Thursday, July 19, 2012

Face of Defense: Reservist Balances Military, Civilian Jobs

By Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Boyer
U.S. Army Reserve Command

FORT McCOY, Wis., July 19, 2012 – Balancing duties as a soldier in the Army Reserve with a civilian career can be tricky, but for some soldiers, having two careers that enhance one another is a plus.

Army Spc. Dustin Chavez, 28, an operating room technician representing the 807th Medical Deployment Support Command at the 2012 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition here, works as a woodland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service when he's not in military uniform.

Chavez, who hails from Pollock Pines, Calif., said his military and civilian jobs both require the ability to be ready to move up and lead at the next level.

“On the civilian side, they [emphasize] leadership a lot, because we have opportunities to put very few people out to staff small fires,” Chavez said. “You have to lead up and make sure the person below you knows how to do your job, and you know how to do the job one level up from you. You have to be ready to move up. That's what I like about the Army, because it's the same way.”

As he applies leadership lessons and moves through the ranks in his military and civilian jobs, Chavez said, he wants other reservists to see they can incorporate both sides of their work lives.

“A lot of times, it can be easy to separate them,” he said. “I want people to see that I am doing both and trying hard to make it work.”

Chavez said his supervisors at the Forest Service are supportive of his Army Reserve career and made sure he had time to prepare for the warrior competitions here.

“I've had to take a lot of time off of work, but they've worked with me,” he said. “They've been very supportive -- especially with the ruck march. That's pretty much what we do: walk into fires after being dropped off. It's one of my favorite events because it directly relates to what I do as a civilian.”

Chavez grew in a military family with five sisters. Both his mother and father retired from the Air Force, and three of his sisters are active-duty airmen. He joined the Army Reserve three years ago after the Air Force turned him down for deafness in his left ear.

“I'm the ‘black sheep’ who went into the Army in my family,” Chavez said. “I was disqualified from the Air Force when I tried to join after high school. The Army gave me the opportunity.”

In addition to participating in three levels of competition before coming to Wisconsin, Chavez recently completed the Warrior Leader Course. He said he wants to take some of the excitement of this week of competition back to the other soldiers in his unit, the 352nd Combat Support Hospital.

“When a lot of soldiers come in and just do battle assemblies, it can get repetitive,” he said. “To see this side of the Army and go above and beyond has augmented my excitement about the Army. I want to take that home and show soldiers below me that there is more to the Army.”

Grass: National Guard Serves as Vital Defense Partner

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2012 – The Senate Armed Services Committee today heard testimony from Army Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass, who’s been nominated by the president for promotion to full general and to become the new chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the current National Guard Bureau chief, is the first four-star general to lead the National Guard. The change that elevated the National Guard chief position from a three-star to a four-star general billet was generated by the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which also made the position a statutory member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Grass told the committee that he was committed to ensure the National Guard remains a vital part of the nation’s defense.

“Today our nation faces a challenging threat environment, one that is asymmetric and more dangerous than any other in history,” Grass said. “These threats come in many forms. The citizen soldiers and airmen of the National Guard are skilled combat veterans and they will continue to provide value-added solutions to our national security.”

Over the past ten years, the National Guard has demonstrated that it is “an operational force and a critical partner with the Army and Air Force in all missions, all contingencies and on the North American continent,” Grass said.

Grass said today’s National Guard “is more ready, more capable and rapidly deployable than ever before in our nation’s history.”

The National Guard Bureau chief’s responsibilities as a member of the Joint Chiefs include addressing matters involving nonfederalized National Guard forces in support of homeland defense and civil support missions.

If confirmed as the new chief of the National Guard, Grass said he would be able to bring to state National Guard units an understanding of what’s happening inside the Department of Defense.

Grass said he’d also be able to ensure that DOD has a better understanding of the needs of the states when responding to “fires, floods [and] tornadoes and to be able to come together with our partners within DOD and find a balance.”

Grass is currently serving as the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command and vice commander of the U.S. Element of North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint command with Canada. He has held both positions since 2010.

If confirmed, Grass would become the 27th chief of the National Guard Bureau, succeeding McKinley, who has held the position since 2008.

#GreatGreenFleet: USS Chafee Takes On Biofuel

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin W. Sisco, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) took on 250,000 gallons of alternative fuel, a 50/50 blend of advanced biofuel and traditional petroleum-based fuel, from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) as part of the Great Green Fleet demonstration during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012.

The demonstration serves as another milestone in the Navy's pursuit to improve combat capability through improved energy efficiency measures.

Lt. j.g. Karen Smith, Chafee's fuels officer, said the use of biofuels on Navy ships further enhances the overall readiness of the fleet.

"Anything that takes away our need to use foreign fossil fuel is, I think, a step in the right direction," said Smith. "It gives the Navy a little bit more flexibility, and they know where it's coming from. Thinking about it economically, yes, it's a little bit pricier on the front end, but everything new is. I think that, as time goes on, that cost will drive down. The added benefit of having that operational capability is a plus, and now it's not left in foreign hands to decide what our fuel costs are."

The installation of an energy dashboard marks one more step in Chafee's move towards energy efficiency. The energy dashboard uses the Integrated Condition Assessment System (ICAS) to collect data from shipboard equipment.

"The energy dashboard has been a big help," Smith said. "It gives us instantaneous data of what we're doing, so we've been utilizing that tool to make sure that we're burning as little fuel as possible."

The dashboard includes the Fuel Management System (FMS), which assists pre-underway planning by recommending efficient equipment lineups. Along with energy dashboard, a series of light emitting diodes (LED) have been installed on board Chafee to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting fixtures to improve lamp lifespan and drive down maintenance and sparing costs, as well as a stern flap, which will increase propulsion exhaust emissions to foster fuel cost savings while increasing both ship speed and range.

 USS Chafee is one of the five ships included in the Great Green Fleet demonstration.

115th Fighter Wing validates combat readiness

By Airman 1st Class Andrea F. Liechti
115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard has been deemed mission ready to deploy aircraft and personnel overseas in support of contingency operations, following a demanding Operational Readiness Inspection conducted July 13-18.

An inspection team from the Air Combat Command evaluated the 115th Fighter Wing in command and control, deployment processing, employment readiness, information operations and force protection. Eight teams and 37 Airmen were recognized as superior performers in the inspection, and eight ACC inspector general coins were awarded.

"This is a direct reflection of the caliber of the men and women of this Wing," said Col. Rickey Rodgers, inspection team chief. "We were truly impressed with the professionalism, devotion and dedication to the mission displayed throughout this inspection. This is a phenomenal Wing, a great organization."

"We only get better with people from the outside looking at us," Brig. Gen. Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th Fighter Wing commander, said after the ORI results were announced. "There's no question in my mind today we are a better, stronger organization because of [this inspection]."

Rodgers described the ORI as an intrusive inspection that examines areas which may miss daily scrutiny. Maj. Mike Palmer, 115th Maintenance Operations Flight commander, elaborated on that definition.

"The ORI is an evaluation of the unit's capability to transition from peacetime readiness to a surge operational posture and includes actions normally occurring prior to the outbreak of hostilities," Palmer said. "It [showcased] the efforts of the 115th Fighter Wing in various functions to safely prepare our unit to deploy as an aviation package to support world contingencies. The goal of the ORI is to ensure the 115th is a combat-ready unit."

"The 115th got the mission done," Rodgers said.

All functional areas of the Wing participated in the inspection, Palmer said. The 115th Airmen completed five Operational Readiness Exercises in preparation for the inspection and continued to show their dedication by working 12-14 hour days to ensure tasks were completed quickly and accurately.

Airman 1st Class Brooke Bloedorn, of the 115th Maintenance Group munitions, arrived on Truax Field from tech school last August and immediately began participating in OREs to prepare for the inspection.

"We've come a long way from that point, and have increased our standards and expectations for everything we do," Bloedorn said. "It's been a long road but nice to experience as a new Airman."

Bloedorn said her leadership has made the inspection fun while keeping focus which has helped to make the ORI run smoothly.

"It's been going well," Bloedorn said. "Everyone has had the opportunity to practice in all types of weather conditions during the exercises prior to this inspection. If we encounter a real-life scenario like this I'm confident we'll accomplish our tasks even faster than we have during the inspection."

ORIs typically take place every two to five years, Palmer said. The 115th plans to complete its next ORI during the summer of 2014. But for now, Airmen throughout the fighter wing embraced the opportunity to share in the inspection experience.

"The 115th Fighter Wing has an extraordinary group of Airmen who, under the command of Brig. Gen. Brandemuehl, continue to demonstrate their dedication to excellence," Palmer said.

In Times of Doubt, Find Healing in Pastoral Care

By Jayne Davis, DCoE Strategic Communications

The soldiers were pinned down, taking heavy fire and casualties from what they determined was a lone gunner behind a protective wall. Finally, one soldier broke from the group, made his way to the wall and in a fervent burst of gunfire took the sniper out — it was an 11-year-old boy.

Later, that scene in the soldier’s head kept him from sleeping, played on his spiritual beliefs and made him question his moral compass. He felt unworthy of his religion, unworthy of his family. He knew he needed to talk to someone. He went to see a chaplain.

“Chaplains are often the first line of defense for service members wrestling with issues of moral and spiritual concerns,” said chaplain and Navy Cmdr. Raymond Houk, who related the sniper story. Houk is assigned to Pastoral Care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and works at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence.

“The unique relationship between chaplain and service member creates a pocket of trust wherein we can help with issues like forgiveness, grief, survivor’s grief and inner moral conflicts — issues that stay with people after experiencing difficult situations and making life and death decisions. Often what’s needed is for them to accept that they made the best decision under the circumstances,” said Houk. “In those cases, we offer support and compassion to help them forgive themselves.”

Chaplains can be in the unique circumstance of having to counsel a service member on both spiritual and psychological loss — and be able to distinguish differences.

In many parts of the world where deployed units are on smaller ships or isolated outposts, behavioral or psychological health care providers are not commonly attached to the units, but most often chaplains are. That puts them in the position of also being the first line of defense for service members having psychological concerns, such as posttraumatic stress. Although some behaviors are common to both spiritual and psychological concerns, chaplains are trained to identify symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “We’re trained to know when the service member needs to seek behavioral health care so we’re very familiar with sleeplessness, intrusive thoughts, nervousness and anger issues,” said Houk. (Read this post about one chaplain’s personal experience with PTSD.)

A spiritual assessment is often the first step for a chaplain faced with helping service members showing signs of PTSD. An assessment helps identify spiritual needs important to their psychological health care, said Houk. “It may include faith practices or beliefs that give their life purpose, meaning, depth and value — beliefs that can impact their behavioral health,” said Houk.

At military treatment facilities chaplains can read, make notes to and include the spiritual assessment in electronic records. “Knowing that a spiritual assessment is not separate from treatment but an integral part of the healing plan encourages the patient to be more forthcoming about their spiritual beliefs, and raises their awareness that their beliefs can be a source of strength and healing during the recovery process,” said Houk.

Houk pointed out that it’s critical for the patient to understand that the chaplain is part of the medical team. Historically, chaplains have had close relationships with medical personnel. “From my perspective, the process of moving service members from spiritual counseling to provider care is handled well, but chaplains still need to be intentional about keeping proactive relationships with health care providers,” said Houk. “Providers need to be aware of chaplains’ capabilities and trust them to make solid referrals.”

Chaplains can find support and resources in this fact sheet and through the Chaplain Working Group hosted by Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Contact the group for details.