Sunday, September 12, 2010

Essex ARG Begins Exercise Valiant Shield 2010

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Casey H. Kyhl, USS Essex (LHD 2) Public Affairs

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) will participate in the integrated joint training exercise, Valiant Shield 2010 (VS10), Sept. 12-21 off the coast of Palau and ending in Guam.

"The main purpose of Valiant Shield is to take a large number of forces and seamlessly combine them together to complete a goal," said Capt. Richard Clemmons, commander of Destroyer Squadron 31 and the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group sea combat commander for VS10. "Smooth integration with other services means real-time maritime power."

"Joint interoperability is crucial for everything from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to armed conflict," said Clemmons. "Completing this exercise successfully will further prepare us for any contingency that may occur. We are committed to maintaining regional stability and positioned to respond when needed."

The exercise is designed to enable real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces' ability to locate, track and engage units at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace in response to a range of missions.

"Valiant Shield will be an extremely valuable training experience for all involved," said Capt. Mark E. Weber, commander, Amphibious Task Group 76.4. "Without regular training, important skills can dull. Being able to work with other U.S. forces will help us keep our sharp edge."

Assets from the forward-deployed George Washington Carrier Strike Group, Essex ARG and 13th Air Force Expeditionary Wing will participate along with other air, surface and subsurface components from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

Because U.S. forces may be called to conduct any number of operations with little notice, VS10 will include training to enhance command and control, maritime interdiction, defensive counter-air, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance and personnel recovery.

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), with more than 2,200 Marines assigned, is composed of a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and logistics combat element. These elements are the striking arm of the Essex ARG and enable amphibious operations from the sea and power projection ashore.

"The 31st MEU does not operate without Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, and PHIBRON 11 doesn't operate without us," said Marine Corps Col. Andrew MacMannis, 31st MEU commanding officer and commander of the landing forces. "This is a great chance for our team to work together and do what we do best."

The 31st MEU will employ AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft and CH-53E Sea Stallion, CH-46E Sea Knight, AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey helicopters to execute various air operations.

"This exercise required a huge amount of planning and coordination," said Capt. Troy L. Hart, Essex's commanding officer. "Multiple ship classes, different missions, three service branches - Valiant Shield represents what the U.S. military is capable of in the Pacific."

Upon completion of VS10, the permanently forward-deployed Essex ARG, along with the 31st MEU will continue on patrol in the Western Pacific region.

The Essex ARG is led by Commander, PHIBRON 11 and is also composed of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) and the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

Afloat College Program Delivers Schoolhouse to Sailors

By Lt. Jacquelyn R. Bengfort, USS Shoup (DDG 86) Public Affairs

USS SHOUP, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Shoup (DDG 86) took advantage of free college courses while at sea in July and August 2010 through the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE).

"This was my first college class ever," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Lakia Mitchell, a native of Jacksonville, Fla. "I'm going to take an English course next; I'll take every course I can."

Through NCPACE, Sailors can earn college credits while on active duty at sea for only the cost of books. Civilian instructors embark on ships for six to eight weeks and teach a variety of courses, which are chosen based on Sailors' interests and needs.

During the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group's recently completed composite training unit exercise, several Sailors participated in a general psychology class taught by Dr. Pamela Smilo of San Diego.

In order to accommodate Sailors' hectic schedules, the course was taught twice a day.

"There are definitely challenges," said Smilo. "You can't teach a class during a fire drill. But there are also benefits, like small class sizes, which many students use to their advantage."

Shoup is currently deployed as part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group.

For more information about the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, visit

Navy Officers, Chiefs Honor Patriot's Day With 11-Mile Run

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Junior officers, chief petty officers (CPOs) and CPO selects attached to the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force and Navy Information Operations Command participated in an 11-mile run honoring Patriot's Day, Sept. 11, at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif.

For the fifth consecutive year, both commands paid homage to the lives that were lost nine years ago by running 11 miles.

"We challenge the chief selects to run 11 miles in commemoration of all those who have fallen during Sept. 11," said Maritime Expeditionary Security Group 1 Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Jacob E. Grgurich. "This is a great tribute to remember that tragic day when nearly 3,000 souls were lost."

This journey helps the newly selected chiefs instill in their minds that together they can accomplish anything and allows them to reflect on the sacrifices of others on 9/11.

"Sept. 11 is the most significant attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor," said Chief Electrician's Mate (Select) (EXW/SW) Joshua Jones, attached to Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 1. "It impacted everyone's lives, and it changed our posture in terms of defense."

According to Jones, people forget things like Patriot's Day, and that's when they start to get complacent.

"It's better to be reminded of those that made sacrifices and were lost, including firefighters, police officers and civilian personnel," said Jones.

Both commands' service members stayed committed to the run by motivating each other with cadences and running in formation.

"The pain we endured doesn't compare to what the lives that were taken went through on 9/11," said Jones.

"It was a great honor to participate in this run, and I encourage other people to come out and join us as the years go by," said Grgurich.

Nine junior officers, 57 chiefs and 19 chief selects completed the run together.

First Lady Marks 9/11 With Service to Veterans

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

MCLEAN, Va., Sept. 11, 2010 – First Lady Michelle Obama marked the ninth anniversary of 9/11 today with service to America’s veterans.

The first lady pitched in alongside a group of about 150 volunteers, including veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, to help in renovating a loading dock for residents of the Vinson Hall Retirement Community here. About 95 percent of the community’s 180 residents are veterans, some with service dating back to World War II.

Mission Serve, a civilian-military initiative, helped to organize the community service project at the center in honor of the National Day of Service and Remembrance. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, helped to launch this initiative a year ago with an aim to bring together civilian and military communities through service and volunteerism.

The volunteers, many of them college students from George Washington University, gave a resounding cheer when Obama arrived at the center, nestled in a tree-lined suburb of the natgion’s capital. She greeted the volunteers, many with a big smile and a high five, before jumping in to work with them.

“We’re always honored when the first lady joins us,” said Ross Cohen, director of Mission Serve and an Afghanistan veteran. “It’s a profound statement to turn a tragedy into a force for good.”

Doing her part to serve, Obama grabbed a paint roller and began coating a brick wall of the loading dock with broad strokes of white paint. She chatted with another volunteer, unconcerned with the paint splattering white flecks on her black slacks and purple sneakers. She then moved on to paint pipes bright orange to make them more visible.

The first lady climbed a ladder to reach closer to the ceiling while a volunteer, Brian Hawthorne, held the ladder still. “Use two hands,” another volunteer called out to him. He laughed and gripped tighter.

Hawthorne is a two-time Iraq war veteran and Army reservist with the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion in College Park, Md. He’s also a graduate student at George Washington University, and helped to coordinate the participation of a group of GWU student volunteers.

“It’s great to see the collaboration between veterans and nonveterans here,” said Hawthorne, a combat medic and civil affairs team sergeant.

While painting, Obama asked Hawthorne about his service, he said, and about other community service projects his student organization is involved in. “We’re really excited to have her here,” he said.

Fellow GWU student Scott Disney agreed. “It’s pretty awesome she’s here,” he said. “I never imagined she was coming when I was told about this project.” Disney also is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.

Just behind the first lady, Marie Tillman, the widow of Scott Tillman, an Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, freshened up a faded-out wall with white paint. Tillman is the founder of the Pat Tillman foundation, which provides educational resources for veterans.

“It’s wonderful that we can make Sept. 11 into a service day,” she said. “And having the first lady here brings a lot to this effort.”

The first lady reluctantly relinquished her paint brush after speaking with several volunteers. Before heading out, she moved to a shaded area under a pine tree to chat with some of the community’s residents, including Navy veterans of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Verner Utke-Ramsing said he was thrilled to meet the first lady. The 91-year-old served from 1941 to 1960, having commanded a submarine and a destroyer during his service. He also served in World War II and was part of the Battle of Midway, he said.

Ramsing praised the volunteers who were pitching in to help his community’s residents, particularly the veterans of the current wars. “They’re doing a wonderful job,” he said of the nation’s servicemembers. “I’m so very proud of our young people.”

He also marveled at today’s project. “It’s beautiful -- veterans helping veterans,” he said.

In a statement issued yesterday, the first lady said the spirit of selflessness and service in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy is what inspired the first National Day of Service and Remembrance last year.

“On this day all Americans can honor the brave men and women who lost and risked their lives by serving others in their community,” she wrote in the statement. “On the anniversary of this tragic day in our history, I hope you will join me in honoring all those who put the needs of others before their own by serving in your community.”

Seal Beach Receives Third SECNAV Safety Award

By Gregg Smith, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Public Affairs

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Calif., was awarded the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Safety and Excellence Award Sept. 8.

The annual award recognizes Navy and Marine Corps bases, ships and squadrons for their quality occupational safety and health programs.

The command was considered the safest Navy and Marine Corps base in the small industrial category. This is Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach's SECNAV safety award.

"Our full-time safety staff deserves a great deal of credit for their outstanding efforts," said Capt. Terry Auberry, the base's commanding officer. "But safety is an all-hands effort, and all personnel have again shown that we remain safety-focused 24/7."

Award criteria included mishap trend analysis, safety inspections, and special or unique safety initiatives above and beyond those already required by stringent Navy safety regulations.

Weapons station personnel have started innovative programs ranging from regular safety meetings and training, weekly command-level tracking of safety deficiencies, a monthly newsletter addressing safety tips and topics, vehicle and pedestrian traffic improvements and a concentrated effort to correct safety-related deficiencies.

"An award nomination is only as strong as its people," said Safety Installation Program Manager James Olinger. "People are only as strong as their willingness for change, and change is what the naval weapons station has accomplished."

The command is also involved in the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program, which recognizes worksites and businesses that demonstrate continuing excellence in areas of health and safety, reducing mishaps and lost work days due to injuries. Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach is preparing to apply for star status within the program, which is the highest rating possible.

"The unique safety culture here at Seal Beach stems from our Voluntary Protection Program," said Marlo Valdez, a base safety specialist. "As a direct result, our Sailors and employees have a proactive mindset rather than being reactive when it comes to safety."

The awards will be presented during a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., in October 2010. The command also earned the right to fly the SECNAV's safety flag for the next year.

September 11 Memorial Ceremony Held in Coronado

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elena Pence, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- A 9/11 memorial day remembrance ceremony was held at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado's U.S. Navy/U.S. Coast Guard Vietnam Unit Memorial Monument, Council International Sport Military Field Sept. 10 in San Diego.

The ceremony observed the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, and honored those who lost their lives and loved ones that tragic day in 2001.

Chief petty officer (CPO) selectees were given the honor of arranging and conducting the event.

"Today was about honoring those men and women who lost their lives on 9/11," said Chief Logistics Specialist (AW) (Select) Mario Siqueiros, who was instrumental in putting the memorial ceremony together. "There were a few times in the ceremony where it was hard for me because it brought back memories from that day. I am deeply honored to have been a part of this year's remembrance ceremony."

Cmdr. Dwayne Burbridge, commanding officer of Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, expressed his appreciation to the CPO selectees for hosting the ceremony.

"The program was very well put together. I appreciate the time and effort each chief select put into the ceremony. I lost a family friend on 9/11, and it is humbling to know he will not be forgotten," said Burbridge.

There were 2,792 people killed as American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center towers, 40 passengers and crew died when United Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania, and 184 perished as American Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon. These numbers do not reflect the rescue workers who lost their lives that day, or military lives lost in support of the war on terrorism.

Spanish Village, Remembers 50th Anniversary of "Skymaster" Rescue

By Lt. Ben Tisdale, Naval Station Rota, Spain, Public Affairs

GRANADA, Spain (NNS) -- The U.S. ambassador to Spain and commander, U.S. Naval Activities Spain participated in a celebration Sept. 2 in Jerez del Marquesado, Spain, recognizing the rescuers of a U.S. Navy plane crash from 1960 in the Sierra Nevada.

The incident occurred March 8, 1960 near this small town in Southern Spain. Carrying U.S. service members from Naval Support Activities Naples to Naval Station Rota, the DC-4 "Skymaster" collided with a Sierra Nevada peak and crashed at 7,600 ft. above sea-level on the edge of a cliff in the snow.

The inhabitants of the mountain town quickly went to the aid of the stranded crew and passengers five decades ago. Antonio Lorente, a citizen from Jérez, was one of the first to arrive at the crash site.

"It was worth it," said Lorente, who spent the first night in the plane awaiting assistance. "We did not know what happened, but that it was only necessary to help human beings."

There were no deaths resulting from the plane crash. Many attribute this to the local inhabitants providing their assistance as quickly as possible during a severe blizzard.

"This event shows the extraordinary side of human nature," said U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Alan D. Solomont during his speech. "Without regard to their own lives...they did what had to be done to save lives."

Lt. Deb Neuhaus, Naval Station Rota air terminal officer, located some of the survivors prior to the ceremony months ago to help the city invite them to participate in the ceremony.

"The highlight of attending this trip was to see the survivors interact with their rescuers. It was emotional, and you could feel the mutual respect, understanding, and admiration," said Neuhaus. "The townspeople of Jerez del Marquesado enveloped the survivors with hospitality beyond their wildest imaginations."

Two of the survivors from the plane crash were able to attend: James Frank Zaio, and Francis John Rup. Zaio was a Seaman at the time of the crash and was on-board the plane as a member of the Naples' basketball team. Rupp, known as "Frank," was an Aircraft Maintenance 2nd Class Petty Officer assigned to the VF-102 Diamondbacks, flying from his carrier USS Forrestal (AVT 59) via Naples, to Rota to repair an aircraft.

"Every month or so I remember that fateful day," said Zaio. "I have had a void in my life for not being able to meet the people who saved my life, so this is wonderful to thank all of you for what you did for us."

As part of the nearly week-long celebration, Capt. Bill Mosk, commander, U.S. Naval Activities Spain (COMNAVACTS), gave his remarks Sept. 4 for the opening of a hiking path called "el Sendero Solidario el Avión," in English the "Path of Solidarity to the Aircraft," which saw nearly 200 participants walk the four-hour hike to see the crash site first-hand along the same route rescuers from Jérez used to help the crew and passengers.

"After living in Spain for two years, I think I have a pretty good idea of what motivated them," said Mosk. "A sense of courage, a sense of urgency and finally a sense of duty."

Families at Pentagon Memorial Reflect on Lost Loved Ones

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2010 – Rebecca Dolan is a busy 24-year-old, a recent college graduate pursuing a journalism career here in the nation’s capital. But on this day, as she has each year on Sept. 11, Dolan paused to return to the site at the Pentagon where terrorists stole the lives of her father and 183 others.

“It’s easy to get occupied in your everyday life,” said Dolan, whose father, Navy Capt. Robert E. Dolan, worked in the building. “Coming here is a grounding experience for me. Everyone coming together is a reminder of hope for the future.”

Dolan was among some 200 family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks who attended a closed service held this morning to coincide with the time and location that the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the south side of the Pentagon at 9:34 a.m., nine years ago. Under a cloudless blue sky and with a fall chill in the air – much like the paradoxically beautiful weather of Sept. 11, 2001 – men, women and children gathered around 184 cantilevered benches bearing the name plates of their loved ones.

“This is a great accomplishment,” said Jim Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, which raised $25 million to build the two-acre memorial, dedicated on Sept. 11, 2008. Like others with the fund, which chose the design for the memorial, Laychak suffered a personal loss: his brother, David Laychak, an Army civilian, was killed in the attack.

“We all worked together to accomplish something great out of a terrible event,” he said. “Instead of walking around remembering smoke and flames, families can sit on benches and reflect on their loved ones.”

Families did just that, some wearing T-shirts and buttons bearing the faces of fallen loved ones, others in mournful black. They strolled through walkways arranged by the ages of the victims, from 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg at the south end to 71-year-old John D. Yamnicky at the north. People were silent or spoke softly as they milled about under young maple trees and around the benches, each with a lighted pool underneath, while an Army brass band played quietly in the background.

President Barack Obama took to the dais at 9:34 a.m., flanked by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Each spoke of the sacrifices of the victims, their families and the troops who have endured nine years of war in the aftermath. Afterward, they formed a receiving line, shaking hands with the family members and posing for pictures.

“Look, guys, I got a picture of Papa with President Obama!” a woman told her children.

Later, the families gathered under a nearby canopy for refreshments, many sharing memories of that day, first of the disbelief, then of the person left behind.

In Dolan’s case, she didn’t know her father had recently returned to the building after working in an annexed office during Pentagon renovations. So when the teachers at her nearby high school announced that they saw smoke billowing from the direction of the Pentagon, she wasn’t immediately alarmed.

For Laychak, who lived only a couple miles from the Pentagon, he was convinced his brother would escape unharmed and walk to his home. “I kept watching for him to walk up the street,” he said.

For Barbara Cobb, of Hilton Head, S.C., the tragedy underscored her faith. Cobb lost her sister, Edna Stephens, an Army budget analyst who was soon to retire after 34 years of civil service, in the attack. After waiting all day to hear from her sister, Cobb said, she was reminded of a startling vision she’d had the day before of a faceless man in a white robe setting a place at an ornate table. Cobb said she felt that she should call her sister that day, but decided to put it off.

“I’ll say this to everybody: when it comes to your loved ones, anything that comes across your mind and heart to do for them, do it then, because you may not have a tomorrow,” she said. “Edna didn’t have a tomorrow.”

Obama: Honor 9/11 Victims by Staying True to U.S. Values

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2010 – President Barack Obama this morning paid tribute to the 184 people who died in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon nine years ago today, saying America honors their sacrifice by holding firm to the nation’s ideals of unity and tolerance.

“The perpetrators of this evil act didn’t simply attack America; they attacked the very idea of America itself – all that we stand for and represent in the world,” Obama told some 200 family members of 9/11 victims gathered at the Pentagon Memorial. “And so the highest honor we can pay those we lost -- indeed, our greatest weapon in this ongoing war -- is to do what our adversaries fear the most: to stay true to who we are as Americans, to renew our sense of common purpose, to say that we define the character of our country and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are.”

Obama spoke at 9:34 a.m. at the same time and place that the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, and under strikingly similar weather conditions: a cool, September morning under a bright blue sky with the sun rising brightly over the Pentagon roof to the south side of the building.

Standing alongside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Obama called the Sept. 11 anniversary a reflection, unity and renewal.

“We gather to remember, at this sacred hour, on hallowed ground – at places where we feel such grief and where our healing goes on,” he said.

While it’s natural to dwell on the images of carnage from the attacks and the final moments of the victims’ lives, Obama told the families, “these memorials and your presence today remind us to remember the fullness of their time on Earth.

“They were fathers and mothers raising their families, brothers and sisters pursuing their dreams, sons and daughters [with] their whole lives before them,” he said. “They were civilians and servicemembers.”

Obama noted that the victims – nearly 3,000 from the attacks on the Pentagon, at the World Trade Center in New York and aboard a hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania – were of all races and faiths. “They were Americans and people from far corners of the world,” he said. “And they were snatched from us senselessly and much too soon. But they lived well, and they live on through you.”

The legacy of the 9/11 victims should be preserved by a renewed sense of common purpose among Americans, and a conviction to not give in to an enemy that wants to divide the nation, the president said.

“As Americans, we are not and never will be at war with Islam,” Obama said. “It wasn’t a religion that attacked us on that September day. It was al-Qaida – a sorry band of men which perverts religion. And just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation.”

In the past nine years, the United States has persevered, going on the offensive to quash al-Qaida in Afghanistan, where the attacks were planned, Obama said. “They may seek to strike fear in us, but they are no match for our resilience,” he said.

“They may seek to exploit our freedoms, but we will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust,” Obama said. “Today we declare once more that we will never hand them that victory. As Americans, we will keep alive the virtues and values that make us who we are and who we must always be.”

Guatemalan's Welcome CP10, Iwo Jima's Mobile Medical Team

By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Mavis Tillman, Continuing Promise 2010 Public Affairs

PUERTO SANTO TOMAS, Guatemala (NNS) -- A medical team comprised of joint forces and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), currently embarked aboard the multipurpose amphibious ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), is managing a medical site at Puerto Barrios Elementary School in Guatemala Sept. 3-10.

Puerto Barrios residents line up behind gates surrounding the school to receive medical services that include surgical screening, optometry, adult and pediatric care, women's health education and dental services.

From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., translators and volunteers from the local communities assist and interpret for the medical team to screen patients and send them to be diagnosed and treated.

"The staff sees an average of 660 patients a day and fills about 200 prescriptions daily," said Cmdr. Cyrus Rad, site leader, Medical Site 1. "Many patients come in with multiple complaints and others with multiple diagnosis, they all are taken care of before they exit."

As word of free medical care spreads throughout the communities, hundreds of local Guatemalans continue to line up around the site and take advantage of the free medical care. Because of the large number of patients, it is a common occurrence for doctors, volunteers and translators to work through lunch breaks and maximize the number of locals treated.

"Each medical site has its purpose, but medical site one is the largest of the three sites with a one stop shop," said Hospitalman Dana Scott, Fleet Surgical Team 2, embarked on Iwo Jima. "It's busy because of its location in the center of the town."

Patients aren't the only ones who are benefiting from the experience. Service members and volunteers are able to pull away something more by helping those in need.

"I love helping in anyway possible, especially when it comes to the kids," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Carrie McKinley, from Iwo Jima. "I was able to interact with and keep a lot of the kids occupied while their parents were getting treated. It was an awesome experience."

Iwo Jima is currently anchored off the coast of Puerto Santo Thomass, Guatemala, and will continue to bring medical relief to a number of South and Central American countries as part of Continuing Promise 2010 (CP10).

CP10 is a humanitarian civic assistance mission, delivering medical, dental, veterinary, engineering, subject matter expert exchange and disaster response cooperation to host nations to include Haiti, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname and Guyana.

Continuing Promise Team Extends Care to Hundreds in Small Seaside Town

By Intelligence Specialist Second Class Matthew Kent Zinkil, Continuing Promise 2010 Public Affairs

PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala (NNS) -- The Caribbean port city of Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, welcomed the Continuing Promise 2010 (CP10) team Sept. 2.

The team began eight days of medical, dental, optometry, engineering and subject matter expert exchange partnerships in Puerto Barrios Sept. 3.

CP10 is a humanitarian civic assistance (HCA) mission delivering medical, dental, veterinary, engineering, subject matter expert exchange and disaster response cooperation to host nations to include Haiti, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname and Guyana.

To get to one of three medical sites, military and civilian doctors and nurses travel just after sunrise and before sundown from USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) to the Santo Tomas De Castilla Naval Base by landing craft utility.

They then take a 20-minute van ride to the medical site at the Guatemalan Instituto Nacional Experimental. At this site, medical and support personnel are using classrooms as general practice, dental surgery, optometrist and pharmacy centers.

Iwo Jima's embarked Special Purpose Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) Marines provide crowd control support to ensure patients are seen in a safe and orderly fashion.

Once inside the school compound, locals are directed by members of the CP10 team toward general practice doctors, medical screeners, dentists or many other of the available services.

Another aspect of CP10 is the use of translators – a key communication tool that bridges the gaps between doctor and patient, English and Spanish speaking people.

Prisala Auila, a senior-year university dental student and CP10 translator from Guatemala City, Guatemala, hopes to open her own dental office next year and save enough money to visit her friends currently attending university in Minnesota.

"It's a good thing, what all of us are doing here, to help out Puerto Barrios," said Auila.

Byron Solares, governor of Izabal Department, visited the medical site to see the people of his department receiving help from the CP10 team.

"It is great you are here to offer your services," said Solares, "It's a pleasure and an honor to have you here. CP10 shows not just your professional capability, but your caring and kindness as well."

With all of the members of the CP10 team working, more than 300 patients were seen during their second day in Guatemala alone.

One of these patients, Dunia Veliz, traveled from a town almost four hours away. She patiently waited with her 13-year old son and 7-year old daughter for a general check-up for herself and the children.

"Really grateful for all the support to her community because no one helps them out, and it is a nice thing to do," said Veliz.

Likewise, Marta Lucero, a Puerto Barrios resident, heard about the medical site from the local radio station. She said she was thankful for the "good care" she received and expressed thanks for all the help CP10 was providing her community.

Guatemala is the fourth of eight nations of the U.S. Southern Command's humanitarian civic assistance mission Continuing Promise 2010.

USS Greeneville Departs for Western Pacific Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Greeneville (SSN 772) departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific region Sept. 10.

"This will be our first deployment since 2007 and a first for the majority of the crew. Therefore, we are all very excited and eager to get this submarine underway and support the national theater tasking," said Cmdr. Anthony Carullo, USS Greeneville's commanding officer. "They've all worked extremely hard getting the ship and themselves ready for this deployment and regaining operational proficiency of all mission areas. I am very proud of each and every one of them."

"I have never traveled outside the United States so I am very excited and really looking forward to this deployment," said Machinist Mate 2nd Class Kyle Bittner, from Portland, Ore. "This will be my first deployment and my first real chance to employ my submarine training."

Greeneville underwent a 13-month depot modernization period at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, that included upgrades in all of her electronic systems in support of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. An overhaul of all machinery systems and a full external refurbishing was also completed. During that time, Greeneville accomplished numerous sea trials before conducting an inter-fleet transfer back to Naval Station Pearl Harbor in June 2009.

Greeneville is the 61st Los Angeles-class submarine and the 22nd improved Los Angeles-class attack submarine. Los Angeles-class submarines are ideally suited for covert surveillance, intelligence gathering and special forces missions. This stealth, when combined with the submarine's Tomahawk cruise missiles and torpedoes, provide the operational commander with an unseen force multiplier.

SURFPAC Celebrates Ombudsmen's 40th Anniversary

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Elena Pence, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) celebrated the 40th anniversary of the ombudsmen program with an awards ceremony honoring 81 ombudsmen in San Diego Sept. 8.

Ombudsmen are command-appointed volunteers who act as a liaison between the command and Navy families.

There are currently more than 100 SURFPAC ombudsmen serving the San Diego waterfront.

"Family readiness equals operational readiness," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, SURFPAC. "Ombudsmen are the 'equal' sign in that equation. They provide a direct and vital link between commands and families, and the surface force could not accomplish all that we do without them. I am grateful for their time and amazing energy."

This year's celebration boasted the highest attendance for an ombudsman appreciation ceremony in recent history.

"Honoring ombudsmen is important because they are the Navy's volunteers and create an important connection between the families and the command," said Stephanie DuBose, SURFPAC ombudsman. "They are the families' lighthouses, guiding them to and through the myriad of Navy resources we are blessed to have."

The average ombudsman spends approximately 800 hours a year assisting their command. Once assigned as a representative, they undergo 25 hours of initial training and are required to complete six, three-hour advanced training sessions a year. At SURFPAC, the creation of an additional Ombudsman Passport Training Program ensures that surface ombudsmen remain up to date on the latest resources, tools and initiatives.

"Being an ombudsman is a tough job, but I feel it is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done. I think family is a very important element of Sailors' careers, and for me to be a part of making Sailors' lives easier on the ship and at home is very humbling," said Stacy Wassermann, USS New Orleans' (LPD 18) ombudsman. "The ceremony was an amazing way to be honored by Sailors I help, and I admire their dedication in supporting the ombudsman team."

Founded Sept. 14, 1970, by the then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, the Ombudsman Program is designed to assist and support families using Fleet and Family Support Services.