Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Face of Defense: Defense Scribe Thrives in Sharing Soldiers' Stories

By Heather Athey
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 23, 2009 - Beth Reece always dreamed of seeing her name in print. But as a young girl growing up in the sleepy town of Beckley, W.Va., she couldn't have known how much the military would help her achieve that goal. Reece loved to write and had a passion for words. By the time she graduated high school, she was determined to make a career of writing, but wasn't sure how she would pay for the college degree that would be her springboard into the world of journalism.

So she decided to go to work for Uncle Sam to get some life experience, see the world beyond the West Virginia foothills and earn money for college. Reece didn't realize how she'd thrive in the Army -- eventually spending five years working in South Korea and at Fort George G. Meade, Md., writing first for a magazine and then for a weekly newspaper, Soundoff!

"I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed being a soldier as much as I loved writing," said Reece, a civilian writer for the Defense Logistics Agency here. "I even earned the rank of sergeant before I was old enough to drink."

As a young soldier, Reece took her lumps as she climbed the ranks.

"I had an editor who always said it was a military journalist's job to make people feel good about what they do," she said.

That same editor also pushed her to stretch -- to test new subjects and techniques -- to become a better storyteller.

"He was the same editor whose marks made my stories bleed with red ink, but I'm the writer I've become because he made me fix things instead of doing it for me," she said.

Reece's determination to excel and natural ability to turn a phrase began paying off and she started racking up bylines and awards before her peers who had gone to college even finished their sophomore year. She won several Keith L. Ware journalism awards, which recognize Army military and civilian print and broadcast practitioners for journalistic excellence.

After leaving the Army, Reece continued to write for military publications. In 1998 she was named both the Department of the Army and Defense Department journalist of the year and eventually realized her longtime dream of writing for the Army's flagship publication, Soldiers magazine.

"For years it was my dream to write for Soldiers magazine, but I honestly never thought it would happen to me," she said. "A lot of the work that I did there made me realize how much I enjoy writing about people. If I could spend the rest of my career just writing about people, I'd be thrilled."

She said she particularly loves getting to know people through the interview process and finding the right words to convey their stories and engage readers.

Her favorite story is one she penned about a Korean War veteran who grew up Jewish in Nazi-occupied Hungary. After being liberated from a concentration camp by U.S. soldiers, Cpl. Tibor "Ted" Rubin joined the same Army that saved him, eventually serving in the Korean War, where he was captured by Chinese forces and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Nominated four times by his comrades, Rubin was awarded the nation's highest decoration -- the Medal of Honor -- in 2005.

"The spirit of this man still overwhelms me because he used the horrific experiences he went through in a Nazi concentration camp to save the lives of his fellow POWs," she said. "His story was so powerful and is by far the most rewarding story I've ever written."

Shortly after, the story earned Reece her own honor -- she was named the Defense Department's best flagship writer that same year.

Reece began working in DLA's public affairs office about 18 months ago. As a writer for "DLA Today," the agency's internal news, information and multimedia Web site, as well as Loglines magazine, its flagship publication, she's jumped in with both feet.

"Beth has the unique ability to draw the interesting human interest aspects out of a story -- the things other people can relate to. She takes good story ideas and makes them into great stories," said Jack Hooper, DLA's deputy director of public affairs. One of the first stories Reece wrote at DLA was about the "flag ladies" at the agency's Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, "A Dying Art Thrives at DSCP." The story followed the work of eight women who, sitting side by side in the supply center's flag room, embroider the nation's presidential and vice presidential flags. DSCP is the only place in the country where the flags, which are displayed during meetings with heads of state and at press conferences, are still made by hand. Though not available for purchase, just one presidential flag is worth an estimated $12,000.

Reece spent a day with the ladies, many of whom learned their embroidery skills at the feet of mothers, grandmothers and aunts, listening to their personal stories, watching them work and getting a feel for their bittersweet attitudes toward work considered by many to be old-fashioned.

Using what she learned, Reece crafted a story that told the tale of how one of these flags is made, but also the histories of the women who painstakingly labor to create flawless flags. It earned her praise from the supply center and her own office, but also from the same folks who had honored her previous work.

Prodded by her coworkers, Reece -- ever humble and highly critical of her own work -- reluctantly submitted the story in the feature article category of the Defense Department's Thomas Jefferson Awards, which recognizes both military and civilian print and broadcast journalists for outstanding achievement furthering the department's internal information goals.

Judged on its ability to communicate the essential who, what, where, when, why and how of a news article, but through the use of human interest, emotion and atmosphere, Reece's article beat out the competition and was named the department's best feature story of 2008.

"When it was announced that the story had been selected as the winner, there was a unanimous 'wow!' in the office," Hooper said. "Beth joined a solid public affairs team last year and made it better. And this is the first time that I'm aware of that the DLA public affairs office has had a first place winner."

Reece and other competition winners were honored for their achievement during a ceremony at Fort Meade last month. Almost every member of her office attended.

"We're proud of her. This is a big deal," said Kathleen Rhem, DLA's chief of internal information. "Beth winning this award proves that it doesn't take a 'sexy' subject to write an amazing article. She won against journalists who have the entire armed forces to write about. The best writers will find stories everywhere and distill them into something inspiring."

Reece handles the accolades with her usual self-effacing style.

"It's comforting to know that after 20 years of writing for the Army, and now for DLA, I haven't lost the passion for words that inspired me to pursue writing as a career. But I really don't believe I'm the best in [the Defense Department] at any type of writing, regardless of the awards," she said. "I grew up in a small town where most kids feel like they're stuck. It's nice to know I've managed to get out and find success."

(Heather Athey works in the Defense Logistics Agency public affairs office.)

Military Unites With Hollywood on 'Transformers'

By Joe Davidson
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 23, 2009 - "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" hits theaters nationwide tomorrow as the culmination of more than a year of Defense Department support, ranging from script and uniform notes to C-17 aerial maneuvers and jumps from the Army's Golden Knights parachute demonstration team. The first Transformers film released in July 2007 used a variety of Air Force assets. In the latest film, DreamWorks and Paramount studios partnered with all four services to highlight America's military members and combat power on the big screen. Deciding how and why to work with the services was essential in making the film work, producers said.

"There are really a lot of similarities between a military operation and a movie production," said Army Lt. Col. Greg Bishop, the department's project officer for the movie. "The mobility of the operation, the logistics and planning required, and the problem-solving skills required to pull the whole thing off are very much alike."

Transformers executive producer and director Michael Bay has worked with military leaders on other films and frequently consults with them to make action sequences in his movies appear more authentic.

"You know the first thing we're going to look at is that if you're going to fight these 32- to 125-foot robots, who else would you fight them with?" Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said.

Like its predecessors, the latest Transformers movie uses hundreds of military members from all the services and from throughout the country to make the film feel more realistic.

"I enjoyed being able to walk on the set and there are a hundred real soldiers as opposed to walking on and it's a hundred actors from Orange County or L.A. in fatigues," said Megan Fox, the film's female lead actor. "It was just an overall pleasant experience, and I have an immense amount of respect for the soldiers and for our troops."

That realism extends to military equipment as jet fighters roar from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the recoiling sounds of M1-A1 Abrams tanks firing 120-mm rounds at their deceptive and at times overpowering foes.

"What [the military] bring to it is obviously a sense of reality. But for us what is most interesting about it is our interaction with them," di Bonaventura said. "Because you actually get to see these people who have made a life choice and the honesty of that choice comes through each and every time you meet these guys. So, for us, that's the really exciting thing. We get to hang out at the base and see the joy they get out of being a part of us, and you also see us get affected by their level of commitment."

This latest Transformers film shows an extreme example of what the military does in everyday life.

"Though the 'enemy' in this film are alien robots, we strove to make the depiction of operations as realistic and accurate as possible," said Capt. Bryon McGarry, the Air Force project officer for the movie. "As in real-world operations, we go to 'war' against the Decepticons in the film jointly to achieve coordinated, balanced and devastating results. If they ever came to Earth, we'd be ready for them."

DreamWorks and Paramount pictures have given permission to provide special screenings of "Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen" at bases that provided support for the film and also aboard the USS John C. Stennis.

(Joe Davidson is assigned to The Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base).

Web Site to Open Sign-Ups for Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfers

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 23, 2009 - It's official. The Defense Department signed off yesterday on policies and procedures servicemembers will use to transfer their unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouses or children, a Pentagon official said today. Eligible servicemembers will be able to register their immediate family members to receive those benefits when a new Defense Department Web site goes live June 29, according to Bob Clark, the Pentagon's assistant director for accessions policy.

Defense officials are asking those whose families won't use the benefits for the upcoming fall semester to hold off registering until mid-July so applicants who need immediate attention get processed first.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill takes effect Aug. 1, offering a two-fold benefit, Clark said. It gives the military a tool to help encourage recruiting and retention, while allowing career servicemembers the first opportunity "to share the benefits they've earned with those they love," he said.

The transferability provision -- which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pushed after first hearing the idea from a military spouse group at Fort Hood, Texas -- has generated a lot of excitement.

"We have had an overwhelming response and do expect quite a few of our members to take advantage of this," Clark said.

To prepare for the anticipated response in the run-up to the Aug. 1 effective date, the department will launched a secure Web site next week so servicemembers can register any immediate family members to receive their unused benefits, Clark said.

"What we are doing is queuing up requests and approvals for the many family members that we expect to be going to school this fall" with hopes of using their spouse's or parent's Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, he said.

The site, https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB/, will be accessible using a common access card, Defense Department self-service user identification or a Defense Finance and Accounting Service personal identification number.

Eligible servicemembers can register the names of any immediate family member they would like to share their benefits with, even designating how many months of benefits each person named can receive, Clark explained.

The servicemember's 36 months of benefits – the equivalent of four nine-month academic years – can be transferred to a spouse, one or more children or any combination, he said. The family member must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System to receive the benefits.

Servicemembers also have the option to use some benefits themselves and transfer what they haven't used to one or more family members.

Even after transferring the benefits, they remain the "property" of the servicemember who earned them, who can revoke them or redesignate who receives them at any time.

However, new names can be added as long as the member is in the military, but not after separating or retiring, Clark said. So defense officials advise erring on the side of caution and including every eligible family member on the registration form.

"We are recommending that every eligible dependent receive at least one month of benefit," he said.

Once the servicemember registers for the transferability provision, the application automatically gets forwarded to the appropriate service for processing. Clark said he expects that process to take about a week, at least after the initial surge.

When the service verifies that the member is eligible to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and processes the transferability provisions, the family member will receive a certificate of eligibility that can be used to cover educational costs.

In a nutshell, any enlisted or commissioned member of the armed forces serving on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1 will be eligible to transfer their benefits -- as long as they qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meet specific service requirements, Clark explained.

He emphasized that, by law, anyone who has retired or separated from the service before that date -- even if it's July 31 -- won't be entitled to transfer their benefits. Also excluded will be members of the Individual Ready Reserve and Fleet Reserve.

Most servicemembers who have at least six years of military service as of Aug. 1 and agree to serve an additional four years qualify, he said. But department officials have proposed measures to cover several categories of servicemembers whose circumstances don't fit neatly into the formula.

For example, those with at least 10 years of service -- but who can't serve an additional four years because of a service or department policy -- also would qualify, Clark said. They must, however, serve the maximum time allowed before separating from the military, he said.

"What we did not want to do was to penalize those people who had a service policy or statute that would not permit them to commit for the full four years," he explained.

Another sunset provision will cover servicemembers who will reach the 20-year service mark, making them retirement-eligible, between Aug. 1, 2009, and Aug. 1, 2013.

Clark explained the breakdown, which basically enables those affected to transfer benefits as long as they complete 20 years of service:

-- Those eligible for retirement on Aug. 1, 2009, will be eligible to transfer their benefits with no additional service requirement.

-- Those with an approved retirement date after Aug. 1, 2009, and before July 1, 2010, will qualify with no additional service.

-- Those eligible for retirement after Aug. 1, 2009, but before Aug. 1, 2010, will qualify with one additional year of service after approval to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

-- Those eligible for retirement between Aug. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2011, will qualify with two additional years of service after approval to transfer.

-- Those eligible to retire between Aug. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, will qualify with three additional years of service after approval to transfer.

CONTRACTS June 23, 2009

Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., is being awarded a $213,772,399 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-2222) for the procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) in support of LPD 26. The Navy is modifying contract N00024-06-C-2222 with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding for advanced procurement or manufacture, inspection, test, storage and maintenance of LLTM items and accomplishment of preconstruction activities to support the orderly construction of LPD 26, the tenth LPD 17 Class ship. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to be completed by December 2013. 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.

ViaSat, Carlsbad, Calif., is being awarded a $20,999,283 firm-fixed-price delivery order for multifunctional information distribution system-low volume terminals (MIDS-LVTs). The MIDS-LVT provides secure, high-capacity, jam-resistant, digital data and voice communications capability for Navy, Air Force and Army platforms. This delivery order combines purchases for the United States (80 percent), the government of Germany (13 percent), and the government of Canada, (7 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Contract funds in the amount of $3,874,195 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Work will be performed in Carlsbad, Calif., (30 percent), in various other sites worldwide (70 percent), and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2010. This delivery order was competitively procured with two proposals solicited and two offers received via the SPAWAR E-commerce web site. ; The synopsis was released via the Federal Business Opportunities web site. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N00039-00-D-2101).

BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, Inc., Rockville, Md., is being awarded a $9,763,980 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00421-06-D-0038) for the procurement and installation of a 55 civil global positioning system with electronic flight bag for the C-130T aircraft. In addition, this modification provides for the procurement of 45 install kits, 23 instrument display systems and 45 engine instrument display systems. Work will be performed in Crestview, Fla., (90 percent) and Calif., Md., (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Rockwell Collins, Inc., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is being awarded a $45,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for software integration and maintenance support services in support of the U.S. Special Operations Command Technology Applications Program Office. The work will be performed in Cedar Rapids and the contract performance period ends Jun. 14, 2013. This contract was awarded through sole source procedures in accordance with FAR 6.302-1. The contract number is H92241-09-D-0004.

ITT Industries, Inc., of Clifton, N.J., is being awarded a Contractor Logistic Support (CLS) indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract, with a maximum value of $27,379,199, a combination firm-fixed price, labor-hour, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and time and material effort, for the Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Counter measures legacy, integration, and low rate in production systems in support of U.S. Special Operations Command, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). The work will be performed primarily in Clifton, and is expected to be completed June 2012. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This CLS effort was awarded under Authority 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1). Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. The solicitation was posted electronically on FedBizOps and no other offers were received. The contract number is H92241-09-D-0003.

Rolls Royce Corp., Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded on June 19, 2009 a $8,986,055 firm-fixed-price contract for the production of 40 gas turbine engines (Model 250-C30/R3) (part No. 23065550) and engine containers (Part Number 23088248). Work is to be performed in Indianapolis, Ind. with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2010. One bid solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aviation and Missile Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-09-C-0049).

Rose Acre Farms, Inc., 8105 Wesclin Rd, Germantown, Ill., is being awarded an indefinite-delivery, requirements type contract on Jun. 23, 2009, to provide fresh, shell-protected eggs for resale at commissary locations in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. The estimated award amount is $6,167,025. Contractor will deliver to the store locations as needed. The contract is for a 2-year base period beginning Jun. 23, 2009, through July 23, 2011. Twenty-eight firms were solicited and six offers were received. The contracting activity is the Defense Commissary Agency, Resale Contracting Division, Resale Services Support Branch, 1300 E Avenue, Fort Lee, Va., (HDEC02-09-D-0009).

Contrarian Approach for PTSD

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Contrarian Approach for PTSDA different approach to managing PTSD suggests that for some people repressing rather than exposing the traumatic memories may be better for an individual’s health.

Geisinger Health System senior investigator and U.S. Army veteran Joseph Boscarino, Ph.D., is proud of his military service, yet he doesn’t like to talk much about his combat experiences.

Before becoming a renowned researcher of psychological trauma, Dr. Boscarino served a tour of duty with an artillery unit in Vietnam from 1965-66, during which he witnessed heavy combat and its aftermath. To this day, he tries hard not to reflect on those battlefield memories.

The research by Dr. Boscarino and Tulane University investigator Charles Figley, Ph.D., shows that for some people exposed to traumatic events, repressing these memories may be less harmful in the long run.

“Going back to the days of Sigmund Freud, psychiatrists and mental health experts have suggested that repression of traumatic memories could lead to health problems,” Dr. Boscarino said. “Yet we have found little evidence that repression had an adverse health impact on combat veterans exposed to psychological trauma many years later.”

In a study that appears in the June issue of the research publication Journal of Nervous & Mental Diseases, Drs. Boscarino and Figley examined the long-term mortality rates of Vietnam veterans who were evaluated in 1985 with followup in 2000.

By studying the death certificates and records of a random sample of more than 4,000 veterans 30 years after military service, the researchers found that having PTSD along with a repressive personality trait does not necessarily lead to premature death.

The researchers say this is an important finding because exposure therapy is a prevailing practice in psychiatry, a technique that encourages patients to relive painful or traumatic events. Yet, for some patients, this therapy may inadvertently cause a resurfacing of PTSD symptoms and psychological distress, putting that patient at risk for health problems.

Previous research by Boscarino has shown that PTSD may cause premature death from heart disease, leads to elevated white blood cell counts and higher erythrocyte sedimentation rate levels (both of which indicates inflammation), and may cause other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

“While the dominant therapy model for PTSD should not be abandoned at this point, emerging research suggests that it might need to be seriously re-evaluated, at least for some PTSD patients,” Dr. Boscarino said. “More research is clearly needed.”

Dr. Figley, another renowned trauma scholar who co-authored the 2007 book Combat Stress Injuries, said he was not surprised by the findings since they are consistent with a new theory of combat-related stress.

“Repression is a self-regulator and a method of memory management,” Dr. Figley said. “In other words, ‘keeping your stressful memories inside or it will kill you’ is a myth.”

Dr. Figley, who served in Vietnam as a Marine at the same time as Dr. Boscarino, believes this study is a wakeup call to all those who care about combat veterans.

“These men and women deserve our respect in recognizing that they often know better than we do in how to manage their stressful memories, in most cases,” Dr. Figley said.

Source: Geisinger Health System

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A Line Through the Desert, Led Zeppelin, Heavy Metal

I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk a bit more about my novel, A Line Through the Desert.

It follows one young soldier, Sgt. Jake Bloom, and his travails in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment during the First Gulf War.
Jake's got a girl back home, though she broke his heart before leaving for college. His folks, over protective Jewish parents, never approved of him joining the army. They wanted him to go to college, despite his C- average and utter hatred of school. Jake loved the army and loves being a soldier, he's found the purpose and brotherhood he's always yearned for.

Readers may recall I wrote a post a few weeks back which quoted some Iron Maiden songs. Yes, I'm a metal head, and have the class of 1992 photos to prove it. Jake's a metal head too. Like me, his favorite band is Led Zeppelin. Sgt Bloom listens to them in the barracks, out of maneuvers, and during the 100 hours in Iraq. In an act of brotherhood and kindness, Jake's driver, who likes working on low rider cars, stencils their unit designation Dragoon, Ghost,2, G-53 in the form of Led Zeppelin's rune symbols on the turret of their M-1.
Jake's favorite album; Houses of the Holy, favorite song; Over the Hills and Far Away. I did notice that he seems to listen to Led Zeppelin II a lot. Ten Years Gone, from Physical Graffiti, means a lot to him too.

In the coming weeks I plan to post some more on music and heavy metal, and I'll argue that metal is greatest incarnation of rock and roll and that Zeppelin, of course, is the greatest rock band ever (sorry folks, until about 1966 the Beatles were a boy band, there will be more on this too.)
Will's novel, A Line Through the Desert: The First Gulf War may be purchased at Amazon.