Military & Veterans News
House Armed Services Committee Approves FY2013 Defense Bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Monday, 14 May 2012 13:25

Includes Schilling Efforts to Strengthen RIA, Streamline Small Business Contracting, Improve Health Care for Military Families and Help Bring MIA Warriors Home

Washington, DC – With the support of Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17), the House Armed Services Committee early this morning overwhelmingly approved H.R. 4310, the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The final package reported out by the Committee added several bipartisan provisions authored by Schilling with the support of a number of committee colleagues, including provisions to strengthen the Rock Island Arsenal (RIA), streamline small business contracting, improve health care for military families and help bring MIA warriors home.

The NDAA is annual comprehensive legislation that specifies the budget authority of the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and additional national security programs under the Department of Energy (DOE).  The Act supports common defense and provides for the needs of our troops, ensuring that they have access to the best possible tools, equipment, and training necessary to complete their mission.  The NDAA is now cleared for consideration by the full House of Representatives next week.  

“I’m honored for the opportunity to serve on the Armed Services Committee and the chance to advance the interests of the Rock Island Arsenal, our nation’s warfighters, and their families,” Schilling said. “This year’s defense bill includes several provisions I’m pleased to have worked on with a number of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and I want to sincerely thank them and members of the Committee for their support in moving these initiatives forward.  Providing for our common defense and the well-being of American warfighters and their families should not be a Republican or a Democrat issue, but a red, white, and blue issue.”

Schilling worked to ensure a number of provisions were included in this year’s NDAA, the 51st annual defense authorization bill.  Schilling’s provisions include:

  • Language authored with Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-02), also a member of HASC, to ensure DOD recognizes the critical manufacturing work done at facilities like the RIA in our overarching national security strategy, and reviews how to maintain those skills and therefore the people who do the work.  Schilling and Loebsack are building on their historic, bipartisan work to strengthen the arsenal in last year’s NDAA.
  • Language authored with Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15) to better shape the policies and practices of TRICARE to efficiently and effectively account for the specific health care needs of children.  TRICARE is the military health care system covering 9.6 million, including military retirees, the children and families of active duty soldiers, and National Guard and Reservists.  As the program’s reimbursement structure is based on Medicare, TRICARE often adopts policies and practices from Medicare that do not account for pediatric health care delivery and settings.  This Schilling and Stivers language will convene a working group to review and make recommendations for improving TRICARE policies and practices to account for children’s needs, and work jointly with specialty providers of children’s health care.
  • Language authored with Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) to encourage cooperation between the DOD and universities to uncover the remains of American troops who died in action overseas. This bipartisan provision will help provide closure for families with lost loved ones, and will honor those who gave so much for our country.  Universities such as the University of Illinois are already working to reduce the backlog of cases that have been reported but not investigated or for which remains have been located but not recovered, but there is bureaucratic red tape that complicates coordinating efforts with the DOD.  This provision will help DOD be more cost effective and increase the speed at which we can bring our warfighters home from more friendly countries, allowing the DOD to focus on its recovery efforts in more dangerous areas of the world.
  • Language authored with Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), who serves with Schilling on the Small Business Committee, to reform small business contracting and make it easier for small contractors wishing to do business with the federal government.  Small businesses have proven that they can perform a service or produce goods for the government at a lower cost and often at a faster pace than their larger counterparts, but many challenges remain for businesspeople seeking to break through the bureaucracy.  This bipartisan provision allows the Small Business Administration to oversee civilian mentor-protégé programs (programs intended to partner small businesses with established mentors  to improve the small business’ ability to win contracts and subcontracts), facilitating inter-agency agreements, guaranteeing that programs benefit small businesses, and encouraging equal treatment among all small businesses, including those owned by women and minorities.

The NDAA authorizes $544 billion for national defense and $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingencies Operations.  This is nearly $4 billion more than the President’s budget request, but less than last year’s request.  It is, however, consistent with the budget resolution the House passed last month.  

The legislation includes a number of broader provisions as well, including:

  • Provisions providing for the warfighter and military families: The NDAA seeks to provide our warfighters and their families with the care and support they need, deserve, and have earned.  It ensures that our military is robust, flexible, and capable.  The NDAA rejects Administration proposals to increase some TRICARE fees and establish new TRICARE fees; authorizes a 1.7 percent pay increase; and extends bonuses and special pay for our servicemen and women.  It also reflects a bipartisan effort actively supported by Schilling to provide new regulations and procedures to combat and prosecute sexual assault within the military.
  • Provisions to maintain and rebuild our military: The NDAA does not authorize additional rounds of Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) in either FY2013 or FY2015, as had been called for by the Department of Defense.  Schilling strongly opposed efforts to authorize a BRAC.  The bill includes and restores vital systems, platforms, and authorities to maintain America’s combat power after a decade of war.
  • Provisions pertaining to detainees: The FY2012 NDAA reaffirmed U.S. authority to pursue terrorists who are part of or substantially support al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.  The FY2013 NDAA, though the incorporation of the Right to Habeas Corpus Act, makes clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that every American will have his day in court.  It also prohibits the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.

More information on the FY2013 can be found here on the HASC website.  Having passed HASC early this morning, the NDAA is now cleared for consideration by the full House of Representatives next week.

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Operation Gratitude launches its "March to a Million" campaign PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Ann Hamilton   
Monday, 14 May 2012 12:44

Van Nuys, CA--May 9, 2012 -- With hundreds of eager volunteers looking on at the California Army National Guard Armory this past Saturday, May 5, Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek, announced the launch of "March to a Million" -- an  historic new campaign highlighting the non-profit organization's journey to a once-deemed-impossible milestone: Sending one million individually-addressed care packages to deployed troops, military children, wounded warriors, veterans and emergency first responders.

"Every aspect of Operation Gratitude's work now and going forward is a step in the march toward sending the millionth package," explained Blashek. "Every volunteer hour, every dollar donated, every letter written, every scarf or survival bracelet made by hand, every item collected is in pursuit of our March to a Million packages," she said, adding, "We need your help to get there!"

As part of the March to a Million (M2M) campaign, Operation Gratitude, with assistance from the digital media firm, Brand Knew, launched a comprehensive web refresh, including the organization's main siteFacebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter (using the #March2aMill hashtag) sites.

"Social media is an incredibly powerful tool that allows every American, no matter where they live or how busy their schedules are, to be an important part of Operation Gratitude's historic March to a Million campaign," said Brand Knew CEO Zach Suchin.  "The M2M campaign represents the best of the collective human spirit, and all of these social components enable this important initiative to live well beyond the confines of a single armory."

"And we truly are making history!" Blashek added. "No other military support organization has ever delivered as many personalized care packages to the Military Community as Operation Gratitude," she said.

Blashek also spoke about Operation Gratitude's special Milestone Gifts donated by corporate partners over the years.  Exciting plans for the upcoming 
Millionth Care Package are already in the works.  Companies wishing to participate as Sponsors of the campaign or as gift contributors should contact Carolyn Blashek: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Every person who donates a minimum of $15 to the March to a Million campaign will receive a special commemorative gift.

Blashek expects the Millionth Care Package to be sent by the end of 2013.  Taking the organization several steps closer to that milestone, the Operation Gratitude volunteers assembled and shipped more than 8,000 care packages on Saturday, bringing the overall tally to 786,069 packages sent since 2003. 


About Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in harm's way, to their children left behind, to military families and veterans in financial distress due to unemployment, to emergency first responders and to Wounded Warriors recuperating in transition units. The organization's mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member's face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people. Each package contains donated product valued at ~$125 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. For safety and security, assembling of packages occurs at the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, California. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 785,000 packages to American Military members and their children.

The beginning of the Illinois National Guard PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Adriana Schroeder, Illinois National Guard Command Historian   
Thursday, 10 May 2012 07:23

SPRINGFIELD, IL (05/09/2012)(readMedia)-- The Illinois National Guard heritage is similar to the state tree, the White Oak. The trunk is stout and strong much like the core of the guard. Branches lead off of one another comparable to the organizational heritage. Units have come and gone throughout the years due to reorganization, similar to limbs that need trimming from time to time. Although visibly removed, units remain forever linked to the trunk or the history. Each leaf is unique, like the Soldiers, Airman and civilians that are a part of the Illinois Guard. Leaves bud, bloom, change color, and shed much like the ebb and flow of enlistments, career changes, and retirements. Acorns are unique to the white oak, just like the deployments that occupy some of the leaves or Soldiers. But what about the part that remains buried and forgotten, yet is the element that nourishes the rest of the tree?

The history of the roots of the Illinois National Guard began with the French. On January 1, 1718, Businessman John Law obtained a charter from the French King that granted him monopoly of French trade in the area known as the Illinois Country. Royal orders dictated that a provision for civil government be arranged for the new province of Illinois. During the summer of 1718, the green officials set out from Louisiana and journeyed to their new home. Among other governing associates, the party included Pierre Duque, Sieur de Boisebriant, Commandant; Captain Diron, Dartaguiette; two Second Lieutenants and a company of 100 Soldiers.

Among the tall grasses of the Illinois prairie, rose the first resemblance of an organized militia, under the French regime. This small unit of French Soldiers had the responsibility of: investigating the number of men capable of bearing arms in each village, determining the amount of powder and lead available, forming companies of militia and arranging a signal system from settlement to settlement. By 1721, Fort De Chartes became the first military structure dedicated to the protection of the community.

As the population of settlements grew, militia companies began popping up among each community, under the tutelage of the French. Looking back on his time in Illinois, the inspector of Troops, Dartaguiette wrote in his diary, "I called together all the inhabitants of this village [Kaskaskia] to whom I said that I had an order from the King to form a company of militia for the purpose of putting them in a position to defend themselves with greater facility against the incursions which the Indians, our enemies, might attempt, so I formed a company, after having selected four of the most worthy among them to put at the head. This company being under arms, I passed it in review the same day." Under the shade of the White Oak, the militia rested, having completed the first drill on May 9, 1723. The first of many hundreds of thousands of drills, the Illinois National Guard will be 289 years old this May, not quite as old as the 500-year life span of the White Oak.

UPDATED: Loebsack to Offer Amendment to Save the 132nd Fighter Wing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
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).


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.



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.

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