Military News

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sailors Tutor Saturday Scholars in Guam


By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jared Aldape, USS Emory S. Land Public Affairs

PITI, Guam (NNS) -- Sailors aboard submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) and USS Frank Cable (AS 40) volunteered as tutors at Jose Rios Middle School in Piti, Guam, May 19.

The project is part of a tutoring program entitled "Saturday Scholars."

The effort gives Sailors a chance to help teachers educate struggling students who require more one-on-one coaching.

Land's command chaplain, Lt. Aaron Roberton, organizes and volunteers for the program, which has been an ongoing partnership with Jose Rios Middle School since 1989.

"The Land is here on a mission to fill in for the Cable, and we're continuing on a project that they have been doing for awhile" said Roberton. "The response has been amazing from both Cable and the Land, we've had more than enough tutors. Sailors have been showing up on a Saturday morning for five weeks, it's been great".

Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Robert Sorogane, who volunteers with Saturday Scholars, said he does it to give something back to the future of Guam.

"Knowing that you have an impact on someone's life is a privilege in itself," said Sorogane. "Sometimes you want to give hope, and leaving your rack, coming to school early on a Saturday morning to lend hope to little kids, to teach them the values of education, it shows a difference in the character that you want to build".

Sorogane said that reaching out to kids through education is another reason for him to volunteer with Saturday Scholars.

"I feel that I've made a difference and have shown these kids that there are people from all over the world that care about them and their education."

Gloria Estampator, a 7th grade science teacher at Jose Rios Middle School, said the aim of the program is to identify students who are struggling halfway through each semester, then work with the students to improve upon their weak areas.

"Over the years, it's become clear what an impact Sailor's mentorship has for the kids," said Estampator. "We take note of the students, and when the fourth quarter comes out, we notice a great percentage of our students are passing. It greatly helps the kids, especially the ones that are below grade level."

Roberton agrees with Estampator, and stresses the importance of the program.

"Some students may not see the importance of a strong educational background for their future now," said Roberton. "But by us being here and showing them that we value their education, that we are committed to helping them learn and grow, and teaching them to put in the extra time to become excellent students, I feel that we're really making a difference and building their future".

Land is currently on an extended deployment to Guam serving as 7th Fleet's lead afloat maintenance activity from the ship's permanent homeport of Diego Garcia.

Colonel Encourages ‘Caged’ Drivers to Watch Out for Bikers


By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2012 – Air Force Col. Dana Morel knows the dangers of motorcycle riding as well as anyone.

A biker herself, Morel was a lieutenant at Mather Air Force Base, Calif., in 1986 when a young airman she knew with the base honor guard took off speeding one night. Distraught over the end of a romance, he missed a turn and crashed his motorcycle into a telephone pole, and died at the scene.

As traumatic as that was, nothing could prepare Morel for a crash that happened last July that took the life of her good friend and fellow biker, Tyler Cowherd, and left his wife, Carolyn, and a friend who was riding with them permanently disabled.

The Cowherds on one Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and their friend on another, were traveling westbound on a Springfield, Va., road on the evening of July 17 when an eastbound car turned in front of them, causing both bikes to crash into the side of it. The motorcycles could not have stopped in time to avoid the collision, and the driver of the car was charged with failing to yield, according to the police report.

Morel says she has struggled to accept the fatal crash “that was so avoidable.” She now speaks out about the need for “caged” drivers -- those protected by a car or truck chassis -- to be more aware of motorcycles and their vulnerabilities and to slow down and not be distracted drivers.

“I like to think that most motorcyclists are safe [drivers],” Morel said. “But, you’re completely vulnerable, completely exposed. When you get in a car, you don’t think that much about it.”

While motorcycle courses teach about road conditions and situations hazardous to bikers, regular driving classes rarely mention motorcycles, Morel said. Before she gets onto her Harley-Davidson, she added, she has checked out road and weather conditions and shared any potential hazards with other bikers.

“We’re always watching out for that,” she said.

Morel commutes by Metro bus each day to the Pentagon where she is a deputy division chief in an Air Force acquisitions office. She says she has been dismayed by the various things people do while driving.

“People are so distracted,” she said. “I see text messaging [by drivers] every single day when I’m on the bus. They’re taking their eyes off the road for things that have absolutely nothing to do with driving.” Morel said she’s observed drivers texting, talking, tuning the radio, eating and putting on makeup.

Morel said she is encouraged that the Defense Department promotes Motorcycle Safety Foundation standards, which have stricter requirements than states’ motor vehicle departments.

“The MSF is the gold standard,” she said. “If you can pass it, you’re good to go.”

There are many motorcycle clubs, Morel said, that stress safety for their riders and do charitable work for veterans, military families, and community needs. Patriot Guard Riders, American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association, and Desert Storm Riders are just a few, she said.

Morel has come full circle with motorcycles: her 20-year-old son, who is in a Marine Corps ROTC program, recently told her he is shopping for a motorcycle. At first, Morel was nervous about it.

“But after spending time with him, I realized he is making good choices.” she.

Morel’s son convinced her he will be a safe driver, and she looks forward to riding with him.

“I don’t know if that scares me as much as him going into the Marine Corps, or vice versa,” she said. “But a mom is like that about anything with her kids. You’re going to be afraid of whatever they do.”

Morel said she knows she can’t stop him, especially when she also rides. “What I can do is support him in being safe,” she said.

Last week, Morel rode her Harley nine hours down to the annual Bike Week at Myrtle Beach, S.C. When she returned, she learned of another motorcycle tragedy very much like the one that took her friend’s life last summer: a 25-year-old volunteer firefighter from Culpepper, Va., died after slamming into a car that had turned in front of him.

DOD Combats Counterfeit Parts Threat


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2012 – The Defense Department is resolute in its fight against counterfeit parts and has implemented steps to stop them from entering the supply chain and eliminating those already in, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters yesterday.

DOD has been combating counterfeit parts for years, Little said.

“We have stepped up, over time, our aggressive action to address this problem,” he said, “and we’ve stepped it up on many fronts.”

Earlier this year, Frank Kendall, the acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, issued a memorandum to stand up an aggressive and comprehensive anti-counterfeiting program. The memo calls for a program to prevent and detect electronic counterfeit parts and other mission- critical and critical safety parts.

“We’re unaware to date of any loss of life or catastrophic mission failure that has occurred because of counterfeit parts,” Little said. “That doesn’t mean we should stop addressing the issue. We will not stop until we strengthen our efforts to identify, prevent and detect these pieces of equipment from entering our supply chain.”

DOD officials do not believe there has been a demonstrable mission impact because of counterfeit parts in the supply chain, Little said.

“We take it seriously,” he said. “I’m not sure that I can say for sure that there’s never been any impact whatsoever, but … we’re continuing to work the issue.”

DOD officials are also working closely with the White House’s intellectual property coordinator to strengthen reporting requirements and contracting clauses through changes in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. This establishes the guidelines for suppliers of goods and services to the U.S. government, not just to the Department of Defense. Officials at the Office of Management and Budget have these changes now.

Once counterfeiting is identified, DOD also works closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate the situation and prosecute those convicted. The department also debars those companies that supply counterfeit parts.

The department also constantly monitors parts already in the supply chain, Little said.

“We work closely with industry to try to attack this problem, and we’ll continue to do so,” he said. “So we are working very hard to try to sort this issue out and to take steps that will further strengthen our supply chain and ensure that this kind of problem does not occur in the future.”

Panetta Believes Dover Punishment Appropriate


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta believes the punishment of supervisors accused of retaliating against whistleblowers at the Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base was appropriate, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

Whistleblowers at the military mortuary in Delaware, which handles the remains of American service members who are killed or die overseas, pointed to problems at the facility in how some remains were disposed. The whistleblowers said that management at the mortuary retaliated against them.

The independent Office of Special Counsel investigated the allegations and found that supervisors did retaliate. The investigators found that Air Force Col. Robert Edmondson, Trevor Dean, and Quinton Keel engaged in reprisals. Air Force leaders reviewed the findings, conducted supplemental investigations and disciplined the men.

The Air Force offered Edmondson non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he accepted. After a hearing and appeal, the final punishment was a reprimand and forfeiture of $7,000.

Dean received a 20-day suspension without pay.

Keel resigned from his position before action could be initiated. Still, the service issued him a letter of censure after his resignation. Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley reviewed the final disciplinary actions and considers them appropriate, Air Force officials said.

“The issues at Dover Port Mortuary are issues that the secretary of defense, indeed, the entire department -- we never want to see them happen again,” Little told reporters during a news conference. “Our fallen heroes deserve the highest honor and respect. And we are committed to taking steps to ensure that lapses do not occur in the future.”

The Office of Special Counsel commended the Air Force for rendering its decisions on disciplinary actions, Little said, and he pointed to the “very thorough and extensive process to review not just the lapses at Dover, but also the disciplinary actions that were levied. And the secretary is satisfied with that process.”

Panetta was briefed on the whole process, and “he has faith in the process that the Air Force undertook, absolutely,” Little said.

The punishment for the three supervisors for retaliation is in addition to other penalties imposed for gross mismanagement. Edmondson received a letter of reprimand and was denied further command opportunity. Keel received an involuntary downgrade to a nonsupervisory position outside the mortuary. Dean voluntarily took a downgrade to a nonsupervisory position within organization, but outside the Port Mortuary.

“Looking forward, Air Force leadership is reviewing instructional materials used to train supervisors and employees to ensure military members and civilian employees alike understand the rights of all employees to express important concerns in the workplace,” said an Air Force spokesman. “We are committed to a workplace climate that makes individuals feel confident that they can raise any concerns they may have, that those concerns will be taken seriously, and that those raising the concerns will be treated with respect and appreciation.”

Defense officials stressed that the whistleblowers performed an important service to the Air Force and the nation.

“These individuals continue in their positions at AFMAO; the Air Force has taken appropriate actions, including correcting their records to eliminate any negative information that resulted from any prohibited personnel practices committed,” the Air Force spokesman said.

Celebrate Better Sleep Month — With Better Sleep!


By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications

Most of us have a few mornings where we wished we had slept better the night before. Trouble falling and/or staying asleep not only makes you feel lethargic the next day, it can cause psychological issues if sleep problems persist and are left ignored. Sleep problems can affect everyone, but they can particularly impact the military community as post-combat concerns, such as flashbacks, hypervigilance and reintegration stress can all interrupt sleep.

May is Better Sleep Month, and there’s never been a better time to learn how to sleep better. We asked Dr. Anthony Panettiere, National Intrepid Center of Excellence neurology and sleep medicine physician, how to sleep better and be mentally fit to take on the next day. He suggests:

■Keep a routine. Try to wake up at the same time each day in bright light, but only go to bed when fully sleepy. Dim the lights 60 minutes before your desired bedtime to promote the release of melatonin, your brain's natural sleep hormone.
■Listen to your body. If you’re sleepy early in the evening, retire to bed rather than try to get a few more things done in your day. Those things can usually wait until tomorrow, and you’ll be more alert trying to complete them.
■Attempt to exercise daily. Try to be active for at least 45 minutes — a mix of cardio and weights not only improves your overall health and keeps your body fat down, but it also strongly promotes sleep.
■Avoid time monitoring when trying to sleep. Use your clock only for the alarm function and not as a reminder that you're missing out on sleep. Sleep just happens, and cannot be willed to occur. Proper preparation for sleeping gives you the best chance of falling asleep and staying asleep.
■Look at the cause. If you’re having insomnia issues, some causes include anxiety, pain and your environment (snoring bed partner, room temperature, comfort of bed, etc.). If pain is the cause, then optimizing pain control with your doctor should help. If the issue is your environment, try sleeping in a different bedroom or changing mattresses.
■Keep a journal. If anxiety or emotional issues prevent you from sleeping well, your mind is likely too active processing these issues. One treatment includes sitting down outside your bedroom and journaling your thoughts and feelings, random as they may be. This activity can help your brain compartmentalize these issues and figuratively take them out of your head. In the morning, they can be reviewed and dealt with more effectively as you’ll be more alert and refreshed.

For more on sleep, check out this blog post by Dr. James Bender, DCoE psychologist, on sleep deprivation. Afterdeployment.org offers assessments and videos on improving sleep. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) February webinar discussed sleep problems in individuals experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.