Military News

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vice President Opens Home to Recovering Troops

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 24, 2009 - As Army Sgt. First Class John Wright lay in a hospital room after being wounded in Afghanistan this summer, he probably didn't envision himself feeling especially thankful a few months later. While on a dismounted patrol in Kandahar province in July, Wright led his platoon through a dangerous area where he thought a weapons cache was hidden. As he walked in the direction where he thought the stockpile was located, his foot triggered an improvised explosive device.

"I don't remember the blast or the pressure or the heat from the explosion," he said. "I just remember waking up afterwards and realizing that my leg was missing."

Last night, Wright and other wounded warriors recovering at local Fisher Houses and their families joined Vice President Joe Biden and the vice president's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, at their residence here for a family-style Thanksgiving meal.

"I think it was a wonderful thing that the vice president and his wife did to open their home to soldiers and wounded warriors," Wright said today in an interview. "The hospitality was amazing, the conversation was great. I sat right next to Dr. Biden for part of the meal, and the other part of the meal, the vice president sat down with me. The conversation was common folk conversation. It was Anywhere, USA."

Though Wright is now fitted with a prosthetic leg that allows him to walk, he needs a wheelchair until he's able to build his endurance to remain mobile for long periods of time. "Within 3 to 4 months, I should be able to ditch the wheelchair and be able to walk," he said optimistically.

Speaking to Wright and about 35 other wounded warriors, military families and other guests, Biden recalled that the vice presidential home through the years has hosted presidents, heads of state and famous world leaders.

"But I can say without fear of contradiction, never before has this place been accorded such honor as with your presence here today, and I mean that sincerely," he said. "You possess more courage, dignity and a sense of patriotism than any other group of Americans."

The Bidens, whose son Beau served in Iraq as a captain in the Delaware National Guard, felt the sacrifice a family experiences when their loved one is deployed over the holidays.

"Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and this year I feel especially thankful that we have our son Beau home with us, because like Joe said, we're a military family," she said. "I'm a military mom, and I remember what it was like on Thanksgiving for our whole family. We pretended like everything was OK, but our hearts felt heavy. I know how many of you feel or many of you have felt."

Dr. Biden, who has reached out to military families across the country since her husband joined the campaign trail, said she tries to impart a message to Americans.

"One thing I've tried to do is to say to American families, 'Reach out to a military family in your community,'" she said. "It doesn't matter what you're doing. Take them cookies. Put a wreath on the door. Stuff a stocking. Take some books over for their children. Whatever it is, reach out to a military family and say, 'Thank you.'"

As Wright continues his physical recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, he also has embarked on another form of recuperation: learning to be comfortable with his place in society.

"When I got hurt, I kind of wanted to stay within myself and draw away from the public eye because of my injuries," he said. "I was kind of self-conscious about my scars. I didn't really want to interact with anybody, except my wife and my family."

But the more he interacted with the world outside his family, he said, the more his sense of normalcy began to return. A family-style dinner like last night's, he added, is a welcome shift of focus away from his injuries.

"You tend to focus on other activities such as the football game last night or the upcoming holiday season -- other than just, 'Oh, I got hurt, and now I've got this godawful scar, and now I have this leg,'" he said. "So it's very helpful. The social interaction really helps the psyche.

"It's a shame that more people did not accept the invitation because I wouldn't have missed it for the world," he continued. "It was the chance to meet the vice president and his wife, and just come to find out that they're normal Americans that like to open their home to wounded warriors."

Secretary Issues Holiday Season Message

American Forces Press Service

Nov. 24, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today issued a holiday season message giving thanks to the military men and women who put their lives on the line every day. "This time of year calls on Americans to reflect on and give thanks for the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy. Of course, we can only do so because of those who put their lives on the line every day: the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who bear repeated deployments, hardships, and danger – without fail and without complaint.

"Many have made the ultimate sacrifice. Our nation will always honor their memory. For the loved ones of the fallen, I offer my deepest sympathies and prayers for your loss. And, in the wake of the shootings at Fort Hood, know that I am committed to ensuring that our home bases are safe and secure.

"I know the holiday season can be especially difficult for service members and their families, who may be separated from each other by thousands of miles. To the families of our men and women in uniform: know that the American people are indebted to you for the sacrifices of your husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters.

"This will be my third holiday season spent as Secretary of Defense. During these years nothing has impressed me as much as the determination, resilience and good humor of those who defend our nation. This holiday season, along with "Happy Thanksgiving," "Happy Hanukkah," and "Merry Christmas," I would add two words on behalf of millions of your countrymen: "Thank you."

HONORING THOSE THAT STAND ON THE WALLS

Nandell Palmer hosted a recent event honoring unsung heroes. We honored men and women that raise families, nurture churches and encourage others. The program included song, dance, oratory and a feast that Nandell and his family prepared and served themselves!

We are talking to Federal Way about such an event to honor law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical providers and other emergency personnel. The event should call attention to the need for the whole community to prepare for emergencies.

We are asking everyone in and around Federal Way to think about how we can honor our First Responders. Surrounding communities contain agencies such as South King Fire and Rescue that work in and around Federal Way so we may have to reach out and consider personnel from the surrounding area.

We also need to honor men and women like a JAG officer I know that had to leave his business for a year and assist as an active-duty military lawyer helping soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas. We now realize that stateside duty is just as dangerous as going to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Every place is now a danger zone! Modern tactical doctrine has evolved to the point where recognizable fronts and uniformed armies have been replaced with committed packs of warriors that randomly circulate in small teams looking for opportunities. Thus, a teacher, a firefighter or a janitor may need to be just as vigilant as a member of our special forces in Afghanistan!

The risks are all around us every day, not just during an obvious catastrophe. This is why churches and pastors may be the most important key to getting ready for future events. The sense of community that already exists in churches requires that pastors, priests and rabbis- even imams and other leaders- train those within our various spiritual communities so that we do not just react to crises. Get into CERT training and classes provided by the City, state and federal governments and recognize First Responders that labor among you.

Many of us already have extra food and emergency supplies. Many people meet the criteria to be honored as First Responders in one capacity or another. We need a committee to handle the nominations and determine which individuals will be honored. Each individual will represent all responders from the various agencies in and around Federal Way.

None of us are able to take all the steps necessary to prepare for every contingency. We depend on each other. The beginning of good government is when neighbors voluntarily pool resources in order to provide for each other’s well-being and for the common defense. Historically, public order starts with volunteerism. A militia is formed. We divide into specialties. Eventually a strongman starts using force to extort goods and services from his neighbors.

Every Thanksgiving, I appreciate America’s Biblical roots, the U.S. Constitution and the freedom to talk and write about such things. I also appreciate the professionals that have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and stand guard over the City!

Mark S Knapp, Attorney
(253) 661-1252
(Fax) 661-1263
www.firearmslawyer.net

MILITARY CONTRACTS November 24, 2009

NAVY
Bell Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded a $105,417,721 modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee multi-year contract (N00019-07-C-0001) for efforts associated with the Block C upgrade of 91 MV-22 and 21 CV-22 aircraft. In addition, this modification provides for the engine air particle separator upgrade and installation of a shaft driven compressor inlet barrier filter. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, Pa. (90 percent); Fort Worth, Texas (5 percent); and Amarillo, Texas (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed in October 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $5,533,237 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

The Boeing Co., Kent, Wash., is being awarded a $64,612,516 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-09-C-0080) for the procurement of one C-40A Clipper aircraft for the Navy. Work will be performed in Renton, Wash. (88 percent), and Wichita, Kan. (12 percent). Work is expected to be completed in October 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin, Maritime Systems & Sensors, Mitchel Field, N.Y., is being awarded a $62,932,901 cost-plus incentive fee/cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide the FY10 and FY11 United States and United Kingdom TRIDENT II (D5) navigation subsystem engineering support services requirements. Specific efforts include United States and United Kingdom fleet support, strategic weapon system shipboard integration support and trainer, United States and United Kingdom trainer systems support, sea based strategic deterrent support, engineering refueling overhaul support, and navigation subsystem studies. This contract contains options, which if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to $141,389,203. Work will be performed in Mitchel Field, N.Y. (95.4 percent); Oldsmar, Fla. (3.6 percent); Baltimore, Md. (.4 percent); Moorestown, N.J. (.4 percent); Eagan, Minn. (.1 percent) and Manassas, Va. (.1 percent). Work is expected to be completed Dec. 31, 2011. With options exercised the completion date will be Sept. 30, 2013. The contract was not competitively procured. Contract funds in the amount of $30,135,013 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Navy's Strategic Systems Programs, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (N00030-10-C-0002).

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $34,302,846 delivery order on a previously awarded firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-07-D-0001) for the full recertification of up to 172 All-Up-Round (AUR) Tomahawk missiles for the Navy (162) and the government of the United Kingdom (10). In addition, this order provides for fixed support for encanisterization/decanisterization of MK-14 AUR missiles. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz. (80 percent) and Camden, Ark. (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in April 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $32,302,846 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the Navy ($32,340,646; 94.3 percent) and the United Kingdom ($1,962,200; 5.7 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being issued a $26,000,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for fiscal year 2010 repair of E/A-18G aircraft components. Work will be performed in Bethpage, N.Y. (90.34 percent), and St. Louis, Mo. (9.66 percent). Work is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity.

Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., is being awarded a not-to-exceed $19,223,702 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee task order #0020 against a previously issued indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67004-09-D-0020) to obligate funding. Work will be performed at various locations within Kuwait and is expected to be completed in September 2010. Contract funds of $19,223,702 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps, Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity.

United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney, Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., is being awarded an $18,045,324 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus incentive fee/award fee contract (N00019-08-C-0033) to exercise an option for special tooling and special test equipment for Navy and Air Force Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. Work will be performed in East Hartford, Conn. (70 percent); Bristol, United Kingdom (19 percent); and Indianapolis, Ind. (11 percent), and is expected to be completed in February 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This modification combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($13,340,870; 73.9 percent) and the U.S. Air Force ($4,707,454; 26.1 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. is the contracting activity.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Boeing Company, St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $12,860,585 a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for fiscal year 2010 repair of the F/A-18 AN/APG-79 (AESA) radar. Work will be performed in El Segundo, Calif. (92.5 percent); and St. Louis, Mo. (7.5 percent); and work is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2010. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity.

Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., is being awarded a not-to-exceed $12,325,371 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee task order #0021 against a previously issued indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67004-09-D-0020) to obligate funding. Work will be performed at various locations within Iraq, and is expected to be completed in September 2010. Contract funds of $12,325,371 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. U.S. Marine Corps, Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Bell Helicopter Textron, Hurst, Texas, is being issued $9,769,650 for ceiling priced order #0030 under previously awarded contract (N00383-05-G-048N) to repair various components for the V-22 aircraft. Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, Texas, and work is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2010. One company was solicited for this non-competitive requirement and one offer was received in response to the solicitation. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity.

The Boeing Co., Ridley Park, Pa., is being awarded $8,987,591 for ceiling priced delivery order #0027 against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00383-05-G-049N) for repair of various components for the V-22 aircraft. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, Pa., and work is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2010. Contract funds will not expire by the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity.

Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., is being awarded a not-to-exceed $8,741,602 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee task order #0022 against a previously issued indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67004-09-D-0020) to obligate funding. Work will be performed at various locations within Afghanistan, and is expected to be completed in September 2010. Contract funds of $8,741,602 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. U.S. Marine Corps, Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Northrop Grumman Corp., Electronic Systems, Defensive Systems Div., Rolling Meadows, Ill., is being awarded a $7,526,205 delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-08-G-0012) to perform upgrades to the V-22 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures system, including modifications to the Direct Infrared Countermeasure, the missile warning sensor and processor, and equipment. Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, Ill., and is expected to be completed in September 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Co., Portsmouth, R.I., is being awarded a $5,777,994 cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order # D001 under previously awarded basic ordering agreement (N00024-07-G-5433) for Canadian uplink on behalf of Foreign Military Sales customer, Canada. The primary goal of this is to upgrade the Canadian Mk-48 guided missile vertical launching system to include the uplink capability for engaging targets with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. This will include both hardware and software upgrades. Work will be performed in Portsmouth, R.I. (85 percent); and Sudbury, Mass. (15 percent);, and is expected to be completed by July 2011. 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.

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a maximum $25,730,506 firm-fixed-price, sole source contract for procurement of two line items in support of F/A-18 flight surfaces systems. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Navy. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is June 30, 2013. The Defense Logistics Agency Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N00383-06-D-004H-THAK).

McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a maximum $15,500,000 firm-fixed-price, sole source contract for procurement of twenty line items in support of the F/A-18 AESA APG73 radar system. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Navy. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Sept. 30, 2012. The Defense Logistics Agency Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N00383-06-D-001J-TH07).

AIR FORCE
Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, Santa Maria, Calif., was awarded a $23,700,000 contract which will extend range standardization and Automation IIA support to complete the mission flight control center. At this time, $15,224,822 has been obligated. SMC/LRSW/PK of El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (F04701-95-C-0029, P00311).

Progress Continues for Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 24, 2009 - A program to develop a new family of light tactical vehicles for Army, Marine Corps and special operations forces is moving ahead at full steam, almost halfway through its technology development phase. The joint light tactical vehicle is an Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command program to replace the Humvee with a family of higher-performing, more survivable vehicles able to carry greater payloads, said Kevin Fahey, Army program executive officer for combat support and combat service support during a recent interview.

The goal, he explained, is to fill a critical capabilities gap while developing a family of vehicles capable of performing multiple missions and sharing common components.

The Army, lead agent for the program, announced just over a year ago that it had awarded three contracts valued at about $166 million for the program's 27-month technology development phase. The three contractors are BAE Systems Land and Armaments, Ground Systems Division; General Tactical Vehicles, a joint venture between General Dynamics Land Systems and AM Genera; and Lockheed Martin Systems Integration.

During this phase, each of the three competing contractors is developing prototype vehicles in three different payloads configured for specific operational missions, Fahey said.

Category A is intended for general-purpose mobility and would carry the lightest payload, about 3,500 pounds. Category B models would transport infantry troops or weapons, serve as platforms for command-and-control and reconnaissance missions and carry payloads in the 4,000-to-4,500-pound range. Category C models would serve as shelter carriers, prime movers and ambulances, and would carry payloads just over 5,000 pounds.

The vehicles are being designed with an "open architecture" concept to accommodate extra armor, sensors, radios or other equipment, as required, without sacrificing power or payload, Fahey said. In addition, the vehicles will have a digital architecture incorporated into their design to support current networking requirements, as well as on-board diagnostics so they're easier to maintain.

As a unique twist to past development programs, the contractors are developing prototype companion trailers along with the tactical vehicles, with both meeting the same standards. "In the past, we rarely developed a trailer with its vehicle," Fahey said. "So the focus of this program is to demonstrate the maturity of the technology in an integrated platform."

By the year's end, the three contractors are expected to provide the vehicles and associated equipment for performance and reliability testing. Joint warfighters will provide their personal assessments.

The trick, Fahey said, is to avoid the pitfall of adding new requirements along the way that's plagued many past development programs.

"Our system very much opens the door up to, 'Wouldn't this widget be neat?" he said. "This is the phase where we need to prove that the technology is mature and can be integrated. ... We continue to emphasize to them that it has to be integratable, because when we make a decision at the end of this phase, we are going to execute."

When that decision is made, Fahey said, he feels confident it will be based on proven performance that demonstrates it can meet delivery goals. A production decision is expected by the end of 2014, with full-rate fielding to begin in 2016.

Fahey emphasized the benefit of designing the next-generation light tactical vehicles from the ground up for their specific use rather than simply being adapted to meet operational requirements.

The military's fleet of Humvees, estimated at about 160,000, was developed in the 1970s and delivered in the early 1980s with a focus on Cold War threats rather than on today's needs, he noted.

When the vehicles proved vulnerable to roadside bombs in Iraq and, increasingly, in Afghanistan, the military responded by adding heavy armor plating. The typical Humvee was designed to weigh a maximum of about 12,000 pounds, but now weighs closer to 18,000 pounds.

"It's way overweight, so it is underpowered, and mobility is lacking," Fahey said. "Another problem is [that] they don't have the payload they used to."

Mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, in contrast, were purchased essentially as quickly as they were built to meet a wartime requirement quickly.

"With the MRAP, the thought was, 'I need a more survivable truck that is available today to save soldiers' and Marines' lives," Fahey said. "We made the requirement meet what was available."

Fahey is quick to note that there's really little about the MRAP that's "light," but he recognizes that MRAPs are being used in the combat zones for missions typically conducted by light tactical vehicle crews.

Fahey welcomes the deliberate process and long-term focus being dedicated to the joint light tactical vehicle's development.

"Unlike MRAP, which we basically bought off the shelf and tested as we fielded it, we are designing [the joint light tactical vehicle] from the start with a focus on reliability and maintainability and commonality," he said.

Although the Army is leading the program, it's done "a fantastic job of integrating Marine Corps management" into the effort, said Bill Taylor, executive officer for the Marine Corps' land systems programs.

The biggest challenge in a joint program, Fahey said, is agreeing to a common set of requirements. The Marine Corps puts the highest emphasis on making the vehicles lightweight to meet its mobility requirements. The Army tends to focus more on troop protection.

"But I think we can come to that balance because of the way the program is structured," Fahey said. "After all, the bottom line is we all are in the same fight."

The program has received a lot of international attention, too. Australia and India both signed agreements to provide development support and share the associated costs, and other countries have expressed interest in participating as well.

"Everyone is interested," Flahey said. "When you go around the world, everybody has this capability gap that we are focused on: the light tactical vehicle that brings a balance of performance and protection."

Wounded Warrior Begins Second Career

By Alison Kohler
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 24, 2009 - A former soldier who spent about 16 months in the warrior transition battalion here now looks forward to a rewarding career as an Army civilian. Former Army Capt. Erik Stewart advises other warriors in transition not to rush the process.

"Make sure you're healthy and as whole as you can be," Stewart said. "It's all about your attitude. If you have a positive attitude and you work with the doctors, it goes well."

Stewart, 38, from Wakefield, Kan., currently on leave, saw his Army career of more than 19 years officially end Nov. 18. He now has a promising future ahead of him working in the plans, mobilization, training and security directorate here as an emergency management specialist.

Stewart uses his 15 years of experience as a military police officer and four years as an engineer in his new job.

"There's some stuff I'm still learning, but the emergency management aspect of it, it works out," he said. The married father of four said he spent a lot of time looking before he landed the GS-12 civil service position. Learning to navigate the online civil service application process was tough, he acknowledged.

"In the Army, you get orders [and] you show up," he said. "You don't have to bring your accomplishments with you. You don't have to worry about that in the military. That was stressful."

His civilian job has him preparing emergency management plans and, if necessary, assisting in emergency response. He's in charge of Fort Riley's Ready Army program, currently concentrating on the post's management of H1N1 flu.

Though he misses the Army's unit camaraderie, he said, working as a civilian has its advantages.

"No more deployments, and no more alerts," he said. "[You] come home every weekend and every night."

Stewart was wounded by a roadside bomb in the tenth month of his third deployment. For a while, he tried to tough it out, he said.

"I got to where I was trying to get in and out of a vehicle and I couldn't do it, and I was in pain all the time - my back, my groin, my head and my arm," he said. "I was having trouble holding on to my rifle, and I couldn't wear my gear without my back or my groin hurting. I was having trouble concentrating."

He was sent here through the Army's regional medical center at Landstuhl, Germany, and was assigned to the warrior transition battalion.

"[I was] scared at first, because I've been doing this since high school," he said. "When I first got there, I was just going to appointments, and that was OK at first, because I had been gone for like 39 months with deployment, home, deployment, home. Then I realized I was bored; I needed to find something to do."

He tried to take college classes, but ended up having to withdraw three times, he said, because he couldn't focus and study. Stewart completed an unpaid internship with a nature center and looked into a welding program at a technical college. His wife mentioned looking for a job on Fort Riley, so he began to learn about applying for civil service positions.

Though he expected a long wait after he interviewed for his current position, he said, he was selected the following day, and he has been on the civilian payroll since September.

He advises other warriors in transition to make a plan, including financial plans, for what they need to have and where they will be in three months and in five years.

"They can't just [say], 'I'm going to get out and live at my folks' house', or 'I'm going to move home,'" he said. That's not a plan."

But before they make plans for life after the Army, Stewart said, soldiers should first get all the help they need.

"Don't get out just to get away from it all," he advised.

Most importantly, he added, warriors in transition need to take a step back when everything seems overwhelming.

"It's easy to get caught up in 'Woe is me,' and it's easy to go to the dark, depressed place," he said. "Take a big problem and break it down. It's like a wall, but if you take it down a brick at a time, eventually the wall's gone."

(Alison Kohler works in the Irwin Army Community Hospital public affairs office at Fort Riley.)

Trade Commission Offers Gift Card Tips

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 24, 2009 - Because distance often separates extended and even immediate families in military life, gift cards are a popular choice for holiday gift-giving. After all, one size fits all, and the recipients can get exactly what they want from a retailer or restaurant. But the Federal Trade Commission advises servicemembers and their families, as well as Defense Department civilians and contractors to think before they buy holiday gift cards this season, and buy from sources they know and trust.

"Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, because the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently," said Carol A. Kando-Pineda, counsel for the commission's consumer and business education commission. So before you shell out your hard-earned money and buy a stack of gift cards, you should know a few things first.

It's true that shopping for gifts can be a real dilemma. Just what do you get your finicky Aunt Mary, your co-worker, or your child's babysitter? Though a gift card can be the answer, Kando-Pineda said, be sure to know what you're getting.

"Read the fine print before you buy," she said. "If you don't like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere. Ask about expiration dates and fees when you're buying a card."

This type of information will always appear on the card itself, on the accompanying sleeve or envelope, or on the issuer's Web site. "If you don't see it, ask," Kando-Pineda cautioned. "If the information is separate from the gift card, give it to the recipient with the card to help protect the value of the card."

And buyers may not be aware, she added, that merchants often tack fees on to the gift cards -- for activation, maintenance or transactions, for example -- that may be deducted from the card's value at the recipient's end.

"It might be embarrassing to give someone a $50 gift card and find out later that fees gobbled up most of the amount," Kando-Pineda said.

Another note of caution to buyers of gift cards is what to do if the company you purchased the card from goes out of business.

"Well first, before you buy, you may want to consider the financial condition of the business and whether it has filed for bankruptcy," Kando-Pineda advised. "But if you do buy a card from a company that goes out of business or ultimately files for bankruptcy, it's as you might expect: the recipient may end up with a card that's worth less than the face value."

She added that before you decided to buy that gift card for Aunt Mary, you should consider how easy it will be for her to redeem that card. "Let's say the business closes stores near where the recipient lives or works," she said. "They may not be able to get to another location to redeem their card."

Kando-Pineda also recommends that recipients of gift cards shouldn't wait to use them. "Use your card as soon as you can," she said. "It's not unusual to misplace gift cards or forget you have them. Using them early will help you get the full value."

She noted that if a card does expire, the recipient should contact the issuer. "They may still honor the card," she said, "although they may charge a fee to do that."

Anyone who has a problem with use of a gift card should contact the company that issued it as soon as possible, Kando-Pineda said. If you can't resolve the problem at that level, she added, file a complaint with the appropriate authorities. If that doesn't fix the problem, she said, contact the Federal Trade Commission through its Web site or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) toll-free. Complaints also may be filed with your state's attorney general.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)