Tuesday, February 02, 2010

North Dakota Soldier patrols fields, floods

By Spc. Joshua Dodds
North Dakota National Guard

(2/2/10) - A narrow and winding road leads here - a small village nestled in the mountains off the Administrative Boundary Line between Kosovo and Serbia. For Spc. Shane P. Spieker, it's a 90-minute drive by Humvee from Camp Bondsteel, the U.S.-led NATO headquarters in Kosovo. The place reminds Spieker, a squad member with B Co. 231st Maneuver Task Force, of his home in North Dakota. And the work he's doing now is a lot like what he was doing nine months ago, maintaining safety and security in his flood-ravaged state. In his civilian life, Spieker works as a correction officer at the Cass County Jail in Fargo, N.D. During the spring floods of 2009 in North Dakota and Minnesota, he was called by Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney to help patrol rural cities. His service was not as a citizen-Soldier, but as a sheriff's deputy. Though he wanted to help as a Guard Soldier, his duties with the sheriff's office took precedence.

"All licensed correctional officers became a sort of 'reserve' to help augment the force and provide more emergency responders," Spieker said. "I felt a bit disconnected from my 'Guard family', but I was doing something I really enjoyed. I am working as a correctional officer at the county jail, but I want to be a patrol officer."

The presence of the sheriff's deputies added security and comfort for the citizens of the rural communities in Cass County. "I patrolled Hunter, Arthur, Tower City and Page (all North Dakota towns) to ensure the people had what they needed to survive," Spieker said. "I would drive about an hour which is very similar to my duty in Kosovo."

His ties to the Guard Soldiers helped with coordination to better serve the citizens of his home state.

As in Kosovo, the role of the National Guard during the flood was to work with the civilian organizations when and where requested. Now Spieker is getting his chance to do it as a Soldier. "I relate this to my time patrolling in the rural cities in North Dakota, the cities are rather self-sufficient, our presence on the streets is enough," Spieker said. Spieker, who deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a mechanic with the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion, based in Fargo, N.D., said many Soldiers he served with in Iraq are still in the Guard and play vital roles at home and here in Kosovo.

Soldiers work with the people here to solve many issues on patrol; they get an opportunity to meet the local citizens and share their thoughts through the use of translators. "It's Soldiers, such as Spc. Spieker and his partners in Multi-National Task Force-East, who optimize what it means to embrace change and carry on with selfless service, no matter what uniform they might be wearing or in what capacity they might be serving - civilian or military," said Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, commanding general of MNTF-E. "I admire Spc. Spieker's respect and pride for his military family back home and here in Kosovo."

Teleconference links returning Guardsmen with benefits experts

By Army Sgt. Benjamin R. Kibbey
Multinational Division South

(2/2/10) - The benefits a grateful nation makes available to those who serve in its military are numerous, but connecting servicemembers to the resources in their local areas – especially when they serve in the reserve components can be a challenge. In conjunction with the community of St. Cloud, Minn., the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Infantry Division hosted a city hall teleconference here in December showcasing the individuals and organizations the soldiers of central Minnesota will deal with when they return home.

The conference was a proof of concept, said Army Capt. John Donovan, the division's visitor bureau and event coordinator. The hope is that this event not only will help St. Cloud soldiers, but also open the way for similar coordination between local communities and their deployed servicemembers in the future, Donovan said.

"The purpose of this event it to take macro information and put it at a micro level -- to take information that would be disseminated statewide, to all the soldiers in Minnesota, and provide it to their specific ZIP codes," he explained.

"The hope today is that people could actually take out their soldier notebook and be writing down telephone numbers that start with their area code," he said, "and walk away with the telephone number, the name and a face of the person that they'll interface with when they get back home."

Army Sgt. Nicholas Buskey, who is from the St. Cloud area and serves with the 34th Military Police Company, was one of about 40 Minnesota soldiers who attended after hearing about the teleconference through his chain of command. "I just want to see what resources are out there -- kind of open my mind, broaden what I know," he said.

Buskey, who has taken advantage of Department of Veterans Affairs medical benefits in the past, said he had been to other briefings during his previous deployment, but never had seen anything this localized.

Army Maj. Jeff Howe, the division's transportation officer, asked local VA representatives about the Transition Assistance Program, a resource he had used in the past.

Widely perceived as just a tool for those seeking employment, TAP also helps soldiers looking to move up with or on from a civilian employer, putting their military skills into use in a civilian environment, Howe said. "It was actually open to spouses too," he said, adding that his wife went through TAP. "It was a great program."

Given his own experiences, Howe said, he believes the teleconference was an excellent concept and well-executed. A program like this helps to cover the areas that briefings soldiers receive 30, 60 and 90 days after deployment can't cover adequately, he said.

"You've got the 30-60-90," he said, but there's a gap in there of 30 days. And now, if somebody needs help, they can put a face on, 'This is where I need to go.'

Some soldiers need assistance before their deployment is over, and Donovan is familiar with the help someone local can provide in those circumstances. With the advent of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, he had the opportunity to do something he had been looking at for 10 years: transfer his education benefits to his daughter. Yet, when these benefits became available, he was here, thousands of miles from home.

"Because the program is so new, they're building the ship while they're flying it," he said. "So, they were inundated with some 250,000 applications of soldiers who want to use it for themselves, and for soldiers, like me, who want to transfer it to their dependents."

Though stop-gap measures are in place for soldiers, Donovan's daughter, like many dependents, has nearly completed a semester without receiving any payments. Though the issue has yet to be fully resolved, Donovan was able to take the problem to his local county Veterans Service officer, and to deal directly with someone for an issue that might otherwise be solved in a faceless manner.

Now, Donovan said, he wants to be certain that other soldiers, when faced with questions and issues, know exactly where to find that individual attention the local community is so eager to provide.

The teleconference was coordinated in cooperation with the "Warrior to Citizen Campaign," a local St. Cloud group, and included St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Technical and Community College, the Minnesota School of Business and Rasmussen College, as well as the St. Cloud Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, the Minnesota Workforce Center and the Stearns County Veterans Services.

Taluto retires as TAG, withdraws nomination as Army Guard director

(1/28/10) -- New York Gov. David Paterson today announced that the Adjutant General of New York, Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto, will retire after a 44-year career with the National Guard in which he rose from private to two-star general. Taluto was appointed as adjutant general in 2006 after serving as the commander of a combat division in Iraq in 2005.

"During his tenure as Adjutant General, Major General Taluto worked tirelessly to bring the New York Army and Air National Guard to full strength, improve the Guard's capabilities to respond to domestic emergencies, and ensure that our Citizen Soldiers and Airmen and their families are cared for – both during and after their service," Paterson said.

"Under his direction, the Air National Guard has undertaken new missions with new aircraft, the Army National Guard has deployed more than 2,500 soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the New York National Guard's ability to respond to domestic terrorist attacks and disasters has been tested and refined.

"Major General Taluto has had a long and distinguished career during which he has served our State and nation with distinction. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him and wish him and his wife Susan well in a well-earned and much deserved retirement," Paterson added.

Taluto was nominated by President Barack Obama to become a three-star lieutenant general and director of the Army National Guard in May 2009. After a delay in the confirmation process, he has asked that his nomination be withdrawn so that he can go forward with his long-deferred retirement.

"While lengthy delays in confirmations are not unusual, I believe this prolonged confirmation process has become a distraction to the New York National Guard and the National Guard overall. While I appreciate all the urging and support I have had to stay the course, this is a crucial time for our National Guard. I feel that withdrawing is the right thing to do because the Army National Guard needs a director as soon as possible," Taluto said. "I believe as I did last year, while contemplating retirement, that we have accomplished what we set out to do four years ago. It is the right time for the governor to select a new adjutant general."

Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O'Donnell said: "New York is losing a devoted leader and a true patriot with the retirement of Major General Joseph Taluto. His vision to make the New York National Guard the preeminent National Guard in the country will live on for decades and will remain a lasting legacy of his strong and effective leadership."

As adjutant general, Taluto led the effort to grow the strength of the Army National Guard by 2,000 members, resulting in the eighth largest Army National Guard in the country and a force that is at assigned strength of 10,400 soldiers.

The New York Air National Guard has also maintained its strength and status as the largest Air National Guard in the country, and two of the five air wings have taken on different missions. The 107th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls has gone from flying air refueling tankers to flying C-130 cargo aircraft in partnership with the Air Force Reserve and the 174th Fighter Wing has transitioned from flying F-16C fighters to remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper attack aircraft.

Taluto pushed for the successful creation of a second National Guard team designed to detect the use of chemical and biological weapons known as a Civil Support Team ( CST ) in New York. This team, based at Fort Hamilton, is focused on operations in the New York City area.

He also organized a special 350-member National Guard unit that is trained to extract, decontaminate, and treat victims of a terrorist attack on a building a priority. Under his tenure, this team, known as a CERFP for chemical, biological, radiological, high-yield explosives, Enhance Reaction Force Package, became the second of 17 in the nation to be certified as ready.

Taluto oversaw the recreation of the task force of New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen on duty in New York City into a more flexible force focused on planning for many missions in the metropolitan area and not just pulling guard duty at train stations and airports.

Under his direction, the New York National Guard conducted several internal domestic response exercises and hosted Vigilant Guard 2009, a national-level exercise held in western New York.

Taluto enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in 1965 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant through the Officer Candidate School program in 1968. He began his career as an officer assigned to a Nike-Hercules missile battery whose mission was to protect New York City from attack by Russian bombers during the Cold War, and then became an armor officer, commanding a tank company and working as a staff officer in a tank battalion.

He has served as chief of staff of the New York Army National Guard's 53rd Troop Command, the 27th Brigade, and the 42nd Infantry Division, as well as in positions at the State headquarters during his career.

In 2000, he was named deputy commander of the 42nd Infantry Division and promoted to brigadier general. In that role, he assumed command of the New York National Guard's response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. He directed almost 2,500 members of the National Guard, New York Naval Militia and New York Guard in assisting the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

In 2002, he was named commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, responsible for Army National Guard units in New York and surrounding northeastern states. He was promoted to major general in March 2004.

Shortly after that the 42nd Infantry Division was tapped to deploy to Iraq to assume command of forces in the region just north of Baghdad, known as Multi-National Division North Central. Taluto went on active duty for 20 months, leading the soldiers of the division through the process of training and deploying into combat. Almost 3,500 New York Army National Guard Soldiers were deployed to Iraq in 2004/2005.

In Iraq, Taluto commanded 23,000 Active, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers in four ground maneuver brigades responsible for operations in an area the size of West Virginia. The division received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its efforts in securing critical power transmission systems and oil pipelines in the region, ensuring that the Iraq Constitutional Referendum was conducted successfully, training an Iraqi Army Division, working with local police, and rebuilding local governments and businesses.

Kansas civil engineers build hospital in Haiti

By Tech. Sgt. Emily Alley
Kansas National Guard

(2/1/10) - The bright clothing, smiles and conversation could be taking place in any hospital lobby in the world. Patients are being admitted, treated and released. But a flurry of French and the grinding of a helicopter nearby betray the reality - this is Haiti.

A brutal sun burns over the tent, while the floor is dust and rock. The patients are earthquake survivors, who have just been flown from the USNS Comfort, the Navy's 1000-bed floating hospital that has been deployed here. A handful of Navy translators are helping them to find rides back to their families.

The Comfort is working at its full operational capacity for the first time in its service, and it would take a hundred more ships to treat all the estimated wounded in Haiti, officials said.

To help relieve the stress and suffering, civil engineers from the Kansas Air National Guard are working to expand one of the medical triage facilities in Port-au-Prince by assembling an Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS) hospital.

With the EMEDS in place, medics will be able to ease the pressure from the Comfort by performing minor surgery and 24-hour operations without transporting patients to the Comfort.

The Guardsmen are also building a helicopter landing pad to help transport more severely injured patients to and from the ship.

"I will take my hat off to the Air Force, who has done a great job since the day they got here," said Lt. Commander Robert Propes, liaison for the Comfort. "If there's minor surgery, (the patients) can get it here instead of the ship."

By the end of January, the engineers had set up air conditioned tents and plan to eventually provide showers and latrines, which have been a luxury for relief workers. There is an informal consensus at the Port-au-Prince airport that the Kansas Air National Guardsmen are already heroes for bringing those facilities.

The civil engineers could complain about the cramped living quarters, lack of showers and long workdays. They taste the dust, they wear the sun - everyone has some severity of sunburn.

But it's hard to complain when only a few feet from their camp is the city of Port-au-Prince, where earthquake survivors must endure similar conditions. At least the Guardsmen know they have a home to go back to.

There are 40 members of the 190th Civil Engineering Squadron from Topeka, Kan., and five members of the 184th Civil Engineering Squadron from Wichita, Kan., deployed here to build infrastructure for sustained operations in Haiti.

Many of the Guardsmen were training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when the earthquake struck and deployed to Haiti about two weeks later. The deployment is scheduled to last for four months.

Review Calls for Stronger Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - A network of strong relationships -- with U.S. allies and partners around the world as well as civilian partners at home -– is critical to executing the Defense Department's long-term strategy, as spelled out in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the undersecretary of defense for policy said here today.

"America must increasingly integrate its efforts with others to help promote prosperity and security," Michele Flournoy told the Council on Foreign Relations. "We need to emphasize cooperation more in everything we do – to think more deeply about what our allies and partners abroad and civilian partners at home can bring to the table."

She pointed to operations in Afghanistan, where 40,000 international troops serve alongside U.S. forces, as an example of the contributions traditional allies and new partners make, and on which the United States depends.

While the United States has always worked with other nations to advance common goals, Flournoy predicted that American interest in building a network of alliances and partnerships will only increase over time.

"Over the course of the last eight years, we've been reminded that our ability to project and sustain power abroad depends not only on technology, but on regional allies and partners who provide access, regional expertise and intelligence," she said.

"You can't surge trust in a contingency," Flournoy continued. "And you can't quickly build a partnership that you have neglected."

The 2010 QDR recognizes the need to tailor regional defense postures with the right mix of capabilities, agreements and relationships to be more responsive to the regional security environment, she noted.

Flournoy called for more combined training, cooperation that builds partners' security capability, and increased multilateral efforts to assure access to the global commons, which includes the maritime, cyberspace and space domains.

Meanwhile, Flournoy emphasized the importance of strengthening the interagency process and relationships with civilian partners at home.

"DoD is in a supporting role in much of what we do, and we need to continue working toward whole-of-government approaches to many challenges," she said.

Blind Soldier Becomes Company Commander

By Tommy Gilligan
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - Soldier, infantryman, Airborne Ranger, combat diver, mountain climber, skier, tri-athlete, surfer, husband and father are just a few words to describe Army Capt. Scott M. Smiley. Yesterday, the title of company commander was added to Smiley's distinctive resume, as he became the first blind officer to lead a company as he assumed command of the Warrior Transition Unit at the U.S. Military Academy here.

Smiley was wounded and permanently lost his vision during his 2005 deployment to Iraq. He attributes his strength and drive during his recovery to his family, faith and friends.

"It was my wife, my family and friends who were in my hospital room singing songs and reading the Bible that gave me the strength during my recovery," said Smiley, a member of the USMA Class of 2003.

"It was all of this which allowed me to put one foot in front of the other," he continued, "and has allowed me to accomplish everything that I have done to get to where I am today."

Over the past six months, Smiley had been an instructor with the academy's Behavioral Sciences and Leadership department, teaching a leadership course to third-year cadets.

Smiley's "endurable spirit and character are traits that the cadets can just relate to," said West Point instructor Lt. Col. Eric Kail. "He has overcome so much, through his attitude and desire to excel in life. Scott is a great teacher."

After receiving medical attention following his tour in Iraq, Smiley was transferred to the Ft. Lewis, Wash., Warrior Transition Unit, where he began his recovery and journey to return to active status.

"There were some very long dark days, physically and mentally, but I just had to keep pushing on," Smiley said.

Smiley said he'd looked at what had happened to him in Iraq and made the decision that he was not going down the same path as the character Gary Sinise played in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump. Sinese's character of Army Lt. Dan had been grievously wounded in Vietnam and was initially portrayed as bitter and self-destructive.

"The decisions that Lt. Dan made after his injuries never came into my mind. I wanted to take care of myself -- physically, mentally and spiritually," Smiley said. "I just did not want to give up because of something that negatively happened to me."

Smiley transitioned back to active duty, working at the U.S. Army Accessions Command at Ft. Monroe, Va. After being there for some time, Smiley's commander told him he had been selected to go to graduate school.

"I thought he was kidding me. I was absolutely shocked," Smiley recalled. "Then, they are going to let me go teach -- that was awesome."

Smiley attended Duke University where he received his Masters of Business Administration. While there, he cultivated a friendship during the summer of 2007 with legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, a 1969 graduate of the Military Academy.

This was just before the men's basketball world championships and Olympics, Smiley recalled, noting his brigade commander had approached him and asked if he'd like to speak to the premier U.S. men's basketball squad.

"Why would the national basketball team want me to talk to them?" Smiley said he wondered to himself at the time.

"The first time I met him, he spoke to the Olympic team in Las Vegas. We were trying to teach the team about selfless service," Krzyzewski said. "They not only heard what Scott had to say, but they truly felt what he had to say.

"When I think of Scotty, I think of ultimate service, especially selfless service," Krzyzewski added.

After completing his master's degree, Smiley returned to start a new chapter of his life at West Point, where his military career began in the summer of 1999.

Smiley's former commander at Accessions Command and present U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, shared his thoughts on the occasion.

"Scott brings a whole new dimension to soldiering and leadership," said Van Antwerp, a 1972 graduate of the Military Academy. "When you are around him, you can't help but want to do your best -- without complaining -- because he gives his best every day."

About Smiley being the second Wounded Warrior to hold a command position, Van Antwerp said, "Scotty will be a great commander. He will lead from the front like he has always done. I am proud of him and proud of our Army for giving him this opportunity."

Krzyzewski seconded Van Antwerp's pride and confidence in Smiley.

"He may not have the eyes to see, but he sees more things than most leaders could ever see," he said of Smiley's leadership abilities.

At West Point, Smiley now takes command of a company that he personally understands.

"I know what they are going through. I understand the dynamics of the company, how it works and areas of concern that need to be improved," Smiley said.

With only half of his command based on West Point's grounds, Smiley will travel from the rocky shorelines of Maine to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania to ensure his troops are being taken care of and doing what they need to do to recover.

"It is now my responsibility to inspire them and to continue to help them get the job done," Smiley said.

(Tommy Gilligan is the assistant editor for The U.S. Military Academy's "Pointer View")

NFL Stars and Vets Support Injured Servicemembers

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - Scientists, researchers and former NFL players have joined together to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and brain injuries, a spokesman for the Defense Department "Real Warriors" program said today.

It is important for everyone to understand the needs of servicemembers returning from combat deployments, Army Brig. Gen. Richard Thomas, assistant surgeon general for force protection, said during an interview with The Pentagon Channel at the Super Bowl media center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A substantial number of servicemembers returning from deployment have sustained some type of traumatic brain injury, Thomas said.

Thomas was joined by NFL stars Eric Hipple, a former quarterback for the Detroit Lions who is now the outreach coordinator with the University of Michigan Depression Center, and Rocky Bleier, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient and four-time Super Bowl winner.

Bleier has documented the problems he had after returning from Vietnam. He noted that both troops who return from war and NFL players who have retired from football often are reluctant to seek help for problems due to the stigma attached to counseling. Hipple added that when you don't ask for help, problems can get worse.

"Identifying the symptoms early on is huge," Hipple said. He explained that soldiers develop separation anxiety, which can lead to other issues such as clinical depression. And, he said that many mental health conditions constitute brain injuries, and like physical injuries, they need to be treated to heal.

The impact of the trauma some former football players feel is compounded for servicemembers, Bleier said.

"When football is over, you're out, you're done," he said. But for those who have served in the military, it's "a double trauma."

Former servicemembers have to find a job, "and if they do find a job and they also have these mental health issues, then they have to have a supportive workplace that will allow them to deal with these issues," Bleier said.

There are vehicles for servicemembers to get help for medical problems, Thomas said, but they "have to initiate the process."

Bleier recommended that one step in the right direction is for servicemembers to take the master resiliency training that is part of the comprehensive soldier fitness program.

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby is assigned to Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media Directorate.)



The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., Cambridge, Mass., is being awarded a $131,107,546 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the Trident II (D5) MK6 life extension guidance system. This effort is to procure long lead materials and circuit card assemblies to support the delivery of 20 MK6LE guidance systems. Work will be performed in Bloomington, Minn. (59 percent); Clearwater, Fla. (22 percent); Cambridge, Mass. (15 percent); and Pittsfield, Mass. (4 percent). Work is expected to be completed June 30, 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is a sole source acquisition. Strategic Systems Programs, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (N00030-10-C-0015).

Truston Technologies, Inc.*, Annapolis, Md. (N62583-10-D-0341); GPA Technologies, Inc.*, Ventura, Calif. (N62583-10-D-0342); Harbor Offshore, Inc.*, Ventura, Calif. (N62583-10-D-0343); Great Eastern Group, Inc.*, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (N62583-10-D-0344); and Hardline-Resolute, JV, LLC*, Brasstown, N.C. (N62583-10-D-0345), are each being awarded a firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award contract in support of the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NAVFAC ESC), Port Hueneme, for installation, inspection, repair, maintenance, and field supervision/operation of waterfront barriers, associated moorings, waterfront security systems and marine facilities throughout the world. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and four option years, for all five contracts combined is $80,000,000. Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps facilities and other government facilities worldwide, and is expected to be completed February 2015. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. These contracts were competitively procured as a 100 percent small business 8(a) set-aside via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site, with six proposals received. These five contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Specialty Center Acquisitions, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity.

PKL Services, Inc.*, Poway, Calif., is being awarded a $17,837,496 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00421-09-C-0023) to exercise an option for additional selected organizational level maintenance (reset) for U.S. Marine Corps AH-1W, UH-1N, CH-53D/E and CH-46E helicopters. Work will be performed in Camp Pendleton, Calif. (30 percent); New River, N.C. (25 percent); Iraq/Afghanistan (22 percent); Miramar, Calif. (18 percent); and Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed in August 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $17,837,496 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Gates Appoints Panel for Potential End of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today established a Defense Department panel to prepare the military for the potential elimination of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bans openly gay people from serving in the armed forces. The working group is tasked to assess the relevant issues within a year in an effort to prime the department to adapt to any changes Congress makes to the 17-year-old law underpinning the controversial personnel policy -- a legislative move supported by Gates, President Barack Obama and the nation's top military officer.

"I fully support the president's decision," Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. "The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it."

Noting the political climate in which the policy debate is playing out, Gates said a guiding principle of the department's effort will be to minimize disruption and polarization within a military engaged in two wars.

The working group, to be headed by Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer, and Army Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, will immediately begin reviewing the issues associated with implementing a repeal to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"The mandate of this working group is to thoroughly, objectively and methodically examine all aspects of this question, and produce its finding and recommendations in the form of an implementation plan by the end of this calendar year," Gates told lawmakers.

Appearing alongside Gates was Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who echoed the secretary's endorsement of repealing the policy.

"Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do," Mullen said. "No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

The chairman said "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is an issue that strikes at the integrity of the U.S. armed forces as an institution and that of individual servicemembers, who Mullen believes would accommodate a change to the policy, praising troops' adaptability. But he also acknowledged the likelihood that repealing the law would lead to a disruption in the forces.

"We would all like to have a better handle on these types of concerns, and this is what our review will offer," Mullen told the Congressional panel.

The hearing on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" comes after Obama announced in his State of the Union address last week his desire to end the policy.

"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said. "It's the right thing to do."

As the group undertakes the year-long review and assessment, Gates said the department also will take measures to implement the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy more fairly.

"The Department of Defense understands that this is a very difficult, and in the minds of some, controversial policy question," Gates told lawmakers. "I am determined that we in the department carry out this process professionally, thoroughly, dispassionately, and in a manner that is responsive to the direction of the president and to the needs of the Congress as you debate and consider this matter."

Mullen Details What 2011 Budget Request Will Fund

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not speak about money today during his testimony on the fiscal 2011 defense budget request before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but rather what that money will do. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the money "is required to win the wars we fight. And the one that needs fighting the most right now is in Afghanistan."

The area along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan is the epicenter of global terrorism, Mullen said. And the new strategy for the region, he said, makes the safety of the Afghan people the center of gravity and the defeat of al-Qaida a primary goal.

The department is asking for $30 billion for overseas contingency operations and $159 billion for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in fiscal 2011.

"We have already moved nearly 4,500 troops to Afghanistan and expect that about 18,000 of the president's December 1st commitment will be there by late spring," Mullen told the committee. "The remainder of the 30,000 will arrive as rapidly as possible over the summer and early fall, making a major contribution to reversing Taliban momentum in 2010."

If plans hold, by summer there will be more American forces in Afghanistan than in Iraq. "Right now, the Taliban believe they're winning," Mullen said. "Eighteen months from now, if we've executed our strategy, we'll know that they won't – and they'll know that they can't."

Getting to that point will mean hard work, discipline, more sacrifice and bloodshed, the chairman said.

"It's why we want a 6 percent increase for Special Operations Command," he said. "And it's why we need your support to develop and field a next-generation ground combat vehicle to allow us to grow two more Army combat aviation brigades, and to continue rotary wing production – including $2.7 billion dollars for the V-22 Osprey program."

The wars, the chairman said, are why the department is asking for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. It's why the department is asking for more unmanned aerial vehicles – including maxing production of the Reaper version of the Predator UAV.

"Our future security is greatly imperiled if we do not win the wars we are in," Mullen said. "The outcome of today's conflicts will shape the global security environment for decades to come."

Mullen said he is comfortable that U.S. forces can and will "finish well" in Iraq. American forces will transition to an advisory and assistance role in August and be out of the country by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, Congress needs to continue support for Afghanistan, the chairman said, adding that operations in Afghanistan are not simply a mission of mercy.

"This is the place from which we were attacked in 2001, the place from which al-Qaida still plots and plans," Mullen said. "The security of a great nation – ours and theirs – rests not on sentiment or good intentions, but on what ought to be a cold and unfeeling appraisal of self-interest and an equally cold and unfeeling pursuit of the tools to protect that interest – ours and theirs."

Budget Request Calls for New, Renovated Schools

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - Military children are one of the many groups poised to benefit from President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request. The request, announced yesterday, provides $439 million for the Department of Defense Education Activity to replace or renovate 10 of its schools, said Kevin Kelly, the activity's associate director for financial and business operations. This is the first step in a plan to replace or renovate more than 100 schools by 2015, he added.

"The budget request demonstrates that this administration is fully behind education and very supportive of our military dependents," Kelly said. "They understand the needs of the military – if we care for the families, folks will be able to get the job done."

The new schools are sorely needed, Kelly noted. Some of the activity's nearly 200 schools date back to the 1940s. They initially were built as barracks or hospitals and later transformed into schoolhouses.

"Some of these schools are getting in bad shape," he said. "It's time to get them up to date."

If the request is approved, the education activity's plan calls for new schools overseas in Belgium, Puerto Rico, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as stateside in North Carolina, Georgia, New York and Virginia. The construction will take two years, with completion scheduled for 2013, Kelly said.

Schools with limited electrical outlets and power will be replaced with state-of-the-art buildings equipped with the latest technology, he said. "We're going to equip the schools with everything needed for the 21st-century student," he said.

Other schools are slated to be renovated, with makeovers to gymnasiums or entire wings. In Georgia, for instance, the plan calls for a new gymnasium to be built at an elementary school on Fort Benning, and a new wing is slated for a middle school at West Point, N.Y.

Additional funds will used for school upkeep as well as the funding of new programs, including Operation Virtual School, Kelly said. This program, scheduled to launch in the fall, will enable geographically dispersed students or students at smaller schools to access a wide range of classes online.

The activity has been working on this budget request since last June, Kelly said, and has received ongoing support from the Pentagon.

"Our schools are competing for scarce resources against facilities such as barracks, hangars for aircraft, and our leadership decided our schools are just as important," he said. "It's evident that the Defense Department is very concerned about our dependents and wants to make sure they get the best facilities possible."

Kelly said activity officials remain hopeful the request will be passed by Congress.

"We're just ecstatic with the outcome so far and hope for a solid bill on Oct. 1," he said.

Patriotic, active kids suffer less deployment stress

By Master Sgt. Doug Sample
Army News Service

(1/29/10) -- Adolescents who believe that America supports the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Soldiers are making a difference in the world are less likely to suffer from anxiety and stress when their parent deploys, according to research unveiled Thursday. Army War College researcher Leonard Wong described his 2009 study during a media roundtable Jan. 28 at the Pentagon. The study, which was supported by U.S. Army Forces Command, examined the effects of multiple deployments on military adolescents.

The research revealed that strong Army families and increased activity by children also reduced the level of stress, Wong said.

Wong and War College colleague Stephen Gerras conducted a survey of more than 2,000 Soldiers, 700 Army spouses and 550 Army adolescents. They further interviewed more than 100 Army children (ages 11-17) at eight Army installations across the country, asking them a variety of questions based on psychological scales.

The study was based on six factors they believed influenced the amount of stress that a child experiences when their Soldier deploys to war:

• The cumulative amount of deployments

• Strong families

• Supportive mentors

• Activities

• Communication

• Personal beliefs

Wong said when children were asked to agree or disagree with the statement: "The American public supports the war," the results were significant.

"What we saw was not a steep relationship, but a significant relationship, that the more a child agrees with this statement, the lower their stress levels," Wong explained.

He also said their analysis revealed that adolescents, especially teenagers, who were active in sports and came from strong military families, produced significantly lower stress levels as well.

"If we had to pick the one influence that accounts for the most variant in a child's stress level, it is their participation in activities, specifically sports," Wong said. "It (sports) keeps them distracted, takes their mind off the deployment, keeps them busy," he added. "The next largest influence is that you need a strong family." Wong attributed strong families as the reason why the majority of military children cope well during multiple deployments, noting the 56 percent of children surveyed said they were doing, "not Okay, but well or very well overall with deployments."

"That surprised us, we were really expecting it to be worse," he said.

However, Wong said he was even more surprised when their research revealed the biggest predictor of a child's ability to cope with a life of deployments is the child's belief that Soldiers are making a difference in the world. "This totally surprised us," he added.

Wong pointed out the study showed a cumulative number of previous deployments did not significantly relate with adolescent levels of deployment stress.

"There was no raising of the stress levels," he said. "Interestingly, we found that with each deployment, the child's level of stress went down. That's because they've coped with it the first time, and then by second time they've already learned how to deal with it, so when third time rolls around, they deal with it even better."

Meanwhile, Wong emphasized that while there are a lot of hurting kids out there -- meaning those having trouble coping with a parent's deployment -- there are many others who've come to accept it as a way of life.

"There are also a lot of kids out there who have internalized the value of sacrifice, of selfless service, of duty. And they're not happy about their parent being gone, but they understand it, and that helps them to cope."

The complete Army study can be found on-line at: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/.

Missile Defense Agency Requests Bigger Budget

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - The Defense Department agency responsible for U.S. missile defense systems has requested $8.4 billion for fiscal year 2011, an increase of about a half billion dollars. The request comes after an announcement last September that the United States would move away from a ground-based missile defense system to defend against Iranian and North Korean threats, to a sea-based platform.

"The budget supports continuous emphasis on development, testing, fielding, sustainment," David Altwegg, the executive director of the Missile Defense Agency, told Pentagon reporters yesterday.

"We have shifted our emphasis from the ground-based defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to the regional threat, short- and medium-range missiles, which comprise about 99 percent of the ballistic missile threat extant," Altwegg said.

When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced plans to move from ground-based components in Poland and the Czech Republic, the rationale he offered was that the new sea-based approach is better suited to intelligence on Iranian threats and would provide protection sooner.

Going a step further, Gates -- a former CIA director -- said the new arrangement is preferable even if intelligence that Iran is more focused on developing short-range missiles over long-range capabilities prove incorrect.

But Gates emphasized that the United States would continue working with European allies on developing a system to defend against threats to the continent.

"We are starting the four-phased approach to fielding a capability in Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, initially against the short- and medium-range threat that exists," Altwegg said, "and hence our initial emphasis will be on southeastern Europe."

The Missile Defense Agency briefing fell on the same day the department released its first Ballistic Missile Defense Review, slated to take place every four years.

The review released yesterday aligns U.S. missile defense posture with near-term regional missile threats, and sustains the ability to defend the homeland against limited long-range missile attack, said Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters yesterday, Flournoy said the review identified six major priorities that will shape the U.S. missile defense approach: enhancing the country's ability to

defend against a ballistic attack, defending against growing threats, execute realistic tests, develop new capabilities, being adaptable to changing threats and leading international missile defense cooperation.

"We believe this approach will provide reassurance to our allies that the United States will stand by our security commitments to them, will help to negate the coercive potential of regional actors attempting to limit U.S. influence and actions in key regions, and help strengthen regional deterrence architectures against states who are acquiring weapons of mass destruction," she said.

Gates: No Tricare Hike in 2011 Budget Request

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - Tricare recipients will see no increase in their premiums next year, if Congress approves that provision of the fiscal 2011 defense budget request, as expected. However, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters yesterday he wants to work with Congress to find ways to help control escalating military health-care costs that are consuming an ever-increasing chunk of the budget.

Noting the skyrocketing costs of the military health-care system – from $19 billion in 2001 to $50.7 billion in the fiscal 2011 budget request — Gates questioned during yesterday's Pentagon briefing how sustainable the program can remain without cost controls or higher premiums.

"It's only going to go up," he said, with Military Health System officials estimating 5 to 7 percent annual cost increases through fiscal 2015. "And it is absorbing an increasing percentage of our budget." Officials predict that the program will grow from 6 percent of the defense budget to more than 10 percent by fiscal 2015.

"We absolutely want to take care of our men and women in uniform and our retirees," Gates said, "But at some point, there has to be some reasonable tradeoff between reasonable cost increases or premium increases or co-pays or something and the cost of the program."

There's been no Tricare premium increase since the program was founded in 1995, Gates said, noting that Congress has rejected recent Pentagon proposals for "very modest" increases. Expecting the same action this year, the Defense Department recommended no increase this year, he said.

"I ask anybody to point me to a health insurance program that has not had a premium increase in 15 years," Gates said.

Tricare benefits, he said, are "generous, as they should be for our men and women in uniform."

But Gates compared the $1,200 average out-of-pocket costs for a family of three under Tricare to about $3,300 for the same family under a health maintenance organization plan in the Federal Employees Health Care Program.

"We see a lot of people coming back into Tricare because the benefits are so good and the costs are so low," he said

The Military Health System has 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries, including active-duty military members and their families, military retirees and their families, dependent survivors and certain eligible reserve-component members and their families.

Military Health System officials expect more eligible beneficiaries to continue returning to the Tricare system as costs of programs offered through their employers or spouses continue to increase.

The General Accountability Office recently found that more than 85 percent of retirees ages 45 to 49 and half of retirees between ages 60 and 64 had access to other group health insurance, but chose Tricare instead.

As Tricare usage increases, so does the number of health-care visits that beneficiaries make, officials noted. Between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2008, the average number of outpatient visits per enrollee increased from 8.7 to 9.97. Pharmacy use increased 5.5 percent over the timeframe.

Gates Announces Joint Strike Fighter Program Shakeup

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 2, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced a restructuring in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter office yesterday to provide increased oversight of a program he conceded has fallen behind in meeting key benchmarks.

Gates also announced that he has withheld $614 million in performance fees from the lead contractor, Lockheed-Martin, "since the taxpayers should not have to bear the entire burden of getting the JSF program on track."

"We have restructured the F-35 program and believe it is on track to become the backbone of U.S. air superiority for the next generation," Gates said during a Pentagon news conference. "Nonetheless, the progress and performance of F-35, over the last two years, has not been what it should, as a number of key goals and benchmarks were not met."

To fix the situation, the secretary announced a change in leadership at the Joint Strike Fighter program office, which had been headed by Marine Maj. Gen. David R. Heinz. A three-star

officer yet to be named will replace him, Gates said, the higher rank reflecting the importance of the program to the future of military aviation.

Gates, who visited Lockheed Martin's F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 31, said he has become concerned about the program's progress as Ashton Carter, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, became more involved in the program.

"It was clear that there were more problems than we were aware of when I visited Fort Worth," Gates said. "And I think that the restructuring program that Dr. Carter has put in place will work. It is realistic. The cost estimates are now in accord with what the joint estimating teams are predicting, rather than what the program is predicting."

The problems facing the program aren't insurmountable, with proper steps taken, Gates said. "I believe that we are in a position to now move forward with this program in a realistic way," he said. "But by the same token, one cannot absorb the additional costs that we have in this program and the delays without people being held accountable."

Gates pointed to his track record since coming to the Defense Department of demanding accountability.

"Accountability is not just about holding contractors responsible. The Department of Defense also bears responsibility for the JSF's troubling performance record," he said. "I think if I've set one tone here at the Department of Defense, it is that when things go wrong, people will be held accountable."

Visiting the Lockheed-Martin plant this summer, Gates said the importance of the F-35 program can't be overstated, citing the new aircraft as an example of new, innovative and more cost-effective ways to meet the country's current and future defense needs.

The F-35 is the first aircraft to be developed within the department to meet the needs of three services, with three variants being developed simultaneously. This brings cost savings and economies of scale not possible with separate aircraft because the F-35s will share common components and maintenance requirements, Gates noted.

"We cannot afford, as a nation, not to have this airplane," he said, noting that every dollar saved in acquisition frees up a dollar to support other critical wartime requirements.

The Air Force will receive the F-35's "A" variant, which will provide conventional takeoff and landing capabilities. The Marine Corps is slated to receive the "B" variant that has a vertical-lift capability. The Navy will receive the "C" variant, designed for carrier launches.

The different F-35 variants will replace the legacy F-16 aircraft for the Air Force and the F/A-18 and AV-8 aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps.