Sunday, June 06, 2010

Mullen Invokes Common Sacrifices from D-Day, Today

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 6, 2010 - The military's top officer thanked the D-Day veterans of World War II for their service here today, and asked them to reach out to those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan to share their common experiences.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the connection between the 29th Infantry Division soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy, France, and today's servicemembers fighting battles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mullen called June 6, 1944 a defining moment in human history. "The significance, the cost, and, most of all, the sheer bravery of Americans and allies who pushed forward on June 6th taught us what we were of, and what we have to keep striving for," he said.

Bedford, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, suffered the greatest loss per capita of any town in America on D-Day. The town lost 19 men killed from A Company 116th Infantry. Bedford had 3,200 inhabitants in 1944. All were touched by the loss of their sons who enlisted together in the National Guard.

The Bedford Boys represented America's best ideals, the chairman said. "Ordinary people who did extraordinary things: Fighting for something greater than themselves; fighting for each other; fighting for us," he said.

Today, there are more than 200,000 Americans deployed in harm's way. These represent American's next "Great Generation," Mullen said, including Bedford's own Army Sgt. Gordon Musgrove, a volunteer fireman serving in Iraq.

"Young people who once again willingly put their lives, their dreams, their families on the line to protect ours," Mullen said.

That those common sacrifices haven't changed over time wasn't lost on the veterans and soldiers here. "You see a bunch of old men. But once, we were just like them," said a D-Day veteran pointing to a group of 29th Infantry Division soldiers.

One Bedford Boy, Lt. Elisha Ray Nance, was wounded on Omaha Beach, but recovered and returned home. He said he felt guilty when he encountered people who had lost relatives in Normandy.

"Such survivor's guilt, they say, is normal, and yet Ray never really got over it," Mullen said. "He never really forgot that for many of those who make it and for those whose loved ones never do, the war lives on."

Nance died in April 2009, "but today, a new generation returns to us with wounds both visible and invisible," Mullen said. "Our young troops and their families today still want the same things they looked forward to when they left – a job, an education, a home and a better life for their children."

The nation must take care of these servicemembers, the chairman said, and reach out to them "so they do not suffer in quiet desperation.

"I ask everyone here today – all Americans, really, but especially those of you who have known the anguish of war – to renew your commitment to our veterans past and present, particularly our wounded and the families of the fallen," he said.

The greatest tribute Americans can pay to the fallen and to the missing from every generation "is not only to hold ceremonies and erect monuments, but to look after their families and embrace their brothers and sisters-in-arms when they return," he said. Normandy has another legacy for Americans. "There was no retreat for any man on D-Day," Mullen said. "Each just had to push on."

More than 2,500 Americans were killed on the first day of Operation Overlord alone and many more remain missing in action. It was almost more than the country could bear. Yet Bedford and the rest of America soldiered on, he said.

"Today's wars will not involve a single day like the sixth of June or end with victory parades," Mullen said. "And yet like the Bedford Boys, we, our allies and our partners must keep moving forward, even when we are crawling. We must always fight for the best ideals of our nation, though our tasks be not easy. We must take risks and keep pushing ahead."

There were about 50 D-Day veterans from the Army, Navy and Army Air Forces at the memorial. They are in their 80s and 90s now, but still bear witness to the sacrifices of a generation. The 29th Infantry Division is still a National Guard unit from Virginia and Maryland and the grandsons and granddaughters of those who fought in Normandy are now in its ranks.

This year will be the last reunion of the Blue and the Gray Division soldiers from World War II, Mullen noted. "It's important we recognize these men, and it's important that we pay tribute to them," he said after the ceremony.

"It's also important to make the connection to what they did and the current sacrifices," he said. "In this job, I've found that it has grown over time in the importance of the connection between generations that fought for the country and the commonality of experience, the ability to support and the extent of the sacrifice."

Azerbaijan Visit Highlights Afghanistan Contributions

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

June 6, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here today to express U.S. gratitude to this former Soviet republic on the western shore of the Caspian Sea for its contributions to the coalition's efforts in Afghanistan.

Azerbaijani servicemembers are part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and the country is a key part of the global air and ground network that resupplies ISAF and Afghan forces and brings in supplies for reconstruction of the war-torn nation.

Speaking with reporters today while en route here from Singapore, where he attended an Asia security summit, Gates noted the value of Azerbaijan's participation in the war effort.

"Clearly, the ability to overfly Azerbaijan [and] the ability to use ground transportation through Azerbaijan – as with Russia, and as with Kyrgyzstan – is obviously important," he said. "These are the most effective, the most cost-efficient ways to get supplies to the international coalition in Afghanistan, as well as the Afghan forces themselves."

Azerbaijan and the other participating countries aren't just doing the United States a favor, the secretary said.

"These transit systems are an important contribution to an international effort involving dozens and dozens of countries," he explained.

This is the secretary's first visit to Azerbaijan and the first visit by a U.S. Cabinet member in five years. He is meeting tonight with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and with Defense Minister Col. Gen. Safar Abiyev tomorrow, and he's delivering a letter to Aliyev from President Barack Obama.

Part of the reason for his visit, Gates said, is a perception on the part of the Azerbaijani government – expressed during a recent visit here by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Fournoy -- that the United States is not paying enough attention to the country, given the importance of its contributions.

"I wanted to come through and meet with President Aliyev and reassure him that's not the case," Gates said. "I think there's going to be other visits [between U.S. and Azerbaijani officials] in the future. ... It's important to touch base and let them know that, in fact, they do play an important role in this international coalition."

About 25 percent of the coalition's supplies bound for Afghanistan pass through what's known as the Caucasus Spur, which includes Azerbaijan. Since 2001, tens of thousands of flights for the war effort in Afghanistan have passed through Azerbaijan's airspace, a senior Defense Department official speaking on background told reporters, and about 100,000 troops have flown through Azerbaijani airspace in the past year en route to Afghanistan.

Gates Calls Clapper Right Choice for Top Intel Post

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

June 6, 2010 - James R. Clapper, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next director of national intelligence, is the right man for the job, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, now serves in a dual capacity as director of military intelligence and undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

In a news conference en route to Baku, Azerbaijan, from Singapore, Gates said Clapper would bring vast experience and the right approach to the position.

"I think the president could not have found a better person, a more experienced person, or [a person] with a better temperament to do this job and actually make it work than Jim Clapper," the secretary said.

Gates said he's heard different opinions of what type of person would be most effective as director of national intelligence, and he offered his own.

"What is really key, in my view, in making that DNI office work is the chemistry between the DNI and the other leaders of the intelligence community," he said. "I know that some are looking for a strong executive – a big boss that tells everybody what to do. But structurally, that's almost impossible with this job, because virtually none of the heads of the 16 intelligence agencies actually work for the DNI."

Arrangements have been worked out in the last few years to strengthen the position, the secretary said, largely through Clapper's efforts in brokering agreements among the secretary of defense and the directors of the CIA and national intelligence regarding personnel appointments and other matters.

The secretary said he's known Clapper for more than 20 years; Clapper was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency when Gates was CIA director. He described Clapper as "very independent-minded," and as a consummate professional who has the respect of virtually everyone in the intelligence community.

"He is the first person – and, actually, the only person – that I hired and brought with me when I became secretary of defense," Gates said, acknowledging he "kind of winced with pain" when Obama first asked him about Clapper's possible nomination for the DNI post.

"The idea of losing Jim at the Defense Department is a real loss for us," he said.

Anyone concerned that Clapper's background is "too military" should consider his service as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Gates said.

"If they look at his record [in that position] and the reforms that he's put in, and his interactions with the civilian intelligence agencies, you will see a record of somebody who can really get along with all of these folks," Gates said.

Concerns on Capitol Hill that Clapper isn't forthcoming enough probably stem in part from jurisdictional issues in Congress, the secretary said, noting that he has never has heard a single complaint along those lines from the armed services committees.

"I think some of what you see is the jurisdictional conflict between the intelligence committees and the armed services committees in terms of who gets briefed on what," he said. "But Jim has a strong, long record of not only adherence to congressional oversight, but support of it and enthusiastic cooperation. And he has done things from the Department of Defense standpoint significantly to enhance the ability of our overseers on the Hill to do their job."

Gates said Clapper added to the value of the director of national intelligence position by coming up with a way to give the DNI meaningful reach into the Defense Department.

"Jim came up with the idea of 'double-hatting' himself as both the undersecretary of defense for intelligence [and] as the director of military intelligence," he explained. "In that role as director of military intelligence, he sits on the DNI's executive council and participates as one of the agency heads, if you will, on a par with others within the DNI's executive framework."

Gates noted his own opposition in 2004 to the legislation that created the director of national intelligence position, and the fact that he declined the post when it was offered to him in January 2005.

"One of the reasons why I opposed the legislation was because I never believed that the Congress would actually give the job all of the authorities that it needed to be successful," he said.

The talk back then, he recalled, was creating a "Goldwater-Nichols Act" for the intelligence community. That law forced a reluctant defense establishment to work more as a single entity than as separate services. "But what people never understood," Gates said, "is that the only reason Goldwater-Nichols works in the Department of Defense is because at the end of the day, everybody works for one person. That's not true in the intelligence community. We have intelligence units in the Treasury Department and the State Department and all these other places. Those Cabinet officers are not going to allow their intelligence components to be run by somebody outside their department.

"So what you need," he continued, "is somebody who can lead all of those people and bring them to work together, rather than trying to command them to do things. The analogy that I've used is that the DNI is more comparable to a powerful congressional committee chair than it is to a CEO. He has a lot of inherent authority in the law, but ... he has to bring people along though leadership and through accommodating their interests as well as what he thinks is in the national interest. And it's this ability to get people voluntarily to work together, especially, that I think Jim brings to the job."

Iwo Jima Departs NYC after Successful Fleet Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund, USS Iwo Jima Public Affairs

NEW YORK (NNS) -- USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) departed Manhattan June 2 after enjoying the 26th annual Fleet Week New York.

Fleet Week New York 2010 gave an opportunity for residents and visitors of the tri-state area to see and experience what members of the maritime services do on a daily basis. Fleet Week also allowed Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen the chance to interact with local communities.

"We went through Times Square and people took pictures with us for 45 minutes straight," said Cpl. Patrick Jenkins of Waldorf, Md., of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion who experienced Fleet Week for the first time. "We were treated like celebrities."

Fleet Week New York began with a parade of ships upon entering the Hudson River May 26. Throughout the week service members attended events sponsored by Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR), and the city of New York.

"I had never been to a Yankees game and MWR gave me an opportunity I wouldn't have had otherwise," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Tim Baker, of Augusta, Ga.

Memorial Day parades, and various intramural sporting events were held throughout the city. Service members were also reenlisted by Commander, U.S Navy Mid-Atlantic Region Rear Adm. Mark Boensel at the World Trade Center Ground Zero.

"It's very unique place to reenlist because not many people get to see the site," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (SW) LaShaunda Guy, Cleveland. "I felt proud because I was contributing to the fight for freedom."

A Sunset Parade was also held on board Iwo Jima, featuring a speech by Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Adm. John C. Harvey Jr. along with performances by the United States Coast Guard Silent Drill Team, the United States Marine Forces Reserve Band, and Leatherneck Pipes and Drums. Service members also had the opportunity to explore the city on their own.

Cryptologic Technician (collection) 1st Class Evan Chauvette, of Manchester, N.H., spent his time playing the tourist during Fleet Week. Chauvette toured Central Park, watched Broadway plays, and ate local cuisine, but his favorite part of Fleet Week was how he was treated by New Yorkers.

"When people came up to me on the street and thanked me for what I do, it made me feel like what I do is worthwhile, and it made me proud to be a service member," said Chauvette.

Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Bryan Johnson, of Charlotte, N.C., explored the sights, and was most impressed by the rebuilding at the World Trade Center site. "As a country you can hit us, but we'll stand up taller and stronger, said Johnson.

U.S. Navy Sailors Visit Portland Children's Hospital

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Maebel Tinoko and Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Thomas J. Brennan,Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

PORTLAND, Ore. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Sampson (DDG 102) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) visited the Doernbecher Children's Hospital June 4, continuing a tradition that Sailors have carried out each year during the Portland Rose Festival.

Service members visited the hospital to bring a part of Rose Festival to the children as part of the Navy's community relations project.

Ship's Serviceman 1st Class (SW) Michael Davis, assigned to USS Sampson (DDG 102) said it was important to visit children at the hospital to let them know the Navy cares about them.

"I want to let the children know they are not alone in their struggles and not only their families care, but the Sailors and our ship cares about them," said Davis. "It's great to be able to brighten up their day."

Sailors were divided into teams and moved through the hospital to distribute teddy bears, ball caps, shirts and keepsakes from the ships. They were also able to talk to children and posed with them for souvenir pictures.

"This is my first port visit, and I think the more you help others the more you help yourself," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Trae Blount, USS Sampson (DDG 102). "It is great to be able to brighten a kid's day just by visiting and talking to the patients makes a big difference."

The hospital provides specialized care for children under the age of 18 and is funded by the Shriners Hospital for Children endowment fund, which is maintained through gifts, bequests and contributions.

"I love being able to do something for the community, and I love children," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Katrina Fosi, USS Sampson (DDG 102).

Shriners Hospitals for Children is a one-of-a-kind international health care system dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing specialty pediatric care, innovative research and outstanding teaching.