Friday, September 10, 2010

Post 9/11: This isn’t your father’s National Guard

By Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., (9/9/10) -- Since the attacks of 9/11, the National Guard has had to make some of the most dramatic changes in its 373-year history, a senior Guard leader said in a recent interview.

“We have evolved and we have changed,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. William Etter, the acting director of domestic operations at the National Guard Bureau. “In the past, the Guard was a strategic reserve and just like the name, it was held in reserve, waiting for the big one.

“Like any change, it was kind of insidious and started out small so we may not have recognized it.”

The “big one” that would change the dynamic of the Guard entirely would come in early 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom began after multinational forces, led by U.S. forces, invaded Iraq.

“What happened there was such a large demand for [American military] that the Guard became a part of going overseas, and we’re very proud of that and it’s something that we don’t want to stop doing,” said Etter.

About three-quarters of the National Guard has deployed once, and 25 percent have deployed more than twice. “The Guard feels like it’s a battle-tested, hardened organization now, with many combat veterans,” he said. “With that kind of experience level, it just makes for an extremely professional and capable (organization).”

Etter added that the changes have been hard and like with any change, there has been some turbulence along the way, but the Guard is proud of the changes that have been made.

“One change that the Guard has faced is that now the structural organization of the Army Guard more closely mirrors the active duty, such is the case with its brigade combat teams,” he said.

“One other change is the level of the Guard’s involvement and the Soldier’s participation within the Guard,” Etter said. “It’s no longer the one weekend a month, two weeks a year.

“This has been a nation at war, and we’ve fought side-by-side with all of the other forces, and I don’t think there’s any looking back.”

Because of the Cold War, the Guard was often been referred to as a force of “weekend warriors,” which is a title that no longer applies as it gains more respect among active duty forces.

“I know that as we work together as a team, and we see nothing other than being accepted as an equal partner on the team during the missions that we’re on,” he said. “Cultures take a long time to shift, but you’ve got a lot of combat veterans in the Guard right now and they know what they’re doing.”

When it comes to the future of the Guard, Etter is very confident of what the Guard is capable of and where it is headed.

“Where we are right now, we feel like we can continue indefinitely,” he said. “Obviously nothing in the world stays the same and if something were to happen to call us someplace else, it’d be a different story. But at the end of the day, we’re going to do what we need to do.”

Finally, Etter said the Guard is a great value for the country. “We’re accessible, performing a dual mission, and we’re proud to serve the governors, the president and the American people,” he said. “We’ll be there.”

First Medal of Honor for a living Afghan war vet

DES MOINES, Iowa – A 25-year-old soldier from Iowa who exposed himself to enemy gunfire to try to save two fellow soldiers will become the first living service member from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to receive the Medal of Honor, the White House announced Friday.
President Barack Obama phoned Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, on Thursday at the base in Italy where he's stationed to tell him he'd be receiving the nation's highest military honor, Giunta's father told The Associated Press. He will become the eighth service member to receive the Medal of Honor during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The seven previous medals were awarded posthumously.
"It's bittersweet for us," said Steven Giunta, of Hiawatha. "We're very proud of Sal. We can't mention that enough, but in this event, two other soldiers were killed and that weighs heavy on us. You get very happy and very proud and then you start dealing with the loss as well. You can't have one without the other."
Giunta was serving as a rifle team leader with Company B 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment when an insurgent ambush split his squad into two groups on Oct. 25, 2007, in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, the White House said in a news release.
Giunta went above and beyond the call of duty when he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a fellow soldier back to cover. He engaged the enemy again when he saw two insurgents carrying away a wounded soldier, 22-year-old Sgt. Joshua C. Brennan, of McFarland, Wis. Giunta killed one insurgent and wounded the other before tending to Brennan, who died the next day.
"His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from enemy hands," the White House said.
Giunta, who enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, is now stationed in Italy with the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan at the time of the ambush.
Giunta, who was previously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other medals, called his parents after hearing from the president, his father said.
"He was very honored to talk to the president but he's very reserved about it," Steven Giunta said. "It's not something he's comfortable with, the event or the Medal of Honor."
Steven Giunta said his son is humbled because he believes he was just doing what he was supposed to be doing.
"He mentions every other soldier would have done the same thing. It kind of rocks his world that he's being awarded the Medal of Honor for something each and every one of them would have done. He's very aware of that."
"What a privilege and honor it is and what the men have done over the years to receive it, the feat, the above and beyond portion of it, it's amazing to me," Steven Giunta said.
Giunta will be awarded his medal at a White House ceremony at a date yet to be determined.
The President will present the Medal of Honor posthumously to Staff Sgt. Robert Miller in a White House ceremony on Oct. 6.

Navy to Christen USNS Washington Chambers

The Navy will christen and launch the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, during a 10 a.m. PDT ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif. The ship is named to honor Naval aviation pioneer Capt. Washington Chambers.

Rear Adm. Richard J. O'Hanlon, commander Naval Air Force Atlantic, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Loretta Penn, wife of former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment and former Acting Secretary of the Navy, B.J. Penn, is the sponsor, and in accordance with Navy tradition, will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.

Continuing the Lewis and Clark-class (T-AKE) tradition of honoring legendary pioneers and explorers, the Navy’s newest underway replenishment ship recognizes Chambers for his major role in the early development of Naval aviation. Responsible for the Navy’s emerging aviation activities, Chambers arranged the world’s first airplane flight from a warship. The Nov. 14, 1910, flight by aviator Eugene Ely on the light cruiser USS Birmingham confirmed the potential of carrier-based naval aviation.

Designated T-AKE 11, Washington Chambers is the 11th ship of the 14-ship class. As a combat logistics force ship, Washington Chambers will help the Navy maintain a worldwide forward presence by delivering ammunition, food, fuel, and other dry cargo to U.S. and allied ships at sea.

T-AKE 11 is the first Navy ship named after Chambers. As part of Military Sealift Command’s Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force, Washington Chambers is designated as a United States Naval Ship (USNS) and will be crewed by 129 civil service mariners and 11 Navy sailors. The ship is designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea and can carry two helicopters. The ship is 689 feet in length, has an overall beam of 106 feet, has a navigational draft of 30 feet, displaces approximately 42,000 tons, and is capable of reaching a speed of 20 knots using a single-shaft, diesel-electric propulsion system.

Enterprise Successfully Completes 37-Day Work-up Mission

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeffry A. Willadsen, USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Sailors successfully completed the ship's longest at-sea period Sept. 9 since their spring 2010 departure from the shipyard.

During the 37-day underway mission, Enterprise accomplished many goals necessary to prepare for its upcoming 21st deployment, including completing a tailored ship's training availability (TSTA) and final evaluation period (FEP), both of which are required before a ship may deploy.

During TSTA and FEP, Enterprise conducted more than 200 drills to increase the ship's operating efficiency, enhance Sailors' response to personnel and equipment casualties and enabled effective integration between Enterprise and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1.

The drills included general quarters, mass casualty, major conflagration, man overboard, flight deck and hangar deck drills and other drills across all warfare areas.

Afloat Training Group (ATG) evaluators were aboard the ship to assess the execution of TSTA and FEP during the underway period. By the end of the examinations, feedback from ATG was excellent and stated that the crew had exceeded all expectations.

"Everyone aboard Enterprise played a critical role in the success of TSTA/FEP," said Lt. Cmdr. Vanessa Givens, the ship's training officer. "The integrated training team, as well as each individual training team, dedicated countless hours to develop the training scenarios. It was really up to the crew to demonstrate the ability to combat battle damage and personnel casualties."

In the midst of the challenging TSTA and FEP, the ship also successfully completed its supply management assessment (SMA).

SMA was an extensive, three-day evaluation of Supply Department's food service performance conducted by the ship's type commander, Commander, Naval Air Force, Atlantic.

The purpose of the SMA was to prove Supply Department's ability to handle serving an entire embarked crew while deployed for significant periods of time.

"Every Sailor and Marine aboard did remarkably well during this at-sea period," said Capt. O. P. Honors Jr., Enterprise commanding officer. "To accomplish everything we did in the timeframe we did and with the external factors we had to plan around, such as multiple hurricanes, the outstanding results across the board are the combined efforts from the most seasoned khakis we have to the blue shirts. I am so proud of this crew."

This milestone is especially significant in light of Enterprise's recent two-year stay in the Northrop Grumman Shipyard in Newport News, Va., making the Navy's oldest ship unavailable to contribute directly to the fight for an extended period of time.

"Enterprise has come a long way since we left the shipyard, but we're not finished just yet. We have a couple more underway periods before Enterprise goes on her first deployment in nearly three years. I have no doubt that we will exemplify the motto of our carrier, 'Ready on Arrival,'" said Honors.

Now that the legendary aircraft carrier has completed this critical stage in its workups, the next step is a composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX). COMPTUEX is an exercise meant to bolster the strike group's joint warfighting capabilities. Following COMPTUEX, Enterprise will engage in a joint task force exercise (JTFEX), a set of simulated combat scenarios in a real-time environment.

After the completion of JTFEX, Enterprise will be fully prepared for deployment.

Enterprise is conducting work-ups and flight deck operations in preparation for its upcoming deployment.

USS Denver Arrives in Inchon for Anniversary of Historical Landing

From USS Denver (LPD 9) Public Affairs

INCHON, Korea (NNS) -- USS Denver (LPD 9) will anchor near Inchon, Korea, Sept. 12 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the historical amphibious landing at the city and honor the long-standing alliance between the two nations.

A reenactment of the landing and a parade will be held Sept. 15 to honor U.S., Korean, and other United Nations countries' service members who gave their lives during the Korean War.

The reenactment will include landings by amphibious assault vehicles and a landing craft air cushion, as well as demonstrations by the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and its CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters.

"The importance of the Inchon landing lies not just during the Korean War, but also validates our amphibious doctrine for the next 60 years," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Don W. Oliveira, operations chief, Beach Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. "There were many people at that time who said that it couldn't be done, and that amphibious landings were a thing of the past. Inchon changed all that."

The Korean War veterans that fought side by side with U.S. and South Korean forces laid the groundwork for an important military alliance that remains strong today.

"Since the conclusion of the Korean War there has been a strong alliance between the U.S. and South Korea," said Capt. Mario Mifsud, USS Denver commanding officer. "This relationship is very important to maintaining regional stability, and along with our relationships with Japan and other partners, is one of the factors that keeps peace in the region."

USS Denver will be accompanied in Inchon by the mine-countermeasure ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) and Marines from the 31st MEU to honor the hundreds of U.S. veterans who will be in attendance.

"There aren't too many survivors of the Inchon campaign, so this will be one of the few times remaining to honor those who are still with us, and it's very important that Denver will be there," said Mifsud. "I consider it an extreme honor to be a part of this celebration."
After the Inchon landing commemoration, USS Denver will continue on its scheduled patrol in the Western Pacific as a part of the permanently forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group.

Naval Base Guam Offers Insight, Updates at Town Hall Meeting

By Jesse Leon Guerrero, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas Public Affairs

SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Sailors, civilian personnel and residents who live or work at U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) learned more about policies and upcoming projects that may affect them at a town hall meeting held on base Sept. 8.

The evening event attracted dozens of Navy housing residents and NBG employees and service providers.

Capt. Richard Wood, commanding officer of NBG, led the presentations, which were his first since assuming command in July 2010.

"I'm responsible for providing services to everyone on this base, so I want to make sure that we're hearing what people want and need," said Wood. "I've done that with tenant commands and I want to do that with families as well."

Wood said supporting the fleet, the warfighters and families is his main priority and his goal is to make Guam a destination of choice through enhancement of the mission readiness, safety and quality of life for Sailors, civilian staff and families. Upcoming projects include adding more sidewalks for pedestrians, renovating the Sumay Cove Marina area and opening the new fitness center and Irish-themed restaurant and pub, Molly McGee's.

"It's important that people understand the importance of Guam in our nation's defense posture, because, other than Hawaii, this is the only sovereign territory in the United States of America in the Western Pacific. That's a very important role that this island plays," said Wood.

Capt. Kevin Haws, commanding officer of U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, and Jeff Arrington, assistant superintendent for Department of Defense Education Activities (DoDEA), also spoke to the audience.

Arrington encouraged parents to visit the DoDEA schools' open house events and to make use of their offline and online learning resources. Haws spoke about the hospital's primary and specialty care access, ancillary services, Tricare, vaccines and new hospital construction plans.

Haws said he expects the new hospital to break ground in a couple months and construction is scheduled to be complete in about four years.

"We're going to go from a building that was designed and built in 1954, mostly for inpatients to a hospital, that will include inpatient care, but a lot of the primary services that we currently have in the hospital are going to be pushed out to new, more robust and capable branch clinics that we're going to build in the next several years," said Haws.

Following the presentations, attendees asked questions about Navy Exchange's indentification policy, housing and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) projects.

Eric Nikkel, MWR director, said the town hall was a good opportunity to hear directly from customers about how well MWR is satisfying their needs. Nikkel said everyone can look forward to improvements such as the Irish pub, which is scheduled to open with specialty beers and customized meals Oct. 29.

"We're going to take whole prime ribs, and we're going to carve eight-ounce rib eyes," said Nikkel. "Basically, it's one steak made 10 ways. Do you want it blackened, do you want it peppered, do you want blue cheese on it, do you want Bourbon mushroom gravy on it, do you want sautéed onions? Our hamburgers are the same thing."

Kayl Ludwig, a Navy spouse and an Apra Palms housing resident who has lived on Guam for two years, said she was interested in learning about Charles King Gym's proposal for drop-in day care services for its patrons. She added the town hall was a positive experience because she also learned by listening to what other residents had to say.

"This is my first town hall meeting and I thought, 'Why haven't I come to these before,'" said Ludwig. "It's very informative, and I like the fact that all the sponsors are here to answer questions, from housing to MWR to the CDC (Child Development Center) to the CO (commanding officer)."

Representatives from Fleet and Family Support Center, Family Support 360, the hospital, NBG Safety and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society handed out brochures and manned booths, where attendees could learn more about specific benefits and services.

Alfi Montilla, a Navy spouse who has only been on Guam for two months, appreciated the town hall as a convenient way to meet different people and hear what they had to offer.

"We've got a lot to learn about Guam," Montilla said. "I wanted to get any kind of information that can benefit me and my husband, and then we can pass that along."

Chief Hospital Corpsman (DSW/SW) Ralph Hirschfeld, of NBG Dive Locker, said he didn't have a specific issue in mind when he decided to attend, but he did want to stay aware of the many changes planned by the Navy. As a resident of Lockwood Housing, Hirschfeld said it was good to hear of a possible new Navy Exchange mini-mart, and he would attend any future town hall meetings.

"If you don't attend, don't complain," Hirschfeld said. "This is your chance to voice your concerns to the CO and CMC (command master chief) of the base."

General Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has nominated Army Reserve Col. Phillip M. Churn Sr. for appointment to the rank of brigadier general and assignment as deputy commander, (Troop Program Unit), 200th Military Police Command, Fort Meade, Md. Churn is currently serving as director, Afghanistan Detention and Correction Advisory Team, Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-435, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Truman Sailors Celebrate Ramadan

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonnie Hobby, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Public Affairs

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75), At Sea (NNS) -- Nine Muslim crew members on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), currently deployed to the 5th Fleet Area of Operations (AOO), ended a month-long fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan Sept. 9.

To fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam, Muslim crew members must abstain from consuming any form of sustenance from dawn until dusk while observing Ramadan.

"We fast for 29 or 30 consecutive days, depending on the sighting of the new moon," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate [Handling] 1st Class (AW) Abdoulie Jallow, the Muslim lay leader aboard Truman. "Fasting is a form of Ibadah, which means worship and obedience of Allah. It gives us a greater spiritual understanding and rejuvenates our faith by showing us virtues of compassion for the poor and the needy."

The Department of the Navy's policy under SECNAVINST 1730.8B states that Sailors and Marines have the right to practice any religion as long as it does not have an adverse impact on the command's health, safety or mission-readiness.

"Whatever a person's religious background, the Navy's policy is to accommodate that person's religious needs," said Cmdr. Jerome Hinson, Truman's command chaplain. "We are able to arrange meals for them before sunrise and after sunset. Depending on their work schedules, we accommodate their needs as much as we can."

Truman's Muslim community is very grateful that they are able to freely attend prayer services, as well as honor Ramadan on board.

"When I was in elementary school, my teachers told me that Americans have a freedom of religion," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Eli Conroe, a Muslim Sailor who works in Combat Systems. "I believe it's also our right as human beings. When I joined the Navy and knew they supported every religion, it gave me a greater sense of pride to be able to serve my country."

The Muslim culture celebrates the end of Ramadan with a feast called Eid-Ul-Fitr. The Muslim Sailors who observed Ramadan aboard Truman got together to celebrate Eid during the ship's port visit to Jebel Ali, U.A.E.

"It's a great experience to be able to practice my religion here," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (AW) Jason Jenkins, a Muslim Sailor from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32. "It really shows the commitment the Navy has in allowing us to practice our faith and that we are supported by everybody."

While Jallow was stationed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), he was able to go on a joint-service training mission to Mecca to fulfill Hajj, another Pillar of Islam. As a trainee in the Islamic traditions and faith, Jallow was humbled and honored that his career as a Sailor enabled him to fulfill a major part of his religion.

"Islam is my way of life, just as much as the Navy is," Jallow said. "The fact that we can practice our religion freely and serve our nation at the same time speaks volumes about our nation's policy on religious tolerance. From the entire upper chain of command to the most junior enlistee to the cooks providing us with food during Ramadan—everyone has supported us 100 percent."

General Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has nominated Air Force Brig. Gen. Otis G. Mannon, for promotion to the rank of major general. Mannon is currently assigned as the special assistant to the commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.

General Officer Announcements

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

Air Force Lt. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove has been nominated for appointment to the rank of general with assignment as vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Breedlove is currently serving as deputy chief of staff, operations, plans and requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Air Force Lt. Gen. William L. Shelton has been nominated for appointment to the rank of general with assignment as commander, Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Shelton is currently serving as assistant vice chief of staff and director, Air Staff, U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Air Force Lt. Gen.Herbert J. Carlisle has been nominated for re-appointment to the rank of lieutenant general with assignment as deputy chief of staff, operations, plans and requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Carlisle is currently serving as commander, Thirteenth Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Stanley T. Kresge has been nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general with assignment as commander, Thirteenth Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. Kresge is currently serving as commander, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Air Combat Command, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III has been nominated for re-appointment to the rank of lieutenant general with assignment as assistant vice chief of staff and director, Air Staff, U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Newton is currently serving as deputy chief of staff, manpower and personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Virginia Class Program Reaches Major Milestone

From Naval Sea Systems Command Team Submarine Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Virginia-class submarine program reached a significant benchmark with the approval of Milestone III, authorization of full-rate production and the declaration of full operational capability Sept. 3.

Milestone III and full-rate production approval for the Acquisition Category ID Program came with the signing of the Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) by the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The achievement of this major acquisition milestone allows the program to continue construction of the submarine class beyond the established low-rate initial production of 14 submarines through the remainder of the class.

The last acquisition milestone for the Virginia program was Milestone II in June 1995, when the program received approval to initiate the engineering and manufacturing development phase. The Virginia class began construction in September 1998. Seven submarines have since been delivered, each with improved performance and an overall reduction in schedule.

The Milestone III process began with the successful completion of initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) in March 2009. Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force deemed the Virginia class "operationally effective," "operationally suitable" and "recommended for fleet introduction" - the highest possible ratings - June 23, 2009.

The director of Operational Test and Evaluation released the combined operational and live fire test and evaluation report in November 2009, deeming the Virginia class to be "an operationally effective, suitable and survivable replacement for the Los Angeles-class submarine."

Full operational capability was declared simultaneously with the signing of the ADM, recognizing that IOT&E had been completed and the first four submarines turned over for fleet use.

Capt. Michael Jabaley, Virginia-class program manager, cited the collaborative work between the program office, Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense and the shipbuilders as the key to this significant achievement.

"Completing the required testing, demonstrating the submarine's capability in its intended environment and having it perform above expectations are a reflection of the commitment, dedication and hard work of the team," said Jabaley.

USS Virginia (SSN 774) completed a highly successful full-length deployment in April 2010 with the highest operational tempo of any deployed unit during that time period.

"Virginia met the highest expectations during her first full-length deployment," said Jabaley. "The fleet and support organizations, such as Submarine Squadron 4, Naval Submarine Support Facility New London, and Regional Support Group Groton, all worked very hard to ensure she was ready to go. With a deployed operational tempo of 85 percent - the highest of any boat in the Atlantic - it's clear the hard work paid off. The design of this class, the maintenance support structure and the ability of the fleet to superbly operate it, have all been proven."

The achievement of Milestone III coincides with the program transitioning to the construction of two submarines per year in starting in fiscal year 2011. Construction of the first two Block III ships began in March 2009 (SSN 784) and March 2010 (SSN 785).

The seventh ship of the class, Missouri (SSN 780), was commissioned July 31, 2010. There are five additional submarines under construction, and six more under contract.

Virginia-class submarines are built under a unique teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding.

Virginia-class submarines are flexible, multimission platforms designed to conduct the seven core missions of the U.S. Submarine Force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; special operations forces; strike; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; strike group support; and mine warfare.

US 7th Fleet Changes Hands

From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet held a change of command ceremony on board USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Sept. 10.

Vice Adm. John M. Bird was relieved by Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk at the ceremony.

"I stand before you an exceptionally fortunate and profoundly grateful man," said Bird. "It is a deep honor to have been afforded the privilege to command the U.S. 7th Fleet."

Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, praised Bird for his "outstanding leadership of the U.S. 7th Fleet during the past two years."

"John applied his deep-rooted sense of responsibility and substantial intellectual prowess to ensuring the effectiveness of our naval forces in the region," said Walsh. "Today, our navy-to-navy relationship (with Japan) is more relevant and important than ever before - it is a bond characterized by maturity, respect and cooperation."

Bird led U.S. naval operations in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility, encompassing more than 48 million square miles from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south, and from the International Date Line to the Indian Ocean. The area includes 35 maritime countries and the world's five largest foreign armed forces - China, Russia, India, North Korea and Republic of Korea (ROK). Five of the seven U.S. Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the area - Republic of the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, ROK, Japan and Thailand.

During his tenure, Bird and his ROK navy counterpart, Vice Adm. Park Jung-hwa, signed an operational plan (OPLAN) for Korea to take a lead role in its wartime defense. Following the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772), Bird sent U.S. ships to assist with the recovery and salvage and provided assistance to the international investigation team.

Bird also oversaw a series of events with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force to mark the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, including a series of joint visits to ports around Japan and an unprecedented level of operational cooperation, particularly in the area of anti-submarine warfare.

U.S. 7th Fleet forces under Bird's command also provided humanitarian assistance following significant natural disasters in Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Walsh presented Bird with the Distinguished Service Medal for his service.

"When I stood on this deck 27 months ago, I provided clear guidance to the fleet articulated in three persistent priorities - maximize warfighting readiness, maritime partnerships and force posture," said Bird. "These priorities are concisely captured by our motto - "Ready Power for Peace."

"This incredibly dynamic region has witnessed many difficult challenges over the last two years – natural disasters, provocations against ships on the high seas and the tragic sinking of an allied ship operating innocently in its own territorial waters," said Bird. "These events have served to strengthen my conviction that our mission is essential, that our priorities are right and that our task will become even more challenging in the future."

Van Buskirk, a native of Petaluma, Calif., assumed command of U.S. 7th Fleet following a tour as deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bird's next assignment is as director, Navy Staff, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, in Washington, D.C.

"It is truly an honor and privilege to stand here today in command of the 7th Fleet," said Van Buskirk.

"My orders are simple," said Van Buskirk. "Push forward, aligned to our persistent priorities – warfighting readiness, maritime partnerships and force posture; engage with our allies and friends."

There are 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and more than 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the 7th Fleet. This includes forces operating from bases in Japan and Guam and rotationally-deployed forces based in the United States. Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, is embarked aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. The flagship commands and controls the fleet and fosters military-to-military relationships through scheduled port visits and military exercises.

Sailors, Families Participate in San Diego's 24th Annual POW/MIA 5K

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (EXW) Tyler J. Wilson, Naval Base San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 4,000 San Diego-area service members and their families participated in Naval Base San Diego's 24th annual Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) 5K "You Are Not Forgotten" run at Admiral Prout Field Sept. 8.

Service members from every branch participated in the run to honor service members who are prisoners of war or missing in action.

"Events like this helps keep the memories of those who are POWs or MIA fresh in our minds," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Joshua Canon, Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center San Diego. "I just wish they could see us all here and know that we're thinking about them and praying for them."

The Navy band performed and Morale, Welfare and Recreation offered a raffle with multiple prizes to those participating in the run.

"This event is in honor of those who are still out there," said Marni Wheeler, run coordinator. "It seems like a small gesture in comparison to what they are giving, but hopefully they know they are in our thoughts and they are missed."

Engineman 3rd Class Greggory Martin, from Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center San Diego, said he believes such events should be held more often to keep the memory of those in POW/MIA camps alive.

"The message is a clear one," said Martin. "You are not forgotten. An event that promotes fitness for the military and remembrance is one that I will always sign up for. I hope to see more in the future."

When the first POW/MIA 5K remembrance run began in 1986, there were 50 Sailors in attendance. Since then, it has grown to more than 4,000 participants.

Navy Week Returns to Salt Lake City

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Carlson, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

SALT LAKE CITY (NNS) -- Salt Lake City Navy Week, in conjuction with the Utah State Fair, will feature a series of awareness events held in conjuction with the Utah State Fair from Sept. 9-19.

Navy Week returns to Utah for the first time since 2007.

Salt Lake Navy Week will showcase the Navy Parachute Demonstration Team, the "Leap Frogs;" Navy Band Northwest, "Passage;" Navy SEAL Tour, Navy-Theme Wrapped Suburban and other interactive displays during the fair.

Area Sailors will engage in community outreach programs, giving ship ballcaps to kids during "Caps for Kids" events at Primary Children's Hospital and Shriner's Children's Hospital.

Sailors will also give presentations at schools, meet with local corporate, civic and government leaders and visit Wounded Warrior Veterans at the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Hospital.

The primary purpose of Navy Week is to increase awareness by showcasing the Navy to Americans who live in cities that normally do not have a significant naval presence. It also gives local citizens the chance to meet Sailors first hand and learn about the latest capabilities and opportunities in the U.S. Navy.

"We have Navy Weeks to show people around the country and here in Salt Lake where their tax dollars are going," said Vice Adm. Kevin M. McCoy, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command.

"There aren't any oceans immediately around Utah, so it's important to actually go out and show people how the men and women of the U.S. Navy are serving and defending throughout the world and the jobs they do, 24/7," said McCoy.

Sailors from the region's Navy Recruiting District, Navy Operational Support Center and Naval Reserve Officer Training Command will also participate during Salt Lake Navy Week, one of 20 Navy weeks planned across America in 2010.

Commander in Korea Focuses on Alliance Readiness

From a U.S. Forces Korea News Release

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea, Sept. 10, 2010 – An ongoing series of exercises has improved the readiness of the U.S.-South Korean alliance, the commander of Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea said here yesterday.

In a roundtable discussion with Korean journalists, Army Gen. Walter L. “Skip” Sharp discussed the series of exercises that are taking place in the wake of the North Korean sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan, introduced the Strategic Alliance 2015 plan, and praised South Korea for putting on a first-class celebration honoring Korean War veterans.

Sharp was joined by South Korean Gen. Jung Seung Jo, the Combined Forces Command deputy commander, who focused his comments on the importance of the recently completed Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2010 exercise, one of the largest and most comprehensive combined command post exercises in the world.

Sharp started his remarks by paying homage to the Korean War veterans who laid the foundation for the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

“Those Korean War veterans who fought side by side secured the future of a nation and laid the groundwork for one of the greatest military alliances the world has ever seen, an alliance that has ensured the security of the Republic of Korea for 60 years and served as the cornerstone for peace and prosperity in this region,” he said.

The general then discussed the importance of adapting the exercise and training program to provide realistic training. He pointed to the recently completed maritime and air readiness exercise Operation Invincible Spirit, along with Ulchi Freedom Guardian, as fitting this model.

The next alliance exercise will be an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the seas off South Korea’s west coast at a date to be announced in the coming weeks.

Sharp said he’s been impressed by the South Korean military’s professionalism, dedication and operational competence during the exercises. “We will continue to plan and conduct realistic and focused [combined] training events to ensure we maintain the highest level of combined readiness,” he said.

The general indicated that lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan increased the realism and training value of the exercises. Two of these lessons, which were applied during Ulchi Freedom Guardian, are the importance of being prepared to conduct offensive and stability operations at the same time in different areas and the need for an operation to be a unified effort across all elements of government.

Jung said Ulchi Freedom Guardian also was critical in ensuring alliance readiness during a full spectrum of operations, both during crisis management and wartime. He also emphasized that the exercise moved the alliance toward South Korea’s assumption of the combined defense scheduled for late 2015.

“UFG 2010 was fruitful as we continue to prepare for transition of operational control to guarantee a perfect and smooth transition,” he said.

Sharp introduced Strategic Alliance 2015, an alliance plan to synchronize South Korean and U.S. transformation initiatives as the alliance prepares for the transfer of operational control for combined defense.

“I am absolutely confident that our new bilateral plan, Strategic Alliance 2015, will better synchronize our ongoing transformation efforts; reaffirm the U.S. commitment to [South Korea] and the region; ensure both of our nations are even better prepared to swiftly counter, deter and defeat any North Korean provocations and aggression; and will ultimately result in a stronger alliance,” he said.

Sharp identified key elements of the plan. It includes refining and improving combined plans and developing new organizational structures and command and control relationships. It also features acquiring, organizing and training new systems and capabilities key to the transfer of operational control, as well as more realistic training based on current and future threats to the Korean peninsula and the consolidation of U.S. military units into two enduring hubs, which he indicated will be complete around 2016.

Jung said delaying the operational-control transfer to 2015 will enable South Korea’s armed forces to improve their surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as their capabilities in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence and precision targeting.

Sharp expressed pride in the U.S.-South Korean alliance and confidence that it will continue to grow even stronger.

“I am very proud of how strongly we work together as an alliance across all of the different components,” he said. “I’m very confident in our capability to deter and defeat any type of threat from North Korea as what is truly the strongest alliance that has been that strong alliance for 60 years now.”

More Focus Needed to End Suicides, Mullens Say

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2010 – A silent killer is rapidly infiltrating the military, claiming lives at an alarming rate each year.

It does not discriminate, taking aim at the young and old, male and female -- from the battle-hardened soldier to the new recruit.

Military suicides have more than doubled in the Army, exceeding the national average over the past five years, and leaders are redoubling efforts to figure out why.

“It’s an area that can’t get enough focus right now,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “When we’re losing as many lives as we are, it is a crisis we have to continue to address.”

In an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Mullen and his wife, Deborah, talked about what it will take to stop troops and families from taking their own lives.

“It’s a very difficult, vexing, complex problem and one that leadership has to spend an awful lot of time on to try to figure out,” Mullen said. “It’s one that in the country is not well understood; therefore, [it’s] one in the military that isn’t understood.”

While top leaders are struggling to find answers, military suicides have reached a critical point, the chairman said. Last year, suicide claimed 309 troops, and in 2008, 267 servicemembers committed suicide, according to a Defense Department task force. From 2005 to 2009, more than 1,100 servicemembers took their own lives, an average of one suicide every 36 hours, the task force said.

Some reports attribute the spike to multiple deployments and long family separations. The majority of suicides do take place among servicemembers who have deployed, Mullen said. Still, a considerable number occur among those who haven’t deployed, he added.

Complicating the issue is a delay in symptoms for those who have served in combat, Mullen said. In many cases, post-traumatic stress symptoms don’t reveal themselves until months or years later, and a servicemember may be discharged by that time and back in a civilian community without the same level of support. The military needs to find ways to track those servicemembers so they receive the support they need, he said.

“A significant amount of work needs to be done on the prevention aspect of [suicide] so we don’t get to the point where men and women would consider doing this,” he said.

Leaders also must gain an understanding of the problem’s scope, including the signs, symptoms and vulnerable population, he said.

“More than anything else, I think, military leaders have to lead,” Mullen said. Many leaders have had challenges themselves, he noted, and the way they address those challenges, seeking help when needed, can set the example for others.

The military also must work to end the stigma that’s preventing people from seeking help early on, Mullen said, including family members afraid to raise a red flag.

Spouses often are the first to notice a problem, but are fearful of the career repercussions for their servicemember if they speak up, Mrs. Mullen said.

“We know that servicemembers tell their spouses not to mention any sort of symptoms the servicemember might be experiencing for fear that, as one spouse said, ‘That will mean the end of their career,’” she said. “That stigma is so ingrained and embedded in not just the military, but in our country, and breaking through that is going to be key … to solving this problem.”

This internal barrier to seeking help can have a far-ranging effect, also causing spouses to stop short of seeking much-needed help for themselves, Mrs. Mullen said. Spouses, she said, may be suffering from stress, anxiety, frustration and anger, but are afraid of the fallout from asking for care.

When family members have the courage to ask for help, the military must step up care, Mrs. Mullen said. She said she spoke with a military spouse with suicidal thoughts who sought help from a military physician. She was given medication, but not a follow up. If someone is brave enough to come forward, the military must offer ongoing support, including mental-health follow-ups, she said.

Mrs. Mullen called for training within families to help them recognize issues in their servicemember and in themselves, and to know what to do about them without fear of repercussion.

Fortunately, families have more avenues of help now than ever before, including ones that offer anonymity, she said. People who are uncomfortable speaking with someone at a military clinic can instead receive 12 free counseling appointments through Military OneSource or contact Tricare for online counseling at home. Other resources include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) or a military family life consultant.

Support is particularly vital after a suicide, when a family is at its most vulnerable, Mrs. Mullen said, stressing the importance of what she calls “post-vention,” or after care.

“It’s important to make sure that the people at risk after the suicide are reached and that they have the opportunity to express privately maybe their own concerns, their own thoughts,” she said. “I think if we provide for them the appropriate post-vention care that we will restore the hope for those families that this may not occur in their family again.”

The Mullens both stressed the importance of hope, both in prevention efforts and in the aftermath of a tragedy. A suicide, they said, means all hope was lost.

“[There’s] help out there that would allow an individual to move through this,” the chairman said. “Keep the hope, as difficult as that may seem in these circumstances.

“No matter how hard, how long, no matter what it takes, however many people need to get involved in this, this is something that the military is going to pursue and try to eliminate totally.” Mrs Mullen added.

To watch this interview with Adm. and Mrs. Mullen, tune in to the Pentagon Channel’s “This Week in the Pentagon” today and Sept. 17. The interview will run as part of the channel’s special, “Restoring Hope: Stories of Survival.”

Face of Defense: Siblings Reunite While Deployed

By Army Staff Sgt. Melissa Applebee
U.S. Division South

BASRA, Iraq, Sept. 10, 2010 – A pair of siblings boasts a combined 35 years of military service, more than five of which have been spent in a combat zone. Army Capt. Tanya Rosa and Army 1st Sgt. Greg Harvey are carrying on a family tradition of military service.

Their father is a retired Air Force master sergeant and Vietnam veteran, their uncle was a commander in the Navy, and Harvey's son, Army Spc. Wayne Harris, serves at Fort Bragg, N.C.

"I don't remember a time in my life that my father didn't hang an American flag outside our door, something that didn't seem to catch on in many households until after [the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks]," Rosa said.

As a child, she added, she always wanted to follow in her brother's footsteps.

"He was always doing the ‘cool’ things and had the best imagination,” she recalled. “Of course, when he got a mongoose, I had to have a purple mongoose."

Harvey, first sergeant for an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior cavalry troop in the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii, joined the Army in November 1990. He has deployed five times. Rosa enlisted in the Air Force in 1993. She spent 12 years as a Morse code interceptor before a brief stint with the National Security Agency as a civilian.

"Being in the Air Force wasn't enough for me, either,” she said. “I once again had to follow my big brother. I wanted to finish what I started as an officer in the Army [and] took a pay cut to become a lieutenant."

Rosa is deployed with the 1st Infantry Division as a public affairs officer. She previously deployed to Kuwait as a signal officer with the 1st Armored Division. She and her brother recently reunited in Kuwait when Harvey's unit redeployed.

While they were together, Rosa changed her name tape to "Harvey" for a photo opportunity to surprise their father. It was the first time the siblings had seen each other in five years. Rosa also paid a visit to Harvey's son when he passed through Kuwait.

While the miles may separate them, serving in the Army together has strengthened the bond Rosa and Harvey have had since they were children.

"We already were very close, but I'd say it has definitely made us appreciate the times we get to spend together," Rosa said.

Her brother agreed. "I consider us very close and supportive of each other,” he said. “We can relate easily.”

Being in the same branch of service has given them a level of understanding for one another that cannot be quantified.

"My brother is a hero in my eyes,” Rosa said. “Several of his comrades have given the ultimate sacrifice, and his best friend just recently lost his life. My brother, of course, does not allow this to stop him. He's the first sergeant after all, and he must take care of the troops.

"At that time, my mission was to be his 'Sis,'” she added. “I've noticed that's what he calls me when he needs me.”

Rosa said having a sibling in the military makes it easier to understand the need to come together through difficult times, which is made easier knowing they can lean on each other.

"It's a comfort to me to know if I need either a brother's advice or a first sergeant's advice, I have the absolute best of both just a phone call away," she said.

Their parents, John and Vickie Harvey, offer unwavering support from the home front.

"My parents were very proud of my brother joining the Army and later me joining the Air Force,” Rosa said. “[Now they have] pride that both of their children are now soldiers and combat veterans."

The soldiers’ parents spearheaded a volunteer effort to hold "Support the Troops" rallies outside the gates of Fort Rucker, Ala., every month, Rosa said. The Harveys began rallying in 2003, when a group joined together weekly to hold American flags and service banners outside MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

"These rallies were meant to show nonpartisan support for our brave military servicemembers," John Harvey said. "Three years ago, [when] we moved to Alabama, … there was no similarly organized display of support for the young men and women stationed at Fort Rucker."

Nine months ago, John set out to change this. He organized a group to show support weekly to the soldiers at Fort Rucker, and the group has garnered support from other residents, churches and community groups.