Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rules Liberalized for Veterans with Undiagnosed Illnesses

Application Window Extended for Five Years

WASHINGTON – Veterans of the Persian Gulf War with undiagnosed illnesses have an additional five years to qualify for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Not all the wounds of war are fully understood,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “When there is uncertainty about the connection between a medical problem and military service, Veterans are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”

A recent change in VA regulations affects Veterans of the conflict in Southwest Asia.  Many have attributed a range of undiagnosed or poorly understood medical problems to their military services.  Chemical weapons, environmental hazards and vaccinations are among the possible causes.

At issue is the eligibility of Veterans to claim VA disability compensation based upon those undiagnosed illnesses, and the ability of survivors to qualify for VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Under long-standing VA rules, any undiagnosed illnesses used to establish eligibility for VA benefits must become apparent by Dec. 31, 2011.  The new change pushes the date back to Dec. 31, 2016.

Veterans or survivors who believe they qualify for these benefits should contact VA at 1-800-827-1000.

Further information about undiagnosed illnesses is available online at and

U.S. to Sell F-15 Fighters to Saudi Arabia

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2011 – The United States will sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for 70 existing aircraft to Saudi Arabia under a nearly $29.4 billion agreement, U.S. officials announced today.

During a joint State Department and Defense Department briefing today, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, discussed the sale.

“The United States is firmly committed to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we have been for nearly seven decades, and … more broadly, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong mutual interest in the security and stability of the Gulf,” Miller said.

The F-15s Saudi Arabia will receive “will have the latest generation of computing power, radar technology, infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems,” he added.

“This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Shapiro said. “It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security.”

State and DOD have worked to conclude the agreement since June 2010, Shapiro added.

The White House earlier today released a statement detailing the Foreign Military Sales program agreement, which also will provide munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics support for the F-15s to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

This Day in Naval History - Dec. 29

1798 - First annual report by Secretary of the Navy, sent by Benjamin Stoddert.
1812 - USS Constitution (Captain William Bainbridge) captures HMS Java off Brazil after a three hour battle.
1943 - USS Silversides (SS-236) sinks three Japanese ships and damages a fourth off Palau.

Transition Benefits: FFSC ERB Seminar Available to San Diego Sailors

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) San Diego offers a series of two-day seminars for Sailors and their families affected by the Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) with the next scheduled for Jan. 17-18 at Naval Base Coronado.

The seminar is entitled "ERB...What Next? Seminar for Sailors and Spouses" and additional sessions are planned on a monthly basis through June.

"Our Sailors have amazing leadership skills, and they've already started to make their own transition plans. We're just here to help ensure they are connected with all the resources that can help them meet their goals and the correct information on the benefits associated with their transition," said Mary Kirby, FFSC San Diego director.

The first seminar was held Dec. 19 and 20 at Naval Base San Diego and 59 Sailors and spouses affected by the ERB were in attendance. Attendees received information about assistance and resources to help in the transition to the civilian workforce, managing stress, financial planning, and understanding transition benefits.

The seminar, also open to Sailors and spouses affected by Perform to Serve, consists of ten interactive modules addressing every aspect of the ERB transition process. In partnership with FFSC, representatives from Navy College, command career counselors, Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, Personal Property, Personnel Support Detachment, Human Resources Service Center, REBOOT, Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, Employment Development Department, and other organizations attend to answer questions and provide the latest information on career services, networking, financial empowerment, transition benefits, stress management, and relocation information.

At the conclusion of the seminar's first day, there is an evening resource fair with schools, employers, Reserve recruiters, placement agency representatives, and resource organizations connecting with separating Sailors and their spouses to provide brochures and individual consultations.

"FFSC will post information from each learning module online for downloading, as well as mailing material to deployed commands," said Kirby, FFSC San Diego. "FFSC San Diego has planned seminars each month through at least June of 2012 and similar learning opportunities will be offered to those affected throughout Navy Region Southwest in conjunction with their local FFSCs."

In addition to the ERB Seminar, a Shipmates to Workmates (S2W) Job Fair is being offered in San Diego Feb. 9. Attendees can meet with representative from commands including Commander, Naval Installations Command, Naval Air Systems, Naval Facilities Engineering Commad, Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Supply Systems Command, Office of Civilian Human Resources, and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to receive information about career opportunities and receive assistance with applications and resumes for open positions. S2W is a Navy-wide initiative consisting of a traveling road show and individualized support to help Sailors locate civilian employment options within the Department of the Navy, as well as assistance in easing their transition.

For more information, visit

FFSC San Diego also added additional dates to the Transition Assistance Program classes for Sailors separating under ERB that cannot attend the regularly scheduled sessions or prefer to attend with other ERB Sailors.

"The content for Transition Assistance Program classes for ERB/PTS separating Sailors is not different than that of regular TAP classes, however students in these sessions can network with others being separated for the same reasons," Kirby said.

FFSC San Diego offers implemented walk-in services each week for easy access to counseling for those affected by the stress of an ERB transition. All of these services are available to Sailors affected by Perform to Serve as well.

"These initiatives augment the traditional FFSC services available to all transitioning service members and their families," said Kirby. "They include individualized consultations and workshops on finding federal and civilian employment, interview techniques, resume writing, and other career and financial readiness programs. We are here to be partners in transition for Sailors and families."

For more information about ERB transition support, check out the NPC ERB transition support page at, contact the NPC customer service center at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC (1-866-827-5672), or email

For more information about support services offered by FFSC San Diego, visit

Defenders share gifts, bring holiday cheer to orphans

by Staff Sgt. Mark Bush
8th Security Forces Squadron

 12/28/2011 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- During this holiday season Defenders of the 8th Security Forces Squadron defend the base, but they also take the time spread Christmas cheer to the Samsung Orphanage.

Since 1970, the 8th SFS has had a long standing 'legacy' project with sponsoring the Samsung Orphanage's Angel Tree. The orphanage is located approximately 10 miles from Kunsan Air Base and houses more than 55 children ranging from age 4 to 18.

This year, the defenders took their legacy project up a notch by providing each child with three presents.

"It was truly an eye opening experience," said Airman 1st Class Adam Errahebi, an 8th SFS volunteer. "I was honored to have the opportunity to have a hand in something like this. It was especially gratifying to see all the SF members pull together and make this Christmas a special one for the kids, it made my holiday season."

The Christmas celebration began with a meal sponsored by the Kunsan Commissary, Army and Air Force Exchange Services and Staff Sgt. Kevin Arndt, 8th SFS alpha flight chief.

After the meal, the children sang and danced to a variety of Korean and American Christmas songs.

"The kids displayed their appreciation with a performance," said Tech. Sgt. Jimmy Tran, 8th SFS volunteer. "We did not expect this from these kids. We all had the opportunity to put a smile on a child's face and show the Air Force's ability to give back to the community."

8th SFS Airmen enjoyed the opportunity to be family to others during the holiday season while being away from their own.

Kunsan reflects on past, ready for future -- A look at 2011

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/28/2011 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The year 2011 brought about much change and progress for the Wolf Pack.

 Most notably, in May and throughout the spring, a new wing leadership team took the helm after the previous command lead the wing to an "Excellent" overall rating during the year's operational readiness inspection.

This set the Wolf Pack up for success after several more quarterly and peninsula-wide operational readiness exercises in preparation for the 2012 dual-ORI and unit compliance inspection that will be known as a combined unit inspection.

Other notable achievements include updating and upgrading the bowling alley, constructing a new running track, completing new maintenance facilities, being host to numerous distinguished visitors and music artists, the demolition of more than two condemned dormitories, beating out rival Osan Air Base at the annual sports day and accomplishing many wing warrior runs in the hunt for physical fitness.

 Keeping in step with long-standing Wolf Pack traditions, Kunsan also performed above the mark by hosting several joint and bilateral training exercises, pausing and reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, supporting both operations Tomodachi in Japan and Pacific Angel in Cambodia, cycling more than 100 miles for cancer awareness, completing two Marine combat fitness tests, successfully hosting more than 100,000 Korean nationals for the biennial air show and spreading Christmas cheer to orphans and the elderly of Gunsan City.

 In May, at his assumption of command, Col. Scott Pleus, 8th Fighter Wing commander, had this to say as he began his tenure as Kunsan's "Wolf":

"What we do at Kunsan is very important," Pleus said. "I wholeheartedly believe Kunsan is the best assignment you can get in our Air Force and I can't wait to get started!"

The then new commander explained how the Wolf Pack was to accomplish all the milestones it had in its path and how these accomplishments would prepare Kunsan for whatever 2012 and beyond has in store.

"We'll do this by focusing on professionalism, caring for our great Airmen, being the best stewards of our resources and planning for the future."

Emergency mass notification system to be implemented at AMC bases

by Air Mobility Command Emergency Management

 12/29/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- In September of this year, Headquarters Air Mobility Command awarded a contract to Reliable Government Solutions to provide AtHoc Installation Warning System Alerts (AtHoc IWSAlerts™) to eight AMC installations.

This system procurement in part is in response to mitigating events such as the Fort Hood, Texas, incident, but will be key to notifying installation personnel during all types of emergencies.

AtHoc IWSAlerts™ is a network-centric emergency mass notification system (EMNS) which also provides an aspect of personnel accountability. The personnel accountability is a report consisting of who was notified, when and if they acknowledged.

The system is capable of notifying personnel within minutes of an emergency from a single, centralized, Web-based instance. Types of notifications range from force protection condition changes, anti-terror warnings or natural disaster alerts for approaching tornadoes, hurricanes or other emergency situations.

 Command posts at each base will be the lead in operating the system with emergency managers also being key players in the process. The AMC command center will also have the ability to make command-wide notifications. As the primary owners of the systems at the bases, command posts will push alerts upon direction of the wing commander or their representative. A forthcoming HQ AMC EMNS concept of operations will outline operational details and provide guidance on how installations are to use the system. Installation commanders will be the final approval authority for local implementation and use.

The client installation phase should be transparent to the user. Once complete, it is easy for an end user (alert recipient) to know when communication is in place from their desktop, as indicated by the small purple globe in the system tray indicating connectivity. When there is no communication or a connectivity issue occurs, a grey globe with a red "X" appears in the system tray.

End user responsibilities are simple: keep your contact information current and respond to alerts in a timely manner by following the provided instructions. You can update your contact information by using the AtHoc IWSAlerts™ self service module; just right click on the purple globe and select "Access Self Service" and update accordingly. An alert will have a specific set of instructions to respond to. Ensure you read the entire alert and/or listen to the entire message then respond accordingly. An important note to remember is this system will notify many people in a short period of time and provides robust notification capabilities, but we still need personnel to remember their wingman responsibilities to ensure the 100 percent solution.

 The contract provides eight installations with a rapid means to notify the base populace using computer pop-ups, e-mail, telephony (hard line and cellular) and text messaging. The eight bases receiving AtHoc IWSAlerts™ with this contract include Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Dover Air Force Base, Del., Scott AFB, Ill., Fairchild AFB, Wash., Grand Forks AFB, N.D., Little Rock AFB, Ark., McConnell AFB, Kan., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. This purchase will align these installations with the other AMC bases and improve our notification in a more standard fashion.

National Guard (in Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of December 27, 2011

This week the Air Force and Coast Guard announced an increase in activated reservists, while the Army, Navy and Marine Corps announced a decrease. The net collective result is 216 fewer reservists activated than last week.

 At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease.  The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 66,935; Navy Reserve, 4,421; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 10,180; Marine Corps Reserve, 5,220, and the Coast Guard Reserve, 769.  This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 87,525, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found on line at

Toledo Edges Air Force in 42-41 Game

By John Van Winkle
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2011 – A failed two-point conversion gave the Toledo Rockets a 42-41 win over Air Force in the 2011 Military Bowl at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium here yesterday. The game was an expected offensive shootout featuring two teams that scored a combined 920 points this season. The two teams gave just that to a national TV audience, with 35 points scored in the first half, and going into the halftime tied up at 28-all.

This shootout featured 746 yards of offense and boiled down to a 42-35 deficit for Air Force with just under five minutes left and 78 yards to go to tie the game.

Four-year starting quarterback Tim Jefferson led the Falcons the length of the field in 11 plays featuring eight passes and only three rushes, before putting six more points on the scoreboard with a 33-yard pass to Zach Kauth.

Then the Falcons lined up for an extra point with punter David Baska holding and Parker Herrington set to kick.

But the play called wasn't a kick.

Extensive film study of the Toledo Rockets had shown Air Force coaches that the Rockets tended to overload the right side when facing an opponent's extra point and field goal attempts, said Falcons head football coach Troy Calhoun.

"We thought we'd get an overload on the right this time too," the coach said. "We thought we were better off going for two. When we're getting four, five or six yards per play like we normally do, then going for the tie and taking it to overtime could work.”

But in the second half, the Toledo defense had held the Falcons to only two scores, so the Falcons coaches decided they were better off going for the win than prolonging the game into a sudden death overtime, he added. 

"We called an option left, with an inside player blocking down and thought we'd have the punter run it, and he'd be able to pitch out to the kicker if needed," Calhoun explained.

But the pitch was fumbled and bounced unclaimed out the left side of the end zone. The Toledo bench erupted in cheers, but the game wasn't over yet. The clock still had 52 seconds left in regulation. 

Air Force lined up for an onside kick, with two kickers in the middle to disguise which way the onside kick was destined to go. The kick was recovered by Toledo, which ran out the clock to secure the team’s 42-41 win. 

The Air Force Academy Falcons end their 2011 season with a 7-6 record, but there's still a few more chapters before the 2011 Fighting Falcons story comes to a close. The graduating seniors have a return visit to the nation's capital next year, when they will visit the White House to receive the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy from the president for beating the other service academies in football. Then the seniors will have another important date on their calendars to look forward to: their May 23 graduation.

"For them, it's all about graduation now," Calhoun said. It's all about them becoming second lieutenants and how they will lead and influence others throughout the rest of their lives."