Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mullen Describes Daunting, Complex Challenges

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 6, 2009 - The challenges facing the world today are the most daunting and complex in his lifetime, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a student leadership group today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the members of the National Student Leadership Council held at American University here that the global financial crisis overlays challenges in all parts of the world.

Mullen told the students – who hold leadership positions at high schools around the country – his job has not changed with the changing of administrations. "I still provide the best military advice I can to the president and secretary of defense and the National Security Council," he said.

Mullen said he provided the same advice to President George W. Bush as he does to President Barack Obama; what changes, the admiral explained, are the administration's goals. When Obama took office, Mullen said, he helped to formulate the strategy for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. In Afghanistan, the president put together a regional approach and a strong civilian-led team to address "soft power" aspects of the new strategy.

Obama has made it a priority to pursue a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine, Mullen said, and he noted that the president has reached out to Iran. "I am encouraged by that, and I'm hopeful as well, but I am realistic about that," the chairman said. "It's been a long time since we've had any dialogue with Iran, and it will take awhile [to establish].

"Every president develops his policy," the nation's top military officer said, "and then we go out and execute that policy."

Challenges also do not wait, he pointed out.

"The challenges that we have right now are daunting and going to grow," Mullen said, citing the need to defend computer networks as one example. The United States depends on information technology, he said, and attacks via cyberspace could cause the nation serious harm.

"The problem is going to grow, and I look to your generation to address it," Mullen said. "It is a vital need, not just for the military, but for the entire nation and for the globe."

Mullen said he spends most of his time on the broader Middle East. This includes Lebanon, the two-state Israel-Palestine solution, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. "It's creeping into the 'stans of Central Asia," he said, referring to other countries in the region whose names end similarly. "All are interrelated."

The chairman said he recently returned from his 13th visit to Pakistan since February 2008. "Every time I go to Pakistan, I learn more and I learn more about what I don't know," he said. "Pakistan is an enormously complex country, a critical country undergoing great pressure, scrutiny and challenges. It is where Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida and its leadership reside."

In Pakistan, the chairman said, he does more listening than talking and tries to "see the problems through their eyes – not through American eyes."

"We can't adequately address problems in assisting other people, supporting other people, unless we learn more about them," he told the students.

The military is pushing for servicemembers to learn more history of these regions, Mullen said, and the Defense Department needs military members to understand the languages. "Exposure to other people and cultures will be even more important as you get older," he told the young audience.

The chairman told the students that the Army and Marine Corps are particularly stressed in the two wars. Soldiers and Marines have deployed constantly since the United States was attacked in 2001, he said, and their families also are paying a price.

"There are young dependents – not much older than you -- who haven't seen their Mom or Dad a lot over the past eight years," he said.

The chairman told the young leaders they need to study leadership during a time of change. "Lots of things are changing, have changed and will change," he said. "Leading through change is the most challenging kind of leadership." People like the status quo and they fight against change, he explained, and leadership means helping people embrace change to make the changes work.

The admiral noted that the nation is living in a time of great needs. "Service – any service – is needed, and there is nothing more satisfying," the chairman said. "When you serve, you get back more than you ever give."

One student asked Mullen to describe the best part of his job.

"My favorite part of the job is dealing with the young people who make this all happen," he said. "If you go to any unit, the average age in units is 21 or 22 years old," he said. "In the most difficult of circumstances, they come through. I leave much more inspired by my engagement with them than I could ever create for them."

The same is true, he added, with the families of servicemembers. "I have engaged mothers and fathers who have lost their son or daughter, and their fortitude, their courage, their bravery is hard to put words around," he said. "It makes me feel so good about our country and being an American."

Send a Book to our Troops

For every copy of MEXICAN BOWL FISHING: And Other Tales of Life sold on, he is donating a copy to our deploying military members with the help of the National Guard! Order your copy today and William will hand sign a copy to the troops, complete with a message of gratitude and reassurance for the recipient. For less than 15-bucks, you can get your own copy of the book and donate a copy - or - select the option to send BOTH copies directly to our service members. This will give our troops a humorous book of short-stories to read and share while they're off defending freedom in foreign lands. A great way to say "Thank You" to the men and women serving our country!

More Information

Leadership and Lit Media Reviews.

Editor's Note: The author is a former servicemember.

August 6, 2009 (San Dimas, CA) American Heroes Press announced that the co-author of
Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style, Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.) will be a guest on the internet-based radio program Lit Media Reviews.

Date: August 9, 2009
Time: 2:30 PM Pacific
Listen Live:

Lit Media Reviews “is the spot to be heard.” Hosted by Colleen Lue, the program reviews literature, bloggers and podcasting events. It also features interviews with award winning and bestselling authors.

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. He has completed his doctoral studies in business research. Raymond is a graduate of the West Point Leadership program and has attended law enforcement, technology and leadership programs such as the National Institute for Justice, Technology Institute, Washington, DC.

Raymond has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and is currently a faculty advisor and chair of the
Criminal Justice Program at the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, 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.

His first book,
Police Technology is used in over 100 colleges and universities nationwide. He latest book, Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style has been adopted by several universities for course work in leadership; by several civil service organizations and required reading for promotion; and, has been well received in the wider market.

Using poker as analogy for
leadership, Captain Andrew Harvey, CPD (ret.), Ed.D. and Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA found the right mix of practical experience and academic credentials to write a definitive book for leaders. Working together, Harvey and Foster have written Leadership: Texas Hold em Style. Most often leaders find they are given a set of resources people, equipment, funds, experience and a mission. As Foster noted, "You're dealt a certain hand. How you play that hand as a leader determines your success."

More than a book: A fun and entertaining journey through
leadership that includes an interactive website to supplement knowledge gained from the book.
Proven and Tested: Not an academic approach to
leadership, but rather a road-tested guide that has been developed through 50-years of author experience.
High Impact: Through the use of perspective, reflection, and knowledge, provides information that turns
leadership potential into leadership practice.
Ease of Application: Theory is reinforced with real-life experience, which results in accessible and practical tools leaders can put to use immediately.
High Road Approach: Personal character and ethical beliefs are woven into each leadership approach, so leaders do the right thing for the right reasons.
Uses Game of Poker: Rather than a dry approach that is all fact and no flavor, the game of poker is used as a lens through which to view
leadership concepts.

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret)

Officials Work to Resolve 'Burn Pit' Smoke Issues

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 6, 2009 - As the military prepares to step up its already robust environmental health monitoring program to identify possible health consequences of "burn pit" smoke exposures in the combat theater, President Barack Obama has pledged to ensure troops are protected, and any related ailments treated. "I'm absolutely convinced that our commanders in theater are doing everything they can to protect their men and women," the president told military reporters during a roundtable interview earlier this week at the White House.

But as the facts are sorted out -- an evolving process as more samples are collected and scientific data generated -- Obama vowed to bring them to light so they can benefit servicemembers and veterans.

"My overriding mandate to my agencies is that you get the best science possible, and then you make decisions on how we can protect our men and women in uniform," he said. "How can we treat those who have been harmed?"

At issue are open-air "burn pits" initially constructed in the combat theater to dispose of solid wastes. Force protection issues during the combat phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom precluded hauling this waste off base for destruction, explained Dr. Craig Postlewaite, the Pentagon's force readiness and health assurance director, assigned to the office of the deputy assistant secretary for force health protection and readiness.

Some troops who were deployed near these pits blame the smoke they emitted for causing respiratory problems, blood disorders and other ailments.

While conceding that these servicemembers and veterans have genuine health issues, Postlewaite said none of the data gathered so far provides concrete evidence that burn pit smoke is the culprit.

A "very robust" occupational and environmental health surveillance program that's collected more than 17,000 air, water and soil samples where U.S. troops are operating didn't raise any big concerns, he said.

Neither did an extensive screening health-risk assessment at Joint Base Balad, home of the theater's largest burn pit. Those tests, conducted in 2007 and completed last year, used sophisticated sampling devices to collect 163 representative samples over a four-month period, Postlewaite explained.

Pentagon scientists applied Environmental Protection Agency methods to evaluate 4,000 different data points. They took the different smoke concentrations gathered and considered the worst-case -- and as Postlewaite pointed out, nearly implausible -- scenario: that someone had been exposed to those smoke levels 24 hours a day, seven days a week for up to a year.

The evaluation confirmed that burn-pit smoke is irritating, causing some people to experience red, watery eyes, tickly throats and coughing, among other symptoms. But based on the data collected, evaluators could not identify any long-term health risks, including cancer, Postlewaite reported.

The Pentagon wanted its findings validated by an independent third party, so it sent them to the Defense Health Board for review. The board, made up of noted experts in the field, agreed with the Pentagon's findings. "They did not see any long-term, elevated health risk," Postlewaite said.

Postlewaite conceded there could be holes in the findings. The study was based on four months of sampling. It included just one burn pit, albeit the largest, and covered only what was being burned during the sampling period. And there's simply no way to go back in time to replicate the exact conditions some troops were exposed to at an earlier time.

On top of this, there's a proven historic link between deployments and respiratory disease, Postlewaite said. Rates went up for troops who deployed to the Middle East during the Gulf War and to Bosnia as part of the NATO security force. New environments mean new allergens, new viruses and other new conditions that affect the respiratory system.

Other factors come into play, too, Postlewaite said. What's simply irritating to one person might cause more chronic conditions in another. The reason may be genetic. It may be linked to a previous respiratory infection or other reduced immunity, or it could be linked to smoking.

"These are difficult, difficult questions to answer, even here in this country where we have a huge public health infrastructure," Postlewaite said. "But we are going to do our best to tease this apart."

So the Defense Department is stepping up its testing of burn pit smoke. U.S. Central Command has asked for help to put together a monitoring plan so it can collect air samples at additional burn pits in Iraq as well as Afghanistan

Many used earlier in the war have been replaced by incinerators. Joint Base Balad now has four incinerators, and its burn pit is expected to close soon.

A broad Defense Department effort is focusing on the issue, bringing together the expertise embodied in the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, the Defense Department's Deployment Health Research Center, the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.

Postlewaite called getting to the bottom of the issue a responsibility to the troops, and said the Defense Department will lay its findings on the line.

"We are absolutely open to full transparency," he said. "Our job is to protect the health of servicemembers, and clearly, if we have information that indicates that they are at risk, that information will be shared and measures will be implemented to reduce or eliminate the risks."

Obama made it clear at the White House roundtable he wants to get the information out as it becomes available. "I don't want us hiding the ball if there is a real problem there," he said.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, who joined Obama at the roundtable, said he doesn't want burn pits to become this generation's Agent Orange -- a reference to the defoliant used in Vietnam that's been linked to cancer and other medical problems.

VA is working with the Defense Department "to do the kinds of sampling we didn't do for Agent Orange," he said, and comparing samples of servicemembers exposed to burn pit smoke with those of veterans who weren't.

VA also may consider expanding its mandatory screening for brain injuries and stress disorders to include a screening for burn pit smoke exposure, he said. The idea, Shinseki said, is to identify problems early and get veterans the treatment they need.

"I can tell you, part of my frustration is dealing with the issues of Agent Orange 40 years after the last use of Agent Orange," he said. "So my interest is, 'How do we change what has been the 40-year journey of Agent Orange, the 20-year journey of Gulf War Illness" and prevent a similar journey for burn pit smoke?


Air Force officials from the Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, will be on hand to mark the 60th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen’s victory at the first (1949) United States Air Force National Fighter Gunnery Competition, Thursday, 5 p.m., in Salon G of the Palace Station Hotel. This event will also mark the start of the 38th Annual Tuskegee Airmen Convention (August 6-9, 2009).

In 1949, the 10-day competition was held at what was then-Las Vegas Air Force Base. Nearly all fighter groups in the continental United States participated with an aim to hone America’s military pilot’s skills in their collective pursuit of aviation excellence. Shooting it out for top honors, Top Guns were named in two categories – Group and Individual. When the score were tallied, Tuskegee Airmen, flying for the 332nd Fighter Group in P-47N, were tops in the group and Lt. Alva Temple, one of four pilots from the 332nd Fighter Group placed second in the individual category.

As times were then, racial challenges abounded for members of the 332nd. Despite their impressive record during World War II, where the highly decorated group remains among the best fighter escort organization perhaps in the history of aerial combat, its fighter pilots were considered “poor marksmen” by their American counterparts because the unit had no “documented” Aces, despite eye-witness reports to the contrary. For years, official accounts of the 1949 competition had no mention of the Tuskegee Airmen as winners or participants.

During the 1949 National Fighter Gunnery Competition, the 332nd pilots, maintenance workers and support personnel were removed from Flamingo Hotel (on the Strip) simply because they were African Americans. It was only after winning the “Top-Gun” competition and with the full weight of the new U.S. Air Force behind them that the Tuskegee Airmen were allowed back into the hotel for the awards ceremony. Two months later, the U.S. Armed Forces was desegregated.

Lt. James Harvey, now a resident of Montclair, New Jersey, and Master Sergeant Buford Johnson, the 1949 team maintenance chief and now a reside of Longview, Texas, will be in attendance at Thursday evening’s ceremony at the Palace Station Hotel (Salon G).
Media representatives wishing to cover the event should RSVP by 4 p.m., Thursday, August 6, 2009 by calling (951) 961.2301 or send an email to:

All hail AC/DC...who are those Anvil Guys? Oh Canada?

In a previous post I said I'd start talking about heavy metal. Well, here it goes. Saw AC/DC last Friday at Giant's Stadium, third time this tour for me.

They play five songs off the new album (Runaway Train, Big Jack, War Machine, Black Ice, Anything Goes) the standards from the Brian Johnson era (the Back in Black songs, Thunderstruck, and For Those About to Rock), and a bunch of stuff from the old days, and usually a random song. Last Friday it was Shot Down in Flames.

There's really nothing I can say about them that hasn't already been said. They're awesome, that's it. Great songs, great show.

Interestingly, one of the opening acts was Anvil. This band has been getting a lot of PR lately due to the documentary made about them, chronicling their trials and tribulations. I really wanted to like them, I really did. They sounded, OK, I guess, if a bit dated, but their show sucked. Let me put it this way, I didn't even realize it was over, and I don't think anyone else in the audience did either. Most of the songs were off their first album, Metal on Metal, which I own. It was cut in 1982, so maybe maybe listening to it after 25 years of metal evolution biases one against the work. Its derivative of Black Sabbath (nothing wrong with that) but sounds raw and unthoughtout, almost immature. As I said, in 1982 it would sound better, but in 2009, Metal on Metal is a no go. I will be interested to see what their upcoming work is like.

These guys defiantly have something, but for some reason, they haven't found it. I hope they do.

Will Stroock's Novel about Operation Desert Storm can be purchased at Amazon

Hiroshima Bombing

Today is the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. For some reason this decision has been vigorously debated in some circles. Was the bombing justified, was it a war crime was it racist?

Somehow, the suffering of the Japanese at the hands of Fat Man and Little Boy dominate the narrative, while those of Chinese, Korean, Filipino, British, American, and Australian POWs is being forgotten. Review the movie, The Great Raid, about the American liberation of Japanese POW camp, a New York Times critic noted, 'Its scenes of torture and murder also unapologetically revive the uncomfortable stereotype of the Japanese soldier as a sadistic, slant-eyed fiend.'

Sorry old boy, but the Rape of Nanking, Unit 731, the Manila Massacre, to name a few incidents, were not hoaxes. They happened. The Japanese were cruel occupiers, and revelled in recreational brutality. You see, it's not a stereotype, if that's what they really did.

Oh, and we didn't drop the bomb on the Japanese because we were racists. In fact, the bomb was developed because our nulcear physicists, Fermi, Oppenheimer, Scillard, et al, were concerned that their German colleague, Heisenberg, was building one for Hitler. So they wrote a letter and had a certain A. Einstein deliver it to President Roosevelt.

One last thing, in the spring of 1945, my grandfather joined a medical unit, attached to the 4th Infantry Division, which would have gone ashore with the first wave. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki spared him that. Thank you, President Truman.

The Japanese deserved everything they received at the hands of the United States. They started the war, we finished it.

Will Stroock's Novel about Operation Desert Storm can be purchased at Amazon.

Army Reserve, Guard Launch Partnership with State Employers

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 6, 2009 - The Army Reserve and National Guard signed partnership agreements with dozens of Chicago and Illinois state employers yesterday to enhance job opportunities for soldiers and veterans. "It is our duty to take care of veterans, who have answered the call to duty and bravely defended our country," said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. "I salute Helmets to Hardhats and all the partners here today. We join together in signing this memo of understanding so that we can help provide our servicemembers and veterans the jobs they deserve."

The alliances, launched as part of the Army Reserve Employer Partnership Initiative, will help strengthen the community and support Reserve and National Guard members and their families, officials said.

"I'm pleased to begin lasting partnerships with the state of Illinois and so many of the Chicago area's leading employers," said Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz. "I look forward to collaborating with our newest valued partners to achieve mutual goals to attract, develop and retain a quality work force. "This is a natural partnership, because today's partners have always been great friends of the military."

Among the partners who joined the initiative are the state of Illinois, city of Chicago, Chicago 2016, Cook County, Teamsters Joint Council 25, the Chicago and Cook County Building Trades Council, Chicago Federation of Labor and Service Employees International Union.

"The Teamsters are committed to ensuring veteran soldiers forever play a role in strengthening our economy and contributing to the future of our communities," said John T. Coli, president of Teamsters Joint Council 25. "Joint Council 25 is honored to bring the Army Reserve and National Guard together with so many of Illinois' esteemed employers in support of our soldiers and their families."

The Army Reserve is teaming with business leaders and public officials across the country to develop staffing solutions to meet industry demands, tackle the issue of workforce preparedness, and reinvigorate the employee base to remain competitive in the global economy, officials said.

"We have about 3,000 soldiers of the Illinois National Guard returning from deployment with an economy that soured while they were gone," said Army Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, Illinois adjutant general. "Commitments like these from employers and efforts such as the Employer Partnership Initiative as well as the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve's programs will help ensure these troops have jobs to come back to."

Since its inception in April 2008, more than 400 public and private employers have joined the initiative, officials said.

(From an Army Reserve news release.)

WWII Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion

On August 20, 2009, Conversations with American Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature an interview of Lisa Spahr the author of WWII Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion.

Program Date: August 20, 2009
Program Time: 1700 hours, Pacific
Topic: WWII Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion
Listen Live:

About the Guest
Lisa Spahr, a former volunteer firefighter, “is an investigative psychologist who owns a life coaching and consulting business in Pittsburgh PA. Ms. Spahr has an extensive history in the field of research for universities and private organizations, focusing on law and psychiatry research, military applications, and policing operations and tactics. Examples of her work include: examining the construct of psychopathy in prisoner and juvenile populations, and creating guidelines for suicide bomb response for police officers in the United States.

Lisa Spahr said of WWII Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion, “More than 60 years had gone by before I found them. Dozens and dozens of letters written to my family during WWII- from total strangers- to tell my great-grandmother that her son had been captured and was being held as a POW. How did they know this? Well, it seems that the short-wave radio had held all of the answers. POWs were allowed to state their names and hometowns on the radio, and sometimes relay a short message to their families. Scores of Americans, listening to the German propaganda from so far away, heard my grandfather's information, and took it upon themselves to write to my great-grandmother. All of these dear people wanted to give my great-grandmother a measure of comfort to know her son was alive.”

American Heroes Radio
American Heroes Radio broadcasts from the Watering Hole; for a location heroes 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, Public Safety 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:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA