Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Retired Jurist Questioned Military Justice System

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kevin J. Barry, 66, a retired Coast Guard appellate judge who was a critic of the military commissions given the task of trying alleged terrorists and who fought for openness in how justice is applied in the military, died of colon cancer April 24 at his home in Chantilly.

Capt. Barry's 24 years in the Coast Guard, most of it as a lawyer and judge, gave him both authority and credibility when criticizing the system of justice. After he retired in 1990, he spoke out about its failures in public forums, represented clients in their appeals and worked to change policies that he thought violated the basic tenets of justice.

"What got him spun up was when he saw a system that he deeply believed in being used as an instrument of injustice," said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice courses at Yale Law School and who is president of the National Institute of Military Justice, which Capt. Barry helped found.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a friend for 30 years, called him "probably one of the most outstanding military lawyers I ever knew in my whole career. His views carried great weight." When Lamberth was a prosecutor, he said, Capt. Barry persuaded him to give a speech on the duty of government lawyers to curb judicial activism, a speech that attracted attention when his judicial nomination came before Congress.

"When he criticized the system, careful attention was paid by Congress as well as the judicial system," Lamberth said Saturday. "I think he had a tremendous impact because his views were so well thought out, well considered and well respected."

After U.S. District Judge James Robertson in 2004 found that detainees at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay may be prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and therefore entitled to the protections of international and military law, Capt. Barry hailed the decision. It "will give heart to all who think the rule of law should apply in the Afghanistan conflict," he told The Washington Post at the time, adding that the war on terrorism is the first U.S. war since the Geneva Conventions' adoption in 1949 in which the government has not accorded POW status to enemy fighters.

In 2002, he told an American Bar Association panel that he and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia "believe that if military commissions are going to be used, they have to be fundamentally fair. Now we didn't say due process; we said fundamentally fair, a concept understood throughout the world, and that would include the constitution of the court. . . . Problem two, they should follow courts-martial procedure. They always have. That's the standard. . . . Final point, no system of trial can be complete without some sort of appellate review that is independent of the prosecution, independent of those who exercise prosecutorial discretion. Under the president's order, this system does not have the benefit of independent judicial review. . . . This system will not be seen by the world as fundamentally fair."

He was born in New York and graduated from the Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Brooklyn in 1964. After a short period studying for the priesthood, he enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1966 and served as an operations officer and navigator aboard several cutters. He was an instructor at the Coast Guard's officer candidate school and graduated in 1975 from the College of William and Mary's law school. He held a variety of legal assignments in the service until he was made the chief trial judge and appellate judge on what is now called the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. His last post before retiring was as chief of legislation at the Coast Guard's Washington headquarters.

Capt. Barry went into private law practice from 1990 to 2005, focusing on military and veterans law and providing alternative dispute-resolution services. Since 1987, he also co-owned the Paschal Lamb, a Catholic book and gift store in Fairfax.

Among his awards were the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Judicial Award for Public Service in 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Distinguished Service Award in 2002, the Judge Advocates Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia's Lawyer of the Year Award in 2007.

A prolific author of legal articles, he addressed controversial cases, the need to modernize court manuals and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the legality and efficacy of military commissions. He also wrote, during his 11-year battle with cancer, numerous articles about the spiritual aspect of the disease, which were published in Catholic journals.

Survivors include his wife of 42 years, Roslyn Larkin Barry of Chantilly; three children, Michael Francis Barry of San Antonio, Daniel Kevin Barry of Alexandria and Melissa Rose Javier-Barry of Washington; a brother; two sisters; and three grandchildren.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama Leaves Further Action on Interrogation Memos to Attorney General

CQ TODAY MIDDAY UPDATE
April 21, 2009 – 1:38 p.m.

President Obama on Tuesday left it up to the Justice Department to decide what action, if any, to take against Bush administration officials responsible for legal opinions permitting the use of harsh interrogation tactics on suspected terrorists.

The president also signaled that he would not necessarily oppose the creation of an independent commission to probe Bush-era counter-terrorism policies.

But he stressed his preference for looking forward, as he seeks to move beyond the controversies over waterboarding and other interrogation tactics that the government has renounced.

In brief remarks at the White House, Obama said that memos by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that he made public last week “reflected, in my view, us losing our moral bearings. That’s why I’ve discontinued those enhanced interrogation programs.”

Obama visited CIA headquarters on Monday to reassure intelligence agents that he had no intention to seek prosecution of those who conducted the interrogations.

“For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it’s appropriate for them to be prosecuted,” Obama said Tuesday.

“With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.

“As a general deal, I think that we should be looking forward and not backwards,” he stressed.

The president said that “if and when there needs to be a further accounting of what took place during this period,” Congress should examine how such an inquiry could be done “in a bipartisan fashion outside the typical [committee] hearing process.”

Harman Seeks Investigation, Release of Wiretap Transcripts

CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS – INTELLIGENCE
April 21, 2009 – 1:38 p.m.
By Tim Starks, CQ Staff

Rep. Jane Harman asked the Justice Department on Tuesday to release any transcripts of her calls that were wiretapped by the National Security Agency or the FBI.

Harman’s request comes in response to a CQ story that reported the NSA wiretapped a conversation in 2005 between her and a “suspected Israeli agent” in which she offered to intervene to reduce spying charges against former American Israel Public Affairs Committee officials in exchange for assistance lobbying House Speaker and fellow California Democrat Nancy Pelosi to give Harman the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.

Harman did not get the House Intelligence Committee gavel, which went to Silvestre Reyes , D-Texas.

“I am outraged to learn from reports leaked to the media over the last several days that the FBI or NSA secretly wiretapped my conversations in 2005 or 2006 while I was ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee,” Harman wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. “This abuse of power is outrageous and I call on your department to release all transcripts and other investigative material involving me in an unredacted form. It is my intention to make this material available to the public.”

“I hope that her request is granted,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein , D-Calif. “I think it’s very important that it be granted.”

In her letter to Holder, Harman said she “never contacted the Department of Justice, the White House or anyone else to seek favorable treatment regarding the national security cases on which I was briefed, or any other cases.” Her letter does not address whether she offered to do so in the recorded calls.

Harman also requested that Holder investigate whether any other members of Congress were under NSA surveillance. Quoting an intelligence official, The New York Times reported last week that there was an aborted NSA plan to conduct surveillance of an unnamed member of Congress who was on a trip to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 and in touch with an “extremist” already under surveillance.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin , D-Ill., said he was “troubled” by the reports that the NSA was eavesdropping on lawmakers and that the information had been leaked to the media.

“This is information which should be carefully guarded. I don’t want to draw any conclusions about the substance because I haven’t heard it, but I’m worried about that,” he said. “These sorts of things should not be in the public domain.”

Durbin said he anticipated senators would probe the matter. “I’m sure they will. I’m sure the Intelligence Committee’s looking,” he said.

In response to the CQ story, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Monday requested that the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Ethics investigate whether the department dropped an investigation into Harman’s offer to the suspected agent because, as CQ reported, national security officials said it would allow her to better defend the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The group also asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to probe whether Harman violated House rules.

“If Rep. Harman agreed to try to influence an ongoing criminal investigation in return for help securing a committee chairmanship, her conduct not only violates federal law and House rules, but also her oath to uphold the Constitution,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of the nonprofit government watchdog group, said. “As plum a position as the chair of the Intelligence Committee may be, the political gamesmanship necessary to win it must stop well before the grand jury’s door.”

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment on the CREW release and whether the department planned any investigation of the Harman matter.

UNITAS Gold Marks 50 Years of International Maritime Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2009 - The Navy's longest-running annual multilateral exercise got underway yesterday off the Florida coast, with 11 participating nations working together to promote maritime security and stability in Latin America.

Navy Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, called the 50th UNITAS Gold exercise a milestone for naval cooperation in the Western Hemisphere.

Initially launched to strengthen participants' capability to defend the Americas against Soviet submarines, the exercise changed over time to address evolving security challenges, Stavridis noted.

"Yet, the core purpose has remained constant: the desire to build mutually beneficial partnerships among the navies of the Western Hemisphere," he said.

Stavridis said he's operated as part of UNITAS numerous times during his Navy career. "What I have learned, through partnership and friendship, about our friends in the Americas has been invaluable to me," he said.

This year's UNITAS Gold, hosted by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet, includes the militaries of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

The U.S. Navy's amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde, guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook and guided missile frigates USS Doyle and USS Kaufman are among the 25 participating ships, along with four submarines, more than 50 aircraft, 650 Marines and 6,500 sailors.

The scenario-driven training will feature live-fire exercises, undersea warfare, shipboard operations, maritime interdiction operations, anti-air and anti-surface warfare, amphibious operations, electronic warfare and special warfare, officials said.

"As we move forward together, I am confident the future opportunities to work with our partners will not only strengthen our ability to operate together for our nations' security, but will also build personal and professional respect and friendships," said Navy Adm. Joseph Kernan, commander of NAVSO and U.S. 4th Fleet.

Related Sites:
U.S. Southern Command
UNITAS Gold

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

DoS

Press Releases: U.S. and Venezuela: Discussion of Ambassador Exchange
Sat, 18 Apr 2009 22:28:55 -0500

April 18, 2009 - Robert Wood
Acting Department Spokesman, Office of the Spokesman
Bureau of Public Affairs - Washington, DC

Earlier today at the Summit of the Americas President Chavez approached Secretary Clinton, and they discussed returning ambassadors to their respective posts in Caracas and Washington. This is a positive development that will help advance U.S. interests, and the State Department will now work to further this shared goal.
PRN: 2009/347

New York Times - Editorial - 04.19 - The Torturers’ Manifesto - "MUST READ"


To read the four newly released memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush’s Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.

Their language is the precise bureaucratese favored by dungeon masters throughout history. They detail how to fashion a collar for slamming a prisoner against a wall, exactly how many days he can be kept without sleep (11), and what, specifically, he should be told before being locked in a box with an insect — all to stop just short of having a jury decide that these acts violate the laws against torture and abusive treatment of prisoners.

In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.

These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.

It sounds like the plot of a mob film, except the lawyers asking how much their clients can get away with are from the C.I.A. and the lawyers coaching them on how to commit the abuses are from the Justice Department. And it all played out with the blessing of the defense secretary, the attorney general, the intelligence director and, most likely, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Americans Civil Liberties Union deserves credit for suing for the memos’ release. And President Obama deserves credit for overruling his own C.I.A. director and ordering that the memos be made public. It is hard to think of another case in which documents stamped “Top Secret” were released with hardly any deletions.

But this cannot be the end of the scrutiny for these and other decisions by the Bush administration.

Until Americans and their leaders fully understand the rules the Bush administration concocted to justify such abuses — and who set the rules and who approved them — there is no hope of fixing a profoundly broken system of justice and ensuring that that these acts are never repeated.

The abuses and the dangers do not end with the torture memos. Americans still know far too little about President Bush’s decision to illegally eavesdrop on Americans — a program that has since been given legal cover by the Congress.

Last week, The Times reported that the nation’s intelligence agencies have been collecting private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans on a scale that went beyond the broad limits established in legislation last year. The article quoted the Justice Department as saying there had been problems in the surveillance program that had been resolved. But Justice did not say what those problems were or what the resolution was.

That is the heart of the matter: nobody really knows what any of the rules were. Mr. Bush never offered the slightest explanation of what he found lacking in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when he decided to ignore the law after 9/11 and ordered the warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ overseas calls and e-mail. He said he was president and could do what he wanted.

The Bush administration also never explained how it interpreted laws that were later passed to expand the government’s powers to eavesdrop. And the Obama administration argued in a recent court filing that everything associated with electronic eavesdropping, including what is allowed and what is not, is a state secret.

We do not think Mr. Obama will violate Americans’ rights as Mr. Bush did. But if Americans do not know the rules, they cannot judge whether this government or any one that follows is abiding by the rules.

In the case of detainee abuse, Mr. Obama assured C.I.A. operatives that they would not be prosecuted for actions that their superiors told them were legal. We have never been comfortable with the “only following orders” excuse, especially because Americans still do not know what was actually done or who was giving the orders.

After all, as far as Mr. Bush’s lawyers were concerned, it was not really torture unless it involved breaking bones, burning flesh or pulling teeth. That, Mr. Bybee kept noting, was what the Libyan secret police did to one prisoner. The standard for American behavior should be a lot higher than that of the Libyan secret police.

At least Mr. Obama is not following Mr. Bush’s example of showy trials for the small fry — like Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib notoriety. But he has an obligation to pursue what is clear evidence of a government policy sanctioning the torture and abuse of prisoners — in violation of international law and the Constitution.

That investigation should start with the lawyers who wrote these sickening memos, including John Yoo, who now teaches law in California; Steven Bradbury, who was job-hunting when we last heard; and Mr. Bybee, who holds the lifetime seat on the federal appeals court that Mr. Bush rewarded him with.

These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.

After eight years without transparency or accountability, Mr. Obama promised the American people both. His decision to release these memos was another sign of his commitment to transparency. We are waiting to see an equal commitment to accountability.

DNU - SECDEF Discusses Military Budget

Friday, April 17, 2009

Next-Generation Navy Destroyer Set for Construction in Maine

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 - A recent agreement among the Defense Department, the Navy and shipbuilders will enable more efficient construction of the next-generation destroyer at one shipyard instead of two, a senior Defense Department official announced here today.

The "swap" agreement calls for three DDG-1000 destroyers to be built at the Bath Iron Works in Maine, John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Work on the DDG-1000 destroyers previously was to be split between General Dynamics' Bath Works and Northrop Grumman's Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi, Young said. As part of the new agreement, the Ingalls shipyard, which also builds some other Navy vessels, will gain a contract to build two more DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers.

The swap agreement, Young said, is the result of months of negotiations and is a reflection of "unprecedented efforts by the Navy and industry partners to operate in a business-like manner." The agreement, he added, involved compromises by all parties "to enable efficient construction of naval vessels."

The DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class vessel is a high-tech, guided-missile destroyer envisioned to eventually replace the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class of warships that were developed 30 years ago. Navy Adm. Arleigh Burke was a famous destroyer commander in the South Pacific during World War II.

Named for Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations in the early 1970s and died in January 2000, the DDG-1000 ships feature computer-aided design, modular construction, high-tech armaments and radar, as well as a unique, streamlined hull design.

The DDG-1000's complicated, high-tech content, Young said, makes its design and construction an admittedly expensive endeavor. Cost of a first prototype, or lead, DDG-1000 ship is estimated to be around $3.2 billion, he said, with prices of follow-on vessels likely to decrease due to industrial economies of scale.

The design and development of the DDG-1000 "has gone well," Young said, noting that the program has "gone to budget [and] gone on schedule."

Initial plans were to build 32 of the DDG-1000-series vessels at the Bath and Ingalls shipyards. Today, the Defense Department's proposed fiscal 2010 budget calls for building just three vessels.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today told members of the Naval War College in Newport R.I., that the United States will require a naval presence in the future.

"But we cannot allow more ships to go the way of the DDG-1000," Gates told the Naval War College audience. The DDG-1000's rising cost per ship, he noted, was among the reasons for buying reduced numbers.

Gates has recommended building more Arleigh Burke-class vessels and upgrading those now in the fleet. Sixty-four Arleigh Burkes have been built, not counting the two new ones slated for construction at the Ingalls shipyard.

Gates also deemed the arrangement for constructing DDG-1000s at the two shipyards as inefficient and too costly to taxpayers, Young said.

"I think it was important to him that we build these ships efficiently," Young said of his understanding of Gates' reasoning.

If the DDG-1000s couldn't be efficiently produced, Gates "was potentially prepared, even in the face of clear political danger, to go back and possibly cancel two ships, and that would have cut jobs in both shipyards," Young said.

Related Articles:
Gates Says America Must Protect Conventional Capabilities
Gates Lays Out Budget Recommendations
New Navy Ship's Cost Overstated in News Reports, Official Says

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DNU - Headlines for Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Surveillance Deal: Same Bad Law, New Bad Arguments

CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS

July 9, 2008 – 12:05 a.m.
By Madison Powers, Guest Columnist, CQ Staff

The bill revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) goes to the Senate floor for a vote today after being caught in the crunch of stalled legislation prior to the July 4th recess. It grants civil immunity to telecom companies who have, or may again, violate the Constitution with regard to warrantless electronic eavesdropping, and it carves out huge exceptions to the usual safeguards that protect citizens from promiscuous government fishing expeditions.

It was a bad bill a week ago, and it is still a bad idea whose time apparently has come. All the bad arguments for the bipartisan compromise remain largely the same, but now even fewer people are paying attention, and some new bad arguments have been added over the long weekend.

The Washington Post has endorsed it in two editorials, both trumpeting its bipartisan origins, as if the mere fact of bipartisanship was somehow on a par with considerations of its merits. A bad piece of legislation, broadly supported, is likely to be even worse in its ultimate consequences than hard-fought bills. When the time comes to use it or to defend it in court, just that many more people will be invested in believing and being seen to believe that it wasn’t all that bad.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi offers a mixed review, suggesting the need for more discussion, while expressing satisfaction that it offers more Congressional oversight. The history of oversight to date does not offer much consolation, given what we now know about how much key oversight committee members knew all along about what President Bush was doing without proper legal authority.

Barack Obama signed off on it with the suggestion that he can be trusted not to abuse it when he is president and the promise to try to strip out the offending immunity provision, even though it no longer strikes him as all that much of a problem in comparison to the need to protect the American public. Never mind that he might not be elected, or that those who work for his administration might find themselves tempted to misuse the new law.

Never mind also the fact that the remaining problems with the bill are not confined to the telecom immunity provision. While the immunity issue gets the bulk of press ink and air time, the lack of safeguards going forward are the issues that critics such as Senators Patrick J. Leahy , Arlen Specter , and Russ Feingold emphasize most. Their message has gotten lost, however, and both the media and those who want to sidestep the remaining problems with the bill have found common cause in ignoring what is most fundamentally at issue.

Other defenders are now saying that it is fair and reasonable to grant immunity to companies who acted, or may in the future act at the instruction of the President.

What gets missed in this argument is that not even soldiers have a duty to obey unlawful orders, and private citizens and corporations have no general duty to do whatever the President asks of them. It is absurd to suppose that companies should be absolved for doing what they were told to do by someone who lacked the authority to issue such an order in the first place.

The new argument also claims that it would be unfair to hold companies responsible for actions that they did not know to be legally problematic. The claim is that we now know that what was done in the past was illegal, but the companies themselves are blameless. It is the administration alone that should be held accountable.

The problem with that argument is simple for anyone who even thought about going to law school. If telecom companies now want to deny that they had good reasons for being suspicious at the time, they might want to consider asking for a refund from their lawyers. Indeed, some companies did refuse to comply, but all testified before Congress that they feared economic retribution if they did not.

Moreover, the recent defenses suggest that the bill ensures that the illegal acts of the past won’t happen again, but this just repeats the false claim that the only remaining problem worth discussing is the immunity provision. Now that we have an argument to the effect that those complicit with the President’s past policies are blameless, we are urged to set aside that as well.

Some have suggested that the immunity provision turns out to be not all that problematic for other reasons. The claim is that the bill does not eliminate all legal remedies going forward since it merely makes it hard to maintain individual civil lawsuits by persons alleging injury from illegal eavesdropping. Because the act appears to preserve the option of criminal prosecution, the civil immunity provision is said to be a relatively small trade-off to make.

The problem with this argument is that (even if they are correct in their reading of the legislation) it would require the Justice Department to prosecute the offenses, and no one in their right mind seriously believes that either an Obama or McCain administration will pursue that remedy. Who more than aggrieved individuals have both the right and the motivation to act to protect their own liberties?

CQ © 2007 All Rights Reserved | Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1255 22nd Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20037 | 202-419-8500

USS Stockdale - V. Adm. Stockdale

This Day in Naval History (USN)

1918 - First Marine Aviation Force formed at Marine Flying Field, Miami.

(Marine Aviation was officially born on May 22, 1912, when First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham, USMC, reported to the camp “for duty in connection with aviation.” This was several months after the Naval Aviation Camp was established at Annapolis in 1911, manned by Lieutenants T. G. Ellyson, John Rodgers and J. H. Towers, plus mechanics and three aircraft.)

Lt Alfred A. Cunningham, first Marine aviator

Sesame Street's Special for Military Families

Refusing Battle

BY Col. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR (Ret.)

“Sir, I am deeply concerned about Iraq. The task you have given me is becoming really impossible ... if they (Sunni and Shiite) are not prepared to urge us to stay and to co-operate in every manner I would actually clear out. ... At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having.”

Winston Churchill to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Sept. 1, 1922

Despite the seriousness of the present economic crisis, the greatest danger to the future security of the U.S. is Washington’s inclination to impose political solutions with the use of American military power in many parts of the world where Washington’s solutions are unneeded and unsustainable. President Barack Obama must arrest this tendency by making pragmatic and methodical changes to the goals of American military strategy. The Bush legacy in foreign and defense policy presents Obama with a stark choice: Will we continue to pursue global hegemony with the use of military power to control and shape development inside other societies? Or will we use our military power to maintain our market-oriented English-speaking republic, a republic that upholds the rule of law, respects the cultures and traditions of people different from ourselves, and trades freely with all nations, but protects its sovereignty, its commerce, its vital strategic interests and its citizens? This essay argues for the latter approach; a strategy of conflict avoidance designed to make the U.S. more secure without making the rest of the world less so.

For Americans who’ve lived in a world with only one true military, political and economic center of gravity — the U.S. — changing how America behaves inside the international system is not an easy task. Since 1991, Americans have become so accustomed to the frequent use of American military power against very weak opponents they seem to have lost their fear of even the smallest conflict’s unintended consequences.

But the 21st century is no time for the leaders of the U.S. to make uninformed decisions regarding the use of force or to engage in desperate, end-game, roll-of-the-dice gambles. Recent events in the Caucasus involving Russia and Georgia may simply be a foretaste of what is likely to happen during the 21st century in much of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where the ancient practice of encouraging one ethnic group to dominate others as a means of securing foreign imperial power is breeding new conflicts. These conflicts are likely to resemble the Balkan Wars of the early 20th century, except that fights for regional power and influence will overlap with the competition for energy, water, food, mineral resources and the wealth they create. In nations such as Iran and Turkey, states with proud histories, huge populations under the age of 30 and appetites for more prominence in world affairs, the influx of wealth from the energy sector will also support much more potent militaries and, potentially, more aggressive foreign policies, too.

In this volatile setting, direct American military involvement in conflicts where the U.S. itself is not attacked and its national prosperity is not at risk should be avoided. Otherwise, American military involvement could cause 21st century conflicts to spin out of control and confront Americans with regional alliances designed to contain American military power; alliances that but for American military intervention would not exist. It is vital the U.S. not repeat the mistakes of the British Empire in 1914: overestimate its national power by involving itself in a self-defeating regional war it does not need to fight and precipitate its own economic and military decline.

Avoiding this outcome demands new goals for American military power and a strategic framework that routinely answers the questions of purpose, method and end-state; a strategy in which American military action is short, sharp, decisive and rare. Such a strategy involves knowing when to fight and when to refuse battle.

Continue at AFJ

African Americans in the Navy

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

MISSING THE BOAT

By CMDR. JAMES KRASKA
at Armed Forces Journal.com

Jon Frankenheimer’s classic 1962 movie, “The Manchurian Candidate,” is an exquisite metaphor for the impending debate over U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention. The movie, which is a parody of the Cold War and a psychological study of McCarthyism, depicts how the far right is a tool of the far left. President Barack Obama is about to enter into the dark and metaphorical world of the Cold War-era film as he and the Senate consider U.S. participation in the Law of the Sea.

There are more than 150 parties to the treaty, which has become the “constitution” for the world’s oceans, and the president has a golden opportunity to burnish America’s multilateral credentials — and promote U.S. economic and military interests — by ratifying the treaty. But as the administration and the Senate turn their attention toward U.S. membership in the convention, they will encounter conservative Republican palace intrigue straight out of archetypal 1950s cinema.

Since 1994, the United States has considered joining the convention, which delineates the rights and duties of coastal states and maritime nations throughout the global commons. A minority of activists from the political right raised a host of criticism about the treaty, including that it will bring about a world government, U.N. taxes, a U.N. Navy, and other fanciful specters. Despite voicing support for the convention, President George W. Bush was unable to grab this low-hanging fruit and gain U.S. entry into a multilateral framework that promotes both economic and military interests. Obama now has the opportunity to secure America’s place in global ocean governance by joining a treaty that facilitates efficient world merchant shipping in the midst of a global economic downturn and protects the Navy’s right to operate unimpeded throughout the global commons.

The drama so far is thick with irony. These criticisms from the political right have not grasped the real threat to U.S. oceans interests, which is the relentless campaign by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Greenpeace, in conjunction with certain coastal states, including some of our closest allies such as Canada and Australia, to unilaterally impose maritime rules to restrict international shipping on the oceans and aircraft overflight of the seas for purported environmental reasons. John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, describes the partnership between NGOs and some like-minded governments as “norming,” in which “civil society” combines its efforts with the most politically liberal governments to develop international law in opposition to U.S. interests. Many of the most progressive maritime rules emerging from this process are inconsistent with the navigational freedoms protected in the convention, and the U.S. relies on those freedoms to ensure submarines can transit through the world’s chokepoints and launch military operations from ships serving as “sea bases” in the littoral regions of the world. Similarly, less well-intentioned nations such as North Korea, China and Iran have sought to impose control over the ocean out to 200 miles by establishing security zones. Both types of coastal state regulations place at risk American economic prosperity and national security by attempting to close off to U.S. ships and aircraft vast swaths of ocean, allowing the whim of coastal states to deny the use of the global commons.

COASTAL RESTRICTIONS

The creation of new maritime regulations by coastal states throughout the world poses the greatest threat to the freedom of the seas, a core U.S. interest. In recent years, some coastal states have attempted to impose excessive regulations over vessels and aircraft transiting through international straits, such as the strategic Strait of Hormuz, or naval operations as far out as 200 miles from shore. These regulations include prohibitions on the operation of certain types of vessels, such as warships or submarines, or some categories of oil tankers, or the requirement for advance notice to or prior consent by the coastal state in order to conduct transits in international waters or international straits.

All of these restrictions by coastal states attempt to diminish or impair the right of freedom of navigation enjoyed by mariners for two millennia. Four hundred years ago, these rights were recognized by Hugo Grotius, the “father of international law,” who cogently set forth the commercial doctrine of freedom of the seas that fueled an explosion in international trade. “For do not the oceans,” Grotius wrote, “navigable in every direction with which God has encompassed all the earth, and the regular and occasional winds which blow now from one quarter and now from another, offer sufficient proof that Nature has given to all peoples a right of access to all other peoples?”

The coastal states that are trying to topple Grotius and reshape and curtail military access and global shipping understand the importance of the Law of the Sea to preserving navigational freedom. Asserting authority to control environmental regulations and impose security standards over foreign vessels and aircraft, some coastal nations are working aggressively to reinterpret and reshape the Law of the Sea from a regime that promotes freedom of the seas toward one that permits coastal states to control foreign vessels and aircraft in the global commons for environmental, security — or even political — reasons.

The fact that some countries that already belong to the convention and are trying to change it through reinterpreting the terms of the treaty shows that those states understand how to convert a struggle for power into a struggle to shape the law.

China, for example, is a party to the Law of the Sea, but denies that foreign warships have the right to enjoy high seas freedom and overflight in the East China Sea. Beijing is patiently but steadily pushing to change standard interpretations of international law, integrating into its maritime strategy elements of “legal warfare” and an effective public diplomacy campaign to capture world public opinion. By declining to become a member of the treaty, the U.S. has so far ceded the opportunity to influence and shape the constitution for the oceans, yielding the stage to China, North Korea and Iran to popularize their restrictive approach to navigational rights. This is akin to refusing to engage in debate on the future direction of the U.S. Constitution because one’s political opponents have staked out objectionable positions on the issues and are engaged in “reinterpreting” its most fundamental provisions.

In the case of the Law of the Sea Convention, we are starting with a treaty that reflects an enormously beneficial balance in favor of freedom of the seas, although U.S. inattention and nonparticipation over the last 20 years has been counterproductive. Washington has so far buried its head in the sand rather than becoming a treaty partner and energetically promoting the standard — and historically correct — interpretation that protects freedom of the seas. The convention still reflects the essential interest in promoting global freedom of the seas, but that orthodox view is under legal and political assault, both from coastal state regulators within the U.S. government and in foreign capitals.

FREEDOM OF THE SEAS IN HISTORY

Since states began conducting international trade in earnest, they have relied on freedom of the seas for their safety and prosperity. “We live around the seas,” said Socrates, “like frogs around a pond.” In a line running from ancient Greece and Rome, into the modern era through Portugal and Spain, including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and now the United States, all of the world’s foremost powers achieved and maintained their position of leadership through reliance on pre-eminent sea power and freedom of the seas. The U.S. has long championed freedom of the seas. President Thomas Jefferson built a navy to resist the Barbary pirate corsairs when European governments paid tribute to safely transit the Mediterranean. The War of 1812 was fought largely over the right of U.S. merchant ships to ply the seas freely, engaging in nascent global trade. Freedom of the seas was a feature of President Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” during World War I and was one of the war aims included in the Atlantic Charter by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the World War II.

During negotiations of the Law of the Sea Convention, diplomats from the United States and other major maritime powers, including Russia and Japan, were successful in ensuring that these time-honored principles were incorporated into the treaty in 1982, advancing our interest in naval power and fueling the trade globalization of the 1990s. This is a core American national interest in the oceans, and the Law of the Sea locks in generous navigational provisions that apply throughout the globe — for both naval vessels and merchant shipping.

The convention gives the U.S. the legal and moral high ground to transit freely through more than 100 strategic straits throughout the globe, including the critical Straits of Malacca and Singapore and the Northwest Passage in the Arctic. The convention protects the right of all countries to exercise high seas freedoms to transit on, over and under coastal states’ exclusive economic zones — a special fishing and resource area that extends out to 200 miles from the coastline and comprises 35 percent of the world’s ocean space. This area constitutes the location of much of the merchant shipping traffic and is the fulcrum of naval expeditionary operations where our forces stage at sea to affect events on land. By guaranteeing high seas freedoms in the exclusive economic zone, the treaty reinforces the ability of the armed forces to move — without hindrance and under authority of law — forces, weapons and materiel to the fight. Ultimately Washington will rely on the Navy to guarantee freedom of the seas, but to do so for every transit of every vessel and aircraft begs the question: At what cost? Do we want our only option to be gunboat diplomacy, or would we rather operate with the agreement and support of the global community? Writing in “The Art of War” in the 6th century B.C., Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said it is the acme of skill to subdue the enemy without fighting. The United States achieved a diplomatic victory in the Law of the Sea Convention by obtaining our most important interests in freedom of navigation. The real value of the convention to the U.S. is in strengthening and influencing a nearly universally accepted treaty that represents the best means of maintaining the stable, secure and prosperous world we envision and the place we occupy in it.

Executives in the energy, telecommunications and shipping industries understand how the convention will make us more prosperous. Military commanders understand how the convention will make us more secure, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly support the treaty. Some detractors of the treaty have unfairly (and inaccurately) suggested that our most senior admirals and generals support the Law of the Sea due to the persistence of a cadre of Navy lawyers. In fact, our military leaders are savvy, independent thinkers who are accustomed to gathering the facts and exercising decisive judgment. Moreover, Navy lawyers are foremost naval officers wearing the uniform and embedded into military units in peacetime and combat. Sharing two professions, the profession of arms and the profession of law, this is not a silkstocking club of suits, but advisers who train and deploy with the force, providing advice on the projection of sea power on the water and ashore.

The few political conservatives who argue the Law of the Sea Convention would undermine U.S. national security add a surreal dimension to these issues. The arguments against U.S. participation in the Law of the Sea are well-meaning but misguided, because they are based on an ephemeral ideological and philosophic distaste for the United Nations, rather than realpolitick calculation of U.S. military and economic interests. Our military security and economic prosperity depend upon unimpaired international freedom of navigation, connecting our “island” nation in North America to the people and markets of the broader world. The United States should be embracing the Law of the Sea Convention, and political conservatives should insist the president and the Senate place it as their first order of business. The treaty is the nation’s most effective means for resisting efforts by NGOs and others to diminish global freedom of the seas. At the same time, a handful of influential conservatives are trashing the very treaty that best protects and promotes our interests. AFJ

Women in Military Medicine

CPO's Celebrate Birthday

Brazilian Sailors Play Soccer In Diego Garcia

I think they belong to the BNS Garcia D'Ávila (G 29)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Navy's Rescue Mission 'Textbook,' But Piracy Still Looms, Gates Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

QUANTICO, Va., April 13, 2009 - The U.S. military's rescue of a kidnapped American ship captain yesterday was "textbook," but the issue of piracy is likely to worsen in the absence of a systemic solution, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

Off the Somali coast yesterday, U.S. special operations snipers on the USS Bainbridge shot and killed three pirates who had held hostage the captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship on a lifeboat for five days. Military officials said Capt. Richard Phillips' life was in imminent danger at the time of his rescue.

"It was textbook," Gates said of the operation. "They were patient. They got the right people and the right equipment in place, and then did what they do."

Gates, speaking at the Marine Corps War College here, said two groups of military operators were involved in the rescue -- one based in the region and one based in the United States -- with each requiring separate authority from President Barack Obama. "And the approval was given virtually immediately in both cases," Gates said.

Despite the operational precision of the rescue, however, the question of how to deal with the broader issue of piracy still looms large, with 111 incidents reported last year on the east coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, according to the International Chamer of Commerce."Is there a way to deal with this in a systemic way that reduces the risk and brings the international community together in a productive way to deal with the problem?" Gates said. "I think we're going to end up spending a fair amount of time on this in the administration, seeing if there is a way to try and mitigate this problem of piracy."

Gates said the historical case of Southeast Asia's solution to its piracy problem does not generally apply to the current Somali-based issue. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries, for instance, central governments played a role in stemming piracy, he said.

"[They] acquired some capabilities -- and we helped them in some of those capabilities in terms of surveillance and patrolling -- and because each of those countries has a functioning government, the piracy problem in Southeast Asia has been dramatically reduced," he said.

"The problem is easier to deal with when the surrounding land -- as in the case of Southeast Asia and the Straits of Malacca -- is controlled by real governments that have real capabilities, which is not the case in Somalia," he explained. "So it is a serious international problem, and it's probably going to get worse."

Gates, emphasizing the limitations of a purely military approach, said some have suggested bypassing the central government of Somalia and instead establishing relationships with officials of functioning local governments there.

"There is no purely military solution to it," he said. "And as long as you've got this incredible number of poor people and the risks are relatively small, there's really no way in my view to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids."

Gates noted the four pirates involved in kidnapping the Maersk-Alabama captain were 17 to 19 years old, and he cited the dangerous combination of untrained youth and arms.

"Untrained teenagers with heavy weapons," he told the group of 30 students and faculty members at the Marine Corps War College. "Everybody in the room knows the consequences of that."

Gates underscored that the piracy issue will likely be an important agenda item in coming weeks.

"All I can tell you is I am confident we will be spending a lot of time in the situation room over the next few weeks trying to figure out what in the world to do about this problem," he said.

Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

Related Articles:
Hostage Captain Was in 'Imminent Danger' at Time of Rescue
Obama Praises U.S. Military Rescue of Maersk-Alabama Captain

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Uniform Registration Process to Promote Seamless Military-to-Veteran Transition

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2009 - The best way to ensure servicemembers transition seamlessly from the Defense Department to the Department of Veterans Affairs when they leave the military is to start the process at the swearing-in ceremony, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki told American Forces Press Service.

"Seamless transition really has to begin when that servicemember is still serving, puts on the uniform, raises a right hand and takes the oath of allegiance," said Shinseki, who spent 38 years in uniform before retiring in 2003 as Army chief of staff. "We need to begin the transition then."

Shinseki said he's had several conversations with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates about ways to continue improving the transition process between the two departments.

One concept, called "uniform registration," would enroll servicemembers automatically in a single Defense-VA management system when they join the military. As envisioned, the system would have two components: one for personnel files and another for medical files.

Shinseki explained the benefits of uniform registration last month during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. "Uniform registration will push both of us, both the VA and the [Defense Department], to create a single, electronic record that would govern how we acknowledge, identify, track and manage each of our clients," he said.

"That way, we could begin to track them throughout the course of their service in uniform – whether it's two years, four years, 10 years, 30 years," he told American Forces Press Service.

"And when the change in their status occurs and they take the uniform off and return to civilian life, the transition has already been done," he continued. "They are already a member of our department, we know who they are, and we have been watching their development."

The initiative, he said, would result in better, faster, more consistent management decisions, with less chance of lost files or destroyed claims and fewer backlogs in processing claims. Servicemembers leaving the military would come to VA as known entities, and their entitlements would be clear, Shinseki said. Meanwhile, VA could better project veterans' needs.

Shinseki told the Senate committee both VA and the Defense Department "are in agreement about the goodness of such a system and have people working toward making this a reality."

Uniform registration is really just an extension of other VA-administered programs that cover those in uniform, Shinseki said. These include Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, educational loans and guaranteed home loans.

"So this idea that your benefits begin when you take off the uniform is misleading," he said. "Those benefits are there in those categories from the time they begin serving."

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have been working diligently to eliminate gaps as servicemembers – particularly wounded warriors – transition from military to civilian life. Congressional panels, blue-ribbon commissions and in-house investigations all have pointed to the need for the two departments to improve their coordination and cooperation to better serve transitioning troops.

Shinseki told the Senate panel progress being made will help ensure better care and support for veterans. "Through a cooperative effort, we seek to improve the delivery of benefits and assure the availability of medical data to support the care of patients shared by VA and [the Defense Department]," he wrote in his written testimony. "This will enhance our ability to provide world-class care to veterans, active-duty servicemembers receiving care from both health-care systems, and our wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Soul of the Soldier

I'm the soldier
Regardless of being Marine or Army

I'm the soldier
I feel the pain, I taste the mud and suffer
when my fellow brothers are in harm's way

I'm a soldier

I do my duty
, I follow the orders of my superiors
Even when they seem to be silly

I'm a soldier
I'm able to give my life for my country, for my family, for my fellow soldiers and in the field, in the battlefield, they're not just fellow soldiers,
They're my brothers

I pray to God to protect my family,
To look after my country
And to give wisdom to my Commander-in-Chief
Because, as I said, I'm a Soldier

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gates Prepares ‘Fundamental Shift’ in Defense Funding Priorities

CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS DEFENSE April 3, 2009 – 2:02 p.m.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates plans to brief congressional leaders and announce Monday a “fundamental shift” in defense spending and priorities, his spokesman said Friday.

The fiscal 2010 funding choices in the announcement will represent the first major defense policy decisions of President Obama’s administration. Specific details of the budget are not expected until the first week of May, but Gates will make the unusual move of announcing several major program decisions weeks ahead of the budget release, according to the spokesman.

“These are not changes to the margins. This is a fundamental shift in direction,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. “And the secretary’s point of view argues for an unconventional approach in explaining that shift to the American people.”

Morrell said that Gates would finalize the decisions over the weekend and brief congressional leaders Monday morning. A press conference will follow.

“The fact of life is that since September 11, 2001, the military has been engaged in irregular warfare activities that require more of our focus, more of our energy, and more of our resources than we have been dedicating to them,” Morrell said. “So Gates is trying to shift between the large scale conventional near peer conflicts that we have to prepare for down the line and the very real conflicts we are engaged in now.”

The timing of the announcement allows Gates to present the strategic rationale for the decisions at once, rather than having individuals criticize the decisions piecemeal as they leak out.

“Gates’ hope is that by revealing it all at once and by explaining it in depth and explaining the strategic rationale for all of these decisions, that people will view it as a whole and not get focused on the individual decisions and not let their parochial interests overcome the fact that it is in our national interests to make these adjustments to the whole of the budget,” Morrell said.

Although Gates repeatedly has warned that no final decisions have been made about specific program cuts, defense officials have noted that some are at serious risk — particularly those that are poor performers or cannot be connected with a current threat.

The programs that many expect to face huge cuts or cancellation include the Army’s Future Combat Systems program; the Transformational Communications Satellite program; the Navy’s DDG-1000 destroyer program; and the VH-71 presidential helicopter program. Some cuts or procurement delays are also expected for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program.

Ballistic missile defense, which represents the Pentagon’s largest acquisitions program, also could be on the chopping block. Futuristic missile defense components are at particular risk, including the Airborne Laser Program, the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, the Space Based Interceptor, along with plans to begin construction on two missile defense sites in Eastern Europe.

Many observers on Capitol Hill are also anxiously awaiting what Gates might say about the fate of the Pentagon’s troubled effort to buy a new fleet of aerial refueling tankers, whether or not the new administration wants to build a new bomber aircraft, and whether the president wants to continue buying F-22 Raptor fighters.

Sources said that the president wants to cap the number of F-22s at around 250, which would ensure three more years of production after the current limit of 183 planes is reached this year.

According to a blueprint released in February, Obama will ask for $533.7 billion in discretionary spending in fiscal 2010. That number is $20.4 billion, or about 4 percent, higher than the $513.3 billion appropriated in fiscal 2009.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Vets Bring Encouragement, Example to Newly Disabled Comrades

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo., March 31, 2009 - Someone who has lived with a disability for more years than he cares to count knows exactly what newly disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going through.

Jake Hipps, 54, served as a Marine Corps lance corporal during the Vietnam War era, and his life made a dramatic turn during an accident he still doesn't like to talk about that landed him in a wheelchair.

Sixteen years later, he considers himself an old sage who can be an example to young troops struggling to accept their disabilities.

So between runs down black-diamond slopes during the 23rd annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, he cheers on fellow veterans tackling adaptive skiing and other adaptive recreational activities for the first time.

"You have to let them know that this isn't the end of the road," Hipps said. "I tell them, 'Watch me grow, and you can grow, too.'"

Hipps credits a dedicated Department of Veterans Affairs staff, and a whole host of events the VA sponsors, with helping him take the steps to turn his life around. In fact, he said, he's more active now that when he was walking.

"What's important is living one day at a time," he said. "That's how I've learned to take life."

Kyle Keinitz, 28, who was paralyzed in a car accident in December 2002, said newly disabled troops go through an almost inevitable process.

"When you're first injured, you have to go through that mental downfall into acceptance," said the former Marine Corps lance corporal. "But once you get past that, rehabilitation is a tool to get better, both physically and mentally."

An avid skier before his accident, Keinitz said, he wasn't willing to let a wheelchair and a dose of nervousness stand between him and the mountains he loves. "I'm a 'baptism by fire' kind of guy, so I gave it a whirl" at last year's clinic, he said. "I was hooked after the first day."

Now back at his second winter sports clinic, Keinitz said he's passing what he learned along to his fellow veterans. He encourages them to embrace the therapy VA offers to get their bodies stronger – a big step, he said, toward getting mentally healthy, too.

"And when you're done with therapy, don't stop," he said. "Don't sit on the couch. If there's something you can try, try it."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki challenged veterans like Hipps and Keinitz during the clinic's March 28 opening ceremonies to take newly disabled comrades under their wings and mentor them as they learn to live with their disabilities.

"They have a lot of living in front of them, and they have a role in the quality of that living," Shinseki said during an interview with American Forces Press Service.

Shinseki said he believes the winter sports clinic gives young veterans "a glimpse of what is possible if they keep hope alive."

For Army Staff Sgt. Jake Leitz, whose car hit a sheet of ice just a year ago that sent him into a wheelchair, the opportunity to learn from others who understand his situation like few others can is a big plus of the winter sports clinic.

Leitz, a Montana National Guardsman, spent five months in three different hospitals being treated for a compressed spinal cord before his VA recreational therapist suggested he give the clinic a try.

"I jumped right into it. I didn't hesitate at all," said 29-year-old Lietz.

He described his first ski experience yesterday in superlatives: "a blast," "amazing," and "one of the most fun things I've ever done."

But Leitz said he's taking far more away from the clinic than a good time. "It's camaraderie," he said. "It reaffirms that no matter what happens to us, the camaraderie never leaves. There's always somebody out there willing to teach me. It's awesome."

Just two days into the clinic, Leitz already has received tips from a fellow vet who underwent a stem cell procedure like the one he'll go through in May. Another veteran is committed to teaching him how to "hold a wheelie" in his wheelchair.

"It reinforces that there are plenty of guys and girls out there, all in the same situation," he said. "We're all here together, helping each other. The camaraderie never leaves."

Sandy Trombetta, VA's national director for the clinic, said the goal of the six-day clinic is to push disabled veterans' limits and help them discover things they never imagined they still could do. He called the experience a "ride of discovery" that gives participants new motivation to press on with their rehabilitation.

Kevin White, a member of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center's medical team, said he marvels at the therapeutic impact of the winter sports clinic. "It lets the veterans know they can do anything they want, just like before," he said.

But the camaraderie and spirit of the clinic last long after the closing-day awards ceremony, he said.

"When the veterans go back home, it definitely makes a big difference," he said. "After they come here, they just know what's possible."
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