Keeping the "Trucks" Rolling Into, Around and Out of Afghanistan and Iraq - DoD Roundtable

The DoD Bloggers Roundtable met with Maj General Robert McMahon, Director of the Central Command Deployment and Distribution Center (CENTCOM DDOC) to discuss the logistics of surging in Afghanistan and drawing down forces in Iraq. With direct oversight of strategic logistics in both locations the general has quite a job. When queried about the effort he said he has a great team of professionals from the Guard, Reserves and Active forces to run the Center and keep track of the passengers, equipment and supplies moving through the system in and out of both countries. In addition, he thanked the Defense Logistics Agency and Transportation Command at Scott AFB for their great efforts to keep the flow moving into and out of the CENTCOM region.

One item of special note that military families will have special interest in was that the center is the agent responsible for R & R (Rest and Relaxation leave) travelers! With a son in law who returned home from Iraq using this system I was glad to hear it was a priority and focus at the center. The center uses a spoke and hub airlift plan to move the travelers and our experience was that it worked pretty well! One delay in Atlanta after being bumped off a flight was the only hitch during deployment, R & R and redeployment for Paul. They also have a single ticket plan that provides a method for reaching your destination that is particularly helpful for individuals not involved in unit moves such as reserve IMAs (individual mobilization augmentees) that are enroute their destination without a military unit. With a single ticket you have a schedule for reaching the end versus arriving at a port and waiting “for your ship to come in”.

The logistics flow at the center uses air, land and sea to meet the needs of theatre forces. They also use a mix of trucks and rail for the land portion and commercial resources for all three which he described as essential to meeting the requirements. When I asked if he had enough aircraft to move the requirements he said the command demand for air was always infinite but that they were generating 1,000 pallet positions a day to meet the needs with C-17s and C-130s. Airlift moves critical supplies and equipment such as MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles and MATVs (Multipurpose All-Terrain Vehicles) to expedite their movement and avoid some of the long ground routes into Afghanistan. He added that commercial lift is used to augment our organic military capability.

Did you know we were using land/rail routes through Russia, the land bridge between the Black and Caspian Sea, and the Central Asian States into northern Afghanistan? This route has better infrastructure including rail lines and keeps a “second gate” open for the transportation system to use which is always critical during any conflict. The transportation gate through the port of Karachi in Pakistan is hampered by the highways (which do not meet what you might consider a definition of highway) through the mountain passes in between Afghanistan and Pakistan. One listener asked about what cargo could be moved through Russia including lethal supplies (ammunition, etc) and the general maintained that airlift provides the method of choice for sensitive cargo.

This Roundtable topic had the potential for a lot of very sensitive information and I was impressed with how it was handled and the participants respected the subject and its possible impact on our men and women at war. Only one question was not answered due to OPSEC (operational security) reasons by the general. Accolades to all involved!

One long term side effect of the US logistics flow into Afghanistan is the improvement of their infrastructure for the future. With the improved rail lines, airports and highways the Afghan commerce (and lifestyle as well) will improve. No economy can improve without these lifelines to the world and their improvement will have a long term impact on this country’s viability and strength similar to what I wrote earlier about concerning Iraqi agricultural improvements (Success in Iraq?? Where we are today - DoD Bloggers Roundtable). When I flew into Kandahar and Bagram in 2001 they were austere airports with limited capability and required a crew that was really at the top of their game! As we have added new improvements to roads, the rail lines in the north and airports we have made it easier to get an education, be in touch with the outside world, make womens' and childrens' lives better and much more! In the end our hope is for a better country and more security for us with a modern Afghanistan and Iraq!

A big thank you to all those currently serving in these countries, in the air, at sea or providing the resources they need! The world is a better place because of you!

The New Media Directorate is to be applauded for their efforts to keep us informed with such great leaders meeting with us! A shout out to the coordinator, Lt Cragg and team! If you would like to listen to to the audio or read a transcript please go to DoDLive!

Photo Credits: A mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicle (MATV) is loaded onto a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft on Sept. 30, 2009. The C-17, based at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., will take on a second vehicle then fly the cargo to southwest Asia to support combat missions. DoD photo by James M. Bowman, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Photo Credits: U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert H. McMahon DoDLive

Season Passes and Getting to know the community

I love our area zoo.  It's not the biggest zoo I've ever been to (I've been to a few GREAT ones) but for our area it is nice sized.  It is a great place to visit when we need a change of pace and it has an indoor 'Rainforest' so even during the winter we find ourselves packing up and spending a few hours with the animals.  The boys love watching the otters, the toads, and creeping their momma out with the snakes.

But individual tickets are expensive - $5 to $10 a person.  Maybe that isn't terrible if you make a family-day of it but if you just want to visit for a few hours as a break from the day, leaving for home before the kids get terribly tired and crabby, that can add up.  So each year we splurge and buy a 'Family Pass'.  It gets us into the zoo whenever we want for 'free'.  How can you beat that?  After a maximum of three visits as a family we have covered the price of the year long zoo-pass.  (And we do go about 10 to 15 times a year)  Plus, we can use it at other zoos in the state, and I've even used it at a zoo in Michigan!  Either it's 'free admission' or discounted at the reciprocating zoos.  LOVE IT!

My brothers, wives and their kids get a pass to their area 'Botanical Gardens'.  Another great area-attraction.  The Meijers Gardens has a wonderful children's area that the kids can play in for hours.  Every time I am visiting we seem to end up there.  Last time I was there they even gave us a military-discount!  It isn't advertised ... so if you are in the Grand Rapids area, stop by the Meijers Gardens and be sure to ask!  

Just for fun they are doing a photo contest that I entered.  Click here and then click on the 'Thumbs Up'.  I would love a season pass :)  Thanks for your vote!  And if you are in that area enter yourself!  It is a great opportunity. 

As I wrote in my 'photo submission': "We enjoy the Children's Gardens. Each visit requires a stop in front of the "Mad Mom" statue for the perfunctory photo op and then we get to roam the children's area. We can spend hours there; laughing, learning, loving being outdoors. Life is good, and "Momma is not Mad" after a visit to Meijer's Gardens!"  I could easily fill in the blank with the name of my area-zoo and I'm sure you could fill in the name of your local attraction, too.  Get out, put the budgeted-money up front so it's not a burden each time you visit (That sure can take a lot of the stress away!), enjoy time with your family.

What a great way to get to know the community!  If you are PCSing this summer, or PCSed recently, I'd encourage you to ask around and find out a great place to get a membership.  A Zoo.  A Science Center.  Botanical Gardens.  Go often.  Get out with the kids.  It is an easy way to get comfortable with a new neighborhood!

- Leanne from

Tasty Tuesday: Carrot Cups - A Biscuit w/ Carrots! Simple as ABC

I have a calendar that Pillsbury sent to me. It features a recipe a month. A few months ago, there was an idea of taking Grands or any large baking soda biscuit, flattening it and baking a mini-fruit pie in a muffin cup. (Oh my, they were good!)

We are not always 'allowed', 'encouraged' or looking to have sugary desserts. Diabetes frowns upon that part of meal! Careful preparation of the menu does allow for it from time to time. However, this simple dish just invited me to play. Enter springtime. We love vegetables and their colorful display. When I added Boursin and a sharp New York cheddar to carrots, we found an all time favorite! I added a recipe for Boursin at the bottom of the page. Boursin can be purchased in the specialty cheese section, or made in your kitchen... simple ingredients and wonderful flavor. Serve with crackers for an easy hor d'oeuvre.

Carrot Cups
Preheat oven to 400

Faces Behind the Hero: Heather, Army Wife, Mother of Multiples, Blogging-Expert

Meet this week's 'Face Behind the Hero', Heather.  Yet another, wonderful, strong, inspiring military-wife!  The wife of a linguist, a mother of *multiple* multiples, she knows what it means to serve.

What branch is your husband in? My husband is in the Army.

How long has he been in? He has been in more than 6 years now.

How long have you been married? We've been married for 8 years.

Do you have children? We have 6 children, ages 7, 5, 3, 3, 1, and 1. We have 2 sets of identical twins and a total of 4 boys and 2 girls.

How do you help them cope with military-life? We have really struggled to help our children understand the separation that has come with my husband's year-long TDY followed by an immediate year-long deployment. But 2 years without Daddy is hard to explain to a child. I wrote a blog post recently about ways we've helped them cope by reading books, taking pictures, making dolls with Daddy's picture, etc. You can see it here:

How many deployments have you been through? This is our first deployment.

How many PCSs? That's hard to say! Officially? I think we have had only had 3 so far. But we have had a lot of TDY moves. My husband went through many months of school (as a linguist) so we initially moved very frequently. We moved from our home in the suburbs of Washington, DC to California, then Texas, then Georgia. Last year I left our home in Georgia to visit my husband in Arizona and then moved to Virginia. At the end of this month I'm moving back to Georgia. When my husband gets home from Iraq I'll be in Washington state. In all I have lived in 7 different homes since my husband joined the Army.  (Wowzers!  That's a lot to take in!  Very true that there is NOTHING typical with the military.  But a move is a move.  TDY / PCS / a move "home" while hubs is deployed, they all qualify.)

When someone asks... “What can I do for you?” What is your response? I rarely have people ask what they can do for me. I think most people assume that I have it all under control. I've had a few people ask if I need anything and my response is now a resounding "yes." I need a break. I need a moment to myself. I need to shower. I need to use the bathroom without an audience. I need to hear my husband's voice. I need to eat a hot meal, preferably while seated at a table. But I don't say all that. What I say is that I need prayers, adult conversation, and a friend.

Where has your favorite post been? I really think that my favorite post was our year spent in Monterey at DLI. However, Ft. Gordon was a wonderful home for us for 4 years.

Why? I loved DLI because of the location. It was beautiful in Monterey and there were a lot of things to do in the area. We had a wonderful time there. It was an interesting transition to military life since it is not a true Army post. I complained a lot about life at Fort Gordon because of the Georgia weather and the location. In the end, it became my home and we had 4 children born while we were there so it will always be special to me. There is an amazing community of people there!

Where do you find the support you need when you need it? I find the best support online, through my blog, through websites like this one, and through networking with other military wives.

What do you miss most about “civilian life”? I miss my husband having a "9 to 5" job. I miss the predictability. I miss living near family.

What do you love most about “military life”? I love that military life has opened new doors for us. I love seeing new places, moving around the country, and the incredible sense of pride I feel when I see my husband in uniform. This is an awesome life, even though it is not easy.

What in "military life" could you really do without? I could do without the waiting. Hurry up and wait for everything. Wait to see where you'll be living next. Wait for your husband to come home. Wait, wait, wait.

What are you passionate about? I'm passionate about my family, my parenting choices, and my faith. (My parenting choices include such odd things as homebirth, homeschooling, and using cloth diapers... things that make people look at me funny!)  (Isn't it great to make our own choices, even when we get funny looks!  One of the many things, I love about the U.S. AND the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard that fight to defend OUR freedoms; as small as cloth diapers and as big as our right to Vote.)

What is your favorite color and why? My favorite color is purple. Maybe because my name means purple flower?

Do you have a favorite quote? Kind of... it's more of a mantra.

"Serenity now."

When you move to a new post what is one of the first things you do? I like to unpack immediately when we move to a new post. I like to be done in a couple of days so I can start exploring the area.

Has anyone in the community ever gone out of their way to help you, as the spouse of a military-member? This Christmas we visited a Christmas tree farm owned by an Army veteran and his family. He talked to me about my family and when he learned that my husband was gone, he offered to donate a Christmas tree to our family. It was such a blessing!

Do you use on base facilities? Commissary? PX? MWR? Child Care? Services of that nature. Why would you recommend one of these services in specific?   I am not close to a military base right now and I desperately miss being able to use the Commissary and MWR. I never realized how important the base facilities were to me until I no longer had access to them. I'm moving back to Georgia just so that I can be near an Army post again. I'll be shopping at the Commissary and going to deployment support groups. I'll be using respite child care. I'm signing my children up for sports on post. I miss having the ability to just go on post and be around people who understand this lifestyle.

Want to learn more about Heather?  Visit her wonderful-blog at  She is a true inspiration.  Thank so much, Heather, for your service as an Army-Wife, a mother of 'Brats' and all you do for the military-community.

Week in Review: Week of March 21 - March 27 (Military News)

Here are ten of our most popular military-related articles for the week on

Special Considerations for Military Renters: Active duty service-members face a big decision when they receive orders sending them to a new assignment: live in military housing, government-leased housing, or buy or rent a place in the nearby community.  In some situations, that choice is made for you. If there are no vacancies on the installation, you may be forced to find your own housing. On the other hand, if there's ample room on the installation, the local command may require you to live in military quarters. ...
How to Prepare Your Kids for a Move: Moving is a major life event for adults — and even more so for children. As you plan your move, follow these pointers to help smooth their transition to a new community.  Explain why you're moving.  Acknowledge their feelings.  It's only natural for your child to feel anxious about a move — after all, you probably are, too. Rather than dismissing their feelings, let them know you understand. Then brainstorm with your child to help them come up with ideas for addressing their concerns. ...

Senate bill would improve PCS travel benefits: Mileage reimbursement rates would increase and military families moving to or from Alaska, Hawaii and Guam would be able to ship a second car at government expense under legislation introduced Monday in the Senate. Sponsored by Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Servicemembers Permanent Change of Station Relief Act, S 3150, addresses two of the three improvements in travel reimbursements requested by the Military Coalition, a group of more than 30 military-related organizations. ...

Faces Behind the Hero: Ally, Navy Wife, Mom, Veteran, Blogger Extraordinaire: I am continually amazed at the strength of the military-spouse! This week's 'Face Behind the Hero' is another wonderful example of wit and wisdom; spice and life; juggler of so many hats! What a wonderful opportunity she has given us to see just a glimpse of her thoughts as a navy-wife. Thank you, Ally. Thank you to all of the military-spouses out there holding up the homefront. ...

Moving On A Budget: Moving is an expensive proposition, especially if you're bearing the entire cost yourself. With a little thought and advance planning, you can prepare yourself for the expense — and maybe even find some ways to lower the price tag. Your Moving Budget - As soon as you know you'll be moving, it's wise to estimate your expenses. Consider these potential costs: ...

3 Ways to Find Your Teen a Safe, Affordable Car: Although some teens buy cars with earnings from fast-food labor or hours of trudging behind a lawn mower, others receive an assist from mom and dad or grandparents. Either way, you can provide valuable advice on how to save money on the purchase, what safety features the car should have and how to drive responsibly.  1. Protecting Them and Their Investment  When you realize that your children or grandchildren will command an object that weighs several thousand pounds, you want to make sure they'll be safe behind the wheel.  ...

Face of Defense: Marine Sets Example for Other Women:  When women were first allowed to enlist in the Marine Corps in the 1940s, they did not qualify with weapons and they were not required to learn hand-to-hand combat, but they received instruction on etiquette and how to wear makeup. Marine Corps Cpl. Amy Gentry is a prime example of how much life for women serving in the Marine Corps has changed. A fire team leader with 2nd Platoon, Military Police Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, Gentry has deployed twice to Iraq’s Anbar province. ...

National Geographic’s “Adventurer of the Year” and a wounded warrior:   My interview with LTC Marc Hoffmeister, one of National Geographic’s “Adventurer of the Year” recipients.  In April 2007, LTC Hoffmeister was severely injured while serving in Iraq when an IED destroyed his Humvee. Hoffmeister was evacuated to Germany and then back to the U.S. on a 29-hour “hell flight” home, where he had eight surgeries on his arm and endured many months of painful rehabilitation. ...

Fatherhood:  I had the pleasure of reading a blog this morning on the DoD "Family Matters Blog". It left me inspired, thankful, even a little wistful. It reminds me of the fact that parenthood doesn't involve any sort of manual. Mothers, Fathers, we learned from our parents and we follow our heart. I will be the first to admit I have been blessed with some great men in my life; in particular, my dad and my husband.  Dad is now a retired Air Force Colonel. 30-years in the service, he retired just as I announced I was pregnant with my first, *E*. Basically, all I knew as a child was the Air Force way of life. ... Resources: Buying a Home: Is buying a home in your future? Here are some resources from to help prepare you to own a piece of the "American Dream". ...

More Great content:

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Success in Iraq?? Where we are today - DoD Bloggers Roundtable

The DoD Bloggers Roundtable met with Brig. Gen. Ralph Baker this morning to discuss today’s Iraq and the continued transition of the U.S. role in Iraq. General Baker closed with the comment that we won’t know how successful we have been until post 2011 (milestone for withdrawal) and we see the new relationship with the Iraq government - 3,5,10 years from now. I agree with the assessment but have confidence that our efforts and sacrifices have been worthwhile and have/will improve the lives of individual Iraqis.

Since June 2009 U.S. forces have left the Iraq cities and now are in an advise and assist role with the Iraqi Security Forces. The general said that this transition has been very successful with the US forces drawdown to reach 50,000 by 1 September from its current levels of 97,000 and the highest level of 170,000 during the “surge”. This drawdown will also reflect the mission change of US forces and our unit composition/skill sets will change too.

Currently, the Army has 11 Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) in Iraq and will transition to 6 Advisory Assistance Brigades (AAB) by 1 September. These new brigades will have new skill sets including 40-50 additional field grade officers to act as advisors to major Iraqi units and additional capability in intel, logistics and civil affairs. Two AABs will be placed in each region of the north, center and south of the country.

General Baker said the Iraqi’s ability to maintain their own security has allowed the U.S. to meet the withdrawal milestones. An example of this success has been the removal of weapons caches and the fact that Iraqi citizens now turn in the location of the caches to the ISF. He did say that they have seen new caches arrive from Syria and Iran but the support of the citizens continues to grow as they report the locations to authorities.

A very interesting note was the impact of efforts to improve Iraq’s agriculture! The Army BCTs, USAID, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Army Civil Affairs units have cooperated to assist farmers produce multiple crops using greenhouse growing, drip hose irrigation and other techniques. The efforts have been so successful to the Southeast of Baghdad, that they have been expanded to the West and eventually into Anbar province. This effort will definitely improve the lifestyle, economy and improve relations with those involved. I believe the Iraqis want security for their families, a healthy lifestyle and food on the table much like Americans! With the progress seen it appears they (and we) have been very successful! Congratulations to all!

If you would like to hear an audio of the Roundtable or read a transcript please go to DoDLive!

Photo Credit: Maj. Andrew Coleman, operations officer, Police Transitional Team, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, inspects some of the old oil pumping equipment at a pumping station in Al Khidr, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2010. New equipment currently operates to pump crude oil and natural gas to Basra for refining. Photo Credit: Sgt. Francis Horton, USDS Public Affairs

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Ralph Baker


I had the pleasure of reading a blog this morning on the DoD "Family Matters Blog".  It left me inspired, thankful, even a little wistful.  It reminds me of the fact that parenthood doesn't involve any sort of manual.  Mothers, Fathers, we learned from our parents and we follow our heart.  I will be the first to admit I have been blessed with some great men in my life; in particular, my dad and my husband.

Dad is now a retired Air Force Colonel.  30-years in the service, he retired just as I announced I was pregnant with my first, *E*.  Basically, all I knew as a child was the Air Force way of life.  It was hard being a 'brat', I won't kid you.  We moved about every 2 1/2 years; a few places we had up to 4 years, a few less then 18 months.   As a teenager, I went to three high school before I graduated; Florida, New York and Iceland.    When I would feel most vulnerable, from early-childhood and beyond, I would turn to Dad.  My mom and my relationship was very close, but there was something about turning to Dad with my troubles.  I knew he would take the time to listen, and he might not have the answers but I just needed his arm around my shoulder.  I needed his time when I felt so very insecure.

As we PCSed around the country, around the world, Dad would take leave and we would venture out as a family to get to know the community.  We would go to the zoos, museums, parks, beaches, even foreign-lands in trains, planes & automobiles.  Time as a family in a new 'world'.  It helped us settle us all.  We enjoyed the adventure arm-in-arm as a family.  Dad made sure it happened.

“In the Army we have manuals that tell us how to do just about everything,” Shinseki, noted. “But what we don’t have is a manual that tells you how to be a good father." - Forum Supports Military Dads, Family Matters Blog

Hubs is an enlisted-Marine, turned Army National Guard JAG officer.  Hubs has faced and triumphed over the growing challenge of being a single-Dad.  *J* was born to his high-school sweetheart while Hubs was in college.  There was never a wedding and the only life *J* has known is Mom and Dad as separate-entities.  I met *J* when he was three, married his dad when he was 7 and he has grown to be one of my own children!

Hubs has always made a very special effort to be there for *J*.  When *J* was younger Hubs would call him every night when he was at his mom's to find out how his day was.  It wasn't always easy, after all a 4 ... 5 ... 6 year old's phone skills can leave something to be desired.  Hubs went on field-trips when he could.  Helped him with homework, even over the phone at times, encouraged *J* to be everything that he is.  Hubs has gone to court multiple-times to be sure that *J* stays in our lives as much as possible. A part-time dad that was there for him full-time!

Now *J* is taller then his dad, has his own driver's license, a girlfriend and a strong-foundation for the life in front of him.  He is growing up to be a very respectable, smart, although clearly a teenager, young man.

Hubs has two other sons that we obviously can't forget, *E*, *C*.  The absolute apples of his eye.  They look forward to dad getting home every night, they look forward to him sitting with them and playing wii.  Time with Dad is more precious than gold in their eyes!  The boys have survived deployment; a year of missing their dad.  Now that Dad is a back in his civilian clothes during the week they understand he works long hours.  Even with ten to twelve hour days Hubs does everything he can to be home for dinner, and to tuck the boys into bed each night after bedtime books.  Most nights there is time spent in the home office working between the dinner hour and bedtime, but there is also a huge bin of brio train tracks in there that the boys know they can go in and play with at any time. 

Time: Hubs, no matter the circumstance, always has time for his boys.  BabyBoy is on his way.  Due to arrive early-August.  Four sons.  Four little-guys that love their dad with all their heart, and get the same sentiment in return.  My own dad; raised a daughter and two sons with my mom.  He took the time for family-vacations, sports, recitals, trips around town to see the sites.  Now he has 6 grandchildren.  He always has time for them, too!

Fatherhood.  The men in my life didn't need a manual!  How blessed I am.  How blessed my sons are!  I hope you take the opportunity to spend time with your own children today.  They crave it!  They need it!  Listen to them; show them; be there for them!   Remind the men in your children's lives that even just 20 minutes in the evening, or a weekend away, can be the start of a great foundation for a life of successful relationships!

- Leanne from

"Dignity, Respect, Order": 82nd Airborne Division in Haiti - DoD Roundtable

The DoD Bloggers Roundtable met to receive an update on earthquake relief efforts in devastated Haiti!

Col. Tim McAteer commander of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne, Ft Bragg, NC met with us to provide lessons learned and "2nd BCT Commander's perspective". He assumed command in Haiti on 9 February 2010 and the 82nd continues to provide relief while preparing to redeploy and assume its role as the Global Response Force on call Brigade on 1 April 2010.

The colonel highly praised all those responders to the Haitian crisis and said the initial response of American forces to provide security and order in Port-au-Prince was critical to the establishment of good order. He described the early environment as in total chaos due to losses among UN forces, Haitian police and government personnel. His paratroopers showed “incredible restraint” at times and with dignity, respect and order provided a security environment for the non governmental organizations (NGOs), USAID, UN forces and the Haitian government. He was extremely proud of the paratroopers and said they represented a wonderful cross section of the US and were true “ambassadors’ to the people of Haiti and he felt that the NGOs were surprised at how well they could work in the humanitarian relief environment.

The paratroopers broke down barriers, changed attitudes, saved lives and ended suffering. He said the Port-au-Prince hospital situation was the best example of what they did for the country with security and medics to overcome numerous challenges. The hospital was overwhelmed with patients and the medical care due to numerous reasons was being conducted at a pre-US civil war level. Many of the medical staff had been killed and the arrival of the 82nd brought calm to a turbulent situation.

The 82nd deployment is about to end (3,100 initially deployed in January and 900 are left) with command elements preparing to depart soon. He said the airport and naval ports are operating above capacity (prior to earthquake levels) and the security environment is vastly improved. He said the 82nd never saw any violence toward its troops and there were no incidents at food distribution points while they were on scene. The country is calm and the environment is vastly improved. He described the Haitian people as “thankful” and said the new relationships with other responders such as NGOs, UN and Haitian government personnel were ready to continue their support!

I would like to add a rousing thank you to the men and women of the 82nd and all of our armed forces serving or who served in Haiti! You have made us very proud of our nation and its caring attitude!

If you would like to read a transcript or listen an audio of the Roundtable please go to DoDLive!

Photo Credit: An 82nd Airborne Division medic speaks with children living in a tent city in Port-au-Prince, Feb. 18. The medic was working with a civil affairs team from U.S. Army Special Operations Command that was assessing medical, shelter, food and water needs to facilitate humanitarian assistance in the area. Photo Credit: Air Force 2nd Lt. Victoria Brayton

Photo Credit: Col. Tim McAteer Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Army

Tasty Tuesday: Lamb Shanks

Spring comes in like a lion... not much one can do there to portray that visual with a meal suggestion... however, Spring goes out like a lamb.

I imagine there are a few people who have never tried lamb. And that is such a shame. Lamb dishes are flavorful, simple to prepare and an almost new meat. There are so many ways to prepare a great Easter treat. Traditionally we have leg of lamb when we have company here. However this year, I am thinking about making Lamb Shanks. This dish takes some preparation time, but is worth the wait! And a new meat is an excellent change for the new season.

A bottle of Italian salad dressing adds zest, oil, and has herbs that make it ready to eat! When you find that you love this dish... try it using chicken breasts. It's a winner!

Lamb Shanks
Serves 4
4 lamb shanks (about 3/4 lb each)

1 /2 cup soy sauce
1 t prepared mustard
1/4 cup salad or olive oil
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 T lemon juice

Parmesan/Bread Crumb Mixture
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c bread crumbs
1 T dried parsley flakes
1 T dried basil leaves
1/2 t salt
1/4 t onion salt
1/3 c olive oil

1/2 bottle (8ox) Italian salad dressing

Place meat in 2 gallon zip lock bag, or large covered bowl. Pour marinade over meat. Marinate in refrigerator at least 5 hours, turning meat occasionally. Drain and discard liquid.

Mix Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs parsley flakes, basil, salt, and onion salt. Coat meat with Parmesan mixture, reserve leftover mixture. In hot oil in Dutch oven or large skillet (that has a lid); brown shanks over medium heat, turning occasionally.

Reduce heat; sprinkle remaining Parmesan mixture over the lamb shanks. Add 1 /2 bottle of Italian dressing and cover Dutch oven tightly. Simmer, turning occasionally, 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Serve with more Parmesan cheese and a side of angel hair pasta.

Spring is the time when new is popping out all over. Why not have something new on your menu! Happy Tasty Tuesday!

Calgon Take Me Away

Today was kindergarten-screening for *C*.  I started off the morning with the thought that my 'baby' would be entering kindergarten in the Fall just as the newest member of our family, Baby Boy, would be entering the world.  *C* is going go to lose his 'baby-status' in so many ways... This of course brought tears to my pregnancy-hormone-filled-eyes.  Sigh...

That is just one of those pregnancy moment ... it isn't where the Calgon comes into play.

In typical Leanne-fashion I procrastinated.  I knew where all the documentation for *C's* screening was.  SS card and birth certificate locked-up in our firebox, proof of residency in the office-filing cabinets, report from preschool teacher in his school folder in the kitchen.  Yep - would take me 5 minutes to round it all up.


An hour before we were supposed to be at the school I opened up the firebox to discover the birth-certificate was AWOL.  So I went into panic mode.  I searched the home-office... nope... I looked in the lock-box /a few times/... nope... I searched kitchen drawers ... nope.  I still don't have an answer.  At the screening I had to hang my head in shame and say it was missing and I would get a new one ASAP.  After much tsk-tsking from the secretary I think I made it apparent I KNEW it was important.  Sigh...

So *C* was in one room talking to different teachers: assessing shapes, alphabet, rhyming, typical pre-k type of stuff.  I'm in another filling out paper-work out the ying-yang.  Then comes the page, "Please remit a check for $X amount TODAY for all-day kindergarten."  (Yes, our school district requires a hefty amount of money - like over $1k, sickening - for full-day kindergarten, half-day is free.)  I didn't bring the check-book.  So once again ... I had to hang my head to tell the gals I don't have a checkbook.  She told me I had enough time to run home and get it.  So I ZOOMED home.  Grabbed the checkbook.  ZOOMED back to the school where *C* still was.  All the while berating myself for forgetting.

So there is two strikes.  1) Birth Certificate and 2) Checkbook.

Here comes Strike 3.

Every Monday I pick *E* and our neighbor up from school.  They are one of the last stops on the bus-route (and yet one of the first in the morning! Go figure.)  I do Monday pick ups and my neighbor does Thursdays.  It's just our way of letting the kids have an extra 30 to 40 minutes in the afternoon two days a week.  Usually, I leave here around 3:20pm, get there around 3:25, and the doors open at 3:35.  I HATE being late for ANYTHING. At 3:33, as I sat on my comfy couch, working away, *C* playing on the wii, I realized I needed to pick up the kids today.  Ya, that did wonders for my blood-pressure...

So we ZOOMED.  Arriving at the school around 3:40.   (Parents that aren't there by 3:45 are called to the office and have to pay for an hour of latchkey.)   We made it by the skin of our teeth.  As I peeked my head around the corner I saw my *E* standing REAL close to our neighbor-friend, lower lip trembling.  But he held strong and was glad to see me.

SO... I think I'm going to call this day quits.  I suppose I will have to make dinner.  Then I am going to find the bathtub, a good magazine and forget today.    Tomorrow will be brand new, right!? :)  AMEN!

- Leanne from

Faces Behind the Hero: Ally, Navy Wife, Mom, Veteran, Blogger Extraordinaire

I am continually amazed at the strength of the military-spouse! This week's 'Face Behind the Hero' is another wonderful example of wit and wisdom; spice and life; juggler of so many hats!  What a wonderful opportunity she has given us to see just a glimpse of her thoughts as a navy-wife.  Thank you, Ally.  Thank you to all of the military-spouses out there holding up the homefront.

What branch is your husband in? Navy

How long has he been in? 11 years

How long have you been married? It will be 6 years in April!

What is your favorite wedding-day memory?  There are so many to chose from! I guess the memory that stands out the most (besides the passionate "seal the deal" kiss) is the Best Man Toast. His Best Man was his best friend, Bryan. There wasn't a dry eye in the room after his speech.

Do you have children? We have two awesome kids! A 3 1/2 year old boy and a 5 month old girl. (OMG I can't believe she's 5 months old already!)

How do you help them cope with military-life?  Well, my husband is currently deployed and this is our first deployment with two children. Our youngest copes just fine since she was only 2 months old when he left. It certainly gets harder the older they get. Our son tells me regularly that he misses his daddy, but I've found some ways to make sure daddy is still a part of our daily lives. My son has a "Flat Daddy" in his room, which is essentially a poster of my husband. We also made sure to make a video of my husband reading some of our son's favorite stories before he deployed. Our son also enjoys coloring pictures for daddy and choosing things to send him in his care packages.

How many deployments have you been through?  This is our 4th deployment. He did two deployments on board the USS Roosevelt (DDG-80), a year long IA tour in Iraq, and now he is deployed with the USS Nicholas (FFG-47). He also did two deployments on board the USS Gettysburg (CG-64), one before I met him and we did one together.

What do you do to stay busy during deployment?  Well, as if being a mom doesn't keep me busy enough, I have quite a few things I do. My hobby is designing military pride shirts and gifts for Cafepress. I started designing when my husband made chief, but didn't set up shop until he deployed as an IA and I couldn't find any IA support items at the NEX. You can become a fan of my Facebook page at or visit my shop at I enjoy blogging as well.  Writing is very therapeutic!  (Leanne: I so agree with writing being therapeutic!  I found it helped me through my husband's deployment and strengthens me even today as I look back and see how I have grown.)

I also try to be active in local military spouse groups. I'm currently the Vice President of my husband's ship's Family Readiness Group (FRG). It keeps me busy and I love that I'm helping the other families get through the deployment. I highly recommend participating in your spouse's command's FRG or finding a local group on Facebook or to participate in. It's a great way to make new friends and get the support you need.

How many PCSs?  Two; one from Mayport, FL to Great Lakes, IL and the other from Great Lakes, IL to Norfolk, VA.

What has been your proudest moment as a military spouse?  My proudest moment was the day that my husband was commissioned. He made Chief in 8 years and was selected for commissioning via the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program at 10 years. He is great at his job and works very hard, so words can't describe how exciting it was to see him receive such a large promotion. He is very deserving and I am so very proud of him!

What branch of service were you in?  I served in the Navy as an Operations Specialist (OS).

For how long? 4 years

Why did you get out?  To start our family and take advantage of my G.I. Bill benefits. I had our son and earned my Associates Degree (with high honors) within a year and a half of getting out of the Navy. :)

What do you miss about being in the service, as opposed to being ‘a dependent’ now?  The thing I miss most is the travel. The best part of being in the Navy is all of the amazing places you get to visit. In four short years the Navy took me to the Bahamas, Cuba, Bahrain, Dubai, Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, Curacao and Panama. (My husband actually proposed to me in Rome, Italy!)

Where has your favorite base been? Why?  They've all had their ups and downs. I suppose Mayport was our fave. A. It's in sunny Florida. B. There's a million things to do in Florida, and it's all within driving distance. C. Did I mention the sunshine?

Where do you find the support you need when you need it?  Usually in the freezer. That's where my good friends Ben and Jerry reside. I also call my mom whenever I'm feeling down or just bored. She's always been there for me. And then there are my friends who always know how to make me laugh or offer me good advice.

What do you miss most about “civilian life"?  I miss my family the most. I don't get to see my parents and other relatives nearly as often as I would like to. :(

What do you love most about “military life”?  I recently blogged about this. :)  It's always hard to move on to a new duty station, but each new duty station brings on new opportunities and new friendships. I have so many great friends spread all over the world and feel very fortunate to have so many amazing, hilarious, generous people in my life!

What are you passionate about?  I am passionate about three things; my family, cheese, and the Green Bay Packers.

What is your favorite color and why?  My favorite color is blue [insert corny line about my love for the deep blue sea here].

Do you have a favorite quote? What is it?  "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." -Vince Lombardi

When you move to a new base what is one of the first things you do?  I try to get involved in a local spouse group and/or the command FRG.

Has anyone in the community (business, church, neighbor off base, etc etc) ever gone out of their way to help you, as the spouse of a military-member? Who? What did they do?  I'm fortunate to have extremely awesome neighbors! They are not in the military, but we clicked with them immediately since they are about the same age as us and have children the same age as ours. If I need anything at all they are there for me, whether it be help with the kids, dog sitting, or just keeping me busy to pass the time while my husband is deployed. I am so incredibly greatful to have them!

Do you use on base facilities? Commissary? MCSS? MWR? Child Care? Services of that nature. Why would you recommend one of these services in specific?  I get my groceries at the Commissary. You really can't beat the prices and the fact that it's tax free, just try to avoid the place right after pay day. :)

The Fleet and Family Support Center is also full of excellent resources. If you've never been, you should definitely go and check it out, especially if you're gearing up for a deployment.

What are your goals for the future?  I'm currently taking a year off school with the new baby, but my hope is to return to school and get my Bachelors in Earth Science Education. I'd like to teach Earth Science at the high school level.

Want to learn more about Ally? Check out her blogs! She has a GREAT story to tell!

- Leanne from

Week in Review: Week of March 14 - March 20 (Military News)

Here are ten of our most popular military-related articles for the week on

Face of Defense: Guard Members Skate in Roller Derby:  Some soldiers will do almost anything to stay in shape.  Three soldiers from the Oklahoma Army National Guard are lacing up their roller skates, strapping on elbow and knee pads and taking to the rink as members of the Oklahoma City Red Dirt Rebellion Rollergirls.   For those new to the sport, this isn’t the roller derby of the 1970s, when practically every move was choreographed as in professional wrestling. ...

Two New Government Rules That Help Military Families: The U.S. government has issued two new rules this month that will help certain military families. The first, from the Social Security Administration, ensures that a servicemember's combat duty will not affect the calculation of benefits for family members who qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The second affects federal employees who want to take leave to help out a family member who is deployed. ...

Photographer Depicts Iraq’s Economic Growth: A former White House staff photographer who started photographing Iraq in 2003 said yesterday that comparing old images to recent ones presents a picture of staggering economic growth there.  Tina Hager snapped her first photo of Baghdad from Air Force One while accompanying then-President George W. Bush on a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to meet with U.S. troops. A few years later, she moved to Dubai as a freelance photographer documenting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Online Degree? Buyer Beware!: In the last few years enrollment in for-profit online colleges has exploded in the military community.  Service-members can take classes even when deployed. But is that online degree really worth it? It depends where you got it and what the college required of you to get it. ....

Faces Behind the Hero: Sarah, Army Brat, Navy Wife: This week's "Face Behind the Heroes" is, Sarah. She is an "Army Brat" turned Navy wife! I felt an instant camaraderie as I am an "Air Force Brat" turned Army wife. Some of just can't get away from the life :). Sarah has a lot of great thoughts of the support you can find on base. Have you utilized on-base / post support? Put it on your 'To-Do' list today! But first we hope you enjoy reading a few thoughts from Sarah, this week's "Face Behind the Hero" ...

Coping with stress: The other day my 1st grader got off the bus, dragged himself into the house, snagged a snack and sat down for homework. All routine. Except for the awful look of frustration on his face. After inquiring what was wrong I was informed that the bus-driver was a sub that afternoon and she was MEAN. Grumble, Grumble, back to homework.  Couple minutes later I look back and there were tears streaming down his face. More questions and he is still very-focused on that mean bus-driver, clearly homework was not in the forefront of his mind. ...

U.S. Cyber Command Preparations Under Way, General Says: Preparations for the formal establishment of U.S. Cyber Command are under way, a senior military officer reported to Congress today.  The formal launch of the new organization is awaiting congressional approval of its commander, Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said in a written statement submitted to the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces.  ...

Farmers Markets, Garage Sales, Crafts Shows... OH MY!: Spring will soon be upon us! Sometimes that is hard to remember with still a couple of inches of snow on the ground here in northern-Ohio but my mind can QUICKLY take me to warmer weather; time outdoors; getting to know the community after the lazy days of winter! To many military families Spring can mean getting out and getting to know their community for the FIRST time.  What is big in your community? Farmers Markets? Parades? Concerts in the Park? These are great events that military families WANT to know about! ...

What a great idea!: We recently received a great homemade gift from our son Dan and his wife Becky to commemorate all of those PCS and other associated moves while on active duty! It was a sign post to place in the yard or on the street with all of our previous home locations spelled out with the distance in air miles to each from our current home! What fun it is to see the sign and realize all that it means.  Each little sign indicates an American military family gathering its belongings, cleaning up a house, selling one on occasion or passing a base housing inspection on another! ...

Military Families Gain Access to Free, Online Tutoring: The Defense Department has launched a free, online tutoring service for servicemembers and their families. The site offers round-the-clock professional tutors who can assist with homework, studying, test preparation, resume writing and more.  Marine Corps and Army families have had access to the program for more than a year. Seeing the value, Defense Department officials decided to expand the service to encompass all servicemembers and their families, officials said. ...

More Great content:

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National Geographic’s “Adventurer of the Year” and a wounded warrior

Part 1 of 2
Part 1 - The Strength of LTC Marc Hoffmeister
Part 2 – The Strength of the Military Spouse

My interview with LTC Marc Hoffmeister, one of National Geographic’s “Adventurer of the Year” recipients.

In April 2007, LTC Hoffmeister was severely injured while serving in Iraq when an IED destroyed his Humvee. Hoffmeister was evacuated to Germany and then back to the U.S. on a 29-hour “hell flight” home, where he had eight surgeries on his arm and endured many months of painful rehabilitation.

The military community is full of amazing stories and personnel that have worked and struggled through unbelievable feats. I had the opportunity to interview LTC Marc Hoffmeister. Hoffmeister was recently honored by National Geographic as one of their “Adventurers of the Year”. Marc successfully climbed Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) as part of Operation Denali. Hoffmeister was the organizer and team leader of a group of wounded warriors who set out to climb the 20,320 ft. summit.

All of this started with Hoffmeister’s wife letting him know she was going to climb it with or without him. Military spouses know how to step in and be the strength their soldier needs. Hoffmeister, who was in a slump, decided that he needed to step up and take control of his recovery and get involved. He called Walter Reed and spoke to a rep in the Wounded Warrior Program asking them to become a part of his Denali goal. Hoffmeister wanted soldiers to go along that were aware of being fit and conditioned but not expert climbers. As Hoffmeister said, “I was given a pile of applicants and it was difficult to decide who to choose.” Hoffmeister shared that, “A lot of the guys along had no idea what they were in for. He also mentioned, “I am still in touch with many of the applicants that weren’t chosen.”

I asked, “At any point did you want to quit, if so, what kept you going?” Hoffmeister responded with, “The biggest way I overcame the situation was remembering how fleeting life is.” He reminded himself to, “Suck it up and drive on”, “Always keep it in perspective”, and “Everything is accomplished through small steps”. During the interview Mark would mention many four or five word statements that kept him going. I can tell he is a climber because when you are on that mountain, you don’t have the breath to urge yourself on with long sentences. Here are a few more motivational thoughts he mentioned; “never give up”, “tomorrow the pack will be lighter”, “things are going to change soon”, “When in doubt go up”, and “Don’t let your team down”. As a soldier and leader you have to be able to pick your troops up and give them just a few words to keep going. Hoffmeister has it down.

On 16 June 2009 at 1830 local time, Hoffmeister, his spouse, and a few others including three other Iraq veterans: Jon Kuniholm, an ex-Marine who’d lost an arm to an IED; Matt Nyman, an Army Ranger whose leg had to be amputated after his chopper was shot down; and David Shebib, an Army combat medic who’d suffered severe head and chest injuries after stepping on an IED all reached the summit.

My 5 words to Marc and his spouse, “Thank you for your sacrifice”.

Photo Credit (1): Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister summits Denali. DoD photo.

Photo Credit (2): The Operation Denali team poses for a photo before their climb. Front row, left to right: Marc Hoffmeister, Gayle Hoffmeister, Todd Tumolo, Dave Shebib, and Matt Nyman. Back row, left to right: Bob Haines, Jon Kuniholm, Matt Montavon, and Kirby Senden. Photo courtesy of LTC Marc Hoffmeister

"Crouching in the Corner of History" - Images of Iraq - Tina Hager - DoD Roundtable

The power of photography and visual images to tell a story can never be overlooked! The DoD Bloggers Roundtable met with Tina Hager to discuss her experiences photographing and documenting events in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003. Ms Hager’s background as described by the DoDLive announcement:

“…A former White House photographer, Hager accompanied former President George W. Bush on his surprise visit to Baghdad in 2003. Since then she has participated in several embeds with the U.S. military and currently serves as the Task Force For Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) photographer documenting economic revitalization throughout the country. Hager will also discuss her experiences meeting and photographing everyday Iraqis during this period of transition in their country.”

Ms Hager was excited about the documentation of economic and social progress in Iraq from her photography. She said the progress was staggering with the “fertile crescent” becoming fertile again and green with prosperous farms, factories and other signs of economic growth! The Iraqis now manufacture their own farm equipment and the factories (which she compared to East Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall) were again productive. The land in 2003 was dusty and colorless and now shows the promise of green and opportunity. She loved the blue tractors they are producing in their plant and said it was like a game of “Where’s Waldo” to spot the blue tractors in the countryside. Mesopotamian design carpets are again being introduced in world markets too as another sign of progress!

I asked her about the role and economic situation for women in Iraq and she said they were, “definitely moving ahead leaps and bounds”. When I looked at her slide show I saw women police, teachers leading their students on tours and a young girl playing tennis! She said that women can be in charge and that the banking industry was largely women. That included the central bank, a very powerful role for women in their society. When queried how the Iraqis responded to her photography she said they were curious and described herself as tall and female which caught their attention. She said they responded to her photography in much the same way as US citizens do.

Ms Hager is returning to Iraq in April to continue her documentation of the economic revitalization of the country! She said Iraq is back to work and that it is “inspiring”! To see her beautiful slide show, please go to DoDLive!

As a post note to her experiences in Iraq, she commented on the military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany. She said she could not praise that hospital enough and that they had “reverence for each soldier” who arrived for care. Upon arrival each patient is met by a caregiver telling them they are in Germany now and it is ok. Her description was very touching and made me respond with pride for how our country cares for its wounded warriors!

Thank you to the staff at the DoD New Media Directorate and MC 1 Molly Burgess for coordinating this inspiring Roundtable!

Photo Credit: Tina Hager, Photographer for the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), U.S. Department of Defense DoDLive

Photo Credit: President George W. Bush has lunch with soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., Thursday, March 18, 2004. "Here, at one of America’s vital military bases, you’ve built a strong community of people who care about each other, and share the challenges and rewards of army life. America is grateful. America is proud of our military families," the president said in his remarks." White House photo by Tina Hager

US Military Responds to the Earthquake in Chile - DoD Roundtable

The US military continues to respond to natural disasters with our medical, engineers, airlift and numerous other resources! We still have forces in Haiti and have responded to a request of Chile’s government for assistance there after their 8.8 magnitude earthquake and tsunami at the end of February. Our world wide “first responders” are busy and creating goodwill in nations that need help is a critical mission!

The DoD Bloggers Roundtable talked with Air Force Colonel Byron Mathewson, commander of U.S. military forces deployed to Chile in support of earthquake relief operations today for an update on their efforts. He specifically addressed USAF C-130 relief support, a Navy Port Assessment Team, and USAF Expeditionary Medical Support operations. With approximately 150 total US military personnel in country in support of USAID (US Agency for International Development) they were in direct response to Chilean government requests for assistance. USAID is coordinating the overall US response with Chile and provided funding for a mobile military hospital.

When Colonel Mathewson said the two C-130s that were sent by US Southern Command were part of “Coronet Oak” it brought back memories of an assignment long ago at Howard AB, Panama where rotational Guard and Reserve units supported the Central and South American mission while at Howard. I believe the same effort continues (30+ years) to support this effort from Puerto Rico where the units were relocated after Howard was closed. Continuing this long history of humanitarian aid and support to the Americas they flew 17 sorties, 37.5 hours, lifted 66 pallets and moved 300,000 pounds from Santiago, the capital, to Concepcion, an area devastated by the earthquake. The Air Force medical teams were placed even further south with a 3.5 hour drive from Concepcion. The aircrews have also completed one medevac mission moving a severely injured person to Santiago. The aircraft that were deployed are from Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and the crews are from St Joe, Missouri! Super cooperation to help the folks surviving a terrible natural disaster!

The Chilean government request for a port assessment team from the Navy was due to damages to a shipyard from the tsunami created by the earthquake. The 12 sailors sent to help included divers, medical and other specialists. The team arrived March 8th and left this past weekend after providing their assessment.

The medical teams arrived on the 9th of March and built the mobile hospital in 3.5 days after the local clinic was so damaged by the earthquake it was unusable. The clinic serves a population of 110,000 Chileans with 60 Air Force and 50 Chilean medics manning the facility in full cooperation. The medical teams are from 16 US locations and are a mix of active, reserve and guard forces! Quite an effort to pull the team together that fast and coordinate their response! When the medical personnel depart on March 26th they will leave the mobile hospital in place for the use of the Chilean medics who lost their clinic!

Col Mathewson said the response from the Chileans has been heartfelt with shows of appreciation such as horn honking and thumbs up from the people on the street to Americans in uniform! Wow! Thank you and much appreciated from this retiree who supported many rescue and humanitarian missions worldwide. There is nothing better than a smile from someone you are helping! You can feel the appreciation even if you can not understand what they are saying!

If you would like to hear the audio of this Roundtable or view a transcript please go to DoDLive!

Photo Credits: 03/12/2010 - Chilean soldiers assist U.S. Airmen as they erect an expeditionary medical hospital tent in Angol, Chile, March 12, 2010. The tent is being erected to expand the Air Force expeditionary medical support team’s mobile hospital to better meet the needs of the local population. The team is in Chile providing medical support after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country Feb. 27, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany Trojca, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Photo Credits: 03/08/2010 - A U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Medical Support team comprised of more than 80 Airmen from 13 different bases boards passenger buses in route to awaiting C-17 Globemaster III from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Mar. 8, 2010, in preparation of their deployment to Chile to aid medical personnel treating victims of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake Feb. 27, 2010. The EMEDS team will operate in the city of Angol, Chile. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III/Released) VIRIN: 100308-F-5040D-514

A St Patricks Day Blessing from us to you

An Irish Blessing from the MilitaryAvenue Team

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks,
May your heart be as light as a song,
May each day bring you bright, happy hours,
That stay with you all the year long.

May good luck be your friend
In whatever you do.
And may trouble be always
A stranger to you.

Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play

Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!

Tasty Tuesday: Corned Beef &Cabbage Must be St Patty's Day Soon!

Let's hear it for the goofiness of St Patrick's Day. It is a day when if you have an I or an R, S,or an H in your name.. hey! You're Irish. SO go ahead and celebrate. No need to paint your hair green, tip green beer, or start dancing a jig... Just wear some green and try some Irish cuisine. The simplest and childhood memory for me (Norwegian, Dutch and German mix here) was dressing in as many shades of green as I could rummage in my closet. Panic would hit if I didn't find an obviously Irish outfit. One foolish year I decided to wear orange in protest. How depressing... I am not a protester. I'm a jubilant joiner - much more grin worthy lifestyle!

So now, bake up some Irish soda bread in a Pyrex bowl and serve some Corned Beef and Cabbage. There will be a lilt in your voice as you call the family to the table!

The prize to this recipe is that the left overs are perfect for a Reuben sandwich!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Serves 10

5 lb well trimmed corned beef brisket

1 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, sliced

1 medium head green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges

In large Dutch Oven or heavy large pot with lid, add olive oil, onion and garlic. Heat until onions are translucent: about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add meat and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 3 1/2 hours or until tender. Remove meat from Dutch oven to a warm platter; cover to keep warm. Skim fat from liquid. Add cabbage; simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Discard liquid.

Serve in either a large tureen, or in separate dishes with a dish of mustard on the table.

Carve meat, cut thin diagonal slices across the grain at a slanting angle. This keeps the meat slices thin and tender.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Coping with stress

The other day my 1st grader got off the bus, dragged himself into the house, snagged a snack and sat down for homework.  All routine.  Except for the awful look of frustration on his face.  After inquiring what was wrong I was informed that the bus-driver was a sub that afternoon and she was MEAN.  Grumble, Grumble, back to homework.

Couple minutes later I look back and there were tears streaming down his face.  More questions and he is still very-focused on that mean bus-driver, clearly homework was not in the forefront of his mind.  Found out the kids weren't aloud to talk /at all/ on the bus and that seemed to really stress him.  But I couldn't get his mind to shift off of it.

Since our weather was absolutely glorious I told him to put down his pencil and go for a bike ride.  Go around the block twice and then come back in for homework.  He brightened at the thought.  So we went out; got his helmet on; checked his tires and I sent him on his way.  When he was back, less then five-minutes later, he had forgotten all about that 'mean bus driver' and was ready to tackle his homework.  AHHhh... glorious stress relief!

Fast forward two nights later and he watched "Planet Earth" with his Uncle Dan and Dad, until fairly late and past his bedtime.  At midnight he came into Hubs and my room talking about how scary the bats were and that he just couldn't sleep.  Since we were out of town and not in his own room this might have added to the insecurities so I told him to go get his blanket and pillow and he can sleep on the floor near his Dad & me, which he gladly did.  An hour later he was still telling us about the scary bats and caves, although from the floor now.  Obviously, trying to just 'ignore' the thoughts running around in his head by telling him to get some sleep was not working.

So I turned on the lava lamp on the dresser and crawled onto the floor with him for a bit.  We focused on the 'blobs' moving around in the lamp, big ones, little ones, some meeting and making even bigger ones.  He was soon off in dream land.  Although, I have to admit he was awake about an hour later telling us about scary bats and bugs and this time I let him crawl up into bed with us.  This 5 month pregnant gal couldn't get on the floor again.  I rubbed his head a bit and reminded hom how much I love him, that did the final trick and he slept the rest of the night.  I wouldn't want it to be a habit, crawling into bed with us, but for the one night, in a strange house, it worked.

How do you help your kids 'refocus' stress?  It might be tempting to give them a slice of cake or let them veg in front of the TV when they are stressed but is that healthy?  Once in awhile? Sure! But as a general-coping mechanism? No.  You can help them as kids 'de-stress' in ways that will help them through adulthood!  Get active, get out, "burn-off" the stress, draw, make art or music, whatever healthy way works.

Secondly, how do you handle stress?  Your kids are watching!  A recent article, "Support Helps Children Cope With Deployments" from the American Forces Press Service reminds us of this fact:

“We had a very strong relationship between the caregiver’s mental health and their ability to cope as well as the ability for their children to handle some of the deployment stressors,” said Chandra, describing the findings of the study “Children on the Homefront: The Experiences of Children From Military Families.”

As the moms (or dads!) that are on the homefront taking care of the kids we can't bear all of the responsibility for our children's coping mechanism but we have a STRONG ability to influence them!  Teach them not-only by example, but teach them by helping them work through their own frustrations in a healthy-manner!

- Leanne from

Faces Behind the Hero: Sarah, Army Brat, Navy Wife

This week's "Face Behind the Heroes" is, Sarah.  She is an "Army Brat" turned Navy wife!  I felt an instant camaraderie as I am an "Air Force Brat" turned Army wife.  Some of just can't get away from the life :).  Sarah has a lot of great thoughts of the support you can find on base.  Have you utilized on-base / post support?  Put it on your 'To-Do' list today!  But first we hope you enjoy reading a few thoughts from Sarah, this week's "Face Behind the Hero":

What branch is your husband in? Navy

How long has he been in? 16 years

How long have you been married? 5 years

What is your favorite wedding-day memory? Marrying my best friend while being given away by my father; my two heroes sharing a very special day with me.

Do you have children? Yes. Two boys, Maddox and Liam.

How do you help them cope with military-life? They're still toddlers, but they cope fairly well - all they knew prior to our transfer to our current Command was a very busy OPTEMPO on an amphibious assault ship. We make deployment and underways a time to learn and grow so we have lots to share with Daddy when he gets home. We take part in United Through Reading, participate in Command events and try to make sure that they know that even though Daddy is gone, he is always with us in our hearts.  (Leanne: I'm so glad you brought up the United Through Reading program.  I am such a fan of the program.  We got quite a few books from my husband when he was in Iraq for a year.  It is truly a GREAT program!)

How many deployments have you been through? How many PCSs? (Including as a ‘brat’) As an Army brat, I'm STILL going through deployments. My father is gearing up for another deployment to Afghanistan - I have lost count of the number, but know that he has been involved in every major engagement since 1986. My husband and I have been through multiple work up cycles, underways and 2 deployments. As an Army brat - too many PCS moves to count, as a Navy wife, we have stayed in the Hampton Roads, VA area and transitioned between Naval Station Norfolk and NAS Oceana.

Now, when someone asks... “What can I do for you?” What do you actually say? What would you really like to say? I'm usually the one asking what I can do for someone else. Helping others is my coping mechanism for deployments and underways - there is no feeling like that of helping another person. If someone asked me what I needed, I guess a good chat over a cup of coffee. I'm lucky to have a great group of friends that are there no matter what.

As a ‘Brat’ how many schools did you attend? Somewhere in the double digits, it's pretty sad that I can't remember!

What was your favorite post as a child? I think NTC Fort Irwin, CA was my favorite. It seems odd, but it was always so quiet and private, a world of our own of sorts. The house was great, the parks were fun and they had the BEST high-dive at the base pool.

Where has your favorite base been as a Navy Wife? I love NAS Oceana. It's great to be a part of the air community. Plus I love military aviation and Oceana has that in abundance!

Where do you find the support you need when you need it? Fleet and Family Support Center, fellow spouses, fellow Ombudsmen and all the great venues available to families for support in our area.

What do you love most about “military life”? The ability to meet people from all walks of life. If you haven't seen someone in years, the chances of you running into them where you're stationed are fairly high. It's a great vast small world, if that makes sense!

What are you passionate about? My work as a Command Ombudsman and a Certified Ombudsman Trainer. I'm passionate about family readiness and supporting the service members and their families.  (Leanne: Want to learn more about the Ombudsman Program?  Head over to the Fleet & Family Support Center website.)

What is your favorite color and why? Green. It just has an energy about it, something about renewal and life I think.

Do you have a favorite quote? "Success supposes endeavor." - Jane Austen ; "Alone we can do so little - together so much." - Helen Keller

When you move to a new base what is one of the first things you do? Contact my Ombudsman and Fleet and Family Support Center to make sure that I have the most updated area information and request a Welcome Aboard packet.

Has anyone in the community (business, church, neighbor off base, etc etc) ever gone out of their way to help you, as the spouse of a military-member? Who? What did they do? I think the benefit of living in Hampton Roads is that there are so many military members that the community really embraces you and takes you in. I cannot think of an instance in particular, but I know many other family members that have benefited from the community.

Do you use on base facilities? Commissary? MCSS? MWR? Child Care? Services of that nature. All the time. I love the Commissary, MWR is phenomenal as far as activities and fun things for the kids. Fleet and Family Support Center is the number one recommendation I always make to families to utilize - so many free and wonderful programs available.

A big thank you to Sarah for taking the time to share her thoughts as a Navy wife and her passion for the support a military-family can find on their on base community.  But mostly a giant "Thank You" for supporting the heroes in her life! 

- Leanne from
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