Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mullen Delivers Pep Talk to Air Force Falcon Football Team

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets U.S. Air Force Academy Falcon football team members Dec. 30, 2009, the day before they play the University of Houston Cougars in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley 

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Program Helps Servicemembers Transition to Civilian Life

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON : The Department of Defense's Transition Assistance Program is working to prepare servicemembers and their families for a successful transition to civilian life.
"We are trying to ensure that [servicemembers] transition from active duty back to the civilian community is a smooth and seamless one," Ron Horne, deputy director for the Transition Assistance Program at the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy told listeners during a "Dot Mil Docs" interview today.

The idea of the program is to make them aware of the support systems that are available to them, he said. The DoD has a partnership with the Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs to help servicemembers with their transition. The program also works with the Department of Homeland Security for Coast Guard Members as well.

Horne said that the program has five major components to it: pre-separation counseling, Department of Labor employment workshops, VA benefits briefings, the Disabled Transition Assistance Program and one-on-one counseling, all of which take place at local military installations and bases.

The pre-separation counseling component consists of an overview of 16 topics that counseling and coaching addresses with service members, Horne said. It gives a review of transition services, benefits, and resources available for the transition process.

The employment workshop is "a baseline to start looking and preparing for employment," said Horne. In the workshop, servicemembers go over skills including resume writing, creating cover letters, dressing for success and job search techniques.

The VA benefits briefing serves as a session to inform servicemembers of benefits they may be entitled to include the Montgomery GI Bill, healthcare, VA counseling and the home loan program.

Servicemembers who have a service related disability also must attend the DTAP briefing. "In this session they learn about the benefits they may be entitled based on their ratings from VA," Horne said.

Once servicemembers have completed those four core components of TAP, they are eligible for one-on-one counseling at their installations transition office, Horne said. Transition counselors assist the servicemembers in a variety of ways including completing their resume, information on medical benefits and technology access.

For Army installations, services are provided by Army Career and Alumni Program Centers. On Navy installations, the transition assistance office is usually located at the Fleet and Family Support Center, at Marine Corps Bases the services are provided through the Marine Corps Community Services and Air Force services are provided through the Airmen and Family Readiness Flight centers. Members of the Coast Guard can receive services through Work-Life offices.

Horne also said that many separating servicemembers are not looking for employment but are returning to school. "We encourage them to use their education benefits because they've earned it and that is one way to ensure that they are prepared to compete with their contemporaries that were getting an education while they were on active duty," he said.

He encourages servicemembers to start their transition process 12 months before voluntarily leaving the service and 24 months before retiring. "Anyone that reaches the 18th year mark should start the transition process," he said. "It is overwhelming when you wait until the last minute."

TAP also has a Web site,, which offers a timeline on the transitioning process and other resources that help with the entire process. "We are trying to get [servicemembers] started early enough so that they can plan to do things step by step."

He also said the TAP office is "rethinking and reshaping the program," so that transitioning isn't an event but a process from when a servicemember joins the military to their departure or retirement or as long as they need assistance once they become a veteran. The program hopes to guide servicemembers in setting career goals and starting financial planning early. They are also finding ways to leverage technology to reach their younger audiences through Facebook, Twitter, and texting.

"We feel that TAP needs to be designed and developed in a way that when a member needs it, it will be there for them. Whether it's a facility at a base or online for someone that is at a remote location," Horne said. "We think the future of Tap is bright and we have a way to go, but we have done some wonderful things."

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Team Provides Expertise to Afghan Workers

By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman 
Special to American Forces Press Service

KONAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan : Military and civilian members of the local provincial reconstruction team here are training Afghan workers how to build structures to exact engineering specifications.

On a visit to the Nowabad School construction project Dec. 26, Navy Chief Petty Officer David Zahm and Brandon Toliver, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative, met with the Afghan construction manager to discuss the project's progress and to offer critiques and support.

"It's important to do the work right. You have to make sure you're using good-quality materials and the right construction practices," Zahm said to Safiullah, the site manager.

It's important, Zahm said, to "do things the right way."

The Nowabad School project is one of many ongoing efforts to improve the infrastructure here. The school represents a $219,000 investment that will house 20 of 26 classes currently taught to more than 2,000 area boys and girls.

The construction project also provides much-needed jobs. Since most of those jobs are held by workers with scant building skills the team's engineers pass their knowledge to the site managers.

"You should have the skilled workers paired with the unskilled workers for two reasons," Zahm said to Safiullah. "One, it gives them the training to become skilled workers, and two, it teaches them the right way to do things."

As the engineers walked through the school construction site, they showed workers the proper mixture of sand and rocks to make cement.

"See this, these are too small and it won't work," said Zahm as he showed workers a handful of rocks from a pile used to mix concrete.

As the quality assurance and compliance check concluded, Zahm turned to Safiullah and offered words of encouragement.

"You're doing a good job and I know it is tough," Zahm told him. "But, you have to teach your workers how to do things the right way the first time."

(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves with Combined Joint Task Force 82.) 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Face of Defense: Blind Officer Completes Course

By Kristin Molinaro 
Special to American Forces Press Service                                        

FORT BENNING, Ga., : The first blind student to attend the Maneuver Captain's Career Course here graduated with his class Dec. 15 in a ceremony attended by family and friends.

The 20-week course prepares captains for company commands and serving as staff officers at battalion and brigade level.

"When I came here, I was kind of skeptical of how I would be received, being the blind guy," Army Capt. Ivan Castro said. "I thank my cadre and classmates for their support. I learned a lot from my peers, and I hope I taught them something. We all have a cross to carry. You have to pick up the pieces and move on."

Castro, who's served in the Army for 21 years, was injured during offensive operations in Yusifiyah, Iraq, Sept. 2, 2006, while deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division. Shrapnel from an 82 mm mortar that landed five feet from his position on a rooftop struck Castro, a sniper reconnaissance platoon leader, and several others. The mortar killed two soldiers in his platoon and left him blind. Castro also suffered a bilateral aneurysm, collapsed lung, pulmonary embolism, bone fractures and a nicked artery.

"Without command, without reservation, without hesitation, my guys jumped into action," said Castro, crediting his soldiers with saving his life. "If it wasn't for the training my guys received, I wouldn't be here right now."

Castro spent six weeks on life support in an induced coma. Rehabilitation at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., helped him to adjust to life without sight, and within a year, he was running the Marine Corps Marathon. It was a "grueling" process, said his wife, Evelyn.

After completing his rehabilitation, Castro returned to work as the executive officer for the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C.

"One of your classmates is here today because his fellow warriors refused to cut him away like a bad parachute or let him fall behind," said Army Brig. Gen. Michael Repass, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, speaking to the graduates. "Our soldiers will go into the jaws of hell if they believe we aren't going to leave them behind.

"That faith has to stick with our soldiers if they are wounded or otherwise incapacitated. We leaders cannot put them on the sidelines and walk away from them. I remain encouraged by the obvious courage ... of Ivan Castro."

Throughout his life-changing transition, Castro insisted he not be treated differently, said Army Lt. Col. Fredrick Dummar, who worked with Castro at the 7th Special Forces Group and attended his MCCC graduation.

"It was critical for him to attend MCCC," said Dummar, commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Recruiting Battalion. "You can't stay on active duty as a captain without it. It would've been not only a fight to keep him on active duty with his injuries, but also to keep him on active duty without attending a mandatory school."

Dummar said because Castro was a Special Forces soldier and wanted to remain on active duty, his case was reviewed.

"We saw what his potential still was instead of what he can't do," Dummar said. "He may not be able to do every job in the Army, but by doing the job he can do, he's freeing up someone who can see to be doing something else."

To keep up in classes, Castro said he used a voice recorder and computer screen-reading software. Castro enlisted his roommate, Army Capt. Gerard Torres, as a running buddy to ensure he kept on the track during physical training.

Torres, who attended the Infantry Officer Basic Course with Castro in 2005, said Castro has been an inspiration to him.

"We've laughed so hard and hated each other like brothers," Torres said. "The things he's taught me since the time I've known him are invaluable. Sometimes you sit there and start feeling bad for yourself, and then you look over, and there's Ivan, running 20 miles."

In the coming weeks, Castro will report to his new assignment as the operations officer for the U.S. Special Operations Recruiting Battalion.    (Issued on : Dec. 24, 2009)

Army Lt. Col. Fredrick Dummar, commander of the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., congratulates Army Capt. Ivan Castro on graduating from the Maneuver Captain's Career Course at Fort Benning, Ga., Dec. 15, 2009. Castro, who will be assigned to the recruiting battalion, is the first blind student to attend the course. U.S. Army photo by Kristin Molinaro 
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Kristin Molinaro writes for The Bayonet, the post newspaper at Fort Benning, Ga.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Soldiers Work With Afghan Border Police

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Otero 
Special to
American Forces Press Service

KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, : On a rugged mountaintop bordering Pakistan, less than two miles from Northern Waziristan, sits Combat Outpost Chergotah in Afghanistan's Khost province.

Here, U.S. Army soldiers work with Afghan border policemen to sustain border security and maintain peace among local people.

The soldiers and policemen secure the area with a fierce drive and a wealth of firepower.

"At Chergotah, we help provide security for Afghan contractors building the [combat outpost], and my duty as a gunner is to make sure that if we are attacked, I gain fire superiority as quick as possible to eliminate the threat, using heavy weaponry," said Army Spc. Ryan Harris.

Harris serves as a heavy weapons gunner with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 25th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Mine-resistant, ambush -protected vehicles with common remotely operated weapons stations are a vital piece of weaponry to keep security within the area. Heavy-weapons platforms such as .50-caliber machine guns and Mark 19 grenade launchers are combined with precision computer video targeting systems controlled from behind a 10-inch screen that the gunner observes while tucked inside the vehicle.

While the advanced weaponry gives the soldiers the advantage against insurgents, they routinely leave the protection of their MRAP vehicles to connect with the local people. The unit conducts daily, dismounted security patrols led by the platoon sergeant and platoon leader.

"My duty as a platoon sergeant is to take care of my men," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph De Lage, a platoon sergeant with Company D. "I do this by resupplying them with food, water, ammo, and by ensuring they have a good security plan in place to protect themselves and their Afghan counterparts."

While the platoon sergeant works to ensure the safety of his soldiers and the Afghan border policemen, the impact the servicemembers have on the area's civilian population is not lost.

"I believe our presence makes a difference locally," De Lage said.

Army 1st Lt. Jason Cumiford, a platoon leader in Company D, said the soldiers and policemen must find the best way to secure the trust of local residents. They find the enemy, separate them from residents, and defeat them.

However, Cumiford added, the U.S. soldiers' most important task is to ensure the Afghan border police are competent, well trained and able to defeat the enemy by themselves, and that they are trusted by the Afghan people. 

Forces in Afghanistan Kill, Detain Militants

By American Forces Press Service

: Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan killed or detained numerous militants today in various operations, military officials reported.
In an operation led by the Afghan general directorate of special operations, several known instigators of a kidnapping group were detained.

The Afghan force, supported by International Security Assistance Force troops, detained the men after a search in Police District 5 of the Afghan capital. The suspects are linked to kidnappings in and around the city.

In other operations, a combined Afghan-international force in Paktia killed several militants, including a Taliban commander responsible for several bombing attacks. The force also detained two other militants.

The force moved to a compound west of the village of Goldad Kheyl in the Zurmat district after intelligence confirmed militant activity in the area. The security force encountered resistance and killed the Taliban commander and the militants.

In Zabul province, a combined security force killed a militant, wounded another and captured a third after intelligence sources indicated a Taliban target was in the Jeldak district near the village of Fuladgay.

Another Afghan-international force in Nangarhar province captured two suspected militants, including a Taliban weapons trafficker responsible for several attacks.

The force searched a compound north of the village of Dag Kalay in the Acheen district after intelligence detected militant activities. After an extensive search, the combined force found rocket-propelled grenade propellants, then detained the militants.

In Wardak province, a combined security force apprehended several suspected militants in the village of Zamooch in the Sayed Abad district after intelligence sources reported militant activities.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.) 

Iraqi Forces Arrest 7 Terrorism Suspects

By American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON : Iraqi security forces working with U.S. advisors arrested seven terrorism suspects today during two security operations, military officials reported.
Four suspects were arrested in Rashidiyah, north of Mosul, during an operation conducted to arrest a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member believed responsible for suicide-vest attacks in Balad and Muqdadiyah.

Evidence collected at the scene led Iraqi forces to arrest four suspected criminal associates of the al-Qaida in Iraq member without incident.

In southern Baghdad, Iraqi forces arrested a suspected member of a Kataib Hezbollah explosives cell believed to be responsible for mortar attacks conducted in September against security forces and civilians in the Basra region and two suspected accomplices.

After conducting preliminary questioning and examining evidence at the scene, Iraqi forces arrested the alleged Kataib Hezbollah member and his accomplices without incident.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

Now the full text of letter to Rebiya Kadeer by her family members

Recently in cyber media you may have watched a letter from  Rebiya Kadeer to Rector Kathuria. After talking about Rebia Kadeer, her desire and This Letter now I want to tell about another letter which was written to Rebiya by her family members. Following is the full text of a letter to Rebiya Kadeer, written by her children living in China and signed by some of her relatives on July 24. The letter was originally written in Uygur language and releades to media in the first week of August 2009. 
Dear mother,
    This letter is written by your son Khahar and daughter Roxingul, together with your younger brother Memet Kadeer.
 You once were the richest person in Xinjiang just because you were granted a lot of business opportunities and convenience by the Communist Party of China and the Government. But, despite repeated leniency of the Party and the Government, you ended up in prison under other people's enticement. You were allowed to go to the United States thanks to, once again, our government's leniency. You pledged to our government not to participate in any separatist activity before you departed for the United States. You broke your words anyway.
 Mother! We all long for a stable life. In Xinjiang, which is like a big family to people of different ethnic groups, none of us has ever experienced a violent incident as cruel as what happened on July 5 (in Urumqi). Because of you, so many innocent people lost their lives in Urumqi on July 5, and so many houses, shops and vehicles were burnt or damaged. The harmony and unity among ethnic groups were undermined. Why does this happen?

  Xinjiang is a happy home to the people of various ethnic groups. It is impossible for anyone to simply destroy it, nor will the people forgive anyone who damages their homes. Mother, despite so many things you have done, the Government treats us very nicely. We are often told, "Your mother is responsible for things she did. It has nothing to do with you."
 Because you went to the United States immediately after you were released on parole, you have no idea how much Xinjiang has changed. People are living a good life here. There are no difference between ethnic groups so long as you're willing to work hard. There are many Uygur millionaires and countless new buildings in Urumqi, and Uygur people enjoy various preferential policies from the government. Isn't this the result of good policy of the Government?
 No one wants this happy home destroyed. Please think about the happiness of us and your grandchildren. Don't destroy the stable and happy life in Xinjiang. Don't follow the provocation from some people in other countries. We still miss the mother who cared about us before going to jail. The last thing we want is that our mother is condemned by the people of all ethnic groups.

    Khahar (son of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Memet (younger brother of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Roxingul (daughter of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Kheser Hapiz (son-in-law of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Kadilya Kheser (granddaughter of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Rizya Kadeer (adopted daughter of Rebiya Kadeer's daughter)
    Zukhila Kadeer (older sister of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Aydida Khahar (granddaughter of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Aygul (daughter-in-law of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Dildar Khahar (granddaughter of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Zulpkhar (grandson of Rebiya Kadeer)
    Sarda (grandson of Rebiya Kadeer)

Familly asked her not to organize violence or undermine the peaceful life in Xinjiang. Family also said Rebiya Kadeer and  World Uygur Congress (WUC) violence which took more than 200 innocent people dead, several thousand others injured, hundreds of vehicles burnt and severe damage to people's properties.

Six men who were convicted of murder and other crimes in the July 5 riot were
sentenced to death after a first-instance trial, and another man was jailed for life on October 12, 2009.