Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wisconsin Challenge Academy welcomes updated academic building

The Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy dedicated its newly renovated academic/multipurpose facility, building 751, during an Aug. 9 ceremony at Fort McCoy. The facility will serve as a focal point for the program that helps at-risk youth turn their lives around.

The mission of the Challenge Academy program is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts or those at risk of dropping out to produce program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.

Keith Krueger, acting Challenge Academy director, said the 14-month renovation project took the structure down to its skeleton frame. The facility now has upgraded and modern insulation, dry wall, flooring, siding, doors, windows, and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

"The existing building met the needs of the cadets," Krueger said. "It provided a place for cadets to embrace education, a meeting place for mentors and parents, and served as a hub for the majority of our daily events. Over the years, the building slowly wore down."

With the support of the Fort McCoy Command Group and in conjunction with the Directorate of Public Works (DPW), the academy and its staff were able to see the facility receive Fort McCoy's version of a home makeover.

"Together we will continue to ensure the youth of Wisconsin have a safe environment to make positive choices to become successful, responsible citizens," Krueger said. 

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott also addressed the audience at the dedication ceremony.

"We will dedicate (the facility) as a modern academic hall that also will serve as a multipurpose facility for presentations, seminars and more," Nott said. "These improvements certainly are going to enhance what's already a proven success story here at the Challenge Academy."

The opportunities that people have throughout their lives are based far more on how they are respected, admired and trusted than on any other criteria, he said. By observing and living a moral code, cadets can identify who their true friends are and establish a bond with them that is stronger than steel.

The cadets in class 29, as have those in previous classes, will have opportunities with the cadre, faculty, facility and volunteers to improve their life skills and education, Nott said. Although much of their success will be determined by their willingness to study, work and listen, only the cadets, themselves, can decide if they are willing to change their cultural norms to acceptable levels of discipline and what values they will use to guide their lives.

"Now embrace the challenge of change," Nott said. "Reflect on why you volunteered to come here. Adopt a culture of self-imposed discipline and value-centered decision making. These are goals we all can live by."

The process to renovate the facility began in May 2009 when the Challenge Academy contacted the DPW and indicated the facility was in need of major renovation, said Liane Haun, chief of the Fort McCoy DPW Planning Division.

DPW proposed a scope of work, and the project was added to the fiscal year 10/11 Construction Acquisition Management Plan for design and execution.

The project was awarded in May 2011 to MDM Construction Supply, LLC from Rockford, lll., as a design/build project. The project also included a new fire alarm and fire suppression system, replacement of flooring, and upgrades to the bathroom to handle the capacity of the building to meet codes, Haun said. The work was completed earlier this year.

Nott said the building has had a colorful 70-year history. It was built as part of the 1942 Cantonment Area construction. Over the years, the facility has served as Service Club 3 (during World War II), as an Exchange for the east side of the cantonment area, and as an Arts and Crafts facility before the Challenge Academy took over the building in 1998.

The facility will continue to support the academy's academic needs. Krueger said the facility also has served as host to a number of motivational guest speakers, who have shared their often inspirational life stories with the cadets, including Miss America (Heather French), members of the Green Bay Packers, etc.

Conference Promotes, Enables Medical Research

By Jeffrey Soares, USAMRMC Public Affairs

The latest advancements in healthcare for warfighters and related cutting edge research, is the focus of the 2012 Military Health System Research Symposium that opened Aug. 13 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The four-day symposium, sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, and organized by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, is a joint effort supported by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, and brings together scientific leaders and researchers from throughout the world.

“This is the first time that we are combining three previously separate conferences into one joint conference by the Army, Navy, and Air Force,” Col. Dallas Hack, chair of the MHSRS said. “We now have a broader range of topics. Before it was primarily trauma care, and now it is this, plus infectious disease, operational medicine, medical simulation and training and force health protection. The interest thus far has been truly amazing.”

The vision of the MHSRS is to offer an academic-based forum in which to discuss recent accomplishments and share knowledge regarding military research and development. The annual event, which has expanded rapidly over the last decade, provides an opportunity to exchange ideas on planning and developing future studies aimed at optimizing care for members of the uniformed services in operational settings

“This year, we have over 450 presenters, including podium speakers and poster presentations,” Hack said, “and we actually had to limit the number of submissions we could accept. We have nearly 1400 people registered, and we probably will see over 1500 when all is said and done. This year’s conference is shaping up to be the biggest one yet.”

Originally established 15 years ago as Advanced Technology Applications for Combat Casualty Care, the conference has helped to unify researchers who seek ways to aid the nation’s warfighters -- both on and off of the battlefield -- before, during and after deployment. To date, the research has been successful.

For example, the general concept of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine grew out of conversations during the 2006 ATACCC meeting, and during the same meeting, the Army and Navy agreed to collaborate on damage control resuscitation, which has greatly speeded up research in this particular area. At the 2001 conference, a discussion between researchers from the University of Florida and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research on the concept of traumatic brain injury biomarkers led to  research collaboration on the topic. This meeting resulted in the first ever blood test for TBI to enter Phase III clinical trials. In 2008, ATACCC was the site of a joint meeting to discuss spinal cord Injury medevac litter efforts, which led to three successful studies regarding the assessment of the effects of vibration, G-force, and shock on casualties during medevac transportation.

“The only reason to have a meeting like this is to provide output -- to ensure that new things happen in the research field because of all the information shared,” Hack said. "Our focus remains the same:  to protect, sustain, and treat the warfighter with the most current technology.”

Hack added he has seen an increase in the number of non-DoD personnel attending the conference, such as those from corporations, academia, and clinics, who come to learn more about new advances in the field. Another draw is that continuing education units are offered for many in attendance as well.

“I truly believe the non-DoD personnel are coming to this meeting because they recognize that the DoD is a leader in the field of this type of research,” Hack said, “and we’ve had some major breakthroughs lately.”

Because of the increased use of improvised explosive devices during conflicts overseas, one of the topics gaining much attention is TBI, and Hack said this has become a key area of research.

“Over the course of the war, we’ve had huge progress in the area of massive trauma and massive hemorrhage, and how to treat this,” he said. “Now we’re starting to see big advances in the area of TBI, and we can look forward to seeing brain injury care translating into larger clinical trials, and into practice within the next year or two. We’re looking at the long-term, chronic effects of brain injury, which is very different than past research where we only looked at the short-term effects.”

Since the results of research aimed at the warfighter make their way into civilian medical practice, millions across the world could reap the benefits of these breakthroughs. 

And this remains the silver lining of the annual MHSRS gathering.

“What continues to amaze me,” Hack said, “is the amount of support we get for this conference. So many folks throughout the year write or phone us to say how much they look forward to this meeting, and that it is the best medical meeting of the year.”

New Program Aims to Better Help Troops Transition to Civilian Life

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department is conducting pilot classes of a new program designed to better prepare service members transitioning out of the military to civilian life.

Transition Goals Plans Success, known simply as Transition GPS, replaces the 20-year-old Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. In a sweeping overhaul of the 20-year-old TAP, as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act passed in 2011, Transition GPS takes military members through a week-long class, compared to the original TAP’s mandatory two to four hours of separation counseling, said Susan Kelly, the Defense Department’s deputy director for the newly formed Transition to Veterans Program Office.

“The Defense Department wants our service members to succeed when they become civilians,” Kelly said during an American Forces Press Service interview.

“Separating from the military lifestyle is a major life change,” she said, pointing out that there are some things that veterans can’t control during the transition process, but there are others that they can. “And that’s exactly what the Transition GPS helps you do. It’s going to walk you through a set of modules, help  you build your skills, and takes you through what you need to consider … [through] deliberate planning that makes you more open to the success you want to be in the civilian work force.”

Naval Station Norfolk is one of seven installations now conducting pilot classes of the new five-day Transition GPS workshop. Full use of the program is expected to be in place by the end of 2013, according to a White House release.

Kelly said senior leaders from the Defense Department, the military services, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, the Education Department and the Office of Personnel Management met regularly for a year as the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force to develop the new program.

“It was President Obama’s mandate to DOD and VA to establish the joint Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force,” Kelly explained, “that brought all the partners together in a very structured and very goal-oriented way. It was the major impetus for bringing all those lessons learned together and helping us develop a very comprehensive curriculum for our service members.”

She said representatives of the agencies contributed in multiple ways to develop Transition GPS, which, she added “we hope will eventually evolve into the military lifecycle transition assistance program.”

Transition GPS will be mandatory for service members, Kelly said, including reservists and national guardsmen, with some exceptions. A key part of the weeklong program is a three-day Labor Department Employment Workshop, which is mandated by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act to be in place by Nov. 21.

“Between the mandatory DOL employment workshop, plus the core curriculum for Transition GPS, there is a holistic view that starts with looking at the challenges of transition, and preparing military members to meet those challenges, including family considerations. It also helps plan for the financial changes they’ll face as they become civilians,” she said.

Kelly said the DOL employment workshop introduces challenges a service member might confront, and how to deal with such stressors. Staff members help them determine what’s most important to them in a job -- salary, advancement, stability and other considerations.

The workshop takes service members through job searches using up-to-date technology, and has them look at whether their skills are in demand in the civilian sector, where the best opportunities exist, and whether moving is a consideration. The DOL wants military members to develop a second plan if the first one doesn’t pan out.

“They might look at what skills are in demand and how they can fill that gap,” Kelly said. “There are some very serious questions to look at.”

“There are specific pieces of the new curriculum that give them the information they need to make very well-thought out decisions as well as skills building to help them succeed in whatever pathway they chose,” Kelly added.

In the course of five days, about 50 students develop an individual transition plan that maps out financial planning and a budget to follow the first 12 months after separating from the military. It also covers how to write a resume and how to interview for a job, along with exploring how military skills can be carried over into the civilian work force. In addition to the DOL workshop, a Veterans Affairs representative goes over benefits.

If certain skills are not transferrable, service members’ personal goals are identified for the type of employment they want to pursue, the education they want to gain from college or technical training schools, or to start their own business, she said.

Optional two-day tracks, to be piloted in the coming months, will include help for those who want to pursue a college degree, or technical training.

“We found that military members weren’t making the best of their post-911 GI Bill,” Kelly said. “So we are getting them the information to help them choose wisely.”

The new GI Bill, she said, is a generous benefit. “Make it work for you, and choose wisely,” Kelly suggested.

The Small Business Administration will also offer an optional two-day curriculum to put new veterans on the path to start up small businesses, Kelly said. “The SBA is very passionate about our military members being very innovative, [being] creative, and self-initiating … and they’re going to help them build [business] skills.” 

The SBA also developed an eight-week online course to help new veterans build a solid business plan, she added. It also assigns a mentor to each military member, who will see them through their small-business startup, sustaining the business, and remain a long-term mentor.  

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Peter Adams is one such small business candidate. He wants to go into film and video production and start his own company. He said Transition GPS has allowed him to look at reinventing himself.

“The class has given me ways to take my leadership and organization skills and [others] I never would have thought of and how to market them for myself,” he said. “It gives me the confidence on my resume and in an interview to say, ‘This is what I can do for you,’” Adams said.

Navy Machinist Mate 1st Class Jason Christian has worked in cryogenics throughout his military career, and his goal is to stay in his field in the civilian sector.

He had previously attended the original TAP, and he says the new pilot program is more interactive.

“The technology made everything change significantly,” Christian said. Aside from the major companies in his field, he said he found others he didn’t know existed. “I plan on coming back and bringing my spouse so she can be involved in this. [We need] to look at housing, the cost of living, what traffic is like, the crime rate and what the schools are like for my children -- things I never took into account.”

Face of Defense: Airman Saves Little Girl at Beach

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs Office

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. – Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Proffitt reacted quickly at the beach to save the life of a drowning little girl.

It started out as a beautiful weekend summer day on the ocean at Sullivan's Island, S.C.

Desperate cries for help were echoing faintly over the rolling ocean waves. The pleas were from a 7-year-old girl, pulled out past the breakers by a violent riptide and with every scream her weakened body gave in a little more to the powerful ocean current.

Proffitt, who’s assigned to the 373rd Training Squadron here, was nearby enjoying a day at the beach with his wife and children. He was wading far out in the water and heard the girl’s cries for help.

"I could see her more than 100 yards from the beach," Proffitt said. "I didn't have time to think about it. I just reacted."

Proffitt swam out to the girl. By the time he reached her, all he could see was her hair swaying effortlessly with the tide. Her body had slipped beneath the water. He pulled her head above water and she took a deep breath, but she had no energy to move.

"Had I arrived shortly after the moment I did, I would have never seen her," Proffitt said.

After grabbing the girl, he looked back toward the beach -- he had never been this far from shore. He couldn't feel the ocean bottom and the girl was clutching to his back as he slowly began paddling toward the beach.

"Every movement was a struggle," Proffitt said. "I had already used so much energy. Just keeping my head above water seemed to be a challenge. However, I kept thinking to myself: 'Do not let her die,' and so I kept fighting."

Proffitt continued fighting until he reached the shore. Once he felt the sand under his feet, he knew he was close enough to yell for help. A group of people brought both Proffitt and the girl safely back onto the beach.

The moment Proffitt was on dry land, he fell to his knees and stared up into the sky.

"It was a miracle," he said.

The little girl was safely returned to her parents.

However, this wasn't the first time Proffitt was challenged with the task of saving someone's life.

Months prior to the beach incident, Proffitt happened to be at the right place at the right time during the lunch hour at work. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Semmerling was eating a turkey sandwich when the unthinkable happened.

"I was eating turkey because it's supposed to be healthy," Semmerling said. "But, after I took a bite, I began choking. I couldn't breathe.”

Semmerling attempted to cough the turkey up by pounding his chest with his fist, but nothing seemed to work. He ran down the hall, his face turning from red to blue, when he stumbled into Proffitt's office.

"When he came in to my office, I had no idea what was wrong," Proffitt said. "But when I looked at his face, it was shades of blue, red and purple. I knew I had to react."

Without hesitation, Proffitt jumped from his desk and spun Semmerling, a 220-pound man, 180 degrees with ease and began doing the Heimlich maneuver. Proffitt continued monitoring the condition of his friend, and after a few thrusts, the turkey that was stuck in Semmerling's throat shot across the room.

"If it wasn't for Sgt. Proffitt, I wouldn't be here today," Semmerling said. "He is a hero."

Proffitt insists that he isn't a hero.

"I'm no hero," Proffitt said. "I've just been put into situations that required me to react. The Air Force has taught me lifesaving skills, and the importance of reacting quickly."

Guantanamo Bay Kicks Off Annual DEFY Summer Camp

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Justin Ailes, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- Nineteen children at Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba attended the opening day of the installation's Drug Education for Youth (DEFY) summer camp, Aug. 15.

The DEFY program is offered to children ages 9-12, and is designed to deter "at-risk" behaviors by providing students the tools they need to resist substance abuse and develop positive social skills.

"The first day of DEFY really sets the tone of the camp for the kids," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jodie Hurlbut, NS Guantanamo Bay DEFY operations coordinator. "The children will benefit from this program by taking away positive life lessons which reinforce the message of reaching their full potential by avoiding drug and alcohol abuse."

Established in 1993, the DEFY program is in its 19th year of providing character development, drug education, and mentorship to military children. NS Guantanamo Bay's eight-day DEFY day camp incorporates learning activities while involving representatives from numerous tenant commands and departments on base.

Day one of the summer camp provided children with an interactive field-trip to NS Guantanamo Bay's Military Working Dog facility and training area where students witnessed a firsthand demonstration of Security department K9s in action.

"The students learned how military working dogs and their handlers react in the presence of drugs or other detrimental contraband," said Hurlbut. "Today's trip was an educational experience that provided information on the potential dangers in the world today."

DEFY is a nationwide, professionally developed curriculum that incorporates key characteristics of successful substance abuse prevention programs as identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have numerous activities planned over the coming days and we are focused on providing a memorable and positive influence on GTMO's youth," said Hurlbut.

Colorado Army National Guard engineers help preserve town, southern Colorado mining history

By Air Force Master Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral
Colorado National Guard

COKEDALE, Colo. – The Colorado Army National Guard’s 947th Engineer Company (Horizontal) has been hard at work helping improve the quality of life in the tiny town of Cokedale, Colo., since Aug. 4.

 Soldiers from the company have been installing culverts, cleaning ditches and repairing degraded dirt roads. These repairs, in turn, will update and improve the town's infrastructure by directing storm water runoff away from building foundations.

 Yet refurbishing streets and drainage systems means more to the people here than just improving their standard of living.

Cokedale is also a National Historic District - the only intact coal mining town in Colorado and one of a few remaining in the country - so the Soldiers' work is also helping preserve history, said Kathy Kumm, Cokedale town clerk.

 According to Kumm, Cokedale was once considered a model, company-owned mining camp, because each home had indoor running water and one light bulb in every room, which was quite rare in 1907.

Mining operations ceased 40 years later, but the structures remained. The mining company eventually sold all the houses for $50 a room and $100 a lot, and Cokedale became an incorporated township in 1947.

 "Today, many of the original structures are still standing, providing a good example of how folks used to live and of the coal mining heritage, which is paramount in southern Colorado," said Kumm. "We're very excited the Soldiers are here. We're going to have far more of this project done that we could have ever have done without them."

Cokedale resident Jeanne Lane noted the town is roughly 160 acres - two square miles - and with a population of approximately 120 - including many living on a fixed income - the town can't afford to make the necessary infrastructure repairs.

 "It's important to get the ditches cleaned out or the water would be in my basement," she said.

 This civil-military project is part of the National Guard’s Innovative Readiness Training program. Civil-military IRT projects enhance unit training and readiness, while filling a community need that is not otherwise being met. The unit must maintain its readiness by performing realistic training, and IRT projects provide a meaningful outlet for that training and help connect National Guard units with the communities they serve.

 "For a horizontal engineering company, we couldn't have asked for a better project," said Army 2nd Lt. Tim Barkley, a platoon leader with the company, who noted that the unit is using all its equipment and is also tracking the Soldiers' mileage and hours."It means a lot to me that our Soldiers are getting great training and giving back to the community at the same time."

 On behalf of his unit, Barkley also expressed his gratitude to the townspeople, who he described as open, welcoming and generous, adding that they’ve provided homemade meals and pastries, and left coolers full of cold drinks outside for the engineers.

 "It's a mutual admiration society between the townspeople and the Soldiers," said Mayor Sandy McGonigal. "It's nice that we can allow them to do this real world and we're thrilled we're able to get this project done."

Past Colorado Army Guard IRT projects throughout the state have included building a retention pond, working on a dam and reservoir and a boulder removal and hauling mission.

Engineers also worked to finish the Archuleta County Fairground in Pagosa Springs, Colo., earlier in 2012.

Starting Aug. 17, other elements of the 947th Eng. Co. are scheduled to begin work on a storm water retention dam that will span Leach Creek in Grand Junction, Colo.

Kentucky Army National Guard's 202nd Army Band takes on band duties with TRADOC, Fort Eustis

By Sgt. 1st Class Steven Baker
Kentucky National Guard

FORT EUSTIS, Va. - The mission of Army bands is to provide music throughout the spectrum of military operations to instill in our forces the will to fight and win, foster the support of our citizens, and to promote our national interests at home and abroad.

The 202nd Army Band did just that this summer during a mission at Fort Eustis, Va., backfilling for the Training and Doctrine Command Band while Soldiers from that unit were on block leave.

 “Our Soldiers performed every mission required in an exemplary manner and excelled in their Mobilization Readiness Evaluation,” said Army 1st Sgt. James Wallace, first sergeant of the 202nd Army Band. “Great training. Great troops."

Soldiers from the unit took part in lunchtime "Bach's lunch" performances, performances for a command reception and a concert series held in a local park. Additionally, the 202nd Army Band provided marching performances for two Change of Command ceremonies with inspections of the troops.

For Sgt. Jennifer Bowling, a trumpet and bugle player with the band who performed during numerous ceremonies, it was the chance to perform taps during military funerals that had a special significance for her.

"Taps honors members of the armed forces in a way words can't express,” said Bowling. “As the great granddaughter of an Army trumpet player, performing taps for military funerals holds special meaning for me because it allows me to give honors to the men and women who served as he did."

Filling in at Fort Eustis also gave the Soldiers another opportunity to not only showcase their talents and continue to excel as a group but also for individual members to grow as musicians and as Soldiers, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Greg Stepp, commander of the 202nd Army Band.

"As the 202nd moves through personnel transitions, the opportunity to develop new leaders in a real world environment was invaluable,” he said.  “New challenges were provided for Soldiers to develop their leadership abilities and musical abilities while providing musical support for Fort Eustis and TRADOC."

And providing that musical support is something of great importance.

"The opportunity to support TRADOC in their public outreach mission is of great significance, said Stepp, adding that the band proved themselves again as mission capable during their time at Fort Eustis.