Friday, August 12, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2011 – A young service member saddled with debt and in need of some quick cash doesn’t have to go far. Lenders offering same-day loans sit outside the gate of nearly every military installation in the nation.
But the lure of fast and easy cash can lead strapped troops down a path of steep interest rates and fees that far surpass their initial loan.
In other words, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, said Brenda Linnington, director of the Better Business Bureau Military Line.
Protecting service members and their families from financial pitfalls such as payday lenders is Linnington’s primary goal at Military Line. The program’s mission, she explained, is to increase military members’ financial literacy through information, education and outreach -- both online and on the ground.
“I’d like Military Line to serve as a bridge between the civilian and military communities,” said Linnington, an Army veteran and the wife of an active-duty Army officer. She took on the job in January after the former director, Holly Petraeus, left to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs.
The program, created in 2004, also is a partner in the Defense Department’s Financial Readiness Campaign, she said, which gives local bureau representatives access to teach financial literacy classes on military installations. The bureau, she added, has 164 local offices scattered across the country.
The importance of a military family’s financial stability can’t be overestimated, Linnington said.
“If we’re deploying a young soldier and expecting him to do great things on our behalf, but he’s greatly in debt and collectors are calling his family,” she said, “that soldier is never going to be completely mission-ready.”
One major concern, Linnington noted, is that financial issues often lead to the loss of security clearances, which can affect service members’ ability to perform their jobs.
“To be under that level of emotional strain and then expect them to be a strong family that’s growing and thriving is unrealistic,” she said.
Debt and debt management are among the most pressing financial issues for service members and their families, she noted, particularly for the younger population. Reports indicate that junior service members carry a heavier load of debt than their civilian counterparts.
This debt combined with a steady paycheck and a strong sense of discipline can add up to an attractive target for scam artists, Linnington said. “It’s very enticing to someone looking to entrap you in a contract,” she added. “A young private might not make a large income, but collectively, if there’s a bunch of privates, that’s a lot of money.”
Linnington said the scams have come fast and furious in recent years. Some scammers contact military family members by phone or email and make false claims that the service member has been wounded overseas and money is needed to help. Or, a person posts a house for rent, but when the service member arrives, the person has vanished, along with the security deposit.
And, while payday lenders are, by law, capped at 36 percent, they find loopholes by charging fees as opposed to boosting interest rates.
“There are some really terrible things going on,” she said.
To avoid getting trapped in a scam, Linnington stressed the importance of financial education and well-being. “It’s getting people to realize they need to be careful and not necessarily go on someone’s word,” she said.
Tackling debt also can help, she said, since feeling overwhelmed financially can leave people more vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses and predatory lenders.
People who are in over their heads should talk their local personal financial manager, she advised, who can provide guidance and referrals to helping organizations, such as military aid societies.
The Military Line website also offers service-specific resources, such as consumer alerts and guides, reports on businesses, and an avenue to file complaints. The bureau will help to resolve issues and also alert the military population of a potential scam, she said.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2011 – I was on call last weekend when the news broke about the downed helicopter in eastern Afghanistan. As the morning waned, it soon became clear that the nation had suffered a devastating loss.
Thirty U.S. service members and eight Afghans lost their lives in the Aug. 6 Chinook crash.
I was deeply saddened by the loss and for the loved ones left behind. But without a personal connection and with a job to do, I began to think of the fallen as a number to report rather than as individuals with faces and names.
For me, it took a child to humanize this terrible loss.
A 10-year-old who lost his father in the crash posted a picture of his dad on CNN’s iReport on Aug. 9 to ensure he wouldn’t be forgotten. His father was the pilot of the Chinook.
The picture shows his dad seated next to a four other soldiers. His father, he wrote, was the farthest to the left.
This heartfelt tribute since has gone viral, stirring up emotions across the nation. People have reached out to reassure this boy not only that his father wouldn’t be forgotten, but also that he’d be remembered as a hero.
I studied this picture and felt for this young boy, who would be growing up without a dad. And I thought about the selflessness and call to service that led his father to make the ultimate sacrifice for his nation.
I’m grateful for this child who took the time to honor his father in such a bold way. He reminded me that behind each loss, each tragedy of war, is a person with a rich past who is leaving behind a legacy of heroism and sacrifice.
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.
From Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) launched a designer-drug information website Aug. 9 to inform and educate Department of Navy personnel on the dangers of designer drug use.
According to Cmdr. Lisa McWhorter, NMCPHC Navy Drug Program Manager, the webpage page is intended to provide a "one-stop-shopping" resource for visitors to the website and includes downloadable presentations and links to other drug-related websites.
"We're hopeful that visitors to our website will find this site useful for what they need either through the presentations or the links," said McWhorter. "Education and awareness of the negative effects from the use of these drugs, plays a key role in deterrence of drug use."
The available presentations are well-suited for commands throughout the Navy and Marine Corps to use for general military training and other training venues intended to reach a broad audience ranging from leadership to the deckplate Sailor and Marine.
McWhorter said NMCPHC will manage the website to ensure that current and accurate information is added as soon as it becomes available.
The timing of the webpage launch complements the Aug. 2 release of a Navy Medicine all-hands message. Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr. used this message to caution his commanding officers, medical providers and personnel on the negative health effects and legal consequences of using synthetic marijuana like Spice and other designer drugs.
"It is paramount all Navy Medicine personnel are aware of the adverse health effects of these drugs," said Robinson. "Serious side effects have been reported after its use including tremors, panic attacks, delirium, impaired coordination, seizures, paranoid hallucinations, and psychotic symptoms that can last for days, even months in some cases."
The NMCPHC webpage and military leadership message provide background information on Spice and other synthetic designer drugs, including varieties, signs and symptoms of use and the negative health effects associated with use. It also increases emphasis on Zero Tolerance for possession and trafficking as well as the use of designer drugs. In the past year, hundreds of Sailors have been held accountable for use or possession of Spice or Spice derivatives. Service members can also be charged as part of the Zero Tolerance policy for failure to report an incident of abuse.
"The NMCPHC website will serve as an excellent resource to help commanding officers remain fully engaged in educating all hands on the hazards associated with synthetic drugs with a focus on spice in particular," said McWorter.
Information on designer drugs can be found at nmcphc.med.navy.mil/Healthy_Living/.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Juan Pinalez, USS George Washington Public Affairs
LAEM CHABANG, Thailand (NNS) -- The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) departed Laem Chabang, Thailand following five days of rest and relaxation for the crew during its most recent patrol Aug. 11.
"Just before we pulled into Thailand, the crew worked around the clock for 56 days at sea, so they definitely earned this time off," said George Washington Commanding Officer Capt. David Lausman. "In port, they proudly represented our country while enjoying themselves. I couldn't be prouder of them."
George Washington Sailors enjoyed tours and cultural activities offered by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation department during the port visit.
"The one thing I wanted to do in Thailand was to ride an elephant and I'm glad I did it," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Hermajesty Ford from Fresno, Calif. "That's something I will remember for the rest of my life."
Sailors from George Washington also participated in a friendly cook-off competition at a local hotel, allowing them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills. Chefs from the hotel also took time to share a few Thai recipes with the culinary specialists.
The competition consisted of seven teams; four from USS George Washington, two from USS Cowpens (CG 63) and another from USS Mustin (DDG 89).
"Our secret ingredient was love. If you love your food, it's going to be great," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Batenhorst, one of the Sailors in the competition.
The crew also made a difference in the lives of Thailand's less fortunate by coordinating nearly a dozen community service (COMSERV) projects.
"These COMSERV opportunities are not only beneficial to the children but also serve to enrich the lives of the Sailors too," said Lt. Cmdr. Jose Pimentel, George Washington COMSERV coordinator. "The kids really like seeing service members from around the world, so when the crew rests and relaxes in Pattaya they can also spend time to have an impact on the lives of those living in hardship."
Thai people see these gestures of good will as true symbols of friendship, explained Pimentel. And while the goal of the port visit was to rest and relax following a long tour at sea, the crew also conducted training with the Royal Thai Navy, focusing on anti-surface warfare and search-and-rescue operations.
"We have learned a lot and are happy to have this opportunity to conduct military-to-military training," said Royal Thai Navy Commodore Somkiat Somksawat, Naval Air Division, Royal Thai Navy.
For nearly 600 people, the port visit provided them with the opportunity to tour a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Tour groups included local businessmen, children from an orphanage, Boy Scout packs, members of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post and families from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. George Washington's executive officer provided a tour to a member of Thailand's royal family, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana.
George Washington returned to patrolling the waters of the Western Pacific June 12, 2011, departing her forward operating base of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. More than 5,500 Sailors are aboard from George Washington and Carrier Air Wing 5. George Washington's mission is to ensure security and stability in the 7th Fleet AOR and to be in position to work with our allies and regional partners to respond to any crisis across the operational spectrum as directed.