Thursday, February 23, 2012

WASHINGTON -- Senator Chuck Grassley says a new report makes clear that there's a lot of work yet to do for military whistleblowers who speak up on behalf of rank-and-file troops, national security and fiscal responsibility.

"While the situation is improving, there's a long way to go in making it work as it should for those who step up and speak out about wrongdoing and problems.  Reprisal against military whistleblowers is alive and well in the Pentagon, unfortunately, so oversight efforts must continue full force," Grassley said.

In a report released this week (click here to see the report), the Government Accountability Office said that until the Inspector General for the Defense Department implements certain oversight mechanisms, it can't know that "it is effectively conducting its oversight responsibilities or implementing the whistleblower reprisal program as intended."

Grassley said he requested this report from the Government Accountability Office to see how problems he identified previously with whistleblower reprisal investigations are being addressed.  "Several years ago, I did an in-depth review of how the Inspector General handled military whistleblower cases.  The lack of oversight was appalling.  The Inspector General was asking zero questions about the reprisal investigations being conducted by Inspectors General for the services, even though scrutiny was desperately needed," Grassley said.

Grassley's earlier review looked at an egregious case in depth, that of Navy Lieutenant Jason Hudson.  The Inspector General for the Justice Department subsequently did a peer review and confirmed many of Grassley's findings.

Grassley said this worked helped to build a case for legislation that directed the Defense Department Inspector General to correct deficiencies.  It was passed in 2009, as part of the annual defense authorization bill.

"Whistleblowers are in a position to identify fraud that may otherwise go undetected, and courageous whistleblowers who stick out their necks and speak up about mismanagement and abuse help keep government accountable.  Our system is better off thanks to whistleblowers," Grassley said.

Grassley has a long record of advocacy for individual whistleblowers, legislative reforms to protect and empower whistleblowers both in and out of government, and oversight of whistleblower protections.  His efforts began more than 20 years ago with questions raised by whistleblowers about Defense Department spending.

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Soldier Will No Longer Don the Army Uniform, but Continues to Serve the Illinois National Guard

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/22/2012)(readMedia)-- Retirement can conjure up images of traveling, relaxing or maybe grabbing a fishing pole and heading to the lake, but retired Master Sgt. Kimberly S. Broome, of Chatham, may be beginning her most challenging and important assignment of her career.

Broome, a native of Chicago, officially retired from the Illinois National Guard Dec. 31 and was recently hired by the Department of Military Affairs as the executive assistant to the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. The Adjutant General is the highest position within the Illinois National Guard, responsible for all daily operations of the Illinois National Guard and overseeing its 13,500 men and women in uniform.

"I love working with Soldiers," said Broome. "That is all I have been doing since I graduated from high school. It is like working with family."

Broome said the decision to continue to serve her country in a different capacity was an easy decision.

"Working at Camp Lincoln for the (Adjutant) General is a great honor," said Broome.

The commander of the Illinois National Guard is excited to have Broome working for him.

"With more than two decades in uniform, Kim offers a lot of experience and it's great to see her continue to serve her country and state," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard.

Broome joined the National Guard Sept. 1, 1988 after graduating from high school.

"I wanted to go to college but did not want to burden my parents," said Broome. "I also thought it would be a great way to travel and be able to give back."

During her nearly 24 years of service Broome has served in several different military jobs including human resources specialist, automated logistical specialist, unit supply specialist and patient administration specialist.

Broome deployed as the supply sergeant with the 1244th Transportation Company of North Riverside in 2003 for 18 months to Kuwait. While deployed, Broome earned the Combat Action Badge and the Army Commendation Medal.

Upon her retirement Broome was presented with an honorable discharge, certificates of retirement and service, a certification of appreciation from the President of the United States and a meritorious service medal.

Broome has a 14-year-old-daughter, Maya, who is a freshman in high school.

"One of the many blessings over my 24 year career is the amount of traveling and the many parts of the world I've been able to see; it is priceless," said Broome. "The experience is immeasurable. I am certainly grateful."

Broome said the end of her federal career and beginning of her state career is only the start of something else special.

"As I look back over my military career and all the friends I've made, which essentially has become a part of my family, it's not so much that I'm retiring, I'm just beginning a new chapter," said Broome, "One that will allow me more time to focus on my daughter as she becomes a young lady and prepare her for her future."

 

Braley helped secure $2 million to fund renovation project in 2009

 

Davenport, IA - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today attended the reopening of the Iowa National Guard's Aviation Readiness Center, lauding the renovation of the facility and saying it will enhance the ability of the Guard to save lives and protect Iowa.  In 2009, Braley helped secure $2 million to fund the renovation project.

 

"The renovation of the Iowa National Guard's Aviation Readiness Center helped create jobs here in the Quad Cities and has given the facility new life," Braley said.  "I'm proud of my work helping to make this needed renovation happen.  This beautiful facility is a great addition to the Davenport area and will help the Iowa National Guard do its job."

 

The $2.1 million project completed today is the second part of a two-phase project that renovated the entire National Guard facility, originally constructed in 1972.  The first phase of the renovation was completed in 2010.

 

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SPARTA, IL (02/15/2012)(readMedia)-- Deployment ceremony

WHO:

• 662nd Engineer Fire Fighting Team in Sparta

WHAT:

• A deployment ceremony is scheduled for approximately 10 Soldiers who are scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom this winter.

WHEN/WHERE:

• Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Sparta armory fire station, 1803 N. Hillcrest Drive in Sparta.

WHY:

• The 662nd will provide fire department emergency response services for deployed forces in the Operation Enduring Freedom theater of operations. Potential missions include, but are not limited to: fire prevention and protection, structural and aircraft fire fighting, vehicle rescue, emergency medical and hazardous materials incident response.

• Additionally, the team will be involved in the Rescue Air Mobile Squad (RAMS) mission, providing personnel rescue capabilities in tactical situations. During a RAMS mission, the team is transported via helicopter to a remote emergency incident and will perform rapid technical rescue and medical stabilization measures for U.S. and coalition personnel who are entrapped and/or otherwise injured as a result of enemy action.

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

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Braley Urges Pentagon to Remove Remaining Barriers to Women's Military Service

Military announced review to relax policies last week, but women still face restrictions

 

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today urged Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to remove all remaining barriers restricting the service of female members of the US Armed Forces.

 

Last week, the Department of Defense announced that it was revising its Combat Exclusion Policy to allow women to serve in expanded roles in the military.  Braley applauded the move.  However, even with the revisions, women will still be prohibited from serving in combat roles.

 

"The Pentagon's experience in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade should forever remove any doubt of the ability of women to serve in military combat roles," Braley said.  "Veterans like Tammy Duckworth, who piloted a combat helicopter over Iraq and earned the Purple Heart and Air Medal for her service, to Leigh Ann Hester, who earned the Silver Star for her valor when her convoy was attacked by Iraqi insurgents, to Iowa's own Alex Jansen, who was awarded the Bronze Star for her service in Iraq, have demonstrated the capabilities of women on the battlefield.  It's time to remove these barriers once and for all and fully acknowledge that women have a place in the military, serving right alongside men."

 

The Pentagon's Combat Exclusion Policy has also had the effect of preventing women from climbing the ranks of military leadership.   In over 200 years of American military history, only two women have been nominated to 4-star command positions.

 

Braley made the request in a letter to Secretary Panetta, the text of which follows.  A copy of the letter can be downloaded at the following link: http://go.usa.gov/Qyu

 

--

 

The Honorable Leon Panetta

Secretary of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301

 

Dear Secretary Panetta,

 

I am writing today to commend the Department of Defense for their recent review of the Combat Exclusion Policy restricting the service of female members of the U.S. Armed Forces. While the decision to loosen the restrictions on women serving in combat is a good step forward, the review can and should go further to remove all of the barriers in place.

 

The last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has proven that women are more than capable of serving in the combat arms.  Since 2001, despite standing prohibitions on women in combat, a number of American women have distinguished themselves in combat earning numerous military awards.  Female combat pilots, allowed to serve in those roles since the mid-90s, have proven themselves flying sorties in support of operations around the world.  Most recently, Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan have been a vital part of our counterinsurgency effort to better connect with the female civilian population.

 

The Department's review can and should go further to promote equality by permitting those women who are willing and able to serve in combat roles.  The last decade should remove any question on the ability of women to serve and arguments against their service are nothing more than bureaucratic blustering at its worst. Despite claims to the contrary, one needs only look at the list of promotions by the military services to recognize that advancement to the highest echelons of command is tied to experience in the combat arms.  In the over 200 years of our nation's history, only two women have been nominated to 4-star command positions. To truly ensure equality in our armed forces, women must be allowed to fight.

 

I appreciate your attention to this matter, and look forward to your continued work to reform the Department of Defense to ensure that we have the best fighting force that we possibly can, and that we are not turning away qualified and capable warriors for any reason.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bruce Braley

Member of Congress

 

Cc: Dr. Jo Ann Rooney, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness

 

# # #

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Senator Chuck Grassley made the following comment after a meeting he hosted today for members of the Iowa congressional delegation with the Secretary of the Air Force regarding Air Force budget reduction recommendations to retire the 21 F-16 fighter aircraft assigned to the 124th Fighter Squadron, Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines.  The meeting was held in the U.S. Capitol.

"A lot of mixed signals were sent by the Air Force in today's meeting.  The Iowa congressional delegation is on the same wavelength and committed in a bipartisan, bicameral way to getting the data that the Air Force said it used to make a decision that the Air Force claimed was based on a cost-benefit analysis.  We want this data in order to reconcile an additional comment made by Air Force officials in today's meeting that judgment, beyond the data, was also involved in its decision.  This judgment comment detracts from the Air Force statement that everything was measured for cost and benefit.  Overall, it's a question of safeguarding national security dollars because the Guard has shown to be more cost effective for missions such as a fighter squadron than the Active Duty, and Guard pilots tend to be more experienced since they stay in the service over a long period of time.  The discouraging part is that my feeling was that the Air Force has made its decision, but it will be up to Congress to decide whether to approve the Air Force plan and National Guard advocates in Congress are already signaling that they won't go along quietly with the Air Force's plan to take so many cuts out of the Air Guard.

 

 

Iowa Delegation met with Donley to press case for Iowa Air National Guard F-16 Wing

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after he joined Iowa's Congressional delegation for a meeting to urge Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to abandon plans to remove all F-16 fighter aircraft operated by the Iowa Air National Guard from their base in Des Moines:

"It's clear from today's meeting that the Air Force must provide more answers and better justification for their decision.  The Iowa Delegation made clear our objections to the removal of F-16s from the 132nd Fighter Wing, one of the most cost-efficient units in the Air Force."

 

"If the goal is to reduce costs, downsizing the Iowa Air National Guard while less efficient units and less experienced pilots are preserved just doesn't make any sense.  We urged Secretary Donley to carefully reconsider whether this recommendation is in the best interest of national security  and American taxpayers.

 

"I am hopeful that today's meeting will result in the Air Force reversing their position.  In the meantime, I'll keep working with the Iowa delegation to press our case with the Air Force and the Pentagon."

 

Braley met yesterday with Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr and senior leaders of the Iowa Air National Guard to discuss the Air Force proposal.  Braley also sent a letter yesterday to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing his concerns with the removal of F-16s from Des Moines.

 

# # #

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today urged Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to immediately reconsider an Air Force recommendation that would lead to the loss of all F-16 fighter aircraft operated by the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines.

21 jets at the 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard would be removed within two years under the plan, part of a larger effort to cut $8.7 billion from the Air Force budget.

"The Air Force gets an incredible value from the experienced pilots and maintenance personnel of the 132nd Fighter Wing," Braley said.  "That's why I'm disappointed that the Air Force has chosen to target one of the most cost-efficient units in their force to find savings.

 

"It doesn't make sense that the Iowa Air National Guard is on the chopping block while less efficient units and less experienced pilots are preserved as part of this plan.  How can you justify this decision when it's not in the best interest of our national security and not in the best interest of American taxpayers?"

 

Braley met earlier today with Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr and senior leaders of the Iowa Air National Guard to discuss the Air Force proposal.  Tomorrow, Braley will join the rest of the Iowa Congressional delegation for a meeting with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to discuss the removal of the jets.

Braley made the request in a letter to Secretary Panetta.  Text of the letter follows; a copy of the signed letter is attached.

--

 

February 8, 2012

 

Secretary Leon Panetta

Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301

 

Dear Secretary Panetta,

I write with serious concern regarding the Air Force's recently clarified decisions on force restructuring and its impact on the Air National Guard.  The combat aircraft retirements and re-missioning discussed in the Air Force proposal unduly affect the Air National Guard over the Active Component, and do not reflect an effort to maintaining the Guard and Reserve or show a balanced approach to achieving budget efficiencies.

Mr. Secretary, you've stated yourself that the Guard and Reserve forces have proved their combat readiness and combat effectiveness over the past 10 years.  As decisions are made to reorient our force and drawdown our current combat commitments, we must work to maintain that readiness and effectiveness while also capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge and experience within our Guard and Reserve units to maintain the total force.  The Air Force proposal highlights the value of our Guard forces in associations with the active component while also removing a significant number of combat aircraft from them

Furthermore, I have serious concerns over the lack of budgetary consideration in the decision. While I applaud the Air Force's efforts to find budget efficiencies through the early retirement and delayed procurement of some aircraft, I have great concern that the bulk of retirements appear to come at the expense of Guard and Reserve units.  The Guard and Reserve are highly efficient forces, maintaining experienced pilots and performing many of the same missions of active component forces when activated at a much lower costs to the Active Component over the long-term. The shifts of combat aircraft to Active Component and elimination of missions in the Guard Component achieves significantly less savings than if the situation were reversed. Furthermore, the decisions to replace combat air force missions in the guard with unmanned aircraft Remote Split Operations missions also make little budgetary sense as there is a continued need for unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan and elsewhere. These missions will require a significant investment of time beyond the standard drill periods of many of our Guard that will have a higher cost and a greater impact on our Guardsmen's civilian careers.

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.  This proposal is deeply flawed and deserves a full explanation of the budgetary analysis that went into making it.  I urge you to reconsider this decision to better 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

 

Cc: Mr. Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force

 

# # #

GALESBURG, IL (02/07/2012)(readMedia)-- A deployment ceremony is scheduled for approximately 120 Soldiers who are scheduled to deploy to Kuwait this winter. The ceremony for the 444th Chemical Company will be Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. at the Galesburg National Guard Armory, 362 N. Linwood Road in Galesburg.

The Soldiers will train for a brief time at Camp Shelby, Miss. before deploying for approximately nine months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Soldiers with the 444th Chemical Company will provide base security and command cell operations. The unit will provide support for other units stationed in the area and provide sustainment and command for a Michigan-based military police task force in northern Kuwait.

The unit will be mobilized for approximately one year, returning home in early 2013.

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

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SPARTA, IL (02/07/2012)(readMedia)-- What may look like normal semi-truck trailers are actually a portal into modern warfare giving Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers a chance to experience overseas before leaving the Midwest.

"Come to Sparta in the morning and we can take you to Iraq for lunch, Afghanistan for dinner, and have you home by bedtime," said Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer at Sparta Training Area.

Singletary guided Soldiers from Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) in Mt. Vernon, through a new state-of-the-art training system Feb. 4. The Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT) is a combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. Soldiers break into teams of three and man their "vehicles," - nearly identical mock-ups of a humvee interior, complete with gunner's turret - and don headsets or look into high-resolution screens to see past the trailer and into the digital world beyond.

Spc. Leo Stofferahn of Pekin with Company F, 634th BSB, a veteran of three deployments, said the simulator's terrain and movement were accurate and effective.

"The training was a good refresher for veterans and good for setting up accurate deployment expectations for new Soldiers," said Stofferahn.

Singletary controls the $3.2 million VVT, which is the most-advanced system of its kind available, from a multi-screen command station. With the push of a button, he can change the weather, the terrain (which is based on actual satellite mapping), or zoom into any part of the 3D environment. No longer are Soldiers represented by blinking dots; every image interacts in real time. The digital representation of the gunner even swivels along with the Soldier in the turret.

The software is also very flexible. While it can run preset scenarios, Singletary has the somewhat God-like ability to drop in many kinds of enemies, obstacles, helicopters or other interactive set pieces at any time.

The VVT also has a huge catalog of vehicles that it can run; almost every model of humvee, most models of the

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, unmanned drones, and even a remote-controlled reconnaissance robot, the Talon, are available.

Singletary said he believes this ability to customize is one of the biggest strengths of the VVT.

"This is the latest, greatest, most up-to-date system that we can train in," said Singletary. "We can put you into a theater-specific environment.

The control trailer also has benches and a projector, allowing units to conduct an immediate after-action review. Soldiers can watch the playback of the scenario on-screen and even hear their recorded radio traffic, allowing them to see what they did well and what needs improvement.

Sgt. 1st Class Greg Anselment of Wayne City, a platoon sergeant with Company F, 634th BSB said the real-time cooperation required by the VVT scenarios was great for exposing shortfalls in teamwork for future training. He also said it would be difficult to get this training without the VVT.

"(Individual units) don't have to have the resources," said Anselment. "We don't have up-armored vehicles, but we can still come down (to Sparta) and train."

In addition to the Virtual Vehicle Trainer, Sparta has virtual marksmanship training for rifles, machine guns and mortars, paintball gear for live maneuvers, and roughly 2,300 acres of open land available for field training exercises.

Photo 1: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Spc. Marty Melton of Sandoval (front), Spc. Justin Russell of Cypress (middle) and Sgt. Jeffrey Blevins of Fairfield (rear) - all truck drivers from Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mt. Vernon "ride" in a convoy inside Sparta Training Area's new combat simulator, the Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT). Inside the VVT, over 25 Soldiers don headsets or look into high-resolution screens to see through the building into the digital battleground beyond.

Photo 2: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Staff Sgt. James Stanfield with Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mt. Vernon, mans the turret in Sparta Training Area's new Virtual Vehicle Simulator (VVT), a state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. The VVT allows Stanfield to see into a custom-made scenario (his view is shown on the screen behind him) while still operating realistic equipment like vehicle controls and mock machine guns.

Photo 3: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer (top-right) and Sgt. John Morgan of Pinckneyville, range control support (bottom-left) watch a virtual convoy on-screen at their command station inside the Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT) in Sparta Training Area. The VVT is a new state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment.

Photo 4: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Inside these customized semi-trailers in Sparta Training Area sits the Virtual Vehicle Trainer- a new state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. "Come to Sparta in the morning and we can take you to Iraq for lunch, Afghanistan for dinner, and have you home by bedtime." said Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer at Sparta Training Area.

For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil

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