Friday, January 28, 2011
That's why we are honoring your commitment to America's 2.9 million disabled veterans!
That's why we would like to recognize you as one of our top supporters and invite you to join the Commanders Club.
Membership in the Commanders Club marks you as one who chooses not to look away from our disabled veterans. It's a shame, but almost 97% of Americans turn aside when we ask for help.
Our nation's sick and injured heroes count on you, Sean.
Without ongoing support from friends like you, we couldn't reach out to the wounded heroes who have earned and deserve our help. Essential programs would grind to a halt, in fact.
Now is the moment to choose which Commanders Club Leader Level you want beside your name. Make your 2011 Commanders Club Commitment:
- Diamond Leader Level—$75
- Gold Leader Level—$50
- Silver Leader Level—$25
- Bronze Leader Level—$15
Arthur H. Wilson,
Disabled American Veterans
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Ranking Tops Federal Agencies, Private Firms
WASHINGTON (Jan. 25, 2011) - For the fourth consecutive time in ten
years, the system of national cemeteries operated by the Department of
Veterans Affairs has bested the nation's top corporations and other
federal agencies in a prestigious, independent survey of customer
"This survey is testament to the outstanding service that employees at
VA's 131 national cemeteries provide to our nation's Veterans and their
families," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki "It is
VA's privilege to care for our nation's heroes in perpetuity, using the
highest standards of professionalism and compassion."
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is the only national,
cross-industry measure of satisfaction with the quality of goods and
services available in the United States. Beginning in 1999, the federal
government selected ACSI to measure citizen satisfaction.
Citing VA's consistently record-setting ASCI scores, the independent
Federal Consulting Group saluted VA's "commitment to outstanding
customer service to . . . Veterans' next of kin, as demonstrated by
achieving an extraordinarily high ASCI score."
More than 100 federal agencies have used ACSI to gauge consumer
satisfaction with more than 200 services and programs. The Index was
founded at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and the
survey is produced by ACSI, LLC.
VA's National Cemetery Administration participates in the ACSI every
three years, previously in 2001, 2004 and 2007. This is the fourth time
it participated and the fourth consecutive time it received the top
rating in the nation. For 2010, the National Cemetery Administration
achieved a customer satisfaction index of 94. Its score is nearly 29
points above the average for federal government agencies, which was 65
in the study.
The ACSI survey polled the next-of-kin or other people who had arranged
for the interment of a loved one in a VA national cemetery within the
previous six months to one year. More than 1,900 people received the
survey and 444 responded, a high response rate for a mail survey.
Using methodologies developed at the National Quality Research Center of
the University of Michigan Business School, the National Cemetery
Administration received ratings in the categories of "customer service"
and "user trust" of 96 out of a possible 100 points, indicating
respondents are exceptionally pleased with their experience at national
cemeteries and willing to recommend their services to others.
Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than
dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be
buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel
who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents.
Other burial benefits available for all eligible Veterans, regardless of
whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery,
include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a
government headstone or marker. Families of eligible decedents may also
order a memorial headstone or marker when remains are not available for
In the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, VA operates
131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers'
lots and monument sites. More than 3.5 million Americans, including
Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA's cemeteries on
more than 19,000 acres of land.
Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery
offices, from the Internet at www.cem.va.gov <http://www.cem.va.gov> or
by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000. To make
burial arrangements at the time of need at any VA national cemetery,
call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.
Will Provide Easier Path to Health Care and Benefits
WASHINGTON - Veterans exposed to herbicides while serving along the
demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Korea will have an easier path to access
quality health care and benefits under a Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) final regulation that will expand the dates when illnesses caused
by herbicide exposure can be presumed to be related to Agent Orange.
"VA's primary mission is to be an advocate for Veterans," said Secretary
of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki "With this new regulation VA has
cleared a path for more Veterans who served in the demilitarized zone in
Korea to receive access to our quality health care and disability
benefits for exposure to Agent Orange."
Under the final regulation published today in the Federal Register, VA
will presume herbicide exposure for any Veteran who served between April
1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971, in a unit determined by VA and the
Department of Defense (DoD) to have operated in an area in or near the
Korean DMZ in which herbicides were applied.
Previously, VA recognized that Agent Orange exposure could only be
conceded to Veterans who served in certain units along the Korean DMZ
between April 1968 and July 1969.
In practical terms, eligible Veterans who have specific illnesses VA
presumes to be associated with herbicide exposure do not have to prove
an association between their illness and their military service. This
"presumption" simplifies and speeds up the application process for
benefits and ensures that Veterans receive the benefits they deserve.
Click on these links to learn about Veterans' diseases associated with
Agent Orange exposure
birth defects in children of Vietnam-era Veterans
VA encourages Veterans with covered service in Korea who have medical
conditions that may be related to Agent Orange to submit their
applications for access to VA health care and compensation as soon as
possible so the agency can begin processing their claims.
Individuals can go to website
<http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/AO/claimherbicide.htm> to get a more
complete understanding of how to file a claim for presumptive conditions
related to herbicide exposure, as well as what evidence is needed by VA
to make a decision about disability compensation or survivors benefits.
Additional information about Agent Orange and VA's services for Veterans
exposed to the chemical is available at
The regulation is available on the Office of the Federal Register
website at http://www.ofr.gov/.
Monday, January 24, 2011
By Elaine Wilson
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2011 - President Barack Obama today unveiled a governmentwide plan to strengthen military family support, offering a glimpse at a few of the new programs and cooperative efforts being launched in the coming months to improve quality of life and well-being for military families.
"Today, I'm proud to announce that for the first time ever, supporting the well-being of our military families will be a priority not just for the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, but all across the federal government," Obama said.
Speaking from the White House's East Room, Obama unveiled this "unprecedented commitment" to military families with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, at his side. Top government and Defense Department officials also were on hand, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the service chiefs, and their spouses.
Spotlighting the importance of military family support, Obama recalled his trip to Afghanistan last month, where he spoke to troops and asked them what he could do to better support them.
"Without missing a beat, they looked me in the eye and they gave me their answer," the president said. "It wasn't about more equipment. It wasn't about more resources on the battlefield. In fact, it wasn't about them.
"They said, to a man: 'Sir, take care of our families,'" he said. "'If we know our families are all right back home, then we can do our jobs.'"
Earlier today, the White House released the results of this nearly yearlong review of military family support. From child care to health care to spouse employment, the report -- titled "Strengthening our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment" -- identifies the key issues military families face and presents programs and resources government agencies plan to launch in the coming months to address them.
The report outlines four key areas the whole-of-government effort plans to address: enhancing military families' well-being and psychological health, developing military spouse career and education opportunities, increasing child care availability and quality, and ensuring excellence in military children's education and development.
Improving quality of life is a priority, Obama noted, offering a glimpse at some programs that will focus in the coming months on families' well-being. The Defense and Health and Human Services departments, for example, are working together to improve community mental health services and to prevent suicides, he said. And a new office in the Treasury Department will help to protect military families from financial pitfalls, such as predatory lending.
"We have to have zero tolerance for homelessness among our veterans," he added, a statement that was met by thunderous applause.
Another priority, Obama said, is the education and development of military children, many of whom attend public schools. He praised the efforts of agencies such as the Education and Interior departments. The Education Department will give military families priority in some of its grant programs, and the Interior Department plans to create more opportunities for military children.
"We're going to help spouses to get that degree, find that job or start that new business," he said. "We want every company in America to know our military spouses and veterans have the skills and the dedication, and our nation is more competitive when we tap their incredible talents."
Finally, the government is going to expand child care options for military parents. "Working together, we believe we can find new child care options for tens of thousands of military children," the president said.
"Government has its responsibilities," Obama said. "One percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but a hundred percent of Americans need to be supporting our troops and their families -- a hundred percent."
|Related Sites: |
Special Report: Strengthening Our Military Families Meeting America's Commitment
White House transcript
White House news release
Friday, January 21, 2011
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, has been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Air Force 1st Lt. Robert F. Dees, 23, of Moultrie, Ga., will be buried Jan. 22 at the Longstreet Historical Cemetery in Ozark, Ala. On Oct. 9, 1952, he was flying an F-84 Thunderjet, attacking several targets in North Korea. After he and three aircraft from the 430th Fighter-Bomber Squadron completed their attack on their primary target, they began their bombing run against enemy boxcars on the railroad near Sinyang. Other members of his flight reported seeing an explosion near the target they were attacking. They believed it to be the crash of Dees' aircraft and could not raise any radio contact with him. Airborne searches over the battlefield failed to locate him or his aircraft.
Following the armistice in 1953, the North Koreans repatriated 4,219 remains of U.S. and allied soldiers during Operation Glory. In November 1954, they turned over remains which they reported were recovered from Sinyang. Accompanying the remains were portions of a pilot's flight suit and a pneumatic life preserver. But after two attempts, the Army's mortuary at Kokura, Japan, was unable to identify the remains. They were buried in 1956 as "unknown" at the Punch Bowl Cemetery in Hawaii.
Beginning in the late 1990s, analysts from DPMO and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) undertook a concentrated review of Korean War air losses, as well as a review of the Kokura mortuary files. They made a tentative association to Dees, based on U.S. wartime records as well as the information provided by the North Koreans. These remains were disinterred from the Punch Bowl Cemetery in June 2010.
Dees' remains were identified by making extensive dental comparisons with his medical records.
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The Department of Defense (DoD) announced today the launch of an interactive simulation designed to help those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) developed the 'Virtual PTSD Experience' to help combat veterans and their families and friends to anonymously enter a virtual world and learn about PTSD causes, symptoms and resources.
"We believe this is the first time DoD has used interactive simulations with the Web to help our military community with PTSD in the privacy of their homes," said Dr. George Peach Taylor Jr., principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
The Virtual PTSD Experience was designed to be used in the privacy of homes. Visitors are anonymous, which reduces the perceived stigma of asking for help with PTSD.
"We created an environment that lets people learn by doing, rather than reading text and watching videos on two-dimensional websites," said. Kevin Holloway, the psychologist who led T2's virtual world development. "They can learn something new each time they visit."
The T2 Virtual PTSD Experience can be visited at http://www.t2health.org/vwproj/ .
Located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., T2 is a component of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. For more information about the T2 Virtual PTSD Experience, media may contact Joe Jimenez at email@example.com or at 253-318-1177.
Since the end of the Cold War our membership in NATO maybe has been not in our best interest as it has such a cloudy mission and doctrines these days. Read this and tell me what do you think?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Dr. Tracy Williams Gaudet to Lead Office
WASHINGTON (Jan. 19, 2011)-- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
creating a new office to develop personal, patient-centered models of
care for Veterans who receive health care services at VA's more than
1,000 points of care across the Nation.
"VA has become one of the Nation's leaders in quality health care and is
increasingly cited as the standard to emulate," said VA Under Secretary
for Health Dr. Robert A. Petzel. "However, we must always continue to
find ways to deliver more with our systems to the incredible patients we
are honored to serve. We need to be data-driven, providing the
treatments and therapies with the best clinical evidence, and we need to
be patient-centered, never losing sight that we have been given the
noble mission to care for our Nation's Veterans, families and
The new VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation
began operations on Jan. 17 and is based in Arlington, Va.
The office's director, Dr. Tracy Williams Gaudet, comes to VA from Duke
University Medical Center where she has served as the executive director
of Duke Integrated Medicine since 2001. Dr. Gaudet received her
Bachelor of Arts and medical degrees from Duke University.
"The VA's vision and commitment to cultural transformation comes at a
pivotal moment for health care in this country, and I am deeply honored
to be joining VA in this important work," said Dr. Gaudet. "The Office
of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation will be a living,
learning organization in which we will discover and demonstrate new
models of care, analyze the results, and then create strategies that
allow for their translation and implementation across the VA. VA will
continue to be a national leader in innovation, and, in this way, we
will provide the future of high-quality health care to our Veterans."
The VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation will
have four regional implementation teams at select VA medical centers
across the country: Birmingham, Ala; East Orange, N.J.; Dallas; and Los
Each VA medical center was selected for excellence already demonstrated
in producing cultures of patient-centered care based on established
criteria. These regional teams, comprised of patient-centered care
consultants, will be responsible for facilitating the culture change for
patient-centered care at all VA facilities.
Friday, January 14, 2011
On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Tomorrow, we celebrate the life and legacy of a great American, Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. - Baptist preacher, civil rights activist, iconic
healer, leader of the nonviolent movement in civil disobedience, a true
visionary, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (1968), recipient of the
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977, posthumous), and recipient of the
Congressional Gold Medal (2004, posthumous).
In a sermon delivered shortly before his assassination in April of 1968,
Dr. King told the congregation that after his death, he hoped people
would remember that he fought peacefully for justice for all men and
"I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr.,
tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say
that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
"I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the
hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life
to clothe those who were naked. And I want you to say that day, that I
did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to
say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum
major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum
major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not
Let us remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dedication to the
service of others. As we serve the Veterans who have served our Nation,
let us walk in his footsteps to the better tomorrows he saw so clearly
in his dreams.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Air Force Col. James E. Dennany, 34, of Kalamazoo, Mich., and Maj. Robert L. Tucci, 27, of Detroit, will be buried as a group Jan. 14, in the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery.
On Nov. 12, 1969, Dennany and Tucci were flying the number three aircraft of three F-4Ds escorting an AC-130 gunship on a night strike mission over Laos. After the gunship attacked six trucks and set two of them on fire, the AC-130 crew's night vision equipment was impacted by the glow from the fires. They requested that Tucci attack the remaining trucks. During the attack, gunship crew members observed anti-aircraft artillery gunfire directed at Tucci's plane followed by a large explosion. No radio transmissions were heard from the F-4D following the attack and no parachutes were seen in the area. An immediate electronic search revealed nothing and no formal search was initiated due to heavy anti-aircraft fire in the area.
Beginning in the mid-1990s analysts at DPMO and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) developed case leads they collected from wartime reporting and archival research.
In 1994, a joint U.S.-Lao People's Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team led by JPAC analyzed leads, interviewed villagers, and surveyed five reported crash sites near the record loss location with negative results.
In 1999, during another joint survey, officials in Ban Soppeng, Laos, turned over remains later determined to be human, two .38 caliber pistols and other crew-related equipment that villagers had recovered from a nearby crash site. Between 1999 and 2009, other joint U.S.-L.P.D.R. teams pursued leads, interviewed villagers, and conducted three excavations. They recovered aircraft wreckage, human remains, crew-related equipment and personal effects.
JPAC scientists used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence in the identification of the remains.
With the accounting of these airmen, 1,702 service members still remain missing from the conflict.
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/ or call 703-699-1169.
Monday, January 10, 2011
WASHINGTON (Jan. 10, 2011) - Certain combat Veterans who were discharged
from active duty service before Jan. 28, 2003 have until Jan. 27, 2011
to take advantage of their enhanced health care enrollment opportunity
through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
"While there is no time limit for Veterans to apply for the VA health
care they earned with their service, I highly encourage this group of
combat Veterans to take advantage of the enhanced enrollment window to
use their health care benefits through this simplified process," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "VA has health care
eligibility specialists online and at every medical center eager to help
Veterans take advantage of this opportunity."
The enhanced enrollment window was provided for in Public Law 110-181,
the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. That law
gave combat Veterans who served after Nov. 11, 1998 but separated from
service before Jan. 28, 2003, and did not enroll before Jan. 28, 2008,
three years, beginning on Jan. 28, 2008, to apply for the enhanced
These Veterans will still be able to apply for health benefits with VA
after Jan. 27, but will have their status for receiving VA health care
determined under normal VA procedures that base health care priority
status on the severity of a service-connected disability or other
eligibility factors. This would mean some Veterans could face income or
asset-based restrictions, as well as delays in establishing their VA
health care eligibility while their disability status is determined.
Since the inception of the enhanced enrollment opportunity, VA has sent
more than 750,000 personal letters to eligible Veterans and hosted
thousands of outreach efforts through OIF/OEF and enrollment
coordinators stationed at every VA medical center.
Since June 2010, VA sent another 194,000 personal letters to give every
eligible Veteran a chance to take advantage of this opportunity, but to
date only 13,000 of these Veterans have enrolled.
The law does continue to provide the enhanced health care enrollment
window to combat Veterans who were discharged or released from active
service on or after January 28, 2003. For these Veterans, the five-year
enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the
service member from active duty military service, or in the case of
multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date.
Saturday, January 08, 2011
Posted : Saturday Jan 8, 2011 10:17:59 EST
China's new stealth fighter looks like a bigger F-22. A government-run newspaper published photos of the J-20 along with a story in its Jan. 5 editions, lending credence to speculation by defense experts worldwide that China is making faster-than-expected progress on a rival to the Raptor. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has suggested a Chinese stealth fighter would not be a threat to the U.S. until 2020.
Air Force officials refused to comment on the J-20, although they weighed in a year ago when Russia's stealth fighter, dubbed the T-50, made its maiden flight. Secretary Michael Donley and the commanders of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Pacific Air Forces — Gen. Roger Brady and Gen. Gary North, respectively —discussed the airplane at an Air Force Association conference.
"I didn't see anything… that would cause me to rethink plans for the F-22 or the F-35," Donley said. One of Brady's remarks: "It looks like a plane we've seen before," referring to the F-22. From North: "I guess the greatest flattery is how much they copy you."
The Navy and the Pentagon, however, addressed the J-20.
"Over the years, the Chinese military doctrine was one of hide and bide — hide your military resources and bide your time," Vice Adm. David Dorsett, the Navy's top intelligence officer, told reporters Jan. 5.
Now, Dorsett said, Chinese leaders "appear to have shifted into an area where they're willing to show their resources and capabilities."
The Defense Department isn't worried about the China military, said spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan.
"It is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter," Lapan said, since the Chinese are "still having difficulties with their fourth-generation fighter."
The newspaper did not address the authenticity of the photos, which showed up a month ago on unofficial military news websites.
A Washington-based Asia military affairs analyst, though, describes the jet shown in the pictures as "the real deal."
"At first glance this fighter has the potential to be competitive with the F-22 and to be an efficient F-35 killer," said Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, author of the new book, "China's Military Modernization."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Monday, January 03, 2011
Washington (Jan. 3, 2010)- To further advocate for Veterans, VA
announced that companies identifying themselves as small businesses or
Veteran-owned businesses to gain priority for some Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) contracts must now provide documentation verifying
their status within 90 days of receiving notice from the agency.
"VA is committed to doing business with as well as supporting and
protecting Veteran-owned small businesses," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Although the verification process may
initially be a challenge to some small business owners and to VA, it's a
necessary step to eliminate misrepresentation by firms trying to receive
contracts that should go to service-disabled and other Veteran-owned
The Veterans Benefits Act of 2010, signed by the President Oct. 13,
expanded VA's requirement to verify the status of businesses claiming
Veterans preference to compete for VA contracts by being listed in VA's
VetBiz.gov "Vendor Information Pages" (VIP) database. Companies will
have to submit an application to substantiate their status as owned and
controlled by Veterans, service-disabled Veterans or eligible surviving
spouses. Only companies that submit the information will be listed in
the VIP database.
The law requires VA to notify currently listed businesses that within 90
days of the Veteran-owned business receiving the notice they must submit
certain business documents. VA sent notices to more than 13,000 listed
businesses by email and mail Dec. 10-11. Other companies, wanting to
be listed in the database and considered for future set-aside VA
contracts, also have to submit application packages. VA will work on
those verifications after the existing listings are verified.
The department plans to post additional information at www.VetBiz.gov in
early February informing applicants how to submit their documents
electronically. In the meantime, VA's notice to currently listed
businesses encourages them to submit their information on CD-ROM.
Priority processing will be given to those Veteran-owned firms that are
in line to receive a set-aside contract from VA, those that already
conduct business with VA, and those that have already filed an
application for verification.
For more information, visit the Office of Small and Disadvantaged
Business Utilization's website at
www.va.gov/OSDBU/veteran/verification.asp or the main page at
Saturday, January 01, 2011
ACWV Letter to Senator Collins on the removal of CWSM from NDAA
Rep. Chellie Pingree
Sen. Olympia Snowe
Sen. Susan Collins
January 1, 2011
I am contacting you today with a sadness in my heart.
Congress has once again turned its back on millions of American Veterans.
Most notably the Cold War Veterans, those who served with honor and distinction from Sept. 1945 to Dec. 1991.
While we were very pleased and hopeful to note that S.2743 and H.R. 4051
would have authorized a Cold War Service medal, both bills gathered dust
in their respective committee, and died with the end of the 111th Congress.
We were then very excited to see that the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act S.3454 included a provision SEC. 566, that would
have authorized the Cold War Service Medal.
Sadly at the last minute, the Senate voted to accept the House version of the NDAA without debate, and the Cold War Medal was not approved.
We are asking that in the new session of Congress that you consider introducing legislation that would authorize and direct DoD to issue a Cold War Service Medal.
Another thought is that while he was a senator President Obama at least
twice stated that he was in favor of a Cold War Victory Medal, and would sign the bill when it reached his desk.
I am asking if you would consider approaching President Obama to ask
him to use an Executive Order to establish a Cold War Service Medal.
There is precedent, as other presidents have created medals.
I thank you for your service to our country, and I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments you might have on this issue
American Cold War Veterans
South Portland , ME
Smoking Lamp to Extinguish Dec. 31 on Navy Subs
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2010 – The countdown to the new year is on, and with it, a ban on smoking below decks aboard Navy submarines.
Navy officials announced the new rule April 8, to take effect Navy-wide when the clock strikes midnight Dec. 31.
The ban was instituted to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke that puts them at risk of developing heart and lung disease, Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander of Submarine Forces in Norfolk, Va., explained in a news release.
"Our sailors are our most important asset to accomplishing our missions," Donnelly explained in announcing the new policy. "Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine. The only way to eliminate risk to our non-smoking sailors is to stop smoking aboard our submarines."
The Navy has been preparing its submariner crews, about 40 percent that smokes, for the change. It offers smoking cessation programs and issues nicotine gum or patches to help sailors kick the habit. Navy officials have also taken steps to make lighting up less convenient, such as limiting smoking time and the number of sailors permitted into the boat's nonsmoking area or "smoke pit" at any one time.
During a media visit aboard the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island in August, crew members agreed that implementing the smoking ban would be tough.
"This is a very high-stress job," Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Robert McCombs, head of the sub's engineering department, told reporters. "We push our crew very hard every day, 12 to 18 hours a day, and smoking is how they relax. Some people are saying they don't want to stay on subs because they can't smoke."
Some submarines extinguished their smoking lamps early, to correspond with deployment schedules or other significant events. USS Michigan, for example, instituted the smoking ban July 27 at 7:27 a.m. to correspond with its hull number, 727. The command's plan was for the sailors to quit while deployed, and then return home with a fresh start and plenty of support from their family and friends, Michigan's senior enlisted personnel explained.
Among them was Command Master Chief Victor Smith, the blue crew's command master chief.
"As a former smoker for more than 10 years, I understand the challenges of quitting smoking," Smith told Navy News Service. "It is extremely hard to stop when you are at sea. We want our sailors to be successful, so we decided to put the smoking lamp out during this mission cycle. The day we extinguished the smoking lamp onboard was a significant event in the lives of our sailors. I cannot think of a more appropriate day to start a new and healthier life than 727 day."
USS Georgia, home ported in Kings Bay, Ga., implemented the new smoking ban Aug.15, while it was under way.
"Not being able to smoke onboard after December 31st will be difficult for some," acknowledged Command Master Chief, Richard Rose, blue crew master chief, during a Navy News Service interview. "This change will be hard, but will be for the better in the long run. Promoting and building a healthier submarine force is the right thing to do for the sailors in the Navy today."