Remembering the First Fallen from All-Female Team

   1st Lt. Ashley White was a member of the all-female Army Cultural Support Team. She was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2011 while supporting a Ranger night mission. Credit Ashley White Family / Memorial Page


1st Lt. Ashley White was a member of the all-female Army Cultural Support Team. She was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2011 while supporting a Ranger night mission.
Credit Ashley White Family / Memorial Page

Among those who will be remembered this Memorial Day is 1st Lt. Ashley White, a member of an all-female, all-Army Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.

White is buried behind her family’s church in Ohio. It’s the same church where she was baptized and where she married Capt. Jason Stumpf six months before she was killed.

The family had the option of burying Ashley at Arlington National Cemetery,

“They wanted to keep her close to home,” said best-selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. She tells the story of Ashley and her female teammates in her new book: Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield.

“One of the things that always stays for me is the first time I was in Ohio there was a sign in her room written on ripped up notebook paper that said in all block letters ‘YOU ARE MY MOTIVATION’,” Lemmon said. “You realize, it was not this exceptional person’s death that defined her. It was actually her life and the kind of person she was.”

White and two Army Rangers, Sgt. First Class Kris Domeij and Private First Class Christopher Horns, were killed by an improvised explosive device during a night mission in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan October 2011.

One was 29 and on his fourteenth deployment; another was just 20 serving on his first. And one was a National Guard member who answered the call to join a new, all-female, all Army special operations team. – Ashley’s War –

“This story is part of changing the way we see our heroes. And that is really what was so compelling about telling it was it was this team of women who came together and took the call to serve and will be family forever,” Lemmon said.

Ashley's_War_book_coverShe writes that the only comfort Ashley’s teammates could find in her death is that she was treated equally, the same as the two Rangers who died alongside. Just like them, a Ranger coin was placed on her casket before departing Afghanistan and her photo was placed on the wall of Ranger fallen.

“Special Operations commanders here in Tampa said these women may have well laid the foundation for ultimate integration,” Lemmon said. “They were out there every single night on these kinds of combat operations that less than 5 percent of U.S. military sees at the tip of the spear while officially women were banned from combat.”

She added that the White family considers that part of their daughter’s legacy is reminding the country of the courage and valor of this team of women who answered that call to serve.

You can read an excerpt from Ashley’s War here.

Author Lemmon also wrote the New York Times best-seller, The Dressmaker Of Khair Khana, which tells the story of a young Afghan entrepreneur whose business created jobs and hope for women during the Taliban years. Lemmon was in Tampa recently to speak to the Women in International Security Florida Chapter.

You can listen to the WUSF News story with Lemmon and the NPR interview from April.

Meet the Top NCO from Florida’s 53rd Infantry Brigade

Florida National Guard SSG Aidana Baez with her practice "ruck" weighing 45 pounds - 10 more pounds that in competition - for training marches.

Florida National Guard SSG Aidana Baez with her practice “ruck” weighing 45 pounds – 10 more pounds than what is used in the competition.

The top Non-Commissioned Officers from the Florida Army National Guard this weekend are at Camp Blanding vying for the title of “Florida NCO of the year.”

It is two days of physical competitions, weapons and skills contests, a six-mile “ruck” march and tests on Army regulations.

Representing the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Pinellas Park, is Staff Sergeant Aidana Baez. She won NCO competitions at the company level and battalion level to earn the top brigade honor.

“I like to joke that the Non-Commissioned Officer of the year for the infantry brigade wears a skirt,” Baez said. “Cause I wear a skirt with my uniform and I think that’s fantastic.”

Active Guard Reserves from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team do PT, physical training, in the parking lot of their Pinellas Park, FL headquarters.

Active Guard Reserves from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team do PT, physical training, in the parking lot of their Pinellas Park, FL headquarters.

The petite soldier beat out competitors from the two infantry battalions, a field artillery regiment and a cavalry unit.

“They were all men, and I was just another competitor,” Baez said. “Maybe they didn’t see it until the “ruck March” that I meant business. But, it wasn’t like a blowout. They all did really well and we all encouraged each other.”

Baez said her strength in the competition is knowing the Army regulations which is a sweet irony because she almost got thrown out of the regular Army 11 years ago.

“My first duty station was Fort Drum, New York, not an easy duty station and I was not an easy soldier to deal with,” Baez confessed. “I had attitude, I was insubordinate, I got in plenty of trouble. And then, the day had come where I did too much. I was getting kicked out of the Army. My paperwork was done.”

Baez holds some of the ribbons and medals she's earned during 14 years in the military and two deployments, one to Iraq and the other to Kuwait.

Baez holds some of the ribbons and medals she’s earned during 14 years in the military and two deployments, one to Iraq and the other to Kuwait.

But the base chaplain and several NCOs stepped up in her defense. She was given a rehabilitative transfer to a new unit. Baez finished her hitch with the regular Army and then moved back to Florida and joined the National Guard.

She’s now a staff sergeant known for giving second chances to her soldiers, but they have to earn it.

With 14 years of service to her credit, Baez is on a mission to become Florida’s Top Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year. If she wins, Baez will advance to the regional NCO completion in the Virgin Islands.

Command Change at Florida’s Largest Guard Unit

Col. Ralph Ribas will assume command of the Florida Army National Guard’s largest major command, the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), during a ceremony in Pinellas Park Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.FL_national_guard_53rd

More than 3,000 Florida Army National Guard Soldiers from thourghout Florida belong to the 53rd IBCT which is based in Pinellas Park with subordinate unites in Miami, Orlando, Panama City, Lakeland and St. Petersburg.

The change of command ceremony is scheduled at 3 p.m. at the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2801 Grand Ave., Pinellas Park.

Ribas was commissioned through the University of Miami ROTC program in 1987. He currently serves as the deputy commander for the 53rd IBCT and will replace Col. Mike Canzoneri as the unit commander. In addition to serving in the Guard, Ribas also works full time at United States Southern Command, and lives Pembroke Pines.

A Soldier Deals with Guilt of Surviving 9-11 Pentagon Attack

This article, written by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton, was originally published by Army.mil. Below is the first part. I encourage you to follow the link to read the conclusion on how Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman survived suicide and eventually did get to save three lives eight years after the terrorist attacks.

Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman examining the gloves, boots and hard hat he wore Sept. 11, 2001 trying to save lives at the Pentagon.

Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman examining the gloves, boots and hard hat he wore Sept. 11, 2001 trying to save lives at the Pentagon.

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – Each year when the nation collectively remembers the attacks of 9/11, Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman tries everything possible to forget. But the memories of being in the attack on the Pentagon are too vivid to forget.

“There was stuff floating everywhere,” Bauman said, as he described his journey through knee-deep water into the Pentagon’s outermost ring, the E-corridor. “We made our way back around between C- and B-corridor and saw where the nose of the aircraft detached and shot through the building.”

Immediately the team stepped outside, set up equipment designed to locate active cell phones and went to work searching for signals.

“Once we started pinging, I re-entered the building, crawling,” he said. “We were there all day and into the night, looking for people – eighteen hours and no survivors — not one.”

Looking back at what he did — what he forced himself to do – Bauman said there was only one word to describe everything he experienced.

“Horrific,” he said. “Seeing your fellow soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines lying dead in an area where you would think it was impossible, was hard to deal with.”

Even though Bauman had steeled himself to seeing the remains of fallen service members and comrades, he continued to work through the night. The painful reality began to fester inside him like a cancerous wound. Continue reading

Hiring Our Heroes – Veterans Job Fair in Tampa

Image courtesy of VeteransToday.com.

Image courtesy of VeteransToday.com.

Job fairs for veterans, coordinated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have made a mark over the last 21 months.

Between March 2011 and December 2012, the Hiring Our Heroes project held 388 job fairs where more than 18,000 veterans and military spouses got jobs according to a new report.

And the job fairs continue.

In Tampa today, a Hiring Our Heroes event is scheduled from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at the Ragan Community Center, 1200 East Lake Avenue, Tampa, FL.Veterans, active duty military members, guard and reserve members, and military spouses are all welcome. It’s free for job seekers and employers.

SunTrust is sponsoring the local event in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber, the Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS), the Florida Committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

Click here to view a list of employers as of 4 April.

Click here to find other Hiring Our Heroes job fairs scheduled this month throughout the United States including an April 16 job fair in West Palm Beach, FL.

Utah National Guard First Batallion Welcomed Home

The approximately 300 Soldiers of the Utah National Guard’s First Battalion, 211th Aviation returned to Utah from their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan in two groups Thursday, Jan. 17, and Sunday, Jan. 20, respectively, at the Utah Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City.The mission of the 1-211th (First of the 211th) in Afghanistan was fly its AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters to conduct aerial route reconnaissance and provide armed escort for U.S. and Coalition aircraft.

Waiting to welcome home the Utah National Guard’s First Battalion, 211th Aviation returned to Utah from their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.

After a year in Afghanistan, about 300 soldiers of the Utah National Guard’s First Battalion, 211th Aviation returned in two groups Thursday, Jan. 17, and Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013.

The photo is taken at the Utah Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City.

The mission of the 1-211th (First of the 211th) in Afghanistan was fly its AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters to conduct aerial route reconnaissance and provide armed escort for U.S. and Coalition aircraft.

Minnesota Guard Starts Civilian Hiring While Still Deployed

minnesota_natl_guardLast spring, a group of corporate recruiters in business-casual attire traveled to Kuwait to help hundreds of Minnesota National Guard members find civilian jobs weeks before the soldiers headed home.

A specialized team from government, education and business were flown in to prepare the troops. An NPR report says that every soldier got one-on-one help with mock interviews, resumes and career planning.

The program appears to have proven successful. NPR reports:

Of the more than 500 service members who needed jobs, officials say only about 35 are still looking for work.

Minnesota National Guard Capt. Ron Jarvi explained to NPR that the program helped troops focus on getting a job before they got overwhelmed with coming home.

“The reality is that you’re trying to reintegrate with your spouse or with your kids or getting paperwork filed with the state and reinstating your license and doing all of the different things that you have to do to reintegrate,” says Jarvi.

Guard and Reserve members split their time between civilian and military jobs. So, finding work after a long deployment is particularly difficult for them because employers are concerned about the Guard member being deployed again and may hesitate to hire them.

You can hear more about the Minnesota National Guard hiring program HERE.

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