Monday, June 25, 2012

Wyoming Air National Guard aerial firefighting unit activated to assist in Rocky Mountain area

By Deidre Forster
Wyoming National Guard

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (6/25/12) - The Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing has been called in by the U.S. Forest Service to assist with the response to the High Park wildfire near Colorado Springs, Colo.

Two Wyoming Air Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft and crews equipped with the Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System will arrive at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they will fly missions to suppress the ongoing wildfire.

The Wyoming Air National Guard is one of four military units nationwide equipped with the MAFFS II, capable of dispersing 3,000 gallons of fire retardant per load. Select aircrews from the 153rd Airlift Wing are certified annually, by the Forest Service, to fly the aerial firefighting mission.

The Wyoming Air Guard began aerial firefighting in 1975, with the original Modular Airborne Firefighting System. The unit has fought fires throughout the U.S. and overseas, in Indonesia.

Suicide: Not Just a Military Issue

By Sarah Heynen, DCoE Strategic Communications

“He was the last person to take his own life.”

These 10 simple words were repeated by several speakers on the TAPS Suicide Survivor Panel Session at the annual DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference, and they instantly brought me back to my own experience.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. The day our eyes locked was like one of those movie scenes where the world around stops and everyone else goes into some blurred montage — except it was real life, my life. I fell in love. I found my best friend. We lived on different continents but with frequent communication formed a bond and closeness that I had never experienced.

The next time my world stopped felt like a nightmare. I can also remember it like it was yesterday. The day I felt a pain so deep it didn’t seem possible and the animalistic screams of terror that I let out in pure reaction to the news.

Erskine J. Synge died by suicide Sept. 22, 2006. He was a son, a brother, a friend, a Royal marine combat veteran. He joined the forces at 16, and was a driven and dedicated marine who fought in the early battles in Afghanistan. When we met he was a floppy-haired backpacker in Australia with a keen sense of humor, a drive for adventure and an absolutely contagious smile. We spoke on several occasions about reintegration and the difficulties he faced upon returning from Afghanistan, but it wasn’t until his death that I learned just how much he was haunted by the war. His true pain was revealed when his mother uncovered his writings and artwork he kept private, and from friends that came forth sharing recounts of things he had confided. He was the person who walked into a room and immediately made new friends. He cared deeply for how everyone else was doing and never wanted anyone to worry about him. He was the last person you would expect to take his own life.

After the grief began to settle, I became filled with anger that we could send our young men and women into war, but not support them when they returned. I dove into researching suicide prevention and mental health efforts. What I discovered was the enormous amount of resources that do exist and that there are people who care. I made it my mission to make a difference, to spread the word on the services available. My quest led me to the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury where I’ve worked for the past three years as a communications consultant. I’ve been honored to do my part to make a difference in the lives of service members, veterans and their families by sharing the many resources available to them.

Today, as I look around this year’s conference, I am filled with hope. That statement may seem odd since the rate of suicides continues to climb, but rising numbers also means a rise in attention to a critical topic, in people who care and want to get involved, and in the promotion of the many resources available.

While at the conference, I rode the elevator with a nurse with 33 years of experience who said working in suicide prevention is the most rewarding work she has ever done. She no longer wishes to retire and doesn’t stare at the clock to go home because her work today is incredibly meaningful. She also reminded me, we all have to do our part because not one or two people can solve this problem.

The Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs are incredibly large agencies and often get generalized reactions. It’s important to remember that these agencies are made up of real people with real stories. Conferences such as the annual suicide prevention conference are full of people who care — service members, veterans, military family members, suicide survivors and health care professionals — all who are dedicated to helping and treating our heroes. The system isn't perfect, but it's getting better everyday as many are working tirelessly to put an end to this tragic epidemic.

We can’t bring back those who we’ve lost to suicide or change what happened. We can try to save those who haven’t made that irreversible decision, we can help families and friends from ever experiencing the grief that comes with suicide, and we can offer the best prevention and intervention resources available.

Erskine’s life and enthusiastic spirit changed my life and his untimely death changed my life forever. There’s a piece of my heart that will never heal, and the world is missing an extraordinary man. But this isn’t about me, this is about suicide prevention. Suicide isn’t just a military issue; it affects everyone in one way or another. Take a minute to pause and remember those lost, and then honor them by finding a way to help out in your own community.

Chairman’s Corner: Civil-Military Relations and the Profession of Arms

By Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2012 – I talk about the importance of “trust” at every opportunity. Trust is the cornerstone of our profession. It binds us with those we serve-the American people and the elected officials who represent them. This trust relationship cannot be taken for granted. We must continually earn and re-earn it every day.

One way we earn this trust is by avoiding partisan activities. I wrote about this in a recent Joint Force Quarterly article. We must understand why our military as a profession embraces political neutrality as a core value. We show fidelity to the Constitution every day by embracing this foundational principle. We are not elected to serve; rather, we elect to serve.

Of course, we are all entitled to our private and personal opinions. And, I know we all take our obligations as citizens seriously. No uniformed member should ever feel constrained in their well-earned right to vote.

The uniform, however, brings its own obligations. All those who actively wear the uniform should be familiar with the regulations that guide political activity. The lines between the professional, personal—and virtual—are blurring. Now more than ever, we have to be exceptionally thoughtful about what we say and how we say it.

In my judgment, we must continue to be thoughtful about how our actions and opinions reflect on the profession beyond active service. Former and retired service members, especially Generals and Admirals, are connected to military service for life. When the title or uniform is used for partisan purposes, it can erode the trust relationship. We must all be conscious of this, or we risk adversely affecting the very profession to which we dedicated most of our adult lives.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic. To gain additional perspective, I commend to you a speech given in May 2006 by Gen. Charles G. Boyd, USAF (ret.) at Air University, available at

Airman Missing in Action from WWII Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Emil T. Wasilewski of Chicago will be buried on June 26 at Arlington National Cemetery.  On Sept. 13, 1944, Wasilewski and eight other crew members were on a B-17G Flying Fortress that crashed near Neustaedt-on-the-Werra, Germany.  Only one of the crewmen is known to have successfully parachuted out of the aircraft before it crashed.  The remaining eight crewmen were buried by German forces in a cemetery in Neustaedt. 

Following the war, U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel attempted to recover the remains of the eight men, but were only able to move the remains of one man to a U.S. military cemetery in Holland.  In 1953, with access to eastern Germany restricted by the Soviet Union, the remains of the seven remaining unaccounted-for crewmen -- including Wasilewski --were declared non-recoverable.  

In 1991, a German national who was digging a grave in the cemetery in Neustaedt discovered a metal U.S. military identification tag and notified officials.  German burial law restricted further site investigation until 2007, when the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) surveyed the area.  In 2008, the site was excavated and the team recovered human remains and military equipment.

Scientists from the JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, including dental comparisons and Y-chromosome DNA -- which matched that of Wasilewski’s nephew -- in the identification of his remains.

At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans.  Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted for from the conflict.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at or call 703-699-1420.

MCPON: Summertime, Think Safety

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Sonya Ansarov, Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Summertime means fun in the sun, vacations and a myriad of outdoor activities, and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) wants Sailors and families to think safety first.

"Benjamin Franklin said, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,' and in the case of summertime, it's worth a pound of safety," said MCPON (SS/SW) Rick D. West. "Each year the Navy loses service members to senseless and avoidable mishaps, and the summer season brings the potential for increased risk."

According to the Naval Safety Center, summer deaths spiked in 2008 then decreased in 2009 and 2010, but unfortunately increased again last year. In 2011, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 16 Sailors and 15 Marines lost their lives. One in an ATV wreck; three drowned; three during recreational activities; 11 in motor vehicles; and 13 on motorcycles.

"Losing even one Sailor or Marine is too many, especially when most of the incidents can be avoided with the proper planning and training," said West.

Training is the priority when it comes to motorcycle safety. According to Naval Safety Center, motorcycle fatalities increased from six in 2010 to 13 in 2011, which is more than a 100 percent increase. Motorcycle training and safety starts with the command having a designated motorcycle safety representative (MSR).

"Closing the training gap on motorcycle safety needs to be top priority for our leaders," said West. "Personal motor vehicle accidents are the second highest cause of fatalities in our Navy, and motorcycles are the primary casual factor with sports bikes remaining at the top of the list. MSRs play an important role in mitigating this risk by mentoring and educating our Sailors, and more importantly, ensuring they are registered and complete all required motorcycle training."

The Naval Safety Center's summer campaign "Live to Play, Play to Live," also focuses on alcohol awareness, water and boat safety, sexual assault, and suicide awareness, and summer sports activities.

"Fourth of July is just around the corner so start planning safety now," said West. "Whether you are on the highways, waterways or in the backyard, safety must come first. And if you drink, don't drive and have a plan to get home."

When traveling long distances, remember to use TRiPS, the on-line, automated risk-assessment tool that helps users recognize and avoid the hazards they face on the highway: fatigue, not buckling up, and driving too far. TRiPS is located at

"You and your families are important to the Navy," said West. "Use the tools the Navy provides and remember to think safety first."

Safety is one of the key areas of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Navy and Marine Corps.

To learn more about the Naval Safety Center's summer campaign, visit