Military News

Monday, February 09, 2009

Mullen Encourages Troops to Seek Mental Health Care When Needed

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 9, 2009 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized the importance of de-stigmatizing mental-health care for returning war veterans today as he cut the ribbon on a newly renovated facility designed to improve that care. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, paying his first visit to the home of the 10th Mountain Division, presided at the official opening a new, state-of-the-art, mental health facility.

Speaking earlier in the day at town hall sessions with junior soldiers and family readiness group leaders, Mullen said the military needs to do a better job of encouraging people who need it to seek mental-health care services.

"We've got to work hard to meet the need, and actually get ahead of, the challenges we have," he said. "I think we're all in denial if we don't recognize the huge, huge stress [multiple deployments have] put our force and our families under.

"Leaders have to address that, and address it up front," he said.

Mullen cited disturbing suicide rates in the Army, and urged soldiers to "take care of each other" and recognize symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other difficulties. He also urged spouses to be on the lookout for problems. "We have to have every sensor out," he said.

Families, too, can experience secondary signs of post-traumatic stress, he said, with the accompanying depression, sleeplessness and fear.

"This is human stuff," Mullen told the group. "It's not unexpected."

The big hurdle, Mullen said, is getting people who need it to seek care without fear that it will damage their reputation or military career.

Fort Drum's new Wilcox Center was renovated to provide that much-needed care in a modern, state-of-the-art facility. A two-year renovation added 2,000 square feet to the World War II-era facilities it replaced, increasing its overall size to more than 28,000 square feet.

Mullen toured the center, which includes more space for the post's behaviorial health department, offering more than 70 new office spaces, three reception areas and multiple group meeting rooms and video tele-psychiatry offices.

The main reception area features a large, domed skylight and children's waiting area that creates a welcoming atmosphere for soldiers and their families and providers. An expanded records storage area and up-to-date automation systems help to increase the staff's ability to provide care for soldiers and their families.

Dr. Todd L. Benham, chief of Fort Drum's behavioral health department, had rave reviews about the building.

"The Wilcox Clinic is truly an amazing facility," he said. "Once you step inside, you will see that the Army, the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Fort Drum have worked diligently to make a facility that shows the importance of caring for soldiers and their families."

Army Maj. Ross A. Davidson, the Army Medical Department Activity's logistics chief, said the new clinic demonstrates the Army's commitment to troops and their families.

"This beautiful facility is the direct result of a committed team's effort to plan, develop, and build a facility dedicated to improving the health of our soldiers and the Fort Drum community," he said.

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 9, 2009

NAVY

Undersea Sensor Systems, Inc., Columbia City, Ind., is being awarded a $34,777,470 firm fixed price contract for the procurement of 4,195 AN/SSQ-36B sonobuoys for the U.S. Navy. (4,150) and the Government of Pakistan, (45); 30,454 AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys for the U.S. Navy, (30,104) and the Government of Pakistan, (350); and 8,302 AN/SSQ-62E sonobuoys for the U.S. Navy. Work will be performed in Columbia City, Ind., (90 percent) and Halifax, Nova Scotia, (10 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 competitively procured by electronic request for proposals and two offers were received. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy, ($34,517,590; 99.25 percent) and the Government of Pakistan, ($259,880; .75 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00421-09-C-0040).

Sparton Electronics, DeLeon Springs, Fla., is being awarded a $34,125,936 firm fixed price contract for the procurement of 31,593 AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys for the U.S. Navy and 9,578 AN/SSQ-62E sonobuoys for the U.S. Navy (9,528) and the Government of Pakistan, (50). Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, Fla., and is expected to be completed in Feb. 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $251,010 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured by electronic request for proposals and two offers were received. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy, ($34,039,381; 99.74 percent) and the Government of Pakistan, ($86,555; .26 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00421-09-C-0039).

L-3 Services Inc, Marlton, N.J., is being awarded $27,063,793 for task order #0072 under previously awarded contract (M67854-02-A-9010) to provide ongoing acquisition support, financial support, logistic support, fielding support, training support, and managerial support for the Marine Corps Systems Command' Communications, Intelligence and Networking Systems (CINS) Product Group's (PG's) Strategic Business Team, Operations Officer, Program Manager (PM), Communications and Networking Systems (PM CNS), PM Intelligence Systems (PM INTEL) and PM Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (PM CREW). The Contractor shall be required to interface and coordinate with other contractors supporting CINS including those in all the Commercial Enterprise Omnibus Support Services (CEOss) domains. It is the contractor's responsibility to arrange all Non-Disclosure Agreements necessary to interface with other contractors to accomplish the CINS mission. MCSC's CINS mission is to act as the central agent for the research, development, acquisition, and life cycle management of communications, intelligence, surveillance, and networking systems throughout the Marine Corps. The PG's assigned mission includes the responsibility of CINS for the Operating Forces and the Support Establishment. The programs within the PG cover all phases of the acquisition process. Work will be performed in Stafford, Va., and work is expected to be completed in Feb. 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $3,822,478 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

BAE Systems Land and Armament LP, Minneapolis, Minn., is being awarded $21,258,964 for a delivery order under a previously awarded contract (N00014-06-D-0046) to research and develop an Advanced Containment Launcher for Electromagnetic Rail Gun. Work will be performed in Minneapolis, Minn., and work is expected to be completed Sept. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured under an Office of Naval Research Broad Agency Announcement 05-003. Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity.

Motorola, Inc., Columbia, Md., is being awarded a $20,000,000 modification to a previously awarded indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract (N65236-06-D-5196) for hand-held radios to support the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio (ELMR) Infrastructure. The cumulative value of this contract, including this modification is $63,105,144. Work will be performed in Columbia, Md., and is expected to be completed by September 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $20,000,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured through the Federal Business Opportunities website and the SPAWAR e-Commerce website, with six offers received. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Atlantic is the contracting activity.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Bethpage, N.Y., is being awarded a $16,615,880 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-6311) to provide integration services for mission packages that will deploy from and integrate with the Littoral Combat Ship. The Navy's plan is to use spiral development to improve mission capability in identified mission areas. LCS Mission Packages will be optimized for flexibility in the littorals. Mission package capabilities are currently focused on primary mission areas of mine warfare emphasizing mine countermeasures, littoral anti-submarine warfare, and littoral surface warfare operations including prosecution of small boats. The LCS Mission Packages are developed and acquired separately from the LCS Sea Frame. Work will be performed in Bethpage, N.Y., (47 percent), Washington, D.C., (26 percent), Panama City, Fla., (12 percent), Hollywood, Md., (12 percent), San Diego, Calif., (2 percent), and Dahlgren, Va., (1 percent) and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $3,323,180 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington D.C., is the contracting activity.

Ocean Systems Engineering Corp., is being awarded $16,199,973 for task order #0051 under previously awarded contract (M67854-02-A-9020) for the Marine Corps Systems Command's Communications, Intelligence and Networking Systems (CINS) Product Group's (PG's) mission is to act as the central agent for the research, development, acquisition, and life cycle management of communications, intelligence, surveillance, and networking systems throughout the Marine Corps. The PG's assigned mission includes the responsibility of CINS for the Operating Forces and the Supporting Establishment. The programs within the PG cover all phases of the acquisition process. The scope of this Statement of Work is to provide engineering and technical support for the CINS PG's Strategic Business Team, PM Communications and Networking Systems (PM CNS), PM Intelligence Systems (PM INTEL) and PM Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (PM CREW). The Contractor shall be required to interface and coordinate with other contractors supporting CINS including those in all the Commercial Enterprise Omnibus Support Service (CEOss) domains. It is the contractor's responsibility to arrange any Non-Disclosure Agreements necessary to interface with other contractors in order to accomplish the CINS mission. Work will be performed in Stafford, Va., and work is expected to be completed in Feb. 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $905,089 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Zel Technologies, LLC*, Hampton, Va., is being awarded a $7,382,410 cost plus fixed fee contract to provide research and development efforts relative to understanding oceanographic phenomenon. Specifically this contract provides for mission support for the U.S. Navy P-3C aircraft, by providing specific engineering investigations, consisting of Multi-spectral Electromagnetic and Electro-optical Propagation through atmospheric, marine, and land environments. Work will be performed in Boulder, Colo., (86 percent); Fairfax, Va., (13 percent); and Hampton, Va., (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in Feb. 2014. 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 Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00421-09-C-0026).

Sealaska Environmental Services, LLC*, Juneau, Alaska, is being awarded a $5,505,095 indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for operation, maintenance, and long term monitoring environmental services at various locations within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest area of responsibility (AOR). The maximum dollar value, including the base period and four option years, is $28,531,879. Task Order 0001 is being awarded at $451,500 for operation and maintenance of remediation sites A and F located on Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor Submarine Base, and Silverdale, Wash. Work for this task order is expected to be completed by Mar. 2010. All work on this contract will be performed in the NAVFAC Northwest AOR including but not limited to, Wash., (78 percent), Alaska, (18 percent), Ore., (1 percent), Idaho, (1 percent), Mont., (1 percent), and Wyo., (1 percent), and work is expected to be completed Mar. 2014. Contract funds for Task Order 0001 will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website,with four proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, Silverdale, Wash., is the contracting activity (N44255-09-D-4005).

Correction: Contract awarded Feb. 5, 2009, to George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., has an amended contract base award amount of $7,140,937 and with contract options exercised the total cumulative value of the contract will be $10,360,084.

USSOCOM

L-3 Services of Tampa, Fla., is being awarded a $400,000,000 maximum order amount modification to increase the contract ceiling on the current indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract for information technology support to USSOCOM Headquarters, its component commands, theater special operation commands and the military departments (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps) that have or provide direct support to Special Operations Forces. The work will be performed in Tampa and other locations and will expire Mar. 31, 2011. The ceiling increase will be accomplished by issuing modification P00047 to contract number USZA22-02-D-0017 on an 'other than full and open' competition basis.

ARMY

Raytheon Co., Cage 96214, McKinney, Texas, was awarded on Dec. 23, 2008, a $179,677,365 firm fixed price for production contract for a modification to multi-year, firm fixed price, time and materials contract Number W15P7T-06-C-M209 with Raytheon Network Centric Systems (Raytheon), to increase the quantity of Horizontal Technology Integration (HTI) Second Generation Forward Looking Infrared (SGF) Block 1 A-Kits that can be obtained under the contract's existing options, to enable the Government to acquire up to 6,153 additional HTI SGF Block 1 A-Kits/B-Kits. Work is to be performed at McKinney, Texas, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2012. One sole source bid was solicited with one bid received. CECOM Acquisition Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15P7T-06-C-M209).

AIR FORCE

The Air Force is modifying a cost plus incentive fee contract with McDonnell Douglas Corp., of Long Beach Calif. for an amount not to exceed $114,400,000. This contract modification is a Foreign Military Sales requirement for procurement of a spare engine, night vision devices, ground handling equipment, spares, alternate mission equipment, support equipment, publications, repair and return, contractor logistics support, participation in the Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership, and services. At this time, $56,056,000 has been obligated. 516 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8614-04-C-2004, P00278).

The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to the Raytheon Co., of Tucson, Ariz. for $49,750,000. This action will provide Small Unmanned Aerial System Research and Evaluation program. At this time $76,095 has been obligated. AFRL/PKDA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8650-09-D-7905).

DEFENSE ADVANCED RESEARCH PROJECTS AGENCY

Microelectronics Advanced Research Corp., (MARCO), Durham, N.C., is being awarded a $10,000,000 modification to a previously awarded other transaction agreement for phase four (year three) of the Focus Center Research Program. Work will be performed in Durham, N.C., (11 percent); Pittsburgh, Pa., (17 percent); Atlanta, Ga., (19 percent); Cambridge, Mass., (17 percent); Berkeley, Calif., (21 percent); Los Angeles, Calif., (15 percent); and is expected to be completed Nov. 2009. This is a sole source award. Funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contracting activity is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va., (HR0011-07-3-0002, P00008).

Mullen: People 'First and Foremost' as Military Shifts Focus

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 9, 2009 - As the military begins to shift its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, it can't lose focus on supporting troops and their families, most importantly by increasing the "dwell time" at home stations between deployments, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told 10th Mountain Division soldiers who returned from Iraq in November, others training for a 2010 deployment, and wives of deployed troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan that they're the backbone of the military.

"Thanks for what you do, and your service to your country at this critical time," Mullen said at a town hall meeting of junior soldiers grades E-4 and below. "[You are] the best we have ever had, and [I am] exceptionally grateful for your service to our nation.

"You serve a larger calling than just yourself, as does your family," he said. "We couldn't do it without you, and we couldn't do it without the family support that has been extraordinary."

In a separate session with family readiness group representatives, Mullen and his wife, Deborah, extended thanks to family members whose loved ones have deployed two, three, even five times since 9/11.

"I recognize that we have asked extraordinary things and have seen extraordinary results," he said. "I don't take that for granted."

As the military looks to the future -- one likely to see greater focus on Afghanistan and possibly tightened budgets -- Mullen said it can't lose sight of the basics of taking care of people. "It is first and foremost," he told the family group. "I don't care what we buy. At the core of our future success is our people."

A top priority, he said, is to increase dwell time between deployments. The 10th Mountain Division soldiers currently have as little as 12 months at home between deployments. Much of that "home time" actually is spent away from home, training for the next deployment.

Mullen said he wants to see dwell time extended as quickly as possible, and to make as much of it as possible time actually spent at home.

"I am hopeful that in about 12 to 24 months, we can take some of the pressure off with increased dwell time at home," he said. "We recognize the need for more time at home. I'm focused on it, the secretary of defense is focused on it, and so is the president. He has told me that personally."

The chairman said he'd also like to see the highly unpopular "Stop Loss" program – which allows the Army to keep soldiers in critical specialties beyond their enlistment contracts -- end as quickly as possible. "If I could do it, I would stop it tonight," he told a spouse. But as the Army increases its end strength and trains up those forces so they are deployable, he conceded, it's more likely going to take 24 to 36 months before the program can be lifted.

Mullen pointed to rising suicide rates and the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder as signs of the heavy stress troops are under. He urged them to look out for each other and help to de-stigmatize getting help when it's needed.

Looking ahead, Mullen said, it's highly likely the military will face budget cuts. That needs to be done by cutting programs "where costs have spun out of control" so funds remain on the war effort and taking care of the troops fighting it and their families, he said.

But the United States must ensure deploying troops have the equipment, training and other support required to succeed, the chairman said. "We cannot send young men and women off to war and not give them the resources that they need," he told the soldiers.

"If have to make some hard choices, we'll do that," he said. "But most of all, we need to get it right for our people and fund the wars we are in."

That includes protecting not only military pay and bonuses, but also medical care, family programs, housing and other allowances. These help ensure that "when you make a decision about your future, you're in a world-class outfit, and you will make a decision to stay if that's right for you," Mullen said.

Today's troops represent the future of the force, he said. Mullen told the soldiers and their families he's focused on "making sure that the combat-hardened force we have -- after multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and the best we have ever seen -- is in fact the guarantor of a successful military in the future."

Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum, the division's rear-echelon commander, called Mullen's visit a great shot in the arm for the 9,000 soldiers currently at Fort Drum, as well as about 9,000 deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The most important thing for them is that he knows they're carrying a heavy load and appreciates it," Mangum said. "Hearing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say thank you means a lot."

Newest Fisher House to Serve Southern California Veterans, Families

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 9, 2009 - It was pouring liquid sunshine as the Fisher House Foundation and the Veterans Affairs Department prepared to dedicate the 43rd Fisher House in Brentwood, Calif., on Feb. 6, but the significance of the event wasn't lost on Mother Nature. "The clouds broke, and we actually had sunshine for about an hour and a half [during] the ceremony and reception," Jim Weiskopf, Fisher House Foundations executive vice president of communications, said. "Then it started to rain again."

Wounded Marines from Camp Pendleton joined in the festivities, with one leading the Pledge of Allegiance and another helping to cut the ribbon.

Families who will be living in the newest Fisher House also were on hand to dedicate the 16,800 square-foot building, which provides military families a "home away from home" while their loved ones recover from injuries or illnesses. While there are a few other Fisher Houses of comparable size, this is becoming a standard, Weiskopf said.

Located on the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System campus on the edge of Beverly Hills and Hollywood, the California-Spanish style "comfort home," includes 21 suites, each with a private, handicapped-accessible bathroom. The two-story, elevator-equipped house features communal spaces such as a family room, a multi-cooking station kitchen, a large dining room and shared laundry facilities.

The foundation has made a solemn commitment to keep faith with those who have served the country, Ken Fisher, Fisher House Foundation chairman, said in a news release. It's is a responsibility the foundation accepts gladly, he added.

The community gladly accepted the responsibility as well. Each community where Fisher House builds is asked to raise about half the funds needed to complete the process, Weiskopf said. In Los Angeles, he added, the community did a remarkable job.

"The American Legion Pacific Palisades Post 283 ... donated $2.125 million to us," he said. After placing a call to the American Legion's Indianapolis headquarters, Weiskopf learned that was the largest single donation ever made by an American Legion post.

The Los Angeles Fisher House is the only one that will open this year; about eight more are nearly ready to be started.

"We are going to start a whole bunch more projects, but since we're not 'in the ground' yet, and they take almost 14 months to build, nothing will open up in calendar year 2009," Weiskopf said. "We'll have lots to open up in 2010."

Coast Guard Marks Acquisition Milestones

By Coast Guard Lt. Tony Migliorini
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 9, 2009 - The Coast Guard's acquisition directorate has marked a number of positive milestones in delivering new assets and capabilities to the field, the Coast Guard's senior acquisitions official said Feb. 6. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Gary T. Blore, assistant commandant for acquisition, provided bloggers and online journalists with an update on several major projects and announced the delivery of the 200th vessel from the foreign military sales program.

Blore also discussed the importance of ensuring American taxpayers know the Coast Guard is spending their money wisely.

"One of the tenets of our new acquisition processes is we try to be as transparent as possible," he said. "We want the public ... to be aware of what we are doing in the Coast Guard."

Among the 22 major acquisition projects under way, Blore highlighted the progress of the "response boat medium" project, the Rescue 21 system, the HC-144A Ocean Sentry medium-range surveillance aircraft, the national security cutter and the Sentinel-class patrol boat.

The Coast Guard has delivered the sixth of 180 planned response boat medium vessels, and officials are conducting operational tests in a variety of geographic areas. Blore noted that one of the new vessels participated in the rescue operation when U.S. Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing in the Hudson River on Jan. 15.

The Rescue 21 project -- the Coast Guard's advanced command, control and communications rescue system -- is now being employed on more than 60 percent of the nation's coastline, Blore said. It will be deployed at Sector North Carolina at the end of the month, and Sector Boston is scheduled to be accepted in May, he added.

The Coast Guard's sixth HC-144A "Ocean Sentry" aircraft is flying from Spain to its U.S. destination of Elizabeth City, N.C., this week, Blore said. Five additional aircraft are under contract and are scheduled for delivery before November 2010.

The Coast Guard's first Legend-class national security cutter, Bertholf, is on track to complete electronic emissions security compliance and final acceptance by May, the admiral said. Also, the U.S. Navy's Naval Surface Warfare Center's Carderock division recently delivered its report on Coast Guard fatigue design enhancements to the national security cutter.

Coast Guard officials are excited about moving forward with its Sentinel-class patrol boat project, and are planning to take delivery of a lead vessel in 2011, Blore said.

"We have a lot of things going on in acquisitions," he said. "We think we have reformed our processes and are doing things very well."

(Coast Guard Lt. Tony Migliorini serves at the Coast Guard Headquarters public affairs office.)

Guard Embraces Army's 'Year of NCO' Observance

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

Feb. 9, 2009 - The leadership of the Army National Guard has embraced the yearlong celebration of the Army's noncommissioned officer corps, which features many events and initiatives planned throughout the year to showcase the role of NCOs. "For 372 years, our noncommissioned officers have been the backbone of the Army National Guard," Army Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Gipe, the Army Guard's command sergeant major, said in a letter announcing support of the Year of the NCO. "Since 9/11, though, they have particularly proven to be its very heart and soul."

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, expressed a similar sentiment.

"As [Army Secretary Pete Geren] and I looked around the Army," Casey said, "it was clear to us that the noncommissioned officer is the glue that is holding this Army together at a critical time, and many accomplish the near-impossible every day."

The military is engaged in protracted overseas operations, including combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. After more than seven years of combat operations, Gipe said, many people believe the NCOs of the Army Guard are among the best in the Guard's history.

"Our ranks consist of the most talented pool of professional NCOs ever to muster," Gipe said. "Their unique depths and talents, forged in their communities, bring to the force the ability to operate, maintain, administer, manage, train, lead, fight, dominate and win on today's battlefield."

The Year of the NCO comes with a special significance for the Guard, with the naming of Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce-Merino of the Montana Army National Guard as the Army's NCO of the Year.

"Sergeant Merino exemplifies the professionalism, skill and knowledge that are the hallmarks of National Guard NCOs, and we are immensely proud of this great American," Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said.

As part of the celebration, the Army Guard has several events planned for the year to highlight the contributions of the NCO, including many events that will feature Noyce-Merino. Each month is scheduled to focus on the achievements and contributions in everything from combat operations to daily training activities, officials said.

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

State Partnerships Prevent Calamities, Guard Bureau Chief Says

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 9, 2009 - The development of international military-to-military relationships built through the National Guard's State Partnership Program will become vitally important in preventing future world calamities, chief of the National Guard Bureau said here Feb. 5. Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, speaking to students at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, said the National Guard in the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia now have 60 state partnerships with the militaries of other nations.

"Their governors and their adjutants general, who run their militaries, have all formed working partnerships with nations in the various corners of the world," he said.

Because it's easier to prevent calamities than to respond to them, "you start by preventing the things that can go wrong, and you start preventing by meeting and sharing ideas with people," McKinley said.

The partnership between California and Ukraine, which started more than 15 years ago, is a perfect example, he said. In an effort to bolster their disaster readiness and response, Ukraine sent representatives to California in November to participate in Vigilant Guard, a weeklong emergency-response training exercise.

The Ukrainian delegation exchanged ideas and techniques with their American counterparts on how to deal with flooding, which they experience each year in western Ukraine. In July, heavy rains brought a record deluge there, causing the worst financial damage in more than 100 years.

"We are living in complex and challenging times," McKinley told the group of nearly 50 international civilian and military leaders attending a seminar on transatlantic security. He encouraged the group to forge new relationships with each other that could serve them in the future.

Partnerships are an effective tool to handle future natural and man-made calamities, which some officials predict will be larger in their scope and size and in the challenges they will pose to governments, the general said.

"We certainly prepare for that major disaster," McKinley said. "How we as a world community respond to it will be vitality important. The integrated efforts between our governments will be critically important to all of us."

(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)