Military News

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guyanese Iwo Jima Sailors Reunite with Relatives During Continuing Promise 2010

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jennifer Hunt, USS Iwo Jima Public Affairs

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (NNS) -- The humanitarian assistance mission Continuing Promise 2010 presented four service members of Guyanese descent currently embarked aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), an opportunity to reunite with their relatives in Georgetown, Guyana, Oct. 22.

Army Capt. Devicka Sahedeo, Machinist's Mate 1st Class Kurt Powdar, Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Daniel Singh, and Cpl. John Eversley, gathered at a local school and spent the day catching up with their respective family members after years of separation.

"When I heard we were coming to Guyana, I was really excited," said Singh. "I'm glad there was someone out there who cared about reconnecting me with my family. It was a great surprise."

Powdar, who left the country at the age of 13, was thrilled to meet his wife's father for the first time.

"I know he was shocked when he saw me; we've only seen pictures of each other until now. He's pretty proud of me," he said.

Sahedeo was also able to meet with new relatives and reconnect with others she had not seen since she left more than 20 years ago.

"It was a little overwhelming," said Sahedeo. "I met a lot of people who knew me from before, and they told me stories of how I was as a child. It was just amazing."

Family member after family member ventured into the engineering site designated for the Continuing Promise reunion; however, one last service member anxiously awaited the arrival of his maternal grandmother and great aunt. Upon spotting them, Singh's anxiety was immediately replaced with exhilaration.

"They went through a lot to get here, but that just made it even better," said Singh. "We talked about everything from what the military is doing out here to our other family members around the world."

In addition to a warm reception from relatives, service members felt a fresh welcoming from their developing home country.

"When I was here it was scooters and go-karts, now its bicycles, cars and cell phones," said Powdar. "Imagine it in five or ten years."

Iwo Jima is currently off the coast of Guyana and will move on to Suriname for the final phase of Continuing Promise 2010, a humanitarian assistance mission in which the assigned medical and engineering staff embarked aboard Iwo Jima are working with partner nation teams to provide medical, dental, veterinary and engineering assistance in eight nations.

General Officer Announcements

The chief of staff, Army announced today the following assignments:

Brig. Gen. Clarence K. K. Chinn to, commanding general, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Fort Polk, La..  He most recently served as deputy commanding general (support), 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., director, Pakistan/Afghanistan Coordination Cell, The Joint Staff, Washington, D.C., to deputy chief of staff for Operations, International Security Assistance Force, Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan.

George H.W. Bush Strike Group Sinks Ex-USNS Saturn

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sandi Grimnes, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Public Affairs

USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, At Sea (NNS) -- Sea and air assets assigned to the George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) successfully sunk the former U.S. Navy re-supply ship USNS Saturn (T-AFS 100) in a sinking exercise (SINKEX) in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 27.

Ships from Destroyer Squadron 22 and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, along with Patrol Squadron (VP) 10 and VP 45, participated in the real-world tactical training exercise with surface-to-surface, air-to-surface and surface-to-air live fire, said Commander, Destroyer Squadron 22 Capt. Jeffrey Wolstenholme, who was responsible for the coordination, planning and execution of the two-day SINKEX.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and the guided-missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64) launched missiles, 5-inch guns, Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) and 25-mm and .50-cal weapons. In addition, aircraft and helicopters from CVW 8 launched from Bush and employed bombs and air-to-surface missiles during the exercise.

The sinking exercise focused on integrated strike group operations, command and control procedures, pre-planned responses to maritime threats and surface action group operations. As the strike group prepares for a combat deployment in spring 2011, the sinking exercise provided a unique opportunity to practice combat scenarios, to include tactics and procedures. The exercise was planned to scale up the attacks during the course of the two days, Wolstenholme said.

The first day's attacks were aimed at Saturn's superstructure to prevent hull integrity breaches. The attacks designed to sink the ship occurred on the second day. Every watertight door and hatch was closed on Saturn to ensure the maximum watertight integrity of the ship, so it would stay afloat until the final event where it was sunk with 5-inch rounds, said Wolstenholme.

Using a decommissioned ship as a training platform allows the U.S. Navy to improve the warfighting skills of those who currently serve. Real world training, such as this sinking exercise, enhances force readiness in a way that is unmatched by any simulated scenario.

This exercise demonstrated the strike group's ability to plan and execute warfare competencies such as maritime security, sea control, power projection and deterrence, said Capt. Patrick R. Cleary, commander, CVW 8.

"Everyone in the strike group is very excited to have the opportunity to conduct this exercise because it is rare to be involved in this," Wolstenholme said. "You have an actual life-size ship out there that you can attack with aircraft coming in, ships driving in close proximity and ships launching missiles from long-range getting targeting information from aircraft. It's really hard to replicate this without a hull to shoot at."

Saturn was prepared for the exercise in accordance with all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, Wolstenholme said. All the fuel oil tanks and piping were cleaned and flushed of petroleum products, and all readily detachable material capable of creating debris or contributing to chemical pollution was removed from the ship.

"We are very sensitive to the environment," Wolstenholme said. "We take great strides to ensure that we are monitoring the environment. We have dropped sonobuoys around the hull to listen for any marine mammals that may be vocalizing and we are surveying the area for marine mammals, sea turtles and concentrations of jelly fish by flying aircraft over the hull and surrounding area.

"Until we have that absolute verification, we do not give permission to launch any weapons," said Wolstenholme. "We have to have that assurance that we will not be putting marine mammals and sea turtles in danger before we begin firing at the former USNS Saturn."

The Navy has put a moratorium on the sinking exercise after 2010 to conduct a comprehensive review of the requirements, costs, benefits and environmental impacts of the current process, said Wolstenholme. Even with the moratorium, the Navy will continue to get the training it needs, just not in the totality that it gets in the sinking exercise.

Saturn was transferred from the British Fleet Auxiliary to Military Sealift Command Dec. 13, 1983. Saturn was in service for more than 25 years and was deactivated April 6, 2009. Towing and salvage specialists at Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia verified that the 523-foot ship was seaworthy before it was towed about 250 miles off the coast of North Carolina.

Tracks

Clyde Hoch is a self publisher and would be happy to answer any questions. His book is available on Amazon or may be purchased directly from him.  He can be reached via email at hochclyde@yahoo.com or by phone at (215) 679 9580.

Perform-to-Serve Responds to Fleet Feedback

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

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- The Navy announced Oct. 27 the merger of Perform-to-Serve (PTS) with the Fleet Rating Identification Engine (RIDE) program was a direct result of the fleet's request for changes to the current PTS system.

"We asked the fleet Navy counselor, 'What can we do here to make the Navy counselors' job easier?'" said Lt. Mark Reid, deputy enlisted community manager, Bureau of Naval Personnel. "This merger offers the features they need to effectively take care of their Sailors."

The new program is a career counselor's single system for identifying eligibility requirements, managing reenlistment applications and reporting results.

NAVADMIN 352/10 describes the initial implementation of the system, specific policy changes, PTS algorithm changes, procedures for application submission and point of contact information for addressing questions or concerns.

The new system allows commands to view in-rate and conversion quotas on a monthly basis. Additionally, the enhanced, performance-driven algorithms

U.S.-India Exercise Exemplifies Growing Cooperation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2010 – U.S. Army elements in Alaska are preparing to host India’s army for the next in a series of annual field engagements that aim to improve bilateral readiness and cooperation while demonstrating U.S. commitment to South Asia and the broader Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. Army Pacific commander told American Forces Press Service.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon called the Yudh Abhyas exercise to be held next month on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson an example of the growing theater security cooperation program under way throughout the region that’s extending far beyond historical alliances.

Last year alone, U.S. Army Pacific conducted 214 of these events in 29 countries – ranging from the Army’s largest multinational exercise, involving 12,000 participants, to small staff-officer exchanges.

While reinforcing military-to-military relationships with longtime partners in the region such as South Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia, Mixon said the command is increasingly engaging with other strategically significant nations. These include Indonesia and Malaysia, important moderate Muslim nations, as well as India.

During Yudh Abhyas 2010, the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team “Spartans” will join their Indian counterparts in airborne and weapons exchanges and a brigade-level command post exercise.

“It’s going to be a great exercise,” Mixon said.

The training will build on last year’s Yudh Abhyas exercise, the U.S. and Indian armies’ largest joint military exercise ever, which also included the largest deployment of Stryker armored vehicles outside a combat zone. About 300 U.S. soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, deployed from Hawaii with 18 Strykers to train with the Indian army’s 7th Mechanized Infantry Battalion at one of India’s premier military training sites.

These and similar engagements, Mixon said, are key building blocks in supporting a regional security framework.

“The importance of the Asia-Pacific region is obvious to everybody,” he said. “So across the board, having a U.S. presence on the ground in the Asia-Pacific region enhances peace and stability in the area.”

It also prepares the U.S. and partner militaries that could be called on with little notice to cooperatively support missions ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to peacekeeping.

“It prepares us if there are contingencies,” Mixon said. “We have already built some very, very important relationships that make operations go a lot better when they first begin.”

Mixon has presented Army leaders with a long-range plan to improve training areas within U.S. Army Pacific. The plan, if approved, will enhance capabilities and save dollars spent deploying Pacific-based U.S. units elsewhere for training, he said. But it will also offer U.S. Army Pacific new opportunities to host regional partners for military-to-military training such as Yudh Abhyas 2010.

Meanwhile, Mixon is emphasizing the importance of cultural “astuteness” among his troops.

Recognizing the “hundreds and hundreds of languages and dialects and cultures” within Asia and the Pacific, he recognizes it’s all but impossible for his soldiers to master the linguistic challenges the region presents. What he wants is for his soldiers to be willing to learn enough of a given language to show respect for the cultures of the people they engage with, and the curiosity to take that learning to the next level.

“By doing that, they become astute in how to operate in that particular country,” he said.

Mixon noted how many of his soldiers easily adapted as they shifted from one culture to another during exercises last year in Thailand and the Philippines. “That is what we want our soldiers to be able to do,” he said.

As these efforts continue, U.S. Army Pacific is undergoing an internal reorganization that will improve its ability to support a operations in one of its key focus areas, the Korean peninsula. That initiative, called Pacific Integration, involves folding 8th U.S. Army in Korea into U.S. Army Pacific by next year. Eighth Army already has reorganized as the Army’s only field army, poised on the Korean peninsula to fight alongside its South Korean counterparts, if required.

U.S. Army Pacific will provide enabling capabilities for 8th Army, along with other Army units throughout the region.

Establishing a single Army service component in the Pacific will eliminate redundancies and provide a more efficient, more capable force, Mixon said.

Coast Guard Heroes: William Ray Flores

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young
With contributions from LTJG Ryan White

This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, braved gunfire in times of war and rescued those in peril at sea. As Coast Guard heroes, their stories are a constant reminder of our service’s legacy. As the namesake of the Coast Guard’s newest patrol boats, they will inspire the next generation of Coast Guard heroes.

Seaman Apprentice William Ray “Billy” Flores gave his life to save his shipmates in the frenzied moments after the collision between Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn and the 605-foot oil tanker Capricorn on January 28, 1980.

Flores, 19, was less than a year out of boot camp and was newly reported to Blackthorn when the 180-foot buoy tender capsized near the entrance to Tampa Bay, Fla.

As the boat became submerged, inexperience gave way to bravery as Flores and another crewmember stayed aboard to throw life jackets to some of his shipmates who had jumped into the water.

Flores remained behind and used his own belt to strap open the lifejacket locker door, which allowed additional lifejackets to float to the surface.

“I was on the bridge and when the ship rolled onto beams end I knew we were past the point of no return and would surely capsize,” said retired Lcdr. John Ryan, a member of Blackthorn’s crew. “I went into the water from the bridge wing and by the time I surfaced the ship had capsized over me. I was injured with a sprained back and injured shoulder. As I struggled, suddenly a life jacket from the locker that was on the main deck came floating up to me.”

Due in no small part to Flores’ fearless actions and sacrifice, 27 of Flores’ shipmates escaped the submerged Blackthorn, but tragically 22 other Coast Guardsmen perished aboard Blackthorn.

A special place in the Coast Guard’s history

Flores was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Medal, the service’s highest award for heroism not involving combat, on September 16, 2000. Flores’ family accepted the award and selected the date because it is a day of honor for many Hispanics that celebrates Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain.

The Coast Guard’s recognition of Flores’ heroism came after many of his surviving shipmates reviewed the records of the collision and realized that Flores’ actions had not been formally honored. His shipmates poured through transcripts from the surviving crew, administrative records and newspaper clippings to ensure Flores would receive the honor he so profoundly deserved.

“I am convinced that William Flores saved my life by his selfless act that night,” said Ryan. “That quiet young man that I was impressed with from the first time I met him will forever be a hero in my eyes. I have never forgotten him and never will. It is a fitting tribute to his heroism that a cutter will bear his name.”

Coast Guard Heroes: Richard Etheridge

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young
With contributions from LTJG Ryan White

This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, braved gunfire in times of war and rescued those in peril at sea. As Coast Guard heroes, their stories are a constant reminder of our service’s legacy. As the namesake of the Coast Guard’s newest patrol boats, they will inspire the next generation of Coast Guard heroes.

Captain Richard Etheridge was the first African-American to command a Life-Saving station when he was appointed as keeper of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station on January 24, 1880. First Lieutenant Charles Shoemaker, a Revenue Cutter Service officer who recommended his appointment as keeper, noted Etheridge was “one of the best surfmen on this part of the coast of North Carolina,” and on October 11, 1896, Etheridge led his crew on a daring rescue that serves as a testament to his exemplary skills as a leader and a surfman.

The three-masted schooner, E.S. Newman, was caught in a powerful storm off the eastern coast of the United States. The storm, so severe that Etheridge had suspended beach patrols that day, blew E.S. Newman 100 miles off course and grounded the schooner two miles south of the Pea Island station.

After a distress flare was sighted, Etheridge launched a surfboat into the forceful waves and currents. The crew struggled to make their way to the schooner, and when they finally arrived they found they could not reach the vessel because it was not on dry land. Etheridge, seeing no room for failure, tied two of his strongest surfmen together and connected them to shore by a long line. The surfmen fought their way through the breaking waves as they went from the schooner to dry land ten times and rescued the entire crew of the E.S. Newman.

For the rescue of all souls aboard E.S. Newman the Coast Guard awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal to the Pea Island crew. Countless other heroic acts were performed by Etheridge and his men and his dedication to being a lifesaver was unyielding as he served for more than 20 years until his death on May 8, 1900.

A special place in the Coast Guard’s history

The Pea Island Lifesaving Station, or “Station 17,” was the site of many dramatic rescues. Together, the African American crew at Station 17, including Benjamin Bowser, Louis Wescott, William Irving, George Pruden, Maxie Berry and Herbert Collins, under the leadership of Etheridge, rescued sailors in the tumultuous waters along the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Allan Smith, producer of “Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Surfmen” described the work ethic of these men: “In researching for the film, the one thing that stood out is that no matter what, you have a job to do. The job you have is probably important or it wouldn’t exist. And they did, what they did, to the best of their ability and this is something that we can all learn from.”

The station was “disestablished” on March 18, 1947 after nearly 70 years under an all African American crew and is credited as one of the earliest drivers of diversity across the naval services.

“Etheridge was the ideal of what we mean when we use the word, ‘American.’ He had honor and a sense of right,” said Smith.