Friday, July 17, 2009

Defense Leaders Bid Farewell to Army Secretary

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - Defense leaders bestowed honors on Army Secretary Pete Geren at his farewell ceremony and Geren, in typical fashion, turned the event into a paean of praise for soldiers and their families. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey co-hosted the farewell review here, and praising Geren for his leadership during a difficult time.

Gates praised Geren for his long and accomplished career of serving things larger than himself.

Geren became acting Army secretary in March 2007 after Francis Harvey resigned in the wake of revelations of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He became secretary four months later.

"The surge had just gotten under way in Iraq, casualties were high and combat tours were being extended," Gates said. "The Army family was under tremendous stress and strain."

But Geren's leadership and care for soldiers guided the Army and the service has emerged stronger, the defense secretary said.

Gates praised Geren's efforts to improve medical care across the Army. He spoke of Geren establishing a warrior care and transition program. "Pete made himself the Army's tireless spokesman, advocate and guide," he said.

Geren understood, as secretary, all that the country has asked of soldiers and their families, "but he also understood we are a nation at war, whose outcome will affect the security of the United States for decades," Gates said.

Casey spoke of the Geren's leadership as the Army transitioned and modernized even as the service was involved in combat. He also reiterated that Geren put soldiers and their families at the center of every decision.

Geren, in turn, reflected on "the privilege" to serve.

"It has truly been the privilege of a lifetime for me to work with soldiers, to work with Army families during this time of war," Geren said. "Today, this nation numbers over 300 million people and only 1.1 million wear the uniform of the United States Army in this time of war. There are only 2.4 million in all the services combined – less than 1 percent of our population."

Geren quoted British World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill: "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many, to so few."

Churchill's remarks were true in 1940 when the Royal Air Force staved off attacks by the Luftwaffe, Geren said, and it is equally true today. "Three hundred million Americans and much of the free world depend on the courage and valor of 2.4 million men and women who wear the uniform of the United States," he said. "Tonight, I want to say thank you to those few."

Geren noted that he was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists flew a plane full of people into the building. "That day, I watched soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines go to the sound of the explosion," he said. "And for eight years, I've watched them go off to war – I've watched many of you go off to war. And I have watched your families stand by you. I have been inspired by your service and humbled by your sacrifice."

Geren spoke of the service and the family of Army Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis. McGinnis, 19, was serving in Iraq in December 2006 when an insurgent threw a hand grenade into the Humvee he was riding in. He shouted a warning and then smothered the grenade with his own body. When it went off, he was killed instantly, but the four soldiers with him survived. The nation awarded him the Medal of Honor.

During a Pentagon ceremony enshrining Pfc. McGinnis in the Hall of Heroes, Tom McGinnis, Ross's father, turned to the four soldiers that his son had saved. His son, he said, did not impose a debt on them, but gave them a gift, Geren recalled. The secretary quoted the father: "A debt is something you can repay. A gift is something you can enjoy. So live your lives, enjoy your lives, for it was a gift. Ross gave you a gift."

It was an illustration of the Army family at work, Geren said. "Ross saved the lives of those four soldiers, and his father continues to look after them," he said.

Gates presented the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to Geren. Casey presented the Outstanding Public Service Award to Geren. He also presented the Commander's Award for Public Service to Geren's wife, Becky.

Jihad and American Medicine

On September 11, 2009, Conversations with American Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature a discussion with Former Lieutenant Commander Adam Frederic Dorin, M.D., MBA, USN, on Jihad and American Medicine.

Program Date: September 11, 2009
Program Time: 2100 hours, Pacific
Topic: Jihad and American Medicine
Listen Live:

About the Guest
Lieutenant Commander
Adam Frederic Dorin, M.D., MBA, USN, “served as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve, where he attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He joined the Navy in July of 1990. Like his father, he is proud to have served our country as a member of the armed forces. Dr. Adam Frederic Dorin has been in private practice as an anesthesiologist and medical director for nearly fifteen years. He has managed and chaired several anesthesia departments on both the east and west coasts. He has been a volunteer surveyor of freestanding surgery centers across the country and an avid writer for medical journals. He also sits on several editorial boards. Dr. Adam Frederic Dorin is currently the Medical Director of the SHARP Grossmont Plaza Surgery Center, and is an Anesthesiologist at the Grossmont Hospital, Surgery Center and Women’s Center. Lieutenant Commander Adam Frederic Dorin is the author of Jihad and American Medicine: Thinking Like a Terrorist to Anticipate Attacks via our Health System.

According to the book description of Jihad and American Medicine: Thinking Like a
Terrorist to Anticipate Attacks via our Health System, “Jihad and American Medicine predicts exactly what happened in the UK, and will likely happen again. Namely, that healthcare workers are uniquely positioned to fly 'under the radar of homeland security' and carry out terrorist missions virtually unimpeded. Dr. Dorin is a physician, author, and expert in healthcare safety and security. He has written what is essentially a counter-terrorism manual geared toward the public, healthcare professionals and government officials on the national security vulnerabilities inherent to the way medicine is practiced in developed nations.

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is
Police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in
Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in Law Enforcement, public policy, Public Safety Technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in Law Enforcement.

Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

Gates Welcomes Sailors of 'Uncommon Perseverance'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today congratulated the Navy's 971 newest sailors as they graduated from boot camp here among much pomp and pageantry. "When you leave here and move on to your permanent assignment, you have the great responsibility of defending our nation and its interests here at home and in distant lands," Gates told the nine graduating divisions. "It is no easy task, but it is a vital one if the United States is to remain safe, prosperous, and strong.

"I have no doubt that you are more than equal to the task," he added.

Gates complimented the graduates on having the "uncommon perseverance and patriotism" to enlist and complete eight weeks of basic training.

"Earlier today, I observed some of the exercises and training you have completed. I am impressed, to say the least," he said. "It takes uncommon perseverance to make it through basic training, just as it takes uncommon patriotism to make the decision to join the military in a time of a war."

The new sailors exemplify the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment. "You embody the adage of, 'Not for self, but country,'" he said.

They will have the chance to reinforce the adage when they join their shipmates deployed around the globe, from Iraq and Afghanistan to ships at sea. But there's a good chance they'll spend more time on dry land than water, Gates said.

In the Central Command area of responsibility, there are more sailors serving on land than sea, as SEALs, 'Devil Docs' performing frontline surgeries, engineers, ordnance disposal experts and in countless other capacities, he noted.

Regardless of their duty station, Gates said, the sailors are following in a long and vital tradition.

"From the Barbary pirates to al-Qaeda, our nation has faced fierce and unpredictable adversaries that would do us harm," Gates said. "However, just as in the time of wooden ships and iron sailors, our enemies underestimate our resolve and our capabilities only at their own peril.

"You are the next generation of sailors that have been tasked with the heavy burden of ensuring the safety and security of our nation," he said.

Gates assured the sailors and their families, however, that he takes his personal responsibility for each of them very seriously and will do everything in his power to help them accomplish their mission and bring them home safely.

He concluded his remarks with the Navy's customary wish: "I wish you fair winds and following seas."

Earlier in the day, Gates attended a capping ceremony aboard the USS Trayer, a destroyer simulator on Naval Stations Great Lakes. The ceremony officially marks the completion of a recruit's training and is the final step before graduation.

The secretary's visit to Naval Station Great Lakes concluded his two-day trip, which included a town hall meeting at Fort Drum, N.Y., and an address to the Economic Club of Chicago yesterday. He returned to Washington today to bid farewell to Army Secretary Pete Geren who is leaving his post after two years on the job.


Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, Manassas, Va., is being awarded a $92,801,701 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the engineering services and support of the AN/BVY-1 Integrated Submarine Imaging System (ISIS) and for the production of 10 AN/BVY-1(V)1 integrated control and display cabinets. Services will include design, development, testing, reverse engineering, technology insertion/ refreshment, engineering services, field engineering services, and system support. ISIS provides mission critical, all weather, visual, and electronic search, digital image management, indication, warning, and platform architecture interface capabilities for attack submarine (nuclear propulsion) (SSN) - SSN688 (Los Angeles class), SSN 21 (Sea Wolf class), submersible, ship, guided, nuclear (SSGN Ohio class) and SSN 774 (Virginia class) submarines with potential for ship, submersible, ballistic, nuclear (SSBN) (Trident class) and potentially other submarines. ISIS rolls-up existing components and near term capabilities, and provides a robust architecture for efficiently inserting future capabilities as they become available, including items leveraged from the SSN 774 (Virginia) class photonics program. Work will be performed in Manassas, Va. (33 percent); Fairfax, Va. (33 percent); Cape Canaveral, Fla. (9 percent); Waterford, Conn. (6 percent); Atlanta, Ga. (5 percent); Arlington, Va. (4 percent); Northampton, Mass. (4 percent); Woodbridge, Va. (3 percent); Johnstown, Pa. (2 percent); and Middletown, R.I. (1 percent), and is expected to be completed by March 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured based upon full and open competition, with three proposals received via the Federal Business Opportunities website. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C. is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-6247).

Logistic Services International (LSI), Jacksonville, Fla., is being awarded a maximum $33,663,451 firm-fixed-price requirements contract for distributed learning content developer who can evaluate, analyze, design, develop, revise, convert, implement, manage and deliver effective electronic courseware and related products on an individual delivery order basis. The contractor will utilize shareable content object or other software development activities as appropriate for the development of Web-delivered, asynchronous, self-paced distance learning, including but not limited to interactive multimedia instruction courseware and electronic performance support tools. The contractor will develop multiple variants of learning modules, courses and performance support tools that integrate into the existing Marine Corps enterprise network and MarineNet Learning Management System (LMS) environments. Work will be performed in Quantico, Va., and work is expected to be completed July 2010 and with all options exercised July 2014. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This effort was competed as a full and open competition procurement, with 15 offers in response to the solicitation. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Program Manager for Training Systems, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity (M67854-09-D-8008).

Alion Science & Technology Corp., Chicago, Ill., is being awarded a $9,186,374 indefinite-delivery / indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide engineering and technical services in modeling and simulation (M&S) to support program management, systems engineering, operational M&S support, strategic planning and policy support, M&S software development, M&S IT support, logistics, and training. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to an estimated $48,844,361. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va., (52 percent) and Charleston, S.C., (48 percent) and is expected to be completed by July 2010. If all options are exercised, the work could continue until July 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was competitively procured with an unlimited number of proposals solicited and one offer received via the Federal Business Opportunities web site and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command e-Commerce web site. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic is the contracting activity (N65236-09-D-3809).

The Krempp Lumber Company*, Jasper, Ind. (N40083-09-D-2204); MLE Enterprises, Inc.*, Terre Haute, Ind. (N40083-09-D-2205); Old Veteran Construction, Inc.*, Chicago, Ill. (N40083-09-D-2206); and Beau Mitchell Corporation*, Peru, Ind. (N40083-09-D-2207), are each being awarded a design-build multiple award construction contract, set aside 100% for small business, for design, construction, and renovation of government facilities at the Naval Support Activity Crane. The dollar value for all four contracts combined is $8,000,000. The contract also includes four unexercised options, which if exercised would increase the cumulative contract value to $40,000,000. Work will be performed in Crane, Ind., and work is expected to be completed July 2014. This contract was competitively procured via the NAVFAC e-solicitation website, with 16 proposals received. These four contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Midwest, Great Lakes, Ill., is the contracting activity.

General Dynamics Information Technology, Needham, Mass. is being awarded a $6,105,087 hybrid cost-plus-fixed-fee/cost delivery order # NS11 under a previously awarded Air Force NETCENTS multiple award contract (FA8771-04-D-0007) to design, document, develop, produce, test and deliver five automated digital network system Increment III submarine variant systems, including program management; configuration management; network architecture design; network management software; environmental and mechanical standards compliance; design verification; design documentation; preliminary design review; critical design review; testing support; on-site technical support; integrated logistics support; and training. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command awards this delivery order on behalf of its organizational partner, the Navy's program executive office for Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I), Tactical Networks Program Office (PMW 160). Work will be performed in Taunton, Mass., and is expected to be completed by July 31, 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This delivery order has an exception to the fair opportunity process pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 2304c(b)(3), as implemented by FAR 16.505(b)(2)(iii) and DFARS PGI 216.505-70(2). The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, Calif. is the contracting activity.

War on Terrorism: Face of Defense: Gunnery Sergeant Keeps Enemy at Bay

War on Terrorism: Face of Defense: Gunnery Sergeant Keeps Enemy at Bay

Nebraska Community Lends Helping Hand to Afghan Farmers

By Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - Members of the Task Force Warrior agribusiness development team visited several villages in Afghanistan's Kapisa province July 13 to assess grain bins that once occupied farmlands in Imperial, Neb. Development team members relocated and reconstructed the bins to help Afghan farmers with grain-storage issues.

"These completed grain bins are the first in Afghanistan, and serve as an excellent way for farmers to store their grain," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Eldon Kuntzelman, a team agronomist.

Kuntzelman first thought of the idea to ship grain bins to Afghanistan in June 2008, during predeployment preparations.

"It was reported to the [agribusiness team] that grain storage was an issue in Afghanistan," he said.

Kuntzelman worked last summer alongside team members and community volunteers to disassemble eight local grain bins donated by Kip Bremer, Kurt Bernhardt and Wayne Bahler, all farmers from Imperial. Another farmer, Gregg Smith, also offered some of his grain bins.

Business owner Bob Mendenhall volunteered his time, a boom truck and air tools to assist with the disassembly, loading and transporting of the bins from Imperial to Lincoln, Neb., a 300-mile trip. The bins later were transported to Camp Atterbury, Ind., then shipped to Afghanistan.

"It took about a week to take down the eight bins," Kuntzelman recalled. He thanked farmer Richard Banks for donating his time alongside team members to disassemble and load the bins.

"Once we hit the ground here in October 2008, we started assessing the area for places to put the bins up," said Kuntzelman, who assists local farmers in Kapisa, Parwan, Panjshir and Bamyan provinces.

During the July 13 mission, the team assessed three completed grain bins in Kapisa province.

"Shir Padasha Village constructed the grain bin exactly as we trained them," said Kuntzelman, who walked on foot to the village due to heavy tree cover and narrow streets for travel.

At the second location, a short distance away, where a smaller bin was constructed, farmers said they were happy to have a place to store their grain. They offered team members apricots and plums to eat.

A larger bin was constructed at a third location where a well is being drilled and grape vineyard owners are dealing with a fungus problem.

In addition to the three completed grain bins in Kapisa, one grain bin has been delivered to Parwan, and plans are in the works to deliver the remaining four bins to Panjshir.

"All the foundation pads are poured at the various locations for the grain bins to be assembled, and we expect all eight bins to be completed by the end of the month," Kuntzelman said.

(Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens serves in the Task Force Warrior public affairs office.)


Systematic Overclassification of Defense Information Poses Challenge for President Obama's Secrecy Review

For more information contact:
William Burr - 202/994-7000

Washington, DC, July 17, 2009 - Pentagon classification authorities are treating classified historical documents as if they contain today's secrets, rather than decades-old information that has not been secret for years. Today the National Security Archive posted multiple versions of the same documents--on issues ranging from the 1973 October War to anti-ballistic missiles, strategic arms control, and U.S. policy toward China--that are already declassified and in the public domain. What earlier declassification reviewers released in full, sometimes years ago, Pentagon reviewers have more recently excised, sometimes massively. The overclassification highlighted by these examples poses a major problem that should be addressed by the ongoing review of national security information policy that President Obama ordered on May 27, 2009. New presumptions against classification that may be added to an executive order on national security information will not, in isolation, end overclassification. Rigorous oversight, accompanied by improved training and consequences for improper classification are essential.

The Public Interest Declassification Board is continuing to accept ideas and comments on the classification system through Sunday July 19 at its online blog:

Among the dubious secrets in today's posting is the Air Force's recent decision to classify the fact that the Nixon administrated ordered a DEFCON [Defense Readiness Condition] 3 alert during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. An excised Air Force history, released in 2009, conceals what is well known to historians, journalists, and the interested public: in the early morning of 25 October 1973, at the height of the Arab-Israeli War, the Nixon administration put U.S. military forces on higher alert--DEFCON 3. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger ordered the DEFCON to deter a feared Soviet intervention in the Middle East conflict. The Nixon White House could not keep this a secret and news of the alert soon reached the national media, with The New York Times explaining to its readers what a DEFCON meant. More recently, U.S. government agencies have declassified documents mentioning the DEFCON 3 alert. In spite of the precedents and an appeal pointing out the previous disclosures, the Air Force today will not acknowledge the fact of the DEFCON, claiming that disclosure would cause "serious damage to the national security."

The Obama administration's review of U.S. secrecy policy should take examples like these into account when it tries to develop a credible system for classifying and declassifying information about U.S. foreign relations and military policy. Declassification standards for historical information (25 years old or older) should not mirror those used to declassify current information. Neither historians, taxpayers, nor the secrecy system itself are well-served when declassification reviewers treat historical classified information in the same way as today's secrets. This doesn't mean a laissez-faire attitude; in some areas--such as nuclear weapons design data and names of confidential informants--there is a public interest in secrecy, but the objective should be high walls around the most sensitive information, and the walls should be torn down when they are not needed.

Please visit the National Security Archive Web site for more information.

Public Interest Declassification Board -

THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

Medal of Honor Recipients Plan Big Showing for Convention

American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - At least 59 of the 96 living Medal of Honor recipients are expected to attend the upcoming annual convention of the society named for them. The host committee of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's convention, scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19 in Chicago, announced the number in a statement released on the convention Web site,, noting the unlikelihood of assembling that many recipients of the military's highest honor at once.

Of the 42 million men and women who have served in the military since the award began during the Civil War, only 3,447 have been presented the Medal of Honor, many of them posthumously.

"Statistically, only about 1 percent of America's population will ever be in the same room with one Medal of Honor recipient," the committee wrote. "A much smaller fraction of that will ever have the opportunity to actually meet a recipient.

"Recipients will tell you that while they understand courage, they felt intense fear ... and it is the ability to overcome fear in any situation that leads one to strength and understanding ... with strength and understanding, comes courage. With courage, comes sacrifice," the committee wrote.

To each of the recipients, what they did was very logical, the committee wrote. "The human quality they have an over abundance of is courage."

Under the convention theme, "Commit to Courage," the society profiles the following recipients as examples of courage in combat:

-- Mike Thornton, a Navy Seal in Vietnam who, upon learning that his commander, Tom Norris, was presumed dead from an enemy ambush, ran into intense enemy fire to rescue Norris, then swam two and a half hours with him and another comrade on his back to safety. When Thornton was awarded the Medal of Honor, he spirited Norris out of the hospital where he was recovering to the White House ceremony so they could be together. Several years later, when Norris himself was awarded the Medal of Honor -- for a covert action known now as "The Rescue of Bat 21" - Thornton was by his side. On that day, Thornton became the first recipient in more than 100 years to have saved the life of another recipient.

-- Walter Ehlers spent much of World War II training and fighting side by side with his brother, Roland. Ehlers brought his company out of a Higgins boat 100 yards off shore and landed just before the second wave in a hail of fire on D-Day at Normandy, France. He got all his men safely across the beach and, the following day, moved miles in country. Among the hedgerows there, Ehlers distinguished himself in saving the lives of wounded comrades who came upon intense machine gun fire. He would learn several weeks later that, farther down the beach in Normandy, his brother never made it to shore on D-Day.

-- Gary Littrell, on a hill in Vietnam, began defending against a vicious enemy offensive with 247 men and came off the hill with fewer than 50. One witness statement said simply "Littrell was everywhere" exposing himself to intense fire during the hours-long battle, directing troops, providing radio support, ammunition, evacuation of wounded. In the end, Littrell was never wounded -- in his words, "not a scratch."

In its statement, the committee said it chose this year's theme as "a rallying call to the citizens of Chicago, our students and all members of our armed forces who serve our country past and present to take the initiative, respond to the challenge, and act responsibly - indeed, courageously -- when the opportunity presents itself in our daily lives."

(From a message from the host committee for the 2009 Chicago Commit to Courage Medal of Honor Convention.)

'Dream Team' of Researchers Seeks Ways to Combat Suicide in Army

By Grafton Pritchartt
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - A ground-breaking study of behavioral health in the Army may provide answers soon on what causes suicide and what programs can best prevent it. A media roundtable at the Pentagon yesterday provided an update on a five-year, $50-million study of suicide and behavioral health among military personnel, launched in October 2008 in partnership with the National Institute on Mental Health.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army Secretary Pete Geren and other top medical officials participated in the roundtable.

"We are working at all levels currently to do everything we can to reverse this trend, and we are excited about this partnership, this collaboration, with the National Institute of Mental Health, the Uniformed Services University [of the Health Sciences], and Harvard, Columbia and University of Michigan," Geren said at the roundtable.

While the Army is implementing many initiatives and programs to reduce suicide, Geren said, officials aren't yet sure which ones are the most effective.

"We hope at the end of this study, we'll be able to make a better connection between 'this worked, this didn't work,'" he said.

Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, presented what he described as his "dream team" of researchers. The project director is Dr. Robert Ursano, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

The research team also includes Dr. Ronald Kessler, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Steven Heeringa, director of the Statistical Design Group at the University of Michigan; and Dr. John Mann, vice chair for research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and scientific director of the Kreitchman PET Center at Columbia University.

The idea of the study is to eventually understand pre-existing behaviors and factors that make soldiers vulnerable to suicide, in addition to forming "actionable" results, officials said.

Chiarelli described the Army's efforts to prevent suicide and promote wellness as "assess, educate, train and intervene early," and provided an update on the "Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention," published in April 2009.

Although the suicide rate among soldiers traditionally has been lower than among their civilian peers, last year the two rates became nearly the same.

No confirmed soldier suicides occurred in June, although 11 deaths are still under investigation. Geren noted that while the number of Army suicides has dropped since March, it was too early to tell which factors, if any, could be credited.

"We're not here to tell you we think we have turned the corner; next month could be another tragic month. We are putting tremendous effort into this and perhaps the intervention that we have taught has helped avoid a suicide forever, or it may have postponed it; we don't know," Geren said.

The Army required that every soldier complete interactive suicide-prevention training earlier this year, followed by suicide-prevention chain teaching that units had until July 15 to complete.

"Although suicide can impact anyone, we're finding that male soldiers in combat-arms occupational specialties, between ages 18 and 27, are more vulnerable," said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army's Suicide Prevention Task Force, in a released statement.

Kessler described the work ahead as both an experiment and a study, because the demographics of the Army population will change over the next five years. Army officials simultaneously are implementing a range of programs to mitigate risk and improve soldier resiliency.

The researchers plan to collect data from about 500,000 soldiers over time, with about half of that number drawn from the ranks of the Army's 80,000 new recruits each year. The researchers will continue to study these soldiers through the early stages of their career in hopes of determining which individuals are more predisposed to suicide and other mental-health issues.

"Eventually, we want to see what we could have learned the first week they were in the Army that could predict how they would have responded when they got into a complicated situation," Kessler said.

Researchers will collect blood and saliva samples, hold psychological exams, and conduct interviews with families and unit leaders. They also will analyze archival data on soldiers who have committed suicide, new cases of suicide, and surveys.

One critical aspect of the study is privacy. The researchers will use on-site data collection during training studies and confidential survey techniques. The Army will not be testing recruits prior to enlistment.

"We will maximize the research utility, but protect the identity of the individual soldier and their family," Heeringa said.

Updated results of the study will be released roughly every six months, beginning in November.

"This is a matter of the highest urgency for the United States Army," Geren stressed. "We are doing everything we know to do now [to reduce the number of suicides], and as a result of this effort, in six months we'll be better, a year from now we'll be better, and five years from now we'll be better."

(Grafton Pritchartt works for Army News Service.)

Gates Addresses Nation's Challenges in Chicago

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - The nation is facing multiple, complex challenges, but none so pressing as the situation in Iran, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday following a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago here. "The president is the eighth president that I've worked for, and I do not recall a single time in my entire professional career when I felt that the country faced complex and, in many respects, as dangerous a time as we do now," Gates told club members during a question-and-answer session. "We face a multiplicity of threats."

When asked which countries' situations most worried him -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran or North Korea – Gates first opted for "E, all of the above."

"All of these countries are a concern, but I would say that the one that I think is the most difficult ... is the problem of Iran," he said.

The "problem of Iran" stems from its determination to seek nuclear weapons, the inability of the national community to affect Iran's determination to do it, and how to deal with it when all of the outcomes are negative, he said.

"If they achieve [a nuclear weapon], the possibility of a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East is very, very real," Gates said. "And if some action is taken to prevent them from getting one, the consequences of that are completely unpredictable and probably very bad."

Turning to issues closer to home, Gates discussed the closure of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"The president, as you well know, has signed an executive order that would close Guantanamo on Jan. 22, 2010," Gates said. "The line of states and communities that are willing to have the folks at Guantanamo come to their area seems to be a very short one, like nonexistent."

The closure of Guantanamo will be complex, he said, but necessary.

"As I said during the Bush administration, interestingly enough, Guantanamo is probably one of the best prisons in the world today because of all the things that have been done to change it and improve it," Gates said. "Nonetheless, it will, I believe, forever be tainted, and it is something that can be used against us by our adversaries. Therefore, I certainly agree with the president ... that it needs to be closed."

Gates also touched on defense officials' work to quell suicides and treat post-traumatic stress in the military.

"Every day we lose somebody in the Department of Defense is a tragic day, but we had a particularly tragic day around the middle of June," Gates said. "At that point we had lost 87 of our young men and women, killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan."

It also marked another unhappy milestone, he said. At that point this year, the military had lost 87 servicemembers to suicides.

Defense officials are working to prevent further incidents. "This is a problem that every person in the Pentagon is taking very seriously, none more so than the leadership of the Army," Gates said.

"The truth of the matter of is, I believe the suicides are a reflection of the stress on the force, and we will do everything in our power to try and have commanders and [noncommissioned officers] and various others recognize people who are in distress and seek help for them," he said.

Defense officials have taken measures to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress, he said. They have allocated resources to it and conducted educational activities throughout the military. Virtually every soldier has been exposed to training about how to recognize the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and the military has taken measures to try to remove the stigma of reporting and of seeking help.

The department is making great progress in those areas, Gates noted.

"But my guess is, ultimately, the solution to this problem is where our soldiers have more time at home, where there is less stress, and we're not putting people through four and five rotations in incredibly stressful situations, whether it's in Iraq or Afghanistan," he said.

Gates also spoke briefly about cyber security, saying it was one of the "worlds" in which the Defense Department needs to make additional investments.

The secretary's address to members of the Economic Club of Chicago concluded the first day of a two-day trip, which started with a visit to Fort Drum, N.Y. Today, he'll speak at a recruit graduation at Naval Station Great Lakes before returning to Washington to bid farewell to Army Secretary Pete Geren, who is leaving his post after two years.

Army Uses Social Media to Share Astronaut's Story

American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - Army officials are offering the public a chance to find out what it's like to be an astronaut. The Army has set up a special Web site for the public to ask Army astronaut Col. Timothy Kopra a question. Kopra launched into space on the July 15 shuttle mission to the International Space Station, where he will remain as a flight engineer for Expedition 20 throughout the next six months.

Kopra is one of four active Army astronauts in the detachment belonging to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

To ask Kopra a question, visit

(From an Army news release.)

South Carolina Guard Makes Big Splash With Artificial Reef

By Army Master Sgt. Phillip Jones
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 17, 2009 - The South Carolina National Guard recently dropped 32 armored personnel carriers and M-113 track vehicles into the Atlantic Ocean -- and it wasn't by accident. Since 1997, the Guard has deposited decommissioned vehicles to more than 39 sites along the state's coastline to create artificial reef environments for fish and other wildlife.

Reef-X is a collaborative artificial reef project with the South Carolina Department of National Resources.

"It is a wonderful partnership that has proven to be a valuable asset to the community and beneficial for wildlife along the coast," said Army Maj. Gen Stanhope S. Spears, South Carolina's adjutant general.

Along with vehicles, the state delivered several metal box containers to the Jim Caudle Artificial Reef in Horry County, S.C.

"We're very excited to be partnering once again with the Army National Guard and the Jim Caudle Memorial Reef Foundation," said Bob Martor, the department of natural resource's Marine Artificial Reef Program coordinator. "These organizations have done a great deal to assist our reef program through the years, and these joint efforts have always resulted in exceptional reef habitat."

The Jim Caudle Artificial Reef, which began in 2000, has the distinction of being the most visited reef in the state, which generates millions in revenue for the local economy through tourism and fishing, officials said.

The reef, which is named after Jim Caudle, a popular local recreational fisherman who passed away in 2000, is now estimated to be more than 260,000 cubic feet.

"[It] is the most popular fishing reef along the South Carolina coast," said John Frampton, director of the South Carolina Department of National Resources. "The materials create a thriving wildlife habitat and with this refurbishing project, the reef sites are a fishing paradise for offshore anglers."

(Army Master Sgt. Phillip Jones serves in the South Carolina National Guard.)