Military News

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Defense Media Activity to Change How Servicemembers Get Information, Entertainment

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 26, 2008 - The Oct. 1 establishment of the Defense Media Activity will change the way the Defense Department gets news, entertainment and information to servicemembers and their families. Servicemembers will not immediately notice a change: the Armed Forces Network will still broadcast football games and the Joint Combat Camera Center will continue to provide still and video images. Changes that will occur later are positive ones, Bob Hastings, principal deputy assistant defense secretary for public affairs, said.

"I think DMA is one of the most exciting things to happen to public affairs in a long time," Hastings said. "It's our opportunity to change the way we deliver news and information to our internal audience."

The new activity will allow the department to be more efficient and effective in delivering news, he said. In the future, servicemembers will be able to choose what media they use to get their information and entertainment.

"Not unimportant, and what the Base Realignment and Closure Commission was thinking about, was to do it more cost-effectively," Hastings said. "There's two sides of the coin: we can do a better job of it, and we can probably realize some synergies from it."

Hastings used his recent experiences in Afghanistan as the model for that synergy. There, he said, AFN provides TV, radio, Web and print information and entertainment.

"That organization is delivering the command information Web site and they are publishing the command information newspaper," Hastings said. "That's a glimpse into the future of the way we will deliver that."

Borne out of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's 2005 conclusions, the Defense Media Activity places internal information programs -- the
Army Broadcasting Service, Soldiers Radio/TV, the Soldiers Media Center, the Naval Media Center, the Air Force News Agency, Marine Corps internal information assets and the Army/Air Force Hometown News Service with the American Forces Information Service -- under one roof at Fort Meade, Md., in 2011.

The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, American Forces Press Service, the Pentagon Channel, Stars and Stripes and the Joint Combat Camera Center are among the offices that will transfer to the new activity.

The activity will work under the direction of the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

The idea is that teams of reporters, photographers, videographers and TV producers will deploy to an area and send command information products back. Experts at the activity can package the reports for distribution by any media. "The DMA is how we will deliver that," Hastings said.

The concept of operations for the new activity is still developing, Hastings said. The activity's focus will be more on information and audience, and less about the medium used.

"Look at the organizations we have – Armed Forces Radio and Television, American Forces Press Service – we build around channel," Hastings said. "DMA will build around the information and the audience."

Before setting up the activity, officials looked at how commercial news organizations operate, and how people consume information today.

"We're finding that people want to pick and choose the information they want and how they get it," Hastings said. "Add to that our audience is well-educated, young, sophisticated consumers of information and they know what they want and where they want to get it from."

Servicemembers and their families want an online option, but they still want AFN and Stars and Stripes, Hastings said. While Stars and Stripes will be an element of the activity, the newspaper will retain the autonomy it needs to continue to operate as an independent paper, he said.

Reporters, producers, photographers and videographers are going to have to expand their expertise for the future, Hastings said. The days of specializing in one media are over. Reporters are going to have to learn how to take pictures, operate video and tell a TV story.

"The Navy has already started this with the mass communications specialist," he said. "The other services have received the proposal positively. Now we have to work our way through the bureaucracy to see if we can do it."

Commanders want public affairs personnel to do it all, Hastings said. "Today, the commander may need a print product, tomorrow a Web product, and the next day a broadcast product, and he wants public affairs personnel to do all of that," he said.

The Defense Media Activity will provide that service, and the Defense Information School the training.

Hastings said the new activity will examine its missions and determine what resources – personnel, money, equipment – are needed to accomplish them. He doesn't expect a change in the number of people assigned to the activity. "But I expect you will see a change in what people do in the agency," he said.

As the activity matures, it will employ more generalists than specialists. Hastings expects manpower savings "in the back shop" – contracting, logistics, personnel, and operations.

"My hope is saving in the back shops will allow us to put more people on the front lines – writers, editors, producers, photographers, videographers and so on," he said.

The activity is uncharted territory, Hastings said, but he is getting great cooperation from the services. "There's a lot of excitement of what the DMA can do and become," he said.

Advisors Help With Post-Deployment Transition to Civilian Life

By Army Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 26, 2008 - How do I file a Veterans Affairs claim? How do I get enrolled in the V.A. system and get an appointment? What's the difference between the TRICARE Reserve Select and TRICARE Prime health plans? These are just some of the questions asked by National Guard troops returning to civilian life from deployment. Retired
Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffrey Unger, of the Wisconsin National Guard, is among those known as transition assistance advisors who help get them the answers.

"If they go through the process, if they hit barriers or they incur challenges they don't know how to address, they contact their TAA," Unger said.

Started in May 2005, the TAA program provides a professional in each of the 54 states and territories to serve as the statewide point of contact to assist troops in accessing Veterans Affairs benefits and healthcare services. Most advisors are like Unger: retired servicemembers or disabled veterans who have been through the benefits process and know what works and what doesn't.

Guard spouses also make up transition assistance ranks, said Alex Baird, the deputy surgeon for the bureau's Warrior Support program, which manages the TAAs. All of them know the process so that Guard members can get the benefits they're entitled, he said.

The process starts with understanding what benefits can be received. TAAs help Guard members receive disability compensation, healthcare through TRICARE, Veterans Benefits Administration enrollment, education benefits and other entitlements.

"You would be absolutely astounded as to how many veterans and their families do not understand what their benefits are or how to get access to them," Baird said.

Unger assisted the transition of
Army Spc. Demond Love, a cannon crew member with Wisconsin's 1st Brigade, 121st Field Artillery. Love's vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb during an Iraq deployment. Back home, he was broadsided by questions.

"I would have come back and I wouldn't have known where to start," Love said. "I was completely dumbfounded. I didn't know what benefits I was eligible for. I didn't know where to start anything. I just would have been left in the wind."

He was not. Thanks to the efforts of Unger and others, Love found a job and applied for V.A. benefits he wouldn't have known about.

"I would just call Jeff and he would tell me, 'you're also eligible for this, and 'you might want to look into that,' and all different kinds of stuff," Love said. "He set me up with different groups like the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) that I didn't know anything about."

The transition assistance didn't stop there. Having been around the
military for a while, the TAAs have knowledge and contacts that can help young citizen soldiers and airmen manage their careers.

When Love wanted to transfer units, Unger made it happen with one phone call, Love said.

TAA help is not limited to Guard members. Unger worked with an 84-year-old World War II veteran who faced large medical bills from multiple surgeries. He had injured himself falling out of a plane in 1944. Unger learned that the vet had never filed a service-connected disability claim with the VA, which would have entitled him to additional benefits.

"I got him connected with his local veterans' service officer," Unger said. "We got a claim filed with the Veterans' Benefits Association. About four months later, he received notification that he was now 100 percent totally and permanently-disabled as a result of his service. And we literally changed his standard of living that day."

TAAs hone their skills through constant training.

"The benefits change, the benefits become more complex," Baird said. "We do ongoing training, monthly. We do annual training where the VA comes in with us."

The monthly training is in the form of a conference call where the TAAs bring up problems to the group to be solved by others with the same experience or, in some cases, the VA representative.

"Our monthly teleconferences are almost like a walking library," said Unger. "Say [the problem] is home loans or life insurance or it's the GI Bill or it's a disability claim.

"Whatever it may be, we get the experts on the line with us and we get an opportunity to go one-on-one with [them]."

For Unger, helping returning veterans is a fulfilling way to spend his retirement.

"To know that when you hang up that phone, or that when they walk out of that office, or when you leave an event, you know in your heart that you did a veteran well," Unger said. "There is no better feeling than to know you've helped somebody like that."
(Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum works at the National Guard Bureau).

America Supports You: City Employers Recognized for Military Support

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 26, 2008 - The oldest and largest group representing American cities has thrown its support behind an effort to recognize employers' support of
military members. The National League of Cities signed an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Statement of Support on Sept. 17. ESGR, a Defense Department group, works to promote understanding between employers and their military employees. It provides volunteers who offer mediation and education services to employers, Guard and reserve members and their families.

"What we were trying to do is acknowledge that the members of the Guard and reserve are ... individuals who have critical jobs in municipalities in terms of running day-to-day operations," Don Borut, National League of Cities' executive director, said at the signing. "At the same time, their
military jobs are important in terms of the security of the nation."

The National League of Cities represents the interests of more than 18,000 cities, towns, and villages. It also provides information and support for those who are in
leadership in municipal government.

Frequent deployments make it challenging for municipalities to maintain the same level of public safety, Borut said. At the same time, municipalities recognize the importance of having highly-trained professionals in the
military.

"There is a balance," he said. "For us, it's valuable and important to be able to affirm the importance of this role and for municipalities to [be able to support] their employees who go off in their military duty.

"One of the things we feel is that the public sector needs to be a model of what we expect from other employers."

military employment law – the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act -- spells out what the government requires an employer to do. The league thinks public sector employers take it a step further and go out of their way to make sure families of deployed troops are supported as well, Borut said.

Jim Rebholz, ESGR national chairman, held the National League of Cities up for praise.

"Their members are in the forefront of mobilizations for war as well as natural disasters because a goodly portion of their members' employees are first responders in their communities," Rebholz said.

"I think what it does is it sends a signal that the greater good of the country overshadows the temporary inconvenience employers have [when they] mobilize their Guard and reserve employees," he said.

The strain that mobilizing employees for military duty places on municipalities becomes especially apparent this time of year when mobilizations are on short notice because of natural disasters.

"We are right in the height of a natural disaster season, it seems, [but] they are sacrificing by [working] overtime and adding staff to accommodate the Guard and reserve men and women who are leaving," Rebholz said.

"Their example should be a model for everybody across the country," he continued.

When an employer or an organization, such as the National League of Cities, signs an ESGR Statement of Support, it's a pledge to:

-- Fully recognize, honor and enforce
military employment law;

-- Provide managers and supervisors with tools to manage employees who serve in the National Guard and reserves; and

-- Continually recognize and support the country's servicemembers and their families in peace, in crises and in war.

ESGR is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

Special Ops Command Europe Showcases Professionalism, Capability

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 26, 2008 - Civilian professionals traveling with the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference looked on today as special operators negotiated a
military urban operations training site with realistic gunfire and smoke that duplicated the kind of real-world missions they've performed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 47 conference participants spent several hours today with Green Berets of the Army's 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, and Naval Special Warfare Unit 2 SEALS. These units, along with the 352nd Special Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall in England, represent the maritime, ground and air components of Special Operations Command Europe.

Air Force Maj. Gen Frank J. Kisner, who took command of Special Operations Command Europe in May, described the host of missions that range from direct action, as demonstrated today, to non-combatant evacuation operations, to advising foreign militaries to help them build capacity.

U.S. European Command's special operators have deployed routinely since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, first pulling forward into Afghanistan, then into Iraq as well, Kisner said.

"A lot of folks have just come off of combat deployments, and they will tell you it is tremendous capability that they have," said Kisner. "But more importantly, it is tremendous capability that they are willing to share, not only as they bring new team members on, but also as we are working with other nations' forces both in Europe and in Afghanistan and Iraq."

1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group's Company C demonstrated some of that capability today during a mock deliberate assault operation on two buildings suspected of housing targets of interest.

"We have three principles for direct action: speed, surprise and violence of actions," said
Army Maj. Pat Lange, company commander.

Special Forces A teams, with embedded
Navy explosive ordnance elements, moved with silent precision toward the buildings before launching an all-out attack. "We try to go as quietly as we can for as long as we can," said Company C Sgt. Maj. Bob Irby. "I can't tell you how many people we get out of bed who never knew we were there."

As they sought out their targets, the special operators made split-second decisions, negotiating through buildings reconfigured regularly to keep them off-guard. "They're problem-solving at a high rate of speed, and normally in the middle of the night. They have to adjust to the unknown at a rapid pace," Lange said. "If it sounds confusing, it is."

"We manhunt for high-value targets," explained an armorer on the Special Forces A team who asked that his name not be used. "You can think of us as a scalpel. Sometimes you need a sledgehammer, and that's not us. We provide precision application of discriminatory fire."

The civilian
leaders got some hands-on experience, live-firing some of the weapons special operators use: the MP5 9 mm machine gun, enhanced battle rifle, M14 7.62 mm rifle, P226 and P239 pistols, Mark 46 and 48 machine guns and an AK-47 assault rifle.

They also walked through a static display, where SEALS explained the diving, medical and communications equipment they use in their operations.

Kisner encouraged the civilians to chat with the troops about the operations they conduct and what motivates them to serve.

"They have phenomenal stories, some they will tell you and some they won't," he said. "They are from America, from the towns where you live, the states that you live in. And I consider them a phenomenal national treasure for having the courage and determination to go out and do what they do."

A Special Forces armorer who asked that his name not be used explained that every member of his unit is a four-time volunteer. All volunteered to join the
Army, to go to Airborne School, to become Special Forces qualified, then to become part of EuCom's elite, quick strike force that serves as the EuCom commander's action arms in the most extreme circumstances.

Despite repeated separations from his family and the dangerous missions he's regularly called on to carry out, the armorer feels a deep-down sense of duty. "I think you see less and less people standing up for what they think is right," he said. "I do this because it's something I believe in.

"Someone has to do it. It has to be done. I am able, so it's my turn. One day it will be my son's turn, then after that, it will be his son's turn."

"My eyes are wide open, and I am in awe," Sally Prouty, president and CEO of The Corps Network, which oversees the nation's 113 Service and Conservation Corps, said after today's visit. "Seeing what I have seen today gives me a profound sense of pride and gratification."

JCOC is designed to familiarize civilian business, education and civic
leaders with the military. The participants are wrapping up a week-long visit through EuCom visiting military installations and spending time with soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

EuCom Commander Urges Civilian Leaders to Share Insights

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 26, 2008 - The top U.S.
military officer in Europe urged civilian leaders who spent the past week visiting military installations in the region to return home sharing their experiences, particularly with young people who might consider military service. Army Gen. John Craddock, who wears two hats as commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the all-volunteer force introduced in 1973 has helped build the best military the country has ever seen.

"Understand that these are all volunteers," Craddock told the group. "Everyone you talked to today is part of the all-volunteer force. [They are] incredibly talented, incredibly smart, very capable, and they do this of their own free choice."

Many re-enlist after their initial tours, drawn by the discipline and opportunities the military offers, he told the group.

But a challenge the force faces is that, unlike during the draft, many American adults haven't served in the
military and don't have an understanding of it to share with young people as they make choices about their future, Craddock said.

"The impact is that when young people today have to make decisions ... when they turn to those they respect, it's a difficult decision to make based upon the answers they get," he said.

Craddock urged the civilians – all business, civic and academic leaders in their communities – to take the insights they've gained and share them with those who might be interested. "The hope is here, one, you can give them informed judgments and advice, and, two, you can tell others what you saw," he said.

"We are proud of these kids," he said. "They do it because they choose to, and they do it day in and day out."

Craddock thanked the group for taking time from their schedules to travel through EuCom and meet the men and women who serve in the command.

"At the end of the day, you must know that our soldiers, our sailors, our Coast Guardies, our airmen and our Marines really enjoy having you here because they get a chance to show you what they do day in and day out," he said. "And what you saw was for you, but it was not exclusively for you because it is training for them. And they are proud of that and they want you to know that."

As part of the global force management program, EuCom provides forces for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else the Defense Department needs them, Craddock said. "The reach is deep and it is a total force effort," he said.

"We ask much of them and what we ask of them is a high standard, fair treatment of their peers and taking care of their team. And I think it shows that we have been able to do that," Craddock said. "At the end of the day, they are just ordinary people doing a hero's job."

The first U.S. defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC program in 1948 to introduce civilian "movers and shakers" with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces. Nearly six decades later, it remains DoD's premier civic leader program.

Army National Guard Gets New Medevac Black Hawk Helicopter

By Spc. John Higgins
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 25, 2008 - Officials unveiled a new medical evacuation version of the Black Hawk helicopter at the National Guard Association of the United States conference here on Sept. 21. The HH-60M Black Hawk is capable of carrying up to six litter patients or walking wounded to the nearest medical treatment facility, wherever that may be.

"This is all about saving lives and preventing suffering," said Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, the director of the
Army National Guard.

An aviation unit headquartered in Vermont with a detachment in Massachusetts will get the first M-series off the assembly line. A total of 42 new Black Hawks will be delivered to four states in fiscal year 2009, and 60 by 2010.

"We are the first medevac unit fielded," said Col. Garrett Jensen, chief of the aviation and safety branch for the
Army National Guard. "It's a milestone, and it's really a testament of ... the Army's dedication to equipping the Guard."

Officials said the M-series modifications fulfill a "valuable" medical need in an airframe that is already a field-proven helicopter in troop capacity, equipment and design. "It is the [work] horse of what we do in the United States and around the world," Vaughn said.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Stephen Sanderson, the state division safety officer for the Vermont
Army National Guard, said the biggest change in this model is the rotor system. "You'll get another 545 pounds of lift from that and be able to operate in a high, hot environment substantially better."

The M-model also has a bigger engine, an all-glass cockpit for better visibility, an improved gear box for the main transmission and an externally-mounted electric hoist, "so you don't lose the cabin space," Sanderson said.

"It's a fully digital aircraft and has the ability to communicate with other aviation and ground assets," he added. "It's a fully coupled auto-pilot. The thing flies itself."

The helicopter also has a medical suite in the back with an onboard oxygen generating system and climate control. The oxygen system, a vital component of first medical response, runs off the engine's air output.

"As long as the engines on the aircraft are running or there is oxygen in the bottles (gas containment cylinders), then you've got oxygen," said Arthur E. Torwirt, vice president of products division of Air Methods Corp., the providers of the medical equipment in the M-series.

Vaughn said these improvements allow the M-series to fly "no kidding" life-saving missions quickly for servicemembers.

(Spc. John Higgins is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

Air Force Disciplines 15 Senior Officers in Nuclear Nose Cone Fiasco

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 25, 2008 - The
Air Force has disciplined 15 senior officers, including six generals, in connection with the errant shipping of nuclear missile nose cones to Taiwan in 2006, officials announced today. The service took administrative actions against two lieutenant generals, two major generals, two brigadier generals and nine colonels, Acting Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said. He and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz made the announcements at a Pentagon news conference.

In March 2008, the Air Force revealed that the U.S.
military had regained control of four nuclear nose cone assemblies, which did not contain nuclear material, for a Minuteman missile mistakenly sent to Taiwan in 2006. After a review of the error, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked for the resignations of then-Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

"It has been an Air Force priority that airmen at all levels hold themselves to the highest standards of performance and that all airmen, therefore, remain accountable for their areas of responsibilities and the successful execution of their assigned missions," Donley said.

The acting secretary said no mission in the
Air Force is more important than the service's central role in maintaining America's nuclear deterrent. The punishments he and Schwartz made grew out of recommendations from a report submitted by Navy Adm. Kirkwood Donald, the chief of the Navy's office of nuclear propulsion.

"These actions are administrative in nature but can carry with them substantial consequences for the careers of these officers, including their potential to command, to be promoted or to retire in their current grade," Donley said. "We recognize the years of dedicated service that these officers have given, but we cannot ignore the breaches of trust that have occurred on their watch."

Schwartz echoed the acting secretary in his comments about accountability. "The standards to which we must adhere are high, and that is for very good reason," the chief of staff said. "We are entrusted with the defense of the nation. In no area is that imperative greater than in the stewardship of our nation's nuclear enterprise. The very nature of the mission demands adherence to the highest standards of precision and reliability.

"Today we are taking action in response to a breakdown in adherence to those standards," he continued. "These officers are good people with otherwise distinguished careers spent in faithful service to the nation. They are not accused of intentional wrongdoing, but they did not do enough to carry out their
leadership responsibilities for nuclear oversight. For that, they must be held accountable."

The officers involved received letters of reprimand, admonishment or counseling. The most serious is a letter of reprimand.

Lt. Gen. Kevin J. Sullivan received a letter of reprimand for not adequately addressing logistics policy deficiencies and for failing to correct previously identified systemic issues in Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM, logistics. He also was cited for not exercising effective command oversight to recognize and correct deficiencies in ICBM depot maintenance and materiel control at the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Utah. Sullivan has requested retirement.

Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel received a letter of admonishment for not effectively exercising responsibility for ICBM system sustainment matters and for not effectively correcting deficiencies in engineering support of ICBM components while serving as commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space. Hamel had previously requested retirement.

Maj. Gen. Roger W. Burg received a letter of admonishment for not exercising effective command oversight of ICBM sustainment-related activities. He also did not identify and correct deficiencies in shipping and receiving sensitive components at ICBM bases in his current position as commander of 20th
Air Force. Donley and Schwartz have determined that Burg is needed to restore effective stewardship of the ICBM force, and he will remain in command to continue corrective actions he has initiated.

Maj. Gen. Kathleen D. Close received a letter of admonishment for not exercising effective command oversight of depot maintenance, engineering activities and materiel control of sensitive components. She was cited for not recognizing weaknesses in the sensitive component supply chain, and for not correcting materiel control and maintenance deficiencies at Ogden Air Logistics Center. Donley and Schwartz determined that Close is needed to restore Air Force stewardship of the ICBM force, and she will remain in command to continue corrective actions she has initiated.

Brig. Gen. Francis M. Bruno was admonished for not exercising proper oversight to identify and correct weaknesses in logistics management and maintenance support for ICBM components, and for not taking adequate action to correct previously identified deficiencies at air logistics centers in his position as logistics director for
Air Force Materiel Command. Bruno previously requested retirement.

Brig. Gen. Arthur B. Cameron III was admonished for not identifying and correcting deficiencies in depot maintenance operations involving sensitive components, for not ensuring proper materiel control of sensitive components when in the custody of maintenance personnel and for not taking adequate action to correct previously identified discrepancies in materiel control and maintenance while he served as a maintenance wing commander.

Five of the colonels received letters of reprimand, three letters of admonishment and one a letter of counseling.

"All who serve in uniform understand our obligation to the mission, to personal accountability and to order and discipline in our organizations," Schwartz said. "We will sustain our high standards, because the nature of our work depends on it. And our client, the American people, expect it."