News You Can Use: Oct. 12, 2004

Index of Articles

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



Report Urges Changes To Aid National Guard

National Guard Better Suited
For Fires This Year

Idaho Assembles Quick Reaction Force

Programs Prepare Troops for Combat; Camp Roberts Only Such Site in West


Air National Guard Unit Heading To Asia On Thursday

105th Military Police
Battalion Scheduled To Deploy Wednesday

188th Wing Out Of Fort Smith Assigned To
Middle East

Pride, Nerves Mix As Kin Send Off Guardsmen To Iraq


Bill Extends Veterans’ Health Benefits

New Legislation Helps U.S.
Guard, Reserve Families


Soldiers In Baghdad, Families Will Reunite Via


Single Military Moms, Children Face Challenges
With Call-Ups

On The Home Front: Bringing Up Baby; While
Daddy’s Away At War


Area Woman Makes Guard Rank History

Arkansas Soldiers In Iraq May Not Get To Vote On Entire Ballot

6,000 Child Care Providers Across Nation
Volunteer Services To Support Troops
Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan

Christmas Drive Has
Far-Reaching Effect; Support Group Is Seeking Help With Effort To Send Packages
To Afghanistan.




National Guard Family
Program Online Communities for families and youth:



TRICARE website for information on health



Civilian 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 may
have to 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



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



Disabled Soldiers Initiative (DS3)

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



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




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Report Urges Changes To Aid National Guard


The Advocate
(Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

October 5, 2004

By Roxanne

If the
Department of Defense doesn’t change its policies on mobilizing reserve and National
troops, it will run out of reservists to call up, according to a
recent GAO report.

In a report
released Sept. 15 to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the General
Accounting Office said the problem stems from a 24-month cumulative time
limit for which reserve forces can be involuntarily called to duty. The DOD
policy also limits involuntary mobilizations to no more than 1 million
reservists at any one time.

DOD’s implementation of the partial mobilization authority restricts the
cumulative time that reserve component forces can be mobilized, then it is
possible that DOD will run out of forces,” the report says.

What is the
solution? The office suggests the DOD develop a strategic framework
concerning the availability of its reserve components. It stops short of
saying the DOD should allow more than 1 million reservists to be deployed at
any given time or that the 24-month time limit be extended.

that the Army National Guard has struggled to meet its recruitment goals
– and has struggled to hang on to members who already are enlisted – ordering
more National Guard and reserve members to deploy longer could further
strain the military’s recruitment and retention efforts.

The GAO says
the Army National Guard failed to meet its recruitment goal from
October 2002 to May 2004 and ended fiscal 2003 about 7,800 soldiers short.
With more than 335,000 reserve members being mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001,
and the demand for reservists remaining high, one doesn’t have to look far to
determine what could be causing the shortage.

Louisiana, 6,503 of the 9,541 members of the Army National Guard and
917 of 1,504 members of the Air National Guard have been called up
since Sept. 11, according to the Louisiana National Guard office in
New Orleans. Lt. Col. Pete Schneider said that doesn’t leave a lot of people
to deploy. He noted that it’s not just the war in Iraq but also recent
hurricanes that have put a strain on the forces.

just a trying time for the entire military, and the National Guard is
playing a huge part of it,” he said.

During a
recent event near Fort Polk, Brig Gen. Hunt Downer, a former state
representative who is assistant adjutant general of the Louisiana National
, said the strain on Louisiana is significant.

Downer said
Louisiana has more Guardsmen mobilized for the war on terrorism per capita
than any other state. He also said that during the first Persian Gulf War,
the only state that surpassed Louisiana in the number of people deployed was
California, and that was by 46 soldiers.

look at the size of California, the population,” Downer said. “That
shows you this is total commitment.”

projects that in the next three to five years 100,000 to 150,00 reservists
will be mobilized continuously, the GAO report says. It also notes that about
30,000 reserve members already have been mobilized for 24 months.

One thing
the DOD has done to try to maintain the strength of its forces is to
implement “stop-loss” policies, which put soldiers’ separations, retirements
and reassignments on hold. However, the GAO sees the method as a short-term
solution, not a long-term solution.

the policies reflect DOD’s past use of the reserve component as a
later-deploying reserve force rather than a force designed for continued
overseas deployments,” the report says. “However, DOD’s policies
were not developed within the context of an overall strategic framework,
which would set human capital goals concerning the availability of reserve
forces and show how the policies work in conjunction with each other to meet
the department’s long-term requirements for the Global War on

The DOD said
that although it “partially concurs” with the GAO’s recommendation
that it review its mobilization policies, it already has a framework for
“human capital goals.”




Guard Better Suited For Fires This Year

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Carolina Times

7 October

Darrin Mortenson – Staff Writer

—- Officials say the California National
is better prepared this year to fight wildfires after adding a new,
specially equipped helicopter to the state’s arsenal and by sharing resources
with neighboring states.

While fire
ravaged San Diego County in late October last year, a half-dozen helicopters
and two C-130 Hercules cargo planes outfitted for fighting fires were
grounded by fierce winds at a National
base in Ventura County.

Once they
could fly, the massive blanket of smoke over the county smothered their mission
for days before they were effectively deployed to fight the flames.Those
fires, which raged from Escondido to Otay in late October and early November,
burned at least 3,241 buildings and scorched at least 376,237 acres over two
violent weeks.

This year —
even with the war in Iraq taxing the state’s National Guard resources — alliances with Arizona, Nevada and
Oregon would make even more resources available if wildfires strike again,
officials said.

Half of the
California National Guard‘s eight
UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters are grounded for maintenance or are deployed to
Iraq, and five of its 11 CH-47 Chinook helicopters are waiting for repairs.

With so many
of the Guard’s helicopters out of action, National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Doug Hart said, it is necessary
to share resources with other states.

actually have fewer helicopters in the state (because of the war),” he
said. “But because of what we have available from the surrounding areas,
we feel confident that we’d have what we need.

agreements have been put in place beforehand this time,” he said.

Hart said
the Guard’s apparent slow response to last year’s fires was at first due to
wild winds near the Ventura County base, winds that temporarily grounded
California’s two military C-130s, which can hold as much as 3,000 gallons of
water or fire retardant.

There are
only eight such military planes in the country geared for combatting fires,
he said. The other six are stationed in North Carolina, Wyoming and Colorado,
according to the U.S. military’s Northern Command.

Now, because
of new arrangements with neighboring states, those other planes could deploy
to a San Diego County wildfire quickly even if the California-based craft
were grounded, just as California’s aircraft could be used to douse a fire in
another state.

really doesn’t matter where they are now,” he said.

Hart said
the state this summer also acquired a new souped-up firefighting version of
the Army’s UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter called the Firehawk —- one of only
five in service in the country.

The tough
and highly maneuverable Sikorsky helicopter can carry as many as 15
firefighters and can refill its 1,000 gallon-tank from a snorkel pump in just
one minute. It can also be used for rescue and medical evacuations.

The Oregon National Guard uses one of the first
models to fight that state’s forest fires, and the Los Angeles County Fire
Department has recently used two Firehawks in back-country fires there.

Hart said
the new Firehawk was a very effective addition to the state’s firefighting

based in Sacramento, but we can move it anywhere there’s a fire,” he
said. “It’s fought fires already from down in Santa Barbara up to
Eureka. It’s been used and tested.”

staff writer Darrin Mortenson at (760) 740-5442 or [email protected].



Assembles Quick Reaction Force

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Idaho Press Tribune

7 October 2004

Janet Monti

In response to the new reality of
domestic terrorism, each state and territory is currently working to assemble
a small team of
smen equipped and
trained to handle a Sept. 11-type event or other emergency situation that may
arise. Idaho is no exception, and the Idaho
National Guard
is working to accomplish this task in support of either state of federal

Called the Quick Reaction Force, the
team will be ready to quickly handle any mission for which they are needed by
Oct. 1. The team must be able to quickly respond to an incident and possess
the capability to provide site security, critical infrastructure protection
and establish checkpoints and roadblocks, among other missions.

Idaho’s Quick Reaction Force is a
group of more than 50 Air and Army
National Guard
members from a variety of backgrounds who possess diverse skills that will
combine to form a prepared, cohesive team. A larger team, known as a Ready
Reaction Force, will soon be available to build upon the capabilities of the
Quick Reaction Force and undertake the same types of missions on a larger

“Naturally, we hope to never
see incidents like those of Sept. 11, 2001 here in Idaho,” said Maj.
Gen. Jack Kane, commanding general of the Idaho
National Guard.
“But in an increasingly turbulent world, it is important to take every
step we can take to ensure we can respond in an organized manner if Idaho
needs to react to any emergency, whether caused by nature or by man. Our
Quick Reaction Force will help Idaho deal with any type of catastrophe.”




Programs Prepare Troops for
Combat; Camp Roberts Only Such Site in West

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County Herald

October 10, 2004

By Nick

– What you don’t know can get you killed.

That’s what
instructors are telling National Guard members at Camp Roberts, where
soldiers are being trained for combat zones including Iraq, Afghanistan and

The new
15-acre Soldier Field makes Camp Roberts the only National Guard
training site on the West Coast that qualifies soldiers for combat in Eastern
Europe and Iraq.

Soldiers on
Friday were putting the finishing touches on the training facility,
constructed by reserve soldiers over the past six months. The facility
includes two classrooms from converted World War II mess halls and simulated
foreign checkpoints on gravel roads.

The new
program is based on NATO standards and provides training in detonating mines,
monitoring vehicle checkpoints and cultural practices, including interactions
between soldiers and civilian women in the Middle East.

members still must make stops at other U.S. bases to complete training
requirements before deployment overseas. But the new Camp Roberts training
program is designed to prepare them faster, said spokesman Tom Murotake.
Eventually, Camp Roberts will be the last stop before combat zone missions.

”It will
help relieve the active Army training sites that are overimpacted,” Murotake
said. ”This program will make things much more efficient.”

Already, 400
soldiers assigned to the new program’s trial group were trained and later sent
to Iraq, said Maj. Max Velte, who is one of 40 instructors.

The program
consists of three or four 16-hour days on the site, Velte said. Soldiers
prepare for conditions they will face in five places: Iraq, Afghanistan,
Kosovo, Guantanamo Bay and Egypt’s Sinai desert.

Security is
one of the biggest responsibilities for the soldiers, Velte said, and each of
these five regions poses different cultural and logistical challenges.

”In a
Muslim country, you can’t do a body search on a female the same way you would
if you were on the police force in Los Angeles,” Velte said.

you can’t touch a woman without setting off a riot. So unless it’s a
life-or-death situation and you have to do it, we train our soldiers on how
to ask women to lift up their robes or skirts,” Velte said.

cultural tip for Muslim nations is not to address women directly. Velte said
Muslim women typically travel with men, and soldiers are trained to speak to
Muslim women only through the men.

In Kosovo,
soldiers must be mindful of mines lef t behind from past wars. Soldiers also
receive legal advice on how to treat people they interact with in foreign

The specific
regional instruction is based on information from military experiences

In the next
two weeks, the program will prepare 600 soldiers for deployment to Kosovo.

About five
to 10 percent of the soldiers don’t pass the program, Velte said.

They are
then required to stay for further training.





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Air National Guard Unit Heading To Asia On Thursday


The News
Journal – Delaware

6 October

Members of the Delaware Air National Guard 166th Airlift Wing
will deploy Thursday morning for a two-month rotation in Southwest Asia from
New Castle County Airport.

To fly there, the Delaware Air National
will borrow a C-130 from the Missouri Air National Guard. About 20 guard members will be part of the combat

The guard members will be stationed in Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan,
about 125 miles north of Afghanistan.




105th Military Police
Battalion Scheduled To Deploy Wednesday

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5 October

By Barbara

Seven weeks
after leaving Asheville for training at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, the
soldiers of the 105th Military Police Battalion are scheduled to deploy

ready,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Dalton of Hendersonville. “Everybody’s
anxious just wanting to get over there, because the sooner we start the
sooner we can come back. We’re just ready to get the show started.”

The mission
of the battalion, which has an authorized strength of 175 soldiers, involves
the “command, control and administration of facilities used to house
enemy detainees or prisoners of war,” according to North Carolina National Guard officials.

The unit was
alerted for possible active duty on May 15 and was honored with a deployment
ceremony Aug. 12 at Trinity Baptist Church. The battalion left Asheville on
Aug. 18, and has been training at Fort Bragg since.


188th Wing Out Of Fort Smith Assigned To Middle

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Associated Press State & Local Wire

October 8, 2004

Ark.- Between 250 and 300 members of the Arkansas Air National Guard’s
188th Fighter Wing are to be deployed to Qatar in the Persian Gulf in July.

deployments are to last 90 to 120 days and will include pilots and support
personnel, said Arkansas National Guard spokeswoman Capt. Kristine
Munn. She said she did not know what the airmen’s mission would be in the
Middle East.

The Arkansas
airmen will serve under the 379th Expeditionary Wing and are to be stationed
at Al Udeid Air Base, about 20 miles south of the Qatari capital of Doha.



Pride, Nerves Mix As Kin
Send Off Guardsmen To Iraq

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The Boston

October 11, 2004


By Thomas

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gabe Andrews speaks of going to war as
if he had been asked to report to the courthouse for jury service.

“I’m happy.
It’s time for me to do my duty,” said the 27-year-old technology company
account manager. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for.”

But Nilda
Ramos, whose father Sgt. Rafael Ramos also is headed to Iraq as part of the
same deployment, feels a dull sense of dread mixed with pride.

“I’m a
little scared, nervous,” she said yesterday at a send-off ceremony for the
latest batch of Guardsmen tapped for Iraq duty. “I really don’t feel ready
for it.”

Roughly 150
members of the 102nd Field Artillery Battalion ship out Wednesday to Fort
Dix, N.J., for two months of training before beginning a yearlong combat
tour. The 102nd has batteries based in Quincy, Hudson, Methuen and Lynn.

The unit’s
normal wartime job is to rain down artillery shells on the enemy from afar,
but its mission in Iraq will be to guard bases, escort vulnerable convoys and
keep prisoners – tasks typically done by military policemen.

“Make sure
you take care of each other,” Maj. Gen. George Keefe advised the soldiers.
“Don’t make one move without knowing what you are doing.”

Sgt. Ian
Mayers, a 36-year-old heating and air conditioning technician from
Manchester, N.H., cradled his infant son Etan, who was swaddled from head to
toe in the same woodland camouflage pattern his dad wore.

“He’s going
to miss his father’s voice, but we’ll be alright,” said Mayers, who’ll miss
his son’s first birthday. “I’ll have to reintroduce myself when I get

Ramos, a father of five, said he’s confident his wife can hold the Dorchester
family together by herself for a year, but he worries about her just the
same. As for him and his comrades, Ramos has this simple plan for Iraq: “Do
it. Accomplish the mission, and come home safe.”






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Bill Extends Veterans’ Health Benefits


Press Online

October 7, 2004

WASHINGTON  – The House voted early Thursday to extend
health coverage for reservists, reflecting the longer periods of active duty
being required of National Guard and Reserve members.

legislation, approved by voice vote, increases from 18 months to 24 months
the maximum period under which reservists covered by the Uniformed Services
Employment and Re-employment Rights Act can continue employer-sponsored
health care coverage. The bill also strengthens lease termination protections
enacted into law last year for the dependents of service members who are
given military orders to move.Another provision outlines civil penalties for
fiduciaries who misuse the assets of service members.

Affairs Committee Chairman Christopher Smith, R-N.J., and others expressed
regret that the final bill did not contain a provision allowing the Veterans
Affairs Department to provide postnatal care to newborns of female veterans
receiving maternity care who are without other health insurance coverage.

the House passed by voice a bill that expands a 2001 law that provides grants
to programs addressing the problem of homeless veterans. Smith estimated that
since 2001 the numbers of homeless veterans had decreased from 275,000 to

The bill
authorizes $99 million for homeless veterans in 2005, and also expands a
program to help veterans who were victims of sexual trauma while serving in
the military. Both bills must still be considered by the Senate.The health
protection bill is H.R. 4658. The homeless bill is H.R. 4248.

On the Net: Congress:



New Legislation Helps U.S.
Guard, Reserve Families

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7 October 2004

By Dale

Families of National Guard and
Reserve soldiers called to active duty now can bank on some financial help.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm this week signed legislation that allows guard and
reserve families to apply for grants to the newly created Michigan Family
Relief Fund to help meet needs when the soldier is called to active duty or
injured in the line of duty.

of soldiers called to active duty are under enough stress and hardship,
worrying about the safety of their loved one, without having to worry whether
they will be able to pay next month’s rent or put food on the dinner
table,” Granholm said. “This bill will help give families a greater
sense of financial security while their loved one is on active duty.”

The relief
fund will be administered by the state’s Department of Military and Veterans’

County Director of Veterans Affairs John Lamphere said the legislation should
help a lot.

would be a great asset to guard and reserve people,” he said. He said
most military service organizations have similar funds to help families in
need, but a lot of those funds have been depleted. He said he knows of a guard
family in Grand Traverse County with car repairs and the need for a new
refrigerator that received help through other means.

When guard
personnel are deployed, Lamphere said it typically takes a couple of months
before their payroll system gets rolling.

“It’s a
peace of mind for those going overseas or even deployed to Wisconsin, knowing
someone is going to take care of the family,” Lamphere said.

Under the
legislation there also will be an income tax check-off that will allow state
taxpayers to voluntarily contribute to the fund.

check-off will be available starting with this year’s tax returns through

may designate $1 or more from their annual income tax return. The law
specifies 80 percent of the funds will go to the Michigan Family Relief Fund
and 20 percent to the Post Fund and Posthumous Fund of the Michigan Soldier’s
Home to pay for special projects at the home.

Families of
guard members can apply for up to $2,000 in a calendar year. The money can be
spent for clothing, housing, medical care, services utilities or anything
related to the necessities of daily living.

The laws
were passed by the House and Senate unanimously.




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Soldiers In Baghdad, Families Will Reunite Via



October 9, 2004

By Michelle

Summary: Operation Freedom Calls will bring Oregon Guardsmen home for a
little while

Martin saw her son John, 26, last month when he was on leave from Iraq.

But the
Clackamas mother knows it’s going to be at least spring before she sees the
Oregon National Guard member again. So she’s excited about a chance to
spend 30 minutes Sunday chatting with him face to face over a satellite link.

It’s all
part of the Freedom Calls Foundation, a New York charity that pairs soldiers
with their families back home. Sunday in Beaverton, families of more than 20
Oregon National Guard soldiers at Camp Cooke in Iraq will be reunited
using video conferencing.

kind of interaction is priceless,” said John Harlow, executive director
of the Freedom Calls Foundation. “When these families talk to the
soldiers by telephone, they hear how everything is fine. But they see all the
terrible news on television.

the soldier in person reassures the family in a totally different way and
helps relieve anxiety.”

Key-Young hopes so. She’s the Beaverton woman who contacted the group about
coming to Oregon for Operation Freedom Calls.

She doesn’t
have a son in the military but said she’s “a mother who has a daily
choice of talking to her 31-year-old son.”

people don’t have a choice,” she said. “They can’t just pick up the
phone and say, ‘Hi, Mom.’ “

Martin said
she often e-mails and talks with her son, Spec. John Martin, but has never
seen pictures of him in Iraq and has never seen the environment where he
lives as a member of a machine gun crew.

will be nice to see his face, to know that he’s all right,” said
Priscilla Martin, who plans to take family members to the videoconference.

have to think about what questions to ask so we make sure we have enough to
say,” she said. “It would be horrible to sit there for 30 minutes
staring at each other.”

The public
is invited to attend. A large-screen television will show each satellite
reunion between soldier and family, while private screens elsewhere will
allow for private conversations, Key-Young said.

will have 20 to 30 minutes to talk.

reuniting family members, the event, which includes food and children’s activities,
is a fund-raiser for the Freedom Calls Foundation. The nonprofit agency plans
to create satellite connections at other military bases, eight in Iraq, two
in Afghanistan, Harlow said.

Camp Cooke
north of Baghdad has the charity’s only satellite connection. Since April,
the camp’s soldiers have connected with families throughout the United
States, he said.

Harlow gives
poignant examples, such as the father who saw his daughter’s first birthday
and heard the girl’s first “dada.” Or the father who witnessed his
child’s birth, beginning to end.

Army wants additional camps outfitted for videoconferencing, and they’re
helping with the cost,” Harlow said. “But each camp costs about
$350,000 to establish and $30,000 a month to run.”

who works for Sunset Group Realtors, said she is trying to raise $100,000
through sponsorships and private donations.

been on the phone contacting everybody I know,” she said. “I’ve
gotten a lot of support. But, of course, we could always use more.

soldiers are out there doing their duty for us,” she said. “I feel
like this is the least we can do, to keep them connected to their real

Michelle Mandel: 503-294-5959; [email protected]

FREEDOM CALLS What: More than 20 Oregon National Guard soldiers based
at Camp Cooke in Iraq talk to their Oregon families via satellite hook-up.
When: 1 p.m. Sunday Where: Murrayhill Marketplace, Southwest Murray Road and
Teal Boulevard. In an empty storefront between Sandoval’s Mexican Grill and
Segal’s for Children. Cost: Free. Open to the public. Donations: Organizers
want to raise $100,000 for the Freedom Calls Foundation, a New York charity
that connects soldiers with their families. Donations to the foundation are
accepted at any U.S. Bank branch or Sunday’s event.






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Single Military Moms, Children Face Challenges
With Call-Ups


The Associated Press State & Local

October 12, 2004

DETROIT – Single
mothers in the military reserves, as well as their children, are paying a
high price as the war in Iraq leads to frequent call-ups and long

Sgt. Ricci
Moore’s primary mission was motherhood until Monday, when she boarded a bus
to Fort McCoy, Wis., trading her job as sole provider for 9-year-old Joey for
a tour of duty in Iraq.

Moore, with
the Michigan National Guard’s 1225th Combat Support Battalion, could
be gone for up to two years and probably will not see her family during that

several weeks training in Wisconsin, Moore, 40, will ship out for Iraq with
thousands of other soldiers.

She will
have administrative duties, probably doing payroll, rather than going on
combat patrols. But, Iraq is a theater of action without front lines. The
enemy can come with rocket launchers on donkey carts, suicide car-bombings or
artillery shells rigged in roadside traps.

Joey, his
mother and their extended family said goodbye Sunday night, a few short hours
before her bus left the Detroit Light Guard Armory, where the battalion is
based, with about 25 other soldiers.

The goodbye
came at the Detroit home of Moore’s sister Pam Shaw, who has become Joey’s
temporary caretaker. Joey’s tears soaked his mother’s Army T-shirt.

Shaw finally
cut it short: “Just go, Ricci. Just go.”

She did,
leaving Joey in the lap of his aunt, whom he knows as Gram-Gram.

be OK,” she told Joey. “Whenever you need a hug, Gram-Gram is here.
I have more hugs than you’ll ever need.”

Finding a
stand-in mother for Joey, whose father has never been involved in his life,
was one of the most difficult preparations Moore had to make in the weeks
before her departure.

Moore and
other single, sole-provider parents face the additional task of finding
someone to care for their children.

They must
also submit for Guard approval family care plans showing where their children
will go, how they will be financially supported and what will happen should
they not make it back.

soldiers represent a growing part of the military.

seeing more and more people in this situation. It’s a hard situation, but
they are some of our best soldiers, our hardest-working soldiers because
they’re used to having to work hard,” Lt. Col. Henry Cason Jr., who
commands Moore’s battalion, told the Detroit Free Press.

Priscilla Swan’s 15-year-old son, Shenandoah, will live with her brother’s
family. She has asked Oak Park school counselors to help keep an eye on him.

is such a hard age,” said Swan, 36, a member of the same unit. “They’re
part baby and part grown up.”



On The Home Front: Bringing Up Baby; While
Daddy’s Away At War

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 The Columbian (Vancouver,

October 9,

By Dean

Melissa O’Neil tells friends not to
feel sorry that she’s raising her 2-month-old daughter alone while her
husband, Patrick, soldiers in Baghdad with the Washington National Guard.

“I hate it. I hate the pity,”
said O’Neil, 25, as she holds nine-pound Averyaella Marie in their east Vancouver
house. “Especially when I was pregnant, and they heard Patrick was in
Iraq, people felt sorry for me. I didn’t want that.

“It’s hard because I miss him so
much,” she said, packing a tiny plastic Christmas tree and gifts for her
soldier: chocolates, family photos, newspapers, candles and a video game.
She’s sending the gifts now to make sure they reach Iraq by the holidays.

“I’m having to go through life
without him,” said the 1997 Evergreen High School graduate.

She stroked her baby and brushed back her
own long, red hair.

“It’s hard because I’m scared. If
anything happened to him I don’t know what I’d do. And there’s nothing I can
do. And he’s not going to see Avery again until she’s six months old.”

Yet, there’s no reason to cry for her,
she said. She knew Patrick, 29, was a soldier when she married him a year
ago. He’s been in the National Guard for 10 years. So it was no
surprise when he was shipped to Iraq eight months ago.

“I’ve pulled my life
together,” she said. “I have so much here for Patrick to come home
to. Patrick’s doing more than I could ever do, but I’m here, too. I want
people to be proud of me, not feel sorry for me.”

Patrick often sends e-mails and phones
Melissa. He even e-mailed home photos of himself in combat gear. But, they
seldom talk about his mission in Iraq.

“He doesn’t want to worry
me,” she said.

Patrick didn’t answer e-mail from The
Columbian. But his buddy, Sgt. Curtis Hyland, 30, of Vancouver, serves beside
O’Neil in Baghdad. Hyland wrote in an e-mail to The Columbian that they’ve
seen plenty of action.

Hyland’s wife, Brandi, 26, gets
together with Melissa frequently in a Family Readiness Group that meets every
Tuesday night at Vancouver Barracks. The group links Washington National
parents, spouses and children. Many have attended over the months,
but generally only half a dozen or so show up to support each other on any
given Tuesday.

In Baghdad, Hyland and O’Neil serve in
the 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment of the Washington National
81st Armor Brigade attached to the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division.
They collect intelligence, Hyland wrote.

“Five or six times a week, we
drive into our area and ask questions. Interaction with the Iraqi populace is
both interesting and dangerous. We’ve been involved in hostile encounters
with insurgents in our area. Most of our time is spent helping the Iraqi
people rebuild their infrastructure.”

Relaxation comes in watching movies,
listening to music, playing poker, talking and writing to family, Hyland
wrote. “At times there is the looming threat of mortars, rockets and car

Hyland questions the reasons behind the
war. He wrote, “But I do not question the fact that the Iraqi people
will be stronger, freer people for our efforts.”

He added that most Americans get from
TV “a tainted look at Iraq as a whole. Granted, there is violence and
death. But there is also hope. The new Iraqi government, with cooperation
from the coalition forces, are refurbishing and rebuilding schools, paving
roads, teaching democracy, restoring power and staying steadfast on the path
of a free election in January.”

Nearly misses the birth

Patrick was granted a leave for the
baby’s birth, but barely made it home in time on Aug. 12 for her arrival.

“I went into labor at midnight the
night before he got here,” Melissa said. “I knew he was on his way
home. I didn’t know where he was, but I knew he should be here soon.”
She went to her doctors and asked for drugs to make the contractions stop.
They worked.

“I just slept and slept and slept
and tried to stay calm so the contractions wouldn’t start up again.”

The next day, Patrick called from a
layover in Texas and asked her to pick him up at Portland International
Airport. Her friend Amy Stalkup drove her to the airport.

“I had to wait in the car, and I
was talking to Avery the whole way: ‘Please wait, please wait!’ “

When she saw Patrick getting off the
plane, she said, “I was screaming. I was crying. I was so happy to see
him. I just felt so wonderful. Everything was OK. Everybody was staring at

They sped directly to Southwest
Washington Medical Center, where she delivered a few hours later.

Patrick stayed home for 15 days.

“He came home to a wife, a new
car, a new baby, a house he had never seen,” Melissa said. “He saw
how his work over there is paying off over here,” she said.

“I have friends who stop by, like
other military wives,” she said. “I’ve got the hang of things
around the house, and don’t venture out too much.”

A pillar in her support network, she
said, is the Guard’s family group that includes Brandi Hyland as well as good
friends Christine Maglecic, 38, and Tanya Porter, 39. All have husbands in
Iraq with the 81st Brigade and all have children.

“We all support each other because
we know what we are going through,” Melissa said. “My neighbor can
come over and help me, hold the baby while I take a shower. But she can’t
really understand what I’m going through because she sleeps with her husband
every night. Other military wives understand it.”

She concentrates on raising the baby
and getting the home front ready for her soldier, she said.

Melissa’s family in Vancouver including
her parents, Steve Wood in Eugene and Gail Wood; her grandparents, Albert and
Carol Waddell; and Patrick’s parents, Billy O’Neil of Alaska and Barbara
Alvarez also help out.

Patrick’s service in Iraq is expected
to be complete between March and May. Then, Melissa said, she expects he’ll
take up his old job, traveling to repair machines that dispense juice and
espresso and the like.

It won’t be as exciting, she said, but
that will be fine with her.

Dean Baker writes about military
affairs. For this ongoing “On the home front” series, he wants to
hear from Southwest Washington soldiers and their families who have stories
to tell. Reach him at 360-759-8009, or e-mail [email protected].






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Area Woman Makes Guard Rank History



October 7,

 By Paul Wood

No woman had ever risen to the rank of command sergeant major in the Illinois
National Guard before Teri Becker
was promoted this week.

To the
Champaign woman, though, gender isn’t all that important.

Becker, who
grew up in Danville and joined the Army National
in 1987, says that when she’s talking to a private or a general,
it’s about the task, not about the personality.

At 36, she
has spent half her life in the military and long ago made the decision to
remain a noncommissioned officer instead of going to officers school.

sergeant major of the Army, command sergeant major is the Army’s highest
enlisted rank.

 Her unit is based in Springfield, where
she’s responsible for about 550 troops.

command sergeant major is directly involved with working with people, and
that’s what I like,” says Becker, whose day job is speech-language

Married to a
man she met in the Guard and the mother of three daughters, Becker only works
weekends in Springfield.

She could be
called to Iraq at any time. And though she’d miss her family and worry about
her daughters, she says she’d welcome the challenge.

The command
sergeant major is responsible for the troops on the ground. Becker said her
main concern in the Army is for her soldiers, and especially to be a good
role model for them.

“She is
dedicated to getting the job done. She’s one of the most stubborn persons I
know,” says her husband, John, who met her when he was in the Reserve
Officers Training Corps at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

He was in
engineering and went on to be a captain after about a decade.

Becker’s first job in the National
was as a computer programmer in the 47th Adjutant General Company
based in Sullivan. Then she was in the 623rd Personnel Services Detachment,
and she now is the command sergeant major for the 634th Personnel Services

 In her parallel life, Becker earned a
master’s degree in speech pathology at the University of Illinois and gave
birth to three daughters, Tori, 12, Miranda, 10, and Lianna, 3.

Miranda says
that right now she has no interest in joining the military.

think that’s because of the fear about Iraq right now,” her mother says.

Both of
Becker’s grandfathers were in the service, along with a sister. Her paternal
grandfather was in World War I.

“On my
husband’s side, his father and both of his brothers were in the military, his
father in the National Guard,”
Becker says. “It’s pretty much a family tradition.”

First Sgt.
Craig Morrison, who has worked with Becker for about three years in
Springfield, calls his co-worker “outstanding.”

“She is
my counterpart on the part time. I run a unit, and when I’m off, she makes
the transition flawlessly. She does the job as if she’s there every
day,” he said. “She’s got what it takes to earn this




Arkansas Soldiers In Iraq
May Not Get To Vote On Entire Ballot

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Associated Press State & Local Wire

October 11, 2004

James Jefferson, Associated Press Writer

– Risking their lives to spread democracy half a world away, some Arkansas
soldiers may not be fully afforded their most basic American right: voting in
their hometown election.

The prospect
didn’t sit well with troop supporters both in and out of government.

“It’s a
sad testimonial to the system that we’re operating under now,” said
state Sen. Steve Faris, D-Malvern. “These people more than anyone
deserve to vote because they’re putting their lives on the line so we

A week’s
delay in printing county election ballots while the state Supreme Court
decided whether Ralph Nader could run for president in Arkansas forced the
military to devise a backup plan to ensure about 3,000 Arkansas National
troops serving in Iraq would get to vote in the Nov. 2 general

If troops
don’t get absentee ballots from home in time, they can pick the candidates of
their choice from candidate lists provided by the state and name their
choices on a federal write-in form.

initially referred to the plan as foolproof, but have since discovered it may
have insurmountable flaws.

One problem
is that the federal form has only so much space, which could limit the
choices of soldiers who have multiple local races on which to vote.

Doubling up
by voting two races in each of the seven spaces provided could help.
Secretary of State Charlie Daniels’ office says all votes cast will be
counted, as long as they are legible.

But that
solution still doesn’t account for the ballot issues, for which the popular
names and ballot titles appear on the preprinted ballots but not on the write-in

That means
soldiers may not get the chance to weigh in on the hot-button initiative this
election season: a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in

voters also will consider initiatives that will decide whether legislative
terms are lengthened, whether property taxes devoted to operating local
schools are raised and whether the Legislature will be empowered to float
large bond issues without a statewide vote to lure large industrial projects
to the state.

The issues
are major and voting is important, but probably not the most pressing
challenge facing troops on the battlefield, said furniture store operator
Riley Porter of West Helena, a brigadier general with the Arkansas Air National
who returned home from a tour of Iraq in June.

are bigger things in life than politics. The challenges there are probably
(more urgent) than the elections at home,” Porter said, though he added,
“I hope that any issues are resolved. They deserve to vote like anybody

Nick Bacon,
director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, said troops should not
be in danger of losing their ability to vote.

no excuse for that,” said Bacon, a Medal of Honor recipient for heroism
in the Vietnam War.

Though war
is no less dangerous now than then, improvements in technology and mobility
make it easier for troops to exercise their franchise, he said. He thinks
more troops today would like to vote.

more educated, they’re more inclined to be abreast of the issues,” he
said. “I know people do have an interest in what goes on. We just have
to make things available, and we should be able to do that.”

Faris did
not back away from the blame he cast on the state Supreme Court, though the
justices issued a ruling in the Nader case just 11 days after a lower court
ordered the independent presidential candidate’s name stricken from the

The high
court overturned the ruling Oct. 1, eight days after it ordered a halt to
ballot printing until it decided whether Nader’s name should be included.

In the
interim, Justice Donald Corbin responded to legislators’ criticism that the
Supreme Court was holding up the process by complaining about the state
Democratic Party’s late challenge to Nader’s ballot status. He also said the
high court was working as fast as it could to render a ruling.

don’t care what Justice Corbin says, our court could have done it a lot more
expeditiously,” Faris insisted.


6,000 Child
Care Providers Across Nation Volunteer Services To Support Troops
Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan

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October 9, 2004

NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral
Agencies, announced today that Operation Child Care has recruited six
thousand child care providers to volunteer their services to support
returning troops by providing a few hours of free child care during the two
weeks of rest and recuperation leave from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Child Care is led by NACCRRA in partnership with the National Association of
Family Child Care, the National Child Care Association, and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. 
Bright Horizons Family Solutions, La Petite Academy, KinderCare
Learning Centers, and thousands of their child care centers across the
country are also participating. “The child care community’s response to
Operation Child Care has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Linda
Smith, executive director of NACCRRA. 
“All of us — at the national, state and local levels — are
united in our desire to give back to those risking their lives in service to
their country.”

Child care
providers who meet state and local child care regulations are providing four
or more hours of free child care so that service members can attend to family
business or take their spouses out for a date. Operation Child Care was
designed by NACCRRA primarily for National Guard and Reserve personnel
because they do not typically have access to the military family support programs
provided to active duty personnel. Child care providers who volunteer their
time for Operation Child Care will receive official recognition.  But most seem to feel the same as Linda
Kitzmiller, a state licensed and nationally accredited family child care
provider from Washington County, Tennessee, “You don’t have to recognize
me – I am just thrilled and honored to be able to do something to help our
troops.” Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Department of
Health and Human Services, Dr. Wade Horn added: “I am so proud of
America’s child care providers. Every day they do one of the most important
jobs in America. Now, they are giving even more by volunteering their time,
energy, and assistance to help National Guard and Reserve personnel
when these heroes come home for a few days for a well deserved break.”

Service members with valid military identification and leave orders can
access services by calling NACCRRA’s national Child Care Aware(r) hotline:
800-424-2246, or by visiting the Web site at:

members will be connected to the local Child Care Resource and Referral
Agency in their community that will link them to participating child care

Child Care
Resource and Referral Agencies help families find, select, and pay for child


Christmas Drive Has Far-Reaching
Effect; Support Group Is Seeking Help With Effort To Send Packages To

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(Fort Lauderdale, FL)

October 9, 2004

By Tyler
Treadway , The Stuart News

moans when Santa and his reindeer show up in stores before Halloween, but the
folks organizing Operation Holiday Cheer hope you’ll get in the Christmas
spirit now.

Holiday Cheer is an effort to send Christmas packages to soldiers in the 2nd
Battalion of the 265th Air Defense Artillery of the Florida National
which has battery units in Fort Pierce, Melbourne and West Palm
Beach, now on deployment in Afghanistan.

trying to provide each soldier in the battalion, all 350 of them, with a
wrapped present to open on Christmas morning,” said Jennifer Legler of
Port St. Lucie, whose husband, Dean Legler, is a staff sergeant with the Fort
Pierce-based Battery C.

want to make their Christmas as normal as possible by sending them presents
from home,” added Terri Ganim of Jupiter, whose fiance, Keith Anderson,
is a captain in Battery C.

guys tell us that the greatest thing in the world is getting a package or
even a letter,” Ganim said, “because it’s a piece of home.”

Legler and
Ganim — members of the Family Support Group, soldiers’ loved ones who meet
at the National Guard armory in Fort Pierce to share correspondence
and help each other cope with absent fathers, sons, brothers and boyfriends
— started by asking the soldiers for Christmas lists.

Of the
responses so far, some common patterns are being established.

like cars and airplanes — the kind that you glue together — are
popular,” Legler said. “They also asked for jigsaw puzzles — big
ones so that a lot of people can get involved and put their 2 cents in.”

Legler said
soldiers also asked for computer games, music CDs, soccer balls and

Legler said
the men are mostly looking for ways to occupy their off-duty time.

can’t leave their posts,” she said, “and they can only watch so
many movies. We’d like to get a Sony PlayStation or an X-Box donated,
actually five of them so that we can send one to each location [where members
of the battalion have been sent].”

Judy Hays of
Port St. Lucie, mother of Jonathan Fretwell, 19, a specialist with Battery C,
plans to have her students at First Baptist Christian School in Stuart write
holiday notes to the soldiers and insert the messages in the packages. Most
of the soldiers will be getting packages from their families, Legler said,
“but we wanted them to know that it’s not just their families that are
thinking of them but all of South Florida.”

Cash would
be better than donating items, Legler said.

want all the boxes to be basically the same, to have basically the same
gifts,” she said.

In lieu of
money, Legler suggested donors can drop gift cards from major discount stores
in the collection boxes.

Ganim said
money also will be needed to pay postage on the packages. The cost of sending
350 boxes halfway around the world is astronomical. “It’s going to cost
about a dollar a pound,” said Ganim.

Mailing to
Afghanistan takes about a month, Legler said.


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