22 December 2009

Lockheed Martin Super Hercules Deliveries Continue to Strengthen USAF Fleet in Europe

/PRNewswire/ -- Brig. Gen. Michael W. Callan, Vice Commander, 17th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Africa, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, today (December 21) accepted the tenth of 14 Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) C-130Js to be based at Ramstein. The USAF Europe C-130Js based there also support the airlift needs of Africa Command (AFRICOM).

"I was excited to be asked by the 86 Airlift Wing commander to fly one of his new J-models to Ramstein Air Base," Callan said. "As our USAF continues to upgrade its C-130 fleet, this C-130J will climb faster, go farther and perform with precision in all qualification and missions areas. All of those capabilities will be tested in AFRICOM's AOR, and we at 17th Air Force (AFAFRICA) look forward to partnering with the 37th Airlift Squadron and 86th Airlift Wing to make a difference in Africa."

The Ramstein delivery is the tenth C-130J for the base, which will receive four more in 2010. This aircraft is Lockheed Martin's 16th and final C-130J delivery of 2009.

U.S. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA) is responsible for conducting Air Force, joint and combined air and space operations in the AFRICOM area of responsibility. To fulfill these responsibilities AFAFRICA employs a full spectrum of capabilities, to include intra-theater airlift assets.

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18 December 2009

Pro-Troop Group Says Repatriating Yemenis Will Result in Loss of Innocent Lives

The largest pro-troop grassroots group in the nation, Move America Forward, was appalled to learn that the Obama administration is preparing to release six Yemenis and four Afghans to the Yemini government soon.

Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda have a well documented history of taking advantage of the political instability in Yemen to use it as a training base or temporary safe haven for terrorists hiding or on their way to other battlefields.

“Transferring these terrorists back to Yemen or back to any of their home countries is extremely dangerous, and will almost certainly cause more American deaths and the deaths of other innocents, sadly,” said Danny Gonzalez, Director of Communications for the group. “We have had horrible luck, from the Bush administration to the Obama administration, with releasing these GITMO detainees. An alarming number of them, verifiably, return to terror.”

Gonzalez continued, “We have seen then show up in Al Qaeda propaganda videos, captured on the battlefield again, or we hear about them taking part in another bombing or kidnapping. Ultimately the safest place for these murders is Guantanamo Bay.”

In 2008 Move America Forward led a delegation on a 3 day tour of the facility at Guantanamo Bay.

They concluded that the facility at GITMO was professionally run and operating under the guidelines of all international laws and treaties.

11 December 2009

MOAA Celebrates Military Spouse Residency Relief Act Victory on Capitol Hill

/PRNewswire/ -- Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) President VADM Norb Ryan Jr., USN (Ret.), joined Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-NC) and Rep. John R. Carter (R-TX), military spouses and congressional staff at a MOAA-sponsored Capitol Hill reception to celebrate enactment of the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act and recognize those who played leadership roles in getting the initiative signed into law.

The new law, signed by President Obama on Veterans Day 2009, will reduce voting and state tax challenges military spouses have faced with every military-ordered move. They will now have the option to elect the same state of domicile as their active duty spouse, without having to change state residency with every relocation.

"This great victory was crucial to ensure the states to recognize that military spouses are serving our country, too," Ryan said. "Rebecca Noah Poynter and Joanna Williamson are two military spouses who had a great idea, and exercised authentic leadership in convincing Congressional leaders of its importance. MOAA is proud to have been a lead blocker and tackler in helping these stars cross the goal line."

"Military spouses are our real unsung heroes, and anything we can do for them is a reward to the country," said Rep. Carter, who championed the bill in the House of Representatives. "It's a common-sense bill, and we found a lot of common-sense cosponsors in Congress to help us support it."

"There's no question that military spouses make many sacrifices in support of our Armed Forces," said Burr. "That's why I introduced the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act in the Senate, and [why I was so proud to see] it signed into law on Veterans Day."

"MOAA identified this as one of our key initiatives for military families. It's a great example of military spouses speaking out and getting things changed," said Joy Dunlap, MOAA's Deputy Director of Government Relations. "This is just one of a long list of initiatives that we hope to get accomplished to help military spouses and their families - and with spouses speaking out, more improvements can be made."

Acknowledging MOAA's strong support in this gratifying victory for military spouses, Poynter called Ryan up before the gathering, saying, "I recently received my MOAA membership renewal notice and I'm giving you my renewal check right now!"

MOAA is the nation's largest association of active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired, and former military officers and their families and survivors, and the fourth-largest veterans' association, with more than 370,000 members. The association promotes a strong national defense by advocating equitable treatment of those who serve and have served their country in uniform.

MOAA Selected Legislative Goals for 2010
MOAA Celebrates Military Spouse Residency Relief Act 12/10/09
S. 475 - Military Spouses Residency Relief Act 11/11/09
MOAA Applauds Hill Action for Military Spouses 11/02/09

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09 December 2009

New Air Force Plan Targets Energy

National energy independence took another leap forward with today's rollout of the Air Force Energy Plan. The plan serves as the framework for communicating Air Force energy goals and further expands a culture shift "where Airmen make energy a consideration in everything we do."

"The case for action to reduce our energy consumption and diversify our energy sources is more compelling than ever," states the plan. "Military forces will always be dependent on energy, but we must dramatically reduce the risk to national security associated with our current energy posture."

The Air Force is the largest user of energy in the federal government. The Air Force Energy Plan supports Air Force priorities and provides links to energy goals established by the federal government. It involves energy-focused considerations from initial design and acquisition through effective use of Air Force resources.

"Integrating energy considerations into Air Force operations is not new," said Ms. Debra Walker, currently performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Logistics and Environment. "While we have recently developed overarching policy guidance, the Air Force Energy Plan provides us with a foundational, comprehensive plan from which to execute programs."

The plan is written in "...plain English. It explains installation energy requirements, goals and targets," said Ms. Walker. "But these requirements, goals and targets are part of a larger plan that includes acquisition and technology, changing the culture and how we train and indoctrinate people about considering energy in their duties and other matters. It also strongly considers aviation operations."

Colonel Suzanne Johnson, Chief of Policy and Planning, worked on the plan for more than two years. The final product is laid out in four sections: The core document, which gives an overview, and three appendices: Aviation Operations, Infrastructure, and Acquisition.

The desired effect will be achieved through a three-part strategy, which can be applied to any functional area: (1) reduce demand, (2) increase supply--through a variety of alternative and renewable types of energy, and (3) change the culture.

"We are proud of the energy initiatives already implemented by the Air Force," Ms. Walker said. "But this gets an actual, institutionalized, long-range energy plan into 2035. Otherwise, we have no unity of purpose, no unity of effort."

The Air Force Energy Plan was signed by Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley.

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08 December 2009

4-Star Gen. McCaffrey, Back From Afghanistan, Offers Comprehensive Report and Strategy

/PRNewswire/ -- Four Star-Gen. Barry McCaffrey (Ret), a former Gulf War commander, SouthCom Commander, and U.S. National Drug Policy Director, now Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at West Point, has issued a comprehensive assessment, report, and recommendations on the situation in Afghanistan following a week long-visit.

During his mission, conducted for the U.S. Military Academy, McCaffrey toured the region and met with senior military officials including General David Petraeus and General Stanley McChrystal, attended a Joint Command briefing, met with the ISAF Strategic Advisory Board, top Afghanistan officials, U.S. diplomats including Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, and law enforcement officials.

For the full report, see: http://www.mccaffreyassociates.com/pdfs/AAR_november_2009.pdf .

Among Gen. McCaffrey's findings:

* The President's strategy speech at West Point was "coherent, logical, and sincere."

* A successful strategy will require three to ten years "to build a viable Afghan state with their own security force that can allow us to withdraw. We are likely to suffer thousands more U.S. casualties."

* One of the most important concerns is the stability of Pakistan.

* "We are vulnerable in our Afghanistan operation.... There is little question that Pakistan offers de facto sanctuary to the Taliban.... The Pakistani Army is fighting their own Taliban for the future of the nation."

* "The Taliban believe they are winning in Afghanistan. The Taliban now have a serious presence in 160 districts of 364 -- up from 30 in 2003. In July alone they employed 828 IED attacks. We should expect 5700 IED attacks by year's end 2009."

* "The Afghan National Army is a growing success story," but "the Afghan National police are badly equipped, corrupt (7300 fired in last two years), and untrained." Even with U.S. DOD taking charge of the program, "it will take a decade to create an Afghan National Police Force with adequate integrity."

* While the U.S. prison commander establishes proper values and meets each day with senior detainees to hear their views, "the nation's 34 provincial prisons and 203 detention centers are appalling. Prisoners are consistently subject to torture and police frequently rape female and male detainees."

* The Taliban enforce a parallel system of justice involving hangings, torture, beheadings and beatings."

* "Afghanistan now has hope" despite its problems. Access to basic health care has rocketed from 8% in 2001 to 79%, 83% of children are immunized, TB deaths are down 50%, and seven million children including three million girls are in school - up from one million students and zero girls during the Taliban rule.

THE DRUG ISSUE:

* "The $3.4 billion opium crop produces weapons and supplies for the Taliban and al Qaeda. Left unaddressed, the heroin menace will defeat our strategic goals. Afghanistan produces 93% of the global supply of heroin."

"The current notion that we can ignore the growers as simple farmers and focus our counter-drug strategy on law enforcement against the cartels is painfully naive."

"The solution is three pronged. First, work on alternative livelihood agricultural crops. Second, have the Afghan political leadership confront the opium issue as un-Islamic and one that destroys their culture. Third, destroy the crops. Without the last, nothing will work."

SUMMARY:
We can achieve our objectives in the coming five years:

* Create an Afghan security force;

* Create governance from the bottom up;

* Mitigate the corruption by having a parallel chain of financial custody until the Afghan government is operating unlike an active criminal enterprise."

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New Research Examines Military Children’s Experience When Their Parents Deploy

(BUSINESS WIRE)--In the largest study to date looking at the emotional well-being of military children, there is now scientific confirmation to many anecdotal reports of the impact of a parent’s deployment on the well-being of a child. The results, published today in the journal Pediatrics, are the first findings of a large-scale, cross-Service and cross-component research study on military children.

The National Military Family Association commissioned the RAND Corporation to follow military children for 12 months, summer 2008 through summer 2009, surveying them and their parent or caregiver on three occasions to answer two key questions: how are school-age military children faring and what types of issues do military children face related to deployment? The baseline findings released today set the stage for results from the follow-up surveys to be reported in subsequent studies.

Study results are consistent across Service branches:

* As the months of parental deployment increased so did the child’s challenges. The total number of months away mattered more than the number of deployments.
* Older children experienced more difficulties during deployment.
* There is a direct correlation between the mental health of the caregiver and the well-being of the child.
* Girls experienced more difficulty during reintegration, the period of months readjusting after the service member’s homecoming.
* About one-third of the children reported symptoms of anxiety, which is somewhat higher than the percentage reported in other studies of children.

“These findings back up what we have been hearing from parents about the impacts of parental deployments on children,” said National Military Family Association Executive Director Joyce Raezer. “While military families are determined to stay strong and healthy, our Nation has been at war for nearly eight years now. We owe it to military families to better understand and address the challenges they are facing now, and may be facing later. Commissioning this research is the first step in doing that.”

Families with a child between the ages of 11 and 17 who applied to the National Military Family Association’s 2008 Operation Purple® Summer Camp program were invited to participate in the survey. Among the 1,507 parent and child sets surveyed (3,014 total participants), 57 percent of the children were from Army families, 20 percent had a parent in the Air Force, 17 percent were Navy families, and the remainder had parents in the Marine Corps or Coast Guard. About 63 percent of the parents were in the active component, with the rest in the National Guard or Reserve.

The study found no significant differences among children based on the Service branch of the parent or whether they were a part of the active or reserve component of the military. Ninety-five percent of children had experienced at least one parental deployment in the three years prior to the study, and nearly 40 percent were going through a deployment at the time of the interview. The study’s participation rate was 97% indicating the importance families place on the need for this research.

What does this mean for military families? This study presents clear evidence that many families are still experiencing stress. There are many good programs from both military and private organizations that support military children and military families; however, quality and outreach are inconsistent, some programs are redundant, and needs remain to be filled. Current programs were created with the best information available at the time. Now that new research-based information is available, the National Military Family Association is calling on all organizations — including the Department of Defense — to use these findings to assess their current offerings.

The Association wants to see best practices replicated and greater targeted support when and where most needed. Because the total months of separation matters to children’s well-being, support programs must continue to be available for families facing their second, third, and fourth deployments. These families need support programs and their community as much as, or more than, those saying goodbye for the first time.

What is next? The National Military Family Association is gathering key nonprofit, military, corporate, education, community, faith-based, and research leaders to form an expert task force and lead a national conversation on the needs of military children and families. In May 2010, the task force will present a plan to address both the immediate and long-term research implications. The task force working groups will focus on the following goals: building resiliency in youth, addressing the needs of girls, engaging communities to support military families, investing in military spouses, and improving the mental health of caregivers and kids.

“Our 40 years of service have made us a trusted resource for families and the Nation’s leaders and we are uniquely qualified to lead the search for solutions, focused on building on best practices and creating partnerships,” Raezer added.

Families and caring adults in military kids’ lives can visit, www.MilitaryFamily.org, for a list of ways to support military families or download the “10 Things Military Teens Want You to Know” toolkit. Also, a link to a downloadable copy of the complete Pediatrics article about the study can be found at www.MilitaryFamily.org/study.

The research project was made possible through grants to the National Military Family Association from the Robertson Foundation, the Sierra Club and Sierra Club Foundation.

The study was jointly conducted by RAND Health, a division of the nonprofit RAND Corporation, and the RAND National Security Research Division.

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07 December 2009

Hughes Expands High-Speed Satellite Internet Access for U.S. Troops in Middle East and Central Asia

/PRNewswire/ -- Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), the global leader in broadband satellite networks and services, today announced that it has expanded provision of high-speed satellite Internet access for U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Available at U.S. military bases, the broadband Internet service is being delivered via the company's new operations hub in Dubai, enabling troops to stay in touch with family and friends at home, including sending photos and videos, connecting over social networking sites and making VoIP telephone calls.

"Hughes is proud to provide high-speed Internet service to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, reinforcing the military's Morale, Welfare & Recreation [MWR] efforts in the region," said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of Hughes Defense and Intelligence Systems Division. "Staying connected with spouses, children, extended family, and friends is essential for our troops' morale, especially as they often are deployed overseas for a year or more."

Payam Herischi, senior director of Hughes Global Services added, "Hughes has been providing broadband satellite terminals throughout the region since 2003, and the additional bandwidth and resources from our new Dubai-based hub now enables us to connect even more men and women of the military with their loved ones at home while they serve our country overseas."

Hughes high-speed satellite internet service is available at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, with local installation and logistics support provided by partner companies in the region. For more information on internet service for our troops, visit www.hughesglobalservices.com/mwr.html or email hughes-mwr@hughes.com.

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03 December 2009

VA to Survey Veteran Households

/PRNewswire/ -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched a national survey of Veterans, active duty service members, activated National Guard and reserve members, and family members and survivors to learn if they are aware of VA services.

"By hearing directly from Veterans and their family members, we gain valuable information to help us serve them better. We hope those who receive the survey will respond to it," Secretary Shinseki said.

In addition to assessing awareness levels, the National Survey of Veterans will collect important health care, benefits, employment, and demographic information that VA will use to inform policy decisions and improve benefits. Recognizing a broader client base than just Veterans, this is the first time VA has included others, such as Veteran family members, in its survey population.

VA is mailing out survey "screeners" to more than 130,000 households to identify potential survey participants. The screener asks if anyone in the household is a member of one of the identified survey groups -- Veterans, family members and survivors, active duty, Guard or Reserve members. Eligible survey participants then may be requested to participate in a full-length survey.

Participants will be able to select a preferred survey method: through U.S. mail, telephone or a password-protected Internet address. VA expects approximately 10,000 Veterans to complete the full-length survey.

This is the sixth VA National Survey of Veterans since 1978. The information collected will help VA in its efforts to design and conduct outreach to Veterans. In addition, it will provide a clearer picture of the Veteran population's characteristics to help evaluate existing programs and policies and measure their impact.

The data collection is expected to be finished by the end of February and the final report released by December 2010.

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Supreme Court Supports Veteran PTSD Defenses

/PRNewswire/ -- On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the sentencing decision of a Korean War Veteran convicted of murder should have taken into consideration Post Traumatic Stress he incurred during the war.

This decision comes after a recent jury decision in Oregon where Jesse Bratcher, an Iraqi War Veteran on trial for murder, was found insane due to PTSD. This was the first U.S. murder case where combat PTSD influenced a jury's verdict.

"These recent legal decisions," said National Veterans Foundation (NVF) President Shad Meshad, "are very significant as more Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans, with no prior history of criminal behavior, are coming home to inadequate transitional services, and are ending up in jail, accused of crimes."

"The Supreme Court decision basically says that attorneys of clients facing the death penalty must present evidence of PTSD from military service in their defense," said Meshad.

Meshad consulted on the defense of the Bratcher and on a new book--Veterans in the Justice System: a manual for the legal professional. D.C. Press will publish the book, co-authored by William Brown PhD, next May.

Meshad began assisting Vietnam Veterans who were getting into legal trouble in the seventies. "I see so many of the same patterns repeating," said Meshad. "War experiences and a lack of help transitioning to civilian life ended with many Vietnam Veterans in jail. Soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan have more resources and more support from the public, but it is still not enough. I fear we are going to see many more of these cases popping up all over the country."

Meshad is one of the nation's leading experts on PTSD treatment. A licensed therapist who began working with soldiers as Psych Officer in the Vietnam War, Meshad Founded the National Veterans Foundation in 1985 to provide crisis counseling and transitional resources to soldiers and Veterans.

The National Veterans Foundation launches a new Web page today as a resource to Veterans who are in need of legal assistance at www.nvflegal.org. NFV will include links to organizations and attorneys who specialize in defending former soldiers, frequently asked questions, news about Veteran legal cases, information about representation on claims appeal, email legal advice, pro-bono representation and other resources.

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13 November 2009

The Hill - Iraq Edition

It’s not the dirt that makes the hill; it’s the Sledgehammer Soldiers that make the hill.
Vol. 36 – November 13, 2009
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VETERANS DAY: GOT THE T-SHIRT
According to the Defense Manpower Data Center approximately 68 percent of Soldiers today have deployed to the Middle East at least once. That is especially true for Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. After their current deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the brigade will … Read more...
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FIRST TIME DEPLOYERS TAKE PRIDE IN WHAT THEY DO
War stories. In the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the only brigade in the U.S. Army to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom four times, they … Read more...
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RUMORS RUN RAMPANT
What’s in a rumor? I’d say two teaspoons of spilt beans, a pinch of boredom, a tablespoon of cold revenge, a dash of hope, 3 cups of embellishment, and an ounce of truth. It’s either a recipe for disaster, or bad clich├ęs - I’m not sure … Read more...
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SOLDIERS KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN
When Capt. Josh Beard, the commander of Company B, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, arrived at FOB Kalsu, he knew … Read more...
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MUDHOUSE PLAYERS ENTERTAIN THOUSANDS NEAR BABIL RUINS
The Mudhouse Players, a popular comedic troupe, performed for Iraqi citizens, U.S Soldiers and the Provincial Reconstruction Team at … Read more...
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BRIGADE FRSA ON FACEBOOK - 3rd Brigade FRSA
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COL. PETER JONES ON TWITTER - http://www.twitter.com/PJHammer6
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3RD HBCT ON FACEBOOK - http://facebook.hammerpao.com
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3RD HBCT ON TWITTER - http://twitter.hammerpao.com
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3RD HBCT ON YOUTUBE - http://youtube.hammerpao.com
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SHARE THE HILL! Forward THE HILL to your family and friends so they can hear the latest news from the SLEDGEHAMMER BRIGADE. Send them to http://www.hammerpao.com so they can get their very own copy every week.
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HAMMER PAO WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU!!
You read the news, and we want to give you the news you want to read!
If you or other 3rd HBCT Soldiers are doing some interesting training, volunteering in the community, or anything else that people should know about, let us know so we can feature what you do. Email 3hbct3id.pao@us.army.mil with your ideas.
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The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 3rd HBCT Newsletter. This e-mail based newsletter offers information and happenings about the Soldiers of Kelley Hill, the 3rd Infantry Division and the Army. Use the provided links to see related photos and read more about each story on the PAO website, http://www.hammerpao.com.
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This newsletter is an authorized publication for members of the U.S. Army and their families. Contents of this newsletter are not necessarily the official views of, or are endorsed by, the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, or U.S. Forces Command. It is released weekly by the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, Fort Benning, Georgia, 31905. All editorial content of this newsletter is prepared, edited, provided and approved by the 3rd HBCT Public Affairs Office of Fort Benning, Georgia. For additional information email
3hbct3id.pao@us.army.mil

12 November 2009

Colonel (Ret.) Dr. Jeffrey D. McCausland Gives Briefing on Afghanistan

/PRNewswire/ -- "Afghanistan makes Iraq look easy," said Dr. Jeffrey McCausland at a recent private Carnegie Council briefing. There is consensus that Afghanistan is the most urgent foreign policy challenge facing the United States.

As the Obama administration continues to deliberate on whether to send more troops, Dr. McCausland began by laying out the U.S. options:

1. Leave altogether.

2. Adopt a limited counterterrorism strategy focused on destroying al-Qaeda.

3. Opt for the counterinsurgency strategy proposed by General McChrystal: send in more U.S. forces in an effort to not only defeat al-Qaeda but also the Taliban, and help create a stable nation that can, over time, protect itself. If we take this option, what are the costs and how long will we have to stay?

Dr. McCausland's thorough and objective briefing, illustrated with slides from CENTCOM, is now available to the general public on the Carnegie Council website: http://www.cceia.org/

-- Video in full (102 minutes)
-- Video highlights (49 minutes) -- available as a podcast
-- Audio -- available as a podcast
-- Transcript

The briefing provides a clear summary of the situation on the ground, including the fraught situation with Pakistan, relationships with NATO allies and their commitment to the military and reconstruction efforts, and the challenges of training Afghan troops and police forces.

In a paper written for the Carnegie Council this summer, Dr. McCausland's summary was that Afghanistan is now truly "Obama's war." The events of the intervening months underscore this assessment. It is crucial for his presidency that he get it right.

Dr. Jeffrey McCausland is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council and Visiting Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law at Carlisle, PA. He has been a frequent commentator on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan for CBS since early 2003.

This briefing was part of the Carnegie Council's Global Engagement Program.

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10 November 2009

1st Annual PTC Veterans Memorial Event

Photo: Representatives from VFW Post 9949, American Legion Posts 105 and 50 and the Thomason Marine Corps League Detachment salute as the wreath is presented and taps is played.

The first patriotic event to be held at the new Falcon Field Veterans Memorial was a fitting christening of a memorial that will surely be the site of many more.

Under a clear blue sky and mild temperature, the event kicked off with an unexpected but welcomed fly over of a Marine Corps Huey helicopter that happened to be leaving for another Veterans Day event near Griffin.

“The Marine Corps pilot approached me and asked if I minded having a bit of a fly over, since he was planning to take off about the time we started,” said Randy Gaddo, the event coordinator, himself a retired Marine. “I couldn’t pass that up.” So the pilot lifted off shortly after 10 a.m. and made two low passes over the crowd of 300 or so approving spectators.

The event, MC’d by Booth Middle School Principal Ted Lombard, a retired Army officer, was interspersed with marching music and included a stirring accapella version of the National Anthem by 14-year old Atlanta recording artist Lindee Link, who lives in Peachtree City. She also sang her rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

Guest Speaker Retired Army Colonel Ben Malcom captivated the crowd with his accounts of top secret, behind-the-lines duties in the Korean War. His riveting reiteration of the now-declassified guerilla operations are detailed in his book, “White Tigers – My Secret War in North Korea.”

A commemorative wreath was presented by the four local veterans groups who helped sponsor the event: VFW Post 9949, American Legion Posts 105 and 50 and the Clyde Thomason Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Members from these groups also help set up and break down the site, provided traffic control and obtained food and refreshments.

Donuts, coffee, juice and other refreshments were provided by local sponsors to include the Peachtree City Walmart and Target stores, the Publix stores in Tyrone and in Peachtree City, the Peachtree City Kroger store in Braelinn Shopping Center, the Peachtree City Cheers Beverage store, Line Creek Beverage and Starbucks both at the Avenue and PTC East.

Cadets from the Falcon Field Civil Air Patrol Composite Squadron-116 smartly presented the American flag to begin the event and retired the colors to close it. Scouts from Troop 75 led the Pledge of Allegiance.

“The turnout was good for being the first year we’ve had the event at the new memorial,” said Gaddo. “I believe we can build on this year’s success and make next year even better.”
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Wounded Warrior Project Urges the Senate to Support Crucial Family Caregiver Legislation

/PRNewswire/ -- As Veterans Day approaches, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, is urging Congress to pass crucial legislation that will assist the family caregivers of the most severely injured veterans.

The Family Caregiver Legislation that WWP has been strongly advocating for has been merged into a larger Veterans Health Care Bill. This larger bill is now referred to as Senate Bill 1963 (S.1963), the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009.

"We must swiftly move past the notion that the Department of Veterans Affairs assists veterans but not their families," said Wounded Warrior Project Executive Director Steven Nardizzi. "Family caregivers of the most severely injured veterans continue to suffer emotionally and financially while caring for their loved ones. We're stretching these families to the breaking point and, without immediate assistance from VA, many of our brave, young warriors will be doomed to a lifetime in a nursing home. Every day that passes without a comprehensive family caregiver program for veterans is a day too long."

Over 34,000 members of our nation's armed forces have been wounded. Many of the physical wounds have healed but for some the journey does not end there. Typically, with catastrophic injuries, a parent or spouse is forced to leave the workforce to care for their loved one. In some instances, the veteran requires help with such basic needs as washing and showering, feeding, dressing, administering medications, and getting to physician and therapy appointments. Some who have suffered traumatic brain injury, often complicated by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, need near-constant supervision to ensure their safety. Further, these family caregivers need their own support like health coverage and mental health counseling to sustain their important efforts.

Wounded Warrior Project urges every concerned American to call and email their Senators asking that they support S. 1963. For more information and to take action, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org/S1963.

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Arts Across Georgia

Humana Military Encourages South Region TRICARE Beneficiaries to Get Their H1N1 Flu Vaccines

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Humana Military Healthcare Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM), encourages TRICARE South Region beneficiaries to get their H1N1 influenza vaccinations in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. Anticipating a greater need for the shots, the Department of Defense (DoD) is encouraging all military personnel to obtain the vaccines.

The DoD waived the deductible, cost shares and co-payments accompanied with acquiring this particular vaccine, therefore TRICARE Prime, Standard and Extra beneficiaries may get the vaccine from either a network or non-network provider. Prime enrollees may also obtain this shot without the referrals and authorizations normally required for immunizations. This temporary waiver is in effect from October 1, 2009 – May 1, 2010.

“We believe the H1N1 virus is on the minds of everyone this flu season,” said John Crum, MD, chief medical officer of Humana Military. “It is important our beneficiaries know the steps they need to take to acquire the vaccine and how to reduce the spread of the virus,” said Crum.

Tips for preventing the seasonal flu and H1N1 virus include:

* Washing your hands with soap and warm/hot water
* Using an alcohol-based sanitizer when hand washing is not possible
* Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
* Avoiding contact with your nose, eyes and mouth
* Avoiding contact with people who are sick
* Staying home if you have flu-like symptoms.

TRICARE covers the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approved immunizations and vaccines according to age and frequency guidelines from birth through adulthood.

Along with getting vaccinations at a Primary Care Manager (PCM) office or Military Treatment Facility (MTF), the addition of select MinuteClinic locations to the Humana Military provider network offers beneficiaries a convenient alternative for preventive services, including the H1N1 shots. MinuteClinics are open seven-days-a-week and there is no appointment necessary. Active duty and reserve personnel should check with their MTF on where to receive their vaccinations.

The target population receiving priority in obtaining the H1N1 vaccine includes:

* Pregnant women
* People who live with or care for children younger than six months of age
* Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
* People between the ages of six months and 24 years
* People between the ages of 25 – 64 at higher risk for H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune system.

Beneficiaries should contact their provider ahead of time to find out if the vaccine is available. To find a provider near you, please visit Humana Military’s web-based provider locator at www.humana-military.com or call 1-800-444-5445.

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09 November 2009

ACE Launches Web Site To Connect Veterans to Higher Education

/PRNewswire/ -- As the nation prepares to observe Veterans Day, the American Council on Education (ACE) today launched www.TodaysGIBill.org, a comprehensive college guidance web site to provide information and inspire veterans to enroll and succeed in higher education.

Created with the support of Lumina Foundation for Education, TodaysGIBill.org is designed for returning and about-to-return veterans interested in going to college, as well as family members and dependents receiving transferable benefits.

The passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 greatly increased benefits available to veterans. However, research indicates that despite the generosity of the new benefit, obstacles still remain for veterans considering postsecondary education, including juggling family and work responsibilities, transitioning to life after military service, adjusting to classroom life, and accessing and using benefits.

In order to increase the number of veterans enrolling in and completing a college education, TodaysGIBill.org provides detailed information that will help demystify the college selection, admissions and financing processes. The site offers guidance on college preparation, transferability of credits, institution and program choice, application timelines and benefit eligibility.

"More than 2 million service men and women have earned Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which they can use at more than 4,000 accredited, degree-granting institutions nationwide. TodaysGIBill.org provides clear, concise information that we hope will ease the transition from soldier to student," said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad.

"The development of human capital is a cornerstone of today's economic vitality," added Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina Foundation for Education. "Veterans are an exceptionally well-prepared and often unrecognized group that can help meet the need for millions more Americans with high quality postsecondary degrees and credentials. This important web site will provide veterans with the critical information and resources they need to succeed."

"Our focus group and survey research has shown that after leaving the military, it can be challenging for veterans to find reliable, one-stop sources of information about all of their education options. TodaysGIBill.org will help them make the most of their benefits, identify 'veteran friendly' campuses, and find the college or university that fits them best," said James Selbe, ACE assistant vice president for lifelong learning.

The site highlights success stories of current student veterans who are pursuing a college education. "It was important to me to make sure that my military service only postponed my time in college, not gave it away," said Matt Randle, an Army veteran and student at the University of Arizona who is featured on TodaysGIBill.org. "There was a maze of paperwork and bureaucracy to tackle, but without my GI Bill benefits, I wouldn't be enrolled in college, enjoying the experience and investing in myself."

To reach veterans who are seeking information about their benefits and their education options, ACE is engaging a wide range of veteran-service organizations, military-focused publications and social media outlets like Twitter (www.twitter.com/todaysgibill).

TodaysGIBill.org is part of ACE's Serving Those Who Serve: Higher Education and America's Veterans, a broad-based initiative designed to promote access to and success in higher education for more than 2 million service members and their families who are eligible for newly expanded benefits under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. Resources available include information on campus best practices, a Q&A document on provisions of the new GI Bill, and an issue brief on the challenges veterans face when transitioning to campus.

Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide. It seeks to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives.

Lumina Foundation for Education is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college -- especially low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Our goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change.

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06 November 2009

Clayton State Veterans Day Events… Nov. 11, Nov. 12

Clayton State University will be celebrating Veterans Day on Wednesday, Nov.11 and Thursday, Nov.12 with several events and displays.

The University's tribute to veterans will begin on Nov. 11 with an outdoor ceremony in the Lawson Amphitheater, adjacent ot Swan Lake on the Clayton State campus. The ceremony will run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and will include a “Posting of Colors” by the Clayton State ROTC program, which will provide the Color Guard and music for the ceremony. Clayton State Assistant Professor of Marketing Dr. David Furman, a veteran, will provide the keynote address.
Also on Nov. 11, a veterans reception/mixer will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the James M. Baker Center. The public is invited, including all local VFW groups, who will be honored guests. The Clayton State ROTC program and the Clayton State Student Veterans Association (SVA) will have information tables set up on Main Street outside of the reception/mixer.

At the same time, and running until 6 p.m., on Main Street in the Baker Center, an Appreciation Banner will be available for everyone to write messages of gratitude for veterans both on and off campus. The Appreciation Banner will be on three tables set up on Main Street. The Appreciation Banner will be available through Thursday, Nov. 12. There will also be war memorabilia displays on Main Street, contributed by faculty and VFW members.

At 6 p.m. in the ballroom of the Student Activity Center, students, faculty, staff and the public are invited to come out and learn to swing dance.

The displays, including the Appreciation Banner and the ROTC and SVA displays, will continue on Main Street through 2 p.m. on Nov. 12. AT the conclusion of the displays, the Appreciation Banner will be rolled up and delivered to the VA Hospital/Hospice. In addition, the SVA will hold a prize drawing for a dozen give-a-ways at 2 p.m.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.
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04 November 2009

Department Receives First H1N1 Vaccine Shipments

The Defense Department has started receiving H1N1 vaccines and will begin distributing doses in the coming weeks.

The Health and Human Services Department is distributing the vaccines, manufactured by four producers, to the department. Because rates of production vary among the manufacturers, supplies are expected to be limited initially, but to increase over time, said Ellen P. Embrey, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

The department “is working closely with HHS to receive its full allocation of vaccine as soon as possible,” Embrey said. Vaccinations are mandatory for military members, and as the quantity of doses on hand grows, officials anticipate Defense Department facilities will receive sufficient numbers to make the vaccine available to all of the department’s employees and beneficiaries, she said.

Meanwhile, Defense Department officials have implemented a plan to maintain mission readiness while ensuring those at greatest risk get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccines first will be made available to deployed personnel, bases that receive new military accessions, such as basic training installations and the service academies, and all health-care workers assigned to military medical treatment facilities.

Department providers should balance mission requirements with guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control in determining who should receive vaccine when supplies are limited, Embrey said.

The arrival of the vaccines comes as CDC officials underscore the importance of remaining vigilant amid the rising incidence of flu nationwide.

“I would reiterate that we have more virus, more vaccine, and we have more treatment,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden told reporters at an Oct. 30 news conference in Atlanta. “We encourage the prompt treatment of people who have underlying conditions.”

CDC officials have identified groups they consider at a high risk of developing severe illness if they contract the flu: pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months, health-care and emergency medical services personnel, people between 6 months and 24 years of age, then those between 25 and 64.

President Barack Obama is “deeply concerned” about H1N1, Frieden said.

“He’s directly involved, he’s briefed regularly, he asks a series of important and relevant questions, and he wants to make sure that we are doing absolutely everything we possibly can to respond effectively as we can,” he said.

In determining how to distribute supplies, Embrey said, military commanders, in collaboration with their medical authorities, will determine the best method to allocate the vaccine when demand exceeds supply. As more vaccine is received, it will be made available to all active-duty servicemembers, civilian employees, members of military reserve components and National Guard personnel.

Immunization for both seasonal flu and H1N1 is mandatory for all military personnel and is highly recommended for beneficiaries. When the first cases of H1N1 were diagnosed in April, a defense official said, the department bought 2.7 million doses of the vaccine for mission-assurance purposes.

HHS later provided 1 million doses to the Defense Department, raising the number to 3.7 million, according to Dr. Robert Morrow, the preventive medicine programs and policy officer for the Bureau of Navy Medicine and Surgery’s force health protection function.

In addition to vaccines being received for operational personnel, Defense Department medical treatment facilities are receiving vaccine for family members based upon a separate allocation to each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Officials also have completed an agreement with HHS to provide vaccine for family members living outside the United States.

Vaccine for family members, like that for the active-duty and civilian work force, will arrive at military medical treatment facilities incrementally, Embrey said.

By John J. Kruzel American Forces Press Service
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President Obama's Defense Team Reverses Decision and Completes Missile Defense Fields in Alaska

/PRNewswire/ -- Riki Ellison, President and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) www.missiledefenseadvocacy.org went on record today praising President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on their decision to build and complete 14 additional ground-based interceptor silos in Alaska. His comments on this significant national decision are as follows:

"It is with great respect to the Department of Defense and to the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, that their decision to only field half of the Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) silos in Missile Field 2 at Fort Greely, Alaska, has been reversed, as the Department of Defense will now fully construct, complete and field all of the 14 silos in Missile Field 2. This decision by the Secretary of Defense is sound, cost-effective for the U.S. tax payers and a forward risk reduction position for our nation and our public for their security against threats of long-range ballistic missiles. The United States can now have the capability and capacity to deploy 44 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) in 44 silos. This is a significant decision that will allow our nation to have a 'hedge' and lower the risk to our national security if in the future Iran, North Korea or other rouge nation states choose to threaten the United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS)."

"With this decision, the current long-range ballistic missile defense for all of our nation, including Hawaii and Alaska, will have (20) silos in Missile Field 3, (14) Silos in Missile Field 2, (6) Silos in Missile Field 1 in Fort Greely, Alaska and (4) silos in Vandenberg AFB, California for a total of (44) silos. However, the 6 silos in Missile Field 1 in Fort Greely are still scheduled to be 'moth balled' once missile field 2 is constructed and in full operation."

"The Administration is standing firm on deploying 30 GBI's for our nation's protection but clearly has the opportunity to increase those numbers up to 44 if the threat becomes more apparent. A decision is still being decided by the Department of Defense whether or not to field all of the silos in missile field 2 in Fort Greely, Alaska with Ground-Based Interceptors. We encourage and support a decision to fully deploy the 14 missiles in missile field 2, as deploying the GBIs in the newest silos would lower cost, reduce risk and hold higher confidence for those that command and man the missile defense system."

"We applaud and appreciate the rational thinking done by the President, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council and the current Administration to complete missile field 2 in Fort Greely. We also extend our gratitude to the support given by the leadership from Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska and his colleagues for bringing the decision on Missile Field 2 for reconsideration to the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. MDAA has been at the forefront of this issue and had the honor and privilege of visiting Fort Greely, Alaska this past September to view the missile fields."

Ellison closed his comments saying: "This significant and definitive decision by the Secretary of Defense and the President to reassess the current world and future threats to our national security and homeland is a leap forward from what it was earlier for the protection of the American public from long range missiles."

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30 October 2009

Murtha is open to raising taxes to fund a troop surge in Aghanistan

Rep. John Murtha on Thursday said he is open to raising taxes if President Barack Obama decides to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Read more: http://www.thehill.com/homenews/house/65553-murtha-is-open-to-raising-taxes-for-afghanistan-war
By Roxana Tiron - 10/30/09 06:00 AM ET

28 October 2009

President Signs Legislation Committing U.S. to Iraq Withdrawal

/PRNewswire/ -- President Barack Obama today signed legislation that that formally recognizes the U.S. obligation to withdraw from Iraq and requires the Pentagon to provide quarterly reports on the progress of that withdrawal.

This is the first time since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that Congress has passed legislation that affirms that the United States is committed to leaving Iraq by a specific date, two national Quaker organizations, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) said today.

"We congratulate Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton for including this important milestone in the 2010 military authorization bill," said Aura Kanegis, Director of Public Policy for the American Friends Service Committee. "The U.S.-Iraq bilateral agreement is so central to public discourse in Iraq, but too often forgotten in the U.S." The United States and Iraq signed a bilateral agreement in November 2008 that commits the United States to withdraw all military forces from Iraq by December 31, 2011.

The legislation signed by President Obama today requires the Pentagon to report to Congress every three months on progress to withdraw all U.S. troops, withdraw or transfer to Iraqi authorities all military equipment, close down or transfer to Iraqi authorities military bases, and release or transfer to Iraqi authorities all Iraqi detainees before the December 31, 2011 deadline.

"The first congressional effort to signal support for complete withdrawal was the ban on establishing permanent bases in Iraq," said Jim Fine, the Legislative Secretary on Foreign Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. "Now the Pentagon will issue month by month reports on the progress made to close down bases or transfer them to the Iraqi government, which adds new teeth to this historic provision."

With this law, Congress has established unprecedented oversight of the progress made towards complete withdrawal from Iraq.

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26 October 2009

Secretary of the Army Says Military Ready to Lift Gay Ban

/PRNewswire/ -- The Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, indicated this weekend that the Army is prepared to lift the ban on openly gay service if the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress decide to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, a prospect that has gathered steam in recent weeks. McHugh, formerly a Republican congressman from the conservative 23rd district of New York, is the highest official inside the Pentagon to express such support. He told the Army Times on Sunday that there was no reason to fear that major difficulties would result from lifting the ban, and that he would help implement the policy change when the time comes. "The Army has a big history of taking on similar issues," he said, with "predictions of doom and gloom that did not play out." He also suggested that repeal may come in phases, with early action involving, for example, allowing open gays to serve in some occupations and not others.

"What we're seeing is a tipping point in the opinions of both military and civilian leaders on this issue," said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center. "The Army is the largest of the services and the most heavily involved in our wars abroad, and for Secretary McHugh to state clearly that it can handle repeal sends a strong signal to the other service secretaries that they can do the same."

Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said Secretary McHugh's comments were enormously significant. But he pointed out that there is no research to support the idea of letting gay soldiers serve in some units but not others. "The rationale for the ban applies equally across all job categories," he said. "So if it's okay to be an openly gay Arabic interpreter, it's also okay to be openly gay in the infantry or on a submarine. Since conduct rules apply across the board, there's just no basis for applying different standards to different specialties."

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3rd HBCT Soldiers make their mark in Kuwait

The temperature outside is climbing into the mid-nineties as Sgt. John Direny, a water treatment specialist assigned to Company A, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, meticulously paints the small letters on the mural he is crafting. The mural, painted on one of the hundreds of concrete road barriers that dot Camp Buehring, has been a two day project so far and he still has a long way to go.

“It takes time to get it right,” he explains. “I had someone to help me paint the Marne patches the first day, but the rest I’ve done on my own.”

A few barriers down, Sgt. TJ Forbes and Pfc. Skylar Humburd, both assigned to Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, work on their own mural for their Squadron. Around the corner, two more Soldiers, Sgt. Mario Benjamin III, an MP assigned to the 317th Military Police Battalion, and Pfc. Joe Sudik, an infantryman assigned to Headquarters’ Troop, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, are painting the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s mural.

Countless murals like these decorate the 8 foot barriers that surround and protect the roads, living pads and buildings on Camp Buehring. For the Sledgehammer Soldiers working on their unit’s mural, the chance to add to this collection is an opportunity to add to their unit’s reputation and history.

“It is very important that we let the Soldiers that follow us know that we were here,” said Direny. “We got ready to go to war just like them. When they see this, hopefully, they will see that we did our best to represent our unit, the brigade and the 3rd Infantry Division.”

Forbes has deployed with the 3rd HBCT three times and each time he has painted one of these murals for his unit. During his current trip to Buehring, he checked to see how his last mural was holding up against a year and a half of sun, sand and wind.

“It’s still there,” he said. “It still looks good, in my opinion.”

Forbes understands that the mural represents more than his artistic ability on display.

“It’s about unit pride and building up morale,” he said. “I imagine a few of our new scouts saw the old one and realized that they are part of a unit that has done this before. Hopefully, that makes them walk a little taller and prouder.”

He also considers an important part of his unit’s up-coming deployment.

“You have to believe in what you are doing and the unit you are a part of,” he said. “How you view your unit is also the way you view the Army as a whole. We want Soldiers that take pride in who they are, what they are doing and the group they are a part of. I think this is a part of that.”

by Sgt. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT Public Affairs

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22 October 2009

Pew Applauds Congress for Including Military and Overseas Voting Solutions in Final Defense Authorization Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act which includes provisions that will resolve several key voting problems for American military service members and citizens overseas. The bill encompasses the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which is sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), co-sponsored by Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) and supported by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives. It will expedite the transmission of absentee ballots to military personnel and civilians abroad to provide more time for them to vote in U.S. elections and return their ballots in time to be counted. In the last federal election, it is estimated that as many as one in four ballots requested by these voters was not counted.

"The election system has failed our service members and citizens abroad for decades. The MOVE Act marks significant progress toward making it easier for those who defend and represent democratic ideals around the world to participate in our democracy here at home," said Doug Chapin, director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States, a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that has advocated for improvements to the election system. "We applaud Senators Schumer and John Cornyn (R-TX) for their leadership, along with Representatives Robert Brady (D-PA), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Dan Lungren (R-CA) for championing these critical steps forward for military and overseas voters."

In January 2009, the Pew Center on the States issued the report, "No Time to Vote: Challenges Facing America's Overseas Military Voters," the first-ever detailed public analysis of states' voting systems for service members living abroad. The report found that 25 states and the District of Columbia do not provide adequate time for overseas service members to vote and have their ballots counted.

In accordance with Pew's recommendations, the provisions would ensure adequate time to vote by:

-- requiring ballots to be sent to military and overseas voters at least
45 days before an election;
-- expediting the voting process by requiring voter registration
applications, absentee ballot applications and blank ballots to be
made available electronically to them;
-- eliminating the notarization of military and overseas ballots in the
remaining states that currently require it; and
-- expanding the opportunity for Americans abroad to use the Federal
Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) in all federal elections and using
technology to allow voters to access election information
electronically.


"The MOVE Act is a significant step in the right direction by Congress," said David Becker, project director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States. "To finish the job, we need to extend these reforms to state elections and modernize the means by which we register and provide information to voters. The changes will not be helpful if ballots are simply sent faster to outdated addresses of those who have been deployed elsewhere. Voter registration updates should be automated to ensure that the records for highly mobile populations, such as military personnel, are accurate."

The Pew Center on the States is working on a full complement of election system reforms for military personnel and civilians abroad. Since January, Pew has supported efforts by the Uniform Law Commission to draft a model law for states, which would extend recommended federal protections to state elections.

In addition, Pew's Voting Information Project (VIP), developed in partnership with Google, Inc. and state and local election officials, makes important voting information available electronically. Using VIP, for example, military and overseas voters could generate customized ballot listings to assist them with casting federal, state or local write-in absentee ballots.

Pew also aims to improve the nation's outdated voter registration system by examining options for building a system that is more efficient and accurate, while reducing costs and administrative burdens. Pew continues to gather data, analyze research and work with election officials to diagnose performance issues in the current voter registration system and propose fact-based, practical solutions to guide the modernization process.

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AFGE Thanks Congress, President Obama for Advance Funding for Department of Veterans Affairs

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today, praised President Barack Obama for signing the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act which will provide advance funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"This victory comes after years of advocating by AFGE and numerous veterans' organizations," said AFGE National President John Gage. "AFGE thanks President Obama for keeping his campaign promise to us and -- more importantly to America's veterans -- to guarantee advance funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Present at the historic signing were AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox and Women's and Fair Practices National Vice President Augusta Thomas.

The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act authorizes Congress to approve veterans medical care funding one year in advance to better meet the anticipated demand for veterans health care services.

"The advanced funding will give the Department of Veterans Affairs up to a full year to plan for the most effective and efficient way of delivering medical care," said National Secretary Treasurer and retired VA nurse J. David Cox. "America's veterans deserve this. This is a step in the right direction for the agency."

"Congress also included a requirement that the GAO audit VA's budget projections," explained Women's and Fair Practices National Vice President Augusta Thomas. "This move will further stabilize an agency where the current system of politics-driven funding clearly was not working."

"We are happy to move onward into a new era for the VA," said NVAC President Alma Lee. "And we look forward to VA health care dollars being used for patient needs and adequate front line staffing, not for excessive executive bonuses and new layers of management."

AFGE represents 90 percent (185,000) of the VA employees in more than 170 locals with 40 percent of its overall members being veterans. AFGE understands the dedication and work veterans have put in for this country; it should not go unnoticed. This is a milestone victory that will ensure medical attention to those who have served this country. It also stops the delay on the purchase of medical equipment or the hiring of doctors and nurses.

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Collaboration Drives Afghan Strategy Review, Gates Says

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praised a close collaboration between the military and the White House in examining the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan yesterday, dismissing news reports of a rift.

"These stories may make good reading, but they are not a reflection of reality," Gates said here in response to a question during a joint news conference with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

Gates cited a "very close, collaborative effort" between military officers, including commanders in the field, and civilian government leaders who meet on an almost daily basis as part of President Barack Obama's strategic review.

The national security team is working closely together to work through what Gates called "this very complicated situation in Afghanistan." He cited "complicated issues" associated with the Afghan presidential elections, but also the challenges Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander there, identified in his assessment.

Gates called the runoff election slated for Nov. 7 an important step toward moving forward in Afghanistan. "Getting that behind us and moving forward is very important," he said.

But while the run-off election will resolve outstanding issues regarding the presidency, Gates emphasized, the larger issue of establishing legitimacy of the Afghan government is a longer-term proposition.

"This is going to be a work in progress, an evolutionary effort, and we need to be realistic about that," he said.

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
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20 October 2009

Port Operations Keep 3rd HBCT Moving

Camp Buehring, Kuwait – Offloading nearly 650 vehicles and pieces of military equipment from a cargo ship is easier said than done for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

Capt. Kenna Trice-James is the movement officer for the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion and the officer in charge of ensuring the equipment is offloaded from the ship properly, and that no Soldier gets hurt in the process.

“Safety is 100%. No incidents. No accidents,” James said.

The most critical part of the operation is accountability of equipment, according to James. All the serial and tracking numbers must match exactly, and if just one item comes up unaccounted for it could mean a big delay in operations.

It took a team of approximately 60 Soldiers and 20 hours to download all the vehicles and equipment.

Before a vehicle can move there must be three ground guides. In addition, all personnel must wear their helmet, and eye protection during operations and have water on them at all times.
After the initial download Soldiers begin work in shifts, and get between seven and eight hours of sleep a day. James said if someone needs time off, she ensures they get it.

Approximately 70 tracked vehicles were offloaded from the ship along with other the vehicles used by the 3rd HBCT. In addition to the vehicles, large pieces of equipment such as MILVANs, large metal containers used to transport equipment necessary for the unit’s mission, are also unloaded and readied for transport.

“Vehicles must be fully mission-capable before they can leave, and the equipment must be fitted to the unit’s mission,” James said.

Once ready, vehicles and equipment need to be transported over land to their follow on destination. James said it is important to remain flexible during this phase of the mission, and allow up to two weeks for its accomplishment. A lot of last minute changes can occur, and the unit has to allow itself enough time to reschedule major movements in the operation.

To ensure she was ready, James attended meetings twice a week for four months prior to the actual download of equipment at the Kuwaiti port.

In addition, several reconnaissance missions to the port were conducted to allow everyone involved a chance to rehearse their part of the operation. Drivers also conducted reconnaissance missions of the routes they would be taking in order to get the equipment to its next destination.
According to James, planning is extremely important. Without it, the operations would not have run as smoothly as they have.

Equipment is critical to mission success and no one understands that better than James. She tells her Soldiers, “Remain flexible, and stay positive.”

Story by Capt. Charles Barrett, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs
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19 October 2009

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Open First of Three Recovery Act-Funded Veterans Curation Project Laboratories

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will open the first Veterans Curation Project laboratory, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in Augusta, Ga., on Tuesday, October 20.

The Augusta site is the first of three Veterans Curation Project laboratories that the Corps will open with $3.5 million in funding from the $4.6 billion appropriated for the Army's Civil Works program in the Recovery Act. The other two sites will be located in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, Mo., and will be operating before the end of fiscal 2010.

The three sites were selected because they are home to high populations of wounded and returning veterans.

"The three Veterans Curation Project laboratories funded by the Recovery Act are unique opportunities for the nation's Armed Forces and the Corps of Engineers," said the Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

"The labs are an innovative approach to supporting returning veterans of all services with jobs and training in a variety of technical skills," said Darcy. "At the same time, the labs will advance the curation of archeological and historic properties that have come into the Corps' possession over the years as a result of construction at its water project sites around the country."

In 1995, the Corps created the Center of Expertise for Curation and Management of Archeological Collections in its St. Louis District to provide protocols and best management practices for maintaining heritage assets. The Corps has an extensive collection and has not been able to fully keep up with proper curation requirements under the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Preservation and Repatriation Act.

The St. Louis District's Center of Expertise designed and is managing the implementation of the Veterans Curation Project. The Corps has hired Brockington and Associates of Atlanta, Ga., to establish and manage the project's three laboratories.

Corps specialists and the contractor are also working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs and non-governmental Wounded Warrior groups to fill many jobs at the laboratories with veterans and disabled veterans. Jobs are being tailored and rotated to fit the medical needs of those disabled veterans who are unable to work a full day and to offer on-the-job training and work to more veterans.

Veterans working at the three labs will be trained in computer, photographic and scanning technologies that will be applied to the rehabilitation of Corps archeological collections and their associated records. The technical skills learned at the labs will be transferrable to potential future jobs outside the labs.

"It is especially fitting that the opening of the first Veterans Curation Project laboratory is taking place during National Disability Employment Awareness Month," said Darcy. "As President Obama recently stated in his proclamation to recognize the month, 'Each day, Americans with disabilities play a critical role in forging and shaping the identity of our Nation.'"

"No group of people has done more to forge our national identity throughout history than the veterans who have served and sacrificed for the nation," added Darcy. "It is our privilege to now be able to give disabled veterans an opportunity to continue shaping the nation through the work and training they will do at this important new facility."

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, will speak at Tuesday's ceremony to open the Veterans Curation Project laboratory. The ceremony will take place at noon at 3830 Washington Road, Suite 27, Martinez, Ga., 30907.

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17 October 2009

Mullen Asks Celebrities to Keep Supporting Troops

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen drew quite the laughs at the expense of political elites here last night at the annual Alfred E. Smith Foundation dinner, but still managed acclaim for the 2.2 million military members in his charge.

"I accept this kind of invitation for, and only, on behalf of the 2.2 million men and women serving in uniform today," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in his keynote address. "As we dine here tonight in comfort and fine company, more than 250,000 of them are deployed around the world, keeping peace and keeping watch over our freedom and our national interests.

"They are the finest military this or any nation has yet produced, and they are, after eight long years of war, still defending us magnificently."

Mullen, the services' senior officer and military advisor to the president and defense secretary, is in the forefront of the Afghanistan strategy debate. Despite increased violence there and waning American support for the war, he urged the gathering of business people, celebrity journalists and politicians to stand by their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

"Please continue standing up for them," the admiral said. "It is right that we do so. War is an ugly, messy, bloody business, and no one in uniform, no matter high or low in the chain of command, welcomes the task of waging it."

The chairman, who has spent 41 years in uniform, reflected on his early years of service as a Vietnam War veteran. He said he never wants another servicemember to experience humility and disgrace when wearing their uniform.

"As a Vietnam vet, I have lived and served in a time when America walked away from her military, when wearing the uniform was the last thing you wanted to do in public," he said. "No returning warrior should ever feel that scorn again.

"The men and women of your armed forces are the best we have ever had, and they believe in what they are doing for you," he continued. "All I ask is that you continue to believe in them."

While Mullen expressed much appreciation and gratitude for servicemembers, he also offered a bit of good-natured humor -- a trademark of the annual dinner.

He poked fun at the similarities in his haircut and that of CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, and at the confusion most people have when he tries to explain his role at the Pentagon.

"To be fair, the position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is often misunderstood and more than a little confusing," Mullen said. "I am the nation's most senior military officer, but I do not command any troops ... and I am not responsible for any particular region of the world."

Mullen went on to say that his job is simply to give advice to the nation's leaders. "I make suggestions. I prod, and I poke. I advocate. I'm like a Fox News analyst," he joked.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan hosted the 64th annual dinner at Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. It honors Smith, the former four-term New York governor and the first Catholic presidential candidate selected by a major party.

Smith was the Democratic candidate who lost the 1928 election to Herbert Hoover. Smith died in 1944, and the foundation was established the next year. The dinner has raised millions of dollars for children's health care in New York.

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

16 October 2009

Humana Military Healthcare Services Promotes Flu Vaccinations for South Region TRICARE Beneficiaries

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Humana Military Healthcare Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM), encourages TRICARE South Region beneficiaries to get their influenza vaccination in an effort to reduce the spread of flu this season. Beneficiaries may receive the flu vaccination at no cost from their local Military Treatment Facility (MTF), Primary Care Manager (PCM) or a MinuteClinic located in select CVS Pharmacies.

“The flu affects an estimated 25-50 million people annually across the country, yet nearly two-thirds of adults choose not to receive their flu vaccination each year,” said John Crum, MD, chief medical officer of Humana Military. “While practicing healthy habits will help stop spreading the illness, the best way to prevent the flu is by receiving a vaccination. We want to make sure our beneficiaries know where they can go to receive this shot,” said Crum.

Along with getting shots at a PCM office or MTF, the addition of select MinuteClinic locations to the Humana Military provider network offers beneficiaries a convenient alternative for preventive services, including flu shots. MinuteClinics are open seven-days-a-week and there is no appointment necessary. Active duty and reserve personnel should check with their MTF on where to receive their vaccinations.

To find the MinuteClinic location nearest you, please visit Humana Military’s web-based provider locator at www.humana-military.com and choose “Limited Services Medical Clinic,” or call 1-800-444-5445.

TRICARE covers the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) approved immunizations and vaccines according to age and frequency guidelines from birth through adulthood. For more information from the CDC regarding the seasonal flu, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/flu_vaccine_updates.htm.

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15 October 2009

VA Funding Reform Bill Clears Congress

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Federation of Government Employees, today, lauded the efforts of Congress in passing historic legislation to reform the way it funds health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. For more than 20 years, AFGE has advocated for substantial reform in the VA funding process. AFGE applauds these members of Congress for their commitment to the VA, its patients, and its employees.

Earlier this year, AFGE stood with veterans' service organizations and House and Senate VA Committee members in staunch support as Rep. Filner and Sen. Akaka introduced the legislation. "We applaud the members of Congress for their commitment to veterans' care," said J. David Cox, AFGE national secretary treasurer and retired VA nurse. "It is the right thing to do for VA employees and for our nation's veterans."

The advanced appropriations bill, which was supported by the president when he was a Senator, will end the unpredictability and inadequacy of the VA's discretionary funding process, by allowing Congress to provide health care dollars to the VA in advance. The president is expected to sign the legislation.

AFGE and its National VA Council have been longtime advocates for mandatory funding of the VA, an approach widely supported by the veterans' community. AFGE with the nine veterans' groups comprising the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform endorsed advanced appropriations as an alternative funding approach that is achievable in the short term. As detailed in the bill, advanced appropriations would authorize Congress to approve funding for VA health care a year in advance of the next fiscal year. The Partnership has also advocated that the Government Accountability Office study and provide a report to Congress annually for the next three years on the VA's budget forecasting model and estimates.

"The current VA funding process is broken. The delays in funding drive up costs, threaten patient care, and weaken the VA as a whole," said Cox.

The VA has received its appropriation from Congress on time only three times in the last 23 years. This reliance on discretionary budget dollars has taken a heavy toll on both the timeliness and the adequacy of VA health care. Medical center directors forced to rely on discretionary funding must delay hiring nurses and other clinicians, repairs to their facilities, and new medical equipment purchases. The delays that result adversely impact medical care and increase costs by forcing understaffed hospitals to turn to private agency nurses for fee-basis care and delaying diagnostic testing for patients.

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14 October 2009

New Vehicle Concept would Protect Crews from Roadside Bombs

A new crew survivability concept that would build military vehicles around a protected personnel compartment and use a sacrificial “blast wedge” to absorb energy from improvised explosive devices could improve safety for the occupants of future light armored patrol vehicles.

Researchers from the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have designed and tested the concept, dubbed ULTRA II, for the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR). The crew-protection concept builds on an earlier GTRI development for the ONR that evaluated new concepts for light armored vehicles. A blast test conducted with the ULTRA II full-sized crew compartment test article at the Aberdeen Test Center showed that the new concept could protect the vehicle crew from improvised explosions.

“Instead of up-armoring a standard vehicle or modifying an existing drive train, we built a bubble of force protection first and then addressed vehicle mobility,” explained Vince Camp, a GTRI senior research engineer and the project’s principal investigator. “The idea was to emphasize warfighter protection first by starting with design of an improved crew compartment, as opposed to starting with an existing vehicle and trying to add armor.”

The ULTRA II crew compartment was designed to house six persons: a driver and commander facing forward, and two pairs of crew members behind them, each pair facing opposite sides of the vehicle. By putting their backs toward the center of the crew compartment, the concept moves the crew away from the outside walls to reduce the likelihood of injury from side blasts, provides better visibility for the crew to monitor their surroundings, allows blast-resistant seats to be frame-mounted—and facilitates faster egress from the vehicle.

The crew compartment envisioned by GTRI uses a “space frame” constructed of tubular steel—similar to civilian off-road racing vehicles. An armored steel “skin” provides added structure and moderate ballistic and blast protection. Additional armor is bolted onto the frame in a modular way, allowing varying levels of protection that could be easily modified in the field and changed as new high-performance armor concepts are developed.

An integral part of the protection is provided by a sacrificial “blast wedge” bolted onto the bottom of the vehicle. Constructed of welded steel armor, the wedge both deflects energy away from the vehicle and absorbs energy from a blast, performing a function similar to “crumple zones” in modern civilian vehicles.

The design and fabrication of the test article was conducted by personnel in the Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory of GTRI. Tests using a heavily-instrumented test article with instrumented dummies simulating the crew showed that the wedge deflected or absorbed nearly 70 percent of the energy from an explosion beneath it. Damage from the blast was primarily confined to the sacrificial blast wedge and there was no structural damage and no blast penetration to the crew compartment.

“Energy used up in crushing and tearing the metal in the blast wedge is energy that wouldn’t go into injuring the crew,” said Kevin Massey, a GTRI senior research engineer who was part of the project team. “Data from the instrumented dummies shows that had this test been conducted with real warfighters in a real vehicle, we wouldn’t have seen any spinal injuries, head trauma, neck trauma or leg injuries.”

Because the wedge is removable, it could be replaced if damaged. Making the blast wedge removable also allows for an overall reduction of the vehicle’s height for shipping, an important issue for rapid deployment.

The research team, which also included Burt Jennings, Cal Jameson, Jake Leverett and Mark Entrekin, combined non-linear dynamic blast simulations and neural networks to study how blast forces would affect the vehicle. Conventional finite element analysis also provided valuable design feedback in development of the ULTRA II test article.

There were many tradeoffs to consider in designing the new concept, including vehicle height and resistance to blast forces that may come from many different angles.

“To survive the blast, you want to get as high off the ground as possible,” Massey noted. “But the higher you are off the ground, the more likely you are to roll over. This is an example of the tradeoffs that have to be balanced.”

In addition to crew protection, the researchers also designed a translating door that would provide a large side opening similar to that of existing civilian minivans. Such a door system would provide improved ingress/egress for the crew and could remain open when the vehicle is moving.

GTRI has presented data from the test to the Office of Naval Research, and hopes to pursue additional refinements to the blast wedge and overall vehicle concept. Among the goals would be to improve energy absorption from the blast wedge, and to evaluate whether the crew compartment should separate from the drive train in certain types of blasts.

“We think that the concept of a space-frame design is a very viable one, and we want to take the lessons we’ve learned so far to improve on it,” Massey added. “We’d also like to see if the concept of the energy-absorbing wedge can be applied to existing vehicles that are already out there. The bottom line is saving people’s lives and protecting them from injury.”

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13 October 2009

VA Extends 'Agent Orange' Benefits to More Veterans

/PRNewswire/ -- Relying on an independent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki decided to establish a service-connection for Vietnam Veterans with three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an association with the herbicides referred to as Agent Orange.

The illnesses affected by the recent decision are B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson's disease; and ischemic heart disease.

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to the present. Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a "presumed" illness don't have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. This "presumption" simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.

The Secretary's decision brings to 15 the number of presumed illnesses recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will," Shinseki added. "Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence."

Other illnesses previously recognized under VA's "presumption" rule as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War are:

-- Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy
-- AL Amyloidosis
-- Chloracne
-- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
-- Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
-- Hodgkin's Disease
-- Multiple Myeloma
-- Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
-- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
-- Prostate Cancer
-- Respiratory Cancers, and
-- Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's
sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA's services and programs for Veterans exposed to the chemical are available at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange.

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06 October 2009

92% of Americans Say 'Don't Tear Me Down,' Favor Keeping Veterans Memorial at Center of Supreme Court Case

/PRNewswire/ -- In a poll conducted by Barna Group and commissioned by Liberty Legal Institute that was released today, 92 percent of Americans agree that the forbidden Mojave Desert War Memorial should be allowed to stand.

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 adults nationwide, finds that only 5 percent of Americans would favor removing the memorial located in the 1.6 million acre Mojave Desert. Additionally, 65 percent of political liberals believe that the Memorial should stay.

In a more general question, 90 percent of Americans believe that military-related memorials with religious symbols should remain standing, 77 percent of which strongly believe the memorials should stay.

Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case regarding the Mojave Desert War Memorial, a seven-foot-tall cross erected in 1934 by World War I veterans and maintained for the last 25 years by Henry and Wanda Sandoz. Liberty Legal Institute, which represents the Sandozes and over four million veterans though the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), The American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and American Ex-Prisoners of War, launched www.DontTearMeDown.com just before Memorial Day in order to bring attention to the case. To date, more than 170,000 people have signed the online petition of support at the site, and there have been nearly 1.9 million views of the video on YouTube.

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