Military & Veterans News
UPDATED: Loebsack to Offer Amendment to Save the 132nd Fighter Wing PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 15:46

Loebsack Amendment to Save the 132nd Fighter Wing Passes Committee on Bipartisan Vote

Language prevents retirement of F-16s in Des Moines

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement after his amendment to prevent the retirements or transfer of Air National Guard aircraft, including the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines, passed early this morning.  As the only Member of Congress from Iowa on the House Armed Services Committee, Loebsack offered this amendment to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The Loebsack amendment was cosponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and was passed with strong bipartisan support.

"This is great news for the men and women of the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines and Air National Guard units across the country. The Air Force's original proposal made no sense for our national security, our ability to respond to emergencies here at home, or for the taxpayers. I am pleased that the Armed Services Committee agreed on a bipartisan basis and joined me in ensuring that our dedicated Airmen did not see their positions eliminated."

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, applauded Loebsack’s efforts to ensure this amendment was passed.

“The hard work and dedication of Dave Loebsack helped save the jobs of over 370 Iowa National Guard Airmen and the Iowa National Guard fighters. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he immediately went to work to prevent the Air Force’s proposed cuts from moving forward.  His hard work paid off and his commitment to the men and women of the National Guard and the Iowa Air Guard could not have been stronger,” said Smith.

For specific information about the amendment, click here.

Also included in the NDAA, was Loebsack’s legislation that prohibits reductions in the rate of Basic Allowance for Housing for members of the National Guard who transition from full time National Guard duty to active duty or from active duty to full time National Guard duty. Under current policy, some National Guardsmen who make this transition see their benefits reduced at a time when they and their families can least afford it because of a policy that changes how their benefits are calculated.

Loebsack also strongly supported a provision to reauthorize National Guard Counterdrug Schools like that the Iowa Guard runs at Camp Dodge (the Midwest Counterdrug Training Center).

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack will offer an amendment today that would prevent the retirements or transfer of Air National Guard aircraft, including the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines.  As the only Member of Congress from Iowa on the House Armed Services Committee, Loebsack offered this amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.  The Loebsack Amendment has bipartisan support from members of Committee, including the Ranking Member, and is expected to be voted on and accepted later today.

“I am very proud to offer this amendment.  The men and women of the 132nd Fighter Wing have proven time and again they are some of the hardest working and most experienced in the National Guard.  Their performance is second to none.  The proposal to move the F-16s out of Des Moines was short-sighted and wasn’t a good deal for taxpayers or our national security. I am pleased the other members of the House Armed Services Committee agree and I strongly encourage the passage of this amendment,” said Loebsack.

Earlier this week the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee voted to include funding for keeping the 132nd in Des Moines, but without this amendment, the program would still have been retired or transferred.

 

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CONNECTING FAMILIES OF THE FALLEN PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by National Guard PAO Illinois   
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 12:49

More than 100 family members of fallen servicemembers gather in Springfield May 5 to celebrate the life of their hero; By Spc. Jason Dorsey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

SPRINGFIELD, IL (05/07/2012)(readMedia)-- Two Soldiers carefully and quietly placed a wreath between the American and Illinois state flags during a moment of silence, while families of fallen servicemembers reflected on memories of their loved ones.

"We are not here for a solemn remembrance, however, today is celebration of life," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard.

The Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen (ICFF), hosted the third annual "Connections in the Capital City: Bringing Together Families of the Fallen," on the campus of Lincoln Land Community College May 5. ICFF encompasses numerous organizations, including the Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) program.

"ICFF is a collaborative effort of representatives of over 25 different local and national agencies, dedicated to helping Illinois families of fallen servicemembers," said Bob Gillmore of Petersburg, the SOS support coordinator.

The conference was open to all family and friends of fallen Illinois servicemembers. Participants were given the opportunity to remember their loved ones and meet and bond with others who have experienced the same tragedy.

Group workshops, creative arts and a family fair called "Celebrating their Lives," comprised a bulk of the day.

"These events were carefully chosen to aide in the process of finding their new normal," said Gillmore.

During the groups and workshops, families discussed the wavelengths of emotion they experience and what they do to cope with hardship.

"It's very hard for me sometimes, but the hardest part is being strong for my kids and showing them that everything is going to be okay," said Helen Durbin of Chatham, who attended on behalf of her late brother, Pfc. Adam E. Dobereiner of Moline.

Counselors were readily available throughout the day for anyone who sought services through discussion and on-site consultations.

"The counseling sessions were very insightful, in that I learned better ways to grieve," said Erin Hotchkins, who attended on behalf of her late husband, Spc. Gunnar Hotchkins of Hinsdale.

During the resources portion of the day, they worked on moving forward and remembering significant benchmarks as well as choosing a counselor and therapist that best meets their needs.

Later, families reminisced about their loved ones on camera.

"The testimonials were very meaningful to me, and ideas on how to commemorate our loved ones were very helpful," said Ruth Christine Hotchkins of Downers Grove, who also attended on behalf of her grandson Spc. Gunnar Hotchkins

As an additional extension of counseling services, families were provided with a list of the Mourner's Bill of Rights, to help them remember a healthier, more constructive way to grieve.

Mourners Bill of Rights

1. You have the right to experience you own unique grief.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

5. You have the right to experience the "grief burst."

6. You have the right to make use of ritual.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.

9. You have a right to treasure your memories.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

During the creative arts portion, adults and children alike were allowed to channel their emotions through creativity.

"The art class was a lot of fun and it made me happy to work with other kids who were feeling the same way I felt," said Anna Borders of Springfield, a family member with Cpl. Chad Young of Rochester.

The day concluded with the family fair simply named, "Celebrating Their Lives."

One activity was the rock climbing wall, where participants both received inspiration and remembered their fallen servicemember.

After scaling a rock climbing wall, children placed a written memory of their loved one's courage and strength as high on the wall as they could.

"I like to climb things all the time and I had a lot of fun doing this event," said Ethan Hotchkins of Montgomery, who attended on behalf of his father Pfc. Gunnar Hotchkins.

At the conclusion of the day's events, family members wrote the names of their fallen loved ones and a personal message on a piece of paper and attached it to a balloon. After a small countdown, the balloons were released as a symbol of remembrance.

"We remember," said Enyart. "We will always remember, because we are a service of tradition."

A total of 247 servicemembers from Illinois have made the ultimate sacrifice since 9-11. Of those servicemembers killed, 34 were part of the Illinois National Guard.

 
Illinois National Guard, Illinois Governor Honor Polish Constitution Day PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Capt. Dustin Cammack   
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 12:28

CHICAGO, IL (05/07/2012)(readMedia)-- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Zygmunt Matynia, Consul General of the Republic of Poland, the Illinois National Guard and Polish civic organizations honored Polish Constitution Day celebrations at the James R. Thompson Center and Daley Plaza in Chicago May 4 and 5.

"I think it is important for the people of Illinois, almost 13 million people, to join together with our fellow patriots in Poland and celebrate this very important date in world history," said Quinn May 4 at a press conference at the Thompson Center. "This is a celebration. Both our nations believe in freedom and the written constitution."

Celebrated May 3, Constitution Day is a celebration of Poland's most important civil holiday – the signing of Europe's first codified national constitution May 3, 1791. Poland's constitution is the second oldest in the world, after the United States Constitution signed in 1781.

"We celebrate the constitution because it symbolizes the spiritual and moral renaissance of the Polish society after a long period of disorder," said Matynia. "The fathers of the Polish constitution saw the government as a tool of service for the common good. They truly believed that government must serve not in the interest of the few, but in the interest of the entire nation."

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Illinois National Guard's State Partnership Program with Poland. The Illinois National Guard has maintained a state partnership with Poland since 1993 and is one of the few National Guard States to co-deploy with a state partner.

Servicemembers from the Illinois National Guard's Bilateral Embedded Support Team-A9 (BEST-A9) are serving in Afghanistan with Polish Task Force White Eagle in Ghazni province as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)/International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission.

"The Illinois National Guard's partnership with Poland is the largest and second oldest partnership program in the National Guard," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart of Belleville, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "We must continue to develop this partnership and serve together as we serve our individual nations and continue to move toward world peace."

At the Polish Constitution Day Ceremony, Matynia was also presented the Illinois Military Medal of Merit by Enyart. Instituted in May 1978, the Illinois Military Medal is presented to those who distinguish themselves by exceptionally meritorious service to the state of Illinois.

"As the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, it is my duty to confirm medals to servicemembers and occasionally to civilians who have earned them through their merit and good work. Consul General Matynia has indeed earned this medal," Enyart said. "His commitment to excellence and dedication to the State Partnership Program reflects great credit upon himself, the Polish Consulate in Chicago and the Republic of Poland."

As part of the festivities, the city of Chicago honored the Polish holiday with a ceremonial flag rising at Daley Plaza May 5. The Illinois Army National Guard's 144th Army Band played ceremonial music, while the Chicago-based 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Color Guard posted both countries' colors.

"What a fantastic day it is to be here to represent the partnership between the Illinois National Guard and the nation of Poland." said Brig. Gen. James W. Schroeder, commander of the Illinois Air National Guard. "The energy and enormity of today's crowd is impressive – even despite the misty, overcast day."

The city also hosted the 121st Polish Constitution Day Parade in Grant Park May 5. Established in 1892, the Chicago parade is the largest Polish parade outside of Poland. More than 30 floats and 90 organizations participated in the parade as thousands of spectators waving Polish and American flags lined Columbus Drive in front of the historic Buckingham Fountain.

For additional photos of the event please visit the Illinois National Guard Facebook page at www.facebook.com/illinoisnationalguard.

 
Illinois Guardsmen Place in 2012 Marksmanship Exercise PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by National Guard PAO Illinois   
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:47

SPRINGFIELD, IL (05/04/2012)(readMedia)-- Seven members of the Illinois Army National Guard competed in the 2012 Winston P. Wilson Marksmanship Sustainment Training Exercise at Camp Robinson, Ark., April 23 to 27.

The team placed 16th out of 86 teams. The exercise included 395 National Guard and Reserve competitors. This is only the second time Illinois has placed in the top 20 in 41 years of the competition.

Soldiers' marksmanship was tested from five yards with an M9 pistol to 600 yards with the M16 rifle. The team received third place in the PT 300 match and seventh in the RT 309 match.

Top individual performers included Staff Sgt. Tracy Mix of Marseilles with Company A, 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in Marseilles with an overall individual 12th place, the Chief's 50 Marksmanship skill badge, 8th place pistol and eight Excellence in Competition pistol points. Staff Sgt. Gabe Cullers of Carrier Mills, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in West Frankfort placed third in RI 302, rifle reflex fire.

Illinois' A team members included Staff Sgt. Tracy Mix of Marseilles with Company A, 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in Marseilles; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Landon of Creal Springs with the 3637th Maintenance Company in Springfield; Staff Sgt. William Thorpe of Millstadt with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Marion; Sgt. Terry Pody of Machesney Park with 135th Chemical Company in Machesney Park.

Illinois' B team members included Staff Sgt. Gabe Cullers of Carrier Mills with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in West Frankfort; Staff Sgt. Shawn Cannamore of Metropolis with Company C, 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in Carbondale; Sgt. Chris Maag with the Minnesota Army National Guard; Capt. Thomas Martin Jr., of Streamwood with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Chicago.

The team was coached by Sgt. First Class David Perdew of Astoria with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 44th Chemical Battalion in Macomb.

 
Georgia native goes above and beyond for man’s best friend PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Carlos Cruz   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 14:15
Georgia native goes above and beyond for man’s best friend

Lance Cpl. Jeffery Rodriguez, a dog handler with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, stands with his dog, Dharma, next to the kennel he built for her, April 26, 2012. The kennel, made from extra Hesko wall and cargo netting, provides Dharma relief from the harsh Afghanistan wind and heat.

TREK NAWA, Afghanistan – Many children beg their parents for a dog. The floppy ears and wagging tail seems to attract children to man’s best friend. But many parents know that caring for a dog means a lot of responsibility, training and effort.

Dog handlers in the Marine Corps not only shoulder those same responsibilities — they volunteer for it. Then take on the responsibilities of being deployed to Afghanistan as well.

A dog handler’s job can be exhausting, with an additional month of dog handler school, combined with months of predeployment training.

For Cpl. Jeffery Rodriguez, a dog handler with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, those responsibilities are more like a privilege.

Rodriguez said he loves being a dog handler. He knows he’s helping his squad, and the added responsibilities far outweigh the added attention of caring for a dog.

What sets Rodriguez apart from other dog handlers is the personal effort he puts into Dharma, a 4-year-old Labrador retriever.

“He’s the best dog handler I’ve ever seen,” said Sgt. Edward Welsh, Rodriguez’s squad leader. “He’s constantly taking care of the dog and working to make himself and Dharma better.”

Rodriguez, a native of Fayetteville, Ga., knows that a dog handler’s job is more than just patrolling with and feeding the dog. The most important job is ensuring the dog is well prepared for the deployment ahead.

Shortly after he arrived in Afghanistan he built Dharma a new kennel.

The kennel, made from discarded pieces of Hesko wall, has a door and a crate for Dharma to sleep in. He used excess cargo netting to cover half of the kennel to shield Dharma from the harsh wind and heat of Afghanistan.

Dharma, with her endless wagging tail and dark eyes, returns the favor with loyalty and obedience.

Rodriguez’s responsibilities extend farther than supplying Dharma with shelter. He works with Dharma to keep her skills sharp.

“He exercises the dog and whenever he goes running he takes the dog with him,” said Welsh, a native of Cleveland.

Keeping the dogs in shape is vital in an area where temperatures will reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If a dog gets out of breathe in 20 to 30 minutes, they actually become a hindrance to the unit,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Hoeksema, Rodriguez’s platoon commander. “Dharma is in shape, and (Rodriguez) works her out two to three times a day.”

Keeping Dharma in shape is a priority for Rodriguez. He laughingly said he can’t let the dog get fat.

Rodriguez continually trains Dharma. After patrols and after security posts, he trains her with commands to strengthen their communication.

The bond between a dog handler and his dog is based on trust. If a dog doesn’t trust the handler it won’t obey commands.

“He tells her to sit there and stay there, (and) she does it,” said Hoeksema, a native of Davenport, Iowa. “It doesn’t matter if we are getting shot at, she’s obeying (Rodriguez).”

Rodriguez has Dharma to help find improvised explosive devices and weapons caches.

“I use Dharma to search compounds, or to verify potentially dangerous objects,” said Rodriguez. “She’s like my little guardian angel running around.”

The Marines patrol with Dharma daily, clearing compounds and routes.

“Just trusting (Dharma) helps the Marines,” said Hoeksema. “When she goes into a compound and doesn’t find an IED, the Marines are able to walk in confident that there aren’t any IEDs.”

Dharma confirmed two IEDs and some hidden-away weapons while deployed; but beyond her keen nose, she’s made more of an impact on the Marines she protects.

Dharma also helps with morale of Marines who are away from their families for several months.

After patrolling, the Marines regularly pet and play with Dharma. They also laugh as she interacts with the local animals; goats and turkeys make an interesting find for a curious dog.

The sound of wings flapping and a loud gobble lets the squad know Dharma is up to some good-natured mischief.

Rodriguez lets it go for a little bit before calling Dharma back.

“It has been a great experience being a dog handler,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a great job to have with a lot of responsibility.”

The extra workouts and countless hours to keep Dharma’s training sharp are well worth the sacrifice when compared to the bond Rodriguez developed with Dharma. He considers her more than a dog. She is a friend, and a faithful one at that.

“She’s not much of a growler,” said Rodriguez. “She does get protective with me though, she’ll bark at someone if she thinks I’m in danger.”

In a couple of weeks, Rodriguez and Dharma will return home from their deployment to Afghanistan. This is Dharma’s first deployment and could be Rodriguez’s last.

They’ll return on the same flight but will then be separated. Dharma will be assigned a new dog handler, and Rodriguez will return to his squad.

Though he said the goodbye will be hard, Rodriguez shared that he loved every minute of being a dog handler. The bond he built with Dharma and the experience was well worth the extra responsibility.

“It’s hard not to think of Rodriguez and not think of Dharma too,” said Welsh. “They are like two peas in a pod.”

Rodriguez leaves Afghanistan with a four-legged friend and a lifelong bond.

“These dogs do work, so I’d want the next dog handlers to know to take it seriously,” said Rodriguez with a smile.

 
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