Unmanned Aerial Systems… the horseless carriage in the sky

Scrambling to meet commanders’ insatiable demands for unmanned aircraft, the Air Force is launching two new training programs, including an experimental one that would churn out up to 1,100 desperately needed pilots to fly the drones over Iraq and Afghanistan.

A senior Air Force officer said that by the end of September 2011, the goal is to have 50 unmanned combat air patrols operating 24 hours a day, largely over Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently there are 30.

To generate the pilots for the increased flights, the Air Force hopes to create separate pilot pipelines for its manned and unmanned aircraft, said Col. Curt Sheldon, assistant to the director of air operations for unmanned aircraft issues. Until now, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) pilots have had to complete at least one tour of flight duty before moving to the drone jobs.

Predators are playing a crucial role on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing real-time surveillance video to troops on the ground, targeting and firing Hellfire anti-tank missiles at militants, and homing in on enemy efforts to plant roadside bombs.

In North Dakota, officials announced in August that the University of North Dakota has a share in a $50 million Air Force contract to train Predator pilots, working with a team of global defense and aviation technology companies. The school also plans a four-year degree program for students who want careers in fields involving unmanned aerial systems.

To date, the Air Force has been using experienced fighter pilots to operate the drones. But as the demand has skyrocketed, the service has struggled to find enough pilots to fill both the manned and unmanned jobs.

Meanwhile, the test program for non-pilots is aimed at Air Force captains who have four to six years of experience, but no flight training. Their schooling would take up to nine months, and they would not have to meet all of the more stringent standards that jet fighter pilots must.

United States Flag Manual

by Jeff Seeber

The Military Salute Project has released the UNITED STATES FLAG MANUAL, a 45-page comprehensive summary of the Flag Code, public laws, Executive Orders, Presidential proclamations, DoD directives and military protocol regarding our flag.

Topics covered include the history of the U.S. Flag, regulations for its use, the order of precedence, illustrated guidelines for display, positioning of flag patches and pins, displaying the flag on vehicles, how to fold the flag, half-staff information, and military salute protocol.

Other subjects include information about the POW/MIA flag, the Blue Star flag, and the flags of the states and territories. The manual is free and can be downloaded from links on this page: http://www.veteranstoday.com/article4008.html

The price to support our troops is going up…..again.

“For those of us that spend HUNDREDS of DOLLARS a month in shipping packages to our CHAMPIONS OF FREEDOM…. this is important to know…” ~ Shelle Michaels, Soldiers’ Angels

New Annual January Price Change Consistent with Industry Practices

WASHINGTON, DC —Pricing for shipping services will change on Sunday, Jan. 18, the Postal Service announced today following a vote by its Board of Governors.

“The move to annual January price changes for shipping services products is consistent with industry-wide practice, and provides a clear picture of the competitive, affordable prices the Postal Service offers,” said Robert Bernstock, president, Mailing and Shipping Services.

Prices will change on Sunday, Jan. 18, for Express Mail, Priority Mail, Parcel Select, Parcel Return Service and some international shipping products. Overall, shipping services prices will increase an average of 5 percent. The new prices are available at www.usps.com/prices (click “New Shipping Prices” box).

“The new prices are very competitive within the shipping industry and reinforce the value Postal Service pricing offers our customers,” Bernstock said. “As always, the Postal Service does not impose fuel surcharges, hidden surcharges or surcharges for residential delivery or Saturday delivery.”

New for 2009 is Commercial Plus pricing, an extraordinary value for high-volume Express Mail and Priority Mail users. New Commercial Plus prices for Express Mail are 14.5 percent less than retail on average, and for Priority Mail 7 percent less than retail on average.

“Commercial Plus is a tiered pricing option designed with larger shippers in mind,” said Gary Reblin, vice president, Expedited Shipping. “It’s a very competitive offering for commercial customers — lower prices that will reward them for shipping higher volumes with the Postal Service.”

The Postal Service remains the best shipping value in the market, Reblin said, especially for Express Mail and Priority Mail packages weighing less than 5 pounds. Parcel Select, the Postal Service “last mile” ground product, where the Postal Service provides delivery for other parcel shippers and parcel consolidators, continues to be an excellent solution for high-volume shippers. For international mailers, Global Express Guaranteed, Express Mail International and Priority Mail International are the best value in global shipping.

Average Price Change

Express Mail

Priority Mail

Parcel Select

Parcel Return Service

International Shipping Services

This is the first time the Postal Service is adjusting prices for its shipping services on a different schedule from its mailing service price adjustments. Price changes for mailing services, including stamp prices, will be announced in February, and will be effective in May 2009.

“Blogs make the world go round…” Check out what the Milbloggers are up to!

4th Annual Project Valour-IT Fundraising Competition

Milbloggers have united across the globe for a friendly competition to raise funds for a project that has become very near and dear to their hearts. Many of them have been personally touched by the project called Valour IT.

Project Valour-IT supplies voice-controlled laptops and other technology that supports the physical and psychological recovery of wounded veterans.  Each year the MilBloggers help spread the word about the project and encourage people to get on board by donating through PayPal on their blog.  Teams are divided by service branch in a spirit of fun competition, though all the money goes to the same place.

"It was the first time I felt whole since I’d woke up wounded in Landstuhl."

"It was the first time I felt whole since I’d woke up wounded in Landstuhl." - Major Chuck Ziegenfuss

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries.  Technology supplied includes:

  • Voice-controlled Laptops – Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
  • Wii Video Game Systems – Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions.
  • Personal GPS – Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to TBI and severe PTSD.

The experience of Major Chuck Ziegenfuss, a partner in the project who suffered serious hand wounds while serving in Iraq, illustrates how important these laptops and other technologies can be to a wounded service member’s recovery.

Please click here and here to learn more about this amazing project and the bloggers who make it happen!

Team Leaders:

Army Team Leader: Blackfive

Air Force Team Leader: Mudville Gazette

Coast Guard Team Leader: CG Blog

Marine Corps Team Leader: Doc Russia

Navy Team Leaders: Boston Maggie and Information Dissemination

This competition lasts until the day after Thanksgiving…check back to see if your “team” won. But, in this competition, everyone wins, especially our wounded heroes.

[Note: Soldiers’ Angels welcomes the support of so many wonderful bloggers who have made Project Valour-IT possible, but does not endorse any political content, neither are “teams” in this competition endorsed or sponsored by the DoD.]

In these times, it is “Great to be a Girl”…and then some

Dunwoody Promotion Video

Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody

The story coming from WASHINGTON  by Robert Burns – The Associated Press

– Call it breaking the brass ceiling. Ann E. Dunwoody, after 33 years in the Army, ascended November 14, 2008 to a peak never before reached by a woman in the U.S. military: four-star general. At an emotional promotion ceremony, Dunwoody looked back on her years in uniform and said it was a credit to the Army – and a great surprise to her – that she would make history in a male-dominated military.

“Thirty-three years after I took the oath as a second lieutenant, I have to tell you this is not exactly how I envisioned my life unfolding,” she told a standing-room-only auditorium crowd. “Even as a young kid, all I ever wanted to do was teach physical education and raise a family.

“It was clear to me that my Army experience was just going to be a two-year detour en route to my fitness profession,” she added. “So when asked, `Ann, did you ever think you were going to be a general officer, to say nothing about a four-star?’ I say, `Not in my wildest dreams.’

“There is no one more surprised than I – except, of course, my husband. You know what they say, `Behind every successful woman there is an astonished man.’ “

In an Associated Press interview after the ceremony, Gen. George Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, said that if there is one thing that distinguishes Dunwoody it is her lifetime commitment to excelling in uniform.

“If you talk to leaders around the Army and say, `What do you think about Ann Dunwoody?’ almost unanimously you get: `She’s a soldier,'” Casey said, adding that he admires the fact that, “she’s a soldier first.”

Dunwoody, 55, hails from a family of military men dating back to the 1800s. Her father, 89-year-old Hal Dunwoody – a decorated veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam – was in the audience, along with the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, plus the Joint Chiefs chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen.

Dunwoody, whose husband, Craig Brotchie, served for 26 years in the Air Force, choked up at times during a speech in which she said she only recently realized how much her accomplishment means to others.

“This promotion has taken me back in time like no other event in my entire life,” she said. “And I didn’t appreciate the enormity of the events until tidal waves of cards, letters, and e-mails started coming my way.

“And I’ve heard from men and women, from every branch of service, from every region of our country, and every corner of the world. I’ve heard from moms and dads who see this promotion as a beacon of home for their own daughters and after affirmation that anything is possible through hard work and commitment.

“And I’ve heard from women veterans of all wars, many who just wanted to say congratulations; some who just wanted to say thanks; and still others who just wanted to say they were so happy this day had finally come.”

In remarks opening Dunwoody’s Pentagon ceremony, Defense Secretary Robert Gates underscored the tradition of military service in Dunwoody’s family, spanning five generations, beginning with her great-grandfather, Brig. Gen. Henry Harrison Chase Dunwoody, who graduated from West Point in 1866 and was the chief signal officer in Cuba from 1898 to 1901.

“As she’s been known to say, olive drab runs in her veins,” Gates said.

Later Friday, at Fort Belvoir, Va. – her birthplace – Dunwoody was sworn in as commander of the Army Materiel Command, responsible for equipping, outfitting and arming all U.S. soldiers across the globe. Just five months ago, she became the first female deputy commander there.

Dunwoody was nominated by President George W. Bush in June for promotion to four-star rank, and she was confirmed by the Senate in July.

There are 21 female general officers in the Army – all but four at the one-star rank of brigadier. It was not until 1970 that the Army had its first one-star: Anna Mae Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

Women now make up about 14 percent of the active-duty Army and are allowed to serve in a wide variety of assignments. They are still excluded from units designed primarily to engage in direct combat, such as infantry and tank units, but their opportunities have expanded over the past two decades.

At a Pentagon news conference following her promotion ceremony, Dunwoody was asked whether she believed women should be allowed to serve in the infantry and whether women’s role in the Army should otherwise be expanded.

“I don’t have a personal view on it,” she replied. “I think we have a law that precludes that (serving in the infantry) right now, and we are in compliance with that law. If that law needs to be revisited, I think we have a deliberate process to do that.”


Dunwoody, 55, who comes from a family of high-ranking military men dating back to the 19th century, is now the highest ranking woman ever in any branch of the military.

Born in 1953 at Fort Belvoir, Va., and growing up a military “brat,” Dunwoody until yesterday was the service’s second highest ranking woman. She will head up U.S. Army Materiel Command.

Dunwoody was commissioned in 1975 after graduating from State University of New York at Cortland in 1975. She also holds two masters degrees.


Her first assignment was to Fort Sill, as supply platoon leader in June 1976, and she remained at Sill in various positions until she was sent to quartermaster officer school at Fort Lee, Va., in July 1980.

She later served in Germany and Saudi Arabia.

After graduating from the Command and General Staff College in 1987, she was assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., where she became the 82nd Airborne Division’s first female battalion commander.


Among her many military decorations are the Distinguished Service Medal, several Meritorious Service Medals, Kuwait Liberation Medals from service during Desert Storm, and a master parachutist badge.

Until Dunwoody pinned on her fourth star, the top woman officer in the military was recognized to be:

Coast Guard Vice. Adm. Viven S. Crea, a three-star flag officer since 2006.

Some, however, can argue that Crea remains at the top by virtue of her position as Coast Guard vice-commandant, which makes her second in command overall of that service.

With her husband, a 26-year Air Force veteran looking on, Dunwoody, a 33 year veteran, ascended to the peak military rank 41 years after general and flag ranks were opened to women.

Prior to 1967, the highest rank women could attain was colonel. In 1970, Anna May Hays became the first woman to earn the star of a brigadier general when she became chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

Women from all branches of the military began making three-star rank in the mid to late 1990s, and it has continued into the “double noughts.”

The first woman to reach three-star rank in the U.S. armed forces was now-retired Marine Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter in 1996.

The first woman soldier to reach that rank was Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy in 1997, who retired three years later after 31 years of service.

Vice Adm. Patricia Ann Tracey, who retired in 2004, was the Navy’s first vice admiral.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Leslie Kenne, who retired in 2003, in 1999 became that service’s first woman three-star general.

The Army Times has a fantastic interview with Gen. Ann Dunwoody that is available to read here:


Let me introduce myself~ I am Shelle…

I will be working on The MC Blog… in bringing to you, our readers, updates on what is important to you.

My name is Shelle Michaels, and I profess to be a social networking guru with years of experience as Soldiers’ Angels Communication Officer. Being a volunteer for Soldiers’ Angels (www.soldiersangels.org) has not only been the right thing for me to do in support of the our nation’s service members and their families; it has become my passion. Through the countless hours I put into ‘MY soldiers’ at the local and national level, my efforts have not gone unnoticed by the North Dakota National Guard, North Dakota or Soldiers’ Angels as a whole.

In 2006 I was honored with the Martin Luthur King Jr. Service to North Dakota award and in 2007 I received the Distinguished Center of Influence for my support of the NDARNG 188th ADA JLENS Soldiers and the Outstanding Center of Influence for the support given the NDARNG 188th ADA SECFOR Soldiers that were deployed to Afghanistan. These awards are the top levels of recognition to be given to individuals in support based roles.

I am currently pursuing my graduate degrees at the University of North Dakota where I teach Public Relations classes in the School of Communication. My students learn how to turn theory into application as they often get involved through class work that focuses on Soldiers’ Angels or they end up volunteering on projects outside of class.

My daughters also, are stepping up as leaders in their social spaces, and I contribute this to their involvement in Soldiers’ Angels.

I live by the motto of Winston Churchill, ‘We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.”

If you need to get in touch with me, I am always available by email and your suggestions for this blog are appreciated. Let me know what you want to see on this site and how I can make this one of your best resources possible.  ShelleMichaels @ msn.com is the best way to reach me. Have a great day…until next time.

Nominate Your Employer for the 2009 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense agency, is seeking nominations of employers who support their military employers. Nominations for the 2009 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award are being accepted now through Jan. 21 at FreedomAward.mil.

National Guard and Reserve members and their families are eligible—and encouraged—to nominate their employers.

The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of ESGR to recognize exceptional support from the employer community. The award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their outstanding support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the National Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

Past recipients of the award range from a small family-owned transportation business in Utah to large businesses, including Chrysler and Dominion Resources, to the City of Austin, Texas, a public sector employer. Past recipients have provided full salary, continuation of benefits, care packages and even family support to employees fulfilling their military obligation.

The 2009 recipients will be announced in the spring and honored on September 17, 2009, at the 14th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony in Washington, D.C. Recipients of the 2008 award met with President George W. Bush and Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, and received their awards from Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. David Chu, at a ceremony attended by members of Congress and senior government and military officials.

Click here to submit a nomination.