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March/April 2001

March/April 2001

Beginning this April, mid-career soldiers who are between 10 and 13 months of ETS are exempt from assignment consideration. This will allow those soldiers an opportunity to exercise their reenlistment options.

The new policy does not apply to soldiers who:

  • have been placed on assignment instructions prior to 13 months from their original ETS;
  • have less than 10 months to ETS;
  • execute an extension and are within 13 months of ETS;
  • signed a declination of continued service statement (DCSS) and were removed from assignment instruction and subsequently had their DCSS removed;
  • extended to complete the service remaining requirements and subsequently had their extension cancelled at their own request.

Soldiers in the mid-career category may still be placed on assignment instructions for the following reasons:
  • compassionate reassignments;
  • reported immediately available;
  • assigned to nominative positions;
  • joint domiciles (MACP);
  • recruiter/drill sergeant assignments;
  • reclassification; or
  • as a result of a reenlistment option.

According to PERSCOM, both the Army and the individual will benefit from this program. Fewer soldiers will execute a DCSS while a greater number of mid-career soldiers will reenlist to fill a valid requisition, resulting in reduced turbulence.

Soldiers should address questions to their servicing career counselor or visit PERSCOM online.

On 24 February 1991, the United States and its allies launched an offensive against the Iraqi army, beginning a ground war that would last less than 100 hours. Ten years later, as the Army remembers the service and sacrifice of our soldiers in Operation Desert Storm, the Center of Military History (CMH) has put many resources online, offering a special feature on Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The site provides both text and images, and encourages organizations to produce their own individualized programs or products to commemorate the anniversary of Desert Storm using CMH’s materials.

Posted as part of this feature is the full-text version of The Whirlwind War, CMH’s overview volume on Desert Shield and Desert Storm. This on-line volume includes all of the book’s photographs, maps, charts and equipment line drawings. Other photograph galleries and works from the Army Art Collection depicting life during the Gulf War are also available.

New products for the 10th anniversary include a revised commemorative poster and a Desert Storm screensaver--released on 24 February. The poster is available through the Army Publishing Agency distribution system and the screensaver can be downloaded at CMH’s website.

A DA selection board is scheduled to convene at the Enlisted Records and Evaluations Center, Indianapolis, IN, on 30 May 2001 to consider soldiers for promotion to SFC and automatic selection for attendance at the Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course (ANOC). Additionally, the board will review records for possible elimination under the Qualitative Management Program (QMP).

For advancement to SFC the board will consider all staff sergeants with a DOR of 30 June 1999 and earlier and with a BASD between 30 May 1982 and 30 May 1995. Primary Zone DOR is 30 June 1998 and earlier. Secondary Zone is 1 July 1998--30 June 1999.

DA recently released its list of FY 2001 reserve component unit inactivations and force structure changes.

These inactivations, when combined with ongoing unit activations and conversions, result in a net loss of 2,511 spaces in the Army National Guard and a net gain of 483 spaces in the Army Reserve. These inactivations and changes in structure do not affect Army National Guard or Army Reserve endstrength.

The selection criteria used to determine unit inactivations include the ability of a unit to meet future readiness requirements in the following areas: deployability, recruiting, retention, facility support, training, geographic locations, and personnel issues. When possible, soldiers assigned to units programmed for inactivation will be given opportunities for reassignment.

For more information, contact Army Public Affairs at 703-696-7590, the U.S. Army Reserve Public Affairs office at 703-601-0840, or the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs office at 703-607-2611. (From an ArmyLINK release.)

An innovative handheld landmine detector, designed to enable soldiers to quickly and accurately detect all types of antitank and antipersonnel landmines, was unveiled recently.

The new system dramatically reduces the high number of false alarms that have been a problem with current landmine detection equipment. False-alarm rates are especially prevalent with the current systems when you have other metal elements in the soil such as shrapnel or bullet casings. The new device’s rate of detection is unaffected by such "noise" during the detection process. During testing at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the CyTerra prototype demonstrated a probability of detection of near 100 percent.

Landmines were responsible for 34 percent of all U.S. casualties in the Persian Gulf War. There are currently an estimated 60 to 70 million landmines in the ground in 70 countries around the world. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

The United States is reducing the number of troops and heavy equipment in Bosnia. According to DoD officials, 750 soldiers will be returning stateside by the end of April, and tanks and fighting vehicles will be reduced to a number officials feel is "still prudent to retain" in SFOR. All 16 Apache helicopters are also scheduled to be withdrawn. (From an American Forces Press Service release.)

Some specialists who make the promotion cutoff score will soon be able to pin on sergeant stripes before attending the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC). Beginning in May 2001, specialists who meet the cutoff score for promotion--but are operationally deployed, on a temporary profile or on the waiting list to attend PLDC--may receive a conditional promotion to sergeant, said SGM Franklin Raby, a personnel policy integrator for DCSPER. But the conditional promotion can only be made upon a commander’s request, Raby said.

The early promotions should increase readiness numbers but may lower the monthly number of specialists selected for promotion, Raby said. "We select about 2,500 specialists a month to be promoted, but on average only about 80 percent get promoted. The others either separate from the service or lose their eligibility and get removed from the list," Raby said. "Those numbers may fluctuate because we currently have 5,000 specialists who have made the cutoff and are waiting to attend PLDC." (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

As the relocation season approaches, U.S. Army Europe officials are reminding soldiers and civilians that a restriction is in place prohibiting the shipping, transporting, or hand-carrying of privately-owned firearms to Germany. The temporary weapons restriction, in place since 26 September, will remain in effect until USAREUR and German officials finalize procedures for soldiers and civilian employees to obtain weapon permits from the German government. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

With the planned addition of about 5,500 full-time support personnel to the Army Reserve and 12,000 to the Army National Guard over the next 10 years, reserve component units should be better prepared to meet the challenges of the Army’s high operational tempo, according to Army officials.

The 2001 National Defense Authorization Act began the full-time support "ramp-up" of more Army Guard/Reserve soldiers and military technicians a year earlier than originally slated, said COL Bruce Wilson, a force development director with the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations office.

Military technicians work as DA civilians during the normal workweek and as reservists during their units’ drill weekends. AGRs work as soldiers both during the workweek and during drills.

The full-time support manages myriad unit administrative details such as pay processing, personnel records maintenance and supply actions, according to Wilson. Work done by the AGRs and military technicians on a day-to-day basis allows reservists more time for training and executing their unit’s mission rather than wading through piles of paperwork when they arrive for their monthly weekend duty, he said.

However, the "ramp-up" will not assign additional full-time support to units based on the best unit justifications as has occurred in the past. The added manpower will be assigned based on a formal risk assignment.

Manpower is directly tied to readiness, Wilson said; therefore, those units most likely to be called upon to support Army operations in the short term will have priority to be manned with more full-time support before those who are tiered to be mobilized at later dates. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

Veterans interested in learning about benefits provided by their state governments can now turn to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA has developed a compre-hensive, computerized inventory of state veterans benefits. The new State Benefits Reference System enables front-line VA employees to link to state services that can range from special vehicle license plates to personal property tax exemptions.

Some of the most popular state benefits are civil service preferences in state hiring and care for veterans in nursing homes. Several dozen states offer education assistance for the dependents of veterans or real estate tax exemptions for them. A handful of states give modest pensions to veterans. Other state benefits include free or discount hunting licenses, special license plates, burial payments, and even discounts at gasoline stations where some disabled veterans can receive full service from the attendant but are charged only the self-service gasoline price.

To learn more about this new information system, contact your nearest VA regional office or visit the VA website for a list of regional offices.

Servicemembers may begin to sign up for the Thrift Savings Plan beginning 9 October 2001, DoD officials say.

Thrift Savings is a retirement and investment plan that has been available to civilian government workers since 1987. Congress extended the plan to include servicemembers in 2000. "It’s in addition to your regular retirement," said LTC Tom Emswiler, a tax expert with DoD’s Office of Military Compensation. "It’s an optional program."

Open season for signing up will run from 9 October to 8 December 2001. Deductions start in January 2002. In 2002, servicemembers may contribute up to 7 percent of basic pay. The maximum amount servicemembers may contribute from basic pay will change; the current limit of 7 percent will rise to 10 percent by 2005 and become unlimited in 2006. Servicemembers may also contribute all or a percentage of any special, incentive or bonus pay they receive. The total amount generally cannot exceed $10,500 for the year. Contributions from pay earned in a combat zone do not count against the $10,500 ceiling. Combat zone contributions are subject to a different limitation--25 percent of pay or $35,000, whichever is less.

All the services will have teams visiting members to explain the program. Until then, see the uniformed services website for more information. (From an American Forces Press Service story.)

Starting in May, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) will no longer require customers to put their Social Security numbers on checks when paying for their groceries. As national anxiety over identity theft mounted and various civilian retailers stopped asking for SSNs, military shoppers began asking DeCA to change, too. As a result, customers will have extra security and the convenience of not having to write their SSN on a check when shopping at the commissary. (From a Defense Commissary Agency Public Affairs release.)

Stable marriages survive half-year deployments without long-term consequences in satisfaction or quality, researchers recently reported in Psychological Reports.

Married military personnel deployed along the Egyptian-Israeli border reported moderate declines in marital satisfaction during deployment, yet marital satisfaction was highest at 18 months post-deployment, researchers reported. Marital quality did not change over time among the 113 married soldiers, according to researchers. Marital satisfaction and changes in marital satisfaction were not found related to future willingness to volunteer for other peacekeeping missions, to stay in the military, or in overall evaluation of the mission. Having marital problems prior to deployment was linked to lower marital stability rates, however. Of the 113 soldiers married prior to deployment, 103 were still married to the same partner. Of the 38 married soldiers who reported their marriage not in trouble prior to deployment, 33 were still married to the same spouse. Of the 11 soldiers who reported troubled marriages prior to deployment, seven were still married.

"This result might be reassuring to military couples, that they can weather deployments without long-term damage to the quality or satisfaction with their marriages," researchers said.

"Overseas Military Deployment and Marital Quality, Satisfaction, and Stability" can be viewed in its entirety online. (Reprinted with permission from Veteran’s Voice, Volume 14, Number 7, March 2001.)

No one knows better than an Army spouse what Army life is like. Army researchers want to capture that knowledge so senior leaders can use that experience input as a blueprint to improve support for families. One of the best ways to obtain input from spouses is through the Survey of Army Families IV, recently mailed to some 20,000 randomly selected Army spouses.

"We want spouses to tell us what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes out there wherever they are," says Dr. Richard Fafara, senior research analyst at the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center. "They know best what affects their lives and we value their comments."

The 104 questions in this year’s survey tackle tough issues, asking spouses to uncover family concerns and needs. From housing to relocation to child care, youthservices and other issues that impact Army families, the goal of the survey is to paint a picture of emerging trends. The survey packets include postage-paid return envelopes, and spouses are encouraged to fill out and return the questionnaire as soon as possible. (From a U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center release.)

Soldiers with family members entering their senior year of high school may be able to stay an extra year at their current duty stations. Soldiers with a family member due to graduate from high school in 2002 can initiate a request for stabilization by submitting a DA Form 4187 listing the family member’s name and Social Security number. The family member must be enrolled in DEERS. A letter from the high school stating when the family member is projected to graduate must be attached to the 4187. Soldiers stationed overseas must state on the form that they will extend their foreign service tour to meet the stabilization requirement.

Enlisted soldiers must also list on the 4187 any scheduled training, such as schooling or temporary duty en route. Officers with scheduled training should contact their branch assignment officer to reschedule that training.

The application suspense for soldiers with youth who will be seniors next fall is 30 May 2001. Beyond the 2001--02 school year, the suspense will be 12 months prior to the start of the youth’s senior year. More information from PERSOM. (From an ArmyLINK News release.)

The Army has a "RADical" way for soldiers, retirees and family members to get information on retirement benefits. Retiree Appreciation Days (RADs) are one- or two-day seminars conducted annually at major Army installations to bring retirees, soldiers and their families up-to-date information on America’s Army and on changes in retirement benefits. RADs are put together by the Retirement Service Office (RSO) at the installation. Most RADs offer guest speakers and displays covering topics such as health care, retired pay, Survivor Benefit Plan, veterans’ benefits, Social Security, military legal aid, and retirees as adjunct recruiters. Some RADs even offer health fairs with blood pressure and other screening.

More information from Army Retirement Services.

Vietnam veterans now have a new national toll-free helpline to answer their questions about Agent Orange exposure, health care and benefits. The new helpline--1-800-749-8387--is part of the continuing efforts of the VA to reach American’s 2.3 million Vietnam veterans. Callers can speak directly to VA representatives Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Standard Time, or access a 24-hour automated system. They can leave voice-mail messages to have information sent to them or listen to recordings about exposure to Agent Orange, VA benefits, health care and disability compensation.

Agent Orange has been linked to a variety of health problems, ranging from rare conditions and certain birth defects in veterans’ offspring to diseases such as prostate cancer and adult-onset diabetes. A regulation to provide monthly compensation for Vietnam veterans with adult-onset diabetes is expected later this year. VA estimates that approximately 200,000 Vietnam veterans will receive service-connection for their diabetes within the first five years under the new policy.

As part of its outreach, VA is expanding its Agent Orange Review newsletter mailings to over 600,000 identified, in-country Vietnam veterans. A special issue of the newsletter has been prepared that summarizes VA benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and the procedures to obtain benefits. More information...

The new TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) combines the former TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan and TRICARE Selected Reserve Dental programs. It provides expanded dental coverage to enrolled active-duty family members, members of the selected reserve and individual ready reserve and their family members (The TRICARE Retiree Dental Program, which provides dental coverage for eligible military retirees, remains a separate program and is unchanged.)

TDP has an expanded comprehensive dental benefits package that includes dental X-rays, periodic examina-tions, cleanings, fluoride treatments, fillings, root canals, dental crowns and bridges, and orthodontics. It also covers athletic mouthpieces, an additional oral evaluation, and orthodontic coverage for spouses and for selected reserve and IRR members up to age 23.

For applications, contact United Concordia at 888-622-2256. For general information, call 800-866-8499 or visit UCCI online.

The new TRICARE Senior Pharmacy Program officially began operation on 1 April 2001 for uniformed services beneficiaries age 65 years and older.

To use the TRICARE retail and mail-order benefit, beneficiaries age 65 and older must be eligible for Medicare Part A and enrolled in Part B. (Exception: Those who turned 65 before 1 April 2001 are eligible for the benefit even if they are not enrolled in Medicare Part B.) For more information about enrollment requirements call 800-633-4227.

Beneficiaries must also be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). For information about DEERS enrollment and eligibility, call 800-538-9552 Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

The new pharmacy benefit offers a simplified copayment structure and the following four dispensing options:
  • Military Treatment Facility (MTF) Pharmacy. These pharmacies will continue to fill prescriptions written by either military or civilian prescribers for medications listed on the MTF’s formulary. There is no copayment or out-of-pocket expense for these prescriptions.
  • National Mail Order Pharmacy (NMOP). Prescriptions filled through the NMOP will cost $3 for a 30-day supply of most generic medications or $9 for a 30-day supply for most nongeneric medications.
  • Retail Nonnetwork Pharmacy. At nonnetwork pharmacies, beneficiaries will pay either $9 or 20 percent of the total cost (whichever is greater) for a 30-day supply of a medication after they have met the TRICARE annual deductible ($150 per individual or $300 per family).

To use the retail pharmacy benefit, beneficiaries should show the pharmacy a current military ID card. To update an outdated ID card, call 877-363-6337 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. More information...

The Military Traffic Management Command has opened three more vehicle processing centers--in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, and in Sigonella, Italy--for servicemembers moving overseas. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

An international traveling exhibition featuring a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., a museum and information center. Over the past four years, the exhibition has traveled over 200,000 miles, visiting more than 150 communities across the country and in Ireland. More than 1.5 million visitors have visited the exhibit since Veterans’ Day 1996.

The replica has two 123-foot-long wings and meets at an angle of 121 degrees, rising to a height of approximately five feet at the apex. The names are laser-etched into panels of reflective black, powder-coated heavy aluminum supported by a structural aluminum frame. The Wall That Heals is transported by a 45-foot "fifth-wheeler" with cases built into its sides serving as a museum. The museum tells the story of the efforts to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and explores the legacy of one of American’s most visited memorials.

In addition to the museum, the exhibition features an information center with computer terminals and other displays where visitors can locate the names of friends and loved ones who appear on The Wall.

The Wall That Heals is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans, FedEx, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Winstar Communications. For more information about The Wall That Heals, including its traveling schedule for 2001, call the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at 202-393-0090.

Students considering a career in local, state or federal government could earn up to $1,000 for college through the Public Service Scholarship Program. According to Jocelyn C. Travers, program coordinator, "The scholarship program is targeted toward bright and talented college students who plan to pursue a career in public service." She added that 10 to 12 $500 and $1,000 scholarships will be awarded this year. The $500 scholarships will be awarded to part-time students.

Deadline for applications is 19 May 2001, Travers said. Undergraduate and graduate students may apply. Applicants must have a 3.5 grade point average in all college work and are required to submit a two-page essay discussing their specific career goals and vision for the future. More information and an application form... (From an Armed Forces Press Service release.)

U.S. Transportation Command recently announced an expansion of space-required travel options for Reserve and National Guard members traveling for inactive duty training worldwide. Based on the recently enacted Public Law 106-65, in the DoD Authorization Act, reservists can now travel on DoD aircraft worldwide in a space-required status from their home to their authorized IDT assembly, when performing IDT training. The travel eligibility is nonchargeable if the reservist moves on DoD aircraft. This change will be incorporated in the next update of DoD Regulation 4515.13-R, Air Transportation Eligibility.

Seat reservations can be made 30 days in advance of travel for certain destinations. Reserve and Guard members must provide written authorization for travel. All charges above and beyond the seat tariff rate are the responsibility of the member (head tax, excess baggage, federal inspection fees, meal charges, etc.) Individuals may not use this travel in conjunction with man-days and annual tours. For more information, contact your local reserve unit advisor. (Courtesy of USTRANSCOM News Service.)

Outdoor Recreation officials conformed to industry standards when Army Travel Camps became Recreational Vehicle Parks. The change was official 15 February 2001, on the date Outdoor Recreation launched a new website,, for travelers to find military RV parks and campgrounds anywhere in the United States. Authorized users (all DoD ID-card holders) are able to get information about sites, amenities and phone numbers. (From a March 2001 Feedback article.)

NCO UPDATE is published bimonthly by the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare to help Army noncommissioned officers keep up to date on matters affecting the military profession and to better inform their soldiers. Reproduction is encouraged.

MSG (Ret.) George E. Ehling, Sr., Editor
Lori Johnston, Production
CSM (Ret.) Jimmie Spencer, Director, NCO and Enlisted Affairs
2425 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington VA 22201-3385
Phone: 800-336-4570, ext. 632, or 703-907-2632
Fax: 703-243-9402