Military News

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part

With addition of William Peterson's book, Military-Writers.com now lists 1246 US Military Servicemembers and the 3955 books they have authored.

William “Bill” Peterson was raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where he learned how to hunt, and was taught by his father to make every shot count. Little did he know at the time, that this training would be extremely useful within just a few short years..


His father, Gene, was a B-17 pilot and spoke often of his hitch in the US Air Corp during WWII. He instilled on his family a great sense of patriotism. At the age of 18, Bill not only enlisted and signed up to be a Huey helicopter crew chief, but when asked in Basic Training for his first and second choice of assignment, he said “Vietnam”. The sergeant asking the question was very surprised, but said that would be guaranteed. After watching helicopters in action on the nightly news, he wanted a part of it.

After 36 Air medals, (2 with Valor), 3 Purple Hearts, and numerous other awards, he got more than he had hoped for. Bill is a member of The National Purple Heart Hall of Fame. William Peterson is also the author of Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part.

According to the book description of Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part, it “is the story of his unit in Vietnam; C/227th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry. His unit was responsible for supporting our U.S. Army, Special Forces, ARVN, Korean ROK troops, Australian and other Allied troops. Charlie company flew a potpourri of missions including, but not limited to: Combat assault and recovery, support for troops in every way including ammo, food, water convoy protection , medevac missions, and aerial surveillance of battlegrounds, before, during and after the fight. BDA (Bomb damage assessment) consisting of surveying what was left after B52 strikes, and counting enemy bodies. The majority of these true, and all too often horrific incidents took place between An Khe, the Central Highlands, Camp Evans in I Corp, the Ashau Valley and Laos.

The goal of this story is to reach out to families and loved ones who never understood why their “warrior” has been so quiet about Vietnam. Hopefully, this will help you to have a better firsthand view of those men and women, and what they went through. The author also hopes this will bring healing to those who served in combat, and help them realize that their memories are not faulty. These things did happen, and they can and should be proud to have served so honorably and bravely.”

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

U.S. Army Col. Bruce Antonia, commander of Regional Command East’s Task Force Patriot drawn from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and Eva Shinagel, senior civilian representive for Task Force Strike, will brief the media live from Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar Province, Afghanistan, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to provide an update on current operations.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

This Day in Naval History - April 26

From the Navy News Service

1921 - U.S. Naval Detachment left Yugoslavia after administering area around Spalato for two years to guarantee transfer of area from Austria to new country.
1952 - USS Hobson (DMS 26) sinks after colliding with USS Wasp (CV 18); 176 lives lost.

NAS Key West Celebrates Community By Volunteering

From Naval Air Station Key West Public Affairs

KEY WEST, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., personnel volunteered more than 300 hours in five events in honor of Navy Volunteer Week, April 10 - 16.

Commander, Navy Region Southeast (CNRSE), Rear Adm. Tim Alexander declared Navy Volunteer Week throughout the southeast region in honor of National Volunteer Week. The proclamation encouraged commands to partner with the Navy Community Service Program (NCSP) and serve their communities.

"Through volunteer work, Americans can demonstrate the kindness and generosity that make our nation great," said Alexander, who affirmed the Navy's commitment to building a culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility. "Mentoring a child, teaching someone to read, visiting the elderly, feeding the hungry, and building shelter for families are all examples of how Americans can and do aid those in need."

Key West volunteer projects included a blood drive for the Community Blood Centers of Florida, serving meals at St. Mary's Soup Kitchen, distributing flyers for Monroe County Health Department Mosquito Control and grounds-keeping and maintenance at Wesley House and Sigsbee Charter School.

"I'm proud of the Sailors and civilians here who are active in volunteer efforts throughout the year...not just during Navy and National Volunteer Week," said NAS Key West Commanding Officer Capt. Patrick Lefere during his weekly radio address. "I think these efforts help remind Sailors and civilians here that NAS Key West is part of the Key West and Monroe County community and vice versa."

The Navy's Community Service Program exists to help build stronger communities and develop mission-ready personnel through outreach activities. It offers commands the opportunity to make a major, positive, long-term impact on the development of America's youth and the quality of life for residents and personnel that live in the area.

Volunteer activities fall under one of five community service flagship projects: personal excellence partnerships which encompass mentorship relationships, youth health and fitness programs, a youth drug education campaign, an environmental conservation program, and project good neighbor, which provides aid and restores hope for homeless, hungry, homebound, ailing and elderly community members.

"This is just the beginning; CNRSE will sponsor Navy Volunteer Week each year in conjunction with National Volunteer Week to reaffirm our commitment to community service and assisting our local communities" said Dianne Parker, Navy Region Southeast community service program coordinator. "In fact, we are the first region to sponsor this type of event and have raised some awareness for volunteer week. The Navy Community Service Council is interested in making this a Navy-wide observance in the future."

Yellow Ribbon Program can help tie up unresolved issues

By Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs– April 26, 2011

It’s all a blur now — and from what I can remember, it was a blur back then. It’s early 2005, there’s snow on the ground and I am anxiously waiting for my commander and first sergeant to give us the “dismissed” for which I had been waiting the past 14 months.

“Report to Joint Force Headquarters next week at such-and-such time,” I remember someone saying. Meanwhile, all I can think about is driving a real car with my two best friends next to me and going out for some much-needed drinks. “You’ll get your last briefings and sign a copy of your DD 214,” they said. Ugh, more briefings. Great — that’s the last thing I want to do after spending a year in the desert and what I thought was more than enough demob time at Fort McCoy in the middle of winter.  “Whatever,” I said to myself.

I proceeded to go out that evening and get completely annihilated. Nothing to worry about — I was home. I was a combat veteran. Nothing could hurt me now. And who would want to screw with me? Then a balloon popped in the bar. I hit the floor and instantly I was back there. I could smell the dirt and heat — I could taste it.
My girlfriend pulled me up and saw the sheer horror across my face. She asked if I was okay. I realized I was holding my chest as if I was having a heart attack. I told her I was fine, but no one had better pop another balloon in my presence again. Was this the first sign I needed help?

After a week of hard drinking and getting irrationally angry for no apparent reason, I dusted my DCU’s (Desert Combat Uniform) off and strolled into JFHQ. Saw my pals that I hadn’t seen in a week and talked about how stupid it was that we had to be back in uniform already. The six of us sat in a small briefing room and daydreamed about the alcohol we would consume after the “briefing”  — meanwhile, someone was talking about what we “needed” to complete the de-mob process. I remember being handed a business card at the end of the four PAINFUL hours and hearing, “If you need anything, call this number.” At this point in time, I don’t even remember who or what the business card was for. It wasn’t like I thought I needed it anyway.

I stayed with my mom for a couple of months before moving back to Milwaukee to finish my degree. Mom would enter my room in the morning and gently touch my shoulder to let me know she was leaving for the day. Her touch would jolt me awake in panic, “fight” written across my forehead. I was startled every time she woke me from my sleep.  She started leaving me little notes to say good morning instead. Those notes were followed with suggestions on what she would like me to do around the house during the day, since I had all this free time …Yeah, that went over really well. I would toss her a dirty look at the suggestion I even empty the dishwasher. Rather than pitch in for room and board, I had the mindset that I was home, and shouldn’t Mom be thankful for that? How dare she? I’m a combat veteran who just got back from war — I don’t do dishes. Maybe my second and third sign, but it would all probably just fade away eventually, right?

I moved to Milwaukee in April 2005 and started my junior year of college that fall. I drank every day during the summer, to the point where I was just asking for whiskey. No soda, just whiskey. I don’t know how many times blacked out. I once sobbed in the middle of a bar on the shoulder of a woman I barely knew. I met and tried to connect with a lot of people that were no good for me. I didn’t like to talk to anyone but the people I deployed with. I had gory and terrifying nightmares. I still have nightmares. All I wanted to do was sleep, eat and drink. My mom started telling me I was different, more reserved. My civilian friends didn’t understand what happened to me. I didn’t understand what happened to me.

The panic attacks had been happening for a while — I just didn’t know what they were. I think they began when my relationship with my fiancĂ© ended while we were stationed in different places over there. The elephant standing on my chest, the blood pulsing through my veins so fast I thought they would burst, the knot in my throat, the anger hiding in a dark corner of my soul and popping out at the most random times — that was my version of a panic attack and somewhat similar to a clinical diagnosis of one, as I later found out.


Maybe this wasn’t normal. Was I supposed to be feeling like this? Surely I am the only one that feels this way. Should I care that my actions are completely self-destructive? Are they self-destructive, or am I just getting something out of my system? Does anyone else care or even notice what I’m going through? Was this the new “me?”

I didn’t know the answers, but I wanted to find out. So I decided to get an objective opinion on the matter and take it from there.  There was no way I was going to the VA Hospital. That was for veterans — you know, the kind that went to Vietnam or served in World War II. I wouldn’t have anything in common with them, and I bet they didn’t know how to receive me.

That business card I had gotten months earlier was for the Vet Center — a readjustment counseling center for veterans. It was small, free and it wasn’t the VA. So, I went. Turns out, I did need help.

I spent the next two years between isolation and sorting out my thoughts and behaviors with a readjustment counselor. Turns out that panic attacks, heavy drinking, survivor guilt, angry outbursts and my other self-destructive behavior was common among combat veterans. Who knew?

I knew the possibility of getting deployed again was imminent. I toyed with the idea of getting out of the service to spare myself, my family and the people I was deployed with any more emotional trauma than I felt I had already put them through. But I re-upped during one of my “I-want-to-go-back” phases and felt like I could maybe teach the younger Soldiers some things. If only I had known how to deal with myself at that point in time, maybe I would have waited until I was emotionally stable to make such a huge commitment. But I stayed because it was the only place I felt like me.

Three years later almost to the day (Valentine’s Day — go figure), I deployed again. This time it was where I didn’t need to worry about being shot at or blown up, but it was still mentally and emotionally challenging — for me and for my family.

I sat in the courtroom where Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of 9/11, was going through military commissions. How surreal it was to see the man that started it all. And he admitted it in court. I heard it — I saw the words come out of his mouth. Of course, at that time there was an effort to determine if he was mentally competent. What a mind-trip. My life as a combat veteran was coming full circle.

When I returned from that year-long deployment, I heard those words again, “Be here this day and time for reintegration.” Re-inte..what? WHY? Ugh. Not again!!  You would think I would appreciate this part of the cycle by now, but nope!

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wear our uniform because once again I was done with it. I got my nose pierced. I walked into the reintegration like a civilian and didn’t care what anyone thought. To my surprise, “reintegration” was now much more than the first time around. I got to bring my mom, my biggest cheerleader. I wasn’t married at the time and you can bring your family and/or friends. We stayed at a hotel in the Wisconsin Dells. Mom and I got some quality time together. And the briefings were not half bad. It was a full day of different speakers from all the places you come to realize you need something from at some point or another after you come home. There were also activities and my friends with kids got a little adult time, because they provided child care. A far stretch from my first “reintegration.”

Initially, I didn’t want to be there. But then I realized — if I had known about these services my first time around, I might not have needed as much repair work in the years following that first deployment.

At times I heard “If this information doesn’t apply to you, then maybe it will to your buddy.” Well, I’m here to tell you that I am your buddy. I needed that information a long time ago and didn’t get it. Now I am so thankful for the Badger Yellow Ribbon Program. I got to see my friends from my deployment and learn how I could bounce back in a faster, healthier way than the last time. It was a nice weekend away from home with my mom, and I was getting paid for it. There were people there that wanted to help me if I needed it — and if I didn’t, at least I knew who to call. Those people also told me that it was okay to ask for help (unlike my first experience in which I pretty much got yelled at by my command for filing a claim for PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

As a leader, I have been able to help my Soldiers and other service members find the resources they needed, because of what I experienced. Now, that ability continues as I am now a Yellow Ribbon support specialist with the Wisconsin National Guard Badger Yellow Ribbon Program. You will see me from time to time at your events — don’t be afraid to say hello.

And if you ever find yourself asking some of the same questions I did, call me or anyone on Wisconsin’s Service Member Support Division staff at 1-800-292-9464 (option 3).. I’ll be your buddy.

How has reintegration helped you or helped you help others?

Fleet Week Port Everglades Kicks Off

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sunday Williams, Fleet Week Port Everglades Public Affairs

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (NNS) -- The Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011 official ship greeting and an all hands on deck party took place at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., April 25.

The festivities were the first community events for the more than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in the Fort Lauderdale for the week-long event.

Hosted by Broward Navy Days, local Navy leagues, city and county officials, and sponsored by Humana Military Healthcare Services, the ship greeting reception included food and a traditional plaque exchange between Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10 and participating South Florida organizations.

"It is an honor to be here, and we thank the community for having us," said Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski, commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. "Shipmates, have a great week and tell everyone you meet, who you are and what you do."

More than 1,000 service members from the 11 visiting commands and more than 50 South Florida community members attended the all hands on deck welcoming party where city and country officials including Fort Lauderdale Mayor John "Jack" Seiler and Vice Mayor of Dania Beach Anne Castro, honored the Enlisted Persons of the Year from each participating ship. Following the brief ceremony, a traditional ship roll call took place.

Community official and Chairwoman of Broward Navy Days Mary Anne Gray said the community could not be happier to have the U.S. sea services in Fort Lauderdale for fleet week again.

"We look forward to this event every year because we want to honor our servicemen and women," said Gray. "We get to meet great people who serve selflessly everyday to keep this country safe, and we want them to have a great time and show them the appreciation they deserve."

Phil Madow, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino president, also thanked service members before providing a free buffet dinner. Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Michael Holloway said this gesture was indicative of the hospitality he felt from South Florida community members since arriving only a few hours earlier.

"I have never been to a fleet week before, so this is a really cool experience for me and to be able to come to south Florida makes it that much better," said Holloway, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va. "The people here are so welcoming to us already, so I know this is going to be a fun and exciting week."

More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011. The week-long celebration of the sea services honors the men and women of the military through public events and recognition, and also provides the sea services an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of surface platforms, equipment and the skills of the men and women serving aboard these vessels.

For more information on Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, visit the Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs Center's Navy NewsStand page at https://navcms.news.navy.mil/local/nrse/.

Media outlets interested in covering Fleet Week events should contact Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Blyth at 202-270-8136.

Semifinalists Selected for Employer Support Awards

From an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve News Release

ARLINGTON, Va., April 26, 2011 – Defense Department officials announced today that 148 employers have been selected as semifinalists for the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

The Freedom Award is DOD’s highest recognition given to employers for exceptional support of their employees serving in the National Guard and Reserves.

Nominations for the Freedom Award rose 64 percent over last year, officials said, and the semifinalists emerged from a pool of 4,049 employers nominated by the Guard and Reserve members they employ or their employees’ families.

Employers chosen as semifinalists support their Guard and Reserve employees through a variety of formal and informal initiatives, including providing the difference between military and civilian salary during deployments, continuation of full benefits, sending care packages and supporting the families of employees fulfilling military obligations, officials said.

“Our nation’s ability to rely on the Guard and Reserve through nearly 10 years of war and during historic natural disasters is made possible by the tremendous support of employers,” said James G. Rebholz, national chair for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a DOD committee that works with employers, reservists, military leadership and volunteer committees to build and maintain a base of support for the role of the National Guard and Reserve.

“The employers selected as semifinalists have distinguished themselves by going above and beyond what the law requires,” Rebholz added, “and I want to thank them for their critical support on behalf of our service members and our nation.”

A national review board will narrow the 148 semifinalists to 30 finalists for the Freedom Award. Then, a national selection board composed of senior defense officials, business leaders and prior awardees will select the 15 recipients for the 2011 Freedom Award. Officials are expected to announce the finalists in May and the award recipients in early summer.

The 2011 recipients will be honored Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C.

National Guard Responds to Domestic Disasters

From a National Guard Bureau News Release

ARLINGTON, Va., April 26, 2011 – About 900 National Guard members are responding today to floods, fires, tornadoes, and other emergency situations in six states.

Guard members are responding or staging personnel in response to weather reports that forecast more rain in already flooded areas of North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, as well as tornadoes in Arkansas and ongoing wildfires in Texas. Operations in Minnesota are wrapping up.

In North Dakota, more than 350 Guard members are patrolling levees to monitor possible breaches, manning traffic control points and serving as quick-reaction forces, providing more than 18,000 sandbags to reinforce levees, according to North Dakota National Guard reports.

In Missouri, more than 200 service members from the 1140th Engineer Battalion are being activated to assist with a levee breach in Poplar Bluff and surrounding areas in the southern portion of the state. The engineers will assist with sandbag and evacuation operations, Missouri National Guard officials said.

Support also is ongoing in Indiana, where the Indiana Guard recently received a request from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for sandbagging support due to flooding in Gibson, Knox, and Daviess counties. More than 220 Indiana National Guard members are on duty there.

In Arkansas, where several tornadoes touched down, more than 100 Army and Air Guard members are providing route clearance, security and traffic control duties. Eighty-five of them are in Vilonia, a town just north of Little Rock, while 20 others are assisting in the community of Hot Springs, with more planned for Garland, Faulkner and Carroll counties, said Army Capt. Christopher Heathscott, Arkansas Guard public affairs officer.

Elsewhere, wildfires in Texas have burned more than 1.6 million acres and 244 homes. Aircraft from North Carolina, California, and Wyoming equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system are responding, as well as four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with firefighting equipment.

Sea Services Give Blood for South Florida during Fleet Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles White, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (NNS) -- Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen participating in Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011 are partnering with the Community Blood Centers of South Florida (CBCSF) to meet needs in Broward, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach county hospitals, April 26-29.

Dawn Bossaller, CBCSF director of donor recruitment, said donations by the service members will help maintain necessary quantities for emergent care situations in the area and will boost supply to acceptable levels well into June.

"We have two primary level-one trauma centers right here in [South Florida], so the need for blood is tremendous," she said.

According to CNCSF, during a past Fleet Week Port Everglades, visiting sea services donated nearly 300 pints of blood – a quantity which would ordinarily take 25 blood drives to collect.

"It is easier for us to convert a military member into a donor because they get it," Bossaller said. "They know what it means to serve. We very much appreciate the support of the military."

Seaman Jonathan Imbert of USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), chose to donate blood during Fleet Week because, as he said, "I just like helping other people."

After being told about the common use of blood platelets, plasma, and red blood cells to treat childhood illnesses, Imbert decided to undergo the more lengthy procedure of donating all three. "I'm actually a father now," he said. "So I understand how [a childhood illness] could affect a family."

The mobile site on Port Everglades pier does not require an appointment for service members wishing to donate. Those who are in good health and have not given blood within the last 56 days are asked to stop by one of the two Blood Mobiles near Terminal 21 to complete a short medical screening.

Community Blood Centers of Florida is a non-profit, all-voluntary blood collection agency, annually collecting more than 250,000 pints of blood and blood products for hospital and kidney dialysis patients in southeast and central Florida. According to CBCSF, 60 percent of Americans are eligible to give blood, but only five percent actually do.

More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011. The week-long celebration of the sea services honors the men and women of the military through public events and recognition, and also provides the sea services an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of surface platforms, equipment and the skills of the men and women serving aboard these vessels.

For more information on Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, visit the Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs Center's Navy NewsStand page at https://navcms.news.navy.mil/local/nrse/.

Media outlets interested in covering Fleet Week events should contact Lt. Cmdr. Jonathon Blyth at 202-270-8136.

'NMCSD Online' Secure Messaging Enrolls 10,000 Patients

By Sonja L. Hanson, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) received its 10,000th enrollee in its 'NMCSD Online' program, April 15.

NMCSD Online is a secure messaging service for beneficiaries enrolled in Medical Home Port.

The medical center implemented Medical Home Port (MHP) in 2010, which introduced a new model of patient and family-centered care for all enrolled beneficiaries. MHP is designed to meet the complete primary care health and wellness needs of NMCSD's patients. All NMCSD beneficiaries are assigned to a Medical Home Port team, consisting of a provider, nurses, medical support staff, medical assistants, hospital corpsmen, nurse educators, and others, fostering a team-based, comprehensive approach to healthcare.

"There are multiple benefits to the Medical Home Port model," said Cmdr. (Dr.) Joe Aquilina, NMCSD Medical Home Port Champion. "The collaborative healthcare team allows us to provide more integrated and personalized healthcare care to our patients. Our goal is to increase familiarity with your provider and your entire team, and empower patients to live healthier and happier lives.

"The NMCSD Online technology is a really great tool for convenient patient-provider communication through secure messaging. It's as easy as most people's home e-mail account but is secure and safe. We hope this really helps us build a familiar bond with our patients and makes us more accessible for routine healthcare needs," said Aquilina.

Primary care, including family physicians, internists, and most recently pediatricians, has already transitioned to the MHP model.

MHP empowers patients to take a proactive role as a member of their health and wellness, preventive medicine, or chronic disease management team.

"I used NMCSD Online and was able to communicate directly with my primary care physician regarding test results," said Kimberly Harris, NMCSD beneficiary and command ombudsman. "It was extremely convenient. I keep a very busy schedule juggling work, school, kids, and volunteer activities. NMCSD Online saved me a trip to the hospital."

Both Medical Home Port and NMCSD Online improves patient care through clinical integration and improves overall productivity. Medical Home Port provides each beneficiary with a team of medical experts they can easily access to address their medical needs, with the hope of improved health for the NMCSD patient population through preventive identification, diagnosis, and treatment before advancing to tertiary care state. Coupled with NMCSD Online, NMCSD hopes to foster healthier patients through virtual access, which allows patients and providers to quickly communicate in order to provide proactive intervention, health promotion and disease management.

More than 94,000 NMCSD beneficiaries have already enrolled in MHP.

NMCSD was one of eight initial sites selected to participate in the MHP pilot program. Navy Medicine's goal is to implement the MHP model throughout Navy Medicine by 2012.

HURREX/Citadel Gale 2011 Takes Place Aboard Guantanamo

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Leona Mynes, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, commenced its annual Hurricane Exercise (HURREX)/Citadel Gale 2011, setting Condition of Readiness (COR) 3, April 25.

The HURREX/Citadel Gale '11 is a Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) and Fleet Forces Command (FFC) exercise held annually to help commands prepare for the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) usually comes out with a prediction for the number of storms within a hurricane season based on last year's information," said Kevin Robarge, Guantanamo Bay's installation training officer. "For us, we usually see about a dozen storms in our area."

Emergency and essential personnel from NS Guantanamo Bay's operations, security, fire, administrative and public affairs departments, the U.S. Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay, Cuba's emergency medical technicians and emergency room staff, Joint Task Force Guantanamo personnel, and the Defense Media Activity Detachment Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, participated in the exercise.

"Each department, command and resident plays an important role in preparing for hurricanes and ensuring we have the greatest chance to mitigate loss of life, equipment, and to maintain our mission capabilities," said Robarge. "From securing personal items around the house, to training to save lives, every person plays a part."

The exercise allows CNIC and FFC to establish command control and communication procedures and learn ways to increase readiness, said Robarge.

"In the event of a major incident like the one in Japan, saving lives and restoring quality of life to the people requires [command control and communication] coordination in order to best utilize all resources and personnel," said Robarge. "Without this coordination, resources are not always optimized and priorities can conflict – an inefficiency that adversely impacts everyone involved."

Guantanamo is isolated from many local resources because of the lack of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, said Robarge. Command control and communication play crucial roles in preserving life and property on Guantanamo and to continuing the mission of the base in the event of a natural disaster.

"Hurricane season is coming, and I encourage everyone to review their preparation plans," said Robarge.

Evacuation Team Carries Wounded Warriors Home

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, April 26, 2011 – By many accounts, 20-year-old Army Spc. Dustin Morrison is a living miracle – and a testament to the military medical system that’s getting medical care to wounded warriors and moving them to progressively advanced levels of care faster than ever before.

Morrison, an Iowa Army National Guardsman, was severely wounded April 11 when his mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktia province.

Army Spc. Brent Maher, the vehicle gunner, was killed, and two other members of the Iowa Guard’s Company B, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, were injured in the attack.

When Morrison’s mother, Kelli Pedersen, flew to Germany after her son was flown here, the staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center laid it on the line about his prognosis. “They told me how very close we came to losing him,” she said. His lungs were so severely damaged from the blast that the staff put him into a medically induced coma.

But after fighting for his life, Morrison made a breakthrough when began breathing independently two days ago, she said. And two weeks after being wounded, he was declared stable enough to transport for long-term care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang has seen miracles like Morrison’s every day for the past seven years as director of trauma care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Battlefield casualties are getting medical treatment faster and closer to the point of injury
than ever before, he told reporters.

Thanks to advanced aeromedical evacuation procedures, he said, patients now typically arrive at Landstuhl for advanced care within three days of being wounded.

And despite what Fang acknowledged have become increasingly devastating combat injuries, he said 2010 statistics show that patients who arrive at Landstuhl have better than a 99 percent survival rate.

“That is really unprecedented,” he said. “So if you are young and you get early care and you can go through our paradigm of staged care and be rapidly evacuated here, it seems to be effective. … You have a greater than 99 percent chance of survival if you can make it to us.”

Pederson reflected on the medical care her son has received as she watched two oversized ambulances deliver her son and 40 other wounded warriors to a hulking C-17 Globemaster III aircraft on the tarmac here

“I can’t even express how well they have taken care of him,” she said of the staff. “They have been so professional, every step of the way. But beyond that, they have been very honest. They’ve been able to take down their guard and be real with us, which has been so important in helping us through this process.”

Now, as Morrison was about to move on for advanced care at Walter Reed, Pedersen surveyed the bustle as the 86th Airlift Wing’s aeromedical evacuation team finalized the aircraft to receive the patients. With Air Force Capt. Anna Cho, a flight nurse serving as medical crew director for the mission, calling the shots, the team made final checks that the litter stanchions were secure and the tubes, cables and wires were properly connected to the medical equipment.

Then, the team worked with choreographic precision as they began hoisting litters from the ambulance and carrying the patients one by one aboard the aircraft and preparing them for the nine-hour flight to Washington.

“We do everything we can to take care of their needs,” said Air Force Senior Airman Brian Fox. “The biggest challenge is staying on top of the pain curve, especially because of the vibration. We make them as comfortable as we possibly can.”

Morrison, along with two of the other most critical patients, was the last to be carried aboard the aircraft, where the aeromedical evacuation team secured his litter into stanchions just a foot from his mother’s jump seat.

Members of a highly specialized critical care air transport team went to work, ensuring he was secured as they hooked up a ventilator and medical equipment they would use to monitor his condition throughout the flight.

Each three-member critical care air transport team includes a physician, critical-care nurse and respiratory technician. They’re trained to treat patients suffering from the most severe injuries, and they’re armed with about 750 pounds of high-tech medical equipment that essentially turns an aircraft into a flying intensive-care unit.

“What we do is ensure they have the same level of care as when they were in the ICU at Landstuhl,” explained Air Force Maj. Kirk Hinkley, the critical-care physician for today’s flight. “That’s the whole purpose of a team like this: to ensure there is no step down in care” while the patient is transported.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Worsham, the team’s respiratory technician, knew he would keep particularly busy monitoring Morrison during the flight. “We’re going to keep an eye on his vitals, make sure the equipment is operating properly and that his sedation levels are right,” he said.

Worsham said he felt particularly grateful to be able to meet his patient’s mother. “That makes this special. You don’t always get to meet everyone’s parents,” he said.

As the ramp raised and the aircraft engines fired up, Worsham knew he was in for a long, demanding mission – but he said he wouldn’t trade the opportunity to care for Morrison and his fellow wounded warriors for anything in the world.

“It’s an honor to be able to do this,” he said. “I feel lucky having the pleasure of taking care of these guys who have served their country and made all these sacrifices. I have the best job in the Air Force.”

Conference to Spotlight Military Family Issues

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 – Nearly 2,000 helping professionals from around the world are gathering in Chicago this week to share the latest family-related information and research and to hear from some of the nation’s most renowned military family experts.

The 2011 Family Resilience Conference, which kicks off tomorrow, will offer participants access to more than 200 workshops, computer labs and roundtables on everything from psychological health and well-being to education and spouse employment.

The Defense and Agriculture departments are hosting this family-focused conference together for the first time. Officials hope the joint effort will build on a working relationship that spans 25 years and encompasses numerous partnerships, said Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy, children and youth.

This joint effort “really synergizes our efforts for all families and helps our non-DOD partners understand the issues facing military families,” Thompson said.

The goal, she said, is to take the big-picture partnership between the DOD and USDA and “filter it down to the front lines of family support services.”

“It’s so important for DOD family support personnel to reach out to their communities and know what their communities offer and know how to tap into the wealth of resources,” she said.

About half of the attendees are from the Agriculture Department, and the other half are members of the military helping professional community, Thompson said. The conference brings together experts from the Agriculture Department’s Children, Youth and Families at Risk program, the Cooperative Extension Service and DOD’s community and family support program.

Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for outreach and educational practices at Sesame Workshop, will be the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. Also at the opening, officials will sign a proclamation formalizing the partnership between the Defense and Agriculture departments to better families’ lives, Thompson said. Other conference highlights include town hall meetings with senior enlisted advisors and their wives and with the service chaplains, she added.

Several initiatives also will be unveiled over the course of the week, Thompson said, citing the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness as an example. The clearinghouse, she explained, will serve as a repository of information, research and studies, as well as an avenue to assess the effectiveness of programs.

While the week will be packed with sessions, Thompson said, she hopes the caregivers attending will benefit from the brief respite from their daily tasks.

“This is a way for them to re-energize, find new resources to make their jobs easier and new colleagues they can draw on,” she said. “We hope they come back renewed and re-energized to continue their best.”

People who are unable to attend can follow the conference online. The keynote addresses and the town hall session with senior enlisted leaders will be streamed live at http://www.cyfernet.org/partnership2011, and people are invited to follow the conference or submit questions via Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/FRConf.

Interested people also can catch conference highlights throughout the week on Defense.gov and on American Forces Press Service’s Family Matters Blog.

Network Would Link Defense Functions, People

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2011 – To optimize U.S. cybersecurity using a new information-sharing enterprise network in a reduced-budget era, a top Defense Department official gave industry leaders a challenge: “We need your innovation.”

Robert J. Carey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for information management integration and technology and the Pentagon’s chief information officer, outlined the department’s “enterprise strategy and roadmap” for members of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronic Association here April 22.

Carey said the plan would bring all branches of the military together on the same information-sharing network system.

“It’s not about consolidation as much as it is about raising security, while keeping enterprise in view,” he said. “Improving cybersecurity is what this is about.”

Making sure firewalls get trusted information and driving costs down while raising the security bar form the nexus of the effort, Carey said.

“When a service member is downrange, he doesn’t care where the information comes from –- only that it’s at hand and he can do something with it,” Carey said. “Enterprise is actionable, timely, relevant, trusted information.”

And while it seems simple to provide, he said, the existence of many networks makes it difficult.

Defense budget cuts have become the catalyst for change, Carey told the industry leaders, and finding efficiencies to run the department has become essential.

“If we keep doing what we’ve done [with past funding], we’re not going to get there,” he said.

The enterprise network, however, would cost little, because the system’s architecture would result from a “bottom-up” approach, Carey said, with DOD making new uses out of existing network equipment from all military branches.

“It’s really hard to defend [the department’s] 15,000-ish networks and 10,000 applications and systems,” he acknowledged. But even with a substantial amount of details yet to be ironed out –- including network optimization, data center consolidation, data tagging and others -- Carey said some efficiency initiatives already are paying off after six to eight months of work, such as in tracking identity on classified networks.

“It’s actually starting to happen,” he said.

Email is another challenge. “There are a lot of email systems out there,” he told the group. “We’ve got to buy what we have better, and use what we have better.”

Carey said all branches of the military bought email systems and set them up command by command, ship by ship, with no tightly knit communications system. But now, he added, enterprise system purchases for hardware and software will be viewed with a critical eye.

“We need to look at: ‘Is it applicable at the enterprise level? If it is, how can I buy it better than I’m buying it now? How can I use my money more wisely for the taxpayer?’” Carey said.

The challenges of the new enterprise system will be many, Carey said, but he added that he believes it is a proven system that is both cost-effective and essential for improved cybersecurity.

“We are starting this pump with the water we already have,” he said, noting the drop in funding for the enterprise network system. “And the defense leadership recognizes that factor.”

Launching the system will take more time with less funding, Carey said, “but we’re still going forward, because this can be done on its own gravity.”

Sexual assault happens here and it happens to us: Two Wisconsin National Guard victims speak out

By Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs– April 25, 2011

Capt. Kristin Boustany
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Coordinator

“I was in the Air National Guard for 10 years,” shared a former member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. “After Sept. 11, 2001 I was activated. Almost immediately the sexual harassment began, eventually leading to my element leader sexually assaulting me….

“I felt the sexual assault would ruin my career, and I also believed that no one would believe me. I chose not to say anything, or get any type of help that I desperately needed at the time. I began getting anxiety attacks and developed depression, and I began isolating myself as much as possible. I was afraid I would be put on profile if I revealed my anxiety and depression issues, and I thought that being on profile would jeopardize my job by costing my security clearance and keeping me from carrying a weapon.

“No matter how afraid I was at the time, I wish I had gotten help when I first knew I needed it. After I got out of the military, I received the help I needed and am so thankful that I did — getting help eventually saved my life. Had I known then what I know now, I would have done things differently. Please don’t let fear stop you from getting the help you need.”

Each day, people witness a continuum of behaviors that range from being respectful and safe, to sexually abusive and violent.  April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I, and the leaders of the Wisconsin National Guard, hope to raise awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual harassment and assault.

“I was raped in August of 2009,” shared a Wisconsin Guard Soldier. “In a different state and away from everyone and everything I knew. I had lost my phone the night before, and I had no contact with anyone I knew.

“I was overwhelmed by questions: What will happen to me if I tell? Am I just over-reacting? What if nobody believes me? What will I tell my husband — will he believe me? The feeling of complete loss of control was overwhelming at this point.

“Looking back now, I think driving the five miles to my class and telling my instructor what happened the night before was the best thing I could have done. I was given the number for the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and contacted her when I got home. I went through medical examinations, was given the Plan B drug the morning of the rape, and along the way I found a therapist. It took a year and a few therapy sessions, but I feel I’m better now.

“I have kept my secret to myself for the most part, telling only those people I felt needed to know. I also did not press charges — I knew it would be his word against mine, and I wasn’t willing to go through all that again. That was my choice, but you also have a choice. Don’t be afraid of people not believing you.

 “My supervisor knew what had happened and let me take as much time as I needed for appointments and just for overall healing. I didn’t believe it when I first heard that you need recovery time after a rape just like you do after a car accident. I thought I was tougher than that, but I was wrong. There were days when I had absolutely no concentration and couldn’t sit at my desk for more than a minute or two. This happens to some people after a trauma —it’s normal, and it does ease up.

“I am now a unit victim advocate, and the biggest take-away I can offer is to seek help right away. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and the program is designed with the victim in mind. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone or anything else.”

Have you been affected by sexual assault?
Help is available — don’t be afraid to ask.  Visit SafeHelpLine.org.