Military News

Friday, March 13, 2009

Military Teens Try Their Hand at Policy Making

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 13, 2009 - Like adolescents around the world, U.S. military dependents in Europe crave more independence. They want to explore and study in the countries surrounding their base, learn to drive cars and have more flexible accommodations between the United States and their family's quarters.

This is the message a group of 10 teens stationed overseas delivered in Garmisch, Germany, yesterday at a forum known as the U.S. European Command Quality of Life Conference. The conference convenes spouses, teens, military members and civilians deployed on the continent, allowing them to shed light on common issues in hopes of steering budgets and policy.

And for the first time, teenagers were given their own soapbox as one of five participating focus groups. Over the past week, these adolescents brainstormed the key issues facing military dependents and whittled it down to a list of their top concerns.

"What we're seeing is that these teens are highly educated, great communicators, strategic thinkers, and they're more technologically advanced than I ever was," Wayne Boswell, the chief of Eucom's Quality of Life branch, said in a phone interview from the conference.

Molly Kisner, who resides with her family at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, is a teen delegate who's been keeping the group's minutes in teenage technophile fashion -- on a blog.

"So far we have succeeded in narrowing down our issues into our Top 10," reads an entry she posted onto the Eucom-sponsored Web site March 10. "These were submitted to 'the guys upstairs' for approval."

One of the group's proposals is a rather novel idea -- an exchange program that would swap students in good academic standing from one Department of Defense Dependents School in Europe to another.

"As for the foreign exchange, basically we are asking that DoDDS implement an exchange program between schools allowing students to completely experience other cultures in their theater," Kisner blogged yesterday. "Said student needs a minimum of a 3.0 [grade point average]."

Even though the teenagers missed a week of school to attend the conference, they received a crash course in civics while catching a glimpse of how policy evolves.

The "guys upstairs" -- the panel tasked with reviewing initial proposals -- recommended the teens shift their focus from DoDDs to more appropriate organizations within the Defense Department – namely, the military's Morale, Welfare and Recreation department and the Child, Youth and School Services division.

Displaying the intuition of seasoned and sure-footed government policymakers, the teens established a blue ribbon committee to refocus their proposal, regrouped, then issued a progress update.

"The exchange program needed to switch the organization from DoDDs to MWR or CYS," Kisner wrote. "So we spent most of morning establishing [the Student Cultural Exchange Orientation Program]. After an hour or two of work on that we are all very proud of the end result."

In the case of these precocious teenagers, their desire to be in the driver's seat is both figurative and literal. One of the big complaints among dependents in Eucom is that a lack of driver's education on military installations is an unfair handicap that their peers across the Atlantic don't have to endure.

Fees for roundtrip airfare and driver's education in the States often exceeds the price of taking instructional courses in one's host country, which can come with a hefty price tag for the six months of lessons needed to drive abroad, according to one Eucom official.

"I've heard everywhere from about $2,500 to about $4,200 for the full program," Boswell, the Quality of Life branch chief, said. "And that only gets them their license so that they can drive on the Autobahn or off the garrison."

Boswell said Installation Management Command Europe already has hooked up live driving simulators that let teens take the safety training portion free of charge. While completion of the regimen doesn't license them to drive, it does check one of two necessary boxes.

But as eager as some teens might be to hit the open road, the top issue the focus group identified suggests they're not ready to leave the nest for good.

"Our Number 1 topic submitted was getting plane tickets for college students who live in the U.S. to visit their family [in Europe] twice a year instead of the current once a year," Kisner wrote on the blog.

The remarkable debut by the teen group has helped officials see an entirely different perspective of life on base, Boswell said.

"When we ask them a question, they help us look at issues very differently than we would have looked at them ourselves," he said.

Karina Viesca, a teen delegate who lives at Ghedi Airbase, Italy, lauded the opportunity to share her experience as a military dependent.

"These good and bad experiences have been heard and considered for the future we hold within ourselves," she wrote on the blog yesterday. "These experiences may not be taken into action overnight, but someday we will see it happen."

Boswell suggested that some of the teens have taken such a vested interest in the dialogue because it could have a bearing on the quality of their adult lives.

"In large part, in the military we're basically growing our own," he said. "So as we talk to them and get their perspective, they're really helping us shape their environment for when they enter the military."

MILITARY CONTRACTS March 13, 2009

NAVY
Lockheed Martin Corp., Maritime Systems and Sensors Tactical Systems, St. Paul, Minn., is being awarded a $665,637,785 firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of phased depot maintenance, structural service life extension, and avionics modification on 12 P-3C aircraft for the government of Taiwan under the Foreign Military Sales Program. In addition, this contract provides for ground handling and support equipment and publications. Work will be performed in St. Paul, Minn., (50 percent); Greensville, S.C., (27 percent) and Marietta, Ga., (23 percent), and is expected to be completed in Aug. 2015. Contract funds 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-C-0031).

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $106,473,293 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-07-C-0093) for the Full Rate Production of 280 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) unitary Air-to-Ground (AGM)-154C-1s, with a moving target/surface warfare capability. In addition, this modification provides for one additional unit for the performance characterization testing. Work will be performed in Dallas, Texas, (44 percent); Cedar Rapids, Iowa, (24 percent); Tucson, Ariz., (22 percent), and McAllester, Okla., (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in Mar. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting activity.

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded a $29,984,982 order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-07-G-0008) for engineering and technical services in support of the V-22 flight control system and on-aircraft avionics software. Efforts will support configuration changes to the software for V-22 aircraft for avionics and flight controls, flight test planning and coordination of changed avionics and flight control configurations, upgrade planning of avionics and flight controls, including performance of qualification testing and integration testing on software products. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, Pa., (90 precent) and Ft. Worth, Texas, (10 precent), and is expected to be completed in Dec. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $5,402,028 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $16,075,146 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5431) to procure long lead material for the fiscal year 2009 procurement of the Evolved SEASPARROW Missiles (ESSMs) for the NATO SEASPARROW consortium and the United Arab Emirates. The NATO SEASPARROW consortium, which includes the United States and nine other countries and the United Arab Emirates, will fund the effort under this contract. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., (45 percent); Camden, Ark., (2 percent); Andover, Mass., (10 percent); Australia, (11 percent); Canada, (7 percent); Denmark, (1 percent); Greece, (1 precent); Germany, (8 percent); The Netherlands, (6 percent); Norway, (5 percent); Spain, (3 percent); and Turkey, (1 percent), and is expected to be completed by Dec. 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.

Schafer Corp., Chelmsford, Mass., is being awarded a $9,787,453 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for research and development associated with Directed Energy and Electric Weapon Systems. Directed Energy and Electric Weapon Systems have potential for weapon and specific sensor utility. Aspects of the research and development effort to be procured include technology assessment, engineering, engineering analysis, design and design analysis, and test and evaluation for all manners of directed energy systems and subsystems. These systems include high electron laser, free electron laser, high power microwave, electromagnetic launch, terahertz sources and detectors, and high energy sources related to acceleration of "particles" to be used for the purposes of detecting and destroying weapons of mass destruction and their transport vehicles. Work will be performed in Washington, D.C., and is expected to be completed by July 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-4204).

BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, Norfolk, Va., is being awarded a $9,741,012 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-4403) for growth and new work items in support of the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) FY09 docked phased maintenance availability. The following work items will be accomplished: preserve the feed water tank; replace collection, holding and transfer, and soil drain piping; preserve freeboard; and accomplish growth work for the impressed cathodic protection system, ShipAlt LHD1-6 SCD 3263 fuel oil compensation stability improvement mods, sea valve sectional protection waster sleeve and underwater hull sea chest, cleaning and pumping, underwater hull inspection, and underwater hull preservation. Work will be performed in Portsmouth, Va., and is expected to be completed by Oct. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $9,741,012 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity.

BAE Systems Land & Armaments, Ground Systems Division, York, Pa., is being awarded an $8,370,688 firm-fixed-priced modification to previously awarded delivery order #0004 under a contract (M67854-07-D-5025) for field service representatives and instructors to support Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. Work will be performed in York, Pa., and is expected to be completed by the Dec. 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense Co.*, Simsbury, Conn., is being awarded a $6,986,243 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of MK 140, 20 gram booster flexible charges. The procurement of these rounds includes a minimum of 17,500 each and a maximum of 1,500,000 each production units in support of the MK140 program. Work will be performed in Simsbury, Conn., and is expected to be completed by Mar. 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane website, with one offer received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, Ind., is the contracting activity (N00164-09-C-JM19).

AIR FORCE

The Air Force is modifying a cost plus award fee contract with Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., of San Diego, Calif., for $59,608,897. This action will provide engineering, manufacturing and development infrastructure activities in support of the Global Hawk program. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (F33657-01-C-4600, P00295).

The Air Force is modifying a cost plus fixed fee contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., of Fort Worth, Texas for $47,505,558. This action will provide additional sustainment activities for the F-22 weapon system during CY09. At this time $43,055,660 has been obligated. 478 AESW/PK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the contracting activity (FA8611-08-C-2897).

The Air Force is modifying a fixed price incentive firm contract with Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., of San Diego, Calif., for an amount not to exceed $107,575,999. This action will provide for long lead items associated with LRIP Lot 8 Global Hawk Block 40 air vehicles. At this time, $25,999,999 has been obligated. 303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8620-08-C-3001, P00007).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, Portsmouth, R.I., is being awarded a maximum $33,308,000 firm fixed price, undefinitized contractual action, contract for various spares for the MH-60R helicopter. Other location of performance is France. This was originally a sole source competition. Using service is Navy. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Oct. 31, 2011. The contracting activity is the DLR Procurement Operations (DSCR-ZCB.02), DLA Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (N00383-06-G-011F-THA4).

Caterpillar, Inc., Mossville, Ill., is being awarded a maximum $8,147,898 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for forklift and equipment. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. There were three proposals originally solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2009. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM500-01-D-0036).

NACCO Material Handling Group, Greenville, N.C., is being awarded a maximum $5,266,950 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for diesel forklift. Other location of performance is Kentucky. Using service is Air Force. There were two proposals originally solicited with two responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Apr. 15, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM500-01-D-0054).

Young Leaders Tour Pentagon During 'Washington Week'

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

March 13, 2009 - American high school students from around the world toured the Pentagon today, capping off a weeklong visit to the nation's capital and what many of them called one of the most exciting experiences of their young lives. The 104 students were selected to come here as part of the 47th Annual U.S. Youth Senate Program's "Washington Week" to see, firsthand, American politics in action. The delegates were selected among thousands of applicants, all high school juniors and seniors representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Today, during their Pentagon tour, they walked the busy corridors and learned the different aspects of national defense and its history. They also met with Air Force Lt. Gen. Paul Selva, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who oversees international relations and political-military matters that require close, personal control by the chairman.

Their visit also included time at the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the White House. They met congressmen, cabinet members, officials from the Defense and State departments and a Supreme Court justice. The student delegates were afforded the opportunity to hear national and world policy addresses from the political leaders as well as pick their brains about why they became public servants.

"We got to see [government] in motion, and it was a great opportunity," Michael Boone, student government president of Kaiserslautern High School in Heidelberg, Germany, and DoDEA representative, said. "It's a great chance and great opportunity to meet other delegates and people from around our nation."

But the most exciting portion of "Washington Week" was meeting the nation's president, Boone said.

"My favorite event so far was meeting the president of the United States," he said. "So that was quite an honor. He's my role model, and that was the highlight of my week."

Luke Moragne, student council president of David Glasgow Farragut High School in Rota, Spain, and also a DoDEA representative, said meeting President Barack Obama was the highlight of his week too.

"[Meeting the president] is a once in a lifetime thing," Moragne said. "People always see him on TV, but I actually got to meet him. It was incredible shaking the president's hand."

Moragne said he also enjoyed seeing "government in action." He described the responsibilities of congressmen and political officials as "not an easy task."

"I've actually gotten to see real senators and an actual real Senate vote," Moragne said. His impression is that "it's hard to be a senator or the president and uphold our American ideals. You definitely get the impression from every single person in politics of how smart and sharp and serious they are."

For aspiring youth senate delegates who want to participate in future programs, Boone and Moragne recommend staying informed on current world issues.

"Be heavily involved in high school," Moragne said. "Do every little thing you can possibly do [and] stay up on your politics. [Student delegates] here actually really love politics, which is kind of nice and surprising."

Boone, the son of an Army colonel, hopes to pursue a career in environmental engineering with the aspiration of helping to create an environment in which people will live longer and breathe healthier, he said.

Moragne, whose grandmother works in human resources for the Navy in Rota, recently was accepted into the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I. From there, he hopes to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and eventually become a Marine Corps intelligence officer or lawyer, he said.

The U.S. Youth Senate Program began in 1962, and is sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation with the hope to increase young Americans' understanding of the three branches of American government, according to the program's Web site. The delegates are nominated each fall by their private or public schools, and must hold student body office or another elected or appointed position in their communities and show academic interest and aptitude in government, history and politics.

Navy Secretary Departs Office

The 74th Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, resigned his office today as planned. Winter had agreed to remain in office until March 13, 2009, to ease the transition of the Department of Defense.

"As I relinquish my duties as Secretary of the Navy, I count myself blessed for having had the opportunity to serve as your Secretary," Winter said in a message to the Navy and Marine Corps. "No period in my professional life can compare to the experiences that I have had in this position."

Winter became the Secretary of the Navy on Jan. 3, 2006. During his tenure, Winter focused on three priorities: prosecuting the war against terrorist enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan; taking care of wounded Sailors, Marines and their families; and building the future fleet. Additionally, he carried out far-reaching acquisition reforms, with an emphasis on rebuilding an acquisition corps of professionals within the department, demanding accountability, and insisting on a systems engineering approach to acquisitions.

Under Winter's leadership, the Department of the Navy strove to maintain a balance of environmental stewardship while preserving the professional training requirements of the Navy and Marine Corps. The importance of these efforts was recognized by the Supreme Court in a precedent setting opinion. Winter also enhanced the Navy's role in missile defense, codified policies to leverage special operations capabilities in the Navy and Marine Corps, and increased the department's focus on intelligence collection and analysis.

"Every time I meet with Sailors and Marines, I come away impressed by the tremendous capability and flexibility of our warfighters to accomplish the mission, no matter what the challenge," he said. "I am honored to have served you as your Secretary. Thank you for your service to our nation."

BJ Penn will be the acting Secretary of the Navy until the Senate confirms a nominee chosen by President Barack Obama.

First Lady Brings Military Family Issues to Front Burner

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 13, 2009 - First lady Michelle Obama, having just returned from a meeting yesterday with military families at Fort Bragg, N.C., reiterated today on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" her commitment to ensuring they get the support they deserve.
Obama said she chose Fort Bragg for her first trip outside Washington as first lady to turn the spotlight on "a huge need out there" that she conceded most Americans are "pretty oblivious" to.

Obama admitted she had no idea of the outstanding needs before taking on the military family cause during her husband's presidential campaign. "I just assumed that if we care about our troops and we send them to war, that naturally, we'd be taking care of their families," she said.

Most Americans probably don't realize how many times military families move or how expensive those moves can be, she said this morning. They disrupt children's school schedules and cause spouses to scramble to find new jobs and quality child care, and to transfer school credits.

Also not widely understood, she said, is how many young, enlisted families are living "right at the poverty line because the pay isn't enough."

That's particularly troubling, she said, when their loved ones are deployed into harm's way in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"It hurts. It hurts," she said. "These are people who are willing to send their loved ones off to, perhaps, give their lives -- the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, they're living back at home on food stamps. It's not right, and it's not where we should be as a nation."

President Barack Obama's proposed 2.9 percent military pay raise will offer a start toward helping these families, she said. But she conceded it's only "a down payment on what we need to do."

A strong military depends on the support of military families, and the country can't expect to get that support if it doesn't demonstrate that it values what families contribute, she said.

"If, when it's time to re-enlist, they look around and they can't find a life for themselves, I can assure you that spouse will say, 'Let's go. Let's call it a day. Let's pull down our tent and move on to something else,'" she said.

"And we lose support that we desperately need as a nation."

Yesterday, during an emotional meeting at Fort Bragg's community center, the first lady told military families in person the United States owes them more.

"Our soldiers and their families have done their duty. They do it without complaint," she said. "And we as a grateful nation must do ours and do everything in our power to honor them by supporting them."

Rallying the country around military families' challenges isn't difficult, she said today. "People understand it, once the issue is brought to their attention. And they're ready to do whatever they can."

Standardization Program Presents Annual Achievment Awards

Three individuals and Five Teams have won awards from the Defense Standardization Program Office (DSPO) for outstanding contributions to the Department of Defense last fiscal year. The awards were presented today, March 12, 2009, during a ceremony at the Pentagon, Hall of Heroes.

Since 1987 the DSPO has recognized individuals and organization that have effected significant improvements in quality, reliability, readiness, cost reduction, and interoperability through standardization. The DSP mission is to identify, influence, develop, manage, and provide access to standardization processes, products and services for warfighters and the acquisition and logistics communities. The program also promotes interoperability and assists in reducing total ownership cost and sustaining readiness.

Individual recipients for 2008 include Abdonasser Abdouni of the Defense Logistics Agency for developing a new series of alternative connector finishes for the high reliability electrical circular connection program in lieu of traditional finishes that rely on the hazardous chemical Cadmium. Ralph Liguori, Defense Information Systems Agency, led the DoD effort to define the IPv6 requirements, chairing various committees and working groups to define the initial IPv6 capable requirements resulting in significant savings in costs and promoting competition amongst vendors. Tim Sharpe of the Defense Information Systems Agency is recognized for leading a NATO nation effort to develop a standard interface between national tactical systems that created a federated network Standardization Agreements that resulted in standard wideband interface between multinational tactical networks.

Team winners include the Joint U.S. Army/Defense Logistics Agency Team, which coordinated the reinstatement of the MIL-STD-147 palletized unit loads standard. This standard covers the methods, materials, and techniques employed for palletized unit loads of military supplies. Members of that team include Thomas Kozlowski, Kenneth Hill, Timothy Keller, Ann Podrasky, and Joseph Wolak.

The Army team at the Army Research Laboratory led an international effort to develop a manufacturing process known as "Cold Spray" and the accompanying Manufacturing Process Standard, MIL-STD-3021, entitled Materials Deposition, Cold Spray. Cold Spray will allow the reclamation of existing parts during overhaul and repair. Studies conducted by the Army and its partners show that with a small investment, the Army will recover millions of dollars in cost avoidance savings not having to purchase new parts. Team members are Richard Squillacioti, Dennis Helfritch and Victor Champagne.

Naval Air Systems Command's team developed a virtual tactical bridge integrating live and virtual radio devices using different standards into a seamless communications architecture. This effort bridges the gap between live and virtual communications. This program will result in an estimated $2.6 million annual cost avoidances by facilitating engineering and quality investigations common among aviation equipment and platforms used by multiple services. Members include Robert Reif, John Allen, Lance Legan, Christopher Sprague and Peter McCarthy.

A joint Navy, Army, Air Force Coast Guard, and Defense Contract Management Agency Team at Naval Air Systems Command worked together in standardizing the reporting process for all services in the Joint Deficiency Reporting System. The team integrated each services system into a web-based, workflow driven application, with a shared relational database. This was accomplished while maintaining service specific fields and workflow requirements. JDRS now provides full deficiency report processing. The payoff is improved performance, safety, reliability, quality, sustainability, interoperability, and a substantial cost savings. This joint team includes Steven Hauck, William Queener, David Christy, William Duren and William Folsom.

An Air Force Team led the way to coordinate and publish MIL-STD-3027 on performance requirements and testing of body armor. This standard provides military unique requirements for ballistic threat protection, environmental exposure, durability, and testing for use in the development of new soft and hard body armor. This standard now enables the all services whose forces' mission requirements preclude using the Interceptor Body Armor System to accurately specify and verify standard military unique requirements in future body armor procurements. Members are Capt. Mark Mallory, Todd Turner, Timothy Staley, Madeline Istvan and Christopher Ptachik.

Additional information on the Defense Standardization Program is available on the DSP website at http://www.dsp.dla.mil .

First Lady Visits Fort Bragg, Vows Support for Military Families

By Reginald Rogers
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 13, 2009 - First lady Michelle Obama said she was committed to improving support for military families yesterday during her first visit here as first lady. Obama said her commitment to improving family support began two years ago at the beginning of her husband's campaign, after hearing about the challenges military spouses faced. "I spent a lot of my time talking about issues that really affected me as a working mom," Obama said. "I met more and more military families who were not just struggling with those basic issues that all civilians are dealing with, but they were tacking on multiple tours of duty and having to figure out how do you keep a family together when you moved 10 times in the same number of years.

"I was moved by the power of those stories, and I committed to myself then that if I was blessed with the opportunity to be the nation's first lady, then I would make the issues facing military families a top priority for me," she said.

The first lady pointed out a few of the issues military families face including quality education on military posts, adequate childcare for families who live on- and off-post, and for military spouses, how to balance higher education, careers and family support during deployments.

Obama said it is important to hear military families' concerns and provide a voice for them in Washington.

"First of all, my job is to listen and learn and to make sure that the families understand that not only the Obama family, but the Obama administration values their service and is going to be working to shine a light," she said. "I want to make sure that I use my platform to ensure that the nation is aware of these challenges."

She said many people may assume that by caring for the troops, they also are taking care of military families.

"I think many people were like me, not realizing so many of our military families are living right at the poverty line," she explained, "not realizing that it is hard for spouses to get jobs when the move, or that they can't often transfer credits and finish their education, and they're struggling with the high cost of quality and affordable childcare."

Obama said she wants to bring military families' issues to light.

"I also think that there are some real practical issues that the Obama administration is expected to address," she said. "In the stimulus package, there is more money for improved housing support, expanding childcare, and making sure that we're caring for our wounded veterans."

The first lady said it is important to make sure that when wounded veterans return home, they will receive quality medical care. She added that in the current budget, the president also is looking for more money to increase military pay, expand childcare and ensure that there is adequate mental health support.

"Those are just some of the things," she said. "As Barack said, this is a down payment on what we need to be doing, and we've got to make sure that this budget passes and the dollars start flowing."

Obama spoke on the importance of having adequate childcare for military families.

"I think everyone calms down when they think their kids are taken care of," she said. "So having good childcare facilities -- I think we're going to see some of that money start to come in so that folks can get off the waiting lists and get into childcare facilities. Not just on bases, but in the surrounding communities as well, because not everybody lives on a base; not everybody can transfer their kids back and forth to bases."

Many family members spoke to her about streamlining the available support so that it is more consistent at all bases, Obama said. It is equally important to make information available to families to prevent hardships once they transfer to different bases, she noted.

Obama said she was impressed with the Fort Bragg community.

"The spirit here, that impressed me the first time I came here, just a little over a year ago," she said. "The folks here are very proud of their service, and the leadership here takes support to families very seriously."

She recalled one of the military spouses who recently had spoken with her own mother and explained the kind of support available on the post. She said the mother pointed out that none of those systems or programs existed in the past when she was raising her family here.

"Fort Bragg demonstrates that we've made a lot of progress in term of support for military families," Obama said. "But I think the leadership here would say that we still have work to do."

Obama praised Fort Bragg and the Fayetteville community, saying it is a model for other military towns because of the support and facilities available to soldiers and family members.

"There is a commitment to the resources that are needed across the board for families," she said. "There's the Family Covenant that really sets forth the priorities and the values that should guide the support that the military is going to give.

"There's a broader community of support here in Fayetteville and the surrounding counties that is the model," she continued. "So this is one of the places that we should look for the type of support that we need."

Obama wants to put a call out to the nation to be mindful that this is a nation at war.

"There are troops out there right now fighting for our freedom and our security," she said. "When they go, they leave behind families.

The first lady extended the opportunity to help military families to the rest of the nation, whether they live in military communities or not.

"It's incumbent upon us as a nation to look in our schools and figure out which child has parents that's deployed and be aware of that and be conscious of that," she said. "It's incumbent upon us to look in our own backyards to our neighbors and to figure out who's out there serving our country, and what kind of support that they need. We need to make sure, as a community, that we're coming together around those families."

(Reginald Rogers serves with the Fort Bragg public affairs office.)