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First Quarter 2002

First Quarter 2002

(GEN Gordon R. Sullivan, USA Ret., President, AUSA)

On October 8th we suspended our 47th Annual Meeting. This was not an easy decision for any of us and it was made only after close consultation with the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army.

I am confident that despite the inconvenience and disappointment to our members, our contractors, our exhibitors and our staff, it was clearly the right decision.

All components of The Army--Active, National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve and our civilian workforce -- continue to be fully engaged and preparing for deployment in the war against terrorism--Operation Enduring Freedom. . . .

We at AUSA exist to support our Army, its soldiers and their families. It is imperative that we support them now more than ever before as they become more engaged in the dangerous and complex tasks related to the defense of our national interests, our liberty and the protection of the USA and its allies. Your Association’s commitment to support The Army has never been stronger. . . .

Recently, I had the privilege to visit New York City, where I met our New York National Guard soldiers, police officers, firemen and the rescue workers working at "Ground Zero." Needless to say, it was an emotional experience. All these great Americans are heroes. They are the very strength of America.

Our soldiers, completely integrated with the efforts of our civilian agencies, are working proudly under very difficult and trying conditions.

One firefighter’s comment remained with me as we spoke with him--surrounded by soldiers.

He looked us straight in the eye and said: "Don’t worry about firemen getting the job done, but you, The Army, go do what you have to do."

Our soldiers will do exactly what they have always done as they move forward to protect this great nation and its people--again.

We at AUSA will continue to support our soldiers and their families every step of the way.

We have been a powerful member of the Army team for 50 years and we will continue to do so going forward.

Military homeowner tax equity is an issue that AUSA, along with the Military Coalition, has championed for many years. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Wayne Allen (R-CO) have cosponsored new legislation, the Military Homeowners Equity Act, that would restore capital gains tax equity for military homeowners.

This legislation would correct a serious oversight in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, which inadvertently penalizes servicemembers who are assigned away from their principal residence for more than three years on government orders. Very often, servicemembers keep their homes while reassigned overseas or elsewhere in the hope of returning to their residence. On occasions when this proves impossible, and the home must be sold to permit purchase of a new principal residence, servicemembers find themselves subjected to substantial tax liabilities--all because military orders kept them from occupying their principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale.

In 1999, both the House and Senate passed corrective legislation (HR865) as part of the Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999, but then-President Clinton vetoed this bill over an unrelated issue.

AUSA is working to seek inclusion of this bill in the pending economic stimulus package. You can ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the legislation. Contact Congress now. Enter your zip code, "Go," and then clicking on "Military Homeowner Equity Act."

SMA (Ret.) Robert E. Hall is the new co-chairman of the Army Chief of Staff (CSA) Retiree Council. He succeeds SMA (Ret.) Richard A. Kidd, who served as co-chair for four years. Hall served as Sergeant Major of the Army from 1997 to 2000.

The CSA Retiree Council represents Army retirees and family members. The council meets once a year to review retiree issues forwarded by installation Retiree Councils and decides which of those issues need to be addressed by the CSA.

A DA selection board is scheduled to convene at the Enlisted Records and Evaluations Center (EREC) in Indianapolis IN on 5 February 2002 to consider soldiers for promotion to master sergeant and separation under the Qualitative Management Program (QMP).

Eligibility criteria for promotion to MSG includes all sergeants first class with Date of Rank (DOR) of 31 July 1999 and earlier and with a Basic Active Service Date (BASD) between 1 January 1979 and 31 January 1994 (both dates inclusive). Primary Zone DOR is 31 July 1998 and earlier. Secondary Zone is 1 August 1998 through 31 July 1999.

All sergeants first class with a DOR of 31 July 1999 and earlier and a BASD of 1 January 1979 or later will be screened for QMP action.

The 2001 Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) conference has been rescheduled for 11--15 March 2002 at the Mark Center Hilton in Alexandria, VA, says Sandra Vlcek, AFAP program chief. More than 100 representatives from installations and major Army commands are expected to gather at the conference.

AFAP is a grassroots process that starts at the installation level. Officials say it allows members of the Army community--active and reserve components, retirees, civilians, family members and youth--to provide their input about every facet of Army life in the form of issues and recommendations.

More information about the AFAP program and the status of more than 400 issues.
(From an ArmyLink news story by Harriet Rice.)

The Army recently added a number of MOSs to the "stop-loss" list published in November 2001. Previously the program retained soldiers in the fields of special operations and aviation. The additional specialties now covered under the program for active duty enlisted include military occupational specialties 37F, psychological operations and 92M, mortuary affairs. A number of MOSs for Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers has also been included to the program.

No new requests for separation will be accepted from soldiers in categories affected by "stop-loss," officials said. However, soldiers who have already started to transition out of the Army and have had their final out-processing will be allowed to separate, officials said. The "stop-loss" program was implemented to stop solders in certain specialties from leaving active duty. (From an Army News Service story.)

Changes are coming in the way the Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) moves military personnel.

MTMC is decreasing the time allowed for the delivery of servicemembers’ personal property in international moves, said Richard Morrow, traffic management specialist. "We’re analyzing all channels and codes of service in an effort to identify opportunities to reduce transit times," he said. "This will represent changes--big and small--in the amount of time a servicemember has to wait for his or her property to arrive at the next duty location."

The changes should result in at least a 15 percent drop in the time allowed for a mover to complete the personal property shipment, Morrow said. For example, 66 days is the current time allowed to ship a servicemember’s household goods from Fort Hood, TX to Kaiserslautern, Germany. The proposed changes would cut that time to 54 days, or 18 percent.

Each year, MTMC moves more than 500,000 servicemembers. The changes could be in place as early as spring--in time for the busy summer moving surge. (From an MTMC news release.)

The Senate recently approved the nomination of Les Brownlee to serve as Under Secretary of the Army.

Brownlee is a retired Army colonel and the former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) as well as a former national security advisor for Sen. John Warner (R-VA). He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Some active duty and reserve troops may qualify for extra duty pay and benefits for their contributions to the war on terrorism.

For example, Guardsmen and Reservists called to active duty 14 September by President Bush in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon are eligible for a variety of contingency benefits, says Capt. Chris Kopang, DoD director of compensation.

Reserve component pay and benefits include: full basic allowance for housing and CONUS (Continental United States) cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). Reservists, retirees and retired reservists can sell back up to 90 days of accrued leave. Also, upon release from active duty, reserve component members and their dependents retain military medical and dental benefits for 30 days.

Active and reserve troops may also qualify for family separation allowance, hardship pay, imminent danger pay or hostile fire pay.

Troops wounded and hospitalized may receive $150 a month for up to three months. All troops who are provided quarters and meals while deployed receive an additional $105 per month allowance for incidental expenses. Servicemembers may also be eligible for storage of privately owned vehicles (POVs); Federal Income Tax savings; and participation in the Uniformed Services Savings Deposit Program. (From an American Forces Information Service story by Gerry J. Gilmore.)

Soldiers may carry up to 80 days’ worth of leave into the new fiscal year because of the increased military tempo created by the 11 September terrorist attack on the Pentagon and New York World Trade Center.

Normally, servicemembers may only carry over 60 days’ leave from year to year. Unless special circumstances exist, leave in excess of 60 days is usually lost at the end of the fiscal year.

In a memorandum dated 18 September, DoD has now directed all services to allow the special leave accrual of up to 80 days. PERSCOM issued special leave accrual instructions for soldiers on 27 September.

"DoD is doing this because it’s just the right thing to do," said LTC Nobel Lugo, a finance action officer with DCSPER. "A lot of military leaves were canceled immediately following the attacks due to a significant need to increase force protection at all Army installations. This special leave accrual authority will allow those soldiers to take up to an additional 20 days excess leave they’ve earned in FY 2001 and use it by the end of FY 2004."

The reason an additional 20 days was selected, rather than another number, is that 20 days is the total amount of leave someone could have scheduled between the day of the attacks and the end of FY 2001 (11--30 September), Lugo explained. (From an ArmyLINK news story by Joe Burlas.)

According to a recent Armed Forces Press Service release, the Department of Defense is seeking military men and women to instruct high school junior ROTC students. DoD is looking for retired military officers and NCOs to teach citizenship and leadership, while instilling self-esteem, teamwork and discipline. Pentagon officials say there will be about 1,200 openings over the next three years.

More than 450,000 students participate in JROTC units at 2,900 high schools across the country. Each unit with up to 150 students has two instructors, and the service assigns a third instructor to units with more than 150 cadets.

DoD recently approved funding over the next five years to raise the total number of units to 3,500, the maximum authorized by Congress in 1992. At present, more than 600 schools are on service waiting lists for JROTC units.

According to DoD officials, retired active duty officers and enlisted personnel are eligible to apply. There are no age limits. Processing time can range from six months to a year. People may apply while they are still on active duty.

For more information visit DoD’s Transportal website. Go to "Internet Career Links" and then to "Specialized Job Search Links," where JROTC links for the four services are listed.

The U.S. State Department is seeking veterans and transitioning soldiers to fill badly needed positions. The hiring drive, initiated by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, will recruit 1,433 new careerists in FY 2002 in Foreign and Civil Service positions. More than 500 former military personnel have entered the department during the last two years.

More information on Foreign Service careers is available on the Internet at or by calling 202-261-8888. Individuals with technical and administrative skills should contact Foreign Service Specialists by visiting or by calling 202-261-8851. (From an Army News Service release.)

The Department of Defense is looking for good ideas for combating terrorism. An announcement released by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and the Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office seeks information in four general areas: combating terrorism, conducting protracted operations in remote areas, defeating difficult targets, and developing countermeasures to weapons of mass destruction.

DoD is seeking advice in some specific technical areas. In one, "Locating Faces in Video Images," the announcement calls for improved algorithms for identifying a two-dimensional image or sequence of images containing one or more human faces, locating these faces precisely in the images, and counting the number of different faces.

Another talks about an automated speaker recognition system that can identify the different languages of Central Asia--Pashtun, Farsi, Arabic dialects--and automatically translate them.

Others are less technical but no less important. One calls for physical security ideas, including equipment and systems to safeguard personnel, prevent or delay unauthorized access, and protect against terrorist threats and sabotage.

More information...
(From an American Forces Press Service story by Jim Garamone.)

Effective in November, changes to the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCO-ER) require that soldiers be rated on the Army’s seven core values. The values--loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage--were instituted in June 1998 and will be listed on the new NCO-ER in Part IVa, Values and NCO Responsibilities.

Next to each value, raters will check either "yes" or "no" to indicate whether the soldier demonstrates that quality. Most of the time the block checked is yes, said SGM Anthony Everette, chief policymaker for the Enlisted Evaluations Branch.

When the rater and soldier sit down for a counseling session with the revised worksheet, the Army values will be a prominent topic, Everette said. "We all can recite the Army values, but that doesn’t mean we all fully understand what they mean," he said. "So I expect for the rater to sit down face to face and one by one go through and explain to the soldier what is expected of him to demonstrate those values. (From an ArmyLINK news story by SSG Marcia Triggs.)

The Army continues to have sergeant shortages in certain skills. The Special MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) Alignment Promotion Program (SMAPP) allows soldiers in the rank of corporal/specialist promotable who are serving in an MOS with promotion stagnation, and who are otherwise qualified, the opportunity to reenlist for the retraining option or to request reclassification into selected MOSs. Upon completion of training and award of new MOS, soldiers would be promoted the first day of the following month. Soldiers who volunteer for this program must:

  • be in the rank of corporal/specialist promotable;
  • meet all qualifications for retraining to include Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) training Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC);
  • be serving in an overstrength MOS or in an MOS which constantly has cutoff scores above 550;
  • be fully eligible for reenlistment retraining or voluntary reclassification;
  • complete all phases of training;
  • obtain the necessary clearance prior to promotion.

POC at PERSCOM is Mr. Hamilton, DSN 221-6947, commercial 703-325-6947

The FSSA program, designed to help families currently on food stamps, is available to all military members. Some families on food stamps will qualify, while others will not, according to MSG Tamra Miller, travel and contingency policy chief. The allowance is designed to bring household income to 130 percent of the federal poverty line for the household size.

People may qualify for both food stamps and the FSSA programs. However, unlike food stamps, FSSA income qualification thresholds include housing allowances, regardless of residence. Also included are basic allowance for subsistence and all bonuses, special and incentive pays.

Once approved, servicemembers must recertify every February, regardless of when they were originally certified, Miller said. They must also recertify when promoted, when household income increases by $100 or more, when household size decreases and when making a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move. Individuals may fill out automated applications at the Defense Manpower Data Center website.

At President Bush’s request, DoD will continue its program of special recognition for military retirees per guidelines set forth in DoD Instruction 1348.34. Upon receipt of DD Forms 2542 with President Bush’s signature, installations will resume processing requests for issuance of presidential letters of appreciation. The following personnel will receive a letter of appreciation prepared by the White House liaison office and signed by the President:
  • soldiers retiring with at least 30 years’ active federal service (30 years of qualifying service for reserve component soldiers);
  • the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Staff of the Army;
  • the Sergeant Major of the Army;
  • recipients of the Medal of Honor;
  • former prisoners of war who qualify for or have been awarded the POW medal.

Soldiers should contact their respective Major Army Command (MACOM) or personnel service battalion for additional guidance.

Effective 2 July 2001, a new law became effective that requires both parents’ consent to obtain passports and visas for overseas travel of children under the age of 14. The intent of the law is to lessen the chance that parents can abduct their children and use U.S. passports to escape with them overseas, said John M. Hotchner, acting managing director of the U.S. State Department’s office of passport services. The law affects service-members, who are required to secure passports for spouses and children accompanying them overseas.

Hotchner said that both parents must now sign the children’s passport forms unless one parent is unavailable because of geographical separation, divorce or other circumstances. In this case, Hotchner said, the parent applying for a child’s passport needs a signed, nonnotarized letter or statement from the absent parent that provides permission to take the child or children overseas. (From an American Forces Press Service story by Gerry J. Gilmore.)

In support of President Bush’s initiative to unite schools with America’s veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has started a website, "The Veterans’ Experience."

The site provides information that helps teachers and veterans inform students about contributions veterans have made to the American way of life. The online educational materials are designed to help the President’s new campaign, "America’s Lessons in Liberty."

The new site links to sites operated by veterans service organizations, civic education organizations and VA’s own Veterans Day section.

The website includes examples of sacrifices by well-known veterans, information on the country’s freedoms, and explanations of popular American symbols of patriotism.

A number of changes in identification card benefits were made in the FY 2001 National Defense Authorization Act:
  • Medal of Honor recipients and their eligible dependents not otherwise entitled to medical and dental care are now eligible for the same care provided to those individuals retired with pay.
  • Medical and dental benefits expanded from one year to three years for eligible surviving dependents of certain deceased members.
  • Medicare-eligible retirees, their spouses and survivors are eligible for TRICARE retail network pharmacy benefits with access to military treatment facility pharmacies and the national mail order pharmacy program.
  • Medicare-eligible retirees and dependents of retirees who receive medical care from Medicare providers will have TRICARE as their secondary payer. TRICARE will pay out-of-pocket costs for services covered under Medicare.

The point of contact for this information is Mr. Elbert Jackson, 703-325-9590 or DSN 221-9590. Additional information on these benefits

Did you know that your local exchange is a major source of employment for members of the Army and Air Force? More than 25 percent of the 52,414 AAFES associates are military family members. Many associates have worked for years with AAFES as they’ve moved from one installation to another with their military sponsors. Another 3 percent of associates are military members who work part-time in exchanges during their off hours.

Military postal officials have reluctantly ended the "Operation Dear Abby" and "Any Service Member" programs due to the anthrax threat. The Dear Abby program, founded by the newspaper advice columnist, has delivered mail to U.S. servicemembers overseas during the holiday season for more than 17 years. "Any Service Member" mail grew out of Desert Shield and Storm, but really cranked up during the U.S. assistance to Bosnia in 1995, officials say.

A written notice from the Military Postal Service Agency said the most critical issue surrounding these mail programs is personnel safety. "Both of these programs create an avenue to introduce mail into the system from unknown sources," the notice said. "The recent mail-related attacks have demonstrated the vulnerability of the postal system." (From an American Forces Press Service story by Jim Garamone.)

The Army Reserve Personnel Command (ARPERSCOM) has expanded its Interactive Voice Response (IVR) lines to allow soldiers to check on a number of personnel actions.

Soldiers can learn about the Active Guard/Reserve (AGR) program, download an AGR application packet, find out if they are eligible for promotion, check to see if any education documents are missing from their board packages, and even determine if they have been promoted.

To use the AGR IVR, call the Full-time Support Management Directorate, 800-325-4118 or 314-592-1234; USAR Board Support, 314-592-0673; or Customer Contact Office, 314-592-0575. To use the Promotions IVR, call 877-215-9834, 314-592-1200 or 314-592-1212. To check on most recent evaluations, call 800-648-5484. (From an ArmyLINK news story.)

The Army recently announced Fort Belvoir, VA, as the location for the future National Museum of the United States Army.

"After a rigorous review of potential sites, Fort Belvoir emerged as the best place to display the Army’s historical artifacts for generations of visitors," said Secretary of the Army Thomas White. Funds to build the museum will be raised from public donations to the nonprofit Army Historical Foundation (AHF) in Arlington, VA. For more information visit the AHF website or call703-522-7901.

Secretary White anticipates the museum will open in June 2009. For more information, contact Army Public Affairs at 703-693-6848 or 703-693-6850. (From an ArmyLINK release.)

Military mail destined overseas will get through, but it may be delayed, said Navy Capt. Eugene DuCom, deputy commander of the Military Postal Service Agency. DuCom said the terrorist attacks on 11 September grounded air fleets throughout the United States, thus delaying mail deliveries to and from overseas. Since then, new security restrictions have also slowed deliveries. Packages, for example, could not be placed aboard passenger airlines. Commercial airlines have cancelled flights, further delaying all mail.

Visit the DoD website "Defend America" for the latest information about America’s response to the events of 11 September. (From an American Forces Press Service story by Jim Garamone.)

Many soldiers who have a Date Initially Entered Military Service (DIEMS) of 1 August 1986 or later are reaching 15 years of service. At the 15-year point, these soldiers have to choose between two retired pay options. They can choose a $30,000 Career Status Bonus (CSB) and reduced retired pay (after at least five more years of military service); or they can forgo the bonus and opt for a bigger monthly paycheck at retirement. Soldiers who take the CSB will have their retired pay computed by taking the average of their highest 30 months of basic pay multiplied by 2 percent per year for the first 20 years of creditable service and 3.5 percent for years 21 through 30.

Those who choose to forgo the CSB will have their retired pay computed by taking the average of their highest 36 months of basic pay multiplied by 2.5 percent times years of service.

Soldiers who forgo the CSB will receive full cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to their retired pay when granted by Congress, usually annually. Soldiers who take the CSB will receive the COLA minus 1 percent. They will receive a one-time catch-up COLA at age 62 but then revert to the COLA minus 1 percent formula.

The Army Retirement Services website can provide guidance to help make this decision.

The popularity of NCO Update has grown significantly. Accordingly, it is my pleasure to announce that effective with this issue, we will expand our distribution from its current 8,000-plus recipients to more than 16,000. To offset the cost of this expanded distribution, the newsletter will go from a bimonthly to a quarterly publication.

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