Military & Veterans News
A Battle of Precision PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Cmdr. Chris O'Neil   
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 15:24
Coast Guard Silent Drill Team Coast Guard Silent Drill Team Coast Guard Silent Drill Team

They met upon a concrete battlefield in the heart of our nation’s capital.  There was no roar of cannon fire, no explosions, no ground to be captured or defended.  All that was heard was the steady cadence of rifle buts striking the ground, heels snapping together and gloved hands smacking in unison the wooden hand guards of rifles.  Each branch of the armed forces was represented; each came to test honor, courage, skill, and precision – not to eliminate an enemy or save a life – but to demonstrate the discipline, skill and mettle necessary to be part of an elite community within an elite community.

Brass, chrome and leather gleamed brightly in the noon sun.  Every uniform was crisp and pristine, reflecting the pride and attention to detail possessed only by those who know what it means to render honors, carry on the finest traditions of military customs and courtesies, provide solace to grieving families, and celebrate our nation’s triumphs.

On this crystal clear April afternoon, tourists, veterans and local residents gathered at the steps of the Jefferson Memorial to cheer for their favorite service and to witness the grace that is military drill.

The Joint Service Drill Exhibition, held this year in conjunction with the Centennial of the Cherry Blossom Festival, showcased the talents of the silent drill teams of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard.  Each team had 15 minutes in which to demonstrate their skill, strength and control in hopes of earning a competition trophy.  Consistent with military engagements, there was no award for second best.

The Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s Silent Drill Team is composed of 16 members who are selected from the Ceremonial Honor Guard, based in Alexandria, Va.  At a current strength of 75, the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard – much like the service as a whole – is significantly smaller in size compared to its DOD counterparts.

According to Lt. Jason Himsey, Ceremonial Honor Guard officer in charge, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps teams have a strength of about 200 members each.  It gives them the advantage of having a broader base of candidates from which to choose when selecting silent drill team members.

Himsey also noted that the smaller size of the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard means that the silent drill team has fewer opportunities to train and practice together as a unit because, unlike the DOD teams, the Coast Guard’s silent drill team is a collateral duty, meaning team members must also handle other missions assigned to the Honor Guard.

The ability to train together is critical to success and to building confidence and trust.

“There’s a certain element of danger involved with what we do,” said Himsey.  “There’s a 13 and a half pound weapon with a fixed bayonet moving at high speed so that presents a cutting hazard.  The air-toss movements present the risk of stabbing.”

Those risks became pointedly clear as the silent drill team’s drill master, Petty Officer 1stClass Andrew Hammersmith marched between two columns of drill team members as they spun and passed weapons inches in front and behind him.  Later in the drill, Hammersmith stood motionless and unflinchingly as four bayonets stopped inches from his face.

There was an air of confidence and maturity about the silent drill team members that belies their young appearance.  Himsey said the average age of an Honor Guard member is now about 24, which he noted is a change from when he first served on the team as a seaman, noting that some are married and others have degrees.

But it stands to reason that a unit whose mission is to represent the Coast Guard would mirror the service as a whole.  Just as boat crews and aircrews train to achieve proficiency, so too do members of the Honor Guard.  In addition to embodying the core values of the Coast Guard, members of the Honor Guard must embrace the unit’s core values of Pride, Poise and Perfection.  “They practice for hours and hours,” said Himsey, “and then there is lots of solo practice, where members work on maneuvering the weapon, maneuvering it around themselves, working on hand placement and points of release, which are critical for executing the maneuvers safely.”

For all their training, practice and effort, the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s Silent Drill Team put on a great show for an appreciative crowd, but it was the Air Force’s team that earned the competition trophy this year.  But there is no time to for the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard to dwell on this moment, for them it’s on to the next detail – this time in New Orleans – for an event that is part of the nation’s Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Illinois Army National Guard Leadership Prepares for Training in Minnesota PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. Michael Camacho, 108th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs   
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 15:10

CHICAGO, IL (04/16/2012)(readMedia)-- Illinois Army National Guard leaders gathered for a reduced forces rehearsal (RFR) drill hosted by the 108th Sustainment Brigade (Sust. Bde.) April 13 at the North Kedzie Illinois Army National Guard armory in Chicago.

The RFR drill allowed units to discuss and plan training for the nearly 4,000 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers attending annual training at the 2012 eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) in July at Camp Ripley, Minn.

Participants included the 108th Sust. Bde. in Chicago and the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) in Urbana and select units from the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Chicago and 65th Troop Command Brigade in Springfield, Joint Force Headquarters of the Illinois National Guard in Springfield and elements of the Wisconsin National Guard.

"The RFR is important because it allows us to physically view unit movements in the area which we are operating on a reduced scale," said Maj. Chris Heck of Chicago, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 108th Sust. Bde. "We use 20 foot by 40 foot maps of the areas of operation and each unit is represented by a small icon."

Each type of unit has a distinctive symbol that represents it on the icons, said Heck. These icons are moved around on the map to represent the planned movement of the unit at designated times.

"This is certainly impressive to see when you first walk in," said Brig. Gen. Johnny Miller of Tammes, the deputy commanding general of the Illinois Army National Guard. "I know for this exercise people have put in a lot of work preparing for it and there has been progress from the last (RFR) in 2008."

RFRs improve our readiness by allowing units to execute missions in a simulated environment and evaluate training and operating plans, said Heck. The key aspect is it allows the 33rd and 108th along with other supporting elements to jointly coordinate the details of a training mission of this size.

"This in turn allows the leadership and staff to plan and execute realistic training that is safe, fiscally responsible, and still meets the commanders' intent," said Heck.

This will be the second time the Illinois National Guard has conducted an RFR drill and XCTC, with the last in 2008 to prepare the 33rd IBCT for its historic deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 to 2009. It was the largest single deployment of Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers since World War II.

The 2012 XCTC will focus training on both brigades training and operating in the mission essential tasks.

The 2012 XCTC RFR was in the planning process for nearly a year. The 108th took the lead on planning the event and will begin on its logistical support mission before 33rd Solders arrive to Camp Ripley.

"We started planning this RFR in August and we set out to organize a well developed a operational walk through of XCTC," said Lt. Col. Drew Dukett of Roodhouse, the acting commander of the 108th. "From the feedback I received from 108th and the 33rd, I'm confident every command team in attendance knows their unit's day-by-day mission and what will be required of them."

While none of the brigades are slated for a large scale overseas deployment, the XCTC allows leaders to ensure units are trained in the most up-to-date tactics and operating procedures. Both the 33rd and 108th are scheduled to attend training at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, La., in 2013. XCTC and JRTC measure overall unit readiness against the Army Forces Generation cycle to ensure the 33rd and 108th are fully capable for any missions ordered by the president to support overseas operations.

XCTC provides a realistic, multi-level, combined arms training for combat and combat support units during an extended annual training period in order to help the brigades build on the Soldiers' individualized and small-team training.

With nearly 3,000 Soldiers from the 33rd and roughly 1,200 from the 108th to train in Minnesota, both units will focus on their wartime missions.

"The 108th has a very unique mission when it comes to sustainment operations and that mission will play a vital role in XCTC," said Dukett. "Our Soldiers will be providing the logistical support for both the 33rd and 108th. While this is no easy task, the 108th stands ready and will excel in its mission, training and readiness while at XCTC."

XCTC is the top readiness priority for the 33rd IBCT, said Col. Paul Hastings of St. Charles, the commander of the 33rd. It'll ensure high training down to unit levels and heightens tactical and operational proficiency.

"With that I know our Soldiers will be confident in themselves, their equipment and their leadership," said Hastings.

Braley Joins Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Announce New Pentagon Directives Aimed at Reducing Sexual Assault in the Military PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 14:56

Pentagon will implement several elements of Holley Lynn James Act


Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) joined Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey today to announce new Department of Defense directives that will implement several provisions of Braley’s Holley Lynn James Act – almost a year to the day after the bill’s introduction.k,


The announcement came after Panetta and Dempsey joined Braley and a small group of House members to discuss addressing sexual assault in the military.


Braley introduced the Holley Lynn James Act last April to strengthen the legal process for addressing claims of sexual assault in the military and improve policies to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence.  The bipartisan bill is named after Holley Lynn James, a constituent of Braley’s who was killed by her husband while both were in the service.  James had filed complaints against her husband, who was supposed to be restricted to his barracks the night he murdered her.


“The Pentagon’s new directives incorporating aspects of the Holley Lynn James Act to improve the military’s response to sexual assault in their ranks is a positive development,” Braley said.  “Today’s announcement is an important step in creating the zero-tolerance atmosphere that commanders and leaders frequently talk about with regards to these crimes.  I will keep pressing the Department of Defense to put their words into action when they say one sexual assault is one too many and to better care for the victims of these crimes.”


The directives announced by the Pentagon today in many instances were based on language contained in Braley’s Holley Lynn James Act.


First, the Pentagon will now require sexual assault allegations be immediately reported to senior commanders, who will then consider if the case should proceed to a court martial.  This provision ensures that sexual assault cases are considered by officers with maturity and experience and that these cases are not dismissed as a result of personal bias.


Second, the Pentagon also recognized the need for better prevention and oversight of the Department sexual assault policy.  The Pentagon will take steps to improve the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases by setting up Special Victims Units in each service branch that are trained to investigate sexual assault crimes, appropriately counsel victims and interview offenders, and give them the ability to better recognize the characteristics and behaviors of offenders. The Department of Defense will also require all servicemen and women to receive training on the Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention policy within 14 days of entering service.


The Pentagon also agreed to support Guard and Reserve members who may be sexually assaulted while on active duty but who have seen the investigation and prosecution of their assault go cold when they return to their civilian lives.  The new directives will create a way to ensure these individuals have full access to the same resources available to active duty members to seek justice.


A number of provisions of the Holley Lynn James Act focusing on the prevention of sexual assault were previously enacted into law as part of the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.


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Heroes Remembered: Defense Department to Mark the 59th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Barbara Foelber   
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 12:54

Defense Department seeks Korean War Veterans from around the country to gather in Arlington, Virginia and celebrate the 59th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice

Arlington, Virginia - The Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee announced today its efforts to reach out to Korean War Veterans and their families across the country and encourage them to join a commemorative program celebrating the 59th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice. The program, titled Heroes Remembered, is open to the public and will take place on July 27, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Featuring a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the program includes official remarks in the Arlington National Cemetery’s Amphitheatre with high ranking Defense Department officials and other senior government representatives. The event also includes additional special activities for Korean War Veterans and their families.

“Our Committee seeks to educate the American people on Korean War Veterans’ stories and strives to make their sacrifices known to the next generation of Americans,” said Committee Executive Director Colonel David J. Clark. “Their fight for the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today must be, and will be, remembered forever,” Colonel Clark added.

The Korean War was the first test of the United Nations’ resolve to stand against tyranny. Twenty-one nations banded together with the United States and the Republic of Korea in a remarkable display of solidarity to turn back North Korea’s naked aggression and stem the tide of communism on the Korean Peninsula. The Armistice, signed on July 27, 1953, remains in effect today and highlights the need to remain vigilant against the forces of tyranny and oppression in Korea and around the globe.

Korean War Veterans fought to halt the tide of communism that threatened to sweep over the Korean peninsula. Today, the Republic of Korea stands as a modern, prosperous, vibrant democracy because of their courage and selfless sacrifice.

Korean War Veterans, family members, and friends interested in attending the event can RSPV online here.


About the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee:
The Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, authorized in the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, is dedicated to thanking and honoring all the Veterans of the Korean War, their families and especially those who lost loved ones in that war. Through 2013, the Committee will honor the service and sacrifice of Korean War Veterans, commemorate the key events of the war, and educate Americans of all ages about the historical significance of the Korean War. For more information, visit our website or contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Keep connected with the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee via Facebook and Twitter, through videos at YouTube or with photos on Flickr.

Illinois Chaplains Connect with Community Leaders for Soldier Care PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Friday, 13 April 2012 12:20

JOLIET, IL (04/11/2012)(readMedia)-- A collection of eight clergy and community-based church leaders from the Chicago area gathered at the Joliet National Guard Armory April 10 to kick off a five-event Partners In Care campaign.

"The purpose is to bring clergy as well as community-based church leaders together to offer training in terms of how they can better support military members in their congregation as well as their community," said Chaplain (Capt.) Vincent C. Lambert of Chicago, with 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery in Chicago. "So the idea is that we want to provide them with tools, resources and training that better equips them to serve the military population."

This training is in light of the vast amount of people in Illinois who are connected to the military. There are more than 750,000 people living in Illinois who have either served or are serving in the Armed Forces.

"Military personnel are a significant chunk of the population, here in Illinois and if we can get as many partners as possible to help support the population I think the state is better for it, those families are better for it and ultimately the people who provide that support are better for it," said Lambert.

Martin R. Stidham of Chicago and pastor at the Chicago International Church initially expressed interest in the Partners In Care training to understand and help his son who is in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Illinois. He walked away with a larger vision of how beneficial this training could be.

"I would say we are more equipped now," said Stidham. "I, at least, feel more compassionate toward them, more understanding of what they've gone through. I feel that I have a much greater understanding than before. Understanding is a good tool to help listen better."

Those in attendance received instruction to help servicemembers with traumatic physical and mental injuries to deal with post traumatic stress disorder. Instructors then addressed secondary traumatic stress disorders and the pain family members can go through, with the goal to effectively support servicemembers facing the reality that there is a "new normal."

"What we want is to make sure that we're offering resources that helps individuals be emotionally healthy, spiritually healthy, and to have a good family," said Lambert. "So the idea is to offer up resources that are spiritual, emotional and mental so that people will be whole and healed."

The Partners in Care program looks to take advantage of a unique connection between institutions of faith and the military.

"I think the military benefits greatly from the stability and support that is provided by religious communities and by people of faith," said Tony J. Sorgi of Chicago, a doctoral student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in the military psychology track. "I think it can provide a measure of mental resilience from a psychological perspective and I think that's very important. On the flip side I think the military communities make enormous contributions to the religious communities they are a part of in civil society. The experience of war is profound and for the people who work their way through that experience, they bring a strength to democracy and civil society that we badly need."

The Partners In Care campaign will continue with a stop at the Chicago Armory April 12, the Mount Vernon Armory April 17, the Elgin Armory April 18, and the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield April 25. All instruction beginning at 9 a.m.

"The more partners we have, the more points of support we have throughout the state," said Lambert. "The more points of support we have the better we are at being able to support our military personnel and their families. We are always looking for more partners and houses of faith that would be committed and want to become a part of the program."

Date Location

April 12 Chicago Armory; 5200 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago

April 17 Mount Vernon Armory; 205 7th St., Mount Vernon

April 18 Elgin Armory; 254 Raymond St., Elgin

April 25 Camp Lincoln Illinois Military Academy, 1301 N. MacArthur Blvd., Springfield

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