Tuesday, July 08, 2008

America Supports You: Blockbuster, USO Join Forces for Troops

By Sharon Foster
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 8, 2008 - Movies and games have always been popular among deployed troops, providing a break from the intense daily realities of their duties and a way to fill downtime while away from their loved ones. With that in mind, Blockbuster stores nationwide, in partnership with United Service Organizations, are making it easy for Americans to donate video games and DVDs to deployed forces.

"The DVD and game drive is a way for Blockbuster stores and the American public to make life a little better for U.S. servicemen and women when they're so far away from home," Larcine Bland, Blockbuster's vice president for community affairs, said.

Customers simply purchase new or previously viewed DVDs and games at participating Blockbuster stores, then drop them into convenient USO drop boxes. For
security reasons, Bland emphasized, the USO can accept only DVDs and games originating from participating Blockbuster stores in this program.

The entertainment retailer will match donations made at its stores - up to 20,000 DVDs - and work with the USO to distribute them to troops stationed across the world.

"We are excited to work with Blockbuster to continue to boost the
morale of our men and women in uniform and their families around the world," said Edward A. Powell, USO president and chief executive officer.

Over the last 10 years, Blockbuster has regularly provided entertainment for
military personnel by donating movies, games and home entertainment equipment to the USO.
To find out about more individuals, groups and organizations that are helping support the troops, visit www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil. America Supports You directly connects military members to the support of the America people and offers a tool to the general public in their quest to find meaningful ways to support the
military community.

Gates Visits Troops in Washington State

By Rachel Young
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 8, 2008 - Fort Lewis soldiers received a visit from Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week, as he spent yesterday and today talking with soldiers, airmen and their families. Gates, who lives near Mount Vernon, Wash., when he is not at the Pentagon, stopped by Fort Lewis and McChord
Air Force Base for a visit on his way back to Washington, D.C., after the Independence Day holiday.

Gates visited wounded warriors at Madigan
Army Medical Center, talked with Army Rangers, McChord airmen and some Fort Lewis spouses, including a few who had just given birth at Madigan.

"It's been very useful," Gates told reporters this morning after receiving a briefing in the Intelligence Operations Facility. "The conversations with NCOs and their wives are always instructive, and I'm always impressed with their dedication and their commitment."

Gates praised
Army spouses for their commitment and affection for the military, saying that theirs might be even stronger than that of their soldiers.

The secretary also received a briefing from
Army Col. Harry D. Tunnell, commander of 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and Stryker soldiers from 4th and 5th brigades, 2nd Infantry Division, about their vehicles. Gates, accompanied by Army Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of 1st Corps and Fort Lewis, and Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, military assistant to the secretary of defense, toured four Strykers: a commander's vehicle, an infantry carrier vehicle, a mobile gun system and an engineer squad vehicle.

While receiving his briefing on the mobile gun system, Gates got a fresh-from-the-battlefield perspective from Capt. Christopher Lilley, a vehicle commander and platoon leader in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, part of 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Lilley and his soldiers returned from Iraq last month, where they were the first to use the mobile gun system in combat. Lilley said he was pleased to be able to share his knowledge with the secretary of defense.

"It was very nice," he said. "I think he saw the point we were trying to get across to him, ... how important this vehicle is for the infantry commanders and also the infantry to have this weapon system at their hands to help them out and support them in their mission and provide the security and firepower that they need."

A senior official explained that Gates visits troops often to get a feeling for what is on their minds.

"We do this as much a possible," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

Gates finds it useful to gather troops and spend time talking to them and allowing them to ask candid questions, Morrell said.

(Rachel Young is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.)



Navistar Defense, LLC, Warrenville, Ill., was awarded on Jul. 3, 2008, a $27,705,422 firm-fixed price contract for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected sustainment spare parts. Work will be performed primarily in
Springfield, Ohio, and Springfield, Mo., as well as locations across the U.S., and is expected to be completed by Jan. 29, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on Jun. 26, 2008. TACOM, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-08-C-0522).

TCI Architects/Engineers/Contractors, La Crosse, Wis., was awarded on Jul. 3, 2008, a $23,256,980 firm-fixed price contract for the design and construction of a U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center. Work will be performed in
Niagara Falls, N.Y., and is expected to be completed by Jul. 3, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Web bids were solicited on Sep. 25, 2007, and four bids were received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville, Ky., is the contracting activity (W912QR-08-C-0015).

LECON, Inc.,
Houston, Texas, was awarded on Jul. 3, 2008, a $22,626,579 firm-fixed price contract for channel rectification in Sims Bayou. Work will be performed in Houston, Texas, and is expected to be completed by Feb. 28, 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Web bids were solicited on May 5, 2008, and one bid was received. USA Engineer District, Galveston, Texas, is the contract activity (W912HY-08-C-0023).

Tug Hill Construction, Watertown, N.Y., was awarded on Jul. 7, 2008, a $15,000,000 firm-fixed price contract for materials, equipment and labor for the construction of the Combat Aviation Brigade infrastructure. Work will be performed in Fort Bliss, Texas, and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Five bids were solicited on Feb. 22, 2008, and three bids were received. U.S.
Army Engineer District, Fort Worth, Texas, is the contracting activity (W9126G-06-D-0032).

Teng Construction, L.L.C.,
Chicago, Ill., was awarded on Jul. 3, 2008, an $8,552,000 firm-fixed price contract for the construction of an addition/alteration to the Winder Health Clinic and a 7,000 square-foot addition to the Salomon Dental Clinic. Work will be performed at Fort Benning, Ga., and is expected to be completed by Jul. 15, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Four bids were solicited on Mar. 10, 2008, and three bids were received. U.S. Army Engineer District, Savannah, Ga., is the contracting activity (W912HN-07-D-0053).

The Davis Group, Inc.,
Sanford, Fla., was awarded on Jul. 7, 2008, a $7,431,550 firm-fixed price contract for the design and construction of a co., operations facility. Work will be performed in Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., and is expected to be completed by Apr. 30, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Eight bids were solicited on Sep. 15, 2007, and five bids were received. U.S. Army Engineer District, Savannah, Ga., is the contracting activity (W912HN-08-D-0037).


MedImmune Vaccines, Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., is being awarded a maximum $28,379,470.00 firm fixed price contract for influenza vaccine packages. Other location of performance is in Penn. Using services are
Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Federal Civilian Agencies. There were originally 4 proposals solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Jun. 30, 2009. The contracting activity is Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM2DP-08-D-0005).


General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Inc., Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a not-to-exceed ceiling $13,578,000 cost reimbursement letter contract for engineering services in support of the Maritime Integrated Air and Missile Defense Planning System (MIPS). MIPS will provide the Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander a tool to allocate resources and assess risks in a timely manner to mitigate the threat. The MIPS capability optimizes the use of force at the operational level, through warfighter knowledge and judgment, by providing a tool to rapidly and effectively solve complex air defense asset allocation issues. Work will be performed in Virginia Beach, Va., (90 percent) and Fairfax, Va., (10 percent), and is expected to be completed by Jul. 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $6,789,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington
Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-08-C-5215).


The Boeing Co., of St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a modified firm fixed price contract for $8,183,281. This tail cone assembly is applicable to the KC-135 aircraft. It is comprised of the rear most structural component of the air refueling boom. It provides support for the fuel dump mechanism and several lights. It is primarily a single shell type construction technique that supports the structural load using the external skin of the aircraft, a quantity of 85 units. At this time no funds have been obligated. 448 SCMG/PKBF, Tinker AFB, Okla., is the contracting activity (FA8103-05-G-0002-0124).

America Supports You: Organizations Join to Help Veterans, Families

American Forces Press Service

July 7, 2008 - AMVETS, one of the nation's leading veterans service organizations, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness signed a memorandum of understanding last week at the alliance's Virginia headquarters in Arlington. The memorandum allows AMVETS and NAMI to share resources to assist veterans and their families in identifying and coping with mental illness. Together, the two organizations have more than 2,500 locations where veterans and their families can go to learn more about readjustment issues and mental illness.

"When troops come home from war, they just want to go home. They often don't want to admit that they're having issues readjusting," said John P. Brown III, AMVETS national commander. "By partnering with NAMI, AMVETS will help teach families about some of the warning signs of mental illness and show them where to get help for their loved ones."

A recent report by the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, found that nearly 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 potentially suffer from traumatic brain injuries, according to the report.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged some of these veterans aren't within commuting distance of VA health care facilities, which creates gaps in available care. While VA takes steps to bridge these gaps, AMVETS and NAMI are taking steps of their own to provide assistance.

The NAMI partnership, which developed out of AMVETS' "National Symposium on the Needs of Young Veterans," will help families of deployed servicemembers to identify warning signs of potential mental health problems once their loved ones return from combat.

AMVETS is uniquely poised to offer assistance to servicemembers and their families through a 2005 memorandum of understanding with the National Guard Bureau, which allows AMVETS posts and departments to work directly with National Guard units across the country.

To date, AMVETS has provided thousands of man-hours in support of the National Guard. The new partnership with NAMI will augment the kind of support that AMVETS offers to recently returned veterans facing a potentially difficult transition.

AMVETS also will work with NAMI to dispel the negative stigma surrounding post-combat mental health issues, something the Rand study suggests keeps many veterans from seeking treatment. However, AMVETS is looking to teach that the human reaction to combat experience is natural and can be addressed through proper mental health channels.

AMVETS is a supporter of America Support You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with
military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Air Guard Rescue Unit Certifies in Firefighting Technique

By Air Force Capt. Alyson M. Teeter
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 7, 2008 - Crews from the
California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing are now certified to perform water bucket operations, making the 129th the only rescue unit in the Air Force and Air National Guard qualified to fight fires. The certification coincides with an early start to the fire season in northern California, which is where the 129th RQW is based.

The aircrews and their Pave Hawk helicopters have been on temporary duty here in support of Operation Lightning Strike, the
California National Guard's firefighting support mission. While the equipment modifications and required training were being accomplished, the unit has maintained a continuous alert posture for search-and-rescue and high-risk medical-evacuation missions.

The 129th Rescue Wing is the lead wing for HH-60G Pave Hawk water bucket certification efforts, Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Butow, 129th Operations Group director, said. The training, equipment modifications and certification process lay the groundwork for other combat search-and-rescue wings to obtain water bucket certification.

"Joint firefighting operations are analogous to the joint combat search-and-rescue operating environment our crews will experience in combat environments,"
Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel Lapostole, 129th Rescue Squadron commander, said. "The training value is unmatched."

The training the aircrews received is in accordance with the
California Interagency Military Helicopter Firefighting Program and was provided by certified California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection instructors.

The Air National Guardsmen and their aircraft now are certified to use the 660-gallon water bucket. The bucket is rigged for use with the helicopter's cargo hook, and water is released by a contact switch.

Once the crew receives orders to perform fire duty, maintainers must remove the internal auxiliary tank, install a radio and release switches, and then paint the aircraft with required markings. The water bucket is attached once the helicopter arrives for a firefighting mission. Simultaneously, the crews maintain airborne search-and-rescue alert.

The HH-60Gs also have an aerial-refueling capability that allows airmen to perform long rescue and firefighting-support missions. The aerial refueling is accomplished by the 129th RQW's MC-130P Combat Shadow tankers.

"Airmen from the 129th are motivated and ready to assist their neighbors in fighting the fires here in
California," said Air Force Col. Amos Bagdasarian, 129th Rescue Wing commander. "Our search-and-rescue mission, coupled with the fire bucket certification, adds to the state's broad range of fire fighting capabilities."

Air Force Capt. Alyson M. Teeter serves with 129th Rescue Wing Public Affairs.)

Mullen Kicks Off USO Tour, Troop Visit in Middle East

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

July 7, 2008 - The top U.S.
military officer traveled to Kuwait and Iraq today for the first stops of a seven-day, summer troop visit and United Service Organizations tour. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a USO party of National Football League and television celebrities kicked off their trip showing their support and offering admiration to troops at an air base in Kuwait.

"We're certainly honored to be here today," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "On behalf of everyone in our party, it's a privilege to be here with our troops to demonstrate the appreciation and support we have for them."

The base theater was lined from front to back with soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines getting autographs and taking photographs with the celebrities.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Taylor was particularly excited when he found out the USO tour was going to be visiting his base. The aircraft mechanic has been working 12-hour shifts every day for the past couple of months and was looking forward to something to break the usual routine, he said.

"Everything's the same here," Taylor said. "You work a 12-hour shift, and nothing's really different from one day to the next, so we really appreciate the USO tour coming out."

Taylor, an avid football fan, said he was mostly eager to meet Goodell. "He's the commissioner of the NFL, and you know he's an extremely busy guy," he said. "The fact that [he] and the celebrities came out just to spend a little time with us and sign a few autographs really does means a lot."

Along with Mullen and Goodell,
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders Christina Parker and Deryn Derbigny and television's "Heroes" actor Milo Ventimiglia are on the trip.

"Special people have taken time out of their summer to come over and visit with our troops, and it means a lot," Mullen said. "USOs are great assets. They make a big difference in trying to create smiles by spending a little time here and bringing a little home into theater. It makes a big difference in a lot of peoples' lives.

Brees has visited troops in Japan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates on USO trips over the past few years and said he always looks forward to the next opportunity to visit troops.

"I'm a huge fan of the military, and I believe our troops deserve a lot more credit than what they get," he said. "Not only are they fighting to restore our freedom, but they're also helping to gain freedom for people who've never really had it."

Brees said he also enjoys experiencing the culture and circumstance of each region, because it gives him a better understanding of what the troops endure.

"Just the opportunity to go to these places and endure the conditions and get a feel for what these men and women are going through is amazing," he said. "Just trying to understand what these guys are going through on a daily basis gives you such a greater appreciation for troops."

From Kuwait, Mullen and the USO team traveled to Baghdad to begin the Iraq leg of the tour.

Guard Forces Go to Ground in State's Fire Fight

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 7, 2008 - The first group of 200 California National Guard members called out by
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for direct ground support on the fire line July 1 have competed their classroom training and are ready to deploy for hands-on training tomorrow, National Guard officials here said today. Answering two call-ups by Schwarzenegger for additional wildfire assistance on the ground last week, 400 California National Guard members joined or were preparing to join the more than 20,000 civilian ground-based firefighters and support personnel today engaged in extinguishing 330 active fires charring the state.

Officials said that the addition of Guard members at the
fire lines will help relieve "overburdened and exhausted" firefighters on the ground. It's the first time California Guard members have formally deployed for the governor to a fire line in nearly three decades.

"I have ordered additional
California National Guard soldiers to provide direct ground support to our firefighters in their efforts," Schwarzenegger said. "These additional soldiers will bring much-needed assistance to the efforts of the firefighters who continue to tirelessly battle the blazes across California."

Nearly 1,000 National Guard members are supporting numerous firefighting operations in
California. Since June 21, at least 32 Guard fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft and aircrews from more than half a dozen states repeatedly have joined state and federal agencies battling wild land blazes from the state's smoke-filled skies.

The Guard's aerial missions have dropped more than 1.7 million gallons of water and
fire retardant in and around the state's wild land fires.

Most recently, aircrews from the
California Guard's 129th Rescue Wing joined the air battle as the state's first combat search and rescue wing to qualify and carry 660-gallon buckets of water to the wild fires.

The recent introduction of National Guard ground forces into the fire fight includes 200 soldiers who trained at the state's Wild Land
Fire Training Center at the former McClellan Air Force Base.

"The California National Guard is actively engaged in responding to the wildfires in Northern California by providing assistance to local authorities and to the citizens of the affected communities,"
Army Maj. Gen. William Wade, California adjutant general, said. "We continue to do this through air assets and personnel and equipment on the ground. The California Guard is proud of its ability to respond rapidly to those citizens affected by this horrible disaster."

Officials said the soldiers were trained by the state's Department of Forestry and
Fire Prevention personnel in fire behavior, fire safety and how to create fire containment lines using hand tools. The soldiers will be issued equipment tomorrow and conduct hands-on fire training today at a "cold-line" section where wild fires have previously burned. A majority of the soldiers are from the 100th Troop Command and the 115th Regional Support Group.

"It will be tough work, tedious and dangerous," said retired
Army Col. Terry Knight, director of community relations for the California Guard. "They are getting hot and heavy as we speak."

Knight said a primary function for the two teams will be to construct
fire lines, by hand, in places heavy equipment cannot reach. Still, other Guard officials said, the Guard members also will provide follow-up support and may possibly end up fighting active wild fires.

Officials said an additional 200
California Guard soldiers, called out by the governor July 4, are the next group to train at McClellan for ground firefighting support.

Other California Guard forces on the ground are providing truck transportation and command and control personnel for civilian responders. Eight California Guard bulldozers and operators are also cutting fire lines in their efforts to contain the blazes.

Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves with the National Guard Bureau.)