The Merlion Star FEB 5, 2016 - Volume 25 - Issue 3

Table of Contents

  • PFA Changes Take Effect; Shift Focus to Fitness
  • Chaplain's Corner
  • Navy Region Center Singapore’s Family Readiness director bids farewell to friends and coworkers
  • Tax Time for Navy Region Singapore Sailors
  • New Zealand Defense Support Unit (South East Asia) commander departs Singapore, leaves with life-long lessons
  • SAC Fun Day

PFA Changes Take Effect; Shift Focus to Fitness

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Fulton

The Navy’s overhaul of the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) took effect Jan. 1 and will result in notable changes to Cycle 1 of the 2016 PFA.

The re-evaluation of the previous all-encompassing method to physical fitness resulted in policy changes to the body composition assessment (BCA), the failure-separation policy, and the overall approach the Navy takes with physical fitness. The modifications mark a new direction designed to institute a year-round program, assisting those struggling to maintain fitness rather than punishing those who fail.

“Making a lasting change in your fitness takes commitment,” said Chief Legalman James Goza, Navy Region Singapore Command Fitness Leader. “There are no overnight, quick-fix plans that can deliver sustainable results. You have to transform your lifestyle, stick with the plan, and stay vigilant if you want to maintain positive results.”

The BCA alterations shift the focus of the assessment to better evaluate overall health by establishing four new age categories with their own corresponding standards.

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“Body styles have changed since the old standards were established,” explained Goza. “People that are fit and healthy were not meeting the BCA standards. People who were able to exceed the PRT standards were failing due to their inability to pass the BCA. The changes to the system were implemented in order to address these issues.”

The BCA will now consist of three opportunities to pass. The first chance is the height to weight ratio, which was used in the old BCA calculation system. If a sailor fails to meet the ratio standards, a new waist-only tape test, with overall maximums of 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women, will be conducted.

A test using the previous system of neck and waist measurements used to calculate body fat percentages will be the final opportunity to pass the BCA.

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Failing the BCA will result in the Sailor being placed into the Fitness Enhancement Program; however, the individual will still take the PRT and can pass the overall PFA.

“These changes do not result in a loosening of the standards,” said Goza. “The reality is that regardless of how you measure in during the BCA, you will participate in the PRT portion of the PFA under the new system. Your overall fitness will be measured based on how you actually perform physically.”

Under the former PFA system, three failures during a four-year period resulted in a discharge from the Navy. In correlation with the new BCA standards, two failures during a three-year period will result in a discharge.

Click on infographic for more information.

The changes are intended to reduce the number of Sailors discharged every year for PFA failures. More than 4,000 sailors were discharge from the Navy as a result of PFA performance from 2011 to 2014.

Gong Hei Fat Choi,

As we look around us and see the many preparations in Singapore for the Chinese New Year this month, it is worth a few moments to reflect on the importance of this holiday for the overwhelming majority of those residing in our host nation. The greeting I used today is one you may hear often in the next few weeks and translates as “congratulations and be prosperous.” While the January 1st New Year tends to focus on personal goals and improvement of one’s individual life, the Chinese New Year has a distinct family focus. The first day of the New Year is one where one’s elders are honored and families visit the senior members of their extended families. The Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner is called a reunion dinner with a menu and family attendance comparable to our Thanksgiving feasts every year.

Leading up to and during the celebrations there will also be many lion dances and lighting of simple red firecrackers in the hopes of warding away any evil spirits so as to keep the house prosperous over the next year. We will see an abundance of red banners, lanterns, and clothing throughout the city as this too is symbolic of scaring off a mythical beast called the Nian.

Those of us who have traveled many miles to live and work here in Singapore have a tremendous opportunity during the next few weeks to truly immerse ourselves in the local culture. This is probably the most anticipated holiday of the year which means that most everyone will be involved in some way or another with Chinese New Year and will be happy to explain how they celebrate this important holiday. It is my hope that we take away some of the traditions and culture from our time here, and Chinese New Year is a great way for us to rededicate ourselves to our families both near and far with a renewed hope and prayer for their safety and prosperity.

Blessings. Chaps.

Navy Region Center Singapore’s Family Readiness director bids farewell to friends and coworkers

Story and photos by Marc Ayalin

Navy Region Center Singapore members bade farewell and following seas to Kathy Vail, the regional director of Family Readiness, during a going away luncheon at the upper patio of the Terror Club Jan. 19, 2016.

The surprise luncheon gathered more than 40 coworkers, close friends and family members to honor Vail and share kind words as she leaves for Pensacola, Fla., this month. During her farewell, Vail’s appreciation for those who attended was unrestrained while friends and coworkers spoke eloquently of past experiences with the Huntington, New York native. The moving words from those who spoke drew tearful-but-elative emotions from Vail.

“It’s been a really great experience and I am glad that everyone came to say goodbye,” Vail said. I just want to say thank you for making our time here a very memorable one.”

“What she’s done in the last two years is monumental. The programs and initiatives that she’s begun will last for years and years to come and that’s a testament to her work and dedication.” - Capt. Scott Murdock

Vail, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, graduated with a Bachelors of Social Work in 1976 and earned a Masters of Social Work in 1987. Her list of experience includes working at a crisis line, with substance abuse prevention/school intervention and even outpatient counseling. She also conducted training and counseling for employees and their families at Monsanto Chemical Company. Since 1999, she has worked as a counselor for individuals, couples and children at various U.S. Naval installations.

Meanwhile, Vail and her staff, which she dubbed as her “Tiny Mighty Team,” has significantly enhanced the services offered to the Singapore military community. These include quality-of-life programs designed to help newcomers and people departing Singapore.

“We added a local tour day to walk newcomers through the mass transit system, healthcare facilities and grocery stores,” Vail explained in an office interview. “A new ‘Send-Off’ brief was designed to help with the cumbersome administrative processes of leaving Singapore and getting pets safely transported to the next station.”

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These accomplishments were seen by leadership as a beneficial program that creates a significant positive impact on the quality of life for military service members, DoD civilians and family members serving in Singapore.

“What she’s done in the last two years is monumental,” said NRCS Commanding Officer, Capt. Scott Murdock. “The programs and initiatives that she’s begun will last for years and years to come and that’s a testament to her work and dedication.”

According to Vail, she loves to laugh and get others to do the same. As she departs with her husband Bill of over 35 years, Vail looks forward in spending more time with her three daughters and seven grandchildren and focus on her favorite pastime - scrapbooking.

Lastly, Vail wanted to share her life’s lessons and insight by expressing, “You must have fun every day and especially laugh at yourself. It’s also way too easy to miscommunicate most of the time, and lastly, it’s okay to say ‘I’m sorry’ as much as you can.”

Tax Time for Navy Region Singapore Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Madailein Abbott

Tax season is here once again, and military personnel should review filing and tax form completion procedures which may make the process easier and ensure a maximum return for the year. There are many tools available to service and Department of Defense members to assist with the best filing method for them and their families.

There are several venues in which to file taxes. Almost every military installation offers a tax center for military, retired military and family members. The IRS provides a Free File service on its Web site, which lists several tax preparation services, many of which provide free service to military members. The Military OneSource web site also provides free tax assistance to military members along with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Electronic Filing (VITA/ELF) program, which provides free tax-filing assistance to active duty service members and their dependents, retirees and their dependents with adjusted gross incomes of less than $57,000.

In the previous tax seasons many military and DoD members stationed in Singapore filed taxes with online websites, however there are services standing by to help those who may need a little extra help filing this year.

Click on info-graphic for full view

“Here in Singapore there can be some extra tax write offs that you don’t normally encounter in the states,” said Tina Jones, a registered tax preparer from the Fleet and Family Service Office. “VITA knows how to sort out how to file if you have a helper, if you live out in town here or any other minor expenses you might not be used to filing if you are newer to the region.”

When service members are preparing to file taxes, they should make sure they have any W-2 forms from the military and any additional jobs they have had in the past year, along with Social Security cards for themselves and their dependents. For active-duty military members, W-2’s are available for download/printing as of January 24 and can be accessed through MyPay.

“The programs are there to help take the pressure off. If they’re not simple enough to do from home, there’s always help available.” - Tina Jones

“Tax season can be overwhelming for some, whether it’s their first time filing or they’ve been filing for most of their lives,” said Jones. “The programs are there to help take the pressure off. If they’re not simple enough to do from home, there’s always help available.”

Taxes will be available to file up until the middle of April, however it’s recommended for service members to complete them early in case any complications appear in the filing process. For assistance, reach out to your local legal office with all forms necessary for proper filing

New Zealand Defense Support Unit (South East Asia) commander departs Singapore, leaves with life-long lessons

Story and photos by Marc Ayalin

The commanding officer of the New Zealand Defense Support Unit (NZDSU) South East Asia (SEA), Cmdr. Brendon Oakley turned command over to Cmdr. Paul Gray, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, here.

More than 120 allied military service members and families attended the change of command ceremony which took place at the upper patio of the Terror Club. During the event, Oakley humbly expressed his gratitude for the attendance and reflected on his last three years as commander. During his speech, Oakley attributed much of his organization’s success to the people who supported the mission. In reference to expressing gratitude for this success, he quoted and referenced a traditional Maori saying, which translates to, “The people, the people, the people,” highlighting the importance of the collective as a force multiplier.

“People are the heart and soul of any unit or organization,” Oakley said.

Standing at 6-feet, 4-inches tall, the Auckland University graduate joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in 1993 as a midshipman. Oakley’s motivation to join the New NZDF stemmed from a desire to have an occupation that had both physical and academic opportunities.

“A real highlight of my posting to Singapore has been the daily interaction with the fine people from other nations and working together in what is a truly unique environment." - Cmdr. Brendon Oakley

“The Navy exemplifies the attributes of the physical aspects of what I was looking for in a career as is evident in the many team sports available in the New Zealand Defense Force,” Oakley said. “Team sports promote teamwork and that’s important in the workplace.”

Meanwhile, Oakley’s achievements as a RNZN officer are quite impressive. Upon completion of initial training in the RNZN, he was awarded the Naval Institute Award for ‘Best All-Round Officer’ and while posted to Southeast Asia in 2006 he became the first RNZN officer to graduate from the 12-month Singapore Armed Forces Command and Staff Course.

While Oakley’s primary role for the past three years has been as the commanding officer of the NZDSU (SEA), his secondary role was as the Assistant Defense Adviser to Singapore. With this and under his leadership, Oakley oversaw the Installations Auxiliary Police Force (IAPF) whose officers do the “Hard Yards,” according to Oakley.

“They conduct 24/7 shift work for the allied forces located in Sembawang and are considered an essential and valued element of the community,” Oakley said during an in-office interview. “There has been a real emphasis on developing the IAPF officers, both personally and professionally, through enhanced training, opportunities, responsibilities and recognition.

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Looking back over his three-year tour, Oakley felt a deep sense of fulfilment from the combined efforts of the people and organizations that worked and interacted together during his tenure.

“A real highlight of my posting to Singapore has been the daily interaction with the fine people from other nations and working together in what is a truly unique environment,” said Oakley. “I am very grateful for the opportunity that my family and I have had to be part of the Sembawang Five Power Defense Arrangements and U.S. Forces community.”

Meanwhile, Oakley will be reassigned to the Headquarters of the NZDF in Wellington, New Zealand as Director of Navy Strategy and will be accompanied with his wife Lisa and children, 10-year-old Lukas and 8-year-old twins Brooklyn and Ruby. For Oakley this is another opportunity to get back to his roots.

“Being assigned in Wellington is a new opportunity and a new challenge to get back to the Navy,” Oakley said. “And personally, I look forward to being back and reconnecting with family and friends.”

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