Military & Veterans News
Hometown service member from Rock Island,IL. is Happy to be in the infantry in Afghanistan PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sgt. Marc Loi   
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 12:54

Sgt. Marc Loi

Pvt. Austin Schwab, an infantryman with B Troop, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash., looks back for instructions while pulling security duty during a combat mission in Didar, southern Afghanistan, April 13. Of Rock Island, Ill., the 20-year-old is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom since January.

COMBAT OUTPOST KOLK, Afghanistan – Pfc. Austin Schwab woke up cold. He’d spent the majority of the previous day marching through the thick marshes of southern Afghanistan. Later that night, when the platoon in which he serves took over a compound, Schwab spent the majority of the night sleeping on the ground, his rifle next to his side. The early-rising Afghanistan sun woke him. The soldier quickly threw on his protective gear and equipment, and in a matter of seconds, climbed on a ladder toward the compound’s roof to provide security over-watch. He is just 20.

While his friends are busying themselves in college with political and international theories about Afghanistan, the Rock Island, Ill., native is living it. While others see Operation Enduring Freedom through the tidbits of information on the evening news, Schwab sees it through his own two eyes.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the military,” said Schwab, who was in elementary school when the first bombs dropped on the insurgents in Afghanistan. “I wanted to join at 18, but I was working and didn’t join until I was 20.”

War is different through the eyes of a 20-year-old, and especially as an infantryman, Schwab is the prime example. While others wrestle with philosophical questions about the meanings of war and life, Schwab said he is just happy to be in the infantry. What’s more, his experiences, despite being harsher than experiences others have endured, made him more disciplined and allowed him to embrace, rather than push away, the experience of war.

“People ask me what it’s like being over here, and I tell them that there are just no words for it,” he said. “It’s a lot more intense than it is back home – being in the middle of a war zone is a lot different than being home in America.”

One of those differences, said Schwab, is the freedom and autonomy to do whatever he would like. When stationed at a tiny combat operating outpost without so much as indoor plumbing, hot showers become a luxury for soldiers.

“Hygiene – not being able to shower whenever you want, that’s one of the challenges,” he said. “And not being able to talk to my family whenever I want. You could go to the MWR and find out the Internet is down or something.”

Yet, the lack of Internet service and hot showers are the least of his worries. As an infantryman, Schwab is stationed in one of Afghanistan’s most “kinetic” areas – a term soldiers often use to describe the amount of physical threats they face. On any particular day, whether patrolling villages in combat vehicles or on foot, it is unusual for Schwab and the soldiers in his squad to not have contact with the insurgents, he said.

Like many other firsts, Schwab still remembers the first time his squad was shot at. They’d just left the outpost, headed west, when bullets came whizzing by, hitting the dirt around them.

“We just saw dust clouds and heard the cracking of the bullets,” he said, recalling the event. “It was our first and only contact that day, but I remember it.”

Then, there was the time he was involved in a firefight that lasted nearly two hours.

“It was pretty intense,” he said. “It was our first big firefight – I just went through my training, scanned my sector and when they told me to shoot, I took well-placed shots.”

In war, there is no time to think, and it’s no different for Schwab. In that firefight, for example, he fought back based only on instinct; it was only afterward when they were safely back in the protected confines of the tiny outpost did he start to think about the inherent danger of his actions, Schwab said.

“I just went through my training,” he said. “It was only after the firefight that I thought about it.

“My family, they’re scared for me,” he continued. “But they know I am doing what I love and they think it’s really good for me.”

The ability to do what he loves while still earning a living from it, said Schwab, is what fuels his affinity for the infantry.

“The money is nice, but I just enjoy doing this,” he said. “The infantry is one of the tougher jobs in the Army and when I joined, I told myself I wanted to push myself to the limits. I plan on going to the Rangers after I get back.”

Another added benefit to the infantry, is the camaraderie he has experienced, Schwab said.

“One of the things I’ve learned here is that everyone has their ups and downs,” he said. “But in the middle of a firefight, everyone’s got your back –it’s a different kind of brotherhood.

“I love being in the infantry,” he added. “It’s exactly what I thought it would be.”

Braley Urges Congressional Leaders to Reject Cuts to Iowa Air National Guard PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 12:44

Pentagon announced proposed cuts to Des Moines Air Guard facility in February

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) sent a letter to a bipartisan group of House leaders urging them to use the legislative process to reject a U.S. Air Force proposal that would lead to job and equipment losses within the Iowa Air National Guard in 2013.

The 132nd Fighter Wing out of Des Moines is slated to lose all 21 of their assigned F-16 fighters with a force reduction of almost 500 personnel. The 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City also stands to lose one KC-135 tanker aircraft.

“The units of the Iowa Air National Guard exemplify the highly efficient, cost-effective, experienced force our nation needs,” Braley said. “Decisions to cut units in Iowa are bad for jobs and bad for national defense.

“The Pentagon’s priorities are wrong, and I’ll continue working alongside Iowa’s elected leaders to stop this damaging plan in its tracks.”

The cuts to the Iowa Air Guard are part of a larger effort to achieve $8.7 billion in budget savings, including cutting 9,900 personnel across the nation from the active, reserve and guard components.

Braley wrote to the leadership of the House Armed Services and Defense Appropriations Committees who are crafting legislation to approve funding and authorization decisions for the Department of Defense next year.

Text of the letter follows; a copy of the signed letter can be downloaded at the following link:



April 27, 2012


Chairman Buck McKeon

House Armed Services Committee

2120 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515                         


Chairman C.W. Bill Young

Subcommittee on Defense

House Appropriations Committee

H-405, The Capitol 

Washington, DC 20515


Ranking Member Adam Smith

House Armed Services Committee

2120 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515


Ranking Member Norm Dicks

Subcommittee on Defense

House Appropriations Committee

1016 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman McKeon, Chairman Young, Ranking Member Smith, and Ranking Member Dicks,

As your committee considers defense authorization and appropriations legislation for 2013, I write with serious concern regarding the Air Force’s recent decisions on force restructuring and its impact on the Air National Guard.

The combat aircraft retirements and personnel decisions discussed in the Air Force’s recent proposal unduly affects the Air National Guard over the Active Component, and does not reflect an effort to support our national defense in a cost effective manner by maintaining the Guard and Reserve or taking a balanced approach to achieving budget efficiencies. The Iowa Air National Guard units in Des Moines and Sioux City exemplify the highly efficient, cost-effective, experienced force the Air National Guard provides. They’ve successfully deployed numerous times over the last decade in support of combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, while personnel have displayed their experience, expertise and proficiency in executing missions and maintaining their aircraft ready for future deployment. The Guard and Reserve are highly efficient forces, maintaining experienced pilots and performing many of the same missions of Active Component forces when activated, all at a much lower cost than the Active Component over the long-term due to their Guard status and different eligibility for retirement and other benefits. Air Force statements on the cost of the Guard ignores these lower life-time costs, and the proposed shifts of combat aircraft to the Active Component and elimination of missions in the Guard Component achieve significantly less savings than if the situation were reversed.

Secretary Panetta has stated the Guard and Reserve forces have proved their combat readiness and combat effectiveness over the past 10 years. These units have activated and served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside Active Component forces, while also performing valuable civilian support and homeland defense functions under the direction of their state Guard commands. As decisions are made to reorient our force and draw down our current combat commitments, we must work to maintain the readiness and effectiveness of the Air Guard forces to perform all of these functions, while also capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge and experience within our Guard and Reserve units to maintain the total force.

I recognize that the funding constraints we currently face require difficult decisions to be made in prioritizing the roles and resources of all aspects of the Air Force. I am disappointed that faced with these challenges, the Air Force chose to target one of the most efficient aspects of their force in finding reductions. I encourage you to take a balanced approach as cuts are made to the total Air Force and carefully consider alternative proposals that support the Guard and Reserve like those made by the Council of Governors, rather than Air Force decisions that protect the parochial interests of the Active Component over the total force.

I urge you to protect the National Guard and support its long-term viability as part of the force.   Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.



Bruce Braley

Member of Congress


# # #

Statement from Family of Active Army Casualty from Illinois PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 08:32

SPRINGFIELD, IL (04/26/2012)(readMedia)-- The family of an Active Army casualty from Illinois has released a statement through the Illinois National Guard in lieu of speaking publically.

"In our darkest moment, our hearts are warmed by the collective love and support of our family, our friends, our neighbors and our community. The outpouring of support and kindness has been tremendous and we cannot thank everyone enough.

Dean was a blessing on our lives and he would be proud and honored.

This is not an easy time for us. As we navigate this difficult journey, we do not intend to share it publicly and ask media to maintain a respectful distance."

Sgt. Dean R. Shaffer, 23, of Pekin, Ill., died April 19 in Helmand province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when the Black Hawk helicopter he was riding in crashed. Shaffer was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii.

The Illinois National Guard is supporting the active component as well as providing military support to the Shaffer family.

Illinois, Oregon Guardsmen place third in Best Ranger Competition PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Staff Sgt Kassidy Snyder   
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 14:48

SPRINGFIELD, IL (04/25/2012)(readMedia)-- As the creed states, a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air. Staff Sgt. Matthew Madiar of Chicago and Sgt. 1st Class Zach Phillips of Portland, Ore., lived the Ranger Creed while competing at the 29th Annual David E. Grange, Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga., April 13 to 15.

Madiar, with the Illinois Army National Guard's Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment in Aurora, Ill., and Phillips with the Oregon Army National Guard (Team 50), placed third among 50 two-man Ranger teams. This is the highest a National Guard team has ever placed. The only two National Guard teams that qualified for the competition placed in the top six with only 34 of 50 teams completing the 60-hour competition.

"I was physically and mentally exhausted after the Darby Queen obstacle course," said Phillips. "That was the one and only time I questioned if I was going to make it to the end."

Not only did the team finish, they excelled. Before the obstacle course, Rangers began the competition with a three-mile buddy run that transitioned into a 15-mile foot march. After the obstacle course, the team was flown by helicopter to the urban assault course. Both National Guard teams were in the top five standings for the day. Only 34 teams remained after the first day of endurance events.

Day two began with timed skill events. The high-stress shoot at the Krilling Range was one of the most successful events, said Madiar. The 500-yard course consisted of moving a stretcher with a simulated casualty throughout the obstacle with periodic stops at various ranges to fire five vintage rifles at steel and six-inch targets.

The teams then moved by a Stryker fighting vehicle for eight, round-robin timed stations. The major event of the day was the Tri-Tower Challenge, where competitors climbed a 60-foot wall, 30-foot collapsible ladder and a 20-foot knotted rope, rappelling down in between each climb. Team 49, consisting of National Guardsmen Capt. Robert Killian with the Colorado Army National Guard and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, set the course record with a time of 6 minutes, 32 seconds.

Night two finished up with a six-hour night orienteering course, which was the most challenging event, said Madiar. The long distance, time constraints and rough terrain made it the toughest event.

Day three consisted of water events. Competitors jumped from a helicopter into a pond, then swam 100-meters to shore followed by a water confidence course. Once completed, both National Guard teams were airlifted to start the timed leadership skills event where Team 50 (Madiar and Phillips) came out about two and a half minutes quicker then Team 49.

"When it came time, we did everything exactly the way we practiced and it worked out well for us," said Phillips.

The final event of the day, which highlighted how well the two National Guard teams compared to the Active Duty teams, was the three-mile Buddy Run where Team 49 came in first and Team 50 in sixth place.

"All I was worried about was just finishing," said Madiar. "We weren't tracking the standings because they changed so much."

The 10-week intense pre-training program leading up to the competition paid off for the Guardsmen. Team 50 was awarded third place overall for the competition, while team 49 came in fifth.

Madiar and Phillips both said they would like to compete again next year as long as they are partners.

"If it works out, we can capitalize on our success and come back a little stronger and smarter next year," said Phillips.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy E. Beck, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team also contributed to this story

Loebsack Presents Congressional Record Statement to Quad City Area WWII Veterans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 14:34

Washington, D.C. – April 23, 2012 - Congressman Dave Loebsack (D, IA-2) today welcomed Quad City area veterans of World War II to Washington D.C. and presented them with copies of the Congressional Record statement he submitted honoring their service. The veterans traveled to Washington as part of the Honor Flight, which is an all expense paid trip for WWII veterans so that they can visit our nation’s capital and the World War II Memorial that was built in their honor.

“The men and women, who I had the opportunity to meet with today, are truly members of the Greatest Generation,” said Loebsack.  “We cannot thank them enough for their service to our state and nation.  It was a privilege for me to present them with a copy of the Congressional Record recognizing their service, and I was honored to be a small part of their trip to our nation’s capital.”

The honor flights are all fully paid for, and the veterans are typically accompanied by volunteers who donate their time to ensure that the veterans have a safe trip. This group included roughly 90 veterans. The Honor Flight left from Quad Cities Airport this morning and will return tonight.

Loebsack is an avid supporter of our veterans. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he has worked to increase veterans’ health care and benefits funding by 70 percent and has worked to make sure that each and every veteran is treated with the dignity and honor that they deserve.

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