Military News

Monday, November 29, 2010

Native Americans and the United States Coast Guard

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young

In recognition of Native American Heritage Day, we have asked William H. Thiesen, Ph.D. the United States Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian to provide some history on Native Americans who have served with pride and distinction in the United States Coast Guard and its predecessor services.

Minorities have participated in the U.S. Coast Guard since the service’s beginning in 1790 and have served throughout the history of the Coast Guard and its predecessor services. Since the nineteenth century, Native American members of the U. S. Coast Guard have served from a variety of tribes and locations and pioneered the way ahead for service diversity.

It is not known who the first Native American individual to enlist in the Coast Guard was, but, as a group, the first Native Americans that served typically came from coastal tribes known to be expert watermen. These tribes included the Wampanoags in Massachusetts, Ojibwa in the Great Lakes and the Makah tribe in Washington State. Native Americans from these tribes typically served at shore bases in predecessor services such as the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

An example of one of the earliest documented Native American involvements in the service occurred in 1879 at the Life-Saving Service station at Neah Bay, Washington. Neah Bay was composed of a white keeper and an entirely Native American crew. The crewmembers included skilled surfmen, such as As-Chik-Abik, Tsos-et-oos, and Tsa-la-boos. This unit was the first one in federal service composed primarily of Native Americans and it was formed not long after Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn, when anti-Native American sentiment ran high.

From 1912 until 1933, Charles Vanderhoop, of the Aquinnah Wampanoags, served in the U.S. Lighthouse Service as a keeper for lighthouses on the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. As keeper, Vanderhoop would hire other Wampanoag tribal members as assistants because they proved more reliable and hardworking. Vanderhoop was very popular as the long-serving keeper at Gay Head Lighthouse, and visitors from the community flocked to the lighthouse where he gave tours to approximately 300,000 visitors.

Native American Coast Guard personnel have also served with distinction in time of war. Wampanoag Carlton West, of Nantucket, served in World War I and World War II. George “White Bear” Drapeaux, of the Sioux Nation, served as a gunners mate during World War II, including service on the USS Wakefield in Singapore. And, in 1943, James Leftwich, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, enlisted in the Coast Guard at the ripe age of fourteen. He retired as an officer in 1964 after a fruitful career in the service.

Native Americans in the United States Coast Guard have served from a variety of Indian nations, including not only coastal tribes, but the Sioux, Cherokee, Chickasaw and many others. These personnel pioneered the way ahead for minorities in the Coast Guard and their efforts have benefitted all who serve in the U.S. military and their efforts have benefitted all who serve in the U.S. military and federal government, and the nation as a whole.

Exercises in Korea Long-planned, Sharp Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27, 2010 – Movements of troops in South Korea and ships in the Yellow Sea are part of long-planned exercises and shouldn’t be seen as a response to North Korea’s Nov. 23 attack on Yeonpyeong Island, the commander of United Nations Command said today.

“Media rhetoric from North Korea, along with images of [South Korean] forces moving on the peninsula may give you a misperception of efforts on the peninsula,” Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp said in a community message aimed at Americans living and serving in Korea.

South Korean forces are participating in the previously planned annual Hoguk exercise. The exercises, announced Nov. 16, feature movements of some 70,000 South Korean soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

“The USS George Washington will also participate in a previously planned, combined, training exercise,” Sharp said in his message. Neither Hoguk nor the George Washington carrier battle group exercise is in response to Tuesday’s attack that killed four people on the island.

South Korean and U.S. forces hold exercises year-round to improve readiness and to ensure a peaceful and safe environment on the peninsula, he said.

Sharp visited Yeongpyeong Island yesterday to assess the damage the unprovoked artillery barrage caused. Analysts are calling the attack one of the most serious since the Korean War Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953. The attack killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Combined Forces Command Deputy Commander Gen. Jung Seung-Jo, members of the Swiss and Swedish Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, and members of the UNC Military Armistice Commission accompanied Sharp to the island.

During the visit, the general called on North Korea to refrain from additional attacks and provocative actions, and meet with United Nations Command officials immediately in the truce village of Panmunjom for general officer talks to discuss the incident.

Veterans’ Reflections: Putting Personal Comforts Aside

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2010 – Like a lot of people at that stage of their lives, Lisa Reed wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in the late 1990s. After a year of ambiguity in community college, she said, she saw opportunity in the Air Force and enlisted in 1999.

Training was a bit of a shock, she admitted. Initially, she said, she was overwhelmed. As a woman, she found herself in a small minority at basic training. But that feeling subsided, she added, as she became close with her fellow servicemembers.

“At first, it was very obvious,” she said. “All of a sudden, [the women] were completely outnumbered. As time went by, it became less noticeable.” At one point, she was assigned to an F-15C squadron with 30 male fighter pilots.

People certainly can face gender problems in the service, Reed said, but on the whole, it’s like a family, and military camaraderie should not be taken lightly.

It’s hard to find that kind of friendship in the civilian world, she said, adding that the closeness people experience working together in the military is far beyond a normal co-worker relationship.

“I looked at my male co-workers as family members,” she said, “and my female co-workers as my sisters.”

In August 2001, Reed was sent to Kuwait. She did intelligence work for a fighter squadron watching the no-fly zone over Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch. A month into her deployment, her mission changed drastically.

None of her military training, she said, had equipped her for the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It was hard, seeing something like that happen to your country, your friends, your family, while you’re in a foreign country,” she said. “You feel helpless. Even though there wasn’t anything anybody could do, there’s still a feeling like you can’t do anything to help. It’s surreal.”

The no-fly zone took second chair. Operation Southern Watch was set aside for Operation Enduring Freedom. Reed’s job was to compile and deliver messages to her commander. She primarily dealt with threats pilots could face in the air.

“Basically, I would go through terrorism-related message traffic and report to the base commander in the war room about possible threats,” she said.

Both of her parents had served in the Air Force, Reed said, so she was accustomed to the military lifestyle. In fact, she said, she wanted the travel opportunities the military would provide her. Since she left the service in 2003, she has traveled in India and Tibet as well as across the United States.

“Whenever you travel to a different place, it sets a specific chapter in your life,” she said. “It makes that time in your life, the people you meet there, and the things that happen very memorable.”

Her time in service is memorable, she said, because of the events that happened while she was in uniform, and because of the value she places on her service.

“Being a veteran means you’ve given up part of your life and the comforts of ‘normal’ life for your country, and for the people you serve with,” Reed said. “You put your personal comforts aside for a few years. It says a lot about someone’s character, that they can put their life in someone else’s hands and work in a team setting with them.”

(“Veterans’ Reflections” is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veterans Day.)

Winston S. Churchill Sailor Receives Thanksgiving Call from Commander in Chief

By Lt. j.g. Colleen R. Praxmarer, Destroyer Squadron Two Six Public Affairs Officer

USS Winston S. Churchill, At Sea (NNS) -- President Barack Obama surprised one exceptional Sailor aboard guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) with a Thanksgiving Day phone call.

President Obama called Ship Serviceman Seaman Tabatha Figueroa to thank her for her role in Winston S. Churchill's rescue of 62 stranded mariners in the Gulf of Aden Sept. 26.

"You are doing wonderful things," Obama said. "I heard what you did on the day of the rescue at sea and I am very proud of you."

Figueroa was recommended to receive the President's phone call by U.S. 5th Fleet Force Master Chief Charles Clarke after she received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for helping to resuscitate one of the mariners who had fallen in the water after their distressed vessel capsized.

"When it looked as if all hope was gone, Seaman Figueroa refused to quit [CPR]," said Churchill Command Master Chief James Reckhouse. "Because of her actions, the young man's life was saved."

The President spoke with the Torrance, Ca. Sailor for a few minutes, thanking her for her service and for being away from her family on Thanksgiving.

The President also passed along a "Happy Thanksgiving" to Figueroa's mother, brother and her fellow crew members aboard Winston S. Churchill.

"When I was younger and my dad passed away, my mother told me that God had amazing experiences in store for me but I never thought that speaking to the President would be one of them," Figueroa said. "He took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to an E-3, which is phenomenal, especially on Thanksgiving. It meant the world to me and I am very grateful that I was chosen to receive the phone call."

The phone call from the President was another highlight in a successful deployment for Winston S. Churchill which has conducted counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, provided escort duties to U.S. and coalition vessels operating in the region, and conducted maritime security operations in the North Arabian Sea and Arabian Gulf.

"It was an unbelievable experience! I could not be any prouder than I am to have Seaman Figueroa represent our crew as she spoke to the President," said Cmdr. Juan Orozco, Commanding Officer of Winston S. Churchill. "It is fantastic to see such a great young Sailor be recognized by President Obama."

Winston S. Churchill is currently on a routine scheduled deployment as a part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.