Military News

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Shinseki: VA Tackles Root Causes of Homelessness

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 7, 2010 - No one who has ever served the United States in uniform should ever end up living on the street, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki insists. So he's committed to ending homelessness among America's veterans within the next five years, and reports he's already seeing signs of progress through a plan that provides not just beds, but also services to address the root causes.

With increased funding in VA's fiscal 2011 budget request, Shinseki told American Forces Press Service, he's intent on expanding the homeless program to include more preventive services: education, jobs and health care.

"When I arrived [at VA], the homeless program primarily involved engaging the veterans that sleep on the streets and getting them to shelter," he said. "The deeper I dug into it, I realized it assured that we'd be dealing with homeless veterans forever, because [the system] is reactive. You wait to see who shows up on the street, you go out and try to encourage them to leave the streets and provide them safe shelter and warm meals."

To break that spiral, 85 percent of VA's budget request for the homeless program will go toward medical services to confront substance abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other issues linked to homelessness.

"I looked at it as a funnel, and out of the bottom comes a homeless person," he said. "Well, in the funnel, there is the missed opportunity of education. ... It's the missed opportunity to have a job."

Shinseki is committed to ensuring veterans don't miss out on these opportunities and wind up in the "downward spiral" that too often leads to homelessness.

The new Post-9/11 GI Bill signed into law in June will make education more accessible for more veterans, he said, as well as a broad range of other VA-funded educational programs. Meanwhile, VA is working through the interagency process and with a host of other organizations to improve veterans' job opportunities.

Shinseki and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis co-chair an interagency task force committed to getting federal agencies to hire more veterans. VA, the Labor Department and the Small Business Administration also are encouraging more veteran-owned small businesses to compete for contracts, and helping to connect these business owners with other veterans.

"We know that veterans hire veterans. They know veterans, and they are comfortable with hiring veterans," Shinseki said. "So the idea is to get the churn going [and] to get more employment for veterans."

Early indications show progress since Shinseki announced his homeless initiative last fall, with homelessness among veterans dropping by about 18 percent from an estimated 131,000 to 107,000 homeless veterans today.

"This is a good start," Shinseki said, but he vowed to be the driving force behind a "full-court press to keep driving those numbers down."

Anything less, he insisted, represents a failure of the system to provide the support its veterans deserve.

"This is not about reducing homelessness. This is ending veteran homelessness in five years," he said. "I don't have all the answers about how this will all happen, but a lot of people are committed to this and working to prevent ... this downward spiral."

Gates Stresses Need for Special Operations Funding

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

April 7, 2010 - Getting special operations forces a seat at the defense budget table has been a priority since he took office, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy here tonight. Gates explained his rationale during a question-and-answer session following a speech he gave as part of the academy's Forrestal Lecture series.

When he came to the Pentagon in December 2006, the secretary said, he faced two problems. The first was that the Pentagon is an institution designed to plan for a war, not to wage one.

"I didn't know where to go in the Pentagon to find people who were coming in to work every day saying, 'What can I do to help the warfighter be successful today?' Gates said. "The other challenge was how do I get the guys who are in the wars today a place at the table when it comes to allocating the budget? It wasn't how big was their place going to be, it was how do we get them to the table at all?"

About 10 percent of the procurement defense budget is for irregular warfare, Gates said, while 50 percent is devoted to future conflicts and the remaining 40 percent is for "dual-capable" equipment that will be used for any range of conflict.

"So the struggle was not how to equalize the irregular-warfare guys and the future-threats guys," he said. "It was just how do I get the irregular [warfare] guys to the table in the first place?"

Virtually all of the U.S. Special Operations Command's budget when he took office was in supplemental funding, Gates said, and he wanted to make it part of the department's base budget to ensure special operations forces would get the funding they need once supplemental funding was no longer forthcoming. It was important, he said, to institutionalize funding for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, which are used in the full range of conflict, and especially in counterinsurgency operations.

"So this is all about how we can get all of the players to the table so that we have the full range of capabilities to deal with the threats and the challenges that the country is going to face over the next several decades," he said, noting that six months before they happened, no one predicted the conflicts in which the United States has engaged since the Vietnam War.

"Nobody predicted even in July of 1990 that by December we would have a half million troops in Saudi Arabia," he said. "Nobody predicted that we would be engaged in Grenada or Haiti or Panama or the Balkans or Somalia. So I have to build a force that has the range of capabilities to handle all of these challenges and has the flexibility to deal with them all at the same time."

Repeating that 50 percent of defense procurement spending goes toward far-term, more sophisticated challenges, Gates told the midshipmen that he's not shortchanging the future. "I just want to get the guys who are in the battle today to the budget table so that we can make the investments that we need to win."

Guardsman Paints to Document Deployment


By Army Sgt. Michael L. Owens
Louisiana National Guard

April 7, 2010 - Between weekend drills, overseas deployments, the work in communities during peacekeeping and natural disaster missions, full-time jobs and school, National Guardsmen often find themselves too busy making a difference to find time for their hobbies. One soldier has found a way to combine the two.

For 31-year-old Army 1st Lt. Heather S. Englehart of the Louisiana National Guard, her hobby comes in the form of mixing colors on a canvas and making beautiful artwork.

On the military side, Englehart serves as the executive officer for the 1021st Vertical Engineer Company and as a full-time project manager for the Louisiana Guard's construction and facilities management office.

As an artist and painter, Englehart has made a national name for herself.

While the lieutenant was serving in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 with 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, internationally renowned artist Jim Pollock, who served in Vietnam, heard about her. He notified Renee Klish, curator for the Army Art Collection at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, and they, along with her unit's command, arranged for her to spend some time documenting her wartime experiences. Her paintings from that time are currently featured at the center in Washington, D.C.

"My executive officer at the time was Lt. Col. [Patrick] Bossetta, who was very supportive and allotted me the time to work with Jim on projects," Englehart said. "Of course, I still had to make sure this did not interfere with my assigned duties."

After seeing her artwork, Bossetta decided that Englehart should become the unit historian and document the unit's deployment through her paintings.

"I knew we had something special here and wanted to utilize her skills and talents as much as we could," he said.

Englehart and Pollock have two things in common: both have lived in Pierre, S.D., and both have been labeled as "war artists" during their overseas tours.

"Heather is keeping that tradition alive," Pollock said. "South Dakotans have officially covered three wars for the Army." Harvey Dunn captured his World War I deployment on canvas for the Army.

In November, Englehart was interviewed on the CBS "Sunday Morning" news program about her work.

"I was really shocked and excited to be interviewed about my artwork," she said. "Here is little old me being put in the same category as big-name artists."

Englehart said she has been involved with sketching and drawing for as long as she can remember.

"I can remember drawing in church as a kid," she said. "When most parents would be upset at this, my mom was just happy that I was doing something that would keep me quiet."

During her preteen years, Englehart's father encouraged her to take painting seriously, because it possibly could affect her future.

"From that point, I knew that drawing, sketching and painting would be a part of my career field," she said.

She took these abilities to North Dakota State University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in architecture with a minor in environmental design.

"This was a perfect fit for me," she said. "I was able to apply everything I learned and apply it to my work in college."

In 1997, she decided to join the military after being dared by a few friends.

"A few of my male friends had just graduated from basic training and said I couldn't accomplish the same thing," she said. "Since I am stubborn and hard-headed, I enlisted to show them they were wrong."

She spent the beginning of her military career and overseas deployment as a cook, and in 2005, she applied for and received a direct commission as an engineer officer.

Word about her work and talents quickly spread around the Louisiana National Guard, and after her commissioning, she was offered at full-time position with the construction and facilities management office.

"I was surprised by the offer and happy to receive it," she said. "Working here has given me the opportunity to continue doing something that I have always had a passion for."

Staff updates families on missing personnel

by Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes

April 7, 2010 - More than 280 loved ones of American servicemembers missing in action and prisoners of war gathered recently for a briefing from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office here.

The mission of the office, called DPMO, is to establish policies worldwide to account for all missing servicemembers from all conflicts from all branches of service.

"Today is our family update, and we do this in cities across the country every month, meeting with family members whose loved ones are missing in action from the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War and World War II," said Larry Greer, the director of public affairs for the DPMO. "The gathering in San Antonio is the largest one we have ever done.

"We're trying to give them an overview of what's going on around the world to recover their loved ones, and then later we'll sit down with them individually and have an analyst go over their specific case," he said.

By comparing the missing servicemember's DNA -- obtained from hairbrushes, eyeglasses or even licked envelopes, or from blood relatives -- to samples collected during excavations, analysts identify to whom the remains belong. Analysts also are able to collect DNA from blood relatives to compare to remains that have been collected during excavations if there are no viable samples of the member's own DNA available.

During the update, family members had the opportunity to give DNA samples.

The DNA swabs are sent to a lab in Rockville, Md., and are checked, logged and given a case number, said Timothy Herbert, a mitochondrial DNA analyst with the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory.

"The DNA is extracted, amplified and sequenced,” explained Mr. Herbert. “The scientist there will assemble the sequence and get an actual mitochondrial DNA sequence. After we do that, it's loaded into our database system. The database is a reference for all the remains that come in."

Mitochondrial DNA analysis is not specific like the procedures used for paternity tests, but can be used in conjunction with other processes to make identification, Mr. Herbert said.

Because of the nature of DNA and the conditions of the remains, mitochondrial DNA analysis is heavily used in these cases, a sequence that is only passed through maternal blood lines. DNA samples from siblings with the same mother, female sibling's children or cousins from the same grandmother can be used in these cases.

The YSDR sequence is passed through paternal blood lines. Brothers of missing servicemembers, nephews, sons and male cousins on the father's side are candidates for these samples.

For Susan Jones, finding a DNA reference has been a little harder.

Mrs. Jones' father, Capt. Robert Greer, was an F-82 Twin Mustang radio operator in the Korean War when his plane was shot down on what was supposed to be his final night mission.

"He wanted nothing more than to serve his country in the Air Force," Mrs. Jones said.

Because Captain Greer was an only child with only female children and no cousins or living relatives on his mother's side, Mrs. Jones said they have not been able to find a DNA reference yet.

Mrs. Jones said she was 4 years, and her sister was 5 months old, when their father was shot down. Her mother was 31 years old when her father went missing, just three weeks before their wedding anniversary, she added. Her mother died three years ago and never remarried.

"The sad thing about (having loved ones) missing in action is there's no closure," Mrs. Jones said. "You always hear stories about people coming home seven or 10 years later. She always had the hope he would come back alive."

Although it has been more than 50 years, Mrs. Jones said it is a gut-wrenching experience to relive personal memories and to hear other's stories of missing family members.

"You're not only upset for yourself, but also what you missed out on, like not having a father, but also for all the other people," she said. "You just hope it wasn't all in vain."

This was Mrs. Jones fifth year attending the family update and she received some information that may help her family get one step closer to finding closure.

"Right now it looks like it's a dead end for us," Mrs. Jones said. "Then today after talking with some people, I thought, 'My sister may have my grandmother's eyeglasses!' That was something on the list (of sources of member DNA) they gave us today."

"Our hope here is to contribute enough information so they can know everything the U.S. government does about their cases," Mr. Greer said. "It's important for the family members themselves to be able to paint the whole story, to get through that last painful chapter of what happened."

In fiscal 2009, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command identified 98 individuals including 26 from the Korean War, 19 from the Vietnam War and 53 from World War II, according to the JAPC annual report.

"All of our former enemies, the communists in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China and Russia are all cooperating with us to do research and conduct interviews with some of the former enemy soldiers, and to actually conduct investigations and excavations on the ground," Mr. Greer said.

"Between 1996 and 2005, we sent teams into North Korea, with (North Korean government) support, and we brought out more than 235 sets of remains of American servicemembers," he said.

Mr. Greer said operations in North Korea have been suspended since the spring 2005, but U.S. government officials will advise the teams how and when they will be able to re-enter the region.

Official Offers Tax Guidance as Deadline Looms

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

April 7, 2010 - With the April 15 tax deadline around the corner, a defense official today offered guidance on how troops can file their returns, and reminded servicemembers to submit their forms on time. Servicemembers have two options for filing: they either can seek advice from a legal assistance office on their base, where Internal Revenue Service-trained specialists can help them complete their forms, or they can do it online, Army Maj. John Johnson said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel.

Johnson, executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, steered troops toward the online option, which features an application created by the Defense Department and H&R Block, the commercial tax preparation company.

"I would personally be more comfortable using it, because I know that lots of military people use it, it's supported by the military, and it's less likely to have errors or problems," he said of the online option available at the Military OneSource Web site.

"They also have a toll-free number," he added, "that military folks can call and get help if they're going through their tax form and there's a question or problem."

By virtue of receiving input from military experts, the H&R Block program is tailored to servicemembers' needs, Johnson said.

"It's free, online tax filing," he said, "and [Defense Department] personnel review [the application] to make sure that it works correctly. And if problems come up, we try to fix them."

Johnson recommended seeking help through military bases' legal assistance office in cases where troops are confused by complex returns, or if their preference is to have their forms completed by experts.

"The easiest way to do it is online," he said. "But if you have complicated issues or you're just not comfortable doing your own taxes, then it's best to just go into the legal assistance office on base and have them do your taxes for you," he said.

Tax experts on base are IRS-trained personnel who work under the Volunteer Tax Assistance program, he added.

While the April 15 deadline applies to most troops stationed in the United States, servicemembers deployed to a combat zone or a "contingency operation" -- as defined by the Defense Department -- qualify for a 180-day extension upon their return.

"They're eligible for it if they're serving in a contingency operation – which would be a combat zone or something else that's designated as a contingency operation – Haiti, for instance is designated," he said. "So you're entitled to wait until you return from the operation and then you have up to 180 days to file your taxes – no penalties, no interest for that delay."

Johnson recommended that troops currently or soon to deploy to a combat zone or contingency plan area e-mail the IRS their projected deployment plan. Troops should include their name, Social Security number, the location of their deployment, and to include that their area of operation makes them eligible for the extension.

"The IRS does recommend that you notify them, and it's a good idea," he said. "That way, they know what's going on and they won't send a nasty letter to your spouse back at home. E-mails to the IRS from deployed troops should be addressed to Combatzone@irs.gov.

He added that troops who spent time in combat zones in 2009 should make sure they are taking advantage of the combat zone exemption, which allows them to withhold income earned during a combat tour from being taxed.

"Of course, like anything else, you should double-check that," he said. "Look at your W-2 form and make sure that it hasn't reported income that you earned in a combat zone."

MILITARY CONTRACTS April 7, 2010

NAVY

Sherlock, Smith & Adams, Montgomery, Ala., is being awarded a maximum $50,000,000 firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity architect-engineering contract for various medical and dental facility projects at various locations in the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Pacific area of responsibility (AOR). The work to be performed provides for design and engineering services for the preparation of plans and specifications, cost estimates, design analysis, engineering studies, planning documents, DD 1391s, facilities studies, environmental assessments, facilities utilization studies, deficiency tabulation studies, economic analysis, program for design/space program, equipment planning, and category designation (medical/dental and non-medical). Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps facilities and other government facilities within the NAVFAC Pacific AOR. The term of the contract is not to exceed 60 months with an expected completion date of April 2015. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site, with 19 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (N62742-10-D-0005).

MAR Inc.*, Rockville, Md., is being awarded a maximum amount $30,000,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract in support of the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center, Port Hueneme, for the operation, maintenance, and repair of the M/V Independence, including providing research, development, testing, and evaluation of undersea surveillance systems, load handling systems, acoustic array systems, cable system components, cable and system survivability studies, installation methods, test vessel support, and training range establishment and maintenance. Work will be performed in Port Hueneme, Calif. The term of the contract is not to exceed 60 months, with an expected completion date of April 2015. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was competitively procured as a 100 percent small business 8(a) set-aside via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site, with one proposal received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Specialty Center Acquisitions, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity (N62583-10-D-0363).

Raytheon Co., Integrated Defense Systems, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $14,222,122 modification to previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00024-09-C-5100) for the production of five fiscal 2010 ship self defense systems (SSDS) MK2 open architecture computing environment kits. The kits include cabinets, processors, converters, network devices, and interface units. The equipment sets consolidate the computing and interface requirements for the SSDS ship class variants. The fiscal 2010 kits will be installed at the Naval Air Systems Command land-based test site and on CVN 75, CVN 78, LPD 26, and LHA 7. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif. (50 percent), and Portsmouth, R.I. (50 percent), and is expected to be completed by January 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

General Dynamics, National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $10,000,000 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-2229) for System Design Part 2 efforts associated with the Mobile Landing Platform program. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif. (58.2 percent); Beloit, Wis. (7.3 percent); Busan, South Korea (5.7 percent); Pittsburgh, Pa. (5.6 percent); Houston, Texas (5.0 percent); Annapolis, Md. (4.0 percent); Norfolk, Va. (2.0 percent); Belle Chasse, La. (0.7 percent); Mobile, Ala. (0.5 percent); New York, N.Y. (0.4 percent); Deerfield Beach, Fla. (0.2 percent); Georgetown, S.C.(0.2 percent); Houma, La. (0.2 percent); Clovis, Calif. (0.1 percent); New Orleans, La. (0.1 percent); Rochester, N.Y. (0.1 percent); Stevensville, Md. (0.1 percent); Ogden, Utah (0.1 percent); Old Saybrook, Conn. (0.1 percent); Pensacola, Fla. (0.1 percent); and other various locations. Work 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 in Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Hologic, Inc., Bedford, Mass., is being awarded a maximum $15,000,000 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for radiology systems, subsystems, and components. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. The original proposal was Web solicited with 43 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is April 6, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM2D1-09-D-8334).

1st ANNUAL SILENT AUCTION AND GOLF SCRAMBLE

Proceeds to Benefit USA Cares Warrior Treatment Today Program

USA Cares exists to help bear the burdens of service by providing post-9/11 military families with financial and advocacy support in their time of need. Assistance is provided to all branches of service, all components, all ranks while protecting the privacy and dignity of those military families and veterans who request our help. In the past six years, USA Cares has received over 20,800 requests for assistance and responded with over $7,000,000 in direct grants of support. USA Cares is a Kentucky based 501(c)3 non-profit, charitable organization founded in 2003 and registered with the IRS.

Silent Auction Charity Event (Friday, May 14th) & 2 Man Charity Golf Scramble (Sunday, May 16th)

(Both hosted at the Superstition Springs Golf Club, Mesa AZ)

We are putting out the call to all friends and family in the area with hopes that you’ll consider attending one or both of these events, and most importantly, joining us at the Silent Auction. We’re looking forward to having a fun and enjoyable evening with friends and family, while raising some much needed funds for the men and women who serve our country. See the flyer below for event information.

If you’re available and would like to join us, please click on the link below to more info and to purchase tickets. Also, please consider forwarding this on to all of your family and friends in the greater Phoenix area. The Silent Auction seating is limited to 200 people, so please don’t wait to purchase your tickets. We hope to hear from you AND see you at the auction and scramble.

For those across the country – THANK YOU again for your continued support! We will miss you at the events.

More Information
https://oursoldiers.org/Fundraising_Events.html

Missing PRIMS Data Can Slow Your Promotion

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW) Maria Yager, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

April 7, 2010 - MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Navy officials reminded Sailors April 7 to include a review of their physical fitness assessment data in their selection board preparations.

"When the promotion list comes out, we scrub those names against PRIMS (Physical Readiness Information Management System). The vast majority of candidates have no problems," said Capt. Leo Falardeau, assistant commander, Navy Personnel Command (NPC) for career progression, referring to the Navy policy that requires Sailors to meet physical readiness standards in order to be promoted.

"As long as members have taken their PRT and passed it then the promotion process can continue," said Falardeau. "If it is anything other than that -- PRIMS is blank, the member is over body fat or failed the PRT -- then we have a discrepancy."

Last year, the Chief of Naval Personnel announced in NAVADMIN 073/09 that PRIMS data would be reviewed as part of the promotion and advancement process beginning with fiscal year 2010 boards. Falardeau's team reviews post-selection board results against the PRIMS database for all officers slated for promotion. As result a small number of promotions have been delayed in cases where a discrepancy has been found.

"In most cases, their PRIMS data is blank and just needs to be updated. The discrepancy can be resolved fairly quickly," said Falardeau. "In other cases the member must pass the PFA or if the error is in the fitness report, the fitness report must be corrected before the Sailor may be promoted. In cases where the data cannot be immediately fixed the promotion is delayed."

"We send a formal letter informing the member that they are delayed," said Falardeau. "And the small numbers that have been withheld have been trending downward, which we attribute to the word getting out."

To date, this process has only applied to officers, but the FY-11 E8/E9 Selection Boards for Navy Reserve personnel, which convened March 1, will be the first enlisted selection boards to undergo the same PRIMS review.

While command fitness leaders (CFL) are responsible for inputting PRIMS data after each cycle, Sailors are ultimately responsible for reviewing the information.

"It is very important that Sailors review their PRIMS account for accuracy," said Bill Moore, director for the Navy's Physical Readiness Program.

If a Sailor finds an error in PRIMS, the first step should be to contact their CFL. The command that input the data is responsible for correcting the record.

"The first course of recommended action is for that command to send the PRIMS program manager a correction request along with supporting documentation. If the command can't assist with the records correction, then the member can always submit to the Board for Corrections of Naval Records," said Moore.

Confront Financial Issues Early, Expert Advises

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

April 7, 2010 - Tough economic times have taken their toll on Americans in recent years, leaving many buried under debt or saddled with a now-unaffordable dream house that's plummeted too far in value to sell. While it may be tempting to ignore debt-related issues and toss unopened mortgage statements and bills into a neglected pile, confronting the issue head-on offers a much better option, a defense financial expert noted.

"Financial problems aren't like a fine wine; they don't get better with age," said Dave Julian, the Pentagon's personal finance director. "People should act sooner rather than later to get their finances under control."

Servicemembers and their families have a plethora of free resources at their fingertips to help, he noted, whether it's Military OneSource consultants or on-base personal financial managers. Both resources can help people devise a budget, identify spending pitfalls, manage debt and set up short- and long-term financial plans, he added.

"It's important to be on a plan, to live within your means and save for emergencies and long-term goals," Julian said. "Financial counseling can help you do that."

People also can turn to private-sector resources, such as nonprofit credit counseling agencies, but should do so cautiously, Julian warned. "It definitely pays, because of the potential of increasing your financial hardship rather than helping it, to do the research," he said.

People who are swimming in debt may be tempted to turn to a debt consolidation or settlement service, but this path also can lead them deeper into debt, Julian noted.

Debt consolidation or settlement companies look at debt, in some cases negotiate lower interest rates, and then work out a payment plan, or they can bargain with creditors for a lower payback amount. While attractive to people mired in debt, these companies are a largely unregulated industry, Julian noted, and some prey on debtors fueled by desperation.

"People should be very concerned and very careful," he said. "With the economic conditions that have arisen in the last year and a half, two years, a lot of these organizations have sprouted up and not all of these have been the best actors."

He noted that while it's common to require up-front fees, some companies may just take the money and run. "There have been cases in the news where members have paid their up-front fees and expected the debt settlement company to negotiate on their behalf with their creditors," he said. "But then a month, two months go by, and they've been paying their fees and find out the unreputable companies are gone."

Julian recommends people first consult with their installation personal financial manager or a Military OneSource consultant, who can do the research legwork and help to steer them toward reputable companies. The Better Business Bureau also can be a helpful resource to see which companies have favorable ratings, he added.

Even if they use a reputable company, people who pay back a lesser amount than they originally owed may find their credit rating affected, Julian said. "Any time you can pay back the full amount you owe, it is much better by credit reporting agencies, and is just a lot easier to do," he said.

But ideally, he added, people will avoid the problem in the first place or seek help at the first sign of trouble. "It's best to try to manage your finances as best you can or ask for help early on," he said.

Another potential pitfall is mortgage restructuring companies that offer to make mortgage payments more affordable. Julian recalled meeting a sailor who was about to pay a hefty fee the next day to have his loan restructured, something the sailor could have researched himself and done for free. The Navy intervened and the sailor kept his cash, but many others have lost money along the way.

As with debt consolidation companies, people should do their research first before handing money over to any company that is claiming to save them a lot of cash. In many cases, people can work with lenders to adjust payment plans or interest rates to make mortgage payments more affordable, all free of charge.

Above all, when behind in payments, it's important to speak up, Julian said.

"Nearly 58 percent of folks that lost homes due to foreclosure in 2007 never contacted their lender," he said. "Banks really don't want your house. They want your payments. If you can work out a payment plan with your lender, that's the best scenario."

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides a wide range of protections for servicemembers facing mortgage issues. The act is intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations so servicemembers can devote full attention to duty and relieve stress on themselves and their families, according to a Military OneSource fact sheet. For instance, servicemembers who anticipate they may fall behind in their mortgage payments may be able to go into court to ask for anticipatory relief under the act.

Servicemembers can find out more about the act from their local legal assistance attorney.

The government also has several housing programs, some for first-time buyers and others for mortgage and foreclosure assistance. People can research these programs online through sites such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Julian suggested.

The first line of defense in dealing with financial issues is education, Julian said, noting that all the military services offer some type of basic financial classes. This can be especially helpful for young servicemembers, he added, who may have entered the military with up to $12,000 of unsecured debt.

Julian urged servicemembers to take advantage of the military's Thrift Savings Plan or Savings Deposit Program. The Savings Deposit Program offers deployed servicemembers the opportunity to invest up to $10,000 and receive 10 percent on their return annually.

"About half of our force is 25 and under," he said. "They are young, and time is their friend for savings and investment plans. Small contributions now can yield big returns in the future."

No matter how great the debt, Julian said, people shouldn't give up hope, and he urged those with financial problems to take advantage of the help that's available to them.

"It won't be easy, but you can get there," he said. "Folks do it every day."

Combat Stress Team Strives to Connect


By Army Sgt. Andrew A. Reagan
304th Public Affairs Detachment

April 7, 2010 - Air Force Maj. Kim Floyd and Air Force Senior Airman Jessica E. Delgado just want to talk. Floyd, a psychologist deployed from the 92nd Medical Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and Delgado, a mental health technician deployed from the 5th Medical Group at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., make up the Combat Stress Control Detachment 1 here. Since arriving in Afghanistan in January, the pair has operated out of Camp Goode and traveled regularly to the eight bases within the province.

Floyd and Delgado spend most of their time at each base simply getting to know servicemembers so they can break through the lingering stigma attached to seeking mental health care. Their goal, they said, is to develop a relationship with as many servicemembers as possible so they have a strong foundation to build on in case they have to tackle more serious issues.

"We want to be as available as possible," said Delgado, a native of Lemoore, Calif. "We're out there advertising ourselves. We'll go around the [forward operating base], play pool with the soldiers and hang out with them. We try to have at least 100 contacts a week. A good portion of my day, for at least four hours, I'm out and about meeting people, just to see how they're doing, see if there's anything I can do for them.

"My job isn't to sit behind a desk," she continued. "My job is to go out and do outreach. I meet a lot of great people."

Hand in hand with the duo's mission to make themselves known are their efforts to address preconceived notions that many servicemembers have about mental health issues. Both Floyd and Delgado said that once they put those notions to rest, individual troops and higher commands are very accommodating of their efforts.

"The stigma is still out there," Delgado said, "but we try to reach out to commands and let them know, 'Hey, we're not here to send your guys home, we're here to make sure your guys can stay.'"

Floyd, a native of Ruidoso, N.M., said that approach is working.

"Once they get to know us and trust that we're not going to send anyone home or take anyone's weapon away," she said, "they are more willing to talk with us about things that are concerning them."

Floyd also said that the pair's mission encompasses more than helping servicemembers cope with what is traditionally thought of as combat stress.

"Combat stress is probably a misnomer for what we do," she explained. "A lot of people think combat stress is related strictly to combat, when in fact it's stress related to being deployed, whether it's issues on the home front, sleep difficulties, leadership frustrations, or peer relationships and interactions. Some people develop depression and anxiety disorders out here, and we treat that as well."

Floyd expressed that she and Delgado are able to help their fellow servicemembers work through any issues they have, as well as her amazement at how resilient they are when times are tough.

"It's very rewarding to be able to help improve morale, to support the soldiers, airmen and Marines and keep them in the fight," she said. "So many of the soldiers we work with are so committed to their brothers in arms that they want to stay here even when they have issues going on at home. ... They are often very torn. They want to be here and help their guys, but they want to be home and help their family. ... I'm impressed by the people I've met, their desire to do a good job, and their commitment to each other."

Delgado added that while working with servicemembers, she strives to focus on the final outcome instead of lingering on past events.

"There are those depressing moments, but why dwell on those moments when, in the end, people see them as experiences?" she asked.

"Most of the soldiers out here, if you talk with them, they're going to be frustrated, they're going to be stressed out, but at the end of the conversation, they're going to feel that much less stressed out," Delgado said. "That's the part that matters, the end result. Not why they came into the clinic, but how they left. Usually, they leave pretty happy."

National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of April 6, 2010

April 7, 2010 - This week the Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard announced a decrease in activated reservists, while the Navy and Air Force announced an increase. The net collective result is 1,323 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 104,607; Navy Reserve, 6,465; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 16,302; Marine Corps Reserve, 6,417; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 718. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 134,509, 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/d20100406ngr.pdf

General Officer Announcement

April 7, 2010 - The Secretary of Defense announced today that the President has nominated Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, to serve as commander, U.S. Marines Corps Forces Command; commanding general, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic; commander, U.S. Marine Corps Bases Atlantic; commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe. Hejlik is currently serving as commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Pirates Captured

USS McFaul Captures Suspected Pirates, Rescues Crew


By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rachel McMarr

April 7, 2010 - MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- USS McFaul (DDG 74) captured ten suspected pirates and rescued eight crewmembers from the pirated Indian cargo dhow Faize Osamani, near Salalah, Oman, April 5 after the dhow and three skiffs attempted to attack the Motor Vessel (M/V) Rising Sun the same day.

M/V Rising Sun sent a distress call the morning of April 5 to alert maritime forces that pirate skiffs had pulled alongside and were firing small arms and rocket propelled grenades at their vessel. The Omani warship Al Sharquiyah (B 11) and U.S. destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74) immediately responded.

As the naval vessels were in transit, M/V Rising Sun used the industry recommended "best management practices" of increasing speed, evasive maneuvers and spraying potential attackers with fire hoses to thwart the pirate attack as the navies were in transit. These efforts were rewarded when the pirate skiffs broke off their attack and returned to their pirated mother ship, the Faize Osamani.

Arriving first to the last known location of the pirated mothership was the Omani vessel. As the Omani ship approached, the nine hostage sailors from Faize Osamani jumped into the ocean in an attempt to get away from the dangerous pirates and toward their rescuer. The Omani Navy was able to rescue eight of these crew members, however, one crew member drowned. Despite the loss of their hostages, the pirates remained aboard the Faize Osamani.

As the Omani ship rendered assistance to the escaped hostages, USS McFaul arrived on scene. With two warships now operating in close proximity, the pirates agreed to a compliant boarding. McFaul approached the dhow and directed the suspected pirates to surrender by gathering on the bow with their hands in the air, which they quickly complied with but not before throwing their weapons overboard. Two boarding teams from McFaul deployed in rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB), boarded the dhow and took control of the Faize Osamani.

The surviving sailors of the dhow Faize Osamani have been returned to their vessel, while their lost shipmate has been transported to shore by the Omani warship. The suspected pirates were subsequently transferred to USS Carney (DDG 64) in anticipation of further transfer to a state willing to accept the pirates for prosecution.

Successful transit of the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin rests in the hands of those who sail the waters. An average of more than 20 ships from the Combined Maritime Forces, EUNAVFOR and NATO, and other independent nations work together every day to patrol the high risk areas and provide the maximum safety available for those sailing through these pirate-laden waters. However, it is incumbent upon owners and shipping companies to provide the best available protection for their ships by utilizing the shipping industry's 'best management practices' as a proven means to minimizing the risk of a successful piracy attack.

USS McFaul is attached to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Carrier Strike Group working in support of maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The mission of the McFaul is to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea in support of U.S. national policy. The ships are equipped to operate independently or as part of a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group.

McFaul Crew Captures Suspected Pirates, Rescues Crew

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Rachel McMarr
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command

April 7, 2010 - The crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul captured 10 suspected pirates and rescued eight crewmembers from the Indian cargo dhow Faize Osamani near Salalah, Oman, April 5 after a dhow and three skiffs attempted to attack the Motor Vessel Rising Sun the same day. Rising Sun sent a distress call that morning to alert maritime forces that pirate skiffs had pulled alongside and were firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at their vessel.

The Omani warship Al Sharquiyah and the USS McFaul immediately responded.

As the naval vessels were in transit, Rising Sun used the industry-recommended "best management practices" of increasing speed, evasive maneuvers and spraying potential attackers with fire hoses to thwart the pirate attack as the navies were in transit. These efforts were rewarded when the pirate skiffs broke off their attack and returned to their pirated mother ship, the Faize Osamani.

The Omani vessel arrived first to the last known location of the pirated mothership. As the Omani ship approached, the nine hostage sailors from Faize Osamani jumped into the ocean in an attempt to get away from the pirates and toward their rescuer. The Omani navy crew was able to rescue eight of the crewmembers; however, one crew member drowned.

Despite the loss of their hostages, the pirates remained aboard the Faize Osamani.

As the Omani ship rendered assistance to the escaped hostages, USS McFaul arrived. With two warships now operating close to each other, the pirates agreed to a compliant boarding. McFaul crewmembers approached the dhow and directed the suspected pirates to surrender by gathering on the bow with their hands in the air. They quickly threw their weapons overboard and complied.

Two boarding teams from McFaul deployed in rigid-hull inflatable boats, boarded the dhow and took control of the Faize Osamani.

The surviving sailors of the dhow Faize Osamani were returned to their vessel, and the Omani warship transported their lost shipmate's body to shore.

The suspected pirates were transferred to the destroyer USS Carney in anticipation of further transfer to a state willing to accept them for prosecution.

USS McFaul is attached to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, working in support of maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.