This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Is compiled and distributed by the Media Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps and is For Official Use Only. The DMR contains material copyrighted by original media sources and copying or dissemination for private use is prohibited without permission of the copyright owners.
D e c. 1 0, 2 0 0 7
CMC Early Bird:
CMC Early Bird - 071210
Link to American Forces Information Service: http://ebird.afis.mil/
C o m p le te S to r ie s :
ABC News Dec. 8, 2007
Military remembers fallen Public Affairs Officer
By Mike Gudgell It was a successful mission. Several known militia members had been killed or captured and a small arsenal of weapons were confiscated. A hostage had been freed. The Iraqis had performed well -- entering one of the offices of the Sadr organization with little help from their U.S. allies. Forty minutes after the firefight, the soldiers entered the safety of their base on the outskirts of Baghdad. That's when they learned they had allegedly killed innocent Iraqis who were praying inside a mosque. What really happened at the Mustafa Husseiniya that day in March 2006 quickly became irrelevant. Pictures of dead bodies laid out on prayer rugs were flashed on the Internet
before the soldiers took off their body armor. The Internet story, posted by the targets of the raid, triggered outrage that, at the time, threatened U.S. efforts to help form a new Iraqi government. It's just one example of how the "information battlefield" can turn a tactical success into a strategic nightmare. "They aren't able to meet us tank for tank, so they revert to other things," said Lt. Col. James Hutton, one of the top public affairs officers in Iraq, "and the Internet is the centerpiece." This story is about one of the warriors on the information battlefield. Her name is Maj. Megan McClung. The warriors on the information battlefield don't have fearsome titles or intimidating rank. The role of public affairs officer is not often appreciated or understood, even among their trigger-pulling colleagues. How is this battle going? "Frankly, when it comes to information ops, they are kicking our ass," one senior officer told ABC News. He said the U.S. military has two problems in this fight: They have to be right, and they have a cumbersome bureaucratic structure. It can take days before they issue a response. By then the damage has been done. On a day in December 2006, McClung escorted a fellow Marine, Fox News' Oliver North, to safety, and was returning to base. There are no front lines in Iraq and death can strike quickly at any time. So it was for McClung. A roadside bomb took her life. She is the highest ranking woman to die in Iraq. Those who knew her well say she wanted to be here. She wanted to make a difference. Those who worked with her remember her energy -- energy that could be felt even over the phone. She would often answer late-night calls from reporters struggling to make sense out of the latest fight in the information battle. If it didn't seem right to her, it made sense to dig deeper. If that meant seeing it for yourself, McClung could get you there. The toughest of combat soldiers met Friday at Camp Victory to honor McClung. Marines flew in from Anbar Province. They were all there to dedicate a new media center and studio in her name.
The commanding general of multi-national corps, Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, is fond of telling the media that every soldier, marine or sailor has a story -- "a bullet dodged, and attack thwarted or a life saved." Odierno paid McClung tribute but had to stop mid-sentence to fight off a moment of emotion. He'd never met her, but he knows many like her. McClung trained soldiers and officers how to talk to reporters and appear on camera. Her message was simple: Be bold, be brief and be gone. Her advice is now a well-known weapon on the information battlefield. Bold, brief and gone. Maj. Megan McClung was 33.
CNN Dec. 7, 2007
Wounded Marine's story 'broke my heart'
By Emily Probst and Wayne Drash ATLANTA, Georgia -- A World War II Medal of Honor recipient couldn't believe it when he learned about a Marine who was severely disfigured by a suicide bomber in Iraq and then had to fight the Department of Veterans Affairs to get full disability benefits. Hershel "Woody" Williams -- who won the Medal of Honor for his valor on Iwo Jima in 1945 -- was one of thousands of CNN viewers and CNN.com users to express outrage over the struggle of Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel, 25, who lost part of his skull, half of his left arm and suffered multiple other injuries in the bombing just three days before Christmas 2004. His story was first broadcast on CNN three weeks ago. The VA's initial assessment of Ziegel's disabilities shocked him -- from facial disfigurement rated at 80 percent to a mere 10 percent for his head trauma. On top of that, he got nothing for his left lobe brain injury, right eye blindness and jaw fracture. It was only after he pressed the office of then-VA Secretary Jim Nicholson that he got compensation for having a traumatic brain injury and other severe injuries. "For him to have to go through what he did broke my heart," Williams told CNN. "It is happening far too often." Williams, an 84-year-old retired chief warrant officer from Ona, West Virginia, is one of the 107 living recipients of the Medal of Honor. He won the award for "his unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance" that helped neutralize "one of the most fanatically
defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment," his Medal of Honor citation reads. After the war, he served in the VA for 33 years -- and when he hears stories like Ziegel's, he finds it appalling. "Our Congress, nor our Department of Veterans Affairs, neither were remotely prepared for that kind of case," he said. He was so moved by Ziegel's story he felt compelled to reach out, sending Ziegel his military "challenge" coin, decorated with the Marine Corps emblem on the face and the Purple Heart with his signature on the back. Why did he do it? "I appreciated his service to our country, very, very much ... and I appreciated his tenacity, so others had a role model to follow. I said to him on the phone, 'You are a role model,'" Williams explained. Ziegel -- who can no longer hold a steady job because his wounds are so severe -- was thrilled by the simple gesture of a fellow Marine. "It's awesome," he said. "It's an honor to have a man of his stature -- a Medal of Honor winner nonetheless -- even recognize me. It's an honor and then some." Ziegel also said he was overwhelmed by the response to his story, which brought a flood of phone calls, letters, e-mails and MySpace messages. He was even contacted by campaign staffers for Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico. Richardson's campaign staffers offered to help find Ziegel the resources for reconstructive surgery, an offer Ziegel has yet to take them up on. "It's been really good to hear that they saw the story and care enough to want to help," Ziegel said. Ziegel now takes each day one at a time. He depends on his disability check to support his small-town lifestyle in Washington, Illinois. That's why it was so astonishing initially when the VA slighted him, awarding him just under $2,700 a month in compensation -far from the $4,000 a month he expected. Less than 48 hours after Ziegel told his story to CNN, the VA acted on his case, increasing his compensation significantly. Now, others want to make sure the VA system changes. A presidential commission last July called for a complete overhaul of the 62-year-old disability ratings system. And just this week, veterans' issues were front and center on Capitol Hill as Senate confirmation hearings began for President Bush's nominee for VA secretary, Dr. James Peake. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who is the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, pushed the nominee to make fixing the disability ratings system one of his highest priorities.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the VA's current compensation system is broken," Akaka said. Rep. Joe Donnelly, an Indiana Democrat, called Ziegel's fight with the VA "infuriating." Donnelly, who is on the House Committee for Veterans Affairs, is pushing legislation that would give wounded veterans an instant disability rating of 30 percent within 30 days of discharge. This temporary rating would mean more money and it would be adjusted once a more comprehensive assessment could be made. "Let's give the benefit of the doubt to the veteran," Donnelly said. Marines Williams and Ziegel remain committed to change -- or as Ziegel likes to say, "Semper Fi."
Associated Press Dec. 9, 2007
Convicted Marine DI: I did what I was taught
By Chelsea J. Carter SAN DIEGO — A Marine drill instructor convicted of abusing 23 recruits says he has been ordered to testify against the very men who taught him the practices that led to his jail sentence and dishonorable discharge. In his first interview since being charged, former Sgt. Jerrod Glass told The Associated Press that he expects to testify against his two drill instructors — Sgt. Robert C. Hankins, the senior instructor, and Sgt. Brian M. Wendel, whose court-martial begins Monday. Glass, whose rank was reduced from sergeant to private, said he was ordered to testify by the commanding general at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Brig. Gen. Angela Salinas. “I’m going to tell the truth. I’m going to tell them that everything I learned, I learned from Wendel and Hankins, and that they supervised it and condoned it. And that there were other members of the chain of command that condoned it as well,” Glass said. Wendel and Hankins have been charged with assault, maltreatment, dereliction of duty and making a false official statement for their alleged roles in abusing recruits between December 2006 and Feb. 10. Wendel, 30, of Columbus, Ohio, and Hankins, whose age and hometown were not provided, have pleaded not guilty. Glass, 25, was convicted last month of eight counts of cruelty and maltreatment, destruction of personal property, assault and violating orders on how to properly treat
recruits. He was sentenced to six months in the brig, a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and the reduction in rank. Glass said Friday by phone that he and his fellow drill instructors have been singled out as the Marine Corps tries to show the public that it is taking recruit abuse seriously. “Recruit training is not being conducted any differently than it was before. It’s not like all of the sudden this is happening,” Glass told the AP. “I think it has to do with the Marine Corps not wanting to admit to the public what it takes to train somebody ... to go to war.” Glass said he wanted to light what he said were long-standing training practices. “I just want the Marine Corps to say this is the way we conduct our recruit training so the individuals, and by individuals I mean drill instructors, aren’t singled out,” he said. “I’m not trying to force anything on Hankins and Wendel, I’m just going in to say what happened.” Wendel’s attorney, Capt. Jahn Olson, and Hankins’ attorney, Capt. Bow Bottomly, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. Glass was accused of ordering one recruit to jump headfirst into a trash can and then pushing him deeper in the container. He was also accused of striking recruits with a tent pole and a heavy flashlight. None of the recruits was seriously injured. Initially charged with 225 counts of abuse, Glass was eventually tried on 11 and convicted of eight. Witnesses testified Glass routinely stomped on recruits’ toiletry kits, breaking razors and soap containers for minor infractions like not displaying name tags properly. They also said Glass and another drill instructor forced them after meals to down liters of water in a ritual known as “waterbowling,” an act banned by the Marine Corps’ standard operations procedure manual. “These terms ... ‘waterbowl’ and ‘hygiene stomp,’ I didn’t invent them,” he said. “How come everybody they brought in there to testify knew what those terms meant? I’m not the first person to invent that stuff.” Glass had only been a drill instructor for two months when the abuse allegations were made. Weeks before the investigation, Glass had been nominated for an award given to new drill instructors for their dedication, work ethic, positive attitude and demeanor with recruits. “In his short time with the company Sgt. Glass has already proven himself to be one of the top performers,” read the nomination letter signed by Capt. Jason E. Mansel and obtained by the AP. But prosecutors maintain Glass abused recruits mercilessly, even giving one a black eye. Glass admits it happened.
He said Hankins reported the incident to a superior. That report led to the investigation, which ultimately led to charges being filed against Glass, Wendel and Hankins. “The evidence in the case was pretty overwhelming. Ultimately, they convicted me because those things happened,” he said. But Glass said he was only playing the role of the “drill instructor you hate,” saying that was his job as his squad’s junior instructor. “The problem is that Hankins didn’t play his role, the guy who smooths out the problems,” he said. He maintains he was doing his job the way he was taught. “I had been a drill instructor for three months. Where did I learn to do these things? I learned them from other drill instructors,” he said.
Associated Press Dec. 9, 2007
Abuser of Marine recruits to testify about trainers
SAN DIEGO--A Marine drill instructor convicted of abusing 23 recruits says he has been ordered to testify against the men who taught him the practices that led to his jail sentence and dishonorable discharge. In his first interview since being charged, former Sgt. Jerrod Glass said that he expects to testify against his two drill instructors – Sgt. Robert C. Hankins, the senior instructor, and Sgt. Brian M. Wendel, whose court-martial begins tomorrow. Glass, whose rank was reduced from sergeant to private, said he was ordered to testify by the commanding general at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Brig. Gen. Angela Salinas. Wendel and Hankins have pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, maltreatment, dereliction of duty and making a false official statement for their alleged roles in abusing recruits between December 2006 and Feb. 10. Glass, 25, was convicted last month of eight counts of cruelty and maltreatment, destruction of personal property, assault and violating orders on how to properly treat recruits. He was sentenced to six months in the brig, a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and the reduction in rank.
Los Angeles Times Dec. 8, 2007
Memorial honors Iraq war dead
By Tony Perry CAMP PENDLETON -- Sandra Aceves and Sheila Cobb leaned together for support Friday as their sons and others killed in Iraq were praised as heroes who died to bring freedom to the Iraqi people. The American flag, at half-staff, was whipped by a cold wind as the Marines dedicated a memorial to 221 troops -- Marines, sailors and soldiers -- killed in Iraq while attached to the 5th Marine Regiment. "This helps me," said Cobb of Bradenton, Fla. "Maybe now I can go on with my life, knowing that there is a memorial to my son and the others." Pfc. Christopher Cobb, 19, and Navy corpsman Fernando Mendez-Aceves, 27, were killed in 2004 as they raced in a Humvee to help Marines engaged in a firefight with insurgents in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. At the time, the young men's mothers were strangers. Now the mothers have bonded and communicate frequently. They were in the front row at the ceremony. Tears filled their eyes. "We know what it's like. We try to help each other through the pain," said Aceves, who lives in Chula Vista, near San Diego. The ceremony comes as the regiment is preparing to return to Iraq's Anbar province, west of Baghdad. Col. Patrick Malay, the regimental commanding officer, said it is appropriate to honor the fallen "before we return to Iraq to continue the noble endeavors they initiated." The names of the dead were etched into a 7-by-9-foot edifice of polished granite, a project underwritten by the Regimental Combat Team 5 Memorial Fund, a private support group in Dana Point. Behind each name is a family's story of grief. Each is individual, but common themes emerge: the struggle to cope with loss, pride in a son's service, relief that his sacrifice will not be forgotten. Lance Cpl. Eric Hillenburg's father, a Baptist minister, is convinced that his son's death was part of God's plan. A scholarship has been set up in the Marine's name, and his high school has a display with his basketball jersey and letterman's jacket.
"Our God is too good to do wrong, too wise to make a mistake," the Rev. Jerry Hillenburg, senior pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Indianapolis, said in a telephone interview. "We trust our Lord. My son died a hero's death." Eric Hillenburg, 21, was killed as Marines stormed insurgent strongholds in Fallouja in late 2004. Malay, who was a battalion commander, told the family that the young man had saved Marines by pinning down the insurgents during the battle, Hillenburg's father said. Judy Childers, whose son, 2nd Lt. Therrel Childers, is listed as the first Marine killed in Iraq, said his death led the Marines to provide better body armor and thus saved lives. Childers, 30, was killed as Marines moved across the Kuwait border in March 2003 to keep Saddam Hussein's forces from destroying oil wells. The family keeps a U.S. flag, a Marine Corps flag and fresh flowers on his grave in the cemetery near the family home in North Branch, Minn. "He's present with us in spirit, he's in our hearts," Judy Childers said. "We don't need to visit the cemetery as often." Marjorie Benson's son, Lance Cpl. Johnathan Benson, 21, died in fall 2006 after spending weeks at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio with injuries suffered when his Humvee struck a roadside bomb in Habbaniya, west of Baghdad. His left leg and part of his left arm were gone. Benson, from her home in Powell, Wyo., said that in the months after her son's death she suffered depression so severe that sometimes she was unable to function. Then, she said, her son came to her in a dream. He was healthy, happy and laughing, and told her, "Mom, you've got to let me go. I'm up here with God now," she said. Letting go, however, does not mean forgetting. Since his death, the family puts a special ornament on their Christmas tree, with a picture of him in his Marine uniform. "Family was important before Johnathan's death," his mother said. "It's even more important now."
Los Angeles Times Dec. 9, 2007
Marines and academics join over foreign relations
By Tony Perry SAN DIEGO -- Marine Staff Sgt. John Klacza, who took part in the assault on Baghdad in 2003 and will soon deploy to Okinawa and beyond, had a question about the potential negative side of multinational alliances in Asia. If the U.S. keeps encouraging alliances among Asian nations, he asked, couldn't that mean that if we went to war with one nation, we might have to go to war with all of that nation's allies, a scenario sort of like World War I?
That's not likely, responded Peter Gourevitch, a political science professor at UC San Diego and founder of its Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. The modern alliances among Asian nations are loose, and the countries are leery of each other, Gourevitch said. That's not at all like the entanglements between European nations that led to World War I, he told Klacza and a group of three dozen Marine officers and enlisted senior staff. The back and forth between military man and academic occurred during an all-day session at UC San Diego in La Jolla -- part of a new effort between Camp Pendleton and the university to bring together very different types of professionals in international relations. As professors briefed troops set to deploy, theory came face to face with practice in interesting ways. To the professors, foreign countries are places to visit and study. To the Marines, they're places where they might have to fight. "Are you going to Myanmar?" asked Gourevitch, a reference to the recent deadly clash between protesters and the authoritarian government in the nation also known as Burma. "If we go there, it'll probably not be under good circumstances," said Lt. Col. Christian Wortman, the battalion commander. The graduate school hopes to hold additional sessions with Marines and to schedule sessions for Navy officers and enlisted sailors. It is also working on starting a one-year master's program in conjunction with the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey. At Thursday's session, members of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, received briefings from six professors on Japan, China, North Korea, Southeast Asia, Asian security issues and the ideological and tactical roots of terrorism. The Two-Four, as it is known, spent six months in Iraq this year and is set to deploy early next year to Okinawa and the Western Pacific. The idea of the session was to offer the Marines the big-picture view of international relations and conflict. "Not so long ago, there was a tendency to look at an infantry battalion as a blunt instrument," Wortman said. "Those days are over. . . . It's going to take a mature Marine, an educated Marine, a thoughtful individual in the future." At the end of the day, the professors said the Marines' questions were as challenging as those hurled by graduate students -- although markedly more practical. "Graduate students are deep into the theory and history of things. These guys are very much in the here and now, the world as it is today," said Susan Shirk, a political science professor and director of the University of California's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, who lectured on China.
Capt. Mike Ogden asked Shirk for her analysis of recent joint military exercises between the Chinese and Russians. "There is no love lost between China and Russia," said Shirk, who was deputy assistant secretary of state for China during the Clinton administration. "I don't think this is anything to get spun up about." Ogden later said that he appreciated Shirk's candor but that he remains concerned. "Maybe it's like Germany and Italy," he said. "They were not fast buddies, but they got together." Staff Sgt. Keith DeBates, who has made five overseas deployments, asked if the best way to avoid wars is to help developing countries raise their standards of living. The answer: Yes, but don't ever think that prosperity ensures peace. Ellis Krauss, a professor of Japanese politics, stressed the importance of military behavior. He reminded the Marines that the 1995 incident in which two Marines and a seaman were accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in Okinawa led to political upheaval and nearly undermined the alliance that allows the U.S. to keep bases in Japan. "You guys just have to keep control over your men," Krauss said. The Marines present did not disagree. Gentle scolding by Krauss aside, it was a day of cordiality. Gourevitch sidestepped a question that might have led him to criticize U.S. policy in Iraq. "I didn't think this was the time or the place to have a debate over Iraq, not with guys who have just returned from fighting in that war," he said. At a luncheon, Peter Cowhey, dean of the graduate school, praised the Marines as "guardians of most of the security and stability in the Pacific." Wortman presented him with a plaque of appreciation from The Magnificent Bastards, the battalion's nickname. "This is one of the finest tributes the school has ever gotten," Cowhey said.
Marine Corps Times Dec. 9, 2007
Even ‘satisfied’ customers find NMCI frustrating
By Michael Hoffman The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, better known as NMCI, has spawned numerous nicknames over its seven-year existence, most of them far less complimentary than “No More Contracted Infosystems,” one of the few clean enough for print.
It’s also become a verb — “I’ve been NMCIed!” — generally screamed by a Marine or sailor in frustration after a spectacular computer crash. So when the officials who manage NMCI announced a user satisfaction rating of 83.8 percent in November, based on a quarterly survey issued by the private company contracted to run it, the results raised a few eyebrows across the services. Ask the average Marine, sailor or civilian who uses NMCI for an opinion of the system and prepare to get an earful. While some report few problems, the majority have vivid recollections of waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for an actual fix after a call to the help desk. Waiting up to 20 minutes for the computer to log on. Waiting, sometimes months, to receive administrative privileges to add vital software. Waiting for permission to add local or network printers. Waiting weeks to transfer accounts from one base to another. Waiting for a modern computer system that operates up to present-day industry standards. Officials with Electronic Data Systems, the corporation that won the 10-year, $9.3 billion NMCI contract that started in 2000, and Col. Lyle Cross, the program manager for NMCI, said the system has improved over the past seven years, which is shown by the results of the survey. “We’re not saying everything is perfect,” said Nate Paier, EDS director for NMCI client satisfaction and quality. “But our track record is always satisfying users more and more.” Cross said the increase in customer satisfaction is due to quicker response to problems with NMCI, a result of the help of a large number of probes distributed throughout the network this year. The probes alert NMCI staff members to systemic issues with the network. However, both EDS and NMCI officials said they still depend on customer surveys the most to target problems. EDS issues the questionnaire four times a year to 189,000 Marines, sailors and civilians, randomly selected from the pool of 660,000 using it. Only 15,000 users completed the most recent survey, about 8 percent, but 7,000 of those took the additional time to write in personal comments. Program officials were unable to provide data on how many users provided responses to the previous surveys. ‘SATISFIED’ CUSTOMER DEFINED Those who fill out the survey — which EDS and Cross refused to provide to Marine Corps Times because they said it could skew future results — rate each category on a 1to-10 scale. After all the ratings are averaged, a score of 5.5 or higher is considered a satisfied customer.
The 83.8 percent satisfaction rating is an improvement on the 74 percent rating NMCI received last year but still falls below the program’s stated target of 85 percent, which NMCI has never reached since its inception. The Government Accountability Office issued a report criticizing NMCI last year, citing the poor customer survey results and questioning exactly how satisfied a customer truly is if providing a rating of seven or less. “Given that the Navy’s definition of the term ‘satisfied’ includes many marginally satisfied and arguably somewhat dissatisfied users,” the users with an average satisfaction rating between 5.5 and seven would be more accurately defined as only “marginally satisfied,” according to GAO’s report titled “DoD Needs to Ensure That Navy Marine Corps Intranet Program Is Meeting Goals and Satisfying Customers.” The most recent survey showed 66 percent gave the program a rating of seven or above, according to an NMCI release. Cpl. Joseph Staunches, who works at the traffic management office at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., said the TMO shop at his last station at Camp Butler, Okinawa, has waited more than four months to get approval to update software used to track cargo. “They are using the oldest software possible out there,” he said. Francis Villamie, a retired gunnery sergeant who runs the education office at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., used the same computer without an upgrade for seven years. Not until two months ago did he receive his first computer upgrade, which finally helped alleviate the excruciating delays between operations. “It would take me 20 minutes to boot up the system,” he said. “I would come in, in the morning, and turn on the computer and then have time to go have a cigarette and a cup of coffee before it would come up.” Paier said EDS has continued to enhance and optimize the back end of the network’s infrastructure in the past year, adding more servers and improving firewalls, which might not be immediately noticed by Marines and sailors. EDS also upgraded more than 100,000 personal computers this year, which he said makes a tangible difference that users such as Villamie can see. “We found that the performance bottleneck was happening at the PC or the desktop,” Paier said. SLOWED BY SECURITY CONCERNS Some NMCI users are seeing improvements, such as Information Systems Technician 1st Class Kenyell Brown, who works for the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command and rates herself as one of the satisfied. Many Marines and sailors forget how important and necessary the security features that sometimes slow the system are, she said.
“Working here really opened my eyes to security for networks,” Brown said. Retired Cmdr. Randall Grau, who works at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command as a civilian, has heard the saying “I’ve been NMCIed,” but he said too many Marines and sailors expect their government computers to operate like their home computers. “Too many people forget and don’t take into account the security considerations and threats involved,” he said. Others said the security considerations could be satisfied without all the headaches that have been encountered since EDS took over the computer network from military personnel. Requesting administrative privileges each time they need to add key pieces of software or printers to their computers is a common chore for Marines and sailors on NMCI. EDS is trying to cut down on wait times, said Kevin Durkin, EDS vice president for NMCI client advocacy and customer satisfaction. While Marines and sailors wait for the necessary administrative privileges or the necessary contracted technician to respond to a computer problem, that’s time not being spent accomplishing the mission, said Sgt. Adam Dickerson, an administrative Marine with Headquarters Support Battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C. “They’ll never live up to the standards of the Marine Corps,” he said. “It will never be as easy as just having Marines down the hall to fix it.”
Washington Post Dec. 9, 2007
Report examines rape allegations
By Dan Morse The U.S. Naval Academy needs to find out why four students who reported being raped declined to cooperate with investigators or withdrew their help, according to a Department of Defense report on sexual assault and harassment released Friday. The report, which covered a 12-month period ending May 31, also addressed the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Among the three institutions were 40 reports of sexual assaults, including seven reported rapes each at the Army and Air Force academies. The study also examined a number of other areas, including an assessment of new sexual assault prevention and response programs. It was released amid congressional concern about sexual assault throughout the military.
At the three academies, sexual assault victims can file a restricted report, choosing to get medical and psychological help confidentially without becoming involved in a criminal investigation. Victims have the option, however, to step up the process by filing unrestricted reports. The study urged the academies to find out why some victims don't convert their restricted reports to unrestricted ones. It also asked the Naval and Air Force academies to examine why students withdrew their cooperation. None of the four incidents at the Naval Academy resulted in disciplinary action. Naval Academy leaders have "clearly demonstrated commitment to their Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program through sustained and dedicated efforts," the report said. The Naval Academy teaches prevention in the context of a "slippery slope" continuum, ranging from a command climate of acceptable conduct to a sexually hostile environment of criminal misconduct, according to the report. Commander Ricks Polk, the Naval Academy's sexual assault response coordinator, said the academy is "making good progress." When a student reports a rape, Polk said, the academy in general would like there to be a criminal investigation. But some victims fear exposure, even in a limited circle, and choose not to go forward. "We don't want to re-victimize them" by forcing the students to pursue something they do not want to pursue, Polk said. "We allow them to back out at any time." According to the report, men at the academy "may not always understand [that] their duty to take action against sexually inappropriate behavior overrides any obligation to peer loyalty." The report, available at http:www.sapr.mil, included remarks by female midshipmen during eight focus groups in April. The comments suggest that life for women at the Naval Academy is far from perfect in such a male-dominated environment. "You'll walk past and guys will make comments about your white pants," said one female. "[The pants] are not cut to be flattering and they don't hide anything. The guys will point that out." Another midshipman said, "I had to move companies as a plebe because I tried to stand up for my friend when she was harassed. I was completely blacklisted from the rest of my company." Other comments indicated that sexual harassment may be on the wane. "To me it's not an issue anymore," one woman said.
Marine Corps Times Dec. 9, 2007
Dog attack raises concerns over pet policies
By Trista Talton JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Amy Gaston didn’t think twice about letting her 9-year-old daughter pedal her bicycle down the road to a friend’s house. After all, the family lived in base housing, well within the confines of Camp Lejeune, N.C. It’s a place where youngsters still ride bikes to school with little fear of drug dealers or predators, and neighbors generally look out for each other. But news from one of the neighborhood kids who came running up to her house on a late March afternoon in 2005 changed Gaston’s perception of base housing — and changed her family’s life. The message was short: Ashley’s hurt. She was bitten by a dog. She needs to go to the hospital. Ashley had stopped at a friend’s house to see if he could come out and play. Before she reached the door, the family’s Rottweiler escaped from its poorly secured fence, grabbed Ashley’s head in its powerful jaws and began to attack. Two-and-a-half years later, Ashley still has nightmares. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She faces three, maybe four rounds of cosmetic surgery, but doctors say that mentally, she “just wouldn’t be able to handle going through it yet,” according to her mother. Amy Gaston holds the dog’s owner and the Corps responsible. She’s seeking $5 million in damages and is hoping to send a message so that what happened to her daughter will not happen to other children living on base. In a dog-loving nation — where nearly 368,000 people are sent to emergency rooms for dog bites each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Ashley’s story raises questions about allowing aggressive breeds to live in the quiet confines of family housing. Odd as it sounds, maybe it’s time for the Corps to say no to “devil dogs.” TEUFEL HUNDEN For their part, Marines love dogs. That’s due, in part, to the fact that Marines are often compared to dogs. Legend holds that during World War I, German soldiers nicknamed the ferocious leathernecks they faced “Teufel Hunden,” or devil dogs. It’s a tale the Corps embraced, and before long, a bright orange recruiting poster emerged, depicting an English bulldog in a Marine helmet chasing a dachshund in a German helmet, the smaller dog fleeing with its tail between its legs.
On Oct. 14, 1922, the English bulldog became the Corps’ official mascot, after then-Brig. Gen. Smedley Butler signed the enlistment papers for Pvt. Jiggs, a registered English bulldog obtained by Marines at Quantico, Va. But these days, the bulldog might not be tough enough to carry the Corps on its back. One of the most popular quotes attached to Marine e-mails is attributed to Rear Adm. Jay Stark, from remarks made on the Corps’ 220th birthday in 1995: “Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties: Big and mean, or skinny and mean,” Stark said. “They’re aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They’ve got really short hair and always go for the throat.” Mainstream American culture has done its part to increase the profile of big, aggressive dogs as pets. Rapper DMX is often photographed with his pit bulls, as is actress Jessica Alba and celebrity chef Rachael Ray. Even the “Little Rascals” dog, Petey, was a pit bull, but no one seemed worried for Alfalfa’s safety. Despite the worldwide debate over pit bulls, the breed is the most popular at Camp Lejeune, according to base registration records. Sgt. Chris Polarbear received his pit bull, Bluto, as a homecoming present from Iraq. During an afternoon of playtime at a dog park that opened recently in the Midway Park housing area, Bluto strolled around, accepting pats from strangers. The 65-pound dog was the runt of the litter, but he still tends to intimidate any strangers he and his owner encounter. “He’s never attacked anybody,” Polarbear said. “He’s never bitten anybody. He’s excellent.” After pit bulls, Lejeune Marines favor Labrador retrievers and Chihuahuas. Residents of Camp Pendleton, Calif., housing favor Labs most. Lab mixes and terrier breeds, excluding pit bulls, are also among the most popular there, according to base animal control officials. At Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., it’s Labs, boxers and Australian shepherds. The Corps’ beloved mascot, the English bulldog, likely doesn’t make it to the top of the lists because they tend to be expensive and have their share of health problems, including poor eyesight, breathing problems, susceptibility to heat and extreme sensitivity to cold. Only Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, prohibits pit bulls on base. Other military services on the island do the same thing.
Polarbear would be lost there, as he and Bluto are inseparable. They visit the Wounded Warrior Barracks. They go bar hopping. Polarbear said he’s made a point to expose his dog to other people and other dogs. “If you’re going to be a dog owner, there are opportunities out there,” he said. “I spend more time with that dog — I call him my son.” The attack on Ashley Gaston came out of nowhere, however, and was by a dog used to having a kid around. When Ashley’s father, a staff sergeant, came home carrying his daughter in his arms, her honey-colored hair was matted with a mixture of blood and flesh. Amy Gaston lifted Ashley’s hair from the right side of her head to get answers. What she found makes her cry even today. “Part of her E-A-R is gone,” she recalls saying to Ashley’s father, spelling the word to avoid shocking the child further. “He goes, ‘What?’” she said. “I lifted up her hair again to see if it was just a dream. I didn’t want her to see it. I kind of nonchalantly covered [her ear] and picked it up.” As Ashley’s father put her into the car to make the trip to Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, just down the road from their home, Amy Gaston carried the severed portion of her daughter’s ear to the kitchen and put it into a bag of ice. Ashley remained in the hospital for nearly a week. But before she was released, and just two days after her first surgery, her father deployed to Iraq. The attack left Ashley with a gash on the right side of her neck, a severed section of her right ear and puncture wounds to her right shoulder and forearm. Today, if you didn’t know she had been attacked by a dog, you might not notice. But her family notices, she notices and kids at school notice. A faint scar runs the length of her right jaw line. The portion of her ear that was severed was reattached, but she needs reconstructive surgery. It was in the days after the attack that Amy Gaston learned that the gate on the fence where the dog lived was secured by a single, elastic bungee cord, according to court documents. The gate was eight inches longer than the gate opening. That combination allowed the dog to escape and attack Ashley from behind, according to court documents. Amy Gaston said the boy who lived at the house rode up on his bike during the attack. When the dog saw him, it retreated to the backyard, she said. After the attack was reported to the base Provost Marshal’s Office, the dog was put down. THE LAWSUIT
The Gastons were new to the Lejeune neighborhood when the attack occurred. They had recently moved from Washington, D.C., where they lived in Bellevue Naval Housing. “I had been [at Lejeune] for three weeks, and I thought I was safe,” Amy Gaston said. “I thought my kids were in a safe environment. They were pretty stiff on their regulations and following them in Washington. I believed in government housing that we would be OK.” Her attorney, David Sheldon, says the government is responsible. “Had they done their job, she wouldn’t have been attacked,” he said. Regulations require that the base housing office approve fencing for all domestic animals, he said, adding that they failed to inspect the fence. The lawsuit also argues that the defendant, a staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, did not request a fencing inspection. Attempts to reach the staff sergeant for comment were unsuccessful. Amy Gaston and her husband are now separated; she and her three children eventually moved to Upper Marlboro, Md., where the lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court. The government filed a motion to dismiss the case in September, arguing that, under a North Carolina law, the government can’t be held liable for an alleged failure to enforce statutory regulations. The motion also states that the government did not know of any aggressive tendencies in the dog. “The North Carolina law provides that you can’t sue the government for damages based on a claim that the government failed to enforce a regulation,” said Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, in a telephone interview. “For us, our obligation is to raise any available legal defense on behalf of the United States. In this case, we believe that there’s a legal defense that bars this claim against the United States.” In his Nov. 21 response to the government’s motion, Sheldon refers to a case in which the government was held liable for negligence of an employee, an airman who lived in base housing. The airman’s “failure to control his dog resulted in severe bite injuries to the child next door.” BASE HOUSING AND DOGS Marine bases regulate pet ownership in base housing. Dogs and cats must be registered with base veterinary or animal control offices. Dogs are prohibited from running free. But some military bases have gone a step further, prohibiting certain breeds altogether. Air Force Space Command passed an aggressive-dog policy in 2006 that prohibits pit bull and Rottweiler breeds from living in base housing.
Fort Benning, an Army base in Georgia, has a pet policy restricting animals that weigh more than 100 pounds and specifically prohibits pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and chow chows. McGuire Air Force Base and neighboring Fort Dix in New Jersey also restrict pit bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans. Owners of these breeds argue the dogs get a bad rap in the media. With the right training and a good environment, breeds that have aggressive tendencies can be fine pets, animal experts say. But the numbers are hard to ignore. Animal People, a publication for animal activists, conducted a study of dog attack deaths and maimings in the U.S. and Canada between September 1982 and November 2006. Of the more than 80 breeds included in the study, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios (often called bull mastiffs) and their mixes were responsible for 74 percent of reported attacks analyzed. As for the Gastons, they’ve had Alex, a Jack Russell terrier, in their lives for almost 11 years.
V i d e o Cl i p s :
(Note: Windows Media Player is needed to view the following clips.)
CNN Dec. 8, 2007
Counseling programs available for post-war service members
NBC (Phoenix) Dec. 9, 2007
Marines determined to change Iraq one family at a time
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.