Military News

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Taking Care of Our Own Must Take Priority, Mullen Says

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2009 - As the nation enters its eighth year of war, the military's highest-ranking officer says he is concerned about the health of the armed forces, and he wants to ensure the country takes care of its men and women in uniform. "We are asking an extraordinary amount from them, and they are giving it in ways that are so, so very special," Adm. Mike Mullen, 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Feb. 2 at Grove City College, Pa., delivering the 2008-2009 Pew Memorial Lecture.

"We have asked our young men and women to deploy in ways they never could have imagined – active duty, reserve and Guard – and they have stood up to the challenge," he said. Yet multiple deployments of 12 to 15 months, he noted, have taken a toll on servicemembers and their families.

"I was with 500 soldiers not too long ago, many of whom had just gotten back from Iraq, and I asked them how many deployments they had been on," Mullen said. "Forty to 50 percent of the soldiers in the room at an all-hands call had just completed their fourth deployment. That is not much time at home; that is not much time raising kids; that is not much time just taking a break."

The chairman said he finds the force "incredibly resilient, and at the same time, very pressed."

"We need to pay attention to the entirety of our people and their families and the programs which support them in order to make sure that they are well-positioned for the future," Mullen said. The totality of that support, he said, will determine whether or not they remain in the military.

Life-long support is especially important for wounded servicemembers, their families, and the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. "We are a wealthy enough country, even in these financially difficult times, to make sure they are taken care of and their needs are met for the rest of their lives," he said, drawing applause from the estimated 700 Grove City College students and guests.

The chairman said a community-based approach is needed to provide support, because the Defense Department and the Veterans Affairs Department can't do it all. "It's really DoD, the VA and literally communities throughout the country reaching out and touching these people to make sure their needs are met," he said.

Mullen pointed out that the Army's suicide rate now exceeds the national norm. He said suicide is a huge challenge that military leaders are focused on to find near-term and long-term solutions.

"Part of it has got to be the pressure of these constant deployments into combat, where young individuals ... whose lives change forever see things and do things they had never imagined," the chairman said. "We have got to be able to support those individuals in ways that, in some cases, we haven't quite figured out yet."

In a speech at the Reserve Officers Association earlier in the day, Mullen said there is a need to double the amount of "dwell time," or time a servicemember spends at home.

"Right now, for the most part on the active side, you're home about as long as you've been deployed," he said. "We have the goal on the reserve and Guard sides to be one year out, five years back. We're clearly not there."

Identifying troops suffering from post-traumatic stress is another challenge facing the military, Mullen said.

"I've been told by enough by young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that they just check the block and move through [the health assessment], because they know if they check the wrong block, they're not going to be able to go home," the chairman told the reserve officers.

He said the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress till is significant, and military leaders need to work to eliminate people's unwillingness to seek help. They have to figure out a way to get every single person, not just those who raise their hand, to go through a meaningful assessment for post-traumatic stress disorder, Mullen said.

For example, he said, soldiers coming back from a horrendous combat tour get out and fly home. They've been through hell. Things have affected them in ways that they can't even see. They've seen buddies die, and they have the nightmares that go with it. Now, the structure the military provided is gone. They may or may not have family there to support them. They're alone.

"Right now, we only track individuals for 120 days when they get out," Mullen said. "We've got to have a tracking system that stays in touch with individuals so they know where the life lines are. It needs to be transparent and seamless so that we make sure we can support individuals who have sacrificed so much."

While the military has come a long way and understands post-traumatic stress better than a few years ago, he said, there's still a long way to go.

"I am 100 percent convinced that no matter what happens, if we get it right for our people and our families, we'll be able to continue to sustain and develop a military second to none," he said.

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 4, 2008

NAVY

P&L General Contractors, Inc.*, Oak Harbor, Wash.; RMA Land Construction, Inc.*, Seattle, Wash.; Southwest Construction*, Bremerton, Wash. ; Newton Severson JV*, Bremerton, Wash.; Diversified Maintenance Systems, Inc.*, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Performance Systems, Inc.*, Fruitland, Idaho, are each being awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity multiple award construction contract for new construction, renovation, alteration, demolition and repair work at various locations within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest area of responsibility (AOR). The work to be performed provides for general building type projects (new construction, renovation, alteration, and repair of facilities and infrastructure, roofing, demolition, and routine renovation) including but not limited to: 1) administrative and industrial facilities, 2) housing renovation, 3) child care centers, 4) lodges, 5) recreation and fitness facilities, 6) retail complexes, 7) warehouses, 8) housing offices, 9) housing offices, 10) community centers, 11) and commercial, manufacturing and industrial buildings. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and three option years, for all six contracts combined is $60,000,000. Each contractor is being awarded the minimum guarantee of $15,000. Contract funds for Task Order 0001 (minimum guarantee) will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. All work will be performed in the NAVFAC Northwest AOR, including but not limited to, Wash., (94 percent), Ore., (2 percent), Idaho, (2 percent), Mont., (1 percent), and Alaska, (1 percent). The term of the contract is not to exceed 48 months, with an expected completion date of Feb. 2013. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website with 16 proposals received. These six contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, Silverdale, Wash., is the contracting activity (N44255-09-D-4007/4008/ 4009/4010/4011/4012).

Engineering-Environmental Management, Inc., Englewood, Colo., is being awarded a maximum $20,000,000 firm fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity architect/engineering contract for environmental planning and engineering services for National Environmental Policy Act and Executive Order 12114 environmental effects abroad of major Federal actions in the NAVFAC Atlantic area of responsibility (AOR). The work to be performed includes Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Reviews, and Environmental Studies. Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps facilities and other government facilities within the NAVFAC Atlantic AOR including, but not limited to Va., (50 percent) Calif., (20 percent), N.C., (10 percent), Fla. (10 percent), and Wash. (10 percent), and is expected to be completed by Feb. 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the NAVFAC e-solicitation websitewith five proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N62470-09-D-2003).

Guam Shipyard, Santa Rita, Guam, is being awarded an $8,952,117 firm fixed price contract for a regular overhaul of Military Sealift Command ammunition ship USNS Shasta (T-AE 33). This regular overhaul includes cleaning, and inspecting tanks and spaces, underwater hull cleaning and painting, and numerous inspections and certifications. The ship's primary mission is to deliver ammunition, provisions, stores, spare parts, potable water and petroleum to the Navy's carrier strike groups and other naval forces at sea. The contract includes options that, if exercised, would bring the total contract value to $10,929,307. Work will be performed in Santa Rita, Guam, and is expected to be completed within 55 calendar days. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was a sole source procurement. The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, a field activity of Military Sealift Command, is the contracting activity (N40446-09-C-0003).

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., is being awarded a $5,718,669 modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity time and material contract (N00019-07-D-0005) for non-recurring efforts in support of the planned retrofit of MH-60S aircraft 1 – 119 to improve operational and warfighting capabilities. Specifically, this modification provides for the design and development of retrofit kits; purchase of four retrofit kits for the performance of two separate validation and verifications; and preparation and delivery of two routine action technical directives for the MH-60S Warfighter Operational Safety Improvement Program. Work will be performed in Stratford, Conn., (84.5 percent); Coronado, Calif., (12.2 percent); and Lexington, Ky., (3.3 percent), and is expected to be completed in Jun. 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.

ARMY

Arkansas State University, State University, Ark., was awarded on Feb. 3, 2009, a $6,032,115 cost contract to research and develop a laser based multicolor, real-time, remote sensor capable of detecting an explosive substance from a distance of 100 meters. Work is to be performed at Arkansas State University, State University, Ark., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 3, 2013. Bids were solicited on the Web with nine bids received. CECOM Acquisition Center Washington, Alexandria, Va., is the contracting activity (W909MY-09-C-0001).

Raytheon Co., AMDS, Andover, Mass., was awarded on Feb. 2, 2009, a $39,097,211 firm fixed price (letter contract modification) for procurement, installation, and testing of 3 PATRIOT Radar Enhancement Phase 3/Classification, Discrimination, and Identification Phase 3 modification kits for Taiwan radars. Work is to be performed at Andover, Mass., with an estimated completion date of May 31, 2015. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command, Contracting Center, Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-07-C-0151).

Fraunhofer USA Inc., Newark, Del., was awarded on Feb. 2, 2009, a $5,049,782 cost plus fixed fee contract for the Accelerated manufacture of Pharmaceuticals (AMP) Program which seeks to produce therapeutics or vaccines "on demand" in large quantity, at low cost to interdict both established and new biological threats. Work is to be performed at Newark, Del., (86.33 precent), Plymouth Meeting, Pa., (9.71 precent), Dover, Del., (3.48 precent), and Brookline, Mass., (0.48 precent), with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid received. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (HDTRA1-07-C-0054).

Alliant Techsystems, Plymouth, Minn., was awarded on Jan. 29, 2009, a $5,617,694 base cost plus incentive fee, option I cost plus award fee, option II-IV firm fixed price contract for 155mm M549 System development and demonstration award. Work is to be performed at Plymouth, Minn., with an estimated completion date of Jun. 30, 2011. Bids were solicited on the Web with five bids received. The Army Contracting Command, Joint Munitions & Lethality Contracting Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15QKN-06-C-0130).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Toshiba America Medical Systems Inc., Tustin, Calif., is being awarded a maximum $36,000,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for radiology systems, subsystems and components. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Federal Civilian Agencies. This proposal was originally Web solicited on FedBizOpps with 27 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Feb. 3, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM2D1-09-D-8322).

Guard Leaders Discuss Successes, Challenges

By Air Force Master Sgt. Greg Rudl
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2009 - Having enough equipment for domestic response missions, providing support services to warriors and families, and forging international partnerships were just a few of the topics discussed here yesterday by leaders of the National Guard's Army and Air Force components during a panel hosted by the Reserve Officers Association. Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter, special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard, touted the effectiveness of the Guard's agriculture development teams in Afghanistan. He also said the Army Guard's equipment shortfall is being addressed.

"The governors looked to the National Guard for support in their domestic missions, ... and in some cases they were handicapped, because they didn't have the equipment necessary to respond," he said. "That, along with transformation, generated an initiative to equip the National Guard."

Almost $24 billion of equipment has been appropriated for the Army Guard since 2003, with another $5 billion expected this year, Carpenter said. He added that the Army Guard now is doing a better job than it used to in tracking equipment from acquisition to delivery.

Air Force Maj. Gen Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., who served until recently as acting director of the Air National Guard, talked about the Air Guard's three enduring priorities: winning the war on terrorism and defending the home front, developing adaptable citizen-airmen, and understanding the transition from a platform-based organization to one based on capabilities.

More than 11,000 Air National Guard members are mobilized, Titshaw said, and of those, 8,700 volunteered for duty. The Air Guard must maintain that citizen-warrior spirit of volunteerism, he said.

Titshaw also addressed the Air Guard's recapitalization needs. "The procurement holiday of the '90s has created the dynamic that we are seeing [today]," he said.

"In 2005, the National Guard had 19 F-16 units. In 2018, we'll have four," Titshaw said. "We'll have to find a way to address that. Part of the answer is that we'll have to transition from platform-centric organization to capabilities-based organizations."

In these tough budgetary times, the military's reserve components offer great value, the general said, and he told the audience to seize the opportunity.

"We can deliver combat capability for this nation," he said, "and we can do it in a cost-effective manner."

Air Force Maj. Gen Kelly K. McKeague, chief of staff of the National Guard Bureau, said the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve recognized the "great operational force that the Guard and Reserve offers."

He noted that about 10,000 Guard members on domestic-response duty, many of them helping people in Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas, cope with the effects of a massive ice storm.

The Guard's 54 joint-force headquarters in states and territories will provide support services to help Guard members and their families cope with deployments, McKeague said.

"Because our reservists are dispersed and often far away from a [Department of Veterans Affairs] facility or an active-duty installation, ... our colleagues up here all share a common vision" that they should have access to all the warrior and family care programs that their active-duty counterparts receive at military installations in large cities, he said.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Greg Rudl serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

General Does Part to Reduce Mental Health Stigma

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2009 - Army Maj. Gen. David Blackledge is doing his part to reduce the social stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment for war-related stress. The general suffered from post-traumatic stress after surviving a near-death experience during his first deployment to Iraq in 2004. Now he willingly shares his tale of recovery and hopes his example will help others in dealing with war's invisible wounds.

"I felt it was critical that we had senior leaders experiencing [post-traumatic stress] come forward," Blackledge, the Army's assistant deputy chief of staff for mobilization and reserve issues, said in an interview at the Pentagon last week.

The wife of a military member suffering from war trauma used Blackledge's story to spur on her spouse to seek treatment, Blackledge said.

"She said, 'My husband was suffering from this, and when I showed him the article in the paper about you coming forward, he said that if a two-star general can get help, then maybe I can too,'" he said.

Blackledge's story begins in Iraq in February 2004, when he was working there as a civil affairs commander. He was leading a team to Iskandariyah to meet with tribal sheiks when their convoy was ambushed with smalls-arms fire. The attack killed the interpreter sitting near Blackledge and blew out a tire on their vehicle, causing it to roll.

The survivors of the attack regrouped and escaped to a nearby checkpoint. Blackledge suffered a broken back and ribs, and other physical injuries. He was put in a body cast at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and remained there for several days before arriving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.

"Within a day of me being at Walter Reed, a psychiatrist came to me ... and talked to me about what was going on. He also told me what to expect," Blackledge recalled. "I told him at the time that the ambush kept replaying in my mind."

The psychiatrist told Blackledge his re-experiencing of the incident was normal, and he provided the general with mental techniques to help gain control of his memories.

"He said to basically picture it as a movie, and when it intrudes, tell yourself, 'I don't want watch the movie right now,' and kind of click it off," he said, adding that the medical staffer also explained to Blackledge and his wife what they could expect over the course of rehabilitation.

The psychiatrist continued to work with the general, who began experiencing nightmares, hyper-alertness and other post-traumatic stress symptoms, he said.

The general added that the psychiatrist also was savvy enough to know how to record the medical information so that Blackledge would not risk harming his career advancement or prospects for future security clearances.

"It seemed logical to me, because there was a concern at that time about how these things would be recorded in your record," Blackledge said, noting that the process has improved significantly since his injuries.

Fifteen months after the ambush, Blackledge again deployed to command a civil affairs unit in Iraq. While at a meeting in Amman, Jordan, in November 2005, Blackledge was in one of the three hotels targeted in a coordinated bombing that killed 60 people and injured more than 100.

When Blackledge returned from that deployment, he again suffered from nightmares and hyper-alertness, as well as sleeplessness and a shortened attention span.

"This time, my concern was not my career, but, 'Is this how I'm going to be for the rest of my life?'" he said.

Blackledge again sought mental health treatment – this time at the Pentagon clinic – where a doctor explained that the therapy he'd begun after his ambush had been interrupted by the second deployment.

"He said, 'Let's start over again, and we'll guarantee you're much better at the end of it,'" Blackledge recalled.

In July 2007, the Army launched a chain-teaching program to help soldiers and their families identify symptoms and seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury.

When Blackledge began incorporating his own experience into the lessons he delivered, he realized the ripple effect that speaking out can have.

"As I gave that instruction to my headquarters staff, I kind of interspersed it with what I'd been through," he recalled. "As I started inserting my own experiences, people started raising their hands and saying, 'I had that same thing happen to me.'"

Blackledge since has volunteered to help Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Loree Sutton, a psychiatrist who heads the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, in her campaign to urge post-traumatic stress sufferers to share their stories.

Idaho Guard Supports Special Olympics

By Army 1st Lt. Clint Miller
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2009 - About 200 soldiers and airmen from the Idaho National Guard are on duty today to prepare for the 2009 Special Olympics Winter World Games being held here Feb. 7 to 13. Athletes from more than 100 countries with more than 2,500 delegates will converge on the state to participate in athletic events such as alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, speed skating, figure skating, floor hockey and cross-country skiing.

Opening ceremonies will be held at the Idaho Center in Nampa on Feb. 7. The athletes and delegates will then spread across the state to participate in the various sporting events. At each event venue in Boise, McCall and Sun Valley, the Idaho National Guard will have teams ready to assist the Special Olympics organizers and athletes.

An Idaho National Guard joint task force is working with the Special Olympics Games Organizing Committee to assist with missions such as logistical support, emergency service support and monitoring vital assets during the games.

"It's been wonderful to participate and watch our Joint Task Force Special Olympics come together and deploy for this event, which puts Idaho on the world's stage for the next couple of weeks," Army Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, public affairs officer for the effort, said. He added that Navy Reserve sailors are serving along with the Guard members in the joint task force.

This will not be the first time the Special Olympics committee and Idaho National Guard have partnered for an event. Leading up to the 2009 World Winter Games, the Special Olympics Organizing Committee hosted the 2008 Special Olympics Invitational Winter Games here.

On a smaller scale, those games helped to determine which winter sporting events would work best in each community, officials said. It also provided a chance for the Idaho National Guard to determine how much support it could provide for the World Winter Games in 2009.

Boise hosted most of the venues for the 2008 Invitational Games. Floor hockey events took place at Boise State University, while alpine skiing was held at Bogus Basin Ski Resort, just outside Boise. Boise was the distribution center for all venues, and soldiers and airmen worked together to organize material and load trucks headed to remote sites.

Idaho National Guard members also assisted with the transportation of Special Olympics athletes and delegates throughout the Invitational Games.

During the competition, the soldiers and airmen said they were inspired by the athletes and proud of their contribution to the Games.

"It felt good to take part in an activity that really affected the lives of special-needs athletes," said Army Sgt. 1st Class James Mace of the Idaho Army National Guard said. "I can't wait to participate again next year."

In Sun Valley, the athletes participated in snowshoeing and cross-country skiing events at the Sun Valley Nordic Center. Heavy snowfall ensured success for the sporting events, but also provided challenges for the Idaho National Guard.

Army Maj. Alex Shaffer commanded the Sun Valley task force. "It was good working with the community volunteers and Special Olympics staff," he said. "But the best part was working with the athletes, because everyone fed off their excitement."

The National Guard will have task forces working in both Sun Valley and McCall this year. Their members will assist by moving supplies around the remote sites and monitoring the event sites in the evenings.

Guard members will not provide security, but they know local law enforcement is only a radio call away if they need them, officials said.

The crews begin working at the sites today. The mission is scheduled to end on Feb. 14, when all supplies, sporting equipment and athletes have headed back home. Army Col. John Goodale, the joint task force commander, said the Idaho Guard is thrilled to provide logistics support and emergency preparedness support to the Games.

"Supporting the Special Olympics Games is not only its own reward, it also serves as a training event for the Idaho National Guard as we hone our skills to prepare for any disaster emergency," he said.

(Army 1st Lt. Clint Miller serves with the Idaho National Guard.)