Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Army, Air Guard miss recruiting goals

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

(12/15/09) - Both the Army and Air National Guard missed their recruiting goals for November, but Guard officials said the smaller numbers were intentional. Recruiting activities throughout the two services were adjusted to keep end-strength numbers within the congressionally mandated limits of 358,200 for the Army Guard and 106,756 for the Air Guard, said Randy Noller, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau.

"We're allowed by Congress to be up to 3 percent above our authorized end strength," said Noller. "But, we still have to pay those Soldiers and Airmen, train them and equip them and we don't get additional funding for that. That money comes out of hide, meaning that funding for other programs gets cut."

Both the Army and Air Guard finished fiscal year 2009, which ended in October, over strength with 358,391 in the Army Guard and 109,196 in the Air Guard.

In order to stay within authorized end-strength numbers, the Guard has tightened enlistment waivers and has tweaked some enlistment bonuses.

"They haven't gone away," said Noller, referring to the bonuses. "But they have been adjusted to meet current needs and skill sets."

To enable the Army Guard to maintain its 358, 200 end-strength goal, it needs to recruit about 60,000 Soldiers throughout fiscal year 2010 while the Air Guard needs 9,000 recruits.

But that isn't a fixed number and month-to-month recruiting goals may fluctuate based on end-strength needs, said Noller.

Muncy visits Airmen in South Pole’s ‘Deep Freeze’

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

(12/15/09) -- The Air National Guard’s top enlisted leader returned here this week after visiting Air Guard members involved in Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica and in Christchurch, New Zealand. It took three days of traveling for Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, command chief of the Air Guard, to reach McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and then on to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which officials call the “southernmost continually inhabited place on the planet.” Col. Mike McDonald, commander of the Air Guard Readiness Center in Maryland, accompanied him.

“The thing that most impressed me was the mission capability rate that the 109th projects in those austere conditions,” said Muncy. “They have an over 90-percent in-commission rate for their aircraft, and all of their maintenance is done outside in the elements, with no hangers.”

Muncy flew aboard a ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft flown by the New York Air Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, based in Schenectady.

He stepped off the plane and onto the ice cap Dec. 8 and returned Dec. 12.

Chief Master Sgt. Mike Cristiano, command chief for the 109th, said the visit allowed the leaders to see the greater part of ODF and meet the Airmen, civilians and others who support and conduct important scientific research projects there.

The 109th is the on-continent airlift provider for the National Science Foundation’s U.S. Antarctic program. It carries millions of pounds of cargo and fuel as well as thousands of passengers each flying season.

“If something comes across their desks that could assist us in Antarctica, they will [now] have a better understanding of the mission to advocate for us,” Cristiano said.

The wing flies hundreds of missions in and around the frozen continent during the annual, four-month ODF flying operation, which ends in mid-February.

“We have 389 missions scheduled for this season,” said Cristiano. “The men and women of the 109th are doing a spectacular job of trying to keep us on schedule.”

The airlifters land and take off on barren ice and operate under challenging, extremely cold temperatures.

Muncy landed on groomed ski-ways at McMurdo and at the South Pole. There, he got a first-hand look at the operations where the wing’s aircraft routinely fly out to remote science camps to land and take off from unprepared areas.

“Everybody is outside in subarctic temperatures and they probably have a higher in-commission rate than anybody we have stateside,” said Muncy. “They are very proud of what they do.”

Muncy said the wing’s LC-130s – the world’s largest ski-equipped cargo aircraft – fly an average of six to seven flights a day to the South Pole and to the outer, remote science stations where only such ski-equipped aircraft can reach.

Cristiano said wing’s Airmen are the Air Force’s veterans of polar airlift operations. They have been flying Antarctic missions since 1988 and took over the operation from the U.S. Navy in 1999. Since 1975, they have also flown similar airlift polar missions on the opposite side of the planet: the Greenland ice cap.

Wyatt visits 148th Fighter Wing

By Maj. Audra Flanagan
North Dakota National Guard

(12/11/09) -- Lt. Gen. Harry "Bud" Wyatt, the director of the Air National Guard, visited the 148th Fighter Wing here today touring the facilities and meeting the people. Wyatt met with wing and community leaders and was given a briefing on the wing's history, current events and accomplishments.

He also addressed a group of civil engineers, who will soon deploy to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Prior his departure, Wyatt addressed the entire wing and commended it for its past performance. He also asked the wing to continue to give the country the capability it needs at the cost it can afford.

"I get to come out and see people, who are dedicated to what they do ... strong not only in their military careers, but in their civilian careers and connect the Air Force and the military to our country."

Oregon Guard joins search for missing hikers

(12/15/09) -- The Oregon National Guard launched a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from Army Aviation Support Facility #1 here on Dec. 14 to assist with the search for two missing hikers on Mount Hood.

Early in the morning, weather conditions and avalanche conditions on Mount Hood appeared destined to halt rescue efforts; however, the weather conditions did improve, bringing clear visibility to the very top of the mountain around 9:00 a.m., the sheriff's office reported.

A helicopter landing zone -- situated at the Timberline Lodge parking lot -- provided an opportunity for members of Portland Mountain Rescue, to climb aboard and accompany the National Guard flight crew for an estimated 90-minute aerial view of Mount Hood.

"This clearing of the weather and ability to hover over a wide area of the mountain was very thorough and advantageous – the visibility was remarkable," said Monty Smith, a mountaineer with Portland Mountain Rescue.

In spite of this extensive air and ground search accomplished today, no trace of the two missing climbers was detected by these searchers, the sheriff's office reported.

After flying 3.9 hours today with a total of 7.7 flight hours flown, the search and rescue operations were concluded for the day.

Officials are waiting for a break in the weather before resuming the ground and air search. They will re-evaluate the mission today based on the weather and the needs of the sheriff's office.

The National Weather Service incident meteorologist, assigned to this ongoing mission, is reporting more severe weather for the mountain on Tuesday. It is expected to bring large amounts of snow to the mountain.

"This remains an active search and rescue mission, and the Sheriff's Office remains dedicated to this rescue mission," said Sheriff Craig Roberts.

KFOR Soldiers combine forces to master art of quelling hostility

By Spc. Joshua Dodds
North Dakota National Guard

(12/14/09) -- KFOR Soldiers from four nations came together here recently to practice their skills in controlling riots in one of the most realistic training environments anywhere. After four days of planning and rehearsing, Multi-National Task Force - East and Multi-National Task Force-Central Soldiers from the U.S., France, Switzerland and Austria faced a volatile and explosive test on a mock street corner.

The exercise also used simulated rioters in the form of Irish and Slovakian Soldiers from MNTF-C. But, that's where simulation ended and realism began for this action-packed training exercise.

"It was an excellent opportunity to exercise our crowd-and-riot-control equipment and tactics against opposition other than our own," said North Dakota National Guard 1st Lt. Robert N. Peleschak of MNTF-E's 231st Maneuver Task Force. "It was good and aggressive training, so it gave a first-class opportunity for the Soldiers to get a feel for a more aggressive crowd."

The rioters aggressed as the first element, the U.S. contingent, pushed back on the "angry mob" to give them resistance. The French Soldiers followed as the U.S. Soldiers pushed the rioters farther back.

2nd Lt. Jamer C. Morrow, a platoon leader with the 231st, held his Soldiers steady as the French took control of the frontline and quelled the erratic behavior of the crowd.

"Basically, we were tasked to move the rioters to the first obstacle at that point the French would take over from there," Morrow said.

The different countries worked together to safely put down the demonstration before it led to even more violence. The Soldiers used what assets they had to protect themselves, the person next to them and those who chose to lash-out with violence.

All the while, fires raged, fists flew and explosives slammed around them.

"I think it is important because we learn how other countries do riot-control training, and by watching them, we notice things that they may do better," Morrow said.

The role-playing ended with a medical evacuation of a Soldier with simulated injuries using a UH-64 Blackhawk helicopter provided by Task Force Aviation of MNTF-E at Camp Bondsteel.

With all the moving parts during the exercise safety does become a concern, but observer/controllers (O/C) were present in the action. Their job was to closely watch for any hazards that may arise during the training.

"I was responsible for the safety of both the opposing force and the Soldiers. I would review the safety manuals and ensure all the leaders were aware of the safety precaution during the exercise," said Sgt. Gareth R. Almberg, an observer/controller provided by the 231st MTF.

The exercise drew many other Soldiers from the different MNTFs to observe the action.

Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, commander of MNTF-E, was on hand to watch the multi-national coordination executed by the many nations here.

"I had an opportunity to watch these multi-national Soldiers work together, sweat together and discover new ways of doing things from each other today," he said. "I am proud to see, not only my Soldiers, but Soldiers from other task forces coming together to test the skills that help provide the people in Kosovo a safe and secure environment on their way to a brighter future."

131st Bomb Wing mans aircrew flight equipment operations

By Rachel Knight
Missouri National Guard

Missouri Air National Guard and active duty Air Force are working together to make the B-2 Spirit mission at Whiteman Air Force Base a success. The 131st - formerly a St. Louis-based fighter wing - changed designations to a Bomb Wing and moved to Whiteman as a classic associate unit. That mission is aimed toward achieving what the Air Force calls - Total Force Integration.

In the TFI concept, active, Guard, and reserve forces work together to achieve the Air Force's mission.

In the B-2 mission at Whiteman, Airmen from the 131st work with their active duty counterparts in the 509th Bomb Wing. That blending is a perfect example of the concept at work, said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffery Schneider, 131st/509th Operations Group's aircrew flight equipment superintendent.

"I believe TFI provides a unique opportunity to blend Air National Guard personnel with active duty personnel," Chief Schneider said. "This relationship has and will continue to create continuity, efficiency and overwhelmingly will increase the combat capability for the 131st/509th Bomb Wings."

Prior to incorporating the Guard with active duty, the life support shop and survival equipment merged into one big group that handles everything from the pilot's equipment to survival kits and parachute packing. Master Sgt. Tim Wilson, 110th Bomb Squadron aircrew flight equipment section chief and full-time Guardsman, said the pairing between Airmen from the two components is natural.

"We've always worked closely because the equipment works together," said Wilson.

The B-2 Bomber can remain in the air for several hours and made its longest flight when it took a mission in Afghanistan. It took flight from Whiteman Air Force Base and with the help of aerial refueling, stayed in the air all the way to Afghanistan and then back to Whiteman.

When pilots are sent out, they receive Meals Ready-to-Eat, a case of water, a cot, sleeping bags and other comfort items. They also get survival kits that include an array of items like bug spray, a knife, a raft and patches, sunscreen, flares and even a waterproof manual. The shop also custom fits anti-exposure suits to the pilots, which are worn when they are flying over really cold water.

"It gives them a few extra minutes to get out of the cold water into the life raft," said Sergeant Wilson. "It makes a big difference in chances of survival."

Two weeks ago, pilots tested a new item from the shop. It is a seat that will promote blood flow in the pilot's legs while on long missions by pumping air around in a subtle circle.

Wilson's main job is to train the pilots on how to use the equipment the aircraft flight equipment group produces and inspects for their safety. He explained how to use the ejection seat, the parachutes and everything packed in the survival kits.

"It starts from everything they wear to the ejection," Wilson said. "Also the tools and gadgets we give them to use and survive."

Wilson has been in the military for 25 years. He served active duty for three years in Georgia and has been with the Air Guard for 22 years.

His career in the Guard had him working on life support items for seven years for the F-4 Phantom, 18 years for the F-15 Eagle and now, seven months on the B-2 Bomber.

The Air National Guard employs five full-time personnel with five traditional Guardsmen at the operations group with 33 active duty Airmen.

"The transition has been relatively smooth with a few obstacles as full-time technicians and traditionals learn to adapt to the evolving mission at Whiteman," said Schneider. "We're not an independent Air National Guard unit like we were back in St. Louis, so it takes some time to adjust to fully integrate. The 131st/509th leadership have embraced TFI and continue to review processes ensuring the B-2 mission is a success."

Wilson added that there have been some growing pains, because the Guard and active duty Airmen do some things differently. "We are working together to learn the best way to do the things that make operations run smoother."

Wilson said the job of the shop is to pay great attention to detail. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," he said.

His mentor, Jim Crimmins, who used to pack rigors in the Army Guard then moved to Air Guard, used to say, "Be sure always!"

"If we apply that to everything we do, it works," Wilson said. "It was such a simple phrase but it caught me as the right way to do it."

And Wilson said his fellow 131st Airmen have always done it right.

"The six Airmen that have been involved in aircraft mishaps in our squadron during my career in the aircrew flight equipment field are all still with us today at least in part because of what my co-workers and I do each day, which is to provide them with the best parachutes, survival kits, training and flying equipment that we possibly can," Sergeant Wilson said.

Col. Bob Leeker, Air Guard's 131st Bomb Wing commander, said the integration is going very well.

"The most important concept within the classic association is one of integrating," he said. "This brings the experience of Guardsman and also the stability of the Guard to each functional area. This experience and stability enhances mission capability. Together, as a team of active and reserve component Airmen, we each bring our own capabilities to the fight, and therefore we are a stronger component."

McKinley discusses evolving role of National Guard

By Melissa Bower
Fort Leavenworth Lamp

(12/10/09) -- Gen. Craig McKinley says that military officers should never underestimate the value of planning and working together as a team. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, a joint activity of the Department of Defense, spoke to Intermediate Level Education students at the Command and General Staff College Dec. 3. He discussed how the National Guard changed after 2001, after eight years of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after responding to the crises that followed Hurricane Katrina.

He said it was an honor to speak in front of Army and sister service students, as well as interagency and international military students. "I look forward to working with you," he told students. "I look forward to walking the halls of the Pentagon with each and every one of you, because it takes all of us to do this work together."

McKinley told ILE students that out of 358,217 National Guard troops; 43,473 are deployed. In addition to activated Soldiers and Airmen, McKinley said on an average day, 17 U.S. governors call out their Guard to help citizens in need.

The Guard runs programs that assist in nation building activities, such as the agribusiness development teams that send American farmers to Afghanistan or the National Guard Counter Drug Program that supports local law enforcement agencies in seizing illegal drugs.

According to a National Guard Bureau article, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently that the Guard has transitioned from a strategic reserve to an operational force since 2001 - but reverting back should not be allowed.

"I don't think our kids are going to want to stay and watch the active components continually deploy over and over again and not do their part," McKinley said. "And so that's the operational reserve we have. We have a group of young men and women who want to be a part of this operation and see it through to the end."

McKinley gave other reasons for keeping an operational force as a national defense safeguard and broader civic participation in the U.S. armed forces.

"There are large parts of the country with no military presence other than the Reserve components," he said. "This tie to the American people is critical. They need to see their men and women in uniform."

McKinley said the challenge is whether an operational reserve is affordable or realistic. But if military leaders don't ask those questions beforehand, it could upset unity between fellow services.

"It's going to be up to us to figure out what price of the force is going to be," he said. "But if we don't do that, and if we slide back to a marginal force, a force that is not respected ... how are we ever going to fight together again?"

CGSC student Maj. Al Tabarez said he agreed with McKinley that the military needs to consider its domestic allocation of forces.

"I thought what he was saying had a lot of merit," Tabarez said. "... Challenging us to look inwardly, and say, 'Hey, what can we do to answer our profession?'"

Maj. Khan Hernandez, another CGSC student, said he appreciated listening to the Guard's perspective.

"(The military) has to be more agile, and we have to react quickly," he said.

McKinley told the students he was once asked to face a commission investigating how terrorists were able to attack the United States in 2001.

Members of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States asked then-Maj. Gen. McKinley - serving at the time as combatant commander, United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command - how the most powerful military on earth could allow an attack on U.S. soil.

"I said to the commissioner, 'All I can tell you is that nothing came across my desk from an intelligence perspective, there were no warning signs that I was aware of as a two-star general," McKinley said. "We had the forces in place that the federal government felt was adequate to protect our nation from an attack on the outside ...

"And he stopped me. And he said, 'General, there is no answer. You and your colleagues have a failure of imagination.' And I sat there fairly stunned and said what the obvious is, is that he's absolutely right."

McKinley said the task of military officers is to prevent events like the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and civilian death and displacement from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"And so your challenge as young officers from all around the world is to never let that happen," he said. "Trust on your thoughts on your beliefs and to be thinking out in front and to never let your imagination not keep up with what could happen to you in the world, because too many people depend upon you to not have that failure of imagination."

Officials Seek Feedback on Family Programs

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2009 - Defense officials have launched virtual "listening sessions" in hopes of gaining more insight into the effectiveness of military family programs, a Pentagon official said today. The anonymous, online survey solicits feedback from servicemembers and their families on the military's educational programs, support networks and other services.

"We hope to hear from a tremendous number of people and have the opportunity to hear from people with wide-ranging issues," said Cathann Kress, program lead for partnerships within the Pentagon's office of military community and family policy. "Whether you're a brand-new military family with no children or a military family with many years in with several children, we want to hear from you."

Servicemembers and their families are invited to participate in the survey at https://survey.vt.edu/survey/entry.jsp?id=1253631402808.

The online component is an addition to the face-to-face listening sessions already being conducted on military installations throughout the world. The Defense Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture began conducting these discussion groups in October to help in determining the best way forward for military family programs, Kress said.

"We needed to hear from the people invested in the programs," she said. Past sessions have included leadership directly responsible for family programs and policies and frontline professionals who provide support at the local level, she added. Future sessions will focus only on servicemembers and their families.

Virginia Tech University faculty members have been conducting the face-to-face sessions. "It helps to have a neutral, third party so people can have a relaxed conversation," Kress noted.

Both the online and face-to-face listening sessions will wrap up in April. Officials will analyze the feedback and create a report that outlines trends and program gaps and offer future recommendations.

The report also will highlight the good-news stories, Kress said. "We'd like to know what programs families have used and are using, what have been helpful and how have they been helpful," she said. Finding out what's working can be just as beneficial as finding out what isn't, she added.

"This information will help us know what direction we need to go in," she said.

Officials will share the report with each service and their partners, Kress said. "We'll use it to help determine our priorities for the future, such as where to put resources."

The feedback also will be invaluable for officials who hear of issues through word of mouth, but don't have a concrete way of pinpointing the "big picture" problems, she said.

"We're hearing that there are a lot of programs out there, but those programs aren't communicated to the people who need them," Kress said. "Or, people are overwhelmed by information on programs and aren't sure which program to use when there's a need.

"We've heard this anecdotally, but don't actually know," she continued. "We hope we can gain a better understanding of what the issues really are. That understanding will enable us to better serve families."

Whether feedback is gained online or in person, "The goal is to hear from whoever wants to share," Kress said. "This is a wonderful opportunity for hear from our servicemembers and their families."

MILITARY CONTRACTS December `5, 2009

McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $114,558,014 contract which will provide support for small diameter bomb Increment 1 production for munitions, carriages and technical supports. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 681 ARSS/PK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity (FA8672-10-C-0013).

Northrop Grumman Information Technology, Herndon, Va., was awarded a $99,650,000 60-month acquisition contract for two main focus areas and their respective components: (1) engineering, research and development, operations and maintenance; and (2) technology advancement and application. At this time, $500,000 has been obligated. AFRL/RIKE, Rome, N.Y., is the contracting activity (FA8750-07-D-0027).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Maritime Systems and Sensors, Manassas, Va., is being awarded an initial $40,750,462 order under an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity firm-fixed-price contract, including time-and-material service line items for the production and delivery of SYMPHONY improvised explosive device jammer systems, including: field test sets, operator reference cards, uploader software, user guides, program protection, tool kits, depot support, field and engineering services, and system documentation in support of allied coalition and partner nations. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $940,000,000. Work will be performed in Clearwater, Fla. (77 percent); Manassas, Va. (22 percent); and in theater and locations out the contiguous United States (1 percent). Work is expected to be completed by September 2014. 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 (N00024-10-D-4203).

EMCOR Facilities Services, Inc., Arlington, Va., is being awarded a $23,006,328 modification under a previously awarded firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to exercise Option 3 for regional base operating support services at various locations within Naval District Washington in Washington, D.C. The work to be performed provides for regional base operating support services including, but not limited to, repair and maintenance of property, facilities and assets. The total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $80,605,068. Work will be performed at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.; Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.; Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va.; Anacostia Naval Station, Washington, D.C.; Marine Corps Barracks, Washington, D.C.; Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.; Washington Navy Lodge at Bellevue Housing, Washington, D.C.; National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.; Naval Observatory, Washington, D.C.; Defense Information Systems Agency, Arlington, Va.; Carderock Division Naval Surface Warfare Center, West Bethesda, Md.; Naval Support Facility, Dahlgren, Va.; Naval Support Facility, Indian Head, Md.; and Naval Support Facility, Annapolis, Md.. Work is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Washington, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N40080-07-D-0374).

McDonnell Douglas Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $6,072,003 firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the procurement of 35 SUU-78 centerline pylons and 14 ALE-50 well covers in support of FY-10 aircraft armament equipment production activities for the F/A-18 and EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in El Segundo, Calif. (86 percent); St. Louis, Mo. (11 percent); and Irvine, Calif., (3 percent). Work is expected to be completed in April 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 (N00019-05-G-0026).

Johnson Controls Government Systems, LLC, Milwaukee, Wis., is being awarded a maximum $34,400,000 firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for installation, maintenance and repair of electrical and heating systems and services. Other location of performance is Texas. Using service is Army. 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 2032. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (DE-AM36-98G010329).

Caterpillar, Inc., Mossville, Ill., is being awarded a maximum $5,235,100 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, delivery order on long term contract for wheel tractors. Other location of performance is Illinois. Using service is Foreign Military Sales. There were originally three proposals solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is July 31, 2010. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM500-01-D-0059-0405).

U.S.-South Korean Alliance Gains Strength

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 15, 2009 - With a handover of the security lead looming on the horizon, the U.S.-South Korean security alliance has grown tighter this year in the wake of provocations by North Korea, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea said today. Army Gen. Walter "Skip" Sharp, whose command will oversee the joint security force on the Korean peninsula for just over two more years, characterized nuclear weapons testing by Pyongyang as leading to improved coordination between the United States and South Korea.

"All the provocations from North Korea this year actually made us stronger, because we were able to deal with real-world things on a daily basis, to be able to make sure that our intel was well coordinated between the United States and the Republic of Korea," he said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel.

North Korea received widespread international condemnation for conducting a missile launch in April, which it followed with a second nuclear test. It subsequently backed out of six-party talks, a dialogue that President Barack Obama underscored last month as needing to resume as soon as possible.

In addition to improvement in military coordination between the United States -- which has some 28,500 troops on the peninsula -- and its South Korean counterparts, Pyongyang's behavior also further aligned their bilateral diplomatic efforts, Sharp said.

"[We made sure] that our operations -- in what we say and do -- were coordinated from a military perspective and also from an embassy perspective," he said.

Sharp's chief priority on the peninsula, he said, is to keep the joint forces prepared to defend against potential security threats.

"The first [priority] is to be prepared to fight and win," he said. "And we have really progressed in our ability through our exercise program in working very closely with [South Korea] in order to have a stronger combined defense," he said.

Sharp said he is focused on further strengthening the bilateral alliance ahead of a planned transfer from the United States to South Korean authority slated for April 2012. At that point, South Korea will have command over the joint force in the event of armed conflict.

South Korea's military is on track to assume the lead during the April 17, 2012, handover, Sharp said yesterday at the Center for Strategy and International Studies.

"The Republic of Korea military is professional and strong enough that they will be the lead and we will commit to that alliance," he said. South Korea has more than 600,000 active duty troops, and it has continued efforts to modernize its military since the 1980s.

Study Links Deployment to Hypertension

DoD medical researchers have found that service members who suffered multiple combat exposures during a deployment, and especially those who had witnessed death as a result of war, were much more likely to report hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) compared to those who had not seen combat.

The report, titled “Newly Reported Hypertension After Military Combat Deployment in a Large Population-Based Study”and published in the September issue of Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association, has helped to shed more light on the correlation between high-stress situations and high blood pressure.

The study, a large population-based cohort conducted by researchers from the Millennium Cohort Study Team based out of the Department of Defense Center for Deployment Health Research at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, showed that 6.9 percent of service members surveyed were reporting hypertension within a three-year period. Out of that number, service members who deployed and reported multiple combat exposures were at significantly increased risk for reporting new cases of hypertension.

Although this does not close the book on hypertension, it poses a possibility that service members can suffer stress-induced hypertension from combat. In addition, this is just the first study to show an association between multiple combat exposures and hypertension, which will hopefully pave the way for more research to come.

Women’s Access to Care in Theater

By Elizabeth Lockwood Health.mil

Male and female service members each have particular health needs because of their gender, and these needs are met by the Military Health System both in the United States and on deployments, said Col. Kathy Harrington, deputy chief of the Clinical Services Division for the Army Medical Command.

“The bottom line is, all service members will take care of any issues they have before they deploy,” Harrington said. “Once deployed, even though women do pose some unique needs by virtue of the fact that they are women, men will also have needs because of their gender. There is not a lot of differentiation in clinics on the basis of gender. Women have been in theater now for years, and it’s the Military Health System’s mission to address the needs of any soldier, be that soldier at home or deployed, male or female.”

Health Screenings and Prescriptions

All service members are required to get preventive screenings before deploying. Because most screenings occur yearly, if not less frequently, and most deployments are a year or less in length, deployments rarely interrupt preventive health care.

For known health issues, service members are advised to take a three-month supply of their prescriptions with them overseas. This ensures they have a window of time to get settled in theater and determine where they will fill their prescriptions while deployed.

Service members can choose from three different resources to get prescription refills:

Refills are available in theater;
They can take a full year’s supply with them when they deploy;
They can also use the TRICARE Pharmacy Program to receive refills by mail.
Harrington said the Military Health System has a number of programs focused on health issues facing deployed women, including the following:

Gynecological Health

An obstetrician/gynecologist is available at every combat support hospital established around the world. This provides enough OB/GYNs to serve the service members in theater. A service member seeking care first visits her primary care physician, who makes a preliminary diagnosis and treats any cases possible. Complicated cases are referred up the chain to the OB/GYN at the closest combat support hospital.

Contraception and Pregnancy

Like other medications and prescriptions, service members are encouraged to take contraceptives with them when they deploy. If they need prescription refills, they can find medication in theater, or use the TRICARE Pharmacy Program.

Any service member found to be pregnant is immediately sent back home.

Breast Cancer

The Military Health System uses a tiered system of health care delivery in theater. Female service members who detect a breast lump while deployed report initially to their primary care provider, who conducts the first level of evaluation.

If the primary care provider is concerned, the service member is referred to a surgeon at the closest combat support hospital. The surgeon makes an assessment of the patient’s case and if the surgeon believes the patient may need some sort of surgery, the patient is transported to Landstuhl, Germany.

The health care delivery system ensures that any patient who needs a specialized evaluation is referred to the correct facility.

Health Care Facilities in Theater

While there are not private health care facilities for men and women in theater, Harrington said that there are often not private health care facilities for men and women at home, either.

“All deployed soldiers are given the maximum amount of privacy possible,” Harrington said. “It’s very similar to what would be given here in the states – all soldiers are treated equally.”

Infirmaries and combat support hospitals in theater are set up like a traditional post-op recovery room in hospitals in the U.S. There are curtain separations between each bed that provide women with sufficient privacy to feel comfortable while they are receiving care.

Specialized Care Items

Female service members may require specialized beauty and care items while deployed. While they are encouraged to take these items with them, there are post exchanges where they can purchase more supplies, as well as the Army Direct Ordering Program online. USO group care packages also often provide these types of items.

Spitfire Wingman

On January 15, 2010, Conversations with American Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature a discussion with the son of Colonel James R. Haun, USAF, about his father’s book, Spitfire Wingman from Tennessee. The two hour program will also feature recordings of Colonel Haun reading from his book as well as exciting passages from the audio book.

Program Date: January 15, 2010
Program Time: 2100 Hours Pacific
Topic: Spitfire Wingman
Listen Live:

About the Guest
James Robert Haun, USAF had a “remarkably varied aviation career literally covered the globe, including personal encounters with Patton, Vandenberg, Truman, and Nixon. He flew fighters, bombers, and transports -- rising to become Chief Pilot of MATS and Commander of the Presidential Squadron in Washington. After retirement in 1965 he built an EAA biplane in his garage, wowed audiences at local air shows in a Snoopy outfit, and instructed hundreds of students (many now piloting airliners).”

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is
Police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. American Heroes Radio brings you to the watering hole, where it is Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in
Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in Law Enforcement, public policy, Public Safety Technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in Law Enforcement.

Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

Vision Center of Excellence to Move to New Walter Reed

By Elizabeth Lockwood Health.mil

In 2011, the Defense Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) is scheduled to move into 4,000 square feet of space in the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to include office space and an outreach and information center that will be open and available to everyone.

Co-located with other optometry and ophthalmology offices, the VCE will be a part of a veritable eye center at the new Walter Reed. The VCE, which currently operates from offices near the Pentagon in Rosslyn, Va., was established in 2008 to improve care for service members with visual disorders or visual disturbances, including traumatic brain injury.

VCE Director Col. (Dr.) Donald Gagliano delivered the news about the VCE’s scheduled move to representatives from 11 veterans service organizations (VSOs) at a Nov. 19 meeting in Washington hosted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The meeting was an opportunity for the VCE and VSOs to discuss mutual objectives and identify collaborative opportunities.

“The VCE is here to serve the community,” Gagliano said. “You help us by telling us where there are initiatives we should be aware of, and you even help us get the word out about our own initiatives. You are an important piece of our work within the military medical community.”

Gagliano also spoke about the substantive work that the VCE hopes to accomplish in the next few years. Currently there are not many statistics surrounding blast injuries and vision loss, he said. But the VCE plans on establishing a routine process to gather information from joint DoD/VA records and use it to learn more about the relationship between blasts, traumatic brain injury and vision interruption or loss. In turn, the data can be used to further develop preventive techniques and treatment options available to service members and veterans.

While the VCE conducts its own research and analysis based on the data gathered from DoD/VA records , it also maintains awareness of eye health research being conducted outside the DoD, including VA research efforts, and aims to collaborate with these organizations to further advancements the field.

“Our goal is to bring together researchers everywhere on specific issues, and to communicate with one another and enhance our own work and the work of others,” said Dr. Claude L. Cowan, deputy director of VCE and a senior VA staff member,

Gagliano said that the VCE is strategically located to influence the spending of congressionally managed funds while collaborating with organizations from the DoD and VA to the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health.

“We see that as a part of our responsibility: to build collaboration,” Gagliano said.

The meeting included a conversation on the continuity of eye care for service members and veterans. Participants agreed that short-term goals should be established to mandate eye examinations as a step in triage and creating question sets for service members to complete in their home communities with local ophthalmologists.

“There should be a system in place to determine whether service members are receiving proper and appropriate eye care,” said Cowan. “Some eye injuries present later, but we don’t know why. We need to make sure that service members and veterans are not only receiving eye examinations, but that they are being checked for all the right things.”

VSOs represented at the meeting included the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Blinded Veterans Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Modern Warfare, the National Association of Uniformed Services, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Retired Enlisted Association, and the Air Force Sergeants Association