Military News

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Officials Generally Pleased with Base Closure Process

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2011 – Defense Department officials are generally pleased with the progress of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process as it moves toward its final months, an official involved in the effort said.

The 2005 BRAC law has over 200 recommendations affecting over 800 locations and some 125,000 people. It is one of the largest realignments in the department’s history, and its purpose was different from those that went before, said Peter Potochney, director of the Pentagon’s basing directorate.

Unlike earlier closures and realignments, the push in the 2005 process was for the department footprint to make more sense, Potochney said. “It was to use BRAC as a change agent,” he explained. “The 2005 [process] was more about restructuring than it was about trimming excess capacity.”

The 2005 law called for the department to look 20 years into the future and configure installations and capabilities to support that force.

“The biggest difference in this BRAC was we set up these joint groups that looked across service lines and were empowered to make recommendations,” he said. These recommendations received the same weight and attention that service recommendations received.

The questions became whether functions aligned correctly and how organizations should be based to encourage open communication, efficiencies and synergy. “It made for a much more complicated background,” Potochney said during a recent interview.

It was one thing, for example, to manage a program getting rid of excess capabilities or infrastructure, but something quite different to mix and match organizations from different services with the assorted cultures, requirements and methods of doing business.

The support functions in the military particularly lend themselves to the process. Defense research labs, military medical care, logistics and industrial facilities were among those consolidated. “A lab that looks at guns, for instance,” Potochney said. “Are they similar across the services or not? Would you need separate service labs, or not?”

All this has to be accomplished without violating the Title 10 authority the services maintain to “man, train and equip” the forces.

The fact that the nation is at war complicated implementation of the BRAC, if not the BRAC selection, Potochney said. “We were very careful to ensure we didn’t violate any warfighting equities,” he said.

The pace of these realignments is different also. The earlier realignments and closures “peaked out somewhere around year three,” Potochney said. “This round peaked closer to the sixth year, and that pushes us up against the deadline,” which is Sept. 15.

Functions are the operative word in the base realignment process, he said. “If an old organization had 10 people doing something -– say travel –- and at the new site there is consolidation and there may be some efficiencies there and you made need only eight people, so be it,” he said. “It’s the function being transferred, not just the people.”

Potochney said he thinks the process will meet its deadline. “A lot of [the realignments] are already done, a lot of them are finishing now, and then there is a handful -– five or six -– that are bumping up against the deadline,” he said.

A good example of the latter is the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, Md. “We think there is enough time to do it,” he said. “But if a tornado came through tomorrow and blew the building down, would we move medical care just because the BRAC recommendation says it? I don’t think we would jeopardize our medical care. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am reasonably sure we will make it. But we’re watching it because it is extremely complex.”

Joint basing is another outgrowth of the process. The Defense Department now has 12 joint bases that truly are mergers, with all the facilities and infrastructure personnel becoming parts of the new organization, Potochney said. The process does not say how the missions will be accomplished, only that they will be, he noted, and those involved must meld procedures from different services to make the process work. Officials expect these mergers will save money, he added, and are giving the organizations time to operate together and then will look for efficiencies.

BRAC is extraordinarily hard because it directly affects peoples’ lives, Potochney said. But looking at it broadly, “this BRAC will set us up to be ready for the 21st century,” he said.

“It sounds like a cliché, but this is really going to position us for years and years to come," he added. "Painful? Yes. But also necessary.”

Blue Angels Announce Changes to 2011 Show Schedule

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julia A. Casper, Blue Angels Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, or Blue Angels, announced two changes to their 2011 show schedule Mar. 10.

Two new show sites were announced as Lynchburg, Va., May 14-15; and Battle Creek, Mich., July 2-3.

Demonstration sites are selected in support of Department of Defense objectives and in the interest of the armed services with safety as the primary consideration.

Performances greatly assist in the recruiting and retention goals for the military services, enhance esprit de corps among uniformed men and women and demonstrate the professional skills and capabilities of the Naval services to the American public and U.S. allies.

For information on individual air shows, please go to the air show's official websites. For details on the Centennial of Naval Aviation please visit http://www.public.navy.mil/airfor/centennial/Pages/welcome.aspx.

For more news from Navy Blue Angels, visit www.navy.mil/local/blueangels/.

Ambassador Issues Message to Americans in Japan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2011 – U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos today issued a message to Americans living there to bring them up to date on the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation last week.

Here is the text of the ambassador’s message:

Today our hearts remain with our Japanese friends who, after suffering this devastating tragedy just four days ago, have to undertake recovery and reconstruction and address the ongoing nuclear emergency.

We understand that many of you are anxious and have questions in the shadow of the Fukushima emergency, since we are in the midst of a complex, constantly changing, and unpredictable situation. In this fluid situation, our commitment to our citizens is to accumulate accurate information and assess it sufficiently in order to make important judgments.

Since the first reports of trouble with the reactors, American nuclear experts have worked around the clock to analyze data, monitor developments, and provide clear assessments on the potential dangers. While at times we have had only limited access to information, I am personally committed to assuring that our experts have as much access and information as possible, and the necessary resources to understand the situation. I have personally been deeply engaged in these efforts.

After a careful analysis of data, radiation levels, and damage assessments of all units at Fukushima, our experts are in agreement with the response and measures taken by Japanese technicians, including their recommended 20 km radius for evacuation and additional shelter-in-place recommendations out to 30 km.

Let me also address reports of very low levels of radiation outside the evacuation area detected by U.S. and Japanese sensitive instrumentation. This bears very careful monitoring, which we are doing. If we assess that the radiation poses a threat to public health, we will share that information and provide relevant guidance immediately.

The United States will continue to work around the clock to provide precise and up-to-date information supported by expert analysis to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and to help Japan in its time of great need. U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance should send an e-mail to JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov with detailed information about their location and contact information, and monitor the U.S. Department of State website at travel.state.gov.

Naval Special Warfare Hosts Blood Drive

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) John Scorza, Naval Special Warfare Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Special Warfare Command (NSW) hosted the first of its quarterly Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) blood donor drive's in San Diego, Calif., March 15.

Sailors and civilians joined in the NSW donor effort and contributed more than 40 pints, which will benefit military members and their families around the world.

"We are a military blood donor center and our mission is to support the military," said Doreen Rekoski, NMCSD blood donor recruiter. "We do that in two ways. The first way is by sending the blood to our hospital, NMCSD, and the other way is by sending a weekly shipment of blood to the troops overseas for the forward deployed medical units."

Military blood donations are limited due to federal restrictions stating that military collections must be performed on military installations. Although anyone can donate, they must have base access to participate.

"Really, our primary donors are active duty or retired military," said Rekoski. "Anyone can donate, but it is a matter of being able to get on base which limits our exposure."

"Donating blood saves lives," said Rekoski. "There is no substitute for human blood and even though you don't know who you're going to help, you will help someone."

Operations Specialist 3rd Class April Reimers has given blood more than 10 times in her life and advocates the importance of donating.

"It saves lives. It's that simple," said Reimers. "People should think about what it would be like to be in a position of needing blood and not having anyone volunteer to give any."

"I've never donated before," said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class (EXW) Jeffrey Jones. "I've contemplated giving blood for many years, and I couldn't really say what made me do it this time, but I'm glad I did it."

Face of Defense: Captain Cares for Pets Left Behind

By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2011 – On Jan. 25, Egyptians began protesting against the government of then-President Hosni Mubarak. By Feb. 1, the U.S. State Department had ordered the departure of all nonemergency U.S. government personnel and their families from Egypt.

But not all "members" of the families departed. The four-legged ones stayed behind.

"A lot of people had pets that they really didn't have a good plan for being taken care of in the event of evacuation," said Army Capt. Eric Coulson, who works in office of military cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo as part of a team that manages nearly $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military. "And the vets and the kennels here were kind of overwhelmed."

Coulson's wife, Karen, left Egypt -- but he and the couple's two dogs, Molly and Sayeret, stayed behind. Coulson and a fellow soldier at the embassy, Army Maj. Alavora Roa, teamed up to take care of those pets that were left behind when their owners departed the country.

"We sort of organized an emergency kennel for all the people who didn't have a place to put their animals while they were being evacuated," Coulson said. "We sort of reached out to people we knew had animals."

In all, Coulson and Roa found themselves running an impromptu pet hotel for about 20 animals, scattered among the deserted apartments of their coworkers who had evacuated. The two checked in on their co-workers’ apartments and also stopped in to feed and walk the animals.

One co-worker, Coulson said, had a fairly large roof available on his apartment, and they kept several animals there.

"We consolidated them at the apartment of one of the other persons involved in this -- he has a large roof, and we put them on the roof with some shelter with large water bowls and large food bowls, and we took turns taking them out."

Coulson said the local Purina distributor in Cairo made a generous donation of supplies to keep the kennel operating.

"Most of the people who were leaving told us where to pick up dog food," he said. "The local Purina dealer did give us a couple hundred pounds of dog food, as well as cat litter and cat food. Between what people had and a generous donation from the Purina dealer here in Cairo, we've been able to take care of the animals at minimal expense."

Now, several of the pet owners have come back to Egypt, Coulson said, and some of the pets have been shipped back to their owners. Coulson's pet boarding days eventually will be a distant memory, but the events in Egypt will stay fresh for a while, he said. The speed at which events in Egypt unfolded was thrilling, he said.

"It went from probably about 10 miles an hour to 60 miles an hour in just a matter of days," he said. "It was absolutely interesting to watch -- to be in the middle of history."

The recent events weren't the first time Coulson has been struck by historical change in Egypt. He was just 13 when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated -- old enough to be able to gauge the impact and significance of what had happened.

"That was sort of one of my first big memory of things in the news -- of what we had as far as 'wall-to-wall coverage' back in 1981," he said. "I remember being riveted by the TV.

"The two transitions of power in Egyptian history that have taken place in my life are really sort of important memories to me," Coulson added.

Patrol Squadron 4 Relocates Assets to Misawa

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow, U.S. Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan Public Affairs

MISAWA, Japan (NNS) -- More than 70 crewmembers of Patrol Squadron 4, currently on deployment in Okinawa, Japan, arrived at Naval Air Facility Misawa (NAFM), March 16, to better assist with Japanese relief efforts.

The squadron repositioned their relief efforts in the wake of the recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami on Japan's eastern seaboard.

The Hawaii-based squadron initially provided its efforts from Kadena Air Base, but the transition to NAFM will increase the Squadron's time on site and reduce time in transit.

They will provide two aircraft and four combat aircrews rotating daily from NAFM, which will provide search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The repositioning, according to Cmdr. Kevin Long, Patrol Squadron 4 executive officer, could not have come soon enough.

"This is where we need to be," he said. "Being on site for longer periods of time will allow us to do a more thorough search. Transiting from Kadena to the devastated areas required a total of six hours en route...coming here will dramatically decrease that."

Long said he and his crew are prepared and ready for the missions ahead and are looking forward to cooperating with NAFM as they combine their resources to aid Japan's recovery efforts in any way possible.

"Our guys are ready on arrival," he added. "We are bringing a lot of support and are willing to provide assistance where needed."

Lt. Matty Welch, a pilot assigned to Patrol Squadron 4, flew on a search-and-rescue mission when the squadron was operating from Kadena Air Base. He said he is happy they are in Misawa because from what he saw, the increased time on site is needed in Misawa.

"It is hard to describe the destruction," he said. "Being here is going to be a huge benefit for us. We are looking forward to the missions we will conduct out of NAFM and helping with the relief efforts from this vantage point."

Misawa Service Members Tireless in Recovery Effort

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew M. Bradley, Naval Air Facility Misawa Public Affairs

OFUNATO, Japan (NNS) -- Service members from Misawa Air Base played a vital role in the recovery effort in Ofunato, Japan, March 14 after a devastating earthquake and tsunami ravaged the country's eastern coastline.

Airmen from the 35th Fighter Wing provided logistic support and transportation to the port town of Ofunato for search and rescue teams from Los Angeles County, Fairfax County, Va., and the United Kingdom.

After the teams arrived in Misawa, the base's Airmen immediately began offloading, palletizing and loading supplies and rescue equipment onto flatbed trucks. Twenty-three service members provided transport for the rescue crews and equipment to the port town that lies about 100 miles south of Misawa.

Air Force Senior Airman Alan Early, from the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said he was grateful for the opportunity to volunteer and help out.

"I wanted to take the opportunity to give back to people in need and further strengthen the friendship between Japan and America," said Early.

After arriving in Ofunato, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Mitchel said the damage he saw was surreal.

"I've been through typhoons before and seen devastation, but nothing on this level," said Mitchel. "We're here and to offer whatever assistance we can."

Mitchel added that the people of Japan seemed genuinely grateful for our assistance.

"When we left Misawa Air Base, people were lining the streets bowing at our convoy - some were even crying," said Mitchel.