Military News

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Astronaut Visits Warrior Transition Brigade

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - An astronaut who has logged more than 950 hours in the space shuttles Discovery and Atlantis visited servicemembers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Warrior Transition Brigade here today. "I wanted to find a way to come back and share with and honor you all," retired Army Col. Patrick Forrester said.

Forrester showed the brigade's wounded, ill and injured soldiers a video from a Discovery mission to the international space station. The video documented the process from takeoff to re-entry and gave the servicemembers a glimpse at what it is like to live in space.

He also presented the soldiers with their brigade guidon, which traveled with him for 5.7 million miles and 217 orbits of the Earth.

"This isn't about me and what I do, but what you do," he told the soldiers.

"We really appreciate you taking our colors up there and flying them," Army Lt. Col. Teri A. Hassell, the brigade's commander, told Forrester. "That means a lot to the warrior transition brigade. We were the first warrior transition unit to stand up, so this truly means a lot to us."

Forrester also held a short question-and-answer session in which he noted that he first applied to be an astronaut while he was in the Army, and he kept his dream alive for more than a decade thereafter before it came to fruition.

"Education is the biggest thing," he said. "Never give up. From the time I first applied to the time I was selected, it took 11 years."

He credited his education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and his background in flying for his success, and he encouraged servicemembers that were seriously interested to take Army astronaut classes.

Forrester said he came to Walter Reed to honor the soldiers in the warrior transition brigade. "I was made aware of the brigade," he said, "and this was a way to honor and thank them for all of their service."

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Cost-of-living Allowance Depends on Unpredictable Factors

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - Because unpredictable factors can affect the cost-of-living allowance many servicemembers stationed overseas receive as a supplement to their normal pay, Defense Department officials want servicemembers to be aware the allowance can fluctuate rapidly and without warning.

Tonia Bock, chief of strategic planning for the Defense Travel Management Office, said in a Pentagon Channel interview yesterday that officials are trying to raise awareness that the allowance – known as the COLA – is volatile.

Overseas COLA is intended to equalize purchasing power so servicemembers can purchase the same goods and services overseas as they could if they were stationed in the United States. The prices of goods and services overseas are compared with equivalent prices in the United States.

The price comparison yields an index that reflects a cost of living. If prices in the United States are rising at a greater rate than those overseas, COLA will decrease. However, if prices rise or fall at the same rate, COLA stays the same.

"One of the misperceptions is that it's always going to be there, [and] it's always going to be the same," she said. "But COLA does fluctuate. They see it as $300 one month, $200 another month."

Defense Department officials recently rolled out some new marketing tools to serve as a megaphone for the advice Bock and others are delivering concerning the COLA's unpredictable nature. The gist of that message: plan accordingly.

"One of the reasons we really want them to understand is this does impact their finances," she said. "We don't want servicemembers to make budget decisions based on this amount that comes in their paycheck, because it will change. It will fluctuate."

A safe strategy, defense officials say, is for servicemembers to budget their fixed expenses, such as rent and car payments, based on what they can afford without COLA.

A page devoted to the overseas COLA on the Defense Travel Management Office's Web site includes a full explanation of the allowance and links to a COLA communications toolkit and a COLA calculator. It also contains a link to a video that provides a COLA overview and descriptions of its key elements.

"We value the commitment that servicemembers are providing to our country," Bock said, "and we want to make sure they understand those extra allowances that are afforded to them. "But we don't want them to misunderstand and misuse the allowances."

MILITARY CONTRACTS January 28, 2010

NAVY

Arriba Corp., Norfolk, Va.* (N40080-10-D-0495); Allen & Shariff Corp., Columbia, Md.* (N40080-10-D-0496); Corinthian Contractors, Inc., Arlington, Va.* (N40080-10-D-0497); and G-W Management Services, LLC, Rockville, Md.* (N40080-10-D-0498), are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity small multiple-award construction contract for various large dollar construction projects within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Washington's area of responsibility (AOR). The maximum dollar value, including the base period and four option years, for all four contracts combined is $500,000,000. The work to be performed provides for construction services. The contractor shall provide all labor, supervision, engineering, materials, equipment, tools, parts, supplies and transportation to perform all work described in the specifications. All work on this contract will be performed within NAVFAC Washington's AOR, to include Maryland (55 percent); Virginia (30 percent); and Washington, D.C. (15 percent). The term of the contract is not to exceed 60 months, with an expected completion date of January 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site, with 10 proposals received. These four contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Washington, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $202,696,561 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-09-C-0007) to exercise an option for the procurement of 196 fiscal year 2010 Tomahawk Block IV all-up-round missiles. The Tomahawk Block IV missile is capable of launch from surface ships equipped with the vertical launch system (VLS), submarines equipped with the capsule launch system (CLS), and submarines equipped with the torpedo tube launch system (TTL). This contract provides for 132 VLS missiles, 53 CLS missiles and 11 TTL missiles. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz. (32 percent); Walled Lake, Mich. (9 percent); Camden, Ark. (8 percent); Anniston, Ala. (5 percent); Glenrothes, Scotland (5 percent); Huntsville, Ala. (4 percent); Fort Wayne, Ind. (4 percent); Minneapolis, Minn. (4 percent); Ontario, Calif. (3 percent); Spanish Fork, Utah (3 percent); Westminster, Colo. (2 percent); El Segundo, Calif. (2 percent); Middletown, Conn. (2 percent); Largo, Fla. (2 percent); Vergennes, Vt. (2 percent); Farmington, N.M. (2 percent); and various locations inside and outside of the contiguous United States (12.8 percent). Work is expected to be completed in July 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., Santa Ana, Calif., is being awarded a maximum $30,000,000 firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity architect/engineering contract for renovation/repair and new construction of various facilities in the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest area of responsibility (AOR). The work to be performed includes architectural and engineering design; studies and site investigation reports to support new development of facilities on raw land, or re-development of existing facilities on developed sites; preparation of requests for proposals for design-build projects; preparation of fully designed plans and specifications for invitation for bid projects; architectural and engineering design analysis, reports, cost estimates, evaluations, and preparation of facility planning documents; construction inspections; and construction support services. Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps facilities and other government facilities within the NAVFAC Southwest AOR including, but not limited to, California (87 percent); Arizona (5 percent); Nevada (5 percent); Colorado (1 percent); New Mexico (1 percent); and Utah (1 percent). Work is expected to be completed by January 2015. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the NAVFAC e-solicitation Web site,with 53 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N62473-10-D-5403).

L-3 Systems Co., Camden, N.J., is being awarded a $13,073,867 firm-fixed-price contract for design and production of a machinery control system (MCS) for Military Sealift Command's T-AOE 6-class fast combat support ships. MSC's four fast combat support ships provide one-stop shopping to the U.S. Navy by providing underway replenishment of fuel, ammunition, food, and other cargo. This contract includes 12 options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $44,739,422. Installation support work will occur at two locations in the United States. If all options are exercised, work is expected to be completed in December 2016. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured with two offers received. The solicitation was issued on an unrestricted basis, using full and open competitive procedures via the Military Sealift Command, Navy Electronic Commerce Online, and Federal Business Opportunities Web sites. The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00033-10-C-7501).

Tompco-Triton, LLC, Bremerton, Wash., is being awarded $6,671,449 for firm-fixed price task order #0011 under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract (N44255-08-D-3018) for the design and construction of the renovation and expansion of the Naval Exchange at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The work to be performed provides for all labor, materials, equipment and associated costs for the renovation and expansion. Work will be performed at Whidbey Island, Wash., and is expected to be completed by June 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $6,671,449 will not expire at the end of fiscal year. Three proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest, Silverdale, Wash., is the contracting activity.

United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., is being awarded a $5,905,395 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus incentive fee/award fee contract (N00019-08-C-0033) for additional initial spares for the Air Force conventional take off and landing Joint Strike Fighter propulsion system. Work will be performed in East Hartford, Conn., and is expected to be completed in February 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Public Health Emergency Management Within the DoD

By Rob Anastasio
FHP&R Staff Writer

January 27, 2010 - A new DoD Instruction will “establish DoD guidance to protect installations and personnel by mitigating the impacts of publish health emergencies,” according to USPHS Capt. D.W. Chen, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, who spoke at the At the 2010 MHS Conference Jan 26. Chen said that, additionally, the policy will clarify roles and responsibilities of military treatment facility (MTF) commanders and emergency managers, as well as public health emergency officers (PHEOs).

The DoD Instruction (DoDI), number 6200.03, is titled “Public Health Emergency Management Within the Department of Defense” and was signed Jan. 14 by Gail McGinn, deputy undersecretary of defense (plans) performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The DoDI takes a holistic approach to public health emergency management moving DoD toward an “all-hazards” focus and away from the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosive (CBRNE) focus of the past.

Other significant provisions of the DoDI include: public health emergency notification routing requirements; authorization for DoD laboratories to participate in the Laboratory Response Network (LRN); update of guidance on quarantine and restriction of movement; authorization for military installations to serve as close points of distribution and receipt, staging, storage sites for strategic national stockpile assets; guidelines surrounding situational standards of care; establishment of military treatment facility emergency managers (MEMs); enumeration of roles and responsibilities of military public health emergency officers (PHEOs) and MEMs and attendant training/education requirements; the use of ESSENCE as the DoD syndromic surveillance tool.

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs has a major responsibility with the policy. “The ASD(HA) will serve as the primary advisor to the Secretary of Defense regarding PHEs, will be the point of contact for interagency coordination,” said Chen. “The individual services will ensure commanders work with state and local government authorities, and ensure that public health emergency management (PHEM) resources are identified and developed.”

In addition to the added responsibilities of the services, geographic combatant command, military commander, and the MTF commander, there are a set of general procedures that military commanders must follow during a PHE.

“Making timely decisions is very important,” said Chen. “The emergency should be immediately reported through the proper channels, and the PHEOs have the responsibility of examining facilities that may endanger public health, share the information with civilian public health officials, and declare a public health emergency.”

PHEOs are also responsible for assisting with risk communication efforts and maintaining situational awareness of the public health emergency, said Chen.

The new DoDI also incorporates guidance from and brings the Department of Defense into compliance with several key documents that have emerged over the past several years, including the updated International Health Regulations, updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quarantine regulations, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, and the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act. While it was written specifically in coordination within the Department of Defense, this DoDI was also coordinated extensively within the federal interagency with offices from the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Veterans Affairs.

DCoE Unveils New Real Warriors Profile

By Sarah Heynen
DCoE

January 27, 2010 - The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury unveiled a new Real Warriors Campaign profile at the MHS 2010 Conference on Jan 26. Sponsored by DCoE, the Real Warriors Campaign is a multimedia public education initiative designed to combat stigma associated with seeking treatment for psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Air Force Lt. Col. Mary Carlisle’s profile highlights her experiences coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The casualties that Carlise saw daily as a critical care nurse serving at the intensive care unit at the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, took a toll on her psychological health. After returning home, Carlisle began to exhibit the signs and symptoms of PTSD, but she initially worried that seeking treatment would negatively impact her career. She found the strength to reach out after seeing her friend, and Real Warriors Campaign volunteer, Maj. Iwona Blackledge, speak out about her own experiences coping with PTSD.

Carlisle hopes that her profile, and the other video profiles and PSAs at www.realwarriors.net, will inspire others to reach out. “My point is to share this ... to get the message out,” she said. These powerful videos highlight real warriors of different ranks and services who have experienced PTSD or TBI, have sought treatment, and who are maintaining successful careers. Real Warrior profiles like Carlisle’s are the proof that service members, veterans, and families need to know that resources are available, and that they work.

CoE is not only working to eliminate the stigma associated with seeking help for psychological health concerns. Army Brig. Gen. Lorree K. Sutton, director of DCoE, explained in greater detail what DCoE does.

“We are the open front door within the Department of Defense for all issues related to psychological health and traumatic brain injury, the unseen wounds of war,” Sutton said. “We assess, we validate, we reach into the next generation, find next generation solutions and bring them into the here and now. You are not alone. The unseen wounds of war are real. Treatments work, and the sooner we can intervene the better. Finally, reaching out is an act of courage and strength.”

DCoE opened in November of 2007. DCoE works on a wide range of projects -- all under the scope of psychological health and traumatic brain injury. These efforts are accomplished through collaborating with the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal partners and leading academic institutions and organizations. Six component centers also make up DCoE, which include the Center for Deployment Psychology, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, Deployment Health Clinical Center, National Center for Telehealth & Technology and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (scheduled to open summer 2010).

TRICARE Presents Quadruple Aim

By David Loebsack
Health.mil

January 27, 2010 - The “Triple Aim” is a phrase that is often discussed in the health care community. It’s an idea that refers to the three integral factors that determine the overall quality of health care: population health, positive patient experience, and per capita cost.

Adm. Christine Hunter, the deputy director of TRICARE Management Activity, has taken this health care paradigm and added a necessary fourth determinant – readiness – in order to adapt it to Military Health System use. She gave a lecture regarding the MHS’s “Quadruple Aim” during the 2010 MHS Conference, on Jan. 26.

Hunter opened by discussing the sheer size of TRICARE’s operations: 59 hospitals and medical centers, 364 health clinics and roughly 350,000 individual providers serving a beneficiary population of 9.6 million. She also talked about the massive numbers of processes that are being initiated on a regular basis: roughly 22,000 inpatients admitted, 2.5 million prescriptions written and 3.5 million claims being processed every week.

Because TRICARE handles such a vast array of needs in the military medical community, its ability to remain on target in achieving these four goals is foundational in maintaining an effective and efficient system, to keep the U.S. Armed Forces fit to fight.

She began by comparing TRICARE patient costs with similar federal Blue Cross Blue Shield standard and Kaiser HMO plans, showing that over a period of nine years TRICARE has consistently required less cost-sharing from its patients.

She also showed that readiness has steadily grown in the total force for four consecutive quarters. Although there was initial cause for concern beginning in 2007, with an increase in behavioral diagnoses, the MHS responded with a 20 percent surge in mental health providers. Since 2008, behavioral health locator lines have also helped address this burden, serving more than 20,000 men and women, and helping increase the overall capacity of services rendered.

Hunter went on to cite the Enrollee Preventive Health Quality Index to track population health showing that health outcomes have also been on a steady rise since 2007. In fact, the MHS is ahead of target for 2010 thanks to an increase in preventive measures.

Her plan for improving the quality of health care included enhancing the patient experience, streamlining the emergency room product line and incorporating the medical home model – which places a high emphasis on patient centered care, team-based delivery and population health.

In closing, Hunter said that TRICARE is ready for change. Maximizing readiness, focusing on outcomes, and achieving sustainable costs are the end-goals, but in order to get there, Hunter called on everyone in the system to be facilitators and incentivizers.

Obama Reaffirms Desire to End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union address tonight that he intends to work with Congress and the military during the year ahead to repeal the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.

Obama said he will aim "to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

"It is the right thing to do," he said.

The president has long advocated allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters in June that he had directed Defense Department lawyers to explore ways to make the policy more flexible until the law is changed.

The law prohibits officials from inquiring into a servicemember's sexual orientation in the absence of statements or acts that indicate the servicemember is homosexual, but allows the services to take action against servicemembers who disclose their homosexuality by word or action.

Gates told reporters in June that he had talked with the president about how to work toward his goal of overturning the policy.

"The issue that we face is, How do we begin to do preparations and, simultaneously, the administration move forward in asking the Congress to change the law?" the secretary said.

"What we have is a law, not a policy or regulation," he said. "And as I discovered when I got into it, it is a very prescriptive law. It doesn't leave a lot to the imagination or a lot of flexibility. So one of the things we are looking at is, Is there flexibility in how we apply this law?"

Gates cited the example of someone who's been "outed by a third party," possibly the result of blackmail or a jilting.

"Does that force us to take an action?" he questioned. "I don't know the answer to that. I don't want to pretend to. But that is the kind of thing we are looking at."

Gates said he believes there's "at least a more humane way to comply with the law until the law gets changed," though he acknowledged that what that way might be is up to legal interpretation. "We have general counsel working on it," he said.

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law has been in effect since 1993. Previously, homosexuals were strictly banned from military service.

Waiting for returning Guardsman a labor of love



By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

(1/14/10) -- The pain Johana Ortiz experienced waiting for her husband, Spc. Melvin Ortiz of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1158th Transportation Company, to return from his year-long deployment to Iraq was more than just longing.

Johana, who was due to deliver a baby Jan. 17, went into labor hours before her husband was to arrive here at Volk Field, a Wisconsin Air National Guard facility roughly 20 miles east of Fort McCoy.

But the contractions did not keep Johana from making the trip from Milwaukee. "My doctor said 'don't go,'" the mother of three admitted.

When the plane carrying about 300 Soldiers, who deployed to Iraq with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, landed at about 4 p.m., Jan.13, Brigade Commander Col. Steven Bensend and Brigade Command Sgt. Major Ed Hansen boarded and called Spc. Ortiz to the front. They informed him of his wife's condition and directed him to leave the plane first.

Ortiz bounded down the staircase to the pavement, handed his backpack to another Soldier and sprinted to the hangar, where his wife was waiting. The families at the edge of the airstrip, many of whom were aware of Johana's condition, applauded appreciatively.

Once inside, Ortiz embraced his wife. "I'm excited," he said moments later. "I just want to go to the hospital."

Earlier, Bensend had promised Johana that her husband would be granted a pass so that he could be with her for the birth of their child.

"This is a great thing," Bensend said. "There's no way I would have missed my child's birth."

True to his word, paperwork was waiting for Spc. Ortiz to sign that allowed him to leave with his wife minutes after arriving at Volk Field. They made it safely to West Allis Memorial Hospital, where Johana gave birth to a 7 lb., 8 oz., baby boy the couple named Eduardo.

Capt. Joshua Porter, commander of the 1158th Transportation Company, based in Beloit and Black River Falls, said that Ortiz would return to complete his demobilization process after his pass expired.

Ortiz was among about 500 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers to return from Iraq on two separate flights Wednesday, part of the 3,200 Soldiers who deployed with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team that will return in stages throughout January.

Site Provides Instructions for Transporting Aid

By Army Maj. James Lowe
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - U.S. Transportation Command's Web site now provides instructions for nongovernmental or nonprofit organizations seeking airlift or sealift for humanitarian supplies and relief personnel. "How Do I Get Lift?" is an interactive presentation that steers customers through the process of acquiring qualifying military-provided transportation for cargo or people.

The ongoing crisis in Haiti has led numerous private organizations to request a simple way to navigate through complex U.S. military rules regulating the movement of cargo and passengers, officials said.

"This presentation meets a need in the national humanitarian relief community," said Lance Carpenter, chief of Transcom's Joint Interagency Communication Group. "It will help [nongovernmental organizations] more easily and quickly identify qualifying opportunities to move relief supplies and personnel into places like Haiti.

"The presentation, available at the Web address http://www.transcom.mil/TransportFAQs.ppsx, is a resource guide that allows customers to investigate either air or surface transportation options. Surface transportation includes ship, train and truck, officials explained, adding that sometimes a combination of air and surface transportation is most appropriate.

Clear guidelines -- including telephone and e-mail contact information for military transportation experts -- streamline the process for organizations seeking to move goods or personnel.

Transcom orchestrates transportation solutions for military and nonmilitary customers through its three components: the Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the Air Force's Air Mobility Command and the Navy's Military Sealift Command.

(Army Maj. James Lowe serves in the U.S. Transportation Command public affairs office.)

Site Provides Instructions for Transporting Aid

By Army Maj. James Lowe
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - U.S. Transportation Command's Web site now provides instructions for nongovernmental or nonprofit organizations seeking airlift or sealift for humanitarian supplies and relief personnel. "How Do I Get Lift?" is an interactive presentation that steers customers through the process of acquiring qualifying military-provided transportation for cargo or people.

The ongoing crisis in Haiti has led numerous private organizations to request a simple way to navigate through complex U.S. military rules regulating the movement of cargo and passengers, officials said.

"This presentation meets a need in the national humanitarian relief community," said Lance Carpenter, chief of Transcom's Joint Interagency Communication Group. "It will help [nongovernmental organizations] more easily and quickly identify qualifying opportunities to move relief supplies and personnel into places like Haiti.

"The presentation, available at the Web address http://www.transcom.mil/TransportFAQs.ppsx, is a resource guide that allows customers to investigate either air or surface transportation options. Surface transportation includes ship, train and truck, officials explained, adding that sometimes a combination of air and surface transportation is most appropriate.

Clear guidelines -- including telephone and e-mail contact information for military transportation experts -- streamline the process for organizations seeking to move goods or personnel.

Transcom orchestrates transportation solutions for military and nonmilitary customers through its three components: the Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the Air Force's Air Mobility Command and the Navy's Military Sealift Command.

(Army Maj. James Lowe serves in the U.S. Transportation Command public affairs office.)

Gates Video Highlights Top 2009 Accomplishments

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - Most people would be hard-pressed to squeeze the highlights of their past year – and what they hope to accomplish in the year ahead -- into 50 seconds.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates took a crack at it in a new White House video, ticking off the Defense Department's most significant milestones since January 2009.

The secretary focused on three top efforts: the war effort in Afghanistan, the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq, and submission of a defense budget that supports major reforms while increasing military capabilities and taking care of troops and their families.

Operations in Afghanistan topped Gates' list. He noted President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan strategy, announced in early December, that includes 30,000 additional troops, in addition to the 17,000 ordered to Afghanistan earlier in the year.

Obama's strategy calls for beginning to transfer security responsibility to the Afghan forces, and beginning the process of drawing down U.S. troops in July 2011, based on conditions on the ground.

These additional forces, Gates noted in the video, are aimed at rolling back the Taliban and preventing al-Qaida from destabilizing Pakistan and attacking the United States.

Gates also noted continuation of a responsible drawdown in Iraq, with even steeper reductions expected this year.

Obama announced in February his decision to redeploy all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August of this year. Between 35,000 and 50,000 Americans are expected to remain in Iraq to train and mentor the Iraqi forces or track down extremist groups in conjunction with Iraqi forces.

Gates cited the fiscal 2010 defense budget request – "a reform defense budget focused on the military capabilities we truly need" – as another 2009 Defense Department milestone. While eliminating underperforming or unnecessary programs and concentrating on pressing warfighter requirements and what's needed to fight future conflicts, the budget also ensures "our troops and their families get the support they deserve," Gates said.

Gates closed his video with the reminder, "America remains a nation at war." He urged the American public to "keep our brave men and women in uniform uppermost in your thoughts during this coming year."

Air Force Team Cares for Haiti Victims in Flight



By Derek Kaufman
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - A three-person medical team from the Wright-Patterson Medical Center here is providing aeromedical evacuation support for victims of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The critical care air transport, or CCAT, team is staging from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., with the 45th Aeromedical Staging Squadron. From there, the team flies to Port-au-Prince, picks up critically injured patients and takes them to hospitals in southern Florida.

CCAT teams are highly specialized, rapidly deployable medical teams that set up and provide intensive-care-unit-level care for patients aboard transport aircraft in flight. Most often, they set up their equipment aboard Air Force C-130 Hercules or C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

Air Force Maj. (Dr.) John Lynch, a physician with the 88th Medical Group here, leads the Wright-Patterson team. Air Force Capt. Jeffery Marsh, an intensive-care unit nurse, and Air Force Senior Airman Brooke Lohr, a cardiopulmonary technician, round out the team.

"Ours was the first CCAT to arrive on the ground in Haiti," Lynch said. The first CCAT mission supporting Operation Unified Response left Haiti for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jan. 20.

To date, the Wright-Patterson team has flown three missions, evacuating 10 critical-care patients. Two were flown to Fort Lauderdale and one to Miami. The team planned to leave late yesterday to fly to Port-au-Prince for its fourth medevac mission.

"We're transporting a lot of crush injuries, amputees, burns, and closed-head trauma," Lynch said. "About half of our critical patients to date have been pediatric patients with all of those types of injuries."

Lynch said his team calls ahead to emergency personnel in Miami-Dade and Broward counties while airborne to identify the mix of patients onboard so they are ready to receive and transport them to local medical centers.

"As soon as we open the back of the plane, they are there waiting to take the patients off," Lynch said.

Lynch said each CCAT team typically oversees care for three critical patients in flight, but has provided intensive care for up to four patients on missions flown from Haiti so far. Critical care patient capacity is maxed out on each aircraft, he said.

Two additional CCAT teams from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., have joined the Wright-Patterson team to move patients. As of yesterday, Lynch said, the combined CCAT teams had moved 20 patients.

On the ground in Haiti, the air evacuations are directed by a combination of a medical air staging facility, which provides triage and stabilization, and an air evacuation liaison team, which arranges airlift with Air Mobility Command's Tanker-Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Air Force Capt. Jeffery Marsh -- a critical care nurse originally from Albuquerque, N.M., who now lives in Dayton, Ohio, -- said many of the patients the team has evacuated have been extremely ill, having had to endure burns and crushing injuries for seven days or more prior to transport.

"It's a different mission than we encounter in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "Nonetheless, it's very rewarding to be part of this humanitarian effort. ... It's really hectic, really stressful, because of the situation in country. You normally don't get this type of experience in a career, so I am very happy to be a part of it."

Marsh and Lynch said the real heroes in the Air Force's medical response have been a group of special operations airmen from Hurlburt Field, Fla., who were on the ground in Port-au-Prince early, helping to free those trapped in the rubble and providing quick surgical intervention. All of the critical patients moved by the Wright-Patterson team to date were identified by the special operations team.

Marsh called the special operations airmen "a mixed bag of pararescue jumpers, surgeons [and] nurses who ask for no thanks and somehow manage to keep a smile on, despite being dead tired."

Lohr, the CCAT team's only enlisted member, ensures patients have a good airway and are getting enough oxygen. The Columbia, S.C., native said she's "really learned a lot about teamwork."

"We each know a little bit about what the other does," she said, "but it really takes every person on the team to accomplish the mission and bring the patient safely back to wherever they are going."

One patient who stands out in her mind is a 9-month-old girl who was experiencing a perfect storm of respiratory distress from malaria, pneumonia and an apparent asthma attack.

"We were able to give two albuterol nebulizer treatments, and racemic epinephrine, which they didn't have available," Lohr said. "Had we not been there to give those medications, they probably would have had to intubate to save the baby, and they really don't have a lot of pediatric stuff right now."

The baby was stabilized and later was transported to the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort.

Lynch, a Lexington, Ky. native, said all CCAT team members get two weeks of specialized training with the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks City Base, Texas. His team also participated in a two-week trauma training course in partnership with University Hospital Cincinnati.

(Derek Kaufman works in the 88th Air Base Wing public affairs office.)