Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GJ Joe: Soldiers Bring Life to 'GI Joe'

By Gary Sheftick and Grafton Pritchartt
Special to American Forces Press Service

Aug. 11, 2009 - One of the soldiers in the opening scene of "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra," wasn't able to see the film's debut last week. Army Chief Warrant Officer John "Buzz" Covington was with the 21st Cavalry Brigade when he helped to film an Apache attack helicopter scene at Fort Hood, Texas. But he's now in Iraq with the 4227th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and is scheduled to be there until May.

"I unfortunately won't be able to see the movie for some time," Covington said, but added that his wife, Army Maj. Darcy Saint-Amant, was excited about going to the film's Aug. 7 opening.

Covington, an AH-64D Apache pilot, actually appears on screen with a few lines in the movie. He and other members of the 21st Cavalry Brigade helped film the Apache scene in an empty hangar the unit was maintaining.

The Army provided director Stephen Sommers and his crew with an Apache helicopter, extras and help with uniforms and the script.

"I was asked to look over the script, and the director was very receptive to all of the changes I suggested to ensure a more authentic portrayal of an Apache combat flight," Covington said.

The Apache scenes were filmed in August 2008 at Fort Hood. The crew filmed an Apache helicopter behind a green screen and filmed two other Apaches taking off for a real training mission.

"It was a very long day, and most of us ended up working about 18 hours that day," Covington said.

Chief Warrant Officer Santiago Torres helped to ensure that all of the support elements from the 21st Cavalry Brigade were in the right place at the right time to keep the shooting schedule on track.

In the movie, the elite GI Joe team uses not only the latest in military equipment, but also "next generation" weapons. The film stars Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid and Sienna Miller, among others. They battle the corrupt arms dealer Destro and the rising Cobra organization.

"The Army is the good guy in this movie," said Army film liaison officer Lt. Col. Gregory Bishop. "It shows a fantasy version of the Army, but it captures the Army's values of duty, honor and country."

Bishop and other members of Army Public Affairs in Los Angeles provided advice as scenes were being filmed at Fort Hood and in California.

Lt. Col. Paul Sinor, an Army retiree recalled last year, worked extensively with the GI Joe cast in Simi Valley, about 30 miles from Hollywood. Among other things, Sinor helped to teach the GI Joe actors how soldiers handle weapons.

"I don't want somebody who has just gotten out of the Army to look at this film and say 'Oh, that's just another actor,'" Sinor told Paramount Pictures for their production notes.

"We might request changes, say to dialogue, when there might be an exchange between a sergeant and officer that isn't exactly correct," Sinor said. "Or there might be a reference to jeeps. Everybody thinks the Army still drives jeeps, but we haven't driven them since the mid-1970s. So we have it changed to the appropriate vehicle."

When a Humvee rolled over in Simi Valley and Tatum was filmed carrying a "wounded buddy" away from the vehicle, Master Sgt. Kanessa Trent intervened to fix the scene. She showed Tatum how to do a correct fireman's carry. She even allowed Tatum to practice carrying her until he got it right.

Trent, though, won't be viewing the results of her work on the film for some time, either. She's now serving in Kabul, Afghanistan.

(Gary Sheftick and Grafton Pritchartt write for Army News Service. Jacqueline Hames contributed to this report, and information was also obtained from the Paramount Pictures Web site for the film.)


Lockheed Martin Corp., Marietta, Ga. was awarded a $140,300,000 modified firm fixed contract to provide two additional C-130J-30 aircraft for the Iraq government. The undefinitized contract action also includes non-recurring engineering and integration tasks associated with the new Iraq-peculiar configuration. At this time no funds have been obligated. 657 AESS, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8625-06-C-6456/P00098).

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Integrated Systems, San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $30,331,966 modified cost plus award fee contract to provide labor activities and equipment associated with standup and operations of Global Hawk air vehicle production acceptance at Beale Air Force Base and Palmdale Manufacturing Center. At this time $13,010,000 has been obligated. 303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-07-C-4015 P00013).

DRS Sustainment Systems, Inc., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a fixed price incentive contract to overhaul the Tunner Aircraft Cargo Loaders. At this time $7,223,968 has been obligated. 542 Combat Sustainment Wing, Robbins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (FA8519-04-D-0006-0057).

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis. is being awarded a maximum $21,643,826 firm fixed price contract for cab assembly parts. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There were originally three proposals solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is August 11, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency-Warren, Warren, Mich. (SPRDL1-09-D-0054).

Oceaneering International, Inc., – Marine Services Division, Chesapeake, Va., is being awarded a $13,622,622 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-2240) for the service life extension program (SLEP) of three landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) craft. The LCAC SLEP will extend the service life of LCAC from 20 to 30 years, sustain/enhance craft capability, replace obsolete electronics, repair corrosion damage, reduce life cycle cost by improving reliability and maintainability, increase survivability, and establish a common configuration baseline. The LCAC SLEP scope of effort includes repair and upgrade of the buoyancy box, gas turbine engine replacement, installation of a new skirt, installation of an integrated C4N equipment package, and accomplishment of selected craft alterations and repair work. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va., and is expected to be completed by August 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-2240).

General Dynamics, Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Conn. is being awarded a $6,310,969 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-4003) for Nuclear Regional Maintenance Department tasks in support of operational nuclear submarines. Work will be performed in New London, Conn., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $6,310,969 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Military Benefits Foreign Language Training

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 11, 2009 - No training is more crucial to the U.S. military than education in critical foreign languages and cultures, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday. Speaking at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told students that their lessons in the languages of Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, have potential to pay great dividends.

"As you go through these courses, no matter how long, they are as important as any undertaking that we have in the United States military right now," he said. "And you really have great, great potential for making a huge difference."

Mullen said the flexibility of language training in the military underscores the state of global flux, he said, adding that change is the "new normal" on today's international climate.

"A few years ago we would not have been focusing on, as we are now ... Dari or Urdu or Pashtu or Farsi or Arabic or Hindi, and many other languages which are covered here," he said. "But just that group speaks to the extraordinary change that we've gone through as an institution in our requirements."

While language is a necessary tool for the exchange of information and ideas, it also can be a window into the culture of a foreign people. That's why the language institute, the Defense Department's flagship foreign culture learning center, complements language with additional training.

Mullen described the approach at the Defense Language Institute as "culturally attuned."

"It is really important that we listen to other people, that we listen to other cultures, that we pay attention to how they see their problems," he said. "I call that seeing it through their eyes -- putting yourself in a position that actually focuses on what they are thinking about, as opposed to how we think about them, or how we think about, in our Western ways, we might solve their problems."

In addition to the lengthy and intensive training regimens at the institute -- with an average Dari course, for example, running for 47 weeks and demanding devoted study outside the classroom -- practicing language in the field demands a large degree of patience, Mullen said.

"Sometimes that takes more patience than we would like to admit," he said. "But in the long run, if you're able to solve a problem using the approach through other people when it's their problem, the outcome is much more positive. And it will be much more long-lasting."

Mullen characterized students at the institute as being "at the heart," both of the military's public outreach efforts in places like Afghanistan and within the U.S. military amid the cultural reform taking shape.

"You are at the heart of change, and that's what I would call the external effect," he said. "But what you're also causing is change internally to our services, because we're going to have to figure out different ways to promote, different ways to educate, different ways to train, compared to what we've done in the past."

The chairman said the burgeoning linguists are at the forefront during a critical juncture.

"As you go through these studies, or these courses, you need to come away from here absolutely the best possible linguist, the best possible education in terms of cultural sensitivity and attuning to the needs of others because you'll really make a difference down the road," he said.

Treasury Designates Financial Institution Tied to North Korea’s WMD Proliferation

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the Korea Kwangson Banking Corp. (KKBC) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for providing financial services in support of both Tanchon Commercial Bank (Tanchon) and Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation (Hyoksin), a subordinate of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation (Ryonbong). KKBC is based in North Korea and has operated at least one overseas branch in Dandong, China.

Tanchon and Ryonbong, were identified by the President as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators and listed in the Annex to E.O. 13382 in June 2005, and Hyoksin was designated by Treasury in July 2009 for being owned or controlled by Ryonbong. All three entities have been designated by the UN pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1718 for their roles in North Korea's WMD and missile programs. E.O. 13382 freezes the assets of proliferators of WMD and their supporters and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with them, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems.

"North Korea's use of a little-known bank, KKBC, to mask the international financial business of sanctioned proliferators demonstrates the lengths to which the regime will go to continue its proliferation activities and the high risk that any business with North Korea may well be illicit," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.

Since 2008, Tanchon has been utilizing KKBC to facilitate funds transfers likely amounting to millions of dollars, including transfers involving Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID)-related funds from Burma to China in 2009. KOMID, which has been identified by the President in the Annex to E.O.13382 and designated by the UN pursuant to UNSCR 1718, is North Korea's premier arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. Tanchon, the financial arm of KOMID, plays a key role in financing KOMID's sales of ballistic missiles. Additionally, Hyoksin, which the UN described as being involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction, sought to use KKBC in connection with a purchase of dual-use equipment in 2008.

Due to KKBC's relationship to Tanchon, Hyoksin, and Ryonbong, today's action is consistent with UNSCR 1718's requirement to freeze the funds of and deny financial services to UN-designated entities. It is also consistent with UNSCR 1874's call to prevent the provision of financial services or any financial assets that could contribute to North Korea's nuclear, ballistic missile, or other WMD-related programs.

Woodstock Anniversary

We are reminded that the 40th anniversary of Woodstock is upon us. I
was in highschool for the 20th and college for the 25th, and back then, the Woodstock anniversaries were a very big deal. But this year its snuck up on us.

Are we finally past the 60's nostaligia? Will the Balding Boomers for once just shut the hell up about the 60's?

One of the caharacters of my novel, A Line Through the Desert, is a girzled tank platoon leader who can't shut up about his time in Vietnam:

“You sure you should be eating this stuff?” Grady asked Jake. “It bein’ Christmas an all? Prod B?” The man crammed a forkful of turkey into his mouth.

Jake swatted a fly off his tray. “Shut up,” Jake irritably replied. “It’s better than MREs.”

“You should try K- rations,” said Sergeant Snyder.

The other Sergeants glared at Jake, Grady looked like he wanted to rip Jake’s head off. Oh Christ, Jake thought to himself, here we go. Sergeant Snyder spent the next few minutes talking about K- rations, not how they measured up to MREs, just about them, the food, the gum, the cigarettes and aspirin…Ever since they arrived in the Gulf, he refused to shut up about Vietnam. At first, Jake found it interesting. Sgt. Snyder never talked about Vietnam before. But he just wouldn’t stop. If an M-1 got stuck in the sand, Sergeant Snyder talked about getting M-48’s out of Vietnamese mud. If the bugs were getting to everyone, he’d reminisce about fighting off gigantic red Vietnamese fire ants. When Jake complained about not being able to shower, Sergeant Snyder talked about how during the monsoon season, he used to shower in the rain...

So why not the Balding Boomer self regarding, self congradulatory love fest this time around? Have they forgotten about their precious Summer of Love? Is the market for this sort of thing finally saturated? Who can say?

I remember a few years ago watching a Balding Boomer pundit (Mark Shields) on TV being asked about what it would take to 'end' the battle for Iraq. Shields said it would take a Republican stalwort to rise in the senate and join the opposition, like Mike Mansfield did during the Vietnam War.

I didn't know who Mike Mansfield was, I had to look him up. What's funny is that Shields brought up Mike Mansfield without realizing that he had just lost everyone in the audience under 50.

Eunice Kennedy Shrive died yesterday. She was President Kennedy's sister. But who cares? Why is Kennedy's sister dying news? Why not the death of Chester A Arther's grand newphew? As iexplained to a Balding Boomer once (my father), when start droning on to an 18 year old aabout Kennedy and the Vietnam War, that's like some gilded age geezer pestering you about President McKinley and the Philippine counter-inusrgency.

As a historian - published and everything - I can assure you, that the technical term for all this is anceint F!@#@$&! history.

Study to Seek Clues to Soldier Suicides

By Steve Vogel

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 10, 2009

Doctors leading the largest study ever of suicide and mental health in the military are developing intensive soldier surveys that they hope will provide clues as to why suicide rates among Army personnel have grown dramatically in recent years.

The study, a collaboration between the National Institute of Mental Health and the Army, will seek data from every soldier recruited into the Army over the next three years as well as from about 90,000 soldiers already in the service, and the project could eventually involve half a million participants.

The soldiers will be asked on a volunteer basis for personal information that can be used to make psychological assessments. Family members might be contacted for further information. In some cases, saliva and blood samples will be collected for genetic and neurobiological studies.

The information will serve as an "ongoing natural laboratory," officials said, as researchers follow these soldiers for years, looking for common strands as to which individuals are more likely to commit suicide.

"We're looking at suicide as the culmination of a long chain of events," said Robert K. Heinssen, the NIMH study director.

In 2008, 143 soldiers committed suicide, the highest number in the three decades that the Army has kept records.

"The most frustrating thing is trying to find a cause," Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 30.

The five-year, $50 million study, which stems from an agreement in October between the Army and NIMH, is an ambitious attempt to solve the mystery.

Last month, Robert J. Ursano, chairman of the psychiatry department at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, was named to lead an interdisciplinary team of four research institutions involved in the project.

The study will be "complex in its design, and it's looking at a rare phenomenon," Ursano said.

A number of factors may play roles in suicide, according to Ursano, including post-traumatic stress disorder, family issues, alcohol abuse and neurobiological factors.

Repeated deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since 2001 is another factor, but one that does not by itself account for the increases in suicide, Ursano said.

"It's a much more complex aggregate of factors," Ursano said. "Deployment increases the stress on a family, but it's clearly not the deciding factor."

The surveys are expected to begin early next year. The information gathered on individual soldiers will be subject to strict privacy safeguards, officials said.

In addition to the planned surveys, researchers are working with the Army to identify and collect relevant information from existing databases, Heinssen said. Data on soldiers who have committed suicide since 2004 will be analyzed.

While the study will continue for years, the researchers are expected to quickly identify and report on potential risk factors to help the Army prevent suicide.

"That's kind of a different way of doing business for us," Heinssen said.

NIMH will report to the Army on a quarterly basis beginning in November. Findings will be incorporated as quickly as possible into treatment programs, according to Chiarelli.

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