Military News

Monday, November 07, 2011

DIA Observance Honors Vietnam Veterans

See the best Vietnam veteran books and learn their true stories of heroism and sacrifice.

By Christine Wolfe
DIA Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2011 – The Defense Intelligence Agency last week marked its 50th birthday – and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of U.S. military action in Vietnam – with a tribute to U.S. Sen. John McCain and all Vietnam War veterans.

"Your service and sacrifices for our nation during Vietnam and beyond are inspirational," said DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess during the Nov. 4 observance after asking Vietnam War veterans to stand and be recognized. The event was aired live as a video teleconference viewed by current and former DIA employees around the world. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. and former DIA directors Patrick Hughes and James Williams also attended the observance in DIA’s Tighe Auditorium on Joint Base Bolling-Anacostia.

Burgess presented McCain with the DIA Director’s Award and the DIA Operational Intelligence report from Oct. 27, 1967, which cited his Navy A-4E aircraft as downed by surface-to-air missiles southwest of Hanoi.

Burgess also brought attention to the final days of the evacuation of Saigon, in April 4, 1975, when a C-5 transport plane carrying the first flight of Vietnamese orphans out of the country during “Operation Babylift” crashed in a rice paddy.

"This agency saw selfless sacrifice,” he said, noting that the casualties included five DIA employees charged with caring for the children on that flight.  The crash was the single largest loss of agency personnel until 9/11.

McCain addressed the overflow crowd and thanked the agency and its veterans for the role they played in the fight and close of the Vietnam War.

McCain thanked Burgess for the job he is doing leading DIA and the agency's workforce worldwide. "I only wish that more of Americans could see for themselves the full extent of the remarkable job that that you do every single day for them," he said.

McCain recalled that it was just over 50 years ago that the ink was barely dry on then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's order to establish DIA before the organization found itself on the front lines in Vietnam. Later, as President John F. Kennedy began the gradual escalation of Americans involved in that war, DIA set the standard of service to take it through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Six Day War, Operation Desert Storm, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"This is the same standard of service that all of you continue to live up to today,” McCain said. "This is a special year for DIA as you mark your 50th anniversary. Of all the agencies of our government, DIA can truly say that it was born fighting."

McCain told those in the audience that regardless of the uniform they wear or the work accomplished as a DIA employee, their service is always worth it.

“There's no higher honor than to serve a just cause greater than your own self interests,” he said. “And for those of you who walked away from a confusing, painful and emotional experience of your time in the Vietnam War, you nevertheless chose to remain faithful to the cause of our nation and all who serve it. I commend you."

Photo Contest, Exhibit to Showcase Overseas Duty

You can get more perspectives and experiences of overseas military duty from the best military books written by real veterans.

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2011 – A contest of photographs depicting the daily life of military deployments and overseas assignments, as captured through the camera lenses of military members, veterans and diplomats, will kick off on Veterans Day.

The contest to select the 1,000 winning photos for an exhibit, Serving Abroad … Through Their Eyes, will launch Nov. 11, and continue through Presidents Day, Feb. 20, Defense Department officials said.

Winning entries will be showcased at the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum, U.S. embassies around the world, the Pentagon and other prominent, international venues in 2012, officials said.

"We're looking for the most-compelling photos that show the friendships, places, faces, losses and triumphs [of deployment]," said Army Lt. Col. Luke Knittig of DOD public affairs, who is helping to coordinate the Defense and State Department project.

Photos taken overseas since 2000 by active-duty troops, veterans and Foreign Service members should represent daily life during a deployment, in a combat zone or from a humanitarian relief mission, he said.

The goal, Knittig said, is to show everyday events through the eyes of those who serve as ambassadors representing the United States around the world. The images will be part of an audio and video montage.

Contest photos must meet the exhibit's theme of friendships, places, faces, losses and triumphs of an overseas mission, and entries will be judged by a panel of up to seven people, Knittig said.

The selecting judges will be "prominent Americans, famous and famously skilled," according to a joint department press release. Confirmed judges include retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Pulitzer prize-winning combat photographer Joao Silva, who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan last year after a land mine exploded underneath him.

The 1,000 winning photos will be announced on Armed Forces Day, May 19.

The secretaries of Defense and State will invite the top 10 best of show winners to Washington as honorees for the exhibit's VIP opening next November, officials said.

The contest and exhibit are part of the State Department's upcoming Art in Embassies' 50th anniversary commemoration. That program, formalized by President John F. Kennedy’s administration, is one of the premier public-private partnership arts organizations in continuous operation in 180 countries worldwide, according to State Department officials.

The Art in the Embassies program plays an important role in U.S. public diplomacy through a culturally expansive mission that creates temporary exhibits and permanent collections, artist and cultural exchange programming, and publications, they said.

Contest rules, photo specifications and submission forms are posted on the "Serving Abroad … Through Their Eyes” website at www.ourmilitary.mil/their-eyes/serving-abroad-through-their-eyes/.

Face of Defense: Daughter Continues Family Tradition

See the best United States Army books written by real Army veterans!

By Kari Hawkins
Redstone Arsenal Public Affairs

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala., Nov. 7, 2011 – As a little girl, Lakisha Scott said she didn't want to be like her mom or dad when she grew up. But destiny has a way of changing things.

Today, Army Pvt. Scott is very much like both her parents, wearing a soldier’s uniform.

"I wanted her to join day one," said Scott's father, Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Turner, of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

"She comes from a military background and I always believed that after high school and college she was going into the military," he said.

Scott’s mother, Barbara, also served in the Army. Both parents thought the Army could offer their daughter career and personal development opportunities she couldn't get anywhere else.

"The military is really good for young people," Turner said. "It gives you a good start, a good job. It trains you with a skill. It gives you a place to live and pretty much takes care of you. It prepares you for a career and for life, and it prepares you if you do decide to get out after a few years. I think every young person should give the military two years. It can really make a difference for them."

But for Scott, that vision was not so clear. There were a lot of stops and starts along the way to Scott putting on the uniform. She had some difficult memories of growing up in the military, such as being left with other family members when her parents were both deployed. Even when her mother was home, her father often was not there. A three-time Bronze Star recipient, he deployed multiple times in 33 years of service, mostly with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

"I held that against my parents, especially when my mother deployed,” she said. “I was against the military because of those memories. But when I saw the bigger picture, I could see what the military could do for my family."

As a teenager, Scott toyed with the idea of joining the Army, and imagined herself as a soldier.

"I wanted to join in 11th grade when we lived at Fort Leonard Wood [Mo.]," Scott recalled. "On Bring Your Child to Work day, I visited a basic training unit there and the drill sergeant started teasing me about 'We're going to get you.' So, I was scared and I said 'Nope, I'm not doing it.'"

In 12th grade, while living on Fort Bragg, Scott started thinking again about military service and took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. The possibility of being deployed to Iraq scared her off a second time. She went on to college for a while, had a child and entered cosmetology school.

"I started talking about joining again. But I didn't want to leave my son at such a young age," she said. "When he turned 3, I really got serious about it, but my parents didn't believe I would do it. Then, I went to a recruiting station."

Scott’s father had given up trying to convince his daughter about the positives of a military career long before she finally visited a recruiting station.

"I told her I just didn't want to hear about it anymore," he said. "I was really proud of her, though, when she went to the recruiting station. She was getting kickback, but she still kept trying."

Some issues with scheduling the entry test at the recruiting station made it more difficult for Scott to finally take the plunge into military service.

"I kept crying to my mom about it, and she just said 'Oh, just go ahead and do it,'" Scott said.

"Around Thanksgiving last year, they offered me military occupational specialties as a military police or truck driver when I wanted dental specialist, human resources or supply,” she said. “When they offered me a 42 Alpha -- human resources specialist -- that's when it became serious."

Though in good physical shape, Scott was also worried about passing the Army physical fitness test.

"I had a push-up scare. I just couldn't do it and I was freaking out about it," she said. "But Wii Fit (the Nintendo physical fitness game) helped me get some muscles and I was knocking out those push-ups. I got up to 27 push-ups in one minute. That's when I was good."

Though she finally decided a soldier's life was her path, it wasn't an easy decision to live up to. She got a stress fracture in her knee during the first week of training, and struggled with homesickness.

"It was hard, but my mom helped me," she said. "She told me before I left that boot camp was a mind game, and that they would break you down and build you back up. So, I knew what I went through was nothing personal.

"My mom tried to give me advice about what she and Dad did, and about what I should do in the Army,” she continued. “But I want to make my own mistakes. I want to do it my way."

There were letters home that gave Scott's father a glimpse of what today's boot camp is all about.

"It's not the same. I look at me as a private and I see her as a private, and it's not the same. Of course, I didn't have a dad who was a command sergeant major," he said.

"Basic training has changed. The Army has changed. The soldier has changed,” he added. “But the final results -- the impact basic training had on me, and on her -- that's pretty much the same. Army training still makes soldiers understand they can go above and beyond what they think they can do. The Army still teaches discipline, respect and all the Army values."

Some of the changes Turner has seen through his daughter's experience are in response to the type of person who is now entering military service.

"The soldier that comes in today is a lot smarter walking in the door. They know so much more because of the Internet and all the different ways to communicate," he said. "When I went to basic training, it was a total shock. Now, young people can visit the Future Soldiers website and see what they are getting into. "

"There were 45 in my unit when we started and 15 when we graduated," Scott said. "In the first letter I wrote home, I said I was in the worst camp ever. But I learned to appreciate my time in that unit, and what my drill sergeant taught me about myself and about being part of a team."

Scott again injured her knee while running just before Mother's Day. On that Sunday, her drill sergeant told her the military police were coming to talk to her.

Scott was worried, afraid she’d done something to jeopardize her father’s career. Instead, she found he was just coming to visit her. "I felt I hadn't seen him for 30 years,” she said. “I jumped up and hugged him. My knee wasn't hurting anymore. But I was crying."

Turner admits to taking some advantage of his rank to see his daughter. But the very brief visit made all the difference for Scott.

"It just convinced me that this is where I need to be," she said.

Turner took the few minutes they had together to give his daughter some fatherly advice.

"I told her 'I know what you are going through. You're going to make it. You're going to be OK. You're doing good.' I think that really helped her," he said.

Besides having a command sergeant major for a father, Scott, at 25, was older than most recruits.

"At advanced individual training, some people called me Mama Scott because they thought I was old,” she said. “But at basic there were 35-year-old females, and they could still hustle just as hard as anyone else.”

Along with her son, Scott also left her husband behind during her training. The family is now united at Redstone, where Scott is assigned to the 308th, Bravo Company, Military Intelligence Battalion. Scott's husband works as a contractor.

After her five-year commitment, Scott is not sure whether she will rejoin. It's too early to tell if she'll try to top her father's 33 years of service. For now, she is using every opportunity the Army has to learn and better herself.

"My main focus will be to get back in school and get my degree in business marketing," she said.

So far in her young career, Scott has not leaned on her father to help her along the way. Likewise, her father has kept their relationship quiet in Army circles.

"He didn't tell my recruiter who he was until it was all done and I was signed up, and then as we were leaving the recruiting station he gave the recruiter a coin," Scott said.

Even though their secret is just now getting out, Scott felt her family’s support from the moment she joined.

"They supported me the whole way. My mom was excited. She was happy. My dad was just glad I had made a decision," Scott said. "In boot camp, I wrote them tons of letters and they wrote back."

It seems some things never change.

Soldiers Missing from Vietnam War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of three servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Army Capt. Arnold E. Holm Jr. of Waterford, Conn.; Spc. Robin R. Yeakley of South Bend, Ind.; and Pfc. Wayne Bibbs of Chicago, will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew, on Nov. 9, in Arlington National Cemetery.  On June 11, 1972, Holm was the pilot of an OH-6A Cayuse helicopter flying a reconnaissance mission in Thua Thien-Hue Province, South Vietnam.  Also on board were his observer, Yeakley, and his door gunner, Bibbs.  The aircraft made a second pass over a ridge, where enemy bunkers had been sighted, exploded and crashed, exploding again upon impact.  Crews of other U.S. aircraft, involved in the mission, reported receiving enemy ground fire as they overflew the crash site looking for survivors.

Between 1993 and 2008, joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), interviewed witnesses, investigated, surveyed and excavated possible crash sites several times.  They recovered human remains, OH-6A helicopter wreckage and crew-related equipment—including two identification tags bearing Yeakley’s name.

Scientists from the JPAC used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence to identify the crew.

Today more than 1,600 American remain un-accounted for from the Vietnam War.  More than 900 servicemen have been accounted for from that conflict, and returned to their families for burial with military honors since 1973.  The U.S. government continues to work closely with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover all Americans lost in the Vietnam War.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.