Military News

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates hosts an honor cordon to welcome Afghanistan’s Minister of National Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak to the Pentagon today at   The cordon will be held on the steps of the Pentagon River Entrance.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the Pentagon River Parking Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort to the cordon.

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

This Day in Naval History - Feb. 22

From the Navy News Service

1865 - A Union squadron under the command of Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter bombards and captures Wilmington, N.C.
1870 - After arriving on USS Nipsic, the Darien Expedition, commanded by Cmdr. Thomas O. Selfridge Jr., begins active operations ashore at Caldonia Bay. The exhibition then surveys the Isthmus of Darien, Panama, for an interoceanic ship canal.
1909 - The "Great White Fleet" returns to Hampton Roads, Va., from its historic around-the-world cruise.
1943 - USS Iowa (BB 61), the lead ship of the last class of American fast battleships, is commissioned.
1974 - Lt. j.g. Barbara Ann Allen becomes the first Navy officer designated as a female aviator.

Bataan Honors Former Sailors with Burial at Sea

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elijah G. Leinaar, USS Bataan (LHD 5) Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, Atlantic Ocean (NNS) -- Sailors aboard multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) committed 12 former Sailors to their final resting place Feb. 16 during a burial-at-sea ceremony while the ship operated in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Raise the church pennant and lower the colors to half mast," was spoken in a solemn and firm tone over the ship's general announcing system. The ensign was lowered and the burial detail prepared to send their shipmates to the deep.

Burials at sea have been a part of naval tradition from the nation's sea services' beginnings, according to the Naval Historical Center.

"I felt very honored that one of the two I committed today was my father-in-law," said Senior Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Benjamin F. Thompson III, part of Bataan's burial detail and the son-in-law of retired Chief Warrant Officer James B. Harris. "It was a big honor to do that. He was committed with at least one [other] WWII veteran today. Last May, my wife and I committed the remains of her grandfather to sea at Pearl Harbor, and now her father."

Thompson had known his father-in-law for nearly 20 years, and his relationship is what influenced his career choice.

"He was a big reason why I joined," said Thompson. "None of my uncles or dad had been in the Navy. I got married to Amy four days after boot camp. My wife was very appreciative that we could get it set up to have the ceremony [on Bataan]. It means everything to her. She wishes she could be here, but she understands and is very happy I could do this for him. They really loved each other and had a close relationship. She felt very strong that this should be done for her father. I'm thankful to the chain of command. It takes a significant amount of time to do this, and I am grateful."

Thompson's wife, along with the families of the other service members honored, will receive a ceremonial folded flag, and the shell casings from the rounds fired during the 21-gun salute. A letter from the captain, a chart listing the latitude and longitude of where the cremains were committed, and still photos of the ceremony will also be provided.

"If they had never served we wouldn't be able to do what we are doing," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Lunar R. Odhiambo. "So, I am grateful to be able to serve them today. It's a special place to be committed to sea. It's fitting for those who served in the Navy and spent so many years at sea."

Odhiambo said there's more than just a connection with these Sailors and the sea, but also a connection for the crew members involved in the ceremony.

"I really felt an attachment to these Sailors because we took their cremains on board and took care of them. We checked them every day until the ceremony. So, it was a little hard to say goodbye to them today," Odhiambo said. "They were Sailors and we are Sailors, and I am proud to honor them."

Upholding Navy customs and traditions with ceremonies like this gives new and veteran Sailors a chance to reflect on the importance of their service.

"Being buried at sea is meaningful," said Bataan Chaplain Cmdr. Steven Souders. "It has tradition. So as Sailors begin to see these traditions, it begins to build that legacy in them."

The veterans laid to rest varied in rank from enlisted to officer, and their service ranged from WWII to the 1980s. The most important connection they may have had was their service in the Navy and their love for the sea.

"When you're out to sea you walk the deck plates, you see the sunrise, and you feel the ocean breeze," said Souders. "There is something that pulls you to God's creation and you feel that pull - that depth - and you begin to feel like you're a part of something bigger than yourself. It's a fitting resting place to be buried in the deep, and it again goes back to tradition."

"Ready, aim, fire." The ceremonial gun shots cracked above the ocean waves. The cremains were laid to rest. The Bataan crew stood still throughout the ship as Taps sounded. The ensign was hoisted up from half mast, and like so many who've gone before, Bataan carried on with her mission.

For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5/.

NAVFAC Washington-Built Facility at Patuxent River Gets LEED Gold Certification

By James Johnson, Naval Facilities Engineering Command-Washington Public Affairs

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Aircraft Flight Test & Evaluation Facility at Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Washington, was recognized Feb. 22 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified.

The facility scored 39 (out of a possible 69) points to earn the certification. It is the second LEED Gold-certified facility built by NAVFAC Washington and the first at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.

"I have some pride knowing that this is the first LEED Gold building on this base," said Capt. Stephen Schmeiser, commanding officer, NAS Paxutent River. "We will do more like this."

On behalf of NAVAIR, Conrad White, deputy platform coordinator for the E-2C/C2 mission, accepted a large glass LEED Gold certification plaque issued by the USGBC.

Tom Cox, chief engineer, NAVFAC Washington, also spoke at the event, listing water efficient landscaping, optimized energy performance, and the use of locally procured and recycled materials as big factors in the achievement. The building also features a white-top roof which reflects heat, and 90 percent of the working space is infused by sunlight.

The LEED system promotes design and construction practices that improve the impact of buildings on the environment and their occupants. NAVFAC is dedicated to seeking ways to increase energy efficiency and support the U.S. Navy as they strive to become a leader in environmental responsibility.

For more news from Naval Facilities Engineering Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navfachq/.

General Officer Announcements

The chief of staff, Army announced today the following assignments:

Brig. Gen. Flora D. Darpino, to commanding general, U.S. Army Legal Services Agency/chief judge,
U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, Arlington, Va.
  Darpino most recently served as staff judge advocate, U.S. Forces-Iraq, Operation New Dawn, Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Robin L. Mealer, chief, force generation, Iraq Training and Advisory Team, U.S. Forces-Iraq, to deputy director, J-5, U.S. Forces-Iraq, Operation New Dawn, Iraq.

USS Constitution Wins President's Volunteer Service Award

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald, USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- USS Constitution won the 2010 President's Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) for community service, Feb. 22.

The PVSA is divided into three levels: bronze, silver and gold. Groups must volunteer a minimum of 1,000 hours of community service to qualify for the gold level.

Constitution Sailors volunteered 7,058 hours of community service in 2010 to win the gold level award.

"This award validates all the time and effort our Sailors dedicate to community service projects," said Cmdr. Timothy M. Cooper, Constitution's 71st commanding officer. "While the command facilitates these opportunities, this recognition is a direct result of our Sailors caring for and helping those who are less fortunate."

Constitution also won the 2009 PVSA for gold level.

"I am extremely proud that we won this award two years in a row," said Cryptologic Technician Technical 2nd Class Jacob Wallace, Constitution's volunteer program coordinator. "This is just another way to demonstrate Constitution gives back more to the public than tours of our ship."

Established in 2003, the PVSA is available on an annual basis to individuals, groups and families who have met or exceeded requirements for volunteer service and have demonstrated exemplary citizenship through volunteering.

The PVSA is issued by the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation on behalf of the president of the United States to recognize the best in the American spirit, and to encourage all Americans to improve their communities through volunteer service and civic participation.

"I feel honored that my volunteer efforts have helped the command get recognized," said Navy Counselor 1st Class (SW/AW) Melissa Santiago, who volunteered 169 hours in 2010. "This is an amazing achievement and speaks highly of the work we have done and will continue to do in the future."

Constitution also won the Commander, Navy Region (COMNAVREG) Middle Atlantic (MIDLANT) Good Neighbor Flagship award for small shore commands in 2010. COMNAVREG MIDLANT gives the award to commands that have the best year-round community service program or special project that encourages activities to provide humanitarian assistance to the less fortunate.

Constitution is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard of Boston Harbor. She is the world's oldest
commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year.

For more information on Constitution, visit www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution or www.facebook.com/ussconstitutionofficial.

USS Newport News Deploys

By Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Los Angeles fast-attack submarine USS Newport News (SSN 750) departed on a regularly scheduled six-month deployment from Naval Station Norfolk, Feb. 21.

While deployed, the crew of Newport News will execute the chief of naval operation's maritime strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations.

Newport News is commanded by Cmdr. J. Carl Hartsfield, who became the submarine's 11th commanding officer April 20, 2010.

"Newport News Sailors are ready to execute the tasking directed by our operational commander and visit foreign nations as ambassadors of American good will," said Hartsfield. "We have worked tirelessly for over a year against accelerated training and maintenance schedules to give the nation a full deployment. The crew is well-trained and prepared.

"Our families have sacrificed much and supported us during this arduous work-up period. Family separation is never easy, but they are also prepared for the deployment because they are emotionally strong and informed. They understand that we have jobs important to our country that unfortunately require our absence," said Hartsfield.

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

Newport News has a crew complement of 15 officers and 127 enlisted. The submarine, the eighth ship to bear the name of the Virginia shipbuilding city, is 360 feet long, displaces 6,900 tons of water, and can travel in excess of 20 knots.

For more information on the submarine force visit the Submarine Force web site at www.sublant.navy.mil.

For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/sublant/.

Sailors, Guardsmen Selected for 2011 Warrior Games Team

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) -- Wounded warrior athletes selected to participate on the U.S. Navy/Coast Guard team at the 2011 Warrior Games aboard Port Hueneme, Calif., were announced Feb. 21.

The team members were officially announced at the conclusion of an adaptive sport training camp aboard Naval Base Ventura County Port Hueneme, Calif.

"In addition to their incredible athletic skills, our wounded warriors personify resilience and dedication," said Capt. Bernie Carter, Navy Safe Harbor director and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. "I am extremely proud of each one of them. The team cheer – 'One Team, One Fight' – reflects their commitment to one another, as well as their shared determination to making a significant mark at the competition."

Approximately 200 wounded, ill, and injured athletes from all branches of service will compete in the second annual Warrior Games, which will take place at the Olympic Training Center and U.S Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 16-21. The games are a joint endeavor of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Department of Defense.

"Events like the Warrior Games motivate me and encourage me to stay in shape," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Selemani Johnson, a new addition to the team. "They remind me that my only limitations are those I set for myself, and that there's still so much I can do."

Johnson was struck by a vehicle while riding his motorcycle in April 2010. He sustained a spinal cord injury that damaged his T7 and T8 vertebrae.

"It's great to be a part of this family again," said Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Nathan Dewalt, a returning team member. "I hope to serve as a mentor to some of our new teammates, and to show them how much they can accomplish both on and off the field."

In 2008, Dewalt was also involved in a traffic accident while riding his motorcycle. Throughout the training camp, he provided guidance to new wounded warrior athletes like Johnson, who will compete beside him in track and field events.

The Warrior Games bring together active-duty service members and military veterans from across the country, fostering camaraderie and a healthy competitive spirit. The games help them discover new capabilities they can apply to everyday challenges and opportunities, and encourages them to reach and achieve a productive future.

The wounded warrior athletes include service members with upper-body injuries, lower-body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They will compete in the following sports: archery, wheelchair basketball, cycling, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

The 32 Sailors and three Coast Guardsmen selected for the 2011 Navy/Coast Guard team are:

- Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angelo Anderson, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va.

- Michael Bell, former U.S. Coast Guard electrician's mate 3rd Class, Union, Mo.

- Culinary Specialist Seaman Judith M. Boyce, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

- Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Tyler Burdick, Naval Medical Center San Diego, Calif.

- Jim D. Castaneda, former Navy boatswain's mate 1st Class, San Antonio, Texas

- Lt. Dan Cnossen, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

- Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Holly Crabtree, Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla.

- Special Operations Chief Jon Cummings, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

- Machinist Mate 1st Class Michael Dayton, Intermediate Maintenance Support Facility, Pacific Northwest, Bangor, Wash.

- Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Nathan Dewalt, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

- John C. Edmonston, former Navy Lt., Bremerton, Wash.

- Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jacob Emmott, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

- Joseph A. Frank, former Navy operations specialist 2nd Class, San Diego, Calif.

- Rodolfo Garcia, former aviation boatswain's mate 1st Class, San Antonio, Texas

- Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Oswald Gould, Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.

- Chief Special Warfare Boat Operator Daniel S. Hathorn, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.

- Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Aaron Heldreth, Underwater Construction Team 2, Naval Base Ventura County Port Hueneme, Calif.

- Peter A. Johns, former chief electrician's mate, Kingsville, Texas.

- Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Andrew K. Johnson, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

- Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Selemani Johnson, Naval Medical Center, San Diego, Calif.

- Sancho V. Johnson, former U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant, Jackson, Miss.

- Michael Johnston, former Navy parachute rigger 3rd Class, San Diego, Calif.

- Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sonny Lemerande, Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

- Logistics Specialist 1st Class Robert "Steve" Lipscomb, Commander, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, Williamsburg, Va.

- Douglas McCarron, former builder 1st Class, Whittier, Calif.

- Lt. Melanie Monts de Oca, Navy Safe Harbor, Tampa, Fla.

- Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Brandon Norris, Naval Medical Center San Diego, Calif.

- Steve Peace, former Navy Lt. Cmdr., San Diego, Calif.

- Dan Peters, former Navy builder constructionman, Chicago, Ill.

- Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Max R. Rohn, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.

- Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Justin E. Rose, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, N.C.

- Chief Equipment Operator Ana Sarver, Maritime Civil Affairs Security Team, Little Creek, Va.

- Andre Shelby, former Navy boatswain's mate 1st Class, Jacksonville, Fla.

- Christopher J. Shunk, former U.S. Coast Guard operations specialist chief petty officer, Colorado Springs, Colo.

- Gerald W. Williams, former chief operations specialist, McKinney, Texas

The team is sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy's lead organization for coordinating the non-medical care of wounded, ill, and injured Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and their families. Through proactive leadership, Safe Harbor provides a lifetime of individually tailored assistance, designed to optimize the success of enrollees' recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration activities.

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

Army Releases January Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of January.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were 15 potential suicides:  one has been confirmed as suicide, and 14 remain under investigation.  For December 2010, the Army reported 12 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, one has been confirmed as suicide, and 11 remain under investigation.

During January 2011, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were seven potential suicides:  two have been confirmed as suicides, and five remain under investigation.  For December 2010, among that same group, there were 17 total suicides.  Of those, six were confirmed as suicides and 11 are pending determination of the manner of death.

 “Army wide efforts implemented during 2010 to improve the health of the force and enhance our overall resiliency will continue to be a focus for all members of the Army family in 2011,” said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director, Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Task Force.  “We must continue to examine our risk reduction and health promotion programs to ensure that in every instance they are readily available and accessible to those in need.  Informed and engaged leaders are vital to these efforts and continue to be the most effective resource in this endeavor,” Philbrick said.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil.

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at:  http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf.

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20 (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Information about Military OneSource is located at http://www.militaryonesource.com or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental U.S.  Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.

Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf.

The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil.

The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is http://www.afsp.org, and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at http://www.sprc.org/index.asp.

The website for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is http://www.TAPS.org, and they can be reached at -1-800-959-TAPS (8277).

USS Reuben James Arrives in Indonesia

By Ensign Ben Dalton, USS Reuben James Public Affairs

JAKARTA, Indonesia (NNS) -- The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia, for a port visit on Feb. 21.

"We are very privileged to enjoy the hospitality and warm welcome provided by the Indonesian Navy and people of Jakarta," said Cmdr. David E. Miller, Reuben James' commanding officer. " This visit gives our crew the unique opportunity to experience this fine country firsthand and to further our friendship."

Sailors from Reuben James will participate in community service projects and athletic events during their stay and approximately 30 Sailors will visit local schools.

The visit to the Indonesian capitol is to strengthening ties with regional partners through community service events, joint military training and multicultural social gatherings.

Reuben James is homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and currently in the Western Pacific to build positive international relations with partners in Southeast Asia.

This article was sponsored by Navy Books.

Africa Command Makes Steady Progress, Ward Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2011 – U.S. Africa Command has made steady, understated progress with allies, regional organizations and international partners on the continent, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, Africom’s commander, said in an interview last week.

Ward, who took the reins as the first commander of America’s newest geographic command in 2007, will turn over command to Army Gen. Carter F. Ham next month.

Africom conducts sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military sponsored activities and other military operations. The command’s aim is to promote a stable and secure environment in support of U.S. foreign policy.

The goals are to help regional allies build security organizations that perform professionally and with integrity, and that have the will and means to direct, dissuade, deter and defeat transnational threats. The command also works to strengthen capabilities to support continental and international peace efforts.

Establishing the command was an uphill battle, Ward said. Critics in the United States assumed it marked another step in the “militarization” of U.S. foreign policy, he explained, and some on the continent saw the command as a new colonialist effort.

“Many thought that the command would be the conduit through which all activity of the U.S. government, continentwide, would pass,” Ward said. “It was never the case, but that was the impression, and since it was a brand-new command, there was no basis for comparison.”

Until Africom stood up, three U.S. commands had responsibility for the continent –- U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command. Africa Command was to combine the missions those commands were doing in Africa in a unified and thoughtful purpose.

“Still, the way things were said in the early days lent themselves to misinterpretations” by critics, the general said.

Allaying the concerns of critics in the United States and, especially, on the continent were the first missions Ward set for the command.

“I set out with a staff of folks to correct the message,” he said. “Just saying we’re not going to be in charge of development wasn’t enough. We will be supportive of governance and development, but we weren’t going to run the programs. We repeated that message to our friends, and it became what they heard from me, from my deputies, my directors and from our senior enlisted leaders.”

That message, he added, was followed up by how the command conducted itself. Members of the command listened more than they spoke –- in Africa and with interagency partners, he said. Soon, the general added, all could see that the command was not militarizing foreign policy, but furthering State Department or U.S. Agency for International Development programs.

“Seen through the lens of the foreign policy perspective, we weren’t leading -– we were, in fact, supporting the efforts of other U.S. government agencies,” Ward said.

Sustaining engagement in Africa was one reason the new command was formed. The three commands that had responsibility before had other matters to address, Ward explained, their attention to the world’s second-largest continent ebbed and flowed. Now that has changed, he said.

“[Leaders] know our focus is always on the continent of Africa and nowhere else,” the general said. “It is a huge factor, and they understood that we did care about them and we were prioritizing our work to concentrate on what concerned them.”

African allies have accepted the command, “and more importantly, it is effective on the continent,” he said. Africa has many ungoverned or under-governed areas, including Somalia, Darfur, Sudan and others. Africom covers 53 of the 54 nations on the continent -- Egypt remained in the U.S. Central Command area of operations -- and the command is working with many to facilitate peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief operations.

The command’s activity is focused on three levels: country-to-country, regional and continental, Ward said. Africom works with individual countries to build security capabilities and with regional organizations to strengthen African responses. Finally, it works with continentwide groups.

“One of our priority objectives is to work with these regional economic communities and their stand-by forces as best we can,” the general said. “We also know that working through these organizations is terribly important.”

The command has worked with the Economic Community of West Africa States, the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community. “As they mature and as they ask for our support,” Ward said, “we provide it and encourage them in that regional approach.”

At the continental level, the command works with the African Union. “The first trip I made to the continent when we stood up the command was to [the Ethiopian capital of] Addis Ababa, to the African Union headquarters, to reinforce our support to the Africans’ continental organization,” the general said.

These capabilities have grown, Ward said, adding that he is pleased at the willingness of these regional organizations to work together.

“We see nations who are now partnering who 10 years ago were enemies,” he said. “I give them the credit. They have made the decision. We are there to reinforce this and provide the support they ask for.”

The International Military Education and Training program probably is Africom’s single most important tool, Ward said.

“I’ve been going to Congress and the Department of State, saying we ought to be doing all we can to reinforce and to enlarge and enhance our IMET program,” Ward said. “That is the long-term dividend in our engagement -- when officers, [noncommissioned officers,] and warrant officers from our partner nations can come to the United States, sit side by side with our men and women, and in addition to learning about the art of military science, also understand Americans as humans, the things we value, the role of a military in a democracy.”

The United States has seen the education and training program pay off in Egypt, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire, Ward said.

“This long-term sustained engagement has caused the military to behave in ways that shows their neutrality, their impartiality and their role as protectors of their people and not oppressors of their people,” he added.

Ward stressed that the command follows the foreign policy direction of the State Department, noting that he constructed and staffed the command to mirror that priority.

“What we wanted to do was have representation of the interagency [relationship] as a part of the command -– not in the traditional sense of the interagency as members who sit off by themselves, but integrated members of our staff,” he said. The Africom staff includes a State Department deputy and representatives from U.S. Agency for International Development, the Agriculture and Energy departments, and other U.S. agencies.

“Their involvement in all our activities clearly lent itself to the notion that what we were doing was off by itself, but was being informed by our foreign policy and the range of activities that we were involved in -– be it State or the U.S. Agency for International Development or the Agriculture Department,” he said.

The command’s interagency aspect also serves to inform the agencies’ headquarters in Washington as the men and women there use their contacts and skills to help the command, and vice versa, Ward said.

“Having those interagency partners on our team, they could see how we were doing and were clearly there to help us do our planning and our work,” the general said, “but they could provide that input back to their departments.”

Challenges exist on the continent, Ward acknowledged. Somalia, al-Qaida in North Africa’s Mahgreb region and, illegal trafficking of people and drugs and weapons through porous borders are among the challenges the people of the continent must deal with, he added.

“It’s reinforced when you have challenges in development in infrastructure and energy and water, [and] when you have issues with governance,” he said. “All these challenges have to be looked at in a comprehensive way. This means the international community also has to play. They have to work together.”

But in addition to the challenges, the general said, Africa also presents vast opportunities. The continent has seen small but steady economic growth, even through the downturn in the American and European economies, Ward noted.

“The opportunities are great,” he said. “We are seeing more regional cooperation. With secure structures operating in more appropriate ways, we take advantage of those opportunities to reinforce success and we work as a global community on these challenges.

“How we reinforce and support the African Union mission in Somalia is important,” he continued. “How we reinforce and support the work being done by regional partners in East Africa is important.”

The command is “moving out smartly, and at a pace comparable to other geographic commands,” Ward said.

“But we haven’t been at it very long,” he added. “What we have done is charted a course where our work is seen as preventive. Our work will prevent a crisis, as opposed to [having] to respond and react to one. We think that is the best result for our nation -- if a crisis never gets started.”

'Commitment Remains Steadfast' in Asia-Pacific

By By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Kenneth R. Hendrix, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

HONG KONG (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk told members of the Asia Society in Hong Kong on Feb. 21 that the Navy's increased capabilities and growing maritime partnerships reflect an enduring commitment to peace and stability in the region.

"The 7th Fleet has actually increased its capabilities in several significant ways. The ships and aircraft that we operate today are vastly more capable than they were just a few years ago. At the same time, we have enhanced our maritime partnerships with navies around the region, enabling us to work together cooperatively more than ever before," Van Buskirk said.

He said the numbers of ships operating in the 7th Fleet on any given day are about 70 on average, which is about the same or more than it was a decade ago with increased capabilities aboard those ships today.

Van Buskirk cited the deployment to Japan of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) -- with greater speed, range, ammunition stowage and endurance, as an example of how the fleet's capabilities have increased.

He also cited the deployment of the Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), the 60-40 split of attack submarines from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the recent deployment of the Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776), which reflects the fleet's growing capability under the sea.

Van Buskirk added that upgrades to surface ships, including Ballistic Missile Defense capability and enhanced sonar suites, making them "increasingly potent."

He rejected the notion that the U.S., with its sluggish economy and military operations in Afghanistan, is lessening its commitment to the region.

"U.S. Navy and defense leadership continue to give me exactly the forces I need to do my mission," Van Buskirk said.

Improvements in capability have been made even stronger by a deepening of our alliances and partnerships around the region, Van Buskirk commented.

"Our alliance with Japan continues to be the cornerstone of our forward presence in Asia, and has in my view been the foundation of security in this region for the past 50 years," Van Buskirk said.

He also expanded on the alliance with the Republic of Korea, interoperability with the Royal Australian Navy and growth of navy-to-navy relations in Southeast Asia.

Asia Society chairman Ronnie C. Chan said the group was delighted to hear Van Buskirk's views about security in the region.

"The vice admiral touched on subjects of interest to a wide range of our members. It was very well received."

Van Buskirk reiterated that the U.S. Navy remains "committed and engaged".

"That is the message. We remain committed to this region, we remain committed to the Pacific and actively engaging where ever we can to foster maritime partnerships," he said.

African Nurse Saved GIs at Battle of Bulge

By Martin King
Courtesy of Army News Service

BASTOGNE, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2011 – It was a bitterly cold winter morning when Augusta Chiwy's tram pulled into Brussels Central train station, Dec. 16, 1944.

On that very same day at , green troops of the 106th Golden Lion Division were rudely awakened from their winter sojourn by a hellish barrage of incoming artillery shells, "screaming meemies," accompanied by the menacing rumble of Tiger and Panther tanks on the move. Just over the German/Belgian border, out in an area known as the Schnee Eifel, three German armies had assembled almost under the noses of the allies.

Brussels was still alive with commuters going about their daily routines when Chiwy arrived at the train station. She had been working at St. Elizabeth General Hospital in the Flemish town of Louvain and was on her way to visit relatives in Bastogne.

Above the din of collective voices at the station, the public address system droned out monotone information about trains, platforms and destinations, adding that, "There will be no departures for Luxembourg or Bastogne. Passengers wishing to reach these destinations should take the to Namur."

Chiwy noticed an inexplicable sense of urgency in many of the assembled passenger's demeanors as she boarded the train for Namur about 30 miles south of Brussels. The train stopped there, and passengers wishing to go to the next destination were herded into open cattle trucks and taken as far as Marche. From there, Chiwy hitched a ride from a GI who took her to the center of Bastogne.

She arrived in Bastogne around and noticed that it was a hive of activity as news was beginning to filter through of an all-out German attack to the north and east of the city. In anticipation of the approaching storm, Bastogne civilians were leaving in droves and all roads west quickly became gridlocked with a seemingly endless trail of human traffic.

Bastogne was an old market town and natural junction where seven roads converged. The German army's high command had decided many months previous to the actual attack that it was going to be a prime strategic objective, but no one there had expected what was about to occur during the coldest winter in living memory.

Chiwy had already decided that it was best to go to her uncle's house first to see if she could gather some more information on the situation. Her uncle, Dr. Chiwy, had a practice close to the main square and the young nurse wanted to know if she could help out. By that time of night the civilians and military personnel still there could audibly make out the booming sounds of distant artillery shells exploding a few miles away.

Within a few days of her arrival in Bastogne, the U.S. Army had sent reinforcements to the city. The first to arrive were 2,800 men and 75 tanks of the 10th Armored Division. The following day on Dec. 18, the 101st Airborne Division arrived around and almost immediately began taking up positions at the allocated roadblocks around Bastogne in support of the existing teams. These groups proved to be a stubborn barrier that would allow the necessary time to build Bastogne's defenses and prepare for the German army's main assault.

Chiwy set to work as a nurse by assisting both civilian and military wounded wherever she found them. These efforts didn't go unnoticed. GIs from the 10th Armored Division were on the lookout for medical supplies and personnel to assist with their Aid Station on the Rue Neufchateau.

On Dec. 20, Bastogne became a city under siege. The ever-decreasing perimeter had reduced a once-beautiful city to a blood-soaked and battle-ravaged collection of skeletal smoldering ruins. The only safe places were the dank freezing cellars of ruined houses where remaining civilians and soldiers huddled together for safety and warmth. They survived on basic rations and shared whatever supplies they could find. Chiwy hadn't had a warm meal since she left Louvain and had also been reduced to this grim subterranean existence.

On the morning of the Dec. 21, Chiwy left the safety of her uncle's cellar and along with Nurse Renee Lemaire, she volunteered to work for the 20th AIB, 10th Armored Division at the aid station on Rue Neufchateau where Dr. John Prior was in charge. The situation there was desperate. There were hardly any medical supplies, save for a few bags of sulpha powder and a couple of vials of morphine.

While Lemaire helped make the wounded soldiers as comfortable as possible, Chiwy dressed their wounds and never once shied away from the gory trauma of battlefield injuries.

On at least one occasion, Dr. Prior asked Chiwy if she would accompany him to a battle site east of the Mardasson hill. She was wearing a U.S. Army uniform at the time because her own clothes had become so dilapidated and blood stained. She was well aware that if she would have been captured by German forces it would have meant instant death for collaborating with the "Amies," the German name for the American soldiers.

During a raging blizzard Chiwy calmly loaded up onto a deuce-and-a-half and went to the outskirts of Bastogne. When they arrived there, she actually went out onto the battlefield with Dr. Prior and the two litter-bearers to retrieve wounded soldiers.

Mortar shells were falling close by and German heavy machine guns were raking the ground around Chiwy's small frame as she tended the wounded, but despite this she focused on her duties undaunted. Dr. Prior said the bullets missed Augusta because she was so small, to which Chiwy retorted, "A black face in all that white snow was a pretty easy target. Those Germans must be terrible marksmen."

The skies above Bastogne had cleared on Dec. 23, and C-47s had dropped desperately needed supplies, but the very next day on Christmas Eve, those clear skies gave the German Luftwaffe a chance to send out a few of their remaining bomber squadrons over the city to cause even further death and destruction.

A 500-pound bomb fell directly on the 20th AIB Aid Station, instantly killing 30 wounded U.S. soldiers, along with nurse Renee Lemaire. Chiwy was in the adjacent house with Dr. Prior and a lieutenant when the bomb hit. She was blown clean through a wall, but miraculously survived unscathed.

On the following day, the remaining wounded were taken to the 101st headquarters at the Heintz Barracks where Chiwy worked until they were all evacuated when Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army arrived Dec. 26.

Surviving members of the 10th Armored Division recently signed a letter of appreciation for her service to them during the battle. Her efforts had never been officially recognized until then.

This month, a letter was also received from King Albert II of Belgium stating that he acknowledges Augusta Chiwy's service and will officially recognize her courage and sacrifice during the Battle of the Bulge.

(Editor’s Note: Martin King is a British author who has spent 20 years in the Ardennes researching the Battle of the Bulge. He provided this article to Army News Service for the commemoration of National African-American History Month.)

This article was sponsored by Military Books.