Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Naval Special Warfare Center Resumes Training, With COVID-19 Precautions

May 6, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

One of the toughest training courses in the military has reopened with Navy special warfare recruits adapting to operating in the time of coronavirus.

Navy Capt. Bart Randall, the commodore of the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California, said training for new maritime special operators, or SEALs, began again May 4 after being suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Randall made changes to the training regimen for special warfare personnel. Instructors will wear masks and gloves and use megaphones rather than yelling face-to-face. The number of students in a room will also be reduced, he said. ''Our classes will maximize bubble-to-bubble travel in order to limit personal contact outside of their training cohorts, and they're going to remain on base until after the candidates complete Hell Week,'' Randall said.

The students will be quarantined together, and their health will be monitored daily.

There will be no reduction in the standards that students must meet to become SEALs or special warfare combatant-craft crewmen.

''I am confident in our constant medical assessment that we have with these students,'' Randall told reporters during a conference call. ''I'm not afraid to continue [to] train or, if conditions should change, I will pause training. Because the No. 1 thing to me is the health and welfare of these students.''

Students who come down with the virus will be pulled from the course immediately and go through the full medical procedures the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, the captain said.

Right now, no one at Coronado has tested positive for coronavirus, Randall said. The center is part of the test protocol that gives faster test results.

Although 100 percent of the personnel at the center have not yet been tested, they are moving in that direction, Randall said.

The pause in the course should not affect the yearly number of special operators the center produces. The number of people who pass the legendary tough course varies from cohort to cohort. Yearly, only about 25 percent of those in the basic course qualify to become SEALs or special warfare combatant-craft crewmen.

DOD Sends Annual Civilian Casualty Report to Congress

May 6, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

The Defense Department has sent Congress the annual report on Civilian Casualties in Connection With U.S. Military Operations.

The report is a requirement of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

DOD assessed 132 civilians were killed and 91 were injured during 2019 as a result of U.S. military operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The report did not identify any civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military operations in Yemen or Libya.

"Over the past 19 years, we, alongside our allies and partners, have fought to protect our homeland, liberate millions of people from tyranny and safeguard civilians from terrorism," said James Anderson, who is performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for policy.

"While our forces have taken unprecedented steps to prevent civilian suffering in these conflicts, we recognize that U.S. military operations, at times, inadvertently injure and kill innocent civilians. It is a sobering fact that we take very seriously," he said. The report emphasizes that U.S. forces take extraordinary efforts to reduce the harmful impact of military operations on civilians. From planning to operations, the military routinely evaluates targets to minimize the potential for civilian casualties.

DOD evaluates all reports of civilian casualties, including reports provided by individuals who were present during the operation, including military personnel and local civilians, non-governmental sources, the news media and social media. DOD also reevaluates reports of civilian casualties when new information is presented, according to the report.

In 2019, DOD made 611 payments in response to property damage, personal injury or death that was assessed to have been incident to U.S. military operations in foreign countries even though there was no liability or obligation to do so, the report states.

These payments, known as "ex gratia" payments, help to express condolences, sympathy or goodwill, and are used to support mission objectives. Ex gratia payments are one of several actions DOD may take when U.S. military operations injure or kill a civilian, or damage or destroy civilian property.

Other options include providing medical care, or other appropriate measures that might be consistent with mission objectives and applicable law, according to the report.

DOD continues to identify how the actions it takes — from allocating resources to developing weapon systems and training its forces — can better protect civilians, while continuing to defend U.S. national interests and support key partners.

"The U.S. military has long sought to go beyond our legal requirements, to further protect civilians through a variety of practices," Anderson added. "However, we will not be complacent — there is more that we can and should do," he said.

DOD Aims to Make Moves Easier With New Contract for Household Goods

May 6, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

A new contract to facilitate the movement of household goods, an integral part of any move to a new duty location, is expected to make things easier for both service members and their families.

The U.S. Transportation Command awarded the contract to American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Inc. on April 30. The first move under the new contract won't take place until February, Transcom's director of acquisition said at a news conference today.

"The ... contract is an important component of improving service members' experiences during the relocation process, and fundamentally restructures DOD's relationship with the household goods industry in order to improve access to, and management of, quality capacity to meet peak demand and enable the department to fix the accountability and responsibility lacking in today's program," Ken Brennan said.

The New Jersey-based business was chosen for the contract because the proposal the company submitted provided the best service for the best value for service members, Defense Department civilians and their families, Brennan said, adding that the carrier group beat out six other competing proposals.

Rick Marsh, the director of the defense personal property program at Transcom, said the new contract will bring great benefit to service members and their families.

Right now, he said, there's no single contractor the DOD uses to move household goods. As a result, he said, no portion of the industry is motivated to spend money to enhance the service they provide to service members and their families.

"There is ... no rationale to invest in quality suppliers and invest in your network," Marsh said. "You can't forecast the work that you're going to perform. Our current model leads to using day laborers and other folks that maybe aren't as well-trained as moving professionals should be."

By centralizing the work in one company, he said, DOD lets industry know what the demand is for household goods movement, and that allows for investment.

"They can hire and invest in very highly trained employees to come into service member homes to handle pack out or delivery," he said.

As far as accountability is concerned, he said, the department has more than 300 personal property offices at installations and another 42 shipping offices around the world that will have formally-appointed contracting officers and quality assurance evaluators.

"We're going to be working off of a centralized quality assurance surveillance plan to ensure we have accurate, rigorous oversight over the contract," Marsh said.

For families who have issues with their move, he said, there will be new avenues to rectify problems.

"I would say most of the issues that we have in our current program revolve around communication," he said. "We're going to be able to bring tools to the table that we simply can't deliver today under the current program, to be able to put families in touch with representatives from industry faster — to make the claims process much cleaner, much simpler, and for them to be, to have it settled and to be made whole ... much faster than they are today."

Currently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many service members are unable to relocate as they might have expected during the summer months, while others will be allowed to move if granted an exception, Marsh said. For those who are allowed to move under such an exception, efforts will be made to protect both families and movers from COVID-19.

"In an effort to protect the force and deliver a safe moving experience to DOD families, DOD has directed a series of health protection measures for personnel moving during the stop-movement period," he said.

DOD has directed that industry personnel adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's health protection protocols, Marsh said. That includes wearing face coverings, minimizing crew sizes, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and practicing good hand hygiene while conducting moves in family housing.

Additionally, Marsh said, moving crews will need to verify the health of their teams upon arriving at military families' homes.

"When a moving crew arrives at the curb for a pack out or delivery, moving companies will present written verification that members of the crew have been screened for illness and will be properly equipped to adhere to these protocols," Marsh said.

If a family does have concerns about the health of the team that arrives to move their household goods, Marsh said, they are also empowered to ask those movers to not come into their home.

"If families aren't comfortable, they should stop work and reschedule their move," he said. "A DOD representative will contact every DOD member during every move, in-person or virtually, to ensure protocols are being followed. And if something's not right, local transportation offices and the personnel's chain of command will get involved to make it right."