Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Organization Reaches Out to Wounded Warriors

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 – In what started out as a small pilot program, members of Disabled American Veterans, working with the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, began visiting wounded warriors at Fort Bragg, N.C., to talk about benefits and services available to them after they leave active duty.

Now 40 DAV transition service officers have become regulars at 144 military installations participating in the joint VA-DOD Benefits Delivery and Discharge Program, which provides transition assistance to separating service members who incurred disabilities related to their military service.

DAV National Commander Wallace E. “Wally” Tyson called DAV’s contribution a vital link to the newest generation of disabled veterans.

“We want to get to those veterans before they are released from active duty so we can help get them on a path toward reinstituting a life for themselves and making sure they know what benefits are available to them and their families,” he told American Forces Press Service.

As partners in military transition assistance programs and disability transition assistance programs, DAV transition service officers conduct or participate in pre-discharge briefings, review wounded warriors’ treatment records on request and confer with Defense and Labor Department officials and other participants in the discharge process.

The program, Tyson said, enables DAV to help service members through the process of developing evidence, completing applications and prosecuting claims for veterans benefits administered under federal, state and local laws. But one of the biggest benefits of the effort, he added, is ensuring that separating service members don’t find themselves in a situation where their military benefits are discontinued and VA benefits have not yet started.

“I can’t overemphasize the value of the complete package,” agreed Ron Minter, DAV’s national service officer supervisor for Maryland. “When [transition assistance officers] have that opportunity, it allows more prompt service and a smoother transition and, to a greater degree, a seamless transition” from military to civilian life.

And even if transitioning service members may not feel the need for DAV support now, Tyson said, that initial contact lays important groundwork for future help, when and if it is needed. DAV’s outreach to wounded warriors about to make this transition is a natural extension of its historic mission to serve veterans with service-connected disabilities and their families, he said.

Robert S. Marx, a captain who had been wounded in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France in November 1918, is credited with founding DAV to serve disabled World War I veterans who returned home to little government support. Congress, impressed with its effectiveness, chartered DAV in 1932 as the primary advocate for disabled veterans.

Ninety-one years since its founding, Tyson said, DAV is as relevant today as it’s been at any time in its history. He noted the growing number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have joined its 1.2 million-member ranks, benefiting from its claims and benefits assistance and its voluntary services program.

DAV offers a broad range of services to disabled veterans, all at no charge, thanks in large part to an army of more than 14,000 volunteers. Some drive a fleet of more than 1,400 vans, transporting veterans to VA medical centers, supermarkets or even barber shops. Others volunteer their services at VA medical facilities and regional clinics.

In addition, a cadre of highly trained national service officers, all with wartime-service-connected disabilities, reviews veterans’ claims and ensures veterans know what benefits and services they’re entitled to.

During 2010 alone, they interviewed almost 185,000 veterans and their families, Tyson reported. As a result, they filed more than 250,000 new claims for benefits, obtaining $5.1 billion in new and retroactive benefits for the disabled veterans they represented.

In addition, DAV employs nine national appeals officers who represent disabled veterans before the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Last year, these national appeals officers represented appellants in about 5,000 cases. Of those cases, Tyson reported, almost three-quarters resulted in the original decisions being overturned or remanded to regional office rating boards for additional development and re-adjudication.

In an effort to better support disabled veterans, DAV is increasing its outreach into rural areas and other areas where veterans traditionally have been underserved. During 2010, DAV’s 10 new mobile service offices traveled almost 115,000 miles and visited 815 cities and towns to interview more than 20,000 veterans and other potential claimants, Tyson reported.

“This outreach effort generates a considerable amount of claims work from those veterans who may not otherwise have the opportunity to seek assistance at DAV national service offices,” he said.

One of the more popular outreach efforts, the “Harley’s Heroes” project, involves setting up DAV booths at local Harley-Davidson Motor Co. dealerships that underwrite the cost of the project. Mobile service offices visited 183 Harley-Davidson dealerships last year. In addition to serving up refreshments and distributing information, DAV national service officers offered to review veterans’ paperwork to help in determining whether they’re eligible for benefits or services.

“We want them to bring any evidence they have, if they never filed a claim or want to reopen a claim,” Tyson said. “And they’re getting the best of both worlds. They don’t have to travel [to a VA facility], and they are going to get an expert working on their claim. Our national service officers are the best-trained out there.”

With most of its current members from the Vietnam War era, Tyson said, it’s time for the organization to throw its support to the nation’s youngest disabled veterans and welcome them into the fold.

“We don’t want a repeat [of the Vietnam homecoming experience],” Tyson said. “We hope we have learned from those mistakes, and to a great degree, I believe we as a nation have. Now we want to incorporate the younger veterans. It’s our turn to mentor them and let them take some of the leadership roles” within DAV.

“I believe, personally, that we are the best advocates for disabled veterans, their wives, their widows, their children and their survivors,” Tyson said. “That is because we have one and only one mission: to build better lives for disabled American veterans and their families. We have struck to that since this organization was founded, and I believe that is the reason the organization is so successful.”

Continuing Promise Doctors Hold Ultrasound Exchange with Kingston Staff

By Staff Sgt. Courtney Richardson USAF, Continuing Promise 2011 Public Affairs

KINGSTON, Jamaica (NNS) -- Medical personnel embarked aboard Military Sealift Command USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) facilitated a subject matter expert exchange with Jamaican medical personnel from the Kingston Public Hospital in support of Continuing Promise 2011 (CP11), April 18.

During the exchange, the group focused on different ways to get the most effective and efficient use out of ultrasound machines. They also practiced identifying various probes, proper probe positions and how to identify fluid within the body.

"This training will basically help others realize that ultrasound machines are really versatile," said Lt. Kylie Wainer, emergency medicine physician from Trego, Wis.

During the class, Wainer covered the four different types of probes, their use, their placement and how to adjust each machine to display the desired image based on location.

Wainer said ultrasound machines save time, money and radiation exposure, coupled with providing patient convenience.

"It is so much easier to determine if there is fluid where there shouldn't be if you use the machine," said Wainer. "You don't have to send down the request, wait for confirmation, send the patient down and wait for three hours to get the results."

According to Wainer, ultrasound machines provide immediate sight into the body cavity and they take less than three minutes to perform. She also said ultrasounds are also non-invasive, versatile, portable and produce no radiation.

"Familiarization is key," said Wainer. "Once you get that down, everything will be so much easier.

Many of the participants expressed their feelings about the training after completing the hands-on portion.

"This training has opened my eyes to ultrasounds," said Karen Foster, registered nurse and midwife from Kingston, Jamaica. "Now, when a doctor tells me to send the patient to radiology, I will encourage them to use the machine first."

COMUSANAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT support U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined full-spectrum military operations. The units provide principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space to enhance regional security and to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Carribean, Central and South American regions.

Family Matters Blog: Show Seeks Military Families for Home Makeover

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 – I’m excited to share new information about an amazing opportunity for deserving military families.

The producers of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” are seeking people involved in the military whose home deserves an extreme makeover.

The producers and celebrity hosts are looking for people with “amazing strength of character and who put their own needs aside to help others,” a press release said. “Whether it’s a soldier, a mom, a teacher or a fireman, we think deserving families are families who inspire those around them.”

Additionally, the show’s producers are seeking families whose houses need major alterations or repair – “homes that present serious problems for the family and affect the family’s quality of life.”

To be eligible, families must own their single family home and be able to demonstrate how a makeover will make a difference in their lives.

Interested military families or people who wish to nominate a military family should e-mail a short description of the family’s story to emheusa@gmail.com. The e-mail should include the names and ages of household members, a description of the family’s challenges, an explanation of why the family is deserving of a makeover or is a positive role model in the community, photos of the family and their home, and contact numbers.

The deadline for nominations is May 30, but people should send submissions early, the release said. Only up to 25 families are selected each season.

For more information on the application process, visit

Please pass this information on to deserving military families. I hope to see a few on “Home Edition” next season.

For more on Family Matters, visit the blog or check out Family Matters on Facebook or Twitter.

Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

High School Athletes Compete in Navy SEAL Invitational

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Lamb, Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Athletes from eight California high school teams tested their physical limits and mental toughness during the first ever Navy SEAL Invitational Tournament, April 16, at the Naval Special Warfare Center.

The tournament included physical and mental challenges that pushed the athletes to succeed beyond their expectations. The event consisted of both water and land challenges that required individual persistence, determination, athleticism, strength, endurance and enthusiasm.

Athletes swam and conducted underwater retrieval exercises in the Navy SEAL training pool. Then they climbed ropes, ran relays, flipped tires, negotiated the SEAL Obstacle course and ended the contest with a timed mile run on the sandy beach.

"When someone comes here to become a Navy SEAL we push them beyond what they thought were there limits and they find out who they really are," said Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Rob Stella. "Today, each athlete found himself stretched at some point and got past it. It's inspiring to watch them, and the support from their coaches and families was clearly evident."

The high schools, including Del Norte, Central Catholic, Mira Mesa, East Lake, University City, St. Augustine, Hueneme and Irvine, were each represented by a team of five student athletes.

The title of "Toughest Team" was awarded to the Nighthawks of Del Norte High School, and teammate Alan Rogers was recognized for his top individual performance.

Irvine High School placed second as a team and team members Bradley Buzby and Ryan Paul won individual honors in the 300-meter swim and pool-based Frogman Challenge, respectively.

"Competition is always great when it's fresh," said Scott Hinman, Irvine High School water polo coach. "We have a lot of specialty sport athletes and this allows them to use their skills in a different setting against other people with a fresh perspective on competition. You just have to get in, do it, and just go for it."

Central Catholic High School placed third, and water polo coach Buddy Westin was impressed with the level of the competition and how his athletes rose to the occasion.

"We selected some of the best athletes we have to compete in this invitational," he said. "To bring them closer together and see them compete with these other athletes and have these physical constraints put on them strengthens their bodies and their minds."

For one student athlete the tournament was a preview of a future career.

"I'm trying to get into the Naval Academy and work my way to a SEAL team," said Jake Ramonas of University City High School. "The highlight of today was that I didn't do just the minimum on the obstacle course. I pushed myself to complete every obstacle."

Mira Mesa High School water polo player Kyle Hanson said the best part of his day was seeing the finish line and pushing to run as fast as he could to get to the end.

"This is one of the biggest challenges I've done so why not come out here and push myself," he said. "The toughest thing was the rope swing because my arms just wanted to give out, but I had to push through to get across to the next rope."

Jake, Kyle and the rest of the athletes examined SEAL weapons and gear, including an armored Hummer patrol vehicle and a high-speed boat. Ultimately, it was the friendly competition that made the biggest impression.

"The Navy SEAL Invitational is a great way to promote physical fitness in a competitive environment," said Bob Rohrbach, operations officer for the Navy SEAL and SWCC Scout Team. "It's also an exciting event that offers a rare peek inside Naval Special Warfare training while providing these athletes with an awareness of opportunities available in the Naval Special Warfare community."

Navy SEALs are elite maritime special operators who take their name from the environments in which they are trained to operate: sea, air and land. They work quietly to carry out the nation's most important missions without being detected by enemies. There are fewer than 2,500 active duty SEALs.

USS George Washington to Return to Yokosuka

From a U.S. 7th Fleet News Release

YOKOSUKA, Japan, April 19, 2011 – The forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington will return here tomorrow, nearly a month after it left its port following the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was completing routine maintenance March 11 when the earthquake and tsunami struck northern Honshu. The ship departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka on March 21 with 466 civilian contractors and shipyard workers embarked, who continued to conduct scheduled maintenance while the ship operated in waters near the Japanese islands of Shikoku and Kyushu.

USS George Washington departed Yokosuka to ensure that the ship could maintain readiness, and workers could continue work required to support the U.S.-Japan alliance, officials said.

The carrier made two visits to Sasebo while it was away from Yokosuka to exchange shipyard personnel and take on equipment to support the routine maintenance. Throughout this time, officials said, the Navy has maintained a strong desire and every intention to return to George Washington to its homeport at Yokosuka.

While George Washington was at sea continuing its routine maintenance, more than 20 U.S. 7th Fleet ships, including the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, supported disaster relief operations off the coast of northern Honshu.

Upon returning to Yokosuka, George Washington will continue its maintenance while maintaining a heightened state of readiness to return to sea if necessary, officials said.

Lynn Opens Countertrafficking Command Center

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla., April 19, 2011 – A new, high-tech command center here will move the fight against illicit traffickers to a new level, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said yesterday.

Just before cutting a ribbon to the Joint Operations Command Center alongside William F. Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, Lynn said the threat that plagues the region has evolved beyond drugs alone.

“Transnational criminal organizations are posing a not-very-well-understood, but growing, threat to the United States,” he told the task force staff. “It’s something I know you are on the front lines of addressing and, ultimately, preventing.”

The new command center serves Joint Interagency Task Force South, a subordinate command to the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command that integrates military, interagency and international capabilities to combat illicit trafficking.

Lynn traveled to Miami a day earlier to meet with Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, Southcom commander, and his leadership team. In testimony last month before the House Armed Services Committee, Fraser called the task force “the center of U.S. maritime interdiction efforts in the Caribbean basin and eastern Pacific.”

Using information from law enforcement agencies, the general added, the task force detects and monitors suspect aircraft and maritime vessels and then provides this information to international and interagency partners who have the authority to interdict illicit shipments and arrest members of transnational criminal organizations.

Task force members represent each U.S. military service and most federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Other members from the U.S. intelligence community represent the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency.

The task force staff includes liaison officers from 13 nations: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom.

“We made the decision in April 2008 to apply our collective wisdom and knowledge across the interagency, our international partners and the joint team here,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Daniel Lloyd, commander of Joint Interagency Task Force South, said during the ceremony opening the new operations center.

The aim, he said, was “to come up with a better way to be even more effective in countering the illicit traffickers.”

The new command center, Lloyd added, “is the first of its kind anywhere, and represents the very best way we know how to conduct the fight against illicit traffickers.”

In the center, intelligence and operations functions come together in a state-of-the-art command, control, communications and intelligence facility, officials said, where the task force coordinates the use of Navy and Coast Guard ships and aircraft, Air Force and Customs and Border Protection aircraft, and aircraft and ships from allied nations and law enforcement agencies.

“I think it’s important at this moment to recognize how far we’ve come,” Wechsler said. “Back in the 1980s, the mission set against which [the task force] was deployed was considered to be an unsolvable problem. There was a never-ending stream of air and maritime vessels headed right for our coast. It was a direct threat to U.S. sovereignty.”

Today, he added, the problem has evolved, and so has the task force. “[It] is really, in my mind, a model -- perhaps one of the best models of coordination that exists in the U.S. government,” he said.

Secretary of the Navy Visits Seoul, Korea

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brianna K. Dandridge, Commander, Naval Forces Korea Public Affairs

SEOUL, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), visited Commander, Naval Forces Korea to meet with the command's senior leadership and talk with Sailors and Marines April 19.

The Honorable Ray Mabus, the 75th Secretary of the Navy, visited Korea during his tour of the Pacific area of responsibility (AOR).

Mabus held an all-hands call where he answered questions from Sailors and Marines on Perform-to-Serve quotas; Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal training, and future manning issues.

During that session, Mabus stressed the importance of leadership and military service.

"We have great leadership in the Navy and Marine Corps today," said Mabus. "You are light years ahead in training and capability of the Navy of 40 years ago."

The SECNAV also assured service members that they were appreciated and supported by the people back in the United States.

"He seems to have faith in the Sailors," said Information Technician 2nd Class Shannon Garner. "He wanted to let us know that we serving here in Korea are not forgotten."

Mabus took the opportunity to thank Sailors for their hard work and dedication to the nation. "The work that you are doing in Korea is crucial," Mabus said. "Thank you and God Bless you for all that you do for your country."

Mabus also recognized the contribution of service members and their families in the Korean peninsula. "Military service requires a lot of sacrifice. Sacrifices of both you and your families," said Mabus.

While Mabus spoke of the future of the Navy and where it stands today, he also had an opportunity to tell the service members how proud he is of the current military force.

"We do it all. We are able to use the same force and platforms for humanitarian assistance, war fighting, and in joint environments," Mabus said. "The Navy and Marine Corps team is the most flexible and efficient force in the United States arsenal."

In addition to meeting with service members Mabus visited the Republic of Korea navy's Cheonan ship memorial and met with Republic of Korea naval leadership.