Military News

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation Raises More Than $300,000

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

June 13, 2009 - The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation recently raised more than $300,000 at its 23rd Annual Washington Gala to benefit high school and college students from families of active-duty and former Marines. Gen. James F. Amos, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was the military guest of honor at the event here June 6. He thanked the more than 300 guests for their continued support of the foundation.

"The 2009 Washington Gala was extremely successful," Clint Nesmith, national director of volunteers and event sponsorship at the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, said. "Our scholarships provide life-changing financial support for students while increasing their chances for success in their personal and professional lives."

This year, more than 80 students will receive about $3,400 each to further their education at a university of their choice. Kyle James, a scholarship recipient and son of Marine Maj. Brian Joseph James, who died in a July 1992 car crash, is very grateful for the award.

"My father, by all accounts, was an extraordinary man," James said. "I know this not just by the few precious memories I have of him or by what I have simply been told, but also by what I have seen and by what I have experienced as a recipient of this scholarship. My hope is that other students will be afforded a chance to experience this bond that sets the Marine Corps on a different level."

Since 1962, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation has provided academic scholarships to children of Marines and Navy corpsmen serving with Marines, with particular attention given to children whose parent was killed or wounded in action.

Children of active-duty or former Marines are eligible to apply for these scholarships. A parent must have served honorably for more than 90 days in the Marine Corps or Marine Corps Reserve. Applicants are expected to have a satisfactory academic record and have participated in civic and/or school activities.

According to Nesmith, these scholarships are vital to Marine families, as the cost of higher education continues to rise.

"The situation among many Marine families presents a sobering reality," Nesmith said. "Today, the average household income of our scholarship recipients is under $43,000."

To meet the current and future needs of educating children of Marines, the troop-support group recently launched an aggressive capital drive, "The American Patriots Campaign." Through the "Heroes Tribute Scholarship Fund" and "Need-based Scholarships," the group is looking to bolster its existing programs for children of Marines.

Gates Introduces McChrystal to NATO Defense Ministers

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 12, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates introduced the new commander of the alliance's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to the NATO and partner-nation defense ministers here today. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal stopped here on his way to his new command in Afghanistan. The general, who also has been confirmed to receive a fourth star, will take command in Kabul tomorrow.

McChrystal attended the meeting of ISAF contributing nations. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer spoke for all of the ministers in welcoming the general and wishing him luck.

"Our heads of government have declared NATO's effort in Afghanistan to be the alliance's highest operational priority," Gates said as he introduced the general. "Because General McChrystal will command your young men and women in Afghanistan, the secretary general and I thought it an appropriate courtesy to you to introduce him to you in person and have him present to hear your thoughts in this meeting."

NATO's defense ministers are in their second day of a conference here, and Afghanistan has been the primary subject of discussion.

"I am honored to be selected to command the brave men and women who make up the ISAF, and I assure you I take the responsibility very, very seriously," McChrystal told the alliance's defense ministers. "I am also privileged to be here today to listen to your deliberations and to take those thoughts and guidance [with me] as I go forward."

The discussions today will cover the gamut of issues that will confront the general as he takes command. Today, 56,000 Americans and 33,000 NATO and allied-nation servicemembers are in Afghanistan. By the end of the year, those numbers will grow to 68,000 and 35,000, respectively.

Progress in the country has not been as fast or as complete as the NATO leaders wanted, de Hoop Scheffer acknowledged. Still, he said, progress in security and governance is evident in some areas.

Security for the Afghan elections in August is the most immediate goal for the NATO forces, the secretary general said. The fact that the elections are the first proposed and conducted by the Afghan government is a sign of progress, he said, and he noted that the Afghan army now leads more than half of the operations conducted in the country.

Training for the Afghan military and police is a priority for NATO, the secretary general said, because the alliance cannot leave the country until Afghans take responsibility for the security of their own country.

Gates, Secretary General Express Satisfaction With NATO Conference

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 12, 2009 - Afghanistan dominated the discussions at the two-day NATO defense ministers conference that concluded here today, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said they are pleased with the results. The men spoke during separate news conferences at the end of a meeting of nations contributing forces to NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The NATO ministers have approved in principle establishing a new military headquarters for ISAF to oversee day-to-day tactical operations.

"The logic is clear, ... because the mission in Afghanistan has now grown to more than 60,000 forces, and it will keep growing," de Hoop Scheffer said. Noting the need for cooperation among ISAF, the Afghan security forces, aid donors and other international entities, the secretary general said the commander of ISAF cannot handle all of the international coordination and devote enough attention to day-to-day military operations.

American officials have nominated Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez to fill the job, and once the headquarters is established, it will be solely an ISAF position. "This three-star general will wear one hat – an ISAF hat," de Hoop Scheffer said.

The new command will report to a new ISAF commander. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal stopped here on his way to Afghanistan, where he will take command of ISAF U.S. Forces Afghanistan tomorrow. "This morning, I introduced General Stan McChrystal to the ministers," Gates said. "We all look forward to working with him as he brings fresh thinking and unparalleled energy and determination to Kabul."

For the immediate future, the alliance ministers confirmed that they have generated the forces needed to provide assistance for Afghanistan's elections in August. Eight battalions and their enablers will flow into the country for an up-tick of roughly 10,000 troops, de Hoop Scheffer said. The troops will provide a "third ring" of security for the election process after the first ring of the Afghan National Police and the second ring of the Afghan National Army, he added.

The extra troops will help in transporting election materials and protecting election workers, and will provide support in an impartial manner, the secretary general said.

NATO will provide higher-level training for the Afghan National Army and training and mentoring for the Afghan National Police. The alliance also will help to train a gendarmerie – a cross between police and military – for the country, de Hoop Scheffer said.

The alliance also will deploy its AWACS aircraft to Afghanistan to provide airborne warning and control capability. De Hoop Scheffer said the skies over Afghanistan are getting crowded with military and civilian aircraft, as well as with unmanned aerial vehicles. With very little ground-based radar capabilities, the NATO aircraft essentially will provide air traffic control, he said.

World War II Air Crash Monument Finds Permanent Home at Fort Myer

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

June 12, 2009 - A granite monument dedicated to 40 U.S. servicemembers who perished in an air crash in Australia during World War II has found a permanent home at Fort Myer, Va. Yesterday's dedication ceremony for the Bakers Creek air crash memorial was attended by Army Secretary Pete Geren; David Stuart, deputy chief of mission for the Australian embassy; Australian Air Vice-Marshal Kym Osley, head of the embassy's defense staff; other senior officials; and a number of relatives and friends of the accident victims.

On June 14, 1943, an Army Air Corps B-17C Flying Fortress crashed at Bakers Creek, near Mackey in Queensland. The troops aboard the bomber were being flown back to New Guinea after enjoying some leave time in Australia. Forty servicemembers died; there was just one survivor.

The monument now is located near Fort Myer's Selfridge Gate, which enters into Arlington National Cemetery. Since November 2006, the monument had stood outside the Australian embassy here, and before that it briefly had been displayed at the World War II memorial.

Geren directed that the monument be placed on Fort Myer. The memorial, he said at the ceremony, serves to honor the passing of "40 brave American soldiers" and also celebrates "the enduring friendship between the United States and Australia."

Due to operational security concerns at that time, Geren said, the families of the deceased servicemembers weren't told of details of the tragedy until years later.

"Today, with Arlington Cemetery as the backdrop, we pay a long and overdue tribute to 40 brave Americans," Geren said. "And, as we do, we honor all soldiers -- past and present, American and Australian – who answer the call to duty and offer their lives [and] offer their sacrifice for the cause of freedom."

The monument's placement at Selfridge Gate is a fitting location, Geren said, because the entryway is named after Army Lt. Thomas Selfridge, an aviator who perished as a result of a crash during the military's first aircraft test flight, which took place on Fort Myer on Sept. 9, 1908. American air pioneer Orville Wright, who was aboard the aircraft with Selfridge, was injured in the crash.

Selfridge gave his life for his country, "as did the 40 brave Americans we honor today," Geren said.

Osley said his country's embassy has enjoyed being the custodian of the Bakers Creek monument for the past two years, but that the monument's new location "is perfect." Another monument dedicated to the servicemembers who died during the Bakers Creek air crash is located in Mackay in Queensland.

"It's very heartfelt for Australians to honor these people in their own way back in Mackay and to now honor them over here," Osley said. "They're all very much heroes to all of us in Australia."

The Bakers Creek crash was the worst accident involving a transport plane in the southwest Pacific theater during World War II, said Robert S. Cutler, a retired George Washington University professor and executive director of the Bakers Creek Memorial Association. Cutler's late father, Samuel, was an Army Air Corps captain who supervised the passenger loading aboard the B-17 before its ill-fated flight.

At yesterday's Fort Myer ceremony, Cutler said he was "elated" that the monument, which was constructed in 2003, is now permanently situated at Fort Myer. The monument's pink granite base, he said, was donated by the Australian government.

The memorial "is something that a lot of patriotic veterans felt they needed to 'make right,'" Cutler said.

Bob Finney, an 86-year-old military veteran from Erie, Pa., recalled at the ceremony that he was a U.S. sailor aboard a destroyer tender in the North Atlantic Ocean at the time of the death of his brother, Army Pvt. James E. Finney, in the Bakers Creek air crash.

"I think this is wonderful to have their names on that monument out there and knowing at least somebody has thought of them and finally recognized what they have done," Finney said.

NATO Will Continue Anti-piracy Missions, Secretary General Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 12, 2009 - NATO will continue its anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said today. The alliance's defense ministers, who met here over the last two days, agreed to send the Standing NATO Maritime Battle Group 2 to relieve Battle Group 1, which is now operating in the area, de Hoop Scheffer said.

"That means that NATO will continue to play its role in the fight against piracy," he said.

The battle group represents six nations, with a possibility of other NATO nations contributing ships. "Other nations might be ready and willing to join at a certain stage," the secretary general said.

The NATO mission would have ended had the ministers not agreed to continue it, de Hoop Scheffer said. He added that it would be unacceptable for a political-military organization like NATO, with its huge inventory, to do otherwise.

"But NATO will be there," the secretary general said. "And it may be that the mission will be beefed up. I'm very happy with the results."

Logistics Agency Employee Finds Father, War Hero

By Beth Reece
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 12, 2009 - Ron Moran spent so many years pining for the truth about his father that searching for clues became a habit. "Where's my dad? What happened to him?" he'd ask relatives when the void felt too deep. "It was this big secret. Even my granddad, who helped raise me for awhile, wouldn't tell me anything about who my father was. I didn't even know what he looked like," said Moran, customer relations division branch chief for the Defense Logistic Agency's information operations directorate.

Moran's mother, Frances, took to silence when her son asked questions. The only answer she ever gave was a name – Raymond – and vague talk about a heart attack and time served in the Navy during World War II.

Rootless and aggravated by his mother's refusal to lead him to his father, Moran turned to Navy personnel records, genealogy and eventually the Internet for answers. The results were always the same: no Social Security number, no leads.

When a sudden, massive stroke claimed his mother at age 85 in December 2003, Moran's longing for the father he never knew was replaced by grief. At 45, he was an only son about to bury his sole parent.

Moran spent the following days making funeral arrangements and settling his mother's modest estate with the help of his wife, Roben. It was she who pulled from the bottom of a wardrobe an orange plastic bag bearing the secrets – Moran's answers.

The Discovery

"I was getting together the clothes his mom would be laid out in when I noticed the bag," Roben said. "All I could feel was disbelief when I saw what was in it."

Like striking gold is how Moran described the feeling of finding that bag. Inside were wedding and honeymoon photos of his parents, pictures of a happy couple with children Moran recognized as cousins, plus Navy identification cards with Raymond Moran's service number.

"Come to find out, Mom had what I had been begging for all this time – pictures and everything I needed to finally find my dad," he said. "I just broke down looking at it all."

Moran took several "bittersweet" weeks to recover from his mother's death before resuming the search for his father. Then, in yet another letter to the National Personnel Records Center, he asked for a copy of his father's discharge papers, a "map" of the sailor's service history.

With a service number, the Navy could finally answer Moran's request.

"They sent me a list of the places he'd served and units he was with, as well as a list of all his medals. I also learned that he was in the Philippines during the outbreak of World War II."

Raymond Moran served aboard PBY Catalina patrol bomber seaplanes with Navy patrol squadrons 21 and 102, which fought the Japanese in the first weeks of World War II. The PBYs were designed for anti-submarine warfare and patrol bombing, but the Navy suffered such heavy losses they also were used for rescue and evacuation missions.

"Those guys were outnumbered, flying missions the planes weren't even designed for. Dad put his life on the line," said Ron Moran, who since has read much about the history of the units his father served in.

Many of Raymond Moran's fellow sailors died during intense fighting on the Philippine island of Corregidor or as prisoners of war during the Bataan Death March.

"It was just Dad's plane and a couple of others that made it out safely," Ron Moran said.

Learning about the father he'd always yearned for was only half the process of reuniting with him, but it was as far as Moran would get. Raymond Moran died in 1963, when Ron was 5.

"Ron will say, 'I wonder if I ever got to see my dad. I wonder if he ever got to hold me or look into my eyes,'" Roben said. "These are the kinds of things that run through his mind, and he can only imagine."

A War Hero

Today, Moran believes he is the son of a hero. His office is like a shrine, with medals, photographs of PBY seaplanes and Navy memorabilia filling the lamp-lit space.

Hoping to find one of his father's war buddies, Moran posted messages on the PBY Memorial Foundation Web site last summer. The son of a deceased Navy lieutenant responded to ask if Moran realized his father qualified for the Bronze Star for defending the Philippines from December 1941 to May 1942.

"Dad already had a Presidential Unit Citation for that period. But the Bronze Star – I thought that would be awesome," Moran said.

Virginia Sen. John Warner queried the Navy on Moran's behalf to learn that his father was, indeed, entitled to the Bronze Star, the U.S. military's fourth-highest award for bravery in combat. And if he wanted the medal, Moran was told, he could purchase one at any military clothing store.

"That just didn't seem right, me buying the medal when – if Dad was still alive – they would have presented the Bronze Star properly in a ceremony," he said.

Navy Cdr. Tiffany Schad took up Moran's cause. The former chief of the Defense Logistics Agency's director's staff group, Schad used personal contacts at the office of the Secretary of the Navy to gain Moran a gift he calls "the ultimate moment" of his career.

In an April 3 ceremony at the agency's headquarters here, Navy Rear Adm. Mark Heinrich, director of the logistics operations and readiness directorate, presented Moran his father's Bronze Star.

"It was beyond my imaginations -- the ceremony, the honor of having Admiral Heinrich present the medal, all for me and my Dad," Moran said.

Holding On

World War II wasn't the end of Raymond Moran's combat experience. He went on to fight in the Korean War and retired with 20 years of service before meeting Ron's mother.

What happened between them, Moran isn't sure. He knows they divorced the year he was born, but not why.

"It's a very important thing for a young man to have his father. Growing up, all the kids in school had dads. I wanted to know where mine was," he said.

Roben is certain Frances Moran truly loved her son "more than life itself," but for whatever reason, just couldn't share her thoughts on Raymond.

"I asked her once what happened to Ron's dad, and she shut the conversation up real quick and said, 'I don't want to talk about it. It's not up for discussion,'" Roben said.

Her mother-in-law could have had better health care – and Ron a better education – if things had been different and she'd pursued the military benefits she was entitled to, she added.

"But maybe she was somehow afraid Ron would be taken from her," Roben said.

While Moran still doesn't understand the reason for his mom's secrecy, he is not bitter. Instead, he takes pleasure in the family he has today.

"I have two stepsons, Eric and Brandon. They'd do anything for me, and I'd do anything for them," he boasted, passing a framed photo across his desk.

"And that's my new grandson. He was born just a couple days before the Bronze Star ceremony. Now that ... was amazing. I'm still flying high."

(Beth Reece works in the Defense Logistics Agency public affairs office.)

Army Marks 234 Years of Service, Sacrifice

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

June 12, 2009 - Citing the organization's long history of selfless service and sacrifice, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III helped to commemorate the Army's 234th birthday today at a Pentagon ceremony. The U.S. Army officially celebrates its birthday June 14.

"This occasion marks the 234th year that ordinary men and women have become extraordinary citizens by answering the call of duty and placing the country in front of themselves," Lynn said to an audience of soldiers and other servicemembers in the Pentagon courtyard. "I'm humbled by this long tradition of service, reaching back even to the founding of our nation."

The Army tradition is expressed in a number of ways, he said, including in the actions and service of individual families.

Lynn recognized the Simpson family of Tennessee, whose generations of military service span nearly 100 years. Simpson family members served in Mexico, during World War II, in Vietnam and now in Afghanistan, he said.

"It's this kind of service and dedication that's the hallmark of the United States Army," he added.

Lynn also acknowledged the Army as the world's most formidable fighting force, and he credited family support as the dynamic that makes the Army such a strong, dependable organization. The Army couldn't be the institution it is without the families, he said.

"Our soldiers, of course, do not bear the burdens of combat alone," he continued. "When they sign up, they're also volunteering their families. Army families are a constant source of support and inspiration, and in many ways, they're the reasons our soldiers continue to serve."

Today's commemoration and cake cutting marks the start of a weeklong list of birthday activities all across the Army. The Army will hold its annual birthday ball here tomorrow, and on June 14, Army leadership will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Also, individual Army posts will celebrate with 10-mile birthday runs.

This year is Army Secretary Pete Geren's final Army birthday celebration as the service's top official. It's important, he said, to take the time to reflect on the importance and the impact the U.S. Army has had on the history of the world.

"It's important for an organization such as ours ... to stop and reflect on its proud history," Geren said. "It's important to stop and think how different the history of the United States [and] the history of the world would be without the United States Army."

Geren cited the importance of remembering the sacrifice made by previous generations of soldiers and military members. The battlefields may be different throughout time, he said, but the sacrifice is the same.

"Reflect on those who fought in Desert Storm and ... those soldiers who stood all those years ago at Lexington and Concord," he said. "Reflect on that wife, that husband who's waiting home today for their loved ones to return, [because] they are living the same experiences and emotions a wife was living when her husband [or] her son faced down the British troops at Lexington and Concord.

"As we enjoy this week and blow out those candles and sing happy birthday," he continued, "it's so important to stop and think about what our soldiers have done. Think about how different today the world would be if it were not for the soldiers and families of the United States Army."

Defense Department Prepares Quadrennial Defense Review

By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 12, 2009 - Defense Department officials are preparing a far-ranging report on current and future goals as part of a congressional mandate. "It's really the mother of all reports to Congress," Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, said of the Quadrennial Defense Review in a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable yesterday.

Secretaries of defense have seized the reporting requirement "as an opportunity to articulate their vision for the department and to use it as a decision-making opportunity," Dory said.

Every four years since 1996, the QDR has outlined the department's institutional vision for all elements of its operations.

Dory said law requires the Defense Department to look 20 years into the future when evaluating the security environment to consider what capabilities it might need to address the challenges it would face.

"A second substantive element of the QDR is a national defense strategy that will explore what our strategic ends are, the ways we will endeavor to achieve those ends, and then the means we have available to pursue those," Dory said.

Another key element of the report is how the department measures its required activity in response to "presidential tasking," Dory told the bloggers. "That's a key force-planning and force-sizing determination." The QDR has a major impact on troops on the ground, Dory said, because Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has placed special emphasis on making the department more responsive to meeting their current needs.

"It may seem that a congressional report would be a bit esoteric and not relevant to the troops on the ground," she said. "But what makes it relevant to the troops on the ground really is the secretary's injunction to the department that what we need to do is focus on succeeding in the conflicts that we're in."

The report also has implications in terms of the way the department uses its resources, Dory said. "It has implications in terms of how we relate to our interagency partners, how our allies and friends see us in the world, and how our potential adversaries see us," she said.

The report is due to Congress in February.

(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)