Navy Stands Down, Addresses Sexual Assault Awareness
The Navy is directing all to conduct a sexual assault prevention and response stand-down, which began June 10 and will continue through July 1. Reserve units and deployed personnel must complete the stand-down by July 22. "All personnel will understand their accountability and role in reducing with the goal of eliminating sexual assault from the Navy, fostering a command climate of dignity and respect, and upholding our core values of honor, courage and commitment," Navy personnel chief Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk said in a June 7 statement. During the stand-down, commanders are to conduct at least two hours of instruction addressing the goals Van Buskirk outlined. All sailors must attend the instruction sessions. Recruiters, sexual-assault response coordinators and nurse examiners, chaplains, military lawyers, criminal investigators, Family Support Center counselors, and victims' advocates also will receive additional training and guidance. Details are available in NAVADMIN 156/13 and 158/13, at www.navy.mil on the Web.
Amputees Someday Could ‘Feel' Through Prosthetic Limbs
Advancements in prosthetic-limb research soon could lead to a new generation of devices that would provide sensory feedback to amputees and quadriplegics. The Reliable Neural-Interface Technology, developed by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), uses improved interfaces that link the artificial limbs with nerves and muscles. They also can be attached using less invasive procedures than the present generation of interface-capable prosthetics, DARPA stated in a May 30 release. The devices currently are undergoing tests on quadriplegics. "Practical applications of brain interfaces for amputees are still in the future," DARPA stated. DARPA is conducting the project in conjunction with researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
House Panel Approves 1.8-Percent Pay Raise
Active-duty and reserve-component service members would receive a 1.8-percent basic pay hike next Jan. 1, under the version of the 2014 defense-spending bill that cleared the House Armed Services Committee June 6. The measure, which includes $552.1 billion for defense spending and an additional $85.8 billion for overseas contingency operations, now heads to the floor for a vote by the full House. Absent from the House bill is an Obama administration proposal to increase certain TRICARE fees and establish new ones. Included are provisions that enhance protections for victims of sexual assault and penalties for perpetrators of the crime. Reservists also would be given a minimum 120 days' notice before each deployment or in the event a deployment is canceled. Another provision would facilitate the development of better, more lightweight body armor for troops. The bill is H.R. 1960.
New Ships Named
The Navy has named the next three joint high-speed ships Yuma, Bismarck, and Burlington, and the next two littoral combat ships Billings and Tulsa. The high-speed transports are under construction at Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. They will be 338 feet in length, displace 2,362 tons, travel at speeds reaching 40 knots, and be fitted to conduct a variety of overseas-contingency and humanitarian-assistance operations. The littoral combat ships will be 378 feet long, capable of operating at speeds greater than 40 knots, and conduct combat missions that ensure dominance of coastal waters. Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine are building them in Marinette, Wis.
Army Guard To Bolster WO Strength
The Army National Guard wants to increase the number of warrant officers and chief warrant officers in the ranks, to make up a strength shortfall and ensure readiness. At present, the Guard's warrant officer corps is manned at 80 percent. The effort will focus on meeting with leaders of the military intelligence warrant officer community in particular, to determine if policies should be changed in order to encourage more interest among Guard soldiers in becoming warrant officers. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Thomas "Gary" Ensminger, the Army Guard's command chief warrant officer, outlined the plan during a June 10 speech before the military intelligence community at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Ensminger said plans are also afoot to meet with each state's warrant officer recruiter. "With the downsizing of active-duty [soldiers], there's going to be a lot more people available. We can pick some of the best out of that group," Ensminger said.
Researchers Take on Hearing Loss
Recognizing that hearing protection alone cannot prevent hearing loss among service members, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is studying ways to managing the problem with the hopes of eliminating it someday. The ONR is taking a three-pronged approach, which focuses on: providing hearing protection catered to specific missions; taking real-time measurements of noise exposure; and developing pharmaceuticals that can maintain and restore hearing. Through work conducted by the ONR and the Harvard School of Public Health, inhaled antioxidant medications have proven their effectiveness in protection against noise-induced hearing loss.
Unit Picked for Afghanistan Rotation
An Army unit consisting of about 1,230 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan as part of the upcoming summer rotation, the Pentagon announced June 7. The unit, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, is based at Fort Polk, La.
Sequestration Could Stretch Into Next Year
Sequestration, the mandatory and sharp budget cuts that kicked in earlier this year, likely will continue through 2014, a senior defense official told defense-industry representatives during a June 3 meeting. "The cuts we are going to experience potentially will fall on small businesses," Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said before an audience during the 2013 Navy Opportunity Forum in Arlington, Va. Larger military contractors will be hit, he said, but should feel the effects to a lesser extent. Kendall also expressed concern that defense-spending cuts are taking place as other nations are increasing theirs. "Potential adversaries are modernizing at a rate which makes me nervous," Kendall said. Effects of a prolonged stretch of $50 billion in annual cuts could be "devastating," Kendall said.
Soldier Pleads Guilty to Theft
Army Warrant Officer 2 Kurt Allen Bennett, who served as an Apache helicopter pilot and commanded a security detail while deployed to Iraq, pleaded guilty in federal court of conspiracy and theft of more than $100,000 in government property while deployed on 2010. Between December 2010 and July 2011, Bennett and a co-conspirator, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Alan Walker, stole more than $1 million worth of government property, according to the U.S. Justice Department. When he is sentenced, Bennett could face five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and 10 years for each count of theft. The stolen items included a lightweight laser designator range finder, a Polaris all-terrain vehicle, and two plasma cutters. The two then attempted to have the contraband shipped to Fort Drum, N.Y., via a military shipping container, through Air Force channels. He then attempted to transport the stolen goods to Georgia in his personal vehicle. Walker entered a guilty plea to the charges earlier, according to the Justice Department, and faces sentencing in August. Bennett's sentencing date has not been released yet. Bennett served with the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. While in Afghanistan, he served at U.S. Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak and Kandahar Air Base.
House Panel Completes '14 Defense Bill Markup
TRICARE Prime enrollment fee hikes, new enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life and TRICARE Standard, and pharmacy copayment increases all failed to make it into the House’s version of the 2014 defense-spending bill. The House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee also approved the Obama administration’s call for a 1.8-percent pay raise for service members, kept strength reduction at levels set in the 2013 defense bill, reduced the number of flag-rank and general officer billets by 24, and again affirmed the commitment to require a minimum 180 days’ notice before reserve components can be deployed or have a deployment canceled. The provisions are contained in the panel’s markup of the administration’s proposed 2014 defense bill, which was released May 22.