Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Keating Praises Micronesia's Partnership in Promoting Stability

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 8, 2008 -
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating's visit here today turned personal when, after praising Micronesia as a partner in promoting regional security, he got to personally thank a local soldier severely wounded while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, noted the close, longstanding security ties the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia share during a news conference with Micronesian President Emanuel Mori.

The strength of the two countries' friendship is important to U.S. Pacific Command, Keating told Mori. "It is this sort of relationship, which woven together, forms a very, very tight fabric of peace and stability all throughout this vast part of the world for which we are responsible," he said.

Mori emphasized to reporters the "very strong, very unique, very friendly relationship" between the two countries. This relationship enables the Micronesian people to sleep comfortably at night, recognizing the peace and
security this relationship brings, he said.

Following "fruitful discussions" with Mori and representatives of the Foreign Affairs and Justice ministries, Keating also called on Speaker of the Congress Isaac Figir and other congressional

The admiral noted the contributions young Micronesians make to the U.S. armed forces, serving at about twice the per capita rate as their American counterparts. Keating noted that Mori's daughter serves in the
Air Force and Vice President Alik Alik's son is in the Army, and that their parents are "justifiably proud" of their children's service.

"We are immensely grateful for their commitment to those things that some folks take for granted," Keating told Mori, adding, "You, sir, obviously do not."

PaCom is proud of its
military members who stand "ready to do what needs to be done to ensure our peace and stability and security," providing a source of a comfort to the region, Keating said.

But that service isn't without a price, he recognized. "We know firsthand the sacrifice required of our young men and women in uniform," he said.

Keating got an opportunity to personally thank Hilario Bermanis II, a Micronesian who exemplifies the cost of
military service. Bermanis and a fellow 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper were guarding a weapons cache in Baghdad in June 2003 they were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. Bermanis lost both legs and his left arm. His comrade was killed instantly.

After being treated at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center in Washington, Bermanis, now a U.S. citizen, is finishing his rehabilitation here on his home island of Pohnpei.

Bermanis told Keating he joined the U.S.
military because he wanted to play a part in promoting peace in the world, knowing its effect on his own Pacific region.

Emotionally moved by his meeting with Bermanis, his father and brother, Keating said he felt honored to look them in the eye and thank them for their family's contributions.

"They've paid a catastrophic price, but they're proud of their service and what they've contributed," he said. "What we have isn't a coalition of the willing. It's a coalition of the committed."

Keating assured Mori of the United States' unwavering commitment to Micronesia.

He noted the upcoming USNS Mercy hospital ship visit to Micronesia as part of Pacific Partnership 2008. Hundreds of medical and dental professionals, some in the
military and some civilian volunteers, will provide medical care for those either too far away from the care they need or unable to afford it, he said.

An upcoming joint committee meeting between PaCom and senior Micronesian officials will address other issues of mutual interest and build on Keating's discussions here. Among topics on the agenda will be plans to stand up a transnational
crime unit here later this month. PaCom's Joint Interagency Task Force West is joining Australia in lending support toward that effort, aimed at stemming the flow of drugs, particularly methamphetamine, in the region.

Keating reassured Mori that Micronesia can depend on its longstanding friendship with the United States. "Should you need help, regardless of the size, regardless of the time, regardless of the technical nature, if the United States Pacific Command can assist, we will," he said.

"We will be here as soon as you ask for the assistance, whether it's day or night, humanitarian assistance or something requiring even higher
military capability," he said. "It will be our distinct privilege to provide that service when we can."

Today's visit was Keating's first to Micronesia, a nation of 607 islands stretching across an 1,800-mile-long archipelago, since he took command in March 2007.

America Supports You: Military Kids Get Special Recognition

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

April 8, 2008 -
Military children and their sacrifices took center stage here last night during a reception attended by Defense Department dignitaries. "Our Military Kids," a nonprofit organization that provides grants that keep children of deployed National Guardsmen and reservists engaged in extracurricular activities, honored these special members of the military community.

"Our servicemen and women may be called to pay the highest price," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said. "Their families -- and children in particular -- make a significant sacrifice, as well.

"Organizations like this one help our
military kids feel special and loved," he continued. "They make a tremendous difference in the lives of America's youngest heroes."

Several of these young heroes attended the event, but two brothers, Will and Jake Bacon, got a little special attention.

With their father, Missouri
Army National Guard Maj. Matt Bacon, deployed to Iraq, the boys qualified for, applied for, and received a pair of $167 grants to play baseball from Our Military Kids.

The grants were special to the boys because they meant being able to continue an activity they love, but they were special for Our
Military Kids, as well. The pair of grants pushed the organization over the $1 million mark in awards.

"At first, they thought they won a million dollars," said Christine Bacon, the boys' mother. "Once I explained it, 'No, your grant put them over the million-dollar (mark),' they thought it was pretty cool."

And it turned out to be even cooler; it earned them a trip to the nation's capital for the event. With that trip came a visit to the International Spy Museum, some sightseeing and a visit with "Grammy and Grandpa" Bacon. All this was exciting, but each brother had his own opinion on what his favorite part of the trip had been.

"My favorite thing was riding around on the bikes," Jake said of the sightseeing tour the family took. Will disagreed, preferring the National Hockey League to the national monuments. "We got to go to a Capitals game," he said.

The one thing the brothers can agree on is that they miss their dad, who has been deployed since June 10. Though they get to talk to him every Saturday and Sunday and get daily e-mails, it's just not the same as having him home coaching.

"He tells me to scoot back or to go forward when I'm catcher," said Will, who's looking forward to playing first base this year. "It's a bit easier because it's more accurate, and (the ball isn't) going that fast." Bacon is expected home around the first of June.

Gates said the Bacon family exemplifies the patriotism and dedication of the country's reserve force. Bacon's father is a retired
Army Reserve chaplain, and his mother is an Army Reserve judge advocate general officer. All three -- mother, father and son -- were deployed to Iraq in 2003.

Will and Jake are just two of the nearly 3,000 children of deployed Guardsmen and reservists who have benefitted from Our
Military Kids' $1 million in grants in the three short years since the group began.

"This event provides Our Military Kids an opportunity to publically recognize the military children that are asked to be supportive of their parents who serve our country," said Linda Davidson, Our
Military Kids co-founder. "We applaud these families for the daily sacrifices they make and the many challenges they overcome during lengthy deployments and separations."

Gail Kruzel, the organization's other co-founder, said Our
Military Kids will continue to applaud these families and will strive for even bigger goals in the future.

"Tonight we're celebrating the fact that we have given out a million dollars in grants," she said. "But this year, we plan to give out a million dollars in 2008."

Military Kids is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

U.S., Chile Sign Information-Sharing Agreement

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

April 8, 2008 - Top defense officials for the United States and Chile today signed an agreement to begin sharing science and
technology information, further strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries. "Our bilateral defense relationship with Chile is strong because it is driven by our shared values of democracy, market economy, and a commitment to social justice and human rights," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today at the signing ceremony in the Pentagon.

The Master Information Exchange Agreement is a framework agreement that formalizes the exchange of
military technical data on a reciprocal basis.

This is a new agreement between the two countries and, while there was nothing in place before to stop the two countries from sharing data, this agreement is considered a fundamental building block to developing a serious science and
technology relationship, a senior defense official said. These formal agreements also tend to deepen the interaction between two countries and can "spawn" further relationships, the official said.

"As a next step, we hope to identify specific defense-related science and
technology projects to work on with Chile," Gates said.

In June, the United States and Chile signed an agreement that allowed for exchange of staff between the two defense laboratories. This summer, a Chilean
military officer will be assigned to the Army lab, and a U.S. researcher is planned for assignment to Chile, the official said.