Wednesday, January 05, 2011

DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable: New Medical Mission for Air Guard

We have scheduled a DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable with Air Force Col. Brett Wyrick, air surgeon, Air National Guard for Monday, Jan. 10 at .

Col. Wyrick will discuss the new medical mission for Air Guard. Beginning next week specialized medical personnel from the Air National Guard will begin flying Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT) missions from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The CCATT consists of a physician specializing in an area such as critical care, pulmonology, anesthesiology or surgery, along with a critical care nurse and a respiratory technician. The Air Guard will place at least one CCATT on each rotation flying out of Ramstein for the next two years, and are looking to combine with the Air Force Reserve to field even more teams in the coming months.

Family Matters Blog: Navy Program Helps to Strengthen Families

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 – Military families have many support programs at their fingertips, but I wanted to highlight one in particular that’s making inroads in family care.

The Navy’s Project FOCUS, or Families OverComing Under Stress, equips military families with the skills they need to weather the psychological and physical challenges brought about by a decade of war. The program educates and builds coping skills among service members and their families, while also informing communities about the stressors military families and how they can best support them.

“Families make such sacrifices to support service members and their country,” Kirsten Woodward, family programs division director for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, told me in a recent interview. “It’s important for us to support families in the same manner in which they are sacrificing.”

For more on this program, including information on the program’s onsite and online options, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Navy Program Puts “FOCUS’ on Military Families," or visit the Project FOCUS website.

Navy Intel Chief: Information Dominance Must Balance Firepower

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 – “Information as warfare” requires operational commanders to employ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to dominate the information realm even as they direct combat actions, the Navy’s senior intelligence officer said today.

Vice Adm. David J. “Jack” Dorsett, the director of naval intelligence and deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance, spoke to defense writers about what he called a shift from an Industrial Age military force to an Information Age force.

“We’re great at strike warfare -– dropping bombs. It’s now time for the Navy, and frankly the U.S. joint forces, to step up and start dealing with information in a much more sophisticated manner than they have in the past,” Dorsett said.

Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, announced in October 2009 the Navy was combining its intelligence directorate, communications networks and related information technology capabilities into the information dominance organization.

Dorsett said as leader of that organization he serves as the Navy’s “banker” for information capabilities.

“I do resources, I do requirements, I do policies,” he said. “Tenth Fleet is the operational commander for our cyber forces and our network forces, and our Navy’s information operational capabilities.

“Tenth Fleet is a three-star operational commander,” he continued. “The [chief of naval operations] this past year also created Navy Cyber Command, a two-star commander, and he’s responsible for manning, training and equipping the fleet.”

In just over a year since the Navy reorganized its intelligence and technology communities, Dorsett said, the service has made great progress in organizing its work force and developing sensors and networks, but hasn’t accomplished as much in analyzing collected intelligence.

“Managing data, making sense of the information, is one of our largest challenges,” Dorsett said. “Part of the job dealing with information dominance is looking at information from one end to the other: from sensors to networks to transport to exploitation dissemination.

“One area this past year we haven’t made as much progress on was on processing, exploitation and dissemination,” he continued. “It’s high on our list for this upcoming year.”

Within the Defense Department, the Navy is primarily partnering with the Air Force in “tackling imagery exploitation first, as something … easier to get our hands around,” Dorsett said.

“But we’re also partnering with agencies like the National Security Agency on their cloud computing initiatives, their cyber pilot initiatives, and … how you manage information, how do you get it to flow from one point to another,” he added.

Effectively processing intelligence imagery –- managing data -– requires combining automated tools with skilled human analysis, Dorsett said.

“An awful lot can be automated,” he said. “You don’t need to look at every single piece of electro-optical imagery that comes in, necessarily. You need tools to alert you to the key issues that you can then apply an analyst to.”

But if those analysts aren’t well-trained and experienced in looking at data from signals intelligence to imagery to open-source data, Dorsett said, some of the available information will be lost.

“We look at things holistically,” he said. “If you just look at the data and technology and tools and you forget to apply energy to training your people, you won’t get to the right solution set.”

A major emphasis over the past year, he said, has been to increase the number of sensors gathering imagery in the “battle space.”

“But I think more needs to be applied to this issue of processing, exploitation and dissemination, especially as all of the services bring more sensors to bear in our future capabilities,” Dorsett said. “That’s part of our game plan.”

In replacing legacy weapons systems with new capabilities, he said, a one-for-one substitution isn’t the most effective approach.

The Navy is taking a “family of systems” approach to balance information and firepower requirements, he said, noting the approach includes incorporating signals intelligence capability on surface ships.

“One of the principles for information dominance is, every platform needs to be a sensor and every sensor needs to be networked,” Dorsett said.

While increasing the intelligence-gathering capability of weapons systems is critical, he said, the military also needs to maintain its other combat capabilities.

The Navy’s P-8 Poseidon aircraft is an example, he said. The aircraft, now in development as an anti-submarine and shipping interdiction platform, is “a primary warfighting tool for the Navy,” Dorsett said.

“We don’t want to optimize it for [signals intelligence] at the expense of [asymmetric warfare],” he said. “We’ll deal with spiral approaches to a variety of our systems and platforms and plug-and-play in the years ahead, so I wouldn’t preclude the P-8 from having a [signals intelligence] or [multi intelligence] payload, but at this point we’re going to focus on primarily on [asymmetric warfare].”

Historically, the U.S. military has emphasized combat power over intelligence activities, Dorsett said.

“I think you see, with the Department of Defense and the creation of [U.S.] Cyber Command, the recognition by the secretary of defense and the seniors within the department that the nonkinetic, the cyber, the information side of the house is really critical,” he said. “You need a combatant commander that is dealing in that arena as his primary mission area.”

Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen the value of integrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities with operations over the last five years, he said.

“Ops-intel integration was the 2000-2010 era improvement we made in joint war-fighting,” Dorsett said. “2010-2020, it needs to be this elevation of non-kinetic information capabilities.”

The Navy has integrated intelligence and surveillance capabilities, electronic warfare, cyber, networks, oceanography and meteorology –- knowledge of the environment –- to break down barriers in warfighting, Dorsett said.

“Out of balance? We have been,” he said. “I think … DOD is taking a variety of steps to make improvements in this non-kinetic, information side of the house.”

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, January 06, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

NPC Search Engine Give Sailors Resources

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) LaTunya Howard, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON Tenn. (NNS) -- In 2011, Navy Personnel Command (NPC) recommends that Sailors take advantage of the search engine available at

This search engine, called "Knowledge Base," is available to answer Sailors' personnel questions.

"The Knowledge Base is really easy to use and it was created to supplement our customer service efforts," said Vincent Vuketich, of the NPC Customer Service Center (CSC). "A Sailor can call the CSC or email us for information, but they don't have to. The Sailor can go to research and answer his or her own questions online 24/7."

NPC has a Knowledge Base team that works daily to keep the database current with continuous updates of Navy regulations and instructions.

"KB (Knowledge Base) is an online tool, public facing, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world," said Vuketich. "Sailors, retirees and their families can ask essentially any question they want about the Navy. The system uses keywords to generate a solution to their question."

Sailors can access the Knowledge Base by visiting the NPC website and by clicking on the 'Ask NPC a Question' icon in the upper right corner of the page. In fiscal year 2010 the self-help page received more than 14,000 visits.

"This system has been up and running for approximately eight years now," said Vuketich. "We currently have nearly 1,000 solutions, but we are always interested in hearing from the fleet about additional solutions that are needed."

Solution categories range from advancement and promotions to education or career information. Sailors can also search for Navy programs, pay and benefits or NAVADMINS.

"Our goal is to meet Sailors' needs by providing them instant access to relevant Navy information any time they need it from anywhere in the world," Vuketich said.

For more information, contact the CSC at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC, via email at or online at the NPC website.

This Day in Naval History - Jan. 05

From the Navy News Service

1855 - USS Plymouth crew has skirmish with Chinese troops.
1875 - Cmdr. Edward Lull begins expedition to locate the best ship canal route across Panama.
1943 - In the Southwest Pacific, USS Helena (CL 50) fired first proximity-fused projectile in combat, shooting down a Japanese divebomber in the process.
1968 - Lt. Clarence W. Cote becomes the first male Nurse Corps officer in the regular Navy.

Risk Management Key to Mitigating Mishaps in 2011

By April Phillips, Naval Safety Center Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Following the holiday season, Sailors and Marines across the fleet are returning from leave and getting back to the regular routine at their duty stations in January 2011.

Whenever large numbers of people are returning from extended time away from the job, there's a potential for mishaps to occur due to complacency or skills that have become rusty.

January is also a time when many Sailors and Marines enjoy winter sporting activities such as skiing and snowboarding. There's a greater likelihood for inclement weather, deteriorated driving conditions and slips, trips and falls.

All these factors combine to make this a good time to remember the basics of risk management, said Derek Nelson, head of the Media Division at the Naval Safety Center (NAVSAFECEN). Nelson writes the popular weekly "Summary of Mishaps," which is better known as the "Friday Funnies." In this capacity, he pores through the mishap reports received by NAVSAFECEN, and he has noticed some trends.

"Snowboarding mishaps have really been on the rise in the last few years," said Nelson. "People seem to have a hard time recognizing their limitations."

Nelson said a lack of training contributes to many snowboarding mishaps. Others attempt to outdo their experience level, including a second class petty officer who had been on five separate snowboarding trips before he hit the slopes with some shipmates who had far more training than he had.

"He wasn't completely inexperienced, but he went with people who knew a lot more, and he wanted to keep up with them. He ended up with a concussion and a lot of days on limited duty," Nelson said.

Other mishap reports he has examined show a general complacency trend. He said one of the major problems is people who are in a hurry and cut corners.

"Whether you're driving or performing a task around the house or on the job, being in a hurry to get things done is a needless risk that too often ends in a trip to the emergency room," said Nelson. "Usually, the person doesn't take time to make a risk assessment beforehand, and therefore, there's no risk management that takes place."

Nelson cited one particularly memorable example; a Sailor was using a gas-powered snow blower to clear his driveway after a winter storm. The blower became clogged, and rather than turning it off to clear it, the Sailor just reached his hand inside the still spinning blades.

"It chopped off one of his fingers," Nelson said.

He also said he hoped Sailors and Marines would take time to reflect on risk management. It doesn't have to be a formal military training session to be effective.

"When people simply talk about their experiences, it can be very helpful. Everyone's got a story and sharing that story could help others. Talk about what could have been done to avoid the mishap or near miss," he said.

Those who need resources to start a risk management discussion can find them on the NAVSAFECEN website. Nelson recommends a product called "Deckplate Dialogue," which provides information and discussion ideas about numerous safety-related topics. This tool is available for download at>
For more news from Naval Safety Center, visit

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

SUBASE New London Receives $3.2 Million for Infrastructure Improvements

By Seaman Michael Henderson, Naval Submarine Base New London Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment, joined Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell during a ceremony held Dec. 23 at the Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Library and Museum aboard Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London, Conn.

Jackalyne Pfannenstiel is a Connecticut native and attended the ceremony to accept the state's second investment in infrastructure improvements aboard the base.

Rell presented the Navy with a state-sponsored gift of $3.22 million for SUBASE projects which will fund the development of a Virginia class Submarine "training galley", and an expansion of a current Naval Submarine School building that will house a new submarine bridge trainer.

"These projects mean this base will remain the undisputed home for training our nation's submarine crews," said Rell.

In acknowledging the state's gift, Pfannenstiel noted Connecticut's long affinity for the base.

"I grew up a few miles from here," Pfannenstiel said. "I realize how important this SUBASE is to the economy of southeastern Connecticut. And clearly governor Rell realizes it also. We're using this money to modernize the base's infrastructure and maintain cutting-edge technologies. We're giving our people the best training possible, so they have the skills they need to successfully complete their missions."

The training galley will replicate the same conditions and working space that culinary specialists are required to make use of while deploying aboard a Virginia class submarine.

"[It's] a perfect platform for junior culinary specialists in transition to the fleet," said Chief Culinary Specialist Michael Wanca, SUBASE New London Cross Hall Galley leading chief petty officer. "This replica will provide all the characteristics of a full sea going operation, minus the angles and dangles."

According to Wanca, the training galley will allow culinary specialists to be proficient in food preparation, presentation, and sanitation.

"The program will offer not only OJT (on the job training), but also have a classroom setting for professional knowledge and further career development," said Wanca.

Naval Submarine School's Nimitz Hall will be expanded to accommodate the Submarine Bridge Trainer, where submariners will learn navigation and other critical skills.

"They'll operate in a 360-degree virtual environment - so real, that they'll sense the vessel's motion," said Pfannenstiel.

Recognizing the governor's last official visit to the base, and her service and support of the base's fleet, fighters, and families, the Navy New London team presented Rell with a few mementos. The Governor received a National Ensign flown that was flown aboard the base and Connecticut's state ship, Nautilus, as well as the title of honorary submariner, complete with a set of miniature gold "dolphins."

Capt. Marc W. Denno, SUBASE New London commanding officer, highlighted the long-time support of the base by the Connecticut community.

Since the service first received the initial land for the installation through a "Deed of Gift" from the state in 1868, one thing has remained constant, said Denno, "the support our Navy has received from our friends and neighbors in the community."

Three years ago, in a unique initiative, the State of Connecticut, through a Connecticut General Statute, had authorized proceeds from a $50 million bond sale to enhance SUBASE New London's infrastructure.

In 2009, Connecticut became the first state to fully fund a construction project on a base when Rell presented Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus $7.65 million to improve the base.

Last year's funding allowed the construction of a new Diver Support Facility aboard the base and the modernization of a boiler at the base's power plant.

"The base has been transformed from one that was slated for closure a few short years ago…to the winner of "Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic's Award for Installation Excellence," said Rell, "I am very proud of the role the state has played in those changes."

SUBASE New London is home to 15 fast-attack submarines and more than 70 tenant commands and activities.

For more news from Naval Submarine Base New London, visit

Navy Program Puts 'FOCUS' on Military Families

By Elaine Wilson, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A Navy program is equipping service members and their families with the skills they need to weather the psychological and physical challenges bred by a decade of war.

Project FOCUS, or Families OverComing Under Stress, bolsters communication and coping skills among military supporters impacted by multiple deployments and the visible and invisible wounds of war.

"Families make such sacrifices to support service members and their country," said Kirsten Woodward, family programs division director for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "It's important for us to support families in the same manner in which they are sacrificing."

Navy officials created the program in March 2008 after observing the growing effects of wartime stress on family members' psychological health. Little research had been conducted on the impact of war on families up to that point, but what they could find indicated a growing need, said Woodward.

"Back in 2007, we started noticing the effects, and knew it was important to take a look at preventing families from going into health crisis," she said. "We wanted to develop something that would be meaningful and build resilience and health."

Officials designed the program to address the family as a whole, taking into account the community they live in and the military support systems at their fingertips. As a result, the program comprises three parts: an outer and inner tier and a bull's-eye.

The outer tier focuses on providing information and awareness to the communities in which military families live and work, said Woodward. The program educates community members – including social services, family service providers, medical services and schools - on the stressors military families confront and how the community can best support them.

The inner tier is centered on educating and building coping skills among service members and their families, Woodward said. The program provides information on potential stress factors and the skills that can mitigate the impact of multiple deployments.

The program's center, or bull's-eye, is the intervention piece, she said. In this segment, families needing extra care undergo eight to 10 individual training sessions aimed at helping them work through issues. The process starts when a family comes in seeking help.

"It can be a kid acting out or a mom or dad acting disengaged," Woodward said. "We get everyone on a shared language and shared understanding."

Experts take the family through the deployment timeline to identify when issues arose, and to "get everyone on the same page," she explained. They look at family history, the source of family distress and areas of potential change.

Families are taught emotional regulation so they can better understand their emotions and how to communicate them, active listening, problem-solving, goal-setting and how to manage deployment and combat stress reminders.

The color-coded stress continuum is a popular program tool used to aid communication, Woodward said. Family members learn to describe how they're feeling in terms such as green, orange and red.

"A child may not be sure how to say, 'I'm scared,' or 'I'm missing dad or mom,' but may be more comfortable saying, 'I'm in the red,'" Woodward explained. "It's a language they can plug into."

Or, a mom who is having a bad day at work can say she's feeling orange when she comes home, Woodward said. By doing so, the children will know that mom isn't mad at them, but simply needs some decompression time. "It's a great skill-set to quickly and readily use," she said.

The program takes all facets of health into account, Woodward said. Experts may ask chaplains to step in to help a family in spiritual distress. Or, they can refer family members to services that address physical or psychological fitness.

The goal is to provide families with the tools needed to address issues long after they leave the program, Woodward said.

To reach the broadest base of families possible, officials offer onsite and online program options.

The program was instituted two years ago with seven sites and has grown exponentially since, Woodward said. It expanded to 14 sites within the first year and has now reached 23 sites militarywide. Each site includes about three to five experts - including psychologists, social workers and therapists - as well as a site director, and are collocated on bases and in family friendly environments, such as family service centers or chaplains' offices.

For the online option, military families can visit the project's website at, Woodward said. In a Web-based training application called "Focus World," people can create an avatar family and go through the program's components virtually. This virtual application is particularly useful for reserve or geographically separated military families, she added.

The program is open to Navy and Marine Corps families, as well as families of the Army and Air Force, both active and reserve.

The feedback from participants so far has been positive, Woodward said, with parents reporting a greater understanding of their children's needs, increased resilience and a greater sense of support.

"Families are what we come home to at the end of the day," she said. "It's important for us to look at our families, our children, and make sure they're being supported in every way we can."

COMSUBPAC Names 2010 Battle Efficiency Award Winners

By Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge, COMSUBPAC Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) announced the recipients of the 2010 Battle Efficiency (Battle "E") award in an official message to the submarine force Jan. 1.

The Battle "E" is an award of merit presented to the most proficient submarine crew in each squadron and recognizes sustained superior technical performance and continual combat readiness throughout the year. The awards are presented by the commodore of each squadron to the submarine under their command which has demonstrated the highest level of battle readiness during the evaluation year.

"Each crew member of an award winner can be justifiably proud of their contribution to improve Pacific Submarine Force readiness," said Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "Their professionalism and dedication to be the best plays a crucial part in today's worldwide operational environment."

The Pacific Force Battle "E" winners and their homeports are:
Commander, Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) One (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) - USS Hawaii (SSN 776)
SUBRON Three (Pearl Harbor) - USS Jacksonville (SSN 699)
SUBRON Seven (Pearl Harbor) - USS Tucson (SSN 770)
SUBRON Eleven (San Diego) - USS Hampton (SSN 761)
SUBRON Fifteen (Guam) - USS Houston (SSN 713)
SUBRON Seventeen (Bangor, Wash.) - USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) (Blue & Gold)
SUBRON Nineteen (Bangor) - USS Michigan (SSBN 727) (Blue)
Submarine Tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in Guam
Floating Dry Dock Arco (ADRM-5) in San Diego.
Special Category was awarded to the Torpedo Weapons Retriever Swamp Fox (TWR 821) out of San Diego.

Winners of each of the Battle "E" competitive Categories were also announced. Those categories are: the Engineering Red E; Tactical Operations White T; Navigation Red and Green N; Communications Green C; Damage Control Red DC; Supply Blue E; Deck Seamanship White D; Medical Yellow M; Deep Submergence White DS; Strategic Operations White S; Repair Red R; Dental Yellow D; and Weapons Black W.

Nominations Open for Military Child of the Year Award

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 – A nonprofit organization is giving Americans the chance to sing the praises of a group often called the nation’s unsung heroes: military children.

Operation Homefront, a troop- and military family support group, is inviting people to nominate outstanding military children from all branches of service for the 2011 Military Child of the Year Award.

“It is vitally important to recognize military children,” said Jim Knotts, Operation Homefront’s chief executive officer. “I think kids have gotten overlooked as we’ve recognized the sacrifices of the military, and they are such an important aspect of our military community. They deserve to have their moment in the sunshine as well.”

Each winner will receive $5,000 and be flown here with a parent or guardian for a special recognition ceremony April 7.

In the past, just one military child out of the services received the annual top honor. But this year -- the program’s third -- officials have expanded the program to recognize one child each from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

“The sacrifices of military kids are so dramatic,” Knotts said. “They live through and thrive in the face of such great challenges, it is wholly appropriate to recognize more of them.”

A panel of judges -– comprising an Operation Homefront staff member and volunteer service members and spouses -– will select the five winners. The panel will look at objective criteria, such as the number of months a child has dealt with deployments, and at subjective criteria, such as leadership, strength of character, resilience and ability to thrive in the face of challenges, Knotts explained.

Past winners have set a high bar, Knotts said, but he added that he has no doubt many others are just as deserving of the award.

Last year’s winner, 10-year-old Willie Banks, helped to care for his younger sister when his mother deployed to Iraq. His father, an Army major, died when Willie was a toddler. He also volunteers at church, school and on the athletic field.

The year before, Brittany Wallace took the title. When her father was severely injured in Iraq, Brittany took over as head of the household while her mother tended to his rehabilitation. Brittany, who was 17 at the time, took care of her two younger siblings, cleaned the house and made meals –- all while keeping up her grades at school.

“The two past winners are indicative of tens of thousands of exemplary military kids that are out there,” Knotts said.

Nominations will be accepted online until Jan. 31 at Nominees must have a valid military ID or currently be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System, be between the ages of 8 and 18 and able to travel to Washington, D.C., for the April 7 ceremony.

‘Hero Miles’ Program Supports Families of Fallen, Wounded

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 5, 2011 – A popular program that turns donated frequent-flyer miles into free airline tickets for wounded warriors receiving medical care as well as their families will expand this year so families of the fallen and combat wounded can participate in two upcoming events.

The Fisher House Foundation, which administers the “Hero Miles” program, plans to offer airline tickets so grieving families needing assistance can fly to Washington, D.C., this Memorial Day weekend to participate in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors seminar, foundation President Dave Coker told American Forces Press Service.

The annual conference, to run May 27 to 30, offers a camp for children, a workshop for adults and comfort for families whose military member died in service to the nation, regardless of the cause.

“We will use Hero Miles to bring in any families that need assistance, and eliminate the cost of getting to [Washington,] D.C. as a barrier,” Coker said.

In addition, the Hero Miles program will help families to attend the second annual Warrior Games held in the spring in Colorado Springs, Colo., Coker said.

Some 200 disabled active-duty servicemembers and military veterans will compete in the second annual Warrior Games, scheduled for May 16 to 21 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Participants will put their long recuperations and months of training to the test as they go for the gold in events to include shooting, swimming, archery, track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball, officials said.

Coker called it fitting that the Hero Miles program helps families who might otherwise not get the opportunity to participate in these events.

“Our goal is to eliminate the barriers to participation, and make sure that families who wish to attend these events can do so,” he said.

The Fisher House Foundation has been underwriting all administrative costs and ticketing charges for the Hero Miles program since 2005. The Hero Miles program provides a way for passengers of participating airlines to donate their unused frequent-flier miles to reunite military men and women undergoing treatment at a military or Veterans Affairs medical center with their families.

The program provides free round-trip airline tickets to two categories of passengers. Servicemembers on at least five days of approved leave from their medical center who don’t qualify for government-funded airfare can receive tickets home and back. In addition, qualified servicemembers may receive tickets to enable their family or close friends to visit them while they’re treated at the medical center.

To date, the program has provided more than 21,000 airline tickets -– valued at more than $27 million -- to combat veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, Coker said.

Coker marveled at the generosity of people who donate their frequent-flyer miles to support the program.

“The miles have no intrinsic value, and [donors] aren’t getting a tax deduction for donating the miles,” he said. “They are doing it because they want to support the military.”

For as little as $5, or more typically, $10, the program can provide free airline tickets to servicemembers or families that otherwise might cost them about $1,400, Coker said.

“So this is a tremendous way that we can have a huge impact,” he added.