Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Support for Military Families

Posted by: Staff

Countless organizations nationwide exist to support service members and their families. We’d like to take a moment today to thank and feature a handful of organizations that are proactively helping service members and their families. Most of them present opportunities to participate in their programs this holiday season:

The Armed Services YMCA celebrates and helps military families. From its Operation Kid Comfort campaign, which sends custom-made quilts to children of deployed service members, to its “My Military Hero” contest, the ASYMCA has spent the last decade serving and supporting military families during the holiday season.

The Yellow Ribbon Fund, which provides support to recuperating military members in the Washington, D.C., area, held its first-ever Annual Rockin' for the Troops Gala on Nov. 7. A few weeks later, the fund also hosted a hunting/fishing/golf outing for injured service members in Easton, Md.

Comfort for America’s Uniformed Services (Cause) USA supports injured service members during the holiday season. They hold weekly events to bring comfort to recuperating service members. If you would like to contribute time, items or video games for wounded warriors at military treatment facilities, please visit the Cause donation page.

The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Transition Command Web site is dedicated to stories of injured, wounded and ill service members receiving the best care available, which not only helps them recuperate, but allows their families comfort knowing their military family member is well taken care of.

Following the holidays, the Disabled American Veterans organization will close the winter season with its National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held Mar. 28 – Apr. 2, 2010. The clinic promotes rehabilitation by instructing veterans with disabilities in adaptive alpine and Nordic skiing. It also provides veterans with an opportunity for self-development and challenge through sports and leisure activities.

Program Manager Explains Delay in ‘Stop Loss’ Claims

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

Dec. 11, 2009 – After an initial delay caused by software and manpower issues, the first retroactive payments will be disbursed next week to soldiers who were retained on active duty involuntarily under the so-called “Stop Loss” program. Army Maj. Roy Whitley, program manager for the Army's Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay program, acknowledged problems over the program’s first 50 days and said officials are working to reduce the current backlog for the thousands more who are expected to file their claims over the next year.

"We are going to plow through the backlog as quickly as we can," said Whitley, who spoke with bloggers and online journalists yesterday during an Army bloggers roundtable.

"We lost time [by] improving the claims end early on,” he said. “For every day we spent working the claims, we knew we were losing a day on development and case management.

"We are building it out [and] improving software. [That is] the reason why you are seeing some delay."

Parts of the initial Web-based claims program, launched Oct. 21, lacked complete functionality, and many of the claims were processed manually, Whitley said. However, he added, the case-management software is expected to be finalized this week, closing at least 1,000 cases. Those cases will then be forwarded to Defense Finance and Accounting Service for payment.

"The latest enhancement gives us the ability to close the cases," Whitley said, and will allow Army claims managers to advise claimants on the status of their claims.

He added that he is working on adding more claims managers to his staff of 14. "We saw the volume coming forward,” he said, “and we knew we had to make some changes both on software and personnel."

As soon as the software changes are tested and finalized, he added, his staff will be better able to ease the backlog.

"We are hoping this will knock down on the anxiety caused by our backlog and e-mails," Whitley said. "We are really working through those and trying to focus exclusively on claims clearing."

The deadline to submit Stop Loss pay claims is Oct. 21.

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

Navy Program Reduces Sailors’ Stress

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 11, 2009 – People complain about stress daily, and treatment for stress has become a large industry within the mental health field. But few know stress as well as servicemembers, who routinely face long work days, intense physical activity and high operational tempo – not to mention the risks of being deployed to a war zone. Capt. Lori A. Laraway, coordinator of the Navy’s Operational Stress Control Program, spoke during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable yesterday about the mental-health issues sailors face and how the Navy works to prevent and remedy them.

Laraway’s program, which began in November 2008, seeks to create an environment where sailors, commands and families can thrive in the midst of stressful operations. Just as athletes gain the winning edge by using every means at their disposal - coaches, trainers and even sports psychologists - sailors need to employ all means available to stay fit and ready as well as seek assistance for stress reactions early before they become stress problems, she said.

“The program is really an extension of the tradition that the Navy's had for over 200 years, that of leaders taking care of sailors and their families,” Laraway said. “We've focused a lot in the last few years on physical readiness, and now we're realizing that we need to spend as much time and effort on psychological fitness and resilience in order to help our sailors and their families become strong and ready to carry out the missions at hand.”

Because mental and behavioral health issues can carry a stigma, she said, it’s a difficult topic to get sailors to address. But programs across the Navy and the Defense Department have helped to reduce that stigma, she added.

Laraway said she wants the Operational Stress Control Program to further that idea by giving sailors a preventive resource to help in handling stress.

“We want the Navy to be a place where sailors recognize the effects of stress and know how to deal with it, to prevent things from becoming crises or problems,” she said. “The program really is aimed to help sailors and leaders thrive in the midst of these stressful situations.

“To that end,” she continued, “we've developed training tools, practical techniques based upon sound medical research, as well as lessons learned from the combat exposure and from our combat leaders.”

Laraway said her program is different from similar groups in the other services, because the Navy has different stress-control needs. For the most part, she said, stress among sailors has more to do with work schedules and deployment itself, rather than boots-on-the-ground problems such as combat and improvised explosive devices.

“Their day-to-day stressors are not about being in the sand, they’re not about IEDs,” Laraway said. “It’s about their regular deployment schedule, the increased [operational tempo] of our ships. … There’s a little bit different focus, in that the Marines [and other services] have a little more reliance on combat operational stress, and we’re focusing more on the broader picture for the Navy of operational stress, because every sailor experiences operational stress, whether they're in combat or not.”

The program also follows the old saying “You recruit the sailor, you keep the family” by providing assistance to family members while their sailor is deployed.

“Certainly, you can't separate one from the other,” she said, “because if you have a sailor who is deployed and is trying to focus on the mission, but he's aware of stresses in the family, that can be very, very serious, and it all affects mission readiness. And so we need to look at the whole picture.

“Just as a coach would never let a world-class athlete go into competition unprepared,” she added, “the leadership must ensure that our sailors and their families have every available resource to excel, both in their personal and their professional lives.”

(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

Army Suicide Rate Increases Five Straight Years

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

Dec. 11, 2009 – The rate of soldier suicides this year exceeded the 2008 total with 147 reports through November, marking the fifth consecutive year the service’s suicide rate has increased. In November, 12 potential suicides were reported among the active-duty Army, all of which still are under investigation. In addition, two potential suicides were reported for November among reserve-component soldiers not serving on active duty. For October, three of the 16 active-duty suicides reported now are confirmed, according to a statement released by the Army yesterday.

For 2009, 45 reports of possible active-duty suicides remain unconfirmed, along with 30 of the 71 reported suicides in the reserve components, the statement said.

The Army is working to combat its rising suicide rate through the recently launched Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, the Suicide Prevention Task Force and its five-year research partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health.

Despite frequent deployments and stressful operations tempo, Army officials believe leadership intervention is the biggest factor in prevention, Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, said in a media roundtable discussion last month.

More than one-third of the Army’s suicides this year have occurred with soldiers who never have deployed. The Army has determined that its efforts must reach the entire Army, not just those soldiers with multiple deployments, said Walter Morales, Army suicide prevention program manager, in the statement released yesterday.

Chiarelli is expected to meet this month with National Institute of Mental Health officials to receive a report and briefing on the institute’s initial findings. The institute is charged with studying every Army suicide to better understand the rising pattern to complement the service’s internal research, the general explained in last month’s discussion.

“We conduct an exhaustive review of every suicide within the Army,” said Army Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Army’s Suicide Prevention Task Force. “What we have learned is that there is no single or simple answer to preventing suicide. This tells us that we must continue to take a holistic approach to identifying and helping soldiers and families with issues such as behavioral health problems, substance abuse, and relationship failures.”

The Army is testing pilot programs in virtual behavioral health counseling, enhanced behavioral counseling before and after deployment, and expanded privacy protections for soldiers seeking substance-abuse counseling. These programs are part of the Army’s overall campaign to increase health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention.

Officials are studying the results to determine the programs’ future roles in the Army’s prevention efforts, the statement said.

The 147 suicides reported this year are the highest number since the Army began recording such data in 1980.

Conference Explores Trauma’s Impact on Families

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 11, 2009 – The nation must move beyond the “suck it up and drive on” military culture of the past and look to a future that puts psychological and spiritual injuries on par with physical ones, the Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist said yesterday. “We must pay attention to the whole person, the whole family, the whole community, the whole nation,” said Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Loree K. Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. “It’s about building resilience. It’s about fostering recovery, and supporting reintegration into communities across this country.”

Sutton spoke at the Trauma Spectrum Disorders Conference at the National Institutes of Health here. The two-day conference -- sponsored by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and NIH -- focused on the impact of trauma spectrum disorders on military and veteran families and caregivers throughout the deployment lifecycle. Trauma spectrum disorders, or TSD, comprise a broad range of psychological health and traumatic brain injury issues.

The conference examined TSD’s impact on family functioning, care-giving and child and adolescent development. It brought together researchers and practitioners “to collaborate, to reach out into the future and identify next-generation solutions,” the general said.

“For many of our warriors, coming home is not the end of the war -- far from it,” Sutton said in a published letter to her colleagues. “Leaving the battlefield far behind, the battle often continues -- in hearts and minds, relationships and communities after deployment. Families and caregivers often find themselves fighting a battle too, striving to understand and support the person they love following a life-changing experience.”

Sutton cited the need for a cultural transformation with an underlying message she called “simple, yet powerful.”

“It has to do with singing from the mountaintops, putting the word out there to those whom you serve: you are not alone, we are all in this together, treatment works, and the sooner we can intervene, the better,” she said.

Caregivers also must reach out to family members, to co-workers, to community leaders, to peers and to clinical experts, she added. “Reaching out is an act of courage and strength.”

Sutton said collaborative efforts like this conference are vital. The issues confronting servicemembers and their families extend far beyond the military’s scope.

“We know that this set of issues and concerns, it’s much bigger than any of us within the Department of Defense … it’s much bigger than the federal government,” the general said. “It stems across the country and around the world, to our communities to our faith leaders, to our educators, to our employers, and of course, linking together with our policy makers, our decision-makers, focused on the health and well-being of those we are so privileged to serve.”

Patty Shinseki, wife of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, also called for a collaborative effort to help servicemembers and their families.

“It is my belief that the importance of educating communities across the country to increase awareness and encourage us all to join hands at every level, including neighbor to neighbor, to offer understanding and sustained assistance is critical to the long-term health and well-being of servicemembers, veterans and their families,” Shinseki said yesterday.

Shinseki, a 38-year military spouse and member of the Military Child Education Coalition’s board of directors, lauded servicemembers and their families for their service and sacrifice.

“I am awestruck by the ability of those who serve currently to persevere and to manage the challenges during these unprecedented times,” she said. “It is also heartening to note the abundance of support and resources available to them.”

Sutton said the conference’s aim was to improve that support. “Together, we’re on this journey,” she said, “and today marks an important milestone in that journey.”

Chairman Marks National Guard’s 373rd Birthday

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 11, 2009 – Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a message today commemorating 373 years of service by the National Guard. Here is the text of the chairman’s message:

On the Thirteenth of December each year, we celebrate the creation of one of America’s most enduring institutions – our National Guard. The Guard has a proud history of serving and protecting the American people at home and defending our allies abroad.

Now, more than any time in our history, our National Guard keeps our military, our Nation strong. We would not have been able to maintain over eight years of sustained combat operations without this incredible service and the sacrifices of Guard families and employers who also contribute.

During World War II, National Guard units were among the first in the fight. America’s Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen performed valiantly during the Cold War in far away places from Korea to Europe. Over 20,000 Guardsmen served on active duty in the Vietnam War, and over 75,000 answered the Nation’s call in support of Operation Desert Storm.

Today over 70,000 of you are currently supporting expeditionary operations in locations around the world while still maintaining vigilance and crisis response stateside. Your efforts are making a remarkable difference at a critical time in our country’s history. We could not do it without you.

On behalf of your fellow service members of the Armed Forces, the Joint Chiefs and I thank you and your families and employers for 373 years of courageous sacrifice and service to our Nation. Because of you, the National Guard is Always Ready, and Always There.


Admiral, U.S. Navy

National Guard celebrates 373rd birthday

December 11, 2009
By Renee Hylton
National Guard Bureau

The United States is a relatively young country, but four of the oldest military organizations in the world are in our country's National Guard. The National Guard is celebrating its 373rd birthday this year. On Dec. 13, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony divided its citizen-soldiers, or militia, into the North, South and East Regiments.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was seven years old in 1636. About 5,000 men, women, and children had made the two-month voyage to the New World, leaving the relative comfort and safety of England behind.

In Massachusetts, they confronted a wilderness of dense forests, wild animals and suspicious Indians. The colonists needed a military force for protection, but they had no money to hire a mercenary army, which was common practice in Europe at the time.
So, they turned to the English tradition of the militia - citizen-soldiers who gathered for military training and who could fight when needed.

In Massachusetts, all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60, except ministers and judges, were required to join the militia.

By 1636, the militia of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was large enough to be divided into three separate regiments.

Today, the military lineage of these 1636 regiments is carried by the 101st Engineer Battalion, the 101st Field Artillery, the 181st Infantry, and the 182nd Cavalry, which are all still part of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

These four units, in one form or another, have been in continuous service since 1636, and are the oldest units in the U.S. Army.

Not many military organizations can claim 373 years of unbroken history.

The Swiss Guards, who protect the Vatican, are older (1512), and so is London's Honorable Artillery Company (1537), a unit of citizen-soldiers that is the oldest in the British Army. Amazingly, considering how much older Britain is than the United States, only one other regiment of the British Army, the Royal Scots (1633), predates our National Guard's oldest units.

Much has changed in this country since 1636, but one thing has not: citizen-soldiers still gather to train and deploy as they have for 373 years.

Spouse Describes Impact of Post-traumatic Stress

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 11, 2009 – Sheri Hall knew her husband, Army Maj. Jeff Hall, was having emotional issues after two tours in Iraq, but she didn’t grasp just how bad it was until one day when he went for a run. He was about 10 miles away when he called and asked for a ride home, Sheri recalled. He said he had started running and his chest had begun to hurt. “I thought if I just keep running it will explode, and I will die right here,” he told his wife.

That moment was a turning point, she said, that would set her husband and family on a long-awaited road to recovery.

The mother of two described her husband’s battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and the impact on their family at the Trauma Spectrum Disorders Conference at the National Institutes of Health here yesterday.

The major’s first tour in Iraq followed 9/11. “He was ready to go; he was committed to victory,” she said.

At the tail end of his deployment, the major’s prior commander was shot by a sniper on a rooftop. He was about a foot and a half away.

“When he came back, he was already in command, and I had about 50 wives to keep in touch with,” Sheri said, referring to her role as a commander’s wife. They hoped for a 12-month “dwell time” at home between deployments, but her husband was on a plane back to Iraq within 10 months, Sheri said. “Out of that 10 months, we were probably only together for about three” due to training, she added.

The major left in February 2005, and the soldiers did their mission, Sheri said. “Although Jeff says to this day, ‘I don’t know what that mission was, other than riding around and getting blown up and shot at.’ This really wore on him a lot while deployed, she said.

Sheri said her husband would write letters and send e-mails describing his unhappiness. “I’d say, ‘This is just Jeff, he’s just complaining, he’s just not happy,’” she said.

In October 2005, her husband left command due to a foot injury, Sheri said. A month later, the platoon that had been attached to her husband’s battery while he was in command was hit by a roadside bomb, killing two soldiers and seriously wounding another.

“Jeff was very heartbroken by this,” she said, near tears herself. “At the same time, we had a family tragedy. So Jeff had that to deal with, on top of feeling like he had lost two of his soldiers.”

Jeff returned home in December 2005, two days after Christmas. Sheri recalled her first sight of him at the homecoming ceremony.

“In walks my husband first,” she said, “and as they come in and they stand in front of us, I can see in his eyes a very lost person, and I knew at that moment that something had changed. My husband wasn’t my husband any more.”

Sheri encouraged her husband to seek help. “He went and talked to a counselor,” she said. The counselor said, “You’ll get over it, you’ll be fine.”

But, “I knew it was more than that,” she said.

Jeff’s next job was at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., training soldiers to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. “Basically it was from the battlefield right back to the battlefield,” Sheri said. “Jeff wasn’t happy with his job, but knew he had to suck it up and drive on.”

But by April 2008, that wasn’t working.

“Jeff hit a brick wall going about a thousand miles an hour,” Sheri said. “He couldn’t put his uniform on any more, couldn’t put his boots on any more. He didn’t want to go to work. He didn’t want to live, and told me that.

“He didn’t want his family around him any more,” she continued. “He told me to just leave, take the girls and go away. I couldn’t do this; I had known him for over 20 years, and I knew that wasn’t the Jeff I had grown to love.”

Sheri lived in fear of losing her husband, afraid to sleep or leave him for even a few minutes.

“I’d pick the kids up from school and come home and rush into the house before they did, because I was afraid in the 30 minutes that I was gone, he would take his life,” she said. “I never, ever thought in my wildest dreams that my husband would put a gun to his head and shoot himself, but that’s what he wanted to do.”

Sheri persuaded her husband it was time to seek help. His former commander, Army Col. Daniel Pinnell, helped him find a doctor at Fort Polk. That doctor recommended a three-week mental-health program at the Deployment Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The major first went through a week of intense preliminary psychological and medical care. He told his wife that if he got accepted into the program, he wanted her to join him.

“For the first time in two and a half years, I felt a glimmer of hope,” she said.

He was accepted, and the couple went through the program together, which helped Sheri gain insight into what her husband had experienced in Iraq, she said. But she also knew there was no quick fix for his problems.

“It took two and a half years to get help,” she said. “I knew it would take a whole heck of a lot longer to get over this.”

The family moved to Fort Riley, Kan. Jeff was slated to deploy again, but a degenerative back problem prevented that.

“He has mixed feelings; I don’t,” Sheri said. “I’ve seen my friends send their husbands off for the third or fourth time, and I really feel for them, because a lot of those husbands have not dealt with their issues, either.”

Sheri said recovery will be a long process, but they’re on the right path. “We have a hope for much better days,” she said. “But we’re much better able to cope with the stress, cope with the anger issues.”

A while back, Sheri said, she sifted through the letters that her husband had sent while downrange. “I told Jeff there are warning signs in these letters,” she said. “Knowing what I know now, you were in trouble then, and had I been smart enough to understand that, we could have dealt with this so much better.”

Her quest now is to help equip others with that knowledge.

“We’ve made it our mission in the last year to advocate for better care for soldiers and families,” she said. “I know now the resources that I didn’t know then. There are a ton of resources.”

Families Can See Off, Greet Troops at Airport Gates

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 11, 2009 – It’s a scene that’s played out in airports across the country numerous times in the past eight years: Families and servicemembers clinging to each other, either sad to leave or happy and vowing to never let go again. The emotion always is appropriate, but the location of the scene – just beyond the airline ticket counters and before the security checkpoint - robs the actors of precious minutes with loved ones. Those lost minutes are unnecessary, at least as far as the Transportation Security Administration is concerned, a TSA spokesman said.

“TSA permits the airlines to offer a gate pass to family members of arriving or departing U.S. servicemembers,” Greg Soule said. “So, family members who want to accompany a … servicemember being deployed to the boarding gate, or greet them [as they return] from deployment at the arrival gate may receive passes to enter the secure area of the airport.”

Though TSA allows this practice, the final decision rests with the airlines, from which family members must request the passes. Each airline, and possibly even airport, has its own rules and procedures, Soule said.

Families interested in obtaining a gate pass need to check with the airline before arriving at the airport to determine the exact rules and procedures.

“It’s an airline procedure,” Soule said. “It is something that TSA has permitted the airlines to do, though we have security regulations that we provide to the airlines.

“Typically, only passengers who are flying and have a boarding pass are allowed to pass through security,” he added.

TSA makes this allowance out of support for the armed forces, Soule said.

Though military family members with gate passes can pass through security, they must adhere to all security regulations. This includes removing coats, jackets and shoes, and the liquids regulation. Anything of a liquid or gel consistency must be 3.4 ounces or less and be sealed in a quart-sized storage bag to pass through security, Soule said.

Each family member would have to present the gate pass as well as a valid government-issued identification card, Soule added.

TSA doesn’t keep statistics on how frequently military families take advantage of this opportunity. Volunteers at Washington-Dulles International Airport’s USO lounge said they are not frequently asked about the program or for assistance in obtaining the passes.

Separations and reunions are emotional enough in normal situations, but with the holidays in full swing, they’re even more poignant. And thanks to the TSA and cooperating airlines, they can be more positive.

“We’re happy to do this and make this small exemption,” he added, noting that TSA officials recognize that military families, as well as servicemembers, make sacrifices for the country.

The TSA has no jurisdiction overseas, so U.S. military family members wishing to see off or meet their servicemember at a foreign airport are encouraged to check with the airline for local policy.

The policy on gate passes is available on the Transportation Security Administration’s Web site under the heading “Accommodations for U.S. Military Personnel.”

Dad Returns ‘Home’ to Military

By Army Maj. Nicoline Jaramillo
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 11, 2009 – Imagine being a father who served in the military for 10 years, preparing to send your son to basic training, and wishing you could go in his place. A soldier in the 1st Armored Division’s 4th Brigade doesn’t have to imagine it. He has lived it first-hand. Army Sgt. Billy Willingham, 121st Brigade Support Battalion, joined the Air Force in April 1982. His first duty assignment was Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., where he dreamed of flying, he said. His retention counselor told him that wasn’t an option for him in the Air Force, but the Army had a program called “High School to Flight School.”

Willingham received an early release from the Air Force to pursue his dream of flying. After 18 months, he started flight school as an Army warrant officer in April 1987. His first assignment as a pilot of AH-64 Apaches was with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Fulda, Germany, where he was stationed for four years.

He separated from the Army in the early 1990s, he said, and started a quest to find his “home.”

Willingham said he wanted to find purpose in his work and camaraderie with his peers. For 17 years, he worked in retail management, never quite finding his home. When his son approached him about joining the Army, Willingham was excited to share his lessons and experiences, and he encouraged his son to seek out the opportunities offered by a military career.

Though basic training was going to be a “pain in the butt,” he told his son, as long he was a hard-working team player who accomplished his job, the rest would be “a piece of cake.”

He also explained how no one offers the medical benefits or retirement the military can, but his son did not choose to join. Instead, he provided his father with his recruiter’s information and a way to pursue his own desire to return to the service, even at age 44.

The elder Willingham met with a recruiter who explained how his 10 years of prior service actually provided him a little leeway not afforded to others, and worked with him on his options for enlistment. The recruiter asked if he would like to go back in as a warrant officer, but Willingham said he told the recruiter to just “let me get in before they change their minds.”

Willingham enlisted in the Army as a motor transport operator, at the rank of specialist. But since completing advanced individual training, he has conducted only eight missions as an operator. He has found that his background and leadership experience place him in positions of responsibility that challenge him to excel on a personal and professional level.

Willingham is working at the Combined Division Operations Center with the 10th Iraqi Army Division. He recounted his incoming interview with Command Sgt. Maj. Saeed Mustafa, his battalion’s command sergeant major, and how he committed to doing whatever he was tasked to do to the best of his ability.

“The original team sat on one side of the room with Iraqis on the other,” he said. “There was very little to no interaction.” He realized this was not the intent of the concept, he said, nor was it within his nature to work with a group of men he knew nothing about.

“I spent a good portion of time one afternoon, early on in my new assignment, with the interpreter, to introduce myself and learn a little bit about my counterparts,” he said.

As he concluded the last introduction and offered assistance whenever needed, the Iraqi army major told him about a roadside bomb on a route frequently traveled by U.S. forces.

Willingham asked the Iraqi major to obtain an exact grid coordinate and called higher headquarters to alert them of the roadside bomb. A patrol was dispatched, diffused the explosive and safely maneuvered the scheduled convoy through the area without mishap.

“It feels as though I’m doing something worthwhile for self, family, and America,” Willingham said. He plans to retire from the Army, he added, and it may not be another 20 or 25 years. Only time will tell. He’s found his home.

(Army Maj. Nicoline Jaramillo serves with the 1st Armored Division’s 4th Brigade.)\

U.S., Russia Make Progress on Nuclear Reduction Agreement

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 11, 2009 - The United States and Russia are making progress on a pledge to reach an agreement on a nuclear weapons reduction pact to replace a long-standing bilateral treaty that expired last week. Negotiations have proceeded quietly in Switzerland under tight secrecy, according to reports. But an administration official this week said the two sides are making progress on reaching an agreement.

"We're getting closer and making progress on an agreement," White House Spokesman
Robert Gibbs said Dec. 9. "I know there are still issues that have to be worked out that stand in the way of that ultimate agreement. And our principals continue to meet and brief the president on what's happening, and that will continue until we do get an agreement. We're optimistic that we can get one."

In a joint statement last week, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev agreed in principle to continue working to forge a new agreement that, in effect, would replace the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

"Recognizing our mutual determination to support strategic stability between the United States of America and the Russian Federation," the Dec. 4 statement reads, "we express our commitment, as a matter of principle, to continue to work together in the spirit of the START Treaty following its expiration, as well as our firm intention to ensure that a new treaty on strategic arms enter into force at the earliest possible date."

The START treaty, signed in July 1991 by President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is considered the biggest arms reduction treaty ever brokered.

Under the agreement, Russia has more than halved its nuclear arsenal, destroying over 3,000 intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, 45 atomic submarines and more than 65 strategic bombers, Russia's foreign ministry said. The United States also reduced by more than 3,000 its arsenal of intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and cut the amount of launchers and heavy bombers.

In April, Obama and Medvedev agreed in London that American and Russian negotiators would begin work on a new legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace START, which expired Dec. 5.

The presidents signed a joint understanding in July, committing the United States and Russia to reduce their strategic warheads to a range of 1,500 to 1,675, and their strategic delivery vehicles to a range of 500 to 1,100. Before it expired, START and subsequent related treaties signed in Moscow set the maximum allowable levels of warheads at 2200 and the level of launch vehicles at 1,600.

MILITARY CONTRACTS December 11, 2009

Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $550,432,272 contract which will provide for the F-22 weapons system during the CY2010. At this time, $312,067,896 has been obligated. 478 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8611-08-C-2897, P00036).

United Technologies Corp., East Hartford, Conn., was awarded a $147,958,008 contract which will provide CY20 sustainment of the F119-PW-100 engines. At this time, $59,930,314 has been obligated. 478 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8611-08-C-2896, P00020).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando Fla., was awarded a $118,292,091 contract which will provide for the purchase of sniper advance targeting pods and low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night pods in support of Foreign Military Sales program customer in Turkey. At this time, $59,146,045 was obligated. 448 SMG/PKHCB, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (FA8522-10-C-0002).

University of Dayton Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio, was awarded a $49,475,000 contract which will investigate and evaluate advanced fuels and fuel technologies, fuel systems component development, advance combustor and augmenter designs, advanced fuel properties measurement, fuel system component development and safety, combustion emissions and their integration into advanced aerospace applications. At this time, $1,596,000 has been obligated. AFRL/PKPA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-10-2-2934).

Pratt and Whitney, PSD, Inc., Springdale, Ark., was awarded a $10,122,263 contract which will provide for the remanufacture of F100-PW-100/200/320/220E rear turbine case. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 448 SCMG/PKBP, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., is the contracting activity (FA8121-10-D-0002).

Computer Sciences Corp., Norco, Calif., is being awarded a $43,948,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide engineering, technical, operational and ancillary services for the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona. Services will be required at shore sites, land-based test facilities and aboard ships in ports and at sea. Work will be performed in Corona, Calif. (96 percent); Fallon, Nev. (1 percent); Yuma, Ariz. (1 percent); Oceana, Va. (1 percent); and Kauai, Hawaii, (1 percent). Work is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $1,165,631 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity (N63394-10-C-5000).

Tekia Research, Inc.*, Woodbridge, Va., is being awarded a $7,845,383 cost plus fixed fee-term contract for comprehensive, integrated program of systems engineering, technical engineering, engineering analysis, independent assessments and research activities pertaining to the development, measurement and evaluation of new and existing airborne systems and avionics. The work will emphasize the development of electronic systems and embedded software to facilitate the operation and optimum exploitation of visible, electro-optic and infrared sensors and systems. This contract contains options which, if exercised, will bring the total cumulative contract value to $45,363,988. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va., and is expected to be completed by December 2010. With options exercised, work will be completed by December 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $25,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via solicitation N000173-09-R-C802, with two offers received. The Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N000173-10-C-2011).

General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., Columbia, Md., is being awarded a $7,055,670 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for engineering services required during the Common Aviation Command and Control (CAC2S) Phase 1 effort to support improvement of the Distributed Scalable AccessNet and LongArm® capabilities to meet the CAC2S requirements. Work will be performed in Columbia, Md. (95 percent), and Ft. Wayne, Ind., (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed by December 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $2,750,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-10-C-0201).

Lockheed Martin Logistic Services, Greenville, S.C., is being awarded a maximum $32,810,000 firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for band pass filters. Other location of performance is New Jersey. Using service is Air Force. 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 July 2014. The Defense Supply Center Warner Robins (DSCR-ZEA), Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (SPRWA1-09-C-0016).