Friday, April 24, 2009

Gates Welcomes New Senior Civilian Officials to Pentagon

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

April 24, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates welcomed a group of recently appointed senior defense civilian officials during a Pentagon ceremony today. Gates welcomed Michele A. Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy; Robert F. Hale, undersecretary of defense, comptroller; James N. Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy; Alexander R. Vershbow, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Jeh C. Johnson, general counsel of the Department of Defense.

"I'm pleased to officially welcome five senior officials to the Department of Defense -- dedicated professionals, all," Gates said before a mixed military-civilian audience that filled the Pentagon's auditorium.

The new officials, Gates said, possess "a wide range of experience in strategic and international affairs, management, finance and law."

Gates also announced that Ashton Carter last night received U.S. Senate confirmation to become the next undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The defense secretary said he and his senior management team "look forward to working closely" with these newly appointed leaders "on a host of critical decisions in the months and years ahead."

Flournoy "has been on the job now for some time," Gates said, noting that she has been busy addressing Afghanistan and Pakistan issues. He saluted Flournoy's expertise in strategic defense matters and said she's a leading expert on how to apply and integrate the military and civilian elements of national power and international cooperation during unexpected contingency operations.

"It is truly an honor to be standing with you all here today," Flournoy said during her remarks. Flournoy said she looks forward to providing "the best possible support to the men and women who serve" in America's military.

Turning to Hale, Gates praised the Pentagon's new top money manager for his "decades of financial and business management experience in the public and private sectors, much of that in the military setting."

During his remarks, Hale noted that he enjoys crunching numbers while managing the Pentagon's financial affairs in support of America's servicemembers and defense civilians. He added that he appreciates the work of the 50,000 members of the Defense Department's financial community, noting their efforts "are the key to making all of this work."

Miller is another accomplished defense expert, Gates said, who as Flournoy's top deputy "will provide advice on a wide range of national security issues likely to confront the department in the coming years," including assisting with the Quadrennial Defense Review process that's now under way.

"It is a great privilege," Miller said, to work with "talented civilian workers and with the men and women in uniform who put themselves in harm's way."

Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, the Russian Federation and South Korea, brings his impeccable credentials in international security affairs, Gates said. The secretary also saluted Vershbow's multiple talents and his "great dedication and patriotism."

"I've come to respect the courage, the vision and the dedication of our armed forces and become a true believer in the importance of close civil-military coordination in meeting today's threats," Vershbow said during his remarks.

Johnson, the Pentagon's new senior lawyer, brings "a wealth of legal experience and expertise" as well as "an affinity for public service," Gates said of the former top lawyer for the Air Force. The secretary said he'll rely on Johnson's legal expertise and advice as the department closes the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while it continues to safeguard the American people.

"I know you want to help our men and women in uniform accomplish their missions for the American people," Gates told the new officials. "I also know that your talents and your persistence will be great assets to this department and our country."

Group to Honor Vets' Caregivers During National Nurses Week

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

April 24, 2009 - Helping veterans with physical and emotional problems can be overwhelming for caregivers, but despite the long hours and magnified stress, nurses continue to provide quality care to wounded warriors across the country. To recognize their commitment to wounded servicemembers, a Maryland-based wellness center will provide free acupuncture and therapeutic bodywork sessions to nurses at the Veterans Affairs medical center here May 5 as a prelude to National Nurses Week, May 6-12.

"These nurses tend to the long-term consequences of war," Alaine D. Duncan, executive director of Crossings Healingworks, said. "They help young veterans with missing limbs, head injuries and traumatic stress reactions. They help older veterans who carry some of the heaviest burdens in life. We believe helping caregivers with stress-reduction services will enhance their wellness [and] maximize their skills, performance and job satisfaction."

Fourteen acupuncturists and "bodyworkers" from Crossings Healingworks will work in three shifts from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., providing services such as ear acupuncture, acupressure, holistic body and mind therapy and massages, Duncan said.

"Through these services, we hope to bring ancient healing traditions that restore and renew the body, mind [and] spirit of people touched by trauma," Duncan said. "Soldiers bring the trauma of war home with them. Their families, their caregivers and the institutions that serve them are impacted. We are hoping to bring a sense of internal order and coherence, as well as balance and harmony to these nurses that they can pass on to the patients."

This will be the second year Crossings Healingworks has provided free wellness services to VA nurses here. Last year, members of the medical center's Nurses Week committee heard about the wellness clinic that Crossings Healingworks has offered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here since 2005, and asked the group to bring the stress-reduction services to them. Crossings Healingworks treated 151 nurses in a 12-hour day at the medical center last year.

"The nurses here were so grateful last year, stating it was the best ever," Donna King, chairwoman of the Nurses Week committee at the VA medical center, said. "You could literally see the changes in the nurses as they came from their 'encounter' with Healingworks. We are so grateful for their generosity."

The Crossings Healingworks Restore and Renew Wellness Clinic at Walter Reed provides free services weekly to all staff year-round, on a walk-in basis.

New Mexico Guard Builds Relationship in Costa Rica

American Forces Press Service

April 24, 2009 - The New Mexico National Guard transported several Costa Rican dignitaries, including the vice minister of public security and the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, via UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter yesterday so they could observe the progress of exercise Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias 2009. The exercise is designed to test and improve regional and national disaster response capabilities within Central America and the Caribbean Basin.

New Mexico National Guardsmen are heavily involved in the exercise, performing search-and-rescue rehearsal missions, exchanging disaster response techniques and procedures with Costa Rican emergency officials, performing remote-location medical treatment and interacting with residents all over the country.

In an interagency meeting to assess the simulated disaster in Costa Rica, Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark Camacho, the military group advisor for the U.S. ambassador, said this is the first time the National Guard's State Partnership Program has been used in a disaster relief exercise in a foreign country. It also is the first time helicopter assets have been transported and used in a state partnership country.

The military group has been working on putting the exercise together for more than a year.

"It's very exciting to see this realized," Camacho said. "We are really pleased with everything that's going on."

The State Partnership Program is a national diplomatic program that links the National Guard with foreign nations to promote regional security, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, counterdrug operations, and to promote open trade markets. It is instrumental in building worldwide stability by nurturing collaborative relationships with foreign countries around the globe, officials said.

(From a New Mexico National Guard news release.)

Air Sovereignty Mission Needs Attention, Air Guard Chief Tells Congress

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

April 24, 2009 - New commitments need to be made to the nation's airmen and others who defend North America from threats to its air sovereignty, the Air National Guard's senior officer told members of Congress here April 22. Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air Guard, testified before the House Armed Services Committee's readiness subcommittee in a hearing on the nation's Air Sovereignty Alert operations.

The Air Guard operates 16 of the 18 ASA sites located across the United States to protect its airspace. ASA relies on a host of agencies, including U.S. Northern Command, North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Their service displays a commitment to job No. 1: defense of the homeland," Wyatt said. "Our reluctance to treat Air Sovereignty Alert as an enduring mission continues to impact the men and women serving in this very important mission area."

The general explained that past funding for the mission has been inconsistent, and that equipment quickly is nearing the end of its service life.

About 80 percent of the Air Guard's F-16 Fighting Falcons, which fly the largest portion of the nation's ASA missions, will reach the end of their life span in eight years. Officials also said the average age of Air Guard aircraft is more than 25 years, with KC-135 Stratotankers being the oldest at 49 years. KC-135s support the ASA mission through aerial refueling.

If Air Guard units received the "fifth-generation" fighters, such as the F-22 and F-35 sooner rather than later, the readiness issues could be avoided, Wyatt said.

"Every day without a solution, this situation becomes more and more urgent," he told the subcommittee. "The risk of doing nothing is unacceptable, and we are examining all options to address recapitalization of these aircraft."

In addition to equipment, Wyatt pointed out the need to recognize ASA as a steady-state mission, which would provide predictability to Guard members serving on year-to-year state active duty tours to support it.

"I think many falsely believe this mission only includes a handful of fighter pilots," he said. "They forget about the maintainers, communicators, command and control, life support, intelligence officers, security forces, and others who are also critical components to the execution of this mission."

In total, excluding tanker support, more than 3,000 airmen are responsible for the Air Sovereignty Alert mission, officials said.

The issue also affects retention, readiness, and employer and family support, Wyatt said.

"Recognition that Air Sovereignty Alert is within the steady-state portion of the global defense posture, requiring long-range planning and consistent funding, is extremely important to providing predictability to the units supporting this mission area," he said.

"Our airmen are leaning forward, standing side by side with their joint and coalition partners, to maintain the safety of our skies and our borders," the general continued. "We -- all of us -- have a responsibility to add stability to their funding and to bridge the equipment capability gaps that exist on the horizon."

(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)
By Army Sgt. Ann Knudson
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 24, 2009 - The North Dakota National Guard finished pulling out two barrier systems that proved to be useful new tools in the fight against recent flooding in the state. The flood threat has gone away, and the rapid-deployment flood walls, known as RDFWs, that National Guard members has installed south of Minot are no longer needed, officials said.

RDFWs act as a flood barrier through a series of interlocking plastic dividers. The dividers lie flat for shipping, and when used, unfold into a grid of square cells, much like the grid on a fluorescent light. The 4-by-4-foot cells interlock end to end to form a line, and up and down to form a wall. The grids are 11 inches high per layer. The internal cells line up with each other vertically, forming a column, so sand can be poured in after several layers are in place.

"It all holds together throughout," Army Sgt. Aaron Wall, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the first RDFW project, said. "The ends are capped with sandbags, and we'll put sandbags two high on the upstream side." Wall is a member of the 164th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company and an officer in the Minot Police Department.

Wall and nine other soldiers put up the first RDFW south of Minot, on the upstream side of the bridge over First Larson Coulee. The bridge is in an area called Crystal Springs. The RDFW was a precautionary measure to keep the bridge passable in case the stream in the coulee rose to road level.

As it turned out, the water did not get that high, but the exercise did show how much training was needed to use the RDFW, how many soldiers it took, and how fast it could be done. Soldiers said the RDFW didn't take a lot of training to put up. "We read the directions out of the box and watched a five-minute video clip," Wall said.

It didn't take much time, either. About 10 soldiers started the project at 10 a.m. By 7 p.m., they had a wall 400 feet long, 4 feet across and 33 inches high filled with sand and leveled off. They also had placed sandbags at the ends and on the upstream side for reinforcement.

"We could have been done even sooner, but we spent a little time waiting for sand and sandbags," said Army Spc. Paul F. Vining of Minot, a member of the 164th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company. Vining is an emergency room nurse at Trinity Hospital.

Here's the math: A filled sandbag weighs about 40 pounds. A cubic foot of sand weighs 100 pounds. The RDFW was the equivalent of about 12,000 sandbags. A two-person team can fill and tie one sandbag a minute, so a team of 10 would take a little more than three 12-hour days to fill and tie 12,000 sandbags.

As a very rough estimate, it takes as many work hours to palletize, load, drive, unload and heave sandbags into place as it does to fill them. Thus, it would have taken about a week to equal the RDFW with sandbags, officials said.

"It went pretty well overall," Wall said. "The most time-consuming part was that you need equipment to finish it up, but you'd need that with [Hesco barriers], too. We used a payloader on the first RDFW and a cement truck for the second."

"Those [RDFWs] were nice," Vining said. "We used them on 35th Avenue Southwest, which turns into County Road 14. Water was across the road about 40 feet wide. We didn't want to put the RDFW in the middle, in case the water washed it away before we got the sand in, so we used sandbags in the middle and the RDFW on the ends. It worked real well."

Sandbags are cheap, and better for use on bumpy ground, steep slopes, or when there are more people than equipment. However, like Hesco barriers, the RDFW can save time on flat surfaces, officials said.

(Army Sgt. Ann Knudson serves with the North Dakota National Guard.)


The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to BAE Systems of Herndon, Va., for a maximum of $49,900,000. This action will provide systems engineering and evaluation, systems analysis for Worldwide five. This work will provide life cycle software development engineering to the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System and the US Intelligence Community worldwide. At this time, $120,000 has been obligated. AFRL/RIKF, Rome, New York is the contracting activity (FA8750-09-D-0214).

BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems LLP (BAE-TVS), Sealy, Texas, is being awarded a $19,036,693 firm fixed priced modification to a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5030) delivery order #0005, for the purchase of Capability Insertion Engineering change proposals for the 1,800 MRAP vehicles procured under this contract. Work will be performed at Kuwait Refurbishment Facility, and the final deliveries associated with this delivery order are expected to be completed by Jul. 30, 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.

Healy Tibbitts Builders, Inc., Aiea, Hawaii, is being awarded a $10,629,904 firm fixed price task order #0023 under a multiple award construction contract (N62742-04-D-1300) for design and construction to repair Wharf S1 at Naval Submarine Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The work to be performed includes but is not limited to all labor, supervision, tools, materials, and equipment necessary for wharf repairs. Work consists of repairs to the concrete support piles, concrete superstructure, mooring hardware, and timber/concrete/plastic fender system based on the Underwater Facilities Inspection and Assessments report of Aug. 2000. Replace deteriorated under deck utility hangers which support conduits and bracing for suspended service scaffolding, mooring hardware, 10 foot diameter floating fenders, and installing oil containment flotation device (Perma Boom). Work will be performed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and is expected to be completed by Nov. 2010. Funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Three proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii is the contracting activity.

Hutchinson Industries, Inc., Trenton, N.J., is being awarded a maximum $17,825,617 firm fixed price, sole source contract for pneumatic tires and wheels. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Sept. 21, 2009. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich., (SPRDL1-09-C-0047).