Oct 22

Travel Regulation Changes Affect PCS Moves, Travelers

Moving Truck 300x157 Travel Regulation Changes Affect PCS Moves, TravelersBy Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2014 – Big changes are happening with the Joint Travel Regulations, and they could affect your next permanent-change-of-station move or how you are reimbursed for temporary duty assignments.

As of July 25, Army uniformed and civilian travelers are directed to use their government travel credit cards for PCS moves, Harvey Johnson, the director of the Defense Travel Management Office said today.

The Air Force has a similar policy already in place, Johnson said, and the Marine Corps is preparing to implement its own administrative message regarding use of the government travel card for permanent changes of station. “The Navy is conducting a pilot [program] to use the card for PCS, so I believe it’s imminent for all the services,” he noted.

The change applies to both uniformed and civilian personnel in each of the services, Johnson said.

“Ultimately, we want to extend this initiative to all federal civilians and uniformed members, because at the end of the day, we believe it’s the right thing for our cardholders,” he said.

Reducing the fiscal burden for movers

By using the government travel card, movers no longer are forced to pay out of pocket for moving expenses, Johnson said. The new policy also generates a number of other benefits, including eliminating the need to apply for advance travel pay and reducing the chance of becoming delinquent on a personal credit card.

“We want to make sure that people still have it within their budget to continue to travel,” he said, “but we’ve got to travel smarter, more efficiently and try to return money back to the Department of Defense.”

Every time travelers use their government travel card, their service receives a rebate, Johnson said. A 5 percent increase in usage across the department generates an 11 percent rebate, he said, adding that “services get that money back in their budgets, … a return on investment that we need during sequestration.”

Additionally, using a government travel card allows the department to understand how travelers are spending, Johnson said. “And that allows us to negotiate better rates, whether it’s with the rental car companies or amenities with hotels,” he added.

Authorized moving expenses

Just about any moving-related expense is authorized, Johnson said. “So, if you think of the big categories, there’s air, there’s rail, there’s rental cars, then you have things like lodging, meals and other travel-related expenses,” he said.

The Joint Travel Regulations and the Joint Federal Travel Regulations were consolidated into one regulation on Oct. 1, so all travelers now have one volume to refer to for questions about official travel, Johnson said.

An extensive list of authorized expenses can be found at Appendix G of the Joint Travel Regulations, he said, which is available at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/travelreg.cfm. Travelers also can call the Travel Assistance Center at 1-888-HELP1GO, which is open 24/7, Johnson added.

Incidental expense definition changing

An expanded definition of what constitutes incidental expenses during official travel went into effect Oct. 1, he said. The change will save the department about $18 million annually, Johnson said.

Per diem payments are made up of lodging, meals and, for travelers in the continental United States, a $5 daily incidental payment. The definition of what qualifies as an incidental expense — which travelers are expected to pay for from that $5 daily payment — now includes ATM fees, baggage tips for uniformed personnel and, within the continental United States, laundry expenses, Johnson said.

“These were previously expenses that were miscellaneous reimbursable expenses,” he noted.

The expanded definition will affect only a few travelers, Johnson said, and no one should end up paying out of pocket. For example, only about 13 percent of travelers were claiming ATM fees, he said, and they averaged out to about 76 cents per day, well under the flat $5 daily incidentals payment.

“This incentivizes people to plan ahead,” Johnson said. “Should you make an ATM withdrawal? Certainly, if it’s necessary. Should you make one every day? I would offer there’s probably a better way to plan for that.”

If travelers find their average incidental expenses are in excess of the incidentals payment, they should contact their approving authority to ensure actual expenses are authorized on their travel orders.

Mission-related expenses continue to be reimbursable, and should not be confused with incidental expenses, he noted.

“So, if my mission calls for … [me] to do certain things — make an extraordinary amount of phone calls using the hotel phone, or other mission-type expenses — they are still reimbursable,” Johnson said. Travelers should still ensure that their approving authority has approved such expenses, he added.

Behind the policy decision

The travel management office used three guiding principles when considering these policy changes, Johnson said.

First, do no harm — reducing costs to the government shouldn’t come at the expense of travelers, he explained.

Second, Johnson said, “We’re looking to fairly compensate travelers for expenses occurred.”

And third, use data to test and back up recommendations. “I truly believe the data tells the narrative. As you start to look at the data from prior years, … the picture becomes quite clear on what sort of travel solutions are out there,” he said.

Oct 22

Bronze Star Awarded Posthumously to Marine for Valor in Combat

By Cpl. Tiffany Edwards, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

Erin Vasselian Sgt Daniel Bronze Star Awarded Posthumously to Marine for Valor in Combat

Erin Vasselian holds a Bronze Star Medal following a ceremony where her husband, Sgt. Daniel Vasselian, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Oct. 13, in front of the American Legion’s Lewis V. Dorsey Post 112 War Memorial in Abington, Mass. Daniel was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for combat actions while on his third deployment to Afghanistan. Erin Vasselian, and parents, Karen and Mark Vasselian, each were presented with medals during the ceremony. Daniel was killed in action Dec. 23, 2013 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein)

ABINGTON, Massachusetts — “He was killed stepping out of a doorway so someone else didn’t have to,” said Sgt. Christopher Leonard, the former first fire team leader for 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. “He would never let someone else put their life on the line when they didn’t have to.”

Sgt. Daniel Vasselian is remembered by his Marines as a grunt’s grunt, according to Leonard. He was professional and tough with his Marines, while still being approachable and maintaining strong relationships with his men. Vasselian’s wife, Erin, remembers him as the one who gave her strength.

“Throughout our town, he was known as the guy who could make everyone laugh,” said Erin Vasselian. “When we lost Danny, the world lost a great Marine and I lost my rock.”

Reserve Marines of Company B, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, in Abington, Massachusetts presented Vasselian’s family with the Bronze Star medal Oct. 13, 2014.

Vasselian was the 2nd squad leader for 1st Plt., B Co., 1st Bn., 9th Marines when they deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom Sept. 25, 2013. During the deployment, Vasselian led his squad in three heliborne operations and 10 combat patrols over the course of two months.

According to the award citation, on Dec. 23, 2013, Vasselian led his unit while under heavy machine gun fire to support an adjacent unit that was pinned down. Leonard fought alongside Vasselian and witnessed him entering the line of enemy fire to signal their unit’s position to advancing support elements. Vasselian was killed during his efforts. Later, his unit nominated him for a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The request was returned by II MEF, with the order to nominate Vasselian for a Bronze Star instead.

“He definitely deserved it, that’s who he was and he completely earned it,” said Leonard. “He had character. He had a great personality, was a savvy infantryman, and he was everything a grunt should aspire to be.”

For Sgt. Aaron Alonso, a former squad leader in 2nd Plt., B Co., 1st Bn., 9th Marines, the memory of Vasselian’s legacy and support from the Vasselian family helped him through rehabilitation from grievous injuries he received just two months after Vasselian’s death. Alonso lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while on a combat patrol on Feb. 8, 2013. Alonso and Vasselian met during training at the Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry, and were friends until his death in 2013.

“As long as I’ve known him, for eight years, he’s always been the Marine who would pick you up when you were down,” Alonso said. “He was the best guy at his shop. He always had a smile on his face.”

The Marines of B Co., 1st Bn., 9th Marines were thrilled when they learned Vasselian was earning a Bronze Star.

“All the Marines in 1st Bn., 9th Marines believe he absolutely deserves that Bronze star, and there was no greater honor than serving with that guy,” Alonso said. “He was always there for me, and for his Marines. He never shut anyone out.”

For Erin Vasselian, the circumstances of her husband’s death and subsequent award came as no surprise to her and his family.
“He was dedicated to his job, and he told me that his job was to protect his men,” she said. “That’s just how Danny was. He just wanted to make sure his men made it out ok.”

She added that while the loss of her husband still hurts, his Bronze Star and the support the Vasselian family has received from their community and the Marines Corps reminds her that his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

“We are so proud he was awarded this medal,” she said. “There’s nothing that can put a price on his life, but the fact that he has been commemorated through this award and in our community means so much to us as his family. We’re so happy he will be remembered for his actions.”

According to Vasselian’s father, Mark, this Bronze Star serves as a source of pride and comfort for the Vasselian family, but their loss remains very close to their hearts.

“I couldn’t be any more proud of my son, knowing about his achievements with the United States Marine Corps, and knowing what he’s done for our country,” Mark Vasselian said. “It’s bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m very proud of him. On the other hand, living without him has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

First Sgt. Shane Dillon, company first sergeant for B Co., 1st Bn., 25th Marines was the primary casualty assistance call officer assigned to Vasselian’s family, and was one of the Marines who was tasked with notifying them of his death. Almost a year later, Dillon was able to present the Vasselian family with their fallen Marine’s Bronze Star.

“Having been there to present that award, I’m glad that we were able to recognize that Marine’s efforts,” Dillon said. “The Vasselians are a great family with a great dynamic and support network. Especially after the experience of being the CACO assigned to the case, presenting this award was one of the most rewarding things I have been able to do in this capacity.”

As Operation Enduring Freedom winds down, Vasselian, along with the 458 Marines* who have laid their lives down for their nation during OEF, continue to be remembered for their sacrifice. While he is unable to witness the outcome of his actions, Vasselian’s valor in combat serves to inspire a new generation of Marines, who put their lives on the line to uphold the highest traditions of their Corps.

Oct 20

36th Commandant General Dunford’s Message to all Marines

Marines, I am truly honored and humbled to serve as your Commandant. I’d like to begin my tenure by thanking General and Mrs. Amos for their four decades of extraordinary service and commitment. They transition to the next phase of their lives with the admiration, appreciation, and affection of all Marines and their families.

The Marine Corps is in great shape. We are recruiting and retaining high quality Marines who are fit, tough, and smart. Our Marines are well led, well trained, and well equipped. The infrastructure at our posts and stations — our barracks, family housing and training facilities — has been significantly enhanced over the past decade.

We remain forward deployed and forward engaged in the Pacific, South America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Just in the last year, we have responded to crisis in the Philippines, South Sudan, Libya, and Iraq. In Afghanistan, we have remained engaged in combat operations. We have clearly demonstrated our flexibility, versatility, and adaptability. Marines are relevant and in high demand.

We have answered the call and we have delivered! Throughout the last decade, Marines have enhanced their reputation as the Nation’s premier force in readiness. Today’s Marines, like their predecessors, can be very proud to claim the title United States Marine.

Despite these accomplishments, much work remains to be done. As Marines, we maintain the highest standards and we constantly seek to improve. We will continue to attack by:

  • Maintaining a first-rate, well-trained total force of Marines in a high state of readiness.
  • Prioritizing the support of those Marines in harm’s way.
  • Developing and fielding MAGTF capabilities that will ensure that the Marine Corps remains an innovative,
    relevant, naval, expeditionary force-in-readiness.
  • Building upon our success in leader development, professional military education, wounded warrior care,
    and family readiness.

Our Corps is informed by your input. I will continue to engage with Marines of all grades to solicit feedback. Your ideas will help us improve our warfighting and crisis response capabilities and provide the foundation for detailed Commandant’s Planning Guidance in the New Year.

Know that I’m extraordinarily proud to stand in your ranks.
Thanks for who you are and what you do.
Continue to march…

Check out the official 239th Video featuring the Marine Corps Birthday Message.

239th Birthday Video Happy Birthday Marines from General Dunford 36th Commandant of the USMC  300x181 36th Commandant General Dunfords Message to all Marines

Oct 20

Tricare for Kids: A Response by Kids Stakeholders Coalition

Kids Stakeholders Coalition 1024x501 Tricare for Kids: A Response by Kids Stakeholders CoalitionInitial Response: “Study on Health Care and Related Support for Children of Members of the Armed Forces”
September 2014


On July 15, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the Honorable Jessica L. Wright, submitted a Report analyzing pediatric health care coverage under TRICARE to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. The Report, commonly referred to as the “TRICARE for Kids (TFK) Report,” was a requirement of Section 735 of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), directing the Secretary of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of health care provided to dependent children of members of the Armed Forces.

The TRICARE for Kids Stakeholders Coalition, consisting of pediatric provider organizations, military and veterans’ service organizations, disability groups and military families, has been working since January 2013 for the purposes of providing input to the Department of Defense (DoD) on its provision of healthcare to our military children and coordinating next steps. The Coalition appreciates that its feedback and recommendations were included for consideration in the TFK Report and has asked Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Chuck Hagel, to also incorporate the feedback into the recently directed 90 day review of the military health system.

While each organization has its own perspective and priority issue areas, in order to provide an easy-to-reference summary and response to the TFK Report, the Coalition has compiled the following from analyses, concerns and reactions collected from partner organizations and military families.


The TFK Report concluded that the Military Health System (MHS) is meeting the needs of children in its care—including those with special health care needs—as specifically addressed under each of the nine elements listed in Section 735. This overall finding is not surprising, as this Report was an internal review conducted by the Defense Health Agency (DHA), which administers the TRICARE program.

Although the Report concluded that TRICARE was meeting the needs of children, it also acknowledges in every element of the study that there are significant “gaps,” “areas for clarification” and considerable deficiencies in data collection, utilization and analysis. These findings might be better described as “areas in need of improvement.” These gaps and findings align with many of the areas identified and recommendations made by Coalition partners to the DoD for consideration in preparing the Report. Those areas are ripe for and in need of immediate attention. TFK stakeholders are pleased that the Report acknowledges areas of concern and urges action in a timely and collaborative manner.

An overarching theme woven throughout the Report is the lack of data and meaningful utilization of data, or inability to collect data, which then limits the analysis in many of the elements examined. Many areas, such as specialty care, the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) program, care management and the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), lack sufficient data to support the DoD’s conclusion that it is providing adequate care and support, particularly to military families with special needs. This lack of data and appropriate analysis is consistent with a recent New York Times article “In Military Care, a Pattern of Errors but Not Scrutiny,” published on June 28, 2014. The Coalition aligns itself with the comments of Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, in a follow-up to the New York Times investigation:

“The people we serve expect us to improve. The American public expects us to improve. We expect ourselves to improve.” Woodson called for greater attention to patient safety and more openness about problems in treatment. “In moments like these, it can be easy to close down,” he said. “We need to do the opposite. We need to become even more transparent.”
In each of the nine areas of the Report, the TFK Coalition identifies substantial opportunities for the DHA and the DoD to work with the Congress and stakeholders to collect better data, increase transparency, enhance safety and institute changes to improve TRICARE for one of our most valuable resources, our military children.

Click to Download the Rest of the Report Now

Kids Stakeholders Coalition Complete Report.jpg Tricare for Kids: A Response by Kids Stakeholders Coalition



Oct 17

Marine Survives Sniper Headshot By Inches In Afghanistan

This video has gone viral and shows footage of a Marine peering out from behind cover. The Marine survives a non-fatal headshot by Taliban sniper in Afghanistan. Luckily the bullet only hit his helmet and didnt caused fatal damages. His other squadmembers also had luck the bullet didnt hit one of them. Notable is how calm they reacted to the shot. The attack was recorded on an helmet camera during a joint helicopter raid in the Now Zad district, Helmand Province.


Marine shot in helmet 300x155 Marine Survives Sniper Headshot By Inches In Afghanistan

Oct 15

Happy Birthday Marine Corps: Celebrate at the USMC Ball

This year the Corps will be celebrating 239 years — Marine Corps, you’ve still got it and you’re looking good. Where will you be celebrating your USMC Birthday?

Check out our tribute to all of those who earned the title Marine and some famous folks you may not know were Marines as well. Semper Fi.

USMC video celebrating the Marine Corps Happy Birthday Marines 300x280 Happy Birthday Marine Corps: Celebrate at the USMC Ball

Oct 14

Here’s What What Happened When NASA Simulated A Marine Helicopter Crash

Researchers and military representatives met up at the Langley’s Landing and Impact Research facility along with national and international government agencies to do something that has been in the works for three years… they’re going to drop a Marine helicopter 30 feet to the ground.

The NASA drop test featured a Boeing CH-46 fuselage outfitted with:

  • 13 crash test dummies complete with monitoring
  • 2 non instrumented manikin
  • Approximately 40 cameras
  • 350 data channels to record movement

The test would only take three seconds, but the impact is instrumental in helping those who design helicopters to develop safer aircraft.


Helicopter Crash 300x153 Heres What What Happened When NASA Simulated A Marine Helicopter Crash

Oct 12

Drum Battle Between the US Marine Corps and their Korean Counterparts

Drum Battle: III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) Band

vs. Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Band

Check our these servicemembers having a bit of fun with this drum-battle between the III Marine Expeditionary Force band out or Okinawa, Japan and the Republic of Korea. In the end, it’s declared a tie — but we think it’s safe to say that the Marines won.

Oct 12

How to Stop Your Phone From Tracking and Showing Where You Are

How to stop Facebook from Tracking You 285x300 How to Stop Your Phone From Tracking and Showing Where You AreIf you are on Facebook, you may not know that you are sending our signals from your mobile device which tells others where exactly you are.

Yes. You read that right, they can track your GPS location 24/7, and let others know exactly where you are and you probably don’t know that you’re doing it.

It’s called ‘Nearby Friends’ and with our current threats of Domestic Terrorism, we highly suggest you turn this off.

How To Turn Off Nearby Friends in Facebook

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 10

Paving the way: Montford Point Marine widow accepts Congressional Gold Medal

Ella Jackson Marine wife 300x200 Paving the way: Montford Point Marine widow accepts Congressional Gold Medal

Ella Jackson, a 93-year-old widow, receives a Congressional Gold Medal replica in lieu of her late husband, Master Sgt. George Jackson, in Port Royal, S.C., Oct. 2. George Jackson enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and retired after 27 years of service in 1969. Brigadier General Terry Williams, the first African-American commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, presented Jackson with the medal at a ceremony. In 2012, Congress awarded the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal, the United States’ highest civilian award bestowed by Congress.

Story by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

PORT ROYAL, S.C. – African-American service in the United States military can be traced back to the country’s inception. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that service members were truly integrated in military units.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 permitting African-American recruitment in the Marine Corps.

These recruits were not sent to the swamps of Parris Island, S.C., or the hills of San Diego, Calif.; rather they were segregated and sent to basic training at Montford Point, N.C.

Between 1942 and 1949 about 20,000 African-American recruits attended basic training at Montford Point. One of those recruits was George Jackson.

“At the time, [Jackson] was joining an organization that was getting ready to fight in a World War, in a country that wasn’t always kind to African-Americans,” said Brig. Gen. Terry Williams, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island / Eastern Recruiting Region. “You have to ask yourself why somebody would fight for a country that in some places [African-Americans] were not treated very well.”

In 2012, Congress authorized the Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to each of the 20,000 Montford Point Marines or their families to recognize the accomplishments and sacrifices during a time of segregation. Read the rest of this entry »

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