- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Regarding your recent column concerning requests for military records, please note that the correct term is National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), which is a part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

We respond to almost 1.5 million requests per year and almost never charge a veteran/retiree/next of kin a fee for replacing lost separation documents and other military records. Most other federal, state, local agencies charge a fee (birth certificates, tax return copies, etc.). Most schools, colleges, and universities also charge fees for transcripts; again NPRC provides most documents at no cost to the requester.

— Niels J. Zussblatt, management analyst, National Personnel Records Center, National Archives and Records Administration.

Dear Niels,

Thanks for the information and also for your follow-up missive to the veteran mentioned in my column. We identified the correct Dave P. who recently complained to you about a delay in your response to his request. The following e-mail was sent to him:

“Your request for DD Form 214 (2 periods of service) and AF Forms 526 will be sent to you in this afternoon’s mail. Please note that processing time for DD Form 214 only is about 3 weeks. Requests for additional documents take longer.”

As you know, Niels, our nation’s veterans and their families depend on your quick action retrieving their military records as most of the time, receipt of VA benefits depends on the documentation that you provide to them.

Shaft notes

Five wounded warriors recently returned from the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour of Iraq. The visits are designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. The group members are retracing their steps to the areas they once patrolled. From its beginning in the summer of 2009 the USO has partnered with the Troops First Foundation to bring wounded warriors to Iraq.

“Operation Proper Exit is one more way that the USO is working with its partners to adapt to the needs of troops,” said USO President Sloan Gibson. “Advancements in medical evacuation and trauma care give our wounded warriors a greater chance for survival. Operation Proper Exit takes the healing process a step further and helps them achieve closure.”

In June 2009, six amputee combat veterans took part in the first Operation Proper Exit. Since then, 18 troops have made the trek to 16 bases, reuniting with their comrades, paying respect to those who have fallen and reflecting on their future.

“After spending such a great deal of time with our wounded warriors, it is evident that the desire to return is important to them,” said Rick Kell, founder of Troops First Foundation. “They want to go back for a chance to validate the sacrifices they have made along with their families and those who have not returned. Operation Proper Exit provides that opportunity for closure, as the returning warriors are able to see with their own eyes the progress they’ve helped achieve. It is an honor to make the journey with them.”

Kevin Wensing, a retired Navy captain and USO vice president who joined the group, said, “The courage and spirit of the men and women serving in America’s armed forces in inspiring and seeing these warriors reunite with their fellow soldiers, and then leave Iraq on their own terms, allowed them to complete their missions and return knowing that their sacrifice has made a profound and positive difference to the lives of the people of Iraq.”

Navy recruiters honored

The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) recognized the Navy’s 2009 Recruiters of the Year (ROY) last month as they visited the nation’s capital. Selected from approximately 5,000 Navy recruiters, the 15 ROYs demonstrated outstanding performance in their particular area of recruiting expertise.

During this year’s annual ROY Week, FRA hosted a Capitol Hill luncheon and organized a tour of the U.S. Capitol for the honorees and their accompanying family members. Additionally, FRA contributed to the costs associated with the ROYs’ stay during their visit to Washington and participated in a formal awards event sponsored by the U.S. Navy.

Rear Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Navy Recruiting Command in Millington, Tenn., thanked FRA for its legislative advocacy on behalf of sailors, as well as its ongoing support of ROY recognition events.

“One of … awardees wrote that the Navy has provided him with a great life,” Adm. Faller said. “That ‘great life’ is the epitome of FRA’s outstanding work to preserve and protect pay and benefits for our sailors. Thank you for all you do to support the Navy.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax: 301/622-3330; call: 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.