Friday, July 31, 2009

Soldiers and Fun!

U.S. Army Chaplain (Capt.) Michael Wikstrom shows Afghan refugee children how to blow bubbles during an aid delivery mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 24, 2009.Wikstrom is assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan. Chaplains and coalition forces frequently volunteer to distribute donated clothing, school supplies and food aid to people throughout the Kabul area.
U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Marc Lane

I put bubbles in care packages - yes, this is what I envisioned!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gen Petraeus Visits the USS Bainbridge

USS Bainbridge
Navy photo released

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, addresses sailors aboard USS Bainbridge while the ship was in port in Manama, Bahrain, July 27, 2009. Petraeus thanked sailors for their hard work while deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet as well as their role in the successful rescue of Richard Phillips, the Maersk Alabama captain held captive by Somali pirates for five days in April.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer

Petraeus Visits Sailors, Awards Maersk Rescuers

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer
Special to American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, July 27, 2009 – The head of U.S. Central Command visited the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge while in port here today to thank sailors for their work while deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet, as well as for their role in the rescue of Richard Phillips, the Maersk Alabama cargo ship captain held captive by Somali pirates.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus held an all-hands call with Bainbridge's sailors and presented awards to three sailors for rescuing Phillips after he was held by pirates for five days in April.

"The eyes of the world were upon you that Easter weekend," Petraeus said. "You played important roles and should be proud of what you did. In moments of danger and decision during the rescue of Captain Phillips, you did what you were trained to do. You remembered your skills. You did your duty. You stood your watch. And you brought Captain Phillips home alive."

Petraeus presented Senior Chief Joel Steinbach with the Meritorious Service Medal, and Petty Officers 2nd Class Matthew Olin and Joshua Waters with the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for their exemplary service during the rescue.

Steinbach served as the chief negotiator and liaison between the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group/Crisis Negotiation Unit and the pirates holding Phillips.

"I am honored to be recognized with this award and to receive it from General Petraeus," Steinbach said. "However, the credit for the rescue of Captain Phillips belongs to all the sailors who took part in the successful operation."

Olin and Waters led a boat crew in the covert recovery of U.S. Navy SEALs, served as coxswain as their boats approached the pirate lifeboat holding Phillips despite coming under hostile fire on the initial approach, and navigated their boats alongside the lifeboat to direct negotiations for the release and subsequent rescue of Phillips.

"I am proud that I was part of this mission and that I made a difference," Olin said. "I am proud of all the sailors involved who not only risked their lives, but brought honor upon our ship."

Bainbridge Commanding Officer Cmdr. Frank X. Castellano said it was an honor to host Petraeus. He praised his crew for their role in the rescue and counter-piracy operations.

"The success of Captain Phillips' rescue belongs not to a single commander or a team of SEALs," Castellano said. "Those few days belong to everyone involved -- officers and enlisted, not on one ship, but several – who diligently stood their watch. It belongs to the many."

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer serves in U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.)

Previous Stories:
USS Bainbridge
Captain Phillips and the Pirates

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ SSG Darrell "Shifty" Power

This Week's Hero Was Suggested By Deb

SSgt. Darrell
SSgt. Darrell "Shifty" Power
86 years old from Dickerson County, Virginia
E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
June 17, 2009
U.S. Army

The world lost one of it's true heroes a couple of weeks ago. Darrell "Shifty" Powers passed away on June 17 of cancer. "Shifty" was part of the famed E Co/2/506 of the 101st Airborne Division. Easy Company. The Band Of Brothers.

"I loved everything about my daddy," said Margo Johnson, daughter of SSgt. Powers. "He never bragged about what he did in the war. And for a lot of years, he never even talked much about what he did – unless someone asked him about it. But he truly was a hero to me. Just like he'd been to the people who know him as a soldier in a [mini-series]."

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.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Visiting the Korean War Memorial with an Iraq War Vet

I visited the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC a few years ago. I had gone to the east coast for a homecoming ceremony for an adopted soldier 'son'. He and I spent a day on the Mall and visited the major monuments. Neither of us had seen the Korean War Memorial.

We approached it from the back. The life size figures appeared to be moving, their ponchos being blown by the wind. Walking between the field of soldiers and a black wall etched with faces from the war and reflecting the figures was a very powerful statement.

But, the most powerful moment of all, was watching a group of Korean tourists standing by our flag at the front of the monument - their faces full of emotions that only those who were there could possibly feel. One elderly woman stood staring at the soldiers with tears running down her face. She looked over at a group of high school kids and pointed at the inscription on the reflecting pool -- FREEDOM IS NOT FREE -- and said, "Remember." I don't know if they understood the significance of the moment, but I did and it was profound.

When I turned to look at my friend, I could see that he was fighting the tears, as I was, and he said, "one day there will be a monument to Iraq and Afghanistan and they will send tourists that will understand all we gave for their freedom." I believe he is right.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Korean War Armistice ~ 56 years ago

Korean War Memorial
Washington, DC

Generals Sign Armistice for Korean War
Gen. W. K. Harrison, Jr., left table, signs the armistice ending the 3-year Korean conflict.
On the right, North Korean Gen. Nam Il also signs documents.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 and ended with a signed armistice on July 27, 1953.
The armistice is a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, and left the Koreas divided and technically in a state of war. This was the beginning of wars that the United States engaged in and did not finish.

It was a brutal environment and the first conflict of the Cold War. Casualties were high, though most numbers are merely estimates. Yet, with all of this death, it is known as the "Forgotten War" and people have lost sight of it and the veterans who served there.

On one side was South Korea and with UN resolution 84, the following countries joined: United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Japan, Denmark, Italy, Norway, India and Sweden. The other side was North Korea, joined by the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China and Czechoslovakia.

Today, the United States still maintains bases along the DMZ (demilitarized zone) dividing North and South Korea. Recently, North Korean disavowed the armistice and threatened South Korea and the United States, as well as other democratic nations in the region.

South Korea

137,899 KIA
450,742 WIA
32,838 MIA/POW
United States
36,516 dead (2,830 non-combat)
92,134 wounded
8,176 MIA
7,245 POW
United Kingdom
1,109 dead
2,674 wounded
1,060 MIA or POW
721 dead
2,111 wounded
168 MIA
216 POW
516 dead
1,042 wounded
339 dead
1,200 wounded
300 KIA or MIA
194 KIA
459 wounded
112 KIA
123 KIA
106 KIA
New Zealand
33 KIA
South Africa
28 KIA and 8 MIA
Total: 776,000+

North Korea:
215,000 dead,
303,000 wounded,
120,000 MIA or POW
(Chinese estimate):

114,000 killed in combat
34,000 non-combat deaths
380,000 wounded
21,400 POW
(U.S. estimate):
400,000+ dead
486,000 wounded
21,000 POW
Soviet Union:
282 dead
Total: 1,190,000-1,577,000+

Total civilians killed/wounded: 2.5 Million (est.)
South Korea: 990,968
373,599 killed
229,625 wounded
387,744 abducted/missing
North Korea: 1,550,000 (est.)

133 men received the Medal of Honor in this conflict. To read their stories, go here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Flying Tigers of Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - A pair of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, get their final weapons check before taking off on a close-air-support mission. The aircraft assigned here provide close-air support and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for American and coalition ground troops.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Lake

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Staff Sgt. James Irvin, from the 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, performs an air cycle machine inspection to ensure the A-10 Thunderbolt functions properly, here July 20. Sergeant Irvin is deployed from the 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. and hails from Kerrville, Texas. They support Coalition forces on a daily basis in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke

Historic Flying Tigers Excel at Close Air Support Mission in Afghanistan

by Tech. Sgt. John Jung
455th Expeditionary Public Affairs

7/21/2009 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --

They trace their heritage back to the famous Flying Tigers of WWII's war-torn China. In homage to the storied Airmen of the past, the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., still has the iconic sharks face painted on the front of their A-10 Thunderbolt II's, lovingly nicknamed the "Warthog."

The Warthog's mission is to provide close air support and precision engagement missions throughout Afghanistan on a daily basis in support of Coalition ground forces.

But before the pilots ever get in the Warthog, it's the 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit that gets the aircraft airborne. There has not been a single day in the deployment of the 74th EFS that squadron didn't have at least two aircraft airborne providing support to their warrior counterparts on the ground.

"Just like the Airmen that defended China in World War II, the 74th AMU is often short on resources, maintain aging aircraft and must make do with what they can," said Capt. James Schieser, 74th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Officer-in-Charge. "The strong leadership, dedication and perseverance of our non-commissioned officers, senior non-commissioned officers and officer corps, are what ensure every aircraft is fully mission-capable. The maintainers of the 74th AMU understand, with the Flying Tiger legacy they inherited, failure is not an option."

To date the Flying Tigers have broken records by flying upwards of 12,000 mission hours, expending more than 100 tons of ordinance in the CAS mission since arriving in February 2009. However, many times all it took was a show of force to end an engagement.

"We seek to avoid civilian casualties in all our operations - period," said Senior Master Sgt. Victor Castillo, 74th AMU Weapons Section Superintendent. "We have a variety of methods we use including loading of precision guided munitions, monthly updates of aircraft digital maps, and daily maintenance of our targeting systems to ensure the safety of innocent civilians on the ground."

But when enemy combatants don't flee after a show of force, the Warthog can deliver a precise strike to protect Coalition ground forces.

Army Specialist Jason Dorsey, "C" Company, 178th Infantry, saw firsthand the precision and power of the Warthog.

"The A-10s were a valuable asset to us on ground missions here in Afghanistan. Their speed and precise targeting provided great support for us and kept the bad guys' heads down during firefights," Spc. Dorsey said.

"We have so many soldiers coming in from the field to thank us - it's their stories of desperately needing 'air' and seeing an A-10 flying overhead providing cover for them that kept us energized and motivated," said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas E. Moore, 74th AMU Lead Production Superintendent. "It kept us working hard even when it seemed all we were doing was launching and recovering jets 24/7."

Editor's Note: You may remember from THIS POST, that I am a fan of the Warhog! I also have a personal attachment to the Flying Tigers and grew up with their legends. This is a story dear to my heart!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quotes ~ James Madison on Readiness

"How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited,

unless we could prohibit, in like manner,

the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?"

--James Madison

So, now we know why the President and the Senate killed the F-22 program
- no readiness for us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Faces of Freedom ~ John Wolfram & Clancy Hatleberg

SEALs in the water and on the capsule

Apollo 11 capsule at Splashdown on July 24, 1969
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard raft with
Navy SEAL Lt Clancy Hatleberg - contamination officer

In the comments of my post on the Apollo 11, a commenter, "Anonymous" left a message:
Hate to nit pick, but those are Air Force Pararescuemen (they support NASA operations) recovering the astronauts at splash down, not Navy SEALs.
Since I took my description from NASA, I was prone to believe NASA rather than the "ever credible" Anonymous (sarcasm off). But, I did research it.

The Apollo 11 capsule was retrieved by members of the Underwater Demolition Team 11 - Navy SEALs off of the USS Hornet. One of the men who secured the Apollo 11 capsule was John Wolfram, a Navy SEAL, who also served two tours in Vietnam. In the above picture, you see the astronauts and Navy SEAL Lt Clancy Hatleberg in their contamination suits, while the flotation of the capsule has been secured by the other Navy SEALs, including John Wolfram. To read the entire story of the recovery, go here - the USS Hornet's page (the ship that retreived the capsule). I'm sorry I don't know the names of the others on the team.

Here is an interview with John Wolfram:

sorry, I could not get it to embed...

And, here is his new book, which covers his SEAL training, time in VietNam and the Apollo mission.

John Wolfram is now a minister and does much of his ministry work in VietNam.
You can visit him at:

Thank you, Anonymous, I learned a lot researching this.

Continuing to find information about the Navy SEALs in this operation.
Add in Greg McParltin, who also wrote a book, Combat Corpsman

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11 ~ Forty Years Later

July 16, 1969 - Launch of Apollo 11

Neil Armstrong, Commander
Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot

"One Small Step for Man,
One Giant Leap for Mankind"

-Neil Armstrong as he stepped on the moon
July 20, 1969

Plaque Left on the Moon

Earth Rise

July 24, 1969
Above - Mission Control
Below - Capsule with Navy SEALs securing it

Forty years ago, I held my breath, along with much of the rest of the world, as Apollo 11 began the first mission to the moon. I remember sitting with my mother, holding hands and crying a little when the rocket was launched. Days later, we held our breath and whispered prayers as the lunar module was descending to the surface of the moon, and waited and waited and waited for the astronauts to take the first steps on the moon. The pictures were on a long delay and very grainy. And, before we knew it, they were splashing down. America had landed the first men on the moon and brought them home safely.

They were the eight days that we all watched and waited and felt a real pride in American courage, know how and perseverance. We all remember the tragic deaths of the Apollo 1 crew - Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger B Chaffee - from a fire during a training mission. We thought we knew the dangers and the media reminded us constantly. We were proud of these men - not just the three in space, but all of those who had gone before and would come after, all of those in mission control, all of those contractors who build the equipment. We all had heroes. We all had national pride.

Forty years later, I watch with sadness as the space program has deteriorated. We are flying the last few missions on aged space shuttles (few people own a vehicle as old as they are), we are still propping up a space station that is eleven years old and unfinished, we have no additional craft being built to transport men into space, yet there are arguments as to moon or Mars when we can't get to either one.

I was fortunate. My mother always kept me home from school when there was a launch - she believed I would learn more watching and listening than I would in school that day. I remember the Mercury astronauts. I remember the first launch into space for Alan Shepard. I remember John Glenn's three orbits around the earth. I remember Apollo 13 and the splashdown on my birthday - still the best birthday gift ever! I remember the Shuttle program - and the tragedies of Challenger and Columbia. It has been amazing. It has given us much - including the computer I am typing this on and the microwaved I used earlier today. We have Google Earth and satellite TV. The list is long and taken for granted.

Congratulations to all who have made all of this possible! And, thanks for the memories!

For those of you still arguing about who secured the Apollo 11 capsule, please read this:

Or, look at NASA's site or google. It is true that Air Force Pararescue BECAME the group that retreived capsules, but not on this flight.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Steve McGuire, a now-retired Navy petty officer second class disabled by a motorcycle accident after returning from an Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment, said the National Veterans Wheelchair Games give him an opportunity to share with and learn from other disabled veterans.
Photo courtesy of VA

Retired Army Staff Sgt. John Bennett, disabled by a sniper's bullet in Iraq, calls the National Veterans Wheelchair Games an opportunity to rekindle the competitive spirit he thought he'd lost.
Photo courtesy of VA

Iraq, Afghanistan Combat Wounded Participate in Wheelchair Games

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2009 - When Army Staff Sgt. John Bennett got shot by a sniper in Iraq in February 2005, his dreams of competition crumbled along with three vertebrae.

Looking back over that day in Hawijah, Iraq, the Montana Army National Guardsman feared he'd lost far more than a kidney, his spleen, colon, half of his pancreas and use of his legs.

"I was really worried about how my injuries would affect my life," he said.

Three years ago, just 11 months after leaving the hospital, Bennett put those concerns to rest when he attended his first National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Anchorage, Alaska. By the time the competition had finished, he'd earned two gold medals, in basketball and the 100-meter wheelchair race, as well as a bronze in bowling.

"I was really ecstatic that I could still get out there and compete," he said. "It gave me a chance to prove to myself that I could still do it."

Now back at the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Spokane, Wash., Bennett is helping to show other disabled veterans that they can do it, too.

He's among more than 500 disabled veterans, about half of them wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. "A ton of them are novices," he said, meaning first-timers to the wheelchair games participating in their first sporting event since becoming disabled.

The event is the world's largest annual wheelchair sports competition, bringing together veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations or other mobility or neurological conditions to compete in 17 different events.

They've fanned out to venues across the city to compete in track, swimming, field, basketball, weightlifting, softball, quad rugby, air guns, nine-ball, bowling, table tennis, archery, hand cycling, trapshooting, a motorized rally, power soccer and wheelchair slalom, a timed obstacle course. Others are participating in a golf clinic.

"It's fabulous to see this many disabled veterans out here competing," Bennett said. "It's just incredible to see the number of people who come out and do this."

Another Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran participating for the second time is Steve McGuire, who was medically retired as a Navy petty officer second class after a motorcycle accident landed him in a wheelchair.

McGuire was just back from a deployment to the Gulf aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt when the July 2006 accident left him with multiple fractures to his spine and ribs. He spent 10 days in the hospital, then more than five months in rehabilitation.

As he was recovering, McGuire said he realized his future rested largely in his own hands. "I couldn't afford to not get moving and get my life moving," he said.

So he got into adaptive competition, joining the "East Coast Cripplers," Virginia's only wheelchair rugby team.

"It gave me confidence, knowing that even though I was disabled, I was still able," he said.

Last summer, McGuire attended his first National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Omaha, Neb. He netted a gold medal in basketball and two silvers: in the novice category for archery and for coaching the second-place rugby team.

Like Bennett, he's back for more this year in Spokane. He's part of a rugby team slated to compete in the gold-medal match today, and he's got bowling and archery competitions in the days ahead.

But equally exciting, he said, is the opportunity to bond with other disabled veterans, particularly those just learning to live with their disabilities. A peer counselor at his home Veterans Affairs clinic, McGuire uses himself as an example as he helps them look beyond perceived limitations.

"I definitely feel that I have gained more than I have lost," he said of his own disability. "I've gained perspective in life and learned to appreciate things I took for granted. I'm more motivated. Instead of just doing what I had to do, I'm striving to go beyond that."

McGuire praised the National Veterans Wheelchair Games as the perfect experience to help veterans help each other build self-confidence as they rehabilitate together. "It's a huge experience," he said.

Among the mentors at this year's games is Russell Braun, a 70-year-old Air Force veteran participating in his eighth wheelchair games.

"The games give the newly injured veterans the knowledge that they can do more than sit around the house," Braun said. "It gives them self confidence and incentive, and really opens up their lives a lot more."

As VA Secretary Eric Shinseki noted during the games' opening day July 13, the event enriches onlookers, too. "These games are not only great for the athletes, they're even better for us as spectators," he said as he helped tip off a demonstration basketball match that got the games under way.

Bennett, who coaches girls' basketball and regularly cheers on his own family during their athletic events, said it was a treat to be in center court rather than on the sidelines.

"It's great for them to be able to see dad compete and get out there and do something to test his skills against everyone else," he said.

The games will continue through July 18, followed by an awards ceremony.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, with financial assistance from corporate, civic and veterans service organizations.

In addition to the wheelchair games, the VA co-sponsors three other national rehabilitative events: the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, the National Veterans Golden Age Games and the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

Last fall, the VA hosted a new summer sports clinic pilot program that introduces water and adventure sports such as sailing, surfing, kayaking, cycling, and track-and-field events to recently injured veterans.

Next year's National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be held in Denver in early July.

To learn more, visit National Veterans Wheelchair Games

For an amazing array of photographs of the Veterans, click here

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ SFC Gregory A Rodriguez

Sgt. 1st Class Gregory A. Rodriguez & Jacko
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory A. Rodriguez & Jacko
35 years old from Weidman, Michigan
K-9 unit of the 527th Military Police Company
709th Military Police Battalion, 18th MP Brigade
September 2, 2008
U.S. Army

"I asked Greg if anything ever happened to him where he'd prefer to be buried," Sgt. Rodriguez's wife, Laura, told the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant, "and he told me Arlington, as he wanted to be among the best and the brave."

"Rod," as he was known to his Army buddies, was a Red Wings fan who loved to hassle fans of other hockey teams he met during his military career, said Laura. "Greg loved to push everyone's buttons and get people going with his rare, unique sense of sarcasm," she said. At the same time, her husband, a military police dog handler whose dog, Jacko, survived the fatal ambush, was "a very committed, loyal individual and could be counted on whenever needed."

Sgt. 1st Class Gregory A. Rodriguez died of wounds suffered in Ana Kalay, Afghanistan, when his mounted patrol came under small-arms fire.

"My brother liked to be the law," said Lisa Dombrowski. "He liked justice. If it wasn't right, he made it right."

He is survived by his sister, wife and three children.

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.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome Home Oregon National Guard 2-641 Aviation!

Rogue Brewery bottled a limited run of "Aviator Ale" to commemorate the return of Oregon Army National Guard's 2-641 Aviation, from a deployment to Iraq. The unit was honored during a demobilization ceremony held July 13 in Salem, Ore. The unit conducted flight missions, transported equipment and personnel, and supported other units' missions over the course of one year.
Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski (left) and Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard (center), welcome home soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard's 2-641 Aviation during a demobilization ceremony in Salem, Ore., July 13, following their deployment to Iraq. Twenty soldiers from the second rotation returned to Oregon on July 10. Another 35 soldiers, who returned home in August 2008, joined them at the ceremony.
Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs

The Oregon Army National Guard welcomed home members of one of their aviation units during an official demobilization ceremony on July 13, in Salem, Oregon. Members of the 2-641 Aviation were deployed to Iraq, supporting aviation missions there. About 20 members of the 2-641 Aviation returned on July 10. They joined 35 other soldiers from the first rotation who returned in August 2008. Each rotation spent six months in Iraq.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joseph Mollahan said the wide ranges of ages and levels of experience helped with the overall success of the mission. "The diversity of the people in that group made the deployment a class act," he said. "The spectrum of people really allowed us to accomplish a lot more."

One of the local employers, Rogue Brewery, distributed to all the unit's soldiers free bottles of a limited edition beer called "Aviator Ale", featuring the unit's crest.

Unit commander, Lt. Col. Christian F. Rees, said in addition to theater aviation operations, the unit took part in moving about 10 tons of cargo over the course of their deployment, as well as assisted with real-world medical evacuation missions along with the Oregon MEDEVAC company, Charlie 7-158 Aviation.

"Morale and motivation was high," he said. "I was very impressed by the unit's soldiers and their work ethic."

The unit conducted flight missions, transported equipment and personnel, and supported other units' missions during their combined one-year deployment.

Welcome Home!! We are so proud of you all!!!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Citizenship ~ Fought For and Earned

Soldiers and Marines stand for the pledge of allegiance as the flags they were presented during their naturalization process sit neatly in their chairs. More than 230 troops were naturalized at the Multi National Force - IraqNaturalization Ceremony at Al Faw Palace at Victory Base Complex, Baghdad, Iraq on July 4.

U.S. troops from throughout Iraq raise their right hand while reciting the Oath of Citizenship during the Multi National Force - Iraq Naturalization Ceremony at Al Faw Palace, Victory Base Complex, Baghdad, Iraq. More than 230 troops were naturalized as U.S. Citizens

An Iraqi-born U.S. soldier turned American citizen, Spc. "Brown," right, an interpreter for the 225th Engineer Brigade, serves as a translator during the training of members of Iraq's 2nd National Police. Brown, who uses the nickname to protect members of his family who still live in Baghdad, joined 236 other U.S. servicemembers to take the oath as American citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Camp Liberty, Iraq, July 4, 2009.
U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Pat Simon

Face of Defense: Iraqi-born Soldier Becomes U.S. Citizen

By Army Lt. Col. Pat Simon
Special to American Forces Press Service


Army Spc. "Brown," an interpreter with the 225th Engineer Brigade, joined 236 other servicemembers who raised their right hands and recited the oath of citizenship as new Americans at Al Faw palace here July 4.

Brown isn't the soldier's real name; it's a nickname given to him by an Army officer, and he's kept it to protect the lives of his family members who live in Baghdad.

"It is an amazing feeling," Brown said soon after shaking Biden's and Odierno's hands. "I was shaking -- nervous."

Brown recalled growing up and living under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

"As a student, I remembered that we had to stay behind the wall to stay safe from the former Baath Party," he said. "You could not talk about politics. Those that did disappeared."

Brown received his education in civil engineering and got a job in Baghdad as a supervisor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He quickly found that his daily commute to Tikrit to check on water, sewer and electrical projects would become a frightening trek.

"The security was very bad," he recalled. "There were many sectarian problems over here. It was not easy moving from area to area. It was very dangerous."

He also became emotionally scarred by the way some fellow Iraqis treated him because of his tenure working for the U.S. Army.

"Many of them thought I was a traitor," Brown said. "They called us very bad names. They did not realize that when we did our jobs, we did them for the Iraqi people."

Brown said he felt he no longer had a future in his war-torn country. He had to leave his father, brother and two sisters behind to set a new course for freedom and opportunity in America.

Brown was granted a special immigrant visa. His first stop was in Denver, to live with his uncle. Brown tried to find a job in engineering, but he found nothing. He remembered a friend who was a former associate of his in Iraq. He called her, and within a few days, Brown and his wife were in St. Louis, staying with his friend, who suggested that he apply for a program that would change his life. He didn't know it at the time, but it would put him back on his homeland's soil.

Within weeks, Brown was at U.S. Army basic training as a new recruit. As a qualified interpreter, he was on the fast track to deployment to Iraq. The program also expedited his ability to receive his U.S. citizenship.

"It's truly amazing to have this new opportunity," Brown said.

Four months ago, Brown was attached to the 225th Engineer Brigade. He found himself right in the middle of history, engaging in conversations between military leaders from both countries. As a military engineer interpreter, Brown literally has bridged the gap between two worlds, and he has finally come to grips with his past and his future.

"It's a big responsibility," he said. "I know I am making a difference. This is important for me."

By the end of the year, Brown will again have to leave his beloved birthplace behind, but the circumstances are different this time.

"My old life is over for me here, but I would like to return and visit one day as an American citizen," he said.

One of the many stories of the soldiers who became citizens on Independence Day.
I'm proud to welcome them as citizens of our country!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ CPL Reynold Armand

Cpl. Reynold Armand
Cpl. Reynold Armand
21 years old from Rochester, New York
2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force
August 7, 2007
U.S. Marines

Reynold Armand didn’t want to wait until he turned 18 to join the Marines. He persuaded his adoptive mother to sign papers allowing him to sign up a year early.

"I'm very proud of him," said his father, Carl Armand. "When he was home, he gave no sign of being afraid." Armand didn’t speak much about his experiences in Iraq, according to family members, saying only that most Iraqi civilians he encountered were very nice.

"We used to send him a lot of candy," said his mother, Alma Armand. "He would pass it out."

Manny Rodriguez, 21, of Rochester met Armand five years ago at New Day Church in Rochester, where both young men were members of the youth group. "He was such an amazing all-around person. He was so easy and comfortable to be around. He liked people for who they are."

No definitive report could be found on how Cpl. Armand died. Some report that he was killed when shot and others report that he was killed by an IED that exploded near his vehicle in Balad, Iraq.

Source: with help from Kathi

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.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Fourth of July for Deployed Troops

Sgt. Ivan Acevedo, a metal worker from Los Angeles, Calif., enjoys a camel ride at a bazaar held at Contingency Operating Base Adder's Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone. Acevedo is deployed with the 121st Brigade Support Battalion "Iron Hammers" of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas.
Photo by Sgt. Mark Miranda

Staff Sgt. Michael Wambsgans, support operations/transportation non-commissioned officer-in-charge for 204 Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division and resident of Colorado Springs, Colo., runs toward home plate as his teammates cheer him on during an Independence Day weekend softball tournament held at Contingency Operating Base Basra
Photo by Sgt Frank Vaughn

(From left) Sgt. Andrea Drost of Luverne. Minn., Staff Sgt. Angela Bedessem of Woodbury, Minn., Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Cornwell of Fountain, Minn., and Spc. Tamarra Dreier of Glencoe, Minn., represent the human resources section of Special Troops Battalion, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in an Independence Day weekend celebration parade held at the Red Bull Life Sustainment Area of Contingency Operating Base Basra.
Photo by Sgt. Frank Vaughn

Sgt. 1st Class Jose Urrutia proves his title as Combat Outpost Penich's "grill master" during an Independence Day celebration July 4. The outpost, home of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, shipped in more than 200 pounds of burgers, bratwursts, steaks and ribs for the event.
Photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller

A service member wearing a fully loaded rucksack races to the finish of the Independence Day 5K Fun Run at Life Support Area, Kuwait, July 4. Every runner and walker received a T-shirt and top finishers in men's and women's categories received medals courtesy of Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kim Harris

David R. Henderson, Army sergeant major (ret.), was presented his diploma by Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander, Combined Joint Task Force 82, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, July 4. Henderson earned a master's degree in Occupational Safety and Health from Columbia Southern University and, although retired from active duty, is serving as the Safety Director for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. Henderson served the majority of his Army career at Fort Bragg as a paratrooper and retired as a brigade command sergeant major.
Photo by Pfc. Bryan Willis

Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Quinones, guitarist for the Combined Joint Task Force-82 rock band "No Reserve" plays while vocalist Spc. Christine Permenter sings to the beat of band-leader Sgt. 1st Class James Donahue at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, during a 4th of July celebration, marking America's 233rd birthday.
Photo by Capt. Michael Greenberger

Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force-82 and Regional Command East, administers the oath of enlistment to a group of service members re-enlisting at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, during a ceremony, July 4, marking America's 233rd birthday.
Photo by Capt. Michael Greenberger

Sgt. Maj. Enrique X. Hines, sergeant major of 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (left), 1st Sgt. James Telley, company first sergeant for Bravo Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (middle), 1st Sgt. Mario R. Artalejo, company first sergeant for Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (right), barbeque steak and hamburgers for the Marines and Sailors aboard USS Boxer during a fourth of July celebration. The 13th MEU/Boxer Amphibious Ready Group are in the sixth of their seven-month deployment and are journeying through the Pacific Ocean in route home.
Navy Courtesy Photo

Capt. Andrew Kuen (right), of Montville, N.J., the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, places a First Team combat patch on the shoulder of Capt. Chuck Dickhart (left), of Wayne Penn., a battle captain for the 1st ACB, during a July 4, combat patch ceremony at Camp Taji, Iraq, a basecamp north of Baghdad.

Photo by Sgt. Nathan Hoskins

Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Steele, information specialist, looks over his hand in a Captain's Cup spades tournament aboard aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on the 4th of July. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations as part of a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom as well as Maritime Security Operations. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States' commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity.
Photo by Bradley Evans, Navy Visual News Service

Airman Marcos Estrada, aviation electronics technician, plays in a Captain's Cup chess tournament aboard aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on the 4th of July.The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations as part of a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom as well as Maritime Security Operations. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States' commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity.
Photo by Bradley Evans, Naval Visual News Service

Away from home, away from family, our troops find many ways to celebrate the Fourth of July -
a holiday that they stand for each and every day.
Despite heat and sand storms, they had parades, "Fun Runs", BBQ's on land and sea, competitions, music, reenlistment ceremonies, deployment patches were issued, a diploma, baseball and parades -
heck, they even had a camel ride!
Gratitude to each of them - on the Fourth of July and everyday!