News You Can Use: Dec. 6, 2004

   December 6, 2004, Volume
2, Issue 27

Index of Articles

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

 

READINESS

Pentagon Taps
Hill For Project; Combining Guard and Reserve With Active-Duty Seen As A
Win-Win

Life-Or-Death Training; At Fort Dix,
Soldiers Face Situations They Could Encounter In Iraq.

Utah Guard Forms New WMD
Unit

Course Trains ‘Select Few’ on Biological Warfare
Agents

Warriors Headed To Iraq
Learn Survival In Kansas Sunday

DEPLOYMENT

Austin’s
National Guard Headed to Kuwait

Soldiers’
Family Goodbyes Melt Into Tears

REUNION

Jacksonville-Based
National Guard Returns Home

BENEFITS

Adecco
Career Accelerator Program for Reservists, Reserve Spouses, and Family Members

HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH DEPLOYMENT

Families of
Deployed Guardsmen Get Dinner, Support, Companionship

48th Brigade
Gathers For Family Day As Members Prepare For Active Duty

HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH AFTERMATH

Battling
the Effects of War

TRIBUTE TO OUR FALLEN HEROES

Family, Friends Remember
Smith As Dutiful, Giving



GENERAL

New Home, Iraq; From Sleeping In Park To A Job Serving
Country

‘Quiet Professionals ‘Special
Forces Unit Gets Awards, Celebration

National Guard Men, Women Receive
Honor For Defense Work

Care Packages For Troops In Iraq
Causing Headaches For Pentagon

Rotary Club Of Salem Hosting Party For Families

 

Websites:

 

National Guard Family
Program Online Communities for families and youth:

https://www.guardfamily.org/

http://www.guardfamilyyouth.org/

 

 

TRICARE website for information on health
benefits

http://www.tricare.osd.mil/

 

 

Civilian Employment Information (CEI) Program Registration for
Army and Air National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard Reserve

https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/esgr/index.jsp (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

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2004/d20040331ngr1.pdf

 

 

Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
contains links and information about schooling, distance education,
scholarships, and organizations devoted to the military family

http://www.militarychild.org/index.cfm

 

 

Militarystudent.org 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.

http://www.militarystudent.org

 

 

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.

http://www.armyds3.org

 

 

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].

 

 

READINESS

Back to Table of Contents

 

Pentagon
Taps Hill For Project
; Combining
Guard and Reserve With Active-Duty Seen As A Win-Win

 

By
Dawn House

The
Salt Lake Tribune

 

Hill
Air Force Base is part of a seven-state test project that will unite
active-duty military with Air National Guard and Reserve units into a single
fighting force for the first time. “We can make a significant business
case for the efficiencies we’ll gain and the money we’ll save,” said Air
Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Wood in a conference call from the Pentagon. “More
important are the improvements in combat capabilities we’ll gain as a
nation.”

Each
program will use its own set of test initiatives to learn what works best.
Successful initiatives will be used nationwide as the Air Force shapes the
service for the 21st century, said Wood, deputy chief of staff for plans and
programs. The missions that will use the combined forces include flying the
Air Force’s newest fighter, overseeing Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and
processing global intelligence information.

At
Hill, reservists from the 419th Fighter Wing will be combined with their
active-duty counterparts in the 388th Fighter Wing, who maintain and fly the
same F-16 fighters, the northern Utah’s base’s signature aircraft.

No
timetable has been set for when Hill’s 1,400 Reserve airmen and 2,700
active-duty military personnel will become a single operational unit for
aircraft maintenance and all other support services.

Lt.
Gen. Daniel James III, director of the Air National Guard, said Hill was
chosen for the initiative because of its experience with active-duty and
reservists flying together in the Fighter Associate Program.

“We
were looking for a precedent,” he said.

The
combined missions will team reservists, who typically   have logged more
flying time, with their active-duty counterparts, who are usually younger and
newly trained. For instance, Lt. Col. Michael Brill, a reservist, has logged
5,000 flight hours in an F-16 – the equivalent of circling the Earth 70
times. No other pilot in the world has come close to Brill’s record. There is
no timetable for when the program will be implemented. Active-duty pilots
already are flying with the Reserve unit, but on the 388th side, slots for
reservists remain unfilled.

“We
have no idea how this is going to work,” said Capt. Monica Bland,
spokeswoman for the 388th.

That,
said Wood from the Pentagon, “is the purpose of the initiative.”

Maj.
James R. Wilson, spokesman for the 419th, said, “We’re excited. Some of
our crew chiefs have been working on F-16s for 15 and 20 years, and our reserve
pilots have been working with active-duty personnel during deployments.
Operationally, combining services is already happening.”

Air
Force brass insisted that the initiatives will not insulate any of the test
sites from the 2005 Base Realignment And Closure rounds. Test units on any
bases that are closed or realigned will move to a new location.

Other
initiatives include:

At
Richmond-Langley in Virginia, the Air National Guard and active-duty 1st
Fighter Wing will partner in flying the Air Force’s next generation fighter,
the F/A-22.

Active-duty
personnel will be stationed in Vermont alongside National Air Guard personnel
and reservists in a program that provides housing, medical and other
traditional services within local communities rather than a military
installation.

In
Texas and Arizona, Predator missions will be operated by members of the Texas
and Arizona Air National Guards in support of global operations. The
Predators are used on missions such as daily surveillance forays over Iraq
and Afghanistan.

The
Distributed Ground Station in New York will process global intelligence
information, to be developed in partnership with the U.S. Army and the New
York Army National Guard at a location yet to be determined.

At
Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Air Force Reserve personnel will be
integrated into all missions with the Air Warfare Center, and Air Force
Reserve and Air National Guard personnel will participate in Predator
operations.

The
combined operations will be on an operational level, not a command level,
said Air Force officials. Federal law gives governors command over all
National Guard units under Title 32 until they are federally deployed, which
puts the citizen soldiers under the authority of the president.

 

 

Life-Or-Death Training; At Fort Dix,
Soldiers Face Situations They Could Encounter In Iraq.

Back to Table of Contents

Philadelphia Inquirer

December 3, 2004

By Edward Colimore; Inquirer Staff
Writer

Sitting in the open back of an Army
truck, Sgt. Jack Reeves and Spec. Eli Campbell watched for signs of trouble
as they bounced down a narrow gravel road. They were quick to find it.

Around a corner, the two spotted the
enemy and unleashed a torrent of semiautomatic fire from both sides of the
vehicle. With hot brass shells clinking onto the truck bed and the smell of
gunpowder filling the air, the two members of the Michigan Army National
Guard
hit their targets and their supply convoy kept moving.

In a nearby area, Army Capt. Walter
Patrick and members of the Virginia National Guard were manning a
checkpoint of their forward operating base, when a mob of Iraqi civilians
rushed the gate.

A nondescript package was tossed at
them, a loud explosion went off, smoke covered the area, and a civilian
charged with automatic weapon blazing. Guard members returned fire, downing
the enemy.

Yesterday, Reeves and Campbell fired on
pop-ups in a simulated Iraqi village at Fort Dix. And Patrick and his troops
repulsed a mock attack by Iraqi-born Americans wearing traditional garb and
shouting in Arabic.

The troops were getting a dose of life
in Iraq before heading there in the coming months, before mistakes can cost
lives. They are among 1,300 soldiers who are now eating, sleeping and
training in the field 24 hours a day at Camp Tiger – a 40-acre base camp on a
remote part of Fort Dix in Ocean County.

“It’s part of theater
immersion,” said Col. David Anderson of the Army Reserve’s Fifth
Brigade, 78th Division, describing his unit’s intense training of the troops.
“It allows us to be victorious on the battlefield. This is how we do
it.”

Lt. Col. Norberto Cintron, also of the
78th Division, said the base – similar to those being developed at Fort Drum
in New York and Camp Shelby in Mississippi – is being expanded to eventually
offer 2,000 troops the “most realistic training they will ever
have.”

With elements from New Cumberland, Pa.,
Edison, N.J., and Fort Drum, the 78th Division has been challenging the
troops with the situations they’ll face every day – from communicating with
Iraqi crowds through interpreters to simulated improvised explosive devices
and live fire exercises.

Soldiers stay at the camp 18 to 32
days, depending on the roles to be played by their units in Iraq. They sleep
on simple cots in heated tents filled with their belongings: letters from
home, cigarettes and snacks.

Day after day, they run and rerun
military exercises. Yesterday, Reeves, 33, of Roscommon, Mich., and Campbell,
21, of Hesperia, Mich., helped provide security for a supply convoy, using
ranges that simulated a town and an open area.

Nine trucks and Humvees snaked along
the roads as the soldiers fired on enemy targets (green human forms) while
avoiding friendly civilians (orange forms).

“This is meant to be their
introduction to this,” said Maj. Todd Melzer of the 78th Division, who
was in the truck with Reeves and Campbell observing.

Signs along the course reminded them of
where they were heading. They said “Free Saddam,” “Mosul”
and “Karbala.” One said “Kilroy was here.”

“This is a battle drill,”
Sgt. Manuel Pazos of the 78th Division said as he stood in the back of the
truck. Then, turning to Reeves and Campbell, he said: “We’re getting
ready to move in another minute.”

Up ahead, the fire from other troops
had sparked a fire that was racing through the grass. “We may have to
stand by a little longer because we have a fire range down there,” Pazos
said. “It’s getting pretty big, too.”

The trucks moved slowly forward as
staccato gunfire raked enemy figures along some berms, exploding the earth
around them. The concussion of the fire could be felt by news-media
representatives and fort civilian employees who had been invited to witness
the training.

The exercise was one of many that take
place at the fort every day. Back at the base camp, the Virginia Guard troops
faced another challenge when a crowd playing the role of Iraqi civilians came
to the gate, many of them shouting in Arabic.

A translator was brought forward when
someone in the group threw a package at the soldiers. An explosion went off,
“wounding” one of the troops. An “insurgent” then began
firing and was eventually shot by the Americans.

“If soldiers get a little too
gung-ho or John Wayne-ish, they can be taken aside and put on trial on the
spot,” said Sgt. Andrew Scott, a Fort Dix spokesman. “If guilty, he
can be sent to the rear.”

Among the “insurgents” was
Steve Balestrieri, of Bionetics, a Fayetteville, N.C., contractor, which
provides the Army role-players, including Iraqi Americans. “We have 14
ex-Iraqi nationals who are U.S. citizens and 50 local civilians,” said
Balestrieri, a former chief warrant officer in the Army Special Forces who
lives in Charleston, S.C.

“This type of training is
invaluable to them. The soldiers get a dose of the culture they’re working
with and situations they will face over there.”

One of the role-players, Munther
Alfetlawy of St. Louis, said he has been role-playing since the war began.
“The soldiers are doing a good job for our country,” he said.
“I’m an American citizen and proud to be an American.”

Yesterday, Alfetlawy was playing the
role of sheik. His security man was “Abdul,” played by Charles
Keith, a New York resident who was the insurgent gunned down in the mock
battle, then taken away along with the “wounded” soldier for
medical treatment.

Another role-player, Sam Gariqoas, an
Iraqi American, said the training of the troops “is important for the
U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi civilians.”

Maj. Andrew Morton of the 78th Division
said the troops “need this time period. This is realistic training. The
sweat here saved blood in the theater.”

Contact staff writer Edward Colimore at
856-779-3833 or [email protected]

 

 

 



 

Utah Guard Forms New WMD Unit

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The
Associated Press

December 5, 2004,

SALT LAKE
CITY – A new full-time unit of the Utah National
Guard
is being trained to respond to threats from weapons of mass
destruction.

The 85th
Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team was formed Thursday from
full-time Army and Air Force National
Guard
personnel and is stationed at the Army Aviation hangar at Airport
No. 2 in West Jordan.

The new
unit, with about 20 soldiers, is unusual in that it is a full-time job for
the Guard members.

The primary
job of the 85th is to respond to calls from civilian authorities, including
the governor’s office, to identify suspected chemical, radiological or
biological agents, assess the danger and advise on how to respond.

The team
will assist state and federal authorities by identifying specific substances
and calling in highly trained personnel to deal with the substances.

“We
look forward to becoming an extensive, highly visible and critical piece in
Utah’s WMD response force,” said 85th Commander Lt. Col. Wendy Cline of
the Utah Air National Guard.

The team
adds additional capabilities to the civilian authorities by maintaining
direct data and voice communications between agencies, providing specific
subject matter expertise and conducting liaison between civilian and military
authorities, Cline said.

“In the
event of a WMD, the governor and state can count on us to be highly trained
and capable on a no-notice, immediate basis to support Utah’s first
responders,” Cline said. “Upon certification by the Department of
Defense in June, we will become the governor’s 911 WMD response force.”

The team has
specialized expertise and sophisticated tools to identify dangerous
substances. If it identifies a dangerous substance, it will go through the
governor’s office and the Homeland Security Department to find the
appropriate response units.

 

 

Course Trains ‘Select Few’ on Biological Warfare Agents

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Military
Family Network

3 December
2004

Caree Vander
Linden – Special to American Forces Press Service

The narrow gravel path leads to a cluster of mobile tactical shelters at Fort
Detrick’s “Area B,” 400 acres of farmland on this Maryland base. A
brown sign marks the Field Identification of Biological Warfare Agents, or
FIBWA, Laboratory Training Site. Inside, the air conditioning is blasting
while Top 40 music plays from a portable stereo atop a file cabinet. Two
laboratories, each with four workstations, adjoin a central tactical shelter
that serves as a conference room.

In this
nondescript setting, eight students at a time learn to set up, maintain, and
operate a deployable laboratory under field conditions. The four- week,
hands-on FIBWA course offers training in the most advanced field technologies
for confirming identification of biological-warfare agents. Developed by the
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, FIBWA is the
only course of its kind in the Defense Department.

According to
Mark Wolcott, head of the field operations and training branch within
USAMRIID’s diagnostic systems division, FIBWA grew out of the need for
battlefield detection of biological warfare agents. As field detectors were
developed and deployed, the ability to confirm what the detectors were
“seeing” was crucial to add confidence for battlefield, medical,
and National Command Authority decisions. The requirement for a deployable BW
agent confirmation laboratory was born.

Since the
FIBWA course was first offered in 1999, nearly 200 students from the military
services and other government agencies have attended. To ensure that the
training stays on the cutting edge, concepts of operations and diagnostic
materials, equipment and technology are continually evaluated and
transitioned into the field.

Bill Dorman
is the FIBWA training coordinator. A former noncommissioned officer, he came
on board as a civilian during the first course in 1999. At that time,
USAMRIID had put together a laboratory/training package at the request of
U.S. Central Command, which wanted its own full-time lab capability. The
demand grew, and there are now six laboratories under five major commands.
CENTCOM, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and
Preventive Medicine, and U.S. Army Medical Command each have one laboratory;
Army Forces Command has two.

“The
course is unfunded,” said Dorman, “so everyone who comes has to pay
their own way.” The cost — $7,000 per student for the four-week course
— means “we get a select few,” he added.

The course’s
first two days are spent largely in the classroom. Students receive an
overview of the history of biological warfare, along with briefings on
laboratory concepts, current techniques, and field laboratory operations. The
fundamentals of biological safety are also introduced. Next, they spend nine
days learning how to extract genetic material — deoxyribonucleic acid and
ribonucleic acid, or DNA and RNA — from multiple sample types, along with a
technique called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, which is used to identify
the extracted DNA and RNA.

“Sensitivity”
and “specificity” are two frequently heard buzzwords in the field
of medical diagnostics. Sensitivity refers to the ability to detect even a
small amount of biological agent in a sample. Specificity is the ability to
detect a particular agent. Both are critical. According to Dorman, if a
testing agent is not sensitive enough, false negatives can result; if it’s
not specific enough, false positives can happen.

“Operation
Desert Storm taught us that we need to have sensitive and specific
technologies in a deployable laboratory, capable of analyzing both biomedical
and environmental samples,” said Army Maj. John Scherer, chief of the
diagnostic systems division. Biomedical samples consist of tissue or bodily
fluid samples from humans or animals, while environmental samples include
air, soil, foliage, and water samples. All are important in a field setting,
where the medical laboratory has three major roles: to support
medical-treatment facilities, to support preventive-medicine surveillance,
and to analyze samples from field detection systems.

One component
of the FIBWA training is “real time” PCR using an instrument called
the “Ruggedized Advanced Pathogen Identification Device,” which was
specially designed for military field labs. RAPID is a portable, impact-
resistant package about the size of a briefcase that offers quick, safe and
accurate field identification of potentially dangerous pathogens.

Sgt. Sean
Brown, from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., is a microbiologist with clinical
laboratory and blood bank experience. “Pretty cool!” he said when
asked to describe the FIBWA course. “I love the field work. It’s a lot
of fun.”

Having a
good grasp of molecular biology helped, said Brown, who had done PCR before
but enjoyed being trained on the latest instruments. In January, he will be
assigned to the CENTCOM testing lab.

“Getting
to work with the real agents” Is the most surprising aspect of the
course, he said, though he was quick to add that all bacteria and viruses are
deactivated before students handle them. “It still gives you a new level
of respect for what we’re doing,” he noted.

Dorman
strolls through the labs, pausing to check on each student’s progress.
Despite being peppered with questions from course attendees, he patiently
describes the scene for a visitor. His group keeps busy; six student courses
are offered per year, along with three “manager” courses. The
latter are designed for decision makers like laboratory officers and
commanders, who would get the lab results and act upon them.

During the
course, students take both written and practical exams. The true test,
however, comes during the final week of the course, when they perform a field
training exercise. According to Dorman, this provides an opportunity to
integrate the course material with real-world scenarios that challenge the
students’ understanding and skills.

Participants
are given five scenarios to respond to and must set up and operate a lab
under field conditions. Working together as a team, they develop and
implement a test plan based on the sample type and information received with
each scenario. They are then expected to analyze the sample, troubleshoot any
problems that may arise, and provide a final identification, if any, to the
instructor. Evaluations are based on how well the students respond and solve
problems throughout the exercise.

Army Pfc.
Kelly Miller, from Fort Eustis, Va., works in a hospital clinical laboratory
and said she finds the FIBWA focus on environmental samples “totally
different.” Unlike a clinical lab, she said, “out here you don’t
realize you messed up until you get your results back. In the field we would
have to do it over; in the classroom, we try to figure out where the error
occurred.”

Miller has
been in the Army two years and said she plans to make it a career. Like
Brown, she’ll do a tour of duty at the CENTCOM lab and says she is looking
forward to it. Right now, though, she’s up to her ears in the final field
exercise.

“You
have to put together everything you learned in the past three weeks, in one
week!” she exclaimed.

While the
FIBWA course is designed for organizations within DoD, special considerations
can be made for other governmental agencies. Several civilian employees of
the Department of Homeland Security’s National Biodefense Analysis and
Countermeasures Center recently completed the course. In addition, students
from National Guard Weapons of
Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams in Georgia and West Virginia attended
over the summer, and Scherer is in the process of designing a specialized
course just for those units.

“USAMRIID
continues to demonstrate its commitment to the warfighter, whether it’s
through research, direct analytical support, or training courses like
FIBWA,” said Army Col. Erik Henchal, USAMRIID commander. “In
addition, as a partner in the National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Fort
Detrick, we contribute to the nation’s overall defense against
bioterrorism.”

 

 

Warriors Headed To Iraq Learn Survival In Kansas
Sunday

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The Grand
Rapids Press

December 05,
2004

By Ted
Roelofs

 Thirty-seven members of the Wyoming-based
Army National Guard 1463rd
Transportation Company are training for missions driving 27-ton military
transport trucks in Iraq. Since Oct. 28, they have been up before dawn daily
at Fort Riley in Kansas for days of pushups, Army food, weapons practice and
paperwork, as well as driving convoys through mock ambushes.

This was
their day Nov. 22.

5:30 a.m.

It is two
hours before dawn.

In the cool
dark near their barracks, members of the 1463rd report for duty. They line up
with the Howell-based 1462nd Transportation Company and the Kansas-based
137th Transportation Company, which has command of the 142-member company.

But make no
mistake, the 1463rd has a voice of its own.

“Load
it like a boxcar! Drive it like a stock car! Hooah!” they shout, yelling
their unofficial company chant.

Spirits seem
high this day, which marks one of their final convoy training exercises.
Sometime after that, they will get the call to leave for Iraq.

As soldiers
file by a storage room to get their weapons, Staff Sgt. Jeff Hall, 33, of
Jenison, talks about a common topic: The roadside bomb.

Hall said it
can be all but impossible to spot, but deadly if detonated under a truck.
Their 27-ton transport trucks are to be “up-armored,” with steel
reinforcing the doors and floors. But even that is no guarantee if they
sustain a direct hit.

“It
could be anything, from a pop can to a carcass on the side of the road,”
Hall says. “You want to stay off the side of the road.”

A few minutes
later, the unit departs by bus for breakfast, where powdered eggs and dubious
coffee are the rule.

7 a.m.

Soldiers
come and go in a small, drab office as Capt. William Strong speaks about the
mission ahead. As he talks, he holds an empty 9 mm handgun in front of him,
swinging it idly from side to side.

“This
is a political war as much as anything else,” says Strong, 40.

Strong
commands the 137th Transportation Company, and has leadership of two Michigan
Guard platoons under control of the 137th: The Wyoming-based 1463rd
Transportation Company and the Howell-based 1462nd Transportation Company.
The unit has 142 soldiers.

“This
isn’t a front-line war where the bad guys are in front of you and you shoot
them. It’s somewhat stressful.”

In civilian
life, Strong is a Kansas City attorney specializing in death penalty defense
cases. His job is to keep accused killers alive. In Iraq, he will do what it
takes to take out the killers who put his troops in danger.

The training
here is aimed at drilling home a few basic points. Maintain individual focus.
Keep the discipline of the convoy. Know exactly what to do if the convoy
comes to a halt or comes under attack.

Strong looks
forward to the action. War, he says, has a way of freeing up the arteries of
a sometimes sclerotic military.

But he says
it’s natural that some of the younger, green, members of the unit are
apprehensive about what is in front of them.

“You
know, they are a little frightened. The older guys, they can tell the young
kids, it’s all right.”

9:50 a.m.

It is damp
and cold inside a tent on a remote Fort Riley training site. A cold front
pushes down from the north, turning the day raw and gray.

The day’s
exercise is conducted on an isolated section of the fort’s 100,000 acres, a
rolling combination of shrub trees and grass.

Staff Sgt.
Ray Baxter stands in front of the 1463rd and briefs them on the day’s convoy
drill. At 34, the Hudsonville tool-and-die maker is a key leader, with 15
years of Guard and active-duty experience. Baxter served in the Army from
1989 to 1992, including six months in the Gulf War, and has served in the
Guard since then.

Baxter
informs the group that as they take the convoy through a designated course,
they are expected to face simulated ambushes and roadside bombs.

It will test
how far they have come in a month of training. They will fire blanks today.
In two days, they would load weapons with real bullets and fire them along
the same course.

Baxter tells
the unit to ready their weapons as the convoy gets under way.

“You’re
bolted. You’re locked. You’re ready to rock and roll,” he says.

11 a.m.

Second Lt.
Jody Stacy gives the order. The convoy moves out.

A few
minutes into it, the lead truck suddenly stops after someone spots a 155 mm
artillery shell at the side of the road. Lying 50 yards away, it’s easy to
spot. Roadside bombs in Iraq almost never are.

“Stop
the convoy! Stop the convoy!” a soldier yells into his radio.

A soldier
tosses a smoke bomb to mark the shell’s location for the rest of the convoy,
which remains stopped in a single line behind the lead truck. In the lead
truck, a soldier mans the .50-cal machine gun turret, scanning from side to
side, looking for signs of ambush.

“Keep
your eyes open. Hostiles might be waiting for us to go through,” someone
says.

The radio
squawks with chatter between the lead truck and Stacy’s command truck.

“Bird
Dog, this is Big Dog. Are we dismounting?”

The convoy
idles for several minutes as leadership debates what to do. In the back of
the lead truck, soldiers are crouched and ready to fire. Pfc. David Campbell,
19, a 2004 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, points his
M-249 machine gun toward the brush and waits.

Noon

The convoy
halts again.

This time,
it comes under simulated attack from bunkers on both sides of the road.
Soldiers jump out of their trucks and take positions on either side.

Casualties
mount. They are both wounded and killed. Small cards designating specified
injuries or KIA (killed in action) are handed out by a team of military
observers. Sgt. David Pitch, 39, of Rockford, goes down. At nearly 300
pounds, he is not easy to evacuate. It takes eight people to lug him away.

An observer
talks about the point of these drills.

“The
biggest thing they are targeting in Iraq is convoys,” explains Master
Sgt. Kevin Peel, 40. “We teach them to show their teeth.”

Peel said
experience in Iraq has taught that insurgents likely will give up when faced
with superior force.

But Peel
also concedes there’s only so much drills on the firing range can accomplish.

“We are
going into a war zone, not a range,” he says.

Lt. Stacy is
out of his command truck, issuing orders up and down the convoy. Suddenly, he
drops to the ground. He gets a KIA card.

1 p.m.

Sgt. Baxter
and 2nd Lt. Stacy sit down in a small headquarters building with Army Maj.
Steven Updike for a review of the exercise. There were problems.

“The
distance between your vehicles — you guys need to work on that,” Updike
says.

Stacy
agrees.

“I was
concerned about the distance between trucks,” he says. As the convoy
waited by the roadside bomb, trucks crept to within 25 yards of each other.
They are supposed to stay 50 yards apart.

Updike says
the group also failed to maintain a preferred defensive grouping called the
“box formation” when it halted. Instead, it remained in a single
line, making it easier for insurgents to pick it apart. In a box grouping,
the command truck would remain in the center, with trucks on either side and
a gun truck in front and back.

Stacy learns
he was killed because he exposed himself too much to enemy fire. He should
have delegated communications and stayed with the command truck.

Outside, the
rest of the imaginary killed and wounded have come to life as the 1463rd
sprawls out on the grass and digs into lunch. That means Meals Ready to Eat,
vacuum-sealed dinners with a reputation.

Some say the
worst is the boneless pork chop. Others say the bean and rice burrito.
“I’ve heard the beef enchilada is pretty horrible,” says Sgt. Brian
Huberty, 26, of Grand Rapids, a high school teacher. He talks about leaving
behind his wife, Rebecca, a third-grade teacher.

“I
would say being away from home is the hardest thing,” he says.

So, Huberty,
a member of the Guard three years, makes do with his military family.

“You
have your tiffs and you make up. We pretty much know who we have to look
after,” he says. Someone tosses a package of brownies from an MRE at
Huberty, knowing he is fond of that snack.

2:55 p.m.

The unit is
back at company headquarters cleaning their weapons. The consensus jokester
of the group cleans out his M-16 and explains the role he plays in the unit.

“You
got to take it serious, but sometimes you got to put it in the back of your
mind,” says Spc. Brad Albright, 34, a postal worker from Kentwood.

Albright
said he served in the Gulf War, so he feels less anxious than some.

That leaves
space for his endless comedy routines, including recitations from Monty
Python, “Forrest Gump” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

He makes up
characters. He talks in a German accent.

“I’ll
break up the monotony,” he says.

Nearby, Pfc.
Rachel Punches, 20, of Muskegon, a movie theater employee, is a close second
for quips and comedy.

To no one in
particular, she throws out a sarcastic line on the appeal of going to Iraq.

“Hey,
suicide bombs, beheadings. Don’t hold me back.”

4:45 p.m.

The dining
room fills with members of the 1463rd.

As he
finishes his meal, Spc. Russell Papke, 22, of Ada, says he expects to be in
bed by 8 p.m. Those 4:30 a.m. wakeups do that to a guy.

He expects
others will “partake of beverages, tell war stories.”

Papke says
the real thing might be a surprise.

“A lot
of us are young. We don’t know what to expect when we step off the
plane.”

9 p.m.

Staff Sgt.
Baxter sits alone in his room — painted cinder block walls, bunk beds, tile
floor — and finishes up plans for Tuesday’s convoy training.

In a few
days, he and his wife, Michelle, will spend Thanksgiving weekend together.
That will likely be the last time they are together before he ships out.
Their three children, Rachel, 9, Evan, 8, and Rebecca, 2, will remain behind
with family.

Baxter said
he couldn’t stand saying goodbye to his children a second time.

His planning
for tomorrow done, Baxter opens a letter from his wife and one from Rachel.

The letter
from Rachel is especially precious, the first letter he has gotten from her.

“Boy,
it sure is strange without having you here,” he reads.

 

 

 

DEPLOYMENT

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Austin’s National Guard Headed to Kuwait

 

KAAL TV

3 December
2004

 (KAAL) — More members of an area National Guard unit are heading
overseas. A spokesman with the Austin National
Guard
says a third group from Austin’s 434th Main Support Battalion Unit
Bravo Company B will be leaving for Kuwait today.  The group has been training in Fort Dix, New Jersey.

“They’re
just going over there to secure the parameters and get things set up for the
full group gets over there.  That way
they will be all ready and have everything secure,” says Miraha Behle,
Austin National Guard.

The rest of
the Company B unit is expected to leave for Kuwait sometime in January.

 

 

Soldiers’ Family Goodbyes Melt Into Tears

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St.
Petersburg Times (Florida)

December 6, 2004

By  Jim Ross

At the
sendoff for the military police unit, a brigadier general and politicians
praise those going to Afghanistan.

CRYSTAL
RIVER – Hundreds of people packed into the National Guard Armory on
Sunday to stage the local version of a scene that has played out many times
in recent years – the sendoff of an American military unit that is headed to
a war zone.

Members of
the 690th Military Police Company, part of the Florida National Guard,
are going to Afghanistan by way of Fort Dix, N.J. About 80 members shipped
out Sunday; a smaller contingent will follow in a week.

The Crystal
River company will train for several weeks in New Jersey. Once overseas,
members will conduct patrols, transport prisoners and carry out search
missions, among other duties. They are expected to be gone 18 months.

But before
the first wave could leave for New Jersey on buses, there would be a formal –
and often tearful – goodbye ceremony at the armory.

Spouses and
significant others hugged and wept. Company members posed for pictures, their
relatives fumbling with disposable cameras and camcorders. There were smiles
and laughs, but seemingly fewer and fewer as departure hour approached.

“I’m
going to have to be strong,” said Susan Greer of Homosassa.

Mrs. Greer
was in an unusual position: Two of her loved ones are members of the unit.
Her husband, Mike, 43, is a sergeant; and their daughter Susanne, 21, is a
specialist.

The younger
Greer is part of the company’s second wave; she was still training with her
group Sunday and didn’t attend the ceremony. Her father was part of the first
wave.

Mrs. Greer
said she took some comfort knowing her husband and daughter at least would be
together. Still, she was choking back tears.

“It’s a
sad day,” said Jonnie Greer, who is Mike’s mother and Susanne’s
grandmother.

“I feel
bad that I’m leaving my wife behind,” Mike Greer said. But “I’m
kind of glad to hurry up and get it (the overseas mission) over with.”

The company
has about 110 soldiers, who live throughout Florida. Some, like the Greers,
are Citrus County residents.

Pfc. Jay
Ruiz, 21, is another Citrus resident. He ships out next week.

“I feel
it’s a privilege to be able to do this,” Ruiz said, noting that some
people, because of disabilities, aren’t able to serve.

“There’s
always that little bit of fear,” he said, “but we’re prepared to do
whatever we have to do.”

Ruiz said
the deployment will help him and his family – wife, Shaelynn, and 2-year-old
daughter, Alizabeth – financially. Ruiz is studying to be a law enforcement
officer at the Withlacoochee Technical Institute, leaving his wife, a bank
teller, as the primary breadwinner. The money Ruiz receives with the Guard
will help. Mrs. Ruiz has family nearby who can help while her husband is
away. During the formal part of the program, U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite,
R-Crystal River, thanked the company for its service and pledged to help the
families left behind.

“Travel
safe. Know that you are loved,” she said, adding that she hopes members
can return home from New Jersey for Christmas before heading overseas.

A tearful
state Sen. Nancy Argenziano asked soldiers to close their eyes and listen
when they get homesick in Afghanistan. “You will hear us all,” she
said. Like Brown-Waite, she praised the military’s efforts to bring freedom
and liberty to Afghanistan, and especially praised the Florida National
Guard,
70 percent of whose units have been activated.

Argenziano
also presented a state proclamation to the company and read aloud a letter
from Gov. Jeb Bush, who wrote that “your service makes us all
proud.”

State Rep.
Charles Dean, County Commission Chairwoman Vicki Phillips and Crystal River
Mayor Ron Kitchen also wished the soldiers, and their families, well. Those
families have the toughest job, said Brig. Gen. Michael P. Fleming, assistant
adjutant general for the Florida Army National Guard. Like the other
speakers, he pledged assistance.

As for the
soldiers: “You’re going to be making a difference, bringing democracy
and freedom to a part of the world that hasn’t known it,” he said.

The National
Association of Retired Law Enforcement Officers presented the company a
plaque that included soil from the World Trade Center site – a reminder of
the global war on terror. The company also received a state flag, and a
promise from Brown-Waite that it will receive an American flag that has flown
at the U.S. Capitol.

After that,
the departing soldiers prepared to have lunch with their families and then
board the buses for New Jersey. Many people were lining the road outside the
armory, preparing to wave flags and cheer as the convoy started heading
north.

Details
about another departure ceremony, for the remaining members of the company,
were not made available Sunday.

 

 



 

REUNION

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Jacksonville-Based National Guard Returns Home

 

CBS-47

5 December 2004

Nearly 180
members of the Florida Army National
Guard
returned home today after a two year deployment. The members of the
146th Signal Battalion based on Normandy Boulevard didn’t have to go to Iraq
or Afghanistan, however.

They stayed
right here in Florida, guarding air force bases so air force security could
be freed up for duty elsewhere.

The guard
members now return to their jobs or to school.

Since they
were deployed for two years, the Florida Army National Guard says it’s not likely they’ll return to active duty
anytime soon.

 

 

 

BENEFITS

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Adecco Career Accelerator Program for
Reservists, Reserve Spouses, and Family Members

 

Adecco is proud to help Reservists and
their families with their employment needs. Adecco Career Accelerator Program
is fully available to all Reservists, Reserve Spouses, and Family Members 17
years and older.  Adecco’s Career Accelerator Program is a no-cost, VIP
Program in helping you find employment in your local area with Adecco.

 Adecco is the world’s largest
staffing company, offering all types of jobs from office to
manufacturing.  Positions vary from temporary, to term, to
permanent. 

 Whether you are looking for
something seasonal or long term, Adecco may very well have something to meet
your needs.  If you have high school or college students who only want
to work part-time, limited hours, or periodically, Adecco may very well have
something for them.

 Adecco has more than 1500 offices
nationwide.  Please simply go to the website to find the location
closest to you or contact the Adecco Career Accelerator Program Director,
Erin Walerko, directly.

 www.usadecco.com/careeraccelerator

 

 

HOMEFRONT:
DEALING WITH DEPLOYMENT

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Families of Deployed Guardsmen Get Dinner,
Support, Companionship

 

The
Associated Press

December 1,
2004

Families who
are left behind while soldiers are deployed to Iraq will gather to support
each other and share their thoughts on Saturday.

The 230th
Support Battalion Family Assistance Center in Goldsboro is sponsoring a
dinner at noon at the National Guard
Armory at 700 U.S. 117 S. Bypass. It is for the spouses and children of
soldiers in the battalion, which is part of the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade.

Two of the
battalion’s units, the Charlie Medical Co. and the Headquarters Company, are
based in Goldsboro. More than 250 soldiers combined from these two units
deployed to Iraq in February.

Around 100
people are expected to attend the luncheon, including some soldiers who are
manning the units while the others are deployed.

The
assistance center is in place to support the soldiers of the 230th when they
are deployed and help their families at home. It helps organize potluck
meals, movie nights and monthly meetings for the families to share stories
about their deployed children and siblings. They have also organized taking
pictures of the families and placing them on pillowcases to send to the
soldiers.

“They
have been very supportive of the families,” said Zina Carr, whose son,
Specialist Gregory B. Carr, is a medic in the 230th.

The
5,000-member brigade, which was ordered to active duty on Oct. 1, 2003, is
based in Clinton and has armories from Wilmington to Charlotte. It also
includes soldiers from other states.

The brigade
has been responsible for security and other duties in an area northeast of
Baghdad. It was the largest call-up of N.C. National Guard soldiers since World War II, and the brigade was
the first full National Guard
combat brigade activated and deployed for service in support of Operation
Iraqi Freedom.

They had
three weeks of training in June 2003 in over 110-degree heat at the National
Training Center in the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, Calif. They left for Fort
Bragg that October and went through a federal mobilization process in
November. They then traveled to Fort Polk in Louisiana to go through a rehearsal
exercise. They returned to Fort Bragg to make final preparations to deploy.

Brigade
soldiers hope to be back home at the beginning of January. A replacement unit
for the brigade has already started to arrive in Iraq.

Mrs. Carr
said turkeys are being donated by Carolina Turkey and pickles are being
donated by Mt. Olive Pickle for the event. The center will also have
traditional things like stuffing and gravy, potato salad, baked spaghetti,
collard greens, pastries, apple cider and tea.

Jerry Strickland,
a musician in Jones Grove Pentecostal Holiness Church in Mount Olive, will be
playing guitar during the event. Other members of the church, including Greg
Carr, father of Specialist Carr, and Ernest Whitman, a Vietnam veteran, will
be preparing the turkeys. Santa Claus will be stopping by for some pictures
and The VFW Women’s Auxiliary is making fruit bags for the families to take
home.

“We are
looking forward to supporting each other in the absence of our loved
ones,” said Mrs. Carr.

 

 

48th Brigade Gathers For Family Day As Members
Prepare For Active Duty

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The Macon
Telegraph

December 6, 2004

 

By
Travis Fain; Telegraph Staff Writer

These are of
some of the men and women who will pack up their lives in the coming days and
months as the National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade goes to war:

Capt. Pablo
Mercado, a 38-year-old man who lives in Woodstock. He is the father of two
autistic children. Their names are Pablo, after him, and Vivian, after his wife.
Pablo turns 10 on Jan. 1. Dad expects to head to Fort Stewart the next day
for training. A few months later he should be in Iraq. He has never been to
war, he said, but is not afraid.

“I just
would not forgive myself if something were to happen and I was not there to
do my part,” Mercado said.

Master Sgt.
James Calloway, 51 and a former Forsyth City Councilman. His children are
grown. He’s been activated before, went with the 48th to Bosnia in 2000 and
to Kuwait during the first Gulf War. After 33 years in the National Guard,
packing up and leaving home is almost routine. He had two large, plastic
boxes in the back of his pickup truck Sunday and said he might leave for Fort
Stewart that night. Or if not, this morning.

“Proud
to serve my country,” he said. “I’m excited. … Somebody’s got to
do it and I’ve been blessed to be able to do it.”

Pfc. Danelea
Kelly who, at 22, is one of the younger members of the 48th, Georgia’s
largest Guard unit. Kelly lives in Decatur and followed her mother into the
service. Capt. Rosa Kelly is already at Fort Stewart. Her daughter expects to
head over Thursday for training.

Danelea was
born in Germany but, other than that, said she’s never been outside the
United States. That is about to change. Decidedly.

“I
don’t know what it is that God has planned, …” she said Sunday.
“But I know it’s going to be a great thing.”

These, and
hundreds of other members of the 48th Brigade, brought their families
together Sunday for family day at the brigade’s Macon headquarters. It’s an annual
event, made all the more meaningful this year in light of the call-up. About
140 brigade members were expected to report to active duty today. Thousands
more will follow in the coming months.

Sunday was a
time for fellowship, for dinner around dozens of folding tables, and
activities for the kids. But while the leftovers were being put away, and
before the first paper-plate-portrait of Santa Claus was made (complete with
cotton balls for a beard), family members gathered around and listened as
guard officers told them what to expect and how to deal with the separation
and the fear and the money troubles sure to come once their husbands and
wives go away.

“Get to
know each other, …” said 1st Sgt. Barry Smallwood, whose booming,
drill-sergeant voice filled the 48th’s drill hall. “This group is where
your strength is going to come from.”

Smallwood
asked for patience and understanding and support for soldiers. He gave out
his home phone number, office number, cell phone number and e-mail address.
He told wives and husbands that he loves these soldiers, these soldiers that
he is going to train to fight, more than he loves his own wife.

He went over
the logistics of sending a package to Iraq and told them what to do if money
runs tight, or if they just can’t take the stress. Lean on each other, he
said. Lean on the Guard.

Soldiers are
expected to spend several months training. Then they plan to spend about a
year in Iraq, though they don’t yet know what their mission will be.

“What’s
about to happen will interconnect these soldiers together for the rest of
their lives,” Smallwood said.

 

 

HOMEFRONT:
DEALING WITH AFTERMATH

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Battling the Effects of War

 

Newsweek

December 6, 2004 U.S. Edition

By Peg Tyre

It wasn’t the gunshot wound in the arm
that bothered Jose Hernandez when he returned home to Cincinnati after
serving in Iraq. It was the lock on the front door. He couldn’t relax until
he secured it twice, three times and sometimes more. Even then he was still
on edge. “I kept thinking about the things I saw over there—shooting on the
streets, dead bodies and the terror in people’s eyes. I couldn’t get it out
of my mind,” says Hernandez, who served in the Army’s 101st
Airborne Division. He stopped sleeping, withdrew from friends and dropped
plans to go back to college. His girlfriend finally demanded that he get
help. A Veterans Administration psychiatrist diagnosed Hernandez with
posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a potentially crippling mental
condition caused by extreme stress.

Hernandez says he was one of the lucky
ones. With a combination of antianxiety medication and talk therapy, his
symptoms have begun to fade. Many of the 170,000 men and women now returning
from Iraq and Afghanistan may not be as fortunate. When they get home, tens
of thousands of them will be grappling with psychological problems such as
PTSD, anxiety, mood disorders and depression. Though scientists are learning
just how trauma affects the brain—and how best to help patients heal—there
are still many obstacles to getting the treatment to the people who need it
most. For starters, no one knows how many soldiers will be affected or how
serious their problems will become. Early in the war the Army surveyed 3,671
returning Iraq veterans and found that 17 percent of the soldiers were
already suffering from depression, anxiety and symptoms of PTSD.

Experts say those numbers are likely to
grow. A study of Vietnam veterans conducted in 1980 found that 30 percent
suffered from an anxiety condition later dubbed PTSD. Experts say the
protracted warfare in Iraq—with its intense urban street fighting, civilian
combatants and terrorism—could drive PTSD rates even higher. National
Guard
members, who make up 40 percent of the fighting force, with less
training and less cohesive units, may be more vulnerable to psychological
injuries than regular soldiers. Last year 5,100 soldiers who fought in Iraq
or Afghanistan sought treatment in VA clinics for PTSD. That figure is
expected to triple.

PTSD, a specific diagnosis, is not the
only psychological damage soldiers can sustain. And experts say that mental
disorders can make the already rugged transition from military to civilian
life a harrowing one. Soldiers can experience depression, hypervigilance, insomnia,
emotional numbing, recurring nightmares and intrusive thoughts. And in many
cases, the symptoms worsen with time, leaving the victims at higher risk for
alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, homelessness and suicide. Sometimes
families can become collateral damage. Christine Hansen, executive director
of the Miles Foundation, which runs a hot line for domestic-violence victims
in the military, says that since start of the Iraq war, calls have jumped
from 50 to more than 500 a month.

Without treatment, some conditions such
as chronic PTSD can be lethal. Five years after the Vietnam War,
epidemiologists studying combat veterans found that they were nearly twice as
likely to die from motor-vehicle accidents and accidental poisoning than
veterans who didn’t see combat. In a 30-year follow up, published in the
Archives of Internal Medicine this year, the same combat vets continued to
die at greater rates and remained especially vulnerable to drug overdose and
accidental poisoning. “We had the John Wayne syndrome,” says Vietnam veteran
Greg Helle, who grappled with severe PTSD for decades. “We were men, we’d
been to war. We thought we could tough it out.” Doctors hadn’t developed
effective treatment for PTSD and besides, says Helle, seeking help was an
admission of weakness.

Doctors now know that PTSD is the
product of subtle biological changes that occur in the brain in response to
extreme stress. Using sophisticated imaging techniques, researchers now
believe that extreme stress alters the way memory is stored. During a major
upheaval, the body releases massive doses of adrenaline which speeds up the
heart, quickens the reflexes and, over several hours, burns vivid memories
that are capable of activating the mygdale, or fear center, in the brain.
People can get PTSD, doctors say, when that mechanism works too well. Instead
of creating protective memories (ducking at the sound of gunfire), says Dr.
Roger Pitman, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, “the rush of
adrenaline creates memories that intrude on everyday life and without
treatment, can actually hinder survival.”

Why some people get PTSD and others
don’t remains a mystery. Recent studies suggest that a predisposition to the
disorder may be genetic and that previous traumatic experiences can make
soldiers more vulnerable to it. Once a soldier has it, though, says Dr.
Matthew Friedman, executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs
National Center for PTSD, the good news is that the medical community now
knows that “PTSD is very real and very treatable.”

The challenge, says Friedman, is
getting help—counseling or drug treatment—to veterans who need it most. As
the Iraq war continues, officials at the Department of Defense and the VA are
scrambling. After a rash of suicides among soldiers, they’ve increased the
number of psychiatrists and psychologists in combat areas. Social workers
trained to spot PTSD and other mental disorders are assigned to military
hospitals around the country. Primary-care physicians at VA clinics and
hospitals are now able to access combat records to see if their patients
might be at risk for PTSD. Doctors are issued wallet-size reminders on how to
spot PTSD and refer patients for further treatment. The VA has recently hired
about 50 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to do outreach in the Vet
Centers, a system of 206 community-based mental-health clinics around the
country. But their resources are limited: Congress has set aside an
additional $5 million a year for three years to deal with the new
mental-health problem.

VA officials admit they’re not catching
everyone who needs help. National Guard members often do many tours
and can be exposed to more combat than regular soldiers. But instead of
rotating back to military bases where they can be monitored, they often
return to their hometowns where readjustment problems can become a family
crisis. If they begin to exhibit signs of PTSD or other psychological
problems, they need to get help quickly. The VA will provide mental-health
benefits for them for only two years following their service. Regular
soldiers get mental-health benefits indefinitely.

Help came too late for Marine reservist
Jeffrey Lucey. In July 2003, he returned home to Belchertown, Mass., from
Iraq and gradually sank into a deep depression. His family looked on in
anguish as he began drinking too much and isolating himself from their
close-knit clan. By spring of 2004, he’d stopped sleeping, eating and
attending college. When his sister Debra Lucey tried to have a
heart-to-heart, “he’d describe the terrible things he’d seen and done,” she
says, “and he’d always end by saying ‘You’ll never be able to understand’.”
Frantic, family members had him committed to a psychiatric hospital but he
was soon released. A few weeks later he crashed the family car, and the
following month a neighbor found him wandering the streets in the middle of
the night dressed in full camouflage with two battle knives he’d been issued
in Iraq. Last June, Jeffrey Lucey hanged himself in the basement of his
family home.

Shortly before he died, Lucey talked to
an Iraq vet turned counselor at his local Vet Center. “He said he’d found
someone who could really understand,” says Debra. But before he could keep
his next appointment, his demons took hold. Now Debra is telling her brother’s
story in the hope that others find the help they need in time. Psychological
problems, she says, are an enemy that no soldier should face alone.

 

 

TRIBUTE TO OUR FALLEN
HEROES

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Family, Friends Remember Smith As Dutiful, Giving

 

The
Associated Press

December 6, 2004

By
Caryn Rousseau, Associated Press Writer

CAMDEN,
Ark.- For the third time in just more than a year, Camden Fairview High
School has played host to the funeral of a local soldier killed from wounds
suffered in Iraq.

On Sunday,
300 friends and family gathered in the school’s gymnasium to honor Sgt.
Michael Antonio Smith, 24, of Camden. It was a rousing service, marked with
gospel songs and spirited eulogies.

“If you’re
going to be a good soldier, you must be willing to lay down your life for
your country,” Smith’s pastor, Jacovis Davis said, summoning “amens” from the
crowd. “He was willing to go over to Iraq and do what he had to do. That’s a
good soldier.”

Davis said
Smith was also a “good soldier for Jesus.”

Smith died
Nov. 28 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington after being shot by
a sniper in Baghdad. His casket, surrounded by red, white and blue flowers,
sat at the front of the basketball gymnasium where Staff Sgt. Hesley “Tank”
Box Jr., 24, of Nashville, and Spc. Jonathan Cheatham, 19, of Camden, were
also memorialized.

Box was
killed May 6 in a car bombing in Baghdad and Cheatham died in Iraq on July
19, 2003, during a rocket-propelled grenade attack.

State Rep.
Robert White, D-Camden, who attended Sunday’s service, said the town had
suffered disproportionately from the war in Iraq. He said it was strange to
have had three funerals for soldiers in the town of 13,000.

“I’m hoping
and praying the sacrifice made from this community is being made for a good
cause,” White said.

He said the
area was blessed to have individuals who were willing to make that sacrifice.

Davis said
Smith’s family and friends shouldn’t believe that his life was cut short. “He
fulfilled his destiny,” Davis said. Another minister, Dwight Page, recalled
Smith as “one of the guys.”

“He would
get along with everybody – keep on keepin’ on,” Page said. “You don’t find
that too much today. I never heard him cuss. He would give the shirt off his
back.”

Page said that,
before Smith left for Iraq, he donated “all of his stuff – I’m talking about
good stuff” to others.

“He saw
something we didn’t see, that people needed it,” Page said.

Maj. Gen.
Don Morrow, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, presented
Smith’s parents, Donald Ray Smith and Deborah Smith, with medals their son
had earned – a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and an Arkansas Distinguished
Service Medal. Smith’s mother sobbed aloud each time Morrow handed her a
medal, and wiped tears from her face. Her husband handed her a handkerchief
for her to use, and then wiped his own eyes after she returned it.

Morrow
praised Smith’s willingness to do his duty.

“He was a
soldier, and when his country called, he answered that call willingly with
courage and honor,” Morrow said.

The Army
owes the family a debt it can never repay, Morrow said.

“This young
man was truly an outstanding young man. He had truly a great future in front
of him,” Morrow said.

He said
Smith had wanted to return to Camden and take courses in computer technology.

“It’s up to
us to live a good life, a life of freedom that this young man paid the price
for,” Morrow said.

After Morrow
presented the medals to Smith’s parents, the Sheila Atkins sang a spiritual:
“It’s all right, yes, Jesus, he’s going to make everything all right.” The
congregation clapped along in rhythm to Atkins’ words.

 

 

 

GENERAL

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New Home, Iraq; From Sleeping In Park
To A Job Serving Country

 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

December 3, 2004

By, TY TAGAMI

Robert Henderson lived in the woods of
an Atlanta park but soon will be living in Iraq — in an American uniform.

The formerly homeless man, who used to
get his best sleep riding early morning MARTA trains, soon will be Spc.
Robert Henderson of the 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery, of the Georgia National
Guard.
He is expected to report to Fort Stewart near Savannah this
morning.

“I was looking for a job. I was
tired of doing the hustle and bustle,” said Henderson, who expects to
find stability in one of the most unstable places on earth.

Henderson, 39, enlisted in the fall
after a yearlong bout of homelessness. An Army veteran, he said he was at
peace with his decision to go to war. “I was tired of going out there
and going for interviews, and it just hit me,” he said.

Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Driscoll
said Henderson would likely deploy to Iraq next year.

Driscoll said that as an administrative
specialist, Henderson would provide clerical support to the commander and
staff of his unit. He said onetime homelessness is no barrier to joining the
Guard, especially for an Army veteran.

“This is something that’s pretty
unusual,” Driscoll added. “We don’t have very many former homeless
people who are members of the National Guard.

Henderson has had some bad luck. He
said he dropped out of college after injuring his knee playing football.

After that he joined the Army and
served four years, but got out before the first Iraq war and never saw
combat.

He moved to Atlanta in 1991 and found
and lost several jobs. He said he wound up on the street after he lost a
temporary clerical position at the Small Business Administration two years
ago.

Henderson was wearing a crisp white
shirt with a leather jacket and tie when he met a reporter Thursday. He said
he’d always tried to maintain appearances.

He used to iron his shirt on a picnic
bench under the pavilion at Washington Park in the West End. He said he also
used the electrical outlets to shave, and slept in a sleeping bag in the
woods.

His Army training was good preparation
for homelessness, he said. “Those survival skills, or those camping
skills, really help you out to try to find some shelter.”

Henderson found $7-an-hour work
collecting trash along Atlanta streets through a program started by
Councilwoman Mary Norwood and administered by the Resource Opportunity
Center, a Decatur Street homeless service center. He said he also picked up
trash and cleaned bathrooms at Turner Field.

Henderson is engaged to be married. He
met Marie LeBrun last March while standing at a Hapeville bus stop after an
interview for a warehouse job. She said she gave him a ride because he looked
tired. LeBrun is trying to find steady work herself, but between the odd jobs
the two of them did, they were able to rent an apartment at the Villages of
East Lake.

LeBrun said she can’t afford the
two-bedroom apartment on her own and will look for something less expensive.
She was preparing Thursday evening to drive her fiance to Fort Stewart. The
couple plan to marry when he returns.

“I’m scared and just hope
everything will be all right,” she said.

 

 

‘Quiet
Professionals ‘Special Forces Unit Gets Awards, Celebration

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Star banner

Dec 5, 2004

OCALA –
Officers pinned an unprecedented number of medals on members of an Ocala
Special Forces unit Saturday, a feat deserving of fanfare. But while the rest
of the community was focused on the city’s festive Christmas parade, these
heroes insisted on keeping things low key.

The A
Company, 3rd Battalion 20th Special Forces Group, based at the local National Guard Armory, is often
secretive about its mission and modest and humble about its accomplishments.
The group doesn’t like fanfare and its members are often referred to as the
“quiet professionals.”

But on
Saturday at the Central Florida Community College Harvey Klein Center, family
members and friends celebrated as members received well-deserved awards.

“Every
one of these men has had a large caliber weapon and rockets firing at
them,” said Major Kevin Holiday, A Company’s commanding officer. He
explained that although all the men did not receive a Silver Star or a Bronze
Star with Valor, all risked their lives for the mission.

“That’s
the sad thing about war. All my guys have valor . . . But I can’t give it (an
award) to everyone,” he said.

During their
deployment, the unit helped to build rapport with the people of Afghanistan.
Because they mostly stayed near the Afghan border they also helped weed out
insurgents in the area.

Fifty-four
men were awarded Bronze Stars, some with valor; two others, Staff Sgt. Andrew
Lewis and Staff Sgt. Joshua Betten, were awarded Silver Stars. Only one
received a Purple Heart.

Lewis says
he’s glad to be home but says he didn’t want to talk about his experiences
oversees – even to his future children and grandchildren.

“No,
I’m not going to tell them war stories,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Lewis.
“I don’t want them to know war. That’s why I’m fighting it.”

Lewis
recently re-enlisted for another six years.

Chief
Warrant Officer Neville Shorter, 58, remembers how Afghan children came
around and how the poor country deserved better.

“It’s a
third world country. People just suffer,” he said. “It wasn’t fair
to them. . . . Kids are kids. They would wave at us. It was when they didn’t
come around that you worried.”

Other family
members became emotional during the ceremony.

“Well,
I tell you that Green Beret song got to me . . .” said Elouise Moulton,
wiping tears with a tissue. Her grandson is Joshua Betten.

“I’m
really happy and elated but sad because his grandfather wasn’t here to see
him,” she said.

According to
Lt. Col. Ron Tittle, director of public affairs for the Florida Army and Air National Guard, Saturday’s ceremony
was the first time since World War II that a Florida National Guardsmen was awarded a Silver Star.

In 1944,
Staff Sgt. Robert Evans of Sanford was awarded the Silver Star after being
killed in action in the Battle of Colgans Woods.

Contact
Mabel Perez at 867-4106 or [email protected]

 

 

National Guard Men, Women Receive Honor For
Defense Work

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The Citizen

4 December
2004

By Benning
W. De La Mater

AUBURN –
Maj. Thomas McGloine remembers the time he realized the role of the National Guard had changed.

It was a
year after Sept. 11, and he was in the dark, dusty tunnels under the streets
of New York, under the site where the Twin Towers once stood.

“We had
just gotten to New York and the NYPD was taking us on a tour of the
area,” he said. “You could still smell the burning materials
underground. It was a very poignant moment for us. We knew our jobs had
changed. We were now the militia entrusted with providing security and public
confidence.”

McGloine was
one of 65 New York National Guard
members of the 1st Battalion 108th Infantry honored at the Auburn Armory
Saturday afternoon for Operation Noble Eagle, a homeland defense mission that
provides security for airports, railways, power plants, bridges and tunnels.

Auburn’s ceremony
was one of a handful of services that were being staged at Guard posts across
the state. For their service, Guardsmen received an encased American flag, a
lapel insignia, a commemorative coin and certificate, an insignia for their
spouses and a future soldier game kit for their children.

State Sen.
Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, speaking to an armory filled with fatigue-clad
soldiers, and their wives, husbands and children, said although their jobs
have often involved thankless work, the soldiers of the National Guard deserve a great deal of praise.

“(They)
have answered the call to ensure that another Sept. 11 never happens
again,” Nozzolio said. “The eyes of the world are still on New
York, and these members of the Guard have maintained our security. New York
is indeed in their debt.”

Standing
against the backdrop of an American flag, former commander Col. Kevin J.
Forney spoke about long, cold, breezy nights spent guarding the entrances to
the Lincoln Tunnel and bridges surrounding New York City.

“The
term ‘part-time soldier’ doesn’t apply to the New York National Guard anymore,” he said.

Scipio
Center resident Norman Camp, a Guardsman for 32 years, worked battalion
supply at Fort Hamilton. He said the biggest challenge for the Guard since
Sept. 11 has been adapting to its new role logistically.

“Before,”
he said, “we never would have left Auburn. Now, we’re all over the
state.”

And all over
the world. Cayuga’s Penny Hand, 24, has six friends in Iraq, and she said
there’s a chance she could be called to international duty. Buffalo’s
detachment of the 108th is currently supporting ground troops in Iraq.

“We’re
no longer a one-weekend-a-month, two-weeks-a-year unit,” said Hand, a
specialist. “That’s the reality now.”

Staff writer
Benning W. De La Mater can be reached at 253-5311 ext. 237 or
[email protected]

 

 

Care Packages For Troops In Iraq Causing
Headaches For Pentagon

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The
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

December 6, 2004

By
Darryl Enriquez

MILWAUKEE _
Caring civilians who send unsolicited packages to troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan could misconstrue military commanders as Scrooges this holiday
season.

The
Department of Defense wants an immediate halt to those well-meaning
collection drives and the resulting shipments of donated goods to overseas
bases. The plea is supported by two state military commanders who asked that
gestures of generosity be made closer to home by supporting the families of
soldiers serving overseas.

Though
packages from family members are still welcome, security concerns and
distribution problems throughout the war zones make unsolicited items
potential liabilities to military commanders who are busy fighting a war and
have little time to check on the safety of unsolicited donations, military
officials say.

Goods, gifts
and well-wishes that land in Iraq or Afghanistan without direct receiving
addresses stand little or no chance of getting to their intended destination:
American military units.

Pallets of
collected items from unknown sources have baked in the intense Iraqi heat,
causing glass and plastic containers to burst before they are eventually
buried, said Eugene Gosline, an Oak Creek, Wis., resident and former
reservist who remains active in veterans affairs.

Gosline was
active in past collection drives but has now stopped those activities at the
request of the military.

Some of
collected items aren’t even needed.

Lt. Col.
Timothy Donovan, spokesman for the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard
command in Madison, said an example of wasted donations involves lip balm.

“We
ended up burying it,” he said. “The troops have plenty of ChapStick
available to them, but so many people sent ChapStick to a battalion that
nobody ever opened the boxes.

“We
tried to give it away to other units and residents.”

An avalanche
of donations also threatens to clog already limited delivery systems, said
Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

“There’s
only so much postal capacity,” Donovan said. “The care packages may
be well-intentioned but it competes for the same space that gets a letter
from a little girl to her dad.”

Lt. Col. Leo
Beasley, executive wing officer with the 128th Air National Guard at
Mitchell International Airport, said that everyone in uniform appreciates the
generosity of civilians.

“But
it’s not worth taking the chance,” Beasley said. “Homemade foods
get wet and then bake in the sun. And who knows if the toothpaste or other
things that are sent over have been tampered with? We’re fighting a different
kind a war, a war on terrorism. Somebody has to take responsibility on the
other end of the delivery and officers don’t want that risk.”

Donovan also
asked if it’s worth putting soldiers at risk to pick up and distribute the
items.

An inability
to guarantee the security of the items is one reason the military is calling
for a stop to the donation programs, Krenke said.

“I’d
rather have cookies baked by mom arrive to the troops, instead of from
someone who is not known,” Krenke said. “There are other ways to
support the troops besides sending care packages.

“Instead
of sending troops care packages directly, take care of their families. The
best way would be to find out if there’s any needs for the loved ones of
troops, not only through the holidays but as long as we have troops
fighting.”

The military
directive is not meant to discourage relatives, friends and organizations who
are in direct contact with military personnel and their units from sending
care packages, Krenke said.

It’s an
appeal to the general public, she said.

“During
this time of year, the number of donation programs increases and causes mail
from families and friends to be mixed with mail from unknown sources,
resulting in delivery delays,” a Defense Department directive says.
“Service members should receive mail only from those friends and family
members to whom they personally give their addresses.”

By stopping
the collection drives, organizers would no longer need to worry about
expensive shipping costs that average about $1 a pound.

Donovan said
he still gets a dozen or more calls a day from well-meaning people who gather
items for the troops without plans to get the items overseas.

The military
cannot use its transports to ship the items or reveal mailing addresses of
troops to receive gifts, he said.

 

 

Rotary
Club Of Salem Hosting Party For Families

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Roanoke
Times & World News (Roanoke, VA)

December 5, 2004

By  From Staff Reports

Military Personnel

The Rotary
Club of Salem is hosting a Christmas party for Roanoke-area families of
military personnel deployed in or soon to be deployed to Iraq and
Afghanistan.

The party is
scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at St. John’s Lutheran Church at 4608
Brambleton Ave. in Roanoke County.

The Rotary
Club is seeking donations and volunteers for the event.

Proceeds
exceeding the event’s costs will be donated to the National Guard’s
Family Assistance Care Fund, the Rotary Club said.

To
contribute or to volunteer, call John Hahn at 576-1984 or Jim Laub at
375-7900.

 

 

                                                                    
End                             
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