Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'It's a wonderful deployment' for Indiana aviators

Story courtesy of 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public Affairs

(12/9/09) - Members of Task Force 38, with the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade of the Indiana National Guard put their own spin on the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," addressing suicide while making their audience laugh Dec. 4 here at the Freedom Chapel.

Lt. Col. Dan Kozlowski, brigade judge advocate with TF 38 and an Indianapolis native, said he and Col. David Wood, the TF 38 commander, came up with this innovative approach to suicide prevention.

"We both considered the movie to be a favorite," said Kozlowski. "There is a tendency toward depression around the holidays and we wanted to put out a positive message."

Kozlowski said "It's a Wonderful Deployment" has been in the works for roughly three months.

"There are two big changes that we made to the original," he said. "Our play is based out of a National Guard Armory in Shelbyville, Ind., and most of the characters are military related."

In the movie, George Bailey considered suicide, a choice too many Soldiers have made or considered lately, said Kozlowski.

"Our message is no man is a failure," he said. "Everyone's life has value, and suicide is no answer to life's problems."

Sgt. Andrew J. Schnieders, command executive assistant with TF 38 and a Mooresville, Ind., native, said he was approached to volunteer for this production and was happy to accept because of the message the performance was sending.

Schnieders, who played the lead character George Bailey, said he has never been in a formal stage play with speaking lines, but was a musical actor and toured the United States before joining the military.

"It's a refreshing way to display the problems that can overwhelm Soldiers, which lead to considering suicide," he said.

The production gave Soldiers a chance to reflect on what the lives of their friends and families would be like without them, instead of sitting through a set of power point slides, said Schnieders.

"This play shows that our individual life is important to those around us, most importantly our family and friends," he said. "The timing of this production was specifically geared toward the holiday period."

Schneiders said this issue affects everybody, and military personnel need to be reminded during the holiday season that their lives are valuable.

Staff Sgt. Leeann Hiser, personnel noncommissioned officer with TF 38 and an Alexandria, Ind., native, said she enjoyed the play, and thought it was funny and put out a good message.

"Everyone is away from home and people get a little sad over the holidays; this brings everybody together, kind of like a family function," said Hiser.

Schnieders said he hopes to create a positive memory for service members' reflection when they go through troubled times during their deployments.

"If we can make a difference in just one person's life, we have done our job," he said.

Santa delivers holiday message to North Dakota families

(12/14/09) - Jolly Ol' St. Nick and wife, Mrs. Claus, helped Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann of the North Dakota National Guard deliver a special holiday message back to North Dakota to families of Kosovo Forces (KFOR) Soldiers serving here Dec. 13. Dohrmann, commander of Multi-National Task Force-East in Kosovo, offered the greeting via Video Interactive Conferencing technology from the main U.S. headquarters for NATO operations here. He was joined by commanders and senior enlisted Soldiers from various units in his command.

"I need to tell you how proud I am of each and every Soldier here," Dohrmann said. "The morale is extremely high. I see Soldiers supporting each other, helping to make time away from you (their families) go a bit easier."

Toward the close of the hour-long video conference, Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance, standing behind the general and his cadre and waving to children in the audience back in the U.S. The conference could be seen by Family Readiness Groups gathered in Bismarck, Valley City, Fargo, Grand Forks, Camp Grafton, Minot, Dickinson and California.

Father and Mother Christmas, played by James Webber and Rene Favors, contracted civilian workers at Camp Bondsteel, even took time to call out some of children by name to add extra-special holiday spirit.

U.S. Congressman Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and Maj. Gen. David A. Sprynczynatyk, the adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, joined the North Dakota families in Bismarck, N.D., for the video conference.

Though the message from Dohrmann was rife with warm holiday cheer and season's greetings, it also contained a number of important points aimed at rumor control.

Dohrmann told families, that contrary to information they may have heard in the media, Soldiers in his task force would not be cutting their deployments short. "This is not the case," Dohrmann said. "At this time, there are no North Dakota Soldiers scheduled to come home early."

He added that the North Atlantic Council, NATO's Supreme civilian political body recently announced that NATO forces in Kosovo would be reduced from 15,000 to 10,000 in January of 2010.

"But the roughly, 2,200 Soldiers of Multi-National Task Force -East (U.S. and multi-national), to include all 600 plus North Dakota Soldiers are part of that 10,000-Soldiers force after January," he said.

Other key points stressed by Dohrmann:

"We were deployed for a one-year period, starting when the first Soldier was mobilized around Aug. 1, 2009. Based on this fact, I would expect North Dakota Soldiers to return home no later than August 2010.

"Redeployment of the 1,400 U.S. Soldiers of MNTF-E , into include North Dakota Soldiers, will be by unit, in a phased manner, based on the mission in Kosovo, the security situation here, and done in a manner to transition authority with the incoming U.S. KFOR unit from Puerto Rico. This could mean that some Soldiers/units may redeploy early, but that would be days to a few weeks early at best."

"I have been asked a number of times if your Soldiers serving in Kosovo can in any way be sent to Afghanistan through this redeployment. The answer is 'no;' any redeployment will have your Soldiers coming back home."

Wreaths at Pentagon Memorial may begin new tradition

By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

(12/14/09) - On the western side of the Pentagon, at the memorial to those who died during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, volunteers had mounted 184 evergreen wreaths on the fence -- one for each person who died there.

The wreaths are identical to those which have been placed for years now on graves at nearby Arlington National Cemetery. This year, for the first time, they are being used to honor those who were killed as part of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Why we're here and why we're including the victims of 9/11 (is) because they are casualties of the war on terror -- no different than any other war we have been to," said Morrill Worcester, of the Worcester Wreath Company, during a ceremony Dec. 11 at the Pentagon Memorial. "We just don't ever want to forget these people, that's why we are doing what we are doing."

Worcester's business, the Worcester Wreath Company, has been placing wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery since 1992 -- most recently through the charity Worcester started, "Wreaths Across America."

This year, for the first time, the company, along with corporate sponsor Wal-Mart, donated some 3,000 wreaths to be placed at all three 9/11 sites: the Pentagon; Battery Park, near the World Trade Center site in New York City; and Shanksville, Pa., where flight 93 crashed into the ground.

"It's to acknowledge, honor and remember those losses that day," said Kathryn T. Cross, a Gold Star Mother and volunteer for Wreaths Across America. It was Cross who contacted Worcester and asked if she could get wreaths to honor those killed during the 9/11 attacks. Between Worcester and sponsor Wal-Mart, Cross was able to get the wreaths to place at the 9/11 locations.

"This is due to the efforts of a lot of people that helped to make this possible," Cross said. "I did this from a mother's heart. But this is for all of them, and most significantly, this is for those who you cannot see, that are not with us today."

Jim Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, said he hopes the wreaths will become a permanent tradition at the site.

"I remember Karen Van Lengen, who was at the time the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, talked about looking forward to seeing what types of traditions and rituals that would develop after the memorial was built," Laychak said. " I hope that this -- the wreaths coming here during this very special season -- is one of those special rituals that will continue in years to come."

New York Air Guardsmen track Santa's arrival

By Story courtesy of the New York National Guard

(12/21/09) - Once again this Christmas Eve, members of the New York Air National Guard will play a key roll as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks the progress of Santa Claus around the world. The air defense controllers at the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) here will employ radar to track Santa Claus over the eastern U.S. during his Christmas Eve journey across the nation. EADS personnel will work diligently through the night on Christmas Eve to maintain ongoing contact with Santa as he continues his travels across the states.

EADS is responsible for controlling the air defense system over the eastern United States.

"This is quite possibly our favorite "VIP" that we track," said the unit's Deputy Commander for Operations, Col. Wade Dewey. "The men and women of the Eastern Air Defense Sector take great pride in being on duty Christmas Eve, monitoring the skies as Santa journeys across the east coast."

To ensure Santa is safe and on schedule, the Air National Guard will ensure that their alert fighter aircraft, controlled by EADS, are prepared to fly and help Santa at a moment's notice, if needed. And in case of poor flying weather, EADS will provide jolly Saint Nick navigation and guidance.

Families can watch Santa's progress around the World Dec. 24 by signing onto the NORAD Tracks Santa Website at www.noradsanta.org.

The NORAD Tracks Santa program is primarily a volunteer program. Each year at EADS, Tech. Sgt. Deborah Martin, EADS Alpha Flight member, is one of thousands of volunteers to help support the program through volunteering.

"I have worked forever on Christmas Eve since I've been here and it has been a big adjustment for my family," she said. "It's funny though ... my kids are grown up, but my one niece and nephew really got excited to learn that the reason I can't celebrate Christmas Eve with the family anymore is that I'm helping Santa make his journey to all the children who are expecting him. I have people believing that there's a transponder in Rudolph's nose -that's why it's red!"

Although it is difficult for Sergeant Martin to be away from her family on Christmas Eve, she makes the best of it for her fellow crewmembers on Alpha flight.

"I get this warm fuzzy every year," she said. "I always stop off at this coffee shop on the way to work on Christmas Eve and they treat me to a coffee and doughnut."

The NORAD tracks Santa program began on Dec. 24, 1955, after an errant phone call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The call was from a local youngster who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement that invited kids to call in and talk to Santa.

Instead he got the commander at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado. The Air Force officer who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information requested - the whereabouts of Santa Claus.

This began the tradition of tracking Santa Claus, a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958.

The current Santa Tracking System employs the Google Earth program that provides an update of Santa's location at all times. It is frequently televised on local and national news networks as well as the Weather Channel cable network.

NORAD is a joint Canadian/American command that works year around to meet today's challenges in defending North America, and as a part of NORAD, EADS personnel, which also includes Canadian Forces members, are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide air defense over the east coast of the U.S.

Obama's Intent to Nominate Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard

December 22, 2009: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today applauded President Obama’s intent to nominate Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Vice Admiral Papp would relieve Admiral Thad Allen in May 2010.

"The Coast Guard plays a vital role in protecting our nation—securing America’s borders, protecting our ports, and providing critical aid during disasters," said Secretary Napolitano. "Vice Admiral Papp's extensive knowledge of the Coast Guard’s operations and broad mission will strengthen our efforts to ensure the nation’s maritime security."

As Coast Guard Commandant, Papp will lead one of the Department’s largest components-comprised of approximately 42,000 Active Duty men and women and more than 7,000 civilian employees-and oversee Coast Guard functions as a branch of the armed services and a federal law enforcement agency.

Papp currently serves as Commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area (LANTAREA) and Defense Force East—functioning as the operational commander for all Coast Guard missions within the eastern half of the world. Prior to assuming command of LANTAREA, he served as the Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard in Washington.

Papp served as Ninth Coast Guard District Commander from 2004-2006, and was previously promoted to Flag rank in October 2002 and appointed Director of Reserve and Training. His Coast Guard career includes extensive tours on both land and sea including service on six Coast Guard Cutters and posts such as Chief of the Capabilities Branch in the Defense Operations Division; Chief of the Fleet Development Team; and Chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Congressional Affairs.

Papp graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and holds a master’s in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College and a master’s in management from Salve Regina College.

MILITARY CONTRACTS December 22, 2009


Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded an $841,877,905 contract to provide for 24 F-16 Block 52 aircraft, advanced counter measure system electronic warfare system, along with associated support equipment, alternate mission equipment and support elements for the government of Morocco. At this time, $672,782,163 has been obligated. 312 AESG/PK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8615-08-C-6050, PZ0008).

Boeing Co., Long Beach, Calif., is being awarded a $263,581,483 contract to provide total system support responsibility to Boeing for the C-17 weapons system. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 330 ACSG/GFKAA, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (FA8614-04-C-2004).

Raytheon Missile Systems Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $171,223,301 contract to provide production quantities of 200 AGM-65D Maverick missiles, 300 AGM-65G missiles, four AGM-65D guidance and control sections and eight AGM-65G guidance and control sections. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 784 CBSG/PK, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8213-10-C-0022).

Raytheon Missile Systems Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $57,415,282 contract to provide 750 Paveway III GBU-24A/B laser guided bomb conversation kit for use with a MK-84 warhead. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 784 CBSG/PKB, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8213-10-C-0003).

UES, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, is being awarded a $22,745,000 contract to provide research development and technology transition on advanced metallic and ceramic structure materials. At this time, $150,000 has been obligated. AFRL/PKMM, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-10-D-5226).

Americom Government Services, McLean, Va., is being awarded an $18,750,000 contract to provide for an experimental sensor on a commercial spacecraft manifested for launch in 2010. At this time, $5,000,000 has been obligated. SMC/XRC, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (FA8814-08-C-0001, P00009).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., is being awarded a $14,520,293 contract to provide C130J FY10 operations and maintenance. At this time, $3,483,740 has been obligated. 677 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8621-06-C-6300, P000046).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., is being awarded a $10,573,785 contract to provide C-130 Aircrew Training System program contractor logistics support for various training devices including database generation, engineering support, courseware development and instruction. At this time, $10,573,785 has been obligated. 508 ACSG/PK, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (F42630-99-C-0095, P00264).

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, Clearfield, Utah, is being awarded a $6,743,719 contract to provide for incremental funding for the Minuteman weapon system sustainment support. At this time, $392,516 has been obligated. 526 ICBMSG/PKE, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (F42610-98-C-0001).


Harris Corp., RF Communications Division, Rochester, N.Y., is being awarded a ceiling increase of $311,420,279. The contract modification is to an existing firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to purchase the High Frequency Man Portable Radios (HFMR) and support systems. The ceiling increase does not affect the ordering period, which ends on Feb. 10, 2010. This ceiling increase moves the ceiling from $586,500,000 to $897,920,279. All work for the HFMR will be performed by Harris Corp. in Rochester, N.Y., and will be complete eight months after award. Delivery of the HFMR is scheduled to begin in December 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $19,904,664 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract modification was awarded on a sole source basis. Harris Corp. is the only source capable of meeting the government requirements. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-05-D-7015).

BAE Systems, Land and Armaments L.P., U.S. Combat Systems, Minneapolis, is being awarded an $185,290,139 modification to previously awarded contract for Long Range Land Attack Projectile system development and demonstration restructure efforts, in support of the two Advanced Gun Systems for the DDG-1000 class destroyers. Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla. (46.39 percent); Minneapolis (18.20 percent); Rocket Center, W.Va. (11.23 percent); Plymouth, Minn. (10.29 percent); Vergennes, Vt. (4.23 percent); San Diego (3.35 percent); Miamisburg, Ohio (1.74 percent); Saint Marks, Fla. (2.12 percent); Burlington, Vt. (1.26 percent); Cincinnati (1.06 percent); and Pinellas Park, Fla. (0.13 percent). Work is expected to be completed by 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-05-C-5117).

VT Halter Marine, Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., is being awarded an $86,742,759 firm-fixed-price contract for detail design and construction of one oceanographic survey ship (T-AGS 66). This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $87,100,607. Work will be performed in Moss Point, Miss., and is expected to be completed by April 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-10-C-2239).

General Electric, Lynn, Mass., is being awarded a performance-based logistics contract in the amount of $85,747,320 for repair and replacement of T700 engine components utilized on the H-60 and AH-1W aircraft. This contract contains a 33-month base period and two one-year option periods which, if exercised, bring the total value of the contract to $160,399,080. Work will be performed in Arkansas City, Kan., and is to be completed by September 2014. Funds will be provided by Navy Stock Fund BP 85. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the fiscal year. This announcement does not include foreign military sales. This contract was competitively awarded. Two companies were solicited and one offer was received. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N00383-10-D-001M).

EDO Communications and Countermeasures Systems, Thousand Oaks, Calif., is being awarded a $21,843,000 modification to a previously awarded contract for the production and support of 335 JCREW 2.1 radio-controlled improvised explosive device electronic warfare systems to meet urgent Department of Defense requirements in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Work will be performed in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and is expected to be completed by May 2010. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-07-C-6311).

Applied Physical Sciences Corp., Groton, Conn., is being awarded an $8,405,321 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the development of advanced analytical, numerical and experimental methods in support of platform signature reduction. This effort will address identified gaps in the Navy's current stealth and vulnerability design and assessment capabilities resulting from an incomplete understanding of the complex mechanistic and system level interactions. Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (N00014-10-C-0197).

Argon ST, Smithfield, Pa., is being awarded a $8,234,206 modification to previously awarded contract for production of the torpedo countermeasures transmitting sets AN/SLQ-25(V)A and AN/SLQ-25(V)(C). This contract modification combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (62.67 percent) and the governments of Australia (32.67 percent), New Zealand (3.10 percent) and Spain (1.56 percent) under the foreign military sales program. Work will be performed in Smithfield, Pa. (99 percent), and Fairfax, Va. (1 percent). Work is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-07-C-6201).

General Dynamics, National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, is being awarded a $7,000,000 modification to previously awarded contract to exercise an option for System Design Part 2 efforts associated the with the Mobile Landing Platform Program. Work will be performed in San Diego (70.6 percent); Busan, Korea (8.5 percent); Wageningen, The Netherlands (5.7 percent); Arlington, Va. (4.2 percent); Franklin Square, N.Y. (2.3 percent); Tucson, Ariz. (2.3 percent); and other various locations (6.4 percent). Work is expected to be completed by May 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-2229).

DynCorp International, LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $6,908,610 firm-fixed-price task order to provide aircraft maintenance support services. This announcement does not involve a foreign military sale. The applicable funding for this action is fiscal 2010 Navy Working Capital Fund. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. Work will be performed at various facilities assigned to Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic Patuxent River located aboard Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Work will be completed by December 2010. The contract was not competitively procured. One firm was solicited and one offer was received. The contracting activity is Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, Norfolk, Va. (N00189-10-F-0019).

Raytheon Network Centric Systems, St. Petersburg, Fla., is being awarded a $6,035,466 modification to previously awarded contract for the design agent and engineering services for the Cooperative Engagement Capability System. Work will be performed in Largo, Fla. (80 percent), St. Petersburg, Fla. (19 percent), and Dallas (1 percent). Work is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-08-C-5202).

MTU Detroit Diesel, Inc., Detroit, is being awarded a firm-fixed-price definite-quantity contract in the amount of $5,528,998 for spare parts for the repair of engines for Israeli aircraft, missile and fast patrol boats. Work will be performed in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Work is to be completed by March 2010. Funding is provided by foreign military sales. Contract funds will expire before the end of the fiscal year. This announcement does include foreign military sales (Israel, 100 percent). This contract was not competitively awarded. One company was solicited and one offer was received. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Mechanicsburg, Pa., is the contracting activity (N00104-09-G-0726-0002).

Third-generation Paratrooper Deploys

By Army Spc. Michael J. MacLeod
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 22, 2009 - In the dew-laden predawn darkness of June 6, 1944, Everton Bushnell jumped into Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France, with the two-year-old 82nd Airborne Division. Twenty-five years later, his son, Ellsworth Bushnell, fought with the "All Americans" in Vietnam and spent six months as a prisoner of war. And in September of this year, Army Sgt. 1st Class John Bushnell became the third generation of Bushnells to wear the All American patch to a war zone when he deployed to Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade.

For the military intelligence electronic repair specialist, it has been the golden chalice of his 13-year Army career. Its attainment marked the fulfillment of a family tradition that at times seemed like the prize of an Indiana Jones saga.

Bushnell knows what it's like to part of a small unit, cut off from the main body.

"It's called recruiting," he joked.

"Where I spent the last 45 months on recruiting duty, most people had never seen an active-duty soldier in their lives. In the Army, they teach you how to work with people during seven weeks of recruiting training, but when you get out there on your own and are no longer surrounded by other soldiers, it's completely different," he said.

Bushnell proved to be an exceptional recruiter, earning his gold badge and recruiting ring while bringing an average of 5.6 new soldiers into the Army every month, nearly three times the standard of two. Yet, having deployed as a paratrooper with the 1st Corps Support Command to Iraq in 2003-04, the four hours of daily "cold calling" from a recruiting office left him unfulfilled.

Most of Bushnell's complaining about wanting to deploy again fell on the kindred ears of other recruiters. But one day, a man standing in a Canton, Ohio, unemployment office overheard his bellyaching to be deployed again. The man turned out to be then-U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine. Three months later, Bushnell received a flag that had been flown over the Capitol and a letter from DeWine thanking him for his service. But no orders off the recruiting outpost.

What he did enjoy as a recruiter was the visits by local veterans. One day, he recalled, an older man came into his office asking for a couple of key chains. The Army-branded merchandise was supposed to be given to high school students, but Bushnell saved much of it for the vets.

"Are you a veteran, sir?" Bushnell asked.

"Yeah, I was in Vietnam. I was infantry," said the man, a Mr. Luco. He was also part of the veteran biker group, Rolling Thunder. Bushnell gave him the key chains and thanked him for his service.

"No, thank you for what you all are doing," Luco replied. "It's much harder than what we did."

"No sir, I wouldn't be in this uniform if it weren't for what your generation did," Bushnell told the man. "We've just picked up where you guys left off."

Then the vet told Bushnell a story. His grandfather had given his father a silver dollar to carry for luck in the Korean War. His father passed that same coin to him before he shipped to Vietnam. One night, Luco said, the Viet Cong encamped around his unit, pinning the soldiers in a swamp for two and a half weeks. He rubbed that coin the entire time, he said.

Bushnell loaded Luco down with T-shirts, coffee mugs and other promotional items, nearly bringing the man to tears.

"This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me," the man swore.

Two hours later, Luco reappeared, this time dressed in his biker's garb. "I just wanted you to see how we dressed, and to thank you again," he said, but when he shook Bushnell's hand, he passed off that silver-dollar coin.

"It took every bit of discipline that I had not to break down in that office," Bushnell said.

The first time he was "coined," Bushnell was a young specialist. His children were conducting airborne operations from the back of the family van in the post exchange parking lot on Fort Bragg, N.C.

"Airborne!" Jump.

"Airborne!" Jump.

Army Lt. Gen. Dan McNeil, commander of 18th Airborne Corps, suddenly appeared. "Tell me, specialist," he asked Bushnell, "do these young paratroopers plan to join the Army?"

Bushnell hadn't joined the army himself until the age of 27. Raised on a 300-acre farm, he followed the rodeo circuit for a while after high school. Eventually, he married his high school sweetheart, Jenni, and took up trucking. In 1993, he heard the call to serve.

After basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., he served in South Korea, Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Bragg, though with the 20th Engineering Brigade and 1st Corps Support Command – never with the 82nd. In spite of his constant pleading, the family tradition seemed to elude him.

For his indefinite re-enlistment – the one obligating his service to retirement – Bushnell traveled to his hometown of Tallmadge, Ohio, named for Revolutionary War Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge. While on recruiting duty, Bushnell was asked to present a new memorial in his hometown square to those who had fallen in combat since the Revolutionary War. It was a pivotal moment.

"I told them, I don't want a bonus. Just get me to [the 82nd]," he said.

In August 2009, Bushnell pinned on the rank of sergeant first class as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

"It was a proud moment," he said, "but what I remember most was putting the AA patch on my shoulder in 82nd Replacement in the Hall of Heroes. Holy cow," I remember thinking, "I am finally here."

Don't unpack, they told him. In his career specialty of repairing anything that receives, transmits or stores top-secret information, there were only two open slots in the entire Army for his new pay grade. More than likely, before the current deployment is over, Bushnell will receive orders to Fort Huachuca, Ariz. In the meantime, he will serve here as a platoon sergeant with Company B, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

"I always wanted [a specialty] with top-secret clearance that would give me a bigger picture of the Army," Bushnell said. The downside is that his rank and job restrict where he is useful to the Army. Most of the Army's intelligence equipment is covered under warranty should it break down, he said.

Bushnell's time with the 82nd will be but a brief intersection. His time in service is greater than his grandfather's and father's combined; neither spent more than a few years with the division or the Army. To wear the patch and to serve, and to be a part of the All American heritage, always was his goal.

"Was coming to the 82nd a good move career-wise?" he asked. "I don't know. But yes, it's been worth the fight to get here. For the family tradition, for my personal motivation, to just be a part of the greatest Army division in the world – it fulfills a longstanding dream."

Stay tuned for more Bushnell paratroopers. The kids are approaching recruitment age.

(Army Spc. Michael J. MacLeod serves in the Multinational Force West with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade public affairs office.)

Chairman Sends Holiday Message to Troops, Families

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 22, 2009 - Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, today issued the following holiday message:

As America celebrates this holiday season, our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen are serving around the world. Families and friends at home can enjoy the holidays in peace thanks to your sacrifice. In the midst of glad tidings, we honor your service and that of your families who serve along with you.

Our thoughts and prayers are especially with our wounded warriors, their families, and the families of the fallen. They bear solemn burdens often made heavier by absence. We all must do our part to honor them and ensure they do not shoulder their cares in solitude this holiday season. America's finest families richly deserve the love and thanks of a grateful Nation, and we will never forget their sacrifice.

On behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our families, I thank you for all you do for our country. We wish you and your families a joyful holiday season, and all of the blessings of a very happy New Year.

Challenge Academy cadets celebrate achievement

Date: December 22, 2009
By Sgt. Andy Poquette
Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs

One hundred and one cadets cast off the mantle of "truant" or "trouble-maker" and embraced the role of responsible young adult during the graduation ceremony for Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy Class 23 Saturday (Dec. 19).

The goal of the Academy is to transform at-risk youths who don't care about school, may be in trouble with the law, or may have been abusing drugs or alcohol, to a responsible young adult who has a high school degree and is a contributing member of their family and community.

The National Guard's Youth ChalleNGe Program began in 1991, when the House Joint Armed Service Committee tasked the National Guard to develop a plan to help at-risk teens and "add value to America." By providing values, skills, education, and discipline to young people using the structure and esprit de corps of the military model, the Youth ChalleNGe Program began a three-year pilot program in 1993. Fifteen states participated in the pilot program, which became a permanent National Guard program in 1996. In 1998, Wisconsin became one of 26 states to offer the Challenge Program and has graduated more than 1,900 cadets since.

During the 22-week program cadets learn important leadership and life coping skills while studying for their general education development test. Each cadet undergoes important changes to mold them into responsible citizens who can contribute to the success of their local communities. Much of the change comes as a result of mentorship from their team leaders.

Cadets are broken into 14-person teams and team leaders are responsible for coaching their cadets and guiding them through the program.

"The best thing about being a team leader is being given the raw material of a cadet when they arrive, and shaping them into a young adult," said Senior Team Leader Shane Mikkelson. "You can always see the disappointment in a cadet's or parent's eyes when they arrive, and to see the change in them, the pride at graduation, is a great feeling.

"Cadets take away a personal sense of pride and accomplishment," Mikkelson continued. "For many of them, this is the first time they have finished anything."

Cadet William Dorn, of Poynette, agreed.

"It was really difficult being away from home for so long," Dorn said, "but I took away a sense of discipline I didn't have before."

Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy cadets stand at attention during their graduation ceremony Saturday (Dec. 19) at Mauston High School. Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs photo by Sgt. Andy Poquette

Each cadet received a Challenge Academy diploma and coin to remember their accomplishment.

"Carry that coin with you wherever you go," said Col. (retired) M.G. MacLaren, Challenge Academy program director. "Whenever you have doubts, are undecided or afraid, take out the coin and hold it. Think back to what you accomplished here by not giving up, and have the courage to make the hard right choice."

State Senator Dan Kapanke was the key note speaker of the ceremony and reminded cadets that life will not always be easy, but with hard work and determination, they would be able to overcome any trial.

Wisconsin National Guard senior leaders on hand for the graduation ceremony at Mauston High School included Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin; Col. Joseph Brandemuehl, commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing; Command Sgt. Major George Stopper, state command sergeant major for the Wisconsin Army National Guard; and Command Chief Master Sgt. James Chisolm, command chief master sergeant for the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

The Challenge Academy will soon be welcoming cadets to Class 24, which begins. Jan. 15, 2010. Applications are available for Class 24 and future classes by contacting the Challenge Academy at (608)-269-4605.

MacLaren offered some advice for incoming cadets.

"Don't give up on yourself," he said. "There are hard times ahead - don't quit. Quitting is the only way you will lose."

At the conclusion of the 45 minute ceremony cadets were released to their families. They will now return to their homes, and in some cases difficult, lives they left 22 weeks ago. Their "challenge" however isn't over. Cadets will continue to meet with mentors, and look to the friends they made during the program for support, as they continue the transition that has changed their lives.

General Cites Reasons for Pregnancy Provision in Iraq

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

Dec. 22, 2009 - An Army general in Iraq is going beyond the typical protocol to ensure every able-bodied soldier in his unit stays fit to fight, even if it means punishing troops for engaging in sexual activities while deployed. Through the Multinational Division North command's General Order No. 1, Maj. Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo III formally prohibits deployed soldiers under his command from becoming pregnant or impregnating a soldier.

Defense Department regulations call for any servicemember who becomes pregnant in a combat theater or learns she's pregnant after deploying to a combat theater to immediately redeploy to their home duty station for medical care.

"Anyone who leaves this fight early because they made a personal choice that changed their medical status or contributed to making someone no longer deployable is not in keeping with a key element of the Army's warrior ethos – 'I will always place the mission first,'" Cucolo said. "I believe there should be professional consequences for making a choice like that."

Although Cucolo, who commands Multinational Division North and 3rd Infantry Division, said he believes disciplinary action should be taken against violators of his policy, he added that courts-martial and legal action are too harsh. The cases he's dealt with since his division headquarters arrived to Iraq's Salahuddin province in October have resulted in letters of reprimand.

So far, eight female soldiers have redeployed from their expected yearlong deployment due to pregnancy. Four of the soldiers learned they were pregnant only after arriving to Iraq, and four others conceived while deployed, he said.

The soldiers who conceived after they deployed were punished with local letters of reprimand, which is a minimal punishment that Cucolo explained won't damage their military careers. Two of the male soldiers also received local reprimands, he said.

"I consider the male soldier as responsible for taking a soldier out of the fight -- just as responsible as the female soldier that I lose," he said.

Also, one male soldier received a more severe letter of reprimand that will be in his permanent record, due to his senior rank and because he was married. The fourth male soldier wasn't punished, because the female soldier didn't disclose his identity, the general added.

The general order Cucolo issued to his troops is stricter than that of his predecessors, the 25th Infantry Division, as well as his higher command at Multinational Corps Iraq, which bans soldiers from entering, residing or spending the night in living quarters with members of the opposite sex between specified hours. However, the previous and current provision doesn't apply to legally married soldiers, provided that "adequate" and private living quarters are available.

Cucolo credited previous deployments and military experiences for the order's provision explicitly banning sexual contact, and said the decision to add to the previous policy was made with support from his division's senior leadership. He stressed the importance of maintaining sufficient manpower during his deployment as "mission-critical."

"Since I'm responsible and accountable for the fighting ability of this outfit, I'm going to do everything I can to keep my combat power," he said. "And in the Army, combat power is the individual soldier."

Cucolo said he doesn't believe his policy is too strict, and that the disciplinary actions aren't the provision's intent. Rather, he said, his goal in writing the provision over the summer before the deployment was to promote "thoughtful thinking and responsible behavior."

"I wanted all my soldiers to think before they act -- before they make a personal choice that has consequences," he said. "That would be the consequence of leaving your team shorthanded in combat, not the consequence of punishment."

President Signs 2010 Defense Budget Into Law

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 22, 2009 - Defense officials are hailing passage of the fiscal 2010 budget that funds military programs and wartime operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and provides a military pay raise.

President Barack Obama signed the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act into law Dec. 19 after the Senate approved it during a rare early Saturday session. The Senate passed the measure by an 88-to-10 vote.

The $636.3 billion legislation provides $128.3 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a 3.4 percent military pay raise.

The law also extends various authorities and other non-defense fiscal 2010 appropriations, White House officials announced. Most of those provisions involved temporary extensions of emergency unemployment and health-care benefits that had been set to expire.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a joint statement Dec. 18, pressing the Senate for action.

"We strongly urge Senate passage of the Defense Appropriations Bill today, prior to expiration of the current continuing resolution," the statement said. "Passage today will provide important support for our foreign policy and national security priorities and ensure continuity of funding for our troops in combat and for all of the Department of Defense."

The House passed the legislation Dec. 16.

Gates Praises Those Who Answer Nation's Call

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 21, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praised young Americans who have answered the nation's call to duty in a commencement address at Indiana University Saturday. "Over this past decade, doing one's duty has taken on a whole new meaning and required a whole new level of risk and sacrifice – with hundreds of thousands of young Americans in uniform who have volunteered to put their lives on the line to defend us – to set aside their dreams to protect yours," he said to the Bloomington, Ind., audience.

Gates recognized four of the ceremony's graduates who have volunteered to serve their nation in uniform as well as past alumni who have numerous deployments and combat leadership roles to their experience.

Second Lt. Christian Litscher is from the "Wild Aces" detachment, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. Army 2nd Lt.s Eric Bolin, Nathan Carpenter, and Andrew Roberts are from the "Screaming Bison Battalion" that was ranked fifth among all 273 ROTC units nationwide.

Gates then told of the sacrifice made by 2005 graduate Brett Hershey, who lost his life in Afghanistan while deployed with the Indiana National Guard in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"All of these Hoosiers and their families deserve our admiration, our gratitude, and our respect," he said. "They are part of a group of young Americans who are as decent, giving, and compassionate as our nation has ever seen."

The secretary noted that although these same young people are public-minded on campus and in their communities, he is troubled that they seem to be uninterested and distrustful of political processes and public service.

"As a result, I worry about how difficult it has become to persuade talented and capable young people to enter the public arena," Gates said.

Attending Indiana University himself in the mid-60s, the secretary said his study of America's Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, led him down a path working for the CIA. This began a 43-year career in public service, including jobs at the National Security Council and the Defense Department.

"It was my entry into a way of life where I could combine my intellectual curiosity with something greater: service to country," he said. "It is an important potential path open to you at this moment in your lives."

Irreverence informed by healthy skepticism is one thing, Gates said. But cynicism about the people and institutions that govern and protect our country can be corrosive. He noted that many private citizens may view public life as too mean, ugly, risky, dangerous or frustrating.

"I have a different view – a view informed by my own experience and by what I see every day: that public service remains a necessary and honorable calling, and, contrary to the perceptions of many, a fulfilling and satisfying opportunity," he said.

Gates said that many public servants who may seem outwardly tough or jaded, are actually romantics, idealists and optimists.

"You see, we who have taken this path actually believe we can make a difference, that we can change the lives of others for the better, that we can make a positive difference in the life of our country," he said.

The secretary closed by quoting John Adams in a letter to his son, "Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, other will not."

"And so I ask you," Gates said to the graduates, "will the wise and honest among you come help us serve the American people?"

Teleconference Links Soldiers With Benefits Experts

By Army Sgt. Benjamin R. Kibbey
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 22, 2009 - The benefits a grateful nation makes available to those who serve in its military are numerous, but connecting servicemembers to the resources in their local areas – especially when they serve in the reserve components – can be a challenge. In conjunction with the community of St. Cloud, Minn., the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Infantry Division hosted a city hall teleconference here Dec. 17, showcasing the individuals and organizations the soldiers of central Minnesota will deal with when they return home.

The conference was a proof of concept, said Army Capt. John Donovan, the division's visitor bureau and event coordinator. The hope is that this event not only will help St. Cloud soldiers, but also open the way for similar coordination between local communities and their deployed servicemembers in the future, Donovan said.

"The purpose of this event it to take macro information and put it at a micro level -- to take information that would be disseminated statewide, to all the soldiers in Minnesota, and provide it to their specific ZIP codes," he explained.

"The hope today is that people could actually take out their soldier notebook and be writing down telephone numbers that start with their area code," he said, "and walk away with the telephone number, the name and a face of the person that they'll interface with when they get back home."

Army Sgt. Nicholas Buskey, who is from the St. Cloud area and serves with the 34th Military Police Company, was one of about 40 Minnesota soldiers who attended after hearing about the teleconference through his chain of command. "I just want to see what resources are out there -- kind of open my mind, broaden what I know," he said.

Buskey, who has taken advantage of Department of Veterans Affairs medical benefits in the past, said he had been to other briefings during his previous deployment, but never had seen anything this localized.

Army Maj. Jeff Howe, the division's transportation officer, asked local VA representatives about the Transition Assistance Program, a resource he had used in the past.

Widely perceived as just a tool for those seeking employment, TAP also helps soldiers looking to move up with or on from a civilian employer, putting their military skills into use in a civilian environment, Howe said. "It was actually open to spouses too," he said, adding that his wife went through TAP. "It was a great program."

Given his own experiences, Howe said, he believes the teleconference was an excellent concept and well-executed. A program like this helps to cover the areas that briefings soldiers receive 30, 60 and 90 days after deployment can't cover adequately, he said.

"You've got the 30-60-90," he said, but there's a gap in there of 30 days. And now, if somebody needs help, they can put a face on, 'This is where I need to go.'

Some soldiers need assistance before their deployment is over, and Donovan is familiar with the help someone local can provide in those circumstances. With the advent of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, he had the opportunity to do something he had been looking at for 10 years: transfer his education benefits to his daughter. Yet, when these benefits became available, he was here, thousands of miles from home.

"Because the program is so new, they're building the ship while they're flying it," he said. "So, they were inundated with some 250,000 applications of soldiers who want to use it for themselves, and for soldiers, like me, who want to transfer it to their dependents."

Though stop-gap measures are in place for soldiers, Donovan's daughter, like many dependents, has nearly completed a semester without receiving any payments. Though the issue has yet to be fully resolved, Donovan was able to take the problem to his local county Veterans Service officer, and to deal directly with someone for an issue that might otherwise be solved in a faceless manner.

Now, Donovan said, he wants to be certain that other soldiers, when faced with questions and issues, know exactly where to find that individual attention the local community is so eager to provide.

The teleconference was coordinated in cooperation with the "Warrior to Citizen Campaign," a local St. Cloud group, and included St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Technical and Community College, the Minnesota School of Business and Rasmussen College, as well as the St. Cloud Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, the Minnesota Workforce Center and the Stearns County Veterans Services.

(Army Sgt. Benjamin R. Kibbey serves in Multinational Division South.)

After Retirement Hang Up the Uniform, but Keep TRICARE

December 22, 2009: Retiring from an active duty career in the military offers a lot of choices that were not available while serving in uniform. Along with choices about where to live and what to wear, there are also choices to be made regarding health care.

While active duty service members must use TRICARE Prime or Prime Remote, retirees who are not eligible for Medicare may be eligible for TRICARE Prime or choose TRICARE Standard or Extra. Each program has advantages pertaining to cost, location and convenience.

If space is available, continuing care in a military treatment facility (MTF) with a primary care manager through TRICARE Prime requires re-enrolling and paying annual fees of $230 for an individual and $460 for a family. Retirees who choose to enroll in TRICARE Prime at an MTF will receive care based on the same access-to-care standards as all other Prime beneficiaries.

Retirees who move to a location that is not near an MTF, or where Prime is not offered, may find TRICARE Standard or Extra to be the best options. TRICARE Standard is a flexible, affordable plan that gives beneficiaries and their eligible family members a greater choice of providers, no enrollment fees, waiver of cost shares for most preventive health care services and the same low catastrophic cap as TRICARE Prime.

TRICARE Extra offers even lower out of pocket expense if beneficiaries use network providers. Although there is no enrollment fee for TRICARE Standard and Extra, a deductible of $150 for individuals and $300 for a family must be met before cost-sharing begins.

Under TRICARE Standard and Extra, most beneficiaries retain the same access to pharmacy benefits through a local MTF or the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy, as well the option to use the TRICARE retail pharmacy network.

Retirees may also be eligible for certain medical and pharmacy benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs in addition to TRICARE retiree health care benefits. If eligible, members can receive care under either program. For more information, go to http://www.va.gov/health.

The U.S. Family Health Plan (USFHP) is available in six areas of the country for those who enjoyed TRICARE Prime while on active duty. Beneficiaries enrolled in USFHP may not receive care at an MTF or participate in TRICARE pharmacy options, but pharmacy options are a part of USFHP. For more information about USFHP and locations where it is offered, go to http://www.usfhp.com.

The TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) Standard option is available to retirees planning to live outside the United States. Retirees and family members must meet a deductible before cost-sharing begins and file their own claims for reimbursement for covered health services.

TRICARE recommends beneficiaries consider all available options and plan well in advance to ensure a smooth transition post-retirement. When choosing TRICARE Prime, be sure to have an enrollment package to the appropriate regional contractor by the 20th of the month before the retirement date or Prime coverage could be delayed.

Always remember to update the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) with any new personal information, including a new address. Automatic coverage by TRICARE Standard and Extra or TOP Standard occurs after retirement as long as DEERS information is current. It’s easy to do online at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/bwe/.

Learn more about retiree health care options, including the retiree dental program, online at http://tricare.mil/mybenefit, or visit a TRICARE Service Center. Contact information and other beneficiary assistance locations can be found at http://www.tricare.mil/contactus.