Military News

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New SEAL Heritage Center Opens Aboard JEB Little Creek - Fort Story

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Andersen, Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs

NORFOLK, VA. (NNS) -- The UDT/SEAL Association and the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Foundation held a ribbon cutting ceremony September 28 to mark the grand opening of the SEAL Heritage Center at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.

Active-duty and reserve members of the special warfare community and their families braved the rainy weather for the dedication of the new facility, which will serve as a community center for the Navy SEAL community.

Among the speakers at the event was Adm. Eric T. Olson, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command.

"This facility was built to augment the already outstanding services here at the Joint Expeditionary Base and will serve as a community support center specifically for and focused on Naval Special Warfare service members and the families of Naval Special Warfare personnel," said Olson.

NSW families will be offered a wide variety of family assistance, dependent seminars, and workshops. The facility also provides a location for recreational social and official meetings, according to NSW Foundation staff members.

For active-duty service members, the 18,000-square-foot building will be used for NSW ceremonies, briefings, recruiting and outreach, and a wide range of other activities. It will also serve as a museum and memorial for fallen SEAL operators, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) boat operators, and Sailors who support the NSW community.

"Today is about introducing The SEAL Heritage Center to the active duty and the spouses," said Jim Papineau, Vice Chairman of the NSW Foundation. "This is their building. We wanted them to come in today and get a feel for what this facility offers and really, to get them to embrace it."

This Day in Naval History - Sept. 29

From the Navy News Service

1944 - USS Narwhal (SS 167) evacuates 81 Allied prisoners of war that survived the sinking of Japanese Shinyo Maru from Sindangan Bay, Mindanao.
1946 -Lockheed P2V Neptune, Truculent Turtle, leaves Perth, Australia, on a long-distance non-stop, non-refueling flight that ends October 1.
1959 - USS Kearsarge (CVS 33), with Helicopter Squadron 6 and other 7th Fleet units, begins six days of disaster relief to Nagoya, Japan, after Typhoon Vera.

Nimitz Makes Wish Come True

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Merrill, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The crew of aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) welcomed a 12-year-old boy aboard as honorary commanding officer, Sept. 27.

Twelve-year-old Linus Phillips' special day was brought to him by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to children who have life threatening illnesses.

Stefanie Munoz, a Wish Assistant Coordinator from the San Diego Chapter, said that Make-A-Wish's purpose is to get to the heart of each wish. For Phillips, coming aboard a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was his ultimate wish.

"This was absolutely amazing. It's just incredible here. I don't think we've seen him have so much fun in a long time," said his parents, Robin and Barbra Phillips. "He's just so happy. He's been bouncing off the walls all morning. This was a huge surprise for Linus and us, we just found out today we were coming aboard Nimitz."

During Phillips' time aboard, he sat down and asked Nimitz Commanding Officer Paul O. Monger a list of questions he brought with him. Phillips, a naval aviation buff, asked questions about the F/A-14 versus the newer F/A-18, and what it was like to fly in combat situations.

"It's always great to talk to people who are so passionate about what we do," said Monger. "Linus has a great personality; he has a sharp, young mind. You could tell he enjoyed it here."

After his time with Monger, Phillips visited Primary Flight Control where he learned about flight deck visual aids and saw how the ship communicates with pilots. More importantly to Phillips though, he spoke over the 5-MC, where he praised the flight deck crew for their hard work.

"It was awesome having him here," said Nimitz Mini Boss [Assistant Air Officer] Cmdr. David Appezzato. "Like I told him, Sailors work hard. [Phillips] being here reminded me of what is important in life, and how important our job really is."

Phillips also received a tour of the flight deck and learned how aircraft take off and how they are recovered, something that Nimitz Air Boatswain Ensign Brian Lewis was glad he and his crew could be a part of.

"It was an honor to have Linus chose to visit Nimitz, especially when there was anything in the world to chose," said Lewis. "I'm glad we [Air department] could be a part of that young man's wish. I hope we met and exceeded his expectations."

Phillips, who resides in Lucerne, Switzerland with his family, grew fond of naval aviation when they resided in Hawaii.

"He's always been fascinated with military aircraft," said his father, Robin. "He wanted to see the most famous Nimitz-class carrier there is, and here we are."

Phillips got the idea of touring an aircraft carrier when he read about another Make-A-Wish Foundation child's wish that came true.

Since the Phillips' live in Switzerland, both the Swiss and San Diego Chapters of Make-A-Wish had to coordinate the tour, a process that took almost 5 months said Munoz.

"Phillips' tour is only a small part of what Make-A-Wish does for children," said Munoz. During the 2009-2010 fiscal year 187 kids from the San Diego area, and 157 more kids that have come to visit San Diego, had their wishes granted.

"Make-A-Wish gets about one to two military wishes a year, and is grateful that the military is so willing to help," said Munoz.

"If you saw the smile on his face you could tell there was a great deal of gratitude," said Monger. "This was a positive experience for the United States Navy and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A lot of individuals went out of their way to ensure Linus' visit was a superb event."

Phillips' day concluded by receiving a Nimitz flight jacket, ball cap, and a command coin before being piped off the ship.

"The ship was fantastic, and so was the crew," said Phillips. "You have a cool job and you should be proud of it."

During his time in San Diego, Calif., Phillips will also visit local attractions such as Sea World, Lego Land, and the USS Midway Memorial Museum.

General Officer Announcement

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

Army Col. Flora D. Darpino has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general.  Darpino is currently serving as staff judge advocate, U.S. Forces-Iraq, Operation New Dawn, Iraq.

Face of Defense: Soldier Brings Joy to Young Iraqis

By Army Sgt. Mary S. Katzenberger
U.S. Division Center

BAGHDAD, Sept. 29, 2010 – A U.S. soldier deployed here teamed with his father to deliver free soccer equipment to appreciative Iraqi children.

Armor crewman Pfc. Dominick Skompski and some of his fellow soldiers distributed more than 30 donated soccer balls to Iraqi children living at various farms in the Baghdad area Sept. 13.

Skompski, who has played soccer since he was a child, said it felt good to hand out soccer balls to the children.

The young Iraqis “don’t really have a lot out here,” said Skompski, who serves here with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, U.S. Division–Center.

Skompski said the Iraqi children were very happy to get the soccer balls.

“It’s not much, but it’s something for them,” he said.

Skompski had enlisted the help of his father, Joe D’Alessandro, the president of the Cohansey Soccer Club in Upper Deerfield Township, N.J.

D’Alessandro’s club started its non-profit Winning Hearts and Minds project in 2008, where donations of new and used soccer equipment are shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan and distributed by U.S. civil affairs units. Since the WHAM project’s creation, about 5,000 pounds of donated soccer equipment has been shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan.

After receiving their soccer balls, the Iraqi children practiced their dribbling, kicking and heading skills. One boy celebrated the receipt of his gift by doing a long-duration handstand that was rewarded with applause and cheers.

Skompski said he is proud of and thankful for his father’s help in building trust with the local Iraqi children.

“[He has always been] one to help others when they’re going through a rough time,” Skompski said of his father. “I’m glad he’s helping me.”

VA Extends Coverage for Gulf War Veterans

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2010 – Veterans of the first Gulf War as well as current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan now have a smoother path toward receiving health-care benefits and disability compensation for nine diseases associated with their military service, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today.

A final regulation published in today’s Federal Register relieves veterans of the burden of proving these diseases are service-related: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile virus.

Shinseki added the new presumptions after reviewing a 2006 National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine report on the long-term health effects of certain diseases suffered among Gulf War veterans.

He also extended the presumptions to veterans of Afghanistan, based on NAS findings that the nine diseases are prevalent there as well.

The new presumptions apply to veterans who served in Southwest Asia beginning on or after the start of Operation Desert Shield on Aug. 2, 1990, through Operation Desert Storm to the present, including the current conflict in Iraq. Veterans who served in Afghanistan on or after Sept. 19, 2001, also qualify.

For Shinseki, who pledged to honor the 20th anniversary of the Gulf War by improving health-care access and benefits for its 697,000 veterans, the new presumptions represent a long-overdue step in addressing the medical challenges many face.
“This is part of historic changes in how VA considers Gulf War veterans’ illnesses,” he said. “By setting up scientifically based presumptions of service connection, we give these deserving veterans a simple way to obtain the benefits they earned in service to our country.”

The new presumptions initially are expected to affect just under 2,000 veterans who have been diagnosed with the nine specified diseases, John Gingrich, VA’s chief of staff, told American Forces Press Service. He acknowledged that the numbers are likely to climb as more cases are identified.

With the final rule, a veteran needs only to show service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan during the specified time periods to receive disability compensation, subject to certain time limits based on incubation periods for seven of the diseases.

“It gives them easier access to quality health care and compensation benefits,” Gingrich said. “The message behind that is that the VA is striving to make access to health care easier for our veterans who have served in our combat zones.”

He expressed hope that by providing quick, easy access, VA will help veterans get the care they need early on, without having to fight the bureaucracy.

“When we find these presumptions and we reach out and get the veterans into our system, we can help them and give them the proper medical care they need, and maybe keep their disease from getting worse or getting it to go away altogether,” he said.

It also will help eliminate the piles of paperwork and long claims adjudication process veterans had to go through to prove their cases to receive care and benefits. “This will help break the back of the backlog in the long run, while sending a reassuring message to veterans that the VA is there for them,” Gingrich said.

He called the new presumptions part of Shinseki’s effort to “create a culture of advocacy” within VA that builds trust as it reaches out to veterans.

For Gingrich, a Gulf War veteran himself, the effort is very personal. He remembers being deployed as a 1st Infantry Division field artillery battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm, when one of his officers became very sick with an illness nobody could diagnose.

“The medics couldn’t diagnose it. We called in the doctors and they couldn’t diagnose it. And eventually, he had to be medevaced back,” he recalled. “And now here we are, 20 years later, and I saw him in Dallas in August, and he is still sick. You can’t identify all the reasons and symptoms, but he is sick.”

Veterans deserve better, Gingrich insisted. “I believe that our veterans that served in uniform for our country deserve the absolute best care and benefits that we can provide,” he said.

VA provides compensation and pension benefits to more than 3.8 million veterans and beneficiaries, and received more than 1 million claims last year alone, VA officials reported. Veterans without dependents receive a basic monthly compensation ranging from $123 to $2,673.

Swift Delivers More Humanitarian Aid to Haiti

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kim Williams, High Speed Vessel Swift Public Affairs

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV) 2 delivered 237 pallets of humanitarian relief supplies from Project Handclasp to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sept. 27.

Project Handclasp is a one-of-a-kind public-private, relief organization that distributes humanitarian, educational and goodwill materials donated by America's private sector at no-cost for distribution to those in need.

This is the second time in five months the ship has delivered supplies to the earthquake-ravished city. The contents of this subsequent delivery include water filters, wheelchairs, medical supplies and food.

"The groups being helped out here today are mostly feeding centers and schools who mainly feed children and mothers," said Leslie McAuley, Grassroots United representative. "In Haiti there is a severe shortage of food, so just feeding people is very important. This shipment of food and supplies will do that and more."

McAuley said the Project Handclasp drop off is pivotal for the people of Haiti who still face a long recovery from January's natural disaster.

"After the earthquake, there were a lot of residents who became amputees and double amputees, so the medical aid and wheelchairs being delivered today will help them to not be completely immobilized," said McAuley.

Swift loaded 23 pallets of water purifiers and relief supplies from Pure Water for the World, Inc. May 8, for distribution to the people in and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince. During the latest drop off, the crew worked non-stop offloading the supplies for transfer.

"It feels good to do my part in helping the people of Haiti recover from the earthquake," said Seaman Robert Burgett from Killeen, Texas. "I know it's not going to solve all of their problems, but I hope it will bring some peace into their lives."

"It's important for us as Sailors and Americans who have so much to help those in need," said Gunner's mate 2nd Glass Marc Gomez from Dallas. "This aid will reach so many people who have gone a long time without, so I don't mind working in the heat into the night to ensure it gets to them as quickly as possible."

The Swift is currently deployed for Southern Partnership Station 2010, a deployment of various specialty platforms to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility (AOR) in the Caribbean and Central America. The mission's primary goal is information sharing with navies, coast guards, and civilian services throughout the region.

Researcher Allows Lincoln Strike Group to Perfect Tactics

By Mass Communication Specialist Jerine Lee, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- An embarked researcher from the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) gathered data to help improve USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), efficiency and effectiveness Sept. 27.

Brent M. Goode, Ph.D., a CNA research analyst since March 2006, came aboard Lincoln as an operations analyst for the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group's deployment to the 7th and 5th Fleet Areas of Responsibility.

Goode is collecting statistics on systems, such as failure and success rates, to improve potential tactical advantages and refine techniques that advance the strike group's mission success.

"My work involves a wide spectrum of Lincoln's operations, such as study of flight operations efficiency, support levels for underway refueling and resupply, and advanced tactical positioning and maneuvering techniques" said Goode, a native of Huntsville, Ala.

By linking empirical and quantitative data, CNA gives Lincoln strike group another tactical advantage over possible threats.

"We look for procedures in the Navy that are efficient and those that could be improved. That way, through research and experimentation, we can develop more ways to be work-effective and cost-effective." said Goode.

CNA performs their objectives by using a unique observational method with field-based, hands-on research. While deployed with Lincoln Strike Group, Goode is considered part of the Lincoln team just like the 7,000 active duty Sailors that comprise the force.

"The great thing about CNA is that as researchers, we do more than look at stats and compare them," said Goode. "We get to leave the office and do work for the Fleet that is meant to have an impact and make a change for the better."

CNA is a federally-funded research and development center that provides the Navy and Marine Corps with evaluations and studies in multiple fields, such as advanced technology and systems analysis, operations and tactics analyses, and strategic studies.

"I'm learning so much here, being exposed to everything. It is exciting seeing the myriad of operations that happen aboard Lincoln and I hope to make it a more efficient fighting force," said Goode. "All the documentation is an effort to learn and improve things, and help the strike group, but beyond that, to affect the Navy as a whole."

Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group consists of flagship USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, San Diego-based guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), and the embarked Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9. Ships assigned to DESRON 9 include the Everett-based destroyers Momsen (DDG 92) and Shoup (DDG 86), as well as USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Sterett (DDG 104).

Local Submariners Race Yachts on San Diego Bay

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

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Submariners assigned to Naval Base Point Loma spent an afternoon racing yachts on San Diego Bay during the 7th Annual Submariner's Regatta Sep. 25.

The San Diego Yacht Club hosted 87 submariners for the regatta, barbecue and award ceremony, to show its appreciation to those who serve in the military.

Yacht club members invited Sailors onto their sailboats to serve as crew members for the race on San Diego Bay.

"Many of the people at San Diego Yacht Club have prior service," said Garrett O'Brien, a member of the club and regatta coordinator. "A lot of us feel like we are giving a little bit back to the people who put on the uniform and go in harm's way to protect us."

O'Brien said that the event was designed to be a community bonding effort that keeps the military and the yacht club in the public eye.

A total of 17 sailboats participating in the regatta. The sailboats needed to complete the 8-mile course in two hours or less.

Local Sailors received first-hand training on how to unwind the sails, steer the boats and learned new sailing terminology. For some of the Sailors, it was their first time to experience a sailboat race.

"I had a great time. This was my first time sailing," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Eddie Cashion, assigned to USS Hampton (SSN 767). "I learned a lot about the fundamentals and it's actually invigorating to go out there to sail, pull the lines and steer the boat."

At the end of the day, it was the "Claudia IV" and her team of Sailors claiming first place honors. Prizes were awarded during a barbecue held after the race.

"I had a great time with everyone on my boat," said Cashion. "I liked that we weren't so much about the race, it was about cruising around the bay."

Taking the Bite Out of Bed Bugs

By Mary Anne Tubman, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs Office

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Southeast initiated an awareness campaign Sept. 27 to ensure a large knowledge base about a little pest that has become more prevalent throughout the United States.

In recent years, a worldwide resurgence of bed bugs has invaded public consciousness. The way people live today, with increased domestic and international travel, living in close quarters, and limited use of insecticides, have all contributed to the bed bugs' unwelcome return. While the mere mention of the pint-sized pest is enough to make anyone's skin crawl, knowing what they are, where they come from, and how to treat and prevent them are important to calming fears about their significance as a threat to public health.

The small, brown, nocturnal insects survive on the blood of their hosts, which are usually sleeping humans. "Bed" bug is something of a misnomer as they can live just about anywhere, including clothing, carpets, cracks, and crevices. While they are not known to carry diseases like mosquitoes or ticks, they can be difficult to eliminate and can make life miserable for anyone who experiences an infestation. These unpleasant characteristics have made the bed bug an object of fear for many, including military members and their families.

Dr. Harold J. Harlan, a board-certified Entomologist of the Information Services Division of the Armed Forces Pest Management Board in Washington, D.C., has studied Cimex lectularius L., the common bed bug, for more than 38 years. In his dealings with both the insects and with people, including those bitten by them and those tasked with controlling them, he's ready and willing to address the common perceptions about bed bug behavior and their effect on quality of life.

"The most common public misconception about bed bugs is that they are only present in unsanitary conditions," said Harlan. "The reality is that bed bugs have been found in just about every place you find people, including hotels, apartment buildings, cruise ships, movie theaters, trains, and long-term care facilities."

Bed bugs and their eggs are transferred from location to location in a variety of ways, most commonly on bedding, moving boxes, and furniture. Travelers are especially vulnerable to picking up bed bugs on both their luggage and clothing.

Reactions to bed bug bites vary from individual to individual. While bites often go undetected, they can cause skin reactions after repeated bites that are the result of proteins in the bed bugs' saliva. Very often, people will seek medical attention for bed bug bites because of their general fear of the insect.

"Another common misconception that bed bug bites cause terrible and long-lasting medical problems for their victims," said Harlan.

Most of the time, concern about the bites drives people to seek information and help.

"Usually, we hear from individuals who have stayed somewhere and been bitten," said Lt. Cmdr. Craig Stoops, acting officer in charge of the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence (NECE), a field activity of the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, located on board Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. "We receive anywhere from one to two inquiries about bed bugs every month."

Sailors and their families can take a number of steps to keep bed bugs out of their homes.

Travelers can treat luggage with a commercially available, EPA-labeled pesticide developed specifically for these insects. Check hotel rooms for bed bugs and inform the management if any are detected. Keep luggage and personal items off of the floor and hang clothing that is not being worn. When returning home, avoid bringing bed bugs into the home by checking belongings for bugs or eggs, which are both readily visible. Wash affected clothing in hot water followed by drying in a hot dryer, which will kill bed bugs in all states of development. Vacuum bed bugs from box springs and mattresses with a high energy particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum. Seal any openings where they have access to the home. Enclose mattresses and box springs in commercially available plastic covers, which will prevent bed bugs from entering and entomb any bugs that are already present.

If a bed bug infestation is discovered, seek the services of a qualified pest management professional. They use a variety of extermination methods, including pesticide placement, heat, cold and steam.

Many detailed resources about bed bug control are available through both government and university Web sites. Another good place to get objective information is with state agricultural extension services. Understanding bed bugs and how to deal with them will bring peace of mind, and a better night's sleep.

Wisconsin Guard supports flood relief, stands by to assist as needed

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

The Wisconsin National Guard was put into action last week after Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency Sept. 23 in Trempealeau, Clark and Jackson counties.
Wisconsin's Guard members stand ready to assist again as flooding continues to be a concern across north-central Wisconsin and along parts of the Mississippi River that divide Wisconsin and Minnesota. As of Monday (Sept. 27), Doyle has declared a state of emergency for eight Wisconsin counties; including Trempealeau, Clark, Columbia, Jackson, Buffalo, Marathon, Portage and Wood.

"Our future operations division is reviewing the areas of most concern and identifying logical places to draw equipment and forces from as well as armories to stage in," said Lt. Col. David May, deputy director of operations for military support.

Thirty Wisconsin Soldiers and Airmen stepped up to assist three communities, including Arcadia, Neillsville and Osseo, Sept. 23-25 following storms that drenched much of northern Wisconsin.

The first wave of Guard assistance came in the form of seven Soldiers from a field maintenance shop out of Eau Claire, with two 5-ton trucks, one Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, one Humvee and a heavy equipment wrecker. The Soldiers helped escort families to their homes in areas of Arcadia that were surrounded by up to two feet of water. The FMS Soldiers also assisted law enforcement with checkpoint security.

May said the FMS Soldiers, who had to travel about an hour to Arcadia from Eau Claire, did an exemplary job.

"The response time on this is a huge success story," May said. "To get the right equipment and the right people there in just three hours is amazing."

As the FMS Soldiers were assisting emergency responders, four Soldiers from Company C, 128th Infantry, 32nd Brigade Combat Team, were busy assisting the American Red Cross with opening a shelter out of their armory. The Red Cross sheltered more than 50 residents, including seven children, in the Arcadia armory.

"We know the armory fits the requirements that we have," said Heidi Jury, American Red Cross public support specialist. "It's nice and easy when we need a shelter to just call them up and they're ready for us."

Originally expecting another two to three inches of rain Thursday night, 11 more Soldiers from the 32nd IBCT relieved the FMS Soldiers and continued the role of checkpoint security.

Another four members of the brigade delivered 30,000 sandbags — 20,000 to Arcadia and 10,000 to nearby Osseo and Neillsville — in an effort to help the cities posture themselves for additional rain.

Lt. Col. Alec Christianson, incident commander, said his Soldiers were prepared to adapt to worsening conditions by transferring from checkpoint operations to evacuation operations if the weather worsened or water levels continued to rise. Fortunately for Arcadia residents, the additional rainfall never came and the Trempealeau River levels, which had reached more than a foot above "flood stage," began to hold steady and eventually recede.

"In this case, we were the first ones in and when we were no longer needed, we departed," said May.

The Wisconsin National Guard's Joint Operations Command, based in Madison, decided to deactivate the Guard members but did elect to leave some of the vehicles and equipment in Arcadia, in case of an escalation of the emergency situation. All of the vehicles and equipment have since been returned to their respective units.