Monday, April 11, 2011

Deal Averts Shutdown,

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 9, 2011 - Government agencies are continuing normal operations after the administration, the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to a fiscal 2011 budget.
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Speaking at the White House at 11:04 p.m. EDT, April 8, 2011, President Barack Obama announces reaching a budget agreement that averts a government shutdown. DOD screen grab
The continuing resolution expired last night at midnight, but the Senate and House passed a short-term funding bill that will allow both houses to finalize the full-year spending bill. Officials expect that bill to be passed and signed by mid-week.
"This agreement between Democrats and Republicans on behalf of all Americans is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history," President Barack Obama said last night from the White House. "Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that."
There will be no interruption in operations for the Defense Department, DOD officials said last night. Service members and civilian employees will receive their pays as normal, and no operations will be curtailed or eliminated.
"This is good news for the American people," Obama said during an address from the White House last night. "It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform."
The agreement calls for $38.5 billion in cuts from the government budget. This is $79 billion less than what the president proposed originally in February 2010.
"Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful," the president said. "Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs – investments in our kids' education and student loans, in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future."
Obama thanked House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for their leadership in the process. "It's my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit," Obama said. "That's what the American people expect us to do. That's why they send us here."
Had the government shut down, officials expected around 400,000 DOD employees to be furloughed and problems with pay and other fiscal obligations. The president announced the deal less than an hour before the continuing resolution would have run out and operations would have ceased. The last government shutdown occurred in 1996.
Related Sites:
OMB Guidance: Anticipated Enactment ofa Continuing Resolution
Transcript: Remarks by the President on the Budget

Related Articles:
Budget Deal Avoids Government Shutdown 

Army Brigade Commander Visits Wounded Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 - The conversation flowed easily this morning as
Army Col. Sean M. Jenkins sat with several 101st Airborne Division soldiers, talking about everything from operations heating up in Afghanistan's Paktika province to the impact of a possible government shutdown on his deployed troops and their families back at Fort Campbell, Ky.
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Army Col. Sean M. Jenkins, commander of the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, visits with Army Sgt. Anthony Verra, a member of the 4th BCT's sister 2nd "Strike" BCT who lost both legs to an improvised explosive device, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center during Jenkins' rest and recuperation leave. DOD photo by Donna Miles 
The setting wasn't Forward Operating Base Sharana, Jenkins' 4th Brigade Combat Team and Task Force Currahee headquarters, or one of its combat outposts dotting the easternmost sector of Regional Command East in Afghanistan.
It was in a cafeteria here at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where Jenkins, traveling home for his mid-tour rest-and-recovery leave, paid a visit to check on his wounded troops.
They gathered around the table, one in a wheelchair, one with a cane, another rubbing his steel-plated leg that always aches when the barometer drops, eager for news about the units and comrades they left behind.
The 101st "Screaming Eagles" have suffered heavy losses during their deployment as part of the surge force in Afghanistan. The 4th Brigade Combat Team alone has lost 15 soldiers since it deployed last summer, with scores more wounded and more than 40 medevacced out for advanced medical care.
So when Jenkins left Afghanistan for the first time in seven months for his mid-tour leave -- before seeing his wife Karin, his bubbly, blonde 3-year-old daughter, or his beloved golden retriever and black Labrador dogs at Fort Campbell -- he spent several days with his wounded warriors at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; and Walter Reed.
"I came to say thanks," Jenkins said, "and to talk with them about what is going on forward and how their teammates are doing."
The chit-chat today in Walter Reed's cafeteria, hallways and the Military Advanced Training Center where soldiers receive intensive physical therapy treatments bounced from one topic to another. They praised a heroic private first class from the unit who was undaunted as his unit faced the enemy, discussed the merits of the leadership novel, "Once an Eagle," talked about improvements in military housing and heard news of the new 120 mm precision-guided mortar munitions round the brigade just received in Afghanistan.
But beyond the casual and sometimes not-so-casual conversation, Jenkins worked to gauge how his soldiers are faring as they recover from lost limbs, shattered bones and other devastating injuries.
"I try to open up a stream of conversation with them about how they are doing, how they are being treated, how their medical care is going and what their concerns are," he said.
Throughout his conversations, he pulled out a pocket-size notebook to jot down names, email addresses and messages to pass on or requests to follow up on.
"These guys deserve everything we can do for them, and nothing less," Jenkins said. "They need to understand that we are here for them, whatever it is they need."
Once of the most welcomed things Jenkins delivers to the troops -- whether his own or members of another 101st Airborne Division element -- is reassurance that they haven't been forgotten.
"They are still part of the team," he said. "And that is part of the message. I tell them, 'Just because you are back here, attached or assigned to one of the hospitals for a period of time, you are still part of the unit.' It is important they understand that linkage is not broken."
Many of the wounded warriors call that some of the best medicine they could get.
"It's very important to me. It's part of your mental fitness," said Army 1st Lt. Aaron Palmer, a 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment soldier whose femur was broken in three places and his iliac artery destroyed during an enemy attack in October.
"I can't tell you how close we are overseas," Palmer said. "Your unit becomes like your family, and it's really great when that family keeps in touch with you....Every time I see that [Screaming Eagle] patch, I know it's a brother."
"It helps me a lot," agreed Army Sgt. Anthony Verra of the 4th BCT's sister 2nd "Strike" BCT who lost both legs to an improvised explosive device in September. "Visits like this are really motivational."
Army Pfc. Corey Kent, another "Strike" soldier, said he's been "blown away" by the outpouring he's received from his fellow Screaming Eagles since arriving at Walter Reed in mid-July, just three weeks into his deployment.
Kent was on a patrol near Kandahar, called in to provide security for another unit that had been hit by an IED. He suffered the same fate, losing two legs, one above the knee and one at the hip, as well as all the fingers on his left hand.
Today, he told Jenkins he had hoped to make the military a career and still plans to explore options the Army may open to him. "I'd feel like I was giving up if I just leave," Kent said.
Jenkins said he encourages his soldiers not to let their wounds prevent them from striving for their dreams.
"There are no closed doors," he tells them. "Only you close the door if you physically want to close the door."
Related Sites:
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
101st Airborne Division 4th Brigade Combat Team 

Related Articles:
Security Improves in Afghanistan's Paktika Province 

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Staff Sgt. Charles Allen, a member of the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, his mother, Denise Allen, right, and family friend Donna Porras chat with Army Col. Sean M. Jenkins, the 4th BCT commander, as he visits wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. DOD photo by Donna Miles 

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Pfc. Corey Kent, a 101ST Airborne Division 2nd Brigade Combat Support Team soldier, said he's been "blown away" but the outpouring he's received from his fellow Screaming Eagles since arriving at Walter Reed in mid-July. DOD photo by Donna Miles 
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Taking a water break

U.S. Navy Steelworker 3rd Class Caleb Baker and Equipment Operator Constructionman Eric Hofmans, both assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74, Detail Horn of Africa, take a water break during a construction project at the Ecole 5 primary school in Djibouti March 31, 2011. NMCB-74 was deployed to support Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa in building partner nation capacity and promoting regional stability through construction engineering support. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lindsey, U.S. Navy/Released)

During a small arms weapons qualification course

U.S. Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Rayjuan Horton fires an M9 Beretta 9 mm pistol from behind cover as Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Michael Spruill observes for safety during a small arms weapons qualification course on board the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) under way in the Arabian Sea April 6, 2011. Boxer was assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, a multinational coalition conducting counterpiracy and maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Trevor Welsh, U.S. Navy/Released)