Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Soldier Overcomes Spinal Injury

By Army Sgt. Erica N. Cain
479th Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Army Division West

Texas, Aug. 25, 2010 - Her physical training may look ordinary, but for Army Staff Sgt. Dani Ventre of the 479th Field Artillery Brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, it represents her extraordinary resilience in overcoming a spinal injury.

"I have been on and off a 'dead man's' profile for six years, which doesn't allow me to participate in any organized physical fitness training," Ventre said. But when her temporary profile ended, Ventre set goals for herself and began participating in the battery's organized fitness training at her own pace. "During her recovery time, she would go over on run days and walk the quad, pushing herself to get the most she could until the unit finished physical fitness training, and come back for cool-down," said Army 1st Sgt. James B. Hopkins, the battery's first sergeant. "She worked very hard to set her own goals and stuck to them."

Ventre said she took it upon herself to participate because she knew it would help her. "The physical fitness looked fun and would help me improve my physical ability, so I wanted to push myself to participate," she explained. "My motivation to recover is not to hurt any more. I used to be a PT 'stud muffin.' Not so much anymore."

Hopkins said Ventre's motivation has been impressive. "What really stood out was the day the unit went on a battery run and Ventre lined up in the fourth rank with the pacesetters," he said. "The lead soldier fell out of the group run, and Ventre was there to close the gap; she had never quit."

Ventre said she's been taking it slowly. "But I realize that the physical fitness sessions will help me recover and not be on profile any longer," she added, "making me a better soldier, physically and mentally."

Meanwhile, Hopkins said, Ventre's resilience and determination set a good example. "At the end of the day," he said, "that's what it's all about: a soldier never giving up and fighting until the end."

Army Adjusts Ground Combat Vehicle Program Acquisition Strategy

Following a comprehensive review of its Ground Combat Vehicle program, the Army today announced that it has cancelled the original contract solicitation and will issue a revised Request for Proposals (RFP) that will better ensure an achievable, affordable and timely infantry fighting vehicle.

The review was conducted by both the Army and Office of Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OSD (AT&L)) as part of a continuing effort to ensure that all Army acquisitions effectively and affordably meet the needs of our soldiers. The contract cancellation was made at the earliest stage of the acquisition process, resulting in up to a six month delay of the program, which will best ensure the long-term success of the Ground Combat Vehicle program by better aligning vehicle capabilities with the anticipated needs of future combat operations.

In May 2010, the Army partnered with OSD (AT&L) to conduct a thorough study of the Ground Combat Vehicle program, referred to as a Red Team analysis. The Red Team review recommended that the Army prioritize the planned vehicle's capabilities to meet achievable goals within the program's acquisition schedule. This holistic review included an examination of vehicle capabilities, operational needs, the acquisition strategy, program schedule and technology readiness.

In conjunction with the Red Team recommendations, the Army determined that it must revise the acquisition strategy to rely on mature technologies in order to reduce significant developmental risk over a seven year schedule following the initial contract award. The refined RFP will result in a vehicle that provides soldiers with critical armored protection in the modern combat environment.

Based on these recommendations, the Army, in consultation with OSD (AT&L), determined that withdrawing and revising the RFP was the most prudent means of ensuring long-term programmatic success. Details of the specific RFP changes are still being finalized. The Army anticipates issuing the new solicitation within the next 60 days.

For more information, contact Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, Army Public Affairs, 703-697-7591 or

Language program application deadline nears

Daniel P. Elkins
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs Office

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Air Force officials are accepting application packages through Sept. 13 for officers interested participating in the Language Enabled Airman Program, or LEAP, offering an opportunity to develop a foreign language skill throughout their careers.

Launched earlier this year by Air Force Culture and Language Center, LEAP is the first career-long program designed to offer language-sustainment training for Airmen in diverse career fields. A September selection board will consider applications by active-duty officers as well as U.S. Air Force Academy and ROTC cadets.

Lt. Col. Brian Smith, the deputy director of the Air Force Culture and Language Center Language Department at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., said participation in LEAP offers a wide array of opportunities to develop and use one’s foreign language ability while providing the Air Force a greatly expanded core competency from which to draw individuals to meet critical mission needs.

Airmen are selected based upon their demonstrated potential to achieve higher levels of foreign language proficiency as measured by their past performance in language courses, their Defense Language Proficiency Test or Oral Proficiency Interview, Defense Language Aptitude Battery scores, and their previous foreign language exposure.

“The only way we have of identifying eligible active-duty members is if they’ve already taken the DLAB, OPI or DLPT, which are identified in the Military Personnel Data System,” he said. “However, we’re positive there are many more Airmen across the force that have foreign language proficiency and may not have learned of this new program yet could greatly benefit from participation.”

To reach those potential participants, Colonel Smith is asking junior officers to spread the word through company grade officer councils and other professional networking organizations.

More than 190 officers have already been jumped at that opportunity. Of those, 77 are already in language intensive training events in such locations as China, Germany, Japan, Ukraine, Morocco, Brazil, Korea, France and Costa Rica. The remaining individuals are largely recently commissioned officers whose initial skills training or flight screening presented a scheduling conflict with language training events as well as some students who will be commissioned in the coming months.

The program also includes five health professions members who are involved in the International Health Services program and already possess advanced language proficiency. Non-line medical corps officers meet the same boarding process but are further screened by Medical Service professionals on the board.

Applications packages received thus far are predominantly from active-duty officers, however, Colonel Smith anticipates an influx of applications from U.S. Air Force Academy and ROTC students who returned to school this month. Future boards will include members of the total force, “though we are not quite there yet,” added Colonel Smith.

Colonel Smith said some of the common questions applicants are asking concern the impact of LEAP on their Air Force specialties and retainability requirements. He clarified that the program does not require participants to change their career specialty.

“Airmen in LEAP will still be required to maintain their mission-ready capability in their respective specialties,” he said. “The added benefit comes in the form of priority consideration for language coded billets and opportunities such as foreign PME and potential opportunities to work closely with partner nation personnel in an official capacity.”

He further explained that the program targets officers with some capability early in their careers to ensure participants have sufficient time to develop language proficiency.

“It takes up to a year to get someone from 0/0 to 2/2 in language proficiency in a full time residency program. Unfortunately, there are very few opportunities to schedule individuals for training of this length if it is not contingent upon immediate assignment to a language coded billet thereafter. And continued training throughout the career is necessary to maintain even that basic level of proficiency or to enhance it to working levels of proficiency (3/3),” Colonel Smith said. “Also, demands such as PME, advanced degrees and command opportunities for many officers later in their careers limit the time they have available to devote to language training. Realistically, we have to focus on harvesting the talent that we have, rather than farming new talent once an individual has already begun their Air Force career.”

Applicants are considered by a board that includes representatives from the Air Force ROTC, U.S. Air Force Academy, Air Force Personnel Center, Air Force Language and Culture Program office, Air Force International Affairs and AFCLC. Board results will be announced in September. Applications submitted after the Sept. 13 cutoff will be considered by the following board in the spring.

For more information on language qualifications and application procedures, visit Interested Airmen may submit completed applications at any time.

Veterans more likely to avoid foreclosure with VA-backed loan

WASHINGTON (AFRNS) -- Mortgage loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to have the lowest rate for serious delinquency and foreclosures in the industry.

"The continued high performance of VA loans is due to the dedication of VA's loan professionals, the support of our partners in the mortgage industry and most notably, the responsibility of our veterans and their desire to maintain home ownership," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "VA is making good on its promise to help veterans achieve the American dream of owning a home."

There are currently about 1.3 million active home loans that have been obtained using VA's Home Loan Guaranty Program. The program makes home ownership more affordable for veterans, active-duty servicemembers, and eligible surviving spouses by permitting low or no down-payment loans and by protecting lenders from loss if the borrower fails to repay the loan.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association National Delinquency Survey, VA's foreclosure rate for the last eight quarters and serious delinquency rate for the last five consecutive quarters have been the lowest of all measured loan types, even prime loans.

Much of the program's strength stems from the efforts of VA employees and loan servicers nationwide, whose primary mission is to "ensure all veterans receive every possible opportunity to remain in their homes, avoid foreclosure, and protect their credit from the consequences of a foreclosure," added Secretary Shinseki.

Depending on the situation, VA's loan specialists can intervene on a veteran's behalf to help pursue home-retention options such as repayment plans, forbearances and loan modifications. When home retention is not an option, sometimes VA can help arrange a sale, or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, both of which are better options for veteran borrowers than foreclosure.

Since 1944, when home-loan guaranties were first offered under the original GI Bill, VA has guaranteed more than 18.8 million home loans worth $1.06 trillion.

To obtain more information about the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program, veterans can call VA at 877-827-3702. Information can also be obtained at (Courtesy of VA)