Military News

Monday, December 07, 2009

Yama Sakura 57 Guardsmen experience Japanese culture

By Sgt. 1st Class Jason Shepherd, United States Army,
Pacific Sgt. Gerardo DeAvila, Georgia National Guard

(12/6/09) - Tea ceremonies, paper folding and sword demonstrations aren't usually the first things to come to mind when you think of a command post exercise with one of the U.S. strongest military allies.

Yet, the more than 1,500 troops participating in Yama Sakura 57 had the opportunity to visit Japanese children with special needs and practice the art of calligraphy and origami before the start of this year's exercise.

These events were part of a series of cultural exchanges designed to foster a better understanding of Japanese culture and traditions.

The Northern Army of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the U.S. military's bilateral partner for this year's exercise, planned and executed the cultural series. Each day featured a different event, hosted on the Northern Army's camp on the island of Hokkaido, Japan's most northern island).

One of the first cultural activity offered was a Japanese home visit, which was designed to let U.S. participants experience Japanese home life first hand.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Knight of the Colorado National Guard's 169th Fires Brigade, helped prepare a northern Japanese staple, mochi gome, or sticky rice, during his home visit.

"One of the neater things we got to do was take steamed rice and put it in this big bowl and started pounding on it with a hammer," he said. "Later, (our host's wife) came back with soup and the rice was in it. It was absolutely delicious."

Knight also added that experiencing the home life of an average Japanese family was something he has always wanted to do.

"I've always been intrigued by (East-Asian) culture," he said. "So many ancient traditions that we as Americans don't get to see too often. It was very eye opening to be able to see this in person and actually visit with a Japanese family and see how they live and how they view America."

"I was humbled by this experience and I love the respect and honor I felt being at my host's home," said Spc. Latangia Oliver, 40th Special Troops Battalion, California National Guard. "This is my first trip to Japan and did not know what to expect and felt a little apprehensive, but after tonight I feel right at home."

First Lt. Kyosuke Moriguchi, Northern Army, JGSDF, served as an interpreter during the home visit. He said that he was happy to experience the interaction between the U.S and the family.
"The U.S. military and the host family made a good connection," he added. "I hope the JGSDF and U.S. military make as good a connection (during Yama Sakura)."

Capt. Ryan Mundy, Utah National Guard, learned how to write his name in Japanese during the calligraphy class.
"I am amazed at the beauty and difficulty of writing Japanese," he said. "It's a beautiful language."

Sgt. Lizeth Reyes, of the California National Guard's 40th Infantry Division, participated in a tea ceremony and enjoyed the attention to detail placed on such an important part of Japanese life.
"This has given me a great appreciation in working with my counterparts and I'm glad they made an effort to share their world with me," she said.

Other classes during the week included the Japanese art of flower arranging or kado and the proper wear of a kimono.

For many, the best part of the cultural exchange was the joint U.S.-JGSDF visit to children with special needs. The 29 U.S. and 29 JGSDF troops played wheel chair soccer and had a great time, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Alveno Hodge, command sergeant major, United States Army, Pacific Special Troops Battalion.

"When you come to different countries, you usually only get to see what's on that particular installation during that military operation," he said. "But here, our host, the JGSDF, has done so much for us. They have gone out of their way to make us feel comfortable in their country."

"I saw lots of smiling," said Command Sgt. Maj. Hisanoria Honda, command sergeant major of the Northern Army, JGSDF . "I believe that the U.S. participates will have some good memories to bring home.

More than 1,500 U.S. military personnel and nearly 3,500 members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force are conducting the exercise here Dec. 7-13. Yama Sakura, which means "mountain cherry blossom," is an annual, bilateral exercise designed to strengthen military operations and ties between the U.S. Army and the JGSDF.

New York Guardsmen ready for exercise With Japanese counterparts

(12/4/09) - About 120 New York Army National Guard Soldiers arrived here between Dec. 1-4 for Yama Sakura 57, the bilateral command post training exercise with members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Forces.

The Soldiers will now establish the division headquarters command post and communications infrastructure to support the full spectrum battle simulation exercise next week. The troops acclimated quickly to Northern Japan\'s cold climate. With temperatures and a wind chill reaching down to the lower teens, most of the New York Army National Guard Soldiers left autumn at home much warmer than the environment on Hokkaido.

They will conduct a joint exercise with the Japanese Northern Army's 2nd Division.

Ten of the division's Soldiers already received a warm welcome as part of the cultural exchange program for Yama Sakura.

The New York Soldiers were received at the homes of Japanese army troops volunteering to open their homes, their families and their culture to the New York Army National Guardsmen.

Yama Sakura 57 involves a military-to-military exchange to better prepare both forces for full spectrum conflict and train Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces for their homeland defense mission.

The command post exercise, scheduled for Dec. 8-13, involves a notional battle to defend Japanese sovereignty. It is one of the U.S. Army's largest such training events for high intensity, or full spectrum, conflict.

"About 60 percent of our effort here is just the military to military relationships and cultural exchange with our Japanese partners," Command Sgt. Major John Willsey said.

Willsey, from the 42d Special Troops Battalion, supervises the Soldier care and life support issues for the deployed troops. "The other forty percent of our effort is the exercise itself," he said. "Training with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces is an exchange of techniques and lessons learned that make both our forces better at what we do."

This is the second time this year that New York Army National Guard Soldiers have trained in Japan with the Japan Ground Self Defense Defense Force. In October, 200 Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard, most from the famed "Fighting 69th" the 1st Battalion 69th Infantry, took part in Operation Orient Shield. Those Soldiers trained with Japanese infantrymen at Camp Imazu, Japan.

Virginia Guard Soldiers part of new Kosovo task force

The battalion is responsible for conducting scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on U.S. aircraft in the country during KFOR 12, said Capt. Michael H. Gregory, commander of the unit.

“The elections just took place which not only was a milestone for the people of Kosovo but set the stage for further stabilization in the region,” Gregory said. “Our mission is to assist in the implementation of UNSCR 1244 pending a final settlement in Kosovo and I think that we are starting to see more signs of that.”

"This is a very beautiful country and the local populace is very supportive of our mission," said Staff Sgt. Danny J. Conwell.

"The Kosovars have immediately befriended us and made every effort to show their gratefulness for our service with kindness and warmth," said Sgt. 1st Class Jorge L. RiveraDiaz.

"The journey here was easy and the transition from KFOR 11 to KFOR 12 was smooth," said Spc. Robert V. Burkhead. “Task Force Arctic Eagle, the KFOR 11 Aviation Task Force, was from Alaska and gave us a quality mission hand off setting us up for success.”

Many of the Soldiers from Virginia, Kentucky and South Carolina that now make up Det. 2, Co. B, 777th ASB (AVUM) have made friends with Soldiers from other parts of the United States, Gregory said.

Brig. Gen. Alan S. Dohrmann of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade of the North Dakota National Guard and the Soldiers who make up his task force, accepted responsibility of MNTF-E from Brig. Gen. Keith D. Jones, 40th Infantry Division (Forward), of the California National Guard, and the Soldiers under his command.

"We've trained very hard for this mission, really, for more than 18 months now," Dohrmann said. We're all ready for the mission; I know the Soldiers are excited to get things started with the mission, and I'm very excited to get things started too."

More than 1,300 Soldiers comprise Task Force Falcon, the U.S. contingent of MNTF-E. Though its headquarters is based out of North Dakota, units that make up the task force come from 14 states and territories: Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan, Utah, and the Virgin Islands. In all, 37 states have Soldiers represented.

Nearly 2,200 Soldiers from several NATO countries, including the U.S., make up the total MNTF-E force.

Stretching along Kosovo's eastern Administrative Boundary Line, MNTF-E is one of five sectors, where NATO peacekeeping forces conduct patrols and engage with people and institutions.

The incoming KFOR 12 Soldiers started arriving in Kosovo in late October.

Louisiana Guardsmen take on undefeated Saints

By Sgt. Michael L. Owens
Louisiana National Guard

The Guardsmen and players were part of the "Pros vs. G.I. Joes" event, playing each other in games, such as "Call of Duty" and "Guitar Hero."

"We know that the troops work hard to protect us and our country, so we have events like this to say thank you and show our appreciation," said Addie Zinone, co-founder of the event and member of the Army Reserve.

The Saints were happy to be there and show their off-the-field skills to the Guardsmen after showcasing their on-the-field talents in a win against the New England Patriots the night before.

"It is always fun to do events like this," said cornerback Mike McKenzie. "Supporting and appreciating our Troops is what it's all about."

The Guardsmen were excited to get the chance to meet the players, especially during this historic season.

"I have been a Saints fan all my life," said Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Bonin of the 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery Regiment. "To be here is very special for me. It's just unbelievable!"

NGB graduates first CPI black belt class

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau

About 30 students from 11 states completed the program, which combines the Army’s Lean Six Sigma and the Air Force’s Smart Operations for the 21st Century efficiency programs.

“It’s the first time … that we actually have a class that was designed to be truly joint,” said Air Force Col. B.J. Marshall, CPI director at the National Guard Bureau. “We took the best of the OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) curriculum, the Army’s black belt curriculum and the Air Force curriculum and built our own curriculum that meets the learning objectives of both the Army and the Air Force.”

The course runs four weeks and covers a variety of ways and means to evaluate and improve upon processes and procedures within the Guard, such as preparing for deployment, said Marshall.

“This course actually teaches them or provides them with a tool box of techniques to use to improve effectiveness and efficiencies,” said Marshall. “So, if you’re working on improving the efficiency of a project, you would use a lot of lean tools to remove the waste; but if you’re looking at the effectiveness of a process, you would be looking at removing errors that happen repetitively in [it].”

Those who are trained in CPI are rated on three levels – green belt, black belt and master black belt. Currently, the NGB training program is geared toward those working in the black belt capacity. However, a course for green belt certification is scheduled to start in March and a master black belt program is being planned for 2011, said Marshall.

Currently, those seeking green or master black belt training are certified through the Army’s training program. The difference in the three levels of certification is the scope of the projects those individuals would work on to increase efficiency.

“Master black belts traditionally would work mostly enterprise level – very large, very complex projects,” said Marshall. “They also teach the black belt course and coach and mentor black belts. Black belts then coach and mentor green belts.”

Recent graduates of the course have already seen its benefits.

“A lot of times you’ll go to meetings and people will assume they know what the problem is already,” said 2nd Lt. James Domenico of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard.” He added that the training has taught him how to collect statistical data during meetings, which helps to determine what the problem is.

The path to improving efficiency really starts prior to the attending the course.

“Our whole initiative starts with the strategic alignment workshop for the senior leaders,” said Marshall. “We go in and we take their strategic plan, align it to their core processes, identify the gaps and build a project library.”

Black belt students are assigned a project from that list of prioritized projects and they start working those projects, said Marshall. She added that improving readiness or streamlining the deployment process is among the projects worked on most often.

The push for a joint training program came in part from issues raised by many adjutants general who felt that having two separate programs – one for the Air Guard and one for the Army Guard – was often repetitive and cumbersome, said Marshall.

Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who visited with the class on graduation day, also expressed an interest in having a joint program.

“Bottom line is, I’m all in, in terms of commitment to the program,” he said. “I spoke at length during the (Joint Senior Leaders Conference) to my belief that if we don’t adopt or adapt to this new way of doing business, we will fail.

“As good as we are in the Guard – and we celebrate our 373rd birthday on Dec. 13 – we may not make 400, because we will have lost our relevance and value. I say that tongue-in-cheek as I think we are adaptable enough to get through this.”

Part of that adaptation will include the Guard becoming a data-driven organization, said Marshall. “And one of the key things that this does is that it actually provides the data so that you can actually show the data and then the leadership can make a data-driven decision.”

In the end, it comes down to using the CPI tools to better manage finite resources. “By working through and using the continuous process improvement tools, we are able to free up resources to apply them in other areas,” she said. “And that can be both people and money.”

NGB currently has seven iterations of the course planned for 2010, said Marshall, with the next scheduled to start in February.

Guardsmen first to demonstrate digitally aided personnel recovery

By Capt. Alyson Teeter
California National Guard

The 129th Rescue Wing sent 23 Guardsmen and an MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft equipped with a prototype situation awareness system to BQ09 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. The exercise featured a series of demonstrations to assess technical and procedural solutions to improve the combat effectiveness of coalition forces, according to the JFCOM Web site.

In the past, rescuers were constrained to voice only communications in their life saving mission. Air Guard rescue forces responding to Hurricane Ike last year identified the data link capability as being the highest priority improvement for homeland emergency response operations on a large scale.

"Voice communications have always been an Achilles heel in the coordination of time-sensitive rescue operations,” said Lt. Col. Steve Butow, deputy director of the 129th Operations Group and deployed commander during BQ09. “The voice communications frequencies rapidly become saturated during disasters because of the volume of information being passed.”

The 129th RQW's operational experience provided momentum for generating a data link solution that underwent an operational utility evaluation in April at the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Test Center, or AATC, in Tucson, Ariz.

"The Air Guard has taken a lead role in the test and evaluation of situational awareness capabilities, enabling personnel recovery for the warfighter and for homeland emergency response operations," Butow said.

Testing the Air Guard’s situational awareness capabilities in digitally aided personnel recovery, or DaPR, BQ09 was an opportunity to integrate data link-enabled air and ground forces from joint and coalition components in a simulated battlespace, Colonel Butow said. The architecture, forces and concept of operations were representative of Afghanistan, and scenarios involved austere, woodland and urban environments.

The 129th RQW rescue MC-130P crews flew eight missions as Airborne Mission Commander, or AMC, supporting more than 20 personnel recovery events. AMC duties were performed by Combat Rescue Officers who coordinated recovery efforts with Joint Terminal Area Controllers on the ground.

“The crews were developing new tactics, techniques and procedures pretty much every time they flew,” said Maj. Jose Agredano, 129th Operations Group chief of tactics and deployed director of operations during BQ09. “The system is new to rescue so we were literally discovering different ways to utilize SADL every event.”

The personnel recovery events involved the employment of a variety of aircraft and forces, including U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, Air National Guard F-16C Fight Falcons, Canadian Air Force F-18CF Hornets, and Quick Reaction Forces from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

Butow said the DaPR events produced the following achievements: Data link minimized voice communications, allowing more effective coordination of recovery tasks. The rescue MC-130P maintained superior situational awareness in the terminal area and coordinated critical support requirement with the Air Support Operations Center. The rescue MC-130P streamed secure video to the JTAC during recoveries, increasing the ground force commander's situational awareness and relieving intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets that would normally perform this function.

Precise position information and identification was digitally distributed over land and air data link networks enabling the rescue MC-130P to coordinate recovery as the AMC.
A personnel recovery coordination cell located within the ASOC provided real-time intelligence and command and control information to the AMC.

NASA COSPAS Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking was utilized to collect beacon activations and provide GEO coordinate information to the BQ09 C2 network.
Because of these accomplishments, all members of the personnel recovery task force shared a common operating picture enabling unity of effort, Butow said. "The Bold Quest experience has proven invaluable in assessing current capabilities and defining requirements for the rescue H/MC-130 role in digitally aided personnel recovery.”

“The spin-off benefit is that we have gained a new capability for wide area catastrophic events such as hurricanes or earthquakes,” he added.

DoD Revamps Playgrounds to Meet Needs

By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 7, 2009 - Timothy Donovan sits in his wheelchair on the sidelines of the playground here, wishing he could swing on the swings or slide down the slides with his friends. But Timothy is unable to roll his wheelchair over the mulch, and the playgrounds lack the ramps and other special equipment he needs to play there. "I would go to the school and he would be sitting by himself, because he couldn't get close," said Timothy's mother, Paula Donovan, wife of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Timothy Donovan. "It would break my heart."

But in a few weeks, Timothy's sideline days will be over.

The Defense Department's Office of Military Community and Family Policy has funded playground construction here and at 39 other military installations – both stateside and overseas -- that will enable special-needs children like Timothy to join their friends at play.

"We're very pleased to be able to fund these playgrounds," said Rebecca Posante, the office's director of communications. The $10 million project will equip the bases with handicap-accessible playgrounds as well as pool lifts. The program also has provided about $5 million to the Department of Defense Education Activity to revamp some school playgrounds for special-needs children.

Timothy's school here received some of those funds and will unveil its new playground in the upcoming weeks.

While it was the Office of Military Community and Family Policy that supplied the money, it was a mother's love that provided the impetus for the project. Paula Donovan said she had been growing frustrated by the lack of accessibility for her son.

"I was surprised the playgrounds weren't accessible, because this is a Category 4 base," she said, referring to the fact that Quantico is one of the locations where families with special needs are sent. "I felt that Timothy and other children like him deserved better."

Born with a group of birth defects called VACTERL, 7-year-old Timothy has experienced health issues ranging from cardiac problems to limb abnormalities, and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 1. He already has undergone 21 surgeries.

Posante caught wind of the problem when the Donovans came to the Pentagon for a visit.

"Paula mentioned that Timothy couldn't play on the playground," Posante said. "Quantico is a location where the Marines send families with disabilities because of the hospitals there. That stuck in our minds."

When funds came available at the end of the year, there was no hesitation about where they would go. "We knew we wanted to put the money into the playgrounds," Posante said. "It was just a matter of where."

With sites selected, many playground projects already are under way, with others slated to begin soon. At Quantico, Timothy will have to wait only a few more weeks before he's joining his friends at recess on the monkey bars.

Timothy said he's "very excited" about the new playgrounds.
Paula Donovan said she's grateful for the upgrades.

"I really believe it will benefit a lot of people, not just the children, but also wounded warriors who want to come to the playground and play with their children," she said. "Unless people speak up, our leaders won't know what our children need. I'm glad I spoke up, and I'm glad there were people caring enough to listen."

MILITARY CONTRACTS December 7, 2009

ARMY
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded on Dec. 2, 2009, a $168,700,000 firm-fixed-price contract for H-60 supplies and technical, engineering and logistical support services for a period of 12 months in support of overhaul, repair and recapitalization of the H-60 weapon system at Corpus Christi Army Depot. Work is to be performed in Corpus Christi, Texas, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2010. One bid was solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, AMSCC-AVM-AL-D, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-09-D-0029).

Telford Aviation, Inc., Bangor, Maine, was awarded on Nov. 25, 2009, a $12,268,639 firm-fixed-price contract for a medium altitude reconnaissance surveillance system - Canada Systems integration and logistics support for two King Air 300 commercial aircraft provided by Canada. This effort is currently funded at 49 precent of the not-to-exceed price until definitization takes place. Work is to be performed in Hagerstown, Md. (75 percent), and Afghanistan (25 percent), with an estimated completion date of June 15, 2011. One sole source bid was solicited with one bid received. CECOM Acquisition Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W12P7T-07-C-W009).

Better Built Construction Services, Inc., Middletown, Ohio, was awarded on Nov. 24, 2009, a $7,310,703 firm-fixed-price contract for the design and construction of a human performance wing swing space - modular, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Work is to be performed in Greene County, Ohio, with an estimated completion date of May 15, 2010. 46 bids were solicited with three bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, Louisville, Ky., is the contracting activity (W912QR-10-C-0009).

General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc., Sterling Heights, Mich., was awarded on Dec. 1, 2009, a $7,500,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for modification P00133 exercising an option for system technical support for the Abrams tank program. Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, Mich., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. TACOM-Warren, AMSCC-TAC-AHLC, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-07-C-0046).

Bristol Environmental Remediation Services, Anchorage, Alaska, was awarded on Nov. 30, 2009, a $7,208,494 firm-fixed-price contract for hazardous, toxic and radioactive waste remediation services, Northeast Cape, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Work is to be performed in St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, with an estimated completion date of March 30, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, is the contracting activity (W911KB-10-C-0002).

AIR FORCE
Boeing Co., Newark, Ohio, was awarded a $11,603,410 contract which will provide for Minuteman III guidance repair. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 526 ICBMSG/PKE of Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (F42610-99-D-0006).

Boeing Co., Seattle, Wash., was awarded a $6,000,000 contract which will provide for C-32A and C-40B on-board communications equipment. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 655 AESS/SYKA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (F33657-01-D-0013).

Clock Ticking on Iran's Nuclear Stance, Jones Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 7, 2009 - The United States and its allies are still open to negotiations with the Iranian government to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program, National Security Advisor James L. Jones said yesterday. However, the "clock's ticking," Jones said, regarding Iran's continued refusal to accede to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The international community is concerned that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons by enriching uranium used for its nuclear power plants. The Iranian government has denied such claims and insists its nuclear program is used only to generate electric power.

The IAEA, based in Geneva, is a U.N.-sponsored organization that cooperates with its member states and partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

Jones, who was interviewed on CNN's "State of the Union" program yesterday, also told host John King that Iran is welcome to again come to the negotiation table to resolve concerns about its nuclear ambitions.

In September, it was revealed that Iran was building a secret uranium enrichment plant near the town of Qom.

Negotiations held in Geneva in early October between Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany came to naught after Iran reneged on an agreement to send its uranium to France and Russia for further enrichment processing. After the IAEA rebuked Iran for its covert uranium enrichment in Qom, the Iranian government announced it would build 10 additional uranium enrichment plants.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted in a statement issued Nov. 29 that "time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program."

The Iranian government has so far declined to attend another meeting about its nuclear program. Despite the impasse, Jones said, the United States and its allies still are open to negotiations with Iran.

"The IAEA is still working feverishly to try to bring this about," Jones said of efforts to restart negotiations with Iran. Meanwhile, Jones described what has been presented to Iran at the negotiating table as logical, fair and reasonable.

"And if Iran wanted to signal to the world that it wishes to participate more fully in the family of nations, this is a very, very good way for them to do this," Jones said.

But Iran's behavior regarding its nuclear ambitions has "caused enormous worry and concern" among countries in the western Persian Gulf region, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace yesterday.

It also is causing serious concern, Petraeus said, that Iran continues "activities to arm, train, fund, and direct extremists in Iraq, southern Lebanon, Gaza, and to a degree, western Afghanistan."

Support Improves for Families With Special Needs

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 7, 2009 - Officials are working to boost the resources and support the Defense Department's Exceptional Family Member Program provides to military families with special needs. "Most people are aware of EFMP as a mandatory enrollment program, but we're working to raise awareness of the family support we can provide," said Rebecca Posante, communications director for the Pentagon's Office of Military Community and Family Policy.
Military families with special needs are asked to enroll in the program so their requirements can be taken into consideration for future assignments. Parents with a child with major medical needs, for instance, are stationed at an installation near a hospital that can accommodate those needs.

"The program is to prevent you from getting in a situation where your family can't get appropriate care," Posante said. "Your asthma may be controlled here, but not at a place overseas. You might not know that and unknowingly be put in a life-threatening situation. The goal is to protect the family."

While the assignment component is standard throughout the services, each branch offers a varying level of family support, and the resultant family services are inconsistent at best, Posante acknowledged. For instance, some bases have one program specialist and others have up to seven.

"The Marine Corps and Army have plussed up their programs, but it really depends on the passion and the staffing at the installations," Posante said.

On a positive note, she said, changes are on the horizon.
The fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Barack Obama in October, mandates a standard program to support military families with special needs, establishes a Defense Department Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs and requires a comprehensive policy on support to families.

While changes lie ahead, Posante said, she is working in the meantime to put the resources in place to ensure success.

Last month, the department sponsored its first joint exceptional family member support conference in Jacksonville, Fla. Posante said the conference was a definite success, and that she equipped family support personnel with tools they "could take back and use on Monday."

Posante noted these same tools also are offered online for families.

A Parent ToolKit, available on the Military OneSource site, offers information and resources to aid parents of special-needs children, taking them from birth to 21 years old. It includes a list of support organizations, sample forms and letters, and other resources.

To supplement the toolkit, Military Homefront offers hundreds of resources online, listed by state, that parents can use to pinpoint a local program.

The Special Care Organizational Record for Children With Special Health Care Needs, also available on Military OneSource, is a binder where parents can store all health care-related information pertaining to their child, from medications and allergies to doctors' business cards and receipts. It also can be used for special-needs adults.

"Imagine if you were a parent and one day you couldn't take care of your child, [and] someone would have to step in and care for that child," said Isabel Hodge, family support program manager for the Pentagon's Office of Military Community and Family Policy. "This gives them what they need to know. It's a set of instructions."

"It's not your official medical record," Posante added. "But it's something you can take with you as you move [or go] to different appointments. You can take it with you and share with doctors to aid in care."

Posante also urges parents of special-needs family members to take advantage of Military OneSource's specialty consultations for adult and special needs children by calling 1-800-342-9647.

With the program's new legislation and resources, Posante said, she hopes families will remember to associate the Exceptional Family Member Program with more than just assignments. She wants them to equate the program with family support.

"Enrollment is for your protection. This is a big benefit to our families," she said. "But we also can help support your family. Seek out your EFMP coordinator at your family center; that person knows the area; they can get you the right information. We want our families to know [that] we know the system, and we can help."

Landstuhl Gets Congressional Kudos

By: Health.mil Staff

For Skelton, this visit to Landstuhl carries a bit of personal meaning as well. Skelton was injured in a motor vehicle accident during his visit to Iraq in 2005 and spent several days recovering in Landstuhl’s intensive care unit. Commander Col. John Cho presented LRMC with a framed Congressional statement and described the colonel’s work as “critical…in caring for our warriors wounded in combat.”

Roughly 2,800 personnel at LRMC treat more than 58,000 service members and civilians for injury and illness sustained in Afghanistan and Iraq. They also provide specialized care to roughly 245,000 American military personnel and their families throughout the European theater. The facility averages over 1,000 inpatients per month, with a daily average of about 20 surgical cases.

Skelton closed his visit with a huge kudos to LRMC. “I am proud to know that we have such an immensely capable group of people looking after the health and well-being of service members and their families,” he said. “As Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and as a former patient, I pay great tribute to the excellence and sacrifice of all who serve at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. They all deserve our thanks and support.”

Brigadier General Loree K. Sutton

Monday, December 07, 2009
Brigadier General Loree K. Sutton

Sixty-eight years ago today, Pearl Harbor was attacked. The following day President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress at 12:30 p.m., for six and a half minutes, and within one hour America entered World War II — “a date which will live in infamy.”

Killing in combat, losing beloved buddies, coming home to a strained or even fractured marriage, experiencing “survivors guilt,” witnessing the death of innocent civilians are timeless challenges known to warriors of all ages — past, present and future.

Psychological health concerns are not new to our warriors who have seen combat. Looking back through history, 27 centuries ago in "The Iliad," Homer describes the mental stress that occurs as a result of continuous combat as the “betrayal of what is right.” During the American Civil War post traumatic stress was referred to as “soldier’s heart”; in World War I it was known as “shell shock”; and in World War II “battle fatigue.”

Our journey has gained considerable traction and momentum in helping our warriors and veterans receive care for psychological health concerns across the resiliency, recovery and reintegration continuum of care. However, the stigma associated with seeking help for the invisible wounds of war is still present and all too often blocks our warriors from seeking care. Today, reaching out is an act of courage and strength. This is progress, however, total success will be achieved when warriors and their families will give no more thought to seeking help for brain injuries than they would for a broken leg. We still have a long way to travel but, make no mistake, we will get there — sooner is better.

History and literature point to the human need to find meaning, purpose and value in life’s harshest experiences. Consider Hamlet on his deathbed, making his final request to Horatio: “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile and enter my harsh world and draw my breath in pain to tell my story.”

Withdraw yourself from your comforts to see through my eyes, says Hamlet. Tell the world my story….

Indeed, the experience of sharing one’s story remains as powerful today. This power resides at the heart of our Real Warriors campaign to eliminate stigma. Please check out www.RealWarriors.net and keep in touch — maybe you or someone you know has a story that is ripe for sharing.

Thanks as always for your support — together let’s redouble our efforts to make a positive difference for the greater good!

Yours in service ~
Loree K. Sutton, M.D.
Brigadier General, MC, USA
Director, DCoE

Task Force Finds Improvement in Sexual Assault Response

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 7, 2009 - The Defense Department has made progress in improving its response to the needs of sexual assault victims, but needs to do more, a special task force has determined. The Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services has turned its report over to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for review.
But while noting progress, the congressionally mandated report also called for the department to do more to address the spectrum of sexual assault prevention and response.

"Our recommendations highlight the need for institutional change to more effectively prevent sexual assault and address related issues," said Louis Iasiello, the task force co-chair. "Doing so is not only ethically and morally correct, but also essential to military readiness – all the more critical at this time."

The first recommendation the task force made regarding the Defense Department's Sexual Awareness Prevention and Response Office was to elevate its oversight to the deputy secretary of defense until the program meets established institutional goals.

Among other recommendations are changing the budgeting process to overcome inconsistent funding among the services, strengthening the policy and oversight functions of the office, and conducting more rigorous oversight of military service training programs.

The task force also recommended that Congress consider some permanent changes, including:

-- Ensuring servicemembers who report they were sexually assaulted are provided the assistance of a nationally certified victim advocate;

-- Ensuring victims understand their rights, including the opportunity to consult with legal counsel, to minimize confusion during the investigation process;

-- Improving medical care for victims of sexual assault, particularly in deployed areas;

-- Ensuring gender-appropriate care for male victims; and

-- Informing victims and servicemembers of disciplinary actions related to sexual assault.

All of the task force's suggestions were based on the assessment of data collected from 60 sites around the world over 15 months. The task force spoke to more than 3,500 people, including active-duty and reserve-component victims of sexual assault and other military personnel. The task force members also spoke to general court-martial convening authorities, legal and investigative officials, senior policy officials, sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates.

Gates has 90 days to review and comment on the report before submitting it to Congress.

Sergeant Builds Morale Through Art

By Army Capt. Thomas Cieslak
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 7, 2009 - A Task Force Protector soldier here is building unit pride and esprit de corps by using his artistic skills to decorate an office inside a refurbished shipping container. The many talents of Army Sgt. Henry Harrell, a counterinsurgency noncommissioned officer with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade, are evident on the office door of Army Col. John F. Garrity, Task Force Protector commander.

"I have been working with art in general since I was 5. I just started drawing one day and never stopped," Harrell said. "I took 10 art classes in high school, and turned down a full art scholarship to come into the Army."

Adjacent shipping containers house the offices of the Task Force Protector commander, deputy commander, command sergeant major and the counterinsurgency section. Wooden walls and doors inside the containers were painted white years ago and remained plain until Garrity noticed Harrell's talents and eye for color.

Harrell was sketching on a pad one day when Garrity saw his work and asked Harrell if he would be willing to paint a design on his door. Harrell agreed, and after receiving the necessary tools and paints from Garrity, went to work during his off-duty time to complete the door, arriving early and leaving late to complete the task.

Harrell proposed a design to Garrity, who approved it, and the sergeant completed a rough drawing on the door in pencil that he finalized with a permanent marker. Harrell then followed up with acrylic paints to color the design and to add shading and depth.

"It's phenomenal. He's very talented," said Army Maj. Devon Blake, Harrell's supervisor. "We're excited he's able to use his talents to contribute to the aesthetics of the command group."

The door incorporates many elements of the 16th Military Police Brigade and the military police corps. Below the banner is the brigade commander's rank insignia, with a wartime orientation of the eagle facing the arrows it holds. To the left of the eagle is the military police distinctive insignia, and on the opposite side is the 16th Military Police Brigade's insignia.

An aircraft with paratroopers jumping from it placed behind the design symbolizes the brigade's airborne status and preparedness to conduct airborne operations. An armored security vehicle and an up-armored Humvee are below the paratroopers, depicting the nature of combat operations conducted by military police paratroopers.

The foundation of the design includes the brigade's motto -- "One of A Kind" -- and the brigade commander's philosophy -- "Be a Professional" -- all above an image of the American flag.

(Army Capt. Thomas Cieslak serves with the Task Force Protector public affairs office.)

This Holiday Season Focus on Friends and Family, not Food

By Gabrielle Kirk
TRICARE Management Activity

December 07, 2009: It’s easy to over-indulge during the holiday season. It’s a time when everyone whips up their most decadent recipes and heads to gatherings with family, friends and co-workers. Starting at Thanksgiving, many people find themselves with busy social calendars and less time to eat at home and maintain their regular fitness schedule.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found the weight people gain during the fall and winter seasons is generally not lost during the rest of the year. Gaining just one pound may not sound like much, but over 20 years it could mean weighing an additional 20 pounds just from holiday indulgences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer these tips for having a healthy holiday season:

If you're heading out to a party, eat a light, healthy snack before you go. This will help curb your hunger and decrease your visits to the buffet table.

Modify your favorite holiday recipes to reduce the amount of fat and calories. Opt for low-fat cheese or vegetables in place of meat.

Bring a healthy holiday dish to the party to help everyone eat a little lighter.

Limit your alcoholic beverage intake. Alcoholic drinks can have many calories, especially holiday favorites like eggnog. Cut or limit your alcohol calories by drinking more water.

Find fun and creative ways your friends and family can spend time being active instead of eating. Be sure to spend time together that doesn't revolve around a meal.

Sign up for a 5K walk or run to keep your mind focused on physical activity goals. Maintain your physical activity during the holidays — better yet, try to be more active! It will make those New Year’s resolutions even easier to attain.

Practice balance and moderation and the only reminders of holidays past can be happy memories with family and friends. TRICARE’s “Get Fit” Web page at http://www.tricare.mil/getfit/ has helpful information for beneficiaries looking to lead a healthier lifestyle. Beneficiaries can also visit http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight for more information from CDC about attaining and maintaining a healthy weight, and http://www.smallstep.gov for 100 tips toward a healthier lifestyle.

TRICARE’s Extended Care Health Option

By Patricia Opong-Brown
TRICARE Management Activity

December 07, 2009: If a family member has special needs, a serious illness or sustains a serious injury, TRICARE has several programs in place to help. For instance, TRICARE has programs to assist a family member with a disability, and to ensure every one of the 9.5 million TRICARE beneficiaries get the best possible care.

The TRICARE Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) provides assistance for active duty family members with physical or mental disabilities. ECHO covers up to $36,000 per fiscal year in addition to regular TRICARE benefits to cover claims for care of a disabled family member. Some of the services ECHO can be used for are: training, rehabilitation, special education (including applied behavioral analysis for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders), institutional care and, under certain circumstances, transportation to and from institutions or facilities. The benefit also includes ECHO Home Health Care, which provides skilled nursing care and other services for severely disabled beneficiaries, and respite care for caregivers.

For a family member to be ECHO-eligible, the sponsor must be an active duty service member and the family member must have a specific physical or mental disability. Children who have moderate or severe mental retardation, serious physical disabilities or are homebound because of their physical or psychological condition may be eligible for ECHO benefits. Selected infants or toddlers diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease may also receive ECHO benefits. Also, children with multiple disabilities may be eligible for ECHO. Some children may remain eligible for ECHO beyond the usual TRICARE upper age limits if the sponsor remains on active duty.

Eligible beneficiaries must be enrolled in the sponsor’s service branch Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) and registered with their regional contractor.

If a beneficiary or their health care provider believes a child is qualified for ECHO, he or she can contact a case manager or the regional contractor for more information. If overseas, contact the military treatment facility or TRICARE Area Office. TRICARE ECHO can help reduce the task of taking care of a family member with a disability. For more information about ECHO, or other TRICARE programs, visit http://www.tricare.mil/ECHO.