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Army 1st Lt. Jessica Larson, a physician assistant with 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, treats an Iraqi child during a one-day, combined U.S.â€“Iraqi medical clinic in Kubaysah, Iraq, June 6, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Katie Summerhill[/caption] AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraqâ€“ During a clinical rotation at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, physician assistant student Jessica Larson made up her mind to join the Army.
At the Center for the Intrepid, Larson worked with severely wounded warriors, and from them she drew a singular inspiration.â€œThey were still proud to be in the Army, and they were working really hard to rehabilitate themselves and to do the best they had with what they had,â€Â said Larson, now a physician assistant and a first lieutenant with the 82nd Airborne Divisionâ€™s 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, deployed in Iraq since August 2009.â€œâ€˜This is what life dealt me; this is what I am working with, and now itâ€™s time for me to move on. There is no feeling sorry for yourself here.â€™ That was the attitude that all the soldiers had,â€Â Larson said. â€œIt was really inspiring.â€Â At age 28, with years invested in a career designing airports for domestic and international markets, Larson, a Chicago native, decided she wanted more than a big paycheck and a corner office. â€œI asked myself, if I could start over and do anything at all, what would I do? And I realized that Iâ€™ve always wanted to be in medicine and never had the guts to try it,â€Â she said. Of all the career options, medicine was the one thing that resonated and stuck, Larson said. However, the Army was never part of the plan until she â€œmet someone who knew someoneâ€Â during PA school clinical rotations. The Army intrigued her, but Larson wanted to be sure she could handle being around the worst of combat injuries before committing. She recalled being deeply impressed by the bravery and stoicism of the severely wounded soldiers, including amputees, sheâ€™d met. â€œThat is when I made my decision to join the Army,â€Â Larson said. â€œIf these guys could give up multiple limbs for their country, the least I could do was to give three years of my life.â€Â Not too long after that, the newly-minted PA found herself caring for the soldiers of an airborne logistics unit, the 307th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed in Iraqâ€™s largest and historically most volatile province, al Anbar. â€œI found that in the military, I was catering to a completely different population than I thought I would be,â€Â said Larson, who initially wanted to practice international medicine in areas with little access to medical care, such as Africaâ€™s Swaziland. â€œMy guys â€“ the guys I treat â€“ are convoy security, and thatâ€™s not a very â€˜sexyâ€™ job and not often glorified. I really enjoy taking care of them,â€Â she said. â€œEven though itâ€™s not humanitarian aid in Africa, I feel like itâ€™s an incredibly worthy cause. I am very satisfied with it.â€Â As it turns out, through the advise-and-assist mission of professionalizing Iraqi security forces in Anbar, Larson also gets to care for people who might otherwise never receive medical attention. The U.S. paratroopers, she said, have sponsored temporary medical clinics for the poorer, more rural towns and villages up and down the western Euphrates River Valley in partnership with the Iraqi army, police and local doctors. Often, hundreds of ailing Iraqis, she noted, receive medical treatment at the clinics each day. Larson said some of her soldier-comrades are puzzled as to why she left her corner office and high-paying job for the Army. â€œI donâ€™t miss my former lifestyle at all,â€Â she emphasized. â€œI was miserable, and Iâ€™m not miserable now.â€Â She tells her younger medics that knowing what you donâ€™t want to do is just as important as knowing what you want to do. Donâ€™t do things just for the money and donâ€™t choose things because they are easy, she counsels them. When Larson joined the Army, she recalled, her mother was shocked, and cried. â€œMy mom was like, â€˜What are you doing? You are going to deploy. You could get hurt,â€™â€Â Larson said. â€œBut now my mother is the most ridiculously proud woman on the planet.â€Â The daily challenge of medicine, Larson said, is what keeps her enthused in her job. And, she added, unlike some other occupations, there always is more to learn in medicine. â€œItâ€™s worth it to me,â€Â Larson said. â€œItâ€™s an honor serving these guys who are fighting for us and out there doing the grunge work.â€Â July 15, 2010: By Army Sgt. Michael MacLeod- 1st Brigade, 82d Airborne Division Public Affairs Office
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Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nelson "Gene" Blakey of Moweaqua, Ill., retired in June 2010 after 56 years of service with the Illinois Army National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Camacho[/caption] SPRINGFIELD, Ill.,â€“ A young man working on a farm in Illinois decided to enlist in the National Guard in March 1953 after he received a challenge from his friend and employer.
The Korean Warâ€™s cease-fire was near, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower had just started his first term in office.Many things have changed since then, but one thing didnâ€™t change: the young manâ€™s commitment to serve his country. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nelson "Gene" Blakey of Moweaqua, Ill., retired June 1 after 56 years in the Illinois National Guard. "I don't think we will ever find anyone to replace him," said Army Sgt. Maj. Donnie R. Parker of Lincoln, Ill. "I think we can find someone who can do the job -- we have personnel in the office who are covering down on the things that he was responsible for and are getting things done -- but as far as the person, I do not think you will ever find anyone who will compare with the person that Mr. Blakey is." Blakey started his military career working in a U.S. Property and Fiscal Office warehouse here. He progressed through the ranks to sergeant major, and then from chief warrant officer 2 to chief warrant officer 4. Blakey hung up his boots and retired as a traditional Illinois National Guardsman in 1994, but he continued to work for the military as a state employee for 16 more years. Although he has experienced many things throughout his career, Blakey said, his last position was his most enjoyable. "My most rewarding position was the last job I had working in the personnel department, because I was able to help enlisted people," he said. "If they had a problem and could not get it solved within their unit, I would try to help get it solved. I worked there from 1975 until I retired." Others attest to Blakey's passion and ability to help soldiers solve problems. "Mr. Blakey, in the time that I worked with him, was a person that was very interested and concerned with taking care of soldiers," Parker said. "He would go out of his way to do whatever needed to be done to see that the soldiers were being taken care of in a way they should be. He was a very humble, outgoing person who was willing to assist in any way possible, whether it was part of his job description or not." While Blakey's career nearly spanned the length of three 20-year military careers, he said he continued to serve in the Illinois National Guard because of his friends and family. His wife, Bonnie Blakey, also is retired from the Illinois National Guard."My family has been supportive of me," Blakey said. "My wife retired in 1999, and her support and involvement has been very important. If your family knows what you are doing, they stay with you and help you through everything." Most people working at Camp Lincoln here knew Blakey, and many others throughout the state connected with him during their careers as well. "He definitely had the ability to mix his professional career with friendships," said Ray Perry of Springfield, personnel support officer for the Illinois National Guard and a retired colonel with the Illinois Army National Guard. "I always enjoyed making my morning rounds and getting the latest news or thought for the day from him,â€Â Perry said. â€œHe always had the ability to put a smile on your face." Although Blakey has retired, he does not look to take it easy. Instead, he is focusing his attention on things that need to be improved around his house. "I will have horses to take care of, along with house and barn work to do," he said. "I will not slow down. I will keep going as long as I can." July 14, 2010: By Army Sgt. Jesse Houk- 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment ***SOT***
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Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Joint Task Force 435 commander, administers the oath of commissioning to his nephew, Navy Ensign Ian Kriegish, via video teleconference in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 9, 2010. Kriegish is a third-generation sailor in the family to serve as an officer. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. Oâ€™Brien[/caption] KABUL, Afghanistanâ€“ One of the Navyâ€™s newest officers joined the ranks in a unique way July 9 when he received his commissioning oath via video teleconference from his uncle, a Navy vice admiral who commands a joint task force in Afghanistan.
The commissioning of Ensign Ian Kriegish by Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Joint Task Force 435 commander, marked the beginning of the third generation of his family to serve as an officer in the Navy. â€œWe are all very proud of you -- proud of you for what youâ€™re doing,â€Â Harward told his nephew. â€œYouâ€™re taking on this obligation when weâ€™re at war, and youâ€™ll serve while weâ€™re at war. Thereâ€™s no greater purpose that you could have in life, so go out and serve the fleet well.â€Â Harward introduced Kriegish to the Navy. As a recent honors graduate from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Kriegish was undecided about his future. But a visit to his uncleâ€™s home in Norfolk, Va., changed that. â€œWhen he was visiting me in Norfolk, he didnâ€™t know what he wanted to do,â€Â Harward said. â€œI live near the [aircraft] carrier, so we just walked over and walked on some of the ships. We talked to some young kids who were just junior officers. He decided that joining seemed interesting, so he applied.â€Â After finding out that he had aced the entry test and had been accepted to become an intelligence officer, Kriegish began Officer Candidate School. â€œWhen he applied, he wanted intel, so he was excited to be accepted by them and to have that be what heâ€™s going to do for the next few years,â€Â Harward said. After receiving his commission, Kriegish was congratulated by his attending family and his video-teleconferencing uncle. â€œCongratulations, Ensign Kriegish,â€Â the admiral said. â€œI just wish I could be there to be your first salute.â€Â After a small talk with the family, Harward offered a parting, â€œGo get â€™em, Ensign Kriegish,â€Â as he sent his nephew to join the fleet. Joint Task Force 435 assumed responsibility for U.S. detention operations -- including the care and custody of detainees at the detention facility in Parwan -- oversight of detainee review processes, programs for the peaceful reintegration of detainees into society, and coordination with other agencies and partners for the promotion of the rule of law in Afghanistan. July 13, 2010: By Air Force Senior Airman William A. Oâ€™Brien- Joint Task Force 435
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Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Butler served 12 years in the Marine Corps before becoming an instructor for the Texas Air National Guard's Desert Defender Air Force Regional Training Center in El Paso, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith[/caption] EL PASO, Texas â€“ Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Butler is a former Marine whoâ€™s now serving here as an instructor with the Texas Air National Guard.
"I absolutely love my job down here and the guys I work with," Butler said about serving with the 204th Security Forces Squadron, which operates the Desert Defender Air Force Regional Training Center.Butler is putting the combat knowledge he gained through his Marine Corps service to use by preparing active duty, Air Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command security forces airmen for area security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their training includes mounted operations on armored vehicles, dismounted patrols, counterinsurgency operations, and sniper and countersniper operations. Butler provides his students with some Marine Corps-style confidence-building during their nearly 50 days of intense training. "I tell them up front, 'I'm going to push you to your limits, as far as I can possibly push you,' and that's what we do," he said. "Coming out of here, they learn a valuable lesson, whether it's how much they can stand, or who can stand the heat and who needs to be trained a little bit more." The Guard is well known for its soldiers and airmen who bring civilian expertise as well as prior service knowledge to a mission. Butler said the real-life experiences of all the Guard instructors help in developing scenarios that show students what they will encounter when theyâ€™re deployed. Butler joined the Air Guard after serving 12 years in the Marine Corps and two years with Air Force Reserve Command, which brought him to the Texas Guard on a temporary duty assignment. "I had no intentions when I came to this unit of joining the Guard until I came down here," he said. Since he joined, the schoolhouse has grown to become an Air Force-certified, regional facility with new buildings, classrooms and the latest military equipment. "We put our heads together and based off of that and what the [Air Force] Security Forces Center requires us to teach, [we] roll that all into one training package," he said. Butler works with 39 other instructors, including other Marine Corps and Army combat veterans, former police officers and other experienced Guardsmen. "The drive, the desire to do good and teach these deploying defenders is in every single one of the cadre,â€Â said Air Force Lt. Col. Carl Alvarez, the squadron and training center commander. â€œWe all give a 110 percent every day to these students." Alverez said experience "outside the wire" in the combat theater is an important element the instructors bring to the table. "The cadre has fired their weapons in theater,â€Â he said. â€œThey have seen it, they have done it, and that is what we are best suited to [teach]." July 9, 2010: By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith-National Guard Bureau