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SecAF, CSAF discuss future of the Air Force

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Senior leadership addressed the key issues, priorities, initiatives and challenges facing the Air Force during the State of the Air Force press briefing, Jan. 15 at the Pentagon.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, focused on the Air Force’s highest priorities and said they have been working hard to balance resources and preserve combat capability in a tough fiscal environment.

“Everyone wants more Air Force,” James said. “We’re meeting those demands with the smallest force in our history. Couple a smaller force against the backdrop of austere budgets, and you have a total force that is under significant strain: active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilian, and their families.”

Welsh had the same concern.

“It’s about some very tough decisions we have to make to recapitalize on the Air Force for the threat 10 years from now,” Welsh said. “We don’t have enough money last year or this coming year to fund all the things that we currently have in our force structure.”

While fiscal year 2015 still presents some enormous budget challenges for the Air Force, James and Welsh strongly agree enough is enough when it comes to force shaping and stated Airmen will see no involuntary boards in 2015.

“We cannot go any lower,” Welsh said. “We are getting too small to succeed as opposed to too big to fail.”

James said challenges with the budget in no way minimalize the responsibilities of the Air Force.

“As Air Force demands around the world continue to increase,” she said. “We cannot afford to get smaller and sacrifice capability.”

One of greatest demands James and Welsh addressed was intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements.

“Not only do combatant commanders want more ISR, they want the globally-integrated, persistent ISR that Air Force capabilities provide,” the secretary said.

James and Welsh acknowledged the significant stress the high operations tempo has placed on its experienced operators. To combat that, they have developed a plan to meet combatant commander warfighting requirements while relieving some of the unrelenting strain felt by operators.

The intentions of the ISR goals outlined by James and Welsh will provide near-term relief to stressed crews by implementing a number of options to immediately increase manning.

The future of the Air Force continues its focus on balancing today’s readiness with tomorrow’s modernization.

“The American people expect our Air Force to fly, fight and win against any advisory,” James said. “It is important that we continue to afford our nation the Air Force capability it needs well into the future by appropriately investing in our people and in our platforms.

New Year’s 5K run

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Ryan Shields, C. J. Bramante, and Jonathon Sandvig placed first, second and third respectively in the men’s division of the New Year’s 5K run/walk held recently at March Air Reserve Base. Additional winners were as follows: In the women’s division; Justine Lazare took first place, while Renete Coleman finished in second place. In the walker’s division; Rob Rambayon, Sanat Joshi and Sherman Harris were the top three finishers.

News Briefs 01/16/2015

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DESERVING AIRMAN COMMISSIONING BOARD

There will be a Deserving Airman Commissioning Board held on Feb. 19, 2015. All packages are due to FSS/FSMPD by Jan. 24. For more information, contact 452nd Force Support Squadron Career Development at 655-3113.

FEBRUARY YELLOW RIBBON EVENT

The Air Force Reserve Command Yellow Ribbon Program invites you to a Regional Yellow Ribbon Training event to be held in Orange County, California, Feb. 27-March 1. This event will include activities, referral information, education, vendor booths and interactive breakout sessions that span the concerns and issues faced by reservists and their loved ones before and after a deployment, including: Tricare, Airmen & Family Readiness, ESGR,  legal assistance for wills & powers of attorney, Military Family Life Consultants, Personal Financial Consultants, and more. For information on the event and the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, contact the 452 AMW Yellow Ribbon Representative, Senior Master Sgt. Jo Carrillo, at 951-655-2571 or Josephine.carrillo@us.af.mil.

FITNESS CENTER NEWS

Spin Class: every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m.

Zumba: every Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Friday at 10:15 a.m.

Battle Ropes/circuit training/TRX training weekdays at 12:30 and 5:30 p.m

For more information, visit the Fitness Center or call 951-655-2284.

UPCOMING SINGLE AIRMEN EVENTS

Jan. 31: Fencing

Feb. 14: Go-kart racing at Adams Motorsport

Feb. 28: Flying Trapeze

For more information call ODR at 951-655-2816, Monday thru Friday 8:30 to 4:30. Trips are open to all personnel but Single Airmen have priority.

AN EVENING AT NORTON AFB MUSEUM

The Norton AFB Museum Board of Directors will host the sixth event in their ongoing series of “An Evening at the Museum”. The museum will open Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. for viewing of the museum and the outdoor Veterans Memorial area, including the newest addition, a section of the Berlin Wall. The auditorium opens at 7 p.m. for seating, which is limited and will be on a first come- first seated basis. Our guest speaker is retired, Air Force Maj. Gen. David Post, who will begin the presentation at 7:30 p.m. and share the story of the 445th Military Airlift Wing (MAW) with a focus on its teaming with the 63rd MAW at Norton AFB prior to Norton’s closure. Guests will learn how this AF Reserve (associate) Wing blended with the 63rd and absorbed their portion of the global airlift and logistics mission supported by Norton AFB.

ARMED FORCES VACATION CLUB RENTALS

Looking for an inexpensive way to vacation? Then why not try the Armed Forces Vacation Club.   The Armed Forces Vacation Club is a ‘Space A’ vacation condominium rental program developed to benefit active duty, Reserve and National Guard members as well as DOD civilians. Condos through this program are available at a flat rate of $349 a week. There are no dues, no hidden fees, just a great value for the men and women of our uniformed services. For more information or to make a reservation, log onto www.marchfss.com, click on the Ticket and Tours tab and then click on the Armed Forces Vacation Club tab.

VOLUNTEERS WANTED

The Retiree Activity Office is looking for folks who can volunteer their time for three hours a week. If you are interested, please call 655-4077 or 655-4079.

TICKETS, TOURS AND MORE AT MARCH ITT 

Jan. 31: Vegas Turnaround. ($20, must be 21 and older) Deadline to sign up is Jan 28.

Other tickets available at ITT include: San Diego Zoo and Safari Park (free for military, discounts for dependents); Patriot Jet Boat Tour on San Diego Bay ($16); SeaWorld Waves of Honor (service members and 3 dependents enter free; Castle Park Amusement Park tickets, includes unlimited regular rides and miniature golf ($16); Whale watching season starts Dec. 26 ($14); Disney 3-day Park Hopper for up to 6 people ($130 for active duty, retired, Reserve, Guard).

For More Information on hours, ticket prices and events, visit MarchFSS.com, facebook.com/marchodradventure or call 951-655-4123.

LUNCH AND LEARN WORKSHOPS

The March A&FRC will host two upcoming financial lunch and learn workshops taught by Ms. Debi McCoy.

Jan. 20: FERS Retirement Plan workshop. Bldg. 2314 (the MPF) room 109, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Jan 27: TSP for military and civilians workshop. Bldg. 2313, room 6 (MSG conference room), from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

All base personnel are invited to attend, so pack a lunch and join us! Please call 655-5350 to sign up.

2015 CIVILIAN TSP CONTRIBUTION LIMITS

Calendar year 2015 has 27 pay periods since the last pay day falls on Jan. 1, 2016 (a Federal holiday), which means you will be paid one day earlier on Dec. 31, 2015. 

If you are under the Federal Employees Retirement System and you wish to receive the maximum agency matching contributions for 2015, you must ensure you do not reach the $18,000 contribution limit before the last pay day of the year.  If you reach the contribution limit before the last pay period you will not receive matching contributions for the pay period (s) that no contributions were made.

If you want to distribute your TSP contributions over the remaining pay periods in 2015, update your election in the Employee Benefits Information System (EBIS).  If you decide to change your election, take into consideration the effective date of your election and how many pay periods remain in the year.    

For additional information on contribution limits and effective dates, visit the MyPers website and search “Thrift Savings Plan contribution limit”.

VIRTUAL AIRMAN’S ATTIC

Did you know March ARB has a virtual Airman’s Attic? Log on to Facebook and search “March ARB Airman’s Attic” to like it. The site is where all Team March members can post things they are in need of and/or offer items (for FREE) that they would like to donate to help someone at March in need. The site is NOT for selling or advertising. All items offered must be completely FREE. The link is as follows:   https://www.facebook.com/marchairmansattic?ref=tn_tnmn#!/marchairmansattic. Please share the site with your family and friends so we can help some of our own.

2015 ROA RECRUITMENT LUNCH

The 2015 Reserve Officer Association (ROA) Chapter 11 Recruitment Lunch will be held at Joe’s Italian Restaurant, 22308 Alessandro Blvd., Moreno Valley, Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 11 a.m. Lunch will be provided. All non-commissioned, warrant and commissioned officers are invited to attend. Agenda will include: ROTC Award Distribution Volunteers, Activity/ Service Award Project for 2015, 1st Shirt Run T-Shirts, upcoming conferences and JOLDS courses.

Honor Guard presents colors at 101st Rose Bowl game

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan

More than 90,000 football fans enjoyed New Year’s Day at the 101st Rose Bowl game with a special pre-game addition: Airmen from March Air Reserve Base’s Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard took to the field and presented the colors while a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, flew above the stadium January 1.

Despite the unusually cold temperatures and modifications to their schedule less than an hour before the pre-game ceremony, Team March’s Honor Guard adapted to the changes and performed without issue.

“We have to adjust, we are very good at that,” said Master Sgt. Darryl M. Willingham, Civil Engineer Squadron, 452nd Air Mobility Wing, and non-commissioned officer in charge of March ARB’s Honor Guard. “It doesn’t take that long because we are already trained,” referring to the countless number of training hours Willingham and his team dedicates for events such as these.

“Colors training is something that we practice all the time,” said Staff Sgt. Zakai A. Webster, 163rd Force Support Squadron, California Air National Guard and Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard member. Webster, one of the rifle guards during the ceremony, has accrued nearly 400 volunteer hours of colors training.

While not the team’s primary mission, presenting colors is a common volunteer service the team provides to the local community. It is generally composed of five individuals, with the two outermost Airmen designated as rifle guards to serve as protectors of the colors. The three Airmen in the middle carry the colors, which are the United States national flag, Air Force flag and California state flag.

“This is historic for them,” said Willingham, referring to his team’s first year participating in the uniquely U.S. Air Force-represented event. The Rose Bowl game has historically included joint participation from sister services, particularly the U.S. Marines, but even the 2015 Tournament of Roses grand marshal and World War II prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini, was an Airman in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

“It is an honor to have March Air Reserve Base represent the Air Force and the Department of Defense at this special, national event,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, commander, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base.

Despite performing at nearly a dozen stadium events per year, Willingham said his team never tloses sight of their primary mission: honoring fallen servicemembers.

“Our main job is funeral honors, and who can get tired of that?” asked Willingham.

Culture shock: Returning to America after 26 years

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photo by George A. Smith

When I first came to Southern California after living 26 years in Germany, I heard questions from tanned guys in shorts that went something like, “Dude how does it feel to leave a land of constant moisture for the land of perpetual sun?” “Well,” I’d say, “Park the tofu and the skateboard and I’ll share my wisdom, young one.” 

When I arrived in California right after Thanksgiving in 2013, I felt like I had landed in an exciting “new” foreign country.  But the USA overwhelmed me with choices.  There were so many detailed and confusing TV, internet and phone plans that I felt to figure them out I needed a teenage lawyer with a minor in accounting.   

Outdoors, differences are even greater.  California smells like heat and Germany smells like rain.  Germany offered green forests and lots of clouds.  Southern California gives me blue skies and golden hills.  Sure, a cynic might call the golden hills “dead brown vegetation scorched by constant sun.”  But when it comes to too much nature, I’ll take the wind storms and snow of Germany over California’s earthquakes, wild fires and mud slides.

As you might expect in a desert climate, Southern Californians battle with lines of ants trying to breach house defenses, rattlesnakes behind bushes and black widows waiting in ambush in the garage. But I prefer Cali’s crawlers over Germany’s fliers.  Germans rarely use screens, so mosquitos and house flies constantly buzzed into our off-post home for dinner, or just to bug us.  When it comes to larger wildlife, in Germany I often found deer, rabbits and wild pigs on the menu.  In Southern California, I’m on the menu.  I’d go for walks and imagine the mountain lions and coyotes whispering to each other, “I’m starving.  He’ll do.”

While there isn’t much a difference with German and American domestic pets, there is with some owners.  In the German town I lived in, there were two dogs on our street.  The only time you’d hear one of them bark was when Der Fluffy took his owner on a walk past Das Muffy’s house and the two exchanged challenges.  But in my home in California, it seems every neighbor has at least two dogs and they all enjoy sharing barks, yelps and bellows with each other from their fenced-in “golden hills” yard, while the owner is inside with the AC on high, watching TV. Occasionally, he’ll slide the glass, porch door open to discipline the dogs from his couch with a loud, over-the-shoulder, seven-second, “shuuuut-up!”    

While I’m not a fan of doggie orchestras I do relish the diversity of the people in Southern California.  Hispanic, Asian, African, Indian and traditional American cultures blend into one place, yielding an exciting mix of food and entertainment.  While both the United States and Germany have great food and drink choices, I feel American diversity gives its cuisine the edge.  Give me an American steak or an “In-N-Out” hamburger over the German version.  But I still haven’t found an American restaurant that can beat German schnitzel.  I stopped by a place called “Wienerschnitzel” that didn’t serve any schnitzel – just hot dogs on a stick and hot dogs on a bun.  What?  When it comes to drinks, I’ll take a German “Pils” over an American beer, and a German Riesling over a Chardonnay, but California wines beat German Dornfelders and other German reds.

When it comes to traffic, it’s a draw.  While I like driving as fast as I want on a German autobahn without tolls, the multi-hour traffic jams are not fond memories.  Traffic jams in my part of California are slow-downs, not two-hour complete stops.  I don’t enjoy the California law that allows motorcycles to pass between full lanes of cars, or the toll roads.  And while seven-lane highways help, I don’t like the “all lanes equal” concept where drivers pass you on the left or right. 

Other comparisons?  When I left Germany, I traded my overseas housing and post allowances and largely tax-free status for California’s taxes on just about everything except flossing. In Germany I’d shop and wonder if anyone worked there other than a cashier.  In the U.S. I walk in and two or three “associates” battle to be my new best friend.  There is another side to the courtesy thing.  When I first came to California I thought the people were more respectful than they were in Germany, because they called me “sir” a lot.  But, as I now know, “sir” is just code for “wow, I’ll bet you’re older than the golden hills.”

I do miss the English language movie theater I used to go to off-post in the Kaiserslautern, Germany, area.  German-run theaters follow the rules.  They wouldn’t let unescorted, underage kids in to see a movie, and when people act up, they remove them.  In contrast, I went to a theater in California where a 60-some-year-old man asked a family of seven to stop talking.  They did. Minutes later another man came in and talked with his son so loudly I couldn’t hear parts of the movie.  Sixty-year-old man asked him to quiet down but loud  talking guy started a shouting match.  As the older gentlemen left the theater to talk to the manager, I channeled Marvel Super Hero power from the movie and joined him in the lobby.  Obnoxious guy followed us out.  When I spoke up in the lobby against guy who likes to talk, not watch, he moved toward me, stopping an inch from my face. It was then I noticed that at 1:30 in the afternoon he smelled like a two-legged bottle of Jack Daniels.  “Sir, have you been drinking?” I asked.  The older man then spoke up, and told the manager,  “Look if you don’t do something, I’m calling the police.”  Obnoxious pickled guy then grabbed his son’s hand, and left.  The theater employee called in a possible DUI.  We both got movie passes for the next day.   

So how do I think Germany compares with California?  Well, for me, life is about experiencing the now, not missing the yesterday or dreaming of the tomorrow.  You should totally and completely throw yourself into enjoying wherever you are. Sure I miss Germany.  I wish I could take the parts of Germany I love and mix them into California.  Part of the reason I stayed 26 years and would have stayed longer is that I picked up the “ultimate souvenir,” my German wife, Brigitte, and my then 14-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son were both going to German schools.  While it has been challenging for the kids to leave life-long friends and learn in English, they’re doing fine.  We’re happy to be together in the exciting “foreign” land of California with its multitude of new adventures, whether it’s the beaches of San Diego, Sequoia National Park, the high desert of Death Valley or a city like San Francisco.   While I won’t give Californians the comic relief of seeing me on a skateboard, and the closest I’ve come to tofu is typing the word, I do wear shorts or a bathing suit at the beach.  Unveiling my legs repels seagulls.  But you still won’t catch me saying, “Dude.”

Post 9/11 GI Bill: how to apply, transfer benefits

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Editor’s note: This process applies to Air Force Reservists only. Members of the Air National Guard should refer to their retention office for information on how they can apply, transfer benefits.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a great benefit for Reservists to use when they, or a family member, wish to pursue higher education or training. The education office at Headquarters Air Reserve Personnel Center has outlined easy-to-follow steps through MyPers that will generate a letter of certification for a member’s qualifying active-duty points.

According to Holly Klein, to start the process of applying for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, reservists must first do a review of their point credit summary to determine their eligibility. To do this, they must log in to the Virtual Military Personnel Flight, select “Self-Service Actions,” “Personal Data,” and then “ANG/USAFR Point Credit Summary Inquiry.”

The point credit summary can be somewhat confusing, but Klein explained that it is to be read line-by-line, and that it matches up with the member’s military pay history. Reservists should look for their qualifying duty type codes, or TDs, which are 1, 2, 3 and 5, and tally the number of days next to each TD.

When the member has reached 90 days of qualifying active duty service, they become eligible with 40 percent of the benefit. At 180 days, eligibility goes up ten percent and increases ten percent for each additional six months of active duty service. At 1,095 days of qualifying service, the member qualifies for 100 percent of the benefit. Time spent on active duty for basic military training and technical school do not initially count toward eligibility. However, once the member reaches 80 percent eligibility, that time becomes eligible.

After eligibility is determined, reservists may request a letter of certification through MyPers by utilizing the “Email Us” tool. The request should indicate the member’s component, that the request is for “Benefits and Entitlements”, and the subject should read “Post 9/11 GI Bill Application.” The member must also indicate whether they have been a member of the Air National Guard since Sept. 11, 2001. This letter is not necessary if the member has a DD 214 showing three years of active duty service since Sept. 11, 2001. As members complete additional qualifying active duty time, they may request a new letter of certification to move to their eligibility to the next percentage level. Once the VA has documented the increase, the VA will increase the benefit at the beginning of the next term.

Once ARPC has provided the letter of certification, the member may begin the application process for their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits through the VA. They may apply before receiving the letter of certification from ARPC, but the Department of Veterans Affairs may not be able to see all of the Reserve Airman’s qualifying active duty service when determining eligibility. The letter of certification also works as supporting documentation to appeal the VA’s initial decision as well.

To apply with the VA, Airmen must visit the VONAPP website and fill out the Post 9/11 GI Bill application, VA 22-1990. After logging in, the member will indicate they wish to apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill by clicking on the “Create a New Form” drop down menu and selecting “Education Benefits.” According to Klein, the first question in this application is the most important, as it is where the member will revoke eligibility for another GI Bill program in favor of using their 9/11 GI Bill. This revocation may not be changed and the member may wish to contact ARPC Education Services to confirm other eligibility. If the member has their letter of certification from ARPC, they will upload it at the end of the form in addition to or in lieu of a DD214.

Once the VA has reviewed the application, which may take a few weeks or months depending on the time of year, they will provide a certificate of eligibility indicating what percentage level the member qualifies for.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill program provides 36 months of 40 to100 percent of tuition and fees, capped at the most expensive state school; basic allowance for housing at the staff sergeant with dependents rate; and a $1,000 annual stipend for books. Additionally, once the member reaches 100 percent eligibility, they also qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program. Under this program, a number of schools across the U.S. will provide additional funding to students at their schools, often making up the difference between the amount paid by the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the cost of tuition at that institution.

Members of the Selected Reserve also have the opportunity to transfer some or all of their Post 9/11 benefit to spouses and children. This may be done at any time after the member has six years of satisfactory service, and as long as the member has at least 40 percent eligibility. Transfer is accomplished via www.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect. Transferring benefits incurs a four-year, Selected Reserve service commitment, so this should be done as early as possible in the process.

“It doesn’t behoove you to wait, as you can always revoke the benefit,” said Klein. “If you give even a small percentage to each dependent, than you can always toggle the months around as needed, even when you leave the selected reserve.”

Klein said members should transfer benefits even if they are unsure of who may actually use the benefit, as the allocated months can always be adjusted or revoked. Benefits not transferred while participating cannot be given after leaving active duty or selected reserve status. Klein added that unused benefits will revert back to the member.

These benefits may be transferred to a spouse, regardless of age, once the member has 6 years in service. After 10 years time-in-service, these benefits may be transferred to children registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, up to their 23rd birthday, so long as they are registered as a full-time student in a degree program. The member makes their dependents eligible by giving them a month or more of their benefit. Children may begin using transferred benefits starting at age 18 and up to their 26th birthday for higher education.

In order to begin receiving the transferred benefits, eligible dependents must also create an account on the VONAPP website and complete a VA form 22-1990E and communicate the Post 9/11 GI Bill information to their chosen school.

“This is the most encompassing educational benefit the VA has ever given members,” she said. “It will pay for everything from a certificate program to your second master’s degree, to a doctoral program, use it to the fullest.”

This VA benefit may be used toward higher education, such as degree programs, flight training, apprenticeships and certificate programs.

For full details on the Post 9/11 GI Bill, visit the VA webpage. Another useful tool is the GI Bill Comparison Tool, which will provide an estimate of how much your benefit will pay based on the school you plan to attend.

Tips to help keep your New Year’s resolution

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New Year’s resolutions are easier to make than to keep, especially when it comes to dieting. While life can often seem at odds with your health and fitness goals, there are plenty of ways to avoid common pitfalls this new year and stay on the weight loss track.

• Snack and drink smart: When you’re one-the-go, easy protein-packed snacks will help you stay on track. Try beef jerky, low-fat string cheese, or 100 calorie packs of almonds. Fiber-rich whole-grains, fruits and vegetables can also help keep hunger at bay.

Calories from drinks add up fast. Stick with dry wines, as they often have fewer calories than sweeter varieties. Light beers, with approximately 100 calories for every 12 ounce serving, are also a good choice. If you prefer cocktails, use calorie-free mixers, such as seltzer with 1.5 oz. of spirits.

• Make it easy: Dieting should be easy. Most people often complain they fail at diets because they need to constantly count calories, or weigh and measure foods.

Look for programs that help you stick to your goals by offering convenience and support. Some of these programs help with the hard part — the counting, weighing and measuring — by offering pre-portioned and personalized meal plans designed to fuel individuals with the right amount of calories for how their metabolism burns, as well as satisfy individual taste. You can jumpstart your weight loss and you may see results quickly, giving you motivation to keep going.

There’s no better time than now to start your weight loss journey and make your pledge to lose.

• Eat out, right: Eating out is sometimes unavoidable. Just be sure to check out a restaurant’s nutrition information online before you go, so you can make wise choices.

Make substitutions like salad, with dressing on the side, instead of fries and don’t be afraid to ask if a menu item can be modified. Also, be mindful of portion sizes. Take half your meal home and enjoy it for tomorrow’s lunch.

• Facing the scale: Weight fluctuates throughout the day. Weigh yourself at the same time of day in similar weight clothing to get the most accurate readings. Remember though, the number on the scale won’t always reflect your hard work. Focus instead on healthy, positive changes and how you feel.

• Aim for 30: Squeeze 30 minutes of activity into your day. Walk during lunch, jump rope during your favorite nightly TV show or turn on music and dance around the house.

Remember, everyone falls off the wagon from time to time, but the new year is the perfect time to commit to your weight loss goals.

DOD releases 2015 military pay, compensation rates

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WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Defense Department announced the 2015 military pay and compensation rates for service members Dec. 22, with most service members receiving a 1 percent increase in basic pay.

The new rates for basic pay, basic allowance for housing (BAH), basic allowance for subsistence (BAS), and the cost of living allowance (COLA) rates for the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) will take effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Basic pay for service members will increase 1 percent, except for general and flag officers who will not see an increase in 2015.

BAH rates for service members in 2015 will increase on average $17 per month, or 0.5 percent. Rates are calculated using median current market rent and average utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer) for each pay grade, both with and without dependents. Two changes were made to BAH rate computations for 2015: renter’s insurance, which contributed an average of 1 percent to rates, was eliminated, and the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act reduced housing rates on average 1 percent for service members.

However, individual rate protection for service members remains an integral part of the BAH program. Even if BAH rates decline – including through the elimination of renter’s insurance and the reduction in the calculated rate – a service member who maintains uninterrupted BAH eligibility in a given location will not see a rate decrease. This ensures that service members who have made long-term commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if local housing costs decrease.

Service members can calculate their BAH payment by using the BAH calculator.

The 2015 BAS rates for military members will increase by 2.9 percent over last year. The new rates are $367.92 per month for enlisted members and $253.38 per month for officers.

The annual adjustments to BAS — a monthly nontaxable cash payment to military members intended to be used to buy food — are linked to changes in food prices as measured by the annual change in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cost of Food at Home Index. From the beginning of October 2013 through the end of September 2014, the index rose by 2.9 percent, forming the basis for the increased BAS rates.

The DOD also released its 2015 CONUS COLA rates. Roughly 12,000 members will see a decrease in their CONUS COLA payments, while some 7,000 members will see an increase or no change, and 4,000 members will no longer receive a CONUS COLA payment.

CONUS COLA is a taxable supplemental allowance designed to help offset higher prices in high-cost locations, and rates vary based on location, pay grade, years of service and dependent status. Rates can increase or decrease depending on the prices in a specific duty location compared to prices in an average CONUS location. Service members can calculate their allowance by using the CONUS COLA calculator.

DEOMI releases 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance poster

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In observance of the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) proudly announces the availability of original artwork available for download from DEOMI’s website at www.deomi.org.

Click the “download” link below the thumbnail image of the poster on our website and download it to your computer. You may then take it to your preferred printing facility for display in your organization or use during your special observance programs.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a United States federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King’s birthday, January 15. This year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service will be recognized on Jan. 19. King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.

President Clinton signed the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday and Service Act August 23, 1994, expanding the mission of the holiday as a day of community service, interracial cooperation and youth anti-violence initiatives.

According to Mr. Peter Hemmer, DEOMI Illustrator, DEOMI’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday poster focuses on the concept that this holiday is a day of service. The imagery is a cubicle wall populated by a portrait of Dr. King, photos of volunteer activities, and volunteer events written on a dry erase board. The national recurring theme of this holiday is “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On…Not A Day Off.” It calls upon the American people to engage in public service and promote peaceful social change. Dr. King’s unfinished movement toward equality can be achieved by our united, enduring efforts. All DEOMI observance month poster files are in the public domain. We simply request you credit the illustrator or the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

National Blood Donor Month

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January is National Blood Donor Month, and the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) is encouraging all service members to make a resolution to give blood regularly in 2015.  National Blood Donor Month recognizes the importance of giving blood and platelets while honoring those who roll up a sleeve to help patients in need.

“We couldn’t save lives without our donors,” says Army Lt. Col. Jason Corley, the program’s deputy director of operations. “As a program, we have saved thousands of lives this year and that happened because of our donor’s support. They are the ‘silent heroes.’”

Unpredictable winter weather can result in blood drive cancellations, and seasonal illnesses, like the flu, may cause some donors to be unable to make or keep blood donation appointments.

Individuals of all blood types are needed. With a shelf life of 42 days, red blood cells must be constantly replenished to maintain an adequate supply for patients. All blood collected by the ASBP directly supports ill or injured service members, retirees and their families worldwide – whenever and wherever they need it the most.

“For more than 40 years, National Blood Donor Month has given hope to those who may have otherwise faced very adverse health risks,” says Corley. “However, with advances in medical technology and research, people are now getting the blood they need and as a result, now experience a better quality of life.”