February’s AUSA Corner

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1. Rethinking

The DoD had been moving toward extending military exchange shopping privileges to its federal civilian employees but abruptly halted the idea in January. The move had the potential to bring 570,000 new shoppers and raise almost $50 million in additional funds for morale, welfare and recreation programs. Defensewide implementation was one of the problems. While some installations embraced the idea, commanders at other posts weren’t on board. More thought is now being given to the benefit and how to make it uniform across the exchanges.

2. Fire Heroes Deploying

The California National Guard’s 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment was one of many Guard units lauded as national heroes earlier this year when it rushed to help fight the Glass Fire in northern California. The battalion clocked more than 700 flight hours in fire operations. The Los Alamitos-based battalion is now scheduled for a nine-month deployment to the Middle East early in 2021. This will be the unit’s fourth overseas deployment since Sept. 11, 2001.

3. Mounted Warriors

Ground has been broken at Fort Hood, Texas, for the National Mounted Warrior Museum, which will consolidate collections from the 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment museums. The new museum will be located between the post’s visitors’ center and the 1st Cavalry Division’s horse stables. The first phase of the 58,000-square-foot museum is expected to open in 2022. When it opens, staff and exhibits will be transferred to the new facility.

4. TBI Blood Test

A blood test to quickly detect traumatic brain injuries has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Army announced. More than 400,000 service members experienced TBI between 2000 and 2019, making a field-deployable test to detect and evaluate the injury a top priority for more than a decade. A product of a partnership between the Army and Abbott, the test can identify two brain-specific protein markers that rapidly appear in the blood following a TBI. “A rapid test for TBI is a critical addition to our downrange capability to care for the brain health” of Soldiers, said Brig. Gen. Michael Talley, commanding general of the Army Medical Research and Development Command.

5. New Screening

Army recruits are now being tested for sickle cell trait, an inherited gene mutation, as the service works to identify at-risk Soldiers. The testing comes after multiple SCT-related military deaths, most notably during fitness tests. Complications associated with sickle cell trait include low oxygen levels and dehydration, and symptoms include fatigue, headache, confusion and dizziness. The Army plans to screen all Soldiers within a year to give leaders an idea of how SCT impacts the ranks and help Soldiers combat the lifelong ailment, said Maj. Sean Donohue, Center for Initial Military Training command surgeon. SCT does not disqualify someone from military service. Instead, this is the first step in giving Soldiers the care they need, and it will help Soldiers and leaders distinguish its symptoms from heat stroke. “This is an Army-wide operation,” Donohue said.

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