More than previous military conflicts, fighting in Iraq is producing a large number of veterans with serious injuries. The good news is that body armor and improved medical care mean soldiers are surviving even grievous wounds. The bad news is that many are leaving the military missing limbs. That's where dogs come in.
New England Assistance Dog Services, which since 1976 has provided dogs to aid people with disabilities, has created Canines for Combat Veterans, a program to train pooches to work with vets who have lost legs. The dogs help vets balance while they walk using prosthetics. When their owners transfer to their wheelchairs, the dogs pick up things, retrieve, pull the chairs and turn lights on and off.
NEADS was invited to visit Walter Reed Army Hospital in May 2006 and interviewed candidates to receive dogs in August. Roland Paquette of New Mexico was the first to get a dog, Rainbow, a Labrador retriever. Paquette lost both legs when the Humvee he was riding in rolled over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in December 2004.
It costs upwards of $10,000 to train the dogs, so recipients are expected to help raise about $9,500 each with NEADS' help.
Rainbow and her comrades also assist another population in need: The prison inmates who complete the training after NEADS does housebreaking and basic obedience work with puppies. Rainbow did time at the Northeast Correctional Center in Concord Mass., before teaming up with Paquette. For more information, contact Canines for Combat Veterans at NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, P.O. Box 213, West Boylston, Mass. 01583.
Pitching Future Combat Systems
The Army's crown jewel of transformation and network-centricity, the $120 billion Future Combat Systems, is under assault on Capitol Hill. FCS is intended to network soldiers and commanders with sensors, unmanned vehicles, a satellite-based Internet in the sky, and new vehicles, weapons and communications devices. To tout the program and stave off funding cuts, the Army and its contractors are revving up a public relations offensive with DVDs, online videos and a video game reminiscent of the recruiting sensation, "America's Army."
For example, "Safehouse," a video released on the Army's FCS Web site in October 2006, promotes FCS not only as the ultimate in network-centric warfare, but as a lifesaver, too. It opens with an Army sergeant working in a clinic in a Southeast Asian village. A woman rushes in carrying her unconscious daughter. The sergeant slaps sensors on the child and, using a laptop, gets a fast meningitis diagnosis from the United States. The video continues as soldiers using unmanned aerial and ground vehicles, sensors and high-tech communications gear track and capture Salandeo, a narcoterrorist.
On another front, "Future Force Company Commander," a video game developed and paid for by FCS integrator SAIC can be downloaded for free from the Army Web site. Players command a mounted combat team in 2015. Regen Wilson, SAIC spokesman, says the game was de-signed to let troops have a taste of what FCS will be like. SAIC has handed out more than 24,000 copies of the game.
Also on the FCS Web site is a debunking section called Myths and Realities. "The problem is not that the Army or FCS is too expensive; it is that some in our country seem to balk at what is historically imperative for our national defense," it warns.
Selling Civil Service
In its quest to hire a new generation of civilian employees, the Pentagon has started paying students to recruit their college classmates. So far, the Defense Department has hired two students-one at Michigan Tech University and one at the University of Puerto Rico-to market Defense jobs to their peers. Next fall, the Pentagon plans to expand the program to three more schools.
Robert Frankovich, the Michigan Tech student recruiter, is a GS-4 Defense Department employee, earning about $10 per hour, and a business management major.
The positions last for a semester or a full school year. Recruiters use campus newspapers, banners, posters, videos, slide presentations and even marquees to promote Defense jobs. They speak to student organizations, participate in panel discussions, run booths at career fairs and serve as points of contact for professional Pentagon recruiters.
Frankovich and Nydia Roman-Albertorio, who attends the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, were hired under the Student Temporary Employment Program. The two schools focus on engineering and science, which, along with math, languages and health professions, are the Pentagon's most needed specialties.-Karen Rutzick