25 December 2014

The Annotated '25 Days of Sherpa Family Christmas'

Earlier this month, I started a daily exercise using the following phrase as a writing prompt: "Day X of 25 Days of Sherpa Family Christmas." My intent was to generate (mostly) new material, inspired by actual holiday happenings around the Sherpa family FOBstead. It was like writing tactical fortune cookies while channeling my inner Martha Stewart.

Listed below are collected all of the "25 Days of Sherpa Family Christmas." (Thanks to the Facebook friends of Charlie Sherpa, who inadvertently served as a daily writers' workshop!) For fun, I've hyperlinked to some definitions and explanations. Best wishes to all for a safe and rewarding holiday!

1. "This is our Christmas tree. There are many like it, but this one is ours."

2. Poncho liner makes surprisingly effective field-expedient tree skirt.

3. Three cups of Peppermint chai before one talks of holiday business.

4. First test of homemade MICLIC rocket for deploying holiday lights across perimeter of FOB Sherpa. Essayons!

5. Tinsel works as a festive and fabulous ghillie suit. Chaffs a bit, though.

6. Lutefisk is the MRE omelet of the holiday-food world.

7. Ask your chaplain if she'll accommodate Saturnalia services on the 17th. 'Tis the season!

8. Lesson-learned: Infrared twinkle lights require night-vision egg-noggles.

9. "Over the river and through the woods" should not require a formal convoy clearance. An extraction plan, however, is recommended.

10. In the mailbox today: "Season's greetings from the IO section."

11. Glitter is a persistent agent. Deploy it wisely.

12. Tactical Advent wreath? Use IR chemlights as candles.

13. Mistletoe can also be ordered in bulk as a Class IV barrier material.

14. "We're dreaming of a Red Bull Christmas."

15. Sherpa kids initially not interested in crafting pine-cone birdfeeders using peanut butter and suet this past weekend. Told them we were making festive sticky bombs instead.

16. You know something? Engineer tape makes for some darned fancy ribbon!

17. "Treat Christmas like a Key Leader Engagement."

18. Santa's challenge coin is the one that rules them all.

19. Psyop section always has the best holiday music playlist. And they'll DJ.

20. Just like ACU trousers, Christmas stockings can be used as floatation devices in the unlikely event of a water landing. "Knowing is half the battle."

21. Notes and maps left for Santa should be red-light readable. Santa is tactical. And an aviator.

22. Roasting chestnuts by an open MRE heater is ... not recommended.

23. Trail camera mounted on Christmas tree. RC drones on stand-by. Sherpa kids have put Santa on the HVT list this year. Then again, like they say, "the jolly old elf also gets a vote."

24. Airborne Santa says: "Geroni-mo-ho-ho!"

25. Message of the day: "Peace on earth! Goodwill toward all personnel!"

17 December 2014

Operation Reindeer Games 2014: This is Not a Drill!

PHOTO: Army Spc. Jess Nemec and 1st Lt. Sarah Johnson/Released
Blog-editor's note: This post was originally published on the Red Bull Rising blog Dec. 23, 2013, and again here at the now-archived mil-blog digest "The Sandbox."

We've since FRAGO'd the dates and the illumination data, and topped it off anew with a holiday shot (above) from the Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter (2-147 A.H.B.), 34th Combat Aviation Brigade (34th CAB).

Those Red Bull aviation soldiers are currently deployed to Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, and elsewhere. Check out more photographs from "Task Force Shield" at here or here. And remember those deployed and their families in thoughts and prayers this holiday season.



I. SITUATION: TASK FORCE SHERPA continues holiday sustainment operations vicinity FOB LIVINGROOM.
1. Enemy Forces: 
Refer to Appendix X, "Naughty List." 
2. Friendly Forces / Attachments: 
a. One (1) soldier, callsign "SCOOP," from TF GI-JOE Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, location OP ELFONSHELF.  
b. One (1) Pathfinder-qualified soldier from 1225th Special Operations Aviation Regiment ("The Night-stockers"), callsign "RUDOLPH," location AO ROOFTOP.
c. Five (1) soldiers from 334th Brigade Support Battalion, 2-34th BCT attached as Forward Logistics Elf Element (FLEE), callsign "WORKSHOP," location AO UNDERTREE.
d. Ten (10) 03s-a-leaping from HHC, 2-34th BCT attached as command-and-control cell.
PHOTO: 34th CAB, Minn. Army National Guard, 2013
3. Weather and Terrain: 
High of 29 degrees Fahrenheit; low of 18 degrees. No effects on current snow cover. Condition WHITE for sleigh-borne operations.
4. Illumination:
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow is not likely to give the lustre of mid-day to objects below. Moonset is 242017DEC14; peak illumination is 10 percent. Civil twilight is 250708DEC14. Sunrise is 250739DEC14. 
As noted in After Action Reviews of past holiday ops, however, SUGARPLUM elements have been known to stir well before light conditions warrant, or even Christmas Reveille.
"TF SHERPA secures LANDING ZONE CHIMNEY NLT 242330DEC14 and conducts resupply via reindeer-drawn miniature sleigh during hours of darkness prior to 250710DEC14. On order, commences opening of presents and distribution of holiday themes and messages."
1. Commander's Intent:
TF SHERPA will conduct safe and secure receipt of Christmas gifts, minimizing boots-on-ground time and distractions for RED-RYDER-6. Endstate is a Happy Christmas to all personnel, and to all a good night.
2. Concept of Operation:
We will start by ceasing all garrison activities, troop movements, and roving patrols beginning 242100DEC14. No personnel should be stirring. Not even a mouse. Stockings will be hung by the objective with care. All SUGARPLUM elements will be nestled all snug in their bunks. 
RED-RYDER-6 will arrive LZ CHIMNEY during hours of darkness, and will successfully evade detection by SUGARPLUM elements and local civilian air-traffic control. 
Following the operation, TF SHERPA personnel will prepare to conduct Key Leader Engagements with both sides of the family. 
Throughout this operation, TF SHERPA personnel will also reinforce themes and messages of "Peace on Earth, goodwill to all" via appropriate official STRATCOM channels, including social media and telephone.
3. Maneuver:
Under no circumstances should unauthorized personnel stir to investigate clatter from exterior areas, including rooftops.
4. Fires:
On order, 1-194th Field Artillery will provide 1.55 cm artillery-delivered tinsel as chaff to defeat detection of TF RED-RYDER by regional air-traffic control radar.
5. Coordinating instructions:
Authorized sleeping uniform is kerchief, cap, or green fleecy hat; MultiCam pajamas; and red-and-white "candy stripe" reflective safety belt. Noise and light discipline will be maintained per SOP. Senior personnel are encouraged to employ red-light headlamps or night-vision devices.
6. Specific instructions:
Headquarters will redeploy public affairs team member SCOOP from OP ELFONSHELF to vicinity LZ CHIMNEY for documentation of gift-giving operations NLT 250700DEC14. Mission focus will be on "telling the Christmas story by telling our Army story."
1. 334th BSB will provide (1) Meal, Ready-to-Eat to RED-RYDER-6. Ranger cookies and shelf-stable milk are appropriate. On order, also provide one (1) 64 lb. bag of Reindeer Chow.
2. Religious services are 241900DEC14, and 251000DEC14.
1. Location of Key Leaders: 
HOUSEHOLD-6 and HOUSEHOLD-7 will be in the command bunker after 242100DEC14. 
2. Succession of command: 
3. Callsigns: 
Holiday callsigns are NOT authorized. Under no circumstances should SUGARPLUM elements refer to HOUSEHOLD-6 as "NUTCRACKER-6." The previously published SOI was in error. HOUSEHOLD-7 is very, very sorry. 
4. Challenge / Password for 24DEC14 is: "SMOKE" / "WREATH." 
5. Challenge / Password for 25DEC14 is: "BOWLFUL" / "JELLY." 
6. Running password is "FIGGY PUDDING."
1. Use ground guides when backing reindeer. 
2. Use drip pans and chocks when parking sleighs. 
3. Don't drink nog and drive. 
4. "Safety first, Christmas always."

11 December 2014

Contest: Write a 'Pearl Harbor Speech' for Year 2041

In a short-fuze writing contest, the Atlantic Council's "Art of Future War" project is soliciting short, speculative creative writing that presents a future U.S. president's message after the country has experienced a Pearl Harbor-like attack, circa 2041. Deadline is Mon., Dec. 15, 2014.

The title of the contest is: "What Will The Next Pearl Harbor Be?" The submissions call reads, in part:
What would a Pearl Harbor-like surprise for the United States look like in the 2040s? This seven-day Art of Future Warfare challenge seeks a futuristic interpretation of the opening of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s "Day of Infamy" address to Congress on December 8, 1941—a day after Japanese forces struck Pearl Harbor with an unexpected attack that would draw America into a global conflict the likes of which the world had never seen. The setting for this challenge is 30 years in the future, but the geography, events and actors included in this presidential address are up to you.
For details and writing prompts, click here.

The purpose of the council's series of "war-art" challenges is to showcase the value of creative thinking in the national security realm and gain insight into the future of warfare. In summer 2015, the organization's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security plans to publish an electronic compilation of the best of these and other national security themed art and writing.

Other submissions guidelines include:
  • Entries should, at a minimum, re-imagine the content of the first four paragraphs of the speech.
  • A panel of Atlantic Council experts and War On The Rocks editors will select the winner, who will be announced by Dec. 22, 2015.
  • Entries must be the creator's original work.
  • Select runner-up entries will be featured on the project's website.
  • While authors may publish under a pseudonym, a C.V. or biography is required.
The Atlantic Council project has also issued a "war-art" challenge for longer-form, fictionalized journalistic accounts of events leading to a larger-scale conflict among nations. Stories written for "The Next Great War" challenge should be between 1,500 to 2,500 words. Deadline is Dec. 31, 2014.

The call reads, in part:
It has been said that journalists write the first rough draft of history. Through the rise of radio and television, written accounts still define how the enduring narratives around how we come to understand the historic points at which everything changes. A century ago, an angry nationalist in Sarajevo opportunistically aimed his pistol at the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. What followed was "the war to end all wars." Yet it was not the end. The tank, the machine gun and the warplane wracked Europe’s battlefields for the first time as the conflict set the stage for further tragedy in the 20th Century.
For more details and creative cues, click here.

09 December 2014

Iowa's 34th Army Band to be Honored for WWII Service

Based on an Iowa National Guard news release dated Dec. 6, 2014:

The Iowa National Guard's 34th Army Band, based in Fairfield, Iowa, will be presented the Croix de Guerre with Palm, a battle streamer the unit earned during its campaigns of World War II but was never formally awarded. The oversight was recently discovered during a routine review of the unit’s lineage and honors.

The presentation will be held on Sat., Dec. 13, beginning at 2 p.m., at the Iowa Army National Guard Armory, 1501 W. Stone Ave., Fairfield, Iowa. The award ceremony will be followed by a community concert by four of the 34th Army Band’s Music Performance Teams. Members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend this event.

The French Croix de Guerre with Palm is a division-level award instituted on April 8, 1915 by the French government to recognize acts of bravery in the face of the enemy. The 34th Army Band originally received the award under Decision No. 843, on June 21, 1945 by the president of the provisional government of the French Republic, with the following citation:

"An elite Division, whose loyal and efficient cooperation with the French divisions, which begun in Tunisia, was gloriously continued throughout the Italian campaign. During the operations of Belvedere, the 34th Infantry Division, despite the difficulties of the moment, displayed the most courageous actions in support of the operations of the 3rd Algerian Division."

During action in World War II, the band fought in campaigns at Tunisia (North Africa), Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, North Apennines and Po Valley (Italy).

Minnesota's 34th Inf. Div. Band
Today, there are two bands that trace lineage through the history of the U.S. 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division. One is a Minnesota National Guard Unit: The 34th Inf. Div. Band, headquartered in Rosemount, Minn.

The division band traces its lineage to the 1st Infantry Band, (Minnesota National Guard) organized in April 30, 1900. The unit was redesignated the 135th Infantry Band in 1917 for federal service in World War I as part of the 34th Infantry Division.

The 135th was activated in 1941 for service in WWII. The 135th Infantry Band arrived in Ireland in 1942 and earned the distinction of being the first U.S. band to play in the European Theater of Operations.

Iowa's 34th Army Band
The other "Red Bull" legacy band unit is the Iowa National Guard's 34th Army Band, headquartered in Fairfield, Iowa.

Concurrent to the 135th in World War II, the 133rd Infantry Band (Iowa Army National Guard) was deployed to Africa and Italy as part of the 34th Infantry Division. The 133rd earned the distinction of landing with the first contingent of U.S. troops in early 1942 as a part of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and became known as the "Oldest Band" in the European Theater of Operations.

On Jan. 1, 1944 the 135th Infantry Band (Minnesota Army National Guard) was combined with the 133rd Infantry Band (Iowa Army National Guard) to create the 34th Infantry Division Band.

An official webpage about the Iowa National Guard band unit is here.

An official Facebook page for the Iowa band organization is here.

An official webpage about the Minnesota National Guard band unit is here.

An official webpage about the Minnesota band organization is here.

04 December 2014

Successful Wargame Leads to 'Red Bull' Deployment

Minnesota Army National Guard Col. Mike Wickman, the chief-of-staff for the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, says the headquarters' pending 2015 deployment to an Ebola-response mission in West Africa is the result of unit readiness, timing within the Army force-generation cycle ("ARFORGEN"), and an exemplary performance at last summer's Warfighter Exercise at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Wickman made his comments during an interview with Minnesota Military Radio Hour released Nov. 30. The weekly show is a privately syndicated program produced by Today's Business Radio, Minneapolis.

As part of Operation United Assistance, the 34th Inf. Div. headquarters will next spring replace the active-duty Army's 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)—the "Screaming Eagles." The 34th Inf. Div. commander, Maj. Gen. Neal Loidolt, will lead the mission.

"The 34th 'Red Bull' Inf. Div. is a proven, versatile, and capable force," said Wickman, the officer in charge of coordinating the headquarters staff functions. "It's prepared to lead military forces during this humanitarian mission, just as we've done in previous peacekeeping and warfighting missions—Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq. We train to the exact standard of the Active Component, and we're in the Army Force Generation cycle to be ready for potential deployments, and have recently successfully completed an Army Warfighter evaluation exercise."

Wickman told radio host Tom Lyons that the unit of 700 Minnesota citizen-soldiers is anticipated to mobilize and deploy around March or April 2015, and to deploy for roughly six months. The division's mission of "provide command and control to subordinate units" will remain unchanged, although specifics remain to be determined. Deployed soldiers will not be providing medical care directly to Ebola patients, Wickman said.

"Along with the standard deployment training that we'll receive, we'll also be receiving a great deal of mobilization medical training that will prepare us specifically for any of the environmental hazards that we expect to face," said Wickman. "[...] Not only will we receive very specific medical training to prepare us for the environmental conditions, but we'll get all the equipment we'll need to provide protection, and to avoid the risks we could face while we're overseas."

This past summer's Warfighter exercise was billed as the largest-ever of its kind, calcuated by number of participating units. The training event involved approximately 2,500 soldiers, comprising more than 20 units from 14 states, including National Guard units from California, Colorado, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wyoming. Army Reserve units from California and Colorado also participated, as did and active Army units from Fort Sill, Okla. and Fort Riley, Kansas.

02 December 2014

These are a Few of Sherpa's Favorite Things ...

While you hum that "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens" song in your head, here are a few Sherpa-esque holiday gift ideas and double-tapped recommendations from earlier in 2014:

1. "Six-Word War: Six-Word Stories from a Generation at War in Iraq and Afghanistan"

"Reviewed here. Now in paperback here."

How's that for six words?


2. "Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow" (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)

It's "Groundhog Day" (1993) meets "Starship Troopers" (1997)!

The ultimate sci-fi deployment pron for former Army lessons-learned guys!

Your results, of course, may vary.


3. "Red, White, and True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present"

I keep one of these handy as ammunition against those who would argue that "fiction is the only way to tell the truth of war." Readers, take note: I might embellish, but I don't feel the need to make things up. Collections like this demonstrate the power of sticking to the facts.


4. "A Year at Danger" documentary on DVD

An Iraq War documentary by West Point graduate, Texas National Guard citizen-soldier, and fellow Telling Project alumnus Steve Metze. It tells the story of Metze's 2005 deployment to Iraq—he served at FOB Danger, near Tikrit—just nine days after his wedding.

Of all that I've read, viewed, or experienced regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the thing that has most accurately and effectively captured the National Guard deployment experience. This is what happens when we send our neighbors off to war.


5. "War Stories: New Military Science Fiction"

I started reading military science fiction in the 1970s and '80s, and rediscovered it when I put John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" in my cargo pocket for Afghanistan in 2011. This anthology of new military science-fiction offers emerging visions of what war might come to look like, from human-led robot squads to a weaponized version of Facebook.


6. 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division snowflake cookie plate

Originally designed in 2013 with a little help from the Sherpa kids, we digitized the Red Bull "snowflake" and put it on coffee mugs and greeting cards at the new Red Bull Rising Zazzle store.

Our favorite item is this cookie plate, which has successfully infiltrated the indigenous holiday decor. Bonuses: Dishwasher-safe! Household-6-approved!


7. Subscription to print version of Veterans Writing Project's "O-Dark-Thirty" literary journal

Only $30 for a four-issue subscription! Quarterly hits of veterans' fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more! Keep writing! Keep reading!

26 November 2014

Thank You, Vonnegut! Thank You, Doctrine Man!!

Photo of cover and poem recently published in third annual issue of "So It Goes: the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library," which was organized around a theme of creative process. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with lacquered resin mixed with metallic powders. Originating in the 15th century, the practice celebrates an object’s history and imperfections, while also keeping it in service. Ashikaga Yoshimasa and Tom Albers are each real people, but only one was a citizen-soldier in the Iowa Army National Guard.

At risk of sounding like that inscrutable "Thank U" song by Alanis Morrisette, I am thankful for a rewarding year of writing. My work continues on various research, writing, and goof-off projects related to the history of the U.S. 34th Infantry "Red Bull Division. Meanwhile, I grew more confident in my production of military-themed poetry (should that be "light verse about the light infantry"?), and more aggressive in seeking venues for its publication.

To paraphrase Alanis: "Thank you, India! Thank you, (war on?) terror! Thank you, disillusionment!"

Writing and publishing poetry probably distracted me from larger career targets, but it also provided an outlet for exploring fragments that might otherwise have ended up unexplored. Receiving a coin from a former commander, for example. Or what it felt like to work in a Tactical Operations Center. It's amazing what sticks with you. It's amazing what comes back. And, it's fun to share.

Just this year, I saw more than 12 poems published, in print and on-line.

I benefited in this effort, I know, from a 2014 boomlet of venues seeking to publish veterans' lit. At one point, I counted a dozen journals and anthologies actively soliciting military-themed fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more. Whenever possible, I tried to pass along news of these opportunities to my fellow mil-writers via the Red Bull Rising blog. I also tried to encourage other practitioners via on-line interviews (here and here), and via workshops and presentations.

Nearly five years out of uniform, and I'm still doing lessons-learned ...

Last spring, I shared my publishing methods and insights at the Great Plains Writers' Conference, Brookings, S.D. and at Writing My Way Back Home, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I'm looking forward to other such opportunities in 2015—including the Military Experience and the Arts Symposium in Lawton, Okla., May 14-17.

Some venues for veterans' voices are well-established. Southeast Missouri State University, for example, recently published its third annual "Proud to Be" anthology. Editors have already issued a call for submissions toward a fourth volume. The dead-tree version of the Veterans Writing Project's literary journal "O-Dark-Thirty" is a joy that arrives quarterly to my mailbox (subscribe here!), although you can also read its issues free on-line here.

Other publications emerged, such as Line of Advance and The Pass In Review. Special themed issues popped up like 25-meter targets. Scintilla magazine, for example, dedicated an entire issue to veterans' writing. And The Iowa Review continues its annual (?) Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for writers who are veterans.

Of course, the literary terrain is always shifting. Publications come and go. Funding, staffing, energy, and interest quickly become obstacles to a clockwork publication schedule. The Pass In Review, for example, went on hiatus after two issues. I'm told they're refitting and cross-leveling their intellectual ammunition for 2015.

Rather than publish four separate journals, Military Experience and the Arts is consolidating its family of non-fiction, fiction, trauma-writing, and poetry journals under one cover, now titled "As You Were." The inaugural issue is here.

Some military-writing sites, like Doonesbury's "The Sandbox," live on as on-line archives. Others, such as Milblogging.com, have left the net altogether.

In this season of reflection, I am proud and humbled to have had my work appear in many of these publications. I am thankful for the hard work that writers and designers and editors invest in bringing these products to life. Moreover, I am thankful to be part of a larger community of veterans (and readers!) that seeks to encourage the expressions of others.

Thank you for your words. Thank you for reading some of mine.

In the meantime, have a safe and rewarding Thanksgiving. Remember to check on your buddies, remember to hug your kids.

Give thanks.



Here's a quick list of places in which to read some of my 2014 work, as well as that of writer-veterans. Please support these venues with your attentions and patronage, as appropriate:

20 November 2014

'Red Bull Rising' Blog Launches Zazzle Store!

Find designs like this at: zazzle.com/redbullrising
Last year, the Sherpa kids and I worked hard to develop a prototype Red Bull snowflake pattern. Actually, we'd started by making Darth Vader and Princess Leia snowflakes that we'd found on the Internet, and developed enough expertise to branch off on our own.

The Force was with us.

We posted the Red Bull result on the Red Bull Rising Facebook page, along with the tagline: "We're dreaming of a Red Bull Christmas."

Just hold your horses, before you hog-tie me for even mentioning Christmas before Thanksgiving has come and gone. I told you that special snowflake story, in order to tell you this one ...

For the past couple of years, when we've executed a particular piece of military humor or snarky design, we've lacked the bandwidth for sharing it with others, more than just posting it on Facebook as some sort of mini-meme.

When we tried to digitally re-create our Red Bull snowflake this year, we realized two things:
1. We managed to fit another couple of bulls in there this time. 
2. This design might make a fun Christmas ornament, not only for the Sherpa family, but for you and yours as well. 
One thing led to another, and we started to experiment with the print-on-demand service Zazzle. We'd ordered other products through the company—mostly DoctrineMugs!! designed by the notorious web cartoonist DoctrineMan!!—and we were pleased with the quality. So we uploaded our Red Bull Rising snowflake design, as well as a new Red Bull take on that popular "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster from World War II Britain.

We started with the basics. In addition to ornaments, we've prototyped some greeting cards, magnets, coffee mugs—even a candy dish!

More products and designs will follow.

Right now, however, you might say we're still in Beta mode. Or call it a "soft launch." Still, we're having fun learning yet another interface, and thought we'd share some of our early results. Take a look at our new on-line store. Feel free to offer feedback and suggestions.

There's even a 20 to 60 percent sale on all Zazzle products until Fri., Nov. 21. Just use the coupon code "TISTHESEASON" when you place an order.

Thanks, as always, for your continued readership and support.

Keep calm this holiday season, and Attack! Attack! Attack!

17 November 2014

Analysis: Photos Offer Clues to Guard's Ebola Mission

Footprint outlines mark the floor in the doffing station Nov. 4, 2014, where medical 
workers at the Monrovia Medical Unit will decontaminate and take off their personal 
protective equipment after working in the high-risk zone where suspected and infected 
Ebola patients are cared for. PHOTO: Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins, Joint Forces 
Command–United Assistance Public Affairs/RELEASED
News releases and photography by 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) public affairs soldiers describe and depict potential working environments for the 80 citizen-soldiers of the Iowa National Guard's 294th Area Support Medical Company (294th A.S.M.C.), Washington, Iowa, which was notified earlier this week of a possible spring 2015 deployment to Liberia.

More generally, the reports also help put into context the mobilization of 2,100 citizen-soldiers nationwide for Operation United Assistance, a mission supporting the containment of Ebola virus in West Africa. That mobilization includes the headquarters for the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, based in Rosemount, Minn., which will replace the 101st Abn. Div. in country.

Footprint outlines designate where medical
personnel will stand when doffing protective
equipment after caring for patients suspected
of Ebola infection. PHOTO: Sgt. 1st Class
Nathan Hoskins, Joint Forces Command—United
Assistance Public Affairs/RELEASED
The deployments are anticipated to last approximately 6 months, and will include 21-days of medical observation upon return from active-duty.

Normally, for purposes of operational security, deployed Army photographers are trained to crop in tight and focus on people, which limits visual details about the surrounding environment or area of operations. The focus of recent Army images and messages, however, has been on increasing the global public's confidence in the medical facilities, personnel, and resources being put on the ground.

In their respective news releases, for example, Iowa and Minnesota National Guard spokespersons took pains to emphasize that National Guard personnel would not be treating residents of West African nations. Specifically, the Iowa medical unit would provide administration and care to U.S. and coalition medical workers who themselves may have contracted Ebola, in a setting such as the one-of-a-kind 25-bed "Monrovia Medical Unit" (M.M.U.) described in the Army news release printed in its entirety below.

The 12-tent facility features an open-air reception area, a low-risk zone for medical support and healthcare workers, and specified areas for treating "suspected" and "confirmed" Ebola cases.

As noted in the boilerplate captions for the photo series:
The 25-bed MMU is a unique [Ebola Treatment Unit (E.T.U.)] built specifically to care for medical workers who have become infected with Ebola while treating patients. United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation to provide logistics, training and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations.
U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac, leftand Liberian President Ellen 
Johnston Sirleaf, right, during recent visit for the ceremonial opening for the 
Monrovia Medical Unit (M.M.U.) PHOTO: Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins, 
Joint Forces Command–United Assistance Public Affairs/RELEASED
Recent Army news coverage has also featured photography of the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac, who toured the Monrovia Medical Unit prior to its being placed into service.

The country of Liberia has its roots in American history. Starting in 1820, the country was colonized by freed slaves. The Republic of Liberia was established in 1847. Its capital Monrovia, takes its name from the James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president. The country's red-and-white-striped flag is also a persistent symbol of the historical connections between the United States and Liberia.


Panoramic photo of the recently opened Monrovia Medical Unit, located 30 miles outside the Liberian capital. PHOTO: Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins, Joint Forces Command–United Assistance Public Affairs/RELEASED
By Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins
Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

Released Nov. 5, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia—The Monrovia Medical Unit (M.M.U.), an Ebola treatment unit constructed specifically for the treatment of medical workers who were infected while caring for Ebola patients, is scheduled to open Nov. 8, located about 30 miles outside Monrovia, Liberia.

"The Monrovia Medical Unit, otherwise known as an MMU, is different than an Ebola treatment unit—E.T.U.—because our main purpose is to give hope to doctors and nurses as we will be treating any suspected or infected cases that happen around West Africa," said U.S. Public Health Service Lt. Shane Deckert, the MMU facility engineer.

No other facility like this exists, said Lt. Col. Lee Hicks, the Joint Forces Command–United Assistance command engineer.

"If an aide worker gets sick, they bring them to the MMU to get taken care of by the U.S. Public Health Service," said Hicks. "It’s an incentive for health care workers to go work in an ETU, knowing that if they get sick, they’ll be taken care of."

The 25-bed facility was constructed from the ground up by a team of Navy Seabees, soldiers and airmen from Joint Forces Command—United Assistance and will be operated by personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service, said hicks.

Before arriving to Liberia to help construct and run the MMU, medical personnel from the [U.S. Public Health Service (U.S.P.H.S.)], contacted other treatment facilities to compile and absorb as much information on best practices for ETUs, said Cmdr. Tom Janisko, a physician’s assistant with USPHS who will be working in preventative medicine there.

Once on the ground in Liberia, the USPHS team trained extensively before doing rounds at an active ETU, he said.

The MMU compound is separated into two—one side is the low-risk zone for medical workers and support staff; the other side is the high-risk zone for suspected and infected patients, he said.

The structure is comprised of 12 tents, four that make up an administrative area for staff members and eight that make up three wards for patients and other necessary services, said Deckert.

The administrative tents are where all the behind-the-scenes work happens—the ordering of personal protective gear, scheduling, processing of paperwork, eating meals.

The high-risk zone is where the patients reside and receive treatment. Because of the contagious nature of the disease, the two halves do not connect in any way.

"The most acute ward would be for the patients who have Ebola," said Janisko. This is the confirmed ward.

The other two wards are the suspected and a flex ward that will be used as needed, said Janisko. Patients who are suspected to have Ebola will be cared for in the suspected ward while they wait for their blood tests to come back from the on-site laboratory.

"There’s nothing else like the MMU in Liberia," said Hicks. "It has everything to take care of folks who may have Ebola or do have Ebola and help them recover from that deadly virus. It’s the first time it’s ever been built like this and used in this type of fashion."

Along with the laboratory, there is a pharmacy, behavioral health section, and a patient reception area on the grounds as well, said Janisko. Restrooms and showers are located behind the wards.

The reception area is unlike most in that it is outdoors. The patients speak to their friends and family members through a windowless structure that is six feet away from a similar structure on the other side of the compound’s fence.

Studies have shown that when Ebola is emitted from a patient due to a sneeze or spittle from a cough, it dies before traveling approximately a meter, said Janisko.

The entire fenced-in compound is nearly self-contained, needing only resupply of water, fuel and food, said Deckert. Fuel supplies two large generators that power the electricity and one small generator that powers the perimeter lighting. The water is for cleaning and decontaminating personnel and equipment.

Every detail was thought out, said Deckert. The complex is built on a slope so that any infectious materials or fluids would drain away from the safe zone in case of heavy rainfall.

There’s also an incinerator on site to dispose of used personal protective equipment so that no trace of the virus leaves the compound, said Deckert.

16 November 2014

Minnesota, Iowa Soldiers to Deploy to Ebola Mission

More than 700 citizen-soldiers wearing the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division shoulder patch will deploy to support humanitarian relief efforts in Liberia in Spring 2015, according to a Nov. 16 news release from the Minnesota National Guard.

The 6-month mobilization is part of "Operation United Assistance." Members of the Rosemount, Minn-based division will provide command and control of U.S. military forces deployed as part of United States Agency for International Development's (U.S.A.I.D.) efforts to contain outbreaks of Ebola virus in that country.

The announcement comes just days after U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signed an order authorized the mobilization of 2,100 U.S. National Guard and reserve troops for Operation United Assistance.

"Our mission will be to coordinate all of the Department of Defense resources in Liberia to support USAID and the government of Liberia to contain the Ebola virus, and ultimately save lives," said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. Nash himself is a former commander of the division.

"And importantly for the Liberian people," Nash continued, "the Minnesota National Guard presence will provide confidence that something can and will be done to stop the spread of disease."

In Iowa, approximately 80 citizen-soldiers of the Washington-based 294th Area Support Medical Company (294th A.S.M.C) have also been notified of possible deployment, according to a Nov. 16 news release from the Iowa National Guard. The unit is part of Iowa's 67th Troop Command, and wear a "Hawkeye" shoulder patch with origins in 34th Inf. Div. history.

According to Iowa National Guard officials, the 294th ASMC provides full-spectrum medical support operations for a designated area of operations, including casualty triage, basic medical treatment and sustainment of life, and transport of injured and sick personnel. The unit will also deploy for six months, during which time it will provide direct patient care to U.S. Department of Defense and coalition personnel only.

In Minnesota, officials are taking similar pains to emphasize that Red Bull soldiers will not treat Ebola patients.

The 34th Inf. Div. headquarters will relieve the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 101st Airborne Division, known as the "Screaming Eagle." The Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Inf. Div. (2-34th BCT) served under the 101s Airborne Div. during a 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan.

The Red Bull soldiers are anticipated to depart Minnesota in March 2015 for pre-mobilization training before deploying to Monrovia, Liberia in April 2015 to assume command from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) (101st Abn. Div.), according to the news release. All troops deploying to West Africa will receive specific medical training—developed in conjunction with U.S. Army Public Health Command—and utilize specialized personal protective equipment to ensure they are protected from exposure.

"Preserving the health of our soldiers is the highest priority for this mission," said Army Maj. Gen. Neal Loidolt, commanding general of the 34th Inf. Div. "Extra steps are being taken to protect the soldiers' health, including personnel protective equipment and educating the soldiers about the diseases prevalent in the area."

"This mission highlights the versatility of the National Guard," said Loidolt. "In addition to being deployed for domestic emergencies in Minnesota, many of these Red Bull soldiers have been deployed for peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo; and warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am confident that our citizen-soldiers are up to the task of providing humanitarian aid in Western Africa."

Minnesota's 34th Inf. Div. headquarters previously deployed to Iraq under the command of Maj. Gen. Nash, where the unit provided command and control of Multi-National Division South.

Iowa's 294th ASMC previously deployed in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where the unit provided full spectrum medical support at the Taji Theater Internment Facility Reintegration Center (T.I.F.R.C.).

A Nov. 16 news release from the National Guard Bureau lists these units to be deployed:
  • 34th Infantry Division Headquarters, Minnesota Army National Guard
  • 16th Engineer Brigade Headquarters, Ohio Army National Guard
  • 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion (Linguist Detachment), California Army National Guard
  • 272nd Engineer Company (Vertical Construction), Texas Army National Guard
  • 294th Area Support Medical Company, Iowa Army National Guard
  • 891st Engineer Battalion, Kansas Army National Guard

13 November 2014

Iowa Theater Debuts Play Based on WWII Headlines

From press release information:

A new play recreates what life was like in small Midwestern towns during the World War II years using stories from interviews, old letters, family lore, and wartime editions of The Columbus (Iowa) Gazette. Written by small town natives Rick Williams and Ron Clark, "A Grateful Nation" will premiere as a script-in-hand performance for two shows only at Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert Street, Iowa City, Iowa on Sat., Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 16 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for Riverdog season pass holders. Veterans, military personnel and their immediate family receive a 20 percent discount off of regular adult-priced tickets as part of Riverside’s Blue Star Theatre Program. Click here for more information, or call the box office at: 319.338.7672.

The events and anecdotes in the play are centered on stories and people from Columbus Junction, Iowa—a town where authors Williams and Clark grew up, about 35 miles southeast of Iowa City .

"Though the majority of the stories we tell are about people in our town, anyone from any town could do the research and uncover similar tales." says Clark, who is also directing the play. Adds Williams, "It would be a stretch to say these stories are universal, but they are certainly national. Every American living in the early 1940s was affected by the events of the war--and so were those of us who came after them."

Professional actors reading from the script will each play multiple characters. The cast includes Jody Hovland, Sean DeMers, Jack Sharkey, and Katherine Slaven. Drew Bielinski will complete the show with lighting and projection design.

Clark and Williams were childhood classmates in Columbus Junction. They eventually migrated to Iowa City, where they have each lived for more than 30 years. Family obligations and work commitments limited their time together.

About a year ago, Williams and Clark were inspired to collaborate on "A Grateful Nation." Writing for theater is nothing new for Clark. He and his wife, Jody Hovland are two of the co-founders of Riverside Theatre. Ron has authored three previous plays, including two about small town Iowa life. Williams is a newcomer to playwriting but is a historian with a journalism background, working as a newspaper reporter before becoming an editor for ACT, where he spent 29 years before retiring.

There will be post-performance talkbacks after both shows with the writers and actors.

11 November 2014

Third 'Proud to Be' Mil-Writing Anthology Released

A third volume of the "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors" anthology series, published annually by Southeast Missouri State University Press, is released today, Tues., Nov. 11, 2014. The cover photo features an Air Force blue color palette and qualification badges. Cover photo is by Jay Harden. The anthology features the fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and photography of more than 60 military writers.

The new books may be ordered through the press here, or via Amazon here.

Editors of the series have already opened submissions for a fourth volume of military-themed fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, oral histories, and photography. Deadline is June 1, 2015. The project is open to all military personnel, veterans, and family members.

According to the submissions notice, entrants can submit to a contest in which each category carries a first-prize of $250, or submit to the anthology alone. All entries will be considered for the anthology. There is no entry fee to the contest or publication.

Through the efforts of the Warriors Arts Alliance, the Missouri Humanities Council, and Southeast Missouri State University Press, the first "Proud to Be" volume was published in November 2012. The second was published last December.

"[T]his series of anthologies preserves and shares the perspectives of our military and veterans of all conflicts and of their families," reads the Southeast Missouri State University Press contest page. "It is not only an outlet for artistic expression but also a document of the unique aspects of wartime in our nation’s history."

For a 2012 Red Bull Rising interview with "Proud to Be" editor Susan Swartout, click here.

To submit only to the 2015 anthology, mail previously unpublished work with self-addressed, stamped envelope (S.A.S.E.) for notification to:
Warriors Anthology
Southeast Missouri State University Press, MS 2650
Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701
To submit to both contest and anthology, e-mail previously unpublished work to: upress@semo.edu. Also note:
  • Entries must be sent electronically as Microsoft Word files (.doc or .docx).
  • Keep poems in one document (with 1st poem as title).
  • Put your name and contact info on first page and nowhere else on the manuscript.
For all submissions, whether mailed or electronic:
  • Limit one submission in each category per person.
  • Poetry: up to 3 poems (5 pages maximum).
  • Fiction, essay, or interview: 5,000-word limit.
  • Photography: up to 3 good-quality photos (will be printed in the book as black and white).
  • Submissions exceeding the limits will be disqualified.
  • Include a biography of 75 words or less with each submission.
  • Winners and contributors will be notified by Nov. 1, 2015.

09 November 2014

Writing Contest Seeks Stories, Poetry About Animals

Service-dog-in-training "Arlington" poses with members of
Iowa National Guard funeral honors team. PHOTO: Paws & Effect
The Red Bull Rising blog is a proud supporter of a nationwide arts and writing contest that is seeking short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and art by young people, military service members and veterans, and the general public. The theme is human-animal bonds and relationships. Deadline is Jan. 5, 2015. There is a monetary award of $100 in each category/sub-category.

The contest is underwritten by Central Iowa non-profit Paws & Effect, and will be the centerpiece of  the organization's annual "One Heart, Four Paws" Valentine's Day celebration of the connections among humans and animals.

Established in 2006, the Des Moines, Iowa-based non-profit is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises, trains, and places service dogs with military veterans and children diagnosed with medical needs. The organization also registers therapy animals through Pet Partners, and hosts dog-agility events.

Editors are seeking previously unpublished flash-fiction, non-fiction, and poetry on the themes illustrating human-animal connections.

Winners selected in each of the following categories:
  • Youth (Ages 6-12)
  • Open—Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry
  • Military service member/veteran—Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry
Winners in each category/subcategory will receive:
  • Recognition at the Feb. 13, 2015 "One Heart, Four Paws" gala event.
  • A monetary award of $100.
  • Publication of their work(s) in a commemorative broadsheet, chapbook, or other physical object, to be distributed at the event.
All submitted works will also be considered for inclusion in a commemorative anthology, to be published later in 2015.

There is no submission fee for the Youth category. Youth submissions should be made via postal mail, using this downloadable form, or on-line here at Submittable.com. All hardcopy entries become the property of Paws & Effect and will not be returned. Send entries to:
"One Heart, Four Paws" Youth Contest
c/o Middle West Press
P.O. Box 31099
Johnston, Iowa 50131-9428
Guidelines for Open and Military/Veteran categories include:
  • Limit one submission in each category per person.
  • Poetry: up to 3 poems (5 pages maximum).
  • All prose (including fiction, non-fiction, essay, and memoir): 750-word limit.
  • Submissions exceeding the limits will be disqualified.
  • Include a biography of 75 words or less with each submission. Past and present members of all branches, services, and nationalities may submit to the Military/Veteran category.
  • Winners and contributors will be notified by Feb. 1, 2015.
  • This project acquires first North American and anthology rights.
  • Judges' decisions are final. Judges also reserve the rights to make additional awards in each category/subcategory, and to decline making awards within one or more categories/subcategories.