Saturday, January 28, 2012

Family Matters Blog: Taking Care of Pets While Deployed

By Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Although the wars are drawing down, the deployment schedules for our men and women in uniform aren’t easing up. Troops continue to meet multiple operational needs, such as theater security exercises with partner nations, Navy ship cruises and other training requirements.

Many military pet parents struggle with what to do with their forever friend when serving our nation away from home. It can be tough to stay focused on the mission at hand if family affairs aren’t in order.

Enter our partners in the nonprofit sector. For the past several years, many organizations have stepped up to the plate, providing foster pet services to our deploying troops.

“Military members have a hundred things to worry about when deployment or training comes up. The last thing they should have to worry about is the care of their pets while they’re away,” said Alisa Johnson, a Marine Corps officer and president of Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit organization matching service members needing a foster pet family with volunteers who have agreed to take in their animals.

Alisa and her husband, Shawn, a Navy officer, observed the challenges military families face when it comes to pet care, which led to the creation of this service.

“We’re especially concerned with those military members that may live on one coast, while all their family lives on another, limiting those that they can rely on in their times of need,” Alisa said.

Since they launched the organization in June, more than 140 families have volunteered to be “boarders” and 20 dogs have been placed in temporary foster care.

Along with national organizations helping troops -- including Dogs on Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet -- many local animal shelters are answering the call of duty and creating programs in their communities to help deployed service members with pet care.

The Hawaiian Humane Society’s Pets of Patriots program provides pet care assistance to military personnel deploying on short notice due to war. Families living on Oahu can sign up to be foster parents, while military pet owners provide food and medical care while away from their duty station. The society assists with the written agreements, provides sample forms and helps find suitable volunteers.

Additionally, the San Diego County Humane Society offered a low-cost seminar in December for military families to provide information on pet resources for relocation and deployment.

If you need a home for your pet while deployed, check with your local animal shelter to see if they might have a military pet outreach program, contact a national foster military pet organization or see if your command has a spouse communication network to seek temporary pet parents. The military in our own community can act as our second family, helping to provide resources for our furry friends.

(Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly, of U.S. Pacific Command, is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, which provides pet resources for military families. She’s offered to share her pet-related knowledge in a series of blogs for Family Matters.)

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Holds Annual Suicide Awareness Training

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Richard Doolin, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) held its annual suicide awareness training, Jan. 22-23.

NAVCENT leadership, chaplains and medical personnel shared firsthand accounts, showed videos, conducted role playing, and held a 3-kilometer run/walk to educate military personnel and civilians of the signs and steps to assist a friend, family member, or shipmate contemplating suicide.

Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, began the training by sharing personal accounts of how suicide can impact individuals.

"It [suicide] creates a whole lot of different kinds of emotions," said Fox. "Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem. I don't care what your problem is, suicide is not the answer."

Fox emphasized the importance of shipmates helping shipmates.

"I've flown probably more than 100 sorties in combat, and every single time I've launched and gone across the beach, I've always had a wingman. We need wingmen; we need to look at each other with the attitude that each person that is here is more than just another Sailor, somebody that's passing in the crowd, that each one of you is irreplaceable, each one of you is valuable."

Lt. Laurie Steurer, a social worker assigned to the Mental Health Department of Naval Branch Health Clinic, Bahrain, talked about resiliency, and gave tips on physical and mental fitness. She advised Sailors against worrying about what you can't control; rather to exercise, have a positive outlook, have a sense of humor, be religious or spiritual, see the good in a situation, ask for help, enjoy life, get enough sleep and eat well.

Lt. Clayton Jones, a Navy chaplain assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 50, talked about stress, and how to deal with demands of the military lifestyle.

"So you deploy, well so does everybody else. So you move, so does everybody else. And so we grow indifferent to the amount of stress, and how it impacts people. Why, because we're all doing it. But we need not to do that. We need to realize that our [military] lifestyle's extremely stressful, and there are going to be times when we need help," said Jones. "If you notice someone is not doing well, you should take the initiative and talk to him or her."

Jones talked about the need to take personal accountability.

"If there's too much weight on your shoulders, get some help," said Jones. "It really is no big deal anymore. There's not that stigma attached to it."

Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Stall-Ryan, NAVCENT Fleet/Force Deputy Chaplain, spoke about the Navy's suicide program, ACT, which stands for ask, care and treat. He emphasized the need to be involved in other people's lives and the need to ask that big question: 'Are you thinking of hurting yourself?'

"We need to have the courage to ask that tough question. And that's not just for the people we like, but also for the people we don't like," said Stall-Ryan.

"The training was pretty good," said Yeoman 1st Class (SW/AW) Andre McClain. "You need to know what your Sailors are doing. You need to get into their lives; you need to ask what's going on. I'm a true believer in that."

The training impressed Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Paulina Castro.

"It was good training," said Castro. "I liked that there was a lot of heart-felt stories and relatable material. That was, I think, the biggest takeaway. It was different from every other suicide training I've been to."

Wisconsin National Guard member to compete in upcoming CBS hit series 'The Amazing Race'

Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

For some fans of CBS's "The Amazing Race," deciding which couple to cheer for may be a little easier when the 20th season of the hit series premieres Sunday, Feb. 19 - especially for Wisconsin citizens and patriotic viewers across the country.

Madison native Maj. Dave Brown, Jr., an officer in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and his wife, Rachel, will be one of 11 couples competing against each other in a trek around the world for the ultimate prize of supreme bragging rights and one million dollars.

"Both Rachel and I have been avid fans of the show for quite some time," Dave said.

The reality show, which has garnered eight Emmy Awards, will pit the teams against many physical and mental challenges over the course of about 25 days.

Although viewers will have to "stay tuned" to see how the couple fairs in the show, Dave does credit his 16 years of service in the Wisconsin Army National Guard - including a recent year-long deployment to Iraq - for his preparation and execution throughout the challenge.

"I truly feel my involvement in the military best prepared me for a competition such as 'The Amazing Race,'" he said, "whether it be attention to detail, leadership style and abilities, or who I am as a person."

When asked how the Race equates to military training, Dave associated the two in three ways.

"It's as physically demanding as air assault school, as mentally draining and as academically involved as flight school, and as sleep depriving as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school," he said.

The major enlisted into the Arizona National Guard in 1996 as an artillery forward observer while attending Arizona State University. He graduated in three years with a bachelors in Political Science. He then transferred to the Wisconsin Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2000 and earned an officer commission in 2002. Dave has also served as a military intelligence officer, a Black Hawk pilot with the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, and an executive officer for Recruiting and Retention Command. He is currently assigned to the ROTC detachment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an assistant professor of military science.

During his allotted two-week rest and relaxation leave from his deployment to Iraq, Dave visited with his wife in Sydney, Australia. Rachel took that opportunity to pitch the idea of applying for the show. They agreed, filled out the applications and she mailed them in as soon as she returned to their home in Madison.

Maj. Dave Brown, Jr., and his wife, Rachel, are set to compete in the CBS reality series "The Amazing Race" which premieres Feb. 19.

The cast of the CBS hit series "The Amazing Race" in its 20th season - which premieres Feb. 19.

"Within a matter of a week or two, casting contacted her and requested a video," Dave said.

A fellow Soldier took a one-minute video at the end of one of Dave's flying mission in Iraq. It wasn't the fanciest audition video, but it got the job done. Rachel compiled the video with one of her own and sent it in. Dave returned from deployment in June 2011. He and Rachel had interviews with CBS and the show began filming in the fall.

The rest of the story is yet to be seen.

Growing up, Dave was an avid wrestler and participated in basketball, football, baseball and track where he gained an appreciation for competing, something he shares today - along with his wife.

"I not only strive for victory, but I expect it for myself," Dave said. "I am competitive in all aspects of my life, whether it be personally or professionally. That's one aspect that interested both Rachel and I, both being competitive and people who are in constant pursuit of a challenge."

There wasn't much time to train for the competition. Dave added some weight, in the form of a ruck sack, to his normal physical training. As a couple, Dave and Rachel watched and discussed episodes and specific challenges like they'd done periodically on Sundays since they met.

"While viewing previous seasons we talked through specific challenges in more detail in consideration of our individual strengths and weaknesses," he said.

Whether Dave and Rachel are the first couple to arrive at the final checkpoint or not, it's sure to have been the adventure of a lifetime. And according to Dave, it also seems as if there was no lack of effort or motivation for them to compete.

"I truly felt that I was not only representing myself, my spouse and my son, but I was also cognizant of being a representative of the Wisconsin National Guard and the Army as a whole," Dave said. "The overwhelming pride of representing the men and women of the military in the best light possible ... that was definitely in the forefront of our minds."