Military News

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BRAC Goals Reached, New Walter Reed Looks to Future

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2011 – The day before the congressionally mandated deadline to put all Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations into effect, the commander who oversaw the closing of Walter Reed Army Medical Center isn’t kicking back with a sigh of relief.

For Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) John M. Mateczun, commander of Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical, some of the toughest challenges are just beginning.

Mateczun was responsible for one of the most sweeping transformations in military medicine with the closure of the iconic Walter Reed hospital.

With all its patients, staff and health care services moved to what is now known as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia, he now has set his sights on his next, post-BRAC goal.

“This is a new beginning,” he said. “We now have the opportunity here in the national capital region to form the first truly integrated regional delivery system within the military health system.”

Getting to this point was no small feat. Since BRAC became law in 2005, 2.6 million square feet of new construction and 472,000 square feet of renovations have taken place on the Bethesda campus and Fort Belvoir to accommodate the new, expanded missions there.

Meanwhile, the civilian workforces were consolidated into one Defense Department workforce. Mateczun said the merger will benefit workers by opening up more career opportunities and enabling them to transfer more smoothly between the two facilities.

The merger also will also be a plus for the hospitals, he said, helping them better attract and retain experienced workers with highly sought-after skills.

With the facilities and workforce in place, both the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital are providing care for the former Walter Reed patients.

A convoy of ambulances transferred the last inpatients at that center to Bethesda Aug. 27, one day ahead of schedule to beat the approaching Hurricane Irene.

The final emergency-room patient at Fort Belvoir’s DeWitt Army Community Center was transferred to the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital on Aug. 31. That same day, the staff performed its first operation and also delivered its first baby in the new facility, Mateczun said.

The last pieces of medical equipment are being moved from the old Walter Reed, much of it being redistributed to the Bethesda or Belvoir facilities. Back in 2008, BRAC planners estimated that $54 million in equipment would be transferred, but the actual figure exceeds $100 million, Mateczun reported.

With both facilities now running at full-throttle, he said now is the time to generate some of the efficiencies BRAC was designed to provide.

Many of those savings will come through consolidated support services such as human resources and facilities operations.

While designed to improve efficiency and save money, Mateczun said the consolidation also will promote patient care.

The nature of the consolidations, with highly specialized care delivered at Bethesda, ensures medical staffs providing that care have sufficient patient loads to remain at the top of their game, he said.

In addition, three electronic medical networks in use at facilities within the Washington, D.C., area are being combined into one joint medical network. This, Mateczun said, will enable providers at various clinics and hospitals to more easily access and share patient records.

Other initiatives will make it more convenient for patients to get care. For example, a consolidated appointment and referral center being stood up will provide a user-friendly, standardized way for patients to schedule appointments at either facility.

A major post-BRAC emphasis is on taking these efforts to the next level to reach a “world-class standard” in medical care, Mateczun said.

That standard -- mandated by Congress in the wake of the 2007 Walter Reed scandal as BRAC initiatives already were under way -- raises the bar in patient care.

Among its recommendations were the new wounded warrior lodging on the Bethesda campus and private hospital rooms that weren’t part of the original BRAC plan.

Subsequent congressional recommendations direct that parts of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center not impacted by BRAC also be raised to this world-class standard.

That, Mateczun explained, involves upgrading additional buildings on the Bethesda campus -- all built or last renovated before 1975.

As part of that new standard, the last of existing two-patient rooms are being converted into private rooms.

In addition, individual patient rooms at both Bethesda and Fort Belvoir will soon be turned into “smart suites.” These rooms will be equipped with technology that enables caregivers to monitor patients’ vital signs electronically and even to recognize when a patient has gotten out of bed.

This technology benefits patients, too, who will be able to refer to a monitor in their room to identify who enters it and whether, for example, it’s a doctor, nurse or food-service provider.

“It is a patient’s right to know who is in their room and what they are doing there. And this technology will allow them to do that without having to necessarily question anyone,” Mateczun said.

Mateczun said he’s looking forward to seeing the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital set a new standard for military medicine.

“So this is our next step, making the improvements required in the comprehensive master plan to provide world-class care for our beneficiaries,” he said.

“We are committed to keeping the covenant we have with America’s sons and daughters who come home wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “And that is what the BRAC projects have been about. We are intent on making sure that we meet the congressional mandate to a world-class capacity and infrastructure, both here at Bethesda and on Fort Belvoir.”

C-130s Aid Wildfire Suppression Efforts

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U.S. Northern Command

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Sept. 14, 2011 – Six Department of Defense C-130 Hercules aircraft under the command and control of U.S. Northern Command continue to aid efforts to control wildfires in Texas, Oregon and Idaho at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, officials reported.

The aircraft are equipped with U.S. Forest Service modular airborne firefighting systems.

As of early today, DOD aircraft have completed the following missions in these states:

-- Texas: Fifteen drops delivering approximately 44,350 gallons of fire retardant;

-- Oregon: Two drops delivering about 2,700 gallons of fire retardant; and

-- Idaho: Two drops delivering approximately 2,760 gallons of fire retardant.

Units supporting the Texas operations are the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard. Both units are deployed to Austin/Bergstrom International Airport, Texas.

The support to the northwestern United States is being provided by the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, flying out of Boise International Airport, Idaho.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Northcom designated Randolph Air Force Base Auxiliary Field, Seguin, Texas, as a support base to assist in relief efforts.

Humor Tour Sparks San Jacinto Laughter

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Stress relief in the form of laughter came to many of the San Jacinto (CG-56) crew Sept. 7 during a visit from four nationally known cartoonists.

According to Cmdr. Rick Potter, executive officer of the San Jacinto, Jeff Bacon, Bruce Higdon, Paul Fell, and Mason Mastroianni, brought more than laughter and humor to ship. "For Mr. Bacon and the other wonderful artists to volunteer their time to visit Sailors and Marines is inspirational to us," Potter said. "I hope they enjoyed their time on San Jacinto as much as the Sailors enjoyed hosting them."

While crew members enjoyed the personalized cartoons and caricatures drawn for them, the cartoonists reportedly took away as much as they gave. Bacon, creator of "Broadside," said the visitors had 'a blast' and believe their visits contribute to relieving the stress from the day to day pressures of military life. It's also, he said, an opportunity to thank service members for their service.

This visit was part of the Operational Stress Control program's Humor Tour that is designed to help mitigate stress through humor and laughter. The visit to the San Jacinto followed a visit to wounded warriors at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and preceded a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Bacon is the creator of Broadside and Greenside; Higdon, is a caricaturist and creator of Punsters; Fell, is a caricaturist and illustrator for Cornhuskers Illustrated; and Mastroianni, is a cartoonist for B.C. These and other members of the National Cartoonists Society regularly entertain troops stateside and overseas.

NEWS MEDIA ADVISORY: Sendoff ceremony planned for approximately 150 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers

Gov. Scott Walker, along with local and military officials, will honor approximately 150 Wisconsin Army National Soldiers during a sendoff ceremony Friday (Sept. 16) beginning at about 9:30 a.m. at the 128th Air Refueling Wing Aircraft Hangar, 1919 East Grange Ave., at Milwaukee's Gen. Mitchell International Airport.

The Soldiers are part of the Milwaukee-based Headquarters Company, 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB)  and the 32nd Military Police (MP) Company. Approximately 30 Soldiers with West Bend-Based Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment are also part of the deployment, but will hold a separate sendoff ceremony later. Mobilization training will be conducted at Camp Atterbury, Ind., for approximately two months, and the deploying Soldiers are expected to arrive in Kosovo around Thanksgiving to support the NATO-led international peace-keeping mission known as KFOR.

The 157th MEB Headquarters Company was notified March 6 of a potential deployment. While in Kosovo, the unit will function as the brigade headquarters for Multi-National Battle Group East, referred to as Task Force Falcon. They will command foreign military units from Poland, Turkey, Greece, Armenia, Ukraine and Romania, as well as more than 700 U.S. Soldiers from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Georgia, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Alexander Cites Need for Greater Cyber Defenses

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

LINTHICUM, Md., Sept. 13, 2011 – Citing the high rate of intrusions against Defense Department networks, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command today said his biggest concern is the threat of destructive attacks yet to be seen.

A destructive attack from cyberspace “is coming, in my opinion,” Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander told military, government, industry and academic professionals at a conference here called “Maneuvering in Cyberspace.”

“It is a question of time,” he said. “What we don’t know is how far out it is,” and whether it will target commercial infrastructure, government networks or mobile platforms.

Alexander, who also serves as director of the National Security Agency, recognized both the “tremendous opportunities and tremendous vulnerabilities” created through network-enabled technologies.

Just as the United States has been on the leading edge in developing many of these capabilities, Alexander said it also needs to be a leader in defending against cyber threats.

“We were the country that developed the Internet, the iPhone, the iPad [and] some of these other great technologies,” he said. “We ought to be the first to secure it.”

That, Alexander said, begins with education so people understand the extent of the threats, and the need for a coordinated effort to confront it.

“Cyber [security] is a team sport,” Alexander said. “We have to work within the Defense Department as a team, and the Defense Department, with other agencies as a team, … and we have to strengthen our public-private partnerships.”

Cyber threats represent “a problem on a massive scale that affects every industry and sector of the economy and government,” Alexander said. “So we have to get out in front.”

The cost of cyber crime to the global economy is estimated at $1 trillion. “What has been going on over the last few years in the network is the greatest theft that we have seen in history,” he said.

Meanwhile, malware is being introduced at a rate of 55,000 pieces per day, or one per second.

As troubling as these statistics may be, Alexander said his
bigger concern is, “what’s coming: a destructive element.”

Both the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace, issued in May, and the Defense Department cyber strategy, released in July, recognize the importance of defending U.S. networks. This includes taking offensive action in the event of a hostile attack.

For now, Alexander said his focus is on improving defenses to reduce that likelihood.

“We live in a glass house,” he said. “In cyber, we have not yet solved the defensive portion. From my perspective, there is a lot we can do to face that before we take offensive actions.”

Alexander cited the Defense Industrial Base Cyber Pilot as a step in the right direction. The program authorizes the Defense Department to share classified threat intelligence with participating defense contractors or their commercial Internet service providers so they can increase their cyber defenses and prevent enemy intrusions into sensitive government networks.

As the department and its partners seek other ways to boost cyber defenses, Alexander emphasized that it won’t do so at the cost of civil liberties and privacy.

“I do not see us having to give up civil liberties or privacy to have cyber security,” he said. “They can and must go together. And I think [that is how] we have to approach them.”

Face of Defense: Amputee Earns 'Sergeant Airborne' Title

By Cheryl Rodewig
1st Infantry Division

FORT BENNING, Ga., Sept. 13, 2011 – Like thousands before him, Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti donned an Airborne instructor black hat for the first time last month, signifying his completion of a detailed certification process with 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Unlike those before him, he met the standard with a prosthetic leg, a partial knee replacement and the aftermath of internal injuries suffered during an ambush in Afghanistan. With his wounds, he could have taken a medical discharge from the Army, but the paratrooper chose to stay in -- and to remain Airborne all the way.

"It's still brand new," he said, "but it feels good to actually have my hat."

Dulashanti's determination in the face of adversity, evident at the unit, will be instrumental in training Airborne students, said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Chip Mezzaline, battalion command sergeant major. More than 17,000 students come through the battalion each year.

"He's had a traumatic injury and had the resilience to stay on active duty and serve as an instructor in a position that's high-risk," Mezzaline said. "It's in his character -- something you can't teach. It's something inside him that's going to drive him to be successful in whatever it is that he's doing. I don't think 'can't' is in his vocabulary.

“Being a ‘Sergeant Airborne’ -- a ‘black hat’ -- at the Basic Airborne Course will inspire numerous students coming through here," he added.

Mezzaline said Dulashanti completed the instructor certification program at a level "above the standard." He trained on the lateral-drift apparatus, the mock towers, the 250-foot tower, the swing-landing trainer and the spin harness, and memorized a block of instruction for the mock tower exit.

"He's a paratrooper," Mezzaline said. "He comes from the 82nd Airborne Division. That Airborne career he probably thought was cut short, but this is new life for him here at the Airborne school. I predict within the next year he'll be a jumpmaster, probably a senior-rated jumpmaster, and he'll be doing door checks, exiting students at 1,250 feet above Fryar Drop Zone.

"And with his level of motivation, he'll probably move on to that next mark and be a centurion, which is 100 exits out of an aircraft," he continued. "The sky's the limit for Sergeant Dulashanti here at the 507th."

Dulashanti said he wants to do everything he can -- from jumpmaster to centurion -- while stationed here. A six-year veteran, he arrived at the battalion in May. Four years earlier, he was deployed as a sniper attached to the 73rd Cavalry Regiment. He remembers the details vividly.

"We were chasing two guys -- they were on a mo-ped together and we were in Humvees," he said. "They took off in the field and the sniper team went out. It was about 110 degrees outside, over 6,000 feet above sea level, and with no humidity -- all you could smell was the earth and burnt grass. As we were walking in this knee-high grass, I started to smell body odor, so I stopped and turned to my right in the direction of the odor. They began to engage in contact.

"They had AK-47s and they were lying in the prone about 10 meters away," he continued. "I took two rounds to my right knee. As I was coming out of the sun, I was shot through my left knee. As I was falling, the next round that came through went under my arm, through my ribcage and, since I was parallel to the ground, it traversed my entire abdomen down to my pelvis. That round was the worst. We returned fire, and those guys were finished."

Two platoons donated plasma to him before he was evacuated to the United States. Once he arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., it took him eight months to be comfortable walking.

"The recovery process started off slow, [but] I accelerated fast," he said. "Most of the stuff can be replaced. I have a partial knee replacement on my left side. I have an above-the-knee amputation on my right side. I'm missing half of my stomach and 90 percent of my intestines and gall bladder, and half of my abdominal wall is gone."

He chose to stay in the Army in part for the fellow soldier recuperating alongside him in the hospital, he said.

"I had to set that example for the rest of the Army, just based on the fact they couldn't do it and they wanted to," he said. "Maybe in the future, somebody else will have an easier time getting to do stuff like this because I've done it already."

Since then, Dulashanti completed the Warrior Leader Course and the Advanced Leaders Course, among others. But his goal was to be part of Fort Benning's Airborne battalion.

"Mentally, I knew I could exit an aircraft, and I knew I was able to instruct people on how to exit an aircraft and to land on the ground properly," he said. "When I called about the job, the only question was, 'Can you jump out of planes?' and even though I hadn't done it, the answer was 'yes,' without a doubt. I knew I wouldn't be a safety hazard, so the answer was 'yes.'"

"It was pretty intense," Dulashanti said of the studying it took to pass the certification program, but other instructors helped him along the way.

"I have to kind of be on my ‘A’ game all the time," he said. "But at the same time, I do have limitations, so I have to make sure I take care of myself to prevent injury."

His "limitations" aren't something he tells every class of students about, but occasionally he mentions it or they find out. "Sometimes people ask me why I have a limp," he said. "I tell them I don't have a leg, so it's not really a limp."

His advice to other wounded warriors is simple: choose whether or not to have a positive outlook.

"Make up your mind," he said. "Everybody has to go through their own coping mechanisms. Sometimes you're in a denial state; when you come out of that denial state, then deal with what it is you have to deal with. Seek counseling if you have to. I never gave negativity even an opportunity to invade my mind. There was only one route for me in the first place."

CNIC's Fleet and Family Support Program Provides Spouse Employment Assistance

From Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Installations Command's Fleet and Family Support Program (FFSP) is assisting Navy family members looking for employment or working to advance their careers through the Family Employment Readiness Program (FERP).

The frequent relocation of Sailors and their families provides an added challenge to Navy family members who are on the job hunt or looking to advance their careers.

"FERP offers our Navy family members workshops and individual employment search assistance," said Connie Civiello, deputy director, Family Readiness Program. "FFSP's goal is to help our family members with their job search and career advancement research and goals. This assistance is particularly critical now due to the current economic and employment environment."

FFSP also offers Navy family members with free consultations from on-site, specially trained employment experts.

Navy family members should note FERP is not a job placement service. The program employment professionals provide employment assistance workshops and seminars including launching a job search, career planning, resume writing, interview techniques, federal employment information, conducting self-assessments and vocational tests.

FFSP understands that not every Navy family lives near one of their centers. Some services, such as resume reviews and coaching, can be conducted by phone or email.

Navy spouses can also utilize the Department of Defense's Military Spouse Employment Program. The program was launched on June 29, and connects military spouses with employers.

To learn more about Fleet and Family Support Programs, including FERP, visit FFSP.navy.mil.

For more information about the Military Spouse Employment Program, visit miltaryoncesource.com.

33rd Annual Superfrog Triathlon Honors Post-Sept. 11 Fallen NSW Forces

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Megan Anuci, Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- The 33rd annual Superfrog Triathlon was held Sept. 11 at Silver Strand State Beach where more than 500 athletes participated and honored the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) forces lost since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The Superfrog Triathlon was established in 1978 by Philip "Moki" Martin, a decorated retired Navy SEAL officer. Martin's original inspiration for starting the event was to help SEALs train for the Ironman Triathlon, which is twice the distance of the Superfrog triathlon. Superfrog is a traditional swim-bike-run event that covers a course consisting of a two-lap 1.2 mile open ocean swim, a four-lap 56 mile bike course and a five-lap 13.1 mile run.

The event honored the fallen service members by lining the finish line area of the race with banners displaying photos and biographies SEAL and enabler shipmates lost. The banners raised more than $30,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation.

"This year is special," said Martin. "In addition to our annual donation, we created these banners for each SEAL and we're offering these as a sponsorship to our racers and fans. This money is going straight to the [Navy SEAL] Foundation, and it's a great way to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 and our SEALs."

Jozsef Major, a Phoenix native, was the overall race winner finishing with a time of 3:58:48.

"Competing today was a great feeling," said Major. "The training has been hard, but to be able to win the Superfrog, especially on Sept. 11, was rewarding."

The Superfrog Triathlon has grown from a few SEAL competitors to a fleet of local, national and international triathlon stars vying for the race title. Although the event has grown over the years, it has maintained the masochistic tradition of routing half the run portion through the soft and uneven footing of San Diego beach sand. The soft sand ritual is a nod to Basic Underwater and Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) students who train on the beaches of Coronado, running and crawling through the soft sand and surf on a daily basis.