Thursday, August 05, 2010

Soldier Overcomes Difficult Childhood

By Dijon Rolle
U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg Public Affairs

Aug. 5, 2010 - While saying Army Spc. Ekaterina Volsky's childhood was difficult is accurate, it doesn't even begin to describe the poverty, abuse and neglect she has overcome in her short lifetime.

The U.S. Army Europe human resources specialist was born near the Ural Mountains in Perm, Russia, 23 years ago. Her birth mother struggled with alcoholism and bouts of mental illness, and eventually committed suicide.

At age 2, Volsky was sent to an overcrowded orphanage where, she said, she was raised primarily by the other residents living there - some only a few years older than she was. And she was abused during her time at the orphanage, she added.

Over the next seven years of her life in Russia, Volsky poured her pain and her passion into the performing arts to escape the hell she faced on a daily basis.

"I grew up just learning how to be focused on music and art. That's how I learned to survive," she said. "I would study singing, poetry and history to try to be as normal as possible." At age 9, Volksy met Joyce Sterkel, an American woman who later would become her adoptive mother.

As a nurse, Sterkel spent time working with humanitarian organizations in Russia and later founded "Ranch for Kids," a facility in rural Montana specializing in helping children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome, mental illness, abuse and reactive attachment disorder.

A moratorium on Russian adoptions prevented Sterkel from adopting Volsky at the time.

"I really had no contact with her during that year, but she left some gifts, and that was helpful ... when it was time to be adopted and I came to America. It was quite a shock for me," Volsky said.

The family moved to Wyoming before setting up shop in Eureka, Mont., the future home of "Ranch for Kids."

As she tried to adjust to her new life in the United States, Volsky learned English by watching American television and movies and engaging in conversations with her new friends and family. She also picked up her U.S. citizenship, attended Utah State University, worked as an Americorps volunteer and nurse's aide, and helped out around the ranch.

Volsky and Sterkel returned to the orphanage in 2000 for a visit and to find out more about Volsky's biological family, including the whereabouts of her biological brother. She was told he worked in a factory in Siberia, but the two were not able to connect during her visit.

"It was very heartbreaking and shocking. I couldn't stop crying," Volsky said. "I wanted to bring everyone with me to America because it was so sad to see children that cannot go anywhere. They do not have families, and that's pretty sad to me, because they have to be stuck here."

In 2008, Volsky, with her family's blessing, decided to take on a new challenge - this time as a soldier in the U.S. Army. Heidelberg is her first duty station.

"I feel very proud and very appreciative, because I can live and serve in a normal country where I do not have to be violated or abused," Volsky said.

"The United States Army is not something that you have to do; we are volunteers here to serve, and that is the greatest opportunity, I think, without looking at the benefits," she added. "But just looking at trying to get out and do something different. I feel very proud."

Volsky does admit there have been some challenges.

"Being in the Army as a soldier from where I come from it is hard, because I have to learn to adapt in a different way from how I used to be, and I think most people have that," she said. "A lot of soldiers who have family members in the military can kind of grasp what it's like, because they've been around military people, but for me I have to take an extra step, ask questions, and find my way. "[I have to] learn much more to get to where I want to be."

Volsky's supervisor, Army Sgt. Amanda Jordan, said she's definitely on the right track.

"She is highly motivated. She does things with little to no guidance, and she's a person that I would go to as my right-hand man," Jordan said.

"It's pretty amazing she is where she is now," she continued, "knowing where she came from and that she's had such a hard life. I just think that she is such a great person. She's one person that you can learn from, ... and now to be so happy and to be where she is now, she's also a person to look up to."

In her free time, Volsky enjoys singing, dancing, drawing, playing the piano, and performing community service, which she often does as a member of Heidelberg's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.

"Specialist Volsky is a person that you can truly see has a servant heart and tries very hard to ensure others are taken care of," said BOSS president Army Spc. William Perkins. "She sets the example for others."

Another passion Volsky has is acting, and she had the opportunity to hone her chops with a part in a commercial for USAREUR's diversity campaign that aired on American Forces Network. Most viewers will recognize her from her memorable delivery of the line "I am USAREUR."

Volsky admitted she was a little surprised by the attention she has received after the commercial began airing.

"At first I wasn't used to it, and it was a little much for me, but then I went on autopilot and so it doesn't bother me at all. Sometimes I even laugh. It's good that people recognize it," she said.

Despite the struggles she's overcome and the many different activities and hobbies that now consume her schedule, Volsky said there is one thing that remains a constant quest in her life.

"I really enjoy community service, and I really enjoy meeting people and communicating," she said. "I've found when I help other people, I am helping myself. I know that I'm going to make a difference, and when I can make people smile, that's one thing that I appreciate about the talents and the gifts that I have. I am able to share them and to give something in return."

These days, Volsky continues to weather the stormy seas of life while helping to raise others up to stand on the mountains she was able to conquer years ago in a Russian orphanage.

"There's always a bright side to a challenge. That's one of the things my mom has always said. Without the bad, there could be no good," Volsky said. "We are just human beings, and we have to strive forward no matter what, and that's why I'm here."

In October, Volsky will head to Washington, D.C., to compete in the U.S. Army 10-Miler. She was one of four runners from Heidelberg to earn a spot on the U.S. Army Europe 10-miler team last month in a qualification race in Grafenwöhr.

Duckworth Takes to Skies Again

By Mike Chrisman
Illinois National Guard

Aug. 4, 2010 - Tammy Duckworth has achieved much since being wounded in 2004, but regaining her pilot's license has given the wounded warrior and top VA official a unique perspective on the control she has over her destiny. Gen. George S. Patton once said: "Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom."

For Duckworth, a major and an Illinois Army National Guard aviator, the bottom came in 2004, when her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, As a result of the attack, Duckworth lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm.

Since then, she has devoted her life to public service, advocating on behalf of the veterans and the disabled. In 2009, she was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.

And she has devoted her time over the last five years to winning back, for starters, her fixed-wing pilot's license, recently passing the Federal Aviation Administration certification.

"When I woke up at Walter Reed, all I wanted to do was to go back to my unit and fly again," said Duckworth, a 19-year veteran of the Illinois Army National Guard. "This fixed-wing license fills in the gap in my life that has been there since the day I was shot down," Duckworth said.

She completed about six months of training before taking her final check ride at Manassas Regional/Harry P. Davis Field in northern Virginia July 19.

"Tammy was a great student; well disciplined and hard working," said Ben Negussie, a flight instructor at Dulles Aviation in Manassas, Va. "She wanted it more than any other student. She pushed more and has a great attitude. She never complained, which has made me think a lot before complaining about anything."

Duckworth has not flown a helicopter since her Blackhawk was shot down, but said she hopes to return to the pilot's seat of a helicopter again. She said being a passenger in the aircraft is not the same as being behind the controls as a pilot.

Duckworth said aviation provides a unique way for her to control her own destiny.

She was able to climb into a Blackhawk while at Walter Reed and ever since has been excited to fly again.

"I also got into the Blackhawk flight simulator, and it just felt right," Duckworth said. "That cockpit is where I belong."

The first time she flew in a Blackhawk was to welcome her unit home from deployment. "I cried riding in the back of the aircraft," Duckworth said. "I was happy to see the guys from my unit, but it hurt tremendously to be a passenger and not part of the crew."

Duckworth said she plans to purchase a small airplane to help her commute between Illinois and Washington, D.C.

In the meantime, she said the fixed-wing license is a stepping stone to get back to flying a helicopter again.

"It took five years to work my way through the FAA's medical system to prove that I could fly again with my disabilities," Duckworth said. "The fixed-wing license was the best way to demonstrate my abilities."

Since Duckworth already has an FAA helicopter license, all she needs to do is some refresher training in a new civilian helicopter.

"I couldn't get to this point without doing the fixed-wing rating first," she said.

Duckworth has become an inspiration to many people, including Negussie.

"She is an example to others not to give up on anything in life," Negussie said. "Things are not always going to go your way, but anything is possible if you have the right attitude."

But Duckworth said people who inspire her are the crew members who helped save her life.

"Not a day goes by that I don't say thanks for my crew and their heroic effort in saving my life," she said. "I wake up every day knowing that I have to live a life worthy of their actions."

McKinley Reviews National Guard's Contribution

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau

Aug. 5, 2010 - In response to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' effort to find efficiencies throughout the services, the National Guard is taking a hard look at how it operates.

Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, kicked off the Guard's effort by releasing a report titled, "The National Guard: A Great Value for America," which will guide efforts to improve efficiency at the bureau and push resources to the operational force.

In May, Gates called for a 2 to 3 percent reduction in overhead costs in the fiscal 2012 defense budget request, with the money saved being dedicated to force structure. McKinley said the National Guard plays an important role in achieving the secretary's goals. The Guard adds value to America by supporting domestic missions and defending the nation's interests overseas with our active duty counterparts, he said.

"While America's military represents a balance between what this country needs to guarantee its security and what we can afford, the National Guard delivers an exceptional value in this security equation," McKinley said.

In 2010, the Army National Guard has consumed less than 11 percent of the Army's budget while providing almost 40 percent of the Army's operating force, Guard officials said. The Air National Guard has operated on less than 7 percent of the Air Force's budget during this fiscal year, and it currently comprises about one-third of the Air Force's capability.

"These same forces also stand ready to save lives and ease suffering at home because of our National Guard's 'dual mission' nature," McKinley said. "Whatever people, expertise and equipment we maintain as America's operational reserve can also be used here on the home front in a variety of missions that directly benefit American citizens."

The value that the National Guard brings to the nation is undeniable, the general said. "As everyone in the Department of Defense continues to navigate this fiscally constrained environment, it is critical for defense planners and decision-makers to understand the great benefit that the National Guard brings as a dual-use military force," McKinley said. "And rest assured that the National Guard is working to identify further efficiencies that offer even greater value to America."

After nearly 374 years of successfully meeting the nation's needs, McKinley said, the National Guard intends to stay relevant for generations to come.

"As the Department of Defense continues to work innovative solutions to the changing fiscal and global security environments, it would be hard to imagine what an America without its National Guard would look like," he said.

At home, the Guard's expertise includes the air superiority mission, which is performed by the Air National Guard, response to natural disasters across the country and emerging missions, such as security support on the southwest border and oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, Guard officials said.

Overseas, the Guard's presence is strongly felt as well. About three-quarters of today's National Guard have deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom, Guard officials said. Almost 25 percent of the Guard's current force has deployed more than once in support of these operations. Guardsmen are also serving in the Balkans, Guantanamo Bay and the Sinai.

"Together with the active components, we can fulfill critical overseas commitments that otherwise would simply be impossible to sustain," McKinley said.

He said it also takes sacrifice from the Guard's soldiers and airmen and their families and employers, who must endure the long separations of a combat deployment.

"Our value proposition, along with all we're called upon to do at home and abroad to keep Americans safe, makes for one potent force to confront America's enemies and hazards at home," McKinley said. "I don't think there's ever been a better or more important time to be part of the Guard family, and I thank each family member from the bottom of my heart for all they do."

USS Key West Begins Engineered Overhaul

From Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard (PHNSY) began the engineered overhaul (EOH) of USS Key West (SSN 722), July 29.

EOHs are the largest and most complex type of maintenance and modernization projects conducted at the shipyard. An EOH is a major depot-level availability near the mid-point of a submarine's service life to refurbish major equipment, perform maintenance required to maintain safe and unrestricted operations, as well as conduct modernization of the submarine's systems.

"Our goal is to complete [the EOH] in less than two years," said Nathan Lorenzo, project superintendent.

Planning for the EOH began more than a year ago.

"I appreciate all the hard work and effort to make this [overhaul] a success," Lorenzo said. "Planning products, such as job summaries, task group instructions, schedules, and financial and resource reviews, were ready on or ahead of time, he noted.

"We provide a service. We deliver a product -operational ships," Lorenzo said. "The young men and women who operate the ships we work on risk their lives to protect our country and provide us the opportunity to have the lifestyle we share today."

PHNSY, a Naval Sea Systems Command field activity, continuously improves its maintenance and modernization processes to ensure it delivers the right capability in a cost-effective way.

DoD Recognizes Pearl Harbor Shipyard for Maintenance Excellence

From Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communications Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The secretary of defense recognized Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) in depot-level maintenance excellence across all military services Aug. 2.

PHNSY & IMF, a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) field activity, received the Robert T. Mason Award for the organization's outstanding emergent repairs and support of the warfighter.

The award is presented annually to one program from a Department of Defense (DoD) depot-level maintenance activity that exemplifies exceptional depot-level maintenance support to DoD operating units.

"I am so proud of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard's achievements which have now been formally recognized in winning this significant DoD-level award," said Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, NAVSEA commander. "This is a great testament to the leadership and people of the shipyard."

McCoy also said the award recognizes the shipyard's vital role in supporting the day to day readiness of Pacific Fleet ships and is evidence of the truly unique capabilities of naval shipyards."

PHNSY & IMF was recognized among 12 nominations throughout the military for its emergent repair program. Emergent repairs are emergency repairs to vessels as opposed to scheduled and planned modernization and repairs.

The shipyard was also recognized for critical mechanical or structural fixes conducted in Hawaii for naval forces of strategic significance, such as the rapid repairs in support of the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group and the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group.

PHNSY & IMF was also acknowledged for its successful planning to support the homeporting of two Virginia-class submarines - USS Texas (SSN 775) and USS Hawaii (SSN 776) - facilities modernization planning and improvements, workforce shaping and development, process improvements, support of its National Guard and reservists and community outreach.

In fiscal year 2005, the secretary of Defense depot-level award was named the Robert T. Mason Award for Depot Maintenance Excellence in recognition of Robert T. Mason, a former assistant deputy under secretary of defense for maintenance policy, programs, and resources.

This year's award is scheduled for presentation Nov. 17 at the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards Ceremony and Banquet at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla.

Yellow Ribbon Program Strong for 2010-2011

From the Department of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Paving the way for recipients of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend higher-cost schools, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has entered into more than 3,200 agreements with more than 1,100 school for the upcoming academic year under the "Yellow Ribbon" program.

Schools can enter into multiple agreements with VA to accommodate different programs of study offered.

"We are pleased that so many institutions are joining us to support the educational goals of the men and women who served this Nation so honorably," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The Yellow Ribbon program, a key provision of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, allows VA and participating educational institutions to share in supporting students attending high-cost schools.

Normally, the VA-administered Post-9/11 GI Bill reimburses students for tuitions that don't exceed the highest in-state undergraduate tuition rate for a public institution. Under the Yellow Ribbon program, when schools contribute to the difference between the in-state maximum and their usual cost, VA will match them dollar for dollar up to 50 percent of the difference.

The Yellow Ribbon program is reserved for Veterans eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill who served at least 36 months on active duty or served at least 30 continuous days before being discharged due to a service-related injury.

VA launched a special outreach effort in January 2010 to encourage more schools to participate in the program during the coming academic year. VA extended the original deadline for schools' participation decisions, originally set for May 21, to July 23 because of overwhelming interest in the program.

Letters were also mailed to school officials and reminder e-mails sent to promote maximum participation. In 2010, the application process was streamlined to allow schools to fax and e-mail agreements to VA, rather than send through regular mail.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, passed by Congress in 2008, is the most extensive educational assistance program authorized since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944.

The maximum benefit allows every eligible Veteran, service member, reservist and National Guard member an opportunity to receive an in-state, undergraduate education at a public institution at no cost.

The program includes payments for tuition and fees (paid directly to the schools), a housing allowance and a books and supplies stipend.

For information on specific schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, go to

Additional information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, as well as VA's other educational benefits, can be obtained by visiting VA's Web site or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 (or 1-888-442-4551).

Congressional Delegation Meets With US Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Smith, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- Members of a Congressional delegation (CODEL) visited Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain to meet with Sailors serving in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) Area of Responsibility (AOR) during an informal luncheon held in the NSA Bahrain Freedom Souq Aug. 4.

U.S. Reps. Gene Taylor, Joe Wilson, Madeleine Bordallo Michael Conaway, Glenn Nye III and Mark Critz, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services, spoke with Sailors and thanked them for their service.

Taylor said this was a great opportunity to spend some time with Sailors and hear there concerns.

"There are some very impressive Sailors in this region and they are doing a remarkable job," he said. "They seem aware of the threat and do an incredible job every day."

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Cary Salas, assigned to the NSA Bahrain Harbor Patrol Unit, was one of the Sailors who had the opportunity to have lunch with the CODEL. He said the visit gave him the chance to talk with Bordallo about issues concerning not only Guam, but also the U.S. Navy.

"This is the second time I've met her and she is doing good things for Guam," he said. "She really cares about the people there and our future. She is very aware of our needs and is pushing forward with putting Guam in the limelight."

CODEL members also met with senior NAVCENT/5th Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces leadership, toured the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) and had the opportunity to talk with embarked Sailors.

CODEL members said Sailors are an integral part of the mission in this region. They are traveling throughout the U.S. Central Command AOR to meet with service members and military leaders.

NAVSEA Warfare Center Installations Enhance Fleet Maintenance

From Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Public Affairs

CRANE, Ind. (NNS) -- Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane, Ind., personnel completed Ram Air Turbo-Generator Test Set (RATTS) maintenance equipment installations and training at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Calif., in July 2010.

RATTS enables the fleet to condition magnets, balance generator rotors and more efficiently inspect generator assemblies.

This supports intermediate level maintenance for the AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS) Ram Air-Turbo Generator (RATGen), an electronic warfare system used on the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler aircraft that protects warfighters by intercepting and processing radar signals, jamming a wide variety of threats. RATGen generates the power needed for the AN/ALQ-99 TJS to fully function.

"These installations provide significant cost savings to the Navy," said John Miller, electronics engineer. "Most importantly, more systems are now available and reliable for the warfighter."

Installations are anticipated to result in more than $750,000 per year in cost avoidance, as well as a significant decrease in system maintenance turnaround time. Prior to the installations, the systems were shipped to NSWC Crane for complete system overhauling when maintenance was required.

After experts completed the installations, NSWC Crane personnel worked directly with the fleet to train them on RATTS operation ability. The weeklong training provided hands-on instruction to better ensure the warfighter can correctly operate and manage the testing system.

"The training was a great opportunity to work directly with the warfighters on this legacy system," said Tyler Laughlin, mechanical engineer and RATGen subject matter expert. "The fleet is now prepared to complete intermediate-level system maintenance with greater quality and efficiency."

NSWC Crane, a Naval Sea Systems Command field activity, continuously improves its maintenance and modernization processes to ensure it delivers the right capability in a cost-effective way.

Parade of Ships Kicks off Seattle Seafair Fleet Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardel Gervacio, Navy Public Affairs Support Element-West, Detachment Northwest

SEATTLE (NNS) -- USS Port Royal (CG 73), USS Kidd (DDG 100) and USS Green Bay (LPD 20) kicked off the 61st annual Seattle Seafair Fleet Week with the Parade of Ships, Aug. 4.

The annual celebration involves the U.S. Navy, along with the Canadian navy and U.S. Coast Guard, during which selected maritime ships sail into the Port of Seattle for the public to see.

Sailors have the opportunity to experience the sights of Seattle, and locals have the chance to meet Sailors and tour the participating ships.

"I think it was very interesting. It's fun to watch the ships go by and seeing the Sailors in their dress whites and the respect given to them," said Ann Spiegel of Yakima, Wash., who viewed the Parade of Ships from Pier 66. "The Parade of Ships is very touching, moving and inspiring for anyone who has a chance to see the parade."

As Navy Band Northwest played in the background, people from the Seattle area came out to witness the parade as the vessels from the United States Navy, Coast Guard and Canadian navy sailed throughout Elliot Bay.

"The Parade of Ships was great, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It lets people know what the Navy ships look like and what they're about," said Jim Odom, a resident of Seattle.

"It's important that the people, the tax payers know what their money is buying and that they're getting a return on their investment," said Navy Region Northwest Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Dave Bisson. "Our Navy stands ready to protect the mission and the interest of the United States. By us being here we can show them [the public] that the Sailors and crews of the ships are here to do just that."

Navy Department Hiring Event Attracts Hundreds of Job Seekers

From Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Department of the Navy interviewed more than 200 job applicants last week at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

At the event, the Department recruited for more than 125 civilian opportunities in engineering, contracting, program management and other technical and financial areas to meet its goal to strengthen the acquisition workforce.

"The conference was a huge success, and we are excited by the number and quality of the applicants out there looking to serve our country," said Rene Thomas-Rizzo, director of Acquisition Career Management for the Department.

The hiring conference lasted two full days and applicants were limited to those with invitations.

The event was one step in the Department's efforts to strengthen its acquisition corps, which executes hundreds of programs to provide the Navy and Marine Corps' warfighting systems and technical edge in national defense.

"Retaining our technical edge in the fleet is dependent on our ability to recapitalize the science and engineering talent in our workforce," said Jim Thomsen, principal civilian deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.

"Execution of our plan to rebuild that talent is critical."

The job seekers interviewed for positions to be located around the country, under the Naval Sea Systems, Naval Air Systems, Space and Naval Warfare and Marine Corps Systems commands.