Saturday, June 12, 2010

Medical Center Staff Receives Humanitarian Award

By Deborah R. Kallgren, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Public Affairs

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- One hundred twelve service members at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP), Va., received the Humanitarian Service Medal June 10 for deploying in support of Operation United Response Haiti, following the massive earthquake that hit the island nation in January 2010.

The medal was awarded to those who deployed within 41 nautical miles of Haiti.

Many of the medical center's recipients included doctors, nurses, corpsmen and others who provided care and support to injured Haitians on board hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20).

NMCP Commander Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks also received the medal; he served as Joint Task Force Haiti surgeon before becoming commander of the medical center in May 2010.

West Virginia Governor Visits NIOC Sugar Grove

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Joel Carlson, Navy Information Operations Command Sugar Grove Public Affairs

June 12, 2010 - SUGAR GROVE, W.Va. (NNS) -- West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin visited Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Sugar Grove, W. Va., June 10.

Manchin arrived via helicopter and toured both the upper and lower areas of the U.S. Navy base.

He was escorted by NIOC Sugar Grove Commanding Officer Christopher Chrislip and other members of the NIOC chain of command.

"This was my chance to see first-hand what is done here," said Manchin. "I never really imagined how far the base reaches out and pulls in the state, the community and all the people around. I am so appreciative of this opportunity to visit."

Manchin also participated in a ground-breaking ceremony for the base's new Youth Activity Center.

"It's very important the children know that somebody cares for them, and it's great that the newest building being built on base is being built for them," said Manchin.

Manchin spoke about the importance of education in West Virginia before scooping a shovel full of soil on the site for the future YAC. He also met with West Virginia residents who were serving a tour of duty at Sugar Grove.

"Having the Governor here was a big honor," said Yeoman 2nd Class (SS) Matthew Sampson, a West Virginia native. "I grew up only a few miles from here, and now, because of my military service, I was given the chance to meet and talk with my own governor."

Manchin also encouraged service members to take full advantage of all that the West Virginia base and surrounding community has to offer.

"You're in the most patriotic state in our nation," said Manchin. "So take a deep breath, open your eyes and enjoy your time here."

Program allows Soldiers to connect with kids despite deployment

By Sgt. David Bruce
Indiana National Guard

(6/10/10) -- It is a comfortable room. The walls are painted with colorful murals. There is an electric fireplace and the bookshelves are loaded with an assortment of books. The room is decorated with stuffed animals and Raggedy Anne and Andy are perched atop an end table.

The room evokes a child's reading room, which is the point. This is the United Through Reading room at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center USO.

The United Through Reading program hosted by the USO allows troops to video record themselves reading books for their children to watch while they are deployed.

"We get about 25 readings per month depending on the flow and how busy the guys are at Camp Atterbury," said Diane Hawes, program manager for United Through Reading and a volunteer at the USO.

"It takes about a half an hour. Soldiers will come in and select a book. They are not limited to one book, because some of the children's books are quite thin and the disk allows for 25 minutes of time."

Once the camera is set up, Hawes leaves the room to allow the Soldier some privacy while reading. Soldiers can read more than one book during that time, since some children's books can be quite short. The Soldiers can also use this opportunity to talk to their family and let them know that they are not forgotten, said Hawes.

When the recording is finished the Soldier hand addresses a large envelope addressed to their family. The USO will then package the disk - which is in DVD format so it can be played on a television or computer - and the book to be mailed to the Soldier's family. The children can then play the DVD and follow along in the book.

"A lot of people are emotional when they go through the process," said Hawes. "I've seen some of the biggest guys tear up. Families are also encouraged to record or take photos of the children reading along to send back to the Soldier, to create a circle of communication."

Maj. Luis Martinez of the 130th Public Affairs Detachment with Kosovo Forces 13, a task force deploying for a peace-keeping mission to Kosovo, was planning to do this sort of thing on his own. The USO program, however, made it easier to connect with his children.

"I brought some books from home, but I was so busy I didn't get a chance," said Martinez. "One of the ladies [at the USO] was talking about this program, so I took advantage of it."

Martinez lives in New Jersey but his family is staying with relatives in Brazil. Despite his family's geographic location, they received the package prior to Martinez leaving for Kosovo.

"The program makes a difference in a child's life. My son is four and a half, and my wife says he lights up when he sees that video," said Martinez. "I've made one recording so far and I thought about doing a second DVD, but I didn't have enough time. So I will do it in country. It's another way of staying connected," he said.

Hawes said the United Through Reading program is accessible throughout the world. "A lot of the [bases] have the USO United Through Reading program there in Afghanistan, Iraq and a lot of countries around the world. Troops can continue the program while deployed and I try to give them information on what locations have the progam."

Spc. Steven Reed of the 745th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, also with KFOR 13, had first heard of the program while enlisted in the Marine Corps, however had never used it until now.

"I thought that this would be a good opportunity to read to my stepkids and for my wife to see me. I was unsure of how it would work out, but if anybody has the opportunity to do this, they should definitely do it," said Reed. "My wife said it was like having me there with them reading the book. It brought us together for that time and they really enjoyed it."

Navy's Annual Conference Addresses No. 1 Maintenance Issue

From Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communications

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Military, government, civilian, and industry experts joined forces for the sixth consecutive year to discuss the latest technologies and methods in the fight against rust - an approximately $6 billion yearly battle for the Navy - at the annual Mega Rust Corrosion Conference in San Diego June 7-10.

The annual conference focused on corrosion planning in acquisition and reduction of total ownership costs by bringing together corrosion control experts from government, military, shipyards, research facilities, and commercial industries to address the Navy's corrosion control programs. Attendees discussed advances in coatings, as well as corrosion prevention and maintenance techniques, on Navywide platforms.

"NAVSEA is committed to reducing the total ownership cost of Navy platforms through the continuous implementation of corrosion control technologies that minimize the impact of corrosion on fleet maintenance and availability," said Department of Navy's Corrosion Prevention and Control Executive, E. Dail Thomas.

Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) commander and keynote speaker, led the group in technical discussions. Rear Adm. J. Clarke Orzalli, Fleet Maintenance director, U.S. Fleet Forces Command; and Rear Adm. James McManamon, NAVSEA Surface Warfare deputy commander; and Capt. Jerry Reina, Southwest Regional Maintenance Center commander; participated in a panel discussion. Additionally, Mega Rust 2010 included representation from the Army, Air Force, as well as all of the Navy's System Commands.

The four-day event also featured presentations, vendor exhibits, working group meetings, and corrosion workforce certification courses. Topics include shipboard corrosion assessment training; global war on corrosion; painting center of excellence; and the education and assistance of Sailors in ship preservation and corrosion control.

Mega Rust started in 2005 by consolidating four major corrosion control conferences into one event to create a more inclusive, fleetwide forum on rust. Working groups established by Mega Rust have provided a coordinated and practical accounting for what's happening across the Navy, and the data accumulated by these groups has provided metrics for planning and budgeting.

Mega Rust 2011 is scheduled, June 6-9, in the Tidewater area of Virginia.

Survivor Shares Story to Combat Troop Suicides

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

June 11, 2010 - Kim Ruocco hung up the phone with her husband, relieved he had finally agreed to seek help for his increasingly severe bouts of depression. Still, she had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right. She decided to catch a red eye flight from Massachusetts to California, where her husband's reserve unit was located, so she could be with him when he sought help.

After Ruocco landed, she called the hospital. He wasn't there. She called his office. He hadn't shown up. A sinking feeling set in. Ruocco rented a car and raced over to the hotel where her husband had been staying. When she arrived, several Marines were walking out of his hotel room.

The Marines were crying.

"I didn't have to ask -- I knew," she said. Her 40-year-old husband, Marine Corps Maj. John Ruocco, an accomplished AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilot and father of two, had hung himself just hours after his conversation with his wife.

Ruocco struggled to make sense of the loss that shook her family to its core. Yearning to give her husband's death some meaning, she eventually immersed herself in efforts to combat suicide within the military.

Ruocco is now the director of suicide education and support for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families with a fallen military loved one. She has shared her story with thousands of troops across the nation, working to fight the stigma that kept her husband from seeking help.

"I wish I would have called the [military police] and told them there was someone in crisis," she said of that night five years ago. "I wish I would have taken the chance in having him feel like I betrayed him -- but at least he'd be alive."

Her husband had battled bouts of depression for most of his adult life, Ruocco explained. Past incidents -- including a fatal car accident in high school and aircraft crashes that took the lives of his friends – had stuck with him throughout the years. But he kept his feelings private, worried about disrupting his skyrocketing Marine Corps career.

After more than a decade in the Marines, Ruocco was at the pinnacle of his career field, his wife explained. An expert pilot, he had accepted an Air Force exchange position at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., where he trained new pilots on the T-37 jet.

Ruocco took his work "very seriously," she noted, and the demands of a fast-paced, post-9/11 military were wearing him down.

"It was taking a toll; the stress and pressure," she said. "He felt indebted to the Marine Corps and the Air Force, and indebted to us. He was trying to please everyone."

Backed by his family, Ruocco decided to separate from the Marines. His wife and their then-8- and 10-year-old sons were pleased, since they had grown tired of the frequent moves and school changes.

"People thought, at almost 15 years, it was a crazy time to get out," she said. "I felt it was better for the family." The major separated from active duty in 2004 and joined a reserve unit in Pennsylvania. While moving his family to their new home in Boston, he began training to be a pilot with Southwest Airlines in Texas.

Two weeks after he joined the reserve unit, Ruocco was activated and deployed to Iraq. His deployment went well, his wife said. He flew 75 missions, was awarded an Air Medal, given for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight, and led his troops with pride, she noted.

But post-deployment, life took a downturn. The job with Southwest didn't pan out, and his Pennsylvania-based squadron had moved to California.

"The adrenaline with war was coming to a screeching halt," Kim Ruocco said. "He was having difficulty flying because of the anxiety and depression. It was the snowball effect you see so often with suicide.

"People often think suicide is one thing, such as a relationship breakup," she explained. "But that's the final straw of a multitude of things that build up and tear away at a [servicemember]."

John was living in a hotel room in California, she said, where his depression was worsening by the day. He was due to deploy to Iraq again in the spring, but doubted his ability to lead there and also was afraid of letting his unit down, she said.

John Ruocco died on Super Bowl Sunday 2005. His beloved New England Patriots edged out the Philadelphia Eagles for the coveted football victory. But he didn't watch the game. On their phone call that evening, Kim asked her husband if he was feeling so bad that he could kill himself. He told her he could never do that to her and the boys.

"He told me he was going to go on base and get help," she said. "But also said that would be the end of everything; that it would ruin his career.

"Nothing is more important to a military man or woman than how people view you," she added. The stigma of seeking help and the fear of being viewed differently prevented her husband from seeking the help he needed, Ruocco said.

"I believe he really meant it when he said he couldn't do that to me and the kids, but he probably sat there and thought about the consequences of getting help, the concept of death before dishonor, and that he was mentally incapable of doing his duty," she said. "That's the final straw for [servicemembers], when they don't feel they have anything to give anymore."

Ruocco said she's seen the same stories replayed on military installations throughout the world and hopes, by sharing her story, others will be inspired to come forward and seek help.

In her talks with troops, she stresses the importance of never leaving someone in emotional distress alone.

"I tell the troops to practice ACE - ask, care, escort," she said. "You can never leave a person who is in that much pain alone. You can't say, 'I'll call you tomorrow.' Grab their arm and escort them to help."

Ruocco also explains the signs of suicide: withdrawal; substance abuse; physical self-harm; talking about feeling hopeless or helpless; talking about wanting to die, even in a joking way; impulsiveness; lack of judgment; and as a sign of a possible imminent attempt, agitation and angry outbursts.

She's already seen positive signs of change, she said, thanks to Defense Department efforts to lower suicide rates and end the stigma of seeking help.

To illustrate, Ruocco described a visit to Fort Hood, Texas, about a year ago. Many soldiers approached her crying, and told her that was the first time they felt they could share their feelings. She returned there in the spring, and it was a different story, she said.

"A lot of soldiers came forward and said they got help or they noticed a soldier and took him to help," she said.

Ruocco praised the military for its recent suicide prevention efforts, but stressed more work remains. She serves on four Defense Department task groups dedicated to combating the military's suicide rate, and is focusing efforts on building up follow-on care for surviving families.

"They need a lot of help and often help is not there for them," she said. "We need to build up services more and build up funding."

Even one suicide is too many, she said.

"I've talked to thousands and thousands of troops and I really get the sense [military] leaders want to find out how to fix this," she said. "But it's so hard to keep people from falling through the cracks. It's hard and heartbreaking." Ruocco also is working to combat the stigma associated with military suicides, something that plagued her in the days following her husband's death. Surviving family members often keep the cause of death from others, particularly from their community and church, for fear of judgment.

Five years ago, Kim kept the cause of death from her own children. In shock and unsure how to handle the situation, she told her sister, who was watching the kids, to tell them it was an accident. The secret only compounds the pain, she said.

Two weeks after her husband's death, Ruocco and her sons were driving to a restaurant and her older son said, "I think I killed Dad." Kim asked him what he meant. "I put salt on his nachos," he told her. "And he said it wasn't good for his heart. Maybe he got in an accident because of his heart. Is that why he died?"

Ruocco immediately pulled the car over and told her sons the truth, in terms they could understand. She talked to them of war and depression, and compared mental pain to that of physical pain.

"That day, we started again from scratch," she said. "They were angry and confused, but it was a relief to tell them. I didn't have to worry about them overhearing something anymore.

"You can't rebuild on a lie."

In the years since, Ruocco and her sons have worked on taking on healthy roles and building new, happy memories. They traveled to Florida and the Caribbean and immersed themselves in the military's and TAPS' support.

Ruocco now focuses on celebrating her husband's life, rather than dwelling on how he died. She cites Enid, Okla., as an example of a community that has created a touching celebration of life. She returns there to Vance Air Force Base, the family's last active-duty station, each year to visit with old friends.

On her last visit, she stopped by a town memorial, where a stone is placed for each military member from Oklahoma who died while serving the nation. To her surprise, the park included a plaque in memory of her husband.

"They were honoring not how he died, but how he lived," she said. "He served and sacrificed and stepped up, too, and they were acknowledging that. That's how it should be done."

Students, Parents from Ikego Elementary Assist in Zushi Beach Clean-Up

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles Oki, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det. Japan

ZUSHI, Japan (NNS) -- Students from Ikego Elementary School worked with students from Zushi Elementary School to clean up garbage and other natural debris on Zushi Beach June 9.

As forward-deployed naval forces; Sailors and their families stationed in Japan are expected to be ambassadors in their host nation. This project provided the children living at Ikego the chance to get to know their host-nation neighbors, as well as learn about the importance in maintaining the environment - both locally and globally.

"I feel that getting the kids together is a great chance for them to see that they aren't the only ones in this community," said Legalman 1st Class (SW/AW) Marcella Begay, a To'Hajiilee, N.M., native assigned to the regional legal service office. "These kids are all a part of the Zushi community and I think it's important for them to see that they share this area with everyone else."

"We only have one planet and I feel that it's important that we teach our kids now, when they are young, of why they should take care of the environment; eventually they are going to be in charge of taking care of the planet," said Begay.

More than 300 first through fourth grade students, parents and teachers spent the morning picking up trash and vegetation that washed up on the shore. The event was sponsored by the Zushi Beach Club and Zushi Marine Association, both non-profit organizations that take care of the beach.

"It's wonderful to see the American and Japanese students coming out and cleaning the beach together," said Ryuichi Hirai, mayor of Zushi City. "The kids seem very happy to be helping the environment and doing their part in keeping the beach clean."

Following the clean-up, students brought their trash to a large tarp where they dumped it out to see exactly how much was collected. Environmental experts from Zushi city taught the students about the negative effects of beach pollution and biodegradation.

"Today the students got to learn the importance of maintaining the environment," said Ikego Elementary School Principal Scott Finlay. "Especially with the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the students have been learning a lot about keeping the earth clean. With this beach clean up, they can get hands on and not only learn about what garbage will do to the beaches and ocean, but they also get to make a difference."

The Ikego area was originally used by the Japanese in 1937 as an ammunition store house and was opened by the U.S. Navy as a family housing complex in April 1996. 210 of the 710 acres of Ikego are home to 854 housing units and is where approximately 3,400 Sailors and family members call home.

General Officer Assignments

The chief of staff, Air Force announced today the following assignments:

Brig. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, commander, 502nd Air Base Wing, Air Education and Training Command, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to commander, Kandahar Air Field, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey B. Kendall, deputy director, intelligence, operations and nuclear integration for flying training, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, to commander, 502nd Air Base Wing, Air Education and Training Command, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Col. David W. Allvin, who has been selected for the rank of brigadier general, military fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, N.Y., to commanding general, Combined Air Power Transition Force, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan/commander, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, Kabul, Afghanistan.

SSGN Force Reaches Historic Milestone

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gretchen M. Albrecht, Commander, Submarine Group 9

BANGOR, Wash. (NNS) -- The Submarine Force announced it has achieved another first with all four guided-missile submarines (SSGN) deployed for the first time simultaneously June 10.

Although the West Coast SSGNs, USS Ohio (SSGN 726) and USS Michigan (SSGN 727), and East Coast SSGNs, USS Florida (SSGN 728) and USS Georgia (SSGN 729), have previously been underway at the same time, this milestone marks the first time all four SSGNs have been forward deployed away from their homeports.

"I think it is remarkable they are all deployed at once because back in the mid 90's this was just a power point presentation," said Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell, Commander, Submarine Group 9.

"We have transitioned from an idea on paper to an actual capability to the nation. Their capabilities are revolutionary in what a typical submarine can do because they can carry multiple Tomahawk missiles, special operating forces, improved sonar processers, and a battle management center. It is truly one of the most capable platforms in the Navy today."

Through stealth, speed, agility, payload and persistence, the SSGNs remain a lethal deterrent force capable of precision strike, special operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. It is with these capabilities, the SSGNs have accomplished numerous exercises and missions with Naval Special Warfare, experimented with unmanned aerial vehicles, and completed several theater security cooperation engagements with foreign countries enhancing international relationships and partnerships. As the SSGNs operate in the world's oceans their forward presence continue to provide maritime security and power projection.

"Four SSGNs capable of carrying and launching a combined total of 616 Tomahawk cruise missiles and deploying up to 264 Special Operation Forces, are forward-deployed in position to identify and respond to diverse threats on short notice and with scalable force," said Capt. Tracy Howard, commander, Submarine Squadron 16 in Kings Bay, Ga. "Additionally, with each SSGN possessing the firepower of multiple surface ships, deployed SSGNs provide the Navy and theater commanders with tremendous flexibility with respect to the deployment and redeployment of other assets."

The submarines deploy for approximately 12 months, with some deployments lasting up to 15 months. While deployed from its homeport, U.S. Navy bases in Diego Garcia and Guam provide ideal locations for crew exchanges and Voyage Repair Periods. Maintenance periods and crew exchanges occur approximately every three months and allow the SSGNs to maintain a continuous presence in the areas of operation for 70 percent of the year.

"The transformational capabilities (of the SSGN) are impressive and provide the combatant commander a significant increase in war fighting ability, and options for resolving and deterring conflict," said Capt. John Tammen, commander, Submarine Squadron 19 in Bangor, Wash.

Ohio, the first of the SSGNs to be converted, was the first to deploy Oct. 14, 2007 and Georgia, the last SSGN conversion, began its maiden deployment Aug. 6, 2009. A key element of the Navy's future fighting force, the four SSGNs have completed seven successful deployments and a combined 1,995 days underway.

New capabilities are constantly being added to the SSGN and the mission continues to expand. The SSGN will continue to be a powerful submarine asset needed to execute and accomplish the maritime strategy and Navy's goals.

"The submarine force has always been on the forward edge and has always been innovative in the way we use our platform, and this has taken innovation to a whole new level," said Caldwell.

"The ship by itself is nothing but a big piece of metal and electronics, but it is the people who bring the submarine to life. It is the people who make this platform so capable by taking the submarine and fully employing it in challenging situations, and they deliver fabulous results."

MCPON Visits Wounded at LRMC, Wraps-Up European Tour

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Marc Rockwell-Pate, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia

LANDSTUHL, Germany (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy(MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West toured facilities and met with Sailors and Marines at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany, June 9, to offer support for those wounded and recovering as well as praise the LRMC team for helping the service members in need.

"This visit to the Landstuhl medical center was very emotional and very humbling, particularly when you see the moms that are here to support their sons and daughters that we saw today," said West. "The folks who come through this hospital and the folks you see working at this hospital are our most precious asset. We have some great people doing great things, and it was good for me to get out here and see them."

During his visit to the U.S. Army medical facility, West had the opportunity to visit and speak with service members in the hospital's intensive care unit - an area with some of the critical patients. West also met with other wounded service members in the surgical ward and said the people that he saw in the ICU and surgical areas are "real military heroes."

After spending a majority of the day with hospital patients, West toured the rest of the facilities that are available to those recovering at Landstuhl. West walked through the United Services Organizations (USO) center, the Fisher House, the barracks, and the Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, personally thanking those who are directly supporting the wounded service members at or transitting through the LRMC.

"It's been a very awesome and motivating experience to see the MCPON visiting the medical center today," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SCW) Shalanda Brewer, the 2010 Navy Reserve Sailor of the Year. "To have our leadership come here and see that they are very passionate about what they are doing lets you know that we have great leaders and the Navy is going in the right direction, and I am excited to be apart of that."

West's tour of Landstuhl is the final stop of his 10-day Western Europe trip where he visited seven installations and support elements in England, Spain, Portugal and Germany.

West said he was surprised by the number of joint-military, multinational environments Sailors and Marines work in throughout the European area.

"This trip was great because we went out to seek Sailors, and that is what we did," said West. "I had the opportunity to talk with Sailors in a lot of remote locations that wouldn't normally get a lot of visitors. What I found were Sailors doing a great job in joint military environments, and to see people working shoulder-to-shoulder toward one goal is very satisfying for me."

West added that he will be focusing on visiting more areas within Europe over the next few months.

Navy Region Southeast Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Fund Drive Exceeds Goal

By Kaylee LaRocque, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Jacksonville held a celebration to officially end the 2010 Navy Region Southeast Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society fund drive June 9.

This year's fund drive generated more than $311,000 to benefit Sailors, Marines and their families who receive assistance through loans and grants in times of need. The total amount of funds exceeded this year's goal of $255,000 by more than $56,000.

"This year's drive was very successful. I'd like to thank everyone who was involved and contributed in this event. We had a lot of people who worked really hard on this annual fund drive," said Lt. Jodi Jennings of Patrol Squadron (VP) 30, who was the assistant region coordinator for the fund drive. "Probably the biggest event was the VP-30 golf tourney which generated a lot of funds and was really fun. We had lots of people come out and raised about $23,000."

VP-30 Commanding Officer Capt. Perry Yaw, region coordinator for the fund drive, also praised his team for heading up such a successful fund drive.

"It was an absolute privilege to support such a great organization. It was the hard work of all the command coordinators to make this such an extremely successful fund drive. So, I thank each and every one of you," said Yaw. "This organization, (NMCRS) helped one out of six Sailors across the United States last year. Think about what a profound impact that is. I think financial readiness and family readiness equals combat readiness. I think by the contributions made across the region that people understand that. Thank you everyone for being so generous. I'd also like to thank all our corporate sponsors - we couldn't have done it without them."

Commander, Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. Tim Alexander also attended the celebration to thank the volunteers for their support.

"Your work and the work of your people is absolutely key to the success that we achieved this year. Please take the opportunity to go back to your commands and thank all the keypersons and contributors and let them know how important their contributions are," said Alexander. "Fortunately, we have a great organization like Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society to help our Sailors and their families. And that's what this is all about."

Alexander went on to acknowledge the top contributing commands. "Out of the 65 commands participating in the fund drive, 43 exceeded their goals. That is a tremendous success," he said.

The top three commands were: VP-30 with a goal of $26,664 which raised $55,510; Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with a goal of $27,000 which raised $41,494 and Naval Hospital Jax tying with NAS Key West to raise $19,500.

After the official check presentation, NAS Jax NMCRS Director Dave Faraldo thanked everyone for supporting the society. "It's been a wonderful drive. This is the 16th year that I've been involved in the fund drive. I'd like to thank all of you for your hard work. We'll use this money to take care of the troops so send them over. NMCRS worldwide did 91,000 cases last year providing $47 million in assistance. Much of this was our new quick assist loan where we can give Sailors and their families $300 to take care of that emergency and eliminate the need for a payday loan," he said. Bottom line is if you need money or your troops need money - send them over and we'll do our best to take care of them."

To help out with the celebration, two Jacksonville Roar cheerleaders and Jacksonville Jaguars mascot Jaxson de Ville signed autographs and assisted with a special drawing to pick the winners of the NMCRS Fund Drive grand prize giveaways that were donated by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The campaign runs each year from March through May to allow military personnel and civilian employees to contribute to the society. Last year, the society provided $1.6 million in loans and grants to Sailors, Marines and their families within the region. During the 106 years the NMCRS has been operating, they have helped millions of people through loans and grants. NMCRS also offers other forms of assistance such as providing layettes or ''junior seabags'' to new family members, a visiting nurse program to help new mothers, elderly individuals and anyone who needs a little extra help, and thrift shops offering low-cost clothing and household items.