Military News

Monday, November 02, 2009

Defense Officials Welcome New Army Secretary

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - The new Army secretary received an official welcome from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the Army's top uniformed officer today at a ceremony held in Conmy Hall at Fort Myer, Va. Gates hailed former New York Congressman John M. McHugh, who became the 21st secretary of the Army on Sept. 21, as a staunch supporter for the military during his 16 years in Congress.

"In the Congress, Representative McHugh was a strong advocate for Fort Drum, for the Army, and for the needs of all those who serve," Gates said. Fort Drum, home of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, is located in Waterville, N.Y., which is McHugh's hometown. Fort Drum also is part of McHugh's former congressional district.

Gates thanked McHugh, who had served as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, for his support of important acquisition reform legislation that was passed earlier this year.

McHugh's late father was an Army Air Corps B-17 bomber crewman during World War II and his mother was an Army nurse.

"Now he takes charge of the entire Army family," Gates said of McHugh's new role as the Army's top civilian.

Today is a crucial time for the Army, Gates said. As U.S. operations and force levels wind down in Iraq, he said, the campaign in Afghanistan is entering a new phase. And, difficult budget decisions lie ahead, he added.

McHugh also will manage the replenishment, replacement and modernization of the Army's battered, lost or obsolete equipment, Gates said, as he works to ensure the Army is equipped and prepared to fight today's and tomorrow's battles.

The new Army secretary also will focus on improving the quality of life for U.S. soldiers, their families and wounded warriors, Gates said.

The Defense Department is enhancing and institutionalizing its support for its warfighters, Gates said, to "see that their needs and those of their families have a bureaucratic home and sustained long-term funding." As part of this effort, he said, the military is seeking improved care for servicemembers with post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related psychological ailments.

These are steps in the right direction, but there's much more to do, Gates said, noting he's confident McHugh will provide effective, tireless leadership as the Army's most-senior official.

McHugh's extensive experience in public service and his dedication to the U.S. military will serve him well as Army secretary, Gates said.

"I'm glad you've joined the team, John; my thanks to you and to the men and women of the United States Army who protect our country every day," Gates said.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army's chief of staff, saluted McHugh's appointment, noting that although the Army has grown and is starting to re-balance its forces to provide more "down time" for soldiers after deployments, there's much more work to be done.

"We are better positioned now than we were two years ago to accept some increased demand, but we are not out of the woods yet," Casey said.

Casey expressed confidence that resolute leadership will win the war against global extremism as the Army sustains itself while preparing to meet challenges in the decades ahead.

"John McHugh is the right leader to do this," Casey said. "He understands that the focus has to be on supporting the soldiers on the front lines and improving support and services for our Army families back home."

McHugh thanked President Barack Obama and Gates for their trust and he pledged to do his best to maintain the force while supporting soldiers and families.

"Our future readiness will require that we continue to modernize, adapt our institutions, and transform soldier and leader development, while at the same time sustaining an expeditionary and campaign-capable force," McHugh said.

At the same time, he said, the Army must continue to address challenges posed by the stress that families continue to face as the result of multiple deployments.

"Our mission -- No. 1 -- must be to ensure that our soldiers and their families are provided a quality of life that is equal to their extraordinary sacrifices," McHugh said.

McHugh said he's also committed to maintaining the fundamentals and foundations that have kept the U.S. Army strong for more than two-and-a-quarter centuries.

"Yes, the Army has numerous challenges before it, but facing daunting challenges is nothing new to this Army," McHugh said. "In fact, it's a defining part of the great heritage and tradition" that's found throughout the Army's history.

VA to Outline Plans to End Veteran Homelessness

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki is expected to unveil a five-year plan to end homelessness among veterans as he, other VA officials and community outreach specialists come together for the Homeless Veteran Summit here tomorrow. Shinseki's team has made addressing homelessness a leading issue since he took charge of VA in January. Department officials estimate that about 131,000 veterans are homeless today in the United States, down from the 2003 estimate of nearly 200,000.

In several speeches this year, Shinseki has noted that to end homelessness among veterans, VA and the nation must do better in terms of psychological health care, education and employment opportunities, and addressing substance abuse.

VA programs such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which became law Aug. 1, may not have an immediate impact on homelessness, but better education opportunities can decrease homelessness in the future.

"To do this well, we'll have to attack the entire downward spiral that ends in homelessness," Shinseki said in an August speech at the American Legion convention in Louisville, Ky. He cited the need to offer veterans education, jobs and safe housing, and to treat depression and substance abuse. "We must do it all," he said.

Shinseki's latest initiative, launched last month, has a more direct impact on homelessness. On Oct. 6, the secretary announced more than $17 million in grants will be shared among 19 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to create more than 1,100 beds for homeless veterans. The transitional housing will give veterans the leverage they need to access VA health care and other benefits they need to lead productive lives again, Shinseki said in an Oct. 6 statement.

This week's Homeless Summit is likely to focus on similar indirect and immediate measures to meet the VA's five-year goal to get veterans off the streets. Officials said the summit's agenda will promote interagency and community partnerships to end homelessness through a variety of working groups and other sessions. The summit also will raise awareness and help advocates articulate key components of the five-year plan, and will give outreach organizations more tools for prevention in their local communities, officials added.

The two-day summit begins tomorrow morning, and Shinseki is expected to give his keynote address at 1 p.m.

Experts to Answer H1N1 Questions Online

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - The Military Health System will host a Web-based, town hall-style meeting Nov. 10 from 3 to 4 p.m. EST to respond to questions about H1N1 influenza. Military members, their families, health-care providers and Defense Department civilians may submit questions starting today, using the comments box at http://www.health.mil/flu. As many as possible of the questions submitted in advance, as well as questions asked throughout the live event, will be answered during the Web hall. A transcript of all questions and answers will be posted to the site after the event.

"We want to keep servicemembers and their families informed about the H1N1 flu and the Department of Defense's vaccination strategy," said Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for the Military Health System.

Subject-matter experts from the Army, Navy and Air Force, the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Health Protection and Readiness, the Military Vaccine Agency, Tricare Management Activity and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are scheduled to participate.

Participants in the Web hall are asked to limit questions to H1N1 flu-related topics and to refrain from disclosing personal information, to protect their privacy. When possible, officials said, servicemembers should contact their chain of command to resolve issues.

The Military Health System is a worldwide partnership of medical educators and researchers, health-care providers and support personnel. The Defense Department enterprise consists of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; the medical departments of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Joint Chiefs of Staff; the combatant command surgeons; and Tricare providers, including private-sector health care providers, hospitals and pharmacies.

(From a Defense Department Health Affairs news release.)

Army Reduces 'Stop Loss' as Pentagon Begins Payments

By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - As the Defense Department begins to compensate military members forced to serve beyond the expiration of their contracts, the number of those still serving under "Stop Loss" has been greatly reduced, a Pentagon official said. The Army, the only service still using the program, still has 9,600 soldiers serving involuntarily beyond their resignation or retirement date, Sam Retherford, The Defense Department's director of officer and enlisted personnel management, said during an Oct. 29 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

That compares to 16,000 servicemembers on Stop Loss in 2005, he said.

Those currently on Stop Loss will be reduced quickly, however, as the Army plans to cut the number of those deployed under the program in half by January and to end Stop Loss deployments entirely by June, he said.

"They [will] not deploy using the Stop Loss authority," Retherford said, adding that "there should be no servicemembers on active duty under Stop Loss by March 2011."

The new compensation policy allows servicemembers who were "Stop Lossed" to collect $500 for every month or partial month they served after their service contract ended, Retherford said.

All of the services applied for Stop Loss authority. The Navy applied an average of 15 months of Stop Loss to 250 servicemembers; the Air Force applied an average of seven months of Stop Loss to 39,000 servicemembers; the Marine Corps applied an average of three months of Stop Loss to 9,500 Marines; and the Army applied an average of seven months of Stop Loss to 137,000 soldiers, Retherford said.

Servicemembers with an honorable discharge are eligible to receive compensation if they were involuntarily extended between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Dependents of deceased servicemembers who were Stop Lossed also can apply for compensation. In all cases, applicants must provide the proper documentation.

"The claims process requires that the member submit the documentation to show that they were Stop Lossed," Retherford said. "If the member doesn't have the documentation, then the service will, based on the claim, attempt to find the documentation to support the claim, but it has to be shown and proved."

Here's where to get information from each service:

-- Army: https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil or e-mail to RetroStopLossPay@conus.army.mil

-- Navy: E-mail to NXAG_N132C@navy.mil

-- Air Force: http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/stoploss/

-- Marine Corps: https://www.manpower.usmc.mil/stoploss or e-mail to stoploss@usmc.mil

Retherford added that Stop Loss authority was authorized in 1983, when Congress was concerned about the president's call-up authority and that the all-volunteer force may not be enough during times of national emergencies.

"There is a reason for Stop Loss, and that is an initial response to emergencies in dynamic situations where we need to maintain readiness and capability," he said. "But as time moves forward, things normally stabilize and efforts are made to minimize or reduce the use of Stop Loss."

For servicemembers to receive payment, verification of their service is required, Retherford said. To file a claim, servicemembers are required to complete the department's claim form No. 2944.

"Each service had to develop the Web sites to enable individuals to obtain information on the Web and to submit claims," he added.

For servicemembers or their dependent survivors to be compensated, a claim must be submitted and postmarked by Oct. 21, 2010, Retherford said.

Congress authorized $534 million to pay an estimated 185,000 servicemembers to be eligible for retroactive Stop Loss pay. Once the claim is verified by Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the payment will be deposited directly into the servicemember's bank account, Retherford said.

"We want to keep the public affairs effort going hard, because eight years is a long time, ... and many of these members are completely removed from service," he added. "Their military service obligation long ago passed."

(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Air Guard Readies for C-27J Fleet

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - The Air National Guard, for the first time, will be the sole operator of a new aircraft straight off the assembly line when it starts operations with C-27J Spartan cargo planes. The Spartan, the latest propeller-driven airlifter, is an "extremely rugged" aircraft designed for austere environments, Air Force officials said. It is about half the size of a C-130, with 3.5 cargo pallet positions.

"It is the first time in U.S. Air Force history where the service acquired a new airframe solely owned, operated and maintained by the Air National Guard," said Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Beckman, the Air Guard's aviation planning and execution chief.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates moved the C-27J program and its related direct support mission from the Army to the Air Force in April. The Army chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., supported Gates' decision. "We need the capability to resupply our forces," he said. "We do not have to fly the planes to get that." Flying fixed-wing aircraft is not an Army core competency, the general added.

Since that time, the Air Force's Air Mobility Command and the Air National Guard have taken a serious approach to building the program, officials said.

"Making a switch like this is no small affair, especially at this phase in the acquisition process," said Air Force Lt. Col. Gene Capone, Air Mobility Command's C-27J test manager at the Joint Program Office.

Capone added that the Army lost its fiscal 2010 funding for the C-27J due to the change, so the Air Force will fund the Army's completion of the multiservice testing and evaluation.

Air National Guard pilots and loadmasters from the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, Ohio, and the 175th Wing in Baltimore will be the first operational C-27J crews to be trained and deployed, and are critical participants in testing and evaluation, Beckman said. The testing and evaluation, scheduled for April, will determine if the C-27J program is ready for deployment and domestic operations, he added.

Two Army National Guard units, Company H, 171st Aviation Regiment, from Georgia and 1st Battalion, 245th Airfield Operations Battalion, from Oklahoma also will participate in the testing and evaluation.

In addition to aircraft in Mansfield and Baltimore, the Air Force will field C-27J's at units in Fargo, N.D.; Bradley Air Field, Conn.; Battle Creek, Mich.; and Meridian, Miss.

"The [Air National Guard] has played a critical role in the development of the C-27J roadmap, to include basing, personnel, aircraft delivery, Air Force instruction and technical order development and review, service transfer and planning for operational execution," Beckman said.

To prove the direct-support concept for transporting time-sensitive and mission-critical Army payloads, the 179th Airlift Wing is leading a test that began several months ago. Following predeployment training and integration with an Army combat aviation brigade, the unit's C-130s recently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"All of this is being done well within the new current execution model of 24 months that all of our forces now live in," Beckman said. "For example, we are already looking at mobilization packages, and have not yet seen a tail or trained crew."

(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau public affairs office. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol of Air Mobility Command public affairs contributed to this story.)

Officials Showcase Armored All-terrain Vehicle

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - Senior Defense Department officials today showcased a more agile, downsized version of the military's family of super-armored vehicles now arriving in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan's mountainous terrain requires a more agile vehicle than the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles used in Iraq, the MRAP vehicle was modified to produce a lighter, all-terrain vehicle known as the M-ATV, said Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The new vehicles will replace up-armored Humvees.

Like the version used in Iraq, the new trucks feature armor and V-shaped hulls to deflect roadside-bomb blasts, Carter. M-ATVs "will similarly be a live-saver in Afghanistan," he added.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pushed to develop the new vehicle quickly, Carter said, noting the first production order was provided to Wisconsin-based manufacturer Oshkosh Corp. in June. Vehicles already are arriving in Afghanistan, Carter said, noting he has test-driven an M-ATV. "These are superior vehicles," he told reporters.

The military is planning to buy more than 6,500 M-ATVs, Carter said, with about 690 having been accepted.

"We will continue to make changes in the MRAP-ATV as we get feedback from soldiers [on] how to improve it," Carter said.

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are training with the first 41 M-ATVs that have arrived there, said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va. Marines, too, will get M-ATVs, he said.

The M-ATV weighs about 5 tons less that the 40,000-pound regular MRAP, Brogan said, noting the new vehicle also features an independent suspension and a shorter wheelbase to better negotiate Afghanistan's rocky hills.

The M-ATV "was designed from the ground up to have mobility that's roughly equivalent to an up-armored Humvee, yet retain the survivability features that are inherent in the baseline MRAP vehicles," Brogan said. The major contributor to the M-ATV's increased mobility, he said, is its four-wheel independent suspension.

"That's what provides that off-road capability," Brogan said, noting that the baseline MRAPs have rigid-axle suspensions that perform poorly on uneven, hilly terrain.

Meanwhile, Brogan said, early-production MRAPs, called "Cougars," are being taken out of theater and having their rigid suspensions replaced with suspensions better-suited for Afghanistan's lack of roads and challenging geography.

Brogan noted differences between the terrain in Iraq and that in Afghanistan. "The terrain in Afghanistan is significantly more formidable," he said. There is far less infrastructure, and that infrastructure that does exist is more austere."

The base cost for the M-ATV is about $437,000 per vehicle. As fitted with the necessary equipment for deployment, each vehicle costs about $1.4 million, shipping to Afghanistan included, Brogan said.

MILITARY CONTRACTS November 2, 2009

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
Phantom Products, Inc., Rockledge, Fla.* is being awarded a maximum $31,250,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for flashlights, light kits, and transmitters. There are no other locations of performance. Using service are Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The proposal was through an open solicitation with 63 responses. The date of performance completion is Nov. 1, 2014. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM200-10-D-8201).

Ross Equipment Inc., Elizabeth, N.J.* is being awarded a maximum $12,624,276 firm fixed price contract for fan axial impellar. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There were originally two proposals solicited with four responses. The date of performance completion is Aug. 29, 2014. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Warren (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich. (SPRDL1-09-D-00534).

Veyance Technologies, Inc, St. Marys, Ohio is being awarded a maximum $12,478,939 firm fixed price, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for track pads. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There were originally two proposals solicited with two responses. The date of performance completion is Nov. 2, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Warren (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich. (SPRDL1-10-D-0004).

UNITED STATES TRANSPORTATION COMMAND
Systems Research and Applications Corp. (SRA) of Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a $10,215,989 firm-fixed price and cost-plus award fee task order to maintain and continue development on the Defense Personal Property System. The base period will be from Nov. 1, 2009, through Sept. 30, 2010; two six-month option periods will also be included. The work will be performed primarily at the contractor's facility. In addition, the contractor shall perform services at USTRANSCOM Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Defense Enterprise Computing Center (DECC) Ogden, Utah, and DISA DECC St. Louis, Mo. Work is expected to be completed for the base period by Sept. 30, 2010, and task order funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), Directorate of Acquisition, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is the contracting activity. (HC1028-08-D-2026-6S01)

NAVY
Raytheon Company Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), San Diego, Calif., is being awarded an $8,652,919 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for life cycle engineering and support (LCE&S) services for LPD 17 Class integrated shipboard electronic systems. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $197,091,380. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif. (95 percent); Chula Vista, Calif. (3 percent); and Norfolk, Va. (2 percent), and is expected to be completed by December 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-10-C-2205).

Raytheon Company, Integrated Defense Systems, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $6,700,000 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-5122) to exercise a FY 10 option for performing as the platform system engineering agent for the Ship Self Defense System (SSDS). This effort is 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. 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 November 2010. 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.

Defense Department Receives First H1N1 Vaccine Shipments

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - The Defense Department has started receiving H1N1 vaccines and will begin distributing doses in the coming weeks. The Health and Human Services Department is distributing the vaccines, manufactured by four producers, to the department. Because rates of production vary among the manufacturers, supplies are expected to be limited initially, but to increase over time, said Ellen P. Embrey, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

The department "is working closely with HHS to receive its full allocation of vaccine as soon as possible," Embrey said. Vaccinations are mandatory for military members, and as the quantity of doses on hand grows, officials anticipate Defense Department facilities will receive sufficient numbers to make the vaccine available to all of the department's employees and beneficiaries, she said.

Meanwhile, Defense Department officials have implemented a plan to maintain mission readiness while ensuring those at greatest risk get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccines first will be made available to deployed personnel, bases that receive new military accessions, such as basic training installations and the service academies, and all health-care workers assigned to military medical treatment facilities.

Department providers should balance mission requirements with guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control in determining who should receive vaccine when supplies are limited, Embrey said.

The arrival of the vaccines comes as CDC officials underscore the importance of remaining vigilant amid the rising incidence of flu nationwide.

"I would reiterate that we have more virus, more vaccine, and we have more treatment," CDC Director Thomas Frieden told reporters at an Oct. 30 news conference in Atlanta. "We encourage the prompt treatment of people who have underlying conditions."

CDC officials have identified groups they consider at a high risk of developing severe illness if they contract the flu: pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months, health-care and emergency medical services personnel, people between 6 months and 24 years of age, then those between 25 and 64.

President Barack Obama is "deeply concerned" about H1N1, Frieden said.

"He's directly involved, he's briefed regularly, he asks a series of important and relevant questions, and he wants to make sure that we are doing absolutely everything we possibly can to respond effectively as we can," he said.

In determining how to distribute supplies, Embrey said, military commanders, in collaboration with their medical authorities, will determine the best method to allocate the vaccine when demand exceeds supply. As more vaccine is received, it will be made available to all active-duty servicemembers, civilian employees, members of military reserve components and National Guard personnel.

Immunization for both seasonal flu and H1N1 is mandatory for all military personnel and is highly recommended for beneficiaries. When the first cases of H1N1 were diagnosed in April, a defense official said, the department bought 2.7 million doses of the vaccine for mission-assurance purposes.

HHS later provided 1 million doses to the Defense Department, raising the number to 3.7 million, according to Dr. Robert Morrow, the preventive medicine programs and policy officer for the Bureau of Navy Medicine and Surgery's force health protection function.

In addition to vaccines being received for operational personnel, Defense Department medical treatment facilities are receiving vaccine for family members based upon a separate allocation to each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Officials also have completed an agreement with HHS to provide vaccine for family members living outside the United States.

Vaccine for family members, like that for the active-duty and civilian work force, will arrive at military medical treatment facilities incrementally, Embrey said.

President Proclaims Military Family Month

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 2, 2009 - President Barack Obama pledged his support of military members and their families and said Americans have a "solemn obligation" to preserve their well-being in his proclamation declaring November as Military Family Month.

The proclamation reads:

"No one pays a higher price for our freedom than members of our Nation's military and their families. As sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and mothers and fathers are deployed, military families endure with exceptional resilience and courage. They provide our troops with invaluable encouragement and love, and serve our Nation in their own right. During Military Family Month, we honor the families of our Armed Forces and thank them for their dedication to our country.

"Though only a small percentage of our Nation's population, our troops bear the great responsibility of protecting our people. They, along with their families, serve us every day with courage and dignity. Ensuring that military families receive the respect they deserve and the support they have earned is a top priority for my Administration.

"The strength of our Nation is measured not just by our success on the battlefield, but also by our ability to support those families who have made so many sacrifices for us. Time and again, military families have shown their heart in the face of adversity. We have a solemn obligation to ensure that while our men and women in uniform discharge their duties, we do all we can to promote and preserve the well-being of their families. We must also support the families of our wounded warriors and our fallen heroes who have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy.

"This month, we celebrate the tremendous contributions of military families, convey to them our deepest respect and appreciation, and recommit ourselves to their support.

"NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2009 as Military Family Month. I call on all Americans to honor military families through private actions and public service for the tremendous contributions they make in the support of our service members and our Nation."