29 October 2011

Military Post Offices in Iraq to Close Nov. 17

By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2011 Because U.S. forces are coming home from Iraq by the end of the year, the U.S. Postal Service will stop accepting mail addressed to military post offices in Iraq starting Nov. 17, Defense Department officials said today.

Military post offices in Iraq also will stop processing mail Nov. 17, and service members there should begin now to advise those who send them mail about the Nov. 17 deadline.

Mail still in the postal system through Nov. 17 will be processed and delivered to service members in Iraq, officials said.
In November, U.S. military postal service responsibilities in Iraq will transition to State Department embassy or consulate post offices for service members assigned to Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

These sites will provide letter and parcel mail services to service members assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

The transition will be closely coordinated with the U.S. Postal Service Agency, which will delete ZIP codes for Iraq military post offices from the USPS database to prevent undeliverable mail from entering the postal system after Nov. 17, according to defense officials.
If APO mail arrives in Iraq after a service member departs, mail will be redirected to the new mailing address provided or, if no mailing address was provided, returned to sender.

Any mail mistakenly accepted by a USPS post office after Nov. 17 will be returned to sender once it reaches the International Gateway in New Jersey.

Service members in Iraq or returning from Iraq who do not receive a requested absentee ballot from their state can complete a back-up federal write-In absentee ballot at the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Web portal. The form wizard will provide a PDF document for printing, including the completed ballot and instructions for returning it to their local election official. Contact installation and unit level voting assistance officers for additional assistance.

Service members who are remaining in Iraq after Nov. 17 and who are there on behalf of or are assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq should coordinate with their chain of command and the servicing State Department mail location to receive a new mailing address.

According to defense officials, conditions and situations in the Iraq transition change often. Officials recommend that service members check the Military Postal Service Agency website and USPS Postal Bulletins frequently for updates.

25 October 2011

All American DUSTOFF

Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009 (OEF X). Those of you who knew Brian Cowdrey will recognize him in some of the shots.

With love to the C/3-82 All American DUSTOFF family.

24 October 2011

Quilters touch the hearts of wounded warriors

Groton Women's Club member Jill McCaffrey stands by one of the quilts she made that will be sent over to Germany for the Blankets of Hope Project. Photo: Sun/David H. Brow.

Soldiers warm up to Groton quilts

By Hiroko Sato of the Lowell Sun
Updated: 10/22/2011

GROTON -- Scouring for gorgeous red, white and blue fabric at stores is Jill McCaffrey's way of showing her patriotism.

Whatever sewing project she may be shopping for, McCaffrey would always be looking for star and flag prints from the corner of her eye. She would spread pieces of those and other fabric fellow quilters from the Groton Woman's Club brought over to the tables at the Groton Senior Center to put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Before long, tri-color 42-inch-by-54-inch blankets with a handwritten thank-you note to soldiers stitched on would be shipped out to keep severely wounded men and women in uniform warm on their way to Germany for treatment.

Those who wear the blankets feel the quilters' prayers. One thank-you card from a soldier sent to Groton Woman's Club President Susan Slade said it all: "My parents could not be here but you were here for me. I will never forget you for that."

After touching the hearts of more than 200 injured soldiers, the club recently received a special award from Soldiers' Angels, a California-based national nonprofit organization that runs the Blankets of Hope project to provide soldiers with quilts made by volunteers.

"I have been holding this secret until now," Slade said as she unveiled the angel-shaped crystal trophy yesterday.

"I'm like a proud mama," she said, looking at the 15 quilters lining up to applause. With 229 quilts already made, "we are on our way to 300," Slade said.

The Groton Woman's Club recently received the Crystal Wing Award, a national award the Soldiers' Angels gives out to groups and individuals who have gone "above and beyond the call of angels." The nonprofit was founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader, mother of Army Sgt. Brandon Varn, to provide aid and comfort to members of the armed forces and their families. After hearing the organization was looking for blankets for wounded soldiers in 2007, Slade and other members asked for sewing volunteers. They quickly stepped forward and began making quilts with member Jan Dillon serving as coordinator.

Founded in 1913 as a service organization, the Groton Woman's Club has provided helping hands to whomever needs them, ranging from the bandage-making and other relief work during World War I to making meals for seniors. The club, comprised of more than 80 active members living in Groton, is also known for its annual holiday green sale to raise funds for scholarships for local students.

The Crystal Angel Award was given to recognize the quilters for having made and sent 100 quilts by June 2009 and 200 by May 2011, Slade said. So far, the quilters have made 217 blankets with 12 more ready to be shipped. One was donated to the Devens Museum.

The quilters said they never expected to receive an award. Besides, "I never thought we would still need to make them," Dillon said.

Mildred Wells, a quilter of 25 years who used to make bridal gowns and did other sewing work for people, has a 20-year-old grandson who recently joined the Army. While he is not deployed, another grandson of hers fought in Iraq before, and Wells knows too well how families feel about their soldiers. "It's such a pleasure to do."

The quilters said they are thrilled to receive the award.

"It's nice to know it's going somewhere there is a need," McCaffrey said.

Inscription on the 200th quilt made by the Groton Woman's Club and sent to Soldiers' Angels at Landstuhl hospital for patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

Signatures of the quilters from the Groton Woman's Club on the 200th quilt made and sent to Soldiers' Angels at Landstuhl hospital for patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

We're honored to stand with the Groton Woman's Club in support of our wounded warriors. Thank you for your patriotism, compassion, and dedication to those who have sacrificed so much for all of us. You deserve those Crystal Wings!

Forever in our hearts

Marine LCpl Richard "Ricky" Slocum
Feb 2, 1985 - October 24, 2004

When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are.

You can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us.

It means... that if we meet again, you will know me.

It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

-- Frederick Buechner

Thinking of you Kay, Bob, and all of Ricky’s family and friends today. I promise to remember him always.

Ricky will be forever in my heart.

23 October 2011

They came in peace

Beirut, 23 October 1983

"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers-in-arms"

From Brothers-in-arms: 'They came in peace' by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola.

Originally posted 23 October, 2005.

22 October 2011

Return to Iraq: "My Lieutenant didn't die in vain"

The war in Iraq is over for the United States, but not for the Americans who fought there. CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley reports on a remarkable therapy [Operation Proper Exit] that takes some of the more than 32,000 troops wounded in Iraq back there to confront the events that changed their lives.

Of the eight, returning may have been toughest for Steven Cornford. He left Iraq and was awarded the Silver Star for valor. But they don't give away Silver Stars for nothing. Sitting down with Cornford, you can learn what post-traumatic stress disorder is all about.

Cornford's nightmares are rooted in Easter Sunday 2007, when he was just 18 years old. His platoon assaulted an enemy machine gun nest. He was hit in the left shoulder. His lieutenant, Phillip Neel, sprinted forward to help, but was cut down.

Cornford returned fire and threw two hand grenades into the machine gun nest. Then, he carriet Lt. Neel a mile to a Medevac helicopter that took them both to a field hospital. Neel didn't make it, and Cornford cannot forgive himself.

During his visit, Cornford was heartened to see Iraq returning to normal. It means, he said, "my Lieutenant didn't die in vain."

20 October 2011

The angels of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars

They are the angels of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — the nurses and doctors who save the wounded, evacuating them aboard a cavernous C-17 transport plane headed for Germany, capable of conducting mid-flight surgery if need be.

“You do not have time to cry, you do not have time to feel. You basically put those feelings in a box and you put them over on the counter,” says Air Force Lt. Col. Sherry Hemby, a 19-year veteran who went to nursing school and then joined up.

At the behemoth Bagram military base in Afghanistan, medical transport planes — essentially flying trauma centers — slam fast on the runway, always after dark, trying to avoid enemy attack.

On a recent fall night, the huge hold of an Air Force C-17 was filled with stretchers stacked three-high. There was just enough room for doctors and nurses to squeeze between life-support equipment and severely injured patients bound for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

For 10 years, aeromedical evacuation crews like this one have been ferrying war casualties out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Trisha Fulton, chief flight nurse, has made hundreds of these trips. She was waiting for her latest group of patients.

Some walk on crutches. Others are carried on stretchers.

The most critically injured are sedated and cocooned in life-support equipment. They are brought aboard last, accompanied by a critical care transport team consisting of a doctor, a nurse and a cardiopulmonary technician.

By the time the severely injured, some of them amputees, get here, they have been stabilized at Bagram’s field hospital and prepped for flight.

At Landstuhl, the receiving point for tens of thousands of wounded soldiers and Marines, surgery or rehabilitation awaits.

People who have been thrust into each other’s lives by the consequences of war began a wordless eight-hour relationship of necessity.

Read the rest of this great article, Winged Wonders. And THANK YOU to all of our aeromedical evacuation crews for all you do.

19 October 2011

National Day of the Deployed Resolution Passes in Senate

"Day of the Deployed is a day to honor the many selfless actions demanded of military members and their loved ones across the globe serves as a tangible reminder of the sacrifice being made in homes across America every day. Every deployment reflects the deep commitment of not only the deploying member, but of the many friends and loved ones who are left behind to aid in answering our nations call. Selfless men, women and children who are called upon to set aside their personal comfort and convenience to support the heroes they call mom, dad, father, mother, brother, sister or friend."

- Patti Patton Bader, Soldiers' Angels Founder

October 18, 2011


WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven announced today that a resolution he introduced to continue honoring the nation’s deployed service men and women with a Day of the Deployed has unanimously passed in the Senate. Hoeven launched the first Day of the Deployed in 2006 while serving as Governor of North Dakota and spearheaded the effort to bring the initiative to the national level this year. The resolution, passed last night, calls on all Americans to reflect on the service of the nation’s deployed service members and to offer support to their loved ones.

“Our U.S. service men and women currently deployed, along with their loved ones, make untold sacrifices as they serve our nation,” said Hoeven. “A national Day of the Deployed pays tribute to their commitment to our country and their work to protect our freedoms. We want to ensure that our military members and their loved ones know of our appreciation and support before, during and after their service.”

On Oct. 26, 2006, then-Governor Hoeven launched the first Day of the Deployed in support of Soldiers’ Angels, a nonprofit organization that aids deployed American military personnel and their families. The effort spread, and in 2010, 40 states had proclaimed a Day of the Deployed.

“Working with John Hoeven on Day of the Deployed since 2006 in North Dakota has been an honorable way to extend appreciation to the deployed service members and their families. Day of the Deployed is recognition for their hard work, dedication and commitment to the United States of America. This day is all about them,” said Shelle Michaels, Soldiers’ Angels Deputy Director of Development.
“More than 2 million Americans currently serve in the Unites States Armed Forces. These men and women are making great scarifies to ensure the safety and security of our great nation.

Next Wednesday, October 26, is the Day of the Deployed. I encourage people in North Dakota and across our nation to take a moment to recognize and celebrate America’s heroes — our men and women in uniform. They deserve our support and the thanks of a grateful nation,” said Senator Kent Conrad, a cosponsor of the resolution.

Currently, more than 2.27 million people serve as members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those in the active guard and reserve components, with thousands of members deployed each year to 150 countries around the world. The resolution calls on Americans to reflect on the service of the nation’s soldiers and encourages ceremonies and activities on Oct. 26 to mark the Day of the Deployed.


1st Session
S. RES. 253

Designating October 26, 2011, as `Day of the Deployed'.

Introduced August 2, 2011
Passed October 17, 2011

Mr. HOEVEN submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

Designating October 26, 2011, as `Day of the Deployed'.

Whereas more than 2,250,000 people serve as members of the United States Armed Forces;
Whereas several hundred thousand members of the Armed Forces rotate each year through deployments to 150 countries in every region of the world;
Whereas more than 2,200,000 members of the Armed Forces have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks;
Whereas the United States is kept strong and free by the loyal people who protect our precious heritage through their positive declaration and actions;
Whereas the deployed members of the Armed Forces serving at home and abroad have courageously answered the call to duty to defend the ideals of the United States and to preserve peace and freedom around the world;
Whereas members of the Armed Forces and veterans personify the virtues of patriotism, service, duty, courage, and sacrifice;
Whereas the families of members of the Armed Forces make important and significant sacrifices for the United States;
Whereas North Dakota began honoring the members of the Armed Forces and their families by designating October 26 as `Day of the Deployed' in 2006; and
Whereas 40 States designated October 26, 2010, as `Day of the Deployed': Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--
(1) honors the members of the United States Armed Forces who are deployed at home and abroad;
(2) calls on the people of the United States to reflect on the service of those members of the United States Armed Forces, wherever they serve, both now and in the future;
(3) designates October 26, 2011, as `Day of the Deployed'; and
(4) encourages the people of the United States to observe `Day of the Deployed' with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

15 October 2011

Godspeed, SSG Robert 'Brian' Cowdrey

We are deeply saddened to learn that Staff Sergeant Robert 'Brian' Cowdrey was killed on October 13 while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. According to his wife Jill, he was on a mission treating patients when he came under enemy fire.

In the above photo taken in February of 2010, Brian was captured by AP photographer Brennan Linsley while comforting a patient aboard his MEDEVAC helicopter during Operation Mushtarak in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. As Brian himself said about the photo, "this picture sums it all up".

Brian can also be seen in action during his 2009/2010 Afghanistan deployment here, and another article about his unit can be found here.

Brian was serving his fourth deployment in a combat zone. Prior deployments were Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004/2005, Operation Enduring Freedom 2007/2008, and Operation Enduring Freedom 2009/2010.

He loved his job, and he loved his family. To say he impacted the lives of countless people is an understatement. To some, he swooped down from the sky to rescue them on the worst day of their lives. To others, he provided inspiration through his career of compassionate and courageous dedication. One of his three sons has followed in his father's footsteps and is currently serving in Germany. To all three of them, he has been a Dad - and a Hero. To his friends, his faith, enthusiasm and caring nature were a joy. And to his wife, he was a loving partner and best friend.

Brian's shadow and that of his DUSTOFF helicopter as he goes down the hoist to treat the patients seen at the lower left in September 2011. Like many other MEDEVAC missions, it was carried out under enemy fire. Photo courtesy Brian Cowdrey.

This is how we will always remember Brian - his Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces. Our love, prayers, and deepest condolences are with his family.


Update: Others honoring Brian include Assoluta Tranquillita and Blackfive. Brian had just finished conducting this first of what was to be a series of interviews with War on Terror News when he was killed.

Members of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade held a memorial service in Afghanistan for Brian yesterday. The moving photographs can be seen here. And here is the Dignified Transfer at Dover Air Force Base.

12 October 2011

Former LRMC Commander new TRICARE Deputy Director

New TRICARE Deputy Director Brings Patient Focus to Job

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 – With a fresh focus on patient care –particularly for wounded warriors and their families -- the new deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity said today he’s committed to ensuring TRICARE’s 9.6 million beneficiaries worldwide get the care and services they deserve.

Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) W. Bryan Gamble, who assumed day-to-day oversight of TRICARE earlier this month, brings a long resume of assignments as a physician and commander in the military health system to the job.

Some of the most profound, he said, were his tours as commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany during the height of the surge in Iraq, as surgeon to the U.S. Central Command commander, and for the past two years, as commander of Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga.

All reinforced what Gamble called his central focus.

“My heart is with our wounded warriors and their families,” he said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. “And it is not just the wounded, but also their families who have needs and also require our love, attention and concern.”
Gamble demonstrated that commitment during his most recent assignment, where surveys at Fort Gordon revealed a 6 percent increase in patient satisfaction rates, to more than 93 percent. The number of patients who left its emergency room without being seen dropped to less than 1 percent. In addition, Gamble doubled the capacity of the post’s residential treatment facility and enabled its traumatic brain injury clinic to the Army’s first to secure a Category 1 validation.

Meanwhile, Gamble worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, developing a connection he called “really crucial” in providing rehabilitation to wounded, ill or injured warriors.

Now, at the helm of the Defense Department’s comprehensive health care plan, Gamble said he plans to build on the lessons he’s learned as he promotes readiness, preventive care and patient satisfaction – all while controlling costs within an integrated system.
Gamble isn’t a total newcomer to TRICARE. He served with the organization in 1999 and 2000 as it was introducing clinicians throughout its structure. The result, he said, is a more integrated system that’s more focused on delivering comprehensive and quality services to beneficiaries wherever and whenever they might need it.

Active duty service members and their families pay no enrollment fees and no out-of-pocket costs for any type of care under TRICARE Prime as long as care is received from the primary care manager at their military medical facility, or with a referral. All other beneficiaries, such as retirees, pay annual enrollment fees. Despite the first enrollment cost increases in 15 years, Gamble said, TRICARE still represents the best deal around. The increases, expected to be about $5 a month for family coverage, are “fairly modest,” he said, particularly when compared to what’s available in the civilian sector.

“When you look at the value of what the health care benefit is,” he said, “TRICARE really delivers value to [service members] and their families.”

The challenge, he said, will be to maintain this level of care and services through responsible financial management.
Gamble said he will continue encouraging beneficiaries to use the mail-order option rather than retail pharmacies to fill their prescriptions whenever possible. Navy Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, the previous TRICARE deputy director, was a big promoter of the mail-order option, which she estimated could save as much as $1 billion.

Gamble said he also plans to maintain TRICARE’s emphasis on preventive medicine, and the introduction of a patient-centered “medical home” concept that establishes a consistent, long-term relationship between patients and a team of providers.

As it focuses on keeping beneficiaries healthy, this concept reduces use of expensive emergency room services when patients don’t know where else to turn for nonemergency care. “It’s providing people the right care at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Gamble said he wants to hear from beneficiaries – through patient surveys, Facebook or any other means -- to ensure they’re getting the care and services they deserve. But for the most unvarnished appraisals, he said, he needs to look no further than his own family members, who rely on TRICARE for their own health care.

“My wife and children are beneficiaries, … and if something is not going to go right, I am usually the first that hears about it,” he said. “I and my family take part in this system, and I want it to be the best it can be.”

07 October 2011

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta Statement on Operation Enduring Freedom

Today marks ten years since our nation went to war in Afghanistan. In toppling the Taliban regime, we removed a government that had provided safe haven and support to Al Qaeda, and allowed its leaders to plan and launch the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history. Our military has been at war ever since, determined to prevent Al Qaeda from regaining a safe haven and the ability to launch attacks on our homeland. Over these years and especially this year we have dealt heavy blows to Al Qaeda's leadership, and terrorists now know that we will pursue them relentlessly in order to defend our country. In Afghanistan, we are reversing the Taliban insurgency's momentum, and our efforts are creating the right conditions for transition to Afghan security lead. Thanks to the progress we have made, we can draw down our forces while building a long-term enduring relationship with the Afghan people. But we must stay committed to this effort to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists.

Over these ten years, our men and women in uniform and their families have borne a heavy burden to protect our country. Nearly 1,800 U.S. service members have lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom, and more than 14,000 have been wounded. On this tenth anniversary, our thoughts turn to those who have paid this heavy price for our freedom and our security. Our country is stronger, and the world is a safer place, because of their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of all who have served. We must honor them by staying committed to this mission of protecting America. This day, and every day, we must continue to fight for the goal of a better and more secure world for our children.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)