Saturday, April 30, 2011

Minimally Invasive Surgery to Rescue of Patients

Master Sanjay Kumar - 9/M - S/o Mr Karam Raj – a factory worker of Hisar–suffered from a serious malady called myasthenia gravis in which the muscles of the body get tired very fast. This can have serious consequences as the patient may be unable to breathe at all. The cause is an auto-immune disorder in which the body produces a poison against its own muscle receptors.  In a number of such cases cure can be got by removing a tumour called a thymoma which is present in most of these patients. The surgery requires a long cut in the front of the chest and can be quite a cosmetic problem for the patient.
Mini Sternotomy Thymectomy CMC
In such cases a unique surgery has been devised in the Cardio Vascular & Thoracic Department of the Christian Medical College & Hospital. Dr Harinder Singh Bedi – Head of CVTS – said that instead of a long midline cut and a complete division of the breast bone – an alternative is used. Here the cut is a small transverse one and the bone is cut only partially. The completeness of the surgery is not compromised in any way. The tumour was completely removed. Sanjay is now a happy boy.  His scar is not visible at all.
Such keyhole surgeries increase the acceptance of surgery in some patients esp young ladies who tend to avoid even life saving therapies in fear of perceived cosmetic disadvantage. Dr Bedi – who is a world leader in minimally invasive cardiac surgery with his name in the Limca Book of World Records for the Worlds first keyhole cardiac surgery using a cath lab in OT – told that the same technique can now be applied to other cardiac surgeries also .The other members of the team are Dr.Allen Joseph, Dr.Arun Gupta, Dr.Muneesh, Dr.Viju Abraham, Dr.Pranay Pawar and Dr.Richa.
Dr Abraham G Thomas – Director of CMC & H – said that it was a matter of great pride for Punjab as the Limca recorded World first surgery had been developed in Punjab itself. He told that the CMC was always committed to be in the forefront of any technology which will help the patients of this region.  Report from --Shalu Arora and Rector Kathuria

Amnesty International Calls for Independent Probe

Amnesty International Media Release 
Thursday, April 28, 2011 

Amnesty International Calls for Independent Probe Of Deadly Yemen Attack, Saying It Undermines Hope for Real Reform 

Washington, D.C.:Amnesty International today called for an urgent independent investigation into the attack in Yemen Wednesday by armed men believed to be affiliated with the security forces.  The attack that left at least 11 protesters dead occurred as security forces stood by without trying to stop the violence. 

"If real reform is to take place in Yemen, the current spiral of violence must be brought to an end and those responsible for killings such as those committed yesterday must be brought to justice," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.  "Disturbingly, this is one of the deadliest attacks seen in Yemen in over a month and may have be intended to undermine plans to strike a political deal that will see President Saleh stand down and bring an end to the killings on the streets."

Men in plainclothes reportedly fired at protesters as they marched past the May 22 Stadium in the capital Sana'a. Men described as ‘thugs’ also attacked protesters with batons.

A 14-year-old boy, Abdulrahman Muhammad al-Okairi, was among those killed. Scores of other protestors were injured. 

The men in plainclothes opened fire on protesters marching from the square outside Sana’a University, where many have been camped since February.

The men, who are believed to have been members of the security forces or militant government supporters, reportedly fired from rooftops and from inside the stadium.

When the march had reached the TV station near to the stadium, armed men lined up behind the protesters and began firing at them.

“There were bullets firing everywhere. They were shooting at everything and at anyone, even old men and people who were not participating in the protests,” Ala’a Jarban, an eyewitness, told Amnesty International.

“A guy was shot in the head right in front of me,” he said.

Members of the security forces who were present guarding the stadium and the TV station are reported to have stood by and taken no action as the attacks were being perpetrated.

“Their failure to act to prevent the killings or arrest those carrying them out, suggests strongly that the security forces were complicit or, at the very least, acquiesced in the attack,” said Smart. “Their inaction needs to be thoroughly, urgently and impartially investigated.”

Clashes began when pro-government supporters threw rocks at protesters whose march had reached the May 22 stadium where pro-government supporters were camping.

Some anti-government protesters reportedly threw rocks back in response.  After being fired upon, some protesters apparently burned tires apparently to create a smokescreen to make it more difficult for snipers to shoot at them.

Ten of those shot dead yesterday were named as Abdulrahman Muhammad al-Okairi, Muhammad Ali Rashed al-Ansi, Abdullah Ali al-Samri, Azmi Khaled Muhammad Shamsan al-Makramy, Abdulrahman Muhammad Ahmed Amran, Assim Abdulhamid al-Hammady, Abdulwahid Abdulrahman al-Mansoob, Murad Abdulhaq al-Ariqi, Aziz Khaled al-Qirshi, and Abdullatif Miqdam, according to Amnesty International’s sources.

Another man, Nasser Mohammed Nasser Fadaq, died after reportedly being run over by a car, according to field hospital volunteers.

An ambulance car was also reportedly shot at as it was trying to reach the wounded protesters.

This latest killings bring the death toll to more than 130 since anti-government protests began in Yemen last January.

Protesters have demanded that President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978, should immediately step down and that members of his administration should stand trial for the killings of protesters in recent weeks.

A political deal proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which has been mediating between the President and the opposition, would have the President stand down after 30 days but give him and his key associates blanket immunity against prosecution.

"The Yemeni president and his political allies must not be given immunity from prosecution as the price for ending the country’s continuing human rights crisis," said Smart.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

DOD, USDA Announce Family Support Partnership

By Elaine Sanchez 
American Forces Press Service
CHICAGO, April 28, 2011 - The Defense and Agriculture departments formally recognized a 25-year working relationship yesterday as well as a budding partnership aimed at improving military families' lives.
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Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and policy, and Cathie E. Woteki, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for research, education and economics, celebrate the signing of a proclamation in recognition of the DOD and USDA Extension-Military Partnership during the opening session of the 2011 Family Resilience Conference in Chicago, April 27, 2011. Courtesy photo by Shaun M. Kelly 
Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and policy, and Cathie E. Woteki, USDA's chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics, signed a proclamation in recognition of the DOD and USDA Extension-Military Partnership during the opening session of their joint 2011 Family Resilience Conference here.
"This exciting, growing partnership between our two departments provides us with the opportunity to work more closely with family, child and youth researchers and community-capacity building experts," Gordon said. "They've studied and developed some of America's most promising practices for strengthening communities –- the same communities where our military members and their families live."
The partnership grew out of a common desire to extend support to military families where they work and live, explained Cathann A. Kress, senior program analyst for the Pentagon's office of military community and family policy. The partnership, she said, aims to strengthen community capacity in support of military families, increase professional and workforce development opportunities for those working with military families, and expand and strengthen family, child care and youth development programs.
It also will encourage both agencies to develop and deliver new and innovative means to better serve all Americans in the communities where they reside, she added.
The Agriculture Department brings extensive community-level expertise to the table, Kress noted, through its Cooperative Extension Program and its youth counterpart, the 4-H Club. The extension program, which is in every U.S. state and territory, extends land-grant universities' knowledge and research to communities, and in turn, passes back community issues to the universities to help in shaping studies and initiatives.
DOD has much to offer as well, Gordon said, citing a few of the department's ongoing efforts to care for families nationwide. DOD school liaisons, for instance, work directly with school administrators, teachers and parents to facilitate a learning environment that's responsive to the emotional needs of military children "who shoulder their own burdens in the face of frequent moves and deployments," he said.
At the state level, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is helping to remove barriers created by frequent school transfers, he said. So far, he added, 36 states serving 88 percent of the 1.1 million school-age military children have agreed to a common set of guidelines regarding transfers.
Gordon also cited a program that's expanding child care capacity for National Guard and Reserve families and active-duty members who are geographically dispersed or unable to access child care programs on a military installation.
This partnership is based on a 25-year relationship between the two departments that has expanded substantially in the past three years, Kress noted, citing a few success stories that have occurred in recent years.
One example, she said, is the Penn State Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness, which serves as a repository for military family-related programs. People seeking a program can visit the Clearinghouse website to check its effectiveness, and then make a decision based on evidence-based information posted there.
Another program is offered through Ohio State University. The Virtual Child Development Lab School program offers online training to providers at military child development centers. The lab school in Ohio, which is run by students, is considered one of the most cutting-edge child care centers in the nation. In return, university students gain knowledge about the unique needs of military families, Kress said.
Additionally, Purdue University's Military Extension Internship program recruits college students pursuing child development degrees and places them in military centers around the world. Seven of these interns now are employed by the Defense Department.
These and other initiatives are "just at the top of a very large iceberg," Gordon said. "Our coordinated efforts are important not only to our military families, but to all citizens in our local communities."
Robert L. Gordon III
Related Sites:
Video Blog
U.S. Department of Agriculture 
Family Matters Blog
Related Articles:
Gordon Cites Need for Expanded Family Support Networks 
Conference to Spotlight Military Family Issues 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sing hymns during an Easter service on the flight deck

 Personnel embarked aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7) sing hymns during an Easter service on the flight deck during Pacific Partnership 2011 while under way in the Pacific Ocean April 24, 2011. Pacific Partnership is an annual deployment of forces designed to strengthen maritime and humanitarian partnerships during disaster relief operations, while providing humanitarian, medical, dental, and engineering assistance to nations of the Pacific. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Tony Tolley, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Africom's First Commander Retires After 40-year Career

By Terri Moon Cronk 
American Forces Press Service

FORT MYER, Va., April 27, 2011 - Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward reviewed and saluted the troops for the last time yesterday on Summerall Field parade ground here as he retired from a career that spanned four decades and culminated in his service as the first commander of U.S. Africa Command.
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Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, left, and Army Secretary John M. McHugh watch as a ceremonial unit passes the reviewing stand during Ward's retirement ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., April 26, 2011. DOD photo by Terri Moon Cronk 
"This has been an experience for Kip Ward," the general said. "I would not trade it for anything. I leave this position proudly, honorably, humbly."
Africom stood up its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, in October 2007.
Army Secretary John M. McHugh reflected on Ward's career.
"From Somalia to Cairo to Israel and Stuttgart, and back home again, Kip Ward has distinguished himself in each and every assignment," McHugh said. "On behalf of the U.S. Army Kip, 'Job well done.'"
McHugh noted Ward is a Baltimore native and the son of a World War II combat engineer who served at a time when the Army was segregated.
"I imagine it would have been easy, and indeed it would have been understandable, if Kip Ward turned away, rather than turned toward and embraced the Army, both as an institution and as a career," McHugh said.
By following in his father's footsteps, McHugh said, Ward's career is an inspiration.
"That a son of a sergeant in a segregated Army would rise through the ranks to become one of only a handful of African-Americans in our nation's history to attain the rank of four-star general is a testament to the integrity, tenacity, character and the ability of General Kip Ward," the Army secretary said.
Ward said he was 22 years old when Air Force fighter pilot Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. -– who later would become the first African-American four-star general -- commissioned him as an infantry officer in 1971. Initially, Ward said, he thought he'd spend four years in the Army and then go to law school.
"But as the years went on," Ward said, "it became clearer that serving my country and taking care of my teammates was a pretty fulfilling undertaking ... in a way I saw my dad do it."
Wearing a star, Ward told the crowd of well-wishers, doesn't mean it belongs to the one who wears it.
"[It belongs] to all the aspects of one's life that created the opportunities, and to the causes that led to that star," he said. "I have proudly worn the cloth of our nation. ... I never left a fallen comrade. I remain proud to serve. I am a soldier."
As a commander, Ward said, he shared his commitment to his troops with an equal commitment to their families. One of his privileges during his career, he said, was meeting America's sons and daughters, and caring for their families.
"There is no greater honor," he said.
John M. McHugh
Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward 

Related Sites:
U.S. Africa Command 

Military, Afghan Leaders Mark Orphanage Opening

By Karen Parrish 
American Forces Press Service
SHARAN, Afghanistan, April 26, 2011 - "Safe haven" took on new meaning yesterday as hundreds of Afghans gathered to open an orphanage here in Paktika province's capital.
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Afghan boys attend the April 25, 2011, opening ceremony for the orphanage where they will live and go to school in Sharan, the capital of Afghanistan's Paktika province. The orphanage is a Commander's Emergency Relief Program project managed by U.S. Army National Guard engineer units deployed to Paktika. DOD photo by Karen Parrish 
The U.S. military contributed funding and construction oversight for the orphanage, which includes three classrooms and will house and educate up to 100 orphan boys.
Speaking through an interpreter, Paktika Gov. Mohibullah Samim said the U.S. engineers involved in the project contributed not only funding, but also expertise, through the orphanage's construction.
During his keynote speech, the governor spoke to the boys who will live in the orphanage.
"Today you are a student, [and] tomorrow you will serve Afghanistan," he said.
Afghanistan has experienced great improvement over the last 10 years, Samim said, noting that the boys at the Sharan orphanage and millions of other children across Afghanistan now have the opportunity to go to school.
"A hundred thousand students are going to university or private colleges in Afghanistan right now," Samim said. "More than 350 people from Paktika are among them."
The governor said Afghanistan's progress also is visible in the number of now-paved roads and the ability of the nation's army and police forces to work with and protect the people.
"The young generation should not be hopeless," he said. "We are moving Afghanistan from backward to forward, and the people from adversity to fortune."
The orphanage is a Commander's Emergency Relief Program project managed by the Oregon Army National Guard's 1249th Engineer Battalion, known as Task Force Gridley, part of the 101st Airborne Division-centered Combined Joint Task Force 101, responsible for the 14 provinces of Regional Command East. The battalion's higher headquarters is the Texas Army National Guard's 176th Engineer Brigade, deployed as Task Force Hammer.
Both engineer organizations work alongside Task Force Currahee, which is responsible for Paktika province and is built around the division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.
Army Lt. Col. Kevin Dial, commander of the 1249th Engineers, told the crowd the orphanage opening was an accomplishment for the governor of Paktika, the village's residents and the entire Sharana district.
"Their hard work and commitment to improving the future for local children is inspiring," Dial said. "Thank you for allowing us to be partners in this facility and a small part of your success."

Army Lt. Col. Jim Cline, 176th Engineer Brigade's officer responsible for design, surveying and civil-military operations, also addressed the audience. He said the orphanage represents a landmark commitment from the Afghan government to the people of Paktika.
"The children who live and learn here, in a safe environment, will look forward to a secure future for them and Afghanistan," Cline said. "It is our hope and prayer that the children served by this orphanage will grow to be leaders of the future."

After the ceremony, Cline told American Forces Press Service that since his brigade arrived in September, the orphanage has progressed from foundation to completion.
Projects that include an education component, such as the orphanage, are in line with the U.S. and NATO "long-game" strategy for Afghanistan, Cline said. That strategy, he explained, involves solving illiteracy and breaking the country's cycle of poverty.
A local contractor did the orphanage construction work, Cline said, and the $380,000 project serves as an example of the sustainable projects U.S. forces seek to emphasize here. It's a basic, wood-heated structure that includes a kitchen, electrical power and plumbing.
"You try to match the construction to what people are used to," Cline said. "The technology has to be sustainable by the people who build it." Funding for CERP projects is scaling back, he added, but a number of other short-term, quick-benefit, low-cost efforts are under way.
Army Capt. Bryan Babcock, civil affairs team chief for Task Force Gridley, said the orphanage's size made it a focal point for the engineers' efforts in Paktika.
"We kind of run the whole spectrum, but most of our [projects] tend to be a little smaller -- things that can get done in 45 days or less," Babcock said. The task force tries to hire all local labor for projects, he added, which keeps costs down and provides economic benefits in the communities.
A vocational small-business-management and agricultural college is one ongoing project the task force supports to build a sustainable economic base in the province, Babcock noted.
"A lot of these business graduates are going to get first crack at a whole series of smaller projects," he said. "These are projects that are very small in scope, typically very simple –- a small dam, 10 meters across. It's a great way for someone to polish their technique."
Cline summed up the significance of the orphanage opening in the overall push for progress in Paktika.
"It had all the elements: local buy-in, support of the political leadership, sustained by multiple [U.S. military] units coming through. ... It's what right looks like," he said.
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force 

Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. military representatives and local leaders attend the April 25, 2011, opening ceremony for a new orphanage and school in Sharan, the capital of Afghanistan's Paktika province. DOD photo by Karen Parrish
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageGov. Mohibullah Samim delivers the keynote speech during the April 25, 2011, opening ceremony for a new orphanage and school in Sharan, the capital of Afghanistan's Paktika province. DOD photo by Karen Parrish
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageTwo Afghan boys attend the April 25, 2011, opening ceremony for the orphanage where they will live and go to school in Sharan, the capital of Afghanistan's Paktika province. DOD photo by Karen Parrish
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Afghan boy holds a backpack presented to him by U.S. Army representatives during the April 25, 2011, opening ceremony for the orphanage where he will live and go to school in Sharan, the capital of Afghanistan's Paktika province. DOD photo by Karen Parrish
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Capt. Bryan Babcock speaks to staff members of the new Sharan orphanage in Afghanistan's Paktika province, April 25, 20112. The orphanage is a Commander's Emergency Relief Program project managed by U.S. Army National Guard engineer units deployed to Paktika. DOD photo by Karen Parrish
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Face of Defense: Warrant Officer Rises to Top

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. Carl
Task Force Thunder
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 25, 2011 – Tony Soto’s promotion to chief warrant officer 5 wasn’t like many other promotions.
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Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Tony Soto beams with pride during his promotion ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 1, 2011. U.S. Army photo  
Sure, there was celebratory cake, and his family was there -– albeit via video teleconference from Fort Campbell, Ky., -– but the spirit of this Army promotion was different.
“Everyone makes [chief warrant officer 2],” said Joe Roberts, a fellow chief warrant officer 5 and the command chief warrant officer for the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Thunder. “But there are only about 350 CW5s in the Army.”
Chief warrant officer 5 is the pinnacle of a warrant officer’s career, and very few ever attain that rank. It takes dedication and drive to reach that point. It also takes diversity.
“My success has had a lot to do with having the opportunities to take the right jobs at the right times,” Soto explained. “I’ve been multi-tracked –- working both safety and standardization -– which has also helped me to reach this point.”
Soto began his career in the Army much like most warrant officers –- as an enlisted soldier. He started out as an infantryman and served for eight and a half years, attaining the rank of staff sergeant while at flight school, after assignments in Colorado and Germany.
“I thought it was going to be a quick four years,” he said.
Soto said he joined the Army looking for some direction after completing an associate’s degree. He also was looking for additional funding for school.
“I didn’t come from a well-to-do family,” explained Soto, who hails from the Bronx, N.Y. “Everything we ever had fallen on the shoulders of my mom and dad.”
Almost 30 years later, Soto is setting the example for others to follow.
“Tony has had to stand out way above his peers,” Roberts said. “He has done everything the Army asked of him and more.”
Early in his career as an aviator, Soto used his proficiency as a Spanish speaker to serve in South America working for the State Department. “That assignment really helped me see the big picture of aviation,” he said.
While he was there, Soto helped to standardize the maintenance and training cycles for the UH-1 Huey and MI-17 helicopters being used in theater, as well as C-27 fixed-wing aircraft. Today, he fills a similar role here within Task Force Thunder.
“He gets the point across in a professional way that lets the rest of the brigade know what’s expected of them,” Roberts said.
As the brigade standardization officer, Soto is responsible for ensuring consistency in aircraft procedures throughout the brigade. He said he volunteered for the assignment, and he couldn’t be more proud to be part of the task force. As a chief warrant officer 5, Soto said he has the opportunity to influence change.
“It’s about improving systems and making air crews safer,” he said. “Whatever you do, you should do it with a lot of passion and put safety first. It’s easy to identify a problem, but to come up with a solution, that’s what sets you apart.”
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force

Monday, April 25, 2011

Laughs with a group of girls

U.S. Army Capt. Courtney Sanders, right, with the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, laughs with a group of girls in front of the Dikhil High School in Dikhil, Djibouti, April 19, 2011. The Battalion was working on renovating the school. The project, which began April 16, is scheduled to refurbish six classrooms, the school’s roof and an office. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Dawn Price, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mullen Says U.S. Must Get Iraq Transition Right

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, April 22, 2011 - The U.S. military needs to get it right as it transitions out of Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told soldiers in Baghdad today.
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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses service members assigned to U.S. Division Center at Camp Liberty, Iraq, April 22, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy 
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke to soldiers and airmen assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade at U.S. Division Center headquarters here.
About 47,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, mostly in an "advise and assist" role. With all American troops due to leave by the end of the year, Mullen called on the service members to make sure "we get everything right in this transition."
What they do will give Iraq a chance to have a better future with a military that is under civilian control, and have a force that is "responsive, capable, able to take care of their own people, their own borders and their own security," the chairman said.
The change in Iraq presaged the sea change in the Middle East, Mullen said, and that "adds that much more criticality toward getting it right in Iraq." The Iraqi government and people now have the main job in establishing a peaceful, stable government, but U.S. troops have a support role to play, he added.
Nations around the region are trying to figure out how to put in place all that is necessary to have a democracy, in an area with little or no democratic tradition, the admiral noted. "And Iraq is at the heart of that," he said. "I'm delighted that most of the challenges here now are political," and not military.
The world is unpredictable, the chairman said, noting that strangely, that will be a constant for the future. For example, he said, he had no idea in January that Japan and Libya would be the countries he would be most concerned about in March.
The tempo of deployments will drop, and troops will soon be home twice as long as they are deployed, he said. But given the unpredictability in the world, no one can afford not to be ready to respond at a moment's notice. "We're going to continue to deploy," he said. "We don't necessarily know where."
The United States is looking for a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq, Mullen said. "The details of what that means -- whether there will be trainers here, or what the numbers will be, if any at all – are yet to be worked out," he added.
With the reduction in tempo, soldiers will have more time in garrison, and that will mean a new set of challenges, the admiral said, noting that much of the Army has not spent significant amounts of time at home stations.
"Sergeants first class and below have just been deploying to the fight. Majors and below are just deploying to the fight," he said. "They have no idea what it's like to be in garrison."
Senior officers and noncommissioned officers know what it's like to be in garrison, the admiral said, and they now have the extra responsibility to instruct other service members on what being in garrison is all about, such as how training is accomplished and what the rules of discipline are.
In this era of budgetary constraint, getting the "people" portion of the budget right is most crucial to the long-term health of the force, Mullen said. After almost 10 years of war, he noted, this is the most combat-experienced force in America's history, and it's important for the military to retain that seasoned force.
"If we don't do that, it will be difficult, no matter what our budget is or the stuff we're buying," he said.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels With Mullen 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review to Consider Consequences of Budget Cuts

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2011 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the comprehensive defense review he plans to launch soon will ensure any further defense budget cuts are based on a well-thought-out analysis of the consequences of decisions made.
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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright hold a joint press conference at the Pentagon, April 21, 2011. DOD photo by R.D. Ward
"The worst of all possible worlds, in my view, is to give the entire Department of Defense a haircut that basically says 'Everybody is going to cut 'x' percent,'" Gates told reporters today during a Pentagon news briefing. "That is the way we got the 'hollow' military in the 1970s and the 1990s."
Gates said he does not know exactly how much of the additional $400 billion that President Barack Obama seeks to cut from national security program budgets between now and 2023 will come from DOD. The secretary said he's gratified that Obama has agreed to wait for the findings of a comprehensive DOD review before making specific budgetary decisions.
"I want to frame this so that options and consequences and risks are taken into account as budget decisions are made, first by the president, and then by the Congress," Gates said. "What I hope to do is frame this in a way that says, 'If you want to cut this number of dollars, here are the consequences for force structure. Here are your choices in terms of capabilities that will be reduced or investments that are not made. And here are the consequences of this.'"
The budget review "needs to be a process that is driven by the analysis," the secretary said, "and where it is about risk management with respect to future national security threats and challenges as well as missions that our elected officials decide we should not have to perform or can't perform any more because we don't have the resources."
Gates said he has had just one meeting to begin thinking about ways to conduct the review, and has not yet decided on an approach. One suggested approach, he said, would begin with the Quadrennial Defense Review and to consider the implications of scaling back or eliminating specific missions.
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the review will involve important strategic considerations about quantities and capabilities.
Cartwright said the review could challenge some long-held assumptions, such as the department's ability to fight two major theater conflicts simultaneously.
Some people believe that funding the Defense Department at the rate of inflation for the next 12 years could identify much of the cost savings that Obama seeks, Gates said. However, he noted, that approach wouldn't account for costs for health-care, fuel and critical big-ticket investments.
"We have some investments we have to make," the secretary said. "We have to buy the new [Air Force refueling] tanker. We have to replace some of the surface ships ...built during the Reagan years that will age out over that 12-year period...All elements of the [nuclear] Triad need to be modernized" -- bomber aircraft, land-based missiles and ballistic-missile submarines.
"You may have to make some choices there," Gates said. "I want to frame this so it is not a math exercise, but so people understand the strategic and national security consequences of the decisions that they are making."
Robert M. Gates
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Engineer Prepares Airmen for Afghanistan

By Megan Just 
452nd Air Mobility Wing
MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif., April 19, 2011 - As 22 combat engineers from the 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron prepared to deploy throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan recently, one airman stepped up to ensure they were ready for the job at hand.
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Engineers assigned to the 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., and the 934th Civil Engineer Squadron at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn., train at Fort McCoy, Wis., for a deployment to Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hickey 
Knowing his experience on a similar deployment would be an asset, Air Force Capt. David Simons Jr., the squadron's chief of operations, volunteered to serve on active-duty orders to ensure the logistics of the squadron's deployment preparation ran smoothly.
Embedded with Army units at six locations, the deployed engineers have an opportunity to directly affect troops' living conditions and improve the quality of life for Afghans in nearby villages, the captain said.
"I've been very impressed and proud of these airmen and their determination," said Simons, who returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in the fall. "I can see it in their eyes. They want to go over there and make a difference.
"Because of what we do and our skill sets, we can affect people's lives in ways that go on and on for generations," he added.
As the father of three young girls, Simons said, he felt most connected with the youngest generation of Afghans, the children he would see playing in the streets as his convoy drove through villages. He said it was heartbreaking to know the children's only source of water was from ditches, rivers and shallow wells that were contaminated with high counts of cholera bacteria from fecal matter and urine, and frequently tainted with improperly disposed engine oil.
When Simons and his team would drill wells for the forward operating bases, they sometimes were able to divert a portion of the clean water to local villages. Some of the airmen who are now deployed will have the opportunity to build wells like these directly inside the Afghan villages, he said.
"Thirty years from now, it will be my children's responsibility to work with these children on a global scale," the captain said. "We have the opportunity to make the children's lives better. This will help them grow up healthy and educated, making it easier for the next generation of Americans."
During his deployment, Simons and his team built seven new forward operating bases and combat outposts and helped to bring up to standard the infrastructure of countless outposts by installing wells, plumbing, electricity, roads and bridges.
Many forward operating bases, he said, were built using expedient methods, usually converting old Russian bases, he said. "They weren't done with thoughts of waste, sanitary sewer issues and water," he explained.
The 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron combat engineers who are now deployed are responsible for similar projects in some of the same remote, and often hostile, regions of Afghanistan.
"It's always a high ops tempo," Simons said. "You always have to be thinking four or five steps ahead, especially when it comes to what the enemy is doing and how are you going to stay safe. Then, you're still expected to go out and do your job, which, along with holding a weapon and walking around a city, includes doing such things as plumbing, electrical, [heating, ventilation and air conditioning], and surveying."
Simons estimated that he spent 75 percent of his deployment outside the wire, and his team frequently encountered small-arms fire, improvised explosive devices, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Sometimes, he said, when there wasn't enough daylight to return to a forward operating base after a day's work, the team would set up watches and sleep under the stars.
"We're taking ordinary airmen ... and putting them in extraordinary situations, expecting them to fight and still do their job," he said about the engineers who are now deployed. "They're going to excel at this."
Simons helped the engineers before their deployment by showing them photos and videos of his deployment and talking with them about what to expect.
"Almost all of them had never deployed before, and many of them were apprehensive," he said. "Once they knew more about what to expect, they were excited to be able to help the fight."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hickey of the 934th Airlift Wing contributed to this story)

'Military Kid of Year' Has Leadership Qualities

By Terri Moon Cronk 
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON: For a 10-year-old boy, Tristan Fissette has fortitude to spare.

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Tristan Fissette, 10, demonstrates his black-belt karate form for the audience at the Our Military Kids of the Year awards ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., April 14, 2011. Tristan, whose father serves in the Navy Reserve, was one of four children honored by Our Military Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides artistic, athletic and educational grants to children of deployed National Guardsmen and military reservists. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Gordon 
The son of Chief Petty Officer Patrick Fissette, a Navy reservist, the fourth-grader is working on his second-degree black belt in karate and has no shortage of other activities that keep him busy, especially when his dad is deployed. Despite the demands of his karate training, he finds time to help feed the hungry and to mentor new students in karate and in school.
Tristan's leadership qualities led a panel from the nonprofit "Our Military Kids" organization to choose him as one of four Military Kids of the Year.
Tristan and the other winners -- Keegan Neverett, 16, of Leesburg, Fla.; Chris-Shanti Jackson, 15, of Jackson, Miss.; and Katherine Bensburg, 14, of Mahopac, N.Y. -- won year-long grants to pursue their interests. In Tristan's case, it will pay for his karate training and boot camp.
The organization also named the family of Air Force Senior Master Sgt. William Liston, an Air National Guardsman from West River, Md., as its Family of the Year.
Tristan is the youngest of the four individual award winners.
"I thought it was pretty exciting," he said at yesterday's award ceremony. "We were able to come to Washington, D.C., and I've never been here or able to get an award." His face lit up as he talked about today's special White House and Pentagon tours.
Our Military Kids is a public-private partnership that awards grants to children of deployed National Guardsmen, reservists and certain disabled veterans.
Unlike children from active-duty families, they don't live on or near a base, surrounded by solid support systems and activities. Rather, said Greg O'Brien of Our Military Kids, these children often are isolated in their communities, where people may not understand what military children go through when a parent is deployed.
"My husband is deployed more often than not, it seems," said Tristan's mom, Kimberly Fissette. To fill the time when he was deployed, she added, the family turned to community service near their home in Elk Grove Village, Ill.
"We hand out food at a mobile food bank," she said. The family also volunteers for "Feed My Starving Children" by sending nutrient-rich foods to children in other countries.
Community service is one of Tristan's passions, his mother said. When his father was in Kuwait during one of his four deployments, Tristan was 7. It was then the youngster enrolled in karate to stay busy while his dad was away. Before long, he was hooked on the ancient martial art.
"He's one of the youngest in his karate school to receive a black belt," Kimberly said. "With his dad gone, he just pursued it above and beyond. Most people don't get their black belts for three or four years, and Tristan did it in two and a half."
Tristan quickly moved into upper-level training. Now he trains several days a week.
"You get to do funner things like a sword-sparring class, one of my favorites," Tristan said, quickly explaining the "swords" are made of foam.
His activities don't stop there.
Whether at karate or school, Tristan mentors all the new kids, especially if they're struggling.
"At karate," Tristan said, "I kinda tell them how to bow and do other karate things. And sometimes if they're having trouble, I'll help them."
He mentors on his own, his mom says. No one asked him to help.
Tristan admits he's a pretty good student and good with new kids. "I'll talk to them, and sometimes in math, if they're having trouble with a problem, I'll maybe help them out with it," he said.
Tristan's 11-year-old sister, Kailey, like many other children at the awards ceremony, won a six-month grant to pursue her interest in hip-hop dancing.
O'Brien said the four Military Kids of the Year were chosen from 150 who applied. Since 2004, he said, the grants have grown and so has the program's popularity. The organization's Facebook page has nearly 5,500 members.
"'Our Military Kids'" has provided 28,000 grants totaling $11 million since 2004, O'Brien said. This year's four Kids of the Year received grants of up to $500 per six months, and might qualify for six more months if the parent is deployed. (Issued on April 15, 2011) 
Related Sites:
Our Military Kids 
Related Articles:
Organization Honors Service Members' Children 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gates: America Must Balance Idealism, Realism

By Jim Garamone 
American Forces Press Service
MOUNT VERNON, Va., April 14, 2011 - Since the beginning of the republic, the United States has had to balance its idealistic impulses with realism, and that remains true today, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates speaks at the groundbreaking for the National Library for the Study of George Washington on the grounds of the Mount Vernon Estate, Va., April 14, 2011. DOD photo by R.D. Ward 
Gates was the keynote speaker at the groundbreaking for the National Library for the Study of George Washington on the grounds of the Mount Vernon Estate.
Washington faced some of the same questions over the rise of revolutionary France that President Barack Obama faces with the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, Gates said. Washington became America's first president in 1789, and he was confronted with the consequences of the French Revolution.
"The issue was whether to support the revolutionary government and its war against an alliance of European monarchies led by Great Britain," Gates said. "To many, like Thomas Jefferson, the French Revolution, with its stated ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, seemed a natural successor to our own."
But many disagreed, including Vice President John Adams. "They were appalled by the revolution's excesses and feared the spread of violent French radicalism to our shores," the secretary said.
Washington had to resolve the matter. "My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom," he wrote. But the upheaval in Europe had begun to disrupt the U.S. economy, and he understood the fragility of America's position at the time. He "adopted a neutrality policy toward France and would go on to make a peace treaty with Great Britain – sparking massive protests and accusations of selling out the spirit of 1776," Gates said.
"Washington was confronting a question, a dilemma, that has been persistent throughout our history: how should we incorporate America's democratic ideals and aspirations into our relations with the rest of the world?" the secretary said. "What Washington's experience shows is that, from our earliest days, America's leaders have struggled with 'realistic' versus 'idealistic' approaches to the international challenges facing us."
The most successful American leaders steadfastly encouraged the spread of liberty, democracy, and human rights, Gates said. "At the same time, however, they have fashioned policies blending different approaches with different emphasis in different places and at different times," he added.
The United States has made human rights the centerpiece of its national strategy, even as it was doing business with some of the worst violators of human rights, the secretary noted. "We have worked with authoritarian governments to advance our own security interests, even while urging them to reform," he said.
The world is witnessing an extraordinary story in the Middle East and North Africa, the secretary said.
"People across the region have come together to demand change, and in many cases, a more democratic, responsive government," he said. "Yet many of the regimes affected have been longstanding, close allies of ours, ones we continue to work with as critical partners in the face of common security challenges like al-Qaida and Iran, even as we urge them to reform and respond to the needs of their people."
A theme of American history is that the United States is compelled to defend its security and interests in ways that spread democratic values and institutions, Gates said.
"When we discuss openly our desire for democratic values to take hold across the globe, we are describing a world that may be many years or decades off," the secretary said. "Though achievement of the ideal may be limited by time, space, resources or human nature, we must not allow ourselves to discard or disparage the ideal itself."
America must speak about its values and ideals, Gates said.
"And when we look at the challenges facing contemporary fledgling democracies, or societies and governments facing pressures for change," he added, "we would do well to be modestly mindful of the turbulence of our own early history and to remember our own long journey from a political system of, by, and for property-owning white men to an inclusive nation with an African-American president."
Robert M. Gates 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Special Press Meet for Human Rights Report

On 7-9 October 1991 at first International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held in Paris when the United Nations Human Rights Commission as Resolution 1992/54 of 1992 and Resolution 48/134 of 1993 adopted the Paris Principle. It was a historic moment and a new definition of civilization was reintroduced in the human conscience. Following the path of Paris Principle, The Protection of Human Rights Act was drafted at 1993 by which Nation Human Rights Commission, West Bengal Human Rights Commission and as well as various other Human Rights Institutions were established in India where the duties and functions of the commissions are enumerated. 
To monitor the performances of the HRIs of the countries, a new mechanism was developed at the UN. (ICC). In South Asia, ANNI(Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions) was formed. To follow this process, AiNNI (All India Network of NGOs & Individuals working with National and State Human Rights Institutions) was also formed, wherein MASUM is an active member. 
This is the demand of the hour that the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, West Bengal Women Commission, West Bengal Minority Commission and other Human Rights Institutions of this state work more actively and significantly in the field of protection of human rights. But it seems that they often failed to show such responsibilities. 
We believe the Fourth Estate, the Press and Media, has strong role in forming public opinion in a positive way and they are morally bound to advocate and highlight the social causes. 
A special report on Human Rights situation to be release at a press meet on 18th April, 2011 Monday at Kolkata Press Club at 3 - 4 pm. This Press meet has been announced for the release of the background paper and more information, data and evidence of non-fulfilling the duties of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission and other Human Rights Institutions in India and in particular, in West Bengal. 
Honourable Justice Malay Sengupta, ex Judge of Kolkata High Court, Ex Acting Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court and present Chairman of OBC Commission of West Bengal will preside over the session. Veteran writer and social activist, Ms. Mahasweta Devi will be present there as Chief Guest. Many other academics, social activists, organisations will share their experiences. 
Kirity Roy
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place, Shibtala,Srirampur
Hooghly PIN- 712203

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Soldier Integrates Afghan Operations

By Army Spc. Adam L. Mathis
17th Public Affairs Detachment
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 14, 2011 - The screen at the head of the two tables in the operational coordination center here displayed statistics about coalition and insurgent activities in the area. Members of the Afghan security forces listened as one of their countrymen briefed the data.
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Army Lt. Col. Larry Daley listens during a conference with members of the Afghan national security forces April 5, 2011, at the operational coordination center in Afghanistan's Wardak province. Daley coordinates the efforts of Afghan forces in the province. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Adam L. Mathis 
Seated quietly at the table, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Larry Daley listened to his interpreter translate the fruits of his team's labors.
Daley says his job as senior U.S. advisor for the operational coordination center here is the future of the coalition presence in Afghanistan. The Preston, Minn., native, who is attached to the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, has worked since November to foster better cooperation among the Afghan security forces components in Wardak province and to improve their ability to handle security.
Daley's position in Wardak came about by order of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who established the a system of operational coordination centers in Afghanistan's provinces. Originally, the centers coordinated efforts related to elections and natural disasters, but they worked too well to stay within such narrow parameters, Daley said.
"It has evolved into a way that all of the entities of the Afghan national security forces can be integrated for operations and have a unity of effort in securing the population," said Army Lt. Col. Michael Kelley of Newnan, Ga., the coalition's regional operational coordination center commander for southern Afghanistan and senior advisor.
The coalition presence in the centers is in an advisory capacity, Kelley said, helping the Afghan security forces work together and share information, he said.
Brig. Gen. Muhammad Daood, an Afghan army officer who serves as regional operational coordination center commander for the south, said he is encouraged by the growth of cooperation among Afghan forces in his area. "I hope one day we'll be able to provide security in the whole province," he said through an interpreter.
To get there means a lot of drinking for Daley. "A lot of late-night chai sessions is how you get it done," he said.
Chai, or tea, is a means of overcoming a problem that sometimes shows up in organizations: a lack of communication. The various branches of Afghan forces have not been sharing the data they collect in Wardak, Daley said, noting that that the U.S. military was no different before the 1980s. Before congressional action forced jointness on the services, he explained, each U.S. service had its own set of data and did not necessarily share it with the others.
Daley said drinking tea, a ubiquitous custom in Afghanistan, helps him to develop personal relationships. By establishing friendships and respect among the representatives of the Afghan security forces branches, he added, he is able to improve cooperation.
"Maybe the organizations don't really care for each other a whole lot, but if, as individuals, we can get along, we can make things work," Daley said. "It's something you've got to work at every day. If you're not working at it every day, you're probably going backwards."
Daley recently began teaching Afghan personnel how to analyze data and ask what is causing those statistics. The result, he said, was a desire on the part of some Afghans to learn more.
"We're getting there," he said. "It's just taking time to make them sit down and think through very complex problems."
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force 

Blogger Interviews First Lady, Dr. Biden

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 - Yesterday, I attended a briefing at the White House in which the nation's top leaders announced a national campaign that aims to bring together every sector of this nation -– from individuals and communities to businesses and nonprofits -– to support and honor service members and their families.
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Elaine Sanchez, American Forces Press Service reporter and Family Matters blogger, interviews First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden at the White House, April 6, 2011. DOD photo by Linda Hosek.
Speaking to a packed crowd of government officials, troops and their families, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden each expressed their enduring admiration and gratitude for military families and their excitement at launching the "Joining Forces" campaign.
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with the first lady and Dr. Biden in an interview at the White House to discuss this initiative and what sparked them to create it. I've been an admirer of their family-support efforts for some time, and was excited that I had the chance to sit down with them one on one at such a pivotal time.
Seated side by side, they told me they created this campaign to raise awareness of military families and the level of sacrifice they make, and to ensure they're offered the support and care they deserve.
Many Americans are unaware of the challenges military families face daily, they said. This is compounded by the fact that military families, accustomed to exhibiting strength and resilience, often won't ask for support.
Obama and Biden would like to create a nation that offers that support in abundance so families never again have to request it.
"I hope we never ever have again a military family who says, ... 'I just don't think Americans appreciate what we do,'" Biden said. "I want them to know and feel they're appreciated."
Through the campaign, Obama and Biden will call on every sector of society to take action to ensure troops and their families have the support they need and deserve. They already have numerous commitments, they said, ranging from the corporate world to the entertainment industry to government agencies.
"This campaign is about renewing those bonds and those connections between those who serve and the rest of those who live free because of their service," the first lady said.
Today, Obama and Biden embarked on a two-day tour of the nation to spotlight America's efforts to support military families and to provide examples for others to follow. At each stop they'll ask Americans: "How can I give back to these families who are giving me so much?"
I'll be traveling to Columbus, Ohio, tomorrow to attend one of their family-support events. Check back here for my coverage of that event.
In the meantime, for more on my interview with Obama and Biden, read my American Forces Press Service article, "First Lady, Dr. Biden to Shine Light on Military Families." For more on yesterday's announcement, see "White House Urges All Americans to 'Do Something'" and "Military Family Support a 'National Priority,' Obama says." To find out more about the campaign, visit the Joining Forces website.
For more on Family Matters, visit the blog, or check out Family Matters on Facebook or Twitter.

Click photo for screen-resolution imageElaine Sanchez, American Forces Press Service reporter and Family Matters blogger, poses with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden after their interview at the White House, April 6, 2011. DOD photo by Linda Hosek
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