Military News

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 resources@dcoeoutreach.org. 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 info@dvbic.org 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 http://www.move.mil, 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 www.navyweek.org.