Military News

Saturday, January 22, 2011

U.S., China Affirm Military Ties During Hu Visit to Washington

By Carol L. Bowers
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2011 – The United States and China have affirmed that a healthy, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship is an essential part of a shared vision for a positive U.S.-China relationship, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao said in a joint statement issued today.

Hu is paying a state visit to the United States Jan. 18 to 21, and the statement came on the second day of his trip, which included meetings with Obama and a joint press conference.

“Both sides agreed on the need for enhanced and substantive dialogue and communication at all levels: to reduce misunderstanding, misperception, and miscalculation; to foster greater understanding and expand mutual interest; and to promote the healthy, stable, and reliable development of the military-to-military relationship,” Obama and Hu said in their statement.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently met with Hu in China during a recent tour of East Asia to discuss security issues. Gates attended Hu’s arrival ceremony today.

Obama and Hu termed Gates’ visit to China “successful” and noted the United States will in turn welcome the Chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff Gen. Chen Bingde to the United States in the first half of 2011.

In the joint statement, the two sides also reaffirmed that the Defense Consultative Talks, the Defense Policy Coordination Talks, and the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement will remain important channels of communication in the future. Both sides will work to execute the seven priority areas for developing military-to-military relations as agreed to by Gates and Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission in October 2009.

During the joint press conference today, Obama said he also has conveyed to the Chinese president “that that we appreciated China’s role in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and we agreed that North Korea must avoid further provocations.”

“I also said that North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program is increasingly a direct threat to the security of the United States and our allies,” Obama added. “ We agreed that the paramount goal must be complete denuclearization of the peninsula. In that regard, the international community must continue to state clearly that North Korea’s uranium enrichment program is in violation of North Korea’s commitments and international obligations.”

Discussions between Obama and Hu also included other global security issues.

“With respect to global security, I’m pleased that we’re moving ahead with President Hu’s commitment at last year’s Nuclear Security Summit for China to establish a center of excellence, which will help secure the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials,” Obama said during the press conference.

“To prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, we agreed that Iran must uphold its international obligations and that the U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran must be fully enforced."

Face of Defense: Battle-hardened Marine Teaches Others

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bryan Nygaard
2nd Marine Expeditionary Force

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Jan. 21, 2011 – Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William Abernathy, the company first sergeant for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group’s Military Police Support Company, has no trouble getting the attention of his Marines.

“When Gunny Abernathy talks, everybody shuts up and listens,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Maleah Slaughter, a military policeman in the company. “He’s definitely somebody to be heard.”

Abernathy was born and raised in the small town of Madison, Miss., and graduated from Madison Central High School. “I was 16 years old before we got our first stop light,” he said in a distinctive Southern drawl.

Once he completed high school in May 1996, Abernathy quickly started down the path he’s been on ever since.

“I walked across the stage, gave my diploma to my mom, gave her a hug, got in [the recruiter’s] car, went to [Military Entrance Processing Station] and went to boot camp,” he said.

Abernathy said he became a Marine because he wanted to serve his country, but not in the sense of ‘Corps, country and Momma’s apple pie.’ Rather, he said, joining the military was more of a requirement than a career choice, in line with his belief that every American citizen should serve at least two years in any branch of service.

For Abernathy’s first four years in the Marine Corps, he served as an infantry machine gunner before making a lateral move to military police. In addition to his time here, he has been stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and Kanoehe Bay, Hawaii, and he even did a tour of duty as a recruiter in LaGrange, Ga.

"It was absolutely the worst tour of duty I've ever had,” he said. “And I've got five combat tours."

One of those tours was in Fallujah, Iraq, where he met his wife, Rachel, in 2005.

“Our guys went through a lot of ammo, … and she was our battalion [ammunition technician] chief,” he said. “When we got back, we kept up conversations, started dating, and a year or so later we got married.”

Abernathy’s other deployments also have made lasting impressions on him. On his last deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, where he was told by Afghan villagers the Taliban had a $50,000 price on his head, Abernathy found himself in a vicious firefight.

While repelling an enemy assault, Abernathy quickly and calmly helped every wounded Marine and established a casualty collection point behind barriers that effectively shielded the wounded from indirect fire.

It was during this firefight that he employed a unique first aid tool he tells all of his Marines to have in their individual first aid kits.

"I always carry tampons with me,” he said. “They plug bullet holes pretty good."

After the fight was over, Abernathy’s uniform was covered with blood from many of the Marines he helped. He wore that blood-stained uniform for more than a month, he said.

“I didn't have any water to wash the blood off my clothes,” he explained. “I barely had enough water to drink. I wore those kids' blood on me for about a month and a half. My commanding officer made me burn my uniform. I still got the boots that have blood all over them. I keep them in my house. I can't bring myself to throw them away. I just can't.”

Abernathy has a simple explanation for how he stays calm in battle: “I made my peace with God a long time ago,” he said.
It’s essential that leaders stay calm when under pressure, he added, because loss of bearing and panic only multiply the chaos.

"If my guys don't have faith in who's leading them, then we're all screwed,” he said. “I'm depending on them to beat back the bad guy, and if I'm flipping out, then they can't do that effectively."

It was also on this deployment that he suffered a mild case of traumatic brain injury caused by a high-mobility artillery rocket that exploded near him while he was chasing a sniper. This injury is keeping him from deploying with his fellow Marines.
“It kills me to see guys I know go to very bad areas and know that I can't go with them,” he said. “I'm not a warmonger. I know what I'm capable of and I damn sure know how to fight the Taliban. There's just one way to deal with them that's effective and gets results: You gain ground, you push them off, and you own the real estate. It is what it is.”

Many of his Marines say that if there is one thing Abernathy teaches them, it is how to stay alive, and Abernathy said that’s important to him.

“I’ve seen how brutal [the Taliban] can be,” he said. “I’ve seen what they do when they get their hands on one of ours. I’ll be damned if I take a kid into harm’s way and I don’t give him every tool that I have to use.”

Even though he has been through the wringer on more than one occasion, Abernathy said, he doesn’t use his experiences to brag or boast, but rather to validate what he is teaching.

“I try not to be that guy that’s got a story for everything,” he said. “I’m not the only one who’s seen and done combat. There is nothing glorious in war. There is nothing glorious in taking another life. There’s no awesome feeling that you get filled with. Dead is dead. You just killed somebody’s son, husband or brother. There’s nothing awe-inspiring about that stuff. It’s a necessary evil.”

Abernathy’s Marines are more than willing to hear his advice.

“When he talks, he says everything in a way you understand, and you know he’s not lying,” said Sgt. Brad Bianchi, a military policeman in the company. “You always want to hear what he has to say.”

Abernathy said he has yet to decide what he wants to do when his Marine Corps days are over. Many of his peers have encouraged him to pursue a college degree in psychology, he noted, because of his ability to counsel Marines who may be suffering from the effects of a combat deployment.

“I can relate to them,” he said. “It’s kind of hard for a combat veteran who’s chewed dirt, spilled blood and had his blood spilled to relate what he’s gone through to some 25-year-old psychologist who’s never even left the country or gone into combat. I put a different spin on things. For some of them, it helps. For others, it’s still a work in progress.”

Simplicity is the key to success, Abernathy said.

“Focus on the basics -- high speed is not always better,” he said. “So many people get wrapped around the axle about their own personal success, they forget what the purpose of this gun club is, which is to fight wars and to take care of our own.”

Department Begins Project for Vietnam War Veterans

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2011 – More than three decades after the war’s end, the Defense Department has begun a project to pay tribute to the nation’s Vietnam War veterans.

The 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration was spawned from the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

“It was a very important time period for veterans, because most Vietnam veterans as a whole never received the homecoming that our troops receive now,” said Army Lt. Col. Hunter Holliday, public affairs officer for the commemoration.

At the center of the project is a website, “50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration,” at http://www.vietnamwar50th.com, which will serve as a clearinghouse for information on the war once it is fully functional, a milestone expected this spring.
Information gleaned from the website is expected to be used for myriad purposes, such as to chronicle facts, provide educational materials, and offer resources for a commemorative partners program, Holliday said.

The partners program will comprise guidance and materials for agencies, veterans groups, local government and nongovernment organizations to conduct their own Vietnam War commemoration activities.

The website is expected to play a major role in the campaign, said Jeff Wilson, who handles marketing for the project, noting it will be highly interactive and will include content on historical events, a timeline, photos, documents, video and audio. A calendar will list major Defense-sponsored events.

The website is slated to offer a prelude of activities and ceremonies to:

-- Honor Vietnam War veterans and their families -- including prisoners of war and those listed as missing in action -- for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States.

-- Highlight Armed Forces service during the Vietnam War, in addition to contributions made by government and private organizations.

-- Pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by U.S. citizens.

-- Highlight the advances in technology, science and medicine in military research made during the war.

-- Recognize contributions and sacrifices made by U.S. allies during the war.

“Hopefully [the commemoration] will be a healing process for the veterans who were never recognized properly when they came home,” Holliday said, noting the volatile political landscape that surrounded the war.

USS George H.W. Bush Strike Group Underway for COMPTUEX/JTFEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua D. Sheppard, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- George H.W. Bush Strike Group departed for its Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), Jan. 19.

COMPTUEX and JTFEX are the final evolutions that must take place before USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) is certified for major combat operations.

"This is a great moment for this strike group and USS George H.W. Bush," said Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, GHWB Strike Group commander. "COMPTUEX is a critical step in our journey toward deployment, and I could not be more proud to be going to sea with these talented and dedicated Sailors."

COMPTUEX places the GHWB Strike Group into a training scenario loosely based upon real-world geo-political conditions. The scenario will test the effectiveness of the individual strike group components, as well as how they interact in combined operations. Challenges include small boat attacks, mines, strait transits in hostile waters and aerial, surface and sub-surface threats.

Assessors from Strike Force Training Atlantic will observe these exercises, mentor strike group staff and leaders, and assess GHWB Strike Group's performance.

Upon successful completion of COMPTUEX, GHWB Strike Group will move directly into JTFEX, which serves as the strike group's final operational exam before being certified for overseas combat operations. JTFEX will build upon the scenarios of COMPTUEX, but will also test the interactions of GHWB Strike Group with other U.S. military and coalition partners.

"We will be working extensively with coalition ships from Spain, France and Canada during this exercise," said Tyson. "They are an integral part of our team, and we look forward to working with them now and during our first combat deployment later this year."

GHWB Strike Group assets participating in COMPTUEX/JTFEX include USS George H.W. Bush, USS Mitscher (DDG 57), USS Gettysburg (CG 64), USS Truxtun (DDG 103), USS Anzio (CG 68), the squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, and the Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan de Borbon (F 102). GHWB Strike Group is scheduled to depart on its first overseas deployment this spring.

For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.

Today in the Department of Defense, Monday, January 24, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

USS Scranton Deploys

By Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- The Los Angeles fast-attack submarine USS Scranton (SSN 756) departed on a regularly scheduled six-month deployment from Naval Station Norfolk (NSN) Jan. 21.

Homeported in Norfolk, the submarine will deploy to the European Command Area of Responsibility (AOR) where it will support the Maritime Strategy through maritime security operations.

Nicknamed the "Iron Horse," Scranton is commanded by Cmdr. Paul A. Whitescarver.

"In my opinion there is not a finer or harder working submarine crew on the waterfront than the men of the 'Iron Horse,'" said Whitescarver. "They have made their country proud in the effort given to put their ship in line on the tip of the spear. We are ready to receive tasking from the European Combatant Commander and are eager to prove our metal. We will be on track, on time and on target.

"I feel confident in saying that our biggest asset will be the support of our families at home. With the assistance of the Fleet and Family Services Center and our parent command, Commander, Submarine Squadron 6, we've had great support in ensuring they are also prepared for our deployment," continued Whitescarver.

Fast-attack submarines like Scranton have multifaceted missions. They use their stealth, persistence, agility and firepower to deploy and support special force operations, disrupt and destroy an adversary's military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity and ensure undersea superiority.

Named after the city of Scranton, Penn., located in the Lackawanna River Valley, Scranton was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company and was commissioned January 26, 1991. The 360-foot ship has a crew compliment of 16 officers and 122 enlisted Sailors, displaces 6,900 tons of water and can travel in excess of 20 knots while submerged.

For more information on the submarine force visit the Submarine Force web site at www.sublant.navy.mil.>
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/sublant/.