29 September 2010

IA Quarterly Update – Annual Assessment


One of our tasks as the Executive Agent for Individual Augmentees is to provide CNO with an annual assessment of our Navy’s IA program. The assessment is important because it provides candid feedback from our Sailors and their families about the effectiveness of our IA program resources and identifies those areas where we need to focus more of our attention.

While the results show that our Sailors are increasingly satisfied with the IA experience and overall mission preparedness has improved, the assessment has also revealed some very important areas that require further improvement:

  • Operational Stress Control (OSC): Feedback from our IA Sailors indicates that although they are aware of the OSC program and available resources in theater, there are a lot of mixed feelings on the actual value it serves in helping them deal with the stress of an IA deployment. It is absolutely critical that we get this one right. Operational stress is a very real threat to our Sailors and their families and has a direct impact on the readiness of our Navy. Our Navy is investing a lot of resources into the OSC program and if it’s not having the intended effect on our IA Sailors in theater, then we need to get at the root cause and fix it right away.

  • Post Deployment Health Assessment and Reassessment (PDHA/PDHRA) completion rates (81%/65%) are too low. Health assessments are an important part of ensuring our Sailors receive the care necessary to proactively identify and manage health issues and concerns. It’s going to take a concerted effort, but we need to ensure that every Sailor that comes off an IA assignment is receiving the right medical evaluations at the right time.

There is no doubt in my mind that our USFF Team has done a very good job executing as well as improving the IA program. But as long as there are outstanding issues, we must keep the press on. Our IA Sailors and their families count on us and we will not let them down.

You can read through the assessment here and access the IA website here.

All the best, JCHjr




I attempted to find my first post to you during the first few months of this IA tour to compared it to today where I am less than a month from redeploying back to the States. However, I couldn't find it. Though, I think I can remember enough of back then to compare to now.

I remember having a challenge in finding work for myself out here, and while that did abate to an extent, it didn't fully. I believe I perceive being under employed due to the culture differences between the Army and the Navy. Where the Army purposely deploys over strength and in the Navy, I've never know any type of manning other than 'optimal'. Exacerbating this perception is the fact that every Army unit I've served with (4 different units between Bagram and Kandahar) didn't deploy with the anticipation of being augmented by the Navy. Sailors, in my experience were not mission essential, we were bonuses that allowed for more time off for the unit.

It is hard for me to jive this reality with the experience of my shipmates back aboard my parent command. In talking with them, they've been working as many days/hours a week as I have while deployed. If the demand for days/hours worked are the same, how can we justify taking manpower from one command and giving it to another? To be honest with you, it has been heart breaking for me to know this fact.

While I am returning (just to PCS to my next command, my PRD is DEC10) to my parent command, my LPO is starting their IA tour. Because I am not able to be aboard, and the LPO is not able to be aboard, a YNC had to be brought in to help cover the work load in my office. This even though my ship is not billeted for a YNC. How far are we willing to support the Army's mission to our own detriment? What my command has had to do amounts to billeting gymnastics to just reach a bare minimum of manning that the Army in many respects has never experienced, certainly not in what I've seen during my year in Afghanistan. I've read the CNO's words regarding the anticipated decrease in demand for IA/GSA GWOT assignments. My hope for this is that by this decrease, we can stop sourcing these billets from operational commands and be able to reach the increased billeting I've seen proposed for ships.

I also remember singing NAVCENT's praise in my first comment. I still cannot say enough good about them. Though, through no fault of their own, the command structures out here have stated to give them some significant challenges in understanding where their Sailors are and what they are doing. This was to be expected I am sure, because of the surge. I've even had struggles with it, and I hope I am able to give my relief a good enough turnover to keep track of it all. I have been responsible for Sailors across Afghanistan covered under the Joint Manning Document held by my Command. My unit has arranged to 'share' the Sailors with its down-trace units. They are still performing duties commensurate with their training/skills. But, this has been daunting for me, in that as far as the Navy knows, each Sailor is to be flown to the same location working with the same command. I'm not sure how that affects the reports you see, but it can't been good. On a case by case basis I have to coordinate with Sailors in Kuwait to have them sent to the correct FOB. NAVCENT pays attention to the Noble Eagle number for each Sailor. The JMD manager at my command pays attention to their JMD line number, and Naval Personnel Command pays attention to their EJMAPS number in listing the duty description/location on their orders... As best I can tell. That's a lot of churn, isn't it, Sir?



Continued from previous...

But, again, NAVCENT is awesome. When I got to Kandahar, NAVCENT RC(SW) was little more than a few connex boxes and a desk with a single Master Chief. I've watched them grow to a small staff. The Master Chiefs you've had down here, ACCM Mattis, CMDCM Ortega, and the current Master Chief (who I won't list by name since he is here) are some of the best Master Chiefs I've had the pleasure of serving with. I'd follow them to hell and back, and do it again if I had to. The same goes for the Master Chiefs billeted to Bagram.

In regards to the challenges of getting Sailors to complete their PDHA, we've been briefed on how that will be seen to resolution. We were sent emails that came from the NECC CMC. I won't say what the solution is, since I cannot be sure if doing so will violate OPSEC. But, I wanted to let you know that the information has been pushed to the dust covered deckplates out here.

My parent command has been amazing in the support they've given me as well. During this tour I've had to pick new orders. How I got my orders is not the usual way Sailors get them. Despite this, my Command, my detailor, and NAVCENT have supported me all the way.

It has been interesting to work in a joint environment while also in a combat zone. In talking with Army and Air Force personnel, one thing becomes resoundingly clear: None of them know what it means to be a Shipmate--we take better care of our personnel than any other branch. Also, it is amazing that in almost every aspect of personnel management, the Navy is somewhere in between how the Army and Air Force do business.

In short:

The good: Where the level of support for Sailors is now is good, improvements will be the icing on the cake.

The bad: Sailors are more needed aboard ships than they are in Afghanistan.


Would I do this again? I would. I just don't ever want to come to Afghanistan, again. I'd take a tour in Iraq or HOA, though.

Side note: The military as a whole needs to get out infront of the possible medical issues from burning waste, heavy metal laced dust and contaminated water. My unit is issuing memos from the unit Surgeon stating the ambiguous nature of all the health risks from being deployed out here. You can smell burning garbage at night. In probably a decade, serious questions are going to be raised. I only hope we are gathering the correct metrics to understand what health problems a lot of us might be facing at that time.

YN2(SW) Battle Yeoman

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN said...

Battle Yeoeman, as always you've given me alot to work on, but then, that's the whole purpose of putting up this blog isn't it?
The positive comments you made with respect to the support our IAs are getting from NAVCENT and the direct support you've received from your own command back here are really reassuring to read.
I also want you to know that I'm going to do a line-by-line review of our current IA requirements to ensure that what we're being asked to provide is related to a valid mission that requires our Sailors' particular skills. We're 6 years into the IA experience and it's time to take the hard look.
Your comments on the various medical issues are compelling - I'll be getting my Fleet Surgeon on that issue right away.
Thanks again for your comprehensive, timely and substantive comments. I always enjoy hearing from you and look forward to meeting you and getting reports face-to-face. All the best, JCHjr

CDR Fritz said...

Good Afternoon Sir,

Back in October 2009 I replied to your IA Process post while mobilized and I returned from CJTF-HOA this past February. Overall, I appreciate your willingness and courage to take unfiltered feedback via multiple sources such as your blog, SB, or all-hands calls such as the one you held at CLDJ. This comment respectfully addresses four IA issues as seen from my reServist perspective.

First, I realize the navy typically does not fix issues overnight for a variety of reasons. Therefore, I respectfully request an updated status to the specific suggestions made in response to your original IA Process post. It seems to me that some items have been addressed; for example, when I go to BOL I no longer have separate AC and RC OSRs and all my quals, etc are in one document. That improvement is greatly appreciated. However, I still have two separate pay accounts, one AC and the other RC. Moreover, it does not appear that a RC sailor can apply for an "AC" OSA. I know that changes have been made in CMSID so that enlisted RC sailors can apply for specific opportunities, but I do not see a similar process for officers and looking at NPC's website it seems that certain GSA assignments are "AC" only. This approach does not seem rational when the IA Requirements & Milestones slide only shows constantly increasing IA requirements.

Second, giving credit where credit is due, ECRC/NMPS did an excellent job in thoroughly and properly demobilizing our group of reServists.

Third, to echo the esteemed Battle YN2(SW), why are we taking sailors off ships/boats/squadrons to do army missions when the army has increased in end strength by two division equivalents since September 11th (I believe) and the army has radically downsized its Iraq footprint? Sir, I fully understand we are at war in three theaters (Afghanistan, Iraq, GWOT); however, I make this comment both as a citizen and a naval officer. From my white-collar professional career citizen perspective, employers see SELRES employees as a net burden. If an employer has a SELRES employee, especially a small or mid-size employer, the employer suffers a disproportionate loss if that SELRES mobilizes. The employer may be forced to backfill the now empty position, and the employer receives absolutely no govt support to hire a temporary employee, tax breaks, or anything else. If I were an employer, why would I hire a SELRES if I knew they would most likely be mobilized for a significant period of time and I would receive no financial support to cover their absence? Moreover, yellow ribbon magnets aside, most of the country and most employers don't care that we are at war in three theaters. As far as most employers are concerned, September 11th is ancient history and they have no need to sacrifice for the "war effort." Hiring a SELRES who will mobilize for "somebody else's war (insert whomever you feel is at fault)" does not help an employer's bottom line and therefore there is no incentive to hire SELRES.

CDR Fritz said...

Furthermore, as a naval officer, why are we sending sailors to execute land-centric missions, which is the army's job? CJTF-HOA is the prime example: CJTF-HOA owns absolutely no waterspace and has a land-centric indirect counterterrorism mission, yet the staff is navy heavy. Why is the navy the lead for CJTF-HOA and not the army? Please do not misunderstand me - I thoroughly enjoyed my CJTF-HOA tour and would go back in an instant if ordered to do so, however land warfare and land force security assistance expertise are not navy core competencies. I fully agree that at one time it made sense for the navy to take the CJTF-HOA lead because the army was broken and bogged down in two land wars in Asia, but the geopolitical situation has changed and the army's endstrength has improved.

Fourth, again echoing YN2(SW), the issue of burn pit exposure/environmental exposure needs to be closely tracked. While CLDJ did not use burn pits, the Djiboutians certainly did, and it was downright nasty at night.

In closing, thank you for your consideration and continued efforts to improve the fleet.


CDR Fritz, USN

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN said...

CDR Fritz,
Thanks for taking the time to post. Like Battle Yeoman, you’ve given me a lot to think about and look into. I will tell you right up front the same thing I told Battle Yeoman about the missions we’re being asked to support: I am doing a line by line review of all our IA requirements to ensure that what we’re being asked to provide is related to a valid mission that requires our Sailors’ skills.
I also want to address a few of the issues you brought up.
First, while we’ve learned and made a lot of positive changes the past nine years that we’ve been activating Reservists, I think the AC/RC pay accounts issue is just one of those that we’re going to have to live with for now. There have been some attempts to streamline the systems at the broader DoD level (e.g. DIHMRS), but I do not think a solution will be implemented anytime soon.
Second, wrt your comments regarding OSA/GSA, you are correct that both are for AC enlisted and officer personnel only and our current IA business rules by and large restrict RC from filling any of those AC billets. This particular rule has not been an issue up to this point. When we create a billet in the first place, we take various factors into consideration (capacity models, specific req’ts, latest arrival date, etc) to determine whether it should be assigned as AC or RC…to help reduce potential problems with filling critical billets.
Finally, I can’t say that I agree with or share your sentiment on the treatment of SELRES in the private sector. I believe our nation is and has been overwhelmingly supportive of our troops (Active and Reserve) and their service; especially when you consider what we experienced in the 60’s and 70’s. I understand your point that a small or mid-size business absorbs a hit when they temporarily lose an employee to mobilization, but good businesses realize when they have talent and they find a way to make it work. You may feel that being a Reservist puts you at a disadvantage in the private sector, but I believe the opposite is true – your military training and service gives you a clear advantage over the average candidate. But, at the end of the day, we are all products of our choices, not our circumstances. You made the choice to continue your service in the Reserves and there are clear benefits as well as some disadvantages that you had to consider when making that decision. I, for one, am very glad you made the choice to serve and I'm proud to serve with you. Thanks for being a great teammate.
All the best, JCHjr