By Jim Goodwin, Pentagram EditorAugust 31, 2015
Editor's note: September marks the last month of the fiscal year, as well as the first full month of school for many school-aged children in the National Capital Region. As the summer months begin to wind down, there is no slowing of national observances, key events and significant dates for those within the Department of Defense, armed services and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Here are 10 items of note for the month of September, up through the start of Fiscal Year 2016 on Oct. 1.
1. Max leave for carryover reverts to 60 days - Sept. 30 marks the deadline that Soldiers can carry up to 75 days of leave from one year to the next, according to All Army Activities Message 022/1213. As of Oct. 1, which marks the start of a new fiscal year, Soldiers can maintain up to a maximum of 60 days of leave. Sixty days was the original amount Soldiers could maintain from one year to the next before 2008, when the 75-day leave policy was implemented due to "high operations tempo," according to an Army news article. While serving in a combat zone, Soldiers can accrue up to 120 days of leave, according to the article. The message can be read in full at http://goo.gl/vhCRDw.
2. Spirit of America - September marks the start of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington's Spirit of America show, a free, two-hour performance that combines traditional military ceremony with a large-scale theatrical production that showcases military discipline, historical reenactments, and traditional and modern music. Nine performances are scheduled across two weekends: Sept. 10 to 12, at the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., and Sept. 18 to 19, in Fairfax, Va. This patriotic live show is performed by a cast and crew of active-duty Soldiers, not actors, from The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" and the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). All performances are free and open to the public. For more information, and to order tickets, visit www.spiritofamerica.mdw.army.mil or call 1-866-239-9425.
3. Dempsey to retire - U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, will retire during a formal ceremony on the Fort Myer portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Sept. 25. Dempsey has served in his current position nearly four years and has more than 40 years of service in the U.S. Army with a career that began following his graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1974. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the 36th commandant of the Marine Corps, was confirmed in July to succeed Dempsey as chairman.
4. Suicide Awareness and Prevention - September is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, which the Department of Defense and individual armed services observe annually. Although the 2015 theme for this observance was not available at press time, the DoD provides a comprehensive list of resources online at http://go.usa.gov/36kJJ. Immediate resources are available for service members and families in distress, including the Military Crisis Line, which is available 24 hours a day via phone, online chat, or text message. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1; visit www.militarycrisisline.net; or text 838255.
5. Hispanic Heritage - DoD will celebrate National Hispanic Heritage month beginning Sept. 15. The observance, which begins runs to Oct. 15, recognizes the significant contributions made by the nation's Hispanic-Americans in the armed forces. A local formal event will be held on the Fort Myer portion of JBM-HH Oct. 8, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Community Center (Bldg. 405). Details about this observance will be published in a future edition of the Pentagram.
6. National Preparedness Month - The ninth month of the year also marks the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Preparedness Month, an observance meant to encourage individuals, families and communities to make preparedness plans in the event of disasters and emergency situations, such as floods, hurricanes, power outages and wildfires. The Defense Department participates in this observance annually, encouraging service members, employees and families to stay ready; this year's theme is "Don't wait. Communicate. Make your emergency plan today." The DoD has a special web page specifically for this observance, offering information via social media, videos, fact sheets and other online tools on just how the DoD partners with FEMA to "strengthen our collective security, resilience and readiness," according to the website at http://go.usa.gov/36mbC. In related news, the DoD announced Aug. 21 the dispatch of some 200 active duty Soldiers to help combat wild fires in western states, according to a DoD news article.
7. Return unused prescription drugs - Sept. 25 is the 10th Annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back, an annual observance coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Agency that encourages communities across the U.S. to sponsor scheduled times on this day to allow patients to return unused and/or expired prescribed medications in an effort to stem misuse and abuse of such drugs. The Department of Defense participates in this observance annually. JBM-HH will have a take-back collection point at the commissary on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base Sept. 25, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call George Suber, JBM-HH Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program Specialist, at 703-696-3900. According to a DEA press release, the first nine take-back events have resulted in the collection of some 2,411 tons of drugs.
8. Heroism awarded - The Oregon Army National Guard announced that guardsman Spc. Aleksander R. Skarlatos, one of three Americans who subdued a gunman on a train bound for Paris, Aug. 21, will be awarded the Soldier's Medal, the U.S. Army's highest award for acts of heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy, according to a National Guard Bureau news article. Skarlatos, along with Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, were on vacation traveling from Amsterdam when Skarlatos called to other passengers to act after he spotted a gunman emerge from a lavatory carrying an AK-47 and a Lugar pistol, according to the article. Skarlatos is being awarded the medal because he exemplified "the highest standards of selfless service," according to Secretary of the Army John McHugh in the article. Stone has been nominated for the Airman's Medal, which is the Air Force's highest non-combat award, according to the article. The article does not annotate when Skarlatos and Stone may receive the awards.
9. Gold Star Mother's Day - Sept. 27 marks Gold Star Mother's Day, an annual observance begun June 23, 1926, when a joint congressional resolution designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother's Day, according to a 2014 presidential proclamation. The event is observed via presidential, governor and local government proclamations annually. Those designated as Gold Star Mothers are the mothers of active duty service members who have died while in the service.
10. New USMC degree program - The Marine Corps announced a new program that allows enlisted Marines in some 20 intelligence-related military occupational specialty fields to compete for undergraduate or graduate degree programs at the National Intelligence University in Washington. Marine Administrative Message 399/15 announced the program as a means of broadening "the education and experience of enlisted Marines who have demonstrated potential for future leadership in the intelligence occupational fields," reads the message. Marines in the ranks of corporal through master sergeant within particular intelligence MOSs are eligible for the program, which allows selectees to earn a bachelor's of science in intelligence, a master's of science in strategic intelligence or a master's of science and technology intelligence degree. Nomination packages are due to Headquarters Marine Corps Dec. 1, 2015. Nomination criteria and submission instructions can be found at http://go.usa.gov/36mMz.