San Diego Padres & First American Military, Inc Pay Tribute To Fallen Heroes From Operation Red Wing

June 27, 2008

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of Operation Red Wing, the operation which saw the largest loss of life for the military Special Operations community, since World War II. Many of us are familiar with Operation Red Wing, by reading Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor. As you know, eleven Navy SEALS and eight Army commandos died on that day three years ago.

The San Diego Padre’s in conjunction with First American Military, Inc. in what is called Operation: Never Forget, will hold a gametime tribute to mark the third anniversary of Operation Red Wing. Marcus will be present and will be throwing out the first pitch of the Padre’s game against the Seattle Mariners. Also scheduled that day are the Navy’s “Leap Frogs” Parachute Demonstration Team will perform a precision jump into Petco park during the game. There will also be an honorary fly-by conducted by four US Navy F18’s, unsigned singer Leland Grant will be singing the National Anthem and a number of dignitaries will be present as well. The Padres have also donated a select number of seats throughout the stadium. As well, they have donated special discount pricing throughout the stadium.

This event is a tribute to our nation’s heroes, NOT a fundraiser. However, these events cost a great deal of time and money. If you would like to donate to help defray the costs of this event you will receive a receipt for your tax-exempt donation. Please write your checks to FAMONLINE, First American Military’s official 501(c)3 tax-exempt fundraising arm. All money raised by FAMONLINE will be used to pay the cost of this tribute!

First American Military Inc. (FAM), a California public benefit nonprofit corporation, has set out to pay respects to the sacrifices made by all of our military members.

For those of you in the San Diego area, Marcus Luttrell will be available to sign copies of his book “Lone Survivor” at Coronado’s “Bay Books”, this Saturday the 28th of June, from 0900 to 1100. If you’re in San Diego and have the opportunity, stop by Bay Books and meet Marcus and have your book signed by Marcus. I’m sure that you’ll be as impressed as I am, with him.

Sign On San Diego

Updated MilBlog Conference Info

June 27, 2008

I just spoke to my friend out in Vegas and have more information on rooms that she’s been able to make available to MilBlog Conference attendees. The Hotel/Casino she works at is Bally’s, which is just down the strip from the Conference Center and easily accessible by the monorail. She has been able to secure a block of 4 rooms at this point. The cost will be $70 for Friday and $80 for Saturday, which is cheaper than any of the room rates that Blog World Expo has arranged. If you’re interested, let me know and we’ll get things lined up.

Iraqi Based Industrial Zone Service Center Opens In Balad

June 27, 2008

Last week a program started in Balad that is aimed at helping business and progress in the provinces that surround Joint Base Balad. A ribbon cutting was held on June 17th, which marked the official opening of the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone Service Center, or the I-BIZ, that is located at Joint Base Balad. The center will be operated by the Basateen Al-Dejayl General Training & Contracting Company, Ltd. The center is being spearheaded by the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indiana Army National Guard.

“We are proud to call Iraqis our wonderful allies and we wish you the very, very best in your new venture,” said Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, adjunct general of the Indiana National Guard.

This center is the first of several initiatives that will provide opportunities for Iraqi business leaders to tap into valuable military contracts. This will also provide a secure environment in which to grow their businesses. The service center will provide maintenance for non-tactical vehicles that are owned by coalition forces. Officials at Balad also have plans for a host-nation business center, a facility that will remanufacture shipping containers, wholesale and retail businesses and a vocational training program.

All of these business will provide much needed employment for the citizens of the area. That in turn will help to curtail the violence that goes along with the insurgency. It has been found that when young men in the communities of Iraq are without jobs, they often turn to the insurgency, as a means of ready cash to support their families. According to Brig. Gen. Gregory Couch, commander of the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the command will be another step towards fulfilling the vision of General Petraeus, when he came to Balad. That vision is to provide the Iraqi people with the opportunity to work in their country and to use that opportunity to support their families. The owner of the Basateen Al-Dejayl General Training and Contracting Company, Ltd, Sheik Shihab Ahmed Saleh Al-Tamimi, signed an agreement to operate the service center. He said that he was very encouraged by the outreach efforts that the coalition forces have made towards the Iraqi community.

“This is a very important business opportunity for the people of the area. It provides employment opportunities for the people of the area around here to stop them from joining terrorist organizations,” Sheik Shihab said. “Our vision for the future for this business opportunity is to expand from vehicle maintenance to engine repair, military and civilian vehicles,” said Sheik Shihab. “We hope that we meet all the standards and we add more job opportunities out there for the people around the LSA Anaconda. This business also sends a message to the terrorist organizations out there that we’re willing to work with the coalition forces and help our country become a free country,” he said.

It’s great to see the leaders and business owners in the Iraqi communities stepping forward and providing employment opportunities for the citizens of the area, so that hopefully more and more of them will obtain legitimate employment, instead of obtaining their money from the insurgency. Not only will the legitimate employment allow them to support their families, but it will also provide their families with the knowledge that their loved one isn’t going to do something, such as become a suicide bomber, which in the long run, removes the financial support from the family. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this project as it develops.

2008 MilBlog Conference Is Just Around The Corner!

June 26, 2008

[UPDATE] If anyone plans to go to the MilBlog conference and hasn’t made motel reservations yet, please let me know. I’ve got a friend who works at one of the major casino/resorts in Vegas who is working on getting us rates even better than what Blog World Expo has arranged. All she needs is a headcount, so that they can set aside a block of rooms for that weekend.

Join Me at Blog World Expo

The 2008 MilBlog conference will be held in conjunction with the Blog World Expo conference, to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 20th. I’m excited to say that I will be attending this year’s MilBlog Conference for the first time. I’m really excited about it being held in Las Vegas, because not only have I never been to Vegas, but it will give me the opportunity to spend some time with a good friend of mine who worked closely with me to plan and coordinate a Military Support Rally and Concert that we had in Maryland in 2005.

The MilBlog Registration Package will include admission into the full MilBlog Conference Track, which includes all panels and the exhibit hall. The package is free of charge for milblog attendees. The staff of Blog World Expo is extending the MilBlog Registration Package to all milbloggers, milblog supporters, members of the military community, or to those who work in Troop support and the non-profit community. You must plan to attend the MilBlog Community Track in order to be elgible for the offering. If you chose to attend any of the other events at Blog World Expo, you’ll be required to pay the costs associated with those events.

If you’re a Milblogger or would like to attend the MilBlog track of the expo, you’ll need to send an email with “Request Code” in the subject line. If you’re bringing your spouse or significant other, you’ll need to request two codes. Once you have received your code, then you need to proceed with your registration.

The Blog World Expo has a lot of great information on their site about different motels and hotels that will be providing discounts to Expo attendees. Below are listed the events for the MilBlog portion of the conference: It will be great to be able to meet up with other milbloggers, some whom I’ve met and many others whom I haven’t. Word has it that CJ from A Soldier’s Perspective will be on one of the Panel’s this year. Having met CJ, I’m sure that he’ll do his best to liven up the panel. Below is a list of what will be happening at the conference:

Date: SEPTEMBER 20, 2008

Location: Blog World Expo, Las Vegas


10:30a – 11:00a: Opening Remarks and Presentation of 2007 Milbloggie Awards

11:00a – 12:00p: Are MilBlogs Still Relevant? In the wake of a successful military surge in Iraq, waning media attention and an election year, are MilBlogs as relevant to the national conversation on war as they once were?

12:00p – 12:15p: Break

12:15p – 1:15p: MilBlogging as a Community. A fascinating look at how the milblogging community was built, what it’s achieved and how deep and wide its reach has become. We’ll explore how milblogging gives a voice to supporters, parents and spouses of service members, and how that voice is effectively used to support an entire military community.

1:15p – 2:45p: Lunch Break

2:45 – 3:45p: The New Cadre of War Reporters. Reporting from the Green Zone is not an option for this gritty band of milbloggers. Today’s technology enables milbloggers and embedded reporters to report directly from the battlefield. We’ll talk with some of these milbloggers about their experiences in the combat zone.

3:45 – 5:00p: Free Time (Sit in on other panels or stroll the vendor floor).

5:00 – 6:00p: Panel TBA

6:00p: Closing Remarks

Registration is a bit complicated this year, but for good reason. Milblog attendees will be able to attend the MilBlog Track (and the exhibit hall) free of charge. We’ll be announcing the registration procedure later today or tomorrow (really, we will…..). For now, if you’re planning on attending the MilBlog track, please do not register for BWE until we post registration instructions.

As panelists, guest speakers and moderators are confirmed, we’ll make those announcements right here on the conference blog, so check back often. We’ll be shaking things up a wee bit this year. Always tweaking…. We’re looking forward to another great conference!

We’re also thrilled that JP is back from Iraq and will attend his first MilBlog Conference. JP worked hard on the past two conferences, and helped us quite a bit. Welcome home, JP!

I’m looking forward to attending this event and will try to blog during the conference and keep everyone posted on the happenings as they occur. How many of you will be attending? Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up with several of you there.

Wynonna Judd To Honor The Troops At Alaska’s Operation Gratitude

June 25, 2008

I just received word this evening, about Alaska’s Operation Gratitude, which will be held on Friday, June 27th in Anchorage, Alaska at Elmendorf Air Force Base. The show will also be streamed live at the AT&T Blueroom site, beginning at 12:30 am Eastern Time (June 28th), 11:30pm Central Time, 10:30pm Mountain Time, 9:30 pm Pacific Time and 8:30 pm Alaska Time. The concert is the Anchorage kickoff, of the statewide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood. An estimated crowd of 75,000 people are expected to attend the concert, which will be headlined by country music star Wynonna Judd. American servicemembers who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will be able to view the show as well AND interact with Wynonna, via video teleconferencing.

The concert was announced by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, joined by Air Force Brig. General Thomas L. Tinsley, Commander of Elmendorf’s 3rd Wing, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, AT&T Alascom President Mike Felix and other dignitaries. For those living in Anchorage, the concert will be free and open to the public. AT&T is a proud sponsor of the concert and web casting.

“We are honored to share the gift of music with the many fine men and women serving in uniform,” said Governor Palin. “Alaska is blessed with a vibrant military and veteran community and it is a privilege to share with those who have given so much for their fellow citizens. We are excited to have an American music legend, Wynonna Judd, to help us entertain the Troops and celebrate Alaska’s 50th year of statehood.”

“We are honored to host Wynonna Jude while she’s here to thank the American Armed Services with this concert,” said Brig. Gen. Tinsley. “This is a great opportunity to partner with the 50th Anniversary Statehood Celebration Committee for a great kick-off to the “We’re In!” weekend.”

“Anchorage and all of Alaska are proud of the servicemen and women who serve our state and nation,” said Mayor Begich. “Sharing this concert as a gift to our military as we celebrate 50 years of Alaska statehood is the least we can do to show our enormous gratitude.”

“AT&T is very excited to be sponsoring this concert and web casting it to a worldwide audience,” said Mike Felix. “For the last several years AT&T has been streaming community events like high school graduations and sports championships, making them available to people who would otherwise miss out. This event takes this effort to a whole new level, bringing Alaska’s statehood celebration and its commitment to the military to audiences everywhere.”

I urge each of you, if you get the opportunity, to tune it and watch the concert on Friday. What a great way to celebrate not only Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood, but to honor our Troops for the contributions that they’ve made for both the state of Alaska and our country. I know that I won’t miss it!

AT&T Blueroom

First Female Nominated To Become 4 Star General

June 25, 2008

(Lt. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody)

It was announced on Monday, that President George Bush has nominated the first woman ever in US Military history to become a 4 Star General. Currently, Lt. General Ann E. Dunwoody is serving as the new deputy commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, having served in that position since June 17th.

“Lt. General Dunwoody’s leadership, character and career have best prepared her to lead the Army Materiel Command,” said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. “She will bring 33 years of experience to over 56 thousand Soldiers, DA Civilians and their Families in 40 states and 50 countries as she serves as the next commanding general of Army Materiel Command.”

For Lt. General Dunwoody, firsts aren’t anything new. She is the first female deputy of AMC. Also, she was the first woman to hold the last job that she had, as the deputy chief of staff of the Army for G-4 (Logistics) and also the first woman to command the US Army Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee, Va. In that position, Lt. General was responsible for ensuring that Army warfighters had the supplies that were necessary, that logisticians had the tools and equipment necessary to deliver those supplies and services to Soldiers around the world.

(Gen. Genjamin Griffin, Lt. Gen. Ann Dunwoody & CSM Jeffrey Mellinger salute as the national anthem is played by the AMC band during Dunwoody’s welcome ceremony as the AMC deputy commanding general on June 17th)

In the past, women haven’t been nominated to the rank of 4 star General, because law prevented them from serving in combat roles. Historically, that has been the path to reach the higher ranking positions. While the exclusion from combat still applies today, the Army has chosen to cast aside those customary limitations on promotion. Lt. General Dunwoody is one of only two females who are currently 3 Star Generals. The other is Lt. General Kathleen Gainey, who is the director of logistics, as a member of the Joint Staff.

“Her 33 years of service, highlighted by extraordinary leadership and devotion to duty, make her exceptionally qualified for this senior position,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a statement.

Lt. General Ann Dunwoody is a native of New York. She graduated from the State University of New York in 1975 and then received her Army commission. She holds graduate degrees in national resource strategy and logistics management. There is a long tradition of military service in her family, which includes her great grandfather, grandfather, father, brother, sister, neice and husband.

“I am very honored but also very humbled today with this announcement,” Dunwoody said. “I grew up in a family that didn’t know what glass ceilings were. This nomination only reaffirms what I have known to be true about the military throughout my career … that the doors continue to open for men and women in uniform. My focus right now is to be the best deputy I can be.”

If Lt. General Dunwoody’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, she will tak over as AMC’s commanding general from General Benjamin S. Griffin, who has served in that position since 2004. She would oversee AMC headquarters’ upcoming move to Huntsville, Alabama, from it’s current location at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. That process is expected to be completed by September 2011.

The very first Army female general officers were promoted in June 1970 when Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor promoted both Colonel Anna Mae Hays, who was chief of the Army Nurse Corps and Colonel Elizabeth P. Hoisington, who was then director of the Women’s Army Corps. They were both promoted to brigadier general. Currently there are 57 active duty women and 47 reservists who are Generals in the Armed Forces. Of all active duty forces, roughly 194,000 of them are women, or about 14 %. Since 9/11 more than 193,400 women have been deployed in support of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s great to see that the military is recognizing women in the service for the valuable contributions that they are able to make, especially during a time when our country is at war on two fronts. I’m looking forward to more women being able to be promoted to 4 Star General, now that Lt. General Dunwoody has set the presidence. I’m sure that she’ll perform her new job the way that she always has … with pride, dedication, and exemplary leadership and will set the standard for those who come after her.

A Life That Came Full Circle: SGT Manny Herrera

June 24, 2008

Early Saturday morning, my family and I got up early and headed towards Corpus Christi to spend the weekend spoiling our grandbaby. I was pretty excited about the trip, not only because I’d be able to see … errrrr spoil little Kendall, but I was finally going to be able to meet someone who I’ve featured here at A Soldier’s Mind, when I wrote this story and this one. I was finally going to be able to meet Bob Kunkle, as he was in San Antonio to make contact with staff at BAMC and the Center For The Intrepid, so that he could begin his self defense demonstrations there. We had arranged to meet Bob in San Antonio for breakfast and he told me that he was bringing a special guest with him, a Wounded Warrior named Sgt. Manny Herrera. It turned out that Manny and Bob were headed to Corpus Christi as well, so I was able to ride with them and hear Manny’s story. It’s one I’ll never forget. He’s definitely someone that I want our readers to know.

He’s a quiet and unassuming man. It’s obvious when you first meet him that he’s a Soldier; a Wounded Warrior, which is obvious as he has to use a cane to walk around. You see it in his bearing and because of the hat he wears, proclaiming him to be a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His story is a remarkable one.

He grew up in California and by his own admission, he found himself getting into trouble as a teenager. When he was 17, he decided that he needed some direction and his life and enlisted in the Army at the age of 17. He served his country proudly, doing tours in Panama, Desert Storm and Somalia. After 13 ½ years active duty, he got out of the Army. At the time he was living in El Paso, when he was offered a job as a car salesman at Peoria Pontiac GMV in Phoenix, Az. As the market for cars began getting worse, he took a job at Shamrock Towing in Phoenix and continued his life as a civilian.

One day, he received a call to tow a 1967 Corvette. When he arrived, the owner of the car asked him to be very careful with the car, as it had special meaning to him. He had purchased the car right after he returned from Viet Nam. As he pulled the cover off of the car to begin hooking it up for towing, he noticed a tag bearing two stars. He immediately recognized the significance of those two stars. “Sir,” he said as he crisply saluted the General. The gentleman returned his salute and then told him that he didn’t have to Salute him, because he was no longer in the military. As they visited, the General asked him if he had ever considered coming back in the military, since he had so many years invested and was so close to retirement. The general went on to say that he should consider joining the National Guards. As they parted ways, the general gave him a $20 tip.

He continued doing his job with the towing company, making a living to raise his family. Then 9/11 happened. He began thinking more about what the general told him, especially when he watched the news and saw the reports about the young Soldiers being injured and killed and kept hearing about the multiple deployments. That made him angry. One day, as his job brought him near the National Guard Armory. He stopped and asked to speak with the recruiter. The recruiter wasn’t there. He waited for awhile and then finally left and didn’t think much more of it.

Time past and he continued working for the towing company. One day, while doing through things at home, he ran across his DD214 (Discharge papers). That got him thinking again about what the General said and the reports he continued to see about Iraq in the news. He stopped at the National Guard Armory, to see what it would take for him to reenlist. This time the recruiter was there and he began the process of re-entering the Army. He went to MEPPS and took his oath of enlistment. He had requested that the General who owned the corvette, swear him in and he was more than happy to do just that. He reenlisted for 6 years. He found out that he had missed a sign on bonus for his MOS by a month, so he was given the option of decreasing his enslistment to 3 years. He declined that offer.

Read more

Memorial Tells The Story of The Pentagon On 9/11

June 22, 2008

A few days ago, I wrote a book review on the book Firefight: Inside The Battle To Save The Pentagon on 9/11. The book told the account of that day from the perspective of the Firefighters, Police Officers, EMS personnel and Military Members who were there that day. I’d like to now tell you all about a memorial to honor the fallen at the Pentagon, which will be dedicated on the seventh anniversary of 9/11.

The memorial honoring the victims of 9/11 at the Pentagon is nearing completion and will soon be dedicated and open to the public on September 11, 2008 … 7 years following the events that took 184 lives that fateful day. Jim Laychak, the brother of victim Dave Laychak, is the president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund and is finally seeing his dream and hard work turned into reality. Laychak has been involved in almost all facets of the project’s planning. There is only one thing remaining, that he has not done. That is to visit the bench that is dedicated to his brother, who was a passenger on the airplane that was flown into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

“I want to hold off and go and see his bench and touch his bench that day,” said Laychak. “I wanted to save something special for me personally on September 11th when we dedicate the memorial, so I can spend some time with it then.”

Mr. Laychak is only one of thousands of people looking forward to the dedication of the memorial. After spending more than 5 years of raising funds, the organizers have almost reached their goal. The $32 million project, was financed entirely by private donations and is moving into it’s final stages. The park itself cost $22 million to build with another $10 million in endowment funds to ensure that the memorial site is always properly maintained. Donations for the project have come in from many diverse sources. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a donation, as well as NBA star and Navy Veteran David Robinson and the government of Taiwan

“This is hallowed ground for a lot of the family members, and the essence of this place will be about them, those that we lost,” Laychak said.

The park will consist of 184 cantilevered stainless steel benches, each which is built over a small pool of lighted water. The benches are inlaid with black and gold granite that was mined in Spain and cut in Canada. There is a perimeter wall around the park built of the same Spanish Granite. On the end of each bench, will be engraved the name of one of the 184 people who lost their lives onboard flight 77 or inside the Pentagon that day. The benches are arranged by the age of each victim. The bench honoring the youngest victim, 3 year old Dana Falkenberg will be located in the far southeast corner of the park and the bench honoring the oldest victim, 71 year old John Yamnicky will be located in the northwest corner. The benches representing the 59 victims aboard Flight 77 are arranged so that anyone reading the names at the end of the bench, will face the sky where the plane came from. The 125 benches representing the victims who died inside the Pentagon will face the opposite direction, so that a person reading the names will be able to look up and see the south façade of the Pentagon, the place the struck the building that day.

While the park and it’s location, brings a sense of peace and reflection to the families of the victims, for the Pentagon and the officers of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, it’s location has required some changes in the security processes around the building. Since September 11, 2001, security has been tight. Much effort has been put into even further limiting public access to the building. It has been surrounded by barricades, an elaborate security system and signs posted everywhere, prohibiting the taking of photographs of the building. Traffic congestion makes access extremely difficult during commuter hours as well. Visitors to the memorial park won’t be able to park near the site. Instead visitors will have to park at Pentagon City and walk through a pedestrian tunnel that runs beneath Interstate 395, to reach the site. A walk that will talk them about 5-10 minutes. There will however be some spaces reserved in the Pentagon’s south parking lot for handicapped parking.

Because the memorial park is located next to the Pentagon, not only will the visitors to the park be able to think and contemplate the events that unfolded there on September 11, 2001, but being there might invite them to think about the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and the men and women who work inside. The site should offer a much different vantage point on the attack, as well as what occurs behind the walls of the Pentagon on a daily basis.

Because this will be the first memorial honoring the victims of September 11 to be opened, it is expected that thousands of people will flock to the area. Many are expected to come at night, as it is designed to offer visitors an entirely different experience after sundown, when visitors will be able to see the bottoms of the benches reflected in the pools of lighted water underneath, producing a shimmering glow. The security challenge comes, to create a visible enforcement presence that will discourage vandalism and threats, while not making visitors to the site uncomfortable with an overwhelming police presence. The longstanding policy has been that photographs cannot be taken of the Pentagon. A compromise has been reached that will allow people to take photographs of the site, even if they want pictures of the building from within the memorial site.

“People will want to take pictures of the c rash site, obviously, and we’re going to allow that,” said PFPA Director Steven E. Calvery.

There will be guidelines and restrictions that visitors will have to follow. Signs outside the memorial and along the walkway to it’s entrance, will warn visitors that they can photograph the building from the memorial only. Security personnel will reserve the right to confiscate the cameras of violators of this guideline. Visitors will have no access to the Pentagon itself from the memorial. The wall will separate it from the Pentagon and the roadway that runs alongside the building. Guard booths will be located at each end of the wall. State of the art surveillance equipment will also be in place. Security plans and procedures may change after the memorial is open to the public and they get a better feel for the number of visitors that they might have.

It is expected that the families of the victims will visit the memorial often and that they’ll spend time at their loved one’s memorial bench. At this point, there is just no way to know how many other Americans will visit the site. Until now, there hasn’t been a place where Americans can go to channel the thoughts, feelings and raw emotions that many of us feel even now, seven years after the attacks on September 11th.

“When they rebuilt the Pentagon site, they erased all evidence of the attack in less than a year,” said Julie Beckman, wife and partner of the architect who designed the memorial. “This will be the first of the three sites that were attacked to finally have a place for people to go and deal with their thoughts, anxieties, frustrations and grief.”

I’m looking forward to seeing photographs of the finished memorial park. Hopefully sometime soon, Marty and I will be able to make a trip to Washington DC and be able to visit the memorial and pay our respect to the men and women who lost their lives that day.



World Class Athletes Represent The Army In The Olympic Games

June 21, 2008

When most of us think of the Army, we think of men and women training to fight enemy forces in wars. Most of us have no clue about the US Army World Class Athlete Program. It is a program that allows outstanding soldier/athletes, the opportunity to train, compete succeed in national and international competitions. That includes the Olympic Games. They’re able to do this, while still maintaining their career in the US Military. Soldiers who are chosen for the program, are the best of the best. The training they receive is topnotch, from some of the best coaches and trainers in the country. The selection process for the program is tough and Soldiers must be able to remain at the top of their specific sport to be admitted into the program. I’ve always said that the men and women who serve in our country’s Armed Forces are the best and brightest of our citizens. The men and women who are part of the US Army World Class Athlete Program, should be considered and are the “Best of the Best.”

I had the opportunity on Thursday to interview two of these athletes over the phone. SSG Libby Callahan, a member of the US Army Reserves and Major Michael Anti, an Active Duty US Army Soldier currently stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia as part of the Army Marksmanship Unit. Both SSG Callahan and Major Anti, have qualified to represent the United States in the upcoming Olympic Games in Bejing China. Both are members of the US Shooting Team. Both athletes will be competing in their 4th Olympic Games.

Major Michael Anti is currently assigned to the US Army Marksmanship Team at Fort Benning, Georgia as well as the World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was curious what prompted Major Anti to try out for a spot on the Olympic shooting team for the first time. He said that he’d been shooting since he was 10 years old and has been a member of the US shooting team from the age of 17. In 1982, Major Anti enlisted in the Army, graduated college in 1988 and received his commission. Major Anti feels that the Army has the best shooters in the world. Currently he said that there are Army athletes competing in almost every sport in the Olympics. He knew that by becoming part of the World Class Athlete Program, that he would receive all the support in the world that he would need , in order to become successful in his support.

Major Anti feels that competition in the Olympics parallels what he does as a Soldier. Both require dedication, focus, hard work and the motivation to do his best at all times. He feels that he has been successful in his shooting career because of the resources that are available to him as a member of the US Army World Class Athlete Program. The Army has the best facilities, best coaches and the best gun smiths in the country. He receives all the support in the world from the Army, as he competes. Major Anti shared that as a member of the US Army Marksmanship Unit, his job is a multifaceted one. Not only is he training for competition, but the unit’s main mission is to train and enhance the marksmanship skills of Soldiers and ensure that they’re able to perform that part of their mission as well as possible. Major Anti shared that training for the Olympics, begins just as soon as the last Olympic games are over with. He’s been hard at work training, since he won the Silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Games. Training focuses on the shooters skills as well as the mental aspects that go along with it. The training is very intense, with the team training every day, or at least Monday through Friday for 4-6 hours per day minimum.

I asked Major Anti what advice he would give to a young Soldier/athlete, who was hoping to be selected for a spot in the World Class Athlete Program. His advice to aspiring Soldier/Athletes is to remain dedicated. The training is very intense and the Army is very selective when picking up an athlete for the program. Once they’re chosen for the team, they need to remain focused and continue training. Major Anti’s parting words were that he’s very proud and honored, first as a Soldier and as an athlete to be representing not only our country but the US Army in the 2008 Olympic Games.

SSG Libby Callahan joined the US Army Reserves after spending 23 years as a Police Officer for the Washington D.C. Police Department. She retired from the Police Department as a Captain. She has been involved in competitive shooting for 28 years, first competing when she was still working as a Police Officer and later becoming involved in Olympic style shooting after she joined the Reserves. Libby joined the Army Reserves after retiring from the Police Department as a second career. She used to train police officers in shooting and as she trained them to shoot. When she joined the reserves she tried out and was selected for the Army Reserve All Shooting Team. In the last Olympic games, Libby was the oldest member of the Olympic team. She said that she really doesn’t think about her being the oldest member, until someone mentions it to her. She doesn’t feel that it’s that much of a factor. Libby likes to shoot and said that because she often trains by herself, she has to be self motivated. Her advice for other Soldier/Athletes who aspire to make the Army World Class Athlete Team is to remain self-motivated. It requires discipline, hard work and motivation and the competitive desire to succeed and improve. Libby feels that being able to compete in the Olympic Games goes hand in hand with her military career. Both emphasize a person’s value system …. The values of honor, duty and respect. Libby feels that you can’t be successful without discipline and hard work. She shared that she has seen many extremely talented athletes not succeed, because they relied solely on their talent and didn’t work hard to improve and enhance their skills to become the best.

Libby attributes her success to self discipline, her motivation and her desire to excel at whatever she tries to do. Libby really pushes herself and sometimes is told by her coaches that she needs to take a break and not push herself so hard. However, she feels that she wouldn’t be where she’s at today without her drive to push herself to surpass what she’s accomplished in the past. Some of the younger members of the shooting team have told Libby that they look to her as a mentor, that she inspires them and that she’s their Hero. Libby’s hard work and dedication to success should definitely be a positive example for the younger members, who wish to attain the success she has.

Libby prepares for training, outside her shooting, with mental training exercises. A large part of the competition is mental, staying focused on what she needs to do. She stays focused and on task in the midst of the many stellar athletes that she faces by using techniques to help her remain focused. For Libby, that is visualizing a calming ocean scene. If she becomes nervous or distracted, using that visualization helps to relax her and bring her back on track.

Libby said that a lot of people have made a big deal out of the fact that this is her 4th Olympic games. She said that she’s just proud to be a US Soldier, representing our Troops, who by virtue of being deployed to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, aren’t able to represent themselves in such a setting. She said that’s she’s very honored and proud to be able to represent our country and those men and women who are currently serving in these countries, in the 2008 Olympic Games.

Both of these Soldiers are stellar examples of the men and women who serve in our countrys’ Armed Forces. Our military will be very well represented in the 2008 Olympic Games. Each of these athletes are bringing with them, the advantage of the ethos of discipline and hard work that comes with being a US service member. I’m excited to watch the upcoming Olympic Games and cheer our Military members on in their quest for the Gold Medal.

To find out more about the US Army World Class Athlete Program, please visit their website. To read more about Major Anti and SSG Callahan, as well as the other members of the US Shooting Team, please visit . I’m excited to see our Military so well represented in the 2008 Olympics and hope to see many of them coming home with the Gold!

“Mr. Military Mom”

June 20, 2008

Most of the time, when we think of military spouses, we think of the wives of Soldiers left at home, taking care of the household and the children and keeping the flame burning, while they wait for their Soldier to return. It’s not often that we hear anything about the Military Dad’s who remain at home while their wives deploy and take over the duties and responsibilities of “mom” in the household. Yet their numbers are ever increasing, as more and more women chose the military as a career and are deployed, and they are just as integral part of the military, as female spouses are. Currently there is no system in place to track the number of husbands whose wives are deployed. However, according to Paul Boyce, Army public affairs specialist at the Pentagon, more than 20,000 registered Soldiers in the Army alone are in the married couple program. About 60% of the Soldiers enlisted in the Army are married. At Fort Bragg, there is an ample number of husbands with deployed wives.

One such “Mr Military Mom” Major Keith Vollert with US Army Reserve 391st Engineer Battalion is home caring for his child while his wife Kathy is deployed to Iraq. Vollert takes care of the cooking, cleaning and making arrangements for is son to have play dates with other children.

“I have a much better appreciation of all the single parents out there,” he said. “And I’m only a single parent for a year.”

Each military family deals with deployments in a different way. Some like the Vollerts, leave the father in charge with backups in place. In their case, Keith’s parents, who are caring for their grandchild while Vollert attends extended combat training in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for 21 days. Others like field grade officers Sydney Smith and Tim Gilhool, hired a live-in nanny to help care for their two young children.

“You do your best,” said Gilhool, whose wife has been deployed right at a year. “You can’t be the mom. Like planning birthday parties, combing Molly’s hair, putting in the braids, shopping for girlie stuff. You do the best you can, you get advice.”

One “Mr. Military Mom”, Charles DeVito-Cromwell, who is retired from the 187th Infantry Regiment in Fort Campbell, Ky felt that he needed to have contact with the other men during their wives deployments in 2007. He reached out to them and helped to form the Army Community Services program called “Rear D Dads” at Fort Bragg. The group is a run by volunteers and meets monthly. It is designed to help men with deployed wives get information about various things; such as finding jobs to social events that are upcoming.

It’s great to hear about the husbands and how they are dealing with the deployment of their spouses. Those who are in the military themselves, I’m sure, come to appreciate what their wives deal with when they’re deployed and how difficult, yet rewarding it can be, to be the parent who stays behind and handles the everyday things and keeps things running smoothly at home. Just like the wives who are left behind when their Soldier deploys, they face the ups and downs that come along with news reports of an attack in the area where their loved one is at and the worry that goes along with it, until they know their spouse is safe. It’s good to see that the husbands at some bases are forming their own support groups to help them deal with the challenges they face as “Mr Military Mom.”

Fayetteville Observer

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