Military News

Friday, March 18, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Saturday, March 19, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

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

This Day in Naval History - March 18

From the Navy News Service

1781 - Continental sloop ship Saratoga goes down will all hands in a sudden gale, three days after sailing from Cap Francais, Haiti.
1945 - Carriers begin a three-month Okinawa campaign by destroying aircraft on Kyushu, Japan.
1974 - The Navy is sent to sweep mines from the Suez Canal.

Returning Warrior Workshop Comes to Portland

By Lt. Cmdr. John Lewis, Commander, Navy Reserve Force Public Affairs

PORTLAND, Wash. (NNS) -- A two day transitional workshop was set up at the Doubletree Hotel Portland, welcoming 83 returning service members from overseas deployments, March 12-13.

The Returning Warrior Workshop (RWW) is a support program initiated by the Navy Reserve Force to assist Sailors and their family members with reintegration and reunion. Both Reservists and active duty members attended the event.

"What you've done is appreciated by your Navy and our country. You don't think of yourselves as heroes, I know you don't think of yourselves as heroes, but I want you to think about the world and what it would be like if you didn't do what you do, as the heroes that you are," said keynote speaker, Rear Adm. Mike Shatynski, vice commander, Naval Surface Forces,

Topics during the event included warrior transitions, telling your story, the warrior's spirituality, couples reconnecting, and combat and operational stress management. Attendees are given information about resources available to assist with their transition back from deployment. For those who wished to speak about issues in a private environment, confidential sessions with counselors were available.

"Fantastic, it was really, really good for integration back into the real world. Communicate, making sure we communicate that was the best part," said Marjorie Cooper, wife of Senior Chief Yeoman (AW/SW) Augustine Cooper, who both participated in the RWW.

The RWW is a weekend for the Navy to take care of military personnel who have been deployed in support of combat or combat support operations. Taking care of our people is one of the Chief of Navy Operation's top three priorities.

The RWW's have evolved over time because attendees are encouraged to provide feedback. "We are better at it, therefore we now offer them an even better quality workshop, we've changed some of the events and they get more out of it," said Cynthia Miller, Navy Region Northwest's warrior/family support program specialist.

RWW is held at different locations across the country throughout the year to welcome returning warriors and help them integrate back into civilian life. For information about upcoming RWW's in Navy Region Northwest contact Miller at (425) 304-4820 or at cynthia.d.miller@navy.mil.

For more news from Commander, Navy Reserve Force, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrf/.

Gates, Russian Counterparts to Discuss Defense Reform

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011 – During Robert M. Gates’ final trip to Russia as U.S. defense secretary, he’ll meet with Russian officials to discuss defense reforms under way in both nations, as well as global security and arms-control issues, the Pentagon’s senior spokesman said here today.

At a briefing for defense reporters here, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff S. Morrell said Gates’ upcoming visits to St. Petersburg and Moscow will not be driven solely by arms control or global security topics.

“This trip was borne out of the fact that both Secretary Gates and [Russian Federation Defense] Minister [Anatoly] Serdyukov, independently, were pursuing ambitious reform agendas within their ministries, within their departments,” Morrell said.

Gates invited Serdyukov to Washington last September to discuss their independent efforts to “tame these enormous bureaucracies and doing so at a time when they are under enormous fiscal pressure,” Morrell said.

After completing a productive series of meetings where the two defense chiefs addressed mutual 21st-century threats and talked about the need to reform, adjust and modernize their departments” Morrell said, Serdyukov invited Gates to Moscow to continue their discussions.

“The trip [to Russia] is important in terms of how big our militaries are and the roles we play in the world,” Morrell said.

“It’s important that we have transparency into what we’re focused on, what we’re working on, what we’re developing and how we’re managing,” he added, “so that we can meet our respective responsibilities regionally and globally.”

Gates’ meetings in Russia offer an opportunity to discuss pragmatic defense perspectives with his counterparts, a senior defense official said.

It’s hoped the talks lead to increased U.S.-Russian defense cooperation, the official said, so that the two nations can have a genuine partnership.

The trip, the official said, also is an opportunity to strengthen the defense relationship between the two countries in a way that reinforces progress made in U.S.-Russian relations since Vice President Joe Biden introduced the “reset” concept at Munich, Germany in 2008.

For the United States, the official added, the reset has created successes involving Afghanistan, strategic arms control, Iran and its nuclear challenge, and the bilateral defense relationship.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in April. The agreement reduces the deployed nuclear forces of both nations and provides mutual verification measures.

In September, Gates and Serdyukov agreed to establish a defense relations working group as one of 18 such groups under the Bilateral Presidential Commission that Obama and Medvedev set up at the July 2009 Moscow summit, the defense official said.

Working group topics, the official said, included nuclear energy and nuclear security, arms control and international security, foreign policy and fighting terrorism, drug trafficking and others.

“This will be the first meeting of the defense relations working group at the ministerial level since it was established,” the official explained.

Gates and the Russians will review progress made since September and discuss broader subjects in the bilateral defense relationship, the official added.

“These will include missile defense cooperation, relations with NATO, other topics in European security such as conventional arms control, and new START treaty follow-up issues,” the defense official said.

“I imagine,” the official added, “they will touch on regional issues of mutual interest including the Middle East but also the Korean peninsula, Afghanistan and issues on the Russia periphery such as Georgia.”

Gates is scheduled to give a speech to company-grade officers from the Kuznetsov Higher Naval Academy in St. Petersburg, the official said.

“The officers are the next generation of Russian military leaders,” the official continued, “and given the focus on defense reform in our dialog, it’s an important opportunity for the secretary to share his thinking on defense reform as part of our deepening pattern of cooperation between our two countries.”

The visit will include topics that have been traditional in the dialog between defense ministries, like arms control, military-to-military cooperation, defense technology cooperation and missile defense, the official added.

“But the dialog extends in new directions by getting into the different dimensions of Russian defense reform, which I think reflects a qualitative change that’s developing in the relationship as a whole,” the defense official said.

Serdyukov’s reforms agenda includes improving conditions for Russian military personnel and their families as Russia makes the transition to an all-volunteer force, the official added.

The American military model might not always be entirely applicable to the Russian case, the official said.

“But I think the Russians have welcomed this chance [for discussion],” the official said. “In this particular dimension of the relationship, it’s not an exaggeration to say unprecedented.”

The official said he expects the meeting between Gates and Medvedev to focus on major strategic issues.

“Missile defense is one area where I think we’ve seen Russian collaboration,” he said. “Others include Afghanistan and dealing with Iran, and I’m certain they will want to exchange perspectives on how to deal with the fast-moving developments in the Middle East.”

The United States is looking for more ways Russia can support efforts in Afghanistan and efforts of the Afghan government to become more capable of providing for its own security, the defense official said.

“Russia has been very important in facilitating transit for the northern distribution network by rail and through air transit, he added, “and we’ve been talking about ways that they can help raise the effectiveness of the future Afghan air force, one of the mainstays of which will be [Russian] Mi-17 helicopters.”

But for Gates the trip won’t be all business. His wife Becky will accompany him and they will take in some of the highlights of culture and history in St. Petersburg, Morrell said.

Russia is Gates’ area of interest, Morrell said, noting the secretary “is a Russian scholar, a Soviet history scholar and he has a master’s [degree] and a doctorate in Russian and Soviet studies.”

Earlier in his federal career before becoming the Pentagon’s chief, Gates had worked 27 years at the CIA, where he’d risen to serve as the agency’s director from 1991 to 1993.

“This is a secretary of defense whose previous career was almost entirely focused on dealing with the Soviet Union and the threat they posed,” Morrell said, “trying to glean as much intelligence as possible about their capabilities and intentions.”

USS Constitution Participates in Austin Navy Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald, USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Constitution will participate in Austin Navy Week in Austin, Texas, March 19-26.

Sailors will first perform a color guard ceremony at Rodeo Austin and at the Texas Stars hockey game.

They will provide naval history lessons at area middle schools and interact with children through community service projects with the Boys and Girls Club.

"Sending our Sailors to meet children in a variety of venues, such as schools or Boys and Girls Clubs, is one of the most important things we do," said Cmdr. Timothy Cooper, Constitution's 71st commanding officer. "Bringing Constitution's history to them is a very fulfilling experience for our Sailors."

They are also scheduled to give Navy ball caps to children at Dell Children's Medical Center and exchange culinary skills between Le Cordon Bleu Austin and Navy culinary specialists. Lastly, Sailors will cook and serve food to those in need at Caritas of Austin Soup Kitchen.

This is the second Navy Week event Constitution Sailors have participated in this year. They performed similar activities during Tampa Bay Navy Week, Jan. 22-29.

"Participating in Austin Navy Week will give the area's residents an opportunity to meet some of Constitution's Sailors," said Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW) Anthony Costa, who will lead Constitution's team of Sailors to Austin Navy Week. "This will allow them to learn the critical mission and broad-ranging capabilities of today's Navy and the history of Constitution and what life was like back during the age of sail."

The primary purpose of Navy Week is to increase Navy awareness by presenting the Navy to Americans who live in cities that normally do not have a significant naval presence. Austin Navy Week will showcase the mission, capabilities and achievements of the U.S. Navy and provide residents the opportunity to meet Sailors face to face.

Constitution is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston and is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat. The ship welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year.

Navy Names Littoral Combat Ships Milwaukee and Detroit

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the next two Freedom-class littoral combat ships (LCS) to be built in Wisconsin will be named the USS Milwaukee and the USS Detroit.

These two ships are part of a dual block buy of LCS class ships announced by Mabus in December 2010.  By procuring both versions of the LCS – Lockheed Martin’s semiplaning monohull and General Dynamic’s aluminum trimaran – the Navy can stabilize the LCS program and the industrial base with an award of 20 ships; increase ship procurement rate to support operational requirements; sustain competition through the program; and enhance foreign military sales opportunities.  Both designs meet the Navy’s LCS requirement.  However, the diversity provided by two designs provides operational flexibility.

Milwaukee and Detroit will be designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in the coastal waters.  A fast, agile surface combatant, the LCS provides the required war fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions close to the shore such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.

The Milwaukee and Detroit will be 378 feet in length, have a waterline beam of 57 feet, displace approximately 3,000 tons, and will make speed in excess of 40 knots.

Construction of Milwaukee and Detroit will be by a Lockheed Martin led industry team in Marinette, Wis.

The selection of Milwaukee, designated LCS 5, honors the city’s citizens and their continued support to our nation’s military.  Milwaukee has been a city of national pride since its official founding in 1846.  This makes the sixth ship to bear the city’s name.

The selection of Detroit, designated LCS 7, honors the citizens of the Motor City and their ongoing patriotic spirit and military support.  Detroit is a major port city on the Detroit River in the state of Michigan.  It was founded on July 24, 1701.  Detroit is the seventh ship to bear the city’s name.

Naval Special Warfare Command Makes a Wish Come True

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Dominique Lasco, Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Command teamed up with San Diego's Make-A-Wish Foundation March 16 to grant one child's wish of becoming a Navy SEAL for a day.

George Alvarado, a 15-year-old heart transplant patient from San Antonio, realized his dream of camouflage uniforms, high-speed boats, surf passage and the echo of automatic weapons as he spent an entire day enjoying the Navy SEAL experience.

"For the last two years he has been talking about being a Navy SEAL," said Amelia Alvarado, George Alvarado's mother. "This is all he talks about and all he watches on the television, and his goal in life is to be a part of this. This tour is an experience of a lifetime for him."

The day's events kicked off at the front gate of Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif., where a Humvee was stationed to retrieve Alvarado and transport him to NSW headquarters.

Commander, NSW, Rear Adm. Edward Winters greeted Alvarado as he arrived at NSW headquarters. Winters presented George with the uniform of the day - camouflage pants and blouse, boots and a Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL student helmet. Winters also gave Alvarado his mission orders to have fun and enjoy the experience.

Alvarado's buddy for the day was Chief Special Warfare Operator David Goggins, a SEAL who shares a unique bond with his new teenage friend.

"It was an honor to escort George around," said Goggins. "I know what he has gone through, as I've been through two heart surgeries myself. It felt good to show him around and give him an unforgettable day."

Alvarado's itinerary was packed with memorable events, as the doors to the world of maritime special operations were opened to him.

He enjoyed the opportunity to tour NSW training facilities, including up close and personal observations of weapons live fire and life saving techniques from the underwater observation deck of the combat training tank. He tested his mettle by participating in portions of the NSW obstacle course and joining a mixed crew of SEAL and Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL students as they rowed an inflatable boat through the San Diego Bay. Alvarado also had the rare opportunity to observe a regularly scheduled practice jump of the Navy Parachute Team and the pinnacle event of fulfilling his Navy SEAL wish - a ride on an 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat.

"My favorite part had to be the SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant Crewmember) boats," said Alvarado. "I felt like I might fall out, but it was so much fun!"

Alvarado's magical day concluded as Winters designated him as an "Honorary Frogman," an honor few civilians receive.

"It was an honor to host George at the Naval Special Warfare Command," said Winters. "His enthusiasm, positive attitude and 'can do' spirit are exactly what I expect of the SEALs today. He is a motivator to all of us, and it was a privilege to designate him an 'Honorary Frogman.' I'm proud to welcome George into the Naval Special Warfare community."

The "Wish Kids" are all beneficiaries of the Make-A-Wish Foundation's mission to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich their life with hope, strength and joy.

NATO Command Looks to Expand Partnerships

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011 – As U.S. Joint Forces Command prepares to disband within the next few months, the commander of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation -- historically one of Joint Forces Command’s closest partners -- is preparing to expand his collaboration to a broader range of U.S. military organizations.

“My impression is that with the disestablishment of JFCOM, the work between the U.S. defense institution and ACT will increase, as opposed to the past,” French Air Force Gen. Stephane Abrial, supreme allied commander for transformation, told reporters this week.

NATO established Allied Command Transformation in June 2003 to provide the conceptual framework for combined joint operations, and stood it up in Norfolk, Va., where it collocated with Joint Forces Command. Until 2009, the commander of Joint Forces Command also was the ACT commander.

That changed when Abrial succeeded Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis as NATO supreme allied commander transformation in June 2009. Abrial, former French Air Force chief of staff, became the first non-U.S. officer permanently assigned as one of NATO’s two supreme allied commanders.

The separation actually strengthened the two commands’ relationship, Abrial said, with both working to institutionalize it at all levels.

“The result, one year later, was the two commands had never worked that closely together,” he said.

Abrial said he expects to continue that level of collaboration with the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, which is expected to absorb the bulk of Joint Forces Command’s functions, and related DOD entities.

A “good portion” of Joint Forces Command activities, particularly those dealing with modeling and simulation, will remain in place in Norfolk and Suffolk, Va., Abrial said. The French general said he expects those involved with those activities would “continue working closely on a day-to-day basis with my capabilities development division.”

Meanwhile, with other Joint Forces Command functions to be distributed across the Defense Department, Abrial said ACT has started looking at “how we will re-plug into this much more distributed system.”

He emphasized, however, that “working in a distributed environment won’t be totally new” for ACT. It already has close working relationships with a variety of defense entities, he said, including U.S. Cyber Command and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, known as JIEDDO.

“We have many [such relationships],” Abrial said. “We will have more. It could be complicated, but not a difficulty.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced in August his recommendation to eliminate Joint Forces Command and transfer its essential functions to other organizations. President Barack Obama approved the recommendation in January, and Gates signed a memorandum Feb. 9 providing guidance and direction to execute the disestablishment.

Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Joint Forces Command, offered assurance that day that the disestablishment plan would preserve gains made by his organization and its relationship with ATC.

“We’ll ensure that we sustain the momentum and gains in jointness, while maintaining interaction with NATO, specifically Allied Command Transformation, and other multinational partners,” Odierno said.

Navy 7th Fleet Offers Salvage Support to Tsunami-Battered Japanese City

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

HACHINOHE, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet's salvage officer visited Japanese coast guard members and port authority officials in Hachinohe, Japan, March 18.

Lt. Cmdr. Derek Peterson met with the officials to discuss the salvage capabilities the U.S. Navy can provide in support of Operation Tomodachi.

Following a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the port of Hachinohe suffered severe damage from the subsequent massive tsunami.

Peterson is a subject-matter-expert in salvage harbor clearance and the coordinator of the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50). According to Peterson, the ship and its crew stand ready to assist in clearing out debris from the northern-Japanese harbor.

"We want to make our presence known to the Japanese and let them know that we are here to help," Peterson said. "We want to bring assets, capabilities, and work side-by-side with the Japanese on whatever they need."

Along with discussing Safeguard's capabilities, Peterson, members of the Japan coast guard, and city port authority officials looked over surveys and charts that displayed current conditions of the port. He also attended a meeting with city officials to gain a full understanding of city-wide recovery efforts.

"If given the opportunity, we are hoping to combine our resources and do whatever is needed to be done to help get the city back on its feet," Peterson said.

He said assisting the clean up and reopening of the port would benefit Japan by giving the country a key hub for delivery of humanitarian development assistance in this battered region.

"With this port reopened, humanitarian assistance possibilities from this port are limitless," he said.

After concluding the day's events, Peterson said he looks forward to the future possibility of working with the Japanese in their time of need.

"They are already doing an outstanding job with the equipment they have," he said. "If we have the opportunity to integrate into their system and provide support with our assets, it will only enhance relief productivity in the area and help get the job done."

Army Released February Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of February.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were eight potential suicides:  none have been confirmed as suicide, and eight remain under investigation.  For January 2011, the Army reported 15 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, five cases have been confirmed as suicide, and 10 cases remain under investigation.

During February 2011, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were eight potential suicides: one has been confirmed as a suicide, and seven remain under investigation.  For January 2011, among that same group, there were eight total suicides.  Of those, two were confirmed as suicides and six are pending determination of the manner of death.

 “Efforts to mitigate risk and improve the health of the force demand decisive engagement at every echelon.  The complexity of suicide demands the need for a coordinated effort by every member across the Army to reduce the negative outcomes of high-risk behavior, risk-related deaths and suicides,” said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director, Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Task Force.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.preventsuicide.army.mil .

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf .

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20 (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Information about Military OneSource is located at www.militaryonesource.com or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental U.S.  Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf/ .

The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at www.dcoe.health.mil .

The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is http://www.afsp.org/ , and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at http://www.sprc.org/index.asp .

The website for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is www.TAPS.org  and they can be reached at -1-800-959-TAPS (8277).

Sailors Offered Early Out; Reserve Affiliation

From Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Active duty and Full Time Support (FTS) Sailors who want to pursue Reserve options have a new opportunity to do so with the Early Career Transition Program (ECTP) announced March 17.

According to NAVADMIN 088/11, Sailors with at least two, but less than 16 years of service are now eligible to transfer into the Selected Reserves (SELRES) through the new program.

"ECTP was created to provide Sailors an early transition opportunity to continue their Naval service and pursue educational or personal goals," said Senior Chief Personnel Specialist (AW) Robert Ferrari, SELRES Enlisted Community Management technical advisor. "The program further allows us to match active component (AC) ratings with reserve component (RC) needs."

ECTP-eligible Sailors can transition into the SELRES on a date prior to their End of Active Obligated Service (EAOS) by submitting their requested date three to 15 months in advance. This differs from the Early Transition Program which allows Sailors to request an early separation up to 12 months prior to their scheduled EAOS. If approved, a Sailor's career counselor should contact the Career Transition Office (CTO) for transition assistance guidance.

"The CTO will assist Sailors throughout the transition process," said Cmdr. Dan Harris, CTO director, Navy Personnel Command. "We help them select a Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC), educate them on RC programs and benefits, complete any required RC documents and bonus paperwork, and more."

Upon transition, Sailors could be eligible for a host of benefits.

"ECTP Sailors will be eligible for all Reserve benefits and enlistment/affiliation bonuses," said Harris.

Benefits of Reserve affiliation can include:

• Mobilization deferment. Sailors who transition immediately into the SELRES qualify for a two-year deferment from individual mobilization.
• Affiliation bonus. Sailors could be eligible for an affiliation bonus, however, they will be required to repay any unearned portion of any current active component bonus or incentive.
• Continued exchange and commissary privileges.
• GI Bill benefits.

For more information, read the naval message at the NPC website www.npc.navy.mil. Eligible Reserve bonus ratings are listed in NAVADMIN 294/10.

Family Matters Blog: DOD Focuses on Families in Japan

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011 – Robert L. Gordon III is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. In this guest blog, Mr. Gordon writes about the Defense Department’s ongoing commitment to the well-being of military families in Japan.

“Supporting Our Military Families in Japan

Robert L. Gordon III
Military Community and Family Policy

I write to you today about the rapidly changing situation in Japan. From the Pentagon, the military community and family policy team and I are staying keenly aware of the fluid conditions there. From our schools and child care centers to our commissaries and exchanges, our focus is the well-being of military families.

We are taking proactive, deliberate action to stay well ahead of the dynamic and uncertain conditions in Japan, keeping your safety as our primary concern.

Providing families timely and meaningful information is always important, but it is monumentally so for our families living in the many cities and prefectures impacted by the tsunami. There are several places you can go for trusted information:

-- Military community and family policy’s Facebook and Twitter pages for instant family support updates;

-- Your command or installation’s social media pages for local announcements and guidance;

-- The Department of Defense Education Activity website for up-to-the-minute status of DOD schools and guidance for both students and parents;

-- Military OneSource’s Japan earthquake and tsunami page for information about the disaster, including resources for locating loved ones, radiation protection, making a donation and coping with fears following a traumatic event;

-- Defense.gov’s special report on Japan for official updates from the Defense Department; and

-- The American Red Cross website for information on relief operations in Japan.

Those still without power should consult their installation’s family assistance center, crisis response center or family support networks.

There is an unmistakable bond between military families. From a Marine Reserve family living hundreds of miles from the nearest installation in the Midwest, to an Army family experiencing Army life for the first time at Fort Hood, to Air Force and Navy families stationed in Japan, we are one community. While we all may not be in Japan, I know our hearts and thoughts all certainly are.

This is not only the time to support and sustain each other. It’s also an opportunity to share among ourselves important lessons we may have learned on how to help keep our families focused, maintain a sense of normalcy (especially for our children), and provide comfort to our own during times of challenge and crisis.

We’ve launched a discussion for you to share your words of comfort and advice -- if you have a “trick” or “tip” on how to keep your family strong during a crisis, please let other families know. My hope is that this discussion will serve to harness the support and goodwill of our community and move us forward. Our strength comes from our community -- each of us, all of us.

It is because of our resilience and our sense of community that we will overcome this most recent challenge. I never cease to be amazed at the unfailing love and support military families provide to one another. I look forward to your comments. Thank you all.”

Japan-based Military Families Remain Top Concern

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011 – Defense Department officials are taking “proactive, deliberate” steps to stay ahead of the changing conditions in Japan, while keeping the safety and well being of military families there always in mind, a DOD official said today.

“From the Pentagon, the military community and family policy team and I are staying keenly aware of the fluid conditions there,” Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Pentagon’s office of military community and family policy, wrote in a blog released today. “From our schools and child care centers to our commissaries and exchanges, our focus is the well-being of military families.

“While we all may not be in Japan,” Gordon added, “I know our hearts and thoughts all certainly are.”

Officials are committed to providing military families timely and meaningful information in every situation, Gordon noted.

However, he said, it “is monumentally [important] for our families living in the many [Japanese] cities and prefectures impacted by the tsunami.”

Gordon suggested service members and their families visit the following sources for up-to-date information:

-- Military community and family policy’s Facebook and Twitter pages for instant family-support updates;

-- Command and installations’ social media pages for local announcements and guidance;

-- The Department of Defense Education Activity website for up-to-the-minute status of DOD schools and guidance for both students and parents;

-- Military OneSource’s Japan earthquake and tsunami page for information about the disaster, including resources for locating loved ones, radiation protection, making a donation and coping with fears following a traumatic event;

-- Defense.gov’s special report on Japan for official updates from the Defense Department; and

-- The American Red Cross website for information on relief operations in Japan.

Service members and their families still without power should consult their installation’s family assistance center, crisis response center or family support networks, Gordon said.

As another avenue of support, the Defense Department has launched an online discussion so people can share their messages of comfort, or advice, to military families in Japan.

“My hope is that this discussion will serve to harness the support and goodwill of our community and move us forward,” Gordon wrote. “Our strength comes from our community -- each of us, all of us.

“This is not only the time to support and sustain each other,” he continued, “it’s also an opportunity to share among ourselves important lessons we may have learned on how to help keep our families focused, maintain a sense of normalcy -- especially for our children -- and provide comfort to our own during times of challenge and crisis.”

Through resilience and a sense of community, Gordon said he has no doubt that service members and their families will overcome this most-recent challenge.

“I never cease to be amazed at the unfailing love and support military families provide to one another,” he wrote.

USNS Comfort Deploys in Support of Continuing Promise

By Valerie A. Kremer
Bureau of Navy Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

BALTIMORE, March 18, 2011 – U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort departed its homeport here yesterday in support of the humanitarian civic assistance mission Continuing Promise 2011.

Continuing Promise is a five-month mission to nine countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean, where the U.S. Navy and its partnering nations will work hand in hand with host nations and a variety of governmental and nongovernmental agencies to train in civil-military operations.

"Humanitarian assistance is a key component in the Navy's maritime strategy," Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr., Navy surgeon general, said. "Our humanitarian assistance missions bring to others a sense of enrichment and hope that touches individuals, their families, their communities, their nations, and in doing so, benefits the global community."

More than 480 Navy medical personnel will work side by side with medical professionals from the nine host nations, five partner-nation militaries, and more than 30 NGOs to provide medical care to patients both ashore and aboard the Comfort.

Also deploying with Comfort are 71 civil-service mariners from Military Sealift Command who operate and navigate the ship, provide electricity and fresh water to the shipboard hospital, and when necessary, transport patients between ship and shore in small boats.

"My professional Merchant Marine officers and crew are excited to be part of Continuing Promise 2011," Capt. Randall Rockwood, USNS Comfort civilian master, said. "While Comfort's hospital is key to extending medical care and civil assistance to other nations, our role operating the ship is critical to getting the Navy professionals to their destinations."

During the mission, Comfort will visit selected ports in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Peru.

Continuing Promise will provide host-nation populations with medical and dental care including surgical services, public health training, engineering support, veterinary services, as well as provide partnering nations with an opportunity to exchange knowledge and information that is critical to building disaster relief preparedness and supporting maritime security in the region.

"The relationships built and sustained with our multinational partners during this mission will enhance our ability to work collectively in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in the future, as well as other collaborative security activities in the area," Navy Capt. David Weiss, USNS Comfort medical treatment facility commanding officer, said. "We are looking forward to fostering these relationships in the next five months."

This is the Comfort's second Continuing Promise mission and the fifth year that U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command have conducted the mission.

During Comfort's previous Continuing Promise missions in 2007 and 2009, medical personnel treated nearly 200,000 people in 14 countries.

Continuing Promise is a joint effort with Des Moines University, Johns Hopkins, Loving Hugs Inc., Project Hope, Samaritan's Feet, World Vets and others.

"Humanitarian assistance missions such as CP11 demonstrate the Navy's ability to truly be a global force for good while continuing to bolster our relationships with host nations and our NGO partners," Robinson said.

‘Investing in People is Key’ at Cyber Command

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2011 – U.S. Cyber Command is building its workforce, launching efforts with industry and working with international partners to fulfill an important mission, the command’s leader said here yesterday.

Cybercom commander Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander and James N. Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, discussed the command’s 2012 budget request and other issues during testimony before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee.

“People are the big thing” at Cybercom and “for our future investing in people is key,” Alexander told legislators.

Based at Fort Meade, Md., Cybercom is charged with providing connectivity and safeguarding DOD’s and allies’ worldwide information networks. The command reached full operational status on Oct. 31, 2010.

The cybersecurity budget request for 2011 is a little under” $3.2 billion and “a little over” $3.2 billion for 2012, Miller said.

Alexander said workforce costs comprise “the biggest portion” of Cybercom’s budget.

The next-biggest portion of Cybercom’s budget pie goes toward facilities and information technology infrastructure, the general added.

“That accounts for another 25 percent of the budget, and operations are the last part,” Alexander said.

Meanwhile, Cybercom is building capacity, he said, noting “the services are helping us do that.”

The general said the services are discussing requesting proficiency pay for military linguists working at Cybercom and those with other technical skills, although “right now that’s not an issue.”

“The other thing that we're looking at is how to collapse some of our military occupational specialties down into a few that allow us to look at the full spectrum [of cyber operations],” Alexander added. “I think we need to do that and the services have been wonderful in setting that up.”

A critical task for Cybercom, Miller said, “is to look hard at what we can do under existing authorities, including making better use of the Guard and Reserve.”

The type of people possessing the necessary skills for duty with Cybercom “will span a wider range than the standard profile for military service,” Miller said.

Outreach and pilot programs will help attract those with needed skills, Miller said, “so that they see what DOD can provide for their education and that they can make a contribution to national security as well.”

In January, Alexander said, the Navy Postgraduate School launched a technical master's degree course either in computer science or with majority of courses in cyber and cybersecurity-related disciplines.

“That's a step in the right direction,” the general said.

Innovative joint efforts with federal agencies, Internet service providers and the defense industry constitute another focus for Cybercom, Alexander told legislators.

On Oct. 13, 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced an agreement for their agencies to work together on cybersecurity issues to protect critical military and civilian information technology infrastructure.

The agreement included a formal mechanism for benefiting from the technical expertise of the National Security Agency, which is responsible for protecting national security systems, collecting related foreign intelligence, and enabling network warfare.

“The department does recognize that we're dependent on both our partners in government -- the dot-gov and our partners in industry -- to be able to conduct and succeed in military operations,” Miller said.

Two efforts underway to address such issues, Alexander said, include the Enduring Security Framework and the Defense Industrial Base pilot program. The Enduring Security Framework, he said, is a partnership between government with DHS, DOD, the Director of National Intelligence and industry to look at critical cybersecurity issues.

If the partnership can identify common problems, Alexander added, “it's been our experience that industry, in developing much of that equipment, will go solve them, free to the government. That is a huge step forward and we've made some tremendous jumps in that area.”

Under the Defense Industrial Base pilot program are two sets of activities, Miller said.

“One is a broad defense industrial-base pilot in which we are sharing information about potential threats and looking at how to do that more effectively,” he said. “It's been a two-way street and very effective. We're looking to grow that.”

In the second part, Cybercom is working with several defense industrial base companies and Internet service providers in a technology-sharing project that has not yet been launched, Miller said.

“It's something that I hope we're very close to initiating, he added.

Working with international partners is another key element in Cybercom’s strategy, Miller said.

Because the United States “fights in a coalition,” he said, the U.S. military realizes “the security of our information and our operations both depend on the security of our partners’ and allies’ networks.”

Significant focus has been placed on working with the militaries of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, Miller said.

“We have long-standing relationships with them, and on intelligence issues, and that's been a good foundation for what we do in cyber as well,” he added.

Another significant effort over the past year, Miller said, involved working with NATO and making cybersecurity a key thrust of the NATO Strategic Concept at the Lisbon Summit.

“The cybersecurity center that's been established has begun to operate,” he said, “but we have a lot more work to do there in NATO in terms of implementing that effort.”

The command also is beginning to have “useful conversations” on cybersecurity with South Korea and Japan, Miller said.

“We also need to have conversations about cyber and other strategic issues with Russia and China,” he added. “We've made some headway with respect to Russia in having the initial conversations on cybersecurity.”

Asked what grade, on a scale of “A” to “F,” Alexander would give the Defense Department for its ability to defend its networks, the admiral said he would give DOD a “C.”

“When you look [from] the problems we had on our networks a few years ago to where we are today, it's a huge improvement,” the general said.

“I'd like to say an ‘A,’ but I think it's going to take us some time to get to an ‘A,’” which Alexander described as representing an impenetrable network.

“But we have made it extremely difficult for adversaries to get in, and every day we improve that,” the general said.

Clinical Trials Seek to Improve Warriors’ Burn Care

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT DETRICK, Md., March 18, 2011 – New hope is on the horizon for wounded warriors suffering debilitating burns as the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine and its partners at leading medical research centers launch three promising clinical trials.

Burns are among the most painful and debilitating battlefield wounds and often turn deadly if infection sets in. In an effort to speed up the development of revolutionary new treatments for burns and other common battlefield injuries, the Defense Department launched AFIRM in 2008.

Just three years into the program, AFIRM is seeing big signs of success as it helps advance technologies that use laboratory-grown tissues and biosynthetically developed compounds to treat injuries and illnesses. The ultimate aim of regenerative medicine is to enable patients’ bodies to re-grow bones, skin and tissues -- even whole organs and limbs.

Ten clinical trials already are under way or about to start in five areas specific to wounded warrior care. Three focus on burn repair.

The idea, explained AFIRM Director Terry Irgens, is to push the envelope in exploring technologies that, while promising, are simply too expensive for the private sector to pursue alone.

With funding from the Army Medical Research and Material Command, as well as the Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs and other public and private entities, AFIRM is helping advance technologies over the gap referred to as the “valley of death.”

“It’s where the existing technology ends, and there is a gap and nobody has the funding to get it to the next step,” Irgens said.

Two research consortia, made up of some of the best and brightest minds from 31 universities, are partnering with the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to help bridge that gap.

The goal is to get an industry partner to step in and pick up where they leave off, Irgens said. “Once you get some good, promising data, that’s when the commercial companies will come forward,” he said.

One of the new clinical trials, now entering its second phase, involves spraying a patient’s own healthy cells onto the burned area.

Seven patients already are enrolled in the trial, with a quota of 106 to participate based on the Federal Drug Administration protocol, Irgens said. As many as a dozen hospitals will be involved in the trial, with the Army Institute for Surgical Research expected to join it this summer.

Dr. Smita Bhonsale, AFIRM’s deputy director for science and technology, explained how the spray treatment works. The patient is rolled into the operating room, where doctors harvest a postage-stamp-size piece of skin from an unburned part of the body. The biopsy is broken apart into single cells, which are then suspended in a gel-like solution so they can multiply and create new skin tissue. Within a matter of hours, the cells are sprayed onto the patient’s burns, covering an area up to 80 times the size of the original biopsy.

The procedure requires no skin grafts and, because the cells are grown from the patients’ own tissue, there’s no risk of rejection.

Another clinical trial, also entering its second phase, will use the patient’s own healthy skin cells and multiply them in a flask under laboratory conditions. But rather than spraying the new cells onto the patient, doctors will apply the new cells as sheets of skin.

Up to 14 patients are expected to participate in that clinical trial, to be conducted at the
Army Institute for Surgical Research.

Unlike the spray technology that’s effective only on more superficial burns, this process can be used to treat patients with more severe, third-degree burns, Bhonsale explained. It eliminates the need for extensive and repeated skin grafting, and because it uses the patient’s own skin cells, the body won’t reject the new cells.

While promising, the technology isn’t without its drawbacks. The new skin takes up to six weeks to grow -- requiring other temporary dressing to prevent infection and protein loss.

A third clinical trial, now entering its second phase, will use a biosynthetic skin substitute to treat deep, third-degree burns. Thirty patients are expected to participate at four proposed sites, including the Army Institute for Surgical Research.

The advantage of biosynthetic skin is that it can be developed in a laboratory setting and put into storage in a refrigerator until it’s needed, explained Army Lt. Col. Brian Moore, AFIRM’s deputy director.

“This is something we are very interested in because we can grow a lot of it and then put it on the shelf,” he said. “Then when someone gets burned, we can take that off the shelf and apply it.”

Because burn patients could receive this treatment immediately, they have less risk of infection and protein loss. And, unlike skin from cadavers, which typically is used as a temporary wound covering for burn patients, the biosynthetic skin contains substances that help the body better accept future skin grafts, Moore explained.

But there’s a down side to this treatment, too. Biosynthetic skin is a temporary fix, and at least for now, and must be removed later and replaced with living cells. Also, the new cells have no pigmentation or sweat glands, but Bhonsale said scientists already are at work on the next-generation technology to address the shortcoming.

Although all of the clinical trials are being conducted independently, Irgens said the synthetic skin, if it achieves FDA approval, could someday allow burn patients to begin healing until their own harvested cells are able to take over.

As the clinical trials go on, AFIRM is exploring a broad range of other products and technologies to better treat burn patients. One is a specially designed “skin gun” that sprays a solution of cells and water onto burn areas without injuring the cells.

Another new device, called the BioPrinter, looks like a typical ink-jet computer printer. But instead of different-colored inks, its cartridges are filled with skin cells grown from the patient’s own healthy cells. The printer sprays them onto the wound to promote a healthy recovery.

AFIRM also is working to develop better bandages to promote burn healing and burn treatments using molecular iodine, the spice curcumin found in Indian curries, and stem cells from amniotic fluid, placenta, bone marrow and fat.

Irgens emphasized that technologies being advanced by AFIRM all have to go through a long FDA approval process and won’t be delivered to the marketplace for at least three to five years. “FDA is very particular, and we want to make sure everything is safe,” he said. “That’s the first concern we all have. We do not want to harm any patients. We want to make them better.”

But once the approvals come and the technologies advance to the mainstream, Irgens said he believes the work started under the AFIRM program will have a far-reaching impact. “We feel this is very critical therapy. This is going to change the landscape, once this gets approved,” he said. “It undoubtedly is going to move the level of care up a notch.”

That will have a huge impact on wounded warriors suffering from burns, Moore said. “The big thrust behind this is trying to restore people back to normalcy,” he said. “You will never completely restore that functionality they had prior to the injury. But at least you will allow them to have some kind of normalcy and functioning in their day-to-day activities.”

The benefit will extend far beyond the military, Irgens said. “We are not developing anything military-unique,” he said. “We are developing technology that could support mankind -- both civilian and military.”

Flag Officer Announcements

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

Rear Adm. (lower half) Thomas F. Carney Jr., will be assigned as commander, Logistics Group, Western Pacific/commander, Task Force 73/commander, Navy Region Singapore.  Carney is currently serving as deputy and chief of staff for plans, policies, and requirements, N5/N8, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Capt. Michael S. White, who has been selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as assistant commander for career management, PERS-4, Navy Personnel Command, Millington, Tenn.  White is currently assigned as chief operating officer, N7, Naval Education and Training Command, Norfolk, Va.

Helping Japan Now Pacific Command's Top Priority

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2011U.S. forces in Japan are engaged in one of the biggest natural and manmade disasters of a lifetime, Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard said here tonight.

Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, spoke over the phone from Hawaii to the Pentagon press corps about what the U.S. military is doing to help the Japanese Self-Defense Force respond to the disaster caused by the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear emergency.

“At U.S. Pacific Command we’re all very saddened by the tremendous losses that the Japanese have experienced,” Willard said, adding that he has served twice in Japan during his Navy career.

In an effort Pacom is calling Operation Tomodachi -- the Japanese word for friendship -- “we are placing our very highest priority on our operations in support of our ally Japan,” the admiral said.

Willard’s command has Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army and Special Operations Command troops in Japan, Willard said, performing functions ranging from bringing food, water and other supplies to the more than 500,000 displaced citizens of northeast Honshu, Japan’s main island.

“We’re providing logistics support and in some cases direct support,” Willard said, noting that Gen. Ryoichi Oriki, the chief of staff of Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force and his troops are helping to mitigate situations near damaged nuclear power plants.

Willard said he and his wife will soon fly from Hawaii to Japan to “visit our forces and their families and engage our Japanese friends.”

“We’re confident that Japan will achieve a full recovery and we’ll do our utmost to ensure that happens,” he said.

Pacom has given Gen. Oriki “a long list of areas in which we believe we can help,” Willard said. “We’re also seeking additional ideas on unique technologies that we might bring in to help them with some of the most difficult parts of assessing the condition of the reactors and then responding to what they find.”

Willard said U.S. military forces have a multitude of capabilities that are being shared with the Japanese government and its military, and other organizations involved in the aid effort.

“We have tremendous logistics capabilities and we’re supplying relevant equipment to the Japanese as well as to U.S. government agencies as they come into support this effort,” he said.

Other U.S. capabilities, the admiral said, include radiological controls and teams in place to assist in everything from radiation monitoring to decontamination. Airborne systems are being flown on helicopters and airplanes to monitor radioactivity in the area.

“Where we encounter radiological effects we report those broadly within our own forces and to the Japanese,” Willard said.

Teams on the ground have monitoring equipment, he said, noting individuals are carrying dosimeters to monitor radioactivity and ships also can gauge such activity.

“We have assisted in bringing other systems into the country that are able to characterize some of the ground contamination should it occur,” the admiral said.

Those systems arrived into the region today, he said, and will fly on a regular basis to assist both the U.S. and Japanese governments in characterizing conditions around damaged nuclear facilities.

A nine-member team of military experts has arrived in Japan from U.S Northern Command to conduct a broad assessment of the situation throughout the disaster area, including the area around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Willard said.

The team, he said, also will determine “whether or not we should rationalize bringing a larger force forward. I have requested a force of about 450 radiological and consequence management experts to be available to us there on a prepare-to-deploy order.”

Because of rising levels of radiation from the Fukushima plant, U.S. citizens are not allowed within 50 miles of the facility, Willard said.

“While the 50-mile limit is a good idea for much of the humanitarian assistance and disaster response effort that’s currently ongoing,” he added, “when necessary we will conduct operations inside that radius when they are in support of the Japanese Defense Forces.”

Willard said U.S. forces are working alongside people in organizations representing nearly 100 other countries that also are providing aid and support to the stricken Japanese populace.

“There’s a great synergy by the international community in this effort and we’re proud to be a part of it,” he said.