Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: May, 2016 (11) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 11

May 5, 2016 at 2:02pm

593rd ESC soldiers compete for Best Warrior title

Sgt. Jared Boynton, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 508th Military Police Battalion, 593rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), works to assemble an M240B machine gun during the Best Warrior Competition, April 27. Photo credit: Sgt. Uriah Walker

Sgt. Oscar Gomez-Lopez, 508th Military Police Battalion, and Spc. Joshua Diaz, 571st Military Police Company, rose above their peers during the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command's 2016 Best Warrior Competition, April 25-29.

The competitors, from 62nd Medical Brigade, 42nd MP Brigade, and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 593rd ESC, tested their bodies and minds against their peers through nine physical events, a written exam and a board appearance.

Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Rocco, 593rd ESC command sergeant major, explained that competitions like this are important because it pits the best soldiers against each other.

"We're picking the best of the best," said Rocco. "That's why I made the competition hard; it's going to separate the ones who want it versus the ones who don't."

Each of the competitors shined brighter than the rest during certain events - Diaz was the first to cross the finish line for the two-mile run and Sgt. Julio De La Cruz, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, rolled up his competition in the octagon during Army combatives.

De La Cruz's plan was to "take one challenge at a time. Once you're done, move on to the next challenge until it's over."

Several soldiers, while very comfortable completing events that highlighted their strengths, expressed concern with the land navigation event. Spc. David Diaz, 508th MP Detention Battalion, was one who looked forward to it.

The 508th soldier's experience for land navigation is unique. As a certified diver, he uses his navigation skills under water as confidently as he does on land. His pace count and navigation during the daytime course put him within 10 meters of his first point.

"A lot of these tasks are tasks that I've been doing repeatedly or teaching other soldiers, so a lot comes second nature to me," Diaz said. "Two years ago I took a soldier to the first-ever 593rd Best Warrior Competition, and we won."

Even though he finished strong during the physical events, he was most confident about the mental challenges saying, "my bread and butter is the mental section; I love to learn a lot of knowledge."

After completing the final two challenges, a written exam and board appearance, the scores were tallied and the winner(s) announced during an award ceremony, April 29, at McChord Field's Globemaster Grill.

Gomez-Lopez and Diaz will go on to compete in the I Corps Best Warrior Competition scheduled to be held here May 23-27.

May 5, 2016 at 3:03pm

Local guardsman honored nationally

MSG Heikkinen posed for photos at the Camp Murray Museum WWI display. Photo credit: Lauren Marie Feringa-Nash

This past week Master Sgt. Melinda Heikkinen received the Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Award for the National Guard in Washington, D.C. She was recognized by the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Lt. Gen Joseph Lengyel and the Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in Washington, D.C. Every year during the month of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Department of Defense recognizes a SARC from each branch of the military. These servicemembers have demonstrated an exceptional level of effort and dedication in implementing their SHARP/SAPR programs.

Heikkinen, who has served in multiple branches since her first enlistment in 1982, is the full-time state SARC as well as the SHARP Program Manager for the Washington National Guard within the Joint Services Support on Camp Murray. Her career involved MOSs in computer programming, intel and aviation flight operations. Prior to becoming the state's SHARP Program Manager, she held many rolls including Equal Opportunity Leader, Suicide Prevention Officer and SHARP Victim Advocate.

As a voice for victims of Sexual Assault, Heikkinen has helped put trust in the reporting process for victims. The education and training she has provided has aided leadership across the state in understanding and trusting the Washington State Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program. Community outreach is also an integral part of Heikkinen's position; she sits on a panel for Rebuilding Hope Basic Sexual Assault Awareness Training each quarter, is part of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and is the Region 6 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Advisory Council alternate.

When asked why she is so dedicated to her job she said, "These are my fellow servicemembers; I care a great deal about them. If I have the skills to help them, then that's what I'm going to do."

May 6, 2016 at 11:48am

Study could lead to faster mass parachute drops

Yuma Proving Ground’s Air Combat Systems Test Directorate has conducted tests on the C-17 Globemaster to determine amount of time and distance necessary to safely separate each element of a multi-element insertion of combat parachutists. U.S. Army photo

U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) is well known for testing virtually every piece of equipment in the ground combat arsenal.

The fruits of this testing include better and longer-lasting equipment, as well as the ability to multiply a ground force more rapidly.

For example, prior to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, the life-expectancy of the tracks used to propel an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank along the ground was measured in the hundreds of miles. After extensive testing at YPG, today's tank treads last for thousands of miles.

A more recent example of this high-impact, long-term testing is studies the proving ground's Air Combat Systems Test Directorate have conducted on the C-17 Globemaster to determine the heaviest weight the aircraft can safely carry. A follow-on study has looked at the amount of time and distance necessary between each element of a multi-element insertion of combat parachutists, known tactically as a mass exit insertion of the Global Response Force (GRF).

As air behaves like a fluid, the air disturbance left by massive cargo aircraft speeding through the sky is extremely turbulent and fast. The shedding of high and low pressures required for lift rolls up near the aircraft wing tips, resulting in powerful vortices that can remain over the drop-zone for several minutes.

"It is very violent," said Keith Allen, team lead in the Aviation Systems and Electronic Test Division. "We're talking 150 to 200 feet per second in tangential velocity. It would definitely collapse a parachute if you got caught up in it."

The wings of military cargo planes are equipped with specially shaped finlets to help dissipate this vortex, but the extreme turbulence is still invisible and not able to be completely eliminated. As a result, formations of C-17s carrying jumpers are required to keep a minimum distance from each other: if this distance could be safely shortened, more airborne soldiers could reach the ground and enter a battle faster.

"The current spacing is based on a very conservative approach to ensure, in all conditions, that the vortices are dissipated or have moved off the drop-zone in time for the next element of jumpers," said Allen. "The user community asked us to examine conditions where the distance between elements could be shortened."

In 2014, YPG testers undertook an ambitious two-week study of the life-cycle of these vortices, using a small Twin Otter aircraft equipped with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), a surveying technology that measures reflections of particulates in the air by illuminating an area of regard with eye-safe laser light. The Twin Otter was used to fly above a massive C-17, scanning the wake it left behind. The testers flew missions across all hours of the day and night, during different weather conditions and over different terrain features.

"Our intention was to go into the field to capture vortex data in operationally representative scenarios," said Allen. "We had to first understand the mechanics of the vortices and how they behaved in the field."

The LIDAR used to scan the air disturbances caused by the vortices is sensitive enough to pick up everything within the scanned area, including wind, thermals and ground effects unrelated to the C-17 passing through the area. To be useful, this data had to be separated out from the effects of the C-17 in time and space, which was quite a challenge.

Once the testers accomplished this feat, they compared the real-world data with predictions that had been made in computer simulations prior to testing. Going forward, YPG testers hope to conduct similar testing in different natural environments. Allen said the information learned in this testing is beneficial to other air-drop activities, both at YPG and elsewhere.

Data collection techniques developed for this study may have far-reaching impacts on how wing tip vortices of both military and commercial aircraft may be studied in the future.

May 6, 2016 at 11:57am

New turbine engine to restore helicopter lift capability

Army helicopters can no longer lift their intended complement of passengers due to heavier equipment and degraded power generation, but officials said the Improved Turbine Engine Program, or ITEP, will help restore lift capability.

Degraded lift capability is especially problematic in areas where high-altitude, high-temperature flights are required, including nearly half of Afghanistan, said Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler.

Gayler, commander, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, spoke at the Army Aviation Association of America-sponsored 2016 Army Aviation Mission Solution Summit in Atlanta, April 29 and 30.

Using the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as an example, Gayler said an average of about 78 pounds per year have been added annually - for all the right reasons. That includes increased protective gear, ammunition, new technologies and so on. Over the years, those increases have totaled about a ton-and-a-quarter.

All of that weight affects speed, lift, range, maneuverability, and the amount of stuff that can be carried, he said.

Years ago, four Black Hawks could move a platoon, he pointed out. Now, it takes eight or nine and by 2020 - assuming the linear weight increases continue at the current rate - it will take 15 to 20, he said.

That decrease in capability severely limits options for ground commanders, he said. Besides that, it increases risk, and fuel consumption goes way up as well. "We've got to fix that," Gayler said.

Steffanie Easter, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said "we're giving up options for our warfighters by not being able to give them the power they need."

The ITEP, is a completely new engine that will likely one day replace those currently in the AH-64 Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, Gayler said. It will return a lot of that lost capability.

"ITEP is critical," he said. "We must get it right to buy back maneuverability."

Easter said ITEP is the solution for improved mobility, range and payload capacity of the current fleet.

ITEP will replace the 1970s-era T700 family of engines for the Black Hawk and Apache fleet, she said. It's going to provide over 3,000 shaft horsepower, which is a great increase over the current 1,900 to 2,000 hp. The ITEP design will also decrease the amount of maintenance required.

Brig. Gen. Erik C. Peterson, commander, U.S. Special Operations Aviation Command, said his soldiers are excited about ITEP as well, but their emphasis is on the maneuverability aspect of what it promises, and somewhat less on range and payload.

May 12, 2016 at 2:59pm

Okay to wear headphones

Soldiers jogging or lifting in the gym may now be allowed to listen to music through small headphones or ear buds, according to Army Directive 2016-20, released May 6.

Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy signed a memo that authorizes soldiers to listen to music on a variety of devices and ear pieces while doing personal physical training inside gyms, though the memo does give final word on the new policy to installation or unit commanders.

"Effective immediately, unless the unit or installation commander prohibits otherwise, soldiers may use headphones, including wireless or non-wireless devices and earpieces, in uniform only while performing individual physical training in indoor gyms or fitness centers," Murphy wrote in the memo.

JBLM officials didn't have a comment on policies here by press time.

The headphones cannot be more than 1.5 inches in diameter and the memo states violators may be subject to administrative or disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

To push music through "conservative and discrete" earpieces, soldiers are also permitted to "wear electronic devices, such as music players or cell phones" on their waistband, in accordance with AR 670-1. That regulation says the color of the carrying case for such a device must be black.

The directive also permits soldiers to wear a "solid black armband" to hold their electronic device, but only while in the gym or fitness center.

When soldiers leave the gym or fitness center, however, the arm bands, the music devices and the headphones must be put away.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said the new policy is something soldiers have told him they wanted for a while.

"This change came about because soldiers stood up at one of my town halls and asked about it," Dailey said. "If we can make changes that improve morale and they don't adversely affect discipline, I'm all for it."

The memo applies to Regular Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers. It's expected that the new rules regarding the wear of music devices and headphones in installation gyms will be incorporated into the existing uniform policy, AR 670-1, by the Army's G-1. 

May 12, 2016 at 3:23pm

Top Spouse is a man

Army Spouse of the Year Dave Etter stands on stage May 5, next to spouses of the year from other services at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. Photo credit: Kevin Wolf

The Army's spouse of the year is on a mission to motivate other husbands into action.

Dave Etter was named the 2016 Spouse of the Year for the Army by Armed Forces Insurance and he was recognized, May 5, at a ceremony on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. He's the first husband to capture this honor for the Army.

His wife of 16 years, Sgt. Stephanie Etter, is a respiratory therapist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and he is leader of the hospital's Family Support Group for Charlie Company.

There are about 110,000 males married to servicemembers and Etter said less than one percent are actively involved in Family Support Groups. He should know - he's made a career of sorts citing statistics about male military spouses. He has a two-hour weekly radio show aimed at providing resources to these male spouses.

His "Male Military Spouse Radio Show" streams live every Friday when it's recorded and can be accessed any time as a podcast on Blog Talk Radio. Etter has been doing the show for about a year-and-a-half now with co-host Jay Ha'o.

Husbands call into the show with issues and questions. About two to seven husbands call in each week and Etter believes many more need assistance because they don't quite have the support network female spouses have.

Guys are sometimes left out in the cold at Family Readiness Group meetings, he said. Sometimes the activities just aren't designed for men, he surmises. "So if a guy spouse shows up, what does he do? He's a wallflower."

"A dynamic FRG leader will make sure that guy is welcomed into the group." That's what he does, of course.

He has volunteered more than 1,200 hours with the military. He was also an FRG leader with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and he took Master Resilience training there. He was part of a pilot program of 32 spouses who took the training and became qualified resilience counselors.

Etter is a Navy veteran and former submariner. He's a member of the American Legion and he's dedicated 7,000 volunteer hours as a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America.

As the Army Spouse of the Year, he plans to put together a resource library of best practices for military spouses worldwide. He also plans to soon start up a second radio program for spouses.

"I'm an old radio broadcaster," Etter said. About 20 years ago he was the program director for a country-music radio station in Safford, Arizona.

"I've been doing radio - anything behind a microphone - since I was a freshman in high school." That was in 1973.

Later this year he plans to begin a new radio show co-hosted by Susan Reynolds, an Air Force spouse. "Spouse Spouts" will aim to provide resources to both male and female military spouses.

"It will be available for anyone and everyone to call," Etter said. 

May 13, 2016 at 3:00pm

I Corps hosts signal regimental symposium

From signaling with flags to operating the first radios to managing and protecting one of the most complex networks in the world, the United States Signal Corps has come a long way in 156 years.

More than a hundred signaleers came together for a two-day I Corps signal symposium at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, May 4. Key leaders discussed changes within the regiment with JBLM soldiers.

"What we are trying to do as a signal regiment is trying to improve upon it," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Daniels, U.S. Army Signal School and Regimental CSM. "We want to educate our soldiers, so they understand clearly where the Army is going as far as communication to support the Army warfighter."

The event included a regimental run, followed by a series of guest speakers to include the regimental command sergeant major, the U.S. Forces Command chief information officer, and representatives from civilian software developers. It concluded with a symposium at the University of Washington-Tacoma and a warrant officer branch brief.

The discussion focused on the new conversion of MOSs in the regiment.

"Right now, we have seventeen enlisted MOSs," said Daniels. " We are going down to eleven."

With readiness being the number one priority for the Chief of Staff of the Army, and changes coming soon, leaders emphasized the need to be ready.

"We have one of the most complex networks in the entire Army," said Col. Edward Hunter, I Corps chief information officer. "I challenge you to exercise and learn your MOS. You're getting smaller, but your workload is increasing."

Hunter has no doubt the soldiers will be able to adapt to the changes coming their way. He said he knows soldiers are smart and work to the best of their abilities to accomplish the mission.

"You know the challenges will be great, but you will come up with innovative ways of getting it done," he said. "You always find a way to get it done."

Daniels encouraged leaders to have a broader understanding of the direction the regiment is headed because it will help them pave the way for future leaders.

"I want them to be able to understand the Army Network Campaign because that lays out how we are going to design the Signal Corps force and network," he said. "I want them to be able to teach, coach, and mentor their soldiers and help them move in the right direction."

May 19, 2016 at 12:11pm

New DoD app helps diffuse nightmares for better sleep

Being ambushed in a firefight but can't escape to safety. Being chased and can't find safe shelter. Flying through the air after an explosion flips your vehicle. From reliving our worst experiences to playing on our deepest fears, bad dreams - nightmares - can not only interrupt our rest, they can make us afraid to even go to sleep.

Nightmares are a normal way for the brain to process a traumatic event. Isolated nightmares are normal, but when dreams that consist of flashbacks, unwanted memories, visceral fear or anxiety recur often, they can become a debilitating sleep disorder, according to research done by the National Center for PTSD. The Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth & Technology has developed a new mobile application to help users rewrite bad dreams to reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares. The app, called Dream EZ, is based on a nightmare treatment called imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT).

According to Dr. David Cooper, psychologist and T2 mobile applications lead, Dream EZ is the first mobile app that uses IRT therapy to address nightmares. The app helps patients stay engaged in their own healthcare by continuing to practice IRT techniques between appointments.

IRT has steadily gained favor as a treatment for nightmares. In 2001, a landmark study found that this kind of therapy can help reduce nightmares' frequency and intensity, or even eliminate them.

The technique follows a step-by-step process for identifying, confronting and gaining control over the content of a nightmare. Working with a doctor or therapist, a patient uses IRT to recall a nightmare. Then, using their emotions and senses, they visualize a new ending to the dream and regularly replay it over and over (similar to how an athlete visualizes their desired performance). Although patients do not usually dream their reimagined dream, most report fewer nightmares, or none at all, or they experience a different, less-disturbing dream.

IRT is effective, but it can be intense. Many people struggle with the idea of replaying frightening details about a disturbing dream over and over. Experts like Cooper recommend integrating the technique with psychiatry and behavioral health therapies to treat the underlying condition.

"Up to now, there's really been no app for treating nightmares that accompany PTSD," Cooper said. "In IRT, a patient must put effort into confronting the nightmare, visualizing it, rewriting the plot and ending, and reiterating the new dream over and over for the therapy to be effective. In the past, this was done by hand on paper - but now we've worked to make it easier so you can just use your smartphone."

The Dream EZ app enables users to:

  • Write and log a description of the nightmare
  • Track when and how often the nightmare occurs
  • Practice visualization techniques to rewrite the dream's plot and ending
  • Record a new version of the dream, which can be played over and over before bedtime

"Dream EZ continues the T2 tradition of making apps that make behavioral health treatment easier," said Cooper.

The free app is available for Android and iOS devices at the App Store and Google Play.

About Dream EZ

The Dream EZ app also features:

  • A dream log with a rating function to track the intensity of dreams
  • Sleep tools such as muscle relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing exercises to help the user reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and promote better sleep
  • Reminders prompt users to practice the new version of the dream before going to sleep, and to log the previous night's dream after they awake
  • A summary section that users can share with their healthcare provider to show how they've been doing between appointments

May 19, 2016 at 12:22pm

A smart home for veterans with brain injuries

VA researchers are doing amazing things to improve the lives of veterans.

Here's just one example: the Smart Home. This unique project uses advanced technology to help patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) independently plan, organize and complete everyday activities.

Some veterans with TBI have lost the ability to manage basic tasks like doing the laundry or taking out the trash.

VA's Smart Home helps them relearn those skills by tracking their movements around their house and then sending them text or video prompts when they get off track. The remarkable indoor tracking technology can pinpoint the veteran's location to within six inches.

The Tampa VA Medical Center has installed the high-tech equipment in five apartments housing 10 veterans. It has a system that not only tracks their locations but has sensors that monitor the use of appliances. For example, the washing machine sensors determine when the veteran puts soap in the machine and also shows when he or she empties the machine after the load is completed. If the user forgets to do either, a nearby screen prompts them to complete those steps. The Smart Home can also notify a caregiver if an activity is not completed.

Other sensors in the bathroom determine how long a patient has been shaving and if they are taking too long; they are prompted to finish that task and move on.

The technology promotes veterans' independence by providing reminders for the management of other daily activities such as medication, meal planning and other necessary tasks.

Smart Home has been described as a "cognitive prosthetic" with the goal of rehabilitating veterans with TBI so they can function normally in society.

A powerful feature of the Tampa Smart Home is the precision of the customized therapeutic information that can be provided to the recovering veteran. Data for every interaction with clinical and medical staff are recorded continuously and analyzed, helping the staff visualize subtle but therapeutically significant behavioral changes. Reports are sent back to the clinical team on a weekly basis

This helps to better inform treatment plans and potentially prevent problematic medication effects on veterans' memory, as well as gait and balance.

A little more technical information? The veteran patients and VA staff wear wrist tags linked to a real-time location system that tracks the tags using wall sensors. It's ultra-wideband technology. The wrist tags broadcast their ID on a 6-to-8 gigahertz channel and uses time-delay-of-arrival and angle-of-arrival methods to determine position in three dimensions.

The Smart Home innovation recently received third place in VA's Brain Trust summit. The national summit brought together the public and private sector, veterans, caregivers, clinicians and innovators to tackle the issues of brain health.

May 26, 2016 at 1:04pm

16th CAB hosts Vietnam veterans at JBLM

Lt. Col. Robert Bryant, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment commander, talks to retired Maj. Gen. John A. Hemphill during a visit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, May 20. Photo credit: Capt. Brian Harris

The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade hosted a group of Vietnam aviators for a presentation on modern Army aviation, a tour of AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and lunch with junior soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, May 20.

The Angry Skipper Association is a group of Vietnam veterans who served with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). They include pilots, crew chiefs and maintainers who come together annually for a reunion.

During their visit to JBLM, the Angry Skipper members were reacquainted with a place many of them attended Basic Combat Training over 50 years ago.

The group started their visit with a brief on modern Army aviation from Col. William Ryan, 16th CAB commander. Ryan discussed the legacy the veterans left on Army aviation, and how modern operations differ from those in Vietnam.

Following the brief, the group was able to get a hands-on tour of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, and to talk to current pilots and crew chiefs. They shared stories, answered questions and bonded over their shared service in different generations of Army aviation.

Before leaving for the day, the veterans enjoyed a lunch at JBLM's Courage Inn Dining Facility with junior soldiers from 16th CAB. The young soldiers shared their experience, and listened to stories from the veterans that took place decades before many of them were born.

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