Monday, October 04, 2010

Operation Homefront & Operation Gratitude Join Forces for Pepsi Refresh Project

Online Contest Gives Supporters Chance to Vote on Recipients of Grants up to $300,000

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – It won’t cost a dime in October to help military service members and their families.  Thanks to Operation Homefront and Operation Gratitude, patriotic Americans can give real support with the click of a mouse.  By selecting the organizations’ joint grant proposal in the Pepsi Refresh Project, online voters can help the two military support groups win up to $300,000 for holiday programs supporting the men and women serving in harm’s way and their families back home.  

The two nonprofits are competing in two separate grant categories -- $250,000 and $50,000. Winners are determined solely by the final vote count. The top two charities in the running for $250,000 will win the grand prize. The top 10 charities competing for $50,000 will win that amount.

Voting on the joint proposal is open every day through the month of October. Supporters are encouraged to vote each of three different ways daily:  

1.  On the Operation Homefront/Operation Gratitude applications in the $250,000 and $50,000 categories at

2.  Through the Pepsi Refresh Facebook application

3.  By texting 103268 for the 250K grant and 103144 for the 50K grant to PEPSI (73774).  (Standard text messaging rates apply.)

Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance to military families and wounded warriors, and  Operation Gratitude sends care packages to deployed service members.  If successful in winning a grant, the two organizations will use the funds to send holiday care packages to troops deployed in Afghanistan,  give holiday toys to military children and provide food to wounded warriors and military families throughout the holiday season.

“We know we’re on the same page when it comes to our commitment to military families, but we also know the competition for this grant money is intense,” said Jim Knotts, CEO of Operation Homefront. “We really believe that by working together and pooling our supporters, we can win this.”

“This is what social networking truly is all about,” said Carolyn Blashek, president of Operation Gratitude. “We’re both nonprofits with limited finances and boots on the ground. We have to do more with less. Through this partnership, we now have more than we could ever muster on our own.”

About Operation Homefront
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 4,500 volunteers across 23 chapters and has met more than 267,000 needs since 2002.  A four-star rated charity by watchdog Charity Navigator, nationally, $.95 of total revenue donated to Operation Homefront goes to programs.  More information is available at

About Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000-plus care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. service members deployed in hostile regions. Our mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member's face and express to our armed forces the appreciation and support of the American people. Each package contains donated product valued at $125 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 560,000 packages to American military deployed overseas.  For more information:

A moonlit search, a remarkable rescue

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young

As a family of seven cast their lines 25 miles off the coast of Charleston, S.C., for a day of fishing over Labor Day weekend, their 38-foot Fountain boat began to flood with water. They called “mayday” on their VHF radio and gave details of their location, but their call for help was distorted.

With no choice but to abandon ship, they quickly put on their life jackets and tied everyone together using the boat’s anchor line hoping that their call for help was heard.

Having only received a single “mayday” without a position, the Coast Guard searched the coast of South Carolina for four hours but without any signs of distress or further details, the tough call was made to suspend the active search. The case was reopened later that evening, when the Sector Charleston Command Center received a call with information about an overdue boat that was fishing off the coast of Charleston.

Using the caller’s details, the search recommenced with helicopters from Air Station Savannah and Air Facility Charleston as well as a C-130 search plane from Elizabeth City, N.C. and an 87-foot patrol boat, CGC Yellowfin.

On board the 6565, an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Air Facility Charleston, was the crew of LCDR Jeffrey Graham, LTJG Joe Forgeng, AET2 Benjamin Rosen and AST2 Jason Booher.

The 6565 flew through the night without finding any signs of the missing family. As hope was diminishing, a low ambient light began to show just before the sun’s rising as the crew approached the last stretch, of their last search pattern.

Aided by the ambient light, Rosen glimpsed an object with his night vision goggles. As a junior member of the aircrew, this was Rosen’s first time aboard an aircraft for a search and rescue mission, and in disbelief, he began to scan behind the aircraft. He again saw an object in the water.

The aircrew marked the position, turned around and confirmed the object was a debris field – with survivors. Booher was lowered into the water and found the entire family clinging to a cooler. Remarkably, after 20 hours in the water, all seven were alive and accounted for.

“The largest amount of people in the water I had dealt with in my training was six people at the most,” said Booher. “I looked to my left and looked to my right and there were kids. An adult was holding one of the kids so I just put them in the basket first.”

As the first hoist went up, with an adult and a child that was just five, Booher knew he was going to need assistance from other assets. He asked the adult to relay to the aircrew that all people in the water were accounted for and to divert assets to their position.

The enveloping darkness of night made the already difficult challenge of hoisting seven survivors more complicated.

 “As I was trying to hover during one of the hoists, I flipped up the night vision goggles to see what I could see, and it was pitch black,” said Graham.

One by one, as the moon retreated and the sun rose, the dehydrated and hypothermic survivors were hoisted into the helicopter, but one last challenge was presented to the aircrew – as the fifth survivor was hoisted into the 6565 the aircraft reached its hoisting weight limitation leaving two survivors in the water.

Coordinating with the crew aboard the 6604 from Air Station Savannah, the 6565 remained on scene as the last two survivors were hoisted into the 6604. Both helicopters safely landed in Charleston, where ambulances awaited and cared for the survivors.

Together the 6565 and 6604 crews flew for 15 hours, but the realities of the rescue did not hit the crews until they landed with both aircrafts on scarce fuel levels and maximum hours in flight.

The aircrews, flying through the darkness of night and with limited information, turned what some may deem the impossible into a reality.

General Officer Announcements

The chief of staff, Air Force announced today the following assignments:

Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew, vice director, strategic plans and policy, J-5, Joint Staff, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., to commander, Air Force District of Washington, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Maj. Gen. Salvatore A. Angelella, vice commander, Fifth Air Force, and deputy commander, Thirteenth Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Yokota Air Base, Japan., to vice director, Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5, Joint Staff, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Merchant, director, logistics, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., to commander, Air Armament Center and Air Force Program executive officer for weapons, Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Brig. Gen. Bruce A. Litchfield, who has been selected for the rank of brigadier general, commander, 76th Maintenance Wing, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to director, Logistics, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Today in the Department of Defense, Monday, October 04, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates hosts an honor cordon to welcome Macedonian Minister of Defense Zoran Konjanovski to the Pentagon at .  The cordon will be held on the steps of the Pentagon River Entrance.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the Pentagon River Parking Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort to the cordon.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen hosts a full honors ceremony to welcome Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, United Kingdom, to the Pentagon at EDT.  The cordon will be held at the Pentagon's River Entrance Parade Field.  Please call 703-697-4272 for escort to the cordon.