By Debbie Gregory.

In preparation for the arrival of U.S. F-35A Lightning II stealth jets, the British government has awarded a $205 million contract for construction work at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath to build the the military jet. Although the base is an RAF station, it hosts United States Air Force units and personnel.

The contract, a joint venture with Kier-VolkerFitzpatrick, is part of a larger program to support Air Force operations in the U.K., with a further $1 billion expected to be in invested in the U.K. over the next seven to 10 years.

The Suffolk County airbase will be the first permanent international site for US Air Force F-35s in Europe and continues the base’s long history of supporting U.S. Air Force capability in the UK.

“For more than one hundred years now our armed forces have fought in defense of our common values and interests,” said Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood. “Our two countries have developed the deepest, broadest and most advanced relationship of any two nations.”

The contract includes the construction of a flight simulator facility, a maintenance unit, new hangars and storage facilities. Engineers will modify the base’s current infrastructure and build new squadron parking aprons, two new hangars, a new dual-squadron operations/aircraft maintenance facility, and a flight simulator.

The flight simulator will have the capacity to link to other simulators used by U.K. pilots across the U.K. and beyond, allowing expertise to be shared and pilots from the U.K. and U.S. to train together on a regular basis.

About 700 contractors are expected on base at the height of construction. Once complete, it will welcome an additional 1,200 U.S. airmen and 48 aircraft.

“This is an exciting milestone for the 48th Fighter Wing and for all our partners. We’re transforming RAF Lakenheath together, and the work we do today is critical to the future security of the United States, the United Kingdom and the NATO Alliance,” Col. Will Marshall, 48th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement.

The Royal Air Force currently has nine F-35s in its inventory, stationed nearby at RAF Marham.

Work on the base will begin summer, 2019. The first F-35s are scheduled to arrive in 2021.

By Debbie Gregory.

OtoTech, a new invention from Samuel Owen, could be a game-changer for motion sickness.

While it might not seem like such a big problem, motion sickness affects soldiers riding in vehicles, sailors during moderate as well as rough seas, Air Force personnel and parachutists.

And now, as more and more training is conducted in virtual reality, the problem is expected to worsen.

Owen’s prototype OtoTech is worn on a headband behind the ear, and uses subtle vibrations to change the way the brain computes the fact that the body that it’s attached to is in motion. Early tests show it relieves motion sickness without the side effects of drugs, Owen said, though he admits the science is so young that it’s not clear just how.

While many other devices are designed to treat the symptoms of motion sickness, OtoTech goes after the actual cause.

“Two [of the four vestibulocochlear nerve fibers] go to the brain, two go to your reflexes,” Owen said.

“The working hypothesis is that [the vibration] causes a chaotic and non-informative stimulus to go to the brain. Somewhere, probably the cerebellum, there’s a filtering mechanism that filters out non-informative sensed information. It’s the reason you don’t notice the shirt on your back right now,” he said.

So while you remain consciously aware that you’re moving, the balance portion of your brain stops noticing the fact; the data has been drowned out in white noise from the device.

Initial testing has resulted in a decrease of motion sickness without affecting balance, vision or alertness.

Owen says that he has initially marketed the device to vertigo sufferers.

Double-blind trials conducted by researchers at Jaguar Land Rover have so far yielded positive results.

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. military used Agent Orange to clear plants and trees during the Vietnam War. A number of serious illnesses have been linked to exposure, including Leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, various cancers, diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease. Researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found have found that enough evidence exists to also link hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy (MGUS) to Agent Orange exposure.

Their report, entitled Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11 (2018), found that sufficient evidence exists that links exposure to at least one of the hazardous chemicals with hypertension and MGUS The hypertension finding is an upgrade from their 2014 report and MGUS is a newly considered condition.

The findings clear the way for veterans with hypertension and MGUS to have easier access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) called on VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to add hypertension and MGUS to the list of diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange.

“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Agent Orange made veterans sick, it made their children sick, and it brought pain and suffering and premature death to many,” VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said in a statement. “We now call on VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to use his authority and recognize the science in the report to swiftly add these two illnesses to the presumptive list so that these veterans can finally receive the assistance they earned and deserve.”

Wilkie has previously opposed legislation that would provide Agent Orange benefits to tens of thousands of Navy veterans who served on ships off the coast during the Vietnam War and have been diagnosed with MGUS.

Veterans who served in Vietnam, in Thailand or along the Korean DMZ are encouraged to contact a VFW Service Officer to discuss whether they are eligible to file a VA claim for Agent Orange exposure.

By Debbie Gregory.

When the certified owner of a “set-aside” eligible company passes away and the company transfer to other hands, such as a surviving spouse or child, what becomes of the contract?

The death of the certified owner has different implications, dependent upon which set-aside program was being used. The new owner must understand which contracts can be continued after a change in ownership, and which may be terminated by the government.

Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) – If the service-disabled veteran passes away, the company is still considered a SDVOSB through the life of any existing contracts.

VA Veteran’s First Program- The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has a separate program for set-aside contracts where veteran-owned small businesses must be verified in advance of bidding on VA contracts set aside for a VOSB or SDVOSB. The VA regulations have different rules based on whether the new owner is the surviving spouse of a service-disabled veteran or not. If the veteran was 100% disabled or died as a result of a service-connected disability, the surviving spouse can step in as the new owner and maintain certified status until the earliest of the following:

  • The date the spouse remarries
  • The date the spouse sells the business,
  • The date the business no longer qualifies as small, or
  • 10 years after the original owner’s death.

But if the deceased veteran owner was not 100% disabled, the surviving spouse is only allowed to perform existing contracts to the end of their term, and not exercise any options.

If the deceased veteran owner did not leave a surviving spouse, the VA regulations say: “Continued eligibility of the participant with new ownership and the award of any new contracts require that CVE verify all eligibility requirements are met by the concern and the new owners.”

By Debbie Gregory.

For troops who are separated from their loved ones over the holidays, a bit of joy can be found in a care package.

The troops who are deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border will remain there at least through the end of January. Additionally thousands of service members are currently deployed to Afghanistan, Syria, and around the world.

While many of the deadlines for mailing to military members have passed, here are some that you have time to make:

  • For mail addressed to/from AE ZIPs 090-098 (except 093), AE ZIP 340, and AP ZIPs 962 – 966, if you use Priority Express Mail Military Service you have until December 18th.
  • Domestic Mail (any U.S. address that is not an APO/FPO) has a Priority Express Mail Military Service cutoff date of December 22nd, with First-Class due by December 20th.

But even if you have missed the holiday deadlines, you can support deployed troops year round by sending care packages.

Non-perishable food and snacks such as peanut butter, jerky, trail mix, nuts, and dried fruit are always welcome and travel well. Additionally, you can send powdered drink mixes that can be mixed with water, condiments that can be added to MREs, and individually packed protein snacks.

Another treat is sending toiletries such as shaving products, lip balm, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, sunscreen, deodorant, mouth wash and hand sanitizer.

Don’t underestimate the power of the hand-written note. From a simple “thank you” to a drawing from your child, cards and letters are much appreciated.

If you do not know a specific person to send to, you can contact the public affairs office for your local base. If you don’t live near a military installation, there are a number of organizations that can help you, including Operation Support Our Troops, Soldiers’ Angels, 4 The Troops and the USO, just to name a few.