Friday, November 06, 2009

Mullen Cancels Trip to Focus on Fort Hood Response

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cancelled a trip to the University of Notre Dame to focus on the soldiers and families affected by the tragic shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and his wife, Deborah, were set to attend the Navy-Marine Corps Ball at the university in South Bend, Ind., tonight.

But the suffering of the families at Fort Hood certainly takes precedence, the admiral said in a videotaped greeting to the students and faculty at the university.

"We're at a point now where we really have to move forward to aid those families, the wounded and those who are suffering so much," the chairman said. "That's really where we are putting our main effort."

The attack killed 13 and wounded 30 at the Soldier-Family Readiness Center on the sprawling base.

"Where we're focused right now as a military and as an Army is very much on these people who suffered so much in the last 24 hours, and in fact are members of units that have given so much to make such a difference in our nation in these wars," Mullen said.

The chairman said there will be many challenges, but the military will reach out to the families and the adjacent community of Killeen to help all heal and find closure.

Military officials are speaking with the leaders of Virginia Tech. The college in Blacksburg suffered a similar incident in April 2007, when 32 students and faculty were killed. Military leaders are working with Virginia Tech "to try to understand how they handled this and take those lessons that are relevant from there and fold them into how we move forward," Mullen said. "And I am reminded that almost a decade ago now, we lost 17 sailors on the USS Cole and there was a requirement and effort to put our arms around those families and to help heal."

The chairman promised to make it to Notre Dame sometime in the next year. In closing, he asked all to keep the families of Fort Hood in their thoughts and prayers.

Blood Donations Aid Fort Hood Victims

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

Nov. 6, 2009 - Blood donations came from nine different sources in overwhelming quantities in response to yesterday's shooting on Fort Hood, Texas, showing strong pride around the nation for the military community, the director of the Army's blood program at the said at the Pentagon today. Twelve soldiers and one civilian were killed, and 30 people were injured in the shooting at Fort Hood's Soldier-Family Readiness Center.

As of this morning, at least 17 of the wounded were treated with some form of blood transfusion at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Hood, whether by plasma, red blood cells or platelets, Army Col. Ron Fryar said in a Pentagon Channel interview.

Several of the other wounded were evacuated to civilian hospitals in Killen and Austin, Texas, but Fryar said he did not have statistics available for those who may have received blood transfusions outside of Fort Hood.

Fort Hood's Robertson Blood Center maintains an inventory of 30 to 40 units of blood products. But almost immediately after yesterday's shooting, more than 800 products were moved there and to other nearby civilian medical facilities, he said.

"I'm extremely proud of how our folks reacted across the Army blood program and across the armed services," Fryar said, also noting his satisfaction for support from civilian blood clinics. "Across the U.S., blood came pouring down to central Texas to help."

Most of the patients are now stable or nearly so, so the Army is asking all of its blood centers to stand down their collection transfers, he said.

The unused blood products from civilian blood centers are expected to be returned, and the blood from military blood centers will be redistributed based on routine needs, the colonel said.

Fryar also pointed out that blood donations aren't in need only amid a mass-casualty crisis, and he encouraged the population, particularly young people, to donate when and as often as they can. Donations support a host of routine needs throughout the medical community, he said.

Someone somewhere always is in need of blood, Fryar said.

"Just don't lose that thought or that feeling of wanting to help our fellow citizens out," he said. "We can do that all year long. A blood donation is one of those ways you can contribute to your community."

Leaders Promise Fort Hood All Resources Necessary

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - The attack that killed 13 people and wounded 30 more at Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday "was a kick in the gut," not only for Fort Hood, but also for the entire Army, the Army chief of staff said today. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Army Secretary John M. McHugh visited Fort Hood and observed a moment of silence for the victims. Soon after, both men spoke at a news conference on the incident.

Casey said he's asked all soldiers to come together in support of the victims, their families and the Fort Hood community. He also told leaders to examine their force-protection measures and take appropriate action if they feel it is warranted.

"I've asked them to keep their soldiers informed and not rush to judgment," Casey said. "And I've asked them to stay focused on their missions."

McHugh said all members of the Army family have the victims and their families in their thoughts. "These were soldiers who were preparing to do what they love for the country they love," the secretary said. "We want them to know, and we want America to know, the United States Army and the United States government ... stand ready to provide them every possible assistance, not just today, not just through the weekend, but for what will undoubtedly be very troubling times ahead."

McHugh and Casey visited the Soldier-Family Readiness Center, the scene of the tragedy. The two leaders spoke with Army and law enforcement people investigating the incident. They visited with medical staff and spoke to those wounded in the attack who were undergoing treatment at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at the post. They also met with soldiers of the 36th Engineer Brigade. Four of the unit's soldiers were killed in the attack, and 11 were wounded.

McHugh and Casey expressed admiration and thanks to the first responders – both military and civilian – whose prompt actions they said definitely saved lives. The two men also delivered a message from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "that every possible resource, every possible form of support will be made available to the soldiers, families and command here at Fort Hood," McHugh said.

The Army family is strong, McHugh said, and soldiers and their families are resilient. "But a great source of that strength is what we derive from each other in times of crisis and challenge -- how we hold each other straight, and how we make a difference," the secretary said. "Most of all, we want the soldiers and families here at Fort Hood and across every Army facility everywhere in the world to know this is a time for the Army family to stand together. This is a time when 'Army Strong' must mean what it says."

Servicemembers around the world observed a moment of silence for the victims of the attack. In the Pentagon, thousands of military and civilian employees went to the center courtyard for the observance. Phones went unanswered in offices as members of the Defense Department paid tribute to those who died. The members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff observed the moment of silence in "The Tank," their secure meeting room in the Pentagon.

Military, Civilian Partnerships Improve Troop Care

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - The photo splashed onto the two large screens in the conference room looked scary. The man's black hair was choppy and tousled. Looking straight into the camera, his eyelids drooped abnormally, revealing the dark-red tissue deep in the sockets. His swollen lips sagged to bare his bottom teeth. Scars cut across his face.

"This soldier would have been very welcome last Saturday night at Halloween," said Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. "The kids in his neighborhood would have said 'Great costume. Who did your makeup?'"

The photo was not, however, of a soldier made up for Halloween. He was a disfigured casualty of war.

And while internally his wounds may have been well on their way to recovery, on the outside his scars would have made it difficult to return to any measure of normal life.

"We were sending him out into civilian life saying, 'This is as good as it gets. Thanks for serving your country,'" Amos said.

The next slide Amos projected showed the same soldier without most the disfiguring facial features. His lips were not as swollen. The scars were not as deep, and most of his nose was intact. His face was not the same as it was before his injuries, but the improvements were dramatic, and ongoing.

"He can walk out and go to his child's school play or PTA conference and without terrifying the kids," Amos said.

The general used the slides to illustrate the best of the military's partnership with civilian medical doctors.

Amos opened the Partnership for Military Medicine symposium held here today that aimed to bring together top military and civilian medical practitioners in an effort to boost the cooperation between the two to help troops recovering from the more advanced war wounds. About 150 doctors, nurses, scientists, military and civilian officials, and a handful of wounded warriors, turned out for the symposium. It offered panelists speaking on topics ranging from infectious diseases to humanitarian aid to traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Already, around the world, civilian experts have teamed with medical treatment facilities to provide historical breakthroughs in treating some of the complicated wounds suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, there is more to be done, Amos said.

It was a civilian medical practice that restored the soldier's facial features. The general acknowledged that the military simply cannot afford to train and keep the more highly skilled, specialized medical practitioners. "We can't afford to keep them, yet they reside out there in civilian medicine and at great medical universities and hospitals across this country. And you know what I found? They want to help," Amos said.

Amos has seen his share of troops disfigured by war. He has traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and all parts in between, meeting with troops and families in military treatment facilities. He praised military medicine, but said it was simply unprepared for the volume of injured troops that infused their overflowing facilities during peaks in the two wars.

"When I say we were ill-prepared, it's not because our hearts weren't right, but the magnitude of the numbers became staggering," he said. But military medicine, science and technology stepped up to the task, he added, and he praised advancements in amputee and burn-victim care.

Amos said he is hardly concerned now about simple gunshot wounds. They'll be well cared for, he said. Even some amputations -- such as a single, below-the-knee amputation -- have, sadly, become routine, and are no longer the threat they were at the start of the wars.

Two weeks ago, Amos visited a young Navy SEAL who lost his leg in the war.

"I can look him in the eye and tell him, and be completely honest, he will be fine," Amos said. "He will run again. He will serve again. And he will continue with a very happy and fruitful life because of the capabilities that we have."

But Amos's slides pointed to the more seriously injured troops, where military medicine stops, and the specialized skills found only in the civilian market start. Probably the starkest example was Marine Corps Capt. Josh Maloney, whose right hand was destroyed by a bomb in Iraq in 2007.

A civilian transplant specialist successfully attached a new hand to the Marine in March. Amos met with Maloney after the transplant.

"Josh walked up to me, grabbed my hand and shook it as firmly as I'd shake the hand of anybody in this room, and I went 'Holy smokes!'" Amos said.

It was Amos's final few slides, however, that pointed to he need for greater collaboration.

One picture, taken two years ago, showed Amos with a few young, healthy Marines, standing in the sun, looking very Marine-like. It was a celebration photo taken on one of Amos's trips to Iraq. The three Marines had survived the blast of a 200-pound bomb. The mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicle in which they were riding was mangled. But the three walked away with no apparent injuries.

"We sat out there when we had that picture taken and we high-fived each other, and it was great," he said.

Amos attributed their survival to the MRAP and to the billions of dollars spent by the Defense Department to provide the vehicles.

"I felt good. I said 'America saved your life,'" he said. "This is the reason we did it. Those three young men went home to their wives and families. They're OK."

The general paused.

"Not yet," he said.

Two months ago, Amos again met with one of the Marines in the picture. This time, it was at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Amos's final slide showed the once smiling and fit Marine lying in a hospital bed, swollen and disheveled, with wires strung from monitoring machines taped across his body.

When the Marine survived the blast, there were no scans in place to ensure there was no internal damage. He looked healthy on the outside. It turns out the Marine suffered a traumatic brain injury. It was the seventh blast the ordnance specialist had endured.

The young Marine's endocrine system was knocked "haywire," Amos said. The endocrine system is similar to the body's nervous system, but regulates metabolism, tissue function and internal functions such as temperature and water balance. His back also was broken. The Marine finished his deployment, but needed heavy painkillers to make it home.

For two years, it was one problem after another, Amos said. Now he stood before the Marine again, this time with his wife by his bed in tears.

"He lost his life in the two years that followed," Amos said. "I'll be honest with you, we let him down. And I'll just leave it at that."

Now, though, the Marine is receiving treatment at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, reportedly one of the best facilities for endocrine system treatment. Navy medicine "has their arms around him," Amos said, but they have to go outside to a civilian hospital for the care.

"That's collaboration. That's where that really, really deep talent on the bench resides," Amos said. "The wounds are so severe that we need your help."

Amos said he is sometimes frustrated by the resistance of some in military medicine to reach out to their civilian counterparts. But those walls are coming down, he promised. Now is the time to talk collaboration, the general said.

"If you're not wearing this uniform ... but you're out there [as] just a regular American scientist or doctor or technician, ... we need your help," he appealed. "We can't do this without you."


BEM-Bay West, JV, Saint Paul, Minn. (FA8903-10-D-8593); CAPE, Inc., San Antonio, Texas (FA8903-10-D-8593); North Wind, Inc., Idaho Falls, Idaho (FA8903-10-D-8597); Sullivan-Weston Services, JV, San Diego, Calif. (FA8903-10-D-8599); Bhate Environmental Associates, Inc., Birmingham, Ala. (FA8903-10-D-8596); Hydrogeologic, Inc., Reston, Va. (FA8903-10-D-8596); Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises, Milwaukee, Wis., were awarded a $350,000,000 contract that will provide environmental restoration and remediation support. ITT Corporation, Systems Division, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., was awarded a $5,847,128 contract which will provide the Eastern and Western Range architecture and requirements option of an additional year. At this time, $3,000 for each contract has been obligated. The contracting activity is AFCEE/ACX, Brooks City-Base, Texas.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Marietta, Ga., was awarded a $143,212,054 contract which will provide C-5 Avionics Modernization Program sustainment support. At this time, no money has been obligated. The contracting activity is 330 SW, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., (FA8525-06-D-0001, P00013).

Berrie Hill Research Corp., of Dayton, Ohio, was awarded a $24,600,000 contract which will provide for research and development for radio frequency electro-optical subsystems, components and devices integration task order contract. At this time, $50,000 has been obligated. The contracting activity is AFRL/PKSE, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, (FA8650-10-D-1746, P0001 and P0002).

Signal Engineering, Inc., San Diego, Calif.*, is being awarded a maximum $12,294,000 firm-fixed-price, undefinitized contract for emergency radio beacon network. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. The original proposal was web solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is May 5, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Richmond, Richmond, Va., (SPM4A6-10-C-0023).

McRae Industries, Inc., Mount Gilead, N.C.*, is being awarded a maximum $8,795,175 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, total set aside contract for army combat boots. Other locations of performance are located in North Carolina and Illinois. Using services are Army and Air Force. The original proposal was web solicited with two responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising the first option year period. The date of performance completion is Nov. 6, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM1C1-09-D-0011).

Buckeye Energy Services, LLC, Telford, Pa., is being awarded a maximum $5,944,272 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. There are other locations of performance throughout Pennsylvania. Using services are Army, Air Force and federal civilian agencies. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is April 30, 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., (SP0600-10-D-8500).

Atlantic Marine Mayport, LLC, Jacksonville, Fla., is being awarded a $9,962,133 firm-fixed-price contract for repair work onboard the USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49). This contract is for the drydock selected restricted availability of USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) to include drydock and topside maintenance repair work. Extensive coordination is required for the drydock evolution, in addition to the numerous systems onboard to be repaired. This contract includes eight options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $11,960,293. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, Fla., and is expected to be completed by March 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $9,962,133 willexpire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with five proposals solicited and two offers received. The contracting activity is the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center, Jacksonville, Fla., (N40027-10-C-0003).

Fort Hood Shooting Underscores Need for Military Family Assistance

USA Cares responds by establishing a Ft. Hood Family Emergency Fund

USA Cares Executive Director Bill Nelson had just climbed the stairs on his way into a meeting with the Veteran’s Administration in Washington when his Blackberry mobile phone signaled him with an incoming email. The message was from his Dallas, Texas Field Representative informing him about the horrific event at the largest military installation in her area of responsibility.

Stephanie Melson is the USA Cares Field Representative who spends a large portion of her time interfacing with various support organizations on the base at Fort Hood. Her message to Bill Nelson was terse, “Bad news – they just broke in & mentioned that there has been a shooting at Ft Hood. 7 are dead, 12 injured & we don’t really know much other detail. The base is on lockdown at the moment”.

That sketchy and short message loomed very large in Nelson’s mind as he entered the VA Headquarters. For many at the VA, Nelson’s relayed message was the first they had heard about the shootings.

According to Nelson, “This tragedy certainly underscores the need for robust public and private sector support of America’s military personnel and their families”. He went on to add “this will result in many family members needing emergency travel, lodging and other resources. USA Cares has established a Fort Hood Family Emergency Fund to assist with these and other unforeseen difficulties”.

Nelson immediately contacted Dennis Miller, the National Spokesperson for USA Cares who announced the creation of this fund on his national talk radio program “The Dennis Miller Show”. He did this by saying on-air to the 220 or more stations carrying his show daily “I just want to let all of my Fort Hood listeners know that if any of the victim families need any assistance to contact USA Cares by calling 1-800-773-0387 and ask for Forest.”

Nelson had already assigned one of his senior Family Resource Coordinators in charge of this contingency. Forest (last name not published), a 20 plus year US Army retiree, was asked to field calls in lieu of the normal website application for assistance that the organization usually requires. He did this in order to be as responsive as possible to grieving and anxious family members needing to be near their loved one at Fort Hood.

Anyone wishing to donate to USA Cares’ Ft. Hood Family Emergency Fund can do so by visiting, clicking the donate button and noting “Fort Hood Fund” along with their contribution of any amount.

About USA Cares
USA Cares is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that helps post 9/11 military families bear the burdens of service with financial and advocacy support. Its mission: To help with basic needs during financial crisis, to assist combat injured Veterans and their families and to prevent private military home foreclosures and evictions. In six years, USA Cares has received over 19,000 requests and responded with more than $6.3 million in grants. Military families anywhere in America can apply for assistance through the USA Cares web site, or by calling 1-800-773-0387. For more information on USA Cares contact John Revell, or call (270) 352-5451 x101.

Physicians Discuss H1N1 Lessons Learned

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

Nov. 6, 2009 - Senior medical officials who successfully slowed the spread of H1N1 flu virus at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., published what they learned in an October article featured in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Catherine Witkop, a preventive medicine physician from the 10th Medical Group, told participants in a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable yesterday that medical officials at the academy acted quickly to set up a team to look at some of the virus's characteristics.

"I was really pleased that we were able to capitalize on the opportunity to actually learn more about the virus and provide that information to the Centers for Disease Control, to the military, [and] to the United States at large," she said.

Witkop and Air Force Col. (Dr.) Kenneth K. Knight, 10th Medical Group commander, discussed what other institutions may be able to do to manage H1N1's spread. Witkop noted that some of the lessons learned from the summer outbreak can apply at other training facilities, such as Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

With a large population of trainees living in very close quarters, Witkop said, controlling the virus's spread at Lackland and limiting absenteeism from the six-week training period "is really crucial to completing that mission."

"So we've done our best to share as much information as possible, as quickly as possible," she said, "since this is such a timely issue."

During a four-week period in July, 11 percent of the Air Force Academy's basic cadet population became ill. "There are 134 confirmed cases of H1N1 and 33 suspect cases, meaning they had all the same symptoms, but were not tested," Witkop said.

Many challenges had to be considered quickly, Knight said, such as how to treat patients, how to limit interactions with others, when to hospitalize, and how to isolate the cadets.

"It was a medical issue that had a huge implication to what their job was about," he said. "We did lots of different approaches as we were scrambling with the line leadership as how to isolate, talking with CDC, [and] figuring out what the appropriate treatment is," Knight said.

"And it appears, then," he added, "with any epidemiologic conclusion, [that] what we did was effective."

Knight said the academy's medical group was careful to share lessons learned through the outbreak's many phases.

"When we were in the thick of things, we were daily sharing what our experience was with the public health department downtown, with all the other local military medical facilities, with the other academies, comparing notes as to what their experiences were with Lackland [and] with the line leadership," Knight said. "Our line leadership here was pushing information up to the chief of staff of the Air Force. So near-term, we were essentially getting out real-time information as to what was going on, to share that experience."

Witkop spearheaded the article submission to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine while sharing the lessons with the CDC.

"We've shared this information with the CDC well before it got published, so that they would have the information to adjust the guidelines that they were publishing," Knight explained.

Isolation has proven to be a key factor in controlling the outbreak at the academy, Witkop said.

"Our current approach is ... to isolate the cadets; however, they are self-isolating per the CDC's guidelines," she said. "So they would go back to their dorm rooms, continuing until they are seven days from onset of symptoms and 24 hours after being symptom-free."

Both said public health education reminders are the key ways academy officials are preventing another outbreak among cadets, and that messages to wash hands, use sanitizers and cover coughs are shared continuously.

Meanwhile, Witkop said, academy medical officials continue to monitor the situation closely and continue their public health efforts.

"We're continuing to follow very closely ... the numbers of cadets who are ill, to make sure that we're not approaching another outbreak situation," she said. "We have daily reports from all of our various clinics about the numbers of both cadets and those in the community."

To read more about the published article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, visit

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

Obama Proclamation Honors Fort Hood Victims

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - President Barack Obama issued a formal proclamation today honoring the victims of yesterday's shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. Here is the complete text:



Our Nation's thoughts and prayers are with the service members, civilians, and families affected by the tragic events at Fort Hood, Texas. The brave victims, who risked their lives to protect their fellow countrymen, serve as a constant source of strength and inspiration to all Americans. We ask God to watch over the fallen, the wounded, and all those who are suffering at this difficult hour.

As a mark of respect honoring the victims of the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, Tuesday, November 10, 2009.

I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

Barack Obama

National Guard Chief Offers Fort Hood Condolences

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

Nov. 6, 2009 - Fort Hood, Texas, was uppermost in the minds of National Guard members today, especially with an Alabama citizen-soldier reportedly among the wounded after a deadly shooting rampage there. "The thoughts and prayers of the National Guard are with Fort Hood Soldiers, their families and the local community today," Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a tweet on Twitter.

The National Guard Bureau held a moment of remembrance at noon today. About 2,000 National Guard soldiers from six states are currently stationed at Fort Hood, Guard Bureau officials said. The Birmingham (Ala.) News reported that an Alabama Guard soldier is among the wounded, but Fort Hood officials could not confirm that information.

"Our hearts go out to everyone there at Fort Hood and to the families," said Army Lt. Col. Cynthia Bachus, public affairs officer for the Alabama National Guard. "Our concerns are with them. Our sympathies are with them." About 350 Alabama Guard members from the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command arrived at Fort Hood on Nov. 2 to prepare for a deployment to Afghanistan. "We are in constant contact with the chain of command to ensure that our soldiers' well-being is taken care of," Bachus said. "Any type of support that we can offer the families back here, we are offering them."

Alabama residents rallied to support their mobilized troops, Bachus said. "We have a lot of good support," she said. "The citizens of Alabama support the National Guard and all the military."

Other states with Guard members at Fort Hood included Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, New York and Texas. Numbers range from an individual augmentee from New York – a single soldier on his way to join another unit in theater – to hundreds of deploying soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard.

The Army Times reported a flood of support through social media as Thursday's tragedy unfolded. McKinley expressed his condolences through Twitter, as did Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, among many other leaders, servicemembers and civilians. Mrs. Mullen said in her tweet that it was difficult for her to express how very sad she is at the "senseless" shooting and that she is praying for the victims, their families and their friends.

Some state National Guard officials used Twitter and Facebook to provide updates on the status of their soldiers and offer condolences.

"Two Oregon Natl Guardsmen at Ft Hood are safe," OregonGuard said in a tweet. "Our prayers go out to all affected by this tragedy."

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

President Orders Flags to Half-Staff

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - President Barack Obama has ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff until Veterans Day in honor of the victims of yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Twelve soldiers and a civilian were killed and 30 others were wounded when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan allegedly opened fire on the base in what the president described yesterday as a "horrific outburst of violence."

From now until the Nov. 11 Veterans Day observance, flags will fly at half-staff at the White House and other federal buildings.

"This is a modest tribute to those who lost their lives even as many were preparing to risk their lives for their country," Obama said today in the White House Rose Garden. "And it's also a recognition of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our safety and uphold our values.

"We honor their service, we stand in awe of their sacrifice, and we pray for the safety of those who fight and for the families of those who have fallen," he added.

Obama met this morning with FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and representatives of other relevant agencies to get an update on the ongoing investigation. He said his administration would continue providing details surrounding the attack as they emerge.

"We don't know all the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," the president said. "What we do know is that there are family, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday in one of the worst mass shootings ever to take place on an American military base."

The sprawling Central Texas base covers some 340 square miles and is home to 40,000 soldiers. Officials there said they are focused on caring for the wounded, securing the base, notifying victims' families and providing grief counseling.

A family hotline is available to obtain information at 254-288-7570.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that Obama will attend a yet-to-be-scheduled memorial service for the victims. Noting that members of more than a dozen units from around the country were present when the shooting took place, Gibbs said notification of families was still ongoing and that any memorial service should be scheduled with the families' convenience in mind.

Officials have not established a motive for the shooting spree, Gibbs said, adding that the president discussed the attack's impact on troop morale in discussions yesterday with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Witnesses Recall Berlin Wall's Fall

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - A divided Berlin symbolized the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was a concrete example of the divide between East and West, between totalitarianism and democracy, between communism and capitalism. For millions of U.S. servicemembers, the celebratory scenes at the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, were cause for deep satisfaction.

Since World War II, millions of soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines held the line in West Germany. Their very presence was enough to secure half a continent for freedom. When the wall fell, more than 300,000 American servicemembers were in West Germany, witnessing history.

"We were watching developments for weeks as events unfolded," said Jeff Anderson a building contractor in San Antonio who was an Army infantry sergeant in the Berlin Brigade near Checkpoint Charlie at the time.

Restrictions had been loosening for weeks, he recalled, as Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Germans and other captive people streamed out of Eastern Europe to freedom in the West. After several weeks of unrest in East Germany, officials there announced that all citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin.

"As soon as the East Germans made the announcement, thousands of people came down to the wall in both the East and West," Anderson said. "We weren't sure what was happening.

"In the East, the border guards at first were pushing people back, they were trying to check identity cards," he continued. "But then the pressure became just too much, and they just let people stream through. When they met West Berliners, it was the start of the most joyous celebration I have ever seen."

The first wave of people came at night, and thousands more came the next day. People climbed atop the wall, and East German border guards finally knocked a hole in it to ease transit, Anderson said. Tens of thousands of people drank champagne and threw flowers. U.S. soldiers just waved everybody through. "We were as happy as they were," he said.

While the Berlin Wall was the most obvious symbol, the fence between East and West Germany was equally deadly, and opened just as quickly.

Army Lt. Col. Rich Dow works in the Joint Staff's operations section of the Pentagon now. In 1989, he was a second lieutenant platoon leader working military intelligence in the 5th Corps area of responsibility. "My job was to help stop the Soviet horde from coming through the Fulda Gap," Dow recalled with a smile.

"It was hard for us to believe it was happening, and we were all amazed at its speed," he said. "It was almost a fatalistic attitude when you consider that if we looked across the border, we saw they had a huge advantage in infantry and tanks and artillery. We fully understood that our job was to buy time until forces could come in to reinforce us."

As events proceeded, Dow and others realized just how hollow the forces were that faced West Germany. But they remained concerned about how events might play out.

"During all the changes, the idea of internal disturbances in East Germany had us all up on our guard," he said. "We feared the Soviets were losing control and that they might do something against us unilaterally. We were probably more at higher alert because the static situation that had existed since 1961 was far more dynamic. We were very concerned about a war happening inside East Germany, and that kept us awake at night."

But events proceeded well, and Dow and his wife actually went on a family trip to Berlin. "We stayed in West Berlin," he said. "There were still a lot of crowds. I took a small sledgehammer out of my trunk and took out a fist-sized chunk of the wall. I still have it."

One side of the piece of wall is decorated with graffiti; other is plain, gray concrete. "The one with the graffiti faced the West," Dow said.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Delbert Hoskins was based with the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor, on the Fulda Gap that Nov. 9. He, too, came away with a souvenir.

"I have strands of razor wire," he said. "This is the kind of wire where if you grab hold and try to hoist yourself up, it will cut off your fingers."

Hoskins said he was surprised that no massive recall of U.S. forces took place when the media reported that the wall was coming down. But the sight of East German-made cars made a distinct impression. "What I remember was the number of Trabants that suddenly were on the road," he said.

The difference between East and West Berlin when the wall was in place is something that Tara Jones, now at the Pentagon's defense policy office, remembers.

"East Berlin was very gray. There was no color, and even the sky seemed gray," said Jones, who was in middle school in 1989 at the State's Department's John F. Kennedy International School in Berlin. "West Berlin was ablaze with lights. The streets were crowded, and there was a mystery associated with the city."

When the wall came down, Jones said, she was not afraid, but was astonished. "We went down to the Brandenburg Gate the next day," she said, "and my sister and I tried to count the Trabants parked on the side of the road and just gave up."

The day was emotional for Jones and others who witnessed it firsthand. "It was very emotional - hearing the stories of all these people who had been affected by the Iron Curtain, because that's what it literally was," she said.

Her father, Randy Jones, was chief of the regional contracting office in Berlin. "I was on site living in Berlin when the wall came down," he said via telephone from Austin, Texas. West Berlin was a magnet for Poles and Czechoslovaks leaving their countries. "It appeared to us that the East German border guards were being far less scrupulous in their examination of travel documents than they were in the past."

Mostly, Jones remembers a jubilant people. "As I remember, the next day was a holiday, and we had planned to go to East Berlin, just to see the people," he said.

The family loaded into their Jeep Cherokee with U.S. military identification and went to Checkpoint Charlie. "We processed through the American side just like we always did, but then we were surprised by being allowed to go right straight through the East German section," he said.

The family shopped and had lunch, and about 2 p.m., Jones suggested the family head home. "We drove our way back, and it took us hours and hours to get back through," he said. "As we neared Checkpoint Charlie, there was a wall of people clapping and cheering and seeing a car marked with a U.S. license plate, the people cheered even more loudly and yelled thank you and poured beer and champagne and flowers on the car.

"They were so happy, and I will never forget the wonderful celebrations, he said. "[The Berliners] demonstrated real gratitude and thankfulness, and it was for the American people. We just happened to be the Americans there."

The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which formally concluded on Oct. 3, 1990.

Gates Orders Moment of Silence for Fort Hood Victims

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has directed a moment of silence throughout the Defense Department today to honor the victims of yesterday's attack at Fort Hood, Texas. Twelve people were killed and 30 others were wounded when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan allegedly opened fire in the post's Soldier Family Readiness Center. One of the wounded victims died overnight, bringing the death toll to 13. Malik was wounded and is in custody, Army officials said.

The attack occurred at 1:34 p.m. CST yesterday, and Defense Department personnel around the world will pause and mark the moment of silence at that same time today, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said. For example, those in the U.S. Eastern time zone will observe the moment of silence at 2:34 p.m. local time, while those on the West Coast will observe it at 11:34 a.m.

Gates is at the White House this morning discussing the situation at Fort Hood with President Barack Obama, Morrell said. Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. are at Fort Hood conferring with officials there.

Army Sends Support Teams to Hood to Aid Soldiers, Families

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 6, 2009 - Resources to help those affected by the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, are flowing to the post, Army officials said today. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan killed 13 Fort Hood personnel and wounded another 30 during a shooting spree at the post's Soldier-Family Readiness Center yesterday. Hassan was wounded and is in custody.

Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. are at the post conferring with officials to determine the best way forward, said Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, chief of Army public affairs.

Army Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, the commander of 3rd Corps and Fort Hood, has requested additional capabilities to help post personnel get through this tragedy. "We are already generating capabilities to deal with the consequences of the situation at Fort Hood," Bergner told reporters this morning.

The service is sending 13 unit ministry teams to the post. Each team has chaplains and chaplain assistants who can support the spiritual needs of soldiers, families and civilians at Fort Hood, Bergner said.

The Army also is sending 35 family life consultants to the base. "These are folks who specifically are trained and equipped to deal with the stress that military families confront – from the children to the spouses," the general explained.

The service also is sending 13 behavioral health specialists from to Fort Hood from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to help with grief counseling.

Four Operation Homecoming counselors, 20 more behavioral health specialists and 17 critical-incident stress-management personnel will deploy to Fort Hood soon, Bergner said, and five combat stress teams are moving to the post to augment teams already at the base.

Some of the additional teams will arrive today and tomorrow, and others will flow in later, the general said. "If more is needed, we will provide it," he added.