Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Family Matters Blog: First Lady, Dr. Biden Preview New Campaign

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, previewed their new troop and family support campaign yesterday in remarks at the White House.

“It’s about showing our gratitude to that very small group of Americans who make such a tremendous contribution and sacrifice to this country,” the first lady said. “And it’s about serving the people who sacrifice so much to serve us.”

Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for more on this initiative that’s intended to rally people, communities and organizations to provide support for service members and their families. For more on this effort, see our AFPS story "First Lady, Dr. Biden to Launch Troop-support Campaign," and "Dr. Biden Describes New Family-support Effort."

To comment on this blog or read other posts, visit the Family Matters website. To contact Elaine Wilson, e-mail her at

VCNO Visits Naples, Holds All-Hands Call

From Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

NAPLE S, Italy (NNS) -- The vice chief of naval operations (VCNO) visited with military and civilian personnel in Naples, Italy, Feb. 25-28.

During his visit, VCNO Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert met with Commander, U.S Navy Forces Europe-Africa/ Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA-C6F) senior leadership and held an all-hands call on Naval Support Activity (NSA) Capodichino.

"I am mesmerized by all that you do," said Greenert, during the all-hands call. "I wanted to come here and see where you live, what you do, and hear about what is important to you."

Throughout his visit, Greenert discussed topics such as stress, deployment tempo, suicide awareness, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) repeal, as well as Navy conduct and sexual harassment.

"Sexual harassment usually involves drinking," said Greenert. "Everyday sexual assault crimes are reported in our Navy. We need to pay attention to what is going on and stop hurting each other. Our shipmates need to feel safe at work."

Sailors were given the opportunity to ask Greenert questions, which included concerns about budget cuts, permanent change of station (PCS) moves and the physical fitness assessment (PFA).

Greenert noted how PCS moves will be affected by the budget and that the Navy is working to regulate this through the cutting of expenses, and early retirement options for commanders and captains.

Greenert closed the all-hands call with words of motivation that emphasized his support of what military, Department of Defense civilians and their families in the regain.

"I see the many contributions you're making first hand," said Greenert. "You work in a very dynamic situation here and I thank you for what you do."

Connecticut Guardsman Fights for Country, Future

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Debbi Newton
Connecticut National Guard

HARTFORD, Conn., March 1, 2011 – His boxing fans eagerly awaited his return to the ring. After two years away, hopes were high for the young boxer. He came into the arena in red, white and blue trunks and robe over an Army physical fitness t-shirt. The crowd cheered.

“Ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner, wearing the red, white and blue trunks, making his long-awaited return to the ring after a year-long deployment to Iraq with the U.S. Army -- Brian Macy,” boomed the ring announcer as Macy faced each side of the arena at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville on Feb. 4 and rendered a boxing-gloved salute to the crowd.

Macy is a sergeant in the Connecticut Army National Guard. A single father, he is determined to make the best life possible for himself and Charlie, his four-year-old son.

Macy, 27, started boxing when he was age 10 and quickly became someone to watch. He won the National Police Athletic League title in 2000 and had racked up 150 amateur bouts before turning professional.

The super middle weight fighter said his parents told him he couldn’t fight professionally unless he earned a college degree.

So he did. Macy has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Connecticut. He also is taking classes in music business management from Berkeley School of Music in Boston. He plans to get his master’s degree in education and wants to teach special needs children.

On April 21, 2009, Macy joined the Connecticut Army National Guard, enlisting with the 250th Engineer Company as a way to help pay for school and support himself and Charlie. He trained as a bridge engineer and deployed to Iraq with his unit for a year, taking him out of the boxing ring.

His first sergeant in Iraq, Army Master Sgt. David Moorehead, has nothing but praise for Macy as a man and as a soldier.

“He is a very good soldier,” Moorehead said. “He came in older. He definitely joined the Guard with a plan in mind. He is a very normal person, well-liked by all. He is such a polite guy and would help anyone do anything. He came so willing to learn, to get involved.”

Macy worked as gun truck driver in Iraq. Moorehead said Macy did not forget boxing while he was deployed.

“Somehow he found himself a heavy bag and he would work out on it. He gave boxing lessons to some of the soldiers.”

Now a New London resident, Macy has a very strict schedule. He gets up early each day and is running at He takes his son to school and then heads to a nearby military installation to work out in the base gym.

After the workout, he goes to a local Starbucks where he takes advantage of the free Wi-Fi to do his on-line music courses.

He picks up his son and either takes him to Charlie’s grandmother or drives halfway across the state to Middletown to train with “Iceman” John Scully, someone Macy calls the “best trainer there is.”

Scully has a long history as a boxer himself as a light heavyweight. He qualified for the 1988 Olympic Trials and fought for the International Boxing Federation world title against Michael Nunn in Leipzig, Germany. He also has done boxing commentary for ESPN.

When asked why he would travel so far on a daily basis just to work with a specific trainer, Macy simply said, “He’s the best.”

Macy works out at the gym generally from to every day and then travels the hour plus back home. It makes for a long day -- but this is all part of his plan.

A single dad, Macy wants to make the best life he can for Charlie. Seeing them together, one easily sees the love the father has for his son.

Macy has another love -- music. He is working on hip-hop music videos as producer, writer and performer. He sees boxing as a way to help him in music.

“The dedication and structure it takes to be a boxer helps keep you focused,’ he said. “I hope the name I am making in boxing will help open doors to me in the music business, as well.”

Macy said his time in Iraq gave him time to think and plan.

“The National Guard has opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” he said. “I don’t have to rely solely on boxing to make my living. I will be able to get my master’s degree.”

Macy said he also has learned about discipline. “The discipline I have learned in boxing has helped me in life and in the Guard,” he said. “And the Guard has taught me that a day is 24 hours long and you can get a lot out of it with discipline.”

Macy said he often is asked why he chooses to box.

“Not the money,” Macy joked. “I just love it. I like the art of it. I like the old-time fighters.” He mentioned greats Pernell Whitaker and Willy Pep as two favorites.

“The defensive aspect of [boxing] is what I like,” he said. “They were the greats. They were the best. They weren’t sluggers. They were artists in the ring.”

Scully called Macy a “boxing enthusiast” who studies boxing and boxers.

“He wanted to be in the limelight since I first met him,” Scully said of Macy. “He loves being in the ring. He has the discipline. [But] he has to become a little more regimented in his training.”

Back to the arena at Mohegan Sun.

The bell rings and Macy enters the center of the ring against his opponent, J.C. Peterson of Fort Myers, Florida. It looks like it might be an uneven match-up. Macy is taller, appears to be in better shape, and he has the better record.

But Peterson has longer arms -- providing a longer reach in the ring -- and Macy is fighting his first bout in two years.

Peterson dropped Macy with a strong left jab in the first round. It shook Macy up, but he got up and continued boxing.

It took Macy until the third round to get his feet solidly under him again. By the end of the third round, those that knew boxing were saying it looked like he might have come back enough to be even with Peterson.

The fourth and final round started and it looked like Macy was coming on strong.

The two pugilists battled to the final bell and both appeared to think they’d won. Several people ringside said it was too close to call and could go either way, but that Macy had looked good.

The ring announcer called both fighters to the center of the ring for the judges’ scores. The first judge scored the fight 38-37 in favor of Peterson. The second judge scored it 38-37 in favor of Macy. The crowd waited and the fighters looked straight ahead, confidence fading from both of their faces.

The third judge gave the fight to Peterson, 38-37. Macy had lost the bout.

It was a heartbreaking return to the ring for Macy, Scully and Macy’s fans. But Macy was philosophical about his loss.

Sitting in the locker room with Charlie falling asleep in his lap, Macy talked about the fight.

“He [Peterson] was a tricky fighter and I couldn’t execute,” he said. “After throwing a punch or counterpunch, I couldn’t follow through. I have to give him credit. And I was probably not as patient with the jab as I should have been.”

So why does he keep fighting?

“That guy,” said Macy, pointing to Scully sitting next to him. “Getting the training from him is like a drug. Other [trainers] are like Tylenol. This guy is like hard-core narcotics.”

Nearly two weeks after the comeback fight, Macy wondered: Is boxing still part of his future?

Macy said he doesn’t know. The money is not great and it does cost money to box. He has gym fees, trainer’s fees, and equipment to pay for. He has a contract with a promoter, and a publicist.

Yet, being a single dad supporting his son is his first priority, he said.

Since the fight with Peterson, Macy has gotten a part-time job at an electric supply company. He plans on taking the accelerated Officer Candidate School program with the Guard.

Macy would like to keep boxing professionally. He would like to get back into the ring. He loves the sport. He loves the discipline.

But he loves his son more.

“I don’t want to end up a punch-drunk fighter,” Macy said.

That doesn’t mean he has given up boxing. It just means he’s keeping his options open and moving forward with his plan.

Bonhomme Richard, Best of Class for Pacific Fleet 2010

By Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Katherine K. Barkley, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Supply Division received the Best of Class award for Pacific Fleet Wasp Class Ships for fiscal year (FY) 2010, announced by Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), Feb.15.

Bonhomme Richard's supply department earned eligibility for the award by receiving a Ships Store Retail and Service Excellence Award for FY 2010. This is the second consecutive year the ship has won the prestigious honor, "best of class" for the Pacific fleet.

"It takes a lot of effort and hard work to win this award, putting in long hours and working late to make sure we get everything accomplished," said Ship's Serviceman 1st Class William Norman.

The Best of Class award represents a superiority of service and excellence provided by the ship's vending, retail and service departments. Each of the awardees is rigorously examined by a board of type commanders and NEXCOM experts from ships that have already earned the recognition of winning a Ships Store Retail and Service Excellence Award.

"I think our team did an outstanding job," said Norman, "I think they stepped their game up this last year and truly performed to the best of their abilities. I am very proud of them."

Navy Exposes Chewing Tobacco Dangers

By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- The tobacco cessation facilitator, dental services and health promotion personnel from Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB), Wash., teamed up to actively promote the Great American Spit Out (GASPO) Feb. 24.

The event was part of "Quit Tobacco — Make Everyone Proud," an ongoing DoD educational campaign tailored specifically for U.S. military members to give up tobacco products.

"Chewing tobacco is a dangerous concept with definite health risks," said Patrick W. Graves, NHB's tobacco cessation facilitator. "When a person puts chewing tobacco into their mouth, they are instantly exposed to significant dangers such as oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophagus cancer, stomach cancer and colon cancer. A dip of chew has 28 cancer-causing carcinogens."

According to Graves, chewing tobacco is a super concentrated form of nicotine, equal to three and a half packs of cigarettes.

"That makes it all the more addictive," said Graves.

Data compiled by the DoD states that chewing tobacco is used by 19 percent of 18 to 24-year-old military males, approximately twice the national average. Chewing tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking because the body absorbs three to four times more nicotine, making it potentially more addictive than cigarettes.

"We have half a dozen staff members here at NHB who are in the process of quitting, and we're doing all we can to help them out," said Graves. "If you are a person with cardiac risk factors and have symptoms like recurrent chest pains, high blood pressure, recurring cough or shortness of breath, you might want to ask yourself that if you're holding out for the worst-case scenario, it's already happened. Chewing tobacco is subtle and slow."

Graves attests that getting the information out is only half the struggle because it's really up to each individual to control their actions.

"We might know more but due to our demographics, but we also tend to smoke and dip 35 to 50 percent more than our civilian counterparts," said Graves. "It's always been a cultural thing in the service, but that notion is gradually changing. The ironic thing about using chewing tobacco is that it's such a contradictory habit to a person putting in the effort to maintain their readiness, training, physical fitness and be on the top of their game. Dipping and chewing negates that and takes away from all the gains."

"Our partners in the dental community tend to see the impact of what chewing tobacco can do a lot earlier that I do," said Graves. "The hallmark is a pre-cancerous lesion, and our dentists and dental technicians are really good at recognizing any early warning signs."

"The big thing we stress is the bone loss that occurs by the front teeth and the gum disease and the cancers that chewing causes. The gums can't handle the irritation from the tobacco. Another thing we look for is cancer of the tongue caused from the carcinogen juices of the chewing tobacco," said Lt. Melanie Perry, a dentist assigned to Dental Health Clinic Bangor, Wash.

Using smokeless tobacco breaks down gum lines, stains teeth and is a prime source of halitosis, or bad breath, said Perry.

Active duty personnel get a dental exam at least once a year, which gives dentists the opportunity to track any potential wear and tear with a patient.

"A lot of times if we can show a patient the changes that chewing tobacco has caused it will help them quit. We can show a person if they might have cancer of the mouth or get a pre-cancerous lesion, such as leukoplakia, which is white patches that can turn into cancer. There's also gum disease that is caused when the gum is pulled away from the teeth where the tobacco has been held and won't grow back," said Perry.

"If the measuring stick for a person is that they will quit is if they get a pre-cancerous lesion, they might have already lost the battle," added Graves. "If anyone who chews begins to notice that they have a white patch in their mouth or receding gum lines, they need to contact their dentist immediately."

Health promotion staff also provided herbal-based and non-nicotine based chew as an alternative to chewing tobacco.

"We're actually going to order a supply of the herbal-based chew to have on hand at all times at our Bangor Dental Clinic," said Perry.

"We've also been hanging up posters and putting up flyers on why to quit to hopefully get those who use to at least think about not chewing," said Perry. "Everyone knows it's not good. Some people tend to think that if anything bad happens it will always happen to the other guy and not them and when dealing with a product that causes serious dental disease and cancer, that's really not the case."

Graves encourages anyone who is thinking of quitting cigarettes or chewing/smokeless tobacco to contact their primary care doctor or independent duty corpsman.

TBI Stands for: To Be Improved

By Army Staff Sgt. Victor Medina

Army Staff Sgt. Victor Medina sustained a moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) during his third deployment in Iraq in 2009. Several months later, Medina started a blog titled, “TBI Warrior” to help educate other survivors and caregivers affected by a brain injury through his own experiences–before and after TBI. He shares his story with the DCoE Blog.

Let me take you back to the first day of my new life. The day was June 29, 2009. The mission was a mounted patrol to escort supplies and route reconnaissance from a main contingency operating base (COB) to a joint security station (JSS). The route would take about three hours. We maneuvered through one of the largest cities in Iraq during the three-hour mission. As we exited the city limits – the event occurred that changed my life forever. An explosively formed projectile impacted our vehicle.

The next 48-plus hours are a blur in my mind, still. Most of what I can remember about the event is because of the stories others have told to me. I do remember the smoke and the confusion that followed the accident, but I don’t remember fainting. I remember waking up in an aid station feeling very confused and overwhelmed. I learned I had sustained a moderate TBI.

Today after 16 months of rehabilitation, I look back and think: “It has been a long recovery.” Life is not the same; I have changed. The people who knew me pre-injury can clearly see the difference. I still cope with lingering side effects. Problems with my vision, hearing, balance, headaches, speech disfluency, including the obvious cognitive impairments, are all there. I am not the same as I was before the injury. The truth is that I’ve tried to be the old me but just haven't been able to succeed at it.

My new philosophy in life and with the injury is: “If this is the hand life dealt me, I will play the best game possible.” Is it frustrating? Yes. I encourage others not to focus on the negative things of the past or present, but rather set eyes on a bright future. I believe survivors of mild or moderate TBI have the power to be as independent as they want to be, regardless of the symptoms. I always ask survivors to stop and ask themselves: “Are you a victim?” or “Are you a warrior?”

With or without injury we are responsible for our actions and our future. Life is about decisions, and you can choose to stand up and make the best out of your life. I decided to stand up and help others. I decided to be an example; and that’s how TBI Warrior started.

It humbles me when others feel empowered and motivated by my experiences. The Army taught me the value in "selfless service.” That is the value I choose to carry with me to help others. I always say that my mission is not about me but about all those who come behind me. TBI is not the end; it can be a new beginning. The effects may not go away, but “it will get better.”

Microsoft Corp. Helps Veterans’ Job Search

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2011 – Communities, nonprofit organizations and companies are reaching out to support unemployed American veterans in their search for work, and one of the companies joining in the effort is information technology giant, Microsoft Corp.

It was last Veterans Day when Microsoft kicked off its grant campaign, “Elevate America Veterans Initiative,” by awarding $2 million in cash and up to $6 million in software and information technology training to six nonprofit agencies that support veterans in varying fashions. And now, these six nonprofits are beginning to open their classroom doors after looking at the needs to better help their local veterans.

Selected from a pool of 100 applicants, each of the six has something different to offer its veterans, across different regions of the country.

The six awardees are:

-- Able-Disabled Advocacy Inc., San Diego - San Diego VetWORKS;

-- Bellevue College, Bellevue, Wash., - Project SUCCEED;

-- Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont Inc., Charlotte, N.C., - Elevate America’s Veterans Initiative;

-- Gulf Coast Workforce Board, Panama City, Fla., - Mission: 21st Century;

-- Per Scholas, New York City and Miami, - Microsoft Veterans Employment Project; and,

-- Veterans Inc., Worcester, Mass., - Veterans Inc. Employment and Training Program.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, often cites the many benefits veterans bring to the workplace.

“Veterans bring a maturity,” Mullen has said. “They bring leadership. They bring a life experience. They bring a dedication they may not have had when they were 17, 18 or 19 years old.”

The most-recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that unemployed military veterans currently comprise 10.2 percent of the national unemployment rate.

With those statistics in mind, Microsoft awarded the grants to train unemployed veterans, and their spouses who also can’t find work, in the latest technology to ready them for the 21st-century job market, said Andrea Taylor, Microsoft’s director for North America Community Affairs.

Each of the organizations awarded grants is able to offer more than information technology training over the course of the two-year program. Grant money also can go toward mentoring and resume writing, career counseling and help with child care and transportation.

In developing the programs that would benefit returning veterans and their spouses, Microsoft met with nationally recognized veterans service organizations for guidance and feedback. This advisory group included members from the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Taylor believes 190,000 individuals could be assisted through the corporation’s grants. She also estimates that 40 percent of unemployed veterans also have spouses in need of job training programs.

With training programs just beginning at the six nonprofits, each must address their veterans’ individual needs. One of the nonprofits is focusing on training for jobs that promise the most growth in future years.

Veterans Inc., in Worcester, Mass., helps veterans acquire new skills, licenses and certifications for jobs they can hire into now, while working on other skills necessary for jobs in the future.

The nonprofit is promoting information technology training, and “a variety of industries in areas that respond to the demands of the labor market,” said retired Air Force veteran Vincent J. Perrone, the president and chief executive officer for Veterans Inc.

Such opportunities might be in “green jobs in energy-efficient building jobs, construction management, network security, computer specialist jobs, project management, health care support, and jobs as security guards, cooks and food preparation workers,” Perrone said.

Perrone says Veterans Inc. will offer workshops in resume writing, interviewing for a job, life skills, nutrition, money management, and tips on dressing for success.

“This program will serve veterans, returning service members, and their spouses in need throughout Massachusetts,” he said.

“The projected number of participants to receive grant services [at Veterans Inc.] is 130 to 170,” Perrone said, predicting that 115 of his group’s veterans will find work in the first year.

Microsoft’s veterans program is supplemental to government agencies that offer benefits to unemployed veterans, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, Taylor said.

“Our program is intended to build on what’s already there,” she said.

“Veterans, young and old, seem to be ‘invisible members’ in our communities,” Taylor continued. “The young ones don’t have relationships with organizations that can help them,” compared to the older set that’s connected to groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Veterans have served their country and they’ve served well,” Taylor said. “They have excellent training in leadership skills, discipline and preparation. But what they often lack is the ability to transition from those skills in a military atmosphere, into civilian jobs.”

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale testify at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee (Defense Subcommittee) on the fiscal 2012 budget at in room 2359, Rayburn House Office Building.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey testify at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the fiscal 2012 budget request for the Army at in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus speaks at at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy Innovation Summit and conducts a media availability at the Gaylord Resort, National Harbor, Md.  Media interested in attending should contact Capt. Beci Brenton at 703-697-7491.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz speaks at and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead speaks at at the 2012 Defense Programs Conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Va.  Media interested in attending should contact Jim McAleese at 703-421-0104.