Thursday, May 31, 2012

Face of Defense: Chaplain Provides Spiritual Aid on the Fly

By Marine Corps Cpl. Isaac Lamberth
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

COMBAT OUTPOST NOW ZAD, Afghanistan, May 31, 2012 – Marines and sailors have fought alongside each other for more than 230 years, with Navy corpsmen, doctors and nurses continuously keeping Marines fit for battle. But for many, spiritual needs are another important element of readiness.

Navy Chaplain (Cmdr.) Francis Foley, command chaplain for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, visited Marines and sailors here May 27.

“It is such a great feeling when the chaplain comes out here to visit us,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Rick Chapman, police advisory team executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Chapman said the visits not only increase morale, but also allow service members to seek spiritual guidance.

“The Chaplain Corps provides Marines the opportunity to look into the spiritual side of life,” Chapman said. “When the chaplain visits and the Marines attend the services, it gives them a taste of home and allows them to forget about the worries they have around here.”

Chapman said Marines go to the services to partake in religious activities and to be around others who share their beliefs with a leader of their faith. But the chaplain’s presence also gives them a chance express their anxieties and day-to-day frustrations, he added.

“Father Foley’s visit gives the Marines here the ability to vent to someone else,” Chapman said. “It’s very helpful for them to talk to an outsider about certain subjects.”

Foley is one of four Catholic chaplains in Regional Command Southwest. With so few chaplains in the area, Foley said, he tries to get out to various outposts to speak with Marines and let them know their sacrifices are appreciated and that their hard work does not go unnoticed.

“I always thank the troops for what they do,” said Foley, who hails from Philadelphia. “To hear that from a stranger means a lot to these guys.”

Many Marines at remote outposts, such as this one in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, do not get as many chaplain visits as they’d like. Foley said he tries to get out to these troops as much as he can, often delivering care packages to help in raising their spirits.

“Bringing the care packages is a really big deal to these guys,” Chapman said. “Little things like peanut butter, snacks and socks mean so much to them. It gives them insight from home and what they’re fighting for.”

The visits also give him first-hand perspective into how the Marines and sailors live, the chaplain said, and give him a great appreciation for the amenities he has at Camp Leatherneck. Marines in remote outposts sometimes go days without electricity, rarely receive hot meals and sleep on cots nightly.

Foley said he has visited about 18 forward operating bases and combat outposts and plans to visit many more Marines and sailors while he is out here.

“I try to get out as much as I can and see the Marines out there,” he said. “If I can get them to smile and laugh, I’ve done my job and made it easier for the next chaplain who comes to visit them.”

U.S., Pakistan Military Coordination Improves

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2012 – In a sign of improving coordination between the United States and Pakistan, two U.S. military liaison officers recently returned to Pakistan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby told reporters today.

The officers returned to Pakistan at the request of the Pakistani government, Kirby said.

The posting is part of the effort to improve tactical and operational coordination between the International Security Assistance Force and the Pakistani military, Kirby said. The purpose is to “increase and improve communication between the two militaries along that border,” he added.

The liaison officers left Pakistan following last November’s cross-border incident, Kirby said.

Inadequate coordination was cited as one cause in a DOD review of the incident in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed after coalition troops operating in Kunar province, Afghanistan, were fired upon from border positions within Pakistan.

Based in Peshawar, Pakistan, the liaison officers are working with the headquarters staff of the Pakistani army’s 11th Corps, Kirby said.

The 11th Corps’ area of responsibility, he said, includes the border region that matches up with Regional Command East on the Afghanistan side.

Combined Force Detains Taliban Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 31, 2012 – An Afghan and coalition security force detained a Taliban leader as well as multiple other insurgents and seized more than 700 rounds of ammunition during an operation in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The insurgent leader recently returned to the district with numerous insurgent fighters for the Taliban’s spring offensive, officials said.

The detained insurgent leader was also the senior Taliban member operating in the district, officials said, and he directed roadside bombings, suicide attacks and other operations against Afghan and coalition forces.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province, a combined force detained multiple suspects during a search for a Taliban leader. The sought-after insurgent leader directs attacks against Afghan and coalition bases and coordinates his operations with the senior Taliban member in the district.

-- A combined force detained two suspected insurgents during an operation to detain a Taliban leader in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province. The sought-after insurgent leader conducts roadside bombings, assassinations and other attacks against Afghan officials and security forces and coalition troops. He also provides weapons and ammunition to insurgents.

-- In the Sabari district of Khost province, a combined force detained a Haqqani facilitator and two other insurgents. The facilitator supplied weapons, ammunition, rockets and explosives to insurgents for attacks against Afghan and coalition troops.

-- A combined force detained several insurgents while searching for a Taliban leader in the Wali Muhammad Shahid Khugyani district of Ghazni province. The sought-after insurgent leader conducts roadside bombings, indirect-fire attacks and other operations against Afghan and coalition troops. He also is suspected in ordering the kidnapping of Afghan troops.

In an operation yesterday, a combined force detained a Taliban leader and two additional insurgents in the Murghab district of Badghis province. The Taliban leader, who is an explosives expert, constructed and directed the use of improvised explosive devices in attacks against coalition forces. He also supervised Taliban informants throughout the region.

When the Taliban leader was detained, he was in the process of acquiring more-powerful explosives for large-scale IED attacks throughout the province.

Afghanistan: Caring for the warrior's soul, Air Guard chaplain reflects on experiences at Bagram Airfield

By Air Force Senior Airman Alexandria Mosness

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The chaplain gave the cross he brought from home to the young Marine Florida who was injured in an improvised explosive device attack. The Marine lost his cross that was on his body armor during the explosion. When the chaplain presented the cross to the youthful Marine, both men cried.

 This was Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Bohlman’s first experience as the night shift chaplain at Craig Joint-Theater Hospital here approximately six months ago.

Bohlman, deployed from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing, would experience these types of scenarios and more throughout his time at CJTH, one of the largest and best-equipped trauma facilities in Afghanistan.

Anytime a trauma comes in the chaplain’s pager will go off, he said.

“Our role in the trauma room is to introduce ourselves, and we tell (those who are injured) we are praying for them,” said Bohlman. “We will also follow them while they are in the hospital.”

The chaplain doesn’t only deal with trauma, but also makes hospital visits to patients who are stable.

“We [the chaplain’s assistance and I] generally see about 15 people a night,” Bohlman continued. “I always ask them their hometown.”

Caring for people is nothing new for the 20-year Air Force veteran.

Bohlman always had a strong internal call to serve, he said. He didn’t meet the requirements to serve as a chaplain so he came into the military in 1992 as a chaplain’s assistant.

After serving four years on active duty and a year in the reserves, he earned a commission through the Air Force Chaplain Candidate Program, the Bel Air, Md., native said.

“Our mission is to care for the warrior’s soul,” Bohlman said. “There are three functions we do. One is nurturing the living, two is caring for the wounded and three is honoring the dead. On this deployment, I’ve done all three, but I definitely prefer the first.”

The rosy-cheeked chaplain pulls out a green book from his left breast pocket. Though, the book is not worth more than a couple of dollars, this book holds a much deeper meaning.
Every injured military member Bohlman has come in contact with is listed in this green book.

Their name, rank and service are typed on a name tag in the book, but what jumps off the page are the notes he has written about each individual.

“I try and write a little bit about everyone I meet,” he said.

There are those who have stories that have stuck with Bohlman: the Army quadruple amputee, the suicide victims and those who didn’t make it.

“In April we had a lot of traumas,” he said with sadness. “At one point there were four patients in the trauma room and I looked down and realized there was a lot of blood on floor. I still have those stains on my boots. I thought about the sacrifice and how our job can be dirty one. I just thought about how they truly left their mark on me.”

After his first week at the hospital Bohlman told the staff that he can pray and chew gum at the same time, meaning he could help out if it was needed.

“I was taking temperatures, putting on the blood pressure cuff, and getting warm blankets,” he said.

“Chaplain Bohlman has been great,” said Maj. Micah Schmidt, an emergency room physician at the hospital. “He participates in all the traumas. He is very helpful. It is not expected but it’s nice. Just the other night he helped me change the dressing on a gunshot wound.”

It is not just the patients the chaplain watches after, but also the staff who work at the hospital.

“We’re here to listen to their stories,” he said. “A lot of times, the staff will compartmentalize what they deal with. You can have an enemy prisoner of war and the Soldier who was injured by the enemy POW, but you have to give the same exact care. They have to keep their feelings and emotions out of it.”

The chaplain is always asking the staff about their well-being.

“I usually ask if they’ve talked to their family lately,” he said. “My goal is to build resilient Airmen. Are you taking the time to exercise? How are you processing what you are seeing? I tell them I’m here regardless of their faith or denomination. My job is to provide care for their soul.”

A lot of times, they just need someone to talk with, he said.

“They have seen a lot but the way they deal with (it) is knowing that many would die if they weren’t here,” he said. “They see the big picture. It helps them during difficult days to pull through.”

While this is the chaplain’s fifth deployment overseas, losing people never gets easier, he said.

Bohlman said he will always have a place in his heart for the military members he has lost throughout the years.

“At the end of the sermons I give, I have a slideshow of the service members I’ve worked with who have died and I always tell my congregation, ‘these are the faces of freedom!’” he said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Face of Defense: Army Cook Performs Multiple Tasks

By Ashley Curtis
117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan , May 30, 2012 – From working in offices to working beyond the wire of forward operating bases in combat zones as a driver and a gunner, Army Staff Sgt. Clint Pinson has been there.

But 13 years ago, Pinson chose to make his cooking hobby a career by enlisting in the Army as a cook, and he’s still doing that today.

Yet, Pinson, assigned to Headquarters and Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, doesn't prepare food in a kitchen, nor does his place of work here have a single stove.

The Tulsa, Okla., native works at the NATO Accommodation Barracks, managing and maintaining the site every day.

"I've been known to get up, throw on flip-flops in the middle of the night and take care of what I've got to take care of," Pinson said. "I have pulled stuff off over here that no one else thought I could do."

His current duties don't follow the typical cook's job description, but his work ethic and great attitude have helped Pinson adapt to this and several non-cooking assignments in the past.

"He is like a chameleon, he can blend in [to] any situation and succeed," said Army Staff Sgt. Josue Molina, Pinson's supervisor.

Pinson embraces his positive attitude, and he won’t allow himself to be defined by what people think he does.

"I've seen cooks hang with the best of them, and out-do some other soldiers," he said.

On his previous tour to Iraq, Pinson was tasked to run a dining facility on an outlying post for four months, but spent the remainder of the year doing various other assignments. He views such constant adjustment positively.

"I've had a lot of opportunities in the Army," he said.

Pinson said he plans to make a career out of the Army, whether that means working as a cook, or doing any other job that the Army needs him to do.