By Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
AL ASAD, Iraq, Jan. 3, 2006 - They mirrored each other growing up. From sports, both playing quarterback for their high school teams, to school, both active in student leadership, to joining the Marine Corps and becoming CH-53 pilots, they are brothers, best friends and Marines.
Now, together at Al Asad, Iraq, Capt. Michael S. Beasley, the intelligence officer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, and his younger brother, 1st Lt. Mark P. Beasley, the morale officer with HMH-466, share the unique experience of flying in the same squadron while deployed to a combat environment.
[caption id="attachment_3196" align="alignleft" width="308"] U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Michael S. Beasley (right), the intelligence officer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, and his younger brother 1st Lt. Mark P. Beasley, the morale officer with HMH-466, are able to share the unique experience of flying in the same squadron while deployed in a combat environment together at Al Asad, Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan[/caption]
We try to eat at least one meal together a day," said Michael, who is serving his second tour in Iraq. "We will catch up on what we have been doing and catch up on brotherly stuff as well. We try and consolidate our phone calls back home and keep everyone updated on how we are doing."
The Beasley brothers are natives of Placerville, Calif.. They said their father Pat Beasley, mother Kathy Beasley and older sister Tara Beasley all share a common interest in aviation."We try to eat at least one meal together a day," said Michael, who is serving his second tour in Iraq. "We will catch up on what we have been doing and catch up on brotherly stuff as well. We try and consolidate our phone calls back home and keep everyone updated on how we are doing."
"When we were kids, our dad flew Cessnas," said Michael. "All of them back home think it's cool we are here together. They are real patriotic and proud of what we are doing."
Michael began his career when he enlisted in the Marine Corps during 1994 as an aircraft recovery specialist. Working airfields by day and going to college at night, he earned his degree and his commission as a pilot through the enlisted commissioning program.
"Seeing Michael graduate from boot camp was inspiring, it got me interested in the Marine Corps," said Mark. "I saw the esprit de corps, the motivation level and the way they pushed physical fitness. As far as compared to the other services, I wanted to join the best."
Mark earned a Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship to Oklahoma University, and upon graduation, joined the Marine Corps. During January 2005, he reported to HMH-466 and joined his brother, who had been there since December 2004.
"We were just lucky to get stationed together," said Michael. "We don't fly together, or even fly in the same section. Imagine having a brother trying to tell you what to do, or trying to keep your focus while worried about what the other is doing."
Lt. Col. John H. Celigoy, the commanding officer of HMH-466, said the Beasleys bring a very positive dynamic to the squadron and the ready room.
"They are both great Marines," said Celigoy. "Since (Michael) is the older brother, they seem to take on that older, younger sibling role. They look out for each other. They have a strong relationship that brings a lot to the squadron. It's our pleasure to have them in the squadron, and an honor to serve with them. "
While Celigoy said it is definitely unique to have two brothers in the same squadron, he said they are professional Marine officers, who never let their personal relationship get in the way of their mission.
"Obviously, there is some risk in our profession," said Celigoy. "I am not willing to place undue burden on one family. This squadron can execute its mission without them flying in the same cockpit. It's also a promise I made to their father before we deployed. I have no intention of breaking a promise made to a Marine's parent."
Around the squadron, the Beasley brothers said Michael is more talkative and Mark is more reserved and quiet. They also said the Marines of HMH-466 who don't see them daily often confuse them. But, they said it doesn't bother them, and Mark said it's good having someone who's a little senior who can give him the inside scoop on how everything works.
"They look like brothers, but they have very different personalities," said Celigoy. "They both strive to be the best pilots and Marines they can be. They also both think they are experts on the subject of football and can often be found debating the final points of the game. (Mark) is a University of Oklahoma graduate. So naturally, he's going through some tough times with the performance of the Sooners lately."
The brothers said it's only natural for them to be flying the same aircraft in the same squadron. They said the Marine Corps is like a family, but it's nice to be in the same squadron with a brother you grew up with. They also said they both have the loves of their lives waiting for them in the United States. Mark is married to Melissa, and Michael is engaged to his girlfriend of six years, Sharice Smart.
They said everyone back home was happy they were able to celebrate the holidays together, and just like when they were children playing football or going to school together, they can depend on each other for anything.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Michael S. Beasley (right), the intelligence officer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, and his younger brother 1st Lt. Mark P. Beasley, the morale officer with HMH-466, are able to share the unique experience of flying in the same squadron while deployed in a combat environment together at Al Asad, Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan
By U.S. Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2005 €“€“ Army National Guard officer Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth did not give a room full of men, including a couple of generals and a legislator from her state of Illinois, any time to feel sorry for her when she was promoted to major on Dec. 21 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
[caption id="attachment_3147" align="alignleft" width="308"] Santa Claus visited newly promoted Illinois Army National Guard Maj. Tammy Duckworth on Dec. 21, 2004, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where she is undergoing treatment after being severely injured in Iraq on Nov. 12. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter that Duckworth was piloting and most of her two legs have been amputated. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell[/caption]
The lady in the wheelchair was too busy swapping stories about flying helicopters, asking about her outfit's 300 or so soldiers still serving in Iraq, and making her point that she plans to continue serving this country. There was no chance for anyone to lament the fact that most of her two legs are missing and that her severely damaged right arm was encased in a hinged splint.
"I hope this is the worst thing that happens to anyone in the 106th during this deployment," the UH-60 Blackhawk pilot smiled warmly on the first day of winter. "This is not so bad. There is always somebody worse off than you are. I'm just glad it was me and not one of my guys out there."The lady in the wheelchair was too busy swapping stories about flying helicopters, asking about her outfit's 300 or so soldiers still serving in Iraq, and making her point that she plans to continue serving this country. There was no chance for anyone to lament the fact that most of her two legs are missing and that her severely damaged right arm was encased in a hinged splint.
Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, and other leaders from the Army Guard's Readiness Center in nearby Arlington, Va., were there. The adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Randal Thomas, and five other Guard members from Illinois were there. So was State Senator Chris Lauzen from Illinois's 25th District.
They gathered in the afternoon, four days before Christmas, to surprise Duckworth with her promotion from captain to major and to present her with an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal. She was presented a Purple Heart on Dec. 3.
Duckworth is a native of Hawaii, and her mother and father flew from their home in Pearl City to spend the holidays with her and her husband. Her brother and members of her husband's family also visited.
Life for Maj. Tammy Duckworth, 36, and her husband, Illinois Army Guard Capt. Bryan Bowlsbey, has changed dramatically since the afternoon of Nov. 12. That's when a rocket propelled grenade hit the chin bubble of the Blackhawk she was piloting in Iraq and exploded between her legs, according to the on-line journal her husband is writing.
Her copilot, from the Missouri Army Guard, landed the crippled Blackhawk before other crewmembers, air ambulance personnel and doctors began working feverishly to save her life, Bowlsbey stated. The helicopter's crew chief, Spc. Kurt Hannemann, from Illinois was apparently hurt but "was listed as not seriously injured," Illinois Guard officials reported.
Duckworth lost half of the blood in her body, said the woman who had served in Iraq with the Illinois Army Guard's 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation, an assault helicopter unit, since last March. All three bones in her right arm were broken but have since been pinned and plated together.
Nearly all of her right leg has been amputated, and she has lost her left leg beneath the knee. Her left leg will be fitted with a prosthesis, and Duckworth is grasping at every hope that she can also be fitted with a right-leg prosthesis, her husband explained, so she can again fly helicopters or fixed-wing airplanes or at least remain in the Army Guard.
"Remaining a soldier is her fall-back position," her husband told a reporter while Duckworth talked and joked with her visitors. "She will try to fly Blackhawks with prostheses after a long recovery period. She will go before a medical review board in six months or a year. Their decision may depend on whether she can pass a physical fitness test."
"It's always a privilege to wear the uniform," said Duckworth who has been assured she can return to her civilian job when she is able, her husband added. She is the manager of Rotary service clubs in the Asian-Pacific area for Rotary International.
Bowlsbey knows the drill because he is also an Army Guard officer, a captain and the commander of Charlie Company, 133rd Signal Battalion. He works fulltime for the Army ROTC program at Northern Illinois University, in De Kalb, where, coincidentally, Duckworth earned her commission in 1992.
She joined the Army Reserve and went to flight school and then joined the Illinois Army Guard in 1996, said her husband of more than 10 years. It is important for her to keep her wings.
No one was betting against the determined woman who had undergone surgery many times by Dec. 21 and who gave every impression of having come a long way in the days since being shot down. She was still learning to maneuver her electrically powered wheelchair because it was only the third time she had been up from her bed since arriving at Walter Reed on Nov. 18.
"We're so proud of one of our finest," praised Lauzen. "My first priority is taking care of soldiers who we are fortunate enough to have come home to us. I'm here to express the love, respect and appreciation of the people of Illinois."
"She is a person of unusual strength and unusual courage and tremendous personal discipline," said Lt. Gen. Schultz. "Just being around her gives you a sense of appreciation for the people who make our Army the organization that it is." Walter Reed is filled with patients and practitioners who accentuate the positive.
"The medical team here has done an incredible job of fixing Tammy so far," Bowlsbey stated. "They did a miracle job of rebuilding her right arm. They reattached her triceps, and they rebuilt all three bones."
Other patients were equally upbeat about their lot.
"I'm doing OK. This could be a lot worse," North Carolina Army Guard Sgt. Dale Beatty, a double amputee, told Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum who visited the medical center on Dec. 15. Beatty's six-month-old son Lucas lay beside him on his bed.
Beatty, with a certain sense of pride, showed his visitors a photo of the Humvee in which he was riding when an antitank mine shredded the front of the vehicle and cost Beatty both legs beneath his knees. President George Bush pinned a Purple Heart to the left sleeve of Beatty's T-shirt, bearing the slogan "Strong to the Finish," on the same afternoon that Duckworth was promoted.
"We saw probably some of the most magnificent Citizen-Soldiers who have ever volunteered to answer the call to colors for this country," said Blum after visiting Beatty and other Guard soldiers. "They are battle wounded, some with life-altering wounds, but their spirit has not been broken. They still have the warrior ethos. They still live the Army values."
That means, in the words of The Soldier's Creed, "I will never accept defeat. I will never quit." It also means, as soldiers frequently say, "driving on."
"In the final analysis, from the time she swore the Oath of Enlistment, ... she has been honored to €˜obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over' her," wrote Bowlsbey in Web journal. "This applies to all lawful orders, and nothing can negate that obligation. She still does not regret that commitment. Tammy has rededicated herself to the mission, chosen some long and short-term goals, and is moving forward."
Distributed by www.SupportOurTroops.org
By U.S. Army Capt. Frank Myers
Gulf Region Division, US Army Corps of Engineers
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 3, 2005 - Leaving Portland in early August to serve as a civilian in Baghdad, Iraq was a sacrifice for Linda Tompkins in a number of ways. Besides her absence from friends and family during the holidays, she also gave up her five-year streak of raising money for breast cancer research as a participant in the Portland to Coast charity walk.
[caption id="attachment_3159" align="alignleft" width="154"] Linda Tompkins left Portland, Oregon in early August to serve as a civilian in Baghdad, Iraq. U.S. Army photo[/caption]
"I've loved being involved in raising awareness and money for breast cancer, but as important as that has been to me, coming [to Baghdad] has been even more important. I really know we're making a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people. The Corps[of Engineers] is building schools and roads and power plants. We're building the whole infrastructure of a new [democracy]."
For the past five years Linda served as a walker and a coordinator for "Christine's Dream Team," a team of twenty eight walkers who all were breast cancer survivors."I've loved being involved in raising awareness and money for breast cancer, but as important as that has been to me, coming [to Baghdad] has been even more important. I really know we're making a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people. The Corps[of Engineers] is building schools and roads and power plants. We're building the whole infrastructure of a new [democracy]."
Eight years ago, Linda discovered she had breast cancer when her doctor called her at her office. She cried the entire twenty-five mile trip to her Portland home, sure she was going to die.
When she arrived home her husband Jim looked down from repairing a roof to see Linda standing in the back yard with tears streaming down her face. He could hear her sobbing and he knew then the mammogram result.
Only six years into their marriage, the couple faced a life or death obstacle, but they faced it together.
"Jim was unbelievably supportive. Would you believe, no matter the sacrifice, he went with me to every single doctor's appointment."
Only a month after her doctor called her with the disturbing news, she went into surgery for a double mastectomy with tram-flap reconstruction. The operation was a complete success. She has had no further signs of cancer.
"I only got the initial exam because my sister had just had her own breast cancer surgery, but I was five years younger and never thought I would get cancer."
"I changed a lot from the experience," Linda says. "Before my breast cancer I was a real wallflower, very shy. After this, I feel free."
Meeting Linda now, you would never know she was once a wall flower. She is a gregarious outgoing red head, but to meet her now, you would have to fly half-way around the world - to a war zone.
"I went to work for the Army Corps of Engineers in 1999. Until coming here [to Baghdad, Iraq] I worked in the Portland District at the Hydroelectric Design Center."
"I started working on the paperwork last summer knowing that the Army needed volunteers to help rebuild Iraq. It took me three months of making arrangements, but last August I flew into this great adventure."
One person glad she is here is her supervisor, in the Real Estate Department, Ann Volz.
"Linda brings an energy and an enthusiasm for our work that really helps. She is aggressive and speaks her mind. She has had to be a quick learner as she has taken on a lot of work outside her specialty. She fills in our gaps and keeps the office together while we conduct our critical mission."
You won't get any argument from the Division Commanding General Thomas Bostick, "Linda works in our Real Estate department helping fulfill a crucial mission. As many construction projects as we have started, we try to ensure every lease of private property is at a fair market value. The Real Estate office works throughout the whole country of Iraq doing this."
When asked about the hardest part of being here, Linda said, "It is hard being here, but [the hardest part is] not the scary rockets or mortars or car bombs. I just spent Christmas without my family and I have two little girls at home that miss their grandmother terribly."
Including Thanksgiving, and with New Year looming, Linda faces her third major holiday away from her family. These are holidays that she didn't have to be in Iraq. Originally, Linda was supposed to go home in time for Christmas. Her original volunteer tour was only for four months.
"But once I got here and got to know some of the local Iraqis, I could see how much our work meant here. That's why I volunteered to stay two more months." Linda's six months in Iraq ends in January with her having missed the cancer walk and the holidays. She feels fulfilled because she feels her priorities are straight.
Linda advocates regular self-exams and early mammograms. She knows the earlier breast cancer is discovered, the better chance of survival a person has.
"If I hadn't had my breast cancer, I would never have had the inner strength to come to this war. I know I am a stronger person for what I have survived. Now I am able to use that strength to help in this struggle. I have so much to be thankful for."
By British Flt. Leader Howard Leader
International Security Assistance Force
KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 5, 2004 €“€“ Two weeks from the end of a four-month tour in Afghanistan, U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Mike Bumpus had the chance to show off his A-10 "Warthog" to a visiting German general.
Lt. Gen. Wolf-Dieter Loser, Deputy Commander Operations on a visit from the Headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force, was keen to see an A-10 up close and spent the afternoon with the 706th Fighter Squadron serving in Afghanistan.
[caption id="attachment_3156" align="alignleft" width="308"] German Lt. Gen. Wolf-Dieter Loser (right) gets a bird's eye view from the cockpit of an A-10 "Warthog" by U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mike Bumpus during the general's recent visit to Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Mike Nicolson[/caption]
At the end of his tour, the general presented Bumpus with a commemorative coin - a fitting end to what Bumpus says has been an exciting tour.
"(The A-10 is) a great aircraft to fly, I always liken it to riding a motorcycle or a sports car, it's responsive and enjoyable" U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Bumpus.At the end of his tour, the general presented Bumpus with a commemorative coin - a fitting end to what Bumpus says has been an exciting tour.
Bumpus, an A-10 flight commander with the "Cajuns" based in New Orleans, is an airline pilot in his civilian job and flying passenger jets for the airlines is a far cry from flying the A-10.
His single-seat ground attack aircraft is no more than a large gun with wings and has worked hard in Afghanistan, affording close air support to all kinds of security operations. Its advanced sensory equipment offers security forces an all-seeing eye in the sky and can track fugitives on the run until they are apprehended.
"It's a great aircraft to fly, I always liken it to riding a motorcycle or a sports car, it's responsive and enjoyable" said Bumpus. "The highlight of this tour for me has been the chance to work closely with the other units here.
"In the main, our role is to look after our guys, and serving here has been a real privilege."
But the work is by no means straight forward.
"The altitude, mountains, dust and extremes of weather are in themselves very challenging," he said. "The conditions make you work hard and I think we're all better pilots for the experience."
By Petty Officer 3rd Class Derrick M. Ingle
USS Wasp Public Affairs
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) - Picture yourself working in a small southern town with no job stability and your highest education is a high-school equivalency diploma. You've never been academically inclined, and your only skills are fixing parts and chopping wood.
[caption id="attachment_3587" align="alignleft" width="308"] USS Wasp sailors wait patiently to purchase an autographed copy of Petty Officer 1st Class John Heatherly's debut book entitled "Earth Whispers." The book of poetry includes more than 100 poems offering Heatherly's views on life, death, love, and earth. Wasp is undergoing maintenance at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. U.S. Navy photo by Signalman 3rd Class Derrick Ingle[/caption]
For some people, such a scenario doesn't exactly illustrate a promising future. Don't utter that to 14-year Navy veteran and author Petty Officer 1st Class John G. Heatherly II, however.
After a year and a half of pouring his thoughts on paper, this Navy aviation structural mechanic hit the market with his debut book entitled "Earth Whispers."
The book of poems includes more than 100 pieces offering Heatherly's philosophical glimpse of life, love, death and Earth. It also contains an underlying message on how looking past the odds helped him succeed.
"If someone would've told me I was going to be a published poet in high school, I would've never believed it," said Heatherly, a native of Brooklyn, Miss. "I also wouldn't have believed I was going to do 14 years in the Navy. I saw myself chopping pork wood the rest of my life. It just shows you can do whatever you want, if you just get up and do it. I used to just write for myself; now I'm an author."
Heatherly's early misperception of himself was partly credited to southern Mississippi's agricultural-driven economy and dropping out of high school.
"Writing poetry is second nature, yet in school, I couldn't write anything," Heatherly mentioned. "From eighth grade through high school, I was placed in remedial classes. I was always a slow learner. I have more of a mechanical mind. Because of it, I lost patience and dropped out."
When he's not juggling metaphors and rhyme schemes, Heatherly works as one of the ship's leading aircraft mechanics. While underway, he works long hours fixing and rebuilding pistons, shafts and hydraulic lines.
While deployed for half of 2002 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Wasp carried various jets and helicopters. Heatherly labored long hours making sure both the ship's aircraft and his book were ready for take off.
"During my off time, I researched information on copyrights, Library of Congress and publishing," said the 34-year-old. "Publishing was the most difficult. Most publishers were reluctant to touch poetry. I was constantly rejected. Sales revenues show poetry isn't in high demand. They were only interested in fiction.
"Finally, I hooked up with a publisher who let me illustrate and design my own cover. They're promoting it on the Internet. The next step is to get it on shelves."
According to loved ones, Heatherly has always been the mountain man, Paul Bunyan type. Family members were stunned when they discovered the country boy from Mississippi's back woods had more to offer than just slaying trees.
"I couldn't believe what I was reading," exclaimed Heatherly's father, John Heatherly. "I don't know where he gets his talent from. His mother and I found out about his poetry at his grandfather's funeral two years ago. They were extremely close, and so he wanted to write the eulogy. It was beautiful. From then on, we encouraged him to keep writing."
Aside from his grandfather, Heatherly credits his inspiration to his yearning for freedom. He feels so shackled that he already has two more projects in the making.
"The follow up to 'Earth Whispers' is due out next summer," said Heatherly. "I have 30 poems completed so far. Also, I'm writing a novel on mountain men. I'm writing more now because I desire to be free. Writing frees me from the constraints and obligations of the world."