News You Can Use: Aug. 16, 2004

16, 2004, Volume 2, Issue 15

Index of Articles

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




Roanoke Police
Officers And National Guard Unit Team Up To Train

NY National Guard Keeping Most Armories; Air Bases Likely Safe

‘We’re Making
Progress’; Bush Wants 1-Year Limit On National Guard Tours

Utah Air, Army
Guard Now Under Same Leadership

Blum: National Guard Building Future With ‘Modular Bricks’



Governors OKs Longer Guard Tours of Duty

Guard Fans Out Across 9 Counties



What Was It Really
Like In Iraq?; Wisconsin Soldiers Describe Their Experiences As Nation
Builders; Tales From The Front

Mission: Iraq;
Medics Manage ‘Chaos’



Military Dads Must Readjust To Families



Some Military Voters Had Trouble Getting Ballots



National Guard Family Program Online
Communities for families and youth:



TRICARE website for information on health



Employment Information (CEI) Program Registration
for Army and Air National Guard, Air
Force, and Coast Guard Reserve (Note to
those viewing this page in Word or PDF format:
You must copy this address and paste it
into your browser’s address window.)



Cumulative roster of all National Guard
and Reserve who are currently on active duty



Child Education Coalition

(MCEC) contains links and information about schooling, distance education,
scholarships, and organizations devoted to the military family is a website that helps military
children with transition and deployment issues.  It has some great features for kids, parents, special needs
families, school educators, and more—even safe chat rooms for kids.



Soldiers Initiative (DS3)

This website
provides information on the new DS3 program. 
Through DS3, the Army provides its most severely disabled Soldiers and
their families with a system of advocacy and follow-up.



Have an article, announcement, or
website that you’d like to share with the National Guard Family Program
Community?  Send your suggestions in
an e-mail to
[email protected].




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Police Officers And National Guard Unit Team Up To Train


Times & World News (Roanoke, VA)

August 8, 2004 Sunday Metro Edition

By, Robert Samuels   
[email protected] 981-3340

officers rushed at members of the Virginia National Guard, armed with
batons and chanting, “Move, move, move.” Police dogs barked
furiously, jumping onto some of the soldiers, while horses forced them to
step back.

But it was
only practice. Officers from the Roanoke Police Department were showing the
soldiers one of the formations used for crowd control, said Staff Sgt. Darryl
Updike of the Virginia National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 116th Regiment.

supposed to work with each other, but we operate a little differently,”
Updike said. “So we need to get used to how they work.”

with the police department, the regiment and the Virginia Defense Force held
a public joint training session and an open house at the National Guard
Armory on Reserve Avenue. Each year, the groups meet to practice responses to
civil disturbances such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

summer, the National Guard has fewer soldiers than usual in Roanoke.
About 200 soldiers were reassigned to the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion,
whose members left to serve in Afghanistan, in the Ghazni province and at the
Bagram Air Base near Kabul.

Even with
the guardsmen in Afghanistan, training continues – but with some changes.

leadership is doing everything they can to keep up the intensity,”
Updike said. “And since our size is smaller, the instruction that we
give can be more one on one, which is a good thing.”

the state-sanctioned volunteer Virginia Defense Force is also taking on the
regiment’s duties and training to help make up for the loss of troops, said
Sgt. Joanie Buckland, a recruitment noncommissioned officer. Deploying the
Guard’s 3rd Battalion hasn’t affected the defense force’s recruitment, she

would like to say that we’ve seen an increase since the troops left,”
Buckland said. “But it’s always a struggle to get volunteers.”

the regiment’s readiness should comfort the public, said 1st Sgt. Vincent
May. He added that many of the residents who trickled into Saturday’s open
house asked him about the soldiers – the ones here and the ones abroad.

demonstrations should have answered some of those questions, May said. In a
mobile home outside the armory, one sergeant showed off some of the troops’
equipment while he was in total darkness.

The only
way those attending could see the sergeant was through small, lightweight
night-vision monoculars. Looking through the tool revealed a clear, green-tinted
look of a guardsman and his hand gestures as he spoke.

using technology like this in Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Amos, who asked
that his first name not be used. “If you want to go into a cave or find
a weapons cache, you have to go at night.”

officers rappelled from the side of the stands at Victory Stadium, jumping
from 30 rows up, as they practiced some of their rescue techniques. Rick
Evans, who said he was an Air Force veteran, applauded Officer John Barker as
he landed on the ground.

always wonderful to invite the public to see how people practice,” said
Evans, a Roanoke resident. “You get so much of a better understanding of
what they’ll go through.”




National Guard Keeping Most Armories; Air Bases Likely Safe

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Associated Press

August 10, 2004, Tuesday, BC cycle

By Michael
Virtanen, Associated Press Writer

Five air
bases in New York will be scrutinized during the ongoing federal Base
Realignment and Closure process, but National Guard armories are safe
and a state official said indications are the air bases won’t be closed.

November 2005, recommendations could be made to trim what the Department of
Defense says is a 24 percent excess in military capacity. Active bases from
all four branches of the service plus Air National Guard bases will be

The guard
bases New York is trying to protect are: Stratton Air National Guard
Base in Scotia, Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, Gabreski
Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, Hancock Field Air National
Base in Syracuse and Niagara Falls Air National Guard Base.

armories are state facilities, the BRAC process is not germane,” said
Scott Sandman, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Military and Naval
Affairs. “The five air bases are federal facilities and could
potentially be affected by BRAC. But we have no indication at this point that
any of them would be affected.”

The National
in New York stayed close to its recruiting goals last year and
plans construction projects at several armories while closing one.

units are based and drill at 59 state-owned armories and the five air bases,
as well as at the Army’s Fort Drum near Watertown and the Air Force Reserve
base at Niagara Falls.

Over the
past two years, armories in Ticonderoga, Malone, Oneonta, Tonawanda and
Cortland were closed, their guard units moved to nearby armories. The
Rochester facility will close also, once the armory is expanded in suburban

project won’t be completed for another couple of years,” Sandman said.
In the next few years, construction and expansion projects are due to begin
at several other sites, he said.

armories are deemed no longer essential to military operations by the adjutant
general, they are turned over to the state Office of General Services for
other uses. The Saratoga Springs armory, for example, was converted into the
state Military Museum and Veterans Research Center.

More than
5,100 personnel – almost one-quarter of all state guard and militia members –
were on active duty in June, Sandman said.

Since the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, guard units have been called to provide
extra security at airports and other sites. Since U.S. forces invaded Iraq
last year, units have been deployed there as well. About 1,500 personnel are
in Iraq and hundreds of others heading to the war zone, including 1,200
members of the Troy-based 42nd Infantry Division, who were recently sent to
Fort Drum for a few months’ training before going to Iraq for a year.

The New
York Air National Guard has sent some medical personnel to Afghanistan
and flown transport missions there. The Air Guard deployments abroad are
shorter, typically no more than three months, Sandman said.

Most guard
personnel are military part-timers, who train on weekends and two weeks a
summer, and who get called up for state service in storms or other
emergencies or to federal duty in both combat and support units.

The New
York Army National Guard, which has some 10,500 troops, enlisted 1,897
new personnel last year, compared with 2,290 a year earlier and a goal of

The New
York Air National Guard, with troop strength of about 5,400, enlisted
509 last year, 10 fewer than a year earlier and 31 below its goal.

One factor
in the decline is the reorganization of the 27th Brigade into a variety of
support units, which will resume recruiting with more positions open to
women, Sandman said. “We’re confident the numbers will come up,” he

The New
York Guard, which has about 1,000 troops and a purely state mandate, enlisted
169 last year, up 52 from a year earlier.

The New
York Naval Militia, with 4,300 members, enlisted 80 last year, almost double
from a year earlier. The militia is an added optional duty to Reserves enlistment.




‘We’re Making Progress’; Bush Wants 1-Year Limit On National Guard Tours

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Journal (New Mexico)

August 12,
2004 Thursday

Michael Coleman Journal Washington Bureau

Bush relaxed in an air-conditioned motor home after his Albuquerque campaign
event Wednesday and fielded questions from three New Mexico reporters on
subjects ranging from political ads to National Guard call-ups.

president, sitting side-by-side with Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, seemed
relaxed and rested as machine gun-wielding Secret Service agents scanned the
scene from black SUVs parked in the blinding sun outside.

interview, conducted by reporters from the Albuquerque Journal, The
Albuquerque Tribune and Alamogordo Daily News, took place at Eclipse
Aviation, an Albuquerque business that served as the backdrop for Bush’s
campaign rally moments before.

Q: How
long will it be before there is any relief in sight for members of the National
and military reserves? What is the administration doing to shorten
the amount of time these men and women are serving overseas?

A: The
Defense Department is trying to get the tours to be a limit of 12 months. In
terms of the mission, as I said inside (at the rally), the mission will be
completed and we won’t stay one day longer. The way to expedite, in my
judgment and the judgment of the planners, is to get the Iraqi forces
trained, equipped and prepared to take on these tough missions. We’re more
than willing to help them with it but they need to be in the lead. We had a
problem with contracting for a while. In other words, the bureaucracy can be
quite stubborn at times. There was an equipment issue — getting equipment
flowing to the mission. The Defense Department’s mission, or desires or
goals, is to say to a person being deployed, ‘this is the time you are going
— for 12 months.’ I appreciate the guard and reservists and I know it puts a
strain on their families. But they are a necessary component of forming an
all-volunteer Army.




Utah Air, Army Guard Now Under Same Leadership

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The Associated Press State & Local Wire

August 15, 2004, Sunday, BC

As part of a nationwide reorganization of the military, the Utah National
has combined its Army and Air Guard leadership offices.

Historically, the Utah National Guard has maintained separate
headquarters for its Army and Air National Guard, under command of the
adjutant general and the governor.

Officials announced the transition to a Joint Force Headquarters this
week, a move intended to help the divisions work better together.

“We fight jointly, so we need to train and operate on a daily
basis in a joint environment,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, Utah’s
adjutant general. “We can transition quickly to respond to any emergency
or to our community.”

In Utah, Air Force Brig. Gen. Ralph Dewsnup has been appointed
commander of the Joint Forces Headquarters.

Utah Brig. Gen. Stanley Gordon said a joint staff “forces the
Army and Air National Guard to understand each other and to use each
other’s resources as they are needed. It requires them to think.”




Blum: National Guard Building
Future With ‘Modular Bricks’

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By Darsi J Busler

August 13, 2004

WASHINGTON (Army News Service,
Aug. 13, 2004) – The chief of the National Guard Bureau said the Guard
is “rebalancing” for the War on Terror and is becoming “virtually
indistinguishable” from the active Army.

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum addressed the Guard’s current role and also the
changes within Guard units when he spoke to Association of the U.S. Army
members in Arlington, Va., Aug. 11.

One of the greatest changes is that the National Guard is moving from a strategic
force of the Cold War-era toward a force that closely resembles the
operational active Army, Blum said.

“We need to rebalance the force for what we need tomorrow, not what we needed
yesterday,” Blum said.

Part of this rebalancing involves the Army’s addition of units of employment
and units of action. Under the Guard’s “Transformation to Modularity,” it
will be able to create units with the same equipment, training, organization
and capability as the active Army units, making them virtually indistinguishable.

“When you need a wall built out of these modular bricks, it won’t matter
whether those bricks are Active or Reserve, as long as it has the same
strength and capability,” Blum said.
Three National Guard brigades now in Iraq are scheduled to convert to UAs
when they return. The 30th Heavy Separate Brigade from North Carolina, the
81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team from Washington state and the 39th Enhanced
Separate Brigade from Arkansas will convert to UAs in fiscal year 2005.

While the Guard is moving forward in its national and state roles, its
leadership has noticed changes in personnel. People leaving active duty who
normally would join the Guard and Reserve are less inclined to because they
realize they could be mobilized and sent back on active duty, Blum said.

“If they are willing to tolerate that, they might as well stay on active duty
with a unit they’re already comfortable in,” Blum said.

The Guard has also seen many positive changes, Blum said. Re-enlistment and
retention rates are higher than at any other time in the recorded history of
the National Guard.
The participation rate in theater is also at an all-time high. Currently,
more than 40 percent of Soldiers in Iraq are in the Guard and Reserves.

“We’ve called up almost a quarter of a million Soldiers and not one has
failed to show,” Blum said.

With so many Soldiers being deployed, more than 50 percent of National
forces are now combat veterans. This number is expected to increase
to 80 percent within two years, Blum said.

These changes have allowed the National Guard to embrace a new motto.

“We’re trying to be a READY force. We’re trying to be a RELIABLE force. We’ve
become an ESSENTIAL part of the force. Now we have to make sure we’re an
ACCESSIBLE part of the force,” Blum said.





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Governors OKs Longer Guard Tours of Duty


Associated Press

August 9, 2004, Monday

By Charles E. Beggs, Associated Press Writer

Gov. Ted
Kulongoski authorized Oregon National Guard members Monday to
voluntarily extend their service beyond the usual 24-month limit, in exchange
for bonus pay from the government.

But in a
letter to the Defense Department, Kulongoski also said he remained concerned
about the heavy use of the National Guard in the Iraq war.

members are being offered an extra $1,000 a month for agreeing to serve up to
an additional 12 months in Iraq or Afghanistan.

approval of governors is needed under federal law for such voluntary
extensions of duty, the Defense Department said.

said the lengthening of National Guard deployment “is evidence
that our nation’s military is facing a significant staffing issue that must
be addressed.”

governor said with many Oregon National Guard members assigned
overseas, the state is less prepared to deal with wildfires and other natural

And though
the extra pay for extended service helps, Kulongoski said many Guard families
are struggling financially.

Col. Mike
Caldwell, deputy Oregon adjutant general, said about 90 Oregon National
soldiers are eligible to extend their duty and that around half of
them already had agreed to do that before the bonus pay was announced.

Oregon has
about 700 Guard troops in Iraq, and more have been called for duty there. The
number is expected to total about 1,300 by early winter.

A total of
28 service members with close Oregon ties have died in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Kuwait since hostilities began. Three Guardsmen were killed in a June 4
ambush in the worst single loss for the Oregon National Guard since
World War II.

Also in
the letter to Charles Abell, principal deputy in the under secretary of
defense’s office, Kulongoski asked for a “full review” of a
newspaper report that Oregon National Guard soldiers were ordered to
abandon an effort to prevent Iraqi jailers from abusing prisoners.

Oregonian newspaper reported Sunday that Guard members saw Iraqi prisoners
being abused on June 29, the first day after the United States transferred
for power to the country.

asked that findings be reported to him and Brig. Gen. Raymond Byron, Guard
chief in Oregon, “as soon as possible.”

Sen. Ron
Wyden, D-Ore., also asked for an investigation of the report in a letter
Sunday to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.




Guard Fans Out Across 9 Counties

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Orlando Sentinel (Florida)

August 15, 2004

By Bob Mahlburg,
Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — Thousands of Florida National Guard troops were
called out Saturday to assist with security, rescue and cleanup efforts after
Hurricane Charley.

More than 2,000 troops were working by Saturday afternoon, and that
number was expected to double by late Saturday, National Guard
officials said.

“We’re going to go to 5,300 by tonight,” said National
Legislative Director Glenn Sulphin.

The guard is using seven Black Hawk military helicopters and may bring
in additional equipment from as far away as Texas, Pennsylvania and other
states, National Guard Col. Don Tyre said.

Duties will range from ensuring the safety and security of residents
and their property to clearing large debris and preventing looting. Guard
officials said they had heard no reports of looting as of late Friday.

The Guard troops were working mostly in hard-hit southwest Florida
where Charley made landfall. But they were to be spread across nine counties
that suffered damage from the storm, officials said. Guard aircraft were
checking damage from the air, including inspecting a damaged nursing home in
Lake Wales. In addition, heavy equipment and chain saws were used to remove
downed trees, Tyre said.

“They’re also involved in recovery operations — getting people
and property secured,” Sulphin said. Guard forces in Orlando were mostly
doing administrative work, he said.

Gov. Jeb Bush praised the Guard at a press conference after surveying
damage by air in southwest Florida.

The hurricane disaster duty comes while other Florida National
troops are fighting in Iraq, he noted.

“We have been planning for this dual responsibility,” Bush
said. “The primary responsibility of the National Guard is to
provide support to the military and to be part of the team of the war on
terror, and we have thousands of brave guardsmen and women who are doing that
— but never at the expense of the domestic mission, which is vital as

Adjutant Gen. Douglas Burnett, commander of the Florida National
traveled with the governor Saturday to survey damage, and called
the current level of troops adequate, state officials said.

“Fifteen hundred [guardsmen] are here that are active,” Bush
said of the troops in southwest Florida. “And there’s 5,000 that have
been called up. We have the capability of up to 10,000 guardsmen.”






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Was It Really Like In Iraq?; Wisconsin Soldiers Describe Their Experiences As
Nation Builders; Tales From The Front


State Journal (Madison, WI)

August 8,
2004 Sunday, ALL Editions

By Lisa
Schuetz Wisconsin State Journal

By the
time the 32nd Military Police Company arrived in Iraq in June 2003, the
invasion was over and the nation building had begun.

Over the
next 13 months, the 157 Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers worked
security at several neighborhood police stations in Baghdad, drove U.N.
officials to meetings and trained Iraqi police — called IPs — to take over
when the soldiers left.

Most in
the company never fired a weapon, but they saw people die in roadside and car
bombings or sniper attacks.

Five men and
women shared their experiences, including memories from a harrowing week in
April that included a barrage of attacks against U.S. soldiers culminating in
the death on Good Friday of Michelle Witmer, a soldier in the 32nd.

Danielle “D” Robinson, Madison

24, expected Iraq to resemble a war zone from the movies.

Mostly, it

When the
company left Kuwait after five weeks there and headed into Iraq, the vast
expanse of dessert was disturbed only by the road or tiny huts in which
people lived. And there were children who begged for candy.

don’t waste anything,” she said of the Iraqis who would dig through
trash to find food, paper and other items. “Just seeing how they lived
made me appreciate what I came from and what I have.”

liked learning the language. She’d take a tape recorder with her and point to
things and then tape the Arabic word for the item pronounced by an obliging
Iraqi police officer.

company cookout in April, held shortly after Witmer’s death and the company’s
stay was extended for a second time, is among her favorite memories. Brats,
hamburgers, steak, cole slaw and potato salad and soda were a nice change
from the school-cafeteria-hot-lunch-type meals normally served.

was everybody coming together, everybody’s spirits were up. People were
throwing people in the pool, we had good food and good music.”

At first,
Robinson read James Patterson books and relied on contact with friends and
family for support. Then, in a camp where there wasn’t much to do, the 13
women who shared a room bonded.

of the time it was just us girls,” she said. “Some of us would go
to the roof, look at stars and just hang out. That’s the best that you can do
in Iraq.”

usually slept with earplugs, not just because the occasional mortar fire and
generators were noisy, but because people snored or made noise that would
wake her.

decide, depending on the world and her life situation, whether to re-enlist
when her contract is up in 2007.

Now, she
needs space from the military and the friends she made in Iraq. “I just
want to go back to my civilian life.”

Sgt. James
Ewing, McFarland

The strict
rules of engagement — protocol for shooting a weapon or attacking Iraqis —
made Ewing, 26, anxious.

was more worried about facing a military jury than defending myself,” he
said. “I was lucky. The whole time I was out, I never fired a

Ewing was
too busy when he arrived in Iraq to notice he was in a strange country.

were working 12-hour days at the police stations,” Ewing, 26, said.
“That didn’t include getting ready and going out there. We were
exhausted for the first two months. There was no such thing as a weekend. It
took a toll on us.”

Ewing was
at the al-Shaab police station in Baghdad the night Witmer was killed. His
squad leader broke the news and the platoon returned to Mustang Base, their
home in a bombed out vice presidential palace.

platoon kept to themselves that night.

really took me aback. You kind of thought every time someone was injured from
(roadside bombs) they would get sewn up and released. I never really thought
anyone would die.”

A Kurdish
security force member who worked among the Iraqi police impressed him.

was proud of him. They (Iraqis) don’t really like Kurds too much, but he
seemed to fit in there pretty well. He didn’t seem to mind any

chuckled. “I joked around with other IPs. I’d say, ‘Kurdish good,’ and
give them the thumbs up, and they would say, ‘No, no, no, no.'”

some positive experiences with Iraqis, the longer he stayed in Iraq, the more
skeptical he became that anything will change there.

don’t think they really want change. I don’t think they have really changed
in the past 2,000 years.”

Ewing is
getting married in November — a date delayed by his time in Iraq. When his
contract is up in December, he won’t re-enlist with the National Guard.
He’s done his duty, he said.

Spc. Ron
Bearce, Pell Lake

The day a
car bomb exploded at the al-Shaab police station was Bearce’s worst day in

were going all over, to the different police stations that our company took
care of

. . . when
we heard the car bomb had gone off. We were the first ones on the scene. Fire
and smoke was coming out of the building. We heard that people from our
company in our platoon had got hurt, some pretty bad, but nobody got

The Iraqis
didn’t want the Americans’ help getting their people out of the fire. Bearce
said the Iraqis were very, very upset. “They blamed the Americans. If we
weren’t there, then the car bomb wouldn’t have gone off.”

The squad
tried to get the Iraqi crowd pushed back so an Iraqi fire department could
put out the fire, but it was difficult. Bearce, a firefighter, wanted to help
take victims from the building, but the Iraqis wouldn’t let him — they’d
start yelling if he made a move toward it.

don’t know what the reasoning was. As a fireman I wanted to get in there and
help them. It was hard for me not to be able to help people.”

American news team showed up and Bearce turned them away. The crowd surged
after them and for a moment he worried there’d be more violence, but they
only threw rocks.

More than
one time he was nearly tempted by anxiety or frustration to shoot someone.
He’s thankful the rules were strict, preventing him from making a mistake.

In one
way, he’s grateful for Iraq. Two days before he left, his wife asked for a
divorce. The intervening 16 months allowed him to cool off and be a better
co-parent to their three children, ages 5, 3, and 1.

both great parents, but it just wasn’t working out between us. That
separation helped. If I had been home and she would have told me, I probably
would have lost it and it wouldn’t have been good.”

said his National Guard contract is up next year. “I’ve been in
for 14 years. I’m staying in until they kick me out.”

Spc. Stacy
Nelson, Rio

country of Iraq awed Nelson, 22.

amazing to travel to a country to see them living out of these dirt huts.
They live in the middle of the field. You only see this on the Discovery
Channel or the History Channel. It’s not something you associate with

She hated
the flies that came with the heat. You couldn’t avoid either.

She was
bored by rooftop duty guarding a police station for hours on end. “I
thought it was never going to end.”

times, Nelson would guard the gate outside the station, a job most would
dread because of the possibility of attack or roadside bombs. She dreaded it
because she’d have to deal with people complaining or search people coming in
and ask to see their badges.

soft-spoken and easygoing, she learned to be more assertive while in Iraq.

Nelson had
to be authoritative when dealing with a culture in which women aren’t
traditionally respected. She noticed she’d changed one day while securing an
area after a humvee was ambushed.

just remember trying to control the traffic and these people don’t listen to
you. Wow. I was actually yelling at people and telling them what to do. I
felt good about it. I actually felt like I was finally doing my military

In many
ways she had to forget she was a woman. She used deodorant and shampooed her
hair with a shampoo and conditioner combination, but not her preferred
brands. She’d only occasionally shave her legs or underarms and didn’t pay
attention to her hair or eyebrows at all. She did use lots of lip balm. It
was like camping, she said.

nice to be back to normal.”

During off
time, she’d hang out with a group of friends — sometimes bicycling along the
Tigris River or playing volleyball.

days we’d find some stupid stuff to do. It’s hard to explain. We were pretty
inventive when you had a pen and some paper and that’s all you have. We went
down to al-Kut and we made up a pictionary game.”

Staff Sgt.
Steve Pepper, Fond du Lac

38, didn’t care for the confusion in Iraq about whom one could trust.

He’d been
in the Gulf War, but this was different.

was worse this time because there was no really safe zone,” he said.
“You don’t want anybody behind you and you don’t want to open up too
much (to Iraqis). You didn’t want to get personal with anyone, even the

He did
respect several Iraqis he met, including a “Col. Ali.”

what I can tell, he was very brave. He never backed down. There was an
assassination attempt on him a few times and he kept going. He wanted to be
trained. When we had left, he had been shot one more time, and I believe he
was working in a different part of the Iraqi police force.”

His worst
day was May 7. His younger brother, Jason, 27, was wounded by a blast that
imploded his eyes. Pepper tracked down his brother at a medical unit hours
after his injury. Pepper cried that day.

was just the culmination of everything bad. Our dog was put to sleep. I had
problems with my ex-wife. Michelle Witmer had died.”

didn’t seek revenge for his brother, but he was mad, he admitted. He’d have
no problem using his gun, if needed. It never was.

At 11 p.m.
April 9, when Witmer’s squad was attacked, Pepper was on duty at a Qudous
police station. His squad was waiting to be relieved by her squad.

were listening to the radio traffic. We’d heard them leave the compound and
do the radio check as they came out and them talking on the radio when they
were under attack. I was in charge of the police station at the time. . .
.They were able to tell me that she had passed away probably an hour and a
half after she died. I kind of knew beforehand.”

death made him sad; she’d been in his squad for a little while. But death was
always possible. It didn’t change him except that he felt more concern and
had soldiers crouch lower when in the gunner’s turret.

Now that
Pepper is home, he’s getting used to smooth traffic flow again. He’s almost
stopped looking behind him. He’s happy to be able to go somewhere without
eight other people and two other vehicles tagging along. And flushing toilets
are nice.

But if he
had to, the 20-year military man would return to Iraq.

family would hate it. My brother would hate it. I’d miss my son and my wife.
But my wife understands that this is what I do. It would be a hard first step
on the plane, but I know that it’s what I signed up for.”

reporter Lisa Schuetz at [email protected] or 252-6143.




Mission: Iraq; Medics Manage ‘Chaos’

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TELEGRAM (Massachusetts)

August 08,
2004 Sunday, ALL EDITIONS

By Douglas Grindle; SPECIAL TO THE T&G

– This
medical clinic staffed by Massachusetts National Guard soldiers lies
just inside the gate of Camp Cooke, about 20 miles north of Baghdad.

wounded soldiers is a way of life here. The main highway from Baghdad to
Mosul in northern Iraq runs by the gate. If a convoy is attacked and soldiers
are wounded, the sleepy little clinic is transformed to bustling activity as
all hands gather to help the incoming soldiers. The soldiers will be treated
before being sent to a hospital in Baghdad.

days may pass between major events.

”You get
a little complacent,” says Spc. Amy Lynch, 27, a medic from Sturbridge.
”It’s just something in the back of your mind until something happens, and
then you’re like, ‘Oh shoot.’ ”

wounded come through once or twice a week. Counseling sessions are held after
a big event. A car bomb outside one of the camp gates on June 6 killed 45
Iraqis. The scene at the clinic was ”controlled chaos,” according to the

The strain
takes its toll on the people who work here. The first time a dead U.S.
soldier was brought in, back in February, it was a shock. ”Seeing a dead
soldier in uniform is like seeing your brother or sister,” says 1st Sgt.
Robert Harrington, 41, of Winchendon. Many in the unit took several days to

soldiers at the clinic also face the constant threat of being maimed or
killed in rocket and mortar attacks on the camp.

civilians are treated here, too. Mastafa, an 8-year-old boy scalded by hot
tea in his nearby family home, receives care for second-degree burns from
five medics. It’s his second trip to the clinic. The dead skin on his chest
is cleared away, and the wound is bandaged. The Iraqi doctors at the local
hospital were either unwilling or unable to help 8-year-old Mustafa, and sent
him home. Without care, the boy would never again have been able to fully
lift his arm. The medics say he will be completely recovered in three months.

against the rules for the medics to treat Iraqis unless life or limb is in
danger. But the rule is regularly broken at the clinic, where Iraqis who work
to upgrade the base are routinely treated for minor injuries. The same principle
applies to insurgents who attack the convoys and are in turn wounded. It’s
hard for the medics to reconcile themselves to treating those dedicated to
killing Americans, say the soldiers, but they do it.

The men
and women of Company A, 118th Area Support Medical Battalion have been here
since February. They will go home next February, unless their tour is
extended, which is unlikely but possible. Soldiers receive two weeks’ leave
during their year in Iraq. To get home, they must travel to Baghdad International
Airport 20 miles away, and then on to Kuwait, and from there, home. Many fly
to Baghdad on helicopters to avoid the risk of being hurt in an attack on a
road convoy.

call life here ”Groundhog Day,” in reference to the Bill Murray movie in
which the same day repeats over and over. Days run together. Time is almost
irrelevant, dictated only by the date for leave or the date for the final
flight home.

say staying in Iraq has made their outlook on life much more serious. When they
get home, many of the younger ones say they intend to apply to college or get
jobs in the medical field. Others have found medicine is not for them. Few
are unaffected by the experience. ”I’m just going to look back at this and
say ‘My God, I was there. I was in Iraq. I never thought I’d be there,’ ”
says Spc. Tracey Burke, 24, a medic from North Quincy.

A soldier
walks into the clinic. His wife has just written him a ”Dear John” letter.
He can’t sleep and is feeling suicidal. The doctor decides to keep him
sedated for a day, to give the soldier some rest before he faces this crisis.
A medic leads him to a small back room with cots lined up against a wall.

the strain is constant, the officers and senior noncommissioned officers keep
a close eye on their people, looking for listlessness, isolation and
over-fatigue. This war without front lines is likely to have a lasting effect
on them all.

1st Sgt.
Harrington is the senior NCO, responsible for the welfare of every enlisted
man in the unit. ”Every soldier has scars that they’re going to bring home
from the war,” he says.





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Military Dads Must Readjust To Families


Tallahassee Democrat

August 10, 2004 Tuesday

By Aline

When Army
Staff Sgt. John Howington left for Iraq 18 months ago, his son Logan was just
forming his first words. When he returned a year later to Daytona Beach,
3-year-old Logan was speaking in full sentences.

didn’t see as dramatic a change in his older son, John. Still, the
11-year-old was guarded, and “there was more of a distance between us
than there had ever been before,” recalled his dad.

It would
take weeks for Howington, 32, and his children to rebuild their relationship.

Howington, military dads across the country are coming home to find that
their kids have grown up – without them.

separations, particularly military absences, can change the parent-child
dynamic. After deployment, returning to normal is rarely simple. Families go
through an adjustment period that can take weeks or months.

no picking up just where you left off,” said Shelley MacDermid,
co-director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University.

War is
unlike any other separator.

must cope with the fact that their loved one is in a combat zone – an
inherently dangerous place.

Spielmann, 14, sometimes cried at night after her dad, Chief Master Sgt. Fred
Spielmann, left their Longwood home for Oman in December 2002. He was serving
in the 202nd Red Horse unit of the Florida Air National Guard.

very scary seeing your father go to war, not knowing if he’ll come home
alive,” Briann said.

When a
parent goes to war, older kids tend to grow up faster because they take on
more responsibilities, MacDermid said.

that means freeing up Mom to take care of tasks Dad used to do.

pitched in around the house, helping with cleaning and laundry.

members of the family change while the service member is away,” said
Mady Wechsler Segal, associate director of the Center for Research on
Military Organization at the University of Maryland.

Sanford Dixson’s 12-year-old daughters, Ebony and Ariel, started making their
own lunches while their father was serving in Afghanistan.

became more mature, more self-reliant,” said Dixson, of Orlando, who
served in the Florida National Guard Headquarters Company, 2nd
Battalion of the 124th Infantry Regiment.

younger children don’t always understand the implications of the parent’s
absence. Logan toted around a snapshot of Howington while he was away. When
the child saw soldiers on the news, he would put his hands on the TV set –
and cry.

The first
time he saw his dad in uniform after Howington returned from Iraq, Logan
clung to him, saying, “You can’t leave, Daddy.”

Even now,
the sight of his dad in camouflage – Howington sometimes wears his uniform
for special events – frightens Logan.

Before a
reunion, it’s common for all family members to feel anxious. Soldiers must
adjust to civilian life as well as family life.

instance, Howington had to re-establish his role as the disciplinarian.

had to be the bad guy sometimes,” Howington said.

can change just as much as kids during a separation caused by military

When Chief
Warrant Officer Kyle Repp returned from serving with the Army Reserve at the
801st Combat Support Hospital near Talil, Iraq, in April, he had become
blonder – and shorter.

At least
that’s what Repp’s three kids noticed the first time they saw him after his
16-month deployment.

hair was bleached by the desert sun, but he certainly hadn’t shrunk. It just
seemed that way to his children, who had grown taller.

Alex, 17,
hovered an inch over Repp; Adena, 14, shot up 8 inches to 5 feet 2 inches-
“not like the little kid that I left,” Repp said.

things changed: Alex now carried a driver’s license in his wallet,
16-year-old Marina had braces, Adena’s voice had matured.

kind of had their own life,” said Repp, of Longwood. “I was worried
they wouldn’t have time for me.”

As it
turns out, they do have time for Repp – and are even helping with his
junk-removal business.

who served with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment of
the Florida National Guard, also has spent lots of time with his kids,
including fishing trips and visits to his workplace. He has gained a new
perspective on family life.

appreciate my family more than I ever have before,” Howington said.
“I try to make the best out of every minute.”




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Some Military Voters Had Trouble Getting Ballots


 The Associated Press

August 9,
2004, Monday

By David
A. Lieb, Associated Press Writer

Some Missouri soldiers stationed in Iraq were unable to
vote in last week’s elections because of trouble getting absentee ballots.

As a
result, Secretary of State Matt Blunt’s office said Monday that it is
exploring whether overseas soldiers could e-mail their ballots for the Nov. 2
general election. Blunt is awaiting a determination from the Department of
Defense, spokesman Spence Jackson said.

possibility of e-mailed ballots was brought to Blunt’s attention by Rep. Jim
Avery, R-Crestwood, a combat engineer stationed in Iraq with the National
1140th Engineering Battalion.

In a
telephone interview with The Associated Press, Avery said none of the 21
soldiers in his squad received absentee ballots in time to vote in the Aug. 3
primary elections. Some never received ballots at all, he said. The few who
did had no access to a fax machine and not enough time remaining to mail them
back, Avery said.

feel like I was disenfranchised as a voter,” said Avery, who got his
ballot about a week before the election and never sent it back. “I’m
keeping it as a souvenir, as a reminder to me when I get back of the
legislation that needs to be filed to take care of the situation for the

Avery is
from St. Louis County. Of the 795 military absentee ballots mailed out from
St. Louis County, just 317 were returned by election day, said David Welch, a
county election director, who did not know the reason for the response rate.

Many of
the other soldiers in Avery’s Farmington-based squad are from St. Francois County.

Francois County Clerk Mark Hedrick said absentee ballots were mailed about a
week later than usual because of the uncertainty over whether an amendment
banning gay marriage would appear on the August ballot. The Supreme Court
eventually said it should.

said his office mailed 13 absentee ballots to Iraq, but none were returned
with votes. Eight were returned to the clerk’s office as undeliverable, and
Hedrick then was told to send the ballots to the unit’s Farmington office –
but only a few days remained until the election.

Missouri National
Maj. Steve Brooks said he was unaware of any specific instances of
soldiers being unable to vote.

“I think the reality of the situation over there is a unit may have word
that they’re going to be at a certain base or location, and then they end up
going somewhere else and that mail gets returned instead of forwarded,”
Brooks said. “Unfortunately, I think that’s probably the nature of the
mail system over there.”

Other than
Avery’s e-mail, the secretary of state’s office had not received other
reports of military members unable to vote, Jackson said.

we do not think this was a widespread problem,” Jackson said.

On the

of State:


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