Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Respiratory Conditions Investigated for the Deployed

By David Loebsack

February 10, 2010 - A recent study published by DoD researchers in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that service members who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are at no increased risk for developing chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, as previously hypothesized. However, deployed troops returning home from OIF and OEF were found to suffer increased short-term respiratory symptoms such as persistent cough or shortness of breath.

Dr. Besa Smith from the Defense Center for Deployment Health Research located at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, led the study in order to examine newly reported respiratory conditions in military personnel.

“We’re in the driver seat to follow this. It’s reassuring that we did not see increased rates of asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, but we will continue to follow these conditions in the event that there wasn’t enough time for them to develop,” said Smith.

Participants were from the Millennium Cohort Study, a 21-year longitudinal research initiative designed to investigate long-term health consequences related to military service.

Two questionnaires were used to investigate respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma – a baseline survey conducted between 2001 and 2003, and a follow-up survey conducted between 2004 and 2006. More than 55,000 service members participated in both survey assessments.

Participants who deployed reported a four percent higher rate of newly reported, short-term respiratory symptoms; 14 percent of deployed personnel reported new symptoms while 10 percent of non-deployed personnel reported new symptoms. Although the difference may not seem like much, it is statistically significant, and compelling considering that symptoms only arose in Army and Marine Corps personnel. Findings were not significant among Navy and Air Force personnel.

This could be an indication that a correlation exists between these symptoms and land-based deployments. Other factors were also associated with the increase in short-term respiratory symptoms. Among them, being male, being a consistent smoker, having a long, land-based deployment, and deploying to a location within Iraq were the strongest.

Although the research team has come to some groundbreaking discoveries, according to Smith, the best is yet to come. In the coming months, further survey data followed over an additional three years and new data on air pollutants found at operating bases throughout OIF and OEF will be analyzed, conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine, and the Defense Manpower Data Center.

Once these particulate matter and burn pit data sets are integrated into the study, researchers will have more answers. But even though the data haven’t been incorporated yet, Smith’s current research seems to say that deployment itself is not causing these symptoms, but that specific exposures in theatre are more likely responsible for the associations found.

Until the new data are released, scientists on Smith’s team are continuing to analyze current and new information they have.

“This is the first time in our military history that we’re able to prospectively assess – at a population level – differences in health outcomes, and not only active-duty service members, but we can also look at reserve and National Guard as well,” said Dr. Tyler Smith, principal investigator for the Millennium Cohort Study. “We have the numbers to do this prospective assessment… and we can control for not only past smoking, but for chronic smoking, and new uptake of smoking, which is obviously associated with respiratory illnesses, and we can do this with personnel no longer in service…That’s a big community that we weren’t able to say anything about after the first Gulf War.”

National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of February 9, 2010

February 10, 2010 - This week the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard announced an increase in activated reservists, while the Army announced a decrease. The net collective result is 317 fewer reservists activated than last week.

At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 111,478; Navy Reserve, 6,978; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 16,846; Marine Corps Reserve, 6,435; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 780. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 142,517, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found at

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 10, 2010

Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss., is being awarded an $8,362,542 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-2302) to exercise options for the accomplishment of the follow yard class services for the DDG 51 class AEGIS destroyer Program. Northrop Grumman shipbuilding will provide expert design, planning, and material support services for both DDG 51 ship construction and modernization. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to be completed by August 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington D.C., is the contracting activity.

Harris Corp. of Palm Bay, Fla., was awarded a $5,882,429 contract which will exercise an option for continued sustainment services under the space control depot support sustainment contract. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. SYSW/PK, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (FA8819-08-C-0001, P00047).

Richmond Man Indicted for Falsely Claiming He Earned Military Medals

Case is Part of 'Operation Stolen Valor'

February 10, 2010 - KANSAS CITY, MO—Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Richmond, Mo., man was indicted by a federal grand jury today for falsely claiming that he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his military service in Grenada.

Timothy James Watkins, 47, of Richmond, was charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City.

Watkins allegedly purchased a Purple Heart medal and a Silver Star medal from a pawn shop in the Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area and falsely claimed that both medals were awarded to him for his military service.

According to the indictment, Watkins served in active duty in the U.S. Army for approximately one month, from July 18 to Aug. 23, 1983, when he was medically discharged. After his discharge, Watkins allegedly began to lie to others regarding his military experiences and background. Watkins falsely claimed that his military service included attending Army Airborne and Ranger training, the indictment says, and falsely claimed that he had served in military operations in Grenada where he was shot by enemy fire and fell off a cliff, injuring his leg. Watkins allegedly claimed that he was medically discharged from the Army as a result of the wounds he sustained in Grenada, but that he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his service. Watkins often wore pins on his civilian clothes that signified a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, the indictment says.

Watkins did not participate in the invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean island nation, in October 1983, according to the indictment, nor was he a member of the Armed Forces at that time.

In March 2005, Watkins allegedly made similar false claims to Adam Kyle, a young boy who was preparing a short paper entitled “The Hero Next Door” for one of his classes at school. Watkins allegedly claimed he was a member of Echo Company of the Second Ranger Battalion and that he parachuted into Grenada with the unit during a nighttime Airborne operation. Watkins allegedly claimed that he scaled a 135-foot rock face with nearly 100 pounds of gear while under enemy fire, and that during his ascent he was shot in the leg and fell approximately 70 feet, breaking his leg. Watkins allegedly told Kyle that he was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star medals as a result of his courage under fire and for the injuries he sustained during the engagement. All of these claims, the indictment says, were completely false.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action while serving as a member of any branch of the Armed Forces. The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the Armed Forces. It is also the third highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy.

Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Department of Military Affairs furlough day set for Monday, Feb. 15

February 10, 2010 - Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs (DMA) will operate on a limited basis Monday, Feb. 15, as state employees take one of 16 furlough days required for all state workers in the next two years. President's Day (Feb. 15) is also a federal holiday. DMA will resume regular business hours Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The Department of Military Affairs includes Joint Force Headquarters-Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard, and the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management. Wisconsin National Guard federal employees are not furloughed.

Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, the adjutant general of Wisconsin, said the Wisconsin National Guard's Joint Operations Center (JOC) and the 24-Hour Emergency Management Duty Officer System will remain fully operational. Edward Wall, WEM Administrator, has ensured that if a disaster or emergency should occur on Feb. 15, there will be staff available to respond to the scene and to work in the state Emergency Operations Center.

Airman Reaches Out to Ethiopian Children

By Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sean Stevenson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 10, 2010 - For one Air Force family stationed at Osan Air Base, South Korea, the service's focus on the Year of the Air Force Family means providing an even greater impact by meeting the needs of others through adoption. The Year of the Air Force Family is an initiative focused on enhancing the support and care provided to those who firmly stand behind our airmen on a daily basis.

Air Force Col. John Marselus, commander of the 607th Air and Space Operations Center, and his wife, Kim, traveled to Addis Adaba, Ethiopia, in January where they picked up their newest son, Caleb, a 5-year-old orphan whom they adopted.

"The adoption process took about two years, but in reality this journey started well over two decades ago," Marselus said. The couple's trip to Ethiopia opened yet another opportunity to meet face-to-face with one of the many children they had sponsored worldwide for almost three decades.

As a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the colonel started sponsoring needy children across the globe. The Marselus family was able to provide food, clothing and school supplies for dozens of children over the past 27 years. One of the children they sponsored was an Ethiopian girl named Meseret.

"We first started sponsoring Meseret about a decade ago when she was only 8 years old," Marselus said. "Here was this poor little girl, literally living on the other side of the planet in an environment we couldn't even begin to comprehend, and we were getting these touching letters from her thanking us and telling about the difference our involvement was having in her life."

After 25 years of sponsorship of multiple children, the Marselus family decided it was time to have an even greater impact on a needy child. It was at that point they decided to pursue the option of adoption.

"Sponsoring needy children like Meseret is great, but we were convicted to see if there was a child who needed a family," Marselus said. "We strongly felt that the right thing to do was provide an orphaned little boy or girl the love and nurturing they so desperately deserve."

After contacting an adoption agency and beginning the adoption process, the Marselus family was pleasantly surprised to discover the many programs and benefits the Air Force has in place to support adoptive parents. The National Defense Authorization Act provides for reimbursement of up to $2,000 of expenses per adoption with a maximum of $5,000 reimbursement per year. Additionally, AFI 36-3003, Military Leave Program, allows upward of 21 days of permissive temporary duty for travel associated with qualified adoptions.

"These are exactly the types of benefits needed for airmen who are pursuing adoption," Marselus said. "We are extremely pleased to see this commitment from the Air Force to help anyone who would pursue this option."

While in Ethiopia finalizing the adoption of their new son, the couple met Meseret, the girl they started sponsoring 10 years ago.

"It was an incredible experience getting to finally meet this amazing young lady who has changed our lives in so many ways," the colonel said. "We were able to celebrate her 18th birthday with her and were quite impressed with her and how well she was thriving in such an impoverished environment. Sponsorship had obviously had a positive impact as she recently completed high school and now has her eyes on becoming a doctor."

Reflecting on the whirlwind of emotional and life-changing events over the past few weeks, the Marselus family gives the Air Force great credit for their successful adoption of Caleb.

"Beyond the financial support and permissive TDY time provided by our Air Force, several on-base agencies such as the chapel, Aarman and family readiness center, the military personnel section and medical group have been amazing in helping Caleb transition from being an impoverished orphan into a healthy, cared-for and truly happy Air Force dependent," the colonel said. "Without a doubt traveling to Ethiopia, meeting Meseret and having Caleb become a part of our family was the adventure of a lifetime."

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sean Stevenson is assigned to the 607th Air and Space Operations Center.)


10 Percent Discount for Active, Reserve, Retired and Disabled Military Personnel and Immediate Family Members

February 10, 2010 - MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Lowe’s Companies, Inc. announced today it will expand its support of the military by offering an all day, every day 10 percent discount to all military personnel who are active, reserve, retired or disabled veterans and their family members, with a valid, government-issued military ID card.

All other military veterans will receive the discount on the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day weekends.

“Lowe’s was founded on the heels of World War II by veterans Jim Lowe and Carl Buchan and has always been a supporter of the military,” said Larry D. Stone, Lowe’s president and chief operating officer. “The year-round discount program is one way we are reaffirming our commitment to the thousands of men and women who are serving throughout the world, as well as their family members at home.”

The discount is available on in-stock and Special Order purchases up to $5,000. Excluded from the discount are sales via, previous sales, and purchases of services or gift cards.

While Lowe’s has had a military discount program in the past during select times of year, the new policy will allow those who are serving to benefit from the discount whenever they need it the most.

“What a great way to say thank you,” said Sloan Gibson, president and CEO of the USO. “We salute Lowe’s for the company’s commitment to helping military personnel and their families who served and continue to serve our nation.”

The USO was also selected as one of the beneficiaries of the Lowe’s Employee Giving Campaign in January. This initiative allows Lowe’s employees to donate directly from their paychecks to support those who are serving our country.

In addition to offering military discounts at specific times during the year, Lowe’s has extended benefits for its employees serving in the military and offers employment opportunities to military personnel after their military service has ended. Currently, more than 12,000 Lowe’s employees are military veterans or reservists.

About Lowe’s
With fiscal year 2008 sales of $48.2 billion, Lowe’s Companies, Inc. is a FORTUNE® 50 company that serves approximately 14 million customers a week at more than 1,700 home improvement stores in North America. Founded in 1946 and based in Mooresville, N.C., Lowe’s is the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter @Lowes or on Facebook at

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Demands Study, Gates Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 10, 2010 - The Defense Department's review of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, which bans gays from serving openly in the military, will help to ensure readiness and unit cohesion remain intact if Congress repeals it, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview aired last night. Gates also discussed the close cooperation he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have forged between their two departments during an interview with Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren, conducted last week as he visited Rome.

Expressing his personal support for a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law -- support shared by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen -- Gates emphasized the need for a full review to ensure it's done right if it happens.

"This is a force that's been under stress for eight years, been at war for eight years," he said. "And I don't want to do anything that makes the situation more difficult for those men and women in the fight."

Gates conceded that some consider the review a stalling tactic, but he called it critical to the process.

"The review that I am launching is to help inform the legislative process of some facts about the attitudes of our men and women in uniform, what they think about a change in the law, [and] what their families think," he said. "The truth is, we don't have any facts."

The ramifications go beyond the level of acceptance within units, the secretary explained. "We need to understand all of the different things that have to be dealt with in terms of housing and benefits, and regulations and fraternization rules, and conduct and training, and so on," he said.

This way, if Congress does change the law, "we can inform that process and offer some suggestions on mitigation if there are going to be negative consequences so we can figure out how to mitigate those consequences," he said.

"And if the law is passed," he added, "then we're in a much better position to be able to go forward and implement those changes in a way that doesn't undermine unit cohesion and readiness."

Gates emphasized the need for a careful, deliberate process.

"The military culture is a very strong one. It's a very different culture than a civilian culture," he said. "These people do not have choices about who they associate with. They can't just up and walk off the job if they don't like somebody that they're working with. And so we have to take all that into account."

Turning the discussion to enhanced Defense-State cooperation, Gates said the tone he and Clinton are setting at the top will affect both agencies so they're better able to partner to address challenges and threats.

The goal, he said, is to use all elements of the interagency process to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place so U.S. troops don't have to take action.

"So building the capabilities, both civilian and military, of governments around the world who are our friends and partners, is key," he said. "And we've got to cooperate to do that."

Gates pointed to the way former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, when he was commander of Multinational Force Iraq, worked together toward shared goals in Iraq.

"I think Ph.D. dissertations should be written about the relationship between Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus, because it is a model of a relationship between the senior civilian and the senior military officer," Gates said.