Military News

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Unwavering U.S. Commitment Provides Backdrop to Korean Command Change

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 3, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates hailed newly promoted
Army Gen. William "Skip" Sharp as "the right man" to advance the close U.S. alliance with South Korea today, as Sharp took on the top U.S. military post on the Korean peninsula. Sharp assumed command of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea from Army Gen. Burwell "B.B." Bell, who has held the post since February 2006, during ceremonies marked by gun salutes, drum rolls and pageantry.

The ceremony at Yongsan Garrison's Knight Field followed Gates' breakfast meeting this morning with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee to discuss strides in the two countries' 50-plus-year alliance and changes ahead to ensure it continues fostering peace and prosperity in Asia.

Gates declared the alliance "strong and healthy" and said the Republic of Korea "remains a faithful friend and stalwart partner."

The South Korean
military under Lee's leadership is "one of the best-trained, best-equipped, best-led military forces in the world," and is on track to take over wartime command of its troops in 2012 for the first time in nearly six decades, Gates said.

Noting mutual support for the change, Gates assured South Koreans in the audience the change won't diminish U.S. interest or commitment.

"The planned transition has in no way altered -- nor will it, in the future, alter -- the closeness of our alliance," he said. "The United States has an unshakeable commitment to the Republic of Korea and our alliance, which has served both our nations and the world so well."

Gates extended praise to Bell for his
leadership here that has left U.S. Forces Korea "ready to fight and prevail in any contest on the peninsula in support of our South Korean ally."

He cited Bell's aggressive work to ensure the U.S.-South Korean alliance has remained strong by implementing realignment agreements and overseeing the developing of Camp Humphreys to support hose agreements. Bell's work to prepare for the transfer of wartime command authority to the South Koreans for their forces has laid an important foundation toward that 2012 goal, he said.

Gates also hailed Bell's promotion of interaction between U.S. and South Korean citizens through his Good Neighbor Program, which has built closer, longstanding relationships.

Since taking the helm at U.S. Forces Korea, Bell, known as "B.B." for "Burwell Baxter," has earned the nickname "Baek Bo-guk," or "defender of the country," Gates noted.

"High praise from his hosts," Gates said, "and an indication of his bedrock belief in Korean-American partnership."

Bell's accomplishments in South Korea top an already-impressive 39-year career, Gates said. He noted that Bell has made his mark at the U.S.
Army Armor Center at Fort Knox, Ky., leading U.S. Army Europe as the U.S. posture there was being overhauled and while preparing for NATO deployments to Afghanistan.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Gates in saluting the South Korean forces that have continued to grow in capability and capacity during Bell's command here.

Alongside their U.S. counterparts, they have worked tirelessly and adapted to change to remain "strong, ready and relevant," Mullen said. "I salute their hard work, their success and their commitment."

security interests forged "an inseparable strategic partnership" with impact not just on the peninsula, but regionally and globally as well, he said.

Mullen called the change of command here "a day of transition" for the alliance as it looks to the future. "By working together, we will lift the U.S.-Korean relationship to new heights," he said.

As Sharp takes command, Gates said he's confident he'll take progress being made here to the next level. He called Sharp "the right man to maintain this important alliance and continue to transform it so that it is even stronger in the 21st century."

Gates cited Sharp's previous duty in Korea and his time directing the Joint Staff as critical experience he will bring to the job. He called Sharp "a proven organizer and leader" who will work hand in hand with the Koreans.

Together, Gates said, they will work to "preserve and strengthen this bulwark of freedom that has deterred armed aggression against the Republic of Korea."

Bell called the time he and his wife, Katie, have spent in South Korea "the most remarkable experience of our
military career" and called on the audience to give a standing ovation to the men and women serving here in uniform. "I thank you for your selfless service," he said, reaffirming hopes to extend deployments here to three-year, accompanied tours.

He expressed confidence in the deterrence U.S. servicemembers assigned in South Korea provide. "I'm very confident when I say that, should deterrence fail and should North Korea attack the south, we allied forces will defeat them quickly and decisively," he said.

Unlike during the
Korean War, when the world was unprepared for aggression from the north, it will never again be caught unprepared, he said. "Never again can leaders allow the Republic of Korea to be unprepared," he said. "Never again should this country suffer the ravages of an invading force intent on subjugating its people."

Bell said he looks forward to the day when Korea reaches a peaceful reunification and he and his adopted Korean granddaughter can walk north together across the former Demilitarized Zone. "And I know this will happen, peacefully, within our lifetime," he said.

Until that day, he said, the U.S.-South Korea relationship will stand firmly as it has for almost 60 years, he said.

New Commander in Korea Outlines Top Priorities

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 3, 2008 - The new top U.S. officer here assumed command today with three priorities: maintaining deterrence through strength, strengthening the U.S.-South Korean
military alliance, and improving the quality of life for U.S. troops stationed here. Army Gen. William "Skip" Sharp noted as he took command of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea that his father was fighting the Korean War the day Sharp was born.

The U.S.-Republic of Korea armistice has deterred aggression and maintained peace on the peninsula for 54 years, guaranteeing peace and stability for the region, he said.

"It is great to be back in the Republic of Korea and to once again be part of the most powerful alliance in the world," he said. "With your help, I pledge to do all I can to continue to strengthen and expand this alliance."

The alliance will continue working to deter aggression on Korean peninsula and, should deterrence fail, defeat the threat "with immediate and overwhelming firepower," he said. "We are ready to respond quickly and decisively against any attempts to threaten the security of the Republic of Korea."

Sharp pledged to work to strengthen the alliance, not just against the North Korean threat, but as a force that promotes regional and global peace and stability. "The alliance will remain flexible and powerful enough to deal with all potential threats of our mutual interest," he said.

The United States and South Korea will continue to develop the most modern weapons systems and conduct rigorous training and exercise programs that maximize the capabilities of both
military forces, he said.

In the meantime, Sharp said, he will work to continue improving the quality of life for troops and their families. The goal, he said, is to quickly reach the point where families will be able to accompany servicemembers during normal, three-year tours here.

That will require more extensive services ranging from family housing, schools and health-care facilities to programs that provide jobs for
military spouses, he said.

"We are committed to the Republic of Korea and Northeast Asia for the long run," Sharp said. "Working together, we can make the Republic of Korea a station of choice -- the station of choice -- for United States servicemembers and their families."

Sharp noted the alliance's long history, tested on the battlefield and strengthened by rigorous training and mutual commitment. "I look forward to the next chapter of this alliance," he said.

'Hurricane Herb' Gives Florida Guard Disaster-Response Test

By Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 3, 2008 - Just days into the 2008 hurricane season, the
Florida Department of Military Affairs and Florida National Guard are actively preparing in case a devastating storm strikes the state this year. In cooperation with the State Emergency Response Team, members of the Department of Military Affairs and the Florida National Guard are participating in a statewide hurricane exercise that began yesterday and concludes June 5.

In the exercise scenario, a Category 3 hurricane -- "Hurricane Herb" -- made landfall the afternoon of June 1 near Cedar Key, on
Florida's west coast, and moved across the state and into Georgia. As in previous hurricanes, the storm tore through the state causing massive power outages and extensive flooding and affecting more than a half million Floridians.

In a real-life emergency, the National Guard would move equipment and forces as requested by state officials, but the Hurricane Herb exercise involves only simulated
military emergency operations across the state coordinated from the Florida National Guard's Joint Operations Center at the Robert Ensslin Armory, in St. Augustine.

"We test all of our different systems and make sure everything is in order,"
Army Col. William Beiswenger, director of operations for the Florida National Guard, said yesterday. "This is being done throughout the state from the local first responders and local city levels, all the way up through the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. We also have participants from National Guard Bureau."

Beiswenger noted that, although the past two hurricane seasons have been relatively uneventful for the Florida National Guard, the organization continues to prepare for the "worst-case scenarios" during training.

"We train as though we're going to have the worst hurricane tomorrow," he explained. "We've got to train that way. ... We can't be too complacent."

The majority of yesterday's activity at the Guard's Joint Operations Center included reviewing operations plans and briefings on storm damage, and determining how the National Guard would deploy forces in an actual catastrophe.

During a briefing to the Operations Center staff, Brig. Gen. Michael Fleming, assistant adjutant general for the Florida
Army National Guard, praised the exercise participants for their level of expertise in dealing with emergencies.

"We have a great team, between our uniformed personnel [and] civilians," the general said, noting that many in the room have been part of the National Guard's emergency response in previous hurricane seasons.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted the 2008 hurricane season could be slightly "above normal," with a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes -- Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

"Our citizens of
Florida need to take heed to that, because all it takes is one storm to come in that folks aren't prepared for, and we could have a lot of loss out there -- both people and infrastructure," Beiswenger warned. "We've got to prepare for that worst-case scenario at all times."

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa serves in Florida National Guard Public Affairs.)

College Basketball Champ Kansas Jayhawks Visit Wounded Warriors

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

June 3, 2008 - The University of
Kansas national champion men's basketball team began their victory lap in the nation's capital yesterday by visiting wounded warriors and signing autographs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. Towering players in blue warm-up suits and members of the Jayhawks coaching staff mixed among a dozen camo-clad soldiers in the lobby of the main building for a brief ceremony before visiting injured troops in two hospital wards.

"We've labeled today as 'national champions meet national
heroes,'" said Army Secretary Pete Geren. "Your visit means a lot to the [wounded warriors], but I'm confident that your opportunity to visit with them meant a lot to you, as well.

"They're an inspiring bunch of soldiers," he added. "I'm confident you'll walk away feeling uplifted."

Before ushering
Kansas head coach Bill Self to the podium, Geren presented him with a commemorative plaque and thanked the team for spending time with the recovering troops.

"We have looked so forward to our trip to Washington," Self said of the two-day visit that included a meeting today with President Bush at the White House.

"I think our visit to the Walter Reed Medical Center will be a major highlight of the trip," Self continued. "We take for granted so much the gifts that we have, and then to see people that are out there doing things that really matter in life -- protecting us so we have an opportunity to do such things," he continued. "It is very humbling, rewarding, and certainly something I think we will get a lot out of. It is our privilege ... to be here today."

Chase Buford, a freshman guard on the
Kansas squad, said it was an honor to talk with wounded troops -- even the soldier who razzed the Jayhawks for defeating his beloved North Carolina Tar Heels in the men's college basketball semifinals last season.

"It's pretty neat to see all these guys who have been through so much," he told American Forces Press Service. "The fact is, we're just as proud of them as they are of us."

Army Col. Patricia Horoho, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System, told the crowd that sports and wounded warrior rehabilitation both require endurance and perseverance in the face of difficult challenges.

"So it means a tremendous amount when you all take the time to talk with them," she told the players. "Ask them how they got injured [and] how they're doing, because part of their healing is being able to share that story."

One soldier attached to a warrior transition brigade here is Jerrod Hays, a staff sergeant in the
Kansas National Guard. He had been with his brigade in Iraq for 10 months and was wounded when his convoy drove over two armor-piercing charges buried in the road.

Hays showed a picture that his deployed brigade in Iraq sent him: it showed several of his battle buddies posing in front of their barracks, clutching a University of
Kansas flag. "It's like I told Coach Self: you guys have given us some good bragging rights," Hays said, an autographed basketball tucked under his arm.

Asked if the visit from the team boosted his
morale, he replied, "Oh yeah, especially because they're my hometown boys. This is good stuff."

Pentagon Seeks to Limit Procurement Cost Growth, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

June 3, 2008 - The Defense Department is working to limit the growth of procurement costs for new equipment, the Pentagon's top acquisition official reported in written testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee today. "Has there been cost growth in some DoD programs? Yes, and I'm not here to condone it," John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition,
technology and logistics, noted in his written testimony.

"Indeed, I am seeking to strictly limit cost growth," Young emphasized.

The Senate committee is concerned about a recent Government Accountability Office report citing cost growth of nearly $300 billion across 95 defense acquisition programs. The GAO is an investigative arm of Congress.

The acquisition system needs to be improved, Young acknowledged, but he said it isn't on a downward spiral. He questioned the GAO report's metrics, noting that "a few poor performers incorrectly drive many of the conclusions that GAO makes."

The department's decision to buy more unmanned aerial vehicles and C-130J aircraft, Young wrote, is treated as cost growth according to the GAO report's methodology. For example, he said, about $18 billion of the cost growth cited in the GAO report can be attributed to programs with quantity increases.

"These are exactly the kinds of things that are helping the warfighter in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but are used to bolster the perception that the Department of Defense is performing poorly," Young said.

Yet, Young said that he and the department "look forward to working with GAO to select better metrics and displays that will portray our incremental performance changes."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, too, has expressed concern about procurement practices that drive up the cost of new programs and expend additional taxpayer dollars.

In a speech given to Heritage Foundation members during a recent trip to
Colorado Springs, Colo., Gates cited his belief that "the perennial procurement cycle -- going back many decades -- of adding layer upon layer of cost and complexity onto fewer and fewer platforms that take longer and longer to build must come to an end."



Oshkosh Truck Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., was awarded on May 30, 2008, a $121,242,434 firm-fixed price contract for a modification to the family of heavy
tactical vehicles, load handling system, and wreckers, as well as the addition of 233 vehicles, and the cost of the federal retailers excise tax associated with the vehicles. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, Wis., and is expected to be completed by May 31, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on Oct. 23, 2006. Tank Automotive Command, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-07-C-0248).

BAE Systems,
Tactical Vehicle Systems Limited Partnership, Sealy, Texas, was awarded on May 30, 2008, a $34,050,460 firm-fixed price and cost-reimbursement contract for the award of a ceiling price change order modification for the procurement of long-term armor strategy B kits for the family of medium tactical vehicles. Work will be performed in Sealy, Texas, and is expected to be completed by Nov. 15, 2008. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Two bids were solicited on Aug. 15, 2002. U.S. Army TACOM, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (DAAE07-03-C-S023).

AM General, LLC, South Bend, Ind., was awarded on May 30, 2008, a $24,941,728 firm-fixed price contract for the addition of 255 high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles to contract. Work will be performed in Mishawaka, Ind., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on Mar. 17, 2006. TACOM, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (DAAE07-01-C-S001).

General Dynamics Land Systems Division, Sterling Heights, Mich., was awarded on Jun. 2, 2008, a $19,816,124 cost-reimbursable-no-fee contract for the procurement of long lead material to support maintenance of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Abrams M1A2 systems enhancement package tanks. Work will be performed primarily in Lima, Ohio, and is expected to be completed by Oct. 30, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on Apr. 29, 2008. TACOM, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-06-G-0006).

McTech Corp., Olathe, Kan., was awarded on May 29, 2008, an $11,068,000 firm-fixed price contract for the design and building of a design, manpower, equipment, materials and coordination for 10th Air Support Operation Squadron. Work will be performed at Fort Riley, Kan., and is expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on Dec. 14, 2007. U.S. Engineer District,
Kansas City, Mo., is the contracting activity (W912DA-08-D-0030).

Lockheed Martin Aspenmed Services, Inc., Vienna, Va., was awarded on May 30, 2008, a $9,556,915 firm-fixed price contract for nurse, specialized technicians and clinical support personnel services in the nursing department at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center. Work will be performed in Washington, D.C., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2008. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on May 15, 2008. U.S. Army Medical Command, North Atlantic Regional Contracting Office, Washington, D.C. is the contracting activity (W91YTZ-08-P-0127).


Raytheon Co.,
Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $16,500,000 modification to previously awarded contract N00024-07-C-5432 for production support for the Evolved SEASPARROW Missile. Production support includes tasks needed to support missile production, which are not directly associated with the manufacture of missile hardware. These tasks include maintaining the integrity of the missile requirement and design, maintaining missile reliability, monitoring parts obsolescence, maintaining data package configuration, system safety monitoring, quality assurance, risk management, test equipment, configuration management, performance verification testing, manufacturing qualification, logistics impacts, and other activities needed to support the production of an effective ESSM missile. This contract modification procures production support for the ESSMs for the NATO SEASPARROW Consortium. The NATO SEASPARROW Consortium includes the United States and 9 other countries. This contract action will fulfill required production support activities for FY 2008 for multiple production contracts. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., (55 percent), Camden, Ariz., (2 percent), Australia, (11 percent), Canada, (7 percent), Denmark, (1 percent), Greece, (1 percent), Germany, (8 percent), The Netherlands, (6 percent), Norway, (5 percent), Spain, (3 percent), and Turkey, (1 percent), and work is expected to be completed by May 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.

BBN Technologies Corp., Cambridge, Mass., is being awarded a $13,573,481 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Virtual Environment for Ship and Shore Experimental Learning. Under this effort, BBN Technologies Corp will create an empirically and theoretically grounded science and engineering of game-based learning that can be applied across a variety of
Navy and Marine settings, implement a set of game based scenarios authoring and performance analysis tools. Develop pedagogically sound learning applications, develop a series of prototype games that address specific military training requirements and demonstrate their usability, power, and instructional effectiveness of the scenarios and the tools. Work will be performed in Cambridge, Mass., and work is expected to be completed Apri. 2013. Contract funds will not expire at end of current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured under Office of Naval Research Broad Agency Announcement 05-023. Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (N00014-08-C-0030).


Video Masters, Inc., of
Kansas City, Mo., was awarded a $22,846,216, firm-fixed price contract for a base with four one-year options to provide medical instruction and medical support services in support of the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center, U.S. Army Special Forces Command and the Acquisitions and Contracting Office, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The work will be performed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and is expected to be completed by Mar. 31, 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was awarded through a small business set-aside. The contract number is H92239-08-C-0005.

The maximum order amount is being revised for the Jacob's
Technology, Inc., Acquisition, logistics, management and business operations support contract supporting the United States Special Operations Command. Awarded in Dec. 2001, this is a Multiple Award Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity Award Term contract with an anticipated period of performance through Apr. 2010 for acquiring intellectual capital support in the areas of system acquisition and development. This contract also provides for a wide array of critical support such as Senior Military Planners, Plans Analysts, Intel Managers, Senior Psychological Operations Process Analysts, and Technology Experts supporting USSOCOM headquarters, components, Theater Special Operations Commands and the Services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps) that provide direct support to Special Operations Forces. To continue ALMBOS critical support, it is necessary to increase the maximum order amount of one of the multiple-award contracts from $300 million to $400 million. The contract number is USZA22-02-D-0014.


CFM International of Cincinnati, Ohio, is being awarded a firm fixed price contract for $22,627,440. This action will provide manufacture of F108 Turbine Rotors, quantity of 44 each. At this time all funds have been obligated. Department of the
Air Force, 448 CBSG/PKB, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., is the contracting activity (FA8104-08-G-0002-9020).

Gates to Explore Strides in Security Relationship With South Korea

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 2, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here today to discuss developments in the U.S.-Republic of Korea security relationship and officiate at tomorrow's change of command ceremonies at U.S. Forces Korea. Timing his trip to be here as
Army Gen. Burwell "B.B." Bell transfers command to Army Gen. Walter Sharp, Gates told reporters he intends to focus during his visit on changes in the long-standing alliance here and visit troops stationed along the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.

Gates said he and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee will meet for breakfast before tomorrow's ceremony to discuss their mutual interest in broadening the relationship beyond the Korean peninsula to regional and global issues.

The secretary cited South Korea's "increasing role and prominence" in a variety of activities. These range from its roles in Iraq and Lebanon and possible return to Afghanistan to trilateral engagement with the United States and Japan, including the first trilateral exercise this summer.

"They are pretty engaged around the world," Gates said of the South Korean
military. "But I think there are opportunities for further cooperation."

Gates said he plans to "reaffirm the path forward" in the realignment and relocation of U.S. forces south of Seoul and the transition of wartime control to a South Korean joint
military command in April 2012.

As the transition occurs, the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea will become a U.S. joint warfighting headquarters that takes a supporting role to the South Korean armed forces during both armistice and war.

Meanwhile, the United States is preparing to move its U.S. Forces Korea headquarters, now in downtown Seoul, and 2nd Infantry Division, creating two hubs south of the Han River.

Gates called the move "a huge undertaking" that also includes restructuring U.S. forces and creating a brigade combat team that will provide additional capability.

While it's not a top agenda item for the visit, Gates said, talks here could include the possibility of extending U.S. assignments here to three-year, accompanied tours.

"It is something that personally I think is overdue," he said. "I don't see a reason why our troops in Korea should have unaccompanied tours any more."

Gates conceded that such a move would require construction of family housing and other logistical considerations, but said that "as a matter of principle, I think it is past time."

Gates expressed confidence that Sharp, previous director of the Joint Staff with past duty in Korea, brings the experience and organizational and
management skills required to oversee the myriad initiatives under way or being contemplated here.

"I think General Sharp's experience on the Joint Staff and his ... organizational skills give him some special talents in this job for the next couple or three years," he said.

Gates presented Sharp his fourth star during a ceremony today.

After tomorrow's change of command, Gates will travel to the DMZ to assess changes since his last visit 25 years ago. But primarily, Gates said, he wants to visit with the troops serving along the line that divides the two Koreas. "They are on a front line also and serve in some difficult circumstances," he said.

Although it's not an agenda item during Gates' breakfast meeting with Lee, the issue of the Six-Party Talks aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear program could arise, he said.

Gates called reports that North Korea may be close to producing a declaration of its nuclear programs "a good thing." Ongoing diplomatic talks with North Korea through the six-party framework are worthwhile, he said, "as long as the North Koreans continue to do their part and fulfill the commitments that they have made."

America Supports You: Group Helps Kids, Grandparents Bond

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

June 3, 2008 - A new arm of an existing program is giving
military children an opportunity to grow closer to their grandparents, who can help them through some of the trauma of having a parent in harm's way. "Research has proven that grandparents can play a powerful role in helping grandchildren cope with significant issues in life," said Cavin Harper, executive director of the Colorado-based Christian Grandparenting Network. "We've been doing 'GrandCamps' for nine years, but this will be the first year for our military GrandCamp program."

The Christian Grandparenting Network promotes effective grandparenting by challenging grandparents to take seriously their role of helping the younger generations navigate today's challenges and become effective leaders, Harper said.

GrandCamps for
military families follow the same five-day camping format of the regular camps and offer the same benefits, Harper explained. Grandparents and their school-age grandchildren both have a chance to have some fun and tell their stories to a group who can relate and provide support. This promotes intergenerational dialogue resulting in a new level of understanding and communication, he said.

"For the
military program, we are especially focused on providing opportunity for the kids who have a deployed parent [to be] able to express some of their feelings and fears in a safe context, knowing that there are others who share those same feelings and fears," Harper said. "The grandparents are given the opportunity to [talk] about their own concerns and fears, and we seek to provide them tools that will help them come alongside their grandchildren to deal with them in a positive and constructive manner."

In addition to all the "here-and-now" benefits reaped from the camp experience, Harper said, it also lets the kids know that their grandparents are another source of help for dealing with life issues.

For military families, the camps are provided free of charge through Christian Grandparenting Network's sponsors and supporters.

GrandCamps officials said they hope the program's new affiliation with the Defense Department's America Supports You program will help get the word out so as many
military families as possible can benefit from the program.

America Supports You connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

"Our hope is that we will be able to expand this program for military families at installations all across America, and to eventually develop GrandCamps for more specific needs, such as children of fallen or wounded soldiers, and families facing the reintegration process after lengthy and multiple deployments," Harper said.

Wounded Troops Increasingly Demand Assistive Technology

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 2, 2008 - Wounded servicemembers in need of accommodations for their visual, hearing, dexterity and cognitive disabilities are the fastest-growing group requesting assistive technologies, a senior Defense Department official said in a May 29 interview. "Recently, we have been overwhelmed with requests from our wounded servicemembers as they are coming back and also learning that they need to have a different type of
technology or can benefit from assistive technology," Dinah Cohen, director of the department's Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program, or CAP, said on the "Dot Mil Docs" program on

When the
war on terror began, it became clear that demand for assistive technology would grow from people with established needs to others who previously had no need for the help the technologies provide, Cohen said.

"Post-9/11, it was very obvious to me as men and women were coming back from the global
war on terror that many of them were coming back with devastating injuries that would benefit from the same accommodations that are used to meet the needs for people with disabilities," Cohen said.

"I introduce them to assistive
technology. Most of the men and women did not have a clue about it, since they did not need it, being very able bodied at one time. This allowed them to now learn about new technical solutions to be able to do some of the things they did before," she said.

When the new need became apparent, the CAP program introduced assistive technologies at
military medical treatment facilities, starting with Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. CAP representatives worked with occupational therapists to explain to the wounded servicemembers how these technologies work to benefit their lives.

The servicemembers who received the assistive technologies suffered devastating injuries such as amputation, loss of vision or hearing, and cognitive disabilities. The CAP representatives showed them ways to use assistive technologies so they could continue to be a part of a
computer environment.

"Many of the men and women wanted to e-mail their friends ... and stay in touch with their troops, so I was able to introduce them to the technologies that would allow them to do that," Cohen said.

This year alone, CAP has received more than 3,500 requests from wounded servicemembers, which has been the fastest-growing population needing assistive technology, she said. Since Oct. 1, CAP has filled more than 7,000 accommodations from both wounded servicemembers and federal employees, and from its inception in 1990, CAP has filled 66,000 accommodations.

People eligible for CAP assistance are given an assessment to make sure the accommodation meets their requirements, Cohen said. CAP has a variety of software and hardware provisions available, depending on the disability.

"We always look and talk to the individual and find out what works best for them, and then try to match it up to the right solution," said Cohen.

For example, for people with dexterity disabilities, it might be as simple as providing a different pointing device, or it could be on the high end, such as voice recognition, which allows the user to talk into a microphone and have the words appear on the
computer screen.

For some wounded servicemembers, this allows them to keep up with today's
technology. "They can use their voice to still be part of today's fast-moving information environment, still surfing the Web, still being able to do all their typing, still being able to do all of their e-mails," Cohen said.

She added the people who are eligible for CAP include DoD employees with disabilities, employees with disabilities who work at other federal agencies that have a partnership with CAP, and wounded servicemembers.

"We also provide the accommodations so people can perform their job tasks on a day-to-day level as people develop disabling conditions or if they were born with disabilities," Cohen said. "It really helps that individual to stay very productive in today's work environment."

Cohen said CAP always is trying to educate managers and leaders on their role in improving the employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

"If we have an environment that is truly open and accessible to people with disabilities, then we have an environment that is going to be good for us if and when we become disabled," Cohen said.

"Any one of us can become disabled at any time, and if we have an environment -- and managers and leaders that truly understand and support the employment of people with disabilities and support the re-employment of our wounded servicemembers -- then we have a truly inclusive environment for all Americans," she said.

CAP is managed by the Tricare Management Activity, under the
Military Health Service.

Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media Directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

America Supports You: Group Builds Homes for Wounded Troops

By Jamie Findlater
Special to
American Forces Press Service

June 2, 2008 - Building or remodeling homes to accommodate the needs of severely wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is the way Kirt Rebello and everyone else involved with "Homes for Our Troops" have chosen to thank servicemembers for their sacrifice. "A wounded servicemember's life is forever changed," Rebello -- vice president and projects director for Homes for Our Troops – said during an interview on "ASY Live," a program on that's part of the Defense Department's America Supports You program.

America Supports You connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

"The typical house in America today is not readily accessible to someone who is left in a wheelchair or with a combination of injuries that makes mobility difficult," Rebello said. Homes for Our Troops provides assistance to families of severely injured servicemembers who need to remodel their homes to accommodate new challenges associated with their injuries.

"We widen doors, install roll-in showers [and otherwise provide] some of the things we really take for granted that are significant obstacles to someone who is severely injured," he explained. "Additionally, as
technology progresses, we are finding a number of special adaptations that are available, like motion-sensored activation and voice activation."

The group was started in 2004, after the founder, John Gonsalves, saw a news special about a soldier who became a paraplegic after his convoy hit a roadside bomb. Gonsalves, who has spent more than 20 years in the construction industry, looked into starting the nonprofit group after he was unable to locate an organization that already worked to adapt homes for the wounded.

Using his knowledge of the construction industry, Gonsalves was able to get local builders to volunteer to assist by donating goods and services to the projects. "Nothing motivates people more than wanting to help a severely injured serviceperson," Rebello said.

The organization caters its services specifically to troops who are double amputees, paraplegic, quadriplegic, have severe post-traumatic stress disorder, or are severely burned.

"These individuals are generally immobilized to a point where [they] cannot get along on [their] own," Rebello said, "and all of our houses are specifically adapted to meet the needs of that particular veteran. The veterans we serve are the most severely injured, and the houses are provided at no cost to them."

In many cases, the group will build a new home, if necessary, instead of simply remodeling the existing one.

"One of the things that people don't always think about is that a lot of injured servicemen and women are young, with good-sized families," Rebello said. "We had a young serviceman who was a quadriplegic with his wife and their two kids living in one room of his parent's house. That's sometimes a challenge that goes unnoticed, and it's happening across the country."

Rebello said the family seemed to belie the hardships they were going through. "Despite everything, these were the most upbeat people I have ever met," he said. "We were able to get a house built for them and they were just unbelievably grateful."

Homes for Our Troops relies on the assistance of the community where the veteran lives or wants to live to help fund the projects, and for the most part, their efforts have been a great success.

"They are all donated materials and services," Rebello said. "We help mobilize the community to help build these houses. It's the local carpenters, plumbers, electricians, that really make the difference."

Rebello acknowledged that the rough housing market makes locating contractors and tradesmen who are willing to offer support an additional challenge.

"For every house that is built, there are hundreds of individuals involved," he said. "One of the key ingredients to our business is a contractor or large builder that is willing to coordinate all the activities that are occurring on the ground around our event."

The result, however, is a heartwarming example of how the nation's citizens band together to help an individual in need, Rebello said.

"The more we think about people with those needs, the more it makes sense to reach out and help them," he said.

(Jamie Findlater, host of "ASY Live," works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

Mullen Pays Tribute to Fallen at Manila Cemetery

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 2, 2008 - The chrysanthemum wreath the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff placed at the
American Cemetery and Memorial was one generation of U.S. warriors saluting the past. The ribbon on the wreath read: "From the Men and Women of America's Armed Forces in Honor of the Heroes Resting Here."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen represented all members of the U.S. armed forces when he placed the wreath at the chapel on the grounds of this immaculately maintained cemetery. The cemetery graphically demonstrates the extent of sacrifices the United States has made in defense of freedom.

Rows upon rows of crosses and Stars of David mark the 17,206 graves. The white marble is set against a backdrop of flowering trees and shrubs amid incredibly green grass.

Two chapel "hemispheres" contain the names of 36,282 servicemembers – including those of Philippine scouts who served with U.S. forces – lost in the fighting between 1941 and 1945 "who rest in unknown graves."

To Americans and Filipinos alike, this is sacred ground. The shared national sacrifices were mirrored in today's ceremony. Philippine officers met Mullen and his wife, Deborah, as they arrived at the cemetery. There was a joint
American and Philippine color guard. A Philippine band played the national anthems, and a Philippine honor guard fired the rifle salute to the fallen. Finally, two Philippine buglers played a haunting version of "Echo Taps."

The cemetery is on the grounds of what once was Fort William McKinley. It contains the remains of American servicemembers killed in fighting in the Southwest Pacific. This represents just 40 percent of those killed in action in the theater.

"In all of our travels, my wife and I try to visit as many of the 24 cemeteries we have overseas -- they are such special places of honor and memory -- just to pay our respects to each of the Americans buried here," the admiral said.

American Battle Monuments Commission maintains the cemetery and memorial, "and they do an outstanding job," the chairman noted. Mullen urged all American servicemembers to visit the cemeteries and pay their respects to those who served before.

The cemetery attracts
American visitors, and American servicemembers have held commemoration activities there. The crew of the USS Blue Ridge, for example, joined hundreds of Americans and Filipinos on Memorial Day to place the American and Philippine flags on each grave.

The cemetery was on the outskirts of Manila when it was dedicated in 1960. But today, skyscrapers are beginning to surround the 152-acre site. During
World War Two, this site was a killing ground. Today it is a quiet place that encourages reflection.

America Supports You: Military Kids Create Flurry of New Memories

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

June 2, 2008 - For the past two years, one troop-support organization has made sure children of fallen servicemembers have an avalanche of fun. "Snowball Express" began in December 2006 with the mission of providing hope and new memories to
military children who have lost a parent since 9/11.

"The belief is these children should never be forgotten by a grateful nation," said Roy White, the group's chairman of the board and a retired
Air Force lieutenant colonel. "Snowball Express accomplishes its mission by providing an all-expense paid, multi-day fun experience for eligible children [18 and younger] who are joined by the surviving parent [or] legal guardian."

Since its beginning, the Snowball Express event has been held in
Orange County, Calif. This year will be no different, White said.

"This year, new and returning families will be treated to a new experience with a trip to Universal Studios and 'A Day in the Life of California,' being planned by the employees of Oakley and many other corporate partners," he said. "A return trip to Disneyland completes this unique experience, along with a few special surprises along the way for these children who pay the price of freedom for all Americans every day."

Beyond the fun, however, there is a serious purpose to the event, and that is the relationships that are forged among not only the adults who discover they're not alone, but also the children.

"The greatest benefits are the children being with other children who understand their emotions and thoughts," White said. "It's these new relationships that build hope for the future and create new memories and a network for these children."

More than 1,000 volunteers from across the country are helping to make this endeavor possible. Not included among these volunteers are the people who make donations to make the five-day event possible.

"We know Americans want to help these children, and Snowball Express has become a conduit for all Americans to help by donating frequent flyer miles, organizing local events for the families and providing financial contributions to his main event in December," said Jim Palmersheim, a Snowball Express board member and an
American Airlines captain. "I'm proud that my fellow American Airline pilots and flight attendants worked for free to bring these children to Snowball Express last year, and we are honored to do it again this year."

Other corporate sponsors offer everything from lodging and transportation to meals, tickets and myriad other goodies.

Those involved with Snowball Express said the group's new affiliation with the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program will help spread the word and get other sponsors involved, as well.

America Supports You connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

"Very little money is spent on overhead costs such as advertising or fundraising," said Bill Mimiaga, Snowball Express' secretary and a trustee as well as a retired
Marine major. "Being recognized by ASY will give us increased exposure to corporations and, more importantly, to families who may not know about us.

"If even one family learns of Snowball Express because of this affiliation, those children's lives and the subsequent changes in their lives because of their Snowball Express experience will make it all worthwhile," he added.

This year's Snowball Express event will be held Dec. 16-20. Plans are under way to hold Snowball Express 2009 in the
Dallas-Fort Worth area. More information and eligibility rules are available on the group's Web site.

Bush Presents Medal of Honor to Fallen Army Hero's Family

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

June 2, 2008 - President Bush presented the Medal of Honor to fallen
Army hero Spc. Ross A. McGinnis' parents during a White House ceremony here today. "The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military distinction; it is given for valor beyond anything that duty could require or a superior could command," Bush said, before presenting the medal to McGinnis' father and mother, Tom and Romayne McGinnis, during the East Room ceremony.

Then-Pfc. McGinnis died at age 19 in northeastern Baghdad on Dec. 4, 2006, while protecting his comrades from an enemy grenade that was thrown into his Humvee. McGinnis, who'd been riding topside in the vehicle's gunner's-hatch opening, dropped down and used his body to absorb the effects of the exploding grenade, thus saving four fellow soldiers.

Presenting the Medal of Honor to McGinnis' parents was "a high privilege," Bush said, noting McGinnis was a selfless hero who could easily have jumped off the vehicle and saved himself.

"Instead, he dropped inside, put himself against the grenade and absorbed the blast with his own body," Bush said. "In that split-second decision, Private McGinnis lost his own life and he saved his comrades."

McGinnis' surviving comrades, Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Thomas, Staff Sgt. Ian Newland, Sgt. Lyle Buehler, and Spc. Sean Lawson, as well as some prior Medal of Honor recipients, also attended the ceremony.

Thomas has noted that McGinnis had plenty of time to avoid the exploding grenade, the president said, but instead chose to save his buddies.

"America will never forget those who came forward to bear the battle," Bush vowed. "America will always honor the name of this brave soldier, who gave all for his country."

McGinnis enlisted in the
Army at age 17 on June 14, 2004. At the time of his death, McGinnis was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, in Schweinfurt, Germany. He was promoted to specialist posthumously.

McGinnis' family received their son's Silver Star and Purple Heart medals in December 2006 at a memorial service held in their hometown of
Knox, Pa., about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.