Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Panel Aims to Boost Support to Special-needs Families

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2012 – Military families with special-needs members would benefit from better communication and education, members of an exceptional family member panel concluded yesterday.

“We’re working some great programs up at the [office of the secretary of defense] level,” Charles E. Milam, principal director for military community and family policy, said in an interview following the panel here. “I think the key is how do we take that information and deliver down to the very lowest level.”

The panel, chaired by Milam, was composed of nearly a dozen military family members with special needs -- from children with educational or physical challenges to adults with medical problems -- with representation from all services, as well as the active duty and reserve components.

The panel first met in the fall to cite ongoing challenges. At the time, they pointed to three key areas of concern: communication, consistency of programs across the services, and health care. This follow-on panel was intended to track progress in each area and offer information on available resources, officials said.

Communication is key to aiding military families with special needs, said Milam, noting this issue is a personal one for him. His wife is active-duty Air Force and they have a special-needs child.

“What I find when I go out to installations and I speak to families and our service members, they’re not aware of some of the things we’re doing,” he said. “We need to make these processes as easy as possible for these families.”

A one-stop source of information would be a step in the right direction, noted Rebecca Posante, deputy director of the office of community support for military families with special needs, which oversees the department’s Exceptional Family Member Program. Officials would like to use the Defense Department’s Military OneSource website for that purpose, she explained.

But first, they must ensure they’re providing the most relevant and accessible information, she said.

Posante said she handed out a list of key words to panel members to see if they match up with how families search for online information. For example, families are more apt to use the term “moving” rather than “relocation” when seeking resources. Officials will use this feedback to build content for the site, she added.

Having readily available information is vital for families seeking answers, she noted. “We want to educate families on: Where do you go when you need something done?” she said. “Where do you go if you don’t think you’re getting the correct answer?”

Posante cited progress her office already is making on this front. They’ve created a new information kit on the Exceptional Family Member Program that’s been sent militarywide, she said, and also have sent books and videos on special needs to all installation libraries and family centers. They’re launching online modules to aid families with special-needs children and adults, and to explain how EFMP works, she added.

Families also are concerned with the consistency of programs and resources across the department, Posante noted. She meets with service representatives quarterly to tackle this issue and will continue to push for progress, she said.

Across the board, panel members raised issues about health care, such as being able to see a specialist in a timely manner at a new duty station, Posante said.

Her office is working with health affairs, she said, to address as many of these issues as possible. Posante noted the presence of Dr. Jack Smith, director of clinical and program policy integration for health affairs, who attended the panel to provide information and address concerns.

“We really want to approach how we can answer their questions on medical care and help communicate to the families when there are answers already,” she said. “People at the highest levels are really listening and trying to figure out what these issues are and how to address them.”

Panel member Army Maj. Charlotte Emery, mother of twin boys and a military lawyer at Fort Belvoir, Va., cited the importance of “knowing the system.” Her sons both are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program. One was diagnosed with autism at 18 months and his brother with developmental delays for speech, language and socio-emotional behavior.

“Many of us today were learning stuff for the first time about things that have been in the system, especially in regard to TRICARE,” she said, referring to the military’s health care program.

Military families often are hesitant to “rock the boat,” she noted, which can result in unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses. However, there are people they can go to for information or better answers, she explained. Emery said she plans to take the information from these panels and disseminate it to other families.

This information sharing is one of the key purposes of the panel, Posante said. With that in mind, these panels will be ongoing, she added, and she’s also forming smaller working groups to tackle specific issues.

The department will continue to “chisel away” at these issues, Milam said. Officials are engaged with Congress, and also are looking at policies to discern which ones work and which need to be deleted or refined, he added.

“We’re writing a book one chapter at a time,” he said, noting there’s been considerable progress in recent years.

“Just listening to some of the concerns from the different services and from the different families, just speaks volumes to what we had before,” Milam said. “The fact that we are listening to them through this panel as they represent families from all over the services is very important.”

Milam said he hopes this panel and future efforts send a clear message to families with special needs.

“We care, the department cares, [and] Congress cares about these programs,” he said.

Face of Defense: Soldier Calls Army Home

By Bob Reinert
U.S. Army Garrison Natick

NATICK, Mass., March 7, 2012 – Many soldiers have called the Army their home over the years. Few have meant it more than Army Staff Sgt. Sharalis Canales of the Natick Soldier Systems Center here.

When Canales enlisted in late 2005, she had no home. She was living in a New York City shelter and facing an uncertain future.

"I didn't have a place to live," Canales recalled. "I went to the Covenant House, which is a shelter in Times Square, and I stayed there for six months."

Canales, 26, has come a long way in six years. She serves as training noncommissioned officer for the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment and as Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers president. Soon, she will represent the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command NCO of the Year competition.

"The Army has not failed me since I've been in," said Canales, who earned staff sergeant rank in five years. "The Army gives me everything that I need. This is my family."

None of this could have seemed possible to Canales at age 14, when her divorced mother gave her up to foster care. She was placed at the St. Cabrini Home in the Bronx.

"Mainly, the girls that lived there had just gotten out of juvenile detention hall and stuff like that, and I was there because my mom and I were having a lot of issues," Canales said. "My dad divorced my mom, and I started running away because my mom was being promiscuous."

The eldest of five children, Canales had a difficult time adjusting to the group home but got plenty of help.

"The staff members, they took care of me," Canales said. "They taught me everything that I know, and because of them, I am where I am now, and I'm very grateful for that. Despite all the negative stuff with the [other] girls, I always took it and turned it into something positive."

Canales graduated from Mother Cabrini High School and got a scholarship to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but her world got complicated again.

"I was having adjustment issues," Canales said. "I think there was probably only like 10 [minority students] on the campus. It was my first time being away from the group home. I felt like I didn't fit in."

After a year at Marist, Canales transferred home to Monroe College, did another year there and decided to join the Navy. At age 20, she signed herself out of the group home.

"I didn't make it through the Navy," Canales said. "So when I came back, I couldn't go back to the group home." She went to see an Army recruiter, who drove her to Covenant House, where she stayed until he got her paperwork in order.

"He was with me every step of the way for six months until I joined," Canales said. "I have been very fortunate to meet very, very good people that have helped me out throughout these years."

Army life required little adjustment for Canales, a 4-foot-8-inch survivor of years in a foster care group home.

"I learned a lot being there," Canales said of St. Cabrini. "I would tell you this -- that having that background experience definitely helped me, set me up for success, when I got in the Army."

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Warren has been impressed with Canales since she arrived at NSSC.

"She's made a very positive impression to many on this installation in just the short period she's been stationed here at NSSC," Warren said. "She looks to be challenged daily. She's physically fit, has the professional appearance we expect from our noncommissioned officers, and loves to teach and train."

While Canales has enjoyed plenty of success since joining the Army, she has done so without ever forgetting her teenage years. She shares her story with soldiers every chance she gets.

"I encourage the soldiers to do the right thing, and I tell them what the Army has done for me," she said. "I spend a lot of time with the soldiers and setting them up for success, and letting them know what they need to do to be successful in the Army. It's easy. You just need the tools, and you need to do it."

Canales is living proof. On the threshold of earning her associate’s degree from Central Texas College, she already has her sights set on a bachelor's degree. She also wants to win NCO of the Year and earn her Expert Field Medical Badge.

"I believe if you want to be successful and you want something in life," she said, "you have to go for it."

One of those things for Canales was finally getting her own place, which she did after transferring to Natick in November.

"I've always lived in a barracks, but because I'm an E-6, now [I] have to live off post," she said. "When I got here, I was like, 'I don't even know how to go apartment hunting.' I had no clue, whatsoever."

But logistics aside, Canales might never want for a home again.

"I plan on staying in the Army, making it a career," Canales said. "The Army's been great to me."

NAVFAC Pacific Announces Industry and Energy Conference

By Krista K. Catian, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Pacific is co-sponsoring the 2012 Industry and Energy Conference March 26-27 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom, Honolulu, Hawaii.

"NAVFAC Pacific is thrilled to host its first Industry and Energy Conference later this month," said NAVFAC Pacific Vice Commander Capt. Pete Lynch. "The conference will provide a great opportunity for the Hawaii business community to actively engage and participate in discussions with the NAVFAC Pacific Leadership, to include the leadership from the NAVFAC Engineering Commands, or FEC in Hawaii, Guam and the Far East. We anticipate that the presentations will be informative and interactive."

The two-day Industry and Energy Conference will provide an opportunity to promote robust discussion among NAVFAC Pacific, innovators in energy technology, and private lending and venture capital providers to enhance services and support critical to the NAVFAC Pacific mission. The conference will also offer interactive sessions on workload forecasts, policy changes, performance standards, process compliance, facility development and energy initiatives within the NAVFAC Pacific area of responsibility.

"We are looking forward to this event and are anxious to enhance our dialogue with our industry leaders in the Pacific area," said Lynch. "We encourage your attendance to hear about the updated developments and new initiatives this year."

The conference begins at 8 a.m. For more information about the event and how to register, visit

Supply Corps Training with Industry Agreement Signed with Starbucks

By Kathy Adams, Naval Supply Systems Command Corporate Communications

SEATTLE, Wash. (NNS) -- A Supply Corps Training with Industry (TWI) agreement was signed with Starbucks Coffee Company at a ceremony in Seattle, Wash., March 6.

The TWI program provides a unique opportunity for a Supply Corps officer to be part of and analyze the operations of top supply chain management companies. In addition to this new agreement, the Supply Corps has existing TWI agreements with The Home Depot and Federal Express.

"To train with a top performing company and get hands-on experience with their supply chain operation is a unique opportunity," said Rear Adm. Mark Heinrich, commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and chief of Supply Corps. "This TWI will provide an understanding of private industry business processes, leadership and cultures which enhances the working relationship with our industry partners."

The TWI program is designed to provide a skill set in best business procedures and practices not available through existing military or advanced civilian schooling programs.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with the U.S. Navy Supply Corps as part of their Training with Industry program," said Peter Gibbons, executive vice president, Starbucks Global Supply Chain Operations. "It's a tremendous opportunity for two world-class organizations to share best practices to improve our operations."

During this one-year assignment the Supply Corps officer will work in the field on real-world business issues, and will also get involved with quality and safety audits, contingency and strategic planning, and will gain a solid understanding of how the company manages their supply chain. The officer will have responsibility to share naval logistics knowledge with Starbucks and share gained knowledge with his or her command and the Supply Corps. Most importantly, he or she will be mentored by Starbucks executives.

Lt. Cmdr. Mark Bowmer is the first officer selected for the Starbucks TWI. He will begin his assignment in July.

The more than 3,700 active duty and Reserve officers of the Navy Supply Corps are responsible for supply and logistics support for the ships of the active fleet and hundreds of naval shore installations worldwide, providing combat capability through logistics.

Texas National Guard members support local authorities in emergency exercise

By Army National Guard Spc. Aaron Moreno
Joint Task Force 71, Texas National Guard

EL CAMPO, Texas (3/6/12) – Soldiers from Joint Task Force 71 received the activation call at 3:45 a.m. following the alleged terrorist incident. Within two hours, the men and women of the minuteman brigade reported to their home station, prepared to travel more than 200 miles to the small town of El Campo.

The Austin-based JTF 71 participated in the El Campo Memorial Hospital Exercise March 3, 2012, a joint interagency training event that tested the alert and response capabilities of the Guard and its civil partners. Although the immediate reaction of Guard Unit was real, the scenario was simulated.

"Things have gone remarkably smooth today," said Chief Terry Stanhill, from the El Campo Police Department. "Communications were outstanding; resources rolled in at an unbelievable rate."

The ECMH Exercise included simulations for a hazardous material attack, an explosion and partial hospital collapse and a remote-site suspicious package incident.

“We need to make sure that everyone understands," said Officer Erik Burse, a state trooper with the Department of Public Safety. "If we don't do these drills, if we don't practice to be perfect, then we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing."

In any emergency scenario, the clock begins once the first call alerts the Soldiers to action. For the ECMH Exercise, this happened well-before sunrise, far from the incident site.

"This is the first time we did a no-notice training event," said Army 2nd Lt. Brandon Wells, a platoon leader for 436 Chemical Detachment. "We all received the alert notification at 3:45 a.m. We reported to home station, consolidated there, conducted movement preparations, then got on the road."

The Texas Army National Guard, local first responders, city officials and other state agencies all have a part to play in an emergency. For the local first responders this is a part of their Emergency Management Drills that are often done to prepare them for a real life incident.

"It's comforting for me to know that we have these resources that can come to El Campo this quickly."

Training events like this afford local departments and National Guard units time to demonstrate their skill sets and share their best practices.

"We work with a multitude of civilian agencies," Wells said, "all the way from [the] Texas Department of Emergency Management, to the local responders at the fire departments [and] police departments.

"Working with them can be challenging in the sense that we are military. We use military vernacular that they may not understand; they use terms and do things that we may not understand, but we try to do these training events with them, collectively, in order to work out some of those kinks, express our capabilities to them as well as learn their capabilities."

With this exercise, the Texas civil authorities and military elements communicated to the public at large that they are prepared to support the community in the event of any natural or man-made threat.

"I think it's a positive message," Burse said." I think the community loves it and understands it and we need to do more of it."

Army Women’s 4th Annual Symposium & Hall of Fame Luncheon in Wash, D.C. to Honor Army Women and Analyze Key Issues

Army Women Who Served in Vietnam Inducted into Hall of Fame; Sen. Inouye to Receive Award

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2012—The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation will host its 4th Annual Army Women in Transition Symposium & Hall of Fame Luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C on March 13, 2012, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with more than 200 people expected to attend. 

Army Women who served in Vietnam will be inducted into the Army Women’s Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame awards are presented to women who have contributed extraordinary service to the Army and especially to women in the Army. Leon Harris, ABC7/WJLA-TV News Anchor, to emcee the ceremony.  Prior to the Hall of Fame Luncheon, Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) will receive a special recognition award for his decades of support for Army Women.

For the Symposium, LTG Patricia D. Horoho, Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command, will provide a keynote on both service-connected healthcare and future care.  The Symposium, with a theme of Changing Missions, Changing Roles, will cultivate dialogue among federal legislators, government agencies, academic institutions, corporate leaders, and non-profit organizations. 

The Symposium will identify the successes, lessons learned, next steps, and the collaborations and partnerships still needed to help Army women successfully transition from military culture to civilian society. Top sponsors of the Symposium & Hall of Fame Luncheon include Booz Allen Hamilton, Home Depot and Walmart. 

Following the event, podcasts of the panels and keynote will be made available to servicewomen and veterans across the globe.  Podcasts will help Army women learn about the typical challenges faced and potentially how to overcome them when returning from deployment. Media sponsors Booz Allen Hamilton, Microsoft, and Stars and Stripes are credited with making the podcasts possible.

“Army women, past and presently serving, have sacrificed so much to safeguard our country, and the Foundation’s Symposium & Hall of Fame Luncheon seeks to honor Army women’s legacy in addition to exposing the top issues Army women face when between military culture and civilian life,” said retired Maj. Gen. Dee Ann McWilliams, president of the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation. 

Following the inductions, the Foundation will present seven Legacy Scholarships.  The Foundation Legacy Scholarship program recognizes the importance of education and helps recipients to achieve their educational goals. The program offers financial support toward undergraduate degrees to Army women and their lineal descendents. Scholarships are based on merit, academic potential, community service, and need.

The U.S. Army Women’s Foundationis a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization originally established in 1969.  The mission of the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation is to promote public interest in the Army and the women who serve or have served in the U.S. Army.  Through programs, research and scholarships, the Foundation recognizes and honors the service of Army women and supports the U.S. Army Women's Museum located at Fort Lee, Va. For more information, visit

U.S. Will Continue to Assess Syria, Panetta Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2012 – The Syrian regime will fall, and the United States will help to speed that day through political and diplomatic efforts, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Though now is not the time for U.S. military boots on the ground in Syria, Panetta said, the United States will continue to evaluate the situation there.

Syrian President Bashar Assad must stop his attacks on his own people, the secretary said, as Syrians try to follow in the footsteps of other Arab nations that have overthrown despots in the past year. Assad’s forces are indiscriminately murdering those opposed to the regime.

“He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately,” Panetta said.

The regime has lost whatever legitimacy it once had, and the situation demands an international response, the secretary said, noting that the United States has been leading efforts in the international community to pressure Assad to stop his violence against the Syrian people and step aside.

Panetta acknowledged that some say it is time for U.S. military intervention, while others worry that this would get the United States embroiled in another long-term commitment in the Middle East. Military action like the intervention in Libya is not a one-size-fits-all model, he said.

“Each situation -- by virtue of the politics, geography, and history of each country -- is unique, and demands a unique response,”Panettatold the Senate committee. “There can be no cookie-cutter approach for a region as complex and volatile as the Middle East.”

The secretary stressed that American response in the region is governed by three principles.

“First, we oppose the use of violence and repression by regimes against their own people,” he said. “Second, we have supported the exercise of universal human rights -- which include the right to freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the prohibition against discrimination, and the right to vote through genuine elections that express the will of the electorate. Third, we support political and economic reforms that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.”

These principles have shaped the American response to events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and now, Syria, he said.

The United States is forging an international consensus that the Assad regime’s brutality must end and that a democratic transition in Syria must begin, Panetta said. Russia and China have blocked the United Nations Security Council from taking action, but the U.N. General Assembly has supported the Arab League’s transition plan for Syria.

The United States is sending emergency humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, with an initial commitment of $10 million, the secretary said. The United States is working with the Friends of Syria and other anti-Assad groups to help in strengthening the opposition. There currently is no effective opposition group that can handle a peaceful, orderly transition to a democratic government, Panetta told the senators.

“We are reviewing all possible additional steps that can be taken with our international partners to support efforts to protect the Syrian people, end the violence, and ensure regional stability, including potential military options if necessary,” he said.

Panetta emphasized that the problems in Syria have no easy solutions.

“We believe that the best resolution to this crisis will be a peaceful, political, democratic transition led by the Syrian people and along the lines suggested by the Arab League,” he said. “We believe there is still an opportunity to achieve that goal.”

Wisconsin Air National Guard learns effects of Air Force structure realignment plan

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

The U.S. Air Force today (March 6) released information on manpower impacts resulting from its proposed force structure realignment plan. If the proposal is approved by Congress, the Wisconsin Air National Guard's net loss would be 114 positions - including 16 full-time positions.

The manpower reduction would amount to approximately 5 percent of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's authorized end-strength of 2,290 Airmen and must be implemented by Oct. 1.

"This announcement is sobering," said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, noting that the announced cuts were larger than anticipated and are expected to be implemented in only six months. "However, we will continue to accomplish our mission safely and effectively.

"We cannot ignore that these proposed reductions have real, significant, life-changing impact on our men and women in the Wisconsin Air National Guard," he continued. "I will work closely with my commanders to minimize the impact to our Airmen and families."

Dunbar's goal is to handle any cuts from the Air Force proposal through attrition to lessen the impact on Wisconsin Air National Guard members and families.

The personnel cuts are in response to the Air Force realignment proposal, announced Feb. 3, which would reduce by two the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing's fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, and retire the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing's RC-26 airplane.

State adjutants general and governors have expressed their concern with the disproportional scope of the cuts. In a Feb. 26 letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the National Governor's Association "strongly opposed" what it described as "disproportionate cuts facing the Air National Guard." And in a Feb. 27 letter to the Senate Armed Forces Committee, all 54 adjutants general asked Congress to delay implementing the proposed plan until a proper review was conducted.

The Air Force's proposals are aimed at meeting the President's Budget for fiscal year 2013, which calls for reducing Air Force military end strength to 501,000 - with net reductions of 5,100 Air National Guard members and 4,800 Air Force federal active and reserve positions. Nearly one quarter of Air Force personnel are from the Air National Guard, but collectively provide 35 percent of Air Force capability for only 6 percent of the total Air Force budget.