Friday, April 16, 2010

Guard, active-duty Airmen provide dental care to remote Alaskan village

by Staff Sgt. J. Paul Croxon
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

4/16/2010 - KOTZEBUE, Alaska (AFNS) -- Three Airmen providing care to remote villages here is proving to be a productive way to conduct much-needed training.

The Airmen, deployed from bases across the country in support of Operation Arctic Care, a joint innovative readiness training exercise aimed at providing medical care to remote villages in northeast Alaska.

Together, they have varied military backgrounds in the active duty, Guard and Reserve components that add experience and perspective to the unique mission.

Maj. Blake Moore, an active-duty dentist, specializes in pediatric dentistry, which is a good fit for Kotzebue since the majority of the patients he sees are children, many of whom have an urgent need of dental care.

"We're seeing a lot of cavities," said Major Moore, who deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. "I suspect part of the reason is from a reduced access to care and diet."

As a dentist who specializes in working with children, Major Moore has developed a number of techniques to put his small patients at ease.

"He's great at making the children comfortable and making the instruments less scary," said Staff Sgt. Molly Skovronski, a dental assistant and guardsman deployed from the 132nd Medical Group in Des Moines, Iowa. "He has a name for every instrument; a clamp that holds the mouth open he calls a tooth pillow. The high-speed drill he calls his whistle and the low-speed drill he calls his snow machine."

Techniques like these prove to be invaluable training opportunities for Airmen who don't work in the career field full-time.

"I'm a radiology technician in my civilian job," said Master Sgt. Patricia Glenn, a guardsman deployed from the 117th Air Refueling Wing in Birmingham, Ala. "I'm here fulfilling my annual tour commitment and this has been a great training opportunity. This is the first time I've worked so much with children."

Sergeant Glenn has experience in every component of the Air Force with four years of active-duty experience followed by a year in the Reserve and is working on her 15th year in the Air National Guard. During her 20 years of service, she has been in three career fields.

Training that incorporates an operational mission like Operation Arctic Care is a much more valuable training experience since the villagers also benefit, she said.

Like Sergeant Glenn, this is the first time Sergeant Skovronski has worked with children.

It's taken a little getting used to, but being able to work with a pediatric dentist has enhanced her appreciation for the career field, she said.

"It took me about a day to get used to working around children," she said. "You have to learn to look at things they way they do. Everything could be scary if you approach it wrong. I don't do this every day. I'm a full-time student. I feel lucky that I could come here, truly blessed."

Though Sergeant Skovronski said she chose to be a dental assistant as guardsman because she wanted to see if she enjoyed it one weekend a month, this deployment has proven to her that it's what she wants to do.

"My admissions counselor at my school told me while I was here that I needed to register for classes," she said. "She asked what classes I wanted to register for and I'm thinking of changing majors from liberal arts to the dental hygienist program because of this experience."

It seems like Operation Arctic Care has produced one more dental assistant in addition to dozens of whiter Alaskan smiles.

Keesler chief to compete in Warrior Games

by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Washburn
81st Training Wing Public Affairs

4/16/2010 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- A chief master sergeant here is one of only 20 Airmen and Air Force veterans to participate in the inaugural Warrior Games, May 10 through 14, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Chief Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, the 81st Training Support Squadron superintendent, will represent the Air Force and compete with an estimated 200 athletes from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

Chief Orslene originally learned of the Warrior Games "sitting at my desk one day. I get the wounded warrior bulletin and in the newsletter it mentioned the Warrior Games."

Swimming was part of the therapy during his recovery from multiple injuries sustained in Iraq, Chief Orslene said.

"Now I swim a mile three or four times a week," he added.

Due to a lack of swimming participants for the Air Force, Chief Orslene said the Air Force service representative was excited to learn that he's a swimmer.

"Yes, he's swimming a mile!" Chief Orslene said he heard on the other end of the phone line while discussing his training with the Air Force service representative.

"Then I got scared because I got excited too," he said. "I'm a triathlete, an athlete my whole life ... this would be great if I could be an athlete again."

These inaugural games are part of a joint effort between the Department of Defense and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Athletes competing in the Warrior Games have sustained injuries including upper body injuries, lower body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress.

According to the Warrior Games Web site, "The Warrior Games provide a focal event to empower the incorporation of athletics into military wounded warrior programs, and provide an opportunity to introduce paralympic sports to injured service members, while at the same time building camaraderie and raising awareness of paralympic competition and adaptive sports in general."

In addition to swimming, events include shooting, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put. In addition to winners in each event, there'll be an "Ultimate Warrior" competition in a pentathlon format and service-team scoring for a rotating Chairman's Cup.

Joint exercise at Osan wraps up

by Staff Sgt. Eric Burks
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/16/2010 - OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- Airmen of Osan Air Base's 25th Fighter Squadron and South Korea's 237th Tactical Fighter Squadron trained together this week during the spring Buddy Wing exercise that concluded April 15 here.

The exercise is designed to introduce and review tactics, exchange ideas, and improve interoperability between U.S. Air Force and South Korea pilots, maintainers and support members.

The exercise kicked off April 13 as the 237th TFS airmen arrived here in their KA-1 aircraft, followed by an afternoon of academics and briefings with the 25th FS staff. Over the next two days, 25th FS A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots and the KA-1 aircrew participated in air training exercises, flying joint missions based on simulated scenarios.

It was a great opportunity for the Airmen to share valuable knowledge with their allies, said South Korean air force Maj. Jwa-Ryong Park, the 237th TFS intelligence commander and pilot.

"The A-10 pilots are very proficient and have a lot of combat experience," he said. "We have a lot of expertise flying in Korea and are very familiar with the terrain, so there is a lot we can learn from each other."

While the language barrier is always the greatest challenge, Major Park said, the training provided improves coordination and interoperability. For instance, greater familiarity with the different terminologies used during air missions can greatly enhance communication in joint exercises and operations.

Buddy Wing exercises are held here twice annually and the 25th and 36th Fighter Squadrons alternate as hosts.

NETC Visits Naval Chaplaincy School, Center

By Lt. Cmdr Yolanda Gillen, Naval Chaplaincy School and Center

April 16, 2010 - COLUMBIA, S.C (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Joseph F. Kilkenny, commander, Naval Education and Training Center (NETC), and NETC Force Master Chief John Snyder visited the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center (NCSC) at Fort Jackson April 8 to tour the center's newly opened training facility.

During the visit, Capt. Michael Langston, commanding officer of NCSC briefed Kilkenny about the school and its mission, followed by a tour.

During the walk-thru of the building Kilkenny was shown five worship laboratories (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Greek Orthodox), its 300 seat auditorium, archive room, classroom spaces and computer labs.

Before departing Kilkenny, took time to meet with several religious program specialists (RP) enrolled in the RP "A" School course, telling them how he approaches his life in the Navy.

"Take care of yourself; put heart and soul into your job, what you do will follow you, focus on family, and give back to the community."

After saying goodbye to NCSC staff and students Kilkenny and Snyder visited Camp McCrady's Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center and made a courtesy call with Col. Lillian Dixon, Fort Jackson's, garrison commander.

Department Recognizes Best Reserve Component Family Programs

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

April 16, 2010 - Defense Department officials today recognized the best in National Guard and reserve family programs saying such efforts are critical to combat readiness.

"If we lose the support of our families, if we lose the support of our employers, we will be put out of business," said Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant Secretary of Defense for reserve affairs. "The sustainment of these family programs isn't just a nicety. There is a direct connection in their success and our operational readiness and our ability to succeed in combat."

McCarthy presented each of the seven winners with an engraved plaque during a Pentagon ceremony, and heralded the efforts of today's military families.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr., president of the Military Officers Association of America accompanied McCarthy in presenting the awards.

"You are our heroes," Ryan told the attendants. "You've carried us on your shoulders. We know you are the strongest and most resilient families this nation has and we need for you to be the strongest and most resilient.

"You have stretched and strained in manners I can only imagine," Ryan continued. "Nothing is more important than your support."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is traveling and could not attend the ceremony, provided a statement of congratulations to the award recipients. "The National Guard and reserve is integral to everything the military does, and never more so than in the past decade."

Gates said in his statement that it is "absolutely critical" to mission readiness that troops know before they deploy that their families will be OK.

Air Force Col. Cory Lyman, director of individual and family support policy in reserve affairs, said the awards were created in 2000 to recognize those installations that accomplish the most in family readiness, while also achieving mission readiness. He recognized each of the recipients and highlighted their accomplishments:

-- The Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade at Camp Douglas, Wis., supported the largest National Guard deployment in Wisconsin history last year. The brigade maintains family morale at home with monthly programs throughout the deployment.

-- The Army Reserve's 108th Training Command in Charlotte, N.C., supported 12,000 soldiers through various phases of deployment, in part by creating its Community Connections Initiatives program to reach out to soldiers in the region to ensure support.

-- The Marine Corps Reserve's Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772 in Willow Grove, Pa., shares information on everything from child care to Tricare with quarterly all-hands briefings to ensure that no Marine is considered non-deployable due to family concerns.

-- The Navy Reserve's Navy Operational Support Center in Columbus, Ohio, partners with other organizations to provide a host of programs, including 35 major events, more than 400 funeral honors, and youth programs.

-- The Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn., contacts each new member's family and tracks every family's ability to have contact with their deployed servicemember.

-- The Air Force Reserve's 482nd Fighter Wing in Homestead, Fla., doubled the number of families participating in its Yellow Ribbon Program for higher education, and partners with local businesses and the Red Cross to help financially pressed families.

-- The Coast Guard Reserve's Port Security Unit 311 in San Pedro, Calif., established an Internet-based information outreach program that includes a chat room for family support and the opportunity for deployed reservists to send videos of them reading bedtime stories for their children back home.

"We've been treated to a description of what are arguably the best of the best programs," McCarthy said, "but we all know there are many, many more out there. If we do nothing else, we must support them because they are the backbone of our organization."

Pottenger Passes NECC Torch to Tillotson

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Katrin Albritton, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

April 16, 2010 - VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Command of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)changed hands April 9 during a change of command ceremony on board Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Ft. Story.

Rear Adm. Michael P. Tillotson assumed command and relieved Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger.

Adm. J.C. Harvey, Jr., commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, gave the ceremony's keynote address.

"This ceremony recognizes and celebrates what we truly value in the Navy – the exercise of command," said Harvey. "It is a time to take note of Admiral Pottenger's many accomplishments and to welcome Admiral Tillotson aboard."

The tradition of celebrating the change in command is not just about the men and women in command, but also about the command itself. For NECC, this includes the more than 40,000 Sailors who carry out an array of duties and ensure thousands of operational successes around the world.

"In a time where we have never been so pressed to deploy our forces forward to support so many missions, in so many places, your leadership has made a difference," Harvey said to Pottenger. "Simply put, you took over a very young command, you gave your people a vision for the future and you executed superbly."

Before Pottenger read her orders relieving her as the commander of NECC, she recounted her experience learning about the capabilities that NECC forces provide, and the lessons she learned from the men and women who make these capabilities a reality. It was these experiences and these Sailors, that made the ceremony difficult for her.

"This is not a day that I have looked forward to. I am relinquishing command, and that is always something to be let go of reluctantly," said Pottenger. "More importantly, I am relinquishing command of an extraordinary force, in what has been a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Pottenger, who assumed duties as NECC commander from Tillotson nearly two years ago, was nominated by President Barak Obama in March for appointment to the rank of vice admiral and assignment as deputy chief of staff for capability development at Supreme Allied Command Transformation.

After assuming command, Tillotson recognized Pottenger's hard work and leadership through NECC's maturation as a Type Command.

"Admiral Pottenger, you have indeed done a superb job," he said. "The force was postured on the operational side when you took over. What we did not have was the foundation of the Type Command - the parts and pieces that make it all come together. You ensured these forces are ready and established the programs and processes that are necessary. I look forward to carrying on those traditions, and I look forward to commanding this organization as we move into the future."

Prior to arriving at NECC, Tillotson served as deputy director of Operations, U.S. Central Command.

NECC serves as the single functional command for the Navy's globally deployed expeditionary forces and as central management for the readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of these forces. Expeditionary forces are organized to accomplish specific objectives in other countries.

General Officer Assignments

April 16, 2010 - The Chief of Staff, Air Force announced today the following assignments:

Brig. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, vice commander, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Air Combat Command, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., to director, combat and information operations, J-3A, Headquarters U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Col. David D. Thompson, who has been selected for the rank of brigadier general, director, space forces, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Air Combat Command, Al Udeid, Qatar, to vice commander, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Air Combat Command, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Gates: 'United States is Reengaging' With Caribbean

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 16, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he hopes today's regional security summit here and President Barack Obama's Caribbean Basin Security Initiative send a strong signal that "the United States is reengaging with this region" after drawing down its presence following the 9/11 terror attacks.

Speaking at a joint news conference today with seven Caribbean government and defense leaders, Gates said he's impressed by the innovative approaches being taken to promote collective security through the initiative.

Following what he called a "very productive" meeting to discuss furthering those efforts, Gates lauded the Caribbean nations' work toward marshalling limited resources to address common threats such as narco-trafficking and violent crime.

These challenges touch U.S. shores as well, and demand that regional nations mount a united front to confront them, Gates said during a joint news conference with Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson.

Gates conceded that the drug trafficking problem has worsened here due to the success of the Merida Initiative and Mexico's crackdown on drug cartels there.

"Narco-trafficking is a problem for the hemisphere as a whole," he said, "and wherever you put pressure, the traffickers will go where there is less resistance and where there is less capability."

Going forward, Gates said he would like to see broader efforts to connect the regional security system here with efforts under way outside the Eastern Caribbean. This includes efforts by the French, Dutch, Colombians, Peruvians and U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force.

The secretary praised Barbados as a strong U.S. security partner and a leader in promoting security cooperation in the Eastern Caribbean.

"The United States stands steadfastly with you as you pursue long-term solutions to these problems," Gates said after meeting with the defense ministers.

Much of that support is provided through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative that President Barack Obama proposed last April during the Summit of the Americans in Trinidad and Tobago.

The initiative has been built with extensive input from Caribbean nations with a central role for the regional security system, Gates noted today, all aimed at helping regional governments face up to transnational threats.

The $45 million the United States has committed to the effort this year will help improve regional maritime patrol and interdiction capabilities and domain awareness and provide for additional joint training and exercises, he said.

Gates said details about how these funds will be allocated are being hammered out by technical working groups, with one convened today in Washington.

He emphasized that regional nations will be the ones to help determine how the funding can be most effective. The United States already has committed three interceptor boats and communications equipment, but Gates said he heard suggestions today about the need for more law enforcement training and the stand-up of major crimes units.

However, Gates emphasized that the Caribbean initiative represents more as it provides a comprehensive approach to regional security. Its scope extends beyond military and security assistance to address equally critical components of the region's economic and social stability.

The initiative aims to provide, "not just improved security capabilities to confront immediate threats, but also development assistance in hopes of addressing the root causes of regional problems, such as the lack of educational and employment opportunities, particularly for youth," Gates said. "That is a strategy we strongly support."

Fifteen Caribbean Basin nations are included in the security initiative: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Military Engineers Help Haiti Build Better Future

By Judith Snyderman
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

April 16, 2010 - Efforts to help Haiti rebuild after a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake will continue after the joint U.S. military task force there winds down at the end of May, the task force's chief engineer said yesterday. Navy Capt. James Wink recapped progress and outlined plans for the next phase of recovery during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable discussion.

Wink witnessed overwhelming scenes of destruction in Haiti when he arrived there Jan. 29. "The amount of rubble that is caused by this earthquake is 25 million cubic yards," he said. "To put that in a picture, that's five Louisiana Superdomes filled with rubble."

Logistics, rather than technical engineering obstacles, posed the greatest challenges, Wink said. Many people were still living on the streets of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince at the end of January, he told the bloggers, so engineers began working in a triage mode to move people into shelter. "Before we could do anything else," he added, "we had to get the rubble out of the way."

Throughout the operation, Wink said, he's been impressed by the unified effort as the joint task force worked in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, international representatives and Haitian officials. The triple mission everyone is working toward, explained, is to establish a basic level of functioning shelter, sanitation and settlement for earthquake victims.

An initial priority for engineers was to assess the main seaport which was heavily damaged. Analysis showed that the port's north pier was a complete loss, Wink said, but by the end of February, Seabees and Army divers had repaired the south pier well enough to allow small watercraft to relay critical humanitarian supplies from ships stationed offshore to troops at the pier, who transported them to stranded civilians.

By the end of March, he added, the south pier was fully operational, and the port is now being run entirely by Haitian authorities with no Defense Department involvement.

Now, Wink said, engineers are focused on mitigating dangers from flash floods and landslides during the upcoming rainy season for people living in camps.

"We're [working with] some of the Japanese and [U.S.] Navy Seabees inside some of those camps to install drainage systems and to build reinforcements to some of the walls," he said. The task force also is supporting the United Nations in building camps north of the capital city so displaced people can be moved out of harm's way.

Although Joint Task Force Haiti will be deactivated at the end of next month, Wink said, some Navy Seabees will remain to work on a new "Operation New Horizons" mission. Equipment is flowing in now to help in building community centers and schools in association with the mission.

Wink credited the service and sacrifice of U.S. troops and their families -- including the contributions of Navy Seabees and Army and Air Force engineers -- with much progress to date. But he also recognized the resilience of the Haitian people.

"These people are dealing with a disaster that is almost unexplainable in U.S. terms," he said. "They are living in conditions that are foreign to us. Yet, with a little bit of hope and a little bit of help, they just pick up and move on," he said.

Arming of Vessels to Combat Piracy

Admiral Urges Arming of Vessels to Combat Piracy

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

April 16, 2010 - A top Navy commander suggested yesterday that commercial vessels should arm themselves when traveling through pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast. Navy Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa and of NATO's Allied Joint Task Force Command Naples, told Pentagon reporters that the scope of the piracy problem is too great to be policed by military vessels alone.

"We could put a World War II fleet of ships out there," Fitzgerald said, referring to the Gulf of Aden and the Mozambique Channel off the Indian coast, "and we still wouldn't be able to cover the whole ocean."

On an average day, 30 to 40 ships comprising international maritime forces monitor pirate activity in the Somali basin and the western Indian Ocean, Fitzgerald said, adding that five to 10 of these ships at any given time are American vessels.

Another issue, the admiral said, is what to do with pirates who are captured. The international community, he explained, has not yet answered the question of how to bring to justice pirates captured at sea. This issue has come to the fore with the recent capture of five suspected pirates by the crew of the USS Nicholas in the Indian Ocean west of the Seychelles.

"Catch and release is not a very good option," Fitzgerald said. "How do we deal with this? We've got to come to some kind of solution."

Somali-based piracy, the admiral said, will not go away until a government in Mogadishu is stable enough to confront the problem within its borders.

"Right now, we're trying to shoot the arrow instead of the archer," Fitzgerald said. He acknowledged that the prospect of a stable Somali government is unlikely in the near future.

The admiral's comments echoed remarks Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made last year after Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates while rescuing the kidnapped American ship captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship.

Gates, emphasizing the limitations of a purely military approach to piracy, said some officials have suggested bypassing the central government of Somalia and instead establishing relationships with officials of functioning local governments there.

"There is no purely military solution to it," the secretary told the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va., last year. "And as long as you've got this incredible number of poor people and the risks are relatively small, there's really no way in my view to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids."

But in the near-term, Fitzgerald said yesterday, it is "incumbent upon the vessels who are sailing the high seas to either protect themselves or accept the dangers."

Asked if he would recommend that commercial ships arm themselves, Fitzgerald said: "I think they should."

"Commercial ships should take appropriate protections," he added, "because we cannot offer 100-percent guarantees of protection as the ships go through."

Fitzgerald also recommended tracking the spoils of successful piracy operations. "I think we'd be able to trace the financiers [and] the middlemen," he said.

ANHAM FZCO, LLC Awarded $2.2 Billion U.S. Department of Defense Contract to Support Troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan

April 16, 2010 - Washington, DC – Today, the United States Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) announced that it has awarded an estimated $2.2 billion contract, including options enclosed for the contract term, to ANHAM FZCO, LLC to provide full-line food and non-food distribution and support to Department of Defense customers in Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan.

ANHAM has issued the following statement:

“It is with great gratitude and a compelling sense of duty that all at ANHAM welcome the award to expand our support for those serving in the Middle East. We have a long track record of meeting and exceeding the contract requirements and expectations of our clients, the United States Government, and all stakeholders. Our capable team will continue to build upon its legacy of delivering the best services at the best value to American taxpayers and the United States Government. We look forward to a continued partnership with The Department of Defense.”

ANHAM, LLC ( ) is a leading contracting firm working throughout the Middle East and North Africa ("MENA"), Central Asia, and Europe. With more than a century's worth of experience between its principal founding companies, ANHAM is able to efficiently, effectively, and affordably deliver products and services throughout the world. Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, ANHAM has international offices that specialize in providing local support and services to its initiatives, projects, and investments across diverse regions of the globe.

Multi-state effort supports West African partner

By Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton
Michigan National Guard

(4/12/10) -- Air National Guardsmen from three states are working together to support a new partnership with the west African nation of Ghana. A detachment of Airmen from the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Civil Engineering Squadron arrived here on April 8 to work on a construction project here at the Acota air base.

They worked alongside a contingent of Guardsmen from the North Dakota Air National Guard, who are at the worksite managing the overall project.

After the Michigan CES team works at the site for about two weeks, a similar team from North Dakota will pick up where Michigan left off.

"Working with our Ghana partners is a way to build up goodwill and camaraderie between the two nations," said Maj. John Gibbs, the base civil engineer with North Dakota's Civil Engineering Squadron from the 119th Fighter Wing.

The Michigan Guardsmen were transported to Ghana by a KC-135 Stratotanker operated by the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard. The Kansas Coyotes flew with an additional crew to accommodate the long flight from Selfridge to the Lajes Field in the Azores Islands in the mid-Atlantic Ocean and then on to Ghana.

For most of the Guardsmen involved, arriving in Ghana marked a first visit to the African continent.

"It was a new experience for us," said Senior Master Sgt. Doug Copeland, one of three Kansas Guardsmen, who served as crew chiefs for the flight to Ghana. "No one on our crew had ever landed in Africa before."

The mission to Ghana is a part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program which pairs state National Guards with emerging nations to help support stable governments and build relations between the two nations.

Ghana recently became a partner with North Dakota. Michigan is establishing a partnership with Liberia, a neighboring nation to Ghana. The Michigan Guard has also enjoyed a long partnership with Latvia in eastern Europe.

Air Guard engineers say planning the key for Africa trip

By TSgt. Dan Heaton
Michigan National Guard

(4/12/10) -- As the owner of a small industrial and commercial construction company, Jeff Talaga has developed plenty of building plans. Few, however, have proven as challenging as the project he worked on in Africa, while wearing the uniform of the Michigan Air National Guard.

Master Sgt. Talaga served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the re-construction of a technical school building here on Akota air base during an April deployment with the 127th Civil Engineering Squadron.

"This is definitely not a traditional construction project," he said during a break from the work. "What works at home, may not be able to work here."

A detachment of about 30 personnel from Selfridge Air National Guard Base made the trip to Africa to work on the project. The team had to bring all of their own tools and small building supplies, such as bolts and fasteners, with them from home.

They also had to deal with stifling heat and humidity, which limited work hours during the day.

"Part of the challenge was we really didn't know what to expect when we get here. As an example, I've never had to deal with mixing concrete in the heat and humidity of Africa," Talaga said. "Fortunately, the Ghanians have been very easy to work with. When we ordered a concrete mixer, the man who owned the machine came along with it and provided some guidance."

Talaga has been a member of the Michigan Air National Guard since 1984 and now serves as the superintendent of the structural shop for the 127th.

"This unit has been through a number of deployments together over the years," said Maj. Tom Sierakowski, the officer in charge during the Ghana trip. "We have people like Talaga, who have developed a great deal of expertise, and we are able to rely on that during a challenging project such as this one."

Talaga said being in the Guard provides him a perfect work opportunity.

"I say I am a part-time construction company owner, part-time in the Guard and part-time stay at home dad, which works out just about how I want it," he said.

Enterprise Completes Fast Cruise

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Meredith, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

April 16, 2010 - NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The crew of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) successfully completed fast cruise April 15.

Fast cruise allows the crew to simulate being underway while still tied to the pier.

The exercise spanned four days ending earlier than scheduled due to the efforts of the crew. Enterprise set a new record completing the evolution in just 36 hours, said Capt. Ron Horton, the ship's commanding officer.

The crew executed underway watch team rotations, man overboard, general quarters, engineering and flight deck drills.

"We've been doing lots of drills to show that we know how to respond to casualties," said Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Dominic A. Musso. "We've been testing out machinery to make sure it's good and operating the way it should be."

The crew also conducted an abandon ship drill that required Sailors to muster with their departments and proceed to their life raft stations.

The drills ensure the crew is ready for sea trials.

"Overall, we did pretty well," said Musso. "As we went through the fast cruise evolution, we got the kinks ironed out. We found out where we had the hiccups, and corrected them so we'll be ready for sea trials."

The ship will next leave Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard and conduct intense at-sea maneuvering and test every system to ensure mission capability.

"I'm extremely happy to be leaving the shipyard after two years," said Musso. "It's been fun to see the whole orchestra finally come together."

With the completion of fast cruise, the crew of "Big E" is looking ahead to sea trials and the testing, evaluation and certification period, known as "workups," as the crew continues to prepare Enterprise for its upcoming deployment.

USO Metro Celebrates Exceptional Troops, Volunteers

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

April 15, 2010 - Military leaders and a host of celebrities came together here yesterday to pay tribute to outstanding servicemembers and other special honorees at a star-studded event. The USO of Metropolitan Washington hosted its 28th annual awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, a night devoted to USO supporters -– military and civilian -- for their volunteerism and dedication in support of servicemembers and their families.

"Who needs you the most? We ask ourselves a very simple question," Sloan Gibson, USO president, said before an audience of more than 500 guests. "Our mission is to lift the spirit of America's troops and families, ... our wounded warriors, and families of the fallen. There is no organization, anywhere, better suited to take care of our wounded warriors and their families than USO Metro."

USO Metro assists some 300,000 local servicemembers through fundraising, celebrity meet-and-greets, concerts and other morale-bolstering programs. The nonprofit organization also operates airport lounges at several local airports and military hospitals to give troops a little comfort and care during their travels and rehabilitation.

Several individuals were recognized at the dinner for their support of USO outreach programs.

Actor-musician brothers Kevin and Michael Bacon shared the night's top honor and were recognized for donating their time to troops. They often visit wounded warriors recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

James L. Jones Jr., national security advisor and retired Marine Corps general, and L. Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary of intergovernmental and public affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs and disabled Army pilot, presented the USO Merit Award to the Bacon brothers.

"Each of the Bacon brothers is an accomplished entertainer, and they both exemplify the highest values of USO," Jones said. "Their commitment to our servicemembers and their families runs deep. These wonderful brothers have given so much of their time, energy and talent to visit and lift the spirit of our troops when they need it most."

The Bacon brothers said they were surprised when notified they had been chosen for the award. Visiting troops and giving their time to the USO, they said, is rewarding in itself.

"We feel like we've done very little to receive this award," Kevin said. "We're really struck by the wounded men and women who served so bravely."

USO tours help to build a connection between volunteers and the troops. USO helps to put servicemembers' experiences in perspective for those who may not fully realize what they've been through, Michael said.

"The history of the organization is amazing," Michael said. "Kevin and I are so honored to even be considered as a part of what [USO] gives back to not only our military service people, but our entire country.

"I hope that we are worthy of this award and can continue to contribute in our own small way through our music and performing and visiting people who are hurt," he added.

While much of the evening recognized USO efforts in support of recovering servicemembers, it's important not to forget those who are currently deployed throughout the world, said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there were some 210,000 [troops] serving as we speak around the world, many in harm's way," the admiral said. "They give us the opportunity to celebrate as we have tonight. ... We should never forget, and keep them in our hearts and prayers."

Besides the Bacon brothers, the list of celebrity USO supporters attending last night included television personality and U.S. Naval Academy graduate Montel Williams, National Football League Hall of Fame offensive lineman Anthony Munoz, Miss American 2010 Caressa Cameron and author and professional wrestler Mick Foley.

Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston also attended, and the 82nd Airborne Division All American Chorus performed.

Other awards and recognitions included:

-- Army Col. Gordon R. Roberts, commander of the Medical Center Brigade at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, received the John Gioia Patriot Award. Roberts is a regular USO volunteer, whose military career spans more than 40 years. He's also the only Medal of Honor recipient serving on active duty.

-- The Professional Golfers Association Tour received the Legacy of Hope award, named for long-time USO supporter Bob Hope. The PGA Tour was recognized for its Birdies for the Brave program, which raises money for military charities.

-- Army National Guard Master Sgt. Robert Sutherland received the USO Metro Special Salute. Sutherland is a Vietnam War veteran who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

-- Army 1st Lt. Mark Wise received the USO Metro Special Salute. Wise was recognized for heroic actions under fire in Afghanistan.

-- Marine Corps Cpl. Jeremy Stengel received the USO Metro Special Salute. Stengel was recognized for volunteer service to the USO. He was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

-- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David F. Brown received the USO Metro Special Salute. Brown was injured by an indirect-fire attack in Afghanistan.

-- Air Force Staff Sgt. David Flowers received the USO Metro Special Salute. Flowers stepped on an enemy land mine in Afghanistan

-- Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Munk received the USO Metro Special Salute for his actions as part of relief efforts in support of earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Another highlight of the night was the announcement of plans to build two new USO centers. A new center at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center will break ground this summer in Bethesda. A new facility at Fort Belvoir, Va., also is in the works, Elaine Rogers, USO Metro president said.

Both are expected to be complete, up and running by September 2011, Rogers said. The new centers will help to expand USO services to wounded warriors recovering at area military hospitals, she said.

Northcom Nominee Pledges to Focus on Relationships

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

April 15, 2010 - Navy Vice Adm. James "Sandy" Winnefeld Jr. told a Senate committee today that if confirmed to head U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, he will work to build and maintain the command's relationships he called critical to the mission.

"I've observed that there are no other combatant commands where support for their partners [is] more important than these two," Winnefeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "My assignments have prepared me for this task."

Winnefeld, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the commands, is a Navy fighter pilot and former commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet, USS Cleveland and USS Enterprise. He led the Enterprise through combat operations supporting operations in Afghanistan immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Currently, he serves as a senior member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Military Staff Committee and as the director of strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff.

The admiral said he would work to maintain the commands' strong working relationships with other U.S. federal agencies, Canada and Mexico. He also singled out the U.S. reserve components.

"Our nation's Guard and reserve have never been better, and I look forward to a strong personal relationship with them," he said. The deputy commander of Northcom and NORAD, Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, is the former chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Winnefeld said Northcom's continued support along the U.S.-Mexico border would be one of his first priorities if the Senate confirms him for the post.

"I've been watching very closely, and, if confirmed, I will really burrow into it," he said to Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had asked him about support for Mexico in battling drug cartels. "I would welcome accompanying you down there. I very much want to get down there myself and see what's going on."

Winnefeld said he is concerned that the cartels, which are accused of 6,500 murders in Mexico last year and 2,000 so far this year, are threatening the Mexican government and U.S. national security, and that he agrees with U.S. support to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's government, which he said has exhibited "extremely good leadership and courage."

"It's a tremendous sign of our partnership with Mexico," he added, "and I'm honored to have the ability to work with them."

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the committee, asked Winnefeld whether Obama's revamped missile defense plan in Europe would make the United States safer from a potential long-range missile strike from Iran.

"It would provide a much earlier warning of an attack from Iran, and more time for the United States to counter a threat," the admiral said. "That's the most important part."

Keesler chief to compete in Warrior Games

by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Washburn
81st Training Wing Public Affairs

April 16, 2010 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. - Damian Orslene, 81st Training Support Squadron superintendent, is one of only 20 Airmen and veterans to participate in the inaugural Warrior Games, May 10-14, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

An estimated 200 athletes are selected proportionally from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard according to the Warrior Games Web site. Participants are chosen by each individual branch of service.

Orslene originally learned of the Warrior Games "sitting at my desk one day. I get the wounded warrior bulletin and in the newsletter it mentioned the Warrior Games."

Swimming was part of the therapy during his recovery from "multiple injuries sustained in Iraq," said Orslene. "Now I swim a mile three or four times a week."

Due to a lack of swimming participants for the Air Force, Orslene said the Air Force service representative was excited to learn that he's a swimmer.

"Yes, he's swimming a mile!" Orslene heard on the other end of the phone line while discussing his training with the Air Force service representative. "Then I got scared because I got excited too. I'm a triathlete, an athlete my whole life ... this would be great if I could be an athlete again."

These inaugural games are part of a joint effort between the Department of Defense and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Athletes competing in the Warrior Games have sustained injuries including upper body injuries, lower body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress.

According to the Warrior Games Web site, "The Warrior Games provide a focal event to empower the incorporation of athletics into military wounded warrior programs, and provide an opportunity to introduce paralympic sports to injured service members, while at the same time building camaraderie and raising awareness of paralympic competition and adaptive sports in general."

In addition to swimming, events include shooting, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put. In addition to winners in each event, there'll be an "Ultimate Warrior" competition in a pentathlon format and service team scoring for a rotating Chairman's Cup.