Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Bill Will Ease Travel

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday voted unanimously to allow military travelers on official duty to get a special preference to move through airport security checks faster.

The bill, approved 404-0, would give the Homeland Security Department six months to devise a preference system for the Armed Forces. The legislation went to the Senate.

If the bill becomes law, the earliest beneficiaries would likely be troops returning from Afghanistan next year and their family members, who also would receive preferential treatment.

The government already has initiated, and is expanding, a more intelligence-driven trusted traveler program for civilians. Participants include travelers in American and Delta airlines' frequent flier programs as well as people who are part of three other programs. These people volunteer more information about themselves so that the government can vet them before they arrive at airport security checkpoints.

Chief sponsor Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., said it takes longer for men and women in uniform to pass through security because of their gear, medals on their uniforms and boots that must be unlaced. Allowing them through security more quickly would speed up the waiting time for those not part of a preference program, he said.

While Homeland Security would establish the new preferential system, Cravaack envisions troops not having to remove boots, belt buckles, bulky military jackets and medals. Troops could go to the front of the line, or a separate line could be created.

"This falls in line with the pilot program" now under way," Cravaack said. "I was an airline pilot for 17 years. We would go to the head of the line. I saw people who were not exactly happy with that.

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"But the main emphasis is expediting troops going through a security process that wasn't made for them."

Kate Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org, said her passenger rights group "strongly supports expedited screening for the military and that should be extended to all law enforcement, DOD folks with security clearance and other government officials with security clearance."

The Transportation Security Administration is currently testing a trusted traveler program at airports in Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Miami. The program will expand to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul over the next few months.

The civilian program allows participants to go to a dedicated lane. The traveler will provide the TSA officer with a boarding pass that has information about his or her vetted and trusted status embedded in the barcode. A machine will read the barcode, and if the traveler is deemed part of a "low-risk" category, he or she will likely be able to keep on belts, shoes and jackets and leave laptops and liquids in bags when going through the screening process.

In addition, TSA on Nov. 15 began a test at the Monterey Peninsula Airport in California, allowing members of the Armed Forces to present their Defense Department identification card for scanning. The experiment is only to see if the scanning system works, but there is no change in screening procedures.

Although it's a policy, not law, the TSA already makes some accommodations to service members.in uniform with a proper identification card.

They are not required to remove their shoes or boots unless they set off an alarm. Family members can obtain gate passes to accompany departing troops or meet those returning. The agency expedites screening for wounded troops.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Utah man receives war medals 66 years late

By JOSH LOFTIN - Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More than six decades after being freed from a Japanese prisoner of war camp, a Utah veteran was compelled to relive the horrors and triumphs of his World War II experience this month when he received a mysterious package containing seven military medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star.

The medals have become a source of pride for retired Army Capt. Tom Harrison, 93, since they arrived in a box with nothing more than a packing slip from a logistics center in Philadelphia on Nov. 4, which happened to be his 65th wedding anniversary. But they have also refreshed painful memories of the Bataan Death March, POW camps and the comrades he lost during the war or in the years since.

Harrison can talk at length about his time as a soldier in the Philippines. But he talks about it much like he talks about golf, focusing on small details — be it the flight of a well-hit tee shot or the day he met Gen. Douglass MacArthur — and the people that surrounded him. He doesn't dwell on his own valor.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor forced the United States into the war, Harrison spent months fighting the Japanese before American and Filipino troops surrendered at the Battle of Bataan. He eventually survived, without lasting physical injury, the Bataan Death March and three-plus years as a Japanese prisoner of war.

"It brings back memories, but also makes you feel like somebody appreciated your service," Harrison said while sitting in his living room with the medals. "It also reminds me of the people I served with in the Philippines. I'm the only survivor from my unit now. I've lost most of my friends."

About 20 years ago, Harrison "shook the cobwebs loose" on his war experiences by writing a book called "Survivor." That has made it easier — but not easy — to talk about the suffering, the disease and the starvation that defined the years of imprisonment.

The medals prompted new interest from his family about the war, Harrison said, although he is reluctant to talk at length about his personal experiences. Instead, Harrison holds up a Presidential Unit Citation as one medal he was particularly pleased to receive because it recognized the soldiers he served with and trained.

His leadership and bravery earned him two of the Army's highest honors, the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star. While those medals are only given for extraordinary acts of selfless valor, Harrison said he doesn't remember — or is reluctant to explain — what he did to earn them.

"I don't like to talk about what makes a hero. It's not something I like to broadcast," Harrison said. "But my kids are impressed, and my grandkids say they (the medals) are 'awesome.'"

It hasn't been uncommon for World War II veterans to receive medals decades later because relatively few were actually given out during or immediately following the war, said retired 1st Sgt. Dennis Meeks, a customer service manager for the South Carolina-based Medals of America, a company that works with military officials to distribute medals to veterans.

Instead, veterans were given ribbons because precious metals such as bronze and silver were needed for more pressing wartime needs, Meeks said. Additionally, a number of medals were granted in the years after service members were discharged.

That means many veterans needed to apply to receive their medals, and a strong majority of them did not.

"The Greatest Generation just put this war to the side when it ended," Meeks said. "They had other concerns, like starting families and careers."

As for Harrison's medals, however, it remains a mystery as to who actually requested them. His son, Peter Harrison, said nobody in the family has taken credit for doing it, although they have celebrated the medals with a family dinner.

Army officials didn't respond to email requests for comment and weren't available on Friday because of the Veterans Day federal holiday.

Eventually, the medals will be displayed in Tom Harrison's modestly decorated but spacious home, which is about 50 yards from the 7th hole of the Salt Lake Country Club. They will serve as reminders of a well-lived life for him, his wife and his family.

"They add excitement to an otherwise sedentary life," he said. "I can still remember it all, even after such a long time. I don't like to bring it up, but I'll talk about it if asked."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Japanese-American Heros Honored

Washington (CNN) -- Nearly seven decades after the attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of Japanese-American World War II veterans were honored Wednesday at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony held at the U.S Capitol.

In a rare moment of unity, Democratic and Republican Senators and members of the House of Representatives praised Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd Regiment Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion and veterans of the Military Intelligence Service for their contribution to the war.

"Aloha and welcome," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at the start of the invitation-only event inside the Capitol's Emancipation Hall. About 1,000 people witnessed the ceremony in person, including several aging Japanese-American honorees and their families who waited years for this day.

When World War II began, Japanese-Americans were not invited to serve. Two years into the war, the U.S. military created an all-volunteer Japanese-American combat team who soon adopted the slogan "Go for Broke." Most of its roughly 20,000 members were born in the United States to Japanese-born parents. They went on to become one of the most decorated American units in the war, yet when they returned home, many faced discrimination.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said Wednesday's "long-overdue honor" is now "bestowed on American heroes." "You fought not only the enemy, you fought prejudice, and you won," Pelosi said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said the ceremony "demonstrates the greatest of America, a nation that recognized that it made mistakes, corrected them and moved on to become a stronger country and we are proud to defend the freedoms and ideals that this country represents."

President Barack Obama signed legislation last year approving the creation of a Congressional Gold Medal for Japanese-American veterans.

The medal states in part, "The United States remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor, and dedication to country that these men faced while fighting a two-front battle of discrimination at home and fascism abroad. Their commitment demonstrates a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor."

One recipient, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, received a standing ovation when he rose to speak at the event. He said the road to recognizing Japanese-American World War II veterans "has been a long journey, but a glorious one. I'm certain those who are resting in cemeteries are pleased with this day."

Inouye, who lost his right arm while leading his men of the 2nd Battalion, 442nd Combat Team in an attack against German machine gun nests in Italy, received the Medal of Honor 55 years later, in 1999.

George Otsuki, now almost 92, who was a sergeant serving in the 442nd, called the recognition "wonderful."

"The public found out what we did," he told CNN, "and that's the main thing."

Frank Mizufuka, who was born in Los Angeles and served as a sergeant in the same unit, said "it was a once-in-a-lifetime, extraordinary event."

Mizufuka, 89, said he spent a year in a hospital recovering from a chest wound he received in combat.


CFSO Note: America is a land of immigrants. Even in times of war, immigrants for "enemy" lands can still be, and prove themselves, loyal Americans.

Sadly, in today's Department of State, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security still has not grasped the concept.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


From Secrecy News by Steven Aftergood:

A new U.S. Army publication (pdf) invites American soldiers to ponder the role of cultural factors in shaping perception and action.

Analyze this statement: 'The English drive on the wrong side of the road.'

In some Islamic countries women wear burkas. Who is advantaged and who is disadvantaged by this?

Why do you think major religious traditions tend to have a plain version and a more mystical version?

What do television commercials tell us about American culture?

This is not a purely theoretical exercise, but is intended to support the Army's counterinsurgency role in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"Soldiers must understand how vital culture is in accomplishing today's missions," the new publication says. "Military personnel who have a superficial or even distorted picture of a host culture make enemies for the United States. Each Soldier must be a culturally literate ambassador, aware and observant of local cultural beliefs, values, behaviors and norms." See "Culture Cards: Afghanistan & Islamic Culture," U.S. Army, September 2011.

Friday, May 27, 2011

This Memorial Day, remember the diplomats, too

From the Dallas Morning News:

WASHINGTON — They are the proud, the few and the unarmed. They dodge bullets in the mountains of Afghanistan and brave the deserts of Iraq. They serve as America’s face to the world, from violence-ridden Mexico to the financial hubs of Asia to the capitals of Europe. They promote American business and protect American citizens abroad. They are the men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service.

On Memorial Day, we rightly pause to remember those who serve our nation in military uniform. But we should also recognize the more than 12,000 members of the American diplomatic corps who serve in Washington and in 271 missions across the globe.

“They are the ones out there on the front lines trying to advocate and explain [American] policies, regardless of which administration they are serving,” said Karen Hughes, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy under President George W. Bush.

She praised the Foreign Service as “a very dedicated group of public servants” who “work and make sacrifices around the world in some very difficult assignments.”

You may think of diplomats as tuxedo-wearing statesmen sipping cocktails at summits in Switzerland, but American diplomats are deployed in places like war-torn Africa and Afghanistan, where they often face the same dangers as members of the military. One diplomat I spoke to said he has been shot at five times in the line of duty.

Yet, even as America’s engagement with the world is growing more crucial, budget hawks are circling over the State Department. Speaking to the National Conference of Editorial Writers this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned, “There’s a huge gap between perception and reality … and people think that we can balance our budget on the back of our foreign operations.”

The continuing resolution passed to fund the government cut $8 billion for the State Department and USAID — while increasing the Defense Department’s budget by $5 billion. The demands on the State Department are growing, but the budget isn’t. “It is so out of whack with what we have to be doing,” Clinton lamented.

Part of the problem is that many Americans misunderstand diplomats’ role. Diplomacy isn’t about throwing money at the world. Yes, foreign aid — which accounts for only about 1 percent of the total federal budget — is a useful diplomatic tool. But too often diplomacy is dismissed as wasteful global charity or useless hemmin’ and hawin’ at the United Nations. Whether working to secure access to natural resources (like oil), leading reconstruction in Afghanistan or screening hundreds of thousands of visa applicants, diplomats are producing concrete results. They are the facilitators of globalization.

In an interconnected world, diplomacy is becoming ever more relevant to the daily lives of Americans, especially when it comes to the economy. Diplomats pave the way for American businesses to make profits at home by expanding overseas.

“If companies want to grow, if we want to grow our GDP, if we want to be competitive on a global basis in the 21st century, people really have to step up to export and export more, because that’s where the growth opportunities are,” said Lorraine Hariton, U.S. Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs.

Texas definitely enjoys the dividends of diplomacy. According to the latest figures from the International Trade Administration and Bureau of the Census, in 2009 the Dallas-Fort Worth area exported $19.9 billion worth of merchandise. And because of the Open Skies agreements liberalizing international air travel,Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will see “billions of dollars in new business,” Clinton said this month.

Members of the Foreign Service play a crucial role in making that kind of lucrative international agreement possible, part of a government-wide campaign to help American businesses increase exports.

“We need to set up partnerships and relationships all around the world so we can understand the market needs in Kenya as well as the market needs in Fort Worth,” Hariton said.

Indeed, to maintain America’s global competitiveness and to capitalize on the opportunities globalization creates, we need a well-funded diplomatic corps.

“Diplomacy used to be thought of as the quiet, behind-the-scenes, government-to-government communications,” Hughes told me.

It’s now so much more than that. “In order for America to enact the kinds of policies we want to enact around the world,” Hughes explained, “we have got to build a public case for those policies, for our values and for our interests.”

Our diplomats are out in the trenches doing just that, often at great personal danger — remember the Iranian hostage crisis? Foreign Service officers have also been the targets of drug violence, insurgent attacks and kidnappings. Yet they man their posts, safeguarding American interests and protecting U.S. citizens overseas.

This weekend, as we salute our military, we also owe a tribute to America’s diplomats, many of whom are in conflict zones riding in the same Humvees as the troops. The only difference is that they can’t shoot back.

*Clayton M. McCleskey is a contributing writer for The Dallas Morning News based in Washington. His email address is letters@claytonmccleskey.com.*

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011