Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sterett Enjoys Smooth Sailing During Maiden Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Seth Clarke, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72 Public Affairs)

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group commander, visited guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104), Jan. 13, to praise the crew on its performance midway through her maiden deployment.

Rear Adm. Mark D. Guadagnini, commander, Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, told Sterett crew members he was happy to return to the ship to see them conducting their mission firsthand.

"Sterett was the first destroyer I was ever on at sea," said Guadagnini. "I have a fondness for this ship and for this crew of warriors. When I came on board the first time, I talked about all the great things you might be doing when we came on deployment. You guys are making it happen. You're making a difference to the strike group on this deployment."

Sterett, commissioned Aug. 9, 2008, began her deployment Oct. 22, when she departed her homeport of San Diego to join the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group in the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility (AORs).

While in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR, Sterett has escorted ships through the Strait of Hormuz, assisted stranded mariners at sea, and engaged with other strike group components on a variety of training missions.

Lt. j.g. Justin Lessel, Sterett's assistant supply officer, has been aboard the destroyer for more than a year. In that time, he's seen the ship grow into a valuable asset to the fleet. He said the crew has the new ship operating smoothly.

"We have a very good crew," Lessel said. "The people here know their jobs, and they do them very well. We've shown that throughout the deployment. This is a very capable warship; we're doing a lot of good things."

Fire Controlman 1st Class Stephen Zeller attributed the ship's success to the continuity provided by a crew that not only knows its role, but what to expect from one another.

"It's been good to find our rhythm," Zeller said. "When you have a crew that's together for an entire training cycle, it gives you the opportunity to train together so you know exactly how everybody is going to react. Everything has come together really seamlessly."

Zeller said that while getting a crew to grow together on a new destroyer can be a challenge, serving on a new ship also has its advantages.

"Having a newer ship takes a little bit of the maintenance demands off of our shoulders," he said. "It makes a big difference in helping us achieve our mission."

Throughout her deployment, Sterett will assist the strike group by providing deterrence, promoting peace and security, preserving freedom of the seas and offering humanitarian/disaster response capabilities.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts to establish conditions for regional stability.

For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit

Nebraska, Michigan Awarded Battle "E"

By Lt. Ed Early, Commander, Submarine Group 9 Public Affairs

BANGOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Two Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor submarines, Trident ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) and guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727), were recognized Jan. 1 by Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet as recipients of the 2010 Battle Efficiency Award (Battle "E").

Nebraska's Blue and Gold crews received the Battle "E" for Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 17, while Michigan's Blue Crew was awarded the Battle "E" for Submarine Squadron 19.

"Both Nebraska crews exemplified the spirit of teamwork with enthusiasm," said Capt. Paul Skarpness, commander of SUBRON 17. "Throughout 2010, Nebraska excelled in mission accomplishment, kept the ship in great fighting condition, and provided outstanding support to their families and the community. I am extremely proud of their accomplishments."

For Nebraska, the Battle "E" award announcement came on the same day that the boat's Gold Crew returned to Bangor after an 88-day strategic deterrent patrol.

"When we learned that we had won the award, the COB [Chief of the Boat] and I walked the ship to congratulate each Sailor on their efforts, and I was very pleased to see the pride that showed in all of them," said Cmdr. Mike Fisher, commanding officer of Nebraska's Gold Crew. "To receive the news while underway helped the crew return to port with an extraordinary sense of accomplishment."

Michigan's Blue Crew, commanded by Capt. Jerry Logan, is currently deployed to the U.S. Seventh Fleet area of responsibility after conducting a crew swap in Guam last November. Michigan made a routine port visit to Busan, Republic of Korea, in December.

"Michigan Blue's exceptional mission accomplishment and unmatched readiness for all peacetime and wartime mission areas made her the top crew in the squadron and provided relevant presence and capability in the western Pacific," said Capt. Dennis Carpenter, commander of SUBRON 19. "They demonstrated tremendous teamwork and esprit de corps while accomplishing two missions vital to national security."

The Battle "E" is an award of merit presented to the most proficient submarine crew in each squadron and recognizes sustained superior technical performance and continual combat readiness throughout the year. The awards are presented by the commodore of each squadron to the submarine under their command which has demonstrated the highest level of battle readiness during the evaluation year.

For more news from Commander, Submarine Group 9, visit

U.S.-Japan Pact Has Demonstrated Worth, Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, Jan. 13, 2011 – The U.S.-Japan defense pact has demonstrated its value over the past 50 years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told students at Keio University here.

In a question-and-answer session after a speech he delivered the morning of Jan. 14 in Japan – late this evening on the U.S. East Coast -- the secretary also said he believes Chinese President Hu Jintao is firmly in control of the Peoples’ Liberation Army, but the civilian and military sides must communicate better.

Gates spoke at the beginning of a day that will take him from the college to Seoul, South Korea, and then to Washington, D.C. He told the students that Japanese defense costs would skyrocket if the nation decided to go it alone.

“Because of our alliance, Japan has been secure from foreign threats for over half a century at a cost of less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product,” Gates said. “I would say, in economic terms, this alliance has been a very good deal for Japan.”

Gates went on to say that the United States and Japan working together are stronger than either would be operating independently.

China is a concern and a challenge to the United States and Japan, the secretary noted. The United States and China have cooperated many times since the normalization of U.S.-China relations in 1972, he told the students. Early in the relationship, he said, the two countries cooperated against the Soviet Union, and since then, the nations have close and huge economic ties.

“I think there are a wide array of relationships between the United States and China that underpin the contacts between the two countries and provide opportunities for us to get to know each other better and to cooperate,” the secretary said.

On the military side, Gates and his Chinese counterparts agreed that the militaries can cooperate in counterterrorism, counterpiracy, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and other areas. Also, China, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia “very much have in common the need for stability and peace on the Korean peninsula,” he said.

Opportunities always are present for nations with different economic and political systems to work together, Gates said. He cited as proof his experience with the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War and the contacts he maintained with Soviet leaders. Two countries having different political systems is no obstacle to harmonious relationships, he said.

Gates told the students and faculty that there are signs of a “disconnect” between Chinese civilian and military leaders.

“We think the civilian leadership was not aware of the aggressive approach by Chinese ships to the USNS Impeccable a few years ago,” he said. “We also think the civilian leadership may not have known about the anti-satellite test that was conducted about three years ago, and … there were pretty clear indications that they were unaware of the flight test of the J-20 [stealth fighter Jan. 10],” he said.

Part of this disconnect can be explained by bureaucratic mistakes, Gates said, but it still worries him.

“One of the reasons why I have pressed so hard for there to be a deeper, senior-level military-civilian dialogue from both countries is we have no forum right now on military issues that includes senior civilians and military,” he said.

“I don’t question the [Communist] Party’s control of the Peoples’ Liberation Army,” he continued. “I have no doubts about the fact that President Hu Jintao is in command and in charge, but I know from our own system that sometimes there are disconnects with military information flowing to our civilian leaders.”

Gates said the U.S. system features the National Security Council, in which military and civilian staffs work side by side and military information is shared in detail not only with the White House, but also with the State Department.

“There are opportunities in this dialogue to advance this civilian-military cooperation,” he said, “and I think it would also enhance military-to-military relationships.”

Gates immediately left the university to travel to Seoul, South Korea.

King Might Understand Today’s Wars, Pentagon Lawyer Says

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2011 – If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, would he understand why the United States is at war?

Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, posed that question at today’s Pentagon commemoration of King’s legacy.

In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today’s wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner’s teachings.

“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack,” he said.

Johnson is a 1979 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where King graduated in 1948. He also attended school with King’s son, Martin Luther King III, and was privy to the elder King’s speaking engagements there.

Johnson said today’s service members might wonder whether the mission they serve is consistent with King's message and beliefs. In King’s last speech in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968 -- the night before he died -- King evoked the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, Johnson noted.

According to the parable, a traveler was beaten and robbed and left for dead. Two other travelers passed the man as he lay alongside the road -- one was a priest. Both ignored the man and continued on their way. Finally, a Samaritan traveling the road showed compassion and took the stranger to an inn and saw to his care.

In his speech, King drew a parallel between those who passed by the man on the road and those in Memphis who at the time hesitated to help striking sanitation workers because they feared for their own jobs.

Johnson said King criticized those who are compassionate by proxy, noting the civil rights leader told the audience in Memphis that night, “The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, 'If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?'"

Johnson compared today’s troops to the Samaritan, who chose to help instead of taking an easier path.

“I draw the parallel to our own servicemen and women deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, away from the comfort of conventional jobs, their families and their homes,” Johnson said.

Volunteers in today’s military, he said, “have made the conscious decision to travel a dangerous road and personally stop and administer aid to those who want peace, freedom and a better place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in defense of the American people.

“Every day, our servicemen and women practice the dangerousness -- the dangerous unselfishness Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968,” Johnson told the audience.