Military News

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Board Reassesses Service Disability Ratings

By Air Force Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 3, 2010 - Recommendations from a congressionally directed Defense Department disability review board have resulted in 61 percent of applicants having their status changed from a medical separation to retirement on the permanent disability list, the board president said. Michael LoGrande said the board reassessed the accuracy and fairness of the combined disability rating assigned to servicemembers who were separated due to unfitness for duty because of a medical condition with a disability rating of 20 percent or less and weren't retirement-eligible. The review considered only servicemembers separated from the armed forces between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2009.

The Department of Defense Physical Disability Board of Review came about as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which standardized the disability evaluation system among the services by mandating the use of the Veterans Affairs Department's schedule of rating disabilities, LoGrande said.

The Defense Department has identified about 77,000 veterans eligible to apply for a board review, LoGrande said. The request for review may come from the veteran, surviving spouse, next of kin or legal guardian.

Once the board reviews a case and makes a recommendation, the appropriate service secretary or a designee will decide whether to accept the board's recommendation. Veterans cannot appeal a decision made as a result of the review board process, LoGrande said.

Eligible veterans can request a board review by submitting a Department of Defense Form 294, Application for Review of Physical Disability Separation from the Armed Forces of the United States. It's available at http://www.defense.gov by searching for "DD Form 294."

Veterans requesting a review must mail their completed and signed DD Form 294 to SAF/MRBR, 550 C St. W., Suite 41, Randolph Air Force Base, TX 78150-4743. Applicants may submit statements, briefs, medical records or affidavits supporting their application, LoGrande said.

In addressing their involuntary separation, LoGrande emphasized, veterans should consider whether to go with the Physical Disability Board of Review process or apply to their service's Board of Correction for Military Records.

"This is a very important point, and PDBR-eligible veterans should understand there are several differences between the scope and the consequences of the two reviews," he said. The DD Form 294 contains a table outlining the differences and outcomes of the two review processes.

"The choice is important, and highly dependent upon the facts and circumstances of a veteran's case," LoGrande said. "The applicant should weigh all of the factors and make a choice only after careful consideration."

(Air Force Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff serves in the secretary of the Air Force public affairs office.)

Transplant Recipient Sees Potential for Wounded Warriors


By Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 3, 2010 - The recipient of the first hand transplant performed in a Defense Department facility said today she hopes her surgery provides hope for servicemembers wounded in combat. Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Janet McWilliams is the 10th person, and the first woman, in the United States to receive a hand transplant. A team of military and civilian doctors performed the surgery Feb. 17 at Wilford Hall Medical Center here.

Two weeks after the surgery, McWilliams has experienced movement in her thumb and fingers, Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Dmitry Tuder, chief of hand and upper extremity service at Wilford Hall and part of the transplantation team, said at a news conference today. However, he added, it will take at least six months for her to regain any feeling in her new hand.

The transplant, Williams said, is a significant occasion not only for her, but also for wounded warriors.

"I am hoping that I can open the door for other wounded warriors who are coming back from Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of the world who've lost hands [or] arms," she said.

Almost nine years ago, the former first sergeant of the 342nd Training Squadron here lost her left hand and suffered severe injuries to her right hand when a package bomb exploded in her office. After years of surgical reconstruction and failed attempts to find a suitable prosthesis for her left arm, doctors asked McWilliams if she was willing to be put on a waiting list for a hand transplant.

Having undergone more than 25 surgeries, McWilliams said, she immediately consented. On Feb. 16, a hand donor was identified.

"I received a gift, a hand," she said. "In the back of my mind, I've always wanted to have a hand. This wonderful family gave me that gift. I'm so honored to have this hand."

A hand transplant involves more variables than an organ transplant, said Dr. Joe Nespral, director of clinical services at the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. Selecting a donor for a hand transplant recipient involves additional emphasis on matching skin-tone color, gender and the size of the hand, he explained.

When she's in the hospital, McWilliams dons a hospital gown with her first sergeant rank insignia and the patches of her former units. She said she hopes the news of this procedure gives wounded warriors another choice and helps them decide if this type of procedure is for them.

To date, no active-duty servicemembers have undergone this procedure, said Army Col. (Dr.) James Ficke, chairman of the Wilford Hall and Brooke Army Medical Center integrated departments of orthopedics and rehabilitation. About 50 wounded warriors have an injury that may be eligible for this type of procedure, he said. A former Marine has received a hand transplant, but his procedure was done at a civilian facility.

McWilliams faces months of occupational therapy, and in a years' time, Tuder said, he hopes she will have enough function to perform daily activities.

"The journey is going to be rough; it's not going to be easy," McWilliams said. "There's nothing you can't do in life. 'No,' is not part of my vocabulary. This beautiful hand will certainly become a part of my body. Now, after all these years, I can finally wear that engagement ring again and my wedding band. It is just absolutely priceless."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young serves at Defense Media Activity San Antonio.)

Wisconsin Guard helps families of deployed Soldiers prepare for their return

March 3, 2010 - Soldier caring" is a military expression about making sure that a service member's basic needs are met. Once upon a time, that meant meals and pay - but today that caring is much more comprehensive, and extends to a service member's family as well.

The Wisconsin National Guard's Badger Yellow Ribbon program regularly conducts family programs designed for before, during and after deployments. Their most recent event was held Feb. 20 at the Wilderness Hotel and Resort in the Wisconsin Dells for the families of the more than 150 Soldiers deployed with the Embedded Training Team in Afghanistan and the 732nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) headquarters element in Iraq.

Reunion issues dominated the afternoon session, as the ETT is expected to return later this month and the 732nd sometime in May. Discussions focused on readjustment issues. Maj. Doug Hedman, state chaplain for the Wisconsin National Guard, detailed a concept called "family battle-mind." A recently returned service member spoke to family members about his experiences from five deployments, and adjusting to civilian life afterward.

"There really is no 'normal,'" Vicki Edgren, Badger Yellow Ribbon director, explained. "It's how each person reacts. Everyone comes back with combat stress, but that's not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder. Awareness makes it easier for both sides to adjust. It may take some time, but that doesn't mean it's not normal."

Carla Davis, a co-leader of the family readiness group for the 732nd CSSB headquarters, said the candid presentation explained post-deployment behaviors ranging from a propensity for foul language to altered driving habits.

The morning session offered a new wrinkle - a wellness event, complete with free chair massages and relaxation breathing lessons.

"I think people are tired of being 'spoke' to," Edgren said, referring to traditional meetings where families sit through benefits briefings. "Things like this bring people in. It's a different approach."

She noted that some families are unable to attend Badger Yellow Ribbon events due to schedule conflicts, while others have prior experience with deployments.

Davis said the sessions went well.

"I haven't heard anything but great responses," she said. "Everyone was pleased with the entire day."

The chair massages were provided by student volunteers from Madison Area Technical College and Global University, while a University of Wisconsin volunteer demonstrated relaxation breathing techniques. The morning session also included advice on self care, information about Military OneSource and military family assistance centers.

Edgren said that the first wellness event was well received. Additional wellness events will be planned when student volunteers are available, she said.

The next demobilization, reunion and wellness event will be held later this month in Oshkosh. While similar in scope to the Feb. 20 event and geared for families of the 732nd CSSB, Davis emphasized that any military family member is welcome to attend the wellness event.

Reunion and wellness events are sponsored by Wisconsin's Service Member Support Division, which includes the Badger Yellow Ribbon, the Wisconsin Family Program and the Joint Family Support Assistance Program (JFSAP). Though run by the Wisconsin National Guard, the division provides assistance to families, employers and service members of all components, whether active duty or reserve. The SMSD and the three agencies within it comprise a large and diverse network of trained service providers, government, non-government, veteran and volunteer agencies that consolidate resources available to Wisconsin service members.

For more information about SMSD and Badger Yellow Ribbon, visit http://wisconsinmilitary.org/.

National Guard (in Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of March 2, 2010

March 3, 2010 - This week the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard announced a decrease in activated reservists, while the Air Force announced an increase. The net collective result is1,115 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 109,470; Navy Reserve, 6,461; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 17,093; Marine Corps Reserve, 6,484; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 708. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 140,216, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found at http://www.defense.gov/news/d20100302ngr.pdf.

MILITARY CONTRACTS March 3, 2010

AIR FORCE

MultiLingual Solutions, Rockville, Md., was awarded a $62,000,000 contract which will provide personnel, equipment, tools, materials, supervision, and other items and services necessary to provide foreign language linguist and analyst services in support of operations. At this time, $11,266,581 has been obligated. AF ISR Agency/A7KA, San Antonio, is the contracting activity (FA7037-10-D-0002).

Boeing Service Co., Richardson, Texas, was awarded a $46,041,245 contract which will provide broadband satellite data service to include uninterrupted and seamless connectively to all networks, data, and video capabilities as needed. At this time, $46,041,245 has been obligated. AMC/A7KQC, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is the contracting activity (FA4452-10-C-0002).

Boeing Co., Wichita, Kan., was awarded a $36,358,553 contract which will provide for C-130 Avionics Modernization Program low rate initial production Lot 1 modification. At this time, $8,178,272 has been obligated. 656 Aeronautical System Squadron, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8625-08-C-6481,PZ0010).

DRS Sustainment Systems, Inc., St. Louis Mo., was awarded a $7,661,103 contract which will provide the overhaul of Tunner aircraft cargo loaders in support of the Tunner 60K loader program. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 542 Combat Sustainment Wing/PKBA, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (FA8519-04-D-0006).

NAVY

Canadian Commercial Corp., General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada, London, Ontario, is being awarded a $41,481,000 modification to delivery order #0007 under previously awarded firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-07-D-5028) for procurement of authorized spares list, prescribed load list, and battle damage repair kits to support the 250 LRIP, 17 MRAP, and RG-31A2 vehicles ordered. Work will be performed in Fairfield, Ohio, Buffalo, N.Y., and Ogdensburg N.Y. Work is expected to be completed no later than Dec. 2010. This contract delivery order was a sole-source procurement. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

ERAPSCO, Columbia City, Ind., is being awarded a $34,043,325 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for 7,500 AN/SSQ-101A sonobuoys in support of Navy antisubmarine forces for the mission of detection, classification, and localization of adversary submarines during peacetime and combat operations. Work will be performed in De Leon Springs, Fla. (61 percent), and Columbia City, Ind. (39 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to the FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00421-10-D-0010).

DCK-ECC Pacific Guam Construction, LLC, Harmon, Guam, is being awarded a $21,386,549 firm-fixed-price contract for the construction of a complete working substation, distribution feeders, and switching stations at Andersen Air Force Base. The contract also contains nine unexercised options which, if exercised, would increase cumulative contract value to $24,520,000. Work will be performed in Yigo, Guam, and is expected to be completed by Jan. 2012. 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 seven proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas, Guam, is the contracting activity (N40192-10-C-1337). DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Allen-Vanguard, Inc.*, Ogdensburg, N.Y., is being awarded a maximum $24,506,533 firm-fixed-price, total set-aside contract for advanced bomb suit and components. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army and Air Force. The original proposal was Web solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, is the contracting activity (SPM1C1-10-C-0012).

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Review Seeks Broadest Input

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 3, 2010 - The Defense Department's review on the potential impact of repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military will solicit input from troops of every service and rank -- as well as their families -- through surveys, focus groups and social media tools, the team heading up the review told Congress today.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon's general counsel; Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe; and Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the House Armed Services Committee today they seek to get the widest range of viewpoints from both within and outside the Defense Department as they conduct the review concerning potential repeal of the law commonly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered the 10-month review in February to solicit views about a repeal, as well as the potential impact if Congress directs it. He issued guidelines and parameters for the review yesterday, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that any change in the law is implemented in a way that minimizes disruptions in military operations.

Toward that end, the working group will focus its work on assessing any impact a repeal would have on readiness, recruiting, retention, family readiness and unit cohesion, Johnson said.

The working group conducting the review is a cross-section of the military, Ham told the House panel. Its members represent a wide variety of ages, ranks and military specialties, come from every service, including the Coast Guard, and serve in both the active and reserve components.

Navy Fleet Master Chief Petty Officer Scott Benning serves as the group's senior enlisted leader, with access to all group activities and a reporting chain that goes directly to Johnson and Ham, the general noted.

Both have asked every member of the working group to set aside their own views so they can conduct an objective, comprehensive review, Johnson told the House panel, "because frankly, that is, in my experience, the best way in which members of the U.S. military go about their work -- if we are all asked to set aside our personal opinions and do the best we can at an objective and thorough analysis."

As its members engage in their review, they are expected to use a survey to get the views from military members and their families. However, acknowledging the importance of personal interaction, Ham said focus groups will be conducted as well, some targeting specific groups within the military.

And with the department's new emphasis on social media, the working group will take advantage of these tools to ensure the broadest range of individuals, both within and outside the Defense Department, get their voices heard, Ham said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said during today's Pentagon briefing that the working group's study will help to better prepare the department to act if Congress repeals or changes the law.

"Right now, we're not in the position to be able to offer any advice to the Congress on a legislative remedy to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' if they wanted to pursue one," he said. "We just don't know enough about the impact," he said.

Gates wanted to undertake the review, he added, "for our forces, for their families, for readiness, for recruiting, for retention, for all the potential consequences of a change in the law."

"We are ... preparing ourselves for that possibility," he said, "and educating ourselves so that, if the Congress does choose to pursue a legislative remedy, we are able to inform that process in a more helpful way."

Student Finds Path in Army


American Forces Press Service

March 3, 2010 - Robert J. Goggins started his college career with the goal of becoming a mechanical engineer. Instead, he joined the Army as an infantryman. His life as a soldier in Afghanistan is markedly different from his life as a NASA intern and as a student at the University of Virginia, but he said he gets a lot of satisfaction from it.

"I've really enjoyed my Army experience so far," said Goggins, a private first class who's a gunner with 2nd Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Lethal.

"I love finding myself in a situation where I have to make an important decision," he said. "You don't know what the right decision is. You make the decision, you've tested yourself and you've passed it."

Goggins, a native of Bay St. Louis, Miss., spends his days in Afghanistan riding in a turret or carrying an MK-48 machine gun. At night, he can be found scanning his sector of responsibility during guard duty. Like every other member of his unit, he constantly searches for potential threats to himself and his fellow soldiers as he deals with cold weather and boredom.

"He's super intelligent and he sees things through analytical eyes," said Army Staff Sgt. Douglas R. Middleton of Siloam Springs, Ark., Goggins' platoon sergeant. "I could see him being in the Special Forces community."

Before he joined the Army, Goggins was set on becoming an engineer. To gain exposure to the field, he applied for an internship with NASA on a family member's recommendation.

"I loved my experience at NASA," he said. "It was my first exposure to how engineers really work."

He said he was amazed what the agency accomplished with 1960s technology. "I remember seeing the analog gauges," he noted. "That's when it occurred to me that we sent a man to the moon with analog dials."

Despite the experience gained at NASA, though, he decided a career in mechanical engineering might not be his calling.

"I never really felt the spark there," Goggins said. "I felt like if I spent the rest of my life doing something I don't like, that I'm wasting my life. I wanted to see the real world."

Seeking a new direction following a series of personal setbacks, including having to return home to help his family because of flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Goggins took inventory of his career experiences. One particular experience he recalled was fighting his first fire as a volunteer firefighter at the University of Virginia.

"Going into my first fire, I was scared to death, but I pushed all that to the side," Goggins said. "I remember walking out of the fire and seeing the other rookies looking at me with jealous eyes. That's when I knew that I liked this kind of stuff. It's kind of why I joined the Army."

Goggins said he is happy with the Army, but still has plans to finish his formal education.

"I want to go back to school to finish up my degree," he said. "But, I don't think it's going to be engineering. I haven't decided what yet."

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

Training tests state agency's response to natural, man-made disasters

March 3, 2010 - The training conditions last week for a select group of emergency responders in Madison could be described as a train wreck. End of the road. Swamped. Lost and without direction. In other words, the perfect environment for disaster response training. More than 75 local, state, volunteer and federal emergency responders tested emergency response and recovery plans to a multiple-event "emergency" during a four-day training exercise - the Integrated Emergency Management Course (IEMC) - held at the Department of Military Affairs Feb. 23-26.

Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted the training to better prepare Wisconsin's many state agencies to effectively manage a major disaster.

"It is critical that we plan, prepare, coordinate and exercise with our local, tribal, state and federal, and volunteer partners now before the disaster happens," said Ed Wall, WEM administrator.

The first two days of the event were classroom-based and highlighted the many potential hazards Wisconsin faces each year. The training also focused on the role of the various agencies and what resources they may have during an emergency.

Agencies put their skills to the test during the third day of training when the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated. The EOC is a centralized hub where leaders from various support agencies can better communicate and make informed decisions during a crisis.

The exercise scenario simulated major flooding in southwestern Wisconsin, much like the reallife floods that occurred across Wisconsin in 2007 and 2008. The exercise participants were also presented with a simulated multi-train collision, major road closures, and a group of lost hikers in the wilderness.

This training also benefited Wisconsin's military assets as well. The Wisconsin National Guard's Joint Operations Center (JOC) is staffed around the clock, but exercises like these allow plans and processes to be tested against likely scenarios. In the event military assistance is requested, the JOC acts as a focal point for the recall and activation of Wisconsin Guard Members.

The last day of the exercise tested the strategic recovery plans in response to the massive flooding scenario. Recovery efforts can be the most challenging after a disaster. This scenario tested participants' ability to find long-term housing for displaced victims, coordinating volunteers and donations, conducting damage assessments, and finding and testing potable water.

It has been several years since the IEMC has been taught specifically for the state of Wisconsin. "We were pleased with our partners at FEMA that coordinated this training," said Jerry Haberl, WEM training section supervisor. "Overall, it was an excellent opportunity to train and exercise together."

Civilian Employee at L.A. Air Force Base Sentenced to 18 Months for Soliciting Bribes from Contractor

March 3, 2010 - SANTA ANA, CA—A Los Angeles man who worked at the Los Angeles Air Force base has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for soliciting and receiving more than $70,000 in kickbacks from contractors to whom he steered work.

Alejandro Rivera, 39, of the Jefferson Park district of Los Angeles, was sentenced yesterday afternoon by United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Guilford ordered Rivera to pay $38,170 in restitution.

Rivera was sentenced after pleading guilty in December to eight counts of accepting kickbacks and three counts of mail fraud. Rivera admitted receiving kickbacks from an Air Force subcontractor who was an FBI source on four occasions. The source first paid Rivera a kickback of $15,680 in May 2008, after which Rivera counted the money while sitting in the front passenger seat of the source's vehicle, according to court documents. Rivera accepted two $6,000 payments in August 2008, and he was arrested in October 2008 after receiving a kickback of $15,766 from the FBI source. The money for the kickbacks was included in contracts that Rivera caused to be awarded.

Rivera also admitted accepting kickbacks from three other subcontractors. The payments were made after Rivera awarded plumbing, construction and painting contracts at the Air Force base hospital. Rivera admitted taking a total of $73,003 in kickbacks.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

Agency Supplies Millions of Meals for Haitians


By Sara Moore
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 3, 2010 - As part of the Defense Logistics Agency's ongoing support to humanitarian operations in earthquake-stricken Haiti, the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia recently supplied 2.7 million packaged meals to the Haitian people. The center worked with its industry partners to supply the meals to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which joined with the World Food Program to distribute the meals in the hardest-hit areas of the country.

In addition to being DLA's troop support center, the Philadelphia center also serves as a first responder during emergencies and natural disasters. The supply center maintains a stock of meals that can be used in emergencies, and also has agreements in place with its industry partners to produce meals, explained Ray Miller, deputy director of subsistence operations.

These industry partners - about 20 vendors - are ready to go at a moment's notice, and often can provide millions of meals in just days, he said.

In the case of the earthquake in Haiti, officials at the Philadelphia center received a request to supply meals to USAID, then notified its industry partners of the requirement. Even though it was a Sunday night, Miller said, the vendors responded that same night and through the next morning.

Through this partnership, more than 2 million meals were available immediately to the center, and 22 million meals could have been sent over the next 15 days if needed, he said.

When USAID decided to use only what was readily available, the center shipped out 2.7 million meals, Miller said.

DLA is positioned to respond during emergencies, and over the years has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief after hurricanes and other disasters, Miller said. DLA buys and ships packaged meals to FEMA, which stores or sends them to individual states, he explained. DLA also maintains its supply of meals for emergencies at the Philadelphia center.

"Between [DLA and FEMA], that is the only stock of food that is maintained in the United States for an emergency basis," he said. "We have the program set up that should a disaster hit, we are able then to tap into the industrial base to expand the availability of meals as we go on over time."

(Sara Moore works in the Defense Logistics Agency's strategic communications office.)