Military News

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Senior Enlisted Advisers Mark Armed Forces Day

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 18, 2013 – To mark Armed Forces Day, the services’ senior enlisted advisers joined the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in an inaugural wreath-laying ceremony here at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

On a gray afternoon between spells of light rain, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia and his fellow enlisted advisers hung the logos of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard on a wreath wrapped with purple ribbon just steps away from the gravesite.

Joining Battaglia in the ceremony were Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Michael P. Barrett, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Stevens, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall represented the National Guard Bureau.

Battaglia found the ceremony bittersweet, he told American Forces Press Service, “as it should be for everyone.”

On Armed Forces Day “we recognize and celebrate the service and sacrifice of all of our serving men and women past and present, and to have an event here at Arlington National Cemetery means that, on a sadder note, we also honor those who went before us,” he said. “They celebrate the day with us in spirit only.”
He added, “We’re hoping this will be an annual event and this is the right place to do it.”

The SEAC said he and the other enlisted advisers have the full cooperation from Arlington National Cemetery to hold the ceremony every year and display the wreath representing the armed forces and all five service branches for everyone who visits the Tomb of the Unknowns on Armed Forces Day.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation that continues the precedent set by his predecessors by declaring the third Saturday of each May Armed Forces Day.

“Whenever our nation has come under attack, courageous men and women in uniform have risen to her defense. Whenever our liberties have come under assault, our service members have responded with resolve,” the president said in his proclamation.

“Time and again these heroes have sacrificed to sustain that powerful promise that we hold so dear -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And on Armed Forces Day, we honor those who serve bravely and sacrifice selflessly in our name,” he said.

On that Saturday, the commander in chief added, the nation thanks those in uniform and the families who serve alongside them.

“We are bound by a sacred obligation to ensure our service members and their loved ones have the resources and benefits they have earned and deserve,” Obama said, “and only when we uphold this trust do we truly show our appreciation for our armed forces.”

In his own statement to the men and women in uniform, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Armed Forces Day an opportunity for all Americans to express their gratitude to service members, military families and veterans who keep the nation strong and safe.

“In 2013 we mark the 12th consecutive Armed Forces Day with our nation at war –- the longest period of sustained combat in our history, fought entirely by volunteers who made the courageous choice to answer the nation’s call,” the secretary said, and quoted Harry Truman, who as president proclaimed the nation’s first Armed Forces Day -– “America was not built on fear,” Truman said. “America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

Such courage, imagination and determination come from ordinary citizens who step forward to do extraordinary things throughout the nation’s history, Hagel said.

“To all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen: Take pride -– not only on Armed Forces Day but every day –- in the uniform that you wear and the patriotic duty you perform. You are striving to make a difference and leading purposeful lives. You are part of a force that is admired and respected both at home and abroad. Remember that there is no challenge that cannot be met through the shared determination of the world’s greatest military,” the secretary said.

“To the husbands, wives, sons, daughters and loved ones of our service members: Armed Forces Day is also a day to recognize the considerable sacrifices you make every day, and for this nation to reaffirm its commitments to you. You too have made our nation stronger and safer,” he added.

“To our nation’s veterans,” Hagel concluded, “Thank you for the service you gave to this country and for the support that you give our men and women carrying on your legacy today.”

As the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery came to a close, Battaglia recalled those who rest on these grounds and on the grounds of all the veterans’ cemeteries across the nation.

“They still serve,” he said, “and we use them as inspiration. They’re still part of the team.

“Recognizing and celebrating Armed Forces Day is not just for those who witness it in person,” the SEAC added, “but for those who have fallen.”

Gold Medalist Embodies Warrior Spirit

By Shannon Collins
Joint Hometown News Service, Defense Media Activity

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 17, 2013 – As the young Army specialist sat in the 5-pound speed wheelchair, she took a deep calming breath, buckled her helmet, put her hands on the wheels and raced down the track. Any slight movement of the hips would move the chair outside the lane and would leave the athlete disqualified.


Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Elizabeth Wasil wins the gold medal in the 1,500-meter wheelchair race during the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 14, 2013. DOD photo by E.J. Hersom
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But she went all-out and took the gold in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 1,500-meter race chair races.
 
For Army Spc. Elizabeth Wasil, this was yet another new experience. She took three gold medals in the race chair, a bronze medal in the shot put and a bronze in the hand cycle/recumbent cycling race during the 2013 Warrior Games, which concluded yesterday at the Olympi Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy here.

Throughout the seven-day event, wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, along with a team from U.S. Special Operations Command and a team from the British military, competed in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

Wasil began her warrior journey at 16, when she decided to focus on her studies and sought out the Army National Guard’s Arizona Project Challenge, an intensive five-month program that gave her a glimpse at military life and the ability to graduate from high school before she turned 17.

“It changed my life,” Wasil said. “It was the happiest I could remember being. This program gave me structure, discipline and a foundation. I found somewhere I belonged and met mentors who believed in me and changed my life. It was amazing.”

Following in the military footsteps of her retired Marine dad, James Marks, she enlisted in the Army at age 17. And just like her father, who served in Vietnam, she deployed, serving in Iraq in 2010. She was in Iraq as a medical assistant when she suffered injuries to her hips.

While recovering from three hip surgeries, Wasil fought with the Army medical board to stay in. She could have received a medical retirement, she said, but she was determined to stay on active duty and serve her country. She proved her capabilities to the medical board by competing in the Warrior Games last year and was found fit for duty in July.

Wasil said her recovery began with swimming.

“I was going to the pool on my own to try rehabilitation when [Army] Master Sgt. [Rhoden] Galloway saw me swimming and suggested I try out,” she said of her Warrior Games teammate. “The Warrior Games was my first adult swim competition, and I got a gold, silver and a bronze in women’s swimming. It was fun.”

Wasil said the Warrior Games changed her life. “They showed me how to adapt in ways I never knew I could,” she explained. “They gave me a whole new path in life that I would’ve never known existed.”

Using her fighter instinct, Wasil trained so well in the pool that when she competed in breast stroke races of 50, 100 and 200 meters in an international event, she broke an American record.

“They thought I was going to come in 12th or 14th in all of my races,” she said. “I ended up winning all three races. It was very emotional and overwhelming, but great. I just wanted to qualify. It was a great first race.”

Wasil not only beat records, but also became too good to compete in swimming events at this year’s Warrior Games. She’s now a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colo., and is working on her swimming times so she can compete in the Paralympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

At this year’s games, Wasil switched from the upright bikes to the recumbent bikes, which require more arm and leg power. She joked that she was proud that her arms could pull that race off, and that the hills were no joke.

Wasil, always quick to laugh or smile, said she was a little scared but excited when she competed in the speed chair.

“It was my first time in a speed chair competitively. I was scared again,” she said with a smile. “The Warrior Games is a time for a lot of new things. I was in the chair for the first time racing, and when I did my first race, I just went all-out. The chair’s so hard, but so rewarding. When I was done, it was an adrenaline rush. I just went from one race to the next.”

When Wasil received her medal for cycling, she had the chance to meet Britain’s Prince Harry and get a photo taken with him. He was a nice guy, she said, but the always-focused soldier added that she was paying more attention to her teammates and their accomplishments.

Wasil said the Warrior Games tapped into her warrior spirit and reassured her that even if she was medically retired, she would still be a part of the military.

“When I was facing the med board, I was scared that when I left the Army, I would lose my military family,” she said. “Whether you stay in the military or get out, it’s good to know that you never lose that family. Maintain that pride for your service and know that even when you’re out, we still accept you and love you as if you’re in.”

Wasil’s husband, Colton, a personal trainer, said his wife always is a positive person who loves the military.

“If she had her way, she would be 80 years old and still serving in the Army,” he joked. “She’s always positive and motivated. She has a great personality. I’m very happy for her successes. She does well in anything she enters. She’s capable of anything she sets her mind to. I’m so proud of her.”

Her warrior spirit and love of the military are ever-evident, he said.

“She’s legitimately excited to be in the military,” he said. “She was inspired by her father, and the military is just who she is. It fits her perfectly. She’s military.”

Army National Guard Captain Charged for Alleged Role in Bribery and Wire Fraud Scheme and Two Former Soldiers Sentenced for Their Roles in a Related Scheme

To Date, 11 Individuals Have Been Charged in Ongoing Corruption Investigation
 
A Texas Army National Guard captain has been charged for his alleged role in a bribery and wire fraud scheme and two former soldiers in the Texas Army National Guard were sentenced for their roles in a separate scheme to defraud the National Guard Bureau and its contractor, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

These cases arose from an investigation concerning allegations that former and current soldiers and military and civilian contract recruiters in the San Antonio and Houston areas engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to obtain fraudulent recruiting referral bonuses.  To date, 11 people have been charged in this ongoing investigation, including yesterday’s 17-count indictment of Fabian Barrera, 46, of Schertz, Texas, a Captain in the Army National Guard accused of personally obtaining more than $185,500 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.  Barrera made his initial appearance on May 16, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jillyn K. Schulze.  The public is reminded that an indictment is merely a charge and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

According to court documents, in approximately September 2005, the National Guard Bureau entered into a contract with Document and Packaging Broker, Inc., to administer the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP), which was designed to offer monetary incentives to soldiers who referred others to join the U.S. military.  To participate in the G-RAP, an eligible soldier needed to establish an online recruiting assistant (RA) account.  Through these recruiting programs, a participating soldier could receive up to $3,000 in bonus payments for every person he or she referred to serve in the U.S. military.

Barrera, an RA in the G-RAP between approximately December 2005 and February 2012, is alleged to have paid Army National Guard recruiters for the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers and used this information to claim that he was responsible for referring dozens of potential soldiers to join the military, though he allegedly did not recruit any of those people.  As a result, Barrera is accused of receiving more than approximately $185,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses, and the indictment alleges that Barrera paid various recruiters in the form of checks and cash payments.

 Former Staff Sergeant Jermaine Britt, 39, of Richmond, Texas, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Biery for his role in obtaining $86,500 in fraudulent bonus payments. According to court documents, Britt served as a recruiter in the Houston area from approximately November 2006 until November 2012. He conspired with former Specialist Stephanie Heller, 37, of Wharton, Texas, who was an RA in the G-RAP and claimed approximately $44,500 in fraudulent bonuses through her account.  Heller made approximately $19,750 in bribe payments to Britt, who served as a recruiter in the Houston area from approximately November 2006 until November 2012. Heller also made a $1,000 bribe payment to another recruiter in exchange for Britt and that recruiter providing the personal information of potential soldiers.  In addition to accepting bribes from Heller, Britt worked with at least two other RAs to claim fraudulent bonus payments and accepted a total of $23,750 in bribe payments in exchange for providing the personal information of potential soldiers.

Britt also admitted that he obstructed justice by coaching Heller to make false statements to federal agents.  In September of 2012, Heller recorded two conversations with Britt.  In those conversations, Britt told Heller how she could provide false stories to federal agents to innocently explain incriminating conduct, such as large cash withdrawals from her bank account, her receipt of emails from Britt in which Britt provided the personal identifiers of potential soldiers, and her use of Britt’s military computer to make referrals under her RA account.

Britt pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud, bribery, and obstruction of justice on Nov. 9, 2012. Heller pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and bribery on Oct. 4, 2012. Heller was also sentenced today to five years’ probation, and her cooperation was instrumental in the case against Britt.

These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr., Brian A. Lichter, and Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.  These cases are being investigated by agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit, U.S. Army CID, and from the San Antonio Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

62nd Maintenance Operations Squadron deactivates

by Staff Sgt. Frances Kriss
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


5/16/2013 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The 62nd Maintenance Operations Squadron was deactivated here May 13 as part of an Air Force-wide restructuring initiative to better allocate company and field grade officers to needed positions.

"Simply put, there are not enough FGOs to fill major billets throughout the Air Force," said Maj. Clinton Varty, the former MOS commander. "There are captains filling major positions and majors filling lieutenant colonel positions. The deactivation will free up approximately 50 majors to do needed jobs in the Air Force."

Varty also said that while the changes may mean additional time before officers assume a command position, it will ultimately benefit them.

"This will better prepare our officers before taking command because they can focus on career development," he added. "In addition, it will make squadron command opportunities more competitive."

With the deactivation, Varty is slated to become the 62nd Maintenance Squadron commander. The Airmen formerly assigned under the MOS now become part of the 62nd Maintenance Group's Maintenance Operations Section.

"Within the first month of taking command last year, we found out about the deactivation, so we spent the year planning," said Varty. "It then became my priority to prepare and educate our Airmen to make sure they understood what was happening and why. All of our Airmen will still do the same job and continue to do great work, but it will just be a different organizational structure."

The Maintenance Operations Section will be commanded by a company grade officer on "G-series" orders, which gives him or her command authority.

"I will act as the 'commander' of the maintenance operations Airmen," said Capt. Benjamin Chapman, 62nd MXG maintenance operations officer in charge. "This means I will take care of any administrative or punitive actions such as reviewing performance reports, granting permissive leave, and authorizing nonjudicial or UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) punishments."

Other changes, as a result of the organizational restructure, include duty titles, personal accounting symbol codes, enlisted and officer performance cut-off dates, etc.

The 62nd MOS traces its roots back to World War II, and was originally constituted as the 62nd Station Complement Squadron May 15, 1943 at Walterboro Army Air Field, S.C. After being assigned to five different locations in England and France during World War II, it was disbanded April 25, 1945.

The squadron was reconstituted and redesignated as the 62nd Logistics Support Squadron December 1, 1991, and became the 62nd MOS Oct. 1, 2002.

The 62nd MOS has a history of notable achievements, including earning the Air Force Meritorious Unit Award for the period Sept. 11, 2001 through Sept. 10, 2003, as well as the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award eight times since 1996. Additionally, the squadron was awarded the 2002 Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award and 2005 Air Mobility Command Maintenance Effectiveness Award.

"It's been an honor to be the last commander for the 62nd MOS," said Varty. "It's been an amazing time and I couldn't be more proud to be part of the squadron during its last year."

A final salute to a fallen warrior

by Master Sgt. Brannen Parrish
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs


5/16/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- As the vehicle carrying Capt. Mark Voss passes, pilots and boom operators from the 18th Air Refueling Squadron, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., join with service members and civilians of the Joint Base San Antonio and San Antonio community as they line the streets to honor the fallen KC-135 Stratotanker pilot, May 16.

Pictured (front to rear) are 1st Lt. Mike Warren, Chief Master Sgt. Kathleen Lowman, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Tener, Capt. Pete Hubine and Maj. Scott Meyer of the 18th ARS.

Voss, of Boerne, Texas; Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III of Bakersfield, Calif., were killed when their KC-135 Stratotanker crashed in northern Kyrgyzstan, May 3.  All were assigned to the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Wash.

Airmen and civilians from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and Kelly lined the streets of Port San Antonio to honor Voss as his remains were transported to his family in Boerne.

The entire "tanker community" was deeply affected by the loss of the aircrew.

The 18th Air Refueling Squadron Airmen were in the area to provide air refueling support to the 433rd Airlift Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.