Military News

Monday, September 22, 2008

America Supports You: Golf Classic Honors Soldier's Memory

By Sharon Foster
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 22, 2008 - Thirty-five Minnesota soldiers who returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan in the past year were among nearly 300 golfers who participated in the 2nd Annual Bryan McDonough American Heroes Golf Classic last month at Oak Glen Golf Course in Stillwater, Minn. "We wanted to raise funds to help the families of wounded and fallen soldiers," said Tom McDonough, director of the Bryan McDonough Military Heroes Foundation and father of Bryan McDonough, a Minnesota Army National Guardsman who was killed in Iraq on Dec. 2, 2006. "This event gives us plenty of exposure and raises a fair amount of money."

The exposure the tournament provides helps to raise funds from other sources, McDonough said. "In the past, we have provided a number of things ranging from cash grants to a washer and dryer for one military family and [an] adjustable bed for another," he said. "We also provided a hand-pedaled recumbent bicycle for another soldier who lost the use of a leg."

McDonough added that the golf classic's overall goal is to support soldiers adjusting to life with the physical and psychological wounds of war. In the upcoming month, the Bryan McDonough Military Heroes Foundation will help a soldier remodel his home and provide an all-terrain vehicle for another soldier who likes to hunt but lost his foot.

The Bryan McDonough Military Heroes Foundation, a home-front group of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, is an organization supporting Minnesota servicemen and women returning from deployments around the world.

Gates Salutes Guardsmen for Missions at Home, Abroad

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


Sept. 22, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates saluted the men and women of the National Guard during a speech in
Baltimore today. Gates spoke at the 130th conference of the National Guard Association. He said the military could not perform its missions without the Guard.

"Today the Guard is engaged in more than 40 countries around the world, in places such as Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai, the Horn of Africa and Guantanamo Bay," Gates said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 660,000 citizen-servicemembers have mobilized – the largest such mobilization since
World War II and the first extended mobilization of the reserve components since the founding of the all-volunteer force in 1973.

"Seven years ago, members of the New York National Guard were among the first to respond when the World Trade Center collapsed," Gates said. "Today, many of them are serving in Afghanistan – their unit has not been deployed in such numbers and for such extended time in over 60 years."

And Guardsmen are also serving in Iraq. "As you know, we recently celebrated the handover of Anbar province to Iraq," the secretary said. "Backing that effort were hundreds of Guardsmen, such as Rhode Island's 169th Military
Police Company." Tens of thousands more have served in Iraq since hostilities started in March 2003.

The Guard has the highest percentage of combat veterans serving in its ranks since World War II, and Gates promised that those who need care will receive it. "Behind winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, my No. 1 priority is providing our wounded warriors with the care they have rightly earned and justly deserve," he said.

The unprecedented nomination of
Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley for a fourth star and service as the next chief of the National Guard Bureau highlights the importance of this reserve formation, the secretary said. The appointment of current bureau chief Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum as deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command positions him to be the next chief of that command, Gates said. If the next administration nominates him, he would be the first Guardsman to command a combatant command.

Beyond war, the Guard has been equally busy in the United States. More than 16,000 Guardsmen responded when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast. "In one weekend alone, they evacuated more than 17,000 citizens from New Orleans and almost 600 special-needs patients," Gates said.

When floods hit the Midwest, the Illinois Guard repaired levees and sandbagged, the Indiana Guard protected water and sewage facilities, the Wisconsin Guard provided aerial damage assessments and the Iowa Guard screened water reservoirs for poison and other toxins. Most recently, thousands of Guardsmen again mobilized to action in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

"The Guard stands ready to tackle such missions at home, as well as both its traditional and nontraditional missions abroad," the secretary said. "The department made a commitment several years ago to ensure that the Guard is fully manned, fully trained and fully equipped."

In the fiscal 2009 defense budget, the Guard's share is more than $30 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion from the previous year. "Spending on Guard equipment – critical because of its dual use for overseas and homeland missions – is projected to be at $32 billion over the next four fiscal years," he said. "This level of resources for the Guard is unprecedented. As a result, nearly 80 percent of
Army National Guard equipment on hand will be fully modernized by the end of fiscal year 2013. For the first time ever, the Guard will receive the latest equipment provided to the active force – a change that is long overdue."

Another aspect of reserve-component service also has been one of the secretary's priorities: mobilization. Stress on the force has mounted with repeated mobilizations.

"The mobilization policy I outlined in January of 2007 set a goal of one year mobilized to five years at home," he said. "We are not quite there yet on dwell time, but nearly three-quarters of mobilizations over the past nine months have been above the 1-to-4 ratio of mobilized-to-dwell time."

The secretary also capped mobilization time at 12 months for the reserve components and ended the 24-month lifetime limit for individuals. "We've shifted from a mobilization policy focused on individuals to one based on units," he said. "The aim was to minimize the practice of cobbling together personnel from different units to fill out a particular battalion or brigade. Those from a community or state who train together should deploy and fight together."

Gates acknowledged that adjusting to the new policy has presented some problems, particularly in the
Army. But the Defense Department and the services have increased notification time for units, with a goal of 24 months, so that troops are better able to ensure employer and family affairs are in order before they deploy, he noted.

Historians Piece Puzzle Together in Search for Missing Troops

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 22, 2008 - Before any American recovery team sets foot on foreign soil in search of missing servicemembers' remains, historians at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command must painstakingly piece together the servicemembers' final moments in the hopes of pinpointing their location. It's a process that can take months or years, as bits of information filter into the command from varying sources. JPAC is one of a handful of Defense Department offices charged with recovering missing servicemembers.

The historians at the command's
Hawaii headquarters are the starting point for the cases, and tips come in from all around the world, either through the JPAC's Web site or by referral, said Christopher McDermott, a historian for JPAC's Central Identification Lab.

"Every bit of new information that comes into the command finds its way to us, and our job is to determine if it is a valid lead," McDermott said.

The tip can start with a farmer finding
military airplane wreckage in his field as it is plowed. Sometimes they contact local history enthusiasts, or call police or other government officials, McDermott said. The information is filtered through embassies, military channels or other contacts who know of the JPAC's mission. Sometimes, people look up the JPAC site and submit information there, he added.

The four JPAC historians work on hundreds of cases each, all at varying stages in the investigation. Many times, information that comes in relates to an open case, but sometimes it's information that opens a new case.

Rarely does one piece of information come in that provides all of the details that lead to a recovery and identification, McDermott said. Instead, all of the information is pieced together like a puzzle by the historians to make a complete picture of the details of the death and location of the servicemember.

Historians pore through databases of historical information and servicemembers' official records. They search online for documents, maps, reports and newspaper articles. They work with foreign governments for access to their official documents.

The challenge, McDermott said, is that any one source seldom has an abundance of information. The reason the servicemember is missing, after all, is that not enough information was available at the time he or she went missing, he noted. If there was, he said, the servicemember likely would already have been recovered.

"There's a large number cited for the number of people still missing after World War II, but what that belies is the massive [recovery] effort that was undertaken after the war," McDermott said.

The JPAC lists nearly 80,000 servicemembers still missing from World War II. After the war in Europe was over in 1946, the American Graves Registration Command -- in charge of the post-war search for missing servicemembers -- conducted 325,000 field investigations in Europe alone.

"The individuals that are still missing, typically ... they were not able to put all those pieces together," McDermott said.

Large, massed formations of troop attacks, massive areas of operations and poor navigational and other technologies all led to many U.S. troops scattered about the regions of past wars with little or no information as to their final resting places. That, combined with relocated or dead witnesses, poorly drawn maps, the changing of town names and other significant data, make McDermott's job no easy task.

"What we're really trying to do is identify which cases make the most practical sense for our command and that have a high likelihood of yielding evidence that will be identifiable," McDermott said.

The historians serve as the hub of information as a case moves through the recovery and identification process. They work with research teams as they go into the field to investigate a promising recovery site. Witness reports are gathered from local citizens, if available. Historians survey local newspapers, libraries, courts, museums and government agencies to get as many details as they can.

"We're taking advantage of sources that are very far-flung from what traditional historians will look at," McDermott said. "For all these cases where somebody is still missing, that usually means there was some discrepancy, some omission along the way. So we're always trying to plug that gap, and it's hard to predict what source will provide that."

If the case shows merit, it moves forward, and the historians work with the operations teams to start the process of sending out a recovery team. They later work with the lab scientists, if a recovery is made, to help identify unit insignia, badges and other personal effects if any are found. If there is not yet enough information to send out a recovery team, the case is stored in JPAC's massive archives, in hopes that a later piece of information might provide the missing piece of the puzzle.

Despite the volume of cases and the mounds of information each represents, the servicemembers' stories become more personal as information is sorted, and what starts as a case number begins to take on a face with a family and a life, McDermott said.

"It's very hard not to stay connected to the cases in a strong way when you sit and you read that letter from a mother 60 years ago experiencing such a terrible pain over the loss," he said.

And, McDermott said, the emotion resonates even with later generations who did not know the servicemember directly.

"They'll remember that their grandmother still cried and kept that picture of her boy who never came back from the war on the wall until the day she died," McDermott said. "And that's still a very powerful marker in their own life."

To date, JPAC has identified more than 1,400 Americans who had been listed as missing. The lab identifies, on average, about six individuals a month. Its research and recovery teams deploy on about 70 missions a year around the world.

About 88,000 servicemembers still are listed as missing. Some of them no longer lie on the battlefield or at sea. They are recovered, but their unidentified remains are interred in rows of white boxes at the JPAC, alphabetized, categorized, and waiting.

And historians keep searching for a new clue, a new find, a new piece of information or a new technology that will move that case forward toward an identification, and a return to their waiting family members.

"What it comes down to is ... that individual deserves to be back home with their families," McDermott said.

That's what keeps the historians working with a dogged determination, sifting through tons of data and plowing through bureaucracies both foreign and domestic, piecing together information that by itself offers nothing, but when combined with a box full of other evidence, makes up the life and the death of a U.S. servicemember.

"That's what keeps you doing it," McDermott said. "That's what keeps you trying to make sure these cases don't get lost sight of, and that they continue to move forward toward some kind of resolution."

(This is the third in a series of AFPS articles on the Defense Department's efforts to account for missing servicemembers. AFPS reporter Fred W. Baker III talked with the
leaders of the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Crystal City, Va., and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and others involved in the quest to bring closure to the families of those lost in the line of duty. Baker then traveled to Germany to the site of an excavation where a JPAC recovery team searched for the remains of a downed World War II fighter pilot.)

Visit to Deployed Cutter Underscores Coast Guard's Global Reach

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 22, 2008 - Civilian
leaders who visited here today had seen the Coast Guard in action in U.S. waterways, patrolling ports and harbors, interdicting drug smugglers, and sometimes conducting heroic search-and-rescue missions as depicted in the movie, "The Guardian." So Coast Guard Capt. Robert Wagner, commander of Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, greeted Joint Civilian Orientation Conference participants here today with the rhetorical question he knew all had on their minds: "What is the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas doing in Rota, Spain?"

In addition to its historic role protecting U.S. coastlines from external threats while promoting safe navigation, the
Coast Guard has had a little-known or -understood role supporting U.S. combatant commanders overseas for the past 15 years, Wagner told the group.

"We are an armed force of the military at all times, and our missions are global," he said. "U.S. interests don't stop at our borders, so the
Coast Guard pretty much hits all seven continents."

Since leaving its home port of Charleston, S.C., this summer, the 378-foot USCGC Dallas has demonstrated the broad scope of the
Coast Guard mission and the way it works cooperatively with the U.S. military to advance U.S. interests.

The 170-member crew, most half the age of the 41-year-old vessel that saw duty in Vietnam, first traveled to West and Central Africa to support U.S. Naval Forces Europe's Africa Partnership Station, Wagner said.

This initiative aims to build partnerships with regional militaries to help them build capacity to improve maritime safety and security in the region.

The crew visited several African nations and participated in the first collaborative at-sea exercise between U.S. and Equatorial Guinean naval assets in decades, Wagner told the group. The Coast Guardsmen shared their expertise in search-and-rescue procedures, boarding, search and seizure techniques, counterterrorism operations and other operations.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Les Swert, a gunner's mate with two and a half years in the Coast Guard, recalled the gratification he found teaching the Cape Verdean
Coast Guard how to conduct interdiction operations.

"It was great. Their crew came on our boat, and we did joint boardings from our boat, but under their authority because it was their country," he said. "It was good training, and they pulled a lot of good out of it."

But Dallas' higher-profile mission came later in the deployment, when it delivered humanitarian assistance to the Georgian city of Batumi in late August after Russia invaded Georgia earlier that month.

Dallas delivered 76,000 pounds of food, milk, juices and hygiene items as part of Operation Assured Delivery, the U.S. military's support to the Georgian government's request for help.

Wagner recalled what it felt like to be the only ship supporting the operation, with a draft that enabled it to pull directly into port to offload its 80 pallets of cargo. "It was clearly one of the highlights of the deployment," he said.

"Being greeted by crowds of Georgians, all so happy that we were there, felt really great," he said. "We became the faces of America, representing all those people who donated those supplies and reached out to offer help."

Petty Officer 3rd Class Chad Hermann, an electronics technician who spent four years in the Navy before joining the
Coast Guard, remembered the thrill of seeing people on the piers waving the U.S. flag as well as the Georgian flag as the Dallas approached. "You couldn't help but feel really good about that we were to help them," he said.

"It gives you a lot of pride being out there doing what we did," agreed Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Boscarillo, a fellow electronics technician. "I mean, who doesn't want to help people?"

For the Dallas crew, the mission brought an unaccustomed level of exposure. They watched live TV broadcasts of their ship as it pulled into port. "It was real-time news, and the ship and the crew were in the thick of it," Wagner said.

After seeing TV images of Wagner greeting the cheering Georgians, Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Pritchett later teased his commander that he'd become a rock star. "He told me, 'No, you are all the rock stars,'" Pritchett said.

Public interest in the Dallas and its humanitarian mission went beyond TV news. Internet searches using the terms "
Coast Guard" and "Georgia" spiked. Blogs started batting around quips about a misguided navigator landing his Coast Guard vessel in Georgia.

"It just shows you that most Americans really don't appreciate the global role of the Coast Guard," Wagner told the JCOC participants. "We really do protect America's interests everywhere around the world."

The civilians got insight into how the
Coast Guard carries out its diverse roles as they toured the ship, watched a demonstration of law enforcement tactics the crew uses and learned how they train to respond to a fire or other onboard emergency. They took every chance they got to chat with the crew about their jobs and their experience in the Coast Guard.

John Sullivan, group publisher and chief executive for Atlantic Media Co., said he was impressed with the caliber of the "kids" he met aboard Dallas. "They all seem to have really found themselves, and it's obvious that they're really proud of what they do," he said.

A highlight for many in the group was a zip around the harbor in an "over-the-horizon," rigid-hulled inflatable boat used to pursue high-speed vessels. They suited up in life vests and helmets, getting a sense of the boat's speed and handling abilities as it banked into curves at speeds up to 45 miles an hour. Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink, was one of the braver participants who accepted an offer to take the controls.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ray Bryant, Dallas' head mechanic, called the JCOC visit a great opportunity to increase awareness about the Coast Guard's diverse roles. "A lot of people don't know what we do, period," he said. "We work far beyond U.S. borders, and we are truly 'multitaskable.'"

The message resonated with the civilian
leaders.

"I had no idea of the breath of activities the Coast Guard is engaged in," said Nancy Hawthorne, chief executive officer for the Clerestory advisory firm in Boston. "When you think of the Coast Guard, you think of the guys who do rescues. ... I didn't realize that they play such a big role in national defense."

The group's visit to USCG Dallas was the second stop in a week-long trip to military activities throughout U.S. European Command. Yesterday, the group visited USS Iwo Jima off the coast of Crete.

The first U.S. defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC program in 1948 to introduce civilian "movers and shakers" with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces. Nearly six decades later, it remains DoD's premier civic leader program.