Thursday, April 19, 2012

Panetta, Dempsey Agree International Accord Needed on Syria

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 – Syria is in the midst of a tense, fluid and dangerous time, and the U.S. military stands ready to do whatever mission the president and Congress assign to it, top Defense Department leaders told the House Armed Services Committee here today.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repeatedly stressed the situation in Syria is complicated and that no unilateral U.S. action can solve the problem of Bashar Assad’s regime killing its own people.

The Syrian people revolted against Assad beginning last year. Unlike similar revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, this one met the iron fist of the Syrian military.

“Rather than trying to meet the legitimate demands of the people, the regime … turned instead to violence against its own people,” Panetta said. “That violence has been brutal, and it has been devastating. It has put the Syrian people in a desperate and difficult situation. It has outraged the conscience of all good people, and it has threatened stability in a very important part of the world.”

President Barack Obama has said that through his violence against his people, Assad has lost any legitimacy. Administration leaders repeatedly have stressed that Assad should begin the transition to a government that respects the rights of the people.

This will require an international consensus, Panetta said. From every angle, the situation in Syria is enormously complex, he added.

“There is no silver bullet; I wish there was, but there isn’t,” he said. “At the same time, the situation is of grave consequence to the Syrian people. There are many others who are affected by what happens in Syria as well, including Syria's neighbors -- Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, and all nations with a vital interest in the Middle East.”

In his remarks to the committee, Dempsey said the Assad regime should have answered the revolt with real democratic reform. “Instead, the regime responded with brutality,” he said. “Syria’s internal convulsions are having consequences for a region already in turmoil.”

Thousands are fleeing the civil war in Syria, and fighting has spilled over into neighboring countries -- most notably in Turkey, where five people were killed in a refugee camp.

The United States has other concerns due to the fighting, such as opportunistic extremists who may seek to exploit the situation, the chairman said. The United States also is concerned about the fate of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons. “They need to stay exactly where they are,” the general said.

At present, Dempsey said, the U.S. military is limited to sharing information regarding Syria with regional partners. “But should we be called on to help secure U.S. interests in other ways, we will be ready,” he added.

Meanwhile, the chairman told the panel, the U.S. military maintains its agile regional and global posture.

“We have solid military relationships with every country on Syria’s border,” he said. “Should we be called, our responsibility is clear: provide the secretary of defense and the president with options, and these options will be judged in terms of their suitability, their feasibility and their acceptability.”

DoD, Navy and Wind Farm Developer Release Historic Memorandum of Agreement

By Kenneth Hess, Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION (NAS) KINGSVILLE, Texas (NNS) -- The Navy released today a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by officials from the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of the Navy and Texas Wind Group (TWG) that outlines a mutual approach to enable a renewable energy developer to build and operate wind turbines at planned locations in Kleberg County, Texas, while reducing the potential for those turbines to affect flight operations at NAS Kingsville.

"Sustaining military readiness is the number one priority of everyone in the Navy chain of command," said Capt. Mark McLaughlin, commanding officer of NAS Kingsville. "This agreement helps preserve NAS Kingsville's capability to train naval aviators, while enabling the compatible development of new energy sources."

Signing for DoD was David Belote, director of the DoD Energy Siting Clearinghouse. Signing for the Navy were Roger Natsuhara, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment; John Quinn, acting director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division; Vice Adm. William French, commander, Navy Installations Command; Rear Adm. John Scorby, commander, Navy Region Southeast; Capt. Douglas Edgecomb, commanding officer, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, and McLaughlin. Dru Steubing signed on behalf of Texas Wind Group Managing.

"The Navy recognizes the strategic and fiscal importance of developing domestic sources of energy for use both ashore and at sea," said Quinn. "As we develop new sources of energy, it is critical that we not create a new problem as we solve another. This agreement with the Texas Wind Group is proof that when energy developers and the military work together, it is possible to achieve a win-win for both national security and energy security. This agreement allows the military mission and alternative energy production to co-exist in South Texas, and may pave the way for similar agreements elsewhere."

TWG's Riviera I wind farm project will be comprised of 83 turbines between nine and 11.5 nautical miles south of NAS Kingsville's radars and navigation aids. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) from the turbines has the potential to impact those systems. However, the MOA describes technical solutions for this, such as connecting NAS Kingsville's air surveillance radar system with the radar at Corpus Christi International Airport and optimizing radars to "ignore" signals received from wind turbines. TWG will contribute $500,000 to help pay for these technical upgrades to Navy radar systems. Under the MOA, TWG also agreed to reposition certain turbines that would have caused interference with the Kingsville precision approach radar. TWG also agreed to temporarily curtail the operation of certain turbines if the precision approach radar is negatively affected.

"The Texas Wind Group is delighted to be the first wind energy company to finalize an agreement of this type with the Navy," said Steubing. "We are fully committed to protecting the capability of our nation's military, and we appreciate the opportunity to work with the Navy to make our development compatible with the Navy mission in South Texas."

The Navy and the Department of Defense will continue working closely with renewable energy developers and local communities in South Texas to ensure local wind turbine projects can coexist with the Navy mission.

The MOA is available for download at

DCoE April Webinar: Coping Skills in Children of Deployed Parents

By DCoE Strategic Communications

Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury will host its next webinar, “Children of Deployed Parents: Health Care Provider Strategies for Enhancing Coping Skills,” April 26, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. (EDT).

Since the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom, military families have experienced multiple and extended deployments. Although many children adjust well, the stress of parental deployment may increase the risk for adjustment problems, emotional difficulties and internalizing or externalizing behaviors (e.g., physical aggression or substance abuse).

Health care providers frequently serve military families struggling with deployment-related issues. This webinar will discuss the impact of parental deployment on children’s psychological health and identify strategies and resources relevant to coping.

Featured speakers are:

■Dr. Stephen Cozza, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, associate director
■Michelle Sherman, Ph.D., Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Family Mental

Health Program, director; University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, clinical professor

All professionals who care for service members are encouraged to attend, including service members and their families. You may register now, or click here for more information.

Continuing education units and continuing medical education credits are now available. Click here for details. To obtain credits, you must pre-register using the Adobe Connect platform.

Follow us on Twitter@DCoEPage during the webinar for live Tweeting and use #DCoEWebinar to join the conversation.

PGA golfer visits Wisconsin National Guard training institute

By Sgt. Megan Burnham
112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

PGA golfer Steve Stricker of Madison continued his education about the Wisconsin National Guard by visiting the 426th Regional Training Institute, its employees and current students at Ft. McCoy, Wis., Tuesday (Apr. 17) as part of a Community Center of Influence event. 

Stricker and another Madison-based PGA golfer, Jerry Kelly, conducted a similar visit in January to the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing to learn about the role of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. Events like these help increase understanding of the Wisconsin National Guard and its dual mission for an influential audience that might not otherwise interact with National Guard members.

The day began with Stricker meeting Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard; Command Chief Warrant Officer Craig Krenz, and Col. Kenneth Koon, Wisconsin Army National Guard chief of staff, at Joint Force Headquarters in Madison before taking a 45-minute UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter orientation flight to Ft. McCoy.

"I felt a lot of anticipation, really not knowing what to expect," Stricker said. "I've never been up in a Black Hawk before so I knew that was going to be very exciting."

Subject matter experts at the 426th RTI demonstrated the capabilities of the training simulators to Stricker. These included Mine Resistant Ambush Protector (MRAP) rollover trainer, operator driver simulator, call for fire trainer and engagement skills trainer (EST).

"Mr. Stricker gets the chance to observe Soldier's training and the types of equipment and systems they train on, which gives him a much better perspective of what we do, how we train and our missions," Anderson explained. "This allows him to be a better advocate for the sacrifices made by our Soldiers and - from having seen and experienced some of the training firsthand - he can provide a better perspective to those influential people he deals with."

In addition to the simulator demonstrations, Stricker met with Soldiers conducting classes such as transportation operations, cannon crewmember advanced leadership course (ALC) and resilience training assistant (RTA) course.

"It means a lot to both our staff and our students that [Stricker] found time to come up to see what we do for a living," said Lt. Col Gary Thompson, operations officer for the 426th. "We have all seen him work, but it was great for our morale to have a chance to show him what we do as Soldiers.

"Mr. Stricker is a class act," Thompson continued. "It was great to have him here, taking time to shake hands, sign every golf ball and pose for every picture requested."

Stricker said that he and the PGA Tour understand the importance of supporting and "to give back just a little bit" to the military, the National Guard and Wounded Warriors.

"They serve our country and serve us as individuals," Stricker said. "It's [an] important part of what we have, the freedoms we have here in our country."

Army Refines Medical Management of Concussion

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Over the past 20 months, the Army has been working to refine the way it tracks and treats the most common form of battlefield brain injuries -- concussion, also called mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI.

The job isn’t easy, because even in the United States, where civilians experience traumatic brain injuries at the rate of 1.7 million a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no single diagnostic standard exists for TBI.

In the words of experts at the 2nd Annual Traumatic Brain Injury Conference last month in Washington, treatment of TBI and especially acute, or rapid-onset, TBI is still “a major unmet medical need” worldwide.

“This is why we have our program,” Army Col. (Dr.) Dallas Hack, director of the Army’s Combat Casualty Care Research Program, told American Forces Press Service.

“This is why Congress in 2007 issued a special appropriation of $300 million to start funding traumatic brain injury and psychological health research for our troops,” he added, “and has continued to [add] significant amounts of funding,” up to $633 million today.

In the research program, scientists try to find ways to look into the brain noninvasively to measure the effects of brain trauma, using brain scans, electroencephalograms for measuring brain electrical activity, eye-tracking systems that offer a window into the brain, and more.

Objective measurements are critical for mild brain trauma, which is called an invisible injury because effects on the brain of falls or explosions or vehicle accidents aren’t always obvious.

Today, while processes and devices sensitive enough to measure mild brain trauma are in development, on the battlefield and at home mild TBI tends to be assessed in large part using the best tools available -- questionnaire-type assessments.

During a recent briefing at the Pentagon, Army specialists in behavioral health and in rehabilitation discussed the evolving behavioral health system of care for TBI.

A hallmark of the Army’s standard of behavioral health care is a screening process administered to soldiers before they deploy, while they are in theater, as they prepare to return home, and while they are in garrison, said the behavioral health specialist.

The assessment process includes the following questionnaires:

-- Predeployment: All incoming service members are screened with the neurocognitive assessment tool, called NCAT, which is used as a baseline for future concussion or mTBI injuries.

-- In theater: Immediately after injury, the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation, called MACE, is used to quickly measure orientation, immediate memory, concentration, and memory recall. Combined with clinical information, a MACE score can guide recommendations, including evacuation to a higher care level.

-- Postdeployment: Because mTBI is not always recognized in the combat setting, active duty service members receive postdeployment health assessments. Four questions adapted from the Brief Traumatic Brain Injury Survey are asked during the assessments. Positive responses on all four prompt an interview with a doctor for an mTBI evaluation.

-- Veterans: Vets are screened for mTBI when they enter the Veterans Health Administration system. A TBI clinical reminder tracking system identifies all who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Those who report such deployment and don’t have a prior mTBI diagnosis are screened using four sets of questions based on the Brief Traumatic Brain Injury Survey. Those who screen positive for mTBI are offered further evaluation.

“Part of what they do is complete those questionnaires,” the rehabilitation specialist said. “The other part of any of those screenings is a face-to-face interview with a primary care provider. If there’s something the primary care provider or the screening instrument identify as indicating some kind of psychological distress, then the soldier will also see a behavioral health provider face to face.

“The other part of our system of care includes something we call embedded behavioral health that we’re rolling out across the Army right now,” the behavioral health specialist said.

This involves putting behavioral health specialists in the physical location of brigade combat teams, she said. In such a setting, she explained, “[care] providers develop a habitual relationship with the commanders so they feel trust about communicating appropriate information about the soldier’s health.”

The Army is reaching out, she added, “trying to connect with soldiers at the various touch points, in their unit areas and also in primary care clinics, so they have every opportunity to access behavioral health care at any point in their health care and in their daily lives.”

The current protocol for the traumatic brain injury system of care in theater, said the rehabilitation specialist, comes from a 2010 Defense Department directive-type memorandum that makes screening mandatory for soldiers who are involved in four kinds of events, even if they don’t appear to be hurt.

Those who must be screened have been near a blast, sustained a blow to the head, are involved in a vehicle accident, or have commanders who are concerned about them and want to enter them in the protocol.

Anyone involved in a mandatory event receives the MACE evaluation, a medical evaluation and at least 24 hours of rest. And they must be cleared by a medical provider before returning to duty, the rehab specialist said.

Slightly different guidelines cover those who have had multiple concussions.

For somebody who has suffered a second concussion in theater, she added, the minimal 24-hour down time is extended to a minimum of seven days.

Those who have a third diagnosed concussion in theater receive seven days of down time and a comprehensive concussion assessment that consists of consultations with specialty care providers and a functional assessment -- for example, one that assesses their ability to keep their balance.

Also in theater are 11 concussion care centers with specialty providers and a restful environment.

In Afghanistan, for moderate or severe TBI, three neurologists staff Role 3 advanced hospitals, along with a neurology consultant who oversees the TBI neurology specialists.

Telemedicine -- the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications technology -- is also used to treat TBI, and those visits doubled from fiscal 2011 to 2012, the behavioral health specialist said.

The Army has invested more than $530 million to improve access to care, quality of care and research, and TBI screening and surveillance. But the best clinical treatment for service members and civilians with mild TBI may be months and years in the future.

Hack says it’s the state of the science.

The Defense Department’s protocol “is as good as we have,” he said. “I am completely supportive of it. I’m trying to do better,” he added.