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Military News Briefs for the Week of June 2, 2000

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2000 – (This is a summary of the top American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending June 2, 2000.)



Military family members convened at the Pentagon May 31 for the first Defense Secretary's Military Families Forum and to speak out on the issues that affect their daily lives. First, three DoD panels presented information on pay and compensation, financial stability, education, commissary and exchange benefits and other topics and then the floor opened to questions.

When the agenda hit housing and TRICARE, the talk turned personal. Active duty and reserve component service members and spouses were unanimous that DoD needs urgent fixes in both areas. One wife asserted her family had been billed $50,000 for two heart operations and the surgeon hadn't been paid in over a year.

At a press conference following the close of the forum, family member Kelli Kirwan said a strong spirit of cooperation developed. "I'm excited about the potential for future family forums because it's (a way of) keeping our senior leadership in touch with what's happening with their troops. And if the troops and the senior leadership are in line with what's happening, we've got a straight shot at mission success."

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Four days of celebrations and an address by Defense Secretary William Cohen cap the gala June 6 opening of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans.

Charles Cragin, acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs and the DoD coordinator of the event, said Congress felt it was important for DoD to support the event. Thousands of U.S. military and DoD civilian personnel will provide ceremonial and logistic support.

"It's really one of the last events to recognize and honor those men and women who fought in World War II," Cragin said. "[The military has learned the] lessons of putting country above self and of understanding teamwork is the way to accomplish missions." Officials expect 7,000 to 15,000 World War II veterans to attend a military parade and the museum grand opening June 6, the 56th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

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Sexually transmitted diseases threaten military readiness, and service members and leaders need to do more to prevent their spread.

"A large percentage of the military population is sexually active young adults," said Bill Calvert, chairman of the DoD's STD Prevention Committee. "With 333 million new cases of STDs globally and 15.3 million new cases in the United States each year, our service members are certainly at risk for exposure to STDs.

"Service members need to be reminded there are risks here at home as well," he said. "I think we scare the daylights out of our service members in foreign ports and countries, but they think they're safe at home. Yet the U.S. has the highest rates of STDs among developed countries."

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President Clinton laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on Memorial Day and then asked his audience rhetorically on behalf of the honored dead: "America, have you made our sacrifice matter?"

"Today, we are fortunate to be the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth, with a military respected around the world," Clinton said. "We could say, yes, America has made your sacrifice matter: America is at peace, and the risk of war that would scar the lives of a whole generation has been vastly reduced."

He said U.S. service members fought for freedom around the world because they knew it would preserve freedom at home. "Today, freedom advances around the world, and for the first time in human history, more than half the world's people choose their own leaders," he said. This is further proof to the dead that their sacrifices matter, he said.

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U.S. Joint Forces Command will sponsor an experiment called Millennium Challenge 2000 this summer that aims to help prepare the military for the challenges of the future.

An experiment tests concepts of how the United States might go to war 10, 20, 30 years in the future, according to command spokeswoman Air Force Col. Janet G. Tucker. "We exercise to stay proficient today, and we experiment to be proficient in the future."

One of Millennium Challenge's most important benefits will be the "common joint context" it will provide the services from joint experimentation is that for the first time, we are starting to provide the services with the joint context before they begin their experimentation program development," he said.

The experiment will be held simultaneously at Fort Polk, La.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; Langley AFB, Va.; Gulfport, Miss.; the Joint Training Analysis and Simulation Center, Suffolk, Va.; and aboard naval forces in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Joint Forces Command headquarters, Norfolk, Va., will be the overall Millennium Challenge headquarters.

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Pvt. Beetle Bailey celebrates his 50th year of service in September, and the Army recognized that service and his creator, Mort Walker, at the Pentagon May 24.

"Boy, how times have changed," Walker told reporters and guests at the ceremony. "I was persona non grata around here for many, many years." He recalled that the Pentagon once used his work as an example of "how not to do things."

Walker received framed commemorative coins from the defense secretary, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff; and the Secretary of the Army's Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service He was honored in the afternoon at a Twilight Tattoo featuring the 3rd U.S. Infantry's Old Guard and the U.S. Army Band.

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Korean War veterans are gearing up for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of that conflict. "They, better than most Americans, understand that 'freedom is not free,'" said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Nels Running, director of the commemoration committee.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington will be the focal point of ceremonies commemorating the start of the war. President Clinton and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen are scheduled to speak there June 25. Running said he expects up to 10,000 Korean War veterans and their families to attend.

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