ASC commanding general visits nation's capital|
The commanding general of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command (ASC) and Rock Island Arsenal made an official visit to Washington, D.C., last week.
The purpose of the trip by Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton was to share information and answer questions about the Arsenal and ASC, a global command headquartered in the Quad-Cities with a presence at U.S. military installation across the nation and at forward sites around the world.
During the trip, Wharton met with five members of Congress from Hawaii, North Carolina, Texas and Washington to update them on the ASC sites in their states and the economic impact of the command's presence.
Wharton also was a guest at the annual House Depot Caucus Breakfast, an event attended by 12 members of Congress – including Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Dave Loebsack of Iowa – 27 Congressional staffers, and several high-ranking Army civilian and military leaders.
The House Depot Caucus is made up of members with an interest in the "organic" industrial base – the arsenals, depots and ammunition plants owned by the Army. Rock Island Arsenal is a critical part of this industrial base, serving as a manufacturing and technology center, and a logistics management hub:
For example, the Joint Munitions Command operates all Army ammunition plants and storage sites from its headquarters on RIA.
Army contract specialist battles combat injuries
Last fall was a memorable time for Mitch Chapman, an Army Contracting Command-Rock Island employee. It was memorable for different reasons than the same season five years ago.
On Oct. 13, 2008, Chapman, then an infantryman serving with the Illinois National Guard, was driving the lead vehicle of a three-vehicle convoy on a road outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. The vehicle was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device, flipping over and killing his friend, Cpl. Scott Dimond, and seriously injuring Chapman and his commander.
The attack resulted in several physical and mental issues Chapman continues to battle.
Last fall, five years to the day after being ambushed in Afghanistan, Chapman walked across the stage at Ashford University in Davenport, to receive his bachelor's degree in operations management and analysis, with a minor in project management.
Chapman said he's proud of his achievement, particularly because he doesn't like school. A month after receiving his degree, his hard work paid off when he accepted a contract specialist position at ACC-RI.
Chapman had been a records management specialist in the contract closeout branch since April 2012. On occasion, even the seemingly innocuous task of handling boxes in the contract closeout warehouse had the power to take Chapman back to the battlefield.
"They are dusty and you get this smell on your hands and some have really brought me back to theater," said Chapman. "People don't think about triggers like that."
Chapman said he's looking forward to the new challenges associated with being a contract specialist.
Chapman, who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, said he experienced one of the most frustrating examples of the stigma associated with PTSD when he was processing into a position with the Rock Island Arsenal Police Department in May of 2010, his first position at RIA.
"I came in for my physical and the lady in medical did blood work and she said, 'Oh, you've got PTSD and you're going to carry a gun? That's not right.' I hate when people associate PTSD with crazy. PTSD does cause major issues and I get that, but not everyone handles it in a negative way," Chapman said.
He's said he's not a big believer in counseling as a way to address his PTSD, because many counselors and psychologists he has seen rush into prescribing medication before trying to understand him as a person.
However, Chapman said there's a counselor in Danville he will work with, and one psychiatrist – an Army veteran who works at the Veterans Administration – who understands his need to be seen as a person, not a problem to be solved.
"The first time we met, (the psychiatrist) sat down and wanted to talk about football and basketball," Chapman said. "He sat down and got to know me. Then I felt like I could talk to him."
Chapman said he finds strength in talking with other veterans dealing with PTSD.
As an alumnus of the Wounded Warrior Program and former member of the Community-based Warrior Transition Unit - Illinois, Chapman was able to meet others going through similar experiences.
Though he has had minimal contact with these groups recently, he said he enjoys any chance he gets to work with veterans who are struggling, and he hopes to meet and help more veterans.
Aside from PTSD, Chapman also suffers from traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, constant headaches and increasingly painful nerve damage.
"It's getting worse and the doctors are saying that the nerves (in my back) are settling and getting pinched," said Chapman. "When people ask about my pain level, I tell them it's an 8 to 10 on a daily basis.
"You wouldn't know it looking at me but after five years, what can you do? You can sit there and whine and moan and complain or you can deal with it and move on."
Some days, Chapman said, it feels as if the care he receives is making his problems worse. He feels it's difficult to get proper care, as many doctors are quick to prescribe medication to address his pain, instead of researching alternate methods to eliminate or reduce it.
"The VA has been giving me medicine that knocks me out for days," he said. "One Friday night, they gave me 300 milligrams of gabapentin and I couldn't figure out how to get out of my bedroom. I can't live like that."
Chapman said that one day his back pain was a 15 on a 1 to 10 scale and the doctor "told me to take the morphine through the weekend and to come back on Monday. You would think that would mean four, maybe five pills.
" She gave me 30 15-milligram doses of morphine and told me to take one every 4 hours. I took one and I was out."
Chapman is hopeful that there will be some resolution to his physical pain short of surgery. In April 2012, the file containing the paperwork detailing his injuries weighed 15 pounds.
One aspect of his life that helps him cope with his PTSD and mobility issues caused by his injuries is his service dog. Justice is a 3-year-old black Labrador, and a near-constant companion to Chapman, at home and in the office.
"He's my battle buddy," Chapman said. "He's always got my back and is there for me unconditionally."
Chapman said there is one challenge associated with bringing Justice to work: keeping Justice's "social butterfly" tendencies under control. Chapman said Justice loves people and people like to lavish him with attention.
"I need to hold him to a higher standard because he is serving me," said Chapman. "He works for me."
While Justice provides him with constant assistance, Chapman said his greatest source of support is his family. Chapman said his wife, Lindsey, and their two daughters, Kayla and Jillian, are reminders of how fortunate he is.
They also keep him hopeful that time will help heal, or a least minimize his injuries. On Oct. 24, that support grew, when the Chapman's welcomed a son, Nicholas Scott, into their family.
"My doctor said recently that he knows that I'm trying to get better and will not give up, because if I didn't really care about my wife and kids, why would I try to get better?"
-- Submitted by ACC-RI Public Affairs
Two from ACC-RI graduate from Naval postgrad program
Two Army Contracting Command-Rock Island employees received their master of science degree in program management from the Naval Postgraduate School of Business and Public Policy on Jan. 23.
Beginning the program in May 2011, Marcia Larssen and Angela Calhoun found the program to be a lesson in patience and persistence.
Larssen, a recently-promoted procuring contracting officer, and Calhoun, a contract specialist, were interested in the master's in contract management but that program was canceled that semester due to lack of participants.
After looking into the program management curriculum and seeking advice from ACC-RI leadership, both decided to enroll in the program management course.
Larssen and Calhoun opted to participate in a two-year distance learning program instead of the resident program, so they could still manage their contracting workload. The virtual classroom provides a variety of courses for government students worldwide.
"All the courses had the same lecture hours, but each had different time constraints depending on labs and study time," said Calhoun. "Some courses were quite time consuming with all the required and recommended reading and assignments, while others were not. Also some of the courses were group work and others were individual."
Concurrent to working on coursework, students had to complete a project, similar to a thesis. They could work individually or team up to complete their project. Larssen and Calhoun decided to work together on their course project: "Implications and Constraints of Fiscal Law in Contingency Environments."
They worked with two ACC-RI leaders who served as advisors throughout the course project.
Coursework and the project aside, graduation from the program proved to be an extensive process in itself.
While commencement ceremonies are typically the final step in degree attainment, that's not the case at the NPS, where, once coursework is complete, students are assigned to a particular commencement exercise, regardless whether the course project is complete or not.
Larssen and Calhoun completed their coursework, but needed an extension to complete their project. At the NPS, extensions are commonplace. Calhoun said out of 25 classmates, only one or two people finished their projects without an extension.
Though they were given a year extension on their project, they completed it last August, which set the nomination for graduation into motion.
"Our project was approved on Aug. 28, and the next commencement exercise was held Sept. 27, so that was the class that we were nominated to graduate with," said Calhoun. "It started the timeline to receive our official diplomas."
Calhoun said completing this program gave her a good base for what her customers do on a daily basis at the program level.
"This experience has greatly increased my ability to understand and relate to them on another level," said Calhoun. "I also feel I have been able to gain some level of respect from program managers, that can show them I really do understand to a certain extent, what they are doing and why."
Larssen said her biggest take away is a greater appreciation of all of the work that goes into government programs.
"Coming from private industry four years ago, I had experiences participating on programs and projects from a corporate level where we constantly juggled scope, costs and time," Larssen said.
"I think that this program allowed me to understand, from the government's perspective, the processes within a government program. I could see how my contracting position fits into the government programs' big picture."
-- Submitted by ACC-RI Public Affairs
Sgt. Audie Murphy Club reaches out to local children
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL – Sgt. 1st Class Darrick Dupree, Army Sustainment Command, spent part of his Valentine's Day talking to about 550 Wilson Elementary students in Davenport, about being the best they can be.
Dupree was inducted into the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club in 2009 — an organization known for its involvement in community outreach.
"To me, the Audie Murphy Club meant the elite NCOs in the Army," Dupree said. "I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I also knew that being inducted into the Audie Murphy Club would be a great opportunity for me to do more for my community and family."
On Valentine's Day, Dupree and fellow SAMC member, Master Sgt. Samantha Weatherspoon, Army Contracting Command, talked to the kids about the importance of setting goals and doing their best.
At the same time, the school kicked off a new initiative that rewards children for positive behavior in a unique way.
"Wilson Elementary School is starting a coin program," Dupree said. "The program is similar to how we receive coins in the military, in that they will be awarded to kids for outstanding behavior or for an outstanding act of kindness."
Wilson is the third school Dupree has spoken at in the Quad Cities.
"One of my greatest joys is seeing the faces of those young ones when you walk in the building with that uniform," he said. "I get joy out of knowing that I can do something that will hopefully one day affect their outlook on life."
RIA garrison commander Col. Elmer Speights Jr. also spoke at the event after the principal and school counselor invited him to mentor some students.
"In particular, they would like to have examples of successful male role models in the classrooms, because the majority of their faculty is made up of females," Speights said.
The SAMC was established in 1986 at Fort Hood, Tex., in honor of famous World War II veteran and Hollywood actor, Audie Murphy.
It started as an exclusive club at Fort Hood, and expanded to include the entire Army, including the Reserves and National Guard, in the mid-'90s.
The club encourages community outreach and member involvement.
"There is a misconception around this area that there is a Quad-Cities family and a Rock Island Arsenal family," Dupree said. "We (RIA SAMC) believe that by going out into the community, we can bridge the gap between the two and let everyone know in the surrounding areas that we are willing to be a part of the Quad-Cities family, that the two can be one."
Dupree said the RIA SAMC has volunteered at many local events, including donating time at area homeless shelters and in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
-- Submitted by Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Wright, ASC Public Affairs
JMC employee inducted Into Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL – A Joint Munitions Command employee is the newest member of a very prestigious group.
Allen Rus, chief of JMC's Transportation Division, was inducted into the Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharp during a Feb. 24 ceremony at JMC Headquarters.
The Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe is a U.S. Ordnance Corps Association honor recognizing people in the ordnance field whose deeds have gone above and beyond the norm. The Order was created in 1994.
JMC surprised Rus, who was unaware he was receiving the honor.
The recognition is named after a colonist from Massachusetts. According to the U.S. Ordnance Corps Association's website, Samuel Sharpe was charged with, among other duties, the care of the "five pieces of Ordnance: that belonged to the colony."
On April 17, 1629, Sharpe was appointed by the Council of the Plantation in Massachusetts Bay Colonies to be "Master Gunner of Ordnance."
Rus' achievements included providing outstanding airlift support for high priority munitions to the Warfighter; planning and executing airlift and sealift for foreign military sales munitions and retrograde of munitions; providing coordination and execution efforts for distribution via sealift of all services' munitions requirements.
He also does container management direction and 100 percent accountability of assets in support of sustainment stock and retrograde, and provides improved munitions movement forecasts to the commercial motor carrier industry to allow for correct fleet sizing to support future operations.
Also at the ceremony was his wife, Mary, who works for JMC in the Equal Employment Opportunity office.
Trish Huber, deputy to the commanding general, JMC, spoke on Rus' contributions to the government.
"You've done your business behind the scenes and you are a well-hidden secret," she said. "The people you work with, and (U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command) think very highly of you."
From its headquarters here, JMC operates a nationwide network of conventional ammunition manufacturing plants and storage depots, and provides on-site ammunition experts to U.S. combat units wherever they are stationed or deployed. JMC's customers are U.S. forces of all military services, other U.S. Government agencies, and allied nations.
-- Submitted by Darryl Howlett, Joint Munitions Command Public Affairs
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