Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vietnam Virtual Wall

The Virtual Wall Vietnam Memorial listings for Wisconsin veterans is an amazing resource that allows you to look up Vietnam casualties by name or official home of record. I've provided the link for Wisconsin. The Virtual Wall covers the rest of the states as well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day | Wisconsin soldiers fought through blood, chaos

Kenneth Schumacher of Madison landed at Normandy 70 years ago.

Pfc. Schumacher, right, with his anti-aircraft gun crew in Europe.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Seventy years ago, 21-year-old Kenneth Schumacher of Madison was floating in a landing ship off Omaha Beach.

As far as he could see to either side, boats were idling or maneuvering as German shells exploded in the water and on the beach, taking a terrible, bloody toll.

Trucks for gun crews like Schumacher’s were being blown up as they drove off the ships, through shallow water toward the beach.

“A direct hit and you’d see the doors fly open and you knew everyone was killed,” Schumacher said Thursday as sunlight bathed his face in a quiet library space in his nursing home on Madison’s East Side.

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sapper Stakes | Wisconsin-based team claims second place

Staff Sgt. Daniel Clark, a Reedsburg resident who is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, participates in the National Sapper Stakes Competition May 5 -8 at Fort McCoy. Since the competition, Clark has been promoted to sergeant first class.

From the Wisconsin State Journal: A Wisconsin-based team earlier this month took second place in a national competition to test skills at locating land mines and working with explosives.

The first National Sapper Stakes Competition took place May 5–8 at Fort McCoy near Sparta. Reedsburg native Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Clark, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve for 18 years, was among the participants.

DOD outflanked | Middleton man to bring "missing" WWII soldier's remains home

Journalist and filmaker
Jed Henry of Middleton,
Wisconsin, worked for
two years to force the
military to accept its errors.
Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon, KIA 8/13/44

Pfc. Gordon's charred wallet
 was returned to his family,
 but the military said
 it didn't know where
his remains were buried.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

A Middleton man has finally outflanked the U.S. military in his determined two-year campaign to bring home the remains of a World War II veteran who had served with his grandfather.

Along the way, Jed Henry enlisted the help of the Madison Police Department, UW-Madison’s DNA Sequencing Facility, members of the state’s congressional delegation and two Madison-based forensic scientists.

“The people of Wisconsin really got this done for the Gordon family,” said Henry, a freelance journalist and filmmaker.

Henry was researching his grandfather’s Army reconnaissance company for a documentary when he stumbled across the strange case of Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon — the only member of the unit who was killed in action but never got a proper burial.

After butting heads with the Department of Defense Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command and the Defense POW-MIA Office since 2012, Henry said, he wasn’t surprised by the announcement in March that the agencies would be reorganized because of complaints about their performance in the recovery and identification of war dead.

Temporary cemetery near Gorron, France, where
Pfc. Gordon's remains were buried first, on Aug. 15, 1944,
 as an unknown American soldier, then months later
reburied as an unknown German soldier.
“It highlights the other 83,000 who are missing and won’t get help and won’t have the luxury of the French government helping them out,” Henry said. “We all feel that if you go and you fight and you die, you ought to be able to go home.”

Cemetery for German soldiers where Pfc. Gordon's
remains were buried in 1961.
Working with Gordon family members and several military historians, Henry’s detective work led him to conclude that Gordon’s remains had been misplaced in a cemetery for German soldiers in France. The U.S. military repeatedly refused to perform DNA tests. And when the French government did the tests and identified the remains as Gordon’s, the military refused to accept the results.

In March, after Henry arranged for further testing at UW-Madison and
Pfc. Gordon's nephew in the funeral vault in France where his
uncles remains were exhumed on Sept. 13, 2013.
another laboratory, the Pentagon signaled that it would relent. He said the key was news coverage in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, along with pressure from Congress.

Last week, hundreds of veterans mounted motorcycles and headed for Washington, D.C., dedicating their 26th annual Run for the Wall rally to Gordon.

Henry and members of Gordon’s family plan to travel to France next month to take custody of the remains. They refused the military’s offer of military transport to the usual reception point for war dead, Dover Air Base in Delaware.

Read the full story here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fallen | Rhinelander street named for Sgt. Ryan Adams

From the The Lakeland Times: Armed Forces Day 2014 provided the appropriate backdrop for a brief ceremony Saturday afternoon in Rhinelander.
The name of the street in front of the Wisconsin Army National Guard armory, Military Road, was formally renamed Adams Way, in honor of Rhinelander resident Ryan Adams, who had been a member of the Wisconsin Army Guard's 951st Engineer Company (Sappers) when he was killed in action in Afghanistan on Oct. 2, 2009.
It was his second deployment, the first being to Iraq in 2003.

Photo: The parents of Ryan Adams, Pete (left) and Jalane Adams, at Saturday's ceremony. (By Brian Jopek, The Lakeland Times)

For an update on veterans of the 951stEsprit still strong among soldiers battered in Afghanistan

Veterans | Walker or Burke best on issues?

From the Wisconsin State Journal: Gov. Scott Walker touts all he has done for Wisconsin's veterans since taking office more than three years ago, making it a focus of his re-election efforts as he frequents events around the state with service members.

But some veterans say Walker's refusal to pardon a decorated Iraqi war veteran and support for legislation they oppose show he doesn't have their true interests in mind, an argument that could tarnish the image he presents to patriotic conservatives.

Jason Johns, an Iraqi combat veteran, Republican lobbyist for veterans groups and a former deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs under Walker, said veterans who previously wouldn't think twice about voting for Walker now aren't so sure.

"It's causing people to pause and really look at it," Johns said. "Before it was really easy to say he's nothing but positive for veterans."

Walker's expected Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, has tried to exploit Walker's record on veterans' issues.

"It just seems to me like Walker is far too willing to make decisions that adversely impact the brave men and women who've served our country," Burke said in a statement.

Kosovo | Long arm of Reedsburg High support-the-troops effort

From the Army Capt. Kevin Sandell in Kosovo: 
I’m the commander of the Army’s 11th Public Affairs Detachment, currently deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. One of our print journalists recently completed a story about Jolee Mockler, an art teacher at Reedsburg Area HS, who has sponsored care packages, letters and even her own “Wall of Heroes” for U.S. service members around the world. ... I am actually from Cedarburg, Wisconsin, so this story means a lot knowing that Wisconsinites are avid supporters of the U.S. military. 

ABOVE: Reedsburg High School art teacher Jolee Mockler in front of her ‘Wall of Heroes,’ which showcases service members who send her photos. The wall started in 2006 after some of her former students joined the military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LEFT: Capt. Steven Northrop, battle captain for Kosovo Force's Multinational Battle Group-East and a native of Gulfport, Miss., holds a card, May 2, sent from Jolee Mockler’s class. Northrop found the card pinned to a board while he was cleaning an office after arriving at Camp Bondsteel, and kept it because it reminded him of his family.

The story from Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System: CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – When deployed, the simplest of things can make a service member feel at home and, for one Soldier, a two-year-old card was all he needed.
U.S. Army Capt. Steven Northrop, battle captain for Kosovo Force's Multinational Battle Group-East, found a "butterfly" card pinned to a board while he was cleaning an office after arriving at Camp Bondsteel last February.
He kept it from being thrown away because it reminded him of home.
“The drawing on it reminded me of something that my daughter would draw,” said the Gulfport, Miss., native. “Since we just arrived here, I didn’t have anything to decorate my workspace or my room to remind me of my family so I pulled the card from the board.”
Opening the card, Northrop found out the card was sent from a student at Reedsburg Area High School in Reedsburg, Wis., saying thank you to service members for the sacrifices they make.
Northrop wanted to return the favor.
“I always like it when people take a moment out of their time to just say a simple thank you or an appreciation for what we do,” said Northrop. “On the back was an address, so I sent [the listed teacher’s name] an email telling her I found this card from her students and I would like to say thank you for the recognition that you and your students are giving our men and women in uniform.”
Soon thereafter, he received a response from Jolee Mockler, an art teacher at RAHS, who has sent cards and care packages to deployed troops since 2006.
“It's my mission to give our students the opportunity to tell the troops ‘thank you’ and I've never had a student stay no to making cards,” said Mockler.
Her selfless service doesn’t end there, however, as she also coordinates with local schools in the district to also make cards and collect goods for the troops.
“Every holiday, I send out a district-wide email requesting cards and items,” said Mockler. “The items and cards are sent to me at the high school and we pack and send the care packages to deployed troops.”
Mockler added her drive to keep doing what she does, comes from the responses she gets back from service members around the world.
“We receive so much love and appreciation for the simple act of sending cookies and making cards,” said Mockler.
Many times, photos from the troops accompany their letters, which she puts on a dedicated wall called, ‘Mockler's Wall of Heroes.’
“[The wall] started after Sept. 11, 2001, when some of my former students joined the military,” said Mockler. “I asked them for their military graduation picture and started the wall and it has grown and grown.”
The passion she feels for honoring the troops has become contagious among the students and school staff, and Mockler said she feels it is important to keep supporting service members throughout the world.
“We wouldn't have all the freedoms we do in this great country of ours, if not for our troops, who are willing to sacrifice so much for us,” said Mockler. “We must never forget all that our troops do selflessly for the rest of us back home.”
Both Northrop and Mockler have kept in touch since the initial thank you note was discovered, and Mockler has sent additional letters and boxes to soldiers in the current Kosovo Force rotation. With each deployed unit, she receives new photos and her continued support is there for all to see as her wall of heroes gets bigger and bigger.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5 years after | Wisconsin Guard mobilization to Iraq

In case you missed it. Five years later: Wisconsin National Guard deployment to Iraq.

Five years ago, thousands of Wisconsin factory workers, farmers, students, hamburger cooks and accountants were far from their homes, crossing the desert frontier between Kuwait and Iraq on a historic mission to help bring an unpopular war to a close.

When the Wisconsin National Guard’s largest deployment to a combat zone since World War II ended about eight months later, 3,200 men and women returned with vivid memories of desert heat, blinding sandstorms, extended separation from families and friends, interaction with a foreign culture, and duties that ranged from tedious to harrowing.

They arrived back in Wisconsin amid one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history. Many encountered rough patches reuniting with families. More than a few struggled to slow down to the speed of civilian life after missions that required constant vigilance.

And many brought home new confidence and fresh perspectives after overcoming difficult circumstances overseas, said Lt. Col. Ryan Brown, executive officer for the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which accounted for most of the roughly 4,000 state Guard members on full-time active duty overseas during 2009.

“Deployments change lives,” said Brown, who spent 2009 — his third military deployment — as defense operations chief for the cluster of military bases in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. “For the most part, people come back more prepared to deal with the rest of their lives rather than less prepared. Some will say ‘this is making my life harder,’ but the vast majority are better equipped to deal with life in general.”

Despite the well-documented stress of lengthy mobilizations, the state Guard’s turnover rate stayed at about 15 to 16 percent as deployments grew more frequent during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Brown said.

“Retention is high because we paid some attention to it,” said Col. Tim Lawson, commander of the 32nd IBCT. “We went out of our way to work with employers and families.”

Since 2009, the state Guard’s Madison-based Service Member Support Division has grown, making it able to deliver more assistance to soldiers and families before, during and after deployments, Lawson said.

The division added a job placement service in 2012 when unemployment was running at 10 percent in the 32nd.

Military officials say men and women with experience like overseas deployments are great hires because they have been trained as disciplined leaders and problem solvers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Top rangers | Wisconsin's 1st Lt. Nicholas Plochar helps team to highest finish yet

First Lt. Nicholas Plocar of the Wisconsin Army National Guard navigates a balance beam obstacle over Victory Pond, Fort Benning, Ga., April 11, 2014, during the 31st annual Best Ranger Competition. (Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner)

From Vaughn Larson, Wisconsin National Guard PAO:

FORT BENNING, Ga. - "Ladies and gentlemen, in second place, Team 32 — Capt. Robert Killian, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, Colorado Army National Guard, and 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar, 127th Infantry, Wisconsin Army National Guard."

And with those words from Col. Kyle Lear, commander of the Ranger Training Brigade, the Army National Guard secured its highest finish in the annual Best Ranger Competition.

Of the 50 teams to start the competition April 13 at Fort Benning, Ga., four belonged to the National Guard, and two teams included Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers. Besides Team 32, Team 34 included 1st Lt. Jose Moreno of the Rhode Island Army National Guard and Staff Sgt. William Kocken, also of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry.

Team 34 finished 19th out of the 26 teams to complete the competition. The other two National Guard teams — 35 and 33 — finished in 17th and 11th place, respectively.

"Less than 1 percent of our Soldiers are Ranger qualified," Lear said to open the awards ceremony following the grueling three-day event. "The 26 teams you will see lined up tonight represent the absolute best of that one percent."

This was the third consecutive best Ranger Competition for Plocar, and the experience showed. Team 32 led the competition from the opening event, surrendering the lead only after the Spot Drop event on day three. Plocar and Killian — who were teammates in 2012 — finished strong in the competition's final event, taking the lead in the Buddy Run about one minute into the run and building a considerable lead en route to their first-place finish. But that was not enough to reclaim the lead from the team of second lieutenants from the 25th Infantry Division.

"It's a bittersweet feeling," Plocar acknowledged. "We did so well over the first two days in so many events. To come up short on one event is tough. But it's still a good result, and good for the National Guard."

According to the Best Ranger Competition website, the "average" competitor is 28 years old, 5-foot 10-inches, 165 pounds, Airborne Ranger qualified, a decathlon-caliber athlete, and ranges in age from specialist to major. Just over one in four have competed in the event before.

This was the first Best Ranger Competition for Kocken, who just earned his Ranger tab last year.

"1st Lt. Plocar and I work out together," Kocken said. "He suggested I ask battalion to see if I could take the Best Ranger assessment."

That assessment gauges Soldiers' physical fitness and skill competence, and serves as an audition of sorts to determine who can compete.

"One way to find out how good you are is to go up against the best guys on the planet," Kocken said.

Events each competitor must conquer over the course of 60 hours include a foot march of at least 20 miles while wearing a 60-pound rucksack; a grenade course; the Darby Queen obstacle course; rope climb and rappelling; spot jump; a helocast and swim; a water confidence test slide for life and rope drop; and military skills such as marksmanship, land navigation and communication.

Kocken had mixed feelings over his team's overall finish.

"After Day One we were in second place," he said. "We went into day land navigation and got a little flustered — we ended up getting disqualified from that event, and it was too hard to make up the points. Make one or two small mistakes and it really hurts you."

Plocar noted that few National Guard Soldiers get the opportunity to conduct spot jumps as part of their regular training.

"We were in the top five, top 10 in every event but one," he said. "But it wasn't enough to get first place."

Kocken said the National Guard made a statement at this year's competition.

"A few years ago the National Guard wasn't making it past the second day [of the Best Ranger Competition]," Kocken said. "Now we've got four teams in the top 20 — that says a lot about how far the Guard has come."

Plocar agreed.

"Our Soldiers are top of the line," he said. "They can do the job as good as any Soldier in the Army."

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, deputy adjutant general for Army, shared that sentiment.

"We are unbelievably proud of both 1st Lt. Plocar and Staff Sgt. Kocken in the manner that they represented not only themselves but the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a whole," Anderson said. "This competition is the premier event for Rangers, and to have two Soldiers not only compete in all events but finish so strong is a tremendous reflection of their dedication as Soldiers."

Plocar said that not fulfilling his goal of winning the Best Ranger Competition has kept drawing him back. Kocken, noting the three-month time commitment required to train up and participate in the competition, suggested that this might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him.

"I would love to go back," he said, "but I need to train with my squad, too."

Plocar and Kocken thanked the 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry for supporting them over the past three months, as well as the National Guard and their families.

"Without their support … none of this would have been possible," Plocar said. "It's a very special three days that not a lot of people get to see."

"It's a great experience," Kocken added. "But we covered at least 43 miles on Day One — I'm still finding blisters all over."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hasty Craters | Dodgeville Army unit to compete in Sapper Stakes at Fort McCoy

From the 416th Theater Engineer Command Public Affairs Office just south of the (Wisconsin-Illinois) border:

Seven Army Reserve combat engineers belonging to the 469th Engineer Company, headquartered in Dodgeville, Wis., will compete in the first ever theater-level Sapper Stakes competition in May.
Sapper Stakes will take place at Fort McCoy, Wis., from May 5-8 to select the three best combat engineer teams in the Army Reserve.
Sapper Stakes events have been held before, but never of this size and at this command level in the Reserve.
The 416th Theater Engineer Command, headquartered in Darien, Ill., and the 412th TEC, headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss., are responsible for all of the engineer Soldiers in the Army Reserve, and a combined total of 26,000 Soldiers of various job specialties across the continental U.S.
Approximately 26 teams are expected, with five to seven members each, representing six brigades.
The participating Soldiers are assigned to mobility augmentation companies, route clearance companies, area clearance platoons and engineer battalion headquarters. Sapper Stakes focuses on team cohesion while testing mental and physical stamina of each team member, as well as their tactical and technical skills.
The goal is to include National Guard and Active Duty teams in the future and run the competition annually.
Each team will be tested in the area of physical fitness, ruck marching, knot tying, demolition, hasty road crater, landing zone, in-stride breaching, improvised explosive investigation, reconnaissance, weapon assembly, casualty evacuation, Army warrior skills and rifle marksmanship.

Monday, March 24, 2014

UW grad | Derek Adametz of McFarland, Wi, takes Fighting Tigers helm

From Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clay M. Whaley:

BAHRAIN --  Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 and Commander Task Group (CTG) 57.2 and 47.1, will conduct a Change of Command in Bahrain on April 1.  Cmdr. Derek Adametz, will relieve Cmdr. Todd Libby, as the 66th Commanding Officer of VP-8.

Cmdr. Adametz earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, was commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program in May 1996, and was designated a Naval Aviator in February 1998.

Cmdr. Adametz’ previous squadrons include the ‘Pelicans’ of VP-45 and the ‘Mad Foxes’ of VP-5, both located at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL, and the ‘Grey Knights’ of VP-46 located at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, WA. He was also assigned to the Naval Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard, USS NIMITZ (CVN 68), and the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, CA where he earned a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, with Distinction, and a minor in Applied Physics.

Before reporting to Patrol Squadron 8, Cmdr. Adametz was the Military Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs where he assisted in policy development and execution in the areas of countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, DoD Cyber Security and Space. Cmdr. Adametz will be the 66th Commanding Officer of Patrol Squadron 8.

VP-8 is currently deployed to the United States Navy’s FOURTH and FIFTH Fleet Areas of Responsibility conducting Maritime Security Operations, supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and Countering Transnational Organized Crime.

The event will mark the end of Cmdr. Libby’s second tour as a “Fighting Tiger,” where he previously served as Legal, Readiness and Naval Flight Officer (NFO) Training Officer from 1997 to 2000.  As Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Libby successfully led the “Fighting Tigers” through a challenging Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle while preparing for a multi-site deployment to Bahrain and El Salvador and various detachment sites.  During his tenure as the Commanding Officer, the “Fighting Tigers” have flown 432 sorties and 3,336 mishap-free flight hours. Following the Change of Command, Cmdr. Libby will transfer to the United States Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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