Military News

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Today in the Department of Defense, Friday, September 17, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will speak at the Department of Defense’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at 11 a.m. EDT at the Pentagon River Terrace Parade Field.  A National Capital Region flyover of the Pentagon with a joint service aerial review that includes two Air Force F-15E’s, one Navy F/A-18, one Marine F/A-18 and four Army UH-60’s, will take place at 11:30 a.m.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.

Navy to Observe 2010 National POW/MIA Recognition Day

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) LaTunya Howard, Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- The Navy will observe 2010 National Prisoner of War (POW)/Missing in Action (MIA) Recognition Day Sept. 17 around the fleet.

Observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans' facilities.

The theme for the 2010 National POW/MIA Recognition Day is "Unit every story ends..."

"We can provide the family of a POW/MIA service member with survivor benefits, we can make service arrangements for them, but we cannot provide them closure until we can provide them with that final piece of information," said Kenneth Terry, Navy Casualty Assistance, POW/MIA department head.

The Navy's POW/MIA Casualty Assistance Division is responsible for policy, control and oversight of ongoing efforts to identify Sailors unaccounted for due to hostile or non-hostile circumstances.

"Information related to the status or case progress of an unaccounted-for-service member is presented to family members through official correspondence monthly and annually for government briefings," said Terry. "Identification briefings are presented to the primary next-of-kin when positive identification has been determined."

The Navy actively monitors nearly 40,000 POW/MIA from War World II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam conflict and the Gulf War.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is traditionally observed on the third Friday in September each year. This observance is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families' POW/MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

The flag is to be flown at major military installations, national cemeteries, all post offices, Veterans Affairs medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system and the White House.

The Navy's POW/MIA Casualty Assistance Division can be reached by phone at 1-800-443-9298, fax 901-874-6654, e-mail MILL_NavyPOW-MIA@navy.mil or by visiting

Nimitz Offloads More Than 1,200 Tons of Ordnance

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Merrill, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

USS NIMITZ, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Sailors conducted a two-day ammunition offload in preparation for the ship's upcoming docking planned incremental availability (DPIA), Sept. 14-15.

The ship transferred more than 1,200 tons of ordnance to the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS W.J. Schirra (T-AKE 8). Four hundred forty eight lifts of ordnance were transferred by use of connected replenishment and 455 lifts by vertical replenishment over a two-day period.

"We conducted hundreds of hours of preparation on the ammo over the last two months to get ready for this," said Lt. Henry Fuentes, USS Nimitz ordnance handling officer. "This was a very challenging evolution, but our guys stepped up huge and not once did anyone complain."

The evolution required every division of the weapons department to assist bringing the ordnance up from the weapons magazines to all three hangar bays and the flight deck.

"This was an all hands evolution, no one was on the sideline," said Cmdr. Peter Donaher, USS Nimitz Weapons Department gun boss. "This only happens about once every year and a half, so our guys were really fired up. They were working 14-hour days to get all of it ready to go."

"It's all about camaraderie," said Lt. j.g. Carlos Chairez, Weapons Department G-4 divisional officer. "Everybody had a part in this. It was five divisions that came together. It wasn't a question, they just did it."

When handling ordnance safety becomes a major factor in how the operation is ran, one in which Nimitz' Weapons Department planned out carefully.

"We made sure everyone did their job effectively and safely while moving ordnance from the weapons elevators to the hangar bays," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW/SW) Mary Sinclair, ordnance quality assurance. "We look for errors and discrepancies, while trying to prevent them, making sure everyone did the job the right way."

Even with the long hours and additional work, the aviation ordnancemen were proud of what they were doing.

"This was my third offload," said Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Alexanna Williams. "It can be tiring, but its well worth it after everything is off the ship. Doing this, we get to show what our real job is."

According to Operations Officer Cmdr. Bruce Hay, Nimitz is still a fully capable surge carrier after the ammunition offload.

"Today's ammunition offload is a classic example of completing commitments," said Hay. "In true Nimitz fashion, we are able to complete this safely and expeditiously. I honestly think the ability to make it look seamless despite the Herculean effort is what sets Nimitz far apart from the other carriers.

Other departments that played key roles in the ammunition offload included Operations, Air, Navigation, and Deck.

U.S. Presence Necessary for Korean Security, Officials Say

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2010 – The sinking in March of the South Korean ship Cheonan underscores the importance of U.S. troops to security in Northeast Asia and the defense of South Korea, top defense officials told Congress today.

North Korea’s torpedo attack is a somber reminder of the active threat North Korea poses to regional stability,” Wallace “Chip” Gregson, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said. “In such a high-threat environment, the [U.S.-South Korean] alliance mission to deter and defend takes on added significance and is our primary focus.”

Speaking to the Senate Armed Service Committee, Gregson expressed his concern with North Korea’s attack, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, and its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons. North Korean arms sales and continued defiance of United Nations security resolutions, he added, pose a threat not only to South Korea, but also to the entire region.

“[North Korea’s] proven track record of marrying capabilities with deadly intent has resulted in unnecessary crisis, tension escalation, and as the attack on the Cheonan demonstrated, tragic loss of life,” he said.

Gregson, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, said deterring North Korea requires a complex military solution. North Korea’s conventional threat and pursuit of ballistic and nuclear capabilities causes concern in Washington and in the South Korean capital of Seoul, he said.

North Korea’s military is adapted to the U.S.-South Korea conventional military partnership, Gregson said, and has developed tactics and weapons systems that may allow North Korea to avoid confronting its targets.

“In the context of [North Korean] efforts to develop a nuclear program, its ballistic missile efforts become an even greater concern,” he said. “Nuclear and ballistic missiles, if developed and fielded, would pose a threat to regional peace and stability that would be orders of magnitude greater than the already heightened threat.

North Korea may become embolden to pursue even more provocative activities than we have witnessed in recent years,” he continued, “if it makes significant strides in its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology.”

Gregson said he is confident the U.S.-South Korean partnership will improve peace in the region, but to sustain international peace and security, the U.S. military must remain postured in South Korea.

“To preserve our security commitment to the Republic of Korea, the United States must maintain a forward military posture,” he said. “[Having] 28,500 troops stationed somewhere in the United States does not have the same deterrent effect as the same number stationed in Korea. It is our forward presence that most effectively communicates our resolve to defend our allies and preserve our vital interests in Asia. Successful deterrence relies on credibility as much, if not more than, capability.”

The Strategic Alliance 2015 agreement ensures nearly 30,000 American troops will remain in South Korea until 2015. According to the 1953 armistice that established a cease-fire to the Korean War, the U.S. military would maintain operational control of combined defenses until 2012. But South Korean President Lee Myung-bak asked to extend the transition to 2015 as a result of the Cheonan attack. President Barack Obama agreed.

Army Gen. Walter L. “Skip” Sharp, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, testified with Gregson. He said he believes the Cheonan attack will not be the last by North Korea, and that the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range capabilities suggest North Korea will continue to threaten the region.

“The conventional threat continues, but we now face an enemy capable of using a number of asymmetrical means to threaten its neighbors, while also violating past agreements, international norms and the United Nations Security Council resolution,” he said.
The new alliance agreement, which Sharp introduced last week, means more joint training and exercises. The two nations have launched a series of air, land and sea exercises to better prepare South Korea defenses, he said.

Strategic Alliance 2015 synchronizes South Korean and U.S. transformation initiatives as the alliance prepares for the transfer of operational control for combined defense, Sharp said, and it demonstrates the U.S. commitment to South Korea.

“Strategic Alliance 2015 will enable the Republic of Korea and U.S. forces to successfully confront future security challenges and set the conditions for lasting peace in the Korean peninsula and the region,” the general said. “The Republic of Korea and the United States are more strongly united than ever before to deter North Korean provocations and aggression, and to defeat them if necessary.”

Lincoln's F/A-18 Hornets Train During Transit West

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, Abraham Lincoln Strike Group Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- F/A-18 Hornets launched from the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and dropped dozens of live weapons at surface targets during training in the Southern California Operating Area Sept. 13.

Less than one week into deployment, Hornets and Super Hornets assigned to Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 2, 34, 137, and 151, employed Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOW), releasing 22 BLU-111 bombs and seven GBU-12 laser-guided bombs during the training evolution.

The JSOW is a precision air-to-surface missile with the capability to carry several different lethal packages. JSOW's flexible release ranges allow aircraft to remain outside the threat envelopes of enemy point defenses while effectively engaging and destroying targets. JSOW is a joint Navy-Air Force program, with the Navy as the lead service.

"Realistic training is critical. Practice with live weapons is what sets the U.S. Navy apart," said Lt. Luke Swain, Carrier Air Wing 2 Strike Operations Officer. "It takes a lot of preparation and planning to properly execute JSOW missions."

The pilots were not the only ones who benefited from the experience of the JSOW training.

"It's also good training for our aviation ordnancemen to load the weapon, because the JSOW is something they don't get to see every day," said Swain.

USS Abraham Lincoln is currently underway on a scheduled deployment to the 7th and 5th Fleet Areas of Responsibility in support of the nation's maritime strategy.

USS Abraham Lincoln is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, which consists of embarked Carrier Air Wing 2, San Diego-based guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), and the embarked Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, which includes the Everett-based destroyers USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Shoup (DDG 86), as well as the San Diego-based destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Sterett (DDG 104).

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Pins Chief's Anchors on Sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cynthia Z. De Leon, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public Affairs.

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) welcomed 13 Sailors, eight active duty and five reserve, to the ranks of chief petty officer in a pinning ceremony at Naval Support Activity (NSA), Bahrain Sept. 16.

Among those promoted were Chief Electrician's Mate (SW) Dale Brownie and Chief Cryptologic Technician (AW/SW) Heidi Rankin.

Brownie, a reservist attached to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, has been working in Knowledge Management since April.

"I've learned how to help my Sailors more," Brownie said. "It's an honor, it's a privilege, it's a great responsibility; one that I accept fully and completely accept."

Rankin, who works in the intelligence directorate, is from Houston and has been in the Navy fewer than six years.

"We were elevated to the next level and we feel proud and honored, and will continue to carry on and help junior Sailors," Rankin said. "Advancing to chief helps us help junior Sailors even more."

NAVCENT Command Master Chief (AW) Marco Ramirez said this chief induction season is always a busy time for him, which begins with helping those who made board, prepare packages to submit to the board, teaching selectees how to be efficient chiefs and then guiding first-year chiefs.

"The chief's mess is the central network that bridges the gap up and down," Ramirez said. "They not only help the Sailors below them, they also help the junior officers above them because each one of those junior officers is a potential commanding officer."

The ceremony also included 24 new chiefs from NSA Bahrain and tenant commands. Retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Joe Campa attended as guest speaker.

"For me, there is no greater honor or greater challenge than serving as a chief petty officer on the deckplates of the world's greatest Navy," Campa said to the new chiefs. "Your chiefs welcome you, your Sailors have confidence in you, and your Navy is depending on you."

The NAVCENT/ U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) encompass approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, parts of the Indian Ocean and 27 countries. Fifth Fleet's priority mission is to conduct persistent maritime operations to deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment in the U.S. Central Command AOR.

Secretary Gates to Host Ceremony for POW/MIA Recognition Day

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will speak at the Department of Defense’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony on Friday, Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. EDT at the Pentagon River Terrace Parade Field.

A National Capital Region flyover of the Pentagon with a joint service aerial review that includes two Air Force F-15E’s, one Navy F/A-18, one Marine F/A-18 and four Army UH-60’s, will take place at 11:30 a.m.  The Air Force, Navy and Marine jets will fly in a four-ship “finger tip” formation and the Army helicopters will be in a separate four-ship formation.  A musical review by the Air Force Band from Bolling Air Force Base and pass review with service Honor Guard units from the National Capital Region will also take place during the ceremony.

Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

Joint Statement by Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approval of the New Start Treaty

“We applaud the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s strong bipartisan vote today to approve the New START Treaty.

“If ratified, this agreement will advance some of our most critical national security objectives.  It will provide stability and predictability between the world’s two leading nuclear powers, reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia to a level not seen since the 1950s while retaining a safe and effective deterrent.  It will restore crucial inspection and verification mechanisms that ceased when the original START agreement expired last year, allowing U.S. inspectors back inside Russian nuclear weapons silos.  And it will help keep nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue regimes.

“The committee’s vote today continues a decades-long tradition of senators from both parties providing advice and consent on arms control accords.  We especially appreciate the leadership of Chairman Kerry and Ranking Member Lugar in undertaking a thorough review of the treaty and developing the resolution of ratification that led to today’s successful vote.

 “Like previous arms control treaties, the New START Treaty deserves broad bipartisan support and prompt ratification by the full Senate. We urge Senators to act quickly and approve this treaty.”

A Corner of Hope: Turning to Faith and Family, a Servicemember’s Dream Lives On

Posted by Jim Hardiman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Jim Hardiman is a licensed clinical social worker and substance abuse counselor. Prior to joining DCoE, he served as a regional care coordinator for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. He has provided mental health services for patients and their families for more than two decades. Hardiman writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on various psychological health conditions affecting servicemembers, veterans and their families—offering encouragement and “A Corner of Hope” for readers.

Mike was very proud being a member of the military.
He was living his lifelong dream and well on his way to accomplishing his goals of promotion and a career of military service. His family was very supportive and proud of his accomplishments, attitude and work ethic. He enjoyed being the provider for his wife and children, and was as solid a family man as I’ve ever known.

It was not until he was deployed that his world changed suddenly and drastically. When Mike’s vehicle was struck by another vehicle, he temporarily lost consciousness. Mike initially thought he would just “shake the cobwebs loose,” but while hospitalized he was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). As a result, his short term memory was impaired; he experienced fatigue, frequent headaches, difficulty processing information and finding words to express his thoughts.

What now? He had planned for a long military career and was actually studying for his promotion exam at the time of his injury. “Will I be able to continue in the military? How will this affect my life and family?” These were a few of the questions that flooded his mind.

Mike turned to his faith, his family and the expertise of his health care team who recommended that he receive formal TBI treatment. He and his family took advantage of treatment including; neurocognitive therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and family counseling. Mike was determined to recover to the level he was at prior to his injury and continue his military goals. For several months, he worked really hard to return to peak performance.

Upon completion of treatment, Mike went before a formal medical board to assess his fitness to return to duty. He was denied. Although devastated by the news, Mike saw it as an opportunity. He took it as a personal challenge to overcome these circumstances – he’d go before the board again for another evaluation. He continued with a treatment plan that included neurcognitive exercises he could do at home.

Six months later, Mike went in front of the medical board again but this time Mike was different. He was cleared to continue the work he loved. It gets better. Mike called me months later and said he not only received the promotion he was striving for, but was being transferred to his home state to work as an instructor.

You might say that this outcome is not a typical outcome. But who is to say that you aren’t the next person to succeed when you reach out for help.

After a TBI, so many parts of life can seem uncontrollable. Mike experienced set-backs, disappointments and obstacles. The key to Mike’s success was taking charge of his recovery. He used his strengths: faith, family, friends and his dream to accomplish what in the eyes of many seemed no longer possible. If you or someone you care about is experiencing the effects of a TBI or psychological condition, please know there is help available. The DCoE Outreach Center is accessible 24/7 to connect you to resources.

Until next time,

Jim Hardiman

Kearsarge Group, Marine Unit Arrive for Pakistan Relief

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darius O. Jackson
Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2010 – Sailors with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and embarked Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility today to contribute to the flood-relief effort in Pakistan.

Entering 5th Fleet waters marked the completion of the group's trans-Atlantic crossing, which began Aug. 27 in Norfolk, Va., to support the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

The Kearsarge group and the Marine Corps unit began their regularly scheduled deployment a month early to support those efforts. In addition to supporting Pakistan relief, they also will serve as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command when the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group completes its deployment in early November.

"We are looking forward to doing our part to help the flood victims in Pakistan," said Navy Capt. Larry Grippin, commander of Amphibious Squadron 4. "Our sailors and Marines have carefully prepared to carry out this relief mission."

Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron 266 "Fighting Griffins" will use their MV-22 Ospreys to support the relief efforts. This tilt-rotor aircraft combines the vertical flight capabilities of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft.

"We will be providing aerial lift of supplies and personnel to help alleviate the suffering of the Pakistani people," said Marine Corps Maj. Eric Keith, a "Fighting Griffins" pilot. "As for the deployment and our mission, everybody is pretty excited to get to our destination. Knowing that the mission will make a difference for the people of Pakistan is really uplifting."

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will report directly to Expeditionary Strike
Group 5, which is responsible for all amphibious forces deployed to 5th Fleet.

The 5th Fleet's area of responsibility encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

North Pacific Coast Guard Forum 2010

Written by: CDR Glynn Smith

A quick look at the northern half of the Pacific Ocean on a map or globe shows one of the largest stretches of open-ocean in the world. The vast expanses of our oceans can be a daunting prospect for a mariner in distress, but also provide a potential advantage for a poacher engaged in illegal fishing.

So how does a coast guard type organization provide search and rescue and law enforcement coverage in such a vast body of water? For this region of the world, it is done in part through the maritime services of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.

The forum, an international maritime coordinating body, is meeting this week in Vancouver, Canada, with U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp attending as part of the United States delegation.

Created in 2000, the Forum promotes information sharing and fosters international cooperative efforts relating to safeguarding international maritime commerce, stemming illegal drug trafficking, protecting fisheries, and deterring human smuggling.

The Forum membership includes coast guards and other maritime organizations from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States. Annually, member organizations from each of these nations meet in executive session to focus on issues affecting the North Pacific Ocean, participate in training and exercises, and conduct joint operations at sea.

“Each member organization provides an important piece to a challenging puzzle,” Papp said. “Independently, we cannot solve the problem, but together we can build a comprehensive solution.”

Now considered a model example of maritime cooperation, the Forum is built on a simple formula: all members voluntarily work equally toward solving shared problems and achieving mutual interests.

The cooperative nature of the Forum is most evident at sea where a joint fisheries patrol could easily involve a U.S. Coast Guard cutter with embarked Japanese law enforcement team operating in tandem with Chinese and Russian ships that are receiving aerial surveillance information from a Canadian aircraft.

“A true international cooperative spirit is represented in all Forum activities,” said Papp. “The problems we face are common to each Forum participant; therefore, each has an interest in bringing solutions to the table.”

Since no single country has the resources, authorities, or jurisdiction to provide effective oversight across the mission areas affecting the North Pacific Ocean, the Forum fills the necessary gap. Together, the organizations can pool ships and aircraft, and provide the required coverage. And by carrying embarked law enforcement representatives from other Forum nations in those ships, they have the authority and jurisdiction to enforce a wide range of law.

If the past 10 years of Forum successes are any indication, the future is great. Member organizations actively collaborate and seek new areas for partnership, while operational efforts continue to place greater coverage in a region that necessitates attention. Ultimately, the efforts happening far out at sea help each nation by curbing trans-national crime, sustaining fish stocks and promoting safe and secure global trade.

“What happens far out at sea impacts the U.S.,” Papp said. “We have to reach further off our shores and the Forum provides an effective way for the U.S. and other partner nations to meet this common need.”

Mission to Africa – Heading Home

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young
Post Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Victoria Bonk.

This week, CGC Mohawk is steaming back to its homeport of Key West, Fla. Just like when we came across the Atlantic Ocean on our trip over, it’s going to take about two weeks, so the crew is staying busy with full workdays. We are up and out of our racks at 7 a.m. and work until evening chow.

There is a lot to do before we pull into port, including getting the ship ready. We are cleaning and fixing everything that needs attention. The deck department is hard at work sanding, priming and painting parts of the weather decks on the ship.

As the ship gets ready, we are also readying the new crew members for standing their in port duty. They are finishing up their damage control personal qualification standards, doing drills and taking tests.

“Since we have started our trip back the deck department quickly went to work chasing running rust and touching up paint and then began work on their preventive maintenance items to keep everything running like tops,” said Senior Chief Radford Hoffpauir, the master at arms aboard the Mohawk.

And for a little excitement, we have been doing gunnery exercises on the Mark 75, 76mm 62 caliber gun weapons system. These exercises are needed to train gun mount personnel in loading procedures and clearing miss-fire procedures.

“Communication is key every time we shoot the Mark 75. There is about 24 hours of preparation for 5 minutes of excitement so it is extremely important that combat, the gun mount team and bridge keep prefect communication throughout the shoot, said Petty Officer 1st Class John Harling, an electronics technician aboard the Mohawk. ” “This communication keeps everyone safe while doing their part during the exercise.”

The trip back isn’t quite as smooth as the trip to Africa was, as we are following behind Hurricane Igor and have Hurricane Julia coming up behind us. The boat is rocking a little more than most of us would like, but we are adjusting.

The crew couldn’t be more excited to be heading home, and we are counting the days till we see our families and friends on the pier for us in Key West.