Military News

Monday, December 15, 2008

Military Books

Military-Writers.com is pleased to announce the addition of these servicemembers to the website:

Colonel Bill McWilliams, USAF (ret.)
Colonel J. P. Sean Callan, USAF (ret.)
Colonel Robert M. Slane, USAF (ret.)
Colonel William W. Whitson, USA (ret.)
Commander Jeff Huber, USN (ret.)
Lt. Colonel Bill McKee, USAF (ret.)
Lt. Colonel Donald H. Shannon USAF (ret.)
Lt. Colonel William T. Melms, USA (ret.)
Lieutenant Commander Neil G. Carey, USN (ret.)
Major Rod Cook, USA (ret.)
Major Fred E. Lincoln, USAF (ret.)
Peter J. Keenan, USN

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Face of Defense: Refugee Becomes Marine to Repay Debt to Nation

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2008 - A deployed Marine lived through a war as a child, but he did not hesitate years later when it came time to defend the freedom he and his family almost lost.
Marine Corps Cpl. Bajro Buzaljko, 21, an ammunition technician serving with Regimental Combat Team 1's Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, first experienced war as a child in Bosnia.

When Bosnia erupted into civil war in the early 1990s, Buzaljko's mixed Muslim-Catholic family's life in Stolac was shattered. The Croatian military placed his father and uncle into a concentration camp, leaving his mother alone to care for Buzaljko and his baby brother.

Buzaljko said he cherishes memories of Bosnia prior to the civil war. He described the country as having a scenic environment with lush fields and streams. The erupting violence was completely contradictory of everything he remembered up to that point, he said.

"Before the war, it was a beautiful place," he said. "We would always play and have so much fun. It is full of history and had gorgeous scenery. Then one day, tanks and [troops] came through our town."

Not until mortars began falling in the town did Buzaljko realize the danger his home, and everything he knew, was in.

"My mother tried her best to keep me unaware of the violence surrounding us," Buzaljko said. "One day we were getting ready to escape the city, and we were covering the lights on our car to avoid detection. All of a sudden everyone started running; it was chaos. I heard this loud whistling, and all of a sudden, boom! My school was gone."

Buzaljko's father and uncle spent a year doing hard labor with scarce food until United Nations officials helped to free them. When his mother woke him up to tell him his father was home, Buzaljko did not recognize him.

"I saw him standing in front of me, and I didn't know who he was," Buzaljko said. "He had several shirts on, and I could still see his bones through his clothing."

Bosnian soldiers running the concentration camp allowed only prisoners nearing death to go home.

After Buzaljko's family reunited, U.N. officials told them they could go wherever they wished. They wanted to go to America.

"We moved to New York, and my family started rebuilding our lives," Buzaljko said. "In Bosnia, my family was established. We had good jobs, financial security, everything we needed. It was taken away."

Buzaljko grew up appreciating life in Utica, N.Y., quickly accepting it as his new home and thoroughly enjoying the land of opportunity.

"It was great," he said. "Even as we were leaving Bosnia, they told my mother she could stay, but the children could not, since she came from a mixed marriage of Catholicism and Muslim. In America, that never even came up."

Buzaljko's interest in the military started in high school, where he was actively involved in the Junior ROTC program. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Buzaljko said, he knew he would take his interest further, and joined the
Marine Corps after graduation.

"When we were attacked, it just made me feel like my home was being attacked again," he said. "I wasn't going to let that happen to me. That was the final factor in my decision to join. I wanted to go help fellow Americans."

During Buzaljko's first deployment -- to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines -- he discovered another aspect of his service.

"When I got there, I realized not only was I doing my part for a country that took me in and helped my family, but I was helping other people in need, just like [the U.N.] helped me when my family was in trouble."

Buzaljko's care and concern have carried over to his deployment here.

It says a lot about someone to go back to a similar environment they left under such unfavorable circumstances, said
Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Clay, 23, a logistics operations center watch chief with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines. "Anyone who's lived through a war and volunteered to go back has a lot of courage. I have a lot of respect for him."

Despite the hardships Buzaljko's family endured to leave their war-torn home, they remain supportive of their son and his service to their new country.

"I am very proud; you can't even imagine," his mother, Vesna Buzaljko, said. "He joined to say 'thank you' to the [United States] for welcoming us with open arms. It was a tough time when we left, but America took us in and saved our family. Now he has a purpose to help others like we were helped when we needed it, and we are so proud."

(
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis serves with Regimental Combat Team 1.)

Servicemen MIA From Vietnam War are Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the group remains of six U.S. servicemen, missing from the Vietnam War, are soon to be buried with full military honors.

They are Maj. Bernard L. Bucher, of Eureka, Ill.; Maj. John L. McElroy, of Eminence, Ky.; 1st Lt. Stephen C. Moreland, of
Los Angeles; and Staff Sgt. Frank M. Hepler, of Glenside, Pa., all U.S. Air Force. These men will be buried as a group on Dec. 18 in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

Two other servicemen, who were individually identified in October 2007, are also represented in this group. They are Capt. Warren R. Orr Jr., U.S. Army, of Kewanee, Ill., and Airman 1st Class George W. Long, U.S.
Air Force, of Medicine, Kan.

Representatives from the
Air Force and the Army mortuary offices met with the next-of-kin of these men to explain the recovery and identification process and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the secretary of the Air Force and the secretary of the Army.

On May 12, 1968, these men were on board a C-130 Hercules evacuating Vietnamese citizens from the Kham Duc Special Forces Camp near Da Nang, South Vietnam. While taking off, the crew reported taking heavy enemy ground fire. A forward air controller flying in the area reported seeing the plane explode in mid-air soon after leaving the runway.

In 1986 and 1991, U.S. officials received remains and identification tags from sources claiming they belonged to men from this incident. Scientific analysis revealed they were not American remains, but it was believed the Vietnamese sources knew where the crash site was located.

In 1993, a joint/U.S.-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), traveled to Kham Duc and interviewed four local citizens concerning the incident. They led the team to the crash site and turned over remains and identification tags they had recovered in 1983 while looking for scrap metal. During this visit, the team recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage at the site. In 1994, another joint team excavated the crash site and recovered remains, pieces of life-support equipment, crew-related gear and personal effects.

JPAC scientists used
forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the DOD's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.

Guard Responds to Winter Storm in Northeast

By Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2008 - A round of winter storms that left several northeastern states covered in ice kept many National Guard units busy over the weekend. The storms, which hit
Massachusetts and New Hampshire on Dec. 12, brought down trees, closed schools and left thousands of residents without power.

As a result, President George W. Bush declared nine counties in
Massachusetts federal emergency areas, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called members of the Massachusetts National Guard to state active duty.

Nearly 900 Guard members were on duty yesterday clearing debris, providing power generation, water, security, shelter and evacuations throughout the northwestern part of the state, which was hardest hit by the storms.

"All of the resources at our disposal have been made available to try to get the roads clear and power restored," Patrick said.

Army Col. Paul Smith was tasked to command "Operation Big Ice," supported by elements of the 51st Troop Command, 79th Troop command, 101st Engineers, 181st Infantry, 182nd Cavalry, 379th Engineers and the Brigade Support Battalion from the Massachusetts Army Guard, as well as the 212th Engineering Installation Squadron, the 102nd Fighter Wing and the 104th FW from the Air Guard.

The
Massachusetts Guard has 42 storm-related missions ongoing and 12 missions completed, including helping out at local shelters. "We're here to provide support to the shelter and help reassure people," said Army Capt. John Quinn, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, based in Worcester, Mass. "Morale is high, and the soldiers are happy to be helping out the community."

In New Hampshire, more than 340 Guard members, including 150 from the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base, were called up as a result of the storm. Soldiers and airmen have been distributing blankets and other necessities as well as performing house-to-house checks. The Guard members will stay on duty in the Northeast assisting local civilian authorities with clean-up efforts. "We'll be here however long they need us,"
Army 1st Lt. Robert Charbonnier of the Massachusetts National Guard said.

Elsewhere, 11 National Guard soldiers are clearing debris and distributing food and water in the Waipahu area of Oahu, Hawaii, after a severe storm with heavy rains and high winds resulted in flooding Dec. 10.

(
Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy serves with the National Guard Bureau.)

European Command Program Aims to Reduce Caregiver Fatigue

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2008 - Recognizing the risk of burnout among caregivers providing warrior and family support, U.S. European Command plans to kick off a program this spring that incorporates principles introduced by bestselling author and lecturer Dr. Stephen Covey. Eucom is putting together a compassion-fatigue program based on principles in Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Wayne Boswell, the command's quality of life chief, told American Forces Press Service.

Delegates at two Eucom deployment support conferences identified the need for such a program to help prevent burnout among key volunteers, chaplains, medical providers, counselors, family support staff and family readiness group
leaders struggling to provide warrior and family support, Boswell said.

The result is the POWER -- or Provider Outreach While Enhancing Readiness -- program. Developed in cooperation with the FranklinCovey Inc. consulting group, POWER is designed as self-help training for front-line staff struggling with the demands of providing warrior and family support.

"These are the folks who never ask for help," Boswell said. "But many feel overwhelmed and face high stress levels as they try to meet all the requirements on them."

Caregiver fatigue is particularly pressing within the chaplain corps, which Boswell called a cornerstone of the caregiver network.

The POWER program is designed to help participants diagnose and understand fatigue, then build strategies to overcome it. They will "walk" through a series of analysis and planning exercises to determine their risk of fatigue and develop a strategy to mitigate or prevent it. The goal, Boswell said, is to help caregivers master the tools needed to achieve a sustainable professional quality of life.

The program emphasizes communication, personal dynamics and each person's value as part of a team. "It's a very basic program, ... built on a lot of foundational principles," Boswell said.

More than 20 caregivers tested the program's concepts in September, and Boswell said he expects to begin rolling out the program theaterwide beginning in the spring. Initially, he hopes to reach about 150 people, who will report back on its value.

"Our hope is that this will decrease their stress and help them realize that they truly are human and have parameters," he said. "They are vital to our mission success."

Covey calls communication -- one of the POWER program's foundations -- a key in helping not just caregivers, but also
military families struggling with the challenges of deployments, separations and redeployments.

During a Pentagon Channel interview last week, Covey advocated "empathetic communication," which he described as listening within the other person's frame of reference. The result, he said, is better understanding and affirmation of the speaker's worth and value.

Covey encouraged deployed troops to keep a journal to increase their self-awareness. He also recommended that
military families develop a family mission statement that strengthens them through common values and principles.

"The separation will be difficult, but you will be unified through a
common vision and purpose," he said. "So many unbelievable benefits come by being committed to a set of values and living by them."

Covey said he holds servicemembers sacrificing for their country in the highest regard.

"I admire so much what these people are doing and the tremendous sacrifices they are making for their families and the country," he said.

MILITARY CONTRACTS December 15, 2008

ARMY

Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Chantilly, Va., was awarded on Dec 12, 2008, a, $178,833,468 firm fixed price contract. This modification is to incorporate in- scope changes to the Pentagon renovation in accordance with the approved design phased construction plan that incorporates approved changes. Work will be performed in Chantilly, Va., with an estimated completion date of Mar. 9, 2011. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. Pentagon Renovation & Construction Program Office, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (MDA947-01-C-2001).

Lockheed Martin Electronics and
Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., was awarded on Dec 12, 2008, a, $89,587,943 firm fixed price contract for repairs and maintenance of line Replacement Units and Line Replaceable Modules to support the Apache Helicopter's Sensors flying hour's program for 2009. Work will be performed in Redstone Arsenal, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2009. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. US Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-07-C-0058).

Smiths Detection, Edgewood, Md., was awarded on Dec 11, 2008, a, $19,305,884 firm fixed price contract. This new –work modification will allow for the procurement of up to 54 additional AN/TMQ -52 Meteorological Measuring Set-Profiler Systems through exercise of options in the 2008-2009 Program Years. Work will be performed in Edgewood, Md., with an estimated completion date of Dec 7, 2010. Bids solicited were via One Sole Source and one bid was received. CECOM Acquisition Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (DAAB07-00-C-J613).

Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), San Diego, Calif., was awarded on Dec. 10, 2008, a $14,916,344 cost plus fixed price contract for research, SAIC proposal entitled: "An Integrated and Economic Approach to make JP-8 from Algae." The primary objective of the "Biofuels"- Cellulosic and Algal Feedstock's" program is to develop the technical capability, commercial algae production experience, resources, and commitment to demonstrate and ultimately commercialize the affordable production of JP-8 surrogate fuel from algal feedstock. Work will be performed in SAIC, Vienna, Va., Minnetonka, M.N., Albuquerque, N.M., Houston, Texas,
Baltimore, Md., Austin, Texas, Irvine, Calif., Imperial, Texas, Des Plaines, Ill., and Grand Forks, N.D., with an estimated completion date of Mar. 10, 2010. Bids solicited were via Broad Agency Announcement and seventeen bids were received. Defense Advanced Research Projects, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (HR0011-09-C-0033).

NIITEK, Inc, Sterling, Va., was awarded on Dec 3, 2008 a, $13,730,000 firm fixed price contract. This is an urgent requirement for the purchase of an additional twenty-seven Husky Mounted Detection Systems in support of counter- Improvised Explosive Device operations in Afghanistan. Work will be performed in Sterling, Va., with an estimated completion date of Jan. 24, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. CECOM Acquisitions Center Washington, Alexandria, Va., is the contracting activity (W909MY-08-C-0066).

DTM Corp, Silver Spring, Md., was awarded on Dec 12, 2008 a, $13,219,213 firm fixed price contract. The contractor provides security officer services for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency at the Pentagon Reservation as well as surge security officer support for disaster relief or special event. Work will be performed in Rosslyn, Va., and Crystal City, Va., with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2010. Bid solicited were via the Web and seventeen bids were received. Washington Headquarters Services, Acquisition & Procurement Office, Washington, DC, is the contracting activity (HQ0034-06-C-1002).

The Boeing Co., Ridley Park, Pa., was awarded on Dec 11, 2008 a, $12,700,240 cost plus fixed price contract for CH-47F Cargo Helicopter, Interim Contractor Support. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, Pa., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2009. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. US
Army Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Frontier Systems Integrators, LLLC, Anchorage, Ala., was awarded on Dec 12, 2008 a, $9,317,687 firm fixed price contract. The contractor provides security officer services for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency at the Pentagon Reservation as well as surge security officer support for disaster relief or special events. Work will be performed in Pentagon, Washington, DC, and
Navy Annex, Washington, DC, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2010. Bids were solicited via the Web and seventeen bids were received. Washington Headquarters Services Acquisition & Procurement Office, Washington, DC, is the contracting activity (HQ0034-06-C-1015).

Echelon, Plummer,
Idaho, was awarded on Dec 11, 2008 a, $5,631,755 firm/fixed/price contract. This action is for 11 Cold Weather Kits and Heat Trace Hose Sleeves to support Force Provider Modules going OCONUS for winter months. Work will be performed in Plummer, Idaho, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2009. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. US Army Research Development & Engineering Contracting Center, Natick, Mass., is the contracting activity (W911QY-09-C-0018).

Ares Group Incorporated, Alexandria, Va., was awarded on Dec 12, 2008 a, $ 5,271,150 firm fixed price contract. The contractor provides security officer services for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency at the Pentagon Reservation as well as surge security officer support for disaster relief or special events. Work will be performed in Alexandria, Va., with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2010. Bids were solicited via the Web and seventeen bids were received. Washington Headquarters Services Acquisition & Procurement Office, Washington, DC, is the contracting activity (HQ0034-06-C-1014).

Navy

The Boeing Co., Kent, Wash., is being awarded a $136,135,286 firm fixed price contract for the procurement of 2 C-40A Clipper Aircraft for the U.S.
Navy. Work will be performed in Renton, Wash., (88 percent); and Wichita, Kan., (12 percent) and is expected to be completed in Feb. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-C-0080).

General Electric Co., Aircraft Engines Business Group, Lynn, Mass., is being awarded a $128,254,294 modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (N00019-06-C-0088) to provide for the Fiscal Year 2008 full rate production of 32 F414-GE-400 engines, 32 F414-GE-400 device kits, 1 F414-GE-400 spare engine, 3 F414-GE-400 HPC modules, 2 F414-GE-400 LPT modules, and 2 F414-GE-400 combustor modules for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G Super Hornet aircrafts. Work will be performed in Lynn, Mass., (50 percent); Madisonville, Ky., (22 percent); Hooksett, N.H., (13 percent); Albuquerque, N.M., (6 percent); Rutland, Vt., (5 percent); Dayton, Ohio, (2 percent); Evandale, Ohio, (1 percent); and Bromont, Canada, (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in Feb. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Network Centric Systems, St. Petersburg, Fla., is being awarded a $41,756,497 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-5202) for Cooperative Engagement Capability design agent and engineering services. CEC is a sensor netting system that significantly improves battle force Anti-Air Warfare capability by extracting and distributing sensor-derived information and making the data available to all participating CEC units. Work will be performed in Largo, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $813,163 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C. is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Co., Integrated Defense Systems, Tewksbury , Mass., is being awarded a $10,118,046 modification to previously awarded contract for the non-recurring engineering effort of Zumwalt-class destroyer mission systems equipment to design, procure, and install the test assets and infrastructure material to support the integration, testing, and facilitation of Mission Systems Equipment. Work will be performed in Burlington, Mass. (75 precent) and Tewksbury, Mass. (25 precent), and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-05-C-5346).

Boeing Australia Limited, Brisbane, Australia is being awarded a $10,086,570 modification to a previously awardedcontract (N00039-08-C-0071) to develop the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) compound at the MUOS Australian ground site. Work will be performed in Geraldton, Australia, and is expected to be completed by Oct. 30, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured because it was awarded on a sole source basis. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity,

Officials Set Military Housing Allowance Rates for 2009

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

Dec. 15, 2008 - Housing allowances for
military members will go up an average of 6.9 percent in 2009, Defense Department officials announced today. The increase comes to an average of about $95 per month across the board for the 950,000 servicemembers expected to draw basic allowance for housing, or BAH, in 2009, but some servicemembers will not see any increase at all, and others will see less than that the average increase, Susan A. Brumbaugh director of the Defense Department's BAH program, said in a Pentagon Channel interview.

"We did see some decreases in some areas for some pay grades," she said, "[but] it's not across the broad spectrum. We also saw some significant increases across the board, so it's a balance.

"In some years, you'll have a rental market that is very strong in some areas," she explained, "and in others areas, you'll have local rental markets where there's not a lot of housing available. So it changes. It can fluctuate from year to year. Every year you'll see some [areas] that go down and some that go up, and this was a very typical year."

Those who do notice their area's BAH is lower than last year's shouldn't worry, Brumbaugh said, because an individual rate protection law is in place to protect those who already are under a rental agreement. So, if BAH rates in their area are lower Jan. 1 than Dec. 31, the previous, higher rate applies. Servicemembers who change duty stations after Jan. 1 will be affected by the new, lower rates for that area, she explained.

"If [the
military member's] status didn't change, his rate will not go down," she said. "Individual rate protection is in place. It's in the law, and it's not going to change."

The local market economy serves as the basis for BAH rate changes.
military housing offices from each installation begin collecting data from the local rental market as early as January each year. The offices research the current rates for two-bedroom houses, townhouses, single-family homes and all the different standards and profiles for homes, Brumbaugh explained.

Typically, rates are higher in larger, more heavily populated metropolitan areas, such as
New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Rates in rural areas usually are more stable, and although they may increase to some degree, the rise doesn't have the same impact as in larger cities, she said.

"The
military housing offices are looking at adequate and appropriate dwellings we would want our military families living in," she said. "They don't look at a small, two-bedroom house and say, 'We could put an E-5 with a family in that.' They look at it as something that would be appropriate for that particular profile."

The BAH program is designed to benefit servicemembers, but it's not designed to pay 100 percent of their housing expenses, Brumbaugh said. Although she's never met a servicemember who is pleased with his or her BAH rates, she said, the program is very well designed, and once servicemembers understand the process for which the rates are set, they're fairly satisfied.

"The entitlement is a wonderful entitlement," she said. "[The Defense Department] absolutely bends over backward to make sure that if there is any change at all, it's for the benefit of the member."

Mullen Readies USO Tour to Central, European Command Areas

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2008 - Musician Kid Rock and comedian Lewis Black have signed up for another hitch. The two entertainers will headline a United Service Organizations tour to bases in the Central Command and European Command areas of operations. The men will accompany
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the trip, leaving tonight. Officials cannot release the exact schedule because of security concerns.

The pair made a similar USO trip last year that went from the sands of Baghdad to the snows of Afghanistan.

This is Kid Rock's third trip to the combat zone. He is a versatile entertainer who started with rap music and has branched into rock, blues and country music. Black is a stand-up comedian, playwright and actor who entertained servicemembers during last year's shows. This is his second trip to the region.

Kellie Pickler a country singer who shot to fame on the TV reality show "American Idol," also is along on the trip. A
North Carolina native, Pickler has performed for troops in Iraq before.

Stand-up comedian Kathleen Madigan also joins the troupe. She has appeared on the late-night shows, HBO and Comedy Central.

Also participating are Tichina Arnold, an actress who appeared on the TV comedies "Martin" and "Everybody Hates Chris," and John Bowman, a comedian and actor who has performed with Black.

Christmas Tree Programs Brighten Holidays for Military Families

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2008 - A Christmas tree farm in Whitehouse, Ohio, is celebrating the holiday season by giving away 100 Christmas trees to
military families. "We've been giving trees to military families since the war started," Duke Wheeler, owner of Whitehouse Christmas Tree Farm, said. "We feel it's important to let these families know that we appreciate their sacrifices. ... We're grateful for all that they do."

The tree farm is giving away 7-foot Christmas trees through Dec. 20 to military families who have a servicemember overseas or a servicemember who recently returned from duty. Family members can cut down their own tree at the farm or have it cut down while they wait.

Wheeler also participated in the annual "Trees for Troops" weekend, which took place Dec. 5 to 7. For each Christmas tree bought at participating Christmas tree farms, another tree was donated to a
military family.

"Trees for Troops," a Christmas Spirit Foundation and FedEx Corp. program, has delivered more than 34,000 real Christmas trees to military families since it began in 2005. The program has grown from about 400 Christmas tree farms and retailers participating to more than 850. Nearly 17,000 families at more than 40
military bases received a Christmas tree in 2007 through this program.

As a member of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association, Whitehouse Christmas Tree Farm also takes part in "Operation Evergreen," a 12-year-old program that allows American servicemembers to celebrate Christmas with a live Ohio tree.

For the program, trees are cut and collected from several Christmas tree farms around Veterans Day, and transported by the growers to the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg to be inspected, packed into boxes and put on a FedEx truck for overseas shipment.

"This year alone, with 20 growers, we had 30 high school and middle school students come and help us pack 325 trees," Amy Galehouse, Operation Evergreen coordinator for OCTA, said.

Galehouse said the trees were shipped out Nov. 12 and arrived in Kuwait on Nov. 18. "It usually takes two weeks for the trees to get all the way to Afghanistan," she said. "Seventy-five went into Iraq, 100 into Kuwait and 150 into Afghanistan."

Wheeler says he is happy to be a part of all three programs that reach out to servicemembers and their families during the holidays.

"This is just a small token, a simple 'thank you,'" Wheeler said.

Gates: Procurement System Must Be More Responsive to Current Requirements

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2008 - The
military procurement system needs to broaden its focus beyond high-end, high-tech systems so it's better prepared to meet warfighters' current requirements, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wrote in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Gates' article, titled "A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age," cites an almost 50-year trend in which the military opts for lower numbers of increasingly more capable systems.

"In recent years, these platforms have grown ever more baroque, have become ever more costly, are taking longer to build, and are being fielded in ever-dwindling quantities," he said.

The problem, Gates said, is that the dynamic of exchanging numbers for capability is approaching a point of diminishing returns. "A given ship or aircraft, no matter how capable or well equipped, can be in only one place at one time," he said.

The secretary recognized that many high-end weapons and units can be used in low-end operations. Strategic bombers have provided close-air support for riflemen on horseback. M-1 Abrams tanks have routed Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah and Najaf. Billion-dollar ships track pirates and deliver humanitarian aid. And as the
Army moves its Future Combat Systems program forward, it's spinning out parts of it now to support troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. FCS is a modernization program aimed at providing soldiers the best equipment and technology available as soon as practical.

But in light of the situations the United States is most likely to face in the future, Gates said, it's time for the defense establishment to consider the requirements to support those efforts up front, not after the fact. This includes relatively low-tech equipment suited for stability and counterinsurgency missions.

Gates recalled the struggles the
military encountered to field up-armored Humvees; mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to Iraq.

"Why was it necessary to go outside the normal bureaucratic process to develop technologies to counter improvised explosive devices, to build MRAPs and to quickly expand the United States' ISR capability?" he wrote. "In short, why was it necessary to bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities needed to protect U.S. troops and fight ongoing wars?"

Gates said it's time to think hard about how to institutionalize the system that procures these capabilities so they can get fielded quickly.

The secretary noted the difference between what defense planners too often strive for and what's really needed. "The Department of Defense's conventional modernization programs seek a 99-percent solution over a period of years," he said. "Stability and counterinsurgency missions require 75-percent solutions over a period of months."

So the challenge, he said, is to recognize where the 99-percent solution in needed, and where the 75-percent one will do.

"The Defense Department has to consider whether, in situations in which the United States has total air dominance, it makes sense to employ lower-cost, lower-tech aircraft that can be employed in large quantities and used by U.S. partners," he said, as one example.

Task Force ODIN -- Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize -- in Iraq stands as an example of this concept, he noted. The Army aviation battalion stood up in 2006 to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting and acquisition operations to counter improvised explosive devices. Since then, the unit has mated advanced sensors with turboprop aircraft to produce a massive increase in the amount of surveillance and reconnaissance coverage.

Gates said officials need to extend this mind-set more broadly throughout the Defense Department.

"The issue then becomes how to build this kind of innovative thinking and flexibility into the rigid procurement processes at home," he said. "The key is to make sure that the strategy and risk assessment drive the procurement, rather than the other way around."

Gates' article calls "balance" a defining principle in the Pentagon's new National Defense Strategy. The strategy strives for balance between:

-- Prevailing in current conflicts and preparing for other contingencies;

-- Instituting nonconventional capabilities while maintaining a conventional and strategic edge; and

-- Retaining core traits that have made the
military successful while shedding those that hamper its effectiveness.

"The United States cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets to do everything and buy everything," Gates wrote. "The Department of Defense must set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs."

(This is the second article in a series based on Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' article, "A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age," published in the January/February 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.)