Military News

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Panetta: Budget Cuts Will Boost Risk to Nation at War

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 – Budget cuts create more risk for the military in a time of war, but the risk can be reduced by making decisions strategically and protecting core national security interests, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

“While we will continue to focus on reducing overhead and duplication, make no mistake,” Panetta told reporters during a Pentagon news briefing, “these reductions will force us to take on greater risk in our mission to protect the country in time of war and in the face of growing security challenges.”

The nation must think and act smartly as it makes difficult but necessary fiscal decisions about force structure, personnel and operations, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who joined Panetta at the briefing, said.

“It is because I believe that our national debt is our greatest national security threat that I also believe we must do our part to reduce it, to limit its harm,” he added.

The department, Panetta said, is undergoing a strategy-driven process to prepare to implement the more than $450 billion in savings that will be required over 10 years as a result of the debt-limit agreement.

“This review is still ongoing,” he said. “No decisions have been made, but I am committed to making these decisions based on the best advice that I receive from the service secretaries and from the service chiefs, as well as the combatant commanders.”

The following principles will guide such decisions, he said. The nation must:

-- Maintain the world’s best military, a force capable of deterring conflict, projecting power and winning wars;

-- Avoid a hollow force and maintain a military that, even if smaller, is ready, agile and deployable;

-- Take a balanced approach to the entire budget for potential savings -- from trimming duplication and bureaucratic overhead to improving competition and management in operating and investment programs, to tightening personnel costs and developing a smaller, more agile and flexible future force; and

-- Keep faith with the men and women in uniform because the volunteer force is central to a strong future military.

Panetta said that the budget-cutting environment “can be used as an opportunity to shape the very best defense we can for this country as we approach the next 10 years.”

Achieving the mandated savings “will be very hard and require extremely difficult tradeoffs,” Panetta said. He added that an automatic trigger in the nation's debt-reduction law to take more cuts out of federal spending if Congress fails to agree on reductions by Nov. 24 would be potentially devastating.

For the Defense Department, that means another $500 billion from defense spending over 10 years, on top of more than $450 billion in cuts already identified over the same period.

“The roughly $1 trillion in cuts forced by sequester would leave us with a military that would be unable to protect this nation from the range of security threats we face,” the secretary said.

Such sequestration would hollow out the force, reducing military and economic strength, he added.

“Cancellation of weapon systems, construction projects [and] research activity would seriously cripple our industrial base,” Panetta said, “which would be unacceptable not only to me as secretary of defense, but to our ability to be able to maintain the best defense system.”

Mullen said the department must begin with a clear-eyed assessment of things the joint force must continue to do for the nation and the options it must be able to provide the president.

“And [we must] be willing to curtail or even end those missions and capabilities which do not comport with that strategy,” the chairman said.

The United States must consider the world as it is, the threats as we see them, he added.

“Programs that are behind schedule or woefully over budget should be considered for elimination. The personnel accounts, which make up the vast majority of our allocation, should be scrubbed for inefficiencies and overhead,” Mullen said.

Exercises and operations that do not directly contribute to essential security commitments should be recalibrated, he added.

“We ought to make sure that the military is the right one for the future: flexible and adaptable enough to fight wars both big and small, near and far,” the chairman said, “a force that can secure our national interests, and not by its size and shape define those interests.”

Mullen said he is convinced the effort to find more than $450 billion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years is achievable, but agreed with Panetta that possible sequestration cuts puts “at risk the very security we are charged to provide.”

Ten years of war have not broken the all-volunteer force, the chairman said, “but drastic budget measures that adversely affect the lives and livelihoods of our people very well might. We can afford to lose some things, but we cannot to lose them.”

The budget environment presents difficult choices for our armed forces, Panetta said.

“I believe that if we can avoid further cuts, we will have an opportunity to set priorities and make the hard choices needed to build a stronger force for the future,” he said, “and to keep faith with our men and women in uniform.

Defense Leaders Laud Repeal, Return of ‘Equality’

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 – The official end today of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law reflects the American values that military members uphold, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

“Thanks to this change, I believe we move closer to achieving the goal at the foundation of the values that America's all about -- equality, equal opportunity and dignity for all Americans,” he told reporters during a Pentagon news briefing.

Panetta reaffirmed his dedication to all who are serving and ensuring everyone who wishes to serve has the opportunity to do so regardless of sexual preference.

“As secretary of defense, I am committed to removing all of the barriers that would prevent Americans from serving their country and from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant,” he said. “These are men and women who put their lives on the line in the defense of this country, and that's what should matter the most.”

Panetta credited several groups for helping prepare the Defense Department for the implementation of the repeal.

“I want to thank the repeal implementation team and the service secretaries, along with the service chiefs, for all of their efforts to ensure that DOD is ready to make this change, consistent with standards of military readiness, with military effectiveness, with unit cohesion, and with the recruiting and retention of the armed forces,” he said.

“All of the service chiefs have stated very clearly that all of these elements have been met in the review that they conducted,” Panetta said. “Over 97 percent of our 2.3 million men and women in uniform have now received education and training on repeal as a result of these efforts.

“I also want to thank the Comprehensive Review Working Group for the work they did on the report that laid the groundwork for the change in this policy,” he added.

Panetta also lauded Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his commitment to the repeal of the 1993 law.

“And above all, I'd like to single out … Admiral Mike Mullen,” he said. “His courageous testimony and leadership on this issue, I think, were major factors in bringing us to this day. And he deserves a great deal of credit for what has occurred.”

Mullen said he steadfastly believed repealing the law was the right thing to do.

“I testified early in 2010 that it was time to end this law and this policy,” he said. “I believed then, and I still believe, that it was, first and foremost, a matter of integrity.

“It was fundamentally against everything we stand for as an institution to force people to lie about who they are just to wear a uniform,” Mullen added. “We are better than that.”

The chairman said the repeal will strengthen the DOD and emphasize positive values.

“Today, with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values,” he said.

Mullen also emphasized the Defense Department is well prepared for implementation of the repeal.

“I am convinced we did the work necessary to prepare for this change, that we adequately trained and educated our people, and that we took into proper consideration all the regulatory and policy modifications that needed to be made,” he said.

“I appreciate [Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s] confidence in me, and his kind praise,” Mullen said. “But today is really about every man and woman [in uniform] who serves this country … regardless of how they define themselves.”

Panetta said the long-awaited repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” brings the nation closer to true equality.

“Thanks to this change, we move closer to achieving the goal that is at the foundation of American values -- equality and dignity for all,” he said.

McHugh Cites Major Improvements at Arlington National Cemetery

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh today released publicly a “Report to Congress,” updating improvements made at Arlington National Cemetery more than a year after he ousted the cemetery’s leadership and made sweeping changes in its structure and oversight.

“In just over a year, the cemetery’s new management team has made major progress in reconciling decades’ worth of paper records with physical graveside inspections to regain accountability,” McHugh wrote in a letter to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. “They have put in place new policies and procedures to protect against and prevent the type of errors uncovered in the Army’s previous investigations. Equipment and training have been modernized, contracting procedures revamped, a historic partnership created with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the workforce improved and reinvigorated, and ongoing outreach and information has been provided to family members and the American public.”

McHugh provided the report to Congressional oversight committees in response to legislation seeking the status of a directive he signed that made sweeping reforms at Arlington National Cemetery. In compiling the report, McHugh directed the Army’s inspector general to again inspect the facility to determine compliance. An earlier inspector general report, also ordered by McHugh, found failures in management and oversight that contributed to the loss of accountability, lack of proper automation, ineffective contract compliance, and a dysfunctional workforce.

“Perhaps most important, the inspector general found the mismanagement that existed prior to these changes, ‘no longer exists,’” he said. “And that ‘significant progress has been made in all aspects of the cemetery’s performance, accountability and modernization.’ We’re confident that the Army is on the right path toward repairing the cemetery’s failures and restoring the confidence of Congress and the American people.”

McHugh noted that even while making massive improvements in the cemetery’s management and oversight, the pace of 27 to 30 funeral services per day -- many with full military honors -- has not abated.

“Since 1864, the United States Army has been steward of this, the country’s only active military shrine,” McHugh said. “I believe this report will demonstrate the Army’s steadfast commitment to repairing what was broken in the past, and ensuring America’s continued confidence in the operation of its most hallowed ground.”

NOTE: The secretary’s “Report to Congress” and the Department of the Army inspector general’s report on inspection of Arlington National Cemetery are available at: http://www.army.mil/arlington .

For more information contact Lt. Col. Lee M. Packnett at 703-697-7592.

USS Makin Island Completes COMPTUEX

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke, USS Makin Island Public Affairs, and Sgt. Elyssa Quesada, 11th MEU Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returned to San Diego Sept. 16 after completing a 16-day Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) off the coast of Southern California.

The training was another first for the Sailors and Marines assigned to the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship.

"This is part of our first work-up for our first deployment, and I have been completely impressed at the level of execution and precision with which Team Raider has performed," said Capt. Jim Landers, Makin Island's commanding officer.

Landers said COMPTUEX gives units of the Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group a chance to address operational challenges they may face during deployment.

Some of the tasks Sailors practiced included mass casualty and general quarter drills, flight deck operations, well deck operations, battle scenarios, a replenishment-at-sea evolution with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202), and a fueling-at-sea exercise with guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52).

Marines serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's ground combat element honed their skills both ashore in combat scenarios and aboard Makin Island for training. One exercise included sliding 35-feet down onto the ship's elevator utilizing a thick, plaited rope rigged to a parked helicopter on the flight deck.

The training simulated a technique for inserting a company-sized force into an objective area.

"When we're inserting by air - in six or eight aircraft - fast-roping from helicopters is the answer if we encounter a fouled (landing zone), be it debris or obstacles, or we're restricted from landing in an urban environment," said 1st Lt. Matthew Astphan, Company I executive officer. "And if we're proficient enough, it's actually faster to rope down into multiple sites without the pilots having to land."

The successful completion of COMPTUEX means that the ARG is ready to begin the Certification Exercise (CERTEX), the final test before deployment.

"Based on what I've observed across both the crew of Makin Island, the rest of the ARG and the execution of the MEU, I have absolutely no reservations about 100 percent success in CERTEX," said Landers.

Makin Island is named in honor of the World War II raid carried out by Marine Raider Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion on Japanese occupied Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. LHD 8 is the second ship to bear the name "USS Makin Island."

Airmen Missing In Action From WWII Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of nine servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William J. Sarsfield of Philadelphia; 2nd Lt. Charles E. Trimingham of Salinas, Calif.; Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Christopherson of Blue Earth, Minn.; and Tech. Sgt. Leonard A. Gionet of Shirley, Mass., will be buried as a group in a single casket on Sept. 21 in Arlington National Cemetery, along with remains representing previously identified crew members 2nd Lt. Herman H. Knott, 2nd Lt. Francis G. Peattie, Staff Sgt. Henry Garcia, Staff Sgt. Robert E. Griebel, and Staff Sgt. Pace P. Payne, who were individually buried in 1985.  These nine airmen were ordered to carry out a bombing mission over Rabaul, Papau New Guinea (P.N.G.), in their B-17E Flying Fortress nicknamed Naughty but Nice, taking off from an airfield near Dobodura, P.N.G., on June 26, 1943. The aircraft was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and ultimately shot down by Japanese fighter aircraft.  A tenth man, the navigator and only survivor of the crash -- 2nd Lt. Jose L. Holguin -- was held as a prisoner of war until his release in September 1945.

In 1949, U.S. military personnel in the area were led by local citizens to a B-17 crash site on New Britain Island.  Remains were recovered but couldn’t be identified given the technology of the time.  The remains were buried as unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

In 1982 and 1983, Holguin returned to the area and located the crash site.  A fragment of the aircraft nose art was recovered and is displayed in the War Museum in Kokopo, P.N.G.  In 1985, the remains were exhumed and identified as Knott, Payne, Garcia, Peattie, and Griebel.  In 2001, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) excavated the site and found additional human remains and crew-related equipment.

Among forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used dental comparisons and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA -- which matched that of some of the crewmembers’ families -- in the identification of their remains.

At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans.  Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted for from the conflict.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.

Artists Draw Inspiration from Vinson Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Megan Catellier, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors on board USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 welcomed members from the National Cartoonists Society Sept. 18-19 as part of a 'Humor Tour' and Navy Operational Stress Control project to visit service members along the West Coast.

Patrick Hrabe, the creator of the web series "Hey, Shipwreck," and founder of Tube Daze Productions; Mike Rote, a staff artist with Bongo Comics Group which creates comics based on "The Simpsons" and "Futurama"; Gary McCoy, an award-winning comic artist whose work has appeared in American Greetings greeting cards and "Parade" and "Playboy" magazines; Stephen Silver, main art director for cartoons such as Disney Channel's "Kim Possible" and Cartoon Network's "Danny Phantom"; and Greg Evans, creator of longtime newspaper cartoon, "Luann", visited Vinson for the last stop of their tour during the ship's underway operations off the coast of California.

"These [artists] love what they are doing," said retired Senior Chief Journalist Karen Suich, a Navy Personnel Command representative accompanying the tour. "They are giving up their time and money to come out and show their support for today's service members. It really is amazing."

The artists have visited physical therapy patients at Naval Medical Center in San Diego, a Wounded Warrior Battalion in Camp Pendleton, Calif., Fisher House at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Soldier and Family Assistance Center in Schofield Barracks in Honolulu and a Wounded Warrior Battalion West at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

"These Sailors, Soldiers and Marines need to know that humor can still be a part of their lives and future, even though life might not seem to offer them much humor at the present time," added Suich. This is Silver's third time touring and meeting service members.

"We all just love being here and doing this. Bringing joy to service members and their families is humbling for us and it's an easy way to give back," said Silver.

"Being on this ship is surreal. You see the news and you see what the Navy is doing, but you never get to see it in person. It's so great to put smiles on faces."

Evans advised service members in attendance to, "follow your passion! If you like to draw, just keep drawing." Evans has been creating new comics for Luann, a misunderstood teenage girl, for more than 26 years.

Evans praised his experience with Vinson Sailors.

"The quality of service and seriousness of doing your jobs is astounding to me," he said. "You are all around the age of 20, it's truly impressive."

Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Bridget Carroll shared her appreciation for the artists' visit.
"It's a great service, what they are doing," said Carroll. "We don't really get to see how much people appreciate us, so it's really nice to see them here, doing what they are doing."

Carl Vinson and CVW 17 are conducting underway operations off the coast of Southern California.

Donley: Air Force Must Strike Balance in Budget

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
Defense Media Activity

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., Sept. 20, 2011 – The Air Force will maintain its technical edge and commitment to its people while addressing tough budget decisions, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said yesterday.

Donley spoke about the state of Air Force budget issues, current and future operations, and what Air Force officials are doing to maintain the force's capabilities during the Air Force Association's 2011 Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition here.

"We are in a season of important national debate,” Donley said. “We have to move forward in a way that protects our national security and will provide our national leadership with the tools necessary to defend America's interests in the complex security environment in which we live."

Spending reductions across the Defense Department to help reduce the national debt will affect Air Force planning at all levels.

"Though very tough, these reductions are considered achievable as DOD reviews its roles and missions and examines all areas of the budget for savings," he said. "To get these savings, we will need to accept greater risk in some areas, terminate some lower-priority programs, streamline others, continue driving efficiency in our operations and make some tough choices about the core tenets of our national security strategy.

"It's safe to say that every single line of the budget is under scrutiny," he said.

Donley emphasized that DOD leaders are aware of how spending reductions could affect the services, and are working to mitigate any setbacks in the mission.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta “has made a commitment to ensure that our military has everything it needs to protect our national security at a time of considerable fiscal challenge in our country," he said. "And most importantly to our airmen, he has promised to fight for service members and their families as we face these budget challenges. He understands the importance of keeping faith with military service members and their families."

Donley also explained how balancing the force and modernizing equipment will play a factor in the way the budget is expended. Each factor must be considered in conjunction with the others.

"As we look at the Air Force budget, balance has been our guiding principle," he said. "If our force structure -- the size and composition of our Air Force -- is too large given the resources available, then we risk not being able to sustain the costs of ownership, such as providing for pay and benefits, training and materiel readiness. We need to avoid a hollow force."

If the force is too small, Donley went on to say, it could unintentionally drive some mission areas and career fields to unsustainably low levels, while losing the flexibility to accommodate new or evolving missions, or risk ability to sustain expeditionary operations.

Balancing the force also includes continuing to integrate total force airmen and assets.

"As we consider the broad scope of changes ahead, we are committed to maintaining an Air Force presence in each state, to include at least one active-duty, Reserve, or Air National Guard unit," Donley said. "This reflects our commitment to the total force, our ongoing efforts to find the right balance between our active-duty and our Air Reserve component forces, and recognition of airpower's important role in supporting governors and civil authorities in managing the consequences of natural disasters."

The secretary said that while it would benefit no one to down play the hard choices that confront the Air Force, neither should the picture be painted as so bleak that service members fear that the nation is turning its back "on those who have served with such devotion, and on the institutions that have kept our nation secure for generations."

"I want to make clear that as the Department of Defense adapts to the evolving budget environment, your Air Force is committed to keeping faith with our airmen and their families, and to sustaining core Air Force missions," he said.

Although much work remains before the Air Force can expect strategic clarity regarding budget reductions, Donley said there are certain key capabilities service officials are working to protect. One such area is the Joint Strike Fighter program, which provides the Air Force with the F-35 Lightning II.

"There are certain capabilities we will protect," he said. "We will apply best military judgment to oppose reductions that would cause irreparable harm.”

Donley said he and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz “are determined to set the right course, to make the right investments so that the Air Force evolves in positive directions, even with limited resources.

"We remain committed to maintaining air superiority and the capability to hold any target at risk," he said. "With a fighter fleet now averaging 22 years old, and with two decades of declining fighter force structure, modernizing our aging and smaller fighter force depends on the fifth generation capabilities of the joint strike fighter. Simply put, there is no alternative to the F-35 program. It must succeed."

Despite budget reductions, Donley said he is confident the Air Force will maintain its ability to flight, fight and win across the full spectrum of operations.

"The Air Force has always been a forward-leaning military service, always at the forefront applying new technologies to strengthen U.S. national security," he said. "And throughout our history, we have demonstrated the flexibility to evolve according to changing needs and requirements. The Air Force must be prepared to keep evolving as we finish today's fight and continue our mission to protect America today and in the future."

Obama: Americans No Longer Have to Lie to Serve

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 – President Barack Obama today issued a statement on the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that had barred gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The repeal took effect at midnight.

Here is the president’s statement:

Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans. Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them.

For more than two centuries, we have worked to extend America’s promise to all our citizens. Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans. Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals.

Kosovo-bound Soldiers receive sendoff

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By 2nd Lt. Nathan Wallin
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Elected officials, senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders, family and friends gathered at a large hangar at the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee Friday (Sept. 16) to bid farewell to approximately 150 Soldiers of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

The Soldiers - members of the brigade's headquarters company as well as the 32nd Military Police Company - will serve alongside more than 700 National Guard Soldiers from seven other states, as well as six other nations, as part of a NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo known as KFOR. The 157th will serve as the brigade headquarters unit for Multi-National Battle Group East, also referred to as Task Force Falcon.

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, recognized the Soldiers preparing to deploy as well as their families.

"You can count on us," he said. "We'll do our job for you, as I know you'll do your job for the United States of America."

Gov. Scott Walker thanked the Soldiers for their continued dedication.

"Thank you for your service already," Walker said. "Thank you for being here today for this deployment. Most of all, thank you on behalf of a grateful state and a grateful nation."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also praised the deploying Soldiers.

"You are making a sacrifice for everyone in this community," he said.

Walker presented Col. Jeffrey Liethen, brigade commander, with a state flag and asked the deploying Soldiers to remember the people of Wisconsin every time they looked at that flag.

Immediately following the ceremony, the deploying Soldiers departed for Camp Atterbury, Ind., for pre-deployment training. They will take part in Kosovo-specific mobilization training in Germany before arriving in Kosovo around Thanksgiving.

A maneuver enhancement brigade includes military police, civil affairs, engineering, signal and chemical units, and is designed to provide command and control and freedom of movement for a designated area.

Officials Expect Smooth ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 – The law is passed, the studies completed, the findings certified and the service member training accomplished. Today, after years of debate and months of preparation, the Defense Department starts on a new footing with the repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that since 1993 has banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

“Statements about sexual orientation will no longer be a bar to enlisting in the military or a cause for dismissal,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, chief of staff for the Pentagon’s repeal implementation team.

In addition, former service members separated from the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell based solely on their sexual orientation will be eligible to reapply to return to military service. Patton said their applications will be evaluated using the same standards as all other candidates, and decisions will be based on needs of the service.

As these long-anticipated changes take place, Patton said he expects the repeal implementation to stay on track because of the pre-repeal training across the force. In addition, many other existing policies considered “sexual-orientation neutral” remain in place.

Duty assignments won’t be affected, and living and working conditions won’t change, Patton said. Service members won’t be separated or segregated based on sexual orientation, and will continue to share billeting and berthing as in the past.

With repeal, benefits will remain as they are. Service members will be able to designate whomever they want to receive member-designated benefits such as Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance, he said. Other benefits, such as basic allowance for housing, are limited by law and statute to cover only opposite-sex spouses and can’t be extended to same-sex partners, Patton said.

However, the Defense Department is studying the possible extension of other benefits where eligibility is not specifically defined by law, such as use of military morale, welfare and recreation facilities to same-sex partners. “We have not arrived at a decision on that,” Patton said. “The department continues to explore that possibility, post-repeal.”

Although the vast majority of military members and their families surveyed before the repeal indicated they had no issues with the repeal, Patton said he recognizes that some may. To those, he has a message: “We are not trying to change your beliefs. You have your freedom to exercise your beliefs and your freedom of speech.”

But with that, he said, “you have to maintain your dignity and respect for others.”

No new policy will allow anyone who disagrees with the repeal to break their contractual obligations. Anyone who has complaints or issues associated with the repeal should take them to a commander or inspector general, Patton said. Sexual orientation issues will not be addressed by equal opportunity channels in the way gender, race and religion issues are.

With the repeal in effect, Patton said he expects military members will honor it. “The repeal is a law,” he said. “The military follows the law and we are executing this as part of our mission.”

A key in carrying out the mission, he said, is a principle emphasized during mandatory pre-repeal training throughout the force that the military has embraced throughout its history.

“The training focused on the changes in policy, that sexual orientation is not a reason for a person to be denied enlistment in the service or separated from the service. And that we continue to treat all service members with dignity and respect,” Patton said.

Part of that respect, he said, is to allow all service members to live honest lives. “During Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gay and lesbian service members were required by law to withhold their sexual orientation, and in some cases, they potentially violated their own personal integrity,” Patton said. “Upon repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, they won’t be placed in that predicament.”

As a result, the repeal “will strengthen the military,” he said. “It will continue to allow us to keep gay and lesbian service members in the military, and we will be a better military for it.”

Face of Defense: Soldier Cites Struggles, Recovery

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By Kevin Goode
Fort Bragg Paraglide

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Sept. 19, 2011 – Army Suicide Prevention Month provides a lot of information and training aimed at educating soldiers not to take their lives, said a troubled soldier who’s now getting help.

Yet, he said, the September-observed annual campaign often doesn’t provide real stories of soldiers who’ve struggled mightily and reached out for counseling.

“Until you suffer loss, whether it’s an emotional toll from combat, divorce or depression, you don’t realize the toll it’s taking on you,” said Army Capt. Douglas Ray, the public affairs officer for the 16th Military Police Brigade here.

“Divorce, for me, was an eye-opener,” he said. “The maturity that I needed was stuff that I’m still working on today. It was something that I think I only could have gotten and started developing through counseling.”

Ray said so much is asked of soldiers like maintaining success of the unit, completing the mission and training that it leaves very little time for self-assessment, and the stress and the pressure can be overwhelming. It is sometimes forgotten, he added, that not all wounds are visible.

For Ray, understanding suicide and depression was something he learned early. When he was 15, his father committed suicide.

“My dad suffered from bouts of depression,” he said. “I still do, but the key to success for me is recognizing when it’s happening so I can combat it. Genetically, I have some of the same issues my dad had.”

Like many, Ray said he didn’t always feel the need to speak to a counselor, but his mother recognized the signs in her son’s life and took him to see a counselor.

It wasn’t until years later, after his divorce, that he recognized the value of talking to a counselor.

“The emotional toll of divorce and, -- good, bad or indifferent -- it was my wake-up call. I knew I needed help,” Ray said.

Ray said his ex-wife told him to get help.

“She was telling me I needed to get help, but you aren’t going to listen to somebody you aren’t talking to anyway,” he said.

The Army’s suicide prevention program, Ray explained, tells leaders and rank-and-file soldiers to be aware, observant and to listen when fellow soldiers experience emotional problems. Military leaders and troops are to encourage troubled service members to seek help. And troops seeking counseling and other assistance for mental health issues should face no stigma for doing so.

“The value of talking to a dispassionate third party, somebody who didn’t know me who could tell me what I was saying or define for me things I couldn’t define for myself was great,” Ray said.

One person telling his story opens the door for dialogue, Ray said, but it is just a beginning. In the military, he said, there are many who have dealt with everyday struggles and suffer in silence.

“My hope is that if somebody can see that there is somebody out there who realizes they need help and get help and now is doing much better, they, too, will keep on trying,” he said.

Important messages conveyed by suicide prevention programs should be personalized, Ray said.

“Soldiers need to know that there are other soldiers and resources out there, [and] that [other soldiers] have gone through the same thing and have overcome the obstacles, with help,” he said.

Success before Stress: Are You In Control of Your Choices?

Check out the best navy books written by heroes for heroes!

By Dr. Vladimir Nacev

Dr. Vladimir Nacev is a retired Navy and board certified clinical psychologist specializing in child and adolescent psychology. He has served overseas and spent most of his time in clinics and hospitals providing clinical services to service members and their families. He is a subject matter expert on alcohol and substance abuse prevention at DCoE.

As a child growing up in three different cultures, I learned the value of being cosmopolitan—learning the difference between having an opinion and holding a judgment, between having a choice and making a decision. Years later when I became director of an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation clinic, I conveyed the message that while drinking alcohol is a choice, the amount of alcohol we consume may not always be under our control. For some, drinking alcohol is a high risk factor with serious consequences that may need to be avoided.

The clinical literature defines three types of drinking: binge drinking, heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems. Recent data on service members with multiple deployments suggest that those born after 1980 are almost seven times more likely to develop a new onset of binge drinking and five times more likely to develop a new onset of alcohol-related problems. Men who were exposed to combat were more likely to experience a new onset of binge drinking while women more likely to report a new onset of heavy drinking and less likely to report binge drinking or alcohol-related problems.

From my clinical work I learned that the dilemma in becoming sober was not the stopping of drinking, but overcoming denial and rationalizations. Denial is a primitive defense mechanism that hides reality from us, sometimes for good reasons. Rationalization is a process where we give ourselves permission to do something we were going to do anyway. These are like ankle-biters that we need to unload and be ever so vigilant against. The challenge is to learn how to be a responsible drinker. Drink not just with your mouth open but your eyes open too.

As a parent, professor and clinician I always try to convey that we have the freedom to do anything and everything we want, but we should also have the courage to face the consequences. The challenge in life is to go through it with lots of fun, happiness and growth while paying the least amount of consequence or punishment. Healthy living means creating a safe, nurturing environment with trust, compassion and humor. By doing this we’ll reduce our stress levels and risk factors that sometimes compel us to hurt ourselves.

These are exciting and challenging times for our warriors and the psychological health field. For those who are serving or have served and their families, my sincerest “thank you.” We could not have done it without you. Bravo Zulu!