Saturday, June 19, 2010

Motorcycle Rodeo Promotes Safety On Board Naval Station Norfolk

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nikki Smith, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk

June 19, 2010 - NORFOLK (NNS) -- Naval Station Norfolk highlighted motorcycle safety June 18 during the 4th Annual Motorcycle Rodeo and Classic Car Show on board Naval Station Norfolk.

Over 300 Sailors and veterans cycled to the event on their cruiser and sport bikes to show their support for the promotion of motorcycle safety Navy-wide.

Rear Adm. Arthur J. Johnson, commander of Naval Safety Center came out to the Rodeo to show his support and kick off the event. Johnson wanted to stress the importance of safety, and how much of a difference safety training can make on all fronts.

"All of our motorcycle safety events are pretty important to us. What the riders are doing today is pretty important for safety purposes and their training," said Johnson.

Johnson also emphasized the importance of having Sailors "close the gap" which is ensuring all Sailors who are motorcycle safety trained get other riders who haven't attended proper safety courses into the training.

The Rodeo featured the first-ever Thunder on the Naval Station Ride where riders were led by a police cruiser and got to show off their bikes during a ride through Naval Station Norfolk. Virginia State Police Motorcycle Demonstration Team came out to show the attendees important safety tricks and tips on their bikes. There were also awards presented for People's Choice for Bike Show and an all-hands bike challenge.

"It's all about shipmates and keeping our Sailors safe. Without safety training this isn't possible," said Religious Program Specialist Petty 1st Class (FMF) Edmond Garrett of USS New York (LPD 21).

Klakring Sailors Make Friends During COMREL in Coquimbo, Chile

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Michael J. Scott, Commander Task group 40.0 Public Affairs

June 19, 2010 - COQUIMBO, Chile (NNS) -- Task Group 40.0 Sailors partnered with the Chilean Navy in a recent community relations (COMREL) project at Padre Alberto Hurtado School in Parte Alta de Coquimbo, Chile June 14, during its 2010 Southern Seas deployment.

COMREL projects are designed to give U.S. Navy Sailors a way to positively interact with citizens of the countries they are visiting. Often times, their work enhances the lives of the recipients of the COMREL projects. The bond forged during theses projects helps to foster friendships and improve relations for generations to come.

"It was an amazing experience to be a part of such a great program," said Naval Air Crewman 3rd Class Amado Vazquez, who served as one of the interpreters for the group. "I really enjoyed it and it was a pleasure for me to use my primary language to communicate."

School Director Omar Rodriguez Valenzuela was delighted to have the U.S. Navy come and help the school.

"The U.S. Navy gave us huge support by coming here and fixing some of the problems we have," said Valenzuela. "Most importantly, the kids can see another culture and meet different people."

The school has 276 students and employs 22 teachers. The children were friendly and eager to learn. They were very excited to get a chance to interact with their new friends from the U.S. Navy.

Crew members spent the day painting, repairing and replacing light fixtures and cutting hair. However, the greatest contribution made was not the work done to the school, but the children's lives they touched.

Sailors talked and played games with the students while upgrading the standards of the building. No one seemed to mind the language barrier and everyone managed to understand each other on a deep and personal level.

During lunch and recess, students challenged the Sailors to a game of soccer. The kids not only outnumbered the crew on the field, they outscored them 6-2. Everyone had a great time and the day left an indelible impression on all who participated.

"We would like to thank the U.S. Navy for coming here today," said Valenzuela. "The kids really enjoyed your visit and will remember this day for a lifetime."

Klakring is on a six-month deployment to South America and the Caribbean as part of Southern Seas 2010, a U.S. Southern Command-directed operation that provides U.S. and international forces the opportunity to operate in a multi-national environment.

USS San Jacinto Excels at Counter-Piracy Mission

By Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Ja’lon A. Rhinehart, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

June 19, 2010 - USS SAN JACINTO, At Sea (NNS) -- During the first five months of her deployment, the Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) has interdicted several skiffs, captured pirates and played a key role in keeping sea lanes safe.

USS San Jacinto left Norfolk on a seven-month deployment to the Gulf of Aden January 21, in support of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151's counter-piracy mission.

Typically, Aegis cruisers are utilized as a primary air defense platform to support amphibious or expeditionary readiness groups. Due to the diversity of the current battlespace, however, USS San Jacinto's primary duties have changed to support CTF 151.

"Recently Aegis cruisers have been tasked with visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) and anti-piracy operations," stated Fire Controlman 1st Class Christopher Ladera, a member of USS San Jacinto's VBSS team. "With the changing threat in the world, I think we play an important role in helping suppress piracy."

USS San Jacinto, at less than 600 feet long, is considered a comparatively small and maneuverable warship. Armed with offensive and defensive weapons systems, multi-function radars, two rigid-hull inflatable boats and two SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopters, not to mention a highly-trained VBSS team, it can respond quickly to changes in counter-piracy conditions.

"San Jacinto is a multi-mission ship," said Commanding Officer Capt. John Cordle. "As an independent deployer, we are capable of plugging into any strike group or task force. This requires a great deal of flexibility and a good grounding in the basics."

USS San Jacinto's VBSS team gained the confidence to conduct the counter-piracy mission with an extensive training program which included schools, training exercises and weapons qualifications.

"Preparing for deployment was a deployment in itself," Ladera recalled. "Once the VBSS schools were completed, it was very important for us as a team to become familiar with communications, tactical movements, and physical fitness."

The intense training was crucial to USS San Jacinto's success in their new role countering piracy, said VBSS team boarding officer Lt. j.g. Sam Williard.

"We keep our focus on the basics and get the little things right, and the big things fall right into place."

On May 31, USS San Jacinto disrupted nine suspected Somali pirates from attacking a Maltese-flagged motor vessel. Earlier in the month, the ship had rescued five Yemeni mariners from 13 suspected Somali pirates, while conducting routine counter narcotics operations 68 miles southeast of Ras Fartak, Yemen.

Despite the ship's record of success in countering piracy and the approaching end of the ship's deployment cycle, the crew remains at the ready for the next attack.

"We knew before we deployed that we would largely be focused on the mission of counter-piracy, but it's impossible to accurately predict what the level of piracy activity will be or when and where an attack will take place," Williard noted.

Children Inspire Father to Serve

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy J. McClure
Iowa National Guard

June 18, 2010 - The newest flight surgeon in the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Medical Group only just recently joined the military, but his family is very familiar with military life. Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Glenn Harden entered military service for the first time at age 56. His swearing-in ceremony took place with members of his family present at the 185th Air Refueling Wing here May 1.

His family includes a son, Josh Harden, who is an active-duty Marine and is married to an active-duty sailor, and a daughter, a former Army officer whose husband is an active-duty Marine Corps officer.

Harden said their service inspired him to serve his country, and they were very supportive of his decision.

"When I told my son-in-law about this, he said that the 185th is a great group and have flown his Marines out of Afghanistan," Harden said at his swearing-in ceremony.

Originally from Kansas, Harden was trained in medicine at the University of Kansas Medical School. He is board certified in emergency medicine and family practice. He also can be found in the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center here when he is not in uniform.

Flags lowered to half-staff in Wisconsin Sunday for Army Lt. Col. Paul Bartz

June 18, 2010 - Flags at Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities across the state will fly at half-staff Sunday, June 20 in honor of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Bartz, a Waterloo native, who lost his life while serving his country in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Guard will render these honors in accordance with an executive order issued by Gov. Jim Doyle.

EXECUTIVE ORDER # 319 reads:

Relating to a Proclamation that the Flag of the United States and the Flag of the State of Wisconsin be Flown at Half-Staff as a Mark of Respect for Lieutenant Colonel Paul Bartz of the United States Army Who Lost His Life While Serving His Country in Operation Enduring Freedom.

WHEREAS, on May 18, 2010, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Bartz, who was assigned to Headquarters, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y., died while serving his country in Afghanistan; and

WHEREAS, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Bartz provided faithful and honorable service to the people of the State of Wisconsin and the people of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the people of Wisconsin mourn the death of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Bartz; and

WHEREAS, a memorial service will be held for Lieutenant Colonel Paul Bartz on Sunday, June 20, 2010;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JIM DOYLE, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, by the authority vested in me by Federal and State law, do hereby order that the flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Wisconsin shall be flown at half-staff at all buildings, grounds and military installations of the State of Wisconsin equipped with such flags beginning at sunrise on Sunday, June 20, 2010, and ending at sundown on that date.

Deployed Soldiers Return in Time for Father's Day

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2010 - Army Sgt. 1st Class Roland Lueras left for a year-long deployment to Iraq on Father's Day last year, missing his family's usual gift-giving celebrations. But this weekend, it will be his 8-year-old son, Austin, who will receive the special gift: his father. Lueras is one of about 80 Army National Guard soldiers with the 203rd Military Police Battalion based in Athens, Ala., returning home tomorrow, just in time for Father's Day.

"Austin is going to go nuts when he sees him," his mother, Alisha Lueras, said. "He missed him a lot."

The unit's family readiness group will host a cookout tomorrow to keep families occupied before the soldiers pull up to the Athens armory. But the moment the commander orders the soldiers' dismissal, the Lueras family plans to pack up and leave for a week-long vacation in Clearwater, Fla., where they'll celebrate their soldier's homecoming and honor him for Father's Day, Lueras said.

"Roland is the only one Austin will get in the ocean with, so he's thrilled his father will make it back in time to go to Florida," she said.

The timing is right for the beach vacation, Lueras noted, especially since Austin had such a tough time over the past year. Several months ago, Austin had stumbled upon the Military Channel while flipping through channels to find cartoons. He saw story after story on Iraq before his mother realized what he was doing and blocked the channel, but it had already left a lasting impact, Lueras said.

"He got in his head that his dad wasn't going to come back," she said. "He didn't want me to talk about his daddy, and he couldn't even say daddy. It took months to get him to talk to his father. He was scared."

It took time and patience to "straighten him back out," his mother said. Now, Austin is focused on more positive thoughts: his father's homecoming.

"I'm excited I'll have a chance to play with him on the Xbox again," he said last night.

Heather Moore also can't wait until tomorrow, when she'll see her father, Army Master Sgt. Donald Towers, again after their year-long separation. Her family -- including her 7-year-old son, Waylon, and 4-year-old daughter, Jamie -- will be waiting for the bus to pull up outside the armory.

Her father last deployed when Waylon was 18 months old, Moore said. But even then, it left a powerful impact.

"[Waylon] still remembers it," Moore said. "He knew his grandfather was in Iraq, but not what he was doing. He'd say, 'Papa is in Iraq mowing grass.'

"They used to get on the riding mower and cut grass together," she explained, and the idea of his grandfather mowing grass in Iraq was a concept he could understand.

This time around, her son had a better grasp on why his grandfather was in Iraq, and his teacher and classmates provided much-needed support, Moore said.

The students became pen pals with Waylon's grandfather, and Austin's teacher arranged video calls on Skype, she said. The students asked the soldier a variety of questions about his daily life and job, and after the group call, Waylon had an opportunity to talk to his grandfather alone.

"The school was very supportive," Moore said.

Waylon and his grandfather have a special closeness, Moore noted, a bond that her father said factored into his decision to deploy.

"He said he wanted to [deploy] because he didn't want what was happening over there to happen in my son's backyard," she said, struggling to hold back tears at the thought of her father's sacrifice. "It's a lot; he didn't get to come home at all this year."

But with the homecoming at hand, the family is planning a busy weekend for her father, Moore said. Her cousin is getting married tomorrow, and the family will go straight from the homecoming to the wedding. Her father even bought new fatigues so he'd be clean and pressed for the wedding, she added. They'll follow that up the next day with a party at her mother's house where friends and family are invited to stop by to welcome him home.

"He asked us to keep it low-key, but that's not possible in our family," Moore said. "It's going to be an extra special Father's Day."

Moore's mother, Ruth, said she's glad her husband will be home in time for Father's Day, but is even more grateful just to have him home safely.

"I'm just so glad everyone is coming home safe and sound," she said. "We're very fortunate no one [in the unit] has been injured and are able to come back at one time and celebrate with their families."

Klakring Completes Visit to Coquimbo, Chile

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael J. Scott, CTG 40.0 Public Affairs

COQUIMBO, CHILE (NNS) -- Task Group 40.0 waved goodbye to the friendly people and picturesque scenery of Coquimbo, Chile, June 15 following a five-day port visit during its 2010 Southern Seas deployment.

Coquimbo lies in the Northern part of Chile and is the capital of the Elqui Province, located on the Pan-American Highway in the Coquimbo Region of Chile. The name means "Calm Waters" in the Mapuche language and was the perfect backdrop for Klakring's 9th port call and third engagement with the Chilean Navy and local community.

The ship was greeted by Coquimbo's mayor, singers, dancers, and a band. The band performed several songs as the Wassos (cowboys) and their partners, dressed in traditional outfits, performed the "Cueca", a traditional folk dance from the Elqui province.

DESRON 40's Commodore Capt. Brian Nickerson and Klakring's Commanding Officer Cmdr. Scott Smith paid calls on Coquimbo's Mayor, Oscar Pereira Tapia; the Maritime Governor Cmdr. Eric Solar Olavarria; and the Commander of the Carabineros Gen. Rodolfo Pacheco Kutz. The official calls normally provide insight into a city's history, culture, and people. Oftentimes they reveal common acquaintances and shared experiences. They always underscore that relationships are important and that ultimately we are alike in more ways than we differ.

That afternoon, U.S. and Chilean Sailors gathered to honor Chilean national and naval hero, Cmdr. Arturo Prat Chacon. Sailors from both nations smartly rendered salutes during the playing of each country's national anthem, while DESRON 40's commodore and Klakring's commanding officer laid a flower wreath in the shape of a U.S. Flag at the base of Prat's statue. This simple but moving ceremony is performed by all foreign naval vessels visiting Chile.

Later that evening, TG 40.0 hosted an reception for 40 local government, business and military leaders. Nickerson thanked the guests for the outpouring of warmth the Task Group had already received from the city.

While in Coquimbo, Team 42 partnered with the Chilean Navy in a community outreach project at Padre Alberto Hurtado School. Crew members painted, repaired and replaced light fixtures, and helped cut hair for some of the 276 students. The Sailors also enjoyed a spirited game of soccer against the children.

School Director Omar Rodriguez Valenzuela said he believes the school has a responsibility to work with and serve the community. He was also delighted to have the U.S. and Chilean navies come and help the school.

"Our kids are excited to have the U.S. Sailors here. It's great for them to experience another culture, and they will remember this day for a lifetime."

Competitive recreation was also an essential part for this port visit. Klakring's basketball and soccer players took on local teams and built camaraderie and friendships with Coquimbo residents. Both teams enjoyed meeting and making new friends while strengthening ties between the countries.

"The people that we interact with are more than allies, they are friends; and that makes a huge difference. Each one makes you feel like family." Smith said.

Klakring is on a six-month deployment to South America and the Caribbean as part of Southern Seas 2010, a U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-directed operation that provides U.S. and international forces the opportunity to operate in a multinational environment. This year's deployment includes Klakring and HSL 42 Det. 10 with DESRON 40 as Command Element.