Military News

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Gates, Top Leaders Pledge Support for Fort Hood Victims

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 5, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pledged today his department will do everything it can to help those at Fort Hood, Texas, recover from the fatal shooting there that left 12 dead and 31 wounded. "I am deeply saddened by the tragic events today at Fort Hood. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen, the wounded, and all those touched by this incident," Gates said in a release from his office.

"There is little we can say at this point to alleviate the pain or answer the many questions this event raises, but I can pledge that the Department of Defense will do everything in its power to help the Fort Hood community get through these difficult times."

The fatal shooting rampage left 11 soldiers -- including the alleged gunman -- and a civilian police officer dead and 31 soldiers wounded. Police detained but later released two soldiers they initially believed were involved in the shooting.

The shooting began about 1:30 p.m. Central Time at the post's Soldier Readiness Processing Center and Howze Theater, Fort Hood officials confirmed.

Shortly after news of the tragedy made national news, President Barack Obama promised full-scale support to get to the bottom of what happened and help the Fort Hood community recover from the tragedy.

Vice President Joe Biden later followed with a statement from his office.

"Jill and I join the President and Michelle in expressing our sympathies to the families of the brave soldiers who fell today," Biden said. "We are all praying for those who were wounded and hoping for their full and speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the entire Fort Hood community as they deal with this senseless tragedy."

Army Secretary John M. McHugh also issued a statement of support for those impacted by the deadly shooting and said that officials there are providing needed counseling and support.

"This is a terrible tragedy that we will know more about in the coming days. For now our focus is squarely on taking care of our soldiers and their families," McHugh said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been killed and wounded."

The nation's top military officer expressed his condolences but also asked for patience in a statement released.

"I am deeply saddened by the news of the shooting at Fort Hood today. My thoughts and prayers -- and those of every other member of our Armed Forces -- go out to the wounded, to the families of those killed, and to all those stationed at Fort Hood," said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Details are still unclear, but the Army is investigating. It is important we let that work complete before we speculate about the circumstances leading to this senseless violence."

Army Major Declared Sole Suspect in Hood Shooting

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 5, 2009 - U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is believed to be the lone shooter of some 43 people on Fort Hood, Texas, and survived being shot by a civilian police officer, the base commander said. Lt Gen. Robert Cone in a televised press briefing tonight corrected earlier reports that said Hasan and the officer, who shot him several times, were killed. Rather, he said, both are recovering at a nearby hospital.

All but two of the victims are soldiers, Cone said.

Cone confirmed the identity of Hasan, reportedly a psychiatrist on the base who was scheduled soon to deploy, but would not say more about the suspect last night. Hasan has been in the company of a Criminal Investigative Division officer since the midday shooting, he said.

In answer to a reporter's question, Cone said of the suspect, "I would say his death is not imminent." Hasan is not yet talking to investigators, he said.

Three other soldiers were initially detained for questioning, but later released. After interviewing more than 100 people at the scene, Cone said, investigators determined there was only one shooter.

While investigators haven't ruled out terrorism in the case, Cone said, the evidence doesn't suggest it.

The shooting began about 1:30 Central Time at Hood's Soldier Family Readiness Center where Cone said soldiers from multiple units were crowded into the center for a scheduled weekly "make up time" for medical and dental appointments.

Casualties were high due to the enclosed location, but would have been much worse were it not for the training and quick reaction of the soldiers, said Cone, adding that he was on the scene quickly after the shooting began.

"Suffice it to say...the American soldier did a great job," he said.

From the reports of eyewitnesses, he said, the soldiers – "many of them combat lifesavers" -- reacted instantaneously, ripping off parts of their own clothing to treat the wounded.

"I credit the first responders," he said. "God bless these soldiers and Department of Army civilians. As horrible as this was, it could have been much worse."

Some 600 people attending a college graduation of 138 soldiers in an adjacent building were unharmed because first responders secured the building, he said.

The suspect is believed to have used two handguns in the shooting, one a semiautomatic, Cone said. And in responding to a question, "As a matter of practice, we do not carry weapons on Fort Hood," he said. "This is our home."

However, Cone said, "We will increase our security presence here in the coming days."

The FBI is working the investigation, along with military and other law enforcement, he said. The base was on lockdown until 7 p.m., a base spokesman said.

For now, Cone said, Fort Hood officials are focused on caring for the wounded, securing the base, notifying victims' families and providing grief counseling. A family hotline is available to obtain information at 254-288-7570.

Cone, who received a call from President Barack Obama soon after the shooting, said he was grateful for an outpouring of support. "It is truly overwhelming the offers of support we have had from around the nation," the general said. "Tomorrow at Fort Hood, we return to normalcy, schools will be open."

The Central Texas base is the military's largest, covering some 340 square miles and is home to 40,000 soldiers. And, according to its Web site, is known as "The Great Place" for its quality of life for soldiers and their families.

Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 31 on Fort Hood

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 5, 2009 - President Barack Obama condemned the fatal shooting rampage today on Fort Hood, Texas, that left 12 soldiers dead and another 31 wounded, and promised full-scale support to get to the bottom of what happened and help the Fort Hood community recover from the tragedy. More than one gunmen – two being held as suspects and another believed to be among those killed -- fired shots at about 1:30 p.m. Central Time at the post's Soldier Readiness Processing Center and Howze Theater, Fort Hood officials confirmed.

The incident reportedly occurred as soldiers were conducting their final preparations for deployment.

"These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk, and at times, give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis," the president said.

"It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas," he said. "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil."

Obama said he is in close coordination with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen in monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, the White House is working with the Pentagon, FBI and Department of Homeland Security to ensure Fort Hood is secure.

Obama said his thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and families of the fallen, and the Fort Hood community.

"We will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government," he said. "We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident."

Obama said he has no greater honor than serving as commander and chief, but also recognizes the responsibility that entails in ensuring servicemembers are properly cared for and that their safety is assured while they are at home.

"So we are going to stay on this," he said. "But I hope in the meantime that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy, and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers."

Speaking to reporters at Fort Hood, Army Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, commander of 3rd Corps and Fort Hood, credited quick response by police forces with bringing down a gunman after he opened fire at the soldier readiness unit.

"There were several eyewitness accounts that there was more than one shooter," he said, noting that two additional soldiers had been taken into custody.

"The soldiers and family members are absolutely devastated," he said. "It's a terrible tragedy," he said, but offered assurances, "We will work through it."

Nellis Programs to Have Regional Reach

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 5, 2009 - Two new programs here are focused on getting care and services to wounded or sick servicemembers and to military families during their loved ones' deployments. Once word gets out about their programs, the coordinators hope their reach goes beyond Nellis and neighboring Creech Air Force Base, to include Reserve and National Guard members and their families throughout the region.

Nellis' new recovery care coordinator, Jeffrey McClish, opened Air Combat Command's first Recovery Care Coordination Program here in September. It's one of 16 programs Air Force-wide that provide a clearinghouse of information and services for seriously wounded, injured or ill servicemembers.

McClish works closely with family and patient liaison officers, medical care managers and a host of support agencies to ensure recovering servicemembers get the support and benefits they deserve, he explained.

"You have a personal advocate," he tells his clients. "I'm someone who you know is going to make regular communication, ... someone outside the medical arena you can talk to who will help you work through the issues."

Unlike federal recovery coordinators who work with the most severely wounded troops, recovery care coordinators like McClish provide non-medical support during shorter-term hospital stays or rehabilitation periods, typically up to six months.

As a retired first sergeant, McClish combines his understanding of Air Force systems and programs with compassion for those who serve to help people who might not know where to turn to deal with questions about issues ranging from pay and benefits to combat stress.

He tracks clients' progress, while they're in the hospital and after they're released, to connect them with whatever help they need.

Among McClish's initial clients have been wounded warriors, a non-commissioned officer severely injured in an off-base car accident and another NCO recovering from chemotherapy.

"When they have a long convalescence, sometimes they kind of drop off the 'scope," he said. "Now, you have somebody who is targeted on them, to make sure they don't drop off the scope."

Meanwhile, just across the hallway from McClish's office, Karen Wilson has set up shop for the new Caring for People pilot program. Nellis is one of nine Air Force bases worldwide participating in the program, which provides a single resource about programs and services to support families of deployed military members.

Just a week into the job, she was already working closely with the Airman and Family Readiness Center and other base support organizations, with plans to extend her reach outside Nellis' gates to better tap into community support.

"A lot of times, people fall between the cracks and don't get the help they need," she said, because they don't know where to turn or what to ask for.

"I want to be that single point of contact – that belly button – the person they can go to to help them navigate all the different agencies on base," she said. "If families have some type of problem, I want to be the network that gets them to the services they need."

Wilson refers to herself and McClish as "Batman and Robin," both out to cut through red tape and confusing organizational charts that stand between numerous valuable programs and the people they're designed to serve.

Ultimately, they see their reach extended far beyond the active-duty Air Force community, to include support for all branches of the service, both the active and reserve components.

"We are hitting every meeting we can get to, to get word out about what we have to offer," McClish said. "You want to let folks know you are here and what you have to offer so they understand that there is another helping agency out there."

MILITARY CONTRACTS November 5, 2009

NAVY
Davis Boat Works, Newport News, Va.* (N50054-10-D-1001); Associated Naval Architects, Portsmouth, Va.* (N50054-10-D-1002); Lyon Shipyard, Norfolk, Va.* (N50054-10-D-1003); and Tecnico Corporation, Chesapeake, Va.* (N50054-10-D-1004), are being awarded combined $127,395,000 maximum value firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award contracts to furnish the necessary non-personal management, administrative and production services, materials, tools, equipment, facilities and required support to accomplish a full range of depot level troubleshooting, repair, renewal, refurbishment, modernization, maintenance and testing of Navy living barges and their auxiliary systems (hull, mechanical and electrical) including the potential of periodic docking. Work will be primarily performed on vessels located at Norfolk, Va., but may be performed worldwide. Work is expected to be completed by November 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $303,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Each contractor will receive $75,750 at time of award. This multiple award contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with seven offers received. The contracting activity is the Norfolk Ship Support Activity, Portsmouth, Va.

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $47,804,161 modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5361) for engineering and technical services to support the STANDARD Missile program. This contract is for Round Design Agent engineering and technical services for the design integrity, and total systems integration of the missile round and its components. This includes flowdown of top level requirements, predicting and monitoring missile performance and reliability, internal/external interfaces, interfaces with ship combat systems, test and packaging, handling, storage and transportation equipment, improving missile design, and maintaining the technical data package. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by October 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contracting activity is the Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C.

QED Systems, Virginia Beach, Va.,* (N50054-10-D-1005) and Earl Industries, LLC, Jacksonville, Fla.,* (N50054-10-D-1006) are being awarded combined $22,725,000 maximum value firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award contracts to furnish the necessary non-personal management, administrative and production services, materials, tools, equipment, facilities, and required support to accomplish a full range of depot level troubleshooting, repair, renewal, refurbishment, modernization, maintenance, and testing of U.S. Navy living barges and their auxiliary systems (hull, mechanical and electrical) including the potential of periodic docking. Work will be primarily performed on vessels located at Jacksonville, Fla., but may be performed worldwide. Work is expected to be completed by November 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $82,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Each contractor will receive $41,000 at time of award. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with two offers received. The contracting activity is the Norfolk Ship Support Activity, Portsmouth, Va.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $13,714,646 firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for the procurement of two F/A-18C/D Mid-Life Upgrade 2 validation-verification kits for the Finnish Air Force under the Foreign Military Sales program. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be completed in September 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contracting activity is the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md.

BAE Systems, Land & Armaments L.P., U.S. Combat Systems, Minneapolis, Minn., is being awarded an $11,865,674 modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5117) to exercise an option for continuing design and development of the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). LRLAPs are guided flight projectiles that are loaded and fired by the Advanced Gun System, a fully automated, single barrel, 155-mm, vertically loaded, stabilized gun mount. Its primary mission is land attack warfare in support of ground and expeditionary forces beyond the line-of-sight in the DDG 1000 System's littoral engagement area where precise, rapid-response, high-volume, long-range fire support is required. Work will be preformed in Orlando, Fla., (75 percent), and Minneapolis, Minn., (25 percent), and is expected to be completed by September 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contracting activity is the Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C.

Computer Science Corp., Falls Church, Va., is being awarded $11,336,209 for order #0074 under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (M67854-02-A-9004) with pre-priced options of $1,219,070, which if exercised, will bring the total cumulative value of the contract to $12,555,279. The scope of this effort is for technical support to the operating forces, a key element of the Marine Corps Systems Command, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity support for fielded tactical C4ISR systems for Marine Corps operating forces. Work will be performed in Marine Corps command organizations worldwide: Camp Pendleton, Calif., (81.4 percent); Camp Lejuene, N.C., (8.1 percent); Okinawa, Japan, (7.6 percent); New Orleans, La., (1.5 percent); San Diego, Calif., (1.4 percent). Work is expected to be completed in November 2010. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contracting activity is the Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va.

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded a $7,505,929 cost-plus fixed-fee order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N68335-06-G-0014) to manufacture 28 peculiar support equipment items for organizational and intermediate level maintenance in support of the V-22 aircraft program. Work will be performed in Amarillo, Texas, and is expected to be completed in April 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $5,254,744 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contracting activity is the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, N.J.

Solpac Construction, Inc., dba Soltek Pacific Construction Co., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded $6,348,750 for firm-fixed-price task order #0007 under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract (N62473-06-D-1058) for the design and construction of interior and exterior repairs to Bachelor Enlisted Quarters Building 41303 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The contract also contains one unexercised option and one planned modifications, which if issued would increase cumulative contract value to $7,768,740. Work will be performed in Oceanside, Calif., and is expected to be completed by March 2011. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Four proposals were received for this task order. The contracting activity is the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest, San Diego, Calif.

ARMY
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., LLC, Oak Brook, Ill., was awarded on Nov. 3, 2009, a $10,478,880 firm-fixed-price contract for the Shore Protection Project. Work is to be performed in Brevard County, Fla., with an estimated completion date of May 1, 2010. Five bids were solicited with two bids received. The contracting activity is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville, Fla., (W912EP-10-C-005).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
PRO Petroleum, Laguna Hills, Calif.,* is being awarded a minimum $6,342,914 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other locations of performance are in California, Nevada and Arizona. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The original proposal was Web solicited with 48 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Sept. 30, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., (SP0600-10-D-4508).

Hunt & Sons, Sacramento, Calif.,* is being awarded a minimum $5,019,810 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other locations of performance are in California. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The original proposal was Web solicited with 48 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Sept. 30, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., (SP0600-10-D-4504).

Army Secretary Expresses Ft. Hood Shooting Condolence

"This is a terrible tragedy that we will know more about in the coming days. For now our focus is squarely on taking care of our soldiers and their families," said Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been killed and wounded. The leadership at Fort Hood is marshalling the medical support and counselors necessary to take care of our soldiers and their families and to notify the next of kin."

DoD Hosts National Leadership Summit On Military Families

The Department of Defense will host a National Leadership Summit on Military Families Nov. 9-10 beginnning at 8 a.m. EST at The Inn and Conference Center, University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Md. Gail H. McGinn, performing the duties of the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, will deliver the keynote address.

The summit, organized by Military Community and Family Policy, is through collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland. More than 300 leaders who provide support to military families are scheduled to attend. They comprise leaders in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the National Guard and Reserve, land-grant universities, and other non-governmental partners.

The summit will begin with a call to action reviewing the Defense Department's commitment to family support and readiness. In addition, participants will learn about what current research is telling us about the status of military families, and what challenges we anticipate families will experience in the future. Following the summit, DoD and the University of Maryland will produce a report for leadership with recommendations on ways to improve family support and readiness programs.

Journalists may cover the event from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Nov. 9 and should plan to arrive no later than 15 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Please contact Maj. April Cunningham at (703) 697-6727 or (571) 309-4734 or via e-mail at April.Cunningham@osd.mil indicating your plan to attend.

Air Force Leaders Meet With African Counterparts to Discuss Needs

By Air Force Maj. Paula Kurtz
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 5, 2009 - Mali and Senegal air forces leaders echoed the requests of other African military leaders at a recent senior leader engagement here in asking for help in building airman skills and on improving capacity within their air domain. Those were the key sentiments reiterated by U.S. Embassy and host nation defense officials during the latest Air Forces Africa senior leader engagement in Mali and Senegal from Oct. 26 to 30.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael W. Callan, Air Forces Africa vice commander, spent the week visiting with key leaders and touring facilities for a first-hand look at the capabilities of the two nations' air forces.

"It's important for us to hear directly from the host nation what their priorities are as we work to develop a sustained engagement strategy," Callan said. "While there may be tactical differences in the assistance desired in each nation, the overall themes are the same -- increasing capacity in the air domain and developing a corps of professional officers and noncommissioned officers."

Forces in both of these West African nations perform a variety of military operations, ranging from support to peacekeeping operations to internal border defense to humanitarian assistance. Air mobility is a necessary component if they are to execute these missions successfully, said Gillian Milovanovic, U.S. ambassador to Mali.

"Air capability plays an important role in moving people and forces and projecting security here," Milovanovic said. "Security governs everything here, so we have to be flexible and realistic in the kinds of capabilities we invest in."

Enhanced aircraft maintenance and logistics systems, increased interoperability with U.S. and other regional partners, and further professionalizing defense forces top the list of security objectives.

"We are working with the Mali Ministry of Defense on a 10-year plan," said Lt. Col. Marshall Mantiply, defense attache at the U.S. Embassy in Mali. "We want to execute a smart plan that will lead to real capacity rather than putting a band-aid on a short-term problem."

Malian defense leaders agree, noting that a long-term strategy that improves their capability will benefit other nations in the region and around the world.

"Our common framework is combating terrorism," said Gen. Gabriel Poudiougou, general chief of staff of the Mali air force. "More engagement and discussion will allow us to build a better common operating picture in combating terrorism at a worldwide level."

Callan visited Mali's 33d Parachute Regiment, a unit that carries out operations using tactical vehicles and communication equipment provided by the U.S. Defense and State Departments.

"These vehicles give us the capability for doing pursuit actions and convoy escorts," said Lt. Col. Louis Somboro, deputy commander. "Ninety-five percent of our soldiers were trained by the U.S, and we've engaged with you in exercises like Flintlock, Joint Planning and Assessment Teams and special bilateral training. We're very satisfied with this training, but we are always looking to improve and hope to have opportunities for advanced training in the future."

In Senegal, U.S. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat described the small, but capable defense forces as a "shining example of fellow professionals."

In addition to meeting with the Senegal air force chief of staff and touring operations and maintenance facilities, Callan and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Steven Scott, of Air Forces Africa Command, served as guest speakers at the graduation ceremony of the first class of instructors for the Senegalese NCO academy.

Since its inception in 1971, the academy has trained more than 2,100 NCOs, and now has produced the first 12 instructors trained in-house. In his comments, Scott lauded the new instructors for being "out front, leading and shaping the future of your enlisted corps."

He noted that while the new instructors will face challenges, they also will reap great rewards. "You will actually watch as your students learn and grow and become better enlisted members right before your eyes."

Currently, many officers and NCOs attend training courses, ranging from pilot training, to core skill training, to professional military education, in other African and European nations, as well as the United States. The first Senegalese female officer is in her second year at the U.S. Air Force Academy, for example. With a well-developed NCO corps already established, the Senegalese air force is looking to expand its capability to train forces at home.

"We want to depend less on training and resources from other nations," said Maj. Elhadji Diene, a recent graduate of Air Force Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. "There is a need for us to develop the capability to do it by ourselves, for ourselves."

Also in Mali, members of Air Forces Africa were treated to a tour of the Malian Air Force English Language Lab in Bamako, one of three such labs across the country that prepares officers for training in other nations, as well as participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions. The lab will start training NCOs in January, 1st Lt. Fankele Samake, A Malian air force English instructor, said.

The lab conducts two six-month programs and produces about 40
graduates per year, with materials provided by the U.S. Embassy and Defense Department

"Our students learn all aspects of the language -- writing, listening and speaking," Samake said. "Listening is the most important skill, but most students are better at writing." Some students arrive at the lab with a working knowledge of the English language, which is offered as an elective throughout Malian middle and high schools, along with German.

Malian defense forces supplies instructors for the lab. Instructor candidates are given a test and those with top scores attend an immersion course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, funded by the State Department's International Military Education and Training program.

Malian Army Staff Sgt. Niara Diallo attended the Lackland course from September 2007 through April 2008 and now teaches officers from his own defense force in Bamako.

"It was very interesting to meet new people and share knowledge," Diallo said of the course, "and it prepared me to be an instructor."

(Air Force Maj. Paula Kurtz serves with 17th Air Force public affairs.)

Doctor Discusses Navy's Role in Detecting H1N1

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 4, 2009 - The Navy played a key role last spring in the discovery of the H1N1 influenza's presence in the United States, according to a senior Navy medical officer. In April, technicians at the San Diego-based Naval Health Research Center encountered a puzzling influenza specimen provided by a 10-year-old military family member, said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Tanis Batsel Stewart, director of emergency preparedness and contingency support at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

The specimen contained the "A" type of influenza virus that can cause pandemics, Batsel Stewart said, but it couldn't be sub-typed.

"It's very unusual not to be able to sub-type an influenza virus," she said in a recent phone interview with American Forces Press Service.

The specimen, she said, was then sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for more testing, where technicians determined it was a new strain of influenza virus.

A second specimen from a 9-year-old girl that arrived at the NHRC soon afterward was found to be identical to the one submitted by the military family member, Batsel Stewart said. That specimen, too, was sent to the CDC, where it was determined to be the novel influenza A H1N1 virus, commonly known at the time as "swine flu."

"That was a definite red flag -- that we have a new influenza strain circulating that might very well cause a pandemic, and obviously, it has," she said.

The CDC activated its emergency operations center to better coordinate the public-health response to H1N1 on April 22. The U.S. government declared a public health emergency on April 26, and began aggressively implementing the nation's pandemic response plan.

The World Health Organization announced June 11 that the spread of the H1N1 virus had reached pandemic proportions, with cases reported in 70 countries at the time. President Barack Obama issued a national emergency declaration on H1N1 on Oct. 24.

"By rapidly identifying the virus, implementing public health measures, providing guidance for health professionals and the general public, and developing an effective vaccine, we have taken proactive steps to reduce the impact of the pandemic and protect the health of our citizens," the president said in his declaration.

The Washington-based Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery is the headquarters and center for Navy medicine, while the NHRC is a leading research and development laboratory for the Defense Department. The NHRC manages and executes medical research, development and test and evaluation programs for the Naval Medical Research Command in Silver Spring, Md.; the Navy Medicine Support Command in Jacksonville, Fla.; and the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

The Naval Health Research Center's respiratory diseases research department conducts active, laboratory-based surveillance of infectious diseases that affect military personnel and family members, with an emphasis on respiratory illnesses. The department also addresses the safety and efficacy of drugs and vaccines.

The Navy has for years conducted influenza and other infectious-disease surveillance programs in conjunction with the other U.S. military services in partnership with foreign nations and public health organizations, Batsel Stewart said.

The U.S. military's infectious disease research capability "is the largest in the world," she said, noting the U.S. maintains labs in Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru and Thailand that fall under the auspices of the Department of Defense Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System.

More than 100 countries, "from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe," participate in the surveillance program, Batsel Stewart said.

A presidential directive established the response system, which falls under the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, in June 1996. The directive expanded the Defense Department's mission to include support of global surveillance, training, research, and response to emerging infectious disease threats.

It also charged the department to strengthen its global disease-reduction efforts through centralized coordination, improved preventive health programs and epidemiological capabilities, and enhanced involvement with military treatment facilities.

The Naval Health Research Center's respiratory diseases research department serves as the Navy hub for the surveillance and response system.

"We don't anticipate, at this point, H1N1 becoming a severe pandemic, causing a lot of deaths and very severe illness," Batsel Stewart said. "But, we've been preparing for years within [the Defense Department] and the Navy and Navy medicine for something along the lines of the pandemic of the influenza of 1918, which was horrendously severe."

To help in preventing the spread of influenza viruses, Batsel Stewart recommended that people:

-- Cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow, rather than into their hand;

-- Wash their hands frequently;

-- Stay home if they feel ill;

-- Keep sick children at home; and

-- Distance themselves if they or others are ill.

Public health officials have urged citizens to obtain both H1N1 and regular seasonal flu vaccines. Defense Department officials say the department will have enough H1N1 vaccine available for servicemembers and their families.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's global infectious disease surveillance network watches for potential pandemics as it also assists foreign partners.

Batsel Stewart recalled a previous duty assignment in Lima, Peru, where she and her colleagues assisted Peruvian health authorities in identifying new strains of dengue fever virus.

"Peru always thought that they had one, maybe two strains of the dengue fever virus circulating," said Batsel Stewart, noting that the fever has four strains. The U.S. medical team, she said, discovered that Peru actually has all four strains of dengue fever virus. One of those strains, she added, is dengue hemorrhagic fever, which causes victims to bleed internally and sometimes externally.

"So, the Peruvian government and the Peruvian public health system was better able to respond to some of the cases they were saying they would not have recognized previously," Batsel Stewart said.