Thursday, April 09, 2009

'Second Lady' Visits Fort Bragg

By U.S. Army Pfc. Casey A. Collier
American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, attended the Welcome Home Ceremony for the 18th Airborne Corps yesterday at Fort Bragg, N.C. Biden, who earned her doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware in 2007, sat in the V.I.P. gallery for the duration of the ceremony, which included presenting the combat streamer to the colors of the Corps and awards to Corps soldiers for valorous service, including six Bronze Stars and one Award of Merit.

Biden is not only a champion of military families and advocate of troop-support groups like Delaware Boots on the Ground, she also is a mother of a soldier currently serving in Iraq.

Army Capt. Beau Biden, Delaware attorney general, is assigned to the 261st Signal Brigade's Judge Advocate General's Corps. He deployed to Iraq in October for a 12-month tour.

Biden has made issues concerning military families one of her top priorities.

"One of the things Michelle (Obama) and I are trying to do is create awareness of what our troops are doing, in that we are at war," Biden said. "And the average American might think about that once in a while, but I know that the families of military members think about it almost every moment of every day. I know, as a military mom myself, how many times a day I stop and think about it."

"Two weeks ago," she noted, "I was traveling and a woman came up to me with her two small children and she said, 'I just wanted you to know that every night, my children and I pray for your son' and just that kindness meant so much to me."

She went on to say, "If every American could just reach out to a military family—whether that means sending a card, saying 'Thank you for your service', mowing their lawn, or taking over a batch of cookies—anything to say 'Thank you for what you're doing'. I think that's what it's all about."

The ceremony concluded following the vice president's address to soldiers and their families, after which officials ushered his wife to a tent behind the covered pavilion where she met wives of recently redeployed Corps soldiers.

Biden shook hands and exchanged remarks with the women in attendance and spoke at relative length with those who wished to voice specific concerns.

Among those was Lisa Taylor, wife of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th Airborne Corps soldier. "It's nice that she's all about feelings," Taylor said of Biden. "She is very supportive of military communities and military children."

(U.S. Army Pfc. Casey A. Collier is assigned to the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Pirate Hostage's Safe Return is Primary Concern, U.S. Officials Say

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - The safe return of the American maritime captain being held captive by pirates off the coast of Somalia is of primary importance, senior U.S. officials said here today at the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial. Following ministerial discussions on Afghanistan, U.S. engagement in Asia and other topics, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with reporters. They told reporters the captain's safe return is of paramount importance and that the situation is being monitored closely.

"We obviously have a naval presence in the area and other assets and we obviously are looking at our options," Gates said. "But, foremost in our minds is the safety of the captain."

Clinton, Gates and Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon met with reporters after the group discussed mutual security concerns at the ministerial.

Armed pirates attacked the cargo ship Maersk Alabama yesterday. The vessel was about 300 miles off the Somali coast. The unarmed ship's crew eventually regained control of the vessel, but the captain offered himself as a hostage to forestall violence.
The captain is now being held by four pirates in a small boat that's adrift at sea, as the U.S. Navy monitors the situation. The Maersk Alabama is headed to Mombasa, Kenya.
Concerning piracy committed off the Horn of Africa, Clinton said the State Department has taken the lead in establishing an international maritime task force, including vessels and participation from China, South Korea and Japan, to help confront the problem.

The coastal waters off Somalia encompass "a very large expanse of water," Clinton pointed out.

"We've had some success from contributions from this naval task force," Clinton said. "But, we also understand that the instability in Somalia is a contributing factor to those who take to the seas in order to board ships, highjack them, intimidate and threaten their crews and then seek ransom."

If there's good news, Clinton said, it is that no one so far has lost their life as the result of the Maersk Alabama incident.

"And so, like Secretary Gates said, we are following this carefully and monitoring it," Clinton said. "We have an American citizen who is currently being held hostage by a group of individuals in a lifeboat.

"So, we are watching this and intend to do everything we can to ensure there is no loss of life," Clinton said.

Also today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that President Barack Obama is "staying appraised of the situation" involving the captive American captain and the pirates.

The president's primary concern "is for the safety of the captain and the rest of the crew on the ship," Gibbs said. "And he will continue to receive those updates."

The White House has an interagency group on maritime safety, Gibbs said, that includes interagency participation by the departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Energy, Justice and the FBI, State, Transportation, and the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"The interagency maritime group has had a number of meetings and conference calls about this," Gibbs said. "Obviously, the Navy and the FBI are to some degree on the scene with their resources, and so the resources of our government are deployed in ensuring the safety and security of the captain and the crew."

Clinton, Gates, and the Australian officials also turned to other topics they'd discussed during the ministerial such as the status of their cooperative efforts in Afghanistan as part of the campaign to defeat extremism, as well as U.S. engagement in Asia.

"Australia has been there with us throughout; has been there in the thick of the fighting and has lost too many of its sons," Gates said of that nation's years-long participation in Afghanistan security and stability operations.

The Australian foreign minister thanked Clinton and Gates for "the very positive and constructive and substantive conversation we've had today."

The 60-some-year-old Australia-U.S. security partnership "remains an indispensible part of Australia's security, strategic and defense arrangements," Smith said.

Like the United States, Smith said, Australia, too, is concerned about nuclear-proliferation issues with regard to Iran and North Korea.

After hearing details of Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan, the Australian defense minister said his government is considering providing more assistance for U.S.-coalition efforts there.

"We did have, also, a very productive discussion about Afghanistan and Pakistan," Fitzgibbon said. "Of course, the discussion today gave both Minister Smith and I a greater appreciation of the new (Obama) strategy and how it will work.

"And, we again came out of the meeting with the conclusion that this is a good strategy, it is a welcome strategy and Australia certainly supports that strategy," Fitzgibbon said.

The United States and the Afghans "can use all the help we can get," Gates said. "What Australia is prepared to do is clearly up to the Australians."

Face of Defense: Principal, Graduates Serve Together

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - The Marine Corps is relatively small compared to the other branches of service. But for a former high school principal here, it couldn't get any smaller. Marine Corps Col. Brian T. Oliver, chief of staff for the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, has left his impact on Marines for the past 26 years, and on high school students for the past 13.

After joining the Marine Corps Reserve in 1996, the Drexel, N.C., native began a career as a high school teacher. He soon became an assistant principal, as well as wrestling and football coach, at Watauga High School in Boone, N.C.

In July 2004, Oliver became the principal of Freedom High School in Morganton, N.C., and there he made an impression on a student who is now Marine Corps Pfc. William M. Chester, a vehicle operator for the 2nd MLG.

"He did a lot to help me out," the 19-year old Marine said. "I don't think he realizes how much he did for me. I was kind of a troubled kid in high school, but was able to turn my life around."

Oliver has met at least two other Freedom High School students since he reactivated in January.

"It's kind of strange when I'm walking through the gymnasium and I hear someone say, 'Mr. Oliver? What are you doing here?'" he said.

Oliver also has met Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Michael J. Bradley, a platoon commander with the logistics group's landing support company, who graduated from Freedom High before Oliver's tenure there.

"You know, it's always nice to see someone who's from the same area," Bradley said.

Oliver said that being an educator is similar to being a Marine, and serving in both capacities gives him a greater appreciation for young Americans who choose to serve their country.

"Whether you're taking care of your teachers and students or your Marines and sailors, your primary mission is to take care of the people you serve with," he said. "It's really encouraging as a Marine, an educator and an officer to see the patriotism in the youth of America."

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas serves with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.)


Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $41,200,000 modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract (N00019-09-C-0010) for long lead materials and effort associated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Air System Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot IV procurement of three additional Navy Carrier Variant Air Systems (CVs) and one United Kingdom Short Take Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) Air System. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, (35 percent); El Segundo, Calif., (25 percent); Warton, United Kingdom, (20 percent); Orlando, Fla., (10 percent); Nashua, N.H., (5 percent); and Baltimore, Md., (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in Jan. 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.

The Boeing Co., Anaheim, Calif., is being awarded a $33,888,986 cost plus incentive fee, cost plus fixed fee contract to provide the following efforts for the TRIDENT II (D5) Navigation Subsystem: (1) engineering support services, and problem investigations for US and UK owned Electro-statically Supported Gyro Navigator (ESGN) navigation inertial equipment, (2) modification, refurbishment, and repair of U.S., and UK ESGN instruments and components, (3) TRIDENT II (D5) shipyard overhaul field engineering, (4) US Fleet Documentation, Surveillance Program, and Training, and (5) US/UK Stable Platform Housing Refurbishment. Work will be performed in Anaheim, Calif., (90 percent) and Heath, Ohio, (10 percent), and work is expected to be completed Jun. 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $25,360,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured. The Navy's Strategic Systems Programs, Arlington, Va., is the contracting agency (N00030-09-C-0002).

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $15,392,819 modification to previously awarded contract N00024-07-C-5432 for production support and technical engineering support for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM). Technical engineering support will include tasks needed to support missile production, which are not directly associated with the manufacture of missile hardware. These tasks include missile improvement, support equipment improvement, software engineering and improvement, reliability monitoring, system safety monitoring, quality assurance, risk management, test equipment, parts control, obsolete materials, configuration management, production verification inspection, manufacturing qualification, logistics impacts, and other activities needed to support the engineering of an effective ESSM missile for the NATO SEASPARROW Consortium. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., (45 percent); Australia, (11 percent); Andover, Mass., (10 percent); Germany, (8 percent); Canada, (7 percent); The Netherlands, (6 percent); Norway, (5 percent); Spain, (3 percent); Camden, Ark., (2 percent); Denmark, (1 percent); Greece, (1 percent); and Turkey, (1 percent), and work is expected to be completed Apr. 2010. 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.

Canadian Commercial Corp., General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada (GDLS-C), Ontario, Canada, is being awarded a $15,368,759 firm fixed priced modification to delivery order #0004 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5028) for the purchase of technical manuals for the RG31 MRAP Mk5 family of vehicles. Work will be performed in London, Ontario, Canada, and is expected to be completed Dec. 9, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Kilgore Flares Co., Toone, Tenn., is being awarded a $15,114,324 firm fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for manufacture of new MJU-38A/B airborne expendable countermeasures decoy flares. Work will be performed at Toone, Tenn., and work is expected to be completed by Dec. 2014. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with two proposals solicited and two offers received. The Naval Inventory Control Point is the contracting activity (N00104-09-D-K093).

Armtec Defense Products, Coachella, Calif., is being awarded a $14,661,754firm fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for manufacture of new MJU-38A/B airborne expendable countermeasures decoy flares. Work will be performed at Milan, Tenn., and work is expected to be completed by Dec. 2014. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with two proposals solicited and two offers received. The Naval Inventory Control Point is the contracting activity (N00104-09-D-K092).

Oceaneering International, Inc., Hanover, Md., is being awarded $7,759,913 for task order #0003 under a previously awarded cost plus fixed fee (completion) contract (N00014-07-D-0908) to build on the technology development completed in the previous Task Order for Close-in Precision Dynamic Positioning. Oceaneering International will perform the required analysis, scale model testing, full scale demonstration and sea trials to advance Wave Feed Forward theory. Work will be performed in Hanover, Md., and work is expected to be completed Sept. 2010. Contract funds will not expire at end of current fiscal year. The basic contract was competitively procured under solicitation N00014-06-R-0004 dated Mar. 2006. The Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity.

ARINC Engineering Services, LLC, Annapolis, Md., is being awarded a $6,303,559 indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, cost plus fixed fee contract to provide support for the Navigation Sensor System Interface (NAVSSI) to process data from the Global Positioning System and other ship navigation sensors in the distribution of real-time data to combat systems, command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence terminals (C4I). This requirement directly supports the Department of Defense and C4I mission critical systems. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), Marine Navigation Division, is the Central Engineering Activity for evolutionary development of NAVSSI. This three-year contract includes two, one-year options which, if exercised, would bring the potential, cumulative value of this contract to $10,896,950. All work will be performed in San Diego, Calif. and work is expected to be completed Apr. 8, 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via publication on the Federal Business Opportunities website and posting to the SPAWAR e-Commerce Central website. SSC Pacific is the contracting activity (N66001-09-D-0038).

Hutchinson Industries, Inc., Trenton, N.J., is being awarded a maximum $36,918,570 firm fixed price, sole source contract for pneumatic tire wheel. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is the Army. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Mar. 15, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich., (SPRDL1-09-C-0036).

Today the Air Force is modifying a time and material, cost contract with Accenture National Security Services, LLC, King of Prussia, Penn., for an estimated $15,781,064. This action will provide for AFMSTT; a non-commercial, government-owned simulation system used to train the Joint Forces Commander, (JFC), Joint Force Air Component Commander, (JFACC) and their battle staff in multiple federation environments. At this time, $1,955,866 has been obligated. Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (FA8731-06-C-0001, P00024)

Today the Air Force is modifying a firm fixed price contract with Insight Technology Incorporated, Londonderry, New Hampshire for an estimated $6,932,663. This action will procure Panoramic Night Vision Goggles (PNVG); Low Rate Initial Production III. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 641 AESS/SYKA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8607-04-C-2752, P00016).

VA Budget Adds Mental-Health Services for Returning Combat Vets

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - The proposed Department of Veterans Affairs funding request will provide more post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury services to combat veterans, as well as other mental-health care and services for wounded warriors, President Barack Obama said today. "The nightmares of war don't always end when our loved ones return home," Obama said. "Untold thousands of servicemen and -women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other serious psychological injury."

The president called the growing incidence of suicide among active-duty servicemembers and returning combat veterans "disturbing."

"Sometimes the deadliest wounds are the ones you cannot see, and we cannot afford to let the unseen wounds go untreated," he said. "And that's why this budget dramatically increases funding for mental-health screening and treatment at all levels."

The proposed budget represents the largest single-year increase in VA funding in three decades. "All told, we will increase funding by $25 billion over the next five years," the president said.

Obama recognized that thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered from traumatic brain injury, and said the budget will provide improved services for these cognitive injuries.

"Many with TBI have never been evaluated by a physician," he said. "And because such injuries can often have long-term impacts that only show up down the road, this funding will help ensure they received the ongoing care they need."

The budget proposal also will increase the number of Vet Centers and mobile health clinics, expanding access to mental-health care in rural areas, he said. Meanwhile, it also aims to reduce the stigma of seeking care by adding mental-health professionals to educate veterans and their families about their injuries and their options.

In addition to more comprehensive mental-health services, Obama said the funding request will provide other improvements in the medical care and other benefits veterans receive.

"This budget doesn't just signify increased funding for the VA health-care program," he said. "It significantly expands coverage so that 500,000 more veterans who have previously been denied it will receive it, and it strengthens care and services across a broad range of areas."

The proposed budget also will:

-- Invest in better technology to deliver services and benefits to veterans with the quality and efficiency they deserve;

-- Provide greater benefits to veterans who are medically retired from service;

-- Combat homelessness by safeguarding vulnerable veterans; and

-- Ensure the timely adoption of new, comprehensive education benefits that veterans earn through their military service.

Obama said all Americans "share the shame of 154,000 veterans going homeless on any given night."

His budget request will fund a pilot program for not-for-profit groups to ensure that veterans at risk of losing their homes have a roof over their heads. "And we will not rest until we reach a day when not one single veteran falls into homelessness," he said.

Obama also expressed optimism over Senate support for a measure that would provide advanced medical-care funding for veterans.

"The care that our veterans receive should never be hindered by budget delays," Obama said, adding that the planhe and VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki have advanced will ensure there's no disruption.

"What that means is a timely and predictable flow of funding from year to year, but more importantly, that means better care for our veterans," he said.

USO, Military Families Show Troops Support with Care Packages

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - While many children are spending their spring break away from the schoolhouse on the couch watching television or playing video games, some spent part of their week off this year volunteering and giving back to their military community. More than 50 kids between the ages of 3 and 17 and about 20 adults spent the day today with the USO at Fort Belvoir, Va., putting together care packages for deployed military members.

"I'm so excited to be a part of this," said Caroline Daniels, an Army wife on Fort Belvoir who participated in her first care package operation today with her four children. "It's great for the kids to learn about what they can give and what they can do to support deployed soldiers. I think it's just a great way for us to say thank you and to help."

Daniels said her has been given an extraordinary amount of support over the past 20 years in the Army. Her husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Daniels, is a paralegal here who deployed for the first time in support of Operation Desert Storm.

"The military really does a great job of bringing families closer together," she said. "USO is awesome, and it does so much for the families -- not just the deployed soldiers, but for the families that are left behind."

The USO of Metropolitan Washington and the Defense Department's Military Health System sponsored the event in celebration of the Month of the Military Child. And although the USO hosts such "care package parties" twice each month here, today was the first time children under the age of 12 have participated, Ron Wise, director of the USO Care Package Program, said.

"Today we are focusing on the military child, and they are sometimes forgotten during the time of war that we're in," Wise said. "What we want to do is give them an opportunity to come and give back to the troops and have a little fun in the process."

Normally, the care package parties are off-limits to children under 12. Wise explained that on average, a care package party will stuff anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 packages. The constant hours of can be too intense for young children, and warehouse labor with forklifts and other equipment could be dangerous for them, he said.

"For young children, it's kind of hard to be moving around and standing for a long period of time," he said. "It can actually be really dangerous, and it took a lot of signatures and approvals in order to get this accomplished."

When the day started, the goal was to put together 500 care packages. But when the care package party ended, nearly 3,000 packages filled with toiletries, snacks and "thank you" cards were boxed up and ready to ship overseas, Wise said.

"The children are absolutely beautiful and motivated, dancing and singing," he said. "We're having a great time doing this."

Since the program started in 2003, the USO has shipped more than 1.5 million care packages to deployed troops serving all over the world, Wise said. Although inviting young children to participate won't happen very often, he added, it's definitely an event he and the USO would like to do again.

President Salutes Former Prisoners of War

American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - President Barack Obama today issued a proclamation marking Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, noting that American prisoners of war exemplify the courage and sacrifice that defines the nation's men and women in uniform. "These brave warriors have paid a massive share of the costs of freedom, and our nation will be forever in their debt," he said. "Today we honor all prisoners of war by recognizing the tremendous sacrifices made and the hardships endured by those who fight for our freedom.

"American prisoners of war have experienced extreme conditions across the world and many have made the ultimate sacrifice," Obama said. "Sixty-seven years ago, in the midst of World War II, nearly 12,000 Americans and 76,000 Filipinos were captured while defending positions on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. As prisoners of war, they endured the Bataan Death March, suffering starvation, torture, and unspeakable conditions. Thousands were randomly executed and many perished on this journey.

"During the Korean War, more than 1,600 Americans died under grave conditions at the Pyok Tong camp," he added. "In Vietnam's Hoa Lo Prison -- the infamous Hanoi Hilton -- Americans endured torture and other forms of inhumane treatment.

"There are countless tales of the bravery of American prisoners of war -- of the burdens borne, of the acts of heroism. These individuals have made great sacrifices and have demonstrated an enduring faith in themselves and in the United States," he said. "Their commitment calls out to all Americans to live up to our nation's highest ideals and to serve our fellow citizens with equal selflessness and honor. We will never forget their sacrifices. Their spirit of service will inspire the American people for generations to come."

Navy Crew Arrives to Assess Pirate Situation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - Pirates still hold the captain of the Maersk Alabama on the waters off Somalia, but the Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge has arrived on the scene, a Defense Department spokesman said today. "There's intense interest in this, and I appreciate that, but I must ask that you appreciate the fact that this is an on-going and unfolding situation," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said to reporters at the Pentagon today. "For those reasons, I will not talk in any detail of what the military aspect of this may or may not be."

Somali pirates assaulted the American ship yesterday. They briefly took the vessel, but the 21-member crew took it back and captured one of the pirates in the process. News reports say the remaining pirates kidnapped the American captain of the ship. The American crew reportedly attempted a trade with the pirates, and the effort failed.

U.S. Navy assets have arrived in the vicinity and are assessing the situation, Whitman said. "This is something that more than the United States Defense Department is interested in working on," he said. Stopping piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden requires interagency and international responses, he said.

Pirate attacks in the region have spiked over the last few weeks. Part of this is because the pirates are responding to pressure placed on them by Task Force 151, a U.S. 5th Fleet unit combating piracy in the region, officials said. Also, officials added, improved weather in the region has allowed pirates to operate farther off shore. The Maersk Alabama was 300 miles off the coast when the pirates boarded.

Task Force 151 operates in a 1.1-million-square-mile region. "That is part of the challenge," Whitman said. "It is a large area and you can't be everywhere at once."

Previously, Whitman cited economic problems as the driving factor for Somali pirates. They live in a failed state, he explained, and piracy is a way to feed their families. While Somalia does have an al-Qaida presence, the ship hijackings do not appear to be part of the terror network, Whitman said.

Defense Department officials are in almost constant contact with officials aboard Maersk Alabama, Whitman said.

Reading Program Reaches Out to Military Families

By Rob McIlvaine
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - Anyone from the Saturday morning cartoon generation knows that "reading is fundamental." Now, young military children will get their own version of that message through Reach Out and Read's new military pilot program. Through the program's military initiative, doctors and nurses at 20 military hospitals, including one in Germany, soon will receive training on how to promote early literacy for children. They also will be provided with free books to present to parents with children ages 6 months to 5 years when they bring their children in for wellness checkups.

"Reading aloud to a young child every day is a wonderful way to stimulate language," said Dr. Perri Klass, medical director of Reach Out and Read. "It helps children love books and reading, because they associate books with the parent's voice and with the pleasures of listening.

"That's the advice military doctors and nurses will be giving to the parents of their young patients at every checkup -- important advice for all parents to help their children learn language and enjoy books," she added.

Reading aloud not only helps children feel secure and loved, but also can help families face stressful situations, Klass said. That's especially true of military families, who often face deployment.

"I love to read and hope to instill a love of reading," said Air Force 1st Lt. Alice L. Shepard, a clinical pediatric nurse at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and mother to an 8-month-old son. "Even before he was born we read to him, and some of the first things I bought when making his nursery were books."

Shepard, who is scheduled to deploy next year, said she is glad to know that in addition to Reach Out and Read's wide selection of "doctor-recommended" children's books, some titles have been chosen especially for military children. One, "While You Were Away," by Eileen Spinelli, was very comforting, she said.

"I read Spinelli's book and found it very touching. It brought tears to my eyes, because it was so accurate," Shpard said. "As a mother of a very young child, I worry that he will not remember who I am when I return. I think this book could give him a sense of what I am doing over there."

State coalition groups will visit the 20 hospitals to train doctors on how to counsel parents about the benefits of reading to their children, said Barbara Christine, program manager for Library Programs at the Army Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation Command.

Because Reach Out and Read has already researched the age-appropriateness of each book, the training is more about what interaction with a book is developmentally appropriate for each age group, Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Minh-Thu Le, a physician at Travis Air Force Base, explained.

"I ... encourage parents to try and not dictate how a child interacts with a book," Le said. "Not every child will sit still for you to be able to read a book cover to cover. A 6-month-old will be more interested in mouthing the book, which is appropriate. A 12-month-old may flip each page quickly before you can even tell them what is on the page. Let the child dictate how you read to them."

Reach Out and Read could have another significant impact on the more than 90,000 young military children it will reach worldwide.

"Kids love books and usually hate going to the doctor's office," Le said. "Hopefully, this program will enable them to associate coming here as a fun outing, as well as having the book remind them and their parents [of] the importance of getting their wellness visits done."

As a way of reinforcing everything the Reach Out and Read program is promoting, participating military bases also will create literacy-rich waiting rooms. These will come complete with child-size furniture and book cases, where Reach Out and Read-trained volunteers will model reading with the children while they wait for appointments.

Each child who participates in the Reach Out and Read program also will start kindergarten with a home library of up to seven books and the support of parents who understand the importance of reading.

Reach Out and Read was founded in 1989 at what is now Boston Medical Center. "Nurtured by the passionate and inspired efforts of many educators, doctors, volunteers, parents, corporations, foundations and politicians, ROR has grown significantly from merely providing books in pediatric waiting rooms, said Dr. Robert Needleman, the program's co-founder.

National Guard Program Contributes to NATO's Expansion

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

April 9, 2009 - For NATO's two newest members, a National Guard program contributed to their April 1 accession into the alliance. Albania and Croatia have been members of the National Guard's State Partnership Program for more than a decade.

Along with other initiatives such as NATO's Partnership for Peace program, the National Guard's State Partnership Program helped the countries prepare for NATO membership, National Guard Bureau officials said.

Established in 1949 as a defense pact against the former Soviet Union and now 28 members strong, NATO celebrated its 60th anniversary April 4. A dozen countries founded NATO 60 years ago.

"We are very excited about your participation," President Barack Obama told representatives of the new member countries. "We are proud to have you as allies."

Croatia's ambassador to the United States recently met with Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau. They were joined by representatives from the Minnesota National Guard, Croatia's partner in the State Partnership Program.

"It's a fantastic relationship," McKinley said. "Minnesota/Croatia is a model program."

Air Force Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Cossalter, adjutant general for air for the Minnesota National Guard, agreed. "We're very proud of Croatia, and the effort that they've made," he said. "Croatia has really taken to the task of wanting to join NATO and doing politically and militarily those things that are essential."

During meetings in Croatia's capital of Zagreb between senior Croatian and National Guard leaders last year, Croatian military leaders credited the State Partnership Program with helping the country win its invitation to full NATO membership.

Albania is partnered with the New Jersey National Guard. During a December visit to the state, Albanian Defense Minister Gazmend Oketa said New Jersey provided critical assistance to help it reach its longstanding goal of NATO membership.

"The Albanian armed forces are proud of our achievements, and we are proud to say we were not alone," Oketa told the Newark Star-Ledger. "The Albanian armed forces welcomed your help – and your friendship."

Army Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the state's adjutant general, said soldiers and airmen from New Jersey had watched the Albanian defense forces blossom in the 15 years of their SPP partnership.

"The quality of the Albanian soldier is top-tier," Reith said.

State Partnership Program activities include exchanges by high-level military and civilian leaders. Military-to-military contacts bring state National Guard members together with foreign troops. Military-to-civilian activities focus on homeland defense, homeland security and military support to civilian authorities, including disaster preparedness, emergency response and consequence management.

The partnerships can address a wide variety of shared security issues, including border security and migration, combat medical training, computer and financial crime, defeating improvised explosive devices, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, illegal drugs, military support to civilian authorities, peacekeeping operations, port security and weapons proliferation.

Civilian security exchanges often grow from the State Partnership Program, with increased contacts between U.S. and foreign businesses, educators, farmers, doctors, lawyers and scientists.

Partnerships are created through discussions among countries, defense ministers, the U.S. ambassador, regional combatant commanders, adjutants general, governors and the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who administers the program.

The State Partnership Program started in the Baltic region of Europe in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and focused on matching U.S. states with former Soviet satellite nations. The program later expanded to South and Central America. Central Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific and Africa came next.

No State Partnership Program relationship has ended and none has failed since its inception 16 years ago.

"We're up to 61 state partnerships now," McKinley said. The newest, Texas and Chile, partnered last month.

"In a time when Secretary [of Defense Robert M.] Gates talks about building partnership capacity, it's very important for these relationships to grow, to mature," McKinley said.

"As many of our states know who've been in partnerships for 10 or 15 years, it's a wonderful way to meet, to befriend and to become totally integrated with our foreign partners," McKinley said. "I commend all of our states, all of our adjutants general for their work in maintaining and sustaining their partnerships, and especially to the states that have taken on a second partnership.

That is very impressive to me," he continued, "to see that they're not only doing their jobs at home and fighting the war overseas but also maintaining these great alliances."

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

Ceremony to Recognize Vets Not Eligible for Vietnam Wall Inclusion

American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - One-hundred twenty-three American heroes from the Vietnam War era will be honored posthumously this month during the annual In Memory Day ceremony, according to Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. "In Memory Day" was created to pay tribute to the men and women who died prematurely from noncombat injuries and emotional suffering caused directly by the Vietnam War, but who are not eligible to have their names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

A list of the honorees and their hometowns is available at

The 11th annual In Memory Day ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. April 20 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here. Nearly 1,000 family members, friends and fellow veterans are expected to visit the nation's capital to participate in this year's event, sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

"In Memory Day allows The Wall to do what it does best: provide a healing environment for family members and friends," Scruggs said. "It also allows all of us to pay tribute to these brave Americans who served and sacrificed for their country."

Among the speakers at this year's ceremony will be Richard Schneider, executive director for government affairs for the Non Commissioned Officers Association of the USA, the sponsor of the event. Navy veteran Chuck Price of Austin, Colo., will perform "The Unsung Heroes," a song about honoring and remembering Vietnam veterans.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial bears the names of 58,260 men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces in the Vietnam War.

"The Department of Defense developed specific parameters that allow only the names of servicemembers who died of wounds suffered in combat zones to be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial," Scruggs said. "The In Memory program recognizes those men and women who have died prematurely as a result of the Vietnam War, but who do not meet the criteria. Many of their deaths are a result of Agent Orange exposure and emotional wounds that never healed."

During the ceremony, family members will read aloud their loved ones' names in chronological order by date of death. Following the ceremony, participants will lay tributes at the base of The Wall corresponding to the honorees' dates of service in Vietnam, so that these Vietnam veterans come to rest near those comrades with whom they served. With the addition of this year's honorees, more than 1,800 people will be honored in the In Memory Honor Roll.

Established in 1979, the nonprofit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is authorized by Congress to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Since then, the Memorial Fund has evolved into an international nongovernmental organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of The Wall, promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War.

Its initiatives include educational programs, a traveling Wall replica that honors veterans and a humanitarian and land mine-removal program in Vietnam. The fund also is building The Education Center at The Wall, an underground educational facility near the memorial.

Regional Challenges Need Regional Solutions, Mullen Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

April 9, 2009 - Regional challenges require regional solutions, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in New Delhi, India, yesterday. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, discussed Obama's Afghan strategy with leaders in those countries and then briefed Indian leaders on the discussions. The admiral and his party returned to Washington today.

During a news conference at the American Embassy in New Delhi, Holbrooke discussed the need for unity.

"For the first time since partition, India, Pakistan and the United States face a common threat, a common challenge, and we have a common task," he said.

"There's a great deal of history in this region between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Pakistan and India, and we respect that history," the ambassador said. Still the countries must work together to defeat a common threat, he said.

Al-Qaida and the Taliban are a common threat in the region. Extremists operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have launched attacks in India. Militants trained and equipped by extremists in Pakistan launched the Mumbai attack in November. "Now that we face a common threat, we must work together," Holbrooke said.

"In Pakistan, we talked to the Pakistani leadership about Afghanistan, about their own political situation, about economic problems and other issues," Holbrooke said. "We were not there to negotiate Pakistani-Indian relations."

Mullen said one of the reasons the U.S. civilian-military team that he and Holbrooke represent comes to India is to ensure they see the region through Indian eyes. "We seek that counsel in every engagement and to listen and learn," Mullen said.

Holbrooke said the purpose of the visit to India was not to ask Indian leaders to do anything, but rather to inform them of the discussions and to get their views. "We did not come here with any requests," Holbrooke said.

The threats posed by extremists in the region threaten the national security interests of all three countries, Holbrooke said. Obama is committed to combating the threat, but understands the process will be difficult, and will require cooperation, he added.

"We can't settle issues like Afghanistan and many other issues without India's full involvement and expression of views," Holbrooke said.