Monday, January 11, 2010

Guard biathlon team searches for future Olympians

By Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
Nevada National Guard

In 2002, the U.S. Olympic team included five National Guard biathletes. In February, Sgt. Jesse Downs of the Vermont Guard has a legitimate chance to make the 2010 team. But who will represent the United States and the National Guard in future Olympic Games?To seek out future high-caliber athletes, the Guard’s biathlon program sent a team to West Yellowstone, Mont., during the Yellowstone Ski Festival in November to showcase its program to top youth skiers.

In addition to sending some of its top biathletes to the festival, recruiting and public affairs specialists were on hand to explain the many opportunities of being a Guard biathlete.

“It’s my goal to get the word out about the National Guard’s biathlon program, especially to the thousands of young skiers throughout the nation,” said Maj. Andrew Parsons, the new biathlon program coordinator. “In addition to the many individual benefits these young men and women will receive as Airmen and Soldiers and as athletes in a fully-funded and supported program, these future biathletes will improve the combat ability of the Guard with their high level of fitness and rifle marksmanship.

“And, of course, they will have the potential to represent the National Guard and the U.S. in future national and international competitions such as the World Cup and the Olympics.”

The Yellowstone Ski Festival drew about 3,000 Nordic skiers to the town referred to by the locals as “West” located just outside Yellowstone National Park. The week’s activities included a sprint biathlon, a novice biathlon and a biathlon clinic in addition to traditional cross country races and clinics.

About 50 people participated in the biathlon clinic, co-hosted by the National Guard and the U.S. Biathlon Association.

“I really appreciate the opportunity for my skiers to shoot real biathlon rifles on a safe, regulation range – we don’t often get that chance,” said Jeff Schloss, a Nordic ski coach at a local school. “Some of our skiers enjoy the extra aspect of marksmanship included in the biathlon and may choose to specialize in biathlon in the future.”

Members of team didn’t have much time to relax during the festival. On Nov. 25, Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Blanke of the Utah National Guard competed in the 10-kilometer biathlon race at noon, taught a biathlon clinic at 2 p.m., and then manned the National Guard biathlon exhibit booth at the ski festival from 7-9 p.m.

“There were some busy days for sure, but it was rewarding to teach so many children – and adults too – about the sport of biathlon,” Blanke said. “I think having a National Guard presence at these huge ski festivals is a great idea and I believe these young skiers will be, in addition to potential Olympians, high quality Soldiers and Airmen.”

The top National Guard athlete in the 10-kilometer biathlon at Yellowstone was Vermont’s Sgt. Brian Letourneau, who finished seventh. He missed only one target and was tied for the top marksman in the field.

The Guard biathlon program has opportunities and events for every Soldier and Airman in the National Guard, not just elite skiers.

“For newcomers to the sport, we offer regional races that focus on participation and the development of state teams,” Parsons said. Regional races this season include: the West regional in Montana Dec. 9-13; the Midwest regional in Minnesota Jan. 13-17, 2010; and the East regional in Vermont Feb. 3-7. The Chief, National Guard Bureau championships are set for Minnesota Feb. 27 through March 10. Those championships culminate the domestic military biathlon calendar.

Parsons said 35 of the 54 National Guard states and territories annually participate in biathlon.For information on the National Guard biathlon program, contact Parsons at or call (802) 899-7120.

Better Mental Fitness Will Help Prevent Suicide, General Says

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

Jan. 11, 2010 - Preventing suicide is more than simply recognizing the signs, it involves building strong community and individual support before the idea ever sets in, the Army's top psychiatrist and director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury said here today. "[Suicide prevention] involves building and developing a tool kit for life," Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Loree K. Sutton said in her opening remarks at the 2010 departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Conference.

The weeklong conference is geared toward increasing collaboration between the military services and VA by raising awareness and sharing best practices in prevention.

The "tool kit for life" Sutton describes includes a model of total fitness that addresses physical, emotional and spiritual needs, a sort of total level that the Defense Department and VA need to promote among their communities. It will be their best efforts in tackling the growing rate of suicide among veterans and military members, she said.

Sutton said healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods and feeling connected to something are important factors in keeping mentally fit.

She asked the audience to ponder a few questions: "Are we putting the kinds of fuel into our bodies that help our brains, our bodies, our souls [and] our spirit perform at maximum effectiveness and efficiency? Do each of us here to do have at least two individuals that if we were to reach that hour of darkness, the moment of truth, that we could call a friend and gain that human-to-human, that heart-to-heart connection?

Do we belong to a team? Do we have faith that leads us to a commitment that is greater than any of us as individuals?"

Sutton explained that if everyone – troops, leaders and family members – knew the answers to those questions about their family and fellow servicemembers, "perhaps we would be a step further away from the terminal signs of hopelessness and despair."

Both departments recognize that psychological wounds are as dangerous as physical injuries, she said. They also understand that emotional distress is not limited to results of combat on the battlefield.

For that reason, the general said suicide prevention is a public health challenge. She cited a need to build resiliency among the individuals in society and in the military. Prevention shouldn't be left on the shoulders of health care providers, but rather techniques should be taught by them in all levels of the community.

"Preventing suicide is far too important and too enormous of a challenge to be left to the docs," she said. "We're all in this together."

Both departments can revolutionize psychological health care through visionary leadership and a change in culture in which people come forward with their issues as well as recognize symptoms in others, she said.

Both departments recognize that suicide prevention is a growing problem with no easy solution. Although treatment works, the goal of those attending the conference should be to instill good life practices in their units and communities, she said, so treatment may become a last resort.

"We are on a journey," the general said. "We know that stigma can kill, hugs can heal, words can work, treatment can save and help is hope. We can tool up here this week, go home and apply these lessons and ask ourselves every day: Is what my team and I are doing today is action? Is our effort worthy of the service and sacrifice of those who we are so privileged to serve?

"We're not content with today's best," she continued. "We must make today's best better."



Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance, Stratford, Conn., is being awarded a $34,739,262 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-09-C-0024) to exercise an option for organizational, selected intermediate, and limited depot-level maintenance for 44 F-5 aircraft operated by adversary squadrons. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, Fla. (40 percent); NAS Fallon, Nev. (30 percent); and the Marine Corp Air Station, Yuma, Ariz. (30 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $34,739,262 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $5,500,000 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive/award-fee contract (N00019-07-C-0097) for the procurement of diminishing sources panoramic cockpit display graphics processor units for the Joint Strike Fighter low rate initial production aircraft. Work will be performed in California, Md. (90 percent), and Fort Worth, Texas (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in February 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.


Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a maximum $25, 987, 875 firm-fixed-price contract for diesel engine with container. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Dec. 23, 2010. The Defense Logistics Agency, Warren, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (SPRDL1-10-C-0040).

Sysco Seattle, Inc., Kent, Wash., is being awarded a maximum $15,000,000 indefinite-quantity/indefinite-delivery contract for prime vendor full line food service distribution. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. This was originally Web solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Jan. 9, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM300-09-D-3327).

Sysco Seattle, Inc., Kent, Wash., is being awarded a maximum $14,215,492 firm-price with economic price adjustment contract for prime vendor food and beverage support. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is the Navy. This was originally Web solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Jan. 9, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM300-09-D-3330).

Randolph Engineering, Inc., Randolph, Mass., is being awarded a maximum $9,000,000 firm-price with economic price adjustment contract for optical frames and accessories. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. There was originally a Federal Business Opportunities proposal solicited with four responses. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Jan. 20, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM2DE-10-D-7544).

Defense, VA Officials Address Suicide at Conference

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

Jan. 11, 2010 - There are no clear-cut answers to suicide prevention, but through collaboration and team work from federal and private institutions, the nation can better address the challenge, Defense and Veteran Affairs department officials said today. In a joint Defense-VA conference here, more than 1,000 military and other-government health-care workers and officials gathered for the 2nd Annual DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference. Titled "Building Strong and Resilient Communities," the conference is the largest of its kind for military members and their families.

The conference, which runs through Jan. 14, is geared toward increasing collaboration between the military and VA by raising awareness and sharing best practices in prevention.

Suicide prevention isn't a new challenge, but it's one both departments are dedicating much effort to. In his keynote address, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said soldier suicide is an issue that troubled him throughout his military career. It's an issue that still concerns him, as he is charged with providing services to more than 7 million veterans.

"Throughout my years and service in uniform, suicides were one of the most frustrating leadership challenges I faced," Shinseki, a retired Army general, chief of staff, and Vietnam War veteran, said. "We continue to be challenged."

Of the more than 30,000 people who fall to suicide nationwide each year, 20 percent are veterans. About 18 veterans commit suicide every day. Each of VA's 153 medical centers and the largest of its 774 community-based outpatient clinics have suicide prevention coordinators who ensure counseling and services as a priority, he said.

Everyone is vulnerable to suicide, the secretary said. Age, personality or positions in the military and in society hold no bearing on who's more at risk. Emotional wounds are just as common as physical injuries, but more difficult to spot, which makes suicide prevention such a challenge, he said.

"You can splint and patch physical wounds, but emotional wounds don't lend themselves to such fixes," he added. "But we must continuously develop equivalent accommodations."

In the veteran community, VA has established 24/7 help lines, hired thousands of additional health-care professionals and counselors, 400 of which are dedicated solely to suicide prevention research and counseling.

VA has developed a culture of ownership, which Shinseki feels is the most critical aspect of solution, he said. Raising awareness in individuals to take responsibility in helping their family members, fellow servicemembers and veterans is essential in this endeavor, he added.

"We must build and maintain a strong support system, one in which everyone has a role, where we collectively assume ownership of the problem," he said. "It's not someone else's problem, it's our problem. It doesn't matter whether they're in uniform or not."

Shinseki charged the audience with furthering VA and Defense Department efforts. Both departments stand to be better positioned to aid the men and women who are struggling to regain the courage to live, he said.

"This audience of health-care providers, clinicians, counselors, researchers and community partners constitutes our main attack against suicides," he continued. "You're the experts. You bring full weight to the discussion. You dispense help and hope to those who see themselves as helpless and without hope."

Giving people information on the departments' array of prevention resources is another key aspect in the two organizations' efforts, Ellen P. Embrey, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, said in her remarks on behalf of the Defense Department. The armed services are addressing suicide prevention through increased sensitivity to warning signs and developing comprehensive education and services throughout a servicemember's career, she said.

Embrey also cited enhanced community and peer support and quality research and analysis as part of the Defense Department's initiatives. Still, both departments have a long way to go in better understanding suicide prevention, she said.

"Every life lost to suicide is both a personal tragedy and a tragedy to society, whether civilian or military," she said. "It's also a tragedy because, for all of our sophisticated knowledge, we still do not know all there is to know about preventing these needless deaths from occurring."

Embrey continued by highlighting initiatives taking place in each of the services. The Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps all have their unique programs and methods, but all are equally important in combating suicides, she said.

"They highlight a holistic and comprehensive strategy that we are attempting to bring to bear to confront the challenge of suicide," she said. "We are doing this primarily through increasing education and awareness, building very strong systems of support at a 360-degree level and reducing stigma to the extent possible to those who are trying and need to get help.

"As far as the Department of Defense is concerned, there is no individual, family member, military leader, or VA or DoD or community resource that can be omitted from the suicide prevention equation," she added.

Implementing these strategies is not just a commitment, it's an obligation to the nation's servicemembers and veterans, she said.

"We own them a debt of gratitude, we owe them the very best we can give them, and we are committed to reducing the burden of suicide," Embrey said. "The communities of partnership of both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are absolutely dedicated to this issue, and our attention will not lag, and our dedication will not falter."

Yoga helps vets find balance

Jan 7, 2010
By Steve Reeves, Fort Jackson Leader

For Roslyn Reesemoran, a horrible accident in the early days of the Iraq war remains fresh in her mind. A platoon sergeant in 2003, Reesemoran was in an Army transportation company, responsible for refueling trucks that carried critical supplies to Soldiers.

One day while out on a mission, as usual, small children ran up to the trucks and asked for food and water.

But on this particular day, one of the trucks accidentally ran over a small child.

"To see that kid die just tore my heart out," said Reesemoran, who is now retired from the Army. "I had a real problem after that being around kids. When I got back, I was really angry."

She went to the Veterans Administration seeking medical care in 2008 after her retirement and, like 20 percent of today's combat veterans, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Specifically, she was suffering from bereavement and anxiety, doctors told her.

"I had been suppressing all my memories," Reesemoran said.

That's when she was invited to try a new program at Fort Jackson, one that uses the ancient practice of yoga to help Soldiers who have been diagnosed with PTSD decrease physical and mental tension.

Soldiers who are diagnosed with PTSD or other anxiety disorders are referred to the program. About 15 Soldiers have participated in Fort Jackson's program so far.

Skeptical at first, Reesemoran gave it a try and was immediately impressed.

"It works," she said. "We're learning to deal with those memories that were suppressed."

Alison Thirkield, a clinical psychologist with Joint Mental Health Services, Moncrief Army Community Hospital, works with Soldiers like Reesemoran who have post-deployment issues such as PTSD. To treat PTSD among combat veterans, the military is exploring alternative methods, such as yoga.

Yoga uses meditation, deep relaxation, gentle stretching and breathing to reduce physical, emotional and mental tension. It has been found to be useful in helping people to deal with anxiety caused by traumatic events.

"Yoga is a different way of getting in and trying to address these symptoms," Thirkield said. "Yoga can teach Soldiers very concrete relaxation strategies. It's grounded in many of the same principles that therapy is grounded in."

Walter Reed Army Medical Center treats Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD with yoga at its specialized care program. First introduced at Walter Reed in 2006 as part of the Army's aggressive approach in dealing with the mental and physical problems facing many returning combat veterans, yoga is now used at treatment centers across the Army.

Yoga can be very beneficial in calming the autonomic nervous system, which controls a person's "fight-or-flight" response to stress, Thirkield said.

"The fight-or-flight system in combat gets activated so often that it sometimes gets stuck," Thirkield said. "Yoga is a very effective way to quiet down the autonomic nervous system."

Ginger Doughty, a yoga instructor in Columbia, has been working with Soldiers suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia and other symptoms of PTSD, as well as chronic pain. She leads a two-hour group class once a week on post. Doughty said yoga's emphasis on the mind-body connection helps PTSD sufferers deal with their symptoms.

"It's a life-changing experience," Doughty said. "You still have problems, but yoga teaches you to flow around them a little better."

Yoga's emphasis on breathing techniques and proper body alignment can help Soldiers with PTSD deal better with anxiety attacks, she said.

"Yoga helps them to realize that those feelings will pass," Doughty said. "It teaches them that they already have all the tools they need to get through those episodes."

Doughty said she is convinced that yoga will become a standard tool in dealing with anxiety issues for Soldiers.

"I don't think this will work for everybody, but I firmly believe it will work for most people," she said.

The program has already made a difference in her life, Reesemoran said, helping her to feel more like the person she was before she went to Iraq.

"It's helping me to cope with those old memories," she said. "I've been able to accept the new person that I am and reconnect with the old person I was."

Adjutant General named to FEMA Advisory Council

January 11, 2010

Wisconsin's Adjutant General has been appointed to a national group to advise the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on all aspects of disaster preparedness and management. Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin and Wisconsin's Homeland Security Advisor, was named by FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate to the National Advisory Council (NAC). The NAC is comprised of emergency management and law enforcement leaders from state, local and tribal government and the private sector to advise the FEMA Administrator on all aspects of disaster preparedness and management to ensure close coordination with all partners across the country.

"I am honored to serve on the National Advisory Coucil and appreciate the support of Gov. Jim Doyle, the GHSAC, and Wisconsin's First Responder community who supported my nomination," Dunbar said. "The council's mission is timely and important and I look forward to working with Administrator Fugate to help improve our nation's readiness."

The 35-member council was formed in 2007 following Hurricane Katrina. NAC members serve three-year terms and are selected based on their expertise in emergency management and response, public health, infrastructure protection, cybersecurity, communications and other areas related to FEMA's mission.

Dunbar has served as Wisconsin's Homeland Security Advisor and as chair of the Governor's Homeland Security Council since September 2007. The Adjutant General is Wisconsin's senior military officer and commander of the Wisconsin National Guard. He is also responsible for Emergency Management working closely with the Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) Administrator and county emergency managers to coordinate statewide preparedness and response. Since 2007, he has led the response and recovery efforts for two major flooding events and a snow emergency in Wisconsin which resulted in federal disaster declarations.

Real Warrior Describes Post-traumatic Stress

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 11, 2010 - When Staff Sgt. Megan Krause returned home from a deployment in Iraq in 2006, she thought the scariest moments of her life were over. At her homecoming, "I ran to my mother in that hangar; we both cried tears of joy," said Krause, now an Army Reserve medic attached to a combat engineering unit in Pennsylvania. "I told her it was over and I was fine.

"Boy, was I wrong."

Krause later found herself waging a terrifying war with post-traumatic stress disorder. She described the battle and her road to recovery here today during the Real Warriors Campaign session at the 2010 Suicide Prevention Conference sponsored by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Krause said she hit rock bottom while a student at Penn State University about two years after her deployment.

"It was when I found myself face down in the mud pit, in the middle of a pigpen in State College, Pa., running from the insurgents that I thought were chasing me, that I realized I had not yet survived," Krause said. "I might not have been having suicidal ideations, but I was well on my way to killing myself."

Krause said she drank a bottle of red wine every night just to get to sleep.

"It's scary because you know you party harder than the average college kid and then get behind the wheel of your car because you just don't care anymore," she said. "It's scary because you know you're not going to class or work and you're throwing your life away.

"And you don't know how to stop the cycle."

Her nights, she said, were filled with nightmares of explosions and friends she couldn't save in time.

"I didn't want to die, but I wasn't leaving myself with many other options – until I asked for help," she said.

Help came in abundance, she said. "My [Reserve] unit wanted nothing more than to help me. They encouraged me to talk to the VA, talk to them." Her first sergeant admitted he, too, was seeking help for post-traumatic stress and told Krause it was the best decision he ever made.

"His words were ringing in my head that scary night as I rolled over [in bed] and called [the VA] for help," she said. "I knew I couldn't keep going down the path I had chosen." Two "battle buddies" showed up at 3 a.m. to drive her to the hospital.

Through the VA, Krause found the help she needed and, despite her initial embarrassment, "I discovered here was no shame in admitting that I was in trouble and needed help," she said.

"In fact, I earned more respect for seeking help and facing my problems head on than I ever had while failing to be the [noncommissioned officer] I wanted to be."

Wanting to help others waging similar psychological battles, Krause volunteered to share her story through the Real Warriors Campaign.

This initiative, launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, features stories of servicemembers who have sought treatment and continue to maintain successful military or civilian careers, according to the campaign's Web site. These efforts are aimed at combating the stigma associated with seeking psychological health care and treatment.

Krause appears in several public service announcements on the campaign's site at The response to her coming forth with her story has been amazing, she said.

A short time ago, Krause said she received a late-night call from a college friend, also a veteran, who had seen her PSA.

He "was driving his Mustang down the back roads of Pennsylvania at 70 mph, drunk, willing himself to turn into a tree," she said, fighting back tears.

Her friend was the same "battle buddy" who had driven her to the hospital a year prior, "and now he needed a return favor."

He asked her to tell him her story and she poured forth every detail -- the sleepless nights, drinking, terror, stress and that "moment of clarity, all the while begging him to pull over to the side of the road."

He did pull over and, like Krause, sought help for his post-traumatic stress.

"He said, 'Promise me you will keep doing what you're doing because there are people out there who need to hear it,'" she said.

Krause encouraged conference attendees to use the Real Warriors site, which includes links to resources, a live chat room, and information about the Defense Centers of Excellence Outreach Center, a 24/7 call center staffed by health resource consultants. The Outreach Center can be reached toll-free at 866-966-1020 or via e-mail at

Krause said coming forth takes courage, but it's well worth the effort.

"Our stories need to be shared with anyone who has struggled or may struggle in the future, so they too can win this terrifying battle," she said.

"I'm winning the battle with PTSD and you can too."

Florida Guardsman named Female Athlete of Year

By Carol Carpenter

AFNORTH Public Affiars

(12/21/09) -- When she was just 5 years old, Karrie Warren was already learning to hit softballs in her family's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., backyard. The balls were pitched patiently, one after the other, by an encouraging father who saw something special in his little girl's extraordinary ability to connect a bat with a ball.

No one could have predicted then where these childhood practice sessions might lead. Nearly three decades later, a huge payoff occurred.

Now 32, and a member of the Air Force and a security and requirements supervisor at Tyndall's 601st Air and Space Operations Center, Master Sgt. Warren has been named the U.S. Air Force Female Athlete of the Year for 2009.

The trim-and-fit Florida Air Guard member won this distinction, not only because of her ability to play an exceptional game of softball, but also because of her remarkable physical fitness and leadership skills both on and off the field.

"I was shocked, but very honored, to have won this award," Sergeant Warren said. "I strive to do my best whether it's at my job or in sports, and to even be nominated is something I will treasure for the rest of my life."

The prestigious award was announced at the Air Force Fitness and Sports Awards luncheon in Orlando earlier this month. Presenting the award were Maj. Gen. (select) Timothy Byers, an Air Force civil engineer at the Pentagon, and Michael Bensen, deputy commander of the Air Force Services Agency.

The able sergeant was lauded at the ceremony for several major athletic accomplishments, including leading the Air Force women's team to the full-services Armed Forces Women's Softball Championship title. She was also praised for serving as captain of the Armed Forces All-Tournament team, which took second place at the 2009 Amateur Softball Association National Championship.

Additionally, she led the Tyndall AFB women's softball team to second place in the 2009 World Softball Tournament, and they played this year at the Pac-Wide Softball Championship in Korea. For doing well at both events, the team was designated the 'All-Tournament team.'

Col. Randy Spear, 601st AOC commander, praised Sergeant Warren for her notable achievements. "It is an honor to have one of our own recognized for such a prestigious award," he said. "She is an exceptional athlete, not only on the field, but at her job as well."

Getting to this point has not been fast or easy for the dedicated athlete. She has, in fact, spent most of her life honing her ability to play softball, as well as advancing her personal physical fitness goals along the way.

Recounting her early years learning the game, Sergeant Warren said that in addition to countless hours of informal practice with her father, by age 9 she was playing on organized local teams with other girls her age.

Later as a teenager, she was an enthusiastic player on various school teams and amateur leagues, some of which had her and sister team members traveling to other states and regions of the country to compete against similarly organized teams.

She recalls those early years on softball fields as very good ones, spending every playing season with her entire family―father, mother and two brothers―cheering her on from the stands, often the loudest and proudest fans in the crowd.

"My two older brothers weren't all that interested in sports, so my father held out hope for me, his last child," she said with a smile. "He drove me to do my best, and I've always tried to follow his advice."

She feels fortunate that her father, who died two years ago, was able to watch her play on Air Force and Armed Forces teams in previous years. "All his early effort paid off," she said, adding that her mother and brothers continue to offer much proud support.

As an adult, she quickly realized that any sports ability can be enhanced by other kinds of physical fitness, so she developed the habit of making plenty of time for regular exercise. Today she runs two miles four times a week and weight trains three times a week, using a regimen intended for male athletes.

She is also careful about eating a healthy diet, mostly choosing foods such as baked chicken or fish and lots of vegetables. "I admit I love fried foods, but I try to avoid them, except in small portions," she said, adding that nutritious food is essential for the "mind, body and soul."

A typical day for Sergeant Warren includes getting up early, showering and eating breakfast―usually oatmeal and a banana or whole wheat toast and eggs. Then she heads to her job at 'America's AOC,' where she's in charge of security and directs the installation of computer and other equipment.

Three days a week she gathers with fellow Airmen for organized physical training - better know to Airmen as PT sessions, and the other two days she takes advantage of the AOC's fitness center to work out on her own. "My unit stresses physical fitness, and my personal motivation is that I want to feel and perform the best that I can," she said of her rigorous exercise routine.

Although she is single, doesn't have children and can usually find sufficient time after work for active pursuits, she thinks all Airmen, regardless of their situation, can and should carve out time for a sound fitness routine. She believes it should be done not only for individual health and well-being, but also to meet the current and new Air Force PT standards that go into effect in July 2010.

"If you are already fit, you won't have a problem with the new standards," she said.

But her first love - softball - is the main part of her fitness routine that keeps life especially interesting and fun.

A longtime center-left outfielder, she points out that while she has improved her batting and fielding abilities over the years, she doesn't see herself as the best player on any given team. "I'm not the best player, but I do try to be a smart player," she said. "I don't make the big power plays; I just look for holes to place the ball and get on base. The others bring me in."

Looking ahead, she realizes that eventually she will have to retire her bat for good. "How long I play will depend on my work schedule," she said. "And at some point it will be time to welcome a new round of younger players to the game."

Guardmembers must submit civilian employment information

By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau

(1/11/10) - Army and Air National Guard members are encouraged to provide their civilian employment information to the Department of Defense through a mandatory program that has been around since the early 1990s.

The Civilian Employment Information (CEI) program makes it possible for defense officials to know who can be called up for active duty without jeopardizing the civilian forces responsible for safeguarding our country, Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt, the director of the Air National Guard, wrote in a memorandum to the states last year.

Reporting by the 450,000-member National Guard has been very good in the past with more than 90 percent providing information in the last five years, said James Lamback, the chief of Employer Support for the National Guard Bureau.

But information is required to be updated every year, and reporting is currently at 50 and 60 percent for the Army and Air Guard, respectively.

The goal for the Army Guard is to reach 97 percent by Sept. 30, the end of this fiscal year, said Army Guard officials.

Guardmembers must fill in 10 specific data fields concerning their civilian employer, including employment status, employer’s name and mailing address, their job title and their total number of years in their current civilian occupation.

Technicians must also register as government employees.

As part of this program, the DoD must: give consideration to civilian workers, including emergency responders such as police officers, firefighters and medical personnel; ensure more members with critical civilian jobs and skills are not retained in the Guard longer than necessary to respond to emergencies; and inform civilian employers of their rights and responsibilities under the 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act.

The information could also be used to determine which units or unit members should be mobilized, defense officials said. Information about full-time employers would also make it possible for DoD officials to enhance employer support for the Guard and Reserve.

Employees are considered full time for CEI purposes if their employer considers them to be employed full time. Self-employed personnel are considered full time if they work for themselves for an average of at least 30 hours per week.

Guardmembers who fail or refuse to provide this information, or who knowingly provide false employment-related information, may be subject to administrative action or punishment, officials said.

Employment data can be entered on the Defense Manpower Data Center Web site.

Airman Follows Famous Uncle

By Mike Joseph
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 11, 2010 - When Airman Christopher Platte decided to join the Air Force last year, he didn't know he would be following in famous footsteps. Graduation from Basic Military Training here Dec. 11 capped a two-day whirlwind for Platte that included rare time spent with his great uncle, retired Air Force Capt. Claude Platte, an original Tuskegee Airman. BMT graduation was the first time since he was an infant that Platte had been with his famous uncle, who helped break down racial and educational barriers by becoming one of the first African American officers trained and commissioned in the newly reopened Air Force pilot training program at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in the 1940s.

The younger Platte found out about his uncle after telling his family he wanted to join the Air Force. He first spoke with his great uncle in November 2008, he said.

"I talked to my mother about [joining the Air Force] and she said, 'Oh, by the way, you have a great uncle who is a Tuskegee Airman,'" Platte recalled.

"I had no idea," he added. "I think that it's going to be a great motivation for me to take it a step higher now that I know where I come from. Even if I decide not to be a pilot, it's motivation to be the best I can be in the Air Force."

The elder Platte served 18 years in the Air Force and trained more than 400 African American airmen to fly solo and pilot specialized military aircraft. Captain Platte's brother -- Christopher Platte's grandfather -- was also a Tuskegee Airman.

Captain Platte has received many honors including an honorary doctorate in public service from Tuskegee University in 2006, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.

Retired from Bell Helicopter Textron Co. and living in North Texas, Platte and other Tuskegee Airmen travel the country telling their stories.

A modest man who stays involved in community service, the elder Platte said he wasn't out to break down barriers; he only wanted to fly.

"It was something I wanted to do," he said. "It was just like getting a toy. I didn't think about the segregation part of it. I wasn't interfered with, so I really enjoyed it."

Captain Platte's return to Lackland AFB for his great nephew's graduation was the first time he had been back since his own BMT nearly 50 years ago.

And, as Airman Platte begins his military career, he's entering as a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist. He, too, started down a different trail.

After all, how many airmen begin their career with an Eagle Scout Court of Honor the day before BMT graduation?

"It was an interesting experience. It was not a traditional court of honor," he said about the Dec. 10 ceremony.

Col. William Mott V, the 37th Training Wing commander, presided over the event and presented Platte with his Eagle Scout award.

The two days of activities were enough to make a mother proud.

"I don't think there are words to describe how proud I am," said Platte's mother, Marilyn Wright. "He really didn't have any idea the legacy he was stepping into. Since he was six, he's been saying, 'I want to fly planes; I want to be in the air!'"

"Honestly, I tried to discourage him, but it's in his heart to be an airman," she said. "Now he's fulfilling a dream."

(Mike Joseph works for 37th Training Wing public affairs.)

182 Days in Iraq

On January 29, 2010, Conversations with American Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature a conversation with Phil Kiver, US Army, about his book 182 Days in Iraq.

Program Date: January 29, 2010
Program Time: 2100 Hours Pacific
Topic: 182 Days in Iraq
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About the Guest
Phil Kiver is a native of Cheney Washington. A graduate of Eastern Washington University, with a degree in Political Science and a veteran of the Washington Army National Guard. After college he joined the Army serving overseas in Iraq, Chile, Kyrgyzstan, and Germany. While stationed at Fort Hood Texas Kiver anchored an Army news show, on KCEN NBC Waco Texas. During this time he received a master’s degree in Military History from American Military University. After serving three years on active duty he left the Army and moved to Manassas Virginia. Kiver has worked as the communications director for federal republican candidates and as a fundraiser for the RNC. He was also a credentialed journalist on Capitol Hill for USA Radio Network out of Dallas Texas In addition he has three published books about his time in Iraq, and has just completed two more from his most recent trip to Iraq where he served as deputy public affairs officer for 2nd Brigade 1st Armor Division of the US Army. He has been a featured speaker at the Library of Congress as well as the Ronald Reagan Library. Phil Kiver is the author of 182 Days in Iraq.

According to the book description of 182 Days in Iraq, “Phil Kiver s real-life, moment-to-moment journal of his assignment as an Army journalist in Iraq is honest, irreverent gripping and emotional one moment a howl the next. Kiver s journals are raw reaction, impression, and introspection. This, folks, is what it feels like to be Phil Kiver in this war in Iraq missing home, lounging at one of Saddam s pools, angry with the brass, witnessing the deaths of children and comrades, nighttime explosions too close for comfort, pasta with the Italians, toasting the fallen with the Ukrainians. It s a delirium of experience with this journalist sorting through the rubble and smoke in search of the story that will one day be history.

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

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