Military & Veterans News
News Release from the Army Corps of Engineers (UNCLASSIFIED) PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Allen Marshall   
Friday, 22 July 2011 22:33

Rock Island, Ill. -- (July 20, 2011) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Rock Island District is continuing to concentrate on water safety outreach at its lake and river projects after a deadly start to the recreation season at USACE parks nationwide.

As of May 31, 57 people have died on Corps-owned property nationwide this year, compared to 39 at this time last year - a more than 32 percent increase. Most of these fatalities were from drowning. USACE officials report that more than 90 percent of drowning victims at USACE parks were not wearing a life jacket.

"Public safety is our number one priority," said Maj. Gen. Merdith W.B. Temple, acting commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "The increase in deaths at USACE parks this year is of great concern to us. We want to do everything we can to make people aware of potential risks when they visit one of our recreation areas, and how to make good decisions that will improve safety for themselves, families and friends."

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District Recreation Projects include: Saylorville Lake near Des Moines, Iowa; Lake Red Rock, Pella, Iowa; Coralville Lake, Iowa City, Iowa; the Mississippi River Project from Potosi, Wis., to Saverton, Mo.; and the Illinois Waterway from T.J. O'Brien Lock and Dam to La Grange Lock and Dam.

The Corps wants to remind its visitors to put safety first while recreating on its lands and waters.  Swim only in designated areas, learn to swim, use the buddy system, and do not exceed your abilities. Over half of the Rock Island District water related fatalities over the last 18 years have been swimming related.  If you are using your boat as a swim platform and jumping into the water to cool off do not forget to wear a life jacket. Limit your alcohol use and remember operating under the influence in a boat
in Iowa and Illinois is .08, just as it is in your automobile on the road. 

"Wearing a suitable life jacket is the single most important measure boaters and swimmers can take to decrease their risk of a water-related fatality. Just like wearing your seat belt in your car decreases your risk of serious injury or death," said Mike Cox, assistant operations manager, Rock Island District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

USACE officials encourage visitors to check local water and weather conditions and pay attention to recreation warnings, such as river closures from local emergency services offices prior to entering the water. Know your water and weather conditions before you go and let family and friends know where you are going and when you expect to return from your outing. You can find lake and river level information at  Officials stress the single most important item a person can do on the water to reduce risk is to wear a life jacket. USACE will continue its efforts to promote boating and water safety and with the public's support we will work to reduce
the risk and save lives. 

USACE is the nation's largest federal provider of outdoor recreation, hosting more than 370 million visits per year at 422 recreation parks in 43 states and we want our visitors to return to enjoy our sites again. 

For the USACE recreation area near you visit


Battalion Buddy Program Reaches Milestone: 20,000 Brave Young Warriors Receive Surprise Hugs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Operation Gratitude   
Friday, 22 July 2011 22:27

July 20, 2011 / Encino, CA - In just two months since the program's launch, Operation Gratitude's Battalion Buddy Packages have brought smiles and hugs to 20,000 anxious sons and daughters of deploying U.S. military personnel.

In May, Operation Gratitude started sending special stuffed toys -- known as "Battalion Buddies" -- to the children of U.S. service members as their units prepare to deploy into harm'Battalion Buddy Toyss way. Each Battalion Buddy wears a tag saying: "Hi Brave Young Warrior! I am your Battalion Buddy. I am here to cuddle with you while your Mommy or Daddy is away."

Operation Gratitude's initial Battalion Buddy efforts were made possible by the McKesson Corporation, which provided a generous donation of thousands of the toys. The program has continued with the cooperation and support of Family Readiness Officers and battalion leaders nationwide. To date 20,000 packages have been shipped to 32 unique Zip Codes in 17 States plus Guam and Germany, and to 56 different deployed or deploying units.

"Battalion Buddies offer comfort and encouragement during a difficult time of separation," said Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek. "We are excited that the momentum for this program is building and that more friends across the country are joining our efforts to support military children."

Blashek says the response from families receiving the Battalion Buddy packages has been overwhelming.Boy with his Battalion BuddyShe shared an email one deployed father recently sent from Afghanistan: "Thank you for what your organization does and the positive impact you have on the lives of military service members and their families," he wrote. "You bent over backwards to help us receive several hundred Battalion Buddies for our deploying unit and I for one was very grateful as my son and daughter absolutely loved them. According to my wife, they have kept them close every night as they go to sleep."

Along with the McKesson Corporation, Tobu Print Group, Inc., Frontline Freight and Reddaway Trucking have generously provided services to assist with the production and shipment of Battalion Buddy packages.

As with its Care Packages to deployed troops, Operation Gratitude's Battalion Buddy Program will provide American companies and every citizen opportunities to encourage the children of troops serving in combat by donating stuffed toys and contributing funds.

Those wishing to donate new stuffed toys (14-18 inches from head to toe) to be used as Battalion Buddies may send them to the following address:

Operation Gratitude
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Battalion Buddy Program

Financial donations can be made online here: Donate to Battalion Buddies or by check made payable and addressed to:

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

Corporate Donors should contact Blashek at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it regarding sponsorship opportunities. Family Readiness Officers and battalion leaders wishing to request Battalion Buddy packages should send an email to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

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, and to Wounded Warriors in Military hospitals and 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 and their families 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 660,000 packages to American Military members. 

Learn more about Operation Gratitude by visiting:

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Braley Statement on Afghan IG Report PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Alexandra Krasov   
Friday, 22 July 2011 22:20

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found serious problems with oversight of U.S. aid efforts and funds in Afghanistan in a new report:

“This report is very troubling and it underscores the need for us to get out of Afghanistan now. We’re blindly spending billions in Afghanistan while our own economy is teetering between an anemic recovery and the brink of a default. I’ve called for a true accounting of the cost of the war in Afghanistan since I came to Congress. Now, after almost a decade in Afghanistan, thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars misspent, it’s clear that the cost is too high. We need to end this quagmire immediately.”

The report released today found that American funds in Afghanistan are likely to be misspent, embezzled and funneled to insurgents unless a far-reaching policy change is implemented.

“U.S. agencies…still have limited visibility over the circulation of these funds, leaving them vulnerable to fraud or diversion to insurgents. We found that agencies have not instituted sufficient controls over U.S. funds, limiting their oversight,” the staff of acting Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction Herbert Richardson wrote in the report released on Wednesday. The U.S. has spent more than $70billion on security assistance and development projects in Afghanistan since 2002.


First Army celebrates new “firsts” as Arsenal and Quad City neighbors PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Robert Saxon   
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 18:56
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, ILL.  - First Army will uncase its organizational colors Thursday, July 21 at 9 a.m. at First Army headquarters (Bldg. 68) signifying the official arrival of the unit here.

First Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek and Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse L. Andrews Jr., will uncase the unit's colors in a time-honored ceremony attended by invited VIPs and guests from the Arsenal and the Quad-Cities community.


*************EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS*****************

There will be a brief media availability with Lt. Gen. Bednarek after the uncasing ceremony.

Arsenal Access instructions:

-- Thu, Jul 21, Uncasing ceremony:  meet at Moline Gate vehicle registration area (fenced area to the right of gate)  NOT  LATER  THAN 8:30 a.m.

-- Fri, Jul 22, Organization Run:  meet at Moline Gate vehicle registration area (fenced area to the right of gate)  NOT  LATER  THAN 6:15 a.m.

The Keeper of the Colors PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Robert Saxon   
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 18:54
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - Victory on the battlefield depends principally
on swift and coordinated troop movement. In the past, Soldiers followed the
cadence and instruction of the color guard, led by the color sergeant.

With hundreds or thousands of men involved in the heat of battle, the
significance of the color sergeant and his ability to carry the flag, rally
the troops and fearlessly face death cannot be exaggerated.

This was especially true during the Civil War. Because of their strategic
value (and their visibility), the color sergeant was a ready target.
Although normally protected by six corporals, it remained a very dangerous
assignment. Yet the position and title held special significance amongst the
troops, and it was considered a high honor usually reserved for the bravest
and strongest soldiers. The flags they carried represented the reputation of
the unit, and were not to be surrendered.

During the Battle of the Wilderness (fought between Ulysses S. Grant and
Robert E. Lee) in Virginia, both sides suffered heavy casualties, including
a Union color sergeant during the close, intense fighting. Sgt. Charles E.
Morse saw his color sergeant perish, virtually surrounded by the enemy.
Morse rushed to the fallen Soldier, grabbed the colors and raised them into
the air. He continued the rallying cry through the entire battle, earning
him the Medal of Honor. Many other Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor
for similar action during the Civil War.

Because of the extreme danger and improvements in firearm accuracy, the Army
abolished the rank of color sergeant. However, the need for a color guard
did not diminish, as the drills and ceremonies Soldiers participate in today
share the values of the past. Each regiment had two flags, the U.S. and
organizational colors.  To ensure the men knew the flag of their regiment,
both flags were carried before them during drills and ceremonies.  From this
practice developed the modern color guard.

Now the honor of color sergeant belongs to the unit's senior enlisted
member, the "keeper of the colors." In garrison, the colors are normally
kept at the headquarters. Down range, the colors are normally displayed from
reveille to retreat in front of the commanding officer's tent or command
post. As units deploy their colors are "cased" before they move, and
subsequently "uncased" once in the field, signifying readiness to conduct
combat operations.

The same ceremony takes place when headquarters move. The Pentagon's 2005
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process directed First Army to close its
headquarters at Fort Gillem, Ga., and move to the Rock Island Arsenal.
"Right now our colors are not flying in front of First Army headquarters;
they are not on display in the building." said Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse L.
Andrews, Jr. "When we uncase the colors and put them on display, that means
the move is complete and First Army is officially conducting business on
Rock Island."

Andrews is First Army's keeper of the colors, a responsibility he takes very
seriously. "Our colors serve as a rallying point for all of the soldiers of
the unit; it is the heart and soul of our soldiers. I make sure that
wherever the commander is, the colors are always carried, presented and
displayed properly."

Andrews will uncase the organizational colors with the commander, Lt. Gen.
Mick Bednarek, July 21. The ceremony will highlight almost 100 years of rich
history, including

General John J. Pershing leading First Army troops into France in World War
I, to General Omar N. Bradley commanding First Army Soldiers on Normandy
Beach in WWII. That historical lineage continues today, training reserve and
active duty Soldiers for worldwide deployment.

During the uncasing ceremony the organizational color is unfurled, revealing
its battle streamers. The concept of battle streamers came to prominence
during the Civil War, when individual units embroidered the names of battles
in which they fought on their flag. An official system was adopted by the
Army in 1921.

"The battle streamers signify a historical representation of a unit's
participation in the battles and campaigns of American history and represent
the blood, sweat and tears of those who fought alongside the flag; it is
emblematic of the Esprit de Corps in the unit," Andrews said.

The ceremony itself is rather quick, but the historical importance is
evident. "As the commander and myself uncase the colors," Andrews continued,
"the message is of First Army Headquarters acknowledging responsibility as
the senior command team here, and we're ready to go to work, not only on
Rock Island, but to do our nation's will, which is continuing to train all
of our guard and reserve forces throughout the Army."

The "keeper of the colors" looks forward to working for First Army in a new

"I am very impressed with the level of community support our Soldiers, their
families and the headquarters has received," said Andrews. "I have seen
nothing but the potential for greatness in building a strong, positive
relationship between the communities in the Quad Cities and the First Army
team, and the warm reception our Soldiers and families received from the
Quad Cities has been unbelievable. We all look forward to working with them
in the future to make it even better."


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