Monday, July 25, 2011

Military Recruiting, Retention Remain Strong

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 – A bumper crop of new high school graduates who joined the military in June helped the Defense Department continue its strong recruiting and retention streak.

All four services met or exceeded their fiscal-year-to-date goals for active-duty accessions through June 30, along with five of the six reserve components, officials announced today.

Fiscal 2011 began Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

The Army signed on 49,873 new soldiers, topping its 49,000 goal by 2 percent. The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all reached their goals, with 24,550 sailors, 21,025 airmen and 18,926 Marines joining the force through June in the current fiscal year.

Solid recruiting continued through the reserve components. The Army Reserve achieved 110 percent of its goal for the first nine months of fiscal 2011, with 22,892 accessions. The Marine Corps Reserve brought on 7,753 new Marines, 107 percent of its goal. The Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard all met their goals, recruiting 6,257, 6,899 and 5,179 members, respectively.

While recruiting the most new members of the reserve components – 38,350 this fiscal year through June -- the Army National Guard fell 2 percent below its goal of 39,108.

METC's Inaugural Corpsman 'A' School Class Graduates

By Lisa Braun, Medical Education and Training Campus Public Affairs

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (NNS) -- The Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) graduated its first class of corpsmen from the Basic Medical Technician Corpsman "A" school during a ceremony aboard Fort Sam Houston, Texas, July 19.

For almost a century, Navy Hospital Corps School has been taught primarily aboard Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill.

"Today we graduate the first class of corpsmen who for the rest of their careers will look back to where it all began and will call that place San Antonio," said Capt. John Larnerd, Jr., Navy Medicine Training Center commanding officer. "METC's motto is to produce the world's finest Medics, Corpsmen and Techs, and today marks the beginning of that legacy. Our graduates today have trained in the most sophisticated training environment ever brought to bear in medical technical training."

Larnerd recognized the instructors and staff of the school, praising them for the many long hours spent preparing the students for this milestone.

"You have molded and inspired this next generation of corpsmen, and I hope you take pride in knowing that they wouldn't be here today without the leadership and sacrifice that you have made to bring them to this point."

The 134 new corpsmen completed an intense, 12-week introductory medical training program that commenced in April. Courses included CPR, basic Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), corpsman fundamentals and introduction to nursing.

Hospital Corpsman Master Chief Barry Moore, former METC command master chief, was the guest speaker for the ceremony.

"Every graduate in the audience should have ambitions to be successful in their personal life and professional career," said Moore. "Whatever your destiny, the leadership tools you received in HM 'A' School will play a pivotal role in your success."

METC stood up in 2010, as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission's decision to co-locate all enlisted medical training for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. It is the world's largest military medical training institution and it is projected to have about 8,000 students enrolled on any given day. It will administer 64 medical training programs when it becomes fully operational in September of this year.

Navy Veteran Devotes Life to Aiding Homeless Female Vets

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., July 25, 2011 – When Barbara Marshall first set eyes on her new 5,000-square foot home here that would enable her to take in more homeless female veterans than ever before, a sense of relief washed over her and the word “astounding” came to mind. The home was living proof that help finally had arrived.

That help came in the form of more than 3,000 volunteers and the ABC reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Thanks to both, the Navy veteran’s modest 1,500-square-foot home -- which serves as a shelter and information center for homeless female veterans -- received a massive overhaul last week.

Marshall received the keys to the new and improved “Steps-N-Stages Jubilee House” July 22. First Lady Michelle Obama was there to help unveil the two-story, cabin-style home, which features a large resource center, dining hall, common areas and a greenhouse.

“When I saw Mrs. Obama and the new home, all I could think of was ‘Yay,’” she said. “I know that’s not that profound, but I said it in my heart and my mind and my spirit, and then I said, ‘Astounding. Help is here -- tremendous help.’”

This help comes in the wake of years of selfless assistance to countless others. Marshall established the Jubilee House with her own funds in August to offer shelter and to pass on information and resources to homeless female veterans -- the same information she felt she could have used when she fell on some tough times of her own.

Marshall left the Navy in 2001, and, four years later entered a time of crisis, she said, with financial, health and personal issues taking their toll.

“I was facing many of the issues that women who come to my door face,” she said. Marshall reached out to the community for help and sought resources aimed at helping female veterans, but came up short.

“Some parts of it were just a bit uncertain,” she said. “I saw a need to have a place where women veterans could actually get access to the types of resources and information they need.”

Marshall eventually found her way through her own crises, and, with her own struggles in mind, turned her attention to helping others.

“It came from my own desire to see women make a successful transition,” she said. “A homeless woman has children -- brings with her homeless children. I think that our nation is not prepared for that kind of legacy. We need to leave a good, positive legacy for our women vets and for their children.”

Marshall began to visit libraries and other areas frequented by homeless women and offered her help with everything from VA claims and transportation to food and shelter.

“The top of my vehicle became my office,” she said.

Marshall took women into her own home, offering them food and shelter while caring for her own two children. She eventually saved enough money to purchase a foreclosure on Langdon Street here last summer.

“We do an assessment and see what they’re most in need of,” she said of the veterans, “what services we can assist with directly and indirectly. At all costs we stay in touch with that women veteran until her life and her children’s lives are stabilized.”
The Jubilee House has assisted female veterans from all eras and conflicts, with a recent, and disturbing, onslaught of veterans from recent wars, she noted.

“A lot of these women veterans are coming back with post-traumatic stress, with family changes and situations that are uncertain, and many are ending up homeless,” she said.

The small, 1,500-square-foot home housed up to five veterans and their families, but Marshall struggled to meet the demand as word spread of her services. The Veterans Affairs Department basically had her on their speed dial, she said, and frequently referred women to her.

As the Jubilee House’s popularity grew, Marshall found herself in a tough spot -- having to turn homeless veterans away.

Meanwhile, word of her dedication to veterans had spread. Producers from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” heard of Marshall’s work and came knocking on her door two weeks ago with some good news. She would be the recipient of a new and improved Jubilee House.

Marshall accepted the new home July 21 with several of the home’s residents at her side, including Judy Hilburn.

Hilburn was left homeless several years ago after her husband’s death and an illness that left her without a job and with massive medical and personal bills to pay. For two years, Hilburn, a six-year Army veteran, lived in her truck.

“Just when you think everything is going so great, you get sideswiped,” she said.

With no end to her troubles in sight, Hilburn resigned herself to a difficult fate -- that is, she said, until she found her miracle: the Jubilee House.

Hilburn met Marshall at a center that provides meals to the homeless, and she moved into the Jubilee House the next morning. “It’s been a miracle for me,” she said. “Barbara helped me get my VA disability approved; my first check is in my purse.

“If I’d known I was eligible for VA benefits then, I wouldn’t have gone broke paying doctor bills,” she added. “That’s what this place is all about: knowledge.”

The first lady expressed her admiration for Marshall and the work she’s doing to aid veterans during her visit here last week. “She is a strong, courageous woman,” Obama said of Marshall.

“It’s a powerful story of how veterans are continuing to serve this country even when they are no longer in uniform,” she added. “The fact that this woman has opened her home -- which she didn’t have much -- to other women who are struggling, is just a powerful statement of the courage and the strength that our veterans show.”

Marshall’s new Hollywood connection hasn’t altered the course of her local mission in aiding female veterans. But the new home will allow for a few major improvements. “I will not have to turn women veterans away, ever, as I’ve done this past week, this past month, and even at the beginning of this year,” she said.

Marshall said she won’t rest until female veteran homelessness is eradicated.

“My daughter is active-duty Army,” she said. “What’s happening to these women could happen to my daughter. We need to join forces as a community -- as agencies, the various five [service] branches, veteran service organizations, faith groups -- we need to join hands and make a difference in the lives of homeless veterans.

“I see this organization, this agency, being part of this fight all the way to the end,” she added.

The episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” featuring Marshall is scheduled to air in October.

Detroit Red Wing Soars with Blue Angels

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joseph R. Wax, Naval Recruiting District Michigan Public Affairs

DETROIT (NNS) -- The Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron (Blue Angels) provided a member of the National Hockey League's (NHL) Detroit Red Wings with the rare opportunity of a backseat ride in an F/A-18C Hornet, in Belleville, Mich., July 20.

Justin Abdelkader, Red Wings forward, was one of three individuals granted a 45-minute flight by the Blue Angels who were in town for the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show at Willow Run Airport July 23-24, during Detroit Navy Week 2011.

For Abdelkader, the ride with the Blue Angels fulfilled a dream he has had since childhood.

"Just like making the NHL, I grew up dreaming about being a jet pilot," said Abdelkader. "This is the top for me. Growing up, I was always fascinated by the Blue Angels."

Abdelkader grew up in Muskegon, Mich., and attended Michigan State University before joining the Red Wings.

"This is an unbelievable opportunity," he said. "It is an honor to get to go up there and experience it."

Abdelkader was able to see first hand the type of physical conditioning it takes to be a naval aviator.

"It was unbelievable; the (gravitational force) put on your body," said Abdelkader. "On the takeoff we shot straight up. You take the (gravitational force) right away. I was in and out a few times."

Lt. Dave Tickle, Blue Angels pilot and narrator, was the pilot for Abdelkader's flight. He said being a professional athlete certainly helped Abdelkader in the cockpit.

"He did phenomenal," said Tickle. "Of course being a top-notch athlete, he knows how to control his body."

"A lot of times, I didn't even know which way were going," said Abdelkader. "I was so focused on the breathing technique, I had no idea."

Chad Scaling, a local metro Detroit school administrator, and James Staley, an Indianapolis area school administrator, were also giving flights in the Hornet.

Afterward, Tickle presented Abdelkader, Scaling and Staley with commemoration lithographs celebrating their flight with the Blue Angels during the Centennial of Naval Aviation. Abdelkader likewise presented Tickle with a personalized Detroit Red Wings jersey.

Detroit Navy Week 2011, one of 21 Navy Weeks being held across American this year, began July 18 and ran through July 24. Sailors from USS George Washington (CVN 73), USS Michigan (SSGN 727), Naval Recruiting District Michigan, Naval Operational Support Center Detroit and the Navy Office of Community Outreach attended events throughout the city to raise local awareness about the U.S. Navy and its worldwide role as a global force for good.

Navy Weeks are designed to showcase the investment Americans have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

Mullen: Partnerships Vital to Pacific Security Strategy

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 – America’s national security strategy priorities for the Asia-Pacific region encompass both a burgeoning relationship with China and enduring security commitments to other countries there, the nation’s senior military officer said today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Foreign Press Center here that his recent visit to China and the trip his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Chen Bingde, made here in May form “a basis for ongoing dialogue and some very tangible, common challenges we can continue to work on together -- things like piracy and terrorism and disaster relief operations.”

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have agreed to advance military relations between the two countries, Mullen said, while acknowledging that “very real, very substantive issues” inhibit close cooperation and partnership between the two nations.

The Chinese object to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and U.S. reconnaissance flights in international airspace, Mullen said, while the United States objects to the use of coercion in settling disputes in the South China Sea, or any attempt to inhibit freedom of navigation and access to the global commons -- international waters and airspace -- as well as cyberspace.

Disagreement is a healthy part of any relationship, the chairman said, expressing the hope that a better relationship between the U.S. and Chinese militaries would help to improve the level of trust between the two nations.

“We have a long way to go in our relationship with China,” Mullen said, “and no recent history of strategic trust upon which to build it.”

But building a better military relationship with China cannot dominate U.S. planning and force posture decisions in the Asian-Pacific region, the admiral said, citing the U.S. relationships with South Korea and Japan as vital.

South Korea has steadfastly supported U.S. security efforts around the world, including in Afghanistan, and “our commitment to their defense and to security on the peninsula remains unwavering,” the chairman said.

Mullen added that he believes the North Korean regime will again attempt to provoke hostilities.

“Thus far, [South Korean] leaders have shown commendable restraint, but I think it would be a grave mistake for the North to perceive this restraint as a lack of resolve or, in fact, of the capability of our alliance to defend itself,” he said.

Mullen said the United States will continue to work with Japanese Self-Defense Forces to improve their operational capabilities.

“This was my first visit back to Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami last March, and I was struck by just how fast and how well the hardest-hit areas were recovering,” he said. “I was also glad to hear from Japanese leaders that U.S. military contributions to the relief effort were of the size and scale they most needed.”

Mullen said the United States-Australia alliance is another model for “interoperability, transparency, and meaningful combined full-spectrum capabilities.”

“We will make it better with more joint operations, exercises and exchanges,” he added.

U.S. strategy also includes seeking expanded military cooperation with India on nonproliferation, safeguarding the global commons and countering terrorism, the chairman said.

“And we will expand our military security cooperation and exercises with the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore and other states in the region,” he said, “working with them to address common threats to their sovereignty and security.”

The United States also encourages other nations to strengthen partnerships with their neighbors, he said.

“Relationships matter -- not just bilateral relationships, but collective ones, whether they include the United States or not,” Mullen said. Multilateral relationships improve understanding, sharpen interoperability, strengthen regional norms and encourage responsibility in addressing shared security challenges, he added.

The U.S. military will increase its emphasis on work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other multilateral forums, he said.

“We are and will remain a Pacific power,” Mullen said. “Our military is and will remain the long arm of that power. We will not shrink from old or new responsibilities. And we most certainly will not shrink from every opportunity to enhance peace and stability in this vital part of the world.”

First Lady, Dr. Biden ‘Join Forces’ With Guard, Reserve

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, took their “Joining Forces” campaign to New Hampshire yesterday, telling National Guard and reserve families to “keep doing what you’re doing,” while they work to support military families in the best ways possible.

Obama and Biden delivered messages of thanks at a Joining Forces military family cookout in Concord before going table to table asking families what their campaign could do for them.

“We have a very simple message, and that is to say thank you,” Obama said. “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for everything that you have done for our country.”

Biden, whose son is an officer in the Delaware National Guard, said she and Obama are working “to make sure every American understands the sacrifices that each of you, as family members, are making for the security of our nation.”

“You and your family -- service members around the country and the world -- inspire us with your strength and your resilience, and that applies especially to the family members of all ages who are here today,” she said.

Biden, a community college professor with a doctorate in education, announced that the two are launching the Joining Forces Community Challenge to recognize those around the country who are making a difference in the lives of military families. Groups and individuals can be nominated on the Joining Forces website.

“Every American has the ability to make a difference in the life of a military family,” she said. “That’s what our Joining Forces initiative is all about.”

Obama said she has learned from visiting military families around the country that “you all are doing phenomenal things that we want this entire country to know.”

“You are moms who are trying to build careers while taking night classes,” she said. “You’re dads who coach Little Leagues and who help out with projects in your own communities. You all are teenagers who study hard and take on extra responsibilities when Dad or Mom is serving overseas.

“All of you are perfect examples of the 9/11 generation,” she added. “You’ve gone through unprecedented deployments. You’ve helped to defend our security through a decade of war.”

National Guard and reserve members strengthen the country not just through their military service, but as teachers, as firefighters and in business as well, Obama said.

“You represent the very best of America -- a devotion to family, to community, and to country,” she said. “And I just want to tell you that Jill and I could not be more inspired by all of you.”

Obama said she and Biden also have learned from military families how difficult deployments and relocations are on them. Besides the usual challenges of moving to a new area, going to new schools and having to make new friends, she said, military families frequently struggle to keep a spouse employed, particularly with different state licensing laws, and with getting new school systems to accept all of their children’s credits.

“We’re trying to get rid of those headaches for you,” Obama said.

While there have been improvements in those areas, she said, the Joining Forces initiative’s work has just begun.

“We’re going to keep pushing on tough, complicated issues that you’ve probably been struggling with for years and years,” the first lady said. “We’re going to keep bringing more people and more businesses and more organizations into the fold.”

Flags lowered to half-staff in Wisconsin Monday for former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili

Flags at Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities across the state, along with all Department of Defense facilities, will fly at half-staff Monday (July 25) until further notice in honor of former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili. The Guard will render these honors in accordance with Department of Defense Directive 1005.6, Reference A.

In a statement by President Barack Obama released Saturday, the United States "lost a genuine soldier-statesman whose extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it."

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he strengthened ties with Europe and Asia, forged closer defense ties with Russia, and championed the Partnership for Peace with the former Soviet states. At the same time, he oversaw successful military operations in Bosnia, Haiti and elsewhere. He sought to improve the quality of life for service members and their families.

Shalikashvili died Saturday morning in Washington state following complications from a stroke suffered in August 2004.

Other government agencies, businesses and private residences with flagpoles may also honor the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili by lowering their U.S. and Wisconsin state flags to half-staff. The end date will be posted to the flag-lowering orders page on the Department of Military Affairs website.

Samuel B. Roberts Departs Kenya

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Jamieson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

MOMBASA, Kenya (NNS) -- USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) departed Kenya July 23 after a five-day port call in support of Africa Partnership Station (APS) East's Kenya Hub.

Roberts played a vital role in the hub's success, which saw the graduation of more than 85 students from seven African partner nations in courses such as Search and Rescue Planning, Small Boat Operations, Small Boat Navigation, and Meteorology and Oceanography.

Roberts' commanding officer, Cmdr. Angel Cruz, said the hub was an exciting undertaking for his ship and crew to be a part of.

"There are great things happening in East Africa," said Cruz. "When I heard Sammy B. was going to get to take part in the action, I had no doubt about how my crew would respond. These guys don't see challenges, they see opportunities, and they made the most of this one."

The visit to Kenya included visits from distinguished guests Rear Adm. Michael T. Franken, commander, Joint-Task Force, Horn of Africa, and Kenya Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Ngewa Mukala, along with three community relations projects involving more than 30 Sailors.

"Kenya is a beautiful country," said Cruz. "We want to thank the Kenyan people for allowing us to visit and share their culture and hospitality."

While the ship is underway in the Indian Ocean, embarked "Shipriders" from Eastern African nations will get some hands-on experience that can't be obtained through classwork alone.

"We are going to get these guys up on the bridge doing the kind of work it takes to run a ship," said Cruz. "When they leave Sammy B. they will have a far better understanding of the level they need to be able to perform at."

Embarked "shiprider" from the Tanzania navy Capt. A.M. Kihuma, said living and working with U.S. Sailors allows partner nations to better understand the types of systems and operations they need to operate in deep ocean sailing, or the "blue-water" navy.

"Our U.S. Partners are giving us this opportunity to come and learn how to take full control of our own areas," said Kihupa. "We also get the added benefit of getting to know each other's cultures. The more fully we understand each other, the better we are able to work together and the more we are able to achieve."

APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.

Clinton Invites North Korean Official to U.S. For Talks

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 – Two weeks after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called for strong multilateral deterrence against a continuing North Korean threat, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced yesterday that the United States has invited a top North Korean diplomat to New York for talks aimed at restarting the stalled Six-Party Talks.

“Following the first round of denuclearization talks between the nuclear negotiators of the Republic of Korea and North Korea, the United States has invited North Korean Vice Minister Kim Kae-gwan to New York later this week,” Clinton said.

Kim will meet with an interagency team of U.S. officials for discussions on the next steps necessary to resume denuclearization negotiations through the talks.

“This will be an exploratory meeting to determine if North Korea is prepared to affirm its obligations under international and Six-Party Talk commitments, as well as take concrete and irreversible steps toward denuclearization,” she said.

Clinton emphasized that the United States does “not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table” or “give them anything new for actions they have already agreed to take.”

The United States has “no appetite for pursuing protracted negotiations [with North Korea] that will lead us right back to where we have already been,” she added.

Clinton delivered her statement after what she termed “a very productive” trilateral meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, speaking to reporters during a mid-July visit to the South Korean capital of Seoul, stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation in deterring North Korean provocations against its southern neighbor and prodding it to return to the Six-Party Talks.

The United States and its South Korean counterparts are working with a “sense of urgency” on plans to deter more provocations such as the sinking of the South Korean navy ship Cheonan in March 2010 and the artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island in November, Mullen said.

“The threat remains real,” Mullen said during the July 14 roundtable. “North Korea shows no sign of relenting in pursuit of its nuclear capabilities, and I am not convinced that they will not provoke again. The only thing that is predictable about North Korea is their unpredictability.”

Mullen, underscoring the strength of the South Korean-U.S. alliance, warned that future attacks won’t be tolerated and that North Korea should expect “a very strong response” should one occur.

The chairman called for strong, multilateral cooperation to deter North Korean aggression.

“I believe a measured, multilateral approach is needed, not just now, but … for a long time into the future,” he said. “We all stand to gain from a stable peninsula.”

Family Matters Blog: Explaining War to Our Children

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 – Guest blogger Stephanie Himel-Nelson is a social media consultant and the communications director for Blue Star Families.

By Stephanie Himel-Nelson
July 25, 2011

Explaining war to kids is always hard, but when you’re part of a military family, the task is even more difficult because it’s so personal. When my sons were little, their father was in the Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer with the Seabees, the Navy’s construction division. The boys understood what the military was in a very hazy “It must involve a ship, Daddy going away, and a large yellow bee” kind of way. But because their father wasn’t directly in harm’s way, I was able to gloss over hard questions about war and just concentrate on the fun parts of having a dad in the military from a toddler’s perspective — serving the country and wearing really cool hats.

When my brother, a soldier in the Ohio National Guard, went off to Kuwait three years ago, that explanation no longer seemed sufficient. While Uncle Bryan wasn’t hunting Taliban in Afghanistan, our family still worried about him and his safety. To keep the boys connected to their uncle, we checked his unit’s Web page with photos posted for family and friends, looking for that familiar face. On one night, my son asked to see a photo of an “Army truck” and I found him a few Humvee photos. On the back of each vehicle was a large placard with two stop signs and a message in Arabic and English. It read “DANGER STAY BACK.” My 3-year-old wanted to know why they had signs on the trucks. I tried the standard, “Well, cars and people could get hurt by that big Army truck if they get too close.” He wasn’t buying it, pointing out that tractors are bigger. So I said, perhaps rashly, “Sometimes bad people try to get too close to the trucks and blow them up.”

I’ll never forget the look on his face. The idea that someone might want to hurt his uncle was incomprehensible to him. I believe it was the first moment he realized that bad things don’t just happen in nightmares. The moment was a first for me, too, as I realized that my military family would walk a fine line between explaining what Daddy and Uncle Bryan do and letting my children be children for as long as possible.

In our military community, my children and their classmates understand more than most kindergartners should about the mechanics of war. My sons, now 5 and 6 years old, can identify military aircraft flying overhead, they can tell you what an RPG or an IED is, and they know that Seals aren’t just found lying on the rocks in the sun. But war isn’t just a cool game for the playground; it’s horrible and dirty and fraught with shades of gray. That’s where it gets hard.

When my boys were 2 and 3, they didn’t ask a lot of follow-up questions about war, death and dying. I could distract them by reassuring them that everyone would be fine and safe. Distracting them was always an easy fallback: “Look, there’s a pretty butterfly!” But it keeps getting harder. My husband is retired now, but last year some good friends of my boys welcomed their dad home from a yearlong deployment to Iraq and the boys suddenly became aware of all of their schoolmates with parents in Iraq or Afghanistan. That’s when they started talking about the wars. The boys didn’t ask me direct questions, but I knew that I needed to answer them when they did.

My husband and I tried to shelter the boys from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, until pretty recently. I simply didn’t think that they could handle hearing about that sort of evil. I can’t even talk about 9/11 without crying, so how could I explain why we’re fighting a war in Afghanistan to my little guys? After all, a dislike of broccoli or that kid who spits his milk at lunch doesn’t exactly prepare a boy for concepts like jihad, does it? But last year, while we were watching a documentary about presidential photographers, those familiar scenes from the twin towers flashed onto the screen. My kids watched in horror and turned to me for an explanation. They didn’t ask questions, they just looked at me, expecting Mommy to have the answers. I stopped the video, and I tried to explain about Osama bin Laden and the men who flew planes into the towers on purpose. To hurt people. And how we went to war to make sure it didn’t happen again. I’m sure it didn’t help that I cried through my entire explanation, but the kids seemed to think the whole thing was a lot less complicated than I did. My youngest son, who was 4 at the time, was shaken, but I thought he summed it up well by calling the terrorists “bad people.”

It seems awfully simplistic to explain away two wars with “bad people,” but so far it’s worked for us. I don’t even know how to explain Iraq to my boys, so I’ve punted on that one so far. Still, I try not to dodge my kids’ direct questions. I know that simply changing the subject will leave a lot of unanswered questions in their minds. So when my youngest spent three straight weeks asking me if there were bad people in the United States, or in our town, or in his school, or in the grocery store, I kept patiently explaining that there are bad people everywhere but that most people are good. And, of course, that the “bad people” won’t hurt them. I know, however, that the boys still worry for their friends with deployed parents and they worry about their uncle.

You see, Uncle Bryan is going to Afghanistan soon, and the kids know that it will be dangerous. When I talked about it with my boys recently, my 5-year-old asked, “Will Uncle Bryan die?” I said no, but I felt uncomfortable telling them that nothing bad would happen. I can’t make those guarantees. Instead, I explained that, yes, many service members have died in Afghanistan, but that Uncle Bryan is well trained and very careful, and that this isn’t his first deployment to a war zone. My youngest keeps asking questions about whether Uncle Bryan will be hurt or killed, but I know that he’s not really looking for answers; he just wants more reassurance from me that his uncle will be OK. I don’t let the boys see my fears.

I’m encouraging them to ask me, their dad and their uncle any questions they have. I’ve urged them to ask Uncle Bryan all about his job fixing tanks and other vehicles in the hope that the kids will focus more on my brother’s mission than on the danger. And we talk about how wonderful it is that so many Americans, including their Grandpa, Daddy and uncle, have volunteered to serve our country in the military. We talk about how sometimes it can be scary, but also how serving in our armed forces is something to be proud of.

Right now, war seems pretty black and white to my kids, but I know that it won’t last. It won’t be long before they ask questions about Iraq, or civilians who are hurt or killed, or the children in Iraq and Afghanistan. Right now, my 5-year-old is convinced that “Uncle Bryan can dodge the bullets,” but I don’t know what I’ll say when he realizes that not everyone dodges every bullet and that sometimes people we love die. For now, I just hug my boys tightly and hope for wisdom and peace.

(Note: This blog originally appeared in the New York Times blog: “At War: Notes From the Front Lines.” Used by permission of the author.)

Soldier Finishes 4th in Modern Pentathlon at World Games

By Tim Hipps
U.S. Army Installation Management Command

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 24, 2011 – U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Spc. Dennis Bowsher finished fourth in the men’s modern pentathlon July 22 at the 5th CISM Military World Games here.

Korea’s Jinhee Kim won the gold medal with 5,776 points, followed by silver medalist Auro Franceschini (5,776) of Italy and bronze medalist Emanuel Zapata (5,752) of Argentina.

Bowsher barely missed a podium spot with 5,740 modern pentathlon points in the five-sports-in-one-day event that features fencing, swimming, horse show jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running.

“Knowing this field, we figured top 10 would be a good day and a great day would be top three, so I just missed it,” said Bowsher, 28, of Fort Carson, Colo. “It was kind of like the upper end of performance.”

Air Force Maj. Eli Bremer, a 2008 Olympian in Beijing, finished 13th for Team USA with 5,592 modern pentathlon points.

Bowsher started strong in epee one-touch fencing and quickly recovered from a slump midway through the session to finish with 19 victories and 14 defeats for seventh place and 888 modern pentathlon points.

“Dennis had what I call the holy reign of terror in epee,” Bremer said. “He killed everybody the first half. Then we had a couple strips in the second half where he didn’t do so hot, but overall it was one of the best fences I’ve ever seen him have. He’s got the technique, so it’s good to see him energetic in fencing at his capacity.

“Maybe this will help him step up at nationals and world championships in the next two months. He’s got everything it takes to not only make the finals at the world championships but be a top-10 athlete there if he puts it all together.”

In swimming, Bowsher was fifth-fastest in the 200-meter freestyle with a season’s best time of 2 minutes, 5.01 seconds. He tallied 1,300 points and left the pool in fourth place overall.

“I felt really good in the water,” Bowsher said. “I was only .4 or .5 off my personal best.”

Bowsher rode Impacto magnificently but knocked down three rails and finished 17th in the show jumping event, leaving him clinging to fourth place going into the final event – a 3,000-meter run combined with pistol shooting.

“He was a little crazy in the warm-up ring, but he kind of slowed down a little bit in the actual competition, which is good,” Bowsher said in reference to his horse. “He was a good horse, a good jumper.”

Bowsher was eighth-fastest in the combined event with a time of 10:44.74 and maintained fourth place overall.

“I had a couple misses on each shooting series, so that’s something to clean up in the future, but it was still a good race,” Bowsher said. “I’m happy.

Army Lt. Col. Jim Gregory, a former WCAP modern pentathlete who served as President of the CISM Sports Committee President in Rio de Janeiro, was impressed by Bowsher’s performance.

“Dennis had a great fence this morning,” said Gregory, 40, a two-time Olympic alternate who now serves as a press officer at the Pentagon. “He really came out strong. I knew he was a strong swimmer and would move up on the swim. Then he had a very challenging horse. He really had to use his legs to make him jump and he did a great job.”

Bremer struggled with his shooting on the second lap of the combined event.

“If you’re off by a little bit, it will kill you,” said Bremer, 33, of Robbins Air Force Base, Ga. “I was just off, and it took me like 12 shots to knock down the five targets – just took too long.

“I don’t think with a good shoot I would have been in the medal round today, but it probably cost me five or six spots – just that one shoot.”

All in all, Bremer said he felt good about his performance, as did Gregory, who assisted the Team USA modern pentathletes in Brazil.

“I couldn’t be happier with their day,” Gregory said. “Both of them really excelled this year and it’s been a big improvement over last year. They’re both positioned to potentially make the Olympic team and that’s really what it’s all about in the World Class Athlete Program.”

U.S. Women's Sailing Team Takes Bronze

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 23, 2011 – The U.S. women's sailing team took home the bronze medal yesterday here at the 5th International Military Sports Council's World Games.

This is the third medal that U.S. teams have garnered in the competitions, all earned by female teams.

The team, made up of Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps service members, has only sailed together for a total of 11 days, including the competition. The group met during their training week in Annapolis, Md., before flying here for the July 16-24 competitions.

"We sailed an awesome regatta. The girls came together really well during the practice week," said Coast Guard Lt. Krysia Pohl, skipper of the five-woman team. "We just got better every day. We stayed confident. We never got down when we made mistakes."

The team's medal will be one of only a handful the United States expects to earn at these competitions, which often times pits U.S. troops coming from duty stations around the world against athletes from other countries who are already Olympic medalists.

Pohl said she was proud to compete at this level against some of the world's top sailing athletes.

"I think it's really important that we continue to support athletes in the military to attend events like this because it does more for unity among the countries," she said.

In addition, she made friends with other U.S. troops she would have otherwise never met.

"The friendships that I made on the boat with the U.S. team, these are friendships that I'm going to have forever," she said. "I've known these girls two weeks and they are my friends for life."

The United States was represented by a four-man team and a five-woman team. There were 26 teams from around the world in the fleet race event. Twelve races were held off the waters of the Brazilian Naval Academy who played host for the event.

The races were also part of the 45th annual world sailing event, sponsored by the International Military Sports Council.

Navy Capt. Eric Irwin, the U.S. sailing team captain, said both teams did an "outstanding job."

"They learn more about the sport of sailing. But most importantly they meet sailors from around the world in the military, so it's a great opportunity to establish long-term ties and relationships," Irwin said.

Both teams boasted a mix of Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, officer and enlisted. After only a week of training, they begin competition here on waters in which none of them have sailed.

The men's team finished in eighth place, but improved consistently throughout the regatta, it's skipper said.

"We were able to come here and improve throughout the regatta and by the end we were the best team out there today," Navy Lt. Cdr. Rodman Burley said.

"From meeting each other, to getting up to speed, to racing at a world championship against Olympic-caliber professional athletes was a pretty amazing accomplishment," Burley said. "If it started today I think that we probably would have had a very good chance of being on the podium.

Burley said he has competed in the military world games in Italy in 2003, and this is the fourth time representing the United States at the sailing world championships. He has gold and bronze medals to his credit.

"This is an amazing, live-changing experience," he said. "To be able to put on the Unites States of America uniform and to stand here amongst other athletes from other countries makes me very proud to be an American and to be chosen to represent America in this prestigious event."

The United States has 141 troops from all of the services competing here. Officials here don't break the athletes down by service, but the Army and Navy make up the largest contingent of the group. Of the athletes 79 are men and 62 are women.

The games offer more than 20 venues, including the popular track and field, boxing, swimming, volleyball and basketball. It also features equestrian events, parachuting and orienteering. For the United States, the largest participation is in volleyball with 23 athletes competing, followed by track and field and soccer with 18 each. Fifteen U.S. troops are competing in swimming, 12 in basketball, 11 in the triathlon, nine each in parachuting and sailing, eight each in beach volleyball, taekwondo and judo, and two in the modern pentathlon.

As of yesterday, women's teams have earned gold and silver medals in parachuting's formation skydiving and team accuracy respectively.

Coast Guard coordinating search for missing airplane

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center personnel are coordinating a search for a missing aircraft that did not arrive to Juneau International Airport Sunday.

Sector Juneau Command Center received a notice at 6:43 a.m. Sunday from Flight Service Station Juneau that an Anchorage-based brown, white and yellow Cessna 182 traveling from Hoonah did not make a scheduled check-in with the airport.  The airplane with an unknown number of people aboard last made contact with airport control when they were 10 miles away from landing.

Sector Juneau directed the launch of a crew aboard a 25-foot Response Boat from Station Juneau and a Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew to search for the missing plane.  The Jayhawk crew was able to locate an electronic transmitting location beacon signal coming from the mountainside near Eagle Crest Ski Resort on Douglas Island, but was unable to see the missing aircraft and was forced to land due to adverse weather in the area.

Sector Juneau command center personnel are coordinating a ground response search effort in conjunction with the Alaska State Troopers, Juneau Mountain Rescue and the Sea Dogs K-9 rescue team.  The Jayhawk helicopter crew will remain in Juneau on standby to assist the search and rescue efforts if weather allows.

Weather in the area is reported as low clouds with limited visibility and winds of more than 20 mph.

For more information contact Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley at 907-321-4510.