Military News

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Navy Museum Hosts Girls Make History Day

By Lt. Laura K. Stegherr, Diversity Directorate Public Affairs

June 30, 2010 - WASHINGTON (NNS) -- History came alive for nearly 800 children who attended the second annual Girls Make History Day celebration at the U.S. Navy Museum June 26.

The event, based on the popular American Girl product line, explored U.S. history and naval heritage through the stories of the nine American Girl characters who "lived" during significant periods in U.S. history, including colonial America, the American Expansion, the Civil War, World War I the Great Depression and World War II.

"The success of today's Navy can largely be attributed to the diversity of its Sailors. Girls Make History Day shows not only the importance of this diversity, but also the importance of history and how it is still relevant in our lives today," said retired Rear Adm. Jay DeLoach, Naval History director. "This event is an excellent way for us to reach out to the American people and for them to learn more about their Navy."

The event featured eleven hands-on activity stations throughout the museum. Each was uniquely paired with an American Girl character and was designed to stimulate the children's interest in naval history and science and technology.

According to Laura Hockensmith, deputy director of Education and Public Programs at the museum, the activities played a special role in teaching children about maritime culture.

"From our standpoint, naval history is American history. So, a lot of the [American] Girls do have a tie to a specific war or era," said Hockensmith.

For instance, American Girl "Samantha" whose story was set in the early 20th century, would have lived during the sailing of the Great White Fleet. Other activities were similarly designed to correspond with other American Girl characters. For example, children could learn more about the life of American Girl Molly, who lived through World War II, by creating ration recipe books and victory gardens and by writing letters to service members deployed overseas.

Two of the American Girl series authors, Valerie Tripp and Jackie Greene, also attended the event to meet with the children and sign autographs. Additionally, children had the chance to enter to win one of three full size and three miniature American Girl dolls.

More than 40 women and men in uniform were on hand to guide the activities and share their individual experiences with the children, who were primarily young girls.

Karin Hill, the museum's Director of Education and Public Programs, explained the important role this participation played in shaping the total force of tomorrow.

"I think the Sailors volunteering for Girls Make History Day played a critical role in the success of the overall event," said Hill. "We are trying to showcase the careers for women in the Department of Defense, the Navy and the Marine Corps, and we want our young ladies to understand that there are so many opportunities for them, especially in science and technology jobs."

"All of our volunteers in uniform are so enthusiastic that they're giving our young ladies really good insight into what it's like to work for the US Navy," said Hill.

Flag Officer Announcements

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has made the following nominations:

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr. for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and assignment as deputy commander, U.S. Cyber Command. Maj. Gen. Schmidle is currently serving as assistant deputy commandant for programs and resources (programs) in Washington, D.C.

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John E. Wissler for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and assignment as deputy commandant for programs and resources. Wissler is currently serving as deputy commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Army Works to Right Wrongs at Arlington, Secretary Says

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

June 30, 2010 - The Army is taking every measure possible to fix the problems at Arlington National Cemetery, and it should continue to manage the nation's "most hallowed ground," Army Secretary John M. McHugh told a congressional committee today.

The top two officials in charge of cemetery were disciplined earlier this month after an Army investigation found the cemetery's management to be dysfunctional.

"For 146 years, the Army has proudly served in the administration of this hallowed ground," McHugh told the House Armed Services Committee. "Clearly, we lost that commitment and that record of success. I want to pledge that the Army is doing everything necessary and possible to right these unimaginable, unacceptable wrongs."

McHugh, a former congressman who served as the committee's ranking member before being appointed Army secretary in September, outlined the measures he has taken since Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb issued a June 8 report identifying 76 deficiencies at the cemetery and 101 recommendations for change.

McHugh said he has ordered structural and leadership changes, including rescinding "fractured, unmanageable oversight" in the cemetery's superintendent and deputy superintendent and appointing Kathryn Condon, a senior Army civilian executive, to a new position of executive director of the Arlington National Cemeteries Program.

The secretary also said he has established an Arlington National Cemetery oversight group, and an advisory commission that is headed by former U.S. Sens. Robert Dole and Max Cleland, both war veterans. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki has detailed two officials with the VA's National Cemetery Administration to help with the overhaul, he said.

McHugh rejected a suggestion that Arlington be turned over to the National Cemetery Administration. "I'm not sure it's the fair thing to do to burden other agencies with the stresses of the United States Army," he said. "For over a century and a half, the Army has helped to polish its reputation [at Arlington], but clearly that record been tarnished. We will work as hard as possible to [fix] what we consider an Army problem."

Nearly half of the roughly 330,000 people interred at Arlington are Army soldiers, McHugh noted. "We feel it's important, especially during this time of war, that the Army stay responsible for interring our fallen heroes," he said. "Until we're ordered to step down, we're going forward."

McHugh also rescinded Army "General Order 13," which was the management authority for the cemetery. That order, he said, inadvertently led to a lack of oversight at the cemetery.

"There was real confusion among the agencies as to who had exact oversight authorities," McHugh said. "By placing everyone in charge, no one was in charge. There were no clear lines of who was in charge. Whatever the reasons, it should never have happened."

Now, he said, "the lines of authority are clear from the deputy director right to my desk."

McHugh said he also has ordered audits of all contracts at Arlington, which the report found to be rife with irregularities. The findings will be turned over to Army criminal investigators, he said.

The IG report already was under way when he took office in September, McHugh said, and he ordered it expanded in November to investigate several other cemetery functions. He said he has tried to be transparent in publicizing and fixing the problems.

Whitcomb, who testified alongside McHugh, put blame with Arlington's senior leaders and not its 95 employees. "While our findings raised very serious issues and require significant remedial actions," he said, "I want to make clear that Arlington National Cemetery employees work under extraordinarily high operations tempo with a lack of leadership and still manage to serve our soldiers, honor their families, and honor all Americans with first-class services."

The Army's priority at Arlington now is in examining the 211 graves that the report identified as not matching up with site maps and burial cards, McHugh said. The Army hopes to accept some offers of Northern Virginia-based private information technology firms to cross-check the information of all of the cemetery's graves, he said.

The Army has verified 27 of the 211 graves as being recording mistakes on site maps, meaning graves never existed in those locations, he said.

Upon release of the IG report, the Army established a call center from which people could seek information about the graves of loved ones. So far, McHugh said, 867 calls have been received, and the service has resolved 169 of the cases.

The Army also will assess military cemeteries outside the United States to find out if similar problems exist there, McHugh said. "We're not just stopping at Arlington," he said. "Where we find deficiencies, we will address them."

The changes so far are just the start, McHugh said. "For us, this is the beginning of the process, and we are going to pursue it to its end."

The Army secretary said he welcomes the committee's continued oversight of the matter.

"These problems were committed under the watch of the Army, and it's the Army's responsibility going forward," McHugh said. "For all importance Army places on this, Arlington National Cemetery was somewhat of a satellite spinning off in the distance. The more eyes on the process, the better."

Taylor Crew members Visit Orphange in Croatia

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Edward S. Kessler, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

June 30, 2010 - SPLIT, Croatia (NNS) -- USS Taylor (FFG 50) crew members participated in a community relations project and donated Project Handclasp materials at the Maestral Orphanage during a port visit to Split June 24-28.

The project was designed to enhance the livelihood of the 60 orphans at Maestral Orphanage and forge friendships with Croatian citizens.

"This was a very meaningful visit for the crew of Taylor," said Ensign Kelly McWhorter. "Not only were we able to donate needed goods, we were able to spend personal time with the children and interact with them on a personal level."

Maestral Orphanage cares for children ranging from infants to teenagers.

Taylor crew members donated a pallet of Project Handclasp supplies of toys and clothes during their visit to the orphanage. They were later treated to a tour by the staff and children and spent time working and playing with the students and their new toys.

"Being able to see the looks on their faces and how excited they are is very fulfilling," said Quartermaster 3rd Class Michael Bell. "It really makes you enjoy your job that much more."

For the next two days, Taylor's crew hosted 20 children. Sailors conducted tours and demonstrated some of the ships basic damage control capabilities, navigational aides and gave the children a chance to ring the ship's bell.

"The children loved the tour," said Suzana Svrtan, a teacher at Maestral Orphanage. "The children looked on the internet when they heard the ship was coming, but they were even more excited to be on the ship."

Svrtan added that when the children returned from their tour aboard Taylor, they were very excited.

Taylor is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate homeported in Mayport, Fla., and is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

Truman Strike Group Begins Operations In Support of OEF

From Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

June 30, 2010 - USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) launched its first combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) June 29, while conducting turnover with Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).

Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), will provide support for coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.

"Our air wing has spent several months training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon in preparation for this deployment," said Capt. Jay Bynum, commander,

CVW 3. "We've worked to line up every possible opportunity to train and make sure that we would be ready to go from day one."

Bynum noted that one of the most important parts of the training was the communication between the pilots in the sky and the troops on the ground.

The air wing squadrons worked extensively with joint tactical air controllers (JTAC) at NAS Fallon to ensure that the training was as relevant and realistic as possible. JTACs are the liaison between the ground troops and the aircraft that provide close air support.

Many of the same JTACs that trained with the air wing are currently serving in Afghanistan, said Bynum.

Aviation Machinist's Mate Airman Marcos Rodriguez, from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37, takes great pride in ensuring that the jets he maintains stay mission-ready.

"We're out here for something good," said Rodriguez. "I have a friend in the National Guard in Afghanistan and being out here has personal meaning."

"It's awesome to know that we'll be there for the troops," said Lt. Davin O'Brien, of VFA 37. "Every pilot in the air wing is ready to support them."

Truman CSG will relieve Eisenhower CSG as Task Force 50 on July 2. Eisenhower CSG has operated in the 5th Fleet AOR since Jan. 25 with CVW 7 aircraft flying 2,970 combat sorties and logging 17,730 cumulative flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

Truman CSG deployed May 21 from its homeport of Norfolk, Va., on a routine scheduled deployment and will conduct Maritime Security Operations and theater security cooperation.

Truman CSG includes CSG 10, Harry S. Truman, USS Normandy (CG 60), Destroyer Squadron 26, USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), USS Ross (DDG 71), CVW 3 and its associated squadrons; VFA 105 "Gunslingers," VFA 32 "Swordsmen," VFA 37 "Ragin Bulls," Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 "Checkerboards," Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 "Seahawks," Electronic Attack Squadron 130 "Zappers," and Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 7 "Dusty Dogs."

Chef Feeds New Horizons Troops

By Army Maj. Scott Bell
Task Force Kout Men

June 30, 2010 - Normally, a hot meal for servicemembers working in austere conditions means warming up a field rations package that includes a dinner, dessert and a snack. But for the 500 troops of Task Force Kout Men serving in a New Horizons humanitarian exercise here, chow time is a treat.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Mike Larey, a member of the Louisiana National Guard and owner of Louisiana Cooking Services in New Orleans, is serving his Cajun cuisine out of a 24-by-20-foot kitchen trailer.

"I look forward to seeing all the troops smiling when they come in here each night," said Larey, who trained for his third chef discipline -- Cajun and Creole -- at Dragos in New Orleans. "My cooking staff takes great pride in the fact these soldiers, sailors and airmen look forward to supper each night."

Larey wasn't always a cook in the Louisiana National Guard. He began his career in the military as an engineer, and then he became a truck driver. He said he knows what it's like to run a shovel on a backhoe all day or drive a truck for long hours in the heat and humidity with no air conditioning.

"I also remember how nice it was to come in after a long day at work to a hot meal at night," he added.

Larey said those memories are what drives him to continue to serve in the Louisiana Guard and to do his best to make sure every military member he feeds knows he or she is appreciated.

"I'm sure not doing this for the money," he said.

Face of Defense: Five Generations Graduate From West Point

By Randy Mitchell
U.S. Army North

June 29, 2010 - Service before self is expected in the military, but one family has taken that concept to new heights. Army 2nd Lt. Mark Armstrong Jr. graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., marking the fifth consecutive generation of his family to do so.

"I wanted to serve my country, develop my leadership skills and get a world-class education," Armstrong said. "At West Point, I was able to do that and much, much more."

Armstrong has some big shoes to fill. His father, Army Col. Mark Armstrong Sr., serves on active duty as the U.S. Army North Region 9 defense coordinating officer in Oakland, Calif., near his birthplace of Palo Alto, where generations of his family have lived and served.

The senior Armstrong, a 1981 West Point graduate, proudly administered the military oath of office to his son.

"I was thrilled to be able to commission my own son into the Army," the colonel said, fully aware that his son may soon be deployed in harm's way in Afghanistan or Iraq. "West Point has prepared him well to be a leader of character in today's complex, volatile, uncertain and multi-national combat environments."

The senior Armstrong grew up in the San Francisco Bay area into a family that already was rich in military family tradition. His father, Army Lt. Col. John L. Armstrong, was a 1946 graduate of West Point. A Pearl Harbor survivor and veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, John died in 2004 and never got to see his grandson in uniform as a cadet.

"We are all so proud of Mark Jr.," said Kathryn Halsey Armstrong, John's widow, who still lives in Palo Alto. "His grandfather would have been so proud of him, too. He's a fine young man, and carrying on a wonderful tradition of service to our nation as part of the 'Long Gray Line.'"

Both of Mark Jr.'s great-grandfathers attended West Point as well. Army Col. John D. Armstrong, also of Palo Alto, was a 1919 graduate. A Pearl Harbor survivor, he served as commander of the 92nd Infantry Division's 365th Infantry Regiment during World War II's Italian campaign.

The other great-grandfather, Army Maj. Gen. Milton B. Halsey, was a 1917 graduate who joined the search for Pancho Villa in the Desert Southwest immediately after graduation. He later served with Gens. George Patton and Douglas MacArthur and commanded the 97th Infantry Division in World War II when it liberated Czechoslovakia.



Halsey then moved to the Pacific theater as commanding general of the Yokohama Command and chief of staff of 9th Corps during the occupation of Japan. He later served as chief of staff of 8th Army, overseeing operations in both Japan and Korea.

However, the rich family tradition began more than a century ago in 1891 when Mark Jr.'s great-great grandfather, Army Col. Frank Spear Armstrong, graduated from West Point - starting the chain that hasn't been broken since.

Frank Armstrong was taught by the great Civil War generals from West Point. He served in the Philippines as a young officer and in France in World War I as the quartermaster inspector of the American expeditionary forces and chief of the Remount Service. He later served as the quartermaster of the Army.

Additionally, two of Mark Jr.'s uncles, John Armstrong Jr., 1978, and Jon Halsey, 1985, also are graduates of West Point.

The Armstrong military tradition in America started long before West Point was founded. The earliest Armstrong in his direct line of descendants to serve in America was Army Col. John Armstrong, who served with George Washington and made the famous Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War, earning the "Order of the Cincinnati."

The military ties also extend to the maternal side of the Halsey family, with Army Col. Lee Crandall, commander of 47th Arkansas Cavalry, who served during the Civil War. Mark Jr.'s brother, Andrew, is an ROTC cadet at the University of California Santa Barbara, where his sister, Apryl, recently graduated.

As to whether his younger sister, Leah, will attend West Point, Armstrong said "it is too early to say - but don't rule it out."

Armstrong will attend communications training in Georgia before attending the U.S. Army Airborne School. His first duty assignment will be in Bamberg, Germany, as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Veterans' grave medallion available for order

June 29, 2010 - WASHINGTON (AFRNS) -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced June 29 that the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering bronze medallions to attach to existing, privately purchased headstones or markers, signifying a deceased's status as a veteran.

"For veterans not buried in a national or state veterans cemetery, or those without a government grave marker, VA is pleased to offer this option that highlights their service and sacrifices for our country," said Secretary Shinseki.

The new item can be furnished instead of a traditional government headstone or marker for veterans whose death occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave in a private cemetery is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.

Under federal law, eligible veterans buried in a private cemetery are entitled to either a government-furnished grave marker or the new medallion, but not both. Veterans buried in a national or state veterans cemetery will receive a government headstone or marker of the standard design authorized at that cemetery.

The medallion is available in three sizes: 5 inches, 3 inches and 1½ inches in width. Each bronze medallion features the image of a folded burial flag adorned with laurels and is inscribed with the word "Veteran" at the top and the branch of service at the bottom.

Next of kin will receive the medallion, along with a kit that will allow the family or the staff of a private cemetery to affix the medallion to a headstone, grave marker, mausoleum or columbarium niche cover.

More information about VA-furnished headstones, markers and medallions can be found at www.cem.va.gov/cem/hm/hmtype.asp.

VA is currently developing an application form for ordering the medallion. Until it is available, applicants may use the form for ordering government headstones and markers, VA Form 40-1330. Instructions on how to apply for a medallion are found on the VA website at www.cem.va.gov/hm_hm.asp.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or grave marker.

The new medallions will be available only to veterans buried in private cemeteries without a government headstone or marker. Families of eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when remains are not available for interment.

VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, and 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than 3 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict -- from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are buried in VA's national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the VA website on the Internet at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000. (Courtesy of VA News)

Carter Promotes Pentagon Procurement Efficiency

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 29, 2010 - The Defense Department must become more efficient in providing the military capabilities the nation needs, a senior Pentagon official said here yesterday.

At a Pentagon news conference, Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, outlined steps the department is taking to achieve efficiencies needed to save $100 billion over five years beginning in fiscal 2012.

The Defense Department must have 2 to 3 percent annual growth to support continued robust warfighting capabilities, Carter said. Understanding that a certain amount of growth is needed, he added, President Barack Obama's defense budget proposal calls for 1 percent real growth each year at a time when the funding curve for all other federal agencies has flattened. This, Carter explained, leaves the remaining 1 to 2 percent of necessary real growth for the department to come from efficiencies.

The department must identify and eliminate unproductive or low-value-added overhead and transfer the savings obtained to warfighting capabilities – "in effect, doing more without more," Carter said.

The defense budget is more than $700 billion, Carter said, but the focus of the initiative is on the $400 billion that is contracted out for goods and services.

The objective is to deliver the warfighting capabilities needed for the money available, Carter said, by getting better buying power for warfighters and taxpayers. The policies aim to restore affordability in defense procurement and to improve defense industry productivity, he added.

The efficiencies Carter is seeking come from what economists call productivity growth. "That's what we're looking for," he said. "In the rest of the economy, we expect this -- you get a better computer every year, and cheaper. But we haven't seen productivity growth in the defense economy. More has been costing more, and we need to reverse that trend and restore affordability to our programs."

Carter said he will issue guidance to ensure contracting officers are using the proper contract types to give the taxpayer buying power. "An example would be using a fixed-priced contract for development of the KC-X tanker, which we're doing," he said. "This stabilizes design and enhances the value of competition."

Carter said the funding spigots were turned on after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and some inefficiency crept into procurement practices.

"That's why we're setting an annual goal of 2 to 3 percent, which accumulates over the coming years," he said. "But there will be specific targets for going down and getting leaner in these different categories."

Carter said the efforts are needed, and they're needed quickly. He noted that he had spoken with acquisition experts and the chief executive officers of many defense companies earlier in the day.

"First of all, everybody knows that we're entering a new era, that we're at an inflection point, and that therefore we need to adapt our management practices to that reality -- play the game that's on the field," he said. "Secondly, they can do the math, which is that we're going to enjoy some real growth in defense spending, but not the kind that we've enjoyed over the last decade."

Sailor Missing From Korean War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

U.S. Navy Ensign Robert W. Langwell, of Columbus, Ind., will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on July 12. On Oct. 1, 1950, Langwell was serving on the minesweeper USS Magpie when it sank after striking an enemy mine off the coast of Chuksan-ri, South Korea. Twelve crewmen were rescued, but Langwell was one of 20 men lost at sea.

In June 2008, personnel from the Republic of South Korea's Ministry of National Defense Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification (MAKRI) canvassed towns in South Korea in an effort to gather information regarding South Korean soldiers unaccounted-for from the Korean War. An elderly fisherman, interviewed in the village of Chuksan-ri, reported that he and other villagers had buried an American serviceman in 1950 when his body was caught in the man's fishing net.

The MAKRI located the burial site on April 28, 2009, where they excavated human remains and military artifacts. The burial site was approximately three miles west of where the USS Magpie sank in 1950. The team turned the remains and artifacts over to U.S. Forces Korea, which sent them to Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command for analysis.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, JPAC scientists used dental comparisons in the identification of Langwell's remains.

With Langwell's accounting, 8,025 service members still remain missing from the Korean War.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/ or call 703-699-1169.