Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: December, 2011 (80) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 80

December 1, 2011 at 6:05am

FROM ARMY TIMES ...

Selected majors of the basic line branches and health services branches will be considered for active-duty promotion to lieutenant colonel by boards that convene at Fort Knox, Ky., in February.

Basic-branch officers promoted to major from April 1, 2004, to Sept. 30, 2006, will be in the primary zone of consideration, as will Medical Corps and Dental Corps majors with dates of rank in fiscal 2007.

Nurse Corps, Medical Service Corps and Medical Specialist Corps officers promoted to major Oct. 2, 2005, through Sept. 1, 2006, also will qualify for primary-zone consideration, along with Veterinary Corps majors with dates of rank of Aug. 2, 2005, through July 1, 2006.

Board dates, officer evaluation report submission deadlines and My Board File availability dates are:

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40,000 troops to leave Afghanistan

New Facebook page for JBLM singles

And a Facebook page for JBLM Families.

December 1, 2011 at 6:10am

Senate lets chaplains opt out of gay weddings

FROM ARMY TIMES...

The Senate voted Wednesday to ensure military chaplains are not forced to perform gay marriages if they oppose that for reasons of conscience.

However, wording of the measure could make this a more far-reaching piece of legislation. It makes no specific reference to gay marriage, but instead says that a chaplain, "who as a matter of conscience or moral principle does not wish to perform a marriage, may not be required to do so." That could apply not only to gay marriage but to other situations that might involve conscience and principles.

The chief sponsor of the legislation, however, has been clear about the intent.

"This amendment will allow the chaplains of our armed forces to maintain the freedom of conscience necessary to serve their nation and their religion without conflict," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. "Protections for military chaplains should be guaranteed in any policy changes being implemented."

The measure was approved by voice vote and with no debate as an amendment to the Senate's version of the 2012 defense authorization bill.

Wicker's amendment is a more moderate approach to the issue of gay marriage and the military than taken by the House of Representatives in its version of the defense spending bill. The House bill would flatly prohibit chaplains from performing any same sex-marriage. Where Wicker's amendment passed with no discussion as part of a package of non-controversial amendments, the House was divided on a 236-184 vote in July.

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40,000 troops to leave Afghanistan

New Facebook page for JBLM singles

And a Facebook page for JBLM Families.

December 1, 2011 at 6:13am

Elite Marine Role in Afghanistan key to US Exit

FROM AP...

PUZEH, Afghanistan -- In this dusty village in southern Afghanistan a small team of elite U.S. Marines is nudging Afghans toward rejection of the Taliban insurgency, a mission that is emerging as central to the U.S. and NATO exit strategy but is little known beyond the rugged brown hills of the upper Helmand River Valley.

Sixty-three U.S. troops, led by a team of bearded special operations Marines, operate from a small compound in the center of remote Puzeh, where they mingle with villagers and confer with local power brokers in an effort to create the beginnings of a homegrown militia that could eventually stand up to the Taliban.

Time is running out on the wider counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan, with U.S. and NATO combat operations scheduled to end in 2014 and the Taliban showing little interest in peace talks. In Puzeh the special operations Marines, working with Afghans, are at the forefront of a strategy designed to undermine the appeal of the Taliban as U.S. troops begin leaving by the thousands next year.

In Puzeh they have only seven men trained for a local force, with 19 others to come. It's been slow going, but the Marines, who could not be quoted by name under ground rules meant to shield their identities as members of the secretive U.S. Special Operations Command, said they are optimistic.

It's risky business in a volatile area, but on a brief visit here on Thanksgiving Day, the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James F. Amos, encouraged the special operations Marines, praised their courage and marveled at the dozens of young boys scampering up and down the town's main dirt road.

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40,000 troops to leave Afghanistan

New Facebook page for JBLM singles

And a Facebook page for JBLM Families.

December 1, 2011 at 6:18am

Military's Brain-Testing Program A Debacle

BY NPR...

The U.S. military has spent more than $42 million to test every service member's brain to find out who suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But an investigation by NPR and ProPublica has found that military leaders are refusing to carry out the testing program as Congress ordered. Partly as a result, the program that was supposed to fix things has hardly helped any of the troops.

On a recent morning, four dozen soldiers who were about to be deployed to Afghanistan filed into a squat wooden building at Fort Lewis, in Washington state. For the next 20 minutes they would sit at rows of laptop computers clicking through the automated neural psychological assessment metrics computer program known as ANAM.

Felix Rios, a contractor with the Office of the Surgeon General, helps administer the ANAM test at Ft. Lewis, in Washington state. Enlarge Joaquin Sapien/ProPublica

Felix Rios, a contractor with the Office of the Surgeon General, helps administer the ANAM test at Ft. Lewis, in Washington state.

Congress ordered the military four years ago to test all service members for cognitive brain functions at least twice - before they go to war, and again when they return.

"One of the best ways to tell if something's affecting you is to know how you were before it happened. That's what you do here with ANAM. You'll take ANAM, and it's going to be your baseline," says Felix Rios, a contractor with the Office of the Surgeon General who helps administer the test.

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40,000 troops to leave Afghanistan

New Facebook page for JBLM singles

And a Facebook page for JBLM Families.

December 2, 2011 at 6:02am

JBLM seeks end to Navy dominance

Quarterback David Sadlemyer and his Army teammates will try to end Navy’s recent flag football domination when the two rivals meet Saturday at Silverdale Stadium.

In today's joint-service culture, Army green and Navy blue might not be as competitive as they once were ... unless you add a football.

For the 12th time in as many years, with support from Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord will face off against sea service foes from Navy Region Northwest in the Army-Navy flag football game, maybe better known as the Puget Sound Classic. The game will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at Silverdale Stadium on the West Sound.

Rear Admiral Douglas Biesel, Navy Region Northwest commander, said whether it's the local rivalry or the 120-year old college football classic between the service academies, he knows Army-Navy football history is on the blue side.

"Navy has won seven out of 11 games so far, and we are looking forward to making it eight," he said. "Having athletic talent is one thing. Our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen also demonstrate extraordinary teamwork, intelligence and heart."

With respect for the admiral, Col. Thomas Brittain, JBLM commander, said the Army's appreciation for their cohorts in blue won't get in the way of a victory for his Soldiers in the annual grudge match.

"This is Army's year to sink Navy," Brittain said, and he plans to be in attendance to see it happen. "We have great respect for our outstanding Navy brothers and sisters here in the Pacific Northwest, and we're thankful for the courage and professionalism they demonstrate every day. With that said, I can't wait to eat roasted Navy goat after we win."

Lonnie Meredith, a coach for the Army team, has been affiliated with this Army-Navy game since 2001, when he was a Soldier here. He said Brittain's confidence in the players isn't unfounded.

"These Soldiers hustle and go all out," he said. "Nobody is going to be able to fault their effort and energy."

His team has worked hard on fundamentals and execution, Meredith said, and the Soldiers will need to dig deep for a victory in Navy country tomorrow.

"With deployments last year we have a few returnees, but not many from last year's team," he said. "But that's the challenge of coaching. A lot of these guys are young Soldiers; they desire to play, and they want an opportunity to represent their service and compete. They're going to get that chance."

While the score will be kept and the history will continue, Biesel said he felt in the big picture of military service, the victors won't be who scores more points tomorrow, but instead who "gave it their all," an ideal that is not service specific.

"After the game, we are all part of the joint military service, working side by side in defense of our country," he said. "I encourage everyone to come on out to the game and support their favorite team."

Brittain added that after the dust settles, the tradition of the game will be remembered far longer than any final score. His senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Barnes, who also predicted a road victory for the Army squad, said while pride in a military team is a great thing to have, pride in America's military team trumps all the rest.

"Over the last four years, I have been privileged to witness this tradition and to see our Soldiers, who are part of the world's greatest ground forces, and our Sailors, themselves part of the world's greatest navy, clash in the Puget Sound classic," he said. "In the end, we are all part of one team - our United States armed forces."

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December 2, 2011 at 8:52am

New quarters renew morale

Photo by Sgt. James Hale Spc. Kyle Wilhelmi and Pvt. Murphy Edison, soldiers from B Company, 3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, enjoy the common area in their new barracks room on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Nov. 28. The new barracks has been designed

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Today's Army barracks are much different than the days where two soldiers lived in one room with bunk beds and foot lockers and shared one bathroom on each floor.

Soldiers from the 3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, who reside in the barracks, moved into a new barracks building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Nov. 28. The 3-38th is one of many units who are moving their soldiers to improve the quality of life in today's Army.

"The transition was pretty easy," said 1st Sgt. Benjamin Boyce, 3-38. "We started and finished moving yesterday."

Some of the improvements in the new barracks include each room having its own stove, washer, dryer and a full bathroom. Two soldiers share a kitchen and bathroom common area but have their own sleeping area with a walk in closet.

"Having a bathroom right here and not having to walk all the way down the hall in the middle of the night is my favorite part of the new room," said Spc. Kyle Wilhelmi, a gunner for B Company, 3-38th.

The 3-38th's old barracks had community bathrooms, showers, kitchen and communal areas. Now, soldiers have all of these amenities in their own rooms. This makes their living arrangement similar to living in an apartment. This change is intended to increase the morale and quality of life for soldiers in the Army.

"This levels the playing field between the quality of life of married and single soldiers," said Sgt. Ross Downey, team leader, B Company, 3-38th. "I think this is the Army pursuing its promise to raise the quality of life for the single soldiers."

The 3-38th's new barracks is one of six new buildings in the complex. Over the past few years, new barracks have been built in several different locations across Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Along with the modern living conditions, the new buildings are environmentally friendly. They are designed to save power and built with Eco friendly materials.

"It's good for the soldiers to live more like adults to prepare them more for when they get out," said Downey. "The only thing they're missing now is paying the bills."

December 3, 2011 at 7:25am

Traumatic injury pay now covers genital trauma

FROM ARMY TIMES...

Veterans whose genitals have been severely injured as a result of trauma are now eligible for a lump-sum payment under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury program, or TSGLI.

For males, the loss of one testicle would result in a $25,000 payment; of both, $50,000. The anatomical loss of a penis - or damage to the organ so severe it results in the complete loss of the ability to have sex - a $50,000 payment.

Women who lose external sexual organs, their uterus or vaginal canal would receive $50,000. Loss of one ovary would result in a $25,000 payment; of both, $50,000.

The VA announced the changes to the TSGLI schedule of losses Dec. 2. The change is due in part to the increase of these injuries among Afghanistan combat veterans, who conduct foot patrols and are vulnerable to attack from trailside improvised explosive devices.

Since 2009, the number of troops arriving at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center with major injuries to their reproductive organs nearly doubled from 4.8 percent to 9.1 percent. Since 2001, 570 service members have sustained these traumas, known as genitourinary injury, according to Defense Department statistics.

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December 3, 2011 at 7:28am

How the pending defense cuts could play out

FROM ARMY TIMES...

Congress' failure to make a deficit deal could cut the number of soldiers by up to 25 percent, leaving the smallest Army since just before World War II.

That, in turn, means you stand a good chance of deploying more often. You will do so with older gear, weapons and vehicles, and your pay and benefits - which are protected right now - are likely to see changes in the near future. For military leaders, the choice comes down to cutting soldiers, cutting programs or reducing pay and benefits.

The "doomsday" scenario predicted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is here.

The 12-member so-called supercommittee had until Nov. 21 to overcome partisan politics and create a deficit reduction plan. An automatic cut of $600 billion to defense spending over 10 years went into effect when the deadline passed. These cuts are on top of $450 billion in cuts already ordered by the Obama administration.

Some analysts and lawmakers remain confident that Congress will work out a solution before the painful cuts kick off. Lawmakers from both sides have said they will introduce legislation to block automatic defense cuts.

Others lack such confidence. Legislation will have to go through bipartisan committees, pass the Senate and House, then be signed by the president - and this during a hotly contested election year, when President Obama has vowed to block legislation that would exempt the Pentagon. Still other analysts feel such massive cuts are exactly what the national budget needs to get back in the black.

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THERE'S MORE...

Win a prime rib dinner

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December 3, 2011 at 8:13am

Iraq withdrawal focus of December's Soldiers magazine

December's issue of Soldiers magazine features seven stories tied to the transition of U.S. military forces as they exit Iraq.

It's the second issue of Soldiers magazine available only online, as the the hard copy versions of all four service flagship magazines were discontinued in October due to budget issues and an industry trend toward online media.

Carrie McLeroy, Soldiers magazine editor-in-chief, said if Soldiers aren't aware of all the ins and outs of what it takes to leave Iraq after eight years, they should be after reading the comprehensive stories by Army News Service reporter C. Todd Lopez, Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Piper, and Spc. Anthony T. Zane of the 362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Lopez opens the December issue with an insightful piece on the Office of Security Cooperation and how America will maintain its presence and partnership with Iraq after her Soldiers have gone home. The military equipping and training missions are the two largest functions that will transfer from military to civilian leadership by this month's close.

In "Partners for Peace," Lopez writes of the reconstruction efforts which have resulted in an estimated 70,000 projects at a cost of $58 billion to bring Iraq's infrastructure into the 21st century. Notable projects include electricity and power plants, water treatment projects, bridge construction and transportation systems along with public works projects including schools, hospitals, railroads and airport construction.

In his third story, Lopez delves into the ability of the Iraqis to handle their own security and how the country has made a turn-around and seen IED, sniper and rocket attacks fall to around 400 a month compared to 1,600 monthly attacks back in 2007.

McLeroy said the fourth story, also by Lopez, concerns itself with a responsible transition and coordinated efforts to ensure a successful transfer of property and facilities.

"I think people believe when we leave we just give our gear to the Iraqis, but that's not how it works," she said. "As you'll read in the story, some equipment is repositioned, sent to Kuwait, reset, then sent to Afghanistan; some equipment will come back to the states..."

Tied to the equipment transition, Spc. Anthony T. Zane writes about the movement and processing of Soldiers' equipment and personal belongings across the Iraq and Kuwait borders and the importance of cleanliness inspections to the ecosystem in the U.S. homeland.

In his story on the Iraqi NCO Academy, Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Piper, Operations NCO for Defense Media Activity-Army Production, writes about the academy at Camp Taji. There, Iraqi soldiers arrive with little knowledge, but through an 80-percent hands-on training philosophy, they leave the academy better prepared to lead and train.

Rounding out the December issue, Lopez writes in "Tributes to the fallen come home" about the memorials left to America's fallen -- the names of some of the 4,500 Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen who died in Iraq painted on T-walls, plywood signs and plaques -- that will be sent to the U.S.

See http://www.army.mil/Soldiers for the complete December issue. Fan Soldiers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SoldiersMag, or follow @SoldiersMag on Twitter.

THERE'S MORE...

Win a prime rib dinner

New quarters on JBLM

Seven things to do to make the holidays bright

December 3, 2011 at 8:17am

New war game developed to study Army's impact

Games mean serious business at the Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center at White Sands Missile Range with the development of a new war game that will help evaluate the social impact of Army operations.
The Irregular Warfare Tactical War Game, being developed at TRAC WSMR, will be used to assess how Army tactical operations impact the population of a host country. The game system is designed to focus on the tactical level of a battalion sized unit conducting operations in an irregular war. Keeping the game real, the players use the backdrop of Afghanistan, with maps, objectives, operations and other elements all based on information collected from real world sources. In development since 2008, the Irregular Warfare Tactical War Game has already been used by several organizations to conduct some initial exercises with testing of the fully functional prototype that was expected to be finished in November. "The purpose of this event this October is to prove that we can produce analytic products to support a study," said Paul Works, chief of methods and research with TRAC Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. If all goes well, analyses using the war game are expected to begin in April.
Building the game itself required TRAC to assemble new resources that it previously didn't have. While TRAC had the ability to create basic social interaction models for the game, the details of how those models were to interact with each other weren't there. "We stood up a whole new organization called the Complex Operations Data Development Activity, hired a number of social scientists, the first social scientists hired within TRAC in 20 years, and those folks are dedicated to developing what we call human social-cultural behavioral data," Works said. It was this data that, when applied to the game models, allows them to represent the Afghan public and generate the information about how Army operations affect them.
The game, with its large scale simulated world and focus on the tactical unit, is currently being used to analyze if giving greater intelligence access to a company commander will help the company and battalion level units perform better and win local support faster and more effectively. To what level intelligence data needs to be disseminated has been a point of discussion across the Army because the intelligence needs of a company commander are typically specific and tactical in nature. When going against an irregular enemy like the Taliban however, some Army leaders suspect that providing better access to more intelligence could allow the company commanders to make decisions with a more positive impact on the local population. "We're pulling information out of the game to determine the differences between the two cases. How do the company commanders perform, are they better at understanding (the enemy) or identifying what they are doing and then interdicting that? Then because our model is social as well, how does that impact the population? Does having this new capability and intelligence allow us to change how the population sees the world or us?" said Maj. Patrick Workman, senior military analyst with the Studies Support Directorate of TRAC WSMR.
The Army is currently evaluating other tools at WSMR intended to get more intelligence to the company commander, making TRAC's work in the field all that more relevant to the Army's current goals.
The game includes a massive amount of play options and features that bring into account the many various elements that would play a part in a modern conflict. "The way the war game is set up, we have a number of cells effectively competing with each other to influence the population," Workman said. Player groups include the typical "blue" force, the players controlling the US battalion; a "red" force, with players that control Taliban forces and criminal elements like the drug trade in the game; and a "green" force, whose players control the indigenous forces like local military and police. Filling out the game world is an "operational wrap around" group that handles larger scale portions of the game like blue force brigade level operations and Taliban regional operations.
Adding more layers to the game are models and simulations that represent other aspects of the modern battlefield. Media reports are simulated and their affect on the population is factored in. Social media is also a factor with the simulation tracking the way that information on a social network passes to friends and family and not directly to the general public like traditional media.
A leadership simulation called "Nexus" is also included in the game. This complex simulation contains the different leadership characters that an Army leader in the field would have to interact with, both directly and indirectly, when conducting operations. Village elders, government officials, and other important individuals can influence a population in different ways, and the factors in these differences and how they interact with each other and the player's choices. "It gives our players a way to interact with them, to get them to pass out messages that are supportive, or that may not be supportive if the leader doesn't care for whoever is interacting with them," said Workman.
Forces and personalities aren't the only thing in the system; essential services and infrastructure are also in play. Electricity, water, medical services, even laws and legal cues are incorporated into the game as well. These elements can play a huge role in a population's outlook and opinions, as the availability of these services increases or decreases. "We start our war game with services at a specific level and then players are able to interact or attack and decrease those capabilities or improve those capabilities in order to help the population get whatever it is they need," said Workman. Just because a player chooses to take action regarding a particular service doesn't mean it will turn out as expected. Workman explained that, just like in the real world, in the game it's possible that the contractor hired to improve infrastructure will take the money and run instead of doing the work.
Bringing all these complex interactions together into one comprehensible game is the Planning Adjudication and Visualization Environment. PAVE is a custom software package made specifically to handle large scale simulations like the Irregular Warfare Tactical War Game. PAVE takes all the different actions of each player and system within the game and turns them into interactions, generating and displaying the effects those actions have on the other players and systems in the game world. "It's the center of our models, so the players interact with it, then it reaches out to whatever model we are using to inform it and it brings the information back in to present it to the players," Workman said.
While the current games being run use Afghanistan as the country being simulated, the game is designed to be able to import data on other regions as well, allowing the game to be used to evaluate possible operations anywhere in the world.
The Irregular Warfare Tactical War Game, though comprehensive and functional, is still a system in development with lots of improvements still in the works. At this time, sections of the game are still played out on a table top, where players draw cards and move pieces around a board. Furthermore, the game requires a large number of people to play, with the minimum required number of players and operators topping out around 40. Eventually, TRAC plans for the entire game to run out of a computer system, and reduce the minimum number of players and operators down to eight.

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Win a prime rib dinner

New quarters on JBLM

Seven things to do to make the holidays bright

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