Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vinson Sailors Make Clean Sweep

HONG KONG (NNS) -- Sailors aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 visited Saint Barnabus' Society and Home as part of a community service (COMSERV) project Dec. 29, during the ship's port visit to Hong Kong.

Saint Barnabus' Society and Home is a homeless shelter in Western District, Hong Kong. For some Vinson Sailors this was the first time they participated in a community outreach event. Other Vinson Sailors had visited the shelter during the ship's last visit to Hong Kong in May.

"I wanted to help someone else so I decided to try a COMSERV for the first time. We went there and cleaned for them and gave a helping hand," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Alfredo J. Razo, assigned to Supply Department's S-2 Division.

"My dad has given so much to his community, and he has inspired me to help out in the community as well," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice William Arms, assigned to Air Department's V-3 Division.

Vinson Sailors rolled up their sleeves to help and were thankful to participate, even if the work wasn't what they had come to expect from a COMSERV.

"We didn't build or destroy anything, we actually went and cleaned up. That little bit helped the people who work at the shelter," Razo said.

That "little bit" had Sailors sweeping floors, washing windows and cleaning restrooms. As dirt and dust hit the dust pans, the residents of the shelter peeked out to see what all the commotion was about.

"The shelter residents were ecstatic with all the dirt and leaves we took out. They were happy we were there and took time out of our day to help out," Razo said.

"Assisting a foreign community, realizing service isn't limited to just the United States but also to countries around the world brought me a good feeling," Arms said.

Arms was not the only volunteer to express positive feelings about being a world citizen and looking out for those in need.

"I can't wait for the next COMSERV. I'll definitely take more people with me next time," Razo added.

COMSUBPAC and USS Pasadena CO's Attend Annual New Year's Day Rose Bowl Game

PASADENA, Calif. (NNS) -- Keeping with tradition and to celebrate the New Year, Commander, Submarine Force Pacific and the commanding officer of USS Pasadena (SSN 752) are attending the 98th New Year's Day Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, Jan. 2.

"The submarine force has a longstanding relationship with the people of Pasadena through their ties to USS Pasadena. Pasadena has supported its submarine through numerous deployments as the submarine represented the city across the globe," said Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "It's an honor to celebrate our continued relationship as we ring in the New Year."

During the namesake visit, Caldwell and Molina will also visit with the Pasadena Police Department and Pasadena Navy League; attend the Tournament of Roses Parade, and watch the Rose Bowl with the Pasadena Foundation and civic community leaders.

USS Pasadena is currently undergoing an extended maintenance overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Cmdr. Luis Molina, USS Pasadena's commanding officer, reflected on the strong ties the submarine has with its name-sake city.

"We maintain one of the strongest relationships with a namesake city in the submarine force, and we look forward to continuing to forge this mutual relationship when the ship relocates to San Diego after our modernization period. I am honored to have been invited to represent the ship and the Navy as we ring in the New Year with our extended Pasadena family," said Molina.

Earlier this year, during the transit to the shipyard, the boat and its crew visited San Diego where they were able to conduct a one-day cruise to showcase the professionalism of the crew and demonstrate the boat's capabilities to a group of civic leaders and members of the Pasadena Foundation.

"The city of Pasadena has supported the ship and its crew throughout its history dating back to before the commissioning. They have generously contributed to the welfare of the crew and continue to cultivate strong ties with the ship and the Navy," said Molina.

The Rose Bowl was constructed in 1922 and currently seats 100,184 people. The size of the football field, about 880 feet, could fit two Los Angeles class submarines.

According to the City of Pasadena's website, the Tournament of Roses annual parade of flower-covered floats has been held in Pasadena since January 1, 1890. Today, the average float contains up to 100,000 blossoms. About 1,000,000 people come to Pasadena to watch the Tournament of Roses.

Pasadena is the U.S. Navy's second "Improved" 688 Class nuclear-powered submarine. In July 1991, two years after it was commissioned, Pasadena became the first 688I to deploy, commencing its first of many six-month Western Pacific deployments.

Defense Bill Affects Pay, Separation Bonuses, More

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 – President Barack Obama today signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which increases active-duty and reserve pay by 1.6 percent and governs Defense Department activities, from procurement to military personnel policy.

Several provisions in this year’s act will potentially affect active-duty and retired service members and their families.

Section 347 requires DOD to finance an independent assessment of overseas troop basing, advising retention, closure, realignment or establishment of U.S. military facilities outside the United States “in light of potential fiscal constraints on [DOD] and emerging national security requirements in coming years.”

Section 402 reduces authorized Army minimum end strength from 562,000 to 547,000. The other services’ authorized minimum strengths are unchanged, with 325,700 for the Navy, 202,100 for the Marine Corps and 332,800 for the Air Force.

Section 512 of the act creates a new member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which currently includes the Army and Air Force chiefs of staff, the chief of naval operations and the Marine Corps commandant. The new member will be the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who will have responsibility for “addressing matters involving non-federalized National Guard forces in support of homeland defense and civil support missions.”

Section 526 extends voluntary separation pay and benefits authority, formerly set to expire Dec. 31, to the end of 2018. Section 530 converts the high-deployment allowance from mandatory to authorized. The allowance currently pays $100 a day, in addition to all other pay and allowances, to a deployed service member who has been deployed 401 days or more out of the preceding 730 days.

Section 701 limits annual Tricare enrollment fee increases for retirees and their family members to an amount equal to the percentage by which retired pay increases that year.

Section 702 sets mental health assessment requirements for service members deployed for contingency operations. The act calls for a series of assessments: one within 120 days before deployment; another during the period between 90 days after a deployment begins and 180 days after it ends; a third within a year after the deployment ends; and a fourth between 18 months and 30 months of redeployment.

The act states assessments are intended to “identify post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal tendencies, and other behavioral health conditions … in order to determine which such members are in need of additional care and treatment for such health conditions.”

Assessments are not required for service members “not subjected or exposed to operational risk factors during deployment in the contingency operation concerned,” the act states.

Section 954 affirms that DOD “has the capability, and upon direction by the president may conduct offensive operations in cyberspace to defend our nation, allies and interests,” subject to the law of armed conflict and the War Powers Resolution.

Signing the bill into law today, President Barack Obama acknowledging “serious reservations” about parts of the act, particularly provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

“I have signed the act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families and vital national security programs that must be renewed,” Obama said in a statement released today.

The act also contains critical initiatives to control spiraling health-care costs within the Defense Department, develop counterterrorism initiatives abroad, build the security capacity of key partners, modernize the force and boost the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations worldwide, he noted.

F-15 Sale to Saudi Arabia Part of Broader Effort

By Donna Miles and Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 – The recently announced $29.4 billion sale of F-15SA fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia is just one part of a broader U.S.-Saudi military sales and defense cooperation effort that’s central to regional security, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

U.S. officials announced an agreement Dec. 29 to sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for 70 existing aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Little said the same represents less than half of the $60.5 billion in U.S. sales of aviation capabilities agreed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the Royal Saudi Air Force, this broader program includes aviation capabilities for the Saudi Arabian National Guard, Royal Saudi Land Forces and Saudi Royal Guard, he said.

“More broadly, the U.S.-Saudi military-to-military alliance is a central feature of regional security,” he said.

Little noted the U.S. Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia, which was established in 1953 and remains a cornerstone of the U.S.-Saudi military-to-military relationship. U.S. and Saudi defense departments cooperate regularly at the highest levels, through established bilateral planning forums like the Strategic Joint Planning Commission and the Military Joint Planning Commission, he said.

In addition, the Royal Saudi Air Force trains with the U.S. Air Force in rigorous exercises that improve military cooperation and interoperability, and that facilitate the exchange of ideas, Little said. Among them is Red Flag, the U.S. Air Force's premier air-to-air combat training exercise, conducted in Nevada. Red Flag gives pilots the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties from within the safety of a training environment.

In announcing the F-15 sales agreement Dec. 29, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, emphasized the close military-to-military ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

“The United States is firmly committed to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we have been for nearly seven decades, and … more broadly, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong mutual interest in the security and stability of the Gulf,” Miller said.

The F-15s Saudi Arabia will receive under the agreement “will have the latest generation of computing power, radar technology, infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems,” he added.

“This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Shapiro said. “It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security.”

State and DOD have worked to conclude the agreement since June 2010, Shapiro added.

The White House released a statement Dec. 29 detailing the full Foreign Military Sales program agreement, which also will provide munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics support for the F-15s to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Panetta Urges Egyptian Military to Advance Democratic Process

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 – Expressing “deep concern” about raids earlier this week on non-governmental organizations operating in Egypt, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta emphasized to the leader of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces yesterday that it’s time to move the democratic process forward.

Speaking by phone with Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Panetta condemned the Dec. 29 raids and expressed appreciation for Tantawi’s decision to stop them and make it easier for NGOs to operate in Egypt, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little reported.

Egyptian police and judicial officials reportedly raided the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House Dec. 29, as well as other NGOs that have been critical of strong-armed practices by Egyptian officials.

During yesterday’s phone call, Panetta underscored the need for the democratic process that began when a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February to proceed. “After two successful rounds of parliamentary elections, the secretary emphasized that it is critical for Egypt to continue on the path to democratic transition,” Little said.

The secretary also reaffirmed the importance of the longstanding U.S.-Egyptian security relationship, Little said. He “made clear that the United States remains committed to the strategic partnership and stands ready to cooperate with Egypt as it continues its democratic transition,” he said.

Visiting Cairo in October, the secretary said he has full confidence in Egypt’s ability to transform itself to a civilian-led democracy following 26 years of being ruled under a dissent-suppressing emergency law.

Panetta said such a transition would be a “tremendous signal” to the region about moving in a positive direction.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Funding to improve MAFB, national security

by : Senior Airman Jessica McConnell
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

12/29/2011 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven held a press conference here, Dec. 27, in conjunction with local civic leaders known as Task Force 21, to discuss how the Department of Defense Appropriations Act will affect the base and its Airmen.

The senator recognized how important Minot Air Force Base is to its surrounding communities, as well as to the nation's security. With the base playing such a key role in this nation's defense, the senator said it was important to provide the necessary funding to ensure the mission of deterrence remains unaffected.

The senator stated that the top priorities for the fiscal year 2012 Defense Appropriations Act include taking care of military members and their families, supporting military readiness, protecting military forces, maintaining a technological edge, and improving fiscal accountability.

With the base supporting two nuclear-capable wings, Team Minot received funding to upgrade and maintain weapons systems for both the 91st Missile Wing's ICBM fleet and the 5th Bomb Wing's B-52H Stratofortress fleet.

"When upgrading Minot AFB's weapons systems, it is also about becoming more cost-effective," the senator explained. "When looking at the ICBM and B-52 fleets and the funding they are receiving, it's not just about ensuring we have the best technology for our warfighters and the defense of our nation, but also about being the most cost-effective. Ultimately, these improvements are saving money."

Equally important, the senator spoke of plans to renovate and build more housing for Minot Airmen, something Airmen and their families desperately need, especially after the historic Souris River flooding Minot experienced this year.

"In the military construction area, there are a few key projects that will be funded," said the senator. "Minot needs more housing, and funding will support the building of more dormitories," said the senator. "Between military, civilians, and dependents, Minot AFB makes up approximately 12,000 people affiliated with the base. This funding will support another 168-room dormitory for our Airmen."

Also important is the maintenance of Minot's aircraft, both during the winter and summer months. With the cold weather up north, maintainers face harsh winds and negative temperatures while performing maintenance duties. While these conditions do not make maintenance impossible, the senator recognized that this process could be made simpler. This is something the senator spoke of funding as well.

"Although it isn't as cold this year, normally, the weather makes it difficult to work on the B-52s," said Hoeven. "To have the ability to work on these large aircrafts indoors is very important. Funding is going towards building a two-dock facility where B-52s can be worked on without dealing with the outdoor elements."

A new control tower and renovated flightline was also funded and approved. There are a lot of improvements happening around this base, and rightfully so, said the senator.

"This is a very important base," he said. "When considering both the nuclear mission for both bombers and missiles, as well as the conventional mission, there is a lot going on here, giving Minot AFB a strong role in our nation's defense."

Photographer Documented Defense Secretaries for Decades

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2011 – Many Americans only catch glimpses of defense secretaries and other senior Defense Department officials on television or in photographs. One man has dedicated decades to ensuring those photographs are of the highest quality, true to what they capture and are taken from anywhere in the world.

Robert D. Ward, a photographer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, documented the activities of defense secretaries and other senior defense leaders since 1974, capturing images of the hustle of their daily schedules and travels.

A former Army officer during the Vietnam War, Ward retired today from his position, in which he served 12 defense secretaries since 1974, including Donald Rumsfeld twice.

“I first came to the Pentagon in 1968 as a second lieutenant in the Army,” Ward said. “I worked at the Army Photographic Agency. I was particularly assigned to a branch called DASPO -- which was the Department of the Army Special Photo Office.”

Ward revealed his path to his current position, which began with his departure from active military service.

“After my period of time in the military, four years, I left as a captain, not totally voluntarily. I had sort of thought of staying in the service, but at that point in time they were offering [reductions in force] to everyone, it seems like, whether you wanted them or not.

“So I left the service and began looking for a civilian position in photography,” Ward continued. “First, I looked in Chicago at the newspapers and wire services [but] they didn’t seem to be hiring at the time.”

Ward said he returned to Washington, D.C., and worked with the Army Materiel Command for two years before finding an opening at the Pentagon.

“I … found an ad saying that they were looking for photographers for the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” he said. “And that sounded like a really good job. I applied for it and got the position.”

Ward noted the long list of defense secretaries he has worked for, starting with Secretary James Schlesinger.

“He was here a short time … [then] he was replaced by the young Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld,” Ward noted. “He was the youngest secretary to serve … I think he was 43.”

“Schlesinger was followed by Harold Brown, then Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, Dick Cheney, Les Aspen, William Perry, William Cohen, Donald Rumsfeld came back again, Robert Gates followed him and Leon Panetta, our current secretary,” Ward said.

Ward cited Frank Carlucci as the only defense secretary he didn’t work for in that period since he was with the Veterans Affairs Department during Carlucci’s stint. He noted he did work for him in his capacity as deputy defense secretary.

The photographer said he has gained a wealth of experiences serving on the defense secretary and deputy’s staff and taking “thousands and thousands” of photos while visiting 87 countries.

“Just going through the collection to try to pick out some … I must have gone through 3,000 prints that I have,” Ward said. “It’s very difficult to narrow it down to something that would be of particular interest because they’re all of particular interest.”

Ward pointed to former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld as the easiest to photograph and former secretary Robert M. Gates as the toughest.

“Robert Gates was a very serious man. He took the job seriously, but he was wonderful at doing it. He will certainly go down in history as one of the finest secretaries of defense,” Ward Said.

“He was a little difficult to photograph because he rarely gestured, and he didn’t smile a lot,” Ward added. “When he did smile, it fairly lit up the room -- he had a wonderful smile, but he just didn’t show it very often.”

Ward shared one of the rare times he didn’t have a camera when he needed it most -- the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on 9/11.

“Unfortunately, while 9/11 probably presented the most historic opportunities for photos, I wasn’t able to take any because when the attacks occurred we were in an office on the second floor of the Pentagon,” he said. “Our photo equipment was located on the first floor of the Pentagon in a secure room.”

Ward was one of the determined Pentagon workers who returned to work the following day.

“I came to work the next day and got access to my equipment,” he said. “That was the day that President Bush came over and met with Secretary Rumsfeld and his staff then went outside to tour the area of devastation.”

With a four decade-plus career, Ward said he has had the opportunity to photograph some very well-known people ranging from singer Jewel and Margaret Thatcher to Bob Hope and the last World War I veteran.

“Some of the photos I’ve taken are sort of last-chance photos,” he said. “You have someone like Gen. Omar Bradley, the last five-star general, I was able to photograph him a couple of times.”

After 43 years, Ward looks forward to moving on to other interests.

“I’m really looking forward to retirement,” he said. “I’ve loved this job tremendously, but I do have other things I’d like to do.”

Ward cited his hobby as a birder, building model airplanes, riding his bicycle and scuba diving as post-retirement interests, but noted he will always love photography.

“If I took your picture today, this would be the last time that you would be this particular age, looking this particular way in your life and that’s one of the wonderful things about photography,” he explained. “It preserves those moments for future generations to see and I think that’s important.”

Locklear Nominated as Next Pacom Commander


By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2011 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Dec. 28 that President Barack Obama has nominated Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III for reappointment to the rank of admiral and for assignment as commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Locklear is currently serving as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe; commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa; and commander, Allied Joint Forces Command, Naples, Italy.

Pacific Command is likely to assume increasing importance in the coming years, as senior government officials including Obama, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have all spoken in recent months about the Asia-Pacific region’s increasing strategic importance.

During a visit to the region in November, Obama said as the United States plans for the future, “we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace.”

The nation’s enduring interest in the Pacific region requires its enduring presence, the president said. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” he added.

Locklear this year commanded Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. part of the coalition effort aimed at protecting the people of Libya from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and establishing a no-fly zone over the nation. The overall name of the NATO-led operation was Operation Unified Protector.

Locklear graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1977. His career as a surface warfare officer culminated in command of the USS Leftwich. Subsequent fleet command assignments include commander, Destroyer Squadron Two; commander, Nimitz Strike Group; and commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet.

Locklear has served ashore as executive assistant to the vice chief of naval operations; the 78th commandant of midshipmen, U.S. Naval Academy; director, assessment division; and director, programming division. Before his current assignment, he served as director of the Navy Staff from July 2, 2009, to Sept. 10, 2010.

Locklear is a 1992 graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University.

If confirmed as Pacom commander, Locklear will replace Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, who has served in that position since Oct. 19, 2009.

This Day in Naval History - Dec. 30

1941 - Admiral Ernest J. King assumes duty as Commander in Chief, United States Fleet.
1959 - Commissioning of first fleet ballistic missile submarine, USS George Washington (SSB(N)-598), at Groton, CT.

Republic of Korea Consulate General Visits USS Essex

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- The Republic of Korea consulate general and the principal officer U.S. Consulate Fukuoka visited forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), Dec. 29.

ROK Consulate General Cho Jung-Won and Principle Officer U.S. Consulate Fukuoka Jason R. Cubas toured Command Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) and later toured Essex after expressing an interest in seeing the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship.

Cho and Cubas visited Sasebo to meet with CFAS Commanding Officer Capt. Charles W. Rock and Essex' Commanding Officer Capt. David Fluker to learn more about the capabilities and assets of Sasebo and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

"It is an honor and a privilege to be able to host a tour of Essex for the Republic of Korea consulate general and principal officer, U.S. Consulate Fukuoka," said Fluker. "It is important for our allies in the region to understand the U.S. Navy's capability to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security and crisis intervention."

Fluker also spoke about Essex' role in the Essex Amphibious Ready Group as well as the ship's numerous recent patrols and exercises. Essex recently participated in patrols of the South China Sea, Philippine Sea and the Celebes Sea.

"The versatility of Essex is remarkable," said Cubas. "I think that it is important for America to educate our allies about the impressive and diverse functions of our Navy. I will personally do anything I can to showcase our nation's great fleet."

Fluker escorted Cho, Cubas and guests through the ship, and described the success of the Navy and Marine Corps team in recent exercises such as Amphibious Landing Exercise and Operation Tomodachi.

Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

USS Carl Vinson Sailors and Volunteers Build Relationships in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 spent a day with Salvation Army volunteers in Tai Wo Hau Estate, Hong Kong, Dec. 28 during the ship's port visit.

Team-building exercises between Sailors and Chinese youth volunteers were organized by Lau Po-ngan, assistant service supervisor for the Salvation Army in Tai Wo Hau Estate. Afterward, the young adults took the U.S. Sailors on a tour of their town.

"We got to really interact one-on-one with them throughout the tour," said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class (AW/SW) Ricardo Amezcua, assigned to Vinson's Intelligence Department.

Sailors were not the only ones eager to share and interact. The Chinese youth volunteers usually do not have the opportunity to communicate outside of their community, explained Po-ngan.

"Not many foreigners come to [Tai Wo Hau], so it was good for them to talk to the Sailors and learn how to communicate with different cultures," he said.

"It was less hands-on and more of a group effort," said Ship's Serviceman Seaman Amber Walker, assigned to Vinson's Supply Department. "It was a good separation from the usual community service project."

"It was both an educational and really fun experience," Amezcua said.

Vinson and CVW-17 along with guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) and guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) comprise Carrier Strike Group 1 and are conducting a western Pacific deployment.

USS Carl Vinson Departs Hong Kong

HONG KONG (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 departed Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor Dec. 30 after a three-day port visit.

The Vinson crew welcomed aboard more than 400 visitors to the ship's hangar bay Dec. 27 for a reception. U.S. service members mingled with their guests and counterparts from the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Attendees also took an aircraft elevator ride to tour the carrier's flight deck. Vinson's S-2 Division, of Supply Department, provided 800 pounds of food, including meat, seafood, cakes, fruits and vegetables. More than 24 hours were devoted to cook, chop, fry and bake the various items, with a separate team assigned to transform the hangar bay into a reception area with tables and carpet.

"The Food Service personnel did an outstanding job in preparing and executing this event," said S-2 Division's Leading Chief Petty Officer, Master Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Wilfred Cheong. "They took pride in their work regardless of their task, and it showed every step of the way."

Sailors volunteered their liberty time to interact with their host country through six community service (COMSERV) projects Dec. 28-29. Three hundred Sailors completed myriad of tasks - from fixing up and painting a home for the elderly to working at a homeless shelter. The COMSERVs, spearheaded by Vinson's Religious Ministries Department, were a popular liberty choice among Sailors.

"We probably filled up about 75 percent of the available slots within the first hour-and-a-half of the information coming out," said Religious Ministries Department's assistant leading petty officer Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Johnson. "Within three days, it was full. Usually about three weeks before a port visit, people start coming in asking about COMSERVs non-stop before we have any information. Once the information comes out, the phone just keeps ringing and the door's always opening."

Sailors also took advantage of opportunities to see Hong Kong's cultural offerings with Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)-sponsored tours. From Disneyland and shopping to mountain biking and golf, MWR's goal was to offer something for everyone with 19 tours to choose from. Vinson's rugby and soccer teams also played against local Hong Kong nationals, building camaraderie over a common interest.

"It is important to have a variety of activities because everyone's interests differ. Everyone has limited liberty time and they want to make the most of it," said Therese Guinane, Vinson's "Fun Boss". "Since we visited Hong Kong in May, this was also an opportunity for Sailors to try something new they didn't get to do then."

Vinson and CVW 17, along with guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) and guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), comprise Carrier Strike Group 1 and are conducting a western Pacific deployment.

Martial Artist Takes Break to Serve Nation

By Marine Corps Cpl. Marco Mancha
2nd Marine Division

COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Afghanistan, Dec. 30, 2011 – Marine Corps Cpl. Justin Stewart’s childhood was spent moving all over the United States with his mother. Fortunately, he didn’t let the constant relocating deter him from his love of flying kicks and fast strikes.

Stewart, a professional martial artist, took a break from the fighting world of taekwondo to serve his country as a U.S. Marine.

Stewart was born in Augusta, Ga., but because of his mother’s occupation as a traveling nurse, moved two years later. His mother was required to move wherever her specialties were needed.

It was in Jackson, Miss., where 5-year-old Justin would attend his first martial arts class. His mother signed him up once she saw Stewart’s determination to learn the sport.

“Growing up I had an older brother who I always looked up to, and I was only 5 when he started out,” Stewart explained. “I begged my mother to put me into it. So she did, knowing I was trying to follow in big brother’s footsteps.”

His older brother stopped attending classes after a while, but Stewart stuck with it and fell in love with the sport. He practiced for hours a day and his skills improved quickly.

At age 13 he moved with his family about two hours east of Jackson to Meridian. There he found the International Taekwondo Alliance, a group of Taekwondo schools determined to empower member instructors and students to enrich their personal, artistic and professional lives through traditional taekwondo training.

He began training with the ITA and took his calling to the next level by becoming a certified martial arts instructor. Stewart and his mother continued to move throughout the country, but his martial arts studies remained consistent.

“It was an escape for me, it kept me busy, and I made a lot of friends anywhere I traveled,” he said.

By age 16, Stewart was a second-degree black belt and even studied taekwondo abroad in South Korea, where the art form was born and established. He balanced martial arts and school upon his return, became a third-degree black belt, and spent a year teaching taekwondo full-time in California after graduating high school in 2006.

Thirteen years of sticking to what he loved, Stewart thought it was time for him to see the world. A trip to the recruiter’s office and some influence from his older brother, who was in the Marine Corps at the time, aided his decision to join.

“He was really excited when I told him I was going to take that next step and become a Marine,” he recalled. “I’m glad I did it because I actually got to see the world just as I had hoped.”

Stewart did in fact get to see the world on his first deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He deployed as a professional instructor gunman with the Scout Sniper Platoon attached to Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

Now 23, Stewart is on his second deployment and is serving in a special billet as an infantry noncommissioned officer for the civil affairs team attached to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. He is tasked with being the specialist in leading, planning and organizing patrols for the CAT when they conduct business throughout the unit’s area of operation in Afghanistan.

“His role is to provide the team a subject-matter expert on all things related to infantry, and this is invaluable due to our constant dismounted patrolling operations,” said Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Andrew McGann, a Longmont, Colo., native and assistant team leader with the CAT. “He is always the first to volunteer for a patrol and convoy operations. Corporal Stewart has displayed unwavering motivation through our deployment.”

Stewart said he hopes to continue his taekwondo career in the future, but is taking it one step at a time and focusing his attention on school and his Marine Corps profession.

Air Force couple refuels their holiday spirit

by Senior Airman Michael Charles
 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/30/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA  -- A little more than a year ago if you asked Timothy and Victoria McBride what they would be doing around the holidays they probably would have answered with the usual holiday traditions - making cookies, decorating the Christmas tree or opening presents. Normal newlywed couples would have been able to enjoy the many activities we associate with the holiday season, but the McBride's aren't your typical newlywed couple.

Both Timothy and Victoria are KC-135 pilots at the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron here. Due to the high deployment tempo of their job, birthdays, holidays and even their first anniversary have, for the most part, been relegated to chow hall dates and library visits. It was no surprise when both were notified of missions on Christmas day.

"We do many of the things your typical couple would do while we are home at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., but while deployed our focus is expanded to accomplishing the Air Force's objectives as well," said 1st Lt. Victoria McBride, a native of Renovo, Pa.

"We both know the mission comes first," said Capt. Timothy McBride, a native of Orland Park, Ill. "We've been very fortunate. It's a testament to the Air Force's ability to accommodate relationships to even be deployed at the same time. If we have to sacrifice a holiday here to accomplish a much needed mission it doesn't really bother us."

Little did they know, however, that separate missions would also bring them together for Christmas.

After taking off on Christmas Eve on a nearly 10-hour mission to provide refueling support for special operations aircraft over Afghanistan, Timothy felt he would not get the opportunity to spend time with his wife on Christmas.

"It's the nature of the job," he said.

But things turned out for the better when the aircraft he was piloting was directed to provide fuel to an aircraft being co-piloted by his wife.

"It's a bit of coincidence that Vicky was in the tanker we were directed to offload fuel to," said Timothy. "Consolidating fuel is a common occurrence when providing tanker support; however, being able to work together to accomplish that mission on Christmas Day in the skies above Afghanistan was pretty special."

Consolidation of fuel is an oft used process in which one tanker will offload a majority of its fuel into another before heading back to base. By doing this, the newly replenished tanker can loiter providing additional air refueling capability.

Even though using this exercise is common, it was the first time that the couple had piloted the two tankers performing it in a real mission.

"It was a unique experience," Victoria said. "Even though I knew flying and completing a mission with Tim was possible, I never really gave much thought to actually accomplishing it."

Both were thankful for being given the opportunity to briefly connect during Christmas.

"Technically we got to spend Christmas together," said Victoria. "I can't complain about that."

"Going into this deployment I knew it would be hit or miss if we would actually be off on the same days during the holiday season," Timothy said. "Even though we both weren't, it's refreshing that I was able to speak and spend time with her on Christmas. Every little bit counts."

The couple knew that it was very much possible that they would spend their holiday season deployed.

"I had not deployed yet," said Victoria. "In a tempo such as ours I knew that it was only a matter of time 'till I was gone. It just so happened to fall on the holiday season as well. "

Victoria was notified in early 2011 that she would be deploying, upon completion of her co-pilot training in August. Timothy, who was coming off of his fourth deployment of the year, volunteered for another, in order to get on the same deployment rotation as her.

"She inspired me," Timothy said. "To be willing, without complaint to step up for her first deployment during the holiday season tells stories about her work ethic. After seeing how she carried herself through the whole ordeal I didn't mind volunteering to do the same."

The McBride's sense of duty and dedication to their mission speaks testaments to their character. For the rest of their lives they will always be able to tell the story of the Christmas night they spent in the skies of Afghanistan as only a service member can.

"The stars were aligned I guess," said Timothy with a chuckle. "It's truly the Air Force's version of the Christmas Story that I was able to work together with my wife to accomplish the mission in the skies of Afghanistan. It doesn't get any better than that."

Team Concludes Agent Orange Investigation in South Korea

By Walter T. Ham IV
Eighth Army Public Affairs

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea, Dec. 30, 2011 – A joint U.S.-South Korean investigation team announced that it discovered no evidence of Agent Orange during its probe into claims that the toxic defoliant was buried on Camp Carroll.

Led by Dr. Gon Ok, Pokyong National University’s chief professor, and Army Col. Joseph F. Birchmeier, U.S. Forces Korea engineer, the team concluded its eight-month investigation Dec. 29 at a press conference in South Korea’s Chilgok County Office.

The investigation began in May following a report on KPHO TV in Phoenix where U.S. veterans claimed they buried Agent Orange on the military base in southeastern South Korea in 1978.

Birchmeier, the lead U.S. investigator, said the bilateral investigation found no evidence that Agent Orange was buried on Camp Carroll and discovered no risk to public health on the U.S. Army post.

"I want you to know that we have found no definitive evidence that Agent Orange was buried or stored on Camp Carroll," Birchmeier said.

During the investigation, the team interviewed 172 former Korean civilian employees and U.S. soldiers and worked with 32 different government agencies.

A document review revealed that all 380 barrels of Agent Orange brought into South Korea in 1968 were used by the Republic of Korea Army to reduce areas for enemy concealment inside the Korean Demilitarized Zone that same year.

The team also conducted an exhaustive geophysical survey with ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistivity and magnetometers of the area where the Agent Orange allegedly was buried. Based on the results of the geophysical survey, water and soil samples were taken to check for the compounds of Agent Orange and its specific dioxin byproducts.

All samples were tested by South Korean and U.S. scientists. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District verified the U.S. analytical results, and Seoul National University, Pohang University of Science and Technology, and Pukyong University analyzed the samples.

The investigation was conducted in consultation with the status-of-forces agreement environmental subcommittee, which will handle future environmental issues.

"Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our people and our Korean neighbors in the surrounding communities," said Army Brig. Gen. David J. Conboy, deputy commanding general for Eighth Army. "This joint investigation was thorough, scientific and complete, and I'm happy to report that there is no threat to public health and no evidence that Agent Orange was buried on the post."

Leap Frogs Complete 2011 Season at Holiday Bowl

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, kicked off the 34th annual Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego Dec. 28.

In their last jump of the season, the team performed for approximately 55,000 college-football fans, including more than 100 local Marines who paraded an American flag that spanned the football field.

"The Leap Frogs have been a tradition at the Holiday Bowl every year, so it's one of the more exciting moments that we have at the beginning of the game," said Chuck Wasker, president of the 2011 Holiday Bowl. "They're always precision perfect and we're delighted to have them. They are special to us."

The game hosted the University of California Golden Bears and the University of Texas Longhorns. Texan fans screamed with excitement while watching two fellow Texans jump out of a C-2 Greyhound plane. The aircraft, piloted by Fleet Logistics Squadron 30, stationed at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, Calif., escorted the team to the field.

The jumpers used colored smoke to help spectators track them as they soared across the sky, traveling at a rate of 120 miles per hour.

"It was exhilarating, exciting," said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Thomas Kinn, a native of Texas, about his jump. "A sunset jump at the stadium in front of my hometown team. I jumped last year and I jumped this year!"

Michelle Oestrick, a Longhorns fan who followed her team from Austin, Texas, said it was an honor to see the Leap Frogs jump.

"It was absolutely amazing," said Oestrick. "I have an overwhelming sense of patriotism and there are just not enough words to say thank you [to all service members]. So it's really amazing to see it -- experience it -- in person."

The Leap Frogs are based in San Diego and perform aerial parachute demonstrations across America in support of Naval Special Warfare (NSW) and Navy Recruiting as a "Global Force For Good." The team is composed of parachuting experts from Naval Special Warfare including Navy SEALs, special warfare combatant-craft crewmen, and an NSW parachute rigger, in addition to support personnel.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rules Liberalized for Veterans with Undiagnosed Illnesses

Application Window Extended for Five Years

WASHINGTON – Veterans of the Persian Gulf War with undiagnosed illnesses have an additional five years to qualify for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Not all the wounds of war are fully understood,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “When there is uncertainty about the connection between a medical problem and military service, Veterans are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”

A recent change in VA regulations affects Veterans of the conflict in Southwest Asia.  Many have attributed a range of undiagnosed or poorly understood medical problems to their military services.  Chemical weapons, environmental hazards and vaccinations are among the possible causes.

At issue is the eligibility of Veterans to claim VA disability compensation based upon those undiagnosed illnesses, and the ability of survivors to qualify for VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Under long-standing VA rules, any undiagnosed illnesses used to establish eligibility for VA benefits must become apparent by Dec. 31, 2011.  The new change pushes the date back to Dec. 31, 2016.

Veterans or survivors who believe they qualify for these benefits should contact VA at 1-800-827-1000.

Further information about undiagnosed illnesses is available online at and

U.S. to Sell F-15 Fighters to Saudi Arabia

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2011 – The United States will sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for 70 existing aircraft to Saudi Arabia under a nearly $29.4 billion agreement, U.S. officials announced today.

During a joint State Department and Defense Department briefing today, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, discussed the sale.

“The United States is firmly committed to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we have been for nearly seven decades, and … more broadly, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong mutual interest in the security and stability of the Gulf,” Miller said.

The F-15s Saudi Arabia will receive “will have the latest generation of computing power, radar technology, infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems,” he added.

“This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Shapiro said. “It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security.”

State and DOD have worked to conclude the agreement since June 2010, Shapiro added.

The White House earlier today released a statement detailing the Foreign Military Sales program agreement, which also will provide munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics support for the F-15s to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

This Day in Naval History - Dec. 29

1798 - First annual report by Secretary of the Navy, sent by Benjamin Stoddert.
1812 - USS Constitution (Captain William Bainbridge) captures HMS Java off Brazil after a three hour battle.
1943 - USS Silversides (SS-236) sinks three Japanese ships and damages a fourth off Palau.

Transition Benefits: FFSC ERB Seminar Available to San Diego Sailors

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) San Diego offers a series of two-day seminars for Sailors and their families affected by the Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) with the next scheduled for Jan. 17-18 at Naval Base Coronado.

The seminar is entitled "ERB...What Next? Seminar for Sailors and Spouses" and additional sessions are planned on a monthly basis through June.

"Our Sailors have amazing leadership skills, and they've already started to make their own transition plans. We're just here to help ensure they are connected with all the resources that can help them meet their goals and the correct information on the benefits associated with their transition," said Mary Kirby, FFSC San Diego director.

The first seminar was held Dec. 19 and 20 at Naval Base San Diego and 59 Sailors and spouses affected by the ERB were in attendance. Attendees received information about assistance and resources to help in the transition to the civilian workforce, managing stress, financial planning, and understanding transition benefits.

The seminar, also open to Sailors and spouses affected by Perform to Serve, consists of ten interactive modules addressing every aspect of the ERB transition process. In partnership with FFSC, representatives from Navy College, command career counselors, Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, Personal Property, Personnel Support Detachment, Human Resources Service Center, REBOOT, Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, Employment Development Department, and other organizations attend to answer questions and provide the latest information on career services, networking, financial empowerment, transition benefits, stress management, and relocation information.

At the conclusion of the seminar's first day, there is an evening resource fair with schools, employers, Reserve recruiters, placement agency representatives, and resource organizations connecting with separating Sailors and their spouses to provide brochures and individual consultations.

"FFSC will post information from each learning module online for downloading, as well as mailing material to deployed commands," said Kirby, FFSC San Diego. "FFSC San Diego has planned seminars each month through at least June of 2012 and similar learning opportunities will be offered to those affected throughout Navy Region Southwest in conjunction with their local FFSCs."

In addition to the ERB Seminar, a Shipmates to Workmates (S2W) Job Fair is being offered in San Diego Feb. 9. Attendees can meet with representative from commands including Commander, Naval Installations Command, Naval Air Systems, Naval Facilities Engineering Commad, Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Supply Systems Command, Office of Civilian Human Resources, and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to receive information about career opportunities and receive assistance with applications and resumes for open positions. S2W is a Navy-wide initiative consisting of a traveling road show and individualized support to help Sailors locate civilian employment options within the Department of the Navy, as well as assistance in easing their transition.

For more information, visit

FFSC San Diego also added additional dates to the Transition Assistance Program classes for Sailors separating under ERB that cannot attend the regularly scheduled sessions or prefer to attend with other ERB Sailors.

"The content for Transition Assistance Program classes for ERB/PTS separating Sailors is not different than that of regular TAP classes, however students in these sessions can network with others being separated for the same reasons," Kirby said.

FFSC San Diego offers implemented walk-in services each week for easy access to counseling for those affected by the stress of an ERB transition. All of these services are available to Sailors affected by Perform to Serve as well.

"These initiatives augment the traditional FFSC services available to all transitioning service members and their families," said Kirby. "They include individualized consultations and workshops on finding federal and civilian employment, interview techniques, resume writing, and other career and financial readiness programs. We are here to be partners in transition for Sailors and families."

For more information about ERB transition support, check out the NPC ERB transition support page at, contact the NPC customer service center at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC (1-866-827-5672), or email

For more information about support services offered by FFSC San Diego, visit

Defenders share gifts, bring holiday cheer to orphans

by Staff Sgt. Mark Bush
8th Security Forces Squadron

 12/28/2011 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- During this holiday season Defenders of the 8th Security Forces Squadron defend the base, but they also take the time spread Christmas cheer to the Samsung Orphanage.

Since 1970, the 8th SFS has had a long standing 'legacy' project with sponsoring the Samsung Orphanage's Angel Tree. The orphanage is located approximately 10 miles from Kunsan Air Base and houses more than 55 children ranging from age 4 to 18.

This year, the defenders took their legacy project up a notch by providing each child with three presents.

"It was truly an eye opening experience," said Airman 1st Class Adam Errahebi, an 8th SFS volunteer. "I was honored to have the opportunity to have a hand in something like this. It was especially gratifying to see all the SF members pull together and make this Christmas a special one for the kids, it made my holiday season."

The Christmas celebration began with a meal sponsored by the Kunsan Commissary, Army and Air Force Exchange Services and Staff Sgt. Kevin Arndt, 8th SFS alpha flight chief.

After the meal, the children sang and danced to a variety of Korean and American Christmas songs.

"The kids displayed their appreciation with a performance," said Tech. Sgt. Jimmy Tran, 8th SFS volunteer. "We did not expect this from these kids. We all had the opportunity to put a smile on a child's face and show the Air Force's ability to give back to the community."

8th SFS Airmen enjoyed the opportunity to be family to others during the holiday season while being away from their own.

Kunsan reflects on past, ready for future -- A look at 2011

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/28/2011 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The year 2011 brought about much change and progress for the Wolf Pack.

 Most notably, in May and throughout the spring, a new wing leadership team took the helm after the previous command lead the wing to an "Excellent" overall rating during the year's operational readiness inspection.

This set the Wolf Pack up for success after several more quarterly and peninsula-wide operational readiness exercises in preparation for the 2012 dual-ORI and unit compliance inspection that will be known as a combined unit inspection.

Other notable achievements include updating and upgrading the bowling alley, constructing a new running track, completing new maintenance facilities, being host to numerous distinguished visitors and music artists, the demolition of more than two condemned dormitories, beating out rival Osan Air Base at the annual sports day and accomplishing many wing warrior runs in the hunt for physical fitness.

 Keeping in step with long-standing Wolf Pack traditions, Kunsan also performed above the mark by hosting several joint and bilateral training exercises, pausing and reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, supporting both operations Tomodachi in Japan and Pacific Angel in Cambodia, cycling more than 100 miles for cancer awareness, completing two Marine combat fitness tests, successfully hosting more than 100,000 Korean nationals for the biennial air show and spreading Christmas cheer to orphans and the elderly of Gunsan City.

 In May, at his assumption of command, Col. Scott Pleus, 8th Fighter Wing commander, had this to say as he began his tenure as Kunsan's "Wolf":

"What we do at Kunsan is very important," Pleus said. "I wholeheartedly believe Kunsan is the best assignment you can get in our Air Force and I can't wait to get started!"

The then new commander explained how the Wolf Pack was to accomplish all the milestones it had in its path and how these accomplishments would prepare Kunsan for whatever 2012 and beyond has in store.

"We'll do this by focusing on professionalism, caring for our great Airmen, being the best stewards of our resources and planning for the future."

Emergency mass notification system to be implemented at AMC bases

by Air Mobility Command Emergency Management

 12/29/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- In September of this year, Headquarters Air Mobility Command awarded a contract to Reliable Government Solutions to provide AtHoc Installation Warning System Alerts (AtHoc IWSAlerts™) to eight AMC installations.

This system procurement in part is in response to mitigating events such as the Fort Hood, Texas, incident, but will be key to notifying installation personnel during all types of emergencies.

AtHoc IWSAlerts™ is a network-centric emergency mass notification system (EMNS) which also provides an aspect of personnel accountability. The personnel accountability is a report consisting of who was notified, when and if they acknowledged.

The system is capable of notifying personnel within minutes of an emergency from a single, centralized, Web-based instance. Types of notifications range from force protection condition changes, anti-terror warnings or natural disaster alerts for approaching tornadoes, hurricanes or other emergency situations.

 Command posts at each base will be the lead in operating the system with emergency managers also being key players in the process. The AMC command center will also have the ability to make command-wide notifications. As the primary owners of the systems at the bases, command posts will push alerts upon direction of the wing commander or their representative. A forthcoming HQ AMC EMNS concept of operations will outline operational details and provide guidance on how installations are to use the system. Installation commanders will be the final approval authority for local implementation and use.

The client installation phase should be transparent to the user. Once complete, it is easy for an end user (alert recipient) to know when communication is in place from their desktop, as indicated by the small purple globe in the system tray indicating connectivity. When there is no communication or a connectivity issue occurs, a grey globe with a red "X" appears in the system tray.

End user responsibilities are simple: keep your contact information current and respond to alerts in a timely manner by following the provided instructions. You can update your contact information by using the AtHoc IWSAlerts™ self service module; just right click on the purple globe and select "Access Self Service" and update accordingly. An alert will have a specific set of instructions to respond to. Ensure you read the entire alert and/or listen to the entire message then respond accordingly. An important note to remember is this system will notify many people in a short period of time and provides robust notification capabilities, but we still need personnel to remember their wingman responsibilities to ensure the 100 percent solution.

 The contract provides eight installations with a rapid means to notify the base populace using computer pop-ups, e-mail, telephony (hard line and cellular) and text messaging. The eight bases receiving AtHoc IWSAlerts™ with this contract include Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Dover Air Force Base, Del., Scott AFB, Ill., Fairchild AFB, Wash., Grand Forks AFB, N.D., Little Rock AFB, Ark., McConnell AFB, Kan., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. This purchase will align these installations with the other AMC bases and improve our notification in a more standard fashion.

National Guard (in Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of December 27, 2011

This week the Air Force and Coast Guard announced an increase in activated reservists, while the Army, Navy and Marine Corps announced a decrease. The net collective result is 216 fewer reservists activated than last week.

 At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease.  The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 66,935; Navy Reserve, 4,421; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 10,180; Marine Corps Reserve, 5,220, and the Coast Guard Reserve, 769.  This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 87,525, including both units and individual augmentees.

A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found on line at

Toledo Edges Air Force in 42-41 Game

By John Van Winkle
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2011 – A failed two-point conversion gave the Toledo Rockets a 42-41 win over Air Force in the 2011 Military Bowl at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium here yesterday. The game was an expected offensive shootout featuring two teams that scored a combined 920 points this season. The two teams gave just that to a national TV audience, with 35 points scored in the first half, and going into the halftime tied up at 28-all.

This shootout featured 746 yards of offense and boiled down to a 42-35 deficit for Air Force with just under five minutes left and 78 yards to go to tie the game.

Four-year starting quarterback Tim Jefferson led the Falcons the length of the field in 11 plays featuring eight passes and only three rushes, before putting six more points on the scoreboard with a 33-yard pass to Zach Kauth.

Then the Falcons lined up for an extra point with punter David Baska holding and Parker Herrington set to kick.

But the play called wasn't a kick.

Extensive film study of the Toledo Rockets had shown Air Force coaches that the Rockets tended to overload the right side when facing an opponent's extra point and field goal attempts, said Falcons head football coach Troy Calhoun.

"We thought we'd get an overload on the right this time too," the coach said. "We thought we were better off going for two. When we're getting four, five or six yards per play like we normally do, then going for the tie and taking it to overtime could work.”

But in the second half, the Toledo defense had held the Falcons to only two scores, so the Falcons coaches decided they were better off going for the win than prolonging the game into a sudden death overtime, he added. 

"We called an option left, with an inside player blocking down and thought we'd have the punter run it, and he'd be able to pitch out to the kicker if needed," Calhoun explained.

But the pitch was fumbled and bounced unclaimed out the left side of the end zone. The Toledo bench erupted in cheers, but the game wasn't over yet. The clock still had 52 seconds left in regulation. 

Air Force lined up for an onside kick, with two kickers in the middle to disguise which way the onside kick was destined to go. The kick was recovered by Toledo, which ran out the clock to secure the team’s 42-41 win. 

The Air Force Academy Falcons end their 2011 season with a 7-6 record, but there's still a few more chapters before the 2011 Fighting Falcons story comes to a close. The graduating seniors have a return visit to the nation's capital next year, when they will visit the White House to receive the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy from the president for beating the other service academies in football. Then the seniors will have another important date on their calendars to look forward to: their May 23 graduation.

"For them, it's all about graduation now," Calhoun said. It's all about them becoming second lieutenants and how they will lead and influence others throughout the rest of their lives."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Northern Region Treatment System Begins Construction at Camp Pendleton

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest and members of the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton community held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Northern Region Tertiary Treatment Plant Dec. 15 at Camp Pendleton.

"The groundbreaking signifies a culmination of almost eight years of Marine Corps planning to upgrade their existing waste water treatment systems," said Joe Riojas, NAVFAC Southwest supervisory general engineer at ROICC Camp Pendleton. "Commencement of construction for the new treatment facility will bring to the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton added capacity, flexibility -- and reflects positively on their commitment to the environment."

NAVFAC Southwest awarded CDM/FILANC (a joint venture) the $121.3 million design-build contract Sept. 28, 2010, to construct the treatment plant. The plant will be capable of treating up to five million gallons of waste water per day. Included in the contract is the conversion of an existing sewer treatment plant, up to six miles of new waste water conveyance and a solar farm with a design capacity to generate up to 5.3 megawatts of power. Additionally, though waste water plants are normally not LEED certifiable, the control building for the facility will be designed to meet LEED Silver standards.

The project is expected to be completed in December 2013.

Dietary supplements removed from Exchanges due to health concerns

12/28/2011 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Department of Defense has implemented a temporary moratorium on the sales of products containing DMAA within military facilities.  

The moratorium will remain in effect pending further review of relevant scientific evidence and reported events, officials said.

Recent reports show that two Soldier deaths and additional adverse health effects in other service members may be related to the use of dietary supplements containing DMAA, which is also known as dimethylamylamine.

"We support the decision of the Military Exchanges and Commissaries to remove products containing DMAA from their shelves until we can make a further determination about the safety of this ingredient," said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, the deputy director of Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Health Protection and Readiness.

DMAA is sold as a single supplement and in combination with multiple other ingredients. In particular, it is often combined with caffeine, a legal, natural stimulant. Stimulants may accelerate metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure, which may increase the body's production of heat, especially in hot and humid conditions.

"We are concerned about reports of heat illness, kidney (and) liver damage, and sudden death in service members who reportedly used products containing DMAA," Kilpatrick said.  

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson asked the surgeons general of the military services to conduct a review of available scientific evidence and adverse event reports to better understand any potential relationship between DMAA and these events. Recommendations from this review will guide further decisions, officials said.

"We take the health of our service members and families very seriously, and believe this action is necessary as a precautionary measure until we can learn more," said Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general.

Top 10 Military Family Moments of 2011

By Elaine Sanchez
 Dec. 28, 2011
 Family Matters Blog

It’s that time of year when top 10 lists seem to proliferate across nearly every web and news page in the nation, proclaiming everything from the best movies and TV shows to the most memorable photos and celebrities of the year.

Since I find it tough to encapsulate a year’s worth of information into a tidy list, I typically steer away from the concept. However, this was such a momentous year for military families that I decided it was time to hop on the list-making bandwagon.

So, here’s my top 10 most memorable military family moments of 2011. It’s certainly not all-inclusive, but I’m hoping it at least hits the highlights.

10. JR Martinez – Warrior Inspiration. This Army veteran and wounded warrior danced his way to the top spot on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” — and inspired a nation with his strength and resilience along the way. In 2003, Martinez was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, suffering severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body. He went on to share his story with audiences nationwide. In 2008, he landed a role as an Iraq war veteran on the ABC soap opera, “All My Children,” which led to his “Dancing with the Stars” appearances this year.

“I have been able to be a role model and a voice for a lot of [troops] who don’t feel that they have a voice for themselves,” Martinez said during a Pentagon Channel interview. “I’ve been able to be a source of inspiration to the families as well, to say good things do happen and you’ve just got to be patient and have a great attitude.”

Martinez recently scored another big win: he and his girlfriend, Diana Gonzalez-Jones, are expecting their first child, a girl, in the spring.

9. The Office of Servicemember Affairs opened for business. As the military arm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this office is intended to strengthen military families financially and to serve as an advocate on their behalf. The office has a threefold mission: to ensure families are given a quality financial education, to monitor consumer complaints and the response to those complaints, and to work with other federal and state agencies to help resolve issues.

In an interview this summer, Holly Petraeus, the office’s assistant director, told me she’s thrilled to be in a position to help service members and their families.

“My ultimate dream is that no service member signs a contract that they end up regretting for years or signing one that isn’t fair,” she said. “We can write rules and enforce at CFPB, and I’d love to see the real bad actors that go after service members — break the law to harm them financially — I’d like to see them enforced against.”

8. Sesame unveiled “Military Families Near and Far.” These products, which include a bilingual website and mobile application, encourage elementary school-aged children to express their emotions and to communicate as they undergo challenging military transitions. The resources are a team effort by Sesame Street and The Electric Company, and are provided in cooperation with the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Sesame’s previous efforts to help military children have been aimed at preschoolers. These new products will enable them to reach older children in an entertaining way, H. Melvin Ming, Sesame Workshop president and CEO, told me during the launch event in November. “One size does not fit all,” he noted. “Children learn best when the message is age-appropriate.”

7. Technology boosts support. This year, we’ve seen the Defense Department and other organizations launch a host of technology-based tools aimed at helping troops, veterans and their families. For example, DcOE’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology developed mobile apps that help users cope with psychological concerns, and aid providers in diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and TBI. One example is Life Armor, a mobile app that serves as a resource for families experiencing common post-deployment issues. Find out more about these helpful apps here.

Additionally, TRICARE and Express Scripts Inc. launched a TRICARE Express RX mobile app and mobile-optimized website in July. These tools allow TRICARE beneficiaries to manage their prescriptions and access important health information safely and securely from anywhere using their smart phone.

These are just a few examples of the leaps in technology-based military support this year. From smart phone apps to virtual counseling and support, I’ll be excited to see what sprouts up this year and in the years ahead.

6. Veteran employment initiatives. In November, President Barack Obama announced executive orders to give tax credits to employers who hire post-9/11 veterans and wounded warriors, as well as enhanced career counseling and related services for veterans.

As reported by my colleague Donna Miles, the president announced a new Returning Heroes Tax Credit that will provide companies up to $5,600 in credits for each unemployed veteran they hire. Similarly, a new Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers employers up to $9,600 for each veteran with service-connected disabilities they hire.

The president also unveiled two new Internet-based job search tools for unemployed veterans: My Next Move for Veterans, where veterans can browse career options and translate their military experience to a civilian application, and the Veterans Job Bank, where veterans can seek jobs posted by companies committed to hiring them.

5. The Job Fair Movement. Also aimed at employment, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsored about 75 veteran and spouse hiring fairs around the country, with a goal of hosting 100 hiring fairs within a year. And the chamber has committed to hosting 300-400 additional hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses around the country in 2012, Navy Capt. Bradley Cooper, executive director of the Joining Forces campaign, told me in an interview last month.

In mid-January, the chamber will host its first military-spouse-only hiring fair and career forum, looking to bring together more than 100 employers and more than 1,000 spouses.

There’s also been an emergence of virtual hiring fairs, which is an asset to people unable to attend a hiring fair due to distance or who want to see what’s available in other locations. Milicruit hosted a virtual fair recently that included more than 24,000 jobs from nearly 70 employers with more than 30,000 veterans and spouses engaged in the process.

4. Military Spouse Employment Partnership. This DOD program is aimed at expanding career opportunities for military spouses worldwide, and to recognize the skills and talents they bring to the employment table. The program’s website lists more than 70,000 jobs for military spouses.

Since its launch in June, the partnership has grown from 72 companies to 96, and has led to the hiring of more than 8,000 military spouses.

3. Strengthening Our Military Families. In January, President Barack Obama unveiled a governmentwide plan to strengthen military family support. The plan was based on a yearlong review summarized in the report “Strengthening our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment.”

The report outlines four key areas which the whole-of-government effort plans to address: enhancing military families’ well-being and psychological health; developing military spouse career and education opportunities; increasing child care availability and quality; and ensuring excellence in military children’s education and development.

In total, Obama said, his administration is making nearly 50 specific commitments to military families. But the government can’t accomplish this mission alone.

“Government has its responsibilities,” he said. “One percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but a hundred percent of Americans need to be supporting our troops and their families — a hundred percent.”

2. The Joining Forces campaign. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, announced this landmark military-support initiative in April. Joining Forces aims to raise awareness of military families and spark all Americans — from citizens and communities, to businesses and nonprofit groups -– to take action to ensure troops and their families have the support they need and deserve. The initiative focuses on three areas: employment, education and wellness.

“This campaign is about all of us, all of us joining together as Americans to give back to the extraordinary military families who serve and sacrifice so much every day so we can live in freedom and security,” the first lady said at the White House’s campaign launch.

The campaign has made tremendous inroads in tackling veteran and spouse employment in recent months, Cooper said. In about three months, the campaign went from teaming with 100 companies to more than 1,500, and from 1,500 people hired to nearly 20,000. These companies aim to hire upward of 135,000 veterans and spouses over the next couple of years, he added.

1. Iraq War Ends. After nearly nine years, the war in Iraq ended, and the final group of U.S. troops returned home Dec. 20 — just in time for the holidays.

The nation owes a debt to all service members and their families, President Barack Obama said Dec. 15.

“This moment of success is because of their sacrifice,” he said. “More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq. More than 30,000 of these brave men and women were wounded. Nearly 4,500 gave their lives. America’s military families have borne a heavy burden.

“As we mark the end of this war, we need to show our veterans and their families that they have the thanks of a grateful nation,” he added. “Part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it. It’s not enough to honor our heroes with words; we must do so with deeds.”

That’s my top 10, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t add a shout out to military families worldwide. In this past year, some families endured the terrible pain of losing a military loved one to combat or illness. Others sat by a bedside day and night, praying for the speedy recovery of their child or spouse who returned home with the visible or invisible wounds of war. And still others held down home fronts, bolstering their children through deployments and long separations.

As in every year of this past decade of war, these families have weathered 2011 with amazing resilience and strength.

I’d like to join the rest of the nation in saying thank you for your service and your sacrifice.