Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reflections from Tanzania: President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

Eda Mutale Lifuka, a resident of Zambia, is a Department of Defense HIV/AIDS program manager. This is the final blog post in a series written from the 2010 International HIV/AIDS Conference in Tanzania.

April 18, 2010 - For me, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has not only provided hope for a new “HIV free” era but also gratitude for an intervention. My only wish is that it would have come earlier because it would have saved, or at least prolonged, the lives of those near and dear to me. In Zambia, we use a term that goes like, “we are all either affected or infected;” no one can say they have not felt the impact of the scourge.

I am extremely passionate about the efforts of PEPFAR and the significant impact that it has had on the lives of Zambians. With more people receiving life-saving drugs, people are able to contribute to building the economy and they live longer, have more time to spend with their families, and are able to contribute to society. When people living with HIV/AIDS become change agents or actors in their society, it really goes a long way and encourages others to not only get tested but to also access services.

Since receiving aid from PEPFAR, we have had many success stories. I love these because they show that progress is being made and that we are moving in the right direction. Some examples of these successes include seeing a man, who was almost dying, standing up and saying, “I would not be here had it not been for the American People,” or seeing an HIV positive mother giving birth to twins who are negative. Both stories give a sense of hope for the future.

Being Zambian and a part of this initiative gives me a sense of pride and lets me know that the situation can be better. The service delivery and infrastructure improvements benefit the military and the surrounding communities that access base health services.

The military-specific program is great because it provides an opportunity for the Department of Defense (DoD) to train host country militaries on how to interact. DoD can relate because they face similar challenges and constraints during deployment. This interaction, collaboration and success can be seen at gatherings such as the 2010 International Military HIV/AIDS Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. This forum brings together countries from all around the globe and provides an opportunity for sharing lessons learned and best practices. Militaries tap into initiatives from other countries to learn new strategies and their efforts are reenergized, which motivates them to do better.

At the conference, there is a sense of camaraderie, the poster presentation is lively and there is energy in the room as people move around to see the displays. As you reach each country station, there is a sense of pride as the representatives’ talk about their programs. There is also an exchange of materials as well as ideas and long lasting contacts are made, which are not only a source of friendship but also a source for technical assistance for the future. The American people are making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.

She Wolf

Editor's Note:  The author is a former servicemember.

I learned to hate Sunday mornings. It wasn’t getting up at 4:30AM to deliver the Sunday paper. The problem was the dogs. In the early 1970s, when I was a paperboy, the newspaper came on weekday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sunday Mornings. People’s dogs were much better behaved Monday through Saturday. At first, I thought the dogs were better behaved because during the week their owners were home. But it was more than that. I have often seen that painting of dogs playing cards. I was convinced that the dogs did indeed get together on Saturday nights and got all liquored up. They were mean, hung-over drunks on Sunday morning. I devised ways to avoid most, but there was one dog - a huge German Shepard I called She Wolf who had taken my delivery of the paper personally.

Read On

Statement by Secretary Robert M. Gates

The New York Times sources who revealed my January memo to the National Security Advisor mischaracterized its purpose and content. With the Administration's pivot to a pressure track on Iran earlier this year, the memo identified next steps in our defense planning process where further interagency discussion and policy decisions would be needed in the months and weeks ahead. The memo was not intended as a "wake up call" or received as such by the President's national security team. Rather, it presented a number of questions and proposals intended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision making process. There should be no confusion by our allies and adversaries that the United States is properly and energetically focused on this question and prepared to act across a broad range of contingencies in support of our interests.

Decommissioned Battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) Relieved of Duty

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Pittman, Navy Public Affairs Support Element-East

April 18, 2010 - NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The city of Norfolk officially took over stewardship of the decommissioned Iowa-class battleship, USS Wisconsin (BB-64), during a ceremony at The National Maritime Center on April 16.

The ceremony took place 65 years after the ship was first commissioned into naval service April 16, 1944.

"As we incrementally open up this Navy icon for public viewing, it will be our awesome responsibility to bring this grand ship's history to life," said Hank Lynch, Executive Director of Nauticus.

Wisconsin has been berthed at Nauticus, a maritime-themed science center, since Dec. 7, 2000, but still maintained by the Navy until this ceremony. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006, battleships must be maintained in case it must be recommissioned for Navy usage. Transfer of the ship to Norfolk ends that requirement for the Wisconsin. The Navy had paid approximately $2.8 million to the city of Norfolk to maintain the ship between 2000-2009.

Audio tours lead guests through decks of the ship to demonstrate the workings of one of the Navy's last and largest battleships.

"Our responsibility is to preserve and protect your ship; to insure that your legacy of duty, honor and country endures and inspires future generations of Americans," said Paul D. Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk.

Several former crew members were in attendance for the ceremony, along with distinguished guests and active duty Sailors.

Wisconsin served in Adm. William F. Halsey's 3rd Fleet during the liberation of the Philippines, supported the amphibious landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and transported GIs back to the United States during Operation Magic Carpet at the end of World War II.

Sailors Visit Children During San Antonio Navy Week

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist L.A. Shively, Navy Office of Community Outreach

April 18, 2010 - SAN ANTONIO (NNS) -- Navy units around San Antonio visited children and teens as part as San Antonio Navy Week, which started April 14.

Sailors from Navy Recruiting District (NRD) San Antonio delivered ball caps, toy bears and told sea stories brightening the rainy morning for several children and their families at Christus Santa Rosa Children's Hospital, as part of the Caps for Kids program.

Later in the afternoon, conversation about school and the future mingled with laughter and music at the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio, where Sailors from NRD, Naval Medical Research Unit - San Antonio (NMRUSA), and Naval Medical Training Command (NMTC), Ft. Sam Houston, visited teens at the teen center.

"I was surprised" said 13-year-old Venus Perez who admitted never seeing a Sailor in uniform before.

Traditionally San Antonio has been an Army and Air Force town, but with the opening of the Medical Education and Training Center on Ft. Sam Houston, an influx of several thousand Sailors is expected to continue over the next two years.

Now that she's met several Sailors, Perez said she liked the Navy, but was leaning toward basketball. Several teens said they were surprised that careers in flying and music were available in the Navy.

"I think it's a wonderful thing," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Ferdinand Ajel, who is currently with NMTC. He said visiting teens was also surprising for him.

"At first I didn't know what we were going to do," he thought he was volunteering to build or paint – a more typical project. "I like that we can interact with the kids."

He said he talked about traveling and seeing places outside of his hometown as a Sailor and that the time he spent with these teens will help him at home.

"I have to talk to my own kids too. They are going to be real-life stories and that's what we've got going on here. I'm finding ways to reach [teens at the center] and it will be good for my own family," Ajel said.

Coming into the community and seeing Sailors gives kids an opportunity to think about their options in life said Capt. Vincent DeInnocentiis, commanding officer for NMRUSA.

"It helps them know they can do anything they want to do and that the Navy is an option. They don't have to stay in one place or listen to others telling them they can't do this or that."

A lot of us came from similar backgrounds DeInnocentiis stressed, and bringing Sailors into the community shows kids they can get an education and grow up to be somebody.

After visiting with teens, Sailors then spent the afternoon playing games with the younger set at the nearby game center.

Raucous squeals of delight erupted when a basket ball dropped into a hoop, or a foosball slammed into the goal, and it didn't matter what the score or who was winning.

Everyone was excited and enjoying each other's company simply playing carpet bowling, hoops or video games.

"[Play] helps put you in the moment instead of [worrying] about the future all the time," said Capt. R.G. Craigmiles, commanding officer of NMTC.

"It helps development. It also helps them interact with other human beings. Most importantly, it teaches teamwork and cooperation – everything you need to succeed."