Military News

Thursday, June 25, 2009

National Guard Partnerships Spread in Africa

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 25, 2009 - Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, Vermont's adjutant general, made office calls here last week with staff at U.S. Air Forces in Europe and 17th Air Force for updates on Macedonia and Senegal. For 14 years, the Vermont National Guard has been in the National Guard's State Partnership Program with the Balkan nation of Macedonia, once part of the former Yugoslavia, and now Vermont also has a partnership with Senegal.

USAFE's area of responsibility includes Macedonia, and 17th Air Force supports U.S. Africa Command, which includes Senegal.

Adjutants general view such office calls as mandatory stops as they pursue activities with their partner nations. The National Guard is one part of a larger team bent on improving partnership capacity.

"We're talking about the integration between what their mission is in their area of responsibility and the State Partnership Program," Dubie explained. "The State Partnership Program is one of the tools in their tool kit to further their goal -- either on a bilateral or a multilateral basis -- and we want to work on a collaborative basis and be an asset for [combatant commands] to accomplish whatever the [combatant commanders'] goals are."

Macedonia is within U.S. European Command's area of responsibility. Eucom watched Africa until Africom stood up last year as a separate combatant command headed by Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, who once served as Eucom's deputy commander.

It was with European nations that the State Partnership Program started in 1993, following the collapse of the Iron Curtain. State partnerships foster military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian cooperation.

"Since I've been doing this type of interaction for about 14 years, I can tell that Africom has adopted the Eucom model," Dubie said. "Some of the other [combatant commands] haven't quite adopted as aggressive a State Partnership Program."

Twenty National Guard states have partnerships with 21 countries within the Eucom area of operations. Six nations within Africom's purview have partnerships, and at least two more are expected soon.

"As Africom develops into a more robust program on the continent, the relationships that are being built right now between different U.S. states and their African counterparts can help Africom accomplish their theater strategic plan," Dubie said. "It's really important for the U.S. states in the State Partnership Program to always keep in mind what the [combatant commanders'] goals are, in addition to knowing the specific country team goals as articulated by each separate ambassador."

The hyphenated pedigree of the Guard member -- citizen-soldier or citizen-airman -- makes the National Guard unique in its ability to deliver, Ward has said.

"There's only one branch of our services, one arm of our services, one component of our services that brings that to the table: that's our Guard," he said at the 2007 Eucom State Partnership Program workshop. "The work that you all do is an absolutely critical element to our engagement strategy."

So it's no surprise that Navy Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, the deputy for military operations at Africom, already has been to a workshop in Vermont to meet with chiefs of defense from participating nations.

"General Ward and the entire team at Africom want to work on a very collaborative basis with the states," Dubie said.

Meanwhile, Vermont hit the ground running with its latest partnership. It took several years for the state to move from military-to-military through military-to-civilian to civilian-to-civilian activities with Macedonia, but Dubie said that's all happening at once with Senegal.

"We aggressively are trying to simultaneously implement events in all three venues," he said.

The State Partnership Program enriches the National Guard as well as its foreign partners, he said.

"The fact that we are becoming smarter about world affairs and we're building lasting relationships make it a success -- and we haven't even talked about the specifics of military operations," Dubie said. "It's what the United States as a whole needs to do more. American society needs to understand other parts of the world better. And if we can start doing that by the Vermont National Guard, that's a good thing for Vermont society and for American society."

The Senegal partnership has further expanded Guard members' horizons.

"Sometimes Americans, myself included, are quite myopic in our view, and already in one year I look at world events through a different lens," Dubie said. "Instead of that American-European lens we're so used to, we're starting to look at it through an American, European and African lens.

"Senegal has a very rich history," he continued. "I was impressed by their professionalism, [and also by] the very large leadership role they have in the African Union. In their region of Africa, they have a very strong leadership role."

On his first trip to Macedonia, Dubie was a major. The experience motivated him to study the country more closely and write an Air War College thesis on Macedonia.

"I'm just one example of how many other thousands of people that have been involved in the State Partnership Program that got the fire lit under him to learn more about a region of the world," Dubie said.

Now a senior leader himself, Dubie has watched his Macedonian counterparts ascend as well.

"The current chief of defense for Macedonia, his first visit to Vermont was to attend the Army Mountain Warfare College, and he was a lieutenant colonel," Dubie said. "You can't replicate that overnight. It takes years and years."

Now that Vermont is in partnership with Senegal, the same kinds of relationships will develop, he said -- relationships that all the participating states and nations experience.

"Some of the captains that we brought on the first Senegal trip someday will be generals on our side, and they will have interacted with captains on the Senegal side that will [be generals]," he said. "That's where the real power of this is."

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

Africa Command Focuses on Extremists, Drug Traffickers

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 25, 2009 - The top U.S. military officer with responsibility for Africa concedes he's worried about the threat of violent extremists taking hold there, particularly in Somalia, and said U.S. Africa Command is working to help regional governments prevent it. "We clearly worry about the threat of violent extremists taking hold in any parts of the continent where there are spaces that are under-governed or not in full control of the government," Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward told National Public Radio yesterday.

"And so Somalia is, indeed, a place that we are concerned about," he said. "In that regard, our policy is to provide support to those governments that are in position in various parts of the continent as they seek to maintain their control over their spaces."

While not actively involved in training the Somali military, Africom is working through the State Department to provide other assistance, he said. Meanwhile, Africom also is working under the auspices of the State Department to help Liberia, which is emerging from a brutal civil war, stand up its new armed forces, he said.

"We also provide training support to other African nations who conduct military peacekeeping operations," Ward said. That support includes military mentors and technical training assistance, and focuses not just on military skills, but also in respect for human rights and rule of law.

Africom also is a key player in a broader effort to crack down on narcotics trafficking in Western Africa, William Weschsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week.

"Although we are still defining the scope, we know that drug trafficking in West Africa is a major problem, it's growing rapidly, and we expect it to grow over the coming years," he said at the June 23 hearing.

The repercussions are far-reaching, Weschsler warned. "This endangers peace, stability, democracy [and] our efforts to promote security sector reform in West Africa, and poses an increasing threat to both our Africa and our European partners," he said.

Addressing this challenge requires an integrated approach that incorporates interagency and international capabilities to equip, train and maintain regional partners' counter-narcotics organizations, he said.

Weschsler pointed to initiatives already under way, in which Africom is working hand in hand with U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Naval Forces Africa and others to monitor the drug flow and support projects aimed at stemming it.

Projects already under way in West Africa include constructions of boat and refueling facilities for the regional navies and coast guards, student sponsorship for classroom training, construction of a screening facility in Ghana and establishment of an information fusion center in Cape Verde, he said.

"All these programs are -- it must be stressed -- a result of a real interagency development process, and that's critical for the success of any of these programs," Weschsler said, emphasizing the need for more and closer cooperation.

The time to deal with the drug trafficking problem, he told the committee, "is now, before it undermines our strategic interests on the African continent."

Review Looks to Strike Balance Between Current, Future Needs

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

June 25, 2009 - As the nation fights two protracted wars and North Korea rattles off war-like rhetoric, officials working on the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review are striving to strike a balance between the needs of the current fight and preparing for future threats. The review, mandated by Congress, provides the underpinning for the National Defense Strategy, and this time it will address tough changes in how the military is manned, equipped and funded.

Traditionally, the Defense Department has used a two-war scenario as the baseline for its force structure. Now, though, military leaders are preparing for the possibility of facing a number of hybrid wars --– those that demand a mix of conventional and unconventional warfighting skills --– in the next two decades.

"What [Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates] has asked us to do is ... balance between succeeding at what [we're] doing today but also ... hedging against future challenges," Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, said in an interview at the Pentagon yesterday.

Key in this review will be institutionalizing within the department the needs of fighting irregular wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The needs of the military to adapt to irregular warfare first came to light in the 2006 review, even as military commanders were finding that conventional methods of fighting, funding and force structure were not working in Iraq.

Since 2007, Gates has led a battle against a decades-old Pentagon bureaucracy to get equipment and troops on the ground faster with proper training. His philosophy that the needs of the future cannot come at the expense of today's warfighter has had a pervasive effect across the department.

But Gates' efforts were accomplished mostly through ad hoc methods of acquisition and funded through supplemental requests to Congress. Now Gates wants those efforts to be built into the department's processes so that when the two wars end, the department does not slip back to "business as usual," Dory said.

Gates has had somewhat of a home-field advantage in accomplishing this in the upcoming review. Because he served in the previous administration, Gates enters this review process on solid footing, and has, in effect, already signaled a shift in this direction with his fiscal 2010 budget recommendations. Those recommendations provided funding for a growing Army and Marine Corps, cut programs that had significant cost overruns, and favored equipment acquisitions that were more flexible in their capabilities.

Conversely, even as the military has ramped up its nontraditional warfighting skills, that has come at the expense of some its conventional warfighting training. Gates has expressed confidence that the military can fight and win a fight against a more conventional threat, such as North Korea, but Dory said the review is looking to balance the training needs of both kinds of fights.

While the priority for the review is to institutionalize irregular warfare for the department, Dory said, it also will take a hard look at four other areas.

New to this review will be a focus on the ability of state and nonstate actors to acquire and use advanced technologies ranging from weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles and cyber tools, Dory said. Also, the review will examine the department's support of civil authorities, with a heavy emphasis on its relationship with the Department of Homeland Defense.

The review will examine the U.S. military presence across the globe, both permanent and nonpermanent. It will line up each troop presence within the overall defense strategy. And it will review how the military is shaped and manned overall, within the scope of the threats it predicts.

"We can't do everything in the world that others may want us to do. We can't do everything that we may want to do," Dory said. "There's a sense of prioritization, and there's a sense of where will you take your risk. If that top-line [budget] is not going to grow, what trade-offs do you make within the resources that you've been allocated to do your best?"

Besides how the military fights wars, the broad-brush, cross-cutting review will look at how the department does business, looking for ways to save money that can be diverted to other programs.

Dory said the review is looking at a couple of major areas that are "cost drivers." Health care, for example, is growing at a rate that will squeeze out funding for other programs if it is not funded above the rate of inflation, she said. The review will examine where it can constrain that growth, she said.

"The bottom line in terms of the economic environment is really that, in that kind of resourced picture, you're forced to make hard choices," Dory said. "We think the secretary has already made some of those hard choices in terms of the [2010] budget, and there will be additional hard choices made in the [Quadrennial Defense Review] process."

CONTRACTS

NAVY
Data Link Solutions, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was awarded a $28,856,747 firm-fixed-price delivery order on June 23, 2009, for Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVTs). The MIDS-LVT provides secure, high capacity, jam resistant, digital data and voice communications capability for Navy, Air Force and Army platforms. This delivery order combines purchases for the U.S., (45 percent) and the governments of Saudi Arabia, (15 percent), Canada, (10 percent), Korea, (8 percent), Switzerland, (6 percent), Finland, (6 percent), Poland, (5 percent), Japan, (4 percent), and Norway, (1 percent) under the foreign military sales program. Work will be performed in Wayne, N.J., (50 percent), and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, (50 percent), and is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $425,983 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This delivery order was competitively procured with two proposals solicited and two offers received via the Space and Naval Warfare Systems E-commerce web site. The synopsis was released via the ! Federal Business Opportunities web site. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N00039-00-D-2100).

Lockheed Martin's MS2 Division, Syracuse, N.Y., is being awarded a $8,525,549 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5201) to fund a change order issued against the FY 07-09 requirements for upgrade kits for the Navy's AN/SQQ-89A(V)15 Undersea Warfare System. The AN/SQQ-89A (V)15 is a surface ship combat system with the capabilities to search, detect, classify, localize and track undersea contacts; and to engage and evade submarines, mine-like small objects, and torpedo threats. Work will be performed in Lemont Furnace, Pa., (86 percent); Eagan, Minn., (11 percent); and Syracuse, N.Y., (3 percent), and is expected to be completed by September 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio, is being awarded $6,918,046 under a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N62473-07-D-4013) to exercise option four for performance-based environmental services and technology for Navy and Marine Corps installations and commands worldwide and for other federal organizations being supported. The work to be performed in support of various Navy, Marine Corps, and federal government programs includes obtaining various engineering and incidental services for research, development, testing, and evaluation of innovative environmental technologies, strategies and techniques; implementation of innovative environmental technologies, strategies and techniques; operation of sites and innovative systems at sites, including maintenance and monitoring; and technical consultation. The current total estimated contract amount after exercise of this final option will be $30,000,000. Work will be performed in various locations worldwide, and is expected to be completed by June 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Specialty Center Acquisitions, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity.

ARMY
L.B. Foster Co., Pittsburg, Pa., was awarded on June 24, 2009, a $23,101,094 firm-fixed-price contract for the furnishing of all plant, equipment, labor and materials and performing all operations in connection with the fabrication, painting, storage, and shipping of steel sheet piling for various levee construction within Lake Pontchartrain, west bank, and vicinity. Work is to be performed in Jefferson Parish, La., with an estimated completion date of June 22, 2011. Bids were solicited via FedBizOps with three bids received. U.S.A. Corp of Engineers, New Orleans District, New Orleans, La., is the contracting activity (W912P8-09-C-0074).

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded on June 23, 2009, a $45,393,242 firm-fixed-price contract for 171 STINGER Missiles, 24 Captive Flight Trainers 68 Air to Air Launchers (ATAL's), seven Launchers Circuit Evaluators, two Digital Launcher Test Sets (DLTS), 60 Coolant Reservoir Assemblies, three Launchers Emulators, one Lot CFT Spares, one Lot ATAL Spares, and one Lot DLTS Spares for Foreign Military Sales customer Taiwan. Work is to be performed in Tucson, Ariz., with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2012. One bid solicited with one bid received. Aviation & Missile Command Contracting Center, Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-09-C-0520).

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded on June 23, 2009, a $26,019,017 firm-fixed-price contract for 178 STINGER Missiles, 10 Electric Control Assemblies, and one Lot ECA Spares for foreign military sales customers Egypt and Turkey. Work is to be performed in Tucson, Ariz., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2012. One bid solicited with one bid received. Aviation & Missile Command Contracting Center, Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-09-C-0508).

W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co., Philadelphia, Miss., was awarded on June 23, 2009, a $10,676,000 firm-fixed-price construction contract for the construction of an education center at Little Rock Air Force Base, Jacksonville, Ariz. Work is to be performed in Jacksonville, Ariz., with an estimated completion date of Nov. 9, 2010. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with ten bids received. U.S. Army Engineer District, Little Rock, Ariz., was the contracting activity (W9127S-09-C-6005).

MDT Armor Co., St. Auburn, Ala., was awarded on June 23, 2009, a $9,917,061 firm-fixed-price contract for 70 Armored Land Rover Combat Defender, MDT-DAV vehicles. Work is to be performed in St. Auburn, Ala., with an estimated completion date of May 28, 2010. Bids were solicited using sole source with one bid received. TACOM, AMSCC-TAC-ADBA, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-09-C-0389).

Breiholz Construction Co., Des Moines, Iowa, was awarded on June 23, 2009, a $5,760,500 firm-fixed-price contract. This is a Design-Bid-Build contract for construction of a new communication facility, renovation of an existing building, and demolition of an existing building. Work is to be performed on Aug. 31, 2010. Bids were solicited using the Army Single Face Industry. Iowa Air National Guard, Des Moines, Iowa, is the contracting activity (W912LP-09-C-0003).

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded on June 22, 2009, a $5,152,840 for 44 each Upturned Exhaust Systems, to be installed on UH-60 M Aircraft that will be deployed in support of Operation Iraqi freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Work is to be performed in Stratford, Conn., with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2011. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, CCAM-BH-A-Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-09-C-0158).

AIR FORCE
McDonnell Douglas Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, St. Louis, Mo., was awarded an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for up to $15,973,373. This contract action is for the Training Frequency Relocation. It involves engineering technical services, studies, and implementation of the sustainment of GBU-15/AGM-130 weapons, as well as depot service, calibration and repair of selected GBU-15 and AGM-130 module assemblies. At this time, $3,606,243 has been obligated. OO-ALC/784 CBSG/PK, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8213-09-D-0011).

Lockheed Martin Corp., of Fort Worth, Texas, has an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract modified for $13,142,697. This contract action will provide for additional F-22 sustainment over and above activities during calendar year 2009. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 673 AESS/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8611-08-C-2897, P00027).

RAD: Rape Aggression Defense

Editor's Note: Excellent information for military personnel.

On July 10, 2009, Conversations with American Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature a discussion former parole officer and RAD Instructor
Kimberly Cheryl Elliot.

Program Date: July 10, 2009
Program Time: 2100 hours, Pacific
Topic: RAD: Rape Aggression Defense
Listen Live:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/LawEnforcement/2009/07/11/RAD-Rape-Aggression-Defense

About the Guest
Kimberly Cheryl Elliott spent 17 years and parole and probation officer for Missouri State Division of Probation and Parole. She “is a seasoned marketing professional with 18 years experience in pharmaceutical sales and management. As a victim of crime, she is very passionate about her career as founder and managing partner of Executive Defense Technology, LLC, an anti-victimization education firm. As a speaker, author, consultant and Nationally Certified RAD (Rape/Aggression/Defense) Instructor, she helps clients optimize their personal safety. As a seminar leader, she provides a comprehensive course that begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, while progressing on to the basics of hands on defense training. Her clients include everyone from elderly church group members and housewives to employees of law firms, TV / Radio Stations and other Fortune 500 Corporations.”

Kimberly Cheryl Elliott is the author of Escape From The Pharma Cartel: My Life as a Member of the Pharmaceutical Drug Cartel; Take This Pill and... Sell It!: A Guide To Getting A Job In The Pharmaceutical Industry; Shattered Reality; and, Are Your Habits Killing You? A Complete Personal Handbook Of Safety Suggestions to Incorporate into Your Everyday Life: Because the Best Defense Is a Good Offensive Plan!

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is
police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the
Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in Law Enforcement, public policy, Government Technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in Law Enforcement.

Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/LawEnforcement/2009/07/11/RAD-Rape-Aggression-Defense

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA
editor@police-writers.com
909.599.7530

President Rolls Up Sleeves to Support Military Kids

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

June 25, 2009 - Volunteers were already hard at work stuffing backpacks full of goodies for military kids today in Fort Lesley J. McNair's gymnasium when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived to give them a hand. "It's very gratifying to see all of you committed to helping to put together some backpacks, care packages for military families all across the country," the president said. "On Monday we launched 'United We Serve,' our summer service initiative.

"We want to ask every American to take some time out this summer to do something for others," he added. "If all of us are doing that this summer, then we're going to make this country stronger."

As part of that strengthening, 15,000 backpacks of healthy snacks, books and even a copy of the first dog's "baseball card" will make it into the hands of military children attending the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple camps.

Even the youngest among today's 250 volunteers, which included congressional family members and representatives of nonprofit groups, were certain they could achieve that goal of 15,000 bags, and understood why military children need their support.

Taylor Paulsen, 10, knows what it's like to have her dad, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, of Minnesota, work away from home.

"My dad works here, so sometimes he's away, but he comes back every weekend," she said. "It's sad because I really miss him. It's fun to have him home. We go on bike rides and play games."

It's the same for military kids, she said. "[But] they don't get to see their dad as much because when he's gone he doesn't come back every weekend," she added.

The meaning of volunteerism was best expressed by the adults, however.

Patty Barron, a representative of the National Military Family Association, grew up in a military environment and her daughter is serving in Afghanistan.

"I think that it's just something that we all need to do. I think that military members, spouses, and children especially understand what service means," Barron said. "For many of us growing up within a military family environment, volunteering is just part of what we do. If we don't do it, it doesn't get done."

With some help from the first family, including Obama daughters Malia and Sasha, the piles of backpacks and mountains of goodies had all but disappeared by the end of the morning. It was an effort Feeding America spokesman Phil Zepeda described as fantastic.

Face of Defense: Gunnery Sergeant Shares Career Secrets

By Marine Corps Cpl. Bobbie Curtis
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 25, 2009 - When Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jason Eckman was promoted to gunnery sergeant on May 2, he became one of the few Marines to know the rare honor of being meritoriously promoted for combat service. A meritorious promotion in the Marine Corps is an irregular promotion that allows particular Marines who stand out above their peers to compete before a board of more senior Marines for a small number of predetermined slots to their next rank.

The promotions are harder to achieve the higher a Marine advances in rank. For this particular board, only two promotion available slots were available for all of the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eckman competed against nine other staff sergeants to earn his promotion.

Eckman describes his whole life as a pathway leading to self-improvement, with experiences that have given him the tools and drive to achieve his goals along the way.

"Everything in your career is a stepping stone to improve yourself," he explained. "I try to stay as well-rounded of a Marine as possible."

Eckman was born in a college town in Pennsylvania with a population of about 70,000 people. After finishing high school, he joined the Marine Corps with hopes that it would give him a jump start to later pursue a career in law enforcement with the Pennsylvania State Police.

He said shipping off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., was one of the first stepping stones toward his current success. His recruit training, he said, gave him a huge starting point that he used to establish a solid foundation.

"It starts at recruit training," he said. "To continue on, you've got to have some good mentors [and] take the things you like and discard the things you don't like to make you a well-rounded Marine."

His formula to success was simple from the beginning. He chose to learn and live by the Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits: judgment, justice, decisiveness, integrity, discipline, tact, initiative, endurance, bearing, unselfishness, knowledge, loyalty, enthusiasm and confidence.

"It's bred into you as a Marine," he said.

Upon completion of recruit training and subsequently training in his assigned military occupational specialty as a military policeman, Eckman embarked on a series of assignments and deployments that he said helped him on his quest to become a diverse Marine and "experience all the things the Marine Corps has to offer." During his first enlistment in the Marine Corps, Eckman decided to commit to the Corps and make it his career.

"Once I got in the Marine Corps, I enjoyed being in and being part of it," he said. "That's why I never got out."

He went on a deployment as part of a personal security detail for U.S. Support Group Haiti in 1999 and caught a glimpse of his future of his current assignment as staff noncommissioned officer in charge for the 2nd Marine Logistics Group commanding general's personal security detail. He also completed a West Pacific tour with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visiting multiple countries in Southwest Asia, and served two separate tours in Iraq.

During this time, Eckman also was presented with an opportunity that he credits as one of the largest of the stepping stones, one that was key in teaching him small unit leadership skills: drill instructor duty at a place he knew all too well, Parris Island.

"Being a drill instructor was a huge stepping stone for me," he said. "The small-unit leadership you learn down there really helped me out." The challenge of forging a group of recruits with different backgrounds and personalities into a team of Marines, he added, taught him many of the skills he uses today.

Soon after finishing his tour as a drill instructor, Eckman moved to Camp Lejeune, N.C., and found himself in his current billet, one he called a great opportunity that played a decisive part in earning a combat meritorious promotion. Soon, he was here on his third deployment to Iraq.

He said being in the personal security detail is one of his favorite jobs and that the small-unit camaraderie makes it a rewarding atmosphere.

"You're working in that small unit, and it's a lot tighter," he said. "The incredible bond we have is one thing I especially enjoy."

Eckman also credits his unit's Marines as an important factor in his success, calling them some of the best in the Marine Corps.

"They talk about the top 10 percent of the Marine Corps. ... Well, I have the top 2 percent under me," he said. "They don't need guidance, and their professionalism is outstanding."

The 14-man team is made up mainly of infantrymen, along with a few military policemen and a Navy corpsman. All of the team members have more than one combat tour under their belt, giving Eckman an experienced, capable team to lead, he said.

After only four months of leading the team throughout Iraq with Brig. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, the 2nd Marine Logistics Group commander, Eckman received the combat meritorious promotion to gunnery sergeant, an event he considers one of his greatest moments.

"Obviously, I was excited about it," he said. "It was a true honor." Gunnery sergeant is one of the best ranks in the Marine Corps, he added.

"I set a goal when I came into the Marine Corps that I would be a gunnery sergeant," he said. "To achieve it in this way is one of the greatest achievements in my life."
Eckman was promoted by Ayala and Sgt. Maj. Carl Green, the former group sergeant major, in front of more than 100 other staff NCOs and officers.

Ayala's aide-de-camp, 1st Lt. Dan Meyers, is the personal security detail's officer in charge. He said he nominated Eckman because he was a natural choice for a combat meritorious promotion.

"His natural leadership and initiative was far beyond that of a staff sergeant," he said. "When it came time to put a name forward for a meritorious board, it was a no-brainer for me.

"It's really easy to write a package on a Marine who has so many accomplishments," he added, "so I was honored to put the package together." Meyers said that Eckman is the kind of staff NCO that every young officer needs, and that he's a great leader of Marines.

"I've got nothing but confidence in him," he explained. "He makes my job a whole lot easier because he's so incredibly competent. ... The Marines on his team respond well to his leadership. Their flawless execution thus far is a real testament to his ability to train them."

Eckman said that none of his accomplishments would have been possible without his wife, Jessica.

"I know that she's taking care of things back home," he said. "She misses her husband around, ... but she's able to manage and has done it now on numerous occasions."

Eckman said he still has many aspirations in the Marine Corps, including going back to Parris Island.

"I would love to go back down and be a company first sergeant, and would definitely love to be a battalion sergeant major," he said. But he added that his future in the Marine Corps depends on his wife and his 2-year old daughter, Lillian.

"Most likely, I am going to hit my 20-year mark and move on with life and be a family man," he said. "When I see [the military life] start to take a toll on the family, I am going to be a dad and husband."

(Marine Corps Cpl. Bobbie Curtis serves with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.)

Active, Reserve Chaplains Play Critical Role

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 25, 2009 - Active and reserve Army chaplains are playing a critical and strategic role in Iraq, a chaplain serving with Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq said this week. "Our troops are working tirelessly and selflessly to create a trusted and viable security force," Army Chaplain (Maj.) William Steen said during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable June 23. "However, the work, family separation and the long hours all take their toll on our troops."

Steen discussed how the military is helping soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines cope with the physical, mental and emotional stress while deployed in Iraq.

Chaplains play a critical role in today's military by providing forward-deployed troops more than religious support, Steen explained. Among other things, they also provide training before and after deployments, help servicemembers strengthen their marriages and families, and take an active role in suicide prevention.

"The wear and tear on the troops manifests itself in many ways," Steen said. "We commonly refer to those things as combat stress. In this era of persistent conflict, as we are facing an unprecedented demand upon all our volunteer force, both servicemembers and their families, their need for support and care is greater than it has ever been."

Reserve chaplains, he added, are filling the roles that are left behind at home stations when battalions are deployed downrange.

"There are significant numbers of reserve chaplains who are serving extended tours of active duty to do rear-garrison support," Steen said. "When a brigade combat team goes downrange ... those families are left without adequate care and coverage." The reserve chaplains provide a significant ministry for these families, the chaplain said.

"I think the Army has really stepped up to the plate, in terms of providing billets for those reserve chaplains," he said.

Deployed chaplains, meanwhile, play an important role for servicemembers and commanders, Steen said. He cited a recent suicide-prevention stand-down at Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq as an example.

During the stand-down, chaplains briefed about 1,500 servicemembers, he said. This type of support has been overwhelmingly effective and has been well received on the part of servicemembers, he added.

"We've had a couple of specific situations where that training here has made a difference -- both on the part of people who ... recognized in themselves symptoms enough to reach out, and then on the part of people being more sensitized to those around them," the chaplain said.

He added that while the suicide issue is a big problem that won't go away easily, the efforts to address it have spoken volumes. "I think it is making a difference," he added.

As chaplains provide the caring support that U.S. servicemembers need, Steen said, other coalition troops who have served with them, such as the British and the Australians, are amazed at the genuine support their U.S. counterparts also receive from their fellow citizens back home.

"They are absolutely stunned by the number of care packages that we get and the volume of free-will donations that are just the sheer expression of support for our citizens," he said. "They can't believe it. They can't believe that our citizens do that."

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Fraser Assumes Top U.S. Southern Command Post

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 25, 2009 - Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser assumed the top post at U.S. Southern Command today, promising to build on the strong partnerships fostered by the outgoing commander, Navy Adm. James Stavridis. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates paid tribute to Fraser and Stavridis as he acknowledged the crucial role Southcom's people play in promoting security and stability in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

"The important work you do here every day is making a difference to the prosperity, security and freedom of your countrymen and to the people of the region," Gates said during today's change-of-command ceremonies at Southcom's Miami headquarters.

Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed that sentiment, praising a dedicated staff he said is making a difference in the region. "You have done incredible work, and it has not gone unnoticed," at the Southcom headquarters, in the region or in Washington, he said.

As Fraser accepted the command's colors -- and in a light moment during the ceremony, Stavridis' "command BlackBerry" -- he said he brings a recognition of the opportunities and challenges at Southcom, and the importance of applying international, interagency and public-private capabilities to meet them.

"I will work vigorously every day to enhance the security across the region and to improve U.S. military relations with our partners in the region," he said. "The transnational and transregional challenges we face to security, stability and prosperity in the Americas can only be met through strong and enduring partnerships."

The vital relationships forged within the Americas by Stavridis and his predecessors at Southcom "have improved our collective security, but many challenges remain," Fraser said. "Our nations and our citizens are counting on us to strengthen our interagency, our international and our public-private partnerships to effectively counter these strategic challenges."

Gates praised Stavridis, who leaves Southcom to command U.S. European Command and serve as NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, for the leadership he demonstrated in applying this full range of power to the Southcom mission.

"From the start of his tenure at Southcom, Admiral Stavridis has fostered a spirit of interagency and international cooperation that reflects the post-Cold War realities of the 21st century," Gates said. "He has made Southcom the embodiment of what is now called 'smart power,' drawing on the full strength of our nation and our partners to enhance the security, freedom and prosperity in this part of the world."

Stavridis recognized as he took the Southcom helm that the region's challenges, which range from narcotics to corruption and gangs to kidnapping, don't lend themselves to traditional military solutions, Gates said. So Stavridis redrew the command's organizational charts and "fundamentally reformed its institutional culture and ways of doing business," he said.

Meanwhile, Stavridis reached out to regional nations in concrete ways to build bonds of trust and friendship, Gates said. He also used the latest tools and technologies to communicate Southcom's activities and goals and instituted cultural and language training with his command so his staff would better understand and connect with the people of the Americas.

Gates noted some of the highlights of Stavridis' time at Southcom:

-- The Colombian military's freeing of three American hostages after five years of captivity;

-- Expansion of the annual Panamax exercises to include 20 countries, and 20 other military-to-military exercises last year alone;

-- Interdiction of nearly 700 metric tons of cocaine; and

-- Institutionalization of the way the command delivers humanitarian assistance and disaster relief when needed.

Cartwright shared Gates' assessment of Stavridis' capabilities. "Jim has brought so much to this command, and his ability to be a strategic thinker, and to connect the dots in widely diverse issues and understand that all of them are interrelated," he said.

These qualities, along with Stavridis' way of treating people "like family in everything and every endeavor has really moved this command along with the challenges that have been presented over the past few years," Cartwright said.

Gates noted the important message sent by the postings --– Fraser as the first Air Force officer to command Southcom and Stavridis to become the first Navy officer in the top Eucom and NATO posts.

"The trajectory of these officers' careers, and the billets they are now taking, is but one more indication of how joint our military leadership has become, and how much America's global security arrangements have evolved since the end of the Cold War," he said.

In bidding farewell to his command, Stavridis said he's excited about the new opportunities ahead but sad to say goodbye to Southcom.

"I will miss this world. It will always be a part of me," he told the group, which include representatives of regional countries. "My heart will always be in the Americas."

The Battle of 73 Easting


My Novel, A Line Through the Desert follows one tank Sgt. in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment during Operation Desert Storm.

The 2nd ACR was the vanguard of General Schwarzkopf's left hook around Iraqi positions in Kuwait. The regiment advanced with three squadrons abreast, 2nd Squadron on the left, 3rd Squadron in the center, and 1st Squadron on the right. 2nd Squadron, itself composed of four troops, advanced in box formation, with Ghost troop on the left and Eagle on the right.


The climate was awful, cold and wet, alternating between rain and fog, and horrific sand storms which limited visibility to a few hundred yards. Even infrared sensors had trouble penetrating the soup. In the late afternoon of 26 February, 1991, the 2nd ACR encountered lead elements of the Tawalkana Division of the Republican Guard. The place was called 73 Easting, an imaginary line on a map deliniating the kilometers the unit had advanced that morning.

Eagle Troop's part in this battle has been well documented by the estimable Mr. Clancy, a great inspiration to me personally. As Eagle troop blasted Iraqi tanks out of a village, Ghost troop came upon the reverse slope of a wadi where they met several dozen dug in Iraq tanks. As bad as Ghost Troop's visibility was, the Iraqis, lacking any night vision or infrared equipment, was worse. They never new what hit them. The Iraqis were annihilated.

From there, Ghost Troop took up positions on the wadi and repelled four assaults by the Tawalkana, destroying hundreds of vehicles in the process. The tank and Bradley gunners, backed by artillery and Apache gunships when weather permitted, unleashed a hell of uranium depleted Sabot shells, HE rounds, and Tow missiles. Concluded historian Rick Atkinson, who wrote an excellent account of Desert Storm, 'The Iraqis never stood a chance.'
Below is a link to A Line Through the Desert, decribing Ghost Troop's initial encounter with the Republican Guard: The Battle Begins