Military News

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Team Andersen Airmen tour USS George Washington

by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs

10/9/2012 - NAVAL BASE, Guam  -- Members of Team Andersen and their families toured the USS George Washington (CVN 73) here, Sept. 22.

"I enjoyed the tour," said 1st Lt. Musette Willis, 36th Operations Support Squadron weather flight commander. "Some people say that this island is small and there isn't too many places to travel, well just imagine being on a ship."

As one of the 11 Navy global force aircraft carriers, the George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

"People are amazed at the size of the ship from the flight deck down to the hangar," said Mass Communications Chief Petty Officer Ryan Delcore, the George Washington's media department lead chief petty officer. "It's important to give visitors a tour of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and show how many things need to be orchestrated to get our mission done along with all the tool and equipment to make it happen."

The tour took the Airmen and their families through the entry of the ship and into the hangar deck located below the runway. After seeing the area, the tour group was instructed to board the lift to get to the flight deck, where the F/A-18 Hornets, E-2 Hawkeyes and other Navy aircraft were parked.

"We stepped onto the largest elevator that I've ever seen, and learned that they use this platform to raise aircraft from the hangar and onto the flight deck," said Lieutenant Willis. "I was amazed at how many aircraft were able to fit."

After the tour groups were able to explore the flight deck, the Airmen and their families used the commanding officer's passage way to the bridge where they were able to see the carrier's control center and look at the flight deck from a commander's perspective.

At the bridge, individuals walked around and had the privilege of sitting on the commanding officer's and the navigator's chairs.

"I can't really choose which part of the tour was my favorite," said Lieutenant Willis. "I got to sit in the commanding officer's chair. What a view! It was also nice to be able to take a close look at the different aircraft. Though I've been in the Air Force for 18 years and have briefed hundreds of pilots, I have never been able to get so close to an airplane besides boarding it."

During the tour, the ship was bustling with activity. From maintenance at the flightline to other Navy personnel accomplishing their daily duties, work continues regardless of whether the George Washington is on port or at sea.

"We use our equipment a lot and we're doing a lot of maintenance in order to make sure it performs to its maximum capability," said Delcore. "It's a good way to show how hard working our crew members are considering how many assets we have on this carrier."

For Team Andersen Airmen who went to see the George Washington, the tour served as an avenue of learning.

"I think it is very important for other branches to see what other services do and how they contribute to the fight," said Lieutenant Willis. "This gains individuals a better appreciation for their sister services."

"I work by the airfield every day and watch the planes take off when I have time," Lieutenant Willis continued. "Seeing the flight deck made me realize that they launch and park aircraft in a significantly smaller area. It made me feel a connection with the Navy and gave me a better understanding and appreciation of what they do."

Commando Warrior facilitates inspection

by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs

10/9/2012 - NORTHWEST FIELD, Guam -- At some point in their career, security forces Airmen are required to make a trip to a regional training center to make sure they have the skill sets to execute their mission downrange. In Asia-Pacific region, Andersen Air Force Base's 736th Security Forces Squadron Commando Warrior Flight not only prepares the Airmen for deployment, but also facilitate command-level readiness inspections.

The Commando Warrior flight is in charge of the Pacific Regional Training Center, making sure that security forces Airmen to the region are always ready for deployment.

"We cover all the bases for pacific: Eielson, Kadena, Hawaii, and so on," said Senior Airman Benjamin Nelson, 736th SFS Commando Warrior flight PRTC instructor. "Occasionally, we get a few Airmen from the U.S. fulfilling their pre-deployment requirement when there is no training going on in the U.S."

The Commando Warrior training is conducted here with a 15-day refresher training culminating to a 73-hour field training exercise. During the FTX, the Airmen execute contingency missions and defend simulated forward operating base Commando Warrior.

Within the two weeks of training, they train on mounted and dismounted patrols, counter improvised explosive device threats, counter insurgency operations, team movements, individual movements, land navigation and tactical combat casualty care.

"As security forces, we don't know when we might get deployed," said Airman Nelson. "If something happens we can be tasked immediately to go down range. That's why it's important to send security members to this training and make sure that they are proficient in executing their mission."

Along with fulfilling pre-deployment requirement, the Airmen from 18th Security Forces Squadron from Kadena AFB, Japan, was simultaneously training and being evaluated by the Pacific Air Forces Security Forces Inspector General for this year's readiness inspection.

"The day shift right now is comprised mostly of Kadena Airmen," said Airman Nelson. "PACAF IG is here evaluating them as we conduct our own evaluation. We try to get the IG requirements squared away before we get back on our own."

Conducting the readiness inspection PRTC allows PACAF to assess and evaluate the unit's force on force objectives.

"From the inspector's perspective, having the training center here gives us the most realistic evaluation of the Airmen and their ability to conduct force on force operation," said Capt. James Hagemier, PACAF SF IG. "Being in a FOB and not having comforts that they usually have allows them to focus on what their mission is, giving us the closest thing to actually seeing what they would do down range or in support of operations."

The freedom to use blanks and pyrotechnics and setting up ambushes without disrupting the day-to-day mission of a base gives the instructors, as well as the IG, the freedom to throw in more elaborate scenarios and see how the Airmen will react in a plethora of situations.

"It enables us to make a more legitimate assessment of their force on force capabilities because we could put them in scenarios that we might not be able to facilitate in their home stations," said Captain Hagemier. "We can actually provide more realistic scenarios where they would have to adapt and overcome."

It has been a long time since a readiness inspection has been conducted with pre-deployment training, but Captain Hagemier said that they plan to conduct readiness inspection pluses this way whenever they are able to schedule everything accordingly.

"It was already established that it is one of the better ways to conduct this type of inspection," said Captain Hagemier. "It gives us an opportunity to leverage all the capabilities here and bring that grade back with us when we conduct that actual inspection."

The PRTC instructors also facilitated the field training exercise in a way that allowed the IG and Commando Warrior scenarios to flow seamlessly.

"The students have no idea what's going to be inspected by me and which ones will be inspected by the instructors so they just come in and do their mission to the best of their abilities," said Captain Hagemier. "The students performance is a testament to the awesome program the PRTC team has here. The level of training the Airmen receive coincides with the importance of the mission they will be doing downrange."

The members of the Commando Warrior flight have been down range and use their experiences to create the best and most realistic training environment for their fellow security forces members.

"We are a small cohesive team," said Airman Nelson. "I work with great individuals everyday to try and make our regional training center as effective and realistic as we can within the realm of safety."

"For those who have not deployed, we want to make sure that the students can react and know what it's like to react and fire under stress," he continued. "We try to provide them the training that would prepare them for anything that they would have to face as security forces Airmen."

Bells ring for fallen firefighter comrades

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Davis
18th Wing Public Affairs

10/6/2012 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Three white blocks sit 10 feet from a cement memorial where three square stones have been placed in memory of fallen firefighters from Kadena.

Each cement block holds a single flag pole, which is home to the American flag, the Japanese flag, and the Kadena Fire Department flag.

Despite being overseas, this memorial, along with a ceremony that took place Oct. 7, is one way Kadena remembers fallen American firefighters.

Bells Across America was started in 2011 by the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation to honor American firefighters that made the ultimate sacrifice in 2010. This year, Kadena adds one of their own to the 83 fallen firefighters that gave their lives in 2011.

"Derek Kozorosky died on Feb. 11, 2011 during a backing accident at Fire Department Headquarters," explained Tech. Sgt. Nelson Thomas, Kadena Fire Emergency Services fire prevention inspector. "I was the Assistant Chief in charge the day of Derek's accident."

Thomas also led operations to rescue his fallen firefighter, alongside Staff Sgt. James Wolnik, Kadena Fire Emergency Services fire prevention inspector.

He explained that although the accident occured more than a year and a half ago, it's still fresh, and difficult to talk about. Instead he pauses to remember his fallen brother.

"I worked with him for six months in Fire Station 1 and regarded him as one of the best and brightest of all our firefighters," said Thomas. "Derek was always willing to give 100% and never complained about anything."

Wolnik, as well as Thomas, agree that Derek was a great guy at work, someone that Airmen could look up to. He always had a smile on his face, and was eager to learn something new every day.

"Koz and I were on the same 'kelly day set,' which is our regular day off," said Staff Sgt. James Wolnik, Kadena Fire Emergency Services fire prevention inspector. "He was the one that I'd go out to dinner with while everyone was at work."

He had a kindred spirit, said Thomas. "I will forever be greatful for the time that I knew Derek."

"For the longest time I didn't want to believe that it had happened," Wolnik said, his voice shaky. "Even after, once we had found out that he had passed away, it was surreal. I was kind of numb for quite a while."

"It was all a blur," Thomas said. "I took it pretty hard, because I know there was nothing that I could have physically done to stop the accident from happening."

Wolnik explains how although the accident tore the department apart in the beginning, he and his fellow firefighters came together and painted a mural at a section of the Sunabe Seawall outside Kadena's gates.

"It brings the old (firefighters) together and gives us something to bring the new firefighters into," Wolnik said about the mural memorial in remembrance of Derek.

The ringing of the bell is symbolic within the fire department. It symbolizes that a comrade has fallen, thus, at the end of the ceremony, the bell rang a total of nine times, three times for fallen firefighters of Kadena; Todd Crigger, Jun. 3, 1990, Takashi Shimada, Dec. 23, 2010, and Derek Kovorosky, Feb. 11, 2011.

"It's a time for us to pay respects, and to think of those who we've lost too soon," Thomas said with an emotional pause.

Kadena's ceremony as well as a ceremony at Misawa Air Base, Japan, coincide with 300 fire departments across the United States holding a National Fallen Firefighter Memorial ceremony in Emmitsburg, Md., Oct. 7.

"To me, (Bells Across America) is a remembrance and the accepting of our fallen brothers into the brotherhood forever," said Wolnik.

Vote now for your choice of best Army PT uniform

By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

WASHINGTON (10/9/12) - Back in February, the Army gave Soldiers a chance to weigh in on the Improved Physical Fitness Uniform. The Army took those Soldier suggestions and developed a possible replacement uniform.

Beginning today, Soldiers can vote on which one of those they think looks the best. The online poll will be available for 20 days.

More than 76,000 Soldiers responded to the initial survey. Among other things, Soldiers commented about uniform fit, moisture wicking and anti-microbial properties and how much the uniform weighs. The Army listened to Soldiers and has developed a new Improved Physical Fitness Uniform, or IPFU.

Now the Army wants Soldiers to weigh in on color options and graphic patterns for the uniform. There are six candidate uniforms – they are all the same in terms of fabrics, capabilities and durability. What's different is the color of the fabrics and the size, color and shapes of the graphic designs.

Stylistic variations include different colors for the jacket and pants -- black or gray, for instance. Soldiers can also choose among graphic elements and colors for graphic elements.

With the jacket, for instance, there is a chevron emblazoned across the chest. That can be in yellow, grey or black, and it can be thick or thin. On the shorts, there's the option to have colored piping on the sides. For the long and short-sleeve T-shirts, there are both fabric color options and the option to have either the word "Army" emblazoned across the chest or the Army logo over the left breast.

Perhaps more important than how the uniform looks is how the uniform will perform and feel. Improvements in the IPFU include reduced fabric weight, tag-less labels, anti-microbial properties, quick-dry capability, removal of reflective properties in the uniform, the removal of the liner and elastic bottom on the pants, and overall pattern adjustments to provide a better fit.

Those changes came as a result of Soldier input as well. Command Sgt. Maj. Emmett Maunakea, Program Executive Office Soldier, said Soldiers were asked to weigh in on the IPFU, and are being asked now to vote on which uniform they like best, because it is Soldiers who are the end users.

"Nobody can tell you better what needs to happen with it than the user of that piece of equipment," Maunakea said. "We need the feedback from Soldiers and leaders in the field to tell us what is wrong with it, what is right with it, and how can we make it better and work better for them."

Maunakea said Soldiers know what's available to civilians in the way of fitness gear, and brought that knowledge with them when they commented on the Army's uniform.
"Our Soldiers are smart," he said. "They are out there spending a lot of money in the economy as they buy their civilian workout clothing. And they are buying the newest, latest and greatest type of stuff."

Maj. Mia Bruner, assistant product manager for initial issue uniforms, said Soldiers came into the February survey with well-informed ideas about their physical fitness uniform.

"They knew what they wanted that uniform to do," she said. "They knew that they wanted it to have sort of high-performance capabilities within the fabric. They know when you go out on the commercial market, you see tags that say anti-microbial and quick-dry and all of these high-speed, high-performance terminology -- they knew what characteristics and features they wanted to see in the uniform."

To save on cost, the reflective elements of the IPFU have been removed, Maunakea said.

"Everybody is going to be wearing a PT belt anyway, so it doesn't make sense to have it on the uniform, if you are already wearing a reflective belt."

On the long sleeve T-shirt, the "mock collar" has been removed, as well as the sleeve cuffs, to make the uniform more comfortable for Soldiers.

"We made it more like a crew neck collar to allow more air in for the Soldiers to cool down as they are working out," Bruner said. "It won't be as constricted around the neck area."

In the February survey, Soldiers had said they felt the liner in the pants was too thick and "got in the way," Bruner said. The liner has been removed. "We included re-enforcements along the knee area as well."

Also a possibility with the new uniform is "possible female sizing that will be developed," Bruner said.

Maunakea and a team from PEO Soldier will travel around the Army to show off to Soldiers the new uniform options. The dates and locations include Fort Bragg, N.C, Oct. 8-10 ; Fort Hood, Texas, Oct. 11-15; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Oct. 16-18; and Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Oct. 19-26. Locations for those demonstrations were chosen for density of Soldiers.

After Soldiers vote on which uniform they like best, there will be a "series of steps" that must take place before the uniforms reach Soldiers. Included in those steps are wear testing by a sample group of Soldiers, additional improvements as a result of that testing, and a final approval by the chief of staff of the Army.

Soldiers can start voting on the IPFU beginning Oct. 9. To vote, go to, and log in with your CAC. If you want to take the survey without having to log in with your CAC, visit

Wis. National Guard's Challenge Academy directs troubled teens

By Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

FORT McCOY, Wis. (10/09/12) - The superintendent of the state Department of Public Instruction got a good look at the life of cadets taking part in a successful remediation program for at-risk teens.

"We're here to take the kids that are on the wrong track, where the traditional school setting isn't working for them, and give them an opportunity," Keith Krueger, Challenge Academy acting director, said in a briefing for Dr. Evers. "To take some of those barriers away from them, and put some things in place in an environment where they can make some positive choices and get on the right track."

The Challenge Academy program began nationally in 1993 as a means of applying Department of Defense resources to the growing high school dropout rate, which Krueger described as a national crisis. In Wisconsin, an average of 6,000 students per year drop out of high school.

"Very few will actually get back on track to their education, and they struggle basically throughout life," Krueger said. He noted one study that indicates that each dropout can cost society as much as $2.5 million over the course of the first decade after quitting school. By comparison, the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy will cost about $4.2 million this year to operate - 25 percent of which is funded by the state DPI, and the rest covered by the Department of Defense.

If this [study] is accurate, we get four kids on the right track and we're paying for ourselves," Krueger said.
The Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy averages 200 graduates per year. Of the more than 3,100 cadets to enroll in the program since 1998, nearly 2,500 graduated the 22-week residential course and continued to the 12-month post-residential phase –  a graduation rate of about 79 percent. A Rand Corporation technical report indicates that the Challenge Academy program realizes a 166 percent return on every dollar spent.

Challenge Academy succeeds, Kruger explained, because teens volunteer for the program, and because the closed environment at Fort McCoy removes them from bad influences or a troubled home life that can impede achievement. A strict daily regimen –  each day begins at 5:20 a.m. and ends about 9 p.m. –provides much-needed structure, and the absence of TV, video games, Internet, personal music players and cell phones helps cadets focus on their academic and personal tasks.

Besides classes such as math, English or civics, cadets learn social skills, table manners, personal hygiene, phone etiquette and for the girls how to wear makeup.

"[We emphasize] the subtle look as opposed to the Brittany Spears look," Krueger said.
Challenge Academy also teaches eight core components – academic excellence; job skills; physical fitness; leadership and "followership;" health, hygiene and nutrition; life-coping skills; responsible citizenship and service to community. Each day includes the potential of difficulty for cadets -- what Krueger referred to as a "grit test."

"When things become uncomfortable, do you push through it and find a way through it and excel, or do you give up, lay down and go back to sleep?" he asked.

Dreshawn Covan, a cadet from the last Challenge Academy class, shared his past of not coming home, fighting in school or skipping classes, and hanging around with the wrong crowd. Sometimes he stayed away from home to avoid his mother seeing him intoxicated. Attempts to improve his behavior and academics were typically short-lived.

Covan said the death of his 16-year-old cousin - whom he described as a "good kid" who went to school - prompted him to change his ways.

"My friends were right about one thing - I only get to be a teen once," Covan said. "So why shorten that up?"
Among the lessons Covan said he learned at Challenge Academy: asking for help is not weakness but strength, how to walk away from a fight, how to bounce back from mistakes, and who really cared about him.

"I never got a letter from my friends," he acknowledged.

Covan said when he first arrived at Challenge Academy, he was a teen at risk.

"I am no longer a teen at risk," he told Evers. "I actually have a goal."

Cadet Taelor Davis - who escorted Evers and Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin around the Challenge Academy facilities - echoed Krueger and Covan.

"I've grown in integrity here," she said. "At midterm break I could tell I had changed. I had learned a lot. You don't notice the change until you go home."

Davis noted that cadets earn what they receive, including their uniforms - black leather boots, Battle Dress Uniform trousers, red T-shirts or polo shirts, and a BDU patrol cap.

"If you don't earn it, you won't see the value in it," she explained.

Shelley Joan Weiss, a DPI commissioner of education opportunities for military children, said that teens she has spoken with who quit Challenge Academy tend to regret their decision and often want to return. She asked one teen what he liked about the program.

"Sleeping in my own bed and sleeping at regular times every single day," was his reply, she said.

Evers seemed impressed with his visit.

"What I've learned is we're able to take kids that come from really difficult backgrounds and how we provide them with the skills to succeed," Evers said. "All the things they were missing in their lives, and in a relatively short period of time turn their lives around. It's been a very worthwhile visit."

AFPC officials grant CMS access to additional PERSCO teams

By Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – RANDOLPH, Texas – Air Force officials have given Personnel Support for Contingency Operations teams access to the Air Force Case Management System at more locations throughout U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and Air Combat Command.
The Air Force Personnel Center’s Air and Space Expeditionary Force Operations directorate and Total Force Service Center-San Antonio deployment cell are working hand-in-hand to provide additional CMS access, training and personnel assistance to deployed PERSCO teams outside of the U.S. Air Forces Central’s area of responsibility.
“PERSCO teams can send us personnel questions through CMS that specifically deal with career-effecting cases for Airmen,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Smith, TFSC-SA sustainment superintendent. “They have a direct line to our CMS box and we will be their liaison with AFPC program managers and each member’s home station. We can reach back and touch these home stations a lot easier than deployed PERSCO teams because of the time difference alone.”  
Many PERSCO teams within AFCENT were given CMS access in 2011 to help them submit personnel inquiries to the TFSC-SA deployment cell, but now AFPC representatives are extending that access to deployed PERSCO teams in other regions.
“Once we set up a PERSCO team with CMS access, we will send them a tutorial guide and training documents to assist them in utilizing the system,” said Shauna Walker, AFPC readiness systems support chief. “Since CMS is a home station tool for personnelists already, it should be simple for PERSCO members to utilize the system in a deployed environment.”
PERSCO team members typically receive CMS access at their home station accounts and transferring them over to their deployed duty locations is a simple process.
“We are evaluating what the usage would be at the new locations based on number days a person is deployed to the location and if CMS access would be utilized,” said Walker. “PERSCO teams set up with a constant rotation of personnel for only 30 to 60 days may not get as much use out of CMS as a PERSCO team with members deployed for 120 to 365 days.”
Deployed PERSCO teams can work with the TFSC-SA deployment cell on a variety of personnel transactions including assignments, awards and decorations, Post 9/11 GI Bill, evaluations, promotions, reenlistments, retirements, retraining and separations inquiries.

AF officials reestablish squadron commander support staffs

By Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – RANDOLPH, Texas – Air Force officials reestablished squadron commander support staffs on Oct. 1 to help commanders manage administrative duties and other personnel and knowledge operations functions.
The decision to recreate squadron CSSs was made by Air Force senior leaders during a Corona South conference in February to help squadron commanders who were overburdened by personnel, knowledge operations and administrative support workloads.
To jump start this effort, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Manpower, Personnel and Services was given functional oversight of the CSS organization throughout the Air Force and will be responsible for developing guidance. Group-level knowledge operations personnel will provide initial support for squadron CSSs and be distributed to squadrons according to local requirements and priorities. These personnel will work directly for unit commanders and provide a variety of support functions to squadron leadership and personnel.
Additional billets are scheduled to be added to CSSs in fiscal year 2014. These additional billets will be filled by Air Force personnelists. Senior leaders are also considering options for standardizing Air Force Specialty Codes and grades within each CSS and adding additional manpower in future funding cycles.
“CSSs are the building blocks of strong squadrons. They support commanders and the mission. By rebuilding our CSS, we are helping commanders focus on their top priorities: the mission and the outstanding Airmen who accomplish our mission every day,” said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, Air Force manpower, personnel and services deputy chief of staff. “This initiative to rebuild unit CSSs will greatly enhance mission effectiveness.”

Exchange Offers Fee-Free Holiday Layaway

Exchange Offers Fee-Free Holiday Layaway 

DALLAS – A good program just got better as the Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s Holiday Layaway program is now fee-free. Shoppers simply select their gifts for layaway and stop by customer service to complete the layaway process.

“Fee-free” means that while the Exchange collects an initial $3 processing fee for new layaways, that amount is returned to customers, via an Exchange Merchandise Gift Card, upon final payment and pick up their items.

In addition, toy layaway will be extended through Dec. 23. Gifts are safely out of sight until final payment and pick up just before Christmas. Also, for a limited time only, Nov. 1 through Dec. 16, customers can place computers, laptops, iPads and netbooks on layaway. 

“The Exchange continues to beat the competition when it comes to selection, service and value,” said Exchange Chief of Staff Col. Tom Ockenfels. “Other retailers charge as much as $15 for layaway. Our program saves shoppers money.”

A deposit of only 15 percent is required when starting the layaway process. See customer service for program details and eligibility.

To take advantage of fee-free holiday layaway and extended layaway for toys, visit your local Exchange today.

AFSPC Milestone: AFSPC activated the 689th Combat Communications Wing

10/9/2012 - Peterson AFB, Colo.  -- Air Force Space Command is celebrating its 30th Anniversary! Here is a significant milestone from the command's history ...

The 689th Combat Communications Wing (689th CCW) was activated on 9 October 2009 at Robins AFB, Ga. It is a subordinate unit of the Twenty-Fourth Air Force.

The 689th CCW's mission is to train, deploy and deliver expeditionary and specialized communications, air traffic control, landing systems for Humanitarian Relief Operations and dominant combat operations, anytime, anywhere and to take cyber to the tactical edge for relief and combat operations.

Its units include the 3d Combat Communications Group, at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and the 5th Combat Communications Group at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

Panetta to Convey U.S. Support at NATO Conference

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Oct. 9, 2012 – During his fifth conference of NATO defense ministers here, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will convey U.S. support for enhancing alliance capabilities, missile defense, cybersecurity, counterterrorism and countering weapons of mass destruction.

“I’ll also reassure allies of our strong commitment to finishing the job in Afghanistan alongside our allies,” the secretary told reporters traveling with him this week to Peru, Uruguay and Brussels.

Before today’s first meetings of the NATO defense ministers and members of the North Atlantic Council, Panetta will meet one-on-one with British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.

Panetta also will have short meetings with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and with German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, and later this afternoon he will meet with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

This morning, Rasmussen provided reporters with an overview of the conference.

“We will be meeting today and tomorrow to discuss progress of our missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and how we can maintain our security in a time of economic austerity, including through cooperation on key defense capabilities,” the secretary general said, adding that Afghanistan will top the agenda.

The mission there is challenging, and it has faced some challenging months, he said, noting the uptick in insider attacks on coalition forces.

“The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to undermine the progress we have made in building security and building the Afghan forces. But we will not let them succeed,” Rasmussen said.

Panetta said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, would attend the conference.

“General Allen has put a number of steps into place to confront the insider threat issue, and he’s done that alongside the Afghans to try to make sure that we do everything we can to protect against insider attacks,” the secretary said. “My goal is to make clear to NATO and to our allies that we are taking all steps necessary to confront this issue, and that it should not be allowed to deter us from the plan that General Allen has put in place.”

In Brussels, Rasmussen said NATO remains committed to its goal, its strategy, and to Afghanistan. “We remain committed to completing our ISAF mission at the end of 2014, as planned,” he added. “And we remain committed to launching a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces after 2014.”

Tomorrow, Rasmussen said, he will look to the ministers to endorse a broad framework for the new training mission in Afghanistan that will guide military planners as they draw up the detailed outline in the coming months.

“We will also take stock of the progress we’ve made on capabilities,” the secretary general said. “We are maintaining the momentum on defense projects and building on what we agreed at our Chicago summit. Allies are already working on 24 multinational programs, and more will come soon.”

Cost Of Elderly Care Challenging Military Families, First Command Reports

First Command Financial Behavior Index® reveals that half of middle-class servicemembers
who care for an elderly family member say costs are higher than they expected

FORT WORTH, Texas – At a time when men and women in uniform are dealing with the twin uncertainties of a global economic turmoil and defense downsizing, many military households are facing an extra financial challenge: caring for an elderly family member.

The First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals that 36 percent of middle-class military families (senior NCOs and commissioned officers in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) either care for or anticipate caring for a parent or other elderly family member. This compares to just 22 percent of the general population of middle-class families.

The Index reveals that military families envision elderly care in a variety of forms. Many survey respondents are focused on in-home care (44 percent in their own home and 40 percent in the home of the elderly family member). The Index indicates that military families also recognize the need to pay for professional assistance, including:
  • Home care services (30 percent)
  • Health care services (11 percent)
  • Nursing home care (10 percent)
Notably, the prospect of providing elderly care is shaking the long-term financial confidence of these current and future caregivers. The Index reveals 31 percent are not confident in their ability to retire comfortably. (Retirement confidence is stronger among the rest of middle-class servicemembers; just 22 percent say they are not confident.)

This crisis in confidence comes at a time when many military families appear ill-equipped to deal with the financial demands of elderly care. Among those already caring for an aged relative, more than half say the cost of care is more than they expected. The Index reveals that just 16 percent of them have done any specific financial planning related to the cost of this care. And among this group, only one in four have turned to a financial advisor for help.

“As the ranks of older Americans continue to swell, many military families are not prepared for the economic reality of ensuring elderly care for their own family members,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command. “These findings underscore the importance of providing meaningful financial planning support to our men and women in uniform as they prepare for the future care of their loved ones.”

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®
Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.
Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command
First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Bank and First Command Financial Planning, assist American families in their efforts to build wealth, reduce debt and pursue their lifetime financial goals and dreams—focusing on consumer behavior as the first and most powerful determinant of results. Through knowledgeable advice and coaching of the financial behaviors conducive to success, First Command Financial Advisors have built trustworthy, lasting relationships with hundreds of thousands of client families since 1958.

First Command Financial Services, Inc., is the parent of First Command Financial Planning, Inc. (Member SIPC, FINRA), First Command Insurance Services, Inc. and First Command Bank. Financial planning services and investment products, including securities, are offered by First Command Financial Planning, Inc. Insurance products and services are offered by First Command Insurance Services, Inc. in all states except Montana, where as required by law, insurance products and services are offered by First Command Financial Services, Inc. (a separate Montana domestic corporation). Banking products and services are offered by First Command Bank. In certain states, as required by law, First Command Insurance Services, Inc. does business as a separate domestic corporation. Securities products are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee and may lose value. A financial plan, by itself, cannot assure that retirement or other financial goals will be met.