Thursday, September 3, 2009

Journalist wounded in Afghanistan in stable condition

CBS news reports that their reporter in Afghanistan, Cami McCormick, who was wounded in an improvised bomb explosion that killed a U.S. soldier last Friday, is in stable condition at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

She arrived there about 2 a.m. Wednesday after being stabilized and evacuated to several U.S. military medical units in Afghanistan, then airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

McCormick was traveling with U.S. Army soldiers when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device, IED. A soldier in the same vehicle, Spc. Abraham S. Wheeler III, 22, of Columbia, S.C., was killed in the attack.wounded.

McCormick reportedly suffered multiple fractures to her arms and legs but had no head injuries.
She has been with CBS since 1998 and was at Ground Zero in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, in New Orleans when Hurrican Katrina hit, and in the Persian Gulf for the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

Military history: The American flag's baptism by fire

Tradition and some circumstantial evidence indicates the stars and stripes were first unfurled in battle on Sept. 3, 1777, in a skirmish at Cooch's Bridge, Delaware, the only battle of the revolution fought on Delaware soil.

The Colonial general, William Maxwell, ordered the colors unfurled as his force of 700 light infantry and cavalry, including 100 sharpshooters, prepared to meet a force of British and Hessian soldiers. The engagement actually began about Aug. 30 with skirmishes a few miles south of the bridge.

Patriot forces fought well, using Native American tactics, but ran low on ammunition. That forced a retreat to Pennsylvania to meet up with Gen. George Washington at Brandywine Creek, where he was preparing to meet British Gen. Howe's army. Eash side lost about 30 killed and wounded.

Washington's force of 11,000 eventually met Howe's force of 18,000 at Brandywine two weeks later, which ended in defeat and as Washington was outmaneuvered and American forces fled. The British, exhausted, failed to pursue and the Continental army was able to regroup.

But the flag, which had been designed by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, was here to stay, replacing the Grand Union flag carried by Continental forces in 1776.

There's a marker at Cooch's Bridge today. I've driven by it while visiting family in the East.

While a historians' debate continues over whether the flag was first raised there, the Cooch family continues to hold reunions at their ancestral home and favor tradition, continuing to fly a 13-star "Betsy Ross" flag at Cooch's Bridge for nearly a century.

June 14, of course, later was designated Flag Day by Congress, a national day of observance to commemorate the birth of the nation's symbol.

But Sept. 3 was the day Old Glory first was raised above the heads of American fighting troops.

Of other important military historical note this week, Sept. 2 marks the end of WW II with the signing of unconditional surrender documents by Japanese leaders on the USS Missouri in 1945.

And another big turning point in history occurred Sept. 2, 31 B.C. in the naval Battle of Actium during the Roman Civil Wars. Naval forces of Octavian led by Marcus Agrippa destroyed the fleet of Mark Antony and Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide a year later. Their defeat helped Octavian emerge as ruler of Rome, ending the Roman republic and beginning the Roman Empire.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nine Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Afghanistan's bloodiest month

With the Pentagon's announcement Tuesday of the deaths of three more Fort Lewis soldiers in Afghanistan participating in a heightened offensive against the Taliban, U.S. military deaths grew to 47 in August, the bloodiest month ever in that war.

The Fort Lewis deaths drove to nine in two weeks the number of Fort Lewis soldiers killed in the newly arrived 5th Stryker Brigade which quickly entered the fighting aftrer arriving in July.

September has seen the escalation continue. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that in a major blow, a Taliban suicide bomber killed the country's deputy intelligence chief, Abdullah Laghmani, and 22 other people in Kabul, until now considered a relatively safe city.

All nine Fort Lewis deaths have come from the brigade's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. The 5th Stryker Brigade is deployed throughout Kandahar and Zabul provinces, while U.S. Marines are in Helmand province.

Killed Monday in Shuyene Sufia, Afghanistan when their unit was attacked by an improvised bomb were Spc. Jonathan D. Welch, 19, of Yorba Linda, Calif and Pfc. Jordan M. Brochu, 20, of Cumberland, Me.

Spc. Tyler R. Walshe, 21, of Shasta, Calif. also died Monday in southern Afghanistan of wounds from an improvised bomb.

With Afghanistani elections as a backdrop last week, U.S. led coalition forces have increased their offensives in the south, the home of the Taliban and a hotbed of fighting.

While the number of U.S. and coaltion casualties have increased, the Taliban has been bloodied as well.

Across the border in Pakistan's Swat Valley Monday, Fox News reported 30 al-Qaeda or Taliban linked insurgents killed in clashes with Pakistani forces after a Taliban suicide bomber killed 17 police cadets. Wednesday, the Daily Times in Pakistan reported 15 Taliban killed and 105 captured in a clash with security forces near Mingora. Meanwhile, at a border crossing between Afghanstan and Pakistan, explosions tore through a line of 16 NATO fuel trucks idled and backed up by a two-dayborder closure dispute over fruit inspections.

The other bomb, near the border crossing, ripped through a line of NATO fuel trucks backed up by a two-day closure resulting from a dispute over fruit inspections. At least one driver was killed and 16 trucks destroyed on the Pakistani side of the Chaman crossing, police official Gul Mohammad said.

Meanwhile, Scott Fontaine of The News Tribune in Tacoma has some personal information about onre of the Fort Lewis soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice on Monday.

Brochu hinted in his MySpace profile at a rough upbringing, listing his heroes when asked as himself.

"My life has been hell and no one thought or cared if I would make it," he wrote, "and I'm still (here) and for once my head is held high."

Brochu was thinking of college but didn't feel ready so decided to serve in the Army. His former guidance counselor, Nancy McLean, told Fontaine "He saw it as a way to do good. It was a way to prepare for the world."

Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times, writing under the auspices of the McClatchy Corp.'s news group, arrived in Afghanistan on the weekend and writes in his blog as he gets oriented to the country.

All three of Fort Lewis's Stryker Brigades, the 3rd, 4th and 5th, are part of the 2nd Infantry Division.

The 5th became the first Stryker brigade deployed to Afghanistan when it arrived in July.

The three soldiers were killed on the final day of the deadliest month ever for American troops in Afghanistan, with 77 coalition military members killed largely in an increased offensive againt the Taliban.

At least 325 men and women in uniform from Washington's hometowns and military bases have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 300 foreign troops with the U.S. led coalition have lost their lives in Afghanistan this year, more than any other year of war in Afghanistan, 77 of them in August.

The war in Afghanistan began nearly eight years ago after the al-Qaed, Taliban-complicit terror attacks on U.S. soil of 9/11, but languished and stalled after the Bush Administration diverted forces to start a controversial war in Iraq.

This month's military history presentations at Museum of Flight

Seattle's Museum of Flight has two interesting public presentations this month regarding some little known units and planes in military aviation history:

39th Airlift Squadron Troop Carrier Squadron panel. One of the few WW II squadrons of any kind still active today. Sat., Sept. 12, 2 p.m - 3 p.m.

The 39th Troop Carrier Squadron has been moving everything from soldiers and celebrities to bodies and ammunition in and out of all sorts of places in every American conflict since World War II. Veteran airlift pilots and crew members share stories and photos from the Vietnam era to the present. Mission permitting, a 39th Airlift Squadron Lockheed C-130 will be open to the public for tours during Museum hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Defying Gravity and the Odds: The Unlikely Story of the Boeing X-32B Joint Strike Fighter, Tue., Sept. 15, 6 p.m. Speaker Dennis O'Donoghue, currently Boeing Commercial Airlines' vice president, test and validation, recalls his first Boeing assignment in 1996 as lead test pilot of the X-32B STOVL Joint Strike Fighter Concept Demonstrator Aircraft program. Sponsored by the Royal Aeronautical Society Seattle Branch.

According to a museum press release, O'Donoghue during the summer of 2001 commanded the first flight and flew the first hovers and first vertical landings of the X-32B. After the JSF program, he was assigned as deputy project pilot for the Sonic Cruiser and the 7E7/787 programs.

O'Donoghue, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, includes in his career experience as a NASA research test pilot at Lewis Research Center , Cleveland , Oh. He conducted exploratory flight tests, airborne science projects, and space support missions on a various aircraft platforms including the DC-9, DHC-6, G-159, Lear 25, OV-10, T-34, and YAV-8B Harrier.

O'Donoghue's military experience included 12 years of active duty as a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot and test pilot. He flew operational missions in the A-4M, AV-8A and AV-8B Harrier aircraft, and engineering flight tests on the AV-8B and F-14 Tomcat.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

VA suicide prevention program pilots online chat service

The VA's suicide prevention campaign is taking its outreach online, piloting a one-on-one chat service called "Veterans Chat" for veterans who feel more comfortable with anonymity on the internet.

Veterans, families and friends can anonymously chat with a trained VA counselor online, and if the communication indicates a crisis, the counselor can immediately transfer that person to the VA Suicide Prevention hotline where steps in crisis intervention begin.

Veterans retain anonymity by entering whatever names they choose once they enter
one-on-one chat. A counselor then joins them who is trained to provide information and respond to the requests and concerns of the caller.

If the counselor decides the caller is in a crisis, the counselor will encourage the
Veteran to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, where a trained suicide prevention
counselor will determine whether crisis intervention techniques are required.

The pilot program has been in operation since July 3 and has shown results. In once instance,
an online counselor convinced a veteran needing immediate assistance to provide ahome number, then remained in the chat room with the veteran while another hotline staffer called and talked to the veteran’s mother. Working with the mother, the hotline counselor was able to convince the veteran to check into a inpatient care.

“This online feature is intended to reach out to all veterans who may or may not be
enrolled in the VA health care system, Dr. Gerald Cross, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, said in a press release that the online feature is intended to reach out to all veterans who may or may not be in the VA health care system.

“It is meant to provide Veterans with an anonymous way to access VA’s suicide prevention services,” he said.

Veterans, family members or friends can access Veterans Chat through the suicide
prevention Web site (

A veterans tab on the left-hand side of the web page takes them directly to veterans resource information. There's also a hotline number 1-800-273-TALK, and a link on the
Veterans Chat tab on the right side of the Web page to enter.

"The chat line is not intended to be a crisis response line,” Dr. Janet Kemp,
VA’s National Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the VA medical center in Canandaigua,
N.Y., said in a news release.

"Chat responders are trained in an intervention method specifically developed for
the chat line to assist people with emotional distress and concerns,” Kemp said. “We have
procedures they can use to transfer chatters in crisis to the hotline for more immediate
assistance,” she said.

The VA’s trained counselors staff the chat line from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. from the VA national suicide prevention center at the Canandaigua, N.Y. VA medical center, while the suicide hotline is staffed 24/7.

Military history: WW II began 70 years ago today

On Sept. 1, 1939, Germany, along with Soviet Red Army and Slovak forces, invaded Poland, leading to the beginning of World War II.

Poland's allies, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, declared war on Germany two days later, with France, Canada and South Africa following suit.

The invasion began a week after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the USSR, also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Contrary to some myths, Poland did not surrender easily or quickly. By some historians estimates, the Germans lost the equivalent of an armored division and a fourth of its air force.
The Poles suffered greatly, losing not only troops to war and war crimes, but an estimated 200,000 civilians in the Germans' "total war."

The invasion also set the stage for the Holocaust with the establishment of Nazi death camps, notably at Auschwitz, where an estimated 3 million Jews were murdered. The Jewish ghetto in Warsaw was walled in by the Nazis in 1940, and was the scene of an armed Jewish resistance movement in 1943 that ended with German retaliation that left more than 56,000 dead and the destruction of the ghetto, ending with the demolition of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw in May 1943.

Although Poland as completely overrun within a month, the Polish government never surrendered. Polish military forces fled to Hungary and Romania and regrouped as Polish fighting units under British and French forces, while the largest resistance movement in Europe began to form in Poland.

Meanwhile, also on this day in history, in 1969 a 27-year old Libyan Army captain named Muammar al-Qaddafi lead a successful military coup to oust King Idris I and take over the Libyan government.