Military News you may have missed – August 8, 2010

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  •  BAE Systems Displays Ultra Lightweight Warrior (ULW) Infantry *…*

    August 7, 2010 – The development and deployment of light and effective body armor is to be applauded. Nevertheless, considering the US Army’s and DoD’s shoddy test procedures and questionable contract awards as documented in GAO studies, we are hopeful that all new military protective gear is properly tested and its suppliers vetted.

  •  A Sergeant’s Suicide Brings The Battle Home

    August 7, 2010 – A recurring tragedy that ravishes the families of the brave heroes who serve in harm’s way. With recent release of the US Army report on Suicide Prevention, we are hopeful that our frontline troops get the medical and psychiatric attention they deserve to deal with this serious problem.

  •  Forced *U.S.* military extensions to end

    August 7, 2010 – This is welcome news indeed, give the level of stress and uncertainty that this placing on the young men and women serving in harm’s way.

  •  *US* Troops Can’t Access WikiLeaks Website, ‘The Washington Times’ Reports

    August 7, 2010 – Surely you must be kidding me? Lots of jokes come to mind – like the mushroom in the basement – but obviously quite a few Pentagon staffers were out doing their inane version of damage control. Doesn’t it seem fair that our troops deserve the same level of intelligence that our enenmies have or do we feel compelled to provide them with a sanitized version?

  •  *Afghanistan war*: Will the new Petraeus rules of engagement make troops safer?

    August 7, 2010 – While there is no question that safeguarding the lives and safety of non-combatant civilians is a critical component of any military operation, it places a huge strain on on US forces policing what has now become a civil or tribal war in Afghanistan. When you insert a clause that permit US troops to respond aggressively in self-defense, you are advocating a military doctrine that is open to interpretation and pretty much useless.

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US Army Releases Comprehensive Report on Suicides

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The US Army released a  350 page report seeking to understand the increasing rates of suicides among military personnel.  Entitled “Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention,” this comprehensive report is the most serious effort yet to understand the disturbing trends that are affecting the mental well-being of men and women in uniform.

The report contains a sobering introduction from General Peter Chiarelli, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, who reports that there were 160 active duty suicides in fiscal 2009 (239 across the total Army including Reserve components).  In addition, there were 146 deaths attributed to “high-risk” behavior and 1,713 attempted suicides.

I echo General Chiarelli’s point: “These are not just statistics, they are our Soldiers.”

Among the factors cited in the report that may have contributed to these deaths and high-risk behavior are the following:

  • the rigors of service,
  • repeated deployments,
  • injuries and separation from Family which contribute to:
    • a sense of isolation
    • hopelessness
    • life fatigue

In conclusion, General Chiarelli states that “. . . we must now face the unintended consequences of leading an expeditionary Army than included involuntary enlistment extensions, accelerated promotions, extended deployment rotations, reduced dwell time and potentially diverted focus from leading and caring for soldiers in the post, camp and station environment.  While most have remained resilient through these challenges, others have been pushed to their breaking point.”

Indeed, the “unintended consequences” maybe the most unfortunate outcome of this war in Afghanistan.  We are pleased to see the US Army coming to grips which this serious and debilitating problem for the men and women in uniform and their families.  

Richard W. May

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New Helmet Sensor to detect Traumatic Brain Injuries

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BAE Systems unveiled its latest concussion sensor for soldier helmets, named Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic System (“HEADS”).  Reportedly, about 7,000 1st generation sensors have already been installed in helmets of U.S. military warriors.   The new devices feature much more effective reporting capabilities that will hopefully help in getting medical attention quicker to those that need it.

The HEADS smart sensor is also designed to provide medical professionals with important data that may help determine the severity of a possible traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). The second generation HEADS sensor reportedly provides medical teams with a valuable diagnostic tool that utilizes radio frequency technology.   Spokesperson Colman claims that “With our new ‘smarter’ sensor, if a soldier is exposed to a blast, possibly sustaining a concussion, not only will the HEADS visual LED display be triggered at the time of the event, but once the soldier enters a specified area, such as forward operating base or dining facility, a series of strategically placed antennae will scan all available HEADS units and send data to a computer, identifying any soldiers who may have sustained a blast-related brain injury.”

The sensor itself is small, lightweight and can be secured inside virtually any combat helmet. Although imperceptible to the wearer, it is designed to continuously collect critical, potentially lifesaving data, including impact direction, magnitude, duration, blast pressures, angular and linear accelerations as well as the exact times of single or multiple blast events. That information is then securely stored until it can be quickly downloaded and analyzed by medical teams using a simple USB or wireless connection.

Compatible with most helmets, the HEADS sensor is unobtrusive and won’t interfere with additional helmet-mounted equipment soldiers may need, such as goggles and other sensors.

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Open Letter to Senator Scott Brown on M-ATV defects

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July 30, 2010

Honorable Senator Scott P. Brown

317 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C.     20510

Honorable Senator Scott P. Brown:

 I am writing to you today as a concerned and worried Father and Veteran, on the issue of the M-ATV vehicle doors. These concerns are not only mine, but of many other families in the Corps, as well as the other branches in our military.  We are reaching out to you and your colleagues’ for HELP, on these issues listed in the letters (see attachments).

The Oshkosh Company was awarded a Billion dollar plus contract to build the M-ATV for the Military branches. Regretfully there are several flawed components; the most serious of them is the sticking of the doors, making them (Troops) unable to exit the vehicle. After reading these articles, I was outraged along with other Military families. I sent off a letter to Brigadier General Brogan at System Command in Quantico. I received a response back from the General based on information from the Oshkosh Company. Their conclusion is, improper torque and no loctite on the bolts. PLEASE, do they take us for fools (Oshkosh)! There is more to this than just improper torque and no loctite. This is not the response we were looking for. I’m quite sure that our men and women of the Motor-T that work on these vehicles have tried everything in the book and still had problems with the doors. Oshkosh also indicates that it would take a major re-design to change over to another design. The Humvees HAD the same exact problem, the solution was the change over from the two strap hinge to the new design piano hinge. This worked, and it can work again. This is in use today and works on the Humvees, and my son (USMC) can attest to that, it worked fine in Afghanistan. We cannot allow Oshkosh to take a band aid approach when it comes to our Troops; no matter what the cost is to retool the assembly line and to permanently fix this issue. Corporate greed and the bottom line must not be allowed in this equation at all!! This equipment is to protect them not to entrap them. I realize that nothing moves fast in Washington, and this must not take a back burner approach or lip service from Oshkosh telling us all is working fine. I would bet my pay check that this problem will not be going away any time soon. This will happen again and at what cost will befall our Troops in the Theater of Operation. I ask you to take a stand and say, not on my watch, you have the power to make things happen, and with me all I can do is bring it to your attention and other’s in Washington. All too often our Military leader’s hands are tied.

These are our troops and family members out there on the front lines, protecting us. They are not just names on a set of dog tags, these are real people, and they deserve the very best that we can build. This is America; let us put our best foot forward!

I look forward to hearing from you, and thank for your time.

Sincerely,

Michael J. F. Bucca

Hanover, Massachusetts

SFTT Editor Note:  This is an open letter to the Honorable Senator Scott Brown from one of his constituents, Michael Bucca.  The re-publication of this letter on SFTT does not in any way constitute an endorsement of Mr. Bucca’s views regarding the safety of the M-ATV.  Nevertheless, we believe that issues or concerns that may impact on the the safety of our troops be carefully vetted to insure that our brave heroes have the best available protective gear and combat equipment available.  If others have information concerning safety and reliability issues of the M-ATV, please email the SFTT Editor.

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Military News Items You May Have Missed – July 31, 2010

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  • Google Alerts – body armor – Former *Body*-*Armor* Executive on Trial for Fraud – Blogrunner

    July 27, 2010 – This long trial is finally drawing to a close. It is sad to think that body armor used by the majority of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq have been supplied by a company run by Mr. Brooks. Point Blank Armor is now in Chapter 11. Can’t we do better for our troops?

  • Google Alerts – military helmets – Better armor, *helmets* expected soon | *Military* Daily News

    June 14, 2010 – Certainly, improved body armor and helmets for Marines serving in harm’s way is to be applauded. Unfortunately, inadequate testing procedures cited in DoDIG and GAO reports and irregular contract awards call into question the integrity of our military procurement process. Who is say it will be better this time around.

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How you can support our troops with more than lip service

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I have been pondering for some time what more I could do to help promote Soldiers For The Truth’s Basic 5 Campaign. My latest effort has been to inform politicians running for congressional and statewide offices of our cause. Politicians are never more accessible than when running for office, so my plan is to take advantage of that situation and that is what I did!

Last Saturday I attended a private reception in Arkansas for several politicians running for Congress, both US Senate and the House of Representatives, and several running for statewide positions (Governor, Lt. Gov. & Secretary of State). All of them were unaware of the issues that our soldiers face with body armor, helmets & helmet liners, rifles, side arms and boots until I informed them.

By taking advantage of this situation I was able to educate them about the plight of our troops with respect to The Basic 5 and the mission of Soldiers For The Truth and lobby them for their future support if elected.

Private receptions generally are a matter of paying to attend, not a specific party affiliation. Many can be very low cost to attend such as the one I attended for only $50 per person. For $50 I received complete access to all of the candidates in attendance. Once I started speaking to them about Soldiers For The Truth and the Basic 5, I was able to engage them actively in the conversation. One politician put it very well by saying,  “Who could not support that effort”!

The key points that I outlined were as follows:

  • Let me tell you about a non-profit organization that I am involved with that only wants the BEST personal protective equipment for our troops serving in harm’s way, Soldiers For The Truth.  I was clear to tell them that we do not want money, but “their help” in getting what our troops need to have and the best opportunity to accomplish their mission and come home alive and in one piece!
  • Fact: Our troops do NOT have the best available body armor and that better commercially available body exists, but our troops are not allowed to wear it. The Army has issued a “Safety of Use” message banning all commercially available body armor even though a law exist that allows soldiers to buy commercially available armor, and to be reimbursed. But, then in its latest Catch-22, the Army will promptly confiscate it!
  • Fact:  The helmets that are issued to our soldiers will not stop a bullet and are merely compressed Kevlar fibers in the shape of a helmet! The helmet support pads issued by the military causes as many injuries as they try to prevent. This because the issued pads transmit too much of the shock wave from an IED blast and the fact that they burn when exposed to fire after an explosion. The fact is that the incidence of head, face and neck burns have climbed exponentially. Also, Operation Helmet has sent 51,000 sets of helmet pad upgrades to our troops and their pads are fire retardant!
  • The rifle (M-16 & M-4) are a 55 year old design and even with the upgrades through the years can jam (and do so frequently in harsh environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan) and the small caliber bullets lack the lethality needed in the war on terror. Also, it’s been recently revealed about the Wanat Valley incident in Afghanistan July 2008 where our soldiers were engaged in an hours-long fire fight that many of the rifles failed to continue to fire as that fire fight drug on. This resulted in the loss of 9 of our troops and many more wounded. I pointed out that the Army’s response was to study changes to the current rifle or adopting 1 of 2 other rifles after a 2 years study! I emphasized after a 2 year study!
  • The pistol we issue is ineffective, lacks enough lethality and has inherent problems that have caused many injuries to our troops and even some deaths!
  • The boots we issue our troops are not proper for the mission, climate or terrain. Many soldiers who can afford them buy a different set of boots to use in combat!  The heat in our theaters of combat absolutely cooks a soldier’s feet in the issued boots. Many soldiers are forced to wear them anyway because they cannot afford the $150 or more to buy a mission appropriate boot!
  • After covering these items (which can be done in a few short minutes), I asked for their help and support. Not one said that they would not help support our cause! Now I am aware that “lip service” is routinely given to pacify a constituent, but all I spoke to seemed sincere. Not being naïve, I fully realize that they will need to be reminded of the issues and the commitment they gave me to help if elected!

As I stated in the beginning; NONE of the politicians were aware of any of the issues concerning the “BASIC 5” pieces of equipment. If we do not expend the effort to tell them, inform them, prompt them and prod them, then things will never change and we’ll continue to have needless preventable loss of our troop’s lives.

The sad fact is that soldiers die in war. But, if they had been issued or simply allowed to use the BEST personal protective equipment available, many deaths would have been prevented.

What have YOU done today to make a difference and help our troops serving at the tip of the spear?

Isn’t it time you started to make a difference for them?

The time for action is now!  With the current political environment many new House members and Senators may take office, and access to those currently serving has never been easier. If they remain unaware of the BASIC 5, then we can expect that our troops will continue to die needlessly without the gear that could very well save their lives!

Action you can take today to make a difference:

  • Make a donation to Soldiers for the Troops.
  • Download and print the SFTT brochure and pass it to your friends and inform them of the problems our troops face.
  • Call your Senators and Congressman today and ask them for action on the BASIC 5 and be prepared to tell them what the BASIC 5 is!
  • Call the office of your State’s Governor and demand that they insist that the National Guard has access to the BEST 5 pieces of equipment!

Nothing will change unless you take the steps necessary to make it happen. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen & marines  do so much for us, isn’t it time that we repay them and do something to help them? I say yes and the time is now.

John Grant

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Absentee Leadership in DC and Afghanistan: Frankly ma’am, I don’t give a damn!

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In an enlightening article on the current lack of leadership in DC and the killing fields of Afghanistan,  Leslie H. Gelb reports on the opening of a new medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland (near DC)  to treat active-duty soldiers and veterans suffering from brain injuries and psychological disorders. Unfortunately, this article is not about the brave men and women and their families who were on hand for the innauguration of this long overdue facility, but about those who chose not to attend.  I quote at length from Mr. Gelb’s eye-opening article published in the Daily Beast:

“It was inauguration day for the nation’s most modern facility for the treatment of active-duty soldiers and veterans suffering from brain injuries and psychological disorders—5,000 of them with families on hand. At the podium in Bethesda, Maryland, stood Arnold Fisher, the chief fundraiser for this precious center that may need to care for hundreds of thousands of victims, searching in vain for one White House official, one Cabinet officer, one member of the Joint Chiefs, one senator. He found none. And he asked again and again, ‘Where are they?’

“‘You are injured,’ Fisher said. ‘We are all here. Where are they?’

“Where were they? President Obama was in meetings and having a hamburger lunch with Russian President Medvedev. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also at these meetings, though not at the hamburger shop in Virginia. Michelle Obama, who has made caring for military families one of her top priorities, couldn’t make it; she was said to have given her final “no” at the last minute. She was accompanying Mrs. Medvedev on a visit to the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in D.C., where they watched a dance performance. Vice President Joe Biden also met with Russians and with Israelis. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent his deputy William Lynn III. All four Joint Chiefs sent their deputies. General Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, couldn’t make it. Not one among the legions of pro- and antiwar hooting senators could find the time. Only two members of the House of Representatives found their way to the ceremony.”

“But there was Fisher at the podium. A corporal in the Korean War, Fisher is now a successful real-estate developer, builder, and philanthropist. He avoids confrontation and the limelight, but he could not suppress his dismay about the absences that inaugural day. ‘Here we are in the nation’s capital, the seat of our government, the very people who decide your fate, the people who send you out to protect our freedoms. And yet, where are they?’  he asked the attendees. ‘And while we appreciate that much of our military leadership is present, our government should be behind this effort,’ he continued. ‘I know these are difficult times. I read newspapers. I see the news. And still, where are they? They call you out. You are injured. We are all here. Where are they?'”

Indeed, “Where are they?”   Where are the leaders with the conviction, integrity and proper sense of values that would not take the time to reach-out and honor those who have given so much for our country?  Our leaders and media assail the Chairman of BP when he refers to the “little people” of Louisiana, but what message does it send to our troops and their families when a hamburger photo-op with Russian President Medvedev is more important to our Commander in Chief than attending the innauguration to salute our heroes.  In fact, both Russia and the US have spilled blood in Afghanistan and it might have served a useful purpose if both Presidents had attended to reflect on the consequences of sending  young men and women to war.

It would appear that these brave heroes are treated as little more than disposable assets to further  foreign or military policy goals that few can articulate and even fewer understand.   Surely, our troops deserve better.  Let’s give our troops the leadership they deserve or, perhaps, those desk-bound military and civilian “leaders” should just pull a Clark Gable and tell grieving mothers:  “Frankly ma’am, I don’t give a damn!”

Richard W. May
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Point Blank Solutions Bankruptcy Proceedings

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Reuters reports that unsecured creditors of Point Blank Solutions Inc. have asked the Delaware bankruptcy court to appoint an examiner or Chapter 11 trustee to displace the company’s board. 

According to the Reuters news release,  “the official committee of unsecured creditors claimed that the company had placed the interests of insiders above maximizing value of the business.  The filing claims that “restructuring alternatives had benefited Steel Partners, which provided Point Blank with a $20 million debtor-in-possession loan.”   According to the filing, Steel Partners controls the Point Blank Solutions Board of Directors and, as such, unsercured creditors believe that their interests are not adequately addressed.

Point Blank Armor, a subsidiary of Point Blank Solutions,  reportedly supplies more than 80 percent of the U.S. military’s soft body armor vest requirements, according to court documents.   It has been involved in a number of litigations and SEC investigations.

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Is the military covering up the extent Traumatic Brain Injury?

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In an explosive new report by ProPublica and National Public Radio (“NPR”) it would appear that the US military is seriously underestimating the brain damage or traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) caused by roadside bombs.   Officially, the military claims that 115,000 troops have suffered “mild” TBI, although ProPublica and NPR claim that “unpublished military reports” place the number much higher.

T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, and Daniel Zwerdling, NPR,   examined government records, previously undisclosed studies, and private correspondence between senior medical officials and conducted interviews with scores of soldiers, experts and military leaders.  Among their findings:

  • Military’s doctors and screening systems “routinely miss brain trauma in soldiers. One of its tests fails to catch as many as 40 percent of concussions, a recent unpublished study concluded.  A second exam, on which the Pentagon has spent millions, yields results that top medical officials call about as reliable as a coin flip.”
  • “Even when military doctors diagnose head injuries, that information often doesn’t make it into soldiers’ permanent medical files. Handheld medical devices designed to transmit data have failed in the austere terrain of the war zones. Paper records from Iraq and Afghanistan have been lost, burned or abandoned in warehouses, officials say, when no one knew where to ship them.”
  • “Without diagnosis and official documentation, soldiers with head wounds have had to battle for appropriate treatment. Some received psychotropic drugs instead of rehabilitative therapy that could help retrain their brains. Others say they have received no treatment at all, or have been branded as malingerers.”

Maj. Remington Nevin, an Army epidemiologist who served in Afghanistan is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s obvious that we are significantly underestimating and underreporting the true burden of traumatic brain injury. “This is an issue which is causing real harm. And the senior levels of leadership that should be responsible for this issue either don’t care, can’t understand the problem due to lack of experience, or are so disengaged that they haven’t fixed it.”

Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army’s most senior medical officer, allegedly instructed local medical commanders not to speak to ProPublica and NPR.  He apparently emailed bases that “We have some obvious vulnerabilities here as we have worked to better understand the nature of our soldiers’ injuries and to manage them in a standardized fashion. I do not want any more interviews at a local level.”    Neverthelss, Lt. Gen. Schoomaker later  “acknowledged shortcomings in the military’s diagnosing and documenting of head traumas.   “We still have a big problem and I readily admit it,” said Schoomaker, the Army’s surgeon general. “That is a black hole of information that we need to have closed.”

“The long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injuries can be devastating, belying their name. Soldiers can endure a range of symptoms, from headaches, dizziness and vertigo to problems with memory and reasoning. Soldiers in the field may react more slowly. Once they go home, some commanders who led units across battlefields can no longer drive a car down the street. They can’t understand a paragraph they have just read, or comprehend their children’s homework. Fundamentally, they tell spouses and loved ones, they no longer think straight.”

Clearly, the extent of brain injuries are extremely difficult to diagnose and particularly so under battlefield conditions.  Nevertheless, there is mounting evidence that our brave frontline troops are not receiving a proper diagnosis and timely and adquate treatment for this crippling affliction.   SFTT applauds T. Christian Miller of ProPublica and Daniel Zwerdling of NPR for their thorough investigative reporting.

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SPC Charles “Doc” Parrish KIA 4 June 2009 Iraq

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Doc was the combat medic for 1st Platoon, 55th Engineer Company, 5th Engineer Battalion. He was a 23 year old, gentle giant from Alabama with an calm demeanor and a way of putting everyone around him at ease. I was his first platoon leader and I remember liking him from the day he showed up. No matter how long the mission had been, Doc was always ready to take care of his Soldiers’ needs. As fortune would have it, I promoted and moved to another position out of the company, but still ran into my Soldiers including Doc from time to time.

About a month before the end of our 15-month Iraq tour in 2008-2009, I ran into Doc at the HHC TOC. He had sustained a non-combat injury and hadn’t been able to go on mission for the previous week. All he could talk about was getting back outside the wire with the platoon, as he trusted no one to take care of them like he could. We spoke about heading home in a few weeks and how he couldn’t wait to see his 5 year old son. As we parted, I told him to take care of our men and keep his head down. A week later, the battalion PA came by to let me know that Doc had been hit. He was on a route-clearance patrol with the platoon, riding in an MRAP, when a worthless, cowardly insurgent stepped out of a crowd in a market and hit his vehicle with an armor-piercing grenade. Doc was the only one in the vehicle who got hit. He had a love for life and was a fighter who never gave up, but knowing him, he would have wanted to be the one to get hit rather than losing any of his Soldiers. The loss of him not only took a great medic from the platoon and stole a father from his son, but deprived our nation of a warrior and a patriot.

CPT Michael S. Pierce

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