Military News

Friday, November 21, 2008

Face of Defense: Recruiter Deploys as Career Counselor

By Army Pfc. Terence Ewings
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 21, 2008 -
Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Washington, a career counselor attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, mentors soldiers and puts them into a position for future success. Washington is a recruiter assigned to the 3rd Army Medical Recruiting Command. He volunteered to deploy with the Long Knife Brigade as part of an individual augmentee program, which allows a recruiter to go overseas and work as a career counselor during a combat tour.

"I volunteered for this program so that I can share my experiences with the men and women that have questions about deployments," he said. "Being a career counselor is somewhat similar to recruiting. You talk to the soldiers and help them make a decision with their best interest in mind."

The former ammunition specialist from Lewisville, Ga., found his passion in recruiting when he was selected to serve at his first recruiting station in Youngstown, Ohio.

"It was hard at first, but I think recruiting came to me naturally," Washington said. "Taking a young man or woman and teaching them to be a soldier gives me a good feeling to be a part of that."

He speaks of his soldiers with pride, and he shows it by wearing his recruiter's ring, which came with his Glen E. Morrell Award for excelling at recruiting.

"Washington has been a great asset to the team, and he's very successful at what he does,"
Army Master Sgt. Keith Green, the brigade's head career counselor, said. "He counsels soldiers just like we do, and helps them with their future plans."

After this deployment, with his seven years of recruiting experience, Washington said he plans on going back to a recruiting station and becoming a recruiting trainer so that he can share his knowledge with future soldiers and their families back home.

(
Army Pfc. Terence Ewings serves with the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.)

Department Defers F-22 Funding Decision to Next Administration

By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 21, 2008 - To avoid unnecessary taxpayer spending, the Defense Department is only partially funding the expansion of F-22 Raptor aircraft production, leaving the decision for further expansion to the incoming administration. John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition,
technology and logistics, told members of the air and land forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee in a Nov. 19 hearing that he has approved $50 million for advance procurement for four F-22s. DoD will include the purchase of these four aircraft in the second fiscal 2009 supplemental budget request, he said.

The decision on whether to use the rest of the $140 million allocated in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act for advance procurement for up to 16 more F-22s will be up to the Obama administration in January, Young said. Procurement of the four F-22s provides a bridge to give the new administration every option with the program, he said.

"The department is acting responsibly, consistent with [Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates'] commitment and congressional direction, seeking to ensure that each tax dollar is used carefully and efficiently," he said.

DoD is delaying the advance procurement on the remaining 16 aircraft to save taxpayer money should the Obama administration decide not to purchase the aircraft, Young said. However, he acknowledged, if the new administration delays its decision on the F-22s past January, it could face higher costs from the manufacturers.

The NDAA authorizes advance procurement for the F-22s until March, and if the decision on the remaining aircraft doesn't come until then, there is a very real chance the cost for the planes could go up, Young said. However, he cautioned that the estimates for those higher prices are based on industry estimates that haven't been negotiated.

"I'm not ignoring the industry estimates, but I'm also not granting them credibility, and so ... if we do nothing until March, I could face -- and that's what I was told by industry -- a cost, which I would seek to negotiate away on behalf of the government," Young said.

Countering committee members' claims that he was acting in defiance of Congress by not funding all 20 aircraft, Young said the law doesn't require him to buy the planes all at once, and his goal is to save the taxpayers money.

"Can I buy that advance procurement as four plus 16, instead of 20, and impose no additional cost on the taxpayer and preserve the total flexibility and option of the next administration to come and discuss with the Congress whether they want to buy the airplanes behind the advance procurement? And that is the option, having convinced myself that that is possible, we sought to execute," he said.

DoD has done a legitimate analysis of the F-22 program, and though some
Air Force officials may disagree, Gates believes the department is on its way to the right mix of aircraft, Young said.

"From Secretary Gates down, there has been a hard look at that analysis and a view that it is a higher priority to do other things in the Defense Department than buy additional F-22s at this time," he said.

Warrior Care: Conference Promotes Focus on Wellness, Resiliency

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 21, 2008 - Shifting the
military culture as it pertains to mental health from an illness-based medical model to one that focuses on wellness and resilience was the focus of a three-day conference hosted here this week by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. The "Warrior Resilience Conference: Partnership with the Line" was held Nov. 18-20.

Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, director of the centers of excellence, said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made it clear the commitment to the cultural change starts at the top in the Defense Department.

"This transformation reflects our commitment to support leaders in optimizing health, mitigating risks, and intervening early to prevent illness whenever possible," Sutton said in a welcome to participants. "As Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen have emphasized, seeking help is a sign of profound courage and strength."

That's the message the center hopes to spread through its "Real Warriors, Real Battles, Real Strength" campaign, said Navy Cmdr. Anthony A. Arita, director of clearinghouse, outreach and advocacy for the centers of excellence.

The campaign, recommended by a mental health task force, has the confidence of top
leadership, Arita said. In fact, he said, Mullen has characterized seeking help for mental health issues as an act of courage that the military's leaders need to undertake as a model.

A quote from the chairman on a briefing slide underscored the admiral's view: "You can't expect a private or a specialist to be willing to seek counseling when his or her captain, colonel, or general won't do it."

A stigma attached to seeking mental health care permeates the
military culture and stands as a barrier to servicemembers seeking the help they need, a DoD task force on mental health concluded. The "Real Warriors, Real Battles, Real Strength" campaign was created to break down those barriers and promote resilience, recovery and reintegration, Arita said.

"I would suggest stigma poses a barrier to building resilience," Arita said. "Some of the goals we have with regard to this campaign are to normalize psychological health [and to] normalize the symptoms that commonly are reported following one's return from deployment, building a culture of psychological responsibility.

"That's the commitment that we all have in putting psychological health issues on equal par with physical," he continued. "Just as we invest our time and energies to keeping physically healthy, we need to have that similar investment in those things that keep us psychologically fit, psychologically healthy, and psychologically resilient."

Through its campaign, the center hopes to build this resiliency by creating awareness and understanding and by modeling support, including highlighting warriors' stories.

"Through the power of sharing one's battle, one's sense of strength, we're able to mobilize hope and inspire others," Arita said. "We hope to model, for those who are in
leadership positions ... what it means to demonstrate strength, courage and a commitment to one's psychological health."

He encouraged warriors willing to share their stories to get in contact with the center. He also asked for anyone interested in becoming part of the campaign to contact the center at DCOE.RealWarriors@tma.osd.mil.

No magic solution exists to ensure servicemembers are resilient regarding the effects of combat on their mental health, Sutton said.

"I guess the overarching message is, 'Get connected, get plugged in,'" she said. "It's the isolation that puts folks most at risk."

DoD Takes Steps to Defend Cyberspace Warfighting Domain

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 21, 2008 - Cyberspace is a warfighting domain, and the Defense Department is taking steps to defend this crucial capability, a Pentagon spokesman said today. "We are aware of a global virus for which there are some public alerts, and we've seen some of these on our networks, and we are taking steps to identify and mitigate the virus," Bryan Whitman said. "We do aggressively monitor our networks for intrusions and take adequate steps to protect them."

Public alerts on this global virus threat urge all computer users to take precautions. Users should have current anti-viral software programs and anti-spyware installed in their computers, and information
technology specialists should ensure that no infected hardware can breach DoD systems, Whitman said.

Whitman would not go into specifics about what the department is doing about the virus. "We don't discuss any specific defensive measures that we are taking or may be taking to protect and defend our networks," he said.

DoD's global information grid includes more than 15,000 networks and about 7 million information
technology devices, Pentagon officials said.

Grid defenders regularly send guidance to commands about current threats and measures for users to take to ensure information systems remain secure. "It's the responsibility of every user to help protect the network," Whitman said. "This is something that requires us to have constant vigilance."

The threat comes from a variety of sources, the spokesman said. "It includes everything from recreational hackers to the self-styled cyber-vigilantes," Whitman said. It also emanates from various groups with nationalistic or ideological agendas, as well as "transnational actors or transnational states," he added.

"This is not a Defense Department issue. It's not even a government issue. It is an international issue – a world issue," Whitman said. "Anyone who uses computers and is on a network is susceptible."

U.S. Strategic Command is the lead agency for DoD's computer network defense effort. Under Stratcom, the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations handles protection. That group interfaces with other agencies.

Warrior, Survivor Care Program Provides Key to Airman's Recovery

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

Nov. 21, 2008 - The
Air Force Warrior and Survivor Care Program is reaching out to wounded airmen from the point injury on the battlefield and throughout their rehabilitation and reintegration and beyond, the program's manager said yesterday. The program's success relies largely on family liaison officers and community readiness consultants, John Beckett said in a "Dot Mil Docs" radio interview on BlogTalkRadio.com.

"The backbone of that entire program is what we call the family liaison officer," he said. "The family liaison officer is assigned to a family to be their personalized assistant, if you will, to help with anything that the family may need."

The family liaison officers are crucial players at the very beginning of an airmen's recovery, Beckett said. "We wanted to alleviate all of the logistical concerns at the very beginning and provide assistance while their servicemember is in the hospital," he said.

The family liaison officers provide access to many key programs to assist airmen and their families.

"Family liaison officers have access to airmen and family readiness center consultants, who have access to almost any type of benefit information or resources," Beckett explained. "They are pretty much a one-stop shop for the family and the wounded airman."

The program has access to resources to help airmen and their families with financial, spiritual and child care needs, among others. "Our charter is to do whatever the family needs, and that is what we try to do," Beckett said.

The Warrior and Survivor Program started in the late 1990s as the
Air Force Survivor Assistance Program, but when Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom started, Beckett said, the program changed to provide assistance to wounded, ill or injured airmen and their families.

During hospitalization and after an airman is released from the hospital,
Air Force community readiness consultants are engaged to help airmen and their families. They're equipped to provide resume- writing services, financial support and a host of other things an airman or family member may need, Beckett said.

He added that he draws enormous strength from the airmen making their way through their rehabilitation process.

"What amazes me is the resiliency that our airmen have," he said. "I have seen people who have been burned over 80 percent of their body, and they get up and talk about what they can do and what they want to offer back the
Air Force. It amazes me -- their dedication, their resiliency and how, despite what they have given, they want to give back."

One airman, in particular, who was blinded and lost an arm to a roadside-bomb explosion, is an inspiration to him, Beckett said. "When you listen to him talk, he doesn't talk about what he gave up, but [rather] he talks about what he can give," he told "Dot Mil Docs" listeners.

The
Air Force can learn some valuable lessons from these wounded, ill and injured airmen, Beckett said.

"The Air Force policy is ... to keep people on active duty that would like to remain on active duty," he said. "It could mean a limited assignment status, or it could mean retraining to another job. Our wounded airmen offer a lot of valuable experience for the
Air Force, and our goal is for them to remain on active duty, if that is want they want to do."

(
Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

Staying Power: Wounded Marines Ordered to do Their Part to Recover

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 21, 2008 - Marine Capt. Ray Baronie was traveling in a convoy in Ramadi, Iraq, on Dec. 1, 2005 when an anti-tank round blasted his truck. Baronie's legs were shattered, his body cut and bloodied. His driver was killed. The truck rolled onto its side, and then he was shot at. But really hard times didn't hit until Baronie came back to the United States.
"That's really when hell started. In one year, I had 46 surgeries," he said.

Baronie's right leg was amputated above the knee. He lost major muscle from both legs. He can tap his thigh bone through the skin on the back of his left leg. He now walks with the help of a cane and a prosthetic right leg. Scars cover his arms.

But Baronie's injuries haven't stopped him from stepping in front of a Marine formation and continuing his active duty. In fact, quite the opposite. His injuries have uniquely qualified him to run one of three companies in the U. S. military designed to house and care for seriously wounded Marines.

Remarkably, Baronie was offered the job while he was still in the hospital recovering from his wounds. He now commands 100 or so Marines who make up Company A, Wounded Warrior Battalion East, part of the Wounded Warrior Regiment stood up at
Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., by order of the commandant of the Marine Corps in April 2007.

"I had to get better because I had to get back to work," Baronie said. "How fast could I get back to work? That's what it came down to. I think me knowing that I had a job sped up my recovery."

Overwatch Key to Recovery

The Wounded Warrior Regiment comprises two battalions, one on the East Coast here on Camp LeJeune, N.C., and one on the West Coast on Camp Pendleton, Calif., and a third company in Hawaii. It is the realization of the Marine Corps' historic push to accommodate the influx of seriously wounded Marines since the start of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Each provides coverage for Marines receiving care in their areas. The battalion here has oversight of more than 300 Marines who are recovering this side of the Mississippi River. The West Coast battalion has oversight of about 200 recovering Marines.

To date, more than 6,600 Marines have received Purple Hearts since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. About 1,200 are seriously injured and still on active duty in various stages of their recovery.

Baronie is one of the
Marine Corps' nearly 3,000 injured who have returned to active duty. And he is not the only leader in the company who was injured in combat.

"The first sergeant got wacked with an [rocket-propelled grenade], the gunny got blown up in Afghanistan ... and all three of my platoon sergeants have either gotten shot or blown up," Baronie said.

In these units, Marines spend their days concentrating on healing and transitioning to the next phase of their lives, whether that means recovering and staying on active duty or leaving the service.

A morning muster inside the dayroom starts each day here at about 7:30. Marines attend, if they are physically able. Every day company
leadership visits each of the Marines, ensuring they are on the road to recovery. Nine squad leaders are responsible for about 10 Marines each.

"I think that's the key piece -- seeing them every single day. You can see if they're having a problem. You can see if they're depressed. You can see if they're over-medicated. That's the beauty of this place," Baronie said.

Activity as Therapy

The Marines occupy the two sets of barracks here. The more seriously injured are housed with the command staff. Others live across base. Married Marines live in town. Most receive medical support at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune, but many go off base for specialty care. Others are sent to major medical treatment facilities across the United States.

During the day, Marines attend medical appointments and physical therapy, or meet with counselors and specialists. Of the Marines here, about two-thirds have jobs. If they are attending the local college, that counts as their job, Baronie said. Some have jobs in the barracks, others around base. One works in traffic court. Others help teachers at the local elementary school.

Staying active is key to healing, Baronie said. It is dangerous for Marines to stay isolated in their rooms for hours or days at a time. Baronie said he doesn't want any "professional X-Box players."

The battalion staff work out of temporary trailers arranged in a horse-shoe pattern beside 1940s-era red brick barracks. Wooden wheelchair ramps snake between the buildings. A new $27 million barracks complex is under construction that will move the Marines closer to the hospital and other treatment facilities on base. The West Coast battalion has a similar barracks construction project planned.

Three nurse case managers make sure Marines keep their appointments. This is sometimes difficult because medications and brain injuries muddle appointment dates and times for the Marines. More than three-quarters of them suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury, Baronie said.

Baronie cuts them no slack, though, for missed appointments. "The reason why you were sent here wasn't to pull triggers," he tells the Marines. "It wasn't to go into the field. It is to heal. You go to your appointments. You have to do your part to get better."

If that sounds strict, it is. But that's because Baronie is looking out for the Marines. Just as other units prepare their troops for war, he prepares his Marines for the next stage of their lives.

"I try not to call them wounded warriors. I call them Marines," Baronie said.

Planning for the Future

"Life doesn't stop when you get wounded. You've got to have some type of responsibility and, whether you choose to stay in the
Marine Corps or move into civilian life, you're still going to have to press forward," Baronie said.

"What happens when you go into the civilian world and that corporation you work for ... is trying to make money and you don't come to work? They might not care that you're wounded. You may hear two words -- you're fired."

The career planner for the company is himself an injured Marine who has stayed on active duty with a permanent disability, working limited duty. Marine Corps
leadership has vowed to keep all injured Marines on active duty who can still work in some capacity. The limited duty assignment allows the Marine to receive a disability assignment from the service, for later benefits, but to stay on active duty in a job they can perform. The Marine can later decide to leave the service if he or she finds the circumstances too difficult.

For many, that next step is sometimes a greater dilemma than their recovery. Mixed emotions swell as they are forced to reconcile what they want to do with what their bodies will now allow them to do.

"These guys are torn right now because all of them are grunts (infantrymen). They left high school and didn't want to go to college. They wanted to join the
Marine Corps and they wanted to shoot and blow up stuff," Baronie said. "And now ... they may be able to stay in the Marine Corps, but they know that they won't be able to go back to that grunt community. They'll be found unfit to do that strenuous [job]."

The career planner, a Veterans Affairs representative and a "transition coordinator" all work from the battalion's resource center in the barracks. They help the Marines look at their decisions from more than an emotional perspective. They map out college plans or suggest other training programs, career paths, benefits and other financial incentives that are available, so that the Marines can look at the big picture.

Injuries Add Credibility

For Baronie, the difficulty is relaying to the Marines that they still can contribute to the mission, even if they're not on the front lines.

"Trying to get these guys to understand that just because you're not sweating, freezing, starving, and miserable in a grunt community, you can still participate and contribute to the Marine Corps mission," Baronie said. "Helping them understand that right now is the hardest thing."

Baronie's decision to stay in was easy, he said. As an adjutant, or an administrative officer, he is still able to handle the work.

"It was a slam dunk (decision) to stay in ... since my job is administrative in nature," Baronie said. "I can punch this keyboard until my hand turns blue and I can still be a good adjutant. I can still do legal, I can still count Marines. I can still do all that."

Still, Baronie's crutches bother him; it's hard to carry stuff. And, he looks different. But what bothers him most is that it's hard to return a fellow Marine's salute.

He's not sure if he will stay in past his next assignment.

"Right now, I know I am contributing to the
Marine Corps in this capacity. I'm putting a lot of hours in a day and taking care of my guys to the best of my ability," he said. "If I go to another unit and that training is going 45 miles an hour and I'm only good with 30, I will walk away. I will not stick around for the sake of sticking around.

"If the Marine Corps mission is slacking because of me, it will be time for me to go," Baronie said.

But for now, as Baronie moves around his company, inspecting repairs, talking to Marines and stopping in their small kitchen to see what is cooking, it is clear that he is one of them.

His injuries give him credibility. They know he has "been there" and do not hesitate to pull him aside to talk. Sometimes it's about problems. Sometimes it's just to talk.. Occasionally a "wheelchair jousting" match will break out in the halls, or -- Marines being Marines -- they begin good-naturedly beating each other with their crutches.

For Baronie and his Marines, this is home. "I don't want to work anywhere else. I love just coming to work and hanging out with them. These guys are awesome," he said.

(Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of AFPS articles about seriously injured servicemembers who are returning to active duty.)