Military News

Monday, February 28, 2011

This Day in Naval History - Feb. 28

From the Navy News Service

1844 - The Peacemaker, an experimental 14-inch gun, explodes aboard USS Princeton.
1893 - USS Indiana (BB 1), the first true battleship in the U.S. Navy, is launched.
1959 - USS Strong (DD 758) rescues 13 Arab fishermen from Bahrain when their fishing boats flounder in a storm.
1980 - The blue crew of USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN 657) launches four Trident I (C-4) missiles in the first C-4 operational test.

Chairman to Attend Desert Storm Ceremonies

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, Feb. 25, 2011 – The U.S. military’s top officer arrived here today during his swing through the Middle East to meet with Kuwaiti officials and participate in ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is slated to attend a grand military parade tomorrow featuring U.S., Kuwaiti and coalition forces. Mullen will join 22 presidents, 64 heads of state and other senior officials attending the ceremonies.

Air and maritime displays and wreath-laying activities are planned, culminating a month-long commemoration that also marks Kuwait’s 50 years of independence.

Mullen arrived to a colossal national celebration. Flags draped from skyscrapers lined the highways. Roads were choked with horn-beeping vehicles, many flying Kuwaiti flags and some even custom-painted, bumper to bumper to honor the "50-20" commemoration.

Young Kuwaits, most too young to remember their county's dark days, waved their national colors from car windows. Teenagers scampered among cars brought to a halt by the sheer volume of vehicles, playfully firing water guns at open windows. Some bystanders painted their faces, clown-style, and donned wigs with the country's red, white, green and black colors.

Kuwait City is celebrating in a big way.

U.S. Central Command and its components also are participating in the festivities, with Third Army and U.S. Army Central leading the support. The parade will feature Army soldiers, tactical vehicles and helicopters. The Washington-based 3rd U.S. Infantry, “The Old Guard,” will march and carry the colors of Operation Desert Storm units, Army Central Command officials said.

These units include CENTCOM, Third Army, 7th Corps, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Armored Division, 3rd Armored Division, 18th Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division, and the 24th Infantry Division.

Marines from Marine Corps Central Command Forward, based in Bahrain, also will march, officials there confirmed.

The Navy is slated to showcase three F/A-18 fighter jets and participate in a maritime demonstration off the Kuwaiti coast. In addition, the Air Force will feature numerous aircraft, ranging from a C-130 Hercules cargo plane to F-16 fighter aircraft, ARCENT officials said.

Kuwait’s commemoration kicked off Jan. 24, with Kuwaiti marines carrying the Kuwaiti colors as they ran to the center of the kingdom’s Qaruh Island. That ceremony reenacted events 20 years earlier when the island became the first land the U.S. and Kuwaiti militaries liberated from Saddam Hussein’s forces.

“We have a long-term commitment to this region, and for the past 20 years we have proved that it is a commitment of deeds and not just words, Army Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., Third Army commander, said during that event.

Webster said the month-long commemoration activities “further illustrate that our partnership is that of equals who are committed to peace, prosperity and freedom throughout the region.”

Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait at Saddam Hussein’s order Aug. 2, 1990. Saddam’s goal, historians say, was to acquire Kuwait’s vast oil reserves, cancel Iraq’s debt to Kuwait and expand Iraq’s power in the region.

Kuwait suffered harsh atrocities during the Iraqi occupation.

Five days after the invasion, a U.S.-led coalition of more than 30 countries operating under a United Nations mandate launched Operation Desert Shield.

The first U.S. forces, F-15E Eagle fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base, Va., arrived in Saudi Arabia Aug. 7, 1990.

Then-President George H. W. Bush authorized the first call-up of selected reservists for 90 days by executive order Aug. 22, 1990. Another executive order issued Nov. 12 extended that period to 180 days. Ultimately, Bush authorized the call-up of up to 1 million National Guardsmen and reservists for up to two years.

When Saddam Hussein refused to comply with international demands and leave Kuwait, Operation Desert Storm’s air war phase kicked off at , Jan. 17, 1991. The allied ground assault began about six weeks later, on Feb. 24.

The cessation of hostilities was officially declared Feb. 28, but not before an Iraqi Scud missile destroyed the U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. soldiers.

The United States suffered 148 combat deaths and 145 non-combat deaths during the seven-month conflict. In addition, 467 U.S. service members were wounded in action.

The Defense Department announced the first troop redeployment home -– the 24th Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., on March 1, 1991.

Orange Grove Opens Doors to 'Fat Albert,' Local Community Members

From Naval Air Station Kingsville Public Affairs

ORANGE GROVE, Texas (NNS) -- Navy Auxiliary Landing Field (NALF) Orange Grove, Texas, opened its doors to local landowners for a barbecue and orientation visit, Feb. 18.

The annual event serves to solidify the relationship between landowners, local community and Naval Air Station Kingsville, which owns the Orange Grove facility.

The event featured a visit by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels' Fat Albert team, which is using the airfield for air show training through Feb. 26.

"We enjoy having this opportunity to let the local community see firsthand what we do here," said Capt. Mark McLaughlin, NAS Kingsville commanding officer. "Our mission is training jet pilots, about 150 to 160 each year, and sending them to a fleet replacement squadron."

McLaughlin said Orange Grove is the ideal place to train jet pilots.

"There are no skyscrapers; nothing in the way," he said. "The airfield here is as close as it can get to a carrier's deck – without water around. It's the same size with runways in the same pattern. At night, we turn on the lights, lighting up the airfield, and it is just like the carrier's box."

During the event visitors were given a brief by Eddie Earwood, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who manages the local Bird/Animal Strike Hazard program.

"More than $200,000 worth of habitat modifications have been made to the Navy installations in Orange Grove and Kingsville, to help manage wildlife," Earwood said.

He also talked about the importance for the Navy and local landowners to work together.

ABHC(AW/SW) Rudolfo Oliva, NALF Orange Grove leading chief petty officer, said he appreciates the landowners and community members who participated in the event.

"It strengthens our relationship with the community, because they can see what we do," he said.

Oliva said that working with the surrounding landowners is essential to effectively attain their mission of safely training jet pilots.

"I love watching the jets in the sky," said Army veteran and nearby landowner, Gary Karaatz, who attended the barbecue.

Leonard Burmingham, another nearby landowner, agreed with Karaatz.

"Watching the aircraft flying in the sky is important, and I love to support the military," said Burmingham.

The Blue Angels Fat Albert crew also enjoy the training opportunity.

"There's no doubt that we receive a warm welcome here," said Capt. Edward Jorge, U.S. Marine Corps, who pilots the C-130. "We appreciate the opportunity to train at Orange Grove and meet the local community. We are treated very well here."

Today in the Department of Defense, Tuesday, March 01, 2011

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

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn and Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale testify at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee (Defense Subcommittee) on the impacts of a long-term continuing resolution on the Department of Defense and the fiscal 2012 DOD budget request at in room 192, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos testify at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the fiscal 2012 national defense authorization budget request from the Department of the Navy at in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building.

Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, Navy Adm. Eric Olson and Commander, U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal 2012 and the future years defense program at 9:30 a.m. EST in room 106, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

CNO Speaks at 22nd Annual Women in Aviation International Conference

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Stephen Watterworth, Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs

RENO, Nev. (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead was a keynote speaker at the 22nd Annual Women in Aviation, International (WAI) Conference, Feb. 26.

During his remarks for the 2011 Scholarship Awards Banquet and WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, CNO highlighted the important role Naval Aviation has played in our military and the crucial contributions that females have made since their original admittance into the military.

"Looking back, we must applaud those early aviators for pursuing their goals, for anticipating a need in our nation, and for having a vision of the benefits that would accrue to a military which truly sought the nation's best and brightest that continues to propel the Navy today," said Roughead. "The resulting accomplishments of women in Naval aviation are undeniable, and their positive impact on the professionalism of our Navy is indeed profound."

CNO praised early aviators for their dedication to the advancement of aviation, and stressed that it was their resilience that continues to inspire young men and women to seek new opportunities in aviation.

"The ingenuity and determination of those who have gone before are alive and well in today's aviators, as technological hurdles are overcome and new possibilities incorporated successfully into a force that aims to keep leading," said Roughead.

WAI is a nonprofit organization providing networking for the education, mentoring and scholarship opportunities for women and men seeking careers in aviation and aerospace fields. Some of the scholarships offered for 2011 are in; aerospace engineering, flight and aviation maintenance.

Desert Storm Veterans Join Liberation Day Celebration

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

AL-SUBIYA, Kuwait, Feb. 26, 2011Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Todd Simmons was a young soldier 20 years ago when his 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to take over Kuwait.

Twenty years later, Simmons is back in Kuwait, this time as a military advisor to the Kuwaiti army that, with its 34 coalition partners, celebrated the 20th anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation during Operation Desert Storm.

Simmons was among about 300 U.S. military members of every service who participated in a massive celebration of freedom and partnership.

The Desert Storm anniversary celebration began last month, leading up to today’s “Liberation Day” activities that included a huge parade of marching troops, ground vehicles and airpower.

Simmons, now an embedded military advisor to the Kuwaiti land forces assigned to the Office of Military Cooperation Kuwait, remembered back to the day his 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment hit the ground – Aug. 7, 1990.

They became the lead in a massive coalition that would grow to nearly 1 million leading up to a coalition air campaign. After Saddam Hussein defied a U.N. mandate to withdraw his forces from Kuwait, they crossed the border into Iraq and launched the 100-day ground war that led to Kuwait’s liberation.

Like Simmons, Army Maj. Miguel Juarez recalls those dark days when Kuwaitis suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard forces.

Juarez was a young enlisted soldier and husband of just two weeks when his 343rd Air Defense Artillery unit deployed to Saudi Arabia from Fort Bliss, Texas, on Sept. 26, 1990.

Their Patriot air defense missiles were quickly put to work defending against the Iraqi army’s Scud missiles.

“I remember telling my wife back then, ‘We have to fight this fight so that my children don’t have to fight this fight,’” Juarez said.

Little did he know at the time that he and thousands of other U.S. forces ultimately would return here – this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom and now, Operation New Dawn.
He deployed to Iraq three times, from 2004 to 2005, from 2006 to 2008, then from 2009 to 2010.

Now working with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Area Support Group, based at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Juarez said he’s thrilled to help the Kuwaitis celebrate the 20th anniversary of their liberation. It’s particularly meaningful, he said, because it correlates with the year the United States will draw down all its forces in Iraq.

“For me, this is closure,” Juarez said. “I can honestly write my wife and tell her that our kids will not have to fight this fight – at least not this one, anyway.”

Army Staff Sgt. Scott Hamilton, a West Virginia National Guardsmen, was among thousands of reserve-component forces mobilized to support Operation Desert Storm.

A howitzer driver and cannon crew member with the 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery, he deployed with just one week’s notice in December 1990 as part of the massive military buildup here.

“I was young and kind of scared,” Hamilton admitted, facing an uncertain enemy and missing the birth of his first daughter.

But the deployment changed him forever. “It made you really appreciate what you have in the United States, and the freedom we have,” he said.

It also gave him insights into the Arab world, and understanding he said proved invaluable during later deployments to the region.

Like Juarez, Hamilton said returning here for the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm brought closure and gratification and an appreciation of the U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship forged during the campaign. “They have become a stronger and better country,” he said.

Many U.S. military participants in today’s festivities, including Army Sgt. Steve Drefke from the Washington, D.C.-based 3rd Infantry Division, were too young to experience Operation Desert Storm personally.

Drefke, among about 120 “Old Guard” soldiers here, including a color guard carrying guidons of every Army unit in the Desert Storm campaign, remembers the war from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy fascinated by events on the TV news.

“It had a huge influence on me, and a lot to do with me coming into the Army,” he said.

Twenty years later, with 12 years of Army service under his belt, Drefke said he’s happy to see the transformation that’s occurred in Kuwait and the friendship that’s endured.

“It’s really neat that we are such great partners with the Kuwaitis,” he said.

Today, Simmons and his fellow Operation Desert Storm veterans say they’re gratified to see the fruits of their labors here – in terms of Kuwaiti military capabilities, and the freedoms being celebrated today.

As a Kuwaiti army advisor, Simmons said he’s built close ties to his Kuwaiti counterparts he said are “using the good-quality equipment they have and making a good effort to do a really, really good job protecting themselves.”

As the force matures, Simmons said its members are anxious for advice as they acquire new technologies and increase their capabilities. Sometimes they take it, he said, and sometimes, increasingly self-confident, they choose their own ways of doing business.

“The important thing is, we are here for them, whatever it is they as a military want to do,” Simmons said.

Essex ARG Arrives Off Cambodian Coast for MAREX

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Eva-Marie Ramsaran

GULF OF THAILAND (Feb. 26, 2011) (NNS) -- The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived off the coast of Shinoukville, Cambodia, Feb. 26 to participate in the Cambodia Maritime Exercise 2011 (MAREX 11).

MAREX 11 is a theater security cooperation visit designed to enhance interoperability and improve capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

"The U. S. Navy is always honored to have the opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia," said Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. "Visits such as this help to further strengthen the relationship between our two governments."

The port visit is intended to provide crew members of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) with a chance to serve as goodwill ambassadors for the U.S., promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

During the visit, the ARG will embark 60 RCAF personnel to introduce them to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief procedures and Essex shipboard operations.

"Essex will conduct shipboard operations, such as damage control, navigation and engineering operations with the Royal Cambodian Navy," said Lt. Justin Jomoto, PHIBRON 11 plans and policy officer. "By teaching and showing their navy what we do, we give them a perspective of how another navy operates."

Beach Master Unit 1 and Assault Craft Unit 1 will conduct a beach survey to ensure the beach is suitable for landing craft to storm the beach.

ARG Sailors will conduct two community service projects, one at the Goodwill School and the other at Villiage d'enfant de Shinoukville, a local orphanage, where Sailors will be able to interact with and read to the kids.

Both countries look to enhance their combined military efforts across a wide variety of humanitarian roles.

"Cambodia has also demonstrated a willingness to cooperate closely on counterterrorism, peacekeeping, disaster response, and medical and health related activities," said Lee.

The 31st MEU medical team will work with Cambodian medical personnel to provide primary care services, dental care, optometry and ophthalmology at the Al-Mujarharine Islamic Center in Kampong Som. They will treat numerous medical conditions, such as hypertension, skin infections, dental problems, vision problems and asthma.

Marines will also conduct jungle warfare training, aviation demonstrations and visit, board, search and seizure training while in Cambodia.

Toward the end of the exercise, Sailors and Marines will participate in a sports day with local Cambodian citizens, where they will compete in a variety of sports, including soccer and volleyball.

The Essex ARG reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

For more news from USS Essex (LHD 2), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd2/.

Kuwaiti Troops Recall Invasion, Friendships Forged

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

AL-SUBIYA, Kuwait, Feb. 26, 2011 – Kuwaiti Capt. Adel Khubert was just a 10-year-old boy when Saddam Hussein’s Republic Guard screamed over the border from Iraq and took Kuwait by siege Aug. 2, 1990.

It was a scary time, he recalled. The images that flashed across the family’s TV screen revealed the terror unfolding throughout Kuwait. “I felt terrible because we had lost our country,” he said.

But just as clearly as those dark, uncertain days, Khubert remembered the jubilation that overtook Kuwait when the coalition freed it from Saddam’s bloody grip Feb. 26, 1991. “We were so happy,” he said. “We were liberated from a tyrant.”

Serving for the past six years in a Kuwaiti artillery unit, Khubert said he and his fellow Kuwaitis have much to celebrate today as they commemorate the 20th anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation during Operation Desert Storm.

Kuwait pulled out all the stops today to commemorate three major milestones: the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s independence from Great Britain, the 20th anniversary of its liberation during Operation Desert Storm and the fifth anniversary of its ruling monarch’s reign.

“This is three celebrations, all in one,” said Sgt. Bader Abdul Aziz, a 14-year veteran of the Kuwaiti army.

Like Khubert, Aziz has vivid memories of the Iraqi invasion. He remembers the terror that gripped him as he awakened at to the roar of jets screaming overhead and the rumble of tanks on the street as enemy forces filtered through the city.

“It made me crazy,” he said, grasping to comprehend all that was happening.

But 20 years later, looking back, Aziz said the experience strengthened him personally and Kuwait as a nation.

Aziz went on to join the Kuwaiti army, where he serves as an M1 tank mechanic committed to his country’s defense. He also deployed to Iraq in 2003, the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he worked as part of the coalition that ultimately brought down Saddam Hussein.

Both the United States and Kuwait have benefited from the close relationship forged 20 years ago during Operation Desert Storm, Khubert said.

Khubert said he’s gained much professionally through the two countries’ strong military-to-military relationship. He attended English language training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and the field artillery officer basic course at Fort Sill, Okla.

Training closely with U.S. forces, Khubert said he and his Kuwaiti comrades have gained technological know-how and advanced battlefield techniques.

“We have bonded together,” he said. “And it is making us stronger every day.”

That capability was on full display here today as the Kuwaitis staged a massive demonstration of military might. Fighter jets roared overhead, streaming green, red and white smoke in their wake. Tanks and artillery pieces rumbled past the official reviewing stand, and military members from every Desert Storm coalition nation marched by.

As the troops streamed by the official reviewing stand, they passed a message displayed prominently from the opposite embankment: “History does not make heroes. Yet heroes make history.”

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

Region Northwest Participates in Exercise Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael Wagoner, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Base Kitsap (NBK), Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Naval Station Everett, and Naval Magazine Indian Island participated in this year's annual Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (ATFP) exercise Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield 2011 (SC-CS11) Feb. 21 - 25.

SC-CS11, which also involved Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), affected all Navy shore installations and activities in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Guam. The exercise stressed different areas of the Navy's anti-terrorism program to enhance the training and readiness of Naval Security Force personnel to respond to real-world threats.

"It's an annual exercise that gives us an opportunity to take all of our ATFP plans and actually put them to the test and find out if they work and then if they don't, figure out what went wrong," said Lt. Steve Thimmes, NBK security officer and ATFP coordinator for SC-CS11.

The objectives of the exercise include: deterrence of potential terrorist attacks by increasing awareness of Navy security force abilities to effectively respond to threats; increasing awareness about the exercise among persons who may be affected by exercise activities; increasing the Navy internal audience's understanding of its role in supporting the success of Navy security force activities; and create and maintain efficient lines of communication to improve timeliness in reporting throughout the exercise.

"Any large scale exercise, or any exercise … is going to test your procedures and your policies," said Brian Arcement, NBK training and readiness and lead exercise controller. "Until you actually test those you don't really know if they work."

During the exercise, various ATFP drills were conducted including surveillance, harbor security events, simulated improvised explosive device, and chemical spills. Active shooter threats were also used to drive installations in setting various force protection conditions and implementation of the auxiliary security force.

"We do a lot of practicing for active shooter responses," said Thimmes. "Since we have a large waterfront, we also practice small boat attacks … and also surveillance drills, which allows us to work with our civilian counterparts."

Local outside agencies such as Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue provided medical assistance and response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives threats to enhance military and civilian effectiveness and interagency coordination and efficiency.

"We try to train like we fight," said Arcement. "If something's going to happen like this we're going to call for as many reinforcements as we possibly can. The counties are very big partners in emergency response and emergency management with Naval Base Kitsap, so they're a big part of it."

Realistic training scenarios and responses like those practiced will enable the Navy and their civilian and military counterparts to maintain its forces at a high level of threat readiness. Drills conducted on NAS Whidbey Island and Naval Station Everett consisted of disgruntled Sailor attacks, additional on-base posts and patrols, a simulated bomb threat and a simulated hostage situation coordinated with Washington State Patrol.

"The awareness has certainly been raised. The focus has changed based on real-world and plausible scenarios," said Naval Base Kitsap Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Olson. "And I think that in many ways our ability to work with the local communities…is at a level that I've never even imagined before, where we can draw upon each other and work in cooperation; whether it's mutual aid on a day-to-day effort with our fire stations going to assist out in town or it's scenarios such as this."

For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest, visit navy.mil/local/nwpacen/.

Face of Defense: Guard Member Recalls Gulf War

Illinois Army National Guard

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 25, 2011 – Twenty years ago, National Guard, reserve and active duty service members began ground combat operations to liberate Kuwait, marking the beginning of the end of the first Gulf War.

U.S. and coalition partners had been building up in the region since August 1990 when the late dictator, Saddam Hussein, ordered his Iraqi army to invade Kuwait. The next six months of operations, known as Operation Desert Shield, culminated with a crushing U.S.-led air war in January 1991.

When the ground war, known as Operation Desert Storm, began Feb. 24, 1991, few could have predicted it would last only 100 hours.

Then-President George H. W. Bush authorized the mobilization of National Guard and reserve units to support combat operations in Kuwait.

With the mobilization of reserve components, the Illinois National Guard supplied 11 units and about 1,400 soldiers and airmen to support Operation Desert Storm.

Army Capt. Brad Sinkler, commander of the 1544th Transportation Company in 1990, was one of those soldiers.

“It was a surprise,” Sinkler said. “Aug. 2, [1990] Saddam [Hussein] had invaded Kuwait. We'd heard some rumblings and were following the news. My operations sergeant said we had a pretty good chance to get called up ... and a week later we got the call.”

The first Illinois National Guard unit mobilized was the 1244th Transportation Company on Sept. 20, 1990. The 1544th Transportation Company followed a week later with a stop at Fort Campbell, Ky., and arrived in Saudi Arabia by Nov. 6.

“We were nervous,” Sinkler said. “We didn't know what to expect, how long we were going to be gone. We just listened to what the people in the states were telling us, making sure our families were taken care of.”

Once in Kuwait, the soldiers of the 1544th were still uncertain of what they would do in Kuwait. They later found out they’d be transporting troops and cargo, Sinkler said.

The 1544th conducted transportation missions and moved supplies and people throughout the country. They traveled more than 750,000 miles with no accidents.

“My biggest fear was losing one of my soldiers,” Sinkler said. “I made sure we did things as safely as we could, made sure the soldiers were getting the sleep they needed and that they conducted the proper maintenance on their vehicles.”

Life in Kuwait was a drastically different experience for many of the soldiers, he said.

“We really didn't have the things the soldiers have today. We had a TV, but we couldn't pick up [American Forces Network television],” Sinkler said. “The only way we could watch anything is if we had a VHS player and VHS tapes. Nobody had a laptop or Internet. Back then, it was mainly just mail, and maybe once a week, a telephone call.”

A few of the soldiers in the 1544th were Vietnam War veterans and had the experience to take care of fellow soldiers who had never been in war, Sinkler said.

“The support we had back home was just overwhelming,” he said. “Really, our nation hadn't experienced war to that level since Vietnam. It was humbling and we knew that no matter the outcome, we were going to have the support of the American people.”

Since initial operations moved so fast, Sinkler said, specific details of the mission were hard to come by.

“We were ‘in the moment,’ we didn't know how the operation was going -- we were just doing our job,” he said. “We were calling home and talking to our families, and they were telling us what they were seeing on CNN. My wife told me about things that were going on in Kuwait that I had no idea about.”

The months culminated in ground warfare Feb. 24 with a cease fire between U.S. and Iraqi forces March 3. After roughly four months in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, combat operations halted. As quickly as it began, the soldiers returned home.

It was good to go over and help the people of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Sinkler said.

“It was being part of something that was bigger than you,” he said. “It had national importance; it was a part of history in the making and something we can look back on and say 'I was there.' It was an experience that gives you a greater appreciation for our nation and what it stands for.”

CAUTION: "Veterans Affairs Services" not a government agency

An organization called Veterans Affairs Services (VAS) is providing benefit and general information on VA and gathering personal information on veterans. This organization is not affiliated with VA in any way.  Websites with the name "VA services" immediately after the "www" ARE NOT part of the Department of Veterans Affairs; the real VA website ends in.gov.

If approached or called, do not offer them any information concerning yourself or data on other veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not randomly call veterans, nor does it ask veterans for information which it does not already have. If you have not dealt with the VA previously and in person, then you receive a call from someone saying they are with the VA or something similar sounding, hang up the phone.  Do not respond to emails which suggest that they are from the VA. The VA never conducts official business nor asks for personal information by email.

This news report was sponsored by Military Books.

Mullen Reaffirms American-Bahraini Alliance

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 25, 2011 – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen continued his visit to Bahrain today to reaffirm the U.S.-Bahraini relationship as the protest movement here entered its 12th day.

The chairman arrived in the Bahraini capital last night to meet with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and retired Maj. Gen. Abdullatif bin Rashed al-Zayani, the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general.

Mullen “reaffirmed our strong commitment to our military relationship with the Bahraini defense forces,” said Navy Capt. John Kirby, the admiral’s spokesman. The Crown Prince also serves as commander in chief of Bahrain’s defense force.

Kirby said the chairman also thanked Bahraini leaders “for the very measured way they have been handling the popular crisis here.” Mullen, the spokesman added, also solicited Bahraini leaders’ views and expressed appreciation for their insights and “how they are dealing with the changes they are making on behalf of their people.”

During last night’s sessions, the talks focused on the turmoil that has gripped Bahrain since the uprising began Feb. 14, including a police raid last week in Manama’s
Pearl Square
that left seven people dead.

Senior Bahraini leaders have since taken steps to avoid using violence against protesters and to address their concerns.

“The probe committee in charge of investigating the recent regrettable incident is continuing its work,” Hamad told Mullen during last night’s meeting, according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

The king also stressed “firm keenness to ensure citizens’ safety and establish each party’s rights,” the report said.

Mullen reiterated his support for the crown prince’s order that security force not use force against the protestors and to call to engage in a multi-party national dialogue.

“I have great admiration for steps the crown prince has taken,” Mullen told reporters before landing here last night.

“I certainly decry the violence,” he emphasized. But “it’s a very important message that as soon as the forces went away, the violence went away. And I think that both sides responded in a way that ensured violence would not continue.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t evaluate it,” he said.

At last night’s talks, Mullen praised the “giant leaps” Bahrain has taken over the past10 years under the king’s reform project, the Bahrain News Agency reported. He also stressed U.S. support for the bilateral partnership and friendship.

Bahrain is a critical, longtime ally and host to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Mullen told reporters yesterday, adding that he looks to that relationship continuing into the future.

Mullen was scheduled to visit Naval Support Activity Bahrain today for updates on Marine Expeditionary Brigade Bahrain operations and the work of the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment’s fleet antiterrorism security tam operations.

The chairman arrived in Manama last night for the sixth stop on his week-long trip through the region. Mullen told reporters he was focused on “reaffirming, reassuring and also trying to understand where the leaderships of these countries are going, and in particular in Bahrain."

Mullen said he “honestly never gave a second thought” to reconsidering the long-planned visit here after events here and elsewhere in the region, even in light of last week’s events.

Thousands of protestors reportedly staged another march just before the chairman arrived, and leading Shiite clerics had called for more demonstrations today to honor those killed last week.

The protestors, most of them from Bahrain’s majority Shiite population, are calling for the long-ruling minority Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy to step down.

Last American WWI Veteran Dies

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2011 – Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving American World War I veteran, died yesterday at his West Virginia home. He was 110.

Sixteen-year-old Buckles enlisted in the Army on Aug. 14, 1917, after lying to several recruiters about his age.

“I was just 16 and didn't look a day older. I confess to you that I lied to more than one recruiter. I gave them my solemn word that I was 18, but I'd left my birth certificate back home in the family Bible. They'd take one look at me and laugh and tell me to go home before my mother noticed I was gone,” Buckles wrote in 2009.

Buckles tried the Marines and Navy, but both turned him away. An Army recruiter, however, accepted his story.

“Somehow I got the idea that telling an even bigger whopper was the way to go. So I told the next recruiter that I was 21 and darned if he didn't sign me up on the spot!” he wrote.

Buckles earned the rank of corporal and traveled England and France serving as an ambulance driver. After the Armistice in 1918, Buckles escorted prisoners of war back to Germany. He was discharged in 1920.

In 1942 Buckles worked as a civilian for a shipping company in the Philippines, where he was captured in Manila by the Japanese the day after they attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He spent three and a half years in the Los BaƱos prison camp. He was rescued on February 23, 1945.

Buckles married Audrey Mayo of Pleasanton, Calif., in 1946. The couple moved to his Gap View Farm near Charles Town in January 1954 where Buckles reportedly continued to drive his tractor until he was 106.

On February 4, 2008, with the death of 108-year-old Harry Richard Landis, Buckles became the last surviving American World War I veteran. Since, Buckles championed veterans’ causes, was invited to the White House and honored at the Pentagon.

In March 2008 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates honored Buckles during a Pentagon ceremony in which officials unveiled a World War I veterans’ exhibit.

“Whoever views this display will, I am sure, feel a connection to Mr. Buckles and his comrades-in-arms,” Gates said. “We will always be grateful for what they did for their country 90 years ago.”

Buckles, then 107, received a standing ovation from the mostly military audience.

“I feel honored to be here as a representative of the veterans of WWI and I thank you,” Buckles said.

Buckles is survived by his daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan. His wife, Audrey, died in 1999.

In a White House statement issued today President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama saluted the fallen veteran.

“Frank Buckles lived the American Century,” the President stated. “Like so many veterans, he returned home, continued his education, began a career, and along with his late wife Audrey, raised their daughter Susannah. And just as Frank continued to serve America until his passing, as the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation, our nation has a sacred obligation to always serve our veterans and their families as well as they’ve served us.

“We join Susannah and all those who knew and loved her father in celebrating a remarkable life that reminds us of the true meaning of patriotism and our obligations to each other as Americans.”

Navy Safe Harbor Participates in Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference

From Navy Safe Harbor Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Representatives from Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program, participated in the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference Feb. 23-24 at Fort Belvoir, Va.

The interagency event, hosted by the Army Wounded Warrior Program, convened nearly 125 federal hiring and personnel managers to share resources and discuss best practices for recruiting wounded, ill and injured service members.

"Navy Safe Harbor's goal is to return Sailors and Coast Guardsmen to duty, and, when that's not possible, we work collaboratively with our partners to ensure the service members' successful reintegration into communities," said Capt. Bernie Carter, director of Navy Safe Harbor. "In order to achieve real progress – and to help more wounded warriors find meaningful employment – federal agencies and all branches of military service must work together."

Carter was joined at the two-day event by Navy Safe Harbor staff members, as well as enrollees from the National Capital Area, who expanded their professional networks and received job-seeking advice from federal employers.

"Since I've been enrolled in Navy Safe Harbor, so many new doors have been opened for me," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Oscar Longoria, who is seeking employment in health care or law enforcement. "My professional resume was already complete, but, thanks to this event, I now have a list of new contacts who can shepherd it through the federal hiring process."

Longoria, assigned to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., was recently diagnosed with kidney failure after undergoing a routine blood test. He currently is transitioning out of active duty.

Navy Safe Harbor's participation in job fairs and conferences is among the many services offered through its employment assistance program. The program provides enrollees and their caregivers a host of career counseling services, from assisting with job applications, to identifying vocational training opportunities, to sharing direct employer contacts. In addition, Navy Safe Harbor serves as a national champion for the hiring of wounded warriors and a source of information for employers interested in doing so.

"Whether our wounded warrior shipmates hope to return to school, a previously held position or to find a new job or career, Navy Safe Harbor works with them and their families to establish goals and chart a course toward long-term success," said Carter.

Navy Safe Harbor invites all federal and non-governmental agencies looking to initiate or expand efforts to recruit wounded warrior employees to contact the organization's headquarters at 877-746-5863 or safeharbor@navy.mil.

Navy Safe Harbor is 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, Navy Safe Harbor provides a lifetime of individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of enrollees' recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activities.

U.S., Kuwait Mark Gulf War 20th Anniversary

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2011 – This week marks 20 years since the United States, as part of a 34-nation coalition, drove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army out of Kuwait, returning that nation to sovereignty and reshaping the U.S. military to the force it is today.

U.S. service members will join military members from dozens of other coalition countries tomorrow in a grand military parade through the streets of Kuwait City, in what the Kuwaiti government is calling its country’s “Golden Jubilee.” The event also marks the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s independence from Great Britain and, U.S. military officials say, will recognize the important strategic alliance between Kuwait and the United States.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will join 22 presidents, 64 heads of state and other senior officials attending the ceremonies.

“Twenty years ago, Kuwait and the United States formed an unbreakable alliance, which has grown into a comprehensive partnership that promotes freedom, prosperity and democracy in the Middle East region and the world,” Army Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., commander of U.S. Third Army, said in a statement to the Kuwaiti people.

The celebration comes as history is being made in the Middle East where citizen uprisings in recent weeks have prompted revolutions against repressive governments that have spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Iran, Libya and elsewhere.

The Kuwaiti government on its website says Iraq’s invasion was “a critical point in modern Arab history.” It goes on to say that “the Kuwaiti government and its people will never forget all those who stood with them and supported them during the period of brutal invasion.”

The first Gulf War was sparked when then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered an invasion of Kuwait after that nation’s government defied his demands to cut oil production to allow for increased prices.

On Aug. 2, 1990, three armored divisions of Hussein’s Republican Guard crossed into Kuwait, sped toward the capital of Kuwait City and, within days, overran Kuwait, according to Army historian Richard Stewart’s “War in the Persian Gulf: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, August 1990-March 1991,” published by the Center of Military History.

Many Kuwaitis fled to neighboring Saudi Arabia -- the largest foreign supplier of U.S. oil. Many Saudis feared Hussein would unleash his million-man army on their country next. At the urging of President George H. W. Bush, Saudi King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, on Aug. 6, 1990, approved moving U.S. military assets onto Saudi soil, opening the door to “the most concentrated and complex projection of American military power since World War II,” Stewart wrote.

Under the direction of then-Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney -- who would later serve as vice president to President George W. Bush when U.S. forces pushed into Iraq to topple Hussein in March 2003 -- and Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., then-Centcom commander, U.S. forces amassed a buildup of nearly 200,000 troops in Saudi Arabia by late September 1990 as part of Operation Desert Shield.

The U.S. commitment to drive Iraq’s army out of Kuwait would grow to 697,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen, and include the deployment of 108 Navy ships to the region, Webster noted in his anniversary message to the Kuwaitis.

America wasn’t alone during the first Gulf War. The Bush administration built a 33-member coalition that included longtime western allies such as Great Britain, France and Canada, as well as Iraq’s neighbors in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Oman, and Qatar, as well as Pakistan.

“The United States assembled an unprecedented and broad coalition to redress the strategic balance in the Middle East upset by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait,” according to a Joint Staff paper about the war. The first Gulf War “ushered in an era of coalition warfare in which the United States has generally sought the approval and support of other governments and international agencies before intervening in a regional crisis,” the paper said.

Coalition troops assembled in the region as civilian leaders worked with the United Nations to pressure Hussein to withdraw his forces from Kuwait. When embargos and other measures were exhausted, the U.N. set a Jan. 15, 1991, deadline for the Iraqi military to depart Kuwait. Hussein ignored the deadline.

“The hammer fell on Iraqi forces early in the morning of Jan. 17,” Lt. Col. Les’ Melnyk, an Army National Guard historian, wrote in “Mobilizing for the Storm: The Army National Guard in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.” In the United States, where it was still Jan. 16, he noted, “the air and missile attacks coming in over Baghdad were broadcast live as the [television] networks broke in on their evening lineup,” allowing Americans, for the first time, to watch a real-time, play-by-play of their military at war.

“It was the most stunning bombing campaign in the history of the world,” Melnyk wrote.

For 38 days, the aerial bombardment put on full display weapons and equipment that could not have been imagined when U.S. troops fought their last major war two decades earlier in Vietnam.

“There were silent airplanes that could not be tracked from the ground, bombs that could be steered to hit a target the size of a chair, missiles that could destroy other missiles in midair, and satellites that could tell a person in the middle of the trackless desert where they were,” the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission wrote of the Gulf War.

The Iraqis’ counterattack of aging Scud missiles was no match for the coalition, which dropped at least 88,500 tons of bombs during more than 100,000 sorties, destroying all significant Iraqi targets, allowing for the U.S.-led ground war, Operation Desert Storm, to begin Feb. 24.

With the Vietnam War as their previous point of reference, American broadcasters and politicians speculated that the ground war would change the coalition’s good fortunes, Melnyk noted. Hussein had used chemical weapons before and there was reason to believe he would again, he said.

That proved not to be the case. Just 100 hours after the ground war began, it was over. By Feb. 27, Iraq’s ground forces were in full retreat, and Bush declared a cease-fire and the liberation of Kuwait.

The United States suffered 148 combat deaths and 145 non-combat deaths during the seven-month conflict. In addition, 467 U.S. service members were wounded in action.

The Gulf War was a significant turning point for the U.S. military in many ways, not the least of which was proving it could fight alongside its Arab allies.

“The coalition proved that Western and Arab forces can and will stand together, and can do so with speed and precision,” Webster wrote in his letter to the Kuwaitis.

The first Gulf War also solidified confidence that National Guard and reserve members could effectively fight alongside active duty troops, Melnyk said. “We take it for granted today, but before the Gulf War, and in the 20 years since then, the [Guard and] reserves have been part of virtually every contingency operation, large or small, that the military has engaged in,” he said.

The war also vindicated changes in military training, doctrine and structure, and the investment in high-tech equipment that took place throughout the 1980s, Joint Force historians said. It further validated laws that strengthened the role of joint forces and that of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders, they said.

“The Gulf War marked the emergence of the United States as the dominant and continuing force for stability in the Persian Gulf region,” they wrote. “Perhaps most importantly, overwhelming victory in Operation Desert Storm reaffirmed America’s faith in its armed forces and, to some extent, in itself, its products, performance, purpose and dedication.”

Navy Region Hawaii Conducts Solid Curtain Citadel Shield '11

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

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Various commands throughout Navy Region Hawaii participated in Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield '11 (SC-CS 11), an annual security training exercise held by U.S Fleet Forces Command and Navy Installations Command, Feb. 22-25.

SC-CS 11 is a four-day force protection exercise designed to enhance the training and readiness of naval security force personnel and their responses to threats to installations and units.

"Across the nation, every naval installation and unit is involved with SC-CS 11 to varying degrees," said Dr. Michael Smith, director of training and readiness for Commander, Navy Region Hawaii. "In all more than 300 individual training events takes place during the exercise. "Here at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) and at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), we exercised our anti-terrorism/force protection plans by simulating various terrorist attacks."

Smith also noted the importance and the intentions of the training exercise.

"This type of training ensures U. S. Navy security forces maintain a high level of readiness when responding to threats, and it is through exercises such as SC-CS 11 that we are able to maintain the ability to respond to threats and deter a real-world attack," Smith said. "From the civilians and Sailors providing the security force to those working in either the Regional Operations Center or the Emergency Operations Center, each gets to practice what they would be required to do in an emergency."

Training aboard JBPHH included a small boat attack involving the guided missile destroyers, USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS Hopper (DDG 70), and the attack submarines, USS Texas (SSN 775) and USS Olympia (717). At PMRF on Kauai, drills included active shooter and suicide bomber scenarios.

Other events involved the cycling of different levels of force protection, increased security throughout the base and a non-compliant driver attempting to gain access to the base at an entry control point.

SC-CS 11 consisted of more than 300 individual training events at Navy installations across the country, each designed to test different regional AT/FP operations. Scenarios ranged from events such as recognizing and countering base surveillance operations, to higher-tempo and active simulated emergencies such as small-boat attacks on waterfront bases and cyber attacks on installations.

USS Shoup Visits Tasmania

By Ensign Rhiannon Low, USS Shoup Public Affairs

HOBART, Australia (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86), pulled into the city of Hobart on the Tasmania island state of Australia for a port visit, Feb. 15.

This is the first visit by an U.S. naval vessel since the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1) visited the island in May 2008.

"Pulling into port was interesting, because it reminded many of pulling into Pugent Sound and the U.S. Northwest; where we are from," said Lt. Colin Kennedy, USS Shoup operations officer. "We look forward to interacting with the people and learning the culture in Tasmania."

Shoup will participate in community relations projects at a local high school and a children's hospital while in Hobart.

"Our Sailors are very excited to interact with the community," said Capt. Joe Nadeau, USS Shoup commanding officer. "There are some Sailors who are only participating in community service projects while in Hobart, because they loved the ones in Fremantle so much. The community response was overwhelming."

Shoup is in Australia to support the Australian International Air Show at Avalon and to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force. Also being commemorated, is the 60th anniversary of the Anzus Treaty, a defense agreement signed in 1951 by the Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

Shoup is homeported in Everett, Wash., and is currently conducting operations in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.