Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brain Injury Awareness Month: Did You Know…

DCoE Strategic Communications

Today isn’t just the opening day for major league baseball, it’s the end of March—the month we’ve spent talking and sharing information about brain injury awareness. Brain injury awareness is an important topic not only for service members and veterans in combat situations, but also for those who play sports or most anyone—did you know that more than 35 percent of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) result from falls? Did you know…

…about these numbers?

■1.7 million estimated people sustain a TBI each year
■275,000 people are hospitalized annually because of a TBI
■30.5% of all injury-related deaths in the United States have TBI as the contributing factor
Click here for more TBI Stats.

…about these resources?

■Mild TBI Pocket Guide: it’s a quick reference, all-encompassing resource on the treatment and management of patients with mild TBI and related symptoms.
■Co-occurring Conditions Toolkit: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health: this toolkit helps providers assess and manage patients with co-occurring mild TBI and psychological health disorders.
■ICD-9 TBI Coding Guidance Pocket Card: a very cool flashcard that helps providers quickly, accurately document and track diagnosis of a service member who has been treated, or is in the process of being treated, for a TBI.
■Mild TBI Web-Based Case Studies: these online tools include modules with real scenarios to help military and civilian health care professionals better understand mild TBI to include screening, diagnosis and management of symptoms in the non-deployed setting. The latest case study “Assessing the Individual with Persistent Headaches” is available now.
■TBI Family Caregiver Curriculum: because we know people with a TBI aren’t the only ones who live with it, this resource was created especially for families of service members and veterans. The guide provides support, education on TBI and guidance on symptom management.
■DCoE Outreach Center: this resource provides 24/7 customized support to service members, their families and providers who have questions and concerns related to traumatic brain injury or psychological health by phone at 866-966-1020 or email The center is operated by trained health resource consultants who work to get people to the right resources.

In case you’ve missed some of the valuable information we’ve shared during the month, don’t worry, you can find most of it on the DCoE Brain Injury Awareness page on the DCoE website. You can also download the resources mentioned above from the ‘For Health Professionals’ section of the DCoE website. Or, if you’d like hard copies, please contact the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at or call 800-870-9244.

Living with a TBI is a challenge, but there are tips, resources and people available to help. Early detection is key to a better recovery, so stay informed about TBI signs and symptoms – this new DCoE information sheet on TBI may help.

Pop quiz!
OK history buffs, just to see if you’ve been paying attention, who patented the first steel helmets worn in World War I? If you don’t know, or perhaps simply forgot, check out DCoE’s “Helmets Throughout History” virtual timeline to learn fun facts about head protection that’s been worn in several different shapes, sizes and styles.

Brain Injury Awareness Month may be over, but DCoE will continue to share current and important information about traumatic brain injury, and we are always interested in your feedback, so please leave us a comment.

Candlelight Vigil Held For Japan Earthquake, Tsunami Victims

By Joe Schmitt, Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) Chapel of Hope held a candlelight vigil March 19, for the victims and people who are suffering from the aftermath of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that occurred in northern Japan March 11.

"The reason we put this program together was to join the community of many faiths in prayer concerning one event that affects many people," said CFAY Chapel of Hope Chaplain Cmdr. Barry Metzger. "So, our goal is pray for the people of Japan who have been so affected by this tragedy and by these events, for those who are helping in the process in so many ways and also for military and family members who gathered here as part of this community."

The service was conducted in English with a Japanese translation for some of the speeches given by members of the CFAY community. Chapel of Hope organist Tamami Hatakeyama, performed the translations for the event.

"The Japanese words were touching and the English words were touching. Even though they were different language, you could get the heart feeling," said Hatakeyama.

Speaking on behalf of the Buddhist faith, Chapel of Hope Buddhist lay leader Merlyn Hirata, recited writings from the 13th century Japanese monk Nichiren.

Chapel of Hope Chaplain Lt. Sharon Reives performed a song during a candlelight vigil.

"No matter where a person is or what his situation may be, a person who lives based on faith will be able to open up a fresh start. Such a person will be able to clear the way towards a future of unlimited hope from now. A person of faith definitely will be able to adorn his life with happiness for himself and for others by reviving his own spirit and his community," said Hirata while reading a passage to the audience.

The gathered group sang songs that emphasized coming together as a community as example of how the attendees felt towards their Japanese neighbor who were suffering from the disasters. The words to one of the songs said "I need you, you need me, stand with me" and "you are all important to me, I need you to survive."

The event finished with attendees lighting their candles from the candles of "hope" and "healing" while singing the closing song.

"I really appreciate this and I really thank them. I'm really glad America is friendly and supportive to Japan," said Hatakeyama. "That's why I'm so thankful; I really believe that this feeling will reach all the people especially those who are suffering."

The community members were welcomed to stay after the event as long as they wanted to stay. Some of the attendees who stayed behind wrote their feelings and thoughts on a large piece of paper that will be sent with donations to the Sendai, Japan area.

General Officer Announcements

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has made the following nominations:

Army Col. Norvell V. Coots has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general.  Coots is currently serving as commander, Walter Reed Army Medical Center/North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, Washington, D.C.

Army Col. Dennis D. Doyle has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general.  Doyle is currently serving as commander, 30th Medical Command, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany.

Army Col. Brian C. Lein has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general.  Lein is currently serving as command surgeon, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort McPherson, Ga.

CFAY Wraps Up Majority Of Voluntary Military-Assisted Departures

By MC2(SW/AW) John Smolinski, Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The last large group of Department of Defense family members departed Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) March 24, as authorized by the voluntary military-assisted departure (VMAD).

The U.S. Department of State authorized the VMAD for eligible family members of U.S. service members and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians assigned to installations on the main island of Honshu, Japan March 16.

The departure was authorized due to a deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Honshu after a 9.0 earthquake struck and the tsunami that followed hit the plant March 11.

VMAD should not be confused with the term evacuation, as military and DoD civilians were not directed to leave. Each family had to make the decision based on factors for their unique situation.

"The best thing we have been able to do throughout this whole process is to give people a peace of mind during a very stressful situation," said Ester Franklin, Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Service counselor at Yokosuka Middle School, who has volunteered to help with the processing at the James D. Kelly Fleet Recreation Center.

CFAY registered and transported more than 1,300 family members who travelled by government contracted flights from Yokosuka to Seattle and Travis Air Force Base.

Personnel support detachment (PSD) Yokosuka has processed more than 3,100 flight requests through the commercial travel office (CTO) for travel out of Japan since the authorization went into affect.

"We've gone into 24-hour service mode, setting up a three-section rotation so that we may accept requests for government-funded travel around the clock," said Lt. Cmdr. Jed Espiritu, officer-in-charge, PSD Yokosuka. "The commercial travel office here has also put in long hours, coming in on weekends all without a single complaint, something monumentally important in this operation."

CFAY hosts 82 tenant commands that support operating forces throughout the Western Pacific, including 11 high-operational-tempo warships forward-deployed.

"Both PSD military and civilians have been working long hours since Saturday, and that is a testament to this detachment's teamwork and dedication," said Espiritu.

CFAY, PSD Yokosuka and other commands came together to accomplish a unified, customer-focused mission.

"Throughout this operation, I've seen continuous improvement in the way we process, track and ticket flights," said Espiritu. "I've watched customers here being kind and considerate to other customers and our clerks, despite some confusion and anxiety, even dropping off cookies and baked goods. I've seen overwhelming support for Yokosuka dependents from our assigned Chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Doug Vrieland, the Fleet and Family Support Center, and various other commands that have volunteered to provide comfort and assistance to the family members departing from Japan."

Departed personnel will be provided return travel to Japan when directed by the Under Secretary of Defense.

"CFAY is looking forward to the return of family members who departed voluntarily," said CFAY Command Master Chief Gregory Vidaurri. "Once authorization is provided for the return of our family members, our goal is reunite our Sailors with their families as soon as possible."

Northcom Chief Stresses Disaster Preparedness

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2011 – The United States must do more to prepare for natural disasters on the scale of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and more cooperation is necessary to combat transnational criminal organizations, the commander of U.S. Northern Command said here yesterday.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld stressed his command’s role in preparing for manmade or natural disasters.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of northern Japan caused a tsunami that inundated many areas of the country. The quake also triggered failures in the Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.

“The tragic events in Japan over the last several weeks highlight the importance of being prepared to respond to disasters, including those providing little or no notice, such as earthquakes, and those involving accidental or intentional release of harmful substances, as in Japan's case, the release of radionuclides,” Winnefeld said.

Northcom, which has responsibility for the United States, Canada and Mexico, is a key player in America’s response to natural or manmade disasters. Generally, the command works in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and stands ready to provide capabilities needed in the event of an emergency.

“Time is our enemy in these disasters and we search every day for ways to become more agile to meet the needs of our partners,” the admiral said.

The command, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., works with interagency partners to ensure all have the same playbook, Winnefeld said. In the last year, he added, he has been working to achieve unity of command and control over state and federal military forces that might respond together in the wake of a disaster.

“I can also report that [Northern Command’s] relationship with the National Guard, who is such a capable partner and on whom I rely so much for my mission accomplishment in several key areas, is superb,” he said.

The command is responsible for defending the United States against terrorism and transnational criminal organizations. Winnefeld also serves as the commander of the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Northcom works closely with U.S. Southern Command to counter groups that deal in drugs, people, weapons and money, the admiral said. In Mexico alone, he told the House panel, these criminal groups have killed more than 35,000 people since December 2006.

“We work with law enforcement agencies within the United States and in conjunction with U.S. Southern Command in support of the efforts of our partner nations in the hemisphere,” he said.

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have called the relationship a true partnership. The United States has a responsibility to reduce drug consumption and the illicit flow of arms and money to Mexico, and Mexican authorities have the responsibility to interdict drugs going north and to strengthen the rule of law so that criminals are put and kept in jail, Winnefeld said.

“The Mexican government has displayed exemplary moral, physical and political courage in undertaking this important struggle, … because they know this is about the future of Mexico, and I take my hat off to them for this,” the admiral said. “The Mexican military has been asked by its civilian leadership to join with Mexican law enforcement agencies to support this struggle in the right way, respectful of Mexico’s democratic ideals and the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.”

The Mexican military is working to counter a sophisticated, unconventional threat by integrating intelligence and operations, Winnefeld said. The Mexican army and navy are working together and with interagency partners.

“We know this is hard, because we’ve been down the same road, and in some ways, we’re still on the same road,” he said. “So I tell my capable Mexican partners that we don’t know it all, we’ve made our own mistakes along the way, and we seek the kind of engagement that helps them benefit from our experience.”

Regardless of the desire to help, the admiral stressed, any aid the U.S. military may offer is only provided at the request of Mexican officials.

“We have much to offer, but Mexico is always, always in the lead in Mexico,” he said. “The Mexican government has a strategy. They’ve defined with us a substantive framework to guide our cooperation and they’ve invited us to work with them to support their efforts. But again, they’re always in the lead in their country.”

MCPON Testifies before Congress on Quality of Life

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Abraham Essenmacher, Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West and other senior enlisted leaders testified before the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies March 30.

MCPON Rick D. West, along with the other top enlisted leaders from the Marines, Army and Air Force, discussed quality of life, family readiness, recruiting and retention, reserve force, and veteran affairs issues.

"In my travels this past year I have enjoyed the visits I've had with Sailors who defend America every day. In these visits I have taken special note of the quality of life in which they live and serve," said West. "As you know, quality of work and quality of life programs for our Sailors, their families and our Navy civilians is directly tied to military readiness."

Navy's Homeport Ashore program, bachelor and Navy family housing, and Continuum of Care were other important issues that were brought up to the congressional subcommittee.

West said that as the environment in which Sailors and their families' lives change, along with global requirements and world events, new and better ways to support our Navy families must be continuously explored.

West also discussed the integral part deployments play in Navy life. The Navy has been deploying forces since its formation during times of both peace and conflict, but it is important not to underestimate or take for granted the incredible strain that a long deployment imposes on Sailors and their families.

Multiple deployments, frequent relocations and the stresses associated with being part of a military family all impact the overall readiness of the unit, the readiness of the individual Sailor and the readiness of their family.

"The strain on our Sailors and their families is greater than ever, but our Sailors recognize the significance of their mission."

West said that keeping Navy families informed about resources available to them to mitigate the strain of deployment and provide support is instrumental to their peace of mind while waiting for their Sailors to return from a year-long assignment in the Middle East or a six-month deployment safeguarding our seas.

West discussed the Navy's current operations and told the committee that approximately 55 percent of the Navy's force is underway; and more than 14,000 Sailors are on the ground and more than 11,000 are at sea in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility; and more than 18,000 personnel along with 22 ships and 140 aircraft have participated in Operation Tomodachi providing relief and delivering humanitarian assistance to the people of Japan.

"Our Navy, America's Navy has no boundaries and we are a Global Force for Good," said West. "Our Navy team will accomplish any mission or task that we ask of them and they do this knowing their families will be supported and cared for when they go over the horizon in harm's way."

The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy periodically testifies before Congress along with the senior enlisted leaders of the other services. This was his fourth appearance before the congressional committee.

Family Matters Blog: Military Children Can Attend Free Camp

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2011 – Military parents seeking a fun -- and free -- summer camp option for their children should check out the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple Summer Camp program.

The association developed the camps to support military children ages 7 to 17 dealing with the stressors of war, according to an association news release. Now in its eighth year, the program will host more than 3,500 children during 40 weeks of camp in 25 states, as well as one overseas location this summer.

People can apply for a camp through April 29 at EDT. The camps are open to children of all services, whether active duty, National Guard or Reserve. However, priority will be given to military children with a parent deployed or deploying any time between September 2010 and December 2011 who have not attended an Operation Purple camp in the past.

For more information about the program, or camp locations and dates, visit the association’s website.

Guam Service Members Celebrate 118th Birthday of Chiefs

By By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Corey Hensley

SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Chief petty officers from various commands stationed on Guam gathered to celebrate the 118th birthday of the chief on U.S. Naval Base Guam March 28-April 1.

The events kicked off Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Week with observing morning colors in front of the Naval Base Guam Head Quarters. The week's festivities included a community service project at Ordot–Chalan Pago Elementary School and a 5K fundraiser. The events concluded with a cake cutting ceremony at Molly McGee's Irish Pub April 1, the official date of the 118th birthday of CPOs in the Navy.

Joint Region Marianas Command Master Chief Paul Kingsbury said the purpose of CPO Week was to give chiefs the chance to engage one another and demonstrate that their role in the Navy has always been one of importance.

"Think of all the people and all the leadership that a Sailor is going to be exposed to," Kingsbury said. "The chief petty officer is one that will connect the most. They are standard bearers and keepers of heritage and tradition."

For a long time before the existence of chiefs, superiority among petty officers on a ship would be decided by the commanding officer (CO). These appointed positions were mostly temporary but the CO had the option to recommend these "chief" petty officers to a more permanent charge. The official pay grade of CPO was not established until April 1, 1893.

Kingsbury said chiefs need to be the technical experts of their rate while also training and developing others, including junior officers.

"One of our traditional duties is training the newly appointed division officer as well," Kingsbury said. "All chiefs should be able to talk to all Sailors about fundamental Navy programs and general life guidance."

Many first class petty officers were shifted to the chief level when the rank was created. As a result, there was no "first" CPO. For many years after COs would still occasionally promote petty officers to acting positions to fill needed jobs on their ships.

On June 1, 1958, the pay grades of E 8 and E 9 were created, giving birth to senior chiefs and master chiefs. In August of that same year, service wide examinations were held to decide what chiefs were the best qualified to take on these new "super chief" positions. The first set of promotions happened Nov. 16, 1958.

Realignments Add to Busy Summer Moving Season

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 – With a busier-than-usual military moving season about to kick into high gear, officials are asking service members to book their moving dates early and to keep flexibility in mind when doing so.

The military moved more than 230,000 shipments last summer alone, and this year officials are expecting even more due to the base realignment and closure process, said John Johnson, chief of the personal property branch for the Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. The command is the lead agent for the Defense Department’s Personal Property Program.

Johnson said he’s expecting an additional 10,000 moves this summer due to base realignments and closures. Though that’s just a 3 percent increase to the projected number of summertime moves, it’s an extra 3 percent at an already challenging time of year, he noted.

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is commonly known to military-savvy people as “PCS season,” which refers to permanent-change-of-station moves. With school out for the summer, or about to be, many parents view that stretch of time as the least disruptive for a family move, Johnson explained, and set their sights on moving over Memorial Day or Fourth of July weekends to take advantage of the extra days off.

But this moving cluster can create a backlog for officials, Johnson said. On average, the military moves about 600,000 shipments a year, and more than a third of those moves take place over the summer.

“The biggest challenge is expectation management,” he added. “Moving in the summer season is already difficult, and most people are set on moving on holiday weekends. It’s always a challenge when volume exceeds capacity. We need to ensure we have enough trucks and crews to move people.”

Keeping the busy upcoming season in mind, officials began a review of the moving process in August, Johnson said. They focused much of their effort on working the kinks out of the Defense Personal Property System, a computerized moving management system for military members and Defense Department civilians. Last summer marked the first time the majority of household shipments were moved through that system, he added.

While the new system proved successful, users ran into a few stumbling blocks along the way, Johnson said, citing the electronic claims process as an example.

Previously, the “submit” button for the electronic claims form was located only at the top of the page. People would fill out the form, and then fail to realize they had to scroll back up to submit the claim, he said. And by the time they realized their oversight, they had missed the 75-day filing deadline.

“Some folks got upset -– rightfully so,” Johnson said. “We’re making a big effort to fix this and some other issues.”

Johnson said a system redesign is in the works, but in the meantime, he recommends that people watch the video posted on, which explains in detail how to navigate the online claim system.

Officials also have directed training efforts at moving experts, Johnson said, including the introduction of a webinar series that covers the storage and transit process for personal property shipment offices and carriers.

Among efforts to increase capacity, officials now allow carriers to use portable movement storage containers similar to those used for commercial shipments, Johnson said. In the past, he explained, the military required household goods to be moved in “loose loaded” or in wooden crates with specific dimensions. However, in the commercial sector, carriers use multiple types of containers.

“We’re now allowing carriers to use what containers they normally use to move military members,” he said. By doing so, he added, officials hope to increase the capacity of carriers qualified to conduct military moves.

These improvements will help, Johnson said, but the sheer number of people moving over the summer calls for some extra preplanning measures. People need to book moves early, particularly if they want to lock down a holiday weekend. And, above all, he said, they should remain flexible on dates.

When people are notified of a move, Johnson said, the first stop should be their local personal property shipment office, and then the Move.Mil website. Military OneSource also offers families a host of online moving resources, including “Plan My Move,” which features a moving calendar and travel and arrival checklists, and “Military Installations,” which links families to information about their new base and the local community.

Rodeo, Navy Team Up For a Special Message

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ian Lundy, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas (NNS) -- Austin Navy Week 2011 and Rodeo Austin provided the opportunity and venue March 23, for a Sailor to see his family while serving his country in Afghanistan.

Between the saddle bronc and bull riding portions of the rodeo, the master of ceremonies (MC) announced to the crowd that in just a few moments Cmdr. Clay Green—a local Austin sailor deployed to Afghanistan—would be talking to his family and everyone else at the Luedecke Arena, via the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS).

After the applause died down Green's image appeared on the jumbo-screen high above the arena floor.

"I'd like to take the opportunity to say hello to my family," said Green. "My beautiful wife Michelle, I know you're sacrificing as much as I am, I just appreciate everything you're doing."

Green had a lot to say to everyone at the arena, telling them how proud he was to serve with his fellow service members, that he believes in the mission and that the military is making a difference in Afghanistan.

He had additional messages for his children.

"I want to say hi to my kids. I love you guys, and I am extremely proud of you. To everybody out there in Austin Texas, 'Hook 'em Horns.'"

After the emotional cheers tapered off in the arena, the MC thanked Green for all he was doing.

Michelle Green and her family were very excited and thankful to the Navy for providing this unique chance to speak with Green.

"We haven't seen him since Thanksgiving and it was a really good feeling to see him," said Michelle. "I was excited to see him. Often times you feel isolated in dealing with the separation, it felt good to know so many people support him."

His deployment wraps up at the end of the year and he will return to Austin. It will be 13 months since he and his family were last together.

For more information about Navy Weeks and how "A Global Force for Good" transforms into a local force for good, log onto

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, March 31, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen testify at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on operations in Libya at in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on operations in Libya at in room SD-G50, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey

testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Department of the Army in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal 2012 and the future years defense program at in room SD-G50, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz testify at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on the fiscal 2012 defense appropriations request at in room H-140, Capitol.

Commander, U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander - Europe, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis and Rear Adm. William Brown, director of logistics, U.S. European Command, testify at a budget oversight hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on the fiscal 2012 budget at 10:00 a.m. EDT in room HT-2, Capitol.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen delivers remarks at at the annual Rostov Lecture on International Affairs at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in the Kenney Auditorium,
1740 Mass Ave, Washington, D.C.
  Media interested in attending should contact JCS PA at 703-697-4272.

This Day in Naval History - March 30

From the Navy News Service

1944 - Torpedo squadrons from carriers are used for the first time to drop aerial mines - Palau Harbor in the South Pacific.
1972 - The Easter Offensive began in Vietnam.
1942 - The Pacific theater is divided into two zones to clarify command relations. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz commands the Pacific Ocean Area and Gen. Douglas MacArthur is over the Southwest Pacific Area.

Misawa Air Base Reopens Valued Services

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow, Naval Air Facility Misawa Public Affairs

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (NNS) -- Even as Misawa Air Base personnel are fully engaged with recovering from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked most of Japan, the installation continues to reopen important base services, March 29.

The installation's post office, various entertainment and recreational services along with food locations are one again meeting the needs of service and family members, thus increasing morale and bringing much-needed stability to Misawa.

Today was the first day the Richard Bong Theatre opened its doors since the recent earthquake. Capt. Justin Kindle, general surgery physician assistant with the 35th Medical Group, said that he and his family are among many on base who are happy that the theatre is open for business.

"This gives us good a opportunity to spend some time together, and enjoy some much needed entertainment as a family," said Kindle. "It is nice to see things getting back to normal on the facility."

Potter Fitness Center has opened its weight room and basketball courts which are filled with Sailors and Airmen happy to once again have an indoor venue in which to work out.

"I know a lot of guys who have been working long hours with no days off since the earthquake, it is great to get some time off and work out," said Aviation Aerographer's Mate 1st Class Johnny Anderson, a Kailua, Hawaii native assigned to Naval Oceanography Anti-Submarine Detachment at Commander Task Force 72. "The gym is a great way to relieve stress after a long day. Right now, many people are taking advantage of it being opened again."

Outdoor recreation, which leases outdoor equipment, has also reopened its doors, along with the Weasel's Den, a popular indoor play area for children and parents.

Inside this Weasel's Den, which is a free facility, service and family members can bring their children to enjoy a playground with matted floors, a rock climbing wall, miniature golf course, arcade games, and an indoor track and batting cages.

Harry Bullock, a DoD civilian from Rocky Mount, N.C. said he is happy the Weasel's Den is open so his daughter could get some needed time outside of the house.

"After the shock of the earthquake, reopening this facility is great for the children," said Bullock. "Children have a great time here and it's a place for them to relax, have fun and interact with other children."

VA Works to Break Disability Claims Backlog

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo., March 30, 2011 – Former Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tyrone Allen is part of a growing legion within the Veterans Affairs Department striving to make good on VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s pledge to “break the back of the claims backlog.”

Allen understands firsthand the frustrations many veterans feel as they wait for VA to adjudicate their disability benefits claims. An electrician’s mate aboard USS Wasp as it operated off the Djibouti coast in 2004, he suffered a cracked skull, traumatic brain injury and compressed spine when a hatch came crashing down on his head.

The VA claims process took far too long, Allen said, noting that he’s still awaiting adjustments as his back condition worsens.

But today, Allen is part of VA’s fix -– he’s a VA claims assistant working at the Huntington VA Medical Center in West Virginia. He’s among a legion of more than 3,500 new employees VA has hired to expedite claims processing as it introduces other systemic improvements.

“It is really unacceptable that the backlog is as big as it is and it takes as long as it does for veterans to receive their claims,” Deputy VA Secretary W. Scott Gould said during an interview here with American Forces Press Service.

VA’s goal by 2015, he said, is for veterans to wait no more than 125 days for a decision on a claim, with a 98 percent accuracy rate.

Gould spoke about the claims process while participating in the 25th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, an annual event that this year brought together more than 350 disabled veterans, including Allen.

VA completed 977,000 claims in 2009, but took in, for the first time, more than a million new ones. In 2010, VA completed 1 million claims, but received 1.2 million new ones. By the end of 2011, officials expect to receive 1.45 million claims –- a double-digit increase over the number of claims received in 2000.

Gould attributed many of the new claims to the new wave of combat veterans with complex medical issues just entering the VA system. However, he acknowledged, 65 percent were resubmissions from veterans already in it.

“We have been experiencing a growth in new claims, even as our overall production has been increasing,” he said.

So to reach its goal, VA has attacked the challenge on three fronts, Gould explained.

The first involves people: hiring new claims processors and improving the way the VA trains them.

But “merely hiring more people to handle claims won’t let us get ahead of the incoming surge, let alone cleave the size of the backlog,” Shinseki has often said.

So VA is working to improve its systems and automate as quickly as possible. Its second major focus in reducing the backlog involves “reinvesting and re-engineering the business process we use to complete the claims,” Gould said. This includes accepting online applications for initial disability benefits, initiating an innovation competition and launching more than 30 pilot programs and initiatives to identify best practices.

Finally, VA is investing in new technology to support these efforts. Gould said he’s particularly excited about one recent accomplishment, the result of a pilot program for the paperless Veterans Benefits Management System that VA plans to deploy in fiscal 2012.

“We completed our first all-electronic claim in just 47 days,” Gould said of the pilot that’s being conducted in Rhode Island. And although the claim involved was relatively simple and straightforward, Gould called entirely automated processing capability it proved a major step toward VA’s goals.

VA’s fiscal 2012 budget request includes $2 billion to support these claims-processing initiatives, up 19.5 percent over fiscal 2010.

“So we are very optimistic that we can achieve our goal of no claim taking longer than 125 days with 98 percent quality,” he said. “And right now, we are just not meeting either of those standards.”

Gould said he’s confident VA is on the right track in reaching Shinseki’s goals to end the claims backlog by 2014. “We think we can get there,” he said. “It is something we have got to fix together.”

Allen said he’s proud of the role he’s personally playing in helping to reach these goals -- scheduling hearings, contacting veterans and helping to process their applications.

“I’m helping to make sure veterans get what they need, and that when they apply for something, everything goes through without delay,” he said. “I have been where they are, so I understand the importance of trying to make things happen as speedy as possible.”

USS Barry Promotes Tobacco Cessation during Great Barry Smokeout

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 4 Public Affairs

USS BARRY, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Barry (DDG 52) made an attempt to give up the use of tobacco products during the Great Barry Smokeout (GBSO) March 17.

GBSO is a spin off of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout (GASO), which is held across America, and designed to encourage tobacco users to kick the habit.

According to a 2008 Department of Defense survey of health related behaviors, nearly 31 percent of Sailors smoke cigarettes.

Chief Hospital Corpsman Michael Young said the term "smokeout" seems to confuse some people.

"It's a catchy title, but it's a little misleading,"
said Young. "I just want to make sure that people know that this initiative, whether on Barry or elsewhere, focuses on all tobacco products not just smoking. When you hear the Great American Smoke-out you automatically think about people just quitting smoking."

Yeoman Seaman Michael Rawles said GBSO is a good way to motivate Sailors and give them the extra push they need to quit.

"I figured if I quit for one day, then why not two, three, four and so on," said Rawles. "In my experience, people do things better when they have a challenge."

Fifty-five percent of Barry's tobacco users participated in the GBSO, and nearly half of the participants enrolled into a tobacco cessation program and decided to quit permanently.

"When I was working out the other day I just didn't feel very good," said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Damian Landreth. "I decided it's time to make self improvements, and quitting smoking is my first step in the process."

There are many resources available to tobacco users interested in quitting, including military treatment facilities and clinics that offer tobacco cessation programs and support groups.

Barry is on a routine deployment conducting maritime security operations in U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

Family Matters Blog: TRICARE Continues Web-based Counseling

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 – TRICARE officials are extending a state-of-the-art program that’s intended to ease the path to mental-health services.

The TRICARE Assistance Program will now run through March 20, 2012, to give officials more time to measure the program’s effectiveness, a TRICARE release said. Through the program, TRICARE health care beneficiaries use the Internet and a Web cam to speak “face-to-face” with mental-health counselors around the clock and from anywhere in the United States.

People can log on from home to receive short-term, nonmedical counseling for situations that may arise from life circumstances such as deployment stress, relationships, personal loss and parent-child communications.

These services are available in the United States to active-duty service members, active-duty family members who are at least 18 years old, beneficiaries using TRICARE Reserve Select and beneficiaries covered under the Transitional Assistance Management Program, the release said.

For some people, the online services aren’t an appropriate level of care or video services aren’t accessible. In that case, a licensed professional will refer the beneficiary to the right organization.

To find out more about this program, beneficiaries can go to TRICARE’s website

If you’ve used the program and would like to comment on your experience with it, don’t hesitate to write in.

DOD Announces Stationing of Two Combat Aviation Brigades

The Department of Defense announced today the stationing of two Army combat aviation brigades.  The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade will be split-based and established at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Fort Wainwright, Alaska, using existing aviation units not currently assigned to a combat aviation brigade.  A new brigade will be activated at Fort Carson, Colo.

The 16th CAB stationing action realigns existing assets resulting in an increase of approximately 1,400 new soldiers and 44 helicopters at JBLM.  This action for the split-based CAB at JBLM will begin in fiscal 2012 and is expected to be completed by fiscal 2014.

The Army recognizes Alaska as a strategic location and will continue to maintain a significant aviation presence there.  This stationing increases the invaluable medical evacuation strength in Alaska by three additional aircraft in fiscal 2013.  It also validates the Army’s commitment and support to the aviation infrastructure through military construction programmed for replacement and upgrade of the aviation facilities.

The new combat aviation brigade activation at Fort Carson, Colo., will result in a total growth in Army forces and equipment by approximately 2,700 soldiers and 113 helicopters.  Fort Carson establishes the new brigade beginning fiscal 2013 and is expected to be completed by fiscal 2014.

The activation of these brigades will increase the capabilities of the active component of the U.S. Army and increase dwell time for aviation units between deployments in support of overseas contingency operations.  These combined force structure actions represent integrated changes that support the Army’s transformation requirements.

For more information, please call Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff, Office of the Chief, Public Affairs, Media Relations Division, 703-697-7550.

New Family Gram Highlights Youth Programs

By From Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- NAVADMIN 102/11 was released March 24, in conjunction with April being designated as Month of the Military Child.

The NAVADMIN is part of a bi-monthly series of family grams that highlight various personnel programs. This family gram highlights programs that support Navy children and youth.

"Sailors need to know that their children are being taken care of, not only when they are on deployment, but also every day," said Greg Young, CNIC Child and Youth Programs (CYP) director. "We provide a wide range of services to assist them."

Navy CYP provides developmental child care and youth recreational programs and services for eligible children and youth ages 4 weeks to 18 years of age. Programs and services are specifically designed and operated to meet the unique needs of the military mission and service members and their families.

CYP programs and services include:

- Child Development Centers (CDC) that provide full and part day child care for ages 6 weeks to 5 years of age.

- Child Development Homes (CDH) that provide full and part day and night and weekend child care for ages four weeks to 12 years of age.

- School-Age Care (SAC) that provides before and after school and day camps for ages 6 years to 12 years of age.

- School Liaison Officers (SLO) who serve as Navy subject matter experts for K-12 education issues. SLOs work to connect commanders, educators and parents.

- Youth Sponsorship Program provides access to positive peer groups and social activities, helping Navy children feel connected at their new duty station.

- Youth and Teen Programs provide sports programs, leisure classes, youth internet labs and teen programs for ages 6 years to 18 years of age.

For more information about Navy Child and Youth Programs, visit your local Fleet and Family Support Center.

NAVSUP Echelon III and IV Command Names to Change

From Naval Supply Systems Command Corporate Communications

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (NNS) -- Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) announced an initiative to provide customers and stakeholders a clearer understanding of the capabilities of all NAVSUP organizations, March 28.

"'ONE NAVSUP, One Enterprise' connects our Global Logistics Support Network construct where each activity executes its mission as a node of the network, vice an individual entity," said Rear Adm. Mike Lyden, commander, Naval Supply Systems Command. "As a result, new names are being given to our activities, better emphasizing their specific role in NAVSUP's support of the Fleet around the world. In addition, the names emphasize the capabilities in our weapon system support and global logistics support business lines, helping customers easily navigate the products and services available within our organization."

While transition actions will be ongoing, the new names will become effective July 1.

The new names for the NAVSUP Echelon III activities will be:

- NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (formerly Naval Inventory Control Point – NAVICP)
- NAVSUP Business Systems Center (formerly Navy Supply Information Systems Activity – NAVSISA)
- NAVSUP Logistics Operations Center (formerly Naval Operational Logistics Support Center – NOLSC)
- NAVSUP Global Logistics Support (Formerly Commander, Fleet & Industrial Supply Centers – COMFISCS)

The new names for the NAVSUP Echelon IV activities, formerly known as Fleet & Industrial Supply Centers, or FISCs, will be:

- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville (formerly Fleet & Industrial Supply Center Jacksonville – FISC Jacksonville)
- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk (formerly Fleet & Industrial Supply Center Norfolk – FISC Norfolk)
- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor (formerly Fleet & Industrial Supply Center Pearl Harbor – FISC Pearl Harbor)
- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Puget Sound (formerly Fleet & Industrial Supply Center Puget Sound – FISC Puget Sound)
- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center San Diego (formerly Fleet & Industrial Supply Center San Diego – FISC San Diego)
- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Sigonella (formerly Fleet & Industrial Supply Center Sigonella – FISC Sigonella)
- NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka (formerly Fleet & Industrial Supply Center Yokosuka – FISC Yokosuka)

NAVSUP's primary mission is to provide U.S. naval forces with quality supplies and services. Headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance.

In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for quality of life issues for our naval forces, including food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.

Returning Warrior Workshop Focuses on Psychological Health

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles White, Commander, Navy Reserve Force Public Affairs

TAMPA, Fla. (NNS) -- Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters and approximately 150 combat-tour veterans and family members participated in a Returning Warrior Workshop (RWW) in Tampa, Fla., March 25 - 27.

Funded by the Department of Defense's Yellow Ribbon program, the RWW focuses on psychological health and is designed to aid in service members' post-deployment, reintegration into family and community life. The workshops are intended for Navy Reservists, but both active duty and reserve members of all services are invited.

A reservist and father of a deploying soldier, McKeague lauded the Navy, its Reserve component and its unwavering commitment to individual and family welfare.

"What I lack in direct connection to the United States Navy, I hope to make up for in my esteem for this great sea service and more importantly, for your heroic service," said Maj. Gen Kelly McKeague, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.

McKeague applauded Navy Reserve leadership by saying their vision and their conviction for each Navy Reservist and their family members is unequivocal.

RWWs have three key priorities, which are to inform, empower and to thank. They inform attendees by showing them the substantial network of resources available to them as Reserve families. They teach both the warriors and their guests techniques in recognizing stress related illnesses as they manifest. The workshops also teach the steps to gain support in dealing with stress and reintegration issues.

The weekend event empowers attendees by removing the stigma associated with asking for help. It provides the attendees examples of the greater personal and professional successes attainable when there is an established support structure. This is especially true when that support structure is aided, in part, by mental health professionals. A psychological health outreach team is on hand at each RWW to evaluate and refer interested attendees for additional assistance.

"If you had a broken leg you wouldn't hesitate to get help, but if you have a broken heart or a broken mind, for some reason we hesitate to get help," said motivational speaker, Capt. Wyman Winbush.

"You are who you are because of what you've come through, not because of what you avoided," Winbush said. "Asking for help is not a way to avoid anything, but rather a healthy way to address and move past certain sticking points in life."

RWWs show thanks to the warriors and their spouses at an appreciation banquet and dance that is considered the apex of the weekend. They are treated to a four-star meal and many times, as was the case here, they enter the banquet hall to a standing ovation by appreciative event organizers, table facilitators, presenters and even hotel staff. After the meal the guest speaker, usually a flag officer, delivers his remarks, which, more than anything else is meant to be words of thanks.

"I recognize that in serving you have made inordinate sacrifices … and that goes for your family members who have sacrificed beyond measure. Each of you should be applauded and saluted for that," McKeague said. "Thank you."

An important part of the weekend is an hour at the opening of the workshop dedicated to sharing one's story. Attendees are grouped together in cruise ship fashion, by table, and they remain with their tablemates for the entire weekend to build rapport. For one hour they are encouraged to speak in depth about their deployment experience. In many cases, whether as a family member at home or as a warrior overseas, attendees are struck by the similarities between their experiences. They often discover their experiences are not unique to them. It is a designed result and a strengthening one, as attendees now know specific examples of people who are going through what they are, and those people are ones with whom they can communicate and directly relate.

Another benefit of sharing one's story is the improved understanding between family members.

"I never spoke [to my daughter] about my experiences over there," said Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist David Charnley, referring to his 2009 deployment to Afghanistan. "She was working a full-time job, going to school full time, and taking care of my finances. It was an incredible amount of pressure. I didn't want to add to it."

Charnley's daughter, Ashley, was surprised by, and empathetic towards, the immense amount of stress endured by her father during his mobilization.

"I learned so many new details that he just never shared before," she said.

Closing the weekend is an interactive presentation called Improving the Process. Attendees discuss issues with their tablemates and offer suggestions for the improvement of the deployment and mobilization processes. Each table selects a spokesperson who airs the group's number one unsatisfactory issue and their suggestion for its improvement.

Each spokesperson had additional responsibility of presenting in front of a large crowd. McKeague's presence meant they had an indirect line to the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, to the Congress, and even the President of the United States. McKeague promised to represent them and their issues to the best of his ability.

There were 18 tables and 18 issues, two tables of which were filled with Marine Corps Reservists. McKeague heard issues ranging from professionalism at Navy mobilization processing sites, to pay delays and medical redundancy during the mobilization process. The most common issue was the lack of communication between commands and families of deployed service members.

Speaking on behalf of his table, Cmdr. Dennis Rieke, commanding officer, Navy Operational Support Center, Charleston, S.C., suggested establishing spousal support groups for spouses of deployed Sailors.

Ultimately, the attendees' response to the weekend was positive. Each attendee had an opportunity to complete a critique of the RWW process. Many couples reported a mutually improved understanding of their mobilization experience. Many of the Sailors, Marines and family members left feeling their well-being, and that of their family, is truly of national interest.

Care Coordinator Links Service Members with TBI Support

By Karyn George, national manager, Office of Care Coordination, Defense & Veterans Brain Injury Center

After service members have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), they may not know where to go or what to do to find services that address the residual symptoms of their injuries. As a regional care coordinator who works frequently with active-duty service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I find it very satisfying when I can link a service member with services that they didn’t know existed.

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) Regional Care Coordination Program was developed as a support and resource for active-duty service members and veterans as they transition through the recovery stages after a traumatic brain injury. The program specifically seeks to identify service members, and in particular members of the Reserves or National Guard who may return to remote areas that lack the resources, whether within the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs or civilian health care systems.

DVBIC regional care coordinators are located throughout the United States including all four Department of Veterans Affairs polytrauma facilities, some of the larger military treatment facilities and at two civilian sites. Coordinators conduct intakes and follow-ups with service members and veterans who are symptomatic after a diagnosis of mild, moderate or severe TBI at three-month, six-month, 12-month and 24-month intervals via telephone or in-person. To ensure service members, veterans and their families have access to appropriate medical care, support and available resources throughout the recovery process, follow-up schedules can be adjusted to contact service members and veterans more or less frequently as needed.

I find it very rewarding to answer questions, provide customized information, and to hear how service members are progressing positively and adapting even if things didn’t turn out as they planned. In general, service members are very courageous and resilient, and I’ve learned a great deal from our interactions.

For more information about DVBIC Regional Care Coordination Program locations and points of contact for each region, check out or call 800.870.9244.