Military News

Friday, August 27, 2010

Navy Exchange Service Command Receives New Commander

By Kathleen Martin, Navy Exchange Service Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) held a change of command ceremony at NEXCOM's Virginia Beach, Va., headquarters Aug. 25.

Rear Adm. Steven J. Romano was relieved by Rear Adm. (Sel.) Glenn C. Robillard at the ceremony.

During the ceremony, which was attended by more than 300 NEXCOM associates, former commanders, distinguished guests and families, Romano reflected on his tour and thanked the NEXCOM team for all their hard work and dedication in service to Sailors and their families.

"It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve with you, and I am so proud to have served as your commander," said Romano. "At NEX, we are all so blessed to have the opportunity to serve the greatest Navy in the world...the United States Navy."

Robillard became the 29th commander of NEXCOM and is in charge of NEXCOM's worldwide Navy Exchange System. NEXCOM is responsible for the oversight of 104 Navy Exchange facilities with nearly 300 stores worldwide, 41 Navy lodges, ship's stores and the Uniform Program Management Office. NEXCOM's mission is to provide authorized customers quality goods and services at a savings and to support Navy quality of life programs.

Robillard expressed his excitement to take on this new assignment and lead such a dedicated group of professionals.

"To all NEXCOM associates, many here today, most servicing our Navy and joint partners around the world, I am honored to lead and represent you," said Robillard. "During the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet many of you...from the most senior leaders to our newest associates in the field. Across the board, in management, in retail sales, in uniforms, in services, in distribution, in telecommunications, you name it...I have never experienced a more dedicated and enthusiastic workforce. I am so incredibly impressed. It is you, individually and collectively, that make NEXCOM such a success. I am extremely proud to be a member of your team."

The ceremony also marked the end of a 30-year Navy career for Romano.

NEXCOM's four independently functioning programs generated more than $2.5 billion in sales in 2009 and provided $51.1 million to the Navy's Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.

SOUTHCOM Commander Visits 4th Fleet During PANAMAX 2010

From U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F) and director of operations for USSOUTHCOM visited U.S. 4th Fleet (C4F) headquarters in Mayport, Fla., Aug. 25.

Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, USSOUTHCOM; Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, C2F; and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven Ratti, director of operations for USSOUTHCOM, toured PANAMAX facilities, met partner nation participants and attended a daily mission update brief for PANAMAX 2010 in the C4F conference room.

Fraser commented after the briefing that exercises such as PANAMAX 2010 are as realistic as possible and are structured that way to ensure everyone comes away with a better appreciation for training.

"It is great to be here in Mayport, all of you are doing great work and learning at all levels... on an international level, this training makes a big difference and helps us all prepare for the future," said Fraser.

Fraser told allies and partner nation participants that they were key to the PANAMAX mission and encouraged them to provide feedback on training.

Rear Adm. Vic Guillory, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO) and C4F, ended the morning's activities with a hosted lunch with Fraser and the PANAMAX partner nation directors.

PANAMAX 2010 is the one of the largest multinational exercise and focuses on the defense of the Panama Canal. It is being conducted to exercise a variety of responses to any request from the government of Panama to protect and guarantee safe passage of traffic through the Panama Canal, ensure its neutrality and respect national sovereignty. PANAMAX 2010 consists of participation from 2,000 personnel and 18 nations.

COMUSNAVSO is the naval component command for USSOUTHCOM and is responsible for all naval personnel and assets in the C4F Area of Responsibility. COMUSNAVSO conducts a variety of missions in support of the U.S. Maritime Strategy, including theater security cooperation, relationship building, humanitarian assistance and foreign disaster response, community relations and counter-illicit trafficking operations.

U.S., Pakistani Militaries Bond in Disaster Relief

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2010 - The Pakistani military has shown tremendous cooperation, support, and friendship toward U.S. forces providing flood relief in northern Pakistan, the U.S. general in charge of troops there said today.

"The collaboration, the cooperation, the support, the protection, and the friendship – and I use that word very deliberately – extended to us by our Pakistani partners has been nothing but impressive," Army Brig. Gen. Michael Nagata told Pentagon reporters during a video-teleconference briefing from Ghazi Air Base in northern Pakistan.

"This is one of the best examples of combined collaborations among military partners that I've ever seen," Nagata said.

He said the U.S. military contribution in Pakistan's northern area, which includes the Upper Dir, Swat Valley and Kohistan regions, today includes 230 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and 19 helicopters. Four Air Force and Marine Corps C-130 cargo planes are delivering supplies in other areas of Pakistan, Nagata said.

The United States has steadily increased its assets in the area, Nagata noted, starting with eight Army helicopters from Afghanistan that worked out of Ghazi Air Base for two weeks soon after the flood began at the end of July. The 15 Navy and Marine Corps helicopters replaced the eight Army helicopters, he said.

Four additional heavy-lift helicopters are expected to arrive at Ghazi in early September, Nagata said. He added that the U.S. military will continue to help with the flood relief effort as long as the Pakistani government requests it.

Meanwhile, a "broad range of conversations" is taking place among various U.S. agencies at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to consider future relief operations, Nagata said. He emphasized that the flood, which has left more than a million people homeless, is of historic proportions and that it will take a long time to recover from it.

Though Nagata declined to discuss how the flooding has affected the Pakistani military's counterinsurgency effort in the Swat Valley, he said they had made "substantial progress" there when the flooding began four weeks ago. He added that the Pakistanis have been waging counterinsurgency operations "with great energy and great determination for several years now."

"They are completely committed," Nagata said of the Pakistani security forces, "and they've taken significant casualties in fighting militants in this country."

Likely through a combination of the Pakistani counterinsurgency work, their current security support, and the flooding situation, U.S. forces have had no security problems in the area, Nagata said. "We've simply had no reason to fear for our safety since we arrived in Pakistan," he said.

Working out of a large hangar and two other sites in northern Pakistan, the aircraft and crews mostly are delivering bulk food items, such as flour and rice, as well as cooking utensils and portable water systems, among other things, the general said.

So far, the northern provinces have not seen an increase in illnesses as Pakistan's southern provinces have, probably because of better drainage to reduce standing water in the mountainous northern regions, Nagata said. The drainage has allowed an assessment of the area that shows significant damage to crops, roads, fields, buildings and other infrastructure, he said.

Asked about the reaction of Pakistani civilians to U.S. servicemembers working in their country, Nagata said, "They're grateful. I've seen many occasions where they've approached U.S. and Pakistani military members to express their thanks."

Reflections on Katrina – AST2 Sara Faulkner

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young

This week marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Coast Guard response operations in the aftermath of the storm surpassed that of any previous response with a total of 33,545 persons saved.

In this series, we will present posts from first responders as they reflect on their response to the hurricane.

Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class (AST2) Sara Faulkner joined the Coast Guard to save lives. As a rescue swimmer in Hurricane Katrina she did just that – 52 times.

As Hurricane Katrina approached Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, then AST3 Sara Faulkner was deployed with an aircrew to Air Station Jacksonville in advance of the storm.

The aircrew waited on edge watching weather reports come in, when unexpectedly, the storm changed course. The suspense was broken by a phone call, ordering the aircrew to report back to Aviation Training Center Mobile – immediately.

Flying through the tail end of the hurricane, the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew flew into the harsh conditions of the storm back to their home base. Upon arrival, a fresh aircrew jumped into the helicopter and took off. Faulkner and the aircrew, weighed with anticipation, were told to get rest, as they would be deployed without delay.

She reported to the air station the next morning, before the sun was up. As missions were being flown across dozens of gulf coast towns, her first mission was over Biloxi.

Her anticipation turned instantly to shock as the aircraft took off and she saw the destruction left behind from the violent hurricane.

“You could see the devastation already,” said Faulkner. “You could see where winds had ripped the buildings completely apart. You saw buildings pulled out to sea. Mansions were gone and concrete slabs with stairs led to nothing.”As they arrived on scene, Faulkner’s senses were heightened. Her ability to hear became critical due to distractions from the radios of at least ten helicopters flying around. Adding to the sheer volume of noise, her eyes became sharper as there was debris as far as she could see.

“There was clothing hanging in trees so you would think it was a person,” said Faulkner. “But when we would fly over it, we would just end up seeing a sweatshirt or an item of clothing, and not people.”

From the back of the helicopter, Faulkner and the flight mechanic heard a faint mumble. Looking at each other simultaneously, they knew they heard the word “mayday.”

Amongst the flooded town, a yacht had been spotted, surrounded by residential homes and debris.

There were three women aboard the yacht. After their home flooded, they swam amongst the debris looking for shelter. Two were in their 50s, and the third was the mother of the two, in her 80s. Having no familiarity with marine radios they started pressing buttons – miraculously it worked.

One of the women was rescued by the local sheriffs boat, and two were rescued by the aircrew. As the two women were hoisted into the helicopter, their struggle with the storm was evident.

“All of their wounds were already infected,” said Faulkner. “The mother was a diabetic and she was going into shock.”

As a rescue swimmer and qualified EMT, Faulkner was able to treat the women before they were flown to safety.

Five years later, as an AST2 at Air Station Clearwater, Faulkner is still able to vividly recall what that first rescue meant to her.

“I joined the Coast Guard to be a rescue swimmer and save lives and it was on such a large scale,” said Faulkner. “It was ugly at times and bad, but I was just glad to be there to help in any way I could.”

Flag Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has nominated Navy Rear Adm. John M. Richardson for appointment to the rank of vice admiral and assignment as commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet/commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic/commander, Allied Submarine Command, Norfolk, Va. Richardson is currently serving as director, plans and operations, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Sixth Fleet/deputy commander, Sixth Fleet/commander submarines, Allied Naval Forces South/commander, Submarine Group Eight, Naples, Italy.

New Law Extends 75-Day Leave Carry Over

From Navy Personnel Command Public AffairsMILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- A 2008 law that increased annual leave carry over from 60 days to 75 days has been extended to 2013.

The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in October 2009, extended the planned December 2010 expiration of the 75-day leave carry over benefit, until Sept. 30, 2013. Afterward, leave carryover eligibility will be reset to 60 days.

"While this extension was effective in October 2009, and policy documents were updated to reflect this change, it appears that many Sailors had not received this information. The release of NAVADMIN 281/10 ensures maximum distribution to the fleet," said Lt. Brandi McGehee, Navy military pay and compensation policy, assistant pay and allowances officer.

Special Leave Accrual (SLA) retention limits for SLA earned between Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2013, for service members assigned to hostile fire or imminent danger areas, certain deployable ships, mobile units, or other duty, were also extended to four fiscal years from the previous three-fiscal-year limit.

These leave carryover changes are now reflected in the MILPERSMAN articles that apply (1050-010, 1050-060 and 1050-070).

For more information, visit the Navy Personnel Command website at www.npc.navy.mil and read the message or contact your servicing Personnel Support Detachment.

Coast Guard Career Sea Pay

Career Sea Pay (CSP) is intended to compensate members assigned to sea duty for the general arduousness of life aboard any CSP-eligible vessel (not to be confused with the unusual arduousness of certain classes of vessels that meet the requirements of being away from home port in long time segments for over 50% of each year). While reviewing the issue, we have to consider the intent as well as the letter of the Coast Guard's regulations (U. S. Coast Guard Pay Manual, COMDTINST M7220.29 (series), Section 4-B) concerning entitlement to CSP. In general, TDY on a CSP-eligible vessel involves performing duty as a member of the crew or in direct support of the unit's mission while that vessel is underway and away from home port. We extend CSP entitlement to members of mobile units who regularly deploy to CSP-eligible vessels (e.g., mobile units) and to personnel assigned on a TDY basis aboard CSP-eligible vessels who are performing duty as a crewmember.

What is not envisioned in the Coast Guard's CSP regulation is creation of an entitlement through the technicality of TDY orders assigning a member to a ship when the circumstances of that assignment are not commensurate with its intent. CSP for assignment to a WPB while it is in a shipyard or in a "Charlie" (Maintenance) status for dockside maintenance availability was never intended, unless the TDY member was in receipt of CSP prior to the vessel entering the shipyard or maintenance availability (U. S. Coast Guard Pay Manual, Rule 6 of Figure 4-5). It is hard to characterize TDY aboard a cutter while it is in a shipyard as "sea duty" when a member receives travel allowances for residing in commercial quarters and subsistence at the same time. It could certainly be considered sea duty if a member were berthed and subsisted aboard a vessel while TDY - but such a situation would preclude travel allowances per JFTR U4102.J. An order by itself does not create an entitlement, only the conditions of duty or status within the context of the authorizing law and regulation creates an entitlement.

Further, in considering the "letter" of the regulation, U. S. Coast Guard Pay Manual, Subsection 4-B-2 states that CSP is authorized for members that are permanently or temporarily assigned for duty to a vessel pursuant to competent orders and that the unit's mission is underway. If duty performed was on or about the vessel while it was not underway and the TDY member was not accruing CSP prior to the cutters entry into the shipyard means that there is no entitlement to CSP during that period.

Look for future changes to the U. S. Coast Guard Pay Manual's language and rules concerning CSP entitlement while TDY to a vessel to remove any future confusion on this subject.