Wednesday, March 18, 2009

End to Stop Loss Announced

The Department of Defense announced today a comprehensive plan to eliminate the current use of Stop Loss, while retaining the authority for future use under extraordinary circumstances. This is an important step along the path in adapting the Army into an expeditionary force.

The Army Reserve and Army National Guard will mobilize units without employing Stop Loss beginning in August and September 2009, respectively. The Regular (active duty) Army will deploy its first unit without Stop Loss by January 2010.

For soldiers Stop Lossed during fiscal 2009, the department will provide a monthly payment of $500. Until the department is able to eliminate Stop Loss altogether, this payment will serve as an interim measure to help mitigate its effects.

"Stop Loss disrupts the plans of those who have served their intended obligation. As such, it is employed only when necessary to ensure minimal staffing in deploying units, when needed to ensure safe and effective unit performance," said Bill Carr, deputy under secretary of defense for military personnel policy. "It is more easily rationalized in the early stages of conflict when events are most dynamic; but tempo changes in this war have frustrated our efforts to end it altogether."

The department intends to provide Stop Loss Special Pay to eligible service members until the point of separation or retirement, to include that time spent on active duty in recovery following redeployment. Stop Loss Special Pay will begin on the date of implementation, and will take effect for those impacted on or after Oct. 1, 2008.

Stop Loss Special Pay implements the authority granted by Section 8116 of the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriation Act, 2009." The appropriation is available to secretaries of the military departments only to provide Special Pay during fiscal 2009.

Marine Corps Recruit Shows Respect Through Winning Artwork

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - A high school student and Marine Corps recruit from Lewisville, Texas, has turned his respect and admiration for servicemembers into award-winning art. Luis G. Hernandez, a 12th-grade high school student, was the winner of the 2009 SemperComm Art Competition this year.

The SemperComm Foundation, a Virginia troop-support group, is dedicated to supplying morale-boosting communications and entertainment equipment, software and services to small and remote, overseas military bases.

"We started the art competition five years ago to provide a creative outlet for high school students to show support and appreciation for the sacrifices made by U.S. servicemembers," Lara Coffee, SemperComm Foundation executive director, said.

The competition's theme, "Five Stars," symbolizes the highest and rarest U.S. military rank ever held, representing the five virtues of men and women in uniform: honor, compassion, respect, responsibility and courage, Coffee said.

Students from across the country were asked to submit entries reflecting the Five Stars theme. They used various forms of media, including photography, illustration, mixed media and sculpture. Graphic design, advertising and digital media, including animation, Web design and motion work, were added to the media options for this year.

"My SemperComm project was only a small token of my gratitude to the armed forces," Hernandez said. "My respect and appreciation for the military cannot be expressed enough."

Hernandez's unique entry, "The True Five Stars," was a welded sculpture that started out with a long piece of copper tubing, cut in half, into which he cut "USA" and the names of each military service.

"Metal and copper can't be welded, so it had to be braised," Hernandez said. "After the branches were on the copper cannons, I cut a rectangular piece of diamond plate, which I welded to four-inch steel. I finished off the project with painting and clear coating. The six cannons represent the protection for this country. Each cannon holds a branch of the military."

He said he added "USA" in the middle to show the country being protected by the services.

Hernandez received a certificate of appreciation for his artwork and an invitation to a future SemperComm event.

Hernandez, who plans to join the Marine Corps later this year, is glad he had the opportunity to participate in the competition.

"The USA represents compassion and respect, along with all the men and women that serve as police officers or help out the community in a major way," Hernandez said. "A lot of pride went into my piece."

Gates Recommends New Terms, Positions for Senior Officers

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today announced his recommendations that President Barack Obama re-nominate Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright as the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a second two-year term. Gates also announced he has recommended new commanders for U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. European Command and U.S. Southern Command.

The secretary has recommended Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard to become commander of Pacom, succeeding Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating. Willard is commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet.

Gates also recommended the commander of U.S. Southern Command, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, to be the commander of U.S. European Command, succeeding Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock. If confirmed, Stavridis would be the first naval officer to hold the command in Europe. The commander of U.S. European Command also is the NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, and he would have overall responsibility for the NATO effort in Afghanistan.

The secretary has also recommended Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas Frazer to succeed Stavridis at U.S. Southern Command. Frazer is the deputy commander at U.S. Pacific Command, and if confirmed, would be the first Air Force leader of Southcom.

All of these moves require Senate confirmation.

"If confirmed, these officers would be taking up their commands over the next several months," Gates said at a news conference here today. "I would like to thank the outgoing combatant commanders ... for their decades of dedicated service."

The secretary said the officers he's recommending have the mix of "military acumen, strategic vision and diplomatic and interagency skill that their posts require."

Sesame Workshop Reaches Out to Military Families

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - Sesame Workshop continues to find unique and creative ways to reach out to the very youngest in military families, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said here today during a sneak preview of a new primetime Sesame program. "There are few characters more beloved than the Sesame Street friends, and through Elmo and Rosita, military kids can better grasp how to reconnect with their loved ones after redeployment," Lynn said. "They will see that they are not alone in feeling confused or anxious, and that they and their families can learn new ways of ... supporting one another."

"Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change," is scheduled to air April 1 on PBS at 8 p.m., in conjunction with the start of the Month of the Military Child. The show, which features Queen Latifah, musician John Mayer, and of course, Elmo, allows viewers to step inside a few military families' lives and learn how they've coped with life-altering changes.

With some help from Elmo's friend Rosita, the trio talks with real military families who have faced changes because of a loved one's injuries, which can be either external and visible or internal and invisible.

And Rosita can relate to the military children. Her father's legs "don't work any more," and he uses a wheelchair. he finds that just like her father and her, the military families are adapting to changes in the same way: together.

The relationship between Sesame Workshop and the military, which produced "Talk, Listen, Connect," an initiative providing support and resources for military families facing deployments or changes due to combat, began several years ago, Lynn said.

"The program we are celebrating today is a terrific effort to help those families," he said. "Many of our servicemembers will tell you they fight for our country, but they also fight for our kids and they fight for their kids.

"I know they appreciate groups like Sesame Workshop that are looking out for their interests at home," Lynn added.

The initiative offers some of what Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said men and women in uniform deserve for their service.

"Those who serve our country in uniform deserve the very best nurturing we can provide, and that includes helping their precious children learn to live with a mom or dad who may not be quite the same person they watched go off to war," Shinseki said. "We are grateful to Sesame Street for bringing the sensitive subject to the wider American audience through this TV special and its accompanying educational materials."

Since the inception of Talk, Listen, Connect two years ago, the initiative has grown and evolved, Sesame Workshop's president and chief executive officer said today.

"[It] has struck a chord, we've noticed, with a military community in a way that we never could have expected," Gary Knell said. "Through this project, we're helping kids and families unite and find reassurance that they are not alone in their journey.

"Who would have thought Elmo and Rosita could help these families find ways to grasp and to cope with their changing circumstances?" he added.

That's exactly what is happening, however. Sammy Cila, 9, who participated in the new special with his family, said the one thing he'd like other military kids to know is there are other kids going through this, too.

"There's no need to be worried about it," he said. "It's actually great [to know] that there's other families that are going through the same thing."

Sammy's father, Army Sgt. Sebastian Cila, who was serving in Iraq when his left arm was severely injured, sang the primetime program's praises, too.

"I believe it will help families tremendously. I was thrilled with the project, [and] I think they did a great job," Cila said. "It just kind of gives some insight and some behind-the-scenes of what families go through with injuries and disappointments."

Cila's wife, Anna, agreed. "They did a really nice job portraying the situations that the families are going through," she said. "It's true to my heart that what we saw today is something good; something really good is going to come out of it."

About 800,000 Talk, Listen, Connect kits have been distributed in the two years of the initiative's existence. Each contains DVDs and print materials to help military families cope with different aspects of deployment, change and even loss.

More than 1.3 million kits have been produced and are being distributed at no cost to families, schools, family support programs, hospitals and rehabilitation centers. The kits, produced in both English and Spanish, also are available for download from the Sesame Street Web site.

Africom Commander Describes Conditions for U.S. Involvement

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - U.S. Africa Command will intervene in conflicts on the continent only after warring countries have shown a political will to reconcile, the Africom commander told a congressional panel today. Two main functions of Africom are aiding in stabilization operations and helping build indigenous security forces. But before America's newest combatant command steps in, national governments must take steps toward ending their conflicts, Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward said.

"The actions that we take come on the heels of a policy decision having been taken by the nations themselves," Ward told the House Armed Services Committee today.

Ward cited three areas of current conflict on the continent, including border disputes between Eritrea and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and in North Africa at the Western Sahara, and clashing in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In determining the Africom focus in what Ward characterized as "enduring conflicts," he said political agreement is a prerequisite for U.S. involvement. If American policy makers then determine Africom can play a role, it will proceed in its mission.

Using the example of Central Africa, where a lack of interoperability and information sharing was exacerbating conflicts, the United States was able to lend assistance to Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and to a lesser degree, and the Central African Republic.

"We had the ability to ... help in information sharing, to help with equipment interoperability, providing sometimes needed logistics support and enhancements, to cause those governments to be able to have a better sense of what goes on inside their borders against insurgencies or the rebel factions, and then be able to work in some degree of commonality to address them," he said.

Ward said many African nations are able to provide their own security, citing Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Burundi. Though some require logistical or other support, many indigenous forces are self-reliant.

"Many of the African nations, in fact, do what many of them say they want to do -- that is, provide for their own security," said Ward, adding that there's a very broad range of capabilities among African nations.

The general estimated the United States has partnerships with 35 of Africa's 53 nations, representing U.S. relationships that span the continent.

"We work with them [on] counter-terror programs, programs to help in their transformation of their militaries and also in just basic logistic support as they participate in U.N.- or [African Union]-sponsored peacekeeping operations," he told the congressional members.

Ward's committee appearance marked his second consecutive day testifying on Capitol Hill about the role of Africom, which became active last October.

He has emphasized that Africom's role is to support African governments in achieving what is an overarching goal for many nations on the continent: to provide their own security.

"We take all of these [opportunities] as we can to help build the relationships and provide some sustained-level security engagement that leads to a capacity increase in our partner nations," Ward said.

Education, Personal Contact Key to Cutting Suicide Rate, Army Leader Says

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - Ending a policy that excused citizen-soldiers from monthly drills for 90 days after deployment helped the Army National Guard better take care of its troops, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel said. "What they thought they were doing was protecting the soldier from the chain of command," Lt. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle said. "They did reverse the policy. That was the beginning of us ... protecting soldiers, prevention of crisis."

Rochelle made his remarks March 16 to program managers, trainers, and support personnel from across the nation who attended three days of suicide prevention training here hosted by the Army National Guard's Soldier Family Support and Services division.

Maj. Gen. James W. Nuttall, deputy director of the Army National Guard, said suicides in the military now surpass the suicide rate in the general population. The Army has the highest rate in the military, and the Army National Guard has the highest rate of the Army's three components.

"It's critical for us to get our arms around this," Nuttall said.

Soldiers need to have contact with colleagues in their unit, and those in their chain of command need to be able to look them in the eye to determine if they might be having problems, Rochelle said.

"We all know that a senior or a subordinate needs to look every one of us in the eye within a period of time after redeployment – just do that gut-check, 'Is everything going OK? Is everything all right?'" he said.

Leaders at all levels need to be educated in suicide warning signs, Rochelle said, especially at the company level and below. "Platoon sergeants, squad leaders, team leaders, company commanders and first sergeants are missing the signs," he said.

The training focused on developing state suicide prevention programs that include intervention and something presenters call "postvention," meaning responding to the aftermath of a completed or attempted suicide.

Drawing on a study conducted after a wave of suspected suicides at an Army post, Rochelle suggested other improvements:

-- More resources: "We don't have enough behavioral help at the brigade level," he said.

-- More counselors: "We can't hire enough Army substance abuse counselors and ... specialists to meet the demand," he said.

Some specific challenges related to suicide haven't changed through the years, Rochelle said. One study found that the average age of suicides in the military during World War II was 22 – the same as today, he said.

During World War II, "the likelihood increased with time in service," he said. "Responsibilities, as they increase with time in service and grade, heightens the level of stigma associated with seeking help. That's the same problem we are confronting today."

Making it socially acceptable to get help is the No. 1 priority to reducing suicide, Rochelle said. "Our biggest challenge is reducing the stigma," he said. A bright spot: Rochelle said he was encouraged by a visit to Afghanistan where he saw soldiers openly lining up to talk with a counselor after a mission.

Rochelle and his colleagues studied the facts surrounding 15 confirmed servicemember suicides. Some of what they found defied stereotypes:

-- Sixty percent had no deployment history. "That's causing us to go back and ask some questions about the enlistment history – the behavioral health history – of new, junior-level individuals," he said.

-- Relationships were a contributing factor in 75 percent of the cases. "That doesn't mean that that was the major contributing factor. It may have been an aggravating factor – but it was a factor," he said.

-- Half of the cases involved some unit integration or reintegration issues. "We all know how important that is," he said. "In [the continental United States], it's important. It's doubly important for a junior enlisted soldier forward-deployed."

-- Half the cases involved some substance abuse, with alcohol and prescription medication being the biggest problems. "It's most especially alcohol," he said.

That's another case of history repeating itself, Rochelle noted. "There was a high, high correlation of alcohol abuse in the suicides from World War II," he noted. "Very high."

Soldiers need to be able to seek help with alcohol issues without fear, Rochelle said. "This is another area where we're having a challenge reducing stigma," he said.

During his stint as commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Rochelle said, he lobbied to prevent past Ritalin use from being a disqualifying factor for recruitment. "There are too many people taking it," he explained. But history may become a more important factor in recruitment decisions as the Army drives to slash the suicide rate, he said.

"We are bound and determined to lick this problem," Rochelle said, urging local National Guard leaders to take initiative at the state level, because a local success could be picked up as a model by the entire Army.

He said reducing suicides involves three things: "One is removal of the stigma of seeking professional help, the stigma also associated with substance abuse; two, getting our junior level leaders [involved]; and, three, intervening.

"There's a phenomenon today, ... a little bit of reluctance to reach out and touch somebody, to get inside someone's personal space," Rochelle said. "We have to help our junior-level leaders understand that in this particular dilemma, we have to get inside that space. We have to reach out and touch someone, and we have to be willing to intervene on their behalf in order to prevent the next suicide."

Soldier Family Support and Services is the Army National Guard directorate's newest division, created to improve the quality of life of citizen soldiers and their families by providing services that promote self-sufficiency, resiliency, well-being and prosperity, according to Erin Thede, division chief.

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves with the National Guard Bureau.)

Gates Approves Plan to End Army's Involuntary Extensions

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - The Army will phase out use of the so-called "stop-loss" program between now and January, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. Since the beginning of his term as defense secretary, Gates has called on the services to eliminate their dependence on the controversial program that allows the involuntary extension of servicemembers' active duty past the scheduled end of their term of service.

The Army currently has 13,000 soldiers whose active duty status was extended through the program so they could deploy with their units. The Army is the only service using the program.

"We have the legal authority to do it," Gates said during a Pentagon news conference. "But ... I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith. It wasn't a violation of the enlistment contract. But I believe that when somebody's end date of service comes up, to hold them against their will, if you will, is just not the right thing to do."

The secretary said there will always be the need to hold a few people in the service, but it should be a small number. "I would like to get it down to scores, not thousands," he said.

The secretary's decision will eliminate the use of stop-loss for deploying soldiers.

"Effective this August, the U.S. Army Reserve will no longer mobilize units under stop-loss," Gates said. "The Army National Guard will stop doing so in September, and active Army units will cease employing stop-loss in January."

The goal is to cut the number of soldiers remaining in the Army under stop-loss by 50 percent by June 2010 and to near zero by March 2011. "We will retain the authority to use stop-loss under extraordinary circumstances," Gates said.

The Army will put in place a number of incentives to encourage soldiers to voluntarily extend their enlistments to mitigate the impact the decision will have on unit cohesion and strength. Starting this month, the Army will pay stop-lossed solders $500 a month. The program is retroactive to Oct. 1, which was when Congress passed the law permitting the payments.

While there is some risk, Gates said, he wants to do everything to make sure "soldiers are not unnecessarily forced to stay in the Army past their end of service date."

Army leaders spoke to the secretary recently on the proposal, and they are putting in place the directives and regulations to make it work, Army officials said.

"I think that the way the Army is approaching this mitigates those risks, so I feel comfortable with this plan," Gates said.

The Army is able to make this move because of three reasons, Army officials said: the changing conditions in Iraq, a new unit rotation program that is being put in place, and the increase in the size of the Army. Over the next 18 months, the drawdown in Iraq will far outnumber the increase in Afghanistan, Gates said.

The Marines used stop-loss early in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A total of 3,389 active-duty Marines served beyond their terms of service. About 5,000 Marine reservists were stop-lossed, but only 443 of them were mobilized, Marine Corps officials said. The Marines stopped using the program May 12, 2003.

The Air Force used the program sparingly in 2001, 2002 and 2003. It implemented stop-loss for 43 officers and 56 enlisted airmen for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and ended it on June 23, 2003.

The Navy has not used the program since the spring of 2003, and then it was for medical corpsmen to serve with the Marines, Navy officials said.



Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group, Inc., Pasadena, Calif., is being awarded an estimated $977,374,565 requirements contract with firm-fixed unit prices subject to economic price adjustment. This contract will provide a realistic environment to support a variety of training tasks related to the deployment and maneuverability in an urban setting to enable Marines to conduct training in an environment replicating urban conditions. The Military Operations in Urban Terrain system also allows Marine units to master the challenges of urban navigation, movement, target acquisition and engagement and cross boundary coordination. The training may be performed at any Marine Corp base worldwide, and the work is estimated to be completed March 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This effort was awarded by using a full and open competition. The Marine Corps System Command, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity (M67854-09-D-8000).

Omega Aerial Refueling Services, Inc., Alexandria, Va., is being awarded a $24,666,665 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-07-D-0009) to exercise an option for contractor owned and operated aircraft in support of the Commercial Air Services program, which provides aerial refueling tanking for Navy and other Government agency aircraft. Work will be performed in Oceana, Va. (45 percent); Point Mugu, Calif. (35 percent); and various military activities across the United States and OCONUS (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2010. 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.

C&G Boat Works*, Inc., Mobile, Ala., was awarded March 17, 2009, a $17,584,236 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-2236) to exercise an option to construct two Yard Patrol Training Craft used to train U.S. Navy midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Work will be performed in Mobile, Ala., and is expected to be completed by March 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.

Progeny Systems Corporation*, Manassas, Va., was awarded March 17, 2009, a $12,619,042 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-6272) for engineering and technical services involving technology assessments, system design, software development, and hardware/software integration for undersea weapons and related undersea warfare combat and submarine platform systems. This effort is a continuation of the concept of Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR), and is titled Topic No. N96-278 "Technology Infusion Methodology for Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Based Systems" for the development of processes to introduce commercially available components into existing systems. This process will provide the framework and methodologies for introducing upgrade and/or replacement components for obsolete items as well as for upgrades to the system to provide additional capability. Work will be performed in Charleroi, Pa., (50 percent); Manassas, Va. (30 percent); Middletown, R.I. (15 percent); and Salt Lake City, Utah (5 percent), and is expected to be completed by September 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C. is the contracting activity.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded March 17, 2009, a $6,625,124 firm-fixed-price order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for inner wing conversion and reliability improvements required pursuant to Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) 609. This ECP will convert existing F/A-18A/B Lots 5-9 Inner Wing assemblies to be compatible with F/A-18 C/D Lots 10, 11, 12, and up aircraft. This ECP also defines changes required to convert existing F/A-18 C/D Lots 10 and 11 Inner Wings to be compatible with F/A-18 C/D Lots 12 and up aircraft. ECP 609 also addresses reliability issues with two fuel tubes, which will be replaced with heat treated versions and define requirements to improve sealing of the inner wing to prevent stress corrosion cracking of the lower spar flanges. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo. (74 percent) and Mesa, Ariz. (26 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2012. 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.


Hermes Consolidated Inc. dba Wyoming Refining Co., Denver, Colo.* is being awarded a maximum $72,591,525 fixed price with economic price adjustment, partial set aside, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for aviation fuel. Other location of performance is Wyoming. Using service is Defense Energy Support Center. There were originally 68 proposals solicited with 26 responses. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), Fort Belvoir, Va. (SP0600-09-D-0472).

Irving Oil Terminal Inc., Portsmouth, N.H. is being awarded a maximum $60,673,632 fixed price with economic price adjustment, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for aviation fuel. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Defense Energy Support Center. There were originally 48 proposals solicited with 23 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is April 30, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), Fort Belvoir, Va. (SP0600-09-D-0474).

Cardinal Health, Inc., Dublin, Ohio is being awarded a maximum $60,168,630 firm fixed price, pharmaceutical prime vendor, justification and approval contract for distribution of pharmaceutical items. Other location of performance is North Carolina. Using service is Department of Defense. The original proposal was Web solicited on FedBizOps with 3 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Va. (SPM200-01-D-1606).

AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Wayne, Pa. is being awarded a maximum $26,587,371 firm fixed price, pharmaceutical prime vendor, justification and approval contract for distribution of pharmaceutical items. Other location of performance is Hawaii. Using service is Department of Defense. The original proposal was Web solicited on FedBizOps with 3 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Va. (SP0200-00-R-2501).


The Air Force is awarding a cost-plus-fixed-fee indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract to InfoSciTex Corporation, of Waltham, Massachusetts for $49,500,000 dollars. This action will provide an aerospace technology evaluation and assessment program will provide research and engineering for the technical requirements for the Air Force Research Laboratory and Aeronautical Systems Center by employing and or generating state-of-the-art modeling, simulation, and analysis tools and techniques. At this time, $627,000 has been obligated. AFRL/PKVA, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity. (FA8650-09-D-3900)

The Air Force is awarding a cost plus fixed fee contract to William March Rice University of Houston, Texas for $16,071,769. The platform aware compilation environment contract will improve programmer productivity and application performance through the development of a productive computationally efficient architecture aware complier environment. At this time, $5,255,299 has been obligated. AFRL/PKDA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity. (FA8650-09-C-7915)

The Air Force is modifying a firm fixed price contract with Lockheed Marin Corporation of Orlando, Florida for $14,251,799. This action will provide additional depot spares and a readiness spares package for the AN/AAQ-39 to support a six ship deployment for the AC-130 gunship aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 667th AESS/SYKA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity. (FA8629-08-C-2402, P00004)

The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to ATC-NY of Ithaca, New York for a maximum $12,000,000. The purpose of this acquisition is to research, develop, enhance and transition critical SBIR technologies to support a secure data sharing environment with multi-level security across multiple organizations. At this time, $220,000 has been obligated. AFRL/RIKE, Rome, New York is the contracting activity. (FA8750-09-D-0046)

Armed Services Field Programs to Combat Servicemember Suicides

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - One servicemember suicide "is too many," and each military service now has programs designed to combat the problem, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters at a Pentagon news conference today. About one-third of the suicides in the military involve members who've never deployed overseas, Gates said.

Gates also said he's been told that broken relationships constitute one of the principal causes of servicemember suicide.

"And it's not hard not to imagine that repeated deployments don't have an impact on those relationships," Gates said, noting that he didn't have any data on hand to support that contention.

"But, it just seems to me [to be] common sense, that repeated deployments have to weigh very heavily on relationships," Gates said. The Army's previous 15-month deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan "were a real strain on many of our men and women in uniform, as well," he added. Army units now deploy for 12 months.

Servicemember suicide is an issue the Defense Department "takes very seriously," Gates said.

All of the armed services are working to prevent servicemember suicide, Gates said, and the Army, in particular, is engaged aggressively in that endeavor.

The Army's anti-suicide program, Gates said, appears similar to efforts that seek to identify and assist soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Noncommissioned officers are trained how to recognize if junior-rank soldiers are depressed or seem disconnected from associates and their families.

"I've seen some of the training materials that they've provided, and I think that they are doing the appropriate things," Gates said of the Army's efforts to combat suicide.

Later in the day, a group of senior military officers from across the services told members of a Senate Armed Services subcommittee about their suicide prevention efforts. Before the start of the hearing, committee chairman Sen. Ben Nelson said the military services have seen increased rates of servicemember suicides between calendar years 2007 and 2008.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said he and other senior leaders are working hard to solve the soldier-suicide issue. The Army has stood up an anti-suicide task force that recently issued an interactive video that attacks "that issue of stigma," Chiarelli said. Some soldiers have been reluctant to seek help for psychological issues because they fear it would affect their careers or that would be perceived as weak for doing so.

Years of war and overseas deployments have "undeniably put a strain" on the Army's soldiers, Chiarelli said, noting that the effects of stress have resulted in increased incidence of suicide.

"We must find ways to relieve some of this stress; particularly the stress caused by deployments and frequent lengthy periods of separation," Chiarelli said.

Even though the demand to deploy soldiers overseas is expected to remain high for some time, Chiarelli said, the Army is "focused on mitigating the stress as much as possible."

Suicide ranks as the third-leading cause of death in the Navy, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Patrick M. Walsh said at the hearing. The Navy, he said, now is embarked on a comprehensive suicide-prevention program.

Sailor suicide also "destroys families, devastates communities [and] unravels the cohesive social fabric and morale inside our commands," Walsh said. The Navy, he said, is instructing its leaders to look for and connect with those individuals seemingly beset with relationship, financial, legal, and work troubles and exhibiting deteriorating physical and mental health, including depression.

The Navy must also "eliminate the perceived stigma, shame and dishonor of asking for help," Walsh said. Naval commanders, he said, have an important, supportive role in this endeavor.

"The tragic loss of a Marine to suicide is deeply felt by all of us who remain behind," Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said. The Marines, he said, lost 41 members to suicide in 2008, 33 in 2007, and 25 in 2006.

"That is unacceptable; we are taking action to turn this around," Amos said, noting that the Marine Corps is committed "to fix" the suicide issue. Data shows, he said, that the most likely Marine to die by suicide is a young Caucasian male, ranging in age from 18 to 24, and between the ranks of private and sergeant.

The most likely cause of Marine suicides "is a failed relationship with a woman," Amos said, noting that men are more likely to take their lives. The most common methods of Marine suicide, he said, are gunshots and hanging, similar to civilian statistics.

Suicide prevention, Amos said, is required training at Marine boot camps, for all new officers, and is incorporated throughout the Corps' officer, noncommissioned officer, and enlisted professional development education systems.

"Our NCOs have the day-to-day contact with Marines, and therefore, the best opportunity to see changes in behavior and other problems that can identify Marines in need of further assistance," Amos said. "As a result, we are developing a high-impact leadership training program focused on our noncommissioned officers and our corpsmen."

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. William M. Fraser III said his service is "doing all we can to focus on suicide prevention, while heightening awareness and exploring new approaches on this issue affecting our Air Force and airmen."

With today's sustained operational tempo, Fraser said, the Air Force is taking steps to ensure that its servicemembers are mentally prepared for deployments and re-deployments as they are prepared physically and professionally.

"We continue to make strides in implementing our Air Force suicide prevention program," Fraser said, "in further enhancing our psychological health treatment and our management programs, and in strengthening our continued partnerships with our sister services and our interagency colleagues."

Despite the successes, Fraser said, one suicide remains too many.

"And so we remain committed to these programs – individually and collectively – as a part of a larger effort to take care of our Air Force's most valuable assets, its people," Fraser said.

Families' Wishes Will Drive New Media Guidelines at Dover, Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 18, 2009 - The wishes of the families will be the overriding principle guiding any media coverage of fallen warriors' remains arriving at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. Gates directed a working group to come up with a plan to change a ban on such coverage imposed during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

"The working group I tasked to come up with an implementation plan has reported back, and we will put a number of its recommendations into action starting next month," Gates said during a Pentagon news conference.

If several remains return to Dover on the same flight, for example, "the media will be permitted to cover only the dignified transfer of individuals whose families have given permission," he said.

"Further, should immediate family members wish to be present for the arrival of their fallen hero at Dover, and this can be done without unduly delaying a fallen's return to his or her own hometown, we will facilitate that travel, and we will fund it," Gates said.

The study began with a survey of the groups concerned with the process. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael J. Basla chaired the Defense Department's working group. He said his group spoke with Gold Star Mothers, Gold Star Wives, veterans groups and senior enlisted advisors. "What we heard were two sides of the story," Basla said during an interview. "Some were very in favor of media access to the dignified transfers when the families agree, and some had concerns."

The concerns were all around wanting to put the fallen heroes in the best of light. "They were concerned that that may not happen if we lose control," Basla said. On the other hand, he said, many family members wanted to tell the stories of their loved ones.

Officials at Dover will work out how the process will work. If families do not want media present, then officials at Dover can accomplish the dignified transfer of remains for those fallen warriors before allowing the media out to the tarmac.

Media professionals will have a strict protocol to follow when covering the story, Basla said. "If any part of the media violates those protocols, then their access would be restricted in the future. We're going to preserve the privacy of these families, and we're going to maintain the dignity of these transfers."

In making his announcement, Gates echoed those sentiments.

"We are committed to seeing that America's fallen heroes are received back to their loved ones and their country with the honor, respect and recognition that they and their families have earned," he said.