30 January 2010

U.S. air bases in Germany provide increasingly vital supply link to Afghanistan

A flock of C-17 Globemaster IIIs sits on the flight line at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Ramstein and Air Base will see an increase in heavy-lift operations starting in early February, due to the troop increases in Afghanistan. Photo: Michael Abrams / S&S.

It's been noticeable since last spring, but Ramstein and Spang are about to become even busier.

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Nighttime and early morning flights at Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases in Germany will noticeably increase over the next seven months as the military ferries additional troops and equipment to Afghanistan, U.S. Air Force officials said Friday.

The bases’ airfields are typically less busy at night, with quiet hours enforced except for emergency or mission-essential flights. But starting next week and continuing until August, more large aircraft will be taking off and landing seven days a week, including during the base’s normal ‘quiet hours’ between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Flights usually are limited on Sundays and German holidays.

The aircraft missions are tied to the 30,000-U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan announced by President Barack Obama in December, Air Force officials said. About half the additional airlift missions will go through Ramstein and Spangdahlem, said Aaron Schoenfeld, an 86th Airlift Wing spokesman at Ramstein.

On average, Ramstein will see an additional eight flights per night, and Spangdahlem four, Schoenfeld said. Those numbers include return flights from Afghanistan.

Nighttime arrivals and departures will be necessary during the surge period because "we’re trying to accommodate their ability to receive and launch aircraft in Afghanistan," Schoenfeld said. "Flights need to be spread out."

Ramstein and Spangdahlem will serve mostly as pit stops where aircraft can refuel and crews can rest, Schoenfeld said. The military’s heavy lifter, the C-17, is expected to carry the bulk of the cargo into theater.

The whole article is at Stars & Stripes.


Canadian Army Captain Blaise Lapointe walks between cones while attending his rehabilitation program at the Institut de Readaptation en Deficience Physique de Quebec (IRDPQ) in Quebec City January 13, 2010. Lapointe lost part of his leg after he stepped on a landmine while he was defusing a bomb under heavy fire in Afghanistan last year. REUTERS photo by Mathieu Belanger.

29 January 2010

Who's caring for our wounded veterans?

ABC news anchor Bob Woodruff and hs wife Lee talk about the issue of caretaking after his traumatic brain injury resulting from an IED explosion that injured him while he was reporting in Iraq in 2006.

That short interview only touches on the issues some military families face.

Now I urge you to watch the PBS documentary called "Who's Helping Our Wounded Vets?" , which tells the stories of three families who have literally sacrificed everything to care for their severely wounded family members.

Both houses of Congress have passed bills to provide assistance to caregivers. In July of 2009, the House passed H.R. 3155: Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act. And on November 19, 2009 the Senate passed S.1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009.

There are substantial differences between the two bills, and Senate and House veterans’ leaders now must come to agreement on caregiver-assistance legislation.

Some veterans advocacy groups maintain that only about 200 caregivers of OEF/OIF-era wounded warriors would get real help under the House caregiver bill, HR 3155 - far fewer than those who would get that help under the Senate bill. Others say the Senate bill is too expansive, also covering other issues not directly related to caregiver assistance.

I have gotten to the point where I have become ambivalent as to which bill is passed - as long as support is provided to the caregivers of our severely wounded warriors SOON.

The families in the documentary had the option of putting their loved ones into nursing homes which wound have been paid for, but where their condition would have undoubtedly deteriorated. Instead, they have taken it upon themselves to provide qualtiy care to their loved ones - our wounded warriors.

Following on the example of the sacrifices their warriors made for our country, these families are now making their own. It's time for us to step up and provide financial compensation for their work. These families have already given enough. Please contact your congressional representatives and urge passage of either bill.

The PBS documentary "Who's Helping Our Wounded Vets?" can be watched here.

A Doc's downtime

Maj. Gary Eberly from Burbank, Wash., and Brigade surgeon for the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division finds a few moments of peace by strumming his guitar on a sunny afternoon at Kandahar Air Field.

Mountain View

U.S. Army Spc. Kayla Moore covers her sector in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter while traveling from Forward Operating Base Lightning to Contingency Operating Base Ajiristan, Afghanistan Jan. 20, 2010. Moore is a Black Hawk Crew Chief assigned to the Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Laura Goodgame.

28 January 2010

Real Warrior profile: Air Force Major Iwona Blackledge

"But I don't want to forget. I never want to forget those patients that I took care of."

- Major Iwona Blackledge

As a nurse deployed numerous times in Africa and the Middle East, Air Force Maj. Blackledge saw many casualties and cared for wounded warriors and civilians alike. Her story sheds light on the important psychological health needs of warrior caregivers.

"A chance to help guys that help us out"

Another civilian surgeon heads to LRMC as part of the Society of Vascular Surgery volunteer program. "I look at it as a chance to help guys that help us out", said Dr. David L. Street of Medford, OR.

Dr. Street will be volunteering for two weeks at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, treating wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a news release from his clinic, Street said, "There's a time in your life when it's just time to give back, and I'm there. We live in a great country that has been very good to me. It will be an honor to give back. I have the ultimate respect for what the military does for our country. It's a selfless goal to guard our freedom."

27 January 2010

Fair Winds and Following Seas

Marine Sgt. David Smith
Bavo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion,
4th Marine Division.
Courtesy photo.

"I just keep thinking of all his dance moves and how funny he was and how close those three siblings were."

- Smith's cousin, Ann Rudd.

Sgt. David Smith, a 2002 graduate of Frederick High School in Maryland died Tuesday at Landstuhl hospital of injuries suffered in an attack on Saturday in Afghanistan. He donated his organs, a final selfless act that Rudd said he always proudly said he would do.

Two other service members were killed in the Saturday attack.

Lance Cpl. Jeremy Kane, a Marine in the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Company B, was a 22-year-old student at Rutgers University's Camden campus and a native of Cherry Hill, N.J.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Xin Qi, 25, was a Navy hospital corpsman from Cordova, Tenn., who was attached to Company B after they deployed in November.

Source: Frederick News Post

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these three Heroes, and with their brothers back in Afghanistan.

Gearing up for the Face of America Bicycle Ride!

From SA's U.S. Medical Support Team:


It’s getting to be that time again. Soldiers’ Angels has partnered with World T.E.A.M. (The Exceptional Athlele Matters) Sports in this wonderful event, which has able bodied riding alongside disabled bodied riders. This is a “ride” not a race. All ride together-finish together.

The ride takes place April 24 & 25, from Washington DC to Gettysburg PA. Covering 110 miles over 2 days, the route goes through scenic Maryland and ends in historic Gettysburg PA.

Plans are progessing wonderfully. Participants are registering on a daily basis and the ride is growing! I can not begin to tell you how exciting this event is--for both the participants and volunteers!! Exciting things are planned!

Soldiers' Angels has quite a few members participating in a number of areas. Some are riding, others are volunteering, MANY are making banners of support and encouragement that will be hung at the Kick-off Dinner, the rest stops and the End of Ride Celebration.

If you would like to have an experience you won't soon forget, register to participate--whether as a rider or volunteer. Amazing things happen when people come together and work together for the good of all.

Complete information at the World T.E.A.M. website.

26 January 2010

Nice coffee mug, Sir!

ISAF Headquarters - General Stanley McChrystal, rear table, second from right, attends a daily briefing known as the Commander's Update Assessment. It provides the latest info on operations throughout the country and involves several thousand officers, including Afghans at all levels of command. Photo: Lynsey Addario / VII Network.

Click on the photo to enlarge and you'll see he's using a Soldiers' Angels coffee mug. They're EVERYWHERE!

h/t Soldiers' Angels Facebook page.

The 4th Annual Blankets of Hope Marathon in Bowie, MD

"Welcome to the 4th Annual Blankets of Hope Marathon!!"

The annual "Marathon", created by Soldiers' Angels Lisa Dodson and Matt Dick, was held again this year at the Ascension Church Hall in Bowie, MD. On Saturday October 3, 2009, the community gathered for the fourth year in a row to make "Blankets of Hope" for wounded and ill service members medevaced from Iraq and Afghanistan to Landstuhl hospital in Germany. The blankets have been sent to the Soldiers' Angels chapter at Landstuhl for distribution to the patients.

This year was another record-breaking event - 200 volunteers made 333 fleece blankets for troops medevaced to Landstuhl hospital in Germany. Last year 180 volunteers made 242 blankets.

Putting the marathon together involves months of dedication and effort - planning, publicity, organization, and fundraising. Lisa and Matt would like to thank everyone in the community who donated time, fabric, and funding.

Bernadette Kovalasic of Aberdeen Proving Ground tells the volunteers about a young man who walked into her office recently to ask about the Blankets of Hope... and continued by telling her that he had received one of the blankets 6 months before. Lisa said there was not a dry eye in the house.

It would be impossible for Lisa and Matt to name everyone for their contributions, but they'd like to give a special shout out to Maureen and Alan Barber, the Potter family, Father Calis, Amanda King, Share & Care at Ascension church, Jim Hossick and the many generous donors. Matt and Lisa couldn't do this without you!

I recognized a lot of faces from last year including this couple, Brenda and Art McKinney of Ascension Church's Folk Group.

A Newbie gets a tip from a Pro.

Supporting our Wounded Warriors is a family affair.

Girl Scouts showed up...

...young people lent a hand...

...as did seniors...

...men as well as women...

...military bloggers, like our own Lisa-in-DC, who wrote about the BoH Marathon here.

My goodness... they're not even stopping to eat!!!

Kylie, Lisa and Matt's daughter.

Hey, no sleeping on the job! Isn't that a beautiful fleece panel?

The Pile.

Everybody wanted their photo taken in front of "The Pile" as it grew during the course of the day.

Lisa's daughter Amanda King and her grandpa Kyle Dodson.

Event organizers Lisa Dodson, Maureen Barber, and Valerie Potter. You ladies rock!

Did I mention that everybody wanted to get their picture taken in front of The Pile?

Mr. Lore and Matt Dick boxing up the blankets for shipment to Germany.

And here are a couple of the boxes in our storage room at Landstuhl - a little worse for wear, but the blankets are perfect!

Although everyone's still recovering, Lisa's already talking about next year. "It was such a wonderful event. If it grows next year we may have to set up tables outside on the grass!!"

This really is a wonderful event, and I just love seeing the photos each year. Thank you all! I know the patients here were proud to have fought for people like you.

25 January 2010

More clues to understanding brain trauma

A new study provides more clues to the science of brain trauma, from an article in this weekend's Stars & Stripes.

CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is a degenerative neurological condition which has been identified in athletes who sustained repeated blows to the head over time, such as boxers and football players. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, a bildup of a protein called "tau" occurs in the brain.

Some athletes with this condition have been known to suffer depression, memory loss, severe mood swings and dementia. Some were also prone to suicide.

For combat veterans, this can suggest a link between TBI and PTSD. It also points to the potential risk of vets with TBI developing CTE later in life.

Since 2000, about 160,000 servicemembers have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions, caused by powerful explosions.

Whether troops will suffer the same long-term damage as head-crunching football players or punch-drunk boxers is of paramount importance to the military, whose researchers in recent years have also wondered about links between concussions on the battlefield and PTSD. The military is currently funding some 50 studies looking into TBI, PTSD and other brain disorders.

Military researchers are developing databases and studies that will follow troops with mild traumatic brain injuries to see if they exhibit neurological problems as they age, said Kelly, the neurologist, who is working with the military as part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injuries. ...

When a bomb explodes, violent waves of air called overpressures can rupture hollow organs, such as the intestines and lungs, and bruise solid organs. The force also affects the brain’s structure and functioning, said Dr. Shawna Scully, an Army major and chief of neurology at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

“There is going to be a question now,” Scully said. “Are there links between repeated exposure to concussion in the combat environment that could be culminating in a risk to our servicemembers in the future?”

Omalu said combat veterans who suffer head trauma from their proximity to blasts will likely receive the same type of jolts — quick acceleration and deceleration forces of the brain slamming into the skull — as football players or boxers do. Neurologist Dr. Ann McKee, who has examined the brains of several former athletes as the director of neuropathology services for the New England Veterans Administration, thought likewise.

“Some of the injury is probably quite similar,” she said, “but I would have to examine individuals who have had blast injuries.”

All the doctors interviewed agreed that there is scant information about how blasts affect the brain, since it’s only recently that combat vets have been able to survive such blasts in large numbers, thanks to improvements in body armor and better first aid on the battlefield.

Also, blasts damage many parts of the body, and troops injured in them often arrive at hospitals with gashes from shrapnel, profuse blood loss, severed limbs, damaged lungs, burns and often more than one of the above. All these injuries can alter the brain’s ability to function, Scully said.

Much more research needs to be done, and currently the only way to diagnose CTE is through an autopsy. But these findings open up a whole new research front.

Changing lives with bionics

Twenty motors animate a cutting-edge bionic arm that mimics a flesh-and-blood limb with unprecedented accuracy. Users control it via nerve impulses. It even has sensors that register touch.

Fascinating feature article about bionics in this month's National Geographic.

"The robot arm!" several kids cry.

"You remember this, huh?" says Kitts, holding out her left arm. She turns her hand palm up. There is a soft whirring sound. If you weren't paying close attention, you'd miss it. She bends her elbow, accompanied by more whirring.

"Make it do something silly!" one girl says.

"Silly? Remember how I can shake your hand?" Kitts says, extending her arm and rotat­ing her wrist. A boy reaches out, hesitantly, to touch her fingers. What he brushes against is flesh-colored plastic, fingers curved slightly inward. Underneath are three motors, a metal frame, and a network of sophisticated electronics. The assembly is topped by a white plastic cup midway up Kitts's biceps, encircling a stump that is almost all that remains from the arm she lost in a car accident in 2006.

Almost all, but not quite. Within her brain, below the level of consciousness, lives an intact image of that arm, a phantom. When Kitts thinks about flexing her elbow, the phantom moves. Impulses racing down from her brain are picked up by electrode sensors in the white cup and converted into signals that turn motors, and the artificial elbow bends.

"I don't really think about it. I just move it," says the 40-year-old, who uses both this standard model and a more experimental arm with even more control. "After my accident I felt lost, and I didn't understand why God would do such a terrible thing to me. These days I'm just excited all the time, because they keep on improving the arm. One day I'll be able to feel things with it and clap my hands together in time to the songs my kids are singing."

Kitts is living proof that, even though the flesh and bone may be damaged or gone, the nerves and parts of the brain that once controlled it live on.

Scroll through the accompanying photo gallery and you'll see just how the bionic arm works. You'll also learn about exciting developments with bionic eyes, ears, and see Iraq veteran Lt. Col. Greg Gadson's motorized legs.

Hometown Hero

The small town of Westwood, New Jersey - right near my home town - came to a standstill last Thursday when thousands turned out to welcome home Marine Sgt. Christopher Hrbek, who was killed the week before in Afghanistan.

... [A] hearse bearing Hrbek’s flag-draped coffin rolled slowly past his high school and elementary school – and hundreds of students lining the sidewalk and holding small flags. ...

Some people clapped softly. Others dabbed their eyes with tissues. Many just placed their right hand over their heart and silently mouthed “thank you” to Hrbek’s wife, Jamie Lynn Wengerter, and other relatives riding in a convoy of SUVs and cars.

There were senior citizens and young men in camouflage National Guard uniforms. There were painters who laid down their brushes and hair stylists who set aside their scissors, joggers in bright jackets and business women in long wool coats. ...

With pipers striking up a rendition of the Marine Corps hymn at the town’s center, the procession passed under a giant American flag that hung between ladder trucks from the Emerson and Woodcliff Lake fire departments. Then, the marchers turned on to Westwood’s main business district, where fire fighters from dozens of neighboring towns and New York City stood shoulder-to-shoulder, each one holding an American flag. ...

Behind the fire fighters – some in rows three deep – stood thousands of ordinary people. On other streets, hundreds more waited.

I have no words, except to thank Sgt. Hrbek for his service and to tell him and the people of Bergen County how proud they make me. Semper Fi and rest in peace, Hero.

Article and photo gallery.

22 January 2010

Aboard the USNS Comfort

“My team has worked 17 hours today. The only thing they asked for was more patients.”

– LCDR Dan D’Aurora, director of CASREC onboard the USNS Comfort.

More here.

21 January 2010

Talks continue on possible Landstuhl hospital move

Following on from an evaluation process announced last summer:

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — U.S. military commanders met with German officials this week to discuss the possibility of moving Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to the site of an old Army depot east of Ramstein Air Base.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein, told local mayors on Wednesday that U.S. leaders would recommend moving the center to Weilerbach Army Depot, according to Sandra Archer, an Air Force spokeswoman.

The depot is now used only occasionally for military training, according to U.S. Army Europe spokesman Bruce Anderson.

USAREUR’s commander, Gen. Carter Ham, discussed the proposal on Thursday with Rheinland-Pfalz Minister President Kurt Beck and the German state’s Minister of the Interior Karl Peter Bruch.

In August 2008, hospital officials received congressional approval for a $400 million improvement project.

"They got money allocated to improve LRMC, but they are trying to determine whether a consolidated medical facility would be better [near] Ramstein," said Lt. Cmdr. Taylor Clark, U.S. European Command spokesman.

In an earlier interview, Army Col. Brian Lein, then the hospital commander, said any move would involve [...] support facilities.

"It’s not just the hospital we’re talking about," Lein said during a July 2009 interview with Stars and Stripes. "It’s the USO, the [medical transient detachment], the barracks and the Fisher houses. You can’t just move the hospital. You’d have to take everything from here and then move it to some place over on Ramstein."

Team Rubicon - Arrivals and Departures

Team Rubicon new addition, former Marine Scout Sniper and Purple Heart recipient, Clay Hunt. Two days ago Hunt awoke at 3 AM, checked Rubicon's blog, and three hours later hopped a plane to Santo Domingo and made his way into Haiti. Yesterday Hunt arrived at the General Hospital via taxi. "All I had was the gps pos for the mission and that they might be working at some hospital. Jake was the best man at my wedding. He's the brother I never had. Nothing could keep me from joining Team Rubicon. So I hired a taxi." says Hunt.

The second team will be enroute from the US soon, while the first team "picked up three nurses at noon yesterday" in Haiti.

Milwaukee Firefighter/EMTs Jeff Lang and Craig Parello have left to travel over land to Santo Domingo. Before they came to Haiti their superiors tried to talk them out of self-deploying, claiming "you are just going to be a liability".

Dr Eduardo Dolhun noted before leaving, "To paraphrase world renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead: never doubt that a small group of dedicated individuals can change the world... they always have".

Check in with Team Rubicon often. There's a lot going on.

300 Paratroopers running a refugee camp of 50,000

US Army Pvt First Class Thomas, of the 82nd Airborne Division, stands among a crowd of about 2,000 people to help maintain order as they line up for water distribution at a camp set up on a golf course in Port-au- Prince on Wednesday. Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP.

The magnitude of the task is staggering.

At Haiti golf course, 82nd Airborne runs a refugee camp
By Amy Bracken Correspondent / January 21, 2010

It was once a thing of beauty for Haiti’s elite – a rolling nine-hole golf course, overlooking Port-au-Prince and the ocean beyond and framed by Hispaniola's central mountain range.

Today it’s a patchwork of blankets, sheets, tarps and cardboard, sheltering as many as 50,000 displaced people. ...

The U.S. military didn’t talk to the club’s owner, Coty Reinbold, until after [Captain John] Hartsock landed on the grass. The club’s private security guards were present, which “made things interesting,” Hartsock said, but they let him stay and eventually bring more than 300 troops from his 82nd Airborne Division’s First Squadron 73rd Cavalry Regiment, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Reingold said he doesn’t like speaking with journalists, but Hartsock reported that the club owner has been “bending over backwards” to help make the operation work.

The troops, who sleep on the tennis courts, have been distributing roughly 10,000 water bottles and 4,000 meals a day and are running a medical clinic. The food and water have been supplied by USAID and Catholic Relief Services.

The crowd at the camp is swelling, as more of the displaced hear about the distributions.

“Right now I’m on average pushing through about 50 Haitians every minute, at a minimum getting them a bottle of water,” Hartsock said. ...

While 10,000 water bottles might seem like a lot, that might be one bottle for every five people, in an entire day, in a sweltering camp. There remains a long line when the supplies run out.

Meanwhile, up at the clubhouse, representatives of the Army and CRS seemed to be somewhere close to the same page, meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss a better way to get the food out, and to tour the camp in search of potential distribution sites.

"What they're trying to do now is organize the camp," said Lane Hartill, a CRS information officer, "to partition it into quadrants so it's more manageable to coordinate food delivery." ...

Down in the camp, residents say they can’t imagine leaving any time soon, and many are working to make their home better, helping with distributions, forming volunteer clean-up crews, playing musical instruments and singing, and holding morning prayer. Some children play soccer with a small rubber ball, while others enjoy the never-before-seen contours of a golf course, sliding down its smooth slopes on makeshift cardboard sleds.

Pfc. Chris Jurgill stands outside the main gate to the hospital compound to keep people from coming in. The Army was tasked with securing the hospital, and their first job was making sure only those who need to be in the compound were allowed to come and go. It only took them a few hours to restore some semblence of order. Megan McCloskey / Stripes.

Meanwhile, the Paratroopers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment brought calm to chaos at Port-au-Prince hospital yesterday. “Glad you’re here,” one doctor said. “I’m going to get you boys a raise.”

Operation Fazilat in the Arghandab

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Mario Barber checks his lists before Operation Fazilat commences Jan. 10, 2010, in the Arghandab River Valley section of the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. The operation is a coalition forces effort to clear the area of improvised explosive devices and establish a presence in the community. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Jones/Released.

Canadian army Cpl. Melissa Gagnon pulls security in the village of Rajan Qala in the Arghandab River Valley section of the Kandahar province of Afghanistan Jan. 10, 2009, during Operation Fazilat. The operation is a coalition forces effort to clear the area of improvised explosive devices and establish a presence in the community. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Jones/Released.

20 January 2010

Brain surgery aboard the USS Carl Vinson

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jerry Berman, left, Dr. Henri R. Ford, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lt. Cmdr. Kathryn Berndt prepare a 12-year-old Haitian girl with a severe head injury for surgery aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 18, 2010. Berman and Berndt are Navy surgeons assigned to the USS Carl Vinson. Ford, originally from Haiti, is surgeon-in-chief at Los Angeles Pediatric Hospital. Gupta is a CNN medical correspondent and practicing neurosurgeon. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael C. Barton.

I'm now officially a fan of CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. (I was already a fan of the U.S. Navy.)

The Marines have landed

...and they speak Creole.

Have I mentioned lately that our troops are America's best ambassadors?

19 January 2010

Once again, America's Soldiers are our best ambassadors

Watch CBS News Videos Online

You do us proud, Sgt. Ames!
U.N. peace keepers were given orders to clear the street. They did so with force. Unable to speak the native language Creole or even English, the Jordanian... Pakistani and Indian forces mostly did their talking with nightsticks and rubber bullets. No one was seriously injured. But tensions are building.

The American soldiers on hand - members of the 82nd Airborne - showed restraint. Their helmets were off and their guns were intentionally unloaded. ...

"We all have our different methods and styles in which we control situations," said Sgt. Mike Ames, U.S. Army. "We're here to help them, not to push them around."

All the way!

Shamelessly stolen from Greyhawk (who's celebrating his birthday today, so make sure to go over and say hey).

"The supply drive that just kept going... "

“I know if my husband or any of my friends were to have this happen to them, I’d want them to know that people care about them. If it can help someone, it’s definitely worth it to me.”

- Leslie Scott, Air Force spouse and Soldiers' Angel

Leslie carried out her first supply drive for Soldiers' Angels Germany while stationed in the UK and before she had ever visited Landstuhl hospital. After that visit, she was more determined than before to keep supporting patients medevaced to Germany from Iraq and Afghanistan.

After a PCS to Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico with her husband Nathan, Leslie started planning the next drive. We emailed about the items needed, and Leslie put together informational flyers and a poster for her dropoff point. She started to get the word out by contacting her local radio station, which ran spots. The local newspaper wrote up a blurb.

The idea was to set up a table outside Wal-Mart and collect a few items.

Kids with bags of donations larger than themselves at the Wal-Mart drive, which generated 3 large boxes of donations in kind and $800 in cash.

Phase 1, as she now calls it, was a dropoff point at Wal-Mart which generated $800 and about 3 large boxes of donations. Fewer donations in kind than she had expected, but much more cash.

Then she spoke with her pastor, Alan McAlister of Central Baptist Church. He loved the idea and Phase 2 was born - the supply drive got a spot during the "Minute for Missions" portion of the Sunday service. The AV person at Central Baptist put together video clips about Soldiers' Angels and Landstuhl.

The supply drive table with dropoff box at Central Baptist Church.

After the service people surrounded Leslie's table in the church lobby to pick up flyers and ask questions. Like the older man who asked, "Can't I just give you money? I don't care for shopping." Of course Leslie said that would be fine. Only after she got home did Leslie realize that what she "thought was a 10 & 20 was actually two $50 bills".

The first wave of donations from the congregation generated 5 large boxes of donations and $200 in cash. Now Central Baptist would like to have Leslie set up the table quarterly...

Impact Confections stopped by with a little donation of gourmet lollipops via the Airman and Family Readiness Center of Cannon AFB. YIKES! Seriously, this is a wonderful donation that Leslie has spread all over Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan! As Leslie's husband said, the guys downrange will devour any and all candy :-)

Then a friend suggested she write to local veterans groups, which became Phase 3. VFW Post 3015, VFW Post 3280, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, all of Clovis, NM, responded with generous donations totalling $2,750. The funds were used to make bulk purchases of some of our most-needed items: Sweatpants and hoodies, lip balm, and travel sized aerosol shaving cream.

Leslie with the Littlest Patriots: A preschool class at Cannonn AFB, who organized their own supply drive at Wal-Mart and made blankets for wounded service members.

Word kept spreading... a preschool class at Cannon AFB did their own supply drive at Wal-Mart and at the school, becoming Phase 4. Three large boxes of supplies and two handmade blankets for the Landstuhl patients were donated.

Phase 5: During the Wal-Mart drive someone from the Airman & Family Readiness Center of Cannon AFB stopped by and asked, "Why didn't you come see us?". Being so new in town, Leslie hadn't felt right about approaching them. But they were eager to participate and set up a drop box in their office for November and December. Now they're talking about continuing the project throughout the year...

Even the dog wants to help! One of Leslie's 8-ft packing tables stacked with donations headed to Soldiers' Angels Germany for the patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

All told, Leslie has sent over 2000 lbs of clothing, personal care items, phone cards, and other goodies to us for the patients and staff at Landstuhl.

So far, that is. As Leslie says, this is the supply drive that just keeps going... so stay tuned!

THANK YOU Leslie for your leadership, and to the entire community in and around Cannon AFB for your generosity and your patriotism.

By the way, it will come as no surprise to learn that Leslie's an entrepeneur in more ways than one. Check out her online business, Quilts by Leslie.

Happy Birthday, Greyhawk!

Couldn't find your favorite brand but seeing as you haven't had any real German beer for a while, this should taste mighty good.

Prost and hugs from Germany, Greyhawk!

AFSOC Combat Controllers direct 800+ planes at the Haiti airport from a folding table

Air Force special-operations troops control Port-au-Prince air traffic from a table next to the runway. Photo: Michael M. Phillips, The Wall Street Journal.

Air traffic control is a stressful job under the best conditions, but for this you've gotta have nerves o' steel:

What was a dangerous aviation free-for-all in the disaster's immediate aftermath, with aid planes jostling for space on the single runway, is now being tamed by a small team of Air Force special-operations troops who control air traffic from a folding table set up on a patch of dirt beside the runway. ...

The airmen have been here since the evening after the earthquake, when they found that aid planes were landing randomly. They brought enough landing lights for the 10,000-foot runway, although the existing lights were still functioning. The control tower, however, was too badly damaged to be used. So the airmen put their table out next to the runway and, within 20 minutes of arriving, they began contacting airplanes with the message, "This is Port-au-Prince tower." They have been there since, working and sleeping in 12-hour shifts.

Rules have been established for incoming aircraft.
The U.S. government has ordered that all arriving planes be issued landing slots before take-off, and that all aircraft arrive with enough fuel to circle for 90 minutes, land, depart and reach their next destination. "All operators are advised that fuel and other ground-support services may be unavailable," the order read.

Elsewhere at the airport, Haitian aviation officials, assisted by American and Canadian traffic controllers, now contact planes 30 or 40 miles out, keeping order as the aircraft head toward Port-au-Prince.

This is one of the best articles I've read on the airport challenges.

Update: I've added the photo of the airport below. Tiny. No wonder it's a bottleneck. It's difficult to imagine about 200 flights coming through here each day.

Airplanes wait to be unloaded in support of earthquake relief efforts at the Port-au-Prince, Haiti, airport, Jan. 17, 2010. Port-au-Prince was hit by a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Stumberg.

Meanwhile, the intrepid Team Rubicon continues working on the ground. See last night's post from Jesuit Brother Jim Boynton, "Descending into Hell".

18 January 2010

Update from Team Rubicon in Haiti

After arrival in Port-au-Prince yesterday, this morning Team Rubicon had already rolled out to a casualty center the Jesuits established in a bad part of town. The Team reports over 900 persons seeking medical attention and that they are the only medical help in the area.

"I'm used to seeing fresh wounds, not old wounds. I'm used to having enough equipment for my team. I'm pissed off at myself for only having, for instance, one pair of scissors. I'm pissed off at myself for not packing for a team", says former Special Forces Medic Mark Hayward, who arrived in Haiti with his own equipment and the will to help.

The advance team, led by milblogger Jake Wood, is now 8 strong. Additional members include: Milwaukee firefighters Jeff Lang and Craig Parello, former Marine William McNulty, former Army SF Medic Mark Hayward, Jesuit Brother Jim Boynton, ER doctor David Griswell and GP doctor Eduardo P. Dolhun.

Please pray for all of them.

You can follow Team Rubicon here.

Prior Team Rubicon post at SAG.

Stolen Valor?

Those of us who see lots of *real* Purple Heart recipients don't take kindly to this sort of thing.

Others posting on this:
Boston Maggie
Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid
CDR Salamander
From My Position
Hooah Wife
Kiss My Gumbo
Little Drops
Mudville Gazette
A Soldier's Perspective
The Sniper
This Ain't Hell

Update: He's been identified. It's only a matter of time now until the truth comes out.

17 January 2010

The miracle of life

BBC photo showing a US Coast Guard helicopter crew helping to deliver a baby amidst the devastation in Haiti.

Milblogger Mission in Haiti

Amazing - a military blogger, a former Army Special Forces Medic, and a former Marine Scout Sniper are part of a 5-man advance team already on the ground working out of a Jesuit Mission near the airport in Haiti.

Here they are yesterday in the Dominican Republic.

Jake Wood and Mark Hayward, former Marine Scout Sniper and former Army 18D, look at possible routes into Port au Prince while waiting on luggage at the Santo Domingo airport. Jesuit Jim Boynton will guide the team to the Jesuit Refugee Mission in PaP today.

More at Blackfive on this entirely privately funded project. You can follow their progress and donate at Jake's blog here.

During terrible tragedies like the one unfolding now in Haiti, we all wish we could be able to offer direct and concrete assistance. These guys have the training to do so, they got there, and they can keep themselves and their patients safe. They can do more with your help.

I've just donated. It's not tax-deductable (they put this together fast), but I know that every single dollar will go to good use.

SA's "Cooking with the Wounded" launches fundraising for 2010 events

Blake Powers (from left), Yellow Bowl Bakery owner and head chef Katy Gunderson and pastry vhef Molly Greenwood display cupcakes on Saturday.. The group is trying to raise money to go Landstuhl, Germany, to cook for wounded soldiers. Photo: Jamie Lynn Chevillet /Journal & Courier.

Following on successful events last year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and here at Landstuhl, Blake Powers, creator of "Cooking with the Wounded", has geared up fundraising efforts for 2010 activities.

Cooks' goal to provide sweet comfort for wounded soldiers

Sticky German chocolate cake, plump devil's food cupcakes and a dozen or so pies.

Those are just some of the delectable goodies a local pastry chef wants to help whip up for soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq who are recuperating overseas.

Katy Gunderson, owner of Yellow Bowl Bakery in downtown Lafayette, is part of a program called Cooking with the Wounded that is run under the auspices of the nonprofit group Soldiers' Angels.

Cooking with the Wounded, in affiliation with Soldiers' Angels, is raising $15,000 to send Gunderson and others to a U.S. military facility in Germany to bake for recuperating soldiers.

Cooking with the Wounded is a program spearheaded by Gunderson and Blake Powers, a military support blogger and self-described "foodie."

Powers, a Tippecanoe County resident, works in the Office of Marketing and Media at Purdue University.

The money will go toward sending Gunderson, Powers and Yellow Bowl pastry chef Molly Greenwood to the United Service Organizations' Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany in late February.

"For me, I love my country. This helps me help them," Gunderson said of U.S. soldiers and allied armed forces fighting the war on terror. "I think it was best described by my father when he said, this is my own way of picking up a gun and fighting for my country."

Cooking with the Wounded also is about enriching the lives of soldiers. That includes helping veterans find cooking internships or educational opportunities that could lead to a food or beverage career.

"A hand up as opposed to a hand out," Powers said. "Get them into the field where they can learn and make them a success."

Right now the focus is on fundraising for these terrific events. If you'd like to donate, you can do so here. Just make sure to note "Cooking with the Wounded" with your donation, whether online or by check. An important part of fundraising is awareness, so you can help by spreading the word to your friends and local media - as well as to companies, as the program is offereing corporate sponsorships. A press release can be found here. Thanks for your support!