Monday, March 30, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ MAJ Alan Brown

Major Alan Brown rides a stationary bicycle March 21 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Major Brown is an amputee C-130 Hercules pilot deployed with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from the 187th Airlift Squadron of the Wyoming Air National Guard. He lost his leg in a hunting accident 10 years ago, and after seven years he regained his qualifcations to fly. Major Brown works out daily riding the stationary bike using a custom strap developed by the unit's life support crew.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erik Cardenas

Wyoming amputee pilot completes third deployment

by Maj. Carie A. Parker

455th Air Expeditionary Wing

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) (3/27/2009) - What sets Maj. Alan Brown apart from other Airmen in the gym at Bagram Airfield's Camp Cunningham isn't his workout routine, it's his right leg.

"When people see me in shorts at the gym there's definitely a pattern," said the 42-year-old mobility pilot of Pine Bluffs, Wyo.

"They glance at my eyes, look down at my leg and then look back at my eyes," said the Wyoming Air National Guard Airmen deployed with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. "It happens every time."

Major Brown accidentally shot his leg in a hunting accident more than 10 years ago. After four weeks in a drug-induced coma and three weeks of grueling rehabilitation, he was released as an above-the-knee amputee. His family made the decision to amputate after several attempts to restore blood flow to the leg failed. That decision saved his life.

"My body was shutting down and they made the tough decision to amputate not knowing how I would react," the major said.

Once he woke up, remembering the accident, his eyes were drawn to his leg. He asked the obvious question, "I lost my leg right?" Then he asked if his then girlfriend (now wife) Gina was still around. His third question provided his family some kind of relief, "What can I do to fly again?"

The answer to the last question had already been researched while the major was in his coma. Knowing how passionate he was about flying, squadron mates had done some homework to find out exactly how he could fly again. Upon hearing his question, they shared with him the names of two civilian amputee pilots who had successfully returned to the cockpit following similar procedures.

Despite recommendations from medical professionals, Major Brown left the crutches and wheelchair behind, focusing on being back to normal. He never looked back.

"Attitude is everything, either you're going to let an injury like this ruin your life or you resume your life," Major Brown said.

He returned to work just nine weeks after the accident, and said he's found if he's willing to give everything he has toward a goal, people are willing to give everything they have to assist. One of those goals was getting back in the cockpit of the C-130 Hercules, re-establishing himself as just another pilot.

"I had invested a lot of time and energy into becoming a pilot," he said. "I wasn't about to walk away from the only career I had known."

First, Major Brown had to prove he should stay in the National Guard. Once he convinced leadership he was dedicated to the mission, the next step was to convince them he could deploy.

His current deployment is his third since he regained his worldwide qualification in 2005.
In the meantime, a well-meaning co-worker offered him a handicapped parking spot so he wouldn't have to walk so far to work.

"I laughed, thanked her and explained that I wasn't handicapped," he said. "It totally went against everything I was trying to achieve. In my mind I couldn't be handicapped and convince people I was able to fly a plane."

His last and most challenging task was to assure anyone who would listen that he wouldn't be a liability as a pilot. He had to prove this with a testimonial from a flight doctor that he could perform as a two-legged pilot.

Before the accident he'd flown for almost five years. From start to finish it took another seven years to get back in the saddle with the military. His dedication to the mission helped motivate him toward getting requalified.

"In my mind, I need to be deployed with my buddies. We've been training and flying together for years. It's not an option to stay home while they're here taking on the mission," the major said. "Flying is in my blood. It's what I do. And besides, I believe in what we're doing in Afghanistan."

He admitted flying is different with a prosthetic.

"As a pilot, using your feet is second nature," he said. "I just had to learn how to operate in a different way after the accident."

The deployed environment does present one significant challenge to the pilot.

"The gravel is rough," he laughed. "I haven't fallen yet but I can tell you that I know where every paved surface is on the base."

His prosthetic leg is slightly shorter than his remaining leg -- to ensure he doesn't drag his foot on the ground -- and has a hydraulic knee to aid with stabilization, but it's much less maneuverable than his own leg.

That lack of flexibility limits him at the gym with weight training and cardiovascular activity. He discovered he can ride the stationary bike with the help of a custom strap crafted by the unit's life support crew.

"Just about every day someone approaches me to ask what happened," he said. "People aren't sure if I'm sensitive about it. But once I let them know that I'm not offended and explain what happened, everything is fine."

The one thing the major is reluctant to talk about is how he's helped others in his situation. He takes every opportunity to encourage other amputees there is life after a lost limb.

"This isn't about me and what I've accomplished. I made a big mistake. There's no one to blame for this but me, and I don't want to stand out," Major Brown said. "Being comfortable with my situation gives me a chance to answer questions other amputees may have on what they'll face."

On a recent trip to Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C., he visited many veterans facing the future without a limb.

"I just wanted to answer any questions they had," he said. "Coming home and not knowing what the future holds can be overwhelming."

He emphasized how impressive it is that the military has taken a wider approach with amputees in light of the recent increase in those losing limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also understands the importance of friends and family when facing difficulty.

"Everyone faces challenges, but having the right mindset and the right people to support you makes the difference," said the major, who expects to be back home by the end of the month.

"I'm the most fortunate guy around, not only do I get to fly, but I am surrounded by great people who have supported me and have now accepted me as just another pilot. That's all I've ever wanted.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Arctic Submarine

03/21/2009 - The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) rests in the Arctic Ocean March 21, 2009, after surfacing through three feet of ice during Ice Exercise 2009. The two-week training exercise, which is used to test submarine operability and war-fighting capability in Arctic conditions, involves two Los Angeles-class submarines, USS Helena (SSN 725) and USS Annapolis (SSN 760), the University of Washington and personnel from the Navy Arctic Submarine Laboratory.
DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tiffini M. Jones, U.S. Navy/Released

Of course, it makes me think of this.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tearing Down Walls in Iraq

An Iraqi man hooks chains onto the lifting points of a concrete barrier as the barriers are removed from a marketplace in Samarra, Iraq, March 23, 2009. This was the first step in a citywide barrier removal project.

Iraqis Tear Down Wall, Reminder of Darker Days in Iraq
By Army Sgt. Ian Terry
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE BRASSFIELD-MORA, Iraq, March 25, 2009 - Scores of Samarra civilians joined provincial and community leaders March 23 at a concrete barrier removal ceremony reminiscent of the tearing down of Germany's Berlin Wall nearly 20 years ago.

The concrete barriers, commonly known as "T-walls," surround several government and military buildings throughout Samarra to provide a layer of protection against insurgent attacks. While T-walls are a familiar site in Iraq, they are a sign of more dangerous times, and most Samarra residents agree it's time for them to go.

Samarra Mayor Mahmood Khalaf Ahmed joined Army Lt. Col. Sam Whitehurst, commander of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Samarra residents to witness the first step in a citywide barrier removal project.

The site selected for the initial barrier removal is in a section of Samarra that was once used for public executions in darker days. Today, it is a peaceful marketplace.

"Samarra has become very peaceful," Omar Khaled, a local produce shop owner, said. "The barriers remind us of bad times, but it is time to look toward the future and enjoy our peace. It is time to reopen Samarra."

Ten individual barriers were lifted, removed and placed on a flatbed truck. Both Ahmed and Whitehurst spoke with Iraqi media, echoing Khaled's sentiment.

"The people of Samarra have a sense of security now," Ahmed said, "a security they have not known in many years." "Many exciting events have transpired in Samarra over our last five months here," Whitehurst said. "Today is, without a doubt, the most exciting of those events."

"The progress and security that has come to Samarra is a direct result of the cooperation and partnership of the Samarran people," he continued. "None of this would be possible without your help."

The removed barriers will be given to the Iraqi army and used for security around military compounds.

(Army Sgt. Ian Terry serves with the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

More good news from Iraq - sorry this missed the evening news....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ SGT Jacinta Mello

"My passion is medicine. My love is helping people at tough times. When someone needs assistance, you can just see it in their eyes,” said SGT Jacinta Mello, who recently was called to help fellow California Army National Guardsmen in a similar-yet-different role: She’s a Combat Lifesaver instructor, who travels across the state teaching deploying Soldiers basic life-saving techniques.

“When you have a skill, you just have to teach it to help others,” Mello explained. “It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t apply what you know, and it’s even better if others learn from it.”

Her San Mateo, Calif., home station, Company C, 297th Area Support Medical Company, sends mobile training teams (MTTs) out to assist units deploying overseas.

Four medics were in Fairfield recently instructing 49th Military Police Brigade Soldiers on CLS basics. From her experience, CLS is a difficult session, Mello said.

“It’s just staying with the basics of how to save a life,” she added. “There’s so much more to learn. But CLS is very important. You’re not scaring people, you’re kissing them with reality.”

Mello, a Berkeley, Calif., resident, taught CLS to Guardsmen and active duty Soldiers since November 2007. Prior to that, she served as a respiratory practitioner and paramedic for Allied Ambulances in the San Francisco Bay area. Her role takes her into serious situations. She deals with extreme trauma cases and onto playing peacemaker with those with psychological disorders, she said.

It all started as a civilian EMT. Mello attended the San Francisco-based Skyline Community College in 1986. Her experience excelled during the famous 1989 San Francisco earthquake, which was then followed by the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. Between duties, Mello was a corpsman with the Navy Reserves.

After an inactive period, Mello joined the California Army National Guard to continue service. Since serving on active duty for special work in 2007, she has helped teach CLS to about 5,000 Soldiers.

“And we have about 3,500 just next month,” she added.

What’s ironic about her story is as often as she battles to help save lives, Mello has recovered in a battle of her own. She’s a cancer survivor.

At 49 years young, Mello says she’ll soon be back to her normal physical state.

“It’s just a matter of time. It was hard initially, but I’m getting there,” Mello said.

There’s still one obstacle to face. Mello will deploy this summer with the Camp Roberts-based Task Force Warrior to Afghanistan, a tour she “desperately needs” to accomplish another goal.

“I want to validate myself as a combat medic,” said the life-saver. “I’ve been waiting for this. I have wanted to go. If I can get out there and continue helping people, I’ll do it to the best I can.”

Story by Spc. Eddie Siguenza
Photo by Spc. David Choi
California National Guard

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ Chief Master SGT Paul Wesley Airey

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Elena

Chief Master Sergeant Paul Wesley Airey
Chief Master Sergeant Paul Wesley Airey
U.S. Air Force

"Chief Airey was an Airman’s Airman and one of the true pioneers for our service," said Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff. "He was a warrior, an innovator… and a leader with vision well ahead of his time. His legacy lives today in the truly professional enlisted force we have serving our nation… and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude."

Chief Airey was born in Quincy, Mass., on December 13, 1923. At age eighteen, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December, 7, 1941, Airey quit high school to enlist in the Army Air Forces on November 16, 1942. He later earned his high school equivalency certificate through off-duty study. During World War II he flew as a B-24 radio operator and additional duty aerial gunner. On his 28th mission, then-Technical Sergeant Airey and his fellow crewmen were shot down over Vienna, Austria, captured, and held prisoner by the German air force from July 1944 to May 1945. During his time as a prisoner of war he worked tirelessly to meet the basic needs of fellow prisoners, even through a 90-day forced march.

Chief Airey held the top enlisted from April 3, 1967 to July 31, 1969. During his tenure he worked to change loan establishments charging exorbitant rates outside the air base gates and to improve low retention during the Vietnam Conflict. Chief Airey also led a team that laid the foundation for the Weighted Airman Promotion System, a system that has stood the test of time and which is still in use today. He also advocated for an Air Force-level Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy. His vision became reality when the academy opened in 1973, becoming the capstone in the development of Air Force Senior NCOs. Chief Airey retired August 1, 1970. He continued advocating for Airmen’s rights by serving on the boards of numerous Air Force and enlisted professional military organizations throughout the years. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Airmen Memorial Museum, a member of the Air Force Memorial Foundation and the Air University Foundation.

On the north wall of the Air Force Memorial in Washington D.C., Chief Airey’s thoughts on Airmen are immortalized, "When I think of the enlisted force, I see dedication, determination, loyalty and valor." The Air Force Association honored Airey with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Chief Airey passed away on March 11, 2009 at his home in Panama City, Florida

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their li
so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday.
For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
Wednesday Hero Logo

Monday, March 23, 2009

Night Launch

GULF OF OMAN (March 19, 2009) An Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) directs an F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighter assigned to the "Tomcatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 to a catapult during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevlet (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevlet and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 are operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Snyder/Released

Friday, March 20, 2009

Helicopter Flight Check

03/14/2009 - U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class George Cooper performs an after-flight check on an SH-60F Seahawk from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron 4 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in the Pacific Ocean on March 14, 2009. The ship and Carrier Air Wing 14 are underway performing a sustainment exercise.

DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Rosalie Garcia, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wish Upon a Star......

U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Highberger and Pvt. Charles Joiner, both from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe, man a patrol base during an overnight mission near Forward Operating Base Lane in the Zabul province of Afghanistan on March 13, 2009.

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini, U.S. Army. (Released)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Failed Bailout

Cartoon by Chris Muir - click to enlarge
follow his work here:
get reminders on Twitter

General Eric (let's make them all wear Chinese made berets) Shinseki, has made a proposal to President Obama that they both seem quite enthusiastic about. If a soldier is wounded while fighting the wars the President sends them too, they should pay for their war wounds with their private insurance. What private insurance does a government employed soldier have, exactly?

The Commander of the American Legion met with the President on Monday, and left infuriated.

Here is his statement from the American Legion site

WASHINGTON, DC (March 16, 2009) – The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization says he is “deeply disappointed and concerned” after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.

“It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan,” said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. “He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it.”

The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, “This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ‘… to care for him who shall have borne the battle…’ given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America’s veterans!”

Commander Rehbein was among a group of senior officials from veterans service organizations joining the President, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The group’s early afternoon conversation at The White House was precipitated by a letter of protest presented to the President earlier this month. The letter, co-signed by Commander Rehbein and the heads of ten colleague organizations, read, in part, “ There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran’s personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable.”

Commander Rehbein reiterated points made last week in testimony to both House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. It was stated then that The American Legion believes that the reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate that VA treat service-connected injuries and disabilities given that the United States government sends members of the armed forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies. The proposed requirement for these companies to reimburse the VA would not only be unfair, says the Legion, but would have an adverse impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families. The Legion argues that, depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran’s condition alone. That would leave the rest of the family without health care benefits. The Legion also points out that many health insurance companies require deductibles to be paid before any benefits are covered. Additionally, the Legion is concerned that private insurance premiums would be elevated to cover service-connected disabled veterans and their families, especially if the veterans are self-employed or employed in small businesses unable to negotiate more favorable across-the-board insurance policy pricing. The American Legion also believes that some employers, especially small businesses, would be reluctant to hire veterans with service-connected disabilities due to the negative impact their employment might have on obtaining and financing company health care benefits.

“I got the distinct impression that the only hope of this plan not being enacted,” said Commander Rehbein, “is for an alternative plan to be developed that would generate the desired $540-million in revenue. The American Legion has long advocated for Medicare reimbursement to VA for the treatment of veterans. This, we believe, would more easily meet the President’s financial goal. We will present that idea in an anticipated conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel in the near future.

“I only hope the administration will really listen to us then. This matter has far more serious ramifications than the President is imagining,” concluded the Commander.

Wednesday Hero ~ Kevin Baker

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Kathi

Kevin Baker
Kevin Baker
U.S. Navy

Kevin George Baker, a disabled Navy veteran, had been riding his hand-propelled bicycle from his hometown through Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Marseilles, Illinois to support a new flag designed to honor fallen members of the military. His trip began at his home on Saturday, March 7 and sadly ended on March 13 when he passed away in his sleep. Baker, who was unable to use his legs due to a neurological impairment, was flying the Honor and Remember Flag from his bike and encouraged people along the way to sign a petition urging Congress to adopt the flag as a new national symbol by passing HR Bill 1034.

You can read the rest of Baker's story here

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives
so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday
For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
Wednesday Hero Logo

Monday, March 16, 2009

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

U.S. Soldiers from the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division prepare a Shadow, an unmanned aerial vehicle, for exercise Sudden Response 2009 at Camp Blanding, Fla., March 11, 2009. Sudden Response is a Joint Task Force-Civil Support operation where participants perform chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive consequence management and give defense support to civil authorities.
DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr., U.S. Air Force/Released

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Refueling in the Air.....

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber aircraft from the 509th Bomb Wing, 13th Bomb Squadron Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., positions to refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over the Pacific Ocean, March 10, 2009.
DoD photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald, U.S. Air Force/Released

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ SPC Sixto Garcia

On Feb. 23, 2009, Spc. Sixto Garcia was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device for actions in Anbar province, Iraq, March 23, 2007.

Spc. Garcia provided overwatch with his M240B machine gun as his unit secured a village. The unit’s routine was disrupted when a vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device (IED) raced toward them. Spc. Garcia immediately engaged and hit the vehicle, causing it to veer off the road and detonate just short of the unit. Next, a series of IEDs exploded in succession that knocked Spc. Garcia from his position to the ground. Regaining his senses, he set his M240 back up and re-engaged. His steady contact with the enemy enabled his unit to re-group and evacuate the wounded to safety. Spc. Garcia’s role in the fight contributed to no loss of American lives.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division commented on Spc. Garcia’s “incredible calm under fire and presence of mind to report everything that was happening to his non-commissioned officer in charge.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oregon National Guard 2009 NCO & Soldier of the Year

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ginestar negotiates the "weaver" obstacle during the Oregon National Guard’s 2009 NCO and Soldier of the Year competition on Camp Rilea, Warrenton, Ore., Feb. 27-March 1, 2009. Ginestar, a platoon sergeant assigned to 1st Battalion, 82nd Cavalry, won the title of the Oregon National Guard's 2009 NCO of the year.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric A. Rutherford

Specialist Donald Snyder jumps over an obstacle during the Oregon National Guard's 2009 Soldier of the Year/NCO of the Year competition, Feb. 27-March 1, at Camp Rilea, Warrenton, Ore. Snyder, of Tri-Cities, Wash., won the title of the Oregon National Guard's 2009 Soldier of the Year. Snyder, of Tri-Cities, Wash., is a medic with Detachment 1, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry.
Photo by Sgt. Eric A. Rutherford, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs

WARRENTON, Ore. -- Twelve Oregon Guard members from around the state met at Camp Rilea, Feb. 27 - March 1, for the 2009 Oregon Soldier of the Year/Non-commissioned Officer of the year competition.

Six NCOs and six soldiers faced lack of sleep and physical and mental challenges in a shot at the title of Oregon's best.

The competitors had previously been recognized as the best soldiers and NCOs at the unit level before heading to the State level competition. Winners of the event will continue on to a regional competition later this year.

Guard members put on their class-A uniforms for the first two events, an appearance board followed by an essay. After a few short hours of sleep, the competitors were back at it before dawn, taking a physical fitness test before moving out to a land navigation course.

The soldiers and NCOs got a short break for lunch before heading back out to the field to compete against each other in an obstacle course, which consisted of rope ladders, low-crawl course, and log obstacles.

With no rest time they moved out again to a rifle and pistol range, staying outside in the rain until after dark to qualify with their rifles in a night-fire event.

After a short dinner, the soldiers and NCOs headed back to the field to compete in a night land navigation course before getting a chance at any more sleep for the evening.

Sunday wrapped up with weapons familiarity tests before the award ceremony.Brigadier Gen. David Enyeart, State Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley and retired Maj. Gen. Curtis Loop, president of the Columbia River Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, presented all competitors with awards and engraved pocket knives before announcing the winners of the competition.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Ginestar, of Charlie Troop, 1st Battalion, 82nd Cavalry, was named 2009 Oregon NCO of the year, and Spc. Donald Snyder, with Detachment 1, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry was named 2009 Oregon soldier of the year.

Ginestar, of Klamath falls, is an infantry platoon sergeant, and Snyder, of Tri-Cities, Wash., is a medic.

Ginestar said his training and dedication to physical fitness were what helped him win the competition, which he added was fierce.

"It still hasn't sunk in," said Ginestar after the ceremony. "This is a great honor."Snyder said he was happy to have even made it to the competition, but was also a little shocked that he won."

This was a really tough competition," said Snyder. "It was the best of the best out there and I look forward to heading to the regional level to represent Oregon.

"Ginestar is set to deploy with the 41 IBCT later this year, so he won't be able to continue to the regional competition, but says he plans to compete again next year.

To read more about the Oregon National Guard:

Congratulations Staff Sgt Jesse Ginestar!!!

Congratulations Spc Donald Snyder!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ SPC Brian K Baker

Spc. Brian K. Baker
Spc. Brian K. Baker
27 years old from West Seneca, New York
2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry)
November 07, 2004
U.S. Army

Near his hometown, the flag flew at half-staff outside the East Concord Volunteer Fire Department where Baker had been a junior firefighter. He joined the Army shortly after graduating from Springville-Griffith Institute in 1996 with the goal of making it his career, friends said.

"You might say it was his calling," said Lori Ploetz, a longtime family friend. "He was great at what he did. He was respected by his peers."

Spc. Brian Baker was killed when a vehicle-borne IED detonated near his security patrol in Baghdad. He leaves behind his parents, his wife, Amy, and two daughters who were born after his death.

Information Source

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives
so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday.
For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.

Wednesday Hero Logo

Monday, March 09, 2009

Milblogger Cookbook ~ Recipes Wanted

Taken directly from our friends at Blackfive:


Hey, folks, here is a GREAT way to contribute even these difficult economic times.

Some very awesome people are putting a cookbook together to assist Honor Their Service, inc., which is the home of such great projects as Operation Fresh Air and Operation Santa at our military hospitals.

They need submissions from milbloggers and commenters alike in all catagories (appetizers, sides, salads, soups, main dishes, desserts, drinks, etc.). My Blackfive Turkey recipe should not be included, but Mrs. Blackfive has agreed to let one or two of her patented, trade-marked, copyrighted, and LoJacked recipes to be included.

The cookbook will be made available for sale after the collection of recipes and printing cost is negotiated...maybe even in time for the Annual MilBlog Conference this April. Honor Their Service puts together some great events at low costs so I wouldn't expect the cost to preclude anyone from getting a copy.

Send your recipes (and any questions you might have) to

They are accepting recipes from until March 9th 16th.


Surely everyone can send a recipe in!

I can hardly wait to get a copy!!!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Tale of the Troops and Their Commanders in Chief

A picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures are worth volumes.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Hearts of Soldiers and Children

U.S. Army Pvt. Charles Joiner hands out candy to village children during a supply distribution near Forward Operation Base Lane, Zabul province, Afghanistan, Feb. 28, 2009. Joiner is assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt Adam Mancini

U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Woods hands candy to Iraqi children during the clearing of Tammuz in Diyala province, Iraq, March 2, 2009. Woods is assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment..

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter J. Pels

Friday, March 06, 2009

Barbara Bush ~ Sending Get Well Wishes

Barbara Bush, one of our great First Ladies, has undergone an aortic transplant.

To send your Get Well Wishes, visit here:

and click on the link.

Face of Freedom ~ SSG Jeffrey Moe

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey D. Moe, 2nd Bn., 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) is awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device on Feb. 20. Moe heroically distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of insurgents June 3, 2007 in Diwaniyah, Iraq.
Photo by SSG Michael R. Noggle

On Feb. 20, 2009, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Moe, 2nd Bn., 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor device for actions in Diwaniyah, Iraq, June 3, 2007.

Staff Sgt. Moe was supporting a Special Forces Operational Detachment (ODA) and soldiers from 8th Iraqi Army when they came up against mounted resistance of at least 100 insurgents. He reacted first by securing his ground and denying the enemy from advancing in his sector. During the firefight, a sniper team advanced from the ODA’s forward line to destroy enemy fire positions. The insurgents enveloped the team and severely wounded one of the snipers. Realizing the team’s immobility, Staff Sgt. Moe stepped from protected cover and laid suppressive fire on the enemy positions. Despite taking an enemy round in his leg, he continued to place effective fire on the enemy until the sniper team moved to save cover.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ Chris Jackson

Marine Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, awarded cameraman Chris Jackson with the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award

Chris Jackson, a network cameraman, and Marines from Multi-National Force and Corps-Iraq pose for a group picture at an awards ceremony Jan. 24. Jackson was awarded the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award for pulling a Marine from a burning vehicle in Afghanistan Aug. 3, 2008.

When told in front of the crowd of digital cameras why he was invited to Al Faw Palace, Jackson blushed. “It goes to show that Marines have a good sense of humor,” he said. “I was told I was coming here for a briefing.”

By Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante
13th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - On Aug. 3, 2003, while traveling the dangerous roads of Afghanistan, a cameraman working for Fox News risked his life to save a U.S. Marine from a vehicle engulfed in flames.

While embedded with 2nd Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, cameraman Chris Jackson’s vehicle hit 50 pounds of homemade explosives. The Humvee occupants escaped the flaming vehicle, all but the vehicle commander, Sgt. Courtney Rauch.

The blast severely injured Rauch and knocked him unconscious. Jackson, despite having received shrapnel wounds himself, rushed back to the vehicle, pulled Rauch out and carried him to safety. “Without Chris’ quick thinking and heroic act, I would have lost my life that day,” Rauch said. “Chris forgot about being a reporter that day and became one of our bothers and acted as one of us. Chris went above and beyond his duty.”

Jackson, who now works for CNN/Turner Broadcasting, was presented the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the second highest award given to civilians by the Navy, for his actions. Jackson received the award during a stop in Iraq en route to India. An audience of appreciative Marines was on hand during the ceremony.

Marine Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps – Iraq, has a son in the very same company with which Jackson was traveling. Lefebvre, who presented the award on behalf of the Navy, asked his son if all the wonderful things being said about Jackson were true. “I asked him ‘is this the real thing’ and he said ‘yeah dad, this guy’s a hero’,” Lefebvre said. “This was not an everyday action. It came from somewhere deep inside and shows such a level of courage and commitment.”

When told in front of the crowd of digital cameras why he was invited to Al Faw Palace, Jackson blushed. “It goes to show that Marines have a good sense of humor,” he said. “I was told I was coming here for a briefing.”

Jackson, who has been out with service members in combat zones since 2001, said he didn’t think twice about risking his own life to save someone else’s. “I wasn’t thinking. I saw there was trouble and I didn’t even think about grabbing a camera and filming it,” Jackson said. “I just did what anyone else would do if someone was in trouble.”

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ SGT Stephen Howell

Sgt. Stephen Howell
Sgt. Stephen Howell

Sgt. Stephen Howell, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band percussionist, races a student at Palisades Elementary School in Pearl City, Hawaii during an 11-event circuit course Feb. 20. More than 20 Marines assisted local park volunteers with manning the different events.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives
so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday.
For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
Wednesday Hero Logo

Monday, March 02, 2009

Afghanistan Patrol

02/28/2009 - U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jared Tomberlin, right, and an interpreter descend a mountain ridge during a reconnaissance mission near Forward Operating Base Lane in the Zabul province of Afghanistan Feb. 28, 2009. Tomberlin is assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini, U.S. Army/Released