Military News

Monday, February 23, 2009

Face of Defense: Navy Officer Scales Africa's Tallest Mountain

By Dan Bender
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 23, 2009 - As a member of the Navy Supply Corps who works for the Defense Logistics Agency, Navy Capt. Jim Patton is especially attuned to the importance of logistical support for missions. So when he and his wife, Laurie, recently trekked up the side of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, one thing that impressed him, besides the spectacular views, was the logistical prowess of the guides who accompanied their tour group up the mountain.

"The guides were masters at logistics and moving a large crowd up and down the mountain and feeding all of us," he said. "They prepared three-course meals for about 15 of us in the group on a gas tank with a single flame, and they had to carry everything on their backs.

"It was phenomenal what those guys could do," added Patton, who is director of maritime customer operations at the Defense Supply Center here. "I was very impressed with the logistical support on the trip."

The Pattons and a friend from San Diego traveled to Tanzania on Jan. 10 and joined a tour group for two weeks in climbing to the 19,340-foot summit of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The group traveled the Marangu trail, one of several routes up the mountain that require no technical skills in the art of mountain climbing.

Patton, whose only other visits to Africa have been a few brief port calls, described hiking up Kilimanjaro as "a once-in-a-lifetime experience" that left him with "all kinds of memories."

The final push to the summit was the most taxing part of the hike; the group left at midnight to be at the summit for sunrise, he said.

"The night sky from that altitude is a phenomenal view," he said. "Watching the clouds dart about the mountain peaks in the moonlight was unbelievably beautiful."

The biggest challenge was getting accustomed to the altitude, since the air pressure at the top of Kilimanjaro is roughly half that at sea level.

"The guides were trained to watch for altitude sickness, and they had our group take its time, which enabled us to not only get used to working in the thinner air but also enjoy the spectacular scenery along the way," Patton said.

The trek up and down the mountain took six days, Patton said, and the group's route took them along well-maintained pathways through rain forest, moorland, alpine desert and, ultimately, the summit at Uhuru Peak.

"It's just gorgeous up there," Patton said. "There are pockets of the glacier all around, and the ice was blue-green in color when the sunlight came through it. "Plus, at night, you could see how deep and beautiful the Milky Way galaxy is when you're away from everything. I could see many of the constellations very clearly."

(Dan Bender works in the public affairs office for the Defense Logistics Agency's supply center in Columbus, Ohio.)

Gates to Take Comprehensive Approach to End 'Stop-Loss'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 23, 2009 - Ending the military's so-called "stop-loss" program is a priority for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, a senior official said here today. The stop-loss program is the involuntary extension of active duty beyond a servicemember's expiration of term of service, or ETS.

The program is in place to make sure units deploy with all positions filled. Servicemembers with an ETS or retirement date that would occur while a unit is deployed can be "stop-lossed" – or extended – until the end of the deployment.

This is an issue that the services have had to deal with since the beginning of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. Currently, only the Army is using the provision, with about 13,200 soldiers involuntarily extended.

"The goal here ... is to move as rapidly as possible to end stop-loss altogether," Whitman said. "It is the secretary's desire to take a comprehensive approach to ending this, which includes using the additional authorization Congress has given the department to be able to grant a special pay to those soldiers that are affected by stop-loss."

The congressional initiative funds a special pay of $500 per month to stop-lossed servicemembers. "The department appreciates the authority as well as the flexibility to compensate servicemembers that are affected by stop-loss," Whitman said. "But the goal here is to end stop-loss altogether as rapidly as possible."

Army officials will brief Gates on the program later this week, he said.

Defense, VA Reform Evaluation System for Seriously Injured Vets

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

Feb. 23, 2009 - Two years is much too long to determine service disabilities, especially when the injuries obviously qualify a servicemember for full benefits and compensation, a senior Defense Department official said here today. Until recently, that's how long it took all military members to reach 100-percent-disabled status in terms of their disability compensation and medical benefits through the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Regardless of the severity of the injuries, all went through multiple medical evaluations and screenings first with the military, only to go through the same process again with VA, Air Force Maj. Gen. Keith W. Meurlin, acting director of the Defense Department's transition policy and care coordination office, explained.

Often, it can take up to two years to complete the evaluations and another nine months to start receiving benefits, Meurlin added.

"Why put [seriously injured combat veterans] through a two-year process when you basically know the outcome -- that they're going to be 100-percent disabled?" Meurlin said. "And why wait two years to get their VA benefits to them?"

Now, veterans seriously wounded in combat and identified as "catastrophically wounded" go through an expedited disability evaluation process that lasts about 100 days to begin receiving benefits. If veterans are recognized as fitting into that category, they will forego the redundancy of separate Defense and VA medical evaluations and go through the VA process only, the general said.

"We've taken a two-year process and reduced it to three months," he said. "We think it's a lot better for the individual and their family to make it shorter when you understand what the conclusion to the process is anyway."

The expedited process applies to servicemembers whose conditions are designated catastrophic and whose injuries were incurred in the line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict, Meurlin explained. A catastrophic injury or illness is a permanent, severely disabling injury, disorder, or disease to such a degree that a servicemember or veteran requires personal or mechanical assistance to leave home or bed, or requires constant supervision to avoid physical harm to themselves or others.

"We are talking about somebody who has been so badly injured that they cannot take care of [themselves] in daily life operations," he said. "The injury has to be combat-related, and it is a condition that makes the activities of daily life almost impossible for him."

Eventually, all servicemembers transitioning to veteran status may benefit from the changes the expedited disability evaluation system offers. The current system may be completely reformed to a one-year process by cutting out the military evaluation altogether, much like the expedient version. The pilot program for such a process is under way, but no decisions have been made yet, Meurlin said.

"The whole disability system is going through a number of reviews right now," he said. "Within our ability, we're taking the disability system, shrinking it down and making it more efficient."

Today's disability system is really a product of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, and is well overdue for an update, Meurlin said. The current system doesn't fit well with the injuries military members suffer and the high survival rate they've endured during today's wars, he added.

"I think we're recognizing in this war, with the body armor and the improved vehicles, that we're having a whole different kind of injury," Meurlin said, noting the significance post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries are having on troops. "We're getting a new type of injury and survival rate. We're bringing a lot of people home today that before we would've lost on the battlefield [in earlier wars].

"It's important to get them the right set of benefits as early as we can and deliver them expeditiously and as fairly as we can," he added.

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 23, 2009

NAVY

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $30,660,390 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5443) to increase the ceiling amount for FY 09 Design Agent Engineering Service Line Items for the MK-31 Rolling Airframe Missile Guided Missile Weapon System. The MK-31 Rolling Airframe Missile Guided Missile Weapon System is a cooperative development and production program conducted jointly by the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany under Memoranda of Understanding. The support procured under this contract is required to maintain current weapon system capability, as well as resolve issues through design, systems, software maintenance, reliability, maintainability, quality assurance and logistics engineering services. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $3,632,897 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Inc., through Digital System Resources, Inc., Fairfax, Va., is being awarded an $18,054,166 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-6244) for 118,072 additional engineering services hours in support of the development, field maintenance and modification of the Photonics Mast Workstations (PMWs), which will be integrated into the Photonics Mast System. The contractor to address analysis, testing, design and modifications required on the PMWs that are used to control and display imaging sensor data from the AN/BVS-1 Photonics Mast on Va., Class submarines. Work will be performed in Fairfax, Va., (90 percent); Pittsfield, Mass., (6 percent); and Mystic, Conn., (4 percent), and is expected to be completed by Aug. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $15,028,132 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5437) to provide an increase in option exercise for engineering and technical services in support of the MK15 Phalanx Close-In-Weapon System (CIWS). The Phalanx CIWS is a fast reaction terminal defense against low and high flying, high-speed maneuvering anti-ship missile threats that have penetrated all other ships' defenses. The CIWS is an integral element of the Fleet Defense In-Depth concept and the Ship Self-Defense Program. Operating either autonomously or integrated with a combat system, it is an automatic terminal defense weapon system designed to detect, track, engage, and destroy anti-ship missile threats penetrating other defense envelopes. Phalanx CIWS is currently installed on approximately 187 USN ships and is in use in 20 foreign navies. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $1,500,000, will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Rockwell Collins Government Systems, Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is being awarded a $12,340,064 modification to a previously awarded firm fixed priced contract (N00019-05-C-0050) to exercise an option for the FY 2009 production of AN/ARC-210(V) Electronic Protection Radio System for the U.S. Air Force F-15 E aircraft. This modification provides for 121 RT-1851A(C) Receiver-Transmitter (RT) radios; 121 RT Warranties; 121 AM-7526 High Power Amplifiers; and 121 MX-11641 LNA Diplexers. Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is expected to be completed in Dec. 2009. 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.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $9,002,462 cost plus fix fee contract for Interim Contractor Logistics and maintenance services in support of the Reconfigurable Transportable Consolidated Automated Support Systems and Self-Maintenance Automated Test and Calibration test sets for the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Marine Corps. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be completed in Feb. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, N.J., is the contracting activity (N68335-09-C-0100).

ITT Industries, Integrated Electronic Warfare Systems, Clifton, N. J., is being awarded an $8,630,774 firm fixed price order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0017) for supplies and services required for risk reduction efforts in support of an AN/ALQ-214 Engineering Change Proposal (ECP). This ECP is intended to allow the ALQ-214 to meet the requirements for the On-Board Jammer System on the F/A-18 E/F Aircraft. Work will be performed at Clifton, N.J., (99.3 percent); Hillsboro, Ore., (.5 percent); and Chandler, Ariz., (.2 percent), and is expected to be completed in Dec. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $2,127,123 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Sealift, Inc., Oyster Bay, N.Y., is being awarded a $6,708,925 firm fixed price contract for a 108-calendar day time charter of U.S. Air Force container ship MV TSGT John A. Chapman. The ship's primary mission will be to preposition U.S. Air Force ammunition at sea, is expected to operate in and around Saipan in the Western Pacific Ocean. The contract includes options, which if exercised, would bring the total contract value to $46,197,020. Work on the contract is expected to commence by Jun. 2009 and is expected to be completed within 115-calendar days. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with two offers received. The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00033-09-C-3317).

AIR FORCE

The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to the following contactors Capital City Technologies Inc. of Suwanee, Ga., Kearney and Co., of Alexandria, Va., and Pricewaterhouse Coopers of McLean, Va., with a program ceiling of $95,000,000. This action will provide advisory and assistance services to provide a full range of integrated business services to support the Secretary of Air Force Financial Management Program mission. At this time, no money has been obligated. AFDW/A7KS, Anacostia Annex, District of Columbia is the contracting activity (FA7014-09-D-0004, FA7014-09-D-0005, FA7014-09-D-0006).

The Air Force is awarding a cost plus fixed fee contract to Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio for an estimated $5,512,542. This action is to develop a program that will include the evaluation and testing of available chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear protective technology towards the effective distribution, execution, and accountability of escape masks for the Pentagon Facilities. At this time, $1,469,632 has been obligated. 55CONS/LGCD, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is the contracting activity (SP0700-00-D-3180).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a maximum $8,508,683 firm fixed price contract for delivery of trucks and snow blowers. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. There were originally two proposals solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Sept. 21, 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM500-01-D-0066-0026).

Y. Hata & Co., Limited, Honolulu, Hawaii *, is being awarded a maximum $7,989,041 fixed price with economic price adjustment, sole source, C-1 Bridge contract for full line food distribution. Other location of performance is in Hawaii. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Jan. 12, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM300-09-D-3295).

UNITED STATES TRANSPORTATION COMMAND

American Auto Logistics, LP of Park Ridge, N.J., 07656-1878, is being awarded a $10,000,000.00 firm fixed price modification to add additional funds to a previously awarded contract (DAMT01-03-D-0184) to provide continuing services for the transportation and storage of privately owned vehicles. Work will be performed at worldwide locations and is expected to be completed Oct 31, 09. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contracting activity is United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), Directorate of Acquisition, Scott AFB, Ill., 62225.

Turkey, Singapore Join Efforts to Combat Piracy in Gulf of Aden

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Monique K. Hilley
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 23, 2009 - Turkey and Singapore recently committed forces to join Combined Task Force 151, a naval coalition dedicated to conducting counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Turkey and Singapore will join other nations -- including the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark -- that have conducted operations as part of the task force.

"Coalition ships are a critical part of our mission," U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, commander of CTF 151, said. "The very nature of some of our operations, as well as the success of those operations, is often predicated on our ability to work effectively with our partners and allies."

International law obligates all nations to cooperate to the fullest extent in the repression of piracy. Coalition forces have taken action necessary to repress piracy in the region in accordance with international law to ensure free and secure use of the world's oceans by legitimate mariners, task force officials said.

"The presence of international navy vessels in the region demonstrates our commitment to regional security and stability," McKnight said. "To continue to counter and deter destabilizing activities successfully, coalition efforts must be complemented by proactive measures by commercial shippers, regional governments and the international community."

The task force has worked with and emphasized the important role merchants can play by taking proactive measures to prevent boardings, such as traveling at speeds greater than 15 knots, reporting suspicious activity and pulling their ladders up to prevent access to the ships.

Even with increased naval forces in the region, coalition vessels have not always been close enough to a help a ship that was being attacked.

"The bottom line is that piracy is an international problem that requires an international solution," McKnight said. "We are committed to continuing operations that counter and deter piracy and other destabilizing activities in the maritime arena to create a lawful maritime order."

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Monique K. Hilley serves in the 5th Fleet public affairs office.)