Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: December, 2015 (11) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 11

December 17, 2015 at 8:23am

BAH to increase in January

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Department of Defense has released the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates. Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase an average of 3.4 percent when the new rates take effect Jan. 1. An estimated $21 billion will be paid to approximately one million Service members. On average, Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase approximately $54 per month.

Continuing to slow the growth in compensation costs, the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing Program expands the member cost-sharing element (out-of-pocket expense). Based on the authority provided in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the cost-sharing element was increased to two percent. The cost-sharing amounts incorporated in the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates vary by grade and dependency status and range from $24 to $57 monthly. This means for 2016, a typical member will need to absorb two percent of the national average housing cost by pay grade. This rate computation change slows the growth of certain military pay and benefits in a fair, responsible, and sustainable way. Even with these nominal changes, the overall military pay and benefits package remains robust and healthy.

Housing cost data are collected annually for over 300 Military Housing Areas in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. An important part of the Basic Allowance for Housing process is the cooperation from the Services and local military housing offices in the data collection effort. Input from local commands is used to determine in what neighborhoods data is collected and to direct the data collection effort towards adequate apartment complexes and individual housing units.

Median current market rent and average utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer) comprise the total housing cost for each military housing area and are included in the Basic Allowance for Housing computation. Total housing costs are developed for six housing profiles (based on dwelling type and number of bedrooms) in each military housing area. Basic Allowance for Housing rates are then calculated for each pay grade, both with and without dependents.

An integral part of the Basic Allowance for Housing program is the provision of individual rate protection to all members. No matter what happens to measured housing costs - including the out-of-pocket cost sharing adjustment noted above, an individual member who maintains uninterrupted Basic Allowance for Housing eligibility in a given location will not see his/her Basic Allowance for Housing rate decrease. This ensures that members who have made long-term commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if the area's housing costs decrease.

The Department is committed to the preservation of a compensation and benefit structure that provides members with a suitable and secure standard of living to sustain a trained, experienced, and ready force now and in the future.

For more information on Basic Allowance for Housing, including the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates and 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rate component breakdown, visit www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bah.cfm

Service members can calculate their BAH payment by using the Basic Allowance for Housing calculator at www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bahCalc.cfm.

Filed under: Benefit,

December 17, 2015 at 10:21am

First woman commandant at West Point

Brig. Gen. Diana Holland's husband, James Holland, Jr., right, and Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister, 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum commander, pin on her stars. Photo credit: Spc. Osama Ayyad

Brig. Gen. Diana Holland has been named the first female commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Holland is serving as the deputy commanding general (support), 10th Mountain Division (Light) on Fort Drum, New York. She will replace Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson, III, who relinquished command of the Corps of Cadets during a ceremony at West Point, Monday. He has been named commanding general, 1st Cavalry Division on Fort Hood, Texas.

Acting Army Secretary Eric Fanning praised the selection of Holland. "Diana's operational and command experiences will bring a new and diverse perspective to West Point's leadership team," Fanning said. "She is absolutely the right person for this critical position."

Holland will assume command as the 76th commandant of cadets during a ceremony scheduled at West Point, Jan. 5.

"I am very honored to be named the next commandant of the U.S. Corps of Cadets," Holland said. "It's a privilege to be part of the team that trains and develops leaders of character for our Army. I look forward to continuing the legacy set by Maj. Gen. Thomson and all previous commandants."

Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, superintendent at West Point, said Holland will be a valuable addition to the team.

"Diana Holland is a superb leader who has a phenomenal reputation throughout the Army," Caslen said. "She is immensely qualified for the job and we look forward to her joining the West Point team as commandant."

Holland graduated from West Point and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers in 1990.

During the first half of this year, Holland served as executive officer to the director of the Army staff at the Pentagon. In July, she was appointed as the deputy commanding general for support, 10th Mountain Division (Light) on Fort Drum. She was the first female deputy commanding general of a light infantry division.

December 17, 2015 at 1:04pm

Could you get kicked out?

U.S. Army photo

Senior noncommissioned officer - or NCO - selection boards and the Qualitative Management Program, or QMP boards - scheduled for the second, third and fourth quarters of this fiscal year, will consider soldiers in all components, E-6 through E-9, for possible involuntary separation.

Notification memos went out today for the March 2016 QMP board, said Ronald Simons, chief of enlisted retirements and separations in U.S. Army Human Resources Command's - or HRC's - Enlisted Transitions Branch, which manages enlisted soldier QMP status.

"It is imperative that the soldier review their AMHRR (Army Military Human Resources Record) because that is the record the selection board is going to be reviewing. If it is not up to date and correct, it is on the soldier to make sure it is up to date and correct," Simons said.

Per Military Personnel - or MILPER- Message 15-394, "Procedures for the FY16 QMP," published Dec. 7, consideration for denial of continued service will occur when an NCO receives one or more occurrences related to poor conduct or performance based on:

  • A general officer's memorandum of reprimand
  • Conviction by court martial or Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 15 punishment
  • Department of the Army Form 2166-8, NCO Evaluation Report, or NCOER, with any of three things:

     1. Relief for cause

     2. Annotation of "no" in Part IV, for (Army values)

     3. Senior rating of 4 (fair) or 5 (poor) in the overall performance or potential
        blocks

  • DA Form 2166-9-2, NCOER for E-6 through E-8 with any of three items:

     1. Relief for cause

     2. Annotation of "did not meet standards" in Part IV, Blocks C, D, E, F, G, H or I

     3. Annotation of "not qualified" in Part V, Block A

  • DA Form 2166-9-3, NCOER for E-9, with any of three items:

     1. Relief for cause

     2. Annotation of "did not meet standards" in Part IV, Blocks A or E

     3. Annotation of "not qualified" in Part V, Block A

  • Academic Evaluation Report, DA Form 1059, indicating NCO Education System, or NCOES, course failure
  • Failure to qualify for promotion consideration to the next pay grade because of non-completion of NCOES for two categories:

     1. E-6 who, on attainment of 48 months' time-in-grade, has not graduated from the
        Advanced Leaders Course

     2. E-7 who, on attainment of 48 months' time-in-grade, has not graduated from the
        Senior Leaders Course

Simons, of HRC's Enlisted Transitions Branch, said that on occasion, people do make mistakes in reviewing a soldier's file.

"If a soldier finds something with the document that identified them for QMP consideration, and they don't feel that it qualifies them for consideration, they should contact us. The reason being that sometimes a soldier will get identified for QMP consideration and during the review of the documents, something might get overlooked - that the document does in fact not qualify for QMP consideration," he said.

"So rather than present mitigating matters to the board president, it is easier to let us know up front. We can review it and if it doesn't qualify them, then we can remove that soldier from consideration."

QMP EXEMPTIONS

There are four categories of NCOs that QMP does not apply to:

a. Those with approved retirements.

b. Those previously retained on active-duty by a QMP board, provided there's no new basis for QMP consideration since the earlier retention determination.

c. E-9s who are within two years of their retention control point.

d. Those who are promotable to the next higher grade, or have been selected to attend the Sergeant Major Course for the purpose of promotion to sergeant major - this is only applicable when the basis for QMP consideration was filed in the soldier's Army Military Human Resource Record and was included in the official file seen by the promotion/training selection board.

December 17, 2015 at 3:23pm

Become a doctor in the Army

For years, they had dreamed of becoming a doctor, a physician or a surgeon, but life had different plans. For a variety of reasons, they wound up enlisting in the military, some as medics, some in non-medical fields, some even made it to special operations. Their careers progressed and they received promotions and awards. That first dream became something to be pursued someday, in another life, after the military.

In the Army, doctors and senior noncommissioned officers also spent years losing their most talented soldiers to that dream, wishing they could offer them more opportunities while on active-duty. The other services agreed, and officials went back and forth, discussing a program that would keep enlisted servicemembers in the military and get them into medical school.

"This is something that I've wanted to see happen since I've been on active-duty," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Althea Green-Dixon, director of recruitment and outreach for the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, or USUHS, and director of the new Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory - or EMDP2 - Program. She also happens to be the former command sergeant major of the Army Medical Department. "There are so many smart, talented enlisted people out there who I knew could be great physicians, but the pathway for them to get to the point of being a competitive medical school applicant is just so very challenging to accomplish."

That's because the courses required to get into medical school - hard science courses with labs - typically aren't offered on the weekends or evenings. Or if they are, they're not conducive to soldiers' lifestyles. If they have to go out in the field for a month or even a week, they'll fall seriously behind. Making it work, Green-Dixon said, is "nearly impossible."

In the new EMDP2 program, which the USUHS runs with George Mason University, qualified servicemembers have the opportunity to devote two years to classroom study and preparing for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. During that time, they don't have to worry about deploying or training. Their sole duty is to be students at Mason's Manassas, Virginia, campus, studying subjects like cell structure, chemistry, physics, calculus and genetics. And that's just the beginning. The first year of the program is filled with those standard pre-med classes (at year's end, students receive a pre-med certificate).

Servicemembers will automatically receive commissions upon acceptance to medical school, although they will need to find the time to attend an officer basic course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, according to Green-Dixon.

For more information about the EMDP2 program, check out a list of frequently asked questions on the USUHS website and watch interviews with the inaugural class. 

December 17, 2015 at 3:34pm

Lancers cook up some esprit de corps

Lt. Col. Michael Baim, serves curry chicken to the sergeants major of 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division during the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Annual Iron Chef Competition. Photo credit: Sgt. Cody Quinn

The smell of cooking chicken permeated the air. Metal bowls clinked and water burbled amid a frantic rush of activity.

Col. Jerry Turner, commander of 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, sliced a mango for his soup recipe with the careful precision of a battle-hardened officer.

Turner, along with all of 2nd Bde, 2nd Inf. Div.'s battalion commanders, participated in the brigade's annual Iron Chef competition Dec. 8, at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Culinary Academy, JBLM.

Col. Turner said we should have an Iron Chef competition," said Sgt. 1st Class Tamara Todman, senior food service operations sergeant with 2nd Bde, 2nd Inf. Div. Brigade Support Battalion. "We said we could do it."

Eight teams of three people, two service personnel and their battalion commander, competed for bragging rights and a trophy. Their mission: prepare a three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée and dessert.

This is the brigade's first year organizing the cooking competition.

"Going forward they'll be thinking you beat me by a hair, but next year I'll get it," Todman said.

Sergeants major relished the opportunity to act as judges for the competition. Eight sergeants major from across the battalions dug into the assorted dishes while scoring them based on taste, presentation, and how well a mystery ingredient (ranging from feta cheese to eggplant) was incorporated into their menus.

"We're coming together for morale and to show what we can do," said Sgt. Danielle Williams, a food service specialist and Columbia, South Carolina, native with 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. "By competing we have more time to enhance the product."

"We wanted to give our food service soldiers an opportunity to work with their commanders and showcase their talents," said Maj. Laura Hutchinson, 2-2 BSB support operations office.

The friendly competition occurred as 2nd Bde, 2nd Inf. Div. prepares for a rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California.

"I just wanted to take the time and thank those who will be feeding us in NTC," Turner said.

The 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment's chicken bacon sandwich with garlic potato wedges, potato bacon soup, and brownie with chocolate sauce earned them the trophy this year. They'll have the opportunity to defend their title of Iron Chef Battalion next year.

"Everyone knows how important chow is," Hutchinson said. "What our cooks do is more than just cooking food. They take pride in what they do."

December 17, 2015 at 3:55pm

Military aviators take off using 1st AMT course

Soldiers and an airman graduated an Aviation Maintenance Technology program, Dec. 10 at a hangar on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Capt. Brian Harris

The Army has come to a point where deployments and major operations overseas are winding down, and as a result, the force as a whole is shrinking with servicemembers transitioning back into the civilian workforce.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord's education center, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, and the South Seattle College, have come together and developed a two-month program to help train and certify military aviators before their service has ended.

South Seattle College's Aviation Maintenance Technology department presented the first graduation class -13 people - with certificates of completion during a ceremony Dec. 10 at a 16th CAB hangar on Gray Army Airfield.

"The positive intersection of teamwork between our military community, business community and transitioning servicemembers is a win-win for everyone and a module for moving forward," said Col. William A. Ryan, III, the 16th CAB commander and guest speaker. "With the commitment of the AMT seminar, we recognize an unmatched example of how we translate the military service and technical skills our servicemembers have to the civilian sector."

The graduating class, which was comprised of active-duty, Reserves, National Guard and Air Force personnel, spent six weeks both strengthening skills they acquired through military training and learning about certain aviation areas normally given to a different military occupation specialty.

"In the unit, we pull an engine off the helicopter and give it to the back shops to fix it. In this course, we have to pull an engine off of an airplane and fix it ourselves," said Sgt. Christopher Kell, a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic with 16th CAB.

Getting the program off the ground took the combination of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Earl Joy, the 16th CAB quality control chief, and William Nolan, the JBLM community service program manager.

"Mr. Joy and myself came together and said ‘let's figure out a whole-meal deal.' We get a school to provide the training and instructor, and we'll find an entity to fund it, which was Camo2Commerce," Nolan said.

Camo2Commerce provides opportunities for career development and jobs to servicemembers transitioning out of JBLM into civilian life in western Washington.

"Normally, I would have to pay out of pocket, even just to test out. Having the opportunity to go through a two-month course for free with other support with travel is great," Kell said. "It's just helping the soldiers transition to get out so much more seamless, so they don't end up in a bad spot later on in life."

The six-week curriculum was developed between Joy and key personnel from South Seattle College, including the course lead instructor, Eric Klevstad.

"One of the benefits of this program is everyone has a different background and we can help train each other," said Sgt. Robert Hellin, a helicopter mechanic with 16th CAB. "I'm mainly an avionics guy and have just a little experience in airframe. We have an airframe guy in our group and he can use his specialties to help train us. In return, I can help him with avionics."

"These guys are excellent mechanics and students," Klevstad said. "Their dedication and focus to learning is some of the best I've seen. They're very professional."

Nolan and South Seattle College also coordinated with five major civilian aviation corporations to guarantee job interviews with every person in the seminar.

"It's almost like we don't have a choice but to get a job. Everyone is treating this as ‘we're going to get us a job,' which is very motivating," said Spc. Michael Mahan.

With a new military-to-civilian transition program established for aviators stationed in the Pacific Northwest, servicemembers have a new hope and less stress about the next phase of their lives.

"I don't think we could have asked for anything better. This is one of the best schools for an AMT program in Washington because of all the tools, various engines and aircraft they have," Hellin said. "It's nice to see a program like this dedicated for us."

December 18, 2015 at 10:28am

FREE cyber training certification for veterans

TACOMA, Washington, December 9, 2015 – The quest for critically needed cyber talent brings a world leader in information security training and certification to Tacoma. SANS Institute, in collaboration with local nonprofit RallyPoint/6 (RP/6), Washington’s largest nonprofit, one-stop resource center for transitioning military members and their families, announces the launch of the SANS VetSuccess Immersion Academy in Tacoma.  

This six to eight week accelerated information security program offers intense immersion training for veterans living in Tacoma and nearby metro areas with an interest and aptitude in cybersecurity.  The program is free to qualified candidates and is valued at up to $30,000 per participant depending on curriculum selected.  Applications are being accepted now through December 23, 2015.

“One of the greatest threats to information security is the dramatic shortage of cyber talent in the U.S. and around the globe, explained David Brown, Director of CyberTalent, SANS Institute. “Veterans offer a unique set of skills making them well suited for cybersecurity jobs. Their training, discipline and integrity are exactly what is required to succeed in this field.  We are thrilled to partner with RP/6 to offer our transitioning military men and women the best cybersecurity training available. We want to honor our veterans’ service with a program to help them develop technical skills, find great jobs, and build rewarding careers.”

“Each day we help Washington State service members, veterans and their families transition to civilian life,” noted Kylee Durant, COO, RP/6.  “Finding employment is among the greatest challenges they face when returning home. The ability to translate their military skills to a civilian environment is a barrier many find difficult to break through.  VetSuccess is a simple, direct path to rewarding and lucrative careers in cybersecurity.”

 

Interested veterans must qualify by demonstrating aptitude and skills using the SANS CyberTalent Enhanced Assessment and participate in interviews with executives from SANS and top employers.  Accepted participants will receive industry leading curriculum and hands-on learning taught by expert SANS faculty.  Graduates earn GIAC certifications – recognized by employers around the world.  SANS, using its professional and corporate network developed over the past 25 years, will coordinate introductions between graduates and leading employers throughout the state and the country.   

 

Key dates:

  • Applications due: December 23, 2015
  • Course begins:  January 11, 2016
  • Graduation on May 15, 2016

 

For more information, interested veterans can visit sans.org/cybertalent/immersion-academy or email immersionacademy@sans.org

About RallyPoint/6

RP/6 specializes in connecting service members, veterans and their families to valuable resources so they can develop a clear plan to take charge of their transition from military service to civilian life.  Founded by two veterans who possess 30 years of combined service in the U.S. Army, the organization is Washington State’s first-of-its-kind, “one-stop-shop” answer to comprehensive resources in the private-sector.  RP/6 engages and develops relationships with public and private partners within the military and veteran service provider ecosystem to provide access to resources and services focused on education, housing, finance, legal, family support, VA benefits and health and wellness issues.

 About SANS Institute

The SANS Institute was established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization. SANS is the most trusted and, by far, the largest provider of training and certification to professionals at governments and commercial institutions world-wide. Renowned SANS instructors teach over 50 different courses at more than 200 live cyber security training events as well as online. GIAC, an affiliate of the SANS Institute, validates employee qualifications via 27 hands-on, technical certifications in information security. The SANS Technology Institute, a regionally accredited independent subsidiary, offers master's degrees in cyber security. SANS offers a myriad of free resources to the InfoSec community including consensus projects, research reports, and newsletters; it also operates the Internet's early warning system--the Internet Storm Center. At the heart of SANS are the many security practitioners, representing varied global organizations from corporations to universities, working together to help the entire information security community. (www.SANS.org)

 

Filed under: Jobs,

December 22, 2015 at 10:33am

Big changes coming to Lewis museum

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (Dec. 18, 2015) -- Big changes are coming in 2016 for the Lewis Army Museum.

The museum has a new director, curator and is receiving some much needed funding to help usher the nearly 100-year-old building into the 21st century. In addition, easier access for visitors is also on the list.

"We have a lot going on and we're very excited about it," said Erik Flint, Lewis Army Museum director.

NEW LEADERSHIP

Flint took the role of director in July, but he has a long history with the museum. He's served as a volunteer while simultaneously serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and working to obtain his doctorate in history from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Flint took on the job at the same time Heidi Pierson was named the new curator.

"When Heidi and I got together and started talking about what our vision was for the museum, our primary mission was education and outreach," Flint said. "We really wanted to look at reaching out and making education a big priority."

This vision includes integrating the museum into the Army education system. Changes to the exhibits will allow service members and the public to see the logistics of past battles in order to learn from those circumstances.

"It's really making it, not just a walk-in and look at a bunch of neat stuff, but how can Soldiers be professionally developed by coming into the museum," Flint said.

MUSEUM MAKEOVER

In order to make the museum an educational piece, a lot of work has to be done to preserve the artifacts and library. This type of revamping isn't cheap. The museum has consistently operated on a shoestring budget -- until now.

"Historically, museums have worked for whatever installation they were on," Flint said. "Now, all the museums in the Army are getting reorganized."

The museum leadership will now answer directly to the Centers for Military History in Washington, D.C.

Flint said the Army is looking to the museums on installations across the country and asking, 'What do you do for us?'

The new mission for Army museums is not just preserving the Army history, but also educating and providing value to service members, veterans and the public. To help them accomplish that mission, the Centers for Military History has increased the museum's funding.

"Our budget has gone up, which is really unusual in the government," Flint said.

This means big changes for the Lewis Army Museum. In the next 12 to 15 months, the museum will undergo a $3 million exhibit overhaul.

"A professional museum design contractor was brought in (and) took a look at the museum," Flint said. "With our input and Center of Military Histories, they completed a plan."

A professional exhibit construction firm from Portland, Ore., will build new physical exhibits and cases.

"We're going to be brought into the 21st century with the level and quality of materials and technology," Flint said.

Some of the renovations will include a research room that Flint said he hopes will entice the public.

"We want to be accessible to university students, to community college students, to high school students, middle school students and Soldiers," he said.

VOLUNTEERS WANTED

Flint's vision to offer more to the public is going to require a lot of help. Fortunately, the museum has some longtime friends willing to pitch in.

The Friends of the Fort Lewis Military Museum is a nonprofit organization created to keep the history of the U.S. Army alive by supporting the museum and its programs. Volunteers do a lot to help the museum, such as running The Cannon Shop -- the museum's gift store.

"All the profits (volunteers) raise are used to directly support the museum," Flint said.

But when the renovations are completed on the museum, Flint said he'll need their assistance in even more ways. One thing volunteers are currently working on is reorganizing the museum library.

"We have an enormous archive of printed material, art and maps that right now aren't publicly accessible," Flint said. "We're a federal institution, and technically what we have is a public archive. One of the big challenges we have is to find out what we have."

Flint also needs to digitize the materials and make them available to the public. He's hoping to acquire more volunteers to help with the effort.

"(When) these new exhibits are done, we are also going to need volunteer educators who can come and lead these educational events," Flint said. "They're the ones who are our primary docents."

So Flint, the nonprofit and the museum staff are counting on more people to step up and help the museum reach the masses.

To learn more about the volunteer group, visit fortlewismuseum.com.

Filed under: Joint Base Lewis-McChord,

December 23, 2015 at 2:54pm

1 in 20 on sleep meds

Photo credit: 8th Army

One in 20 active-duty soldiers are on sleep medications, according to the Army Office of the Surgeon General - or OTSG - "Health of the Force" report released this month.

"These soldiers are less likely to be medically ready to deploy," the report cautions.

Lt. Col. Jacob Collen, a sleep-medicine physician, who also specializes in pulmonary issues on Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, said physicians usually prescribe Ambien to soldiers suffering from insomnia.

He and others spoke at the OTSG-sponsored Performance Triad Sleep Summit, Dec. 9.

Ambien - a commonly prescribed brand of zolpidem - is a sedative and it's also known as a hypnotic, said Lt. Col. Ingrid Lim, sleep lead for Performance Triad, OTSG.

While it does work in getting soldiers to fall asleep, zolpidem "may impair your thinking or reactions," she said. It's something "you don't want to over prescribe."

COGNITIVE THERAPY

Collen said that since there are only 24 sleep specialists in the Army - serving some one million troops - the attending physician may not realize that besides Ambien, there are non-prescriptive treatments that are effective for sleep issues.

Currently, the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTi, he said.

In addition, BBTi, or brief behavioral therapy for insomnia, is not only effective with sleeping problems, but can also be used with patients who have medical and psychiatric conditions and it can be delivered in a primary care setting, Lim said.

CBTi treatments last several weeks and BBTi less, she said. Both involve encouraging change to thought patterns and behaviors that are the underlying causes contributing to poor sleep.

While CBTi and BBTi are evidence-based and clinically proven to be effective, there are, unfortunately, "watered-down versions" of those therapies that are out there, Collen said. These pseudo-versions cherry-pick from the manual rather than using the full approach.

"We want soldiers to get the rigorous, evidence-based version," he said. "It would be better to have no treatment at all than to get the wrong one.

"There are a lot of dissatisfied people who've taken the watered-down version," he continued. "When they find it doesn't work, they tell others about their experience and they quit going to the MTF" - or medical treatment facility.

The solution, Collen said, is to provide more physicians - not just the 24 sleep specialists - training in CBTi and BBTi. Mobile training teams could be used to educate healthcare providers, including integrated behavioral health consultants.

SLEEP APNEA

Lim said that besides insomnia, the second sleep-related issue soldiers have is obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops and then starts in cycles. She said the treatment for that is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP device, which pumps oxygen into the nasal passage to restore normal breathing.

INADEQUATE SLEEP

Lim said the third sleep-related issue soldiers have is inadequate sleep, meaning less than seven or eight hours.

The Health of the Force report notes that one-third of soldiers get five hours or less of sleep per night and 62 percent of soldiers get less than seven. The report lists possible effects of inadequate sleep:

  • Increased musculoskeletal injuries
  • Risk of behavioral health disorders
  • Greater susceptibility to illnesses
  • Likelihood of developing symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress

And finally, the report notes that "individuals who routinely get five to six hours of sleep perform much like a person with a blood alcohol content of 0.08."

PROACTIVE MEASURES

Lim said that besides getting medical help, there are steps soldiers can take themselves.

Researchers who study sleep, activity and nutrition - the three prongs of what the Army calls Performance Triad - have found that all three interact with each other, meaning that a weakness in one negatively impacts the others, she said.

Limiting junk food and not taking caffeinated beverages before going to sleep are two examples of how to positively impact sleep, she said.

If soldiers are not eating right or exercising, sleep quality suffers, so they might want to change what they're doing, she said.

Lim then offered another suggestion: ArmyFit.

There are a lot of good health and fitness apps out there, but a good starting place is ArmyFit, a free resource offered by the Army that can be accessed after taking the Global Assessment Tool 2.0, she said. Army civilians and their families can also access it.

The website directs soldiers to helpful resources within the physical, spiritual, emotional, family and social resilience categories, as well as Performance Triad, said Capt. Kristin Saboe, who oversees the site's content.

CAUTIONARY NOTES

The Health of the Force report posted some dire warnings concerning poor sleep.

"In training and on the battlefield, inadequate sleep impairs essential abilities such as reaction times, the ability to detect and engage the enemy, and squad tactic coordination."

The report goes on to note that "despite mission degradation resulting from sleepiness, a culture of suboptimal sleep and a perception that lack of sleep is ‘the Army way' prevails in the force."

Finally, Lim said, "sleep needs to be a soldier's resource like ammo. Are you going to go across the line without adequate fuel for your vehicle, ammo and food? Why are we going to cross the (line of departure) without sleep?" 

December 23, 2015 at 3:49pm

Doc comforts patients through music

Capt. Edwin Choi, a family medicine resident, plays his guitar on occasion to comfort patients. Photo credit: Suzanne Ovel

The patient was just too agitated to stay in his bed. A World War II veteran with dementia kept changing out of his gown and trying to leave the inpatient floor.

Capt. Edwin Choi, the doctor on call at Madigan Army Medical Center, couldn't give him a sedative - it wouldn't react well with the man's dementia - but what he could do was play the guitar for him. So he spent an hour strumming classical music tunes as well as the songs of John Denver, the Beatles, the Eagles, and the Penguins, until the 82-year-old veteran fell asleep.

"I think music in itself is therapeutic," said Choi, who taught himself to play guitar in medical school.

While he helped calm down the patient and got him to stay in his bed, Choi also helped the nursing staff, since the patient in his agitated state was taking care away from other patients on the floor.

"I personally, along with all our staff, was so incredibly impressed and touched that a physician would take time out of his busy night to help a severely demented and scared gentlemen fall asleep," said 1st Lt. Amy Davis, a clinical staff nurse on 6 North.

That night was not the first time the family medicine resident paused to bring some compassion to patients through music. During an intensive care unit - or ICU - rotation, one of Choi's patients was taken off of prolonged life support. Although his family said goodbye to him, the patient was alone during the last few hours of his life. Choi asked if he would mind if he played guitar for him, so he sat in his ICU room for two hours playing Christian, classical and popular music.

"I just played guitar for him until he fell asleep and passed," Choi said.

He would pick up his ever-ready guitar a few more times during his residency here, including once when in the ICU, he met a young girl with down syndrome and her parents.

"It's hard, I think, for kids," he said.

Choi actually got his inspiration to go into the field of medicine, when in high school, he went on a children's ministry trip. 

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