29 February 2008

Command Makes Difference With Victory Boxes

An Air Force Space Command major and two staff sergeants stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., are proving that just three servicemembers can affect people halfway around the world.

Maj. Jason Gross and Staff Sgts. Rosalia and Billie Burgan are making a huge difference in the lives of Iraqi and Afghan families through the Texas-based Victory Boxes project. The program encourages Americans to send care packages to servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan who have volunteered to distribute the contents to local citizens.

"Along with setting up displays where people can come and pick up boxes, we also attend group meetings such as the newcomer's group at the Broadmoor Hotel," said Rosalia. "We brief the members about the program and give out boxes."

Local community organizations get involved, as well, she said. "The Pikes Peak Library staff supported the program," she said. "They gathered school supplies, shoes and clothes."

An e-mail from a soldier who got his unit involved in the project perhaps provides the best answer as to why these three airmen got involved in this program.

"I explained the program to my soldiers, and they understood as well as I do that amidst all this turmoil, there are still good, kind people who have not been tarnished by this war," the soldier said in his e-mail. "Your 'e-boxes' have stretched out far beyond what I think you intended them to.

"You've shown hardened soldiers that war is not all about destruction, but also rebuilding; not just about tearing down an enemy but also giving hope to the future generations," he added. "Above all, you've allowed us to keep our humanity, which is something that is easily lost here."
Gross has seen both sides of this effort. He became a volunteer while in Iraq, receiving some of the packages and distributing them to local communities. The reactions of the Iraqis inspired him to want to do more.

"I really enjoyed putting a smile on the faces of the children," he said. "It made me homesick for my own family, but in a good way -- reminding me of the important things in life."

Upon his return, he contacted Mary Margaret Halleck, the founder of the Victory Boxes program, and began working closely with her to get more people from the command and the local area involved.

"This effort is such a worthwhile thing," he said. "You can't believe the look on people's faces when they get something that is going to make their life a little bit better. This is the other side of the battle, winning the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan."
The in-theater volunteers are not all front-line troops, however. They are chaplains, medical personnel, civil affairs and supply folks. People at all levels and in all services are getting involved.

The Victory Boxes program started because Halleck's stepson was deployed to the war zone, and, in his communications to her, he described the true poverty he saw. She put together some care packages for him to distribute and sent them off. Her stepson came home, but she realized the need was still there, and it inspired her to start Victory Boxes in mid-2005.

That action inspired others like the airmen serving in Colorado who have proven that person-to-person contact counts in the rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan

Victory Boxes is a supporter of "America Supports You," a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving overseas.

Author Ed White works at Air Force Space Command Public Affairs.

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26 February 2008

Post-Surge Troops Level to Remain High

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is projecting that when the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq ends in July there will be about 8,000 more troops on the ground than when it began in January 2007, a senior general said Feb. 25.
http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,162831,00.html?ESRC=topstories.RSS
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Gates Pledges U.S. Support to Indonesian Military

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today heralded Indonesia as a leader in its region and pledged U.S. support to help the country continue its military reforms and build airlift and maritime capabilities.

The secretary landed here this morning to meet with Indonesia's president and its defense and foreign ministers.

He held a short news conference alongside Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono and later spoke to the Indonesian Council on World Affairs. In both events, the secretary reaffirmed the two countries' friendship and said he considers Indonesia "an important regional leader with global reach."

"Our relationship with Indonesia has made great strides in the past few years, and I have every expectation that it will continue to do so in the near and far future," Gates said.

Gates' first visit to Indonesia comes at a time when the government here is reforming its military and national security programs. The country is pulling its military out of domestic policing functions and is backfilling those roles with a police force. It also is revamping its budgeting process and removing much of the military's private business influence, and it is putting more separation between its officers and politics, a senior U.S. defense official said, speaking on background before the visit.

The secretary's visit shows the Defense Department is accepting Indonesia's place as a pivotal country in the region, the official said. The country is key to regional security because of its strategic location astride a number of key international maritime straits, particularly the Malacca Strait.

Discussions here today centered on ways the United States can work more closely with the Indonesian military, Gates said, specifically helping the country's military continue its reformation and develop capabilities in the airlift and maritime domains.

Indonesia's armed forces total about 350,000, members, according to U.S. State Department figures. The army is the largest branch, with about 280,000 active-duty personnel.

The 250,000-member Indonesian National Police was a branch of the armed forces for several years, but was separated from the military in April 1999.

Indonesia, rebounding after a crippling financial crisis in the late 1990s, has seen a commodity boom, and there is growing self-confidence within in the country. But much of its military equipment is old and in need of repair or replacement. Gates said U.S. help could come in the form of providing training or equipment.

Indonesia has emerged as the third-largest democracy in the world after decades of military-dominated rule. In November 2005, the United States normalized military-to-military relations with the country. Gates said the Indonesian military has become more capable and more professional. He lauded its peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon, Congo, Liberia, Georgia, Nepal and Sudan.

Speaking to the Indonesian Council on World Affairs at the end of the day, Gates called Indonesia's shift "remarkable," considering it took place against the backdrop of a devastating tsunami, one of the world's most severe financial crises, a rise in terrorist activity and a transformation of both the government and military.

These internal changes have played out against the backdrop of overall shifts in the region as a whole, Gates said. Since the end of the Cold War, Asia's security environment has undergone remarkable change, and in recent years, the nations of Asia have, for the most part, achieved unprecedented wealth and stature as they have forged more mature political, economic and military institutions, he said.

As a result, new centers of power have risen alongside new sources of instability. Piracy, ethnic strife and poverty, as well as emerging terrorism, pose the region's threats, Gates said. To combat these challenges, countries must work together, the secretary said.

"What these challenges have in common is that they simply cannot be overcome by one, or even two countries, no matter how wealthy or powerful. They require multiple nations acting with uncommon unity developing areas where each partner can bring its unique capabilities to bear," Gates said.

Gates went on to say that there has been a shift, as well, in the U.S. defense strategy in Asia to one that moves away from a permanent presence and direct action by U.S. forces toward building the capacity of partner nations to better defend themselves. He referenced a mix of military, diplomatic, cultural and humanitarian efforts.

"In this vein, the United States military -- even with ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is engaged with more Asian governments doing more things in more constructive ways than at any time in our history," Gates said.

During the speech to the council, Gates called for an end to the Cold War model of Asian security that put the United States at the center with a series of bilateral alliances with other countries. He cited the need for multilateral alliances instead, in which all countries cooperate.

"This does not mean any weakening of our bilateral ties, but rather enhancing security by adding multilateral cooperation," Gates said.

This multilateral approach, Gates said, will be needed to take on the spread of terrorism and other security threats.

"We live in a world today where the most pressing problems confronting us, ... for the most part, cannot be solved by any single nation," Gates said. "And, therefore, recognition that there are a number of powerful nations and groups of nations that must play a part in solving these problems ... is the first step to begin solving them."

This is the approach the United States has taken in recent years, Gates said.

"I believe that an underlying theme of American history is that we are compelled to defend our security and our interests in ways that, in the long run, lead to the spread of democratic values and institutions," the secretary said. "That is to say, the spread of freedom and security in places like Indonesia both manifests our ideals and protects our interests."

This is Gates' third stop on a nine-day, around-the-world trip to this region that also will include visits to India and Turkey.

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
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Conditions to Determine Post-Surge Troop Levels in Iraq, General Says

Officials project five U.S. Army brigades and two Marine battalions will leave Iraq by the end of July, but it's too soon to project troop levels beyond that, a senior U.S. military officer said here today.

"There is increasing pressure on al Qaeda in Iraq everywhere inside of Iraq," Army Lt. Gen. Carter F. Ham, the Joint Staff's director of operations, told reporters during a Pentagon news conference.

If current conditions continue, the projected U.S. troop strength in Iraq should drop from about 156,000 U.S. troops there now to about 140,000 servicemembers by the end of July, Ham said.

However, U.S. military force levels in Iraq, as always, remain contingent upon conditions on the ground, Ham emphasized. Establishing a firm timetable for additional troop reductions, Ham said, would not "recognize the fluid nature of the conflict in which we're engaged in, both Iraq and in Afghanistan."

About 132,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq before the surge of forces began in January 2007, Ham noted. It would be "premature at this point" to speculate if Iraq troop levels would be reduced further after July, he said.

Though senior civilian and military U.S. defense leaders "have all been clear that further reductions will occur," Ham said, the timing and the pace of those reductions is the focus of ongoing Iraq troop-strength assessments by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq; U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker; Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command; and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Crocker and Petraeus are due back in Washington sometime in April to present their assessments on conditions in Iraq and recommendations to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President Bush. Any further possible troop reductions in Iraq would await their recommendations and resultant decisions made by Gates and the president, Ham said.

The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is expected to increase to 32,000 troops by mid-summer from about 28,000 there now, Ham said. Most of the increase, he noted, comes from a deployment of 3,200 additional Marines to Afghanistan.

Also at the news conference, Ham said Turkish military operations in northern Iraq against members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party terrorist group, known as the PKK, appear to be of short duration. Ham said the United States and Turkey have regular communications about the operation and that high-level Turkish and Iraqi military officials have met to discuss the issue.

In addition, Ham noted that 1,600 U.S. troops in NATO's Kosovo Force are standing by to provide assistance, if required, in the wake of violence in the northern part of the country following Kosovo's Feb. 17 declaration of independence from Serbia.

Ham also confirmed that the Feb. 21 U.S. missile launch that destroyed a malfunctioning reconnaissance satellite had indeed hit a tank full of toxic hydrazine rocket fuel that was the desired target. The hydrazine, he said, burned up or dissipated in the explosion, and there have been no reports of debris reaching Earth.

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
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Sailors, Airmen Learn Army Way in Joint Training

Airmen and sailors from all over the world convened at the Joint Maneuver Training Center here last month to train for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When deployed, these reserve and active-duty servicemembers will not perform in their normal specialties, but rather will fill specific needs in the combat theater.

"I was a little anxious to be embedded with the Air Force at first. There are only five of us embedded with 60 to 70 Air Force members, but they have been completely inclusive, and it really has been a great experience so far training with them," said Navy Lt. Giovinazzi Giles.

Weapons training and qualification was one of the first portions of training the servicemembers received.

"Experiencing Army training (and) doing road marches (in) full 'battle rattle' has opened my eyes, and I have really grown to respect the Army mission and culture," Giles said.

"Camp Atterbury has opened my eyes for what to expect," Air Force Airman 1st Class Amanda Lacy said. "I am nervous about the deployment, but I am more confident in my weapons training, more than ever before because of the training here."

The joint operations training also includes Army combative training, country and language familiarization, military operations on urban terrain training, and combat life-saver courses.

"I am a little nervous about the deployment, but the training here has helped out tremendously," Giles said. "It supplies a chance to adjust to full-time military life by providing full immersion training. Here at Camp Atterbury, I am finding the chance to get into the right mindset to get deployed."

Along training in reacting to simulated events, participants also completed preventive training, such as learning how to correctly search cars and people at traffic-control points and how to spot improvised explosive devices from convoys.

"The instructors here are great," Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Schechter said. "All of them have been on at least one (combat) tour, so they are able to share their experiences and relate personal stories to the material they are teaching us. This makes training more interesting."

The servicemembers completed their training at Forward Operating Base Bayonet and in classrooms within their barracks.

"The training at the FOB has been a little more austere than what I expected, but that is a good thing," Schechter said. "This helps desensitize us to the possible living conditions that we may experience overseas."

The servicemembers will continue to complete full-immersion Army training here until they move on to in-theater immersion training before traveling overseas.

Author Army Spc. Elizabeth Gorenc serves with Camp Atterbury Public Affairs.
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Former Marine, Now a Soldier, Leads By Example

Photo: Army Sgt. William H. Hall, a Foley, Ala., native, and team leader with the personal security detail for the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares for a mission Feb. 20, 2008. Hall, a father of six with another on the way and a former Marine leads by example by daily mentoring, coaching and training his soldiers. Photo by Sgt. James P. Hunter, USA

Noncommissioned officers in America's Army have always served as the vanguards by mentoring, coaching and training troops during peacetime and war. Sgt. William Hall, 39, has always led from the front. Throughout his life, he said, he has lived by the motto, "You lead by example."

"Sergeant Hall is the NCO that all (sergeants) and junior enlisted should strive to be: always leading from the front and always setting the proper example," said Staff Sgt. Charlie Collier, a Lufkin, Texas, native, who serves as Hall's squad leader.

Hall said he wants to ensure his soldiers know that if they come into a sticky situation while operating in northwestern Baghdad, they can look at him and know he's going to make the right decision.

"Soldiers watch what you do," Hall said. "Anybody can demand respect, but few people earn respect. If (soldiers) truly respect you by you earning their respect, they'll follow you anywhere you've got to go."

Hall, a native of Foley, Ala., serves as a team leader on the personal security detail for Col. William Hickman, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. He described his job as "exciting, demanding and rewarding."

The security element travels throughout the battle space daily, escorting the commander as he meets with soldiers, Iraqi leaders and Iraqi security forces.

"We go out every day," Hall said. "It's pretty demanding, because we concentrate on the entire (area of operation), going everywhere in northwest Baghdad."

Hall said the key is learning the routes through continued planning, but that at times he has to make key decisions on the spot. "You've got to make sure you know where you are going, because everybody is following you," he said. "Your main job is to get everybody where they need to be."

Though Hall is responsible for leading the convoy, he said, he serves an even greater responsibility to his soldiers. He hopes he can make an impact on their lives.

"You make sure they are good soldiers, make sure they do what they are supposed to do, ensuring they stay alert," he said. "You have to make sure they are there every day, maintaining their arms and their equipment. The main objective is to complete the mission."

However, leading by example is nothing new to Hall, who grew up in a small town along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. His town had a well-known football tradition. He was a part of that tradition since the age of 8.

In 1989, three years after graduating from high school, he joined the Marine Corps and served as an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. He was a team leader and a squad leader. Many members of his family served their nation, but none of them served as a Marine, so he decided to go against the grain.

"I always heard it was kind of hard," Hall said. "At that point in my life, I needed something challenging."

As a Marine, Hall earned his Ranger tab and airborne wings. "I got to experience a little bit of the Army through the Marine Corps," he said.

He worked himself to the rank of sergeant, and in 1995 he decided to leave the Corps. He had orders to become a drill instructor, but his father was ailing from heart disease and he wanted to spend what time he had left with him, Hall explained.

In the meantime, Hall worked as a sod farmer and in the lumber business, but the passion for the military never left him, he said.

"I was an operations manager in a lumber company for several years -- made good money -- but I had a desire to serve my country again, (to) come to Iraq and be a part of history," he said. "I felt like I would have cheated my life if I didn't come over here and at least gave my effort in the battle against terrorism."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Hall had wanted to rejoin the military's ranks, but family and job commitments stood in the way, until one day when he said, "Hey, I don't want to miss out," the sergeant recalled.

Hall joined the National Guard and served with the 20th Special Forces Group. He went through the selection course, but even after completing the 21-day course, was not selected. He didn't see this as a weakness, he said, but rather as a sign. He said he felt as if he still had the mental and physical capabilities to make it through, so why not go active duty?

"Sometimes in life you have to do something that makes you feel better inside," Hall said. "I was on my way to Desert Storm and it ended, so I was like, 'Man, I missed out.' I said, 'Enough's enough.'"

Six weeks after leaving the National Guard for the active-duty Army, Hall was in Iraq.

"This is what it's all about. Everyone's got to do their time and do the right thing," he said with conviction. "Not too many people can say they came to Iraq and defended their country."

It was a sudden decision, but Hall said he always has had his family's support. Hall and his wife have six children, with another on the way. His wife had just graduated from nursing school and was still in the process of beginning her career, but he knew whatever he chose to do, his wife and children would back him up 100 percent, he said.

When Hall gets the rare opportunity to kick his feet up and relax, he thinks about his wife and his unborn son, and he counts his blessings, he said.

"(God has) let me do what I've always wanted to do," he said. "I've always had the desire to be in the military."

Author Army Sgt. James Hunter serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.
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25 February 2008

Congress: Why should each military branch get same budget?

Washington - The defense budget has been sliced into virtually the same-sized pieces for decades, with roughly equal shares of resources going to the Army, Air Force, and Navy. In a move analysts say is sure to strike fear among some services, Congress this week will begin asking why.
http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0226/p03s03-usmi.html
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FBI Response to Rolling Stone Magazine Article on Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)

(This is the full version of a letter sent to the editor of Rolling Stone magazine in response to their article, The Fear Factory which appeared in the February 7, 2008 edition.)

Rolling Stone printed an edited version to comport with their word limitations, in the February 22, 2008 issue.

There is an old saying among reporters: The worst thing you can do to a good story is check it out. Guy Lawson (“The Fear Factory” Rolling Stone, February 7th) brings hypothetical theory to new heights. After “checking it out,” Mr. Lawson simply tailored his story around any compelling facts that did not fit his original premise. Before coming to the FBI, over 25 years ago, I won most of the major awards that they give to a reporter. I feel I have standing to say that a journalist has an obligation to tell at least two sides of a story. Your readers only got one.

The premise to which Mr. Lawson’s story was married is his theory that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) have to justify their existence in the post 9/11 world by ginning up thin cases against arguably docile suspects who have neither the intent nor capability to cause real harm. Mr. Lawson deftly skips over 27 years of the work of the JTTFs capturing al Qaeda suspects from the first World Trade Center bombing, preventing the attacks on New York landmarks, the Embassy and USS Cole bombings, the Millennium Plot and more. Instead, Mr. Lawson narrowed his focus to cases involving small groups and “lone wolves” that planned to murder American citizens on U.S. soil.

Derrick Shareef, the convicted terrorist at the center of the story who Mr. Lawson frivolously described as being a “wanna-be jihadi,” possessed all of the traits necessary to harm or kill innocent citizens. Investigators were also keenly aware of Mr. Shareef’s continuous contacts with Hassan Abujihaad, another domestic terror suspect being monitored by the FBI. Mr. Abujihaad was indicted for sending classified e-mails while serving on a U.S. Navy ship to pro-Taliban forces, divulging his naval battle group’s operational vulnerabilities. It was only after the two had a falling out that Mr. Shareef accelerated his plans to act independently and swiftly to launch an attack. The JTTF took correct action to disrupt his plans and arrest him.

Mr. Shareef, like scores of suicide bombers overseas, was infused with a poisonous ideology, displayed a single-minded desire to take action, regularly declared his intent to kill, and sought to obtain weapons to commit an attack.

One needs only to reflect on the example of Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 168 U.S. citizens in the Oklahoma City bombing. Mr. McVeigh could have been described as having little money, working a dead end job as a security guard, dealing with anger issues, and devoted to an extremist ideology. Like Mr. Shareef, Mr. McVeigh discussed his plans with others, cased potential targets, took action to secure explosives for the operation, and tried to do it as cheaply as possible.

Other killers have started out with even less. Take John Allan Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the “D.C. Snipers.” Two practically homeless men, living out of a car, filled with hate and armed with a high-powered assault rifle. As in the case of Mr. Shareef, you might be tempted to call them “losers,” but their actions paralyzed greater Washington D.C. for three weeks in 2002. In the end, 10 people died in the attacks and still others were identified from earlier shootings in other states. None of these men would have met Mr. Lawson’s standard as being a legitimate threat, yet had the FBI known about them before they struck, we would have been severely criticized.

At any point during his planning process, Mr. Shareef could have stopped his actions, but he chose not to. There is no evidence that he ever wavered in his desire to murder holiday shoppers in the CherryVale Mall that day. Would he have succeeded had it not been for the diligence of the JTTF? Mr. Lawson’s story suggests we should be willing to take this gamble, but he is not responsible for the outcome. No one will knock on the doors of Rolling Stone and ask why people died that day.

Not every terrorist needs to be linked to an organized group like al Qaeda to kill the innocent. What these lessons have taught us is that if the motivation is strong enough, challenges such as getting weapons or paying for the operation can be overcome.

JTTF agents and officers abide by FBI procedures, Department of Justice legal guidance, and the United States Constitution. They must bring facts before a judge to get authorization for a warrant or electronic surveillance. Since 9/11, the JTTFs have broken a dozen plots targeting civilians on U.S. soil. None of them have been well-financed, but I cannot remember any victim of a terrorist attack lamenting that they wished they’d been killed by a more expensive plot.

Mr. Lawson’s sweeping statement, “The defendants posed little if any demonstrable threat to anyone or anything,” seems to be his uneducated guess rather than an objective summary of the legal outcomes or courtroom results. In almost every case heard by a jury, the defendants were found guilty, in spite of having some dedicated and talented defense lawyers articulate the same claims Mr. Lawson has swallowed. The Yassin Aref case in Albany, New York, and the Hamid Hayat case in Lodi, California, are two examples. In other cases such as the “Lackawanna Six,” and the Torrance cell, the defendants pled guilty with the advice of counsel.

If we have identified somebody with the intent to take lives in the name of extremism and we fail to take the appropriate action, we are ignoring our sworn mission to protect the innocent. Regardless of criticism, it is our obligation to err on the side of safety while continuing to adhere to Constitutional protections.

John J. Miller
Assistant Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation

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23 February 2008

President of Clayton State Philosophy Club Wins NCSAA Muay Thai Kickboxing National Championship

MM Note: We thought we'd share this story about one of our southside soldiers for a number of reasons. It's rather irritating to have the press try to portray soldiers as dummies who can't do anything other than join the military... Hobgood is a great example it seems of someone with brawn and brain!

Clayton State University student Michael Hobgood (McDonough) won the National Combat Sports Amateur Association (NCSAA) Muay Thai Kickboxing National Championships on Feb. 15, in Washington, D.C.

“The competition is an adrenaline high, it’s an empowering feeling,” says Hobgood who is also currently a sergeant in the U.S. Army.

Hobgood is also the president of the Clayton State Philosophy Club. After resting up and flying back home from his kickboxing championship, on Saturday Feb. 16 he participated in the inaugural Southeast Philosophy Conference held at Clayton State. He presented his research on “Boots on the (Philosophical) Ground: Human Nature According to a Solider.”

Hobgood became interested in mixed martial arts when a friend in the army needed a sparring partner. He began training in 2001; however it was not until December 2005 that he began competing in mixed martial arts. He has participated in 76 fights and has held eight titles.

Hobgood retired from mixed martial arts in February 2007 and began Muay Thai kickboxing. He won the 2007 and 2008 Georgia State and Southeast Regional titles. Last year he placed third at the national competition, but this year he won and took home the hand-made champion belt.

“My fiancé, Kim, has been very supportive, as have my parents. My dad encourages me and my mom hopes that I come out alive,” he explains with a bit of humor.

The light of his life is his fiancé Kim’s daughter, Lauren, who he says he is thankful to have in his life everyday. Hobgood looks forward to being with Kim and Lauren full time – they are currently separated while they both are in school.

Graduation is nearing for Hobgood -- spring 2008 -- and with that many things will change for him. He will marry his fiancé this summer. He also plans to continue his military career with the U.S. Army. All of this will mean his retirement from Muay Thai kickboxing.

“I'm very excited about winning, but retiring and giving up a huge chunk of my life was rather sad. But that win put the perfect capstone on my career, I've done more than I ever thought I could, and I have no regrets about it,” says Hobgood.

“I do not like to sit still, I just don’t know what to with myself. I prefer to stay active whether it is physically or mentally,” he says of his joint athletic and philosophical interests.

Hobgood is a history major with a minor in philosophy and currently has a 3.53 grade point average. In his spare time, he does like to read military history as well as biographies and also likes to play video games.

“I'm 26 years old and a national champion with my health still intact. I'm living up to my promise; I always said I would leave the sport on my terms rather than get tossed aside when the sport was done with me,” he says.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.
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22 February 2008

Wounded in Iraq, National Guardsman Wants to Return

Photo: Kevin Pannell (left) paddles a sit-on-top kayak alongside Melanie Kaplan in the waters off of Cinnamon Bay, St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Oct. 10, 2007. Kaplan helped organize a trip to the islands for seven veterans who lost limbs in the Iraq and Vietnam conflicts.

For an Arkansas Army National Guardsman, the war in Iraq came to an abrupt end in the alley of a Baghdad neighborhood on June 13, 2004.

Then-Sgt. Kevin Pannell was on a routine foot patrol with his unit in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood, when insurgents lobbed two hand grenades at the group. The grenades landed near him and exploded, knocking him off his feet and mangling both of his legs.

"I was never knocked out, so my medic wouldn't let me go to sleep -- because when you go to sleep, shock sets in," Pannell said.

That changed when he arrived at the U.S. military hospital in Baghdad, however. The doctors there put him into a medically induced coma.

"It's kind of surreal, because you don't remember that. It doesn't seem like it really happened," he said. "To me, I went to sleep in Baghdad and woke up two minutes later."

In fact, it was eight days before Pannell awoke at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here to find doctors had amputated his right leg below the knee and his left leg above the knee.

Two prosthetic legs and plenty of physical therapy have Pannell up and walking again, and despite all he's been through, he wants to return to the country where his life was turned upside-down.

Pannell won't return as a soldier; he's been medically retired. And he's too pragmatic to think he could even the score with the insurgents whose grenades shattered his body.

"It's so hard to get those guys. They skip over two streets, change their shirts, and they're not who they were," he said. "Unless you've been studying this guy on the 'black list,' you're not going to recognize him on the street."

It's a sense of duty to the deployed men and women that is nagging at him to go back. He said he wants them to know that just because a servicemember is injured doesn't mean he forgets about his buddies who are still patrolling the streets of Iraq.

"I think it would be vitally important for those dudes to realize that once we get hurt, we don't forget about them," Pannell said. "That's something a lot of people can't understand, but it's impossible. It's impossible to forget your guys."

Pannell said he thinks the members of his unit who didn't get hurt had it much worse than he did. It's not that he would ever wish on his buddies what he's been through, but once he began to recover, he said, he could get on with his life.

"Once I got hit, I was safe. I was back in the States, (and) the war was over for me," he said. "They (were) going out those gates every day, not knowing if they're going to come back or not. That's a hell of a thing to bear, you know?"

While his wife, Danielle, supports his desire to go back, she has a slightly different take on why he wants to make the trip.

"He went into Iraq a scared little kid and came out the same way because he never really got to say goodbye, never got to have closure (in that part) of his life. When he left, he was unconscious," she said in a previous American Forces Press Service interview. "He wants to go back and say, 'Look, I'm here. You didn't defeat me.'"

Maybe he'll get his chance. "If anybody wants me to tag along on a (United Service Organizations) trip, I'm down," he said. "Drew Carey goes over like every six months; I can hop on with him."
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Community News You Can Use
Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Tyrone
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19 February 2008

World War II Veterans Eager to Take Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Photo: (l-r) James Watkins, Emory Holbrook and Ed Travis.

An Air Tran flight tentatively scheduled for May 14th is awaiting the three World War II veterans pictured and other veterans from Fayette County. This first Honor Flight Fayette is full and applications are being taken for the next flight as this is only the first of many planned flights for these veterans we are losing at the rate of 1,200 to 1,500 per day. The only thing keeping our veterans from their Memorial, that took over 60 years to come to fruition is the lack of funds at present. However, the organizers of this project are confident that the citizens and businesses of Fayette County will want to help honor these men and women who made possible many of the freedoms we take for granted today.

Honor Flight Fayette, part of the national honor flight organization, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) which is staffed only by volunteers, and which was created solely to honor America's World War II veterans for all their sacrifices by flying them to Washington, D.C. for a one day trip to visit and reflect at their memorial with their comrades in arms from this and other areas.

This trip is free to the veterans and is funded only by donations. Their day will begin in Fayetteville with Honor Flight Fayette t-shirts and a big send-off at Fayetteville First United Methodist Church. Exciting events are planned and everyone is invited to come and participate in this memorable event. After a ride to the Atlanta Airport in local church and other buses, special attention and speed will be given to them through the security lines so they can board their flight with a minimum of inconvenience and time.

There will be a Doctor, EMT's, and a Nurse on this flight. Also aboard will be "Guardians" who will pay for their own ticket at a cost of $300, and will be responsible for 1-3 veterans. Each guardian to veteran ratio will depend on the need of the veteran, which is the primary focus of this trip. The goal is to make this trip as special as possible for these men and women.
Once they arrive in the Capitol, they will be seated in motor coaches and taken to the World War II Memorial. Once there they will be provided with a tent, drinks and lunch depending upon the time they are assigned to see the Memorial. Time permitting, a tour will be taken through Arlington Cemetery.

Upon arriving back in Fayetteville, they will receive gifts to memorialize their day because many of these veterans have said little, if at all, about their experiences during this war. They simply considered it was an honor and a duty to serve their country and expect no recognition for their sacrifices.

If you would like to donate to this very worthy cause, please go to honorflightfayette.org where you will find forms for veterans, guardians and volunteers. Also listed is information on donating to a cause where the only ones who will benefit "free of cost" for this trip are the veterans. However, we must ask ourselves, "AT WHAT COST DID THEY SECURE MY FREEDOM AND HOW CAN I REPAY THEM".
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Fayette Front Page: Community News You Can Use
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18 February 2008

George Anderson Was A BAR Man

The line of infantry had moved steadily from the farm road across the field and into the woods, when suddenly on the left side George Anderson, a twenty-one year old BAR man, wheeled around and began firing. It was Christmas Day.

The scene was the Battle of the Bulge, the decisive World War II showdown with the German Army in December 1944. Anderson, a native of Pittsburgh, was not called BAR man because he hung out in honky tonks or smoky saloons. Rather, he was carrying the big Browning Automatic Rifle or BAR.

The BAR is a formidable 19-pound firearm, a forerunner to modern day assault rifles such as the AK-47 or M-16. Only a few were dispersed in the infantry units of that era; most soldiers carried the M-1 Garand.

Because the weapon could fire up to 650 rounds per minute with an effective range of 600 yards, a soldier with a BAR was an early target in a fire fight, something Private First Class Anderson didn’t know when he volunteered to be his squad’s BAR man. And though he had volunteered, Anderson was hardly an “ideal match” for the big rifle, given his 120 pounds.

“I carried twelve magazines of twenty rounds each, plus three to four bandoleers of ammunition,.” Anderson said. “In addition, I usually carried four hand grenades. At one time I calculated that I carried approximately 50 pounds of weapons and ammunition.”

Anderson is usually reluctant to talk about himself and his part in the war. After much prodding from friends, he recently reminisced about his combat experiences in General George Patton’s Third Army.

He had dropped out of college to enlist because he felt called to get into the fight that was raging everywhere in the world. He turned down chances to be a commissioned officer because he thought he would be sent back to school instead of the conflict.

Anderson is quick to say that he was no hero and did nothing unusual in the war—nothing that thousands of others didn’t do. He repeatedly states that he was a typical grunt that was “just doing his job” lugging his BAR around Europe.

Nevertheless, his friend French Bell says the 84-year-old Anderson’s story needs to be told, along with those of others like him: “George is part of ’The Greatest Generation,’ “Bell said. “They were a truly remarkable group of people. They destroyed the AXIS war machines and safeguarded our homeland during its darkest hours. In my book they are all heroes.”

Bell, a member of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, once invited Anderson to be his guest at a luncheon meeting with the group. Bell introduced Anderson and briefly described his role in the Battle of the Bulge. When he finished, the entire group gave Anderson a standing ovation.

After his discharge from the Army in January 1946, as a staff sergeant, Anderson finished his B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University. In a few years he would form his own company which manufactured a variety of industrial flow metering instruments. Some of Anderson’s instruments have been used in the space program to measure propulsion units.

He married his wife Susan in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1946 and together they reared three children: Gary, Linda, and Carol. Anderson sold his company and retired in Peachtree City in 1997. Susan passed away three years later. Friends say he loved his wife very deeply and that she profoundly influenced his spirituality.

When Anderson looks back to that Christmas 63 years ago in Belgium, he explains that the Third Army had been sent to relieve the 101st Airborne Division which was surrounded by Germans in Bastogne. Anderson’s company had lined up along a farm road and had started across a field toward a wooded area when they came under mortar attack. Despite suffering several casualties, the group pressed on into the woods.

“I hadn’t gone more than ten yards into the woods when I spotted a small group of men in their white camouflage suits off to my left.” Anderson said. “ I blazed away with my BAR, then paused momentarily to call and point them out to my colleagues off to my right. This was obviously the group of Germans who were spotting and directing the mortar fire when we first started out.”

Anderson’s platoon continued into the woods while another platoon dealt with the few enemy still standing after the short skirmish. They broke into a small clearing where they were able to stop for awhile—a pause that Anderson desperately needed because he was suffering from dysentery, a common malady in the austere conditions of combat. Soon the company commander ordered the men to cross a second field about 750 yards in width. After entering the field, the unit encountered heavy machine gun fire and the soldiers dove onto the ground.

“ If anyone had told you that there were enemy on the other side of an open field shooting at you with rifles and machine guns, and you were supposed to walk boldly across this field in the face of this fire, “ Anderson said, “you would say they were off their rocker, but this was what we were to do. There was no artillery support to try to pin the Germans down. Neither were there any tanks.” The company had been unable to link up with an armored unit during the operation as previously planned.

“The orders were called to move out. Everyone got up and started to move forward again, “ Anderson said. “ The line to my right was falling back. This is serious because when you are attacking and the enemy is hidden in the woods, you simply fire from the hip. You are not aiming at anything in particular, just hoping that firing in their direction will possibly keep their heads down. If anyone is in front of you while you are firing from the hip, there is always the risk of hitting your own men. I remember turning to my right and calling and waving for the men to move forward.”

“All of a sudden, BOOM! Someone hit me with a ball bat. That’s about what it was like. Although a rifle or machine gun bullet is relatively small, it travels at a very high velocity,” Anderson said “As a result, it packs a tremendous wallop. It slammed me face down onto the ground into the snow.”

Anderson had been shot through the neck. Miraculously, the bullet had not hit his spine, his windpipe, his esophagus, or any of his vital arteries, although he was bleeding heavily. The bullet had hit him under his ear and passed out the back of his neck, barely missing the spine.

“I guess that I lost consciousness for only a few moments.” Anderson said, “ I sort of cocked my head a little as best I could and said a little prayer. I can still pretty much remember how it went even after 63 years. I said ‘Well, God I guess I’ll be with you in a little bit. That’s okay. I’m ready. But be with Mom and Pop, Sue, Bob and Mil. Don’t let them grieve too much.”

But someone upstairs was listening; it was not Anderson’s day to die. Fortunately, medics soon appeared. They rendered basic emergency aid, helped him to his feet, and pointed him in the general direction of the Battalion Aid Station. Then Anderson was left alone to fend for himself while the medics went to help other wounded soldiers. He managed to stagger toward the rear in search of more help.

Eventually a tank crew spotted Anderson and gave him and some other wounded soldiers a ride to the aid station. It had been one hell of a Christmas Day. Every soldier in his squad had been wounded or killed. A week later, after short stays at various field medical facilities, he was admitted to a well-equipped hospital near Paris, where he would recover from the wound and his chronic dysentery.

Anderson had earned the Purple Heart, but the war was not over for him. He spent four weeks in the hospital and then he was referred to a physical re-conditioning unit which was to strengthen him so he could rejoin the fight. He was an experienced infantry soldier who was still needed at the front. He was a BAR man.

In spite of his brush with death, nowadays Anderson can smile about some of his lighter moments as a World War II BAR man. He recalls a Thanksgiving Day incident when artillery rounds began falling, and he had to make a quick dash for his foxhole. He was soon reminded that weapons designer John Browning had invented a fairly long rifle at 47.8 inches.

“My BAR had been left in the foxhole leaning upright in the corner.” Anderson said, “ Since the BAR is quite long, it extended above the ground level by 12 inches or more. Just as an artillery barrage came in, I took two steps and made a flying leap into the foxhole. As fate would have it, I caught the muzzle of the BAR just above my groin. My momentum carried me and the BAR to an upright position where I hung balanced momentarily before falling down into the hole”

“ Ouch! To say it hurt is putting it mildly.” Anderson said, “However, no damage was done and in a little while things were okay again. My friend Danny Long and I had another little Thanksgiving Day laugh about the sight of me hanging momentarily on the end of my BAR.”

Anderson laughs about another incident that happened in France. His unit was on the offensive, and the Germans were in retreat. He said, “We didn’t get off too early one morning, out across some farm fields as usual. We had gone no more than a few hundred yards when we stirred up some rabbits that were running ahead of us.”

“Following behind the rabbits were quite a number of soldiers carrying fully loaded rifles. Guess what?” Anderson said. “As might be expected of a bunch of 18 and 19 year old GIs, they started shooting at the rabbits. Our captain put an end to that in a hurry. He correctly reminded the guys that our troops ahead of us would think they were being attacked from the rear.”

While there is humor in some of Anderson’s wartime situations, boredom, death and destruction were more the norm. The death of a green recruit named Henry in a friendly-fire training episode made a lasting impression on him. Anderson had befriended the youngster and promised that he would “take care of him.”

In a small French village, Anderson was looking directly at an elderly woman when a German artillery round exploded where she stood, immediately killing her. “The explosion of the shell knocked me from the open doorway where I was standing, well down the hallway,” Anderson said “But I didn’t get a scratch. Just another of the many, many cases during my service on the front lines that God had decided ‘not yet’.”

Anderson’s faith in God helped sustain him throughout his lifetime and especially in the war because like everyone else every time he went into combat, he could reasonably expect to be killed. A devout Christian since childhood, his family had a Scottish Presbyterian background. As an adult, he and his family had worshipped with different denominations depending on what churches were available locally and his career moves. Anderson credits his late wife Susan with steering him toward Anglicanism as she had been raised in the Anglican tradition in her native Belfast, Ireland.

At age 83 Anderson was confirmed in the Anglican Church by Bishop David Bena of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. As a charter member of All Saints Anglican Church in Peachtree City, he regularly attends services twice weekly.

Fellow church member French Bell said of Anderson, “I think George and all World War II veterans I’ve met are self-effacing and modest about their accomplishments and experiences in combat. They never bring up the subject unless you have approached them about it. He never wants people to go out of their way for him but is always deeply appreciative of any little pleasantry he experiences. ”

“George loves being around our parishioners,” said Bell “especially the veterans in our church no matter what conflict, branch of service, or experience. He likes good books, is well read, and writes well. He organizes his World War II Company reunions. A true gentleman.”

Another parishioner, Phil Kelley, said that when Anderson was recovering from a knee replacement a year ago it was clear that he was an old soldier. “He didn’t complain and pushed himself to get back to normal. Soon, he was walking with very little help from a cane.”

Anderson is part of a vanishing breed: good citizen-soldiers that went to war decades ago and “just did their jobs.” In doing their jobs, they preserved their homeland and made the nation what it is today.

George Anderson doesn’t pretend to be a hero or anything but what he was. He was a BAR man. Those who know him say God bless him and all others like him.

Photos:
Top: Anderson was confirmed in the Anglican Church at the age of 83 by Suffragan Bishop David Bena of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. His faith helped him through combat in World War II.
Middle: George Anderson carried the big Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) in combat during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded. Usually reticent about the war, he recently shared memories.
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Five Georgia Air National Guard Units Receive Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards

2/5/08 Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that five Georgia Air National Guard units have been named recipients of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

“The men and women of the Georgia National Guard make extraordinary contributions both here at home and overseas in defense of our nation,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “All Georgians can be proud of these units for receiving this much deserved award.”

The Outstanding Unit Award is awarded by the Secretary of the Air Force to units that have shown exceptionally meritorious service and outstanding achievement that clearly sets them above and apart from similar units across the country.

“To have five units from Georgia be awarded this prestigious honor in the same year is absolutely remarkable,” explained Maj. Gen. Scott Hammond, the commander of the Georgia Air National Guard. "In spite of the enormous operational tempo to which our units are being subjected because of commitments around the globe, these units continuously perform at the highest level.”

Georgia units receiving the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award are:

- 165th Air Support Operations Squadron (Savannah)
- 116th Air Control Wing (Warner Robins)
- 283rd Combat Communications Squadron (Dobbins ARB, Marietta)
- 202nd Engineering Installation Squadron (Macon)
- 224th Joint Communications Support Squadron (Brunswick)

“This award is testimony to the outstanding work by the members of these units,” said Maj. Gen. Terry Nesbitt, Georgia's Adjutant General. “Only a handful of Air National Guard organizations nationwide ever receive this honor. To have five units from one state is unprecedented.”

The Georgia National Guard is made up of more than 13,000 men and women from across the state. In the past six years, more than 10,000 Army and Air Guard citizen-soldiers and airmen have mobilized in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
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17 February 2008

Marine Veteran Hopes New Film Reveals Real Iraqi War

(CNSNews.com) - In his new documentary "Outside the Wire '07," U.S. Marine veteran J.D. Johannes documents firefights between U.S. troops and al Qaeda and examines the troop surge in Baghdad. One segment of the film, "Anbar Awakens," tells how the surge's new strategy of putting troops in villages -- and outside of the Green Zone -- has resulted in Iraqis turning against insurgents."Through a great series of events and the blessings of God, I got to go over and see this war firsthand, watch history unfold and record it on videotape," Johannes told Cybercast News Service at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., where he screened the "Anbar Awakens" portion of his documentary.

http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewNation.asp?Page=/Nation/archive/200802/NAT20080215a.html

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15 February 2008

$40,000 More Needed To Send Off First Honor Flight Fayette

Local WWII veterans will soon be flying to their new WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. as part of a national program headed up locally by a retired Fayette County school teacher and a local land surveyor

Honor Flight Fayette backers have the heart and the patriotic drive, but they need $40,000 by April in order to send the first wave of Fayette County veterans.

“We’ve already raised more than $11,000, but we have a long way to go,” said Gail Sparrow, a retired history teacher who took up this cause when she learned that America is losing about 1,200 WWII veterans per day. The effort here started just before Christmas 2007. Organizers estimate it will take a total of about $50,000 to send the first group of veterans, including airfare, ground transportation and other incidentals. Veterans travel free; all their expenses are paid for through donations. The first group is scheduled to go on May 14th.

“WWII veterans protected my freedom and my way of life and now it’s my time to say thank you for what they’ve done,” Sparrow said.

Mark Buckner, a local land surveyor who has joined Sparrow in her quest, is confident that Fayette County will come through for these heroes. Sparrow and Buckner formed a 501 c (3) non-profit organization and a board of directors to guide the effort.

“There are many retired military and other patriotic people in this county and I know they will answer this call,” Buckner said. “We are counting on the local business and corporate community to join us in a big way to help reach this important goal.”

The Honor Flight Fayette program is part of Honor Flight Network, a nationwide program started by one Ohio man to honor veterans in this way. As a certified non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible. Businesses, individuals or corporations interested in donating can contact Gail Sparrow at 770-461-6163 or Mark Buckner at 770-231-6708. Information about the local program can be found at www.honorflightfayette.org, and on the national program at www.honorflight.org.

Escorts will help veterans during the entire trip. Escorts will pay their own way at about $350 per person. Sparrow said they have enough escorts already, but stressed that they will need as many as 50 additional volunteers between now and the time the flight leaves.

“We’ll need volunteers of all ages to help develop rosters and deliver administrative information at least two weeks or so before the trip leaves,” she said. “They’ll help check veterans in at the staging area at First Methodist Church on the morning of the flight. They may need to assist getting them onboard buses, giving them small breakfast snacks and other such duties.”

Organizers also said they in need of in-kind donations as well, such as T-shirts, ball caps, balloons, coffee, snacks and other similar items. Interested donors can contact Gail Sparrow at 770-461-6163 or Mark Buckner at 770-231-6708.
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12 February 2008

VFW Condemns Berkeley City Council for Permitting Marine Harassment

VFW Condemns Berkeley City Council for Permitting Marine Harassment

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 4, 2008--The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is furious with the Berkeley, Calif., City Council, calling their actions "outrageous and idiotic" following their recent vote to give the boot to a U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Station.

"The resolution is a direct insult to not only the Marines Corps, but also to all members of the nation's armed forces," said George Lisicki, national commander of the VFW, the nation's largest organization of combat veterans. "Their recent actions represent a calculated effort to legalize harassment of one of our nation's most elite military organizations. If there were ever a prize awarded for lack of appreciation and awareness for what our military has contributed to preserving our way of life, the Berkeley City Council would certainly win the trophy."

The Berkeley City Council, on Jan. 29 by a vote of 6-3, told the Marines at the downtown recruiting station that they are not welcome in the city. Furthermore, by an 8-1 vote, the council voted to give anti-war groups the right to harass the Marines, even giving protestors a parking space in front of the recruiting station. The only council member to vote against both proposals was Gordon Wozniak, with council members Betty Olds and Kriss Worthington joining Wozniak in voting against the council's resolution to boot the "unwelcome intruders."

"The city council leaders need to be reminded that all the freedoms we enjoy as Americans have been earned by generations of patriots who were willing to fight to protect the liberties we, as Americans, enjoy," said Lisicki, a Vietnam War veteran from Carteret, N.J.

What Lisicki said also troubled him was the failure of city authorities to do nothing when Code Pink, an antiwar group who originated the complaint against the Marines, defaced the front door of the recruiting station by altering the sign "U.S. Marine Corps Officer Selection Office" to "U.S. Marine Corps Officer Assasination [sic] Office."

"If anyone has earned the right to have a presence in any community in this nation, it would be the U.S. Marines," said Lisicki. "The Marine Corps is welcomed in every city and town across the America except for the City of Berkeley and by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The national commander also is encouraging its 2.3 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries to e-mail or call city council members.

City of Berkeley
2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
TEL: (510) 981-6900, TDD: (510) 981-6903, FAX: (510) 981-6901
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
E-mail: clerk@ci.berkeley.ca.us

Voted for Resolution
Mayor Tom Bates
E-mail: mayor@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7100
FAX: (510) 981-7199

Linda Maio
E-mail: lmaio@ci.Berkeley
Phone: (510) 981-7110
FAX: (510) 981-7111

Darryl Moore
Email: dmoore@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7120

Maxwell Anderson
E-mail: manderson@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7130

Dona Spring
E-mail: spring@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7140

Laurie Capitelli
E-mail: lcapitelli@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7150

Dissenting Votes:
Betty Olds
E-mail: olds@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7160

Kriss Worthington
E-mail: kworthington@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7170

Gordon Wozniak
E-mail: GWozniak@ci.berkeley.ca.us
Phone: (510) 981-7180

Related stories:

Berkeley Gives Marines the Boot

Demonstrators Get Space to Protest

Group Protests Marine Recruiters in Berkeley

Marines Vote Leads to Threat on City Funds

Code Pink vs. The Marines


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VFW Wants Dole/Shalala Recommendation Blocked

VFW Wants Dole/Shalala Recommendation Blocked
Creating separate system is an injustice to all disabled veterans


WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2008--The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is urging the leadership of four key congressional committees to block attempts to create a separate disability system that would have the Department of Veterans Affairs compensate veterans with similar wounds differently based on their age.

"There is no difference between a 22-year-old shot in the leg on Iwo Jima 63 years ago this month and a 22-year-old shot in the leg in Iraq yesterday," said VFW National Commander George Lisicki, a Vietnam veteran from Carteret, N.J. "To compensate them differently based solely on age, and using the rational that this new generation is more deserving than older veterans, is an injustice, and violates every fundamental rule of fairness that Americans hold dear."

The recommendation in contention was made by the President's Commission on Care for America's Wounded Warriors, which was co-chaired by retired Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. The Dole/Shalala Commission was chartered in March 2007 as the administration's response to the outpatient housing debacle at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Four months later, the commission published a 149-page report with six broad recommendations.

The VFW wants more attention paid to the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission that Congress chartered in 2004 to study the benefits that compensate and assist veterans and their survivors for disabilities and deaths attributable to military service. After thousands of interviews and almost three years of research – including major studies by the Institute of Medicine and the Center for Naval Analysis – it published a 562-page report in October 2007 that included 113 detailed recommendations.

"The Dole/Shalala Commission's mandate was not to make broad generalizations and sweeping recommendations that would throw out a disability compensation system that has served millions of veterans extremely well over the years," said Lisicki. "Dole/Shalala was good, but it wasn't that good, and it certainly wasn't thorough enough to be touted as the 'cure-all' for all the VA's problems."

The VFW national commander is very concerned that a major change in the way the VA conducts business may be forced upon America's veterans without any opposition.

"The VFW is 100 percent against compensating veterans with the same injuries differently because of their age," said Lisicki, who voiced the VFW's opposition yesterday in a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services and Veterans Affairs. [Read letter]

VFW Washington Office Executive Director Bob Wallace is now tasked to ensure the VFW's position is conveyed to and understood by the administration and Congress.

"How our nation properly cares for, and then fairly compensates our disabled veterans or their surviving family members are the only issues on the table, and that's why we are calling on Congress to thoroughly evaluate the recommendations made by both commissions" said Wallace, also a Vietnam veteran.

"Everyone wants to do what's best for our troops and for our veterans – to include all the members of both commissions – but what we absolutely must not do is create conditions that could cause the VA to fail in its primary mission," he said. "The VA is a national resource for disabled veterans. As an institution, it must survive, not just for the next 10 years, but for the next 100 years."


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11 February 2008

TAKE ACTION: Fox News Wants Input on Berkeley

Fox News Channel's Jamie Colby has a new report up talking about the big showdown in Berkeley, CA tomorrow - TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12TH - when patriots from around the nation will hold an all-day pro-troop demonstration and protest against the Berkeley City Council for their reprehensible attacks against our military men and women.

The report is called: “Berkeley Military Bashers Meet Marine Supporters”

We need you to post a comment on this topic and let the Berkeley City Council know how you feel. Read the report and post your comments here:
http://colbyfiles.blogs.foxnews.com/2008/02/11/berkeley-military-bashers-meet-marine-supporters/

And finally, we need you to join us tomorrow - anytime between 5:00 AM when we begin our all-day pro-troop demonstration, all the way through 7:00 PM when the Berkeley City Council meeting begins. You can also sign the petition that we will be delivering personally to the City Council:
http://www.MoveAmericaForward.org

Gates: Pause in troop cuts makes sense

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq - In a clear sign the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq will be suspended, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday he favors taking time this summer to assess security gains before more troops leave the country, an idea President Bush is expected to support.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080211/ap_on_re_mi_ea/gates

Expeditionary rescue helps save Afghan boy

Air Force helicopters were airborne within three minutes of receiving a call to pick up a 5-year-old local national boy who had been struck by a vehicle near Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 2.

Members of the 210th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron received the request to medevac the young boy who was said to be in stable condition with a broken left knee and possible skull fracture.

"This is a testament to our aircraft maintainers," said Capt. Matt Calabro, a 210th ERQS helicopter pilot. "They do a fantastic job having our aircraft ready which allowed us to make the fast alert response."

With a visibility of two to three miles, the aircraft took off. However, once enroute, the weather became marginal, but within helicopter standards. Fortunately, the squadron's home station is Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska, and they're used to flying in inclement weather, Captain Calabro said.

After nearly an hour flight, the team arrived and immediately assessed the patient's status and prepared him for the return trip, only to realize his diagnosis was worse than briefed.

"He had two fractured legs, fluid seeping from the ears and nose indicating skull trauma, multiple signs of bodily trauma, a scalp laceration that had been stitched, and he was on a ventilator," said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Stuemke, a 210th ERQS pararescue. "The little guy was in pretty bad shape and needed a CAT scan, which is why he was being medevac to Bagram (AB). We don't know who got him to Jalalabad, but the Army medical team did a great job stabilizing him."

The patient's father was rushed to the site to be with his son and escort him on the helicopter back to Bagram Air Base's Craig Joint Theater Hospital.

As the helicopters departed about 40 minutes later, Sergeant Stuemke and Staff Sgt. Leovan Claunan, another pararescue on the crew, continued to administer medical care and worked to keep the patient sedated and alive.

"We kept his airway suctioned and monitored his blood pressure, pulse and ventilation," said Sergeant Stuemke. "We constantly relayed his vitals to our flight doctor in the squadron who provided treatment options during the return flight."

When it was all said and done, the patient had bilateral temporal fracture, left femur fracture, right lower leg avulsion and a fractured pelvis, Sergeant Stuemke said. The patient also underwent abdominal surgery to remove his lacerated spleen.

From the first call to the patient's delivery at Bagram AB, the mission took a little over two hours.

"I'm proud of the accomplishments of the combat search and rescue crew," said Lt. Col. Timothy O'Brien, the 210 ERQS commander. "I know this child would not have survived if not for the efforts of the medical personnel at Jalalabad Airfield, our pararescue and aircrew, and the hospital personnel at Bagram (AB)."

Sergeant Steumke visits the patient daily to see how he's progressing. "He's on track, but only time will tell. It would be pretty incredible if he makes a full recovery, I know we're pulling for him."

10 February 2008

AMVETS, DeVry Offer Vets Scholarships

Veterans pursuing higher education through DeVry University may be eligible for scholarships up to $1,000, but the deadline to apply is quickly approaching.

Applications for 2008 AMVETS/DeVry University scholarships are due Feb. 15. Veterans and their family members are encouraged to apply for one of 10 scholarships being offered for 2008 spring semester.

The scholarships of up to $1,000 may be applied to undergraduate and graduate programs at both DeVry and its Keller Graduate School of Management for online and on-site programs, AMVETS officials said in a recent news release. Applicants are eligible for scholarships every semester of enrollment, up to $9,000 throughout the course of a degree plan.

Those wishing to apply must submit an essay, a copy of a valid DD 214, a resume, a letter of recommendation and their most recent completed tax return. A full listing of eligibility rules and an application form can be found on the AMVETS Web site, www.amvets.org.

AMVETS partnered with DeVry and its school of management last year to provide up to 30 scholarships per year at a value of up to $1,000 each.

DeVry, which offers programs in 25 states and Canada, as well as online, started the program as a way to honor veterans and their families, officials said.

AMVETS is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. The service organization is a longtime proponent of higher education, offering a variety of scholarship programs to veterans and their family members.

(From an AMVETS news release.)

Al Qaeda Leader's Diary Reveals Organization's Decline

U.S. troops found a diary belonging to an al Qaeda in Iraq leader that has Coalition forces believing the terrorist organization is "on its heels," a senior military official in Baghdad said this morning.

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team on Nov. 3, 2007, captured a diary belonging to Abu Tariq, an al Qaeda emir in control of five battalions within two sectors, U.S. Air Force Col. Donald J. Bacon, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told online journalists and "bloggers" during a conference call.

The soldiers found the diary during a patrol conducted about 15 kilometers south of Balad. Bacon said the 16-page diary contains records about man power, operations, weapons, and finances, and it shows that al Qaeda is hurting badly in the belts of Baghdad.

"There were 600 al-Qaeda members in this sector, now there (are) 20 or less," said Bacon.

In the diary, Tariq describes each battalion's number decline and goes on to describe the 4th battalion as "scoundrels, sectarians and nonbelievers." Tariq attributes his terrorist organization's decline in large part to groups of concerned local citizens, who are also known as the Sons of Iraq.

Many high-ranking al Qaeda members, including Osama Bin Laden, have spoken out about the negative impact that the concerned local citizens groups have had on their organization. As a result, the concerned local citizens are being attacked more frequently by the terrorists, Bacon said.

Nevertheless, Bacon said the numbers of concerned local citizens are growing, which indicates that they are less afraid of al-Qaeda.

"Right now there (are) approximately 77,500 CLC's with 135 different initiatives, and more and more are being hired," Bacon said.

Bacon said he believes the diary is also in part a will of sorts, in case anything was to happen to Tariq.

"He wanted to keep a clear record," Bacon said.

Bacon said he believes the diary is indicative of some other areas in Iraq but not all of Iraq. He cautioned that al Qaeda is still a dangerous enemy.

"We still believe they are our number one threat," said Bacon.

"There is a 90 percent decline of violence in Anbar but we are still fighting them in Diala," he added. "They still have the capacity and the will but we have the momentum."

Bacon noted, however, that "overall levels of violence in Iraq are down, and we are seeing positive trends."

(U.S. Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)

What America's declining casualties reveal

The dramatic decline in US casualties in Iraq has been one the great untold story of recent months. With thirty-nine lost in January, twenty-three in December, thirty-seven in November and thirty-eight in November, a young American male would have been safer in Iraq than in some of America's inner cities.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/02/what_americas_declining_casual.html

08 February 2008

Army Continues to Treat Blast-Related Injuries

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service


The Army is aggressively diagnosing and treating soldiers who suffer concussive injuries and stress related to blast attacks, the Army's surgeon general said today.

Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Eric B. Schoomaker, Army surgeon general and commander of U.S. Army Medical Command, told reporters during a media roundtable at the Pentagon today that issues stemming from such combat conditions are a "great concern" to soldiers, their families and the American public.

"We know the importance of prevention of these injuries and illnesses; we know the importance of timely diagnosis and treatment of both concussive and post-traumatic stress symptoms," Schoomaker said. "And we are aggressively executing programs that are designed to educate, to prevent, to screen and to provide the appropriate care in a timely fashion for all of these deployment-related stresses and injuries."

Concussive injuries and their psychological responses are "not new concepts to us," the general said. He noted that concussions occur domestically -- on America's highways and sports fields -- as often as they do in combat, and that referring to them as the war's "signature injury" is a mischaracterization.

Schoomaker said he doesn't believe the war on terror has produced any one signature injury. But he believes there is a signature weapon used by insurgents: a blast.

"It's being used very effectively in combat," he said. "It blinds our soldiers in some cases if they're unprotected. It deafens them. If it defeats our protective equipment, it may cause a mild concussive injury all the way to a very severe penetrating head injury."

The general said military health care professionals must identify and treat blast-related injuries as soon as possible after the event.

"Doing an effective screening as close as possible to the actual event and then making a decision whether that soldier should take a knee and step out of the battle so that they can recover ... is our most important goal," he said

Schoomaker said the Army created initiatives to increase the rapidity and efficiency of treatment, including arming medics to allow them to more safely treat wounded troops in combat zones, providing servicemembers with improved first aid kits, and training troops in medical techniques. In addition, in 2007 the Army instituted an 800,000-strong chain-teaching initiative -- from the most seasoned commander down to the most junior soldiers -- on concussive injuries and post-traumatic stress.

Army health officials are looking into the role context plays in a concussive injury and its aftermath, Schoomaker said, which may be a more significant factor than originally thought. To illustrate the importance of context, the general made an analogy to a quarterback who is hit hard in the course of a football game. Regaining consciousness while surrounded by thousands of sympathetic fans is a vastly different context from awakening in a combat zone, surrounded by the wounded bodies of your battle buddies, he said.

While screenings performed immediately after returning from deployment might be successful in identifying physical symptoms, the process might allow gaps in detecting latent symptoms related to context. Because certain emotional symptoms related to concussive injuries or combat stress emerge later than their physical counterparts, Schoomaker said, he advocates an additional screening three to six months after deployments. Identifying the root of emotional symptoms may help affected servicemembers avoid family, social, alcohol or other problems resulting from a lack of proper diagnosis and treatment.

Army Col. (Dr.) Loree Sutton said 10 to 15 percent of those with concussive injuries display "persistent symptoms," generally cases when the physical injury is complicated by psychological issues. Sutton is chief of the Defense Department's newly created Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. The center reflects the department's effort to step up the quality of care for wounded warriors and their families.

"We need to ensure that we ... put out the message in general that concussions heal in the vast majority of cases, and that's a good-news story," she said. "In that small minority of cases where symptoms persist, we need to take a comprehensive, holistic view."

Schoomaker emphasized the military health community's dedication to caring for injured servicemembers.

"America can truly be assured that we are not going to rest until all our soldiers who have been wounded or are injured or are ill in the service to the nation are cared for both competently and compassionately," he said. "They'll receive the best support from the United States Army, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Rice: Fight in Afghanistan Will Transform History

Photo: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks with a U.S. Army soldier at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 7, 2008. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Steven Parks, USN

The fight in Afghanistan is important for the future of the Afghan people, the NATO countries involved in the fight, the United States, and the rest of the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today during a visit to Afghanistan.

Rice spoke to NATO troops at Kandahar Airfield with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. She thanked the troops for helping turn Afghanistan from a failed state that was a safe haven for terrorists into a functioning, modern state.

"You have done it with skill and bravery, I know with sacrifice. You've lost comrades along the way who gave the ultimate sacrifice," Rice told the troops. "But I hope you know how much the sacrifice and the work is appreciated. I hope you know what a great source of pride your honor is to all of us. And I hope you know as you go out every day and work to help the Afghan people build a decent and functioning and modern society, that you're contributing not only to the security and the future of the Afghan people, but to the security and the future of your own countries, your own people, and indeed the security and future of the world."

Winning in Afghanistan and making sure it never again becomes a haven for terrorists is the core of the modern fight against terrorism, Rice said. She acknowledged that it will be a long, tough fight, but praised the Afghan people for their resilience and dedication to improving their country.

"I think you are also learning that working with the Afghans, who are a decent people, a people who are tough and who want a better future, is really heartening," Rice said to the troops. "I know that when they come to Washington or when I come here, I'm just really impressed with their skill and with their extraordinary desire to live a better life."

Rice made her previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan as the United States is working to boost the number of NATO forces in the country.

She noted that the NATO alliance wasn't formed to fight terrorism, but she praised the alliance's efforts in working together in this fight, which she said will transform history.

"Each and every day I hope you have just one moment to step back and think what an extraordinary, extraordinary experience you're involved in and what an extraordinary legacy of peace and democracy and prosperity you'll leave to the Afghan people, and in doing so a legacy of peace for the world," Rice told the troops.

06 February 2008

Rice admits 'bumpy' ride to bolster NATO force in Afghanistan

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday played down fears that Afghanistan could become a lost cause but admitted Washington faced a "bumpy" ride to press allies into sharing the burden there.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080206/pl_afp/afghanistanusbritainnato

03 February 2008

Peachtree City Veterans Brick Deadline

 

Peachtree City VFW Post 9949 announces that March 31 is the cutoff date for Veterans Brick orders for bricks to be in place for the 2008 Memorial Day Ceremony. Orders received after March 31 will be accumulated and processed in April 2009 so that they will be installed just before the 2009 Memorial Day Ceremony.

The bricks are white marble approximately 4" x 8" x 2" and are placed at the Peachtree City Veterans Memorial under the flagpoles in front of the Peachtree City Hall/Library complex. Bricks may be placed for all Veterans whether living or deceased and for all those currently serving in the US Military regardless of where the honoree lives. Bricks of family members are placed adjacent if there are two and are contiguous for larger groupings. A family in Coweta County currently has 11 bricks in their grouping.

If you would like more information about the Peachtree City Veterans Memorial and the Veterans Brick project go to www.vfw9949.org There you can download a current Brick application: you may also obtain an application at the Peachtree City Library or by contacting the VFW Quartermaster at 770-631-1439 or rjkonrad@juno.com. The cost remains $30.00 and allows three lines of information limited to 17 letters and spaces. A typical brick has the name on line 1, the rank and branch of service on line 2 and the dates of service on line 3. You are free to vary the info on lines 2 & 3 if you have other info you want displayed.

On the web site there is an accessible database that permits you to search all the bricks currently in place. The data is sorted alphabetically by Surname, followed by the inscribed name of the honoree. Other information includes the exact location of each brick and an identifier that allows the Quartermaster to view the original brick order. Currently there are 769 bricks in place honoring 761 Veterans or current members of the Military.

The Brick application was modified just after Memorial Day 2007 to ask if the honoree is deceased. If you have an old application please supply this info. After several failed tries the Quartermaster has a method to display a small US flag on the brick. As a corollary to the practice of displaying a US flag on the graves of deceased Vets, the QM placed a 4" x 6" US flag on the bricks of honorees who served in WWI or earlier and any others whom he knew were deceased. If you would like this service for a deceased honoree pleas contact the QM so I can add to my list to decorate.

Bob Konrad, Quartermaster
Peachtree City VFW Post 9949
WWII US Navy Veteran

Officials Call Guard-Reserve Report 'Fundamentally Flawed'

Photo Right: Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, comments critically, during a 1 Feb. 2008, Pentagon press conference, on several of the recommendations contained in the recently released 400-page report of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. Blum was joined at the lectern by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale who also found much in the report to disagree with. Defense Dept. photo by R. D. Ward

Core elements of a congressional commission's report aimed at overhauling the U.S. military's reserve forces are "fundamentally flawed," Defense Department officials said today.

The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves yesterday delivered its final report to Congress and Pentagon officials. The report included 95 recommendations on transitioning the reserves into a feasible and sustainable operational reserve.

At the crux of the Defense officials' objection to the report is a recommendation that would in effect make the National Guard a domestic response force for civil emergencies, essentially eliminating its go-to-war mission.

"That is sharply at odds with the position that we have taken in our strategy for homeland defense and civil support," said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs, speaking to journalists at the Pentagon. "We believe that the National Guard has a primary role to play in domestic disaster response -- but that mission assignment should not be to the exclusion of National Guard's traditional war-fighting missions overseas."

The recommendation is that the Defense Department shift capabilities useful for state-controlled responses to domestic emergencies to the National Guard, and shift capabilities in the National Guard that are not required for state missions, but are required for its federal missions, to the military reserve components or active-duty military.

This would in effect place nearly all civil support capabilities within the National Guard and move wartime missions to the federal military.

"What the ... commission is recommending ... is that the National Guard become a domestic disaster response capability exclusively. We think that's wrong," McHale said.

Alongside McHale at the briefing today was National Guard Bureau Chief, Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum. He said that the active-duty military could not feasibly fill the gaps left my removing the Guard from its wartime mission. Right now, the Guard makes up 40 percent of the combat power of the U.S. military. More than 355,000 serve troops in the Army National Guard and 106,000 in the Air Guard.

"We would unhinge the volunteer force, and we would break the total force," Blum said.

Department officials are also at odds with the recommendation to place active-duty military forces under the command and control of the governors of the states in which they are deployed.

"Fifty different governors will command our active duty military forces in a patchwork quilt of command and control that would guarantee an inability to achieve unity of command and unity of effort in a crisis," McHale said.

That recommendation, he said, is at odds with the federal system of government and Article II of the Constitution.

"There can be only one commander-in-chief, and that is the president of the United States," McHale said. "To decentralize that command and control to 50 separate state governors invites confusion."

Another recommendation by the commission would cut reservists' drill pay in half. The commission recommends reducing the 29 duty status codes the reserves now have to only two – either on active duty or not.

Photo Left: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale comments critically on several of the recommendations contained in the recently released report of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves during a Feb. 1, 2008 Pentagon press conference. Defense Dept. photo by R. D. Ward

The problem is that reservists now get four days pay for a two day drill period. The commission recommends one day's pay, for one day's work. The drilling reservist would receive, for the same duty, half the pay he is currently receiving. Or they would have to put in twice as many duty days to receive the same pay.

"We believe that is a mistake," McHale said. "We believe it is precisely the wrong message to be sent to National Guardsmen and Reservists who at this point in our history are deserving of our appreciation and respect. Their compensation ought not be cut."

The pay cut could have also an impact on recruiting and retention, he said.

"We believe that this proposal moves in precisely the wrong direction in terms of encouraging reserve participation and expressing appreciation for the sacrifice that reservists and their families have made in support of our nation," McHale said.

Department officials disagreed with the harsh criticism leveled at the disaster preparedness of the nation yesterday by the commission chairman, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro.

McHale called some of Punaro's characterizations "unfortunate and inaccurate" and said that, while some plans are still being developed, the Department could respond to a disaster and has both trained personnel and up-to-date equipment in place.

McHale pointed to the National Guard's 53 certified civil support teams and 17 chemical emergency response force packages modeled after the Marine Corps chemical, biological incident response force.

"Our department's catastrophic response capabilities are the best funded, best equipped, best trained in the world," McHale said.

The secretary said that most of these plans and resources didn't exist before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Defense Department is in the final stages of identifying and resourcing task forces made up of 15,000 department personnel trained and equipped to respond to a domestic detonation of a weapon of mass destruction.

"That kind of capability has never existed in such a task organization during the history of the Department of Defense," McHale said.

The department is developing plans to respond to nuclear detonations and multiple dirty bomb, chemical and anthrax attacks, as well as hurricanes and earthquakes. They should be final in the next year, he said.

Blum addressed the equipment shortfalls identified in the report. Punaro said yesterday that nearly 90 percent of the National Guard is not combat ready, lacking adequate funding, training and equipment.

Blum said that the report was accurate, but did not account for what he called and "unprecedented" $45 billion in funding being channeled into the Guard to fix those problems. By next year 69 percent of the forces should be equipped and 77 percent by 2013.

"We didn't get into that problem overnight. And we're not going to dig out of it in one night," Blum said.

Also, Blum said, at the end of 2013 the Guard will represent an organization that is equipped as a fully modernized, mirror-image of the active force, for the first time in the nation's history.

McHale and Blum both acknowledged that some of the proposals by the commission had merit, and even validated some of the policies and changes made by the department in the past four years.

"There are many parts of this report that are of value," McHale said. "We are not rejecting this report out of hand."

Army Maj. Gen. Guy Swan III, director of operations for U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for homeland defense, told the American Forces Press Service in an interview that he also feels that the report was "necessary" and is "of some utility," but he said it doesn't apply correctly to the current situation.

"The report paints a picture that, in my view, is more dated than anything else," Swan said. He mentioned that many in his command are disappointed at how critical the report has been "because much of what is in that report has been addressed through a variety of means over the past couple of years."

Swan said that "if you looked at the report two years ago or three years ago, it was probably quite accurate," but many of the reports' criticisms have been acted upon in the past year or two.

Over the past couple of years he has spent serving within NORTHCOM, Swan said he has "seen remarkable cooperation and improvements with the National Guard, with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies."

He said the command relies heavily upon the National Guard in order to accomplish its mission.

"We cannot do our mission at NORTHCOM without coordination and cooperation with the National Guard. It just can't be done," Swan said. "We see the guard as part of the broader friendly forces that might be involved in an operation, along with first responders, state emergency management personnel, and other federal agencies."

But Swan reiterated that the National Guard has a "viable, needed wartime mission." He said he does not think reducing the Guard's role simply to homeland defense would be a good move.

"I don't think we want to have a National Guard that is one dimensional. Frankly, I think the Guard is better than that," Swan said. "It has been demonstrated during operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans. They are a multidimensional force, and they can do the homeland operations as well."

Swan said he doesn't think the Guard should be limited to either a wartime mission or a homeland defense mission. He said there are shortfalls in resourcing, which the report has been helpful in identifying, and those issues are being dealt with in the appropriate Defense Department forums.

"I don't think it's an issue of either or. It is to some degree an issue of resources, and that is being addressed," Swan said. "In my view, the Guard needs to be part of the national defense establishment writ large."

By Fred W. Baker III American Forces Press Service
(John Valceanu of the American Forces Press Services contributed to this article.)