Military News

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Monday, March 07, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

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

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will deliver remarks at the Australia's commitment to the "Education Center at The Wall" (Vietnam Veterans Memorial), at on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Media interested in attending should contact the JCS Public Affairs office at 703-697-4272.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen hosts an honor cordon to welcome Brazil's Armed Forces Joint Staff Chief Gen. Jose Carlos De Nardi to the Pentagon.  Media interested in attending should contact the JCS Public Affairs office at 703-697-4272.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will deliver remarks at at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park, in Washington, D.C.  Media interested in attending should contact JCS Public Affairs office at 703-697-4272.

Ramstein Units Partner to Help Evacuees From Libyan Conflict

By U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Fisher
Special to American Forces Press Service

NAVAL AIR STATION SOUDA BAY, Crete, March 6, 2011 – Several Ramstein Air Base units have been key to providing airlift support for the humanitarian crisis on Libya’s borders since U.S. President Barack Obama provisioned military support, March 3, 2011,

The 37th Airlift and Air Mobility Squadrons, working in concert with 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) for U.S. Africa Command, are providing this capability. While 37th crews are flying humanitarian relief missions, members of Ramstein’s 435th Contingency Response Group are facilitating the missions, providing everything from communications and command and control to force protection.

As the air component for AFRICOM, 17th Air Force is orchestrating the missions through its planning staff and 617th Air and Space Operations Center, collocated with its Ramstein Headquarters.

After more than two years under AFRICOM, 17th is well-versed in cooperative efforts between Departments of Defense and State. So when a humanitarian crisis followed political upheaval in North Africa, 17th Air Force was ready to assist the State Department-led relief effort, according to Air Force Major General Margaret Woodward, 17th AF commander.

“We were able to quickly answer the call and play our part by orchestrating airlift to ease suffering among the Libyan people and third country nationals who have crossed the borders seeking relief from the conflict there,” Woodward said. “Operating in Africa has given us many chances to work and become familiar with supporting our partners in the State Department. We’re happy to be able to contribute, and we hope, along with the efforts of many other countries, we’ll be able to improve the situation for people in need as a result of this conflict.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Charles “Doc” Schlegel said the 17th effectively brought the units together to execute the humanitarian missions.

“The 17th coordinated the effort and made it possible for aid to be quickly delivered to people who are in need, and for us to move evacuees,” Schlegel said. “We have been working together to adapt to an evolving situation and provide assistance in support of the overall U.S. government response. So far, it’s a great example of Team Ramstein working together.”

Schlegel’s team began flying humanitarian relief mission March 4, 2011, and has delivered relief supplies to Tunisia for USAID and shuttled more than 300 displaced Egyptian citizens to Cairo.

The team’s ability to adapt has been key to their contribution on what Air Force Captain Jason Powell called deemed “an international scale.”

“We started March 3, we partnered our capabilities with the 17th to support the State Department and things are going fairly smoothly,” said the Captain, the director of operations for the 435th’s Contingency Response Element. “Things are always changing, but it’s a testament to our flexibility that we continue to make progress on this mission. We are really stoked, to go in and make a difference for people that are suffering.”

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Fisher is assigned to 17th Air Force Public Affairs)

U.S. Military Aircraft Fly Egyptians Home from Tunisia

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2011U.S. military aircraft flew 640 Egyptians home today and yesterday from the Tunisia-Libya border where the refugees fled to escape the violence that continues between government forces and rebels in Libya.

Three U.S. Air Force C-130Js and one U.S. Marine Corps KC-130 flew two daily rotations from Djaerba, Tunisia, to Cairo, Egypt.

U.S. Africa Command is overseeing the effort as part of the ongoing U.S. and international response to the evolving humanitarian emergency in that region.

“For passenger evacuation, four more flights today are moving 328 passengers to Egypt,” Africom spokesman Kenneth Fidler said in an e-mail.

Most of the passengers were men who had been working in Libya before violence flared on Feb. 17 when Libyan leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi cracked down on protesters demanding government reform.

Yesterday's four flights moved 312, Fidler said.

The last military flight today left Djaerba in the late afternoon carrying 82 Egyptian nationals for a flight to Cairo that was expected to last 3.5 hours.

Also yesterday, Fidler added, two U.S. Air Force C-130s from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, delivered humanitarian commodities less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama announced U.S. military support to the international effort.

Donations from the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance warehouse at Leghorn Army Depot in Pisa, Italy, included 2,000 blankets, 40 rolls of plastic sheeting and 9,600 10-liter plastic water containers.

The C-130J crews have used Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, on the island of Crete, as a hub and crew-rest location. Crews of the Marine Corps KC-130s have used Naval Station Sigonella, Italy, on the island of Sicily, as a hub for their role in the operations, according to Africom officials.

Thousands of Egyptians have returned home from the Tunisia-Libya border on aircraft and ferries belonging to or chartered by governments from around the world.

On March 4, Naval Forces Europe-Africa, which coordinates U.S. Navy support to Africom, established the joint task for Odyssey Dawn to provide tactical command and control for emergency evacuations, humanitarian relief, and future Africom missions in support of the U.S. government response to unrest in Libya.

Africom announced its airlift progress and the establishment of Odyssey Dawn in tweets from the social networking site, Twitter.

The airlift and humanitarian effort is part of a larger U.S. government emergency response that Obama ordered last week.

“The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” he said during a March 3 press conference.

“The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Gadhafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people,” the president said. “We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing.”

On the same day, Obama approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt.

Obama Spokesman Applauds ROTC Return to Harvard

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011Harvard University’s decision to formally welcome the return of the Reserve Officer Training Corps to its campus honors the contributions of service members, the White House press secretary said today.

Jay Carney issued a statement in support of Harvard’s announcement today that the Naval ROTC will return to Harvard.

“It’s an important step in moving past the old divisions that often kept many Americans from seeing what we share with one another, including love of country and a profound respect for our brave men and women in uniform,” Carney said in the news release.

After signing legislation last year ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that prevented gays from serving openly in the military, President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to call on all college campuses to open their doors to military recruiters and the ROTC, Carney said.

“With our nation at war, this sends a powerful message that Americans stand united and that our colleges, society and armed forces are stronger when we honor the contributions of all our citizens, especially our troops and military families who sacrifice for our freedoms,” the statement says. “As the president said in the State of the Union [address], it is time to move forward as one nation.”

MCPON Sends Seabee Birthday Message

Special From Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West released the following Seabee birthday message to the Fleet Mar. 5.

"Shipmates,

For 69 years our Navy Seabees have been protecting the nation and serving the U.S. Navy with pride and outstanding dedication. The men and women of the Seabees, have been engaged globally, constructing bases, building airfields, roads, bridges and other support facilities, as well as below the world's oceans and waterways conducting underwater construction. Seabees play a very essential role in supporting the Fleet and Combatant Commands while carrying out our Navy's maritime strategy.

I've had the opportunity to visit Bees all around the world from your bases in Gulfport and Port Hueneme, to the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the Western Pacific, and I'm always inspired by your determination and Esprit de Corps, whether in combat, humanitarian relief missions or helping to build communities or nations. Seabees live their motto of 'Seabees Can Do.'

Seabees continue to answer our nation's call to build and fight, provide needed humanitarian assistance and win the hearts and minds of local communities, governments and organizations through community relations projects worldwide, proving our great Navy is a Global Force for Good.

Thank you, Seabees, for what you do every day and for your continued service and dedication to our nation and our Navy.

Happy Birthday and OOOORAH Bee's!

Very Respectfully,
MCPON (Honorary Seabee)"

Family Matters Blog: Soldier Shares Brain Injury Experience

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2011 – I’d like to introduce guest blogger Army Staff Sgt. Victor Medina, who sustained a moderate traumatic brain injury during his third deployment in Iraq in 2009. Several months later, Medina started a blog titled “TBI Warrior” to help educate other survivors and caregivers affected by a brain injury through his own experiences — before and after TBI. He shared his story in a Defense Centers of Excellence blog on March 2. – Elaine Wilson

TBI Stands for: To Be Improved
By Army Staff Sgt. Victor Medina

Let me take you back to the first day of my new life. The day was June 29, 2009. The mission was a mounted patrol to escort supplies and route reconnaissance from a main contingency operating base to a joint security station. The route would take about three hours. We maneuvered through one of the largest cities in Iraq during the three-hour mission.

As we exited the city limits, the event occurred that changed my life forever. An explosively formed projectile impacted our vehicle.

The next 48-plus hours are a blur in my mind, still. Most of what I can remember about the event is because of the stories others have told to me. I do remember the smoke and the confusion that followed the accident, but I don’t remember fainting. I remember waking up in an aid station feeling very confused and overwhelmed. I learned I had sustained a moderate TBI.

Today, after 16 months of rehabilitation, I look back and think: “It has been a long recovery.” Life is not the same; I have changed. The people who knew me pre-injury can clearly see the difference. I still cope with lingering side effects. Problems with my vision, hearing, balance, headaches, speech disfluency, including the obvious cognitive impairments, are all there. I am not the same as I was before the injury. The truth is that I’ve tried to be the old me but just haven’t been able to succeed at it.
My new philosophy in life and with the injury is: “If this is the hand life dealt me, I will play the best game possible.” Is it frustrating? Yes. I encourage others not to focus on the negative things of the past or present, but rather set eyes on a bright future. I believe survivors of mild or moderate TBI have the power to be as independent as they want to be, regardless of the symptoms. I always ask survivors to stop and ask themselves: “Are you a victim?” or “Are you a warrior?”

With or without injury we are responsible for our actions and our future. Life is about decisions, and you can choose to stand up and make the best out of your life. I decided to stand up and help others. I decided to be an example; and that’s how TBI Warrior started.

It humbles me when others feel empowered and motivated by my experiences. The Army taught me the value in “selfless service.” That is the value I choose to carry with me to help others. I always say that my mission is not about me but about all those who come behind me. TBI is not the end; it can be a new beginning. The effects may not go away, but “it will get better.”

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. For resources, check out the Defense Centers of Excellence Brain Injury Awareness month website.

USS Essex Sailors Visit Cambodian Orphanage

By Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class(SW) Casey H. Kyhl USS Essex (LHD 2 ) Public Affairs

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) participated in a community service (COMSERV) project March 2 at the Village d'enfant de Sihanoukville orphanage in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

During the COMSERV project, 36 Sailors played sports, handed out dozens of donated books and read to the 100-plus children living at the facility.

"The mission of the Navy goes far beyond sailing ships," said Cmdr. James Johnson, Essex command chaplain and COMSERV coordinator. "The purpose of these events is to give Essex Sailors time to get to know our host nationals, and I think we definitely made a few friends today."

The day began with a traditional Cambodian welcome dance performed by some of the orphanage children. The Sailors responded by teaching the children the "Hokey Pokey" before the group split up to play sports and read books.

"I don't think you get the full experience of visiting a country unless you make an effort to meet some of the local people," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Bryce Perkins. "I got to know a few great kids today."

Children who have lost their parents stay at the orphanage until they have graduated from high school or can support themselves. The facility has sports equipment, a school house and multiple looms that the children use to make textiles.

"Whether you are in Thailand, the Philippines or Cambodia, kids are kids and fun is fun," said Johnson. "I'm grateful that we got the chance to come out here and make a contribution to this community. I think the Sailors enjoyed it and I think the children did too. There were a lot of smiles everywhere."

Books for the COMSERV were donated by E.J. King High School at Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan.

The COMSERV project was one of the final events of the Cambodia Maritime Exercise 2011. During the exercise, Sailors taught courses in military leadership and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's medical staff worked with their Cambodian counterparts to provide primary care services, dental care and optometry care to Cambodians in the Kampong Som province.

Essex, commanded by Capt. David Fluker, is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is on patrol in the Western Pacific.

Air Force Joins Effort to Help Libyan Evacuees

By Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Fisher
17th Air Force Public Affairs

DJAERBA, Tunisia, March 4, 2011 – The U.S. military’s contribution to an international effort to end the suffering of Libya’s evacuees began in Italy today when two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft picked up humanitarian aid and headed to Tunisia.

The 37th Airlift Squadron, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, stopped in Pisa, Italy, where they picked up cargo from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The team then flew the aid to Djaerba, Tunisia, near where tens of thousands of Libyans and foreign nationals have fled due to the recent political uprising in Libya.

Air Force Lt. Col. Charles “Doc” Schlegel, commander of the 435th Air Mobility Squadron, is leading a contingency response team working with aircrews from the 37th ALS on the humanitarian missions. He said his team is excited to partner with 17th Air Force to support the State Department.

“We know that there are a lot of folks that are currently displaced, that will hopefully soon be able to return to their home countries and, hopefully, we can expedite that and bring humanitarian assistance to people who need it,” Schlegel said. “The 17th Air Force did a great job coordinating with the agencies here, making sure the stuff was ready and could be quickly delivered to people who are in need. This is being driven by the State Department and we are ready to support any requests they have.”

Alberto Chidini, coordinator of the Army’s Camp Darby humanitarian Assistance program near Pisa was on the flightline for the pickup in Italy, making sure the humanitarian cargo was ready to load. It’s important for people to be willing to help in situations like the one in Libya and its border regions, he said.

“I’ve seen the reports. Everything is lacking,” Chidini said. “The situation is very bad and our people are ready to react. It’s important because this could happen to anyone and hopefully someone is ready to help. In this case, [it’s] us.

“It makes you feel good, it makes you feel proud,” he added.

While waiting for further requests, the team from Ramstein stayed focused on the task at hand, delivering 2,000 wool blankets, 40 units of plastic sheeting and 9,600 water containers to Djaerba. After finishing the first day’s work, the teams regrouped to plan more assistance missions for the days ahead.

Flag Officer Announcements

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead announced today the following assignments:

Capt. Peter J. Fanta, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Five/commander, Task Force 51/518, Bahrain.  Fanta is currently serving as deputy director, surface warfare for combat systems, N86F, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Rear Adm. (lower half) Charles A. Rainey will be assigned as vice commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, Calif.  Rainey is currently assigned as commanding officer, NR Strategic Mission Analysis, Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md.

Washington Capitals Host Military Appreciation Night

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Selby
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011 – The Washington Capitals NHL team and their majority owner, Ted Leonsis, hosted not only the St. Louis Blues at the Verizon Center here last night, but also service members and their families for the 8th Annual Military Appreciation Night.

“Military Night is one of my favorite nights,” Leonsis said. “We’ve done our best to support every branch of the military.”

Leonsis kicked off the event with a reception for active duty military members and veterans. Other guests included Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs; Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., among others.

Wilson hosted several military children as part of the “Me and a Friend” program, which he created with the help of the USO last year. The program offers donated tickets to sporting events, shows, and other events to military children and a friend.

“There are ways to give back. There are ways to extend a hand of friendship and a sense of belonging to those who are serving our nation in uniform,” Wilson said. “Whether it’s inviting the son or daughter of someone whose mother or father is deployed overseas to a come to a barbecue, or go to movie, or attend a dance recital with your family, it’s important to recognize the challenges that kids in military families sometimes face, and the need to want to feel normal and the need to want to belong.”

Cartwright also expressed his appreciation to service members, their families, and the families of the fallen. Those families, he said, have made a tremendous sacrifice that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

“The fact that we are here as a nation, we have a moral obligation to ensure that we take care of them, and that we remember them,” he added.

During the pregame reception and throughout the evening, there were several tributes to those who serve, including Army Sgt. Chelsey Billings, who was attending her first hockey game. “It’s amazing here and I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” Billings said. “I just like the game -- it’s very brute!”

When asked who she planned on rooting for, Billings gave the typical answer you’d hear at the Verizon Center: “C-A-P-S, Caps, Caps, Caps!”

Billings was one of four service members recognized during the game. Others were Marine Corps Maj. Stewart T. Upton, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Max Rohn, and Air Force Senior Airman Perry M. Aston.

Casey said it’s important to have events like Military Appreciation Night to honor military members for their service and sacrifices on behalf of the nation.

“They’re just representing all the other men and women they serve with,” he said. “The important thing is, this is America saying, thank you to the men and women of the armed forces.”

With all the tributes played, and the playing of the national anthem by the U.S. Army Chorus, the night would not be complete without the usual “W” in the win column from the Caps.

“We’re 6-and1 on Military Night,” Leonsis said, sparking a laugh from the guests. “I have to figure out a way to do this in the playoffs,” he added.

Sure enough, the Caps pulled off the victory, beating the Blues 3-2, for their third-straight victory.

Gates Urges New Air Force Leaders to Think Creatively

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., March 4, 2011 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged U.S. Air Force Academy cadets here today to have the courage to speak up as they move forward as the next generation of military leaders.

“As officers, you will need to show great flexibility, agility, resourcefulness and imagination,” Gates said. “Because your Air Force will face different kinds of conflict than it has prepared for during the past six decades, it will need leaders who think creatively and decisively in the manner of Air Force legends like Billy Mitchell, Hap Arnold, Bernard Schriever and John Boyd.

“You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things as you see them to subordinates and superiors alike,” he added.

Accountability is another important quality for leaders, the secretary told the cadets.

“Great leaders embrace accountability in all they do, and are willing to accept criticism from within or outside their organization,” Gates said. “Holding leaders to a high standard of performance and ethics is a credit to the Air Force. But to meet that standard going forward, you must have the discipline to cultivate integrity and moral courage from here at the academy, and then from your earliest days as a commissioned officer.

“Those qualities do not suddenly emerge fully developed overnight, or as a revelation after you have assumed important responsibilities,” the secretary continued. “They have their roots in small decisions you will make here and early in your career and must be strengthened all along the way. And you must always ensure that your moral courage serves the greater good -- that it serves what is best for the nation and our highest values, not a particular program or ego or service parochialism.”

Gates thanked the cadets for choosing the military path in a time of war, knowing they would be at war.

“For my part,” he said, “know that I feel personally responsible for each and every one of you, as if you were my own sons and daughters, and will for as long as I am secretary of defense. My only prayer is that you serve with honor and return home safely.”

The secretary plans to retire this year, and told the cadets that today’s visit to the Air Force Academy would be his last as defense secretary. After his speech, Gates, the former president of Texas A&M University, taught a political science seminar and a class on the politics of national security.

General Officer Announcement

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

Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, senior commander, Fort Bliss, Fort Bliss, Texas, to commanding general, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

USS Nevada Successfully Tests Trident II D5 Missile

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) W. Foster Bamford, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Fleet ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada (SSBN 733) successfully launched a test missile off the coast of southern California March 1 as part of the post-refueling overhaul certification process.

The missile, an unarmed Trident II D5, was launched as a single mission test and was the key element of the demonstration and shakedown operation (DASO) process certifying the readiness of an SSBN crew and the operational performance of the submarine's strategic weapons system prior to returning to operational availability.

Navy's Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) oversees the DASO certification process, while various other organizations provide support for the certification.

More than 150 SSP employees and special guests were invited aboard the USNS Waters (T-AGS 45), a Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessel to witness the event and learn more about SSP and the DASO process.

"SSP teams with people from an array of commands and organizations throughout the months leading up to the DASO missile launch. The people representing Submarine Group 9, USS Nevada, Military Sealift Command and our contract partners who witnessed the launch from aboard Waters are a small fraction of those who work with Strategic Systems Programs to ensure we continue to successfully provide the nation's sea-based strategic deterrent," said Rear Adm. Terry Benedict, director, Strategic Systems Programs. Benedict was aboard Nevada observing the crew as they conducted the launch mission.

"This mission for MSC is just one in many that we do. We're proud to be a part of it," said John Thackrah, executive director of Military Sealift Command (MSC), who attended the launch.

Waters is an MSC vessel that provides support during the DASO launch as part of her mission. Instrumentation and personnel such as engineers and scientists are embarked aboard Waters to track the submarine and the missile throughout the launch process.

The March 1 launch marked the 135th consecutive successful submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test flight since December 1989.

"It's quite an accomplishment, we're very proud of everybody that has pulled together for us today," said Rear Adm. Robert Hennegan, commander, Submarine Group (SUBGRU) 9. "Today was a terrific accomplishment for the USS Nevada, for Submarine Group 9, but more importantly for the entire SSP team and for all who are part of delivering the nation's deterrence posture. Everyone has done a terrific job and we're very proud of them."

Nevada crewmembers said they were also glad to see the successful launch occur after such an extensive maintenance period.

"It was the final event of a three and a half-year refueling overhaul," said Cmdr. Alan Schrader, commanding officer for Nevada's 'Blue Crew.' "To get to today, it means so much for me to see that missile go off in the air, and now we're ready to go and do our strategic mission."

Guests who watched the launch from aboard Waters said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"It was incredible," said Caitlin Hitt, co-president of the Naval Base Kitsap Officers Spouses Association. "Nothing that I ever expected, quite honestly I was shocked at how cool it was when it came out of the water."

Nevada was commissioned in 1986 as the eighth Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). The Ohio-class design allows the submarines to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. Each SSBN has two crews, Blue and Gold, which alternate manning the submarines while on patrol to maximize strategic availability while reduces the number of submarines required to meet strategic defense requirements.