August 2009 • The Official U.S. Army Magazine

Connections through music
The Volunteers rock the house, page 14

Honoring Soldiers with music
Web site pays tribute to servicemembers, page 20 Veterans take time to remember the past while living for today, page 44 Soldiers live outside their comfort zone, page 6

Remembering D-Day

Survival training


August 2009 • VOLUME 64, NO. 8

The family of Sgt. 1st Class Danny J. Hocker, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, embraces him during a welcome home ceremony in Vilseck, Germany, Oct. 23, 2008, after a 15-month deployment to Iraq. The Army is concerned about Soldiers' health once they return home. See story on page 28. (Photo by Spc. Pastora Y. Hall)

August 2009 • The Official U.S. Army Magazine

Connections through music
The Volunteers rock the house

( On the Cover ) Soldiers feel the rhythm with music. See pages 14 & 20.

( Coming Next Month ) September 2009 - Drill Sergeant of the Year competition.

Honoring Soldiers with music
Web site JamsBio pays tribute to servicemembers Veterans take time to remember the past while living for today Living outside their comfort zone

Remembering D-Day Survival training

4 6
Comprehensive Soldier Fitness
Mental, emotional and social well being are just as important as physical fitness.


Survival training

Feature Stories

Soldiers learn to live outside their comfort zone in the South African bush.

32 36 40 44

10 14 20 28

Forming bonds through medicine
Servicemembers provide medical assistance in remote areas of Djibouti.

Women apply Soldier "can-do" spirit to roller derby competitions. A Soldier discovers he's a descendant of a famous Civil War general.

Flat track fever

A family legacy

Musical connections
The Volunteers rock the house and tell the Army story through music.

In the thick of the fight
A Mississippi boy grows up fast on the World War II battlefields of Europe.

Honoring Soldiers with music
Music Web site JamsBio pays tribute to American servicemembers.

Remembering D-Day
Veterans take time to remember the past while living for today.
Sgt. 1st Class Nickolas Maney, of the 6th Ranger Training Battalion, learns the art of surviving in the South African bush from a South African special forces instructor. See story on page 6. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Africa)

Protecting Soldiers' health
Soldiers returning from a combat zone are screened for potential health problems.

19 24 31
Faces of Strength On Point Family Covenant

Spc. Earl "Doug" Boyce and wife Joy pose for a wedding picture at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Joy dedicated the song "At Last" to her husband to stay romantically connected with him during his deployment. See story on page 20. (Photo courtesy of Joy Boyce)

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The Official U.S. Army Magazine
Secretary of the Army: Hon. Pete Geren Chief of Staff: Gen. George W. Casey Jr. Chief of Public Affairs: Maj. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner Defense Media Activity-Army Commander: Col. MaryAnn Cummings Print Communications Staff Editor in Chief: Carrie McLeroy Managing Editor: David Vergun Soldiers Magazine NCOIC: Master Sgt. Nancy Morrison Soldiers Magazine Writer/Editor: Elizabeth M. Collins Soldiers Magazine Writer/Editor: Jacqueline M. Hames ARNEWS Editor: Gary Sheftick ARNEWS Writer: J. D. Leipold ARNEWS Writer: C. Todd Lopez Visual Information Staff Art Director: Peggy Frierson Graphic Designer: LeRoy Jewell Army Publishing Directorate Print Management/Quality Control: Mr. Richard J. Sowell

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Soldiers (ISSN 0093-8440) is published monthly by the Army Chief of Public Affairs to provide information on people, policies, operations, technical developments, trends and ideas of and about the Department of the Army. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army. Send submissions and correspondence to Editor, Soldiers magazine, Defense Media Activity-Army, Box 31, 2511 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Arlington, VA 222023900. Phone: (703) 602-0870, or send e-mail to Unless otherwise indicated (and except for “by permission” and copyright items), material may be reprinted provided credit is given to Soldiers and the author. All uncredited photographs by U.S. Army. The Secretary of the Army has determined that the publication of this periodical is necessary in the transaction of the public business as required by law of the department. Funds for printing this publication were approved by the secretary of the Army in accordance with the provisions of Army Regulation 25-30. Library of Congress call number: U1.A827. Periodicals postage paid at Fort Belvoir, Va., and additional mailing offices. Individual subscriptions: Subscriptions can be purchased through the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, (202) 512-1800 or online at: subscriptions/index.jsp.
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2 mil/soldiers

Letters from the field

February issue Dear Soldiers magazine, Sergeant Jeffrey Dilcher’s letter (in May’s issue) taking exception to the photo used in the “Year of the NCO” insert shows that this Army oftentimes can still be more about style than substance, which as a noncommissioned officer, I find more disconcerting than whether a guy’s sleeves are rolled up. I look at the images of NCOs from World War II in particular. Sleeves are rolled up, uniforms are out of sync, and yet victory in Europe and the Pacific was won by these dog-faced warriors, many of who were exceptional junior leaders. I won’t even get into the bearded faces and lack of uniformity of our Civil War veterans! That image tells a story. It shows an NCO in the field, on the mission, getting his hands dirty with the locals. Maybe he wasn’t issued eye protection, or perhaps his chain of command didn’t require it for that mission. Maybe, too, his chain of command was using those radios for a reason, determining that the IED threat in their area was inconsequential. Maybe he had just made an excruciating journey through tormenting terrain. Chinstraps get sweaty and uncomfortable. He’s still wearing the helmet and his vest, however, and his weapon is ready to go. “Jacked up” or “squared away” are matters of perspective, and I like the gritty concept imparted by this image. It’s our most important value as NCOs: leadership from the front. I’m proud of this NCO, working his craft in the field, and frankly, I’m disgusted that we have to indulge a junior NCO judging another junior NCO through the lens of “garrison eye.” Leadership isn’t just about nitpicking; it’s also about imagination and inspiration. Those are the qualities that move “marginal” to “exceptional” in leadership parlance, and I would say more than scrutiny of standards, is why this year should be the “Year of the NCO.” Shalom, Sgt. Brian Kresge Co. C, 2/112th Infantry (Stryker) May issue I am writing to request a correction be made to the (ARNEWS brief ) titled, “Help available for military hit by housing market,” included in the May 2009 issue. “Some military families are finding themselves in a precarious situation when it comes to selling their house and relocating, said housing experts… The government will cover 95 percent of the amount lost when servicemembers are forced to sell due to permanent change of station moves. The provision does have some limitations. The program only applies to servicemembers who purchased their homes before July 1,

2006, which is roughly the time when the housing market started to decline.”(ARNEWS/Carol E. Davis) There is a sentence that may be misleading. The sentence, “The government will cover 95 percent of the amount lost when servicemembers are forced to sell due to permanent change of station moves,” leaves room for error and a false hope of 95 percent recovery in all cases. The statement should not have specifics like 95 percent, as the amount of entitlement can vary based on a number of factors. The Army Corps of Engineers Web page, established to provide information and process applications for the Homeowner’s Assistance Program, is located at Very respectfully, Suzanne M. Harrison Acting assistant for Housing and Energy Office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Installations and Housing From the editor: The author of the story printed in the ARNEWS section of May’s issue of Soldiers was correct when she wrote that under current guidelines, the government would cover 95 percent of the amount servicemembers lose when selling their homes as a result of a PCS move. However, clarification was needed. The government can cover up to 95 percent of the amount under current guidelines, but as Suzanne M. Harrison stated, that percentage is determined based on a number of factors. Once the Department of Defense has approved updated Homeowners Assistance Program guidance, the Army News Service will publish a follow-up article highlighting any changes at Correction for June issue Dear editor, I commend the staff for providing critical information that allows every Soldier to learn and grow from. However, in the June edition of Soldiers Magazine, there is a small typographical error on page 31 that could cause some new and future NCOs troubles when performing research. The source for the NCO ranks and responsibilities is listed as “FM 22.7-7.” It should actually read “FM 7-22.7.” I thank you and your entire staff for your tireless efforts to ensure Soldiers are informed. Master Sgt. Ronald C. Baldwin Jr. Chief instructor, Ordnance Training Company Regional Training Site-Maintenance Michigan Air National Guard

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Soldiers • August 2009


(Right) Sgt. David A. Leakey, assigned to the 45th Special Troops Battalion, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, performs push-ups as part of the Army physical fitness test during the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competitions, May 13, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Story by Jacqueline M. Hames


(Above) Pre-Ranger students recite the Ranger Creed as they tread water during the Combat Water Survival Assessment portion of the Pre-Ranger Course.


Soldier FItness

HE Army has always emphasized physical fitness as a large part of its training, but has not always focused as extensively on mental, emotional and social well being as it does today. The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program will provide the missing link, teaching Soldiers to become more resilient in five aspects of total fitness: physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family strength. CSF is an Army of balanced and healthy Soldiers, families and civilians, whose total fitness will help them thrive in a high-tempo era of persistent conflict, according to the CSF vision. Army leaders believe an emotionally and physically healthy force will result in a reduction in rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, indiscipline, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, suicide and absences without leave. The program will be linked with the Army career tracker and the requirement for guided self-development, said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of CSF. “It is a strategy to try and bring the same amount of attention to people’s spiritual, emotional and social fitness as we have historically done in the Army to physical fitness,” she explained. CSF, stood up in October 2008, is developing a “global assessment tool,” which will assess all five elements of Soldier fitness, Cornum said. Assessments will help create resilience training that can be tailored to the individual.

Sgt. Giancarlo Casem

“We have a study ongoing right now at Fort Jackson. It’s teaching (resiliency techniques) as part of basic training. Teaching not just the mental aspect of it, but the physical part— deep breathing, visualization about what will happen, so (they are teaching) the mental and intellectual aspects as well as the physical,” Cornum said. Resiliency techniques have resulted in measurable improvements, she continued, adding that the Navy provides 45 minutes of resilience education a week during basic training. The results are improved graduation rates and decreased rates of psychological discharges. “The same training would be applicable to civilians and family members and we certainly intend to offer it,” Cornum added. Cornum, a medical doctor who holds doctorates in both nutrition and biochemistry, believes resilience training will help with something she calls “post-traumatic growth”—mentally reframing an adverse situation so it does not become traumatic. Resilience training will help an individual look at more optimistic and realistic choices, rather than falling into negative thought processes, she explained. Cornum can speak personally

about post-traumatic growth experiences, since she has encountered them firsthand. While performing a search-and-rescue mission in late February 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. She and three other survivors were taken prisoner by Iraqi forces; Cornum was repatriated on March 6 of the same year. “I have been very fortunate to have come through some difficult circumstances in my life…and I think I had that ‘post-traumatic growth experience’ because I went into it with an attitude of expecting that to happen. And I think we can give that opportunity to a lot more people,” Cornum said. “I think most people—certainly the literature says that most people—will come through a very difficult, very stressful, very traumatic experience with some kind of growth. But it does help and it does make it more likely if you’ve done some pre-adversity training,” she explained. One example of CSF and resilience training Cornum cited was the “Strong Bonds” workshop the Army Chaplain Corps runs. Strong Bonds is a marriage-enrichment program focused on enabling spouses to communicate better and build a stronger relationship, the program Web site states. There is

evidence that it does improve family relationships, Cornum said. “From a truly preventive standpoint, we would like to make selfconfident, mature, compassionate and empathetic Soldiers,” Cornum explained. Resilience training and other programs, like Strong Bonds, will help create that type of Soldier, family and civilian, and decrease the likelihood of individuals engaging in negative behavior, like sexual assault. Cornum cautions that CSF is not directly related to sexual assault and suicide awareness or programs like the Family Covenant. “Those are educational things, but they’re not really intended to increase your fitness. They are intended to inform your behavior,” she said. Since October 2007, CSF has conducted extensive research for appropriate and effective training methods, as well as beginning implementation of the global assessment tool. Starting next year, training will be offered to families and civilians, and become mandatory for Soldiers, Cornum said. “I’m really excited about it,” she added. v
For more information about CSF, visit For more information about Strong Bonds, visit www.

Participants in the 2009 Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10-miler shadow run, at Forward Operating Base Fenty, Afghanistan, cross the starting line. The run at FOB Fenty was a satellite run of the 2009 Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10-miler held in Chicago, May 23. (inset) On the Army’s Battlemind Web site, “Sgt. Drew” narrates a video to help children deal with deployment separation stress. The site contains resources that help Soldiers and family members cope with the stresses of a deployment.

Staff Sgt. Melinda Johnson

Soldiers • August 2009 5

(Right) Soldiers undergo nearly three weeks of survival training in the South African bush in Phalaborwa, near Kruger National Park. (Below) Dry elephant dung was used by Soldiers for cooking fuel. Also, animal calls led Soldiers to water and sounded alarms as well, during evasion exercises.

Story by Rick Scavetta Photos courtesy U.S. Army Africa

our of y ‘Out
Staff Sgt. John Otfinoski carries an impala through the South African bush. Zulu instructors, masters of bush survival, showed Soldiers how to carry the game they hunted like a backpack.


HEN evading capture in the South African bush, grassy juice from an impala’s stomach quenches thirst. Noisy hippos mean water is nearby, as does sighting an African fish eagle. These are a few tips Staff Sgt. John Otfinoski, a squad leader with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, learned recently in survival school, taught by the South African Special Forces. Otfinoski was one of three noncommissioned officers to complete the three-week course in April, which focused on living off the land, tracking and evading capture. “They strip you bare and teach you how to survive in the bush,” Otfinoski said. “It was different than anything else I’ve ever experienced.” Master Sgt. Robert Seifert, of Special Operations Command-Africa, 6

and Sgt. 1st Class Nickolas Maney, of the 6th Ranger Training Battalion, also took part. Often it’s U.S. Army NCOs offering mentorship to African nations— one of the key missions for U.S. Army Africa. This case was the reverse. South African instructors taught U.S. Army NCOs how to survive in the wild, with little more than a rifle and canteen. “They call it ‘going back to Adam,’ right down to the basics,” Seifert said. “The stuff they teach you—it’s the real deal. It throws you out of your comfort zone.” That meant navigating at night by stars rather than using a GPS, or rubbing wood together over elephant dung

to spark a fire rather than flipping open a lighter. “When you’re all alone, it’s dark and you make fire—that’s a psychological victory over nature,” Seifert said. “It says, ‘I’m not totally powerless.’” For Seifert, the SASF course reminded the 25-year veteran of his early days in the infantry, when survival training was an annual event. While some things the South Africans taught resembled training from his 17 years in special forces, he learned important lessons. “Our Army has all this technology we rely on—they stripped those things away,” Seifert said. “We don’t train like this anymore. It re-emphasized our

Master Sgt. Robert Seifert displays the first fish the survival course team caught on day one. During the three-week course, U.S. Army NCOs learned to fish using sticks, homemade string and improvised hooks—thankfully catching bigger fish than this, he said.


ne’ t zo for
Once Soldiers disemboweled an impala, they squeezed grassy stomach contents into a canteen cup. Part of their survival challenge included eating the impala’s liver, washed down with the “gut water.”

need to get back to basics.” The course, which is normally just one phase for South African Special Forces recruits, was held specifically for foreign troops. The American NCOs trained alongside troops from France, Sweden and Botswana. The training took place in Phalaborwa, near Kruger National Park—roughly a five-hour drive northeast of Pretoria. The instructors—who spoke English with a choppy South African accent—were Zulus, veteran soldiers who grew up in the bush and fought with the SASF in Angola in the early 1980s, Otfinoski said. “They are very proficient and know the bush like Wikipedia in their heads,”

Otfinoski added. “If you’re thirsty, they know a plant with buds growing underneath that can fill your canteen.” Living off the land also meant catching, killing and cooking their food. African monitor lizards taste like—you guessed it—chicken. Fire ash apparently adds a salty taste to boiled grasshoppers. The “gut water”—juice squeezed from the grassy pulp found in an impala’s stomach—proved a point, but it was disgusting, Seifert said. “It was the foulest thing I ever drank.” In all, the Soldiers learned about more than 70 birds, 50 trees and 25 insect species. When it comes to eating bugs (yeah, they did a lot of that),

Otfinoski learned to avoid insects with bright colors. Stick to natural tones, like those of the brown grasshopper—of which Otfinoski ate hundreds during his few weeks in the bush. “I now know I’ll never die if there are grasshoppers around,” Otfinoski said. “I’d be totally comfortable.” While learning to feed themselves, the NCOs also practiced the art of bush tracking, spying telltale signs such as broken branches or moved grass. Tracks—or “spoors,” as South Africans say—are better seen with the sun to one side. Tracking at high noon is difficult. Tall wheat appears shinier after it’s walked though. Once they understood how to track, they learned the opposite—how to escape and evade capture. The Grey Lourie bird calls out “go away” when humans are near. It can be heard for miles, indicating danger when evading people tracking you. At night, grasshoppers stop chirping when you pass. “If you didn’t use the knowledge they offered, you wouldn’t survive,” Otfinoski said. “This course pushed you to your limits.” v

Rick Scavetta works for U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs.

Soldiers • August 2009 7

Story by Rick Scavetta

NCO uses lessons learned on battlefield to mentor Soldiers


Staff Sgt. John Otfinoski coaches a Soldier at the machine gun range in Grafenwoeher, Germany. (Photo by 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team)

Creating shelter from scratch was just one of the things Staff Sgt. John Otfinoski learned in survival school. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. John Otfinoski)

HEN Staff Sgt. John Otfinoski trains his weapons squad, he mentors on what saves lives in combat. A veteran infantryman who served four combat tours—three in Afghanistan, one in Iraq—Otfinoski knows training makes all the difference when bullets start to fly. Otfinoski recently attended South African Special Forces survival training, a program coordinated by U.S. Army Africa. But upon his return, Otfinoski headed straight to Grafenwoehr, Germany, to prepare for yet another combat deployment with his unit. “Any opportunity for me to learn about the infantry craft, I take it,” Otfinoski said. “I’m a grunt; but this Special Forces training taught me a lot. Now, I’m passing it on.” Otfinoski’s company saw heavy combat in 2007 and 2008 fighting insurgents in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province. Training to standard now means incorporating lessons learned from the battlefield. “Deployments have increased my awareness of training and preparation,” Otfinoski said. “Those of us who have been downrange know what can happen, so we train like we fight, using scenarios based on what we’ve experienced.” While his Soldiers asked what it was like to drink grassy juice from an impala’s stomach during his time in the African bush, Otfinoski refocuses them and shares details more applicable to them in combat. Although his infantry experiences are extensive and unique, his recent training added new perspective, Otfinoski said. “What we don’t know, we sometimes fear,” Otfinoski said. “The South Africans taught us to look forward to what can happen, prepare yourself mentally and don’t let fear set in.” v


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Forming bonds
through medicine in the Horn of Africa
Story and photos by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt


ERVICEMEMBERS from Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa traveled throughout remote regions of Djibouti in March, providing medical and public health aid during a medical civil action program. The MEDCAP team, made up of Soldiers assigned to the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, 360th Civil Affairs Brigade force-protection personnel, Sailors from Camp Lemonier’s Expeditionary Medical Facility, and medics from the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, visited several villages in the Gaggade Desert. During the MEDCAP, the

joint-service team administered the de-worming medication Albendazole, over-the-counter drugs for minor ailments, and provided acute care to more than 2,000 people. “What we are doing here is a proven and effective public health intervention. Administering Albendazole to every eligible member of the community is a recommended practice in this part of Africa,” said Maj. Remington Nevin, a public health physician assigned to the 360th. “In addition to killing roundworms, which we feel is the principal benefit, this same medication can help to eradicate Filariasis as

well as a number of other neglected tropical diseases.” To plan the project, CJTF-HOA worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Djiboutian minister of health to identify areas of the country where health care is not easily accessible. “They were not looking for sites that were close to the main road at all. They were really looking for the sites that were in the remote regions,” said the MEDCAP’s mission commander, Lt. Col. Todd Nord of the 360th. Rocky terrain leading to areas like the Gaggade Desert can present

Empty bottles of a de-worming medication sit in a box in Djibouti, March 8, 2009. Servicemembers from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa gave the medication to Djiboutians during a medical civil action program.


A girl stands in line waiting for medication in Djibouti, during a medical civil action program conducted by servicemembers from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, March 8. Servicemembers visited several villages in the Gaggade Desert during the weeklong project.

(Right) People wait in line in Djibouti during a medical civil action program conducted by servicemembers from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Soldiers • August 2009 11

A mother gives her child a dose of a de-worming medication, March 8, in Djibouti.

challenges for those who are willing to drive into it. “It is not flatland and desert as one may think of when they think of Africa. There are mountainous ranges and regions and gorges, which make access to rendering health care to people somewhat difficult,” said Col. Lorrie Oldham of the 354th Civil Affairs functional specialty team, currently as-

signed to the 360th. “The United States government and its military services are able to get, in concert with the Djiboutian government and the minister of health, to these remote locations to provide healthcare.” In addition to the Djiboutian government, it is necessary for CJTFHOA to obtain the respect and permission of tribal and village elders to treat

the citizens of their villages. “When we get the permission of the village chief to come here, then it is very important that we show up, because they then, via word of mouth, spread the word out to the outlying community,” said Oldham. “It’s not as simple as a TV or a radio or a newspaper or Internet or Twitter or text messaging or any of those things that are out there; this is truly word of mouth. People will come early. They will walk miles. Usually, when we pull up to a village to set up, there are about 100 to 200 people waiting on us to get started.” The presence of village leaders helps the MEDCAP team gain the trust of the people they treat. In one village, village chief Ali Gadito Ali made sure the citizens of his village witnessed him taking a dose of Albendazole before assisting in its distribution. “They don’t know you, and they know me. Of course they get more confidence and they are happy when they see me right here. I showed them the good example. I drank it up and everybody started drinking it. If I don’t drink it, nobody is going to drink it. We really appreciate what you all have done for us and we welcome you here. It is very beneficial for the village, what you have done for us. I would like to thank all of you,” he told the servicemembers. CJTF-HOA’s efforts to treat remote villages reflect the command’s goal of building security capacity in the Horn of Africa. Through a strategy of conflict prevention, the task force helps to build the internal security capacities of countries at risk to prevail against extremists exploiting instability.

A boy cries after drinking a dose of a de-worming medication given to him by servicemembers from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa during a medical civil action program in Djibouti.


“Gen. (Anthony) Zinni, the former commander of CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) said it best, that the real enemies in today’s world are things like poor health,” said Nevin. “Good health has many benefits aside from simply establishing contacts here on this mission. It lays the groundwork for true stability and lasting peace in this region.” Major Marc Riciti, a physician’s assistant assigned to the 360th contemplated the long view of the medical care he provided. “I think the children will be the ones who benefit the most from us being here. They’re the ones who are going to remember us, they are the ones who are going to remember the Americans coming over and handing out soccer balls, taking care of illnesses, taking care of their families and that sort of thing,” said Riciti. “This is how we develop a generation of folks who will remember a time when we were here and will remember us in a good light.” v

(Above) A man lies on a homemade stretcher during a medical civil action program conducted by servicemembers from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, March 10, in Djibouti. Eleven of the man’s 22 sons said they carried him from miles away to receive treatment for a leg injury. (Below) Maj. Marc Riciti, a physician’s assistant assigned to the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade, applies a bandage to a local during a medical civil action program in Djibouti. Reserve Soldiers from the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade and the 414th and 489th Civil Affairs Battalions partnered with Sailors from Camp Lemonier’s Expeditionary Medical Facility for the weeklong project. Riciti is deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt is assigned to CJTF-HOA Public Affairs.

Soldiers • August 2009 13

Connecting the American people with the Army through music

Story by Heather Santos Photos by Sgt. Maj. Loran McClung & Sgt. 1st Class Rob McIver



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Sgt. 1st Class April Boucher belts out a tune during one of The Volunteers’ shows.


HE smoke clears. The curtain slowly rises as rowdy fans cheer. A group emerges sporting larger-than-life hair and lurid clothing. Bright lights and earsplitting noise ensue. That’s what typically comes to mind when you picture a rock band, right? Enter The Volunteers, a component of The United States Army Field Band. No, they don’t have big hair or glitzy attire, but they can rock the house with more than their fair share of talent. Master Sgt. Kirk Kadish, Sgt. 1st Class April Boucher, Sgt. 1st Class Peter Krasulski, Staff Sgt. Tom Lindsey, Staff Sgt. Gerald Myles and Staff Sgt. Randy Wight have another thing in common besides being musically gifted. These six noncommissioned



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officers are active-duty Soldiers. The Volunteers have told the Army story through music—rock, pop, country, rhythm and blues, and patriotic tunes—since 1981, and they continue to communicate the Army message as they travel worldwide, performing for enthusiastic concert goers at venues ranging from huge outdoor crowds to hospital bedsides. Kadish, keyboardist and noncommissioned officer in charge, understands the band’s impact on the nation. Kadish, a member of the group since 1994, acknowledges, “It’s remarkable how important it is to so many people that they connect with us.

There is something emotionally vital about what we do that deeply affects many, many people.” Good doesn’t begin to describe the necessary skills Becoming a member of The Volunteers isn’t easy. The process is incredibly competitive. “We may receive 50 applicants for one vacancy. From that list, the selection committee might bring in 10 to audition,” noted Sgt. 1st Class John Lake, the group’s tour coordinator. Candidates chosen to audition, instrumentalists and vocalists alike, must perform with The Volunteers before an appointing panel prior to making the final cut. Even so, holding an audition does not imply anyone will be hired to fill an opening. Lake emphasized, “I have witnessed numerous occurrences where no one in the final round was selected. They have to be that good.” Kadish chuckled as he lightheartedly recalled his own audition, “I managed to make the first cut, although there were some folks who felt I was too much of a ‘jazzer’ and not enough of a ‘rocker’ or vocalist to really qualify.




Soldiers • August 2009 15

Staff Sgt. Gerald Myles, drums, performed professionally at Walt Disney World and throughout the East Coast before joining the Field Band in 2005. A native of Norwalk, Conn., he has studied jazz at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Hartford. Myles has also taught drumming for high school-marching bands and for inner-city students.

Sgt. 1st Class April Boucher, vocalist, served 11 years in the U.S. Navy with the Pacific Fleet Band in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the Navy Band Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla. She taught private voice and served as an ear-training instructor for the Naval Sea Cadets and studied private voice for six years with Carol Marty. Boucher has been a featured soloist at various high-profile events, including the film premiere of “Pearl Harbor” and Jacksonville Jaguars football games.











Fortunately for me, the other players appreciated my instrumental skills and weren’t much concerned with the ‘dying cat’ quality of my vocal stylings.” Once selected, there is another, minor hurdle—enlisting in the Army and conquering basic training. From there, you’re assigned to The U.S. Army Field Band, and your career as a performer begins. But, don’t expect a life of fame and glory. Not the typical rock-star lifestyle The Volunteers make their way from town to town in two, eight-passenger vans. Often, there are countless miles between gigs. The group has made similar treks hundreds of times, so generalizing the atmosphere while they travel is pretty easy. “The journey begins with a little 16

laughter, a little chitchat and a little coffee. Before long, we tend to get a little quiet. Sometimes we find silence soothing. It allows us to reflect,” remarked the band’s accomplished drummer, Staff Sgt. Gerald Myles. Krasulski, the animated bassist, says that the vast amount of travel is a double-edged sword but, for the most part, enjoys it, “for it means seeing new places I never would have had a chance to see if I weren’t a part of The Volunteers.” The group stops periodically for breaks as they roll past all-too-familiar terrain. They stretch, walk around a bit and enjoy the fresh air. But, soon it’s time to pile back into the van and hit the road again. Travelling makes the hotel arrival that much sweeter…most of the time.

Master Sgt. Kirk Kadish, director, keyboard, vocals, and chief arranger, hails from Melvindale, Mich. He entered the Army in 1990 and first served on the faculty of the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, Va., and was assigned to the Field Band in 1994. A freelance composer and arranger, Kadish earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his master’s degree from Towson University.

Sgt. 1st Class Peter Krasulski, bass, joined the Army in 1998. A District of Columbia native, he has served with the 82nd Airborne’s “All-American” Band, the 8th Army Band in Korea, and the 4th Infantry Division Band, with which he was deployed to Iraq. A graduate of St. Petersburg College, Krasulski joined the Field Band in 2005.








“It can get a little confusing as we perform in so many places in such a short timeframe. I have wandered into a closet thinking it was the bathroom. And, I have caught myself thinking I am in a completely different town,” confessed Boucher, vocalist. “Yet it gives us a place to call home, albeit short-lived.” The hotel becomes the group’s hub, the place where they gear up—mentally and physically—for the performance. Touring requires an enormous amount of work and energy. Putting on a show involves travel to and from the hotel to the venue, load-in, set-up, sound check, a brief break, the concert itself, tear-down and load-out. The pre- and post-concert phases (load-in, set-up, tear-down and load-out), in particular, are physically demanding.

They each have responsibilities, and they accomplish them with an amazing amount of efficiency. The equipment truck pulls up. The band launches into action like a NASCAR pit crew as they hurriedly roll large, heavy steel boxes from the truck onto the stage. Like kids ripping open birthday presents, they delve into each metal container pulling cables and equipment out. It’s a bustle of activity. At the end of the concert, they get to do it all over again, just in reverse. The days can be long and taxing. However, the grueling labor eventually leads to the true bread and butter (for the band, as well as the audience)—the performance. Blowing your mind A few minutes before the show,

The Volunteers crack jokes helping the group relax and creating the right mood—fun. Making their way onto the stage, they are met with uncontrollable cheering.

Soldiers • August 2009 17

Staff Sgt. Thomas Lindsey, guitar and vocals, is originally from Daytona Beach, Fla. Prior to joining the Field Band, he served as guitarist with the 9th Army Band at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the 3rd Infantry Division Band at Fort Stewart, Ga., and the 76th Army Band in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Lindsey has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe, performing with musicians such as Charlie Daniels, Martina McBride and The Platters.

Staff Sgt. Randy Wight, vocals, is a native of North Syracuse, N.Y. He joined the Army in 2004 following an extensive career as a solo performer and studio musician. A skilled keyboardist and drummer, Wight is a graduate of Cayuga Community College.

Ee! ! FR


Their performances are intensely delivered and reinforced by an unequivocal amount of pride in what they do. And, what The Volunteers give to the fans is unique—a blend of tunes from different styles, varying genres and multiple generations. Despite the wide variety of music, the message is clear, and it transcends generations. “The thing that amazes me is that their performances can have an equally profound effect on a 60-year-old and a 16-year-old,” acknowledged Chief Warrant Officer Gordon Kippola, officer in charge of the group. There is universal agreement about the group’s ability to appeal to an extensive range of audiences. “At first I thought it was going to be some boring band that gave whack music, but I was really impressed! I loved that it reached out to young peo18

ple and older people! You guys rocked!” exclaimed Sky Tanco, a Platt High School student in Meriden, Conn. Paige Coles, student council president at St. Clement High School in Medford, Mass., reported, “The Volunteers came to my school a few weeks ago…you got everyone out of their seats—even my principal was dancing!” Wight, who wows audiences with his incredible imitations of popular artists like Willie Nelson, appreciates the ability to do what he loves (entertaining audiences) and “to be able to represent the Army in support of our troops.” The newest member of the sextet is Lindsey. Lindsey, known for his awe-inspiring licks on the guitar, truly believes in the band’s mission. “At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s about Soldiers representing Soldiers and sharing the Army story. And we get to do

that—through our music—with people all over the world.” v
Heather Santos works for the U.S. Army Field Band Public Affairs Office.

TUSAFB Concerts

All Army Field Band concerts are free and open to the public. The Department of the Army pays for the costs for transportation, lodging and meals. Concert sponsors must procure a performance site and manage the concert’s publicity campaign, which includes ticket distribution.
SGT Matthew Schilling
Sergeant Matthew Schilling and his patrol were on a reconnaissance operation when their platoon leader was wounded. Surrounded and outnumbered by insurgents, Schilling directed his comrades to set up a perimeter and return fire until the rescue helicopters arrived. When they did arrive, he evacuated the wounded and led the rest of his unit to safety. His exceptional act of leadership earned SGT Schilling not only one of our Nation’s highest honors, the Silver Star, but also the title of “hero” from his platoon leader.

Soldiers • August here. The Nation’s strength starts 2009 19

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Story by Jacqueline M. Hames


USIC, for most people, is a natural and pervasive part of life. It’s everywhere—on your MP3 player, the radio, or stuck on repeat in your head. It helps express otherwise inexpressible feelings, and serves to calm nerves. Music is also a great way to remember things and can be used as a teaching tool. The JamsBio project from Mouth Watering Media harnesses that emotional and academic power to pay tribute to American servicemembers. Officially launched in March, 20

“Honoring the American Soldier” on JamsBio collects special stories and dedications of music to share with others, with the goal of honoring American servicemembers, said Matt Williams, project founder and MWM president. The project started during a brainstorming session, Williams explained, that led MWM to a tribute album the band Queensryche was putting together for servicemembers, called “American Soldier.” The album, which is compiled from interviews with



military personnel, inspired MWM to do a project that involved military members and families telling their stories through music. “We know that music has a healing quality, it has an ability to get somebody through hard times,” Williams said. He hopes this project will help servicemembers heal and provide strength and hope to them through music. Open to all services and components, “Honoring the American Soldier” has already received many


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song dedications from both military members and their families. First Sgt. CJ Grisham posted an entry with the song “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters to honor the lessons he learned while deployed and to remember the Soldiers he served with. “My whole life, as long as I can remember, music has played a huge part in my life,” Grisham said. “I really, really clung to music as a way to deal with any problem I had or any emotion, whether it was good, bad, happy, sad, whatever.” Deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a counter-intelligence special agent, his unit’s job “was to find the guys who were planting improvised explosive devices; find the guys who were funding, building and then placing IEDs, killing civilians” and targeting U.S. forces, Grisham said. His unit captured eight of the 55 most-wanted insurgents while deployed. “(Music) gets you motivated, it calms you down, it gets your mind off the things you’ve witnessed and done and seen, and it allows us to remember

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that we’re human,” Grisham added. Music reminds Soldiers that there are ordinary people back home listening to the same songs, and that they can connect with those people through a shared interest in a song, he explained. While in Iraq, Grisham’s wife sent him “Times Like These” because she thought he would like it. The Foo Fighters’ front man was the former drummer for Nirvana, and Grisham was a Nirvana fan. “(The song) really kind of spoke to me because it urges you to keep going,
Soldiers • August 2009 21

front of a Spc. Earl “Doug” Boyce poses in Forward mural he designed and painted for Operating Base Warhorse.




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you know? These trying times that we are going through, they really teach you what’s important about life,” he said. Now, whenever Grisham hears that song, it reminds him of times relaxing after a mission with his unit. “I really think that music plays a very integral part in troops’ lives, especially in a combat environment, because you’re constantly on the go and your senses are constantly heightened. And if all you did was come back and sit in your room, you’d go crazy,” Grisham said. The same is true for civilians, espe22

cially for the spouses of those who are deployed. Joy Boyce, wife of Spc. Earl “Doug” Boyce, believes she stays connected to her husband through music. Doug, as she calls him, is currently deployed to Iraq and working long hours as a tanker and resident “post artist.” “I feel that our Soldiers need to know, as much as possible, that we are thinking of them at home,” Boyce said.  JamsBio offers a way to publicly acknowledge the service of loved ones who are deployed.  “JamsBio helps me to deal with deployment by giving and sharing the

feelings associated with deployment,” she added. Boyce and her husband were married in Alaska a mere three weeks before he was deployed. She dedicated Etta James’ “At Last” to her husband, because it helps her feel romantically connected to him. “My husband took my hand and pulled me to my feet and began to dance with me,” Boyce said, recalling when the song played during their honeymoon. “He held me close and, of course, dipped me at the end of the song. I began to cry because of the im-

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pending deployment and he promised me then there would be many, many more slow dances in the future. I felt so loved and so lucky.  Now when I hear ‘At Last,’ it is everything to me—it is my happiness, my sadness, my heart, my love.” Doug doesn’t post anything to JamsBio because of the long hours he works—any time spent online is used to communicate directly with his wife and other family members through video-chat, he explained. However, Doug was very excited to hear “At Last.” “That’s her dedication to me. It was

pretty nice,” he said of the post, adding that the song held special significance other than the association with his honeymoon. “When I get home ‘at last’ we’ll be able to be together.” If Doug were to dedicate a song to his wife on JamsBio, he said it would be “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, which was their wedding song. “(My wife) sent me a ukulele and I said I was going to learn how to play the song for her. I’m horrible at it,” he laughed. “Either way it will be nice; I’m going to play it.”

For many servicemembers, music is a way to keep grounded and connected to those they love. JamsBio provides a way to communicate feelings to loved ones that may have remained unexpressed, as well as a public outlet to help better understand the self. “It’s a really cool project,” Doug said. “It lets people voice their ideas and feelings and gives people a way to express themselves. It’s an outlet. It’s very helpful.” v Check out more song dedications at
Soldiers • August 2009 23


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The Army in Action 24


A Soldier assisgned to the 28th Combat Support Hospital at Fort Bragg, N.C., leaps from the ramp of a C-130 aircraft during an airborne operation on Sicily Drop Zone, D-Day 2009. Approximately 60 Soldiers participated in the jump . — Photo by Sgt. Maj. Kelly C. Luster Soldiers • April 2009 25 August 2009

army news
HE Human Terrain System studies cultural perceptions by attaching anthropological research teams to combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are currently 21 teams in country, one for each brigade, division and corps. “On every team we have social scientists who are formally trained researchers,” said Dr. Rubye Braye, a social scientist and retired lieutenant colonel. “Team members…obtain the perceptions of the Iraqi people on key issues to better understand their needs and requirements.” Braye recently spoke on behalf of Iraqi workers who worked on Contingency Operating Base Basra, and had to enter the gate through a narrow path lined with concertina wire. The employees were concerned someone


could fall onto the wire, and felt the path was for criminals. Braye met with 34th Infantry Division leadership to discuss alternative security measures. Through surveys and face-to-face interaction, HTS scientists ask locals questions like, “Are you scared to vote in the elections? Do you trust the Iraqi police? Are there any disputes in your village? What can coalition forces do for you?” Often considered the location of the biblical Garden of Eden, the fertile marshes of southern Iraq were once the breadbasket of the Middle East. Saddam Hussein destroyed the marshes after the first Gulf War. Once twice the size of the Florida Everglades, they are now a fraction of their former size, and HTS scientists advised 34th Inf. Div. leadership of their future potential.

Dr. Michael Izady Members of the Marsh Arab tribe traverse the marshes of southern Iraq. Once twice the size of the Florida Everglades, the marshes are now a fraction of their former size after their drainage by Saddam Hussein. Human Terrain System anthropologists advocate restoring the marshes.

army deploys scientists to study Iraqi culture

“Restoring the marshes will bring back the local economy and stop arms smuggling,” said Leslie Kayanan, an HTS team leader assigned to the 34th Inf. Div., who explained the third-order effect would be the goodwill generated by the government of Iraq working to restore an area ravaged by the old regime. v —Pfc. J.P. Lawrence/Multi-National Division-South Public Affairs Office

Cash bonus to replace stop-loss for deploying Guard soldiers

Crisis intervention resources


new program that provides special pay for Soldiers deploying past their end-of-service dates is set to take effect Sept. 1 for the National Guard. The Deployment Extension Stabilization Pay program replaces the stoploss program and pays a cash bonus of up to $6,000 to Soldiers in units set to deploy who elect to stay in past their end-of-service date in order to deploy, said Col. Marianne Watson, Army National Guard personnel officer. The bonus is not a lump-sum payment and the amount of the incentive depends upon when Soldiers decide to extend their enlistment contract. If Soldiers agree to extend 180 to 365 days before the mobilization date, they will receive $500 each month on active duty, but, that rate drops to $350 a month for those who extend between 90 and 179 days. Soldiers who elect to take advan26

tage of this program would have their enlistment contracts extended for the length of the deployment plus 90 days, said Watson. However, in order to qualify for the incentive pay, Soldiers must make it through readiness processing at the mobilization station. Those Soldiers who have enlistment contracts that expire during the deployment and who choose not to extend may still have to deploy. “Anybody with a contract expiration date of mobilization-day-plusone-year, we’re taking to theater,” said Watson. But Soldiers may rotate out of theater up to three months early if need be in order to have them take part in the 30-, 60- and 90-day reintegration programs prior to the end of their term of service. v — Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy/National Guard Bureau


OLDIERS, Army civilians and their families in need of crisis intervention now have two resources, staffed around the clock: Military OneSource and the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. The Military OneSource professionally trained consultants assess callers’ needs and refer them to health care professionals. The Military OneSource toll-free number for the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647, and its Web site is Overseas personnel should refer to the Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location. The DCOE Outreach Center provides the latest information on psychological health and TBI issues. It can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, and www.dcoe. v

From the Army News Service and Other Sources

Humvee still made in america
Spc. Kiyoshi C. Freeman

This Humvee prepares for a convoy mission inside the yard at Convoy Support Center Scania, Iraq.

HE military’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as a “HMMWV” or “Humvee,” will continue to be made in the United States, by an American-owned company. The recent announcement that Detroit-based General Motors will sell their Hummer brand of vehicles to Chinese-based Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company, has no bearing on the U.S. military’s Humvee. Humvee manufacturer AM General is an American company based in South Bend, Ind. The company produced the


first 55,000 Humvees for the Army in 1985. It continues to produce the Humvee for the military. In the early 1990s, AM General began producing a civilian version of the Humvee, calling it a “Hummer.” But by the late 1990s, AM General had sold the Hummer name to General Motors. While GM will sell the Hummer nameplate to Sichuan Tengzhong, the military’s Humvee, its designs, unique performance capabilities and technologies will continue to be owned by — and the vehicle produced by — AM General. v — C. Todd Lopez/ARNEWS

‘Pets of Patriots’ program ensures care of soldiers’ pets


HEN Soldiers deploy, they often leave behind loving family members, including small furry ones. To alleviate some of the concerns Soldiers have regarding their pets’ care, the Hawaiian Humane Society offers the “Pets of Patriots” program, helping match volunteers to animals and owners, providing a temporary home for pets of deploying Soldiers. Domestic short hair cats, Fancy and Jambo, have adjusted nicely since their owner, Staff Sgt. Roxanne Pratt, deployed. They strut through the living room of Bianca Trombi, outreach programs coordinator, Hawaiian Humane Society, stopping in front of their “foster mom” for a quick pat on the head. “The Pets of Patriots Program allows a single and solitary Soldier like myself the joy of being able to raise animals without the pain and fear of having to give away a beloved pet at every deployment,” said Pratt. All active-duty military members who have pets that need temporary care are eligible for Pets of Patriots. Foster homes can be military or civilian. Some foster families even provide emails and photos for Soldiers overseas to help them cope with being far away from home.

The owner, according to Anne Marie MacPherson, community relations coordinator at the Hawaiian Humane Society, usually handles the pet’s financial needs, and both parties should agree upon all financial responsibilities prior to deployment. Meeting the volunteer and allowing a pet and the foster family to spend time together before deployment is also recommended.
Molly Hayden

“We Soldiers lose a great deal every time we leave and come back changed every time,” said Pratt. “Programs such as Pets of Patriots help to whittle the stack of unsettling events surrounding deployments down to a bare minimum and let us concentrate on the business at hand.” v — Molly Hayden/U.S. Army GarrisonHawaii Public Affairs

Foster mom Bianca Trombi, outreach programs coordinator, Hawaiian Humane Society, lounges on the floor with Jambo. Trombi is fostering Jambo, along with his sister Fancy, while Staff Sgt. Roxanne Pratt is deployed. Through the Pets of Patriots Program, the Humane Society assists deploying Soldiers in finding temporary homes for their pets.

Soldiers • August 2009 27

Protecting Soldiers’
Post-Deployment Health Reassessment

Story by Army PDHRA Program Team
TAFF Sgt. Les Newport returned from a nine-month deployment to Iraq in November 2008. “While I had been in the Army for 27 years, nothing prepares you for what you may witness during a deployment. You push your health concerns aside as you are excited to reunite with family and loved ones,” said Newport, who belongs to the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team with the Indiana National Guard. He completed the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment four months after he returned from Iraq. “The PDHRA was very helpful for 28

Combat tours

me. I knew I had a banged up knee and was relieved to be referred to a specialist for tests, and eventually, treatment.”

What is PDHRA?
More than 483,000 Soldiers have been screened by the PDHRA since the summer of 2005. The PDHRA program is part of the Department of Defense’s overall Force Health Protection Program, and is a global health initiative based on solid research. Soldiers and civilians back from a combat zone for 90 days or more are eligible for the three-part screening. Soldiers who redeployed after

March 10, 2005, are required to complete the PDHRA. The PDHRA proactively screens for potential health issues. The program also focuses on identification of treatment so Soldiers and civilians can retain a healthy balance in spite of the multiple stresses associated with a deployment. “Soldiers want to spend time with their families when they return home. But, it’s important for Soldiers to address their medical needs before they become serious,” said Col. Shirley Kyles, PDHRA program administrator for the Army’s active component. “By conducting the PDHRA within 90 to

Coming home

“Soldiers want to spend time with their family when they return home. But, it’s important for Soldiers to address their medical needs before they become serious.” —Col. Shirley Kyles
transition back to home life is sometimes difficult. We understand Soldiers may be reluctant to seek help for issues. The PDHRA bypasses this stigma by bringing the medical system directly to the Soldier,” said Kyles. The PDHRA consists of viewing Battlemind II training, completing a health care form (DD Form 2900), which includes questions for both behavioral and physical health concerns, and speaking one-on-one with a health care provider. Battlemind II Training, developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, includes vignettes that help Soldiers relate combat experiences to feelings they may encounter after deployment. The training also emphasizes safe and healthy personal relationships and teaches Soldiers to look out for each other’s health. “We educate Soldiers to look out for their buddies. We teach Soldiers to recognize symptoms such as erratic behaviors in their buddies, and we train Soldiers how to get help for their buddies,” said Kyles.

180 days after a Soldier returns from a deployment, we can potentially identify and alleviate some of the stress associated with a combat deployment.” According to Newport, it is important for Soldiers to recognize their symptoms, be open to receiving medical attention and be an active participant in their treatment. “It takes real courage for Soldiers to seek help. The PDHRA allows Soldiers to address issues and get plugged into resources such as VA benefits,” said Newport.

How does the screening work?
“Research shows us that a Soldier’s

A commander’s program
In most cases, commanders inform Soldiers when it is time to begin
Soldiers • August 2009 29

“Encourage your Soldier to seek professional advice for health concerns.” —Lt. Col. Sophia Tillman-Ortiz

Taking the PDHRA
the PDHRA process. Soldiers can complete the screening by attending a unit-scheduled screening event, making an appointment at their local medical treatment facility, or through the PDHRA call center. “It is important to note that the PDHRA is a commander’s program,” said PDHRA program manager, Lt. Col. Sophia Tillman-Ortiz. “To ensure a smooth transition, commanders must understand the PDHRA program and help facilitate the screening process.” According to Tillman-Ortiz, Soldiers need to know about the services and benefits available to them, both 30 from the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The PDHRA is an opportunity for Soldiers to discuss, in a safe environment, issues that may be bothering them once they return home. “It is important to understand that if you or your loved one recognize any health-related issues that may need to be addressed, you don’t need to wait for the PDHRA. Encourage your Soldier to seek professional advice for health concerns.” For more information about the PDHRA program, Soldiers, civilians and family members can visit http:// or www.armyg1. Soldiers and commanders can check their PDHRA status at Army Knowledge Online under “My Medical Readiness,” or by clicking on the PDHRA stoplight on their AKO page. v

Post-deployment support
The Army recognizes that family and friends play a vital role in a Soldier’s transition back to home life. “The Army encourages loved ones to take part in the process by reminding their Soldiers to complete the screening beginning 90 days after they return home,” said Tillman-Ortiz.

Keeping the Promise
For us, the Army Family Covenant means the Army stays strong by keeping the Family Strong.
INGRID MURRAY, U.S. Army Spouse Serving Together, Nine Years

It’s about honoring our commitment to Soldiers and Families.
Visit to see what the Army Family Covenant can mean for you or Soldiers • August 2009 31 someone you know.

catch flat track fever !
Story by Jacqueline M. Hames



Gun'Her Down reaches back for her jammer during a bout with the DC Demoncats.

James Calder

OLLER derby is an Americaninvented team sport based on formation skating around an oval track, which can be flat or banked. Played mostly by women, roller derby is an organized, if rough, sport where showmanship is a must (cue flame print knee socks). The derby is a bit of an underdog sport, only recently regaining popularity. Grassroots leagues have popped up around the nation and are gaining a small yet fiercely loyal following. The DC Rollergirls, part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, was founded in 2006, and now consists of four teams: Cherry Blossom Bombshells, Scare Force One, DC DemonCats, and the Secretaries of Hate, according to the league’s Web site. The league is based in Washington, D.C., and holds scrimmages regularly at the D.C. Armory. Among the ranks of the fishnet-clad Rollergirls are two Soldiers—one activated Reserve major, Melissa Mitravich, and one former Soldier, Diana Dawa. Currently, the DC Rollergirls have many Army fans, including wounded


warriors and co-workers, who come to support their favorite teams. Mitravich said at least one group of wounded Soldiers attends every bout, and the league reserves a special section for them close to the action. Some bouts have upwards of 1,600 spectators, but more are always welcome. It’s the community support that helps keep the league finances in order—as a non-profit organization, the Rollergirls rely on volunteers and ticket sales to help run and fund matches. “We really need people to come watch roller derby!” said Dawa, laughing. On the track, Dawa and Mitravich skate hard and yell profanities with the rest of the pack. Off the track, they are good-humored, easy-going women with a passion for the roller derby that is only matched by their commitment to the Army. Mitravich enlisted in the Army in 1987. After her transfer to the Reserve, she was commissioned in 1996 and is now both a registered nurse and a family nurse practitioner. She is currently assigned to the Department of the

Army Mobilization Division as a mobilization common operating picture combat developer. “I deal with requirements and concepts…I am the government oversight for software application that deals with


Hooah!Girl blocks opposing jammer Dr. Skabs with help from ShREDica.

Jacqueline Hames

James Calder (Inset) Diana Dawa laughs at a fellow DemonCat’s antics during a break from a scrimmage with Scare Force One, Feb. 17.

Soldiers • August 2009 33

all Army Reservists that are mobilized,” Mitravich explained. Sporting a tattoo on one ankle and using the nickname “Gun‘Her Down,” the job description comes as somewhat of a surprise. However, Mitravich explains there are all kinds of women in the derby: zookeepers, teachers, Soldiers and chief executive officers among them. “If you love sports, if you love contact, adrenaline rush—this is a sport any woman can do,” she said. “When I go into the Army and I get to do my job, especially in the medical field, whether I am ER or I am working on the floor, for me it’s a rush. I love my job, I love dealing with Soldiers” despite their injuries, Mitravich said. “It makes me feel good and it’s always a challenge.” “I’ve been really lucky that my Army family has really supported me in this,” she added. “Most of them are here watching the bouts.” Two years ago, Mitravich watched a match with a friend and discovered that rush of adrenaline anew—on skates. She was not able to join immediately because she was mobilized, but once in the Washington area, another friend introduced her to the Rollergirls. She was “drafted” onto Scare Force One in October 2008 and has been loving derby ever since. “It’s one of those things where you can actually hit somebody and know

you’re not going to get arrested. I mean it’s awesome!” Mitravich joked. During a bout, the women skate around the track and slam into one another like runaway bumper cars, though there is no hair pulling, biting or elbowing as some movies would have us believe. That would lead to a penalty. Each team has five skaters on the track: three blockers, one pivot and one jammer. Positions are designated by helmet covers, and any player can play any position. Jammers have starred covers, pivots have striped, and blockers are coverless. Pivots and blockers form the pack, the main force of the game, and jammers trail 20 feet behind to start. Pivots set the pace of the pack, Mitravich explained, while jammers score points by lapping the pack. Blockers prevent the opposing team’s jammers from getting through the pack—using hip checks and shoulder bumps—and help their own jammers get through. The goal is to score the highest amount of points over a 30-minute period, which is broken into two-minute intervals,

called jams. “I really enjoy the flat track because I think it adds a little bit more of a familiar and personal level to it. The audience is allowed to sit 10 feet from the track when the action is going on,” Dawa said. It’s an especially personal experience when Dawa sends an opposing team member staggering into the audience—an event that gives her a “rush.” Dawa, known as “Hooah!Girl”on the DC DemonCats, had an affair with derby at an early age, watching it on Saturday mornings when she was young. As an adult she was introduced to derby through a friend who is on the team with her now. After going to a league meeting, she was hooked. “My favorite moments are the athleticism, working out, being able to go really fast on the track and actually hitting people and not having to apologize for that. Everybody here is very aggressive, some more so than others,” Dawa said. Dawa enlisted in the Army immediately after high school graduation and eventually became a combat cam-

Maj. Melissa Mitravich, also known as Gun’Her Down, hashes out player positions with a member of Scare Force One before a scrimmage at the D.C. Armory, Feb. 17.


Jacqueline Hames

eraman in Korea, then a broadcaster in Germany. After leaving the military in 1992, she became an Army civilian. She returned to the U.S. Army in 2002 and is currently a public affairs specialist with the Army Materiel Command. Her derby nickname is a tribute to the experience and education she received in the Army. “The Army literally saved my life. I just wanted to give something back. It’s my own little way of making people say ‘Hooah’ without knowing what they are saying,” Dawa said with a grin. The Army has some similarities to roller derby that help make these women feel right at home on the track. Among them, Dawa and Mitravich agree, is a strong sense of sisterhood. Mitravich describes the league as a second family. “Everybody helps everybody else,” Dawa added. Roller derby is very organized like the Army, Dawa explained. The league has committees and many leadership positions, lending it a military air. “A lot of the organizational structure that was in the military that appealed to me

is also in roller derby, which really appeals to me as well,” Dawa said. Getting on the track and skating a bout can be likened to a combat mindset, though Mitravich emphasizes that combat missions and derby bouts cannot be directly compared. She explained that skaters need an overall awareness of the track, the referees, and the position of all the skaters, similar to a Soldier’s awareness of his or her surroundings in the field. Soldiers have a general plan and expectations for the mission, Mitravich said, but have to be able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Derby skaters need the same mental agility, or “pack awareness,” in order to perform well on the track. “This is by far the hardest sport I have ever played in my life because it requires an offense-defense mind at the same time,” Mitravich said. Both Dawa and Mitravich hope that the Army may put together its own derby team in the future, including both male and female athletes. “I think it’s the right kind of atmosphere that promotes empowerment,

and promotes leadership skills, so I think it would be perfect,” Dawa said. For more information on the DC Rollergirls, visit v

Jammers, Gun’Her Down and Blonde Fury race off the jam line.

Hooah!Girl leads the DC DemonCat line-up.

James Calder

James Calder

Soldiers • August 2009 35

In ‘the shadow of a mighty presence’
Story by Elizabeth M. Collins

legacy) family (A
he was surprised to find that the answer was “yes.” “It was a huge surprise,” the Arizona National Guard Soldier said. “I had this long family lineage that I didn’t really even know about. I got my dad to kind of open up about a lot of the family traditions of military service. “It’s something that I’ve always kind of had as motivation in my own heart that I’ve had this many who have served in my family. It provides unique inspiration and pride.” Chamberlain isn’t sure how many “greats” there are between him and the general, but he said he is a direct descendant, and that his family’s legacy of service stretches even further back, to the Revolutionary War. In fact, Chamberlain has had a relative in almost every American conflict for the past

Little Round Top, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863.


IRST Lt. Dennis Chamberlain always knew that he wanted to join the Army and carry on his family’s legacy of military service—he just didn’t know quite how long or how famous that family legacy was. You may be wondering, Chamberlain? Famous? Does she mean the Chamberlain? Brevet Maj. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Civil War fame? That Chamberlain? (Brevet signifies an officer who has been authorized a temporary, higher rank, usually without higher pay.) Chamberlain was asked these questions over and over again during Officer Candidate School, and when he finally broke down and asked his father, a Vietnam veteran, if they were related to the Medal of Honor winner,

230-plus years. “I’m Lieutenant Dan,” he quipped about the “Forrest Gump” character who had ancestors in every war. Of course, they all died, while most of Chamberlain’s relatives lived. One of his mother’s ancestors, Jacob Snider, was a surveyor with George Washington just prior to the Revolution, and after the war began, accepted a commission in the Continental Army. Chamberlain didn’t mention them, but according to Michael Golay’s “To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel Lives of Joshua Chamberlain and Edward Porter Alexander,” Joshua Chamberlain also had great-grandfathers who served in the Revolution—one of them was at the Battle of Yorktown—and a grandfather who was a militia colonel during the War of 1812. Joshua’s father also served during the Aroostook War

(Right) 1st Lt. Dennis Chamberlain poses with Soldiers participating in the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.

(Right three photos) 1st Lt. Dennis Chamberlain and his wife, Jennifer, now a private first class and X-ray technician in the Reserves.

Note: All non-historic photos courtesy of 1st Lt. Dennis Chamberlain. All historic photos courtesy of the Library of Congress unless otherwise noted.


“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream; And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”
Brevet Maj. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, speaking at the dedication of the monument to the 20th Maine, Oct. 3, 1889, Gettysburg, Pa.
Brevet Maj. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

in 1839, which was essentially a cold war between the U.S. and Great Britain over the Maine-Canada border. The general’s brothers served in the Civil War as well. Another of Chamberlain’s distant grandfathers was killed during World War I after volunteering for a highrisk mission to carry intelligence back from the trenches. Chamberlain’s great-grandfather and grandfather were both in the Navy, and his grandfather, Dwight Lawrence Chamberlain II, was permanently injured during one of the USS Yorktown’s World War II battles. Various other great-uncles and uncles served during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. His father was in basic training during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That training suddenly sped up during the standoff, and his father

eventually deployed to Vietnam. Chamberlain said his father’s experiences in Vietnam made him concerned for his son when Chamberlain enlisted on the first day he was eligible at age 17. One of Chamberlain’s brothers had died as a child, and his father was naturally worried. “I don’t think he wanted (war) to change me. War inevitably changes you. He was just worried how it was going to affect me, and also worried about me coming home, because in the infantry we tend to be placed in dangerous situations. Your parents just worry about you and want to make sure you come home,” Chamberlain explained. Chamberlain’s wife, Jennifer, is a private first class in the Army Reserve. During his 2007 deployment to Af-

ghanistan, he said Jennifer decided to go back to school to become an X-ray technician. It turned out that there was a long waiting list for school, but the Army had an expedited program. “I thought, ‘Why in the world would she want to be a Soldier?’” said Chamberlain. “She’s seen me go through everything from kinetic operations and combat to the missed birthdays and anniversaries. I just never thought that that was something that she would want to pursue. She talked with me about the advantages and disadvantages and it seemed like it was a viable plan. God knows that she’s supported me through thick and thin, and I thought it was my turn to support her.” The Chamberlains have three young daughters, and are concerned

Soldiers • August 2009 37

Battle of Gettysburg

Currier and Ives Little Round Top, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863.

they might eventually have to deploy at the same time. Fortunately, Chamberlain’s parents are very involved in their lives and available to help out. That came in handy in 2007 after Chamberlain left for Afghanistan, and his wife heard he received some minor injuries during a clearing operation. His convoy came under fire and a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby, injuring Chamberlain and two of his Soldiers. He eventually received the Purple Heart, but the injuries were minor enough that they patched themselves up and continued with the mission. On another occasion, Chamberlain and his men had to come to the rescue of some dignitaries with familiar names: Sens. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, and then-Sen. Joe Biden. Chamberlain’s unit had been providing security for provincial reconstruction teams and special operations, and received an emergency call that Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, was stranded in the mountains. When they met up with an 11-vehicle Secret Service convoy, Chamberlain figured something was up, but it wasn’t until he was en route that he

found out three senators were stuck in a bad blizzard with some insurgents nearby. “We linked up with them and got security in place,” he said. “From there, I pushed out the Secret Service vehicles and one of my heavy squads to provide security for them heading down the mountain. Some insurgents came up on them and we got them out of there and from there to Turkey.” The mission was an entry on his Bronze Star citation, and although it has garnered Chamberlain some attention, he cautions that it was just one mission among many and he was only one man on that mission. “I was just one person in a great group of guys who made me look good,” he said. “It was their individual actions that brought us together as a team, that made us such a great fighting force. It was a National Guard infantry called on to rescue some of probably the most important people on the ground in Afghanistan. It was our team who was called on to do great things, more than just rescuing the senators and the vice president.” But in times of stress and high optempo, Chamberlain said that he does sometimes think about what Joshua

Chamberlain or some of his other forefathers would do. “We’ve had a few books that have been written by family members that I’ve read, and biographies and stuff,” he said. “I actually think I have a lot of the same characteristics. Especially General Chamberlain. He was written about a lot—a very aggressive, charismatic leader. I’ve been accused of being very aggressive. “In my own defense, I think my aggressiveness is one of the major reasons that I was able to bring all my guys home alive,” he explained. “They put the enemy on their heels. And I have to say, his aggressiveness in Gettysburg was absolutely pivotal in the momentum of that battle. I would say sometimes I think about it, but most of the time, you just react on your training and what you’ve learned all through the schools you’ve gone to in the military and your life’s lessons growing up. That’s what you bank on in the heat of the battle.” All three of Chamberlain’s daughters are under age 10—too young to understand their family history just yet. But when they’re older, Chamberlain said he plans to make sure they know about their famous ancestor and the family’s legacy of service. v

1st Lt. Dennis Chamberlain watches an air-support helicopter approach during his deployment to Afghanistan.

1st Lt. Dennis Chamberlain and his wife, Jennifer, now a private first class in the Reserves, and their daughters, left to right, Cami, Chloe and Kaci.


Who was Joshua Chamberlain?


ORN in 1828, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a professor at Bowdoin College in Maine when the Civil War began in 1861. Granted a sabbatical, he enlisted in the 20th Maine Regiment, where, although he had no previous military experience, Chamberlain was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel. Held in reserve during the Battle of Antietam, Md., in 1862, Chamberlain and his unit saw their first action at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., and spent a freezing night in the open with wounded Soldiers, using bodies of the fallen for shelter. “It was a cold night,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Bitter, raw north winds swept the stark slopes…Necessity compels strange uses. For myself, it seemed best to bestow my body between two dead men among the many left there by earlier assaults, and to draw another crosswise for a pillow out of the trampled, blood-soaked sod, pulling the flap of his coat over my face to fend off the chilling winds, and, still more chilling, the deep, many-voiced moan that overspread the field. It was heart-rending.” Chamberlain was promoted to colonel of the regiment in 1863, and it was that July that his famous charge took place at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., the bloodiest battle of the war with more than 50,000 casualties. Sent to defend Little Round Top— both the high ground and the location of a Union signal station—the 20th Maine was at the far left of the Union line. They endured numerous charges from the Confederates until their line almost doubled back on itself and ammunition almost ran out. Casualties were heavy. Chamberlain ordered his men to “fix bayonets” and charge toward the Confederates. The left wing wheeled back and forth to both flank and assault the enemy. “One word was enough—

‘BAYONET!’—It caught like fire and swept along the ranks,” Chamberlain recalled. “The grating clash of steel in fixing bayonets told its own story; the color rose in front; the whole line quivered for the start; the edge of the left-wing rippled, swung, tossed among the rocks, straightened, changed curve from scimitar to sickle-shape; and the bristling archers swooped down upon the serried host—down into the face of half a thousand! Two hundred men! “Ranks were broken; many retired before us somewhat hastily; some threw

their muskets to the ground—even loaded; sunk on their knees threw up their hands, calling out, ‘We surrender. Don’t kill us!’ As if we wanted to do that! We kill to resist killing.” Chamberlain’s men captured so many Confederates that they were outnumbered two to one and the Union eventually carried the day. Chamberlain received the sobriquet “Lion of the Round Top” and later, the Medal of Honor. The following June, during the siege of Petersburg, Va., Chamberlain was shot in the right hip and groin. Before passing out, he jabbed his sword into the ground and held on to keep

himself upright for several minutes to discourage calls for retreat. Army surgeons believed it was a mortal wound and Chamberlain’s death was reported in Maine newspapers and to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who promoted Chamberlain posthumously, or so he believed, to brigadier general. Given an early version of a catheter, Chamberlain lived, but faced infections and revision surgeries for the rest of his life, and eventually died from complications of the wound in 1914. Nevertheless, he returned to duty about five months later in November 1864. In March 1865, his new unit, the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of V Corps, participated in a major skirmish during Grant’s final advance in Virginia. Chamberlain was almost captured and was brevetted to the rank of major general. A few days later, on April 12, 1865, he was given the honor of presiding over the parade of Confederate infantry during their surrender at Appomattox Court House, Va. As the vanquished enemy marched down the road, Chamberlain honored their bravery by ordering his men to shoulder their arms, and salute them. “This was the last scene of such momentous history that I was impelled to render some token of recognition; some honor also to manhood so high,” Chamberlain later recalled. The Confederate Gen. John Gordon rose in his saddle and returned the salute. After the war, Chamberlain served as governor of Maine, and later as the president of his alma mater and former employer, Bowdoin College. Despite old age and ill health, he tried to reenlist during the Spanish-American War in 1898, but was rejected for duty. Editor’s note: Information for the above biography comes from “Bayonet! Forward: My Civil War Reminiscences,” by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and “Joshua Chamberlain: A Hero’s Life & Legacy,” by John J. Pullen. v

Soldiers • August 2009 39

A time of war
Story by Sandy Ates
Courtesy of Charles W. Eubanks

“We boys knew we were gonna fight!”

Pvt. Charles W. Eubanks stands beside his jeep while serving in Germany during World War II.


HARLES William Eubanks, a resident of West Point, Miss., wants to be remembered—not as a hero, but as a survivor of D-Day. “Forget about what you saw on ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ the film footage shown at Omaha Beach was taken from an airplane,” said the 86-year-old World War II Army veteran. “It was much worse from our level. The Nazis totally had us pinned down in the sand—all the while, blood, human flesh, body parts and metal were raining down on our Soldiers lucky enough to be alive. We were on our bellies from the time we left the (PT) boats until the time we finally took our objective.” Eubanks, a native of Troy, Miss., is a decorated Army veteran who survived both the Normandy invasion and Battle of the Bulge. 40

“I survived because of two things,” he explained, “Divine intervention and the training at Camp Van Dorn. That is why I am a survivor of the worst battle that there’s ever been. If we hadn’t been successful June 6, 1944, Americans would be speaking German right now.” He remembers all too well that others were not so lucky on June 6, 1944. A junior in high school when Pearl Harbor was bombed, Eubanks recalled how he and friends talked about the war. “We boys knew we were going to fight,” he said. “But we had discussions among ourselves as to whether we were going to fight for our country, for the politicians or for the flag. But everybody knew we would fight—the world was in turmoil.” Eubanks would not

join the Army until September 1943, at the age of 20. “In the fall of 1943,” he said, “I went to a training school in Tupelo and was trained for factory work. I then went to Bristol, Conn., and worked for $325 a month as a copper plater— more money than a country boy ever had.” By then, the recruiting offices had closed and everyone, including volunteers, entered the military through the draft. “But I didn’t feel right about not going to war. My brother was already serving and most of my friends, too, and I felt it was my time to go, so I volunteered for the draft,” Eubanks said. “I should have listened to my employer,” Eubanks joked. “He told me he could defer me three times, and

Courtesy of Charles W. Eubanks

Battle of the Bulge

Cynthia (James) Eubanks, shortly before coming to the U.S. in 1947.

when I got into the thick of that hell on Earth, I wished I’d listened to him.” Eubanks remembered boarding a school bus and heading to Camp Shelby, near Hattiesburg, Miss., where he was inducted into the Army. The veteran remembered one of the draftees at Camp Shelby taunting training officials. “Jessie Dearing said, ‘You don’t need to train us. We’ve been shootin’ squirrels since we were six or seven years old. We can shoot those Germans just as good without training,’ and he did.” Eubanks left Camp Shelby and headed for basic training at Camp Van Dorn in south Mississippi, training with the 63rd Infantry Division. “We were treated like animals during boot camp. For two weeks, we were

‘caged’ and purposely driven to think nothing of ourselves, and were taught to keep moving forward,” said Eubanks pausing, and raising a withered index finger upwards. “That’s how we were trained.” After basic training, Eubanks shipped out from New Jersey and arrived in Liverpool, England, where the war was already in full swing. “We were all so young,” he said. “So many of us were uneducated Southern boys, but we knew enough to know it was going to be bad.” After arriving in Liverpool, he became part of the 29th Division and was assigned as a first scout. Eubanks said the first scout was the man who went out first for about 20 or 30 feet when the troops were on patrol, and recalled he was often able

to pass through enemy lines because Germans were waiting for the officers who would come behind him. On the morning of June 6, 1944, Eubanks was among the 150,000 Soldiers who stormed Normandy’s beaches. At three in the morning Eubanks said, “They gave us a backpack and dropped us out. I couldn’t swim and I don’t know how I made it. “We were in water over our heads and a lot of the Soldiers drowned before reaching the beach,” said Eubanks. “The Germans did not intend for the allies to get to the beach (Omaha Beach)—they had complete control of the area. On the beach, Soldiers encountered landmines, mortars, smallarms fire—the Germans were pretty smart people.” After visiting Normandy years later,
Soldiers • August 2009 41

Courtesy of Charles W. Eubanks Charles W. Eubanks (front row, 2nd right) joins other young men for induction into the Army at Camp Shelby, Miss.

Wounded Americans are helped ashore at Normandy.

Eubanks said of that day, “It was the biggest resistance Germany had. They were the most prepared army there was. They had big concrete and steel bunkers, and even today, those same bunkers are as good now as they were in 1944.” He talked a great deal about the American military leadership of those days—the good and the bad. Remembering some words Gen. George Patton shared with the troops, Eubanks heard Patton say: “You old foot Soldiers is the sorriest you could be unless you win this war.” Patton also told troops they were bought and paid for by Uncle Sam. “We feed you, clothe you, and give you guns, and you’re going to fight!” Eubanks, who learned to “move forward” in basic training, said the words rang clearer when spoken by the notorious Patton. “If a Soldier gets hit and you know you’re going to die, hold up your rifle and let another Soldier get it. It’s hard to get another rifle, but it’s easy to get more dog faces (Patton’s nickname for the Soldiers).” He served under Patton for about two weeks before reassignment under the command of Gen. Omar Bradley, who he described as a Christian man. “Patton low-graded us to get us to fight. He played on your mind, but it 42

seemed to work because we won the war.” Still under Patton’s command, Eubanks said that on June 11, five days after the landing, he and other Soldiers dug in at the hedgerows. A German reconnaissance plane flew just above them, the pilot searching for his landing strip under darkness. “All down the line, we told our boys not to fire on the plane because it was a trap set by the

“The best thing about the war was meeting my wife. The moment I met her in the park one day, I knew that I was going to marry her.” — Charles W. Eubanks
Germans,” Eubanks explained. “One foolish Soldier took a potshot at the plane and when the pilot saw the light, he laid a strip of bombs right on top of us.” Eubanks and many other wounded Soldiers were evacuated to a hospital near Coventry, England. “The Red Cross broke the news to my mother that I was missing in action, and the Army sent her my dog tags, my watch and a copy of the New Testament that we were given in basic

training,” Eubanks chuckled. “All the while I was recuperating at the hospital in England.” A letter from the War Department arrived for Mrs. Louise Eubanks, July 5, 1944, expressing the Army’s sorrow for their recent erroneous telegram. The letter further explained that her son was wounded in action June 11, 1944 in France, and was hospitalized in England. The Army, however, would not give her details about the nature of his wounds. Shrapnel remained in the wound to his left leg, but he learned to walk again with the help of a young nurse’s aid at the hospital, 17-year-old Cynthia James, who lived in nearby Birmingham, England. “The best thing about the war was meeting my wife. The moment I met her in the park one day, I knew that I was going to marry her,” Eubanks said, with a large smile and twinkle still in his eye. Eubanks believes the attention of the lovely Welsh nurse’s aid had just as much to do with his speedy recovery as the treatment received by doctors. With the war still very much in progress, the same war that brought the two together separated them. Released from the hospital in October 1944, Eubanks was sent back across

Courtesy of Charles W. Eubanks The Eubanks family.

the Channel—the Battle of the Bulge would be Hitler’s last great offensive. For one two-week span, Eubanks said, his bunch, which belonged to Bradley, was loaned out to Patton’s Third Army for the drive to Berlin. “Central Europe was bad,” he said. “By the time we got to Berlin, the city had been carved into four pieces.” Eubanks said he spent about three months on occupational duty in Berlin and learned to despise the Russians almost as much as he did Hitler because of their destructive behavior toward Berliners. He was glad to learn his old friend from Camp Shelby made good on his promise as a veteran squirrel hunter. “Dearing would go out alone at night and stalk Germans. He hunted them just like he did those squirrels—shot them out of bell towers and places like that.” In the spring of 1946, Eubanks sailed back to America, spent two weeks mustering out at Camp Shelby, and took the bus north toward home. He arrived home in Pontotoc, Miss., unannounced. His mother, who two years earlier thought she had lost him, now had him home for good after two years, nine months and 13 days. She also learned that he had married (in March 1946) the sweet young

nurse’s aid who helped bring about his quick recovery. He returned to England to be with her until her country clearances were approved, then returned home to Pontotoc. Traveling from Birmingham, England, to Birmingham, Ala., she arrived in 1947, and he was waiting there for her. “She was the best thing that came from my service during World War II,”
Courtesy of Charles W. Eubanks Pfc. Charles Eubanks’ World War II awards, Bible, patches and memorabilia.

says Eubanks, resting peacefully in the kitchen chair at their home in West Point. “Then we added three beautiful children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Yes, life has been very good after all those years of marriage.” (Cynthia Eubanks passed away Aug. 5, 2004. They had been married for 57 years). Daughter Annie says he fills his life now by appreciating the family pictures

and military awards and decorations. Pictures are everywhere—humanity mixed with inhumanity, real life and real war. “It wasn’t until Mother passed away that he has really started talking about his military service and World War II experiences,” she said with deep admiration in her voice. “On Memorial Day we have a ceremony here to remember the boys from counties like Pontotoc and small communities in the surrounding area. They were behind a plow one day, hunkered down behind a tank the next,” said Eubanks. “Those with whom I fought alongside, few returned home, but I think about them every day. The boys from the 29th hunkered down, running behind tanks across Europe, nearly 20,000 of them getting killed, teenagers saving the world, aching for their mothers.” He has many medals, certificates and citations to prove his heroism—the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart. Still, the first thing Charles W. Eubanks tells visitors who see the small museum in his modest West Point home is that he is not a hero, but a mere survivor of D-Day, because the real heroes never made it back home. v
Sandy Ates is a staff writer for the Mississippi National Guard Public Affairs Office.

Soldiers • August 2009 43


Story by Anthony Hardman

-- Veterans take time to remember the past while living for today --

FOR the past 23 years, veterans age 55 and older have come together to compete in the National Veterans Golden Age Games. It’s the largest sports and recreational competition for this age group of military veterans in the world, and this year’s competition, held in Birmingham, Ala., in early June, marked a special commemoration. On June 5, 2009, the eve of the 65th anniversary of D-day, four veterans of World War II who fought in Normandy, on and after that frightful day, shared their stories.
Robert Blatnik, age 89, took part in competition with nearly 700 military veterans age 55 or older at the National Veterans Golden Age Games. Blatnik won gold medals in shuffleboard, swimming, discus and shot put competitions. Blatnik was also recognized with the event’s George Gangi Inspiration Award, given to one veteran who clearly demonstrates physical fitness, sportsmanship and competitive skill.


D-Day and fighting in Normandy OBERT Blatnik, an 89-yearold Army veteran, was on the eastern half of Omaha Beach during the invasion. Amazingly, he lived to tell about it. “On the beach, the artillery and smoke were everywhere,” said Blatnik. “It was chaos all around us. I didn’t even see any small arms fire from the Germans, just bodies and bombs going off everywhere.” A sergeant major at the time of the assault on Normandy, Blatnik was already a battle-hardened Soldier serving under Gen. George S. Patton, in the infamous 1st Infantry Division, nicknamed “Big Red One.” Before D-Day, Blatnik fought in the Tunisian campaign in North Africa, and was a part of the invasion of Sicily, in 1943. Blatnik said his experience helped keep him alive. “I knew that the main thing to do was to get off the beach. Some of the men wanted to dig in. When you’re on a beach the main thing to do is confront the enemy. You can’t dig in during something like that; you’ve go to get the hell off the beach. If you try to dig in you’re lost, so I tried to keep my men moving forward.” Bob Sherwood, a 90-year-old veteran of the Merchant Marines also played a crucial role in the invasion of Normandy. “On June 6, 1944, at about four o’clock in the morning, I was on an ocean-going tugboat, hooked up to a big concrete block,” said Sherwood. “We got to Normandy before the invasion and dropped the block.” The blocks Sherwood speaks of were ferried across the English Channel to establish man-made harbors, so that troops and supplies could get in. The Merchant Marines played a major role in the war by supplying more than 70 percent of the troops’ supplies. Sherwood joked that without the Merchant Marines we wouldn’t have won the war. “We had more than 200 concrete blocks to form a breakwater,” said Sherwood. “They moved us away from the invasion and here comes these poor kids. I thanked God I was on a


American assault troops in a landing craft huddle behind the protective front of the craft as it nears a beachhead on the northern coast of France. Smoke in the background is from naval gunfire, June 6, 1944.

U.S. Army Signal Corps

tugboat. These kids hitting the beach, they’re the ones who took the beating. They’re the ones I take my hat off to.” After D-Day, it was up to Soldiers like William Trumbly, an 87-year-old Army veteran, to help make the way into France. It was June 16, 1944, just 10 days after D-Day, when Trumbly, a replacement officer in the 2nd Infantry Division, led a platoon into combat in Normandy. His objective was to secure Hill 192, so the Allied forces could advance past German lines deeper into France. Trumbly, a mortar officer, was 500 feet back from the men on the front lines, but close enough to witness many of them lose their lives. After they secured the hill, Trumbly experienced something he will never forget. “I saw a German soldier laid out like he should be in a casket, so I immediately thought something was wrong. He was laying there with his hands on his chest, so I got down and saw that he had a grenade under his hands.” His attention to detail that day saved his life, and the lives of the men around him. It was after that when

Trumbly reflected on his mortality. “A couple days after that, I said Lord, I’d like to live, but if I get killed that’s all right. I don’t think I’ll survive too many battles like this by myself,” Trumbly said. “I got wounded twice after that, but here I am, 87 years old sitting in front of you.” When these veterans reflect on their time in the war, the fact that they made it through is not lost on them. “I thank God that I made it, I thank him all the time,” said Blatnik. “Faith helped get me through three invasions. I wonder, why me, when so many others died?” Lessons learned The lesson Robert Sherwood learned from war sticks with him to this day. “My advice is to live every day because you may not make it to see tomorrow. Thank God that you’re here, because who knows if you’re gonna be. Live every day for today.” Trumbly learned the true price of freedom. “Freedom somebody has to pay for. Freedom is not free, but it’s worth fighting for. I’d rather die fighting for freedom than kneel before a dictator
Soldiers • August 2009 45

for help.” Returning from war When Blatnik returned from the war, he felt like he was saved for a reason and has since worked to justify that existence. After retiring from the U.S. Postal Service, Blatnik became a paramedic and volunteered his time helping others. “Helping other people was the best pay I’ve ever received,” said Blatnik. Even at the age of 86, Blatnik still donates his time to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dallas, visiting patients who just need someone to talk to. Sherwood came home and worked delivering bread to people’s homes. He recounts the time fondly, and said, “I sure loved delivering bread to those women every day.” He later went on to sell insurance. When Trumbly came home, he decided to go back to college. Earning

a degree in geology, he worked in that field until he retired. A special bond Now, 65 years after the invasion in Normandy, the physical and emotional wounds of war continue to be healed at the National Veterans Golden Age Games. Veterans from all walks of life come together to compete, bond and cheer each other on. It’s those friendships that serve as a special type of therapy—one that helps these veterans lead fuller, more active lives. “It’s not about winning the medals,” said Trumbly. “It’s about camaraderie, having fun and helping us for our mental and physical health. It’s done me a lot of good to be at the games.” v

“It’s not about winning the medals,” said Trumbly. “It’s about camaraderie, having fun and helping us for our mental and physical health.”

Anthony Hardman works for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Courte sy of R obert Blatnik

(Right) Citation from the French government received by Sgt. Maj. Robert Blatnik in recognition of his service in the 1944 Normandy campaign to liberate France during WWII.

(Below) Omaha Beach, June 1944. By Joseph Gary Sheahan.

Courtesy of the U.S. Army Center of Military History


Focus on Soldiers
‘Adventure PT’

Story and photos by Spc. Benjamin Watson

OW does this sound for your morning physical training session? Begin by carrying a canoe over muddy slopes in the dark, racing in two-man teams through the forest to a riverbank; then paddle your canoe nearly six miles down a cold river. Next, put on your body armor, full rucksack and advanced combat helmet and push a tire up and down threeand-a-half miles of hills as the sun rises above the trees and out of the morning fog. You could call it adventurous. Lt. Col. Robert J. Neitzel, chief of operations for the 82nd Airborne Division, does. He described the workout as “adventure PT,” a series of teamoriented challenges meant to work the upper body and test the overall physical fitness of his paratroopers. In April, Soldiers assigned to the Division’s operations team (“The Team”) found out exactly how exhausting and beneficial Neitzel’s “adventure PT” could be.


Team-building with a few twists

Capt. Jose J. Hernandez, battle captain with the operations team for 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters, leads the paddling in a canoe with his teammate, Capt. Ben Salt, a captain in the British Army attached to “The Team,” to the riverbank of Fort Bragg’s Little Creek during a customized morning physical training session called “adventure PT.”

“First and foremost, most people don’t have a lot of experience canoeing,” Neitzel, a native of Horicon, Wisc., said. “So just the simple fact of going straight down a river that’s got a current and has a lot of twists to it, these guys have to talk to each other.” “Canoeing isn’t something that we do on a regular basis,” said Capt. Evan Hessel, battle captain with “The Team.”

From left, Capt. James G. Repshire, a battle captain in the operations team for 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters, along with his teammate, Lt. Col. Robert J. Neitzel, chief of operations for the 82nd Abn. Div., push a tire as a team nearly four miles up and down hills.

“So really for the first 30 minutes, you’re really getting to know your teammate and basically getting in sync. It was not easy right off the bat.” Hessel’s teammate was Staff Sgt. Kenneth J. Ciszek, a communications sergeant with “The Team.” “He’s a good guy,” Hessel said, “and he’s from New York so he’s got a little bit of experience outdoors – New York upstate, not the city.” Hessel said he hadn’t been in a canoe since he was 12 years old. “The river’s a different animal, especially before the sun comes up,” he said. “We ran into the bank a couple times, into a few branches, even a few
Soldiers • August 2009


Focus on Soldiers
trees that had fallen down.” One challenge few had planned for was a short, but intimidating waterfall. Teams could either try their hand at going through it, or disembark on the bank and walk their canoe around it before returning to the river. Almost all of the teams chose to go around, taking the lost time in stride. However, 1st Lt. Yonel Charles, a battle captain with “The Team,” and teammate, Maj. Charles D. Bovey, shift director for the headquarter’s Joint Operations Cell, elected to proceed right on through the falls. To their surprise, they kept their canoe afloat. They were so surprised, in fact, they started cheering and highfiving each other. Then their canoe flipped and they were suddenly shoulder-deep in the cold water of Fort Bragg’s Little River. Despite their spill at the waterfall, Bovey and Charles finished in second place. Ben Salt, a captain in the British Army attached to “The Team,” and his teammate, Capt. Jose J. Hernandez, battle captain with “The Team,” finished the day’s events in third place, but not before having to rally from an early last place position. “We were second in the water,” Salt said, “then we went to last and had to learn how to steer. At one point, we were about 300 meters behind everyone.” Once the teams exited the river, their positions were established. Teams did not pass each other on the long, tiresome push to the finish line. After letting the tire fall at the end, Salt announced, “It feels like I just did one-thousand push-ups.” The team of Hessel and Ciszek came in fourth place, appearing more than happy to be done taking turns pushing their heavy, awkward tire up and down hills. “This was definitely a team-building, cohesion event,” Hessel said, referring to the persistence and communication “adventure PT” requires. Neitzel and his teammate, Capt. James G. Repshire, a battle captain on “The Team,” finished first, crossing the line at almost exactly 8 a.m. As a trophy, Neitzel and Rep-

1st Lt. Yonel Charles, a battle captain with the operations team for 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters, leads the way pushing a tire along with his teammate, Maj. Charles D. Bovey, shift director for the headquarter’s Joint Operations Cell.

From left, Ben Salt, a captain in the British army attached to the operations team, 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters, along with his teammate, Capt. Jose J. Hernandez, a battle captain with “The Team,” push a tire as a team nearly four miles up and down hills.

shire—or “Team Awesome”—were given a customized ping-pong paddle with the words “The Team” written across its face with a marker. “In everything we do, we always focus on team work,” Neitzel said, wrapping up the morning with a few words for his paratroopers—nearly all of whom are deploying together very soon to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. “We’re more than one person or just an entity,” he said as everyone stood in a huddle, sore but pleased with their accomplishments as a team. “If you look at what we are, we are ‘The Team.’ It’s everybody and what they contribute.” v

Spc. Benjamin Watson is assigned to the 49th Public Affairs Detachment (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C.



The Army’s newest Career Management Field 29 (Electronic Warfare) is seeking volunteers to validate pilot training courses through 2010. Electronic Warfare specialists manage the electromagnetic spectrum of the modern battlefield as well as monitor or interdict the enemy’s ability to communicate. As a result, the Army will need officers, warrant officers and enlisted volunteers in the active Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard to locate, target, exploit, disrupt, degrade, deny, or destroy enemy electronic systems supporting military operations at all levels of war. To learn more about pilot course attendance and emerging career opportunities, training, and eligibility requirements, log on to:

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