CAUTION: MILITARY TARGETED MONEY SCAMS
Predatory lenders, check cashers, high-cost car dealers and insurance groups will often station themselves around military installations in hopes of grabbing as many hard-earned military dollars as possible. In the end, they can sometimes prove to be more harmful to troops and troop morale than the enemy in the battlefield. A soldier’s mind concentrated on over-exerted finances is not alert on the battlefield or the immediate world around him, where it should be.
Professional scam artists target the military community for several specific reasons: its high youth-oriented population, general lack of financial knowledge, steady paychecks and the constant relocation of its personnel.
Currently, the worst financial offenders to military communities are “payday lenders.”
Payday loans are small-dollar, short-term, unsecured loans borrowers promise to repay out of their next paycheck. Because these loans have such short terms to maturity, the cost of borrowing, expressed as an annual percentage rate, can range from 300 percent to 1,000 percent or more. Payday lenders are not yet deemed “illegal” by the government, but they are under heavy scrutiny at the moment.
High-cost lenders target car owners and would-be car owners on military installations. They attempt to finance new cars at a much higher interest rate than what the borrower is qualified for. They make money on many new car buyers who do not have a frame of reference for what a “good” interest rate is and also don’t know interest rates on automobiles can be bargained for, much like the sticker price on the car itself.
Some pawn shops are getting into the car business posing as money lenders. These lenders will grant money out of a car’s equity at an extremely high interest rate, adding a second lien to the automobile. Many times the borrower cannot repay the loan because of the extremely high monthly payments and the car is lost to the lender for a fraction of its value.
Younger soldiers aren’t the only ones who are singled out and targeted for money scams; veterans are targets, too. Certain companies will offer “buyout programs,” attempting to pay for an entire benefit package with one lump-sum payment, which is not only unfair to the retiree but extremely illegal. (From www.fdic.gov, www.consumerlaw.org, and a Washington Post article by Jennifer C. Kerr)
SOLDIER OF THE YEAR COMPETITION
The 2003 Department of the Army NCO/Soldier of the Year competition is scheduled for 14–19 September 2003 at Fort Lee, VA and Washington, DC.
All Army active duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers are eligible to compete. It is recognized that some soldiers may be eligible to compete through more than one avenue, e.g., an Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) soldier assigned to an Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) unit on an Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) installation. “No soldier should be denied the opportunity to compete. Each soldier should be afforded the opportunity to compete through their most logical chain of command and not arbitrarily disqualified from competition because of their unit of assignment,” says SMA Jack Tilley.
The NCO category includes corporal through sergeant first class with less than 18 years of service. The Soldier category includes private through specialist. Soldiers who are promoted to sergeant during or after their appearance at the major command (MACOM) competition will continue to compete at the Soldier level during the Army competition.
Points of contact for the Soldier of the Year competition are SGM Simons, PERSCOM DCSOPS, DSN 221-3297, commercial 703-325-3297, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; SGM Meyers, Executive Officer to the SMA, e-mail email@example.com; and SSG Snipes, OSMA, DSN 225-2150, commercial 703-695-2150, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. (From www.army.mil)
DOD TO IMPROVE FINANCIAL READINESS
The Defense Department has begun an educational awareness campaign to help military personnel deal with personal financial problems.
Studies by DoD and private researchers show that personal money woes have become a growing problem that can impact military readiness and performance in the field.
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S. C. Chu announced the start of the Financial Readiness Campaign in May to help military personnel and their families learn more about financial responsibility and to encourage military families to better manage their finances.
Twenty-six federal and nonprofit agencies have agreed to assist DoD in the campaign. They have offered financial counseling, training and education materials to military support organizations and military families with financial difficulties.
This Financial Readiness Campaign will focus on improving the marketing of good financial education to junior enlisted personnel and their families. The goal is to create an open line of communication between soldiers and their finance offices, allowing the soldiers to speak freely about financial well-being and to feel comfortable with seeking help if needed.
The program also wishes to get military leadership involved. Research shows that commanders see poor personal financial management as the main problem facing junior enlisted personnel and their families.
“Basically, our objective is to reduce the stress that people feel as a result of financial problems, and to do that through awareness, do that by helping them get out of debt, start saving and to prevent them from being preyed upon,” said COL Marcus Beauregard, director of morale, welfare and recreation practice for DoD.
Individual surveys, studies and reports conducted between November 2001 and December 2002 indicated that 25 percent to 35 percent of junior enlisted members had problems paying bills or experienced at least moderate financial difficulty.
Beauregard stated, “The biggest problem military personnel [have] is that they are living beyond their income. It doesn’t happen all at once, it happens incrementally.” (From www.defenselink.mil/news/jun2003 and www.jumpstart.org)
E-9 BOARD WILL CONSIDER 10,000 NCOS
About 10,000 sergeants major, master sergeants and first sergeants will be considered for promotion and advanced military schooling by a selection board that meets 1–22 October in Indianapolis. Selections by the October board will be for E-9 promotion and command sergeant major appointment requirements through September 2004. (From Army Times)
GREAT SITE, GREAT INFO: CENTER FOR ARMY LESSONS LEARNED
The Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) has been molding itself lately to better fit the NCO. Its ultimate goal: to be a readily available source of information to support soldiers everywhere, whether deployed or at home. It achieves that goal.
The site acts as a virtual library, providing operation and training lessons learned, tactics, techniques, procedures and security assessments through the use of its search engine, extended database, guide to schools, guide to operations, and other research tools. It covers a variety of topics, such as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, but at the moment the major topic is Homeland Security.
Since the site is trying to fit the needs of many, it is calling upon all NCOs for their individual input to be used for small online publications. In particular, they are looking for input on activities that pertain to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The site, http://call.army.mil, is updated on a regular basis to ensure only the most pertinent news is published. To obtain the guide “A Noncommissioned Officer’s Guide to the Call Website,” send an e-mail to email@example.com or call commercial 913-684-3035/2255 or DSN 552-3035/2255. (http: call.army.mil)
TREATMENT FOR SOLDIERS SUFFERING FROM PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS
Psychologists aren’t positive what to expect of the troops returning home from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Their main concern is the large number of soldiers who may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Soldiers who have fought and seen the front lines of battle aren’t the only ones who may be afflicted with PTSD—other deployed personnel can be as well. Psychologists believe all soldiers can be mentally impacted by battle, regardless of rank or duty or, in certain circumstances, proximity to the battle itself.
Through good leadership and thorough training, a soldier can sometimes avoid some battle stresses, thereby lowering the chance of later contracting PTSD. When proper prevention is not enough and a soldier has seen or heard or lived through too much, he or she suffers from moderate to severe combat stress.
Some common physical signs of combat stress are sweaty or shaky hands, increased heart rate and an excessive need to urinate. The psychological symptoms include anxiety, hypervigilance (“jumpy,” overly ready and excited), short attention span, irritability, nightmares, loneliness or sadness. These signs are common and can occur even if there is not a serious problem. When these symptoms occur in a soldier for an extended period of time (usually beginning a month or so after engagement) and are interfering with normal everyday activities, PTSD may be the cause.
Sometimes PTSD can be triggered by familiar or remembered scents, tastes, similar scenarios or familiar formations of people. But PTSD can be triggered at almost any time by almost any circumstance.
Many GIs returning home are suffering from PTSD, and it is imperative those soldiers receive treatment. They should contact their commands immediately to be connected to a licensed counselor or psychologist.
Ignoring psychological trauma can cause greater problems over time. If trauma is not dealt with while serving in the military, a soldier’s focus is not on the field where it should be, which can be harmful if not fatal to himself and those around him.
Psychologists urge family members and friends to be aware of the situation and to be patient. PTSD is not a sign of a failing marriage, friendship or family life. (From www.DefenseLink.mil)
MORTGAGE HELP COMING
A program aimed at making it easier for soldiers at Fort Campbell, KY, to buy homes could be offered to military personnel nationwide if it works.
The new Home Front Mortgage requires no down payment and will aid people who might otherwise have trouble borrowing money because they carry too much debt.
Fort Campbell Credit Union is making loans available to military families and plans to sell them to Fannie Mae.
Home buyers typically have trouble obtaining conventional loans if more than 36 percent of their income goes toward paying off their debt. Military personnel can obtain these loans if up to 45 percent of their income goes toward paying off the mortgage and other debt. (From an Army Times news article)
NEW WEB SITE FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
Information on more than $570 million in internships, scholarships and grants can be found at a federal government web site, thanks to MAJ Barry Williams.
Williams, currently serving as a White House Fellow, created the “e-scholar” site to give people a wealth of information without having to spin their wheels with numerous search engines.
As a former brigade operations officer in South Korea, Williams began his stint as a White House Fellow in September. He was selected after competing against hundreds of other applicants and undergoing numerous interviews. To date, e-scholar has been his greatest contribution to the program.
“This web site is for America—students, parents, career professionals and those with disabilities,” Williams said. “From age 16 on up, from all walks of life, we want to give people a taste of what the federal government has to offer.”
E-scholar, at www.studentjobs.gov/e-scholar.htm, went online 28 March and gets about 12,000 hits a day. Individuals can search for grants, internships, jobs and volunteer service by indicating what types of positions they are looking for, salary expectations and geographic preferences.
Other tools located at the site include “Create a Profile” and “Create a Resume.” By entering a profile, individuals can be notified if what they are looking for is posted at a future date. Also, individuals can use this site to send their resumes out electronically to potential employers. (From an ArmyLINK news story)
PENTAGON SALUTE TO TROOPS FIGHTING WAR ON TERRORISM
The Pentagon’s latest military operation doesn’t involve tanks, ships or aircraft. Operation Tribute to Freedom involves the American public.
Defense officials want people to thank the men and women in uniform for waging war on terror.
On Memorial Day, traditionally a day to pay tribute to the nation’s fallen servicemen and women, Defense Department officials launched Operation Tribute to Freedom. The initiative is “a way to thank the men and women in uniform who have done such an amazing job,” said Chris Wilcox, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
The Defense Department initiative encompasses three goals: First and foremost is to thank the troops. The second goal is to create a stronger bond between the military and citizens, and third, to underscore the fact that the global war on terrorism continues.
As part of Operation Tribute to Freedom, defense officials are lining up military officers and enlisted troops, as well as civilian leaders, for speaking engagements in interested communities and organizations.
“We’ve got two major speaker programs,” Wilcox said. “In the upcoming months, veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom will be available to go to communities and talk about their experiences. The second program, which we’re calling our Hometown Heroes Program, will send civilian and military leaders of all ranks back to their hometowns to talk to interested groups and organizations about ongoing efforts in the war against terrorism.”
For more information about Operation Tribute to Freedom and upcoming events, go to DefendAmerica.mil, the Defense Department’s website for news on the war on terrorism. The site features a way for the public to send welcome–home messages to the troops and to read a daily sampling submitted from across the country.
Site visitors can also search the online “Thank You Note” to pick out the names of people they know from almost 11 million signers since its launch in 2002. (From http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2003)
DISNEY’S SALUTES ARMED FORCES
To honor America’s servicemen and women, Walt Disney parks and resorts are offering active members of the U.S. military a complimentary five-day Disney’s Armed Forces Salute ticket, valid for admission to Disney’s theme parks, water parks, and more at the Walt Disney World Resort, through 19 December 2003. Active members may also purchase five-day Disney Armed Forces Salute Companion Tickets for $99 each for up to five family members or friends.
Personnel are also eligible for special rates on Disney Cruise Line’s tropical cruise itineraries for most sailings until 18 December 2003.
For additional information, call 407-939-7424. For additional information on cruise tickets, call 800-951-2659. (From www.disneyworld.com)
BUSCH ESTABLISHES SCHOLARSHIP FOR SURVIVING FAMLIY MEMBERS OF IRAQI FREEDOM
With a generous donation of $1 million from Anheuser-Busch, the Intrepid Museum Foundation has helped to create a college scholarship (the “Intrepid/Anheuser-Busch Fallen Heroes Fund”) for the surviving family members of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Every dollar that has been donated for scholarships will go toward scholarships,” said Arnold Fisher, Intrepid Museum foundation chairman. “There will be no administrative costs, and that’s important.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers and his wife Mary Jo were present at the 9 May ceremony to express their thanks for the generous corporate donation.
“The families of these great patriots face many challenges, and now, due to such generosity, I think they’re going to have a little easier time securing an education for their children,” General Myers said.
Mrs. Myers added that it is important for military families to know that they are never alone and that “the military family is there to support them. . . . America feels their loss and reaches out a hand of caring and compassion.”
“We know that war is never without cost,” said Anheuser-Busch president Patrick Stokes, alluding to the U.S soldiers who died during Iraqi Freedom. “Rebuilding lives after losing their loved ones takes courage and support from others. . . . Giving to these families enables us to express our deep gratitude for their service.”
Anheuser-Busch also recently announced Operation Salute, a thank-you to those who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and their families. The program includes free single-day admission to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place parks for active military members and up to four of their direct dependents. The parks program began Memorial Day weekend and will conclude on Veterans Day. (From http://www.Anheuser-Busch.com and http:// www.dod.mil/news/May2003)
SOME CLARIFICATIONS ON WAR TROPHY POLICY
There has been an increase in the number of investigations concerning soldiers who have taken articles from warsites prior to authorization, resulting in nationwide headline news.
Central Command (CENTCOM) General Order 1A prohibits soldiers and units from taking war trophies. The reason: it is unwise and potentially dangerous to ship firearms and possibly explosive materials via civilian aircraft, the Army’s primary source for shipping soldiers’ belongings overseas. This prohibition does not include the lawful acquisition of purchased souvenirs that can be legally imported into the United States.
It is possible to ship home equipment if it is designated as historical property. A unit can get its captured equipment designated as historical property by securing the equipment at a designated enemy equipment collection point. The equipment should be tagged for easy identification. The unit must then submit a request through their chain of command to the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) Military History Group, requesting the material be designated as historical property.
The CENTCOM commander has limited requests to one weapon or weapon system per battalion, plus up to 12 nonweapon items. AK-47s, pistols, machine guns with tripods and ammunition canisters, and a T55 tank all count as weapons or weapon systems. Helmets, flags, a complete uniform set, etc. would be classified as nonweapon systems.
The request form is available from the CFLCC Military History Group at DSN 312-438-8021/29 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requests should be submitted 60 days prior to leaving. The request has to go through the chain of command to the CFLCC Military History Group. It must then be approved by the Center for Military History in Washington, DC. Once approved, it must then be checked by CENTCOM; the unit will then be notified that it can pick up and transport its equipment back to the United States.
Units must turn in all captured equipment to the Enemy Equipment Collection (EEC) point. Units must carefully tag only the equipment they want designated as historical property. The tag should include the following information: unit name, unit identification code, unit points of contact (POCs) with phone numbers in theatre and in the United States, and e-mail addresses. Units must include equipment descriptions and serial numbers. DA form 3161 must be completed to begin the chain-of-custody record.
Units unsure of the policy who have inadvertently sent enemy equipment home should contact their chain of command immediately to avoid penalty. Anyone violating Central Command or General Order 1A guide-lines is subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (From CENTCOM Media Desk)
SERGEANTS MAJOR COURSE GRADUATES LARGEST CLASS EVER
An audience of more than 1,000 family members, instructors and Army leaders assigned worldwide saluted the 624 graduates of the latest resident Sergeants Major Course during their commencement ceremony at the El Paso Convention Center on 29 May 2003.
This class, Class 53, was the largest ever to graduate in the academy’s 32-year history.
Students attend the course as a permanent change of station. They have the option of bringing their families to El Paso while they attend the course. Most of the graduates have already left the academy to take up leadership or senior enlisted advisor positions in military commands worldwide. Others remain at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, TX, until assignments open for them.
The next resident Sergeants Major Course, Class 54, was slated to start in August but has been postponed to January because of current deployments. The course is now scheduled to start 12 January 2004 and end 30 June 2004. (From an ArmyLINK news story)
RESERVE HEALTH CARE GETS SENATE NOD
On 20 May 2003, the Senate approved an amendment to the 2004 defense authorization bill that would make reservists and their families eligible for military health care benefits on a full-time basis, rather than only during mobilization.
Under the plan, National Guard and Reserve members could enroll in the military’s TRICARE health plan; however, there will be an annual premium, a fee that active members do not have to pay.
The annual premiums for individuals would be $300 for enlisted members and $380 for officers. Family coverage would cost $560 for enlisted members and $610 for officers.
The new bill would also partly reimburse reserve component families for the cost of nonmilitary insurance when a reservist is mobilized. (From an AUSA Legislative Newsletter item by Jennifer Teters)
NEW UNIT MANNING WEBSITE
The Unit Manning Task Force now has a dedicated web site that can be accessed via PERSCOM Online and AKO: https://www.unitmanning.army.mil.
The new site provides unit manning information in five broad categories: overview, research/history, current events, products, and discussion/feedback.
The Unit Manning Task Force was chartered by Army Vice Chief of Staff General John M. Keane on 18 October 2002 to develop unit manning recommendations, to reduce turbulence in the operational force and to enable unit commanders to build and sustain highly cohesive and well-trained teams.
The Army announced 5 May 2003 that it will use the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) as the first unit to use unit manning personnel polices instead of the current personnel system of individual replacements. The 172nd, based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, will use the Unit Manning Initiative as it becomes the third Army unit to transform into a Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
“Under the Unit Manning Initiative, groups of soldiers will arrive together as a unit and train together day-to-day, through a standard 36-month tour,” said LTC Paul Thornton, unit manning action officer. “Under the current individual replacement system, soldiers leave and come into units on a monthly basis. . . . The current system requires constant retraining of individual and collective tasks to get new soldiers up to speed.”
Unit manning will support Personnel Transformation, enable unit rotations, and provide cohesive Army units that will excel in the uncertain environment faced today, personnel officials said.
There are many misconceptions about unit manning, according to members of the task force. They said the website will help clarify the issues.
“Unit manning is not COHORT (Cohesion, Operational Readiness and Training),” explained LTC Dave Goehring, a program manager on the task force. “This site will provide soldiers with the latest information on this Army initiative.”
The idea of COHORT was to develop vertical and horizontal cohesion in units by permitting soldiers and leaders to do their training with the same company or battalion for three years. (From an ArmyLINK news story)
SOLDIERS MAY USE ERB AS SOURCE FOR PROMOTION POINTS WHILE DEPLOYED
Soldiers in a deployed status seeking promotion to sergeant or staff sergeant may appear before boards using the Enlisted Record Brief (ERB) as the official source document for awarding promotion points.
Soldiers will have 60 days upon redeployment to submit a request for retroactive promotion adjustment for any source document dated prior to the board appearance that was not available while deployed.
Soldiers who fail to submit the retroactive promotion point adjustment within 60 days of redeployment waive the opportunity and then can add additional points only during reevaluation.
The procedures will remain in effect until superseded, rescinded or incorporated into a future revision of Army Regulation 600-8-19, Enlisted Promotions and Reductions. (From the NCO Journal)
DOD STARTS SECURE INTERNET VOTING FOR 2004
The Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), in conjunction with several states and counties, has begun conducting a large Internet registration and voting demonstration for the 2004 election. This congressionally mandated project is called the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE).
Uniformed services personnel and overseas U.S. citizens will have the opportunity to register to vote and cast their ballots from any Windows-based computer with Internet access.
States currently expected to participate in SERVE are Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
The SERVE project is the latest in a series of technology initiatives undertaken by FVAP as part of its mission to improve access to the polls for uniformed services personnel, United States citizens and their eligible dependents both overseas and stateside. SERVE covers only those U.S. citizens who fall under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
All eligible individuals are encouraged to use SERVE to register and vote in 2004 by logging on to www.ServeUSA.gov.