Friday, March 12, 2010

Official Announces Plans to Curb Fighter Program's Cost

By Jordan Reimer
American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2010 - The Defense Department will require a shift to a fixed-price contract in its negotiations with Lockheed Martin for the initial production phase of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, a defense official said here today in a briefing at the Pentagon. The department also will conduct an internal analysis of what the full production cost should be to better negotiate with the contractor, said Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.

Taken together, Carter said, these measures will reduce costs of a program that has met with significant production delays and cost overruns since its inception in October 2001.

"It did not seem reasonable that the taxpayer should bear the entire cost of this failure of the program to meet expectations," Carter said.

The joint strike fighter-- the most expensive acquisition in U.S. military history -- will replace a wide range of aging fighter and strike aircraft for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and eight international partners. The F-35 is the "the heart of the future of our tactical combat aviation," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a visit to a Lockheed factory in August. "The importance of this aircraft cannot be overstated."

The U.S. military ordered a total of 2,443 jets, with an additional 730 purchased by the eight other countries. Initially projected to cost around $50 million per aircraft, the current estimate is about $80 million to $95 million each, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

These two new initiatives come on top of Gates' announcement last month that he was withholding $614 million in performance fees from the contractor due to the program's setbacks.

With today's announcements, the department is moving away from a cost-plus arrangement, which reimburses companies for their expenses in addition to providing an extra payment to guarantee them a profit. Instead, in switching to a fixed-price structure, the department and the contractor will set the price beforehand, and the final payment will not depend on the total amount of time or resources expended to complete the project.

"[The secretary] directed that in order to ensure discipline in the transition from development to production," Carter said.

The director of defense procurement and acquisition policy will conduct the "should-cost" analysis for the final production rollout of the F-35 aircraft. Carter stressed that it's important for the department to have its own estimate of what the program's cost should be to better determine a negotiated price, rather than relying solely on the contractor's figures.

"We will be looking at the cost structure of [the joint strike fighter] in all its aspects assembly, parts supplies, staffing, overheads and indirect costs, cash flows, contract structures, fees, and lifecycle costs," Carter said in a prepared statement before the Senate Armed Services committee yesterday.

Taking immediate steps to save costs is particularly necessary, not only to benefit the taxpayer, but also because the program is in jeopardy of crossing the Nunn-McCurdy threshold, a law that requires that Congress be notified of a cost growth of more than 15 percent in a program. Nunn-McCurdy also calls for cancellation of programs for which total cost grew by more than 25 percent over the original estimate.

Rather than wait for the program to cross the Nunn-McCurdy line, the defense officials began to review and restructure it as though it was already in Nunn-McCurdy breach, Carter explained.

Carter said he understands that these new initiatives will not be easy for Lockheed and its subcontractors to accommodate, but he underscored that these decisions are crucial to moving the program forward in a way that is acceptable to the military and the American public.

"The emphasis must be on restoring a key aspect of this airplane when the JSF program was first launched: affordability," he told Congress.



LPI Technical Services*, Chesapeake, Va., is being awarded a $84,140,685 cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to furnish repair, maintenance, modernization, logistical, and technical support services for material handling equipment (yellow gear) and hull, mechanical, and electric machinery and systems in order to ensure continued ship operation and performance. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va. (25 percent); Chesapeake, Va. (15 percent); Mayport, Fla. (15 percent); Bremerton, Wash. (10 percent); San Diego (5 percent); Philadelphia (5 percent); Ingleside, Texas (5 percent); Naples, Italy (5 percent); Earle, N.J. (5 percent); Pascagoula, Miss. (5 percent); and Virginia Beach, Va. (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed by March 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities Web site, with one offer received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Ship System Engineering Station, Philadelphia, is the contracting activity (N65540-10-D-0010).

KOR Electronics*, Cypress, Calif., is being awarded a $44,444,241 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity time-and-material contract for the procurement of up to 200 production miniaturized I/J band digital radio frequency modulators (DRFM) for the Navy and Air Force. DRFMs are installed in systems that are used to evaluate U.S. weapons systems and train fleet operators. In addition, this contract provides for one lot of engineering, technical, and repair services in support of the Navy/Air Force Airborne Threat Simulation Organization. Work will be performed in Cypress, Calif., and is expected to be completed in March 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals as a 100 percent small business set-aside; two offers were received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity (N68936-10-D-0022).

BAE Systems Land & Armaments, LP, Ground Systems Division, York, Pa., is being awarded a $44,116,706 modification to previously awarded delivery order #0011 under firm-fixed-priced contract (M67854-07-D-5025) for field service representatives and instructors to provide support, inside and outside the continental United States, for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Work will be performed in York, Pa., and is expected to be completed by December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $44,116,706 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

DDL Omni Engineering, McLean, Va. (N66604-10-D-003A), and General Dynamics Information Technology, Fairfax, Va. (N66604-10-D-003B), are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity cost-plus-fixed fee multiple-award contract for engineering services in support of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) program. The dollar value for both contracts combined is $16,139,998; DDL Omni Engineering is being awarded $8, 482,108 and General Dynamics is being awarded $7,657,890. Efforts will include planning; development of alteration plans and procedures; assembly; fabrication; installation; testing; refurbishment; and repair of ISR systems and equipment aboard Navy submarines. Work will be performed in Newport, R.I. (50 percent), and Pawcatuck, Conn. (50 percent), and is expected to be completed by March 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $35,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. These contracts were competitively procured via Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site, with six offers received. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Newport, R.I., is the contracting activity.

Marvin Engineering Co., Inc.*, Inglewood, Calif., is being awarded an $11,717,049 modification to previously awarded firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-08-D-0012) for the procurement of 377 LAU-7F/A missile launchers for the Navy. Work will be performed in Inglewood, Calif., and is expected to be completed in October 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

KITCO/kSARIA, LLC*, Virginia Beach, Va., is being awarded a $9,799,727 cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for CVN-78's automated fiber optic manufacturing initiative (AFOMI). The AFOMI is intended to mature fiber optic cable termination technologies, specifically focusing on automation and miniaturization. This contract promotes CVN-78 carrier program's goal to establish a manufacturing line to produce products developed through this initiative. CVN-78's goal is to drive lifetime fiber optic component manufacturing and repair costs down by miniaturizing and automating as many processes as possible. Work will be performed in Lawrence, Mass. (90 percent), and Virginia Beach, Va. (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $1,471,982 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Naval Electronics Commerce Online and Federal Business Opportunities Web sites, with two offers received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, Dahlgren, Va., is the contracting activity (N00178-10-D-2003).

Marotta Controls, Inc.*, Montville, N.J., is being awarded a $6,210,698 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-06-D-0021) for the production of 377 pure air generating systems for integration into the LAU-7F/A missile launcher, for cooling of the AIM missile. Work will be performed in Montville, N.J., and is expected to be completed in October 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.


Petro Star*, Anchorage, Alaska, is being awarded a maximum $10,828,604 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other location of performance is in Anchorage, Alaska. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. There were originally four proposals solicited with four responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2014. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-D-0028).

Freeman Holdings of California, dba Million Air Victorville*, Topeka, Kan., is being awarded a maximum $9,548,338 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other location of performance is California. Using services are Army, Navy and Air Force. There were originally two proposals solicited with two responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2014. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-D-0032).

Length of Wars Challenges Nation, Lynn Says

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2010 - The duration of today's conflicts poses a greater challenge to the nation and its military than the magnitude of the wars, the deputy defense secretary told an audience of American high school students here today. "The most stressing part of the fight has been the length of it, the duration, the constant need to send forces back three, four, five, six, seven times," William J. Lynn III said. "That's very tough on families."

Lynn outlined some of the greatest threats and challenges facing the nation today for 104 student leaders who stopped by the Pentagon to gain knowledge about the inner workings of national defense and its history.

Their visit was the culminating event of the U.S. Senate Youth Program's "Washington Week," an educational experience for high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service.

The students, Lynn noted, are growing up in a time of war; all were in elementary school when 9/11 occurred.

"For most of your conscious lives, ... we've been at war," he said. "We've been in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq for as long as we were in World War I and II combined."

As a result, many units have been heavily tasked, with just one year at home before they are asked to return to the fight, Lynn said. "That's just been a huge challenge," and one that, in part, has accelerated increases in Army and Marine Corps forces, he added.

"We have to be able to rotate forces in ways that are less stressful on the troops themselves and their families," he noted.

Lynn also touched on the asymmetric threats facing the nation.

"The U.S. has become so strong in conventional measures that most adversaries will not and have not chosen to challenge us on those measures," he said, noting that adversaries instead turn to asymmetric measures, such as improvised explosive devices.

The military counters these threats with new technology, such as the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, Lynn said, as well as through changes in tactics and the use of intelligence to "anticipate where they're going to be [and] ferret out the makers of these IEDs."

Computers can be the avenue for another, also challenging, asymmetric threat, the deputy secretary noted.

"It doesn't take a lot of resources to develop a pretty effective cyber attack, but it takes a lot of resources to defend against them, so it's a difficult challenge," he said.

At the same time, the Internet also can be a valuable tool, Lynn said. He highlighted the department's new social media policy, which takes the benefits of social networking sites into account. The previous policy was inconsistent, he told the students, blocking some social networking sites and allowing people to visit others.

He acknowledged that social networking sites can be a source of threats, but said blocking access isn't the answer. "Our approach has been not to block the sites but to improve defenses," he said.

"We need to be utilizing this new tool of social network sites in terms of recruiting, in terms of disseminating messages, in terms of having families communicate with each other on the long deployments," he explained. "We try to have a balanced policy, which is open in terms of access, but strong in terms of the defenses that we have."

Lynn concluded by encouraging the students to consider a career in public service, whether it's in uniform or as a civilian. "I think you will find both can be very rewarding," he said.

Along with Lynn, the delegates also met with Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, and Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Loree K. Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. The students then embarked on a Pentagon tour.

Earlier in the week, the delegates spent time at the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the White House, speaking with senators, cabinet members and officials from the departments of State and Defense. They also had the opportunity to speak with President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The students were selected from a pool of thousands of applicants and represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

The U.S. Senate program, which began in 1962, offers students an opportunity to gain an in-depth view of the government as well as a deeper understanding of the three branches of the American government, according to the program's Web site. Public and private high schools nominate students each fall, and to qualify, students must hold student body office or another elected or appointed position in their communities and show academic interest and aptitude in government, history and politics.

Wounded Warriors, Veterans Find Therapy on Ski Slopes

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2010 - Matthew Bilancia addresses the slopes like a man on a mission, cutting and edging his snowboard down the mountain with the confidence and passion of someone who's been doing it all his life. But beneath the thick pants and poised facade, the former Air Force senior airman bears the source of his determination: a scar on his right knee that reminds him of all the doctors and physicians who once told him, "Walking would be difficult. Forget about sports and athletics."

Bilancia was one of four wounded warriors and disabled veterans to participate yesterday in what is expected to be one of the few remaining days of the winter sports season at Whitetail Resort here. He and the others came together with the USO of Metropolitan Washington and the Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation to prove to themselves that rehabilitation is more than pain killers and doctor recommendations.

"I've been using snowboarding and hand cycling and weight lifting to manage my pain for the past three years," Bilancia, a New Jersey native, said. "I think by using different sports and athletics, it keeps you from being depressed. It manages my depression and post-traumatic stress. It's great to able to use those things instead of the medication."

Bilancia shattered his knee in July 2002 when the motorcycle he was driving was rear-ended by a car. He was stationed with the Air Force in Tucson, Ariz. Every ligament in his knee was damaged, and his entire leg eventually became septic. Doctors began working to save his leg and were successful, but the results were troubling, to say the least, he said.

"I didn't think I'd ever be able to snowboard, and the doctors told me I'd basically have a hard time walking, [and] that I'd never be able to run or jog," Bilancia said, referring to a post-surgery doctor's consultation he received in 2008. "They said participating in athletics would be extremely difficult, if not near impossible."

Bilancia still takes some medications, but in smaller doses. He also spends less time at the doctor's office now than in previous years. And through adaptive sports, he's cut his annual pain medication intake by more than half, he said, adding that he hopes to start his own nonprofit organization one day to teach others to do the same.

"I want to teach people how to use athletics to manage their pain by endorphin release and flow of adrenaline in their bodies, as opposed to narcotics," he explained. "My goal is to help individuals understand they don't need to rely on the medicines. They don't have to listen to all the negativity from doctors, saying they'll never do this or they'll never do that again. It's just a matter of mind over matter."

Bill Dietrich, executive director and founder of Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation, echoed Bilancia's philosophy and said he is humbled by the opportunity to work with wounded military veterans and individuals with disabilities.

"It's an incredible therapy for these guys, and it's wonderful to see the enthusiasm they get from being out here," said Dietrich, who's been a certified ski instructor here since 1990. "Working with the wounded warriors I've had a chance to get to know this winter, all of them bring an incredible amount of determination and will power and desire to learn. I'm even looking forward to some of them become instructors themselves."

Dietrich noted retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Isenhour, who suffers severe brain damage from an automobile accident in 2004, for the impact snowboarding has had on his rehabilitation. Isenhour is a perfect example of how a traumatic event can be overcome through adaptive sports therapy, Dietrich said.

"The first time Brian came out, he could barely walk without assistance," he said. "He really had me scratching my head about what he was going to be able to accomplish. But seven or eight trips later, he's snowboarding, and his friends tell me that he's happier and more optimistic than they've seen him in a long time.

"It gives me a lot of satisfaction and pride to be involved in helping people cope with life-changing circumstances, and it's extremely rewarding to see some like Brian progress and enjoy life again," Dietrich continued.

Army Spc. Les Timms, who's currently assigned to a wounded warrior transition unit at Fort Belvoir, Va., views USO and the Two Top adaptive sports programs a little differently. He said he believes that all servicemembers, especially those who've deployed to combat, should take advantage of outings such as this, which are offered through the USO and installation morale, welfare and recreation offices.

The Virginia Army National Guardsman described "protecting America and our homeland" as a stressful job, regardless of being injured or not. Anyone who's ever served understands the heavy burdens of preserving freedom, he said.

"Skiing helps me rehabilitate mentally just as much as it helps me physically," said Timms, who injured his left shoulder in a vehicle rollover accident in Afghanistan in June. "These programs do help out to get your mind off things, and I'd recommend this to all soldiers, whether they're hurt or not. It helps to clear your mind, and it's just a peaceful scenario where you're just having fun."

The USO of Metropolitan Washington provides outreach and services to veterans and their families in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. The nonprofit organization often teams up with others, such as Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation, to connect veterans and their families with services and opportunities to improve their morale and well being and to show support for their service to the nation.

Guard Vital to Northcom, Commander Says

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2010 - The National Guard is critical to U.S. Northern Command's mission, Northcom's commander told a congressional committee yesterday.

"National Guard and Reserve forces are critical to [Northcom's] ability to carry out our assigned homeland defense and civil support missions," Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr. said in his 2010 posture statement presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He also commands North American Aerospace Defense Command.

"We recognize the National Guard as a fundamental partner in the Total Force and essential to the security and defense of our nation," Renuart said. "The Air National Guard provides the bulk of NORAD's operational force for air sovereignty alert missions and is developing additional capabilities in support of domestic requirements.

The Army National Guard, Renuart noted, provides "all of the manning at our ground-based interceptor sites in support of missile defense requirements.

Additionally, he said, the Army National Guard provides the bulk of personnel for ground-based defense capabilities protecting the national capital region.

Stood up in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Northcom is – in Renuart's words – "inextricably linked" with NORAD at their shared Colorado Springs, Colo., headquarters.

Northcom is responsible for homeland defense, sustaining continuous situational awareness and readiness to protect the homeland against a range of symmetric and asymmetric threats in all domains. Its area of responsibility includes the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, French territory off the Canadian coast and three British overseas territories.

"We are focused on deterring, preventing and defeating attacks against the United States," Renuart said. "We also stand ready to support primary agencies ... in responding quickly to natural or manmade disasters."

Northcom's missions are intertwined with National Guard missions. The command has personnel from every branch of the armed forces and many civilian agencies assigned to Colorado Springs. The command has the largest concentration of Title 10 National Guard officers in a joint organization outside the National Guard Bureau, and its most recent deputy commander has been Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, who was the chief of the National Guard Bureau until late 2007.

"Our ongoing partnerships with the National Guard have increased our ability to coordinate and integrate joint and interagency operations," Renuart said. "I am pleased to report our collaboration ... has never been better, and the experience gained by Guard members serving throughout [Northcom] ensures we have a strong foundation for enhancing this relationship."

Among missions with heavy Guard involvement is Operation Noble Eagle, a post-9/11 initiative to protect U.S. and Canadian airspace that has seen Air National Guard members and reservists fly more than 80 percent of its more than 55,000 missions.

Other examples include National Guard contributions to the command's chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives consequence-management response forces; joint exercises; Guard contributions to the joint Haiti response; and the Guard's role in contributing to the team effort to improve the interoperability of communications between the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and numerous state and local partner agencies.

Other Northcom missions also have a National Guard nexus, including cyber security, H1N1 flu operations and inland search and rescue.

In November, Northcom used the National Guard's Muscatatuck facility in Indiana for a field training exercise that simulated an improvised nuclear device detonation. In January, the command teamed with the National Guard Bureau for a hurricane planning workshop in Tampa, Fla., where hundreds of representatives from 30 states joined senior homeland security and Federal Emergency Management Agency leaders to plan emergency preparedness.

"Next year, we plan to expand the scope of the planning conference to include all hazards," Renuart reported to Congress.

The hurricane workshop was the latest in a series of collaborative efforts. Renuart has met individually with 37 of the adjutants general and addressed all commanding general collectively.

"Working with our mission partners is essential to ensuring the American people receive assistance during times of need," Renuart said. "Our nation's governors take very seriously their role as commanders in chief of their states, and we respect that authority. Our job is to support our nation's governors in responding to emergency situations and threats to their states."

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

The Army's Approach to Brain Injury Awareness

Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, U.S. Army Surgeon General

March 12, 2010 - March is Brain Injury Awareness Month across the land, but many in the Army -- line and medical leaders, Army trainers at our Combined Training Centers (National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, Calif., and Joint Readiness Training Center in Ft. Polk, La.), first line medics, and our deploying combat arms soldiers -- have already been receiving a unique education and training on traumatic brain injury (TBI) delivered personally by the vice chief of staff himself, Gen. Peter Chiarelli. Senior Army leaders -- especially my colleagues and superiors who are not medical professionals -- recognize that TBI is a serious concern; we have dedicated substantial effort and resources to prevent, diagnose, treat and better understand promising treatments for mild, moderate, and severe TBI.

The more severe forms of head and brain injury are not subtle: They involve a major skull or facial fracture or a penetrating wound such as might occur in a sniper attack, major explosion or severe motor vehicle accidents. Victims are often rendered comatose and their wounds are obvious. The recognition of the wound is prompt and treatment is swift. Far more common, however, and receiving renewed and focused attention by the VCSA and all leaders are mild TBI or what we all call "concussions." Concussion and mild TBI are one in the same; we prefer "concussion."

While the incidence of new cases of moderate and severe TBIs is not growing, that of concussions is. Some of this increase may be because we are more apt to recognize and treat it. This is a good thing since the vast majority of concussions will heal without long-term lingering problems such as problems with memory, word-finding and other speech and language problems, headaches and such. I myself suffered a concussion on a rugby pitch 20 years ago in a collision with another player which broke my cheekbone and knocked me out for 20 minutes, leaving me with no memory of the entire game ("retrograde amnesia") and the hours before it. I rested for a number of days and recovered uneventfully.

But some of the increase undoubtedly derives from just the opposite: the rising number of soldiers and their fellow Warriors who are subjected to multiple sequential concussions. These are not promptly diagnosed and are not treated appropriately at the time of the incident -- IED blast, motor vehicle accident, sports injury or other event. The consequence of these repeated injuries during the period in which the brain is recovering may result in far more serious long-term effects.

It is this new effort to more promptly identify concussed warriors as close to the event which results in the injury which is the centerpiece of the new "Educate-Train-Treat-Track" program being led by the VCSA. In my next blog, I'll share with you who is receiving the first round of education and training and how this is intended to reduce the effects on concussion on the battlefield and back in home station.

Air Force Association Taps USAA for Financial Services

USAA named preferred provider for banking and financial products

SAN ANTONIO – More than 121,000 Air Force Association members now can take advantage of a comprehensive suite of financial services from one of the nation’s highest rated* financial services providers, thanks to an agreement just signed with USAA.

USAA, a leading financial services provider for the military community, now is the preferred provider for checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and investment products – all delivered with USAA’s award-winning customer service.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome USAA as a benefit partner,” said AFA President and CEO Mike Dunn. “This relationship will enhance our banking and investment products in the years ahead with a company that has been a safe harbor for millions of military members and their families during a tough economic time. One thing's certain – USAA has an 88-year-record of financial strength and support for those in uniform and we’re glad to be on the same team.”

For USAA, the agreement is a natural evolution of its ongoing efforts to help facilitate the financial security of members of the U.S. military and their families.

“The Air Force Association and USAA share a common goal – taking care of those who serve this great nation and their families,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Eric Benken, USAA Air Force programs manager and the 12th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. “Both organizations understand the complexities of military service and recognize the courage and sacrifice of those who wear the uniform.”

Benken, a life member of AFA, believes that together, AFA and USAA “will continue to provide members a legacy of tremendous value and customer service.”

The agreement with USAA fills the gap left when AFA’s former provider, Waterfield Bank of Germantown, Md., was closed March 5 by the Office of Thrift Supervision. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been appointed as receiver and AFA is recommending its members utilize USAA for deposit accounts effective immediately.

Those who want to learn more about USAA can call (800) 531-8722 or visit To learn more about AFA membership, call (800) 727-3337or visit

About AFA

The Air Force Association (AFA) is an independent, nonprofit, civilian education organization promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation. AFA publishes Air Force Magazine, conducts national symposia and disseminates information through outreach programs. It sponsors professional development seminars and recognizes excellence in the education and aerospace fields through national awards programs. AFA presents scholarships and grants to Air Force active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members and their dependents; and awards educator grants to promote science and math education at the elementary and secondary school level. Additionally, AFA publishes a wide range of materials on

About USAA

USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 7.4 million members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military – and their families. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit

* Ranked highest named bank on Forrester’s 2010 Customer Advocacy Ranking; Superior rating from IDC Financial Publishing; Office of Thrift Supervision Outstanding Community Reinvestment Act Rating; Highline Banking Data Services Top 25% of peer group. With $31.8 billion in deposits, as of June 30, 2009, USAA Federal Savings Bank is 23rd largest bank in the nation.

Comfort to Stop in Norfolk After Haiti Mission

American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2010 - The hospital ship USNS Comfort will arrive at Naval Station Norfolk tomorrow en route to its home port in Baltimore after completing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Comfort left Baltimore Jan. 16 and began supporting humanitarian relief efforts before anchoring off the coast of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 20.

During portions of the relief effort, more than 1,400 medical personnel from the U.S. military and various nongovernmental organizations treated those affected by the earthquake.

Comfort's U.S military and civilian medical personnel treated 871 patients, receiving one patient every six to nine minutes at the height of the recovery effort. Comfort's medical staff also performed 843 surgeries aboard the ship, treating more than 540 critically injured earthquake survivors within the first 10 days.

The hospital ship ran 10 operating rooms at full capacity to care for injured Haitian and American earthquake victims requiring surgical care.

This deployment marks the first time the ship has reached full operational capacity, using all operating rooms and beds, since it was delivered to the Navy in 1987.

Volunteer experts from the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, Project Hope, Operation Smile, National Nurses United, Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine and other organizations provided the ship's medical team with orthopedic trauma, surgical, nursing and anesthesia support.

The Comfort's staff worked closely with Haiti's health ministry and health-care professionals from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as international relief organizations and nongovernmental organizations, to secure follow-on care for patients in recovery.

The ship is scheduled to return to Baltimore next week.

Comfort is crewed by 67 federally employed civilian mariners who operate and navigate the ship while military and civilian medical personnel operate the shipboard hospital. Between deployments, a small crew of mariners and Navy medical personnel maintains the ship and hospital in a high state of readiness.

When needed, Comfort can be ready to deploy in five days.

(From a Naval Station Norfolk news release.)

Marine Shapes Silent Drill Platoon

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Austin Hazard
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2010 - The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs around the world, demonstrating discipline, precision and dedication to tradition. But who chooses these men? Who teaches them the time-honored tradition of representing the Marine Corps with their silent performances?

Marine Corps Cpl. Robert Dominguez, a 26-year-old native of Selma, Calif., serves as the platoon's drill master. He is tasked with memorizing, teaching and handing down the platoon's unique drill style, called "slide drill."

"It's a great honor to be the 62nd drill master of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, teaching the manual to Marines and passing it on," said Dominguez, who became the drill master Nov. 4. "I am the keeper of the Silent Drill Platoon's traditions."

The drill master keeps the manual for slide drill and passes it to the next drill master, a rite of succession that has remained unchanged since its creation.

"Back in 1948, all the drill was choreographed and slide drill was created," said Dominguez, who is in his third year with the platoon. "What I do as the drill master is use that manual and come up with a new sequence for the year. I think up some cool ideas and go back through old drill sequences and try to make a new, fresh sequence with some more flavor."

Marines may remember drill from their boot camp landing-party manual, but slide drill is different. It uses no verbal commands and modifies common drill maneuvers, such as port arms, to best fit the platoon's style and varying formations.

"It's very difficult to learn," Dominguez said. "You've got to have a lot of bearing, coordination and discipline to be able to learn slide drill."

However, teaching drill is not the drill master's only responsibility.

"To represent the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps wants the best, and it's my job to select them," Dominguez said.

Dominguez trains and chooses the platoon members during their initial training, determining who makes the cut and who gets cut. After that, he decides which members make up the "marching 24," the two dozen Marines who actually perform.

If Dominguez believes the platoon's proficiency declines, he can declare a challenge day, during which members audition for spots among the marching 24.

The drill master is a coveted and respected position among the platoon, and Dominguez is equally respected by his platoon. "As a drill master, he does demand the perfection needed of this platoon," said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Perry Bell, who is in his first year with the platoon.

The downside to being the drill master is watching from the sidelines and not being able to perform with the platoon, Dominguez said.

"Performing is an adrenaline rush," he explained. "You can't get that feeling anywhere else. It's unfortunate that I'm not in the fight with them, not performing, but I get to critique them and make them better."

For decades, the Silent Drill Platoon has been an American icon, personifying the discipline and precision of the Marine Corps through public demonstrations, recruiting posters and commercials. Now that responsibility lies primarily in Dominguez's hands as the drill master of the nation's most famous drill team.

"Nothing that we do is about us," Dominguez said. "The picture is bigger than us. To the public, we represent the Marine Corps."

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Austin Hazard serves at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.)