Sunday, February 06, 2011

Southern Partnership Station 2011 Team, Guatemalan Service Members Celebrate Partnership

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffery Tilghman Williams
High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) Public Affairs

PUERTO QUETZAL, Guatemala (NNS) -- The joint military crew aboard High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) supporting Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2011 and Guatemalan sailors and soldiers celebrated a two-week subject matter expert exchange with a closing ceremony at the naval base in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, Feb. 4.

The ceremony included a traditional American style barbecue, a plaque exchange and volleyball.

"We just wanted to do something to show our appreciation for the opportunity to work with our American brothers," said Capitan de Navio Carlos Lainfiesta, commander of the Pacific Naval Base in Puerto Quetzal. "Today is just about celebrating our accomplishments and having a good time."

During the two-week exchange, the service members worked side by side, participating in information exchanges related to medical operations, practical self defense, construction, civil affairs and security.

"In our short time here, we have been able to do some incredible things and make tremendous strides in sustaining enduring relationships with the Guatemalan governments," said SPS 2011 Mission Commander Cmdr. Mark Becker. "And we look forward to future engagements, so we can continue to build and learn from each other.

SPS 11 is an annual deployment of U.S. ships to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility in the Caribbean and Latin America. The mission's primary goal is information-sharing with navies, coast guards and civilian services throughout the region.

Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO) is the naval component command for U.S. Southern Command and is responsible for all naval personnel and assets in the area of responsibility. COMUSNAVSO conducts a variety of missions in support of the U.S. Maritime Strategy, including Theater Security Cooperation, relationship building, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, community relations, and counter-illicit trafficking operations.

For more information, please contact COMUSNAVSO/C4F Public Affairs by email at, visit, on Facebook at, at!/pages/Southern-Partnership-Station/116426301746856 or on Twitter at

For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

Flag Officer Announcements

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

Navy Reserve Rear Adm. (lower half) George W. Ballance has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral.  Ballance is currently serving as deputy commander, 7th Fleet, Yokosuka, Japan.

Navy Reserve Rear Adm. (lower half) Mark J. Belton has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral.  Belton is currently serving as reserve director, Supply, Ordnance and Logistics Operations Division, N41, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Navy Reserve Rear Adm. (lower half) Robin R. Braun has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral.  Braun is currently serving as deputy for operations/battle staff director, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany.

Navy Reserve Rear Adm. (lower half) Russell S. Penniman IV, has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral.  Penniman is currently serving as deputy reserve commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Navy Reserve Rear Adm. (lower half) Gary W. Rosholt has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral.  Rosholt is currently serving as deputy commander, Special Operations Command, U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

Sailor Provides Aid to Skateboarder After Accident

By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Robert Winkler - Naval Surface Forces Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- A master chief assigned to Afloat Training Group Pacific (ATGPAC) provided assistance to an injured, 18-year-old skateboarder involved in an accident in Chula Vista, Calif. Feb 3.

Master Chief Operations Specialist Robert J. Young was making his morning commute to work at ATGPAC's Training Standards office, when he noticed an injured young man laying on the side of the road.

"I saw a person on the opposite side of the road in the bike path writhing in pain, no one else was stopping, about five cars passed, I didn't know if he was hit by car or what," said Young. "I couldn't just leave him there. I felt a moral, ethical responsibility to give aid. I would have felt horrible for a long time if I passed him up. I asked where he was injured and he indicated his right knee and face, which was obvious, due to bleeding."

After assessing the situation, Young called 911 and gave authorities the location and an injury report. Emergency services arrived quickly.

"He thanked me a couple of times for stopping; I let him know help was on the way. He told me he had bailed from his skateboard and did a face plant," said Young. "I asked him if he knew where his board was and he said, 'right now, I don't care.' I could understand that, and just tried to keep his mind off his injuries. My concern was a head or neck injury."

According to Young, the victim was not wearing any protective gear. "I did not move the victim, due to possible head and neck trauma, and made sure other cars did not run him over while waiting for emergency response, which arrived within seven minutes."

Young, reluctant to accept praise for his actions, feels he was simply doing his duty as a citizen and a Sailor.

"To live up to our core values, we must maintain a higher standard," said Young. "If you won't stop and help when you can, how could we trust each other for vital support in a shipboard emergency or combat situation? Out there, over the horizon, all we have is each other. We need each other to succeed and survive."

Young attributes part of his inclination to provide assistance to Navy training and culture. "Years of first aid training gave me the skills and confidence to stop," said Young. "I knew I had the skills and therefore the responsibility to give aid. Maybe others don't stop because they are not sure how to react in crisis situations. We Sailors, are all trained to respond. It becomes a natural reaction, almost instinctual."

There is also a more philosophical reason for us all to be good citizens according to Young.

"We all have to take care of each other whenever and wherever we can … makes good karma."

For more news from Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit or follow the Surface Force at

For more news from Naval Surface Forces, visit

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

Teams to Search Cambodia for Vietnam War MIAs

From a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command News Release

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2011 – Two archeological teams from the U.S. Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command are scheduled to arrive in Cambodia soon to search for Americans unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, and physicians and nurses from military commands in Hawaii will accompany them to participate in a health engagement mission.

As part of the recovery portion of this dual-purpose deployment, more than 40 recovery team members will excavate a burial site and an underwater aircraft crash site in search of four missing Americans in Cambodia’s Kampong Cham and Kracheh provinces.

The deployment, expected to last about 40 days, marks the command’s 44th joint field activity in Cambodia, officials said.

Recovery teams search for human remains, life-support items and other material evidence that may further the identification of Americans missing from past conflicts.

In addition to recovery efforts, U.S. and Cambodian personnel will participate in a medical engagement outreach event, treating 4,000 to 8,000 people in rural and highly underserved communities, officials said. The specialized 12-member team of experts in various medical specialties will provide basic health assistance, laboratory services and optometry examinations.

The U.S. medical team members are from Tripler Army Medical Center, the 18th Medical Command and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. U.S. and Cambodian physicians will reinforce medical capabilities by participating in an information exchange, benefitting both countries educationally and socio-culturally, officials added.

“[Tripler] is sending physician residents from OB/GYN and family medicine to conduct expert exchanges with local physicians, and will be invited to work alongside the Khmer physicians and treat their patients,” said Army Capt. Drew Webb, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command physician assistant.

This will be the first time a Tripler resident program has deployed to a foreign country on a humanitarian outreach mission, Webb added.

“The big takeaway for all of this is that the [Tripler] residents will get training and experience in such a unique environment,” he said.

Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is a jointly manned U.S. Pacific Command organization of more than 400 military and civilian specialists that has investigated and recovered missing Americans since the 1970s, officials said, noting that 1,702 Americans still are listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War.

Sailors, Marines Conduct Live-fire Event with Colombian Coast Guard

From Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 Public Affairs

COVENAS, Colombia (NNS) -- USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) Sailors and Security Cooperation Task Force (SCTF) Marines participated in weapons a training course with Colombian coast guardsmen, Jan. 31.

The course was held at the 100-meter range on the Colombian Marine Infantry Training Base in Covenas, Colombia.

"The weapons exchange is a great opportunity for us to get with Colombian coast guardsmen to share information and to get to know each other," said Gunner's Mate 1st Class Michael J. Braun, small arms and marksmanship instructor aboard Gunston Hall. "We have different methods; it is great to be able to understand different ways to do things."

The SCTF is embarked aboard Gunston Hall on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility supporting Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 (A-SPS 11).

Exchanging knowledge of weapons will aid in the continuous effort to build strong relationships with Colombia and other partner nations.

"We hope that this experience will benefit the U.S. military as well," said Lt. Mario Alex Cabezas Hiuestroza, commanding officer of the coast guard base in Covenas. "It has been a very kind and professional exchange."

The service members exchanged knowledge on the Colombian Galil assault rifle, U.S. M4 Carbine assault rifle and Beretta 9 mm pistol. The SCTF military police brought 3,000 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition, used with the Galil and M4 rifles, and 700 rounds of 9 mm ammunition for the exchange.

"We were able to get a lot of good information from the exchange today," said Staff Sgt. Chad Hatfield, SCTF range safety officer. "We were able to observe the way that they train, and it is very different from us. They have levels that they work up to for live fire; it was a great experience for us to have."

During A-SPS 11, Sailors and Marines work together alongside partner nation civil and military services, sharing expertise, information and ideas that will expand and enhance regional maritime security.

"This has given us more experience and it has shown us different methods," said Cabezas Hiuestroza. "It has been a wonderful experience, and we are building stronger relationships."

A-SPS 11 is a United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)directed operation implemented by Commander, United States Naval Forces Southern Command (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 Security Cooperation Task Force.

For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit COMUSNAVSO/C4F Public Affairs by email at, visit

For more news from Commander, U.S. Marine Forces South, visit

For more news from Commander, U.S. Southern Command, visit

For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

General Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has nominated Army Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and assignment as the commanding general, U.S. Army Central Command/Third U.S. Army, Fort McPherson, Ga.  Brooks is currently serving as the commanding general, 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Division-South, Operation New Dawn, Iraq.

USS Harry S. Truman Dons Battle "E" for Sixth Time in Twelve Years

From USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) was named the 2010 Battle Efficiency, or Battle "E", award winner by Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic, Feb. 2.

This is Truman's third consecutive Battle "E" award and the sixth award in the ship's twelve-year history. The ship also won the award in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009.

"Success breeds success," said Capt. Joseph M. Clarkson, USS Harry S. Truman commanding officer. "When a carrier is able to perform the way Truman has and manages a 'three-peat repeat'; it is obvious there is something being passed down through the crew over the years that is reflected in their performance as a team."

Clarkson, who took command of Truman shortly after it received the 2008 Battle "E" Award, said he is impressed and proud to be Truman's commanding officer.

"In my opinion, there is no better crew in the fleet," said Clarkson. "Their personal motivation and ability to maintain the high standard of excellence they set for themselves is inspiring."

Truman crew members are both proud and excited to be a part of an award winning and operational successful team.

"I was extremely excited when I found out I had orders to Truman," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Frances Vasquez. "I heard about Truman's reputation while in 'A' school. I arrived on board during deployment and will wear my Battle 'E' ribbon proudly."

After a very successful 2010, during which Truman was deployed for 213 days and conducted nearly 3,000 combat sorties in support of ground forces in Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, Truman is authorized to wear the "E" on its superstructure until next year's winner is announced.

Following a brief underway period in which the ship will participate in the E-2D "Advanced Hawkeye" carrier suitability testing, Truman will spend the majority of 2011 in an extended maintenance period.

"Unfortunately, because of our shipyard period we will not be in the running for the award next year," said Clarkson. "Truman will be forced to let another carrier shine – but it is okay. I have confidence that Truman's crew members will maintain their exemplary work ethic and return to the sea with the same vigor and self-determination that has made them a stand out carrier for the past three years."

For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

Egypt’s Military Remains Neutral, Mullen Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2011 – With hope for “an orderly, peaceful, violence-free transition” in Egypt, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today he will continue his discussions with the chief of staff of Egypt’s armed forces.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning, America,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the Egyptian military is working hard to remain neutral.

Lt. Gen. Sami Anan has assured him that “he’s not going to fire on his people,” Mullen said.

“They are very focused on the people of Egypt,” the chairman said of the Egyptian military. “They would like this clearly to transition peacefully. There are more army forces out today, and you can see them in the pictures. They work very hard to remain neutral, and they really want to continue to do that.”

Mullen cited the long-standing, strong relationship between the U.S. and Egyptian militaries, noting that Egypt has received $1.3 billion in U.S. funding over the past 30 years.

“Beyond just the equipment and those sorts of things, what that has also done is establish a relationship with the Egyptian military, between our militaries, which is one of great strength,” Mullen said. “There are intangibles associated with that tied to how [Egyptian service members] handle themselves and how they focus and what they understand about who they should be, which are very positive.”

The admiral said the United States has “plenty of military presence throughout the region” and that the Defense Department is in a higher state of awareness but has not increased alert levels or readiness levels there.

President Barack Obama has made it clear that he would like to see the transition sought by many of the protesters in Cairo “move reasonably quickly,” Mullen said.

“But at the same time,” he added, “this is really up to the Egyptian people [and] the Egyptian government.”

The chairman cautioned against rushing into action on the question of whether the United States should freeze or halt funding for Egypt.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there,” he said. “I’d like to understand a little bit more about what’s going on before we take any specific action.”

Lincoln Receives Battle "E" Award During Deployment

From USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) earned distinction as the Naval Air Forces Pacific Battle Efficiency Award winner, Feb. 2, prevailing in an extremely close competition amongst the six aircraft carriers in the Pacific Fleet.

"Winning the 'Battle E' identifies USS Abraham Lincoln as the epitome of leadership, tactical acumen, and combat preparedness within all of naval aviation," wrote Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) Pacific, Vice Adm. Allen G. Myers in his congratulatory award message.

Earning distinction for sustained superior performance in an operational environment, the "Battle E" is the latest of several achievements earned by USS Abraham Lincoln, currently deployed in the Arabian Sea. In addition to winning the overall "Battle E" award, Lincoln won 13 of 14 departmental awards, more than any other carrier in the Navy.

It's been a banner year for Lincoln, which began early January 2010 with its first underway in nine months after completing an extensive $350 million maintenance period, which was completed on time and on budget.

The crew then completed a satisfactory Board of Inspection and Survey assessment a mere 43 days after sea trials.

In preparation for a 5th and 7th Fleet combat deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, Lincoln spent 216 days away from its homeport in 2010, yet still increased its overall advancement rate by 21 percent and Zone A retention by 10 percent.

Lincoln wrapped up deployment preparations and scored a 95.1 percent during its Final Evaluation Period almost immediately before departing its homeport of Everett, Wash., Sept. 7, 2010.

To date, during deployment, Lincoln has sailed across more than 36,000 nautical miles of open ocean and conducted the safe and expeditious completion of 8,500 arrested landings. The ship and Carrier Air Wing 2 launched more than 7,000 sorties, with nearly 2,000 directly supporting troops on the ground in combat.

Lincoln's Supply department recently earned a score of 96.8 percent for the 2010 Naval Air Forces Supply Management Inspection. This inspection was highlighted by hotel services, disbursing, and hazardous material (HAZMAT) divisions scoring 98 percent or above, including a 100 percent accurate HAZMAT inventory, a first for an aircraft carrier.

Lincoln's media department won the Chief of Naval Information Thompson-Ravitz Award for best internal communication program, and overall "Best in Show" among all award winners.

Additionally, the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department received "outstanding" results and comments on the CNAF Aviation Maintenance Management Team Aviation Maintenance Inspection, with 39 of 43 programs on-track, which was "five programs above the Fleet average."

Capt. John D. Alexander, Lincoln's commanding officer, said earning the Battle "E" highlights the outstanding efforts of Lincoln's crew in 2010 and 2011.

"We always strive for the best, but I never put any pressure on the crew to get the 'Battle E.'" It shows the crew wanted it, and we earned it," Alexander said. "I'm very proud of each and every Lincoln Sailor."

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 information about USS Abraham Lincoln follow the carrier on its facebook page at

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

General Officer Announcements

The chief of staff, Air Force announced today the following assignments.

Maj. Gen. David J. Scott, director, operational capability requirements, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., to director, air and space operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Maj. Gen. Bruce A. Litchfield, commander, 76th Maintenance Wing, Air Force Materiel Command, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to special assistant to the commander, Air Force Materiel Command, located at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

Gunston Hall Sailors, Marines Renovate Colombian Elementary School

From Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 Public Affairs

COVENAS, Colombia (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines from Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) participated in a community relations event at Bella Vista elementary school, Feb. 1, as part of Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 (A-SPS 11).

Gunston Hall Sailors and Marines from the Security Cooperation Task Force (SCTF) painted four classrooms and the outer walls of the school, cleaned the playground, and repaired plumbing and electrical wiring.

"It really warms my heart to be the commanding officer of this crew that is so generous with their time and energy to come out and do something like this," said Capt. John Meier, Gunston Hall commanding officer. "It goes well beyond just being a Sailor or Marine, we really have a tremendous opportunity to be able to make an impact in the lives of these children."

More than 60 Sailors and Marines worked alongside students and teachers from the school in a joint effort to renovate the building.

"It's a great opportunity, and I wish we had more time to actually do more for the community," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Christian Sherman. "It honestly makes me feel like I made a difference that you can't really explain unless you're a part of it."

During the visit, members of the crew gave away "Loving Hugs" stuffed animals, backpacks from "Give a Kid a Backpack" and soccer balls as part of Project Handclasp.

"It's pretty cool to get the chance to come out and see the children," said Lance Cpl. George Ruiz of SCTF. "It's nice to see their faces light up when they see the soccer balls and their school being painted. It is a small thing like this that makes a big impact on the kids as well as the crew."

Project Handclasp is an official U.S. Navy program that receives, transports and delivers humanitarian, educational and goodwill material donated by corporations, charitable organizations and private citizens to help the lives of citizens in the developing world.

In addition to community relations projects, A-SPS 11 will focus on strengthening existing U.S. Navy regional partnerships and encouraging the establishment of new relationships through the exchange of maritime mission-focused knowledge and expertise so each participating country will improve capabilities in what it considers key maritime security mission areas.

Colombia is Gunston Hall's first visit during the A-SPS 11 mission. During the mission, visits to Belize, Guatemala and Jamaica are also scheduled.

A-SPS 11 is a United States Southern Command-directed operation implemented by Commander, United States Naval Forces Southern Command, supported by United States Marine Corps Forces, South and carried out by Commander, Destroyer Squadron Four Zero (CDS40), Gunston Hall and a Marine Corps Security Cooperation Task Force.

For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit COMUSNAVSO/C4F Public Affairs by email at, visit>
For more news from Commander, U.S. Marine Forces South, visit>
For more news from Commander, U.S. Southern Command, visit>
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit

Fallen Marine's Family Adopts His Best Friend

By Randy Roughton
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Feb. 4, 2011 – "Whatever is mine is his," Marine Corps Pfc. Colton W. Rusk wrote about Eli, his military working dog, in the final days of their deployment in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Rusk's family helped to prove his words true when they adopted the black Labrador retriever in a retirement and adoption ceremony at the military working dog school here.

After Rusk, 20, was killed Dec. 5 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province by Taliban sniper fire, Marine Corps officials told Darrell and Kathy Rusk, his parents, that Eli, the young Marine’s infantry explosives detector dog, crawled on top of their son to protect him after he was shot.

The Rusks drove here from their home in Orange Grove, Texas, along with their sons -- Cody, 22, and Brady, 12 -- as well as Rusk's aunt, Yvonne Rusk, and his grandparents, Jan Rusk and Katy and Wayne O'Neal.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jessy Eslick of the Defense Department’s military working dog research and development section handed the leash to the family, praising Eli as "a dog that brought Marines home to their families."

Eli immediately began licking Kathy Rusk's palms and fell into the arms of his former handler's father.

"In his last letter we got the day before we buried him, at the very top was a little smudge that said 'Eli's kisses,'" said the fallen Marine’s mother, who wore a two-sided pendant with a photo of her son on one side and another snapshot of him with Eli on the other. "[Colton] thought whatever was [his] was Eli's. "We're Colton's family, so it's just right that we're Eli's family now."

Eli, who was trained in the military working dog program here, reportedly is the second working dog the Marines discharged to permit adoption by a fallen handler's family. Cpl. Dustin J. Lee's family adopted his German shepherd, Lex, after the Quitman, Miss., Marine died from wounds he received in a mortar attack in Iraq’s Anbar province March 21, 2007. The corporal's family worked for nine months with an online petition and congressional help to secure the adoption.

Kathy Rusk said her family didn't have as many obstacles in their quest to adopt Eli. Texas Gov. Rick Perry started the process of working with the Marines on the dog's discharge, and Scooter Kelo, who trained Eli and also taught Rusk on working with the dog, also helped to make the adoption possible.

"It gets our mind off the sadness of losing Colton," she said, "just knowing we're going to have a little piece of Colton in Eli. I just wished he could talk and tell us some stories. Just to know we're going to be able to share the love we have for our son with something that he loved dearly."

Rusk joined the Marines after he graduated from Orange Grove High School and committed himself to the Marines the same week that his best friend, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Rokohl, lost both legs in southern Afghanistan. Rusk deployed to Afghanistan on his 20th birthday, with Eli, as part of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, from Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"He wanted to be a Marine since he was 10 years old," his mother said of her fallen son. "We talked to him about maybe going to college first, but he said he had to fight for his country first."

Rusk often told his parents how dogs like Eli were well-trained here and in South Carolina, where he was trained as a bomb detector dog handler.

"We've had dogs all of our lives," Darrell Rusk said. "Since all of the boys were babies, they had one. Colton was probably the better handler of the bunch. When he went to train in South Carolina, he said, 'Dad, we don't know how to train dogs. These dogs here will bring you a beer, they'll open the can for you, but sometimes they'll drink it for you, too.' He said that was how well-trained the dogs were, and he was really amazed how much you can do with a dog once you've worked with them."

The dog Rusk liked to call "My boy, Eli" earned a reputation for wanting to be wherever his handler was. Eli didn't want to sleep on the ground; he slept in Rusk's sleeping bag. They even ate together outside after Rusk found out that Eli wasn't allowed to eat in the chow hall.

"He told a story of when they were in the chow line one time," the fallen Marine’s father said. "One of the Marines kicked at the dog one time and told him to get the dog out. Colton and the Marine got into a little scuffle. They told Colton he could stay inside and leave the dog outside, but from then on, Colton and Eli ate outside. That's how tight he and the dog were."

The family met Eli once when they visited Rusk at Camp Pendleton the week he deployed. After the retirement and adoption ceremony, the Rusks took Eli to their home on more than 20 acres of land, which he will share with the family, their horses and three German shepherds.

Jan Rusk said this was another way to honor her grandson’s memory, but it also will help the family as they continue to cope with their loss.

"Eli was a part of Colton, and now they have a little part of Colton back," she said.

USS George H.W. Bush Conducts Two Appendectomies Underway

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jessica Echerri, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Health Services department surgical team completed two appendectomies aboard the ship Jan. 25 and Jan. 31.

The team performed a total of two appendectomies that took between one to four hours each and both patients were released from medical within 24 hours.

"We are here to support the battle crew," said Lt. Kennett Radford, George H.W. Bush certified registered nurse anesthetist. "We are the community hospital for the strike group."

Part of Health Service department's mission is to provide medical assistance to enhance the mission readiness of the crew, said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Knipp, George H.W. Bush general surgeon.

"During one of the surgeries, there was no flying anywhere because the weather was bad," Knipp said. "So it's a good thing that we can perform general surgeries on board."

The ship's operating room (OR) is similar to an OR in a shore-based hospital, but the doctors have to make use of their limited resources.

"A regular hospital has a lot more diagnostic capabilities, so we have a lot more practice using basic physical exam skills," Knipp said. "For example, a CT scan is too big to fit on the ship so we have to do without it."

Knipp said another difference between working on a ship instead of a shore-based hospital is the people he works with.

"When I worked on shore, the surgical technicians I worked with changed every surgery," Knipp said. "One wonderful thing about working here is I know who my team is going to be. We've gelled into one, cohesive unit."

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Marc Maribao and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (SW) David Cumpian are the ship's surgical technicians. They assist the surgical team by prepping the OR, accounting for supplies used during surgery, and caring for patients after surgery.

"So far, every surgery is a success," Knipp said. "I have my great team to thank for that."

George H.W. Bush is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) in preparation for a combat deployment this spring.

For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit

This article was sponsored by Military Books.