Thursday, May 01, 2008

Gates Honors Military Service of Past, Present, Future

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates honored
military service yesterday at two very different ceremonies: one as 105 soldiers enlisted, re-enlisted and retired here, and another earlier in the day in Mexico City commemorating Mexican World War Two veterans who served in the Philippines. "Today's ceremony captures the spirit of America's all-volunteer Army, as some individuals leave our military family while others step forward to fill the ranks," Gates told the soldiers and soon-to-be-soldiers and their families gathered at the Fort Bliss Museum and Study Center.

"All of you heard the call to serve this nation, and like thousands of your fellow citizens, I am grateful for your service," he said.

Gates recognized the 28 retiring soldiers, noting their collective 499 years of service. "Today, we say farewell to a group of loyal and devoted soldiers," he said.

"Each of you is familiar with the hardships and sacrifices of wearing the uniform," he said, citing long deployments away from loved ones and difficult and dangerous missions many have faced. "Despite these challenges, you served with honor and distinction," he said, earning the "sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with defending this great country."

"You did your part well, and you have much to be proud of," he said.

Gates extended his thanks to the family members, recognizing them as key to their soldier's success. "Whether moving the family to a new post or acclimating children to a new school, you serve in a thousand special ways that often go unrecognized," Gates said. "We all appreciate your quiet and faithful service."

The secretary then turned his attention to the 32 re-enlisting soldiers and 45 new recruits, thanking them for choosing to serve when their nation needs them. The decision reflects "true strength of character and love of country," he said.

He cited one of the enlisting soldiers, Ammar S. Jebur Almeshab, a former soldier in the Iraqi army who served as an interpreter for U.S. troops in Baghdad. Almeshab interpreted for
Army Maj. Robert McCormick, a Fort Bliss soldier who helped him get a visa to come to the United States, and ultimately to join the Army.

"Thank you for helping so many American soldiers in Baghdad," Gates told him at the ceremony. "I am pleased to welcome you to our ranks."

Before administering the oath of enlistment, Gates told the soldiers they were joining "the finest enlisted corps in the world," and encouraged them to follow the lead of their noncommissioned officers. Gates said it was clear to him 40 years ago as a second lieutenant at Whiteman
Air Force Base, Mo., and even more so now that "NCOs make things happen."

Soldiers at today's ceremony called the secretary's presence a special tribute as they begin new milestones in their lives.

Among them was Staff Sgt. Monique Kennedy of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery Garrison, who waited nervously in her chair in the minutes leading up to the ceremony. After 22 years of service, she admitted to being a bit nervous about taking the next step in her life, but also excited about the possibilities as she returns to school to study nursing.

Kennedy called getting the opportunity to meet the secretary at her retirement ceremony "unbelievable."

"You never get to meet certain people in your career, and here I am, finally getting to do that," she said. "He's done a lot for the
military. It's wonderful that he's here for us."

Sgt. 1st Class Chris Seimers of 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said he was delighted that his wife and six children could see Gates honor him as he retired after 21 years of service. "It's pretty neat to have him actually come to a ceremony you're part of," he said.

The re-enlisting soldiers, all with combat deployments under their belts, and new recruits who say they joined the
Army recognizing they're likely to deploy, said they were honored to have the secretary of defense administer their oath of enlistment.

Sgt. Johnny Ibarra said he had no misgivings about re-enlisting for four years, despite the near certainty that he'll deploy again into a combat zone. "I don't mind. I've been there before, and I'll do it again," he said. Ibarra said his family is "100 percent behind" him, and that his wife is considering joining the
Army, too.

With "hash marks" on his Class A dress uniform denoting 18 years of service, Staff Sgt. Mark Espindola of Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 6th Brigade Air Defense Artillery, re-enlisted today for the final time. Like his fellow soldiers, Espindola said he knows he'll deploy again – "without a doubt."

He called Gates' presence at his re-enlistment ceremony "a real honor," but said he's especially happy for the recognition the secretary gave the retiring soldiers. "They paved the way for the rest of us," he said. "Hopefully someday, it will be us who have paved the way for those who come behind us."

Seventeen-year-old Amber Mejia and 18-year-old Joseph Montoia, both high school seniors, were among the 45 new enlistees who will follow in Espindola's and his fellow soldiers' footsteps.

Both say they followed family tradition by joining the
Army, and both are headed off to basic training soon after their upcoming high school graduations. Mejia leaves for basic training June 17, after which she will serve out her five-year-enlistment as a human intelligence collector. Montoia signed up for six years of duty as a chemical operations specialist, and will go off to basic training May 29.

Both Mejia and Montoia said they recognize that they'll deploy to a combat zone, but said it's something they accepted when he enlisted. "It comes with the job," Montoia said.

While tradition got them to consider the
Army, both said a sense of duty drove them to actually commit themselves to serve. "I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself," Montoia said. "I'm excited about it," agreed Mejia. "Anything for my country."

As they sat waiting for the ceremony to begin, both shared the same blend of excitement and jitters, particularly knowing that Gates was about to swear them into the Army.

"It's pretty nerve-wracking," Montoia admitted. Mejia took a different view. "I'm very excited and honored," she said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Earlier, Gates honored Mexican
World War Two veterans who served with the Allies in the Philippines during a wreath-laying ceremony at the 201st Fighter Squadron Memorial in Mexico City's Chapultepec Park.

Thirty-one squadron pilots served in the Philippines during the closing days of the war. Seven died, five in the Philippines and two in training. They flew Thunderbolt aircraft, which Mexican
Air Force Col. Carlos Garduno, president of the 201st Fighter Squadron Association, described as the "biggest, heaviest fighter in the war in those days." Garduno said its sheer bulk kept the aircraft in the air even after they were hit by anti-aircraft weapons. "We still flew when others couldn't," he said proudly.

Garduno is among just five living squadron veterans of the conflict, and one of three who attended this morning's ceremony. He expressed thanks that Gates took time to recognize the squadron's service and those killed, particularly so long after the war's end. "Our contribution was very small, but very significant," he said. "We don't want that to be forgotten."

Gates told reporters after the ceremony he was honored to meet the living pilots. "I appreciate their service and sacrifice," he said. "It was a wonderful ceremony."

Face of Defense: Chaplain's Journey Leads to Meeting Pope

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Meghan McNabb
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - At just 16 years old, Jose A. Bautista-Rojas left his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, for
Los Angeles in hopes of creating a better life for himself and the parents he left behind. At the time, he had no idea his journey would lead him into the priesthood, the military or the opportunity to shake the pope's hand.

The road from Guadalajara was not short, and life in
Los Angeles was not easy, Bautista said. Living with friends, working all day and attending English-as-a-second-language classes at Evans Community Adult School at night, Bautista focused on the chance to bring his family to the United States.

"There wasn't much time for fun," Bautista said. "I worked carpentry from 7:30 to 3:30; from 5 to 7, I worked at a car wash; and from 7:30 to 9, I went to ESL classes."

After four years, Bautista's family was able to join him, and he was able to turn his attention to new goals.

Because he worked so much, Bautista hadn't focused on graduating from high school until he decided to enter the priesthood, a journey that would take 11 years to complete.

Bautista started attending church with a girl he liked, but ended up finding much more.

"I had stopped going to church," Bautista said. "I had to fight off the pressure and temptations that come to young men. I wasn't always perfect, but I had to get back on track. I enjoyed church and the sermons, and before I knew it, I was getting involved."

Bautista's interest coincided with a new initiative by then-Archbishop of
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Michael Mahoney. The cardinal established Casa Reina de Los Angeles, or House of our Lady Queen of Angels, as a place for young men who wanted to enter the priesthood but either didn't have their high school diploma or needed to perfect their English.

Bautista studied hard for two years to earn his high school diploma and perfect his English. He spent a year studying for college-level classes, four years earning his college degree, and four years earning his divinity master's degree.

On June 5, 1999, Bautista was ordained a priest and was assigned to St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish in Van Nuys, Calif. In 2001, Bautista was assigned to his next church, St. John of God in Norwalk, Calif. Two of his parishioners, a
Marine and soldier, died in Iraq.

At their memorial service, busloads of Marines came from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to attend. Some of them told Bautista how they didn't always have access to attend Mass when they were deployed in Iraq.

"I'm saying Mass, and I look up and thought of them serving without Mass," Bautista said. "I thought to myself, 'I need to put my words into action.' I would always say, 'Let's pray for those serving,' but it was time to act."

Bautista received an endorsement from the
Los Angeles archdiocese and was released to the Archdiocese for the Military. In January 2006, he entered the Chaplain Corps with the Navy.

Then a lieutenant, Bautista served as the Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, chaplain for 13 months in Iraq's Anbar province. Bautista was the only priest stationed at his unit's base at Taqaddum, but said what mattered most was finally being able to minister to those he had prayed so long for.

"One of the most memorable times in Iraq was when a sergeant was going into surgery," Bautista recalled. "He asked me to hold his hand until he went under, and I knew this is what ministry is about."

Bautista said he doesn't consider the priesthood a job, but rather, his vocation and what he is dedicated to.

"A job is something you are hired to do," Bautista explained. "A vocation is love for God and what you've been called to do."

Bautista said Marines and sailors can tell when a chaplain is acting only as an officer and isn't ministering.

"You have to be an officer as well as a chaplain," Bautista said. "But it'd be sad if they only recognize you as an officer. A ship that doesn't float isn't living up to what it's supposed to be, just as a minister that doesn't minister isn't living up to their potential. You have the title, but you're not living up to it. Marines can see through that."

While ministering in Iraq, Bautista received an early invitation from the
military archdiocese to attend Mass during Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit to the United States. Amid shouts of "Viva la Papa," Bautista watched as the pope arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

"It was my oasis," Bautista said. "It was nice to go from the desert to a sea of clergy, faithful people and peace."

The next day, the chaplain attended the pope's Mass at Nationals Park in Washington and heard the
leader of the world's Roman Catholics talk about being a witness of faith.

"[The pope] said those of hope must live different lives," Bautista said. "We must point the way for others. Being seen as different is how people will recognize you as a person of faith."

After the pope's historical Mass, Bautista took meeting the pope into his own hands. He walked up past the
security lines as the pope was walking off the stage. With outstretched arms, the pope grabbed his hand and shook it.

"I felt like a teenage kid. I was giggling and so emotional," Bautista said. "The effect this man has on people is unreal."

The pope reached out to Bautista not only physically, but also spiritually, the chaplain said, and even gave a message in Bautista's native tongue. He said, "Paz a ustedes," or "Peace be with you."

"What made it so emotional was that he was reaching out to you," Bautista said. "I felt like he was speaking directly to me, like he was reaching out to me personally."

Bautista said it was a beautiful gift to meet the pope and be surrounded by clergy.

Although Bautista has appreciated every minute of his time as a chaplain, he said he eventually will be called back to serve in
Los Angeles. He said he wants Marines and sailors never to think their dreams are too high or far away.

"I want them to know that every step they take, even the littlest step, is one step closer," Bautista explained. "I am an immigrant from Mexico who didn't speak English, and I never thought I'd become an officer in the

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Meghan McNabb serves with 2nd Marine Logistics Group.)

Joint Chiefs Panel Evaluates Wounded Warrior Care

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - An advisory panel recently established by the
military's top uniformed officer will evaluate all medical programs for wounded warriors and their families, a senior U.S. officer said here yesterday. The panel, known as the Wounded Warrior Integration Team, was created by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

The panel's purpose is "to take a look at all programs across all agencies that impact on the wounded warriors and their families," Sattler, the Joint Staff's director for strategic plans and policy, explained to reporters.

The panel held its first meeting April 28, Sattler said, noting that he chairs the group.

"We will look at all the practices, everything that's being done," Sattler told reporters. "We will look for best practices. And we will report back to the chairman biweekly and to the service chiefs as the chairman directs as to what this integration team finds."

military's health care system partners with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide several specialized health care centers for wounded warriors. They include:

-- Walter Reed
Army Medical Center Amputee Care Center and Gait Laboratory, in Washington, D.C.;

-- National Naval Medical Center's
Traumatic Stress and Brain Injury Program, in Bethesda, Md.;

-- Center for the Intrepid state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility and Brooke
Army Medical Center, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas;

-- Naval Medical Center San Diego Comprehensive Combat Casualty Care Center; and

-- Multi-site Defense Department/Veterans Affairs-operated brain injury centers for patient care, education and clinical research.

Sattler saluted continuing efforts performed "by a lot of great people across the spectrum" on behalf of wounded warriors and their families.

The panel, among other things, is tasked to evaluate the medical care system that attends to wounded warriors to determine if there are duplications of effort that may cause an unnecessary expenditure of resources, Sattler said.

The group also will look for possible customer-service glitches contained within the wounded warrior medical care system, the general said.

"And, if there may be unintentional gaps and seams, we can overcome those," Sattler said.

Gates Asks Senior NCOs to Encourage Troops to Seek Mental Health Care

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - The Defense Department is working to reduce
stress on the force and improve quality of life for the troops, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told soldiers at the Army Sergeants Major Academy here today. As part of that effort, Gates asked the senior leaders' help in getting troops who need it to seek combat-related mental health care.

"Our country, in recent years, has asked a tremendous amount of you and those who serve with and under you, and everyone has risen to the occasion," Gates told the senior noncommissioned officers, all attending the
Army's top NCO school and bound for sergeant major and command sergeant major jobs in the force.

He conceded that "no one expected major combat operations in Iraq to go on this long" and cited the challenges: "multiple and sometimes extended deployments, the stresses of battle, the wounds of war, both seen and unseen."

"All of this has taken its toll on our troops and their families," Gates said. Yet, he noted, morale remains high, "testimony to the extraordinary honor, courage and resilience of those who serve, as well as the leadership and mentoring provided by the senior NCO corps."

But that high
morale can't be taken for granted, Gates said. "I know I am preaching to the choir when I tell you that, as senior leaders, we must all be ever cognizant of stress on the force -- stress that has been greatly increased in recent years," he said.

Gates outlined measures being taken to reduce that
stress and improve soldiers' quality of life.

Combat deployments are being reduced from 15 to 12 months in light of changes on the ground and gains made. Gates expressed hope that conditions on the ground will enable force levels in Iraq to reduce further by the year's end. A more sustainable deployment rotation will be adopted within the next year or so, with the active force serving two years at home after every one year overseas.

"From my perspective, we are trying to strike a balance: to reduce the tempo of deployment without compromising our strategic objectives or national security," Gates said.

The United States is growing its ground forces and will add 7,000 troops to the
Army as part of a five-year, 65,000-troop expansion. The Marine Corps is getting larger too and will complete its 27,000-member expansion next year, two years ahead of schedule.

"With a larger pool of soldiers and forces available, individual soldiers and their units should be deployed less frequently, with more dwell time at home," Gates said.

The secretary cited vast improvements in emergency care on the front lines and in the
Army medical system. Since last year's revelations of what he called "deplorable outpatient conditions" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Gates said, he has focused a lot of time and energy on the system of care for wounded warriors.

"We have made great strides, even though more remains to be done," he said.

New warriors-in-transition campuses are revolutionizing the way wounded warriors are getting medical treatment and rehabilitation, he said. With an NCO with them throughout the process, wounded troops get help navigating the full range of support available for their families.

Gone are the days, Gates said, when wounded warriors are considered "permanently broken."

"The reality is that these extraordinary young men and women are far from broken," he said.

The Defense Department also is emphasizing care for troops with
post-traumatic stress disorder, Gates told the NCOs, but he admitted that not all are getting the treatment they need.

In addition to new screening procedures that will help ensure no one "slips through the cracks" of the care system, the department is actively working to eliminate the stigma associated with PTSD, he said.

As part of that effort, Gates announced earlier today that the Defense Department will no longer require people who have received treatment for combat-related
stress to report it on Standard Form 86, the government security-clearance form.

"Mental health treatment in and of itself will not be a reason to revoke or deny a clearance," Gates told the soldiers. "We hope this will encourage more men and women in uniform to seek help."

Gates called on the NCOs, the "backbone of the
military," for help in getting soldiers who may have hesitated in the past to step forward to now get the care they need.

"All of you have a special role in encouraging troops to seek help for the unseen scars of war -- to let them know that doing so is a sign of strength and maturity," Gates told the group. "I urge you all to talk with those below you to find out where we can continue to improve.

"Those who have sacrificed for our nation deserve the best care they can get," he continued. "As I have said before, there is no higher priority for the Department of Defense, after the war itself, than caring for our wounded warriors."

Defense Secretary Affirms Commitment to Quality-of-Life Issues

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today he found revelations of substandard housing for returning combat troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., "appalling" and said he's committing to ensuring servicemembers and their families get quality-of-life benefits they deserve. Gates told senior noncommissioned officers attending the
Army Sergeants Major Academy here that he watched a You-Tube video of a barracks at Fort Bragg where soldiers who had just returned from Afghanistan were staying. "The conditions were appalling," Gates said. "Soldiers should never have to live in such squalor."

The defense secretary said
leaders must approach the issue proactively. "It is the duty of every commander, indeed everyone responsible for our men and women in uniform, to ensure that our troops have decent living conditions," Gates said. "And if the local resources aren't available to make the necessary improvements, it is the leader's responsibility to alert the chain of the command."

Gates insisted that "current needs must not be sacrificed to future capabilities." That applies, he said, whether the need is proper treatment of wounded warriors, or getting mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles or more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets into the theater, or decent housing at home.

Gates noted that the
Army will spend some $18 billion over the next six years to improve housing, especially for enlisted troops. Much of that construction will take place here at Fort Bliss, which is expected to grow by an additional 30,000 soldiers and 40,000 family members.

The secretary delayed the movement of units from Germany because housing wasn't yet ready for them and he wanted to avoid a duffle-bag shuffle in temporary facilities. "I thought it would be unacceptable for soldiers and their families to live and work under those conditions," he said.

As the
Army builds new facilities, Gates said, it can't neglect existing ones.

Noting that 56 percent of active-duty forces are married and 44 percent have children, Gates said the Defense Department "needs to be more family-friendly -- to adjust to reality, but also because it is the right thing to do."

He applauded sweeping initiatives being advanced in the
Army Family Covenant that seek to give troops and their families "a quality of life that is commensurate with their service."

Gates said he supports increased educational benefits, including an updated Montgomery GI Bill that will enable servicemembers who don't use their benefits to pass them to a family member.

This idea, which Gates said he first heard while meeting with
Army spouses at Fort Hood, Texas, was among initiatives President Bush advocated in his State of the Union address in January, the secretary noted.

The mission has wide bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. "I believe the Congress will act before too long," Gates said.

Look Out for, Communicate Troops' Needs, Gates Tells Senior NCOs

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called on senior
Army noncommissioned officers to be his eyes and ears in the field and to ensure systems within the Defense Department to support the troops are working. "From my vantage point, you are in the best position of anybody to give a sense, up and down the chain of command, of how things are going -- which programs are working, which aren't, and what else can be done," Gates told Army master sergeants, first sergeants and sergeants major attending the Army Sergeants Major Academy here.

"I hope you will continue to listen to your men and women and advocate for them in the strongest possible manner possible," he said.

Gates told the soldiers of Class 58, which graduates May 22, that he will continue to seek the candid advice and counsel of enlisted troops at all levels and will continue his regular lunches with every service's senior enlisted advisor. And while he's seeking to hear from them, Gates said, he hopes the NCOs will serve as his conduit to the troops so they know the Defense Department is working to support them.

Gates said he shares soldiers' frustration over past mistakes and the pace of improvements. "Things happen too slowly. It takes too long for decisions made at the Pentagon to get implemented on posts and bases," he said. But as he pushes to break through red tape and bureaucracy, Gates said, he's looking to senior enlisted
leaders to let troops in the field know about changes to come.

"You are also in the best position to make it clear, down the chain, that the department is actively engaged in trying to work to improve the quality of life for our servicemen and women," he said. "This is a critical point that all of our troops need to know if we are to maintain the morale of the force in the years to come and if we are to continue to recruit the best and brightest America has to offer."

Gates urged the senior NCOs to ensure soldiers know he recognizes and appreciates their service.

"I hope you will express to them that I am aware of how much has been sacrificed," he said. "And I consider it my solemn duty to do right by the men and women who risk their lives for our country every day."

Army Sergeants Major Academy is the top rung in the Army's enlisted professional military education system, and focuses on turning senior NCOs into leaders. The nine-month course prepares new and prospective sergeants major for duties as senior NCOs in positions throughout the Defense Department and allied nation's forces.

Defense Commissary Agency Takes Benefits to Guard, Reserve Members

By Margaret McKenzie
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - The Defense Commissary Agency is taking the commissary benefit to National Guard and reserve members and their families living in remote areas. "The 2004 National Defense Authorization Act authorized full commissary benefits for members of the Ready Reserve," Richard Page, acting Defense Commissary Agency director, said. "Through our new 'Bringing the Benefit to You' campaign, we are reaching out to our Guard and reserve members who have earned the commissary benefit, but who cannot easily travel to a local commissary to shop on a regular basis."

The campaign involves conducting on-site sales out of warehouses, aircraft hangars, armories, tents in parking lots, and even the back ends of semi-trailers at remote locations where reserve-component servicemembers and their families do not have access to a commissary.

This is part of the
Army's reinforced commitment to provide support to military members and their families through the Army Family Covenant. A core military family-support element and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to readiness and enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, officials said.

"While the focus is on Guard and reserve, the on-site sales are a boon to all authorized shoppers living near them," Page said. "The Guard and reserve members have earned this benefit, and we want to make sure that we are delivering the benefit to them."
More than 55 percent of reserve-component servicemembers do not live in what is considered the immediate area of a commissary.

"This is just part of a larger picture," Page continued. "Back in the fall, when I became the acting director of DeCA, I had several priorities, one of which was to make sure that we were doing our very best for the Guard and reserve members not located near a commissary."

Page said the commissary agency is exploring ways to increase the frequency of the on-site sales and locations by looking at demographic areas that are heavily populated with the Guard and reserve members.

"It depends on the size and the demographics of the area," Page said. He cited Fort Jackson, S.C., being the closest commissary to the Charlotte, N.C., area as an example. The fort is about an hour and a half from Charlotte.

Military members from all branches of the service, including retirees, flocked to the 145th Air National Guard Wing hangar in Charlotte recently for a case-lot sale, the first of its kind in the area.

"There is a large population of
military members in this area that do not have access to a commissary, so I will estimate doing this quarterly and try to tie it in with the drill training weekends so that it will be beneficial for the soldiers and we can get maximum exposure," Page said.

Information on other benefits for
military members also was available at the sale. Representatives were on hand promoting the Army Integrated Family Support Network through the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, as well as Military OneSource and Armed Forces Recreation opportunities. Other information about Web sites to access other resources and benefits was available to military members and families as they filed through the doors to make their purchases.

Defense Commissary Agency Dietitian
Army Maj. Karen Fauber was also on hand with information about the agency's newest health and wellness initiatives. "We partner with Tricare on this initiative," Fauber said.

"I love this case-lot sale," said Clinton R. Douglas, a former
Marine. "My wife and I were here three days ago, and we are back here again today."

He noted that the couple could get everything there that they could get at the leading large-lot retail store, "only here we can get it at a cheaper rate and no sales tax, and everybody treats you nice, and that's one thing I love about it."

Air Force Tech Sgt. Marvin Williams was equally excited about the case-lot sale. "I have lived in Rock Hill, S.C., since 1990," he said. "The closest commissary is about an hour and a half from me. Most people in this area have to travel an hour and a half to two hours to get to Fort Jackson to shop. It is a good opportunity for me, and I look forward to hopefully having more opportunities like this one."

"I am really excited about this," said Phillip E. Sakowitz Jr., executive director of the U.S.
Army Installation Management Command, who's been selected to be the next Defense Commissary Agency director. "It is all associated with helping soldiers and families."

Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for
military community and family policy, said the Charlotte event marked her first case-lot sale.

"It is everything I had hoped it to be, and it has great crowds, even though the weather isn't great," she said. "People are coming; some are coming even more than once. They are seeing lots of great bargains, and we are really feeling like this was an important step in supporting a quality of life for the Guard and reserve and the rest of the folks who are eligible and who live in the area."

The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of grocery stores for
military personnel, retirees and their families on military bases. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.

(Margaret McKenzie works at the U.S.
Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs Office.)

Leaders Should Step Up, Receive Mental Health Care if Needed, Chairman Says

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

May 1, 2008 - The nation's top
military officer today called on military leaders across the services to set the example and get mental health care if they need it. "You can't expect a private or a specialist to be willing to seek counseling when his or her captain or colonel or general won't do it," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference.

Mullen praised the Defense Department for changing a question on its
security form that asks about applicants' mental health care. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced the change this morning. Officials believe the question's wording was needlessly preventing some people from seeking counseling.

The Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National
Security Positions, asks applicants to acknowledge mental health care in the past seven years. Officials said surveys have shown that troops feel if they answer "yes" to the question, they could jeopardize their security clearances, required for many occupations in the military. Applicants no longer have to acknowledge care for marital or grief counseling or care related to service in a military combat zone.

Mullen called it a "significant change" and a step in the right direction for DoD in reducing the stigma within its ranks associated with receiving mental health services.

"Psychological health and fitness is no different than physical health and fitness. Both are readiness issues. Both are
leadership issues," Mullen said. "Good people, many of who have seen combat up close, ... whose courage is absolutely unquestionable, and who deserve only the best physical and mental health care we can provide, are actually willing to deny themselves that care out of the fear that doing so hurts them and their families in the long run. Nothing could be further from the truth."

The chairman said the long war in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken its toll on the minds of U.S. servicemembers, as well as on their bodies.

"Reaching out for help is, in fact, one of the most courageous acts and one of the first big steps to reclaiming your career, your life, and your future," he said.

Also on hand at the news conference was
Army Dr. (Col.) Loree Sutton, chief of the newly formed Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

"Seeking help is a sign of strength," the
Army psychiatrist said. Early intervention is the key to successful care, she noted, and leaders are looking at ways to change the stigma attached to getting mental health care in hopes that troops will come sooner than later.

"Stigma is really just a toxic, occupational, work-related hazard. For any other such hazard, we would take immediate action. That's what we're doing," she said.

Plans are in the works for senior
military officers to be part of a national awareness campaign aimed at reducing the stigma. In the campaign, officers will come forward as having received care in an effort to demonstrate a "top-down" approach to mental health care.

"We can change the policy. We can talk about how important it is. But ultimately, troops and families want to see leaders walking that walk," Sutton said.

She said DoD officials hope this change will remove some of the fear that has blocked servicemembers from getting care they know they need, but are afraid to get.

Army Col. Patricia Horoho, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System, compared psychological fitness to physical fitness.

"Our goal is to build resilient forces and families, both physically and mentally," Horoho said. "Just as we encourage our servicemembers to work out and maintain physical fitness, so too we must encourage them to go to the psychological 'gym' to maintain their psychological health."

security officials said no one has been denied a security clearance based solely on the fact they received mental health counseling, but the perception that receiving care would jeopardize a security clearance, combined with the stigma of having to acknowledge the care on the form, may have been preventing some from receiving needed care.

About 1 million
security forms are submitted annually within the Defense Department. Of those, less than 1 percent receive unfavorable determinations based solely on mental health issues, officials said. Of those denied, factors besides simply receiving counseling are considered.



Force Protection Industries, Inc., Ladson, S.C., is being awarded a not to exceed $91,549,216 contract modification under previously awarded contract (M67854-06-C-5162) to acquire 151 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and associated spares. This action consummates a requirement under a foreign
military sales order with the United Kingdom, Ministry of Defence. Work will be performed in Ladson, S.C., with the first vehicle deliveries scheduled to begin in July 2008, and work is expected to be completed Jul. 2009. Funds for this action are provided by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and do not expire. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc., Norfolk, Va., is being awarded a maximum amount of $30,000,000, guaranteed minimum of $100,000 (base period), cost reimbursement plus award fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity remedial action contract for environmental remediation services on
Navy and Marine Corps installations at various Department of Defense sites within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic area of responsibility. The total contract amount is not to exceed $150,000,000 (base period and four option years). Work will be performed in Va., (25 percent), N.C., (21 percent), Md., (9 percent), N.Y., (8 percent), Conn., (7 percent), R.I., (7 percent), Maine, (6 percent), Mass., (6 percent), W.Va., (5 percent), Pa., (2 percent), N.H., (1 percent), N.J., (1 percent), D.C., (1 percent), and other overseas locations (1 percent). The term of the contract is not to exceed 60 months with an expected completion date of Apr. 2013 (Apr. 2009 for the base period). Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively negotiated via the NAVFAC e-solicitation website with three proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N62470-08-D-1007).

Hightower Construction Co.*, Charleston, S.C., is being awarded $12,603,900 for firm-fixed price task order #0007 under a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite/quantity multiple award construction contract (N69450-07-D-1772) for construction of temporary modular facilities at the
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. The work to be performed provides for the contractor to furnish all labor, equipment, tools, transportation and materials required to pre-fabricate, deliver and install 16 temporary modular facilities that will be transported and assembled on four different sites on the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Work will be performed in Beaufort, S.C., and work is expected to be completed by Sep. 2008. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Four proposals were received for this task order. The Resident Officer in Charge of Construction, Beaufort, S.C., is the contracting activity.

General Dynamics, Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Conn., is being awarded a $7,750,000 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-4005) for non-nuclear maintenance and repair support at the Naval Submarine Support Facility (NSSF), Naval Submarine Base, New London, Conn. Will also provided services required to support planned and emergent non-nuclear maintenance and repair for operational nuclear submarines, floating dry-docks, support and service craft and other platforms and equipment at NSSF. Work will be performed in New London, Conn., and work is expected to be completed by Sep. 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $7,750,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C. is the contracting activity.

Northrop Grumman Guidance and Electronics Co.,-Navigational Systems Division, Woodland Hills, Calif., is being awarded a $5,622,119 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for LN-100 mast motion sensors, LN-100 replacement parts and repair services, and various related engineering services. Work will be performed in
Salt Lake City, Utah, (70 percent), and Norfolk, Va., (30 percent), and work is expected to be completed by Apr., 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $354,282 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured. Newport, contracts web site. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Newport, R.I., is the contracting activity (N66604-08-D-2396).


McDonnell Douglas Corp., A Wholly-Owned Subsidiary of the Boeing Co., of St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a firm-fixed price contract for $34,666,348 (Boeing) and $41,958,555 (Rockwell). This contract action will provide Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System (CRIIS) 24 month Risk Reduction and
Technology Maturation Phase. CRIIIS is the next generation range instrumentation system intended to replace the aging Advanced Range Data System currently in use at major Air Force, Army, and Navy test ranges. CRIIS will provide accurate time, space, position information and a secure data link, based on a modular, open system architecture approach, using industry standard interfaces to the maximum extent possible. The purpose of the risk reduction phase is to define and validate a system concept that meets the performance requirements outlined in the CRIIS System Performance Specification. At this time $6,855,500 (per contract) has been obligated. Eglin AFB, Fla., is the contracting activity (FA8678-08-C-0046 (Boeing) and FA8678-08-C-0107 (Rockwell)).

Alloy Surface Co., Inc. of Chester, Penn., is being awarded a firm fixed price contract for $29,999,318. This action provides for 545,343 infrared countermeasure decoys. This is an air-activated decoy used to protect various aircraft from heat seeking missiles. At this time $29,999,318 has been obligated. Hill AFB, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8213-08-C-0048).

GE Aviation Systems of Clearwater, Fla., is being awarded a firm fixed price contract for $14,935,676. This will provide for 868 linear actuating caps in support of the F-15 aircraft. At this time $14,935,676 has been obligated. Tinker AFB, Okla., is the contracting activity (FA8103-08-C-0072).

Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems of Warner Robins, Ga., is being awarded a modified contract for $9,663,799 (estimated). The contractor shall provide interim contractor support (ICS) including material and labor, to repair discrepancies related to the UH-IH upgrade modification in all Group A components and the Group B items which are not currently in the
Air Force inventory. ICS coverage shall commence after acceptance of the trial installation aircraft and continue through transition of the final aircraft to Air Education and Training Command. At this time $9,663,799 has been obligated. Robins AFB, Ga., is the contracting activity (F09603-01-D-0207-009831).


BAE Systems Inc., Johnson City, N.Y., is being awarded a FFP pre-priced contract modification for $8,050,000 for a CV-22 interim defense weapon system productions option in support of U.S. Special Operations Command and NAVAIR. The work will be performed in Johnson City, NY 13790 from Apr. 30, 2008 through Jan. 31, 2009, using fiscal 06 SOCOM procurement funds and fiscal 08
Navy aircraft procurement funds. This is a within scope modification to a competitive contract where two offers were received. The contract number is H92222-08-C-0006-P00003.

Soldiers Missing from the Korean War are Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

They are Cpl. Robert L. Mason of Parkersburg, W.Va.; and Pfc. Joseph K. Meyer Jr., of Wahpeton, N.D., both U.S.
Army. Both men will be buried Saturday. Mason will be buried in Belpre, Ohio, and Meyer will be buried in Wahpeton.

Representatives from the
Army met with the next-of-kin of these men to explain the recovery and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.

Mason was assigned to B Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, and Meyer was assigned to K Company, 31st Infantry Regiment. Both were attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), 7th Infantry Division. The team was engaged against the Chinese People's Volunteer Forces near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, from late November to early December, 1950. Both men died as result of intense enemy fire, and their bodies were not recovered at the time.

Between 2001 and 2005, joint U.S. and Democratic People's Republic of Korea teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted excavations of several burial sites near the Chosin Reservoir. The sites correlate closely with defensive positions held by the 31st RCT at the time of the Chinese attacks. The teams recovered remains there believed to be those of U.S. servicemen. Analysis of the remains recovered from the sites led to the identification of several individuals, including Mason and Meyer.

Among other
forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory and JPAC also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in both Meyer's and Mason's identification.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at or call (703) 699-1420.

Gates: Counterdrug Partnership Big Step in Building U.S.-Mexican Ties

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' visit here yesterday, the first in 12 years for a U.S. defense secretary, focused heavily on a counterdrug partnership aimed at helping Mexico's fight against
drug cartels and other transnational threats. Gates told reporters last night that his "very cordial, very open talks" with Gen. Guillermo Galvan, Mexico's defense secretary, Secretary of Government Juan Mourino and Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa concentrated on the merits of the "Merida Initiative."

President Bush proposed the plan, which would channel $1.4 billion to Mexico over several years to confront cartels and other
criminal organizations, after meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in October in Merida, Mexico.

Bush requested an initial $500 million for equipment such as helicopters and surveillance aircraft to support the Mexican
military's drug-interdiction activities. While conceding that the initiative has no link to wartime operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates said funding for it was included in the fiscal 2008 supplemental request to secure the money quickly.

Because Mexico is "clearly interested in building the civil side of this struggle," the next $450 million of Merida Initiative funding would go toward increasing civilian
law enforcement and security agency capabilities, Gates said. That money is included in the fiscal 2009 budget request.

Although the State Department will manage the program, the Defense Department would train and support the forces involved.

Gates expressed confidence that the initiative will win congressional support and hope that the first of the funds will be approved by Memorial Day.

"I think it is very important for the United States Congress to fund the Merida Initiative," he said. "Mexico is one of our two closest neighbors. We have a shared concern and a shared threat in the
drug cartels. It is in the United States' interest to enhance Mexico's ability to deal with these cartels, and this is, in my view, a wise investment of American money."

Failure of Congress to approve the funding "would be a real slap at Mexico," the secretary said. "It would be very disappointing, and it clearly would make it more difficult for us to help the Mexican armed forces and their civilian agencies deal with this difficult problem," he said.

Gates applauded Mexico's ongoing counterdrug efforts, and emphasized that, while the United States wants to help Mexico, it has no intention of overstepping its bounds.

"The focus there is enabling Mexico to go after the cartels. There aren't going to be any U.S. combat troops or anybody like that down here as part of this," Gates emphasized. "This is a challenge that Mexico has taken on, and we ... will do what we can to support it."

The United States will take the lead from the Mexican government to determine what support it needs, he said.

Ultimately, helping Mexico helps the United States, Gates said. "It is in our interest that our friends have greater capabilities to protect their own security and to take care of transnational
criminal activity such as the drug cartels," he said. "It is in our interest, because we have shared interest, to enhance the capabilities of the Mexican armed forces."

Gates called the effort a move forward in strengthening the "still relatively young" U.S.-Mexican
military relationship in a way that respects Mexico's sovereignty and recognizes Mexican sensitivities. "I would say that the relationship is limited, but both sides are looking for opportunities where we can cautiously grow it," he said.

More educational exchanges and expanded information sharing are two potential growth areas Gates said he and the Mexican
leaders discussed today. "We just have to take it a step at a time and explore what the opportunities are for expanded cooperation," he said.

Gates said he was surprised to learn that he was the first defense secretary to visit here in 12 years and "doubly surprised" that the visit was the second ever by a U.S. defense secretary.

A senior defense official traveling with Gates called the visit another step forward in the two countries' evolving and increasingly cooperative relationship. "This is an unprecedented opportunity to continue our pattern of engagement," he said. "We are at the beginning phases of building a more elaborate system of cooperation with the Mexican
military, and we are still trying to figure out what they would like us to do."

Gates is slated to lay a wreath today at the 201 Fighter Squadron Memorial that honors the Mexican squadron that fought with the United States during
World War Two.

National Security Archive Update, April 30, 2008

Air Force Histories Released through Archive Law Suit Show Cautious Presidents Overruling Air Force Plans for Early Use of Nuclear Weapons

For more information contact:
William Burr - 202/994-7032

Washington, D.C., April 30, 2008 - The U.S.
Air Force expected to use nuclear weapons against China during the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1958, but President Eisenhower required the Air Force to plan initially to use conventional bombs against Chinese forces if the crisis escalated, according to a previously secret Air Force history obtained from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit and posted today by the National Security Archive. Eisenhower's instructions astounded the Air Force leadership, but according to Bernard Nalty, the author of one of the studies released today, U.S. policymakers recognized that atomic strikes had "inherent disadvantages" because of the fall-out danger in the region as well as the risk of escalation.

The ten formerly Secret and Top Secret histories obtained from the FOIA lawsuit shed new light on the
Air Force's role in developing and deploying the massively destructive nuclear arsenal that thermonuclear weapons made possible. They cover key phases of the U.S. nuclear weapons program: nuclear tests, producing and deploying nuclear delivery systems, developing strategic concepts for nuclear weapons use, participating in command and control systems, executing nuclear threats during crises, and civilian control over the use of nuclear weapons, including repeated presidential caution.

These histories trace:

* The story of the deployment of the Minuteman ICBM which, over forty years later, remains an integral part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

* Debates between
Air Force leaders and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara over how many Minuteman ICBMs were necessary for a deterrent force that could threaten the destruction of Soviet society.

* The development and deployment of the multiple-independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), and their initial counterforce mission, that have been deployed on Minuteman III, whose MK 12 nose-cone assemblies were inadvertently sent to Taiwan in 2006.

* The high-level
Air Force interest, beginning in the 1950s, in ideas of preemptive nuclear options in the event of war with the Soviet Union.

Air Force successful opposition to the Navy and Army's "finite deterrence" proposals which, in reaction to the Air Force's nuclear "overkill", proposed to reduce nuclear forces to the minimum needed to deter a Soviet attack.

* The story of
Air Force "atomic cloud sampling" missions to collect radioactive debris from atmospheric nuclear tests to help measure the effectiveness of nuclear weapons.

* The role of the January 1963 highjacking of a Venezuelan ship Anzoategui in encouraging President Kennedy to seek a more effective Pentagon command center that could quickly update the White House on important developments.

Air Force operations during five crises: Lebanon (1958), Taiwan Strait (1958), Congo (1960), Cuba (1962), and the Dominican Republic (1965).

The National
Security Archive requested these histories during the 1990s, and the Air Force's failure to respond reasonably to the Freedom of Information Act request led to a FOIA lawsuit. Successful legal action by the James & Hoffman law firm on the Archive's behalf led to a ruling in 2004 by federal judge Rosemary Collyer that the U.S. Air Force had "failed miserably to handle [National Security] Archive FOIA requests in a timely manner." Ever since that ruling, the agency has been trying to catch up with and process the backlog of neglected requests that the Archive had filed during the 1980s and 1990s. The Air Force FOIA system is still largely broken, but at least it is now tracking new requests and processing old ones more effectively than it has in the past. Nevertheless, work on a number of old cases has not been completed, so the Air Force's record of compliance with the FOIA remains shaky.

Visit the Web site of the National
Security Archive for more information about today's posting.

SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

Navy Announces Commissioning of Submarine North Carolina

The Navy's newest attack submarine North Carolina will be commissioned Saturday, May 3, during a 10 a.m. EDT ceremony at Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, N.C.

Designated SSN 777, the fourth submarine of the
Virginia-class will bear the name North Carolina to honor the Tar Heel State. The submarine will be the fourth ship of the U.S. Navy to bear the name North Carolina. The first was a 74-gun ship-of-the-line that served from 1820 to 1836. The second North Carolina was a Tennessee-class armored cruiser that was built at the Newport News shipyard and served from 1908 to 1921. The third North Carolina was the first of the Navy's modern battleships, serving from 1940 to 1947, earning 12 battle stars for service during World War Two. The battleship now serves in Wilmington, N.C., as a memorial for all North Carolinians who served in World War Two.

Secretary of the
Navy Donald C. Winter will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Linda Bowman, wife of retired Adm. Frank "Skip" Bowman, former director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion, will serve as sponsor of North Carolina. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Bowman gives the first order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"

Virginia-class is designed and built to fulfill all current warfighting requirements and provides the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. Equally adept at operating in the world's shallow littoral regions and deep waters, North Carolina and her sister ships will significantly contribute to the mission areas of anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; special operations forces; strike; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; battle group support; and mine warfare.

Capt. Mark E. Davis, a native of upstate New York, will become the ship's first commanding officer and will lead a crew of approximately 134 officers and enlisted personnel.
North Carolina will be homeported in Groton, Conn., as a member of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

The 7,800-ton
North Carolina was built under a teaming arrangement between Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat. North Carolina is 337 feet in length, has a beam of 34 feet, and can operate at depths greater than 800 feet and at speeds exceeding 25 knots submerged. North Carolina is also designed with a reactor plant which will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship-reducing lifecycle costs while increasing operational availability.

Additional information about this class of submarine is available online at .

Law Enforcement Steins

Here is an interesting find for all officers of German heritage, or anyone else who simply likes beer-related memorabilia:

A German company turned the iconic 34oz-steins that are used at the Oktoberfest in Munich into a stunning law enforcement tribute to honor German-American heroes. This special and genuine beer stein has a heroic police design that pays special tribute to American law enforcement heroes - a great way to honor both your family’s Germany heritage and your job duty at the same time. The stein has some impressive specs:

  • A golden badge with eagle-top design

  • German and American banners

  • A reference to all German states (E.g. Bavaria, Saxony, Hamburg, Westphalia…) and major German cities with their original insignia

  • 14k gold trimming

The entire

stein is designed and made in Germany

Check it out at