Friday, March 11, 2011

SECDEF Announces Flag Officer Nominations

From Department of Defense Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced March 11 that the President has made the following nominations:

Navy Reserve Capt. Sandra E. Adams has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral (lower half). Adams is currently serving as senior advisor for assistant minister of defense for personnel and education. Adams is assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan/North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission-Afghanistan.

Navy Reserve Capt. Mark L. Leavitt has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral (lower half). Leavitt is currently serving as deputy reserve commander, Navy Region Mid-West, Great Lakes, Ill.

Navy Reserve Capt. Jon G. Matheson has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral Matheson is currently serving as chief of staff, Navy Repeal Implementation Task Force, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk, Va.

Navy Reserve Capt. Kerry M. Metz has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral (lower half). Metz is currently serving as commander, Naval Special Warfare Group Eleven, San Diego, Calif.

Navy Reserve Capt. John F. Weigold has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral (lower half). Weigold is currently serving as reserve special assistant to the commander, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany.

Wisconsin Challenge Academy cadets attend Champions gala

Wisconsin National Guard

The opportunity for a second chance in life has translated into a little bit more a trip to Washington D.C. to attend the National Guard Youth Foundation Champions Gala for four recent graduates of the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy. Denzel Parker of Milwaukee, Paul Becker of Glendale, Michael Schiffer of West Salem and Tyler Sabel of Fond du Lac were able to mingle with military leaders, members of Congress and celebrities at the March 1 event. They were invited as special guests by virtue of winning the National Guard Youth Foundation's YouTube video challenge. Their video was featured at the gala.

Two other cadets involved with the winning video Taylor Jean Maciosek of Stevens Point and Devan Farnsworth of Madison were unable to attend the gala due to commitments to AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps.

During the gala, the Wisconsin cadets were recognized for their achievement and the winning video was played during the dinner. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, presented Parker, Becker and Schiffer with $2,000 scholarships  part of the prize for winning the video contest. Maciosek and Farnsworth will also receive $2,000 scholarships, and the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy received a $5,000 scholarship. The video winners also received Cisco Flip cameras.

Parker, the military honor graduate for Class 25, enjoyed his first airplane flight and sat next to American Idol winner Kris Allen at the gala.

Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy graduates Tyler Sabel of Fond du Lac, Denzel Parker of Milwaukee, Paul Becker of Glendale and Michael Schiffer of West Salem in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 2. The cadets attended the National Guard Youth Foundation Champions Gala for their role in a winning video on the Challenge Academy. Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy photo Wisconsin Army National Guard photo 

"I never thought I would have a chance to travel to Washington D.C., see everything that I have seen and meet such amazing people," Parker said. "This whole trip was unbelievable."

Parker, Becker, Schiffer and Sabel spent three days touring Arlington Cemetery, Washingtons monuments and memorials, the National Archive and the Smithsonian. Cadets received a tour of the Capitol building, arranged by U.S. Sen. Herb Kohls office, and attended sessions in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

Celebrities in attendance included Allen, country singer Gretchen Wilson, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., and actress Karri Turner.

The gala also recognized the 100,000th Challenge Academy graduate, signifying the program's success.

"When you think of the National Guard, you don't think educator, you think warfighter," said Gail Dady, president of the National Guard Youth Foundation. "But when you think about it, [no one] is better than the National Guard to create such a successful program."

Gen. Craig R. McKinley, National Guard Bureau chief, said that the National Guard Youth Challenge Program allowed cadets to earn something they might not otherwise have had a future.

Sgt. Darron Salzer of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this report.

Note to editors and news directors: A no-cost alternative program for "at-risk" youth, the Wisconsin Challenge Academy is now accepting applications for its next class of cadets entering on July 21. Located at Fort McCoy, Wis., the Academy offers teens that are at risk of not graduating a chance to earn their High School Equivalency Diploma, learn essential job and life-coping skills and, most importantly, develop the strength of character to become responsible citizens. On-site tours, cadet interviews and photos can be arranged by calling Admissions Coordinator Mary DeWitt at (608) 269-4605.

Military Gears Up to Help Japan

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2011U.S. forces are swinging into action to assist Japan in the wake of a magnitude 8.9 earthquake that struck early this morning.

“We are assessing the situation and positioning forces so that they are ready to respond and provide disaster relief if directed,” said Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Japan has requested U.S. assistance through the State Department.

The USS Tortuga, in Sasebo, Japan, is preparing to load landing craft and to leave for the disaster areas as early as this evening.

The USS Essex, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, this morning. The ship is preparing to depart as early as this evening.

The USS Blue Ridge, in Singapore, is taking on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies and preparing to depart tomorrow morning.

The USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, at sea in the western Pacific on its way to Korea, can respond if directed.

“We are watching the situation closely and will adjust the track as required,” Hull-Ryder said.

Earthquake impacts on 7th Fleet, with headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan, include the following:

-- Ships in port in Yokosuka stationed linehandlers to adjust to water-level changes in Yokosuka harbor. No damage has been reported to any of the ships.

-- Ships in Guam have been directed to leave if possible, or to recall personnel and adjust lines during changes in sea level.

-- Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force headquarters in Misawa was briefly evacuated. It is without power and operating from a generator.

-- Amphibious Force headquarters in White Beach, Okinawa, moved its watch to higher ground at Kadena Air Base in preparation for a forecasted tsunami.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami was preceded by a series of large foreshocks over the past two days, beginning on March 9 with a 7.2 magnitude quake 25 miles from today’s earthquake, and continuing with another three earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.0 on the same day.

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Eva Beach, Hawaii, has issued a tsunami warning.

“A tsunami has been generated that could cause damage along coastlines of all islands in the state of Hawaii,” the warning says. “Action should be taken to protect lives and property.”
The zone that produced today’s earthquake has produced nine temblors of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973. The largest was a December 1994 magnitude 7.8 earthquake 160 miles north of today’s quake that killed three people and injured nearly 700.

President Barack Obama issued a statement this morning pledging any help Japan may need from the United States and announcing that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing for potential tsunami-response operations in the United States and its territories.

"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis,” the statement said. “The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial.

“The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy,” Obama added. “We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward, and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the U.S states and territories that could be affected."

Americans in affected areas who need to contact the State Department can do so by e-mail to or The State Department also is posting the latest travel information for the affected areas on the World Wide Web and via Twitter.

Tsunami Impact to U.S. Pacific Fleet Commands Minimal

From U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Sailors around the Pacific today were preparing for the tsunami to reach their homeports while at the same time joining a worldwide chorus in expressing their concern for those in Japan.

Outside of Japan, the only notable effect to the Navy was in Guam, where wave action caused two submarines to break their mooring lines.

Tug boats from Naval Base Guam responded quickly and kept the subs USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705) and USS Houston (SSN 713), under control while crews moored the subs safely to the pier. Another sub, USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), and USS Frank Cable (AS 40) remained safely moored there.

In Japan, there were no immediate reports of Navy casualties, while recall efforts were ongoing. Additionally, no significant damage to installations or ships was reported.

Ships in Pearl Harbor and San Diego remained in port. No damage was reported as the tsunami reached Hawaii shortly after local.

We continue to monitor and assess the situation and are positioning forces so they are ready to respond and provide disaster relief if directed by the Secretary of Defense.

For more information from Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit

Intelligence Chiefs Cite Greatest Security Threats

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2011 – Two high-level intelligence chiefs described their top concerns for U.S. national security during their testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, Defense Intelligence Agency director, and James R. Clapper Jr., National Intelligence director, cited dangers ranging from terrorism, cyber-threats, weapons of mass destruction, and the release of sensitive data by sources such as WikiLeaks.

Clapper told the committee that covering the scope of such threats couldn’t be presented in a brief manner, so he presented four categories of great concern to the intelligence community.

Terrorism, Clapper said, is the first and foremost threat.

“Counterterrorism is our top priority because [job No. 1] for the intelligence community is to keep Americans safe and the homeland secure,” he said.

The intelligence community has helped thwart many potentially devastating attacks, Clapper said, apprehending numerous “bad actors” throughout the world and “greatly” weakening much of al-Qaida's operations, training and propaganda.

Al-Qaida's resolve to recruit Americans and to spawn affiliate groups is concerning, Clapper said, most notably on the Arabian Peninsula.

“We also see disturbing instances of self-radicalization among our own citizens,” he added.

Homegrown terrorists might comprise a small portion of the global threat, Clapper said, but such activity can have a “disproportionate impact” because such terrorists understand the United States and have easier access to U.S. facilities.

Overseas counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere continue to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, Clapper said.

Also “we have seen and will continue to see success in governance, security and economic development that will erode the willingness of the Afghan people to support the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies,” he added.

Though U.S. combat operations are over in Iraq, terrorist bombings -– some al-Qaida engineered -- continue there, Clapper said.

“[That] means that our work to help solidify the security gains we've made thus far remains a high priority,” he said.

Clapper told the committee he’s also concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“The proliferation threat environment is a fluid, borderless arena that reflects the broader global reality of an increasingly free movement of people, goods and information,” he said. “While this environment is critical for peaceful scientific and economic advances, it allows the materials, technologies and know-how related to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons … and missile delivery systems, to be shared with ease and speed.”

Iran’s nuclear program poses a threat, Clapper said, as do North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Another challenge for the intelligence community “is that we are in an interconnected, interdependent world and instability can arise and spread quickly beyond borders,” Clapper said, citing the recent civil unrest that erupted in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other Middle East and North Africa countries.

Another threat to U.S. national security is foreign counterintelligence activity, Clapper said, where the United States faces a wide range of threats to its economic, political and military interests at home and abroad.

And, the unauthorized disclosures of classified documents through sources such as WikiLeaks also poses “substantial challenges” to national security, Clapper said.

“From an intelligence perspective, these disclosures have been very damaging,” he said, noting the intelligence community is working to better protect its information networks.

“We can and will respond to the problems of intrusions and leaks,” Clapper added, “but we must do so without degrading essential intelligence integration and information sharing.”

Burgess then addressed specific threats and challenges as viewed by defense intelligence, starting with trans-national terrorism.

“The [Defense Intelligence Agency] assesses that al-Qaida continues to adapt in response to our counterterrorism efforts,” Burgess said. “While core al-Qaida is forced to focus more on survivability, it remains resilient, continues attack planning, and provides operational guidance to regional affiliates.”

In Afghanistan, Burgess said, higher levels of violence could occur through the year, partly because of increased International Security Assistance Force presence and operations.

“ISAF has constrained insurgents in some areas,” he said. “The Taliban in the south have shown resilience and still influence much of the population … in the east, the Taliban and Haqqani network have suffered numerous tactical and leadership losses with no apparent degradation in their capacity to fight.”

In North Korea, Burgess said decision making could be critical as it relates to “the apparent leadership succession under way” and its “implications for additional deliberate provocations against the south. Miscalculation could lead to escalation.”

China seems intent on expanding the capabilities of its military, Burgess said, as its leaders apparently are “allocating resources to pursue broad-based military transformation.

“While remaining focused on Taiwan as a primary mission, China will, by 2020, [have laid] the foundation for a force able to accomplish broader and regional global objectives,” he said.

Yet, China’s People’s Liberation Army continues to face deficiencies in interservice cooperation and actual experience in joint exercises, Burgess said, adding because of the shortcomings, China's leaders “continue to stress asymmetric strategies to leverage its advantage while exploiting potential opponents' perceived vulnerabilities.”

Turning back to Iran, Burgess told the committee that while Iran probably would not launch a pre-emptive attack, in the event of hostilities it could try to block the Strait of Hormuz temporarily, threaten U.S. forces and regional allies with missiles, and employ terrorist surrogates worldwide.

Iran's space launch missile program, he noted, demonstrates progress toward technology that could eventually be used for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

USS Essex Arrives in Malaysia

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

SEPENGGAR, Malaysia (March 11, 2011) (NNS) -- USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived in Sepengar, Malaysia, for a port visit, March 11.

During the visit, Essex will host a reception on board for senior officials from the U.S. and Malaysia, including the U.S. ambassador to Malaysia; Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet and the Royal Malaysian Navy's Commander, Navy Region Two.

Sailors and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit will also join in a sporting event with their Royal Malaysian Navy counterparts, and will participate in a community service (COMSERV) project at a local refuge for victims of abuse, homeless locals and orphans.

"We've been invited to spend the morning with the residents of Bukit Harapan for a time of support, encouragement and fun," said Cmdr. James Johnson, Essex command chaplain. "Whether working together or playing, the goal of this, and every COMSERV, is to build friendship and partnership through the expression of sincerity, respect and love."

The 40 volunteers for the project will bring games and school supplies and get a chance to encourage the residents of the Bukit Harapan Therapeutic Community. There will also be cultural singing, dancing and reading activities.

"Every Sailor is an ambassador, which simply means that on liberty in a foreign port, you are, or may be, the only part of the United States that host nationals experience first hand," said Johnson.

Sailors and Marines will also have the opportunity to capture the essence of Malaysian culture through several tours in the nearby city of Kota Kinabalu, offered by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department.

Tour packages will include a Mount Kinabalu climbing expedition, white water rafting, and a trip to Kinabalu Park's hot springs. Many Sailors expressed their excitement about visiting Malaysia and everything it has to offer.

"This is my first time in Malaysia, and I want to go to the beach, sight see and take pictures for my grandpa and mom," said Damage Controlman Fireman Ashley Perez. "I'm from Florida, so I like to compare the beaches there to all the beaches that we see on deployment."

Matthew Olszyk, Essex afloat recreation specialist, said he hopes Sailors and Marines take the opportunity to experience Malaysia through MWR.

"Kota Kinabalu is a great liberty port," Olszyk said. "Not many Sailors get to see this area of the world, and it offers opportunities to climb Malaysia's highest peak," he said. "Personnel can also enjoy the world famous cuisine in the fastest-growing city in Malaysia."

After leaving Malaysia, the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) will continue its patrol in the Western Pacific. 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

Statement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

(Below remarks were made to reporters at approximately outside the airport terminal in Manama, Bahrain.)

 “I’ve been kept informed all day long about the tsunami in Japan, the earthquake and tsunami.  As best we can tell, all of our people are OK, our ships and military facilities are all in pretty good shape.  We obviously have huge sympathy for the people of Japan and we are prepared to help them in any way we possibly can.  It’s obviously a very sophisticated country, but this is a huge disaster and we will do all, anything we are asked to do to help out.”

Abraham Lincoln Arrives at Pearl Harbor

By Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a scheduled port visit, March 10.

Lincoln is currently en route to her homeport of Everett, Wash., following a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and U.S. Central Command areas of responsibility supporting operations in 7th and 5th Fleets.

Lincoln serves as the flagship of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which worked alongside coalition partners in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

During the deployment, Abraham Lincoln CSG conducted exercises with coalition countries and other nations, including France, Bahrain, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Oman; made port visits and conducted community relations and community service projects in Malaysia, Bahrain, UAE, Singapore, Saipan, Philippines, Seychelles, Japan, Israel, Thailand, Australia, Oman, Maldives, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.

The carrier strike group also hosted U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and more than 30 international dignitaries and military officials.

The strike group and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 successfully flew more than 8,300 sorties and completed more than 23,500 flying hours, of which, more than 3,600 sorties and almost 11,000 hours were flown in support of U.S. and coalition ground forces.

Abraham Lincoln CSG played a key part of supporting the Navy's Maritime Strategy, which calls for credible combat power to be continuously postured to protect America's vital interests, assuring friends and allies of the United States' continued commitment to regional security and to deter and dissuade potential adversaries.

Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is comprised of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, Carrier Air Wing 2, flagship Abraham Lincoln, guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), and guided-missile destroyers USS Momsen (DDG 92), USS Sterett (DDG 104), USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Shoup (DDG 86).