Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Silver Star Recipients Added to Valor Site

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2012 – Officials have added the names of those who have received Silver Star awards to a website listing recipients of the nation’s highest awards for valor.

The site launched in July with the names of those who have received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, since Sept. 11, 2001.

On Aug. 1, officials added the names of those who have received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross or the Air Force Cross – the nation’s second-highest valor awards.

Now, the site also lists those who have received the Silver Star.

The site -- at http://valor.defense.gov -- is designed to raise awareness of service members’ heroism and to help in deterring those who falsely claim military honors, officials said.

Wisconsin Guard cadets part of international exchange

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Two Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers participating in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater were among six cadets to spend a month abroad recently in a cultural exchange program, teaching English as a second language to military cadets in other nations.

Cadet Derek Kumrow, 24, of Random Lake, Wis., is a member of the 829th Engineer Company. The business graduate student taught English through the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program. He described the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I was completely on the opposite side of the world learning what it takes to become an officer in other countries' military," Kumrow said. "I met people and experienced things that I would have never got the chance to do any other time in my life."

Cadet Daniel Kaiser, 22, of Appleton, Wis., is a member of the 1st Battalion, 105th Cavalry and also is the ROTC cadet battalion commander at UW-Whitewater. The sociology and criminal justice senior taught English to cadets in Lithuania, and said the trip raised his awareness of the differences between cultures.

"As future leaders, it is important for cadets to realize that policies that are made often have a father reaching influence than what first comes to mind," Kaiser said. "It is important to look at all variables. This trip has given me a tendency to think about things in a broader perspective."

Other cadets visited Hanoi, Vietnam; the Ukraine, and South Korea. Besides teaching English, the cadets were charged with creating better bonds with residents in the countries they visited.

To prepare for the CULP trip, cadets had to complete courses through the State Department and Department of Defense, learn how to teach English as a second language, learn some of the language and customs of the nation they would visit - and, of course, receive vaccinations.

UW-Whitewater launched its CULP program in 2009, and first sent students to Ghana in 2011 as part of an internship program.

Information for this article was provided by the UW-Whitewater Royal Purple.

Face of Defense: Soldier Intervenes to Help Troubled Friend

By Army Sgt. Megan Garcia
3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 25, 2012 – The day Army Sgt. Sheldon Benjamin’s friend asked him if he wanted his TV, Sheldon knew that something just wasn’t right.

“He was real teary faced -- a way that I just wasn’t used to seeing him,” said Benjamin, an infantryman with Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “I told him to [unlatch] his door and that I would be over there in a little bit.”

When Sheldon arrived to his friend’s room, he was shocked at what he saw. Instantly, he knew his friend was in trouble.

“When I went into his room, there were weird things I just wasn’t used to seeing,” Benjamin said. “His room was really messy. There were little pills on the floor and the desk counter, and when I looked at his computer, I saw a MoneyGram website for transferring money.”

However, no warning sign was more apparent than when Benjamin heard these four words: “I’m done with this.”

Immediately, Benjamin staged an intervention, calling on other soldiers to come and sit with his friend while he went and sought help.

“I was relieved,” said Army Spc. Andre Whyne, an infantryman with 4th Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “I was really stressed out. I had a lot on my mind at that time, like family and a little bit of financial issues, and it all just caved in on me. When Benjamin and the other guys responded the way they did, I knew someone actually cared about me and was there for me.”

Whyne gained hope after seeing how his comrades reacted to his distress. He credits the quick actions of Benjamin and his battle buddies, as well as the immense support of his unit, for saving his life. As he took steps toward his recovery, he said, members of The Old Guard were with him every step of the way.

“After everything happened, I was in the hospital for two weeks, and every day someone from my platoon came to visit me,” Whyne said. “It felt good to have people there who understood me and what I was going through.”

Whyne said Army Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Denning reached out to him not only as a source of spiritual strength, but also as a friend and a listening ear.

“At first I was very closed and didn’t want to talk about it, but we continued to have regular meetings, and sometimes he would take me out to lunch,” Whyne said. “Eventually, I was able to open up to him.”

Denning said relating to Whyne on a more personal level was key.

“For me, the difference I can make is to get to know someone for who they really are outside of just the Army,” the chaplain said. “I think everyone has worth, and being able to walk through that journey with Whyne was important. Caring about someone is not just what I say, but what I do.”

Whyne went back to work immediately following his release from the hospital, although he said his chain of command was willing to give him as much time as he needed.

“The biggest role that the unit has to play is leaders and other soldiers not only have to be aware and alert to a soldier who is suicidal, but also have to be willing to step up and take action,” said Army Col. Michelle Roberts, Military District of Washington public affairs officer, who worked for two years on an Army suicide-prevention task force.

“With the way everyone rallied around [Whyne] and helped him through that rough time, it was natural for him to come back to work, because he still felt like part of the team,” she added.

Thanks to tremendous support, Whyne said, his outlook on life has definitely changed.

“I really didn’t see where my life was going at that time, but now I know things aren’t as bad as I thought they were,” he said. “I once thought everyone was in their own world and nobody cared about each other, but now I know differently.”

Whyne said he hopes his story will inspire other soldiers to reach out to someone if they are in a desperate place.

“Talk to your closest buddy in the Army or someone in your squad or platoon,” he said. “They will help you through it. Without the help of my battle buddies, I never would have made it.”

Adjutant general named vice-chair of National Guard association

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, was named the new vice chairman-Air for the board of directors of the nation's oldest military service organization.

Dunbar was selected to serve as an officer of the 29-member panel by National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) delegates at the organization's recent 134th General Conference and Exhibition in Reno, Nev.

"It is an honor to serve in this capacity for the NGAUS membership," Dunbar said. "The Air National Guard adds tremendous value to our nation's defense, especially in this fiscally constrained environment, and I look forward to working with the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Air Force at this critical juncture."

Officers for the NGAUS board of directors include a chairman, vice-chairmen for Army and Air, an immediate past chairman, president, treasurer and secretary. If the chairman is absent or the position is vacant, the vice-chairman of the same component as the chairman will succeed. The newly elected NGAUS chairman, Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, is a member of the Missouri Army National Guard and the adjutant general of Missouri.

The NGAUS board functions as the association's governing body. It has responsibility for such areas as the annual budget and large contractions. Members serve overlapping two- or three-year terms.

Responsibility for day-to-day activities of the NGAUS staff in Washington, D.C., falls on the association president, currently retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., who works for the board.

The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 134 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.

Chaplain Working Group Tackles Tough Warfighter Issues

By Jayne Davis, DCoE Strategic Communications

If the idea of chaplains getting together to discuss their interests makes you think of genteel spiritual conversations, consider the topic discussed at the August bimonthly teleconference of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Chaplain Working Group — combat and killing in relation to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and spiritual distress.

The Chaplain Working Group routinely delves into spiritual and behavioral conflicts arising from deployment. It’s the nature of their calling that chaplains grapple with difficult issues, and the nature of war that military chaplains must address constructs that deeply challenge common beliefs. One such example is that spiritual health, behavioral health and the use of deadly force are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Invited presenter, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, retired Army Ranger and former professor of psychology and military tactics at the United States Military Academy, West Point, shared his views on the psychology of posttraumatic stress, and support for the idea of posttraumatic growth, which suggests that bad things in life can make you stronger. He offered chaplains a message that held meaning for both chaplains themselves, some of whom have experienced PTSD after deployment, and the service members they counsel: “We are all going to have bad days as we walk our warrior path,” said Grossman. “Do not destroy yourself because of the bad days and never judge yourself by your worst day.”

Grossman offered other insights:
■There’s a wide range of individual responses to trauma and no wrong way to respond to taking a life. But, you can choose how you respond to it.
■Behavioral health care providers and spiritual counselors must communicate to their patients that recovery from PTSD is possible and in some cases may make you stronger. This expectation must be present if there is to be hope for anything other than a lifetime of therapy.
■Rely on your faith in times of stress and seek spiritual help to process acts that may require the lawful use of deadly force.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Rhodes, DCoE spiritual fitness program manager, Grossman’s remarks generated great interest from the participants.

“Lt. Col. Grossman is one of the top authorities on combat stress and violence and has spoken extensively to military groups about the effect of trauma and killing,” said Rhodes. “Chaplains often provide counsel and support to those who have been exposed to violence and trauma, either as victims or perpetrators, so this is an area of great concern and where there's a need and expectation for chaplains to have some level of knowledge and expertise.”

Issues discussed in past working group sessions demonstrate the variety of challenging subjects relevant to military chaplains:
■Care for the care provider
■PTSD and spirituality
■Military sexual assault
■Moral injury as a psycho-spiritual construct

At the next working group teleconference, scheduled 1:30-3 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 3, Dr. Carrie Doehring, a licensed psychologist and associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Iliff School of Theology, will discuss research on religious and spiritual coping and how it informs spiritual care of service members and veterans. All are welcome. Contact the group for details.