Military News

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Former Vietnam POW Speaks at Submarine Base Kings Bay

By Stacey Byington, Trident Refit Facility Public Affairs

KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- CAPT Leo Hyatt, USN (Ret.), held as a Vietnam prisoner of war (POW) for more than five and a half years, was the keynote speaker at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay POW/MIA commemoration, held Sep. 20 at the Subase Chapel.

On Aug. 13, 1967, during a high-speed photo reconnaissance operation over a railroad bridge just south of the China border, then Lt.Cmdr. Hyatt and his radar/navigation officer, Wayne Goodermote, were shot down by a barrage of fire from 37mm anti-aircraft guns.

At the time, Hyatt was attached to Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 12, homeported at Naval Air Station Sanford in central Florida, flying RA-5C Vigilante missions over North Vietnam off the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV 64).

"I wasn't supposed to get shot down because I was good," said Hyatt.

He had already piloted 33 high-speed reconnaissance missions, but he told his audience that he believed, given the nature of the mission he was about to fly, that he probably wouldn't make it back to the aircraft carrier.

Hyatt suffered a dislocated and broken shoulder during the ejection from his aircraft at nearly 850 mph, and was shot while trying to evade capture on the ground. His injuries were never treated by the North Vietnamese. Within a couple of days of his capture, he was taken to the Hoa Lo Prison (commonly known as the "Hanoi Hilton"), where he was tortured.

"You were tied up," said Hyatt. "Your arms were lashed behind your back. The ropes come across your elbows. Your feet are shackled to a bar, and you are literally turned into a suitcase. It hurts. You can't breathe. This went on for about three days – day and night."

After one particularly brutal session, he tricked his captors into believing that he was telling them future targets.

"If they took anti-aircraft guns to all the places I told them, they burned up one heck of a load of fuel. I didn't know any targets."

When he was finally thrown back into a cell, he was in very bad shape medically. He credits his first cellmate, Air Force Capt. Ed Atterberry, with saving his life.

"He cleaned me up and gave me water to drink," said Hyatt. "I put him in for the Air Force Cross, but he never got it. He made an unsuccessful escape attempt a couple of years later, and they killed him."

Hyatt was released with the third load of POWs on St. Patrick's Day (March 13) 1973. He had been held as a POW for 2,040 days. After months of medical treatment he continued his career going on to command several Navy units. He retired in 1985 after 28 years of active duty.

Shortly after his release Hyatt said, "The 67 months of captivity will never be redeemable for me. However, it was a small price to pay to help guarantee the freedom of millions of people in South Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia."

"While I was in captivity, I was surrounded by men who displayed such fantastic fortitude, honor and devotion to country that it was impossible to be otherwise. God bless them, our country and those Americans who believe in America and do not spend their every breath criticizing her and trying to tear her apart."

Other notable Navy POWs held at the Hanoi Hilton with Hyatt included Rear Adm. Jeremiah Denton (held 2,766 days); Vice Adm. James Stockdale (held 2,713 days); Capt. Jerry Coffee (held 2,566 days); and Capt. John McCain (held 1966 days). Cdr. Everett Alvarez was the first American sent to the prison, and he was held captive for 3,113 days (more than eight and a half years).

Helos Support Special Forces Training During Jackal Stone Exercise

By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Terry Vick, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

BALTIC SEA (NNS) -- Helicopter-to-ship boarding training was given to special operations forces (SOF) from seven countries aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) during exercise Jackal Stone (JS10) 2010, Sep. 19.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Det One, the "Ghost Riders", is embarked aboard Mount Whitney supporting the JS10 mission by conducting flight operations at sea with members of the Lithuanian Air Force and other SOF units.

"Fast roping from a helicopter onto a moving ship is an essential skill for these specialized forces," said Lt. Cmdr. Joe Strassberger, HSC-28, Det One, officer in charge. "I am pleased with the performance of our aircrews and glad for the opportunity to support this exercise."

Members of HSC-28 were able to integrate with MI-8 helicopters from the Lithuanian Air Force in combat fast-rope training exercises onto the flight deck of the Mount Whitney.

"We were able to coordinate with the Lithuanian pilots for several JS10 key evolutions," said Strassberger. "We observed and assisted them in getting an opportunity to enhance their ability to land on a moving ship and perform deck landing qualifications."

Other operations performed by the Ghost Riders in support of JS10 include helicopter born sniper operations and "hot" landing zone troop insertions.

"The operators were easy going and terrific to work with," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class Christopher Carpenter. "We briefed with the Lithuanian SOF operators back on land and performed a few practices runs of the various training exercises before getting started. It's amazing how much they were able to improve their proficiency."

JS10 is a multinational military special operations exercise organized by Special Operations Command Europe, designed to improve international military partnerships through a joint training with special force subunits from Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and the United States.

Mount Whitney, the flagship for the U.S. 6th Fleet, is homeported in Gaeta, Italy, and operates with a hybrid crew of U.S. Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners.

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates hosts an honor cordon to welcome Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom Liam Fox to the Pentagon today at 5 p.m. EDT.  The cordon will be held on the steps of the Pentagon River Entrance.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the Pentagon River Parking Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort to the cordon.

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

Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Robert L. Gordon III; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civilian Personnel and Quality of Life, U.S. Army, Anthony Stamillo; Director, Personal and Family Readiness Division Manpower and Reserve Affairs Department, U.S. Marine Corps, Timothy R. Larsen; Director, Total Force Training and Education Division, U.S. Navy, Scott Lutterloh and Director of Force Development Deputy Chief of Staff Manpower and Personnel, U.S. Air Force, Dan Sitterly testify at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee at 8 a.m. EDT on voluntary education programs at 8 a.m. EDT in room 2212, Rayburn House Office Building.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger will be inducted into the Hall of Heroes at 10 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Auditorium (Room BH650).  Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy and Etchberger’s family will participate in the ceremony.  See press advisory for details.

Destroyer Squadron 24 Departs for Exercise Joint Warrior

By Lt. Zachary Harrell, Destroyer Squadron 24 Public Affairs

USS BAINBRIDGE, At Sea (NNS) -- Four ships led by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (COMDESRON) 24 departed Norfolk, Va. Sep. 21, to participate in Joint Warrior, a coalition exercise designed and led by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) in the United Kingdom and staged off the coast of Scotland.

Sailors from USS Stout (DDG 55), USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) and Fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO 195) will be representing the United States in the exercise that will also include sea, air and land forces from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Estonia, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and NATO.

"Joint Warrior will allow our Sailors the opportunity to practice operating with our coalition partners so that we are better prepared to support multi-national operations in real-world missions," said Capt. Aaron Jacobs, DESRON 24 commander. "Our Sailors will gain essential training and experience by operating as part of a multinational force in a multi-warfare environment."

The exercise scenarios will challenge the coalition navies in major warfare areas such as air defense, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. Particular emphasis will be placed on maritime security operations including boarding and searching vessels suspected of illegal activities and defending against small boat attacks.

"The safety and security of the world's seas is a responsibility shared by all of the coalition navies," said DESRON 24 operations officer, Lt. Cmdr. Greta Densham. "Joint Warrior allows us to realize that responsibility by working with our allies to improve the way we counter illegal activity and defend against acts of terrorism on the high seas."

Joint Warrior is scheduled to begin in early October. The exercise, which will last approximately two weeks, will also serve to certify the U.S. ships for deployment.

Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities continues 14 Year Memorandum of Agreement for Coast Guard Recruiting

By DCMS Log

MON. 20 September: San Diego, CA: VADM John Currier, chief of staff, and Dr. Antonio Flores, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) President, sign a continuation of a memorandum of understanding between the Coast Guard and HACU. The event highlighted a 14 year relationship between the two organizations which helps promote diversity recruiting in the Hispanic and Latino communities.

President Presents Posthumous Medal of Honor to Hero’s Sons

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2010 – President Barack Obama today presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry to the family of an Air Force chief master sergeant killed in action 42 years ago in Laos.

“Today, we present the Medal of Honor to an American who displayed such gallantry more than four decades ago: Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger,” the president said at a White House ceremony. “This medal reflects the gratitude of an entire nation.”

Etchberger’s brother, Robert, and sons, Cory Etchberger, Richard Etchberger and Steve Wilson, attended the ceremony.

The president detailed Etchberger’s actions as he fought through the night of March 11, 1968, holding off the enemy, calling in air strikes and loading three fellow servicemembers into an evacuation helicopter before he was shot by enemy forces who overran his worksite - a secret radar installation manned by Air Force technicians disguised as civilians.

Lima Site 85, set above the clouds on a steep mountaintop in nominally neutral Laos housed a radio transmitter – later upgraded to a radar installation - dedicated to directing U.S. air-to-ground bombing in North Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. The battle at Lima Site 85 resulted in the largest Air Force ground combat loss of the Vietnam War.

“Of those 19 men on the mountain that night, only seven made it out alive,” Obama said. “Three of them owed their lives to the actions of Dick Etchberger.”

During a “small, private” Pentagon ceremony in the winter of 1968, Etchberger’s wife, Catherine, and sons were presented with an Air Force Cross, Obama said, but public awareness of Etchberger’s actions didn’t occur until the Air Force declassified his mission in 1986.

“That’s when they learned the truth: that their father had given his life, not in Vietnam, but in neighboring Laos,” the president said. “That’s when they began to learn the true measure of their father’s heroism.”

Obama said when their father’s mission was declassified, Etchberger’s sons learned that their mother had known the whole story all along, but had been sworn to secrecy.

“She kept that promise, to her husband and her country, all those years, not even telling her own sons,” the president said. “So today is also a tribute to Catherine Etchberger, and a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our military spouses make on behalf of our nation.

“Sadly, Dick’s wife, Catherine, did not live to see this moment. But Steve, Richard and Cory, today your nation finally acknowledges, and fully honors, your father’s bravery,” Obama continued, “because even though it’s been 42 years, it’s never too late to do the right thing. And it’s never too late to pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans and their families.”

Obama then presented the cased award to Etchberger’s sons. Etchberger became only the 14th airman to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War, and only the third enlisted airmen so honored.

Attendees also included First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, other leaders of the armed forces, members of Congress, previous Medal of Honor recipients and friends of the Etchberger family to honor the man his son Cory has described as “an ordinary man who found himself in an extraordinary circumstance.”

Here is the text of Etchberger’s Medal of Honor citation:

The president of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded, in the name of the Congress, the Medal of Honor to Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on March 11, 1968, in the country of Laos. While assigned as Ground Radar Superintendent, Detachment 1, 1043rd Radar Evacuation Squadron. On that day, Chief Etchberger and his team of technicians were manning a top-secret defensive position at Lima Site 85 when the base was overrun by an enemy ground force. Receiving sustained and withering heavy artillery attacks directly upon his unit’s position, Chief Etchberger’s entire crew lay dead or severely wounded. Despite having received little or no combat training, Chief Etchberger single-handedly held off the enemy with an M-16, while simultaneously directing air strikes into the area and calling for air rescue.

Because of his fierce defense and heroic and selfless actions, he was able to deny the enemy access to his position and save the lives of his remaining crew. With the arrival of the rescue aircraft, Chief Etchberger without hesitation repeatedly and deliberately risked his own life, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire, in order to place three surviving wounded comrades into rescue slings hanging from the hovering helicopter waiting to airlift them to safety. With his remaining crew safely aboard, Chief Etchberger finally climbed into the evacuation sling himself, only to be fatally wounded by enemy ground fire as he was being raised into the aircraft.

Chief Etchberger’s bravery and determination in the face of persistent enemy fire and overwhelming odds are in keeping with the highest standards of performance and traditions of military service. Chief Etchberger’s gallantry, self-sacrifice, and profound concern for his fellow men, at risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, reflect the highest credit on himself and the United States Air Force.

Madison-based Air Guard unit honors its Hometown Heroes

By Tech. Sgt. Don Nelson
115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

More than 350 Wisconsin Air National Guard members from the 115th Fighter Wing and their families were honored at the unit's Truax Field base in Madison on Sept. 19.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Defense Department, more than 80,000 Air National Guard Airmen have deployed in support of military operations. As part of the Air National Guard Hometown Heroes Salute recognition program, the 115th Fighter Wing hosted its first ceremony to celebrate and honor the wing's Airmen, families and those special supporters who have significantly contributed to supporting our Airmen and their mission.

"This is something we need to do to recognize the outstanding service that people put forward," said Brig. Gen. John McCoy, commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. "We have asked people to deploy, in some cases multiple times since Sept.11, 2001 and this is just a small recognition for the member and their families."

The program, managed by the National Guard Bureau, cooperates with the Guard in all 50 states and recognizes Airmen who deployed for more than 30 consecutive days for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and all other contingency operations.

Each Airman honored received a cherry wood-encased letter of appreciation signed by Gen. Craig. R. McKinley, National Guard Bureau chief, and the Air Guard's command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, enclosed with a commemorative coin.

"There are many who say that they did not deploy for the award - they say they did it because their nation asked them," McCoy said. "However, it is good to take some time, step back and recognize people."

Each family member, whether they attended the ceremony or not, were also presented with tokens of support for their Airman. Each child received a set of commemorative dog tags and each spouse or significant other were presented an engraved rosewood pen and pencil set.

"We always say that we recruit the Airman and retain the family," said Kim Sandleback, family program coordinator with the 115th Fighter Wing. "Our Airman could not deploy without the incredible support of their families."

Each Airman could also nominate a center of influence for providing extraordinary support when they deploy. Those nominees were presented with a Hometown Heroes Salute medallion.

During the ceremony, Airmen and family members were greeted by McCoy, Brig. Gen. Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th Fighter Wing commander, and Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin.

Senior Executive Service Appointments and Reassignments

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced the following Department of Defense Senior Executive Service appointments and reassignment:

Appointments

Paul D. Patrick has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service and is assigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs (readiness, training and mobilization), Office of the Secretary of Defense, Reserve Affairs, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), Washington, D.C.  Patrick previously served as a major general, U.S. Army Reserve, principal advisor to commanding general, U.S. Army Europe.

Joseph O. Quinn has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service and is assigned as director for financial improvement and audit readiness, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Washington, D.C.  Quinn previously served as a business modernization expert, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Washington, D.C.

Reassignment

Michael S. Elliott has been assigned as deputy director, strategic stability, Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.  Elliott previously served as the deputy director, plans and policy, Global Strike Division, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

DOD Supports Military Children in Public Schools

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2010 – Department of Defense Education Activity officials are sharing cutting-edge resources and training tools with public schools supporting military families, particularly those heavily affected by deployment, an education official said.

“Our goal is to reach military children who attend public schools,” Kathy Facon, the activity’s chief of educational partnership, said in an American Forces Press Service interview. “We want to make sure that what’s good for our students is good for them too.”

Most recently, officials offered up their latest special education training tools to public schools supporting military children after receiving rave reviews from their own teachers.
The program includes 16 training modules developed in cooperation with top experts in the special education field, David Butler, an education data specialist, explained.

The modules cover a broad spectrum of topics including mediation and conflict resolution, classroom behavior management strategies and effective strategies for students with math difficulties, as well as a module on autism spectrum disorders.

Teachers can self-pace through the modules, or a facilitator can use the guide to present to several teachers. The modules also can be modified for specific needs or specialties.

“The modules were developed so they could be used on a widespread basis,” Facon said. “Much of the information can be applied to any teachers, not just those in special education.”

Also aimed at supporting public schools, the education activity offers a robust grant program to school districts across the nation. In the past two years, the activity has awarded $96 million in grants to about 80 school districts, Facon said.

Officials have reached out to districts that have been affected by deployments or are in locations where education options are more limited for military families, she explained.

Most of the grants are focused on academics to improve student achievement, but also include resources for additional counseling support, virtual learning opportunities and professional development for the teaching staff.

Facon also highlighted an online resource called “Students at the Center” that benefits both military families and the schools they attend.

For military parents, the resource offers tips on navigating the public education system, as well as information on report cards, school performance and district achievement levels. For school leaders, it offers information on military families, particularly in regard to education and readiness, and how they can facilitate a safe and stable environment for military students. And military leaders can, for instance, find information on providing outreach to school boards.

“We’re very proud of this resource,” Facon said. “We’ve brought information that was available in many different formats into one location.”

To improve the one-on-one support to military families, the education activity is boosting training efforts for school liaison officers. Liaisons are the local, on-the-ground points of contact for parents, the command and school districts on all issues related to education from kindergarten through 12th grade, Facon explained.

Liaisons often have varying levels of knowledge on how education works, she acknowledged, and a lack of information can result in misinformation. To remedy this, the activity is developing online supplemental training that can be downloaded and customized to suit local needs.

“We want to help liaison officers to do their job better and have a single voice on topics,” Facon said.

Also aimed at cooperation with public schools, the education activity serves as an ex officio member of the Interstate Compact on Education Opportunity for Military Children Commission. The compact is an agreement among states to ensure the smooth transition of military children between schools. The compact works to ease issues surrounding records transfer, graduation requirements and course sequencing, among others. So far, 35 states have signed the compact.

Activity officials are working to develop training and marketing materials to help states and school districts implement compact guidelines.

These efforts combined are having a positive impact on schools across the nation, Facon said, and the relationships they’re building can prove to be mutually beneficial.

“Many public schools have fabulous programs that we can replicate as we share our own programs,” she said. “Within DODEA, we want students to be performing to their best potential, and we want to make sure students from military families can do that anywhere.”

For more information on the education activity’s training and products, visit http://www.militaryk12partners.dodea.edu.

Amos: Marines ‘Ready to Respond to Any Crisis’

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2010 – Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos today vowed to make winning in Afghanistan his top priority if he is confirmed as the 35th commandant of the Marine Corps.

Amos, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the post, also pledged during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to always be forthright in assessing Marine Corps needs for Congress.

“You’ll always have my honest assessment of what is required,” he said.

If confirmed, Amos will be the first career aviator to hold the top Marine Corps post, which has been occupied almost exclusively by infantrymen. Serving as the assistant commandant for two years, Amos said, has given him a broad view of the service.

“I am keenly aware of the challenges our nation faces today, and likely will face in the future,” he said. “And, I understand the critical role of our expeditionary forces.”

Amos said he would ensure that the Marines maintain the counterinsurgency skills they honed in Iraq and Afghanistan, while also staying true to their traditional expeditionary force role. “We will shape the Corps to be our nation’s shock force, ready to respond to any crisis,” he said.

Quoting the Corps’ motto of “Always faithful, always ready,” Amos said, “We will make sure we are always ready to answer the call.”

Amos credited current Commandant Gen. James T. Conway with producing what he said are the best Marines in decades. “Our Marines have never been better trained, or better led,” he said. “They are simply magnificent.”

Amos called the operational tempo of Iraq and Afghanistan “the best of times, and the worst of times” for Marines, who want to be in the fight, no matter how tough it is. “Troop morale is sky high,” he said. “The bulk of 20,000 Marines in Afghanistan … are living a pretty hard life. But they’re a happy lot. It’s almost counterintuitive that you would put young men and women in an environment like that and they’d be happy.”

But they are happy, Amos said, and high recruiting numbers prove Marines want to be in the fight. “If you signed up today,” he said, “you couldn’t go to [basic training] until February, because we are that backed up.”

The general said he is confident in U.S. forces in Afghanistan based on his visits to Marines in Helmand province, one of the most violent parts of the country, where progress can be seen in more governance and new schools, and fewer and less-effective Taliban attacks.

Amos said he couldn’t say definitively how the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will end. But, he said, “I’m convinced the American military knows how to fight a counterinsurgency, and we will prevail in the nation of Afghanistan.”

Under questioning from senators, Amos said he is comfortable with Obama’s announcement that the United States would begin its drawdown of troops in Afghanistan in July. “I do agree with it, I think it’s helpful,” he said. “It will be backed up by conditions on the ground. Everybody understands that.”

Amos also spoke about his vision for the service after it leaves Afghanistan. Forces will need to remain forward-deployed in regions of the Pacific, Africa and elsewhere to engage with nations and train foreign militaries in efforts to prevent wars, he noted.

“We need to be the nation’s crisis response force – light enough to get there rapidly and fast enough to carry the day,” he said. “So when the president says ‘Send in the Marines,’ we’re either there or we can get there rapidly.”

A Marine Corps force structure review is under way and scheduled for release in January, the general said. It likely will include a plan to “get well” after Afghanistan, which will entail replacing and refurbishing equipment and reorganizing the force, he said.

Amos also was asked about a plan to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam. He said the Corps is working with the Defense and State departments to change the makeup of troops to relocate. The plan calls for more operational and fewer headquarters staff forces to allow for an air-ground task force at both Okinawa and Guam, as in Hawaii.

An agreement that is satisfactory to Guam residents and that shows the military is a good steward of the property will be worked out to solve a controversy over a planned Marine Corps firing range in Pagat, Guam, a historically preserved area, Amos said.

“I think we can work around the Pagat issue,” he said, “and I think it’s heading in that direction.”

Several senators questioned Amos about legislation to overturn the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, part of the pending 2011 Defense Authorization Bill. Amos said he personally is opposed to repeal of the law that bars gays from serving openly in the military, but that as commandant, he would ensure that the law is followed, however it is decided.

“We are the most disciplined service of all the ones you have,” Amos said. “We follow orders. If this [law] is changed, the last thing you’re going to see your Marine Corps do is step in and push it aside.”

In other areas, Amos said:

-- Marine Corps families are what he worries most about. “Even though we care for them well and we’re reaching out to them, our families are tired,” he said.

-- Increasing “dwell time” at home between deployments will allow Marines more training in areas such as amphibious assault, instead of just counterinsurgency.

-- He has spent most of his time as assistant commandant working on issues related to post-traumatic stress and suicides. He said he is encouraged that suicides among Marines have dropped to 32 this year, compared to 39 at the same time last year.

-- The Corps’ wounded warrior program “has become legendary,” and likely will stay in place long after troops leave Afghanistan.

Today in the Department of Defense, Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

The Senate Armed Services Committee considers the nomination of Marine Corps Gen. James Amos for reappointment to the grade of general and to be Commandant of the Marine Corps at 9:30 a.m. EDT in room SD-G50, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

German Maj. Gen. Hans-Werner Fritz, commanding general for Regional Command North, and his U.S. Army deputy, Col. Sean Mulholland, will brief the media live from Afghanistan at 10:30 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973), to provide an update on current operations.  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.

Press briefing with Geoff Morrell has been canceled for today and will be rescheduled.

Guard Members Participate in South African Air Show

From a New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs News Release

LATHAM, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2010 – More than 70 members of the New York Army and Air National Guard from Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the state capital region are in Cape Town, South Africa, this week participating in the African continent's largest air show, the Africa Aerospace and Defense Exposition 2010.

The event, held at the Ysterplaat air force base, features aircraft from 35 countries and 135 manufacturers.

The New York National Guard, which participates in the State Partnership Program with the South African National Defense Force, sent an Army National Guard OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopter and a New York Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter to participate in the exhibition.

"Support missions such as this afford our New York National Guard a continuous capability to strengthen our partnership with the South African National Defense Forces," said Army Brig. Gen. Renwick Payne, New York National Guard’s joint staff director and the highest-ranking officer on the mission. "We in New York are looking forward to opportunities like this to exchange and share information about how we prepare soldiers and airmen for the demands of today's contingency missions.”

Army Sgt. Kevin Resseler, an OH-59 ground support mechanic with the New York Guard, looked forward to the trip. "It's going to be awesome,” he said. "You'll see what other countries are using, and you'll see what other units are using."

The HH-60 Pave Hawk belongs to the 106th Rescue Wing based at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach on Long Island. The wing, featured in the movie "The Perfect Storm," also sent 25 airmen, including pararescue specialists, to participate in the show and conduct military-to-military activities with South African forces.

The HH-60 was transported to Cape Town International Airport by a New York Air National Guard C-5A Galaxy transport aircraft, and later to Ysterplaat by a C-17 Globemaster III based in Hungary.

The C-5A, which transported the Army National Guard troops and equipment, is assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh. The wing conducts strategic airlift around the world on a regular basis.

The OH-58 Kiowa is assigned to Detachment 1, Alpha Company, of the 224th Aviation Security and Support Battalion here. The unit normally flies missions in support of the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force.

The Army National Guard has also sent an M1117 Armored Security Vehicle and a Humvee ambulance for display. A team from the 442nd Military Police Company, based in Yonkers, is with the armored security vehicle, while the 466th Area Medical Company from Queensbury sent the Humvee ambulance and soldiers to accompany it.

Participation in this air show is part of the New York National Guard's ongoing relationship with South Africa, officials said. The State Partnership Program is a National Guard initiative that encourages relationships, enhances international security and builds capacity across all levels of society with developing nations. Each state and territorial National Guard is partnered with the military of a developing friendly nation.

New York's partnership with South Africa began in 2003. Since then, New York National Guard has been sending military visitors to South Africa and hosting military and civilian visitors in return. Air Force Maj. Scott Williams of the 106th Rescue Wing, is responsible for maintaining this bilateral relationship and is stationed in the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria.

Wisconsin Air Guard unit sets safety standards

Date: September 19, 2010
115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard continues to earn honors for excellence in safety practices.  During a Sept. 19 ceremony at the unit's Truax Field base, the 115th Fighter Wing earned the Air National Guard's John J. Pesch Flight Safety Award, the wing's safety office won the Safety Office of the Year Award, and that office's noncommissioned officer in charge, Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Egstad, was named Air National Guard Safety Professional of the Year.

All three awards were based on performance during the 2009 calendar year.

The Pesch Award recognizes more than 60,000 accident-free flying hours over the past 14 years, nearly 500 combat sorties in 2009 flown without mishap by the fighter wing's F-16 and RC-26 aircraft, and a nearly flawless performance in a NORAD Alert Forces Evaluation. The award also noted that the 115th Fighter Wing was the only Air National Guard unit to simultaneously support deployed combat operations and homeland air sovereignty missions while undergoing numerous inspections and evaluations.

The wing safety office earned its recognition in large part by leading the effort to make the 115th Fighter Wing only the second Air National Guard unit to earn OSHA's coveted "Star" rating for its Voluntary Protection Program in 2009.

"This process really made us focus on the finest details - far above and beyond the regulatory requirements," Egstad said. "The people who really made this happen were our unit safety representatives. We in this office set the goals and provided guidance, but the USRs in the field really did the leg work. The integrity, accountability and professionalism of everyone on base paid off huge."

Lt. Col. Chad Milne, 115th Fighter Wing safety chief, said the Pesch Trophy is about more than just safe flying - it includes safe maintenance practices and awareness by all those involved in any part of aircraft operations.

"Our excellent showing in the Alert Forces Evaluation was in large part due to the ground operations, not just the flying portion," Milne said.

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Craig McKinley challenged the entire National Guard to pursue that Voluntary Protection Program Star rating, and 115th Fighter Wing commander Brig. Gen. Joe Brandumuehl made it a goal. Milne and Egstad said the wing took the challenge to heart and did it.

The VPP experience directly impacted every aspect of the wing's safety program and practices, and the awards directly reflect the commitment to safety by everyone on base, they added.

"We are exceptionally proud of our team of safety professionals," Brandemuehl said. "National military and civilian recognition for our wing safety programs clearly demonstrate the safety culture at the 115th Fighter Wing. For decades, we have strived to make this unit the premiere flying unit in the Air National Guard, and one way we've done that is to operate safely every day.

"A commander's first concern is for the well-being of their Airmen," he continued. "Accomplishing what we have over the last several years is truly a testament to being dedicated to excellence."

The 115th Fighter Wing last won the Pesch Award in 2005, when it was also awarded the William W. Spruance Safety Award.

Defense Department Launches Annual Combined Federal Campaign Drive

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Defense Department's 2010 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) kicked off in Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, offering federal civilians and military members the opportunity to contribute to any of more than 4,000 pre-screened charities.

Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III launched the department's annual CFC drive in the Pentagon Library Conference Center, addressing gathered representatives of more than 20 Defense Department services, components and agencies.

"Your leadership has helped this department exceed its contribution goals year after year," Lynn said. "I've returned today to ask all of you to do it again – not only to reach a new and higher target, but also to continue expanding the number of employees who choose to participate."

Lynn invoked President Barack Obama in noting that CFC charities feed families who have lost their homes, help wounded service members and their families, foster education in underprivileged areas and provide emergency supplies to disaster victims.

"Precisely because it may be harder to contribute this year, it is so vital that we continue to give," he said. "President Obama has said that America's success depends on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – and the Combined Federal Campaign enables us to do just that."

Army Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, a military representative to the National Capital Area CFC, also spoke as part of the kickoff event. He challenged Defense Department employees to treat CFC as "part of our mission."

"Your gifts will serve the needy, comfort the ill, search for cures, protect the environment and reach out to help in countless other ways," said Brown.

"Sometimes, our battlefield...is not the sands of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan. Sometimes, that battlefield is the unemployment line, the food line, and the rehab room," added Brown. "We cannot accept defeat in these causes any more than we can accept defeat on the battlefield when we are sent to fight."

The department's 2010 CFC campaign will continue through Dec. 15.

Since 1971, CFC has been the sole authorized workplace charitable campaign for the federal service. CFC administrators and volunteers reach potential donors through more than 200 local organizations, and givers may contribute via cash, check or payroll deduction. Pledge forms are available through local coordinators and online at regional CFC Web sites.

Charities wishing to participate in CFC must complete an annual application process. Organizations may apply to be listed as local, national or international charities depending on their area of service. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees the program, maintains strict eligibility and public accountability criteria that all participating CFC charities must meet.

According to OPM figures, 2009 CFC pledges totaled nearly $282.6 million, a 2.7 percent increase during the previous year. The campaign has garnered more than $6 billion in charitable contributions since its inception in 1961.

USS Decatur to Deploy

From U.S. 3rd Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) will depart San Diego for an independent deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) Sept. 21.

The primary focus of this deployment will be ballistic missile defense (BMD).

BMD capable guided-missile cruisers and destroyers provide a great flexibility to combatant commanders. In many cases, they are able to carry out assigned BMD missions while still being ready to respond to other operational tasking such as maritime interdiction operations, battle group air defense, and multinational exercises.

Decatur is assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven, and is designed to operate with Expeditionary Strike Groups and Carrier Strike Groups in high-threat environments. Destroyers can also provide essential escort capabilities to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious forces, combat logistics ships and convoys.

Decatur's Aegis combat system includes the AN/SPY-1D phased array radar, which scans in all directions simultaneously to detect, track and engage hundreds of aircraft and missiles while continuously watching the sky for new targets. The ship is equipped with the MK41 Vertical Launching System, which fires a combination of up to 90 standard surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk surface-to-land missiles and vertical launch anti-submarine rockets.

Decatur helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the sea and humanitarian/disaster response within U.S. 3rd Fleet's 50-million square mile AOR in the Eastern Pacific, as well as support the Navy's Maritime Strategy when forward deployed.

NEX Associates Graduate From Executive Skills Development Program

By Kristine M. Sturkie, Navy Exchange Service Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (NNS) -- Twenty-three Navy Exchange (NEX) associates from around the world graduated from the Navy Exchange Service Command's (NEXCOM) Executive Skills Development (ESD) program Sept 18.

During the program, the associates learned how to build core and competitive-edge competence in five areas: leading change, leading people, results driven, business acumen, and building coalitions.

"ESD provides a learning and practice opportunity for selected managers and associates who have management responsibilities," said Deborah York, NEXCOM director of training and organizational development. "Participants are nominated by their department director, NEX general manager or NEXCOM district vice president. Nominations are based on the associate's work performance and potential for growth within the organization."

"Thank you for your dedication and hard work," said Rear Adm. (Sel) Glenn C. Robillard, NEXCOM commander. "This is an investment that will reap benefits not just for you individually, but also for the NEXCOM team as a whole. I'm proud we're able to provide this learning opportunity for all of you, and now you need to practice these new skills, take what you've learned and share it with the NEX team."

This is the 13th class that has graduated from the ESD program.