Military News

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

U.S. Second Fleet Ships Complete Successful Ballistic Missile Defense Tracking Exercise

From Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Three Commander, U.S. Second Fleet ships successfully completed a tracking exercise Jan. 22, off the coast of Virginia using the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system during Atlantic Trident 2011.

USS Monterey (CG 61), USS Ramage (DDG 61) and USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) all successfully tracked the short-range ballistic missile target that was launched from NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. The target missile fell harmlessly into the Atlantic Ocean.

Monterey, an Aegis cruiser, and Ramage, an Aegis destroyer, took turns tracking and simulating engagement of the target while Gonzalez, a guided-missile destroyer, participated by tracking the target.

All three ships were able to successfully track the target, with Monterey and Ramage providing simulated target solutions that would have resulted in a successful intercept. No missiles were fired from the ships as it was a tracking exercise.

Ballistic missile defense is a Navy core mission. The Missile Defense Agency and the Navy have modified 21 Aegis BMD combatants (5 cruisers and 16 destroyers). Of the 21 ships, 16 are assigned to the Pacific Fleet and five to the Atlantic Fleet. The Secretary of Defense announced in 2010 that six more destroyers would be upgraded to the Aegis BMD capability.

Atlantic Trident 2011 is the first live Fleet Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) exercise to take place in the Atlantic.

For more news from Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c2f/.

Criticisms Mean Efficiencies on Right Track, Lynn Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 25, 2011 – Members of Congress from both parties have expressed the opinion that the Defense Department has cut too much or too little from the defense budget.

“In Washington, if you get criticized from both sides, it usually means you have the right position,” Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn said here today.

Though Lynn traveled here to participate in cybersecurity discussions at NATO, he also spoke with reporters about the defense budget and the implications of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ decision to find and reassign $100 billion worth of efficiencies over the next five fiscal years.

“What we’ve tried to do is strike the right balance between fiscal responsibility and what is a very large deficit, and maintaining the critical capabilities we need for national defense,” Lynn said.

The money saved in the efficiencies stay with the services to reinvest in more critical technologies. So, Gates axed or restructured a number of weapons programs, and the services will invest the money saved in cyberdefense, long-range strike capabilities, unmanned aerial vehicles, rocket launchers, ships and refurbishing Army and Marine Corps vehicles stressed and strained by 10 years of war.

“We’ve reinvested across a large range of capabilities,” Lynn said. “We’re reducing layering, we’re reducing headquarters, we’re reducing staff. We were able to develop $78 billion in topline reductions that met some of the deficit reduction needs without compromising defense capabilities. We are moving forward with what we think is a balanced program.

“We think $78 billion was an impressive number, and we were able to accommodate it within the efficiencies,” he continued. “It was a number we developed and worked with the White House. It was aggressive without compromising defense capabilities.”

All NATO nations are facing a budgetary squeeze, Lynn said, and the United States has “some concern about the level of cuts across NATO.” The fiscal pinch, he said, is forcing NATO nations to think about new ways of working together to develop new capabilities.

“Inevitably, [the fiscal problem] leads you toward more burden-sharing,” Lynn said. “I think particularly the smaller nations will move toward not seeking full-spectrum capability, but trying to identify areas where they have a comparative advantage and where they can bring more to the alliance.”

Commentary: Can I Hear a ‘Hooah?’

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2011 – The 2011 Military Health System Conference opened yesterday morning at a very snazzy hotel in National Harbor, Md.

Thousands of trim, uniformed health care professionals –- some in navy, some in camouflage, some people in khaki, some in civvies, all with tidy hair –- milled around in an orderly way before settling into a huge room where the opening session would take place.

It was a decorous opening session –- good speakers, touches of humor, some serious talk about the serious issues military medical practitioners grapple with these days.

The program guide outlined what the conference offered in learning opportunities. Breakout sessions actually were good for continuing education credit. But then again, the sessions featured topics such as “New Emerging Technology Clinical Trials Participation – Policy and Processes.”

So the opening session was rolling right along. Then somebody -– you’ll find out who –- played a video.

An Army video.

The “Army Strong” video, to be exact.

The text that appears in the “Army Strong” video -- yellow on black, all caps, at a slow, one-line-at-a-time pace -- follows. If you watch this on the Web, you’ll swear you hear James Earl Jones in your head as you read, but there is no actual voice in the video.

Webster defines strong as having great physical power,
as having moral or intellectual power,
as striking or superior of its kind.
But with all due respect to Webster,
there’s strong,
and then there’s Army strong.
It is a strength like none other.
It is a physical strength.
It is an emotional strength.
It is a strength of character.
The strength to do good today,
And the strength to do well tomorrow.
The strength to obey,
and strength to command.
The strength to build,
and strength to tear down.
The strength to get yourself over,
and the strength to get over yourself.
There is nothing on this green Earth
that is stronger than the U.S. Army.
Because there is nothing on this green Earth
that is stronger than a U.S. Army soldier.
Strong.
Army Strong.

The video took that opening session straight out of decorous territory for a few minutes.

Those words, over what my broadcaster friends call a “music bed” both stately and stirring, alternated with photographs of men and women, young adults and 50-somethings, marching, running, parachuting, climbing, shooting, walking with children in other nations, holding their own children -- typical soldiers doing typical soldier things, in other words. Plus images of tanks, helicopters, and so on. It was powerful.

It wasn’t decorous.

It got me thinking about the nature of soldiers, and of military people in general. They’re disciplined and professional. Military bearing is something on which members of all the services justly pride themselves. The medical audience yesterday certainly had it, but so has every other military group I’ve ever seen standing in formation, firing at a range or attending a seminar.

It was what Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta’s composed, expressionless face and straight stance displayed as President Barack Obama hung the Medal of Honor around the young soldier’s neck.

Military people know decorum.

Another side of the military nature is harder to pin down. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did the best job I’ve ever seen in a piece he wrote a few years back. It was called “What I Have Learned About the Army,” but the chairman zeroed in on hooah.

“There are 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 different ways to say hooah,” the admiral wrote. “But I learned that it is more than just a battle cry; it is a way of life. It says that you will never quit, never surrender, never leave your buddy. It says that you are proud of the hardships you have endured because there is deep meaning in every one of them.”

The chairman, of course, is exactly right. But there’s another aspect to hooah too, I think. At the bottom of every soldier is the original hopeful, scared, determined, young or not-so-young civilian who raised his hand, or her hand, and swore to protect and defend. Hooah comes from both the overlaying warrior and the underlying person. It comes from the hybrid creature called a soldier, who has an impassive military bearing and a compassionate human heart.

In a sense, the conference’s medical audience was the perfect example of this psychological mash-up. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines –- heroes, warriors, healers.

So yesterday, as the three-minute “Army Strong” video ended, I was delighted, but not surprised, to hear more than one full-throated “Hooah!” issue from the audience.

I don’t think the soldier responsible for playing it - Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Eric B. Schoomaker, Army surgeon general and commander of U.S. Army Medical Command - was surprised either.

“Isn’t this Army Strong video compelling?” he asked. In response: tremendous applause and a fainter “hooah, hooah” from the crowd.

He knew when he learned he would be speaking at the conference, Schoomaker said, that he wanted to open with that video.

These generals and admirals, they’re pretty sharp.

It wasn’t hard to work it in, he said, because he was asked to speak about how Army medicine supports strength and resilience among warriors and families.

Schoomaker made it clear that he respects all the services and all who wear the uniform. He speaks particularly of the Army, he said, because he’s a soldier.

“Let there be no doubt, the root of our readiness lies in the strength and resilience of this Army, and military families,” Schoomaker said. “And so it all starts with what it means to be Army strong.”

During the same opening session, Deborah Mullen, the chairman’s wife, spoke of the military families she talks to regularly around the world, and the physical and psychological toll nearly 10 years of combat have taken on uniformed men and women, their spouses and their children.

“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.”
Even the strongest need support.

A few hours after Schoomaker spoke, not too far away, the president announced a plan bringing in agencies across the government to strengthen military family support.

As my colleague Elaine Wilson reported, the president said, “Today, I'm proud to announce that for the first time ever, supporting the well-being of our military families will be a priority not just for the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, but all across the federal government.”

Ten Navy Commands Recognized for Workplace Flexibility

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Ten Navy commands were recognized in an announcement Jan. 21, as being some of the nation's best employers for workplace flexibility.

The 2010 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Flexibility promotes the use of flexibility as a strategy to achieve business goals and benefit employees by helping them meet their responsibilities on and off the job.

Navy winners include both sea and shore organizations. Among them were a command with more than 1,200 employees and a detachment with a staff of 31 people.

"This proves that people don't have to work on large headquarters staffs to enjoy flexible schedules or pursue educational goals," said Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, chief of naval personnel. "We appreciate that people are more productive when they are able to meet the challenges of both life and work."

The Navy's winning organizations include:

- Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering, Port Hueneme, Calif.

- Executive Transport Detachment Sigonella, Italy.

- Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit Two, Norfolk, Va.

- Naval Aviation Forecast Detachment, Sembach, Germany.

- Naval Education and Training Command, Pensacola, Fla.

- Naval Submarine Support Command, Pearl Harbor, Hi.

- Navy Support Unit, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif.


In addition, Navy organizations earning honorable mentions are:

- Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Two, Whidbey Island, Wash.

- Patrol Squadron Five, Whidbey Island, Wash.

- Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill.

To be considered for a Sloan Award, an organization completes a detailed survey on its workplace flexibility practices. If it is judged to exceed national benchmarks, then its employees are invited to complete follow-up surveys – with a required response rate of at least 40 percent for further consideration.

Winners are judged to be among the top 20 percent of employers nationwide in workplace flexibility programs, policies and cultures.

Navy organizations that won awards this year took innovative steps on behalf of their staff members.

At Fort Story, for instance, leaders of EOD Training and Evaluation Unit Two, established an associate's degree program that allows personnel to take college classes two nights per week where they work, thus avoiding the traffic congestion they would encounter en route to university campuses or larger bases where such courses were already offered.

At Marine Corps Depot San Diego, leaders of the naval support unit ensure that as many employees as possible are cross-trained so that staff members can attend seminars and schools, or take days off in compensation for long hours worked on other days, without reducing efficiency. Leaders also let employees alternate their work locations occasionally to reduce commute times.

At Great Lakes, recruit division commanders work 15-hour days, seven days a week for the first 10 months of their assignments. They then take "working sabbaticals" in less-demanding jobs for another year and finally return to RDC positions for the third and final year of their tours.

At NETC headquarters, 25 percent of employees became teleworkers after a three-month pilot resulted in a permanent program.

The Sloan Awards are sponsored by When Work Works, a consortium that includes the Families and Work Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for a Competitive Workforce and the Twiga Foundation.

For more information about the chief of naval personnel, visit http://www.navy.mil/cnp.

For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp/.

Leaders Praise New Approach to Military Family Support

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2011 – Leaders from the top echelons of the Defense Department and other government agencies have stepped forward to voice their unanimous approval of a groundbreaking new effort to support and strengthen military families.

President Barack Obama unveiled yesterday a new, whole-of-government approach to military family support, with agencies uniting to create new resources and support programs for military families worldwide.

From health care to child care to spouse employment, Obama announced the government has made nearly 50 commitments to improving families’ quality of life and well-being, with numerous agencies -- ranging from the Veterans Affairs Department to the Education Department -- involved in the effort.

“Through this effort, you now have the entire Cabinet and other agencies literally saying, ‘This is one of our top priorities,’” Sarah Farnsworth, deputy assistant secretary of defense for community outreach, told American Forces Press Service today. “This is not a political discussion. … We all have a responsibility to our military families and our troops.”

This effort opens doors for agencies with a longstanding desire to help, Farnsworth noted. “Some agencies that may not have previously realized they could help make a difference now have a way to get involved,” she said. And in turn, she added, DOD and VA have access to resources they may not otherwise have been able to tap.

“By having military families elevated in some of the other Cabinet agencies, it brings more federal resources to the table,” she said.

While the announcement was made at the government level, Farnsworth emphasized the community-based nature of many of the upcoming support efforts, noting plans for a greater outreach to mayors, business communities and chambers of commerce.

“It’s more about reaching out and empowering communities that may not have understood or had the resources to help support military members and their families,” she explained. “It’s the kind of effort where there’s room at the table for everybody. Military families are part of all of our lives, no matter where you sit across the agency or country.”

VA officials also stepped forward to voice their approval of the family support effort. Tammy Duckworth, VA’s assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, reiterated in a blog yesterday the department’s longstanding commitment to families.

“War takes a toll on families,” she wrote. “Therefore, to ensure the families of service members and veterans have programs that meet their needs, the Department of Veterans Affairs has joined the White House and other federal agencies to strengthen services for family members.”

VA plans to roll out several new programs and cooperative efforts in the coming months, many of which are outlined in the White House Report, titled: “Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment.”

For example, VA plans to develop and expand family caregiver support programs, expand and enhance services to combat suicide in the veteran population, and, working with DOD, implement a multiyear mental health strategy to promote early recognition of mental health conditions.

Additionally, VA will continue working with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Housing and Urban Development Department to reduce the number of homeless veterans to 59,000 by June 2012, and to end homelessness completely by its goal year of 2015.

This governmentwide effort is “something in which we’re very excited to participate,” Duckworth wrote.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan pledged to continue expanding educational opportunities for military families yesterday in a news release.

“The men and women who serve in our nation's armed forces place a high value on education and the availability of quality educational opportunities for their children,” Duncan said. “The U.S. Department of Education is committed to providing children of military families the support and education they need to thrive, as well as expanding educational opportunities for military spouses and veterans.”

The Education Department will focus its efforts on educational opportunities for military children, particularly during deployments and times of transition, a department news release said. The department also will work to simplify the financial aid application process for military families.

Agriculture Department officials also reiterated their commitment to military families and highlighted some upcoming efforts on behalf of military families.

“Military families face many challenges as a result of their commitment to our country, and I believe USDA’s programs can play a significant role in helping and supporting these families through their sacrifice,” Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said in a news release yesterday. “We are committed to further strengthening our 25-year relationship with the Defense Department and using the resources of the Cooperative Extension Service to serve the entire military community.”

The 4-H National Headquarters plans to enhance its relationship with active, Guard and Reserve services to support 4-H clubs and activities for military youth, the release said. And, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will work with the Defense, Health and Human Services and Education departments to increase child care availability across the nation.

Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, outlined some of the Interior Department’s planned initiatives while expressing his full support of the effort in a statement issued yesterday.

“We must honor the remarkable service and sacrifices of our military families by doing all we can to provide them the support and quality of life they deserve,” he said. “As stewards of America’s great natural, cultural and historic treasures, the Department of the Interior can help provide our service members, their families, and our veterans with unique opportunities for recreation, rehabilitation and solitude.”

The department plans to work with DOD to offer military families use of Interior lands and recreational facilities for recovery, the statement said, particularly wounded warriors “in their efforts to regain psychological health, reintegrate with family and rehabilitate.”

Also, the department will work with the DOD to expand employment opportunities for military families in conservation, the release said.

“Under President Obama’s leadership and on behalf of a grateful nation, I look forward to working across the federal family to expand opportunities for military families and to honor their commitment to our country,” Salazar said.

This Day in Naval History - Jan. 25

From the Navy News Service

1922 - Cruiser USS Galveston (CL 19) lands her Marine Corps detachment at Corinto, Nicaragua, to reinforce the Managua legation guard during a period of political tension.
1945 - Navy surface forces bombard Japanese positions at Iwo Jima.
1963 - The 1st Seabee Technical Assistance Team arrives in Vietnam.

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn; Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff, U.S. Army; Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, vice chief of Naval operations; Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., assistant commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; and Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force testify at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee regarding proposed budget reductions and efficiencies initiatives at 10 a.m. EST in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C.

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter delivers remarks at on "US-India Defense Relations" at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell will conduct a press briefing at in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973).  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.

Deployed Enterprise Engineers Vital for Flight Ops

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Melkus, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- U.S. aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) completed its first day of flight operations Jan. 22, since arriving in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.

A key factor for successful flight operations aboard Enterprise are the ship's engineers below deck who provide the one thing that makes the magic happen - steam.

The main mission of Enterprise is to launch F/A-18 Hornets, Super Hornets, EA-6B Prowlers, C-2 Greyhounds, and E-2C Hawkeyes from the flight deck's four catapults. Without the machinist's mates in the Catapult Steam Shop, which is part of Engineering department's Auxiliary Division, the only aircraft that could get off deck would be the ship's helicopters.

Working six hours on and six hours off, the Catapult Steam Shop's Machinist's Mates harness the steam generated from the ship's eight nuclear reactors to provide 500 psi to the catapult systems to shoot high-tech aircraft into combat.

"We have the knowledge of the steam cycle and the same fundamental training as the other engineers on board, but we also have to learn how to apply this to our flight deck mission through on-the-job training," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Christopher Miller, from Clayton, N.Y. "Repetition is key, but since we launch a bird several times a minute, repetition is never a problem."

Miller said he loves his job and especially enjoys being unique in the engineering profession aboard the ship.

"We're really the only ones in our division who work hand-in-hand with the air ratings on a constant basis," he said.

The Catapult Steam Shop has 20 Sailors working around the clock to ensure the ship can complete its primary mission. Though their schedule only allows for about five hours of sleep at any given time, Miller is surprisingly upbeat.

"I stay up even longer because I want to complete some advanced qualifications to better my career," Miller said. "I like it though. My brother is in the Air Force and we talk about our jobs. I wouldn't trade places with him."

Enterprise is conducting theater security cooperation efforts and maritime security operations in the region while underway on its 21st deployment.

Enterprise Strike Group consists of Enterprise, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), the guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Mason (DDG 87); USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8), Carrier Air Wing 1, and Destroyer Squadron 2.

For information regarding Enterprise Strike Group's deployment, visit the USS Enterprise Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USS.Enterprise.CVN.65.

For more news from USS Enterprise (CVN 65), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.

Lynn Assesses NATO’s Cybersecurity Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 25, 2011 – NATO is moving ahead with plans to protect the alliance’s cyberspace domain, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said here today.

In an interview at the European Defense Agency, Lynn said NATO leaders are taking concrete steps to defend cyberspace.

Lynn called his visit a “a bookend trip.” He had visited the alliance headquarters two months before NATO’s November summit in Lisbon, Portugal, to propose and coordinate U.S. ideas for defending cyberspace. His meeting today was part of the High Level Meeting of National Policy Advisors on NATO Cyber Defense. Coming two months after the summit, it was a chance for Lynn to assess progress.

“The first step for NATO is to protect its own networks,” the deputy secretary said. “We need concrete steps. We need to move to full operational capability of the NATO Cyber Incident Response Center, and make good on the promise of Lisbon to pull it forward from 2015 to 2012.”

Strong support exists in the alliance for this step, Lynn said, and while finances always are a concern, he said he sees that happening.

Lynn said the alliance also is putting centralized governance mechanisms in place to protect its networks.

“You have to have configuration control. You have to have a single management structure,” he said. “One of the outputs of the agency reform effort that NATO is undertaking will be to get that centralized governance structure.”

Lynn also participated in a public- and private-sector cybersecurity roundtable sponsored by Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe. The roundtable included representatives from private companies, colleges and think tanks.

“It reflects the mutual interdependence of economic and security factors,” Lynn said. “It reflects the fact that [cybersecurity] is not a problem like air defense, where you would look to the government alone to provide the solution.”

Cybersecurity has to include private and nongovernmental entities, Lynn said, and the private-sector representatives didn’t really argue.

“The overall thrust [during the roundtable] is that companies believe this needs to be a partnership,” he said.

Lynn emphasized the word “partnership,” saying he believes the issue needs government resources and support, but not necessarily government orders. “I got the same message here as I did in the States,” he said.

The private sector has enormous technologies to share, and governments have resources to invest in those technologies. Still, Lynn said, it is a learning experience for both sides.

In the United States, the Defense Department works closely with firms making up the Defense industrial base to protect networks and data on those nets. At first, the firms were worried about sharing proprietary information, but now they see the value, Lynn said.

“Many of their fears have fallen away, and we have a very good two-way street with them,” Lynn said. The fears are not completely gone, he acknowledged, but they have relaxed to the point that they see their data is being protected. And they “are gaining a much better understanding of what the threat is, where it is coming from and how other people are dealing with it,” he added. “Essentially, the rising tide is lifting all boats in its ability to protect.”

The Defense Department has learned important lessons in protecting U.S. military networks, Lynn said, and he reached out to the European Union and the European Defense Agency to share those lessons.

NSIPS, Other Tools Offline for Maintenance Upgrade

From Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs Office

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System (NSIPS) and its related tools will be offline for four days beginning the evening of Jan. 27, to implement a major maintenance upgrade.

According to a recent announcement sent out by the NSIPS/Electronic Service Record (ESR)/Career Information Management System implementation (CIMS) manager, affected tools include ESR, Electronic Leave (E-Leave), CIMS and all other tools accessible through NSIPS at https://nsips.nmci.navy.mil. Other NSIPS-accessible tools that will be affected include Navy Retention Monitoring System, Health Professionals Incentive Program, Web Ad Hoc and Analytics.

"The maintenance outage will begin at Central time on Jan. 27, and will run for four days," said Art Tate, NSIPS/ESR/CIMS/NRMS implementation manager, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Systems Center Atlantic New Orleans Office. "We expect NSIPS and all its related tools to be back online by approximately Central on Jan. 31. As always, we always try to get NSIPS back to operational status even sooner if possible."

According to Tate, the NSIPS home page will be up through most of the maintenance period displaying system status messages.

"For the most part, you'll be able to track the status of the system there, but we expect the home page to be down for a few hours at some point for an update, too," said Tate. "During that time users will get some sort of browser message that the server is unavailable or offline. Just try again a few hours later."

There will be no functional changes from this upgrade.

"When the updated NSIPS comes back online, users will see that there are no functional changes," said Tate. "The only differences will be cosmetic changes to NSIPS – a new look and feel."

E-Leave will be down during the maintenance period, but those who need to request leave will still be able to do so using an alternative method.

"Every command's leave program must continue to function during this outage, so we advised command leave administrators (CLA), reviewers and approvers on procedures to use during down time," Tate said. "Personnel should use the paper 'NC Form 3065 Leave Request/Authorization' to document leave. Once NSIPS is back online the CLA will input the leave request.

"CLAs will also have 'work arounds' for checking personnel out and in on leave, extensions and corrections," Tate said. "Basically they will need to document these items on paper until they can input the information when the system's back online. If they have questions they can contact the NSIPS help desk for assistance."

Those who handle NSIPS transactions, such as command personnel clerks and supervisors, may not receive system feedback as quickly as usual Jan. 27.

"System acknowledgement for transactions submitted Thursday (Jan. 27) will be suspended until the system comes back online Monday (Jan. 31)," Tate said. "Once NSIPS is offline, no transactions or feedback will be possible until it's running again."

Those with questions regarding NSIPS or any of its related tools are encouraged to contact the NSIPS help desk toll-free at (877) 589-5991 or e-mail nsipshelpdesk@navy.mil.

For more news from Navy Personnel Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/npc/.

Safeguarding the North Atlantic right whale

Posted by: LTJG Stephanie Young

As a maritime service, with helicopters flying over inland lakes ready to save those that slip into icy waters, and cutters sailing the high seas enforcing international fishing agreements, the Coast Guard has become a key protector of our Nation’s marine resources.

The service’s legacy of environmental protection dates back to the late 1800s with the signing of the Fur Seal Act of 1897, charging the Coast Guard with the vital role of enforcing natural resource laws.

Yesterday, Coast Guard responders in Jacksonville, Fla., sprung into action when a North Atlantic right whale wandered into the St. Johns River, a major traffic route for naval vessels, commercial shipping and recreational traffic.

Protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the North Atlantic right whale is designated an endangered species with approximately 350 right whales left in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The species themselves are particularly vulnerable to human activities as they frequently linger at the surface, sometimes in areas of heavy vessel traffic.

With the whale swimming directly in the path of inbound and outbound commercial vessel traffic, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Jacksonville took steps to manage vessel traffic in the area, and ferry operations were suspended. Broadcast messages were sent out urging vessel operators to use caution and proceed at safe speeds in the area of the sighting. Recreational boaters were warned that intentionally approaching within 500 yards of the whale is prohibited and is in violation of federal law.

“While we understood the significant impact of the port closure, we were grateful for our long-established partnerships with our port partners,” said Capt. Andy Blomme, Sector Jacksonville commander.

The North Atlantic right whale is a designated endangered species with approximately 350 right whales living in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
Yesterday’s events highlighted the fact that the Coast Guard’s stewardship role cannot be performed alone, and demonstrates the paramount importance of partnerships for protecting vulnerable marine species. As a result of the collective efforts of the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the off course whale eventually found its way to safety and port operations were restored.

“NOAA’s partnership with the Coast Guard and others is essential to protecting endangered North Atlantic right whales,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Yesterday’s quick action to protect the right whale was a great example of this strong partnership at work.”

Fortuitously, Blomme and his staff had met with the NOAA Southeast U.S. Right Whale Coordinator just a week ago to discuss the possibility of a right whale entering the river and how they would handle that situation.

“These ties enabled us to make timely notification and react quickly to ensure the whale’s safety until it departed the river,” added Blomme.

The St. Johns River is within one of the seasonal management areas established by NOAA in 2008, and supported by Coast Guard and its partners. In these areas, a speed restriction comes into effect when whales are expected to migrate through the area, reducing the risk of ship collisions with North Atlantic right whales. These measures are just one example of managing human activities to reduce impacts to whales.

As the U.S. Coast Guard continues to meet the challenges that face our nation, including our 11 statutory missions, the service remains committed to the protection of our nation’s living ocean legacy including critical marine habitats and the endangered species that are dependent on them.

Mitscher Departs for Training Exercises

By Mass Communication Specialist Deven B. King, USS Mitscher Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS Mitscher (DDG 57) departed its homeport of Norfolk, Va., Jan. 19, as part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group.

The crew of Mitscher, more than 250 Sailors, is participating in a Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) to prepare for an upcoming deployment with the strike group.

"We're in our advanced stages of training," said Command Master Chief (SW) William Mullinax, USS Mitscher Command Master Chief. "This is to flex the crew and the ship to ensure we're ready to go in harm's way if need be."

Mitscher will serve many roles within the strike group, including anti-submarine warfare, carrier defense, maritime security operations, and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations.

"Mitscher's not only the jack-of-all-trades, but she's the master of them as well," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Wilson, combat systems officer. "Name a mission and we'll be there to execute it safely and professionally."

During their first 48 hours underway, the crew conducted a VBSS exercise and a force protection exercise designed to simulate an attack on the ship by small craft.

"It's training that has added value to Sailors," said Mullinax.

"Over the next month we'll fine-tune the skills we need to fine-tune a little more, tighten up those last few things we need tightened up, and we'll be ready to roll," Wilson said.

"The crew is ready for the COMPTUEX and JTFEX, and I think they'll meet every situation pressed upon them to the best of their ability," Mullinax said. "There are probably going to be things which will stump us a bit, but we have the right people in place, the right leadership and the right Sailors."

USS Mitscher is scheduled to deploy with the strike group in the spring.

For more news from Commander, Navy Region Mid Atlantic, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cnrma/.

General Officer Announcement

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

Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general with assignment as commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.  Fiel is currently serving as the vice commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Sailors Save Shipmate

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

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- The commanding officer of Helicopter Sea Squadron 12 awarded the Navy Achievement Medal to two Sailors from USS Abraham Lincoln's (CVN 72) Air Department Jan. 25 for quick, decisive actions that saved the life of one of their shipmates.

Cmdr. Patrick E. Keyes awarded the medal to Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Jesus J. Garcia, from Uvalde, Texas, and Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handler) Airman Samuel R. Scheidecker, from Philadelphia.

During flight operations Jan. 21, Garcia and Scheidecker took action simultaneously to halt the launch of an E2-C2 Hawkeye when they noticed a Sailor crossing the flight deck in the path of the aircraft.

Garcia works as an operator in the Integrated Catapult Control Station (ICCS), located between the forward catapults that launch aircraft off of Lincoln's flight deck. His job is to first ensure that he has the correct amount of steam pressure for the launch, and then to make sure the deck in front of the aircraft is clear.

After conducting his pressure reading Jan. 21, Garcia went up to check to see if he had a clear deck. When he looked up, he saw someone coming up out of the catwalk, onto the flight deck and directly into the path of the aircraft. He immediately suspended the launch. Had he indicated a clear deck forward, the launch would have proceeded.

Garcia said he was simply doing his job the way he was trained.

"Everyone that trained me, trained me properly," Garcia said. "It came in handy that night."

Independent of Garcia's actions, Scheidecker also followed the proper steps to suspend the launch. When he saw the Sailor enter the launch area, Scheidecker sent a suspend signal from the bow to the director topside.

"It was instantaneous," Scheidecker said. "As soon as you see something like that, you've got to react. We're watching out for one another up there. It's kind of cool that both of us, from two different divisions, saw her and stopped it in time. I'm glad we did."

Capt. Brad Jensen, Lincoln's Air department head, said the Sailors' extraordinary actions were the result of their ability to maintain focus, fight complacency and react according to their training.

"Everything that they do up there is to preserve life and to preserve assets," Jensen said. "Their first instinct was to recognize that they had someone in an area that wasn't supposed to be there. That made all the difference. If not for their actions, it would have resulted in the loss of life, without a doubt."

Jensen said that although flight operations that night ended without incident, it was important to remember to stay focused at all times while working in such a dangerous environment.

"You like to recognize great actions, but the flip side is that this could have been very bad," said Jensen. "This could have been a memorial service. Instead, we got to recognize a couple of Sailors for doing a great job and saving a life."

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.

Band of Brothers Deploy, Serve Together Aboard USS Enterprise

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jared M. King, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- As the Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) are deployed away from their families and best friends Jan. 22, Sailors who are as close as brothers are serving together.

Aviation Electronics Technician Airman James F. Jones, assigned to the 'Checkmates' of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, and his best friend since birth, Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Cody J. Loskot, assigned to the 'Screwtops' of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123, are among the lucky few who have the opportunity to serve side-by-side.

"Loskot has always been a great friend," said Jones. "It helps a lot to be around somebody close to me that will experience the same things while we deploy with the Big 'E'. It's great to have my best friend with me. I can't imagine what it would be like to do this alone. We'll have lots of exciting sea stories to pass down to our children and grandchildren."

Jones also happens to have a younger brother Jacob, stationed aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), who will embark on a deployment later in this year.

It was at the urging of his brother and a need for a sense of direction that Jones finally decided to join the Navy. The two brothers, along with Loskot, enlisted together on the same day. In order to be near one another, all three decided to go into the aviation field.

"If the Navy was good enough for my brother and Loskot to join, then it was good enough for me," said Jones. "The plan was to stay together as long as we could, and luckily we were all able to be stationed in Virginia.

The three Sailors grew up together in Hillsboro, Ill., where they spent their summers at the lake. Their tight bond remained strong throughout the years, providing them a significant lifeline to help them weather the challenges of boot camp and adjust to their new life in the Navy. Once they arrived in Great Lakes, Ill., the Jones brothers were placed in the same division. Although they were separated from Loskot, he was still close by.

As the 'big brother,' a role Jones said he takes seriously, being in the same division provided extra comfort to Jones as he was able to watch over his baby brother throughout their time at recruit training command.

"Boot camp was very challenging but rewarding at the same time because I was able to be there for Jacob," said Jones. "I've been looking out for him since we were kids. While we were in boot camp, I made sure I motivated him all the way to the end."

Although Jones says he was hesitant about joining at first, he is proud to follow in his family's footsteps. The Jones brother's grandfather, Jim Jones, served as a boat coxswain during the 1940's. His father, also named Jim, was an electrician's mate who served in the 1970's aboard USS Wasp (CVS 18).

"I grew up listening to sea stories from my Dad; we're third generation Sailors in my family," said Jones. "I hope our grandfather is smiling down from heaven. I'm proud to carry on our family's legacy; we're a true Navy family."

As for Loskot, he said nothing could be better than sharing his Navy adventure with two of his best friends.

"People join the Navy and end up acquiring lifelong friends," said Loskot. "Jones and I started out as friends and now have become family."

While Enterprise's deployment has given Jones a chance to spend more time with friends and share an experience that his brother will soon share, Jones said he also had to make sacrifices. He will be away from his wife and daughter, and he will miss the birth of his second child.

While Jones said he is upset about missing his daughter's birth, he knows Loskot will be there to help him make it through his time away from home.

"I'm going to miss my second child's birth, and it helps a lot being around somebody close to me that has experienced the same things," said Jones.

Enterprise Strike Group consists of Enterprise, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), the guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Mason (DDG 87); USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8), Carrier Air Wing 1 and Destroyer Squadron 2.

For news regarding Enterprise Strike Group's deployment, visit the USS Enterprise Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USS.Enterprise.CVN.65

For more news from USS Enterprise (CVN 65), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.

'Call of the Ocean': Sonar Techs Listen in Defense of USS Leyte Gulf

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Guerra, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS LEYTE GULF, At Sea (NNS) -- The 14 Sailors that comprise Weapons department's CA division aboard USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) have been steadily hearing "the call of the ocean" as they steam through U.S. 6th Fleet's area of operation, Jan. 25.

The sonar technicians are helping to protect the ship by listening to changes in the frequency in water, allowing for quicker response to potential threats.

Sonar technicians are trained to detect, classify, and localize incoming torpedoes. The technicians are also responsible for deploying the AN/SLQ-25A (NIXIE) torpedo countermeasure, a vital component to the ship's torpedo defense system.

The NIXIEs "soft kill" technology is able to confuse a torpedo and draw fire away from the ship through the use of a towed decoy device and shipboard signal generator. The combination can attract the passive sonar of an incoming torpedo by mimicking ship noise, such as a propeller or engine, which is more attractive to the torpedo's sensors than the ship.

"We train to rapidly deploy NIXIE, recognize incoming torpedoes and know what type of weapon the enemy is deploying against us," said Sonar Technician 3rd Class (Surface) Andrew D. Johnson. "It's vital in order to allow the ship to make the necessary evasive maneuvers."

Leyte Gulf's NIXIE "Quickdraw" was a recent training scenario designed to test the response time for getting NIXIE into the water when faced with aggression.

"It's important to keep personnel alert," said Ens. Maelina T. Sakaio, anti-submarine warfare officer. "You have to continually train in order to develop and improve."

In order to deploy NIXIE, the division must first receive the order from the commanding officer. Once permission is given, NIXIE is lowered through an opening in the aft of the ship by a winch to a specified depth. It's a mixture of speed and precision that sonar technicians must work to achieve in order to successfully deploy the torpedo countermeasure.

"We conduct training on the equipment in order to better understand how the system works and also maintain proficient, safe winch operation," said Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class (SW) Robert W. Kibler, CA division leading petty officer. "The best training always remains the actual deployment of the NIXIE."

As Leyte Gulf continues with its scheduled deployment into the 6th and 5th Fleet areas of operation, the division continues to work toward mission success.

"Our division knows how real the threat is, and we do our best to train to it, and also educate the crew to the dangers as well," said Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) (SW/IUSS) Anthony Wagner, CA division leading chief petty officer.

Anti-submarine warfare has been a focus of Leyte Gulf long before deployment, and as they move closer to 5th Fleet, the sonar technicians will call upon their numerous training events to guide them.

"We've trained simulating merchant escorts, channel passages, anti-submarine and anti-piracy warfare, and even tracking subs to fire upon them," said Kibler.

As Leyte Gulf continues its deployment, they understand the importance of what they are listening to.

"We are the ship's first line of defense when it comes to anti-torpedo defense," said Wagner.

Leyte Gulf is deployed as part of Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

Enterprise CSG includes Leyte Gulf, CSG 12, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Destroyer Squadron 2, the guided-missile destroyers USS Barry (DDG 52), USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Mason (DDG 87), and the eight squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 1.

For more news from USS Enterprise (CVN 65), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.

Face of Defense: Guard Soldier Loses 100 Pounds

By Army Sgt. Rebekah Malone
Louisiana National Guard

PINEVILLE, La., Jan. 25, 2011 – Army Spc. Alejandro Zuniga of the Louisiana National Guard scored 401 points on his most recent Army physical fitness test -- something even he found hard to believe, considering the state he was in less than two years ago.

Zuniga, a member of the 1021st Engineering Company, 205th Engineer Battalion, overcame tremendous odds recently when he racked up well over the maximum number of points needed to score an excellent rating on the test.

Just 18 months ago, and 100 pounds heavier, Zuniga was battling despair and depression. One day, he’d had enough.

"When I was bigger, I was on the edge of depression. I felt helpless," Zuniga said. "Just one day something someone said struck me. I am so much more confident now."

Too large to run, Zuniga started by walking. Within a couple of months, he was able to run three miles without walking. Today, he runs four miles a day, six days a week, then boosts his workout with 100 push-ups a day and lifts weights for at least an hour. This strict program allowed Zuniga to achieve a feat few Guardsmen attain.

"I almost passed out when I heard," Zuniga said. His first sergeant had a similar reaction.

"I said, 'Are you serious?'" Army 1st Sgt. Jack Toney said about hearing Zuniga's score. "A perfect score is 100 points in each of three categories on the test, for a total combined score of 300. I have never seen a score like this one in 24 years of service."

Zuniga completed 112 push-ups, 117 sit-ups and ran the two-mile run in . An unofficial extended scale is used once a soldier passes the total event requirement for a perfect score. He was awarded one additional point for each push-up and sit-up, and six seconds off his time for the run.

Toney saw Zuniga's work ethic first-hand when they served together on Task Force Kout Men in Haiti last summer. Even after an exhausting day of construction work, the devoted soldier still made time for a workout.

"Zuniga would work, and I mean work, all day on his project site and come back to the base camp and run and do PT on his own," Toney said.

"It was incredible. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it myself," said Army Sgt. Patrick Mahoney, who graded Zuniga's fitness test. Mahoney said his main concern was being able to count fast enough.

Not content with his personal success, Zuniga has started helping others achieve their exercise goals as well.

"I want to be a trainer for the National Guard," he said. "I want to be that person to go to get help. If I was 265 pounds and lost 100 pounds, I know everyone else can, too."