Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Chairman Calls for Better Mental Health Programs

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 4, 2009 - The military's top officer today urged mental health providers to demonstrate leadership in developing effective programs to treat wounded warriors. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke by teleconference to some 400 attendees gathered here for the Warrior Resilience Conference, sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

The Defense Department has generated "a ton of programs" since the wars began in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mullen said, and on their face, all sound great. "But I need programs that work," he said. "I need programs where we can see results and see output. Anything we put in place, we really need to measure how we're doing."

Mullen urged participants to act on what they learn. "Demonstrate the leadership to say, 'Here are the ideas, now how do I turn that into reality?'" he said. "Many of you are in positions of responsibility. Don't wait for somebody else to do it. I hope and direct you to attack these problems for warriors and families."

Leading in this field is particularly challenging, the chairman said. "I see far too many individual efforts that are not particularly well-coordinated," he said.

The chairman urged the attendees to look beyond the department for help and solutions. The American people are looking for ways to help servicemembers and their families, he said, and he encouraged the conferees to tap into the "immense sea of goodwill for servicemembers that exists in this country."

Mullen cited the importance of creating the programs that build resilience. "I have seen servicemembers and their families demonstrate extraordinary resilience," he said. "I admire their ability to sustain operations at the pace we are in." And the need for resilience is not going to go away, he added.

"For the next year or so," Mullen said, "we will continue to shift our main effort from Iraq to Afghanistan, and the deployments are still going to be there."

But the chairman also provided the encouraging news that soldiers and Marines will start getting more "dwell time" at their home stations between deployments. "The two factors I focus on the most is the amount of dwell time and the number of deployments," he said.

Operations themselves affect resilience, Mullen said, noting that he was struck by the resilience of troops who participated in the successful troop surge in Iraq. "They left with a skip in their steps that wasn't present earlier," he said. "They got that skip because they knew they made a difference."

Transitions such as moving in and out of deployments, transitioning in and out of service or being wounded also affect resilience, the chairman told the conferees.. "Those are challenging times, and family support becomes more critical to resilience," he said. "The stronger the support network is, the stronger the servicemembers and families are."

Speed of treatment and getting the right treatment are key to minimizing long-term effects on servicemembers, he said. Leaders also need to smooth the transition between the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and be aware of the needs of those transitioning, he added.

"We have too many troopers who get out who have been living very structured lives," he said. "Many of them have seen hell, and now they are out there all alone. They have no support network, and they don't know where to go to get help. We need to do everything we can to help."

Pentagon Sends H1N1 Vaccine to Central Command Area

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 4, 2009 - U.S. Central Command has received half of the vaccine needed to inoculate its forces against the H1N1 virus, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today. The vaccines arrived in Qatar overnight and should be pushed out to troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and other parts of the region within the next day, Morrell said. About 300,000 forces serve in the command's area of responsibility.

Meanwhile, roughly 26,000 doses arrived in South Korea this week for servicemembers assigned there, Morrell said.

"So we're making some progress in terms of getting the H1N1 vaccine to our forces worldwide," he said. "But because we are still operating with a limited quantity, we have to prioritize those who will get it. And according to our prioritization list, our military forces and those who support them are at the top of that list."

The Defense Department does not yet have enough of the vaccine to treat all servicemembers, their families and other support personnel. The department received its initial allotments of the vaccine last week and began distributing them according to a prioritized list of recipients. Vaccines will be made available first to deployed troops, then to deployed health-care workers, including civilian employees and contractors.

"It is imperative that we keep our forces able to do their jobs so as to provide for the protection of our interests around the world," Morrell said.

"They are already in very difficult circumstances. Every one of them is needed, and we can't afford to have an outbreak of the [H1N1] flu in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in any other location where our forces are deployed," he said. "So we're doing everything within our power to make sure our guys downrange get this as soon as possible."

The department also has received several hundred vaccines from the Health and Human Services Department for defense civilians. Because vaccines are coming in relatively small numbers, local commanders are responsible for determining how supplies are distributed.

Immunization for both seasonal flu and H1N1 is mandatory for all military personnel and is highly recommended for family members.

When the first cases of H1N1 were diagnosed in the United States in April, the department bought 2.7 million doses of the vaccine for mission-assurance purposes. HHS later provided 1 million doses to the department, raising the number to 3.7 million, officials said.

In addition to vaccines being received for operational personnel, Defense Department medical treatment facilities now are receiving vaccine for family members living in the United States. Pentagon officials also have an agreement with HHS to provide the vaccine for family members living outside the United States.

Vaccine for family members and the civilian work force will arrive at military medical treatment facilities incrementally, department officials said.

Brain Injury Research Warrants Urgency, Mullen Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 4, 2009 - Traumatic brain injury, one of the signature injuries suffered by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, demands a "sense of urgency," the U.S. military's top officer said today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Defense Department is in the early stages of understanding the impact of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, a mental condition characterized by headaches, dizziness, lacking motor coordination, memory loss and other symptoms.

"What I worry about is these ... injuries are different," he said at the National Press Club. "This is not like a football head injury or a boxing head injury. It is the catastrophic aspect of this explosion, which just affects the brain differently."

In wide-ranging remarks this morning, Mullen emphasized the importance of focusing on TBI and other issues affecting troops and their families. He said he supports efforts by those within and outside the department to better understand TBI.

"It is very clear the sooner you treat them, the better the outcome is going to be," he said. "So there needs to be a real sense of urgency here, and there are an awful lot of people involved in that. And I try to support what they're doing as much as I possibly can."

Mullen also cited post-traumatic stress -- another prevalent effect of combat -- as a great concern. He said the stigma attached to mental health treatment often contributes to the problem.

"It almost starts with the stigma issue, which we have to continue, as leaders, to break down, because it's hard to say, 'I need help.' And it too often gets used against you," he said.

Mullen added that he and his wife have heard such anecdotes from spouses of servicemembers with post-traumatic stress symptoms who fear seeking help because they don't want to affect their military spouse's career adversely.

"So we've just got to break that down and make it acceptable to ask for help in what is, by and large, something that is a temporary condition that, again, if it's addressed quickly, its effects can be greatly minimized.

Therefore, he said, the Pentagon's military and civilian leaders are focused on the issue. "But we've still got a long way to go," he acknowledged.

Speaking about the much-reported stress on the force stemming from multiple and lengthy deployments, Mullen said he doesn't see the U.S. military nearing a tipping point where forces will begin losing experienced troops.

"But I think we do have to make sure we keep a laser focus on this, ... support our families who have been extraordinary, take care of those who've been wounded, and ensure that they have lives of great contribution in the future," the chairman said. That care includes education, the right medical care and an opportunity buy a home, he added.

Mullen noted a "sea of goodwill" from an American public interested in showing support in various ways to U.S. forces. One of his challenges, he said, is to transform the outpouring into tangible support.

"The challenge that I and many other leaders here in Washington have is how do you connect that sea of goodwill to the need?" he said. "And we're actually working our way through being able to do that, and we're also looking for anyone who wants to try to assist us in that regard."

National Parks Honor America’s Armed Forces

Free Admission on Veterans Day

From the beginnings of our nation to this very day, brave Americans have fought to protect our country and defend the principles on which it was founded.

On Veterans Day, November 11, our country honors the service of those who have answered the call at places like Lexington and Concord. Guilford Courthouse. Saratgoa. Yorktown. Fort McHenry. Horseshoe Bend. Gettysburg. Antietam. Valley Forge. Appomattox. Shiloh. Kennesaw Mountain. Vicksburg. Wilson’s Creek. USS Arizona. The names are ingrained in our national memory. The places are preserved forever as national parks.

“As part of the national observance of Veterans Day, entrance fees will be waived at all national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. “This is just a small way we can honor our veterans and active duty military, reserves, National Guard, and their families. It is also an opportunity for all Americans to visit a national park that tells a veteran’s story and learn more about the struggles and the people who have kept our nation strong for more than 200 years.”

To learn more about how national parks preserve and commemorate the service of the American military visit Honor America’s Veterans at Battlefields and Military Parks Preserved in the National Park System. Or search for a close-to-home national park by clicking on “refine your search” and entering your zip code in our park finder.

Many of the 392 national parks have planned special events on Veterans Day including:
World War II Memorial, Washington, DC – 8 a.m. color guard from the Military District of Washington, special speakers, wreath-laying, and taps. Contact: Friends of the National World War II Memorial, (202) 747-4258.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC – 1 p.m. annual Veterans Day Observance at the Wall. Contact: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at (202) 393-0090.

Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania – 10:30 a.m. wreath laying at the National Memorial Arch with the Friends of Valley Forge Park and the Korea DMZ Veterans Association. Contact: Ann Marie Maher at (610) 783-1006 or

General Grant National Memorial, New York – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. living history displays and demonstrations of the evolution of the American Army during the 19th century. Contact: Mindi Rambo at (212) 668-2208 or

Free entrance on Veterans Day applies also applies at other areas managed by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.

Mullen Ties Health to Readiness in Latest Podcast

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

Nov. 4, 2009 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted some indirect factors of military readiness today in his latest podcast, also highlighting appreciation for military families and veterans, as well as preventive measures against the H1N1 influenza. "Readiness isn't just about training, it's about health," the chairman said in the podcast recorded at the Pentagon with his wife, Deborah.

The Defense Department received the initial doses of the H1N1 vaccine yesterday, and already has started sending it out to installations around the world. But the Mullens said precautions still are necessary.

"Flu season is here, and this year we also need to be ready for the H1N1 virus," Deborah Mullen said. "Many of the precautions are the same: covering your mouth when coughing, washing your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth."

The H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu, hit the United States in April, and has swept the nation with nearly 5,000 confirmed cases in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a report released Oct. 27 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of Americans being hospitalized due to the condition has steadily increased every month, with nearly 300 H1N1-related deaths, the CDC report said.

President Barack Obama proclaimed the virus a national emergency Oct. 24. Raising awareness and taking preventive steps against it, outside of receiving the vaccine, can help to reduce the virus's threat and its spread, the Mullens said.

"Because it's not just about staying well," Deborah Mullen said.

"It's about staying ready," the chairman added.

The Mullens also offered messages recognizing Veterans Day on Nov. 11 and Military Family Appreciation Week, observed Nov. 21 -28 as part of Military Family Month.

"We honor you not out of obligation, but rather with a deep sense of pride and gratitude," the chairman said of military veterans. "You and your families made a difference."

"Whether you saw combat or not, made the military a career or not, you stood up for you country and for your fellow citizens," Deborah Mullen added.

Combat readiness is tied to family readiness, the admiral said, and no military member serves alone. Today's armed forces have the most supportive and combat-ready families he's seen in his 41 years in uniform, he added.

"Our families don't just wait and worry," Deborah Mullen said. "They serve every bit as much as their loved ones."

Navy To Commission Amphibious Transport Dock Ship New York

The Navy will commission the newest San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship New York, during an 11 a.m. EST ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, in New York City.

The ship is named New York in honor of the state and the courage and heroism of New Yorkers during and after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. A unique characteristic of the ship is the use of 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center wreckage that was incorporated into the construction process. The steel was melted and formed to make the bow stem of the ship. Use of this steel symbolizes the spirit and resiliency of the people of New York. The ship's motto is "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, will also deliver remarks. Dotty England, wife of former secretary of the Navy and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, is serving as the ship's sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she will give the order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"

Designated as LPD 21, New York is the fifth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. Four previous ships have been named New York. The first, a gondola that served in 1776; the second, a frigate that served 1800-1814; the third, an armored cruiser that served 1893-1938; and the fourth, a battleship that served 1914-1946.

As a critical element in future expeditionary strike groups, the ship will support the Marine Corps' "mobility triad," which consists of the landing craft air cushion (LCAC), the expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) and the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (MV-22). The ship will provide improved warfighting capabilities including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features.

Cmdr. F. Curtis Jones, a native of Binghamton, N.Y., is the first commanding officer of the ship, leading a crew of approximately 360 officers and enlisted personnel and three Marines. The ship is capable of embarking a landing force of up to 800 Marines. Upon commissioning, New York will be homeported in Norfolk, Va., as a part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding - Avondale Operations in Louisiana, New York is 684 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, a navigational draft of 23 feet and displaces about 24,900 tons. Four turbo-charged diesel engines power the ship to sustained speeds of 24 knots.

For more information about this class of ship, please visit the Navy Fact File: .

Gates to Thank Armored Vehicle Factory Workers

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 4, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will travel to the factory line of the newest version of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle next week to personally thank the workers for their efforts to speed delivery of the vehicles to warfighters. Oshkosh Corp.'s factory in Oshkosh, Wis., produces the new MRAP all-terrain vehicle known as the M-ATV, which is designed to be suited to off-road conditions in Afghanistan's rugged terrain.

The Defense Department has contracted the company to produce 6,600 of the armored vehicles. Gates is scheduled to travel to Oshkosh on Nov. 12, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in a briefing today.

"The secretary wants to thank the workers there for doing everything they can to expedite the production of these lifesaving vehicles," he said.

Morrell called their efforts an "amazing display of industry and dedication to the war effort."

The factory expects to speed the production of the vehicle from 46 M-ATVs produced in July to 1,000 per month by the end of the year, he said.

The new vehicles are lighter than the MRAPs used in Iraq and offer an independent suspension and shorter wheel base that make it more adaptable to Afghanistan's rocky hills. Its design retains the V-shape hull that helps to divert the blast of roadside bombs.

Morrell emphasized that the new vehicle is only one piece of the department's effort to defeat the improvised explosive devices so prevalent in Afghanistan.

"Secretary Gates is pushing everyone in this building to make sure they are doing everything they possibly can to provide our warfighters with everything they need, be it [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], improved command and control, or additional authorities or even capabilities, so that they can better diagram, dissect and ultimately defeat these IED networks," he said.

Most of the bombs found in Afghanistan are unsophisticated, unlike the more high-tech bombs troops faced in Iraq. But even so, they are the No. 1 killer of troops there, usually employing huge amounts of cheap bomb-making materials to attack troops and vehicles.

Last week, a U.S. Stryker combat vehicle was hit in Afghanistan by a 1,000-pound homemade bomb, killing seven soldiers.

"There's not an armored vehicle you could build that would likely protect you against a thousand-pound fertilizer bomb," Morrell said. "Even if it doesn't penetrate the hull, those inside of it are going to suffer a concussive blast that is clearly going to be a real danger to them."

Gates hosted a meeting at the Pentagon today to bring together most of the key players in the efforts to defeat the IEDs, Morrell said. Participants include representatives of the MRAP and ISR task forces, as well as the Joint IED Defeat Organization. Those deployed joined the meeting via secure teleconference.

Morrell said all groups involved need to collaborate to take an all-encompassing approach toward defeating those who make and emplace the bombs.

"If we're relying simply on better armor at the point of contact, we're not going to succeed," Morrell said. "We need to be attacking this problem from 360 degrees, just as we did in Iraq and proved so successful there, by watching the roads, by watching for patterns of life, by mapping those patterns, by developing intelligence that allows us to penetrate the networks and take them down."


BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, Inc., Rockville, Md., is being awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee, performance-based contract for $23,685,864 to provide production engineering, integration, testing, inspection and delivery of an integrated system, or other equipment for installation on shore sites and maritime/tactical platforms and vehicles. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to $233,657,727. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C., and is expected to be completed by November 2010. If all options are exercised, work could continue until November 2017. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities web site and the SPAWAR E-commerce web site, with an unlimited number of proposals solicited and four offers received. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic is the contracting activity (N65236-10-C-2841).

KeyLogic Systems Inc., Morgantown, W. Va.*, was awarded a $24,222,031.76, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract consisting of one one-year base period and four one-year option periods. The solicitation was issued as a 100 percent small business set-aside. One solicitation was issued and posted on FedBizOps with three offers submitted in response to the posting. Performance will be at the Defense Information Systems Agency facilities within the National Capital Region and is for business operations support services. The Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization, National Capital Region is the contracting activity (HC1047-09-C-4025).

US Foods International, Gardena, Calif.*, is being awarded a maximum $21,113,003 firm fixed price, indefinite quantity, prime vendor contract for full line food distribution. Other location of performance is La Miranda, Calif. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and child development center. There were originally fifteen proposals solicited with five responses. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Nov. 22, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM300-09-D-3310).

ITT Corp., Systems Division of Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., was awarded a $5,847,128 contract which will provide the Eastern and Western Range architecture and requirements option of an additional year. At this time, $768,784 has been obligated. SMC/LRSW/PK, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (F04701-01-C-0001).

Defense Department Aims to Improve Families' Lives

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 4, 2009 - Military families make tremendous sacrifices in support of the nation and deserve recognition as well as the best programs and policies the Defense Department can deliver, a defense official said yesterday.

Tommy T. Thomas, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, underscored the importance of Military Family Month, gave a broad overview of family programs and offered a glimpse at future initiatives in a wide-ranging interview here with the Pentagon Channel.

"We take the time to do this to recognize the sacrifices that our military families have made in defense of this nation," said Thomas, referring to Military Family Month, celebrated every November. "We have many deployed family members -- whether it be mother, son, spouse or daughter. [The] bottom line is we look at that entire entity as a family. And we look at and honor those successes that those families are making for this nation."

Military families face many unique stressors, including maintaining stability at home in the face of deployments and frequent moves, he said. An average civilian may stay in a hometown for 15 to 20 years, he noted, while a military member may move 12 to 14 times in a 27-year period.

"One of the biggest challenges I see is trying to maintain that way of life, just as our civilian counterparts do, and keeping some stability in the family structure," Thomas said. "We have a number of programs that we offer to make that happen."

Thomas pointed out the department's child care and education programs and various programs to offset family child care costs. He added that the military family life consultant program has been a "tremendous benefit to our military families." The consultants provide anonymous, nonmedical counseling support to troops and their family members. "We sit down and listen to the needs and wants of military families," he said.

Additionally, the department's Military OneSource site offers military families 24/7 access on the Internet to counseling services, he said, and commissaries and military exchange stores around the world give servicemembers and their families a "taste of life back home," as well as economic savings.

Thomas also highlighted a pilot program, the Restoration and Resilience Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, aimed at helping servicemembers and their families deal with post-traumatic stress. The program is "serving as a tremendous tool," he said.

Thomas said he received firsthand proof of the program's effectiveness during a visit to Fort Bliss about two weeks ago. He was conducting a focus group when a soldier walked up to him unexpectedly.

"What he said to me is, 'I want you to know, sir, that the resilience and restoration program saved my life,'" Thomas recalled. "It's a true testament to some of the programs we have out there and the effectiveness of those programs."

Defense Department officials always look for ways to tweak programs as they aims to improve them, Thomas said. "You should never rest on your laurels," he said, noting that it's vital to hear from the people who are executing the programs as well as from the end users, the military families.

"I've logged about 32,000 miles going out talking to focus groups on about 16 installations," Thomas said. He takes time to speak with military families around the world and uses that information to assess and improve the department's programs, he added.

It's not always about program quantity, he noted, but effectiveness, which is why tracking usage and soliciting feedback is so important. He said feedback led to a recent addition of family support services. During visits to Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Drum, N.Y. -- both "very high-ops tempo Army installations," he said -- he received requests for more military family life consultants, a sentiment that was echoed in Europe.

As a result, the department added 118 military family life consultants, all due to feedback at the program-execution level.

Thomas said his No. 1 goal is to make a long-term difference for military families. He pledged to work toward getting "the proper funding and resources we need in our baseline" to create adequate and lasting family programs that also can evolve to meet growing needs.

Above all, military families deserve the best possible programs the department can provide, Thomas said.

"We owe that to our military families -- to make sure we're doing whatever we can for them, to make sure they're part of the Defense Department team, that we're working together collectively," he said.

In honor of Military Family Month, the department's Military Community and Family Policy office has several events aimed at improving quality of life for military families, Thomas said, including a Leadership Summit on Military Families on Nov. 9 and 10, a Defense Department/joint services conference called "Improving the Quality of Life for Military Families" from Nov. 16 to 18, and a child development conference, also from Nov. 16 to 18.