Through dust, heat, ANA lead operation to success

Lance Cpl. John Ellington, a team leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, patrols with his Afghan National Army counterparts on the third day of Operation High Noon 15, April 26, 2012. The Afghan-led operation cleared compounds and searched for improvised explosive devices, and weapons caches.

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WHO: The family of late World War II veteran Private First Class (PFC) Theodore "Ted" Bruch, Congressman Bobby Schilling, and First Army Deputy Commanding General for Support, Maj. Gen. Mark MacCarely.  Also expected is East Moline Mayor John Thodos.  

WHAT: A ceremony presenting the family of late WWII veteran PFC Bruch with a number of awards, including the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze service stars, the World War II Victory medal, the Army of Occupation with Germany clasp, the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar.

WHEN: Thursday May 3, 2012 at 12:00pm CST.

WHERE: East Moline City Hall's Council Room, 912 16th Avenue, East Moline Illinois 61244.

WHY: To give well-deserved recognition for the service of  PFC Bruch.  PFC Bruch was born in Waterloo, Iowa in 1926.  He joined the United States Army in June 1944, and served as a Combat Engineer in the European Theater of Operations, conducting a number of engineer missions.  PFC Bruch served until he was Honorably Discharged in June 1946.  He passed away on July 26, 2011. 

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BLOOMINGTON, IL (05/01/2012)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers who served in Afghanistan as part of an embedded training team have completed their mission and will return to Illinois this week. The homecoming ceremony for Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A8 will be May 2 at the Bloomington National Guard Armory, 1616 S. Main St. in Bloomington at 4:30 p.m.

Mobilized in June, the team trained at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and joined its Polish counterparts in Poland for training before deploying to Afghanistan.

BEST A8, who was part of Task Force White Eagle, was instrumental in preparing the southern half of Ghazni Province for the 82nd Airborne's arrival.

"The amount of time, coordination and physical labor put into this mission is impressive by itself, but the fact that the Army and Air Force engineers completed this mission is incredible," said 1st Lt. Ryan Bivins of Dixon with BEST A8.

The operation consisted of more than 500 Army, Navy and Air Force engineers, expanding five existing bases and building five new bases during the harsh winter months of Afghanistan.

"A logistics operation of this significance was only possible through cooperation of the Soldiers, Airmen, transporters and aviators, Department of Defense agencies and the Polish military contingent," said Maj. Rhonda Petersen of Lindenhurst with BEST A8. "Task Force White Eagle was able to realize this objective through coordination and execution with more than nine task forces within Regional Command East and 1st Cavalry Division. The proactive dynamic of all involved ensured a winning combination."

Attack helicopters were not something Task Force White Eagle had received too much of in the past until Capt. Tony Keel of Grayslake ensured Soldiers in Task Force White Eagle had support from the sky.

"Helicopter planning was extremely time consuming, but very rewarding and I really enjoyed my job," Keel said. "I especially enjoyed planning with Kiowa and Apache attack helicopter crews because all the ground units loved having that air power overhead supporting their missions and that motivated me to obtain as much air support as possible."The Illinois National Guard has co-deployed with every Polish rotation to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Col. Tom Purple of Rochester said leadership and experience were evident in the success of their team.

"It is a true honor to serve with outstanding warriors during a critical time in the campaign and be part of the success and history of our great Army," Purple said.

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Lance Cpl. Noel Miranda, infantryman, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, patrols through Musa Qa'leh District, Afghanistan, April 23, 2012. Miranda, from Muscatine, Iowa, was part of a patrol to disrupt insurgent supply lines and gain intelligence from locals

WASHINGTON – Major steps in the Coast Guard's effort to eliminate sexual assault in its workforce were taken Wednesday as leaders released a new Coast Guard sexual assault prevention and response program manual formalizing improvements to its sexual assault prevention and response program, as well as announcing the seniority of officers allowed to act on certain sexual assault cases is being raised.

"These actions are major steps toward achieving our goal of eliminating sexual assault within the Coast Guard by ensuring a culture of prevention through improved education and training, response capability, victim support and accountability," said Coast Guard acting commandant, Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara.

Major improvements in the program manual include greater protection for sexual assault victims, enhanced accountability for response by unit commanders, and more rigorous and defined reporting procedures for all reports of sexual assault. The SAPR program manual, which replaces a previous Coast Guard instruction, is the culmination of a multi-year effort to put in place a more effective SAPR program across the service.

The service also announced the handling of certain sexual assault cases will be made only by officers holding the rank of captain or higher who possess special court-martial convening authority, beginning June 28. This will ensure a senior level of review by the Coast Guard's most experienced officers from the outset of certain sexual assault cases as well as ensure that the full measure of response, victim support and criminal investigative resources are brought to bear. This action aligns the service with a directive issued April 20 by Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta directing the same for the handling of sexual assault cases within components of the Defense Department.

The June 28 implementation date adopted by all five military branches coincides with the effective date of section 541 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 that reforms Unified Code of Military Justice offenses relating to sexual misconduct.

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (04/30/2012)(readMedia)-- A wreath laying ceremony honoring the 34 Illinois National Guard servicemembers who died during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom is being held at the Illinois State Military Museum May 5.

WHO:

The Illinois National Guard and families of fallen servicemembers.

WHAT:

A wreath laying ceremony honoring the Illinois National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who have been killed during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

The memorial ceremony is open to the public. Following the ceremony, there will be a private, day-long event for the families of the fallen heroes.

WHEN: Saturday May 05, 2012 at 08:15AM Central Time (US & Canada)

WHERE:Illinois State Military Museum
Camp Lincoln
1301 N. MacArthur Blvd
Springfield, Illinois 62702

NOTES:

A total of 33 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers and one Illinois Air National Guard Airman are among the 247 Illinois servicemembers killed since Sept. 11.

Of the 34 casualties, 18 Soldiers were killed during the historic deployment of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT). The 33rd IBCT was mobilized from June 2008 to October 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

For more information contact the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569 or ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil

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."

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: http://go.usa.gov/ytk

--

 

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.

Sincerely,

 

Bruce Braley

Member of Congress

 

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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.

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

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