Military News

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Collaboration is Key to Troop Buildup in Guam

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said he's departing Guam with a better understanding of the troop realignment challenges that lie ahead there.

"I think the realignment is going to be challenging," Lynn said yesterday in an interview with American Forces Press Service while en route home. "It's a big, programmatic change and we need to do this smart; we need to take into account the concerns of the people of Guam, we need to take into account the size of Guam, the infrastructure that's involved, and we need to work through this in a collaborative way."

About 8,500 Marines and some 9,000 family members are slated to move to Guam from Okinawa in accordance with a 2006 agreement between the United States and Japan. The same agreement also calls for a realignment of Marines to a new location on Okinawa.

Lynn traveled to Guam, a U.S. territory, for a firsthand look at the island's facilities and to speak with government leaders and residents about the troop increase.

"The main purpose was to get an understanding on the ground rather than with just PowerPoint slides," he said. "I think we got a very full plate in those two days."

Guam's residents have a range of opinions regarding the troop realignment, Lynn noted. Some are concerned about the environmental and cultural impacts, while others are very supportive and see an increased military presence as beneficial to Guam's long-term future, he said.

The final environmental impact statement released last week addresses the possible environmental consequences of the buildup. This statement also outlines measures that will help the military and people of Guam create a sustainable future.

Next, Lynn said, a record of decision will be signed in September, after which the actual implementation of the plan will take place.

Meanwhile, "We need to work collaboratively with the government of Guam and the people of Guam to work through the issues they've identified," he said.

Lynn reiterated his commitment to moving ahead respectfully, keeping Guam's culture and resources in mind, and ensuring the buildup "leads to a better and stronger Guam in the end of this process."

Lynn said he's impressed by the patriotism displayed by Guam's citizens, and their support for the military.

Lynn also traveled to Guam's neighboring islands, Saipan and Tinian, to meet with government leaders there and to explore the potential for future cooperative efforts.

"As we do the bigger realignment in the Pacific and maintain a robust presence in the Pacific, there will be broader training needs, training needs that can't be accomplished on the island of Guam or even in other facilities we have in the Pacific," he explained. "So we're looking at what kinds of expansion we might need to do and Saipan and Tinian might be part of that."

Lynn said the prospect of future cooperative efforts was well received by government officials.

Guam Tours Provide Insight, Perspective

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said a series of tours he'd taken on and above the island of Guam gave him broader insight into the challenges that lie ahead for that U.S. territory, as well as an appreciation of the historical significance of the region.

"It's very helpful to see the geography," Lynn said yesterday in an interview with American Forces Press Service while en route home from Guam. "These are relatively small islands and understanding the limits and capacity of the island is very important. It's difficult to do that without putting your eyes on location."

The secretary toured Guam and several of its neighboring islands by helicopter and land over the course of his two-day visit. His aim was to better understand the impacts of an upcoming troop increase. About 8,500 Marines and some 9,000 family members are slated to move to Guam from Okinawa in accordance with a 2006 agreement with Japan.

An aerial tour of Guam on a Navy SH-60 Seahawk helicopter offered Lynn a bird's-eye view of the overall challenges regarding the troop realignment. Lynn saw firsthand the sites that will be impacted by new facilities and training ranges as the military prepares for the troop increase.

The flying tour took Lynn over lush, green jungles, small communities and beachside resorts, all surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of turquoise waters. Guam is known for its tourist industry, and is particularly popular among people from Japan, Korea and China.

Yesterday, Lynn said he hopes the troop realignment will offer an economic boost to the people of Guam. The Japanese government will finance $740 million of infrastructure projects, he said yesterday in a speech at the University of Guam, and President Barack Obama has requested congressional authority for the Defense Department to fund an upgrade to Guam's only commercial port.

"Together with matching funds from the Department of Agriculture, we will be making a $100 million investment in the port," Lynn said. Other funds will be funneled into Guam's road system, and groundwork is being laid for improvements to utilities, schools, health care, public safety and other needs. To do so, the nation will "draw on Guam's expertise to the fullest," he said, offering new opportunities for Guam's businesses and citizens.

While Guam will house a small-arms firing range, the military is looking to islands near Guam to accommodate other Marine training needs. Lynn traveled about 150 miles southeast to Saipan to meet with Fitial Benigno, governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, to discuss possibilities for future cooperative efforts.

After a quick helicopter ride, Lynn stopped briefly in Tinian, about five miles southwest of Saipan, where he met with the mayor and visited the bomb pit that housed the first atomic bomb ever to be used in combat, nicknamed "Little Boy." This bomb was loaded aboard the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress bomber piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets Jr., on Aug. 5, 1945, and then dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, the next day.

Don Farrall, who briefed Lynn on the bomb pit, recalled when Tibbets was invited to return to Tinian to mark the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Saipan and Tinian.

Tinian was a protectorate of Japan after World War I and was captured by the United States during World War II in July 1944, after which the island became the busiest airbase of the war. Saipan was governed by the Japanese since World War I, and on June 15, 1944, U.S. Marines landed and fought a three-week battle to take it from the Japanese.

Lynn said it was interesting "to see these islands that played such a large role in our history in World War II."

Back on Guam, Lynn visited Andersen Air Force Base and the U.S. Naval Base.

At Andersen, Lynn toured a cavernous hangar that will eventually house three Global Hawk RQ4 remotely piloted aircraft. In preparation for this new mission, personnel began arriving in 2009, a base spokesman said, and the Air Combat Command's 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 9th Operations Group, Detachment 3, is expected to be operational by early 2011. Air Combat Command pilots will launch and recover the aircraft from Andersen, the spokesman said, while the mission control element will take place at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

At the naval base, Lynn took time thank the sailors of Submarine Squadron 15 for their service and sacrifice, extending his gratitude to all military members. Their service in the face of difficult challenges doesn't go unnoticed, he told them.

"The performance in that difficulty is recognized," he said. "It's recognized in the department, recognized by [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates, recognized by Congress and recognized by President [Barack] Obama."

Overall, the tours offered a helpful, firsthand look, Lynn said.

"The main purpose was to get an understanding on the ground rather than with just PowerPoint slides," he said. "I think we got a very full plate in those two days."

Panel Suggests Changes in Long-Term Defense Planning

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - A congressionally mandated panel has recommended broad changes to long-term Defense Department strategies and priorities, including funding a major recapitalization of equipment, revamping the personnel system and expanding the number of people serving in the Navy.

Former Defense Secretary William J. Perry and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley gave their final report as co-chairs of the Independent Panel's Assessment of the Quadrennial Defense Review to the House Armed Services Committee today. The QDR is a legislatively mandated review of Department of Defense strategy and priorities.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appointed 12 of the 20-members on the panel in 2009 to assess the 2010 QDR, which was released in February. The other eight panel members were selected by Congress. The panel's report is called "The QDR in Perspective: Meeting America's National Security Needs in the 21st Century."

The panel found that the QDR did not project out far enough to prepare the military for the long term, Perry said. Rather, he said, the QDR focused primarily on the next four to five years around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "If I were secretary of defense today, I would have done the same thing," said Perry, who served from 1993 to 1997.

Perry, who served in President Bill Clinton's administration, and Hadley, who served under President George W. Bush, said the panel showed remarkable nonpartisanship and was unanimous in its findings.

The panel identified America's four "enduring national interests that transcend politics" as, defense of the homeland; assured access to sea, air, space and cyberspace; a favorable balance of power in western Asia; and overall humanitarian good.

Among the potential threats to U.S. national interests, according to the panel, are radical Islamic extremism and terrorism, the rise of great powers in the East, tensions in the Middle East and competition for resources.

While "soft power" capabilities of diplomacy and civilian support are important, Hadley said, "the world's first order of concern will continue to be security concerns."

Because of that, the panel recommends a recapitalization of military hardware to replace the wear and tear of nine years of war, Perry said. "This will be expensive," he said. "But deferring recapitalization will require even more expenses in the future."

The panel also recommends a restructuring of forces to build up Navy end-strength and improve the Air Force's long-range strike capabilities. Current Army and Marine Corps ground forces are sufficient for the long term, the panel said.

Today's forces are fully capable of handling any threat that may emerge today, Perry said, but the panel believes a buildup of Navy forces in the western Pacific is necessary to counter emerging threats there, notably Chinese militarization.

U.S. allies in the East "are worried about China and they want us there working with China, and we are," Perry said. He added, "I do not anticipate any military conflict with China, and if it were to happen it would be a huge failure of diplomacy."

To avoid a potential arms race in Asia, Perry said, the U.S. military needs to maintain a consistently strong force in the region.

The panel's assessment also calls for a reconsideration of managing resources. Gates' acquisition reform plans are "a good start," Perry said, but they don't go far enough.

Defense officials should require dual competition in all production programs, and set a limit of five to seven years for the delivery of all defined programs, Perry said. Historically, he said, all successful programs are delivered in four to five years, and programs that drag on beyond 10 years "are guaranteed to cost too much."

Also, Pentagon officials need to clarify roles within the department's acquisitions work force as to who is responsible for the delivery of programs, Hadley said. "It's a muddy picture, with lots of layering and lots of review without clear authority," he said.

In its review, Perry said, the panel was firmly supportive of continuing with an all-volunteer force, but found that changes are needed to reduce personnel costs in maintaining pay and benefits that have become increasingly generous since conscription ended in the 1970s. Specifically, the panel recommends establishing a commission to consider cost savings in pay and benefits and the panel's suggestion to increase length of service for retirement eligibility from 20 years to as long as 40 years.

"I don't need to tell this committee that this is politically charged," Perry said. He added that extending service is important to retain people in whom the military has invested much education and training.

The panel also recommends a re-evaluation of how the military uses National Guard and reserve forces. "Our panel thinks we really need to re-think our relationship between the active force and the Guard and reserves, and if we need a mobilization capability beyond our current mobilization force," Hadley said. "How much of the Guard and reserve is an operational reserve? How much of it is a strategic reserve? How much of it is for homeland security? All this needs to be re-thought."

Blue Ridge Sailors Bring Humanitarian Assistance to Palau

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Pineda, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Public Affairs

REPUBLIC OF PALAU (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard 7th Fleet's command flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), completed more than 2,400 hours of humanitarian assistance projects from July 28-29 at several locations in Palau as part of Pacific Partnership 2010.

"Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional partnerships with host nations and partner nations," said Capt. Rudy Lupton, Blue Ridge's commanding officer, during opening ceremonies, which were held at the Ngarachemayong Cultural Center in Koror, Palau, July 26.

By July 29, Pacific Partnership volunteers from Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet have completed six community service (COMSERV) events, including beach cleanups, school maintenance and monument restoration projects.

Along with COMSERVs, Blue Ridge's medical and dental teams have treated more than 1,300 patients, while providing subject matter expert exchanges on topics ranging from neonatal mortality to oral hygiene.

"I think it is a wonderful experience for our Health Services Department to render medical and dental services," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Laregen Valdez.

In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, Pacific Partnership 2010 will also provide valuable experiences for service members to learn from civilian experts. This experience will help ensure the U.S. military is able to rapidly respond in support of emergency relief efforts in the future.

"Pacific Partnership has proven itself to be an invaluable opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance, while enabling those involved to become better prepared to respond effectively to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis," said Lupton.

Sailors have also had a unique opportunity to experience the rich culture and diversity that Palau and its residents have to offer.

"Being part of this mission is a great way to help people, and at the same time it opens up an opportunity to learn more about their culture and their way of living," said Valdez.

The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors, Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nation and partner nations. While this was Palau's first visit by Pacific Partnership, Lupton believes that much more will be gained through the visit than just providing assistance to those in need.

"We hope that the friendships and relationships we create in the coming days will be sustained long into the future," said Lupton.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

NSA Panama City NEX Wins 2009 Bingham Award

By Steve Applegate, Naval Support Activity Panama City Public Affairs

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Support Activity Panama City Navy Exchange (NEX)received the 2009 Bingham Award during a ceremony at the Long Glass Conference Center July 28.

The Bingham Award was established in 1979 as a way to recognize outstanding performance in customer service and exchange operations. Navy Exchange Service Operations (NEXCOM) presents the awards annually to the exchanges that demonstrate superior performance throughout the year.

"The Bingham Award recognizes Navy Exchanges (NEXs) who do great work every day throughout the year in support of our Sailors," said Gary King, senior vice president of operations in the continental U.S., Navy Exchange Service Command. "This award is presented to the best of the best. Only nine out of 103 Navy Exchanges are selected … you are part of an elite group and you should be congratulated."

Navy Exchange Panama City is the Bingham award winner in the U.S. sales category for $2-$5 million in sales. NSA PC's NEX won the award by boosting sales six percent and reducing costs by more than 10 percent. Ensuring top-notch customer service skills were in place helped yield a 53 percent increase in operating profit and resulted in the first Morale, Welfare and Recreation payout in years.

King emphasized the importance of the associates who earned the award, and said without them and their hard work the award wouldn't have been possible. He recognized that while the Panama City Exchange is small by comparison, the associates here need to be multi-talented. Debbie Elder, Panama City NEX manager, wholeheartedly agreed.

"In this store, everyone does everything," said Elder, who has headed the NSA Panama City store for 18 months. In that time frame, the NEX's customer satisfaction survey score went up an incredible 18 points, to 88, with associate satisfaction up eight points to a score of 85.

"It's a real testament to Deb and her team—they have made Navy Exchange Panama City a great place to shop and work," said King. Nine 'Team Panama City' NEX associates attended the ceremony and were congratulated by command leadership and NEX customers across the base.

"This is a great honor for this base and its tenant commands. The bottom line is improving the quality of life for our Sailors and their families," said Cmdr. Jessica Pfefferkorn, Commanding Officer, Naval Support Activity Panama City. "This award is truly about the associates who made this happen."

Time Running Out for Troops, Veterans to Claim 'Stop Loss'

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Eligible service members and veterans have less than three months to apply for Retroactive "Stop Loss" Special Pay.

The special pay was approved by Congress as part of the 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act. Service members and veterans who involuntarily served or were on "Stop Loss" from Sept. 11, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2009, are entitled to $500 for each month served past their contracted end-of-service, resignation or retirement date.

"This additional money, this benefit, was granted by Congress to recognize that continued service," Lernes Hebert, acting director of the Defense Department's Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management office, said today in an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.

The Pentagon announced the program Oct. 21, 2009. Those eligible must apply by Oct. 21, 2010, to receive compensation. And, survivors of service members who were under 'Stop Loss' orders are entitled to the benefit.

The Defense Department wants to ensure everyone eligible for the special retroactive pay is compensated, Hebert said.

"We only have three months left for individuals to apply for this benefit," he said. "It's time to [apply] and get their application in. Notify anyone you've served with, even if they have separated, even family members of separated folks to apply."

Each service has its own criteria and specific outreach and application process. Members and veterans who qualify, or think they are eligible for the special pay must contact their individual services for eligibility requirements.

For more information about the program, procedures and points of contact for each individual service, visit www.defense.gov/stoploss.

So far $111 million has been paid out to 25,000 troops and veterans affected by 'Stop Loss,' Hebert said. The average payout is $3,000 to $4,000 per claim, he added.

The Pentagon has about $423 million left in the program's fund.

"Congress authorized a fairly generous number, so we're not concerned about the money running out," Hebert said. "We are concerned about individuals getting their applications in."

The Pentagon and individual services have been reaching out to qualified members, veterans and beneficiaries through direct mailings, veteran services organization, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the media. Those efforts will be ongoing through Oct. 21, 2010, as there is much money left to be claimed, Hebert said.

"The services have been doing tremendous outreach trying to get to all the eligibles," he said.

Initially there was a large response for claims under the program, Hebert said, but applications have since slowed down.

"Applications have tailed off," he said. "We suspect that some individuals are either engaged or busy or haven't taken the time to apply. Part of our continuing efforts is to remind them that they only have about three months left to get their application in."

Still, Hebert said he expects a surge of claims as the deadline nears. He urges those who are eligible for the retroactive pay to take advantage of it now.

"Congress authorized this for a one-year period," he said, noting it would require Congress to pass a new law in order to extend the program. "This is firm, so individuals out there who think they might be entitled to this benefit need to get their application in."

An estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries are entitled for the retroactive pay.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates maintains the authority to extend military service during a period of national emergency, an authority that dates back to 1983. Many of these "Stop Loss" troops were extended involuntarily in order for their units to preserve manpower and readiness in critical skill areas, Hebert said.

"The department uses it sparingly and only when it's absolutely necessary," he said. "It's contrary to the way we operate the all-volunteer force, but it's necessary in times when you have very high demands ... where you don't have a significant number of individuals with particular skills that you might need during a national emergency.

"It allows the department a bit of breathing room in order to re-establish additional personnel in those specialties," he added.

The Army is the only service with currently-serving troops affected by the 'Stop Loss' authority. But the Army is on track to have all involuntary service ended by March next year, Hebert said.

"['Stop Loss'] is a mechanism of last resort for maintaining forces during a national emergency, so while the authority for 'Stop Loss' will still exist, the secretary has made it very clear ... he wants the services not to use 'Stop Loss' at the current time," he said.

Shinseki Addresses Importance of Care for Women Veterans

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2010 - Women in today's military serve closer to the front lines of combat than ever before, and as they become veterans the Veterans Affairs Department will be ready to handle their care, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said yesterday.

Speaking at a forum on women veterans at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., Shinseki underscored the need to improve care for women veterans, citing their military contributions and the complexity of issues women may return with from battle.

"Over time, changes in warfighting doctrine dictate changes about where women serve within the battle space and the kinds of missions they are handed," he said. "These doctrinal changes will continue to have an impact on women. So, it becomes [VA's] responsibility to anticipate those changes and prepare for women veterans who will have shaped and lived those changes."

The community of women veterans is growing, Shinseki said. Women represent almost 8 percent of the veteran population, he said, as well as 6 percent of veterans who use VA health care services. VA officials expect that number to double within 10 years, Shinseki said.

"We marvel at the courage of women soldiers," he said. "[Women], like their male counterparts, have long dealt with the after-effects of battle."

The secretary explained that VA experienced a 20 percent spike in women using the department's health care system in 2009. In the previous six years, Shinseki said, VA saw a 17-percent increase.

"We are VA, [and] our goal is 100 percent accessibility to veterans who need us," he said. "We must anticipate and address the challenge faced by women."

Shinseki said VA's benefits administration's regional offices now have women veterans' coordinators to provide assistance. Also, each of the 144 VA medical centers has full-time women veterans' program managers, he said.

Also, he noted, VA is streamlining the process for both men and women veterans to receive treatment and benefits for post-traumatic stress.

Shinseki also pointed to research initiatives the VA is undertaking to improve overall care for women. He noted that VA published more articles on the impacts of women serving in the military from 2004 to 2008 than in the previous 26 years combined.

The topics of such research and related conferences include impacts of trauma and combat exposure among women, women veterans' preferences and health care needs, gender differences in health care for deployed women and women veterans and post-deployment care focused on trauma, mental health and reintegration, he noted.

Women veterans now are more visible in VA publications, marketing materials, posters and messages, Shinseki added.

"We need your insights and your energy to help prepare the way for where we need to be 25 years from now," he told the group. "This forum should establish a critical agenda for an annual dialogue on women, not only to update us, ... but more importantly to provide us the necessary vectors for women's programs in the years ahead."

HUD, VA officials launch $15 million demo program to prevent veteran homelessness

HUD, VA officials launch $15 million demo program to prevent veteran homelessness


7/29/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- In an effort to prevent homelessness among veterans, primarily those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs today announced that both agencies will invest a combined $15 million in five selected communities near military installations.

The HUD and VA grant funding is intended to provide housing assistance and supportive services to veterans who might otherwise be living in homeless shelters or on the streets.

Under the new Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration Program, existing HUD grantees, or "Continuums of Care," located near the following military installations will each receive $2 million: MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

In addition, VA medical centers in the following areas will each receive $1 million: Tampa, Fla.; San Diego; Dallas; Syracuse, N.Y.; and American Lake, Wash.

"The men and women who serve our nation deserve better than a life on the streets when they return home," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "These grants represent a first step toward designing the best interventions possible so that we can prevent homelessness for those heroes who sacrificed so much for us. It is also another step forward toward reaching President Obama's goal of preventing and ending homelessness in all its forms."

"While usually the strongest and most resilient of Americans, veterans still represent a disproportionate share of America's jobless, homeless, depressed, substance abusers, and suicides," said Secretary of VA Eric K. Shinseki. "Nowhere is our obligation to our citizens, and to our veterans who have defended our nation, more important, more visible, or more necessary than in our commitment to prevent and end homelessness."

"This effort is about reaching veterans and their families who are transitioning home and struggling to readjust," said Sen. Patty Murray, who established VHPD in the fiscal 2009 Housing Appropriations bill. "By providing access to stable housing, health care, and job training and outreach services, this program provides targeted support to our heroes who are returning home to a difficult economic climate. All veterans deserve housing and the dignity that comes with it, and this is another step to reach those who have sacrificed so much."

Through this combination of housing, health care and employment services provided through the Department of Labor, VHPD is designed to explore innovative early interventions to help prevent veteran homelessness, targeted to service members returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The three-year grants announced July 29 will help the five identified communities or "Continuums of Care" to use and track client-level data provided by VA and Department of Defense officials to target veterans who meet the eligibility criteria.

VA officials will act as the primary liaison to the grantee and will provide eligible veterans with access to VA health care and benefits.

HUD funds will provide short- or medium-term rental assistance, including security deposits, utility payments and case management. In addition, the program will offer community-based supportive services appropriate for veterans and their families, including child care and family services.

VHPD is also intended to improve the understanding of the unique needs of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

HUD officials anticipate that it will take approximately 90 days from the date these grant agreements are signed for selected grantees to be able to identify and serve veteran individuals and/or families who qualify for assistance under VHPD.

VHPD also supports the Obama Administration's plan to prevent and end homelessness. Last month, HUD and 18 other federal agencies unveiled Opening Doors, an unprecedented federal strategy to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015, and to end homelessness among children, families and youth by 2020.

Retired, former Airmen eligible for stop loss special pay

Daniel P. Elkins
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs Office

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFRNS) -- Thousands of current, retired and former Air Force members remain eligible to receive $500 in retroactive special pay for each month they were affected by stop loss. Airmen have until Oct. 21 to apply through the Air Force Personnel Center here.

Air Force people eligible include active, retired and former members as well as Reserve component members who served on active duty while their enlistment or period of obligated service was involuntarily extended, or whose eligibility for separation or retirement was suspended as a result of stop loss. Those who accepted a selective re-enlistment bonus subsequent to being affected by stop loss are not eligible for the special pay.

Air Force officials used stop loss for Operation Enduring Freedom from Oct. 2, 2001, through Jan. 31, 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom from May 2 through Dec. 31, 2003. Individuals who were deployed during either operation may be eligible beyond the inclusive dates depending on their Air Force specialty and deployment return date. The 2009 War Supplemental Appropriation Act set aside $534.4 million for the retroactive stop loss special pay compensation authority.

Personnel officials are encouraging those who were involuntarily held on active duty during either of the stop loss periods to contact AFPC to determine if they might be eligible for the special pay compensation.

“We want to exhaust all efforts in our attempts to reach as many eligible members as possible while the authority is in place to compensate them for their extended duty,” said Col. Bill Foote, the AFPC director of personnel services. “Of course, many of those eligible to receive this special pay are no longer in our ranks, so we’re opening channels to reach out to veterans to help spread the word about this valuable benefit throughout their communities.”

More than 3,000 claims by Airmen have been approved for retroactive stop loss special pay since officials here began accepting claims in September 2009. Officials estimate an additional 13,000 current and former Air Force members may be eligible for the compensation.

Whether or not Air Force veterans are sure they are eligible, Colonel Foote encourages those impacted by stop loss to apply. Claims are evaluated based upon historical records already available to personnel officials as well as any supporting documentation the applicant may submit.

To file a claim, eligible members or legally designated beneficiaries may download a stop loss claim application at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/stoploss. Applicants who were serving in the Reserve or Guard at the time of stop loss may apply by visiting the Air Reserve Personnel Center website at https://arpc.afrc.af.mil/vPC-GR.

For more information on program eligibility and claims instructions, call the Total Force Service Center at 800-525-0102.

Army Releases Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report

The Army today released the Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention (HP/RR/SP) Report, the result of a focused 15-month effort to better understand the increasing rate of suicides in the force. This candid report is intended to inform and educate Army leaders on the importance of recognizing and reducing high risk behavior related to suicide and accidental death, and reducing the stigma associated with behavioral health and treatment. This report represents the next phase in the Army's ongoing campaign to promote resiliency in a force that has been at war for nearly a decade.

"The dedicated effort behind this report sends a clear message to our force that we take the resiliency of our soldiers and families very seriously," said Secretary of the Army John McHugh. "This effort is part of our culture to look closely at ourselves, and to make continuous improvements in our capability - but most importantly, to reduce the number of soldiers we lose to suicide."

"This comprehensive review exposes gaps in how we identify, engage, and mitigate high-risk behavior among our soldiers. After nearly a decade of war we must keep pace with the expanding needs of our strained Army, and continuously identify and address the gaps that exist in our policies, programs and services," said Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey.

Casey told the Army's two- and three-star commanders and command sergeants major recently that "our challenge over the next several years will be to maintain our combat edge at an appropriate tempo while reestablishing garrison systems to better care for our soldiers and families. The combination of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness with these health promotion efforts provides the foundation to improve the resilience of the force."

Unprecedented operational tempo has dictated that leaders remain primarily focused on preparing for their next deployment. As a result, enforcement of policies designated to ensure good order and discipline has atrophied. This, in turn, has led to an increasing population of soldiers who display high risk behavior which erodes the health of the force.

The report grew out of a series of visits to six Army installations directed by Casey and led by Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli in Spring 2009 to look at suicide prevention efforts in the force. "What we witnessed were real indicators of stress on the force, and an increasing propensity for soldiers to engage in high risk behavior," Chiarelli said. "We recognized almost immediately we had to widen the aperture - risk in the force cannot be mitigated by suicide prevention alone."

The Army's inward and transparent review is documented in this report. It addresses the full range of issues related to HP/RR/SP, outlines and defines the problem, documents actions taken, and makes recommendations for the way ahead.

Key findings include:

• gaps in the current HP/RR/SP policies, processes and programs necessary to mitigate high risk behaviors;

• an erosion of adherence to existing Army policies and standards;

• an increase in indicators of high risk behavior including illicit drug use, other crimes and suicide attempts;

• lapses in surveillance and detection of high risk behavior;

• an increased use of prescription antidepressants, amphetamines and narcotics;

• degraded accountability of disciplinary, administrative and reporting processes; and

• the continued high rate of suicides, high risk related deaths and other adverse outcomes.

"These findings demonstrate that many of our programs are unbalanced and lack integration, while reinforcing recommendations that will help us improve the quality of our programs and services," Chiarelli said.

McHugh has directed that leaders at all levels become familiar with the report. It informs leaders throughout the force about the consequences associated with high risk behavior; provides a candid, transparent and balanced review of HP/RR/SP issues; documents the Army's actions to date to improve programs and services; integrates policies, processes and programs for oversight of the force; and recommends solutions to eliminate gaps and unnecessary redundancies.

Programs must be realigned to improve support to the soldier, family and unit. Reporting and data-sharing on high risk behavior among unit commanders, medical and garrison service providers, and law enforcement officials must be synchronized. The report also promotes continued use of the Department of the Army's Health Promotion Council which has aggressively addressed this issue for a year-and-a-half.

Report recommendations represent the next phase of the campaign which has already implemented more than 200 separate initiatives over the last 15 months. For example, the Army tightened enlistment standards; established a Community Health Promotion Council at each installation; improved access and coordination between primary (medical) care and behavioral health providers; worked to stabilize unit leadership after redeployment; expanded behavioral health screening; instituted a confidential alcohol treatment program; aggressively recruited new behavioral health counselors; and created 72 new positions for chaplains, among other things.

"Continued focus on mentoring and training our leaders and service providers is key to fixing these problems. Part of leadership is creating an environment where it's okay to ask for help - and where it's our duty to extend a helping hand," Chiarelli said. "This, too, is in keeping with the Army Warrior Ethos to never leave a fallen comrade."

Report findings indicate there are no universal solutions to address the complexities of personal, social and behavioral health issues that lead to suicide.

"We've often said that the Army is a reflection of society, but we have soldiers today who are experiencing a lifetime of stress during their first six years of service. Army leaders at all levels remain dedicated to promoting resiliency, coping skills, and help-seeking behavior across our force," Chiarelli said.

The full report is located at http://www.army.mil/hprrsp

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carrier Strike Group 2 Welcomes New Commander

From USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2 held a change of command ceremony aboard the strike group's flagship, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) July 29.

Rear Adm. Nora W. Tyson assumed command of Carrier CSG 2.

Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, Vice Adm. Melvin G. "Mel" Williams Jr., presided over the ceremony, which included Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead as the guest speaker.

"I am honored and humbled to have been selected to this position; and I promise you, I will give everything I have to the mission and the Sailors and families of Carrier Strike Group 2," Tyson said.

Tyson, a native of Memphis, Tenn., joined the Navy in 1979 after graduating from Vanderbilt University and completing Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I., that same year.

As a naval flight officer, Tyson's Navy career included three tours in Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 4 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. She also served as the commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). Under her command, Bataan deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and led the Navy's relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The CNO spoke about Tyson's unique qualifications for her new role as the head of CSG 2, referring specifically to her previous assignment as Commander, Task Force 73 and Commander, Logistics Group, Western Pacific in Singapore.

"Singapore is a place I know well and have much affection for," said Roughead. "But that job comes with all the challenges of providing logistics and operational coordination in an area of key strategic interest that happens to encompass 51 million square miles of sea space. It should come as no surprise that I do not assign officers there by chance."

Tyson spoke of how proud she is to take on the latest and most challenging role of her career, leading a strike group consisting of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, the ships of Destroyer Group 22, and the squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 8. As CSG 2's 69th commander, Tyson talked about the critical role of the Carrier Strike Group in the nation's warfighting arsenal.

"As we all know, these are challenging times to wear our uniform and serve our nation," Tyson said. "Demand for our naval forces will only grow, putting increasing pressure on the finite resources available to us."

She went on to say that the Strike Group would "leverage our collective experience and creativity to do whatever is necessary to defend our nation. We will be ready to respond effectively and efficiently to any tasking we might receive. Our leadership, and our fellow countrymen, expect nothing less from us," Tyson added.

CSG 2 is scheduled to deploy in 2011.

MILITARY CONTRACTS July 29, 2010

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

General Electric Aircraft Engines, Lynn, Mass. is being awarded a maximum $445,281,495 firm-fixed-price, sole-source, requirement-type contract for engine parts. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The original proposal was Web-solicited with one response. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Richmond, Richmond, Va., is the contracting activity (SPM400-03-D-9404).

PAPCO, Inc.*, Virginia Beach, Va., is being awarded a maximum $61,598,056 firm-fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other locations of performance are Maryland and Ohio. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and federal civilian agencies. The original proposal was solicited on the Federal Business Opportunities website with 52 responses. The date of performance completion is July 31, 2013. Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-D-4024).

Fannon Petroleum Services*, Gainesville, Va., is being awarded a maximum $35,602,132 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other locations of performance are the District of Columbia and Maryland. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force and federal civilian agencies. The original proposal was solicited on the Federal Business Opportunities website with 52 responses. The date of performance completion is July 31, 2013. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-D-4007).

UNICOR/Federal Prison Industries, Washington, D.C., is being awarded a maximum $7,192,800 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for short-sleeve Army t-shirts. Other location of performance is Georgia. Using service is Army. The original proposal was solicited on the Federal Business Opportunities website with 11 responses. The date of performance completion is July 28, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM1C1-10-D-F016).

NAVY

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $65,999,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of 32 Lot 85 Harpoon missile bodies (HMB) for the government of Taiwan; 4 Harpoon canister grade "B" missiles for the government of Canada; and associated spares and support. In addition, this contract provides for the procurement of Harpoon missile spares for the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, Turkey and Singapore, to include containers; Block II guidance section upgrade kits; wire bundle assemblies; and guidance control units. Work will be performed in St. Charles, Mo. (55.3 percent); McKinney, Texas (10.7 percent); Toledo, Ohio (6.2 percent); Huntsville, Ala. (4.5 percent); Lititz, Pa. (3.7 percent); Middletown, Conn. (2.7 percent); Grove, Okla. (2.3 percent); Galena, Kan. (1.6 percent); Minneapolis, Minn. (1.5 percent); Motherwell, United Kingdom (1.2 percent); Elkton, Md. (1.1 percent); Kirkwood, Mo. (1 percent); Anniston, Ala. (0.8 percent); Clearwater, Fla. (0.7 percent); McAlester, Okla. (0.6 percent); Melbourne, Fla. (0.6 percent); and various locations in and outside the contiguous U.S. (5.5 percent). Work is expected to be completed in June 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. This contract combines purchases for the governments of Taiwan ($43,846,554; 66.4 percent), Canada ($10,145,802; 15.3 percent), Portugal ($7,622,318; 11.5 percent), the Netherlands ($3,207,254; 4.8 percent), Japan ($514,864; 0.8 percent), the United Kingdom ($263,986; 0.4 percent), Israel ($194,635; 0.3 percent), Pakistan ($169,360; 0.3 percent), Turkey ($31,643; 0.1 percent), and Singapore ($2,584; 0.1 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-10-C-0053).

BAE Systems Land & Armaments, Ground Systems Division, York, Pa., is being awarded a $64,839,600 modification to previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity delivery order #0013, under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5025) for the purchase of 32 U.S. Special Operations Command Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored utility vehicles and associated integrated logistics support sustainment. Work will be performed in York, Pa., and is expected to be completed by the July 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $24,448,200 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Insitu, Inc., Bingen, Wash., is being awarded a $43,697,168 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the engineering, manufacture and development of the small tactical unmanned aircraft system/Tier II unmanned aircraft system III for the Marine Corps. Work will be performed in Bingen, Wash. (46.7 percent), Hood River, Ore. (45.6 percent), and Melbourne, Fla. (7.7 percent). Work is expected to be completed in September 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $788,931 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals, with four proposals received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, N.J., is the contracting activity (N68335-10-C-0054).

Walbridge-Brasfield & Gorrie, JV*, Detroit, Mich., is being awarded a $40,551,000 firm-fixed-price contract for construction of the Main Exchange replacement at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda. The work to be performed provides for the design and construction of a new facility to provide a two-story main exchange and an elevated parking deck to meet patron and employee parking requirements. Work will be performed in Bethesda, Md., and is expected to be completed by June 2012. Operation and maintenance, Bureau of Medicine contract funds in the amount of $2,913,854 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 21 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N40080-10-C-0012).

Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, Goleta, Calif., is being awarded a $23,935,331 performance-based logistics requirements contract for supply support for weapons replaceable assemblies used in support of the F/A-18 A/B/E/F aircraft. Work will be performed in Goleta, Calif. (65 percent); Jacksonville, Fla. (20 percent); Tucson, Ariz. (5 percent); Forest, Miss. (5 percent); and El Segundo, Calif. (5 percent). Work is expected to be completed by July 2011. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively awarded. The Naval Inventory Control Point, Mechanicsburg, Pa., is the contracting activity (N00383-10-D-007D).

Brady G2*, San Diego, Calif. (N62583-09-D-0142); Enviro Compliance Solutions, Inc.*, Tustin, Calif. (N62583-09-D-0143); Accord Engineering, Inc.*, Santa Ana, Calif. (N62583-09-D-0144); RORE-ITSI, JV, LLC*, San Diego, Calif. (N62583-09-D-0145); and Environmental Cost Management, Inc.*, Costa Mesa, Calif. (N62583-09-D-0146), are each being awarded a modification to exercise option year one under previously awarded firm-fixed price 8(a) environmental multiple award contract for performance-based environmental consulting services in support of various Navy, Marine Corps and federal government programs, and other business lines that request assistance throughout the U.S. and its territories from the environmental restoration division of the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center, Port Hueneme, Calif. The combined total value for all five contractors is $15,000,000. No task orders are being issued at this time. The total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $30,000,000. Work will be performed at locations in (95 percent) and outside (5 percent) the contiguous United States. Work is expected to be July 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Specialty Center Acquisitions, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity.

Watts-Obayashi, JV, Honolulu, Hawaii, is being awarded an $11,843,832, firm-fixed-price contract for renovation and construction of a joint support facility. Work will be performed at an unspecified location, and is expected to be completed by September 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Asia Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with two proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Far East, Yokosuka, Japan, is the contracting activity (N40084-10-C-0003).

LRAD Corp.*, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $6,192,700 firm fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for integrated acoustic hailing devices (IAHD). The IAHD is a remotely controlled component of the shipboard protection system and provides a key capability to instruct, warn and deter approaching threats. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by August 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with two offers received. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, Ind., is the contracting activity (N00164-10-D-JQ16).

AIR FORCE

CAE USA, Inc., Tampa, Fla., was awarded a $10,643,648.00 contract to purchase seven C-5 avionics modernization program training devices and five reliability enhancement re-engining program training devices for the C-5 aircrew training system for the following users: Air Material Command, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command. At this time, $10,643,648.00 has been obligated. GHMKA, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (F8223-10-R-3000/2).

Science Applications International Corp., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $6,806,644 contract modification which includes pre-deployment preparations and training necessary for personnel to deploy outside the contiguous United States (OCONUS). However, no OCONUS performance is required under this task order. At this time, $6,806,644 has been obligated. Det 1 AFRL/PKSR,Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-07-D-1104; Task Order 0004; Modification 7). DEFENSE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING SERVICE

Bank of America N.A. Military Bank-Overseas Division, San Antonio, Texas, was awarded fiscal 2011 option of $7,200,000 to provide full banking services that are comparable, in scope and cost, to those available in the continental U.S. to authorized individuals that include: active duty U.S. military personnel; DoD civilian employees who are U.S. citizens; U.S. citizens who are employees of all other U.S. government departments, agencies, private organizations and non-appropriated fund instrumentalities carrying on functions on a DoD installation overseas; as well as authorized family members of such military and civilian employees. The program management office is in San Antonio, Texas; however, the majority of the work is performed on U.S. military facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Korea, Diego Garcia, Honduras, Cuba, Japan, Okinawa and the Kwajalein Atoll. Under this optionm work will be performed from Oct. 1, 2010 through Sept. 30, 2011. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service Contract Services Directorate, Columbus, Ohio, is the contracting activity (MDA210-02-D-0003-0010).

HSC 25 Rescues Stranded Hikers on Guam

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Peter Lewis, Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs

AGAT, Guam (NNS) -- Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 conducted a search and rescue (SAR) operation and recovered four civilian hikers on Guam July 28.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Mark Dennison, HSC 25 operations officer, the command received a request for assistance from the Guam Fire Department Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) around 6 p.m., saying that four civilians were stranded on a ridgeline in the area of Cetti Bay in Agat, Guam.

"When we got the call from Guam Fire and Rescue, we were in the middle of exercises," Dennison said. "But we dropped everything, and within 15 minutes we had a chopper on sight, and eyes on the stranded hikers."

Four of the most senior air crewmen at the command were dispatched for the rescue. The team included Dennison, who piloted the helicopter; Lt. Cmdr. Brent Moore, co-pilot; Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 1st Class (NAC/AW) Billy Price; and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class (NAC/AW) Roy Black.

"The hikers all had on brightly colored clothing, which made it easy for us to spot them," Dennison said. "After doing a quick sweep of the area, we hovered and lowered a rescue swimmer to check on the hikers."

Black, who ascertained the hikers' condition, said that they were "a little shaken up, but otherwise okay."

"I checked the four teenagers' conditions. They didn't have any major injuries," he said. "We raised them into the chopper and took them to the hospital. It was a pretty straightforward SAR mission."

The experience of the crew led to a quick rescue, which ended about 45 minutes after HSC 25 received the request. The hikers were taken to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. No major injuries were reported.

"It's great that there's such effective communication and cooperation between the local and military emergency services," Dennison said. "Thanks to that kind of teamwork, missions like this go smoothly and lives are saved."

Guam Fire Department officials said that the partnership between the Navy and local community is a benefit to the island.

"Having this relationship with the military provides airborne search and rescue capabilities that we wouldn't have otherwise," said Fire Service Specialist Joey San Nicholas, of Guam FRS. "It's a real advantage to the locals on Guam."

Black added that it was a great feeling to be able to help a group of local residents and show the Guam community that the military is here to help in any way possible.

"It was an awesome feeling to help out those scared kids. I am sure their parents are happy to have them safe at home," he said. "This is what I joined the Navy for, and this is why I love my job."

The mission of HSC 25 is to deploy helicopter detachments to conduct operations for the Navy and for national defense, and to provide logistics, search and rescue, force protection and disaster response to Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands.

HSC 25 is the Navy's only forward deployed MH-60S expeditionary squadron. As a part of Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific, it provides an armed helicopter capability for U.S. 7th and 5th Fleets, as well as detachments to various commands covering a diverse mission set.

Fleet Gets Training at the Source

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) LaTunya Howard, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- More than 40 commands from around the fleet received detailed personnel management training to support upcoming deployments during a Strike Group Manning Conference here July 19 – 21.

The conference, hosted by the Enlisted Personnel Readiness and Support Branch, provided a variety of briefs on how to better manage Sailors. Tips were given to fleet personnel managers, many with little manning experience, on how to coordinate with distribution experts at NPC.

"We start looking at our manning structure one year out, when preparing for deployment," said Lt. j.g. Toni Fadden, Strike Fighter Squadron 41, Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. "We look at our manpower documents and assess the command's manning requirements. Do we have enough of one rating or too much of another? Maybe I just need the ability to get my folks to training. We scrub our numbers in advance of this type of visit so we have focused efforts."

Commands were briefed on topics such as, Career Management System/Interactive Detailing, Perform-to-Serve (PTS), Individual Augmentation (IA), limited-duty and pregnancy placement, Enlisted Manning Inquiry Reports, Personnel Manning Reports, and Enlisted Distribution and Verification Reports management.

Guest speakers from U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Naval Air Forces were on hand to answer questions about manning issues facing the fleet. Attendees were also given the opportunity to speak with enlisted community managers, detailers and their command's placement coordinators.

"The conference gave a lot of good information in different areas," said Fadden. "Topics ranged from 'Big Navy' ideas and where leadership wants to take us to PTS and the changes that are coming with that. The IA brief also had great information on changes in the near future."

NPC experts said the conference was a good avenue for giving information to the fleet.

"They need to understand how Overseas Contingency Operations Individual Augmentation assignments are generated and sourced. This gathering helps commands understand the process; and that leads to greater fleet awareness and support for these requirements," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Shipe, Enlisted Overseas Contingency Operations branch head.

NPC hosts Enlisted Manning Conferences periodically for sea and shore commands to help identify and resolve manning issues.

Time Running Out for Troops, Veterans to Claim 'Stop Loss' Pay

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

July 28, 2010 - Eligible servicemembers and veterans have less than three months to apply for Retroactive "Stop Loss" Special Pay.

The special pay was approved by Congress as part of the 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act. Servicemembers and veterans who involuntarily served or were on "Stop Loss" from Sept. 11, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2009, are entitled to $500 for each month served past their contracted end-of-service, resignation or retirement date.

"This additional money, this benefit, was granted by Congress to recognize that continued service," Lernes "Bear" Hebert, acting director of the Defense Department's Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management office, said today in an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.

The Pentagon announced the program Oct. 21, 2009. Those eligible must apply by Oct. 21, 2010, to receive compensation. And, survivors of servicemembers who were under 'Stop Loss' orders are entitled to the benefit.

The Defense Department wants to ensure everyone eligible for the special retroactive pay is compensated, Hebert said.

"We only have three months left for individuals to apply for this benefit," he said. "It's time to [apply] and get their application in. Notify anyone you've served with, even if they have separated, even family members of separated folks to apply."

Each service has its own criteria and specific outreach and application process. Members and veterans who qualify, or think they are eligible for the special pay must contact their individual services for eligibility requirements.

Information about the program, procedures and points of contact for each individual service can be found at www.defense.gov/stoploss

So far $111 million has been paid out to 25,000 troops and veterans affected by 'Stop Loss,' Hebert said. The average payout is $3,000 to $4,000 per claim, he added.

The Pentagon has about $423 million left in the program's fund.

"Congress authorized a fairly generous number, so we're not concerned about the money running out," Hebert said. "We are concerned about individuals getting their applications in."

The Pentagon and individual services have been reaching out to qualified members, veterans and beneficiaries through direct mailings, veteran services organization, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the media. Those efforts will be ongoing through Oct. 21, 2010, as there is much money left to be claimed, Hebert said.

"The services have been doing tremendous outreach trying to get to all the eligibles," he said.

Initially there was a large response for claims under the program, Hebert said, but applications have since slowed down.

"Applications have tailed off," he said. "We suspect that some individuals are either engaged or busy or haven't taken the time to apply. Part of our continuing efforts is to remind them that they only have about three months left to get their application in."

Still, Hebert said he expects a surge of claims as the deadline nears. He urges those who are eligible for the retroactive pay to take advantage of it now.

"Congress authorized this for a one-year period," he said, noting it would require Congress to pass a new law in order to extend the program. "This is firm, so individuals out there who think they might be entitled to this benefit need to get their application in."

An estimated 145,000 servicemembers, veterans and beneficiaries are entitled for the retroactive pay.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates maintains the authority to extend military service during a period of national emergency, an authority that dates back to 1983. Many of these "Stop Loss" troops were extended involuntarily in order for their units to preserve manpower and readiness in critical skill areas, Hebert said.

"The department uses it sparingly and only when it's absolutely necessary," he said. "It's contrary to the way we operate the all-volunteer force, but it's necessary in times when you have very high demands ... where you don't have a significant number of individuals with particular skills that you might need during a national emergency.

"It allows the department a bit of breathing room in order to re-establish additional personnel in those specialties," he added.

The Army is the only service with currently-serving troops affected by the 'Stop Loss' authority. But the Army is on track to have all involuntary service ended by March next year, Hebert said.

"['Stop Loss'] is a mechanism of last resort for maintaining forces during a national emergency, so while the authority for 'Stop Loss' will still exist, the secretary has made it very clear ... he wants the services not to use 'Stop Loss' at the current time," he said.

Louisiana Guard partners with Belize safety team

By Capt. Beverly G. Couto
Louisiana National Guard

(7/27/10) - The Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing partnered with a Belize Defence Force safety team at Naval Air Station – Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans, July 8-10, to reinforce the importance of ground safety procedures.

Louisiana has state partnerships with both Belize and Uzbekistan through the National Guard State Partnership Program, which links states with foreign countries in an effort to develop international affairs.

The 159th Fighter Wing provided the Belize Defence Force safety team with an overview of leading mishap prevention techniques and tools vital to Louisiana Air National Guard operations.

This joint training will aid the Belize Defence Force’s safety team in mitigating hazards at their home station.

Chief Master Sgt. Donnie Dunn, 159th Fighter Wing ground safety manager, said the teams went over aircraft, facility, equipment and personnel ground safety procedures.

“We were able to discuss, in detail, certain aspects of safety that they had questions about,” said Dunn.

The goal of the visit was to learn, from one another, new ways to prevent personnel from getting injured and to reduce property damage.

The Belize Defence Force and the Louisiana Air National Guard have different missions and needs; however, this was a great learning opportunity for both.

“It’s good to see how differently things are done and to get new ideas,” said 1st. Lt. Adran Ramirez, a pilot with the Belize Defence Force.

These cooperative visits reinforce the value of the State Partnership Program and help build long term relationships with other countries or regions with common interests.

Air Force Announces F-35 Basing Proposal

The Department of the Air Force announced today its proposal to base 59 F-35 aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. This proposal is contingent upon the result of a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS), which should be released in the early fall 2010, and includes the preferred alternative (Alt. 1A) of basing the 59 F-35 aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base main base. Flight operations will also be conducted at Duke and Choctaw Fields.

This decision, approved by the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force, supports the recommendation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission to establish the F-35 Initial Joint Training Center at Eglin.

"The Air Force has completed its initial analysis of a full range of alternatives and determined that basing 59 F-35s at Eglin main base is the preferred alternative," said Kathleen Ferguson, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations.

"This is not a final basing decision; it is the alternative we believe will fulfill our mission responsibilities while considering economic, environmental, and technical factors. The community will be invited to comment on the alternatives presented in the SEIS."

The record of decision is anticipated to be announced following the completion of the final SEIS.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Air Force Personnel Center stands up new Operating Location

By Kenny Pruitt
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The recent establishment of an operating location at the Air Force District of Washington represents the next step in centralizing civilian staffing by the Air Force Personnel Center.

The transition ensures reach-back capability for on-site personnel specialists who fill positions located at Headquarters Air Force, AFDW, Bolling Air Force Base and tenants assigned to the National Capital Region.

"This operating location will fill civilian vacancies for their serviced customers but will have better insight into the local mission and be able to forecast surges in workload for the National Capital Region," said Ryan Ferrell, AFDW’s Manpower, Personnel and Services director. "Managers and customers at the National Capital Region will receive direct hiring assistance and on-site support from the AFPC operating location."

Many of the existing AFDW civilian staff members have transitioned into the operating location to become new members of AFPC. These personnelists understand the processes and mission for their respective location and bring their unique expertise to AFPC, further enhancing the effectiveness of the civilian personnel hiring process.

"With an on-site AFPC presence at AFDW, AFPC will be able to meet the unique challenges and the needs of senior clientele located at the Pentagon and National Capital Region,” said Ms. Michelle LoweSolis, AFPC's Civilian Force Integration director. "Our expectation is to provide the high quality staffing services required by our senior leaders and ensure the hiring process is customer focused."

With the activation of the new operating location, the role of the team is to seamlessly continue to produce job referral lists, extend job offers, perform in-processing for new civilian employees and provide hiring advice to managers. The transition process should be transparent to customers.

"AFPC continues to search for innovative ways to meet the needs of our customers," said Ms. LoweSolis. “Our primary goal is to ensure we deliver capability to commanders so together we can meet Air Force missions."

Kearsarge ARG Wraps up COMPTUEX

By Mass Communication 1st Class Phil Beaufort, USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) successfully completed its composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) July 27

The three-week exercise is designed to test the interoperability and command and control capabilities of the Kearsarge ARG.

The in-depth, scenario-driven exercise focused on simultaneous mission sets and enhanced realism to stress the capabilities of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge ARG, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4.

"The planners at Commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic really put together an intensive training package," said USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Commanding Officer Capt. Baxter Goodly. "They designed scenarios that required Sailors, Marines and PHIBRON staff to work together in order to overcome each of the obstacles they placed before us to meet numerous objectives."

The obstacles included small boat attacks, mines, enemy aircraft and natural disasters.

According to Operations Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Weber, the operational tempo in Kearsarge's Combat Control Center was dynamic.

"Once you started working the scenarios, it could get pretty intense. At times you'd get so wrapped up that you'd forget that none of it was real, and it was just an exercise," said Weber. "But I think this was exactly the type of training we needed prior to deployment, especially for our younger Sailors who haven't gone on deployment yet."

According to Kearsarge Command Master Chief Ken Schmidt, integrating the Sailors, Marines and staff members into a cohesive fighting unit prior to deployment is one of the keys to a successful cruise.

"In addition to all the training everyone is getting, this underway really gives the Sailors and Marines an opportunity to get to know each other and learn to work together," said Schmidt. "Knowing who to go to in order to get things done is half the battle on any deployment."

Rear Adm. Dennis E. FitzPatrick, commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic, who embarked Kearsarge to monitor the progress of the exercise, said the Kearsarge ARG exceeded his expectations.

"I think Kearsarge, 26 MEU and the PHIBRON staff did an outstanding job responding to each of the scenarios we provided them," said Fitzpatrick. "We incorporated a large number of independent deployers role playing throughout the exercise."

Fitzpatrick said another addition to this COMPTUEX was the involvement of the Royal Navy.

"This COMPTUEX is unusual in that we had the participation of the British Navy," said Fitzpatrick. "Their participation will pay off on deployment when the ARG begins working with our coalitions partners."

Fitzpatrick said the importance of exercises like COMPTUEX can't be overstated.

"The Sailors and Marines who deploy overseas are representing the Navy and United States. We have to get this right, and everything I've seen out here tells me we will," said Fitzpatrick.

New Pearl Harbor Fitness Center Under Construction

By Thomas Obungen, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Construction of a new, modern, centralized fitness center that will feature amenities of a modern sports club began July 26 as ground was broken on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for the new facility.

The new fitness center will ultimately become the main gymnasium for the Pearl Harbor side of the joint base and serve as many as 18,000 monthly patrons from more than 200 commands in the area.

"Fitness center facilities and the delivery of fitness programs are essential tools for Navy and Air Force personnel to meet their physical readiness requirement," said Tom Moriarty, Navy Region Hawaii's Morale, Welfare and Recreation director.

"By building these new, state-of-the-art facilities with the latest in fitness equipment, it will make it easier for Sailors, airman and their families to improve their physical readiness and boost morale."

NAVFAC Hawaii awarded the design-build contract to Kiewit Building Group, Inc., in July 2009 for $24.3 million. Planning and design from Honolulu architectural firm Next Design LLC took just under a year, and the project has a scheduled completion date of November 2011.

The contract calls for construction of a two-story, environmentally-sustainable, 63,636 sq. ft. fitness center to be built with numerous recycled construction materials, photovoltaic arrays, and drought-tolerant landscaping.

The facility will also receive a new parking lot with plenty of bicycle racks that will support patrons of both the fitness center and Club Pearl. In addition, the contractor will also demolish four buildings in the area.

"In accordance with federal mandates, the new fitness center will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and have all the amenities of a modern sports club," said Ryan Go, NAVFAC Hawaii project manager. "The centralized and open air design allows patrons to easily choose from a wide-range of fitness activities and equipment without having to go to separate facilities."

Some of the amenities personnel will be able to take advantage of are two combination basketball/volleyball courts, a large workout area with weight training equipment, cardiovascular machinery, and two racquetball courts capable of hosting wallyball games (volleyball played on a racquetball court).

Medical Team Proves Crew is in Good Hands

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike Lenart, USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Medical Department, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 6, and medical personnel with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) tested their capabilities during a mass casualty drill July 25.

A simulated explosion in an urban environment set a scene similar to the one Marines from the 26th MEU could experience during deployment. The event began three hours of controlled chaos for the combined medical team aboard Kearsarge. A wave of 14 casualties, with injuries varying in severity, began arriving by helicopter to Kearsarge for urgent medical attention.

"We received patients with everything from broken bones, compromised airways, compound fractures in legs and arms, as well as amputations," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Harwood Garland, a Primary Triage corpsman. "Once we received and determined the severity of the injury, we moved them on to Secondary Triage, Intensive Care Unit (ICU), or the Operating Room (OR) for surgery."

Patients were quickly received, tracked and moved to the appropriate care area effectively, which impressed event the most senior medical officers.

"I thought this team performed really well during the previous mass casualty drill, but this one was absolutely spectacular," said Cmdr. Tracy Thompson, FST 6 officer in charge. "I'm really proud of everyone's performance during this hectic evolution."

With three different medical assets aboard Kearsarge, integration is key to the success of the drill and more importantly, the care of injured service members in a real life scenario.

"From Primary Triage, to the stretcher bearers, to Secondary Triage, everything ran smooth," said Garland. "We train everyday in different areas that all play a roll in a mass casualty scenario. On top of it all, we work hand-in-hand with a very professional and knowledgeable Fleet Surgical Team that is a model example of team players."

Along with training, the mass casualty drill was used to evaluate on board medical response capabilities.

"Commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic (CSFTL) is ensuring Kearsarge is ready to deploy in all areas and I had the pleasure to witness the medical portion of the assessment," said Navy Capt. John Burgess, fleet surgeon for 2nd Fleet and CSFTL medical assessor.

"The hair on the back of my neck stood as I watched this well-oiled machine perform at such a high level. I'm very proud to be here with great medical professionals and leaders. I know the Marines and crew will be in great hands during deployment."

The drill was performed in support of the medical assessment phase of Composite Training Unit Exercise, ensuring Kearsarge is capable and prepared to to go to sea for a scheduled deployment this fall.

USS Michigan Leads the Way by Kicking the Habit Early

By Electronics Technician 1st Class Gary Heppen, Commander Submarine Group 9 Public Affairs

USS MICHIGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- In preparation for the upcoming Submarine Force smoking ban beginning Dec. 31, USS Michigan (SSGN 727) (Blue) put the smoking lamp out almost six months early, July 27, at exactly 7:27 a.m.

The date and time were was chosen in honor of the ship's hull number. July 27, is known as Tuebor Day on board the Mighty Michigan, currently on her second SSGN deployment to the Western Pacific. Tuebor is Latin for 'I will defend,' and appears on both the ship's crest and the state of Michigan seal.

The crew has been preparing for this major change to shipboard life. Of the 54 smokers on board, 18 personnel enrolled in a Tobacco Cessation Program (TCP) run by the ship's independent duty corpsman, Chief Hospital Corpsman Robert Ripps.

Ripps said that the program consisted of weekly meetings and nicotine replacement therapy and was successful for 17 of the smokers enrolled.

"The TCP helped me to get over the hump of needing a routine after-watch cigarette," said Sonar Technician 2nd Class Joseph Camerlin, a smoker of 12 years. "I feel really good about not smoking. I haven't had a cigarette in over a month."

The crew supports starting the smoking ban nearly six months before the rest of the submarine fleet.

"Like everything else, we are ahead of the curve. What better day than 727 day, personally, I think it was a great choice, especially since it is my 32nd birthday," said Camerlin.

Chief Machinist's Mate Timothy Flansaas, Machinery division leading chief petty officer, is one of the 36 smokers who did not enroll in the TCP. He successfully quit 'cold turkey' on his own, and hasn't smoked since the ban was first announced.

Flansaas said he had to wrap his mind around the fact that he really didn't want to smoke anymore. "I calculated how much money the next cigarette pack would cost me," said Flansaas.

Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Adam Vogel noticed that quitting smoking has increased his lung capacity and allowed him to run farther during his workout. To help encourage working out as an available stress relief instead of smoking, fitness options on board have improved, including an upgraded flat screen television under the Missile Compartment Logistics and Escape Trunk, so Sailors can work out using video-based fitness programs.

"As a former smoker for more than 10 years, I understand the challenges of quitting smoking. It is extremely hard to stop when you are at sea. We want our Sailors to be successful, so we decided to put the smoking lamp out during this mission cycle," said Command Master Chief Victor Smith. By putting the smoking lamp out at the now, toward the end of the mission cycle, the command's plan is for the Sailors to quit on board the boat, and then go into the homeport training period with a fresh start and plenty of support from their family and friends, said Smith.

"The day we extinguish the smoking lamp on board is a significant event in the lives of our Sailors. I cannot think of a more appropriate day to start a new and healthier life than 727 day," said Smith.

Overseas Screening Discrepancies Cost Time, Money


by Wm. Cullen James, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Navy leadership is asking commands to sharpen their focus when screening Sailors for overseas service, according to NAVADMIN 209/10.

The message states that the Navy Overseas Screening Program is a key component guaranteeing that proper support is available to the Sailors and families stationed overseas. Discrepancies in the process cost the Navy nearly $1 million in fiscal year 2009. According to Cmdr. Carl Chaffin, Distribution Management and Procedures branch head, medical issues account for about 50 percent of the discrepancies.

"The transferring medical facility must request a waiver for any condition that will be ongoing after transfer," he explained. "Any medications required overseas must be cleared with the overseas medical treatment facility to ensure the medications are available. Some military medical facilities overseas have had their services reduced and the local medical services have not been certified by TRICARE for reimbursement."

Other issues cited in the NAVADMIN include legal issues, indebtedness and general administrative errors.

"Commands need to focus on every aspect of the screening form, NAVPERS 1300/16," said Chaffin. Specific non-medical areas that require focus are "ongoing legal [criminal and civil] cases and pre-service moral waivers. Also, the spouse's income should not be included in the overseas financial plan unless the spouse has been assured employment upon arrival."

In the case of a discrepancy where a Sailor reports to an overseas command, "The family can be uprooted on short notice. In the case where a dependent is unqualified – the family is returned to the U.S. and the Sailor continues the tour. If a Sailor is unqualified or must be present for the care of a family member, then the Sailor is usually sent to a U.S.-based command," Chaffin said.

The total number of discrepancies against the number of overseas orders written is relatively low, but Chaffin said commands can do better.

"Sometimes these discrepancies are the fault of the Sailor, but in most cases it is either the command not checking with Family Advocacy, legal, etc., or the medical screener not requesting waivers from the overseas medical provider prior to marking Sailors/family members qualified for overseas assignment."

Makin Island Holds First Shipboard College Fair

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kellie Arakawa, USS Makin Island Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Makin Island (LHD 8) held the command's first shipboard college fair with nearly 20 colleges, universities and educational organizations in attendence July 26.

The purpose of the fair was to help Sailors understand their education benefits and give them an opportunity to meet directly with college representatives.

The fair was also preceded by an educational "power week," where navy counselors conducted briefs on tuition assistance benefits, Navy College and other training opportunities.

"We want the young Sailors to know that this fair is an incentive to help them with their future both in and outside the Navy," said Navy Counselor 1st Class (SW/AW) Debbie Hamlin. "So we made it easy for the Sailors. They don't have to go out to Navy College; we're bringing Navy College to them."

Yeoman Seaman Tiara Rials said she appreciated the convenience of the college fair and found it beneficial to speak with college representatives in person. She also said attending the fair helped motivate her to start taking college classes.

"I have an appointment already with some of the representatives to establish a degree plan and get my ball rolling," Rials said. "Why and start later? You can do it now and be in a better place to do what you want to do when you get out of the military, if that's what you choose."

Navy Counselor 1st Class (SW) Jason Duque said he encourages Sailors to take advantage of as many educational opportunities as they can. "Since we're doing a lot of in-port time between now and deployment, it's a good time for them to go ahead and start taking classes," he said.

Whether or not a Sailor has just graduated boot camp or served for several years, Hamlin said all Sailors should utilize their time in the Navy to pursue an education. "The hardest thing is to start," she said. "But once they start, I'm sure they're going to get that drive."

Carrier Strike Group 2 to Hold Change of Command Ceremony

From USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2 will hold a change of command ceremony on board USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) July 29 at 3:30 pm.

Rear Adm. Nora Tyson will assume command of CSG 2 from Capt. Jeffrey Hesterman, acting strike group commander.

The chief of naval operations announced Jan. 28 that Tyson would be assigned as commander, CSG 2. The assignment marked the first time a woman has been assigned command of a CSG. The chief of naval operations will be in attendance at the ceremony July 29 to mark this significant occasion.

CSG 2 is to be embarked on board Bush, America's newest aircraft carrier, homeported in Norfolk.

Bush is the 10th and final Nimitz-class carrier. It was commissioned Jan. 10, 2009, at Naval Station Norfolk.

Marines to Get Environmentally Friendly Reserve Center in Maine

From Naval Facilities Engineering Command Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Mid-Atlantic awarded an $8 million firm-fixed price contract July 23 to Nutmeg Companies, Inc. of Norwich, Conn., for design and construction of the Marine Corps Reserve Center for A Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine (1/25) 4th Marine Division.

The project includes the design and construction of a specialty constructed weapon's storage area, assembly hall, classrooms, locker and shower rooms, workshops, and electrical and mechanical utilities.

The Reserve Center will be built on land that originally belonged to Naval Air Station Brunswick but has since transferred to the Depart of the Army for use by the Maine Army National Guard and Marine Forces Reserves.

"This project allows the Marines to remain in the state of Maine in their current district," said Project Manager Ansley Marr, NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic Northeast Integrated Project Team. Marr adds that the Marines will be able to partner with the Maine Army National Guard for exercises and drills, enhancing the mission of both organizations.

While the original Reserve Center was an older facility adjacent to a local public school and residential neighborhood that did limited force protection measures, the new construction will comply with all applicable Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (ATFP) guidance for a primary gathering facility. It will include security lighting, paved tactical vehicle parking with perimeter fencing, paved privately owned vehicle parking, and security lighting systems.

Sustainable design will also be integrated into the design, development, and construction of the project.

This includes the use of low/no volatile organic compounds (VOC) emitting materials within the building; a geothermal heating and cooling system; and low impact development-eliminating stormwater runoff to other properties—treating the runoff before it works its way back into the water cycle.

The project will also be designed with high-efficiency lighting features that will reduce electrical demand."This project was a joint effort with the Maine Army National Guard to get the appropriate state of Maine environmental permitting assessments completed," said Marr. "They have truly been a joint partner."

1st Battalion, 25th Marines is a Reserve infantry battalion located throughout New England, consisting of approximately 750 Marines and Sailors. They fall under the 25th Marine Regiment in the 4th Marine Division. The mission of 1/25 4th Marine Division is to provide trained combat and combat support personnel and units to augment and reinforce the active component in time of war, national emergency, and at other times as national security requires.

NAVFAC manages the planning, design, construction, contingency engineering, real estate, environmental, and public works support for U.S. Navy shore facilities around the world, providing the Navy's forces with the operating, expeditionary, support and training bases they need.

Work will be performed in Brunswick, Maine, and is expected to be completed by July 2011.

Submarine Commissioning to be Streamed Live Online

From Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The Navy will commission the newest Virginia-class attack submarine Missouri (SSN 780) during an 11 a.m. EDT ceremony on July 31 at Naval Submarine Base New London.

The event will be streamed live online on www.public.navy.mil/usff/CSG2/Pages/default.aspx

Missouri arrived at Naval Submarine Base New London July 22 in preparation for commissioning following a material readiness inspection by the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) team. INSURV is a survey team established by Congress to assess Navy surface ships, aircraft carriers and submarines and ensure they are properly equipped for prompt, reliable and sustained mission readiness at sea.

Cmdr. Timothy Rexrode is the commanding officer of Missouri, the seventh ship of the Virginia-class.

Missouri completed sea trials earlier this month.

There are five Missouri natives among the submarine's crew. They are Electronics Technician 1st Class John M. Tyhurst, a Joplin, Mo., native; Sonar Technician Seaman Benjamin A. Bowers, a Green Ridge native; Lt. Patrick Donovan, a Springfield, Mo. native; Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Nicholas C. Koblick, a St. Louis native; and, Fire Control Technician 2nd Class Ryan J. Thruston, a Jefferson City, Mo. native.

Construction on Missouri began in December 2004; the submarine's keel was authenticated during a ceremony on Sept. 27, 2008 at the Electric Boat facility in North Kingstown, R.I.; and, she was christened during a late morning ceremony at Electric Boat Dec. 5, 2009.

Another milestone occurred April 16 during "In Service Day," when crew members moved aboard the submarine, bringing her systems to life, beginning general day-to-day operations and preparing for sea-trials, work-ups and commissioning.

Rexrode leads a crew of about 134 officers and enlisted personnel. A native of Spencer, W.Va., Rexrode graduated with honors in 1990 from West Virginia University, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. In addition, Rexrode is a distinguished graduate of the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, holding as Master's in Military Studies. He also received a Master's of Arts degree in Administration from Central Michigan University.

Becky Gates, wife of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, serves as the submarine's sponsor. She broke the traditional champagne bottle against the boat's sail during the christening ceremony last December. Her initials were welded into a plaque inside the boat during last year's keel laying ceremony.

Missouri is the fifth Navy ship to be named in honor of the people of the "Show Me State." The last USS Missouri, the legendary battleship, was the site where Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and many other U.S. and Allied officers accepted the unconditional surrender of the Japanese at the end of World War II Sept. 2, 1945.

Missouri is built to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. Adept at operating in both the world's shallow littoral regions and deep waters, Missouri will directly enable five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities - sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.

The 7,800-ton submarine Missouri is being built under a teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News. At 377-feet long, Missouri is slightly longer than a football field. She has a 34-foot beam, will be able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and will operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. Missouri is designed with a nuclear reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship, reducing lifecycle costs and increasing underway time.

The USS Missouri Commissioning Committee, an IRS-designated 501(c)3 nonprofit charity, was created to increase awareness of the submarine's commissioning. The Commissioning Committee offers information about the development of the submarine, as well as history on former Navy ships named for the "Show Me State."