Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders en route Washington, D.C., 8/30/2017

Aboard Air Force One En Route Washington, D.C.

5:21 P.M. EDT

MS. SANDERS:  Just a quick update — and I’ll try to get you guys copies unless you get them in your inboxes — about the time we land and I don’t have time to turn around fast enough.

But the President, while we were in flight, spoke with King Salman from Saudi Arabia, and we put out a readout.  But you guys wouldn’t have gotten that here in the last little bit.

He’s continued to do meetings and calls throughout the flight.  We’ll keep you guys posted on any details on that, but we’ll jump right into questions beyond that.

Q    The President tweeted this morning about extortion money to North Korea and said talks are not enough.  What did he mean by that?  Is he suggesting some kind of strike?

MS. SANDERS:  The State Department has put out a statement on that, and I would refer to you to that; I think it explains that pretty well.

Q    But Sarah, is he saying that diplomacy is being abandoned?

MS. SANDERS:  No.  I mean, as we’ve said before, we’re going to use all methods and that will continue to be one of them, but only a part of the integrated policy and plan moving forward.

Q    Haley said yesterday that “something serious needs to happen” with North Korea.  Does the President agree with that?

MS. SANDERS:  I think the President has been very clear about his position on North Korea, certainly in his statement by saying all options are on the table, and that continues to be the case.

Q    But “something serious needs to happen” is a little different from “all options are on the table.”  Does something serious need to happen in North Korea?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, again, I think we’ve been taking serious action by putting strong sanctions, continuing to put pressure across the board, and weighing our options.  And when we make a — you know, the President makes a decision about next steps, we’ll certainly keep you guys in the loop on that front.

Q    Sarah, we didn’t really have a chance to ask you about it when he said it, but Steve Bannon, last week or maybe the week before, said that there was no military solution in North Korea — kind of pointed out what would be a catastrophic loss of life if one was undertaken.  Is that an opinion that the President shares?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I think the President has been pretty clear that he feels that there could be.  And certainly, I think that if he was looking at that direction, he would be leaning heavily on people like General Mattis, the Department of Defense, and others.

Q    Can I ask you about Harvey funding?  There’s some movement in Congress to maybe pass the CR and wrap up some Harvey funding in that, and then not include funding for the border wall.  Is that something the President would support?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, as I said to several of the folks traveling yesterday, we’re looking at the best way to help the people of Texas, and we’re going to continue pushing forward to make sure they get funding, and we’ll see what that looks like as we move forward in the process and determine the next best steps.

Q    Does he still feel like a shutdown might be appropriate given the events in Texas and Louisiana?

MS. SANDERS:  As he said earlier this week, he doesn’t see those things tied to one another.

Q    What did he mean by he had seen the horror and devastation firsthand?

MS. SANDERS:  He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster.  He talked extensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest.  And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground — that certainly is a firsthand account.

Q    You said yesterday you would check if the President or the First Lady had made a personal donation to hurricane relief.  Have you gotten anything back on that?

MS. SANDERS:  No, I know they’re looking into some different options.

Q    There was a report that the President turned down a couple offers from China to reduce its steel capacity by 150 million tons.  Is that accurate?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not aware of that, so I certainly can’t comment right now.

Q    Sarah, why did the President not mention Gary Cohn today from the stage?

MS. SANDERS:  It’s pretty standard practice for us not to specifically call out staff.  He regularly mentions Cabinet members but very rarely mentions staff in speeches.

Q    But he mentioned his daughter and he mentioned Kelly.

MS. SANDERS:  His daughter, I think, in this case, would be a little bit different.  But again, it’s pretty standard practice for him to mention specific Cabinet members.  

But I mean, you know, a lot of times when he talks about foreign policy and different things like that, he doesn’t necessarily call out National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster even though he plays a very integral role in that process.

Q    What’s different about Ivanka?  You say she’s a little bit different in this case.

MS. SANDERS:  Well, I mean, he was also recognizing her as his daughter.  So I think that’s a little hard to separate in that sense.

Q    So we shouldn’t read anything into that about their relationship?  How are they getting along?  The rumors about Gary —

MS. SANDERS:  Well, look, Gary is here.  The President is here.  They’re both working hard and extremely committed to providing tax relief for middle-class America.  The President has made very clear this is a top priority for him, for his administration, and Gary is one of the people leading the charge in that effort for him and will continue to do that.

Q    On DACA, I know that you guys said that you were reviewing it, but also the President has talked about how this is a tough one for him — between the kids and between the law, and is it — the legality, is it constitutional.  Does the review of the program also include talking to his advisors, talking to stakeholders on what they think about the program?

MS. SANDERS:  They’ve taken a lot of accounts, certainly, into this process.  This has been a very lengthy review and it’s certainly not over.  It’s something that is still being discussed and a final decision hasn’t been made.

Q    Does the President still think that tax reform can get done by the end of the year?

MS. SANDERS:  I think he certainly, for the American people, hopes so.  This is, again, like I just said, a top priority for the administration.  But not just for the administration but for all of America.  The ability to give pay raises and pay increases to people across the country, particularly the middle class — to really help those people out is something that the President campaigned on, talked about, and is extremely committed to.  And it’s something we certainly hope to see by the end of the year. 

And, hopefully Congress will get on board.  Frankly, I think it’s really sad if they don’t.  If they are not here to help the American people, then maybe they should look into doing something else. 

Q    Well, on that point, a big part of the speech today was about unity.  How does it inspire bipartisanship when he takes aim — levels a political threat at the home-state senator?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I would hardly call a political threat not asking all members of Congress to step up and do their job.  It’s not a political threat when you ask a member of Congress to do their job.  And if you don’t, you shouldn’t get to keep it. 

I mean, I think if you didn’t do your job at the Wall Street Journal, they’d certainly fire you and they should. If I didn’t do my job, I should expect to get fired.  If Congress doesn’t do their job, they shouldn’t get to keep it. 

Q    Sarah, can you explain when the President said that under President Obama, there had never been quarterly 3 percent GDP growth?  That’s happened multiple times under President Obama.  What was he referring to?  

MS. SANDERS:  Do you know where that was?  I’m sorry, I just didn’t see that today.  Was that —  

Q    That was in his speech today. 

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll have to look into that.  I must have missed that specific —

Q    Both in the background call yesterday and the speech today, the President is going to be talking a lot about the corporate tax rate.  Is he still committed to lowering the individual tax rates? 

MS. SANDERS:  He certainly still wants to help create jobs and that’s one way to do that.  And we’re looking for, as he said many times before, both during the campaign and as President, every opportunity we can find to create jobs and increase wages we’re going to do that. 

Q    What was the magazine cover that the President tweeted about this morning?

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll have to ask. I’m not sure, Justin. I’ll take one more so I don’t fall on Bender when we land.  

Q  Is it Congress’s job to follow the President’s orders and support whatever he says, as far as tax plans go?

MS. SANDERS:  It’s Congress’s job to do what the American people are asking them to do, and I don’t think you’ll find an American, probably, anywhere in this country that doesn’t want tax reform, that doesn’t want a more simplified process, that doesn’t want more money in their pockets.

Look, the American people know that they can spend their money a whole lot better than the government can.  They’d like to keep more of it.  If you can find somebody that doesn’t want that, you let me know, because I’d be really surprised.  

So it’s not just that the President, although he is laying out an extremely bold and optimistic vision for the country — Americans have demanded this.  This is what they want.  This is one of the reasons they elected Donald Trump, and frankly it’s one of the reasons they probably elected a lot of the members of Congress.  If you go back and look at most of their past statements, they probably campaigned on reforming the tax code, making things better for the American people, and this is one of the biggest ways that they can do that.

Q    One last one — I’ll catch you if you fall here — does the President have confidence in Secretary Tillerson?

MS. SANDERS:  Absolutely.  I answered this question yesterday.  Thanks, guys.

END 5:29 P.M. EDT

Statement by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Military Service by Transgender Individuals

 

The Department of Defense has received the Presidential Memorandum, dated August 25, 2017, entitled “Military Service by Transgender Individuals.”  The department will carry out the president’s policy direction, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security.  As directed, we will develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law.  The soon arriving senior civilian leadership of DOD will play an important role in this effort.  The implementation plan will address accessions of transgender individuals and transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military. 

 

Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield.  To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.  Panel members will bring mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgment to this task.  The panel will assemble and thoroughly analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable.  Further information on the panel will be forthcoming. 

 

Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction.  In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.   I expect to issue interim guidance to the force concerning the president’s direction, including any necessary interim adjustments to procedures, to ensure the continued combat readiness of the force until our final policy on this subject is issued.

GelTech, After Four Years of Research and Development, Launches FireIce Lithium Battery Active Suppression Kit

/EINPresswire.com/ — JUPITER, FL–(Marketwired – August 31, 2017) – GelTech Solutions, Inc. (OTCQB: GLTC), an innovator in the use of environmentally-friendly polymers for fire suppression and protection, today announced the launch of its FireIce Lithium Battery Active Suppression Kit which automatically detects elevated temperatures releasing FireIce ST, a special blend of FireIce, to the affected battery module, to cool and suppress the batteries and prevent the system from reaching runaway which could cause an explosion. The kit is designed to deliver FireIce ST product only to the battery compartment where it is needed, leaving other compartments untouched.

After four years of research and development working with multiple lithium battery manufacturers, and companies designing and building units for mass transportation, charging and storage of lithium batteries, GelTech has created a modular system that can be expanded to any size battery installation. In addition, the system has the flexibility to be installed in any environment from the typical modular systems in electric vehicles and home power systems, to single batteries like those that have replaced many of the lead acid batteries, in aircraft and ground vehicles.

At the present time, our kit has been included in bids by several commercial firms. In addition, several large lithium battery manufacturers are also in various stages of evaluation for their customized use and deployment of the kit. The flexible modular system gives customers the ability to prevent a fire without damaging other batteries or equipment.

The FireIce Lithium Battery Active Suppression kit includes either a 2 liter or a 2.5 gallon pressurized canister filled with FireIce ST (custom canister sizes are available for larger installations). In addition, the kit includes the hardware, fittings, spray nozzles and flexible hose that allow protection of 5 or 10 modules, respectively. Expansion packs for protection of 5 additional modules are also available, making the kit adaptable to almost any size installation.

“The message we have received from various industries is clear; with the exponential increase in the use of lithium ion batteries in mass storage systems, central recharging stations and on military and commercial aircraft, comes the need to protect these applications from the potential catastrophic event of a lithium battery fire,” stated Michael Reger, president of GelTech. “These systems will continue to degrade as the batteries go through more and more charging cycles, just as your cell phone holds less and less charge over time. Eventually an increasing number of batteries will fail and fires will be more prevalent. Our FireIce Lithium Battery Active Suppression Kit, is simple and affordable, and has been designed to address this need by providing a flexible modular system that can be tailored to most any installation, delivering FireIce ST and its unique suppression properties, capable of withstanding several thousands of degrees, where it is needed to both cool and encapsulate the batteries in a module, preventing a runaway event.”

About GelTech Solutions, Inc.

Founded by inventor and chief technology officer Peter Cordani, GelTech Solutions is a leading provider of innovative, environmentally friendly and cost-effective products that help government agencies, industry, agriculture and the public achieve goals such as water conservation and protecting lives, homes and property from fires. GelTech’s products include FireIce, a non-corrosive polymer that when hydrated produces a water-based suppressant to extinguish fires and a retardant to protect assets and property; Soil2O Dust Control products that reduce airborne particulate matter with minimal environmental impact; and GT-W14, an advanced absorbency technology to control fluid spills of all sizes, turning liquids into solid waste for easier and safer disposal.

For more information on GelTech, please visit www.geltechsolutions.com

For more information about FireIce, please visit www.FireIce.com

Author David Michael Palladino Announces Release Of New Inspirational Book, 'Adriana Corderu, Western Odyssey'

PR Urgent - Press Release News Wire

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Author David Michael Palladino has announced the release of his latest inspirational book, ‘Adriana Corderu – Western Odyssey’.

For Palladino, ‘Make America Great Again’ is not just a slogan. It instead is a concept that forms the core of everything he writes. He knows that this idea holds the power to bring all Americans together. He provides a vision of America in his works of fiction that, while based on historical events, also lays out a rock solid platform of American ideals and values.

The new book, ‘Adriana Corderu – Western Odyssey’, is the second book in his series and continues where the first book in the series left off. In the second book, readers will come to know a whole new cast of characters as Adriana continues her journey as she experiences the refugee camps of Italy and comes to know Italian culture with a new family even while under the yoke of the Romanian Securitate, which is still trying to abduct her and bring her back to Eastern Europe. Readers will go with her into the cauldron that was New York City where the only safe place to be was where the Italian Cosa Nostra ruled and will then experience the wonder of the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the rugged big-hearted people who live there.

Adriana experiences heartbreaking loss and the wonders of new love. Readers can learn with her as she remembers her sister’s revelations about America’s regular military, to include units like the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the 101st Air Cavalry Screaming Eagles. Readers can then witness the heat of her emotions when she, for the first time comes into contact with men of the US Army Ranger Battalions. Adriana comes to know these hard men and learns from them of the dramatic differences and contrasts between the US regular military and the units of the US Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command. Readers will be fascinated with units such as the Army Rangers and Green Berets, the Navy SEALS, and other units that make up the US Special Operations Division to include units from the Air Force and Marines. Readers will learn what really happened during Operation Urgent Fury on the island of Grenada in October, 1983 and of the US Military of the “Reagan Era.” The story of Adriana’s Western Odyssey will not only entertain, but will also educate and uplift.

Palladino teaches, through his works of fiction, important ideals and values. As a former U.S. Army Ranger, former High School Phys-Ed & Health Teacher and Coach, and founder of “Palladino Martial Arts”, he understands the significance of instilling these all-important ideals and values in people. Both of his books help communicate freedom’s true meaning to a broad audience. For this reason it will appeal to parents, grandparents and educators and those who are old enough to remember what America used to be. Palladino deftly paints a picture of America as she really was during the Cold War. He shows us clearly why American freedom and American values held such appeal for many oppressed people in other parts of the world.

‘Adriana Corderu – Quest for Freedom’ is the first book in the series. During the first Cold War the world revolved around the conflict between the theologies of communism and democracy. The two main protagonists in this conflict were the United States in the West, and the Soviet Union in the East. As Eastern Bloc leaders began to tighten restrictions in the lives of their people, commensurate with their increase in power, there began to emerge, in the East, a group of young people, hard and idealistic, adventurous and courageous. These would become the heroes of the movement of their time. These were the brave young souls who, with inspiration from President Reagan, began to break down the Iron Curtain. The escape from Soviet Communism and the quest for freedom is the theme of ‘Quest for Freedom’. Set in the Cold War era, the book is the engaging story of Adriana Corderu and her quest to obtain freedom by escaping the Iron Curtain.

‘Quest for Freedom’ has received rave reviews. One reviewer stated, “More native born Americans need to know this story and more importantly appreciate our country as she did.” Another said, “The readers become engrossed immediately in Palladino’s dynamic effervescent style.”

David Palladino is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below or by email at inspirationalbookauthoryahoo.com. Both books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Rosedog Books. More information, including samples of his work, is available at Palladino’s website.

Profile:

David Michael Palladino writes inspirational fiction. His background helps him in crafting messages that resonate with readers of all ages and teaches important ideals and values. He utilizes engaging works of fiction to help instill these values.

30,000 More Guardsmen Ready to Respond in Hurricane Relief Effort

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 30, 2017 — The National Guard response to Hurricane Harvey will be a long-term, sustained effort, a senior National Guard official said today, adding that up 30,000 Guard members stand ready to assist with those efforts if needed.

“We are leaning as far forward as we possibly can to ensure that military assets are postured to support the needs of Texas and, potentially, Louisiana,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. James C. Witham, the director of domestic operations at the National Guard Bureau here.

More than 4,300 Guard members were on duty in Texas as of this morning, primarily assisting local authorities with search and rescue operations. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called up the entire Texas National Guard, numbering around 12,000 soldiers and airmen, who may be brought on duty gradually over the next few days as needed, Witham said.

As of yesterday afternoon, Guard members had taken part in more than 3,500 rescues of those affected by the storm, mostly in the Houston area.

“Most [rescues] have been by some type of boat, but these also include almost 300 hoist rescues [by helicopter], which are very technically difficult,” Witham said, adding that weather conditions initially prevented helicopter crews from flying.

Helicopters Support Efforts

Some 30 helicopters are now in use by Guard aircrews, the general said, and additional helicopter assets have been requested through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which allows Guard elements from one state to assist in other states in emergencies.

Aircrews are supporting not only airborne search and rescue efforts with hoist capacity, but also medical evacuation capacity as required, Witham said.

Guard elements from 10 states are supporting Hurricane Harvey response operations, with some coming from as far away as Alaska.

“As you talk response and recovery, our response is very sustained,” Witham said, adding that the storm’s unprecedented amount of rainfall has made for a different sort of hurricane response.

“When the Guard responds to hurricane-type events, normally we talk about that first 72 to 96 hours for the lifesaving and life-sustainment that takes place. Then, we’re into the recovery effort,” he explained. “Due to the nature of this storm as it spun across southeast Texas for days and dumped historic levels of rainfall, our response has been very different than what we’ve looked at before.”

Second Landfall in Louisiana

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the storm made its second landfall early today as it continues to move eastward. Soldiers and airmen with the Louisiana National Guard pre-positioned equipment and supplies in advance of the storm, Witham said. About 400 soldiers and airmen are currently on duty, he added.

But Louisiana Guard members were busy in other ways before the storm made landfall.

On Aug. 28, soldiers with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment rescued more than 100 people in the Lake Charles area, roughly 35 miles east of the Texas border. Unit members assisted local first responders with the rescues, and are anticipating additional rescue efforts in the coming days.

“In the next 24 hours, I think they predicted anywhere from 5 to 10 inches of rain,” said Army Maj. Aaron Duplechin, commander of the unit. “So it just kind of depends on when those bands hit and where.”

Witham said the response in Louisiana was no different from response efforts in Texas, and that soldiers and airmen continue to respond as needed.

“We are very proud of the Texas Guard [members] who have responded at this point,” he said. “The soldiers and airmen have been working around the clock … to alleviate the pain and suffering that has been experienced by the citizens in Houston and southeast Texas.”

Afghanistan Force Management Accounting Change Emphasizes Transparency

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2017 — A change in accounting for force management levels in Afghanistan allows U.S. officials to be more transparent in how many service members are in Afghanistan: There are 11,000, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the director of the Joint Staff, said today.

In a briefing for Pentagon reporters, White and McKenzie emphasized that this is not an increase in personnel assigned to the country and that the number does not include any new troops that may go to Afghanistan to implement President Donald J. Trump’s new South Asia strategy announced last week.

Previously, Defense Department officials maintained that about 8,400 American service members were in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis directed the department to revise how it accounts for deployed personnel carrying out major operations in Afghanistan.

Commitment to Transparency

“The secretary has been clear about his commitment to transparency in our public reporting procedures and increasing commanders’ ability to adapt to battlefield conditions and countering emergent threats,” White said. “Following a comprehensive review of our South Asia strategy, the secretary has determined we must simplify our accounting methodology and improve the public’s understanding of America’s military commitment in Afghanistan.”

DoD’s previous force management practice disclosed only forces under the force management level, not forces on temporary missions. “While this procedure supported operational security, it also reduced unit readiness and transparency,” White said. “Often, commanders were compelled to reduce the size of deployed units in order to meet theater force management levels and limit the time that units could remain in operational theaters.

“This way of doing business is over,” she added.

Changes Described

The new force management process allows openness and transparency with the American people and U.S. allies while avoiding giving information of use to an enemy, McKenzie said.

 “We will characterize all forces necessary for the steady-state missions of train, advise, assist and counterterrorism as total forces,” McKenzie said. “Included in total forces in Afghanistan will be the troops required for short-duration missions, which vary based upon operational conditions, but are not needed for the duration of the operation.”

This includes troops in a temporary duty status, those assigned to combat support agencies, and forces assigned to the material recovery element. It also includes service members with the Resolute Support sustainment brigade, the general said.

White and McKenzie said the Defense Department and the Joint Staff are working to apply the same standards to the force management levels for Iraq and Syria. As soon as those numbers are available, they will be released, White said.

“We all recognize that whole units are inherently more prepared, more ready, than units that are fragmented in order to meet an arbitrary force management level,” McKenzie said. “So that’s why we’re going to have a little bit of flexibility in those numbers in order to … facilitate the deployment of whole units into the fight. That same principle will certainly apply … in Iraq and Syria, when those numbers are released.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Face of Defense: Army Guard Vocalist Makes National Capital Region Rounds

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 30, 2017 — Army Maj. Edgar I. Quinones-Marin, a program analyst at the National Guard Bureau, never expected to be the go-to soldier to sing patriotic songs at events and ceremonies in the national capital region. But a promotion ceremony more than 10 years ago started him on that path.

The event’s honoree expressed dissatisfaction that the national anthem at the ceremony would be a recorded version. What he really wanted was a live performer, said Quinones-Marin, who had a simple suggestion: “I’ve sung before in school and church,” he said he told the man. “I can hook you up with that.”

With little preparation, he belted out the national anthem, and word got around that his talent extended past his military role.

Now, Quinones-Marin said, he averages three engagements per month at locations such as the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Archives and others.

“The biggest compliment I can get is when people tell me they get goosebumps when I sing, because they know what the song means, and they are feeling what I’m feeling when I sing it,” he said.

Maintaining Focus

Quinones-Marin credits his ability to focus when singing to military discipline, as well as to a love for the performing arts he discovered as a 10-year-old in his native Puerto Rico.

“I sang in a church group with some friends, but eventually the musical director realized I stood out,” he said. A solo hobby was born, and churches would turn into larger settings, such as the time he sang “God Bless America” as part of a halftime show at a Washington Redskins game in September 2015.

Though the venue was larger than anything he had done on a military installation, Quinones-Marin said, he relies on two methods when preparing for a performance: warming up the throat muscles and focusing on a small fraction of the crowd. “You can only see 20 to 25 people when you are wearing an Army service uniform cap,” he explained.

Although singing in a football stadium was a memorable occasion for him, Quinones-Marin said, a chapel was the location of his most important performance.

“A chaplain asked me to sing “Amazing Grace” at Fort Myer’s Memorial Chapel for Army Guard and active [component] soldiers who were killed in Iraq,” he said. “It was a moment that I felt I was really bringing something to the table, trying to let them know how appreciative we all were for their service.”

Spirited Approach

Though he admires a variety of renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Quinones-Marin said, a soldier must approach the time-honored national anthem in a spirited, yet conservative way.

“When I sing it, it’s simple and to the point,” he said. “It’s about the story of a battle, and as soldiers we can pretty much identify ourselves with what’s going on.”

Army Sgt. 1st Class Sylvia Bastian, who coordinates protocol duties for the director of the Army National Guard, said Quinones-Marin is a huge draw for local promotion and retirement ceremonies in the national capital region. “He has that presence, that exuberance when he sings,” she said, adding that the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect and honor reflect in his performances.

Goodwill Ambassador

Quinones-Marin said singing at area events is an extension of being a goodwill ambassador, and he encourages younger Guard members to find ways outside of their career fields to represent the National Guard.

“When you’re doing what you’re getting paid to do, that is to be expected,” he said. “But when you are doing the unexpected, you’re giving a little part of yourself that shows how great it is to be in the military, as opposed to just saying it.”

Quinones-Marin said his calendar is still full, with his most recent high-profile performance being at a minor league baseball game in Woodbridge, Virginia. But one more venue, still eludes him, he added: Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals.

“I was told by my fellow soldiers that you have to go to the minor league first. If they think you’re good, then they’ll bring you up to the majors,” he joked.

Texas Guardsmen, Partners, Neighbors Rescue 1,000 From Floods

CYPRESS CREEK, Texas, Aug. 30, 2017 — The Texas Army National Guard‘s 386th Engineer Battalion teamed up with Texas Task Force 1 and the Cypress Creek Fire Department yesterday to bring 1,000 Cypress Creek residents to safety from high-rising waters as heavy rains from Hurricane Harvey continued to fall.

Water levels continued to rise to dangerous and historic levels, with some areas seeing more than 5 feet of flooding. The flooding here appeared to be the worst in a handful of residential subdivisions.

“Today was a day no one ever thought they’d see,” said Pfc. Adelisa Fuentes, 386th Engineer Battalion. “There was water rising up to your hips, and the further the road went, the deeper the flood was.”

Texas Guard members equipped with swift-water vehicles that can safely move through about 30 inches of water and took their trucks as far as they could before dismounting Task Force boats. First responders used the boats to go through neighborhoods and bring residents to safety.

“This is what we train for,” said Texas Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, dual-status commander for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. “And we’re proud to stand beside our civilian partners, first responders and volunteers to serve the citizens of Texas.”

It isn’t uncommon to find National Guard members working or training alongside emergency first responders – it’s part of their mission.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Texas Guardsmen train year-round with partner first responders such as Texas Task Force 1 so that when a disaster occurs in Texas, they are prepared.

“This is Texans helping Texans – neighbors helping neighbors,” Hamilton said. “While we don’t want to have to put our training to the test during a tragedy, our citizen-guardsmen remain prepared to help save lives and property, when called.”

The team of soldiers and first responders took on a new dynamic in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, as local residents also pitched in to help. Those owning boats or jet skis used them to assist in transporting victims to safety. Others brought water and helped transfer people and equipment onto the National Guard vehicles.

“Watching others bring victims to safety into our [vehicles] showed how much heart people really have and that they don’t just depend on us to do the work alone,” Fuentes said. “All help is worth a hand in a time of need.”

One man even cooked a platter of chicken, wading into water 3 feet deep to feed soldiers and volunteers – a much welcomed surprise, as most appeared to work through lunch without stopping. Dogs, cats and even a lucky stuffed iguana were passed from boats to soldiers, followed by their owners and the residents of the neighborhoods suffering from severe flooding.

Varying Emotions

Emotions were varied, with some in high spirits and others seeming overwhelmed by their new reality. One rescued woman, an emergency medical technician, had spent the previous day rescuing people all over the city from flooding. “You never think you’re going to be the victim,” she said. “Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

After six hours of wading through deep waters and ensuring everyone who needed help was safe, soldiers and partner first responders began to pack up. Despite the long hours and poor weather conditions, the soldiers all appeared to be energized, focused and in good spirits.

“Nothing is more important to our guardsmen than the chance to serve their local community.” Hamilton said. “Helping our neighbors when they need us most is the heart of the Guard, and why we choose to become citizen-soldiers and -airmen.”

Coalition Strikes Block Highway Used by Fleeing Terrorists

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Aug. 30, 2017 — The coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was not party to an agreement between the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and ISIS, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said today.

According to news reports, about 670 ISIS terrorists and their families, surrounded by Lebanese and pro-regime Syrian forces, attempted to ensure safe passage across Syria by offering to trade the bodies of nine Lebanese soldiers captured in 2014.

“Russian and pro-regime counter-ISIS words ring hollow when they cut deals with and allow terrorists to transit territory under their control,” officials said.

“ISIS is a global threat; relocating terrorists from one place to another for someone else to deal with is not a lasting solution,” the officials said. “This is just further evidence of why coalition military action is necessary to defeat ISIS in Syria.”

“The coalition has not struck the convoy,” officials said. “In accordance with the law of armed conflict, the coalition cratered the road heading east between Hamaymah and Abu Kamal to prevent the further transport of ISIS fighters to the border area of our Iraqi partners and struck individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as ISIS.”

“In accordance with the law of armed conflict, the coalition will take action against ISIS whenever and wherever we are able to without harming civilians,” the officials said.

Soldiers From Across Pacific Participate in Best Medic Competition

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., Aug. 30, 2017 — Sixteen of the Army’s top medics from across the Pacific region gathered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Aug. 21-25 for Regional Health Command Pacific’s Best Medic competition.

Soldiers hailing from duty stations in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Korea and Japan competed in the grueling weeklong competition.

“We are testing the competitors on their warrior tasks and battle drills, as well as their technical proficiency as combat medics, examining the resiliency of these competitors and seeing how far we can push them, while looking for who can maintain proficiency under high amounts of stress,” said Regional Health Command-Pacific Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Watson.

The competition was designed to physically and mentally challenge each soldier and test their readiness, tactical medical proficiency and leadership skills, Watson said. Competitors faced a demanding, continuous and realistic simulated operational environment. Competitors earned points through successful completion of evaluated events during the testing phases.

“Being in this competition has allowed me to test my skills and demonstrate competence in a stressful environment,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Sheena Blake, a dental technician from the 62nd Medical Brigade. “The hardest part for me is the unknown. Every day is something different and we don’t know what’s going to come next.”

Chance to Prove Something

The competition included a physical fitness test, obstacle course, force on force combat, tailgate medicine test, stress shoot, patient extraction event, warrior task lane, land navigation and a culminated in a 12-mile road march.

Candidates competed as individuals, with the top two individuals going on to compete at the U.S. Army Medical Command competition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

“My biggest motivation coming into this competition is proving myself to my soldiers,” said Army 2nd Lt. Adam Schafer from the 65th Medical Brigade. Schafer was the winner of the competition.

The competition was planned and executed in conjunction with I Corps, 7th Infantry Division, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 62nd Medical Brigade and Madigan Army Medical Center.

“I would encourage everyone who can to come out here,” Blake said. “You don’t have to be a medic to be here, but you have to be a medic at heart. Having the opportunity to show off the skills we train constantly for has been a great experience.”