Sunday, March 31, 2013

Stratcom Research Partnership Tackles WMD Threat

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., March 29, 2013 – A new partnership between U.S. Strategic Command and the University of Nebraska is pushing the envelope to address what Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, Stratcom’s commander, calls one of the most pervasive threats to the United States: weapons of mass destruction.

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Army Staff Sgt. Maliek Kearney and Army Sgt. Danielle Doucette transfer a sample of simulated nuclear fallout as Ruth Anne Sorter from the Department of Energy looks on during the Prominent Hunt exercise in Indiana that helped test the Defense Department’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear enterprise, July 28, 2012. Research conducted by the University of Nebraska in partnership with U.S. Strategic Command is expected to identify new ways to address the threat posed by of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Carol McClelland

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Kehler, who’s been tasked by President Barack Obama under the unified command plan to lead the Defense Department’s efforts to combat WMDs, championed the first university-affiliated research center to be sponsored by a combatant command.

Stratcom entered into a five-year contract with the University of Nebraska in late September, establishing the 13th UARC within the Defense Department. All are committed to cutting-edge research in some of the most challenging areas confronting the United States, explained Evan J. Hoapili, Stratcom’s deputy director of capabilities and resource integration.

“The purpose of a UARC is to focus a high-level, world-class research university on a specific, enduring, technical hard problem,” Hoapili told American Forces Press Service. “The idea is to create a continuity of research and focus and generate out-of-the-box thinking to solve a problem that is vexing the department.”

Stratcom selected the University of Nebraska for the coveted UARC contract, based on its existing research programs at its National Strategic Research Institute, Hoapili said. The UARC, he said, will invite the best and brightest minds to delve into nuclear forensics, ways to detect biological, chemical and nuclear threats, passive defense against weapons of mass destruction, and consequence management.

Collaborating with other research institutions, University of Nebraska researchers will explore areas ranging from new ways to identify a WMD aboard a container ship without slowing down the entire delivery network to ways to make the human body more resistant to chemical or biological agents, Hoapili said. They also will investigate faster, more effective decontamination methods in the event of an attack.

The research will extend to laws governing space, cyberspace and telecommunications -- other key areas within Stratcom’s area of responsibility.

“These are big, technical problems. If you solve any one of these, it will be a huge difference for the department, and frankly, for the security of the United States,” Hoapili said.

The outcome, he said, could lead to breakthroughs in areas that top the agenda, not just at Stratcom and the Defense Department, but across the U.S. interagency, particularly at the departments of Homeland Security and Energy.

A Stratcom-led executive steering committee that oversees the UARC includes representatives from several agencies. This helps synchronize counter-WMD efforts across the government and brings different perspectives, expertise and revenue sources to the challenge, Hoapili said.

“The beauty of the UARC is that it enables you to synergize the efforts across all these different departments … into an integrated effort that is focused on the right problem set,” he said. “Ultimately, what we hope to come up with are the most-efficient, cost-effective ways of detecting, eliminating and mitigating weapons of mass destruction.”

But Hoapili emphasized that Stratcom’s partnership with the University of Nebraska will extend long beyond the initial contract. The hope, he said, is that the UARC will spawn researchers who commit themselves to the challenge over the long term, either through government service or through research efforts that support DOD.

“These are problems that aren’t going to go away, and the department recognizes that it is going to be with us for decades, if not forever” he said. “So we want to build an enduring enterprise, and to grow a cadre of researchers, professors, students and PhD candidates all focused on what is possible in dealing with the gravest threat to the United States.”

Kehler told Congress earlier this month he’s excited about the new partnership.

“One of my highest priorities, in addition to securing and reducing dangerous materials, is acquiring the capabilities to monitor and track lethal agents and their means of delivery, and defeating or responding to the use of these weapons,” he told the House and Senate armed services committees. “The UARC will help address these challenges by providing unique access to academic perspectives and research methods not currently found anywhere in DOD to engage current and future counter-WMD challenges.”

University-affiliated laboratories have been conducting research and development for the U.S. military for the past six decades. DOD launched the first UARCs in 1996, to maintain essential engineering and technology capabilities required by the department.

“UARCs have changed the nature of their problem set. They are pushing the envelope, and I expect the same out of this one,” Hoapili said. “I can’t predict where it will go, but I know it is the right way to go.”

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Combined Force Arrests Senior Taliban Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 29, 2013 – An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a senior Taliban leader and detained one other insurgent during an operation in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The arrested Taliban leader is believed to have exercised operational control over multiple insurgent cells throughout Helmand province, officials said. Under his leadership, insurgents committed multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He is also believed to be heavily involved in the acquisition and distribution of weapons to insurgent forces, and reportedly owns multiple poppy farms used in the production of illegal narcotics.

Also today, a combined force detained two insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Dand district of Kandahar province. The sought-after Taliban leader has command-and-control responsibilities over a number of fighters dedicated to attacking Afghan and coalition forces. He also has extensive experience with improvised explosive devices, and plays a role in weapon transportation and distribution throughout Kandahar province.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A combined force killed numerous insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Chimtal district of Balkh province. The sought-after Taliban leader is said to be the second-highest Taliban official in the Chimtal district, responsible for directing multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also is believed to be the district’s chief financier for the insurgency, funneling money to fighters for use in illegal arms purchases. During the operation the security force also seized six motorcycles, two rocket-propelled-grenade launchers with 12 rounds, multiple light machine guns and four drums of ammunition.
-- In the Sabari district of Khost province, a combined force killed an insurgent during a search for a Haqqani leader. The sought-after Haqqani leader is responsible for acquiring and distributing weapons to his fellow insurgents and has personally led his subordinates in multiple rocket-propelled-grenade attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

Medic shows courage after rocket attack

by Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Kilmer
Air Force News Service

3/29/2013 - FORT MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- Three weeks after arriving to her deployed location in Afghanistan, insurgents showered then-Tech. Sgt. Angela Blue's base with 80-millimeter mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire.

During the attack, she received a radio request to report to the Afghan National Army side of the compound. Three local nationals had been hit by shrapnel and were in need of assistance.

As an aeromedical technician for Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, Blue was directly responsible for 15 Army Soldiers assigned to her unit; a team she called, 'my guys.' As a medical professional, she took on the role of medic for about 230 additional patients on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sweeney.

As Blue entered the Afghan aid station, she said it took her about three to four seconds to assess and comprehend the overwhelming sight of the patients' severe injuries. Then she went to work.

Blue triaged the wounded, while she simultaneously directed additional medical care and arranged for medical evacuation. While Blue tended to her patients awaiting medevac, she noticed a patient bleeding from his already bandaged leg. She promptly applied a second tourniquet to stop the bleeding until the medevac arrived.

As rockets and mortars continued to fall just behind the aid station, Blue said she was oblivious to the explosions.

"I didn't hear it because I was so focused on taking care of his bleeding that I could hear people talking, but I couldn't hear the explosions anymore. They had to tell me (about the indirect fire) afterward."

A few weeks later Blue found out the patient lost his leg, but her efforts saved his life.

In her remote location with limited supplies, she saved many lives over the course of her nine-month deployment. Citing her Cajun roots, her Army unit nicknamed the East Texas native, the witch doctor.

"It was always a huge deal to me whenever I had to work on these guys, anytime," she said, adding that while she was treating patients with severe injuries she would send up small prayers that her methods would keep her patient alive until the medical evacuation helicopters arrived.

Toward the end of her deployment Blue and her team were traveling as part of a resupply convoy when they heard a loud explosion.

An Afghan Humvee transporting four soldiers triggered a pressure-plate improvised explosive device about a half a mile away from her Humvee. As one of the only combat medics assigned to the convoy, the potential for casualties called her to action.

Escorted by her team of Army Soldiers, men she called, 'brothers,' Blue said they jumped out of the truck and took off running to the front.

After a half-mile run with more than 50 pounds of gear, a winded Blue said she went straight to the casualties and started working on them. Throughout her nine-month deployment, Blue had been preparing herself for the worst case scenario, repeatedly thinking about what she would do in the most traumatic situations.

"You just have to train in your mind. 'Ok, what if this happens....what if he's not breathing,' I would think about these things as I was getting ready to go to sleep at night," she said. "You think about this 24/7 because you want to make sure that when it's time to go, you are perfect."

At the site of the IED explosion, Blue performed initial triage, and directed the team to treat other casualties with less severe wounds. She immediately tended to the driver who had open fractures to both of his lower legs, severe head injuries, and third-degree burns to his body.

Blue placed a tourniquet on one leg and instructed a teammate to place one on the other leg. Upon further evaluation, she noticed that the patient's breathing was labored and his vitals were diminishing,

"'The commander came over and said the helicopter will be here in half an hour,'" she said. "I told him, 'This guy doesn't have half an hour, he has about 10 minutes.'"

With little options left, she directed a Romanian medic on the scene to begin intravenous drips. As the patient's vitals improved, Blue continued to monitor all four patients until the medevac arrived.

Despite their traumatic wounds, all of the Afghan soldiers survived.

Three hours after treating casualties from the first IED, the truck Blue was riding struck another IED.

By the time her truck hit the IED, she said that the convoy had already cleared 12 IEDs along the road.

"We found them and blew them in place, so I was pretty used to the explosions at this point," she said. "But when our truck blew up, I was not used to that explosion, it was a little too close for comfort."

Blue sustained combat-related injuries and needed to be medically evacuated herself.

Today, Master Sgt. Blue uses her real-life experience to enhance training for Self-Aid Buddy Care instructors at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

Blue said she emphasizes to her instructors that, "You may not have a medic to care of you. You may be the first person on the scene, so you need to know how to do this stuff to save lives.

"Or you may have one medic and 15 guys, but what are you going to do if 12 of them are injured,'" she said. "I think it really hits home to the non-medical personnel. You never know how you will react in these situations, so you have to be prepared."

Blue was featured in the seventh volume of the Air Force series Portraits in Courage for her actions while deployed. She also earned the Air Force Combat Action Medal and a Purple Heart. Additionally she was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Army Combat Action Badge, and Army Combat Medical Badge. Subsequently, she was also honored with a flight room dedicated in her name at the Airey NCO Academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

TSA Expedites Airport Screening for Wounded Warriors

From a Transportation Security Administration News Release

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 – The Transportation Security Administration now offers expedited airport screening to severely injured members of the armed forces.

In addition to offering curb-to-gate service, TSA now allows wounded warriors to move through security checkpoints without having to remove shoes, light outerwear jackets or hats, officials said.
“In recognition of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we have revised our screening requirements to allow expedited screening for this trusted group of citizens,” said John Halinski, TSA’s deputy administrator and 25-year Marine Corps veteran.

To be eligible for this service, a wounded warrior or traveling companion should email the Military Severely Injured Joint Services Operations Center,, or call 1-888-262-2396 with itinerary information for the traveling party. Traveling companions will receive standard screening.

TSA also provides expedited screening for service members. At airport checkpoints nationwide, military personnel in uniform with proper identification, whether traveling on official orders or not, are not required to remove their shoes or boots unless they set off alarms.

In addition, TSA offers expedited screening for service members, including reservists and National Guard members, at the following airports:
-- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall;
-- Charlotte Douglas International;
-- Denver International;
-- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International;
-- Honolulu International;
-- Lambert-St. Louis International;
-- Ronald Reagan Washington National;
-- Seattle-Tacoma International; and
-- Washington Dulles International.

Wounded Warriors also may enroll in “TSA Pre-check,” which allows eligible passengers to volunteer information about themselves to expedite their screening experience.

Eligible passengers include U.S. citizens who opt in through a participating airline or enroll in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program, including Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS.

ECRC Sailor Receives Purple Heart

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James C. Brown, Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center Public Affairs
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Northwest (NRNW) awarded a Purple Heart medal to a former Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center (ECRC) Sailor during a ceremony in Virginia Beach, Va., March 18.

Rear Adm. Markham Rich, commander, NRNW presented the award to Lt. Cmdr. Robert Moran for his heroic and meritorious achievements while serving as an Individual Augmentee in Afghanistan during 2011.

While assigned to NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command, Oct. 26, 2011, the twenty-three year Navy veteran was traveling through the Tangi Valley, Wardak Province, Afghanistan in a convoy of three vehicles when the group was engaged by the enemy. Multiple rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) struck the vehicles causing the loss of the rear Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. A subsequent improvised explosive device (IED) blast disabled Moran's vehicle at which point the occupants engaged the enemy.

With his M4 in hand, Moran exited his disabled vehicle, recognized armed insurgents and provided suppressive fire while facing incoming enemy action. The group helped in getting the injured service members in the rear MRAP to the safety of the sole operational vehicle with Moran single handedly carrying one injured service member from danger. RPG fire and the IED left Moran injured.

When asked about his experience, Moran, now serving as the commanding officer of Transient Personnel Unit Puget Sound, was quick to note that his injuries were minor and that most members of the convoy suffered much more significant injuries including shrapnel wounds and broken limbs. Reflecting on the encounter and his time in theatre, Moran said he felt his service in Afghanistan gave him, "the honor and privilege to serve with service members not only from other U.S. service components, but also from numerous NATO nations."

Exemplifying the Navy's core values, Moran was recognized by the U.S. Army with the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and the Army Combat Action Badge. Moran was also awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the NATO Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Michael C. Cable, 26, of Philpot, Ky., died March 27, from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces in Shinwar District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

For more information, media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at 931-220-7993.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

EOD Airman deals with PTSD, TBI

by Desiree N. Palacios
Air Force News Service

3/27/2013 - FORT MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- She was four days out before returning home to Dover Air Force Base, Del., from her deployment in Provincial Reconstruction Team, Farah, Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Jennifer Allara and her explosive ordinance team started the day off at 0330 for a routine combat mission patrol. Allara and her EOD teammates went outside the fence to sweep an ally they call 'IED alley' in Shewan, Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, they didn't foresee what was about to happen next.

Allara is a 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal team leader currently based out of Dover AFB, Del., who had her world turned upside down in a matter of minutes.

"We are trained to accept a certain amount of danger with our job," Allara said. "And I always thought in terms of me, what if something happens to me? What if we get blown up? I wasn't thinking in terms of losing a team member in a turret. It was a very big wake-up call."

It was on that fateful day in September 2009, Allara lost her good friend and co-worker, Staff Sgt. Bryan Berky, during an attack.

Her team was involved in a firefight and as they tried to turn around to get out of the firefight their vehicle got stuck in the sand. She said as her team tried to get their vehicle out of the sand, a team of Afghan national soldiers flew 500 meters ahead of her team in trucks.

She recalls them disappearing into a large cloud of smoke and hearing a detonation.

"The only thing I could think of ... that was us ... that was going to be me," she said. "And they just took that."

They were receiving indirect fire and mortars when another team member yelled out to their turret gunner, Berky, to see if he was Ok.

Allara looked over to Berky and noticed he was hunched over in his harness and unresponsive. She pulled an emergency latch and pulled him into her lap. She yelled out for a medic, then noticed the small bullet hole in his head.

Her team grabbed a medic, put him into their vehicle and they drove to a casualty evacuation point. As the fire fight continued a field surgeon did everything to save him. Unfortunately, Berky doesn't make it.

With four days left before her team was heading home, Allara was allowed to fly back with Berky's remains back to the United States.

As a result of her attack, Allara suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition she struggles with to this day.

She credits her coworkers helping her to get where she is today. She thanks their constant check-ups and looking her in the eye and asking her ... how are you doing? Are you Ok?

"Knowing what's wrong with me and working with the doctors to combat that, if I know what it is, I can overcome it," Allara said. "I'm looking forward to the holistic approach they take in treatment. That intrigues me."

Allara hopes to be an example for others returning from a deployment. She hopes her story will help other to seek help.

"There is no shame in getting help," she said. "There is no shame in recognizing what is going on with someone and being able to reach out and help. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of your Airmen."

She stresses that Airmen shouldn't feel ashamed if they are experiencing symptoms of PTSD.

"PTSD is not what's wrong with you, it's what happened to you," Allara said. "It's a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. I'm looking forward to the holistic approach to their treatment and diagnosis."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Face of Defense: Lance Corporal Aspires to World Travel

By Marine Corps Sgt. Ned Johnson
Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, March 26, 2013 – When people talk about traveling the world, they might think of places such as Rome, Australia and the Caribbean.

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Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nickolas Franklin joined the Marine Corps to travel the world. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ned Johnson

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But for Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nickolas Franklin, Afghanistan’s Helmand province is just one of the many destinations he wants to visit. Franklin, a data network specialist with 1st Marine Division’s Regimental Combat Team 7, said he joined the Marine Corps to travel the world and see faraway places.

Franklin said he grew up in Richmond, Calif., and had plenty to see and do on the coastline there, but he was anxious for more.

The idea of joining the service materialized for him at an early age, Franklin said, as he had family in the Marine Corps while he was growing up. “I had seen the uniforms and the lifestyle,” 21-year-old Marine added. “That’s why I had to choose the Corps.”

An avid Oakland Athletics fan, Franklin focused on playing baseball as a boy, but now he said his focus is ensuring Marines in combat can communicate.
“He is willing to go above and beyond to accomplish the mission and has quickly become my ‘go-to’ Marine when it comes to data related issues,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Felix Severino, the regimental combat team’s data chief.

Franklin is more than just good at his job, Severino added. He’s also a good Marine.

“He has a strong leadership presence and is constantly striving to improve himself and give guidance to his peers and junior Marines,” Severino said. “He is aware of his surroundings and is always boosting morale in the shop.”

While he wants to travel the globe, Franklin said, he also is working on his bachelor’s degree in psychology. He plans to be a psychologist someday, he said, but not just yet.

“I want to be a Marine security guard,” he said. “I think it would be amazing.” Marine security guards provide protection at U.S. Embassies around the world, which Franklin said provides the perfect opportunity for him to continue his adventures. He hopes to be stationed in South America if he is selected for the duty, he added.

Combined Force in Kandahar Province Arrests Taliban Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 26, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and detained another insurgent in the Shah Wali Kot district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The leader is accused of ordering assassinations of Afghan government officials, coordinating the movement of weapons and supplies for insurgent operations and leading attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.
Also today, a combined force in Helmand province’s Nad-e Ali district arrested a Taliban facilitator who is believed to be responsible for procuring weapons and distributing them to insurgents. The security force also detained several other insurgents.

In Kunduz province’s Kunduz district yesterday, a combined force arrested an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader who is believed to lead a cell of insurgent fighters responsible for attacks on Afghan and coalition forces. Before his arrest, officials said, he was believed to be actively planning to assassinate an Afghan national security forces official.

Kerry Reaffirms Commitment to Partnership With Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2013 – The United States is committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said yesterday in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The United States will remain a firm partner with the emerging democracy long after the December 2014 end of the International Security Assistance Force mission, Kerry said during a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It was Kerry’s first visit to Afghanistan as Secretary of State.

“We mean it when we say that as Afghans stand up and take control of their country's future, they will not stand alone,” Kerry said. “America will stand with them.”

Afghanistan is transitioning in three areas -- security, governance and economic -- and the United States will aid the country as it moves forward, Kerry said. The United States also will aid Afghanistan as the government reaches out to Taliban members seeking reconciliation, he added. “Reconciliation is the best way to try to provide the surest end to violence and to secure a unified and a sovereign Afghanistan,” he said.

Karzai has committed to traveling to Doha, Qatar, to meet Taliban representatives. “We continue to join with President Karzai in calling on the Taliban to join a political process, to renounce the violence,” Kerry said.

U.S., NATO and partner nations have been working to train Afghan security forces and that effort is paying off, the secretary said. “The Afghan people ought to be proud that their security and their police force grow stronger and grow more capable by the day,” he said.

Security gains must translate to political and economic areas, Kerry said, and Afghanistan will go far if the elections next year are free and fair.

“We welcome the Afghan commitment, which is a reflection of the Afghan people’s desire to conduct a credible, safe, secure, all-inclusive, and transparent, and accountable election,” he said. “It’s our hope that this election is going to be a unifying moment for Afghanistan, and that it will represent, in a sense, the crowning achievement of the president’s vision for Afghanistan when he peacefully transfers power to a newly elected president.”

Kabul is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is five times what it was in 2001. Access for Afghans to hospitals and health clinics has climbed, and life expectancy in the country is up 50 percent. “A recent United Nations report showed that Afghanistan has made faster gains in human development over the last 10 years than any other country in the world,” Kerry said.

Roads, cell phones, buildings and businesses are increasing and pointing toward progress, and now it remains for Afghans to keep this on track, Kerry said.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Soldier Fulfills Goal to Serve

By Army Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHANK, Afghanistan, March 25, 2013 – A signal support system specialist assigned to 3rd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is serving in Afghanistan after an opportunity was presented that she couldn’t pass up.

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Army Spc. Takisha S. Brock provides combat network radio support at Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan’s Logar province, March 22, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elvis N. Umanzor

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Spc. Takisha S. Brock, 40, a Brock, a Washington, N.C., native, said she always wanted to serve because three of her cousins served during Desert Storm.

After graduating from high school, Brock said, she planned to attend Queens University in North Carolina on an athletic scholarship. But her plans soon changed, as months later she had a son. She quickly went from studying, to being a mom and working.

Brock, who grew up as the eldest child with her three brothers, said her family always has shown her love and support in everything she’s done -- especially her parents.

“I admire my mother, because she raised me to be a strong woman,” she said. That strength, she added, has helped her raise her son, Dimetrio, who has autism and requires special care. It takes a lot of patience and adaptation to meet the challenges, she said.

As a single mom, Brock raised her son while she worked two jobs and went to college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in health care management and obtained two associate degrees.

As time passed, and while working two jobs in medical administration, she said, the idea of serving her country didn’t seem to be in the cards. But one day, while she was at a grocery store, an Army recruiter approached her, thinking she was younger, Brock said.

After talking to the recruiter, Brock, then 38, realized her opportunity to serve was still available. The waiting time to come in as an officer was 18 months, she said, and if she didn’t take the opportunity then, she wouldn’t be in the Army now, due to the Army’s maximum age of enlistment.

In October 2010, Brock enlisted in the Army. She completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga., home of the Army Signal Corps.

Her first permanent duty station was with the Vanguard Brigade out of Fort Stewart, Ga., where she earned the Army Achievement Medal after her performance during the brigade’s field exercise before their deployment. She then was selected to deploy early to help with the transition and set up communication systems in support of the brigade’s mission with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“I thought of her immediately to come over here and get us set up and established,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. Allen, the brigade’s signal systems chief. “When I got here, everything was set up and running, and there weren’t any issues. She is reliable, and she’s dependable.”

Although her military career is bright, Brock said, she faced some physical challenges at age 38.

“I wish I would have enlisted 10 years earlier,” she said, but she added that her earlier struggles helped her adapt. “You have to adapt. You are constantly meeting challenges and things that you have to … overcome,” she said.

Being deployed, she now deals with a bigger challenge: being away from her son for nine months. Now that her son is older, and with the support of her family in North Carolina, she said, she is able to serve. It also helps, she added, that she works with a good team that is supportive.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person,” she said. People have always told me that I have a strong character because of the things I’ve encountered in my life.”

Brock is responsible for providing combat network radio support to the Vanguard Brigade, which allows the brigade operations center to securely communicate with any subordinate unit. She also maintains the equipment to ensure it stays functional.

Brock said she plans to re-enlist and work on her master’s degree in business organization and business management.

Officials Confirm Deaths of Taliban Leaders in Helmand

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 25, 2013 – Afghan and coalition military officials today confirmed that two key Taliban leaders in Afghanistan’s Helmand province were killed in recent operations.

Taliban leader Tamim was killed in a March 18 operation in the province’s Nahr-e Saraj district, and Gul Ahmad Akhund was killed a day earlier in the Nad-e Ali district.

Tamim was responsible for planning and directing attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, facilitating weapons to fighters throughout Helmand, and serving as a vital link in the local Taliban’s intelligence apparatus, officials said. He also served as a member in illegitimate Taliban judicial proceedings and actively recruited civilians to join insurgent cells.

Akhund had operational control over a cell of insurgent fighters directly responsible for numerous attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces, officials said. He was instrumental in acquiring and distributing weapons and ammunition to his fighters.

Airmen shoulder the load in remembrance of fallen comrade

by Adam Luther
440th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/25/2013 - POPE FIELD, N.C.  -- Special tactics operators from across Pope Field, N.C., took part in a six-mile walk around the flightline carrying a log dedicated to a fallen comrade March 15.

The log, carved in honor of Staff Sgt. Andrew Harvell, has an estimated weight of 1,250 pounds. Harvell's nickname "Big Andy" is carved on one side of the log and his mantra "Victory or Valhalla" is carved on the other. Harvell was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2011.

"We have prospective students carry logs and poles to promote team work, motivation and pride," said Senior Master Sgt Scott Innis, Combat Control School commandant. "After the pole was finished, the staff at Combat Control School decided that combat controllers should carry it before students. We went further and invited the 21st and 24th Special Tactics Squadrons to be involved, as Andy had been assigned to both during his brief career. We split the distance evenly around the flight line."

The journey around the flightline started and ended with the instructors from the Combat Control School and was passed to the special tactics squadrons along the route. The one rule for this trip was the log doesn't touch the ground again until it is back at the Combat Control School.

A brief ceremony honoring fallen special tactics operators concluded the event with students, instructors and current operators in attendance.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Tristan M. Wade, 23, of Indianapolis, Ind., died March 22 in Qarah Bagh District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 573rd Clearance Company, 2nd Engineer Battalion, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.   

For more information media may contact the White Sands Missile Range public affairs office at 575-678-1134, during business hours. After business hours, call 575-993-0637.

Hagel Welcomes Karzai’s Commitment in Detention Facility Pact

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday after an agreement was reached to transfer control of the Parwan detention facility to the Afghan government tomorrow, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little reported.

In a statement released after the call, Little said the agreement follows an intensified round of discussions between U.S. and Afghan officials.

“The secretary welcomed President Karzai's commitment that the transfer will be carried out in a way that ensures the safety of the Afghan people and coalition forces by keeping dangerous individuals detained in a secure and humane manner in accordance with Afghan law,” Little said.
Hagel also appreciates the hard work of all of those on both sides who worked to finalize the agreement, Little added.

A memo of understanding signed in March 2012 set the transfer in motion. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan at the time, called the memo “an important step forward in our strategic partnership negotiations.”