31 August 2009

VA's Suicide Prevention Program Adds Chat Service

/PRNewswire/ -- The Suicide Prevention campaign of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expanding its outreach to all Veterans by piloting an online, one-to-one "chat service" for Veterans who prefer reaching out for assistance using the Internet.

Called "Veterans Chat," the new service enables Veterans, their families and friends to go online where they can anonymously chat with a trained VA counselor. If a "chatter" is determined to be in a crisis, the counselor can take immediate steps to transfer the person to the VA Suicide Prevention Hotline, where further counseling and referral services are provided and crisis intervention steps can be taken.

"This online feature is intended to reach out to all Veterans who may or may not be enrolled in the VA health care system and provide them with online access to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline," said Dr. Gerald Cross, VA's Acting Under Secretary for Health. "It is meant to provide Veterans with an anonymous way to access VA's suicide prevention services."

Veterans, family members or friends can access Veterans Chat through the suicide prevention Web site (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org). There is a Veterans tab on the left-hand side of the Web site that will take them directly to Veteran resource information. On this page, they can see the Hotline number (1-800-273-TALK), and click on the Veterans Chat tab on the right side of the Web page to enter.

Veterans retain anonymity by entering whatever names they choose once they enter the one-on-one chat. They are then joined by a counselor who is trained to provide information and respond to the requests and concerns of the caller.

If the counselor decides the caller is in a crisis, the counselor will encourage the Veteran to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, where a trained suicide prevention counselor will determine whether crisis intervention techniques are required.

The pilot program, which has been in operation since July 3, has already had positive results. In one instance, the online counselor determined that a Veteran in the chat required immediate assistance. The counselor convinced the Veteran to provide the counselor with a home telephone number and then remained in the chat room with the Veteran while the hotline staff called the number and talked to the Veteran's mother. The hotline counselor worked with the Veteran's mother to convince the Veteran to be admitted to a medical facility for further treatment.

"The chat line is not intended to be a crisis response line," said Dr. Janet Kemp, VA's National Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the VA medical center in Canandaigua, N.Y., where VA's trained counselors staff the chat line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VA's suicide prevention hotline is also staffed continuously.

"Chat responders are trained in an intervention method specifically developed for the chat line to assist people with emotional distress and concerns," Kemp said. "We have procedures they can use to transfer chatters in crisis to the hotline for more immediate assistance."

Both Veterans Chat and the VA's Suicide Prevention Hotline have been established under the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which was established through collaboration between VA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Since becoming operational in July 2007, VA's Suicide Prevention Hotline has received more than 150,000 calls, resulting in 4,000 rescues.

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28 August 2009

GAEC Director Foster to Supervise MMA Event for U.S. Troops in Iraq

Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission Director Andrew Foster has been selected to serve as Official Event Supervisor for a mixed-martial arts event in Iraq. The event is sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment, and the tour will be hosted by the Army Brigade Command and Central Command. This is the first MMA event held for members of the Armed Services in Iraq.

“I am honored to participate in this event and pleased to provide this form of popular entertainment to the men and women who serve our country,” Foster said. “I am grateful to offer my expertise to help ensure a safe environment for the fighters and our dedicated troops.”

“Andy has a respected reputation as the director of the GAEC and through his experience as an MMA fighter,” Georgia Secretary of State Handel said. “He will serve as an excellent ambassador for Georgia and the GAEC.”

Foster will travel with a group of promoters and representatives from the International Combat Sports Federation, and judges and referees to Iraq in September. The group will visit several different Iraqi bases, and hold a main event match in Mosul. In addition, troops stationed at the base will meet the fighters, have the opportunity to work out with them, and attend MMA seminars.

The promoter of the project is DD Productions, LLC, which is owned by Marine Corps spouse Monica Sanford. Most of the amateur and pro fighters participating are active duty military stationed in Iraq or the United States.

Andrew Foster started his jiu jitsu training in 1996 and his mixed martial arts training in 1998. Foster won both the Middleweight and the Light Heavyweight ISCF Mixed Martial Arts East Coast Championship Belts in 2004, after which he turned professional. Foster holds a 7-0 record in amateur MMA and a 9-2 professional record. In July 2007, Foster was named Head Referee of the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission and was appointed to Executive Director in May 2008.

Armed Forces Entertainment is the lead Department of Defense agency for providing entertainment to U.S. military personnel serving overseas, with priority given to those in contingency operations and at remote and isolated locations. The Department of the Air Force is the executive agent of Armed Forces Entertainment. Founded in 1951, Armed Forces Entertainment brings a touch of home to more than 500,000 troops annually, embracing the best of Americana that stretches across all genres of entertainment. Visit www.armedforcesentertainment.com for more information.

Karen Handel was sworn in as Secretary of State in January 2007. The Secretary of State's office offers important services to our citizens and our business community. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Capitol Museum.
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27 August 2009

Shock Waves May Damage Soldiers' Brains

Finding may help develop better combat helmets

When today's soldiers enter combat, they're better protected from explosions than the military personnel of any previous war. Ultra-strong helmets shield them from the flying shrapnel of homemade bombs; high-tech cushioning cradles their skulls during sudden impacts with the ground. But because modern soldiers are surviving explosions that would have taken the lives of Vietnam-era infantrymen, army hospitals are seeing a rise in a particularly painful war wound—traumatic brain injury (TBI).

TBI can range from a simple concussion to damage with long-term effects, including impaired cognitive abilities and even anxiety and depression. New research is helping to explain how those injuries come about, potentially pointing the way to helmet designs to reduce brain damage. Using code originally designed to simulate how a detonated weapon rattles a building or tank, physicists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the University of Rochester in New York modeled an all-too-real situation: a 5-pound bomb exploding 15 feet from a soldier's head. Their goal was to understand the effects of the high-speed shock wave that follows an explosion.

Some doctors have suggested that the wave reaches the brain through the eyes or ears; others say it causes compression of the chest and a subsequent surge of blood to the brain. The new research, soon to appear in the journal Physical Review Letters, shows that the shock wave doesn't accelerate the head enough to damage the brain. Instead, it seems to affect the skull directly.

"Your skull is not exactly rigid, so the pressure actually deforms the skull as the blast wave moves across," said Eric Blackman, who is one of the authors of the study. "That flexure drives a stress wave that propagates into the brain. It's something like an inverse earthquake."

The waves flex the skull by only about the width of a human hair. But according to coauthor William Moss, "that's enough to generate pressures in the brain comparable to [an] impact." The reason is that the brain contains a lot of water. "Push on it a little bit and you get a lot of pressure," said coauthor Michael King. Because the blast wave sweeps across the skull in just a fraction of a second, "you don't have time for the pressure to dissipate, so you get a localized region of very high pressure."

David Moore, a vascular neurologist and the deputy director of research at the Defense Veterans Brain Injury Center, headquartered in Washington, D.C., said that the skull flexure mechanism proposed by the physicists is just one hypothesis among several competing concepts of blast waves and injury. “Like all these hypotheses there’s yet work to be done in terms of validation,” he said. “There are too many unknown variables from the constitutive properties of brain and skull at high strain rates along with other associated blast phenomena.”

The team considered the performance of Kevlar helmets with two kinds of cushioning systems: a nylon web system that was retired in 2003, and the foam pads of the Advanced Combat Helmet, which is standard-issue for today's soldiers. The results were unsettling.

To protect soldiers from bullets and shrapnel, modern helmet design maintains a 1.3-cm gap between helmet and head; in the simulation, the blast wave washed into the helmet through this gap. "The helmet acts as a windscoop, so the pressure between the skull and helmet is larger than the blast wave by itself," King said. While the ACH's pads mostly prevented this underwash, they also passed on forces to the skull.

King suggested that the pads' stiffness could be optimized to "take the best of both worlds; it doesn't allow the blast in there, and it doesn't transfer [forces] from the helmet to the head." He stressed that when making changes to the helmet, preserving its ability to reduce impacts and fend off bullets was paramount. "You'd have to be careful to make sure it doesn't interfere with what the helmet does very well, which is stopping fragments and bullets," he said. "The whole idea why there was a big gap between skull and helmet in the first place, is it makes it more likely for the soldier to survive if a bullet hits the helmet."

The researchers stopped short of claiming the high-pressure regions caused by blast waves would then cause TBI. But their findings seem to clear some of the fog surrounding closed head injuries, said Brent Masel, a neurologist and the president and medical director of the Transitional Learning Center, a post acute brain injury treatment program in Galveston, TX.

"We classify brain injuries as mild, moderate, or severe based on the amount of trauma they have at that time… but the severity of injury and eventual outcome may very often be different," Masel said." Assuming their model is correct, this answers one of the questions that keeps getting raised—how do these men and women who have a minor blast injury have symptoms? It may be that the blast injury isn't so minor."

By Lauren Schenkman
Inside Science News Service

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26 August 2009

VA Chief's Vow to The American Legion: 'We Will End Vet Homelessness.'

/PRNewswire/ -- Secretary Eric Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs says he and the Obama administration are determined to end homelessness among military veterans. His promise was made as the retired four-star U.S. Army General spoke at the opening session of The American Legion's 91st national convention in Louisville, Ky.

In what he called his "seven month report," referring to his term of office thus far as VA Secretary, Shinseki pointed to the over-representation of veterans among the populations of those with mental health issues, drug abuse, alcoholism and homelessness. He said the Presidential administration and his agency in particular are working very hard to correct this discrepancy as well as enroll many more eligible veterans into VA healthcare, now serving a fraction of those who could receive its benefits, and to address the staggering backlog of benefits claims now facing VA case workers. Retraining, already underway, will help, said Secretary Shinseki.

In his remarks, Secretary Shinseki twice cited the Department of Veterans Affairs motto, inscribed on metal plaques flanking the department's front entrance in Washington, D.C. where, Shinseki said, "I go to work every day." The inscription reads, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan." The words are from President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address.

On a more positive topic, Shinseki lauded the enactment of the new Post 9/11 GI Bill, which expands and modernizes the award of higher education benefits to military veterans. Recalling the post-World War II economic boom attributed in part to the exponential growth of college educations among veterans, the VA Secretary predicted that, because of the newly instituted benefits package, "we are on the verge of that happening again."

Secretary Shinseki joined fellow convention speakers Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General David Petraeus, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, at the Legion convention's opening ceremonies this morning.

With a current membership of 2.5-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

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25 August 2009

FDA Authorizes Emergency Use of H1N1 Test for U.S. Troops Serving Overseas

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced it has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that allows a 2009 H1N1 influenza virus test to be used to detect the virus in troops serving overseas.

The EUA allows the U.S. Department of Defense to distribute the H1N1 test to its qualified laboratories that have the required equipment and trained personnel to perform the test and interpret its results. An EUA authorizes the use of unapproved medical products or unapproved uses of approved medical products during a declared public health emergency.

“The FDA worked quickly with the Defense Department to authorize the use of this test to better protect our troops. The test will aid in more rapid diagnosis of 2009 H1N1 influenza infections so that deployed troops can quickly begin appropriate medical treatment,” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the test, which is called the CDC swH1N1 (swine) Influenza Real-Time RT-PCR.

Under this new EUA, the Defense Department’s Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS) can be used to run the CDC’s test. The FDA previously cleared other assays for use on the JBAIDS beginning in 2005.

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24 August 2009

Veterans Administration Must Suspend Use of So-Called 'Death Book' on Veterans, Malley Says

/PRNewswire/ -- Paul Malley, President of the national non-profit organization Aging with Dignity, today called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to immediately suspend use of its "Your Life, Your Choices" advance care planning guide dubbed "The Death Book for Veterans." Malley also praised Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, who announced on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday that he would call for hearings into the matter.

"'Your Life, Your Choices' attempts to steer users toward its own preferred conclusions, and as such, is not an honest tool to help veterans make health care decisions," Malley said. "Sen. Specter is right to demand this be given the full attention it deserves."

Earlier on the August 23rd "Fox News Sunday" program, Aging with Dignity founder Jim Towey had outlined concerns he raised in an August 19th commentary published in the Wall Street Journal. He took issue with the document surreptitiously guiding veterans to choosing to forego care if they conclude the quality of their life makes it "not worth living" due to illness, disability or depression. Towey also pointed out the author of "Your Life, Your Choices" is a noted advocate for assisted suicide and health care rationing and that its revised version listed the Hemlock Society (now called "Compassion and Choices") as the sole reference for advance directives.

"Fox News Sunday" program host Chris Wallace later asked Sen. Specter, another guest on the program, whether he had any problems with the booklet. "I sure do," Sen. Specter replied, saying, "I think consideration ought to be given right now to suspending it pending hearings before the Veterans Affairs Committee in the Senate, where I serve. And I'm going to call for those hearings first thing tomorrow."

Malley noted "Your Life, Your Choices" includes many overt appeals to one's sense of guilt over "being a burden" to others. "Advance directives should allow you to express your wishes in your own words free of influence from others, Malley said. "After the VA takes down this misguided guide from its website, it should go back to the drawing board."

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18 August 2009

College of Health Administrators Train with the ROTC

Clayton State University’s Dr. Sue Odom, associate dean of Nursing in the College of Health, and Dr. Katrina Barnes, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, recently went to Seattle to experience what ROTC cadets did during training.

“The Army wanted to illustrate to the faculty and staff what the ROTC cadets were learning. We were able to experience what they went through,” Odom says. “During the four days that we attended, we were able to experience cultural diversity programs, military training, critical thinking and problem solving exercises, and other such things.”

Maybe the most notable experience was artillery training.

“The experience that impacted me the most was the artillery training,” Odom says. “The Army outfitted each of us in combat gear to protect us. We were then given the opportunity to fire a M16 and other machine guns, throw a grenade, shoot a bazooka gun, and other artillery equipment. They were very patient with me.

“I also had the opportunity to repel off a 37 foot tower. Accomplishing some of the activities that the cadets did made me empathize with the feelings of pride that the cadets had when they accomplished each feat.

“The army was surprised that I was so enthusiastic about shooting the machine guns,” adds Barnes. “One of my favorite experiences was the cultural diversity training where they had a fake country called Palermo. The scenario I observed was at a check point where the cadets were required to respond to the various nationals who wanted to pass through. They had to search them and decide what the correct action would be. There were people who had guns hidden on their person, someone who was in labor and bent over screaming with pain, and a lady who had a huge gun she wanted to sell to the guards.

“It was interesting to see the critical thinking skills that were being taught during this activity.”

Both administrators say the experience was extremely rewarding.

“It was a very enlightening experience to see and appreciate what each of these cadets are learning,” Odom says. “The thing that struck me the most was the professionalism and experience that each of these cadets demonstrated. It was hard to believe that they were young adults still in college and how much they were learning. It made me feel comfortable in that these were to be our leaders in the Army for the future. They were awesome!”

“They were so excited. They felt a great sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm for their new venture,” says Barnes of the cadets. “The experience was very beneficial as I came away with a feeling of excitement for the opportunities offered by the Army ROTC. I feel that I can be an advocate for the Army and try to talk to nursing and pre-nursing students about the opportunities with the Army.”

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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17 August 2009

Isakson, Chambliss Announce Two New VA Vet Centers for Georgia

U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to open two new “Vet Centers” in Muscogee and Richmond counties. Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to all veterans who served in any combat zone.

“This is outstanding news for Georgia. These new facilities will help ensure that we deliver to our veterans the level of VA care they deserve,” Isakson said. “As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, one of my top priorities is to make sure America takes care of the veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving our country.”

“Our veterans deserve access to the very best care and services,” said Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The announcement of these new facilities is great news for veterans in our state who have served our nation with honor.”

The VA said it expects the facilities will be fully operational by the end of 2010. These new facilities will be in addition to the five VA Vet Centers that already operate in Georgia.

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12 August 2009

The Hill, Vol. 23, Aug 7

It’s not the dirt that makes the hill; it’s the Sledgehammer Soldiers that make the hill.
Vol. 23 – August 7, 2009
- IN THIS ISSUE – NTC stories, Court-Martials and more!

- 3rd HBCT RETURNS FROM NTC READY TO DEPLOY The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division returned from the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., armed with a better knowledge of what to expect when they deploy to Iraq in October. The training exercise, which spanned the month of July, was designed to replicate the U.S. government’s current mission in Iraq and give the brigade a better idea of the types of situations and challenges they will likely face. READ MORE http://www.hammerpao.com/?p=1338

- VIDEO: INSIDE THE NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER WLTZ NBC Channel 38 reporter Stefanie Tiso joined the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team in California and featured the Sledgehammer Brigade in a 3-part series.WATCH MORE http://www.hammerpao.com/?p=1346

- VIDEO: NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER – BOOTS ON THE GROUND The Sledgehammer Brigade hit the sand of the Mojave Desert just in time to celebrate America’s Independence before training to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first week in California has been spent getting ready for the intense portion of the training, known as “the box” Pvt. 1st Class Erik Anderson reports. WATCH MORE http://www.hammerpao.com/?p=1277

- PHOTOS: 3HBCT SOLDIERS TRAIN AT NTC Photos from the first week at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. SEE MORE http://www.hammerpao.com/?p=1292

- 3RD HBCT TANK AND BRADLEY CREWS TRAIN AT NTC As his Soldiers finished setting the final targets, July 7, Sgt. 1st Class Travis Hogan, master gunner for the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, began radioing the M1A1 Abrams tank crews on his firing line to get prepared to fire their main guns. In a few short days, Soldiers of the 3rd HBCT, will be leaving the comfort of the RUBA (Rotational Unit Bivouac Area) and traveling out into the Mojave Desert for 14 days of intensive training during their rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. READ MORE http://www.hammerpao.com/?p=1304

- VIDEO: STEEL ON TARGETS AT NTC The Tankers of the Sledgehammer Brigade verified training completed at Kelley Hill, Fort Benning, Ga. before entering “THE BOX” at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. WATCH MORE http://www.hammerpao.com/?p=1313

- LEGAL: COURT-MARTIAL RESULTS SPC Justinmark Cravalho, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, SPC Joseph Galles, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, PVT Matthew R. Gosselin, 2d Battalion, 69th Armor, PFC Edward N. Joseph, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, MSG Bennie E. Hester, 203d Brigade Support Battalion, SPC B.J. Ware, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, PFC Jonathan D. Rimmey, 203d Brigade Support Battalion, SGT Brandon Lopez, 203d Brigade Support Battalion, PV2 Brandon Johnson, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, PVT Jason Major, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, PVT Daniel Loepke, 203d Brigade Support Battalion, http://www.hammerpao.com/?p=1270

- 3RD HBCT ON FACEBOOK - http://facebook.hammerpao.com - 3RD HBCT ON TWITTER - http://twitter.hammerpao.com

- 3RD HBCT ON YOUTUBE - http://youtube.hammerpao.com

- COL. PETER JONES ON TWITTER - http://www.twitter.com/PJHammer6 - 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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

11 August 2009

Summer Recruiting Remains Strong Across Services

July was a boom month for military recruiting, with more than 15,000 young men and women entering the active-duty force, defense officials reported yesterday.

July recruiting and retention numbers released today show across-the-board successes, with a new high school graduation class among the recruitment-age population seeking career opportunities.

"In tougher economic times, youth are simply more willing to discuss options with recruiters," said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy. "And when they learn the facts, they see the advantages."

All four services met or exceeded their July active-duty recruiting goals, officials reported. Meanwhile, the reserve components signed on almost 8,000 new members, with six components meeting or exceeding their monthly goals.

Only the Army National Guard and Air National Guard fell short of their initial July projections. Officials called this an intentional measure designed to help them manage their end strength, because they're already on track to meet their annual goals.

The ground forces demonstrated the strongest recruiting showings. The Army, with 6,199 active-duty accessions, topped its July goal by 2 percent. The Marine Corps exceeded its active-duty goal by 15 percent, with 3,451 new members.

Both services showed solid successes in reserve-component recruiting, too. The Army Reserve signed on 1,628 soldiers, 123 percent of its monthly goal. The Marine Corps recruited 1,135 members -- 201 percent of its goal.

The Army Guard added 2,562 members to its ranks, and is on a steady track to meet its annual goals, officials said.

Meanwhile, both the Navy and Air Force met their July active-duty goals, signing on 3,421 and 2,654 new members, respectively.

Both services' reserve components met their July goals, with 688 accessions in the Navy Reserve and 907 in the Air Force Reserve.

The Air Guard signed on 832 airmen, 97 percent of its goal.

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
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09 August 2009

Army Completes Staff Sgt. Maseth Death Investigation

The Army announced Friday that the investigation into the tragic death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth has been completed. The extensive, eleven-month investigation conducted by the Army Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove that any one person, persons or entity was criminally culpable in the death of Maseth.

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology medical examiner previously found the cause of Maseth's death to be electrocution and the manner accidental. The completed Criminal Investigation Division death investigation concurs with those findings.

"This has been a complex investigation involving numerous people, circumstances and contractual agreements," said Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, commanding general, U. S. Army Criminal Investigations Command. "It was a lengthy, thorough and detailed investigation. Reviewing the many documents and issues did take an extraordinary amount of time, but we wanted to do everything we could to get it right. We owe that to Staff Sgt. Maseth and his loved ones."

The investigation revealed that there were numerous entities and individuals, both contractors and government employees, who breached their respective duties of care; however none of those breaches, in and of themselves, were the proximate cause of his death. The investigation was closed with a finding that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove any criminal negligence in the soldier's death.

"As with all of our criminal investigations, if new, credible information becomes available, we stand ready to reopen the investigation to pursue the truth, wherever it may lead," Johnson said.

There have been 18 reported deaths due to electrocution in Iraq since March 2003, including 16 service members and two contractors. Fourteen of these cases occurred in the field away from military facilities or in work situations that included performing maintenance on electrical systems.

After a series of electrical accidents and incidents, Multi-National Force–Iraq created Task Force Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity in August 2008 to assess and analyze fire and electrical safety issues in Iraq and then direct actions to remedy those hazards.

As of July 25, the task force has inspected more than 67,000 of the approximately 90,000 pieces of equipment and facilities in Iraq, many of which were substandard structures dating from the Saddam Hussein era. The task force is ahead of schedule to complete the inspections by November. The inspections have led to the correction of nearly 14,000 deficiencies found thus far as the facilities are brought into compliance with the United States National Electric Code. Most deficiencies have been related to electrical grounding and bonding that enables the proper functioning of circuit breakers.

Since Maseth's death, there has not been another confirmed electrocution death of a soldier in Iraq.
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04 August 2009

New GI Bill Renews Commitment to Troops, Obama Says

President Barack Obama today saluted the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill during a ceremony at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Signed into law on June 20, 2008, the new GI Bill is a Department of Veteran Affairs-sponsored program that provides the most comprehensive educational benefit package for veterans since the original GI Bill -- the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 -- was authorized toward the end of World War II.

Today's new GI Bill, Obama said, was implemented "to renew our commitment to ensure that the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America get the opportunities that they have earned."

Obama observed that his grandfather, who served under Army Gen. George S. Patton during World War II, was a beneficiary of the original 1944 to 1956 GI Bill, which helped to produce a strong post-war economy, as well as the largest middle class in U.S. history. By 1947, Obama noted, half of all Americans enrolled in colleges were military veterans.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is just as important as the original, Obama said, as it also recognizes servicemembers for their wartime service and represents "an investment in our own country."

Obama said the new program will provide today's veterans "the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of tomorrow."

"Education is the currency that can purchase success in the 21st century," the president said, "and this is the opportunity that our troops have earned."


With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, qualified active-duty and selected reserve servicemembers who have served after Sept. 10, 2001, are eligible for 36 months of state-school educational benefits -- the equivalent of four nine-month academic years. Benefits include tuition and fees that are paid directly to the school, a monthly living allowance paid to the participant, and a books and supplies stipend paid to the individual.

And as of Aug. 1, qualified career servicemembers have the option to transfer benefits to their spouses or children. Most servicemembers who have at least six years of military service and are in the armed forces on or after Aug. 1 and agree to serve an additional four years qualify to transfer their benefits.

"We are including the family members who have sacrificed so much by allowing the transfer of unused benefits to family members," Obama said. "And we are including those who pay the ultimate price by making this benefit available to the children of those who lost their life in service to their country."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, who also spoke at the ceremony, exhorted Post-9/11 GI Bill participants to "make it count; make it count for all of us. Make it count for our country."

Shinseki observed that more than 1,100 private educational institutions have elected to participate in the supplemental Yellow Ribbon Program that permits eligible servicemembers and veterans to attend private colleges and universities whose costs exceed the highest in-state rates at public undergraduate institutions.

Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, VA "will match whatever is contributed by those private colleges and universities, up to 50 percent of those total costs," Shinseki said. "We are grateful that so many schools have joined this effort and we thank them for their support of our veterans."

Former Marine Staff Sgt. James Miller, an Iraqi war veteran who introduced Obama at the ceremony, is taking Shinseki's advice. Miller has enrolled as a full-time student at George Mason University under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. He is pursuing a bachelor's degree in business communications.

"Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the young veterans of the wars in the Middle East are united here," Miller said. "We have come to gain new skills and to learn new subjects. We are here to pursue educational goals that will prepare us for success in our professional careers."

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
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DoD Identifies 3 Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Aug. 1 in Mushan Village, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked their patrol with improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

Killed were:

Cpl. Jonathan M. Walls, 27, of West Lawn, Penn.;

Pfc. Richard K. Jones, 21, of Person, N.C.; and

Pvt. Patrick S. Fitzgibbon, 19, of Knoxville, Tenn.

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Spc. Alexander J. Miller, 21, of Clermont, Fla., died July 31 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum. N.Y.

03 August 2009

DoD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom Aug 1st.

Lance Cpl. Gregory A. Posey, 22, of Knoxville, Tenn., and Lance Cpl. Jonathan F. Stroud, 20, of Cashion, Okla., died July 30 of wounds suffered while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Posey was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Stroud was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

New Active Duty Dental Plan Launched August 1

Active duty service members now have a new dental program that started Aug.1, 2009.

The new Active Duty Dental Program (ADDP) becomes the dental care plan for active duty service members (ADSMs) assigned to locations with no access to a military dental facility. ADDP is also for service members referred by their dental treatment facility (DTF) to the civilian network for specialty care or due to unavailability of timely DTF appointments.

TRICARE Prime Remote enrollees–ADSMs with duty stations and residences more than 50 miles from a military dental facility–are eligible for ADDP. Reserve and National Guard members activated for more than 30 consecutive days on federal orders and who live more than 50 miles from a military dental facility are also eligible for ADDP on their activation date.

ADSMs who live in remote locations, but work within 50 miles of a dental treatment facility will continue to be seen at a DTF.

Of the more than 81,000 dental claims filed each year by ADSMs, approximately 31 percent of them come from service members living and working in remote locations. In the past, the Military Medical Support Office of the TRICARE Management Activity handled remote dental claims and referrals from DTFs. United Concordia, Inc., will now handle these claims and referrals through the new ADDP under a contract awarded in September 2008.

ADSMs using the ADDP will be able to take advantage of United Concordia’s network of dentists and specialists. No enrollment is required.

“United Concordia will establish an extensive dental provider network covering the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands,” said Navy Capt. Robert Mitton, TMA dental program director. “TRICARE wants to ensure a high level of beneficiary satisfaction as well as controlling costs.”

Letters and brochures are being mailed to ADSMs in remote locations to inform them of the new ADDP program. To download the brochure, click the dental section under the appropiate region on the TRICARE Smart site at http://www.tricare.mil/tricaresmart.

Learn more about dental plans and getting care at http://www.addp-ucci.com and http://www.tricare.mil/dental.
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DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Johnny R. Polk, 39, of Gulfport, Miss., died July 25 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by an anti-tank grenade on July 23 in Kirkuk, Iraq.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

The Hill, Vol. 22, Aug 3, 2009

It’s not the dirt that makes the hill; it’s the Sledgehammer Soldiers that make the hill.

FRIENDS AND FAMILIES OF THE SLEDGEHAMMER BRIGADE

– We have been receiving and appreciate the tremendous amount of comments from our readers. Due to some technical hurdles, weekly publication of “THE HILL” was postponed until we returned to Fort Benning from our rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. However, we were able to post updates to hammerpao.com and facebook, check them out here. Rest assured that your Hammer PAO staff is hard at work solving the issues to make sure everyone continues to get up to date news, both here on Kelley Hill and while the Brigade is deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Look for a new issue of “THE HILL” this week, covering all the NTC training and activities. Until then, please take 60 seconds to complete the below survey about how you get your news.

- SURVEY – HAMMER PAO WANTS TO KNOW! - NEWS SURVEY The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office wants to hear from YOU. How do you get the brigade news? What would you like to see? Click here to take the 60 second survey. http://twurl.nl/rtnzjh

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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.

- 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.

- 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
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