Sunday, May 09, 2010

Americans in Hong Kong Boost Patriot Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Richard Doolin

May 9, 2010 - HONG KONG (NNS) -- Sailors from mine countermeasures ship USS Patriot (MCM 7) experienced Hong Kong American Women Association's Meals-in-the-Home (MITH) during the ship's visit to Hong Kong May 2-6.

The MITH program is dedicated to helping service members feel welcome in Hong Kong.

Steve and Barbara Watson invited five Sailors to dinner aboard their yacht, the "Northern Sun."

"You guys do a job that I don't think a lot of people say thank you for, and we'd like to be able to do that," said Steve Watson. "So, this is our little way of saying 'Thanks guys, thanks for what you do,'" he said.

The Watsons have lived in Hong Kong for 10 years adn Barbara's father was a Navy captain.

"It's a pleasure," she sai. "Makes me feel more at home. Cause we're not at home either. So, it's good to have other Americans here," she said.

"I think it was pretty relaxing. It was pretty entertaining," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Patrick Lampley. "We got to enjoy the company of some people that have been away from the United States for quite some time. I mean, me myself, I have been away from there for a while. So, although it's not the same, it's kind of cool having these people invite us into their home and share a meal with us, share history."

Patriot is one of four mine-countermeasures ships forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan. The ship's crew reports to Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, who has his headquarters in Okinawa, Japan. Patriot is on their spring patrol.

Navy Law Enforcement Pilot Program Underway at NAS North Island

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Cassatt, Navy Public Affairs Suport Element West

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- A pilot program designed to standardize law enforcement procedures across the Navy is in full force at Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island.

A first of its kind, the Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Navy Security Forces Training Course provides expert-level training on every aspect of law enforcement to create a set of common practices among law enforcement agencies throughout the Navy community.

"This is a brand new training program in the Navy and we are looking to implement it Navy-wide, so all eyes are on this," said David Gallardo, a 23-year law enforcement veteran and the course's lead instructor for Navy Region, Southwest. "Right now we're at the trial-and-error stage, but the support for the program across the Navy and Department of Defense is unbelievable."

For nine weeks the cadets, made up of the Department of Defense (DoD) civilian police and Navy masters-at-arms, will go through a rigorous training cycle in law enforcement techniques, including search and seizure, anti-terrorism/force protection, vehicle searches, building and area searches, firearms proficiency, non-lethal weapons training, and many other areas of instruction vital to police.

"Our candidates must complete all training cycles in order to pass the course," Gallardo said. "We're trying to bring Navy law enforcement to a tempo that is second to none, and everybody must be on board."

For the Sailors going through the course, it is an opportunity to learn alongside their DoD police counterparts under some very accomplished instructors, comprising former civilian police officers and retired masters-at-arms.

"The instructors [of this course] are more intense than in our master-at-arms training, but I like the intensity," said Master-At-Arms Seaman Lindsey Bakke, a Sailor assigned to harbor patrol at Naval Base San Diego. "I am glad to be able to get training with the DoD guys and learn how the DoD police forces work."

That shared training is the cornerstone of the course, with the goal of a system of law enforcement procedures understood and followed across the Navy.

"Different law enforcement agencies do things differently," Gallardo said. "What we want to do with our course is create a Navywide system of law enforcement procedures to help streamline our methods and coordinate easily between agencies."

"We are doing something new here," said Dio Sarabia, a former police officer and the course's anti-terrorism/force protection instructor. "We want to take the course to a new level and get the respect of other departments and law enforcement agencies."

At the end of the course, which ends late June, the instructors will compile their information, evaluate the course, and submit their findings in hopes of implementing it Navywide.

CNATTU, MWR Give Recreation Area a Facelift

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tucker M. Yates, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) hosted a cleanup of the Rocky Point and Can Do Inn military recreation area May 7.

Thirty-five Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit (CNATTU) Whidbey Island instructors and students and MWR personnel volunteered to clean, clear overgrown foot paths, resand a volleyball court net replacement, refurbish playground equipment, regravel of common areas and the clear out horseshoe pits.

"We're trying to get more involved and contribute as much of our time to the community as possible. We saw the opportunity and told MWR we'd jump on it and help them out. We're basically doing a good initial spring cleaning," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class (AW) Chad Hodges, a CNATTU instructor and the command coordinator for the event, from Houston. "It's a beautiful place to come out to and have fun."

Sherry Yates said NAS Whidbey Island Liberty and Deployed Forces Program manager, when she put out a request for assistance in the event, CNATTU Commanding Officer Cmdr. David Latosky and Executive Officer Cmdr. Charles Murphy adopted the project as a command initiative. After this initial clean up, CNATTU will continue to maintain the facility by sending personnel out twice a month throughout the summer for cleaning, preventive maintenance and upkeep, the first command to do so since Construction Battalion Unit 417 left NAS Whidbey Island in April of 2007.

"This place provides a venue to develop the camaraderie of being together as a command. It gives them leisure time to interact where they can come with their families and spend some time getting to know one another outside of work status," said Yates.

"I've been here 24-and-a-half years, and this is fantastic. It's going to get better," said Tee Knouse, the installation N92 (Recreation) administrative assistant. "I think it's fantastic [that CNATTU adopted the area] because it's on base; normally you see the commands adopt a road out in town. Well, now someone is taking on something actually on base. I don't think any other tenant has taken a part of NAS and said we're going to dedicate this to us and keep it spruced up. I love my active duty, and I'm proud of all them."

Latosky said he considered it an honor and a privilege to contribute to the Team Whidbey spirit through this activity.

"We were happy to jump in. We were trying to assist and support even before this because we have a lot of students out there who are young Sailors and initial accessions who need to be brought into [the atmosphere] of the right spirit; all about teamwork, all about honor, courage and commitment," said Latosky. "Some of this relates; there couldn't be a better teaching tool than coming out here and volunteering, giving back not only to the community, but right to shipmates, right to Navy and Marine Corps, right to all military who come out here and use this facility."

"The support CNATT(U) has given so far is amazing and the progress has been made is just outstanding. There is no way MWR could have done this alone in a day without their support," said Yates. "All of the commands at NAS Whidbey Island, whether it be the squadrons or the tenant commands, when MWR goes out and asks for their support they have always stepped up and supported us. Without them we wouldn't be able to offer the services we have to offer."

During the cleanup a lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs with traditional barbecue fare was provided by MWR for the volunteers.

U.S. Navy Sailors Volunteer at Canadian Community Center

By Ensign Andrew Long, USS Halsey Public Affairs

VICTORIA, British Columbia (NNS) -- Sailors from guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Sterett (DDG 104) volunteered to clean and paint a community center May 2 during a port visit to Esquimalt, British Columbia.

Crew members cleaned the grounds and facilities of the community center operated by the Burnside Gorge Community Association.

"We were able to mow the lawns, remove weeds and debris, and paint three classrooms," said Operations Specialist 1st Class Lisa Capell, community relations coordinator for Halsey.

"After we finished, the facility looked like really nice. It looked like we accomplished a week's worth of work," said one of the volunteers, Electrician's Mate 1st Class Jessica A. Henry.

"It is an absolute privilege to be received in a foreign port and contribute to the local community in meaningful ways," said Cmdr. Jordy Harrison, Halsey commanding officer. We have a motivated and talented crew that loves to volunteer at every opportunity."

"It is very important to have volunteers offer their services and expertise in the way the sailors did," said Simeon Goa, a custodian for Burnside Gorge. "With volunteers, positive changes are possible and can assist in creating a better working environment and a sense of connection with the community and abroad."

Halsey and Sterett are homeported in San Diego, and are scheduled to operate with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group later this year.

USS Halsey Trains for Surface Dominance

By Ensign Andrew Long, USS Halsey Public Affairs

May 9, 2010 - USS HALSEY, At Sea (NNS) -- Navy guided missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) performed precision maneuvers, screening exercises, and numerous other tactical training evolutions during Destroyer Squadron 9's six-ship group sail May 5 in preparation for joining USS Abraham Lincoln and Carrier Air Wing 2 for strike group training.

The ships conducted precision maneuvers at intervals as close as 300 yards from each other to train in positioning themselves for tactical formations and prepare for a group photo opportunity.

"We don't usually get the opportunity to so closely approach that many ships," said Ensign Donald P. Northrup of Phoenix, the conning officer for the event. "This gave me the opportunity to use the mental math techniques we learned to predict how the ship will move."

Following the initial set of maneuvers, the six surface combatants practiced strike group level screening maneuvers designed to defend a high value unit.

"Our watchstanders maneuvered Halsey with confidence and precision during a unique training opportunity," said Cmdr. Jordy Harrison, of Columbia, Md., Halsey commanding officer.

"We performed exceptionally well," said Chief Operations Specialist Darryl C. Patrick, of Altadena, Calif. "We rapidly cracked the signals, verified their accuracy with the bridge watchstanders, and executed the movements flawlessly."

Shortly after lunch, Halsey participated in the first of a series of quick-response drills. "Man overboard" sounded over the announcing system as crew members scrambled to react within the time limitations. Australian Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dave Murphy, Halsey's professional warfare officer said, "We responded well, and were ready to recover the man in less than 10 minutes."

As the day progressed, Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer Ensign Jamie J. Boudreaux, anti-submarine warfare officer, led an exercise to simulate tracking a submarine and honing internal communications. "We practiced building unit cohesion between ships and the warfare commander, which will prepare us for missions we may be called upon to undertake during our upcoming deployment," said Boudreaux, a native of Houma, La.

The final exercise of the day was an electronic warfare exercise. Watchstanders flexed Halsey's ability to identify other ships nearby. "The exercise was a good opportunity for us to evaluate how effective we are at identifying electronic emissions," said Cryptologic Technician 2nd Class Grace J. Kirkland, of Athens, Ohio.

"Group sail is a critical element in preparing us for our upcoming deployment," said Harrison. "I am extremely proud of the crew for their outstanding performance, and am confident we will be ready to execute any mission we are required to perform during deployment in support of our nation's maritime strategy."

Halsey is homeported in San Diego and is scheduled to operate with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group later this year.

The Players Championship Honors Military

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Gay, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East, Detachment Southeast

May 9, 2010 - PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (NNS) -- Service members from the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard were honored during Military Appreciation Night at The Players Club (TPC) Sawgrass May 5.

The ceremony began with the national anthem followed by a fly over by jets from the Navy's Blue Angels.

"Military appreciation day is a fantastic deal," said Blue Angel's Command Master Chief Yoshimi Core. "The people here take care of the military and you can really see the effort by the community to make sure we know they appreciate us."

"It means a lot to us on the tour to be a big supporter of the military and it will continue to mean a lot to us," said professional golfer Fred Funk, who won the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in 2005.

Service members lined the balconies of the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass for a performance by country music star Tim McGraw. He was escorted to the stage by a Sailor and performed a special five-song concert for the troops.

"It's always an honor to represent the Navy and the military, but escorting someone whose music I love, made the event even more meaningful," said Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Monica Nelson, who was previously selected as Commander, Navy Region Southeast 2010 Sailor of the Year.

The music performance by the three-time Grammy award winner was the final gesture of the night by the Players Championship and local community to show support.

"It's important that the community takes the opportunity to recognize the sacrifice of the men and women in uniform," said Rear Adm. Townsend Alexander, commander, Navy Region Southeast. "Tonight is a great event. The Players Championship and the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) tour are yearlong supporters of our armed services."

TPC Sawgrass representatives, as well as professional golfers such as Funk welcomed members of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard during the night.

"It's a really small thing that we can do. This is for everything that our military does for us. If the military was not doing what they were doing, we could not do what we do."

The ceremony, which was attended by service members from military installations throughout the Florida and Georgia area, was summed up by professional golfer Hal Sutton, "Wow, am I proud to be an American today."

NATTC's Financial Counseling Program Can Save Sailors Big Bucks When Purchasing a Vehicle

By Chief Aviation Electronics Technician David San Angelo, Naval Air Technical Training Center Public Affairs

May 9, 2010 - PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- A financial counseling program currently offered to students at the Naval Air Technical Training Center has the potential to save Sailors thousands of dollars on vehicle purchases.

Reliable transportation is likely one the largest purchases a service member will make, and without proper research, that purchase can be more expensive than necessary.

To help make an informed buying decision, Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) suggests students meet with a command financial specialist (CFS) prior to the purchasing a vehicle.

"The Vehicle Purchasing Financial Counseling Program (VPFCP) provides our Sailors with the tools they need to make a smart car, truck or motorcycle purchase," said Chief Aviation Electrician's Mate (AW) Mickey Sperry, NATTC's lead command financial specialist. "We help them with determining the Blue-Book value and ballpark interest rates for their chosen vehicle."

For 19-year-old Naval Aircrewman Airman Apprentice Nicholas Hudson, the VCFCP program was extremely educational and financially beneficial. Hudson recently purchased a 2000 Chevrolet 1500 truck for $8,400 with an eight percent interest rate.

"The information from the CFS on insurance rates and shopping around to compare prices and interest rates was very helpful," said Hudson. "I can see how somebody who didn't go through counseling with a CFS could easily fall into a financial hole."

"Counselors discuss different buying scenarios and the pitfalls to avoid," added Sperry. "We try to ensure that our students are very informed about the short-term and long-term effects of their purchasing decision.

One common scenario is the "how much can you afford per month" tactic presented by many salesmen. One of the biggest points that the NATTC CFSs stress is the difference between total vehicle price versus monthly payment. A monthly payment of $250 is much more attractive to most students than $350, but if the car dealer has you paying that $250 for six years versus the $350 for three years, then the service member will be paying an additional $5400 for the same car. Buyers should negotiate the vehicle price first, and then work out the financing terms, and compare dealer financing with that available from their bank or credit union.

In contrast to Hudson's experience, 20-year-old Airman Recruit Alexander Heidebrecht purchased a truck without counseling from a CFS. He purchased a 2001 Ford F250 for $11,750, with a monthly payment of $306 for four and one-half years. The vehicle was purchased significantly more than the Blue Book price of $9,500 and he financed the vehicle through the dealer with a 14.9 percent interest rate. With interest, Heidebrecht will pay more than $16,500 for his truck.

"Talking to a CFS prior to purchasing my truck probably would have saved me quite a bit of money," said Heidebrecht.

The NATTC program doesn't just educate young Sailors on their financial status before and after a major purchase of a vehicle; it also educates them on what they could be faced with should they get orders oversees, or directly to a deployed squadron or ship.

The program informs Sailors of possible scenarios they may face in the next five or so years while financing a vehicle.

"This is the third vehicle I have purchased, so I knew what could be expected financially," said 25-year-old Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Venessa Wesselman. "Before I met with the CFS, I didn't know how purchasing the vehicle and defaulting on the loan could affect my security clearance; that was some good information. I didn't have anybody to talk to when I bought my first car and I had to learn the hard way."

For more information on financial counseling, visit a local Fleet and Family Service Center.

Quick Response Drills Demonstrate USS Halsey's Combat Readiness

By Ensign Andrew Long, USS Halsey Public Affairs

May 9, 2010 - USS HALSEY, At Sea (NNS) -- Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) demonstrated tactical prowess and combat readiness through live gunnery fire events and casualty drills May 7 during Destroyer Squadron 9's group sail prior to joining USS Abraham Lincoln and Carrier Air Wing 2 for strike group training.

Four ships from Destroyer Squadron 9 conducted synchronized gunnery fire on a single target. The ships effectively shared targeting data to engage a common target.

"This demonstrated our seamless ability to coordinate with ships in company to perform defensive measures against realistic threats," said Cmdr. Jordy Harrison of Columbia, Md., Halsey commanding officer.

The destroyer squadron staff also initiated two unannounced quick response drills. The first was a loss of steering drill, where crew members manually assumed control of the ship's steering equipment and maneuvered the ship from an engineering space. The crew reacted quickly, reaching their station in less than two minutes.

"We are always ready to respond to any casualty," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Rosanny Peralta of New York, who steered the ship from the alternate steering space. "It shows how well the crew is trained and our high level of readiness for deployment." Watchstanders reacted to another quick response drill on the bridge to engage a threat with small caliber weapons. Quartermaster 3rd Class Courtney D. Wortham of Bradenton, Fla. loaded the machine gun on the bridge wing without hesitation and fired immediately when ordered. "I was ready to fire within seconds of receiving the threat," said Wortham. "It shows we are always prepared to defend the ship."

"I prefer the quick response events because it introduces spontaneity and represents reality," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael L. Weeldreyer, Halsey's executive officer.

The final exercise of the day was a simulated launch of a Tomahawk missile which allows Halsey to engage land targets hundreds of miles from her location.

"We proved we are well trained and ready for deployment," said Ensign David A. Youker of Randolph, N.J., strike officer. "We can be counted on to put missiles on target should the need arise."

"This group sail is incredibly important for us to shift into a deployment-focused mindset and demonstrate our ability to act with disciplined aggression against any threat to the United States," said Harrison.

Halsey is homeported in San Diego and is scheduled to operate with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group later this year.

Sailors Help Shipmates Affected by Flooding

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth St. John, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk

May 9, 2010 - MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Sailors not affected by the flooding that occurred May 1 at Naval Support Activity Mid-South have volunteered to help base residents who have lost almost everything.

"I'm just here to help do my part and give back to the community," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class John A. Herod. Herod has volunteered for several days with 45 of his co-workers from Navy Recruiting Command to help residents of this community pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

"Everyone that's been volunteering has been pretty open-hearted and very positive about the whole situation as far as helping out," he said. "We try to help them the best we can and let them know we're here for them," he added.

Each morning, volunteers gather at the Family Assistance Center and get their assignments for the day.

"There's no way we could have actually accepted all the help that has been offered to us," said retired Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Christie.

When base housing was opened to retirees, Christie moved on base to have a that sense of community. The close-knit family feeling was apparent as volunteers in trucks delivered boxes, food and water.

"The volunteers come in waves every half hour or so, every time we needed help, we got it. The help has been just amazing; it's really brought the community together as well," said Christie.

Volunteers spend their days patrolling the neighborhoods, doing what they can to help restore a sense of normalcy to residents, many of whom have lost everything they own.

"I feel terrible for them," said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class Gene Griffin, stationed at Navy Recruiting Command. "You definitely want to help out your shipmates and the people you work with every day and make sure they're taken care of," he added.

Navy Surgeon General Visits Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Lewis Hunsaker, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

May 9, 2010 - BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (NNS) -- The Navy surgeon general spoke at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute May 6 as part of the 2010 Birmingham Navy Week.

The event kicked off a few hours earlier when Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr. who is also the chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, received a tour from Ahmad Ward, head of Education for the institute. Ward explained the history of Birmingham and the civil rights movement.

"It was a great opportunity to face our history fully and clearly; yet, remember what has occurred in this country and Birmingham," Robinson said.

After his tour, Robinson talked to the staff of the institute about the U.S. Navy and thanked them for their selfless service to this city and nation.

"In this nation of immigrants and differences, this museum shows what Birmingham has gone through," Robinson said. "This institute underscores what we need to be, what we need to know and where we need to go as a nation."

Birmingham Navy Week is one of 20 Navy weeks planned across the country in 2010.

Navy weeks are designed to educate Americans about the importance of naval service, understand the investment they make in their Navy and to increase awareness in cities, which might not otherwise see the Navy at work on a regular basis.

Gates Thanks Spouses for Soldier Support

By Shandi Dix
1st Infantry Division Post

May 8, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with military spouses during a town hall meeting here. He discussed local school issues and healthcare before thanking the spouses supporting their soldiers. Army Brig. Gen. David Petersen, 1st Infantry Division deputy commanding general-rear, welcomed the spouses before Rachel Holbrook, Army spouse and host of How-to-TV introduced the secretary.

"This is the first time Secretary Gates has joined the U.S. Army spouses in a town hall such as this and I speak for all U.S. Army spouses in thanking him for his attendance," Holbrook said.

Gates thanked the spouses for their support before responding to their questions.

"Thank you for all you do for your loved ones in uniform, your families and your communities," he said. "Many of you are running single parent households while your spouse is deployed or have done so in the past. Some of you have done it more than once." Regarding the issue of overpopulation in the Geary County unified school district on Fort Riley, Gates told the spouses, "I have some good news for you all.

"I was briefed on this problem in the schools here on post in preparation for this visit and I've looked into it and what I'm about to say requires the approval of Congress," he said. "I have the money to fund an additional elementary school, upgrade two elementary schools and the middle school here on post. I need to transfer it to the education department so that they can extend it and that requires congressional approval."

The issue will go forward to Congress May 10 and Gates said he is hoping for quick action.

"That is fantastic news," said Kathleen Whittle. "The school my children go to, it was built in 1955 and I'm pretty sure it hasn't even had a coat of paint since then and so this is a much needed and fantastic decision."

Whittle's two children both attend Fort Riley Elementary School, part of Unified School District 475. "They do a great job taking care of our kids but the help from the Department of Defense would be fantastic," she said.

One spouse asked Gates how the administration's new healthcare program was going to affect both active duty and retirees.

"I'm pretty confident that there will be no change in terms of active duty and I think there's been little change for retirees but I'm not a hundred percent sure on that," Gates said. "I think the one change that we will make ... is the extension of the parent's benefit to the child until they're 26 (years old). That's part of the healthcare bill and I think we're adding to that but other than that I don't think there is significant change."

Another spouse asked about having licensed professional counselors practice on installations along with licensed clinical social worker's and licensed psychologists.

"To be honest I don't know," Gates said. "I do know that the Army is working very hard to hire additional mental healthcare professionals and get them available as quickly as possible. I can tell you that I don't think that Gen. (George) Casey and Gen. (Peter) Chiarelli spend more time on any issue than they do on this issue of mental healthcare, post traumatic stress, (traumatic brain injury) and care of wounded warriors."

Following the session, spouses were able to shake hands with Gates and receive a coin for both themselves and their soldier. Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Brown also presented each spouse with a red rose.

"I was very impressed with the fact that he was able to make the time," Whittle said of the secretary's visit. "I know his schedule is packed solid, I'm sure. It gave the people that were responsible for this trip a lot of extra work to make sure that he was able to get out here and talk to us today. No matter what question these spouses threw at him and there was a wide variety, he was able to speak intelligently about all of them. He was well informed on all of the information."