Sunday, December 05, 2010

Commandant’s Testimony on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Written by: CDR Glynn Smith

Earlier today, I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with my fellow Service Chiefs.  The purpose of the hearing was to allow the Committee to collect the Services’ views on the findings of the Report examining the impacts of repealing the law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – which bans gay and lesbian Americans from openly serving in the armed forces.

First and foremost, I want to let all of you know how proud I am of Coast Guard men and women, whose strong survey response rate helped inform the Report.  Our active duty response rate was 54%; our Reserve response rate was 39%; and our spouse response rate was also 39% – which demonstrates your understanding of the importance of this issue.

During my opening statement, I said to the committee, “I concur with the Report’s recommendations on how to implement repeal of the current law.  Allowing gay and lesbian Americans to serve in the Coast Guard openly will remove a significant barrier to those Coast Guardsmen who are capably serving, but who have been forced to hide or even lie about their sexual orientation.  Forcing these Coast Guardsmen to compromise our core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty to continue to serve is a choice they should not have to make.”

I realize, however, as with any controversial issue, that there are a wide range of viewpoints.  I also know that should Congress repeal the law, implementation will pose challenges – including challenges specific to units and localities.  Therefore, I told the Congress that if they repeal the law, we will need to proceed with caution, and ensure we fashion an implementation strategy that takes into account the attitudes that may relate to how our personnel at varying commands, and within varying communities, live and serve.

The bottom line is that if Congress repeals Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I have absolute confidence that our officers, chiefs, and senior petty officers will provide the leadership to successfully implement this change.  Similarly, as I told the Congress, I do not harbor the slightest hesitation that Coast Guard men and women will be up to the task.  You prove every day that you are among America’s very best.  I have unshakable confidence in you, and your ability to professionally and effectively implement any change ordered by Congress.

I recommend everyone review the available information on this important issue.  My written testimony is available here, video of today’s hearing is available here, and the report is available here.

Semper Paratus,
Admiral Bob Papp

Navy Band Northwest Kicks Off Holiday Season

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardel Gervacio, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Detachment Northwest Public Affairs

OAK HARBOR, Wash (NNS) -- More than 500 people attended a free holiday concert by the Navy Band Northwest at Oak Harbor High School Performing Arts Center, Dec. 1.

The concert was titled "A Salute to the Season" where spectators enjoyed musical tunes ranging from holiday music, country, jazz, traditional, classical and opera.

The performance was a chance for the band to show their appreciation and continued support between the U.S. Navy and the local community.

"Tonight, Navy Band Northwest is presenting a holiday concert for the citizens of Oak Harbor as well as Whidbey Island in general," said Lt. Patrick K. Sweeten, director of Navy Band Northwest. "It's an annual concert that we look forward to and it's our opportunity to give back to the community."

The mission of Navy Band Northwest is to provide musical support for official Navy functions and Navy recruiting efforts, and to serve the communities of the Pacific Northwest in a public relations capacity.

"The holiday concert performances that we play around the states are really a chance for us to bring the spirit of the holidays to the entire region," said Musician 3rd Class Derek Brainard of New York. "People come out in masses every year to celebrate the holidays with us and it a fun way to kick off the season and get into the spirit of Christmas."

Through the years, Navy Band Northwest has built a reputation for quality musical performances. The 35 rated musicians are called upon to perform in various musical units including the Ceremonial/Parade Band, Big Band/Fleet Jazz Ensemble, Contemporary Entertainment Ensemble, Brass Quintet, and Jazz Combo.

Navy Band Northwest performs over 480 engagements each year, including military and civic ceremonies, dances, school clinics, parades, and public concerts.

"The turnout of the crowd was fantastic. The attendance was greater than last year and we get that support from Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island every year we come out here and at the same time the concerts gets bigger every year," said Brainard. "It was phenomenal to see everyone come out tonight, the crowd were really responsive. It was great to see and hear their reaction."

The concert, which lasted an hour and a half ended with a Christmas sing-a-long and a surprise appearance from Santa Claus who passed out candies to the kids and interacted with the crowd.

"This concert was fabulous and it was the best we had, great music, good acoustics, multi-talented musicians, they were able to play a variety of instruments, putting a new twist on familiar Christmas songs and I loved every minute of it," said Dr. Rick Schulte, superintendent of Oak Harbor School District No. 201.

Among the crowd who enjoyed the concert was retired Master Chief Radioman Richard Scoble of Coupeville, Wash.

"I came here tonight with my wife and a few of our friends and we really enjoyed the Navy Band performance. It was worth the trip here and we all enjoyed the evening," said Scoble.

Obama: Servicemembers Prove America’s Best Days Lie Ahead

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2010 – The bravery, resolve, expertise and commitment of American servicemembers proves that America’s best days lie ahead, President Barack Obama said at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan today.

Obama thanked American servicemembers and civilians for their sacrifices during a visit to the headquarters of Regional Command East. The command, built around the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, is responsible for some of the toughest territory in Afghanistan.

Obama arrived at Bagram and met with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry. The president visited the Bagram hospital and awarded five Purple Heart medals to wounded servicemembers there. He then met with a platoon of 101st Airborne troopers who lost six soldiers Nov. 29 when an Afghan Border Police trainee opened fire on them.

Obama spoke to more than 3,500 servicemembers in a hangar at the base. He thanked them for their service and said they are part of an unbroken line of Americans “who have given up your comfort, your ease, your convenience, for America's security.”

The president traced the sacrifices of previous generations of Americans who’d also found themselves serving in war during a season of peace.

“They did it for the same reason that all of you do,” Obama said. “Because the freedom and the liberty that we treasure, that’s not simply a birthright. It has to be earned by the sacrifices of generations -- generations of patriots, men and women, who step forward and say, ‘Send me.’”

A year ago, the president ordered a surge of 30,000 more American troops into Afghanistan. Some 95,000 U.S. servicemembers and thousands of American civilians now serve in Afghanistan.

“Thanks to your service, we are making important progress,” the president said. “You are protecting your country. You are achieving your objectives. You will succeed in your mission.”

The NATO effort has halted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, the president said, as NATO and Afghan government forces have reclaimed and held large swaths of the nation. “You're going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds,” he said.

Obama told the servicemembers and civilians they can be proud that because of their efforts and sacrifices, Afghanistan today has a more hopeful future.

Progress is slow, the president acknowledged, and has come at a high price.

“So many of you have stood before the solemn battle cross -– the display of boots, a rifle, a helmet -– and said goodbye to a fallen comrade,” Obama said. “This year alone, nearly a hundred members of the 101st have given their last full measure of devotion. There are few days when I don't sign a letter to a military family expressing our nation's gratitude and grief at their profound sacrifice.”

Obama said the servicemembers in America’s military come from every conceivable background and unite to serve a greater cause. “Through your service, you demonstrate the content of the American character,” he said. “Some people ask whether America's best days lie ahead or whether our greatness stretches back behind us in the stories of those who’ve gone before.

“When I look out at all of you, I know the answer to that. You give me hope,” he continued. “You give me inspiration. Your resolve shows that Americans will never succumb to fear. Your selfless service shows who we are, who we always will be, united as one people and united as one nation, for you embody and stand up for the values that make us what we are as a people.”

He said the United States of America is not defined by borders, but by a common creed eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

That creed, Obama told the servicemembers, is what Americans have fought for through history and are fighting for in Afghanistan.

“And that belief is more powerful than any adversary,” he said.

History – Milestones of the U.S. Life-Saving Service

Written by: LT Connie Braesch
Post Written by William H. Thiesen, Ph.D., Atlantic Area Historian

Coast Guard history has been shaped in no small part by the nation’s response to natural and man-made disasters. Nowhere is that lesson clearer than in the evolution of the service’s search and rescue mission. Interestingly, many milestones in the history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service took place in the month of December. This was due in part to the heavy loss of life resulting from severe weather experienced during the autumn and early winter.

A series of marine accidents that befell the East Coast beginning in 1837 highlighted the need for a formal search and rescue organization. That year, the Barque Mexico came ashore near New York Harbor with the loss of over 100 passengers and crew. This tragedy is what led Congress to recognize the need for government assistance to vessels in distress. On December 22, Congress passed legislation assigning naval vessels and, later, Revenue Cutter Service vessels the responsibility for patrolling during severe weather and aiding ships in distress.

Two major maritime disasters in 1854 led Congress to enact one of the most sweeping bills in the history of the Life-Saving Service. In April, more than two hundred lives were lost when the Powhattan wrecked off the New Jersey shore and, in November, nearly 220 lives were lost when the New Era also came ashore. These incidents demonstrated flaws in earlier lifesaving legislation – legislation which provided funding to build and furnish lifesaving stations, but left the facilities manned by disorganized groups of local volunteers that were untrained and unreliable during severe weather.

In response to this horrific loss of life, Congress passed what came to be known as the Act of December 15, 1854. This act greatly expanded the ability of the federal government to support lifesaving operations. It allowed for the construction of new stations along the New Jersey and Long Island coasts and a superintendent for both districts to oversee their operation. Furthermore, it provided upgrades necessary to existing stations and their gear. Most importantly, it funded the appointment of a salaried keeper for each station. These paid keepers were responsible for maintaining the stations, their boats and gear; as well as training volunteers. And these keepers led the volunteer crews in carrying out rescue operations and responding to vessels in distress.

The late summer and early winter of 1870 proved a deadly season for ships in U.S. waters. Storms and severe weather swept the Great Lakes and East Coast, blowing ashore numerous ships with the loss of countless lives. These fatalities pointed to the need for further improvements in the government’s effort to prevent loss of life in marine accidents.

George S. Boutwell, Treasury Secretary under President U.S. Grant, responded in part by appointing a qualified superintendent to oversee a Revenue Marine Division which included steamboat inspection, marine hospitals and lifesaving stations. By December 1870, Secretary Boutwell had in mind a skillful manager and administrator named Sumner Kimball. Appointed in February 1, 1871, Kimball oversaw the expansion of the lifesaving station network from the Long Island and New Jersey to encompassing the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, West Coast and all of the East Coast. His appointment initiated a rapid expansion of the government’s lifesaving service and, in 1878, he oversaw the formal establishment of the U.S. Life-Saving Service as a separate agency within the Treasury Department.

The marine accidents listed above are but a few of many that helped shape the U.S. Life-Saving Service. After its official founding in 1878, the service would continue to experience growing pains, but the shipwrecks and maritime disasters that helped start the service would continue to help shape its development into an effective shore-based search and rescue organization. And, in much the same way, marine accidents would help shape other Coast Guard missions, such as marine safety, marine environmental protection, law enforcement and several others.

General Officer Announcement

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

Army Col. David C. Coburn has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general.  Coburn is currently serving as executive officer to the assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, Washington, D.C.

Flag Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has nominated Navy Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt for reappointment to the rank of vice admiral and assignment as commander, Naval Surface Forces/commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, San Diego, Calif.  Hunt is currently serving as commander, Third Fleet, San Diego, Calif.