Military News

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Military Appreciation Night scores big with families

December 8, 2009 The National Guard is celebrating its 373rd birthday, and a handful of Wisconsin National Guard families received a special gift Monday night at Lambeau Field. In honor of Military Appreciation Night, four families of deployed Guard members, selected by the Wisconsin National Guard Joint Force headquarters, were recognized by approximately 80,000 roaring fans in a halftime ceremony during the Green Bay Packers' Monday night football game Dec. 7. The families were chosen in part for their extensive military service.

For example, the family of Lt. Col. David Murray - a member of the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing currently deployed to Iraq as the flight commander of the Intermediate Care Ward at the Balad Theater Hospital - includes four daughters who themselves have deployed with Wisconsin Air and Army National Guard units and an active Army Military Police unit to such destinations as Kyrgystan, the Middle East, Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo.

The family of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Debra LeTexier - a member of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquarters currently deployed to Iraq - includes her husband, Master Sgt. David LeTexier, presently stationed at the Wisconsin Air National Guard's Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, who himself has deployed to Iraq and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Their daughter, Staff Sgt. Erin Holt, is also stationed at Volk Field and has deployed to Afghanistan twice.

The family of Staff Sgt. Daniel Rockwell - a member of Troop E, 105th Cavalry, currently deployed to Iraq with the 32nd Brigade - includes his father, Master Sgt. Pete Rockwell, a 25- year veteran of the Wisconsin Army National Guard who has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; and uncle William Rockwell, a former Wisconsin Army National Guard member.

In addition, Staff Sgt. Rockwell's grandfather, Walter Fred Rockwell (deceased), served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard for more than 35 years and was a World War II veteran. His great-grandfather, Ralph Kins (also deceased), was a World War I veteran.

And the family of 1st Lt. Katie Berberich - currently deployed to Iraq with the 732nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion headquarters element - includes husband Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Berberich, who spent more than 10 years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq, and is now a full-time Army Reservist at Fort McCoy; father-in-law Harold Berberich, who served for 39 years in the active Army and the Wisconsin Army National Guard and deployed for Operation Desert Storm with the Wisconsin Guard's 229th Engineer Company; brother-in-law Kevin Berberich, who served for seven years in the active Army and the Wisconsin Army National Guard; brother-in-law Kraig Berberich who deployed to Saudi Arabia during his eight years in the Air Force and deployed to Iraq as a civilian employee with the Army Corps of Engineers; and her nephew Devin Berberich is presently learning his military specialty at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

During the half-time presentation, Airmen and Soldiers of the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard unfurled 10 star-shaped United States flags. The family members were announced as they walked to center field, and were followed by the senior Wisconsin Guard officials. As the crowd cheered, recorded videos from the deployed family members were played on the stadium's Jumbotron - a pleasant surprise for the gathered family members.

"I don't know if there are any words for my feelings," Master Sgt. LeTexier said after seeing his wife Debra on the big screen. "I was not ready to see my wife on the TV."

The Rockwell family was unanimous in their emotions - the videos brought them to tears. Thirty-six Airmen and Soldiers from across Wisconsin, all assigned to Army and Air National Guard units, assisted in the ceremony. Senior leadership officials from the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard also attended the game.

Brig. Gen. John McCoy, the deputy adjutant general for Air, said the event was overwhelming. "It's an outstanding feeling to know the state is behind us," McCoy said.

The Military Appreciation Night began earlier in the day with recruiting events set up outside the main entrance to Lambeau Field.

Throughout the game, fan reaction to the men and women in uniform was very high, with individuals stepping forward offering handshakes and words of gratitude.

Following the half-time presentation, the honored military families returned to their private booth in the stadium and watched the second half, where the Packers went on to defeat the Baltimore Ravens 27 to 14.

NORAD Officials Ready to Track Santa's Flight

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 9, 2009 - North American Aerospace Defense Command officials are getting ready to track Santa Claus. The "NORAD Tracks Santa" Web site, http://www.noradsanta.org, features holiday games and activities that change daily.

The site is available in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese. On Dec. 24, the Web site will stream videos, captured by NORAD "Santa Cams," from numerous cities along Santa's journey.

This year, children and the young-at-heart are able to track Santa through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and TroopTube.mil. To follow on any of these Web sites, type in @noradsanta into the site's search engine and start your tracking.

New this year, OnStar is providing its subscribers with live Santa updates as they travel in their vehicles on Christmas Eve. Subscribers simply push the blue OnStar button to get status reports on Santa's whereabouts.

Also new and beginning at midnight MST on Dec. 24, visitors to the "NORAD Tracks Santa" Web site can watch Santa as he prepares his sleigh, checks his list, and goes through all his preparations to ensure he has a successful journey.

As soon as Santa takes off from the North Pole, children can track him with up-to-the-minute Google Maps and Google Earth reports.

Santa trackers will begin answering phones and replying to e-mail at 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve. Children of all ages can call 877-Hi-NORAD (877-446-6723) toll-free, or can send an e-mail to noradtrackssanta@gmail.com.

NORAD tracks Santa with help from many corporate partners. Booz Allen Hamilton designed the Web site. Other sponsors include Verizon, which donated the toll-free number; Time Warner, Avaya and PCI providing communications engineering; and OnStar, 5 Star Bank, Pepsi Distributing and First Choice Awards and Gifts keeping the trackers happy with food, beverages and souvenir tracking pins.

The program began Dec. 24, 1955, when a child dialed a phone number that was misprinted in a newspaper advertisement and reached the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The commander at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information requested: Santa's whereabouts. This began the tradition of tracking Santa, a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958.

The program has grown immensely since it first was presented on the Internet in 1998. The Web site receives millions of unique visitors from hundreds of countries and territories around the world. In addition, its operations center will be occupied for 25 hours with more than 1,200 volunteers on Christmas Eve, who will be receiving hundreds of thousands phone calls and e-mails from families around the world.

(From a North American Aerospace Defense Command news release.)

New Air Force Plan Targets Energy

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 9, 2009 - The Air Force has rolled out a new plan to reduce energy consumption and incorporate energy considerations into all phases of its practices. The Air Force is the federal government's largest consumer of energy.

The plan serves as the framework for communicating Air Force energy goals and further expands a culture shift in which airmen make energy a consideration in everything they do, officials said.

"Integrating energy considerations into Air Force operations is not new," said Debra Walker, currently performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, logistics and environment. "While we have recently developed overarching policy guidance, the Air Force Energy Plan provides us with a foundational, comprehensive plan from which to execute programs."

The plan is written in plain English and explains installation energy requirements, goals and targets, Walker said. "But these requirements, goals and targets," she added, "are part of a larger plan that includes acquisition and technology, changing the culture and how we train and indoctrinate people about considering energy in their duties and other matters. It also strongly considers aviation operations."

Air Force Col. Suzanne Johnson, chief of policy and planning, worked on the plan for more than two years. The final product comprises the core document and appendices that cover aviation operations, infrastructure and acquisition.

The desired effect, officials said, will be achieved through a three-part strategy that can be applied to any functional area. The strategy involves reducing demand, increasing supply through alternative and renewable types of energy, and changing the culture.

"We are proud of the energy initiatives already implemented by the Air Force," Walker said. "But this gets an actual, institutionalized, long-range energy plan into 2035. Otherwise, we have no unity of purpose, no unity of effort."

Beats Cancer, Soars High

By Air Force Maj. Veronica Kemeny
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 9, 2009 - Air Force Col. Michael Stapleton has come a long way since being diagnosed with cancer in 2006 while serving as 43rd Fighter Squadron commander here.
Now the 49th Fighter Wing Operations Group commander at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Stapleton recalled that he didn't realize at first that his illness was serious. "I had what appeared to be the stomach flu, and was feeling very weak," he said. "I went to the doctor and was thinking I was dehydrated and I needed to kick the flu in order to get back on the flying schedule."

But the flight doctor thought it was more than the flu and decided to check Stapleton's blood. "He started us down the right path due to his attentiveness and thoroughness," the colonel said. "In his words, I just didn't look like myself. Score the first save for Air Force medicine."

The blood test revealed that Stapleton's red and white blood cell levels were about half of normal.

"We chased a lot of things until finally we checked my bone marrow," Stapleton said. "My wife, Christine, a nurse practitioner and former Air Force nurse, was insistent on the bone marrow biopsy from the start. Another save by Air Force medicine. That is when we found out I had myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of bone marrow cancer found in older populations.

"The patient advocate at Tyndall made the rest happen," he continued, "and I was off to Houston for medical treatment. Again, another Air Force save."

He was diagnosed with cancer Aug. 8, 2006.

"My experience with the military medical system was awesome," he said. "I had a local hematologist/oncologist who managed my case, and Tricare sent me to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston for treatment." The Houston facility is a center of excellence for a number of cancers, and is one of the leading hospitals for bone marrow transplants, which is the only recognized cure for MDS.

The Tricare military health system provides some of the best medical care available, Stapleton said.

"Whenever you or your dependents are seriously ill, you should become familiar with the Tricare case manager system," he said. "Also, make sure you get to know your patient advocate and your primary care manager very well."

Tricare has a second opinion system that works to the benefit of patients who are smart about their disease or condition and know where its centers of excellence are, he said.

"You need to get smart and be your own advocate," he added. "If you do, the Tricare system works extremely well. You don't need a medical degree. You need the Internet and the phone number of your patient advocate. It's a great system, and I am extremely thankful for it."

A new drug caused Stapleton's cancer to go into remission.

"While waiting for a bone marrow donor match, I was prescribed a new drug called Revlimid," he said. "In four months, I was in remission and did not have to undergo the bone marrow transplant. It's a miracle, if you ask me. It's not a recognized cure, but it is a new lease on life that I do not intend to waste."

The colonel was considered cancer-free on Nov. 23, 2006, and was able to return to flying status.

"I'm lucky and had better not waste this chance," Stapleton said. "I also felt a sense of responsibility to make this work. Of course, I was also very happy that I would fly again. Oddly enough, being healthy was and is still more important to me."

Stapleton offered advice for those facing cancer for the first time.

"Get smart, get tough and keep your faith," he said. "Some of us are made to be fighters, and cancer is our challenge. Your attitude and priorities are extremely important. And don't settle for a doctor. Get the best. Tricare will get them for you, and there are more out there than you may think.

"Get smart on the new drugs and studies at university hospitals," he continued. "There are lots of support organizations out there too. You are not in this alone."

The cancer experience did not change his convictions, the colonel said, and several things helped him get through this illness.

"Although faith is a fairly private issue for me, I was raised and continue to be a dedicated Catholic," he said. "Cancer didn't change that part of my life. It energized it for me and my family. Somehow, it also made my hair gray. I think it has helped me galvanize my priorities."

But his faith wasn't all that got him through it.

"Everything about my life helped me get through this: my faith, my family, the Air Force and the Panama City community where I was diagnosed," he said. "I don't recommend cancer to anyone, but I have to tell you it was definitely a positive experience for me. It sounds crazy, but this has been one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a lot about myself, and have come to rely on my family a lot more."

Stapleton's Air Force friends rallied around him during his illness.

"So many people supported us during the tougher times," he said. "It was truly an uplifting experience. I think being in Panama City had a lot to do with the miraculous nature of my remission. People from just about every church in the area were praying for us. I can't describe how good I felt, but 'eternally thankful' is a start."

Stapleton said he knows that flying is a privilege, and that at one point during his cancer fight he thought flying was a distant memory.

"I am very thankful for the chance to fly again," he said. "I am flying F-22 [Raptors] and T-38 [Talons] routinely, and under instructor supervision, I have had the chance to get into the MQ-1 [Predator] and MQ-9 [Reaper] operations. Our operators and maintainers on the flightline continue to impress at every chance. I will admit, however, that the best part is to be back on the team of airmen who work so hard to fix and fly our aircraft. Our nation is blessed to have their service, and their dedication to the mission inspires and motivates me to no end."

Life continues to be "ops normal" for the colonel and his family.

"I still tend to run short in the 'patience' category of leadership, and still absolutely love the Air Force," Stapleton said. "The airmen we serve with today are the best of the best -- complete patriots, truly inspirational. Serving with them is one of the best experiences life has to offer.

"My children have gotten older, my wife has gotten younger, and I continue to seek opportunities to make life a little better for others," he continued. "I feel like my time is running short and that I owe so much for the chance to be well again."

The future still holds many bright surprises, he noted.

"I will move this summer, likely to a staff job," Stapleton said. "If it's like any other job I've had in the Air Force, I will love it. I can say with absolute certainty that I will miss Holloman."

The importance of faith, family and friends when facing something like this cannot be understated, he said.

"I will forever be indebted to those who fed, supported and prayed for me and my family," the colonel said. "This experience has impacted my family in so many ways I can't explain. I think my kids have a better dad, for one, and I realize that each day is a gift."

(Air Force Maj. Veronica Kemeny serves in the 325th Fighter Wing public affairs office.)

General Discusses Exercise in Africa

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 9, 2009 - The largest U.S. Defense Department-sponsored exercise in Africa this year yielded many important lessons, the commander of U.S. Army Africa said yesterday. Army Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III discussed Natural Fire 10 -- a multinational partnership that brought together troops from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States -- during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

"We came together as friends and partners, and I've got to tell you, I'm absolutely amazed at the achievements that were accomplished there and the outcome and progress made during the month of October," Garrett said. The 10-day exercise, held during October in Uganda, allowed multiple countries not only to achieve lasting partnerships, but also to help the people of Africa, he added.

"[The exercise] was a humanitarian and disaster-relief exercise that was designed to enhance our partner participating nations' capabilities to work together to develop regional solutions to the complex humanitarian emergencies," Garrett said. Medical and dental professionals treated more than 11,500 people, and even delivered two babies in northern Uganda, he said.

U.S. Army Africa missions are geared toward sustained security engagements with African land forces to promote security, stability and peace within Africa, Garrett explained. The command is the Army component of U.S. Africa Command.

In addition to the medical services provided, partner nations also tailored the exercise to focus on global health threats. Leaders and exercise participants came together in Kampala and Entebbe during a simulated natural disaster to learn how to address a global health threat that required international support and coordination.

"As we look at the future in Africa and other places in the world, [we're] making sure that we have the capacity to deal with that, which is frankly why we're in Africa, [to help them achieve self-sustaining African security capacity," Garrett said.

The "tabletop exercise," he said, was the largest and most comprehensive pandemic response exercise conducted in Africa to date.

"It included not only the participating countries in the exercise, the six nations, but also a very large international contingent and U.S. government and interagency representatives," Garrett said.

The training provided for the global health threat was tailored toward logistic and medical support and security concerns. He added that the training targeted the procedures required to disseminate vaccines effectively during this type of threat.

"If a civilian health ministry needed trucks to move vaccines into an area, they needed to understand the procedures to reach out and gain those trucks and drivers and bring it all to bear and create a convoy, move the vaccines out, secure the vaccines, distribute the vaccines [and] administer the vaccines," Garrett said.

Aside from medical and dental assistance, the exercise also allowed participants to complete three extensive construction projects as part of the community outreach. Although the exercise lasted for only about two weeks, many things were accomplished that can be used as prevention for future global health threats and pandemic outbreaks, Garrett said.

"I think the greatest accomplishments are the relationships that were fostered and created during the exercise and will continue as we go into the future and [the potential to] maintain these relationships as we work to achieve self-sustaining African security capacity," the general said.

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

DoD Highlights Open Government Initiatives

The Department of Defense is undertaking broad efforts to increase the transparency of DoD operations and to make DoD information more easily accessible to the public as it implements the White House Open Government Directive issued yesterday.

DoD has completed its transition to a new public Web site at http://www.Defense.gov , designed specifically to provide access to the most-requested information and allow visitors to ask questions about DoD operations. As part of the Data.gov initiative to provide easier access to federal government raw data, DoD has just made available for public analysis data about the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which allows service members and other Americans overseas to vote in federal elections. This builds on almost 200 DoD news feeds added to Data.gov earlier this year, and is the beginning of a larger effort to make important raw data available to the public.

The following provides more details on these DoD initiatives:

A New Public Web site. In August of 2009, the Department of Defense launched a new home page at http://www.Defense.gov , and last week completed the transition from the old website at http://www.DefenseLink.mil. The new Web site provides quick access to information that is most sought by Web site visitors, including DoD social media sites, the Pentagon Channel and DoD news stories. Prominent on the new home page is a new "We Want to Hear From You" that allows visitors to ask questions about the DoD and explore frequently asked questions and answers.

The site also includes an easy-to-use central listing of dozens of Web sites maintained by different offices of the DoD and the military services, listed both by topic and organization. The index is available at http://www.defense.gov/RegisteredSites/RegisteredSites.aspx , and makes it easy for the public to find information on topics ranging from military budgets and manpower to a database of defense-related imagery (photos and videos).

Data.Gov. DoD continues to add datasets to the Data.Gov project, beginning with almost 200 links to RSS feeds with news releases and other updates from the Pentagon, each military service and commands around the world.

DoD increased the transparency of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) by posting raw data about the process by which members of the uniformed services and Merchant Marine, their eligible family members, and all citizens residing outside the United States can vote in all federal elections. The data, available for download in raw form, includes voter success in casting ballots, participation rates, age, ranks, regional voting locations, home voting region, how the vote was cast (mail, fax, other) as well as survey data covering how voters and voting officials rated the effectiveness of absentee voting (effectiveness, ease, problems, etc). Public analysis of this data may lead to improvements in the voting process for Americans overseas, making it easier for service members and others to participate in federal elections.

DoD will continue to add to Data.Gov and implement the new Open Government Directive, making more easily available important public data maintained by DoD's many components.

National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of December 8, 2009

This week the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps announced an increase in activated reservists, while the Navy and Coast Guard announced a decrease. The net collective result is 3,743 more reservists activated than last week.

At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 107,480; Navy Reserve, 6,243; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 14,652; Marine Corps Reserve, 7,807; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 780. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 136,962, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found at http://www.defense.gov/news/Dec2009/d20091208ngr.pdf.

NORAD Flight Exercise Planned for Washington, D.C. Has Been Postponed

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and its geographical component, the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) exercise scheduled to begin later tonight in the Washington D.C. area will be postponed 24 hours due to weather.

The one-day exercise, Falcon Virgo 10-03, will begin late Thursday evening and continue into the early morning hours Friday in the National Capital Region.

Falcon Virgo exercises comprise a series of training flights held in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Capital Region Command Center, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center, the Continental U.S. NORAD Region, Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and CONR's Eastern Air Defense Sector.

MILITARY CONTRACTS December 9, 2009

NAVY
CACI, Inc., Chantilly, Va., is being awarded a $30,772,470 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price contract for logistics and training support in automated supply management for Navy and Marine Corps activities. This contract contains four one-year option periods which, if exercised, bring the total value of the contract to $190,308,118. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va. (60 percent); San Diego, Calif. (35 percent); and Cherry Point, N.C., (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with two offers received. The Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Norfolk, Philadelphia Division, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N00189-10-D-Z006).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
US Foodservice, Inc., Salem Division, Salem, Mo., is being awarded a maximum $27,402,639 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-quantity, prime vendor contract for full line food service distribution. Other location of performance is Kansas. Using services are Army, Air Force and federal civilian agencies. There were originally 178 proposals solicited with two responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Dec. 12, 2010. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM300-10-D-3333).

DEFENSE COMMISSARY AGENCY
Darigold, Inc., Seattle, Wash., is being awarded an indefinite-delivery, requirements type contract on Dec. 9, 2009, to provide fresh dairy products for resale at multiple delivery locations throughout the Defense Commissary Agency's West Region commissaries to include the following states: Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The estimated award amount is $13,197,871.52. Contractor will deliver fresh dairy products to the store locations as needed. The contract is for a 24-month base period beginning Feb. 1, 2010, through Jan. 31, 2012. Three one-year option periods are available. If all three option periods are exercised, the contract will be completed Jan. 31, 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Eleven firms were solicited and two offers were received. The Defense Commissary Agency, Marketing Business Unit, Resale Contracting Division, Fort Lee, Va., is the contracting activity (HDEC02-10-D-0002)

ARMY
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded on Dec. 7, 2009, an $11,489,978 firm-fixed-price contract for incorporation of recurring costs for Navy Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs) 4003 for night vision device compatible rotor head light and ECP 4035 for active vibration control installed on MH-60S aircraft. Work is to be performed at Stratford, Conn., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2012. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMCOM Contracting Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

Chief’s message: National Guard’s 373rd birthday

On December 13, our National Guard celebrates 373 years of service. This continues a heritage that began in 1636 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s militia companies were organized into three regiments, the North, South and East Regiments, and became our first organized defense forces.

Today, units like the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 101st Engineer Battalion, which traces its lineage back to those first regiments, will mark the occasion from Iraq. They, and tens of thousands of others like them, continue to build on this proud heritage as they serve overseas and perform missions their predecessors in the Massachusetts colony could never have envisioned.

At the same time, we continue to support our governors here at home, performing critical missions to defend the homeland against attacks on our own soil and support our civil authorities when disasters strike.

The National Guard has never been more central to our nation’s defense or more important to the success of our Army and Air Force. The respect and gratitude shown by the American people for our Citizen Soldiers and Airmen have never been greater. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Citizen Soldiers and Airmen who continue to ensure the National Guard is Always Ready, Always There!


Happy Birthday National Guard!

CRAIG R. MCKINLEY
General, U.S. Air Force
Chief, National Guard Bureau

McChrystal: Guard is ‘extraordinary’

By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau

(12/8/09) - Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal told Congress today that the Guard’s contribution in Afghanistan has been “extraordinary.” “Well, they are extraordinary. But … sometimes someone will … say, ‘Well, they're just as good as active-duty or active Army troops ....’ That's not the case,” the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.

“In many cases, they bring unique skills, like our agricultural development teams that are around the country; bring … skills and maturity active components don't have.”

In response to a question from Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, McChrystal said despite their differences, the Guard, Reserve and active components are working together as a team.

“They're not exactly the same, but together they are much better,” he said.

McChrystal also said the Guard is making many sacrifices in lives lost and time away from families and employers.

“I cannot say enough about their performance,” he said.

Earlier in the day, McChrystal told Senate lawmakers that the training of tens of thousands of additional, capable Afghan soldiers and police is another crucial task necessary to achieving success in Afghanistan.

“To pursue our core goal of defeating al-Qaida and preventing their return to Afghanistan, we must disrupt and degrade the Taliban’s capacity, deny their access to the Afghan population and strengthen the Afghan security forces,” he said.

This strategy, he said, requires reversing the current momentum of the Taliban, while creating “the time and space to develop Afghan security and governance capacity.”

Many of the 30,000 U.S. forces deploying to Afghanistan in coming months will be employed to combat the Taliban, McChrystal said, while others will assist NATO troops in training up new Afghan soldiers and police.

There are now between 180,000 to 190,000 Afghan security forces, McChrystal said, divided between military forces and the police. “We need to significantly increase the Afghan national security forces,” he said.

Afghan army trainers, such as those from the 48th Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia National Guard, are working hard to close the gap.

Sixteen new Afghan National Army companies, McChrystal said, are slated to deploy to Helmand province in early winter. More Afghan troops are planned to follow in the spring. “We are flowing everything we can build in the Afghan army, into that area,” he said.

By the fall of 2010, McChrystal said, there should be about 134,000 Afghan soldiers and just over 100,000 Afghan police. And by July 2011, he said, there should be about 300,000 Afghan security forces divided between soldiers and police.

(Gerry Gilmore of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)

Guardsmen from U.S. territories contribute to Kosovo mission

Story courtesy of North Dakota National Guard

(12/8/09) -- After more than a year of preparation and mobilization training, KFOR 12 Multi-National Task Force-East is well into its peace support mission in Kosovo, and about 100 Soldiers from a U.S. territory are keeping the peace on base here too.

Soldiers of the 661st Military Police Company hail from the U.S. Virgin Islands, collectively St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island. Their mission here ranges from maintaining law and order to providing security escorts for missions involving the Joint Visitors Bureau or the Personal Security Detachment. Capt. Arthur Hector, commander of the 661st, said the unit - like many others - was notified about the deployment more than a year ago. The time, he said, was devoted to getting the unit prepped for the mission.

Training plans were incorporated and requirements for deployment such as weapons qualification, Warrior Training Tasks, battle drills and online classes were met. Hector is from St. Croix, where the main body of the unit resides. He said after moving about a quarter of the unit through MOS-qualification in Puerto Rico, the 661st arrived in Camp Atterbury at roughly the same time as the rest of the task force. "The training was great, but it was a different type of training environment," Hector said. "A lot of the training went very well, especially at Muscatatuck Training Center."

"The training at Muscatatuk was definitely great especially the USD classes, the OC spray and the Taser classes," 1st Sgt. Dale Carty said. "The detainee operations class was informative, but was too long and tedious since we were not going to use that training on this mission."

After successfully completing the necessary tasks there, the unit moved to Hohenfels, where the training tempo increased. "At that time we went through a more intense version of the training, which incorporated scenarios that we had to react to," Hector said. "At Hohenfels the training was rapid and intense, which was good," Carty added. "It gave the unit a firsthand view of how things could be, especially for those Soldiers who were never deployed and had never experienced that kind of intense training before. Although this deployment is a first for some in the 661st, the unit has its share of veterans. "I would say at least 50 percent of the Soldiers here have been deployed before at least once," Hector said. "There are several folks here who are on their third rotation."

Hector is one of those Soldiers. His first deployment was with the 661st, when the unit was called to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to serve as security forces there. His second deployment took him to Iraq, where he served as a battle captain/base defense OIC at Camp Taji.

"The majority of the unit has worked together before because they were one MP Company," Hector said. He said because many of the 661's Soldiers had deployed together before, it made things easier.

Having a first sergeant who knows the unit well is also beneficial. Carty, from St. Thomas, has been with the 661st for 20 years. He was with the 661st during its Guantanamo Bay deployment in 2003.

Hector said although there were newer additions to the unit, morale and unity remained high.

"The MP unit is naturally a close-knit unit, and we've been that way for years," he said. "But we had to pull people in from other units and make sure people connected and the chemistry was right."

"Most of the newer members in the unit are not MP's, so therefore they fall into the (ILO) platoon," Carty said. "I think it took a little while for them to understand the concept of the mission they were involved in, but they have since learned the objective of the mission and the flow has now become much easier."

Hector said the pace had slowed down since the Relief-in-Place/Transfer-of-Authority process completed, which allowed the Soldiers to get some rest and fall into routines.

"After ripping with KFOR 11 and understanding the objective of the mission, the Soldiers have become more comfortable with what is ahead of them," Carty continued.

"It's a slowdown in pace, so to speak, compared to the fast pace we were moving before," Hector said. "So it has been going well and we've been able to execute our missions the way we need to and to the expectations that I've set forth."

Carty said working with the other leadership had enabled events, training and the RIP/TOA process to commence smoothly, allowing all Soldiers - 661st and beyond - to successfully work as one unit.

"The KFOR 12 leadership preplan for this mission has made things accessible for all, and the flow of information has been very helpful I think not only for the 661st MP Co., but for the entire task force on this mission," Carty said.

Hawaii ANG flies tribute to Airmen's storied legacy

By Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
15th Airlift Wing

12/8/09) - Airmen and their families gathered at Hickam Air Force Base's historic flag pole Dec. 7, for the 68th remembrance ceremony to honor those men and women who lost their lives in the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. "On a similar morning 68 years ago on these very grounds, our world changed forever," said Col. Giovanni Tuck, the 15th Airlift Wing commander.

"The Japanese attack on Hickam Field, 'a day that will live in infamy,' stated by the president to Congress, was one of the defining moments in U.S. military history," he said.

The Hickam AFB honor guard raised the flag while the Pacific Air Forces Band performed the national anthem. Four F- 15 Eagles from the Hawaii Air National Guard flew a four-ship missing man formation during the ceremony.

The Hickam Air Force Base ceremony featured a performance of "Lest We Forget," a song written by Chief Master Sgt. Larry MacTaggart, a member of the Pacific Air Forces Band. The event coincided with a ceremony conducted by the Navy at the Arizona Memorial. At the end, the honor guard's rifle report from a three-volley salute resounded over Atterbury Circle, the site of the flag pole. "Taps" followed.

"The story of the largest airborne attack force ever assembled by the Imperial Japanese navy is one worth remembering just as it was," said Hawaii Lieutenant Governor James Aiona Jr., the guest speaker. "No exaggeration is needed for effect. No tall tale is needed to help us remember. It is a story that lives forever in our hearts and it has united us in a common memory."

An unannounced military strike conducted by the Japanese against the U.S. naval base and Army Air Corps air fields on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, just before 8 a.m., thrust the U.S. into World War II. The Japanese navy launched from the decks of aircraft carriers with the intent to cripple the U.S. Navy fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor.

Stories of heroism provided a glimpse into the past; stories about Airmen watching the first wave of attacks from the windows in their homes immediately recognizing the call of duty, despites pleas from their wives to stay home; stories about civilians who understood the need to save important financial documentation, eventually giving their lives in the attempt; and stories about an officer who opened a manhole cover during the attack to protect fleeing men from the consolidated barracks, giving his life in the effort to save every man who entered the whole.

"The attack on Dec. 7, 1941 steeled America's resolve and brought out the best in our nation during its darkest hour," Governor Aiona said. "Which I believe is a testament to all those involved."

Several Hickam Field survivors of the attacks and their family members were among the guests in the crowd. Sylvia Phillips is the widow of retired Maj. Claude Phillips, then a technical sergeant who rushed to a hangar to man the gun of a damaged B-17. He is credited with shooting down a Japanese Zero and was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

Retired Col. Vane Ward Burnett, represented by his widow Helen Hurnett and sons, Ira and George, was an aviation cadet on duty at Hickam Field's communications center. He witnessed the attack on Hickam Field and Pearl Harbor from the second floor windows of the building. Colonel Burnett passed away in Nov. 21, 2009.

Col. Sam Barrett, from the 15th AW vice commander, represented his mother's cousin, Tech. Sgt. Charles Brunson, who survived the multiple Japanese attacks on Hickam. He was killed six months later in New Zealand as a crewman aboard a B-17 that crashed during take off with a full bomb load.

Retired Col. Andrew Kowalski was a master sergeant in the consolidated barracks now the Pacific Air Forces headquarters. On the morning of the attacks he was designated the casualty control officer.

"It was a fancy name for counting the dead," Colonel Kowalski said. "The bodies were laid out everywhere. It was a sad day seeing people trying to identify who was still alive; very traumatic."

After witnessing the ceremony 68 years after the infamous day he survived, he fought to choke back tears remembering and talking about the events that transpired.

"Events like this bring back these memories," the 95-year-old man said. "You feel grateful and humble that the good Lord has given you this long life and you hope that you have used it rather than abused it."

The veteran's stories from that day are becoming more and more legendary as the generation to have survived this attack gets older.

"They help us perpetuate the legacy of that fateful day as a living tribute to the character and service to an entire nation," said Governor Aiona. "Sixty-eight years later we continue to gather with great conviction to honor those brave men and women who lost their lives. In all, 189 men died at Hickam Field, members of the greatest generation -- gone."

To the veterans and their surviving family members present, "We draw from all of you great strength and know you have placed a sacred trust in all of us who wear the uniform," Colonel Tuck said. "You have entrusted our great nation into your very capable hands. We will not let you down. You are the foundation on which our United States Air Force stands and will certainly not forget."