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First Lady to Host Military Guests for State of Union Speech

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2012 – Military guests joining First Lady Michelle Obama at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight include an Army sergeant, an astronaut and retired Navy captain, the commander of the nation’s special operations forces, and a colonel whose same-sex partner helped her make history.

Army Sgt. Ashleigh Berg is from Malibu, Calif., and joined the Army in July 2004. She has been stationed in South Korea and Germany, and has served two tours in Iraq. Berg is assigned to the 94th Army Missile Defense Command on Fort Shafter, Hawaii, and is serving a three-year tour as the commanding general’s executive administrative assistant. Her husband, Army Sgt. Matthew Berg, is deployed to Afghanistan on his third combat tour.

Retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly is an astronaut, best-selling author, and an experienced naval aviator who flew combat missions during the Gulf War. Kelly was selected as an astronaut in 1996. He flew his first of four missions in 2001 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, and commanded Endeavour on its final flight in May 2011. He also commanded the space shuttle Discovery, and is one of only two people to have visited the International Space Station on four different occasions.

Kelly became the center of international attention after the January 2011 assassination attempt on his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

Navy Adm. William McRaven commands U.S. Special Operations Command. He previously served as commander of Joint Special Operations Command, and as commander of Special Operations Command Europe. McRaven was the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Center, where he was charged with enhancing the capabilities and interoperability of all NATO special operations forces.

McRaven has commanded at every level within the special operations community, including assignments as deputy commanding general for operations at JSOC, commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 1, commander of SEAL Team 3, task group commander in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, task unit commander during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, squadron commander at Naval Special Warfare Development Group, and SEAL platoon commander at Underwater Demolition Team 21/SEAL Team 4.

McRaven’s experience also includes assignments as director for strategic planning in the Office of Combating Terrorism on the National Security Council staff, assessment director at U.S. Special Operations Command, on the Staff of the chief of naval operations, and as chief of staff at Naval Special Warfare Group 1.

Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace is an Air Force intelligence officer who has led airlift and intelligence operations during operations Southern Watch, Provide Relief, Uphold Democracy, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. She lives in McLean, Va., with her partner of more than a decade, Kathy Knopf. In December, Knopf attended Wallace’s promotion ceremony and participated in the pinning on of Wallace’s new rank, marking the first such event reported following the repeal of the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell” law.

Wallace is training to deploy to Afghanistan in the spring through the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program. The program trains military and civilian personnel from all services to serve as a core cadre to build trust between the U.S. military and local populations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


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