Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bremerton rear admiral earns second star and new job

The Defense Department announced Friday that the commander of Carrier Strike Group Three and the USS John C. Stennis Strike Group based in Bremerton, will be assigned to direct theProgramming Division, N80, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Rear Adm. (lower half) Mark A. Vance already is slated for promotion to a two-star rear admiral.

Vance, a Naval aviator, is a Billings, Mont. native and University of Idaho graduate, with graduate degrees from the University of Southern California and the U.S. Naval War College.

Vance’s biography includes fleet assignments with fighter squadron deployments -- including to Iraq -- from both coasts,with squadrons from the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz, USS Independence, USS Carl Vinson, and USS Harry Truman.

Vance's 4,000 accident-free hours in various Navy jets include 3,500 in F-14 Tomcats.

Vance also has previously served as deputy director and acting director of "Deep Blue," then the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the Navy has established an operations group, informally known as "Deep Blue," an operations group established after 9/11 to provide intellectual support for the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and regional warfighting commanders-in-chief in the global war on terrorism, according to Navy officials.

According to Defense Daily International, Deep Blue is akin to the Air Force's"Checkmate"strategic planning organization.

Both organizations reportedly explore new concepts for platforms, weapons systems, sensors, and tactics, techniques and procedures to improve U.S. capabilities in a "network-versus-network" war with Al-Qaeda and other internationally dispersed terror groups, a Naval official told DDI.

Four Fort Lewis soldiiers killed in Afghanistan

Four soldiers from Fort Lewis's 5th Stryker Brigade were killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said Friday.

Killed Tuesday were Pfc. Dennis M. Williams, 24, of Federal Way; Capt. John L. Hallett III, 30, of Concord, Calif; Capt. Cory J. Jenkins, 30, of Arizona; and Sgt. 1st Class Ronald W. Sawyer, 38, of Trenton, Mo.

KOMO television, the Seattle ABC affiliate, says Williams family told them he was concerned about a lack of ammunition and equipment to fight the war, echoing problems voiced by troops early in the Iraq war.

"What he was told and what he heard is that ammo was low, conserve your stuff, and he just didn't feel that they were equipped like they should have been - like it was a low-budget war," Dennis' brother, David Williams, was quoted by KOMO as saying.

Williams, a Federal High School graduate from the Seattle area, enlisted in 2007 and was on his first deployment.

Jenkins, a Brigham Young University graduate, was a physician assistant, Sawyer a medic. Hallett was a West Point graduate.

The four served with the brigade's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment.

Fort Lewis's Stryker brigades, considered the most technologically advanced ground forces in the Army, have now suffered six casualties since arriving in Afghanistan in July. It is a key elemenet in the fight against Taliban strongholds in Kandahar and Zabul provinces.

The News Tribune of Tacoma says the deaths push the number of Washington service members killed since 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan to 323.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

VA mistakenly tells vets they have Lou Gehrig's disease

The Department of Veterans Affairs sent letters to 1,200 veterans across the country mistakenly telling them they have ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal neurological disease.

James Bunker, a leader of the National Gulf War Resource Center said the organization counted at least as many worried veterans from Alabama, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming had contacted the group about the error.

Denise Nichols, the vice president of the National Gulf War Resource Center, said the V.A. was blaming a coding error for the mistake.

Letters dated Aug. 12 were intended to notify veterans who have Lou Gehrig’s disease of disability benefits available to them.

In a statement acknowledging the error, the VA said it had been contacted by a "small number" of veterans, which the NGWRC disputed. Bunker said the VA was telling reporters it had only received 10 responses from veterans regarding the letter.

According to the VA:

"In our efforts to keep Veterans informed of their expanding eligibility for benefits, VA sent notifications to Veterans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for disability compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), outreach letters were sent to 1,864 veterans and survivors last week.

"VA has since been contacted by a small number of these Veterans who do not have ALS, but were mistakenly sent the ALS outreach letter."

The VA said it is "immediately reviewing" the individual claims files for all recipients of the letter to identify those who were erroneously notified, and VA employees will be following up to personally reach out to ensure the letter is undersood to be a mistake, and not a diagnosis of ALS.

VA employees also will "express VA’s sincere apologies for the distress caused by this unfortunate and regrettable error," the VA said.

Recipients of the letter are encouraged to call VA at 1-800-827-1000 with any questions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

International humanitarian exercise underway in local waters

Our own Coast Guard District 13 this week is hosting Exercise Pacific Unity off Port Angeles and in Seattle this week, joined by various Coast Guards from nations around the North Pacific.

The exercise includes vessel from Japan, Russia and Canada, whils two members of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum, China and South Korea, have sent observers.

Vessels, like the Russian Border Guard Vessel Vorovskiy, in the above Coast Guard photo taken while it was en route to the three-day exercise, will be coordinating search and rescue exercises, aids to navigation, law enforcement and security operations. Crews will have a chance to get together in some social and cultural activities as well, Coast Guard officials said.

Check out more info and photos at District 13s Web site.

VA simplifying PTSD compensation process

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on Monday said the VA is moving to help veterans seeking compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder by simplifying the process.

Shinseki, a retired general and highly regarded Army chief of staff in the 1990s who oversaw Army "transformation" to 21st century warfare through the creation of Fort Lewis's Stryker brigades, was appointed by President Obama to do the same for the VA.

“The hidden wounds of war are being addressed vigorously and comprehensively by this administration as we move VA forward in its transformation to the 21st century,” Shinseki said in a press release Monday.

The VA published a proposed regulation in the Federal Register make it easier for veterans to claim service connection for PTSD by reducing the amount of evidence required if the stressors in the claim are related to a fear of military or terrorist hostilities.

Public comment regarding the proposed rule will be taken over the next 60 days, with a final regulation to be published once all comments are considered.

According to the VA news release, under the new rule, the VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.

Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a noncombat veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. This rule would simplify the development that is required for these cases, officials explained.

According to mental health experts, PTSD is a recognized anxiety disorder that can follow seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon in war. Feelings of fear, confusion or anger often subside, officials noted, but if the feelings don't go away or get worse, a veteran may have PTSD.

The VA has been beefing up its mental health service for combat veterans, adding thousands of new professionals in the last four years.

The department also has established a toll-free suicide prevention helpline -- 1-800-273-TALK -- and has a Web site available for online chat in the evenings.

At the Pentagon, meanwhile, Army vice chief of staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli last month announced the launch of the largest study of behavioral health ever undertaken by the Army.

Chiarelli, originally from Seattle, is actively spearheading the study that will be conducted by a dream team from the military, National Institute of Mental Health, academia and other members in hopes of better understanding the underlying causes of suicide.

I found out about Chiarelli's sincere passion for soldiers' welfare when I profiled him while I was working for the now defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper in March 2008. At the time he was Defense Secretary Robert Gates' senior military advisor.

Chiarelli in a Pentagon news release said the $50 million study will examine behavioral health, psychological resilience, suicide risk, suicide-related behaviors and suicide deaths across the active and reserve components over all phases of a soldier’s career.

Findings will be presented quarterly with preliminary results due in November.

Chiarelli said the findings could be incorporated in real time into treatment programs. The Army had a record number of suicides in 2007 with 115, and again in 2008 with 139.

“[The study group] realizes this is not business as usual. We’re not going to wait for the final results of the study,” the general said, referring to the project’s five-year timeline.

“We feel that this could be huge -- huge for the Army, the Department of Defense and quite frankly, for America.”

The general predicted that an early recommendation will be to relieve stress on the force by increasing the amount of time troops spend at home relative to the length of time deployed. Chiarelli said deployment stress has shown to manifest itself in high-risk behaviors in soldiers.

“Unfortunately, in a growing segment of the Army’s population, we’ve seen increased stress and anxiety manifest itself through high-risk behaviors, including acts of violence, excess use of alcohol, drug abuse and reckless driving,” he said.

Chiarelli, a Seattle University and University of Washington graduate who maintains connections here, knows the stresses of war, having commanded every unit from platoon to corps level. Chiarelli, who grew up in Magnolia's neighborhood and entered the Army during the Vietnam war after completing ROTC at the UW, served two tours in Iraq.

He first commanded the famed 1st Cavalry Division and later Multi-National Forces-Iraq.

Now a four-star and second in command overall of the Army, Chiarelli is determined to get to the bottom of military suicides and prevent them.

"It rips your heart out," Chiarelli told a group of soldiers in June while on a week-long tour of Army installations to look for clues, a Pentagon news report said.

A deadly week for local soldiers in Afghanistan

Two Fort Lewis soldiers with the first U.S. Stryker brigade to serve in Afghanistan died last Tuesday in a roadside bomb explosion, the Pentagon said Sunday.

Their deaths bring to three the number of local soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week.

Pfc. Jonathan C. Yanney of Litchfield, Minn., and Spc. Troy Orion Tom of Beclabito, N.M., a member of the Navajo nation, are the first members of the post's 3,900 member 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to be killed in Afghanistan.

Both soldiers were on their first deployments and died in a roadside bomb attack near Arghandab in Kandahar province, which has seen violence escalate in the runup to elections in Afghanistan.

The 5th, which is Fort Lewis's newest Stryker brigade, deployed to southern Afghanistan in June to battle the Taliban.

Tom, 21, a three year Army veteran, was an infantryman. He is survived by his parents, David and Carolyn Tom, two brothers and a sister of Beclabit, where his father is a delegate to the Navajo Tribal Council, the Daily Times of Farmington, N.M., reported.

"Students really thought highly of him," Paul reportedly said. "He had a great sense of humor, a great smile and he was trusted by his friends. He was a very intelligent guy, and he had passion."

Yanney, meanwhile, was 20 years old and a fire support specialist.

In a message posted on MySpace, Russ Yanney, who identified himself as Jonathan's father, said:

"His unit was en route to assist another unit under fire, and his vehicle struck an (improvised explosive device). He was my first-born son. I loved him very much and he will be greatly missed. His smile and desire to help and learn will always be remembered."

In his own MySpace page that he last used on July 31, Yanney cited his heroes as his father and grandfather. He said of himself simply that he was an honest and hardworking guy but was nervous when first meeting people though he could open up afterwards.

"I'm pretty active, so I don't like just sitting around doing nothing," he wrote on his MySpace page.

The two Fort Lewis soldiers were killed the same day as First Sgt. Jose 1st Sgt. Jose San Nicholas Crisostomo, a Spanaway resident and Vietnam veteran, at age 59 became the oldest member of the U.S. armed forces to die in Afghanistan.

It was the first time that three or more members of the armed forces from Washington's military bases or hometowns died on the same day since Nov. 18,2007, when three members of the 4th Stryker Brigade from Fort Lewis died in Baqouba, Iraq.

Crisostomo, originally from Guam but a leader in South Sound's Chamorro community, reentered the Army in 2008 after being away since retiring after a 24 year career in 1994. Crisostomo already had served tours of duty in Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf War, and received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. The husband and father of three left behind 10 grandchildren. The senior NCO did not serve with a Fort Lewis unit but with International Security Assistance Force Kabul.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The soldier no one knows

The words in "War Dogs," a 2006 song by Murray Weinstock, are on the Pentagon's web page devoted to what are now called military working dogs, but which have always been known as war dogs.

When I left my home in the USA.

I was one of many trained a special way.

There was a war going on.

And I was sent to help.

Never did I complain,never whine, never yelp.

The Air Force photo above was taken in April 2007 of Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Reese of the 20th Infantry Regiment, 20th Infantry Division, and his military working dog Grek at a safe house before beginning an assault against insurgents in Bahriz, Iraq.

The training hours were long

They worked you to the bone.

When youre part of a team

You got to hold your own.

Military working dogs as they're now called are respected as fellow soldiers and honored veterans especially for the lives they saved.

But while revered, especially by former handlers, as recently as Vietnam it wasn't always that way. Over the last few years, former handlers and non-profit advocates have been working to do justice to their service and memories by finding them homes after their working years, and since 2005 have been working on a war dog memorial.

Sniffing out the bad guys,

sniffing out the mines,

scouting up ahead,

I’m the point man on the line.

Especially in Vietnam. But from that war in which homecomings left scars, war dogs had no homecomings.

According to the US War Dogs Association, Dr. Howard Hayes, a retired National Institute of Health veterinarian in 1994 counted 3,747 dogs served in Vietnam, determined from records of "brand numbers" tattoed on the dogs' left ears.

However, more likely 4,900 dogs were used between 1964 and 1975 as records of dogs in Vietnam were not maintained before 1968, the association says.

The military working dog association says on its Web site:

"Only 204 dogs exited
Vietnam during the 10-year period. Some remained in the Pacific, and some returned to the United States. None returned to
civilian life. So what happened to the dogs that remained? Most where euthanized and the others where turned over to the ARVN (South Vietnamese Army)."

War dogs, never lose their way.

War dogs, saving night and day.

War dogs, we’ve been led astray.

War dogs. Left behind, where we stayed.

Long before the current wars, man's best friend was at his side in defense of home and trained to help in the work of survival. They were transformed into military working dogs and used in larger scales in wars since ancient times.

While Egyptians and Greeks used the dogs as sentry and attack dogs, the Romans took them to new levels, used large mastiffs from Brittannia in actual battalion sized battle formations.
Over the centuries their duties grew, including messenger dogs, search and rescue, scouts and explosive detectors. In Iraq, they also were infamously misused to intimidate prisoners during interrogations. During WW II the Soviet Union made suicide bombers of them, strapping explosives to them then remotely blowing them up as she searched under German tanks for food.

(Not everyone realizes, too, that dogs like the cuddly Portuguese Water Dogs made famous now by President Barack Obama's family, were once the messenger dogs of the Spanish Armada. Bred as fishermen's dogs, these original sea dogs are extremely intelligent, have big lungs and webbed feet, can dive 30 feet for nets, herd fish and swim between boats. Some who didn/t drown as the Armada's ships sank, it is believed, made it to Ireland and are the ancestors of Wheaton terriers.)

In Vietnam alone, according to the Pentagon, nearly 4,000 dogs served, 281 officially reported as killed in action. But those are only what is known since records were kept.

A bond is built forever,

forever and a day.

Built on love, built on trust,

that’s the K-9 way.

Out on a mission

we pray for all our friends

that the shepherd will lead his flock

back to safety once again

So what is being done with U.S. dogs when they retire?

Military Working Dogs Adoptions, an informal group that wants to find homes for retired four-legged veterans, has a site that features heartwarming remembrances of modern success stories, and tells how people can contact the military, without being too much of a pest, to adopt one.

One story involves the adoption by a former military K-9 handler in Vietnam, whose working partner in that war was a German shepherd named Smoke, who 40 years later adopted a modern day working dog.

Despite their military duties, the military working dogs were screened prior for their acceptance by the military and are known for their tremendous temperaments.

The U.S. military has used several breeds of dogs in an war dog capacity since World War II. At first primarily German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, though the Doberman's have been replaced by Labrador Retrievers, with Belgian Malinois in the mix, according to U.S. Military Working Dogs Association.

Those who worked with, loved and respect these four-legged veterans also, since 2005, have been working to recognize and remember them through the U.S. War Dog Memorial Fund for a monument to be built in New Jersey.

There's already a recognition at the Air Force Armament Museum in Florida in a sculpture, "Faithful Partner - Guardian of the Night" was sculpted by Susan Bahary to honor and remember all working dogs, their handlers, trainers and veterinary staff.

Those who served with or admire these canine veterans make a promise echoing a conscience-pricking one made by the human troops who returned from Vietnam, ignored or forgotten:

Never again.

As Weinstock's song concludes:

My heart and will’s been broken

lying in this cage.

This war has left me

just another on the page

I’ll never understand

why I’ve been left here to die.

A hero forgotten

but that’s the way it goes.

War dogs. The soldier no one knows.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spanaway soldier is oldest to die in Afghanistan war

For the second time in three months, war has claimed the life of a U.S. soldier who served in Vietnam and was old enough to carry an AARP card.

This one was close to home, a senior NCO from Spanaway, First Sgt. Jose "Joe" San Nicolas Crisostomo, 59, who on Tuesday became the oldest member of the U.S. armed forces to perish in Afghanistan.

After retiring with 24 years of service in the Army in 1993, Crisostomo voluntarily returned to help out the Army in April 2008, deploying to Kabul two months later, the Pacific Daily News of Guam reported.

Crisostomo, a leader of South Seattle's Chamorro community from Guam, was a Vietnam war veteran, 1991 Gulf War veteran, and received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart during his previous 24 years of service.

A husband, father of three and grandfather of 10, Crisostomo would have turned 60 on Aug. 29th.

The News Tribune of Tacoma has a story that the Seattle Times picked up that says dozens of people, many from South Sound's Chamorro community of which Crisostomo was a leader, have gathered daily at his home since then to support his wife, Patricia, and his family and to participate in a nine day rosary. The paper said Crisostomo was also nicknamed Sinbad.

Julian Leon Guerrero Mendiola, a fellow veteran who helped found Grupun Minagof, a community group of Chamorro families in the Pacific Northwest, said Cristosomo was most often called "Joe."

"He was one hell of a guy. He was very family-oriented. And he went above and beyond himself to help other people," the Pacific Daily News quoted Mendiola as saying.

Crisostomo died when a roadside bomb tore through the armored Humvee in which he was riding outside of Kabul on Tuesday. The Defense Department said Crisostomo served with International Security Assistance Force Kabul, but did not specify a unit within it or from what U.S. Army post he was based.

In May, Maj. Steven Hutchison of Scottsdale, Ariz., another Vietnam veteran, was killed in Iraq, become the oldest member of the U.S. armed forces killed in either war.

Hutchison wanted to reenlist after 9/11 but his wife was against it, his brother told the Associated press.

After Hutchison's wife died "a part of him died and he rejoined the Army in July 2007 at age 59, his brother, Richard, told the AP in May.

Hutchison served in Afghanistan for a year before deploying to Iraq last October to lead a team of a dozen soldiers training the Iraq military.

Hutchison, who taught psychology at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles in the 1990s, served with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Riley, Kan.

Calley apologizes for My Lai massacre

William Calley, the former Army lieutenant convicted on 22 counts of murder in the infamous My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, publicly apologized for the first time this week while speaking before a civic group in in Georgia.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus on Wednesday, according to the Columbus Ga. Ledger-Enquirer.

The report said Calley's voice began to break when he added, “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

You can read the original story that the wires picked up in the Ledger-Enquirer.

In March 1968, American soldiers gunned down hundreds of civilians in My Lai, a Vietnames hamlet. At first the Army denied the event, then downplayed it, claiming the dead were mostly Vietnam.

In November 1969 journalist Seymour Hersch uncovered what happened. Calley was court-martialed and convicted of murder.

Until Wednesday, Calley had refused to grant interviews about what happened until Wednesday when he spoke at the Columbus Kiwanis meeting. He made a brief statement then took questions from the audience. Calley answered questions regarding his original orders, the question of a helicopter and only two U.S. casualties -- neither the result of enemy fire.

"They didn't have time," Calley reportedly said.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Local Coast Guard hosts a convention of humanitarians in Port Angeles/Seattle

The Coast Guard will host an international, humanitarian service training exercise from in the Port Angeles and Seattle areas from Aug. 24 to 27.

The exercise is being conducted in support of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum (NPCGF), an international partnership of Coast Guard-like agencies from Japan, Russian, China, South Korea, Canada and the U.S., a press release from Seattle-based Coast Guard District 13 said.

Ships from Japan, Canada, China and Russia as well as security personnel from South Korea are scheduled to participate in the various events. They are slated to visit and operate out of Port Angeles next Monday, Aug. 24, and to travel to Seattle Wed., Aug. 26.

The training, named Pacific Unity, brings humanitarian professionals from the forum nations to train on aids-to-navigation, search and rescue, and maritime security operations, the Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard honors Des Moines men for valor

When a vehicle with two people went through a parking lot barrier at Des Moines Marina and plunged into Puget Sound on June 28, Coast Guard members Bruce Johnson and Steve Kokita saw it.

Without hesitation, the two dove into the water and rescued the driver but could not save the passenger.

Tuesday at a Des Moines city council meeting, the two were presented with certificates of valor, awarded to those who exhibit heroism by putting their own lives at risk to save another. Capt. Suzanne Englebert, Coast Guard Captain of the Port based in Seattle, presented the commendations.

Ballistic missile sub rescues stranded mariners

Phillip Ewing of Navy Times reported Wednesday that in a highly unusual event, five Bahamian fishermen clinging to their capsized boat "were rescued Aug. 11 by what could be the world’s least likely ship to render aid on the high seas — a U.S. ballistic missile submarine."

The USS Rhode Island based out of Georgia, a sister to the big Trident ballistic missile submarines based near Seattle at Bangor, was underway in theAtlantic Ocean when its crew spotted the overturned fishing vessel with four men and a 14-year-old boy aboard.

A Navy announcement said the big boat's Gold Crew commander, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, decided to turn around and investigate.

While tight security normally has Navy security teams keeping fishermen and others from getting too close to the boats, Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, spokeswoman for Submarine Group 10, said that while highly unusual for ballistic missile subs, which operate invisibly, to help mariners, the Mooney felt obligated to help the fishermen who had been adrift in their upside down boat for four days.

Citing a Navy announcement, Ewing wrote that "the rescued men joked with the Rhode Island’s crew that no one would believe the story of how they were rescued, according to the Navy’s announcement, but Mooney gave each one proof — a ship’s command coin."

Army chow: SOS recipe

The web site has a version of an army chow tradition -- SOS -- that got a four-star out of five rating.

You all ought to know SOS stands for what beef in gravy covering a shingle of toast looks like.

This version of the classic Army chow used ground beef. When I grew up an Army brat, my dad and mom sometimes fed us creamed chipped beef on toast.

One reader spiced up their SOS by suggesting more Worcestershire sauce, a chopped yellow onion, Knorr beef bullion mix and ground garlic.

In today's world I'll bet there's a vegan tofu version somewhere.

Any more variations out there?

Army to require mental health training for all soldiers

Benedict Carey of the New York Times on Monday reported:

"The Army plans to require that all 1.1 million of its soldiers take intensive training in emotional resiliency, military officials say.

"The training, the first of its kind in the military, is meant to improve performance in combat and head off the mental health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, that plague about one-fifth of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Active-duty soldiers, reservists and members of the National Guard will receive the training, which will also be available to their family members and to civilian employees.

Read more here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seattle bagpiper stands on top of the world

TyroneHeade, a friend of mine and a key figure in Seattle's Scottish music category, is a world champion after winning the World Solo Amateur Piping Championship in piobaireachd music last Friday in Glasgow, Scotland.

Among other things, his win is significant because, at an age, 47, when, like athletes, pipers are considered past their prime, Tyrone's skills are improving. Furthermore, it's rare to see a pipe major -- Tyrone leads the Seattle-area's Elliott Bay Pipe Band -- compete in such a distinguished international forum.

Why mention it here in a military blog?

Well, for one thing, I play the Great Highland Bagpipes (known in Ireland as the Irish Warpipes)and Tyrone has been a teacher.

But in military matters, the instruments' adoption as martial music for British forces is one reason the pipes, which date back in various forms to ancient Egyptian days and at one time were popular in different variations throughout medieval Europe, did not die out.

British general Sir John Cope's army notoriously is said in song and lore to have fled from battle with a Jacobite army at the sound of the pipes.

Cope, commander in chief of government forces in Scotland, was defeated in a 15 minute battle in 1745 at the battle of Prestonpans, when his Hanoverian-British forces were routed by the forces of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie.

In 1746, the Bonnie Prince and his French-backed Jacobite Scots were trounced by at the Battle of Culloden, leading to the breakup of the Highland clan system. Charlie fled to Rome never to try to regain the throne his family once held again.

A captured Scottish Jacobite bagpiper, James Reid, was the only piper among rebels hanged after Culloden in 1745, when the attempt to restore Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne of Scotland was defeated.

While he pleaded he had not carried arms and a jury suggested leniency for the piper, Reid's sentence, now part of lore and legend, was handed down by the judge. It notoriously noted that since no army had marched without instruments, and a highland regiment had never marched without a piper, Reid's pipes were construed as "an instrument of war."

Sounds almost like "weapon of mass destruction."

Back to Tyrone. Here's a little story I wrote today about him and his achievement.

Before tuning up for the challenge of his talented musical life, Tyrone Heade was felled by food poisoning. He was white as a banshee and dizzy yet somehow mustered the strength to summon the spirit of Scotland’s most ancient muses.
Which made it all the more stunning when, last Friday, Heade, of Seattle, emerged as a world champion bagpiper. He took top place in the classical and most significant form of bagpipe music, piobaireachd – pronounced “pea-brock” and sometimes spelled simply pibroch – at the World Solo Amateur Piping Championship in Glasgow, Scotland.
“I'm still pretty shocked that this thing is called what it is and I won it,” Heade said by phone from Glasgow Monday morning as he prepared to fly home Tuesday.
“It is incredibly validating. It’s a huge award for me. I was in shock for over 24 hours after and it is still shocking,” Heade, who lives on Queen Anne with his wife, Rachael, and their cat, Lewis, said.
“And I won it playing my granddad’s pipes, which was a wonderful thing.”
Glasgow last week was alive with Celtic music and dance as the site of the “Piping Live” festival and the Glasgow International Pipe Festival, which coincided with the 2009 World Pipe Band Championships.
The latter was won a remarkable sixth time by Simon Fraser University’s Pipe Band, located just north of the border in Burnaby, B.C., the top honor among several awards earned by Pacific Northwest pipers last week.
Heade’s competition was held at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance under the auspices of CLASP, the Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers run by the National Piping Centre in Scotland. (For the initiated, it differs from the famed Glenfiddich World Piping Championships for professional.)
Heade, (pronounced “heed”) is a key figure in Seattle’s Scottish music scene and has received other honors through the years.
He also is pipe major of the competitive Elliott Bay Pipe Band; resident piper at St. James and St. Mark’s Cathedrals; a founding member of Mastery of Scottish Arts, which brings the world’s best pipers, drummers, fiddlers and dancers to Seattle’s Benaroya Hall each year; and highly regarded for his effective but gentle teaching style with students ranging from seven to 70.
Heade formerly worked in marketing before venturing into bagpiping full time. He hires his services through, with a short version of his URL.
The now defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper profiled him in a 1999 feature.
While the music of the Great Highland Bagpipe is commonly known from the skirling marches assimilated into martial music, piobaireachd can be thought of as music in a literary sense.
In Scotland, a piper might play the popular tunes magnificently but is more highly regarded for mastery of piobaireachd, known also as Ceol Mor, or Great Music (pronounced “kyol more”.)
The classic tunes are long, varying from more than six to more than 20 minutes and have been preserved in sheet music since the early 1700s. There are rules to master but they are also left to some interpretation.
“The hard part,” Heade said, “was actually practicing in the heat in Seattle before I left for Scotland” helped when St. Mark’s cathedral allowed him to use their cool chapel.
The tune Heade played was “Tulloch Ard,” a 10 to 12-minute “gathering tune” of the MacKenzie clan.
Heade said he grew emotional reading the favorable comments from his judge, Pipe Major Jimmy Banks, a retired military piper.
“Although I was sick I decided I would play the tune for all I was worth. It was heavily phrased and I tried to show that I knew what I was doing. I even lost my balance once while playing and was getting really tired at the end. But he really liked the tune,” Heade said.
Heade’s win is distinctive for two reasons:
At 47, an age when pipers, like athletes, can be considered past their prime, Heade continues to improve. And there aren’t many pipe majors -- those who lead and direct pipe bands -- doing this kind of competition.
“It’s really rare that someone my age keeps improving,” he said. “And it’s funny but there aren’t any pipe majors doing this.”
“It’s also especially nice to have this now that I am walking into my 20th anniversary being the cathedral piper for St. James,” Heade said.
Seattle for years seemed a black hole of Scottish pipe music until the last two decades. It’s proximity to Simon Fraser University, now a piping epicenter, along with the rise of other local entertainment and competition bands, and Heade’s achievements and those of younger local pipers like Jori Chisholm and the Northwest Junior Pipe Band have brought it more into the light.
“A lot of good young people are getting a good education,” Heade said, noting that Chisholm, an award winning piper, plays with Simon Fraser’s world champion band.
There are five grades of amateur piping, with grade V being beginners, III intermediate and I top level. The next level is professional.
While Heade took top honors in amateur piobaireached, he placed sixth in marches, reels and strathspeys. Overall amateur solo honors went to Joshua MacFarlane from Toronto.
Practically every piper has a teacher at levels higher than he or she. Heade’s teacher, who normally doesn’t show excitement, was enthusiastic at learning Heade one.
Heade’s teacher is Alan Bevan of Canada, who on the weekend won the overall professional “masters” solo piping competition in Glasgow.
Heade, began taking lessons from Bevan when Bevan, a gifted and hard-working piper, was 17. Bevan is now married with two kids and is a lawyer.
“Alan continues to be a big influence on me. I spent 12 years with Alan and I received a terrific attitude and terrific education from him,” Heade said.
Heade now plans to head to a London piobaireachd competition in November. He also wants to take his skills to another level, but age restrictions on the professional medal ranks limit him, as they screen out older players.
At home in Seattle on the weekend, Heade’s wife, Rachael, informed his friends of his win, knowing her humble husband wouldn’t jump to do so. More than a few wee drams were lifted in toast.
Excellence is a daily pursuit in any discipline, Heade said. “You are only as good as your weakest skill,” he said. “Once you think you’ve gotten it all beat you begin to not do so well at all.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Military history events at Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight has several public programs with connections to military history coming up in August. The cost to attend is museum admission.

* "Sweethearts of the AEF," a play performed by the museum's resident Amazing Skies Theater volunteer acting troupe, takes to the stage at 2 p.m., Sat., Aug. 8 in the William M. Allen Theater.

The musical is based upon the life of Elsie Janis, a Broadway star who went to France in 1917 to entertain World War I American troops, the AEF or American Expeditionary Forces. The show repeats Aug. 15 and Aug. 22 at 1 p.m. in the Museum's Personal Courage Wing replica of a French Farmhouse Courtyard.

* Also on Aug. 15, USS Enterprise survivors of the 1969 accidental explosion of a rocket on an F-4 Phantom II fighter jet will be on hand in the William M. Allen Theater at 2 p.m. to talk about it. The accident on Jan. 14, 1969 left 28 dead and 343 injured.

* "Sharpie: The Life Story of Evelyn Sharp, a lecture and book signing by author Diane Bartels, is planned for Sat., Aug. 22 at 2 p.m. Bartels researched and wrote the inspiring book about Evelyn Sharp, known as "Nebraska's aviatrix."

Born in 1919, Sharp was motivated by her first airplane ride at 15 to earn a commecial pilots license in the next three years, and by the time she was 20, was one of only 10 women flight instructors in the U.S. Sharp became one of the first women to ferry U.S. Army Air Force fighters during WW II, and lost her life in the service of her country during a takeoff accident while piloting a P-38.

Meanwhile, the museum, as home of the American Fighter Aces Association and the Personal Courage Wing of war planes, through the summer has brought out a collection devoted to the U.S. Eighth Air Force's 56th Fighter Group, in which pilots flew the durable P-47 Thunderbolts.

Known as "Zemke's Wolfpack" for their commander, Col. Hubert "Hub" Zemke, the unit was one of the most successful American fighter units of WW II. Video includes rare color footage from the documentary, Zemke's Way.

Among items on display are artifacts and photos of James C. Stewart -- not to be confused with the actor, James M. Stewart who flew bombers. James C. Stewart was a fighter ace who recorded 12.5 "kills" and was awarded the Distinquished Service Cross, the nation's second highest medal for valor.

The 56th's top ace was Lt. Col. Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski, known until his death in 2002 as "America's greatest living ace" after surpassing WW I ace Eddie Rickenbacker's record of enemy "kills" with 28.

Gabreski, a Pennsylvanian and son of Polish immigrants, was himself shot down and became a POW after asking to fly "one more mission" after D-Day in 1944 when he had completed enough missions to warrant a trip back to the U.S. His prison camp was liberated by Soviet soldiers in March 1945.

In 1942, when he first went to England, accounts in Gabreski's book, Gabby: A Fighter Pilot's Life, indicate Gabreski was frustrated at cooling his heels while his American unit was organized. So he won permission to join an RAF Polish Squadron, the 315th, and flew Spitfires in combat before joining the 56th.

Gabreski also later served during the Korean War, where he was credited with shooting down 7 Migs. He made the Air Force a career and held several wing commands before retiring and becoming president of the Long Island Railroad.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Servicemembers United opens D.C. office to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Servicemembers United, one of the largest organizations of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, has a new full time office in Washington, D.C.

The non-profit, non-partisian organization was created four years ago to represent gay and lesbian veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in fighting for repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policies. Its supporters also include heterosexual men and women concerned about discrimination.

With the U.S. Senate promising DADT hearings this fall, the organization has launched a national tour of town halls with the Human Rights Campaign to heighten the DADT issue. The latest will be held in Charlotte, N.C. and Chicago tonight, and Phoenix next Tuesday, Aug. 11.

No information is yet available regarding a possible West Coast or Seattle visit.

Veterans participating in the town halls include:

* Jarrod Chlapowski, 27, a former squad NCO at Fort Lewis. Chlapowski was a top Korean linguist and cryptologic voice intereceptor, with more than 300 sensitive recon missions to his credit. He chose not to reenlist after coming to terms with his sexuality after joining the Army, because of "the excessive burden" of the DADT law, according to a Servicemembers United biography.

* Alexander Nicholson, Servicemembers United's founder and executive director,is a former Army intelligence collector who speaks numerous languages, including Arabic, but who was discharged from the military only six months after 9/11.

* Stephen Vossler, 26, who previously served as a tactical reconnassance specialist at Fort Lewis, was a top graduate of the NCO Academy and was trained as a Korean language cryptologic linguist, left the Army after the end of his enlistment after seeing and enduring the awkward effects of the DADT policy.

* Julianne Sohn, a former Marine officer who was called back to the service in 2005 to serve with served with the 5th Civil Affairs Group in Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq, was forced to resign her commission after joining the "Call to Duty Tour" of the U.S. in which gay and lesbian service members sought to reignite the debate over DADT. A UCLA graduate, Sohn since has become a Los Angeles police officer after graduating with top honors from the police academy.

* Genevieve Chase, founder of American Women Veterans and a former sergeant and veteran of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan who survived a suicide bombing in 2006.

* Joe Soto, a former Marine Corps captain and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who once competed nationally as a member of the USMC triathlon team.

* Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain, communications officer and martial arts instructor who is now executive director of Service Women's Action Network based in New York.

* Michael Noftzger, a former top enlisted graduate of the Army's psychological operations school at Fort Bragg, N.C., received numerous joint service awards for his work with the military information support team in Bogota, Colombia.

* Megan Scanlon, a West Point military academy graduate and former Army officer whose battalion was mobilized after 9/11 to coordinate air operations and deployments to Afghanistan, is a practicing attorney in Virginia.

* Eric Alva, a former Marine whose unit, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, was the first to cross from Kuwait into Iraq in the March 2003 invasion, received a Purple Heart for his wounds. After 13 years of service, which previously included a tour-of-duty in Somalia, Alva was retired as a staff sergeant, and later acknowledged he was gay, focusing upon helping others affected by the DADT policy.

Alva today is the national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, which teams with Servicemembers United to address the DADT debate.

Soldier sentenced for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan

In a military court case that resembled that of Lt. Ehren Watada of Fort Lewis, a Fort Hood, Tex. soldier, Spc. Victor Agosto, 24, refused orders to go to Iraq, saying he believed the war violated international law.

But whereas Watada's trial ended in a mistrial upheld by a civilian appeals court, says Agosto, was sentenced Wednesday to one month in jail for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan for his beliefs that the war violates international law.

“I really had no Army way of being consistent with my conscience,” reported Agosto as saying. “The courts haven’t recognized soldiers’ rights to refuse an order they believe to be illegal. ... I believe future courts will find that the Afghanistan war is illegal because it violates international law.”

Like Watada, Agosto said he did not apply for conscientious objector status because that requires opposition to all wars, and he does not believe that all war is wrong.

Like Watada, he had a reputation as a good soldier before refusing orders to deploy, and continued to work on post everyday after refusing to go.

Unlike Watada, who never was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Agosto previously served a 13-month tour-of-duty in Iraq.

According to, Agosto told the judge, Capt. Theresa Santos, that when he enlisted in 2005, he felt invading Iraq was wrong but that troops had a mission to complete. He said he began to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after he served a 13-month tour in Iraq, which ended in late 2007.

Agosto reportedly cannot be discharged at a level lower than other-than-honorable conditions, basically an administrative discharge.

Agosto is expected to be discharged after completing his jail term. His lawyer, meanwhile, said he expects to appeal the decision.

Agosto reportedly called one witness to testify on his behalf, Cynthia Thomas, an Army wife for 17 years.

Thomas told the court that Agosto made a hard decision to follow his conscience although he knew he would lose his military benefits and be ostracized by his peers.

“I have not met a soldier with more integrity than Victor Agosto,” she was reported as saying. “He has served this country in a time of war with honor.”

A call to address growing mental health problems in and out of the miltary

Men and women serving in our armed forces are returning home with not only broken bodies, but broken brains from significant mental health problems, says Dr. Mark M. Rasenick, a professor of physiology, biophysics and psychiatry at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine.

Rasenick discussed the issue in the Chicago Tribune last weekend, pegged to a recent Army announcement that it will fund the largest study ever to look into mental health problems, including suicide, among military personnel, and try to identify the factors needed to protect soldiers.

A recent Pentagon health survey said 49 percent of the nation's National Guard members, 38 percent of Army soldiers, and 31 percent of the Marines suffer from anger, depression or alcohol abuse after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rasenick noted the military mental health concerns in a larger article calling for a global approach to understand the causes of depression and ways to treat it.

Rasenick reports that the problem is becoming increasingly serious and costly, and the U.S. ought to take the lead in acquiring a more thorough understanding of the biological causes behind mental health problems.

"There's evidence this problem is growing. Insurance providers report 10 percent to 20 percent increases in demand for mental health services in 2008 compared with the previous year. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease," Rasenick writes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A new generation of ceramic armor aims to reduce casualties

A 26,000 year old invention is being reworked into newer and newer composites aiming to create light but impenetrable body armor for the battlefield, one that can be upgraded immediately to match the latest weapons, Chemical & Engineering News magazine reports in its current issue.

While ceramic was invented way back in 24,000 B.C., it wasn't deployed on the battlefield until WW II, on a Sherman tank. It was used again in the Korean and Vietnam wars but not in significant numbers until the 1991 Persian Gulf War, C&NS reports.

Today it is widely used in troops' body armor and on some vehicles, including Stryker light armored infantry carriers, and the Armored Security Vehicle.

The biggest plus is that ceramic composites weigh about 50 percent less than traditional steel armor and has a high hardness strength.

Negatives include greater difficulties making complex shapes from ceramic than from steel, problems with brittleness, and 50 percent to 200 percent more costly.

But because of ceramics potential, researchers are bearing down on improving its properties and bring down its cost.

Among the efforts are experiments at the nanoscale with additives to enhance plasticity, as well as developing cover layers to improve damage tolerance and creating ceramic and reduce loads on the ceramics, and creation of ceramic composites, the article says.

Some of those composites being studied include the use of titanium diboride with aluminum oxide, or silicon carbide with either boron carbide or aluminum nitride, said Michael J. Normandia, chief scientist for armor development at Ceradyne, a company based in Costa Mesa, Calif., that produces millions of pounds of armor ceramic each year.

Another hot research area involves transparent ceramic armor, aimed at boosting the hardness of armored windows.

Richard A. Haber, a Rutgers University materials scientist whose research focuses on armor ceramics, told the magazine that while modern ceramists and armor manufacturers have made exponential progress, the bar keeps getting higher for ceramic armor -- as does just about every other military advance.

"You come out with a new piece of armor," Haber told the magazine, "then the bad guys come out with a new weapon. So armor has to constantly be improved to match the next type of weapon."

Prowler 907 heads to the boneyard

Thirty-four years ago this week, Gerald Ford was president, the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Helsinki Final Act to revive detente, and an EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare jet, number 907, began service.

Recently, Prowler 907, based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station with VAQ Squadron 129, became the first Prowler to retire.

It's the passing of an era, kinda like seeing Huey helicopters fade away.

The Vietnam-era Prowlers, older than some of the aviators who fly them and crew who maintain them, are slated to be replaced in coming years by the EA-18 Growlers, a variation of the F-18 fighter.

But the taxpayers got their money with the Prowlers, which remain the electronic warfare workhorses for all branches of the military. The Navy will hang onto them until 2013, the Marines until 2019, when they are finally expected to be phased out.

The radar jamming, electronic warfare planes continue to be considered top priority in the U.S. arsenal -- scarcely any combat happens without one in the air.

Petty Officer Second Class Tucker Yates, a Navy journalist, chronicled 907's final flight in the region's Northwest Navigator online newspaper.

Yates said Capt. Tom Slais, deputy commodore of Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet, along with Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Jackson, flew 907 on July 22 from Whidbey to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., for reclamation and preservation.

At the end of its life, Prowler 907 and those who flew her served the nation by attaining more than 11,000 hours of flight time, more than 18,000 landings, 7,019 field carrier landing practice landings, 9,069 field landings, 1,651 catapults, 1,656 ship arrested landings and 1,706 total arrested landings.

Yates calculated it all averaged 147 catapults and 152 arrestments per 1,000 hours.

The twin-engine Prowlers, originally developed in the 1960s for the Marine Corps, are a modification of the old A-6 Intruders. A more advanced version began being developed around 1966 for the Navy. The planes entered service in 1971 and have undergone modifications over the years, and carry top secret electronic warfare equipment to perform their missions.

More than 170 Prowlers were built at a cost of over $50 million each; around 120 remain in service today, still maintained though some of the contractors have long gone out of business. Several years ago the fleet was grounded when cracks were found in parts of the airframe. In 2003, Congress and the President authorized $85 million for needed wing repairs.

A few years ago while with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I wrote about efforts to keep the jets flying which you can find here.

The Prowlers continue to serve from aircraft carriers and land bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few years ago, I and other news organizations reported that the Prowlers electronic warfare capabilities were being used against improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the homemade bombs that have caused so many casualties among military members and civilians alike. Apparently the planes can jam the devices used to detonate IEDs, like cell phones and garage door openers.

A personal note here -- my late father, a career soldier who at one time was the Army's top electronic warfare technician during the height of the Cold War, was unsurprised by that fact, but wondered why it couldn't be carried out by ground based equipment. He seemed familiar with the concept but wouldn't tell me how or why he was.

Meanwhile, Yates reported that a former enlisted member of Prowler 907's ground crew, Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Donnavin Brown, returned one more time to send the jet on its way. Brown, according to Yates, was the plane captain from August to December 2008.

“It’s sad that my aircraft was the first to go to the boneyard, but I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Yates quoted Brown as saying. “I was glad that I got to do this.”

Slais said, “The thing about this is that it’s 2009, and we’re currently scheduled to fly this aircraft until 2013 so we still have [a few] years of flying EA-6Bs out of Whidbey Island right now, and the Marines will be flying them until 2019. We still have a lot more work to do with this aircraft.”

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Remains of missing 1991 Gulf War pilot found

Navy Times just reported today that the remains of Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, an F/18-18 Hornet pilot who became the first casualty of the 1991 Persian Gulf War when he was shot down over Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, have been found.

Quoting Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, the Navy's top spokesman, the newspaper said the remains were found in early July by Marines stationed in Anbar province on a tip from an Iraqi citizen.

“The Iraqi citizen stated he knew of two Iraqi citizens who recalled an American jet impacting the desert and the remains of the pilot being buried in the desert,” Thorp told Navy Times.

“One of these Iraqi citizens stated they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried.”

Thorp said the remains were recovered over several days during the past week and were positively identified by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

"Positive identification was made by comparing Capt. Speicher's dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site," the paper quoted Thorp as saying. Forensic investigators also expect a DNA match from samples taken from Speicher's family to be made in the next day or two.

Speicher, a lieutenant commander at the time he was lost, was promoted twice over the years he was listed as missing.

Local peace activists allege Army spied on them

Back in February 2006, my former Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleague Paul Shukovsky and I wrote about authorities keeping tabs on local non-violent peace activists in Seattle in the name of homeland security.

Now the New York Times reports, in an item picked up by the Seattle Times, that the Army has opened in an inquiry into an accusation from antiwar groups that a Fort Lewis employee, identified by the post as an intelligence analyst, spent more than two years infiltrating peace groups under a false name.

The story by New York Times reporter William Yardley quotes Stephen Dycus, an expert on national security issues at Vermont Law School.

According to the Times, Dycus said the Army was prohibited from conducting law enforcement among civilians except in very rare circumstances, none of which immediately appeared to be relevant to the Fort Lewis case. Dycus said several statutes and rules also prohibited the Army from conducting covert surveillance of civilian groups for intelligence purposes.

"Infiltration is a really big deal," he said. He said it "raises fundamental questions about the role of the military in American society."

Back in 2006, the story Shukovsky and I reported was based upon public disclosure requests of FBI files that local authorities and the FBI looked for signs of civil disobedience in activists preparing to protest Navy ships at Seafair. And caught in the glare of the public eye were groups like in their vigilance had checked out groups like the Raging Grannies, known for their musical satire, and Quakers, known for non-violence.

As often happens with well-intentioned laws and policies, they evolve and get stretched over time.

Personally, I think we ought to drop "homeland" as a term for the bureaucracy. It has a Third Reich or Soviet ring to it with all the attendant stigmas. Why not "civil security" or something more American, federal folks? "Civil Defense" was good enough for out grandparents and the rest of us who had to conduct those duck and cover drills during the Cold War.

While I'm on a rant, also get rid of "warrior." Who dreamt it up? I take the lead from my late dad on this one, a career Army soldier and at one time at age 22 the youngest master sergeant in the Army.

He served during the occupation of Germany and through the Korean and Vietnam wars and worked in a distinguished intelligence unit. I remember a couple of years ago he was grumbling about the references to "warrior this' and 'warrior that.'"

"Warriors," he scoffed, "sounds like a bunch of spearchuckers. After WW II, in Germany the proudest thing you could hear was 'soldat Amerkaner' -- American soldier," my dad said. "That's what I was, what I am. American soldier."

Top enlisted submarine chief sentenced for child rape

When I was with the now defunct Seattle Pee Eye newspaper before it became something online and dropped military and veterans affairs as a beat, I reported in February the case of Navy Master Chief Daniel C. Jones, 39, a senior enlisted man at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor who had been charged with child rape.

The Kitsap Sun says Jones was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to the charges of raping a teenage girl and trying to have sex with another by Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Anna Laurie.

Jones had served as "chief of the boat" for the Blue crew of the Bangor-based Trident nuclear submarine USS Louisiana.As I reported in May in the now defunct Seattle P-I newspaper's "Now Hear This" blog (which I will try to post in archives here):

The case began Jan. 13 when, the charges allege, Jones had sex with a teenage girl after showing her a book about adults having sexual intercourse with children at a home in Central Kitsap. A second adolescent girl told the pastor of a church that she had seen the same book....

Jones arrest was the third time in a less than a year that a senior enlisted man from the Navy base has been charged with a sex crime against children, all unrelated incidents.

In June 2008, Naval Base Kitsap's top enlisted man, command master chief Edward Scott, 43, was sentenced to nine months in jail with eight years suspended for second-degree attempted rape of a child and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.

Scott pleaded guilty in March 2008 after he was arrested when he showed up at a Bremerton motel, thinking he was meeting a mother and her 12-year-old twins for sex. The mother, however, was an undercover agent facilitating a month-long sting operation.

Last August, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrested a former sailor-of-the-year on child rape charges filed by Kitsap County authorities.

Chief Electronics Technician David Allan Holmes, 39, an 18-year veteran who had served on the submarine USS Ohio, was charged with first- and second-degree child rape charges, accused of raping a teenage girl and her brother.

Court records indicate Holmes was granted $200,000 bail and his case has not yet gone to trial. A hearing slated for Feb. 9 was continued, court papers indicate.

Holmes, married with children, was the 2007 Sailor of the Year for Submarine Development Squadron 5 and previously had served on the now-retired USS Parche, a highly decorated intelligence-gathering submarine.

Holmes case is still awaiting trial, but two months ago, his case took an interesting twist when his wife, Brenda Kay Holmes, 40, of Silverdale, also was charged with second-degree rape in Kitsap County Superior Court.

Brenda Kay Holmes joined her husband in being similarly accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl. Prosecutors told the Kitsap Sun both knew both children they are accused of raping.

According to the Sun, court documents allege the couple forced the girl to watch them have sex when she was as young as 6 years old, and that prosecutors have evidence of sexual contact between the girl and both Brenda and David Holmes.

Citing court documents, the Sun also reported taht text from e-mails suggest Brenda Kay Holmes was angry about her husband's interest in the minor and planned to speak with him about it when he arrived home from deployment.

That is all.