Military News

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hagel Initiatives Enable Veteran, Military Support Organizations



By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2015 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has set policy emphasizing the importance of relationships with veteran and military service organizations, as well as military support nonprofits, through initiatives to give the groups access to service members and their families.

The defense secretary signed two policy memorandums in December directing Defense Department leaders to implement standardized procedures to allow veteran, military and military-support nonprofit organizations better access to provide support to troops and military families.

Critical Importance

“National VSOs and MSOs,” Hagel said in one memo, “are a critical component of our overall framework of care for our service members throughout all phases of their military service, but especially their transition to civilian life and veteran status.”

Nonprofit non-federal entities, he said, can be of critical importance to service members throughout their careers, and within the bounds of law and regulation, it’s in the department’s interest to maintain strong and positive relationships with them.

“These memos serve to re-emphasize those privileges granted under the law or flexibilities authorized under current DoD policy,” Hagel said. These initiatives direct immediate implementation of additional measures to facilitate consistent delivery across DoD, he said.

The directives, Hagel said, also provide clarity to installation commanders on adjudicating requests for space or services.

Points Emphasized

In a letter sent to retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, president of the Association of the United States Army, and other nonprofit organizations, the defense secretary layed out six aspects of the initiatives which are designed to remove “unnecessary barriers and inconsistencies” in dealing with these organizations.

-- Installation commanders will provide available space and associated services on military installations allowing national VSOs and MSOs to provide VA-accredited representation services to transitioning service members.

-- All requests and decisions on installation access, use of space or logistical support will be made in writing.

-- Installation commanders are directed to be welcoming and supportive of nonprofit organizations that enhance morale and readiness of the force, and are consistent with mission requirements and security constraints.

-- Training and education will be provided in regular pre-command, judge advocate and public affairs officer training courses to educate personnel on the authorities and flexibilities associated with procedures and support to both accredited VSOs and MSOs, and military support nonprofit organizations.

-- DOD will use consistent and standard procedures to process requests for installation access with new tools and templates provided to aid in consistent and fair assessment and adjudication of requests for access and space.

-- Commanders are authorized to use official command communication channels, including Transition Assistance Program materials, to inform service troops of the availability of services and support on the installation provided by VSOs, MSOs and military-supporting nonprofits.

Maintain Relationships

Hagel expressed pride in what he termed a major accomplishment, and explained the importance of the directives.

“These directives underscore my belief that events and support provided by VSOs, MSOs and military-support nonprofits can be critically important to the welfare of our service members and families,” he said.

The department must maintain positive relationships with those organizations, Hagel said, to facilitate their delivery of services to military personnel who need them.

Area Defense Counsel provides legal advocacy for Airmen

by Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs


1/16/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- There are many terms Airmen don't like to hear - such as "counseling", "reprimand" or "Article 15." These are some of the administrative actions undertaken when Airmen commit crimes like driving under the influence of alcohol, abusing drugs or committing a sexual assault. These are just a few examples of what the Area Defense Counsel helps Airmen with five days a week.

The defense counselors assigned to the office of the ADC on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson ensure legal defense is available for Airmen, regardless of rank, facing any type of adverse administrative action.

ADC offices are on every Air Force installation to provide Airmen with the counsel they need.

"The office of the ADC was set up by the Air Force in the 70s in order to provide Airmen with independent legal counseling," said Air Force Capt. Steven Braunlich, ADC. "We are separate from the [Staff Judge Advocate], although everyone who works in the ADC has at one time been placed in a legal office at some prior assignment."

In the military justice system, the JA office is the prosecuting agency and the ADC is the defense agency, unless an Airman decides to hire a private civilian attorney at his own expense. While the ADC cannot defend an Airman in a civilian court, the counselors can still provide advice.

The ADC can help Airmen with a variety of legal defense concerns, such as courts-martial, Article 15 actions and many more.

"We can [also] assist them with administrative actions, such as letters of counseling, letters of reprimand or any other adverse actions in which counsel for an individual is required or authorized," Braunlich said.

Airmen have three days to respond to different administrative actions, Braunlich said.

Within that time, the counselors can determine if the individual needs an extension of time to respond due to any errors or unlawful treatment present in the document.

For one Airman, a meeting with the ADC was mandatory due to the administrative action he received.

That meeting may have saved his career.

"In September of 2004, while stationed at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, I was apprehended by security forces due to being spotted 'stumbling in a drunken manner'," said Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Ferrandino, 3rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulic systems section chief. "Unfortunately, at the time, I was an Airman 1st Class and was not of the legal drinking age."

After being read his rights, he was immediately escorted to the Security Forces Squadron building.

"One of the [security forces] personnel had to remind me that I had a right to remain silent and that I should maintain that right," Ferrandino said. "I was not saying nice things to them."

A few stressful days after his ordeal, he had to report to his commander with the first sergeant and his supervisor.

Ferrandino received an Article 15, non-judicial punishment for drinking under the legal age limit while in public.

"As I stood there, the commander proceeded to read the official language in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but his words were falling on deaf ears," Ferrandino said. "I couldn't help but repeat the words 'Article 15, what is that?' to myself."

Soon after the meeting with his commander, a one-on-one with the first sergeant was next on the agenda. This meeting gave Ferrandino a way to get help.

"The first sergeant notified me of my mandatory appointment with the ADC," he said. "I asked my first sergeant, 'ADC? You mean like lawyers or something?' and he nodded his head yes. I thought to myself, 'What's the point? I'm done for. There's nothing that can be done.'"

The first sergeant explained to him that the ADC was an agency that helps Airmen, not the commander.

"I grudgingly decided to attend my mandatory appointment," Ferrandino said. "As I walked into the ADC, I immediately noticed that the captain sitting at his desk was not wearing the same patches as I was, meaning he didn't belong to the wing or have the same chain of command I had."

This immediately put Ferrandino at ease; there was no conflict of interest regarding his case.

"The captain sat me down and went over the specific details of my case," he said. "For the first time since my apprehension, I actually felt comforted and, in a way, relieved. I had people who were 100-percent committed to assisting me with my legal issues."

During the meeting, Ferrandino was advised by the ADC counsel to write a memorandum for record to possibly reduce his punishment.

"The captain helped me write my letter, to make it as formal and concise as possible for the commander," Ferrandino said. "The miracle that the ADC performed was evident to me upon returning to my commander's office."

The commander read the statement, said it was a well-written product, and decided to have leniency, Ferrandino said.

The punishments were a reduction in base pay for a few months, 15 days' restriction to base and 15 days' extra duty.

"Although it seems like a harsh punishment, I did not lose a stripe, but instead [received] a suspended reduction in rank to airman for six months," Ferrandino said. "I am not certain if the memorandum for record the ADC helped me write convinced my commander to go easy on me, but I am certain about the positive effect that the ADC had on me at that time."

"Sometimes we are simply the conduit that speaks to the commanders on behalf of our clients," Braunlich said.

As the ADC's defense paralegal, Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanity Barr-Little is responsible for handling the administration side of the office. Barr-Little screens clients before they meet with the ADC, assists with witnessing interviews and conducts legal research.

"She is an excellent interviewer and helps throughout the process of getting to trial if someone is heading that way," Braunlich said.

The unique chain of command allows them to counsel without the appearance of partiality.

"Our chain is completely separated from all the other offices on base," Braunlich said.

Their chain of command begins in the ADC office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington, with the Senior Defense Counsel, then goes to the Deputy Chief Trial Defense Division atTravis Air Force Base, California, and ends at the Air Force Legal Operations Agency in Washington, D.C.
No other agency can rate, review, give guidance or control how the ADC advocates for Airmen.

"We focus solely on getting the best results for our clients," Braunlich said.

The ADC is the one place in the Air Force where an Airman can talk to an attorney with complete confidentiality, Barr-Little said.

Barr-Little recommends Airmen know their rights and remain silent if they are suspected of a criminal offense according to Article 31 of the UCMJ.

"You have the right to a military lawyer free of charge," she added.

"I encourage all of my Airmen to seek out advice from the ADC when they have any type of legal or administrative action issues," Ferrandino said. "I know from personal experience the ADC is here for us Airmen."

For information or to make an appointment, call 552-3887.

Spartan paratrooper completes Airman Leadership School

by Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love
4-25 IBCT Public Affairs


1/16/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Airman Leadership School on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson graduated a class as normal Dec. 18, but this class had some graduating members who were out of the ordinary.

In addition to the normal class of Airmen who lined up for handshakes, salutes and graduation certificates, there were a few Sailors, a few Coast Guardsmen and one paratrooper from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

Corporal Janay Nutter, a radio retransmission squad leader in 2nd Platoon, C Company, 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion (Airborne), became the first 4th IBCT paratrooper to graduate the six-week course during the ceremony at the Talkeetna Theater.

The course features classroom time, uniform inspections, physical training, drill and ceremony, and leadership lessons.

"I wanted to do this since I was in [Warrior Leaders Course] and I saw Airmen in our class," Nutter said. "I always wondered, 'how did they get there?' One of the Airmen I was working with was really cool and down to earth, so I wanted to be that person for the Army."

Nutter was selected for the course due to her graduating from the Warrior Leaders Course, the Army sergeant's school, on the commandant's list.

The Air Force has been sending Airmen to the Army course since early 2014.
Technical Sgt. Krystal Nichols, Nutter's instructor in the Airman Leadership School, said she enjoyed sharing Air Force culture with the paratrooper.

"[Soldiers] always bring enthusiasm and energy," Nichols said. "Of course they have a lot of different experiences with things the Airmen don't get to see all the time.

"In the Air Force you do your job and that's pretty much all you do," she continued. "In the Army, they do all kinds of things in addition to their jobs, with more field experience and deployments."

Airman Leadership School cadre reached out to find members of other services to participate in leading in addition to finding members to be students in the course.

Sergeant 1st Class Rhett Goodrich, Nutter's platoon sergeant, was invited to help with uniform inspections.

"Since [Nutter] is my Soldier they asked if I could come over here and help with inspections," Goodrich said. "I did the dress uniform inspection one week and
also another one. They're a little bit more relaxed here than the Army course, but they clearly have a lot of pride in their uniforms.

"It's definitely different than what we do but in a lot of ways it's the same, just tailored for their mission."

Nutter and Goodrich have both worked with Air Force personnel while deployed.

Nutter said her first step toward working with her aviation-inclined brethren in the course was breaking their stereotypes of Soldiers.

"They thought we were all drill sergeants: in your face and intense and unreasonable and yelling," Nutter said. "We're normal people too if you get to know us.

"It was good for me to see that with them, too. I thought they were lazy, sitting in their chairs chilling, but no, they're just like us, just a different uniform.

"Even though we come from different cultures, we're all the same team."

JBER executive officer is more than a survivor

by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs


1/16/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Marathon runners call it "hitting the wall." It usually happens around mile 20, when a runner's body runs out of energy, starving muscles of the fuel they need to carry the distance.

Air Force Capt. Caitlin Oviatt, 673d Air Base Wing executive officer, said she hit a wall of sorts Jan. 3 during the Frosty Bottom 25-mile race in Anchorage.
Oviatt doesn't usually hit the wall encountered by other racers. She prepares by packing plenty of water and "chews" - small energy snacks designed to quickly replenish muscles.

The wall Oviatt hit during Frosty Bottom involved the perils of running a race in subarctic Alaska. An unseasonably warm December gave way to a cold first week in January. Oviatt's water and snacks froze, depriving her of the refreshment and energy she needed to go the distance. She hit the wall full on.

Oviatt has had to break through several walls during the course of her life in order to find her way to the front office at JBER, even before her Air Force career began.

The first hurdle
Oviatt was raised in a military family. Her father, retired Sgt. 1st Class Brian Lynch, was an Army Special Forces operator. Her oldest brother, Army. Maj. Tim Lynch, was the soccer team captain at West Point before he earned a field artillery commission. Her other brother, Army 1st. Lt. Dan Lynch, is an infantry officer and Army Ranger.

Even if a path to a military career seemed assured, the youngest Oviatt had to surmount obstacles if she wanted to earn an Air Force commission through the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs. Though she was recruited for her soccer skills, her grades weren't good enough for a direct appointment. She would have to attend the USAFA Preparatory School for a year to compete for admission.

"I struggled a lot with academics," she said, before explaining how she weathered the tough academy curriculum. "I really think what got me through was work ethic. My dad and mom instilled that ethic in all of their kids. The academy is a tough educational experience, but anything is possible if you put your nose to the grindstone. If you have the passion and the determination to get where you want to go, you'll eventually get there even if you have to jump over some hurdles."

Finding her stride
Despite being soccer rookie of the year as a freshman, Oviatt would find a new passion her junior year: running. Though she didn't run competitively in high school, the cadet found her stride quickly enough to become captain of the academy cross-country running team her senior year. Soccer, the athletic pursuit of choice for her family, would give way to endurance runs over cresting hills and winding trails.

The captain took a year off of running in 2013, making it all the more difficult to become a competitive runner in 2014. Despite the challenge, Oviatt would finish second for women runners in Interior Alaska's Equinox Marathon, a race listed in the Weather Channel's top 15 toughest marathons.

The marathon sees a total elevation change of 3,285 feet and is often inundated with cold September rains that can cause hypothermia for participants.
Though the hilly conditions would pose a challenge to most runners, Oviatt said it played to her strengths.

"That is what I love to do," she said. "Mountain climbing - with my short steps - really suits me. It got me fired up."

The last three miles of the course, however, would prove more difficult to the officer. As if the bone-chilling rain wasn't enough, Oviatt's hills would give way to a level-plateau finale - forcing her to run flat out.

"It was tough," she said. "You have to dig deeper into your mind. All these thoughts pop in your head like 'This hurts.' You tell yourself 'You can do this.' You don't want to just survive; you want to thrive."

Oviatt finished the race second - the winner, Christy Marvin, having beaten the marathon record by nearly a minute. The accomplishment proved to Oviatt she could overcome limitations with the resolve and hard work ethos her parents taught her.

"A lot of times, it's your mind holding you back," she said. "Your body is capable of so many things, it just depends on your belief in yourself."

Frosty Bottom
At mile 17, her water and energy snacks frozen, Oviatt had hit the wall. Frosty Bottom is actually a 50-mile bicycle race that runs concurrently with a 25-mile foot race.

Oviatt was in need of hydration if she was going to post a competitive time, so she did what logistics readiness officers do best: she improvised.

As she passed bike riders, she asked them for the water she needed to carry the race. Fortunately, the riders obliged, giving her the refreshment and kindness that would see her through to the end.

"No matter how hard the wall hits during a race, you'll push through," Oviatt said. "Running has taught me that. Waking up everyday and just running is a
blessing."

In much the same way Oviatt surmounted her wall at Frosty Bottom, the executive officer overcame her early academic limitations, earning a bachelor's degree in behavioral science. She has since earned a master's degree in health psychology and will soon complete another master's degree in logistics.

The officer spent her first year of commissioned service as a soccer coach at the USAFA Preparatory School, coming full circle and allowing her to give back to the process that saw her through the academy.

"I thought it was the coolest thing," she said. "Being able to directly impact and influence [cadets] is what leadership is all about."

Her first assignment at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was flight commander of the base's central issue facility - an organization responsible for issuing Army newcomers with the equipment they need for arctic training.

Oviatt then moved to the base's joint mobility complex, an air terminal primarily built to accommodate Army airborne operations.

Throughout her military service, Oviatt said she viewed athletics as a way to set the example for the Airmen she serves with.

"Running for me is a way to communicate," she elaborated. "It's a way to motivate. It's a way to inspire. Even if it motivates just one Airman to train for and run a race - that is good enough for me."

Her efforts were not in vain. For Michael Boy, the JBER installation deployment officer at the JMC, Oviatt would serve as the inspiration for him to begin running as a way to improve his health.

"The best compliment I ever got was 'You helped save my life'," Oviatt said in reference to a conversation with Boy. "I run for selfish reasons - because I like it - but being able to truly affect people through the art of running, that's what I enjoy the most."

Bomber force prepares for new B-52 bomb bay upgrade testing

by Jet Fabara
412th Test Wing Public Affairs


1/15/2015 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Since the Air Force's decision in 2013 to increase the B-52H bomber fleet's effectiveness and versatility by increasing the aircraft's smart weapons capacity by more than 50 percent, teams from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., Boeing and now Edwards have partnered to begin developmental testing on the "Buff's" newest upgrade.

This new upgrade comes in the form of a Conventional Rotary Launcher, which members from the 419th Flight Test Squadron, the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force and Boeing installed on an Edwards B-52H in December 2014.

"The upgrade modifies the internal weapons bay of the B-52H bomber by integrating a CRL that has the capability of carrying Military Standard 1760 'smart weapons,'" said Jeff Lupton, Boeing 1760 program manager.

This upgrade is essential because it increases weapons capability on the external wing stations of the B-52H while adding the smart weapons capability for the first time to the bomb bay, according to the Boeing test team.

"One of the benefits of the 1760 upgrade is it brings a lot of capability to the B-52 we don't currently have on the aircraft," said Capt. Ryan Hefron, a B-52 test pilot at the 419 FLTS. "We weren't able to carry smart weapons inside the bomb bay, but, now, with the new CRL we'll be able to carry Joint Direct Attack Munitions with the first increment and with future increments we'll be able to carry Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and Miniature Air Launched Decoys."

"Adding smart weapons capability to the internal weapons bay of the B-52H allows the bomber to respond with accuracy and flexibility to the warfighter's needs in real time. The upgrade adds capability while remaining affordable by adapting existing technology for use in the weapons bay," added Lupton. "By providing smart weapons capability in the bay, the bomber can be employed in a clean wing configuration, [meaning] no weapons on the external pylons, thus increasing its range and loiter time."

According to Hefron, the increased carriage of smart weapons would allow the B-52 to engage targets more precisely compared to the unguided bombs currently approved for bay carriage.

"By being able to integrate smart weapons in the bay, we can prosecute more targets, more precisely, while minimizing collateral damage," Hefron said. "It will allow us to perform direct attack, provide close air support for our Army brethren on the ground and be able to execute our overall mission more effectively and efficiently. With future increments, our strategic attack capability -- which is the cornerstone of the B-52 --will be enhanced by being able to perform long range strikes and carry smart weapons in the bay."

At the conclusion of the upgrade, all B-52H's will be modified with this unique capability and the aircraft will be available for employment by Air Force combatant commanders, said Lupton.

Lupton added there are several stages of testing included with the hardware and software modifications. The final stage of the upgrade will include approximately 10 test flights to verify the B-52H's upgraded capability.

"The test team, including Boeing and Edwards AFB personnel, will first conduct a series of ground tests to include Timeline Integration and Electromagnetic Interference Checks," Lupton said. "After the data analysis and review is complete, we will conduct a series of flight tests to include live weapon releases."

New Report Shows Active-duty Suicides Declined in 2013


By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2015 – Suicides among active duty members of the U.S. military decreased in 2013 from the previous year, while those among the reserve components were slightly higher, according to a Defense Department report released today.

The 2013 DoD Suicide Event Annual Report lists 259 suicides among active component service members and 220 such deaths among members of the reserves and National Guard. According to the report, failed intimate relationships were the most prevalent stress factor precipitating suicide, with most of those taking their own lives married. Financial or workplace difficulties were also found to be a key factor. Young, Caucasian males -- including junior enlisted troops -- were found to be most likely to turn to suicide.

The report found that just over 66 percent of those who committed suicide had deployed one or more times.

Pentagon officials say they are deeply concerned about suicides within the armed forces and are actively working to prevent them. At the same time, they say they have been encouraged to see more people seeking counseling over the past year, including increased calls to helplines and meetings with mental health experts.

More than a dozen suicide prevention programs are available to service members, veterans and their families, and each of the military branches conducts suicide prevention awareness training. In addition, DoD as a whole has increased the number of counselors available.

The Defense Department is also partnered with Veterans Affairs to promote the Veterans/Military Crisis Line, a confidential counseling service available around the clock at 800-273-8255. Also offered is Vets4Warriors.com, which provides confidential peer support to service members and their families.