Military News

Friday, November 20, 2009

VA Recognizes Agent Orange Link to More Diseases

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

Nov. 20, 2009 - An independent study by the Institute of Medicine last month resulted in broadened health coverage by the Veterans Affairs Department for Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. Research found that three illnesses – B cell leukemias, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease -- possibly are associated with Agent Orange exposure. Those conditions join a list of related diseases for which Vietnam War veterans already receive compensation, such as prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, soft-tissue sarcomas, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Veterans who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 may qualify for monthly disability compensation and do not have to provide proof they were exposed to Agent Orange to qualify for health benefits.

"We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will," VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in statement released last month. "Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence."

The U.S. military used Agent Orange herbicides in the Vietnam conflict from 1961 to 1971 to clear foliage that provided enemy cover. VA officials estimate that about 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were affected.

U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, released a statement today calling for additional support of the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009. The bill expands eligibility for presumptive conditions to veterans who were not directly "boots on the ground," such as sailors and pilots.

Current law suggests that location of service in Vietnam affects some of the qualifications for Agent Orange compensation.

"Time is running out for these Vietnam veterans," Filner said. "Many are dying from their Agent Orange-related diseases, uncompensated for their sacrifice. If, as a result of service, a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange, and it has resulted in failing health, this country has a moral obligation to care for each veteran the way we promised we would."

About 800,000 Vietnam veterans are estimated to be alive today and eligible for treatment for Agent Orange-related illnesses. According to VA's Web site, the department presumes all military members who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. Also, some children of female Vietnam veterans may qualify for compensation, based on birth defects associated with the chemicals.

Army Announces Independent Body Armor Review

Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that the National Research Council (NRC) will perform an independent assessment of the Army's body armor testing, following last month's recommendation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for an independent review. The NRC functions under the auspices of the National Academies, a private, nonprofit institution that provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and the public on critical national issues.

"We are committed to providing our warfighters with world-class equipment, and are confident that our body armor continues to defeat the threat to our soldiers," McHugh said. "The Army welcomes this independent review, and is grateful for the analysis and expertise of the National Research Council."

"I appreciated the opportunity to discuss this initiative with Dr. Gilmore, the Department of Defense's director of operational test and evaluation, prior to its completion," McHugh continued. "As I said at the time, I fully endorse this analysis and pledge the Army will render its total cooperation."

Under an agreement between the National Academies and the director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E), the Department of Defense's final independent authority on survivability testing of body armor, the NRC will perform an independent assessment of ongoing body armor testing. The purpose of the NRC assessment is to ensure that the Army maintains the highest standards for testing processes and protocols, thus addressing concerns raised by the GAO about current testing procedures.

"The continued partnership with DOT&E, the NRC, and the GAO will ensure the complete, accurate, and careful testing of body armor critical to ensuring soldiers' confidence in their equipment," McHugh said. "The Army is constantly refining and improving its testing processes and procedures, and we welcome additional expertise to help ensure that we continue to field the best body armor available."

Within the Army, the principal deputy assistant secretary of the army (acquisition, logistics and technology) has recently assigned a quality, process, and compliance executive who is responsible for oversight of process compliance across the acquisition community, and who is directly accountable to the Army acquisition executive. The highest priority for the compliance executive is the ongoing body armor ballistic testing by being conducted by the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Navy Announces Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Military Relocations to Guam

The Navy announced today the availability of the draft environmental impact statement/overseas environmental impact statement (EIS/OEIS) for the military buildup on Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

The draft EIS/OEIS analyzes the impacts of the following proposed actions:

Marine Corps: Development and construction of facilities and infrastructure to support the relocation from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam of approximately 8,600 Marines and approximately 9,000 dependents; and development and construction of facilities and infrastructure to support training and operations on Guam and Tinian for the relocated Marines.

Navy: Construction of a new deep-draft wharf with shoreside infrastructure improvements creating the capability in Apra Harbor, Guam, to support a transient nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Army: Development of facilities and infrastructure on Guam to support the relocation of approximately 600 military personnel and their 900 dependents and the establishment and operation of an Army Missile Defense Task Force.

The purpose of the proposed actions is to fulfill U.S. national security policy requirements to provide mutual defense, deter aggression, and dissuade coercion in the western Pacific region.

The Navy and the Department of Defense have held ongoing discussions with cooperating agencies (federal and local agencies with special expertise or regulatory insight) to review all relevant resource areas and have worked closely with elected leaders in Guam and the CNMI in the development of the draft EIS/OEIS.

After releasing the draft EIS/OEIS, the public is given time to review the document and provide comments. Due to the complexity of the draft EIS/OEIS and a desire to ensure all interested parties have the full opportunity to review the document, the comment period was extended from 45 to 90 days. All issues or concerns raised in public comments will be identified and appropriately considered in preparation of the final EIS. Six public hearings will also be held on Guam, Tinian and Saipan in January 2010.

To review the draft EIS/OEIS and to submit public comments, visit http://www.guambuildupeis.us.

Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at 703-697-5342.

Soldier Who Led Last Bayonet Charge Dies

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 20, 2009 - Retired Army Col. Lewis L. Millett, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Korean War for leading what reportedly was the last major American bayonet charge, died Nov 14. Millett, 88, died in Loma Linda, Calif., after serving for more than 15 years as the honorary colonel of the 27th Infantry Regiment Association.

Millet received the Medal of Honor for his actions Feb. 7, 1951. He led the 25th Infantry Division's Company E, 27th Infantry, in a bayonet charge up Hill 180 near Soam-Ni, Korea. A captain at the time, Millet was leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position when he noticed that a platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire.

Millett placed himself at the head of two other platoons, ordered fixed bayonets, and led an assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge, Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement, according to his Medal of Honor citation.

"Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill," the citation states. "His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder."

Millett was wounded by grenade fragments during the attack, but he refused evacuation until the objective was firmly secured. He recovered, and attended Ranger School after the war.

In the 1960s, he ran the 101st Airborne Division Recondo School for reconnaissance and commando training at Fort Campbell, Ky. He then served in a number of special operations advisory assignments in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. He founded the Royal Thai Army Ranger School with help of the 46th Special Forces Company. This unit reportedly is the only one in the U.S. Army to simultaneously be designated as both Ranger and Special Forces.

Millet retired from the Army in 1973.

"I was very saddened to hear Colonel Millett passed away," said Army Maj. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., the current commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. "He was a rare breed -- a true patriot who never stopped serving his country. He was a role model for thousands of soldiers, and he will be missed."

Millet was born in Maine and first enlisted in 1940 in the Army Air Corps and served as a gunner. Soon after, when it appeared that the United States would not enter World War II, he left and joined the Canadian army.

In 1942, while Millet was serving in London, the United States entered the war. Millet turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy there and eventually was assigned to the 1st Armored Division. As an antitank gunner in Tunisia, Millet earned the Silver Star after he jumped into a burning halftrack filled with ammunition, drove it away from allied soldiers and jumped to safety just before the vehicle exploded. He later shot down a German fighter plane with a vehicle-mounted machine gun.

As a sergeant serving in Italy during the war, his desertion to join the Canadian forces caught up to him. He was court-martialed, fined $52 and denied leave. A few weeks later, he was awarded a battlefield commission. After the war, he joined the 103rd Infantry of the Maine National Guard, and he attended college until he was called back to active duty in 1949.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Millett earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit and four Purple Hearts during his 35-year military career. After his retirement, he remained active in both national and local veterans groups from his Idyllwild, Calif., home.

His son, Army Staff Sgt John Morton Millett, was a member of the 101st Airborne Division returning from duty in the Sinai on Dec. 12, 1985, when a charter plane crashed upon takeoff after stopping at Gander, Newfoundland. He was one of 256 soldiers killed in the crash.

On Feb. 7, 1994, Millet was honored with a ceremony on Hill 180, now located on Osan Air Base, South Korea. The ceremony became an annual one, and the road running up the hill was named "Millet Road."

In June 2000, Millet returned to Seoul, South Korea, and served as keynote speaker at the Army's 225th Birthday Ball at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. All eight of the then-living Korean War Medal of Honor recipients attended the event.

This year, Millet served as the grand marshal of a Salute to Veterans parade April 21 in Riverside, Calif. He died Nov. 14 at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Loma Linda, of congestive heart failure.

A memorial service for Millet is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 5 at the National Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery in California.