Sunday, June 26, 2011

Where is our collective struggle heading ?

Public Convention
Desh Bachao – Desh Banao
June 27th, Monday / Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi / 2 – 7 pm
Forbesganj, Bihar, Six dead; Bhatta Parsaul, Uttar Pradesh Four dead; Dhanbad, Jharkhand, Four dead; Jaitapur, Maharashtra, One dead; Kakkarapalli, Andhra Pradesh, Two dead; Sompeta, Andhra Pradesh, Two dead; Narayanpatna, Orissa, Two dead; Mudigonda, Andhra Pradesh, Eight dead; Nandigram, West Bengal, Eleven dead; Kalinganagar, Orissa, Twelve dead and the list goes on. These farmers, adivasis, dalits and working class of Bharat have sacrificed their life on the altar of development, while trying to defend the piece of mother earth to which they belong and eek their livelihood.
Even as we invite you to join us in this endeavour, communities across the country are struggling in Jagatsinghpur, Orissa against POSCO; Golibar, Mumbai against Shivalik; Raigarh, Chattisgarh against Jindals; Mundra, Gujarat and Chausra, MP against Adani; Kalinganagar Orissa against Tata and thousand other places. The struggle against Reliance, Jindal, Tata, Adani, Jaypee, Mittals, etc. and the collaborating State power is not only to protect their livelihood but central to this is defending the basic tenets of our democracy. The overall struggle is for deepening of democracy in the country – to establish the rule of law, to ensure right to life and livelihood with dignity, to ensure democratic control over natural resources – jal, jangal, jameen and Khaniz (land, water, forest and minerals).
Every year on June 25-26th we remember this period as the darkest period in Indian history for democracy but at the same time we also remember the dream of 'total revolution' – Sampoorn Kranti. The dream remains unfulfilled and our struggles continue to challenge the systemic corruption, oppression and exploitation. We emerge victorius at times and at times feel defeated but never at any time the dream for a just society with dignity, freedom, justice seems unreachable and we continue to struggle. The social and political churning witnessed at this moment in the country is encouraging. In a political context where the questions of working class and poorest of the poor assumes prime importance we would like to invite you to this convention to ponder over some of these questions.
  • Where is our collective struggle heading ? The million mutinies blooming in the country today, what is the significance of it ? Are we winning again ?
  • In the wake of seemingly increasingly oppressive power of State and Corporations, are collective struggles of dalits, adivasis, women, the displaced, workers, farmers etc. in a condition for a long sustained struggle ahead which will shake the inner walls of the capitalism and the establishment ?
  • In this struggle, who will stand with us ? Is the middle class, the intelligentsia willing to participate and stand by the side of the struggle against exploitation, oppression and inequality ? Are they willing to be a part of this process towards developing a planetary vision and secure justice and dignity for everyone ?
  • Can the exploited and the distressed become the spearheads (leaders) of an independent, strong, sharp and people-oriented politics when the elected representatives of today's political set up turn out to be insensitive and devoid of all moral and ethical values ? Can such a leadership create a space for itself in the present set up, can it be a respectable entity in the current set up?
  • Can a national and international structure based on the principles of non-violence, sister-brotherhood, equality, sustainability and justice be born from such a leadership, which will reject imperialism in toto? Depending upon the sovereignty of its people, space and resources can we create a nation which includes plural and diverse nationalities within itself ?
This Public Convention is an attempt to once again allow all of us to join the dots that link our struggles against deeply entrenched structures of oppression and corruption in our society with a view towards total revolution. We are trying to collectively seek answers to these questions. We met on May 8 in Delhi and will meet again in Wardha, Maharashtra on July 3rd to keep the conversations going. We do hope you will be able to join us !
Medha Patkar - NAPM; Swami Agnivesh – Bandhua Mukti Morcha; Ram Dheeraj, Sarv Seva Sangh; Ashok Chaudhary – NFFPFW; Ajit Jha – Lok Rajniti Manch; Gautam Bandopadhyay – Sangharsh; Rakesh Rafiq – Yuva Bharat
For details contact : Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM 9818905316

National Alliance of People’s MovementsNational Office: Room No. 29-30, 1st floor, ‘A’ Wing, Haji Habib Bldg, Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai - 400 014;
Ph: 022-24150529

6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316

Intrepid Center Marks First Anniversary

By Donna Miles 
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., June 24, 2011 - A year after its ribbon-cutting ceremony, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence is making a difference in the lives of warfighters suffering traumatic brain injuries and psychological disorders, said Dr. James Kelly, the center's director.
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Marine Corps Sgt. Tim Brooks, a former patient at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, chats with Dr. James Kelly, right, the center's director, and Dr. Thomas J. DeGraba, its deputy director, about the comprehensive, holistic treatment provided at the center in Bethesda, Md. Brooks suffered a traumatic brain injury after being exposed to a rocket attack and three roadside bomb attacks in Iraq. DOD photo by Donna Miles 
The facility, Kelly said, also is expanding the knowledge base about these signature wounds of war.
The center has achieved numerous milestones since opening its doors -- from receiving its first clinical patients in early October to becoming fully operational in March to recently achieving its goal of treating 20 patients on any given day, he said. In addition, it hosts regular sessions to help health care providers learn more about TBI and PTSD, and professional exchanges that draw some of the world's leading experts in the field.
Looking back over the past year, Kelly reported progress in all three of the center's main mission areas: not just providing clinical care to service members and their families, but also expanding the body of research about TBI and psychological disorders and sharing it with the broader medical community.
"We have done things that we could have not done any other place or time," he said.
It all begins, he said, with the $65 million center, a gift from the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund that features the most-advanced equipment and facilities available to diagnose and treat TBI and other psychological disorders. Among its offerings is $10 million in imaging equipment that enables health care providers and researchers the rare ability to see inside the brain that less-advanced equipment can't to formulate diagnoses and treatment plans.
"What happens here is that people come and look at this beautiful building, and they feel ... that somebody is taking this seriously," he said. "I think the service members and the families feel like we are taking them seriously."
The center offers its staff the opportunity to create treatment programs tailored to their patients' individual needs.
"It doesn't have to be force-fit into existing structures," Kelly said. "This is about the business of learning what's new, what's possible, taking the most-advanced work that is being done and rapidly bringing it in, and then moving out quickly ... and making it work for others."
Kelly reported great promise in the center's multidisciplinary approach to patient care.
"The idea of having all these different categories of professionals in the same place at the same time every day available to see these patients and their families simply isn't done anywhere else -- and certainly isn't done in the way that people are trying to do it here," he said.
It begins as soon as service members report for their two-and-a-half week treatment at the center. That first day, they and their family members sit at a table with six different health care providers to discuss their cases.
"They get to tell the story once instead of six times," if they had to meet with the providers individually, Kelly said.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, assistant Marine Corps commandant, has told Kelly his Marines say this initial session sets a tone that's different from what they've experienced at other facilities.
"To come here and tell their story once and get the feedback and exchange from six different professionals all at the same time is an efficiency and a comfort for that person," Kelly said. "It's something we have an opportunity here to try, and it is working."
While at the center, service members and their families get 10 to 15 hours of education about what a traumatic brain injury is, how it has affected them and what they can expect going forward, Kelly explained.
Next up is the diagnostic work-up, with each discipline represented at the center conducting its own assessment to contribute to the team's overall assessment.
Kelly said his staff comments regularly about the benefit of working together under one roof and being able to discuss details about the assessment or therapeutic approaches used.
"It's not just a matter of conducting a treatment plan. We are actually doing the treatment," he said. "It's trying them out, creating this menu [of treatments] we have and presenting the menu to the service member."
Patients then choose which treatments they think will work best for them and would like to try. "This is different," Kelly said. "It's 'You engage with me in the discussion as to what your needs are and what kind of things you want done.'"
Some of the treatments extend beyond medications and physical therapies associated with traditional medicine. They include alternative medicine and holistic therapies such as meditation, reiki, yoga, acupuncture and heart math, a program to help regulate heart-rate variability.
Art therapy is another particularly promising offering. "Once they get into it, some of them have said, this is the most powerful thing that's happened here," Kelly said.
Kelly admits he's been surprised at how receptive service members are to these alternative approaches. "These tough-as-nails military guys come in here and say, 'I like that. That's what worked,'" he said.
A year into the effort, Kelly said he's excited by the progress patients have made. Many are proud that they've been able to reduce or eliminate their medications, get better control of their symptoms, reduce their anxiety, sleep better and handle stress when it occurs, he said.
Typically their treatment isn't finished when they leave the center, but they're on the road to a more positive outcome, he said.
"It's kind of a springboard effect into where they are going," Kelly said. "And the bottom line -- which is what we are shooting for all along -- is to give them hope that this is going to turn around. They come in oftentimes kind of worn out and they have lost hope that their lingering symptoms and problems are going to get better. And by the end of this, when they realize they are getting better, ... they leave with hope that this is actually going to turn out okay."
Military leaders, seeing these results, hope to export some of those lessons and make them available more broadly. There's even talk of creating NICoE satellites or "mini-NICoEs," based on the center's model, that provide similar or follow-up care on military bases around the country, he said.
Meanwhile, Kelly emphasized that the National Intrepid Center of Excellence is a Defense Department institute with a charter that extends beyond clinical care.
"We do clinical care, but that is not the only reason we are here," he said. "We are here to understand the problem better and to make advances and to roll those advances out."
Much of the research is devoted to determining what made the difference in some of the patients treated at the center.
"So many people have said they have benefited in some way from coming here. Their symptoms are improved, they are back on track with some of their job performance abilities, their relationships have improved," Kelly said. "Every individual's outcome is a little bit different, but in those general categories of life -- work, bodily symptoms and relationships -- those things have shown improvements."
"Our challenge is to figure out, 'What made that happen?'" he said, or more appropriately, what combination of interdisciplinary approaches made the difference.
Getting to the bottom of that is a big thrust at the center, which is building on lessons learned as it reaches out to health care providers and experts across the military and civilian medical and research communities.
The center hosted its first educational forum the day after the ribbon-cutting and has hosted scores of conferences and high-level think-tank meetings during the past year, some including leading world experts.
"That's what this is supposed to be," Kelly said. "It is not just the hub for a network of what happens within the DOD. It also is a place to advance our understanding. And so we bring in the very people that know this stuff and have them teach each other and share that information in real time."
Kelly said he feels fortunate to be able to help push the science in advancing understanding of the highly complex issues associated with TBI and PTSD.
"What better way to spend your career?" he said. "And a not insignificant part of it is we get to help people."
Related Sites:
National Intrepid Center of Excellence 

Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Lt. Cdr. Jena McLellan, a clinical trials coordinator with the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, demonstrates the center's Computer-Assisted Rehabilitation Environment, or CAREN, virtual reality system to assess wounded warriors with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., June 23, 2010. NICoE photo by Linsey Pizzulo 
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Top Pentagon Doctor Dispenses Leadership Message

By Donna Miles 
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2011 - The Pentagon's top doctor and health affairs advisor yesterday delivered leadership advice to military doctors-in-training and said he's impressed by the military medical community's continual quest for improvement.
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Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, challenges first-year medical students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., to become great leaders, as well as great doctors, June 21, 2011. DOD photo by Donna Miles 
Jonathan Woodson said he's a firm believer that commanders should set the example and lead from the front. So when he paid a visit yesterday to meet with first-year medical students here at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, he jumped right in with them and rappelled down a 63-foot wall.
"As a prior commander, I believe it's always good to get out in the field with the troops," he said as he tied a Swiss seat climbing harness around his body. "And I think commanders always need to demonstrate to the troops that they are willing to do everything you ask them to do."
Woodson, who assumed his post as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs Jan. 10, is no stranger to the tactical side of military operations. A brigadier general in the Army Reserve, he served as assistant surgeon general for reserve affairs, force structure and mobilization in the Office of the Surgeon General, and as deputy commander of the Army Reserve Medical Command.
During his confirmation hearing last summer before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Woodson pledged to draw on his vast experience as a military medical officer, health-care administrator, teacher, researcher and physician to tackle the challenges confronting the military health system.
Improving care for wounded troops at home and abroad would be one of Woodson's highest priorities, he told the panel. "The highlight of my career as a surgeon has been caring for the wounded warrior on the battlefield," he said.
Mingling among the students who will one day provide that care, Woodson asked about their career aspirations and encouraged them to seek balance in their lives. As they prepared to tackle the rappelling tower – the wall of the university's administration building – he urged them to consider all their opportunities.
"You have to be willing to take on challenges outside your comfort zone," he said.
Rappelling isn't part of most medical school curricula, but as Woodson pointed out to the students, the Uniformed Services University is no ordinary medical school. In addition to all the academics and hands-on education provided at other medical schools, the Defense Department's only medical school also provides a healthy dose of leadership and operational military training.
Assembling the students, Woodson emphasized the dual roles they will serve as doctors and military officers. "You are going to be trained to be great physicians, but you are also going to be trained to be great leaders," he said.
The rappelling exercise was part of a week of training before the students kick off Operation Kerkesner, a two-week field training exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.
Woodson called the field training a critical part of the students' education as they prepare to enter an expeditionary U.S. military force. "It's central to what we do in the military," he said.
Beyond that, he called field training a valuable way to instill other characteristics the students will need when they reach the field and fleet. "This is a prime laboratory for building leaders, building competency and building skills," he said.
"Leaders are, primarily, individuals who create a vision for people to follow [and] motivate people to go after that common vision. They solve problems," he said. "So I am looking for them to be superb physicians and leaders. The world is a dark and dangerous place without good leaders, but there is always a bright future when you have good leadership."
That leadership is vital as the military continually strives to improve the quality of care it provides on the battlefield, as well as in clinical settings, he said.
"After 10 years of war, we can be very proud of the fact that we have brought a lot of skill and professionalism to the battlefield that has resulted in the lowest died-of-wound rate, the lowest disease and non-battle injury rate [and] the highest survival rates," he said. "We have gotten so proficient and skilled in certain aspects of medicine... that the military medical community is emulating what we do."
But Woodson said there's still progress to be made. "We are a learning organization," always looking for opportunities to improve, he said. "The whole idea is to understand what you are doing, how you can improve, and how you can improve the art and practice of medicine."
The Uniformed Services University students will be part of the military medical community that continues to pursue that goal, Woodson noted. Not only will be they force multipliers for the services, he said, but their expertise will make them a valuable resource for the nation as a whole.
"So it is very important that we do this right – that we train them right, we develop their skills and competences as they go along," he said.
Before returning to his Pentagon office, Woodson urged the students to seek him out as they advance through their university training and their military careers.
"Although they stick me away at that desk at the Pentagon, remember, I am here for you," he said. "So if you want to come by and visit me, pick my brain about things, feel free. Because if I don't serve your needs, I have no business being there."
Dr. Jonathan Woodson
Related Sites:
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences 

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, right, chats with Air Force 2nd Lt. Kelly McMullan, right, and Army 2nd Lt. Nicholas Perry, both first-year students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., during a June 21, 2011, visit. DOD photo by Donna Miles 
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, rappels down a 63-foot wall at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., during a visit with first-year medical students there, June 21, 2011. DOD photo by Donna Miles 
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Saving the peoples from flood waters

National Guard is helping to evacuate thousands of peoples in Minot, North Dekota ahead of rising flood waters.....!
Guard Helps North Dakota Flood Victims

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Orrell 
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., June 23, 2011 - As of 9:30 a.m. EST today, the city of Minot, N.D. has evacuated about 12,000 residents in response to the Souris River overtopping several levees in and around the area, Guard officials said.
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North Dakota National Guard vehicles patrol one of the mandatory evacuation zones in Minot, N.D., June 22, 2011. The patrols ensure that all citizens have evacuated their homes and render assistance in the areas threatened by the rising water of the Souris River that has exceeded major flood stage. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. David Lipp 
Minot civilian authorities are anticipating that flood waters may reach an additional six to eight feet above the levees by 4 p.m. EST and will eventually be flowing at a rate of 28,000 cubic feet per second.
Due to the potential dangers, local officials have decided that fighting the flood is no longer feasible and will brace for water levels to break the record levels of 1881.
"It's a sad day for the people of this city, but one that brought the community together to ensure the safety of its citizens," said Army Maj. Gen. David A. Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota's adjutant general. "Right now our focus is on the safety of the Minot people.
"I am proud of the way our soldiers and airmen continue to assist the residents, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the community and civil authorities," he added.
Today, the North Dakota National Guard will be redirecting ambulances and 50 additional personnel to join the already 500 Guard members in Minot. They will perform airboat operations, security patrols, traffic-control points and residential evacuations.
Sprynczynatyk said that as citizen soldiers and airmen continue to assist flood-stricken residents.
"Whether it's been traffic control, levee monitoring or evacuation assistance, our Guardsmen have performed well in every mission asked of them," he said. "Through this catastrophic event, your Guard stands ready to assist."
As with any activation, deployment or mobilization, the success of the Guard begins at home and in the workplace, Sprynczynatyk said.
"We are able to do our jobs successfully thanks to our employers and families for being supportive when we need it the most," he said.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The North Dakota National Guard contributed to this article.)
Related Sites:
National Guard Bureau 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Task Force 'Good Neighbor' Leaves Haiti a Better Place

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 21, 2011 - Army Col. Kenneth Donnelly said he will leave Haiti this week a better man. But not before leaving Haiti a better place.
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A local priest blesses a new school built by troops with Task Force Bon Voizen in Upper Poteau, Haiti, June 20, 2011. The school will be used to teach adult agricultural vocations. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
Donnelly, the commander of Task Force Bon Voizen, handed over the keys yesterday to the two engineer construction projects that the task force set out to complete when it hit the ground here two months ago. Tomorrow, its doctors and dentists will see their final patients, and Donnelly will officially end the exercise in a small ceremony at the airport here.
The task force is a Louisiana National Guard-led humanitarian exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command. Task force troops have been providing medical, dental and veterinary care, and working on engineering projects in two small villages.
"Today is more than just an end to our operations here ... it is a new beginning ... ," Donnelly told a crowd of community leaders and locals gathered for the final ceremonies at a newly built school and medical clinic. "The new facilities you see here today will provide meaningful education and health care to the people in this area, as well as mark significant progress in your efforts to rebuild and expand critical infrastructure in the great nation of Haiti."
The results of the task force's work will make a positive impact on the lives of the people here..
Task force engineers built a three-room schoolhouse, a four-room medical clinic with restroom facilities in the small village of Upper Poteau, and also a four-room medical clinic in the nearby village of Bardon Marchan.
Health care and education go hand-in-hand in the efforts to better the lives of this impoverished area, local officials said.
As the mayor and representatives from the ministries of health and education spoke at both locations, an interpreter was not needed to convey the crux of their message to Donnelly and his troops.
"Merci," punctuated all of the speeches.
"Please take your hands out of your pockets to applaud the Americans," a local mayor said.
"I can't find the words in my vocabulary to thank the Americans for building the clinic," the local health ministry representative said.
Since receiving his marching orders for this job more than nine months ago, Donnelly has been a man on a mission. His planning has been methodical and by the book. Preparing for this mission, he said, is the same as for any other deployment.
The difference, Donnelly said, is in the outcome.
"I felt good coming here. The people of Haiti need our help. I feel like I'm part of the solution for them," he said. "I was able to come here, and not only have a passion about the mission, but have a passion for the people of Haiti.
"And I think I'm going to be a better person for it. I think it made me a better man," he added.
Donnelly's goal on the ground was to build on the successes of last year's task force and to set the standard for any task force that follows him.
"I think we achieved that," he said.
Last year's earthquake was the worst experienced in Haiti in the last 200 years, and it generated an estimated $11.5 billion in damages and reconstruction costs, according to the U.S. State Department. U.S. government humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti total over $1 billion. The United States pledged an additional $1.15 billion toward reconstruction efforts in the areas of energy, health, agriculture, governance and security.
All totaled, the task force's efforts will cost $40 million, including pay, logistics, local contracts, shipping supplies and equipment here, and the actual cost of the projects.
Officials here acknowledge the services they have provided are a "drop in the bucket" compared to the need.
But, while the medical services provide some immediate relief, the engineering projects are designed to provide long-term solutions to the problems plaguing the area's health care and education efforts.
Health care is nonexistent in these small villages. Pregnant women often ride for miles on the backs of motorcycles along rutted dirt roads to the nearest hospital. A clinic in these towns oftentimes means the difference between receiving care and medicine, or not.
The local ministry of health official promised that the clinics would be staffed and stocked with needed medicine and equipment, a condition set by Donnelly before the task force would commit its resources.
Besides the local ministries, Donnelly's staff reached out to nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. State Department to fill requests for equipment and medicine.
"One of the things I definitely pushed for this year was to make sure the facilities got turned over to the right hands and that it was turnkey -- filled, furnished, ready to be operational when we turned the keys over after the ceremony," Donnelly said.
The local ministry of education official promised that the school would be used to cater to adults, teaching them agricultural vocations needed to get jobs and live in this rural area.
Although public education is free, the cost is still high for Haitian families who have to pay for uniforms, books and supplies. According to State Department data, only 65 percent of primary school-aged children are actually enrolled, and at the secondary level, the figure drops to around 20 percent. Less than 35 percent of those who enter will complete primary school. This leaves the largest portion of the adult population under-educated and nearly unemployable.

It is the long-term impact of these facilities that, officials hope, will help change Haiti's impoverished landscape one community at a time.
The Louisiana National Guard, twice called upon to perform these relief efforts since the earthquake, has requested through the National Guard Bureau to formally solidify its relationship with the country by making it an official state partner.
Donnelly said a strong foundation for the relationship is set on both heritage and geography similar to both.
Both Louisiana and Haiti were once French colonies. Slavery and the struggle for equality are also common between the two. French and Creole are common languages and many of the customs and courtesies are similar, Donnelly said.
Also, Louisiana and Haiti are located in the gulf coast region, and both are susceptible to hurricanes.
"I think we can communicate with them," Donnelly said. "We can help them and they can help us. We have what it takes to help them."
Just over two hours by air from Florida, Haiti's proximity to the United States also makes it an ideal deployment location for training.
"I think we'll continue to be able to train our soldiers and do it well in a real-time situation," Donnelly said. "We get training on our end. They get improved infrastructure on their end. I think it's a win-win situation."
The deputy task force commander, Army Lt. Col. Michael Pryor, said the relationship also puts the United States on good footing with the rest of the Caribbean community.
"They see that we're willing to come here and help out. I think it gives them confidence that, within our capabilities, the United States will help any of our good neighbors that are down here when they need it," Pryor said.
Pryor is one of the 160 "duration staff," or those who have spent the entire time here on the ground. The task force is commanded by members of the Louisiana National Guard, but more than 2,300 troops from other states and three countries have joined in for two-week rotations.
Nearing the end of his military career, Pryor said this deployment has given him a fresh perspective on his priorities.
"I learned again how valuable the little things are. It's the small things in life that are really, really important," he said. "[When] you can eat, and you can sleep safely at night, and you're well and not sick from anything, that's the stuff that's really important."
Despite seeing photos and hearing the stories of the poverty here, Pryor said nothing prepared him to see it firsthand. It became real to him on the first day when a boy about the age of his own 13-year-old son came to his car begging for a bottle of water.
"I thought I was prepared, but not exactly. When you see that face and it's the face of your child, just in a different country, it's very moving," he said.
After driving to each of the sites where the task force would operate, Pryor said he realized that this mission went far past its training value. The Artibonite department, or province, where the task force operated, is about 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince. Thousands fled to this rural area after the earthquake to look for jobs, food and water. Haitian officials chose this area for the task force efforts because they would rather improve the infrastructure here than have the displaced return to the already overcrowded inner city that is still struggling to recover.
"I could look and see that ... it's all going to be worth it because these people will really appreciate our help," he said.
Pryor said as he drove along the countryside, he saw two sides to the locals. On one side they were poor and in need. But on the other, they are hard working and take pride in their work and country.
"You pass by the markets and you see that although some just have a little bit of fruit to sell, it's all stacked very nicely because they have pride in what they're trying to do," he said. "It's kind of a strange combination of folks in need and folks who are really prideful of what they do here."
Pryor said he hopes that the state's partnership with Haiti becomes official. Despite more than 20 years in the military and a tour in Iraq, he puts this deployment at the top of his career highlights.
"I'm going to take home a really good feeling. Of all the things I've done in my career, this -- by far -- has touched more people than anything I've done," he said.
Related Sites:
Special Report 

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Col. Kenneth Donnelly turns over the keys of a new school and medical clinic to the residents of Upper Poteau, Haiti, June 20, 2011. The school and clinic were two of the engineer projects built in Haiti by troops of Task Force Bon Voizen. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSome local kids play soccer in front of a newly built school in of Upper Poteau, Haiti, June 20, 2011. The school and clinic were two engineer projects built in Haiti by troops of Task Force Bon Voizen. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageEngineers shake hands with locals as they leave a local church adjacent to a new school building site in Upper Poteau, Haiti, June 16, 2011. Engineers with Task Force Bon Voizen used extra materials to lay a concrete floor and repair the church's altar. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Fuerzas Comando Promotes Special Ops Skills

By Donna Miles 
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 - Elite commandos from 19 countries are participating this week in Fuerzas Comando 2011, a demanding counterterrorism and special operations skills competition sponsored by U.S. Southern Command to promote military-to-military relationships, increased interoperability and improved regional security.
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The Dominican Special Operations Sniper Team prepares for the stalk event of Fuerzas Comando 2011, at Shangallo Range in Ilopango, El Salvador, that's near San Salvador, June 16, 2011. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, special operations skills competition and senior leader seminar conducted annually in Central and Southern America and the Caribbean. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Casey Collier 
The competitors, from throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, are taking part in the eighth annual competition that kicked off June 15 and continues through June 23 in Ilopango, El Salvador, said Air Force Maj. Brett Phillips, the lead Fuerzas Comando planner for U.S. Special Operations Command South.
The El Salvadoran military is hosting this year's exercise, with participants from Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and the United States.
The competition consists of sniper, assault, physical fitness, strength and endurance events that challenge commandos psychologically as well as physically, Phillips said.
Among this year's events is a timed 18.8-kilometer forced march, with six-man teams from each country carrying 30-pound rucksacks and rifles, and a series of sniper competitions that include target acquisition, range estimation and night shooting events.
The competitive events wrap up today, to be followed with a combined airborne operation tomorrow and exchange of wings before the closing ceremony.
While special operators test out their tactical skills, a concurrent senior-leader seminar is providing a strategic-level focus to security challenges and possible solutions. Twenty-four nations have sent a senior special operations officer, typically the brigade-level commander of the country's commando team, and a ministerial-level policymaker associated with the country's counterterrorism policies, procedures and strategies, to participate in the two-day distinguished visitor program, Phillips said.
"That's when they talk about the regional counterterrorism projects and programs that are in place, they talk about trans-national threats, they talk about illicit trafficking and how to combat that," he said. "That is where you are addressing those strategic-level thought processes and objectives."
Phillips called this two-part approach key to fostering relationships throughout the ranks that pay off in closer regional cooperation, enhanced mutual trust and increased military interoperability as it advances the counter-terrorism training and readiness of participating special operations forces.
"It's the strategic level, with the commanders and strategic thinkers from that country, all the way down to the tactical level, where the teams that go and break down the doors and go save people, or, depending upon their requirement, they eliminate a threat," he said.
There's another dimension to Fuerzas Comando as well. As commandos compete and their leaders convene, staff members from each participating country are operating as a combined staff, providing administrative, logistical, medical, communications and other support.
This, Phillips explained, gives the staffs experience they would need to work together during a real-world contingency.
While Fuerzas Comando has sparked some healthy competition among participants, "the camaraderie and the fraternity between these teams from all these different countries has been just exceptional," he said.
When the commandos aren't competing, they share their operational experiences and ideas with other teams and compare different tactics, techniques and procedures. This promotes cooperation and learning, along with a better understanding of how different countries' militaries operate, Phillips said.
It also lays a foundation for relationships, he said, that could have a big payoff in the future as commandos advance to increasingly responsible positions within their respective militaries.
"Now, if there is a conflict," he added, "it is a lot more likely that the conflict will be resolved between two chiefs of staff who know each other, who have had a relationship on a personal side as well as professional, and they can resolve their problems in a more practical manner than resorting to armed conflict."
Phillips said he's seen past competitors who'd risen through the ranks return to Fuerzas Comando as senior military commanders or government officials to participate in the strategic-level distinguished visitor forum.
"That's our dream that we are seeing realized," Phillips said. "These younger team leads from years ago are now growing in rank and position and soon will be able to pick up the phone and talk to Juan or Jose or Jorge or whoever that they competed against 10, 15 years ago as a team member," and bring the benefit of shared operational expertise to strategic-level conversations.
Phillips said he's also encouraged by the growth of the Fuerzas Comando, which began in 2004 with 13 countries.
"It just grows and gets better every year," he said.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II, commander of Special Operations Command South, thanked participants during the opening ceremonies at El Salvador's Special Counterterrorism Command special operations center for the dedication they have brought to the competition and to regional security.
"You represent the world's finest warriors, sacrificing daily to defend and protect the freedom and security of the citizens of the Western Hemisphere," the admiral told the participants.
Related Sites:
Fuerzas Comando 2011 

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA sniper from the Brazilian team fires a round at a target during the angle shooting event at the Fuerzas Comando competition, June 19, 2011. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special operations skills competition and senior leader seminar, which is conducted annually in Central and South America and the Caribbean. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole L. Howell
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA competitor from Paraguay aims his weapon during the sniper night shooting event June 18, 2011, at this year's Fuerzas Comando competition held in Ilopango, El Salvador. Two-man sniper teams engaged five targets from varying distances of 200 to 500 meters. Fuerzas Comando, which was established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special operations skills competition and senior leader seminar that's conducted annually in Central and South America and the Caribbean. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica M. Kuhn 
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Task Force Delivers 'Human Message' To Haiti

By Fred W. Baker III 
American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MANDRIN, Haiti, June 20, 2011 - Stepping off the Black Hawk helicopter here, the scene is similar to that of many forward operating bases in Afghanistan.
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Dan Foote, the deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti visits Task Force Bon Voizen in the Artibonite department of Haiti, June 17, 2011. The task force is wrapping up its two-month exercise there to provide humanitarian relief. Task Force Bon Voizen is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint foreign humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
High mountains peak in the distance, concertina wire separates the space between the troops and the nearby village, and rows of tents stand in formation with the ropes on their window flaps struggling to keep them in check against a gusty wind. Colorful portable toilets flank the tents on all sides, easily visible among a sea of green and tan.
But a walk down the makeshift gravel road that cuts through the heart of the site reveals one glaring omission.
Gone are the big war machines decked out in armor and firepower. And the 400 troops here are not slinging M4 machine guns, grenade launchers and sundry belts of ammunition.
Make no mistake. The weapons are here, just not in sight.
"We try to minimize the exposure of the weapons," Army Maj. Wynn Nugent, operations officer for Task Force Bon Voizen, said. "It sends a bad message, especially being here on a humanitarian exercise. We still carry them because we need to, but we try not to display them."
Perched on high ground in the Artibonite department, or province, the troops deployed here operate similarly in many ways to operations overseas. Almost all of the U.S. military services are combined for a joint mission. Also, a handful of foreign militaries have teams here. They form up under a single command structure to carry out their operations with military precision.
And the site is almost entirely self-sufficient. Only local fuel and some transportation are contracted. Satellites and radio antennas jut from the tent tops providing communications locally and to and from the states. Thousands of gallons of water are pumped and purified daily from an on-site well for the troops. Food and vegetables are shipped in and trucked to the chow hall where hot meals are provided daily. Helicopters buzz in and out delivering fresh troops and discharging those returning home.
But that is pretty much where the comparisons stop. Task Force Bon Voizen, which translates as "good neighbor," serves as a picture-perfect image of the U.S. military's soft-power efforts, and the task force's only enemies here are time and budget.
While the troops call leaving the base "going outside the wire," it is actually a few flimsy strands of concertina, easily infiltrated by guineas, dogs, pigs and the occasional donkey.
Its primary purpose is to keep people from walking through the base camp to visit those living in the surrounding community.
"When they see it, they don't come through," Nugent said. "It's for their safety more than ours. We have machinery moving through here, big vehicles moving around."
The Haitian government chose this region for the task force's efforts, chiefly because of the influx of residents after last year's earthquake. Thousands left the devastated Port-au-Prince area, seeking food, shelter and jobs in the surrounding rural areas. The Artibonite area is about 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince, and Haitian officials would rather improve the infrastructure here than have the displaced return to the already overcrowded inner city that is still struggling to recover.
Since the task force began its mission at the end of April, it has treated more than 800 dental patients and nearly 23,000 medical patients. That includes delivering a few babies, providing emergency surgery and constructing a mouthpiece for a child born with a cleft palate so that he can eventually learn to talk.
Its veterinary technicians treated almost 1,500 area animals. And the engineers will leave here next week after building one school, two clinics and bathroom facilities.
For their efforts, the troops here have received "nothing but love," Nugent said.
"What we're doing here is a drop in the bucket for what these people need, truthfully. But we're providing them just a glimmer of hope," Nugent said. "We show them, 'Hey, the world's not giving up on you. We're here and we're fighting for you.'"
Nugent said the locals are poor by American standards, but they are easygoing and hardworking. Some gather outside the fence, but they are just curious.
"You don't see a lot of begging. If they are asking for something, they are asking for a job," he said. "They want to work and earn what they receive. They are not just looking for a handout.
"They love America. They love Americans. I think they would be the 51st state if we let them," Nugent added and laughed.
But while Nugent joked, it is exactly that sentiment that U.S. officials hope to instill, especially in these years following the earthquake.
"The real value is ... we're having incredible positive impact on the lives of disenfranchised Haitians," Dan Foote, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy said during a visit to the site today. "And in doing so, we're also sending the broader message that the United States is a friend of Haiti, and we are going to be here in the good times and the bad."
Foote called Haiti a "great friend" to the United States. Exercises such as these are critical to maintaining that relationship, he added.
"This is an on-the-ground example of real, tangible assistance to the population," he said.
The task force is commanded by members of the Louisiana National Guard, but troops from other states have joined in for two-week rotations including Florida, Massachusetts, Georgia, North Dakota, Colorado and New York.
The Army Reserve provided military police and engineers. Active-duty Marines provide civil affairs support, and the Air Force provides weathermen and medical staff.
Foreign countries supporting the efforts as an official part of the task force included doctors from Colombia and Canada and engineers from Belize.
Additional support also came from the U.N. peacekeeping force here as Japanese engineers volunteered to help on a project. Policemen from Argentina provided crowd control at medical and dental sites in the cities.
And international nongovernmental organizations such as People to People International and Operation International Children donated 2,500 school supply kits for the task force to distribute.
This year's exercise launched from a similar operation here last year, put in place to help with earthquake relief. Budget cuts already have tightened the belt of this year's operation as it transitioned from operational funding to an exercise with a different funding pot.
An exercise isn't planned for next year, but one is on the books for 2013, officials said.
Only a handful of events remain before the closing ceremonies next week. The rest of the month will be spent returning the land that the base now sits on to its original condition. The last task force member is due to leave the first week of July after settling all of the contracts and paying the vendors.
But even as task force members prepare to leave, officials agree that the impression made here will last, for many locals, a lifetime.
And, as Washington begins it budget battles and senior Defense Department leaders are forced to make hard funding choices, military and civilian officials here hope that this exercise doesn't end up on the cutting room floor.
"These are the sort of things that don't create political messages, but create human messages," Foote said. "Our hope here, from my point of things, is that we can continue to do exercises and missions like this into the future, because every time we do that we win a new generation of hearts and minds."

Click photo for screen-resolution imageLocals gather outside a site providing medical care by troops from Task Force Bon Voizen in the Artibonite department of Haiti, June 16, 2011. The task force has provided care to nearly 23,000 locals in the two months since they began their exercise. Task Force Bon Voizen is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint foreign humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA woman watches from her yard in a rural area of the Artibonite department of Haiti, June 16, 2011. Veterinary technicians from Task Force Bon Voizen provided care to nearly 1,500 animals during the two months of the exercise. Task Force Bon Voizen is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint foreign humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA baby watches as her mother waits to see a doctor at a site providing medical care by troops from Task Force Bon Voizen in the Artibonite department of Haiti, June 16, 2011. The task force has provided care to nearly 23,000 locals in the two months since they began their exercise. Task Force Bon Voizen is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint foreign humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA doctor from the Colombia military treats a patient at a site providing medical care by troops from Task Force Bon Voizen in the Artibonite department of Haiti, June 16, 2011. A handful of foreign militaries participated in the task force providing medical care and engineering expertise. Task Force Bon Voizen is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint foreign humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. military medical professionals provide dental care to a patient in the Artibonite department of Haiti, June 16, 2011. Task Force Bon Voizen saw more than 800 patients for dental care during its two months of the exercise. Task Force Bon Voizen is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint foreign humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Col. Kenneth Donnelly, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Homer Stelly, right, escort Mark Stansberry, chairman of the board of directors of People to People International. The group, along with Operation International Children donated 2,500 school supply kits in the Artibonite department of Haiti, June 16, 2011. The supplies were delivered by the troops of Task Force Bon Voizen, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored joint foreign humanitarian exercise under the command of the Louisiana National Guard. DOD photo by Fred W. Baker III 
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Project Advances Coalition Information Sharing

By Donna MilesAmerican Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 17, 2011 – A sweeping demonstration project at six U.S. and two overseas sites is expected to pay off in advancing technologies to improve information sharing among U.S. and coalition partners in Afghanistan and in future missions.
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Army Staff Sgt. Contena Moriley-Mack, left, Test Operator Talaya Johnson, center, and Army 2nd Lt. Edgar Murillo, right, check data in preparation for the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration at the Central Technical Support Facility at Fort Hood, Texas, June 9, 2011. U.S. Army photo by David G. Landmann  
The 2011 Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, sponsored by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, wrapped up yesterday following 11 days of trials to assess industry’s latest technologies using real-world operational scenarios.
The event featured 37 interoperability trials, 22 multinational programs, and two joint capability and technology demonstrations. Web-based situational awareness tools, wireless technology, Blue Force tracking systems, maritime surveillance, translation devices and enhanced information-assurance and validation innovations were among the technologies involved.
Participants -- service members, Department of Defense civilian and contract employees and industry representatives -- worked together at various sites. Marine Corps and coalition task force members were positioned at U.S. Joint Forces Command in Suffolk, Va. Army participants stationed themselves at the Central Technical Support Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. Air Force members were at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and Navy participants, at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command’s Systems Center Pacific in San Diego.
In addition, the National Guard participated at U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., the Department of Homeland Security Battle Lab in Herndon, Va., and at Hanscom Air Force Base. DHS positioned its officials at Northcom.
International participants operated from Canada and a NATO site in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
The big objective, explained Charles McMaster, an Army liaison supporting the demonstration at Fort Hood, was to identify and test technologies to shore up information-sharing gaps.
“It boils down to, we want to have a shared and common understanding of what is occurring, both on the battlefield and [among] folks who are supporting the efforts on the battlefield,” he said.
“So we want to make sure that we literally have a common picture that illustrates or is the foundation of that common understanding. And we do that by having one computer talking to another computer,” McMaster explained. “Whether it is a U.S. computer or a coalition computer, we like to ensure that the information that is sent and received is portrayed on those computers in a way we can all understand what it is.”
Developing a common operating picture is critical to the success of combined operations, said Steve Pitcher, the Joint Staff representative to the demonstration. “We want the mission execution information at any given time to be representative on all of our screens,” whether it’s being used by a U.S. system or that of an ally or partner, he said.
A major focus of this year’s demonstration was improving the Afghan Mission Network, a new network that promotes information and intelligence sharing among coalition partners supporting the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The network has reached full operational capability, but still needs refinement.
That includes testing to ensure the 238 applications approved by U.S. Central Command and NATO are interoperable on the network and don’t disrupt or interfere with each other, Pitcher said. This will help establish the first baseline of coalition capabilities for command and control as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, a step toward streamlining those applications, he said.
“What we want to be able to do is stop having to operate, maintain, protect and ensure the interoperability of 238 applications with their own stovepipe databases,” Pitcher said. The hope, he said, is to “get down to some manageable number of web-based applications that use a centralized set of secure databases, so that we are able to perform mission planning with our closest allies and ensure successful mission execution with all our coalition mission partners.”

“We have to reduce the redundancy among systems, and to make the capabilities more focused on what the warfighter really needs to do his job,” McMaster said. “We don’t need to have five different ways to portray the same information. We need to have one way that is commonly understood to get that shared common picture.”
But the CWID demonstration extended beyond warfighter support to include technologies to support future humanitarian disaster responses and border patrol operations.
DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials from the El Paso, Texas, sector participated to get a firsthand look at how new technologies could support real-world responses to wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes and attempted U.S. border infiltrations.
For example, one trial used an aerostat balloon equipped with a communications payload to assess variety of technologies that could extend telephone and hand-held radio capabilities beyond the reach of radio towers in the remote New Mexico-West Texas desert, McMaster explained. Another trial evaluated unmanned ground sensors able to pick up seismic and acoustic information that reveals unusual truck or pedestrian activity.
Many of the technologies demonstrated during the CWID will never reach the field, but they could have a ripple effect by inspiring or impacting other innovations. If proven to be operationally relevant and technically achievable, those technologies could wind up being written into future contract acquisition requirements.
Simply knowing what technologies are already out there can help shorten the time between identifying a capability gap and fielding that capability to troops in the field, McMaster said.
Before that fielding occurs, he emphasized the importance of demonstrations like CWID to help ensure it meets requirements and operates as advertised.
“We want to make sure it works on the ground here before it is deployed to the field,” McMaster said. “It is not good to find out that something doesn’t work in Afghanistan. It is not the right place to find it doesn’t work in [South] Korea, or anywhere else we are deployed. We need to assess and evaluate it and remediate it before it is deployed. That’s extremely important.”
Related Sites:
Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration Website

Carl Bridell, test operator at the Central Technical Support Facility at Fort Hood, Texas, left, works alongside Army 2nd Lt. Reinaldo Sanchez, right, in the CTSF's Afghan Mission Network lab June 9, 2011, in one of the many digital steps involved in the execution of CWID 2011. Sanchez is one of nearly a dozen III Corps soldiers directly involved in a demonstration at the Fort Hood facility. U.S. Army photo by David G. Landmann  
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Army Staff Sgt. Contena Moriley-Mack gives instruction to her soldiers as they work through the June 9 phase of Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration 2011 at the Central Technical Support Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. Soldiers from Fort Hood's III Corps worked during the event in the CTSF's Afghan Mission Network laboratory. U.S. Army photo by David G. Landmann  
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