Military News

Monday, July 09, 2012

University Mourns Loss of Dean of Students

By Dale M. Kuska, Naval Postgraduate School Public Affairs

MONTEREY, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Postgraduate School's dean of students and executive director of Programs died in an accident off the coast of Pensacola, Fla., Jul. 1.

Capt. Alan "Dex" Poindexter, a 1995 aeronautical engineering graduate from NPS, came to the university following a long, distinguished career with the Navy and NASA as a pilot, shuttle astronaut and executive. Poindexter was a participant in two shuttle missions, and in fact commanded one of the final flights of the space shuttle Discovery in April 2010 prior to the program's official retirement just over a year later.

"Dex was not just the senior naval officer here at NPS, he was an accomplished man of extraordinary character, a devoted husband and father, and a true professional - precisely the kind of man that could serve as a true mentor to all of our students," said NPS President Dan Oliver.

"Our student body consists of countless men and women who all have one thing in common - the responsibility to lead in their respective services and communities," Oliver said. "It takes a special kind of individual to command the respect of these students - Dex was that kind of man. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his wife, Lisa, and their two sons."

As Dean of Students, Poindexter took quite personally the welfare of his students, and the value of the education delivered to them. His well-known open door policy brought many students into his office where memoirs of an accomplished pilot and space traveler adorned every wall and nook.

He reinvigorated the Secretary of the Navy guest lecture program, bringing countless senior leaders throughout DoD, government, industry and more to address the NPS student body with challenging ideas, enriching their exposure to compelling thought-leaders beyond the classroom.

"Dex understood what it meant to attend this university, and the role his own degree played in his success as an astronaut, and as a naval officer. He wanted that same success for every student that crossed his path, and he pursued that ideal with an unending and enviable passion," said Dr. Leonard Ferrari, NPS executive vice president and provost.

Deputy Dean of Students Cmdr. Matt "Dutch" Vandersluis will now assume duties as acting dean of students.

"Capt. Poindexter was so uniquely impressive, it was impossible not to love the guy - and as I have seen over the last year, and the last few days, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of people who share this impression of him," said Vandersluis.

"He was funny and had an easy laugh. He was smart, modest and kind. He had a zest for life that was contagious. I will take many of the things I observed about Dex during our cut-short friendship and incorporate them into my professional and personal life. He was truly the best of the best and I am much, much better for having had the honor of his leadership, his confidence and most of all his friendship. He will be missed, but my guess is that he will not be easily forgotten."

"As one of only a select few men and women to journey into the vastness of space, to look down upon the entirety of our Earth and to see it for the immense beauty it represents, I can only hope he is looking down upon us again, just one last time," Oliver said.

Panther Strike exercise evolves, challenges MI Soldiers taking part

By Army Sgt. Whitney Houston
128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah - Panther Strike, a military intelligence training exercise that began more than a decade ago as a battalion-sized exercise, has evolved since then into a an event with close to 700 military intelligence soldiers, trainers and professionals participating from 14 states, Guam, Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, making it one of the largest exercise of its kind in the U.S.

From the beginning stages of planning for this year’s exercise, hosted by the Utah Army National Guard’s 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 300th Military Intelligence Brigade, the goal has been to expand the size and scope to make it into the one of the premier MI training events, said Army Lt. Col. Joseph Green, commander of the 142nd MI Bn.

 To accomplish that, planners shifted the focus of the exercise from a relatively small exercise focused on human intelligence gathering, to a large-scale, multi-discipline exercise that incorporates human intelligence, signals intelligence, counterintelligence, and imagery intelligence, all acting at the same time in a real-world, deployment-based scenario, to prepare MI Soldiers for the kinds of missions they face when deployed., said Green.

 Incorporating that into a single, cohesive has its difficulties including the creation of an opposition force, fully fleshed out with roles that military intelligence Soldiers can collect information about, analyze, and then act on.

“All of that is a very complex kind of thing to try to draw up and manage and so creating a (training) insurgency that can be (used) by all those different disciplines has been difficult,” said Green.

 Despite the inherent difficulties with creating a training scenario beneficial to all MI disciplines, Panther Strike leadership and planners maintained high expectations for the exercise’s current and future roles.

“We have a big vision for the exercise to be a mechanism to train our Soldiers to be mobilization-ready and prepared in their collective military intelligence tasks,” said Green. “That’s what I think we’ve achieved with this version of Panther Strike, and from here on out the brigade is intent on keeping the same kind of blueprint, still moving it around to its battalions, but keeping it at this level.”

That’s a big change from previous Panther Strike exercises.

“In previous years, there was more of an emphasis on Warrior Tasks and battle drills than you see in Panther Strike 2012,” said Army Capt. Timothy Kelley, plans and operations officer with the 142nd MI Bn. and the lead planner for this year’s exercise. “We really wanted to make this an intelligence-centered exercise.”

Soldiers spent the first week of the exercise training on equipment and tactics unique to their specialties.  During the second week, the Soldiers moved to a forward operating base on Camp Williams and training transitioned from the classroom setting to a hands-on scenario in which Soldiers could put to use their skills—and the prior week’s training— into practice.
 The result was a much more engaging exercise for those participating.

“Panther Strike was awesome,” said Army Pfc. Keiyonna Lighten, an intelligence analyst with Company B, 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “Anytime we have exercises that combine a lot of experience from different groups and different intelligence professionals from across the country, it’s going to contribute to your success and your development as a Soldier.”

Kelley, and those involved in planning and putting Panther Strike together, worked hard to create a training environment that is intelligence-centric, that revolves around the skills, equipment, and knowledge that Soldiers of all intelligence fields would benefit from.

“By making Panther Strike more of an intelligence exercise, we’ve gotten a lot of attention from within the intelligence community, and a lot of support,” he said. “For example, Intelligence and Security Command has a lot of resources and assets that we have been able to tap into and coordinate for this exercise. A lot of our training teams that came out are INSCOM teams, or are from INSCOM units, which brings a level of legitimacy to the exercise.”

Camp Williams itself has even benefited from Panther Strike, and those physical improvements will trickle down to all MI Soldiers who come to Utah to train. One such resource created to enhance the training experience of Panther Strike participants is a detainee holding area connected to the training FOB on the camp.

“They’re being used in Afghanistan, and for this exercise we were able to get some to Utah, emplaced and operational, for Panther Strike,” said Kelley. “They will stay here and remain an asset for the intelligence courses that the 640th Regional Training Institute conducts throughout the year,” he said.

 And preparations are already underway for next year’s exercise.

“I think next year’s Panther Strike audience will have a fantastic experience as well,” Kelley said.

Landscapers ‘Give Back’ to Vets, Fallen at Arlington

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va. , July 9, 2012 – More than 400 volunteers from children to adults descended on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery today for the 16th annual Renewal and Remembrance, to honor the nation’s veterans and fallen service members by sprucing up the landmark’s grounds.

Members of PLANET – the nonprofit Professional Landcare Network -- brought out 82 professional lawn care and landscape companies from around the country for this year’s Renewal and Remembrance. They lent their hands and donated materials and equipment to mulch, prune, aerate, irrigate, plant, spread lime, and cable some of the trees for lightning protection on 150 of the cemetery’s more than 560 acres.

Since the annual Renewal and Remembrance landscaping event began, more than $2 million has been contributed to the care of the national cemetery, according to a PLANET news release.

The cemetery’s 8,400 trees are maintained on a four-year pruning cycle. Some are more than 200 years old, cemetery officials said.

John Gibson of Swingle Lawn, Tree and Landscape Care traveled from Denver with his daughters Taylor, 17, and Marissa, 15, to join a six-person crew that spread 400 bags of lime to balance the soil’s nutritional levels. This is his twelfth year of working with Renewal and Remembrance at the cemetery, and his daughters’ first, he said.

“The very first year,” John Gibson said, “I realized what an impact it would make on those people who made an impact for us. It’s pretty emotional every year to have a chance to give back. All we do is lawn and tree care, and these guys [sacrificed their lives] for us.”

“It’s nice to give back to the people who gave everything,” Taylor Gibson said, adding that she and her sister would come back next year.

About 25 of the volunteers’ children, ranging in age from 3 to 12, pitched in on the beautification project. But before they planted milkweed, they received a lesson in the importance of how the plants attract the caterpillars of the endangered and migratory Monarch butterfly, and how the caterpillars feed only on that particular plant.

Former Navy officer Roger Phelps, promotional communications manager for Stihl equipment, has worked with the children at Arlington’s Renewal and Remembrance for 10 years.

“It’s my passion,” Phelps said of his work with the project. “These kids are our future, and creating this experience is important.”

And volunteers bringing their children, he added, is especially meaningful.

“It’s so important, because we live in sort of a virtual world,” he said. “These kids are different. They live in a real world. They get their hands dirty, they put the plants in the ground [and] see the roots in the dirt.”

Phelps said many of the children return from year to year and see the fruits of their labor as the vegetation they planted grows and matures.

“We take the kids around to all the different areas they’ve worked on over the years, so they can point to the things they’ve worked on and planted,” he said. “The opportunity for us is to give them an understanding of what it means to serve, and what service means. What they learn here is by working with the plants, they have an opportunity to serve the families and visitors by creating an environment that is pleasant and respectful.”

The significance of the children volunteering goes beyond planting foliage, Phelps said.

“We live in a generation that’s getting a little separated from what it means to serve in the military,” he said. “So these kids learn that at the same time.”

Phelps related the story of a young girl who once asked her father if all the headstones were people. “He had the opportunity to explain to her what this place means,” he said. Phelps, a former Navy lieutenant commander, said Arlington National Cemetery is a special place to him.

“I’ve got some shipmates and friends in here,” he said, adding that many of the landscape volunteers also know someone who is buried at the national cemetery. “It’s a personal thing, too.”


--A rarely seen glimpse of psychology in war zones
July 19, 2012, 7 p.m.

Northwest Film Center welcomes Jan Haaken (QUEENS OF HEART, GUILTY EXCEPT FOR INSANITY) for a work-in-progress screening of her new film about the work of clinicians that deploy with Army combat stress control units in Afghanistan. Their mission is to help protect soldiers from battle fatigue and post-traumatic stress—while keeping them battle-ready. Although the team is equipped with a wide arsenal of psychological techniques, the reality of balancing soldiers’ interests with the Army’s needs confronts sobering front-line realities and raises disturbing questions about the psychological costs of warfare. (50 mins.)

The event is an opportunity for community members and supporters to comment on the production before final completion. Discussion with director follows the screening.

See Mind Zone: Therapists Behind the Front Lines as part of the Film Center's Northwest Tracking Series, which showcases the work of independent filmmakers living and working in the Northwest—Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
The Northwest Film Center is a regional media arts resource offering a variety of exhibition and education programs to the residents of the Northwest. The Center's Whitsell Auditorium screens a program of foreign, classic, experimental, and independent works year-round. For more information, visit

Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium Portland Art Museum—1219 SW Park Avenue
Admission: $9 General; $8 Students, Seniors

Advance tickets:

BACKGROUND:  Dr. Jan Haaken, professor emeritus of psychology at Portland State University, a clinical psychologist and documentary filmmaker, followed the 113th Combat Stress Control Unit through their pre-deployment training at Fort Lewis-McChord before embedding with the unit as they deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in summer 2011.  Filming included clinicians working at the Portland VA Medical Center and resiliency training through the Oregon Army National Guard. 
For further information, go to
Contact Jan Haaken at, phone 503.657.1601