Monday, January 31, 2011

Training, equipment helped Oregon National Guard Purple Heart recipients in Iraq

Editor’s Note: Two reports from 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) in Iraq explain how training became instinctive and safety equipment made a difference when Oregon National Guardmembers encountered an ambush.

By Army Spc. Matthew G. Keeler
103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (1/31/11) – Brig. Gen. Mark Corson, commanding general of the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), awarded two Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd ESC, the Purple Heart and a Combat Action Badge after their Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle was attacked during a convoy mission.

“Today is not a happy day to give you the Purple Heart,” said Corson. “I am privileged to do so, but it’s not a happy thing to do. The two medals that you do not want are the Purple Heart and the POW [Prisoner of War] medal.”

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Gibson, assistant convoy escort team leader and Army Spc. Adam Clinton, gunner, both were injured due to direct enemy engagement.

“I was about to push send on a report when my buddy [Clinton] over here said, ‘oh crap’” said Gibson. “I looked over at him and then looked back just in time to see something fly over the top of the vehicle and then an explosion.”

After the explosion, Gibson said that his training took over.

“A couple of seconds go by, I look over at Clinton, checked to make sure he was ok, and then told him to go and get out [of the MRAP],” said Gibson. “When it happened there was no thought process, and the training kicked in.”

These Soldiers are part of a convoy escort team that protects convoys on a daily basis.

“I don’t think people understand that everything from medical supplies, to fuel in your vehicles, it flows through the body of USF-I[United States Forces- Iraq] on those sustainment convoys, and what protects those sustainment convoys and what gets them through day after day, are the convoy escort teams,” said Corson.

Both Soldiers suffered minor injuries as a result of the attack, but Clinton was the most exposed to the explosion.

Thanks to my eye protection, I only suffered some cuts to the face, said Clinton. “It’s true that eye protection does work to save your eyes.

“They [Commanders, and leaders] tell you to wear that stuff [eye protection] for good reason, and not just because it might be mandatory, but because it will save your life.”

Even with the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and the change to an advise and assistant role, Soldiers still drive through dangerous areas.

“You guys are really the epitome of what makes us great, because despite the challenges that we face, and despite the fact that there are people who want to hurt us, you are out there doing your duty all the time,” said Corson.

What could be the most remarkable part of these two Soldiers’ story is the aftermath of the attack?

“You got off the helicopter and walked in all bloody and broken, but unbowed and that’s a testament,” said Corson. “The whole thing, as sad as it was, it’s truly a testament to the valor, fortitude, good judgment, wisdom and maturity that you guys bring to the fight.”

At first chance, Gibson called his wife to let her know the news of what happened to him, he said.

“I have a really sick sense of humor,” said Gibson. “I was in pain, and I know the best way for my wife to handle stuff is to make her laugh, so I made a joke out of it. I said, ‘So I know this is going to ruin your day, but I got blown up.’”

In a really high pitched squeal, Melissa Gibson asked if he was joking, he said.

Gibson was able to explain to her that he was all right, and that everything was ok, he said.

When Clinton was able to call his family, he called his dad, he said.

“The first person I called was my dad, and I told him that I had gotten into an accident and that I was ok,” said Clinton. “He asked if everything was ok, and I know that he was concerned but he was very supportive of me.”

Now that he has been awarded the Purple Heart, Gibson doesn’t believe he will do anything different, he said.

“It’s an honor to get it, I don’t know that I did anything special to get it as far as getting wounded in combat compared to others who got it,” Gibson said. “[The way] I was raised, you do not do stuff for the notoriety, you do stuff because it is the right thing to do.”

Clinton explained that doing his duty was important. “Getting an award or not, it means a lot to be able to serve your country, ... just being out there for your country means a lot,” said Clinton.

The two Soldiers are stationed at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, but will be staying at JBB for a couple weeks until they are cleared to return to duty and their team. For Gibson, he hopes it means sooner than later, he said.

“I’m a busy body, and I would like to get back to work ,” said Gibson.

Before the small ceremony was over, Corson remarked on the dedication of the Soldiers and their desire to return back to their trucks and their job.

“What that says is that the bad guys can come and blow us up, but we will still come back and do what we do, and what the [enemy does] does not matter,” Corson said.

Training, quick reaction help protect MRAP crew

By Army Staff Sgt. Pat Caldwell
103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (1/31/11) – Sometimes the difference between life and death can be a few inches.

Three Soldiers from eastern Oregon’s Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) discovered how true that old adage is when they survived a close call during a combat related incident that impacted their vehicle in central Iraq.

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Gibson along with Army Spc. Adam Clinton sustained minor injuries while a third man, Army Pfc. Nathan Schad, emerged unhurt from the ambush.

Gibson and Clinton received the Purple Heart Jan. 20 at Joint Base Balad, while Schad was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and an Army Commendation Medal at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

Gibson admitted he and his crew were fortunate.

“A couple of inches one way or the other and I wonder if I’d still be here,” he said.

He and his crew were conducting a convoy escort mission when an unidentified person tossed a grenade at their Mine-Resistant-Ambush-Protected vehicle.

“We were extremely lucky, or blessed,” he said.

The discipline of the crew was critical, said Army Lt. Col. Phil Appleton, commander of 3rd Battalion, 116th Cav. Regt.

“They reacted the way we trained them,” Appleton said.

Army Capt. Seth Musgrove, commander with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cav. Regt. agreed that the actions of his crew were appropriate.

Appleton said as the American military operation in Iraq winds down, self-discipline by Soldiers in the field is more important now than ever before.

“We have to understand, and this crew did understand, that we have to show some restraint to avoid unnecessary casualties,” Appleton said.

Iowa National Guard Soldiers discuss 'average' days in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. Joseph Sawyer 133rd Infantry Regiment and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson
Task Force Red Bulls

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (1/31/11) - For two National Guard Soldiers from Iowa, their mission to Alingar District Center with Task Force Red Bulls on Jan. 20 felt like just another day in the books.

It was just one of the more than 300 they will spend in this mountainous country far from home.

However, it was another key ingredient in helping improve Afghanistan’s security and economy.

Army Spc. Jarod Huser and Army Pfc. Corey Vanotegham, along with the other Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Company C, 133rd Infantry Regiment, visit the Alingar District Center, two or three times a week. Each trip includes several smaller chores or duties depending on the circumstances.

During this mission, the Iowa National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, provided both transportation and security for a civil affairs officer who is working feverishly to complete a budget that will affect the thousands of Afghan citizens in the area.

“We go to Alingar quite a bit,” said Huser, an infantry gunner. “For that mission, we did a mounted patrol down to Alingar, checking for roadside bombs along the way, pulling security at all times, watching out for enemy activity, just getting a feel for what’s going on in the villages.”

Mounted in mine resistant ambush-protected vehicles, the Soldiers convoyed from Forward Operating Base Kalagush south through hills and valleys to Alingar.

Once there, they positioned themselves tactically throughout the town, watching for anything out of the ordinary while Army Maj. Andrew Dejesse, a civil affairs officer with Company A, 413th Civil Affairs Battalion, went to work.

DeJesse spoke with Fetah Mohammad, the Alingar District Manager of Village Affairs, trying to finalize points in a budget plan for the district for the upcoming year, one that was due in three weeks.

He also talked at length with the district education director for his recommendations on the budget. There are 72 schools attended by more than 38,000 students, so finalizing the budget was big business, and was the main reason 1st Plt. conducted the mission to Alingar.

While DeJesse was inside talking to the education director, Huser was inside his MRAP manning the gun, constantly monitoring for threats around the perimeter of the village using the truck’s Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station.

Operating the CROWS, the gunner is not in an external turret potentially exposed to enemy gunfire and IED blasts, but sits inside the vehicle and maneuvers the gun with a joystick while carefully monitoring his surroundings through a camera.

“I love being a gunner,” Huser said. “I do the CROWS, but also do open turret sometimes. I like being able to be up in the truck looking around. I watch for everything, but ridgelines (are) a big thing. I can look through the CROWS and find people up there moving around I wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye.”

After DeJesse conducted his business, the Soldiers walked the streets of Alingar with their ANA counterparts.

“Just about every time we go out, we try to get our faces out on the streets,” said Vanotegham, an infantry radio telephone operator. “People see we’re there, that we have a presence and have good intentions. Going out and seeing the people, trying to speak a little Pashtu with them and seeing what they have to sell is interesting.”

After the patrol through the city, the day was not done for the Soldiers from 1st Plt.

The Soldiers received word of a possible IED near the town of Tupac. The Soldiers spent almost an hour scouring a steep ridge outside the village and combing the fields along the valley for signs of the device.

The IED was located the following day by another platoon after a tip from another villager. A Soldier walking on a bank of the valley uncovered the IED’s command wire. The wire to detonate the device was a copper wire not much thicker than a fishing line completely buried in the dirt in a valley.

“It’s really hard to find an IED without hitting it,” Vanotegham said.

Vanotegham said he likes that there is no “average” mission.

“I like just running missions in general,” he said. “The mission to Alingar is somewhat predictable, but then again, it could be unpredictable. At any moment there or on your way back, you could come into enemy contact.”

Vanotegham said missions will often change.

On this day’s mission, in addition to the IED, the Soldiers heard gunshots in the distance and investigated the shots with the local townspeople as they patrolled through the village.

The shots were far enough away not to be of any great concern to the Soldiers, but they are typical during operations in the field.

Soldiers must be prepared for anything while out on a mission, he said.

At any moment, the Soldiers may receive a mission to climb a 7,000-foot mountain to try and locate an enemy fighting position or indication of enemy presence in the area. They will walk and search for hours and often uncover very little, if anything at all.

“You might not find a goldmine, but if you find any indicator of someone being present who’s not supposed to be there, it’s worth it,” Vanotegham said.

“You can’t just skip that step, because the one time you do find something, it might save somebody’s life.”

Besides being together in Afghanistan, both Huser, 22 and Vanotegham, 21, share another common bond. The two Soldiers are both Iowa State University “Cyclone” students.

Huser is a business management major and Vanotegham is an agricultural education major. In fact, Vanotegham said the highlight of this mission for him was seeing a reminder of home, a Holstein cow at the Alingar farmer’s market. It was the first Holstein he had seen since arriving in country four months ago.

“I had to snap a picture, which I know everybody back home will be commenting about on Facebook,” Vanotegham laughed. “It’s just something that’s kind of neat.”

Though the farms here are much smaller and more primitive than those in Iowa, Vanotegham smiled when he thought about the comparisons.

“You see a lot of kids out doing work in the fields or playing in them, just like back home,” he said. “There’s a lot of crops here I’ve never seen before, but a lot of the same principles.

“It’s just amazing how they make do with what little they have compared to back home where everything’s just so plentiful.”

In another seven months or so, Vanotegham and Huser will return to the cornfields of Iowa, but until then it will be many more days and missions like this one, one after another.

But one thing is guaranteed, no two days will be the same – and these Soldiers will be ready for whatever comes their way.

Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill, Detain Insurgents

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2011 – Afghan and coalition military forces killed numerous insurgents and detained several others in recent operations throughout Afghanistan, military officials reported.

In operations yesterday:

-- Coalition forces killed two armed insurgents and wounded two others with a precision airstrike in Farah province’s Pusht-e Rod district. An innocent bystander also was killed by the blast. Security forces saw numerous insurgents setting up a fighting position with machine guns. Intelligence reports noted that a Taliban leader was among the group. Troops requested the airstrike, destroying the weapons and fighting position.

-- In Helmand province’s Musa Qalah district, security forces killed an insurgent during a patrol. Insurgents attacked the patrol, but were thwarted soon after when troops requested air support.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained several enemy fighters in Kandahar province’s Panjawai district. Security forces were patrolling the area when they came under attack. Troops returned fire before detaining the insurgents.

-- Security forces detained a Taliban leader and three suspected insurgents in Kandahar province’s Maiwand district. The Taliban leader is responsible for facilitating Taliban intelligence operations and drug trafficking.

-- In Nangarhar province’s Jalalabad City, Afghan and coalition forces detained two suspected insurgents, including a Taliban leader. The Taliban leader is responsible for planning attacks on local government officials and security forces.

-- Security forces found several stockpiles of bomb-making materials and chemicals in southern Afghanistan. The operations resulted in pressure plates, remote-controlled devices, batteries, detonation wire, ammonium nitrate and other materials.

-- International Security Assistance Force officials confirmed the identity of a Taliban district shadow governor who was detained Jan. 24 in Takhar province. He is responsible for acts of terror throughout the province and for leading insurgents.

-- ISAF officials confirmed the identity of a Haqqani terrorist network leader who was captured Jan. 19 in Khost province. He is responsible for trafficking bomb-making materials and other weapons to enemy fighters throughout the province.

In other news from Afghanistan, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed Kandahar’s deputy provincial governor and wounded four innocent bystanders in Kandahar City on Jan. 29.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, ISAF commander, released a statement offering condolences to the family of the slain provincial leader and praising Deputy Gov. Abdul Latif Ashana’s life and work:

“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Engineer Abdul Latif Ashana, deputy governor of Kandahar, and a man who was working selflessly for the people of Kandahar province,” Petraeus wrote. “Deputy Governor Ashana faced danger throughout his public service career from the insurgency, but he never let that interfere with his service to the Kandaharis. In 2009, he survived a deadly suicide attack by the Taliban that killed a number of high-ranking government officials and members of the Kandahar Provincial Council. Despite this attack and constant threats to his life, the deputy governor continued to serve the people.

“I strongly condemn the barbaric attack of the Taliban and pledge to work with our Afghan partners to bring those responsible to justice,” the general continued. “Indeed, the death of Engineer Abdul Latif Ashana and his courageous service in the face of danger will inspire us to redouble our efforts to help our Afghan partners seeking peace and a better future for all Afghans.”

In operations Jan. 29:

-- Afghan and coalition forces killed five insurgents in Kunar province. Two insurgents were killed in Tsowkey district after security forces saw several armed insurgents setting up a fighting position. Two more were killed in Marawarah district after attacking an ISAF patrol. Ground troops returned fire and later requested air support before killing the two fighters. Another insurgent was killed after he and several armed men attacked a coalition foot patrol in the province’s Nari district.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban leader and two other suspected insurgents in Nimroz province’s Khash Rod district. The Taliban leader is responsible for directing bombing attacks on local security forces.

In operations Jan. 28:

-- In Helmand province, security forces killed several armed insurgents with a precision airstrike. Troops spotted the insurgents maneuvering to a fighting position in the province’s Musa Qalah district before engaging the group.

-- Security forces killed an insurgent with small-arms fire in Helmand province’s Sangin district after they saw him planting a roadside bomb.

-- Security forces found several weapons stockpiles throughout southern Afghanistan. The operations resulted in more than 350 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 68 rocket-propelled grenades, 57 RPG boosters, 37 assorted rockets, 10 mines and bomb-making materials.

-- ISAF officials confirmed the identity of a Haqqani network leader who was captured Jan. 27 in Khost province. He is responsible for trafficking weapons and supplies to enemy fighters in Kabul city for use against local security forces.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr., 30, of Prince William, Va., died Jan. 28 in Parwan province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat incident.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information, the media may contact the U.S. Army Special Forces Command public affairs office at 910-432-6005.

Face of Defense: Surgeon Tops Personal Best in Marathon

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Paula Taylor
Task Force Bastogne

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011 – After tossing and turning for most of the night, Army Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Smock finally rolled out of bed at yesterday.

He’d trained hard for four months, and the day finally had arrived for the 745th Forward Surgical Team orthopedic surgeon to run the 26.2-mile Miami Marathon -- thousands of miles from Florida amid the concrete barriers and concertina wire that line the perimeter of Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan.

As he arrived at the start line, a few stars still shone through the clouds and dotted the sky. Soon, the sun would begin to crest over the snow-capped mountains.

As Smock and the other marathoners took off down the dusty hardtop road, they soon came across a group of up-armored trucks getting ready to roll out on a convoy.

“That really puts things in perspective,” Smock said later. “You see that and you think, ‘This [race] is just for fun.’ By the second lap, those guys were already gone, doing their job.”

At the halfway mark, Smock said, he was doing well, but the going got tougher with about five miles to go. “I hit my wall about 21, 22 miles,” he said, “and started to need to take a break -- walk it out and make sure I keep fueling myself up. I used that finish line as my motivation.”

Smock, who lives in Liberty Hill, Texas, said he and his brothers, Michael and David, had planned to run the Miami Marathon together for almost a year

“We are all doctors, all went to the same school, and are all very active, but have never run a marathon together,” he said. “When I found out that I would be deployed and unable to run with them in Miami, it was disappointing, but I decided that it would not stop me from running ‘with’ them, even if it was from halfway around the world.”

Shortly after arriving at Fenty, Smock said, he contacted the Miami Marathon race directors and inquired about a satellite run. They were receptive and were happy to sponsor the run. “They also sent T-shirts, medals and several other goodies to pass out to all the participants,” he added.

Smock said he wore out three pairs of track shoes running laps around the airstrip to train for the event. The soles on the pair he wore for yesterday’s race, in fact, were starting to separate.

Though Smock missed an opportunity to be with his brothers when they ran the marathon in Miami just 10 hours after he finished his, he said he plans on running in future events together with them, barring another deployment.

“I don’t know if we will run Miami together in the future -- that will most likely depend on how our schedules work out -- but we are already tentatively planning to sign up this summer for the Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid [New York] in 2012,” Smock said. “Hopefully, no deployments interfere with those plans. I don’t think I could find a place to swim in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

The 26.2 miles of the satellite course at Fenty comprised eight laps around the airstrip. Smock finished the race in 3 hours, 27 minutes.

“I crushed my goal,” he said. “I had run two marathons before, and I did each of those in just under four hours. I wanted to run today. I think my official clock time was and some change. I’m so excited right now!”

Mohamad Youssef Hammoud sentenced to 30 years in terrorism financing case

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mohamad Youssef Hammoud, 37, was resentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison on charges related to his activities of providing material support to the foreign terrorist organization, Hezbollah, from about 1995 to July 2000 in Charlotte, following a multi-agency investigation involving special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Hammoud, who has remained in federal custody since his arrest on July 21, 2000, was born in Lebanon, came into the United States illegally in 1992 and lived here by virtue of three sham marriages to U.S. citizens until his arrest.

Hammoud, along with two of his brothers and 22 others, were indicted in 2000 in U.S. District Court in the Western District of North Carolina on numerous criminal counts which included the charge of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, Hezbollah.

From April to June 2002, Hammoud and one of his brothers, Chawki Hammoud, were tried before a federal jury in Charlotte on those charges. At trial, both were convicted of providing material support to Hezbollah, and on numerous other criminal counts, including conspiracy, cigarette smuggling, money laundering, racketeering, and immigration fraud.

The guilty verdicts were delivered by the jury at the end of the five-week trial on June 21, 2002, after three days of deliberation.

On Feb. 28, 2003 Trial Judge Graham C. Mullen sentenced Mohamad Hammoud to 155 years in prison. He later entered a notice of appeal, and through a three-year appeal process which ultimately carried the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld all of his convictions but vacated Mullen's original sentence. The appeals court remanded the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina for reconsideration of the original sentence. Thursday's resentencing hearing was held in order to give Mohamad Hammoud and the government the opportunity to argue a variance in U.S. sentencing guidelines.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Anne M. Tompkins said, "Mohamad Hammoud was a student and member of Hezbollah as a youth in his home country and came to the United States on a Hezbollah-driven mission. He loyally accomplished his mission by creating a criminal enterprise which accumulated millions of dollars in profits, purchased businesses in the U.S., preached radical Muslim fundamentalism as he led a clandestine terrorist cell in Charlotte, raised funds for the cause, and saw that the funds were delivered to Hezbollah leadership in Lebanon. His guilty verdicts rendered by the jury were upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. During his time of imprisonment while he was awaiting trial, he ordered the murder of the then prosecuting attorney and the bombing of Charlotte's federal courthouse. He continues to this day to pose no less a threat to our country and our citizens. Today's sentence is fair. It is a significant sentence for a convicted terrorist. We thank the law enforcement, prosecutors, jury, and the courts for their work involved in the case along the way. Clearly, the American justice system has once again fairly and justly dealt with a person who is a proven threat to the very fabric of our society."

This resentencing hearing, the trial of the case in 2002 and the full appeals process represent the successful prosecution of 18 defendants for their involvement in the operation of a Hezbollah terrorist fund-raising cell in Charlotte. According to the court record, Mohamad Hammoud led a cigarette smuggling organization which was responsible for the illegal smuggling of over $8 million worth of cigarettes from North Carolina to Michigan during the late 1990s. Testimony and trial evidence showed that some of the profits from the cigarette sales were sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Hammoud. The 2002 trial was the first in the country of a federal "material support to a designated terrorist organization" charge. The investigation and prosecution involved law enforcement cooperation at every level: state, federal, and international, involving the substantial assistance of Canadian intelligence officials.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Brown, who argued the case before Judge Mullen Thursday, said, "Mohamad Hammoud stands today as an enemy combatant who continues to be successfully removed from the front lines. Today's sentence is fair because Hammoud's proven acts call for this sentence. He earned this sentence. More importantly, it is fair because the American people deserve to be free of fear of any retaliatory efforts by Hammoud. The collective experiences of the American people since September 11, 2001 stand as constant reminders that leaders and groups such as Hammoud and his local terrorist cell, still represent the greatest threat to American citizens."

In addition to ICE HSI, this case was investigated by agents and officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigations, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and the Iredell County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina. These law enforcement agencies received substantial assistance from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The original prosecution team included former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth D. Bell and D. Scott Broyles, along with former Trial Attorney Martha Rubio of what was then known as the Justice Department's Terrorism and Violent Crime Section. The resentencing hearing was handled by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Brown and Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig D. Randall.

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Visiting the Davis Mosque

Posted by Tracy Russo

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez and U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner today visited the Islamic Center of Davis to discuss civil rights and other issues of concern to the Muslim American community. Perez and Wagner addressed the congregation and answered questions during their visit, which is part of the Justice Department’s outreach initiative to enhance engagement with Muslim and Arab-American communities around the country.  Perez recently met with Muslim leaders in Detroit, Nashville and Roanoke.  

During the visit, Perez remarked;

“The Department is committed to responding forcefully to recent incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes. I look forward to a constructive dialogue with the Arab-American and Muslim communities on how best to confront these issues.”

Wagner said:

“Muslim Americans, like all Americans, deserve the full protection of federal law, including civil rights laws. By hearing directly from members of the community about their concerns, we can be more effective in safeguarding their rights and protecting them from crime. I look forward to expanding my office’s engagement with the Muslim communities of this region.”

Othman Alsaoud, president of the Islamic Center of Davis said of the visit:

“It was an honor to be visited today by our esteemed guests Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez and US Attorney Benjamin Wagner. We all benefit from learning from each other and look forward to a good relationship in the future.  The Muslim community appreciates the outreach program of the US Attorney’s office; today’s visit by Mr. Perez and Mr. Wagner is yet another step toward building bridges of friendship and cooperation between Muslim Americans and US law enforcement.”

Guided by the goal of protecting our common security and our common values – a respect for civil liberties, an embrace of diversity and a commitment to religious freedom — Attorney General Eric Holder last year established an Arab and Muslim-American Engagement Advisory Group. This group coordinates and reviews policy initiatives that affect the community as well as the enhanced outreach efforts by various department components, including the Civil Rights Division, several U.S. Attorney’s Offices and FBI representatives.

The Department has been active in engaging with various communities, including the Muslim and Arab-American communities, to promote community law enforcement collaboration and to ensure the protection of civil rights and religious freedoms.  The Attorney General has also met with Arab and Muslim-American community leaders in Washington, D.C. and across the country to discuss the federal government’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim-American community and to improve the department’s communication and collaboration with members of the community.

Here are some examples of the Division’s enforcement actions that combat discrimination against the Arab and Muslim-American communities:

Hate Crimes
Since 9/11, the Department of Justice has investigated over 800 incidents involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against persons perceived to be Muslim or to be of Arab, Middle Eastern, and South-Asian origin. The Department has brought prosecutions against 49 defendants in such cases, with 45 convictions to date. Additionally, Department attorneys have coordinated with state and local prosecutors in numerous non-federal criminal prosecutions, in many cases providing substantial assistance.

A few examples of prosecutions:

•An Illinois man pleaded guilty on August 11, 2010 to sending a threatening email to a mosque in Urbana, IL. He was sentenced on November 3, 2010 to 12 months incarceration.
•Three Tennessee men pleaded guilty to spray painting swastikas and “white power” on a mosque in Columbia, Tennessee, and then starting a fire that completely destroyed the mosque.  In 2009 two of the men were sentenced to more than 14 and 15 years in prison.  On April 22, 2010, a third man was sentenced to more than 6 years in prison for his role in the crime. 
•In 2006, an Illinois man was sentenced to 15 months in prison for detonating an explosive that destroyed a Muslim-American family’s minivan outside their home.
Discrimination in Zoning

The Civil Rights Division enforces the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits discrimination against places of worship in zoning decisions.  In last year’s 10th Anniversary Report on RLUIPA, we noted that in the decade since the law’s enactment, we have opened 18 matters involving Mosques or Islamic centers – including eight opened since May 2010.

The Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Tennessee state court proceeding in which neighbors of a proposed mosque challenged the county’s granting of a building permit. The neighbors argued that the county was wrong to treat the mosque in the same manner that it would treat a church. The Department’s brief argued that RLUIPA required such equal treatment. The court agreed in a decision on November 17, 2010.

The Department is working to protect the fundamental American value of free exercise of religion, and ensuring that Americans are not forced to decide between their faith and their jobs. Last month, the Civil Rights Division filed a case against the Berkeley School District in Illinois for failing to accommodate a Muslim teacher’s desire to take unpaid leave to go on the Hajj pilgrimage.

The Department recently settled a case against Essex County, NJ, that prevented a Muslim female corrections officer from wearing her religiously mandated Hijab. The settlement resulted in a change in policy.

Bullying and harassment in our schools is a growing problem.  The Departments of Justice and Education are jointly taking proactive steps to prevent the kind of intolerance that leads to bullying in schools.

The Department reached a settlement in a case in Cape Henlopen, DE, in which a teacher singled out an elementary student because she was Muslim, leading to severe harassment by other students.

Chinese National Sentenced to 97 Months’ Imprisonment for Illegally Exporting Electronics Components Used in Military Radar, Electronic Warfare, and Missile Systems

BOSTON, MA—A Chinese national was sentenced today to 97 months’ imprisonment stemming from his conviction for conspiring over a period of ten years to export to the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”), and exporting to the PRC, military electronics components and sensitive electronics used in military phased array radar, electronic warfare, and missile systems. Several Chinese military entities were among those to whom the defendants exported the equipment.

ZHEN ZHOU WU, 46, a Chinese national who traveled to the United States on an annual basis using business visas, was sentenced to 97 months’ imprisonment for conspiring to illegally export U.S. Munitions List parts and export restricted sensitive technology to the PRC over a period of ten years, illegally exporting electronics to the PRC on 14 occasions between 2004 and 2007, and conspiring to file, and filing, false shipping documents with the U.S. Department of Commerce from 2005 through 2007. Wu was also ordered to pay a fine of $15,000, a special assessment of $1,700 and forfeit $65,881.71.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Patti B. Saris stated that “the key issue here is deterrence - there is a real need to deter this type of conduct going forward.” The Judge expressed concern about the potential harm to national security and foreign policy interests of the United States caused by the defendant’s actions.

On May 17, 2010, Wu was convicted of conspiring from 1997 to 2007 to unlawfully export to the PRC military electronics and export restricted electronics components and illegally exporting such parts to the PRC on numerous occasions between 2004 and 2007. At trial, the government proved that the defendants’ illegal enterprise involved the use of CHITRON ELECTRONICS, INC. (“CHITRON-US”), a Waltham Massachusetts company Wu owned and controlled. Wu used CHITRON-US to procure export restricted equipment from U.S. suppliers and then export the goods to China, through Hong Kong. The exported equipment is used in electronic warfare, military radar, fire control, military guidance and control equipment, missile systems, and satellite communications.

Wu founded and controlled CHITRON, including its headquarters in Shenzhen, China, CHITRON-SHENZHEN, and its U.S. office located in Waltham, Massachusetts. Using CHITRON, Wu targeted Chinese military factories and military research institutes as customers of CHITRON, including numerous institutes of the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (“CETC”), which is responsible for the procurement, development, and manufacture of electronics for the Chinese military, including the People’s Liberation Army. Indeed, Wu referred to Chinese military entities as CHITRON’s major customer since as early as 2002.

The Department of Defense’s Defense Technology Security Administration has concluded in a report filed with the Court that the defendants’ activities seriously threatened “U.S. national and regional security interests.” According to the Department of Defense, the parts the defendants were convicted of illegally exporting are “vital for Chinese military electronic warfare, military radar, fire control, military guidance and control equipment, and satellite communications.” Further, the illegally exported parts are “precisely the [types of] items ... that the People’s Liberation Army actively seeks to acquire.”

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said, “This defendant violated U.S. export laws and compromised our national security for more than a decade. He conspired to procure U.S. military products and other controlled electronic components for use in mainland China – for military radar, satellite communications, and guidance systems. Today’s sentence acknowledges the seriousness of those crimes and should send a strong message to anyone considering violating our export laws.”

“This case demonstrates the importance of safeguarding America’s sensitive technology against illicit foreign procurement efforts and should serve as a warning to others who seek to covertly obtain or provide such materials to advance foreign military systems. I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who helped bring about this successful outcome,” said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

“This sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime and sends a strong message that we will pursue, arrest and prosecute others who flout our laws by diverting sensitive U.S.-origin items through third countries,” said John McKenna, Special Agent in Charge of the Commerce Department’s Office of Export Enforcement Boston Field Office.

“Today’s sentencing of Zhen Zhou Wu, is the end result of a successful joint investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ICE, Commerce, the FBI and DCIS, and it demonstrates the dedication that all of the agencies have to safeguard against threats to our national security. Consistent with its mission to “Protect America's Warfighters,” DCIS is committed to ensuring that sensitive military technology is not illegally exported or diverted to proscribed nations or anyone that poses a threat to the U.S. military and the nation,” said Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Resident Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI said, “Today’s sentencing reflects the emphasis the Department of Commerce, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office have placed on thwarting the illegal export of sensitive technology. The completion of this investigation, and those ongoing, reflect law enforcement’s cooperative efforts to identify individuals who seek to violate the export laws of the United States and to line their pockets at the expense of our nation’s security. Investigating the illegal export of these products will remain among the highest priorities of the FBI’s Boston Division because the region is a worldwide hub of cutting-edge research and innovation.”

“This is a significant national security investigation representing the illegal export of sensitive military and dual use components that were subject to export controls by the federal government,” said Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of DHS Homeland Security Investigations in Boston. “We remain committed to stop the illegal flow of these items that may ultimately be used against the U.S. and its allies.”

The Government also indicted CHITRON-SHENZHEN, the Chinese company owned by WU which received the U.S. electronics and delivered the parts to Chinese end-users, for these same crimes. The Court has entered a contempt order against CHITRON-SHENZHEN for refusing to appear for trial.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz; Assistant Attorney General Kris of the Justice Department’s National Security Division; SAC McKenna of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement - Boston Field Office; SAC Foucart, of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; SAC DesLauriers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Boston Field Office; and RAC Barzey, of U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys B. Stephanie Siegmann and John A. Capin of Ortiz’s Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit.

Training, drills help protect National Guard convoy escort team

By Army Staff Sgt. Pat Caldwell
103rd Sustainment Command

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (1/28/11) - When an improvised explosive device exploded, Army Spc. Patrick Wilbern saw an orb of bright light.

“We were driving down the road and all of the sudden I see this huge ball of light,” said Wilbern, who is a driver with the Oregon National Guard’s 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

“It was overwhelming. Just the force of being hit,” he said. “I felt a tremendous pressure come down on me.”

Wilbern’s crewmate, Army Spc. Stefan Stevenot, heard a big boom and then glimpsed a massive flash.

Wilbern, Stevenot and Army Capt. Noah Siple – all members of The Dalles’ Company A, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) were moving down an Iraqi highway earlier this month on a convoy escort mission when someone triggered an IED aimed directly at their vehicle.

All three Soldiers walked away from the incident with only minor injuries.

“I was surprised,” said Siple, the commander of A Company, “It was an adrenaline rush that didn’t wear off for about two hours.”

Quick action by the crew of the vehicle proved to be the difference, Siple said.

“It is a cool thing, as a leader, to know your guys did everything they were supposed to,” he said.

Since August, 3rd Battalion Soldiers trained on how to identify, avoid and react to an IED attack.

All three crewmembers said they responded to the attack using the skills honed during months of preparation in the U.S.

“The training kicked in without delay,” Wilbern said.

Even as the light from the initial flash of the IED was still washing over the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, Stevenot asked if Siple and Wilbern were okay. Wilbern said his crewmates’ actions proved to be pivotal in a crisis situation.

“Stevenot did everything perfect. He didn’t swerve,” he said.

All three crewmembers said the MRAP saved their lives. “It [the MRAP] took the blast and kept going,” Wilbern said.

By the time the area was cleared, the adrenaline evaporated for the crew.

“I didn’t realize my back was in pain until 30 to 45 minutes later, coming back home,” Wilbern said.

He added that while the training was essential to the crew’s survival, preparing for an IED ambush is impossible.

“You are never ready. There is no real way to react until you are blown up,” he said.

Stevenot said he was grateful his crew walked away relatively unharmed.

“We were happy to be alive,” he said.

Polish, Texas National Guard forces build relationships in Afghanistan

By 2nd Lt. Laura G. Childs
Texas Army National Guard Ghazni Agribusiness Development Team-IV

KABUL, Afghanistan (1/27/11) - Members of Texas Army National Guard Ghazni Agribusiness Development Team-IV joined Polish Battle Group A to conduct a unified mission in three villages outside Ghazni City on Jan. 17 to 18.

The mission was to perform site assessments and build relationships with the local population in the villages of Qalati, Zargar and Pir Shabaz, close to Forward Operating Base Ghazni.

In each village, local leaders were invited to discuss concerns and grievances with coalition forces, as well as share details and progress of ongoing repair projects previously addressed by the Ghazni ADT.

From prior discussions with the village leaders, Ghazni team was aware of a consistent and well-known problem: a lack of water.

Many areas in Afghanistan, including Ghazni province, have faced years of drought conditions which have significantly reduced the water table.

However, measures can be taken to offer immediate relief.

Director of Public Works Nezamuddin shared how a main drainage system and two culverts in the village of Qalati were crushed by coalition forces’ vehicles on a previous visit to the village in December.

Commander’s Emergency Relief Program funds were used to repair the drainage system and culverts.

“Using bulk CERP funds in this way offers quick solutions to immediate problems, giving villagers increased confidence in their local leaders and coalition forces,” said Army Capt. Wade L. Aubin, CERP funds manager for Ghazni ADT-IV.

This repair will greatly improve water management in the village.

During the assessments conducted during the patrol at Qalati Village, the Ghazni ADT found the supplies had been purchased and work had begun. Village leaders have decided, however, to hold off on project completion until the weather warms in the spring.

On the second day of patrols, the combined units conducted a village assessment of Pir Shabaz, located on the banks of the Ghazni River on the east side of Ghazni City.

Most villagers of Pir Shabaz are farmers who grow radishes, leeks, onions and potatoes, which they sell at the local market or at the bazaar in Ghazni City.

While the water levels are much lower than usual due to the ongoing regional drought, this village is able to access the water in the river to irrigate their crops and trees during the winter.

Despite the low water levels, village resident Jaleed, a farmer who sells his produce in the local market, said his crop output was good and business was steady.

“We demonstrated our willingness to listen to their problems, hear their concerns, and try to find solutions by facilitating their issues through their leaders and governmental officials,” said Army 2nd Lt. Grant Gillaspy of Fort Worth, Texas, Ghazni ADT-IV project manager.

Iraqi signal officers receive critical training from National Guard unit

By Brian Hare
151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (1/28/11) – Ten Iraqi Soldiers graduated from the first Iraqi Ground Forces Command Basic Networking and Systems Information class at Camp Iraqi Hero on Victory Base Complex, Jan. 13.

The 60-hour course was conducted by Task Force Palmetto, which is comprised of National Guardmembers from the 151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion, headquartered out of Greenville, S.C., and assigned United States Air Force personnel.

During the course, the Iraqi officers and noncommissioned officers were instructed in tasks and concepts such as assigning internet protocol addresses, installing and configuring servers and terminating twisted pair, high signal integrity cables.

Most of the coursework was taken from the curriculums offered by the Baghdad Signal University, an institution located on Victory Base that prepares Department of Defense personnel for obtaining Information Technology certifications such as A+, Network+, Security+, and VSAT.

Baghdad Signal University is also operated and administered by the 151st ESB.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert “Todd” Kappel, the primary coordinator for the course from the Plans and Projects Section of the 151st ESB, said the purpose of the course is two-fold - to provide the Iraqi Network Operations Center soldiers with the skills to perform administrative-level functions on their networks and to become instructors for the signal officers in the outlying 11 divisions.

This graduation marked the accomplishment of the first goal, he said.

“The first goal is being realized with the 60-hour classes being conducted on Camp Iraqi Hero,” said Kappel. “The next class is expected to graduate an additional ten students. The second goal will be undertaken when the current students become the teachers.”

Iraqi Brig. Gen. Raed has tasked one signal officer from each of his 12 divisions to come to the IGFC Signal School to receive the same instruction that is being conducted now, only this time the IGFC will be instructing and the 151st personnel will only be available to observe and assist.

“Brig. Gen. Raed asked the 151st to assist in training his signal officers and noncommissioned officers in basic network and systems information,” said Kappel.

“By taking on the mission of the instructing at the IGFC, the 151st has accepted an enormous responsibility,” said Kappel. “By partnering with our Iraqi Ground Forces Command fellow signal Soldiers, Task Force Palmetto is doing its part to help the Iraqi Army as it moves forward on its own new dawn.”

Montana Guardmembers' preparation key to convoy support mission

By Sgt. Glen Baker
224th Sustainment Brigade

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq (1/27/11) - Soldiers with Company E, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 163rd Infantry Regiment, 224th Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), prepared for success on their convoy mission Jan. 12 here.

Their mission marked a 30-day milestone for the 1-163rd Inf. Regt., since officially assuming its mission in Iraq.

Army 1st Lt. Barbara Conner, platoon leader with E Co., said that the purpose of the mission was to move commodities using both Kellogg, Brown and Root contractors and local national trucks, and that the 1-163rd Inf. Regt.’s mission was to provide convoy security.

“We had several days in preparation for this, and of course all the training prior to this,” Conner said. “We have mission briefs where we coordinate and make sure that all of our information is correct within the Internet systems and with our battalion.  Make sure their [Tactical Operations Center] is set up to support us.

“Then we compile all of that into a mission brief, give that to the battalion, and work on maintenance. Vehicles require a lot of maintenance and preparation for this. We also make sure we have enough Class I [food] and logistics support.”

Conner explained how the Soldiers prepared the day before the mission.

“We give an [operations order] to all of the Soldiers involved in the mission, including extra people to make sure that we have coordination with everything that they need, everything that’s expected of them,” Conner said.

“Then again we work on maintenance and preparing the vehicles for the next day. We also do a test fire that day. Then we lock everything up and make sure [the Soldiers] get enough sleep; it’s really imperative to our mission because we’re out on the road so much. We have to make sure we’re alert and aware, so we have a sleep plan. We wake up and again prepare the vehicles, and we do three inspections prior to the day of the mission.”

Army Sgt. Mark Morrison, a vehicle commander with E Co., described his role preparing for the mission.

 “I make sure the vehicles are ready,” Morrison said.  “I had to inspect the trucks and make sure there are no big problems, make sure everything’s good to go so we don’t break down on the road, and make sure my crew’s ready.”

Morrison said that he likes going on convoy missions.

“It makes the time go by faster,” Morrison said.  “It’s away from the base. I just like being out there – different scenery. We see lots of camels, and when we go down the highways, you’ll see the little shops they have. They sell gas along the road.  Little kids nag you and try to get you to throw them things. It’s pretty neat.”

Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Carlton, alternate convoy commander with E Co., said the 1st CAB, 163rd Inf. Regt. Soldiers trained to prepare for their missions.

“We had about three months of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi,” Carlton said. “We did a bunch of training missions for mock convoys and we did a bunch of Class I activities to help prepare for this.”

Carlton described some of the benefits of going on a mission.

“What I like most is being more in control of your surroundings and the camaraderie with your fellow Soldiers,” Carlton said.

“It’s a good time being able to just talk with them, drive, look around, and actually see Iraq instead of being on the [Forward Operating Base] the entire time. There’s a mosque north of Baghdad that’s pretty lit up and nice. The main colors they use are blue and purple; it almost looks like a casino.”

Army Spc. Anthony Young, a medic with E Co., explained what he did to prepare.

“A few days before we do our mission, we make sure the maintenance is ready,” Young said.

“I have to use medical supplies; I restock. I make sure all trucks are set with their [Combat Life Saver supplies] in case something does happen and that they have the right medical equipment on hand. My task is to be a dismount if anything happens. For anybody on the convoy, I’m responsible for their health, to treat them and see if we need to take them anywhere.”

Army Sgt. 1st Class James Winters, platoon sergeant with E Co., described how previous experience helped prepare the Soldiers for success.

“This platoon was a distribution platoon, so they had convoy experience, so it was a pretty easy transition,” Winters said.

“We got some people from other units before we left. For the last year we trained on all the warrior tasks. Once we got to our [mobilization] site, we started doing convoy training. Most of these guys have done convoys before. I want these guys to have this experience. It’s going to help them with their career.”

As night fell and the dust settled, the Soldiers of E Co., 1st CAB, 163rd Inf. Regt.  accomplished their mission and all returned safely to COB Adder.

Face of Defense: Chaplain Shines as Beacon of Faith

By Army Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr.
Task Force Currahee

PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2011 – His daily ritual consists of stopping by and checking in. “Hello, how is everybody?” “Hope all is well!” “God bless you,” he says, his words reflecting kindness, appreciation and his southern accent.

His energy and ear-to-ear smile can brighten even the darkest situations, the soldiers here say, describing him as sincere and caring, loving to all and judgmental to none.

Army Chaplain (Maj.) Randal H. Robison has committed his life to answering his calling and is happy being a source of optimism and positivity for soldiers during deployment.

“I look at the position I hold as the brigade chaplain as a calling,” said Robison, brigade chaplain for the 101st Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team in Task Force Currahee. “I believe I am here, appointed by the Lord, to be present to provide pastoral care ministry and to be present for the services of our soldiers and for our chaplains.”

His responsibilities include oversight of six religious support teams that cover all of Paktika province and beyond, working with his Afghan counterpart and fulfilling his staff officer duties. But it is going above and beyond those roles with a sense of humility that separates him from others.

“I enjoy what I do. I treasure the role of the chaplaincy very much,” the Grand Prairie, Texas, native said. “I wholeheartedly embrace it. Bringing God to soldiers and soldiers to God is very much at the basic core of my identity. I want to do to everything I can to encourage soldiers, to let them know that even in their difficult moments with the challenges they face, God is with them.”

His Christian beliefs are at the core of who he is, yet for many soldiers, his ability to care and make time for others is what sets him apart.

“My favorite thing about Chaplain Robison is even when he is extremely busy, if you need to talk, he will stop what he is doing and listen to you,” said Army Pfc. Genevieve A. Harms, paralegal specialist with the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “He remembers your problems, and the next time he sees you, he makes sure everything has worked out. He actually cares about soldiers and their families.”

Caring about soldiers is just something he does not because he has to, but because he wants to, the chaplain said.

“I want all soldiers to know that I do care and I, at the end of the day, am a soldier just like the most-junior private we have,” he added. “If I see them, I want to engage them and encourage them, knowing they have a story.

“I want to know how they are doing and how their families are doing,” he continued, “because I truly feel, deeply, that our soldiers are America’s finest. They are willing to serve and to be away from their families and face the hardships and challenges. Therefore, they deserve our best. Every soldier deserves the best from the soldier next to them, so that we can be able to get our mission accomplished. I want soldiers to know that they are cared for, to nourish them for who they are.”

Chaplains at the battalion level have an opportunity to interact more with troops, he said, noting that the role is different at the brigade level. “But it is still embracing the spirit and kissing the soul of the soldiers and letting them know that you do care and that God cares for them, too,” he added.

Robison has a knack for making soldiers feel as if they are talking to an old friend.

“When I talk to him, he makes me feel like I am talking to someone I have known my whole life,” said Harms, a Tacoma, Wash., native. “He knows where I am coming from, and he does not judge me based on the decisions I have made.

“When I see him walking toward me,” she added, “I get the feeling that everything is going to be OK. Even if I only come across him for just one second, it makes my day better.”

Ultimately, Robison said, it’s about duty, country and honoring God through his service.

“I want to know I made a difference, that my service was not just signing up and going through the motions, but that I made a difference in the lives of those who I have been able to meet because they have made a difference in mine,” he said. “With every soldier, I think if I can know them, that maybe somehow I could make a difference in their life.”

Robison said he tries to start every day on his knees in prayer.

“Part of my prayer is to place my life and the lives of my soldiers in Christ’s hands and for his guidance, wisdom and understanding, and I try to rest in that -- to know that God’s keeping hand is upon us for all Currahees,” he said.

The chaplain said his personal faith drives what he does. “It defines who I am as a Christian pastor,” he said, “and in my role as a Christian chaplain, it just compels me to it. I try to do it with a sense of joy.”