Military News

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mullen to Continue 'Conversations With Country'

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2010 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will hit the road again soon for more "conversations with the country," an initiative to help local communities understand the value of their military veterans. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen kicked off this endeavor with an April 18 visit to Columbia University in New York, followed by stops in Pittsburgh and Morgantown, W.Va. He plans to continue his "conversations" with academics, community leaders and veterans in upcoming travels, officials said.

Mullen said he's trying to connect what he calls three "stovepipes" -- the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and communities throughout the country -- to better support veterans.

"We all need to look at how we work together in terms of assisting them, supporting them in the needs that they have: their education, their training, dealing with post-traumatic stress, dealing with the medical challenges, the injuries that have occurred," he said in a podcast to be broadcast next week.

The key is to engage communities, Mullen said, with an emphasis on universities and colleges, since they're community-based and so strongly linked to community leadership.

The chairman said he'd like to tap into the "sea of goodwill" that's grown over the past several years.

"There's an incredible amount of people who want to help," he said. "The question is how to do that. As our veterans return, I'm anxious to try to see if I can help make that connection to meet their needs."

It's his intent to reach a large number of communities, he said, as he aims to connect community leaders with people who "have a great deal to contribute to the community and to our nation for many decades to come."

"They're great young people; they've have made a difference," he said of veterans. "They've had life experiences that I think are incredibly valuable."

Mullen also called for support of families of the fallen and acknowledged their immense sacrifice.

"The biggest challenge is matching up what I would call a very clear need that these families have and the veterans have to a very clear ability to meet that need," he said.

"I want to make sure we're doing all we can to support them, because they've given so much to America," he added.

National Navy Reserve Ombudsman Conference Successful

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles White, Navy Region Southeast Reserve Component Command Public Affairs

May 5, 2010 - ORLANDO, Fla. (NNS) -- Nearly 200 Navy Reserve ombudsmen participated in the first National Navy Reserve Ombudsman Conference May 1-2 in Orlando, Fla.

The conference was designed to provide in-depth, Reserve-specific training in addition to showing gratitude to the dedicated ombudsman volunteers.

"All my questions were answered," said Kim Ryder, an ombudsman for Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Oklahoma City.

Now in its 40th year, the Navy's ombudsman program was founded by then Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Elmo Zumwalt in an effort to provide a Navy family a knowledgeable link to a Sailor's command.

And while maintaining its primary mission, the program has steadily increased in scope and importance.

Each ombudsman, usually a Navy Spouse, is a command asset, capable of disseminating official Department of the Navy and command information, as well as providing current resource referral services.

Ombudsmen are trained to mitigate issues affecting military families, and assist in the resolution of those issues that could later require command attention. And because the Reserve force structure is different than that of active duty Navy, Reserve ombudsmen require additional training for those issues unique to the Reserve.

"Many of the Reserve families and ombudsmen are not located close to fleet concentration areas, so they have some unique needs," said Debby Greene, a CNO Ombudsman-at-Large and chairman of Naval Services FamilyLine. "[The conference's goal] is to help meet the specific needs of the Navy Reserve ombudsmen."

Green said the ombudsman program relies heavily on feedback from those serving commands, and asked for questions from conference attendees in an effort to improve the program.

"I'd like to hear from you," she said. "I take this back to my advisory board, to our CNO and to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy."

The conference included presentations on operational combat stress, Navy family training, emergency case management, and operational security.

Guest speakers at the conference included Vice Adm. Dirk J. Debbink, commander, Navy Reserve Force; Rear Adm. Lothrop S. Little, Navy Reserve Forces Command; and Navy Reserve Force Force Master Chief Ronnie Wright.

Debbink voiced his thanks for ombudsmen efforts during the conferences appreciation banquet, and as a Reservist, said he understands the role of being a citizen and Sailor.

"We are ready now, any time, anywhere, and that's our pledge to out shipmates, to the Navy and to the nation," he said. The healthy, self reliant and resilient families that this program enables."

Debbink also stressed CNO Adm. Gary Roughead's views on the Reserve forces, stating there is one Navy of which Reserve ombudsmen were a part.

"We are ready now to carry out the mission of the Navy Reserve which is to provide strategic depth and deliver operational capabilities to the Navy and Marine Corps teams and Joint Forces from peace to war," Debbink said. "It's your work that makes it all possible and allows us to live up to our force motto, and for that you have my deepest appreciation and my sincerest thanks."

Debbink also shared stories of support and gratitude received from around the country, including one from First Lady Michelle Obama.

Conference participants said they intended to share Debbink's remarks as well as the knowledge and training they received with their commands.

"I can take that back to the command and then go further out to the families and make sure they're properly served," Greene said.

Thousands Attend NEX Customer Appreciation Weekend on Guam

By Oyaol Ngirairikl and Mass Communications 2nd Class (SW) Corwin Colbert, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas Public Affairs Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs

SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Military service members and their families attended Navy Exchange (NEX) Customer Appreciation Weekend on U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) April 29 to May 2. From meeting Medal of Honor recipients to watching martial arts, fencing, magic, bike and skateboarding and musical performances, NEX patrons enjoyed the four-day long event.

NEX hosted the event to thank its customers and honor military personnel and families for their service.

Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Loretta Glenn, of Navy Exchange Service Command, said the weekend celebration was a collaborative effort between NEX, the Navy, Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and their vendors.

"Our mission first and foremost is we provide quality products, and we support quality of life programs for the Navy," said Glenn. "This is a way for us to say to the Sailors and their families and the authorized patrons that shop NEX and MWR - thank you for supporting us."

Glenn said she was proud of what NEX Guam did to make the event possible for patrons, but also of what they do throughout the year.

"They just go out of their way to support the family members here in Guam. This event is proof of that. It's so successful and people are enjoying themselves, and that's our ultimate goal to give back to the families and have them just to relax and enjoy all the events, vendors, performers and the bands," said Glenn.

The events started April 29 with a concert by Musician 3rd Class Tommy Stanley, who opened for San Diego alternative rock band Switchfoot. Stanley, a vocalist with Navy Band Northeast, based in Newport, R.I., was a finalist in the 2008 season of "Nashville Star," a televised country singing competition. Stanley has also performed for Military Appreciation Day and said he enjoyed sharing his music with Guam's military members.

"It is great to see fellow service members having a great time listening to my music," said Stanley. "I was really excited at how many military people like my music. A lot of thanks goes to the NEX for running the show."

NEX had a fun run for adults at the Orote Commissary and footwear clinics inside the store April 30. There was a fun run for kids and an agenda of performances, including a Keebler Elves performance, a martial arts demonstration by Sideswipe and stunts by Bucky Lasek and other big-name biking and skateboarding athletes, May 1.

Mason Ludwig, a Guam High School student, got an opportunity to meet with one of his favorite skateboarders, Tony Alva, a Vans Skate Team rider.

"It was pretty cool getting to see all the skaters," said Ludwig. "It was awesome seeing Tony Alva in person. I also got to meet him during the autograph session, so that was good."

Tyler Brent, who is also a Guam High School student, said he enjoyed watching the skateboarding demonstrations and other events.

"It's been a really good time," said Brent. "I watched the performances, and they're all pretty cool."

The appreciation weekend ended May 2 with a fishing derby, a Humvee pull, video game competitions and a cooking demonstration by Peter Duenas, a chef and host of the local cooking show "The Outdoor Chef."

Lt. James David, of U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, and his family were among the thousands who filled the NEX May 1, watching various performances and getting autographs from Donald Ballard and Kenneth Stumpf, two Medal of Honor recipients.

"It's not everyday you get to meet and speak with the heroes, so I really appreciated the opportunity," said David. "It's even more special for us because our kids get to meet them as well. They got to see what real heroes are. They got to shake their hands and even talk to them. It's really exciting."

Since its inception in 1946, NEX's mission has been to provide its customers quality goods and services at a savings and to contribute to quality of life programs. NEX is one of the Navy Exchange Service Command's six primary business programs, which also include the Ships Stores Program, Uniform Program Management Office, Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility, Navy Lodge Program and Telecommunications Program Office.

Fleet Master Chief Speaks on Navy's Zero Tolerance Drug Policy

May 5, 2010 - WASHINGTON (NNS) -- An aggressive policy of zero tolerance coupled with a vigorous random drug testing program is helping the Navy reduce drug usage among Sailors. Despite its successes, the ever changing illegal drug culture also means an ever changing approach to battle the use of illegal drugs.

In March, the Navy established new guidelines in NAVADMIN 108/10 with the same zero tolerance approach, but with a new effort to battle the increasing popularity of designer drugs.

"Any drug use puts the lives of our Sailors at risk and endangers the success of our missions," said Master Chief Scott Benning, fleet master chief of Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, during a recent podcast.

Designer drugs are just as dangerous and deadly as well known narcotics on the street today such as heroin, cocaine and oxycontin. They may not have the stigma as their well known counterparts, but the results can be just as deadly.

"We never want to lose a Sailor because of a destructive decision," Benning said. "Education, enforcement and eradication of illegal drugs have to work together in order to have a strong Navy and stronger Sailors to meet the needs of our nation today and in the future."

In fiscal year (FY) 2009, the Navy separated nearly 1,400 Sailors for drug abuse and more than 300 Sailors have been separated since the beginning of FY 2010.

"We realize our Sailors are under more stress today with deployments and the operational environment needed to maintain our security," Benning said. "The Navy is committed to helping those in need before their decisions turn into life changing events."

MILITARY CONTRACTS May 5, 2010

AIR FORCE

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $96,744,354 contract which will provide miniature air launched decoy low rate initial production contracts for a 24-month effort to include operational test and evaluation. At this time, $89,817,202 has been obligated. 692 ARSS/PK Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity (FA8682-10-C-0007).

Wyle Laboratories, Inc, Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $13,744,106 contract which will provide for the research, test, development, and delivery of system requirements for the Reliability Information Analysis Center. At this time, $500,000 has been obligated. 55 CONS/LGCD, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is the contracting activity (HC1047-05-D-4005).

ATK Tactical Systems, W.Va., was awarded a $9,689,059 contract which will provide for a nose-mounted proximity sensor used on M117 and MK-80 series general purpose bombs, including the Joint Direct Attack Munitions. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 784 CBSG/PK, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8681-06-C-0009).

Alion Science and Technology Corp., Chicago, Ill., was awarded a $13,542,075 contract which provides for the Weapons System Technology Information Analysis Center which will provide research, technical analyses, and testing that enable electronic warfare capability planning, development, acquisition, and sustainment. At this time, $235,110 has been obligated. 55 CONS/LGCD, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., is the contracting activity (SP0700-99-D-0301).

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., Poway, Calif., was awarded a $7,070,000 contract which will provide for a revision to the ground control station modernization program and will improve pilots/sensor operator ergonomics through a cockpit hardware architecture that will be upgradable to network warfare capabilities. Money will be obligated incrementally. 703 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-05-G-3028).

NAVY

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Rolling Meadows, Ill., is being awarded a $79,239,035 firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of AN/AAQ-24(V)25 NexGen Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures Infrared (IR) Missile Warning Subsystem (MWS) sensors and IR processors for the H-53 and H-46 helicopters. This contract provides for the procurement of 487 NexGen MWS sensors and 99 NexGen MWS processors, including associated technical data. Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, Ill. (50.6 percent); Goleta, Calif. (20.9 percent); Lewisburg, Tenn. (9.2 percent); Ontario, Canada (5.2 percent); Saxonburg, Pa. (4.5 percent); Tipp City, Ohio (2.1 percent); Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (1.5 percent); Deer Park, N.Y. (1 percent); Westford, Mass. (1 percent); and various locations throughout the United States (4 percent). Work is expected to be completed in June 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.301-1. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-10-C-0036).

Eagan, McAllister Associates, Inc., Lexington Park, Md., was awarded a $73,376,702 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N65236-07-D-6881) for tactical command and control integration services for command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to an estimated $533,118,433. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C. (63 percent); Lexington Park, Md. (25 percent); and Norfolk, Va. (12 percent), and is expected to be completed by April 2011. If all options are exercised, work could continue until April 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, Charleston, S.C., is the contracting activity.

Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded an $18,434,609 firm-fixed price, estimated indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for environmental services at Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Southwest area of responsibility (AOR). The maximum dollar value, including the base period, four option periods, and two award option periods, is $136,833,371. Work will be performed primarily at NAVFAC Southwest in San Diego, Calif., and the NAVFAC Southwest AOR, including California (90 percent), Arizona (2 percent), Utah (2 percent), Colorado (2 percent), New Mexico (2 percent), and Nevada (2 percent). Work is expected to be completed by April 2017. 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 two proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N62473-10-D-4009).

Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Conn., is being awarded a $6,369,677 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-2100) for common missile compartment special tooling design engineering services. The work will be performed in Groton, Conn., and is expected to be completed by August 2011. Contract funds not will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Supervisor of Shipbuilding Conversion and Repair, Groton, Conn., is the contracting activity.

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Olgoonik Technical Services, LLC*, Anchorage, Alaska, is being awarded a maximum $13,177,216 firm-fixed-price, total set-aside, sole-source contract for fuel management services. Other location of performance is Mississippi. Using service is Air Force. The date of performance completion is Sept. 30, 2013. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-C-5037).

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a maximum $9,199,905 firm-fixed-price contract for snow removal vehicles. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. There were originally two proposals solicited with one response. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM500-01-D-0066-0056).

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Online Inbox Goes Live

American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2010 - A new online inbox that enables servicemembers and their families to comment anonymously about the impact of a possible repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law has gone live.

The inbox will enable servicemembers and families to offer their thoughts about how a repeal of the law that prohibits gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military might affect military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and family readiness, a defense official explained.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates created an intradepartment, interservice working group to conduct a fair, objective, comprehensive and dispassionate review of these issues, the official said. The online inbox is one method the group will use to systematically engage with the force and their families.

A non-Defense Department contractor will monitor comments made through the inbox and eliminate any identifiable information inadvertently submitted to ensure anonymity, the official said.

The inbox is posted at http://www.defense.gov/dadt. Respondents must possess an official Common Access Card to provide input.

Volk Field Airmen thanked for service since Sept. 11, 2001


Date: May 5, 2010
By Tech Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 150 Airmen from Volk Field's 128th Air Control Squadron have deployed to the Middle East in support of the war on terror. Friends, family and Wisconsin National Guard leaders paid tribute to those Airmen during the Hometown Heroes Celebration May 1.

"These Airmen have made and continue to make sacrifices on behalf of their state and country," said Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin. "Time away from their families and jobs, the stressful conditions of their deployments and the continuing demands of their outstanding service are all reasons they deserve recognition."

Dunbar was among senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders on hand for the ceremony. According to Senior Master Sgt. Bruce Arness, who has served five deployments in his 20 years with the 128th ACS, the ceremony is important for all unit members - but especially the young Airmen and their families.

"Most of the people associated with the 128th are really dedicated and supportive, and we're like a big family," Arness said. "I think it's important, now, for them to know the public and everyone else is on their side."

The operations tempo for the air control unit has remained steady over the last 15 years. Since 1995, the unit has supported U.S. operations in Bosnia, South America, Hungary and Romania, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The squadron deployed to Illinois to safeguard the air space around Chicago following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Every member that was recognized, including retired unit members, had deployed at some point since Sept. 2001. The unit typically deploys about one half of its unit at a time but some Airmen also deploy to other units as needed.

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"I get a great sense of pride in being with the 128th," said Staff Sgt. Kirk Slama, security forces specialist with the 128th. "We are very prepared to [deploy] on a moment's notice and I think our unit has done a great job at that."

Each of the Airmen who were recognized received a plaque of support and thanks - signed by the Chief of National Guard Bureau, Gen. Craig McKinley - as their names were read aloud.

Alpine pararescuemen train for mountain rescues


by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2010 - RAF LAKENHEATH, England (AFNS) -- Some people learn within the confines of a climate-controlled classroom; others learn sitting on top of glaciers more than 13,000 feet above sea level. Pararescuemen from the 56th Rescue Squadron here prepared for mountain operations, possibly in Afghanistan, by training within one of the world's most famous mountain ranges, the Alps, from March 27 through April 12.

During the first week, the team of 10 pararescuemen set up a base camp out of a cabin on the outskirts of Chamonix, France. Each day, they left camp and hiked into the mountains while learning how to pick the best routes of travel and spotting potential danger areas. They also trained on various rescue techniques, such as how to pull people from crevasses and how to save someone if they've been buried in an avalanche.

"We were enveloped in the training every day," said Senior Airman Nathan Simonson, a pararescueman with the 56th RQS. "I compare it to learning Spanish in a classroom versus learning and living it in Costa Rica."

They would wake up in the morning, start trekking into the mountains around 6 a.m. and stay out all day and into the night.

"There wasn't one point throughout the training that didn't help us tremendously," said Staff Sgt. Issaiah McPheron, a pararescueman.

The Airmen said the training was essential in today's fight because mountain operations occur in Afghanistan.

The Alps provide the Airmen an environment similar to what is seen in that country. While the highest peak in the Alps "only" reaches 15,774 feet (Mount Blanc), the Hindu Kush range in Afghanistan reaches 24,580 feet (Noshaq).

"We have (pararescumen) here who have had to save people from very dangerous and adverse mountain conditions in Afghanistan," Sergeant McPheron said. "History has taught us we need these skills and need to be trained for these conditions. We're supposed to go where other people won't go to save lives."

After the initial week of training, three of the pararescuemen had to fly home either for professional training or for personal reasons. The remaining seven readied themselves for the next stage of their training, taking the knowledge they learned with them as they skied through the Alps along the Haute Route.

They required a guide to accurately follow the route and avoid danger areas such as frozen lakes, avalanche areas and hidden crevasses. So with 45-pound ruck sacks on their backs, the seven skied their way through 106 miles of mountains in six days. Their trek started in Chamonix, France, took them through Italy and ended in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Each night they stopped at a cabin, which were strategically constructed along the route to give mountaineers a place of rest. It was at one of these huts that the pararescuemen left their student role and fell back into the medical profession.

"At one of the cabins we came across a gentleman who had an ear squeeze," Airman Simonson said. "He basically couldn't clear his ears, so we administered aid to the man and we were able to help."

Their assistance didn't stop at the cabin, all along the trail the pararescuemen came across people who needed assistance. The pararescuemen helped about five other people who were having problems with their knees, hips and lower back.

Once they concluded their route and arrived in Zermatt, Switzerland, the pararescuemen still weren't finished. Although they had already been up and down mountains for two weeks, they decided to celebrate not by relaxing by a warm fire and sipping hot chocolate, but by climbing Breithorn, one of 82 Alpine peaks which reach higher than 13,123 feet.

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Student pilots reach course milestone: airborne refueling

by Capt. Stacie N. Shafran
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2010 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- Nearly 18,000 feet above Southern Arizona's desert landscape, students in the A-10C Pilot Initial Qualification Course here completed their first air-to-air refueling mission during the week of April 26. Twelve pilots from the 358th Fighter Squadron and 13 from the 357th FS are enrolled in the six-and-a-half month course.

Upon graduation in August, they will be fully trained A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots skilled in instrument flying, basic fighter maneuvers, basic surface-attack tactics and close-air support procedures.

The A-10C is an advanced version of the basic A-10, having received the most significant modifications in the airframe's 30-year history. Modifications include full integration of sensors, enhanced communication capabilities and cockpit upgrades including multi-functional color displays and a new hands-on-throttle-and-stick interface that increase situational awareness for the pilot and the ability to perform most tasks without removing his or her hands from the throttle or stick.

In order to attain proficiency in the various A-10 missions, 355th Fighter Wing personnel maintain a fleet of almost 90 A-10s that make up three squadrons. The 357th FS and 358th FS are both formal training units, while the 354th FS is one of only five active-duty operational squadrons, ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

One of the tasks required for graduation is air-to-air refueling.

For 1st Lt. Daniel Griffin, a student assigned to the 358th FS, refueling for the first time was one of the things he looked forward to during the program. Prior to the flight, he practiced in a simulator, studied pictures showing what refueling should look like and learned all he could from the experienced pilots in his squadron, including his assigned instructor pilot, Capt. Jason Bartels.

"Prior to my first refueling flight I was very nervous, but we prepared a lot," said Lieutenant Griffin, who flew the A-10C for the first time March 24. "The thing I was most nervous about was not being able to connect with the tanker and having trouble flying smoothly up to the connection from the astern position."

To complete the air-to-air refueling mission, the students, along with their instructor pilots, launched from Davis-Monthan's runway and flew to the Tombstone Military Operating Area over Southern Arizona where they rendezvoused with a KC-135 Stratotanker. The tanker and its crew were from the Kansas Air National Guard's 117th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Forbes Field, Kan.

Refueling is essential to an A-10's wartime mission. It is a force enabler, which allows the aircraft to stay aloft in an overwatch position almost indefinitely, protecting U.S. and coalition servicemembers.

Upon graduation, the pilots will be ready to support the wartime mission, which can require multiple refuelings over the course of an eight-hour mission.

To demonstrate proficiency, students needed to successfully hook up with the tanker and take on fuel from the boom for approximately two minutes. They repeated this process twice, receiving a total of 2,000 pounds of gas.

While airborne, the A-10 pilots connected to the KC-135 via a boom and receptacle system. This system uses a rigid, telescoping tube that an in-flight refueling specialist, also known as the boom operator, inserts into a receptacle on the topside of the A-10's nose.

If all of this sounds challenging, it is, according to the course instructors.

"It would be equivalent to you driving down the road, next to another car, both windows rolled down," said Capt. Jason Bartels, 358th FS instructor pilot and Lieutenant Griffin's assigned IP. "The person in the passing lane is staring at (your) car without looking down the highway and maintaining his lane, and then passing objects between the two cars while you're traveling down the road at 70 mph."

While approaching the boom, the students used visual references to position their aircraft, and they also received guidance from both the boom operator and instructor pilot via radio.

"When I was under the boom it was really exciting," Lieutenant Griffin. "I talked myself through the process and at the same time my instructor was talking me through it. When I finally connected it was a lot easier than I thought it would be because once the boom connects it kind of holds on to the A-10 a little bit. You can gauge where you are, not only by the boom operator telling ... but there are colors on the boom that tell you how far you are out, and on the belly of the tanker there are some indicator lights."

Capt. Jeanie Moughan, wife of Capt. Pete Moughan, a student assigned to the 358th FS, flew aboard the tanker April 27 to learn more about the refueling mission. She also had the unique opportunity to not only watch her husband fly, but also to watch him refuel for the first time.

"I was excited and proud of him," she said. "All I have been able to see, prior to this mission, was him taxi on the runway and takeoff, so it was really cool to see him in the air and hear him on the radio."

She said her husband spent the night before practicing for the mission by "chair flying" in their kitchen.

While listening to him on the radio during the actual refueling, she could hear his breathing intensify as he flew up to the boom.

"I could see and hear that he was nervous," she said with a smile. "They're all perfectionists and want to get it right."

Between now and graduation the students will fire the A-10C's 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun, air-to-air refuel at night and work with joint terminal attack controllers during a simulated combat situation.

Multiple Guilty Pleas Entered in Portsmouth Naval Medical Center Corruption Probe

May 5, 2010 - NORFOLK, VA—Wendy Walters, 47 of Portsmouth, Va.; Bryan Fox, 34, of Chesapeake, Va.; and Todd Jenkins, 48, of Virginia Beach, Va., today pled guilty in Norfolk federal court to bribery charges.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement and commended the joint effort of the agencies involved in this multi-agency public corruption investigation.

“Bribery isn’t just the cost of doing business—it’s a serious crime that threatens the public’s confidence in our government,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Our office has renewed its focus on public corruption, and we’re aggressively investigating allegations on all levels of government.”

Senior U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. accepted Walter’s plea; U.S. Magistrate Judge Tommy E. Miller accepted Fox’s plea; and Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar accepted Jenkins’ plea. Walters will be sentenced on November 1, 2010; Fox will be sentenced August 6, 2010; and Jenkins will be sentenced on August 30, 2010. Each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, full restitution, forfeiture, and at least three years of supervised release.

According to court records, Walters, an employee at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, accepted bribes in her official capacity from January 2006 until December 2009. Walters received approximately $20,000 in cash and other items, in exchange for placing $450,000 in orders with local medical supply vendors on behalf of the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.

Fox, an E-5 Supply Petty Officer at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, accepted bribes from July 2007 through June 2009. The bribes amounted to approximately $26,000 in cash and other items in exchange for placing $625,000 in orders with local medical supply vendors on behalf of the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.

Jenkins was a co-owner of a medical supply company. According to court records, Jenkins paid bribes in the approximate amount of $50,000 in cash and other items in exchange for receiving approximately $500,000 in orders placed with his companies by the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.

Two more individuals, Joseph Cafiero, 63, of Virginia Beach, Va. and Thomas Michael Mullen, 30, of Chesapeake, Va., have also been charged and have scheduled change of plea hearings on May 14, 2010.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Naval Audit Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Robert J. Seidel, Jr. and Kevin Comstock are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Hammond Man Pleads Guilty to Interfering with the Safety of U.S. Army National Guard Aircraft

May 5, 2010 - NEW ORLEANS, LA—CHARLES CLAUSEN, age 58, a resident of Hammond, Louisiana, pled guilty today in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan to a one-count bill of information charging him with impeding and interfering with certain officers of the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

According to the previously filed court documents, CLAUSEN’s arrest on October 28, 2009, stemmed from an investigation conducted by the FBI and the Federal Air Marshal Service after receiving information from the U.S. Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 244 Assault Helicopter Battalion, based at the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport, Hammond, Louisiana. Specifically, on October 6, 2009, at approximately 8:00 p.m., the U.S. Army National Guard flight crew of a UH-60 Military Blackhawk helicopter were returning to base at the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport after conducting a training operation. The operation included five (5) additional UH-60 Blackhawks and one (1) C-12 aircraft, all of which were in-flight in close proximity. While approaching the airport, pilots and crew were temporarily blinded several times by a strong light emanating from the ground and aimed at the nose of the aircraft. (Crew members were flying on night vision goggles which automatically shut down when exposed to too much light.) Further investigation revealed that, on October 6, 2009, CLAUSEN aimed a Brinkmann Q-Beam, three million candle power flood light at the miliary aircraft in an effort to deter it from flying near his home. CLAUSEN’s actions deterred pilots and flight crew from conducting normal operational procedures, thus endangering the safety of those on board, other aircraft, and citizens.

Speaking to these developments, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten stated: “Today’s conviction of an individual who interfered with military helicopter flight operations by attempting to blind the crews is evidence of our commitment to bring federal laws to bear to protect those men and women of the military who in turn make sacrifices to protect us. We will not tolerate abuses of the military, nor will we tolerate interference with the safety and efficiency of transportation in this country.”

CLAUSEN is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8, 2010 and faces a maximum term of imprisonment of one (1) year, a fine of $100,000, and one (1) year of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.

The investigation was conducted by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Air Marshal Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory M. Kennedy.

National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of May 4, 2010

This week the Army, Navy and Coast Guard announced a decrease in activated reservists, while the Air Force and Marine Corps announced an increase. The net collective result is 956 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 99,882; Navy Reserve, 6,162; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 17,942; Marine Corps Reserve, 6,701; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 833. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 131,520, 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/d20100504ngr.pdf

Tennessee Guard Continues Flood Support Missions

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

May 5, 2010 - Almost 300 Tennessee National Guard members continue to assist civilian emergency responders in Nashville today after nearly 20 inches of rain drenched the state over the weekend. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen called out the Guard as the resulting flash floods and rising river waters stranded residents in their homes, flooded roadways, cut power and damaged property and infrastructure. It also caused a reported 10 deaths in Nashville, and eight more around the state, officials said.

Randy Harris, a spokesman for the Tennessee Guard, said the rapidly rising flood waters cut off assistance for some residents.

"The 1176th Transportation Company assisted in about 230 rescues," he said.

Today, the Tennessee Army Guard delivered water to their armory in Centerville and to stranded residents in Cheatham County. Twelve soldiers from the 212th Engineer Company with three 5-ton dump trucks and Humvees also removed flood debris in Weakley County.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported that Guard soldiers worked side by side with the Ashland City Fire Department to airlift food and water to stranded citizens in Cheatham County.

"The 1-230 Air Cavalry Squadron aircrew, along with volunteers and Ashland City Assistant Fire Chief Brian Biggs, loaded two truckloads of water onto the aircraft and then flew it to people in need," TEMA officials reported.

TEMA also reported that the Army Guard aviators landed in fields, front yards, and even the driveway leading to the Christian Care Center of Cheatham County.

"It's my first mission since being back from Iraq this past year," said Army Sgt. Caleb Bucy, a helicopter crew chief. "I'm proud to get out and help Tennesseans any way I can."

Flood warnings from the National Weather Service remained in effect today in the central and western parts of the state. Only a slight chance of rain and thunderstorms was forecast for the next nine days.

Harris said that the Guard might see continued cleanup missions as the water levels drop.

"Flooding is sort of new to us, but they have done an excellent job," he said.

Tennessee National Guard https://tn.ngb.army.mil/

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Obama Signs Veterans, Caregivers Legislation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2010 - President Barack Obama signed legislation today to improve health care for veterans and to recognize the important role that family caregivers play in the recovery of wounded personnel. Obama recognized retired Army Sgt. Ted Wade and his wife, Sarah, during his remarks before signing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act during a White House ceremony.

A roadside bomb wounded Wade when he served in Iraq in 2004, and his wife was an important reason why the sergeant made it through, Obama said.

The legislation expands mental health counseling and services for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including reserve-component servicemembers.

"We're authorizing the [Veterans Affairs Department] to utilize hospitals and clinics outside the VA system to serve more wounded warriors ... with traumatic brain injury," the president said before signing the bill.

The new law also increases support for veterans in rural areas with the transportation and housing needed to reach VA hospitals and clinics. It also expands health care for women veterans to meet their unique needs, including maternity care for newborn children, and it allows VA to launch a pilot program to provide child care for veterans receiving intensive medical care.

The legislation also eliminates co-payments for veterans who are catastrophically disabled, and it helps veterans who are homeless.

"We're expanding support to homeless veterans, because in the United States of America, no one who has served this nation in uniform should ever be living on the streets," Obama said.

The president said the legislation marks a major step forward in America's commitment to families and caregivers who tend wounded warriors every day.

"They're spouses like Sarah," he said. "They're parents, once again caring for their sons and daughters. Sometimes they're children helping to take care of their mom or dad.

"These caregivers put their own lives on hold, their own careers and dreams aside, to care for a loved one," he continued. "They do it every day, often around the clock. As Sarah can tell you, it's hard physically and it's hard emotionally. It's certainly hard financially. And these tireless caregivers shouldn't have to do it alone."

The law gives caregivers a stipend to care for a severely injured veteran from Afghanistan or Iraq. They also will receive lodging allowances and get the training they need to care for their loved ones.

"If you need counseling, you'll receive it," Obama said. "If you don't have health insurance, it will be provided. And if you need a break, it will be arranged – up to 30 days of respite care each year."

The president said the new law recognizes the obligation Americans have for those who served.

"Just as we have a responsibility to train and equip them when we send them into harm's way," he said, "we have a responsibility to take care of them when they come home."

The president said his administration has dramatically increased funding for veterans' health care, especially for those with the signature wounds of today's wars: post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. He also mentioned that VA has received its largest budget increase in history last year.

COMDESRON 9 Ships Train for Global Operations

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tucker M. Yates, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) -- Five Commander, Destroyer Squadron (COMDESRON) 9 ships conducted an emergency sortie exercise to get underway from Naval Station (NAVSTA) Everett, May 4.

Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Shoup (DDG 86), USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Halsey (DDG 97) and the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates USS Ford (FFG 54) and USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) performed the sortie.

The evolution was coordinated by COMDESRON 9 and NAVSTA Everett Port Operations to meet commander, 3rd Fleet's emergency sortie requirements and to test the ships' capabilities to conduct quick tasking, as well as train port operations to get quickly and efficiently underway according to Lt. Tim Satrom, COMDESRON 9 public affairs officer.

"I think we've fostered a good working relationship (with COMDESRON 9). We take a lot of pride in how we conduct our business and the work that we do. The key to success is coordination; if we don't meet and coordinate and plan ahead of time, it won't work," said Stewart Schrock, NAVSTA Everett port operations installation program manager.

The event marked the start of a multi-ship training regimen involving six of seven COMDESRON 9 ships in preparation for upcoming deployments in support of operations with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) strike group.

The ships will join USS Momsen (DDG 92), already underway, to conduct certification exercises before meeting with Carrier Strike Group 9 in San Diego. USS Sterett and USS Halsey transited up to NAVSTA Everett from their homeport of NAVSTA San Diego to participate in the training.

"It's almost unprecedented for all six ships to operate together at sea. (USS) Ford will break off after a day of steaming with us and do training, but the remaining five ships will steam in company together to San Diego," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, COMDESRON 9 operations officer. "We'll be practicing our basic skill sets as surface warriors as we drive as a group down to San Diego to meet with the rest of the strike group."

"It's important because it allows us, as commanding officers, to work together confidently, getting familiar with operating close to each other so that, when we are on deployment, if any situation occurs, that familiarity is always there and there's no ambiguity.," said Cmdr. Joe Nadeau, USS Shoup commanding officer. "A lot of times on deployment you don't have time to wonder what you're going to do next; we have to have it already planned and ready to go, and this underway will allow us to refine those plans."

"The more time we have together the better we're going to be. Knowing how each ship operates really helps so when we meet up with the rest of the strike group we'll have a better understanding of each other while we perform our exercises," said Lt. Brent Jackson, USS Sterett operations officer.

According to Rice, the group sail objectives are to fulfill basic training requirements in multiple warfare areas, methodically increase operational tempo (optempo) in a multi-ship and helicopter maritime strike squadron (HSM) environment to improve tactical proficiency, build on the ability to shift to alternate warfare commanders and integrate multiple communications paths to increase operation proficiency.

"Our goal is to set the conditions for success as COMDESRON 9 assets transition to Abraham Lincoln Strike Group operations," said Rice. "This is the first opportunity for Abraham Lincoln Strike Group escorts to operate together with our assigned HSM 77 assets. The goal is to frame and refine the way we operate together as strike group elements and independent deployers with precision and style."

Curtis Wilbur Receives 2009 Spokane Trophy

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Smith, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Japan

May 5, 2010 - YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The officers and crew of guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), forward-deployed to Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, learned their command was announced as the 2009 Spokane Trophy recipient on April 15.

The award recognized the hard work of the ship's 270-plus crew members last year, as they maintained a high level of operational readiness, demonstrated in both training scenarios and real world events.

"Across the board, all awards are very important," said Cmdr. Paul Hogue Jr., Curtis Wilbur's commanding officer. "It feels good to get the recognition, whether it's the Spokane Trophy or any unit award; it's very important for the crew to get recognition for what they do. It was definitely a team effort. If one division can't support the mission, it affects the whole crew."

The Spokane Trophy is an annual award presented to the Pacific Fleet's surface ship with the highest level of operational readiness in areas ranging from coordinated air warfare, surface warfare and undersea warfare operations.

"We supported the command mission by making sure the ship stayed as ready as we could make it," said Damage Controlman 1st Class Kevin Christopher, repair division's leading petty officer. "It helps our morale by letting us know that we are appreciated."

The Spokane Trophy dates back to 1907, when the Spokane Washington Chamber of Commerce worked with the city's Spanish War Veterans to commission the construction of the trophy to honor Spokane Sailors. The trophy, crafted from 400 ounces of silver, is worth nearly $4 million. In 1908, it was first awarded to USS Tennessee for superior marksmanship. The annual award was temporarily halted in 1941 prior to World War II and resumed again in 1984. Curtis Wilbur is the 34th ship to be named as Spokane Trophy winner in the award's history.

"I spent a lot of my time tracking contacts and participating in training scenarios," said Operations Specialist Seaman Rasha Urtecho. "It is an accomplishment, we worked really hard and everybody made sacrifices. It's recognition for all the work that we did."

Curtis Wilbur participated in various training exercises in 2009, showcasing the interoperability between the U.S. Navy and partner nations. The crew put its training to good use, turning potential into outstanding performance while working alongside Republic of Korea Navy counterparts in Foal Eagle 09 and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force sailors at Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX).

"I have always known we have an outstanding crew and this award just validates that," said Hogue. "I think that this was an outstanding accomplishment and a lot of hard work went into it."

Curtis Wilbur is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and is permanently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.

Air Force clarifies officer stratification

Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs Office

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – After receiving feedback from senior leaders, promotion boards and Airmen around the globe, Air Force officials are providing additional guidance to help clarify the use of stratification for officers.

That feedback included concerns that our previous officer stratification guidance was unclear and restrictive, Air Force Personnel Center officials said. The revised guidance is intended to clear up some of the confusion and provide supervisors and commanders a tool to best convey their top performers on performance reports.

The guidance includes better descriptions of stratification based on peer comparisons, rater’s authority, senior leader quotes, deployed letters of evaluation, promotion recommendation forms and within decoration citations. The guidance also provides examples of improper use of stratification.

To view the guidance, visit the AFPC personnel services website and search for the keyword “officer stratification.”

Guard Stands Ready for Border Mission, General Says

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

May 5, 2010 - If civilian leaders decide to include the National Guard in a broader mission on the Southwest border, the National Guard stands ready, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said this week.

"The president and the secretary of defense will tell me when the time is right [and] when the conditions are right, whether they need [Guard members] or not," Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley told reporters May 3. "Based on this magnificent force, ... I don't think there'll be a problem finding a force if authorized to help. But I'm not out looking for a mission."

About 6,000 Guard members served in Operation Jump Start on the Southwest border for two years, starting in 2006, to support the Border Patrol while it recruited and trained new agents to boost then size of its force. Today, a small number of National Guard troops provide counterdrug border support.

Any new mission likely would be much different from Operation Jump Start, Guard officials said, perhaps focused on preventing the spillover of drug violence across the border.

President Barack Obama will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon later this month, McKinley noted.

"Let's let the presidents of the two countries decide. ... We will do what we're asked to do," he said. "Many of the Southwest border governors have asked for National Guard forces, but those decisions will be given to me by my leadership when the time is right."

Ward: Guard partnership with Botswana a 'model' program

By Maj. Steven Lamb
U.S. Africa Command

(5/1/10) -- The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) hosted a visit by General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, to meet with military officials and soldiers of the BDF in Gaborone on April 28, when he discussed ongoing regional security efforts and potential future military-to-military activities with the BDF.

"I am here to discuss our ongoing security cooperation programs, our great partnership and to look for ways that U.S. Africa Command can work with Botswana and its regional neighbors as we pursue our mutual goals for stability," said Ward during a press event with local journalists.

Botswana is a southern African nation about the size of Texas with a population of about 1.8 million people.

This visit, Ward's third visit to Botswana, yet his first since 2007, was part of an ongoing partnership with the BDF to provide military-to-military training with a focus on sustainable regional security, said Lt. Col. William "Chris" Wyatt, chief of the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Botswana.

The BDF and U.S. military conducted 40 cooperation events together in 2010, Wyatt said.

The U.S. National Guard State Partnership Program with Botswana is a "model" program, Ward said. This program has linked, since 2008, the BDF with the North Carolina National Guard to conduct training events, exchanges and other activities.

Botswana is one of eight African partner nations, which participate in the program and one of 61 worldwide.

"U.S. Africa Command is excited to see that relationship has shifted from the traditional military-to-military engagements and is now incorporating military-to-civilian engagements," Ward said. "Such evolution clearly demonstrates the long-term and diverse benefits that can be achieved through our partnerships."

Ward was initially welcomed by Col. M. C. Mophuting, commandant of the Force Training Establishment. The Force Training Establishment is the organization that provides basic training for new BDF soldiers, along with officer and senior NCO training as soldiers advance through the ranks.

Brig. Gen. Giotseleene Morake, commandant of the Defence Command and Staff College, gave Ward a tour of the college to highlight its training programs and capabilities.

The Force Training Establishment recently completed its first gender-integrated accession class which included 24 women. Of those 24, three are pilot candidates. Underscoring the college's regional approach to force development, five of the graduates were from Swaziland and five others were from Lesotho, Wyatt said.

Ward gave a 30-minute speech to an audience of about 700 BDF senior leaders and students of the DCSC. In that speech, he congratulated the students for their achievements.

While visiting in Gaborone, Ward met with Lt. Gen. Masire, chief of Defence Forces, and Assistant Minister Mokgwetsi Masisi, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security. Both meetings were devoted to discussing the current state of the BDF's training and readiness and what other potential exercises and military-to-military events may be considered for the future.

Ward said visits such as this allow him to "gain a better understanding of the Botswana perspective on defense and security issues and to look for ways that we can continue to work together." Ward also praised the BDF for being a model of a professional and disciplined force working within a democracy.

Ward and Ambassador Stephen Nolan, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, met with print, radio and TV journalists in Gaborone to discuss Ward's visit and U.S. Africa Command's programs and activities.

Ward emphasized U.S. Africa Command has "no intention" of seeking bases in Africa, nor is it looking to move its headquarters to Africa.

"Too often when we visit a partner nation, there is speculation that we are looking for bases or seeking a place to place U.S. troops here ... That is simply not the case," Ward stated. "It has never been the case as I have told a few of you before."

The same question was raised at the DCSC earlier that day, to which he declared: "There are no designs to put the headquarters any place on the continent, and there are no plans to do so ...."

Ward said the establishment of Africa Command means partner nations have "a more dedicated partner than ever before" working to support them.

He pointed out the work of the command "is about helping Africans increase their capacity to deal with their security and be better able to provide for their own stability."

To achieve this goal, the command works with nations, regional organizations and the African Union to help foster regional cooperation and complement the work being done by international partners and other U.S. government agencies.

Ambassador Nolan told the journalists that command programs, such as the Africa Partnership Station maritime program, are about "helping African countries deal with African problems."

"It's about working with the militaries across Africa to increase their capacity, to give African militaries the experience of working with a world-class institution and learning new skills and applying new skills," Nolan added. "So where Africa Command is [located], is not the issue. It's what Africa Command does across the continent. That is the important thing. So the programmatic side is really the heart and soul of what the Africa Command is about."

During his visit, Ward was able to meet with Dr. Boga Fidzani, chairman of the board for the Botswana-based HIV counseling and testing non-governmental organization Tebelopele.

A plaque at the entrance to the facility reads: "Construction of this facility was made possible by the financial support of the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. European Command, the U.S. Embassy Botswana and the People of the United States of America."

Thirteen of the 16 Tebelopele Centers in Botswana were built by the U.S. Department of Defense through the DOD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program under the U.S. President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief. The center provides prevention, counseling, testing and medical referrals for HIV/AIDS related issues.

Ward highlighted that U.S. Africa Command is supporting African militaries in HIV and AIDS prevention programs in 39 African countries.

"Our work trains senior military leaders, peer educators and health care workers. We are making an impact in the combined fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa," according to Ward. More than 500,000 African military members and their families have benefited from these counseling and testing efforts.

Ward left Botswana April 29 and flew to Windhoek, Namibia. During his first visit to Namibia, he met with Namibia's National Defense Force officials to discuss potential future cooperation activities.

Surgeon General Describes Transition Unit Challenges

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2010 - Walk into any of the Army's 29 warrior transition units, the Army's surgeon general said yesterday, and you will find people struggling through the worst time of their lives. Anger, depression, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse can cloud the efforts of soldiers and their families as they struggle to recover the people they had been before combat changed their lives.

Asked about a recent New York Times article that depicted neglect and suffering among injured soldiers in the Army's care, Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Eric B. Schoomaker said during a Pentagon Channel interview that he doesn't doubt some soldiers and families are "not completely satisfied with what we're doing for them."

However, he added, wounded warriors must struggle with the difficult challenges.

"We were early to recognize that we begin at a disadvantage with soldiers and the families because they come back with a serious illness," he said, "and we in the medical system and the Army at large are working with the soldiers and families under conditions they would never have chosen to be in, and we wouldn't have chosen it for them."

The newspaper based its findings on a visit to a transition unit at Fort Carson, Colo. Schoomaker acknowledged that such individual cases could be found at any of the units, but added that they don't represent the totality of the work being done in rehabilitating soldiers and giving them hope for the future.

Schoomaker said he talked to the transition unit commanders after reading the article. "Every one of them told me, 'Look, this could have been my unit,'" he said. "Some of [the families] are really struggling with being given back a soldier who was not the soldier they were when they went off to war."

More than 9,300 soldiers with a variety of physical and psychological problems have passed through the units since they were created in 2007 to help wounded warriors transition to their next stage of work and life -- a life that may or may not include continued military service, Schoomaker said. For a variety of reasons, he added, their efforts to again be the soldier they wanted to be stall to some degree.

Despite the difficulties that soldiers in transition units are experiencing, Schoomaker said, he and the transition unit commanders welcome the media in the units.

"Many of these folks are in real pain," he said of the soldiers. "They're suffering. And in their desperation, they are having problems seeing their way through to a brighter future, and some take extreme measures to get past their pain. You'll see all those things."

But that's not the whole story, the general said.

"You'll also see [soldiers] focused on 'How I can be a soldier again?' or 'How I can be a productive citizen again?'" he said, as well as volunteers helping them get there.

The media are a conduit to the public, and the public should see that, he added. "These are your sons and daughters," the general said. "These are your brothers and sisters. These are members of your community who've taken an oath to protect your country. Why should we not be willing to show them that we're trying everything in our power to heal them, to rehabilitate them, and to provide the transitional services they require?"

Families also struggle. They have to cope not only with their soldiers' changes and how to care for them, Schoomaker said, but also with the Army's continued expectations of wounded warriors as soldiers, including showing up for appointments. And in some cases, he noted, soldiers choose to limit or not allow their family's involvement in their recovery.

"Sometimes it takes tough love, which a family is not always willing to extend," he said. "It's heartbreaking for them to see someone who has gone into uniform whole of mind and body, and now see what they're going through. And sometimes they misinterpret very important steps they need to stay on the path to healing."

To the extent possible, the general said, transition units use a comprehensive plan to help families with caregiver skills, living arrangements and financial problems related to caring for the soldier. The "triad of care" at the center of the program – a commanding officer, nurse case manager and primary care manager – take a broad approach to rehabilitation, even requiring soldiers to master two athletic events before leaving the program, he said.

"It's our obligation to teach you how to live your life as fully as possible, and even to find new opportunities for you," Schoomaker said. The sports requirement "seems kind of cruel, but soldiers will say it is one of the things that taught them confidence," he said.

Schoomaker acknowledged that warrior transition units have higher suicide rates than the Army at large, and that substance abuse is a problem.

"The [units] are focused on people who've lost their dream of being a particular kind of soldier or who might have lost a part of their body that to them is associated with being a whole person," he said.

Unit staff members look carefully to try to identify soldiers at risk of drug abuse, and they watch them carefully to make sure they're not overmedicated or amassing large quantities of prescription drugs, Schoomaker said. All prescription drugs must come from a single doctor, and large quantities are not prescribed, he added.

Transition units are difficult places, Schoomaker said, not only for the soldier patients and their families, but also for the soldiers who volunteer to work there.

"This is a tough assignment," he said. "We're concerned about compassion fatigue. Some of our initial [noncommissioned officers] and officers thought it would be like leading any other platoon or squad, but found out this really tested them to their limits."

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F-16 Training Bolsters U.S.-Pakistan Relations

By Air Force Maj. Gabe Johnson
Arizona National Guard

May 5, 2010 - Pakistan's air force soon will upgrade its 30-year-old fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons, and the pilots charged with flying more capable fighters are ready to handle the new technology after training with the Arizona Air National Guard. Eight Pakistani air force pilots, each experienced in the F-16's A and B models, recently learned to fly the newer C- and D-model aircraft at the 162nd Fighter Wing, the international F-16 training unit at Tucson International Airport. They were honored at a graduation ceremony here yesterday.

The pilots are the first from their country to train in the United States since 1983, when the last class of Pakistani pilots trained at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

"This graduation is historic for U.S.-Pakistan relations," said Wing Commander Ghazanfar Latif, a 12-year F-16A pilot with the Pakistani air force. "For Pakistan, our air force is gaining capabilities that it has needed for the last decade -- capabilities that are critical to ongoing operations in Pakistan's war on terror."

The new planes purchased by the Pakistani government, Block 52 versions of the multirole fighter, are far more advanced than the older A-model versions and will allow pilots to conduct operations at night and greatly enhance their use of precision munitions.

The first four of the 18 planes purchased are scheduled for delivery June 26 to Shahbaz air base in south-central Pakistan. The rest will be delivered on a staggered schedule throughout this year. In addition, Pakistan's existing F-16 fleet will undergo a mid-life update in 2011 designed to upgrade cockpits and avionics to match the F-16C/D.

In preparation for the June delivery, the eight pilots and their families will have spent 10 months in the United States navigating the upgrade-training pipeline. They spent two and half months reviewing military aviation terminology at the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and seven months in flight training at Tucson International Airport. Since the C/D-models used for training in Tucson are Block 25 F-16s, they will next undergo two weeks of additional Block 52 instruction before returning to Pakistan.

"Even though they're flying Block 25s here, they will still be able to operate their block 52s back home. When they leave, here they will get training from Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, on the differences," said Air Force Lt. Col. Kelly Parkinson, 195th Fighter Squadron commander. "The two blocks fly the same; it's essentially the employment of weapons that makes the difference."

The bulk of the flight training in Tucson included a transition course from the F-16A/B to the F-16C/D, flight lead upgrade training and instructor pilot certification.

"We're training these eight pilots so they can return home and be instructors themselves and teach others to fly the new F-16s," said Parkinson, a 22-year fighter pilot.

"I think the training here is very well organized and tailored to our needs. Also, the standards here are very high," Latif said. "This is going to make a big difference because we do not have the capability to make precision engagements at night with A models. Everybody understands that collateral damage is a big factor, and the sensors on the C-model will help us carry out precision engagement and close-air support."

With so much to learn, the students flew a rigorous schedule of five flights per week. The average student tempo is closer to three per week.

"The radar, data link and other avionics help create the big picture of what is going on around you. There's lots of information to process in the C model, so you have to prioritize all of the input you are getting," said Squadron Leader Yasir Malik. "But these instructors know what they are doing, and they are good teachers."

Air Force Maj. Windy Hendrick, a flight commander and 13-year F-16 pilot, has instructed students from all over the world. She said she and her fellow instructors learned a great deal about their Pakistani counterparts.

"They are all experienced pilots with 500 to 1,800 fighter hours in the F-16, and the majority of that time is combat hours in the fight against extremists," she said. "They are very humble and don't talk about their experience, but the more we learn about them and all they've done, it makes us proud to be their instructors."

"They are very dedicated [and] hard-working, and they have great attitudes. Their presence in the squadron has been a real pleasure."

When flying over the military ranges of southern Arizona, Pakistan's pilots had experienced instructors like Hendrick to guide them; but back on the ground they relied on the unit's international military student office for help with housing, transportation, documentation and adapting to American culture.

"We could not ask for more help from the IMSO office," Malik said. "They came to San Antonio to meet us before we came to Tucson to help us start our move. They went to see apartments in Tucson to help us find living arrangements, and they set up many trips all over the state. We saw so many places that we would never have found on our own.

"We would have been more confused with trying to find a place to live and get adjusted if it weren't for IMSO," he added.

It's unclear if more student pilots from Pakistan will train in Tucson; however, Parkinson said, the 162nd stands ready.

"Training capable fighter pilots for our partner-nation air forces and fostering relationships in the worldwide F-16 community is what we do," he said. "We will continue to help train Pakistan's pilots whenever we're needed."