Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Outflanking the flames: Soldiers, first responders continue integrated fight against High Park fire

By Air Force Master Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral
Colorado National Guard

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (6/26/12) - Soldiers from the Colorado Army National Guard's 1157th Engineer Firefighter Company have been engaging in the attack against the High Park Fire near here, the first time the unit has been called to support a domestic emergency.

The firefighters have brought with them tactical trucks well-suited to the rugged terrain.

Unlike more familiar fire engines, their tactical firefighting trucks— officially known as heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, but affectionately called "beasts" by their crews—roll on eight heavy-duty tractor tires for off-road maneuvering, and perfectly suited to attack fires in remote areas.

“These Soldiers are considered the incident commander's secret weapon,” said Army Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback, Colorado National Guard liaison officer to the incident management team.

From safety of the truck’s cabin, crews can conduct a mobile attack with remotely controlled bumper turrets— water cannons to the average observer—to effectively beat back flames. No hose required.

Followed by water tenders that carry 2,500 gallons each, one team from the unit has used more than 36,000 gallons of suppressants in efforts to prevent flames from crossing Poudre Canyon.

But these Soldiers aren't alone on this mission. They're fully integrated with other firefighters and under tactical control of civilian fire chiefs at two different locations.

"They understand us because of what we do in the military side, and we understand them because of what they do on the civilian side," said Sgt. 1st Class John Schreiber, fire chief and first sergeant with the unit as he described operations with civilian fire crews. "Their strategies and tactics are very similar to ours and we fit in very nicely. We all understand chain of command and span of control, so it s a natural partnership."

A team from the company is helping conduct missions in the Glacier View subdivision, where firefighters were working hard to prevent fire by containing spot fires and protecting structures.

"The first and foremost mission of any firefighter, civilian or military, is saving lives and protecting property, and that's what we're doing here," said Schreiber, who was working at the Glacier View site.

From 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. or later every day, he and his fellow Soldiers and firefighters, representing the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service and several engines and crews from inside Colorado and surrounding states, are hard at work keeping the embers from crossing over the containment lines they're building.

Those that live in the area have vacated the area, said Schreiber, adding that now the focus is mitigating damage to personal property.

“We can imagine how devastating it would be to come home and find that everything we care about is gone," said Schreiber. "It's not the structure—the two-by-fours and the shingles—that matter, but the pets and the photos and the mementos that comfort that can't be replaced. Those are hugely important to us."

And rest? Schreiber is just one of many firefighters bedding down in camps scattered throughout the area of operations. For these Soldiers, rest comes in the form of sleeping bags and open air, and while they're self-sustaining in nearly every other way, bathing isn't an option. But, showers aren’t the only thing they’ve given up.

"I have a Soldier who is missing a wedding,” said Schreiber. “Another Soldier has a landscaping business that's on hold, and one is missing a job interview and not one of them has complained. They're 100 percent volunteers. These are the kinds of personalities we draw. Every time you see them, they're just happy to do their job. It's a passion."

During wildfires like this, firefighters normally get two day of rest and relaxation for every 14 days on the line - until the fire is out or contained to the extent that an incident commander can start demobilizing assets.

"It's very much like the military," said Schreiber.

And while this was the first time these Soldiers have been involved in a wildland fire, they stand ready to help again if needed, said Schreiber.

The Soldiers from the company are scheduled to assist their civilian counterparts through the end of the month.

Suicide Prevention Conference Day 3: Leaders Take the Stage

By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications

When Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke on the last day of the annual suicide prevention conference, his powerful words confirmed a dedication to lead a collaborative, forward-thinking force to solve what he called “one of the most complex and urgent problems facing our military families” and “perhaps the most frustrating challenge that I’ve come across since becoming secretary of defense.”

Looking ahead, Panetta cited four areas of action in suicide prevention — leadership responsibility, improvement in quality and access to health care, the enhancement of coping and resilience skills, and the increase of research.

“My long-term goal with the Department of Defense is to be a game-changing innovator in this field,” Panetta said. “Just as we helped foster the jet age; the space race; the Internet — I want us to break new ground in understanding the human mind and human emotion. In doing so, we will be drawing on a rich history of military needs and stirring innovation.”

Leadership responsibility and progress marked the final day of collaborative discussion to advance the prevention of suicide across the community, health care and inside the homes of our service members. The day began with forum panel featuring senior-enlisted leaders from all the services discussing how educated leaders play a significant role in leadership intervention.

“We’re taking the art of leadership and merging that with the science [of suicide prevention]. To say this is just a science project or just a leadership project is not true,” said Chief Master of the Air Force Sgt. James Roy. “We get our knowledge base from our experts that are sitting here in these rows.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke of the importance of new programs, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Operation Immersion that foster a deeper understanding between civilian providers and the military community they support. The program gives providers a glimpse into military life.

“This is an initiative that brought community-based health care providers to a National Guard base where they live like soldiers for a few days … they meet with soldiers of every rank and their families to hear about military culture, life on the front line and what life is like being back home. This gives health care providers and in-depth understanding of what service members and their families are actually going through and help them provide better care,” Sebelius said. “Together with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, [we] create a system where there is no wrong door for a service member, veteran or family seeking help.”

Sebelius highlighted the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as a resource for the military community, and noted a statistic that confirmed why such a conference is so important in furthering suicide prevention and psychological health care for our heroes and their families. In the first five months of this year, more than 85,000 calls from military members were answered by lifeline professionals — more than 500 per day.

Panetta expressed gratitude for the continued efforts of the attendees, composed of the top experts in suicide prevention, military health care and leadership, to find the ultimate solutions to preventing suicide.

“I thank you all for your leadership, for your wise counsel and for your commitment in ensuring that our service members and their families receive the kind of treatment and support that they so richly deserve,” he said.

In closing remarks, Jackie Garrick, Defense Suicide Prevention Office acting director, announced planning efforts for the 2013 suicide prevention conference, scheduled to be hosted in Denver, Colo.

Flag Officer Assignments

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert announced today the following assignments:

Capt. Brian K. Antonio, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as deputy chief of staff for fleet maintenance, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Antonio is currently serving as executive assistant to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, Washington, D.C.

Capt. David M. Kriete, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as deputy director, plans, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.  Kriete is currently serving as deputy director, force employment, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk, Va.

Capt. David R. Pimpo, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as commander, Defense Logistics Agency-Land and Maritime, Columbus, Ohio.  Pimpo is currently serving as deputy commander for fleet logistics operations, Naval Supply Systems Command, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Rear Adm. William M. Roberts will be assigned as commandant, Medical Education Training Campus, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  Roberts is currently serving as fleet surgeon, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk, Va.

Rear Adm. (lower half) Thomas K. Shannon, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral, will be assigned as commander, Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C.  Shannon is currently serving as commander, Carrier Strike Group One, San Diego, Calif.

Capt. Donald L. Singleton, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as deputy chief of staff for logistics, fleet supply, and ordnance, N4, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Singleton is currently serving as vice commander, Naval Supply Systems Command, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Capt. Paul A. Sohl, who has been selected for the rank rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as commander, Naval Air Warfare Center, weapons division/assistant commander for test and evaluation, Naval Air Systems Command (AIR-5.0), China Lake, Calif.  Sohl is currently serving as commanding officer, Naval Test Wing Pacific, Point Mugu, Calif.

Rear Adm. (lower half) David F. Steindl will be assigned as commander, Carrier Strike Group One, San Diego, Calif.  Steindl is currently serving as commander, Naval Service Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill.

Rear Adm. (lower half) Michael S. White will be assigned to commander, Carrier Strike Group Eleven, San Diego, Calif.  White is currently serving as assistant commander for career management, PERS-4, Navy Personnel Command, Millington, Tenn.

Team USA Loaded With Soldiers for London Olympic Games

By Tim Hipps
Army Installation Management Command

EUGENE, Ore. – The U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program will send what it describes as its strongest contingent of athletes and coaches ever to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Eleven WCAP coaches and athletes have already qualified to participate. Several more are competing for spots on Team USA at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team trials here, which began June 21 and conclude July 1.

WCAP provides soldier-athletes the support and training needed to successfully compete in Olympic sports on the national and international levels, including the winter and summer Olympics, Pan American Games, world championships and Conseil International du Sport Militaire’s Military World Games.

The soldier-athletes serve as ambassadors for the Army by promoting it to the world and assisting with recruiting and retention efforts. Since 1948, more than 600 soldiers have represented the United States as Olympic athletes and coaches. They have collected more than 140 medals in a variety of sports, including boxing, wrestling, rowing, shooting, bobsled and track and field.

WCAP wrestling head coach Shon Lewis, a retired staff sergeant who has led the Army to 11 national team titles in Greco-Roman wrestling, will lead three of his wrestlers to London as an assistant coach for Team USA.

As a WCAP athlete, Lewis, 45, of Oakland, Calif., is a 12-time armed forces champion and a 10-time national team member. He was named Greco-Roman Coach of the Year five times by USA Wrestling, the governing body for wrestling in the United States.

Two-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers, 37, of Kings Mountain, N.C., will wrestle in the 120-kilogram/264.5-pound Greco-Roman division. A world champion in 2002, Byers, a 10-time national champion, is the only U.S. wrestler who has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the world championships. He also is the only American wrestler to win gold at both the open and military world championships.

Spc. Justin Lester is a strong medal contender in the 66-kilogram/145.5 pound Greco-Roman division. Lester, 28, a native of Akron, Ohio, heads to England as USA Wrestling’s reigning Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year. A two-time bronze medalist at the world championships, Lester has more than ample motivation to succeed in London. “I’ve had two bronze medals, and they’re all right, but I need an Olympic gold medal,” he said. “That’s eating at me more than anything, that I don’t have that gold medal.”

Two-time Olympian Sgt. Spenser Mango, 25, of St. Louis, will compete in the 55-kilogram/121-pound Greco-Roman class. A four-time national champion, Mango is eager to return to the Olympics. “The first time, I’ll admit, I was surprised myself,” Mango recalled of his Olympic debut in Beijing. “I knew I could do it, but I hadn’t done it yet. This time, it’s all business – need to bring home some medals. I’ve wrestled almost all the top guys in the world in my weight class. I know what I need to do – just get out there and really get after it.”

Four-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski, 44, of Saginaw, Mich., will compete in both the 50-meter free pistol and 10-meter air pistol. He struck gold with the air pistol and silver with the free pistol at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Szarenski finished 13th at the Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004 and 13th in Beijing in 2008. He’s aiming for a shot at the podium in London.“I’m hoping to keep wearing them down and get in there and get a medal out of it,” Szarenski said. “I think the training regimen that I have now is a lot better than what it was in the past. I’ve changed a couple technical issues and I think I’m heading in the right direction. I feel that I’m shooting the best now that I’ve ever shot.”

Two-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, 37, of San Antonio, will compete in the 25-meter rapid-fire pistol event. He set an Olympic record during the qualification rounds in Beijing but left China without a medal. He hopes to improve upon that fifth-place result in London.  “I remember the excitement,” Sanderson said. “That was more than I was ready for. It’s faded a little bit, but I remember it was awesome. It was more than I could control. I’m looking forward to feeling that again. … It was something that words can’t describe, and to this day, words can’t describe it. I didn’t sleep for two or three days after I competed – not a wink – from all of the adrenalin.”

Four-time Olympian Maj. David Johnson, 48, of Hampton, Va., has coached three athletes to Olympic medals and led shooters to 25 medals in World Cup events. He will again coach Team USA’s rifle shooters in London.

Two-time Olympian Staff Sgt. John Nunn, 34, of Evansville, Ind., already qualified for the 50-meter race walk and might attempt to qualify in the 20-kilometer race walk on June 30 at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials in Eugene, Ore.   Nunn competed in the 20-kilometer event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens but did not make Team USA for the 2008 Beijing Games. His personal best in the 20K race walk is 1 hour, 22 minutes, 31 seconds.

Spc. Dennis Bowsher, 29, of Dallas, will compete in modern pentathlon, a five-sport event that includes fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, cross country and laser pistol shooting all in the same day. Bowsher finished fourth in both the 2011 Military World Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, where he secured an Olympic berth.

Staff Sgt. Charles Leverette, 39, of Brent, Ala., will serve as Team USA’s assistant boxing coach in London. A former WCAP heavyweight boxer, Leverette was a bronze medalist at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Trials.

Staff Sgt. Joe Guzman, 32, of Eloy, Ariz., will serve as the trainer and help work the corners for Team USA’s boxers in London. As a WCAP boxer, Guzman was a three-time armed forces champion.

Four-time Olympian Basheer Abdullah, a retired staff sergeant and head coach of the WCAP boxing team from St. Louis, will serve as Team USA’s head boxing coach in London. He also led the U.S. boxing team in the 2004 Athens Games and served as a technical advisor for Team USA at the Olympics in 2000 and 2008.

Several other WCAP soldiers are vying for Olympic berths at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team trials here.

WCAP also features a Paralympic program for wounded warriors and expects to qualify at least one soldier for the London Paralympic Games. Sights are set on qualifying several more for the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.