Tuesday, December 21, 2010

History: The Flying Santa

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young
Post written by William Thiesen, Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian

Throughout the history of  Coast Guard aviation, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft have been used to aid members of the general public or other federal agencies during emergencies and in times of need. However, the holidays have provided a unique opportunity for private citizens to return the favor.

In 1929, the first year of the Great Depression, aviation pioneer Captain William Wincapaw began the tradition of “The Flying Santa.” Also known as the “Santa of the Lighthouses,” Wincapaw oversaw flying operations for the Curtiss Flying Service at Rockland, Maine. He had a great deal of admiration for lighthouse keepers and their families, who served in isolated and inhospitable locations. On the morning of December 25, 1929, Wincapaw loaded his aircraft with a dozen packages of Christmas gifts and delivered them to a number of local lighthouses.

By 1933, the Flying Santa program was so well received that Wincapaw expanded it to include ninety-one lighthouses throughout Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Wincapaw began to dress as Santa and he enlisted his son, Bill, Jr., to help pilot some of the flights.

In the late 1930s, the program continued to expand requiring the services of a third Santa, famed New England maritime historian Edward Rowe Snow. Despite sporadic deliveries during World War II, the program expanded to 115 lighthouses requiring corporate sponsorship from locally-based Wiggins Airways. And, in 1946, the Flying Santa Program also began to embrace the latest technology using a helicopter to assist in lighthouse deliveries.

In 1947, founder Capt. Wincapaw suffered a heart attack during a summer flight out of Rockland. A memorial service was held in Rockland attended by numerous lighthouse keepers, their families, and representatives of the Coast Guard, Army and Navy. Edward Rowe Snow took over the Flying Santa Program after Wincapaw’s passing and, with the support of his family and some dedicated pilots, he expanded it to include nearly 180 lighthouses. In certain years, the program even served lighthouses on the West Coast and Sable Island off of Nova Scotia.

Snow continued the tradition until 1981, when health issues prevented him from participating in any further Flying Santa missions. The mantle of the Flying Santa was passed to another pilot, despite the automation of lighthouses in 1987. After over eighty years since its founding by Capt. Wincapaw, the tradition has continued with the support of the non-profit organization Friends of Flying Santa. And since 1996, Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Tom Guthlien has served as the Flying Santa, delivering gifts to Coast Guard shore stations from New York to Maine.

Madison Air National Guard unit ranked among best in nation

Date: December 21, 2010

The 115th Fighter Wing has proven it is among the best in the nation at doing what it takes to be ready for whatever mission it faces.  The Madison-based Wisconsin Air National Guard unit earned a nearly perfect rating during a Unit Compliance Inspection at Truax Field Dec. 10-15. Sixty inspectors from the Air Combat Command's Inspector General team, Langley Air Force Base, Va., observed nearly 1,100 Airmen and inspected every unit on base.

The team observed and graded more than 600 tasks during their five-day evaluation in Madison. The final grade was a 99.5 percent compliance rating - the highest in 115th Fighter Wing history.

"I knew the outstanding Airmen of the 115th would rise to the top, as they always do. I couldn't be more proud of each and every one of them," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th Fighter Wing commander. "We welcome external inspection teams to our base. It gives us the opportunity to highlight that our Airmen and our processes are among the best in the country."

The Inspector General team travels to Air Force installations across the country to evaluate how a unit complies with laws, executive orders and applicable policies, regulations and instructions while performing their day-to-day mission.

In 2005, the unit earned a 99.4 percent compliance rating - the highest score at the time in Air Force history.

Excellence was documented across the base as eight subordinate units were recognized as "superior teams" and 58 Airmen were recognized as "superior performers."

Results like these are welcome news but not surprising to many of the 115th Fighter Wing members whose motto is "Dedicated to Excellence." Recently, the 115th became the second Air National Guard base in the country to earn the "Star" rating in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program - adding to a list of accomplishments that, Wing leaders say, sets the unit among the best in the nation.

This Day in Naval History - Dec. 20

From the Navy News Service

1822 - Congress authorizes the 14-ship West Indies Squadron to suppress piracy in the Caribbean.
1941 - Adm. Ernest J. King is designated commander-in-chief in charge of all operating Naval fleets and coastal frontier forces, reporting directly to the president.
1964 - USS Richard E. Kraus (DD 849) completes a successful emergency mission, aiding the disabled American merchant ship SS Oceanic Spray in the Red Sea.
1974 - Clearance of the Suez Canal for mines and unexploded ordnance completed by joint task force.
1989 - Operation Just Cause begins in Panama.
1998 - Operation Desert Fox in Iraq ends.

Submariners Get New Information Systems Technician Rating

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy released NAVADMIN 406/10, Dec. 17, announcing the creation of the Information Systems Technician Submarines (ITS) service rating and providing active duty Sailors with guidance on how to request an ITS conversion.

"The establishment of the ITS rating will provide the Submarine Force with an infrastructure of information assurance and network professionals who will be fully equipped to resolve future issues and implement new technologies on board our submarines," said Lt. Dan Morrison, Submarine, Non-Nuclear, Enlisted Community Manager. "Overall, the ITS rating is an excellent choice for Sailors who seek challenges in new and emerging technologies, and the opportunity to be submariners

The primary source ratings for ITS conversions will be from Sailors assigned to jobs in submarine Local Area Network divisions and those from ratings in the information assurance workforce, but all non-nuclear trained Sailors are eligible to request conversion. Information System Technicians (IT) with Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) codes of 2780, 2781, or 2735 will be eligible for direct conversion to ITS.

Describing the benefits of converting to ITS, Morrison explained, "Currently, submariners working outside of their source rating in support of submarine LAN requirements are at a disadvantage when taking promotion examinations. Sailors who convert to ITS will participate in ITS examinations and compete with other ITS professionals in their paygrade."

Any E-4 to E-6 active duty Sailor who wants to be part of the initial 180–200 selected for conversion must ensure they are eligible for submarine service prior to submitting their request (NAVPERS 1306/7 form) to Naval Personnel Command (PERS-811) by the Feb.1, 2011 deadline. Sailors possessing a Microsoft (MS) A+ or Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification are highly encouraged to apply and should note these certifications on their conversion request form.

Dependent upon their source rating and previous training, Sailors selected for conversion may require additional schooling and potentially incur additional obligated service. For example, Sailors who require an IT NEC may attend A-school as part of their conversion and Sailors from non-submarine ratings will need to attend Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) prior to being assigned to a submarine as an ITS. Applicants are encouraged to speak with a Navy Career Counselor about the conversion process.

To learn more about the ITS rating conversion, visit Navy Personnel Command's website at www.npc.navy.mil.

For more information from the chief of naval personnel, visit www.navy.mil/cnp.

Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group, 13th MEU Complete Certification Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fletcher Gibson, USS Boxer Public Affairs

USS BOXER, At Sea (NNS) -- The 13th Marine Expeditionary unit, along with the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) and the Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group, completed its certification exercise (CERTEX) off the coast of Southern California Dec. 17.

The 12-day period of amphibious actions demonstrated the unit's ability to perform a wide variety of missions and was the final check mark making the 13th MEU/Amphibious Squadron 1 team ready for deployment.

Alongside Boxer, the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), and the Marines of the 13th MEU completed simulated missions ranging from maritime boarding to amphibious land raids, to civilian evacuation drills.

"We've been able to evaluate our full set of missions," said Maj. Ryan Caughlin, 13th MEU operations officer. "Since the first day we formed up, this is what our entire training has built up to."

While the focus of the evaluation was on mission completion for the Marines, their ability to integrate with their naval partners and deploy to their assignments was a key part of the evaluation.

Launching harrier jets from Boxer's flight deck or equipping landing craft from USS Green Bay played a large part in their ongoing success.

"There's no such thing as a pure Navy or Marine Corps show when you're an amphibious force," said Col. David Coffman, 13th MEU commanding officer.

The all-amphibious operations of CERTEX also marked a shift for most of the Marines involved who had until now only been involved in land operations and training. Nearly 60 percent of the MEU personnel had never done a ship deployment, and Coffman said he was excited to be able to turn them into sea-going Marines.

"The [best] part to me is watching the Marines learn what it is to be a Marine," he said, "To not just ride around on a ship, but operate from a ship and do our mission."

CERTEX was the third and final group exercise for the 13th MEU and Boxer ARG. Previous exercises consisted of the PHIBRON/Marine Integration (PMINT) which first tested the Blue/Green team's ability to coordinate together, and the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) which tested the Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group as a whole.

With these three major certifications behind them, the ARG and MEU are ready for their scheduled deployment in early 2011.

NMCB 7 Returns from Ten Month Deployment

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Yan Kennon, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 Public Affairs

GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- More than 600 Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 returned to their homeport of Gulfport, Miss., Dec. 17, marking the completion of a successful 10-month deployment.

During the deployment, NMCB 7 provided contingency construction, humanitarian and civic assistance and exercise related construction projects throughout the European, African and Southern Command areas of responsibility.

NMCB 7 began its deployment in February and exercised command and control of their entire deployment from Naval Station Rota's Camp Mitchell. Once on deck, the battalion began deploying detachments, which completed construction and contingency projects in 33 separate locations in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Central and South America.

More than 120 Seabees were continually assigned to Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, as an enduring detachment, with smaller detachments completing projects in Kenya, Comoros, Ethiopia, and the Djiboutian countryside. The battalion also embarked Seabees aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), debarking for projects in several countries on the Pacific shores.

Prior to the battalions scheduled deployment, NMCB 7 was called upon to assist with disaster relief efforts in Haiti, during Operation Unified Response, amidst the aftermath of a 7.0 earthquake which struck the area Jan. 12.

During Operation Unified Response, NMCB 7's Air Detachment made a huge impact supporting the Joint Task Force, while working with Underwater Construction Team 1, Amphibious Battalion 2, U.S. Marine Corps and various other joint forces.

"Though the situation was tragic, our Seabees reinforced the value of the naval construction force to the nation's national security strategy and our partner nations," said Cmdr. Jayson Mitchell, NMCB 7 commanding officer.

NMCB 7 turned over its operational responsibilities to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74 during a December 14 ceremony at Naval Station Rota, Spain.

Throughout their 10 month deployment, NMCB 7 deployed Seabees on more than 15 detachments and details spanning locations such as Israel, Morocco, Liberia, Montenegro, Burkina Faso, Latvia, Senegal, Sao Tome and Romani.

NMCB 7 is one of the original ten Seabee battalions authorized by the Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks in 1942. The battalion is homeported at the Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Miss., home of the Atlantic Fleet Seabees, and is currently the east coast's Battle "E" Seabee battalion.

Face of Defense: Veteran Receives Bronze Star 68 Years Later

By Kim Walron
U.S. Army Forces Command

FORT McPHERSON, Ga., Dec. 21, 2010 – It was nearly 69 years ago that Seymour S. Lavine came here to enlist, hoping to do his part to end the second World War. He recently returned to collect the Bronze Star the Army said he was due for his heroism in the South Pacific.

Lavine, 98, was a sergeant with the Army's 37th Infantry Division on the island of Luzon in the Philippines on Jan. 9, 1945, when his unit was ambushed.

With enemy rifle fire snapping jungle branches and leaves all around them, Lavine said he knew that to stay where they were meant certain death for him and his fellow soldiers. He grabbed a Browning automatic rifle from the soldier behind him and yelled for the rest of his soldiers to run. Then, with the weapon at his hip, Lavine fired back at his attackers, covering the retreat of a dozen fleeing American soldiers who made it to safety, thanks to him.

"While this Bronze Star is being awarded for specific action on one particular day, it actually represents much more," Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, the Army's largest command, said during a Dec. 16 ceremony here for Lavine. "This medal is in recognition of the contribution of an ordinary man who became an extraordinary soldier because he chose to serve his nation and his fellow citizens. And, he did this during the most dangerous period of the 20th century."

The room was packed with soldiers from general to specialist. Their common thread was the enthusiastic way they gathered to pay tribute to a warrior from what has been called America’s "Greatest Generation."

"Today, we have the honor to go back in history and reflect a little bit about a great solider,” Thurman said. He noted that Lavine heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on his 29th birthday in 1941, and he enlisted shortly after in 1942.

After the medal presentation, Lavine shared memories of his service during World War II.

"One day I was leading a patrol," he said. "We came across a tribe of people that we found out [later] were cannibals." He paused and looked over his audience. "I'm not sure what it was they fed us for dinner, but I don't think I really wanted to!"

This brought howls of laughter and a hearty round of applause for Lavine.

"I have had a wonderful life," he said. "I've had more opportunities than many, and am so grateful to all of you."

When World War II broke out, Lavine quit his job selling clothing to department stores. He drove his 1939 Pontiac to Fort McPherson to enlist in the Army.

Lavine said he had no choice but to fight. "I knew what was happening in Europe," he said, referring to the Holocaust. "And I was Jewish."

Lavine was sent to the other side of the world after training where Japan had established a stronghold of islands across the Pacific. Fighting there was among the bloodiest, most violent of the war.

Veteran ‘Screaming Eagles’ Reach Out to Wounded Warriors

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2010 – Army Pfc. Charles “C.J.” Stewart isn’t feeling forgotten this holiday as he recuperates from his combat wounds here at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He’ll be surrounded by his family, a nurturing medical staff and, as a bonus, veterans of the 101st Airborne Division who continue to reach out to today’s “Screaming Eagles.”

Stewart was on a rescue mission in June when the 1st Brigade, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s Combat Outpost Fitzpatrick in Pashmul, Afghanistan, came under attack. As Stewart, a combat medic, ran to get his medical bag, one of the incoming rocket-propelled-grenade rounds nearly ripped his right arm from his body.

Thirty-six surgeries later, with another scheduled for tomorrow to repair nerve damage in his now fully reattached arm, Stewart is an outpatient living at Walter Reed’s Mologne House.

But more than six months after being wounded, far from his buddies in Afghanistan and his unit headquarters at Fort Campbell, Ky., he’s never lost his feeling of connection to the 101st Airborne Division.

That’s because he gets regular visits, not just from his unit’s rear detachment, but also by members of the 101st Airborne Division Association and its regimental associations.

The associations have visitation teams that call on division soldiers being treated at Walter Reed and all other major military hospitals. If they can’t visit personally, they frequently ask another 101st veteran to visit as their representative.

Retired Army Col. Bob Seitz leads the visitation teams for both the 101st Airborne Division Association and 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association.

“Saying ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough,” said Seitz, who served with the 506th AIR in Vietnam. “The key thing is, we let these young soldiers and their families know that we genuinely care about their recovery. We want the soldier and the entire family to know through the whole course of the recovery, no matter how long it takes, that we are there for them, ready to support them in any way they need us to.”

Visitation team members arrive at the hospital as quickly as possible after the wounded warrior is able to receive visitors. Often they pick up families flying into a nearby airport, transport them to the hospital and help them get settled in at their new temporary quarters.

The veterans visit the soldiers laden with gift bags full of unit memorabilia, including unit flags to hang in their hospital rooms, as well as incidentals to make their hospital stays more comfortable. And throughout their treatment and recuperation, they stop by regularly to check on soldiers’ progress and see if there’s anything they need.

“We develop a relationship with the family and the soldier because, when we see something come up as an issue or concern, we want to be able to take it off the plate,” Seitz said.

“We old guys can sense out a problem pretty quickly and then work to solve it, either help the Army solve it or solve it as an association,” he continued. “And that’s important, because if these soldiers have an issue or a problem, that works against a good attitude and good morale and in getting well.”

Often the associations’ help comes in the form of financial assistance. It may be diapers for a young family that’s just run out or toys to entertain young children away from home while their wounded parent recovers. In at least one case, it was heating oil for a military wife struggling to make ends meet after giving up her regular paycheck to care for her husband.

The associations also frequently cover the cost of plane tickets for family members who have to travel back and forth between their loved ones’ hospital beds and jobs at home. “The Army pays for one round trip, but it doesn’t pay for multiple round trips,” Seitz said. “We can provide them additional tickets, without any reimbursement back to us as our gift to them.”

Some of the associations, including the 506th, also provide scholarships and financial support for widows and orphans of division soldiers.

Donations to the organizations cover the cost of this support. And because the organizations are run by volunteers and have no operating costs, Seitz said 100 percent of the contributions go directly toward helping wounded warriors and their families.

Army Maj. Bradd Schultz, rear detachment commander for the 101st AD’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, called the associations’ support a godsend.

“They’re very powerful in what they can do as advocates for the soldier,” he said. “They’ve been doing this for years, they know everybody at Walter Reed and the other hospitals and they can fix a problem before I even know about it.”

Schultz said it gives him great peace of mind knowing that the visitation teams serve as his regular eyes and ears at Walter Reed. They can report back on things hospital reports simply don’t reveal -- such as soldiers’ morale -- and key the rear detachment in to any issues they need to know about.

Schultz said it’s also great knowing where to turn to when he learns of a problem and needs help.

“I can call them up and say, ‘I have a soldier with an issue and $200 will solve it, and I get the check for $200 to solve the issue,” he said. “These guys are amazing in terms of what they do for our soldiers.”

Robin Stewart said she’s been amazed at the support the 101st association has provided her son C.J. as he recuperates at Walter Reed.

“From the time he first arrived at Walter Reed, they have always checked in on us, sometimes even daily,” she said. “They’ve been absolutely awesome. And you knew from the start, they weren’t there because they felt obligated. They were there because they truly cared.”

C.J. is now hanging the third division flag he received from the 101st association because the first two have been completely covered with autographs from visiting well-wishers – ball players, celebrities, general officers, even President Barack Obama.

But Stewart said the association’s support to her son and family goes far beyond material gifts. “It’s the comfort of them stopping by, checking on us, and knowing there’s someone we can call if we need them,” she said.

For CJ, the visits are an opportunity to hear the stories of former 101st soldiers, learn about his division’s legacy, and get a regular reminder that the division takes care of its own. “They’ve been here for me, checking in on how everything is going and doing their best to give me a homey feeling here,” he said. “There’s a definite bond.”

Eugene “Gene” Overton Jr., cofounder and membership director of the 506th AIR Association, called its support for wounded warriors and their families a way to recognize the sacrifices of soldiers who are continuing the Screaming Eagles’ proud legacy.

“The greatest value of what we do is letting the soldiers and their families know they are not alone, and that their family is a lot larger than their immediate family,” he said. “A lot of veterans are out there, ready, willing and able to support them.”