Monday, January 24, 2011

Theater Security Cooperation Task Force Marines, Sailors Conduct MCMAP Training

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lauren G. Randall, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

USS GUNSTON HALL, At Sea (NNS) -- Marines and Sailors attached to Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 (A-SPS 11) Theater Security Cooperation Task Force (TSCTF) began Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) training on board the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) Jan. 17.

The training is intended to prepare the Sailors and Marines for numerous subject matter expert exchanges during A-SPS 11.

MCMAP is designed to help develop a cohesive unit and teach the value of teamwork and survival skills. The three main objectives of MCMAP are to build character, mental readiness and physical fitness.

During the character building stage, instructors teach Marines and Sailors about morals, values and dependability. The unit or team must be able to depend on each member for all aspects of survival.

"I wanted to know what my Marines go through; I wanted to get some of the same training," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Sherrie L. Morris, A-SPS 11 TSCTF chief medical specialist. "It establishes a greater rapport and makes me more relatable to them and them to me as well. I'm wearing their uniform and it deserves their respect."

Mental readiness brings thought and intelligence to the forefront. The group must be able to process information as well as respond decisively to a variety of situations.

"It gives me basic defense skills, which is now helpful to our missions," said Morris. "The Navy is no longer traditionally only on board ships; we go where (Marines) go now. We are on land as well, and this gives us the skill to defend."

Physical fitness is a large part of the program and is accomplished through many different types of training scenarios, including the fireman's carry and sand bag drills. The training teaches the Marines and Sailors how to keep going even when they are physically and mentally exhausted.

"Whether it's staying up all night, water survival or MCMAP, physical fitness is vital to our exchanges during SPS," said Lance Cpl. Philip Clark, SCTF motor transportation.

Gunston Hall is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility supporting A-SPS 11. The mission's concept is based on the idea that well-structured, open and multi-lateral partnerships increase regional stability and security, while helping one another to improve its own capabilities.

MCMAP will be one of the areas of focus for a subject matter expert exchange between U.S. Marines and Colombian forces. Service members will also exchange professional expertise with Colombian forces in areas such as water survival, combat marksmanship and land navigation.

A-SPS 11 will cultivate greater cooperation between partner nations, allowing for better interoperability and increased capabilities for both forces. The mission's schedule includes visits to Colombia, Guatemala, Belize and Jamaica.

"I am excited to conduct subject matter expert exchanges with not only MCMAP, but also explosive ordnance disposal exchanges, water survival and motor transportation operations with our South American and Caribbean Island and Central American partner nations," said Gunnery Sgt. Don Ketcham, MCMAP senior instructor.

Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 is a United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-directed operation implemented by Commander, United States Naval Forces South (COMUSNAVSO), supported by United States Marine Corps Forces South (MARFORSOUTH) and carried out by Commander, Destroyer Squadron Four Zero (CDS40), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and a Marine Corps Theater Security Cooperation Task Force.

For more information, contact COMUSNAVSO/C4F Public Affairs by e-mail at, visit, on Facebook at, or on Twitter at

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This Day in Naval History - Jan. 24

From the Navy News Service

1942 - During the World War II Battle of Makassar Strait, U.S. destroyers attack a Japanese convoy in the first naval surface action in the Pacific.
1986 - The Coral Sea (CV 43) and Saratoga (CV 60) carrier battle groups conduct freedom of navigation exercises in and near the Gulf of Sidra, demonstrating the long-standing United States' refusal to recognize Colonel Khadafi's attampt to include the gulf in Libyan territorial waters,
1991 - Helicopters from USS Leftwich (DD 984) and USS Nicholas (FFG 47) recapture the first Kuwaiti territory from Iraqi forces.

First Lady, Dr. Biden Laud New Family Support Effort

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, today lauded the government’s new military family support effort, calling it an “important next step” in the nation’s support of troops and their families.

Speaking from the White House earlier today, President Barack Obama unveiled a new, whole-of-government approach to military family support, with agencies uniting to create new resources and support programs for military families worldwide.

“I want to emphasize that this is not a one-time press conference,” the first lady said at the event attended by the Defense Department’s top brass and other senior government officials. “These are lasting commitments by the government to address your needs and concerns for years to come. And my hope is that these recommendations will live on no matter the president, no matter the party.”

Nearly a year ago, Mrs. Obama announced that the president had directed his Cabinet to identify new priorities and partnerships to support military families. The government answered today with nearly 50 specific commitments aimed at improving military families’ quality of life, she said.

Obama cited the Education Department as an example. The department is simplifying its financial aid application process for military families. And the Labor, Commerce and Defense departments and the Small Business Administration are working with the business community to expand career options for spouses, she said.

Additionally, the Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture and Defense departments are working to expand child care options for families from all service branches.

“The list of commitments goes on and on,” the first lady said, “addressing everything from homelessness to mental health to employment opportunities for young adults. So this effort gives you all a seat at the table not just at the White House or at the Pentagon or at the [Veterans Affairs Department], it gives you a seat at the table all across the federal government.”

Today’s release of the review is not the end of the process, she added, but rather is the start of a long-term effort on behalf of military families.

“Don’t think for one minute that Jill and I will not keep pushing and advocating and fighting for you, because we will,” she said. “And we’re not going to stop until every part of our society -– every part, both inside and outside of government -– is fully mobilized to support our troops and their families.”

Obama said she’s met and spoken with many military family members worldwide, and the stories of their challenges and sacrifices resonate for her, not just as first lady but as a wife, a mother and an American.

She’s heard the stories of military moms who are raising children, volunteering in family readiness groups and sustaining careers, all in the midst of multiple moves. And she’s heard of teenagers shouldering additional responsibilities at home while a parent is deployed, and family members leaving jobs and schools to care for wounded loved ones.

All “are a reminder of what words like service, strength and sacrifice – what those words look like in real life,” the first lady said.

“And for me, and for Jill,” she continued, “they are a reminder of our obligation to our troops, our veterans, and their families -- an obligation to work harder [and] an obligation to channel the strength and courage of our military families and veterans into our work on their behalf.”

Obama emphasized that the effort not only is about understanding concerns, but also is about addressing them.

“Most of all, it’s about getting something done,” she said. “It’s about making real, lasting changes that make a real difference in your lives. After all the time I’ve spent with you, I know how much you deserve our government and our people’s support.”

As a military mother, Biden said, she knows all too well the “mixture of pride and concern” that military families share. Biden’s son, Beau Biden, is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard who recently served a year in Iraq.

In every meeting with military families, Biden said, she and the first lady have been moved not just by the sacrifices family members are making, “but by your incredible spirit and commitment to America.”

As an educator, Biden said, she was especially pleased to see the efforts being made on behalf of children’s education, and heartened by initiatives that will be rolled out for Guard and Reserve families, which will help them with everything from sustaining businesses to supporting their reintegration after deployments.

“Today is an important next step in this administration’s commitment to support our [service members], their families and our members,” Biden said. “As long as we have the privilege and honor of serving in our roles, we will do whatever we can to support those who protect us.”

Bataan Completes Ammunition On Load

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erin L. Boyce, USS Bataan (LHD 5) Public Affairs

EARLE, N.J. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) successfully completed an ammunition on load Jan. 21 in Earle, N.J., bringing the ship one step closer to its scheduled deployment in 2011.

Bataan's Weapons Department, partnered with personnel from Naval Weapons Station Earle, took on nearly 1,000 pallets of ordnance during the four-day evolution.

"As an amphibious ready group, it is essential to have our ammunition on board in case we are called upon for any mission," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Troy King, one of Weapons Department's roving supervisors.

Sailors used a number of techniques to maneuver the ammunition from the pier to the ship.

"We used two cranes, diesel fork lifts, electric forklifts, pallet jacks and good old aviation ordnancemen muscle," said King. "We on loaded an assortment of ammunition including bombs, aircraft missiles, ship launched missiles, rockets, small arms ammunition, demolition materials and ship's defense ammunition."

The goal aboard Bataan was to be expeditious without compromising safety. The event was meticulously planned for months and when it came time for execution, safety remained at the forefront.

Hazards of electromagnetic radiation to ordnance conditions were set throughout the ship. Every fork-lift driver had a spotter, and every elevator operator had a quality-assurance safety observer. Everyone involved in the on load was required to wear the proper personal protective equipment. The hangar bay was secured to nonessential personnel to keep the crew safe and to contribute to a more efficient ammunition on load.

"As always safety is a major part of any evolution we do," said King. "The priority is to bring all ammunition on board and send everyone home with all of their fingers and toes. We are counter productive to mission readiness if we damage equipment or injure personnel."

Multiple departments worked together to seamlessly accomplish the on load.

Machinist's mates worked the elevators, the fire controlmen helped with traffic control and rigging ammo and supply provided hot meals and extended the chow hours when necessary.

"Of course Weapons Department and our fire controlmen played a major role in the on load, but we couldn't have done it without the support of a lot of people," said King. "There are a lot of moving parts involved with preparing for and executing a major on load such as this one. I personally want to thank everyone that supported us and made it a successful and safe evolution."

The on load also gave Sailors the opportunity to receive some in-rate training that isn't available everyday.

"The fire controlmen received on the job training; the new Sailors now know how to properly secure hazardous ammunitions such as the closed in weapons system while transporting it and securing it for sea," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Charlie Whorton, a flight deck communication rigger.

"We have a bunch of young Sailors. It's my first on load, and we learned a lot from the senior guys — our supervisors," said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Derek Curtsinger, a magazine assistance supervisor.

Sailors involved with the load, sometimes worked 15 hour shifts, but the hard work paid off, and Bataan wrapped up the on load a day early.

"They worked extremely hard," said King. We had to force some of them to go to bed, or they would have worked through the night. As the command master chief would say, 'they are all rock stars!'"

For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit

DOD Leaders Discuss Critical Troop, Family Health Care Needs

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2011 – Military health care has improved troop survival, recovery and rehabilitation, but providers, patients, families and leaders must keep investing time, effort and communication, Defense Department leaders said today.

Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke on these issues to an audience of thousands at the 2011 Military Health System Conference opening session.

Stanley is a retired Marine Corps major general, and recounted his family’s experience with the military health system.

In 1975, Stanley was stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., with his wife and their 3-month-old daughter when his family was the victim of a sniper attack. Stanley’s uncle was killed, and his wife was left paralyzed.

“I’m not a physician, but I was immediately introduced to the health care system in a unique way for us,” he said.

During the years that followed, Stanley said, his family learned a great deal about military health care, and experienced “a couple of close calls.”

“We … had to be engaged personally in the process,” he said. “At the time, I was lower-ranking, but the bottom line was that I insisted, and continue to insist, that we do our very best to take care of our people.”

Defense leaders do their best now to ensure the highest quality care for service members, but must connect with military medical professionals to know “what’s going on out there in our world,” he said.

His family now is happy and doing well, Stanley said, but still monitors the state of military health care.

“We care very deeply about what’s happening to our sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard -- our wounded, ill and injured,” he said.
One of the challenges in defense health care goes beyond medicine, Stanley said.

“It’s how we communicate, or don’t communicate,” he explained. “People mean well [and are] doing well, but it’s hard sometimes in a bureaucracy to figure out how that matrix works.”

One topic that left him “unbelievably frustrated,” he said, was the disability evaluation system, which the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have been working to streamline since 2007.

“To find a system that was taking 500 days, and got down to 200-some days and now maybe 180 or whatever number of days it might be … can we do better? And can we do better now? Not next year, not next week, but can we do better now?” he asked.

Improving military health care “is not going to be, and should never be, something just done by DOD,” he said. “Anything we do is part of this great nation that we serve in. There are lots of people who want to help. … Let’s do it together.”

Stanley urged the health professionals in the audience to learn and share ideas during this week’s conference.

“We owe our troops our very best,” he said. “We owe them our heart and our soul and our commitment.”

Mullen built on Stanley’s remarks by emphasizing what the military medical system can do for service members’ spouses and children. The challenges these families face are not new, she said, but can be profound.

Mullen started by quoting from a letter written by a young military spouse: “It is infinitely worse to be left behind, and prey to all the horrors of imagining what might be happening to the one you love. You slowly eat your heart out with anxiety, and to endure such suspense is simply the hardest of all the trials that come to an Army wife.”

Those words are from a letter written by Elizabeth “Libby” Custer in 1876, shortly after her husband, Army Gen. George A. Custer, left for what became the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Mullen said.

“They could have been written, and probably have been written, by any of the hundreds of thousands of young spouses who have watched their soldier, sailor, airman or Marine march off to war these last 10 years,” she added.

Mullen said she doesn’t believe society yet fully understands the cumulative effects of stress, anxiety and worry on military families. “But we need to try, and we need to do so quickly,” she said. “A whole generation has now been impacted.”

Today’s military families have the advantage over Libby Custer of greater general understanding of combat stress, and programs in place to help them manage it, Mullen said.

“But we are still discovering, still revealing, fissures and cracks in our family support system,” she added, citing the need for “new ways to seal them.”

The first of those cracks is what families call secondary post-traumatic stress, Mullen said.

“Not unlike our troops, our families experience the same depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and headaches,” she said. “They break into cold sweats, lose concentration, suffer panic attacks, and come to dread contact with the outside world.”

Some spouses do not get out of bed, prepare meals or care for their children, she said, adding that some turn to the same “remedies” troops with post-traumatic stress do: alcohol, prescription drugs, even suicide.

“I am convinced that much of the desperation these drastic remedies represent is rooted in the stigma still attached to mental health issues,” Mullen said. “Not only are they embarrassed to seek help for themselves, spouses worry that in so doing they will negatively impact their husband’s or wife’s military career.”

The services have worked hard to eliminate that stigma in the ranks, but need to do more to remove it from families, Mullen said, noting that for some spouses who seek help, the result is “all too often disappointing.”

In two separate cases at one military hospital, spouses seeking help for post-traumatic stress symptoms and suicidal thoughts were given prescriptions – five in one case, seven in another – with no follow-up treatment or consultation scheduled, she said.

“You do not have to put on a pair of boots and patrol outside the wire to suffer the effects of war,” Mullen said. “If it is keeping you from living your life and loving your family, you owe it to yourself – and frankly, the military owes it to you – to get you the help you need.”

Military children represent another crack in the care system that needs sealing, Mullen said, noting the military services are working to understand the effect 10 years of war is having on those children.

“There is evidence of elevated emotional and behavioral difficulties and lower academic achievement,” she said. “Anxiety and depression have led to a rise in the use of psychiatric medication.”

In 2009, she said, 300,000 prescriptions for psychiatric drugs were given to military family members younger than 18.

“Some were no doubt warranted, but I worry that we don’t fully understand the long-term consequences of these medications,” she said.

Family stress happens after as well as during deployment, Mullen said, when reintegration and reunion add their own challenges.

“The Army … recently released information that spouse and child abuse cases are rising,” she said. “We have come to understand that while a combat tour may last a year, the effects of that tour on a service member and family may last much longer.”

Military families are strong and patriotic, and pride themselves on their resilience and readiness, Mullen said.

“But we didn’t fully understand that these wars would last as long as they have, and that resilience and readiness are not necessarily permanent,” she said. “After multiple deployments, they begin to break down.”

Building resilient families involves listening to their needs and challenges, she said.

“It’s about looking at things through their eyes, and trying to find solutions that work in their unique circumstances,” she said.

Following up on programs, assessing how they’re working, incorporating lessons learned and instituting best practices across the services are all critical to improving family care, she said.

“Often, spouses tell me they don’t need another program. … What they need is time: time with their spouse, time together with their families, time with a counselor, or a doctor, or a minister,” she said. “They want time to explore and understand what is happening to them, and the patience and understanding of loved ones, and friends, and the system itself.”

Navy Week 2011 Season Kicks Off in Tampa Bay

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jennifer P. Harman, Navy Office of Community Outreach

TAMPA, Fla. (NNS) -- The first of 21 Navy Weeks across the country scheduled for 2011 kicked off when Tampa's mayor proclaimed Jan. 22-29 as Tampa Bay Navy Week 2011 during the Children's Gasparilla Parade in Tampa, Fla.

Tampa's Mayor Pam Iorio presented the commanding officer of Navy Operational Support Center Tampa Capt. Therese Craddock with a formal proclamation certificate.

"I am always so proud to have the Navy as a part of Gasparilla," said Iorio. "First of all, we have the best Navy in the entire world, and Tampa, of course, is kicking off Navy Weeks across the nation. I'm always very proud as mayor, to be able to honor the wonderful men and women who make up our great Navy."

Tampa Bay Navy Week includes a jam-packed schedule of family activities, concerts, sporting and community service events.

One of the more popular attractions, the Navy simulator was a crowd pleaser at the children's parade, drawing more than 650 participants.

One of the children at the parade, excited about what he had seen riding the simulator and seeing the Navy at the parade, said that this was the first time he had actually seen a Sailor in uniform.

Some of the special visitors during Tampa Bay Navy Week will include Sailors from the USS Constitution, Navy Band Southeast "Pride" and Navy divers from Trident Refit Facility, Kings Bay, Ga.

"It really is a pleasure to share our Navy professionals with the community," said Craddock, about the Navy's participation. "America's Navy is a global force for good, but during Tampa Bay Navy Week, we are also a local force for good."

The goal of every Navy Week is to give area residents an opportunity to meet some of the Navy's Sailors and learn about the Navy's critical missions and its broad-ranging capabilities. The Navy Week program gives the public an up-close look at the men and women of the U.S. Navy serving throughout the world and the jobs they do.

Each event throughout the week is designed to increase awareness of the Navy, provide opportunities to meet Sailors first hand and to inform the public about the latest capabilities and opportunities in the U.S. Navy.

In addition to free Navy entertainment and special events scheduled throughout the week, Sailors will visit schools, hospitals and civic organizations to speak about the Navy and show community support. Local Sailors will also trade in their uniforms for jeans and T-shirts, as they take part in a Habitat for Humanity building project.

Tampa Bay Navy Week will close at the Navy Night Celebration at the St. Petersburg Pier with the St. Petersburg Mayoral Proclamation, followed by a battle with the pirates at the 107th annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest.

For more information on Tampa Bay Navy Week news and events, visit

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Lynn Discusses Cybersecurity with NATO, U.S. Leaders

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 24, 2011 – Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III met with NATO and U.S. leaders at the alliance headquarters here today to discuss the way forward in cybersecurity.

At the alliance’s November summit in Lisbon, Portugal, NATO’s heads of state and leaders of government agreed that the threats in cyberspace have grown and that the alliance must confront them.

The threats are more frequent, more organized and more costly, a joint statement released at the summit said, and “they can reach a threshold that threatens national and Euro-Atlantic prosperity, security and stability.”

The threats, the statement added, can come from foreign militaries and intelligence services, organized crime, terrorist and extremist groups, or even individuals.

In Lisbon, NATO leaders called on the alliance to develop the ability to prevent, detect, defend against and recover from cyber attacks. The alliance must protect critical networks and put in place processes to leverage national cyber defense capabilities, the alliance’s leaders added.

Partnerships between the public and private sectors are essential, as government and military networks routinely use private networks to communicate. Lynn furthered the public-private partnership concept during a roundtable at NATO this morning. Accompanied by Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, the deputy secretary stressed the need for public and private entities to work together to find a balance between openness and security, according to defense officials present at the meeting.

Tomorrow, Lynn continues the cybersecurity conversation by taking part in a high-level meeting of national policy advisors on NATO cyber defense at the alliance’s headquarters. He also will meet with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton and the newly appointed chief executive of the European Defense Agency, Claude-France Arnould.

Former Iranian Hostages Reunite at West Point

By Mike Strasser
U.S. Military Academy

WEST POINT, N.Y., Jan. 21, 2011 – Thirty years ago, the U.S. Military Academy served as a historic waypoint when the nation cheered the return of a group of American citizens taken hostage from the U.S. embassy in Iran.

The West Point community took part in that celebration on Jan. 25, 1981, welcoming home the 52 hostages who enjoyed a few days of respite with their families on the installation at the Thayer Hotel.

West Point welcomed them back yesterday, as 15 former hostages, five rescue personnel and family members returned for a three-day reunion and to share their experiences with the Corps of Cadets and faculty.

Re-creating their convoy through Highland Falls into West Point, they were met by thousands of cheering cadets who lined Thayer Walkway, applauding and shaking hands with the returning guests of honor.

Army Brig. Gen. Timothy Trainor, dean of the academic board, said the reunion was particularly poignant for him, having been witness to the original homecoming.

“It’s an especially personal welcome for me, because lost in the sea of cadets that lined that cordon when you came through 30 years ago was Cadet Trainor,” he told the reunion participants. “And there’s another Cadet Trainor here today, my daughter [Cory], who just experienced the cordon coming through this morning. So there’s a personal thread for me also.”

Trainor said the former hostages, participants in the ill-fated 1980 rescue mission that was derailed by an aircraft collision at a desert staging area, and family members all serve as examples of extraordinary service to America.

“Your insight into the events that unfolded 30 years ago today are invaluable,” Trainor, a Class of 1983 graduate, said. “Invaluable in the fact that you were on the front line confronting religious, ethnic and political extremism, and an ideology of which many Americans were unaware, or to which we were certainly unaccustomed to at the time. It’s an ideology that does not go unnoticed today at a time when America is at war on many fronts in a time of volatile, uncertain conflicts.”

Like Trainor, Army Col. Mike Meese, a Class of 1981 graduate, stood roadside three decades earlier to witness the arrival of the hostages to West Point. The former social sciences major, now head of the academy’s social sciences department, recalled reading about the embassy takeover in the newspaper. That morning, his national security class’s instructor was absent because the Army officer was recalled to the National Security Council in Washington, D.C., to assist the administration with the crisis.

Cheering the hostages through the gates at West Point and later sharing a meal with them was a momentous occasion, Meese said.

“They served with honor and the values that we are teaching cadets every day, … and I learned a lot just from seeing the example of these 52 great Americans who came to West Point 30 years ago,” he said.

The reunion attendees had another chance to relive history when they returned to the Cadet Mess Hall, an event that three decades earlier Trainor described as a joyous event for the 4,400-plus cadets. Another generation of cadets made the experience just as memorable the second time.

“It was truly exceptional to have the hostages back at West Point for the 30 year commemoration of their release from terror and return to freedom,” Cadet Tom Witkowski, Class of 2011, said. “I was overwhelmingly awestruck by the valor and resolve that each hostage and their families embodied to endure such a terrible situation. Eating lunch in the Mess Hall gave me a unique opportunity to meet these brave and courageous people who embraced unbelievable valor and strength. To me, they truly represent what it means to be an American.”

L. Bruce Laingen, a Navy veteran of World War II, chuckled at the bottle of water in his hand, which bore, as most things at West Point do, the “Go Army, Beat Navy” slogan. Laingen, who served as the Iranian foreign ministry office’s chargĂ© d’affaires during the siege on the embassy, joined a panel discussion on Iranian-U.S. relations, with two fellow former captives -- Barry Rosen, former press secretary, and former senior political officer Victor Tomseth -- plus Wade Ishimoto, a member of the rescue team.

Other panels focused on the embassy takeover and crisis resolution, the hostage rescue mission and the 1972-79 Iranian revolutionary crisis.

The panels provided a wealth of insight, some levity and moments when tears simply couldn’t be contained.

Paul Needham, an Air Force captain working in the embassy on temporary assignment, was in the security vault at the time of the takeover, destroying sensitive materials before surrendering. Standing twice before a firing squad — a scare tactic used by his captors, though none were shot — Needham said, he learned the value of inner strength, which steeled his resolve through the 15-month ordeal. He found the America he returned to was much different from the one he left, he added.

“I left here in 1979 as a captain. People did not go to work in the Pentagon wearing their uniform; we were coming out of Vietnam and people were not proud to be Americans,” Needham recalled. “I came back here and the streets were lined with people [waiting] to see us. I still get choked up. It was extremely emotional coming here to West Point.”

It was supposed to be a yearlong volunteer assignment for retired Air Force Col. David Roeder, one of the more senior military officers captured. Roeder said he spent a lot of time in solitary confinement, but was able to communicate for a couple of months with fellow captive Bill Daugherty in the adjoining cell without getting caught by the guards. Daugherty said it became an exercise in the leadership of one.

“The leadership of one can be very difficult,” he said. “This can be just as difficult as leading a platoon or company, because you’re your own worst critic.”

Daugherty said he lived by two standards: to protect classified information and to do nothing that would harm another hostage. He also practiced intelligence gathering.

“I wanted to find out as much as I could about these guys, why they were doing it. … I tried to remember every single thing, every single face, every single conversation,” Daugherty said.

Barbara Rosen, an elementary schoolteacher, wife, mother and homemaker, first heard of her husband’s capture when she was awakened by a phone call from her mother-in-law. She was quickly thrust into a situation she was never trained or prepared to handle.

“I had to figure out how to go about dealing with all the problems that were now placed before me,” she said.

During the first few months of her husband’s captivity, Barbara said, she spent a lot of time sleeping to pass the time. She later found solace in advocacy work and giving media interviews. Thirty years later, she still has a vivid memory of coming to West Point on the homecoming trip.

“The roads were totally lined with Americans; there was a dog with an American flag tied around its neck,” she recalled. “Men and women who were former hippies protesting the Vietnam War for years were out there waving American flags.”

She told the cadets attending the panel discussion that while she was seeing everything at the time, she wasn’t able to truly feel it. Today, she said, she had a second chance.

“This morning, when all of you were out there welcoming us to West Point, … when you re-enacted it for us today, those feelings were so strong it brought tears to my eyes,” she said, “and it did so for many of the others being welcomed.”

Japan Builds Support for Futenma Move

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2011 – A week after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ visit to Tokyo to discuss a broad range of issues including the realignment roadmap for U.S. forces based in Japan, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa traveled to Okinawa yesterday to build support for the plan.

Kitazawa also toured Kadena Air Base, where he got a mission update from Air Force Brig. Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, the 18th Wing commander, and thanked U.S. service members for their role in regional security, base officials reported.

Kitazawa recognized the support Kadena’s airmen contribute, both operationally and through the base’s community relations activities.

He also emphasized the importance of Japan and the United States working together to build better understanding among the Okinawan people about the importance of Kadena’s presence.

Wilsbach described base leaders’ regular engagement with the local community and ongoing efforts to build trust and understanding, officials said.

Also, making good on the pledge he and Gates made last week to move forward on the bilateral agreement to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a less-populated part of Okinawa, Kitazawa met with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima and community members to help in overcoming local resistance, Japanese defense officials reported.

“The realignment roadmap is important,” Gates said during a Jan. 13 news conference in Tokyo. “We do understand that it is politically a complex matter in Japan, and we intend to follow the lead of the Japanese government in working with the people of Okinawa to take their interests and their concerns into account.”

Gates said his talks with Kitazawa helped to pave the way for relocating U.S. forces in Okinawa “in ways that are more appropriate to our strategic posture while reducing the impact on the communities nearby.”

The secretary underscored the changes the realignment plan will bring to Okinawa.

“Thousands and thousands of United States Marines and their dependents will depart the island,” he said. “Significant land and facilities will return to the people of Okinawa. The U.S. presence will be less visible on the island. So there are very real benefits to people of Okinawa in this realignment roadmap.”

Gates emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance, which he said “is broader, deeper and indeed richer than any single issue.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference today that he, too, plans to visit Okinawa before the month’s end to build support for relocating Futenma within Okinawa.

General Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has made the following nomination:

Army Lt. Gen. Dennis L. Via has been nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and assignment as deputy commanding general/chief of staff, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala.  Via is currently serving as director for command, control, communications and computer (C4) systems, J-6, The Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

Today in the Department of Defense, Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates attends the State of the Union address at

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivers remarks at the Clean Economy Summit at at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.  Media interested in attending may contact Capt. Beci Brenton at 703-697-7491.

Michael O'Neill, Head of Mission for the U.K.-led Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, will brief the media live from Afghanistan at in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to provide an update on joint Afghan-coalition efforts towards stability.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

Defender Successfully Completes Board of Inspection, Survey

By Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Defender (MCM 2), a mine-counter measure ship, completed an important milestone by passing a three-day assessment of the ship's condition and capabilities Jan. 14 in Sasebo, Japan.

The Board of Inspection and Survey conducted the congressionally mandated inspection intended to ensure ships are properly equipped and ready for sustained combat operations at sea.

"We are very pleased with Defender's results," said Capt. David Chase, Commander Mine Counter Measures Squadron 2. "Navy commitment to the Avenger-class minesweepers, combined with adherence to high standards, ownership and self-assessment by the crews continue to pay dividends."

During the assessment, Defender's crew demonstrated the ship's material condition and the ability to perform across a wide range of shipboard tasks and combat-related missions. Defender attained an overall grade of 100, the highest grade possible in mine-sweeping operations.

"Defender's results demonstrate that the initiatives we have put in place are gaining traction and are moving the needles in the right direction," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "MCM readiness remains as one of my top priorities and with continued support from the Surface Warfare Enterprise, specifically, NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) 21, PMS 495 and OPNAV N852, we will continue to aggressively develop plans that target the main propulsion, auxiliaries and mine hunting/neutralization readiness of the ships."

"All of these efforts will ensure these ships reach and exceed their expected service life and keep MCM warfighting capacity where it is needed," said Curtis.

Defender is one of two ships of the class that was heavy lifted from Ingleside, Texas, in early 2009 and has been operating in 7th Fleet area of operations.

MCMs are forward deployed to meet the requirements of Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet from Bahrain and Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet from Sasebo, Japan. MCMs in San Diego support fleet exercises and homeland defense missions, as well as provide training platforms for the forward deploying rotational crews.

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Red Cross Continues Legacy of Troop, Family Support

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The face of the American Red Cross’ wartime mission could be conveyed through countless images of volunteers greeting wounded warriors on flightlines, offering comfort to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and providing much-needed support to family members back home.

But while these images offer a snapshot of the organization’s focus on individuals, the numbers impart the true magnitude of the Red Cross’ wartime support.

In fiscal 2010, the Red Cross provided more than 597,000 emergency communications services for nearly 150,000 military families, and nearly $6 million in immediate financial aid to 5,000 families. And thousands of volunteers –- including service members, veterans and military spouses -- offered comfort and support to wounded and ill troops and their families in hospitals worldwide.

“If someone is at their wits’ end and not sure where to turn, we want them to know they can turn to the Red Cross,” Peter Macias, communications director for the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces branch, told American Forces Press Service. “We will do everything we can to help.”

American Red Cross military support dates back more than a century, when Red Cross founder Clara Barton began her humanitarian work on the battlefields of the Civil War in 1861. Barton cared for the ill and wounded, provided a conduit for emergency communications and reconnected families with military loved ones.

The Red Cross’ mission remains exactly the same 150 years later, Macias said. Although technology has sparked remarkable advances, the Red Cross has stayed the course of Barton’s original vision: rapid and accurate emergency communication services, care for the ill and wounded and service to military families.

To carry out its mission, the Red Cross has a network of more than 1,500 offices around the world -- including sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait -- with thousands of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, Macias said. He’s seen retired flag officers serving alongside military spouses, and college students alongside Vietnam-era veterans.

“All share the common desire to serve their country in some capacity,” he said.

Many volunteers work to maintain the Red Cross’ 24-hour, seven-day-a-week global communications network so troops and their families can be connected in the event of a crisis, such as an illness or death, or even a birth back home, Macias said.

Family members simply contact a Red Cross call center to connect with a military member, whether stationed across the country or halfway around the world, he said. The call center will take the information and quickly track down the service member. In the process, the call center worker will speak to family members and medical professionals to verify information and ensure the accuracy of reports.

“This enables the commander to make a decision about emergency leave with verified information,” Macias explained. “A service member can realistically be at a loved one’s bedside within 24 to 48 hours.”

In turn, service members also can benefit from emergency communications services, he said. If a deployed soldier receives a phone call with news of a family member’s serious illness, for example, he can call the Red Cross to request further information from an impartial source. A call center worker will talk to family members and medical officials and provide the service member with validated information so he can make an informed decision about leave.

Another pillar of the Red Cross’ mission is care for ill and wounded service members and veterans. Volunteers are in place to support combat-wounded troops at nearly every stage of their journey home, Macias said.

Volunteers stand ready at Landstuhl, Germany, where nearly every combat-wounded troop makes a stop before returning to the States.

“They’ll give them a blanket, shaving kit, a toothbrush, whatever is needed to make them more comfortable,” Macias explained. Many of these blankets, he added, are hand-knit or hand-sewn by caring people back home.

Ill or injured service members who are flown to Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington in Maryland are met by Red Cross volunteers, including a retired Vietnam veteran, who do everything in their power to ensure a wounded warrior’s comfort. One troop, Macias recalled, asked a Red Cross volunteer for a root beer float. “I don’t know how she did it, but this woman, who is in her late 80s, got him that root beer float,” he said.

Red Cross volunteers also are in nearly every military and Veterans Affairs hospital nationwide, Macias said. Some volunteers push carts of DVDs, candy and cookies down hospital halls. They ask each service member if there’s a particular need and, when identified, they’ll do everything in their power to fill it, he said.

“We’ve purchased [interactive game systems] to help with morale and to assist with the physical recovery of a wounded warrior if prescribed by a doctor, along with clothes and personal items,” Macias said. The Red Cross also maintains a library of books in hospitals for patients and visitors alike, he added.

Also in hospitals, volunteers offer therapy programs, including the popular pet therapy program, Macias said. As an offshoot of that program, volunteers in Kuwait found a German shepherd and now bring the dog to greet troops as they process in or travel home. “Their faces light up when they see him,” Macias said.

Other therapy programs include gardening, art and even radio-controlled aircraft therapy, Macias said. A volunteer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, for example, helps soldiers develop manual dexterity by building and flying radio-controlled aircraft. The volunteer serves as an inspiration, he added, since he has ALS, a progressive motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The programs are tailored not to the whims of the instructors, but to the needs and interests of the wounded warriors, Macias explained. “It’s a true partnership with the medical team to find out what support is needed,” he said.

Also aimed at wounded warrior care, the Red Cross offers the Casualty Travel Assistance Program, which helps immediate family members travel to the bedside of a wounded or ill loved one. The program provides travel expenses and a stipend to cover meals and lodging for seven days, Macias said.

The military also offers immediate family members travel assistance, Macias pointed out. The Red Cross program is designed not to replace, but to supplement that support by helping additional family members, such as a brother or sister or grandparent, travel to a loved one’s bedside.

The program also helps the military to fill potential gaps for family member travel to memorial services or funerals. In this case, the Red Cross can provide immediate family members round-trip airfare and a stipend to cover two days of lodging and meals.

The Red Cross offers many other services to military families as well, Macias said, including its well-known CPR training and babysitter course, which many bases require young caregivers to take if babysitting on a military installation.

“This is a great course for older brothers and sisters to take too,” said Debbie Vanderbeek, senior associate with the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces. Many military children and teens are asked to take on additional childcare responsibilities when a parent deploys, and the babysitting course can help to ensure they’re equipped to do so, she explained.

Additionally, the Red Cross can use its network of aid societies to help families who may find themselves in a financial bind, Macias said. And if the issue falls outside of the Red Cross’ realm, volunteers will refer them to someone who can help, he added.

To address deployment challenges, Macias encourages families to take advantage of the Red Cross’ Coping With Deployments class, which provides resilience strategies for military families. The course can help adults identify issues in themselves, significant others or in children. The class is open to all loved ones, including significant others, siblings, cousins, close friends and others, he added.

“We consider it psychological first aid,” he said.

Licensed mental health professionals conduct the course at sites across the country, some on and others off base, Macias said.
People can call the Red Cross for a course schedule or can gather a group and request a course. If a course isn’t being offered in a specific location, the Red Cross will fly in a mental health professional to conduct one, Macias said, which can be helpful to families of the Guard and Reserve. The Red Cross has more than 8,000 volunteers with mental health expertise, including more than 100 who specialize in military issues and family support, he added.

Macias also highlighted a new program for families that’s projected to roll out nationwide this summer. The Coming Home Series is a series of classes for service members returning from deployment and their families. The five-module class teaches them how to manage anger, reconnect with loved ones, build communication skills, better support their children and identify and deal with post-traumatic stress.

A team of mental health professionals worked closely with the Defense Department to develop the content, he noted.

Like Coping With Deployments, this course will be offered on sites nationwide, but also may include an online component at some point, he said. However, “We believe the interaction with others and face-to-face support is one of the strengths of these programs,” Macias said.

To ensure privacy, all courses are confidential, without self-identification or roll calls, he said.

The big-picture goal, he explained, is to offer families an effective and impartial support system that’s available to them at any time, night or day.

“It’s an honor to serve the men and women who are serving us,” Macias said. “We want service members, veterans and their families to know we’re here as a 24/7 avenue of support.”

DESRON 31 Holds Change of Command Ceremony

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Robert Stirrup, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 at a change of command ceremony at the DESRON 31 headquarters building on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Jan. 21.

Capt. David Welch relieved Capt. Richard Clemmons as commander of DESRON 31 at the ceremony.

Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, served as the guest speaker and offered remarks to those in attendance.

"As the commodore of DESRON 31, Capt. Clemmons couldn't have done a better job than he has," noted Hunt. "If there is one thing that I would characterize about him, it is his great work ethic and leadership ability. It is something that can be counted on each and every day, and our Sailors and our Navy are clearly better for it."

Hunt also stated that he looked forward to what the future holds for Welch as the commander of DESRON 31.

"You have my full confidence, and I am looking forward to working with you in the near future," said Hunt. "You did an excellent job as the deputy commander of DESRON 31, and I'm sure you will do great things as the commodore."

During the ceremony, Clemmons thanked those involved during his tenure as commander.

"Ceremonies such as this are the very fabric of the Navy. They symbolize honor, courage and commitment, but more than anything, these ceremonies allow the outgoing commander to say 'thank you' and 'a job well done,'" said Clemmons. "I want to thank the more than 2,000 Sailors aboard the eight ships that comprise DESRON 31. You are truly making a difference in this world and your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed."

After the reading of orders and assuming command from Clemmons, Welch took the opportunity to address the audience.

"To the officers, chiefs and Sailors of DESRON 31, I have watched you in action and I am humbled to stand before you," said Welch. "We are based in a strategic location, and we must remain prepared to go forward at a moment's notice. This forward thinking and forward mentality will permeate everything that we do."

In May 2008, DESRON 31 assumed duties as immediate superior in command for all Pearl Harbor-based destroyers and frigates under an operational alignment to increase force presence and surge capacity in the Western Pacific under Commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific. DESRON 31 was also assigned as a task group commander for bilateral naval exercises in Southeast Asia.

DESRON 31 moved to Pearl Harbor from San Diego in 1991 and adopted the motto "Ke Koa O Ke Kai," which means "warriors from the sea."

For more news from Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, visit