On Patrol

Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

The U.S. Postal Service has released its annual guidelines to make sure service members receive their presents and care packages in time for the holidays.

To help get packages on their way, the Postal Service is offering a $2 per box postage discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate box at $15.45, for mail being sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office and Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide. 

Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes are available at no cost at either local Post Offices, or ordered online at shop.usps.com. Postage, labels and customs forms can be printed online anytime using Click-N-Ship at https://cns.usps.com/go.

To ensure timely delivery of holiday wishes by Dec. 25, send cards and packages to military APO/FPO/ DPO addresses no later than the dates below. overseas no later than the mailing dates listed here.

Rucksack Swim

October 15, 2014, 1:37PM

Army Sgt. Max Wolfer exits the water carrying his rucksack after jumping from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter into American Lake on Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, Washington. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer SpradlinArmy Sgt. Max Wolfer exits the water carrying his rucksack after jumping from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter into American Lake on Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, Washington. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin

An explosive ordnance disposal soldier removed a grenade from a man's leg in an ambulance outside of the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham on Oct. 11.

Army Staff Sgt. David Mensink from the 789th EOD Company, based at Fort Benning, Georgia, received a call from the Birmingham Police Department bomb squad around 1 a.m.

Army Staff Sgt. David Mensink removed a grenade from a man's leg in an ambulance outside of the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham on Oct. 11. Courtesy photo Army Staff Sgt. David Mensink removed a grenade from a man's leg in an ambulance outside of the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham on Oct. 11. Courtesy photo The police sought Mensink's advice to determine what kind of explosive item was stuck in the man's leg.

"From the initial X-ray, it looked like a 40mm grenade," said Mensink, a 27-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from Seale, Alabama.

Explosive was a military round

Once the police discovered that the explosive was a military round, Mensink and his EOD team were called to support a team of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on scene. The agencies involved included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI, the Alabama State Bureau of Investigations and the police departments of Birmingham and Jasper, Alabama.

Escorted by Alabama state troopers from the Georgia-Alabama state line, the team left Fort Benning at 4:15 a.m. and arrived at the hospital two hours later. The man was isolated inside the ambulance behind barricades more than 30 feet from the hospital with two paramedics who volunteered to stay with him.

On his first trip into the ambulance, Mensink discovered that the grenade was lodged so deeply in the man's thigh that it exposed his femoral artery.

Mensink returned to the ambulance with a doctor who volunteered to make an incision in the man's leg, while a paramedic stood by with tourniquet in case the man's artery was damaged. Another paramedic monitored his vital signs.

Mensink then carefully removed the grenade from his leg. Paramedics rushed the man into the hospital. Officials said the man had no permanent damage.

Find out what happened next here.

Airmen from the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, loaded a C-130J Super Hercules with needed supplies and launched their first mission yesterday to West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance.

U.S. Africa Command is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development to deliver much-needed support. Part of Africom’s effort is the tactical theater airlift provided by the 86th Airlift Wing, whose airmen are eager to do their part in the humanitarian effort.

Excited to support mission

“We’re super-excited to get down there and help as much as we can,” said Air Force Capt. Brian Shea, 37th AS aircraft commander. “The 37th AS is a key component in Africom’s mission to establish an air bridge for the operation. This mission is big for the 86th AW and our squadron.”

The United States is sending troops and material to treat patients, build field hospitals and is also training health care workers.

Although the 37th AS team expects to be on the ground in Liberia for only a few hours, Shea was confident his team was well prepared to handle any anticipated medical concerns, including receiving all required vaccinations and medical clearance to participate in missions throughout Africa.

Well-trained crew

“We’re not expecting to have any issues going into the theater,” Shea explained. “We’ve been briefed and trained on how to handle any medical concerns if need be.”

While this may be the first flight out of Ramstein to provide cargo support to OUA, the 37th AS is anticipating a consistent airflow requirement to assist with cargo and personnel transfer in and out of areas in need.

“I’m proud to be part of a mission like this,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Byrne, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief. “I’m ready to get down there and do some good things.”

The U.S. will continue to respond quickly and safely with African and international partners to help end the Ebola outbreak as soon as possible.

Hawkeye Takeoff

October 8, 2014, 9:31AM

An E-2C Hawkeye takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. The carrier is supporting maritime security operations, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian StephensAn E-2C Hawkeye takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. The carrier is supporting maritime security operations, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Stephens

Army Strong

October 6, 2014, 4:38PM

Team Army captain Frank Barroqueiro raises the Chairman's Cup presented to him by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, center right, and Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of the Pacific Fleet, right, at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.. The Chairman's Cup goes to the top performing service branch in the Warrior Games. DoD photo by EJ HersomTeam Army captain Frank Barroqueiro raises the Chairman's Cup presented to him by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, center right, and Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of the Pacific Fleet, right, at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.. The Chairman's Cup goes to the top performing service branch in the Warrior Games. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Seated Return

October 2, 2014, 9:21AM

Air Force sitting volleyball team player Christopher Aguilera, foreground, returns a serve from the Marine team during a match at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cuong LeAir Force sitting volleyball team player Christopher Aguilera, foreground, returns a serve from the Marine team during a match at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cuong Le

The U.S. Navy celebrated the 60th anniversary of the commissioning of USS Nautilus and the birth of the nuclear Navy Sept. 30 in a ceremony aboard the historic ship in its home at the Submarine Force Museum and Library in Groton, Conn.

It was Sept. 30, 1954, when the submarine community took the first step in shifting from diesel-driven engines to those powered by the collision of atoms, an evolution that eventually resulted in the all nuclear-powered submarine force of today. 

Retired Rear Adm. Jeffrey Metzel, left, fourth commanding officer of the nuclear powered submarine USS Nautilus, speaks with Submarine Force Museum docent Norman Kuzel during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the boat's commissioning. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tim ComerfordRetired Rear Adm. Jeffrey Metzel, left, fourth commanding officer of the nuclear powered submarine USS Nautilus, speaks with Submarine Force Museum docent Norman Kuzel during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the boat's commissioning. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Comerford"A lot has been said about the teamwork it took to make the Nautilus. That hasn't changed. That same teamwork is needed when building subs today, and that role continues today with the Ohio replacement program." said Adm. John Richardson, Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. 

The possibility of nuclear-powered vessels was just a dream in 1946 until the successful development of a nuclear propulsion plant by scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission. The program was driven to completion under the leadership of then-Capt. Hyman G. Rickover, widely-known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy." 

Many in attendance at the ceremony recalled their service onboard Nautilus as the pinnacle of their Navy careers and shared their fondness for Vice Admiral Eugene "Dennis" Wilkinson, the ship's first commanding officer. Wilkinson passed in 2013, but still left some words of wisdom for the crowd.

"In Dennis Wilkinson's words 'They may make em' better, but they will never be the first,'" said retired Capt. Ray Engle, a young officer at the time of the commissioning. 

Henry Nardone Sr., 92, was a project officer on Nautilus. He said working on the nuclear-powered submarine was the highlight of his 12 1/2-year naval career. He started as a "fresh-caught" lieutenant junior grade when the keel was laid in August 1955 and was there through her commissioning into the Navy on Sept. 30, 1954. As a civilian, he was in charge of her first major overhaul in 1973 at Electric Boat where he was manager of the overhaul program.

"It was the most significant assignment I had in the Navy, and the one I enjoyed the most," Nardone said from his home in Westerly, just a few miles from Groton. "I couldn't ask for a better assignment for myself or my career. Not only was it the highlight of my career, but the highlight of the submarine service in the country. It was one of the most significant events in submarine design construction ever and changed the whole world of submarines."

Having a Blast

September 30, 2014, 2:49PM

Marines set off a wall charge as their battalion participates in Jane Wayne Day on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andy J. OrozcoMarines set off a wall charge as their battalion participates in Jane Wayne Day on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andy J. Orozco

“It’s been a long journey.”

That short sentence spoken by Lois Pope is an understatement of the highest order. But on October 5, the 16-year odyssey to build the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial will come to a close when the nation’s first permanent public tribute to disabled vets is dedicated in Washington, D.C.

Pope, who spearheaded the effort, is quick to point out that the struggle to build the memorial was not hers alone.   

Lois Pope, right, along with Gary Sinise, center, and former VA Secretary Gordon Mansfield participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial in November 2010. Courtesy photosLois Pope, right, along with Gary Sinise, center, and former VA Secretary Gordon Mansfield participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial in November 2010. Courtesy photos“We had some rough days, but we all had such tenacity and determination to make it happen,” said Pope, a former Broadway actress and singer. “No man is an island and it took a lot of help from a lot of other people who were similarly dedicated.”

Pope’s interest in building the memorial was sparked by a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1997.

“I stopped to place my hand on my cousin’s name,” she said, referring to a relative whose name appears on the black granite wall. “Beside me, a multiple amputee struggled to lay a bouquet of flowers below a buddy’s name.

“When I turned to leave, I asked a park ranger if he knew where a memorial to disabled veterans was. He took out a map and said there wasn’t one.”

That was all the inspiration she needed to embark on a long-term quest to build a memorial that recognizes the service and sacrifice of nearly 4 million living disabled veterans, their families and caregivers.

Located on a triangular, 2.4-acre site about 1,000 feet from the U.S. Capitol, the memorial features a star-shaped fountain which flows into a reflecting pool. Adjacent glass panels and bronze sculptures “display the universal story of disabled veterans’ pride of service, trauma of injury, challenge of healing and renewal of purpose,” according to a press release.

Pope said that she wants the memorial to inform, remind and educate the public about disabled vets. “I want everybody to know about their courage, the sacrifices – they made sacrifices for our liberty,” she said. “The cost of war isn’t over when the guns are silent. [Veterans] come home and they have to battle every day.”

It was a different kind of battle for Pope and her team at the Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation as they worked to get the memorial constructed. It took years of planning, designing and fundraising – taxpayer funds cannot be used to build monuments – before breaking ground on the site in November 2010.

Now just days away from the Oct. 5 unveiling, Pope says the public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. on Sunday in Washington. It’s free to attend, but registration is required. For more information, go to http://www.avdlm.org/dedication.

An aerial photo of the memorial shows it under construction in August.An aerial photo of the memorial shows it under construction in August.

Letting Loose

September 29, 2014, 12:50PM

Marine Corps Cpl. Richard Stalder, front, and Marine Corps Sgt. Clayton McDaniel, back, aim downrange and discuss shots during archery practice for the upcoming Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Games began on Sept. 28 and continue through Oct. 4. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica QuezadaMarine Corps Cpl. Richard Stalder, front, and Marine Corps Sgt. Clayton McDaniel, back, aim downrange and discuss shots during archery practice for the upcoming Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Games began on Sept. 28 and continue through Oct. 4. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Quezada

Reflective Observation

September 26, 2014, 7:47AM

A soldier observes a section of the Rio Grande River at sunset in support of Operation Strong Safety. The soldier is assigned to the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger A soldier observes a section of the Rio Grande River at sunset in support of Operation Strong Safety. The soldier is assigned to the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger

Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena, a highly decorated tactical air control party member who is noted for calling in coordinated close support airstrikes that killed up to 70 Taliban members in one fight, sat down with a crossbow draped across his lap and a target 25 meters in front of him, reminiscing about the night that changed his life forever.

"I have gone on multiple deployments, defeated the Taliban; I never thought another American would do this to me," he said.

One night while Pena was riding his motorcycle, a drunk driver ran a red light and crashed into him. As Pena was flung from his bike, the driver attempted to flee, but was apprehended by a service member who witnessed the incident.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena readies his compound bow to strike a target 25 meters away in San Antonio, Sept. 14, 2014. Pena will compete at the 2014 Warrior Games, taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Ellis Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena readies his compound bow to strike a target 25 meters away in San Antonio, Sept. 14, 2014. Pena will compete at the 2014 Warrior Games, taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Ellis Pena doesn't remember the event. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple broken bones and fractures, and he lost a lot of blood. He died immediately at the scene, but was resuscitated once medical personnel arrived.

"I actually died twice," Pena said with a sobering tone. "I also died in the helicopter ride to the hospital. The doctor had all my co-workers come into my hospital room, and they started screaming my name. Miraculously, my heart started pumping again."

Pena was in a coma for 20 days before he regained consciousness. The doctor told the nurses and his family not to mention that his left leg was amputated. Because Pena had suffered severe brain trauma, the doctor explained, he was unsure how he would accept the news.

"One day as the nurse came in to bathe me, she said that she wanted to show me something," Pena said. "She removed the wrap and I could see my leg was gone. I mean I knew my leg and ankle was hurting and in a lot of pain, but I had no clue until she showed me."

Six months later, Pena was able to leave the hospital and was transferred to the 59th Medical Wing Patient Squadron at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

"The patient squadron has been awesome," Pena said. "I remember when the general in charge came to greet us during the grand opening. You can tell that he really cared about the wounded warriors."

Pena described how coming to the patient squadron marked an incredible milestone with his treatment. "Instead of being an inpatient, you are treated as an outpatient where you get to do your own thing," he said.

While interacting with others in the patient squadron, Pena acquired a new hobby to occupy some of his free time. He started practicing archery for hours each week. "I injured my right elbow when I fell and they had to freeze it, so I started practicing with my left," Pena said. "I now shoot left-handed and am more accurate than before."

Pena has become so accurate that he has been selected to compete in the 2014 Warrior Games, taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He will compete with other elite athletes from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and special operations.

"The amount of stuff that had to happen in order for me to still be here -- quick-responding emergency crew, dying twice and waking out of a coma after 20 days -- my odds of surviving were as slim as winning the lottery," Pena said. "I thank God I'm still here. I got some adversity now, but I'm learning to live with it."

Night Lights

September 25, 2014, 2:30PM

An EA-18G Growler takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman An EA-18G Growler takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman

Infantry Rush

September 19, 2014, 10:32AM

Army Sgt. Jonathan Gallogla rushes under direct fire during Expert Infantryman Badge qualification on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The badge is awarded to Army personnel who hold infantry or special forces military occupational specialties and successfully pass the rigors of the course. U.S. Air Force photo by Justin ConnaherArmy Sgt. Jonathan Gallogla rushes under direct fire during Expert Infantryman Badge qualification on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The badge is awarded to Army personnel who hold infantry or special forces military occupational specialties and successfully pass the rigors of the course. U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher