Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Deck the Hulls: Last minute holiday gifts for boaters

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young

Over the past two weeks, Coast Guard Compass has given you “Deck the Hulls,” a holiday gift guide for mariners and recreational boaters.

It’s the eleventh hour for holiday shopping but that’s no excuse to disappoint the boater on your shopping list with a bad sweater or re-gifted item from seasons past. For all you last minute shoppers, here’s a wrap-up of gifts to help the boater in your life “Boat Responsibly!”

Vessel safety check

Vessel safety checks are provided by qualified examiners at no cost to the boat owner and ensure boaters have the necessary equipment to be safe on the water. There are key items necessary to pass a safety check, including life jackets, fire extinguishers and visual distress signals - so there are plenty of gifts to choose from. Gifting any of these items will have the boater on your list well on their way to earning that Vessel Safety Check decal!

Boating safety course

Gifting a boating safety course will equip boaters at all skill levels and ages with safe boating skills and knowledge. In these courses, dedicated instructors teach basic boat handling skills and required and recommended safety equipment. Boaters will also learn navigation principles as well as how to handle boating emergencies. Whether an experienced boater or someone new to the water, it is always a good time to learn the latest safe boating skills.

VHF-FM Radio

Too many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications when they are on the water. While you may get lucky near shore, cell phones have serious limitations. In the maritime environment, VHF-FM marine radios are designed for communication between vessels and shore stations with safety paramount, making them a perfect gift for any boater.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon

EPIRBs are high-tech devices that pay dividends when boaters find themselves in distress. These specialized radio transmitters send distress signals containing a code unique to the beacon that is picked up and multiplied by a network of search-and-rescue satellites. Using information from a registration database, emergency responders will have the position and owner information needed to respond to an emergency.

Boating Safety Kit

There are hundreds of miscellaneous items that boating enthusiasts would love to receive, but more importantly will keep them safe! Boaters love trying out the latest gadgets and even simple things can help keep a boater safe. From rescue heaving lines to first aid kits, there are enough items to put together a great kit for any boater in your life.

As you find yourself in busy shopping malls and crowded parking lots with other holiday procrastinators, keep in mind that whether you give the boater on your list a VHF-FM radio or life jacket, your gift will keep them safer on the water, which is a gift that keeps on giving all year long.

Naval Submarine School Holds Annual Canned Food Drive

By William Kenny, Submarine Learning Center Public Affairs

NORWICH, Conn. (NNS) -- Instructors and students from Naval Submarine School (NSS) delivered several thousand canned goods and non-perishables, collected during the school's annual canned good drive, to
St. Vincent de Paul Place
in downtown Norwich, Conn., Dec. 16.

The items were collected during the school's annual canned good drive.

Despite freezing temperatures and a sharp wind, the Sailors loaded vehicles and transported the donations from the schoolhouse in Groton and unloaded them in Norwich.

"Everything you have shared today will be put to use. We can only help others because you, and people like you, support us," said St. Vincent de Paul Place Executive Director Jillian Corbin. "It's wonderful, especially during this season of giving, that you would provide such an example of generosity and charity. We are truly grateful."

The annual drive was spearheaded by two NSS staff members, Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Chi San Yeung and Electronics Technician 2nd Class David Pennick, and began in mid-November 2010.

"There was a lot of hard work on everybody's part to get this done, but like I told my Sailors on the way over here, 'individually we struggle to make a difference, but together we can move the earth,'" said Pennick.

St. Vincent de Paul Place
is a community meal site and food pantry that supports homeless and families on limited incomes throughout the area.

Six days a week, volunteers prepare about 300 breakfasts and lunches, averaging in recent months close to 24,000 meals, while providing 200 families with a variety of groceries and other everyday living supplies.

'River Rattlers' End a Year of Adversary Missions

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Hill, Commander, Navy Reserve Force Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 204 wrapped up a mission with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group during the group's composite training unit exercise off the coast of California Dec. 20.

The "River Rattlers" of VFA 204 have had many deployments in 2010 lending their assistance to the fleet.

VFA 204 is an adversary squadron that flies the FA-18/A Hornet aircraft. The entire squadron, from the pilots to the mechanics who provide maintenance for the planes, are full time support (FTS) and selected Reserve (SELRES) Sailors. Their primary mission is to act as the enemy in the sky so other squadrons and strike groups can receive the requisite training to be combat-ready. With air combat training a constant necessity and with numerous squadrons to be trained, the New Orleans-based "River Rattlers" keep busy. They deploy numerous times a year to support the active component in training evolutions all around the world.

"We deploy roughly every other month, to support about six to eight detachments a year. We're mission ready. Our Sailors are ready to deploy and provide training to fleet squadrons," said VFA 204 Executive Officer Cmdr. Greg Rielly.

The deployment schedule provides the 40 SELRES in the squadron plenty of opportunity to get annual training and active duty training (ADT). This ensures the "River Rattlers" are highly skilled, regardless of whether they are full or part-time Sailors.

"The integration between our FTS and SELRES is seamless," said VFA 204 Command Master Chief (AW) John Harlin. "That's the way it should be. Our Reservists bring a lot to the table. For example, we have a (SELRES) chief who works as a defense contractor in his civilian job. He's able to bring that experience to his Reserve position making us a stronger squadron."

Many of the SELRES in VFA 204 go above and beyond the required training to support the River Rattler's mission. Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class (AW) Emily Seal from Gulfport, Miss., is one of them.

"Last year, I went on three deployments with the squadron," said Seal. "I was almost on constant ADT orders. I feel really strongly about committing myself to the mission and being with this command helps with advancement. The learning curve is fast, and there's so much to do, it's impossible not to learn."

The Navy Reserve prides itself on being "Ready Now. Anytime, Anywhere." With the "River Rattlers," this not only applies to them – it applies to the fleet they continue to serve in their adversary role. With assistance from VFA 204, Naval Air Forces will continue to receive necessary training, preparing them for any assigned mission.

Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo Hosts 'Jingle Stroll' Open Base Event

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Johnie Hickmon, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- Thousands of guests flooded through the front gates of Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS), Japan, Dec. 18 as the command hosted Jingle Stroll 2010, the first open base event in three years.

The event, organized by CFAS and the Kyushu Defense Bureau (KDB), featured basketball clinics and exhibition games with the Women's Japan Basketball League, performances by Taiko drummers and a self-guided historical walking tour around nine monuments.

Jingle Stroll was designed to continue the positive relationship the CFAS service members and their families have with the local community.

During the opening ceremonies at the Fleet Fitness Center, Sasebo Mayor Norio Tomonaga said the basketball tournament, which featured teams composed of Japanese and American children, is just one way to build on an already strong friendship. He addressed the children prior to the game and emphasized fun and friendship.

"To all the participants, don't worry if you don't understand each other's language," Tomonaga said. "If your feelings can be received, passes will be received also. I hope everyone performs well. Please have fun and make new friends today."

Director General of the KDB, Yukinari Hirose, thanked all involved in helping to make the event possible.

"I would like to express my appreciation to you to allow your kids to participate in this event," Hirose said. "I hope the children make as many friends as possible. I would like to express my appreciation to everyone who supported this event."

Another major event of the day included a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the official opening of an new wharf, Juliet Wharf. The ceremony for the new wharf, a project six years in the making, was attended by dignitaries representing the government of Japan, Nagasaki Prefecture, the city of Sasebo, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and the U.S. Navy.

Afterwards, visitors were able to tour the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the JMSDF ship JDS Kongo (DDG 173).

CFAS Commanding Officer Capt. Francis X. Martin said the event was a great way to enhance the friendship the base and community have with one another, especially with the children.

"I believe that children have great potential to build the future society through their experiences," Martin said.

George H.W. Bush Wins Holiday Light Contest

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sandi Grimnes, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) took first place in a holiday light display competition with other ships stationed aboard Naval Station (NS) Norfolk, Dec. 17.

Bushs' First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA) and Junior Enlisted Association (JEA) coordinated with the crew to decorate the ship with 6.2 miles of holiday lights.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Caleb Haynie, USS George H.W. Bush JEA president, said planning for the light display began in November.

"This was a whole command effort," Haynie said. "Every department has been absolutely involved in this, from electricians who ensure electrical safety, Supply [department personnel] who coordinated the ordering and receiving all the decorations, to Navigation and Air [departments] who helped hang the lights. There is no one department that is not involved in some way."

The decorating began while Bush was at sea and included the construction of a 25 foot wreath, and an 8 foot by 6 foot Santa sleigh painted with flames and strung with holiday lights. The ship's F/A-18 trainer jet, which served in place of Santa's reindeer, was wrapped in white net lights and then outlined in blue lights, and large cardboard storage containers were painted to look like presents.

All of the lights are LED with total lumens of more than 4.5 million.

"We are lit up like the 'Griswalds'," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW/SW) Donnie Dowell, FCPOA president. "People will be blinded with the 6.2 miles of lights."

Dowell said this is the first year that USS George H.W. Bush has participated in the competition. Last year the ship hung up a few lights but did not compete.

"It's pretty amazing the amount of teamwork that has gone into this," Haynie said. "No one person can take credit for this project. Everyone has been putting in hours and volunteering."

For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit

This Day in Naval History - Dec. 21

From the Navy News Service

1861 - Congress declares Naval personnel eligible for the Medal of Honor, the Nation's highest award.
1943 - USS Grayling (SS 208) sinks its fourth Japanese ship in three days.
1951 - The first helicopter landing aboard a hospital ship takes place aboard USS Consolation (AH 15).
1968 - Apollo 8 is launched with Capt. James A. Lovell Jr. as Command Module Pilot. During the mission, Lovell becomes one of the first three people to see the far side of the moon. The mission lasted 6 days and 3 hours, including 10 moon orbits. Helicopters from USS Yorktown (CVS 10) take care of the recovery.

Coast Guard Retiree Hikes the Appalachian Trail

By U.S. Coast Guard PPC, Topeka

Senior Chief Petty Officer Vernon King, USCG (Ret.) recently completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and in doing so has earned the right to be call a "2000-miler". Completing the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail in one trip is a mammoth undertaking. Please join the crew of the Pay & Personnel Center in congratulating Senior Chief King on his remarkable achievement.

Commentary: A Holiday Visit to Arlington National Cemetery

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 21, 2010 – I walked the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery this morning to put wreaths on the graves of two dear friends and a fallen soldier I’ve never met.

The cemetery never fails to move me, its stark white headstones standing dress-right-dress along its hills and plains for as far as the eye can see. Driving through the grand entrance gates just as they opened this morning of the winter solstice – the longest, darkest day of the year – I knew I was in for an emotional morning.

Each headstone was adorned with a holiday wreath, donated as part of the “Wreaths Across America” project. The bright red ribbons provided cheerful contrast to the cemetery’s hills and plains, much of it still blanketed with the last remnants of an early-season snow.

Walking through Section 60, the final resting place for almost 700 fallen veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I stopped at the grave of Army Staff Sgt. James R. Patton. I’d never met “Jimmy,” as his family calls him, but I had the privilege of meeting his mother, Sheila, during a recent trip to Fort Campbell, Ky.

Jimmy, who was serving his seventh overseas deployment since 9/11 with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, died in a helicopter crash in Tikrit, Iraq, on April 18. His father, Army Command Sgt. Major Gregory Patton, who is deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, accompanied his son’s body home for the funeral, then left to rejoin his unit. Sheila Patton, despite all she’s dealt with during the past year, has stood as a font of courage and inspiration to everyone whose lives she has touched.

“I am a proud momma of a soldier who died fighting for his country and doing what he loved doing,” she told me. “If he had to die before us, that is the only way we could ever have accepted his death: to smile and be proud and honored that God thought enough of my son to make him a hero.”

But despite Sheila’s seemingly Teflon composure, I know this Christmas will be a particularly painful one.

As I stood at Jimmy’s grave, I looked around me and took in the majesty of Arlington National Cemetery. In every direction, I saw reminders that other families, like the Pattons, will be feeling the loss of a loved one this Christmas.

Many had visited their husband’s, wife’s, father’s, mother’s, son’s, daughter’s, brother’s, sister’s gravesite, leaving behind personal and very individual tributes.

Some had left simple holiday memorials: a festive floral arrangement, a miniature Christmas tree, a wrapped gift box.

Others were more elaborate. The grave of Army Cpl. Christopher John-Lee "C.J." West, an 82nd Airborne Division soldier killed in Iraq in February 2004, featured two American flags, a large Styrofoam snowman, a set of felt reindeer antlers and a sweatshirt of West’s beloved Dallas Cowboys.

Two bright balloons flew over the grave of Sgt. Alberto Montrond, a 7th Special Forces Group soldier killed in Afghanistan in February 2006. At the base of his headstone, next to a wreath, was a plate with two holiday cupcakes.

A large floral arrangement with a ribbon proclaiming, “Rangers Lead the Way,” adorned Army Cpl. Ryan Casey McGhee’s grave. The 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, soldier was killed in Iraq in May 2009.

His mother had left behind a hand-written Christmas card, telling her son that although she thinks of him every day, the holidays are going to be especially tough.

He won’t be there to open gifts with his family, to share in a holiday toast, or even to call from a faraway deployment to tell them he loves them. And the empty seat at the dinner table will forever be a reminder of what they’ve lost.

As I left Arlington and headed off to work, I felt a deep sense of sadness over how much so many have sacrificed.

But then I remembered Sheila Patton, and the selfless gift she and so many others like her have given me and every other American.

Merry Christmas, Gold Star families. I wish you – and all of us -- peace on earth.

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has no public or media events on his schedule.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn attends POTUS signing of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal legislation at at the Department of Interior Sidney R. Yates Auditorium.

President Signs 'Don't Ask' Repeal Act Into Law

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2010 – President Barrack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law here today.

“We are not a nation that says, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” the president said at the signing ceremony. “We are a nation that says, ‘Out of many, we are one.’

“We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot,” he added. “We are a nation that believes all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today, and now it is my honor to sign this bill into law.”

The act repeals Section 654, Title 10, of the United States Code, which barred people who are openly gay, lesbian or bisexual from serving in the U.S. military. Today’s signing, as the president pointed out, begins a process that will culminate in full repeal over the coming months.

The old policy remains in effect until Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, and the president certify the military’s readiness to implement the repeal, the commander in chief said. “It’s especially important for servicemembers to remember that,” he added.

The president said he has spoken to all of the service chiefs, and all are committed to implementing the change swiftly.

“We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done,” Obama said. “As commander in chief, I am certain that we can effect this transition in a way that only strengthens our military readiness. People will look back on this moment and wonder [why it was] ever a source of controversy in the first place.”

Mullen and Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn attended the signing. Several former servicemembers discharged under the old policy also were present. Obama commended their efforts and others’ in bringing about the change.

“I also want to commend our military leadership,” he said. “Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a topic in my first meeting with Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and the Joint Chiefs. We talked about how to end this policy; we talked about how success in both passing and implementing this change depended on working closely with the Pentagon. And that’s what we did.”

Obama praised his defense and national security leaders for their oversight of the change. “The courage and the vision of Secretary Gates, of Admiral Mike Mullen, who spoke from the heart and said what he believed was right, of General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Deputy Secretary William Lynn …,” he said, “also the authors of the Pentagon’s review, Jeh Johnson [defense general counsel] and General Carter Ham [commander, U.S. Army Europe], who did outstanding and meticulous work – and all those who laid the groundwork for this transition.”

The president said he has “every confidence” of the professionalism and patriotism of U.S. military members as repeal moves forward.

“With any change, there’s some apprehension,” Obama said. “Just as [servicemembers] have adapted and grown stronger with each of the other changes, I know they will do so again. I know that Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, as well as the vast majority of servicemembers themselves share this view … based on their own experiences, including the experience of serving with dedicated, duty-bound servicemembers who are also gay. ”

Obama said he wanted to speak directly to gay men and women serving in the military.

“For a long time, your service has demanded a particular kind of sacrifice,” he said. “You’ve been asked to carry added burden of secrecy and isolation, and all the while you’ve put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you.

“You’re not the first to have carried this burden,” he continued. “For while today marks the end of a particular struggle that has lasted almost two decades, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making. There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country. Their service has been obscured in history; it’s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes.”

Gay servicemembers who will gain the right to serve openly when repeal is fully implemented, Obama said, will stand for all those who came before them who did not enjoy that right.

“You will serve as role models to all who come after,” he said. “I know you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you’ve been charged.”