Military News

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Kentucky aviation unit trains with Greek force in Kosovo

By Sgt. Jill Fischer

(12/30/09) - Members of a Kentucky National Guard aviation unit offered up its time and helicopters recently to help train peacekeeping partners from another nation here in Kosovo. The 2-147th Aviation Battalion, based out of Frankfort, Ky., provided two UH-60 Blackhawk lift helicopters and one medevac chopper and pilots this week so the Greek's quick reaction force could complete hot and cold-load training and get a little practice loading and unloading casualties from the aircraft.

"This training is to help both our and their teams become familiar with each other, our communication and equipment and learn to work together," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dennis Brown, pilot and commander of the mission.

The Soldiers of the 2-147th and the Greece contingent are part of KFOR's (Kosovo Forces) Multi-National Task Force-East (MNTF-E), the U.S.-led sector of NATO's peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The Greeks, known as "Task Force Hellas," along with the U.S., Poland, Ukraine and Romania make up the force structure of MNTF-E.

MNTF-E teams often work together on emergency evacuations. The U.S. helicopters provide a means for the Greeks' quick reaction force to respond to any type of emergency, typically on very short notice.

The Greece Soldiers learned how to correctly load and unload a UH-60 Blackhawk lift helicopter with personnel, and also how to load a simulated casualty onto aUH-60 Blackhawk medevac helicopter.

This training must not only be done properly, but also in a quick and cautious manner, first, while the helicopter is idle and then on a helicopter just after landing and right before take-off.

"It is crucial that they know how to load a casualty for those times when medevac and quick reaction teams are called out," Brown said.

U.S. and Greek Soldiers will continue to train together to become more proficient at their jobs while in Kosovo.

"Multinational partners are the key to our success in Multi-National Task Force-East, as well s for the overall KFOR mission," said Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, MNTF-E commander from the North Dakota National Guard. "It's essential that we continue to work together so that we can complete our missions, safe lives and accomplish our goal of maintaining a safe and secure environment in Kosovo."

Father, son team up at Satellite NCO Academy

By Master Sgt. Mavi Smith

The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center

(12/15/09) - A father and son from the New York Air National Guard were among 130 Airmen from 14 units, who graduated from the Satellite Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy Class 10-2, in a ceremony held at The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center here Dec. 15. Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Helligrass and his son Tech. Sgt. Adam C. Helligrass, both aerospace maintenance craftsmen or crew chiefs, are members of the 109th Airlift Wing in Scotia, N.Y.

Their unit operates the LC-130H, a ski-equipped version of the C-130 aircraft, and provides airlift in support of Arctic and Antarctic operations.

Robert is a traditional guardsman and a full-time police officer with the Bethlehem Police Department. Adam is an active guard and reserve member at the unit.

"We are very close," said Robert of his relationship with his son. "We're always together and we get along so great that people sometimes think we're brothers."

"When our unit started getting involved in the Satellite NCO Academy program," said Robert. "We thought it would be a good idea to do it together. It was a good way to get it done and we had a lot of fun with it."

The NCO Academy is a requirement for promotion to master sergeant. Air Force members must take the course in-residence but Air National Guardsmen have the option of taking the correspondence course or attending either the traditional 6-week in-residence school or the satellite program.

A 12-week distance learning version of the NCO Academy, the satellite program was specifically designed for Airmen who cannot attend the six-week program for whatever reason, but still want the education, experience and credit of attending the program in-residence.

During the first phase, students attend four-hour training sessions two nights a week at their home station. Trained facilitators at their unit help them participate in interactive training lessons which are broadcast over the Air National Guard's Warrior Network satellite system.

"The home station portion was really good," said Adam. "We had a good dynamic in our class and our facilitators were great. They were really involved in what was going on and they went above and beyond to make sure we were prepared."

In the second phase of the program, students travel to McGhee Tyson ANGB, Tenn., for a two-week capstone in-residence experience at the Training and Education Center. Here, they are separated from their fellow home station students and mixed in with the other units participating in the program.

"It was a great experience," said Adam, who was also selected as a flight leader during the in-residence portion of the class. "The instructor interaction and learning from other people's experience and input was great."

Both men excelled during the class but ultimately, the Satellite NCO Academy was an opportunity for them to meet their unit's mission objectives.

Robert may be a traditional guardsman but he is dedicated to his military responsibilities. He performs more than 30 days per year in support of his unit's Antarctica mission and this year he also spent several weeks in Greenland. He and Adam frequently travel together.

"I do commit a lot of time to the unit but I also have responsibilities at home," said Robert, whose duties as a police officer are similar to those of a military first sergeant. "For people that have those responsibilities, the Satellite NCO Academy program is a good way to (fulfill the requirement for professional military education)."

"It's not just a personal benefit," added Robert. "It's a benefit for the mission. It's a win-win for everybody."

Both father and son said they enjoyed the experience of studying, hanging out and helping each other through the program.

"I think it's fantastic that I got to take this class with my father," said Adam. "We've always had a good relationship and doing this is just one more thing we can put under our belt as something we've experienced together."

KFOR drawing down to 10,000 troops

By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagburg
North Dakota National Guard

(1/4/10) - The Kosovo Force will transition from about 14,000 to 10,000 NATO forces by Jan. 31, due to improvements in security, said the commander of Multi-National Task Force-East. Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann told media in Kosovo last week that improvements in security have prompted the Kosovo Force to move its posture to a "deterrent presence."

"KFOR will rely more heavily on reserve forces that are able to quickly and decisively respond whenever and wherever necessary in support of local structures as a third responder," Dohrmann said.

Dohrmann, a member of the North Dakota National Guard, assumed command of MNTF-East Nov. 14. He commands about 2,200 Soldiers, including the Greek troops of Task Force Hellas and Polish/Ukrainian troops of Task Force POL/UKR; along with North Dakota's 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. KFOR is commanded by German Lt. Gen. Markus Bentler and is currently in its 12th rotation of forces.

"You may notice fewer KFOR patrols, but that is directly related to the abilities of the Kosovo Police," Dohrmann said. "Any adjustments made will not decrease KFOR's operational capability."

Dohrmann was asked whether the move to a deterrent presence would affect security in Kosovo. He responded by stating that while there still are challenges ahead in Kosovo, progress continues every day.

"It's teamwork between EULEX (European Rule of Law in Kosovo) and the KP, with KFOR, as a third responder, that makes success possible." Dohrmann said, "As we move forward to 2010, MNTF-E will continue to work with the institutions to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo."

Dohrmann spoke with media in Gjilan/Gnjilane and Ferizaj/Urosevac during informal press events, called "press coffees," Dec. 29 and 30. He said it was a pleasure to sit down with the local media from both cities, two of the largest in the MNTF-East sector, to discuss important issues.

In his opening statement, Dohrmann said that conditions in Kosovo had improved greatly since 2005, when he was in Kosovo as member of KFOR. He pointed out that there had been no major security incidents in Kosovo in 2009 and that both NATO and the North Atlantic Council have noted the "positive evolution" of the security situation.

"Transparency, cooperation, communication and respect for one another are the keys to the success of our mission," said Dohrmann. "It is evident that there has been a steady improvement in the security situation in Kosovo, due, in large part, to the increased capability of the institutions in Kosovo."

Dohrmann said his forces in MNTF-E will continue to pay special attention to illegal trafficking of arms, ammunition and explosives per the mandates of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Military Technical Agreement.

The media also asked about KFOR's role in economic development and civil projects in Kosovo, and specifically, how that might change with fewer forces on the ground.

"As we move to deterrent presence, the way we do civil affairs projects is going to change," Dohrmann said. "Our focus will be on connecting donor organizations with Kosovo communities. My expectation is to that we will work to put a system in place that will last long after KFOR.

"Kosovo is headed toward a brighter future and that is something we can all be extremely proud of."

Stop-Loss Payments Continue, But Some No Longer Eligible

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 5, 2010 - The fiscal 2010 defense budget extends payments to servicemembers involuntarily extended on active duty under the so-called "Stop Loss" program, but those who received a bonus for voluntarily re-enlisting or extending their service no longer qualify for retroactive Stop Loss pay. The Defense Department put the new policy into effect today, modifying eligibility for retroactive special pay to comply with Section 8108 of the 2010 Defense Department Appropriations Act, which took effect Dec. 19.

Servicemembers affected by the new policy who already received Stop Loss payments will not be required to repay them, defense officials said. However, all outstanding applications from affected servicemembers will be returned, along with an explanation of the change in law that makes them no longer eligible to receive the payments, officials said.

Department officials announced in March their intention to eliminate the Stop Loss policy, which kept servicemembers on active duty beyond their contracted end-of–service date.

While the services work to phase out the policy, officials authorized a special pay of $500 a month for anyone retained on active duty due to Stop Loss. Retroactive payments applied for anyone who served on active duty between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009, and the fiscal 2010 defense budget extended that authority through September 2010.

Servicemembers were able to begin submitting their claims for retroactive Stop Loss special pay on Oct. 21.



Insight Technology Inc., Londonderry, N.H., is being awarded a not-to-exceed $15,000,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of a miniature reflex sight (MRS) in two configurations along with cleaning kits and spare parts. MRS is a small, passive, reflex weapon sight intended for close quarters combat applications. The sight is mounted on top of existing day sights, night optics, or other sighting devices to provide a secondary rapid aiming and engagement capability. Work will be performed in Londonderry, N.H., and is expected to be completed by January 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities, with nine offers received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Crane, Ind., is the contracting activity (N00164-10-D-JN02).

General Dynamics Information Technology, Needham, Mass., is being awarded $8,622,329 for delivery order #0010 under previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-09-D-4726) to provide a capability for the fielding of Marine Corps Enterprise IT Services, a Marine Corps enterprise transformation and modernization initiative. Work will be performed in Stafford, Va. (5 percent); Needham, Mass. (5 percent); and Kansas City, Mo. (90 percent). Work is expected to be completed by May 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $8,622,329 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.


Lockheed Martin Corp., Marietta, Ga., was awarded a $6,319,488 contract to provide for C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Re-engineering Program engine maintenance training device, integration effort, and contract change proposal. At this time, $3,857,161 has been obligated. 716 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (33657-02-C-2000, P00207).

DoD announces top family readiness groups

Compiled from state releases

(1/5/10) - The Department of Defense announced recently its top Guard and Reserve family readiness groups for 2009, and the awardees include an Army Guard group from Wisconsin and an Air Guard group from Minnesota. Family readiness group members from both states will be honored at the DoD Reserve Family Readiness Awards ceremony at the Pentagon Feb. 12. They will receive an engraved plaque and a cash award from the Military Officers Association of America.

The Army National Guard’s top family readiness group represents the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Wisconsin.

"It's pretty exciting," said Janell Kellett, lead volunteer for the 32nd Brigade's family readiness group. "I've been calling all my volunteers."

Kellett oversees volunteers representing family readiness groups for 27 units deployed with the 32nd Brigade - including units from the 64th Troop Command and the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade - along with some additional groups representing units that provided individual Soldiers to augment the brigade.

"I am so thankful our Red Arrow Soldiers have the best family readiness program in the nation," said Col. Steven Bensend, commander of the 32nd Brigade from Iraq. "Our soldiers did a great job over here because of the great work done to support their families back in Wisconsin."

The Air Guard’s award-winning family readiness group is located at the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn.

"The 148th Fighter Wing 'Bulldogs' are very honored to be selected for this award," said Col. Frank Stokes, the wing commander. "Our mission success is critically dependent on the training and well-being of our Airmen. Whether they are preparing to leave, currently deployed, or returning, our members & their families need & deserve the very best care and support. It's imperative that we do all we can to take care of them, and ensure their families are supported."

The family readiness group is currently supporting the deployment of civil engineers from the wing to Afghanistan and a group of security forces specialists, who deployed to Southwest Asia in October for six months, among others.

Earlier in 2009, the Wing’s FRG also supported the return of 60 Airmen conducting theater airborne reconnaissance from Joint Air Base Balad, Iraq. At that time, it was the Wing’s third deployment there since 2005.

The DoD FRG awards were established in 2000 to recognize the top unit in each Reserve component that demonstrates outstanding family readiness while maintaining superior mission readiness.

Each Reserve component selects its winner from among a large pool of nominees; final nominees are forwarded to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs for final approval.

The panel that determined the final Army Guard selection said the Wisconsin Guard’s FRG “exceeded their criteria guidance.”

"The incredible amount of time and effort our family volunteers gave is overwhelming," said Bensend. "There is no award that can adequately thank them for that sacrifice."

Kellett said that the award shows the volunteers that their hard work is recognized.

"This reinforces that they've done phenomenal work,” she said. “Everyone pitches in to have a successful program. This shows that the Army National Guard leadership here appreciates what we do. We want to serve the families; we want to serve the community."

"When our Soldiers know their families are being supported back home, they can focus on their missions overseas," said Kellett. "Family readiness groups are really supporting the mission too.”

Army Studies High Altitude Health Effects

By Rob Anastasio
FHP&R Staff Writer

Climate and altitude commonly inhibits the optimal effectiveness of service members in many theater operations. In the mountainous country of Afghanistan in particular, service members are asked to perform at thousands of feet above sea level, oftentimes hindering their cognitive and physical performance.

At the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division in Natick, Mass., researchers are studying the causes and medical effects of high altitude exposure. Researchers are offering information and products to increase resiliency and performance of service members deployed at high altitudes.

Dr. Stephen R. Muza, research physiologist at USARIEM, a laboratory of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), explains that there are measurable decrements by which physical and cognitive performance can be gauged as an environment increases in elevation. Humans begin to lose their optimal performance as the altitude of the environment increases. This is due to the reduced air and oxygen pressures that decrease the availability of oxygen. The result is hypoxia, an inadequate oxygenation of the blood.

“At 4,000 ft. above sea level you first start seeing a lack of physical performance. 8,000 ft. is usually the altitude at which cognitive performance is affected. And we’ve found that 10,000 ft. is the threshold where judgment starts to become impaired,” said Muza.

When a human reaches 8,000 ft. above sea level certain altitude sicknesses are born. Acute mountain sickness (AMS), in particular, is characterized by headache, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. AMS is common, but recovery is quick with descent and rest. Two more serious but rare altitude sicknesses require medical treatment and can be very dangerous for troops in combat.

There are several ways service members can prepare for high altitude conditions prior to deployment. A soldier can start by training at a higher altitude to physically prepare for deployment. High altitude training facilities can be found at military installations in CONUS including Fort Carson, Colo., the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center, Calif., and at Hawthorne Army Proving Ground, Nev.

“However, physical training for deployment will not reduce the risk of developing altitude sickness in theater,” said Muza. The training will prepare service members to recognize the symptoms of AMS and react appropriately.

In addition to high altitude training before deployment, service members can practice a healthy lifestyle by eating a well-balanced diet and not smoking.

“Since the carbon dioxide in cigarettes decreases the amount of oxygen the hemoglobin in your blood can carry, you’re getting even less oxygen and putting yourself at a greater risk at a higher altitude,” said Muza. This can be critical when engaged in high altitude warfare.

High altitude research is simulated by researchers in a controlled environment with hypobaric chambers. At USARIEM these decompression chambers are used by researchers to control the barometric pressure and oxygen concentration in an enclosed environment to simulate high altitude conditions. The simulation gives researchers the data they need to draw conclusions about acclimatization, acute mountain sickness, hypoxia, and human performance metrics. USARIEM is also studying the effectiveness of hypoxic chambers used by athletes across the world to help their bodies perform better at higher altitudes.

As a result of the research conducted by Muza and his team at USARIEM, several products have been developed. Because there is relatively little data accumulated in regards to altitude sickness, several models are being created to be used as tools for the military. The research team at USARIEM is working on several predictive models which will pivot around the results and findings of three main topics of research: altitude sickness, work performance and altitude acclimatization.

“Information is our major product,” said Muza. “In 2010 we will release the Altitude Acclimatization and Illness Management Guidelines (TB Med 505).” This is a collection of much of our work surrounding altitude illnesses and will act as a tool for service members deploying to higher altitudes.

Another product is an “eat-on-the-move” nutrition supplement that allows service members to receive necessary hydration and carbohydrate-based nutrition essential to optimal performance at a high altitude.

here is only one drug which has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for prevention of altitude illnesses. Diamox helps speed up the process of adjusting to higher altitudes, and reduces minor symptoms. The drug is given to service members to prevent AMS; there is currently no FDA-sanctioned drug to improve cognitive performance.

“Researchers have worked over the past decade to study a variety of drugs as an effective medicine to combat altitude sicknesses. There have been several drugs studied, but all of them have proven to be ineffective,” said Muza.

While several significant advances have been made in the field of high altitude research, there are still several capability gaps that present themselves. “Our main gap is a lack of substantial predictive models. There are several controlled variables that affect one’s susceptibility to AMS, making it tough to develop an accurate model around the specific altitude thresholds at which different physical and cognitive effects start to set in,” said Muza.

There are also other factors that play a role in identifying research needs. Researchers have found that hydration and nutrition is integral to higher altitude performance. All too often military personnel will restrict their fluid intake because of the long trips to different deployment locations in vehicles and aircraft that have no toilets. “Troops are arriving with dehydration and other related symptoms because of this and are therefore more susceptible to altitude sickness,” said Muza.

Researchers are working to remedy many of these capability gaps in their research areas. “We’re working to identify and optimize acclimatization strategies that are applicable to military units in an effort to improve their capabilities,” said Muza.

USARIEM works with the Human Performance laboratory at the Air Force Academy to study altitude sicknesses and related subject areas. USARIEM also works in collaboration with several other health facilities in related research studies. They work with Massachusetts General Hospital with the early diagnosis of acute mountain sickness; Brigham Women’s Hospital Center on MRI neuroimaging studies; Stanford University with diet and nutrition studies; Oklahoma State University with acute mountain sickness studies; as well as the University of Colorado’s Health Science Center.

USARIEM is the only U.S. military organization with a mission focused solely on environmental research issues. With continued research revolving around high altitude sickness and its related effects, researchers are making fast headway on preparing service members for deployment in high altitude locations.

The Power of Blood Belongs to Donors

By Julie Oliveri
Armed Services Blood Program

National Blood Donor Month is here, and I wonder, what does the thought of blood conjure for you? There are more references to blood throughout history and scattered throughout popular culture, than references to food or air: blood libel, thicker than water, power in the blood, blood of the lamb, blood of our forefathers, blood brothers, blood feud, true blood, blue blood, and, of course, cold blooded.

The list is endless. Or maybe not, as Google has “blood” down for 338 million hits with “food” at 774 million and “air” at 917 million. Nevertheless, the notion of blood is visceral and powerful, perhaps because it is also nearly interchangeable with the concept of life.

According to the Web site How Stuff Works, blood is the most tested part of the body. Doctors, therefore, see blood as a marvelous detective tool of sorts, but also as a kind of superhero when faced with a patient suffering blood loss. As most people know, there is no substitute for blood, so transfusion science, or hematology, is utterly vital to any emergency medical set up. Once again, blood easily equates to life.

People who are so badly hurt or so ill that they need blood transfusions certainly see blood as life; and it’s very simple to understand that their loved ones do as well.

It is also easy, then, to see why an entire month at the beginning of every year is set aside to honor and thank blood donors. Musing on the part that blood—which makes up nearly eight percent of a person's body weight—plays in our society, what with vampires running amuck and blood memorialized in song, story and rhyme, rounding up this elixir should be simple. But it’s not, and there are many reasons.

To begin with, the collection process itself is regulated and painstakingly monitored to ensure the safety of both the donor and the recipient. Transfusion science has come a long way, and so whole blood, once collected, is manufactured into components to more efficiently use the product and treat the patient. This is referred to as component therapy. Therefore, from the arm of the donor, to the arm of the patient, the collection, manufacturing and transfusion process is rigorous and tightly controlled; and requires highly trained staff, specialized equipment and proper lab conditions.

Without donors, this whole process would be fruitless. And donors, though in high demand, are not as plentiful as was once assumed. A study that came out in 2007 from the University of Minnesota found that instead of the 60 percent of Americans who were previously thought to be eligible to donate, only 38 percent are, in fact, eligible blood donors.

Again, to ensure the safety of our nation’s blood supply, the Food and Drug Administration, the governing body for blood and blood products in the U.S., has rules in place that determine donor eligibility or criteria. As new blood borne pathogens or potential threats to the safety of the patient being transfused, are discovered, more safeguards are put in place continuing to decrease the donor pool. Even so, of the percentage of Americans who are eligible, a little less than 10 percent give blood. And that means that those who do give blood are responsible for savings the lives of thousands and thousands of people, mostly strangers.

This is why here at the Armed Services Blood Program we go all out during National Blood Donor Month to say thank you. Many of our 22 blood donor centers here at home and around the world hold special ceremonies throughout the month of January where plaques, military coins and certificates are awarded to those who make it part of their routine to give blood.

Military leadership attends these ceremonies to say thank you in person and we write stories, make videos, posters and t-shirts to honor our donors and to say thank you loud and long. We know that our donors, along with all of those who would happily donate but cannot and so find other ways to support blood drives and get the word out, are very special people. We salute and honor you during National Blood Donor Month.

Like Atlas, you hold the world of blood supply on your shoulders. Come on Dracula, say it with us! Bless you and thank you!!! The power of blood truly belongs to donors.

To find out more about the Armed Services Blood Program or to schedule your appointment to donate visit us online:

DoD Studies PTSD, TBI Methods

A recent study funded by the Department of Defense compared methods of assessing and diagnosing traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study found that current practices for assessment and diagnosis of these mental health conditions are hindered by biases and complications, but they remain the most effective tools to study and assess brain injuries. The study was conducted in part by researchers from the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) and was published in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology. An abstract of the study is available on the APA PsycNET website.
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