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Meet Your Military: Colonel Beats Cancer, Soars High

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.,– Air Force Col. Michael Stapleton has come a long way since being diagnosed with cancer in 2006 while serving as 43rd Fighter Squadron commander here.
Now the 49th Fighter Wing Operations Group commander at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Stapleton recalled that he didn’t realize at first that his illness was serious."I had what appeared to be the stomach flu, and was feeling very weak,” he said. “I went to the doctor and was thinking I was dehydrated and I needed to kick the flu in order to get back on the flying schedule.”But the flight doctor thought it was more than the flu and decided to check Stapleton’s blood. “He started us down the right path due to his attentiveness and thoroughness,” the colonel said. “In his words, I just didn't look like myself. Score the first save for Air Force medicine." The blood test revealed that Stapleton’s red and white blood cell levels were about half of normal. "We chased a lot of things until finally we checked my bone marrow," Stapleton said. "My wife, Christine, a nurse practitioner and former Air Force nurse, was insistent on the bone marrow biopsy from the start. Another save by Air Force medicine. That is when we found out I had myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of bone marrow cancer found in older populations. “The patient advocate at Tyndall made the rest happen,” he continued, “and I was off to Houston for medical treatment. Again, another Air Force save." He was diagnosed with cancer Aug. 8, 2006. "My experience with the military medical system was awesome," he said. "I had a local hematologist/oncologist who managed my case, and Tricare sent me to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston for treatment." The Houston facility is a center of excellence for a number of cancers, and is one of the leading hospitals for bone marrow transplants, which is the only recognized cure for MDS. The Tricare military health system provides some of the best medical care available, Stapleton said. "Whenever you or your dependents are seriously ill, you should become familiar with the Tricare case manager system," he said. "Also, make sure you get to know your patient advocate and your primary care manager very well.” Tricare has a second opinion system that works to the benefit of patients who are smart about their disease or condition and know where its centers of excellence are, he said. “You need to get smart and be your own advocate,” he added. “If you do, the Tricare system works extremely well. You don't need a medical degree. You need the Internet and the phone number of your patient advocate. It's a great system, and I am extremely thankful for it." A new drug caused Stapleton's cancer to go into remission. "While waiting for a bone marrow donor match, I was prescribed a new drug called Revlimid," he said. "In four months, I was in remission and did not have to undergo the bone marrow transplant. It's a miracle, if you ask me. It's not a recognized cure, but it is a new lease on life that I do not intend to waste." The colonel was considered cancer-free on Nov. 23, 2006, and was able to return to flying status. "I'm lucky and had better not waste this chance," Stapleton said. "I also felt a sense of responsibility to make this work. Of course, I was also very happy that I would fly again. Oddly enough, being healthy was and is still more important to me." Stapleton offered advice for those facing cancer for the first time. "Get smart, get tough and keep your faith," he said. "Some of us are made to be fighters, and cancer is our challenge. Your attitude and priorities are extremely important. And don't settle for a doctor. Get the best. Tricare will get them for you, and there are more out there than you may think. “Get smart on the new drugs and studies at university hospitals,” he continued. “There are lots of support organizations out there too. You are not in this alone." The cancer experience did not change his convictions, the colonel said, and several things helped him get through this illness. "Although faith is a fairly private issue for me, I was raised and continue to be a dedicated Catholic," he said. "Cancer didn't change that part of my life. It energized it for me and my family. Somehow, it also made my hair gray. I think it has helped me galvanize my priorities." But his faith wasn’t all that got him through it. "Everything about my life helped me get through this: my faith, my family, the Air Force and the Panama City community where I was diagnosed," he said. "I don't recommend cancer to anyone, but I have to tell you it was definitely a positive experience for me. It sounds crazy, but this has been one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a lot about myself, and have come to rely on my family a lot more." Stapleton’s Air Force friends rallied around him during his illness. "So many people supported us during the tougher times," he said. "It was truly an uplifting experience. I think being in Panama City had a lot to do with the miraculous nature of my remission. People from just about every church in the area were praying for us. I can't describe how good I felt, but 'eternally thankful' is a start." Stapleton said he knows that flying is a privilege, and that at one point during his cancer fight he thought flying was a distant memory. "I am very thankful for the chance to fly again," he said. "I am flying F-22 [Raptors] and T-38 [Talons] routinely, and under instructor supervision, I have had the chance to get into the MQ-1 [Predator] and MQ-9 [Reaper] operations. Our operators and maintainers on the flightline continue to impress at every chance. I will admit, however, that the best part is to be back on the team of airmen who work so hard to fix and fly our aircraft. Our nation is blessed to have their service, and their dedication to the mission inspires and motivates me to no end." Life continues to be "ops normal" for the colonel and his family. "I still tend to run short in the 'patience' category of leadership, and still absolutely love the Air Force," Stapleton said. "The airmen we serve with today are the best of the best -- complete patriots, truly inspirational. Serving with them is one of the best experiences life has to offer. "My children have gotten older, my wife has gotten younger, and I continue to seek opportunities to make life a little better for others,” he continued. “I feel like my time is running short and that I owe so much for the chance to be well again." The future still holds many bright surprises, he noted. "I will move this summer, likely to a staff job," Stapleton said. "If it's like any other job I've had in the Air Force, I will love it. I can say with absolute certainty that I will miss Holloman." The importance of faith, family and friends when facing something like this cannot be understated, he said. "I will forever be indebted to those who fed, supported and prayed for me and my family," the colonel said. "This experience has impacted my family in so many ways I can't explain. I think my kids have a better dad, for one, and I realize that each day is a gift." (Air Force Maj. Veronica Kemeny serves in the 325th Fighter Wing public affairs office.) Dec. 9, 2009: By Air Force Maj. Veronica Kemeny- Special to American Forces Press Service ***SOT***

Meet Your Military: Soldier Seeks to Reclaim Boxing Title

[caption id="attachment_3636" align="alignleft" width="128"]SoldierSeeksTo2 Army Spc. Wenderson Jangada, right, trains Army Sgt. Justin Albers to box at Forward Operating Base Ubaydi, Iraq, Dec. 5, 2009. A former Brazilian heavyweight champion boxer who became a U.S. citizen just prior to deploying with the 82nd Airborne Division, Jangada plans to return to the professional boxing circuit when his enlistment expires in 2010. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3637" align="alignleft" width="250"]SoldierSeeksTo Army Spc. Wenderson Jangada mans a machine gun in a guard tower at Forward Operating Base Ubaydi, Iraq, Dec. 5, 2009. A former Brazilian heavyweight champion boxer who became a U.S. citizen just prior to deploying with the 82nd Airborne Division, Jangada plans to return to professional boxing when his enlistment expires in 2010. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod[/caption] FORWARD OPERATING BASE UBAYDI, Iraq– For the woman he loved, he became a paratrooper in the vaunted 82nd Airborne Division and eventually a U.S. citizen. With his enlistment nearly up, 6-foot, 5-inch, 230-pound Army Spc. Wenderson Jangada is ready to return to his home country of Brazil to reclaim the title of heavyweight boxing champion.
Jangada deployed to Iraq’s Anbar province in August as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, a unit whose battle campaign streamers from World War II read like a Stephen Spielberg movie script: Sicily, Anzio, Normandy, and the Ardennes.It is a fitting unit for a former boxing champion who has fought and trained with boxers from Argentina, Russia, and most of Europe.“I learn from them all -- some good, some bad. The Russians just want to kill you,” he said with a laugh.Though Jangada’s enlistment expires in early 2010, he expects to be extended through late autumn, allowing him to complete the current deployment. “I will take a couple months off, then I will train to fight again,” said the 2001/2002 Transcontinental heavyweight champ. “Perhaps I will take my titles back.” At 34 in the sport of boxing, Jangada is a mature practitioner, though he has friends who have boxed professionally into their 40s. “If the boxing doesn’t work out, I will open a gym with my friend Daniel Silva,” he said. Jangada is considering Chicago, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Ind., as possible locations. “I am a better trainer than a boxer,” he said. “Training a boxer is a puzzle. It’s like building a house. Everyone starts too fast. I started too fast, but I learned.” Jangada began his career as a muay thai fighter in the same Brazilian gym that spawned mixed martial-arts greats Wanderlei and Anderson Silva. But that’s not for him, Jangada said. “Boxing is a noble art. It’s a classic. Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali are classics. Besides, I have heavy hands,” he said, referring to his 38 knockouts. Recently promoted from private first class to specialist, Jangada is stationed here, 10 miles from the Syrian border, where paratroopers are partnered with Iraqi border enforcement troops. In his time off, Jangada coaches his battle buddies in the art of boxing. “They have heart here in the Army, much more than civilians,” he said. Army 1st Lt. Christopher Hollingsworth, Jangada’s platoon leader from Ennis, Texas, takes advantage of Jangada’s boxing mentorship whenever he can. The former Special Forces operator and medic from 3rd Special Forces Group said he would be stupid not to take advantage of such world-class talent. “The training he did with such a wide range of top boxers makes him a great instructor,” Hollingsworth said. “We are constantly trying to pick his brain.” Noting the great progress Iraqi security forces have made in Anbar province, Jangada said the deployment is quieter than he had expected. “Infantry is like boxing. We are fighters. We are the war dogs. We expected to find more action, but this is not the case. But then, I am glad to see nobody hurt,” he said. His wife, Susan, a former professional volleyball player, moved back to Indiana to be near family until her husband returns from Iraq. On the night of Oct. 24, Jangada was manning a guard tower. It was dark and cold, and the pouring rain had turned the “moondust” on the base into deep, sticky gumbo. A soldier brought him a note from the Red Cross. The details: Fergeson Jangada, born Oct. 24 in Bluffington, Ind., 8 pounds, 12.3 ounces, 21 inches, mother and baby doing fine. Susan likes the Army for the stability and health benefits, said Jangada, who is still considering re-enlistment. “His top end is unlimited,” Hollingsworth said. “If he chooses to stay in the Army, he can do whatever he wants.” In the meantime, he has eight months left in the deployment to be the best paratrooper he can be, he said. “Sometimes we love it; sometimes we hate it, but we can never forget it,” Jangada said. “No matter what I do when I get out, serving in the 82nd Airborne Division is something I’m going to bring with me forever.” (Army Spc. Michael J. MacLeod serves in the Multinational Force West public affairs office.) Dec. 8, 2009: By Army Spc. Michael J. MacLeod- Special to American Forces Press Service ***SOT***

Meet Your Military: Guard Wife Spreads Thanksgiving Spirit

[caption id="attachment_3674" align="alignleft" width="167"]GuardWifeSpreads Army Spc. Christopher Bailey, his wife, Amanda, and children are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving together during Bailey’s rest and relaxation leave from his deployment in Iraq. Ardmore, Ala., November 2009. Courtesy photo[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3675" align="alignleft" width="128"]GuardWifeSpreads2 Amanda Bailey and her fellow family readiness group members from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 203rd Military Police Battalion, conduct a fundraiser for Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts for their deployed troops and families during the holidays, Ardmore, Ala., November 2009. Courtesy photo[/caption] WASHINGTON – Amanda Bailey has a lot to thankful for this Thanksgiving, with her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Bailey home from Iraq for rest and relaxation leave. And as head of his National Guard unit’s family readiness group, she’s helped to galvanize a communitywide show of appreciation for families of its deployed troops.
 Bailey, a military policeman with the Alabama Army National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 203rd Military Police Battalion, returned home to Ardmore, Ala., earlier this week for 15 days of R&R. “It’s fantastic,” Amanda said of the timing, five months into her husband’s first deployment since joining the Guard six years ago. The Baileys and their three children will enjoy two Thanksgiving feasts this year: one today with Specialist Bailey’s family, and another on Thanksgiving Day with Amanda’s family.Meanwhile, the detachment’s family readiness group has been hard at work, ensuring every unit family whose loved one is deployed has a memorable Thanksgiving, as well.With its families spread throughout Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, getting together to celebrate as a group wasn’t a viable option, Amanda said. So the family readiness group initiated the next best thing, sponsoring fundraising events and gathering donations from the local community and corporations.As a result, 53 Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment families received gift certificates for a Thanksgiving turkey or ham. Already looking ahead to Christmas, Amanda said she expects an even bigger outpouring of support for the families of all 85 deployed soldiers. “The response from the community has been really amazing,” she said. “People out there all want to help and show their support.” One donor made a $500 contribution and wants to begin offering monthly assistance to some of the needier families, she said. Bailey, still fighting jet lag from his flight home from Iraq, said he’s passed word of the family readiness group’s activities to his unit members. “It’s a great feeling to know that people are doing these little extra things,” he said. “It means a lot.” In addition to gift certificates, Amanda signed each of the 85 families up to receive free copies of a children’s Thanksgiving activity book through Operation Thanksgiving Eagle. The program, sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army and underwritten by BAE Systems and Raytheon, provided 500 copies of “It’s a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition for Children and Their Families” to military children stateside and overseas. The book, written by Deborah Fink, introduces young readers and their families to the history, foods and traditions associated with Thanksgiving, while recognizing families separated during the holiday because of deployments. “We at AUSA believe that projects such as this are important ways to draw Army families together and celebrate our history,” said John Grady, AUSA’s public affairs director. Nov. 25, 2009: By Donna Miles- American Forces Press Service ***SOT***

Meet Your Military: Wounded Warrior Begins Second Career

[caption id="attachment_3668" align="alignleft" width="250"]WoundedWarriorBegins Erik Stewart discusses preparations for an upcoming higher-headquarters assessment with Ward Philips at Fort Riley, Kan., Nov. 6, 2009. Stewart was a soldier in Fort Riley's warrior transition battalion who transitioned to a civilian career with the Fort Riley garrison. U.S. Army photo by Alison Kohler[/caption] FORT RILEY, Kan. A former soldier who spent about 16 months in the warrior transition battalion here now looks forward to a rewarding career as an Army civilian.
Former Army Capt. Erik Stewart advises other warriors in transition not to rush the process."Make sure you're healthy and as whole as you can be," Stewart said. "It's all about your attitude. If you have a positive attitude and you work with the doctors, it goes well."Stewart, 38, from Wakefield, Kan., currently on leave, saw his Army career of more than 19 years officially end Nov. 18. He now has a promising future ahead of him working in the plans, mobilization, training and security directorate here as an emergency management specialist.Stewart uses his 15 years of experience as a military police officer and four years as an engineer in his new job. "There's some stuff I'm still learning, but the emergency management aspect of it, it works out," he said. The married father of four said he spent a lot of time looking before he landed the GS-12 civil service position. Learning to navigate the online civil service application process was tough, he acknowledged. "In the Army, you get orders [and] you show up,” he said. “You don't have to bring your accomplishments with you. You don't have to worry about that in the military. That was stressful." His civilian job has him preparing emergency management plans and, if necessary, assisting in emergency response. He’s in charge of Fort Riley's Ready Army program, currently concentrating on the post’s management of H1N1 flu. Though he misses the Army’s unit camaraderie, he said, working as a civilian has its advantages. "No more deployments, and no more alerts,” he said. “[You] come home every weekend and every night.” Stewart was wounded by a roadside bomb in the tenth month of his third deployment. For a while, he tried to tough it out, he said. "I got to where I was trying to get in and out of a vehicle and I couldn't do it, and I was in pain all the time - my back, my groin, my head and my arm,” he said. “I was having trouble holding on to my rifle, and I couldn't wear my gear without my back or my groin hurting. I was having trouble concentrating." He was sent here through the Army’s regional medical center at Landstuhl, Germany, and was assigned to the warrior transition battalion. "[I was] scared at first, because I've been doing this since high school,” he said. “When I first got there, I was just going to appointments, and that was OK at first, because I had been gone for like 39 months with deployment, home, deployment, home. Then I realized I was bored; I needed to find something to do." He tried to take college classes, but ended up having to withdraw three times, he said, because he couldn't focus and study. Stewart completed an unpaid internship with a nature center and looked into a welding program at a technical college. His wife mentioned looking for a job on Fort Riley, so he began to learn about applying for civil service positions. Though he expected a long wait after he interviewed for his current position, he said, he was selected the following day, and he has been on the civilian payroll since September. He advises other warriors in transition to make a plan, including financial plans, for what they need to have and where they will be in three months and in five years. "They can't just [say], 'I'm going to get out and live at my folks' house’, or ‘I'm going to move home,'” he said. That's not a plan." But before they make plans for life after the Army, Stewart said, soldiers should first get all the help they need. "Don't get out just to get away from it all," he advised. Most importantly, he added, warriors in transition need to take a step back when everything seems overwhelming. "It's easy to get caught up in 'Woe is me,' and it's easy to go to the dark, depressed place,” he said. “Take a big problem and break it down. It's like a wall, but if you take it down a brick at a time, eventually the wall's gone." (Alison Kohler works in the Irwin Army Community Hospital public affairs office at Fort Riley.) Nov. 24, 2009: By Alison Kohler: Special to American Forces Press Service ***SOT***

Meet Your Military: Contracts Manager Retires After 38 Years

[caption id="attachment_3663" align="alignleft" width="250"]ContractsManagerRetires Pamela Day, who retired Nov. 19 after 38 years of civilian service with the military, most recently as director of Depot-Level Reparable Procurement Operations for Defense Logistics Agency Ogden, speaks to family, friends and co-workers during her retirement ceremony at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Air Force photo by James Arrowood[/caption] HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – There's a pair of shoes at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base that will be hard to fill. They once belonged to Pamela Day, who retired last week after 38 years of federal service.
Day, who most recently served as director of depot-level reparable procurement operations for Defense Logistics Agency-Ogden, was recognized during a Nov. 19 retirement ceremony at Hill Aerospace Museum.“Finding a professional contracting manager who is Pam’s equal in federal government will be difficult, to say the least,” said Yvette Burke, acquisition executive for DLA’s aviation demand and supply chain, Defense Supply Center Richmond, Va. DLA Ogden is the forward arm of the Richmond supply center at Hill. “Her knowledge, experience, dedication and enthusiastic approach have been invaluable assets throughout her career, and they have been of immeasurable benefit to the warfighters she dedicated her life to supporting.”Burke praised Day for her leadership and willingness to take on challenging missions and accomplish them based on her understanding and steadfast support of America’s military men and women. “After all, the first breath Pam ever took in this world was on a military installation,” Burke said, noting that Day was born at Alameda Naval Station in California while her father served in the Navy. “But at heart, Pam is a Utah girl through and through—she was raised in Clinton, graduated from Clearfield High School, and earned her undergraduate degree from Weber State and Park College.” Day began working for the federal government as a supply clerk at the Bureau of Reclamation in 1971 and later became a purchasing agent. Recalling that first job and her subsequent Air Force career, Day said, “I learned that it takes longer to process an environmental statement than it does to complete a source selection – amazing.” In 1976, Day entered the contracting field and began working for the Air Force at Hill, where she has been ever since. She has served in a variety of positions, including contract negotiator; contracting officer; chief of the commodities, services and construction branches in operational contracting; chief of the aircraft contracting division; and as chief of contracting for the aircraft and commodities sustainment wings. Day distinguished herself on numerous successful department programs, including her work on the Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements contract – a pilot program – and the $450 million, multiple-award Remedial Action Contract program. She was an instrumental leader in the A-76 Consolidated Study involving 1,200 full-time employees at Ogden Air Logistics Center. Day played a key role in the $13 billion F-16 Sustainment Contract, managed the first strategic sourcing contract at Hill, and supervised the Decentralized Design Engineering Support Contract – a complex multiple-award contract with involvement from multiple Air Force sites. “Pam was a key player in the $1.2 billion Secondary Power Logistics Solution, Hill Air Force Base’s first performance-based logistics contract,” Burke said. “And, most recently, Pam was actively involved in and supervised the administration of the incredibly innovative $1.5 billion Landing Gear Prime Vendor Contract, an enterprise solution used by both DLA and the Air Force to support the worldwide sustainment of landing gear.” Day was hard pressed to pick a favorite assignment, but said she enjoyed working construction and environmental contracts. “F-16 [Sustainment Contract] was at the top of my list. I love being challenged, but also being able to see something from beginning to a successful end,” she said. Day played a key role in the standup of DLA Ogden, which came out of 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law calling for the transfer of supply, storage and distribution and depot-level reparable procurement operations from the military services to DLA. “DLA Ogden was activated with minimal difficulty and without impact to customers or employees. The standup went off without a hitch thanks in large part to her management and procurement expertise,” Burke said. Under Day’s leadership, Burke said, the organization has shown exemplary performance through its 17 months of operations – including two successful year-end closeouts. “Her keen oversight of Ogden DLR operations resulted in continuous improvements in procurement lead times and overall strategic performance – one of the primary visions of BRAC,” Burke said. Day worked closely with the Air Force to combine procurement efforts, find more savings for the taxpayers and improve DLA performance to keep warfighters flying – and landing – safely. That sentiment was echoed by Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew Busch, Ogden Air Logistics Center commander. “The Air Force and DLA could not have successfully transferred the DLR procurement functions as part of BRAC without Pam's engaged leadership,” Busch said. “Ogden was the first of the five DLR procurement sites that Ms. Burke transferred to the aviation demand and supply chain, and Pam's willingness to partner with DLA and work through tough issues was the foundation for the sustained success of the transfer process.” Busch was commander of Defense Supply Center Richmond when Day joined the DLA team, but he knew about her reputation of excellence long before that. “Pam is widely respected within the Air Force and brought with her a huge amount of credibility that was needed to convince the Ogden team that DLA was a trustworthy partner on this BRAC challenge,” Busch said. In the course of her career, Day was named Air Force Materiel Command’s Contingency Contracting Officer of the Year, AFMC Professional Contracting Officer of the Year, Ogden ALC Manager of the Year, Ogden ALC Civilian of the Quarter and Civilian of the Year, and earned the Spirit of the American Woman Professional Award. During her retirement ceremony, Day was able to add some final awards to the list. Busch presented Day with the Air Force's Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award; Burke presented her with the DLA Distinguished Career Service Award, a Silver Letter from the DLA director, Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson, and the Aviation Demand and Supply Chain Commander's Plaque. Despite her success, Day was humble when it came to taking credit for her accomplishments. “The job isn’t about me – it’s about the mission, and if that isn’t your focus, you’ll make decisions for the wrong reasons, which could lead to poor results. Fortunately, I learned that really early in my career,” she said. (Debra R. Bingham works for Defense Supply Center-Richmond public affairs.) Nov. 23, 2009: By Debra R. Bingham: Special to American Forces Press Service ***SOT***

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