National Guard Response to Hurricane Sandy

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from Company G, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct reconnaissance patrols in support of Hurricane Sandy operations Oct. 29, 2012, in Norfolk, Va. Virginia National Guard photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class A. J. Coyne

Approximately 7,400 National Guard forces are activating or are already on state duty to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in seven states. They’re providing help at shelters, damage assessments, debris clearance, search and rescue and delivery of supplies and equipment according to a release from U.S. Department of Defense.

The guardsmen also are supporting first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland.

Department of Defense Other Actions

  • Staged four medium rotary wing utility aircraft and four medium rotary wing Search and Rescue aircraft at Hanscom AFB, MA, for potential logistical and search and rescue operations along the coasts of MA, CT, and RI in support of FEMA.
  •  Approved a request for District of Columbia National Guard support for traffic control points and high-water evacuations.
  • Made Department of Defense installations throughout the North East available as requested by FEMA – including Westover Air Reserve Base, MA; Joint Base McGuire-Dix, Lakehurst, NJ; and Ft. Devens, MA.
  • Placed medium- and heavy-lift helicopters, para-rescue swimmers, and aerial refueling aircraft on 24-hour prepare-to-deploy status in response to anticipated FEMA requests to mitigate or respond to the effects of the storm.

On Oct. 29,  Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, was in dawn-to-dusk meetings with senior National Guard leaders, FEMA officials, the adjutants general and the Secretary of Defense, reported the American Forces Press Service. That all-out effort was continuing today.

“We had to be ready to respond big and fast — so the National Guard ramped up in multiple states this weekend preparing to support local, state and federal civilian authorities,” Grass told the Armed Forces Press. “We are part of a whole-of-government response to support state, local and federal agencies tackling the effects of this storm.”

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Military Friendly Employers: More Than 3,000 Nominated

The silhouettes of Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment, stand out against the open hangar door of the Aviation Support Facility, Aug. 29, 2011. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa.

Each year, the Defense Department asks for nominations of employers who provide “outstanding support” for the National Guardsmen and Reservists who work for them.

The nomination process is 12 weeks long when members of the Guard and Reserve and their families can nominate civilian employers for the Department of Defense recognition known as the Freedom Award.

This year, 3,236 nominations were received for the 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the department’s highest recognition.

The officials from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a DoD agency, will name the award recipients this summer. As many as 15 employers could be recognized nationally at the ESGR ceremony set Sept. 20, 2012 in Washington D.C.

Award winners from 2011 did more than support military employees and their families, according to an ESGR press release, the employers provided help such as driving a deployed employee’s children to school, replacing a deployed employee’s broken refrigerator, and working overtime to cover shifts so a service member employee could take part in military training.

Semifinalists for the 2012 Freedom Award will be announced in April according to the news release.

Volunteers Work to Find Reservists, Guardsmen Jobs

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Greg Holder will soon take on a volunteer post focused on finding jobs for National Guard members and Reservists and their family.

Many are concerned about finding a job in this economy, but it’s an even bigger battle for Florida’s Reservists and National Guard members returning from war. Their unemployment rate is around 20 percent versus about 11 percent for civilians in the state.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Greg Holder has 29 years military service on active duty and in the Reserves. And he’s concerned about Reservists and National Guard members because of their unemployment rate.

“It’s double our state percentage for the rest of the population,” Holder said. “These men and women sacrificed much to serve their country. They’re exposed to unbelievable conditions. They come back and often times their position has been eliminated as companies have downsized.”

On Oct. 1st, Holder will become the volunteer, state chairman of the Florida Employment Support for the Guard and Reserve, the ESGR. It’s an unpaid position with an organization that coordinates with the Department of Defense.

The Florida ESGR has about 100 active volunteers doing outreach with Reservists, Guardsmen and their families to help them understand their benefits, find jobs and advocate with employers to hire returning veterans.

As chairman of the ESGR, Holder plans to recruit more companies to hire veterans, especially Reservists and National Guard members. He said there’s a rich tradition of Florida companies supporting veterans and that this fall the Jacksonville-based railroad company, CSX, will receive a national award for its program to hire veterans.

Deployment’s Emotional Cycles: Stage 1 for an Army Wife

 

Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

Anticipation of Departure for the service member and spouse is different from what I experience as a military mom.  The first stage of the emotional cycle of deployment is a very busy time for the soldier and his or her family and brings mixed emotions.

The service member is away from home frequently due to extensive training and preparation which touts the reality of the looming separation for the whole family.  The bond between unit members grows immensely as they are completely focused on the impending mission.  In addition to preparing for the work side of deployments, there are many personal items that need tended to: wills and power of attorneys, house and auto repairs, decisions and arrangements about where spouse will spend the deployment, final visits with family, medical and dental visits–these are just a few.  This stage can be stressful for the soldier as he juggles the final preparations for work and home while trying to spend quality time with family.

My daughter-in-law, Alison, shared her thoughts and experiences with this stage:

Josh and Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

“The anxiety prior to deployment is overwhelming because I feel such pressure to make the most of every moment I have left with Josh while I’m constantly fighting emotions for the loss I am about to experience when I have to say good-bye.  Josh and I created a wish list (similar to a bucket list) of things to do before he deployed and we accomplished everything.  We truly lived like we were dying and savored every outing and relaxing moment together.  I treasure the dinners, movies, walks, fishing trips, hugs, and we had intimate conversations that we struggle with during deployments.  We learned a lot about each other and our relationship as husband and wife during the month prior to his leaving.   

Our fun trip prior to deployment was a hog hunting excursion in Oklahoma which Josh picked.  It was both satisfying and sad; I know how much he enjoyed it, but the reality is he wanted the experience in case he doesn’t get another chance.  

We have professional photos done prior to every deployment; it is very important to me to have fresh photos to treasure if they are the last ones of us together.  This may sound morbid but I never know when such opportunities are the last.”

I commend Alison for her strength and willingness to share her innermost feelings.  She is a loving and supportive wife to my son and an amazing example and mentor to other Army wives.

Josh and Alison on their hog-hunting trip prior to his third deployment.

 

Emotional Cycles of Deployment: An Army Mom’s Overview

Contributor Tracie Ciambotti and her son Josh on his deployment day, June 2011, at Fort Carson, CO.

Every traumatic event we encounter in life triggers a cycle of emotional responses; military families experience this emotional roller coaster continuously due to the frequency of deployments.

The Army’s website, US Army Hooah4Health, outlines the following 7-stage cycle that military families go through with each deployment:

Stage 1 – Anticipation of Departure: Begins when the service member receives an order for deployment and ends when he or she actually leaves.

Stage 2 – Detachment and Withdrawal:  Final weeks prior to deployment

Stage 3 – Emotional Disorganization:  First six weeks of the deployment

Stage 4 – Recovery and Stabilization:  Two months into the deployment to a few weeks before the end of deployment

Stage 5 – Anticipation of Return:  Final weeks of deployment

Stage 6 – Return Adjustment and Renegotiation: First six weeks post deployment

Stage 7 – Reintegration and Stabilization: Up to six months post deployment[1]

This model was updated in 2006 by Jennifer Morse, M.D., Navy CAPT (Ret), San Diego, CA because of the increased occurrence of deployments that military families experience.

Josh and Alison, his wife, when he returned from his second deployment in Iraq--August of 2009.

The detailed description provided in this model pertains to the service member and his or her spouse and children—there is no mention of parents in this emotional cycle.  As the mother of an Army sergeant, currently serving his third deployment, I can personally testify that parents go through an emotional roller coaster too.

Through a series of posts on this topic, I will share a personal look into the stages of the deployment cycle from the perspectives of various members of my military family: a mother, a wife, and the soldier.  I hope to generate an understanding of the challenges faced by the entire family as we experience deployments together.


[1] Morse, J., (2006).The new emotional cycles of deployment. Retrieved pdf June 28, 2007 from the U.S. Department of Defense: Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library: San Diego, CA

Freedom Is Not Free, Military Families Pay the Price Daily

On Monday, we celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence  on July 4, 1776 by delegates of the original thirteen colonies.  The first Independence Day celebration occurred on July 4,1777 although our freedom was not fully achieved until September 3, 1783 when the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris and ended the Revolutionary War.

America’s first freedom, the dissolution of Britain’s rule over us, was accomplished because men were willing to leave their families to fight and die for this great cause.    Now, 235 years later, every freedom that we cherish and sometimes take for granted  is defended by the men and women of our Armed Forces.  Without the sacrifices and selfless acts of these brave heroes, life as we know it would not exist.

My thoughts on July 4th were on the images of deployment day: the line up of duffel bags at Fort Carson representing families that were about to say good-bye, small children clinging to their daddy’s leg while he was giving mommy that last hug, my son’s final embrace with his wife just after he and I shared ours.

Deployment day at Fort Carson for Tracie's son.

I tearfully relive the moments standing side by side with Army wives as we watched our men disappear into that gym.  Our families are just a fraction of the many military families that are currently separated by deployments.

I am reminded of the anguish on the faces of two mothers on the day their fallen hero sons were laid to rest here in Denver.  I think of the two wounded warriors and their parents that are part of our Colorado Military Families Ministry group and what they have gone through.

July 4th is a day to celebrate our nation’s freedom, but let us not forget to honor the heroes and their families that endure the burden of defending that freedom.

A special thanks to all of our men and women in uniform and their families–you are the reason we celebrate Independence Day.

A Military Mom Meets Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV

Bill Maddox greets Lt. Gen Caldwell.

Every once in a while I have the opportunity to meet some interesting and sometimes very important people.  Today  (Tuesday) was one of those days thanks to an Atlanta Press Club luncheon.

The guest speaker was Lt. Gen William Caldwell, Commander, NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan/ Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan.  I attended because of my growing interest in all things military.  Now that my son is a second lieutenant, I take any opportunity I can to learn more about our involvement in conflict areas. I arranged to meet some friends there one who used to serve with the General 30 years ago when they were both Captains.

Dorie Griggs with Lt. Gen. Caldwell.

I arrived early to stake out good seats.  Fortunately, it worked and we sat very close to the podium.  While the guests waited for the arrival of Lt. Gen Caldwell, we all began to visit.  I had the pleasure of riding the elevator with retried General Burba who it turns out was the top person at Ft. Benning where my son is now in training in the Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course. At our table, I met John King, who it turns out is not only the Chief of Police for the City of Doraville, GA, but is a Colonel in the U.S. Army having served in Iraq Afghanistan with the Lt. Gen.

North Georgia College and State University helped to sponsor the luncheon and several of the Army ROTC staff members from the school attended. I made sure to say hello to them and tell them of how impressed I was by their cadets when I met them at the funeral for Spc Gary L. Nelson, III a few months ago.

Dorie Griggs holding her Challenge Coin, Police Chief John King (left) and an aid to Lt. Gen Caldwell (right) .

The General and his team arrived and began to mingle with the guests. My friend, Bill Maddox, went to say hello. It had been 30+ years since Bill and Lt. Gen Caldwell served together, but they greeted each other like it was yesterday. I snapped a few photos for Bill, then he returned the favor by introducing me to the general.  I told the general my son is a graduate of The Citadel and is now a second lieutenant.

The general is really big on using social media. I thanked him  for his work in that area then told him how great it has been as the mom of a new 2LT to follow the Armor BOLC training via their Facebook group.  Bill snapped a quick photo of us together before the official luncheon began.

The Challenge Coin given to Dorie by Lt. Gen. Caldwell. Photo courtesy of Stanley Leary.

Lt. General Caldwell educated the gathering about the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The Vision as stated in his PowerPoint presentation is as follows “An Afghan National Security Force that transitions to full security lead in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.” He explained that the training of the police, Army, Air Force, medical staff and other services are key to transition.

Only 1 in 10 Afghan citizens is literate which means they need to educate people in basic reading and counting before they can take on certain tasks like inventory and training and eventually leadership.  So far, the NATO efforts there have brought 100,000 Afghans to some level of literacy –  50 percent of the military and police are now literate.  In answer to a question about whether the people of Afghanistan want them there, he replied, “They want  us there only as long as needed to help them take the lead.”

Flip side of the Challenge Coin. Photo courtesy of Stanley Leary.

After the Q&A period my friend Bill wanted to thank the general.  I stayed to take more photos. As it turned out, the general took photos with both of us.  He thanked me for coming to the luncheon and supporting my son.  I told him about Off the Base and the creator of the blog Bobbie O’Brien and her fellowship with the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Program.  When I told him I am on the board of  the nonprofit, Care For The Troops, and that after getting my master of divinity I found my calling is to educate people about traumatic stress, he told me his wife also has her M. Div. degree.

That is when something really neat happened.  He reached into his pocket and asked me if I knew what a military coin is.  I said yes. He then said, “You tell your son I gave this to you for supporting him.” He handed me a coin that reads:

For Excellence

Presented by

Commander

NATO Training Mission

Afghanistan

Yes, some days I have the opportunity to meet some very interesting and important people.  Today was one of those days.

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