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Second Quarter 2004

Second Quarter 2004

SMA Preston Reveals His Focus Areas
In his first few weeks as the Army’s top enlisted Soldier, SMA Preston said he’s getting a crash course on the “big picture” Army while zeroing in on key focus issues.

“Right now, I need to understand a little bit of everything across the board,’’ Preston said during his first “Sergeant’s Time” interview with Soldiers Radio and Television as Sergeant Major of the Army. “The Army staff is doing a wonderful job in getting me smart. Once they finish, I’ll really start focusing on a couple things I can make a difference on over the course of the next three or four years.”

Safety is one of those issues. Preston plans to spearhead plenty of dialog about the subject. Sergeants have a responsibility for enforcing the standards, for making sure Soldiers aren’t taking shortcuts or taking things for granted.

“We have 325,000 soldiers in more than 120 countries across world. . . . The operations tempo is much higher, but nevertheless when a soldier dies because of an accident, particularly when it could be prevented, it’s a tragedy,’’ he says.

The Army’s most pressing priority at the moment is the global war on terrorism and upcoming troop movements into and out of theaters. But leaders are also focused on concurrent goals, such as transitioning from the Current Force to a Future Force that remains relevant and ready, he added.

“As the Army changes and evolves, so must other things,” Preston said. “One of the things I want to look at is the future of the noncommissioned officer education system. It needs to evolve to take into consideration the modern battlefield we’re currently on.”

The Army’s current design and organization are for the Cold War-era fight—for a time when the good guys were at one end of the battlefield, the bad guys at the other, and they met in the middle for a “clash of the Titans” type battle, Preston explained. “It is truly now a 360-degree battlefield.”

Balancing the force is another way of better pre-paring for the new battlefield. Preston says the Army’s 100 artillery battalions were designed, again, for the Cold War era. That number will be pared down, while other units in heavy demand will be increased. The current 33 brigade combat teams will be refigured into 48 brigade units of action, he says.

Such changes will not only make the Army more modular and better able to quickly deploy, but will offer Soldiers more predictability in when they’ll deploy, Preston says.

One of the most frequent questions Preston fields has to do with morale. He says he answers based on what he knows, which comes from his interaction with Soldiers in Iraq. Preston believes morale is high across the Army. When he talks to Soldiers there, he shares his belief that a year from now, they will all be proud of their accomplishments in Iraq. “The greatest gift you can give any human being is the gift of freedom.” (From

Long-Overdue Medal Finally Released
The Defense Department announced on 9 February 2004, the creation of the Korean Defense Service Medal (KDSM). The KDSM gives special recognition for the sacrifices and contributions made by members of the U.S. armed forces who have served or are serving in the Republic of Korea.

To be eligible for the KDSM, members of the armed forces must have served in support of the defense of the Republic of Korea. The area of eligibility encompasses all land area of the Republic of Korea, the contiguous waters out to 12 nautical miles, and all air spaces above the land and water areas.

The KDSM period of eligibility began 28 July 1954 and will conclude on a future date yet to be determined by the Secretary of Defense.

Servicemembers must have been assigned, attached or mobilized to units operating in the area of eligibility and must have been physically deployed in the area of eligibility for 30 consecutive or 60 nonconsecutive days or meet one of the following criteria:

  • engaged in actual combat during an armed engagement, regardless of the time in the area of eligibility.
  • wounded or injured in the line of duty and requiring medical evacuation from the area of eligibility.
  • participating as a regularly assigned air crewmember flying sorties into, out of, within or over the area of eligibility in support of military operations. Each day that one or more sorties are flown in accordance with these criteria shall count as one day toward the 30- or 60-day requirement.
  • serving in operations and exercises conducted in the area of eligibility as long as the basic time criteria are met. Due to the extensive time period for KDSM eligibility, the nonconsecutive service period for eligibility remains cumulative throughout the entire period.

The KDSM may be awarded posthumously, and only one award of the KDSM is authorized for any individual.

Each military department will prescribe appropriate regulations for administrative processing, awarding and wearing of the KDSM and ribbon for their servicemembers, to include application procedures for veterans, retirees, and next-of-kin.
More than 40,000 members of the U.S. armed forces have served in the Republic of Korea or the waters adjacent thereto each year since the signing of the cease-fire agreement in July 1953. For more than 50 years, U.S. armed forces’ efforts to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula have helped maintain democracy and preserve the indomitable spirit of freedom. For more information on the KDSM or any other service medal, please visit

The Basics of BRAC
The selection criteria for the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round were finalized and published 12 February in the Federal Register. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved the final selection criteria after an earlier public comment period for the draft version. The BRAC timetable also called for sending the draft and final criteria to defense congressional committees. Congress has 30 days to carry out any disapproval action on the criteria.

More review work continues in coming months on items such as a force structure plan and infrastructure inventory. The secretary makes final recommendations on BRAC to an independent commission in May 2005. The commission’s nine members will review the secretary’s BRAC recommendations before making their own recommendations to the President by September 2005. The President then either approves or rejects the commission’s recommendation before sending them to Congress in November 2005. Congress has 45 legislative days to enact a joint resolution rejecting the recommendations or they become binding. (From

Assessing Your Dangerous Business Online
Eighty-six percent of all Soldiers involved in privately owned vehicle (POV) accidents are between the ages of 18 and 24. The biggest causes are excessive speeds, operating while fatigued or a simple lack of skill.

In reality, there are so many POV accidents that it is the #1 killer of American Soldiers, so the Army is trying to do something to stop it.

The problem: there is no surefire way to stop or even slow down the rate of accidental casualties. For the most part, driving is a self-governing activity and should be taken seriously at all times.

The Army isn’t concerned solely about your driving abilities. They are concerned about you and your safety. They want you to be able to get through your normal day’s activities without taking any unnecessary risks that may bring injury upon yourself or those you love. With these goals in mind, the Army has constructed a new risk assessment tool online. Click and find out how risky your business is at

Invest Your Cash WiselyIn a TSP Account
The right time to start investing for retirement is right now. No matter what your age, it is always wise to take a portion of your paycheck and place it toward your savings and retirement. There are only two difficult endeavors that occur after your decision to invest: finding an institution that will grant a good return on your investment and then not touching your money until retirement.

The theoretical goal of retirement is to have saved 10 times the amount of your annual salary. For example: If you make $25,000 per year, you want to have at least $250,000 saved by the time you retire. In a standard market, it is difficult to save that much money. But the Army has a fantastic way for you to get a decent return on your hard-earned dollars, thereby helping you achieve your retirement goals: the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Keeping the money in the account is a matter of self-control.

Currently, the assumed return on TSP accounts is about 7 percent. It is tax-deferred in pretax dollar savings, allowing you to keep more of your own money.
At the moment, only 15 percent of the Army is investing in TSP, the program many consider to be “manna from heaven.” For more information, please visit

NEA and DoD Present Writing Workshops
The National Endowment for the Arts and DoD are working together and creating writing workshops for Soldiers returning home from duty. It will feature authors such as Tom Clancy, Tom Bowden and Bobbie Ann Mason.

The purpose of the workshop is to generate more first-hand journals of the war against terrorism but also a larger public archive. Tutoring provided at the workshops will help servicemembers and their families tell the world about their courage, their sacrifice and their camaraderie.

The first workshop is slated for 3 and 4 June at Fort Drum, New York. There will also be a workshop held at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
The NEA is also soliciting servicemembers and their families for wartime prose, essays and letters for an upcoming anthology. Submissions for the anthology are accepted through 31 December 2004. For more information, please visit
Back in May 1998, B.J. Chadduck of Whidbey Island, Washington, had an idea for a web site dedicated solely to helping Marine wives everywhere cope with the ever-changing lifestyle of military service. The idea was a huge success and generated web sites designed for all servicemembers’ wives. Now, almost six years later,,,,,,,,, and are all up and running.

The sites are fantastic summaries of all the basic military information everyone should know but may be too embarrassed to ask. They have great ideas for homecoming celebrations, offer support for families who may have loved ones deployed, and give detailed lists of protocol for the military.

New Sexual Assault Hotline
In the wake of the recently reported sexual assaults in Iraq and Kuwait, the Department of Defense has established a hotline for sexual assault cases. If you or someone you know wishes to contact or provide information to the Department of Defense Task Force on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault, call 1-800-497-6261. The number is staffed from 0900 until 2100 EST, Monday through Friday.

Wal-Mart: Doing What They Can To Help
Even corporate giants do a great deal to help American Soldiers. Wal-Mart, for example, has been helping modern Soldiers longer than they probably realize. Because of their continuing efforts, Wal-Mart has won the Corporate Patriotism Award.

To help servicemen and women stay in touch with their loved ones, Wal-Mart continues to support VFW’s (Veterans of Foreign Wars) “Operation Uplink” by providing free phone cards to Soldiers so they can call home from anywhere in the world. Wal-Mart also provides kiosks at their stores where families can send free messages to their loved ones.

With the help of the VFW, Wal-Mart associates and customers also send message books to troops expressing their encouragement and support. Wal-Mart also provides millions of dollars in financial aid to military family support organizations and works with suppliers to send clothing for the wounded and special-need items to the troops.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is working directly with the hospitals that are treating the wounded in Germany and Spain. They are providing sweatsuits, shower shoes, underwear, t-shirts, carry-on bags and other items for the troops going to hospitals straight from the battlefields, all requested by the military relief organizations.

For those employees of Wal-Mart who are currently deployed with the National Guard or the Army Reserve, Wal-Mart has committed to making up any difference in pay if their military pay is less than their regular wages as well as to continuing benefits.

Wal-Mart has raised $14.5 million for the construction of the World War II memorial (opening 29 May 2004), in Washington D.C.

Now Wal-Mart is working with the VFW to provide customers a way to properly dispose of their worn American flags. Drop-off stations will be located inside all U.S. Wal-Mart stores from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July. (Information provided by Wendy Sept of the Wal-Mart public affairs office.)

Bonuses for SPC, SGT and SSG
There has been an increase in reenlistment bonuses for specialists, sergeants and staff sergeants with certain linguistic skills in MOS 97E (human intelligence college). The increase took effect 13 April for the regular Selective Reenlistment Bonus program and the Bonus Extension and Retraining program.

Best Ranger Competition Is Ready For More
Due to deployments to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the Best Ranger Competition was cancelled last year for the first time since Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. The Best Ranger Competition is back and ready to test the mettle of any Ranger who wishes to prove he’s made of sterner stuff.

Started in 1982, the Best Ranger Competition is a three-day muscle-straining, fatigue-fighting, mind-boggling event with very little time to eat, sleep or rest, plus one day of awards ceremonies. Teams of two struggle together against 30 to 45 other teams in an almost futile attempt to beat the elements and the clock. It is truly an honor to simply finish the Best Ranger Competition since most Soldiers are eliminated before the half-way point. The competition is conducted on a “come as you are” basis with no tasks or events announced prior to the competition.

Though the winners of the Best Ranger Competition prove to be stronger and faster and to possess more focused minds than today’s top paid athletes, winning the Best Ranger Competition does not grant fame, fortune, a better job, a faster car or an advertising contract. But it does empower the winner with more than a few pats on the back along with a beautifully engraved 9mm pistol to mark the special occasion.

There is only one prerequisite to enter the Best Ranger competition: all challengers must be graduates of the Fort Benning Ranger School. Once started, teams can expect the usual events such as the bayonet assault course, climbing and rappelling, night navigation, the midnight run, and weapon accuracy and assembly, plus a few “new surprises.”

As of this year, 78 percent of all Best Rangers have been NCOs. For more information about this year’s Best Ranger Competition, please contact Elsie Jackson, Fort Benning Public Affairs Office, at 706-545-3512.

Private Housing Appropriation Caps
Privatized Housing was initiated in the FY 1996 National Defense Authorization Act. The budget authority for contracts and investments was $850 million. Seventy percent of the $850 million has been used; the remaining 30 percent is expected to be depleted by the FY 2005. This could impact the housing initiative unless the cap is raised or eliminated. Plans are underway to act on this during this budget year.

Increase in Drug Testing
The Army is going to increase its drug testing to once a year for every member. Civilians who are subjected to mandatory testing will also be screened annually.

The military adopted mandatory random drug testing more than 20 years ago. Random drug tests generally reveal a rate of drug use of less than 1 percent among the military, according to Pentagon statistics.

According to a 1982 worldwide military health survey, 28 percent of military personnel admitted using illegal drugs within the 30 days prior to taking the survey. By 1998 that figure had dropped to 2.6 percent, according to Defense Department figures. (From

Keeping in Touch With Your Children
Deployment is never easy on a family. Though they may not like it, every American Soldier understands this necessity. Now the National Fatherhood Institute has compiled a short list of activities that will keep deployed parents interacting with their children.

Be creative. Today’s military offers many ways to stay connected: video and cassette tapes, video conferencing, phone calls, postcards, letters, e-mail and websites, just to name a few. Use the ones that work best for you, and use them often.

Put a “message in a bottle.” Before you leave, write as many short messages to your child as you can and put them in a large jar, can or box. Tell your child to pull out one message a day while you’re gone.

Draw pictures for your children. Your kids will love to receive your drawings. Take a pencil, some paper, and five minutes to draw a simple picture of you and your child. You will make their day.

Prepare for changes in your children. The biggest complaint many military fathers have about deployment is the changes that they will miss in their children. One way to accept the changes is to stay connected as much as possible during deployment. That way the changes won’t overwhelm you when you return.

Learn the basics of child development. Even though your children will change while you’re away, they will do so in regular and predictable ways.

Allow your children to ask questions and express fears. Kids these days not only have to deal with the boogey man and monsters in the closet, they worry about things they see on the evening news, in the paper and in real life. Deployment can also scare and worry kids. Before and after you leave, talk with your children calmly and reassure them that everything is okay. Allow them to ask questions and express fears about anything.

Remember your sacrifice for country and family. Talk with your kids about the meaning of this sacrifice. It will make it easier for them to handle your deployment.

For a complete, unedited version of this list, please visit

Speeding Up the Citizenship Process
Nearly 6,000 non-U.S. citizen servicemembers are fighting for the American cause every day in the Army. Unfortunately, becoming a Soldier in the U.S. Army and serving in combat does not grant immediate citizenship.

There is good news, however. Now DoD is helping to speed up the Americanization process. The immediate eligibility for servicemembers to become naturalized citizens is based on Executive Order 13269, which allows the President to authorize expedited citizenship during periods in which the United States is engaged in armed conflict with a hostile foreign force.

Anyone serving honorably since 11 September 2001 is eligible to apply for expedited U.S. citizenship.

Those who have served during peacetime now only have a one-year wait, as opposed to the older three-year waiting period.

The new law also allows for a faster citizenship process for immediate relatives of the Soldier.

All who wish to be granted U.S. citizenship—Soldiers and their immediate family members— must apply for it. For more information, please visit

Soldier Ingenuity With Armor
Thanks to the 82d Airborne Division in Iraq, equipment designers are looking to modify the Interceptor Tactical Vest to better fit the needs of the Soldier in the field.

Soldiers from the 82d have been improvising additional shielding by using extra Interceptor groin-protection plates to cover up the less-protected areas located on the sides and the shoulders of the Interceptor vest.

Manufacturers like the idea and are in the process of testing several prototypes to aid in protection without hindering mobility. No official models have been approved yet. (From Army Times.)

Get In On the Ground Floor of Transformation
VADM Arthur Cebrowski (Ret.), Department of Defense Chief of Transformation, gave some good life advice in a recent interview: “You can create your own future, or you can become the victim of a future that someone else creates for you.”

Now the military is giving you an open chance to help create your own future through Transformation. Last year, Department of Defense officials launched a web site dedicated specifically to Transformation. Now those same officials want to hear from you about your transformation success/failure story. Visit and speak out now.

“By seizing the transformation opportunities, you are seizing the opportunity to create your own future.”

Now Offering: Military Discounts
Here is a short list of places that offer military discounts. Please call your local vendors to be sure they participate in the program. Also, never be afraid to ask a store if they offer a discount, even if one is not advertised, especially at a car dealer. You may be pleasantly surprised.
  • Dress Barn stores offer a 15 percent discount to all military identification card holders.
  • Gadzooks offer 10 percent discounts.
  • IHOP restaurants offer a 10 percent discount with military identification.
  • Jockey stores give a 10 percent military discount; some have extended the discount to families of firefighters and police officers as well.
  • Lerner stores give military 15 percent off of sale and original priced items.

Other businesses offering military discounts include: AT&T stores, Blockbuster, Burger King, Captain D’s, Cotton Patch, Denny’s (but you have to ask!), GNC, Goody’s clothing stores, Hot Topic and Quizno’s.

New BDUs?
According to a recent interview with Army Chief of Staff GEN Peter J. Schoomaker, there may be some new battle dress uniforms (BDU) in your future. Schoomaker described the potential BDUs as a “significant improvement” over the current style. Details were not given, but they will most likely be a similar version of the combat uniform worn by 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, the first Stryker Brigade deployed to Iraq.

Deploying Reserves Without Risk
A new Defense Department reporting system has begun so members of all seven reserve components can register their employers.

DoD decision makers need to know the civilian employers and government agencies of the department’s approximately 1.2 million National Guardsmen and Reservists, officials explained. The database will, among other things, give officials a better idea of who should and should not be mobilized for national emergencies, they said.

The database, called the Civilian Employment Information Program, is the way for all National Guard and Army Reserve members to comply with the law that requires them to inform DoD of who employs them and how far away from their unit they are employed when not performing their military duties.

“This program will make it possible for defense officials, including those responsible for mobilizing our traditional Guard and Reserve members, to know who can be called up for active duty without jeopardizing the civilian forces responsible for safeguarding our country,” explained David Chu, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
Members of the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Navy Individual Ready Reserve can now enter their employment data on the new Defense Manpower Data Center website. Members of the Army Reserve, Navy Selected Reserve, Marine Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve will be able to enter their employment data on their existing personnel reporting systems. (From

Letters to the Editor. . .
NCO Update would like to hear from you. We want to know your opinions and possibly publish them in future issues. Please send your letters to Editor, NCO Update, AUSA, 2425 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201. Letters are also accepted via e-mail at with the title/subject “Letters to the Editor.”