Thursday, January 14, 2010

Obama Makes Haiti Response Top U.S. Priority

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - President Barack Obama said today said he's made helping Haiti in the wake of a crippling earthquake the top priority of every U.S. government agency.

Speaking from the White House, Obama called the quake an unimaginable tragedy, and said the United States has launched "a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort" to help.

Flanked by his national security team, the president said the U.S. response will require help from every government agency and the compassion of Americans.

"I've made it clear [to Cabinet officers and government agency heads] that Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now," Obama said. "This is one of those moments that call out for American leadership."

American servicemembers are deploying to the area, the president said. "Several Coast Guard cutters are already there, providing everything from basic services like water to vital technical support for this massive logistical operation," he said. "Elements of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division will arrive today."

The United States also is deploying a Marine expeditionary unit, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

The first waves of the U.S. rescue and relief effort are on the ground and at work, the president said.

"An airlift has been set up to deliver high-priority items like water and medicine," Obama said. The United States is working closely with the Haitian government, the United Nations and relief organizations to deliver supplies, but it will take some time for supplies, personnel and equipment to arrive in Haiti, he added.

"Right now in Haiti, roads are impassible, the main port is damaged and communications are just beginning to come online, and aftershocks continue," he said. "None of this will seem quick enough, ... but it's important that everyone in Haiti understand that one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history is moving toward Haiti."

The earthquake struck the evening of Jan. 12 near the capital of Port-au-Prince. The magnitude 7.0 quake flattened many areas of the city. Port-au-Prince is one of the largest cities in the Caribbean, and Haitian officials fear that at least 100,000 people may be dead.

American assets are pouring into the country. U.S. search and rescue teams have arrived, and medical personnel and relief supplies are arriving.

In the best of times, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The country suffers from extreme poverty, deforestation, a lack of infrastructure and political instability.

Obama pledged not to forsake the people of Haiti in their hour of need.

"American stands with you. The world stands with you," he said. "We know you are a strong and resilient people. You have endured a history of slavery and struggle and natural disaster and recovery. Through it all, your spirit has been unbroken and your faith unwavering. Today, you must know that help is arriving and much more help is on the way."

Marine Unit Prepares for Haiti Response

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - About 2,000 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C., are preparing for what initially is expected to be about a 90-day deployment providing disaster-relief support in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The Marines will begin loading equipment on three Navy ships – USS Bataan, USS Carter Hall and USS Fort McHenry -- tomorrow, a process Marine Capt. Clark Carpenter, the 22nd MEU public affairs officer, said he expects to take two days.

The unit is tailoring itself for the support mission ahead, with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 from New River, N.C., as its aviation element, providing eight CH-35 helicopters. Four UH-1 Huey helicopters also will deploy with the MEU.

Carpenter said it's not yet clear what role the Marines will play – lift support, disaster assistance, security support, or a combination of all three – so it's preparing for whatever it's asked to do.

"The great thing about a Marine expeditionary unit is that we train to do all of those things," he said. "We are an extremely flexible organization, and we train to many missions during our pre-deployment work-up period, a six-month-long period when we train for humanitarian relief and disaster recovery operations just like this one."

The 22nd MEU returned Dec. 5 from a seven-month deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. It sailed through U.S. European Command, serving as its theater reserve force and conducting training missions in Bulgaria and Greece. From there, the Marines transited through the Suez Canal to the 5th Fleet area of operations, serving as Centcom's theater reserve force. In addition to exercising with Middle Eastern partners, the MEU supported the Bright Star exercise in Egypt and delivered the first 10 Osprey helicopters into Afghanistan.

Upon getting word at 3 a.m. yesterday of the upcoming Haiti mission, 22nd MEU officials began recalling unit members, and they conducted the first crisis action team planning session six hours later, Carpenter said.

"So we have been prudently planning the embarkation of the ships," Carpenter said. "Right now, the focus is to expeditiously and safely embark these ships and get the equipment we need aboard. We are tailoring a very flexible package to ensure we can accommodate broad requests, because we don't exactly know the specifics of what we will be doing right now."

The Haiti mission offers another opportunity for the MEU to demonstrate its flexibility and readiness, Carpenter said.

"Marines stand ready to support any mission that may be asked of them," he said. "We are exceptional warriors when we are asked to be warriors. But equally important, we are exceptionally compassionate when we need to be compassionate. And these roles we can do equally as well.

"So it's a great opportunity to highlight the compassion that the United States Marines and United States Navy have and can offer to those in need around the world," he said.

Exercise Trains Next Horn of Africa Task Force

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - Trainers at the joint U.S. military command that coordinates troop deployments are wrapping up an exercise to prepare forces for duty in the Horn of Africa. Warfighters and civilians participating in the training are getting a sense of the challenges they will face as the next headquarters staff at Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa during a realistic training exercise at U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Va.

Known as the Mission Rehearsal Exercise, the Jan. 9-15 program recreates a realistic and relevant training regimen tailored to the Horn of Africa, said Army Brig. Gen. Sanford Holman, vice commander of the Joint Warfighting Center.

"Our mission here is to make sure we have well trained and educated leaders and servicemembers," Holman told reporters on a conference call yesterday.

The week-long mission-rehearsal exercise is the fifth for Joint Forces Command since the mission began in 2002 to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in the region. Holman said the training takes into account lessons learned from past exercises and deployments.

"We are concerned not only with the warfighter of today, but also the one for tomorrow," he said. "We've spent a lot of time and effort with our staff-assistance visits and going into theater to capture lessons learned and best business practices [and] bring them back and incorporate them into the training experience."

Trainers from the warfighting center, as well as interagency and coalition partners and current and former task force staffers, are conducting the training to prepare forces who will deploy to Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa in Djibouti this spring under the command of Navy Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey.

"Joint Forces Command has set up an environment for us through which we could learn a tremendous number of lessons, the day-to-day activities in the region and in particular, some of the contingencies that could arise," Losey said. "I think it's important to note that what makes this mission unique is the fact that it's centered on conflict prevention. And by working with our African partner nations, understanding the challenges and opportunities that we will confront together as viewed through their eyes is particularly important."

Losey said the approach centers on diplomacy, development and defense, building partnerships that foster regional security cooperation and enhance the partner states' security capacities.

"We've really been focused on collaborating with African partner nations, coordinating with ambassadors and their embassy staffs in making sure that we are viewing both the opportunities and the challenges as they're viewed by our African partners," he said. "That's really been the core essence of this thing."

National Guard (In Federal Status) And Reserve Activated As Of January 12, 2010

This week the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard announced an increase in activated reservists, while the Marine Corps announced a decrease. The net collective result is 3,915 more reservists activated than last week.

At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 112,150; Navy Reserve, 6,819; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 16,843; Marine Corps Reserve, 6,654; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 770. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 143,236, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found at http://http//

Officials Urge More Care for Caregivers

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - The military needs to step up efforts to head off compassion fatigue among its caregivers, a National Guard official said here yesterday.

"I do think not enough of it is being paid attention to by the active or reserve component," said Public Health Service Capt. Joan Hunter, director of psychological health for the National Guard Bureau.

Hunter spoke at the 2010 Suicide Prevention Conference here sponsored by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. She defined compassion fatigue as the emotional residue or strain of exposure of working with patients recovering from traumatic events. Warning signs, she explained, include a decrease in performance, inattention to self-care, irritability and anger, absenteeism, and conflicts with workers and peers.

"It starts out in a very insidious way, but can escalate very quickly," she noted.

Hunter said she's already seen evidence of it within the Guard's new psychological health program. Through the program, officials have placed a provider, called a state director of psychological health, in every state and territory. Directors work with community health providers to build relationships and networks that will offer psychological health services for Guard members and their families, according to the National Guard's Psychological Health Program Web site.

"In the first year that we've become operational, I've already seen compassion fatigue among the licensed providers that are providing these services to our soldiers and airmen in the National Guard," she said.

Hunter cautioned leaders not to overload these providers, who already are saddled with an extensive workload.

"I think very quickly, if we're not careful in this program, we're going to move on the scale from compassion fatigue to burnout," she said.

Hunter also noted the importance of caring for the 5,000-plus Guard volunteers, many of whom are geographically dispersed.

"As citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen, we are very tied to our communities and many of us are remote," she said. In the Army National Guard alone, 6,400 members are the only soldiers within their ZIP code, she noted.

Compassion fatigue has touched chaplains, military family program coordinators, state family program directors and sexual assault and response recovery coordinators, Hunter said.

Caregivers often set themselves up for overload by taking on too much, J. Elizabeth Perkins, director of psychological health for the Michigan National Guard, said at the conference yesterday.

"We think we can do it all," she said, "that we can take on just one more thing. The reality of that is there's always one more, and we'll never be able to accomplish what we need to without taking the time and giving ourselves the permission to say, 'No, I need to take some time so I can then help others.'"

To illustrate, Perkins recalled a conversation she had with a state chaplain. "He was reminding his staff about the importance of self-care. I turned to him and I said, 'Well sir, that's wonderful, but when was the last time you took a vacation?' It had been three years."

Caregivers are adept at offering other people recommendations to help them cope, "but we don't then do that for ourselves."

It's vital to build personal resiliency, she said. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, adequate sleep, social support and setting boundaries can help, she added.

Perkins noted that the Defense Department-funded Millennium Cohort Study initially has indicated that daily physical activity reduces the risk of developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Perkins also cautioned caregivers to be aware of multiple stressors, such as work and personal problems, which can lead to a stress overload.

"We also need to be asking ourselves, 'What else is going on in your life?' And this is not just as helping professionals, but also for those servicemembers with whom we are working," she said.

People at risk of cumulative stress may be confronting mental or physical concerns, for instance, along with marital and family issues. These significant stressors not only raise the risk of illness, but possibly suicide, she said.

Perkins described several effective methods for stress relief including meditation, journaling, deep breathing, the importance of doing nothing and guided imagery. Along with personal de-stressing methods, Hunter said, the Guard is taking big-picture steps to help.

Leaders plan to take the "goals and intent" of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program and translate it into a program that works for the Guard. The Army program is a psychological fitness initiative designed to build resilience in soldiers. They also plan to leverage senior enlisted personnel in the hopes of increasing face-to-face contact with junior enlisted members. The Guard doesn't have enough licensed providers to meet the demands of Guard members, she noted.

"I think our counselors and our mental health providers are the best asset we have in the Department of Defense and in [Veterans Affairs]," Hunter said. "And I think it's our responsibility and our duty to protect them and to provide them with the tools they need to get the job done."

82nd Airborne Soldiers Begin Haiti Deployment

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - An initial contingent of 100 82nd Airborne Division troops deployed to Haiti around noon today, and another 800 soldiers will follow tomorrow to support disaster relief and humanitarian support. A lead element from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 73rd Infantry, left Fort Bragg today, and the entire battalion, along with a command and control element from the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, will join them tomorrow, said Army Col. Billy Buckner, 18th Airborne Corps public affairs officer.

Meanwhile, the 82nd Airborne Division's entire 2nd Brigade Combat Team – on tap as the U.S. global response force – "has been told to be prepared to deploy as needed or required," Buckner said.

"So they are prepped and ready to deploy. They have done all the things they need to do to get ready," Buckner said. "And should they be directed to deploy, based on the situation on the ground and additional resources, they are ready to do so."

As the global response force, the 2nd BCT is on 24/7 standby, ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours. In that capacity, it trains for the full spectrum of missions – from forcible entry scenarios and follow-on stability operations to humanitarian aid and disaster response, Buckner said.

So when the first verbal order to prepare a brigade to deploy came at 4 a.m. yesterday, he added, most of the groundwork already was laid.

The initial elements are deploying with their own individual equipment and force-protection capability, but few vehicles, Buckner said. "A lot of logistics planning is being done, based on what's in the theater," he said. "But right now, the big push is the soldiers, going in relatively light without a lot of rolling stock."

Once in Haiti, their mission will center on humanitarian support and disaster relief, but Buckner said the soldiers also could provide security, if needed.

"They bring an ability to provide people to go out and assist immediately, to get on the ground very rapidly and to be able to assist the [joint task force] commander in whatever tasks and requirements he needs them to perform," he said.

Many of the deploying soldiers have served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving them experience Buckner said will prove invaluable supporting the Haiti mission. "They are used to deploying, and they are used to operating under very difficult and challenging circumstances," he said.

Ironically, the Fort Bragg military community, home of the 18th Airborne Corps and 82nd Airborne Division, is preparing for a major exercise later this month that will test, among other capabilities, its readiness to rapidly deploy its forces.

As part of the preparation, Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmlick, the corps commander, and his staff visited various sites around the installation that support deployments to get briefed about their operations.

The general made the comment, "Although we have been focused on Afghanistan and Iraq, we, as the 18th Airborne Corps, have to be prepared for the unknown."

"It's pretty ironic," Buckner said. "Twenty-four hours later, we get a call, 'Be prepared to deploy.'"

U.S., Haitian Officials Work Together on Quake Relief

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - Haitian and U.S. officials are working together to meet the challenges of the Port-au-Prince earthquake, State Department officials said here today.

The earthquake wiped out communications in the country and made coordination between U.S. and Haitian leaders difficult. Still, Haitian leaders are working with the international community to bring emergency aid into the nation, said Cheryl Mills, the State Department's chief of staff.

"I am confident that (the Haitian) government is not looking for the United States to take over," Mills said. "They are looking for a good partner, and I am confident that we will be that partner and we will provide the type of leadership necessary to support and bring together communities that are out there."

Americans are making a difference on the ground. "Our first wave of responders are on the ground and have been actively engaged in search and rescue since last night," said Rajiv Shah, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Just over 250 Americans are working there right now, with many more on the way, he said.

USAAID is working with the United Nations, Canada, the United Kingdom and other partner nations to coordinate efforts. The agency also is working with nongovernmental organizations to capitalize on their expertise in providing trauma care and other medical services. "These will be able to provide the tertiary trauma support that's needed," Shah said.

The agency is shipping in food, water and other commodities, such as tarps, he said.

The American military is doing its part to alleviate the effects of the tragedy. U.S. servicemembers have opened the airport, and Coast Guard and Navy vessels are operating off the coast. In addition, the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team has begun flowing into the country and will help to provide security. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and hospital ship USNS Comfort also will be deployed to Haiti.

"This is a significant effort that is first about saving lives in the critical first 72-hour period, and then laying the groundwork for providing access to critically needed commodities – medical services, food, water, water purification – and then laying the groundwork for re-building," Shah said.

U.S. Southern Command and the Haitian government are operating the airport at Port-au-Prince around the clock to maximize the runway and ramp space at the facility. "There are going to be times when things do get jammed up there, but we are moving as fast as we can," Shah said.

Teams at the airport are moving supplies and equipment from the field to the city as fast as they can. "Many of the urban search and rescue teams come with their own capabilities to get around and be self-sustaining and that's important in this first 72-hour period," the administrator said.

The magnitude 7 earthquake hit the evening of Jan. 12. Haitian officials said that roughly 2 million people live in an area within 10 miles of the quake's epicenter. Port-au-Prince is the capital of the country and one of the largest cities in the Caribbean. Haitian officials have said they fear that the quake killed as many as 100,000 people.

Richmond Supply Center Prepares to Help Haiti

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - Defense Supply Center Richmond is preparing to support humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. As Defense Logistics Agency's aviation demand and supply chain manager, the Richmond center primarily supports military aviation activities with parts, supplies and services, but it also manages other items historically used by the military during disaster response.

"We are assessing our stock of on-hand items we may need to provide, including cargo slings used for airlifting supplies; herbicides, insect repellents, insecticides and rodenticides to help control the spread of diseases; and water purification items," said Marine Corps Col. Gary Wiest, the center's deputy director of operations.

The Richmond center supplies the military with water purification tablets and parts for reverse-osmosis water purification units. The various models of those units -- some reaching the size of large trailers -- rely on chemicals, filters, membranes and high-pressure pumps to purify large amounts of water for consumption from sources that include brackish and salt water. The supply center here provides three types of support kits for the purification units, each with about 20 items ranging from chemicals to machine lubricants.

Wiest said the center is also ready to send personnel to the military's U.S. Southern Command in Miami to help in coordinating supply efforts. Southcom is working with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to assess the need for humanitarian support in Haiti, said Marine Corps Col. Scott Dalke at DLA's Joint Logistics Operations Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Army Works to Increase Soldiers' Resilience

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

N, Jan. 14, 2010 - Army officials are trying to increase the resilience of soldiers and family members by increasing their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family strengths. "The program is modeled after physical fitness, where you have standards and then an assessment and a reassessment that measures psychological fitness," Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Rhonda Cornum, director of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, told listeners during a "Dot Mil Docs" webcast interview Jan. 14.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness focuses on optimizing five dimensions of strength: physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family. The mission of this program, Cornum, said, is to develop and institute a holistic fitness program for soldiers, family members and Army civilians to enhance performance and build resilience.

Available now is the Global Assessment Tool, a confidential online assessment that evaluates four dimensions of strength. The test allows users to see their baseline of holistic health, followed by training modules designed to help them enhance their fitness level.

"The modules teach soldiers how to respond and communicate in a more active and constructive manner," Cornum said. "Keeping positive and negative emotions in balance is important to psychological and mental health."

Soldiers are required to do the assessment once a year, but can reassess if they feel their psychological fitness has improved, Cornum noted.

Other elements of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness include mandatory resilience training, and training for master resilience trainers. Soldiers in the master resilience training course go through 10 days of fairly intense training, Cornum said. They recognize and build their own personal resilience and thinking skills and then follow with five days of instruction on how to teach others.

Cornum said the training is based on the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Program. Their goal is to teach visualization, goal setting, energy management and coping skills that are military-focused and based on cohesion, trust and accepting as a coping strategy.

She said plans to train additional master resilience trainers and developing more sophisticated online training modules for the individual dimensions of strength.

Beginning this month, adult family members of soldiers may participate in the program. Army civilians will have the opportunity to participate later this spring, the general said.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Air Force Special Forces Rescue Seven in Haiti Relief Efforts

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - U.S. Air Force special force operators in Haiti have rescued seven survivors of the massive Jan. 12 earthquake that continues to wreak havoc on the country in its wake, according to Air Force officials. News of the rescues represents a small victory in the face of what some have described as one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.

Air Force Special Operations Forces have been manning the airport in the capital of Port-Au-Prince since about 8 p.m. yesterday, conducting airfield operations in addition to recovery and rescue efforts, said Air Force Lt. Col. Brett J. Nelson.

"Within hours of our arrival last evening, we established airfield control and have maintained that control conducting 24-hour operations at Port-Au-Prince airport," Nelson, the commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, said during a conference call with reporters today.

Air Force personnel have been engaged in operations to rescue potential survivors from collapsed buildings, he said. The colonel added that a number of Americans have been evacuated via the airport, but declined to provide an exact figure.

Nelson corrected media reports that said airport operations grinded to a halt after being saturated with aircraft. He acknowledged that operations at the airport have slowed down under the stress, with 44 aircraft crowding the space at one point today, but maintained that operations are ongoing.

Nelson also clarified that the airfield has power and is able to sufficiently light the premises to conduct night air operations.

Flanked by his national security team today, President Barack Obama elevated the humanitarian response in Haiti to the top of his priority list, enlisting the aid of government agencies and imploring Americans to extend compassion to those in need.

"I've made it clear to each of these [U.S. government] leaders that Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now. This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership," Obama said in remarks at the White House.

Military 'Working Feverishly' to Help Haiti, Commander Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - With Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' committing all available military resources to the Haiti relief effort, U.S. Southern Command is "working feverishly and aggressively " to get them there as quickly as possible, its commander said today. "We are making use of every asset we have," Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser told reporters at his Miami headquarters. "And our focus remains very definitely on making sure we get relief to Haiti as absolutely soon as we can get it there."

The U.S. military has 329 troops on the ground in Haiti, and that number is expected to increase to more than 750 by tomorrow, and almost 1,000 by the week's end, Fraser reported.

That's in addition to more than 2,000 Marines, slated to arrive aboard three ships of an amphibious readiness group, along with heavy-lift helicopters, Jan. 19. The Marines are assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

An initial company of about 100 82nd Airborne paratroopers, assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 73rd Infantry, at Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived in Haiti today, Fraser said.

They'll be followed tomorrow by a command and control element from the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and additional 2nd BCT paratroopers. Over the next four days, about 700 additional soldiers will deploy to support relief efforts, he said.

Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier home-ported in Norfolk, Va., is slated to arrive in Haiti tomorrow, carrying 19 helicopters and 30 pallets of relief goods, Fraser said. The Vinson will provide a critical platform for support for the heavily damaged island, he said.

And the hospital ship USNS Comfort is being readied in Baltimore, expected to get underway Jan. 16 and arrive in Haiti Jan. 21. Once on station, its crew will be able to provide medical care for up to 1,000 patients in 12 operating rooms.

The Coast Guard, which maintains a regular presence in the region, has four major cutters – 210 feet and larger and equipped with helicopter decks – to provide lift capability and security, Coast Guard 7th District Commander Rear Adm. Steve Branham reported.

Two additional Coast Guard cutters are on the way to Haiti, he said, as well as a buoy tender vessel that will provide heavy-lift capability to support the effort.

Coast Guard fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft also are on site, providing airlift to move supplies into Haiti and to medevac critically injured patients, Branham said.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Keene, Southcom's deputy commander, is on the ground in Haiti, commanding the joint task force.

Its initial focus is on rallying all military resources, in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, to get desperately needed aid into Haiti.

That, Fraser said, involves restoring full use of the Port-au-Prince airport, and getting heavy

equipment and relief supplies ashore despite heavily damaged port facilities.

"We continue to work very aggressively on getting capability from the maritime environment ashore," he said. "Getting relief in there is key... So the Haitians understand we are really focused on mitigating their tragedy."

Supporting that effort has been a joint effort, with every service playing an important role, working together to overcome obstacles and support the mission, Fraser said.

Military people are accustomed to challenges, seeing them as "opportunities," he told reporters. "We are taking that opportunity, as military men and women like to do," he said.

"And we are working it at deliberate speed to get all possible capability there as soon as we possibly can," he said. "The entire effort of the Department of Defense is focused on supporting this effort."

Florida jets fly 55,000th Noble Eagle sortie

Story courtesy of 1st Air Force

(1/14/10) -- The quick response of two Continental U.S. NORAD Region fighter jets that intercepted a small airplane in Florida in late December resulted in a new and impressive record for CONR―its 55,000th successfully completed Operation Noble Eagle sortie.

Air National Guard pilots with the 125th Fighter Wing, Detachment 1, at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., flew two F-15 Eagles to reach the milestone sortie.

The Noble Eagle mission began Sept. 14, 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa. The operation is designed to protect North America from an airborne attack.

Before 9/11, CONR was charged with keeping an eye on the nation's borders, looking outward for threats from abroad in the form of long-range missiles or Soviet bombers.

Now, with the assistance of its Canadian partners, every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and multiple federal agencies, CONR watches the nation's skies for a threat from within.

Maj. Gen. Garry Dean, CONR commander, said the recent sortie in Florida, along with tens of thousands of previous flights throughout the country, is an impressive record for all those involved in the CONR mission.

"We have achieved an astounding 55,000 accident-free, Operation Noble Eagle sorties," he said. "Our efforts since 9/11 have ensured the continued sovereignty of our skies and have protected America and her most valuable treasures, and I am extremely proud of the work these dedicated men and women have accomplished."

Through the leadership of the Eastern and Western Air Defense Sectors, the air sovereignty alert wings throughout the United States are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sitting constant alert in the event they are called upon to react to a potential threat.

Col. John Bartholf, Eastern Air Defense Sector commander, commented on the historic milestone. "In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, and for many months following that attack, our nation kept fighters in the air 24 hours a day non-stop," he said. "Nearly nine years later, an unparalleled 55,000 sorties have been flown in support of Operation Noble Eagle. It continues to be a 'no-fail mission' that protects our most precious resource―the citizens of this great nation."

CONR's deputy commander, Canadian Brig. Gen. Andre Viens, said that since 9/11, at least 24 terrorist attacks have been thwarted by the collective efforts of all agencies operating under the auspices of homeland defense and security. But he's cautious not to become overconfident.

"Make no mistake -- we will continue to be called upon in the future," said Viens. "Consequently, we must remain steady, tirelessly vigilant, and be on close watch regardless of the time of day or night to deter, prevent and, if necessary, defeat hostile air attacks on North America."

In addition to flying the 55,000th sortie, CONR fighters have responded to more than 2,350 possible air threats in the United States, and also fly in support of special security events such as the Super Bowl, presidential inaugurations, state funerals, United Nations General Assemblies and the State of the Union Address.

Ohio Air Guard C-130s deliver first relief teams

Story courtesy of the Ohio National Guard

(1/14/10) – Three days before a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, about 45 members of the Ohio Air National Guard were deployd to Puerto Rico in support of a U.S. Southern Command mission. The 179th Airlift Wing was in the right place at the right time with their two C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

After the earthquake hit on Jan. 12, three air crews from the unit were put on alert and early the next morning, the first crew was activated and airborne within three hours.

The aircraft flew to Florida to collect search and rescue teams and communication crews and deliver them to Port-au-Prince. Shortly after, a second crew was alerted and airborne.

The first crew, led by Lt. Col. Kenneth Pecoraro, arrived in Port-au-Prince as the sun was setting on the evening of Jan. 13 and landed successfully, despite challenging terrain and a downed communication tower.

The Ohio National Guard C-130 was the first of its kind to land in Port-au-Prince.

The second crew, commanded by Lt. Col. William Baulkmon, arrived after sunset with three pallets of communication materials to improve departure and approach communication at Port-au-Prince airport.

In addition, three Puerto Rico Air National Guard aircraft have been tasked to the 179th Airlift Wing for this operation.

Today, 179th crews arrived in Florida in two of these aircraft to pick up and deliver additional supplies and personnel. They will arrive in Haiti by early afternoon.

Former British Soldier Joins U.S. Army

By Army Sgt. Teddy Wade

Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - Army Spc. Robert Sumner looks like any other American soldier. But when he speaks, his thick British accent separates him from the crowd. Serving here with the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, Sumner realizes his road from the British Isles to the mountains of Afghanistan was a long and interesting path.

Sumner said he always dreamed of being a soldier, and after graduating from high school in 1996, he enlisted in the British army, serving in Cyprus, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Bosnia and Northern Ireland until 2003.

In 2004, he began working for a private security firm, and he continued working there until 2005, when he came to the United States for the first time to attend training in Arkansas. There, he met and married his wife, Katherine.

For two years, Sumner lived with his new wife in his new home. But he wanted to give something back to his new country, and in July 2007, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

"I enlisted in the U.S. Army because I wanted to do something for this country that has given me so much," Sumner said. "When people ask me in the future, 'What have you done for this country?' I'll have something to say."

Sumner joined the 10th Mountain Division, based in Fort Drum, N.Y., after asking one of his drill sergeants in basic training which unit is the most deployed in the Army.

"When I was going to Fort Drum, I was all excited about going over there," Sumner said. "I imagined, 'A mountain division. They should have a lot of mountains to climb, and I'm an avid hiker. That should be fun.' But soon after I arrived, I realized that Fort Drum is flat, and that they just get a lot of snow."

Before deploying in January 2009, Sumner was serving as an infantryman in the reconnaissance platoon. But he suffered an injury during training and was removed from that position.

"I had a foot injury," Sumner said. "An infantryman's feet are very important. So our sergeant major decided to pull me out from that duty and assigned me to the personal security detachment, mostly due to my experience as a contractor. When I arrived in Afghanistan, they placed me in the PSD as temporary duty, but three months later, I was still doing it even though I was fully recovered."

Sumner uses his experience in personal security operations as a PSD team leader for Army Lt. Col. Frederick O'Donnell, the battalion commander.

"The first time I met Sumner was back in Fort Drum," O'Donnell said. "Back then, he was assigned to Combat Company. He was a private first class leading an entire squad during a live-fire exercise. I was impressed just by watching his execution; he displayed a lot of ability. It is funny to me, because he called some of his soldiers 'blokes,' just like they do back in England. The way he gave the commands reflected his background and experience."

Army Staff Sgt. Mike Cruz, noncommissioned officer in charge of the personal security detachment and Sumner's squad leader, also had praise for Sumner.

"I really appreciate his expertise as a soldier," Cruz said. "He is a great asset for the team, and he helps me train the other guys in the PSD."

Sumner noted the difference in the core of the loyalty professed by soldiers in the two armies in which he's served.

"British soldiers often said they fight for the queen," he said. "Over here in America, we fight for the American people. American people have been so good to me.

"When I went back to the U.S. for my rest and recreation," he continued, "people were clapping at the airport and offered to pay for my meal. I was so amazed. Nobody does that in England. Maybe they appreciate my service over there, but they just showed it in a different way. I'm now 31 years old, but I've still got a long way to go. I love the Army, and I feel that I can do so much more."

(Army Sgt. Teddy Wade serves with the 55th Signal Company.)



Candelaria Corp.*, Glendale, Ariz. (N62473-10-D-4802); Brown and White, Inc./Hunter Contracting Co., JV*, Tucson, Ariz. (N62473-10-D-4803); Hal Hays Construction, Inc.*, Yuma, Ariz. (N62473-10-D-4804); and MRM Construction Services, Inc.*, Phoenix, Ariz. (N62473-10-D-4805), are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award design-build construction contract for airfield paving and heavy duty paving for military operations vehicles at the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and four option years, for all four contracts combined is $60,000,000. Work will be performed in Yuma, Ariz., and work is expected to be completed January 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 11 proposals received. These four contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, Resident Officer in Charge of Construction, Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Calif., is the contracting activity.

ViaSat, Carlsbad, Calif., is being awarded a $14,351,804 firm-fixed-price order for Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS JTRS) limited production terminals. The MIDS JTRS terminal is a software communications architecture compliant upgrade to the MIDS-Low volume terminal that supports legacy and advanced networking JTRS compliant waveforms enabling integrated navigation, identification, voice and data communications, information security, networking, and networking applications to meet Department of Defense software defined radio initiatives and requirements. Work will be performed in Carlsbad, Calif. (35 percent), in various other sites within the U.S. (65 percent), and is expected to be completed by December 2010. This order was competitively procured with two proposals solicited and two offers received. The synopsis was released via the Federal Business Opportunities Web site. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N00039-00-D-2101).

DEI Services Corp., Winter Park, Fla., is being awarded a $8,217,977 performance-based indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity hybrid contract consisting of cost-plus-fixed-fee and firm-fixed-price contract line item number for the analysis, design, development, fabrication, manufacturing, installation, implementation, testing and system support of training systems/training devices for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Work will be performed in Winter Park, Fla., and is expected to be completed by January 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities, with one offer received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head, Md., is the contracting activity (N00174-10-D-0004).

L3 Services Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., is being awarded $6,164,170 for task order #0088 under previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (M67854-02-A-9010). The scope of this effort is to provide project management, logistics and engineering domain services to support the conduct of training, exercises and range operations aboard Marine Corps installations and other training sites. The contractor will implement and support training programs, facilitate conduct of exercises and instruction, and training gaps assessments meeting local and Marine Corps training objectives. Work will be performed in Twentynine Palms, Calif. (53 percent); Bridgeport, Calif. (24 percent); Camp Pendleton, Calif. (16 percent); and Yuma, Ariz. (7 percent). Work is expected to be completed in January 2011. Contract funds will expire Sept. 30, 2010. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.


GE Healthcare, Wauwatosa, Wis. is being awarded a maximum $43,200,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for patient monitoring systems. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. There were originally seventeen proposals solicited with nine responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is January 13, 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM2D1-09-D-8300).

Vermont Guardsman named to Olympic biathlon team

By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke

National Guard Bureau

(1/14/10) -- Sgt. Jeremy Teela of the Vermont National Guard has been named to the five-man Olympic biathlon team, the U.S. Biathlon Association's International Competition Committee announced Jan. 10.

The committee conducted a final review of results from the IBU Cup races in Altenberg, Germany, and as a result, the U.S Biathlon Association (USBA) forwarded its list of athletes to the United States Olympic Committee.

Staff Sgt. Sarah Lehto, who works with the USBA in coaching, designing selection criteria and ultimately selecting athletes for the U.S. Olympic Biathlon teams, said Teela prequalified for the team with a top 30-place finish in the World Cup event held in Pokljuka, Slovenia in December.

He was also the bronze medal winner in the men’s individual race in the Vancouver World Cup event last season.

“This, along with his recent improvement in World Cup performances and results, should give him good confidence leading into the Olympic Games,” Lehto said.

U.S. Biathlon has placed much emphasis on relay training this season, and the team has a serious chance to medal in this category, she said.

As one of the most experienced athletes on the team, Teela has always been counted as the anchorman. “(He) never fails to come through with a great effort in this team event,” Lehto said. “And he is looking forward to doing the same in Vancouver.”

The 2010 U.S. Olympic Team roster includes Overall World Cup leader Tim Burke, Jay Hakkinen, Jeremy Teela, Lowell Bailey and Wynn Roberts. Hakkinen will compete in his fourth Olympics, while Teela will be in his third; Burke and Bailey competed in Torino, and Roberts is a first-timer.

“This talented team has worked together for years and while each member will be trying their best for individual results, they will also be supporting each other and celebrating each and every result collectively,” Lehto said.

Army Maj. Andy Parsons, the National Guard biathlon coordinator, said the National Guard Biathlon program has placed Airmen and Soldier athletes on every U.S. Olympic winter team since the 1988 Games in Calgary.

“Sergeant Teela’s progression, along with that of teammate and current number one ranked biathlete in the world Tim Burke, means that the U.S. has its best chance ever to earn an Olympic medal," he said.

The first men’s biathlon event in the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada will be held on Feb. 14.

Special Ops C-130s, Teams Provide Disaster Relief

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - Airmen and C-130s from the Air Force Special Operations Command are continuing to provide disaster relief to the people of Haiti. MC-130H Combat Talons and a C-130E Hercules from the 1st Special Operations Wing here landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, overnight and already have left the area for additional support taskings. The wing will continue to support requirements, as additional aircraft such as MC-130P Combat Shadows are en route carrying people and equipment.

In addition, two MC-130W Combat Spears from the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., are positioned here for additional support requirements. The aircraft are transporting equipment such as generators, vehicles, fuel, food and water, and communications packages, as well as specialty teams including special operations medical units and special tactics teams.

(From an Air Force Special Operations Command news release.)

Pentagon Honors Civil Rights Leader's Legacy

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

Jan. 14, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today challenged the Defense Department and all Americans to honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy during a Pentagon observance in advance of the Jan. 18 holiday that marks the civil rights leader's birth. "Remember and honor the great example Dr. King was," Gates said to an audience of defense employees and military members at the Pentagon's 25th annual observance of King's life and work. "Celebrate all that we have accomplished together. ... Keep working toward Dr. King's dreams with all our might."

King spent his life advocating for equality and eventually became a world figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The Baptist minister led peaceful demonstrations and marches throughout the country and gave thousands of memorable speeches until his assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968.

The path of service and equality led by King paved way for desegregation and better opportunities, not just for African Americans, but for all citizens. He sought a society "founded and fueled on equality, justice, dignity, freedom and strength that can come only from being a truly united country," Gates said.

The secretary noted that King's efforts continue to break down barriers even today. In the past two years, the nation has celebrated 60 years of desegregation in the armed forces and witnessed the election of the first black U.S. president.

Gates cited prominent African-American military officers as examples of the opportunities King and the civil rights movement provided. He noted Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command; Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, director of the Joint Staff; and Air Force Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew, vice director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Staff, for their examples.

"These officers represent the very best our nation has to offer, and I'm truly thankful that they chose to serve and defend our country," Gates said. The men and women who serve throughout the Defense Department are "ordinary Americans from all walks of life and backgrounds, [and] have put themselves in harm's way ... to confront those who would attack the ideals that Dr. King espoused."

Their sacrifices have been made willingly on behalf of all Americans and speak volumes to their character and King's work, Gates said.

Still, the secretary said, it's important to continue furthering King's principles and what he ultimately died trying to preserve.

"Progress is neither automatic nor inevitable," Gates said, quoting King. "Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle."

The Martin Luther King federal holiday was signed into law in 1983 and was first observed in 1986. The holiday is observed on the third Monday in January each year, around the time of King's birthday, Jan. 15.

Ohio Air Guard Assists Haiti Relief Efforts

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - As many U.S. military units and government agencies stand poised to answer the call to help earthquake-stricken Haiti, the Ohio Air National Guard already has provided two C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft from the Mansfield-based 179th Airlift Wing to provide immediate assistance. The 179th deployed about 45 unit members to Puerto Rico in support of Operation Coronet Oak — a U.S. Southern Command theater airlift support mission —Jan. 9. Three days later, the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit neighboring Haiti. The same evening, three crews from the 179th were put on alert, and early the next morning the first crew was activated and was airborne within three hours.

The aircraft flew to Florida to collect search and rescue teams and communication crews and deliver them to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Shortly after, a second crew was alerted and airborne.

The first crew, led by Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Pecoraro, arrived in Port-au-Prince as the sun was setting yesterday, and landed successfully despite challenging terrain and a downed communication tower. The Ohio C-130 was the first such aircraft to land in Port-au-Prince.

The second crew, commanded by Air Force Lt. Col. William Baulkmon, arrived after sunset with three pallets of communication materials to improve departure and approach communication at the Port-au-Prince airport.

Three Puerto Rico Air National Guard aircraft have been tasked to the 179th Airlift Wing for this operation. This morning, 179th crews arrived in Florida in two of these aircraft to pick up and deliver additional supplies and personnel. They will arrive in Haiti by early afternoon, officials said.

(From a news release provided by the Ohio adjutant general's office.)

Logistics Agency Prepares to Help Haiti

By Beth Reece
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2010 - The Defense Logistics Agency is preparing to provide humanitarian relief in response to the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti Jan. 12. The agency's Joint Logistics Operations Center is coordinating support with U.S. Southern Command. Southcom, in turn, is working with the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to assess the need for humanitarian support, said Marine Col. Scott Dalke, division chief at the joint operations center.

While no requests for support have yet been received, Dalke said, each DLA supply center is standing by and ready to meet requests.

"We have embedded a JLOC liaison officer with U.S. Southcom and will be sending an additional liaison officer for augmentation," Dalke said. The team will assist in coordinating relief items that could include food, fuel, medical supplies and blankets.

Navy Vice Adm. Alan S. Thompson, DLA director, has pledged full support to Southcom.

"I want to ensure that DLA is a key enabler to the disaster relief response," the admiral said. "This agency will lean forward to support all U.S. Southcom components and government agencies as required while continuing to provide seamless support to the global force," he said.

The International Red Cross reported that 3 million people were affected by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which Haitian officials have called a "catastrophe of major proportions." It was the island's most violent earthquake in two centuries, officials said.

President Barack Obama yesterday called for an aggressive U.S. response to help those affected by the earthquake.

"The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble and to deliver the humanitarian relief - the food, water and medicine - that Haitians will need in the coming days," Obama said.

Southcom is deploying a 30-member team of military engineers, operational planners and communications specialists to help in orchestrating support in Haiti. The Coast Guard has mobilized vessels and aircraft to positions near Haiti to provide humanitarian assistance.

DLA frequently provides humanitarian aid for weather-related natural disasters around the world. Its most recent humanitarian assistance was in response to flooding caused by a tropical storm that flooded the Philippines and the Samoan islands in September.

(Beth Reece works in the Defense Logistics Agency's strategic communications office.)

Waiting for returning Guardsman a labor of love

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin Army National Guard

January 14, 2010 - The pain Johana Ortiz experienced waiting for her husband, Spc. Melvin Ortiz of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1158th Transportation Company, to return from his year-long deployment to Iraq was more than just longing.

Johana, who was due to deliver a baby Jan. 17, went into labor hours before her husband was to arrive at Volk Field, a Wisconsin Air National Guard facility roughly 20 miles east of Fort McCoy. But the contractions did not keep Johana from making the trip from Milwaukee.

"My doctor said 'don't go,'" the mother of three admitted.

When the plane carrying approximately 300 Soldiers who deployed to Iraq with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team landed at about 4 p.m. Wednesday (Jan.13), Brigade Commander Col. Steven Bensend and Brigade Command Sgt. Major Ed Hansen boarded and called Spc. Ortiz to the front. They informed him of his wife's condition and directed him to leave the plane first.

Spc. Ortiz bounded down the staircase to the pavement, handed his backpack to another Soldier and sprinted to the hangar where his wife was waiting. The families at the edge of the airstrip, many of whom were aware of Johana's condition, applauded appreciatively.

Once inside, Spc. Ortiz embraced his wife. "I'm excited," he said moments later. "I just want to go to the hospital."

Earlier, Bensend had promised Johana that her husband would be granted a pass so that he could be with her for the birth of their child.

"This is a great thing," Bensend said. "There's no way I would have missed my child's birth." True to his word, paperwork was waiting for Spc. Ortiz to sign that allowed him to leave with his wife minutes after arriving at Volk Field. They made it safely to West Allis Memorial Hospital, where Johana gave birth to a 7 lb, 8 oz, baby boy the couple named Eduardo.

Capt. Joshua Porter, commander of the 1158th Transportation Company, based in Beloit and Black River Falls, said that Spc. Ortiz would return to complete his demobilization process after his pass expired.

Ortiz was among approximately 500 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers to return from Iraq on two separate flights Wednesday, part of the 3,200 Soldiers who deployed with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team that will return in stages throughout January.