Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dedication of the PFC Thomas L Tucker Veterans Memorial

"A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure."
-Abraham Lincoln

Photos by SGT Eric Rutherford, Oregon National Guard

Three years after PFC Thomas Lowell Tucker was murdered in Iraq (here and here and here and here), the community of Madras, Oregon, led by his friends and classmates, K'Lyn Bush and Lyndasy Hessel, dedicated the memorial project they have worked so hard on. They have sold t-shirts, bracelets, bricks for the memorial walkway and had all kinds of fundraisers. They have rallied the community to support their project. Donations came in dollars and cents, as the children and teens were the biggest donors and fundraisers. On Sunday, their dream to honor their friend for the long term came true.

On Sunday, August 23, the PFC Thomas Lowell Tucker Memorial Statue was dedicated in Friendship Park in Madras, Oregon. The dedication ceremony was very moving and very warm. Everyone there had a few tears hiding behind their smiles as this magnificent statue of PFC Tucker reaching out a hand to a young Iraqi girl was unveiled. It will sit on the corner of US Highway 97 until the new City Hall is built in the same location. It will then be a focal point of the entry of the building.

(Ed Note - Please, read the next post down about the ceremony)

Going to the Dedication of the PFC Thomas Tucker Memorial

PFC Tom Tucker was from the rural community of Madras, Oregon. Three years later, you still see signs like this in the community. This is a community that has rallied together and promised to never forget. August 23, 2009, slightly more than three years after Tom's death, they unveiled a memorial statue to be placed in front of the new City Hall.

US Route 97 is a north-south highway running from the Canadian border to northern California through the middle part of the states.The Patriot Guard Riders and Oregon Veterans arrived in force. They lined the street holding flags and acted has crossing guards and traffic control throughout the event. Veterans and active duty troops were everywhere.

The Posting of the Colors was done by the Madras High School JROTC Color Guard. These young men were magnificent at their job - so respectful, so serious, so proud. The mayor, Melanie Widmer, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Jennifer Davis sang the National Anthem in a voice so sweet and powerful. Chaplain Rex Auker, USN, Ret. led the Invocation.

Foster Kalama, played 'The Spirit Within' on the flute. It was so beautiful. And, while he was playing, two hawks circled above. Tom Brown talked about the proud and strong lineage of Jefferson County Veterans.

Then, we were treated to a speech, "Why Memorials are Important" by Bob Maxwell - notice the blue ribbon at his throat. He is Oregon's only living Medal of Honor winner, and he spent his life as a teacher of the youth of Central Oregon. It was a moving speech.
Mack Gardner, LTC, US Army, Ret., read a poem called 'Save Them a Place.'

The statue was unveiled. The military, represented by dozens of uniformed troops, presented a drawing by Michael Reagan. He does portraits of fallen troops as a gift to families. Major General Raymond Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon, made the presentation.

The fund raising continues. They are selling bricks to honor veterans. The bricks will be the pavers around the statue when it is placed.

Tom's commander, Colonel Todd Ebel, US Army, made some Remembrance Remarks. He talked about the nobility of the American soldier and Americans... about our generosity, how we always reach out to people, just as Tom is doing in this statue.

The Benediction was from Pastor Jim Leach and the Bagpipes playing Amazing Grace were played by Dave Fischer & Suzan Jenson.

It was a memorable day.

Bricks are still available for purchase, if you would like to honor a Veteran or Soldier. They are $40. If anyone is interested, let me know and I will send you the information for ordering.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bringing Troops Home, One Platelet Donation at a Time

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Senior Airman Brenton Swift, 332nd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament systems journeyman, watches as Staff Sgt. Michael Hebron, 332nd Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron aphaeresis technician, monitors the needle insertion site during a platelet donation at the Air Force Theater hospital here July 24. Fifty percent of donations collected are used outside the wire. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nicole Enos)

by Senior Airman Andria J. Allmond
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

8/21/2009 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- The pint-sized bags of cloudy, yellow liquid may not look like much, but the fluid inside them has proved to be a life-saving substance to injured servicemembers.

"Platelets heal; I've seen it firsthand," said Lt. Col. Thomas Jordan, 332nd Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron platelet aphaeresis chief. "I was here in 2006 when we first brought platelets into modern warfare by using them (at JBB). We noticed an increase in the survival rate compared to when we were using whole blood. They serve as the main factor in stopping bleeding and are used in any situation in which there is excessive blood loss."

Blood platelets have saved lives across Iraq, and the Air Force Theater Hospital here is the only supplier of this vital blood component to medical personnel in-country.

Half the collected clotting agents are kept at JBB, while the rest are shipped to other military installations throughout Iraq. On average, platelets have a shelf life of five days. Therefore, those used by U.S and coalition forces must be collected close to the fight.

"In the time it would take to collect the platelets, run the necessary tests and send them over here (from the U.S.) we would pass the five-day limit we have on using them," said Colonel Jordan, who has the sole discretion of extending the shelf-life of the platelets by two days, if deemed necessary.

If the total shelf life has expired, Colonel Jordan destroys the non-utilized platelets. But, the platelet aphaeresis lab ensures there are enough bags ready whenever they're needed.

"So many people are willing to donate because they want to do something to help their fellow servicemembers," said Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, NCO in charge of aphaeresis operations. "Their contribution goes right into action and is used right here to save lives."

In order to meet the in-theater demands, the lab must collect approximately nine bags of platelets each day. This equates to scheduling 10 patients daily.

Since the AFTH provides the same quality of care regardless of nationality or combative status, platelets have also helped Iraqi citizens. The benefit of platelets, introduced by U.S. military forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, may have long-reaching effects even during peacetime. Colonel Jordan said he hopes the Iraqi people eventually start using platelets at their own hospitals.

"I truly believe (U.S. military forces) being here has allowed us the chance to set a good example to the Iraqi people, especially in how we view war," said Colonel Jordan. "The U.S doesn't believe in throwing our troops out there saying, 'Just get out there and fight.' We want to make sure our folks return home to their families. Platelets help our folks live, they help bring them home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ PFC Tavonte Johnson

Pfc. Tavonte Johnson
Pfc. Tavonte Johnson
U.S. Marine Corps

Pfc. Tavonte Johnson, a field radio operator with Headquarters Company, 7th Marine Regiment, provides security after a simulated attack by a suicide bomber on Aug. 8, as part of 7th Marine Regiment’s pre-deployment training exercise.

Photo courtesy of United States Marine Corps

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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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Here's to the Heroes!

Here's To the Heroes
The Ten Tenors from Australia

Here's to the Heroes
Those few who dare
Heading for Glory
Living a Prayer

Here's to the Heroes
Who Change Our Lives
Thanks to the Heroes
Freedom Survives

Here's to the Heroes
Who Never Rest
They are the Chosen
We are the Blessed

Here's to the Heroes
Who Aim so High
Here's to the Heroes
Who Do or Die

Hat Tip to General Paul Vallely

Friday, August 14, 2009

Project 2996 ~ Won't You Join?

Attention all Bloggers and non-Bloggers

Project 2996

for the 8th Anniversary of September Eleventh

is looking for people who want to

pay tribute to the life of one of the 2996 people

who were murdered that day.

If you want to participate, sign up now

Bloggers can post their tributes on their own blogs.

Non-bloggers can have their tributes posted for them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Air Force Pararescue ~ The Mission That Never Ends

Senior Airman Jelly Larsen, pararescueman of the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron scans his sector as the rest of his element team enters a building during a training exercise here Aug. 4. The 64th ERQS provides combat search and rescue support to coalition forces in the Iraqi theater of operations.
Photo by SrA Andria Allmond

Senior Airman Jelly Larsen, pararescueman of the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron scans his sector as the rest of his element team enters a building during a training exercise here Aug. 4. The 64th ERQS provides combat search and rescue support to coalition forces in the Iraqi theater of operations.
Photo by Chris Hubenthal-Magarian

The Mission That Never Ends: Downrange Pararescue Jumpers Keep Training

332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
Story by Andria Allmond
11 August 2009

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- "Is she alive?"

"Copy. Still alive."

The pararescuemen load their patient onto the litter, carrying her off to the safety of an awaiting vehicle.

But the mission isn't over; this mission never really ends.

It's a crisis-action training scenario -- one of the many exercises employed by Air Force pararescuemen, the only members of the Department of Defense assigned the primary mission of recovery and medical treatment of personnel in friendly and hostile environments.

"Readiness is a major Air Force term that a lot of conventional military folks strive for - to be combat-ready," said Tech Sgt. Bob "Scarecrow" Roberts, a pararescue jumper with the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Joint Base Balad. "Once our PJs are out of the pararescue pipeline, they are ready to start the initial familiarization training. After completion of IFAM, and under supervision, they can perform all tasks civil, combat or any other situation that presents itself - they are ready to deploy. But, the training never stops."

Training is a way of life for these U.S. Air Force Special Forces operatives, whose training program possesses the highest drop-out rate in the entire U.S. military special operations community.

Along with the physical preparation, including ruck marches, mountaineering, scuba diving, rock climbing, all-terrain vehicle operations, hand-to-hand combat and land navigation, PJs participate in extensive medical-trauma training, which eventually rewards them with a nationally-recognized paramedic certification.

"Our medical training takes about seven months, with classes every day non-stop," said Senior Airman Asher Woodhouse, 64th ERQS pararescueman, who has spent the last two years accomplishing a series of tasks working toward his five-level certification. "We continually get hands-on training by working in [civilian] fire departments, emergency and operating rooms. We also put ourselves through scenarios and situations that focus on the type of patients we will most likely see."

This medical training can be integrated into two types of ground scenarios employed by PJs.

"The first of the two types of ground training scenarios is a deliberate-plan rescue scenario," said Capt. Travis Shepard, 64th ERQS combat rescue officer. "During this kind of mission, the course of action is prepared over 24 hours or more. The other is a crisis-action mission. In crisis action, the planning is limited to 20 minutes or less and is a response to an event that has just occurred. The focus of it is time and team management, to watch a guy under pressure and see how he handles stress."

Training in a combat zone requires these highly-regarded warriors be primed for real-world alerts at all times.

"There is the added tension that we can be training one minute and the next be called to recover someone who was injured and in harm's way," said Woodhouse. "We have to step up our game while we're here because we never know when something bad is going to happen."

While most deployed Airmen pause their upgrade training while deployed, that's not an option for PJs.

"We only have a small number of pararescuemen world-wide and if we were to wait, we wouldn't have the ability to cover alerts in theater," said Roberts, a PJ with 15 years of service.

The training not only helps ensure their skills are compatible, but it also creates the synergy necessary for them to help people in need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"I need to know I have them right behind me when I'm going into a room, down a fast rope or into a building where I'm picking up isolated personnel," said Roberts. "I need to know that [the team] is absolutely with me. I'd give my life for any of these guys."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ Yeoman 1st Class Timothy Gilbert

Yeoman 1st Class Timothy Gilbert
Yeoman 1st Class Timothy Gilbert
U.S. Navy

Yeoman 1st Class Timothy Gilbert, assigned to Headquarters Company of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB 74), donates blood during a blood drive for his six-year-old daughter at the Naval Construction Battalion Center base chapel. Gilbert's daughter has been diagnosed with atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor and is receiving chemotherapy at Tulane Childrens Hospital.

You can read more about Yeoman Gilbert and his daughter, Timia, here.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan G. Wilber courtesy of United States Navy.

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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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ SrA Michael Eroles

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Airman 1st Class Michael Eroles, 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron radio telephone operator, is the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing’s Tuskegee Airman of the Week for July 12-18. One of Airman Eroles’ distinctive accomplishments here was leading command-and-control during a small-arms attack, which resulted in the arrest of insurgents and collection of contraband weapons, thwarting future attacks.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andria J. Allmond

332nd Air Expeditionary Wing's Tuskegee Airman of the Week for July 12-July 18

332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
Story by SrA Andria Allmond
July 26, 2009

Senior Airman Michael Eroles of the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Quick Reaction Force, is the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing's Tuskegee Airman of the Week for, July 12-July 18.

"Airman Eroles has done great things here at Joint Base Balad," said Col. Luke Grossman, 332nd AEW vice commander, who presented Airman Eroles with the award and a commander's coin during a ceremony, July 24.

The 532nd ESFS radio telephone operator said he routinely advises all service members at JBB to remain vigilant and intends to pass on the knowledge he has gained during his time at JBB to incoming Airmen.

"It feels great to be recognized for all the work that I have done," said the Orange County, Calif., native. "I didn't intentionally try to get recognized; everything I do is to try and better everyone that I work with and keep them safe. Being noticed as the Tuskegee Airman of the Week only shows everyone how hard all our Airmen work and is a true privilege. My job, the safety of everyone that I work with, is the most important thing."

Leading command-and-control during a small-arms attack, Airman Eroles aided in the arrest of insurgents and collection of contraband weapons, thwarting future attacks.

Airman Eroles, who is deployed here from Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, augmented force patrol protection on three combat missions and coordinated an off-base Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle recovery from an accident site.

Overall, Airman Eroles attributes his success to the motivation given to him by his supervisor.

"Sgt. Gisselberg holds me to a higher standard," he said. "I don't want to let him down."

Airman Eroles's supervisor, Staff Sgt. Leif Gisselberg, 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron patrolmaster, recognizes Airman Eroles as a major asset to his team.

"He's an expert at his job," said Gisselberg, said the Washington, D.C., native. "He performs at the [non-commissioned-officer] level. When I assign him tasks, he has thought about it and already gotten in done."

The 332nd AEW Tuskegee Airman of the Week is open to Airmen in the ranks of E-1 to E-5, and is selected based on an Airman's on- and off-duty accomplishments.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Medics Aid Afghans in Remote Villages

Army Spc Chad E Brown, a combat medic with the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment,
cleans an Afghan girl’s burned leg, July 24, 2009, at Forward Operating Base Baylough
in Afghanistan’s Zabul Province.

Army Spc. Chad E Brown, examines a girl in a village
in the Deh Chopan district of Afghanistan’s Zabul province.
(Click on picture to enlarge, and note the clothing & jewelry on the child)

Army Spc. Chad E Brown examines a boy’s wound in a village in the Deb Chopan district of Afghanistan’s Zabul province.
All photos by Spc Elisebet Freeburg, U. S. Army

Medics Aid Afghans in Remote Villages

By Army Spc. Elisebet Freeburg
Special to American Forces Press Service

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2009 - Two medics of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, are using their medical skills not only to help their fellow soldiers, but also to aid local Afghans.

Army Spcs. Chad E. Brown of Red Oak, Texas, and Rodrigus I. Purdiman of Cairo, Ill., both assigned to Forward Operating Base Baylough in Afghanistan, said they are dedicated to helping ill or injured Afghans.

"The impression we try to leave is that America is here to help them in their lives and not to hurt them in any kind of way," Purdiman said.

Purdiman and Brown rotate their duties, with one medic managing the forward operating base aid station, while the other medic accompanies soldiers on daily patrols. Most of the patrols trek through mountainous terrain to villages in the Deh Chopan district of Afghanistan's Zabul province.

"When we're on patrol we provide aid -- humanitarian aid or first aid -- for citizens," Brown said.

On occasion, villagers will approach the soldiers to ask for medical care. But typically, the patrol leader will ask village leaders if anyone is ill or injured. The medics aren't always able to treat some patients solely with supplies from their aid bag.

"The hard part is they don't like to come in, for whatever reason, on their own," Brown said. "But I'll urge them to come into the aid station and let me take care of them a lot better than in the field."

Baylough's aid station contains basic wound-cleansing equipment and bandages, as well as pain medication. The most high-tech piece of equipment in the station is an oxygen tank, Brown said.

Even though helicopter flights to Baylough often are sporadic due to enemy fire, the aid station never has exhausted its medical supplies. Brown monitors supply levels, keeping about four weeks of supplies on hand.

"We're able to do what we're trained to, with what we have, but there's a lot of improvisation," Brown said.

Burns, especially among children, are the most common injuries the medics said they see in the remote villages around Baylough. Since there is no electricity, villagers use fire for everything from cooking to a light source. The medics have treated burn victims ranging from infants to 10-year-olds.

"It's hard to work on the kids, especially the young ones," Brown said.

The medics also have treated Afghans injured by explosives. If the wound is minor, the medics are able to treat it there. For more serious injuries, they request a medevac for transportation to the forward surgical team at Forward Operating Base Lagman or to the Kandahar Airfield hospital. Brown said he was trained to insert chest tubes and sew sutures at a NATO-sponsored medical patrol course in Germany, making him able to stabilize patients for up to 72 hours while awaiting evacuation.

Both medics said the language barrier makes treating civilians difficult. They always work with an interpreter, but there is no guarantee of an exact translation, Purdiman said.

(Army Spc. Elisebet Freeburg serves in the Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan public affairs office.)

The Afghans dress their children in such bright and sparkly clothing - quite remarkable.
Gratitude to our troops for their compassion and care.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Airmen Provide Soccer Balls for Kids in Iraq

Story and Photo by Senior Airman Andria J. Allmond
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
July 20, 2009

JOINT BASE BALAD — Airmen and Soldiers here recently received donations for Iraqi children who live near this base from a stateside fraternity. The Pennsylvania State University chapter of the social fraternity Phi Kappa Tau supports programs to increase the quality of life for terminally ill children.

Through their program Kicks 4 Kids, along with some inquiring by Capt. Craig Bryan, Expeditionary Aeromedicine Squadron psychologist and PKT alumnus, they were able to collect approximately 300 soccer balls to be distributed to Iraqi children via the support of JBB servicemembers.

"Kicks 4 Kids is an annual soccer tournament hosted by the PSU chapter of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity," said Bryan, who was president of the University of Evansville chapter, Ind., for two years. "It was designed as a philanthropy event to raise money for an international network of summer camp facilities for terminally ill children...allowing these children the opportunity to participate in typical summer camp activities despite their illnesses."

Months prior to the donations being made, Bryan was having lunch with Capt. Laura Dart, 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces medical officer. She mentioned that Iraqi children were asking the 532nd ESFS for soccer balls while the Airmen were outside the wire on patrol.

"She commented that she wished she had some soccer balls to hand out to the kids, so I told her I'd e-mail some friends back in the States to see if they could send some," said Bryan. "I e-mailed a few of my fraternity brothers and told them the story. I asked if they'd be willing to get some soccer balls for us. One of them wrote back and said 'We're on it...we'll get you some soccer balls.'"

After Bryan contacted them, the PKT brothers hosting the event sent an e-mail to the 200 participating team coaches a month prior to the event. They requested each bring one deflated soccer ball and air pump to the event registration. The request was also posted on the Kicks 4 Kids Web site.

The captain said the boxes started arriving shortly thereafter.

"They just kept coming," he said. "My initial reaction was, 'What am I going to do with all these soccer balls?'"

The captain contacted Kids of Iraq, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Iraqi children by fulfilling their basic needs and providing a brighter future. They accepted the majority of the contributed balls and inflated them.

"We met at Troy's place and there were boxes and boxes of these soccer balls to inflate," said Airman 1st Class Jefferson Aguiar, 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron radar maintenance apprentice.

Due to the large amount of donations, Bryan coordinated multiple methods to distribute the soccer balls.

Some were kept in the intensive care ward at the base hospital and given out to pediatric patients, while a number were given to Army Spc. Nazha Lakrik, who is assigned to the 1st Medical Squadron Medical Control Center, he said.

"Certain days of the week, the [local nationals] on base come in for their follow-up appointments," said Lakrik. "I know a lot of them are parents, so I make up goody-bags of items for them to give to their children, like books and school supplies. When I heard that Capt. Bryan had those extra soccer balls, I asked if I could have them to put in my bags."

The remainder was given to the 532nd EFSF Quick Reaction Force for distribution to Iraqi children while on patrol in areas surrounding JBB.

"I think where we're at right now in our operations in Iraq, building strong relationship with the citizens is what's most important," said Bryan. "Combat action will only go so far, especially during a stage that is 100 percent about building lasting, trusting relationships with the people."

Wednesday Hero ~ LCpl Jeremy P Tamburello

Lance Cpl. Jeremy P. Tamburello
Lance Cpl. Jeremy P. Tamburello
19 years old from Denver, Colorado
1st Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion,
1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force
November 8, 2005

His parents didn't want him to enlist, but it was his passion for helping people that led L/Cpl. Jeremy Tamburello to the military. "He was a very noble, very compassionate, very brave man" said L/Cpl. Tamburello's father, Kevin. "He knew that he was going to have to go to Iraq and he knew that he might die, but he went anyway."

L/Cpl. Tamburello was killed by an IED while conducting combat operations near Rutbah, Iraq.

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, August 04, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ SSG Timothy Raso

Tuskegee Airman of the Week: July 19-25

332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
Story by SrA Andria Allmond

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Staff Sgt. Timothy Raso, of the 22nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, is the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing's Tuskegee Airman of the Week for July 19-25.

"Sergeant Raso represents the kind of enlisted personnel who make our Air Force great," said Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, 332nd AEW commander, who presented Raso with the award and a commander's coin during a ceremony at the wing headquarters July 31.

Raso, a Stockton, Calif., native, spearheaded the merger of four clinics into one. This consolidation enabled around-the-clock medical availability for Joint Base Balad's Expeditionary Operations Group.

"I saw this project as an opportunity to set up my other Airmen for success," he said. "Being deployed allows you to be able to get involved in the community here. I am trying to be a good example for younger Airmen. While I don't do these things for an award, it's nice to be recognized."

On his second deployment here, Raso, who is currently working towards his bachelor's degree in health care management, completed combat medic advanced skills training at the Joint Medical Readiness Training Center. The independent medical technician also volunteered 48 hours at the Air Force Theater Hospital.

Overall, Raso attributes his success to a winning attitude.

"I believe in taking control of your career," said the husband and father of a seven-month-old daughter. "I try to wake up every day motivated and smile at adversity, looking at it as a challenge."

Lt. Col. Douglas Nikolai, 22nd EFS commander and Raso's supervisor, said the sergeant's "can-do" attitude and initiative make him stand out among his peers.

"During the flight medicine consolidation," said Nikolai. "He led the charge and got things done when others were waiting to be told what to do."

The 332nd AEW Tuskegee Airman of the Week is open to Airmen between the ranks of E-1 and E-5, and is selected based on an Airman's on- and off-duty accomplishments.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Missle Defense

Pacific Ocean - July 30, 2009
The Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) launches a standard missile (SM) 3 Blk IA during exercise Stellar Avenger, successfully intercepting a sub-scale short-range ballistic missile launched from the Kauai Test Facility at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sans, Kauai, Hawaii. This was the 19th successful intercept for the Aegis BMD program in 23 at-sea firings, including the February 2008 destruction of a malfunctioning satellite above the earth's atmosphere.
US Navy Photo

And, the current administration is cutting funding for this successful program,
which is necessary to our defense.
Write your Congressman/Senators now.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Captain Michael 'Scott' Speicher ~ Home, At Last

Captain Michael 'Scott' Speicher
July 12, 1957 - January 17, 1991

The current headstone at Arlington National Cemetery

Today, we awakened to the news that the remains of Navy Captain Michael 'Scott' Speicher have been found and identified. Cpt Speicher's F-18 was shot down in Iraq on the opening day of the Gulf War. At long last, some Iraqi's came forward with information about his burial site, where he was buried by the Bedouins. Scott has been the face of POW/MIA's since 1991. His family has been able to keep the media focused on his MIA status. Today, they can grieve, they can bury their husband and father, they have an answer.

Since 2003, rarely a week goes by that I don't address a letter to FOB Speicher, and more recently, COB Speicher, a base in Tikrit, Iraq. I have thought of him and his family each time I do and hoped for a resolution for them and for his friends and shipmates.

Most everyone is posting on this - there is not a lack of information about his loss, his legacy, the conspiracy theories, the memories - so, let us not forget the man and his family today.

Welcome Home, Captain Michael Scott Speicher. You have not been forgotten.

Tributes at Asymmetric here and here for a Google earth picture of FOB Speicher.
Extensive compilation of news reports over the years at Arlington Cemetery. net

Captain Speicher received regular promotions during his years MIA - when he disappeared, he was a LtCommander, promotions continued during his MIA status.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Year of the NCO ~ 1SG Troy Steward

1st Sergeant Troy Steward

1st Sgt. Troy Steward

Age: 40
Current Unit: 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, 27th Brigade Combat Team
Current Position: Senior Infantry NCO
Component: New York National Guard
Current Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
Hometown: Amherst, N.Y.
Years of Service: 21

The annual celebration of the Army's Birthday brings about a reflection on the traditions and legacy of service to country. One of the proudest traditions the Army can recognize, is the generations of families that have volunteered to serve over its 234 years. 1st Sgt. Troy Steward is one generation of a family that has answered their call to duty repeatedly.

A 21-year veteran of the Army, Steward is the son of a Green Beret who served three tours in Vietnam. After high school, Steward followed in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the Army. Now an NCO just as his father was, Steward takes his role as a mentor and leader seriously. His example was so strong, that after 9/11, his son, John Aisel, signed up to serve in the same unit of the National Guard as his father, thus adding another chapter to the Steward's legacy of service. The family's call to duty has put each of them in harm's way whether it be in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq, but the common experiences have ultimately strengthened them as a family.

During his own deployment to Afghanistan from May 2006-2007, Steward led a 15-person team of Soldiers embedded with an Afghan battalion. He was responsible for mentoring the Afghan troops and conducting in combat operations. On September 9, 2006, a day which Steward has nicknamed his "Alive Day," an improvised explosive device (IED) went off approximately 25 feet behind his truck, and killed several other American and Afghan troops in his unit. Steward, who later learned that he was the insurgents' target that day, says that it was hard to lose his fellow Soldiers, regardless of their nationality. He had trained and mentored those men, and the loss was personal. For his meritorious service and involvement in more than 100 missions during his year-long deployment, Steward was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

For Steward, his journey as an NCO and Soldier has been well worth the ride. Even though he has been approached on multiple occasions to attend Officer Candidate School, he says he prefers to be an NCO.

"Being a Noncommissioned Officer means that I have the best job in the military," Steward says. "I have the chance to work closely with younger enlisted Soldiers and mold them into future leaders."

A leader on the battlefield and in his home, Steward never pressured his sons about joining the Army, but was proud his eldest chose to follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps. Although they never deployed together, Steward still mentored and prepared his son for his deployment. When Steward returned home from Afghanistan in the summer of 2007, he was able to pass on first-hand knowledge to his son, who was preparing to deploy in January 2008. The day before Aisel deployed, Steward was able to pin sergeant stripes on his son thus adding another generation of NCOs to their family line. After six years in the Army, including a year-long deployment, Aisel completed his service and is now pursuing a college degree.

Steward and his wife, Christine, currently reside in Buffalo, N.Y., where they live with their three younger sons. She is a leader with the New York National Guard's Family Readiness Group. As a civilian, Steward works for an information technology company working to prevent identity theft, and plans to retire from the Army in the fall of 2009.

From the Army site:

I had the wonderful opportunity to be one of the many supporters Troy had while in Afghanistan. We were penpals and sent pancake mix and spices and 'cookables', as his unit was mostly on their own. I am proud to know Troy!

Troy has a wonderful blog - and, it is the place for current news and analysis on Afghanistan.