Military News

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Collaboration is Key to Troop Buildup in Guam

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said he's departing Guam with a better understanding of the troop realignment challenges that lie ahead there.

"I think the realignment is going to be challenging," Lynn said yesterday in an interview with American Forces Press Service while en route home. "It's a big, programmatic change and we need to do this smart; we need to take into account the concerns of the people of Guam, we need to take into account the size of Guam, the infrastructure that's involved, and we need to work through this in a collaborative way."

About 8,500 Marines and some 9,000 family members are slated to move to Guam from Okinawa in accordance with a 2006 agreement between the United States and Japan. The same agreement also calls for a realignment of Marines to a new location on Okinawa.

Lynn traveled to Guam, a U.S. territory, for a firsthand look at the island's facilities and to speak with government leaders and residents about the troop increase.

"The main purpose was to get an understanding on the ground rather than with just PowerPoint slides," he said. "I think we got a very full plate in those two days."

Guam's residents have a range of opinions regarding the troop realignment, Lynn noted. Some are concerned about the environmental and cultural impacts, while others are very supportive and see an increased military presence as beneficial to Guam's long-term future, he said.

The final environmental impact statement released last week addresses the possible environmental consequences of the buildup. This statement also outlines measures that will help the military and people of Guam create a sustainable future.

Next, Lynn said, a record of decision will be signed in September, after which the actual implementation of the plan will take place.

Meanwhile, "We need to work collaboratively with the government of Guam and the people of Guam to work through the issues they've identified," he said.

Lynn reiterated his commitment to moving ahead respectfully, keeping Guam's culture and resources in mind, and ensuring the buildup "leads to a better and stronger Guam in the end of this process."

Lynn said he's impressed by the patriotism displayed by Guam's citizens, and their support for the military.

Lynn also traveled to Guam's neighboring islands, Saipan and Tinian, to meet with government leaders there and to explore the potential for future cooperative efforts.

"As we do the bigger realignment in the Pacific and maintain a robust presence in the Pacific, there will be broader training needs, training needs that can't be accomplished on the island of Guam or even in other facilities we have in the Pacific," he explained. "So we're looking at what kinds of expansion we might need to do and Saipan and Tinian might be part of that."

Lynn said the prospect of future cooperative efforts was well received by government officials.

Guam Tours Provide Insight, Perspective

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said a series of tours he'd taken on and above the island of Guam gave him broader insight into the challenges that lie ahead for that U.S. territory, as well as an appreciation of the historical significance of the region.

"It's very helpful to see the geography," Lynn said yesterday in an interview with American Forces Press Service while en route home from Guam. "These are relatively small islands and understanding the limits and capacity of the island is very important. It's difficult to do that without putting your eyes on location."

The secretary toured Guam and several of its neighboring islands by helicopter and land over the course of his two-day visit. His aim was to better understand the impacts of an upcoming troop increase. About 8,500 Marines and some 9,000 family members are slated to move to Guam from Okinawa in accordance with a 2006 agreement with Japan.

An aerial tour of Guam on a Navy SH-60 Seahawk helicopter offered Lynn a bird's-eye view of the overall challenges regarding the troop realignment. Lynn saw firsthand the sites that will be impacted by new facilities and training ranges as the military prepares for the troop increase.

The flying tour took Lynn over lush, green jungles, small communities and beachside resorts, all surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of turquoise waters. Guam is known for its tourist industry, and is particularly popular among people from Japan, Korea and China.

Yesterday, Lynn said he hopes the troop realignment will offer an economic boost to the people of Guam. The Japanese government will finance $740 million of infrastructure projects, he said yesterday in a speech at the University of Guam, and President Barack Obama has requested congressional authority for the Defense Department to fund an upgrade to Guam's only commercial port.

"Together with matching funds from the Department of Agriculture, we will be making a $100 million investment in the port," Lynn said. Other funds will be funneled into Guam's road system, and groundwork is being laid for improvements to utilities, schools, health care, public safety and other needs. To do so, the nation will "draw on Guam's expertise to the fullest," he said, offering new opportunities for Guam's businesses and citizens.

While Guam will house a small-arms firing range, the military is looking to islands near Guam to accommodate other Marine training needs. Lynn traveled about 150 miles southeast to Saipan to meet with Fitial Benigno, governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, to discuss possibilities for future cooperative efforts.

After a quick helicopter ride, Lynn stopped briefly in Tinian, about five miles southwest of Saipan, where he met with the mayor and visited the bomb pit that housed the first atomic bomb ever to be used in combat, nicknamed "Little Boy." This bomb was loaded aboard the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress bomber piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets Jr., on Aug. 5, 1945, and then dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, the next day.

Don Farrall, who briefed Lynn on the bomb pit, recalled when Tibbets was invited to return to Tinian to mark the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Saipan and Tinian.

Tinian was a protectorate of Japan after World War I and was captured by the United States during World War II in July 1944, after which the island became the busiest airbase of the war. Saipan was governed by the Japanese since World War I, and on June 15, 1944, U.S. Marines landed and fought a three-week battle to take it from the Japanese.

Lynn said it was interesting "to see these islands that played such a large role in our history in World War II."

Back on Guam, Lynn visited Andersen Air Force Base and the U.S. Naval Base.

At Andersen, Lynn toured a cavernous hangar that will eventually house three Global Hawk RQ4 remotely piloted aircraft. In preparation for this new mission, personnel began arriving in 2009, a base spokesman said, and the Air Combat Command's 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 9th Operations Group, Detachment 3, is expected to be operational by early 2011. Air Combat Command pilots will launch and recover the aircraft from Andersen, the spokesman said, while the mission control element will take place at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

At the naval base, Lynn took time thank the sailors of Submarine Squadron 15 for their service and sacrifice, extending his gratitude to all military members. Their service in the face of difficult challenges doesn't go unnoticed, he told them.

"The performance in that difficulty is recognized," he said. "It's recognized in the department, recognized by [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates, recognized by Congress and recognized by President [Barack] Obama."

Overall, the tours offered a helpful, firsthand look, Lynn said.

"The main purpose was to get an understanding on the ground rather than with just PowerPoint slides," he said. "I think we got a very full plate in those two days."

Panel Suggests Changes in Long-Term Defense Planning

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - A congressionally mandated panel has recommended broad changes to long-term Defense Department strategies and priorities, including funding a major recapitalization of equipment, revamping the personnel system and expanding the number of people serving in the Navy.

Former Defense Secretary William J. Perry and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley gave their final report as co-chairs of the Independent Panel's Assessment of the Quadrennial Defense Review to the House Armed Services Committee today. The QDR is a legislatively mandated review of Department of Defense strategy and priorities.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appointed 12 of the 20-members on the panel in 2009 to assess the 2010 QDR, which was released in February. The other eight panel members were selected by Congress. The panel's report is called "The QDR in Perspective: Meeting America's National Security Needs in the 21st Century."

The panel found that the QDR did not project out far enough to prepare the military for the long term, Perry said. Rather, he said, the QDR focused primarily on the next four to five years around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "If I were secretary of defense today, I would have done the same thing," said Perry, who served from 1993 to 1997.

Perry, who served in President Bill Clinton's administration, and Hadley, who served under President George W. Bush, said the panel showed remarkable nonpartisanship and was unanimous in its findings.

The panel identified America's four "enduring national interests that transcend politics" as, defense of the homeland; assured access to sea, air, space and cyberspace; a favorable balance of power in western Asia; and overall humanitarian good.

Among the potential threats to U.S. national interests, according to the panel, are radical Islamic extremism and terrorism, the rise of great powers in the East, tensions in the Middle East and competition for resources.

While "soft power" capabilities of diplomacy and civilian support are important, Hadley said, "the world's first order of concern will continue to be security concerns."

Because of that, the panel recommends a recapitalization of military hardware to replace the wear and tear of nine years of war, Perry said. "This will be expensive," he said. "But deferring recapitalization will require even more expenses in the future."

The panel also recommends a restructuring of forces to build up Navy end-strength and improve the Air Force's long-range strike capabilities. Current Army and Marine Corps ground forces are sufficient for the long term, the panel said.

Today's forces are fully capable of handling any threat that may emerge today, Perry said, but the panel believes a buildup of Navy forces in the western Pacific is necessary to counter emerging threats there, notably Chinese militarization.

U.S. allies in the East "are worried about China and they want us there working with China, and we are," Perry said. He added, "I do not anticipate any military conflict with China, and if it were to happen it would be a huge failure of diplomacy."

To avoid a potential arms race in Asia, Perry said, the U.S. military needs to maintain a consistently strong force in the region.

The panel's assessment also calls for a reconsideration of managing resources. Gates' acquisition reform plans are "a good start," Perry said, but they don't go far enough.

Defense officials should require dual competition in all production programs, and set a limit of five to seven years for the delivery of all defined programs, Perry said. Historically, he said, all successful programs are delivered in four to five years, and programs that drag on beyond 10 years "are guaranteed to cost too much."

Also, Pentagon officials need to clarify roles within the department's acquisitions work force as to who is responsible for the delivery of programs, Hadley said. "It's a muddy picture, with lots of layering and lots of review without clear authority," he said.

In its review, Perry said, the panel was firmly supportive of continuing with an all-volunteer force, but found that changes are needed to reduce personnel costs in maintaining pay and benefits that have become increasingly generous since conscription ended in the 1970s. Specifically, the panel recommends establishing a commission to consider cost savings in pay and benefits and the panel's suggestion to increase length of service for retirement eligibility from 20 years to as long as 40 years.

"I don't need to tell this committee that this is politically charged," Perry said. He added that extending service is important to retain people in whom the military has invested much education and training.

The panel also recommends a re-evaluation of how the military uses National Guard and reserve forces. "Our panel thinks we really need to re-think our relationship between the active force and the Guard and reserves, and if we need a mobilization capability beyond our current mobilization force," Hadley said. "How much of the Guard and reserve is an operational reserve? How much of it is a strategic reserve? How much of it is for homeland security? All this needs to be re-thought."

Blue Ridge Sailors Bring Humanitarian Assistance to Palau

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Pineda, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Public Affairs

REPUBLIC OF PALAU (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard 7th Fleet's command flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), completed more than 2,400 hours of humanitarian assistance projects from July 28-29 at several locations in Palau as part of Pacific Partnership 2010.

"Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional partnerships with host nations and partner nations," said Capt. Rudy Lupton, Blue Ridge's commanding officer, during opening ceremonies, which were held at the Ngarachemayong Cultural Center in Koror, Palau, July 26.

By July 29, Pacific Partnership volunteers from Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet have completed six community service (COMSERV) events, including beach cleanups, school maintenance and monument restoration projects.

Along with COMSERVs, Blue Ridge's medical and dental teams have treated more than 1,300 patients, while providing subject matter expert exchanges on topics ranging from neonatal mortality to oral hygiene.

"I think it is a wonderful experience for our Health Services Department to render medical and dental services," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Laregen Valdez.

In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, Pacific Partnership 2010 will also provide valuable experiences for service members to learn from civilian experts. This experience will help ensure the U.S. military is able to rapidly respond in support of emergency relief efforts in the future.

"Pacific Partnership has proven itself to be an invaluable opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance, while enabling those involved to become better prepared to respond effectively to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis," said Lupton.

Sailors have also had a unique opportunity to experience the rich culture and diversity that Palau and its residents have to offer.

"Being part of this mission is a great way to help people, and at the same time it opens up an opportunity to learn more about their culture and their way of living," said Valdez.

The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors, Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nation and partner nations. While this was Palau's first visit by Pacific Partnership, Lupton believes that much more will be gained through the visit than just providing assistance to those in need.

"We hope that the friendships and relationships we create in the coming days will be sustained long into the future," said Lupton.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

NSA Panama City NEX Wins 2009 Bingham Award

By Steve Applegate, Naval Support Activity Panama City Public Affairs

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Support Activity Panama City Navy Exchange (NEX)received the 2009 Bingham Award during a ceremony at the Long Glass Conference Center July 28.

The Bingham Award was established in 1979 as a way to recognize outstanding performance in customer service and exchange operations. Navy Exchange Service Operations (NEXCOM) presents the awards annually to the exchanges that demonstrate superior performance throughout the year.

"The Bingham Award recognizes Navy Exchanges (NEXs) who do great work every day throughout the year in support of our Sailors," said Gary King, senior vice president of operations in the continental U.S., Navy Exchange Service Command. "This award is presented to the best of the best. Only nine out of 103 Navy Exchanges are selected … you are part of an elite group and you should be congratulated."

Navy Exchange Panama City is the Bingham award winner in the U.S. sales category for $2-$5 million in sales. NSA PC's NEX won the award by boosting sales six percent and reducing costs by more than 10 percent. Ensuring top-notch customer service skills were in place helped yield a 53 percent increase in operating profit and resulted in the first Morale, Welfare and Recreation payout in years.

King emphasized the importance of the associates who earned the award, and said without them and their hard work the award wouldn't have been possible. He recognized that while the Panama City Exchange is small by comparison, the associates here need to be multi-talented. Debbie Elder, Panama City NEX manager, wholeheartedly agreed.

"In this store, everyone does everything," said Elder, who has headed the NSA Panama City store for 18 months. In that time frame, the NEX's customer satisfaction survey score went up an incredible 18 points, to 88, with associate satisfaction up eight points to a score of 85.

"It's a real testament to Deb and her team—they have made Navy Exchange Panama City a great place to shop and work," said King. Nine 'Team Panama City' NEX associates attended the ceremony and were congratulated by command leadership and NEX customers across the base.

"This is a great honor for this base and its tenant commands. The bottom line is improving the quality of life for our Sailors and their families," said Cmdr. Jessica Pfefferkorn, Commanding Officer, Naval Support Activity Panama City. "This award is truly about the associates who made this happen."

Time Running Out for Troops, Veterans to Claim 'Stop Loss'

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

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Eligible service members and veterans have less than three months to apply for Retroactive "Stop Loss" Special Pay.

The special pay was approved by Congress as part of the 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act. Service members and veterans who involuntarily served or were on "Stop Loss" from Sept. 11, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2009, are entitled to $500 for each month served past their contracted end-of-service, resignation or retirement date.

"This additional money, this benefit, was granted by Congress to recognize that continued service," Lernes Hebert, acting director of the Defense Department's Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management office, said today in an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.

The Pentagon announced the program Oct. 21, 2009. Those eligible must apply by Oct. 21, 2010, to receive compensation. And, survivors of service members who were under 'Stop Loss' orders are entitled to the benefit.

The Defense Department wants to ensure everyone eligible for the special retroactive pay is compensated, Hebert said.

"We only have three months left for individuals to apply for this benefit," he said. "It's time to [apply] and get their application in. Notify anyone you've served with, even if they have separated, even family members of separated folks to apply."

Each service has its own criteria and specific outreach and application process. Members and veterans who qualify, or think they are eligible for the special pay must contact their individual services for eligibility requirements.

For more information about the program, procedures and points of contact for each individual service, visit www.defense.gov/stoploss.

So far $111 million has been paid out to 25,000 troops and veterans affected by 'Stop Loss,' Hebert said. The average payout is $3,000 to $4,000 per claim, he added.

The Pentagon has about $423 million left in the program's fund.

"Congress authorized a fairly generous number, so we're not concerned about the money running out," Hebert said. "We are concerned about individuals getting their applications in."

The Pentagon and individual services have been reaching out to qualified members, veterans and beneficiaries through direct mailings, veteran services organization, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the media. Those efforts will be ongoing through Oct. 21, 2010, as there is much money left to be claimed, Hebert said.

"The services have been doing tremendous outreach trying to get to all the eligibles," he said.

Initially there was a large response for claims under the program, Hebert said, but applications have since slowed down.

"Applications have tailed off," he said. "We suspect that some individuals are either engaged or busy or haven't taken the time to apply. Part of our continuing efforts is to remind them that they only have about three months left to get their application in."

Still, Hebert said he expects a surge of claims as the deadline nears. He urges those who are eligible for the retroactive pay to take advantage of it now.

"Congress authorized this for a one-year period," he said, noting it would require Congress to pass a new law in order to extend the program. "This is firm, so individuals out there who think they might be entitled to this benefit need to get their application in."

An estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries are entitled for the retroactive pay.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates maintains the authority to extend military service during a period of national emergency, an authority that dates back to 1983. Many of these "Stop Loss" troops were extended involuntarily in order for their units to preserve manpower and readiness in critical skill areas, Hebert said.

"The department uses it sparingly and only when it's absolutely necessary," he said. "It's contrary to the way we operate the all-volunteer force, but it's necessary in times when you have very high demands ... where you don't have a significant number of individuals with particular skills that you might need during a national emergency.

"It allows the department a bit of breathing room in order to re-establish additional personnel in those specialties," he added.

The Army is the only service with currently-serving troops affected by the 'Stop Loss' authority. But the Army is on track to have all involuntary service ended by March next year, Hebert said.

"['Stop Loss'] is a mechanism of last resort for maintaining forces during a national emergency, so while the authority for 'Stop Loss' will still exist, the secretary has made it very clear ... he wants the services not to use 'Stop Loss' at the current time," he said.

Shinseki Addresses Importance of Care for Women Veterans

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

July 29, 2010 - Women in today's military serve closer to the front lines of combat than ever before, and as they become veterans the Veterans Affairs Department will be ready to handle their care, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said yesterday.

Speaking at a forum on women veterans at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., Shinseki underscored the need to improve care for women veterans, citing their military contributions and the complexity of issues women may return with from battle.

"Over time, changes in warfighting doctrine dictate changes about where women serve within the battle space and the kinds of missions they are handed," he said. "These doctrinal changes will continue to have an impact on women. So, it becomes [VA's] responsibility to anticipate those changes and prepare for women veterans who will have shaped and lived those changes."

The community of women veterans is growing, Shinseki said. Women represent almost 8 percent of the veteran population, he said, as well as 6 percent of veterans who use VA health care services. VA officials expect that number to double within 10 years, Shinseki said.

"We marvel at the courage of women soldiers," he said. "[Women], like their male counterparts, have long dealt with the after-effects of battle."

The secretary explained that VA experienced a 20 percent spike in women using the department's health care system in 2009. In the previous six years, Shinseki said, VA saw a 17-percent increase.

"We are VA, [and] our goal is 100 percent accessibility to veterans who need us," he said. "We must anticipate and address the challenge faced by women."

Shinseki said VA's benefits administration's regional offices now have women veterans' coordinators to provide assistance. Also, each of the 144 VA medical centers has full-time women veterans' program managers, he said.

Also, he noted, VA is streamlining the process for both men and women veterans to receive treatment and benefits for post-traumatic stress.

Shinseki also pointed to research initiatives the VA is undertaking to improve overall care for women. He noted that VA published more articles on the impacts of women serving in the military from 2004 to 2008 than in the previous 26 years combined.

The topics of such research and related conferences include impacts of trauma and combat exposure among women, women veterans' preferences and health care needs, gender differences in health care for deployed women and women veterans and post-deployment care focused on trauma, mental health and reintegration, he noted.

Women veterans now are more visible in VA publications, marketing materials, posters and messages, Shinseki added.

"We need your insights and your energy to help prepare the way for where we need to be 25 years from now," he told the group. "This forum should establish a critical agenda for an annual dialogue on women, not only to update us, ... but more importantly to provide us the necessary vectors for women's programs in the years ahead."

HUD, VA officials launch $15 million demo program to prevent veteran homelessness

HUD, VA officials launch $15 million demo program to prevent veteran homelessness


7/29/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- In an effort to prevent homelessness among veterans, primarily those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs today announced that both agencies will invest a combined $15 million in five selected communities near military installations.

The HUD and VA grant funding is intended to provide housing assistance and supportive services to veterans who might otherwise be living in homeless shelters or on the streets.

Under the new Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration Program, existing HUD grantees, or "Continuums of Care," located near the following military installations will each receive $2 million: MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

In addition, VA medical centers in the following areas will each receive $1 million: Tampa, Fla.; San Diego; Dallas; Syracuse, N.Y.; and American Lake, Wash.

"The men and women who serve our nation deserve better than a life on the streets when they return home," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "These grants represent a first step toward designing the best interventions possible so that we can prevent homelessness for those heroes who sacrificed so much for us. It is also another step forward toward reaching President Obama's goal of preventing and ending homelessness in all its forms."

"While usually the strongest and most resilient of Americans, veterans still represent a disproportionate share of America's jobless, homeless, depressed, substance abusers, and suicides," said Secretary of VA Eric K. Shinseki. "Nowhere is our obligation to our citizens, and to our veterans who have defended our nation, more important, more visible, or more necessary than in our commitment to prevent and end homelessness."

"This effort is about reaching veterans and their families who are transitioning home and struggling to readjust," said Sen. Patty Murray, who established VHPD in the fiscal 2009 Housing Appropriations bill. "By providing access to stable housing, health care, and job training and outreach services, this program provides targeted support to our heroes who are returning home to a difficult economic climate. All veterans deserve housing and the dignity that comes with it, and this is another step to reach those who have sacrificed so much."

Through this combination of housing, health care and employment services provided through the Department of Labor, VHPD is designed to explore innovative early interventions to help prevent veteran homelessness, targeted to service members returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The three-year grants announced July 29 will help the five identified communities or "Continuums of Care" to use and track client-level data provided by VA and Department of Defense officials to target veterans who meet the eligibility criteria.

VA officials will act as the primary liaison to the grantee and will provide eligible veterans with access to VA health care and benefits.

HUD funds will provide short- or medium-term rental assistance, including security deposits, utility payments and case management. In addition, the program will offer community-based supportive services appropriate for veterans and their families, including child care and family services.

VHPD is also intended to improve the understanding of the unique needs of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

HUD officials anticipate that it will take approximately 90 days from the date these grant agreements are signed for selected grantees to be able to identify and serve veteran individuals and/or families who qualify for assistance under VHPD.

VHPD also supports the Obama Administration's plan to prevent and end homelessness. Last month, HUD and 18 other federal agencies unveiled Opening Doors, an unprecedented federal strategy to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015, and to end homelessness among children, families and youth by 2020.

Retired, former Airmen eligible for stop loss special pay

Daniel P. Elkins
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs Office

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFRNS) -- Thousands of current, retired and former Air Force members remain eligible to receive $500 in retroactive special pay for each month they were affected by stop loss. Airmen have until Oct. 21 to apply through the Air Force Personnel Center here.

Air Force people eligible include active, retired and former members as well as Reserve component members who served on active duty while their enlistment or period of obligated service was involuntarily extended, or whose eligibility for separation or retirement was suspended as a result of stop loss. Those who accepted a selective re-enlistment bonus subsequent to being affected by stop loss are not eligible for the special pay.

Air Force officials used stop loss for Operation Enduring Freedom from Oct. 2, 2001, through Jan. 31, 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom from May 2 through Dec. 31, 2003. Individuals who were deployed during either operation may be eligible beyond the inclusive dates depending on their Air Force specialty and deployment return date. The 2009 War Supplemental Appropriation Act set aside $534.4 million for the retroactive stop loss special pay compensation authority.

Personnel officials are encouraging those who were involuntarily held on active duty during either of the stop loss periods to contact AFPC to determine if they might be eligible for the special pay compensation.

“We want to exhaust all efforts in our attempts to reach as many eligible members as possible while the authority is in place to compensate them for their extended duty,” said Col. Bill Foote, the AFPC director of personnel services. “Of course, many of those eligible to receive this special pay are no longer in our ranks, so we’re opening channels to reach out to veterans to help spread the word about this valuable benefit throughout their communities.”

More than 3,000 claims by Airmen have been approved for retroactive stop loss special pay since officials here began accepting claims in September 2009. Officials estimate an additional 13,000 current and former Air Force members may be eligible for the compensation.

Whether or not Air Force veterans are sure they are eligible, Colonel Foote encourages those impacted by stop loss to apply. Claims are evaluated based upon historical records already available to personnel officials as well as any supporting documentation the applicant may submit.

To file a claim, eligible members or legally designated beneficiaries may download a stop loss claim application at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/stoploss. Applicants who were serving in the Reserve or Guard at the time of stop loss may apply by visiting the Air Reserve Personnel Center website at https://arpc.afrc.af.mil/vPC-GR.

For more information on program eligibility and claims instructions, call the Total Force Service Center at 800-525-0102.

Army Releases Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report

The Army today released the Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention (HP/RR/SP) Report, the result of a focused 15-month effort to better understand the increasing rate of suicides in the force. This candid report is intended to inform and educate Army leaders on the importance of recognizing and reducing high risk behavior related to suicide and accidental death, and reducing the stigma associated with behavioral health and treatment. This report represents the next phase in the Army's ongoing campaign to promote resiliency in a force that has been at war for nearly a decade.

"The dedicated effort behind this report sends a clear message to our force that we take the resiliency of our soldiers and families very seriously," said Secretary of the Army John McHugh. "This effort is part of our culture to look closely at ourselves, and to make continuous improvements in our capability - but most importantly, to reduce the number of soldiers we lose to suicide."

"This comprehensive review exposes gaps in how we identify, engage, and mitigate high-risk behavior among our soldiers. After nearly a decade of war we must keep pace with the expanding needs of our strained Army, and continuously identify and address the gaps that exist in our policies, programs and services," said Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey.

Casey told the Army's two- and three-star commanders and command sergeants major recently that "our challenge over the next several years will be to maintain our combat edge at an appropriate tempo while reestablishing garrison systems to better care for our soldiers and families. The combination of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness with these health promotion efforts provides the foundation to improve the resilience of the force."

Unprecedented operational tempo has dictated that leaders remain primarily focused on preparing for their next deployment. As a result, enforcement of policies designated to ensure good order and discipline has atrophied. This, in turn, has led to an increasing population of soldiers who display high risk behavior which erodes the health of the force.

The report grew out of a series of visits to six Army installations directed by Casey and led by Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli in Spring 2009 to look at suicide prevention efforts in the force. "What we witnessed were real indicators of stress on the force, and an increasing propensity for soldiers to engage in high risk behavior," Chiarelli said. "We recognized almost immediately we had to widen the aperture - risk in the force cannot be mitigated by suicide prevention alone."

The Army's inward and transparent review is documented in this report. It addresses the full range of issues related to HP/RR/SP, outlines and defines the problem, documents actions taken, and makes recommendations for the way ahead.

Key findings include:

• gaps in the current HP/RR/SP policies, processes and programs necessary to mitigate high risk behaviors;

• an erosion of adherence to existing Army policies and standards;

• an increase in indicators of high risk behavior including illicit drug use, other crimes and suicide attempts;

• lapses in surveillance and detection of high risk behavior;

• an increased use of prescription antidepressants, amphetamines and narcotics;

• degraded accountability of disciplinary, administrative and reporting processes; and

• the continued high rate of suicides, high risk related deaths and other adverse outcomes.

"These findings demonstrate that many of our programs are unbalanced and lack integration, while reinforcing recommendations that will help us improve the quality of our programs and services," Chiarelli said.

McHugh has directed that leaders at all levels become familiar with the report. It informs leaders throughout the force about the consequences associated with high risk behavior; provides a candid, transparent and balanced review of HP/RR/SP issues; documents the Army's actions to date to improve programs and services; integrates policies, processes and programs for oversight of the force; and recommends solutions to eliminate gaps and unnecessary redundancies.

Programs must be realigned to improve support to the soldier, family and unit. Reporting and data-sharing on high risk behavior among unit commanders, medical and garrison service providers, and law enforcement officials must be synchronized. The report also promotes continued use of the Department of the Army's Health Promotion Council which has aggressively addressed this issue for a year-and-a-half.

Report recommendations represent the next phase of the campaign which has already implemented more than 200 separate initiatives over the last 15 months. For example, the Army tightened enlistment standards; established a Community Health Promotion Council at each installation; improved access and coordination between primary (medical) care and behavioral health providers; worked to stabilize unit leadership after redeployment; expanded behavioral health screening; instituted a confidential alcohol treatment program; aggressively recruited new behavioral health counselors; and created 72 new positions for chaplains, among other things.

"Continued focus on mentoring and training our leaders and service providers is key to fixing these problems. Part of leadership is creating an environment where it's okay to ask for help - and where it's our duty to extend a helping hand," Chiarelli said. "This, too, is in keeping with the Army Warrior Ethos to never leave a fallen comrade."

Report findings indicate there are no universal solutions to address the complexities of personal, social and behavioral health issues that lead to suicide.

"We've often said that the Army is a reflection of society, but we have soldiers today who are experiencing a lifetime of stress during their first six years of service. Army leaders at all levels remain dedicated to promoting resiliency, coping skills, and help-seeking behavior across our force," Chiarelli said.

The full report is located at http://www.army.mil/hprrsp