Military News

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Obama Taps Winnefeld to Head Northcom, NORAD

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 23, 2009 - President Barack Obama has nominated Navy Vice Adm. James A. "Sandy" Winnefeld Jr. to be the next commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. If approved by the Senate, Winnefeld would receive his fourth star. He currently is director of strategic plans and policy at the Joint Staff and senior member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Military Staff Committee.

Winnefeld would be the second sailor to command NORAD, the U.S.-Canadian command charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. He would succeed Air Force Gen. Victor E. "Gene" Renuart Jr. in both jobs.

Both commands are based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

U.S. Northern Command stood up Oct. 1, 2002, to provide command and control of Defense Department homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

Winnefeld is an ROTC graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and has served as a naval aviator. He served with two fighter squadrons and as an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School.

He commanded Fighter Squadron 211, the USS Cleveland and the USS Enterprise. He commanded the "Big E" during Sept. 11, 2001, and launched aircraft in support of Operation Enduring Freedom against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

He commanded Carrier Strike Group 2/Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Before taking his current job, he served as the commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet, NATO Allied Joint Command Lisbon and Striking and Support Forces NATO.

Renuart has commanded Northcom and NORAD since Oct. 1, 2007. He was commissioned in the Air Force in 1971, and served in the United States, Europe, Southwest Asia and the Pacific. Renuart served as the director of operations for U.S. Central Command during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was responsible for helping to plan and execute all joint and allied combat operations.

Renuart also served as the director of strategic plans and policy before serving as senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

DoD and VA Discuss Environmental Exposure Challenges

By Peter Graves
FHP&R Strategic Communications

On Nov. 13, an assembly of some of the top physicians, epidemiologists, and researchers from across the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and even the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense gathered in a day long workshop to discuss the challenges of environmental exposures within the Iraqi and Afghan theaters of operation, and what was being done to address them.

The workshop was sponsored and led by the DoD-VA Deployment Health Working Group, a chartered interagency committee charged with fostering enhanced cooperation regarding the health of service members, both active and separated. This workshop was organized because many veterans have returned from duty stations in the Middle East complaining of possible health effects associated with exposure to chemicals, particulate matter, smoke, and dust. The overall purpose of the workshop was to improve communication and cooperation among DoD and VA scientists, who are responsible for health studies and other responses to environmental exposures in theater.

Although working-group members and a number of guest scientists reflected on a wide variety of exposures within Iraq, Afghanistan, and across the globe, the discussion was focused primarily on three high-profile cases within the Iraqi theater of operations. These are the 2003 exposures to sodium dichromate at the Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Plant; the 2003 Mishraq State sulfur fires; and exposures to smoke from the burn pit at Joint Base Balad. For each of these three exposure incidents, presentations were provided on the environmental investigation and on the completed and ongoing medical surveillance studies.

Participant presentations were geared towards explaining exposure situations as they are currently understood, and educating the group on various interagency resources and databases which can be utilized for additional health studies to determine the potential for long-term health effects.

The Qarmat Ali incident was covered in detail by representatives from the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (CHPPM), who discussed the environmental investigation, health risk assessment, and the Defense Health Board review. Other speakers discussed the potential exposures at Qarmat Ali to members of the National Guard of four states who had been assigned there and the ongoing efforts to track these individuals to see if they indeed have suffered long-term health effects.

CHPPM officials also discussed the Mishraq State Sulfur Fire, an inferno which raged for more than a month in the summer of 2003 at the Mishraq State Sulfur Mine Plant in western Iraq. There were cases of firefighters assigned to battle the blaze who reported short-term respiratory symptoms at the time of the fire. CHPPM’s study of medical conditions after these individuals returned home determined there was little evidence of long-term health effects related to exposure to the sulfur.

Working group members also heard a synopsis of medical surveillance and health assessments conducted at the large burn pit at Joint Base Balad in Iraq. Environmental exposures to smoke produced by burning a variety of types of waste has caused short-term respiratory symptoms in members in proximity to this burn pit. It is unclear at this time if there is a possibility of long term effects from exposure to this burn pit. Further environmental and health studies are ongoing.

Participants concluded by discussing the reasons it is important to continue investigating the health effects of these and other types of environmental exposures which may be affecting American and allied forces. These included the high risk potential for long term health effects and concern among service members and veterans. While difficulties exist in identifying and tracking the potentially exposed service members and quantifying the data, all participants agreed improved coordination between the DoD, VA, and the Armed Services would continue to be essential for a successful outcome.

MILITARY CONTRACTS December 23, 2009

NAVY

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., is being awarded a $163,800,000 not-to-exceed undefinitized contract action for the procurement of four S-70B anti-submarine warfare/anti-surface warfare aircraft for the government of Brazil under the foreign military sales program. This effort includes associated non-recurring engineering, production and transportation. Work will be performed in Stratford, Conn. (81 percent), Horsehead, N.Y. (10 percent), and Troy, Ala. (9 percent). Work is expected to be completed in June 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.301-4. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-10-C-0009).

L-3 Services, Inc., Reston, Va., is being awarded a $55,656,285 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to a previously awarded contract for integration, production, test and evaluation, fielding, training, certification, maintenance, and life-cycle sustainment management support of tactical satellite, telecommunications, information technology networking and psychological operations equipment for various customers. The cumulative value of this contract, including this modification, is $150,300,000. Work will be performed in Tampa, Fla. (70 percent), and Fayetteville, N.C. (30 percent), and is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured through the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command E-commerce web site, with two offers received. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, North Charleston, S.C., is the contracting activity (N65236-07-D-5879).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Eagan, Minn., is being awarded a $34,203,508 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to provide additional funding for P-3C mission system spares for the government of Pakistan under the foreign military sales program. Work will be performed in Eagan, Minn. (75 percent), Oldsmar, Fla. (20 percent), and Manassas, Va. (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed in September 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, N.J., is the contracting activity (N00019-06-D-0012).

Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc., Newport News, Va., is being awarded a $31,752,000 modification to previously awarded contract for procurement of additional long lead time materials in support of the construction preparation efforts for the second aircraft carrier of the Gerald R. Ford class (CVN 79). Work will be performed in Newport News, Va., and is expected to be completed by April 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-2116).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Maritime Systems and Sensors, Manassas, Va., is being awarded a $27,643,314 modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for engineering and technical services in support of the Acoustic Rapid Commercial Off-the-Shelf Insertion system improvement and integration program. Work will be performed in Manassas, Va., and is expected to be completed by September 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $8,105,797 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-04-C-6207).

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a $24,980,405 firm-fixed-price delivery order, 0093, under their existing indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. This delivery order is for the purchase of 95 Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement vehicles. Production and work will be performed in Oshkosh, Wis., and is is expected to be completed by September 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-04-D-5016).

Raytheon Technical Services Co., LLC, Indianapolis, is being awarded an $18,746,557 delivery order modification, against a previously issued basic order agreement, to provide additional funding to extend the current period of performance for V-22 aircraft software products until June 30, 2010. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, and is expected to be completed in June 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $711,200 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-05-G-0008).

Alion Science and Technology Corp., Chicago, is being awarded an $18,712,956 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for advanced submarine technology research and development. The objective of this research is to investigate technical concerns in areas specific to submarine survivability and mission performance, and develop engineering solutions that allow these attributes to be improved over existing ship capabilities or implemented with greater efficiency and less cost. The period of performance is December 2010 through December 2014. The places of performance will be at the contractor facilities in Mystic, Conn. (25 percent), Washington, D.C. (23 percent), Cambridge, Mass. (19 percent), Suffolk, Va. (18 percent), and Middletown, R.I. (15 percent). Contract funds in the amount of $120,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (N00014-10-C-0132).

YYK Enterprises, Inc., National City, Calif., is being awarded a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum ceiling amount of $16,250,000, to provide interior and exterior preservation services onboard Navy ships and other government vessels within a 50-mile radius of San Diego. Work will be performed in San Diego, and is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $3,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was competitively procured and advertised via the Federal Business Opportunities web site with six proposals solicited and six offers received. The Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, San Diego, is the contracting activity (N55236-10-D-0010).

BAE Systems Hawaii Shipyards, Inc., Honolulu, is being awarded a $16,102,439 modification to previously awarded contract for repairs and upgrades to various shipboard systems on the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60). Work will be performed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and is expected to be completed by May 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $16,102,439 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (N00024-06-C-4408).

EG&G Technical Services, Inc., Dumfries, Va., is being awarded task order M6785402A9011-0088 in the amount of $12,941,170, under previously awarded contract. The scope of this effort is to provide on-going acquisition, engineering, analytical, logistics, sustainment and warranty support for PM Engineer Systems (PM/ES) in the areas of mobility and countermobility, construction and material handling equipment, engineer support equipment, and lifecycle support. PM/ES manages approximately 50 programs of record plus emerging requirements. Work will be performed in Quantico, Va., and is expected to be completed in January 2011. Contract funds will expire on Sept. 30, 2010, Sept. 30, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-02-A-9011-0072).

Raytheon Network Centric Systems, St. Petersburg, Fla., is being awarded a $12,653,092 modification to previously awarded contract for production and testing of Cooperative Engagement Capability systems. Work will be performed in Largo, Fla. (47 percent); St. Petersburg, Fla. (20 percent); Dallas, Texas (18 percent); and McKinney, Texas (15 percent). Work is expected to be completed by September 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-08-C-5203).

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, Owego, N.Y., is being awarded a $10,000,000 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract to develop, integrate and test modifications for the audio management computer and embedded global positioning system/inertial navigation system in the MH-60R and MH-60S common cockpit. These efforts address obsolescence issues. Work will be performed in Owego, N.Y., and is expected to be completed in February 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $10,000,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-04-C-0028).

Lockheed Martin Services, Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., is being awarded a $7,498,261 modification to previously awarded contract for design agent engineering and technical support for combat system ship qualification trials, ballistic missile defense, and other evaluation and testing. Work will be performed in Port Hueneme, Calif. (10 percent); San Diego (30 percent); Norfolk, Va. (20 percent); Mayport, Fla. (10 percent); Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (20 percent); and Yokosuka, Japan (10 percent). Work is expected to be completed by June 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $2,523,068 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity (N63394-06-D-1170).

Northrop Grumman Defense Mission Systems, Herndon, Va., is being awarded a task order in the amount of $7,091,176, exclusive of renewal options, which will provide business operations and program management support; engineering and technical support; strategic initiatives support; logistics support; and technical management and administration support for the Marine Corps Systems Command, Global Combat Support System (GCSS-MC) program office. The GCSS-MC program office is responsible for life cycle management of multiple information technology solutions currently under development by a variety of prime vendors; the GCSS-MC/LCM Block 1 is an Acquisition Category 1AM program and has achieved Milestone B. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va., and is expected to be completed in January 2011. Contract funds will expire Sept. 30, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-02-A-9016-0114).

Head, Inc.*, Columbus, Ohio, is being awarded a $6,924,246 firm-fixed-price contract to repair landing plane and field areas and aircraft parking aprons in the landing plane area at Naval Station Norfolk. The contract also contains two unexercised options which, if exercised, would increase the cumulative value to $14,872,292. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va., and is expected to be completed by March 2011. Funds for this project are provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website with five proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-10-C-3033).

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a $6,611,380 fixed-price delivery order, 0092, under an existing indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. This delivery order is for the installation of armor kits onto Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement vehicles in Jacksonville, N.C., and Oceanside, Calif., through Sept. 30, 2010. Work will be performed Jacksonville (50 percent) and Oceanside (50 percent) and is expected to be completed by September 2010. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-04-D-5016).

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a $5,121,574 fixed-price modification to delivery order 0059 under their existing indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. This modification to the delivery order is issued against exercised priced options to increase the quantity from 155 to 168 Production Logistic Vehicle System Replacement production cargo vehicles. All the production work will be performed in Oshkosh, Wis, and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The funds expire Sept. 30, 2012. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-06-D-5028).

DEFENSE INFORMATION SYSTEMS AGENCY

Planning Systems, Inc., Reston, Va., is being awarded a firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a ceiling of $45,000,000 for joint precision air drop mission support equipment. The contract is for a base year with two one-year options. The first delivery order obligating the minimum, in the amount of $5,614,199, will be issued with the award. The period of performance commences on Dec. 21, 2009, through Dec. 20, 2010, with two option periods which expire on Dec. 20, 2012. Performance will be primarily at Reston, Va., with occasional performance in various locations outside the contiguous United States, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The solicitation was issued as an other than full and open competitive action pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), FAR Subpart 6.302-1. The intent to award this sole source opportunity was posted to the Federal Business Opportunities web site. The Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is the contracting activity (HC102810D2000).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

The Resource Center*, Jamestown, N.Y., is being awarded a maximum $6,465,994 sole-source, firm-fixed-price contract for first aid kits. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Nov. 23, 2010. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, is the contracting activity (SPM2DS-10-DN002).

Redeploying Troops Get Holiday Homecoming



By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 23, 2009 - Two days before Christmas, the longest line today at the airport here wasn't at a ticket counter, or at security checkpoints. It was at the international terminal, where hundreds of well-wishers lined up to welcome about 150 troops home from combat deployments. Families, veterans, beauty queens, students enjoying the first day of their holiday vacations and even Santa Claus began descending on the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in the early afternoon to greet the arriving Air Mobility Command charter flight.

As they waited for the troops to clear customs, the group revved itself up, turning toward a flag just beyond a giant Christmas tree full of blue-and-white ornaments to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the national anthem.

Then, as the first soldier who had cleared customs stepped into the terminal, the crowd burst into hoots and hollers. They hoisted "Welcome Home" and "Merry Christmas" banners and American flags high.

Hands extended to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine, along with expressions of welcome and thanks for their service. Troops beamed as they pushed their luggage carts through the gauntlet of well-wishers.

Boy Scouts and veterans helped to carry their duffle bags as the troops worked their way through the maze of outstretched hands – some simply to shake hands, others to offer boxes of Girl Scout cookies, balloons or other goodies.

"It's overwhelming," said Army Sgt. Larry Downs, a 372nd Transportation Company soldier who was part of a 101st Airborne Division contingent that deployed to Kuwait to ship equipment to Afghanistan for an upcoming deployment.

"It's nice to be appreciated for what we do," he said. "A lot of us do it because we love it. But it's also nice to get the appreciation, and know that people support what we do."

Army Pfc. Alma Aguillar, from the 101st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Campbell, Ky., grew up in a military family and remembers how it felt to welcome her father when he returned home from duty overseas. Now, as she returned from her first deployment, to Kuwait to prepare for a year-long deployment next month to Afghanistan, she said it felt great to be on the receiving end of the thanks.

"It's heartwarming," she said. "I'm just glad that after all this time, people are still out there expressing appreciation and showing they care. That means a lot."

Navy Chief Petty Officer Richard Fernandez, returning home after nine months training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, said he bent down and kissed the ground when he took his first step onto U.S. soil. Nothing, he said, had prepared him for the patriotic outpouring of support he and his fellow servicemembers received at BWI airport.

"It gives me a whole new sense of what it means being in the military, and being appreciated for what we do," he said. "It makes you feel like a real U.S. citizen, doing something for your country."

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Edwin McBride, returning from an eight-month deployment to Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, said he, too, was taken off-guard by the size of the crowd that amassed to welcome his flight.

"I expected to see maybe a couple of [Veterans of Foreign Wars] guys, but I certainly didn't expect anything like this," he said.

McBride had several hours before his connecting flight to Norfolk, Va., where he looked forward to seeing his wife and 7-year-old daughter, Emily. The homecoming was going to be especially exciting, he said, because Emily didn't yet know that her daddy would be home for Christmas.

"It's going to be a very, very Merry Christmas," McBride said, an ear-to-ear smile anticipating the reunion.

Doctor Serves to Repay America



By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 23, 2009 - In June 1989, Jason Huang – now an Army Reserve major – was among the 5,000 protestors who crammed into China's Tiananmen Square, pressing the government for democracy and freedom of speech. Instead, the Chinese government blacklisted him and threw him out of China's prestigious University of Science and Technology, where he was a freshman studying mechanical engineering.

Flash forward 20 years, and Huang is a highly respected U.S. neurosurgeon who's never lost sight of the opportunities his adopted country gave him, and is intent on repaying the favor.

He joined the Army Reserve after the 9/11 attacks, applied his medical expertise during a 2008 deployment, and is committed to helping his comrades in arms suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and other battle-related disorders. His goal is to develop diagnostic tools so easy to use that commanders in the field can quickly identify brain injuries among their troops and get them the treatment they need.

Looking back at the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Huang recognizes he was "lucky to get out alive."

Banned from China's universities and most employment opportunities, he went to a library to explore other options, with the United States topping his list. As he looked at an alphabetical list of U.S. universities and colleges, Huang discovered the key to his future before he'd even left the "A's".

Amherst University offered him a full scholarship and a chance at a new life. Huang became a U.S. resident. From there, he continued to build his academic resume, with a year of research at Harvard University, then medical school at Johns Hopkins University and neurosurgery training at the University of Pennsylvania.

Huang said he's never lost sight of the generosity he's received through scholarships, student loans and other support that enabled him to become a neurosurgeon. So when terrorists attacked the United States in 2001, he joined the Army Reserve.

"I came here from China with nothing, and had so many opportunities offered to me," he said. "And I always believed that if there was some way I could pay back to this country all that it's given me, I would do it."

During his deployment to Iraq, Huang got to explore an area he's deeply interested in: neurotrauma. He and Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, a colleague at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., had been researching traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and related disorders that affect combat troops. Huang said his on-the-ground exposure gave him a better understanding of the blast injuries many combat troops were receiving – more devastating than brain injuries from car crashes and other accidents he was accustomed to treating in Rochester.

Huang and Bazarian are trying to identify for "markers" – specific proteins in the blood – that signal these brain injuries. Once they identify these markers, he explained, doctors at combat support hospitals will be able to give a simple blood test to determine if a servicemember suffering from headaches or other symptoms has a traumatic brain injury. That, in turn, will lead to faster treatment and, when necessary, medical evacuation from the battlefield.

Experience on the ground gave Huang insight into why many troops downplay their injuries. "Some soldiers just want to tough it out and continue to fight," he said, not realizing the consequences of not getting, or delaying, care for blast injuries.

As they work toward identifying a marker, Huang and Bazarian have volunteered their time to provide free care for combat veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and related afflictions. They're forming a volunteer network at Strong Memorial Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center, to screen and treat more troops, and hope ultimately to open a blast injury center serving the region.

"We have a very good support system here that, when we put it together, will be able to provide some very important care," Huang said. "We are on our way to doing something very, very positive."

National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of December 22, 2009

This week, the Air Force and Coast Guard announced an increase in activated reservists, while the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps announced decreases. The net collective result is 620 fewer reservists activated than last week.

At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 105,885; Navy Reserve, 6,266; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 15,298; Marine Corps Reserve, 7,593; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 779. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 135,821, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2009/d20091222ngr.pdf.

TRICARE Dental Program Premiums Set for 2010

December 23, 2009: The TRICARE Dental Program’s 1.9 million enrollees will see a slight increase in their monthly premiums, beginning Feb. 1, 2010. The new annual rates are effective for one year through Jan. 31, 2011. TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) premiums are determined by the plan (single or family) and the duty status (active or reserve) of the sponsor. If and when the sponsor’s duty status changes, his or her premiums also change to reflect the new duty status.

The monthly premium for an active duty family member single plan will increase from $12.12 to $12.69 and the monthly family plan premium will increase from $30.29 to $31.72.

The National Guard and Reserve monthly sponsor premium will increase from $12.12 to $12.69. For National Guard and Reserve family members, the monthly single family member plan goes from $30.29 to $31.72 and the family plan premium will increase from $75.73 to $79.29.

The monthly single premium rate for an Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) sponsor plan and the separate IRR single family member plan will increase from $30.29 to $31.72. The monthly IRR family member premium will increase from $75.73 to $79.29.

To learn more about TRICARE dental options and premium rates visit http://www.tricaredentalprogram.com/

Military Families Weather Holidays, Deployments

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 23, 2009 - Brandy Flotten is tackling her first holiday season without her deployed husband, but she's still determined to keep the holiday spirit alive for her two sons, she said. "It has been tough," said Flotten, whose husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Flotten, is deployed to Iraq. "We're just trying to keep things simple this year. We got a tree, but one I could bring into the house by myself. Our expectations are much lower. We're trying, just on a much smaller scale."

The Flottens are one of the thousands of military families throughout the nation who will have an empty chair at the holiday dinner table this year due to deployments.

"Every day is a struggle, but we're trying to keep our chins up," Flotten said. "I now realize how often I relied on him to calm my emotions."

Army Chaplain (Col.) Thomas Preston, executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, said he knows first-hand how tough the holidays can be for military families.

"My daughter is married to a Special Forces soldier who is deploying right after the holidays – again. It's his fifth tour," he said. "That already has cast a cloud over our celebration."

Despite feelings to the contrary, it's important to keep holiday traditions alive, and even take them up a notch, Preston said. "I would augment them," he said. "Do all the regular things, and then do some extra things to connect with your spouse, to have your kids connect with their parent. You can make a video, make special cards and write letters.

"You don't want to disrupt a routine," he continued. "The kids want Mommy and Daddy to come home, but it's still important to wake up and see something under the tree, to have Grandma and Grandpa come visit, to go to parties. Just add to those traditions."

Navy spouse Vivian Greentree created a new tradition this year to keep her deployed husband close at hand. She made a holiday card with her two boys and herself holding a "Daddy on a Stick" to represent her husband.

"I just figured, why not have fun with it?" she said. "And, it is a reminder of what we went though, and we can even frame it to keep as a keepsake. It's different and fun, and just a way to be creative and enjoy the goodness of the season while having someone deployed."

Isabel Hodge, wife of Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Bruce Hodge, said she plans to stretch her holiday traditions past the normal season.

"I've decided to keep our tree up until he comes home at the end of January," said Hodge, whose husband has been deployed in Iraq for nearly a year. "All of his presents that couldn't be mailed will be there, under the tree, waiting for him."

Her husband has been gone for more holidays than she cares to count, she said, but technology has managed to ease the separations somewhat. "We will probably [video teleconference] on Christmas Day," she said. "Hopefully, it will happen as the kids are tearing open their presents. He loves watching us open our gifts first.

"I do think the separation has been a lot easier this time, because they've been able to use social-networking tools to communicate with their dad," she added. "I love it because even though my daughter is in college, they can still VTC with each other." Flotten said she also will rely on technology to bring her husband "home" for the holidays. "We're hoping to 'Skype' with him on Christmas," she said. "But that will all depend on if he can get into the room over there."

While it's tough to be separated, Hodge said, over the years she has learned the importance of finding support.

"You should be aware that you're not alone," the 21-year military spouse said. "There are other military spouses in your unit that understand how you feel, because they are going through it, too."

Preston said he tends to crave "alone time" when he's feeling blue, but that he doesn't give in to that impulse.

"The worst thing you can do is be alone," he said. "Don't become a hermit. Spend time with friends in a constructive way. Get active with a family support group. Take part in unit activities."

Preston also emphasized the importance of talking to a trained counselor -- such a chaplain, behavioral specialist or primary care physician -- if there's a need. "Talking to someone is critically important," he said. "Don't internalize it."

And if you see someone going through a tough time, "Don't take no for an answer," Preston said. "Stay with them lovingly, and prod them gently to join your family, to participate in an activity.

"It's easy to let someone say, 'No thanks,' and then in return say, 'OK, I tried,'" she said. "But if you really care, don't leave it at that."