Military News

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Father, Son Share Insights On Service-related Stress

By Linda Hosek
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 22, 2009 - Rich Glasgow and his son, Robert, served in different military services at different times, but they know what it's like to deal with the same psychological enemy. And both have recommendations for the military. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rich Glasgow directed search and recovery operations out of New York in the 1990s, overseeing boating accidents, airplane crashes and even Fourth of July events. But the post he really wanted was commanding officer of Station Golden Gate in San Francisco – not for its beauty, but for a grim reality.

"It was known throughout the Coast Guard as the station where you pick up bodies," he said, referring to people who commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. "I was going to figure out the trend."

Glasgow got that job in 2000. But as he immersed himself in efforts to lessen the number of suicides and ease the burden on his Coast Guard crew, he began his own psychological struggle against post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.

"I thought I was prepared," Glasgow said, but the vivid sights and sounds of people falling and hitting the water replayed over and over in his mind and affected his behavior.

Glasgow, now a civilian, came to see that his son, Robert, a high school graduate who enlisted in the Marines before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also was afflicted with PTSD.

"This was a kid, just a loving kid who'd do anything to please people," Glasgow said.

Cpl. Robert Glasgow was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division's 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, serving as a rifleman in the infantry. He was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and fought in Fallujah in Operation Phantom Fury, a U.S.-Iraqi military offensive that involved intense urban combat.

"It was up-front and in-your-face action," he said of the operation that lasted for weeks.

Based on his own experiences, Rich Glasgow said he saw numerous signs of PTSD in his son when he was out on leave and after he left the Marines in 2005.

"There was sleeplessness, active aggression and zero tolerance for the Arab community," he said.

Defense Department officials estimate that as many as 20 percent of today's troops may suffer from the disorder, and officials have renewed commitments to treat it. The military also has implemented better reporting mechanisms for those potentially affected and launched efforts to reduce the stigma attached to military members who receive mental health services.

In recent interviews, Rich and Robert Glasgow described their experiences that led to their diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, their treatment and their progress in reclaiming their lives.

"I think I'm beyond it," said Rich Glasgow, who now directs a county emergency dispatch center based in Newport, Ore. "I know how to deal with it now."

"I feel like I'm a lost soul with no direction," Robert Glasgow said.


'I'm a Tough Guy'


When Rich Glasgow arrived at Station Golden Gate in July 2000, he had served more than two decades with the Coast Guard, starting with taking care of a lighthouse. Other duties focused on intelligence collection, inspections, narcotics and search and rescue operations in which he recovered bodies from boating accidents and commercial airline crashes.

He said he remembers thinking: 'I'm a tough guy – I've seen death before."

The new commanding officer was tested the first day on the job in the middle of his welcoming ceremony.

"Somebody jumped from the bridge, and the crews took off," he said.

In his efforts to understand the problem first-hand and reduce the number of missions for his crew, Glasgow went out on dozens of recovery missions. He said he remembers the sights, sounds and look of the bodies after the fall from more than 250 feet.

"I used to tell my crew: 'Don't watch,'" he said. "But it's almost hypnotic."

On one occasion, he said, he watched a jumper tumble head over heels until he hit the water.

"I shouldn't have been able to hear his voice, but I could hear it – and can still hear it to this day," he said. "It's in my imagination."

Based on recommendations from a medical officer, Glasgow sought help through counseling and was diagnosed with PTSD.

"I would keep replaying an event," he said "The tape would just get stuck on replay."

Glasgow likened PTSD to a wound that isn't allowed to heal or a bad memory that isn't allowed to fade. In his case, he said, each new suicide reinforced the sights and sounds already embedded deep in his memory.

Glasgow said he resolved to "get this fixed." He said he learned talking about his experiences helped him diminish their effect and flush them out. He also said he realized he had to address the potential PTSD problem for his crew. He estimated at least 90 percent of the 72 members in his command would see suicide jumpers.

"I couldn't stop someone from jumping," he said. "But I could impact the effect it had on the crew. I think I really did a good job."

Glasgow established new procedures for his command. He required new members to take training about what they would see and how to handle it before they went on recovery missions. He also proposed ways to segment the missions to minimize the amount of time crew members spent with recovered bodies.

"In the military, you're supposed to be a macho guy," he said. "Publicly we are, but privately, we need help."

All this training helped him recognize that his son also needed help. "I could tell he was in shock," he said.


'You're All Going to Die'


Robert Glasgow said he knew from childhood that he wanted to join the military, inspired by "Heartbreak Ridge," a film about the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. He chose the Marines, saying he thought it would be the hardest of the services, and joined after high school.

"It was peacetime," he said. "I figured I'd be in the Mediterranean floating around in a boat, getting drunk."

But the 9/11 attack happened while he was in boot camp. His drill sergeant, he said, offered a sobering perspective: "You're all going to die."

He said he didn't see much action during his initial deployments to Norway, Liberia and Iraq before returning home for more training.

By June 2004, he was back in Iraq, assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Five month later, he was in the thick of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, launched Nov. 7, 2004 to clear the city of insurgents.

The young Glasgow was in charge of the mortar section, giving indirect fire support for his company.

"We pushed into the city," he said. "Everywhere you'd look there were bad guys -- bad guys behind bad guys behind bad guys. My guys fired every which way."

The fight lasted eight hours, and Glasgow has spent years reliving scene after scene of urban combat, of watching people get shot, of rocket-propelled grenades exploding, of holding people with bullets in them, of blood everywhere.

He recalls thinking, "Oh, God. This is so horrible, seeing Marines wounded, crawling."

But he said he also has memories of killing enemies with machine gun fire, of cutting them in half.

All seven men in Glasgow's section survived and were praised for hitting their targets, he said. He also described his response to the battle: "I felt like my body was on auto pilot and my mind thought: 'Do what you need to do to get the job done.' I had become so hardened."

Over the next few months, Glasgow said, he was "trying to act out" and left the Marines in May 2005, with an honorable discharge.

Since then, Glasgow said, he has struggled to hold down jobs, get an education and get treatment for the same psychological condition that afflicted his father.

At first, he stayed with an uncle in Northern Virginia and found work for $13 an hour. He said he spent his money on drinking and would scream in his sleep, waking his uncle two floors away. He said he also gained "an enormous amount of weight," ballooning from 215 to 275 pounds.

After going through several jobs, either getting fired or quitting, Glasgow took his uncle's advice and sought treatment. Counselors at a nearby vet center diagnosed him with PTSD.

"It took a year to find out what I had," he said, adding that it was his "loving family" who continuously urged him to seek help.

Like his father, he resolved to face his anxieties, saying, "I'm above this."

Glasgow spent seven months in an in-patient unit at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., where he said most patients were about 30 years older than him.

"I was branded as a troublemaker, young and loud," he said.

But, he said, he learned skills to help him cope with his problems, with the shadows he would see in the dark, with screams in his head, with flashes of war fighting that could engulf him for hours.

"I'm trying not to hide behind the mask of PTSD," he said. "I'm trying to work through it. But there is no end to it. I have to constantly deal with it."

Now 25, Glasgow is attending Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and is on track to graduate with an associate of arts degree this spring. He lives on a $1,100 per month disability check in his own apartment, he says, and barely has enough to get by.

On good days, he said, he envisions teaching in schools throughout the world. Other days, he said, he is stressed and feels lost. And some days, he said, another part of him would like to "go to Indonesia and fight on the high seas."

He now realizes how much he and his father have in common: "It's very soothing to know he's gone through some of the same stuff I have."

"I'm still proud of him," Rich Glasgow said of his son.

Both father and son have recommendations for the government to minimize post-traumatic stress disorder and to improve treatment.

"The military needs to do a better job preparing them," Rich Glasgow said. "We tell them how to shoot, but we don't prepare them for what happens when they do pull the trigger."

Servicemembers should learn what they likely will be dealing with before they go to a conflict and be armed with tools to address their emotions, the elder Glasgow said. He also would like to see counseling sessions for everyone upon their return.

Robert Glasgow said he appreciated the efforts by counselors – but wanted to see an increase in staff.

"I've seen them burn the midnight oil," he said. "I wish there were more people to help them help us."

Obama Appoints Special Envoys, Underscores Importance of Diplomacy

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 22, 2009 - President Barack Obama traveled to the State Department today to announce the appointment of two special envoys: former Maine Sen. George Mitchell as special envoy for Middle East peace and Richard Holbrooke as special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The president thanked the men for taking on the tasks; both are seasoned diplomats with Mitchell negotiating in Northern Ireland and Holbrooke responsible for the Dayton Accords that brought peace to Bosnia.

The president spoke to the assembled foreign service and civil service audience about the importance of democracy to his administration, echoing themes from his inaugural speech.

"We must recognize that America's strength comes not just from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from our enduring values," he said. "And for the sake of our national security and the common aspirations of people around the globe, this era has to begin now."

Diplomacy will lead U.S. efforts throughout the world, Obama said.

"It will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors," the president said.

Mitchell "will be fully empowered at the negotiating table," Obama said.

The president reiterated U.S. support and commitment to Israeli security. "We will always support Israel's right to defend itself against legitimate threats," he said. "For years, Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at innocent Israeli citizens. No democracy can tolerate such danger to its people, nor should the international community and neither should the Palestinian people themselves, whose interests are only set back by acts of terror."

While Hamas rockets are unacceptable, so is a future without hope for Palestinians, Obama said. "I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days, and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza," he said. "Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace."

Obama called Afghanistan and Pakistan the central front in the enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism.

"We must understand that we cannot deal with our problem in isolation," he said. "There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the al-Qaida and Taliban bases along the border. And there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Any progress in the region will take time, Obama said. Violence in Afghanistan has risen, insurgents fielded and the opium trade has grown. Outside Kabul, the Afghan government is unable to deliver basic services.

"While we have yet to see another attack on our soil since 9/11, al-Qaida terrorists remain at large and remain plotting," Obama said.

The United States aims to strengthen partnerships with regional governments and sustain cooperation with NATO allies.

"We will provide the strategic guidance to meet our objectives," the president said. "And we pledge to support the extraordinary Americans serving in Afghanistan, both military and civilian, with the resources that they need."

The president also spoke on the executive orders he signed earlier today. The orders call for all U.S. interrogations to abide by rules articulated in the Army Field Manual 2-22.3; the closure of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba; and a comprehensive review to determine how to hold and try terrorism suspects.

"The world needs to understand that America will be unyielding in defense of its security and relentless in its pursuit of those who would carry out terrorism or threaten the United States," he said.

These orders send the signal to the world that the United States will uphold its fundamental values even when threatened, he said.

"Once again America's moral example must be the bedrock and the beacon of our global leadership," Obama said. "We are confronted by extraordinary, complex and interconnected global challenges: war on terror, sectarian division and the spread of deadly technology. We did not ask for the burden that history has asked us to bear, but Americans will bear it. We must bear it."

Africom Commander Strengthens U.S. Relationship With Madagascar

By Kenneth Fidler
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 22, 2009 - The commander of U.S. Africa Command reaffirmed his commitment to a security partnership with Madagascar during his first official visit to the island nation Jan. 20. Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward met with Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana and other top government officials to discuss potential security assistance programs in this region.

"I am very, very grateful you are here," Ravalomanana told Ward. "Madagascar is a very important country. I need your help. I need your support."

Emphasizing the importance of Africa Command's relationship with Madagascar, Ward told the president, "I want to assure you that we will do our best [to work] with you."

Madagascar, with a population of about 20 million, gained independence from France in 1960. It is the world's fourth-largest island, located in the Indian Ocean about 250 miles east of southeastern Africa.

In a news conference with about 20 Malagasy reporters, Ward fielded questions on the Defense Department's newest geographic unified command and its mission in Africa.

Africom, from its headquarters in Germany, works to assist the militaries of dozens of African nations to increase their security capacity. Until the creation of Africom, U.S. military relations with Madagascar were coordinated by U.S. Pacific Command.

"I am here today to listen and to learn -- to listen to your leaders [and] learn of your ideas, so I can do my best to work in partnership with you as you work to increase your capacity to provide for your security," Ward told reporters here.

During the one-day visit, Ward met separately with Prime Minister Charles Rabemananjara, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcel Ranjeva and Defense Minister Cecile Manorohanta. He also met with U.S. Ambassador Neils Marquardt and the U.S. Embassy country team.

Past military-to-military engagements between the United States and Madagascar, though few, have focused mainly on maritime safety and security. Africom officials plan to coordinate a visit by a U.S. Navy ship to Madagascar in July, during which U.S. servicemembers will work with the Malagasy Defense Force to enhance maritime skills such as small-boat operations and the protection of territorial waters from illegal fishing.

"Security takes many forms," Ward said. "In the case of Madagascar, I'm here to understand from you what security means to you. By listening to your leaders, I can gain a better understanding of what those requirements are."

Ward was scheduled to meet yesterday with leaders of the neighboring island-nation of Comoros.

(Kenneth Fidler works in the U.S. Africa Command public affairs office.)

Defense Department Announces Expedited Disability Evaluation System Process For Combat Wounded

The Department of Defense announced today, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a process designed to expedite a service member seriously injured in combat from military to veteran status, by waiving the standard Disability Evaluation System (DES), resulting in receipt of benefits in three to four months, compared to a recovery and standard DES process that would normally take much longer.

"This new policy should allow service members and their families to focus on the essentials of recovery, reintegration, employment and independent living, with the combined assistance from DoD and VA," said Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Michael L. Dominguez. "The policy supports our belief that there must be a distinction for those who incur devastating disabilities in combat."

The expedited process applies to service members whose conditions are designated as "catastrophic" and whose injuries were incurred in the line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict. A catastrophic injury or illness is a permanent, severely disabling injury, disorder, or disease that compromises the ability to carry out the activities of daily living to such a degree that a service member or veteran requires personal or mechanical assistance to leave home or bed, or requires constant supervision to avoid physical harm to self or others.

Service members who participate in the expedited process will be rated by DoD at a combined rating of 100 percent, and the VA will identify the full range of benefits, compensation and specialty care offered by the VA. Dominguez emphasized that the new process is optional for qualifying service members.

"Service members and their families will be empowered to decide, after counseling on the options and potential concerns and benefits, the most appropriate choice for their situation," said Dominguez.

The policy provides special consideration and exception for members who retire under the expedited DES process to reenter the service with a waiver, should they subsequently request reentry to the service after recovery and rehabilitation.

The expedited policy differs from the DES pilot program, currently underway to test a new process design eliminating the duplicative and time consuming elements of the current standard disability processes at DoD and VA. Key features of the DES pilot include one medical examination and a single-sourced disability rating. To date, more than 1,000 service members have participated in the pilot during the last 14 months.

Mullen Releases Concept for Future Joint Operations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 22, 2009 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has signed off on the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations, a document the military will use to help determine future capability development for the joint force in 2016 through 2028. U.S. military planners worldwide will use the Capstone concept to drive "future joint solutions and guide future joint force development work," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said.

U.S. Joint Forces Command led the concept's development, with input from the military services, combatant commands and the Joint Staff. This is the concept's first update since August 2005, when then-Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers signed the document.

The capstone concept details the main security challenges facing the joint force: winning the nation's wars, deterring adversaries, developing cooperative security, defending the homeland and responding to civil crises.

U.S. joint forces "will need to be able to apply combat power in more varied, measured and discriminate ways than ever before," the document states.

The concept incorporates lessons learned in current operations and describes in broad terms how the joint force will operate in the complex, changing and uncertain environments of the future. It also looks beyond purely military solutions, addressing the fact that conflict today may not be solved solely with military assets.

"Today's challenges and threats are not strictly military in nature, solved or countered by military means alone," Mullen said. "We owe future generations a longer-term view of security. The concept is designed to help military and other national security leaders think about challenges and opportunities."

Training allied militaries may be as important as employing U.S. combat power, according to the concept. The document also emphasizes that the American military must be ready to handle a wide range of challenges, from humanitarian missions to all-out war.

The concept is a template planners can use as they look at specific situations. It also calls on planners to assess operations continually and adjust and adapt as needed.

Joint Forces Command will test the concept in a series of experiments this year, officials said. Planners will use the results of these experiments to inform the next Quadrennial Defense Review.

Peanut Butter-Linked Salmonella Outbreak Causes Care Package Concerns

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 22, 2009 - A long holiday weekend usually means a new flood of care packages to troops serving overseas, and traditionally those boxes include snack foods such as peanut butter crackers or candy. In light of the growing salmonella outbreak linked to products containing peanut butter, servicemembers are being urged to use caution should they receive these types of snacks.

"The ongoing commitment and efforts of citizens to remind the troops that America supports them is phenomenal," a Defense Department community relations spokeswoman said. "Based on my knowledge of the nonprofit groups that send care packages, I'm sure they will be vigilant and avoid shipping items that are being recalled.

"As an extra precaution, I would encourage servicemembers to discard any peanut butter products that may have been shipped," she added.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are suggesting that products produced since July 1 be avoided. To date, the outbreak has sickened about 500 people and caused six deaths since first being reported in early September, officials said.

The source has been traced to a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Ga. The company manufactures peanut butter and peanut paste that are distributed to food manufacturers for use in many commercially produced products including cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal and ice cream, according to the Food and Drug Administration's Web site. Its products reportedly are distributed to manufacturers in Canada, South Korea and Haiti, as well.

"In addition, FDA and CDC are advising consumers to postpone eating all foods that include peanut butter such as cookies, crackers, candy and ice cream until more definitive information and comprehensive recall lists are available," Lola Russell, CDC spokeswoman, said. "Persons who think they may have become ill from eating peanut butter are advised to consult their health care providers."

Those infected typically experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

To lessen the possibility of infection, the CDC recommends people throw away recalled products in a manner that prevents others from eating them. These recalled products include Austin and Keebler brand peanut butter crackers and King Nut brand peanut butter produced since July 1. The company also sells peanut butter under the name Parnell's Pride.

The growing list of recalled items is available at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm.

As a precaution for pet owners, some brands of pet treats that include peanut butter or paste also have been voluntarily recalled.

MILITARY CONTRACTS January 22, 2009

NAVY

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded a cost-plus-incentive fee, indefinite-delivery, requirements contract with an estimated value of $581,446,845 to provide Joint Performance Based Logistics (JPBL) support for the Marine Corps (MV-22), Air Force, and Special Forces Operations Command (CV-22) aircraft during the production and deployment phase of the V-22 Program. Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, Texas (46.6 percent); Philadelphia, Pa. (41.4 percent); Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. (6.1 percent); Oklahoma City, Okla. (4.3 percent); and St. Louis, Mo. (1.6 percent), and is expected to be completed in November 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $84,807,065 will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-D-0008).

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Integrated Systems Sector, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $49,088,731 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of 160 BQM-74E Aerial Targets and associated technical data for the U.S. Navy (153) and the Government of Canada (7). The BQM-74E is a subsonic, subscale, jet-powered aerial target capable of being air launched or surface launched (land or shipboard). The BQM-74E supports Fleet training requirements for gunnery, surface-to-air and air-to-air missile exercises from fixed sites and during open ocean and deployed remote site operations, both land and sea. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif. (31%); Walled Lake, Mich. (26%); Elmira, N.Y. (17%); Los Angeles, Calif. (12%); Palmdale, Calif. (9%); and Mandaree, N.D. (5%), and is expected to be completed in May 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($46,838,125; 96%) and the Government of Canada ($2,250,606; 4%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-05-C-0040).

Northrop Grumman Corp., Integrated Systems, El Segundo, Calif., is being awarded a $30,866,129 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract to exercise an option for the procurement of 30 center barrels and loose and miscellaneous parts for the F/A-18 A/B/C/D aircraft. Work will be performed in El Segundo, Calif., and is expected to be completed in November 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 (N00019-08-C-0052).

Harris Corp. Government Communications Systems Div., Melbourne, Fla., is being awarded an $8,752,757 modification to a previously awarded firm fixed priced contract to exercise and option for the full rate production of 183 Fibre Channel Network Switches (FCNS), a component of the Advanced Mission Computer and Display (AMC&D). This modification provides 162 FCNS for U.S. Navy Lot 33 F/A-18E/F, EA-18G, and E-2D aircraft, F/A-18F and EA-18G supplemental aircraft, and the retrofit of F/A-18E/F Lots 26-28 aircraft for the U.S. Navy. In addition this modification provides 21 FCNS for the Australian F/A-18F aircraft. Work will be conducted in Melbourne, Fla., and is expected to be completed in December 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($7,664,576; 87.6%) and the Government of Australia ($1,088,181; 12.4%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-06-C-0087).

ARMY

AeroVironment, Incorporated, Simi Valley, Ca., was awarded on Jan 20, 2009, a $17,060,507.76 firm fixed price and cost plus fixed fee contract to procure a digital data link upgrade for the Raven RQ-11B Unmanned Aircraft System and FY 09 engineering services and accounting for contract services. Work will be performed at Simi Valley, Ca. with an estimated completion date of Oct 30, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-05-C-0338).

C-2 Construction, Mountain Home, Idaho, was awarded on Jan 16, 2009, a $12,365,000 firm fixed price contract for (1) Railhead Phase 1 & One (1) Railhead Phase 2. Work will be performed at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, with an estimated completion date of Feb 25, 2011. Twenty-five bids were solicited with nine bids received. National Guard Bureau, United States Property & Fiscal Office for Idaho, Boise, Idaho, is the contracting activity (W912J7-09-C-0002).

Defense Department, VA Smooth Path to Benefits for Severely Wounded

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 22, 2009 - Severely wounded troops returning home now have fewer bureaucratic barriers between them and their veterans' benefits. The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments today announced a new, faster means for handling troops with "catastrophic" injuries who seek the veterans' status that allows them access to VA medical and other entitlements.

"This new policy should allow servicemembers and their families to focus on the essentials of recovery, reintegration, employment and independent living, with the combined assistance from [the Defense Department] and VA," Michael L. Dominguez, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said.

In the past, injured troops were subject to lengthy reviews under the standard Disability Evaluation System, or DES, before being transferred from Defense Department to VA status. Today's announcement waives this requirement for those with catastrophic injuries -- severe, permanent impairments resulting from combat -- and reduces their processing time.

Troops who participate in this optional, expedited process will be given a Defense Department disability rating of 100 percent, and the VA then will identify the applicable range of benefits, compensation and specialty care.

"Servicemembers and their families will be empowered to decide, after counseling on the options and potential concerns and benefits, the most appropriate choice for their situation," Dominguez said.

The policy allows members who retire under the expedited DES process to re-enter the service with a waiver if they are capable following their rehabilitation, according to a Defense Department news release.

The release notes that the expedited policy differs from the DES pilot program, a new process designed to reduce the amount of time required by the current standard disability processes at the Defense Department and VA, which is administered to troops without catastrophic injury. More than 1,000 troops over the past 14 months have participated in the pilot, which requires one medical examination that yields a single-sourced disability rating.

Navy Commissions Amphibious Transport Dock Ship Green Bay

The Navy will commission the newest San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship Green Bay during a 10 a.m. PSTceremony on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, in Long Beach, Calif.

The ship is named Green Bay to honor the nation's Midwest "city by the bay." The city of about 100,000 residents was founded in 1634 by French explorer Jean Nicolet, and is the oldest community in Wisconsin.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Rose Magnus, wife of the former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Magnus (ret.), is serving as the ship's sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she will give the order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"

Designated as LPD 20, Green Bay is the fourth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. As a critical element in future expeditionary strike groups, the ship will support the Marine Corps' "mobility triad," which consists of the landing craft air cushion (LCAC), the expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) and the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (MV-22). The ship will provide improved warfighting capabilities including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features.

Cmdr. Joseph Olson, a native of Madison, Wis., will be the first commanding officer of the ship. Olson graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1991 and received his commission from the Naval Reserve Office Training Corps. He will lead a crew of approximately 360 officers and enlisted personnel and three Marines. Upon commissioning, the ship will be homeported in San Diego.

Built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding - Avondale Operations in Louisiana, Green Bay is 684 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, a navigational draft of 23 feet, displaces about 24,900 tons and is capable of embarking a landing force of about 800 Marines. Four turbo-charged diesel engines power the ship to sustained speeds of 24 knots.

For more information about this class of ship, please visit the Navy Fact File: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=600&ct=4.

Administration Sets Agenda for Veteran Care

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

Jan. 21, 2009 - President Barack Obama has promised to deliver the care and benefits the nation's military veterans deserve while transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs into a 21st century organization, according to an administration agenda posted on the White House Web site. "Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism," Obama said during a speech April 2007 in Kansas City, Mo. "Because America's commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end."

Obama, who served on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, plans to reverse the 2003 ban on enrolling modest-income veterans into the VA system, allowing all veterans the opportunity for care, according to the agenda on veterans. The administration also plans to continue the fight to end employment discrimination for Guardsmen and Reservists.

Additionally, the administration aims to improve the process of transitioning from active duty to civilian life for military members leaving the service or returning from deployment. To improve the benefit decision system, the administration will look at hiring additional claims workers with an improved accountability and training criteria, according to the agenda.

Also, the administration plans to launch new programs and expand proven programs to prevent homelessness among veterans, as well as to explore the possibility of a national "zero tolerance" policy to ensure no veterans end up on the streets.

As they works to make VA a national leader in health care reform, the agenda says, administration officials will explore ways to improve mental health studies, polytrauma care, prosthetics development, spinal cord injury treatment and women's health.