Military News

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Face of Defense: Band Strikes Music Industry Chord

By Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Nov. 10, 2010 – When the band American Attitude formed four years ago, the members just wanted to fill some empty seats at their noncommissioned officers club on drill weekends.

The Guardsmen from the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing thought their hard-rock cover band would provide some much-needed entertainment at the Jacksonville F-15 base, and with the base commander’s permission, they started playing at unit parties and events.

Now, after a few years of also playing local bars and charity events in northeastern Florida, American Attitude officially has broken into the music industry. The band landed a recording deal, is writing original material and is playing in Las Vegas.

American Attitude members Master Sgt. Shawn Watchorn on guitar, Master Sgt. Marc Myers on drums and Tech. Sgt. Chris Henderson on vocals are full-time Guardsman at the 125th. Navy Reserve Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Smithers on bass completes the hard-rocking quartet during its shows.

Smithers, who joined the band after the original bass player left, described the group’s style and stage presence as a spontaneous blend of “feel-good, high-energy music” that is difficult to categorize.

“It’s a combination of metal, rock, funk and punk,” he explained. “It’s really just a fusion thing. … We say it’s a hard rock base, but we incorporate so many different flavors of music. If it rocks, we’ll play it.”

The band started gaining attention this year after Watchorn posted some of its original music online at GIJams.com. The site – dedicated to promoting military musicians – was the brainchild of legendary songwriter Denny Randell, and featured American Attitude as well as other bands from across the country. Watchorn said he didn’t think anything would really come of it, but about a month later, he got a phone call from Randell himself.

“He called us up and said he loved our music and the fact we were all military members,” Watchorn said. “He liked that we were creating our own music and juggling our music with our jobs and families.”

When Randell asked if American Attitude was interested in signing with his new record label called “GI Jams” and being featured on a forthcoming compilation album of military artists, the band jumped at the opportunity. As part of the deal, American Attitude signed to play a Veterans Day concert in Las Vegas, and is looking at a possible tour for the label next year.

“We never imagined it would get to this level,” Watchorn admitted.

While they still practice regularly in Myers’ cramped and crowded garage, the band members have moved beyond just performing cover songs and are making their mark with original American Attitude songs.

The members spend weeks writing original material, with Watchorn sketching out the rough structure of the songs and vocalist Henderson putting the lyrics together. A few jam sessions later, they have a song ready to try out on their audience.

“I don’t know if other bands do it that way, but it just works really well for us,” Smithers said.

While their material runs the gamut from mellow to upbeat party songs, one piece – “Redemption” – tackles the serious issue of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When I wrote the lyrics for 'Redemption,' I thought that PTSD was something that really needs to be brought to the forefront more,” Henderson said. “I had been reading some articles and listening to interviews about how it has been kind of ignored or almost shunned. You can get a broken arm mended, but if you have some sort of psychological trauma, [some people think] you have to just suck it up and not even bring it up. We need to change the way people look at it.”

Now that they have a record deal, the band members are focusing more on original material than ever before, and Watchorn said they see any performances as an opportunity to promote the National Guard and military service.

“Every time we’re out, we still put an American flag on the stage and tell everyone about the Guard and the military,” he said. “We always give a shout-out to the members of the armed forces, past and present. We’re a sailor and airmen all the time, so we project that out in public, too.”

USS Olympia Visits Yokosuka

By Lt. Lara Bollinger, Commander Submarine Group 7 Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Fleet Activities Yokosuka Nov. 5, for a visit as part of its deployment to the Western Pacific.

With a crew of approximately 155, Olympia will conduct a multitude of missions and showcase the latest capabilities of the submarine fleet.

"USS Olympia is a mulit-mission capable warship with an outstanding crew enthusiastically conducting deployed operations," said Cmdr. Michael R. Coughlin, USS Olympia commanding officer.

Olympia is capable of sustained high-speed operations in direct support to the carrier task forces of the United States Navy as well as independent operations of critical importance to national security.

"The crew has worked very hard on this deployment, contributing to our many operational and material successes," said Master Chief Machinist's Mate James A. Weber, USS Olympia chief of the boat. "Yokosuka is our first port visit in more than a month, and the crew has earned the opportunity to enjoy liberty in Japan."

For many of the crew members, this is their first time visiting Japan.

"My father served here with the Navy in the early 70's, so I am looking forward to seeing all of the same great places and sights that he has told me so much about," said Logistics Specialist 3rd Class David Lee.

Measuring more than 360 feet long and weighing more than 6,900 tons when submerged, Olympia is one of the quietest submarines in the world. This submarine is capable of supporting a multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, intelligence, and surveillance and reconnaissance.

Olympia is home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Miami Dolphin Cheerleaders, Players Visit PCU Jason Dunham Crew

By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (NNS) -- Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad members and football players visited Sailors aboard the Navy's newest Arleigh Burke class destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Jason Dunham (DDG 109) in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Nov. 9th.

"The girls enjoy so much to come out here to entertain our service members," said Emily Newton, cheerleading squad director and choreographer. "The young men and women in the military put in time and hard work, and for us to come out here and put on a show is the least we can do for them."

The eight cheerleaders started the event by performing several routines on the flight deck for the crew.

"This is definitely a positive thing and a big morale booster," said Cryptologic Technician (Collection)(SS) Joshua Thompson. "We have been working hard in preparation for the ships commissioning, and to see these beautiful woman out here, showing their support is something I'll never forget."

Crew members lined the flight decks for autographed photos and photo opportunities with their favorite cheerleader.

"It's really incredible what service members do," said Lilly, Miami Dolphins cheerleader. "Most people don't get the opportunity to go on a Navy vessel, and we appreciate everything they do. It takes so much teamwork, and we understand because we are a team as well."

The cheerleaders were given a tour of the ship, taking them from the Combat Information Center to the bridge.

"I love everything about this ship from the flight deck to the bridge," said Lilly. "It's truly amazing to see how these ships work."

During the ship's port visit, the crew will contribute 300 hours of community service by taking part in numerous community outreach programs such as Habitat for Humanity and assisting three local schools.

"The crew of the Jason Dunham are working hard in preparing for the commissioning of this fine ship," said Cmdr. Scott Sciretta, PCU Jason Dunham commanding officer. "To have the Dolphin cheerleaders and players come out and meet the Sailors, is pretty amazing."

Cpl. Jason Dunham was the first Marine to be awarded with the Medal of Honor during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first Marine to receive the medal since the Vietnam War. The ship will be officially commissioned Nov. 13 during a ceremony at Port Everglades, Fla.

The Art of War

By Jennifer Gavin

This is a guest post by Sarah Rouse, a volunteer in the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

“War experience just hypnotizes young men.” So said Victor Lundy, a World War II veteran who recorded many of his war memories through his sketchbooks, now donated to the Library of Congress.

I interviewed Lundy for the Library’s Veterans History Project, and his drawings — and memories — are worth a visit on Veterans’ Day 2010.

“I never listened, I was busy sketching,” said Lundy.  And could he sketch! The gentle portrait of Finey Towery in France really caught my attention.  Staff Sgt. Towery hailed from Kentucky, and Lundy still recalls the song Towery often sang: “In the Pines.”

Lundy was in college, studying architecture, when he enlisted in a special Army engineering unit during World War II.  He ended up instead at a boot camp in South Carolina, in 1944.

He’d use a pocket-sized pad to portray the daily routines in the PX, scenes of men dozing, and training sessions.  He sketched while his ship crossed the Atlantic — the drawing “Goodbye Broadway, Hello France” captures the excitement.  He sketched his unit landing at Cherbourg on Sept. 7 — the first big convoy in Normandy since D-Day on June 6.  “I realized we were part of a very significant occasion,” he said.  Lundy recorded French farmhouses and villages, battle scenes, Allied planes, and casualties he witnessed while serving as a squad leader.

After the war, Lundy became a noted architect.  His sketchbooks and the oral history he offered show a serious young man’s coming of age, from college kid to seasoned soldier in a world war.

Coast Guard Heroes: Richard Dixon

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.

A series of unfortunate storms swept across the Pacific Northwest on Fourth of July weekend 1980 and could have ended in disaster, but instead showed the limitless potential of human intrepidness.

First Class Boatswain’s Mate Richard Dixon had just started his watch at Station Tillamook Bay when a report came in of the Fantasy Isle, a 58-foot trawler-yacht, seeking shelter from the dangerous storm conditions in the region.

The Fantasy Isle, with five people aboard, would have to pass between two stone jetties about 400 yards apart to enter the bay and find relief from the storms. This was no easy task, as the storms produced breaking seas that covered the entire bar for miles.

Dixon served as coxswain for one of the motor lifeboats sent out to escort the Fantasy Isle across the bar and ordered his three crewmen to strap in as he throttled forward into the heavy seas. When the crews arrived at the bar, they realized it would not be safe for the yacht to pass but, after continual beatings by the howling winds outside the bay, the captain of the Fantasy Isle saw no other choice but to make the crossing.

Conditions along the Tillamook bar were worsening with 30-foot seas and 70-knot winds as Dixon placed his 44-foot motor lifeboat on the left side, behind the yacht, while the coxswain of the other motor lifeboat situated himself on the right. Together, they would position themselves to provide a “window” for the yacht to get through the bar by their two motor lifeboats absorbing the energy of the waves.

This was an extremely dangerous maneuver for both lifeboats, as the full force of each breaking wave would smash itself into the crews. Together, Dixon and the coxswain of the other vessel repeatedly used their lifeboats to shield the yacht, taking breaker after breaker for forty minutes, until the yacht had safely passed through the bar and found shelter in the bay.

The Fantasy Isle rescue was noteworthy on its own but Dixon was not done performing heroic acts that weekend. Just a day later, on July 4, a report of two people in the water came in.

A recreational boat was speeding around the North Jetty of the bay when they turned directly into 18-foot breaking seas. There were four people aboard the boat, and two went crashing through the boat’s windshield as the vessel started to capsize.

Dixon and his crew were out patrolling the bay, and changed course to recover the four boaters. Dixon, again as coxswain, had to rely on his boat driving skills to maneuver within 50 feet of the jetty rocks in order to pull the persons in the water aboard.

As the seas broke over them and the blue waves turned to white foam, Dixon and his crew rescued all four persons from the jetty’s rocks and violent waters.

A special place in the Coast Guard’s history

Al Shepherd was a shipmate of Dixon’s while they were both stationed as First Class Petty Officers aboard CGC Cape Wash. They became close friends immediately, and Shepherd recalls how Dixon’s commitment to serve others was always present.

“Rick exhibited natural leadership characteristics coupled with superior ability and genuine warmth,” said Shepherd. “Rick was a man of great outward courage and inner strength who lived idealistically in such a natural way that people were drawn to him. They wanted to be like him and to share in what he was doing.”

Throughout the Coast Guard’s history, coxswains and their crews have performed heroic acts centered on Dixon’s same commitment. Dixon’s bravery, which was second nature, earned him two Coast Guard Medals. Coast Guard award rules dictate that only those who, “performed a rescue or attempted rescue at the risk of his or her own life, and demonstrates extreme and heroic daring” should receive this honor – something Dixon did twice in one weekend.

“The Coast Guard and Rick Dixon share a common history which is rich in service to mankind, free from self interest or self preservation,” said Shepherd. “It is very fitting, and makes me swell with pride that Rick’s heroic deeds and valiant spirit will live on in time.”

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, November 11, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will attend a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery at

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