Military News

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wisconsin Army National Guard names new chief of staff

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Col. Kenneth Koon of Waunakee, a 28-year veteran of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, was named chief of staff for that organization on Monday (Nov. 15).
In his new duty, Koon will serve as the chief advisor and principal assistant to the Assistant Adjutant General - Army, also the commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He will be responsible for directing, supervising, training and coordinating the staff, as well as assisting the assistant adjutant general - Army in deploying and coordinating programs, policies and plans affecting the more than 8,000 members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

"Col. Koon, along with all the officers who interviewed for this critical assignment, presented the selection board with a difficult task as each officer brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to the organization," said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "We are very lucky to have such a deep bench of absolutely quality officers committed to excellence and Soldier well-being."

Koon replaces Col. Kevin Greenwood, who is retiring as chief of staff following 28 years in the military.

Koon recently completed a term as commander of the 426th Regional Training Institute at the Wisconsin National Guard's Military Academy at Fort McCoy, overseeing a dramatic expansion of field artillery and other military courses. He also recently served as director of manpower and personnel for the Wisconsin National Guard's joint staff.
Koon enlisted in the Army in 1977, and served as a military policeman at Fort Sill, Okla., and in Germany. After leaving the active duty, he joined the 84th Division of the Army Reserve and was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1982. He began his career in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in May 1982 as a support platoon leader in the headquarters company of the 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry Regiment. He continued to serve in command and staff assignments of increasing scope and responsibility with the 32nd Infantry Brigade, State Area Command and Joint Force Headquarters.

Koon deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007-08 as commander of Forward Operating Base Grizzly and Camp Ashraf, Iraq.

He is a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8483, a member of American Legion Post 812, and a member of the 2-127th Infantry Association. He also holds life memberships in the National Guard Association of the United States, the Wisconsin National Guard Association and the 32nd Division Association.

Koon lives in Waunakee with his wife, Lt. Col. (retired) Luanne J. Sleger Koon, and twin sons Jacob and Jonah.

Navy Commemorates 50th Anniversary Of First SSBN Deterrent Patrol

By Lt. Ed Early, Commander, Submarine Group 9 Public Affairs

BANGOR, Wash. (NNS) -- When the ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN 598) departed Charleston, S.C., 50 years ago, it marked the beginning of a new era in strategic deterrence.

On Nov. 15, 1960, the "Georgefish" – a converted attack submarine – began the U.S. Navy's first SSBN deterrent patrol. With her stealth capability and the 16 Polaris missiles she carried, the George Washington provided the United States with a forward presence unprecedented in naval history.

As the Navy celebrates the golden anniversary of the George Washington's historic deployment, the ballistic missile submarine remains a key component of our nation's strategic deterrent. Today, the Navy employs 14 Ohio-class Trident SSBNs in its deterrent force – eight at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Wash., and six at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga.

"USS George Washington revolutionized the way we conduct both submarine warfare and strategic deterrence," said Rear Adm. Bob Hennegan, Commander, Submarine Group 9. "The legacy of that first patrol is the strong, capable deterrent force you see in today's Navy."

Commissioned on Dec. 30, 1959, the George Washington was originally laid down in 1957 as the Skipjack-class attack submarine Scorpion (SSN 589). However, the decision was made to add a 130-foot section behind the sail that would carry 16 Polaris A1 missiles, resulting in the world's first ballistic missile submarine.

Following her commissioning, George Washington would successfully carry out the first submerged Polaris launch on July 20, 1960 at the Atlantic Missile Test Range, launching two missiles. Later that year, she left her homeport of Groton, Conn., for Charleston to load her full complement of Polaris missiles.

Cmdr. James Osborn Jr. and his Blue Crew took George Washington out of Charleston on Nov. 15 to begin her historic first patrol, which concluded Jan. 21, 1961 at New London, Conn., after 66 days submerged. George Washington's Gold Crew followed with its first patrol from February-April 1961.

George Washington was the first of the "41 For Freedom" – the Navy's first 41 ballistic missile submarines. Together, they paved the way for future Polaris, Poseidon and Trident submarines that continue to maintain the nation's strategic deterrent today.

Cambodian-American Navy Officer to Return to Birth Country after 37 Years

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brock A. Taylor, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- He has visited dozens of ports over the course of his Navy career, but none has ever evoked the emotions that will come when his ship USS Mustin (DDG 89), visits Cambodia in December.

The port visit will mark the first time in 37 years that Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misihas returned to the land of his birth.

As a young Cambodian boy born and living in the rice fields outside of the capital Phnom Penh in the late 1960's/early 1970's, Misiewicz – whose birth name was Vannak Khem -- was not aware of the political tension building up around him. When his country plunged into turmoil, his family reluctantly gave him up for adoption to a young American woman who worked at the U.S. Embassy, allowing him to escape before the Khmer Rouge regime took over the country, eventually causing millions of deaths in what is known as the "Killing Fields."

"I know it's going to be very emotional," said Misiewicz. "I was the lucky one in the family."

Raised by his adoptive mother, Misiewicz enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school in Lanark, Ill. He was selected for the Navy's Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program, and attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received his commission in 1992.

His service as a Navy surface warfare officer ultimately brought him to command the guided missile destroyer USS Mustin, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.

As commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, Misiewicz and the more than 300 Sailors under his charge will conduct community service projects and interact with the Cambodian Navy.

USS Mustin's port call comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit earlier this month, and the first-ever Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise with Cambodia.

"It brings a lot of happiness to see my country – the United States – establishing a positive relationship with the country of my heritage," Misiewicz said. "America is truly the land of opportunity. It's the one country on earth where you start from the rice fields of a war-torn country and rise to command a U.S. Navy destroyer. It doesn't get any better."

For more than 16 years, after moving to the U.S. in 1973, Misiewicz did not know what happened to his family in Cambodia.

"As a child I would cry almost every night, thinking about my family and what had happened to them," Misiewicz said. "I had no idea at that point in my life whether they had survived the Killing Fields or not. Quite honestly, it was less painful as I got older to not think about it."

While Misiewicz was pursuing his naval career, he did not know that his surviving Cambodian family had immigrated to the U.S. and was looking for him.

Sponsored by an American family and church, his surviving siblings and birth mother moved to Austin, Texas, in 1984. With the help of a college student, they started researching Misiewicz's footsteps, and in 1989 they were reunited. But he also learned the devastating news that his father had been executed by the Khmer Rouge in 1977.

Misiewicz says the most emotional part of returning to Cambodia will be reuniting with his living blood relatives, especially an aunt who played a large part in his adoption, and an uncle who hoped for a better life for Misiewicz.

As a child, Misiewicz was very close to his aunt and often accompanied her at work as a maid for the American woman who later became his adoptive mother.

"My aunt got sick, so some arrangements were made between my adopted mom, my dad and my aunt to find a better life for one of us children, and my adopted mom found a liking toward me," Misiewicz said.

While his aunt carried out her cleaning duties, Misiewicz's future mother would let him watch movies and play games at her home. So in 1973, when she was scheduled to leave Phnom Penh, the only way she could bring the little boy she had grown fond of was to adopt him.

"I went [to the U.S] and I think the initial thought was for me to get a better education, live a better life and eventually return to Cambodia," Misiewicz said.

Misiewicz was very young when he immigrated to the U.S. After arriving in Alexandria, Va., in April 1973, his adoptive mother, Maryna Lee Misiewicz, who raised him as a single parent, enrolled him into the 1st grade the following fall. Misiewicz received extra English tutoring for the next three years and eventually continued his education in Lanark, Ill., which was his mother's hometown.

"Lanark was and still is a population of 1,500, and I think I was the only non-caucasian at my school," Misiewicz said.

Nearly four decades later, Misiewicz believes the Navy has given him an incredible amount of opportunities that he would have never experienced had he remained in Cambodia. Although his ship's upcoming visit has tremendous emotions attached for Misiewicz, he is also focused on his mission as Mustin's commanding officer and hopes his background will help accomplish it successfully.

"I really feel privileged and blessed to be able to return with this crew to where I was born and to do so with the ability to promote American goodwill and share with Cambodians the success stories, not only mine, but a lot of success stories within our crew," he said.

Misiewicz is not the only commanding officer of a forward deployed ship to visit his birth country in a U.S. Seventh Fleet ship.

Korean-American Cmdr. Jeffrey Kim, USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) commanding officer, took command of his ship in a ceremony held at Busan, Republic of Korea, in May 2009.

In November 2009, Vietnamese-American Cmdr. H.B. Le, USS Lassen (DDG 82) commanding officer, made a port call to Da Nang, Vietnam, as the first Vietnamese-born American citizen to command a U.S. warship and visit the country. He escaped with his family from Vietnam near the end of the war in 1975.

Misiewicz says he is proud of his background and even more proud that the growth of diversity in the Navy has given him and others a chance to excel in life.

"When you think about all the things that could've gone wrong, I think I'm truly blessed to have so many opportunities and certainly the different miracles that have occurred just for me to reunite with my family."