Thursday, March 12, 2009

Obama Nominates Hill, Eikenberry for Posts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - President Barack Obama nominated Christopher R. Hill as ambassador to Iraq and Army Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry to serve as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan yesterday. The nominations require Senate confirmation.

"I am honored and grateful that these dedicated public servants have agreed to join my administration as we work to tackle the great challenges of our time," the president said in written statement issued by the White House. "These extraordinarily accomplished individuals have served their country with great distinction, and they have each agreed to take on tough assignments."

Hill is currently the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and has been instrumental in leading the U.S. delegation to the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. He also has served as ambassador to the Republic of Korea, ambassador to Poland, ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia and special envoy to Kosovo. Hill also has served on the National Security Council.

Eikenberry is currently the deputy chairman of the NATO military committee in Brussels, Belgium. His previous assignment was commander of the Combined Forces Command Afghanistan. He has served with mechanized, light, airborne and ranger infantry units in the continental United States, Hawaii, Korea and Italy.

Obama also nominated Alexander Vershbow to serve as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and Ivo Daalder to serve as the U.S. permanent representative on the NATO council.

Vershbow served as ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2005 to 2008, capping a 32-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service. He is a long-time expert on Russia, East-West relations, nonproliferation and European security affairs. From 2001 to 2005, he was U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation. From 1998 to 2001, he was the U.S. ambassador to NATO. From 1994 to 1997, Vershbow served as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for European Affairs at the National Security Council.

Daalder is currently a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, and a well-known expert on American foreign policy, European security, and national security affairs. He advised candidate Obama and served on the transition team. During the Clinton administration he was a director for European Affairs on the National Security Council staff from 1995 to 1997, where he was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy toward Bosnia.

Former Hostages Honored With Defense of Freedom Medal

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Wimbish
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - Three U.S. defense contractors held captive for more than five years by Colombian narcoterrorists were presented the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart award today during a ceremony at U.S. Southern Command headquarters here. All three were injured during 1,967 days of grueling captivity in the jungles of Colombia at the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC. The group is classified by the United States and many other nations as a terrorist group.

"What a great moment this is," Stavridis said. "We welcome you back to Southern Command; you always have a home here. We are proud of all three of you."

For Southcom personnel in attendance, many of whom had worked to help secure the hostages' release, the ceremony was an emotional moment of triumph and a chance to express admiration.

"The men and women of the United States military are proud to have served with you and for you," said Robert Stewart, who, as Southcom's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency representative, worked closely with the hostages' families during the ordeal.

The three contractors were crewmembers taking part in a routine aerial mission to detect cocaine crops over southern Colombia on Feb. 13, 2003, when engine problems forced the pilot to crash-land the aircraft. FARC members stormed the crash site and murdered pilot Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Colombian army Sgt. Luis Alcides Cruz.

During the ceremony, Howes thanked the Southcom team and described a moment of difficulty early in captivity when Stansell slipped him a note of encouragement. "[The note] said, 'We're not forgotten, people are trying to get us out, and we have family to go home to,'" Howes told the crowd. "You folks are basically my family. You spent an incredible amount of time trying to get us out, and you never forgot us."

Stansell tearfully thanked his family, who was in attendance, singling out his father, a Korean War veteran. He also expressed gratitude to those who helped get him home.

"Don't forget how great this country is and how fortunate we are to have our lives," Stansell told the crowd.

Gonsalves spoke about his experiences as a hostage and the fear of being forgotten.

"You were sending us reminders that you were looking for us," said Gonsalves, describing how he would hear the "buzz" of aircraft engines. "We would look up and try to see it, but we could never see it because it was up so high, and there were just so many trees. But we knew what it was, and that gave us strength to carry on.

"Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you for doing everything that you did to bring us home," he said.

Their imprisonment came to a dramatic end July 2, 2008, when Colombian military agents posing as humanitarian workers convinced the captors that they were taking the hostages to FARC leadership. The mission, conducted without a single shot being fired, also freed a dozen other hostages.

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft transported Gonsalves, Stansell and Howes later that day to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. They were transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center at neighboring Fort Sam Houston, where they underwent a medical evaluation, were reunited with their families, and received assistance to help them smoothly transition back into their lives as freed U.S. citizens.

During a press conference after the award ceremony, Stansell reiterated his gratitude to the Colombians for getting him home.

"I love Colombia. Tom and Mark love Colombia," Stansell said. "I want Americans to understand that there's some tough things going on down there, but it's a beautiful place, and a country we should support."

Southcom's efforts to return Stansell, Gonsalves and Howes home began almost immediately after their capture.

During their captivity, the command devoted 17,000 flight hours, pursued hundreds of leads, and had a staff of 35 people dedicated full-time to try to secure their safe release. Additionally, 300 Defense Department and interagency personnel stood ready to support repatriation operations and to help the former hostages adjust to life afterward.

The Defense Department established the Defense of Freedom Medal following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to honor Defense Department employees and defense contractors injured or killed while supporting department activities. Including Stansell, Gonsalves and Howes, 40 people have received the award.

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Wimbish serves with the U.S. Southern Command public affairs office.)

Petraeus Praises Medics, Corpsmen at 'Angels of Battlefield' Gala

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - The commander of U.S. Central Command last night praised the Army medics and Navy corpsmen whose courage on the battlefield protects the lives of fellow servicemembers. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told the 400-person audience at the 3rd Annual Armed Services YMCA Gala here that he was an appropriate keynote speaker, given that he's survived two near-fatal injuries.

"Some out there may wonder what my qualifications are to offer assessments of our medics," he said. "The fact is I'm quite well qualified on the subject, having twice awakened to the caring eyes of an angel on the battlefield following life-threatening injuries."

Petraeus' most recent injury occurred in 2000 when his parachute collapsed at low altitude during a skydiving jump. The snafu caused a hard landing that broke his pelvis. Nine years earlier, Petraeus was wounded by friendly fire in a live-fire training accident while commanding the 3rd Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky.

In an odd twist of fate, the surgeon who treated Petraeus' gunshot wound at Vanderbilt University in Nashville was Dr. Bill Frist, who later became the U.S. Senate majority leader. Frist joined Petraeus on stage at the gala.

"We are tied together in a single garment of destiny," Frist said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. "What affects one individually, affects all of us indirectly.

"You are that garment of destiny," he told the medics and corpsmen. "Thank you for being that angel to us all."

Petraeus said his simple, yet hugely important, task during the event was to thank combat medical personnel -- in particular, the troops accepting awards on behalf of their respective services.

"Wherever they serve, they always exhibit extraordinary qualities, skill, courage, cool under pressure, and selflessness," Petraeus said. "Tonight, we recognize and thank them, the angels of the battlefield, for all that they've done, and all that they continue to do for their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, and for our great country."

Those who received awards last night were Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Waiters, Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Cates, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Jordan, Navy Seaman Apprentice Thomas Geary, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Ryals, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Hanson, Air National Guard Master Sgt. Marty Snider and Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Matthew Lavoie.

Lavoie encountered frequent attacks as an Army medic deployed to Iraq with the 172nd Infantry of the Rhode Island Army National Guard. In 2006, while traveling near Al Asad Air Base, his convoy encountered multiple improvised explosive device attacks.

"Numerous vehicles were hit; we had one rollover," he recalled. "We evacuated two U.S. soldiers, and the rest of them had superficial wounds. We were down for probably two hours." Asked what his role was during the ambush, he said: "I was the only medic there."

Lavoie said being honored at the event was "surreal."

"The truth is, I do what I do every day for 10 years to be able to help somebody," he said. "It's about more than just me."



FCX Systems *, Morgantown, W. Va., is being awarded a $25,381,248 firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for delivery of an estimated quantity of 270 volts direct current power supplies ship supply equipment intended for shipboard aircraft maintenance for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and related technical data. Work will be performed in Morgantown, W. Va., and is expected to be completed by Mar. 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $5,999,999 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities website, with five offers received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N65540-09-D-0016).

Aranea Solutions, Huntsville, Ala., is being awarded a $17,929,431 firm-fixed-price time and materials indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for support of the Joint Technical Data Integration (JTDI) System and other tactical logistics IT programs. This contract includes a base year and three option periods, which if exercised, bring the total estimated value of the contract to $70,164,715. Work will be performed in Huntsville, Ala., (60 percent) and Patuxent River, Md., (40 percent), and work is expected to be completed by Mar. 2014. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with one offer received in response to this solicitation. The Naval Inventory Control Point is the contracting activity (N00104-09-D-Q451).

BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, Norfolk, Va., is being awarded a $12,755,479 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-4404) to exercise an option for alterations and repairs for the USS Cole (DDG-67) FY09 docking selected restricted availability. The major alterations and repairs for the USS Cole include: repairs to underwater hull; repairs to propeller shafts and struts; repair to sonar dome; and bow-strengthening alteration. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va., and is expected to be completed by Jun. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $12,755,479 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity.

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded an $11,066,515 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-08-C-0025) for Increment II of the CV-22 aircraft Block 20 upgrade program. Efforts to be provided include concept definition, non-recurring engineering, drawings, non-recurring prototype manufacturing, installation, and associated logistic support to integrate and test the V-22 Multi-Mission Advanced Tactical Terminal Replacement Receiver, and improved crew interface of broadcast data. Additionally, this procurement provides for the non-recurring logistical support to augment the contractor engineering technical support team. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, Pa., (81 percent); Fort Worth, Texas, (10 percent); and Fort Walton Beach, Fla., (9 percent), and is expected to be completed in Sept. 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $9,671,692 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5431) to incorporate Value Engineering Change Proposals (VECP) to the Evolved SEASPARROW missiles for the NATO SEASPARROW consortium and the United Arab Emirates. This contract modification with Raytheon Co., incorporates VECPs to the Evolved SEASPARROW Missiles for Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Norway, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States. The NATO SEASPARROW consortium, which includes the United States and 9 other countries and the United Arab Emirates, will fund the effort under this contract. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., (45 percent); Camden, Ark., (2 percent); Andover, Mass., (10 percent); Australia, (11 percent); Canada, (7 percent); Denmark, (1 percent); Greece, (1 percent); Germany, (8 percent); The Netherlands, (6 percent); Norway, (5 percent); Spain, (3 percent); and Turkey, (1 percent), and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems, Nashua, N.H., is being awarded a $9,511,957 modification to previously awarded contract (N00164-09-C-WQ19) for engineering service support for Quick Reaction Dismounted Guardian Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW) systems. The CREW systems are used to counter the continuous and evolving improvised explosive device threat as it becomes known in theater. The engineering service support will include analyzing new IED threat devices and development of jamming waveforms to counter the devices. Work will be performed in Nashua, N.H., and is expected to be completed by Mar. 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $1,434,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Crane Ind., is the contracting activity.

Barnhart Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded $8,874,998 for firm-fixed-price task order #0002 under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract (N62473-08-D-8614) for design and construction of a new in-service engineering facility for ordnance maintenance operations at the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, Calif. The task order also contains one unexercised option for physical security equipment, which if exercised would increase cumulative task order value to $8,974,998.00. Work will be performed in China Lake, Calif., and is expected to be completed by May 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Four proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity.

HydroAcoustics Inc., Henrietta, N.Y., is being awarded a maximum $8,700,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract for HLF-1D and HLF-1E transducers. Efforts will include procurement of HydroAcoustic Low Frequency (HLF) series transducers and maintenance kits, along with refurbishment, conversion and support services associated with existing HLF-1 series transducer. Work will be performed in Henrietta, N.Y., and is expected to be completed by Mar. 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $50,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Newport, R.I., is the contracting activity (N66604-09-D-1860)., Houston, Texas, is being awarded an $8,370,187 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for education/training products and support services managed by the Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center (NETPDTC), Pensacola, Fla. This contract includes a base year and four option periods, which if exercised, bring the total estimated value of the contract to $43,850,230. Work will be performed at Houston, Texas, (95 percent); and Pensacola, Fla., (5 percent), and work is expected to be completed by Sept. 2009. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured through Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with18 offers received. The Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Norfolk Detachment Philadelphia is the contracting activity (N00189-08-D-Z039).

Jacobs Engineering, Dumfries, Va., is being awarded $7,322,634 for task order #0021 under previously awarded contract (M67854-02-A-9017) to provide technical support to the Marine Corps Systems Command, Information Systems and Infrastructure Product Group, Marine Corps network and infrastructure services program office for sustainment support and additional transition support to include assisting in monitoring the cutover progress and attending daily meetings. Throughout the contract period the contractor will be required to coordinate schedules, assist with data collection for assets, user requirements management; application inventory; and related actions necessary to effect transition activities and seat cutover, technical refresh schedules and activities and life-cycle sustainment in the NMCI environment (e. g. SRM data collection, asset reconciliation and tracking). The scope of this task will be structured to reflect support for Major Commands across the Marine Corps sites. Work will be performed in Camp Lejeune, N.C.,(22 percent); New Orleans, La., (15 percent); Okinawa, Japan, (12 percent); Camp Pendleton, Calif., (11 percent); Quantico, Va., (11 percent); Miramar, Calif., (8 percent); Beaufort, S.C., (3 percent); Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, (3 percent); Albany, Ga., (3 percent); Arlington, Va., (2 percent); Barstow, Calif., (2 percent); Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., (2 percent); Yuma, Ariz., (2 percent); San Diego, Calif., (2 percent); and Parris Island, S.C., (2 percent), and work is expected to be completed in December 2009. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Pacific Program-Design Management Services JV, Pasadena, Calif., is being awarded $5,727,416 for firm-fixed price task order #0004 under a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, architect/engineer contract (N62742-08-D-0009) for the program support services for various projects covered by the Defense Policy Review Initiative and other projects under the cognizance of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific. The work to be performed provides for preparation of the technical sections of the Request for Proposal contract documents for the design-build acquisition at NCTS Finegayan and Apra Harbor, Guam. The project at NCTS Finegayan prepares for the Finegayan USMC Bachelor Enlisted Quarters area. The project will include site preparation, arterial access and perimeter roads, street lighting, electrical distribution, water distribution, wastewater collection lines, and communication distribution system lines. The project will also include gate houses for commercial vehicles and main gate to control access to the site. The project at Apra Harbor will upgrade the existing utilities to support the Marine Corps embarkation capability package on Guam. The project will provide shore side utility improvements including Bilge Oily Waste Transfer System, steam, compressed air, potable water, power, communications, wastewater, fire alarm and hydrants. Work will be performed in Guam and is expected to be completed by Aug. 31, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity.


The Air Force is modifying a fixed price incentive firm contract with Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., of San Diego, Calif., for an amount not to exceed $107,575,999. This action will provide for long lead items associated with LRIP Lot 8 Global Hawk Block 40 air vehicles. At this time, $25,999,999 has been obligated. 303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8620-08-C-3001, P00007).


Mine Safety Appliances, Pittsburgh, Pa., is being awarded a maximum $44,938,296 firm fixed price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity contract for advanced combat helmets. Other location of performance is Vermont. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The proposal was originally DIBBS solicited with three responses. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Mar. 10, 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM1C1-09-0036).

General Electric Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, is being awarded a maximum $7,587,417 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for equipment delivery. Other location of performance is Massachusetts. Using service is Air Force. There was one proposal originally solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is June 29, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Richmond, ZBA (DSCR-ZBA), Tinker AFB, Oklahoma (FA8104-05-G-0004-UN06).

Navy Names Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado

Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter announced today that the fourth littoral combat ship (LCS) will be named USS Coronado.

The announcement continues the practice of naming the agile LCS vessels after American mid-sized cities, small towns and communities. The ship is named in honor of the patriotic citizens of Coronado, Calif. Home to Naval Air Base North Island (NASNI) and Naval Amphibious Base (NAB), Coronado has been home to the Navy since 1917.

More than 90 tenant commands reside at NASNI, including the Naval Aviation Depot, the largest aerospace employer in San Diego. The base is homeport to two aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).

NAB Coronado has approximately 5,000 personnel and more than 30 tenant commands including Naval Surface Force Pacific and Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific. The base is also home to Naval Special Warfare Command including several SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) and special boat teams, and the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training center.

Two previous ships have been named for Coronado. USS Coronado (PF 38), a Tacoma-class patrol frigate, earned four battle stars for supporting landings in New Guinea and Leyte during World War II. USS Coronado (AGF 11) served as flagship for the Third Fleet and was decommissioned in 2006.

Designated LCS 4, Coronado will be designed to defeat littoral threats and provide access and dominance in coastal waters for missions such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare. There are two different LCS hull forms – a semiplaning monohull and an aluminum trimaran – designed and built by two industry teams, respectively led by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. These seaframes will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission packages, which can be changed out quickly. Mission packages are supported by special detachments that will deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors.

More information about the LCS can be seen at

Partnership Mission Shows U.S. Commitment to Africa, Commander Says

By Navy Lt. Patrick Foughty
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - The USS Robert G. Bradley has completed the first Africa Partnership Station mission to East Africa, signifying the U.S. commitment to helping African nations achieve stability and prosperity, the APS East Africa commander said. Africa Partnership Station -- an international initiative – is a U.S.-led response to requests by African nations for military-to-military or civilian-military maritime training.

Navy Capt. Nick Holman led the mission to Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania, and explained the growing initiative and its impact in Africa to bloggers and online journalists yesterday during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable

"Africa Partnership Station responds to [East] African requests for training by providing a delivery vehicle for international, interagency and nongovernmental organization assistance," Holman said. "The U.S. government and our Navy are committed to helping all African nations and regions achieve stability and economic prosperity, and East Africa is looking for help."

Africa Partnership Station began in fall 2007 with the deployment of USS Fort McHenry to West Africa. The ship included an international staff and acted as a floating schoolhouse, offering a variety of maritime courses and training. The initiative has continued with deployments of other Navy and Coast Guard ships, aircraft and small training units. The USS Nashville is in the Gulf of Guinea on a similar large-scale APS mission.

"APS brings to a country a team of maritime experts," Holman said, "be it through Navy sailors on a frigate like Bradley, or a team of Seabees working a community-relations project such as a school or clinic, or ... what's found now on APS Nashville currently on the west coast of Africa -- which is a large international team including European, African and South American personnel."

Training is conducted using the ship's crew as instructors and covers subjects such as small boat operations, navigation, damage control and visit, and board, search and seizure procedures.

Holman discussed the maritime security threats that East African countries are facing, most importantly that of illegal fishing. "Illegal fishing, at a billion-dollar [per year] loss to Africa, with an estimated $310 million loss on East Africa alone, has a negative impact on the economic stability and prosperity of each of the countries affected," Holman said. "Drugs, arms, human trafficking and other criminal activities are ongoing."

Many African countries have new or developing navies that are not yet trained or equipped to enforce the law in their maritime environment, Holman noted.

"The countries we visited do have some capability," he said, "but it's not what you would consider a typical navy or typical military in having the capacity, the training and the wherewithal to go out through the oceans and search for illegal activity right now."

A frigate is a great platform to showcase, Holman said, because as the African navies grow, ships like frigates may be what they will grow into.

"When you show up with a brand-new DDG [Navy destroyer] like a Forrest Sherman, a billion-dollar ship, they know that's way out of their reach," he said. "Frigates can go into places that some can't, and the perspective from the military is ... we're a smaller navy, and this is something maybe we can see in our future."

The frigate also brings a small crew and an intimate training environment more conducive to small-group, hands-on training, he added.

Holman emphasized the importance and value of Africa Partnership Station.

"We can show up, provide training, provide resources, and then leave very little footprint behind. And they're looking for our help," Holman said. "APS is an enduring mission. And only through continuous presence and interaction with the people we meet will this partnership-building program and maritime safety and security program succeed."

(Navy Lt. Patrick Foughty serves with the U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa, U.S. 6th Fleet public affairs office.)

First Lady to Visit Military Families at Fort Bragg

By Reginald Rogers
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - First lady Michelle Obama will meet today with military families and several organizations that support them during her first visit here as first lady. "Mrs. Obama's visit is important to our Fort Bragg families, because we will hear firsthand from the first lady of the United States about her support and concern as it relates to the impact of repeated deployments on our families and children over the past eight years," said Charlene Austin, wife of Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq and 18th Airborne Corps.

Austin said she expects that the post will make a favorable impression on the first lady as well.

"I have no doubt that Mrs. Obama will leave as impressed and excited as I have been about the events, activities and initiatives I have seen demonstrated by our volunteers, civilian work force and community partners in support of military families," Austin said.

Members of the community here said they look forward to welcoming the first lady and realize the importance of her visit. "It demonstrates the emphasis and concern that this current administration has about the well-being and lifestyle of our soldiers and their families," Barbara Trower-Simpkins, director of the Fort Bragg Army Community Service, said.

During her visit here, the first lady will have the opportunity to see some of Fort Bragg's newest facilities, several of which have opened their doors within the past year.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase what we're doing to take care of our soldiers and their families," Gregory Bean, installation support manager for the Directorate of Public Works said. "The facilities and homes are a manifestation of respect we have for them and their dedication to our country."

Karen L. Miller, chief of Child, Youth and School Services on post, said she is equally excited about today's activities.

"Child, Youth and School Services is excited that Mrs. Obama's first visit as the first lady to an Army installation includes a visit to a Fort Bragg child development center," Miller said. "It demonstrates her commitment to improve the lives of Army families and continued support of the Army Family Covenant."

Austin said Obama's visit also provides an opportunity for Fort Bragg's leaders, volunteers and civilians, along with the community, to showcase the post's proactive support for military families and children.

"Mrs. Obama's visit also provides an opportunity to say "thank you" for your decision to focus on military families and children," she said. "We will ask Mrs. Obama to help continue the way forward for military families ... who are true heroes on the home front."

(Reginald Rogers works in the Fort Bragg public affairs office.)

Mullen Discusses World Issues with Tomorrow's Leaders

American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - In the midst of working through today's global issues, leaders should not forget to foster tomorrow's generation to carry on their efforts, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen shared his experiences and insights on the challenges the United States is facing today with about 150 members of the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy organization during a lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here.

"What I've always tried to focus on in every job I've been in is my relief," Mullen said. "Who are our young people we're raising up to face [future] challenges?"

Today, diplomats and national leaders are engaged in persistent conflict and wars, a world financial crisis, and building international relationships to prevent further divergences, he said. Mullen touched on the continuing turmoil in the Middle East and the importance of understanding the region's history and culture. And he noted that although vast security and governance improvements have been made in Iraq, the insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to grow.

"The area from Tehran to Beirut is the most unstable and daunting challenge we have as a country," he said, "It's not just one country; it's a regional issue with a rich history that we need to understand ... to move forward."

Mullen lauded the resilience of American military members and their families, while addressing the health of the force. Soldiers and Marines aren't given enough time at home between deployments, which has presented a "huge" problem for the Pentagon, he said.

The Army and Marine Corps are growing their forces as the Navy and Air Force reduce their manpower to build more time at home for continuously training and deploying combat troops, he said. The Navy and Air Force are stressed thin too, he said, but the ground forces have been "extraordinarily" stressed.

"We've stretched our ground forces in ways that many of us never imagined we could," the admiral said. "They have been brilliant, but they are stressed, and the tempo continues."

Mullen also addressed the global financial crisis and the need to engage and build partners with countries in every region of the world. About 80 percent of the U.S. military's forces are focused on the Middle East, but other relationships must continue to grow too, he said. He stressed the need to participate in more joint-military exercises as well as civilian partnerships with federal and nongovernment organizations.

"We're getting to a point where the United States can't do it alone any more," he said. "We've got to have partners. We've got to have allies. That's the global world that we're living in, and I don't think that's going to change."

He referred to a trip he took last week to Mexico and South America, calling the regions "extraordinarily important" partnerships for the United States. The Mexican drug trade and related violence there have escalated to a level requiring military interference, while South America has risen to become one of the world's "economic engines," he said.

"We're economically tied, and those relationships are vital and will continue to grow over time," he said, also noting China's and Europe's economic influences on the world. "These economic engines are very much tied to the ability to create a better life and higher standard of living. We are inextricably linked economically."

Tomorrow's global issues, he said, are going to be even more challenging than today's.

"One of the biggest worries I have ... is the world [in] which we live is one that is going to challenge you probably more than any challenge that has ever come up in my lifetime," the admiral said.

Mullen told the audience it's not too early to begin thinking about the health of their professions -- how to recruit, educate and bring other individuals into their career paths as the next leaders.

He said the cycle of preparing today's youth for tomorrow's issues is much like a parent raising a child to a higher standard of living with more opportunities and more resources to succeed.

"[Mentoring] is a wonderful opportunity, and it's going to be a lot of work," he said. "So I'm really encouraged to see you out here, and would love to follow your careers over the next three or four decades to see you make a difference. You are our future."

Obama Considers Deploying National Guard to U.S.-Mexico Border

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - As President Barack Obama considers deploying National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to control escalating violence, Arizona's governor has requested about 250 more National Guard troops on its border with Mexico, and the Texas governor is considering a similar action. "We're going to examine whether, and if, National Guard deployments would make sense and in what circumstances they would make sense as part of this overall review of our border situation," Obama told reporters yesterday, according to media reports. The White House does not release transcripts of media roundtable sessions.

"I haven't drawn any conclusions yet," reporters said Obama told them. "I don't have a particular tipping point in mind."

While emphasizing that he does not want to "militarize" the border, Obama called it "unacceptable if you've got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing our citizens."

The president noted that Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Mexico last week to meet with his Mexican counterparts about the situation and to discuss additional support the United States could provide.

Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates requesting 250 more National Guard soldiers to be posted along the 350-mile Arizona-Mexico border.

Although Brewer has the authority to call up the troops, she asked Gates to mobilize them as part of the federally funded Joint Counter Narco-terrorism Task Force. That force currently includes about 150 Army and Air National Guard members.

"Arizona communities and citizens are negatively affected by the impacts of the illegal drug trade and related border violence, and enforcement agencies in all jurisdictions are stretched as they attempt to address the enormity of the problems," Brewer said. "The support these additional soldiers can provide to law enforcement agency operations would prove invaluable."

In neighboring Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has expressed the need for more troops or border agents along its border with Mexico. Perry reiterated at a ceremony last week the need for more help to disrupt operations of the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Barrio Azteca, MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today it's too soon to know if additional military support will be granted.

The last major federal National Guard mission along the U.S.-Mexico border was Operation Jump Start. The two-year mission, from June 2006 to July 2008, dispatched as many as 6,000 National Guard members to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to make the border more secure for legal immigration and commerce until the U.S. Border Patrol could boost its own ranks.

Guard members did not serve in a direct law-enforcement role, but provided vital reinforcement to the Border Patrol. Their missions included engineering, aviation, entry identification teams, and a wide range of technical, logistical and administrative support.

By the time the mission ended in July, more than 30,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen from across the nation had participated.

Whitman emphasized that the proposed border mission, if ultimately approved, would have a very different purpose and timeline than Operation Jump Start.

In the meantime, the United States is exploring other ways it can help Mexico deal with escalating violence, he said. "We continue to offer Mexico assistance in any number of ways," he told reporters.

The Merida Initiative, for example, provides Mexico and several other countries funding to counter drug trafficking, and the U.S. military has a strong military-to-military partnership with Mexico. The United States also is providing Mexico foreign military financing for five helicopters, a maritime surveillance aircraft and handheld scanners used for detection purposes, Whitman said.

"The U.S. government as a whole is concerned about the escalating violence and its effect on public security as well as the Southwest U.S. border," he said. "I think that what you are seeing is a recognition of the problem that is facing the Mexican government, and as good neighbors, the United States is looking at any number of ways in which we might be able to render some additional assistance."

Public Affairs Chief Takes Stock of Tumultuous Year

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 12, 2009 - Information is a critical element of national power, and public affairs personnel have a role in how the government and military employ that element, the outgoing principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs said today. "Information is absolutely part of diplomacy and success on the battlefield," said Robert T. Hastings, who is stepping down after a year as the top public affairs official in the Defense Department.

Hastings became principal deputy on March 10, 2008. Later, President George W. Bush nominated him to be assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, but the nomination never reached the Senate. He was one of the Bush appointees asked to remain at his post after the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Breaking down the walls between services and within the public affairs community was Hastings' first priority upon taking office, he said.

"Where I think we have made the biggest gain is just re-establishing and rebuilding the sense of community within public affairs," he said during an interview. "The sense of pride, the sense of mission and building that across the silos – not just Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines [and Defense Department] silos, but even within public affairs."

Public affairs traditionally is split into four areas of concentration: command, or internal, information, media operations, community relations, and plans.

"That's what I attacked first, and my sense is that's where we made the biggest progress," Hastings said. "Public affairs is a community. We have a common role, and we can accomplish more working better among ourselves than staying in our silos."

A responsibility to inform their fellow citizens is something every member of the military public affairs community understands, Hastings said.

"The public must know and understand and really has a vote on what we are doing in the [Defense Department]," Hastings said. "And we are also communicating with the world. I think that information element of power is very important, and I think public affairs is square in the middle of that."

Terrorists understand that public opinion can be swayed, Hastings noted, and prey on signs of weakness in public trust. Public opinion can be as important to success as victory on the battlefield, he said.

"That thinking may have crystallized a bit in the past year," Hastings said. "I made a real effort to work with the combatant commands, the field commands and the services and the other players on the National Security Council to ensure that public affairs was vital."

Government leaders are talking more and more about the concept of strategic communications, Hastings said, and public affairs has been successful in helping to shape the idea.

"There is a formal definition of the concept, but beyond that I think it is the synchronization of images, actions and words to accomplish our national objectives," he said.

Synchronization of information functions is key to the concept, and is at the heart of the reason many people do not understand or feel comfortable with public affairs in strategic communications, Hastings said.

"It is not integration or merging – it is synchronization; public affairs remains public affairs," he explained. "It is not part of information operations. It is not part of psychological operations. It is not deception.

"What we do and how we do it isn't changed by strategic communications, but we have to be synchronized so that the messages that we promulgate and disseminate through our public affairs channels are complementary to what is out there in the rest of the communications spectrum."

Public affairs needs a vote on what strategic communications does, Hastings said. That means public affairs personnel need to be close enough to the concept to understand the goals and objectives of strategic communications, and to convey that to the various audiences.

"I think public affairs should be pretty close to leading the strategic communications effort," Hastings said. "It depends on the effort. In some cases it might be public affairs, in others information operations. In some cases, it might be led by the State Department or [the U.S. Agency for International Development] or some other agency."

But however that happens, he said, it requires leaders capable of moving ideas forward, and the public affairs community must develop workersgrow personnel who can do it.

Senior public affairs officers must have the experience and gravitas to lead such an effort and advise commanders in this new information age, Hastings said.

In the past, journalism was a strong focus for public affairs officers. "That's a skill that's important in development," he said. "But by the time you are the advisor to the [commander of U.S. Central Command], you are into international relations and diplomacy and understanding economic power and understanding how the economic forces of the world move."

Hastings said he's tried to ensure the services are selecting, developing, training and preparing senior public affairs officers for that role.

"We've made some progress, [but] there's a lot more there left to do," he said. "My challenge to everyone we are leaving behind here is to keep the focus on that."

Interagency cooperation has improved largely because of the example set by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Hastings said, noting they had a strong relationship and went out of their way to work on that.

Hastings spoke about his trips to Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to most of the combatant commands to understand the environment that troops and leaders were operating in.

"Equally important was to visit the public affairs troops that we have out there," he said, to ensure the people doing the work had the resources they needed to perform their missions.

Hastings said he doesn't know what public affairs will look like in five years, but that there are hints about the future.

"I hear combatant commanders talk about public affairs and strategic communications more than ever now," he said. "The leaders know the power of communications and the roles played. So that is a hint that it will be more important in the future."

The Defense Media Activity is another hint. The organization grew out of the latest base realignment and closure commission findings and has placed the command information assets of the services and the department in one unit.

"We've just taken half of the public affairs community worldwide and put it in one joint command," he said. "Five years from now, the impact of that will be that public affairs will essentially be a joint function. You'll still wear an Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps uniform, but you are going to think and act and behave jointly."

New media and social media also are changing the face of communications, Hastings said, adding that he sees that continuing.

"I think we will no longer think in terms of channels to communicate with audiences. Channels are going to change so fast," he said. "Facebook is so hot today, but Facebook may be gone tomorrow, replaced by something else. Public affairs personnel will have to think in terms of message and audience, and then use whatever channels are available. The impact of that could be profound."

Hastings has worked closely with Gates, and said he will remember the secretary "as the best boss I've ever had."

"To my mind," he said. "he epitomizes what I call the patriot civil servant."

Gates called his previous job as president of Texas A&M his dream job, yet he came back on duty when President Bush called him, Hastings said. Before he succeeded Bush in the Oval Office, Obama asked Gates to remain on the job with his administration.

"President Obama called him, and again, he said yes," Hastings said. "Over his entire career, [Gates] has always put his nation first. And that really is him."

Though Gates is the "most intellectual" boss he has ever worked with, Hastings said, the secretary retains a strong identification with servicemembers and their families, and is constantly asking about their well-being.

And the secretary understands communications and sets an example, he added.

"The only guidance he gave me when I came in was to help him help this building better react to bad news," Hastings said. "He understands that our obligation in a democracy is to make sure our fellow citizens are fully informed of what we're doing, how we're doing it and why we're doing it.

"I suspect that history will judge him as among the best to have held his job," he said.

Hastings will leave for a job in the defense industry. His last day is tomorrow.