Military & Veterans News
Schilling, Davis, Altmire Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Ensure Equal Pay for Wounded Reservists PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Monday, 19 March 2012 11:19

Washington, DC – Congressmen Bobby Schilling (IL-17), Geoff Davis (KY-04) and Jason Altmire (PA-04) today introduced the Citizen Soldier Equality Act, bipartisan legislation to correct compensation discrepancies for Reservists hurt in the line of duty and awarded the Purple Heart.  Under current formulas, these Reservists face an inequity in their disability when they are wounded in action.    

The Citizen Soldier Equality Act will fix this oversight, correcting the formula so “Years of Service” would equal their full years of service when the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers their disability pay.  This change in language simply eliminates the inequality between active and reserve personnel for disability retirement pay for those who are wounded while protecting our country.

“You can tell a lot about a country in how it takes care of its war heroes,” Congressman Schilling said. “When warfighters are hurt in the line of duty, they should be compensated regardless of enlistment status.  At a time when we are going to be reducing troop numbers and relying more on our Reserve, we must provide the correct compensation for those citizen soldiers who are wounded in the line of duty.  I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan effort with Congressmen Davis and Altmire and thank them for their hard work over the years in support of our war heroes.”

“I have worked for several years to resolve this inequity, and I am grateful to Congressman Schilling for his willingness to continue the cause,” said Congressman Davis. “A bullet does not discriminate between an active and a reserve service member, and neither should we.  We owe it to our wounded reservists that their disability retirement pay is calculated the same way it is for active members of the military.”

“When I look at the faces of the brave men and women who were wounded defending their country, the first question that I ask myself is how can we ever begin to repay them, not whether they have active or reserve status,” Congressman Altmire said. “This legislation removes an inequality among our military members and provides the support they will need to succeed after bravely serving their country.  With thousands of servicemen and women returning home, we should give this bipartisan legislation immediate consideration on the House floor.”

Disability retirement pay is calculated by one of two formulas, one of which contains “Years of Service.” “Years of Service” roughly equals total Duty Days divided by 365.   As an example of the inequality, a Staff Sergeant with 13 calendar years of reserve service but only 4 years of active service based on “Total Duty Days” gets about 8 percent less disability retirement pay than an active duty soldier.  A lifetime delta of 8 percent can significantly impact the Reservists’ standard of living.  To further illustrate, two personnel – one an active duty solder, one a Reservist – with identical disabilities incurred in the same conflict receive a different disability retirement benefit, with the Reservist coming up short.

The Citizen Soldier Inequality Act would eliminate the inequality between active and reserve personnel outlined above with regard to the calculation of disability retirement pay for service members wounded in action.

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Cuts by the Air Force PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Richard Martin   
Monday, 19 March 2012 07:55
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Senator Chuck Grassley made the comment below about information released today by the U.S. Air Force regarding its fiscal year 2013 Total Force Manpower Force Structure, which includes authorized manpower numbers for Iowa, including the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines and the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City.

The Air Force document indicates a net reduction of 492 Air Guard positions in Des Moines due to recent recommendations to retire 21 F-16s in Des Moines.  The Air Force document also indicates a net increase of three Air Guard positions in Sioux City.

Senator Grassley’s comment:

“Reversing this decision will take a concerted effort by National Guard advocates in Congress.  So far, the effort has been significant, and there will be an opportunity to determine a different outcome when annual legislation to authorize defense spending is considered later this year

“I’m a member of the National Guard Caucus in the Senate and plan to continue pressing for answers and a thorough review of what’s best for taxpayers and national defense.  During a Budget Committee hearing last week, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and I both asked Defense Secretary Panetta to review these recommendations.  In addition, 49 governors, including Governor Branstad, have expressed opposition to the Guard cuts.

“Fiscal responsibility and stewardship dictate that the Air Force should use a cost-benefit analysis that looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the active and reserve forces.  It’s not clear that such a process has been used, and the Air Force needs to account for its approach.”

Rep. Bruce Braley's office sent the following:

Braley: Stopping Air Force Cuts to Des Moines Air National Guard is “Just Common Sense”

Washington, DC – March 6, 2012 - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement today after the US Air Force said it was recommending eliminating 492 positions at the Des Moines-based 132nd Iowa Air National Guard Fighter Wing:

“Stopping the Air Force’s misguided cuts to the Des Moines Air National Guard wing isn’t a partisan issue, it’s just common sense.  If the Air Force’s goal is to reduce costs, downsizing the Iowa Air National Guard while more expensive units and less experienced pilots are preserved elsewhere just doesn’t add up.

 

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

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Illinois National Guard, Polish Bonds Remain Strong During Best A9 Mission PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 13:08

WEDRYZN, POLAND (03/02/2012)(readMedia)-- By 1st Lt. Matthew Morris and 1st Lt. Nico Smith, Illinois Army National Guard BEST A9

The weather was frigid but not unfamiliar to the Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Bilateral Embedded Support Team (BEST) A9 who arrived in Poland Feb. 3. The BEST A9 arrived in Wedryzn, Poland where they are assisting the Polish 6th Airborne Brigade certify its two battalion task forces prior to their deployment to Afghanistan this month.

"I'm very impressed with the trust placed in their lower enlisted to do the right thing and the mentality they have while they conduct training," said Sgt. 1st Class William Ingles of Steeleville, with BEST A9. "Their attitude is not 'why are we training' but 'when.' The design is very practical and a lot of fun to watch."

The primary focus of the Illinois National Guard Soldiers' training the past few weeks was to learn the customs and leadership style of their Polish counterparts.

This deployment is part of the State Partnership Program (SPP), which was created in 1993 to assist the Polish government and military transition into NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union. Co-deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with Polish Forces began in 2003 where the partnership evolved from an advisory role to an enabler of warfighting capacities.

The work schedule also allows time for the team to experience Polish culture and history. Illinois Soldiers have travelled to Ostwald, an area once occupied by Germany, to visit one part of an enormous structure of bunkers that spans from the Baltic Sea heading south underground for 400 kilometers. They also travelled to Sulecin, a small town a couple kilometers away from the training base.

With few English speaking natives, the team relies heavily on Sgt. Arthur Boruch of Orland Park, the only fluent Polish speaker on the team.

"It's been an interesting and challenging experience communicating the needs of 17 people," he said. "It can get exhausting but overall it's been great showing the guys the Polish culture I've known from growing up in a Polish speaking household."

The recent training between Illinois and Polish Soldiers was marked by a gesture of unity Feb. 17 when Brig. Gen. Bogdan Tworkowski, Commander of the Polish 6th Airborne Brigade, placed the unit's shoulder patch on each member of the BEST team while Col. Troy Phillips of Philo, BEST A9 commander, presented the Illinois colors to fly alongside the Polish National Flag.

"We are one team, one unit, and we are very glad to have the BEST team on board. I am sure that our efforts together will result in success," Tworkowski said.

 
Illinois State Military Museum: Citizen-Soldiers of Yesterday and Tomorrow PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Spc. Kristi Goodin, Illinois National Guard Historian Assistant   
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 14:30

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/27/2012)(readMedia)-- The white brick castle walls of the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield surround the rich history of the Illinois National Guard. The dark wood floor and dim lights bring people to a quiet serenity and the original artifacts propel life to history. Patrons frequently ask how the museum began, but the beginning of the story barely covers the long road that led to the castle museum we know today.

The Illinois State Military Museum has a place on the National Register of Historical Places after years of uncertainty and emptiness. The castle was built between the years of 1903 and 1909 by Col. James Culver, owner of the Culver Stone Company and commander of the Illinois National Guard's 5th Illinois Infantry Regiment. The museum was to serve as a commissary and/or a quartermaster building.

"The National Guard was issued considerable quantities of federal property, such as weapons and ammunition, and it was important that this property be safeguarded and stored in a location that would protect it," said Lt. Col. Mark K. Whitlock, Carbondale native. Whitlock is Joint Force Headquarters chief historian and former director of the Illinois State Military Museum, both in Springfield.

The museum sat for years as a storage facility for artifacts of American Civil War veterans piled up since 1878. The artifacts came from generous donations of veterans, their families and from within the Army system, said Whitlock. The Illinois State Military Museum's greatest collection is the collection of more than 1,000 flags, guidons and regimental colors that are primarily from the Civil War.

For years, the artifacts were safeguarded by retired Warrant Officer Charles "Charlie" Munie from Decatur, who also initiated historical displays and reminded people the state of Illinois has a great collection of artifacts that should be preserved and someday exhibited in a proper museum.

When Whitlock was hired as the director in 1995, he started to organize a 1920s wooden Civilian Conservation Corps barracks into a temporary museum with a yearly budget of roughly $16,000.

"The money did not go very far, but it was all we had for purchasing supplies and exhibit building materials necessary to get the museum up and running," said Whitlock.

The museum officially opened to the public in 2003 to become the note-worthy institution it is today. Whitlock said he took many steps to ensure it would be a success, such as developing a cooperative and productive relationship between the museum, and Illinois National Guard and Militia Historical Society, Inc. He pushed the leadership to hire additional staff and left it better than he found it.

"I think it is important that we give credit to the great Illinoisans who came before me and collected and documented the treasures that we are able to enjoy in the museum today," said Whitlock.

Whitlock's hard work to receive additional support eventually worked, because the director now has a curatorial staff including a museum curator, two assistant curators, an executive director and volunteers.

"The volunteers are invaluable," said retired Brig. Gen. Stewart Reeve of Pittsfield, director of the Illinois Military Museum. "They have a vast knowledge of different periods in Illinois history that they can relay in a clear fashion to visitors."

Reeve was appointed director Aug. 1, 2011. Since then he has made the museum more current by highlighting exhibits for black history month and women's history month, hosting events for the public, and changing the exhibits often for people who visit regularly.

Recently, Reeve planned exhibits that emphasize the parts of history he feels are sadly forgotten and sometimes not even recognized by National Guard Soldiers, such as the State Partnership Program, peacekeeping missions and Eastern Europe. He said he feels the most important purpose of the museum is to tell the story of how the Illinois National Guard has contributed to supporting and protecting Illinois citizens and U.S. citizens nationwide, which are not limited to combat operations.

"On some level, I don't think the National Guard understands what Illinois troops have done," said Reeve. "I don't think there's the institutional knowledge of what we've done and that's one of the things I think the museum can help with the most."

Whitlock and Reeve agreed the artifacts can leave someone with a deep understanding of what the service members of the past went through. Reeve said his favorite exhibit is the World War II area in the museum because one sees the way the service members lived, worked, and died. One will walk out with a deeper appreciation for what service members did.

"My favorite artifact is the damaged up-armored windshield from a humvee that is attributed with saving the lives of the Soldiers seated behind it," said Whitlock. "The connection between an inanimate object and lives that were spared because of it, always gave me goose bumps to talk about with visitors."

For more information on the Illinois State Military Museum call Reeve at 217-761-3384. For more information on the Illinois Militia Historical Society, Inc., contact Larry Johnson 217-761-3645 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Deputy Defense Secretary Meets with Polish Troops, Talks Partnership PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., American Forces Press Service   
Monday, 27 February 2012 15:32

GHAZNI PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN (02/23/2012)(readMedia)-- Partnership has been essential to success in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this emphasis continued as Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter met with Polish troops here today.

Carter met with Polish Brig. Gen. Piotr Blazeusz, commander of Task Force White Eagle, Polish Col. Jan Rydz, deputy commander, and U.S. Army Col. Thomas Purple, Rochester, Ill. native and coalition deputy commander, at Forward Operating Base Ghazni to reaffirm the U.S. partnership with nations contributing to the effort in Afghanistan.

"Thank you very much ... to the Polish contingent here," Carter said. "You've been great partners right from the very beginning, and we are admiring of your professionalism and dedication."

Polish military leaders told the secretary they are working very closely with coalition troops from other nations, and there is a "very good partnership with U.S. forces in the area."

The group talked about logistics, building capacity in the area, construction and other operational issues. Following their discussions, Carter re-emphasized that the union between U.S. forces and Polish troops serves as "a great, great partnership."

Officials of the Illinois National Guard, which serves as part of Task Force White Eagle and has a state partnership with Poland, noted the partnership is extensive, as the Guard soldiers spend two months training in Poland before their six- to seven-and-a-half-month deployments.

"Chicago has the largest population of Polish in the world, superseding Warsaw," noted Army Maj. Rhonda Peterson, a logistics officer with the Illinois National Guard.

Carter showed his appreciation as the leaders exchanged gifts, and he spoke of the appreciation for the Polish troops' service.

"Thanks, once again," he said. "It's very clear this is a great partnership."

 
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