Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sea Systems Command Recruits Wounded Warriors

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 15, 2010 - Due to advances in modern medicine, many wounded servicemembers are returning to the fight or transitioning their experience to civilian employment. Naval Sea Systems Command wants them on board. Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, NAVSEA commander, and Army Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of the Army's Warrior Transition Command, signed an agreement Jan. 13 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to increase opportunities for meaningful internships and employment with the Navy's largest system command.

"What we have done so far is put the fundamentals in place," Cheek told those assembled in Walter Reed Army Medical Center's auditorium here. "But our real goal is to provide that opportunity, that light, that inspiration for a full and productive future to the warfighters in this program. No matter what disease, illness or injury you are fighting, you have skills and abilities that make a difference in this world."

The general continued by focusing on the scope of opportunities the program's partnership with the Navy command offers wounded warriors. "Of all the organizations we are starting to embrace and work with, I believe NAVSEA is perhaps one of the finest in what they are offering to provide for the future for many of you," he said. "There are opportunities within this command across the United States, possibly even in your hometown, doing things you would like to do and making a contribution to the nation."

Following the general's remarks, McCoy thanked the injured for their service, and committed his organization to increasing opportunities for them. The command has about 60,000 employees, 95 percent of whom are civilians. "We provide ship, submarines, aircraft carriers, and weapons systems to our warfighters," he told the group. "We're responsible for all the maintenance on our surface ships, subs and aircraft carriers."

McCoy continued to promote the significance of the command's numerous and diverse career opportunities, including his own passion for work done at the Navy's shipyards.

"Half of NAVSEA carries a lunch bucket, wears a hard hat and steel-toe shoes to work each day. In my opinion, we have the best blue-collar jobs in America -- jobs you can raise a family on," he said. "The entry requirement to be an electrician, pipe-fitter, welder, technician, is a high-school [diploma] and lots of enthusiasm. We will give you everything else. We have stable careers working on some of our nation's most important military war platforms."

The agreement between the commands establishes their roles and responsibilities for the coordination of Operation Warfighter internships available to servicemembers receiving medical treatment for combat-related injuries, as well as staff jobs for warriors in transition, and combat-wounded veterans, and their spouses and caregivers, as eligible, for various federal direct-hiring authorities.

Juan Garcia, assistant secretary of Navy manpower and reserve affairs, also lauded NAVSEA's contributions toward warrior transition efforts, and reminded assembled troops that employers are eager to put their skills, knowledge and determination to use.

"This is not charity. This is not a 'set-aside' program," Garcia said. "Wounded warriors are, by definition, tenacious and resilient. They are leaders and doers. At a very young age, they have proven themselves capable of accomplishing what has been set before them.

"In the Department of the Navy, NAVSEA has set the pace and created the model for wounded warrior integrations," he continued. "They have made a commitment. They have put their money where their mouth is, and they have brought accountability to the process."

(From a Naval Sea Systems Command news release.)

Top Navy Doc Predicts Long USNS Comfort Deployment

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 16, 2010 - The chief of Navy medicine told the crew of the USNS Comfort here yesterday to prepare for a long deployment to Haiti. Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) Adam M. Robinson Jr. visited the crew of the Comfort as they prepared to leave Baltimore harbor this morning to sail to Haiti. He said the need is great in Haiti following the magnitude 7 earthquake that leveled the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12.

"This is not a training mission," Robinson said. "I suspect that we will have medical and naval assets in Haiti [for] six months minimum, and I think longer than that."

The medical staff aboard the Comfort mostly is from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. Other specialists from many other Navy hospitals and clinics in the United States are aboard the hospital ship.

Red Cross officials estimate that 40,000 to 50,000 people were killed in the earthquake. Countless thousands more are injured, and the Comfort is one platform that can deliver world-class medical care for those people, Robinson said.

"You are going to get first-hand experience in a very intense and a very critical situation in Haiti," the admiral said.

Robinson, who led a medical hospital detachment in Haiti in 1999, said the deployment to Haiti will be "a life-defining assignment" for the Comfort crew. On the best days, he said, Haiti is a poor country. It is, in fact, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and it suffers from poverty, deforestation and political uncertainty. Of the 5 million to 6 million people who live in Haiti, roughly 2 million live in and around Port-au-Prince. Before the earthquake struck, Haiti had recently been hit by hurricanes and floods.

The quake destroyed whatever infrastructure existed, Robinson said, and the country's need is greater today by an order of magnitude.

Still, Robinson said, the medics need to pace themselves, and he asked the crew and medical staff to watch out for one another. "Make sure you have each others' backs," he said. Make sure you are there for one another when you need each other." This, he said, will be very important when they have been deployed for months.

The scenes in Haiti will be terrible, Robinson warned the crew.

"You will see devastation and injuries and death and destruction that you've never seen before," he said. "If you feel overwhelmed and feel the need to talk, ... please – my medical children – don't hesitate to do that. There is no shame in raising your hand and taking a timeout. There is no shame in asking for help."

The admiral said he is incredibly proud of the professionals who came together on short notice to make the deployment happen. Medicine, he added, is a common language that all people understand, and it is a way to bridge differences.

"Be safe, be smart and take care of one another," Robinson said. "If you do that, this is going to be a very successful mission."

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Pennsylvania Guard to Broadcast to Haitians

By Airman 1st Class Claire Behney

Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 15, 2010 - The Pennsylvania National Guard is sending a uniquely equipped plane to Haiti to provide radio and television broadcasts to keep the people of the earthquake-stricken nation informed as rescue and humanitarian missions continue. About 50 airmen and three C-130 aircraft assigned to the 193rd Special Operations Wing will provide rapid communications response capabilities to all of Hispaniola, which comprises Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Two of the aircraft are cargo aircraft. The third, named Commando Solo, is an airborne radio and television station that will provide important information to the Haitian people as U.S. and international search and rescue and humanitarian aid missions continue.

In what he described as an "unprecedented humanitarian mission," Gov. Edward G. Rendell said that the Pennsylvania Air National Guard had been called out to support the Air Force Special Operations Command mission in Haiti.

One of the aircraft departed late on Jan. 14, the other two aircraft left Middletown, Pa., today.

"Our National Guard is honored to extend a helping hand to the people of Haiti. I am proud of these dedicated airmen, who are always ready to answer the call of duty, whether it is for combat missions or to aid those in need," said Army Maj. Gen. Jessica L. Wright, the adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The 193rd was last called to serve in Haiti more than a decade ago. In 1994, Commando Solo was used to broadcast radio and television messages to the citizens and leaders of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. This is, however, the first humanitarian mission of its type for the wing.

(Airman 1st Class Claire Behney is assigned to the Pennsylvania National Guard.)

Southcom Officials Provide Haiti Update

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 16, 2010 - Officials at U.S. Southern Command headquarters here provided a recap last night of the previous 48 hours of developments in the Haiti relief effort.

Southcom is managing the U.S. military aspects of the earthquake-relief mission.

Officials noted that Joint Task Force Haiti had been established to oversee U.S. military relief efforts in Haiti, with Army Lt. Gen. P.K. "Ken" Keen in command.

As of last night, 4,200 U.S. military personnel were currently supporting task force operations, within Haiti and from Navy and Coast Guard vessels offshore. An additional 6,300 military personnel are scheduled to arrive through the weekend.

Current U.S. military efforts are focused on working with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, international relief organizations and local responders to provide search and rescue, distribute aid and assess damage to key infrastructure, officials said.

With approval from the Haitian government, U.S. Air Force air traffic control and airfield management personnel are managing air operations into the international airport at the national capital of Port-au-Prince. The airfield is open for 24-hour operations and has a 90-aircraft-per-day capability.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Higgins are operating off the Haitian coast in support of the task force. USS Carl Vinson has 19 embarked helicopters flying airlift missions in support of relief efforts. The carrier also is delivering more than 30 pallets of relief supplies for distribution to affected areas.

Overall, 24 helicopters were providing relief to the people of Haiti as of last night, officials said.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the amphibious ship USS Bataan and composed of more than 2,200 Marines is scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Jan. 18 with heavy-lift and earth-moving equipment and additional medical-support capabilities. The amphibious ships USS Carter Hall, USS Fort McHenry, USS Underwood and USS Normandy also are en route to Haiti.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort left Baltimore this morning en route to Haiti, with about 600 medical personnel. It's projected to arrive in Haitian waters on Jan. 21. Comfort's capabilities include fully equipped operating rooms, a 500-bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CT-scan capability and two oxygen-producing plants. Each ship is equipped with a helicopter deck capable of landing large military helicopters.

An initial company of more than 100 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Haiti on Jan. 14, and 600 additional paratroopers are scheduled to arrive over the next few days to augment U.N. security and assist with search-and-rescue missions.

Since 2005, U.S. Southern Command has led U.S. military support to 14 major relief missions, including assistance to Haiti in September 2008. During that mission, U.S. military forces from USS Kearsarge and other units airlifted 3.3 million pounds of aid to communities that were devastated by a succession of major storms.

All military efforts are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission.

(From a U.S. Southern Command news release.)