Military News

Friday, December 31, 2010

Is The “New” Post-9/11 GI Bill Really A “Win” For Vets?

By Daniel Caldwell

Towards the end of the lame-duck session of Congress, the House and Senate passed a bill that will enact major changes to the Post-9/11 Bill, which will most certainly be signed by President Obama. The bill, entitled the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010,” was universally praised by veterans’ organizations. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America considered it a victory for veterans along with the American Legion, which had its legislative director, Tim Tetz, present at a ceremony celebrating the passage of the bill. However, these groups along with many in the media having not been highlighting some of the changes in the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010″ that will negatively impact thousands of veterans currently using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. These groups who claim to advocate for veterans (and in some cases collect dues from said veterans) on Capitol Hill have been disingenuous in praising this legislation without highlighting the obvious problems with it. Overall, while there are clearly some positive reforms that will be made to the GI Bill as a result of this legislation, this is by no means a huge win for veterans and will potentially force many veterans to change their educational plans.

Probably the biggest change that will hurt many veterans in several states is the new national cap on yearly tuition and fees of $17,500, which replaces the current state-by-state cap. In states like Massachusetts were fees and tuition exceeds $20,000 at most schools for resident students who attend classes year-round, the student veteran will be forced to make up the difference either through utilizing the Yellow Ribbon Program, applying for a scholarship, or worse, taking out a student loan. While this might simplify the process for paying schools and save money, the change in the tuition and fees cap will negatively effect the ability of veterans in certain states to pay for their education.

The legislation also changes how the BAH stipend is paid. Right now, as long as you taking one credit more than a half load (in the case of my school, Arizona State, seven credits out of twelve) you received the full BAH stipend for your school. However, beginning in August 2011, the BAH stipend will be prorated based on the number of credits a veteran is taking. This might seem like a logical and “fair” thing to do, but considering that many veterans do not take a full credit load in order to work or do an internship (which are often unpaid) and considering the fact that many veterans rely on the BAH stipend to survive, this amounts to a pay cut for thousands (if not tens of thousands) veterans in 2011. For me personally, this will negatively impact me since I will most likely not need to take more than three classes (or nine credits) my last semester and I was planning on doing an internship in order to beef up my resume. However, due to the impending changes to the GI Bill, I will most likely be forced to revaluate these plans.

The bill will also add BAH benefits for distance-learning (aka online) students; however the amount will only be half the national average. I was always under the impression (and I could be wrong) that the reason why the post-9/11 GI Bill didn’t have BAH benefits for distance-learning students was to discourage veterans from attending shady online for-profit universities. However, online programs are more flexible, especially for veterans with families and jobs and many state schools offer online degree programs that are cheaper than traditional programs. If anything, the VA should be encouraging certain veterans to enroll in online programs.

It would not be fair if I didn’t point out some of the positive changes the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 makes the post-9/11 GI Bill. The legislation expands GI Bill eligibility to over 85,000 National Guardsmen and enables active duty troops currently using the GI Bill to receive the annual book allowance. In addition, wounded veterans currently going through vocational rehab will receive increased allowances. However, in order to pay for these changes, the cuts listed above were made. This bill literally robs one group of veterans to pay another.

If in the original Post 9/11 GI Bill, BAH stipends would have been prorated and there would have been a national cap on tuition and fees, veterans would have been able to properly plan their education. However, veterans were led to believe that they would be receiving a certain level of compensation and now beginning in 2011 tens of thousands of veterans will be receiving less if changes are not made. To quote Representative Steven Buyer, a veteran and one of the few people to openly criticize this bill, parts of the bill “[are] nothing but a lump of coal for veterans.”

Daniel Caldwell served four years as an infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps. For the first two years, he was part of the Presidential Support Program. During his last two years, he served with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines and deployed to Iraq in 2009.  He uses the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend Arizona State University

Adm. Allen receives Great American Patriot Award

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young

Yesterday, Adm. Thad Allen was presented with the 2010 Great American Patriot Award during halftime of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl between Army and Southern Methodist University.

The award, presented annually by Armed Forces Insurance, honors an American patriot who has spent a career going above and beyond the call of duty to serve and protect our country. Allen joins Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. David Petraeus as a recipient of the award.

Allen was recognized for his 39 years of active duty service in the Coast Guard, culminating with his selection as the 23rd Commandant of the Coast Guard, and his willingness to continue to serve his nation as the National Incident Commander in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill after his retirement in June 2010.

San Diego Area Submariners Prepared for New Smoking Ban in 2011

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Farrington, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- With the upcoming arrival of 2011, San Diego area Sailors were prepared Dec. 30 for the implementation of a new Navy-wide smoking policy that bans smoking below decks aboard all U.S. Navy submarines.

The smoking ban, announced by Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, Commander, Submarine Forces via Naval message April 8, will become effective no later than December 31, 2010.

Exposure to second hand smoke, and the health risks to non-smokers has been cited as the impetus behind the change of policy.

In San Diego, a large-scale smoking cessation program is being offered to assist submarine Sailors in their efforts to quit smoking. The program incorporates education techniques and nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum.

Sailors serving aboard submarines stationed at Naval Base Point Loma, Calif., are preparing for the smoking ban by taking advantage of the programs.

"Although we have isolated smoking areas aboard ship there is no way to escape the smoke and if a person who doesn't smoke is around then they are left exposed to second hand smoke," said Fire Control Technician 1st Class (SS) Nick Church, a Sailor assigned to USS Asheville (SSN 758).

The submarine force chartered the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory to conduct a study on U.S. submarines. The study indicated that non-smoking Sailors were exposed to measurable amounts of second hand smoke. The year-long study was conducted in 2009 on nine different submarines, including at least one from each class of submarine in the force.

"The smoking ban limits second hand smoke and is helping to make the Navy healthier," said Electronics Technician 1st Class (SS), Orlando Apodaca, an Asheville Sailor.

According to the Surgeon General's 2006 report on smoking, non-smokers who are exposed to second hand smoke on a regular basis increase their risk of developing heart and lung disease.

Air Force Secretary Visits Bases in Wyoming, North Dakota

By Air Force Capt. Mary Danner-Jones and Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2010Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley thanked airmen for their service during holiday visits to bases in Wyoming and North Dakota. He praised the troops’ commitment, skill and achievements while visiting F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., on Dec. 23 and Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Dec. 23 and 24.

While visiting F.E. Warren, Donley recognized Air Force Global Strike Command airmen who carry out the nuclear deterrence mission.

"We have missile crews and Airmen standing alert over the holidays, and we want them to know their leaders appreciate the sacrifices they make," Donley said.

“We appreciate our Airmen and their families for the support they provide every day of the year, but especially during the holiday period when some of our Airmen can't be with their families,” he said.

Capt. Mike Ralph, 319th Missile Squadron flight commander, was one of those on hand to meet the secretary.

"A visit such as this shows how much our senior leadership cares about the nuclear mission and our Airmen here,” Ralph said. “It means a lot that Secretary Donley took time out of his busy schedule to come here."

During his visit, the secretary met with 20th Air Force and 90th Missile Wing maintainers, operators, security forces, support personnel, and leaders to express his appreciation for the dedication and professionalism of everyone who supports the mission here.

Donley said the great performance of the 90th Missile Wing during the first Global Strike Challenge in November was reflective of the training, precision, dedication and professionalism of F.E. Warren airmen.

“This was a major accomplishment for the ‘Mighty Ninety,’” he said.  “Awards in several different areas really indicate you have some stand-out units and performers here.”

Those honors included the Blanchard Trophy recognizing the best ICBM wing, as well as three other top Global Strike Challenge awards.

Secretary Donley said the work performed by Warren professionals is “critical” and “truly remarkable,” adding that the mission across the nuclear enterprise is nonstop.

Acknowledging the Air Force’s 50-plus years of nuclear heritage, he added that nuclear deterrence remains the backbone not only of the Air Force, but also of national military capabilities.

This is the second year in a row an Air Force senior leader has traveled to F.E. Warren during the holiday season.  Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force’s top uniformed leader, made a holiday visit here last year.

During his trip to Minot, Secretary Donley visited several of the base’s key facilities, including a missile alert facility, Dock 7, and the Dakota Inn Dining Facility.  He also met with several key community leaders during a dinner meeting in the city of Minot.

“The airmen here are doing an outstanding job,” Donley said. “Minot carries a heavy load and is always very busy, but I feel the airmen and leadership team here are very supportive of each other and key to accomplishing the Air Force mission.”

Donley said what impressed him the most was the dedication and professionalism of all who served at the base, particularly given the challenging mission and weather climate.

Minot has a very important mission of two dimensions -- bombers and missiles,” Donley said. “This two-dimensional mission can be complicated to support.  It is complicated even more by the harsh environment our Airmen face here.”

Donley noted the support of family and community is important to Airmen being able to accomplish the nuclear deterrence and global strike mission.

“Our Air Force is hardworking -- 24/7 for 365 days a year,” he said. “We can’t do what we do, as efficiently and productively, without the support of our families and the communities we live in.”

As such, the secretary said Minot bears a great responsibility and expressed his appreciation for Team Minot’s performance.

“This community serves a very important mission and Minot is doing an outstanding job,” he said. “I would like to say thank you for your integrity and commitment to service.”

(Air Force Capt. Mary Danner-Jones is assigned to the 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs Office, and Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton is assigned to the Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs Office.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Today in the Department of Defense, Sunday, January 02, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

Today in the Department of Defense, Saturday, January 01, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

What to do if your Veteran has a stroke

VA has 44 easy-to-read Fact Sheets online — a Lifeline for Caregivers!

An estimated 15,000 Veterans suffer a stroke each year.

Because stroke onset is so sudden, family members and friends unexpectedly become a loved one’s caregiver and are caught unprepared for this new role.

What do I do now?

Most family caregivers lack basic knowledge about stroke, the stroke recovery process, how to care for a stroke survivor, and how to prevent future strokes. They also may not know how to avoid or reduce the stress and challenges that come with being a caregiver.

In addition to their existing home and work responsibilities, a new caregiver takes on the role of serving as a “lifeguard,” responsible for the safety and well-being of the stroke survivor.

Like a lifeguard, caregivers need the knowledge, training, and tools to preserve the life of the stroke survivor, while taking care to keep themselves from drowning.

Where can I get help?

Recognizing that caregivers have this urgent need for information, the VA has launched the RESCUE website. RESCUE stands for Resources and Education for Stroke Caregivers’ Understanding and Empowerment.

Information on the RESCUE website is available on 44 easy-to-read fact sheets.

Caregivers can download and print the fact sheets in English and Spanish.

The fact sheets are organized into nine categories:

•General Stroke Information
•Obtaining Good Healthcare and Information
•Keeping Your Loved One Healthy
•Helping Your Loved One Become More Independent
•Caring for Someone with Physical Needs
•Caring for Someone with Emotional and Behavioral Needs
•Understanding How Caring for a Loved One Affects You
•Finding Community Resources
•Managing Financial and Legal Issues

The RESCUE website was designed to serve as an educational lifeline, to help the caregiver “keep their head above water.” The rescuer (caregiver) may be overwhelmed and eventually feel like the one who needs to be rescued.

Visitors to the RESCUE website can also view the bi-monthly RESCUE Newsletter and access previous newsletters.

The RESCUE Newsletter covers a wide range of topics facing stroke caregivers, such as post-stroke depression, sex after stroke, and web links for caregiver resources.

My HealtheVet adds to the program

One of the resources regularly featured in the RESCUE Newsletter is the VA’s My HealtheVet website.

Registered “My HealtheVet” users have access to helpful health tracking tools in the “Vitals and Readings” section. Several of the tracking tools are related to risk factors for stroke, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and body weight.

Once Veterans enrolled for VA health care complete the “My HealtheVet” in-person authentication process they can receive online access to portions of their electronic medical record and the VA prescription refill service.

VA researcher Constance R. Uphold, PhD, ARNP and her team are responsible for creating this valuable, helpful website to provide critical information which could save your Veteran’s life.

American Heroes Radio: Do you have a story to tell?

American Heroes Radio broadcasts the stories of Military, Police and Fire Service Personnel.  We have broadcast 130 episodes and are preparing our 2011 Calendar.  If you would like to be a guest, send an email to editor@police-writers.com.  You can listen to the archived episodes at www.americanheroesradio.com

Today in the Department of Defense, Friday, December 31, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

This Day in Naval History - Dec. 30

By Navy News Service

1941 - Admiral Ernest J. King assumes duty as Commander in Chief, United States Fleet.
1959 - Commissioning of first fleet ballistic missile submarine, USS George Washington (SSB(N)-598), at Groton, CT.

New York National Guardsmen on Watch New Year's Eve

American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Dec. 30, 2010  As revelers head for Times Square to welcome 2011, members of the New York National Guard will be on duty to ensure that the holiday is safe and secure.

"New Yorkers can celebrate the New Year with confidence knowing our National Guard remains on duty this holiday weekend to assist our partners in law enforcement and emergency management," said Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, New York's Adjutant General.

"Operating at the direction of the governor, that partnership with law enforcement and emergency management in New York City continues to ensure that New York State Military Forces will be ready as New York welcomes thousands of visitors for a safe and secure holiday celebration."

In New York City, the members of the New York National Guard's Joint Task Force Empire Shield will be assisting the New York Police Department in conducting security operations designed to thwart any potential terrorist. These members of the New York Army and Air National Guard have been trained to assist law enforcement and other emergency management agencies in the metropolitan area.

Members of the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard, state-only defense forces, also serve in Joint Task Force Empire Shield.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the New York National's Guard's task force in New York City has been an integral part of security planning.

"Our partnership with the New York City Office of Emergency Management brings great benefits to first responders and our National Guard," said Col. David Martinez, chief of domestic operations for the New York National Guard. "New Yorkers expect to see their National Guard out during critical times, and we're proud to serve."

The New York National Guard's 24th Civil Support Team, a unit of 22 soldiers and airmen trained to detect and identify hazardous materials, as well as the presence of chemical, biological, or radiological weapons, will also be standing by on New Year's Eve in case they are needed to support the New York Police Department or Fire Department.

Based at Fort Hamilton, in Brooklyn, the team's soldiers were recently certified as ready by the Department of Defense. In the past the New York National Guard's 2nd Civil Support Team would send soldiers and airmen to New York City on New Year's Eve from their headquarters at Stratton Air National Guard Base outside Schenectady. New York now has two of these highly trained units, with one focused solely on the New York City metropolitan area.

"As we have recently been certified to respond to natural or man- made emergencies we look forward to be able to support local authorities during this year' s New Year's Celebration in Times Square, " said Lt. Col. Kaarlo Hietala, the commander of the 24th Civil Support Team.

The New York National Guard will also have its Joint Operations Center near Albany manned with enough soldiers and leaders so that in the event of an emergency the Guard can respond quickly if directed to do so by the governor.

Finally in Rome, NY, the New York Air National Guard's Eastern Air Defense Sector will be monitoring the skies above New York City and the northeast while New Year's celebrations are underway.

Known as EADS, the unit of active-duty New York Air National Guardsmen and Canadian Forces personnel are responsible for monitoring the airspace of the United States east of the Mississippi. The unit is part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and can direct assets as needed to defend U.S. airspace.

"The Eastern Air Defense Sector's air sovereignty and air defense mission is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week responsibility," said Col. John Bartholf, EADS Commander. "Our unit was designed and organized to operate all day, every day, and we'll have a fully-manned shift working New Year's Eve, just as we do every night."

Smoking Lamp to Extinguish Dec. 31 on Navy Subs

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2010 – The countdown to the new year is on, and with it, a ban on smoking below decks aboard Navy submarines.

Navy officials announced the new rule April 8, to take effect Navy-wide when the clock strikes Dec. 31.

The ban was instituted to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke that puts them at risk of developing heart and lung disease, Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander of Submarine Forces in Norfolk, Va., explained in a news release.

“Our sailors are our most important asset to accomplishing our missions,” Donnelly explained in announcing the new policy. “Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine. The only way to eliminate risk to our non-smoking sailors is to stop smoking aboard our submarines.”

The Navy has been preparing its submariner crews, about 40 percent that smokes, for the change. It offers smoking cessation programs and issues nicotine gum or patches to help sailors kick the habit. Navy officials have also taken steps to make lighting up less convenient, such as limiting smoking time and the number of sailors permitted into the boat’s nonsmoking area or “smoke pit” at any one time.

During a media visit aboard the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island in August, crew members agreed that implementing the smoking ban would be tough.

“This is a very high-stress job,” Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Robert McCombs, head of the sub’s engineering department, told reporters. “We push our crew very hard every day, 12 to 18 hours a day, and smoking is how they relax. Some people are saying they don’t want to stay on subs because they can’t smoke.”

Some submarines extinguished their smoking lamps early, to correspond with deployment schedules or other significant events. USS Michigan, for example, instituted the smoking ban July 27 at to correspond with its hull number, 727. The command's plan was for the sailors to quit while deployed, and then return home with a fresh start and plenty of support from their family and friends, Michigan’s senior enlisted personnel explained.

Among them was Command Master Chief Victor Smith, the blue crew’s command master chief.

“As a former smoker for more than 10 years, I understand the challenges of quitting smoking," Smith told Navy News Service. “It is extremely hard to stop when you are at sea. We want our sailors to be successful, so we decided to put the smoking lamp out during this mission cycle. The day we extinguished the smoking lamp onboard was a significant event in the lives of our sailors. I cannot think of a more appropriate day to start a new and healthier life than 727 day.”

USS Georgia, home ported in Kings Bay, Ga., implemented the new smoking ban Aug.15, while it was under way.

“Not being able to smoke onboard after December 31st will be difficult for some,” acknowledged Command Master Chief, Richard Rose, blue crew master chief, during a Navy News Service interview. “This change will be hard, but will be for the better in the long run. Promoting and building a healthier submarine force is the right thing to do for the sailors in the Navy today.”

Littoral Combat Ship Contract Award Announced

Special from Navy Office of Information

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. and Austal USA each a fixed-price incentive contract for the design and construction of a 10 ship block-buy, for a total of 20 littoral combat ships from fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2015.

The amount awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. for fiscal 2010 littoral combat ships is $436,852,639. The amount awarded to Austal USA for the fiscal 2010 littoral combat ships is $432,069,883.

Both contracts also include line items for nine additional ships, subject to Congressional appropriation of each year's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program requirements. When all 10 ships of each block buy are awarded, the value of the ship construction portion of the two contracts would be $3,620,625,192 for Lockheed Martin Corp., and $3,518,156,851 for Austal USA. The average cost of both variants including government-furnished equipment and margin for potential cost growth across the five year period is $440 million per ship. The pricing for these ships falls well below the escalated average Congressional cost cap of $538 million.

"The awards represent a unique and valuable opportunity to lock in the benefits of competition and provide needed ships to our fleet in a timely and extraordinarily cost effective manner," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

This award is a unique opportunity to maximize the buying power on the LCS Program by leveraging the highly effective competition between the bidders. Each contractor's 10-ship bids reflect mature designs, investments made to improve performance, stable production, and continuous labor learning at their respective shipyards. The award was based on limited competition between teams led by Lockheed Martin and Austal USA. Under these contracts, both shipbuilders will also deliver a technical data package as part of the dual award, allowing the government a wide range of viable alternatives for effective future competition.

This approach, which is self-financed within the program by adding a year to the procurement and utilizing a portion of the greater than $2 billion total savings (throughout the Future Years Defense Program), enables the Navy to efficiently produce these ships at an increased rate and meet operational requirements sooner.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead praised the Navy's plan to add both ship designs to the fleet: "The LCS is uniquely designed to win against 21st century threats in coastal waters posed by increasingly capable submarines, mines and swarming small craft. Both designs provide the capabilities our Navy needs, and each offers unique features that will provide fleet commanders with a high level of flexibility in employing these ships."

The innovation and willingness to seize opportunities displayed in this LCS competition reflect exactly the improvements to 'the way we do business' in order to deliver better value to the taxpayer and greater capability to the warfighter. Moreover, the Navy's LCS acquisition strategy meets the spirit and intent of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 and reflects the Navy's commitment to affordability. The benefits of competition, serial production, employment of mature technologies, design stability, fixed-price contracting, commonality, and economies of scale will provide a highly affordable ship construction program.

"The rigor and diligence of the source selection process has resulted in the acquisition of quality, capable ships at fair prices," said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Sean Stackley. "This dual award strategy exemplifies the Navy's compliance with Secretary Gates' and Under Secretary Carter's direction to improve the buying power of the Defense Department. Both teams have shown cost control on their second ships, and we look forward to the delivery of these capable fleet assets in the future."

The Navy remains committed to a 55-ship program and the LCS is needed to fill critical, urgent warfighting requirements gaps that exist today. The LCS Program is required to establish and maintain U.S. Navy dominance in the littorals and sea lanes of communication choke points around the world. The LCS Program operational requirements have been virtually unchanged since the program's inception in 2002 and the both hull forms will meet the Navy's operational warfighting requirements.

LDO, CWO Communities Under Review

From Commander, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- In an effort to ensure the right specialists are in the right place, the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) announced Dec. 29 that it has been conducting a review of its technical leadership since August and will brief Navy leadership in early January 2011.

The Navy's limited duty officer (LDO) and chief warrant officer (CWO) communities are being evaluated so that the right technical specialists are doing technical leadership jobs, said Capt. John Jones, LDO/CWO community manager at BUPERS.

"We want to make sure that we have the right balance within our pay-grade structure to allow the opportunity for upward mobility without bottlenecks or even a lack of opportunity at a particular pay grade," said Jones. "Correcting our structure will ensure better opportunities for advancement, manage expectations and improve opportunity for many designators – particularly CWOs."

The chief of naval personnel ordered the review of both LDO and CWO designators and billets.

"The assumption is that all of the billets reviewed are valid work, so what we have done is identify very small designators where the work is done by both LDOs and CWOs," said Jones. "Billets that look like division officer work were transferred from LDO to CWO. Billets that had significant senior positions were transferred from CWO to LDO."

Additionally, Jones explained that current senior LDOs and CWOs in positions that may transfer will be continued on active duty.

"This 'aging of the workforce' will ensure the Navy gets the technical experts it needs in the future," said Jones.

LDOs and CWOs are technical leaders who are selected from the enlisted ranks based on merit, technical knowledge and sound leadership. LDOs are selected from E-6 to E-9 with eight to 16 years of service. Because they are more technically centered than LDOs, CWOs are only selected from E-7s and above with 12 to 22 years of service. Selection boards for both LDO and CWOs are held in January.

"I think most people, when first hearing of this review, thought that it was all doom and gloom," said Jones. "But the reality is that it's a necessary evolution that will leave us stronger."

"A big problem we had in the past is that we select the numbers we need by designator to keep a balanced entry into each technical field," said Jones. "Later on, we promote with everyone in one large pot and some designators with less sea duty are disadvantaged. We are evaluating a move toward promotion by designator to ensure we get the right balance at the senior level as well – this fits in well with the initiative to keep the communities viable and sustainable."

"The future is bright for the LDO/CWO community," said Jones. "This very necessary review, the largest since our collective inception in 1948, is long overdue. Most encouraging is the consistent overwhelming support from senior Navy leadership who highly value this community of seasoned technical leadership."

For more information visit the Navy Personnel Command LDO/CWO Community page at http://www.npc.navy.mil/Officer/CommunityManagers/LDOCWOOCM/.

USS Ronald Reagan Hosts NCAA Holiday Bowl Luncheon

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) hosted the Navy-Marine Corps Holiday Bowl Luncheon in the ship's hangar bay December 28 as part of Bowl Week festivities leading up to the big game between the University of Nebraska and University of Washington.

The Navy-Marine Corps Holiday Bowl Luncheon is an annual event held aboard an aircraft carrier or large deck amphibious assault ship pier side in San Diego the week of the Holiday Bowl.

After a "battle of the bands" on the pier between the marching bands from each school, members of the two football teams and faculty dined with the Ronald Reagan crew before taking tours of the ship.

"Having this luncheon gives these two teams a chance to look at what the Navy does," said Cmdr. Kevin Lenox, Ronald Reagan's executive officer. "This is an opportunity for two very different types of warriors to interact and see what they are all about."

The experience proved enlightening for both the Sailors and the athletes from the two universities.

"I've never had an opportunity like this before," said Air Traffic Controller 3rd Class (AW) Robert Hoth. "It's been very interesting to sit and chat with these guys. Looking around, I realized that they aren't really any different than us."
Sitting across from Hoth during lunch was Marquis Persley, a safety for the Washington Huskies.

"I couldn't help but realize that the guys who are running this massive machine could be the same guys I went to high school with," said Persley. "We both have such different responsibilities, but only because we chose different paths."

Two Ronald Reagan Sailors were surprised with the gift of a very unique experience when they were named honorary captains for each team.

"When they called my name, I couldn't believe it," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/EXW/SCI) Jay Norris, a Washington state native and Ronald Reagan's Sailor of the Quarter. "I've been a fan for as long as I can remember. I don't know what to expect, but I'm completely pumped for my inside look into college football and my favorite team."

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Morgan Ryan was just as excited to hear he would be viewing the game from the opposing side of Qualcomm Stadium.

"I was very surprised because I didn't know I had entered," said Ryan. "I haven't been to a 'Huskers game in over four years, and to be down on the field will be incredible. I can't wait to meet Alex Henery (University of Nebraska's kicker)."

The players are being shown the best of San Diego while in town for Bowl Week, with stops at the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld and many other attractions. But the players insisted their time aboard Ronald Reagan was the highlight of their week.

"As soon as we came on board, I was thinking 'get me to the flight deck,'" said Persley. "I've never been on anything close to this before. It's been great."

The benefit of all this attention is an inside look into the lesser-known aspects of the Navy, said Dave Koontz, the chairman of Military Affairs for the Holiday Bowl Board of Directors.

"For most of these guys, this is their first contact with the military," said Koontz, a former Navy public affairs officer. "It's as much fun for the players as it is for the Sailors. They're rubbing elbows with each other, getting to know the different facets of two different lifestyles. Most guys say it's their highlight of Bowl Week."

For more news from USS Ronald Reagan and the Ronald Reagan Strike Group, visit www.reagan.navy.mil or visit the official USS Ronald Reagan Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Coronado-CA/USS-Ronald-Reagan/212147332020?ref=ts&ajaxpipe=1&__a=24.

Family Matters Blog: Families Invited to Dial Into Helping Webinars

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2010 – The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury has released its monthly webinar series schedule for 2011, and officials there hope the topics will interest everyone from servicemembers and their families to medical professionals.

The webinar series  presents resources and best practices regarding TBI and psychological health care and offers participants an interactive environment to ask questions or comment. This past year, the series featured topics such as family support techniques, combating stigma, suicide prevention and reintegration programs.

In 2011, topics will range from the impact of war on children to post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of a natural disaster. Webinars are scheduled from to

Here’s the complete schedule:

Jan. 27: Peer-to-Peer Support Model Program
Feb. 24: Compassion Fatigue
March 24: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Co-occurring Psychological Health Disorders:
Focus on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury with Co-occurring Psychological Health
Disorders Toolkit
April 28: Indirect Neurotrauma: The Impact of War on Children
May 26: Operational Stress and In Theater Care
June 23: Anatomical/Physiological Changes Secondary to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
July 28: Reintegrative Medicine: Focusing on Family and Clinical Perspective, and
Adaptation Following Incident
Aug. 25: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Natural Disasters
Sept. 22: Neuropathophysiology of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Oct. 27: Generational Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Growth
Nov. 17: Holidays Apart from Family
December: No event due to the holidays

For more on the webinar series, visit the DcOE blog . To be added to the DCoE Monthly Webinar Series listserv or to sign up for upcoming webinars, e-mail DCoE.MonthlyWebinar@tma.osd.mil.

To comment on this blog, use the comment feature below. To read other Family Matters posts, visit the Family Matters website. Comments posted here may be re-posted to the Family Matters Website.

Abbott Glucose Test Strips Recall At Naval Medical Center San Diego

By Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Based on recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued on Dec. 22, 2010, Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) and clinics are recalling various lots of Abbot Diabetes Care glucose test strips.

According to the FDA, the test strips being recalled may give falsely low blood glucose results. False results may lead patients to try to raise their blood glucose unnecessarily, or they may fail to treat elevated blood glucose because of a false, low reading. Both scenarios pose risks to a patient's health.

"We do not want patients to be alarmed, but we want our beneficiaries to be aware of the recall so they will discontinue use and return the affected products," said Cmdr. Ed Vonberg, department head of NMCSD's pharmacy.

The test strips are marketed under the following brand names, specifically the Precision Xtra Blood Glucose Test Strips; Precision Xceed Pro; Precision Xtra; Medisense Optium; Optium; OptiumEZ; and ReliOn Ultima. The test strips are used with Abbott's Precision Xtra, Precision Xceed Pro, MediSense Optium, Optium, Optium EZ and ReliOn Ultima blood glucose monitoring systems. As many as 359 million strips may be affected by the recall. The blood glucose monitoring systems are not affected by this recall.

The FDA, working with Abbot Diabetes Care, notes that the recall is related to the test strips' inability to absorb enough blood for monitoring. Strips exposed to warm weather or prolonged storage may be more likely to provide a false result. The test strips were manufactured between January and September 2010 and are sold both in retail and online settings directly to consumers, but are also used in health care facilities.

Patients who have received test strips are encouraged to check the list of lot numbers below.

If any patient has stored any test strips on the list in 86 degree Fahrenheit heat or higher, please return to the pharmacy for replacement. If it takes longer than five seconds to get a reading, and the test strips are on the list, return to the pharmacy. NMCSD patients should call or visit any of the NMCSD Pharmacies listed below:

Naval Air Station North Island Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0730 - 1600
Weekend & Fed Holidays: CLOSED (619) 545-4290

Naval Training Center Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0800 - 1630
Weekend & Fed Holidays: CLOSED
(619) 524-0931

Branch Health Clinic Miramar Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0730 - 1600
Weekend & Fed Holidays: CLOSED
(858) 577-9960

El Centro Pharmacy
Mon – Thurs: 0800 – 1130, 1300 – 1600
Fri: 0800 – 1200
Sat, Sun, & Federal Holidays: CLOSED
(760) 339-2631

Naval Medical Center Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0800 - 2100
Sat - Sun: 0800 - 1800
Fed Holidays: CLOSED
(619) 532-8400

Navy Exchange 32nd Street Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0800 - 1630
Saturday: 0900 - 1630
Sunday & Fed Holidays: CLOSED
(619) 556-9371

TOC Clairemont Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0800 - 1630
Sat: 0900 - 1630
Sun & Fed Holidays: CLOSED
619-645-0168

TOC Chula Vista Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0700 – 2000 M - F (Civilian Rx): 0830 - 1700 Sat - Sun, & Fed Holidays: 0800 – 1600
Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's Day: CLOSED
(619) 744-5388

TOC Santee Pharmacy
Mon – Fri: 0800 – 1630 Mon - Fri (Civilian Rx): 0800 - 1530 Sat - Sun, & Federal Holidays: CLOSED
(619) 645-0110

Beneficiaries can also contact patient relations at 619-532-6418 or 619-532-6416 for clarification.
Additionally, patients can call Abbott Diabetes Care customer service at 1-800-448-5234 (English) and 1-800-709-7010 (Spanish) to speak with a customer service representative.

Precision Xtra Blood Glucose Test Strips That Have Been Affected by the Abbott Recall of December 22, 2010 which may have been affected by Excessive Heat that could cause a false low blood glucose reading:

45001A330, 45001A467, 45001A481, 45001A482, 45001A483, 45001A487, 45001A488, 45001A496, 45001A497, 45001A499, 45001A500, 45001A503, 45001A505, 45001A506, 45001A510, 45001A511, 45001A513, 45001A519, 45001A520, 45001A521, 45001A530, 45001A532, 45001A534, 45001A536, 45001A537, 45001A545, 45001A556, 45001A565, 45001A566, 45001A568, 45001A573, 45001A577, 45001A584, 45001A594, 45001A595, 45001A597, 45001A605, 45001A607, 45001A608, 45001A609, 45001A613, 45001A614, 45001A626, 45001A634, 45001A637, 45001A641, 45001A644, 45001A645, 45001A656, 45001A660, 45001A664, 45001A669, 45001A670, 45001A671, 45001A677, 45001A678, 45001A682, 45001A685, 45001A694, 45001A700, 45001A705, 45001A706, 45001A707, 45001A709, 45001A712, 45001A730, 45001A732, 45001A739, 45001A742, 45001A744, 45001A751, 45001A753, 45001A757, 45001A762, 45001A777, 45001A778, 45001A786, 45001A788, 45001A790, 45001A798, 45001A806, 45001A814, 45001A815, 45001A816,45001A820, 45001A840, 45001A842, 45001A847, 45001A852, 45001A856, 45001A860, 45001A861, 45001A872, 45001A876, 45001A882, 45001A910, 45001A912, 45001A914, 45001A918, 45001A920, 45001A921, 45001A940, 45001A947, 45001A948, 45001A949, 45001A971, 45001A976, 45001A979, 45001A982, 45001A983, 45001C008, 45001C011, 45001C012 45384, 45388, 45396, 45407, 45418, 45455, 45456, 45463, 45464, 45512, 45514, 45516, 45521, 45611, 45612, 45614, 45619, 45627, 45632, 45639, 45645, 45646, 45653, 45670, 45679, 45680, 45682, 45707, 45708, 45724, 45729, 45731, 45732, 45733, 45735, 45737, 45738, 45755, 45777, 45782, 45783, 45784

Family Matters Blog: Blogger Resolves to Support Troops, Families


By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2010 – With the presents unwrapped and stockings bare, my thoughts have finally turned to the New Year and my resolutions for the year ahead.

I must admit I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. My past is littered with a series of unfulfilled vows made with the best of intentions, or in some cases, a burst of bubbly-induced idealism. The list is seemingly endless: lose weight, tone up, exercise more, work less, work more, take a class, and on and on.

But this year, rather than a laundry list of pledges doomed to fall by the wayside, I’m determined to hone in on one resolution I can actually keep.

My sole New Year’s resolution is to offer my support to our troops and their families. And unlike my past pledges, this isn’t a fleeting thought stumbled upon at the stroke of , but a true desire to help that’s been brewing for some time.

My admiration for military members and their families has grown exponentially in recent years. As an American Forces Press Service writer and Family Matters blogger, I’ve talked with servicemembers struggling with the visible and invisible wounds of war, spouses juggling kids and multiple deployments, and couples dealing with the weighty issues of reintegration. They were from different places, branches of services and walks of life, but all had one thing in common: the need for our support.

To borrow a quote from First Lady Michelle Obama, a staunch supporter of military families, “a small percentage of Americans fight our wars, but we need 100 percent of Americans to support these brave men and women and their families back home.”

So, I plan to do my part, however small it is. I’ll be happy to help gather items for a care package, offer to babysit so a military spouse can gain a much-needed reprieve, or even just send a card to a deployed troop. The possibilities are endless.

While I’d still like to curb my sweet tooth and step up my exercise regimen, I’ll mark those goals on another New Year. This year will be my personal call to action on behalf of our servicemembers and their families, a year of gratitude for all that they sacrifice in service of this nation. Without them, after all, an extra five pounds would be the least of my worries.

Wisconsin Guard Agribusiness Team eyes year of growth

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

A unique Wisconsin National Guard unit, authorized in July and just weeks away from its first training event, is putting the finishing touches on a training plan that will ultimately lead to its upcoming mission in Afghanistan.

Col. Darrell Feucht, of Columbus, Wis., will command a unit of approximately 60 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen headed to northeastern Afghanistan sometime in 2012 as part of an agribusiness development team - a National Guard initiative that applies the rich farming experience of many Guard members in a way that will allow a developing democracy a safer and more productive way of feeding its people.

Owing to the kinetic operations - also known as a combat environment - still present in Afghanistan, approximately half of the team consists of security personnel gleaned from the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The team's technical members include a high school biology teacher, large animal veterinarians, agronomists and forestry scientists. The team also includes two members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard and five females.

Feucht said there was no shortage of volunteers for this mission, and every position will be filled by Jan. 1, 2011. Families have been notified of their service member's upcoming training commitment and deployment.

"We are bringing together some really good skill sets to accomplish the mission," he said. The agricultural experts will focus on animal husbandry, water and soil conservation, horticulture, irrigation, storage, and distribution and agribusiness education. The team will also assess local farming practices and environments to determine the best strategies to assist Afghan farmers.

Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, said the National Guard is uniquely suited for this type of mission.

"The skills and expertise we bring from our civilian careers demonstrates our versatility and capability for assignments like this," he said.

Next month the team's training for the upcoming year will be detailed down to the hour, and the unit will conduct its first drill in February. Eighty percent of the training in 2011 will meet pre-mobilization requirements dictated by 1st Army.

"But being a [non-traditional] unit, we kind of make up our collective training as we go along due to our unique mission," he explained.

For example, Feucht said he is hoping to collaborate with the University of Wisconsin's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for what he described as a three-week "Extreme Ag 101" this summer to ensure, among other things, that his technical team members are well-versed in Afghan vegetation. That collaboration would continue to allow the deployed agribusiness development team to tap into the university's academic expertise here in Wisconsin - a practice the military refers to as "reach-back" resources.

Feucht intends to enlist Future Farmers of America chapters in Lodi and perhaps Hartford as "reach-back" resources as well. A presentation at Lodi High School earlier this month sparked great excitement, he said.

"They want to be involved in this mission somehow, some way," he said.

Feucht also said that the team will emphasize physical fitness training. The elevation and rugged terrain, much of it unsuitable for motor vehicles, challenges conventional notions of fitness.

"From what I've been hearing, you find that after carrying all that equipment, you're not in the shape you thought you were in," he said. "They will need to be in the best condition of their lives."

The agribusiness development team will support the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Afghanistan, Feucht said. Conditions at that time will dictate if the Wisconsin ADT maintains current projects or takes on new projects.

Language Training Detachment Stands Up in Europe

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2010 – With defense leaders emphasizing the importance of language and cultural training to support military operations worldwide, the Defense Language Institute has stood up a new detachment in Germany to provide follow-on sustainment training for military linguists based in Europe.

The language training detachment, at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, will provide “substantive and direct support” to linguists assigned to both U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command and their subordinate elements, Dan Rugelbrugge, who oversees the effort, said in an interview posted yesterday on the “EUCOMversations” video blog.

Previously, linguists in Europe had to rely on distance learning or mobile training teams for sustainment training after graduating from the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey in California.

With the new language training detachment, “We are going to ensure that the people we initially trained are continually trained at that level, which is a pretty high standard,” Rugelbrugge said.

The detachment will operate like those DLI’s Foreign Language Institute manages at more than a dozen military sites in the continental United States and Hawaii to provide operational units recurrent language familiarization and cultural awareness training.

Rugelbrugge, an Army linguistics specialist and combat veteran who has served all over the world, arrived at his new Eucom post about three months ago. He currently is assessing training requirements and plans to hire permanent teachers and other support staff as he slowly grows the program to support demand.

French language training “is constantly requested,” he said, as well as training in German and Russian. In addition, the detachment is expected to support wartime requirements in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with enhancement training in the Dari and Pashto languages.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized during a visit last year to the Defense Language Institute that no training is more critical to the U.S. military than education in critical foreign languages and culture.

While language opens doors to an exchange of information and ideas, he said it also can be a window into the culture of a foreign people.

“It is really important that we listen to other people, that we listen to other cultures, that we pay attention to how they see their problems,” Mullen told the DLI students. “I call that seeing it through their eyes -- putting yourself in a position that actually focuses on what they are thinking about, as opposed to how we think about them, or how we think about, in our Western ways, we might solve their problems.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boston Bruins Goalie Makes Holiday Call to Abraham Lincoln Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Seth Clarke, Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- A goalie for the Boston Bruins spoke to hockey fans aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) during a phone call to the aircraft carrier Dec. 29.

Fourteen hockey fans aboard Abraham Lincoln gathered to ask Tim Thomas a number of questions throughout the call.

They asked about the Bruins' offensive approach, Thomas' early days in hockey and his early professional career playing in Finland and in the minor leagues.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Kaleb F. Brown asked what Thomas considered his most memorable moment as a hockey player.

Thomas said that although he has had quite a few memorable moments, his proudest moment came when he was named to the 2010 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team on the same day the Bruins won a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 National Hockey League Winter Classic in front of 40,000 fans at Boston's Fenway Park.

"Being named to the Olympic Team had been my dream since I was five years old, and finally I was able to realize that dream," said Thomas. "It was a great day."

Brown also asked Thomas what kept him motivated to reach his goals.

"If you really want something, just work as hard as you can to try to accomplish it. If you do everything that you possibly can to reach a goal that you want to reach, you'll respect yourself at the end of the day. It's nice to be rewarded, and I think you will be if you want something bad enough and you work at it hard enough," said Thomas.

Thomas reminded the gathered fans that he still has a larger goal looming in his career.

"I want to win a Stanley Cup," said Thomas. "I'm still working on that one."

The hockey star's phone call is the latest in a series of recent calls from prominent Boston sports figures to Abraham Lincoln's sports fans. Ray Allen, Celtics shooting guard; Bill Belichick, New England Patriots Coach; and Wes Welker, New England Patriots wide receiver; called Sailors on Christmas Eve. Red Sox Manager Terry Francona called the ship Dec. 21.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts to establish conditions for regional stability.

This article was sponsored by Military Books.