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Friday, July 08, 2005

Soldiers’ Angels 4th of July Visit to Kleber Medical Transition Barracks in Germany

As we sit outside the barracks on this beautiful Independence Day 2005 the planes heading into Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany fly overhead. Each time, we all look up. “C-17”, comments a Soldier, “much more comfortable evac than a C-130”. “C-5”, says another, a few minutes later. Then, “another C-17”, says a Marine. Each time, we fall silent for a moment before we start talking again.

They talk about how weird it is to ride on the bus from Ramstein to the hospital on a public highway with non-Military vehicles all around them. One says, “I’m like, those vehicles are so close to us! Where the %$&§ is the gunner - why isn’t he firing warning shots at them?!?” He’s been here for two days now, so it’s funny.

I look over at a guy with a cast on his arm who’s really quiet and ask, “When’d you get here?” “A couple of hours ago”, he answers. I hand him a beer and welcome him ‘home’.

As always, they can’t quite figure out what we’re doing there. “You guys aren’t Military, are you?” “No.” “Is your husband down range?” “No.” “Are you a Military Mom?” “No.”

“Then why are you here?”, they ask. “Well, we’re Soldiers’ Angels and we’re here because we love and support you.”

A chorus of, “Wow, that’s really nice”, “Cool!”, “We get so much stuff from ya’ll down range”, “Damn… ”

Willie, Rudi, Natalie and I arrive at 10am because we know the staff are busy with new arrivals in the afternoons. We have snacks like brownies and chips in baskets decorated with red, white and blue ribbons, 5 more pictures for the Wall of Thanks, and 10 more Transitional backpacks for the hospital.

Rudi and Natalie unpacking in the barracks library.

That’s Natalie on the left and me flanked by Air Force and Army. Rudi’s in the background.

Rudi’s probably thinking that if I have one more comment about how he’s hanging the pictures then I should do it myself…

The pictures are part of the ongoing Wall of Thanks project. Our goal is to fill the hallways of the barracks with pictures from people back home as a personal expression of thanks and support.

New Orleans Saints support the troops!

Childrens’ greetings – the one on the lower left says, “we appreciate you so much”. er we’re done we go out to the picnic table outside the barracks. A group of younger troops who feel well enough and have passes are gathering to go into town for a local street festival. They are apparently waiting on a straggler, a female Soldier. Her roommate yells out regular reports through the window of their room in the barracks, “She’s in the shower!”, “She’s getting dressed!” Catcalls and groans from the group. It takes about an hour, but they finally head out.
Then we occupy the picnic table. Willie and Rudi have brought soft drinks, beer, and picnic baskets full of food, plates, silverware – even a tablecloth. We know there are lots of guys who don’t feel up to leaving the barracks and don’t have much to look forward to this 4th of July.

As guys come out for some sun or to smoke, we round them up. Here we are with one Soldier (in the red T-Shirt) and trying to convince another (in the background) to join us. Despite my threatening gesture with a fork Willie is able to persuade him to come over.

The group gets bigger…

…. and bigger.

And then it’s standing room only. It’s like a big backyard picnic with a bunch of strangers who come and go, but everybody has fun and is able to forget about other stuff for a little while.

Natalie has a Nissan which needs some work right now and coincidentally this Soldier is an engineer at Nissan. They ended up hunkered over his laptop PC talking about spare parts or something. Wouldn’t be surprised if her car was the road again very soon…

It’s after 9pm and time to go. Rudi says a last goodbye and Willie gathers up all the picnic stuff. Turns out Willie and that Soldier seated at the table have a common friend, but I’ll leave that story to her....

Thank you Angels & Friends for your support!

Everything you do - your cards, letters, pictures, Blankets of Hope, items for the Transitional Backpacks, microwave meals, donations for phone cards, etc. - all makes a difference!

If you would like to help support our projects in Germany please contact:

Willie or MaryAnn

Or visit Soldiers Angels

Transitional medical facilities in Germany
Ramstein AFB in Germany is a 5-hour medevac flight from Iraq. From here, troops are brought to either the nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center or to the Kleber Barracks.

The Landstuhl hospital is for troops with serious injuries or illness requiring surgery and hospitalization. About 50 soldiers are hospitalized at any given time and the average stay is under a week before being stabilized and sent on to a military hospital in the US or transitioned to the outpatient barracks at Kleber.

The Kleber barracks are for outpatients with less serious injuries or illnesses, or for those transitioned out of the hospital. There are typically 150 outpatients whose average stay is 7-10 days before being flown home to the US or back to Iraq or Afghanistan.

I can personally speak to how wonderful Willie, Maryann, and all the Angels in Germany are - with one email to see if anyone could see my adoptee while he was there, he got not one, but two visitors, and a trip out for a day that he was very excited about.

Maryann, you guys are awesome. Thank you for all you do over there to support our wounded heroes!

U.S. Marines in Shadyville

A Marine with Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment provides security, June 29, 2005, at a street corner in a village outside Saqlawiyah, Iraq, codenamed “Shadyville.” Company A personnel assisted the Iraqi Security Forces during “Operation Shadyville,” a mission that netted several suspected insurgent supporters, two improvised explosive devices, and 50 AK-47 assault rifles. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

Iraqi soldiers knock on a door, June 29, 2005, in a village outside Saqlawiyah, Iraq, codenamed "Shadyville" and proceed to enter it to search for weapons and explosives. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

Two Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment inspect a confiscated weapon, June 29, 2005, during “Operation Shadyville.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

A Marine with Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment marks a house, June 29, 2005, in a village outside Saqlawiyah, Iraq, codenamed "Shadyville" as having already been inspected for weapons and explosives. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

An Iraqi soldier attempts to kick down a door, June 29, 2005, in a village outside Saqlawiyah, Iraq, codenamed “Shadyville” to gain entry into the locked house. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Howard Aycock, a machine gunner with 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and a Navy corpsman provide security, June 29, 2005, in a village outside Saqlawiyah codenamed “Shadyville.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

Engineers from 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion search outside a house for buried weapons and explosive devices, June 29, 2005, during “Operation Shadyville.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Jernigan, a combat engineer with 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, uses his AN/PSS-12 metal detector to search for buried weapons and explosive devices, June 29, 2005, in a village outside Saqlawiyah codenamed “Shadyville.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

Engineers from 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion search a dirt mound, June 29, 2005, outside a house for buried weapons and explosive devices in a village outside Saqlawiyah. Iraq, codenamed “Shadyville.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

U.S. Marine Cpl. Allen Ryals, 2nd squad leader, 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, digs through a dirt mound outside a house, June 29, 2005, while looking for buried weapons and explosive devices during “Operation Shadyville.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

From left to right: Pvt. Bryan Smith, Cpl. Allen Ryals, and Lance Cpl. Jason Murray, combat engineers with 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, stand behind an unearthed improvised explosive device, June 29, 2005, in a village outside Saqlawiyah, Iraq, codenamed “Shadyville.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mike Escobar

Brigade's Re-enlistments in Iraq Exceed Expectations

By Sgt. 1st Class Peter Chadwick, USA
American Forces Press Service

CAMP TAJI, Iraq, July 7, 2005 – All leaders should be involved in retention if they believe in the volunteer Army, an Army career counselor stationed in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division said.

"It's every leader's job," said Sgt. 1st Class José A. Urbáez, of the 87th Corps Support Battalion.

On point with the Army's retention program, Urbáez' Division Support Brigade unit is leading a calculated charge at keeping good soldiers "in boots" here.

The support brigade is second only to the Aviation Brigade for the most re-enlistments in the 3rd Infantry Division for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3, said Master Sgt. Robert D. Morris, Division Support Brigade re-enlistment noncommissioned officer.

Morris said the unit re-enlisted 260 percent of its goal for January to March. The brigade's mission was for 50 soldiers; they re-enlisted 130.

Since April, the support unit has retained in excess of 550 soldiers, said Morris, whose home is in Ludowici, Ga. By the end of their deployment to OIF 3, DSB is looking forward to retaining 904 soldiers to cover their total mission.

But, the 87th CSB, nicknamed "Base Warriors," doesn't seem to be satisfied with just "making mission." Urbáez said his battalion has already made its retention mission in one category and over-produced in another.

The battalion is at 100 percent of its goal for mid-career soldiers and 114 percent for soldiers at the career level. Mid-career soldiers have re-enlisted at least once and has 10 or fewer years in service at the end of their current term of service, Morris said. Careerists have served 10 or more years at the end of their current term of service.

The 87th CSB is at 78 percent of its goal for initial-term soldier re-enlistments.

The 92nd Engineer Battalion, a DSB unit currently detached to the 36th Engineer Group, actually has a better percentage than the 87th, but is on a mission for fewer numbers.

Units get their mission from the Department of the Army based on eligible soldiers vs. the needs of the Army, said Morris. Everything is on a fair-share basis, he added.

Morris said the Army first calculates what the service's end-strength needs will be at the end of the fiscal year in September, factoring in possible losses like retirement, and then "back plans" from there. Mission requirements are passed down through each level of command. It goes from corps to division, division to battalion and so on until each commander down to the company level is given a retention mission.

Morris said the strength of the retention program reflects the chain of command. "We have strong chain-of-command support all the way from the colonel and command sergeant major down to the platoon sergeants and platoon leaders," Urbáez said.

Capt. James E. Gannon, commander of the 94th Maintenance Company, recognizes how important the leaders at the platoon and shop level are. "They influence the people who work for them," said the Richland, Wash., native, whose company is at an astounding 400 percent of mission for careerist re-enlistments.

"I don't think we have a secret recipe," said Gannon, whose unit is nicknamed the "Hard Chargers."

Gannon said retaining good soldiers starts with the daily operations of the unit. There's a lot of good going on every day, said Gannon. The supervisors make sure people feel appreciated for their efforts. Gannon has pictures of soldiers who were selected as "Hard Charger of the Week" posted on his door -- just one way of making sure members of his company are recognized.

Spc. Sheldon P. Nicholas, a turret mechanic with the Hard Chargers, is certain he makes a difference. "I'm pretty good at what I do," Nicholas said. He added that he plans to re-enlist in the next couple of weeks.

Nicholas said he is re-enlisting for stabilization at Fort Stewart with the "school option," a division commander's program that allows soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga., to have about six months of college while on active duty.

"The benefit to the Army is a better educated soldier," Urbáez said. "The benefit to the soldier is more education and promotion points."

Nicholas, who will soon be promoted to sergeant, wanted the stabilization for his wife and children. "I want to provide for my family," he said. Nicholas will also be getting a cash bonus.

Urbáez said 104 of 114 soldiers re-enlisting in his unit received a bonus. The bonuses average about $10,000 and are tax-free when they're awarded in a combat zone.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Peter Chadwick is assigned to the Division Support Brigade Public Affairs Office.)

Related Site:
3rd Infantry Division Support Brigade
PRESIDENT OFFERS CONDOLENCES — President George W. Bush delivers a brief statement to the media outside the Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterarder, Scotland, July 7, 2005, regarding the terrorist attacks in London that occured earlier in the day. White House photo by Eric Draper

In Today's News - Friday, July 8, 2005

Quote of the Day
"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."

-- President George W. Bush, speaking to 82nd Airborne and 1st Armored troops at Baghdad Airport, Thanksgiving Day 2003.

News of Note
London Bombings
U.S. officials told 2 unexploded bombs found; timing devices also foundold 2
U.S. Will Stand by Britain in Face of Terror — Story
Rumsfeld Offers Condolences, Notes Resolve - Full Statement
Bush, Blair Condemn Terror Attacks — Story Bush's Statement Blair's Statement G8 Statement Chertoff's Statement
Bombings Spark Concern for Mass Transit — Story Remarks

Comparison of 9/11, London attacks
Report: Islamic group claims London blasts
Netanyahu changed plans due to warning
Britain sees hallmarks of al Qaeda in attacks
Bush orders U.S. vigilance after London blasts

U.S. raises alert level after London bombs

Blair determined blasts will not stop summit deals
Unknown group says Qaeda carried out London attacks
New York adds security in wake of London blasts
Survivors of 9/11 relive horror in London blasts
World recoils in horror at London attacks
U.S. media leap into action after London blasts
Congestion disrupts mobile networks amid UK blasts
London hospitals coping well with attack victims
No long-term impact on travel after London attacks
US investors see short-lived effects of UK blasts

Operation Iraqi Freedom
For Iraq's top judge, security tops the docket
Zarqawi's pledge to target Shia militia fuels tension
Marines Unearth IEDs in Operation Shadyville
Secretary Refutes Claims of Military Quagmire
Iraqi General Reflects on Year of Progress

Operation Enduring Freedom
Attack on Medical Group Shows Desperation

Fox News
Aruban PM Asks Navy to Help Find Holloway

Mount Rushmore Gets a Bath

Reuters: Top News
Abu Ghraib suspect fails in bid for new judge
Pentagon denies medically abusing detainees
U.S. insurers urge terror insurance extension
G8 to agree need for climate action but no targets

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq
Al-Qaida claims killing of top Egypt envoy
Saddam Hussein's chief lawyer resigns
Egypt closes Baghdad diplomatic mission
Gaza residents ready for compensation
Iran, Iraq look to military cooperation
Iraqi minister announces security efforts
Top Hussein lawyer quits, chides U.S.
Netanyahu changed plans due to warning
U.S. filmmaker among 5 arrested in Iraq
Egypt protesters urge Mubarak to resign
Correction: Lebanon-US story
Fate of Iran nuke negotiator questioned
Trial of Egyptian candidate is postponed
Al-Zarqawi mentor arrested in Jordan
Sudan's legislature passes constitution

CENTCOM: News Release

Department of Defense
USS Gonzalez Patrols the Indian Ocean

Marine Goes After Master’s Degree — Story

Returning Troops Get Gift of Golf — Story
Miss America Eats With Soldiers — Story
Effort Helps N.C. Troop Families


Soldiers Hunt for Terrorist Cells
Death of Iraqi Investigated
Iraq Reconstruction
Iraq Daily Update
Multinational Force Iraq
Weekly Progress Report (pdf)

Afghanistan Daily Update
Afghan Reconstruction Group Recruiting

U.S.- Danish Partnership Praised
Bush Topics: Terrorism, Freedom
Officials Release Strategy
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

Guidelines Won't Result in Pay Cut
Death Benefits, Insurance Increase
QDR Process Revs Up
National Guard, Reserve Update

Officials Identify Casualties — Story

Al Azamiyah Al Basrah Al Hillah Al Karkh Al Kazimiyah Al Kut An Nasiriyah Baghdad Baqubah Mosul Najaf Nineveh Tall Kayf

Bost/Laskar Ghurian Herat Kabul Qandahar


Today in History
1663 - King Charles II of England grants a charter to Rhode Island.
1693 - NY City authorizes America's first police uniforms.
1776 - Colonel John Nixon gives the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
1777 - Vermont becomes the first state to abolish slavery, and adopts male suffrage.
1796 - The U.S. State Department issues the first American passport.
1797 - William Blount of Tennessee becomes the first U.S. Senator expelled by impeachment.
1835 - The Liberty Bell cracks (again).
1870 - Governor Holden of NC declares Casswell County in a state of insurrection in the wake of a wave of KKK violence (including murders). Democrats have him impeached a year later.
1905 - Part of Angel Islandin San Francisco Bay is allocated for an Immigration Detention Center.
1923 - Warren G. Harding becomes the first sitting president to visit Alaska (Metlakahtla).
1947 - Demolition begins in NYC for the construction of the UN headquarters.
1950 - General Douglas MacArthur is named commander-in-chief of UN forces in Korea.
1969 - The U.S. begins withdrawing troops from Vietnam.
1978 - The Pioneer-Venus 2 multi-probe is launched to Venus.
1979 - Voyager 2 takes the first-ever photograph of Jupiter's satellite Adrastea.
1988 - Stevie Wonder announces he will run for mayor of Detroit in 1992.
1990 - Clocks display 12:34:56 on 7/8/90 (1234567890)

- Count Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, inventor of the rigid dirigible
1839 - John D. Rockefeller, US capitalist; founded Standard Oil
1907 - George W. Romney (Gov-Mich)/US Secretary of HUD
1908 - Nelson A. Rockefeller (Gov-NY) 41st Vice President
1918 - Nelson Mandela, jailed South African political activist
1931 - Roone Arledge, ABC-TV executive

810 - Pepin son of Charlemagne, king of Italy
1957 - Grace Goodhue Coolidge, First Lady
1959 - Dale Buisand and Chester Ovnand, first Americans KIA in Vietnam

Reported Missing in Action
Bram, Richard C., USMC (OH); disappeared while on a hike near Chu Lai Air Base
Dingwall, John F., USMC (NY); disappeared while on a hike near Chu Lai Air Base

Browning, Ralph T., USAF (FL); F105D shot down, released by DRV February, 1973 - retired as a Brigadier General as of 1996 - alive as of 1998
Longanecker, Ronald Lee, USMC (OR); passenger on a CH46a shot down - KIA, body not recovered

Andre, Howard V., Jr., USAF (TN); A26A shot down - KIA, body not recovered
Sizemore, James E., USAF (CA); A26A shot down - KIA, body not recovered