Friday, May 08, 2020

U.S. Postal Service Carrier Charged with Stealing Veterans Administration-Issued Prescriptions from Mail

TRENTON, N.J. – A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) carrier will make his initial appearance today on charges that he stole from the mail prescription drugs issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Christopher F. Donohue, 60, of Leonardo, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with theft of mail containing prescription drugs. Donohue is expected to make his initial appearance by video conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zahid N. Quraishi in Trenton.

According to the complaint and statements made in court:

Donohue was employed as a mail carrier at the USPS Post Office in Belford, New Jersey.  On March 2, 2020, Donohue stole an envelope containing prescription medication that was destined for delivery to a military veteran. This theft was consistent with a series of other mail packages containing prescription medication issued by the VA, which had gone missing from the Belford Post Office without reaching their intended recipients. On May 6, 2020, Donohue attempted to steal another package from the Belford Post Office, which law enforcement had outfitted with a prescription bottle and inert pills as part of the investigation. Donohue was arrested and law enforcement recovered the pill bottle and envelope from him incidental to his arrest.

The charge of theft of mail by postal employee carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, Eastern Area Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew M. Modafferi; the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri; and the Middletown Township Police Department under the direction of Chief Craig Weber with the investigation leading to today’s charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle S. Gasparian of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

N.C. National Guard Helps Distribute Food During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 8, 2020 | BY Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell , North Carolina National Guard

North Carolina Army National Guard soldiers assigned to the 449th Theater Aviation Brigade helped Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina transport and hand out food in Raeford, North Carolina.

In addition to hauling 30 pallets of food to the distribution site, the group of 30 guardsmen directed cars through the parking lot and loaded cars with boxes and bags of food. Each family received a box of produce, a bag of frozen meat, a bag of potatoes and a box that included canned goods, dry goods, milk, cereal, rice and cornmeal.

David Griffin, an emergency services administrator for the food bank, said it was great having the soldiers there to help.

"G.I. Joe has nothing on them," Griffin said. "Without their help, we couldn't do this today. Without their help, we couldn’t help provide the 20,000 meals that we're going to give to these individuals and families that come through our line."

All together the soldiers loaded more than 27,000 pounds of food that will provide about 20,000 meals for 500 families.

It's kind of the reason I joined. It's been an eye-opening experience to see the other side of it, and I just really want to help out."
Army Spc. Jacob Brannan, North Carolina National Guard

"When I look at the statistics before COVID-19, we had 125,000 people here in south east North Carolina that were food insecure," Griffin said. "If you double that — or maybe triple that with people out of work, people laid off — we all need to come together and make sure our neighbors are taken care of. Hunger can't wait. Food is essential to everything."

The southeast North Carolina section of Second Harvest Food Bank covers seven counties, and the North Carolina National Guard has been helping to plan and execute food distribution, Griffin said.

Army Sgt. Maj. Melodie Hunt, the battalion sergeant major for 2-130th Airfield Operations Battalion said the guardsmen are eager to support their community.

"A lot of them are young and new to the National Guard, and only know the federal mission of being deployed overseas," Hunt said. "Helping out their communities is a first-time experience for them. A lot of them are from this region, so it's a way for them to give back to their own community."

These guardsmen are only 30 of the more than 900 citizen-soldiers who are supporting local health and emergency officials providing support to the people of North Carolina during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's kind of the reason I joined," said Army Spc. Jacob Brannan with 1-130th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. "It's been an eye-opening experience to see the other side of it, and I just really want to help out."

(Army Staff Sgt. Mary Junell is assigned to the North Carolina Army National Guard.)

Air Defense Artillery Battalion Maintains Combat Proficiency During COVID-19

May 8, 2020 | BY Dani Johnson

With the mission of providing short-range air defense, the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, or 5-4 ADAR, continues to train to maintain combat proficiency on  Shipton Kaserne, Ansbach, Germany, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To operate an Avenger, a self-propelled short-range air defense missile system, the assigned air and missile defense crew members must maintain a Table 8 certification.

Training for Avenger crew members is divided into 10 tables, or steps. Army Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, the commander of 5-4 ADAR, explained that the tables are organized in a tiered system, with each table progressively more challenging and complex than the previous one. Soldiers must pass each table until they reach Table 8, which certifies them as a team able to employ their Avenger in combat.

''We are replicating everything the crews would do on a live-fire range, minus them actually firing live rounds,'' said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Richardson, the battalion master gunner. ''According to our gunnery training circular, every table that these crews had to do prior to going to a live fire are being accomplished in this [COVID-19] environment right now.''

Richardson said the only challenge to social distancing is when the crews have to pass the Stinger missiles to each other when loading the Avenger. This challenge has changed the way some master gunners train.

''I can't get in there with my hands and show them,'' Rchardson said. ''I can voice it and have them replicate what I'm telling them.''

When it comes to training, creating a sense of realism can be the biggest challenge.

''I get it. [The Avenger tabletop trainer is]  kind of like a video game, so the level of urgency might not be there,'' said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Long, the Charlie Battery master gunner. ''What we did was design new scenarios on the tabletop trainers to make it a little more difficult, a little more realistic, so these guys can get some quality training, and it’s not a 'check the block' thing.''

Improving crew proficiency while maintaining combat power is the battalion's ultimate goal despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

''It's still getting us spun up on the stuff that we need to know, and we get a lot more time to work on the [tabletop trainer],'' said Army Sgt. Emmanuel Hopkins, an air and missile defense crew member with Charlie Battery. ''So once we get out on a real Avenger system, it's pretty much the same thing, and we know exactly what to do. It's great practice especially for the new guys just getting hands on. Mistakes can be made now [before a live fire].''

Daniels said he is extremely proud of how the units are continuing to train in this new environment.

''They continually find new and creative ways to not only maintain their units' readiness, but actually improve it,'' he said. ''While our opportunities for collective training with other units were delayed due to COVID-19, we maximized the time to improve our soldiers' lethality at the individual and crew level while minimizing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 through employment of appropriate force health protection measures.''

(Dani Johnson is assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach.)