Military News

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, March 10, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn testifies at a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee on the president's fiscal 2012 defense and international affairs budgets at in room 608, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen participates in a town hall meeting at with the Phoenix community at Arizona State University.  Media interested in attending should contact JCS Public Affairs at 703-697-4272.

Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey welcomes his Indian counterpart at to the Pentagon including Fort Myer ceremonies and wreath laying at Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknowns.  Media interested in attending should contact LTC Rich Spiegel at 703-693-4691.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos testify at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on military construction and BRAC issues at in room H-140, The Capitol.

This Day in Naval History - March 09

From the Navy News Service

1798 - The first U.S. Navy surgeon, George Balfour, is appointed.
1847 - Commodore David Connor leads a successful amphibious assault near Vera Cruz, Mexico.
1862 - The first battle between ironclads - USS Monitor and CSS Virginia - takes place.

Face of Defense: Airman 'Bonds' With Historic Tanker

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shawn J. Jones
514th Air Mobility Wing

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., March 9, 2011 – Aircraft 79-0434, the first KC-10 Extender delivered to the Air Force, landed March 17, 1981, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

At the same time, 400 miles away, a young Air Force trainee enduring the rigors of basic training was unaware that his career –- and his life –- would be so deeply tied to that aircraft.

The KC-10 is closing in on its 30th year of providing air refueling and airlift for U.S. military operations around the globe. Few airmen serving today are as connected to the KC-10’s history as Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Bill Gross, a crew chief with the 714th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron here.

Gross’ career has marched practically in lockstep with the aircraft known by the last three digits of its tail number: 434.

“This is a tanker that has served in just about every major military operation in the last 20 years,” he said. “I am proud to have been the crew chief on such a historical and tenured warfighting machine.”

Before working on 434, Gross served as an active-duty crew chief on a B-52 Stratofortress. Upon completing his initial enlistment, he left the Air Force and returned to his hometown in the suburbs of Chicago. But he soon realized that his hometown had stayed the same, while he had changed.

“After being responsible for a multi-million-dollar aircraft, going back to a childhood job seemed like a dead end,” he said.

Knowing that aircraft maintenance was one of his personal strengths, Gross searched for aviation-related career opportunities. He eventually learned that full-time KC-10 crew chiefs were needed in an Air Force Reserve unit at Barksdale. He got the job and unpacked his Air Force uniforms for the first time in more than a year.

The unit was bringing in a lot of new aircraft maintenance personnel, and Gross said he hadn’t really considered which aircraft he’d be assigned to.

Gross said his time as an air reserve technician at Barksdale was special, both personally and professionally. Not only did he raise his two children there, but he also made many strong relationships with his fellow airmen.

Time and distance have made it difficult to maintain many of those relationships, he said, but keeping in touch with one of his Barksdale buddies is no problem for Gross –- he just turns to his left.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Todd Harris shares an office with Gross. The chief said he clearly recalls his office mate’s work ethic and dedication when he was a young noncommissioned officer.

“He took it to another level,” Harris said of Gross. “If you were going to be working on his aircraft, you had better keep it clean and do proper maintenance, or believe me, you would hear about it.”

That level of dedication almost killed Gross.

While working on 434 one day, he was informed of a storm that was quickly approaching Barksdale. He had been involved in heavy maintenance, and the tanker was opened up, exposing some of its critical components. He couldn’t let 434 face the storm in its current state. Gross said he rushed to prepare the jet, but he took just a little too long.

“This big ‘boom’ happened, and the next thing I knew, I was in the back of a maintenance truck being taken to the emergency room,” he recalled. Lightning had struck the aircraft and surged through the crew chief, knocking him off his feet.

“Everyone always says that 434 and I are bonded for life, because we got struck by lightning together,” he said. “It’s not an experience I’d want to relive,” he added.

Gross recounted that just as he was reaching his prime as a hands-on crew chief in the late 1980s, the KC-10 was reaching its prime as an operational asset for U.S. military operations. Their timing couldn’t have been much better, because tensions were escalating in the Persian Gulf. The airman and the aircraft were given an opportunity to prove their capabilities in combat operations.

While much of the accolades for the initial stages of Operation Desert Shield go to F-15 fighter jets, Gross said, the fighters, with their limited fuel capacity, could not have been in the fight without the support of their tankers.

“How do you think they got there?” he said.

After Iraq’s military had been subdued during Operation Desert Storm, the KC-10s continued to rotate in and out of the Middle East in support of operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch. However, things were changing back home. The balance of the stateside fleet was leaving Barksdale for locations closer to the coasts –- Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.

The reorganization had a significant impact on Barksdale airmen, many of whom were lifelong Louisiana residents. The airmen were given a choice to follow the KC-10s to their new bases or remain to work on the B-52s that were moving to Barksdale.

“We didn’t really want to leave,” Gross said. If he stayed at Barksdale, Gross would be able to use his experience as former B-52 crew chief.

But he had two important reasons to move to the Garden State. Since so many of his fellow unit members decided to remain at Barksdale, a move to McGuire would open many promotion opportunities with much less experienced competition. He also had grown attached to his airplane, he added, and wasn’t ready to bid it farewell.

“It would have been hard,” he said.

On Oct. 1, 1994, aircraft 434 was the first KC-10 to be transferred to McGuire. Gross was part of the crew that flew the tanker to its new home that day.

Aircraft 434 wasn’t the first in everything it did. Gross said that in one particular case, 434 was last. Air Mobility Command officials decided the KC-10’s white-top paint scheme would be abandoned in favor of an all-grey scheme. Gross said he thought 434 was fine as it was, and he didn’t really support the change.

He kept finding good excuses to keep the tanker out of the paint barn, he said, and the strategy worked for a little while, though he knew it was only a matter of time before the painters caught up with him.

“I told them that they might paint it grey,” he said. “But it would have a big, white ‘X’ on top where I would lay while trying to stop them.”

They ended up painting it while he was on leave, he said.

The KC-10 and its maintenance and operations personnel continued to support ongoing operations in the Middle East throughout the 1990s, and just as the millennium was about to come to a close, the Balkans erupted in violence. Gross and 434 were called upon to serve overseas again in support of Operation Allied Force.

During the operation, 434 was able to demonstrate its versatility. The aircraft provided aerial refueling on several missions, but also shuttled refugees from harm’s way in Kosovo to safety in the United States.

As the new millennium arrived, the KC-10’s services still were in high demand. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the crew chief and his tanker deployed in support of multiple operations throughout the Middle East.

Though Gross and 434 had been brothers in arms for many years, promotions eventually took him away from his role as the tanker’s primary caretaker. He became a production superintendent, the shift leader who cruised the flightline in a pick-up truck while coordinating the all the squadron’s on-aircraft maintenance activities.

His duties kept him close to the aircraft and to the airmen who replaced him, but he missed doing the job himself. “My co-workers always tell me it’s time to move on,” he said. “But I’m a wrench turner at heart.”

Gross said it took some effort to not give special attention to 434 and to focus on the maintenance status of all of the KC-10s equally. But occasionally, he added, he’d jump out of his truck for a few minutes to lend a hand and a word of advice to the airmen who were working on his jet.

“He tries very hard to share his knowledge and experiences with the young airmen and pass on his pride of the KC-10,” Harris said. “When he hears maintainers referring to 434 on the radio, he often chimes in with a sometimes-unconventional suggestion that reflects one of the aircraft’s quirks.”

The next promotion took Gross away from 434 and the flightline and into his current position as a desk-bound flight chief. Initially, he acknowledged, the new job was tough because he no longer worked on aircraft –- he worked on airmen. He didn’t start to feel comfortable in the flight chief position, he said, until he was advised to think of personnel and administrative issues like aircraft maintenance issues.

Gross since has warmed to his position as flight chief, but Harris said he knows his old friend would trade in his keyboard for a wrench in a heartbeat.

“To this day, 434 is the No. 1 thing on his mind,” the chief said. “When anyone mentions 434, his ears perk up.”

Gross doesn’t deny the chief’s description. “I still have a personal dedication to the aircraft,” he said.

Aircraft 434, like most KC-10s, is projected to serve through 2043. Gross, however, has just a few years of service left before reaching his mandatory retirement date.

“There will never be another KC-10 crew chief who takes more pride in his aircraft than Sergeant Gross,” Harris said. “It will be a sad day for the Air Force and the KC-10 when he finally hangs up his uniform for the last time.”

Gross acknowledges his connection to 434, but insists that many other airmen have helped to keep the tanker in a mission-ready state through its 30 years of service.

“That aircraft has a lot of history,” he said. “A lot of people have worked on it and bled on it.”

Though the next generation of airmen will continue to work on 434, none will be able to claim a career that was so deeply linked to one airplane like Gross.

“One day, I hope to take my grandchildren to a museum or a base where they will eventually retire 434 upon a block of concrete, dedicating it forever as the first KC-10 delivered to the Air Force,” he said. “And maybe, just maybe, some historian will put my name in the crew chief block, and I can say to them that I was the crew chief for that airplane.”

Commander, Naval Air Forces Visits George Washington

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Pittman, USS George Washington Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Commander, Naval Air Forces, visited the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) March 8.

Vice Adm. Allen G. Myers came aboard George Washington to hold an office call with the ship's leadership, observe routine maintenance taking place aboard George Washington and meet with members of the crew.

Capt. David A. Lausman, USS George Washington commanding officer, briefed Myers of the ship's accomplishments during the maintenance cycle, giving much of the credit to his crew and civilian contractors.

"We were significantly behind on our maintenance when we pulled back into port, but we recovered because of teamwork," said Lausman. "This ship has both Americans and Japanese nationals working aboard; people from ship's company, from the base and from private companies. Everybody cooperates to accomplish our goals.

"We are ahead because of everybody's communication, cooperation and focus on getting the job done. This is our standard of excellence that is unique to the forward deployed naval force (FDNF) and the support of our state-of-the-art aircraft carrier, so we can be ready to answer our country's call," said Lausman.

Lausman also discussed a situation where the cooperation between the diverse workers came in handy to get George Washington combat-ready in a short time.

"As the Navy's only FDNF carrier, George Washington has to be ready for sea in 24 hours," said Lausman. "This is not a trivial task for a carrier. But, we had a situation where the ship had to be ready for sea in 24 hours. When the call was given, everybody banded together, communicated with one another and focused on one thing: getting GW underway within the specific time frame.

"We were in a ready status well before the 24-hour deadline, and we held that status until we were ordered to stand down. That is a key example of the teamwork that makes George Washington the most unique aircraft carrier in the Navy," said Lausman.

After the office call with Lausman, Myers was given a tour of the ship. He visited several spaces and talked with Sailors to gauge the level of quality of life on the carrier.

"I took advantage of the FDNF opportunity when I served as commanding officer aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) ten years ago, and I am glad to see that the FDNF magic still exists," said Myers. "I am very impressed but we need to stay focused on all of our maintenance objectives and we need to see this through to completion."

GW is the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, ensuring security and stability across the western Pacific Ocean.

Air Force Transports Refugees Back to Egypt

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2011 – Two U.S. C-130s will transport Egyptian refugees from Tunisia to Cairo today, Defense Department officials said.

“The aircraft should be on the ground in Djerba now,” said Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, referring to the Tunisian island where crews are picking up the refugees. “The plan is for them to transport 150 Egyptians who have fled the fighting in Libya back home.”

These will be the ninth and 10th flights taking Egyptians to their home country. The effort began over the weekend, with 640 Egyptians flown home. One of the C-130s flying refugees today is an Air Force transport from Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete, and the other is a Marine Corps airraft from Sigonella on the Italian island of Sicily.

The 10 flights are in addition to two flights that brought humanitarian assistance to refugees who traveled out of Libya to Tunisia. The two sorties delivered 2,000 blankets, 40 rolls of plastic sheeting and 9,600 10-liter plastic water containers.

No other sorties are planned, nor have any been requested, Lapan said. Still, he added, U.S. Africa Command planners remain ready.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy will represent the Defense Department at a White House meeting today on the situation in Libya, Lapan said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is in Brussels, Belgium, where he will participate in a meeting of NATO defense ministers that begins tomorrow. Libya will figure prominently in those discussions, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said earlier this week.

General Officer Announcements

The chief of staff, Army announced today the following officer announcements:

Maj. Gen. Richard C. Longo, deputy chief of staff, operations and training, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Va., to deputy commanding general, initial military training, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Va.

Brig. Gen. Thomas E. Ayres, assistant judge advocate general for military law and operations, U.S. Army, Rosslyn, Va., to commander/commandant, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Va.

Brig. Gen. Harold J. Greene, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command/senior commander, Natick Soldier System Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., to program executive officer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, Fort Monmouth, N.J.

Brig. Gen. Donald M. MacWillie, commanding general, U.S. Army Operational Test Command, Fort Hood, Texas, to deputy commanding general, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, Fort Riley, Kan.

Brig. Gen. Roger F. Mathews, commandant, U.S. Army Air Defense School, U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla., to deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Pacific, Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, deputy commander for programs, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, to deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command/senior commander, Natick Soldier System Center, Natick, Mass.

Brig. Gen. John W. Miller II, commander/commandant, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Va., to assistant judge advocate general for military law and operations, U.S. Army, Rosslyn, Va.

Brig. Gen. Kurt S. Story, deputy commanding general for operations, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/U.S. Army Forces Strategic Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to director, J-33, U.S. Forces-Iraq, Operation New Dawn, Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, special assistant to the senior commander, Fort Bliss, Fort Bliss, Texas, to assistant division commander, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Peter D. Utley, director of training, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C., to deputy chief of staff, operations and training, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Va.

Col. Michael E. Williamson, who has been selected for the rank of brigadier general, deputy program executive officer, integration, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to joint program executive officer, joint tactical radio systems, San Diego, Calif.

Africom Bids Farewell to Ward, Welcomes Ham

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

SINDELFINGEN, Germany, March 9, 2011 – The Defense Department’s newest combatant command bid farewell to its inaugural commander here today.

Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward passed the reins of U.S. Africa Command to Army Gen. Carter F. Ham after nearly three years at the helm.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates officiated at the ceremony and spoke to the audience at the Sindelfingen city hall near Africom’s headquarters in Stuttgart.

“First and foremost, I’d like to thank the men and women serving at Africom who, under General Ward’s leadership, successfully tackled the challenge of setting up a new combatant command,” Gates said. “The first leader of any organization defines it more than any other.

“In under three years, General Ward has forged a command that ably protects vital U.S. interests, promotes stability and builds key capabilities among our allies,” Gates added.

The secretary praised Ward’s decades of service, which included 13 command and numerous staff assignments.

“When we first announced the creation of Africom, with its regional focus and institutional inclusion of State and [U.S. Agency for International Development] personnel, there was -- to put it mildly -- a certain amount of skepticism,” Gates said.

As he said then and still believes, the secretary noted, “When crime, terrorism, natural disasters, economic turmoil, ethnic fissures and disease can be just as destabilizing as traditional military threats, we need to fuse old understandings of security with new concepts of how security, stability and development go hand in hand.”

Ward put those concepts into action as commander, Gates said, and Ham will be an able successor.

Africom stood up in October 2007 and assumed operational oversight of U.S. humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism efforts across the African continent, which includes more than 50 nations and more than a billion people.

During the ceremony, Gates presented Ward with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and the general’s wife, Joyce, with the Distinguished Public Service Award.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke at the ceremony, noting that Ward has served with distinction during his long career.

“[He] has been a soldier for over 40 years, a statesman, a commander -- battle-hardened,” Cartwright said. Ward and his spouse have done “a fantastic job” in Africom, he added.

“It has been, and will be, their legacy,” the vice chairman said.

Ward spoke before officially handing the command over to Ham, and said partnership was the key to his approach as Africom commander.

“We make a difference,” he said. “And not because we teach someone how to shoot straight, or how to drop a bomb accurately, or how to drive a ship in the right direction, but because by partnering with our friends and teammates, they see the best of America.”

Ham spoke briefly at the ceremony’s conclusion, pledging to continue the command’s mission to help find “African solutions to African security challenges.”

Ward began his military career as an infantry officer in 1971. He has served in a variety of positions, including that of commander from company to division level.

Ham most recently served as commander of U.S. Army Europe and as co-chair of the Defense Department’s special “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” review board.

Platform Provides Collaboration Behind Firewall

By Claire Heininger
Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications – Tactical

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., March 9, 2011 – The Defense Department’s secure collaborative platform has expanded beyond the Army to include more members of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, providing behind-the-firewall access to a collection of secure knowledge management tools mirroring popular social media platforms.

DOD common access card holders can access the milSuite enterprise edition release at https://www.milsuite.mil.

The milSuite community consists of more than 140,000 individuals from the active services and DOD’s civilian and contractor work forces dedicated to a more connected military, officials said, and the change is expected to broaden the user base and facilitate joint knowledge sharing.

“People across the Department of Defense are collaborating on programs and efforts in ways that were impossible prior to milSuite’s secure, professional networking capabilities,” said Army Brig. Gen. N. Lee S. Price, program executive officer for Army tactical command, control and communications in an office known as PEO C3T. “MilSuite provides a valuable opportunity to synchronize efforts across separate services, so we can work as one.”

The secure capabilities include milWiki, a living military encyclopedia editable by subject matter experts; milBook, a professional networking tool providing communities of practice; milBlog, a place to share and comment on internal news and events; and milTube, a video-sharing capability for the military work force. The technology is similar to what users are familiar with at home: wikis, blogs, social networking sites such as Facebook, and media-sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has used milWiki to promote online collaboration of Army field manuals, allowing the knowledge and experiences of soldiers conducting operations to be rapidly incorporated into doctrine.

Users have leveraged milBook to share lessons learned and best practices on enterprisewide technologies and to bring hundreds of people into communities of practice centered on chaplaincy, medicine, tactical communications and more.

Army Maj. Jerome Scott Loring, who leads a milBook group for people who provide educational services to the Army National Guard, said the forum has connected officers across the 54 U.S. states and territories supported by the National Guard Bureau on topics such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“We can post an issue, [and] people can comment, discuss [or] raise issues in a secure environment,” Loring said. “You can reach everyone in a way that doesn’t clog up e-mail in-boxes.”

MilSuite builds on the Web 2.0 model of community content and participation to streamline business processes while tapping a broader knowledge base, officials said. The tools are integrated with one another and linked by a Google search appliance so users can locate the specific resources they need.

With network firewall protection, users from all branches and organizations can share official unclassified internal information and engage in dialogue.

MilSuite is assigned to the MilTech Solutions Office, a government organization of PEO C3T.

“This is a significant development for the way we communicate across the Department of Defense,” said Emerson Keslar, director of MilTech Solutions and one of the architects of the milSuite project. “At a time when we are all focused on efficiencies, milSuite is one way we can overcome the geographic and organizational divisions of the military community to share information instantly.”

(Emily Gee, a Symbolic Systems intern who supports MilTech Solutions, contributed to this article.)

Senior Executive Service Announcements

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced the following Department of Defense Senior Executive Service appointments and reassignments:

Andrew P. Hunter has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service and is assigned as the special assistant to the under secretary of defense (acquisition, technology, and logistics), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), Washington, D.C.  Hunter previously served as a professional staff member with the House Armed Services Committee, Washington, D.C.

James B. Lackey has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service and is assigned as deputy director, air warfare, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), Washington, D.C.  Lackey previously served as supervisory program manager with the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md.

Philip A. Burdette is assigned as principal director, (wounded warrior care and transition policy), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), Washington, D.C.  Burdette previously served as deputy federal security director, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.

Darlene J. Costello is assigned as principal director, portfolio systems acquisition/director, acquisition and program management, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), Washington, D.C.  Costello previously served as deputy director, naval warfare, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), Washington, D.C.

Paul J. Hutter is assigned as principal deputy general counsel, Tricare Management Agency, Falls Church, Va.  Hutter previously served as chief of staff, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington D.C.

Virginia S. Penrod is assigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense (military personnel policy), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), Washington, D.C.  Penrod previously served as principal director, military personnel policy, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness),Washington, D.C.

Lynn C. Simpson is assigned as chief of staff, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), Washington, D.C.  Simpson previously served as director, human capital and resource management, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), Washington, D.C.

Pasquale Tamburrino is assigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense (civilian personnel policy), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), Washington, D.C.  Tamburrino previously served as assistant deputy chief of naval operations, fleet readiness and logistics, Department of Navy, Arlington, Va.

ASVAB Improvement Can Increase Perform to Serve Conversion Options

From Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs Office

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) are taking their potential Perform-to-Serve (PTS) rankings into their own hands through Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) improvement courses scheduled to begin March 14.

Makin Island leadership said low ASVAB scores minimize Sailors' conversion options in Perform-to-Serve (PTS)/Fleet Rating Identification Engine (RIDE). To maximize Sailors' rating conversion options, the ship has begun an ASVAB improvement course called the "Makin Island ASVAB Academy."

"Our senior leadership wanted to come up with ways to aid our Sailors in PTS/Fleet RIDE," said Chief Navy Counselor (SW/AW) Jessie Curry, USS Makin Island education service office. "We are always striving to develop our Sailors personally and professionally. Navy College did away with the old instructor-based ASVAB refresher course, it's only online now. After a few focus meetings, the academy was the idea we decided to run with."

Curry said the course improves marketability in PTS/Fleet RIDE, which will allow more Sailors to stay Navy. Additional course benefits include increased math and English proficiency, improved personal and professional development, and potentially increased scores in Navy-wide advancement exams.

"We identify those Sailors who need help during the initial check-in process, the first career development board or through the PTS/Fleet RIDE input," said Curry. "We brought Sailors into our offices who were in danger of being processed out due to PTS/Fleet RIDE, or who we knew had low ASVAB scores and talked to them about the advantages of taking the course."

According to Curry, the ASVAB score is the number-one factor in pursuing another job, "Especially if a Sailor is in a Career Reenlistment Objectives (CREO) three category."

CREO refers to the manning levels for all Navy ratings and is a consideration for Sailors requesting PTS approval. CREO categories are identified in one of three levels:

-CREO 1 rates are undermanned.
-CREO 2 rates are manned at desired levels.
-CREO 3 rates are overmanned.

The command career counselor can help Sailors understand the benefits of reviewing their CREO information and can provide Sailors with guidance throughout the PTS process.

Makin Island's academy is a 14-day course, two-and-a-half hours a day, taught on the ship by officers and chief petty officers. Class participants were Sailors who needed to improve their ASVAB scores to remain competitive and those who wanted to prepare for the Scholastic Assessment Test, a college entrance exam.

"We purchased our course material from a local bookstore," said Master Chief Navy Counselor (SW/AW) John Leavitt, USS Makin Island command master chief. "We started the recruitment process for instructors within our educational services office and with degree-holding officers and chiefs on board. Each instructor was given an opportunity to develop their own curriculum based on their subject matter, and we asked for feedback from the participants to tweak their presentation."

Sailors with low ASVAB scores, particularly in verbal expression (VE), arithmetic reasoning (AR) and word knowledge (WK) are encouraged to enroll. Completion of the course enables them to retake the ASVAB exam, which can better qualify them for conversion to undermanned ratings.

"There isn't an instruction for getting started at this point," said Curry. "We are the first command to offer this course shipboard. Since we've started, other ships have contacted us for course information."

Commands interested in starting an ASVAB academy can reference MILPERSMAN 1236-010 for guidance.

Team Focus Brings Synergy to Warfighter Support

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., March 8, 2011 – Not everyone at Fort Monmouth, N.J., was happy in 2005 when the announcement came down that the post would close and that most of its mission would move here as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission plan.

But fast-forward six years, and the new arrivals at Aberdeen Proving Ground say they’re already seeing the wisdom of the plan and its benefit to warfighters on the battlefield.

BRAC is bringing major changes to this historic post, with the exodus of the Army Ordnance Center and School and the influx of thousands of high-tech organizations that are making it a technological hub.

The largest group of new tenants hails from Fort Monmouth, former home of Army Communications and Electronics Command and Communications-Electronic Research, Development and Engineering Center. It’s made up largely of senior-level scientists, engineers, researchers, acquisition professionals and logisticians focused on developing, testing and fielding cutting-edge communications and electronics systems and equipment for the fighting force.

Before BRAC, they had been shoe-horned into more than 90 buildings scattered across Fort Monmouth. Often, they were miles away from their colleagues and relegated to substandard workspaces made available to support the expanding mission.

“There was a lot of retrofitting,” said Joe Cocco, deputy principal engineer for the project. “You squeezed into a building and made that building fit the mission, or maybe you spread the mission over three or four different buildings. Each organization was in their own building or own area of a building.”

BRAC promised to change all that, bringing together these functions at Aberdeen Proving Ground and organizing them in a way that threw traditional organizational charts out the window.

In addition to the Fort Monmouth activities, the state-of-the-art campus built to support their activities also would bring together other key partners in their mission that previously had been based at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and Fort Belvoir, Va.

Collectively, they would be called the “C4ISR Materiel Enterprise” -- for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. And as they began moving into their new “C4ISR Center of Excellence” here, they were organized more like a private-sector corporation than a military organization.

Team C4ISR is built around “business domains,” each focused on a different project or program, Cocco said. “Within each of those domains are several of the organizations, all mixed in each of the buildings and working together as an enterprise.”

“A domain is built around a single product development line,” such as a new radar system, explained Army Col. Andrew Nelson, deputy garrison commander for transformation. “Components of all those elements that support the mission are in there, all now clustered around their common laboratory.

“They work for three different bosses, but they are all working on the same domain – the same product – with the same objective to produce the next version of that radar or radio system,” he added.

That’s a whole different way of doing business than what the staff had at their previous posts. “In the old scenario, they were all separated,” said Army Col. Bill Montgomery, CECOM’s chief of staff. “The engineers were in one building. The safety people were in another. The project managers were in another building. That worked OK. But imagine if you got those entities together in a room. Think of the difference that could make.”

Nelson agreed. “That’s the beauty of what’s happening here using the domain concept,” he said. “You get the synergy of various team members, all working together with a common objective. It’s a big improvement over how they did business before.”

It also speeds up the process that gets new systems and equipment to the field, Montgomery said. “When you bring the different people involved [in a program] around the table, with all of them contributing their own experiences and expertise, it helps us get things done quicker, because you are not going through four or five different offices in different buildings,” he said.

With more than half of the C4ISR team’s 7,200 employees already settled into their new campus here and the rest to follow before the congressionally mandated Sept. 15 deadline, Montgomery said he’s already seeing clear indications the new organization is working.

Employees are enjoying the bright, open spaces of the new C4ISR campus that rivals the most modern corporate technology parks, he said. The environmentally friendly buildings are built around courtyards and green space that even includes a grass-covered auditorium.

And no longer are C4ISR staffers relegated to cramped workspaces. When the second phase of the project is completed in the next month or so, the full complex will include 2.5 million square feet of new space spread across 13 buildings.

But selling the new facility -- and the move to Aberdeen -- wasn’t necessarily an easy task. Shortly after the BRAC decision, Cocco traveled to Aberdeen to walk the grounds that would become the new C4ISR campus. He was part of a team that worked tirelessly with planners at both Fort Monmouth and Aberdeen Proving Ground to sort through the thousands of tiny details involved in building a first-class new facility, and moving an entire operation without disrupting its immediate wartime support role.

As construction continued on the new complex, Cocco hosted numerous bus trips so Fort Monmouth employees could see Aberdeen Proving Ground and its surrounding communities. Most of all, Cocco said, he wanted them to see the buildings being readied for them and entice them to make the move to Aberdeen.

Ultimately, about half of the Fort Monmouth work force opted to do so – far more than the 20 percent typical of previous BRAC moves, Nelson said.

While many of the C4ISR employees have relocated to Maryland, some have retained their New Jersey residences and commute between the two states. Among them is Richard Wittstruck in the office for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, who commutes four and a half hours, roundtrip, between his home and Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Living through his second BRAC – the first took him from Maryland to Fort Monmouth -- Wittstruck said he’s worked hard to ensure his people understand that closing Fort Monmouth was strictly a business decision.

“BRAC is a very personal thing,” he said. “The first thing you have to do is convince the work force that it’s not a reflection of their performance. It’s not as if they failed at their mission and were closed.”

Wittstruck credited the efforts planners made to retain employees, recruit new ones to replace those who opted not to move to Aberdeen, and provide the infrastructure to support them at their new post.

Already, he said he sees the payoff in being able to coordinate activities across functions, with people able to step outside their offices rather than running across an installation to collaborate with their colleagues.

“There is going to be an intangible difference in the type of synergy and interaction that you are going to see,” he said. “But to be practical, it is going to take time. It is going to take time to synthesize and synergize that.”

As that evolution takes place, with C4ISR employees sharing spaces at their new desks and laboratory facilities, or gathering at food courts expected to open in the coming months, Montgomery said, they’ll help to transform the way the Army does business.

“This is huge,” he said. “We’re getting back to the way things used to be done, which is just talk to each other” rather than relying on telephones and e-mail.

“This new facility and organization really gives us the capability to get together and talk around the table and discuss the work we’re doing,” he said. “And ultimately, that’s going to have a huge impact on how we support the warfighter.”

Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group Enters 7th Fleet AOR

From USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), March 9.

While in the 7th Fleet, the carrier strike group (CSG) will conduct exercises and port visits to enhance maritime partnerships and promote peace and stability in the region.

"We continue to seek opportunities to train and build partnerships with our allies," said Rear Adm. Robert Girrier, commander, Carrier Strike Group 7. "We are looking forward to every opportunity to enhance our commitment to the region."

The U.S. 7th Fleet AOR spans 48 million square miles, from the International Date Line to the Western Indian Ocean.

The strike group will participate in Foal Eagle, an annual field-training exercise designed designed to enhance combat readiness of Republic of Korea and U.S. supporting forces through combined training. The exercise highlights the longstanding military partnership and enduring friendship between the United States and Republic of Korea.

The CSG is comprised of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, which includes USS Preble (DDG 88).

The embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 on board Ronald Regan includes Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 154, (VFA) 147, (VFA) 146; Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323; Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113; Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139; Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.

Ronald Reagan departed from its homeport in San Diego Feb. 2, for a training exercise and its deployment to the 7th Fleet and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Ronald Regan's last deployment to 7th Fleet was in 2009.

Plan Bridges Gaps in Homeland Responses

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2011 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has agreed to a plan that will allow for one commander to be in charge of both National Guard and reserve forces when they are called up to respond to domestic emergencies.

Gates, along with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the Council of Governors -- a group President Barack Obama formed in January 2010 to represent all of the states’ governors -- signed off on the agreement, known as the Joint Action Plan, during a March 1 Pentagon meeting, Defense Department officials said.

Paul N. Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, today called the agreement “a breakthrough” in the military’s ability to effectively respond to domestic emergencies, whether natural or manmade.

“This will be much more efficient, much more effective, and it will be a partnership that never existed before,” Stockton told American Forces Press Service.

The plan creates a dual-status commander for each state, approved by the president and governor, to have simultaneous authority over both National Guard and reserve forces called up to respond to a state emergency, Stockton said.

Under the Constitution, Guard forces must be under state control for domestic events, and reservists and any active-duty forces must remain in federal control. The dual-status commanders can operate in both the state and federal chains of command without legal changes, Stockton said. In fact, he added, dual-status commanders have been used before for domestic events that are planned months in advance, such as political party conventions.

State and federal officials realized through the response to Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in August 2005, as well as in other natural disasters, that better coordination is needed in emergencies, he said.

“During Katrina, leadership didn’t have an understanding of what was happening on the ground,” Stockton said. “We need a better common operating picture of where the units are, their level of readiness, their response capabilities.”

Commanders also need to know the local area, he said, such as roadway and building capacities.

“This is a whole new way to bring life-saving capabilities to bear,” Stockton said. “Those first 72 hours are precious for saving lives.”

The Joint Action Plan will provide uniformity to plans that vary greatly from state to state, he said, and all dual-status commanders are expected to be appointed and trained by early fall.

“That commander is the nexus, the coordinating person to ensure that forces work in collaboration,” he said.

A second aspect of the agreement calls for a legislative change to give the president the authority to call up reservists for domestic emergencies – a change Stockton said is needed to streamline the process. Currently, if federal forces are needed to augment the Guard, a governor must make the request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, part of the Homeland Security Department, then FEMA must seek the assistance through U.S. Northern Command, which oversees North America and will oversee dual-status commander training, Stockton said.

Dual-status commanders may be named from either the National Guard, reserves or active-duty forces.

Blue Ridge Sailors Visit Malaysia

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cale Hatch, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs

PORT KLANG, Malaysia (NNS) -- USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) arrived in Port Klang, Malaysia, March 7, for the ship's first port visit to the city since October 2009.

Port Kelang, located on the Strait of Malacca, is the leading port of Malaysia and the port of its capital, Kuala Lumpur.

While in Port Klang, Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet staff Sailors will have the opportunity to interact with local residents through community service projects at Juara Children's Home and PBS Skills Training.

The crew will also be able to experience the history, culture and sights of Malaysia, while taking part in more than 10 tours throughout the area.

"This is my first time visiting Kuala Lumpur," said Cryptologic Technician 2nd Class (Interpretive) James Huynh, an interpreter aboard Blue Ridge, "It's really beautiful. I'm going on a tour to an elephant sanctuary where you can see them in their habitat and even swim with them."

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the command ship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. CTF 76 is headquartered aboard White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

Future Aviators in Australia Appreciate F-16

By Air Force Master Sergeant Cohen A. Young
Defense Media Activity - Hawaii

GEELONG, Australia, March 8, 2011 – More than 30 future aviators gathered around an F-16 fighter jet based at Misawa Air Base, Japan, during the 2011 Australia International Air Show here March 5.

The students are members of the Australian Air League, a volunteer organization for young people interested in aviation.

“Our organization gives the children a better appreciation of how aviation affects Australia, said Michael Diamond, the organization’s 2nd officer and acting commander of its Sunbury Squadron.

Members of the Pacific Air Forces F-16 demonstration team gave the children a tour of the main U.S. performer at the bi-annual air show, which drew more than 180,000 people over six days. The public didn’t have the opportunity to reach out and touch the jets, as the young aviation enthusiasts did.

“This is an absolute buzz for the children today,” Diamond said. “The general public got to see the jets fly, but through your program, the children were able to get closer and speak with the people that handle it, and this will be something that they remember for an awful long time.”

The performance thrilled the young people with the thought of flying an F-16.

“The F-16 is just awesome, and the performance was really cool,” said 13-year old Emaon Connor, the acting leading cadet. The students met two of the pilots and many of the maintenance personnel who work on the F-16.

“It was wonderful having the kids with us and showing them what our whole mission as the Pacaf demo team is all about,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Timothy Connor, an egress systems craftsman. Connor showed the children all around the plane, introduced them to the other team members and answered many of their questions.

“The ability for the children to be able to come out here and put their hands on the aircraft allowed them to see the bigger picture of what we and the pilots do was pretty awesome,” Connor said.

Navy Marine Corps Relief Society Kicks Off Annual Fund Drive in Pearl Harbor

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

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) Pearl Harbor chapter kicked off its annual fund drive at Sharkey Theatre aboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, March 7.

Sailors designated as key personnel by their respective commands attended the event to receive supplies and training about the NMCRS fund drive, and learn more about their new roles.

NMCRS offers financial assistance to Sailors and Marines by providing them with budget counseling or by offering grants and interest-free loans.

"Last year we raised more than $493,000, and this year our goal is to eclipse the $500,000 mark," said Rear Adm. Dixon Smith, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific. "For our key volunteers, you do this because you are passionate about helping out our Sailors, and I thank you for that. This drive is about taking care of our own."

Paul Belanger, NMCRS Pearl Harbor director of, spoke about the importance and the goal of the fund drive.

"The money raised during this event goes to support our Sailors and Marines, active duty retirees and their families in time of need," Belanger said. "NMCRS is your organization and this is your fund drive."
Belanger also noted that NMCRS provides direct support to the Navy and Marine Corps, unlike many non-profit organizations.

"Out of all the organizations that conduct fund drives across the nation, the NMCRS fund drive is the only one where all of the money goes directly back to the service members," said Belanger. "Whatever money you put aside every month is money that is put in trust, so that if someday there is an emergency down the line, you have a fund to draw money from."

NMCRS Pearl Harbor's fund-drive will be held until to April 8.

The mission of NMCRS is to provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational and other assistance to members of the naval services of the United States, eligible family members and survivors when in need, and to receive and manage funds to administer these programs.

For more news from Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrh/.

Face of Defense: Injured Marine Regains His Stride

By Marine Corps Cpl. M.C. Nerl
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., March 8, 2011 – For Lance Cpl. James Grove, a member of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center’s Wounded Warrior Detachment here, conventional methods of rehabilitation don’t cut it.

Grove, who broke 14 bones in a 2009 motorcycle accident, said physical therapy sessions left him feeling as if he wasn’t getting anywhere, and he wanted to take his progress to the next level.

“When I was having feelings that normal physical therapy had hit a plateau,” the Sellersville, Pa., native said, “I decided I wanted to take a different avenue.”

He turned to an alternative offered through his command, competing in the inaugural Marine Corps trials for the Wounded Warrior Games.

Wounded, ill and injured Marines like Grove, along with other wounded from the U.S. and allied nations, gathered at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 17–27 for the trials, where they competed in multiple events to claim gold, silver and bronze medals.

“It’s far less conventional,” Grove explained. “We’ve played a lot of sports, and I’ve had a great experience.”

Grove, who competed in swimming, archery and wheelchair basketball, added that while he wasn’t always a basketball player, he was a fan of the other two sports before he was injured.

“I picked swimming and archery,” he said. “They were things I was interested in and did before I was injured. [I picked] basketball because of the team aspect. It sounded like it would be a lot of fun.”

Carla Decker, a volleyball coach at the trials, said working with athletes like Grove was an enriching experience.

“I was glad to get the opportunity to come here and meet these fantastic people,” she said. “I want to keep these athletes as my friends forever. I feel like I’ve made a thousand brothers while I’ve been here.”

Decker said working with the wounded, ill and injured has helped her understand a world that was previously unknown to her.

“Working with any of these brave men has given me a chance to understand who they are and the sacrifices they make for our country,” she said. “It’s really incredible to see young men like this who have already overcome so much in their lives. I’m honored to have been able to come here and work with them.”

Australian Defense Force Warrant Officer Class 2 Dennis Ramsay, a member of the allied team at the trials, testified from his own first-hand experience to the spirit of younger men like Grove.

“Well, having both of my legs amputated was incredibly tough,” Ramsay said. “They take great care of all of us. Seeing a lot of the young Yanks and others with something that would wreck someone psychologically is a bit overwhelming at first.

“I know, though, that all these kids are pretty tough,” he added. “I’ve met a lot of strong young men who have shown me a thing or two. It’s good to see, and everything really has been a great boost not just in confidence, but reassuring for our future as well.”

Mullen Urges Communities to Assist Returning Troops

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2011 – As the men and women who serve in today’s military leave active duty, communities around the country should tap their potential as employees for the benefit of the nation, the top U.S. military officer said yesterday.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed hundreds of participants at a meeting here of the National Association of Counties, which provides essential services to the United States’ 3,068 counties.

Mullen characterized those fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as “a generation wired to serve.”

“What I’m asking communities to do throughout the country is to recognize … that they are coming home, recognize that they will be able to deliver a huge upside potential, and in welcoming them back, create a bridge as they transition from this military experience to the experience back home,” the admiral said.

Mullen also praised the association for its initiatives in support of service members and their families. Its president, Glen Whitley, created a Veterans and Military Service Task Force to encourage association members to promote innovative programs, services and benefits.

“Counties should do what they can to meet the diverse needs of our veterans,” Whitley said in a recent announcement, “and work hard to help service members and families successfully transition after deployment.”

In April, the theme of National County Government Month will be “Serving Our Veterans, Armed Forces and their Families.”

Mullen described the decades-old transition process of service members from the Defense Department to the Veterans Affairs Department and back to their communities. Priorities for these returning service members are education, health care and employment, he said.

“I think once you tap it, once you get into creating opportunities for these young men and women, they will continue to serve for decades to come,” Mullen said.

“That’s not to say that these young men and women won’t bring challenges,” the chairman acknowledged, noting that tens of thousands who have been in combat bring back physical wounds and the challenge of post-traumatic stress.

“We’re going to have to work our way through meeting some of those mental health challenges,” he said, “and we can only do this together.”

Such efforts take “inspired local leadership,” Mullen said, and must be “customized to each community throughout the country, whether it’s a city, a town, whether it’s rural or urban.”

“It takes leaders who understand their own communities to create the kind of structure that would identify and work to create opportunities to tap this potential,” he added.

“DOD, VA and you,” Mullen told the audience, can make a difference for young men and women and their families who have made such a difference for the nation.

“I’m looking for local leadership in your counties willing to take this on,” he said, “tied to the initiative you’ve put in place.”