Army News Overwatch

Changes in Pre-Command Course
    A compact disc will be issued to each officer attending the Army’s Pre-Command Course, which prepares them for command of a battalion or brigade.

    The CD is a more user friendly version of Field Manual 25-100, "Training the Force," and Field Manual 25-101, "Battle Focused Training," according to Lt. Col. John Lisle, an Australian Regular Army exchange officer with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s leader development division.

    "The beauty of this is it was done at no cost to TRADOC," Lisle said. "We didn’t have any civilian contractual assistance. It was all done in-house, and it’s been done fairly quickly, starting in the summer of 1995...we got the completed product in 18 months."(Jim Caldwell, TRADOC News Service)

Gulf War Health Issues
    President Clinton announced the final report on his advisory committee on Gulf War veterans’ illnesses on Jan. 6. He also extended the committee’s operation nine months to serve as an independent check on DoD’s investigation.

    In response to the report, DoD officials announced changes affecting Gulf War veterans. Officials are aimed at resolving Gulf War health issues and on better detection, protection and treatment of troops during future operations, according to Bernard Rostker, DoD special assistant for Gulf War illnesses. He said the department will continue providing care to Gulf War veterans and their families and is "doing everything possible to understand and explain Gulf War illnesses." He said that changes in military doctrines, personnel and medical policies, procedures and equipment will minimize future problems from chemical weapon exposure.

    In December, Rostker implemented new procedures for engaging callers on a special hot line set up to solicit information from veterans. "Today, when a veteran... reports an incident, he or she is called back by a trained interviewer within four days," Rostker explained.

    The call-back lasts about 30 minutes. The interviewer debriefs the caller and provides a single point of contact between Rostker’s office and the veteran. This way, veterans can monitor the progress of the DoD investigation, Rostker said.

    Veterans also can monitor the DoD investigation on the Internet. The department soon will revamp the Gulf Link web site ( to include weekly postings of new information and e-mail capability.    (Douglas J. Gillert, American Forces Press Service)

Systems Connect for Force XXI
    "Meeting the 21st century challenge," according to Force XXI officials, is the Aviation Tactical Operations Center. It consists of several aviation systems working together and complementing each other for aviation support. It is composed of shelters or tents mounted on three M-1097 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, according to Force XXI officials.

    The Tactical Operations Center consists of two vehicles, one each for operations and intelligence support. The third vehicle makes up the Administrative and Logistics Operations Center.

    These aviation centers support and provide communicative operations for pilots, commanders, and aviation personnel.

    The Aviation Tactical Operations Center receives information through aviation systems such as the Army Airborne Command and Control System, the Aviation Mission Planning System, and the Administrative and Logistics Operations Center.

    All systems complement each other to display situation awareness and provide deployment of aviation units, according to Force XXI officials. (Spc. Jacqueline Griggs, 28th Public Affairs Detachment)

Laser Binoculars Developed
    The first innovation in the design of combat binoculars in over 200 years is on the horizon. The device, called "talking binoculars," is a tactical spin-off of the maturing laser communication technology being developed by the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.

    The laser technology will be used for satellite-to-satellite communication data rate requirements which greatly exceeds the capability of radio technology. The laser communications technology incorporated in the binoculars is derived from the strategic satellite-to-satellite communications program.

    "The idea is to use one pair of binoculars to project a laser beam to carry a dismounted scout’s observations to a second pair as the receiver," said Dr. Brian Strickland, the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command’s advanced technology directorate chief scientist.

    The innovative binoculars solve the aged-data problem by relaying the military scout’s observations in near-real time to the commander in the tactical operations center. The scout does not need to personally return to lines to make a report which is aged by the time the commander receives it.

    Military scouts today cannot use radios during radio silent scouting missions inside enemy territory because the enemy can detect and locate their transmissions. With the new "talking" binoculars, when a forward military scout sees the enemy through transmitting laser binoculars, aligns cross-hairs on it and depresses the target locate and store button, global positioning system technology measures the enemy’s target position. Then, the binoculars store the information and use its invisible laser beam to transmit the enemy’s position to a receiving set of binoculars. The receiving scout can then immediately transmit target data back to the lines.

    The military scout will no longer need maps, have to depend on written notes, or leave a position to report back to the commander.

    "Digital laser communications is a valuable technology, but in general, it is no match to Army radios," said Brian Matkin, an engineer in the Army Materiel Command smart weapons management office, who led a team which developed the "talking" binoculars. "Its advantage stems from providing high data rate communications capability when the mission prevents scouts from using their radios. A weak laser beam can carry digitized voice messages, targeting data and compressed forward looking infrared and video images at extremely high data rates," he said.

    "Enemy detection of the binoculars is near impossible because the weak laser beam is projected from point to point," Strickland said. "An enemy searching for a weak laser source requires sensitive optical detectors and must be near the receiver to detect the weak laser. It will be much easier for the scout to see the enemy than for the enemy to detect the laser beam. By comparison, radio broadcast is transmitted in all directions, allowing easy detection by a prepared enemy from all angles," he said. (Connie M. Davis, U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command)

Tax Law Changes Benefit Soldiers
    Several 1996 tax changes directly benefit military taxpayers. The Tax Benefits for Servicemen in Bosnia-Herzegovina bill was designed to benefit service members serving in the former Yugoslav Republic.

    In the future, service members will get the tax breaks previously reserved for a combat zone when Congress designates the area a qualified hazardous duty area. Officers serving in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area may now exclude up to a maximum of $4,104.90 per month in 1996 from earned income.

    States can no longer tax "source" income. Certain states were taxing service members’ retired pay even though the service member did not live there after retirement. Because a service member was stationed in the state during his career, the state would base the tax on the theory that part of the retirement pay was earned in the state. Only the state where the service member resides may now tax retirement pay.

    Taxpayers may now receive a credit for unreimbursed adoption expenses.

    The amount of the credit shall not exceed $5,000 ($6,000 in the case of a child with special needs).

    One unfavorable portion of the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 eliminated the $5,000 exclusion of employee death benefits from earned income. Since the United States pays a $6,000 death gratuity on the death of an active duty service member, this change directly impacts survivors of military personnel. Nonetheless, survivors of military personnel can still exclude $3,000. The elimination of the $5,000 exclusion is effective Aug. 20. If the service member died on or before Aug. 20, the recipient of the death gratuity can still exclude $5,000. If the service member died after Aug. 20, the recipient of the death gratuity can only exclude $3,000 from earned income. (Submitted by 1st Lt. Susan Symanski, Military District of Washington Staff Judge Advocate Office)

Coming to a Commissary Near You
    Within the next two years, customers will experience a cutting-edge checkout system at their local commissaries.

    The most visible service improvement for customers might be the ability to pay for groceries with the flick of a card. Although a few stores already take credit or debit cards, the new system will allow all commissaries to accept Visa, Mastercard, and Armed Forces Financial Network debit cards.

    If you want to write a check, you’ll hand it to the cashier; the register fills in the amount, the store and the date. All you have to do is sign it.

    The new checkout system is operating in 12 commissaries; 50 stores will be "live" by mid-1997 according to deputy program manager Donna Gaillard.

    Officials are testing surveillance and cash management systems, as well as electronic shelf labeling and portable scanners. In stores deemed good candidates for those innovations, customers will gradually see the end of the "price check" at the register.

    Portable scanners can be used anywhere in the store to add pricing information into the store’s database, said Joe Nikolai, a Defense Commissary Agency management specialist. "Portable scanners can cut inventory time by 25 percent, and we get a more accurate accounting," he said.

    Plans call for the new checkout system in all stores within two years.    (Bonnie Powell, Special to the American Forces Press Service)

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   Last Updated: April 30, 1997