Military & Veterans News
Gov. Branstad orders flags at half-staff to honor Sgt. James Skalberg Jr. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Office of the Governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad   
Thursday, 12 July 2012 14:16

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Branstad is ordering all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 13, 2012, until 8 a.m. on Monday, July 16, 2012 for Sgt. James Skalberg Jr., 25, originally of Emerson.

Sgt. Skalberg was killed in Afghanistan, while serving on active duty in the U.S. Army, on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle he was driving. He was one of two soldiers killed in the explosion.

The governor’s directive applies to all U.S. and state flags under the control of the state. H.R. 692, signed in 2007, requires federal government agencies in the state to comply with the governor’s executive order that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff in the event of the death of a member of the Armed Forces.

Flags will be at half-staff on the state Capitol building and on flag displays in the Capitol complex, and upon all public buildings, grounds, and facilities throughout the state. Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect.

Sgt. Skalberg is survived by his wife, Jessica Skalberg; his son, Carter Skalberg; his parents, James and Kelli Skalberg Sr.; sister, Spring Skalberg; and grandparents Bonnie and John Stephens and Karen Brewer.

Visitation for Sgt. Skalberg will be held from 4-8 p.m., Friday, July 13 at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 1101 Summit St., Red Oak, with the family present. The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 14, also at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. A graveside service will follow at the Emerson Cemetery (directly west of Red Oak at the junction of Iowa Highways 34 and 59).

The family requests in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to the Carter Skalberg Education Fund, 705 E. Corning St., Red Oak, Iowa 51566.

The U.S. flag flown over the state Capitol on the day of the funeral will be presented to Sgt. Skalberg’s family at a later date, along with a proclamation honoring him.


Loebsack Takes Iowa Veterans Concerns to VA Secretary; Works to Pass Important Veterans Legislation PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Thursday, 12 July 2012 13:33

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack recently met with leaders of the Veterans Administration (VA) and told them the concerns he heard firsthand from Iowa’s Veterans, military family members, and Veterans service providers.  Last week, Loebsack hosted a series of Veterans Forums across Iowa in order to give Veterans an opportunity to speak with the Congressman and seek assistance from his office.  In a meeting with Ms. Joan Mooney, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs and Mr. Danny Pummill, Executive Director, Compensation & Pension Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, Loebsack presented them with a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki of the top concerns he heard from Iowa Veterans, including disability claims, VA health care and job training.  A copy of the letter can be found here.

“Last week, I met with Iowa Veterans, military family members, and Veterans service providers across eastern and southeastern Iowa,” Loebsack wrote. “I strongly urge you to take my constituents’ concerns into account as you work to improve VA services.  I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that every person who has served our nation in uniform receives the care, benefits, and respect they deserve.”

This week, two pieces of legislation, which directly impact Veterans and their families, passed the House of Representatives with unanimous bipartisan support.  Loebsack was a strong supporter of both the Veterans COLA and Veterans Skills to Jobs Acts.  The Veterans COLA Act increases the amounts paid for veteran’s disability compensation and to their survivors for dependency and indemnity compensation by the same amount as the Social Security cost of living adjustment.  The Veterans Skills to Jobs Act requires federal departments to help Veterans transition to the civilian workforce by taking the skills and experience they acquired through their military service into account when determining what training and certification requirements they must meet for federal licenses.


Bartonville-Based Infantry Soldiers Get Back to the Basics PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Thursday, 12 July 2012 13:22

CAMP RIPLEY, MINN. (07/11/2012)(readMedia)-- Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Bartonville participated in squad live-fire exercises at the Infantry Platoon Battle Course as part of the eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) program July 9 at Camp Ripley, Minn.

"This training is the culmination of what we have been doing over the last year," said 1st Lt. Chris K. Rodgers of Macomb, battalion liaison officer of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment. "This is a validation lane for what we are going to be doing July 12. There the companies will run through platoon-size, live-fire exercises."

As with much Army-based training, a crawl, walk, run approach was used. Soldiers were briefed they were in a reconnaissance patrol, came upon enemy contact and had to destroy the enemy with their weapons, clearing the way for future movement.

"It's a real slow pace right now as we're learning," said Spc. Waylon S. Holland of Columbia, Mo., with Company A. "We spent a lot of time with rehearsals trying to better fit each other. I think this will be foundational and a crucial part to our XCTC experience."

During the rehearsals each squad moved tactically until engaged by pop-up targets and then responded with blank-round ammunition. Soon after, the squads repeated the movement with live rounds.

"This training is simulating (received) contact on a dismounted patrol," said Pfc. Collin A. Watts of Plainfield, with Company A. "We're practicing bounding techniques, which are basic movement techniques within a squad."

Although the movements are basic infantry tactics, the importance of knowing and employing them are vital to mission success and Soldier safety.

"Every infantryman will know this ... this is as basic as it gets," said Cpl. Paul A. Minder of Roanoke, team leader with Company A. "This is something they have to practice; they have to know."

The acknowledgement of risk and the seriousness of the exercise was expressed by others as well.

"It comes down to knowing who's on your right and left, knowing how to communicate and knowing how to give and follow orders," said Capt. Nick P. Camardo of Rockford, Company A commander. "It's essential they know how to take the proper steps and keep the weapon pointed down range and at the enemy. It's important for them to continue to train like this and I'm confident they will be good to go by the end of the day."

Company A made safety a priority and took the necessary precautions to ensure the Soldiers stayed safe throughout the exercise.

"There will be one range personnel, one medic, and two internal company safeties who will walk with every squad," said Rodgers.

After Camardo validates squads, the battalion commander will validate the platoons and then Company A can be validated and complete a large portion of their pre-mobilization tasks.

Coalition Ad Campaign Warns White House and Senate: “No More Defense Cuts” PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Travis Korson   
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 13:58
Washington, D.C. July 12, 2012:  Today, the Coalition for the Common Defense launched a national advocacy campaign aimed at preventing further, draconian cuts to the U.S. military of $500 billion dollars or more in January 2013 pursuant to the “sequestration” mechanism created under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The campaign will feature a series of video advertisements demonstrating the dangerous absurdity of the sorts of deep and – worse-yet – indiscriminate, across-the-board defense spending cuts now in prospect. The first spot premiered today and can be viewed here: ( The campaign is designed to encourage the American public to express their opposition to these cuts.  The Coalition will facilitate such communications with the White House and Senate through a portal at its web-site here: (
Regarding the campaign launch and the need to avert sequestration, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., a member of the Coalition for the Common Defense, remarked:
“Defense has already paid its fair share into deficit reduction and we cannot safely and responsibly try to balance the budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform.  This campaign, and specifically the Coalition’s ads, will bring home to the American people the reckless absurdity of these defense cuts – and the need to avoid the train-wreck they will precipitate.”
The mandated sequestration cuts come on top of an already budgeted $487 billion reduction over the next 10 years as part of Budget Control Act of 2011.
The additional $500 billion in sequestration cuts would prove devastating, both militarily and economically.  Militarily, this would result in the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in history.  Economically, sequestration could result in $62.9 billion in lost revenues for defense contractors, projected job losses of over 1.3 million, and an $86.4 billion decrease in Gross Domestic Product.
The House of Representatives has already acted on legislation that would stave off these budget reductions and their attendant impact for at least a year, giving the executive and legislative branches time to devise a different, less reckless approach to deficit reduction.  The Senate has yet to act, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama insisting that any such relief must be accompanied by tax increases.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. continued:
“The American people do not want the White House and the Senate to hold our military hostage to budget gamesmanship.  It is unconscionable to play politics with the arming, training and sustaining of our troops – particularly if, by so doing, the President and Senate leaders may be jeopardizing not only their missions, but their lives.”
The Coalition for the Common Defense is an alliance of like-minded individuals and organizations who believe that without provision for the “common defense,” as articulated by the Founders, the freedom that has allowed unprecedented opportunity and prosperity to flourish in this country would soon be imperiled. In this new age of budgetary cuts, the Coalition rejects the false choice between military strength and economic health contending that economic prosperity depends on a strong national defense. Through a series of events and strategic partnerships, the coalition is calling on elected officials, candidates for office and others who share our commitment to the common defense to uphold these principles.  We must return the United States to sensible fiscal principles without sacrificing our national security.
A full statement of principles can be located here. The Coalition of the Common Defense can be found online at

Soldiers Across State Make Long Haul for Special Training PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Pfc. Allison Lampe, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team   
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 11:20

CAMP RIPLEY, MINN. (07/10/2012)(readMedia)-- Soldiers with the Illinois Army National Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) in Urbana traveled to Camp Ripley, Minn., this week by bus, plane and convoy for the eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) program as a part of their annual training.

The training this year is an especially large endeavor, lasting three weeks instead of the usual two. The XCTC program aims to provide the most up-to-date and realistic training available to units preparing to deploy.

Although the 33rd IBCT's scheduled deployment for next year was canceled, the XCTC program is still a unique opportunity for Soldiers to keep their skills sharp and ensure they are indeed "Always Ready."

The 33rd IBCT, consisting of approximately 2,350 Soldiers from 30 companies from Machesney Park to Marion, ensured all Soldiers, vehicles and equipment arrived safely.

Chief Warrant Officer (2) Kenneth Morris of Mahomet, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 33rd IBCT, was responsible for organizing the 597 vehicles and 209 trailers required for the training.

Morris began preparation for the long haul as early as March, directing members of the 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment in Kewanee driving convoys to Fort McCoy, Wis., for drill weekend and bussing them back. They repeated that process in April. Overall, units pre-positioned 177 vehicles and trailers over drill weekends.

Morris also used the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site on Camp Ripley to borrow 179 vehicles and 25 trailers.

From there, a combined 157 vehicles and trailers were brought on semi trailers and 223 were driven in convoys.

Most convoys were broken into a two-day trek, but some of the southernmost units required three days to complete the trip. The convoys were the most time consuming mode of transportation due to the multiple stops needed to keep the vehicles from overheating.

Maj. Friedrich Josellis of Macomb, communication officer for the 33rd IBCT, was the officer in charge of Headquarters and Headquarters Company 33rd IBCT convoy that began July 5. He said the temperature was the biggest obstacle, which was 104 degrees on the first day of the convoy.

It became a hazard, not only to the vehicles, but to the Soldiers as well. Soldier care was critical, said Josellis, because of the high risk of heat injury and dehydration.

"Soldiers did extraordinarily well given the trying conditions in terms of staying healthy and keeping the vehicles running," said Josellis. "The Soldiers (conducted) preventative maintenance checks and services on the vehicles every stop. Thanks to that we didn't lose any vehicles because of anything the Soldiers did."

In addition to the Soldiers traveling by convoy, there were more than 1,000 transported on commercial buses and more than 450 by airplane on C-130s with the Illinois Air National Guard's 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill.

All Soldiers arrived to Camp Ripley, Minn., July 8.

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