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Vet Sues Pentagon, Wins Back Pay

posted Oct 7, 2012, 4:44 PM by Neslo Ventures   [ updated Oct 7, 2012, 4:44 PM ]

Sep 28, 2012 Knight Ridder/Tribune

CHIPPEWA FALLS -- When Mike Hanke returned to the Chippewa Valley in spring 2010 after a tour in Iraq, he expected to go back to work as an ROTC cadre at UW-Stout in Menomonie.

But Hanke, a 47-year-old Chippewa Falls city councilman, was surprised to learn he had lost his job with the Department of Defense while he was overseas and would not be rehired.

Hanke's active duty status ended March 27, 2010. On April 6 of that year he went to UW-Stout to request to begin working again.

"That's when I found out I no longer had a position," Hanke said.

Hanke filed a complaint against his termination, arguing federal law prohibits soldiers from losing their jobs because they were activated into service. He was part of the 128th Infantry unit of the Wisconsin Army National Guard that went to Baghdad.

Earlier this month, Hanke reached a settlement with the DOD, which oversaw Hanke's job. Hanke declined to reveal the size of the settlement but said it is believed to be the second-largest of its kind.

The settlement covered Hanke's lost wages from April 2010 through this month but did not include punitive damages, he said.

Hanke worked on logistics with the ROTC, a college-based program for training commissioned officers in the armed forces.

Hanke lost his job at UW-Stout during his second tour of duty, in 2009-10. During that tour of Iraq, Hanke was working for Communications Technologies, a company with whom the DOD contracted.

The DOD decided to stop doing business with the company and hire employees itself, and later decided Hanke would not be rehired for his old job.

Hanke plans to retire from the military this year after 21 years of service.

My Honor Flight

posted Jul 8, 2011, 8:22 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Jul 8, 2011, 8:26 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

Christina White poses with her father (standing), and her two Veteran grandfathers at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.

by Christina White, Indianapolis VAMC Pharmacist

Christina White poses with her father (standing), and her two Veteran grandfathers at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Greatest Generation – those who gave so much.  Giving tribute to these sacrifices is a sacred privilege, and the Honor Flight Network recently gave me the opportunity to honor two of my heroes.

Honor Flight Network* is a non-profit organization that honors America’s heroes by transporting them to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials.  Top priority is given to World War II survivors and terminally ill veterans.  The Veterans’ trips are absolutely free while guardians pay a moderate fee.

On June 7, 2011, I took an Honor Flight with my father and my two grandfathers who are both WWII veterans.  We started the morning at 6:00 a.m. at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport with registration, breakfast, and a send-off reception.  Each person received a t-shirt with a phrase on the back that said, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.  If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”  Cincinnati news crews were there to document the group of 88 Veterans making the trip.  This was the first time either of my grandfathers had flown in many years, so this was even more exciting for them.

Upon landing in Baltimore, we boarded air-conditioned charter buses and traveled to D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial, Iwo Jima, the Korean War Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial.  Each memorial was stunning, but the WWII Memorial was definitely our favorite.  It sits prominently on the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and honors the 16 million that served in the U.S. armed forces during that time.  An Honor Flight staff member gave us a tour of the Memorial, explaining the symbolism behind each structure, quote, and sculpture.  The Memorial’s Field of Stars is absolutely breathtaking.  This is a wall that bears 4,000 gold stars representing the more than 400,000 lives lost during World War II.  It was evident that my grandfathers were proud of their Memorial.

Everywhere we went the Veterans were treated like celebrities.  People wanted to shake their hands, take pictures, and thank them for their service.  My grandfathers shared stories of their time in the Army and the Coast Guard.  When we arrived home at 10:00 p.m., we were greeted by a crowd of friends and family holding balloons and signs welcoming the Veterans home.  It was an action-packed day, but the Honor Flight Network takes care of everything, including meals and providing wheelchairs.  They even had paramedics available in case anyone needed medical attention.  Each guardian was paired up with one veteran and we were responsible for their safety, hydration, taking pictures, and ensuring they had fun.  It was an amazing experience and a trip we will always cherish.

Defense Prisoner of War & Missing Personnel Office

posted Jun 21, 2011, 2:58 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Jun 21, 2011, 3:08 PM by Neslo Ventures ]


U.S. Honor Guard standing at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery

"Keeping the Promise", "Fulfill their Trust" and "No one left behind" are several of many mottos that refer to the efforts of the Department of Defense to recover those who became missing while serving our nation. The mission requires expertise in archival research, intelligence collection and analysis, field investigations and recoveries and scientific laboratories. Hundreds of Defense Department men and women -- both military and civilian -- operators and scientists, work in organizations around the world as part of DoD's personnel recovery and personnel accounting communities. They are all dedicated to the single mission of finding and bringing our missing personnel home.

Visit http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/  it's well worth the time.  See just how many POW/MIA's are still unaccounted for.

A Soldier's Reflection for Memorial Day

posted Jun 11, 2011, 5:48 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Jun 11, 2011, 5:56 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

By Rajiv Srinivasan Thursday, May 26, 2011

It is the early days of January 2010, and the company forms to the front of the memorial display at the chapel of the forward operating base in Afghanistan. The backdrop for the small shrine: the crossed staffs of an American flag and the regimental colors. An M4 rifle stands upright, its bayonet lodged into a felt-covered wooden desk in front of the flags, the pistol grip facing the audience. The fallen soldier's helmet rests on the weapon's buttstock, shielding it as it once did his silhouette. Two dog tags dangle from the rifle's pistol grip, clamoring in the desert wind. Below, centered on the rifle's barrel and arrayed at the position of attention, are the soldier's desert tan boots — tied, laces tucked.

Leaning against the laces is a framed portrait of the fallen: Staff Sergeant [last name]. A Purple Heart medallion, presented in its original black silk-laden box, shines prominently in front of the picture.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the ceremony will begin in two minutes," says the chaplain in his hospitable Southern twang. The imposing battalion and brigade leadership files out of the chapel, programs and bios of the fallen in hand. (See a brief history of Memorial Day.)

"Company! Atten-shun!" calls out the Attack Company first sergeant, bringing the gaggle to order. I wince, contemplating how many memorials our first sergeant has stood for in his lifetime. He has had seven deployments and two decades in the Army. "Parade rest!"

"Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the invocation," the chaplain begins. "Father, we are gathered here today to celebrate the life of one of your finest servants: Staff Sergeant [first name, middle initial, last name] ..." My mind drifts off into the clear blue sky. I still hear the radio traffic in my head. It replays in my conscience like a broken record: Contact! Contact! IED! ... The lower half of his body! It's blown off! That was Christmas Day 2009. My quaking cheek muscles wring a tear from my eyes.

The battalion commander takes the podium first. He speaks of the staff sergeant's career and dedication to the mission. His words are kind and sincere. The company commander follows with his bio: where he was born, where he enlisted. "Staff Sergeant [last name] is survived by his wife and his three sons." (See photos of our world at war.)

I see those boys, first smiling and laughing, and then I see them in horror, with frantic tears upon hearing the words "We regret to inform you ..." I wonder how these children will ever open another Christmas gift again. How many nights they will bargain with God, praying at the foot of their beds: "I'll give back every single gift I'll ever get for the rest of my life, for just one more day with my dad."

As the commander stands down, the staff sergeant's platoon sergeant and dear friend rises for his remarks. We know his heartfelt eulogy is sure to be filled with humor — a refreshing change of pace from the sadness that overwhelms the audience. "Staff Sergeant [last name] and I had some great times. There was never anything but a smile on his face. I loved watching him slap food out of his soldiers' faces. And with a dead stare and straight face, snarling, "You can't eat, you're in A Co.!"

The staff sergeant's platoon leader speaks next. He reads from Psalm 23: "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." As the platoon leader takes his seat, a bagpipe quintet begins a rendition of "Amazing Grace." The nasal reverberation of the pipes stuns my eardrums. It brings my conscience back to the ceremony, back to the realization: he's gone.

Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet

posted May 20, 2011, 9:54 AM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated May 20, 2011, 9:58 AM by Neslo Ventures ]

It is an image which many of us hate to see! Military members saying good bye! We have to say goodbye to family and friends during deployments, long temporary duty (TDY) assignments and remote tours. It can be a heart ache for all involved but sometimes it includes our four legged friends! For some giving up a pet means never seeing the animal again! I had the opportunity to meet and interview some neat folks from Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet who help pet owners who deploy find a foster family for their pets.

Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet has 3,000 volunteers from all 50 states who become a foster pet parent for our sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines! A non profit organization they use 25 coordinators to run the organization
according to Jessica Semon, National Marketing and Communications Director of the Guardian Angels who grew up in an Air Force family. I met Jessica at the Military Bloggers Conference in Alexandria, VA last weekend. Jessica was very forthcoming about her desire to help our military pets and brought Teaka, a volunteer's pet to the conference as a method to improve our awareness of their organization and help spread the word to you!

On their website at
http://guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org/ the organization describes its mission:

“Supporting our Military, Veterans, and their beloved Pets to ensure the pets are reunited with their owners following a deployment (combat or peace-keeping mission) in harm's way to fight the global war on terrorism or unforseen emergency hardship impacting their ability to retain their pet's ownership rights.”


Jessica said they have found foster homes for dogs and cats and even a horse! I asked how the process worked and she said the service member starts the process through their website and then sent me to a foster parent to talk about her experience! Eileen Hansen (who gave me permission to use her name) is the mother of a US Navy sailor who deployed and had to give up her three cats and was heart sick over it. Allergic to cats, Eileen could not help but she loves dogs and jumped into the fray to help others avoid the same situation for others through Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pet Organization. She said she is the foster parent of Deycon (pronounced Deacon) after the parents (who were a dual military family deploying at the same time) placed Deycon’s profile and information on the Guardian Angel’s website. The organization tries to match locality to make it easier for the handoff and in this case both sets of parents were in the same state.



Eileen said she applied to become the foster parent and a central coordinator helped make a choice for the right fit and then she met Deycon’s parents and Deyco
n to insure they were comfortable together! I was laughing out loud at her description of Deycon’s antics during his stay with her! Quite a comic, he left a PETCO store with a toy in his mouth and when the alarms started going off Eileen said she was almost arrested for shoplifting despite not knowing he had it. She said he also likes to collect and hide her sons’ nerf toy bullets from them. She said it will be hard to return Deycon but she feels such a satisfaction knowing that the parents will get their pet back at the end of their tours.

Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet also has a Facebook and Twitter accounts if you would like to follow them at
http://www.facebook.com/GuardianAngelsforSoldiersPet
and http://twitter.com/#%21/GuardAnglSolPet. As a non profit 501c3 organization they are looking for support to keep this wonderful program going so if you would like to participate as a volunteer, provide a gift or know a corporation that would like to help sponsor, please let them know!

Thank you Jessica and Eileen for taking the time to talk to me and tell your story! What a fantastic organization you belong to in support of our military pets!


For all of our military spouses, have a great Military Spouse Appreciation Day today, Friday, May 6th!


Photo Credits used with permission from Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet

Deycon in foster Care in New York

Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet Logo

Barren and his Family - Fostered in North Carolina (recently reunited with soldier)

Otis with Soldier - Fostered in Illinois (recently reunited with soldier)

Deycon up to his hijinks.

Navy Welcomes First Women for Sub Training

posted May 10, 2011, 6:53 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated May 10, 2011, 6:55 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

May 09, 2011

Navy to allow women to serve aboard submarines.

GROTON, Conn. - The U.S. Navy base in Groton, Conn., is welcoming the first class of female officers selected for assignment to submarines.

Eight women were reporting Monday for an initial training course at Naval Submarine Base New London. The graduates will be the first women to serve on submarines since the Navy repealed a ban.

The Navy announced last year that it was lifting the ban. Women had been barred on the theory that the close quarters and long deployments were unsuitable for a coed crew.

RELATED ARTICLES:
Navy Set to Crew Subs with Female Sailors
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The women arriving in Groton are among 18 selected for training and assignment to crews of guided-missile and ballistic-missile submarines. The class also will include 74 men.

Naval Submarine School spokesman William Kenny says no changes have been required in terms of lodging or classrooms.

Vietnam-Era Green Beret Finally Returns Home

posted May 4, 2011, 6:17 AM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated May 4, 2011, 6:20 AM by Neslo Ventures ]

Courtesy of AP April 30, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No one had seen Sgt. 1st Class Donald Shue since he was on a mission in Laos during the Vietnam War in November 1969, so his sister was skeptical when Army officials called a few months ago to say his remains had been found.

"I said, 'No you didn't. I don't believe it. It's been 42 years. You don't have any proof of that,'" his sister Betty Jones told The Associated Press. Then they revealed the clue that identified Shue: a Zippo lighter with his name inscribed on it.

Army officials visited her home and showed her the lighter. When she saw it, she broke down and cried.

"That was the most joyful thing I ever looked at. I knew it was Donnie," she said.

Now, four decades later, the North Carolina soldier is coming home. Thousands are expected to pay their respects this weekend in Concord, where Shue was born, and nearby Kannapolis, where he was raised. Jones, 74, of Kannapolis, called the burial a homecoming.

"We've been praying and praying and praying for this day," Jones said. "This will finally give us some closure."

Shue will be honored by family, friends, veterans groups and politicians. Two Apache helicopters from the state National Guard will accompany a procession Saturday from Charlotte to a funeral home in Kannapolis. Along the way, it will stop in Concord and Kannapolis for ceremonies.

On Sunday, veteran groups plan to honor Shue and his family again, lining the streets near the funeral home for a procession to the cemetery in Kannapolis, where a military marker with his name sits over an empty grave.

At least 1,000 members of Rolling Thunder and the Patriot Guard Riders, veterans' motorcycle groups, are expected to participate.

Some veterans faced a much different reception upon returning from Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, amid massive peace protests against the unpopular war.

By late 1969, when Shue was reported missing, tens of thousands of U.S. troops had been killed. Full-scale U.S. involvement began when the first fighting units arrived in the country in 1965.

Jones recalled when her brother, the youngest of six children, enlisted. He dropped out of high school and wanted to join to fight in the war. Shue was under 18, so her father had to give his permission.

"He didn't want him to go. But my daddy knew Donnie wanted to do something for his country," Jones said.

She said her brother was a "bright boy. He was always smiling."

Monty Clark said he met Shue in 1966, and the two were part of the "Bushmasters" - a group that raced motorcycles around town. Shue had even designed the group's logo - a snake wrapped around the word "Bushmasters." That's when Shue decided he wanted to join the military, and the two were supposed to enlist together. But Clark wound up staying in school, while Shue left school and joined up.

The pals kept in touch constantly, until Clark got one final letter. Shue wrote that he had made the Green Berets and was headed overseas for a secret mission. Shue promised to tell him all about it when he came back to the U.S. But he never did.

"I always wondered what happened to Donnie," Clark said. "We knew in our hearts that something terrible had happened."

When Shue is laid to rest, the motorcycle group will get back together and wear T-shirts with the logo Shue designed in the 1960s, Clark said.

Shue was last seen alive in Laos in November 1969. He was with two other Special Forces soldiers and was wounded. At the time, Special Forces ran secret missions inside Laos and Cambodia, gathering intelligence on the North Vietnamese who were sneaking into South Vietnam through the Ho Chi Minh trail.

A few days after Shue went missing, two Green Berets visited her home. The family was devastated, but none more so than their father. He died two years later.

"I think he died of a broken heart," Jones said. "He just loved that boy."

In 1979, the Army classified Shue as killed in action.

"We held out hope that he was alive even though we knew. We just wanted him brought home," she said.

In 1975, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam and conquered the nation. When bitter relations between the United States and Vietnam began to thaw in the 1990s, teams of Army forensic experts headed into Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam looking for the remains of U.S. soldiers. There are more than 2,600 soldiers still missing from the war.

It was a Laotian farmer who found Shue's remains - which the investigators confirmed after uncovering the Zippo lighter.

Jones and her two sisters had held out hope that he may have been in a secret prison camp, though she's happy his long journey is over.

"He's back home," she said. "Back home where he belongs."

Let's Be Heroes to Our Veterans

posted Apr 14, 2011, 7:50 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Apr 14, 2011, 7:55 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

William J. AstoreWilliam J. Astore
Retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) Posted: 04/11/11 08:51 AM ET

War is remote from the daily concerns of most Americans. It is not, of course, remote from our troops and veterans. As I write this, our troops are engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, as well as several other places not normally featured in daily headlines. In prosecuting these wars, many if not most of our troops have endured multiple deployments under considerable stress, the stress that comes from confronting danger and enduring discomfort in places and cultures utterly foreign to them.

Operating under severe stress that's exacerbated by cultural dislocation, our troops have made courageous decisions, flawed decisions, and deadly decisions. An aberrant few have become murderers. Such is the great tragedy of all wars: they turn young men into killers.

Even in democracies, even in freedom-loving countries, war twists the best of intentions and pollutes the most honorable of minds. It's a tribute to our military that the vast majority of our troops have tried their hardest to uphold standards of decency that are consistent with American values. For their effort and their sacrifices, they deserve our gratitude.

Granted, our gratitude may not imply support of their wars. Indeed, I'd argue we should always abhor war. As Civil War General William T. Sherman declared, "War is cruelty and you cannot refine it." Consider that since 9-11, the U.S. military has suffered 6000 killed-in-action and another 42,000 wounded-in-action: reason enough to hate war and to seek its end.

Ending war and bringing the troops home is thus the most immediate and best way we can "support our troops." And as they return, let's resolve to aid our troops, especially those who've been wounded by the cruelty of war, whether those cruelties were inflicted on them, or by them, or both. And here let's recall that the cruelest wounds may not always be the most visible.

In helping returning troops and veterans, let's begin by listening to them: to their stories, no matter how grim or gory or heartbreaking they may be. The healing process begins with a chance to decompress, a chance to have one's story heard. We should never be too busy or too appalled to listen; like it or not, they were sent to wage war in our nation's name. The least we can do in return is listen -- and learn.

As we listen, let's recognize how tough it can be for combat troops to adjust to civilian life after being "downrange" and in-country and under fire. Yes, veterans are used to tough discipline and tougher times; they won't cry or complain much. Leaving the military may come as a relief to some, but to others it'll come as a profound shock. A sense of purposelessness may follow, as well as a sense of estrangement from the one organization that valued them. Indeed, what I miss most from my military years is the camaraderie of the unit -- a shared sense of belonging.

So: Have sympathy for them as they adjust to new settings, new family situations, and new challenges. Recognize as well that the skills they mastered and took pride in within the military may be of limited (or no) utility in civilian sectors. For a veteran who took pride in his craft to be told his skills lack marketability may be the cruelest wound of all.

Such veterans are not looking for a handout, but a hand up. Let's give them that. Let's help them with retraining opportunities, let's empower them through grants and opportunities in higher education, let's work to find them jobs that give them a sense of purpose and a measure of pride.

And, as much as it may make us feel good, let's not glorify our troops and veterans as so many marble heroes, not out of churlishness or ingratitude, but because our veterans themselves know they're not heroes. (Even those few who truly are heroes will most likely reject the label.) Heroes, for most veterans, are those servicemen and women who didn't come home alive. Elevating our veterans as "heroes," moreover, puts considerable pressure on them to live up to that lofty honorific. A veteran may be less likely to admit she's suffering from PTSD if everyone around her is clapping her on the back and calling her a "hero."

Equally tempting in some quarters is to view our troops as so many victims who were coerced into serving, and who in emerging from war are indelibly marked as damaged goods. Such a view borders on disrespect when we consider that our troops, in volunteering to defend our Constitution, assumed an obligation that was maturely made and which they endeavored to squarely meet. Their service may be charged within domestic political disputes, but their conduct is the true measure of their worth.

So here's my parting shot: Instead of waving the flag and calling our troops and veterans "heroes," how about we vow to be heroes to them? Instead of tarring the sacrifices of the honorable many with the atrocities of the dishonorable few, how about we vow to change our country so that our troops are committed to war only when our ideals are truly in peril?

This story is part of Military Families Week, an effort by HuffPost and AOL to put a spotlight on issues affecting America's families who serve. Find more at jobs.aol.com/militaryfamilies and aol.com.

Maid Carrying Soldier’s Pack Sparks Row

posted Apr 4, 2011, 10:32 AM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Apr 4, 2011, 10:34 AM by Neslo Ventures ]

This photo, gone viral in Singapore, allegedly shows a young soldier followed by a maid carrying his rucksack. (Facebook)
March 30, 2011
Agence France-Presse

A photograph of a maid carrying a soldier's rucksack as she walked behind him has sparked outrage in Singapore and concern that recruits to its armed forces are a pampered lot.

The picture, published in the Singaporean media and on the Internet this week, showed the male soldier in military fatigues and combat boots strolling on a footpath.

His female maid followed a step behind with the military-issued rucksack slung over her left shoulder.

Reactions to the photograph, which was first posted on Facebook, ranged from amusement to anger and claims that Singapore's current generation of soldiers were "softies".

"Behind every successful SAF [Singapore Armed Forces] soldier, there is a maid," Chinteresting wrote, tongue in cheek, on Twitter.

"SAF should find the maid fast. Enlist her to the Army, she's strong!" tweeted Rod_Man14.

"If he can't carry his own field pack, how to depend on this kind of soldier to defend Singapore," Heavencry09 lamented on the chat forum of news portal xinmsn.

Singapore maintains a conscript-based military. Every able-bodied male citizen and permanent resident 18 years old and above must undergo two years of military training.

News reports have published criticism that current training drills are not as tough compared with what older generations had to undergo because of complaints from parents.

Analysts, however, said the rucksack photograph was not a fair representation of today's armed forces.

"This was one incident, I think the only conclusion we can generally make is that that soldier does indeed come across as soft and pampered," said Bernard Loo, an expert on military affairs at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

But he said it was unfair to generalize the picture, and that current servicemen were actually fitter than their predecessors.

"I think the statistics probably would tell us that by and large, the average national serviceman is physically fitter today than his counterparts were, say 15, 20 years ago," Loo told AFP on Wednesday.

The defense ministry said it was investigating the matter, as online design wags went to town with parodies of the photograph.

One superimposed the image of the burdened maid onto a poster of a soldier firing a rocket inside a military vehicle.

Another had the maid with the backpack striding across a battlefield behind a tank as a soldier fires his gun into the distance, with the caption in capital letters: "My Maid, Our Army."

Local daily the New Paper also surveyed 23 national servicemen and found that 22 of them had their maids wash and iron their army uniforms, while 17 had their domestic helpers clean their rooms for them.

Close to 200,000 maids -- largely from Indonesia and the Philippines -- were estimated to be working in affluent Singapore last year.

Uniform Wear Banned Off Base in Europe

posted Apr 4, 2011, 10:21 AM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Apr 4, 2011, 10:26 AM by Neslo Ventures ]

March 24, 2011 -Stars and Stripes

STUTTGART, Germany -- U.S. troops in Europe are now forbidden to wear their uniforms off post “to the maximum extent possible,” including daily commutes to and from the office, as part of an effort to prevent service members from standing out in a crowd, according to U.S. European Command.
 
The new policy, which comes three weeks after a deadly shooting outside Frankfurt Airport that left two Airmen dead and two badly wounded, takes effect immediately. The EUCOM mandate affects all Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving in the European theater. The rule also takes effect as U.S. forces engage Libya in a high-profile operation being commanded from U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart and could bring added attention to U.S. troops here.
 
“The directive specifically forbids the wear of uniforms for travel between duty and domicile, short convenience stops, conduct of physical fitness, travel between installations, and off post messing,” according to a EUCOM message broadcast Wednesday on American Forces Network - Europe.
 
Local commanders will be responsible for enforcing the rule, according to EUCOM, which took the unusual step of establishing an overarching force protection policy. Typically, force protection decisions are made locally, with installations and components setting guidelines.
 
While units can establish policies more stringent than the EUCOM guidelines, they cannot ease them, according to Capt. Ed Buclatin, EUCOM spokesman.
 
Nonetheless, there has been some confusion about how practical the policy is. In many communities, base housing and shopping facilities are on separate compounds, often less than a mile apart. Will a change of clothes still be required? The answer is not clear.
 
U.S. Army Europe’s Facebook page reflected some of the confusion, when it posted this message Tuesday: “The new policy regarding uniform wear has yet to be finalized and is still in the works. We’ll have the full official policy when it is released. Until then, Soldiers, consult your supervisors and chain of command.”
 
While the uniform policy still appears to be something of a work in progress, it will surely result in some inconveniences for troops, many of whom have grown accustomed to eating lunch at nearby restaurants, and running daily errands. And no one living off post will drive to or from work in uniform.
 
“You are not supposed to wear your uniform even if you are in your own car,” Buclatin said.
 
In the wake of the Frankfurt shooting, many in the military community questioned why U.S. Air Forces in Europe elected to transport troops in a conspicuous American-style school bus driven by an Airman in uniform. For some, the bus made for an easy target. Others argued that servicemembers are easy to identify regardless of the vehicle they drive or whether they are in uniform. A lone gunman intent on targeting Americans is hard to defend against, some contend.
 
In Stuttgart, home to EUCOM and AFRICOM headquarters, reactions were mixed.
 
Whether in uniform or not, Lt. Cmdr. Geoff Maasberg said he’s pretty easy to identify as American.
 
“I don’t think it makes a lot of difference when I am driving my Xterra [an SUV] through town,” he said.
 
“People know who all the Americans are from our haircuts and that kind of stuff, but I don’t think there is a better way to do it. I think the higher-ups are doing what they need to do, and what they think is right to help us not get shot by some crazy guy with a gun.”
 
Gunnery Sgt. Dennis Dougherty said that changing in and out of uniform when traveling from post to post around the Stuttgart community “may be extreme,” but thinks the restrictions could make a difference.
 
With so many service members walking around in uniform off post, “I have always thought, ‘What is stopping somebody from attacking them or pulling over a little bit and running them over?’ ”
 
-- Stars and Stripes reporter Warren Peace contributed to this story.

©  This article is provided courtesy of Stars and Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes
reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

Stars and Stripes has one of the widest distribution ranges of any newspaper in the world. Between the Pacific and European editions, Stars and Stripes services over 50 countries where there are bases, posts, service members, ships, or embassies.

Stars and Stripes Website


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