake City said on arrival at the airport. “It hasn’t quite hit me
all yet, but it probably will when I get home.”
Staff Sgt. Charles Barkey of Spanish Fork had no one to greet
him because he had not told his wife he was returning.
“I’m surprising her. As soon as we get out of here, I’m
surprising her at work,” he said.
Weimer said she had mixed feelings, knowing her 24 months of
active duty would be over but friends would be left in the Mideast.
was kind of wrenching when I had to leave pretty much my family there,”
she said. “I feel better knowing that they might be coming home.”
In the beginning, the work was scary, she said. A security
perimeter was set up, and if the soldiers left the perimeter, they were
“locked and loaded and ready to shoot if anything happened.”
Los Angeles Times
April 24, 2004
Town of Patriots Dusts off Flags for
Guard Unit’s Return
The 1058th of Hingham,
Mass., Comes Home With All its Troops — Just As it Did in the Gulf War.
Elizabeth Mehren, Times Staff Writer
Hingham, Mass. — In Iraq, they drove more than a million
miles, escorting convoys and steering trucks through the desert. But on Friday,
it was one final mile through this quaint New England town that brought tears
to the 1058th National Guard unit —
and cheers to several thousand family and friends who lined their route home.
“This is just amazing,” said Billy Chiu, 29,
descending from a Pumpkin Lines transit bus after a year in Iraq, as a bagpipe
played “Give My Regards to Broadway.”
For much of the day, a chilly spring rain fell on Main Street
— where 140 signs, each bearing the name of one member of the Hingham-based
transportation unit, were tacked to telephone poles. “Great job!”
Five buses filled with returning troops rolled down the
historic boulevard of the town, founded in 1633, that had proudly sent Benjamin
Lincoln, forebear of the president, off to fight in the Revolutionary War.
The 1058th arrived in Ft. Drumm, N.Y., this week. But it was
the ride down what Eleanor Roosevelt called the most beautiful Main Street in
America that showed them they were home at last.
Giant oaks and maples sported yellow ribbons. Children climbed
on car roofs, waving flags and banners. A delegation from the South Shore
Baptist Church stood on the corner of Main and Free streets, waiting to clap
for Bobby Stockbridge — a member of the congregation who also belonged to the
1058th. “Thank God for Bob and the 1058th,” read a sign outside the
On another corner, 10-year-old Olivia Vita carried a
hand-colored sign that said: “Thank You, 1058th.” She explained,
“My whole class came to wave them goodbye when they left. I just had to be
here when they came back.”
20,000 residents of Hingham — which hugs the seacoast midway between Boston and
Plymouth — need little excuse to wave their American flags. Flags come out
throughout the year: on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, Patriot’s Day
and, of course, on Flag Day. The major social event here is the flag-filled
Fourth of July parade, led each year by the town’s oldest living veteran.
It was during last
summer’s parade that Marion White decided to mobilize the town when the 1058th
came home. With their children overseas, White and other parents marched in the
parade in their place, carrying a banner identifying themselves as the families
of the 1058th.
“That was when I knew this town believed in its
soldiers,” said White, a seventh-grade teacher from Raynham, about 25
miles from Hingham. “They cheered and they cheered, and I realized Hingham
was 100% behind these soldiers.”
White’s daughter Kathleen, 29, left her job at a nuclear power
plant to serve as a trucker in Iraq. She ended up as a gunner, operating a
“They were a transportation unit. Supposedly, it was a
safe job,” said her brother, Christian White, 31. He whipped out his
cellphone to show a picture of Kathleen on duty in Iraq — standing atop a
truck, her giant gun beside her.
“The hardest part of her being over there for 14 months
was listening to the reports every day of another death,” he said.
“Every unit that was hit, you thought it might be her. Your stomach
dropped. Your heart raced. And it just got worse by the day. It never got
“Every person here has a soldier that was directly
involved in a convoy unit,” Christian White said. “These families
know that we are still at war.”
Scanning the crowd for his stepfather, Hanniff Brown,
16-year-old Ewan Scott of the Dorchester section of Boston said he tried to
keep his little brother, Dominique, from watching television while their dad
was in Iraq.
“Every morning you wake up, this one died, that one died
— and you know it could have been him,” the teenager said.
Whether through luck, providence or a combination of the two,
the 1058th returned intact. The day they came back to the Hingham Armory,
newspapers and television stations across America were displaying previously
suppressed pictures of soldiers’ flag-draped coffins arriving in the U.S. They
arrived home as Pentagon officials were announcing the highest death toll for
any month since the U.S.-led invasion began — at least 100 American soldiers
dead so far in April.
As he embraced his wife, Spec. Jude Forsythe, 40, had an
explanation for how the unit had avoided fatalities in Iraq.
“Togetherness,” he said. “Working together as a
team. We never went anywhere alone.”
Reluctantly, Felicity Forsythe pulled away from her husband.
“Hold your daughter; she needs you,” she said as her husband embraced
a weeping Alexis Forsythe, 11.
“We knew he was coming home today,” Felicity
Forsythe said. “But none of this was real until just now…. He is safe, and
we’re going to take good care of him now.”
Forsythe had this to say about planting his feet back on the
Massachusetts soil: “Sweet.”
the steps of the armory, a group of veterans applauded the versatility of the
“They went to do one job, transportation, and ended up as
an armored escort,” said Bob Beal, who served in the Pacific in World War
II with the Marine Corps and also fought in the Korean War.
“There’s only one thing to account for getting them all
back here safely,” Beal said: “God.”
Lt. Col. Chris Henes, head of the Massachusetts National
Guard in Milford, said he was too superstitious to talk about why the
1058th had fared so well.
“I don’t want to say it’s unusual, and I don’t want to
jinx us, but going back to Desert Storm [the Persian Gulf War], we have been
lucky,” he said.
Henes said the future plans of the unit were uncertain. He
also said the 1058th was fortunate to be home, while so many other units in
Iraq have seen their tours extended.
While waiting to greet her son Paul, 36, Janice Ferrone of
Woburn, Mass., said she was glad the Pentagon had released the pictures of
coffins returning to the U.S. mortuary at Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base.
“This is a war, and [death] happens,” she said.
“It should be acknowledged. It shouldn’t be covered up.”
Acknowledging the soldiers in the 1058th was what Marion White
had in mind when she began working with Hingham officials to plan a festive
small-town America, and we wanted to make sure they got the hero’s welcome they
deserved,” she said. “Between the signs and the flowers and … all
these people turning out to cheer for them, I’d say they got it.”
White looked for a moment at her daughter, who had dropped
more than 60 pounds while in Iraq.
“Mom, all we had to eat were little cups of chicken noodle
soup,” Kathleen White said.
As the crowd headed home, Marion White said she would be back
in Hingham this summer to march in the Fourth of July parade.
“But this time,” she said, “I’m going to march
with my soldier.”
Winston-Salem Journal (Winston Salem, NC)
Post Honors Guard Unit Back From Active Duty
in U.S.; Army Reserve Unit Still Serving in Iraq and Kuwait
By Mary Giunca and Jim Sparks Journal Reporters
When chief warrant officer
Wayne Church’s National Guard unit
was called to active duty almost a year ago, Church wasn’t certain how much excitement
he would see. After all, he is 53 years old and the unit was being deployed in
the United States.
The quiet family man found himself jumping out of airplanes as
part of his training with the 18th Airborne Corps. Church and three other
members of the unit earned their wings while at Fort Bragg.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d get a chance to do it,” Church
said. “They don’t have an old-man standard. They have a 17- to 19-year-old
Church and 43 other members of the 105th Engineer Group of the
N.C. Army National Guard received a
hero’s welcome yesterday at American Legion Post 55 on Miller Street.
The welcome was a formal one – the soldiers have been home
anywhere from a few days to few weeks.
The group, which has its headquarters in Winston-Salem, was on
active duty for 11 months. Members of the group were split up and sent to three
different locations. One group went to Fort Bragg, another group went to Fort
Belvoir in Virginia and the third group provided protection for a national
security agency near Fort Meade, in Maryland.
Bryan E. Beatty, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime
Control and Public Safety, thanked the soldiers for doing their duty.
“We want you to know we feel safer, we sleep better at
night because of heroes like you,” he said.
Though yesterday was a time of celebration for the 105th, the
mood was quite different for families of local soldiers serving overseas in the
846th Transportation Company of the U.S. Army Reserve.
The 846th, a trucking unit based in Salisbury that has been
operating in Iraq and Kuwait for a year, was supposed to return to Fort Bragg
on Easter Sunday.
However, the unit’s 106 soldiers were told that they were
being held back just hours before they were to board planes from Kuwait for
Christine Van Lew of Kernersville, whose boyfriend, Travis
Schenck, of Midway is in the 846th, said that it hit her hard when she heard
last week that the 105th, a unit deployed in the United States, was being
released while her soldier’s unit was still overseas. Schenck worked in
maintenance for the town of Kernersville before his deployment.
“It really ticked me off,” Van Lew said.
The 846th is made up of soldiers from counties throughout the
Central Piedmont, including Forsyth, Davidson, Guilford, Randolph and Yadkin.
Yesterday, Army officials held a closed meeting at the
Salisbury Civic Center to answer questions from families of soldiers in the
The meeting lasted an hour longer than expected.
they left, several in attendance said that the atmosphere in the meeting room
was heated as the soldiers’ relatives vented their anger.
They said that the frustration grew as Army officials dodged
questions about the extended deployment, including exactly how long their loved
ones would be expected to stay in a war zone that had grown more dangerous over
the past several months.
Family members and soldiers of the 846th were told at first
that the unit would remain overseas for an additional two months.
Army officials said yesterday that the unit’s deployment has
been extended four months, until August, but that it could possibly be moved
back even more.
Van Lew said that having the unit held at the last minute was
bad enough without the uncertainty surrounding how much longer it will have to
“If they need them there longer, that’s fine, just be up
front about it,” Van Lew said. “Give us a deadline and stick to it.
Don’t jerk it out from under us.”
During their deployment, most of the soldiers in the 105th
were able to come back and visit their families regularly, but several of them
spoke of missing their usual routines.
Church felt his age every morning when the airborne training
call came at 4 a.m., he said. He had to run a 71/2-minute mile for four miles.
Members of his unit called him “Grandpa” and
“Geritol,” he said.
Church said that, in time, his example inspired younger
members of the unit.
“A lot of them told me, ‘Every time I wanted to fall
(drop) out, I’d see you and I couldn’t fall out,'” he said.
Spc. Lisa Burkholder Dumas, who was in the 105th, was transferred
to the 211th National Guard unit and
sent to Iraq.
Dumas is with the military police and said she wasn’t allowed
to say where she was in Iraq. She worked with security patrols there.
“Of course, you’re always scared of what’s to come,”
she said, “but it wasn’t something I didn’t want to do.”
Dumas spent part of her tour of duty in Kuwait.
“It was awful in Kuwait,” she said, “with the
sandstorms, the heat, the humidity. It’s like beach sand. The storms last for
days at a time.”
Dumas said she missed vegetables most of all.
“I think I ate salad for two weeks straight when I got
home,” she said.
Dumas had been married for just six months when she was sent
to Iraq in March. Even though she is happy to be home, a part of her waits for
another call, she said.
Sharon Alexander, who serves as
family-readiness coordinator for the unit, said that although Guard members and
their families were celebrating, they are conscious that the war is not over.
Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio)
April 22, 2004
Bill Would Waive Pension Penalty
for Guard, Reserve
House Plan for Troops to Use Retirement Funds Called ‘Pathetic’ Effort
The House voted unanimously Wednesday to let financially
pinched National Guard and Reserve
troops tap into retirement savings without penalty, although some Democrats
called the effort to support the troops ”pathetic” and ”rather pitiful.”
The House voted 415-0 to waive the 10 percent penalty imposed
on early withdrawals from retirement accounts and pensions for National Guard and Reserve troops
deployed six months or longer since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Those taking advantage of the waiver could still owe income
taxes on withdrawn savings.
Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., said the bill aims to help the
one-third of reserve troops who took a pay cut when activated to duty.
”The house payments go on. The grocery bills continue to pile
up,” he said.
Democrats voted unanimously for the bill, but many said the
country should make a much bigger effort to support troops fighting in Iraq and
”That is a really pathetic gesture,” said John Tanner,
D-Tenn. ”Active duty guard and reservists and their families are the only
people in this country who have been asked to sacrifice anything, anything
Employers are not required to pay workers activated to duty,
nor do they have to continue providing health insurance and other benefits.
Employers are required to give the same or equal job to the soldier when active
The bill waiving penalties on early retirement withdrawals
would apply to National Guard and
Reserve troops activated between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 12, 2005. Those military
personnel would be given two years after they return to civilian life to
replenish the accounts.
asked Republicans to push additional legislation supporting National Guard and Reserve troops,
including better child tax credits and access to health insurance, along with
tax credits for employers who make up the difference between civilian and
”It is no profile in courage for us to say you are now able
to borrow money from your pension fund and can have it penalty free,” said
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
A few questioned whether families that borrow from their
retirement funds would have the means to refill the funds.
”They have to invade their retirement plans and their savings
to subsidize this war effort because their families are under some serious
economic stress,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. ”They’re getting
penalized by destroying their long-term retirement to subsidize this war.”
American Forces Press Service
Thrift Savings Plan: Good Way to Increase Wealth, Executive Director Says
By Rudi Williams
Washington, April 23, 2004 – Defense Department officials want
thousands more service members to invest in their future through the Thrift
Savings Plan, or TSP.
And now is a good time for service members to start paying
themselves. The Current TSP open season started April 15 and runs until June
30. This is the time Service members
can start or change their contributions to their TSP account.
Service members can contribute up to 9 percent of their basic
pay each month, and up to 100 percent of incentive
pay and special pay, including bonus and combat pay. But their total
contributions from taxable pay may not exceed the Internal Revenue Service
limit of $13,000 for 2004.
“You’re never too young or too
old to start a savings account in TSP,” said Gary A. Amelio, executive
director of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and chief executive
and managing fiduciary of TSP for federal employees. “The tax deferral
benefits are excellent and compounded earnings are simply a phenomenal way
to increase your wealth.”
TSP assets total more than $110 billion. The plan maintains
retirement savings accounts for more than 3 million
participants. This includes federal civilian employees in all branches
of government, U.S. Postal Service employees and members of the seven uniformed
Created by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of
1986, TSP is a tax-deferred savings option and lowers the taxable income for
participants in the 2004 tax year. The savings plan is similar to 401k plans
offered by many private employers. It’s separate from and in addition to the
military retirement system, which is based on years of service and rank.
by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, TSP was available only to
civilian employees until October 2001, when the program was extended to active
and reserve component service members, including the Coast Guard. The program
also was extended to members of the Public Health Service and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Members of the National Guard and Reserve who are also
federal civilians are allowed to have both a military and civilian TSP.
“If you’re part of both work forces, you can have two different
accounts,” Amelio noted. “And you can combine the accounts after you
separate from either service.”
But Amelio said if TSP participants with military and civilian
accounts exceed the
IRS limit of $13,000 before the end of the calendar year, the
plan will return the excess contributions. “It’s called an excess
deferral,” Amelio noted.
The government gives matching funds to Federal Employees’
Retirement System TSP participants. Uniformed services and Civil Service
Retirement System participants normally don’t receive matching funds, but the
service secretaries can authorize matching funds for service members in
critical military occupational specialties.
“FERS employees have a less lucrative defined benefit
plan than does CSRS and
them uniformed services,” Amelio explained. “So the
TSP is intended to make up the difference for FERS participants.”
He also pointed out that CSRS and military participants are
limited to contributing up to 9 percent of their base pay, while FERS members
are allowed to contribute up to 14 percent of their base pay.
When service members leave active duty, they have several
options. They can leave their money in TSP, allowing it to continue to grow,
take a partial or full withdrawal, roll the money into another plan or an
Individual Retirement Account, or purchase an annuity. They also could choose
to make periodic distributions to themselves, Amelia said.
More than 220,000 uniformed service members signed up for TSP
in 2002, the first year they were eligible. By December 2003, more than 390,000
people were investing in TSP.
“Participation numbers have been rising steadily since
the plan was made available,” Amelio noted. “Today, we have about
410,000 members of the armed services participating. We’ve been putting a
special focus with DoD on getting more and more armed service members to
participate. So we’re very pleased that the numbers continue to go up, and DoD
is helping us get the word out to the members.”
Amelio attributes the increase in participation to knowledge,
familiarity and comfort.
“As members of the armed services become more familiar
with TSP, the more they like it,” he said. “They find that it’s a
wonderful saving program, easy to participate in, and doesn’t cost them
anything. The more they talk to their colleagues in the armed forces about it,
they become more comfortable about the plan, and they like it more and more.
That’s why the participation is going up.”
has investment funds, which vary in risk and investment mixture: government
securities investment (G fund); fixed-income investment (F fund); common stock
index investment (C fund); small capitalization stock index investment (S
fund); and international stock index investment (I fund).
The News Tribune (Tacoma, Washington)
April 22, 2004
Guard Unit Takes Over Iraq Supply Hub
By Adam Lynn, The News Tribune
Members of a Washington National Guard brigade are in charge of security at one of the most
important bases in Iraq.
The 82nd Airborne Division transferred responsibility for
defending Logistical Support Area Anaconda to the 81st Brigade Combat Team on
Sunday, the brigade reported. The base, about 50 miles north of Baghdad in
Balad, is the main supply hub for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Soldiers of the 81st will staff checkpoints and security
towers and run patrols around the base. They also will help train members of
the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Capt. Anne Marie Peacock, the brigade’s deputy
public affairs officer, reported via e-mail.
The 81st has about 4,000 soldiers in Iraq, the largest
deployment by the Washington National
Guard since World War II. The vast majority of brigade soldiers are from
Washington state. Formerly known as the 81st Armor Brigade, the unit is based
at Camp Murray, south of Tacoma.
Col. James Chambers, commander of the Army’s 13th Corps
Support Command, said protecting Anaconda is vital to Operation Iraqi Freedom,
according to Peacock’s e-mail. The 13th Support Command is responsible for
supplying U.S. military units throughout the country.
Anaconda is in the “Sunni triangle,” an area of
central Iraq where anti-American sentiment runs deep. The base has been
attacked a number of times.
Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, the 81st’s commanding officer, said
the brigade would try to integrate members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps
into all operations, according to Peacock. The U.S. government hopes to turn
over authority to Iraqi citizens July 1.
of the 81st took over security at two other bases this past weekend, Peacock
The 1st Battalion, 303rd Armor Regiment assumed control at
Camp Victory South near Baghdad on Saturday. The 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry
Regiment took over the defense of Forward Operation Base Gunner, between
Baghdad and Balad.
The Associated Press
April 23, 2004
National Guard Soldiers Injured in Iraq Attacks
Dateline: Raleigh, N.C.
Two National Guard
soldiers from North Carolina were injured in attacks by Iraqi insurgents – one
burned and the other hit by small arms fire.
Lt. Matthew Delk, 33, of Roanoke Rapids was burned Tuesday
during an ambush in Mosul. Delk, who has been the Halifax County manager since
November 2001, is a member of South Carolina’s 268th Engineer Firefighters
Pfc. McKenzie Callihan, 22, a member of the N.C. National Guard’s 30th Heavy Separate
Brigade, was wounded by small arms fire at a traffic checkpoint in northeastern
Delk sent an e-mail message Wednesday to his staff in Halifax
County from Camp Diamondback in Mosul.
"Yesterday, I was commander of a small convoy going to do a fire assessment recon of Tall Afar airfield," Delk wrote. "We had 4 humvees and 13 people. Today, one of us is dead, one is critical, and 6 or 7 more of us are wounded.
“My vehicle bore the brunt of the IED,” he wrote.
“They opened up on us with AKs, and a firefight ensued. We know that we
got at least four of them, they had others that were able to drag away the
bodies during the fight.”
His vehicle was destroyed and out of four vehicles, only one
could drive away, Delk wrote. Eventually, the attackers were driven away and
the area secured.
Delk said he had burns and blisters over his hands and face,
and bruises everywhere. He expected to spend several weeks in Germany recuperating.
In Bladen County, Terry Callihan said he was told that his
son, McKenzie Callihan, a Bladenboro High School graduate, was “in a
firefight, and he took three rounds in the legs and maybe the hip, and that
they airlifted him out,” Callihan said.
The wounded soldier was in stable condition, said Capt. Robert
Carver, the N.C. National Guard’s
spokesman. The wounded man was initially taken to a Baghdad hospital, and was
being transferred to the Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
133rd Embraces Hero as
One of its Own
Troops From Maine Are On
Hand as the South Carolina Soldier Gets a Purple Heart for Risking His Life in
By Bill Nemitz staff writer
Dateline: Mosul, Iraq
He walked slowly into the small room just off the entrance to
the small hospital at Camp Diamondback, his face and left hand covered with
burns, his lower right arm buried beneath a mound of gauze.
“Hey, sir, how you doin’?” Lt. Matthew Delk said in
his deep southern accent as Maj. Dwaine Drummond, executive officer of the
Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd
Engineer Battalion, stepped forward to greet him.
“I’m fine,” Drummond said softly, taking Delk’s left
hand. “How are you?”
“I’m doin’ great,” Delk said. “I’m doin’
He isn’t, of course. It will be months before Delk fully
recovers from the injuries he suffered Tuesday when the Humvee in which he and
two Maine soldiers were riding was blown 75 feet sideways by a roadside bomb in
But this is the military, where some days it’s good enough
just to be alive. And where acts of heroism under enemy fire do not go
Friday morning, as a light drizzle turned Mosul’s dust into a
sticky quagmire, a small contingent piled into a pair of Humvees and made the
five-minute trip down the hill from Camp Marez to the hospital at Camp
Their official mission: To formally present Delk, a member of
South Carolina’s 268th Engineer Firefighters Detachment assigned to the 133rd,
with a Purple Heart for the wounds he sustained during Tuesday’s ambush by
Their unofficial mission: To thank him for risking his life to
save a mortally wounded Spc. Christopher Gelineau of Portland and for saving
Spc. Craig Ardry of Pittsfield, who is now recovering from his own burns and
other injuries at a military hospital in Germany. And to embrace Delk as one of
While Drummond read the citation in a loud voice, Lt. Col.
John Jansen, commander of the 133rd, pinned the medal on Delk’s blue hospital
pajamas, speaking the whole time in hushed words meant only for the young
lieutenant from Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
When Jansen finished, Delk nodded his thanks and, with tears in his eyes,
placed his left hand on Jansen’s shoulder. Stepping back, he then lifted his
bandaged right hand to his forehead in painful salute.
Then he spoke.
“Everybody there did tremendous things,” said Delk,
who commanded the convoy of 12 soldiers – six from Maine, three from New York
and three from South Carolina. “And I’m really sad and sorry that we lost
a wonderful soldier. My prayers are with his family and with him.”
Jansen quietly assured Delk that he did everything he could,
that Gelineau’s wounds were too severe for anyone to save him.
Delk, flanked by his two somber comrades from the 268th – Sgt.
Dave Sandy and Sgt. Charles Boone – looked down and nodded. And for a few
moments, he was back there.
“I don’t know how I got out onto the street,” he
said, staring at the floor. “I still don’t know.”
But he does know that he somehow got Gelineau and Ardry away
from the burning Humvee. And that when he picked up his M-16 with burned hands
to return the insurgents’ small arms fire, the hand guard of his weapon had
been blown off by the explosion. He fired it anyway.
“It’s a pleasure to have you as part of our family,”
Jansen said, now in a voice loud enough for all to hear. “And it’s a
personal privilege to know you.”
Finally, one by one, Delk’s visitors stepped forward and
embraced him: Jansen, Drummond, Chaplain David Sivret, Spc. Ryan Estes, Spc.
Ryan Chapman and 1st Lt. Christopher Elgee, who took Delk’s calls for help over
the 133rd’s radio.
“I’m sorry I called you all those names, man,” Delk
“Don’t worry about it,” Elgee replied with a smile.
Last in line stood Sgt. Carrie Fletcher. She approached Delk,
held out her hand and said, “I’m Sgt. Fletcher and I spoke with Spc.
Ardry’s wife . . . and she asked me to thank you for her.”
And with that, Fletcher gently hugged the young man with the
Purple Heart on his pajamas.
April 24, 2004
Gives Sisters More Time to Decide on Returning to Iraq
By Jo Napolitano
Chicago, April 23 — Rachel and Charity Witmer, members of the Wisconsin National Guard serving in
Iraq, have been granted another 15 days of leave to decide whether to seek
reassignment after their sister, Michelle, was killed in Baghdad.
“Everyone has an opinion on how they think my daughters
should be responding,” said Lori Witmer from her home in New Berlin, Wis.
“We aren’t making any comments right now just to protect my
Rachel, 24, and
Charity, Michelle’s 20-year-old twin, did not want to speak publicly about
their decision. But military officials said the two remaining sisters felt a
strong allegiance to their two families: the one in Wisconsin and their unit
“They have such a sense of duty and they want to not only
honor their sister’s memory and her dedication to serve in the mission, but
they also feel that they have built a family with their fellow soldiers and the units that they serve,” said
Lt. Col. Mark Bruns, commander of the 641st Battalion, to which the three women
At the same time, after watching their mother, father and two
brothers suffer Michelle’s loss, Colonel Bruns said, they fear jeopardizing
their own lives and the possibility of their parents losing another child.
“They don’t want to be responsible for anything that
could happen in the future by putting themselves in harms way again,” he
Specialist Michelle M. Witmer, who was serving with the 32nd
Military Police Company, was killed on April 9 when her Humvee was attacked in
Baghdad. Her sisters returned to Wisconsin on April 12 and her body came back
on April 15.
After their sister’s death, Rachel and Charity spoke about the
agony of deciding whether to return to their comrades in a statement on April
13. “We are conflicted, because we have two families and we can’t be with
both at the same time,” they said.
The women’s parents said that their family had made a
tremendous sacrifice and that their daughters should be brought home
Lt. Col. Tim Donovan said he could understand their desire to
be with their unit. “Serving in a military unit creates very strong bonds
between the soldiers who live and work together and those bonds are further
strengthened when that service is in a hostile environment with danger all
around,” he said. “They depend on each other not just for friendship
and camaraderie, but for their security.”
Rachel Witmer serves in the 32nd Military Police Company, and Sgt. Charity
Witmer is a medic in the 118th Medical Battalion.
Mary Kay Kulla, whose husband, Scott, is serving in the same
unit that Michelle served in, said she hoped the sisters decided to stay home.
“I speak from the perspective of a family member and wife
never having been a soldier, so my perspective is yes, please stay home,”
Ms. Kulla said. “Things are just escalating overseas, and it’s scarier and
scarier by the day. Everything is becoming more and more uncertain. I don’t
think anyone could fault them for making a decision to stay, if that’s what
April 19, 2004
Rallies for Troops
Dateline: Davenport, Iowa
Residents have returned to a city intersection for weekly
rallies to show their support for U.S. troops in Iraq.
Last Friday, about a dozen people showed up during rush-hour
traffic, turning the intersection north of downtown into a noisy display of
patriotism. About 70 flags decorated the corners.
“I think we should have a challenge to every city in
America to do this,” said Joan Stupka of Davenport, who said it was her
first time at the intersection. “I support our troops and I support our
Motorists honked their horns or waved.
“I’m taking pictures to e-mail to my son. It means a lot
to him,” said Annette Wood of Davenport, whose son serves with the 106th
Aviation unit of the Iowa National
Guard. Families with loved ones in the unit learned Thursday that the
unit’s stay had been extended for another 90 to 120 days.
“I’m not apprehensive. I’m anxious for us to win. I’m
anxious for our troops to come home,” she said.
The Friday rallies began after the war started, then faded. They
have now resumed with this month’s fierce fighting and heavy casualties.
A weekend of new fighting pushed the death toll for U.S.
troops in April to 99, already the record for a single-month in Iraq and
approaching the number killed during the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein
On Friday, an American soldier was taken hostage.
“That might be why we’re hearing all of this
(horn-honking),” said AnnaBelle Meredith of Coal Valley, Ill. “How
dare they take one of ours.”
Four soldiers with ties to Davenport have been killed in Iraq.
– Cpl. Michael R. Speer, 24, a Kansas native who joined the
Marine Corps in Davenport, killed April 9 in hostile fire in Al Anbar Province,
west of Baghdad.
– Army Sgt. Paul Fisher, 39, of Cedar Rapids, died Nov. 6, 2003,
at a hospital in Hamburg, Germany, following a Nov. 2 missile attack on a
Chinook helicopter near Fallujah; assigned to Detachment 1, Company F, 106th
Aviation Battalion, Army National Guard,
based in Davenport.
– Army Chief Warrant Officer Bruce A. Smith, 41, West Liberty,
killed in the Nov. 2, 2003, attack on a Chinook helicopter near Fallujah;
assigned to Detachment 1, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion.
– Marine Sgt. Bradley S. Korthaus, 29, Davenport, drowned
March 24, 2003, while trying to cross the Saddam Canal in southeastern Iraq;
assigned to the 6th Engineer Support Battalion.
National Guard Opens Center to
Facility Will Seek to Relieve Burdens on Kin
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
By Rick Hepp Star-Ledger Staff
When her mother is deployed to Iraq later this year with the National Guard’s 42nd Infantry
Division, Laura Fitzgerald knows the duties of caring for her extended family
will fall to her.
“Often people don’t realize the hardship on the families
left behind. There are lots of things that come into play,” said
Fitzgerald, 31, of North Brunswick. “My mother is the rock of our family.
Now, I have the job of stepping in and being that rock.”
Her mother, Eveleen Fitzgerald, 54, of North Brunswick is an
administrative specialist in the National Guard who works as a Highland Park
police officer in her civilian life. She and roughly 2,500 other troops from
units based in Somerset, Lawrenceville and Teaneck will report next month to
Fort Dix for readiness training before being shipped to Iraq as early as this
An additional 900 National Guard soldiers are to report
in May for duty guarding terrorism detainees at the U.S. military prison camp
at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. All told, nearly 70 percent of the New Jersey Army
National Guard is expected to be deployed within the next year for missions
around the globe.
ease the transition for the families of the soldiers, the National Guard opened a family assistance center Sunday at the National
Guard Armory in the Somerset section of Franklin Township where family members
can get advice on issues ranging from dealing with the separation to home
finances. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and a family
support hotline, (888) 859-0325, has been established for off-hour emergencies.
“These soldiers are going to need to be focused on their
jobs, and that’s what this program is all about,” Brig. Gen. Maria Falca-
Dodson, the deputy adjutant general of the New Jersey National Guard, told the
troops and their families Sunday during the ribbon- cutting ceremony.
The center will offer counseling sessions, discounted
professional services for home and automotive repair, and household and school-
related items for the families. There is also a recreation room so children can
play together while adults attend various meetings.
Col. Bill Rochelle, commander of the 42nd Infantry Division
Support Command, said, “As a soldier, the No. 1 thought in their mind is
taking care of their families while they’re away. This family assistance center
is one of the answers to that.”
“This gives you a place to go when you have a problem. It
gives you a place to go when you need to talk to someone. It gives you a
shoulder to cry on. It gives you a friend. And it gives the soldiers a piece of
mind,” Rochelle said.
Laura Fitzgerald said the center will help take some of the
burden off her while filling in temporarily for her mother.
“I’m her only daughter and although I’m the youngest I’ve
been chosen as the one to take over all the responsibilities. I need some place
that I can say, ‘Listen, this is what I need,'” she said. “It’s a big
burden, so this is going to be extremely helpful.”
The Associated Press
April 20, 2004
Establish Group Concerned Over Iraq Deployment Extensions
Dateline: Salt Lake City
Three wives of Utah National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers whose deployment in Middle
East has been extended have established what they hope will become a national
organization to voice their concerns.
“The idea was to create a unified voice and develop a
platform addressing the concerns,” said Linda Dexter, a Saratoga Springs
resident and wife of Staff Sgt. Kevin Dexter.
Members of the Utah National Guard’s 1457th Combat Engineers and the Army Reserve’s 419th
Transportation Company have been away from their families nearly 15 months, and
their deployments were extended last week.
When the 1457th left Utah, the general belief was they would
be gone six months, maximum, Dexter said. “And that seemed an impossible
length of time at that point,” she said.
they left for Iraq, officials said troops could serve up to a year in the war
theater. Time at training camps didn’t count toward the year.
They served nearly all of that period. Then came the extensions.
Guard families are proud and have a great sense of patriotism,
said Dexter, whose family had to move to another home last year when their rent
we are also absolutely weary and so are our soldiers,” she said.
She is one of two vice presidents of the new organization,
Rights for American Citizen Soldiers, which was formed after families met with
military officials last week.
They want to be supportive of the National Guard and not protesters in an anti-war sense, Dexter
Natalie Whatcott of Lehi is president of RACS.
“We’re disheartened and we’re disappointed and we’d like
some answers,” said Whatcott, wife of the 419th Transportation Company’s
Sgt. 1st Class Steve Whatcott.
Linda Dexter and her husband have four children, “and
certainly it’s affected them,” she said.
The last time they saw their dad was for a two-week leave in
Their 8-year-old son spends a lot of time “kind of
brooding,” Linda Dexter said. “One poignant question he asked me was,
‘I wonder each day, has someone killed my daddy or has my daddy had to kill
someone?’ That is a tremendous burden.”
Portland (ME) Press Herald
April 20, 2004
Families Demanding Answers to Constant Duty
By John Richardson, Portland Press Herald Writer
Nancy Durst says she wants an explanation, and she may go to
the Pentagon to get it.
Durst’s husband, Scott, is a reservist in the 94th Military
Police Company and one of about 5,000 part-time soldiers told this month to
cancel plans for their long-awaited homecoming because they’re staying in the
Middle East for another three or four months. Scott Durst left his family and
full-time job as a Maine Drug Enforcement agent in December 2002, about 17
months after returning from Bosnia.
“He’s been deployed two-and-a-half of the five years
we’ve been married,” Durst said. “They signed up to serve their
country. But the reason they are not active duty is that they have other
civilian jobs to go to . . . They have done their time.”
Durst asks, are members of the Reserve and National
Guard spending more time in war zones than some active duty units?
question is being asked by a growing number of families and political leaders
around the country. Maine’s two U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins,
are even trying to set up a meeting with Department of Defense officials and
the families of the 94th, Durst says.
want answers,” she said.
explanation may not be the one Durst and other relatives hope for.
The elevated role of part-time soldiers, made more obvious by
the nature of the conflict in Iraq, is the product of 34 years of U.S. military
reform triggered by the Vietnam War. Now, the Iraq war may well lead to another
long-term shift in the structure of the military and the role of
Already, the Iraq experience is changing the perception of the
Guard and Reserve, and causing
concern about their ability to retain members who feel they, their families and
employers have been pushed to the limit.
“When they have to choose between their part-time job –
which is me – and their full-time job, they’re going to choose their full-time
job,” said Brig. Gen. John W. “Bill” Libby, head of the Maine Army National Guard.
Libby spent part of
last week at Fort Dix in New Jersey, welcoming home the 150 members of the
1136th Transportation Company in Bangor. Despite Libby’s gratitude and the
Guard’s support for the soldiers and their families, he expects some members to
leave the Guard after a long, frustrating deployment in Iraq. “I think
that unit’s going to be a challenge for us,” he said.
There are 130,000 U.S.
troops in Iraq, and it is estimated that 40 percent of them will soon be
members of Guard and Reserve units. Part-time soldiers, people who have jobs
such as teaching and truck driving, are not only serving next to career
soldiers. They are dying with them.
Sgt. Jeremiah Holmes of North Berwick was killed March 29 in
Iraq when an explosive device knocked his truck off a bridge while his unit was
delivering supplies to Marines west of Baghdad.
Holmes, a former
active duty soldier who had a wife and 11-month-old son, was a member of the Army National Guard 744th
Transportation Company with headquarters in Hillsboro, N.H. His unit was
deployed for training in late December, and sent to Iraq in February for 18
fact that Guard and Reserve units are in harm’s way should not come as a
surprise to the soldiers or their families, military officials say.
“Nowadays, when people sign up, they’re briefed that
there is always the potential for activation,” said Maj. Peter Rogers,
spokesman for the Maine National Guard.
Knowing it might happen and believing it will, however, are
two different things.
shouldn’t be surprised, but we still have people that think oh, gosh, I never
thought I’d be activated,” Rogers said.
More likely, they are
surprised at how often they’re being activated and how long they’re being
deployed. “Some of the families and soldiers have been called up three
times in the past six to 10 years,” Rogers said.
Guard officials in Maine agree with frustrated relatives that
the frequency and duration of deployments show an overreliance on the Guard and
Reserve. “It’s clear that we’ve got an inappropriate mix,” Libby
Guard and Reserve
troops were deployed in large numbers during World War II and Korea. The United
States avoided large-scale activations during the Vietnam War, however, relying
instead on drafting soldiers who had less training and motivation. It was
during Vietnam that enlisting in the Guard became known as a way to avoid
getting sent to war.
Vietnam, and the experience with the draft, would change the
structure of the military. Along with wanting a better fighting force, military
officials believed that using part-time units would have generated more support
In 1970, the Defense
Department adopted the so-called Total Force concept, calling for active, Guard
and Reserve units to all be part of a coordinated fighting force. The policy
continues, in part as a way to adapt to changing threats and to reduce the
costs of a modern military. Over time, active duty units were trained for
combat while Guard and Reserve units were trained for traditional support
missions, such as engineering, transportation and policing.
By the 1990s, experiences in the Gulf War and in Bosnia sent a
clear message to reservists and guardsmen that their roles had changed. There
was more to the job than training for one weekend a month and two weeks in the
conflicts, however, did not prepare military families for the war in Iraq, or
the war on terror.
Aside from the larger scale of this war, the stabilization of
Iraq demanded the specialties that now exist almost entirely in the Guard and
Reserve. The nature of the job in Iraq often means that a specialized Guard
unit, such as the 94th Military Police, is extended for more than a year while
an active duty combat unit is sent home.
Many part-time soldiers and military families fully understand
that the world and the military have changed, says Sam Jackson of Farmington.
His son, Cpl. Samuel “Craig” Jackson, was deployed in January and is
in Iraq with the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion from Waterville.
“This has become the new look of the Guard. This is the
answer to not having a solid draft. You’ve got to have something to back up the
Army,” he said.
Jackson says he understands that some other families are
frustrated and losing patience. But he says the military needs to be able to
react to threats in Iraq or anywhere.
no way of foreseeing that this could have happened the way it did,” he
said. “I understand them wanting their soldiers back, but when you pull
20,000 troops out of there with what’s going on, you’re putting a lot of other
people at risk.”
Nancy Durst says her husband was proud to go to Iraq, even after
having just served in Bosnia. But after two extensions, the second one only 10
hours before flying home, he and others are demoralized and planning to get
out. “He’s done,” she said.
The fact that the 94th provides a specialized and much-needed
role in Iraq doesn’t appease Durst.
“These MPs are being penalized for being MPs, when the military has
known . . . we are short of MPs,” she said.
Durst says she knows that a trip to the Pentagon to question
defense officials won’t reverse three decades of military policy, or bring her
husband back before the summer. But she and other relatives want the military
to consider the 94th’s service during the past five years before it gets
Frustration among families is a growing concern for the Guard.
Patience of employers is another.
While employers are required to protect the jobs of activated
troops, they may be less supportive after repeated and prolonged deployments.
Many members also are self-employed, and may decide they can’t leave their businesses
“We couldn’t function without the families and without
the employers,” Rogers said.
Military officials and politicians at the national level are
now re-examining the role of the citizen soldiers, and reconsidering decades of
reform that left active forces without the support specialists needed in the
war on terror. It’s become a hot political issue, with Democratic presidential
candidate Sen. John Kerry criticizing the Bush administration for relying too
heavily on the Guard and Reserve.
the short term, Congress and military officials also are discussing ways to
improve benefits and incentives, such as medical and dental insurance, for
part-time soldiers who they hope will re-enlist.
Many part-time troops also said they would not re-enlist after
the first Gulf War in 1991, then changed their minds and stayed. Given the
short duration of that war, however, that doesn’t provide a lot of reassurance
to the head of Maine’s Army National Guard.
New York Times
April 25, 2004
With Breadwinners Overseas, Guard
Families Face Struggle
By Andrew Jacobs
Nashville, April 22 — It took Jay Johnson seven years to build
up his mobile catering business and a year to nearly lose it all. When he
enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard,
Mr. Johnson thought he might be away from home for six months, a year at most.
But as he and other members of the 269th Military Police Company enter their
18th month of deployment, his well-laid plans for keeping the business afloat
in absentia, and ensuring his family’s financial security, have begun to falter.
Johnson’s business, Johnson & Son Catering, is down to one lunch truck,
from three before he left for Iraq, leaving his wife, Candace, and two young
children to scrape by with half as much money. Although she has eliminated
contributions to the family’s college and retirement accounts, and cut all but
the most essential spending, Ms. Johnson is still struggling to make ends meet.
he doesn’t come back soon, we’re going to lose it all, and he’s going to have
to start all over again,” said Ms. Johnson, who works full time as an
insurance adjustor. “He’s proud to serve his country, but the Army doesn’t
seem to care about him or us.”
As the war in Iraq continues, and the Pentagon prolongs the
mobilization of tens of thousands of troops, the toll on both the soldiers, and
the families they have left behind, is mounting. But while the war has been
hard on all military personnel and their loved ones, the financial and
emotional impact has been particularly acute for the members of the Guard and
the Reserve who have been forced to give up civilian jobs, in a few cases, for
20 months. Among members of the 269th Military Police Company, about 170 men
and women from across central Tennessee, the financial hardships are rising as
deployments stretch far beyond the traditional six-month mobilization.
“It’s been hell,” said Brandie Broersma, whose
husband, Specialist Will Broersma, is serving in Iraq. Mr. Broersma declared
bankruptcy and gave up the couple’s mobile home after their income plummeted.
“I don’t think National Guard
families were prepared for such long deployments,” Ms. Broersma said.
Congress, recognizing the predicament of many members of the
Guard and the Reserves, approved a bill this week that would allow them to tap
into private retirement accounts without penalty, although some lawmakers,
particularly Democrats, say that provision is not enough.
For those serving in
what is the largest and longest mobilization of civilian soldiers since World
War II, multiple extensions of their tours of duty have been a drain on troop
morale and an added stress on the families at home. “How can we as
soldiers fight effectively knowing how our loved ones, our lives and our
futures are suffering needlessly back home?” Specialist Richard Hodgkinson, a member of the 269th, asked
in an e-mail message. “We were told we would return home within 5 to 9
months and now we are being told it will be 22 months. How much is
Two weeks after announcing 90-day extensions for 20,000
troops, about a quarter of them in the Guard or Reserves, the Pentagon said
last week that those returns might be further delayed, adding to the distress
of some military families. Although most say they support the president’s
decision to go to war and are proud of their relatives’ service, many question
why part-time soldiers who traditionally handled domestic unrest and hurricane
cleanups are spending so much time in a perilous war zone.
Bob Wennerstrand, whose son, Specialist Derek Wennerstrand,
has been deployed with the New Hampshire Army Reserve since December 2002, says
he and other families still support the war. But in many cases, he said, Guard
and Reserve members have been in Iraq longer than some full- time members of
the military. “The guys truly feel like they’ve been forgotten, and they
feel like they’re being treated like second-class citizens,” he said.
“This has been stressful on everyone.”
The Pentagon’s decision this month to reverse some
homecomings, sometimes days before scheduled returns, has also fueled
widespread disillusionment among units. “We’re all still reeling,”
said Specialist Josh Blanchett, a member of the Illinois National Guard, who said his platoon had been deployed for
447 days and had already sent home most of their belongings. When extensions
were announced at midnight on Easter Sunday, he said his unit was already
disheartened by a previous 24-day extension that had just expired. In a
telephone interview from Iraq, he said his fellow troops were convinced the
extensions would just keep coming.
“The uncertainty is just killing us,” he said.
“It’s like checking on a turkey in the oven 24 hours a day. Don’t get me
wrong, we’re all doing our job for the country. We’re just tired as hell.”
John Goheen, a spokesman for the National Guard Association,
an advocacy group, said many soldiers would be willing to serve for long
stints, but they wanted a clear sense of when their time was up. “The big
thing is predictability,” he said. “Soldiers want to know when
they’re going and when they’re coming back so they can plan their lives.”
of the mounting disquiet among family members stems from their belief that the
Pentagon is placing National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers in jobs that would
be better served by full-time soldiers. There is also lingering resentment from
the early days of the conflict, when some Guard units complained about an
inadequate supply of body armor or drinking water. Many, like Josey Blanchett,
the wife of Specialist Blanchett, believe their loved ones are not properly
trained to handle the challenges of life in a combat zone. “These are not
career soldiers; they’re supposed to be weekend warriors,” she said.
“In many cases, they signed up to get college loans.”
Mr. Goheen said that although the Pentagon needed to make some
changes to the way civilian soldiers were used in wartime, he believed that
enlistees were well aware that their potential duties extend beyond occasional
civil defense tasks like filling sandbags during floods. He said he was
bothered by some of the criticism that the Guard has been misused in Iraq.
nation is paying for their school, giving them a paycheck while they’re in
school, so they will be there when the nation needs them,” he said.
“That’s like saying: `I come to work because they pay me. I don’t expect
to ever have to do anything.’ “
But the lack of predictability, coupled with the recent surge
of violence in Iraq, has made this conflict even more fraught for families.
Week after week, pictures of servicemen and women pinned to
the flag of honor at Woodlawn Elementary in Clarkesville, Tenn., disappear in
batches of four or five, marking a homecoming and a child’s release from
longing and anxiety. More than 100 children there have had a relative in Iraq
Manny Souza, 8, is still waiting to pull down the photograph
of his father, Specialist Sean Souza, a member of the 269th. Last Wednesday,
when his mother, Sherri, told him his father would not be coming home next week
for trout season, Manny cried until he was red in the face.
“It’s hard because they let you take a day off from
school when your daddy comes back and all the other kids brag about it,”
he said. “I just want mine back, too.”
Ms. Souza tries to
stay positive in front of her two boys but admits the extensions have been
rough on her, too. She says she takes anti-anxiety medication but still barely
sleeps these days and smokes through a pack and a half a day.
and I’m depressed,” she said.
The most difficult
moments come when her husband fails to send an e-mail message or to call at the
appointed time. “On those days, I just stay in bed, call in sick and put
the phone under my pillow,” said Ms. Souza, 39, who works as a
phlebotomist for the Red Cross. “I can’t breathe until I hear from
Ms. Souza tries to channel her nervous energy into home
improvements, Cub Scout activities and chores her husband once performed. She
prods friends to write letters to the Pentagon and the president appealing for
the 269th’s speedy return. This week, four black footlockers arrived packed
with her husband’s possessions, including souvenirs he bought in Baghdad, a set
of desert fatigues and the good luck talismans he holds in times of trouble.
“We’ve never been apart for more than two weeks,”
she said, flipping through photographs of her husband posed atop a Humvee or
clutching his assault rifle. “I just want to grow old with Sean.”
April 25, 2004
A Push to Get Troops Home
Families Press U.S. Over Longer Duties
By Bill Glauber, Tribune staff reporter
Ill. — A determined band of Illinois families is appealing to the Pentagon to
bring home the 333rd MP National Guard
Company, a unit that was headed to the U.S. before being ordered back to Iraq.
unit’s citizen-soldiers–activated in February 2003 and dispatched to Iraq last
May–had already sent home much of their gear before arriving in Kuwait on
They had expected to head home from Kuwait within days.
Instead, the unit’s troops were among 20,000 soldiers whose
deployments were extended 90 days by the Pentagon as violence surged in Iraq.
A captain in the unit said the soldiers themselves are
“rightfully upset” but prepared to fulfill their mission.
On the homefront,
though, families have mounted a letter-writing and petition campaign to get the
unit’s remaining troops–about 150–airlifted to the U.S. immediately.
“I want them home,” said Sue Warneke, who heads the
unit’s Family Readiness Group. “They have done their tour of duty.”
The bid to bring home the 333rd MP Company, based in Freeport,
is an extraordinary tale of citizens respectfully standing up to the
government. It’s also a sign of the mounting strain endured by troops in the
field and by families at home as the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq enters a
dangerous phase near the June 30 deadline to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi
Deployments for three other Illinois National Guard units also
were extended–the 933rd MP Company based in Chicago, the 1244th Transportation
Company based in North Riverside, and Company F, 106th Aviation, based in
The Family Readiness Group of the 333rd MP unit has taken its
grievances to the top, sending a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
requesting that the troops return home as soon as possible.
They’ve also gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a
“Their tour in Iraq has already been extended once, and
the strain of another tour of duty in Iraq is becoming a health concern for
these soldiers,” the petition said.
The office of U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) delivered the
letter to Rumsfeld and will forward the petitions, a spokesman said, adding
that the congressman urged the defense secretary to send home the unit
“sooner rather than later.”
“If you get enough support and enough pushing, you might
get something accomplished,” said Warneke, mother of 23-year-old Army
Spec. Jeremy Warneke. “I know they have a job to do, but they have already
done their job.”
Members of the 333rd MP Company, who have left jobs and
families for an extended tour overseas, were in Kuwait last week preparing to
head back to Iraq, back to war.
The unit initially arrived in Kuwait last April and moved into
Iraq on May 9. They had anticipated that they fulfilled their duty of serving a
year in Iraq. Family members said they were due home the last week of April.
Wescott, 52, has two children serving with the unit, Army Spec. Kirk Bausman
and Army Spec. Erin Bausman. Wescott, vice president of the Family Readiness
Group, was among those who signed the letter to Rumsfeld, though she did not
sign the petition. While she wants her children to return home quickly, she
recognizes they have a job to fulfill.
“I’m as scared as hell as the next person,” said
Wescott, a nurse whose uniform is adorned with American flag pins. “I know
these kids are in the National Guard, and whoever expected this when they
signed up. They are military. We have a lot of soldiers over there and everyone
wants them home.”
Others want their loved ones out, immediately.
Ramona Richter hasn’t seen her live-in boyfriend, Sgt. Enzo
DeCristafaro, since a Christmas leave.
“It’s hard to support something that has taken someone
you love away from you for so long,” said Richter, 24, a special-education
teacher who lives in DeKalb.
Father-son journey delayed
Matt Holst, 23, keeps postponing the motorcycle trip he plans
to take with his father, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Holst, 49, a trucker.
Gathering petition signatures and trying to rally support to
bring the troops home gives him a purpose in life as he waits for his dad.
“My dad has already sent half his stuff home, three
footlockers full of clothes,” said Holst, a student at Northern Illinois
Susan Bo-nesz, 32, a mortgage underwriter, canceled a July
vacation to Las Vegas she had planned to take with her husband, Capt. Ronald
Bonesz, who leads the unit. She said she forfeited $1,488.37.
But she said she would gladly give that up and more to see her
husband reunited with their 2 1/2-year-old daughter.
“They need a break, all of the Guard, all of the
soldiers,” she said. “There are American soldiers all over the world
who would love to serve their country like these soldiers. These soldiers are
tired and exhausted.”
So are the family members.
Katie Reifsteck of Lanark, Ill., is a former member of the
National Guard unit married to Staff Sgt. Dan Reifsteck, who is overseas.
She has experienced an eventful year that included the birth
of a daughter by emergency Caesarean section, a car accident that injured her
back, and a storm that caved in the roof of her home.
An area veterans group paid for half the $3,000 bill to
rebuild the roof, she said. Family members have helped her care for her
children, Natalie, 7 months, and Stephen, 2.
said that when the news hit of the extended deployment, her son “tore a
picture of my husband up and said, `No more.'”
Reifsteck said she was left “with a lump in my throat and
a lump in my heart.”
The troops, themselves, are coping with the extended
“Most of the soldiers are rightfully upset,” said
Capt. Bonesz, 32, in an e-mail correspondence with the Tribune.
“After being told that soldiers would be in Iraq for only
one year, any extension is a hard pill to swallow, but we will all get through
this and we will complete our mission,” he wrote.
The unit–which was based south of Baghdad–trained its
replacements and left them armored vehicles, radios and weapons systems, items
that the Army worked to replace to make the troops “combat ready.”
Troops also left behind toiletries, water coolers, fans and
DVD players for their replacements, according to family members, and have spent
“in excess of $200” each to replace the items, Bonesz said.
`They are also human’
Bonesz said “it is easy to say that this is OK or the
soldier will get over [the disappointment of the extended deployment], but
until someone has had to go through it, it is not the same. The soldiers here
are strong, but they are also human and have emotions.”
He concluded his note by stating the soldiers are the best he
has worked with. “Deep down [they] know they have a job to do,” and
whether they know it or not, they “are making history.”
“This company will get through this deployment and get
home to their loved ones,” said Bonesz, an engineer.
Army Spec. Amy Popurella, said in an e-mail that there was
“anger and sadness” in the unit, adding that when she left Iraq in
the “rear-view mirror,” she had a feeling the experience “wasn’t
“I know people
may think we sound like whiners but we are real soldiers that have done our
time and are ready to go home,” she wrote. “The government asked for
365 [days], we gave them 365, now please just let us go home and get some rest.
All of us know we will be back here one day to do it again. But right now to
win this war they need fresh troops in, not tired ones.”
The New York Times
the Ground, and Anxiety at Home
By Jill P. Capuzzo
Dateline: Toms River
The photograph being passed around the room Monday night
showed a smiling young man in tan Army fatigues in front of a shimmering pool
and vast Arabic-style mansion. Janet Interdonato explained that her son, Kevin,
was standing before the palace of one of Saddam Hussein’s slain sons.
The group murmured its approval. Later, there was applause for
the two families that sold the most yellow ribbons, and for the visiting soldier
who was granted a leave so he could meet his 5-week-old son, and for the young
mother who was here with her mother and baby for the first time.
While this was only
the third meeting of the Toms River
” Family Readiness Group,” created in February as 124 members of the
112th Field Artillery division of the National
Guard were shipping out to Iraq, this hodge-podge of parents, wives,
girlfriends and siblings had already started to coalesce around a common goal –
providing support and hope to anxious family members left behind.
Two days earlier, the anxiety of hundreds of other National Guard families was lifted when
they laid eyes on the soldiers of the 253rd Transportation Company, the first National Guard unit in New Jersey to
return after serving a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. But in the meantime,
several hundred members of the Guard from throughout the state have been put on
alert that they are next on the list to be called up, joining the state’s 1,600
Guard members currently mobilized.
In the coming months, New Jersey’s National Guard members will be called up in numbers not seen since
World War II, with an estimated 70 percent of the state’s 7,000 members
expected to see active duty by the end of 2004, according to Col. Charles
Harvey, head of the state’s Joint Forces Headquarters and the 57th Troop
Command. Most of those soldiers will be
sent to Iraq or to related operations elsewhere in the Mideast or in Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, the colonel said.
Around the country, about 100,000 National Guard members (of a total 460,000 members) and 75,000
reservists have been called to active duty since the war began. In the first
year, Guard members and reservists accounted for about 25 percent of the
135,000 troops serving in Iraq. Now heading into the next phase of the
operation in Iraq, the National Guard
is expected to make up closer to 40 percent of the ground forces.
this is the largest and most complex mobilization since the Korean War,”
said John Goheen, a spokesman for the National
Guard Association, a Washington-based lobbying group. “You have your
peacekeeping troops, your homeland security troops, and the troops in Iraq and
elsewhere in the region.”
Sometimes referred to as “weekend warriors” or
“citizen soldiers” for their normally limited duty providing local
security or emergency cleanup, this mobilization of the National Guard has caught some Guard members and their families by
surprise. And with the mounting number
of deaths — more than 100 so far this month alone — and taking of hostages
during this time of intense fighting, the relatives of many National Guardsmen
are asking what their spouses, sons or daughters are doing at war, and, more
importantly, when they will be home?
“In my opinion, we had to know for sure why we were going
over there,” said Maria Cecelia, whose son, Sgt. Juan Perez, just returned
from Iraq. “You don’t just go there because somebody told you
An embittered Ms. Cecelia, who lives in Woodbine, called the
war a “waste of time,” adding that the Iraqis “want to live the
life they live, and everybody has to respect that.”
Her daughter-in-law, Michelle Perez, also believes her husband
was called to duty for “not the right reason.”
And though Ms. Perez, a secretary from Mays Landing, fully
supports the service her husband has provided, she said she had put her life on
hold since her husband was deployed last April and was even reluctant to go out
in case her husband should call. Then when he did call, she said, she could
hear gunfire in the background and the phone would go dead. It could be several
hours before she would hear from him again and know everything was all right.
While 70 members of the National Guard
have died so far in Iraq, none have been from New Jersey.
Like many of the family members waiting for the Guard unit,
which is based in Cape May Courthouse, to return last weekend, Ms. Perez was
cautiously optimistic that the tour of duty would not be extended.
Indeed, the 253rd Transportation Company, of which Sergeant
Perez is a member, was rumored to be heading home last December. Then family
members got word that the military’s “365-days-boots-on-the-ground”
order was going to be strictly enforced, and that the unit would not be back
until this April. Their return to the United States appeared more likely when
the unit was flown to Kuwait two weeks ago. But with last week’s announcement
that tours were being extended for 20,000 soldiers — including 6,000 National Guard and Reserve members —
to counter insurgencies, most family members refused to get their hopes up
until they saw the soldiers marching along the tarmac at Fort Dix last
“I’ll believe it when I can actually touch him and know
it’s real,” said Ms. Perez, 35, who married Sergeant Perez two days before
his unit left for basic training.
Like many who join the National
Guard, Ms. Cecelia said both her sons signed up for the educational
benefits – tuition-free access to any of the state colleges or universities.
And while they accept the possibility of being called to active duty, either by
the state or the country, for years Guard members’ service has been largely
limited to one weekend of drills a month and two weeks during the summer,
required to maintain their federal Guard status.
she signed up in 2001, Specialist Nicola Harvey said she was primarily
interested in the free tuition that came with joining the National Guard. During her second semester at Atlantic Cape
Community College, the 28-year-old Atlantic City resident found herself being
called to active duty.
“I was thinking of the weekend warrior kind of
thing,” said Specialist Harvey, a driver with the 253rd Company. “Not
going to war. That’s not what the recruiter said.”
In fact, she got a lot more war than she was bargaining for.
While transporting equipment along a road north of Baghdad last August her
convoy was cut off by a vehicle that exploded in front of her truck, filling
her eyes with shards of glass and bits of shrapnel and leaving her temporarily
blinded. She is still suffering from damage to both eyes.
Specialist Harvey received a Purple Heart for her injuries,
which she gladly displayed during the welcome home celebration at Fort Dix last
weekend. And while she said she was proud she survived a year in Iraq, she was
uncertain if she would renew her commitment.
In addition to their military obligations, most Guard members
have full-time jobs or attend school, so the uncertainty of the scope of the
operation in Iraq and the broader “war on terrorism” has created an
added level of distress.
“It’s not a World War II situation, where you have the
whole nation committed to a war and a place,” said Mr. Goheen of the National Guard Association. “This
is an open-ended mission. So they want to know, ‘How long am I going to be
there?’ Unlike active duty, most Guardsmen have to juggle families, school,
jobs. They need to tell their employers when they’ll be back.”
Also different from the enlisted army, where families live
together on military bases with a support system in place, the families of National Guard members have few
networking opportunities. In response, family assistance centers have begun
springing up at National Guard
armories over the last year. In the last two months alone, five new centers
have opened in New Jersey, adding to the three that opened soon after the war
began. In her 23 years with the military, Jane Hackbarth, a retired master
sergeant, said she has not witnessed such a gearing up of support systems for
“Our families are geographically separated and they don’t
know each other,” Ms. Hackbarth said. “They only become a support
group because of the reality of this deployment.”
Ms. Hackbarth, who runs the family assistance center in
Lawrenceville, said, “Once the soldier leaves, we become the one-stop
shop, helping family members understand the language of the military, coping
with pay problems, and getting to meet each other and bond as military
Like the family readiness group in Toms River, most of the
support meetings try to maintain a positive attitude. Back for a two-week leave
to meet his newborn son, Specialist
Ronald Wentworth drew some laughs when he shared news from the front with the
group – “no, the mechanics still don’t have any tools;” “yes,
the bugs are driving us crazy;” and “no, no one has had time to play
with the balls and mitts the group sent over.”
The upbeat tenor is not only meant to provide support for the
family members, but also ease the concerns of the soldiers.
keeps our minds clear knowing that you guys are good and safe and supporting
each other at home,” Specialist Wentworth told the group on Monday.
But that does not mean emotions are not running high.
After passing around the photograph of her son, Kevin, who
just turned 25, tears began to well up in Ms. Interdonato’s eyes as she talked about
the day she had to say goodbye to him in February.
“I never thought 24 years ago, when I held this baby in
my arms, I’d ever have to send him off to war,” she said. “It was the
hardest day of my life, and I hope I never have to do it again.”
Capt. Kevin Williams, a chaplain and the coordinator of the
assistance center in Toms River, put it this way: “People have been in the
Guard for 20 to 25 years and never gone anywhere. We’re citizen soldiers and
expected to stay that way. Suddenly, we’re shoulder to shoulder with active
duty. This is clearly a shock for everybody.”
Many of those left behind latch onto superstitions, develop
coping skills or find other distractions to help pass the time.
Ms. Perez said she decided not to cut her hair until her husband
came home. Faith Parker said she started a diary, which she writes in every
day, then mails the entries to her boyfriend, Specialist Billy Davies, every
three days “so he doesn’t miss out on anything.”
Jamie Burrows has been busy buying a house in Dorchester and
selecting bridesmaids and dresses for the wedding she is planning for August
now that her husband, Specialist James Burrows, is back from Iraq. They, too,
were married in a rushed ceremony just days before her husband’s unit was
“We don’t really remember it,” Ms. Burrows, 21, said
of the small wedding held at Fort Dix. “They gave us a wedding planner,
but it was all so rushed. There was a couple right before us, and another right
Of the August wedding, she admitted that her husband was
“not quite as excited about it as I am, but he promised me so we’re doing
One subject many spouses and mates were reluctant to talk
about was the psychological effect the year apart might have on the
Ms. Parker said she thought her relationship with Mr. Davies
would get stronger. Ms. Perez is planning a honeymoon so they can “get to
know each other all over again.” Ms. Burrows said she didn’t expect much
of a transition.
“We weren’t married for very long, so there were not assigned
duties yet,” said Ms. Burrows. “It will be like starting over.”
Despite these optimistic views, military family counselors say
the issue is very real.
big question is: what happens when they come back?” said Ms. Hackbarth,
noting that the adjustment can be particularly difficult for National Guard families who are not so
indoctrinated into the military way of life to start. “No one who goes
there comes back the same person. They will be forever changed.”
And while being in a war zone can have long-range effects on
the soldiers, those left behind may have changed also, according to Sgt. Maj.
John Hughes, the family assistance coordinator for the 253rd, the Cape May
Courthouse company that just returned from Iraq.
“The spouses have taken on the breadwinner role, writing
checks, making big decisions,” Major Hughes said. “Now the soldier
comes back and the spouse might not be so ready to relinquish that role.”
After completing their first contractual tour of six years,
Guard members can renew their contracts for one to six years. A minimum of 20
years of service in good standing is required to be eligible for the military’s
pension plan. The question now facing many National
Guard soldiers as they return from active duty is whether they wish to
remain in the Guard.
Guard members can be called for active duty for up to two
years, so some families are concerned that their soldiers might get called back
for another rotation in the war-torn country. For soldiers providing services
most in demand, like the military police, civil affairs and transportation, Mr.
Goheen said that is a real possibility.
“There’s no predictability,” said Ray Martyniuk, a
spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Veteran and Military Affairs.
“The National Guard exists for
the sole purpose to be ready for emergencies. If there are three emergencies in
a row, they will get called three times.”
And while many families may have discussed retiring from the
military during this long year apart, Mr. Goheen noted that once the soldiers
are back home their outlook might change.
April 21, 2004
Life After Being Deployed
By Matthew Dolan
Chesapeake — What happens afterward? After the ecstatic moment
when the bus wheezes to a halt and spits out a war-weary soldier into the arms
of loved ones.
the first night spent in a hotel room with a wife who’s been on her own for the
better part of two years. After the homecoming roses have wilted, the
congratulations cheers have quieted and the neighbors have stopped asking, So
what was it really like?
Staff Sgt. Burton Harrison knows the answer now. And it’s
hardly the one he predicted four months ago.
He returned on the eve before New Year’s Eve. As a National Guardsman whose ranks have
carried the heavy burden of multiple deployments, he was gone for 10 months
after Sept. 11, 2001, to protect military bases near Washington, D.C., and
another 10 months at war to guard an Iraqi prison.
then, Harrison, 36 , has tried to reclaim the life he left behind, piece by
piece. But he said the peace and quiet at home still unnerves him.
the rest of his 229th Military Police
Virginia National Guard unit arrives back at the armory in Virginia Beach.
When they do, they’ll begin the same readjustment that Harrison has reveled in
– and suffered from – since his own homecoming.
“It’s been harder than I ever thought,” he said.
To find Burton Harrison when he’s not working, a good guess is
in his chair.
The puffy brown recliner takes center stage in the living room
of his two-story, semi-detached house in Great Bridge. Here, he can lounge in a
blue Old Navy T-shirt, jeans and bare feet. He’s grown a goatee now –
definitely not Army regulation – to please his wife.
The TV flickers a few feet away, and his mug of black coffee
sits nearby on the floor. This, he says, is paradise.
“I feel like I was in a time warp,” Harrison said in an
interview Saturday. “I’ve come back and everything changed without me.”
His eldest, Christina, went from pre-adolescent to full-blown
teenager. His youngest, Dylan, transformed from a timid toddler to a babbling
5-year-old who loves to dress up in his own soldier uniform.
Harrison no longer fears what might happen when he sleeps or
whether he’d have to use the 9-mm gun that he used to keep under his pillow. He
no longer lives in a world where he couldn’t trust prisoners who would sweetly
call him “Mr. Harrison” one day and pelt him with stones the next.
He is no longer
oppressively hot all the time, or worried about eating food that could cause
diarrhea, or aggravated by the three hours it would take to make a five-minute
phone call home.
He is, however, still afraid of spiders. “The guys gave him a
hard time about that over there,” his wife, Tina, said, laughing.
On his homecoming day, there were grand plans. Tina, 33 , and
their four kids wanted to throw a big party.
said no. He wanted instead a slower re-entry into civilian life. He even took a
couple of days before he visited his mother. The couple talked too about taking
a far-away vacation, but reconsidered once they took a second look at their
He wears his service on his sleeve. His truck has a military
police window sticker. And the public’s reaction, he said, has ranged from the
man who called him a callous killer to the elderly anonymous woman who gave him
Hardest of all, Harrison said, his employer seemed to abandon
During his first deployment, they hailed him as a hero. Tina
said she received the same treatment at a company Christmas party last year.
But when he returned and, as required by law, tried to resume
work as an elevator mechanic, his boss told him that he couldn’t come back
right away. When he finally returned, the company tried to lay him off, he
said. An advocacy group for the National
Guard and his union brokered the problem.
“They were not yet up on the law,” he said. “But it still hurt
real bad. I feel like I left one war only to come back to another one.”
today do the Harrisons feel like they’re on solid footing. They no longer worry
about the income that dropped with Harrison’s military activation and forced
Tina to get a job driving a school bus.
The kids’ grades appear to be back on track, they said.
Less and less frequently, Tina Harrison finds herself
reminding her husband that he should talk to his family with a tone more gentle
than the one he would use with his soldiers.
“We never thought it would take this long,” she said of the
Harrison enjoys telling war stories. Many are filled with
harrowing images of mortar fire, roadside bombs and occasional bloodshed in the
prison just outside Baghdad. But he also recalls quaint moments of practical
jokes, silly nicknames and innocent Iraqi children who wanted nothing more than
Reminders of the war in his home are everywhere.
Yellow ribbons have been tied around the four pine trees in
the front yard.
Pictures on a living room table show Harrison in uniform on
Sept. 11, a nervous Tina at his side. A slender green book on a living room
shelf holds a war journal Harrison kept with details of everything from the
morbid to the mundane.
Sounds of ordinary life also bring back memories. At a recent
trip to McDonald’s, he heard the sharp whizzing sound of a soft drink machine.
In a flash, he was back in Iraq, listening to bullets getting closer and closer
to his camp.
Harrison credits the
open lines of communication with his wife as a balm to ease the stress. From
the war, he tried to call her every three days.
“We’re married, but we’re also best friends,” Tina Harrison
also credits the Army for keeping in touch. About once a month, he now receives
a call from an Army counselor, asking about his job, his family life and his
Some in his unit aren’t doing as well. A couple of soldiers,
he said, cracked under the pressure. A few saw their marriage break apart.
Harrison said five National
Guardsmen who were deployed have already left the unit after their return.
He expects more to take a pass on re-enlistment.
“Some were really young, kids who only joined up for the
college money,” he said. “But some had a lot more experience.”
For Harrison, the deployment was more of an awakening. He said
he wants to be more decisive, more bold, after coming so close to death. On his
to-do list: buy instead of renting a house, look into a new career, and
rededicate himself to military service, no matter the toll it requires.
“I’m not a hero. I consider myself an American patriot,” he
said. “If called tomorrow, I’d go again.”
Tina nodded in agreement, but her speech seemed to be
paralyzed at the thought. Then she spoke.
Health & Medicine Week
April 19, 2004
Guardsman Who Refused
Anthrax Vaccine Discharged from Army
An Ohio National
Guardsman has been discharged from the Army for refusing another order to
be vaccinated against anthrax, this time while in Kuwait.
Specialist Kurt Hickman, 20, of
Granville, arrived in Kuwait on February 11. He was ordered to take the vaccine
2 days later.
When he refused, he was escorted back to Camp Atterbury in
Edinburgh, Indiana, on February 25. He stayed there until he was discharged on
March 28, 2004, Guard spokesman James Sims said.
Troops going to high-risk areas for more than 15 days have
been required to be vaccinated since 1999 to protect them against biological
Hickman’s attorney, Kenneth Levine, said Hickman always wanted
to serve his country, but didn’t want to expose himself to what he considers to
be a dangerous vaccine.
Hickman’s discharge notes that he received four medals during
Sims said the Army gave Hickman an honorable discharge and
demoted him from specialist to private. He likely will receive a similar
discharge from the National Guard,
Hickman, a sophomore journalism major at Ohio University, will
have to repay the money the Guard paid for his tuition along with any bonuses
he received for meritorious work.
Sims said privacy policies prohibit the disclosure of how much
Hickman earned and how much he will have to repay.
Hickman joined the Guard in 2001. He was first charged in
November with disobeying an order for not being vaccinated with his unit, the
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
He was court-martialed in December. A military judge
recommended a sentence of 40 days in jail and a bad-conduct discharge.
Hickman’s Ohio penalty was put on hold after U.S. District
Judge Emmit Sullivan ruled that the military could not force troops to take
shots against their will without an order of the president. The ban was lifted
after the FDA said the vaccine was safe and effective for use against inhaled
At Camp Atterbury, Hickman, then under the jurisdiction of the
regular Army, again refused to take the vaccine and was charged with disobeying
That charge was dropped when Lt. Gen. Joseph Inge decided to
allow Hickman to be deployed.
April 20, 2004
Guardsman Killed in Iraq
By Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: Louisville, Ky.
A Kentucky Army National
Guard officer killed in Iraq during an ambush on his military convoy was
remembered Monday as a leader who set an example for fellow soldiers.
First Lt. Robert Henderson II was killed Saturday near
Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, the state Department of Military Affairs said.
The convoy was supporting the Army’s 1st Armored Division when
it was attacked by insurgents about 70 miles south of Baghdad, said Lt. Col.
Phil Miller, a National Guard public
affairs officer in Frankfort.
“It’s our understanding the convoy came under small-arms
attack by enemy forces,” Miller said.
Henderson, 33, of Alvaton, is survived by his wife, Lisa, who
is pregnant with their first child, according
to family friends. His mother, Lillian, said her son had been in the
Guard since he was 17.
“He loved it,” she said in a statement from the
Department of Military Affairs. “He always wanted to do what was right. He
was the best.”
Henderson was a platoon leader in the Owensboro-based
Detachment 1, 2123rd Transportation Company. The unit hauls tanks and other
heavy armored vehicles, artillery equipment and engineering equipment.
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon, a friend of the
family, said high-ranking Guard officials told him that Henderson displayed
“strong leadership” during the attack. The convoy was ambushed as it
slowed down to go around an overturned trailer, Buchanon said.
“He was shot twice and continued to lead his platoon
through the ambush to safety,” Buchanon said.
He said Henderson was taken to a field hospital, where he
Henderson was the second Kentucky Guard casualty in the Iraq
Sgt. Darrin Potter, a member of the 223rd Military Company in
Louisville, died in September when his military vehicle overturned and was
submerged in a canal in Baghdad.
A comrade remembered Henderson as “a good man and a good
“He definitely set the example when it comes to what the
soldiers should be aspiring to be,” said Kentucky National Guard 1st Sgt. Michael Oliver, who formerly served in the
same unit with Henderson.
Oliver said Henderson was a hands-on officer.
“He loved driving the trucks,” Oliver said.
“Normally, as an officer you sit back, supervise and direct. Lieutenant
Henderson loved … to get right in there and ask that driver to scoot over and
let him have the opportunity to actually drive the vehicle.”
Oliver, of Bowling Green, was transferred to the 2113th
Transportation Company, based in Paducah, after his promotion to first
sergeant. That happened 10 days before his former comrades were activated.
“Right now there’s a tremendous sense of guilt that I
carry with me because I’m not there with them,” Oliver said, his voiced
choked with emotion. “They are a great bunch of soldiers.”
The 2123rd deployed to southwest Asia in January.
Frankfort, Gov. Ernie Fletcher said Henderson “paid the ultimate sacrifice
while serving his country.”
“Our commonwealth has truly lost one of its finest,”
Kentucky Adjutant General Donald C. Storm said he was
“deeply saddened” by Henderson’s death, but said “our resolve is
“He was a true patriot who answered the call of his
nation,” Storm said. “Our hearts, thoughts, prayers and support go
out to his family.”
Henderson graduated from Warren Central High School in 1989
and attended Western Kentucky University from 1990 to 1994, Miller said.
Henderson worked as a sales manager at the Lowes home
improvement store in Bowling Green for several years. Robert Castle, operations
manager at the store, said Henderson was well liked.
“He was the type of person when he was faced with a
challenge, his eyes would light up and he’d get this look on his face and you
just knew it was going be taken care of,” Castle said.
Buchanon watched Henderson grow up. Henderson’s mother is a bookkeeper
at a floral and greenhouse business run by Buchanon’s wife.
“He was dedicated to the National Guard and to the military service,” Buchanon said.
Henderson’s comrades held a memorial service on Sunday at the
unit’s base camp in Kuwait.
Kentucky currently has 365 Guardsmen deployed in Iraq, Storm
said. He said they have been “in the eye of the storm.”
“They’re not on the peripheral here,” he said.
“These soldiers are part of the front lines. And as you know … the front
line in this war is 360 degrees.”
Funeral arrangements for Henderson are pending.
April 21, 2004
with Fort Lewis Task Force Killed
By Michael Gilbert, The News Tribune
A Maine National
Guardsman attached to the Fort Lewis-based Task Force Olympia was killed
Tuesday and four other soldiers were wounded when their convoy was struck by a
roadside bomb in northern Iraq.
The attack occurred Tuesday morning west of Mosul, according
to a U.S. military press release and news service reports.
The soldier who was killed and three of the injured are from
the 133rd Engineer Battalion of the Maine National
Guard, according to the Portland Press Herald, which has a columnist and
photographer embedded with the battalion.
paper reported that one soldier was seriously injured while the other two
suffered minor injuries. A fifth soldier who is not part of the 133rd also
suffered minor injuries.
The 8,800-soldier Task Force Olympia includes the Stryker
brigade and other units from Fort Lewis, as well as active-duty, Reserve and National Guard troops from other posts
A spokesman with the Maine National Guard said families of the killed and wounded soldiers had
been notified. He said the soldiers fought back and “neutralized” the
insurgents who attacked them.
A Task Force Olympia press release said two of the soldiers
were taken to the 67th Combat Support Hospital at Mosul Airfield, where one
died of his injuries.
The other three soldiers were treated and returned to duty,
according to the press release.
The task force press release contained few additional details,
such as the location of the attack, the number of vehicles in the convoy, the
type of vehicle the slain soldier was riding in or a description of the
Otherwise, U.S. military officials Tuesday characterized the
Task Force Olympia zone as “quiet.”
Iraqi police arrested four people who attacked their
headquarters with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, and U.S.
troops captured five people suspected of attacking coalition forces in Mosul on
Monday night, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director of coalition
operations, told reporters in Baghdad.
A coalition soldier was wounded near Tall Afar, about 35 miles
west of Mosul, when his patrol was attacked with a hand grenade. The patrol
captured two of the attackers, Kimmitt said, according to a transcript of his
Tuesday morning briefing.
Kimmitt also said authorities in Mosul are concerned about
rhetoric from the mosques and in the local media following the killing of Hamas
leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, assassinated by an Israeli missile strike Saturday
in Gaza City.
On Monday, Stryker brigade soldiers detained eight people
wanted for “anti-coalition activities” and recovered weapons and
ammunition, according to another Task Force Olympia press release.
Soldiers from the 2nd
Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment raided what U.S. officials called four
terrorist safe houses and captured eight men suspected of planning and carrying
out attacks on coalition forces, according to the press release.
The Associated Press
April 22, 2004
Soldier Dies in Iraq Ambush
Dateline: Montpelier, Vt.
Christopher D. Gelineau, a Vermont high school graduate who
was in Iraq with the Maine National
Guard, died Tuesday after enemy fighters ambushed his convoy.
Gelineau, 23, is the seventh soldier with Vermont roots to be
killed in combat since the war began over a year ago.
A 1999 graduate of Mount Abraham Union High School in Bristol,
Gelineau was a specialist with the 133rd Engineer Battalion. Before being
deployed to Iraq in March he lived in Portland, Maine, where he attended the
University of Southern Maine.
“He was a very nice boy. He was patient and quiet,”
said aunt Pam Gelineau of Eden Wednesday night. “I don’t know what else to
Gelineau’s mother and stepfather, Victoria and Jesse Chicoine,
live in Starksboro, and his father, John, lives in Eden.
The families left early Wednesday for Maine to be with
Gelineau’s wife of one year, Lavinia, Pam Gelineau said.
Those who knew Gelineau described him as a quiet, friendly,
reliable young man who loved working with computers.
Gelineau was one of about 500 members of the 133rd Engineer
Battalion sent for a one-year tour of duty in Iraq, based in the northern city
Several members of the 133rd, including Gelineau, were driving
in a convoy Tuesday in Mosul, serving as a protective escort to military
firefighters from South Carolina, Maine National Guard officials said.
Gelineau was in the lead Humvee when a roadside bomb exploded
and heavily damaged the vehicle. Enemy fighters then began shooting at the
and three others were injured in the explosion and battle. Gelineau and the
others were taken to a nearby military hospital, officials said. They said they
were unsure whether Gelineau died of his wounds en route or at the aid station.
Calls Foundation Helps Soldiers in Iraq Contact Home
By Stephen Larson
April 20, 2004
Washington (Army News Service, April 20,
2004) — Many of the Soldiers in Iraq are young parents and won’t see their
spouses or children for a year or more. But Soldiers will soon be able to more
easily send e-mail to or call their loved ones at home due to the donation of
millions of dollars of telecommunications equipment and services to the Army.
Freedom Calls Foundation has collected $10 million worth of donations for
equipment and services to provide free Internet, voice over Internet Protocol
telephone and video teleconference services for up to 10,000 troops. The Army
officially accepted the donation April 6.
Ed Bukstel, operations director of Freedom Calls, said country music star
Rodney Atkins has pledged to help launch the Freedom Calls network with a live
concert that will be video teleconferenced to Iraq from a military base.
“I can’t imagine how happy the families of these Soldiers will be when this
program is fully operational,” Atkins said. “I think it’s a wonderful use of
this exciting communication technology.”
Started with an e-mail
The initiative started in August, when Bukstel, the executive vice president of
SkyFrames Inc., a satellite telecommunications company, of Costa Mesa, Calif.,
received an e-mail “out of the blue,” from a sergeant in Iraq.
“She (the sergeant) wrote to me that communications available for Soldiers in
her unit to contact home were very poor and that it would be helpful to troop
morale if they could get Internet access and e-mail so they could stay in touch
with loved ones,” said Bukstel. “She asked if I had any ideas that might help.”
SkyFrames issued a press release to ask for donations to help out this unit in
Iraq. John Harlow, a Wall Street lawyer, read the release, contacted Bukstel,
and together they established the Freedom Calls Foundation, a non-profit entity
incorporated in the state of New York and registered with the Charities Bureau
of the state of New York Department of Law.
larger donors, Bukstel said, Hewlett-Packard donated 1,000 laptop computers,
100 printers and scanners; Logitech donated 500 web cameras and microphones;
Loral Space & Communications donated Very-Small Aperture Terminal satellite
dishes, hub connections and a full-year subscription of free bandwidth;
Motorola donated a wireless broadband platform that will allow troops in a
15-mile radius to tie into the network; and FedEx donated about $300,000 of
cargo space to get the gear to Iraq. Bukstel said that an American engineer is
working with an Iraqi telecom company to provide installation and maintenance
The waiting is the hardest part
Among those helping Freedom Calls navigate through Army channels for approval
of the donations have been Lt. Col. Michael Kwak, the Army’s Product Manager,
Defense Wide Transmission Systems and then his successor, Lt. Col. Earl Noble,
and Janice Starek, a project leader for PM DWTS.
Some of the issues to be ironed out, Starek said, have been who will be
responsible for the donated equipment when it’s in Iraq, and what will happen
to it after the troops come home.
Starek said the equipment will be signed for by local Morale, Welfare and
Recreation personnel in Iraq and that at the completion of the mission, PM DWTS
will be responsible for determining disposition.
“The equipment will either be transferred to other MWR activities, placed on
long-term storage or disposed of, if the equipment is obsolete at that point,”
But in the end, the waiting was worth it. Just ask a Soldier.
“Calling home is the biggest morale booster there is,” said Spc.
Johanna Adams, a personnel specialist with the 4th Infantry Division, Fort
PM DWTS got a taste of how sweet it can be to help Soldiers in Iraq stay in
touch with loved ones on June 6 parents deployed to Iraq got to watch their
children graduate from Vicenza High School, a Department of Defense school in
Vicenza, Italy. After the ceremony, students and parents spoke to each other
through the VTC link. Through the VTC link there were personal face-to-face
congratulations and tearful reunions.
A commander in Iraq wrote that the VTC “had to be the biggest morale booster
I’ve witnessed in 25 years of military service. The VTC brought a
once-in-a-lifetime event to the battlefield of Iraq. The joy I witnessed on
both ends of the video monitor will be in war stories for many generations to
Bukstel said that he plans to go to Iraq after the first installation is
“It’s going to bring tears to my eyes when this happens,” he said. “One guy
told me when he was in Vietnam he didn’t talk to his family for over a year.
Well that was years ago – now we have technology, so that doesn’t have to
(Editor’s note: Stephen Larsen is the public affairs officer for Program
Executive Officer, Enterprise Information Systems at Fort Monmouth, N.J.)
United States Department of
April 23, 2004
Military Phone Card Donation Program Goes Public
The Department of
Defense announced today that any American can now help troops in contingency
operations call home. The Defense
Department has authorized the Armed Services Exchanges to sell prepaid calling
cards to any individual or organization that wishes to purchase cards for
troops who are deployed. The “Help Our Troops Call Home” program is designed to
help servicemembers call home from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation
For those wishing
to donate a prepaid calling card to a military member may log on to any of the
three Armed Services Exchange web sites: the Army and Air Force Exchange
the Navy Exchange Service Command http://www.navy-nex.com/,
and the Marine Corps Exchange http://www.usmc-mccs.org/.
Click the “Help Our Troops Call Home” link. From there, a prepaid calling card
may be purchased for an individual at his or her deployed address or to “any
service member” deployed or hospitalized. The Armed Services Exchanges will
distribute cards donated to “any service member” through the American Red
Cross, Air Force Aid Society and the Fisher House Foundation.
The Armed Services
Exchanges operate telephone call centers in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and
other countries and aboard ships — anywhere servicemembers are deployed in
support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. All of these
locations stay busy around the clock to keep up communication between deployed
troops and their loved ones. The cards available through the “Help Our Troops
Call Home” program offer the best value for calls made from the call centers,
never expire, and there are no added charges or connection fees.
organizations also can show their support to deployed troops and their families
with gift certificates. The “Gift of Groceries” program allows anyone to
purchase commissary gift certificates at http://www.commissaries.com
or by calling toll free 1 (877) 770-GIFT. The Armed Services Exchanges offer
the “Gift From the Homefront” gift certificate for merchandise at these
exchange web sites: http://www.aafes.com and http://www.navy-nex.com or by
calling toll free 1 (877) 770-GIFT. Gift certificates may be purchased to be
mailed to servicemembers and family members or will be distributed to “any
servicemember.” Only authorized commissary and exchange patrons may redeem the
gift certificates at military commissaries and exchanges, including those
stores supporting deployed personnel around the globe.