Thursday, December 22, 2011

Face of Defense: Military Dog Survives Snakebite

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
Marine Corps News

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., Dec. 22, 2011 – Dingo, a 5-year-old Marine Corps military working dog, has survived a bout with a poisonous snake.

Dingo, a German shepherd, was struck by the snake as he searched the woods during a Dec. 5 training exercise here, said Marine Corps Cpl. Stacy K. Chester, a military working dog handler and Dingo’s partner.

“When I noticed his leg, I called him off to take a look,” Chester said. “It had begun swelling, and I immediately rushed him to the vet.”

Chester said when he got Dingo to the base’s veterinarian, Marine Corps Capt. Curtis R. Cline, they began to shave off the hair on Dingo’s injured leg and found a second puncture wound indicating that Dingo had been bitten by a snake. The vet’s assistants called the local area looking for antivenin to counteract the snake venom.

“Most snakes are hibernating at this time of year,” said Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Lloyd T. Hardee, kennel master for the base’s military working dogs. “With the weather changing so drastically over the last month from cold to warm, these snakes are waking up thinking they are hungry and that is what happened to Dingo.”

Once a snake awakens from hibernation its instinct is to feed and protect itself, Hardee explained. During this period of time venomous snakes don’t have as much control on how much venom they release into a victim. In Dingo’s case, Hardee said, the snake had released a large quantity of venom into his leg causing the swelling to progress quickly.

“When I saw the swelling begin to rush up Dingo’s leg and I knew it was a snake bite. I thought the worst,” Chester said. “After a few phone calls it became apparent no one in the local area had the antivenin we needed for Dingo. I thought I was going to lose my best friend.”

Hardee contacted his supervisors, who informed Marine Corps Col. Philip J. Zimmerman, MCAS Cherry Point’s commanding officer, of the situation.

“The Marine Corps is different with the working dog program than the other branches,” Hardee said. “These dogs belong directly to the air station commanding officer. When Colonel Zimmerman heard what happened and that we needed to get Dingo the treatment and care he needed, he said, ‘Do whatever it takes to get that dog treatment.’”

Cline, the veterinarian, said he called his supervisor to get her advice on the situation.

“When I called my supervisor she told me she was in Norfolk and had the antivenin, and to have the dog transported there for further treatment and care after he was stabilized,” Cline said. Hardee then contacted the search and rescue team with Marine Transport Squadron 1 that flies the HH-46 Sea Knight helicopters fondly known as Pedro.

“My first thoughts when briefed by our operations section was, ‘Wait -- a dog?’” said Marine Corps Capt. Brett Malavenda, a pilot with the squadron.

“After being told that it was a working dog, I said, ‘Hey, we have a Marine bitten, let’s get moving,’” Malavenda said. “Those dogs are just as important to this base as the [human] Marines. They protect us and detect bombs that could kill hundreds of Marines. I was happy to fly him.”

Chester flew with the helicopter crew as they took Dingo to Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Dingo spent the next few days there getting treatment for the bite.

“The whole flight I stood by Dingo hoping and praying we would get to Norfolk in time to save his leg as well as his life,” Chester said. “People don’t realize what these dogs mean to their handlers.”

Chester and Dingo returned from Norfolk to Cherry Point on Dec. 8. Dingo’s leg was watched over for the next several days to see if there would be any tissue or muscle loss from his encounter with the slithery serpent. Dingo currently has not lost any muscle or tissue.

“Dingo is doing great,” Hardee said. “He is back to his old self. The only problem we face now is to see if he will be able to conduct the tasks needed from him.”

Chester expressed his gratitude for all involved and knows without their help Dingo could have lost his leg -- or even his life.

“They saved my best friend,” Chester said. “My closest family is over 1,500 miles away. I have friends I work with, but Dingo is my best friend. He knows when I’m having a bad day, when I’m upset and when I am ready to go to work.

“If we had to drive him to get the antivenin I wouldn’t have Dingo here with me right now,” he added. “I know that without the teamwork shown by VMR-1 and the vets, Dingo would be dead.”

NCTAMS LANT Brings Christmas to Its Sailors Serving on IA

From NCTAMS LANT Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic (NCTAMS LANT) Sailors and civilian personnel spent Dec. 15 packing Christmas cheer to send to its people deployed on Individual Augmentee assignments.

NCTAMS LANT officers, Sailors, and civilian personnel have coordinated and supported many programs this year to bring the spirit of peace and joy to our military and civilian families, collecting food donations for those in need to be able to have a good meal during the holidays; collecting presents for the children; and collecting non-perishable food items, supplies, and money for those who will not be home for this holiday season because they are "standing the watch" overseas protecting our rights to freedom.

The highlight may well have been NCTAMS LANT's Individual Augmentation Pack-Out Program this year for 16 Individual Augmentees (IA). Lt. j.g. Candias Watson, operations division officer, took the lead in coordination. Command personnel donated all the items to be sent to those who are currently serving a tour as an IA. These officers and Sailors will be alone for the holiday season, and they will not be able to enjoy the comforts of home due to serving in areas of the world that are considered to be remote and arduous.

Once all donations were collected, Watson coordinated the pack-out. NCTAMS LANT's Sailors and civilians were invited to participate in putting the packages together. Inside the packages were lots of comforts of home including Starbucks café packets, cookies and crackers, personal hygiene items and phone cards. Santa even showed up to brighten the holiday spirit.

Watson said she took the lead in coordinating this event because, "Deployments are a tough period and receiving a package gives you the feeling that people care. We are a family here at NCTAMS. Raising money and gathering the donated items was a cohesive family effort. We did what supportive Navy families do, showed our shipmates love."

The event was a success and the boxes are on their way to bring a little Christmas cheer to our NCTAMS LANT family away from home.

Spreading holiday cheer is busy work

By Sgt. 1st Class Jim Wagner
157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs

The mail clerk is one of the most popular people to deployed Soldiers, and at no time is that more true than during the Christmas holiday season - especially for nearly 200 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers deployed at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

Soldiers from the Milwaukee based 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) and Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment arrived a few days before Thanksgiving in support of the United Nations peacekeeping mission as Kosovo Forces (KFOR) 15. After approximately three months of mobilization training, mail from home is a welcome sight.

Being away from home during the holidays is always tough, according to logistics officer Capt. Johnathan Koeppen of Milwaukee.

"This is my third deployment and being away from family and friends never gets any easier," Koeppen said. "It is so nice to pick up a package sent from my family or my friends and read the cards and see how much support I have. It's a nice break from the action and makes me feel connected to those at home."

As expected, there is a lot of mail coming from family and friends, said Sgt. Jessica Simmons, a Multi-National Battle Group-East mail clerk assigned to Task Force Falcon, the headquarters element of the battle group. The Macon, Ga., resident is responsible for sorting and processing mail for approximately 400 people in the battle group.

Simmons and her assistant - Pfc. Clinton Glenn, a driver and administrative specialist on loan from the Joint Implementation Commission section during the holiday mail surge - deftly maneuver through the cramped space available after Monday's delivery of packages.

For the Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers, it's their daily job to take the large stacks of mail that arrive and sort them by section and individual.

Despite being assigned to a hectic duty away from his assigned responsibilities, Glenn said he has enjoyed the work so far, and the perks.

"I get to get my mail before anyone else without waiting," the Atlanta resident said with a laugh. "It keeps me busy, but being occupied is a good thing."

Mondays, according to Simmons, are the busiest day of the week - with the post office closed on Sundays, it means an extra day of accumulated mail. On this particular day, there were 41 pieces of accountable mail items - insured, certified or registered mail requiring a signature - and approximately 120 non-accountable items.

She said the record, currently held by Kosovo Forces 14 from last year, is 122 accountable items in one day. Since there is no official tally for non-accountable mail, there is no way to measure what the grand total might have been.

But, Simmons said, she expects to see her office get close to that amount before Christmas comes and goes, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Mail is a nice surprise at any time, but during the holiday season it helps bring a taste of home to us," according to Staff Sgt. Sara Anderson of Eau Claire, Wis. "It's amazing how receiving mail can immediately brighten up your day and put a smile on your face."

Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Brings Holiday Cheer to Local Area School

By Hugh Cox, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Public Affairs

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) announced Dec. 21 that Christmas will come a little early this year for Norfolk Highlands Primary School in Chesapeake, Va., thanks in part to the efforts of the organization's staff.

NMCPHC staff began collecting gifts for needy students shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The annual event began nearly 20 years ago when NMCPHC partnered with Norfolk Highlands Primary School as part of the Angel Tree program.

Through the Angel Tree program, NMCPHC staff volunteer to sponsor needy children, donating presents every holiday season for children identified by the school.

Ms. Debra MacLean, NMCPHC staff member and coordinator for the program, has been involved with this community relations initiative since 1993.

In spite of the tight economy NMCPHC responded to the call as soon as the list of names was provided to the staff.

"During the Angel Tree season, our staff really come together to make sure each child is cared for," said MacLean. "We had 42 names of children in need this year and our command outdid themselves this year making sure that each one would receive the gifts they wanted and needed."

According to MacLean, along with a wide variety of toys and games, socks, underwear, tee-shirts and pajamas were the items in greatest demand.

Many of the children come from low-income or single-parent families and live in areas where gang violence is prevalent.

MacLean works very closely with Ms. Michelle Meyer, the Norfolk Highlands Primary School counselor in coordinating the Angle Tree effort and providing a little background on the children to assist the "Secret Santas" in what to give the children, beyond what may already be on their lists.

According to Ms. Meyer, unemployment is a big factor with many of these families who are barely able to make ends meet.

"This year, for some reason, seems a little more special," said Meyer. "You cannot believe how your command has touched so many and how overjoyed they were to receive so much."

MacLean and a handful of other NMCPHC staff members brought the gifts to the school Monday, December 19th to ensure that parents had plenty of time to pick them up prior to the school's holiday recess.

According to Ms. Meyer, all the families were amazed and grateful, and one father in particular was overcome with emotion when he saw the bicycles that were waiting for his children.

"His eyes filled with tears and covered his face with his hand, he was so overwhelmed," said Meyer. "They just came from Nigeria and do not have much, and for them to experience the generosity of Americans in this way is priceless."

MacLean was deeply gratified by the outpouring of support from the staff this year.

"It warms my heart knowing that our command has come together once again and done an outstanding job to make sure that 42 kids from a local school wake up on Christmas morning very, very happy," said MacLean.

Face of Defense: Toy Drop Becomes a Family Affair

By Army Staff Sgt. JaJuan S. Broadnax
49th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT BRAGG, N.C.  – Army Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Vallade and his son, Army Sgt. Joseph Vallade, spent a special day together Dec. 10, when both paratroopers participated in the annual charity toy drop near here.

The father-son duo jumped from an aircraft together for the first time – possibly the only time -- and earned Thai army jump wings in the process.

The junior Vallade arrived to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team nearly three years ago. He’s a military policeman in the brigade’s Special Troops Battalion. His father took over responsibilities as the command sergeant major for the 82nd Sustainment Brigade’s Special Troops Battalion earlier this year. They’ve been trying to coordinate a jump together ever since.

The 14th annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop provided the opportunity. Participating paratroopers are supervised by a foreign jumpmaster from one of ten countries. This year, the Vallades’ jumpmaster was from Thailand.

“The odds of us jumping together are not the best in the world, so today was a very special day for us,” said the senior Vallade. “It will probably be the only jump that I will have with this young sergeant before he gets promoted again or I retire.”

“I was thinking that I would never get a chance to jump with him, but thank the Lord,” he added.

Vallade is in his 28th year of service, but his son has the edge on airborne operations, he said with pride, praising Sgt. Vallade for getting his twelfth jump that day. Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade has seven.

“That’s why he got to go in front of me today,” Vallade said of his son. “That doesn’t happen often.”

“The good thing about jumping side-by-side is that he was teasing me most of the day,” he added. “He gave me six cherry pies to put into my pocket. Needless to say, I did not jump with the cherry pies in my pocket.”

“Now I’m just waiting to [inspect his parachute],” said Sgt. Vallade, referring to his ambition to become a jumpmaster.

Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade said that along with having his battalion commander enlist his son into the military and being able to drop him for his first pushup, the chance to jump with him is something he always will remember. His son agreed.

“It’s awesome to have someone to look up to,” said Sgt. Vallade. “I’ve always wanted to be in the Army. It’s awesome to finally be here and be able to look directly up at my dad in uniform and out of uniform.”

“He’s most definitely my role model,” he added.

Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade is equally proud, as his son has developed a reputation for taking care of his soldiers.

“I love you, boy,” he said, as he patted him on the shoulder.

The jump may be the Vallades’ last opportunity as Joseph is about to embark on his second Afghanistan deployment. His father soon will retire from the Army.

Both are feeling the anxiety about the junior Vallade’s upcoming mission, they said. Command Sgt. Maj. Vallade explained that although he has five combat deployments under his belt, nothing can prepare a father to send his son off to war.

“When you’re the deployer, you don’t think about it,” Vallade said. “You train and you prepare, but when your son or your family member is gone downrange, you don’t get a break. You’ve been there, done that. You know what could happen.”

“But, I know that he is trained for it,” he added.

Vallade said the only thing that could top the pride he felt jumping with his son and watching him turn into the combat-proven soldier he’s become, is to jump with both of his sons. The third Vallade is an Army lieutenant.

“If I could get that to happen before I retire, I wouldn’t need a retirement gift,” he said. “That would be my gift.”

Logistics Center Puts Christmas Dinner in Reach for Local Families

By Candice Villarreal, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) San Diego personnel helped put food on the table for local families' holiday season by donating hams and other goods to a San Diego middle school Dec. 15.

NAVSUP FLC San Diego's partner in education, Roosevelt International Baccalaureate Middle School, received eight hams and several boxes of nonperishable and canned food items from the command's community relations committee to be distributed to families of students in need.

"We hold lots of events and functions with our partners in education, but this was something we could do for them over the holidays and that hadn't been done here before," said Chief Logistics Specialist (SW/AW) Curtis Cross. "We asked the school to determine which families should receive the donations and really wanted to make sure they were distributed discreetly."

Eight families received a cumulative total of about 90 pounds of ham and 240 pounds of canned goods, all collected by the committee over a three-week period. The provisions were distributed quietly to families while class was in session.

"We've really grown to know these kids throughout the year, so we're at the point where just seeing a big smile on their faces means a lot to us," Cross said. "The fact that we got the chance to help put a smile on their faces at a nice Christmas dinner with their families, that they're just so appreciative and so excited about everything we do with them, I'm very thankful for that."

NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center San Diego, one of seven fleet logistics centers under NAVSUP Global Logistics Support, provides global logistics, business and support services to fleet, shore and industrial commands of the Navy, Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, and other joint and allied Forces. Services include contracting, regional transportation, fuel, material management, household goods movement support, postal and consolidated mail, warehousing, global logistics and husbanding, hazardous material management, and integrated logistics support.

NAVSUP GLS comprises more than 5,700 military and civilian logistics professionals, contractors and foreign nationals operating as a single cohesive team providing global logistics services from 110 locations worldwide.

A component of the Naval Supply Systems Command headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pa., NAVSUP GLS is part of a worldwide logistics network of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel providing combat capability through logistics.

Reservist Asks First Lady to Marine Corps Ball

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – When it comes to a date for next year’s Marine Corps Ball, Lance Cpl. Aaron Leeks is starting early and setting his sights high.

At a Toys for Tots event on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling here last week, the Marine reservist asked First Lady Michelle Obama to be his date at the ball next November -- with her husband’s permission, of course.

The Marine reportedly made his move while the first lady was helping Marines and Toys for Tots volunteers sort through hundreds of toys donated by the White House staff. The 60-year-old program, run by the Marine Corps Reserve, collects toys to donate to needy children.

After he asked her to accompany him, Obama smiled and responded “I’d love to,” according to news reports, and brought over an aide to get his information.

The reservist, who is assigned to the joint base, is slated to deploy to Afghanistan next month, but said he plans to return for the ball.

If her husband approves and she’s able to attend that night, the first lady will be taking a recent Marine Corps celebrity date trend to a whole new level.

Last summer, while deployed in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Sgt. Scott Moore took to YouTube to ask out celebrity actress Mila Kunis. She accepted and accompanied Moore to a Marine Corps Ball on Nov. 18 in Greenville, N.C.

Following in Moore’s footsteps, Marine Corps Cpl. Kelsey De Santis extended a YouTube invitation to pop star and actor Justin Timberlake in July. They attended the Basic School Instructor Battalion 236th Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 12.

In a blog post, Timberlake called it “one of the most moving evenings” he’s ever had. “I felt so proud to be there,” he wrote. “I felt like I was getting a chance to be among my heroes.”

HSV 2, U.S. and Salvadoran Marines Celebrate Partnership

By Lt. Matthew Comer, High Speed Vessel-Southern Partnership Station 2012 Public Affairs

LA UNION, El Salvador (NNS) -- U.S. Marines assigned to High Speed Vessel (HSV 2) Swift celebrated the conclusion of a three-week partnership with Salvadoran Marines in La Union, El Salvador, Dec. 20.

The three-week Marine subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) and Swift's visit to El Salvador is part of HSV-Southern Partnership Station 2012 (HSV-SPS 12).

The celebration was held at the officers club on La Union Naval Base and was attended by more than 50 Marines from both nations. Guests included Salvadoran Capt. Rafael Armando Guzman, La Union Fleet commander and Salvadoran Cmdr. Santiago Mendez, 1st Marine Battalion commander. The participants exchanged plaques and were given the opportunity to address the group.

"This is the second time Southern Partnership Station has been in El Salvador," said Mendez. "The experience has made us brothers and friends and it is for those reasons that we sacrifice together."

U.S. and Salvadoran Marines began working together Dec. 1. The Marines focused on small unit leadership, first-aid, land navigation, and small arms marksmanship.

"The experience has been outstanding," said Gunnery Sgt. Edward Palacios. "The Salvadoran Marines here are professional and well-trained. This experience is for you and for us, so that we make our respective Marine Corps stronger by passing the knowledge we have learned here."

The exchange culminated in a two-day marksmanship evolution. The U.S. Marines built a rifle range at the naval base and the two Marine Corps practiced firing techniques to improve efficiency

"Ultimately working together is not about the individuals but about the Marines under your command," said Sgt. Mark Miller, assigned to HSV-PS 12 Marine detachment (MARDET). "Knowledge is power. Use this knowledge to make your Marines stronger."

Southern Partnership Station is an annual deployment of U.S. ships to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The mission's primary goal is information sharing with navies, coast guards and civilians in the region.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Veterans Music Camp Reveals War Stories in New Light

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. – Former military servicemen and women will be encouraged to tell their stories like never before at the second Songwriting Camp for Veterans. The camp, a component of transition programs designed for military members and their families, will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., January 19-23, 2012.

Hosted by LifeQuest Military Transitions, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado Springs, all costs for veterans are covered, including travel, accommodations and music camp activities. The mission of LifeQuest is to empower military service members with life skills that enable personal growth, promote leadership development and facilitate positive change during transition into, through and beyond military life.

“There is no program out there quite like ours because we’re built on the direct needs from active duty military units,” says LifeQuest Founder CW Conner. “Many nonprofits are reactive, but we are proactive – before they fall into harm’s way.”

The songwriting retreat, directed by Austin-based musician Darden Smith, is a follow up to the first camp held in July 2011 in Edwards, Colo. Smith gathered a team of professional singer songwriters to work with LifeQuest and nine servicemen and women who participated in the retreat. Songs written during the camp were eventually performed at the Faces of Freedom concert on September 11 at the World Arena in Colorado Springs. The songs are now available for purchase on iTunes, and those written during the January 2012 camp will complete a full album that is now in the planning stages. Proceeds from the recordings benefit the veterans and help fund LifeQuest’s programs.

“The retreat is like a revival of the soul,” says 2011 camp participant and former Army Combat Engineer John Wall. “We’ve been in such dark places, seen so much evil, that this weekend is an awakening. This is what soldiers need.”

For more information about the music camp, visit

About LifeQuest Military Transitions
LifeQuest Military Transitions (LQMT) is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo. that provides a unique variety of transition programs for military members and their families. Participants come from all over the United States.  LifeQuest’s programs center on physical rehabilitation & training, adventure activities, and life skills development for wounded, ill and injured veterans. The program emphasis is always to empower participants through choice, challenge and change.


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