Military News

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Demand Grows for Squad-level Linguist Program

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 26, 2011 – Last year, 74 soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., became the first to participate in a new program that provides short-term, intensive language and cultural training to deploying military members.

The general purpose force program wasn’t designed for professional linguists or interpreters, explained Sam Garzaniti, who manages it at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center here.

Rather, the program provides basic Dari or Pashto instruction, taught by native Afghan speakers, to help nonlinguists -- military police, medics, truck drivers and infantrymen, among them, -- operate more effectively on the ground in Afghanistan.

Retired Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal came up with the concept when he commanded the International Security Assistance Force to create what deployed forces refer to as “squad-designated linguists” able to communicate with the Afghan people. Graduates of the program proved so beneficial to their deployed units that it’s now growing by leaps and bounds.

Fort Carson, Colo., one of three pilot sites when the program stood up last year, soon sent almost 300 soldiers to a condensed version of the training before they deployed. The vast majority studied Dari, with the other 49 soldiers learning Pashto. Fort Drum, N.Y., also in the pilot program, sent 55 10th Mountain Division soldiers to its initial general purpose force training.

“After that, it has just been a steady flow of classes,” Garzaniti said. Schofield Barracks in Hawaii signed on to the program in September 2010. Fort Bragg, N.C., followed earlier this year.

The Marines jumped on board, too, with Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., joining the program last fall.

To date, about 1,000 service members have completed the program, Garzaniti said. He expects more enrollment in the program as word about it spreads.

Classes typically run 13 to 16 weeks, with students spending as much as six hours a day in the classroom, in addition to practice sessions and mandatory study halls.

Unlike other Defense Language Institute programs, the general purpose force curriculum focuses on listening and speaking skills, Garzaniti said. Students learn vocabulary and verb tenses and how to construct sentences. Then they practice using them in various scenarios similar to what they might encounter in Afghanistan.

“It’s a very-focused program,” Garzaniti said. “We’re not going for global proficiency. We are going for tactical functionality.”

Graduates aren’t meant to take the place of professional linguists and interpreters, he said. For example, they typically aren’t able to discuss the news with local Afghans. They can, however, ask for directions or share pleasantries over tea or during key leader engagements.

They also have the skills to ask questions and understand responses at roadblocks and read street signs and even graffiti on walls that may provide clues about insurgent activities.

“That makes them a force multiplier,” Garzaniti said. “When they go out and do their operations, whatever they may be, having somebody there in the front able to at least greet [the Afghans] and lay groundwork for something makes a huge difference. They are somebody to help.”

Returning units report that even limited language and cultural skills have helped them in their mission. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from people who have been in country saying, ‘Hey, this works absolutely great,’” Garzaniti said. “They tell you that you speak two words and you see a face light up.”

A professional linguist himself who retired from the Army last year, Garzaniti said he has seen firsthand the impact language ability had on the Afghans we encountered.

“They know you took the time to learn at least a few words, a phrase, two phrases,” he said. “It makes all the difference in the world.”

More units are signing up as the message spreads about general purpose force training availability, Garzaniti said.

“I definitely don’t see any slowdown in business,” he said. “As more commanders hear the good stories from our brigades and battalions and companies that have used these people [during deployments], we see them starting to put their hands up and asking, ‘What about me?’”

USS Wasp Concludes JSF Testing

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Tommy Lamkin, USS Wasp Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) returned to its homeport of Naval Station Norfolk Oct. 21 after spending three weeks at sea hosting the initial sea trials of the F-35B Lightning II, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The first F-35B landed on Wasp's flight deck Oct. 3, beginning an 18-day test period for the aircraft. During the testing, two F-35B Marine Corps test jets (BF-2 and BF-4) accomplished vertical landings and short take-offs under various conditions.

While underway, the world's first supersonic short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) fighter logged more than 28 hours of flight time and completed 72 short take-offs and 72 vertical landings. Wasp crew members worked around the clock with pilots, engineers, mechanics and a wide-array of aeronautical professionals, both military and civilian to meet the mission of the F-35B sea trials.

"Wasp Air Department personnel and the JSF team started working together from day one," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Curcio, Wasp's assistant air officer and JSF program officer. "Starting initially with the leadership interacting to set the vision for the ship trials, we worked a top-down approach to gradually bring in more people from each respective team.

"This ensured that, from planning to execution, every detail was tended to and no stone was left unturned. Ultimately, this group was well ahead of the power curve at every juncture," he said.

The Wasp and the JSF team have prepared for these sea trials for more than a year. The ship, which typically accommodates the AV-8B Harrier, had to receive modifications and installation of test monitoring equipment in preparation for the F-35B's arrival.

"We used Harrier operations as a baseline from which to deviate. Working with the JSF team, we identified the operational differences between the AV-8B and the F-35B, and we trained to those differences." said Curcio.

The trials are the first of three scheduled sea based developmental test events for the STOVL variant. One of the goals was to collect environmental data on the deck using instrumentation to measure the F-35B's sound, power, and thermal impact during flight operations.

Ansis Kalnajs, better known as "AK," a topside design and integration technical warrant for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), and his team of 31 engineers, collected data to capture the effects of the F-35 on flight deck and superstructure components.

"We have been collecting data on how the main engine affects deck edge equipment," said Kalnajs, "as well as thermal load stresses to the structure and the acoustic effects."

"We got a sufficient amount of data and really good assessments for the road ahead," he said.

Also being tested is a newer non-skid deck surface, Thermion, which is supported by a mechanical bond of ceramic and aluminum that makes the surface more resistant to extreme heat and better endures the wear and tear of flight operations. The Thermion covers landing spot nine on the flight deck, a small area used for vertical landings.

"The Thermion shows no signs of heat stress, which is good for the F-35, and eventually good for all surface ships," said Kalnajs.

During the testing period the Wasp and JSF team demonstrated the F-35B's at-sea capabilities for the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus; Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos; senior military officers; and JSF international partners as well as members of the national media.

The testing for the F-35 and its sea-based operations will continue over the next several years.

"It is imperative that we build off that basic knowledge for the next sea trials," said Curcio.

The next sea trial, DT-2 is scheduled for 2013 after Wasp receives additional modifications for F-35B operations.

The F-35B is one of three Joint Strike Fighter variants. The 'B' was designed for use by the U.S. Marine Corps, and is capable of short take-offs and vertical landings for use on amphibious ships or expeditionary airfields to provide air power to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The F-35B will replace the AV- 8B Harrier and will continue test and evaluation at Naval Air Station Patuxent River prior to delivery to the fleet.

National Youth Transitions Center Opens Doors: First Center Devoted Exclusively to Serving Youth with Disabilities and Wounded Veterans

Washington, D.C. (October 26, 2011)  -- Surrounded by healthcare, labor, community and military leaders, The National Youth Transitions Center (NYTC) was launched and officially opened its doors today, making needed services available to hundreds of young adults across the country.  Developed by the HSC Foundation, the NYTC will, for the first time, bring multiple organizations together in one space to provide much-needed transition services, research, public policy, and wounded veterans’ services to youth. The center will provide assistance for youth with physical, sensory, intellectual, and emotional disabilities like autism, and to veterans making that difficult transition from life on the battlefield to life as a civilian.

“The National Youth Transitions Center will enhance the ability of young people and veterans to re-enter the workforce, participate in and contribute to community life, and to become productive members of society. This vitally-needed center will bring together experts from across the country to ensure that our youth and young veterans with disabilities are included in all aspects of our communities,” said Thomas Chapman, President and CEO of the HSC Foundation. “We’re making sure a neglected youth population doesn’t fall through the cracks as they enter adulthood.”

More than 40 organizations (see attached list) are collaborating with the center and will see youth and young veterans with disabilities  (ages 14-26) to help get them ready for higher education and the workforce. Twelve of these organizations are housed in the new, state of the art, seven-story facility that is located in northwest Washington D.C. near Georgetown University’s campus. It will be equipped with the latest technology to provide services not only to youth at the center, but across the nation. 

Some of the services they will provide include:

             Personal development and leadership training
             School¬-to-¬work readiness training
             Family education and support
             Work based learning (mentoring and internships)
             Career counseling and exploration

Ari Ne’eman is the president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), one of the organizations collaborating with the National Youth Transition Center. Ne’eman also sits on the National Council on Disability—a position he has held since being confirmed by the Senate last year. He says a center like this is long overdue.

"The National Youth Transitions Center is an extraordinary project that ASAN is proud to be a part of. By bringing together disability organizations from across the spectrum of our broad community, we can make progress we never could manage on our own. We're stronger together - and the NYTC is making that happen,” Ne’eman says.

For young people with disabilities that do not have assistance, the outcome is grim, as statistics have shown:

  Youth with disabilities are more than twice as likely as their peers to drop out of school, and they will face much higher unemployment rates.
  The adjudication rate of youth with disabilities is four times higher than for youth without disabilities.
  Youth with disabilities are three times more likely to live in poverty as adults than their peers without disabilities.

In addition to serving youth with disabilities, the center will also serve young veterans who are making that difficult transition from life on the battlefield to life in an office or college environment (especially when that transition brings with it new mental and physical disabilities).

Veterans like 27-year old Ryan Lamke understand the need for a center like this all too well. Lamke joined the Marine Corps after the September 11, 2001, attacks. He served for four years doing two deployments in Iraq. After being blown up by several roadside bombs and a grenade, Lamke suffered multiple brain and orthopedic injuries forcing him to resign from active duty. He found going back to civilian life was more difficult than he ever imagined.

“When you get out of the military it’s as if you have to go through a whole new boot camp. When you enroll in basic training, you’re taught how to be a solider, when you get out you need to be taught the same things, but most people don’t understand that,” Lamke says. “When I came back I had to learn not only how to deal with the people I had left behind I had to learn simple things like budgeting, paying bills, and most importantly understanding how to trust people in the civilian world again. That coupled with my injuries made life incredibly complicated,” Lamke says.

Until now, there has not been a comprehensive facility that really offered a safe haven for young veterans to talk about their problems and experiences. The NYTC is partnering with The Student Veterans of America not only to give them that place, but also to be surrounded by the support of young counselors and employment advisors who have faced and overcome the same issues as the men and women they’re helping.

“The National Youth Transition Center is about employment, education, freedom, and independence and you can’t have independence without an education or a job. We’re giving them the tools to help them build a path to independence and reach their highest potential,” Chapman said.

The partners at the center envision a multitude of benefits that include:

             For youth and veterans with disabilities:  Readiness for jobs or college, eased reentry into their communities as well as confidence and skill
             For employers:  Outstanding, capable employees ready to help reach goals and fulfill missions
             For the disabilities and transitions fields:  New thinking and learning from research, evaluation, advocacy, and models of service
             For the nation:  A valuable human resource for the future

The official opening ceremony was attended by several members of Congress including Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) and Rep. Gregg Harper (MI), as well as Sue Swenson, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Education, Ortiz, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Veterans’ Employment and Training Services for the Department of Labor, and Gen. Gale Pollock.

About The HSC Foundation
The HSC Foundation (HSCF) is dedicated to improving access to services for individuals who face social and health care barriers due to disability and chronic illness. It puts a particular emphasis on youth, especially those who are transitioning to adulthood. Health Services for Children with Special Needs, Inc., The HSC Pediatric Center, HSC Home Care, LLC and Special Needs Consulting Services are subsidiary organizations of the Foundation. To learn more about The HSC Foundation, visit HSCfoundation.org.

OPERATION HOMEFRONT AND ARMED SERVICES YMCA COLLABORATE TO SUPPORT MILITARY FAMILIES

Working Together Will Make Both Organizations More Effective In Assisting Military Families

San Antonio – Operation Homefront and the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) announce a commitment to collaborate on the provision of programs and services to military personnel and their families. The two leading military support organizations will refer those who need their services to each other based on available programs, allowing them to better serve those who serve. Operation Homefront is a national non-profit organization that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and Wounded Warriors. The ASYMCA provides a variety of recreation, wellness and other programs and services for military personnel and their families.

“We’re pleased to be able to work more closely with the Armed Services YMCA as we both serve our military families,” said Jim Knotts, President and CEO of Operation Homefront.  “Our service members on the battlefield are more successful when they work as a team, and we’re more successful in taking care of military families when we work with other great organizations that share our commitment and values.  Each playing to our strengths, we can more effectively and efficiently get military families to the organization best suited to meeting specific needs.”

“We are proud to work closely with Operation Homefront to better serve our military families in need,” said Mike Landers, National Executive Director and CEO of the Armed Services YMCA..  “With our shared commitment to making military life easier, this collaboration is a tremendous opportunity to expand our program and service offerings to better serve those who rely on our organizations.”

Both the Armed Services YMCA and Operation Homefront have received a four star, exceptional rating from Charity Navigator for several years running.

“ASYMCA and Operation Homefront are both best-in-class organizations that help fill gaps in supporting military families,” continued Knotts.  When we work together, it is our military families who reap the benefits.”

The partnership will also extend to the Army Homefront Fund, a legal sub-entity of Operation Homefront, which provides emergency financial and other support to Soldiers and their families, with a focus on Wounded Warrior care and transition assistance. 

About Operation Homefront
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 5000 volunteers across 25 chapters and has met more than 430,000 needs since 2002.  As four-star rated charity by watchdog Charity Navigator, and a top-rated charity by the American Institute of Philanthropy,  Operation Homefront ensures that 94 percent of its total donated revenue  goes to programs.  More information is available at www.OperationHomefront.net.

ABOUT ASYMCA
150 Years of Service to America’s Military: The YMCA’s dedication to America’s armed forces began in 1861 when a handful of members voluntarily provided relief services to Civil War soldiers. Today, the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) is the leading private provider of educational, recreational, social and support services to military personnel and their families, promoting youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

The Armed Services YMCA, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, recently earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator for the sixth consecutive year and is a top-rated charity according to the American Institute of Philanthropy. An affiliate of the YMCA of the USA, ASYMCA is headquartered in Alexandria, Va. For more information, visit ASYMCA.org.