Military News

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gates, Fallen Soldier's Mother Observe Ramadan at White House

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 2, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the mother of a fallen soldier were among dozens who gathered last night at the White House for the annual Iftar dinner. President Barack Obama hosted the meal that marks a break in fasting during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

Among the ambassadors, members of Congress and other guests was Elsheba Khan, whose 20-year-old son, Army Spc. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, was killed in Iraq on Aug. 6, 2007.

Khan was among four U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb that day in Baqubah. They were assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Khan grew up in Manahawkin, N.J., and was 14 when terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. He joined the military after high school, and went on to receive the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and, Obama said last night, "the admiration of his fellow soldiers."

Khan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where a Muslim crescent marks his grave, just as crosses and stars mark the graves of fallen Christian and Jewish heroes, Obama noted. "These brave Americans are joined in death as they were in life -- by a common commitment to their country, and the values that we hold dear," he said.

The president recognized during last night's Iftar that similar observances were being carried out throughout the United States during Ramadan.

"For well over a billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection," he said. "It's a time of service and support for those in need. And it is also a time for family and friends to come together in a celebration of their faith, their communities, and the common humanity that all of us share."

Obama recognized contributions Muslims have made to the United States, and the importance of people of all backgrounds to work together with mutual respect to achieve shared goals.

"Tonight, we celebrate a great religion, and its commitment to justice and progress. We honor the contributions of America's Muslims, and the positive example that so many of them set through their own lives," Obama said. "And we rededicate ourselves to the work of building a better and more hopeful world."

Soldier Conquers Suicidal Thoughts, Urges Others to Get Help

By Mary Markos
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 2, 2009 - Army Capt. Emily Stehr, a physical therapist with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, is in the business of healing. But five months after returning from Iraq, she was struggling with her own internal wounds of war that had not healed. She decided to kill herself. What stopped Stehr was not the physical pain she would have endured, but the realization of the emotional pain she would inflict on the children of her close friends when their parents would tell them, "Aunt Emily in not around because she killed herself."

"I was not willing to put that pain on those children," Stehr said. "I'd inflict the pain on my mom, my dad, all my other loved ones; but those kids, I can't do it."

What Stehr did was check into Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and begin the process of healing.

"I like to think of [suicide] like cancer," she said. "I did not even know I was sick. I just kept waiting for me to return to normal, and it never happened. Stuff kept escalating until it was either, I'll be dead or I'll get treatment.

"Looking back," she continued, "I can see the whole process, but when you're going through something like that, you're so blind because you're in your shell."

Part of her healing process was coming out of her shell and finding what she called the "tumor," or reason for her emotional pain and suicidal thoughts.

"I had to go back and root out what was causing the maladaptive behavior, the tumor," she said. "Ultimately, unless you deal with that, it's always going to plague you. You have to deal with it head-on."

Dealing with the cause of her suicidal ideas meant dealing with the anger, grief and emotional pain Stehr said she felt after returning from Iraq.

"For me, it was an accumulative trauma - watching patients die," Stehr said. "I had a patient kill himself. We lost 33 people when we were down there. It is hard to see again and again and again. ... In my mind, I never really left Iraq."

Part of her struggle to return to her "pre-deployment" self, she said, included overcoming the stigma associated with seeking mental health care and discussing suicide.

"Nobody really wants to talk about suicide. People don't know what to say," Stehr said. "There's shame [and] embarrassment. I really thought that I was weak. I bought into the whole stigma that people who are suicidal or have mental issues are weak."

Army leaders have acknowledged the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment and have taken steps to combat that stigma as well as suicide in the service's ranks.

Although the number of suicides in the U.S. Army Europe rose from four in 2007 to seven in 2008, the effects of the Army's efforts to eliminate the stigma of seeking treatment were evident in an informal poll taken Aug. 25 at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr.

Of nearly 60 soldiers polled, 51 percent said there no longer is a stigma associated with seeking help, and 62 percent said those who seek mental help are not seen as weak. At least one soldier attributed this to "the change in Army culture."

It is a change that starts with the leadership, said Col. James Blackburn, commander of the 2nd Striker Cavalry Regiment. "Fundamentally, as leaders, we have to recognize there's a challenge, and in this case the challenge is cultural," he said. "We are in the profession of change, changing the culture."

With the cultural change, Blackburn and and other regiment leaders supported Stehr in her decision to talk to others about her suicidal thoughts.

"I strongly feel Emily's brave move to share her story with the public is exactly what the Army needs to decrease the stigma associated with seeking help," Blackburn said. "By stepping forward, she is showing other solders they are not alone, and it is OK to talk about what is troubling them.

"We've got to make people understand," he continued. "Scars -- you've got them, I've got them, we've all got them. Some are visible. Some are not visible. Everybody deserves a chance to be successful. Part of that is tearing down the stigma associated with any illness, any scar, that you incur while in the Army, or even before you came in. You are ours now, and we will put you in a position to be successful."

Talking about mental illness and suicide is the only way to prevent others from taking their lives, Stehr said.

"It has nothing to do with being strong or being weak; you're sick," she said. "The correct philosophy is that you're a human, and sometimes crap happens, and you have pain. But you need to deal with your pain. Get help when you need it. Take care of yourself emotionally, mentally, psychologically. It's going to make you a better soldier."

Blackburn agreed, saying soldiers who seek help "are strong."

"They're strong because they are able to examine themselves and know there's something wrong," he said. "Most people generally don't say, 'I have a problem.' And this population of our soldiers [is] strong because they have the fortitude to do a self-examination, and they know the result. They don't conceal it, they let it out. That's a strong population, not a weak one."

To stay strong, Stehr said, all soldiers need to offer support and be willing to listen and talk. But, she said, it is not as easy as just asking people if they are going to hurt themselves.

"It is never that easy. There is no 'easy' about any of this," she said. "Encourage that person, and be there for them. The more we talk about it, the better off we are."

Blackburn encourages soldiers to reach out and get the help they need. "If you are hurting in some way, if something's on your heart, or something's on your mind, reach out.

"If you hold it in, it won't do you any good," he added. "It won't do your immediate family any good. It won't do your extended family any good. And it certainly won't do your battle buddy any good. We are here to help you."

(Mary Markos works in the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr public affairs office.)

Gates Explains Opposition to Alternate F-35 Engine

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 2, 2009 - A proposed alternative engine for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter would cost far more than the existing engine and push back the production timetable, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said this week. Gates visited the Lockheed Martin F-35 factory in Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 31 to see firsthand progress on what he called "the heart of the future of our tactical combat aviation."

Talking with reporters after his tour, Gates reiterated his longstanding opposition to an alternative F136 engine for the fifth-generation fighter jet's F135 engine. The companies that would build the F136 engine have been promoting it heavily and reportedly pitched a plan for a fixed-price contract at the Pentagon yesterday.

"We feel strongly there is not a need for the second engine," Gates told reporters in Fort Worth. He noted that President Barack Obama agrees, and has threatened to veto any legislation that funds one.

Obama mentioned the F-35 engine program specifically during an Aug. 21 address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Phoenix, as he vowed to reform the acquisition process and cut waste.

"Think about it: hundreds of millions of dollars for an alternate second engine for the joint strike fighter when one reliable engine will do just fine," Obama told the veterans.

Defense Department officials have looked at the business case for an alternative engine several times and have come to the same basic conclusion, Gates said. Not only would it add several billion dollars to the F-35 program, it also would push it back three, four or even more years, he said.

Meanwhile, "there's no reason to believe that it would not encounter the same kinds of development challenges that other new engines have encountered along the way," he said.

At a time when the department is "trying to count every dollar," Gates said, it simply can't afford to increase the F-35's bottom line.

"Every dollar additional to the budget that we have to put into the F-35 is a dollar taken from something else that the troops may need," he said. "So it's as important to watch the costs here, as it is on everything else."

Infantry Band Rocks USS Decatur

By Army Spc. Darryl L. Montgomery
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 2, 2009 - For what many believe to be the first time in history, an Army band performed on a Navy destroyer in the Persian Gulf last week. The 34th Infantry Division band Center Mass concluded its week-long tour of the Gulf after playing five shows in four locations. The band played at Umm Qasr, an oil terminal in Basra, on the USS Decatur and at Camp Bucca before returning here Aug. 30.

The highlight of the trip for many of the band members was performing Aug. 26 for the sailors stationed aboard the USS Decatur, which is providing security around Basra oil terminal in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"That was the best thing this week, playing on the Decatur," said Sgt. Ryan Lodgaard, Center Mass drummer and a St. Paul, Minn., resident. "I never thought in a million years I would play on a Navy destroyer for the Army. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and one I won't soon forget."

Many of the Decatur's crew and the members of Center Mass believe this is the first time an Army band has performed on a Navy ship at sea, and according to Sgt. Dave Woychek, Center Mass keyboardist, it wasn't easy getting there.

"We had a lot of mishaps and interesting experiences trying to get out here," the Winona, Minn., resident said in reference to the band being stuck at sea for a few hours after the boat they were on broke down the day before.

The band members were determined to get out to the Decatur and perform for the sailors, who often miss out on USO tours, regardless of whatever mishaps delayed them.

"We decided when we came to Iraq that the large [forward operating bases] get a lot of USO tours," Woychek said, "so we made it our main goal to get out to the smaller FOBs and patrol bases, and in this case, ships to play for the guys who deserve it most, the guys who don't get any entertainment."

"As an Army band, we don't need the force protection required by USO tours to go to the smaller FOBs and play for the servicemembers that don't get anything," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Johnson, bassist and team leader for Center Mass.

Johnson, a Minneapolis resident said, he enjoys getting out and seeing all the different FOBs and performing for the soldiers who never get big-name entertainers.

The high heat and humidity didn't keep the band from playing for the servicemembers. After each show, although they were dripping in sweat, the look of satisfaction swept across their faces because they knew they had given their best and entertained the crowds.

"We pushed on and made it happen," Lodgaard said. "Just knowing we are entertaining the servicemembers who are in harm's way every day makes it easier. I saw a lot of smiles while performing this week. Being in a band is a great job to have for the Army."

(Army Spc. Darryl L. Montgomery serves in the Multinational Division South public affairs office.)

Commentary: Wounded Warrior Offers Real Story

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 2, 2009 - Two days ago, I and six other reporters accompanied Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to Texas to see two high-tech operations under way: the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter Lockheed Martin is building in Fort Worth, and the retrofitting of the MC-12 Liberty turboprop at the L3 Communications plant in Greenville. Both efforts have important military implications. The F-35 is a revolutionary next-generation fighter aircraft that the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as eight partner nations, will share. The MC-12 is being outfitted with state-of-the-art gear – 41,000 pieces of it, to be exact – and already is delivering new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in Iraq. It soon will do the same for warfighters in Afghanistan as more come off the line.

Getting to see both operations firsthand was impressive, to say the least. It was gratifying to see the energy, and frankly, the money, being poured into programs that directly support our troops on the front lines.

But almost 48 hours after the return flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., these stops aren't the ones lingering in my mind.

What replays over and over in my head, and that I find myself sharing with just about everyone I talk with, is the third stop on the Texas trip, where Gates helped to present a wounded warrior with keys to a brand new, all-expenses-paid house near Houston.

Only two other Pentagon reporters and I opted to cover that stop, which most of us hadn't known about until just days before the trip.

The two factory visits, which included a news conference at the Lockheed Martin plant, had delivered solid, hard-news stories about the F-35, the MC-12 and the situation on Afghanistan that couldn't wait. Editors wanted their stories. Time was of the essence. That's how the news business works.

Yet that additional side trip to Cypress, just outside Houston, yielded what to me was the most eye-opening and inspiring story of the day, maybe of the year.

A community came together and raised enough money to buy a brand-new, 3,300-square-foot home for a severely wounded Marine captain and his family. They presented it with no strings attached, calling him a hero and telling him it was part of the debt they owed him for his sacrifices and service.

I admit I'm a bit of a sap. But our motorcade approached the house, I was moved by the outpouring of genuine support. Hundreds of wildly cheering people lined the street and the sidewalk leading up to the front door: Boy Scouts in uniforms, schoolchildren hoisting hand-painted banners, neighbors holding American flags, Marines in their dress blues.

The house itself was packed with well-wishers crammed into every nook and cranny, all focused on a makeshift podium set up in the middle of the living room.

The luminaries made their speeches. Before Secretary Gates spoke, the onlookers heard from Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurt, U.S. Rep Todd Tiahrt from Kansas, and Meredith Iler, national chairwoman for the Helping a Hero organization that made the donation possible.

But it was Capt. Dan Moran, the medically retired Marine they were honoring, who left the group spellbound.

Moran has sacrificed a lot since an enemy attack left him with excruciating third-degree burns over his body, a fractured vertebra and mild traumatic brain injury. He's undergone more than 30 surgeries and spent two and a half years recovering at the burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

To this day, he can't control his body temperature and has to stay in a 68-degree environment. He can't go outside in the sunshine, where his body will overheat and his burns will fester. His face is red and swollen, a testament to his wounds.

But as he stood at the podium in his new living room, he harbored no anger, no blame, no sense of being owed something.

"What do I say to people who have given me so much?" he asked. "Words don't do justice. So let me tell you right now. It is going to be the way that I live my life. And the way I am going to live my life is by honor, courage and commitment."

At this point, a tear started rolling down my cheek. Bad form for a reporter, even one who works for the Defense Department. But then another tear followed. I felt self-conscious -- until I saw tears rolling down the faces of many others crowding the room. How could anyone not feel the raw emotion of this?

"You can rest assured," Moran continued. "You made an investment in me and other wounded warriors, and I promise you, you will get a return on your investment in me. ... This is how I am going to pay you back: by how I live my life and the impact I will have."

I looked across the room at Secretary Gates, and it was obvious that he, too, had been touched by the captain. Flying on the plane back to Washington, Gates told reporters that he had jokingly told Moran, "Remind me to never speak after you."

Moran would have been a tough act for anyone to follow.

As I reflect on the Texas trip, I feel edified by the experience. I'm further amazed at the technology that goes into making our warfighters the world's best. I'm impressed by the American industrial base – where workers I met expressed genuine pride in the fact that their everyday work is saving lives on the battlefield.

But the image I can't shake is of Captain Moran at that podium, so eloquently expressing humble thanks and committing himself to a life of example and service.

That's a news story.

(Donna Miles can be reached for comment at donna.miles@osd.mil.)

MILITARY CONTRACTS September 2, 2009

AIR FORCE
Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Systems &Solutions, Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded as $421,098,648 modified contract for the Air and Space Operations Center, Weapon System Integrator to include fielding, sustainment, systems engineering, integration, modernization, maintenance, management, and contingency support for AOC. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 350th ELSG/PK, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (FA8706-06-D-0003/P00010).

NAVY
Tecnico Corp., Chesapeake, Va., (N65540-09-D-0033); AMSEC, LLC., Virginia Beach, Va., (N65540-09-D-0029); BAE Systems San Diego Ship Repair, Inc., San Diego, Calif., (N65540-09-D-0031); Delphinus Engineering Inc., Eddystone, Pa., (N65540-09-D-0030); General Dynamics Information Technology, Fairfax, Va., (N65540-09-D-0032); Q.E.D. Systems, Inc., Virginia Beach, Va., (N65540-09-D-0029), are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee multiple award contract for engineering and technical services on hull, mechanical, electrical and electronic systems and equipment onboard U.S. Naval Vessels. The dollar value for all six contracts combined is $455,163,385.

The engineering and technical shipboard alteration services to be performed under this contract are for alteration installations (industrial support, shipboard interface and maintenance/repair), logistics and material support, and quality assurance. Services are required to support various levels of ship systems integration including component level digital upgrades through system level upgrades. Systems include hull, mechanical, electrical and electronic. Ships include aircraft carriers, surface ships, watercrafts, cutters and submarines in locations worldwide.

Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va., (30 percent); San Diego, Calif., (25 percent); Mayport, Fla., (15 percent); Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, (10 percent); Everett, Wash., (5 percent); and other CONUS and OCONUS locations (15 percent), and is expected to be completed by August 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities website, with seven offers received. These six contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity.

Utilis USA, LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is being awarded $19,982,562 for delivery order #0006 against a previously awarded firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-09-D-3048) for general purpose medium shelters. Work will be performed in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., (32 percent), Celina, Ohio, (49 percent), and Destin, Fla., (19 percent) and is expected to be completed in November 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $19,982,562 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Marine Corps Systems Command (M67854), Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Armorworks, Inc., Chandler, Ariz., is being awarded $10,782,261 for delivery order #0002 against a previously awarded firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-06-D-3072) for enhanced small arms protective inserts used as personal armor by Marines. Work will be performed in Chandler, Ariz., and is expected to be completed in August 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $10,782,261 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Marine Corps Systems Command (M67854), Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Teledyne Cougar, Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., is being awarded a $9,900,856 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of 150 instantaneous frequency measurement receivers and improved stabilized radio frequency sources to support multiple agency efforts at the Airborne Threat Simulation Organization, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, Point Mugu, Calif. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, Calif., and is expected to be completed in September 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $568,134 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via electronic request for proposal, with one offer received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity (N68936-09-D-0053).

Raytheon Co., Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $9,611,060 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-5122) for performing as the platform system engineering agent for the ship self defense system (SSDS). In the course of this effort, Raytheon IDS will be responsible for the integration of complex war-fighting improvements – including components associated with the Dual Band Radar and Rolling Airframe Missile Block 2 – into the modular SSDS. Raytheon IDS will integrate, test and provide certification support for the government-furnished equipment/government-furnished information required for the CVN/amphibious ship combat system. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., (90 percent); Tewksbury, Mass., (2.5 percent); Portsmouth, R.I., (2.5 percent); St. Petersburg, Fla., (2.5 percent); and Tucson, Ariz., (2.5 percent) and is expected to be completed by January 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-08-C-5122).

BAE Systems Aerospace & Defense Group, Inc., Phoenix, Ariz., is being awarded a $6,237,287 delivery order #0006 against a previously awarded firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-06-D-3031) for enhanced small arms protective inserts. Work will be performed in Phoenix, Ariz., and is expected to be completed in August 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $6,237,287 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

U.S. Technologies *, Fair Lawn, N.J., is being awarded a $6,062,905 firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract for the procurement of 1,821 circuit card assembly units and associated engineering, technical and repair services to support multiple agency efforts at the Airborne Threat Simulation Organization, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, Point Mugu, Calif. Work will be performed in Fair Lawn, N.J., and is expected to be completed in September 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $33,880 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via electronic request for proposals as a 100 percent small business set-aside; six offers were received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity (N68936-09-D-0025).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
Timken Aerospace Transmission, LLC, Manchester, Conn., is being awarded a maximum $27,485,203 firm fixed price contract for main extension assemblies. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There were three proposals originally solicited with two responses. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Sept. 15, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., (SPRRA1-09-D-0017).

Phillips Corp., Federal Division, Hanover, Md.*, is being awarded a maximum $14,192,584 firm fixed price contract for equipment installation, maintenance and training. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Navy. The original proposal was Web solicited with four responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is September 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Richmond, Richmond, Va., (SPM4A8-09-C-0097).

DEFENSE MEDIA ACTIVITY
Towne Group Media & Management, Columbia, Md., was awarded a $7,869,274.16 modified contract to provide operational support to The Pentagon Channel in order to work with an existing staff of military and civilian government employees. This contract is exercising the 1st Option Year period. The date of performance is Oct. 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2010. At this time no funds have been obligated. The contracting activity is Defense Media Activity-Riverside, Contracting Office, Riverside, Calif., (HQ0028-09-C-0011).