Military News

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

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

This Day in Naval History - March 22

From the Navy News Service

1820 - Commodore Stephen Decatur dies after a duel with Capt. James Barron.
1915 - "Naval aviator" replaces "Navy air pilot" for officers qualified as aviators.
1929 - Navy ships protect Americans and their property during a Mexican revolution.
1946 - USS Missouri (BB 63) departs the United States to return the body of a deceased Turkish ambassador to Turkey for burial. Missouri arrived in Istanbul April 5.

Patrol Squadron 4 Surveys Tsunami Damage Over Japan

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

NORTHERN JAPAN (NNS) -- Patrol Squadron 4 (VP 4) took to the air from Naval Air Facility Misawa (NAFM) to conduct an eight-hour field survey of ports in northern Japan, March 22.

Since their reposition to NAFM on March 16, the squadron is continuing its relief efforts by gathering information on the current status of ports, roads and infrastructure in cities along the eastern coastline that were affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

With the P-3 squadron's communication and real-time capabilities, the Navy will gain more knowledge of where it can provide vital humanitarian and relief support in Operation Tomodachi.

"I think the mission has been going very well," said Lt. Peter Kennedy, who serves as a patrol plane commander assigned to Patrol Squadron 4. "As a P-3 Squadron we are able to adapt on short notice which has made our efforts here so successful. We are receiving great support from Commander, Task Force 72 staff and overall our team is providing a very good product."

The Hawaii-based squadron's move to NAFM from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Japan has increased the Squadron's time on site and reduced their time in transit.

According to Lt.j.g. Hector Robles, assigned to VP 4, the move has been a big advantage for them.

"While we had success flying out of Kadena, the location we are in today provides us with greater time on site," he said. "The work we have been doing here is very rewarding."

Another effort to increase their effectiveness is by conducting eight-hour flight missions from NAFM. This way the Squadron takes advantage of sunlight so they can gather better imagery on site.

Naval Air Crewman (Operational Level) 2nd Class Jeff Graham, assigned to VP 4 , operates the Advanced Imaging Multi-spectrum Sensor aboard the aircraft. The sensor, located on the nose of the aircraft, takes detailed imagery and has streaming video capabilities.

Graham said some of the images he has seen have been hard to believe. However, he is confident that, with help from the U.S. and the determination of the Japanese people, the "Land of the Rising Sun" will recover from the disaster.

"It will take a while," he said. "I do think the more resources and information that is provided to the Japanese people will help things continue to get better for the country."

Navy Family Members Arrive at Travis Air Force Base

Melinda L. Larson, NAS Lemoore Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NNS) -- Hundreds of military family members were welcomed to Travis Air Force Base (AFB) following an 11 hour flight from Yokota Air Base, Japan, as part of an authorized voluntary departure of DoD dependents and Navy civilians, March 22.

"We take care of our Sailors. Our job is to make this transition as smooth and efficient as possible for families during this arduous time," said Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore Command Master Chief Matt Laing, who spearheaded the Navy's relief effort at Travis AFB. "These families have been under a lot of stress since the tsunami and we want to make sure they get to where they need to be as quickly as possible."

When the flight arrived at the terminal, weary family members were helped down the aircraft's stairs and assisted through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection process. Orders were written, needs assessed and final destinations determined. The importance of enrollment in the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS) was also stressed.

"This is an unusual circumstance for these family members, so it's important they have all the information they need to make a successful transition," said Garland Whetzler, an exceptional family member liaison from NAS Lemoore's Fleet and Family Support Center. "NFAAS is a vital tool for staying connected and informed, especially now."

Of the 330 Navy family members who arrived, 155 were under the age of 12. For one Navy wife traveling with three kids and a dog from Yokosuka, Japan, the reception at Travis AFB was a welcome relief.

"Everyone has been real friendly getting us through this situation. All the help and the smiles have been wonderful. They've really been catering to the kids," said Angelica Hogan, who was happy to have someone read to her 3-year old at the terminal.

Hogan said she left the island with mixed emotions.

"It was a hard decision to leave," Hogan said.
The trip wasn't quite as emotional for her 12-year old daughter, Chardanae, who's looking forward to getting to her grandmother's house in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I'm just hoping grandma cooks us a Sunday dinner," she said.

The Navy will continue to support relief efforts at Travis AFB.

For more information on the voluntary authorized departure for eligible DoD family members from designated areas in Japan, read NAVADMIN 093/11 at www.npc.navy.mil>

All Sailors or family members who are in need of assistance should utilize the NFAAS support site at www.navyfamily.navy.mil to ensure the Navy can track and assess support requirements for all parties affected.

Navy Fleet and Family Support Center has a 24-hour hotline available to provide family support information at 866-854-0638.

1238 US Military Servicemembers have Authored Books

The addition of former US Army Soldier David Couzins, www.miliary-writers.com now lists 1238 servicemembers and the 3944 books they have written.

David Couzins is the son of a career Air Force officer and is an honorably discharged veteran formerly assigned as an infantryman with the US Army’s 25th Infantry Division. Mr. Couzins participated in combat training and security operations throughout the Hawaiian Islands, in the Philippines, and Australia.


David Couzins spent the last dozen years working in large international law firms helping lawyers use computer technology to manage the millions of corporate documents involved in today’s high stakes commercial litigation and government investigations. After living twenty years in the Washington, D.C. area, Mr. Couzins now lives near Chicago with his wife and their three children. David Couzins is the author of Domers.

According to the book description of Domers, it is “an action/adventure novel with an anti-big government theme... 2080 A.D., the United States is a "virtual" country whose citizens have lived for sixty years under millions of family-sized domes, hermetically sealed with no windows and no access to the Outside where the rest of the world faces virus pandemics, riots inspired by worldwide economic chaos, and terrorists killing millions with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Tom Corant is a US Army sergeant who fights battles all over the world by remotely controlling armed infantry robots from the safety of his bedroom. Tom is happy with life in the dome he was born into twenty-four years ago. Tom met, courted, fell in love with, and proposed marriage to Jenny Salem all on-line via the SuperNet, the high-bandwidth communications web that connects the 75 million dome homes that make up the United States of America. While the betrothed couple is being transported to their own dome to start their life together, they are kidnapped by a Mexican army patrol roaming the dangerous Outside.

Tom and Jenny are rescued by Roving Wolf, a Comanche scout whose people (like all other Native American Indian nations) were exempted from mandatory doming and who now live free in their native lands among millions of buffalo in the reconstituted bison herds of the Great Plains. Roving Wolf is ordered to escort the couple across the desert southwest where a multi-tribe Native American army is collaborating with the dome society's military to repel an imminent invasion by the ambitious military dictator of Mexico. During their journey, Tom and Jenny are exposed for the first time to Nature and to Freedom. Tom comes to realize that the domes are prisons and he learns the truth behind the doming of America. Tom vows to free his family, fight against the system, to expose the government's lies, and to someday make the Domers understand that the safety offered by dome life is not worth the price.”

Military Families Arrive in Jacksonville From Japan

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Stuart Phillips, Navy Public Affairs Support Element - East

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- U.S. military family members evacuating Japan arrived at Jacksonville International Airport (JIA) as part of an authorized voluntary departure of DoD dependents and Navy civilians, March 21.

The departure was authorized due to damage caused by the recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

The ten family members were met by Sailors, Navy chaplains, a Fleet and Family Service Center counselor, an individual augmentee case management coordinator and Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS JAX) Command Master Chief Brad Shepherd.

"We came to give support to the families coming in today from Japan," said Lt. Cmdr. Shannon Skidmore, NAS Jax command chaplain. "The command is fully engaged to support these family members who had to come back in a hurry. It's a time of turmoil in their lives, and we just want to provide them with a little stability, show them a friendly face and give them a hand of support."

Recipients of this show of support were quick to express gratitude.

"Seeing all these people here at the end of our trip was a big relief," said Randreaka Hodge, a Navy wife and mother of four young children ranging in ages from one to 11 years-old. "The trip was approximately 14 hours, but the hardest part was trying to stay calm for my children. It was stressful trying to keep track of the luggage and keep the kids calm while not knowing what's next."

Hodge's father, Randy Jackson, was happy to see his daughter and grandchildren safe and sound.

"I feel so much happier seeing them here," said Jackson. "I can sleep at night now. I was really worried about them over there. It was hard watching the news and hearing her cry on the telephone while I was here knowing there was nothing I could do. I'm so grateful they were able to get them home so quickly."

For question on personnel matters related to the disaster in Japan, visit http://www.navy.mil/cnp/index.asp.

All Sailors or family members who are in need of assistance should utilize the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System support site at https://www.navyfamily.navy.mil.

Gates: Missile Defense Cooperation Will Deter Future Foes

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

MOSCOW, March 22, 2011 – European missile defense was one of the top issues here today as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and later with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

In a grand guest house on the grounds of the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense, Gates, Serdyukov and 20 officials, diplomats and policy experts met to discuss the way forward on a range of technical issues, chief among them European missile defense.

“An issue of great importance to both of our leaders is establishing a framework for European security that can strengthen stability, predictability and security for all nations on the continent,” Gates said at a news conference after the meeting.

“We continue to have an intensive discussion on missile defense cooperation,” the secretary added, “and although we still have differences that need to be resolved, we continue to make progress within a bilateral framework and exploring opportunities to cooperate through the NATO-Russia Council.”

Serdyukov said through an interpreter that the leaders spent much time on missile defense “because this is one of the issues which neither we nor our U.S. counterparts have a simple and unequivocal answer to.”

After the Lisbon Summit of the NATO-Russia Council in November, he said, “we face new capabilities for cooperation. Today we shared our views on the possible ways to address this issue and we have a common understanding that cooperation is better than confrontation.”

Serdyukov and Gates agreed that experts in a special working group would continue such discussions.

Later, at Medvedev’s dacha about 45 minutes outside Moscow, Gates and his wife Becky dined with Medvedev and several other U.S. and Russian officials.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said about half of the hour-long conversation focused on missile defense.

“The secretary told President Medvedev that we are sincere in our belief that the United States and Russia ought to implement the European missile defense plan together, Morrell said.

“We can do this in a way that improves NATO and Russian security,” Gates told the Russian president. “I think we can do this together to both of our benefits.”

Gates “expressed to President Medvedev his belief that if we are able to cooperate on missile defense, it would send a powerful signal to rest of world, Morrell said.

The secretary said it would be helpful not just in dealing with the threat emanating from Iran, but from unknown threats that may emerge from the upheaval in the Middle East.

“This would be a strong deterrent to future foes,” Gates told Medvedev.

A senior defense official who attended the dinner said Medvedev indicated that “the Russians are genuinely interested in cooperation, but at the same time they remain concerned about the effects of our European phased-adaptive approach [for missile defense] on their own strategic deterrence down the road.”

According to a White House fact sheet on U.S. missile defense policy, the approach is based on an assessment of Iran’s missile threat and a commitment to deploy proven, adaptable technology to an evolving security environment.

The missile defense architecture features deployments of increasingly capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors and a range of sensors in Europe, the fact sheet says, adding that the four-phased approach addresses today’s threats but could quickly be adapted to respond to evolving threats.

Gates “underscored [President Barack] Obama’s sincere commitment for succeeding and finding basis for cooperation on missile defense as a NATO-Russia project,” the defense official said.

The secretary said the goal is to find a way for Russia to be an equal partner with the United States and other allies and offered some concrete ideas for how the system can be made to work in practice.

Gates, the official said, noted that beyond Iran, which has been the focus, upheavals today in the Middle East could pose other threats down the road and “it would make sense for us to begin now to establish the basis for working together to counter these kinds of threats.”

Putting U.S. and Russian officers side by side in a cooperative framework, the secretary told Medvedev, would give the Russians more transparency about U.S. programs and allay many of their concerns about effects on their deterrence.

“The secretary ended on quite a positive note,” the defense official said. “He was very optimistic that he could make this work and I think [Gates and Medvedev] agreed that we have to listen to one another’s ideas.”

Medvedev, Serdyukov and Gates agreed that the U.S.-Russia defense working groups would reconvene in early April, the official said.

“Serdukov reminded the secretary that they would see each other at the June NATO-Russia Council defense ministers meeting in Brussels, and that they would both try to make concrete progress by that time,” he added.

At the outset of the discussion, Morrell said, there was recognition and appreciation on both sides that the U.S.-Russia relationship has been trending in a positive direction.

“The reset has had an impact over the past two years,” Morrell said. “The overall progression in the relationship is allowing discussions about some of these ideas to perhaps be more fruitful than they were in the past.”

This is typical of Gates whose practical approach Morrell described as “methodical, keep moving forward, keep engaging, keep trying to make progress, find areas of agreement and build upon those.”

Morrell added, “As Secretary Gates said to President Medvedev and earlier to Minister Serdyukov, ’We don’t profess to have revealed truth on this matter. We have some ideas, we put them forth, but we are open to considering other ideas on how to reach a point where we can cooperate on the system.’”

Sailors Share Life at Sea during Mississippi Navy Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Davis Anderson, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

JACKSON, Miss. (NNS) -- New Orleans Naval Recruiting District Sailors visited Walton Elementary School in Jackson, Miss., to read to students and promote literacy, March 21.

This event was part of Mississippi Navy Week 2011, a week-long celebration which brings Sailors from the fleet into areas that do not have a significant naval presence.

"I think they (the students) were really excited," said Walton Elementary School Principal Gwen Gardner. "I mean just seeing Sailors in uniform; they wanted them to put their hats back on. The questions they asked, I thought they asked very good questions. They were very impressed. The students really enjoyed it."

The event kicked off with an assembly where the 5th grade students interacted with the Sailors, asking them questions about life at sea and what it took to be in the Navy.

"The children see (Sailors) being role models for them, and then they (the Sailors) came out and read in the classroom, which is really wonderful, because we promote literacy" said Gardner. "It's great for them to see that even men in uniform like to read."

The Sailors in the schools also showed the students that there are opportunities for everyone in the service.

"I think having the Navy to come out and talk to the students was a wonderful opportunity and experience for them," said Gardner. "It really lets them see that there are careers out there."

Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

Soldier Inspires Others With Brain-injury Recovery

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 – His first significant brain injury was a setback, but when he experienced several more a few years later, Army Capt. Galen Peterson figured he’d reached the end of his military career.

“One of the biggest things that I struggled with when I was going through [traumatic brain injury] is the impression that my career and life as I knew it was over, that there was no way I could stay on active duty, much less an armor officer,” he said.

But with hard work and perseverance, he was able not only to remain on active duty, but also to take on his current job as the rear detachment commander for the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, at Fort Carson, Colo.

While he endured several attacks, Peterson first was significantly injured when a roadside bomb exploded next to his tank in Iraq in 2006. He suffered shrapnel wounds, an injured shoulder and a mild traumatic brain injury, commonly known as a concussion.
“We were doing a patrol,” he said. “I don’t really remember much else.”

Peterson was evacuated to Balad, and then on to Landstuhl, Germany. He returned to his unit toward the end of the deployment, just in time to return with them to Fort Carson.

About a year later, Peterson returned to Iraq to take part in the offensive in Sadr City. In March 2008, Peterson’s unit was called on to build a wall around Sadr City as part of the anti-insurgency effort, and underwent intense fire from rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices. In April, Peterson’s tank again was hit by an IED.

While he experienced symptoms, including severe vomiting, he hid them from his medic and unit for fear of being “benched” again. However, Peterson again was injured in June, when his tank was struck with another IED. This time, he suffered a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs and another TBI, which knocked him unconscious for a few hours following the blast.

Peterson was sent to a combat support hospital, and eventually to Fort Carson. He was diagnosed with moderate TBI this time, which can result in short- or long-term problems with independent function, and entered rehabilitation that would last for about nine months.

“It was pretty difficult,” he said. “I think the first several months though, I just existed, and that was about it. I don’t think I really had a whole lot of thoughts during that period.”

Peterson struggled with severe symptoms related to the brain injuries, including a “permanent migraine,” balance and vision issues, and difficulty reading, focusing and even thinking.

Early on, Peterson said, he focused on the “here and now,” but as his recovery progressed, he struggled with frustration over what he perceived as his “stupidity,” a tough pill to swallow for an accomplished officer and West Point graduate.

“I wasn’t sure what kind of recovery I would get,” he said. “And then as therapy went along, one of the frustrating things was [that] it was hard for me to see progress, because it’s very slow, very subtle progress.”

Peterson underwent intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy. It was a tough time, he said, but looking back now, he acknowledges how much of a difference even the most challenging aspects of therapy made.

“It was very frustrating, it was very painful, but it was pretty good stuff,” he said. “It made a huge difference.

“When I was done, my therapist showed me … my work over the course of the several months of rehab,” he added. “Looking back on it now and talking with people who knew me and were around for my recovery, it’s pretty impressive to look at it from my standpoint.”

Peterson credits much of his recovery to a strong support system that includes his rear detachment, friends and family, and his wife, Sarah, who is a nurse at a local hospital. The couple met before his first deployment, but didn’t tie the knot until Peterson was nearing the end of his recovery.

“She’s been a pillar of support in terms of moral support,” he said of his wife. The couple now has a daughter, Brynn, who was born in December.

These days, Peterson said, he’s “pretty much completely back to normal.”

“There are a few things that trip me up, that I still have issues with, but by and large I’m back in the full swing of things,” he said. “I’m able to do my duties without … interference. I’m able to keep track of all the different pieces of information that are constantly running through my head from day-to-day operations. I’m able to work out without having headaches or falling over. I’m about as close to 100 percent as you can expect.”

With his life back on track, Peterson now has turned his attention to helping other service members. He’s bringing a message of hope to others facing brain injuries through a video profile posted on the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury website.

Peterson said he hopes other people will be inspired by his recovery story –- a story he would like to have heard when he first was injured.

The key message he’d like to get across is for people to “hang in there.”

“Don’t give up hope on it,” he said.

The video also contains a message about the importance of seeking help. “It takes strength to admit that you need help, and it takes a lot more strength to be patient enough with yourself to allow yourself to recover, and eventually you do,” Peterson said in the video. “There’s no shame in getting checked out like you’re supposed to.”

Peterson also advises soldiers to keep an eye out for symptoms in their battle buddies, who may be better able to recognize symptoms in others than themselves. Some common symptoms of mild TBI include headache, dizziness, balance problems, fatigue, ringing in ears, poor concentration, memory problems, anxiety, irritability and depression.

Most people recover from mild TBI within three months, according to a TBI fact sheet, and even if someone has had more than one concussion, a full recovery is expected.

Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Holds Change of Command Ceremony

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer N. Barnes, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10 held a change of command ceremony aboard Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., March 15.

Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski relieved Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll as Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. Driscoll had commanded CSG 10 since April 2009.

"I am one of those lucky people who stumbled upon what they were meant to do in life and was able to live it," Driscoll said. "I love naval aviation. I love the people, the aircraft, the carrier flying and the service we provide to the nation. It is honorable work. Over the years I have observed many carrier strike group commanders and tried to learn as much as I could in the unlikely event that I would win the naval aviation lottery and actually command one someday. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this capacity."

In May 2010, CCSG-10 deployed with USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), USS Normandy (CG 60), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, and Destroyer Squadron 26 in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. As commander of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, CSG 10 was responsible for the tactical operation and maintenance of ten U.S. ships, several coalition Navy ships, and the integration of surface, subsurface, and air assets to execute assigned tasking.

Driscoll will report as the deputy chief of staff for Operations and Fleet/Joint Training aboard U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

Shelanski served as the director of the Navy's Environmental Readiness Division since June 2009, and joined the Secretary of Defense Special Task Force to study the effects on the military by the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in February 2010. He previously commanded USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

"Now this is an adventure I am truly humbled to become a part of," Shelanski said. "Even though I was member of Strike Group 10 just two short years ago, its reputation and accomplishments have risen to new heights. I have huge shoes to fill. To all the Sailors of Carrier Strike Group 10, although our first year together will be one of shipyards and maintenance, or squadron transition and turnaround training; how we do it will set the course true for the successful accomplishment of real world operations. We must [continue to develop] our tactical and operational way of thinking and training to be ready."

Carrier Strike Group 10's origins stem from Destroyer Flotilla 2, which was established during World War I in Newport, R.I., and served throughout the 1930s as a caretaker of Reserve destroyers.

Continuing Resolutions Hinder Efficiency, Official Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 – Funding the government through a series of continuing resolutions rather than approving a budget is “miserably inefficient,” the Pentagon’s acquisition executive said yesterday.

Congress has approved a series of short-term continuing resolutions since Sept. 29 that prohibit new contracts and limit spending to previous authorized levels. The most recent three-week extension took effect March 18 and funds the government through April 8.

Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told attendees at a missile defense conference here that the resolutions have the worst effect on the department’s best-managed programs.

“They were already on a razor’s edge –- that’s where you want them,” he said. “You knew exactly what you were doing, exactly when you were going to do it and exactly how you were going to do it.”

Defense programs planned for maximum efficiency under the proposed 2011 budget have instead been subject to delays and slowdowns, Carter said.

“It wastes money,” he said. “Billions of dollars will be the cost of having to slow down something now, only to accelerate it later because the funding wasn’t available.”

Carter also discussed the nation’s growing emphasis on missile defense technology and how that program meets DOD’s strict spending guidelines. Missile defense -- for decades a research and development program at the margins of the nation’s defense effort -- now is central to the nation’s military strategy, he said. As missile defense components reach the deployment stage, he added, demand now exceeds supply.

Combatant commanders in all geographic theaters are asking for ballistic missile defense capabilities, he said, adding they “want more of it than we have.”

Meanwhile, as the nation’s military balances the costs of equipping troops at war against funding emerging priorities such as missile defense, the department must ensure the best value for every dollar, Carter said.

“The country is looking to us to give them what they expect, what we have on the books, what we say they need [for defense] … and not less, for a not-ever-increasing amount of money,” he said. “It’s not an unreasonable request.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates launched an initiative in May to increase efficiencies, reduce overhead costs and eliminate redundant functions in the department. Carter said that as the Pentagon faces sharply reduced budget growth over the next decade, Gates’ guidance focuses on the need for department officials to “sharpen our managerial game.”

The Missile Defense Agency has done “a terrific job in a number of areas” to control costs, even as demand for missile defense capabilities soars, Carter said. Agency cost-containment measures include offering incentives for on-schedule programs, managing the supply chain, increasing the number of contracts in competition and consolidating service contracts.

“In most ways, MDA was already managing [according to the principles of] better buying power a couple of years ago,” Carter said. “I wish all our managers were. Soon, they will be, and we really need to do that.”

Family Matters Blog: DODEA Stands Up Crisis Centers

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 – The Department of Defense Education Activity has established crisis centers to assist parents of its students and employees who are affected by the voluntary relocations from Japan and Bahrain. The centers are accessible by phone or email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, see the American Forces Press Service article, “New Centers Assist With Relocations,” or visit the DODEA website.

Other sites include the operational status of DODEA schools in Japan and information on school delays or closures in Bahrain.

If you’ve been affected by the relocations and would like to share your story or pass on information, please don’t hesitate to write in.

To comment on this blog, or read other posts, visit the Family Matters website. Email Elaine Wilson at elaine.wilson@dma.mil.

Tax Laws Benefit Troops, Families

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 – Service members and their families have a few tax advantages at their disposal, as well as a few extra days in which to complete their taxes this year, a Defense Department tax expert said.

Due to Emancipation Day, a holiday recognized by the District of Columbia, government officials have pushed the nation’s tax filing deadline from April 15 to April 18, Army Lt. Col. Evan Stone, director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, told American Forces Press Service.

Along with the filing extension, Stone pointed out several new and existing tax laws military members and their spouses should keep in mind as the deadline draws near.

To start, people may have noticed an increase in their take-home pay, Stone said. The government, he explained, reduced the Social Security tax from 6.2 percent of wages to 4.2 percent solely for the 2011 tax year.

“For example, a specialist with over two years of service would probably see about a $40 increase per month in his pay,” Stone said. But while take-home pay is on the rise, tax brackets won’t change. Congress extended the 2010 tax brackets through 2011 and 2012, he said.

Other tax laws are specific to military members and their spouses, Stone said, citing the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion as an example. Under this exclusion, for any day a member spends in a combat zone, that entire month’s worth of base pay is excluded from gross income for income tax purposes, he explained.

There’s no limit to this exclusion for enlisted members and warrant officers, he noted; however, officers are limited to $7,714.80. “Anything above that would be included in the member’s gross income,” he said.

Deployed service members and their spouses also have at least a 180-day extension to file or pay taxes from the date they leave the combat zone, Stone said. To invoke this extension, people should write “combat zone” across the top of their return.

Service members on duty outside of the United States also are entitled to an automatic two-month extension, pushing the deadline to June 18. However, unlike with the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion, while they gain an extension to file and pay taxes, the interest on any taxes owed still will accrue from April 18 until taxes are paid, Stone said.

A significant tax break involves military allowances, he said. Under competitive compensation, housing and food allowances are nontaxable for income tax purposes, reducing taxable income at the end of the year and creating a savings of about $2,000 to $7,000, depending on salary, he explained.

“This can be significant, with tens of thousands of dollars that aren’t taxable,” he said.

Turning to state income taxes, Stone noted they can be complicated for service members and their families, who move with greater frequency than many of their civilian counterparts. The Service Members’ Civil Relief Act has long granted service members the ability to retain their state of domicile for state tax purposes rather than the state where they are stationed.

For example, a service member may be stationed in Virginia, but owns a home, pays property taxes and votes in Ohio. That member is entitled to claim Ohio has the state of domicile and not file state income taxes for military wages in Virginia.

The government amended this same law in 2009 through the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. In the past, a military spouse who moved to a new state and established a new residence there typically would claim that state as the state of domicile and pay state income taxes there, Stone explained. Now, spouses who move to a new state, reside there solely to live with their service member and are there pursuant to military orders won’t gain or lose a state of domicile for state income tax purposes. Some states, he added, also may require the spouse to have the same domicile as the service member to be eligible.

However, the law is complicated, Stone said, and each state may apply different guidance on the application of the relief act. He suggested spouses discuss their situation with a tax advisor to avoid being double taxed.

To help with this tax law and others, service members and their spouses have a host of free, expert tax-preparation services at their disposal, Stone said, from on-base centers to online software.

People can visit most any installation around the world for free, in-person tax-preparation assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, Stone said. The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees this program, which is managed locally by installation legal assistance offices and supervised by their respective service, he added.

Volunteer tax preparers are a mix of military members and civilians with tax experience or just a desire to help, Stone said. All volunteers are trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service before they’re able to prepare taxes.

“It’s a very popular program,” he said. Last year, “we electronically filed over 250,000 returns.”

People can locate their closest military legal assistance office through the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Legal Services Locator at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.

Service members and their families also can take advantage of free, online electronic tax filing services through Military OneSource. The customized program offers free federal filing and free filing for up to three states.

People can access the H&R Block at Home program by going to Military OneSource at http://www.militaryonesource.com/ and clicking on "Tax Filing Services.” For free tax-related phone consultations, people can call the Military OneSource Tax Hotline at 1-800-730-3802 seven days a week from to

The online program is open to active-duty Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force personnel; Guard and Reserve service members regardless of activation status; as well as spouses, dependent children and family members standing in for a deployed service member.
Whether filing in person or online, Stone suggested people take advantage of the free advice offered at military tax centers.

“Even the simplest return may have issues or deductions or credits that a person might not be aware of,” he said.

To ease the process, Stone suggested people gather Social Security cards, wage and earning statements, interest and dividend statements, last year’s returns if available, bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit, and other relevant information prior to a tax appointment. He also stressed the importance of attention to detail, noting that a common error is for people to enter the wrong Social Security numbers on IRS forms.

For more on military-related tax laws, people should visit the Military OneSource website or the IRS website, which features a section for service members and their families.

USS Constitution Sailors Give Naval History Lessons during Austin Navy Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald, USS Constitution Public Affairs

ROUND ROCK, Texas (NNS) -- USS Constitution Sailors taught more than 100 students about their ship's history at Chisholm Trail Middle School in Round Rock, Texas March 21.

Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW) Anthony Costa, Logistics Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Benjamin Hanson, Gas Turbine Systems Electrician Technician 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jose Meza, Culinary Specialist Seaman Sondra Baier and Logistics Specialist Seaman Maria Escamilla gave their presentation as part of Austin Navy Week, March 19-26.

"To be able to educate the younger children, not only the history of USS Constitution, but also the history of the nation and our mission as the U.S. Navy is extremely benefiting," said Meza.

Sailors talked about Constitution's construction, her famous battle with HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812 and the ship in modern times. Finally, they answered questions from students about the Navy.

"I knew a little bit about USS Constitution before the presentation," said DeAnthony Baker, 8th grade student. "It helps bring together what I've learned and read about the ship seeing Sailors from Constitution."

Sailors assigned to Constitution undergo 20 weeks of naval history training, along with additional weekly training. They will also provide history presentations at Clint Small Middle School March 24, and Bedichek Middle School March 25.

"I hope by sharing the history of 'Old Ironsides' and the current state of our Navy will help relate the students to us and show them that we are a global force for good," said Hanson.

Austin is the second of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2011. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

Constitution is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. She is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors per year.

Face of Defense: Crime Fighter Works With New Partner

By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif., March 22, 2011 – Crime fighting can be a dog-eat-dog world, but with his new four-legged partner by his side, Nadeem Seirafi, a Marine Corps Police Department working dog handler here, is ready to face the challenges that lay ahead.

Seirafi is teamed up with Kit Kat, an energetic 2-year-old German shepherd, after switching to one of his dream jobs.

“My partner’s never sick, he’s never late, he doesn’t talk back and he’s always happy to see me,” Seirafi said with a smile.

Before assuming responsibility for Kit Kat, the 32-year-old officer attended the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. “The school was fun, and I really learned a lot,” Seirafi said. “Like most military schools, they put a lot of work on your plate, but I had a lot of fun learning a new skill set.”

The 11-week course covered training and patrolling with a dog, searching buildings and detecting narcotics and explosives.

Seirafi’s furry sidekick will have a tall task in front of him when it comes to living up to the standard his master already has set here. Seifari received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award nearly a year ago for reviving a 19-month-old toddler at the commissary. He also received the 2010 Security and Emergency Services Lifesaving Award from Maj. Gen. Anthony L. Jackson, commander of Marine Corps Installations West.

“I was humbled and a little embarrassed,” Seirafi said. “I felt that I was just doing my job, and I wasn’t used to being the center of attention in front of so many high-ranking people. The general thanked me for doing a good job and told me the Marine Corps was proud of me and to keep up the good work.”

Seirafi expects great things from his collared co-worker.

“Kit Kat has come a long way since his training started, because he was really hyper when I first got him,” he said. “He’s a bit of a loner too, which I like, because he doesn’t need all of your attention 100 percent of the time like most dogs.

“I think we’ll be a good team because we both love to work,” he continued. “We might even be the next Turner & Hooch.”

Military Families from Japan Arrive to Support In Seattle

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Nathan Lockwood, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

SEATTLE (NNS) -- SEATTLE – More than 120 DoD family members arrived at Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC) March 21, from Japan.

Fleet and Family Support Centers throughout Navy Region Northwest provided assistance with lodging, relocation, child care, new parent support, phone contact information, interpretation services and along with Navy Region Northwest's manpower department, helped families with Navy Family Accounting and Assessment System (NFAAS) updates.

"NFAAS is actually critical," said Lynne Flynn, program director for Fleet and Family Support Center, Naval Base Kitsap. "We have to make sure we know where all our family members are, so in-taking them here is critical in inputing them into NFAAS."

NFAAS is a standardized method for the Navy to account, manage, and monitor the recovery process for personnel and their families affected by a wide-spread catastrophic event. The NFAAS provides valuable information to all levels of the Navy chain of command, allowing commanders to make strategic decisions which facilitate a return to stability.

"NFAAS plays a very big role in accounting for the families as they leave Japan, and again once again when they land here," said Navy Region Northwest Regional Master Chief (AW/SW) Dave Bisson. "Make sure that we understand where all the family members are so we can account for them at any given time."

After landing at SEATAC the families were given a short briefing on what to expect during the check-in process after landing. Once the families departed the plane Naval Base Kitsap Command Chaplain Cmdr. Manuel Biadog, Jr. greeted and led them to baggage claim where Sailors waited to help transport bags provide escorts to the next station in the check-in process.

"The process was great; I was surprised how organized it was," said Stephanie Castro, wife of Lt. Jaime Castro from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. "Everybody helped with the bags. A bunch of us are traveling alone with several kids and that can be hard, but I was really impressed with everybody's generosity."

Along with the families, 19 pets arrived and were taken to a pet staging area where they were accounted for, fed and watered then examined and treated by an Army veterinarian.

Two DoD-chartered flights carrying more than 350 passengers have arrived at SEATAC to date. The first flight arrived March 19, bringing more than 230 family members. The second flight arrived today. Presently, an estimated 6,800 family members are expected to arrive at SEATAC as part of Operation Tomodachi on 20 separate flights.

For more information on the voluntary authorized departure for eligible DoD family members from designated areas in Japan, read NAVADMIN 093/11 at www.npc.navy.mil.

All Sailors or family members who are in need of assistance should utilize the NFAAS support site at www.navyfamily.navy.mil to ensure the Navy can track and assess support requirements for all parties affected. Navy Fleet and Family Support Center has a 24-hour hotline available to provide family support information at 866-854-0638.

Official Outlines Global Missile Defense Strategy

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2011U.S. efforts to build effective missile defenses are more important than ever for defending the nation and its deployed forces and for cooperating with allies and partners, a senior defense policy official said today.

James N. Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told attendees at a missile defense conference here that the nation’s missile defense efforts, while focused on a few emerging threats, also span the globe.

“We continue to focus on Iran and North Korea as particular threats to us and our allies,” Miller said.

Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, he said, and is working to develop salvo-launch and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities.

North Korea, despite the “urgent humanitarian needs of its destitute population,” is likewise modernizing its missile arsenal, Miller said. North Korea’s inventory already includes “a substantial number of mobile ballistic missiles that could strike targets in South Korea, Japan, and U.S. bases in the Pacific,” he added.

Both nations’ nuclear potential increases U.S. strategic concerns about missile defense, Miller said, and other nations and nonstate actors also pose a significant threat.

The United States adopted a phased, adaptive approach to European ballistic missile defense in 2009 to deter and defend against “the development, acquisition, deployment and use of ballistic missiles by regional adversaries,” he said. The strategy relies heavily on systems that can be relocated, allowing the United States and its allies to adjust to a complex and changing threat environment, he explained. The approach will bring together sea-, land- and space-based systems in four phases of deployment through 2020, Miller said.

“Technological advances or future changes in the threats could modify the … timing of the later phases,” he said. “That’s one reason the approach is called adaptive.”

NATO endorsed the phased, adaptive approach and agreed to make current and future missile defense systems interoperable across NATO, he said.

Looking beyond Europe, U.S. strategy is to apply the phased, adaptive missile defense approach in other regions, particularly in East Asia and the Middle East, he said.

In Asia, the United States is partnered with key allies including Japan, Australia and South Korea to enhance missile defense, he said. Japan now has a layered ballistic missile defense capability that includes U.S. tracking systems, interceptors, early warning radars and a command-and-control structure that integrates those technologies, Miller said.

“We regularly train together, and have successfully executed simulated cooperative [ballistic missile defense] operations,” he said. “We’re also engaged in cooperative development of the next-generation … interceptor, which is projected to enter service in 2018.”

China obviously is a key component of security strategy in the Pacific, Miller said.

“The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that plays a greater global role in supporting international rules, norms of responsible behavior and institutions,” he said. At the same time, he said, the United States and China’s neighbors remain concerned about its military buildup and objectives. Miller noted that China likely is nearing deployment of a medium-range anti-ship missile.

Greater transparency from China about its military strategy could reduce the chance of a misunderstanding or miscalculation, Miller said, and toward that end the United States continues to seek greater government-to-government communication with Chinese leaders.

When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited China earlier this year, he proposed a strategic dialogue to cover space, cyberspace, nuclear missile defense and other topics, Miller said.

“We are quite optimistic about the prospects of beginning such a dialogue in the not-too-distant future,” Miller said.

Turning to the Middle East, Miller noted the region is experiencing tremendous change and uncertainty, adding to its strategic prominence.

The United States and Israel have a long-standing relationship on ballistic missile defense that includes regular military exercises and cooperation in a number of programs, he said.

“In the Persian Gulf, the United States maintains a robust mix of missile defenses,” Miller said. “To protect our troops and facilities in the region, we have developed a series of bilateral missile defense agreements with the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

Missile defense cooperation between the United States and Russia is also growing, Miller said, noting recent progress in defense cooperation between the two nations includes the entry into force of the New START treaty.

Ultimately, the United States’ objective is to cooperate with both Russia and NATO, but not take the lead for ballistic missile defense in those regions, he said.

“We would operate our respective systems independently but cooperatively,” with that cooperation including sharing sensor data, he said.

As missile defense is a key element of U.S. military strategy, Miller said, funding the technology behind the capability is a high priority.

“DOD is proposing to spend about $10 billion for missile defense in fiscal year 2012,” he said. “This critical investment in our military’s preparedness … contributes materially to the defense of the United States and to international security.”

U.S. Navy Display Patriotic Colors Deep in the Heart of Texas

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist L.A. Shively, Navy Office of Community Outreach

AUSTIN, Texas (NNS) -- Sailors unfurled their patriotic colors in Austin, Texas, with the March 19 launch of Austin Navy Week.

Musician 1st Class Kenneth Ray Horton, accompanied by the University of Texas NROTC Color Guard, kicked off a round-up of activities with an adaptation of the national anthem prior to the Longhorns' come-from-behind victory over Kansas State at Disch-Falk Field.

"It was beautiful," said Dennis Kerry, a long-time Longhorns fan. "I really respect the courage these guys have to represent our country in wartime and in peacetime."

Another Longhorns fan, Janice Scott said she felt it was incredibly important to have the Navy in Austin and in Texas.

"I want people to know that we support our men and women in the armed forces. It's a salute to those in uniform giving service to the honor of America," she said, emotional while remembering the dishonor Vietnam veterans experienced when they returned.

"It's very important," Scott added.

"I thought the color guard was pretty neat," said 10-year-old Jacob Thomas, tossing a baseball in his lap as he spoke. "They represent the United States and I like the U.S. The military keeps us safe."

Texas Governor Rick Perry gave Sailors a warm welcome to the capitol city.

"The U.S. Navy inspires great pride in the hearts of Americans," he wrote. "First Lady Anita Perry and I join you in honoring the U.S. Navy and celebrating the U.S. Navy's ongoing close relationship with the State of Texas."

The Lonestar State share a long and unique history with the U.S. Navy – Texas had two navies prior to the establishment of the U.S. Navy. In 1836, under the provisional Republic of Texas government, a fleet of four ships were purchased using private funds. That first fleet was abandoned when repairs became too costly.

In 1839 a second Navy was created with the commissioning of one steamship that grew into a fleet of four ships the following year. Again, a lack of financing, plus a series of misadventures resulted in the ships' transfer to the U.S. Navy and decommissioning of the fledgling Texian Navy.

Also during that first day of Austin Navy Week, members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, guided blue and gold parachutes down to the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo grounds while opening a giant U.S. and Texas flags mid-air.

After jumping, the Leap Frogs mingled with cowboys and cowgirls, signing posters and sharing stories of their service for the Navy.

"It was motivating. Seeing them jump out of a plane with an American flag and the Texas flag makes you kind of wish you were attached to them and up in the air," said Eric Santateresa, who was having a poster signed for his son Alex.

"It's important for our freedom to have these guys here doing what they do," said Paul Armstrong.

The U.S. Navy Band Country Current, a country-bluegrass group and the Navy's premier country music ensemble, performed an original set of tunes during a free performance at Momo's for the South by Southwest Music Festival in downtown Austin, closing out the inaugural day of Austin Navy Week.

The week long schedule of events includes more performances by the Leap Frogs and Country Current, plus civic, corporate and educational engagements with Hon. Juan M. Garcia III, assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Sailors from USS Constitution, the Navy's oldest commissioned warship, will visit various schools to give students an interactive, hands-on experience of Navy history.

Other events include a mayoral proclamation at City Hall, Sailors lending a hand to the community at Caritas of Austin Soup Kitchen, and Navy SEALs (Sea, Air Land) challenging youth with a variety of physical exercises.

Austin Navy Week activities will engage, inform and enhance understanding about the investment Americans make in the Navy's capabilities and the kinds of career opportunities available.

Officials Extend Deadline for ‘Stop Loss’ Pay

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2011 – The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for special retroactive pay as compensation for involuntary extensions of their military service contracts has been extended to April 8, Defense Department officials announced today.

The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution President Barack Obama signed March 18 that provided funding for government operations through April 8.

The Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military services to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.

When the special pay program began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply, officials said.

Outreach efforts -- such as using direct mail, social networks and media outlets and engaging military and veteran service organizations -- will continue through April 8, officials added.

To apply for Stop Loss pay or for more information, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to defense.gov/stoploss.