Sec. Chuck Hagel’s Farewell – ‘People Depend on You’

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) — Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

Below is the farewell message from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel – dated – February 13, 2015.

To the men and women of the Department of Defense:

When I joined the United States Army 48 years ago, I could not have imagined one day serving as secretary of defense. It has been a tremendous privilege to serve with you.

As I leave office, I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together over the past two years.

We have responsibly ended our combat operations in Afghanistan and begun the follow-on mission to preserve our achievements there.

We have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, while successfully responding to crises around the world.

We have launched vital reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges of the future.

We have fought hard – and made real progress – against the scourge of sexual assault in our ranks.

And after 13 years of war, we have worked to restore our military readiness and ease the burdens on our people and their families.

Through it all, many of you, and your families, coped with shutdowns and furloughs; weathered hiring and pay freezes; and endured long hours and longer deployments. You did so because we each took an oath to defend our nation, our fellow citizens, and our way of life. And you have lived up to your word.

But as you know well, the world is still too dangerous, and threats too numerous. I know you will remain vigilant, continuing your important work under the leadership of Ash Carter.

A special note to our men and women in uniform: of all the many opportunities my life has given me, I am most proud of having once been a soldier. The lessons from my time in uniform about trust, responsibility, duty, judgment, and loyalty – I have carried these with me throughout my life. As your secretary of defense, I have seen those same traits in each of you.

Whether you serve in uniform or as a civilian, you are the reason why our military is the finest in the world and the most admired and most trusted institution in America. Nothing has clarified my thinking, nothing has renewed my hope, and nothing has made me prouder than getting to know, work, and serve with so many of you who have put the nation’s interest above your own.

If I had any parting guidance, it would be the same reminder that my drill sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class William Joyce, gave to me after I finished basic training in 1967: “People depend on you. They’ll always depend on you.”

That was true for me then, and it is true for all of you today. People depend on you – America depends on you – to live up to your oath, to conduct yourselves in keeping with our highest standards, and to perform as the greatest military the world has ever known. After two years serving with you, I am confident you will continue to do so.

You and your families have my deepest gratitude and admiration.

Thank you for your unflagging service and your commitment to this country. May God bless America and each and every one of you.

 

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Breaking News: Defense Secretary Hagel to Leave Post

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2014) — Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attends a Change of Command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. August 28, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released

Not even two years into the job and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down according to the Washington Post.

Citing an anonymous defense source, the paper reports that Hagel will stay on until a new secretary is selected and approved by congress.

Rumors had intensified this month that Hagel’s time was short, though the former Republican senator from Nebraska has insisted in recent interviews that he was planning to stay at the Pentagon. The resignation was first reported by The New York Times.

A senior administration official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Obama initiated discussions with Hagel about leaving in October — shortly before the mid-term congressional elections that saw the president’s party take a beating.

The report further speculates that Hagel’s resignation could be just the first in a series of shake-ups among President Obama’s national security advisers.

 

Remembering Prisoners,Those Who Never Came Home

Source: wikimedia.org

Source: wikimedia.org

Today, September 19, 2014, is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. By the numbers from the Department of Defense:

  • 1,641 personnel are missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War
  • More than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War.
So, take a moment to honor those who remain missing and those who suffered starvation, isolation, fear, and uncertainty, during captivity.

Florida’s Military Community Prepares for Sequestration

KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to MacDill Air Force Base prepare for launch as part of an "Elephant Walk” on Jan. 20 2012. Personnel from MacDill's total force integration, 6th Air Mobility Wing and 927th Air Reserve Wing, executed the mission and launched eight aircraft as part of the event. "Elephant walk" is a historic, uniquely Air Force term that describes the nose-to-tail, single-file taxi movements of the aircraft synonymous with the nose-to-tail trail of lumbering elephants. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melissa V. Paradise)

KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to MacDill Air Force Base prepare for launch as part of an “Elephant Walk” on Jan. 20 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melissa V. Paradise)

Today is Sequestration Day – the day that Congress’ mandatory budget cuts kick into gear a minute before midnight.  If that happens, it will take weeks even months before the true impact is felt.

Florida’s Defense Industries and Military Bases

Gov. Rick Scott is certain of one thing – the mandatory budget cuts will severely hurt Florida’s defense industry which he says contributes more than $73 billion and 754,000 jobs to the state economy.

And Scott is worried about the military bases and installations especially parts of the Panhandle, where 35 percent of the economy is linked to the military.

“It’s going to hurt us. We’re a big military state,” Scott said Wednesday during a visit to Lakeland.”We’re the most military friendly state. We’ve got 20 military bases, three unified commands. They’ve got to do the right thing up there.”

The governor wrote a letter earlier this week to President Obama stating that sequestration will mean “dramatic reductions to our National Guard which threatens our ability to respond to wildfires this spring and hurricanes this summer.”

Scott called the budget situation “disappointing” adding that Washington must balance its budget and prioritize needs like states have to.

Prioritizing Cuts at MacDill Air Force Base

MacDill Commander Col. Scott DeThomas said some smaller facility projects could be delayed. But the bigger impact would hit his employees. As base commander, DeThomas supervises about a third of the 3,000 civilian workers at on base. Many of those civilians face furloughs beginning in late April that would equate to a 20 percent pay cut.

“So, it’s going to be a dramatic impact on the base how we do business to lose basically 20 percent of the force,” DeThomas said. “The third big piece that’s going to be a great impact is on the mission.”

DeThomas is receiving guidance from his commanders on where to reduce costs.

Col.  Scott DeThomas, commander of MacDill Air Force Base and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Col. Scott DeThomas, commander of MacDill Air Force Base and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

As commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, what concerns DeThomas most is a 20 percent cut in flying of the refueling  tankers and Gulf Stream jets.

“What you’ll probably see is maybe some men, currency items, instead of being very proficient, you might be minimally qualified to fly the plane,” DeThomas said. “Depending on how we institute the cuts, you might see us take people off being current altogether and just sit them for a short period of time in hopes that once we get through the end of the year we’ll get back to flying normal.”

He is concerned the cut in flying will decrease airman readiness from boom operators to pilots.

“When the call comes, I may or may not be able to answer the call with the right amount or the right flavor because of the fact that we’ve allowed the training to slip,” DeThomas said.

The commander is also is preparing his military families for the stress that comes with budget cuts. A family resiliency training session is scheduled for families throughout the wing.

“We’ll bring families out, we’ll introduce some of the tools that will prepare them mentally, physically, socially  and economically for being able to handle the burdens that may come with sequestration.”

Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, and Dr. Larry Braue, director of Student Veteran Services at USF.

Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, and Dr. Larry Braue, director of Student Veteran Services at USF.

Florida’s Veteran Population

Veterans are another segment of Florida’s military community. Reportedly, their benefits are not a part of the automatic cuts. However, Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, is skeptical.

“You wonder are there administrative cuts? There has been a bit of gray area on what could be cut in the VA,” Dakduk said during his visit Thursday to the University of South Florida SVA chapter.

Dakduk is specifically worried about the Transition Assistance Program, called TAP. It helps active duty military transition into civilian life.

“When we talk about TAP that’s an interagency program, so a different agency is affected by that,” Dakduk said. “It will affect the program.”

That would mean less opportunity for veterans seeking help with education, entrepreneurship and technical training as they leave the military.

Military Dog Photo of the Week: PUPPIES!

A new member of the Department of Defense military working dog breeding program. Photo credit DoD Puppy Program.

For his weekly Military Dog Photo, Kevin Hanrahan introduces us to “The Puppy Program” run by the Department of Defense.

The program is located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. From birth to eight weeks , the puppies are reared at the Military Working Dog Center in a state of the art whelping facility.

Trainers are looking for specific traits when breeding and selecting future working military dogs:

  • Solid temperament
  • working ability
  • medical soundness

This information and photos are from Kevin Hanrahan (solider writer: balancing the sword and the pen) and is being published with permission from Bernie at the Department of Defense Breeding Program.

AA4- litter Round-table. Photo credit: DoD Puppy Program.

National Guard Response to Hurricane Sandy

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from Company G, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct reconnaissance patrols in support of Hurricane Sandy operations Oct. 29, 2012, in Norfolk, Va. Virginia National Guard photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class A. J. Coyne

Approximately 7,400 National Guard forces are activating or are already on state duty to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in seven states. They’re providing help at shelters, damage assessments, debris clearance, search and rescue and delivery of supplies and equipment according to a release from U.S. Department of Defense.

The guardsmen also are supporting first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland.

Department of Defense Other Actions

  • Staged four medium rotary wing utility aircraft and four medium rotary wing Search and Rescue aircraft at Hanscom AFB, MA, for potential logistical and search and rescue operations along the coasts of MA, CT, and RI in support of FEMA.
  •  Approved a request for District of Columbia National Guard support for traffic control points and high-water evacuations.
  • Made Department of Defense installations throughout the North East available as requested by FEMA – including Westover Air Reserve Base, MA; Joint Base McGuire-Dix, Lakehurst, NJ; and Ft. Devens, MA.
  • Placed medium- and heavy-lift helicopters, para-rescue swimmers, and aerial refueling aircraft on 24-hour prepare-to-deploy status in response to anticipated FEMA requests to mitigate or respond to the effects of the storm.

On Oct. 29,  Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, was in dawn-to-dusk meetings with senior National Guard leaders, FEMA officials, the adjutants general and the Secretary of Defense, reported the American Forces Press Service. That all-out effort was continuing today.

“We had to be ready to respond big and fast — so the National Guard ramped up in multiple states this weekend preparing to support local, state and federal civilian authorities,” Grass told the Armed Forces Press. “We are part of a whole-of-government response to support state, local and federal agencies tackling the effects of this storm.”

PTSD and TBI: What the VA, Defense Department Are Doing

The PTSD Coach application can be downloaded free for use on most smartphones. VA image.

Here’s an end of  the year update on the handling  of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) by the departments of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs. The conditions have become the signature “invisible” wounds of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

It was less than three years ago that the Rand Corporation released a study, Invisible Wounds of War,  showing PTSD and TBI go unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated among many returning combat veterans.

Since that study, there have been significant changes as detailed in a Craig Collins  story for the Defense Media Network online:

One of the first changes made in the wake of the RAND report was the Pentagon’s implementation of mandatory screening programs for all personnel returning from war zones, both for PTSD and TBI. For TBI, the screening, detection, tracking, research, and outreach activities of both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are carried out by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

The article also looks at how the coexistence of  PTSD and TBI in veterans has led the VA to revise its clinical practice guidelines for treatment:

Emerging evidence suggests, also, that treatments for service members with PTSD can be successful regardless of whether a patient has suffered a TBI. As Dr. Matthew Friedman, executive director of the National Center for PTSD, explained, the two best treatments for PTSD are psychotherapies: prolonged exposure therapy, which requires emotional processing of the event and becoming conditioned to fears, and cognitive processing therapy, which involves understanding the ways in which trauma has changed a patient’s view of him/herself and the world.

Yet, a federal court of appeals ruled that the VA is not doing enough nor is it acting quickly enough serving veterans with PTSD and other psychological health needs who have filed VA disability claims:

408,167 veterans with a primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD received treatment at VA medical centers and clinics in 2010; this number, combined with another statistic – by the VA’s own estimation, only about 36 percent of the veterans who are eligible for its benefits and programs sign up to receive them – suggests that many, perhaps tens of thousands, are simply being missed by an overburdened system.

You can read the full story, “PTSD and TBI: Where We Are Now,” HERE.

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