By Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2011 - If the military takes care of its people and their families, then the future will be assured no matter what it brings, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told students at the Army War College today.
"We're depending on leadership in these extraordinarily challenges times," he said. The past decade has changed the services and now is the time to sort through that change to answer the question of "who we are right now," he said.
The military has gone through rough times in the past decade, he said. He challenged the students to examine the change and see if "the ethical compass is true, is our overall compass true? Where are we going in the future? What have our young ones ... learned about us that we need to address as leaders, and what do we need to teach them as they mature? Are we keeping our best young officers?"
The chairman said that as budget time approaches, most people measure it in the missions given and the equipment bought. "The missions and stuff make no difference in our health in the future," he said. "(Our future is) guaranteed in terms of good health if we keep the right people."
One fundamental change in the military over the last decade is the role that military families have played and the relationship of the services with those families. He said a ground forces junior officer in 2001, has probably deployed five or six times in the past decade, forcing families to cope with long absences.
The services have put in place programs to help families and redeploying personnel. But as budget pressures begin to grow – and they are growing now, Mullen said – the family programs are the first to unwind.
"I don't want to do that," he said. "I think we would do that at our peril. The challenges keep coming and we can't seem to get them off the plate.
In yesteryear an issue would come up, we'd deal with it as a country and we'd move on," Mullen added. "Now the plate isn't getting any bigger, but they won't go away. You as the future leaders of our military must understand it."
The chairman discussed the nature of the change and the issues around the world. He told the students – almost all of whom served multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan – that the military must continue to change and adjust.
He said they need to examine all of the world. The preponderance of resources today flow to U.S. Central Command, Mullen said. As it should with American troops are involved in two conflicts there. "But this means there is an inability to invest in small ways in other parts of the world, and if this continues, this can be very dangerous," he said.
He told the students that American forces will be out of Iraq at the end of the year, and said those who served there should be proud of the work they did. "There is a night and day difference every time I visit," he said. Iraq has formed a government and they are dealing with politics and not with war as they move forward.
The major U.S. effort is now, of course, in Afghanistan. "In a very tough fight, but it's better there," Mullen said. "But as I said many times it's not just security, there has to be a level of legitimacy in the government of Afghanistan. That's got to be created over the next three to four years."
Mullen also praised the efforts of Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell's NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. He said they have built the training infrastructure, trained the instructors and developed the curricula for the Afghan Army and police. "On average we have 30,000 to 35,000 trainees at one time," he said. "Two years ago that number was miniscule."
This was Mullen's third trip to the Army War College, and he spoke of his 43-year career. "To cycle from the war we were in when I was first commissioned, to the wars we are in in the last decade in a position of leadership has truly been an extraordinary opportunity," he said. "It's been a great ride."
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Saturday, February 12, 2011
By Army Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., Feb. 10, 2011 - U.S. Northern Command depends heavily on the National Guard and is looking for more opportunities to expand that partnership, Northcom's deputy commander said here recently.
"And if you look across the board at the things that we do," he added, "there is not a mission that we do that the Air Guard or Army Guard doesn't touch every day or accomplish for us."
Grass said partnering between Northcom and the National Guard is a critical component of today's national security strategy.
Grass noted eight areas of focus for Northcom that affect the homeland the most and said some of those areas hold potential for growth in the Northcom-National Guard Partnership.
The focus areas are:
-- Counterterrorism and force protection;
-- Combating transnational criminal organizations;
-- Defense support of civil authorities;
-- Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear consequence management;
-- Maritime warning;
-- Aerospace warning and control;
-- Missile defense; and
-- The Arctic region.
"We are interested in hearing from the states through the National Guard Bureau on where [our two agencies] can partner more," the general said. "The National Guard makes me proud every day, and it will be written in history that [the Guard] did an amazing job for the nation, and that you are a true national treasure."
Army Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass
U.S. Northern Command
National Guard Bureau
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jess Harvey
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2011 - The United States has the world's most competent and most capable special operations forces thanks to the selfless dedication of countless U.S. special operations professionals over the years, the Air Force chief of staff said here this week.
The event's theme was "Defense, Diplomacy and Development: Translating Policy into Operational Capability." Schwartz addressed his audience from experience, having joined the ranks of special operations forces in 1980.
In the past, special operations personnel sometimes had to operate in ways quite differently from how they and Air Force units generally operate today, Schwartz said.
"For instance, in the 1980s, C-130 assault landings and low-level operations using night-vision goggles required specially qualified [special operations] aircrews who, as a matter of routine, would duct-tape 'chem-sticks' to their instrument panels and tape over warning lights to allow safe operations on night-vision goggles," Schwartz said.
Today, he said, nearly every Air Force airframe is configured, and most aircrew members are qualified, for night-vision goggle operations.
By 1996, special operations had evolved from clock-to-map-to-ground navigation to using moving maps and GPS-based precision navigation systems, he said.
Not long before that, Schwartz said, he had spoken with great pride at his brigadier general promotion ceremony about his special operations teammates and their operational achievements.
"Considering how far we'd come since I'd first joined this band of brothers, I declared my belief that we had entered a 'golden age' of special operations," Schwartz said. "Throughout the 1990s, mission sets from peacekeeping and noncombat evacuations operations to counterterrorism and integrated major combat operations all benefitted immensely from the progressively better organized, trained, and equipped special operations team."
Those missions, he said, and the further development of special operations forces helped to prepare the powerful U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
"After 9/11, the [special operations] team was also able to launch itself on a trajectory of further development that, I believe, ensured the extension of the golden age ... through to the present and well into the future," Schwartz said.
The nature of the conflicts that later ensued in Afghanistan and Iraq helped special operations evolve into a force that was able to meet the need for timely and accurate intelligence in order to pursue an elusive and embedded adversary, the general said. These developments are seen in the efforts of Air Force Special Operations Command joint terminal attack controllers, who today bolster the critical interface between SOF ground forces and the decisive effects that air power can provide, he added.
"That pioneering group of airmen has evolved into a culturally attuned, elite force of lethal warriors, fortified with an ability to concentrate firepower on the ground with airpower effects whenever and wherever needed," the general said.
As a result of all these efforts and accomplishments, "our nation has in its service today the world's most competent, and certainly the most capable, special operations force anywhere," Schwartz said.
Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz
By Terri Moon Cronk of American Forces Press Service
|How to fight stress|
Ten military wives and a fiancée met in a quiet place the week of Jan. 24 without the distractions from ringing phones, kids' schedules and work projects. They learned coping skills through resilience training. They learned meditation, tried acupuncture, talked, laughed and cried.
The "significant others," who found out first-hand that post-traumatic stress affects entire families, came to the support group with more questions than answers. But they left armed with a battery of tools to cope with the everyday stresses of military life in a time of war.
The Significant Others Support Group is an offshoot of the Specialized Care Program their husbands completed following a diagnosis of combat stress or post-traumatic stress, or because they had difficulty readjusting to home life after war. Both programs are based on resilience and strength-building education conducted by the Defense Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called post-traumatic stress "the military health issue of our era." He and his wife, Deborah, are well-known advocates of taking care of the military family, taking every opportunity to make it known they want war veterans and their families to get all the help they need to cope with war's invisible scars.
"We don't 'cure' people here," said Dan Bullis, director of administration and operations at the clinical center. "It's the start of their journey to cope with symptoms."
Because it affects the entire family, efforts to confront post-traumatic stress must be include a family care plan, he said.
"[It's] is not a level playing field for them," Bullis said, adding that he believes the support group will become even more successful as word spreads to new attendees and sponsors.
"In a weeks' time," he said, "12 to 14 [significant others] are equipped with tools to cope with life. It's their lesson plan to take home so they can deal with the chronic symptoms. They're so overwhelmed."
The idea, Bullis said, was spawned from the husbands in the Specialized Care Program who began saying, "If only my significant other could get this support." A pilot program that launched with five or six women progressed to the charter class of 11 last month, he added.
Thanks to a $35,000 donation by the nonprofit Walter Reed Society, the 11 women were brought to Walter Reed on per diem travel, housed in a nearby hotel, and attended the training and education, all expenses paid.
Designing the support group for women came from a tried-and-true approach.
"We had a lot of input through the years from service members to help their families and significant others," said Victoria Bruner, the center's director of clinical education and training, who also is a social worker and expert in traumatic stress, with a background as a registered nurse. "Whether it's a mother, brother, sister or adult child, we built the group on the basics of what helps people heal."
A holistic approach, Bruner said, is important in an environment that promotes comfort, healing and peacefulness.
"The [significant others] need a sense of safety to feel comfortable to tell a story, and to connect to other people so they know they're not alone," she said. "It's important to be in a safe environment, where people are assured their stories are honored and respected, so they can go as far as they want about their situation, or not."
Late in the morning on their final day together, Bruner conducted a session with the women, seated in a circle in a comfortable room adorned with plants, a wall quilt and subdued lighting.
"What has this week been like for you?" she asked. Answers circulated in a flurry of optimism from the participants, whose identities are not included in this article to protect their privacy.
"I feel less isolated, I made close friends," one of the women said. "We understand each other."
"I feel empowered, refreshed -- a partner with my partner," another said. "I'm inspired to work as a team."
"It's refreshing," said a third. "I learned skills to regain my energy. I feel whole again."
Bruner said the women in the support group see signs of strength in themselves to keep going -- to bounce back and realize they're not "crazy." They learn how to practice patience, be more tolerant and supportive of their military family in a balanced manner, she added.
Bruner, who lost her husband in Vietnam, said it's critical for the women "to get the support they need, to reduce the cost of war."
Post-traumatic stress is not new - it's just another name for a phenomenon that's been recognized since the Civil War. "Melancholy," "shell shock" and "battle fatigue" are among the names it's had when it's been observed in service members in past conflicts.
Bullis, a former Army medic who served in Vietnam, said that during and after the Gulf War deployment in 1990 and 1991, 100,000 service members complained of what became known as "Gulf War syndrome."
"It came from out of nowhere, and they had symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome," he said. Eventually, with no real medical cause found, it was called "medically unexplained physical symptoms." And service in the Gulf War, he added, was never linked to it.
Bullis added that 20 percent to 30 percent of those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan can develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress, but treatment can be successful if it is caught in its early stages. And medical staff members at military clinics worldwide are catching signs of the disorder at a rapid pace through routine screening, he added.
Yet, the average time it takes a service member to seek help after the onset of symptoms is a staggering 12 years, Bullis noted.
The Significant Others Support Group provides sessions on topics such as "Dealing with Adrenaline Overload," "Understanding Triggers" and "Dealing with Things You Can't Control." It also provides relaxation and focus classes featuring Yoga Nidra, QiGong and acupuncture, as well as a massage donated by a local spa.
Robin Carnes -- a local mind and body skills instructor who teaches relaxation tools to the Significant Others Support Group -- said the techniques can be used at home in five minutes a day. Her methods teach the women to relax and refocus by "putting back life energy and storing it," she said.
"If you want to change your life," she added, "change your practice. It's a healthy addiction if done every day."
The charter class of 11 significant others gathered one last time on the final day in a small ceremony. As they received certificates of completion, some quietly said, "Thank you." But one Army wife, also a veteran, dropped to her knees, tearfully gesturing to the group, thanking everyone for the support she now has, and for her husband's success in the Specialized Care Program.
"This program," she said, "gave me my husband back."
(Photographs inserted by blogger after internet search for the purely non commercial and educative purpose)