Friday, September 28, 2012

Airman Missing 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 will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. 

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Samuel E. Lunday, of Marianna, Fla., will be buried today, at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, DC.  On April 24, 1943, Lunday and four other U.S. servicemen were flying a C-87 Liberator Express aircraft over the Himalayan Mountains, from Yangkai, China, to their home base in Chabua, India.  After losing radio communications following take-off, the crew was never heard from again.  Eleven aerial search missions were unable to locate the aircraft or crew due to intense snows on the mountains at high altitudes, and dense jungle growth at lower altitudes. 

As part of the war effort against the Japanese, U.S. Army Air Forces cargo planes based in India continually airlifted critical supplies over the high mountain ranges that comprise the Himalayas -- known as “The Hump” -- in support of American airbases in China.  The amount of materiel flown over the Himalayas was a logistical achievement unparalleled at the time.

Almost 60 years later, in 2003, an American citizen discovered the wreckage of the C-87 aircraft while trekking in the mountains, approximately 100 miles from Chabua, near the Burmese border.  He recovered the aircraft’s identification plate, military equipment and human remains.  The artifacts and remains were turned over to U.S. officials for analysis.  Attempts to excavate the site are being negotiated with the Indian government.

To determine the identity of the remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA -- which matched that of Lunday’s nephews.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died.  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, call 703-699-1169 or visit the DPMO Web site at .

Face of Defense: Marine Combat Vet Wants to Help Others

By Marine Corps Sgt. Richard Blumenstein
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

USS GUNSTON HALL, Gulf of Aden, Sept. 28, 2012 – Marine Corps Cpl. Adrian Cuevas has experienced the horrors of war and its lasting effects.

Now he wants to spend the rest of his life helping others.

The 27-year-old South El Monte, Calif., native is an Afghanistan veteran on his third deployment there and is currently serving as a machine gun squad leader for Company C, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Cuevas is a combat veteran who has been in more than a handful of fire fights, been hit by three improvised explosive devices, lost friends in battle, and experienced guilt from being sent home early from deployment.

His story serves as just one of hundreds or perhaps thousands of stories told, and retold, by infantry Marines from his generation. The details may differ -- times, dates, locations, Marines, missions, but the theme remains the same -- something bad followed by something heroic. There is loss, and there is the feeling that nothing will ever quite be the same.

Their stories are amazing and usually resemble a scene from an action movie. According to most Marines who tell them, there is no way to understand what they have been through without having experienced something similar.

Marines who’ve seen combat must contend with recovering from the mental anguish of the battlefield. Many Marines are uncomfortable reliving those events.

Cuevas’ end of active service date is fast approaching and he has decided he wants to dedicate his life to helping people work through that anguish -- the trauma he himself has endured.

“I am going back to school,” he said. “I want to be a counselor to help people out who have gone through what I have gone through.”

Cuevas’s journey into the Marine Corps began like many other Marines -- by meeting a Marine.

After graduating from El Monte Adult School, he spent years working regular jobs. One of his co-workers was a former Marine and prior infantryman who regaled him with stories of his service and Cuevas found himself longing to enlist.

“I felt like it was something I had to do,” he said. “I had already started my adult life and I figured I would do it before I got too old.”

At 24, Cuevas enlisted in the Marine Corps to become an infantryman on March 16, 2009. At Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, he met another Marine who inspired him and shaped his life’s path -- his drill instructor.

“He seemed like he was always squared away,” Cuevas said. “He was really hard on everyone, but fair. He inspired me to choose the machine-gunner path.”

Those decisions ultimately landed Cuevas in harm’s way during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. During the deployment, Cuevas said he made it a point to always ride in the lead vehicle.

“I didn’t like to be anywhere else,” he said.

The first time an improvised explosive device struck his convoy was also was the first time he engaged the enemy. The IED detonated three meters away from him and showered him with dirt and debris. While waiting for the wrecker to transport the disabled vehicle, Cuevas and the other Marines began taking fire from a nearby tree line.

The engagement lasted 50 minutes.

“That was the first time I got to shoot back and see them, see the rounds impact and everything,” Cuevas said. “You don’t think at all. Training takes over. It is not something people just say. It really does happen. If you think, you are probably really going to die.”

But that engagement was not the last Cuevas would experience.

The last IED that hit him came at the end of his deployment and destroyed his Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle, a large tactical vehicle specifically designed to withstand explosive blasts, and severely injured him. He received the Purple Heart Medal for his injuries.

“It destroyed the whole back end of it [the vehicle],” Cuevas said. “I got launched, I don’t know how high, like 30, 20 feet in the air. I had cuts on my face. I had three compression fractures in my lower back.”

Despite his wounds, Cuevas said he felt guilty from being sent home early because the rest of his unit continued to operate in harm’s way.

“I went through so much guilt,” he said. “From the time I was hurt, wounded, all the way until the time I got back to Camp Lejeune. Really bad depression … I went from having ten other guys, my squad, every day, to being completely by myself in my own room.”

Cuevas said he found comfort in talking to other Marines with similar experiences, and in time, he recovered from his wounds. That comfort, he said, is why Cuevas wants to now spend his life helping others. He intends to use his Post 9/11 GI Bill to earn a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences after he completes his enlistment.

“Actually, just talking to people has helped a lot,” he said. “I am not [feeling] as guilty as I was before. A little bit of guilt, but not as much. That’s why I want to help people who have gone through exactly what I went through.”

Cuevas, along with 2,300 other Marines and sailors with the 24th MEU, is presently deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command and is providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Center Explores Combat Rations to Optimize Warfighter Capability

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

NATICK, Mass. – Is your body feeling run down from all those dismounted patrols? Take a bite of lemon poppy seed cake in your combat rations and feel the Omega 3 fatty acids baked into it ease that inflammation.

Having trouble staying focused, or feeling generally low? Try a serving of salmon in alfredo sauce, a combat ration under development that’s bursting with Omega 3s shown in tests to elevate one’s mood and improve cognitive function.

Starting to hit the wall, but unable to hit the sack or pause for a cup of Joe? Munch on a caffeinated meat stick in your Frist Strike Ration and get the quick energy charge you need to get through the mission at hand.

Food scientists at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center here are exploring ways to enhance service members’ warfighting capability through combat rations.

Caffeine, for example, is known to increase the ability to think clearly when fatigued or under stress. So in addition to coming up with a caffeine-infused meat stick, Natick food scientists are looking at other ways to deliver caffeine, possibly through a bar, gum or candy product, Jeremy Whitsitt, technology integration analyst for the center’s Department of Defense combat feeding directorate, told American Forces Press Service.

They’re also exploring innovative ways to boost physical and cognitive performance by lacing foods with naturally occurring compounds such as curcumin and Omega 3s, he said.

Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory supplement, and Omega 3s found in fish oils promote a broad range of functions, including reducing cholesterol and heart disease. New research also suggests they play a role in preventing traumatic brain injury -- an obvious concern on the battlefield, Whitsitt reported.

Natick food scientists started exploring dietary additives more than a decade ago to enhance what warfighters could do -- how far and fast they could move and how much they could carry, for example.

But the focus has shifted to preserving warfighter capability, explained Danielle Anderson, a food technologist on the Performance Optimization Research Team. “Now, we’re looking at them to see if there’s a way to enhance their immune systems, stop them from getting sick and stop the decrement that happens” during demanding combat missions, she said.

Ann Barrett, a senior food engineer, said the effort crosses several lines. “A lot of what we do is focused on load injuries, muscle strain and pain, because soldiers have to carry very, very heavy loads,” she said.

So as an alternative to popping excessive oral anti-inflammatories that can irritate the stomach or cause other gastrointestinal distress, she and her team are looking into ways to introduce natural ingredients that deliver the same benefits into combat rations.

And recognizing the health consequences of dirty environments in which warfighters often operate, they’re experimenting with prebiotics -- ingredients found in yogurt and other food items -- that stimulate “good” bacteria in the digestive system.

Fortifying combat rations with these ingredients isn’t as simple as one might think.
Omega 3s, for example, are less stable than many other oils. They tend to get rancid and develop a “fishy” odor and flavor over time.

That can be a problem when they’re incorporated into combat rations that have to stand up to stringent shelf-life and temperature requirements. Meals, Ready to Eat, individual combat rations, must be able to maintain their quality for three years if stored at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or six months when exposed to more extreme temperatures.

As food engineers here develop prototype rations with fortified products, they subject them to some pretty intensive rigors. “We produce the food and store it for six months at high-heat conditions,” said Anderson, comparable to what they’d be exposed to during a three-year shelf life.

The next step is to assess how much of the Omega 3 oils get absorbed into the body. Barrett is writing the protocols to conduct human feeding studies, with hopes of completing them within the next few months. Once they get the required official approvals, she hopes to begin testing within the year.

The test subjects -- soldiers who pull 89-day duty tours at the Natick center serving as human research volunteers -- will eat the food, then have their blood drawn at various time intervals to measure Omega 3 levels in their blood, Anderson explained.

“Hopefully, what they will get from the stored food will be the same as [if they had eaten] the fresh food or taken capsules,” Barrett said. “That’s what we’d really like to see.”

Meanwhile, the Optimization Research Team is investigating other ways to enhance warfighter capability.

One project evaluated the use of condensed tannins found in fruits and beans to determine the health benefits. Another under way now involves phytochemicals -- compounds in cranberries and other fruits and vegetables -- to determine what happens to them during the digestion, and ultimately, how they help the process.

“We’re trying to find out the mechanisms behind what is going on when you eat food and it is introduced into your body, and how it turns into something useful,” Anderson said.

She emphasized, however, that the bottom line for all the research is to support the missions warfighters conduct -- not to create “super-warfighters.”

“The warfighter is not the same as a trained athlete doing the Tour de France,” she said. “We have to demonstrate that the product will be effective in a military-relevant setting. Everything we do here has military relevance.”