Military News

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Play Shares Emotions of Deployments, Reintegration

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

HAMPTON, Va., March 24, 2011 – The “F-bombs” fell fast and furiously yesterday at an otherwise perfectly proper gathering of military health care professionals here as they broke away from their lectures and academic exchanges to watch a documentary play about the challenges many of their patients struggle to overcome.

“ReEntry,” co-written by K.J. Sanchez and Emily Ackerman, is based on actual interviews with Marines and their loved ones, and it explores their raw, realistic and often tender experiences related to repeated combat deployments and redeployments. The playwrights spent hundreds of hours interviewing Marines returning from Afghanistan and Iraq as well as their families, then used their exact words in the play.

Navy Capt. Paul S. Hammer, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, introduced the play at the first Armed Forces Public Health Conference. Before the actors took their places on the stage, he warned the audience not to be surprised by the play’s “salty” and “irreverent” humor.

“This is dialogue from real people and real characters. It is not a composite,” he said. “It’s about the very real human reaction to the stressful experiences of war and how that impacts the ability to integrate, all told in their own words. It’s the use of the arts in telling the story and helping understand the experience.”

Two of the major characters in the play are based on Ackerman’s brothers who served with the Marine Corps in Iraq. One suffered from post-traumatic stress and even contemplated suicide after returning home, but was saved when his family intervened. The other was wounded in a roadside-bomb attack that killed his best friend and blinded another Marine.

Sanchez initially hired Joseph Harrell, a former Marine Corps drill instructor, as a military consultant to bring realism to the play. She ultimately signed him on to play the part of the commanding officer – a role Harrell said helped him realize that he, too, had long-undiagnosed post-traumatic stress that wasn’t related to combat.

“From researching the character I played, from reading books, meeting clinicians, talking to people, I found out a lot about myself,” he said. “And through the process, I started to find healing. I started to find answers, and I mapped out my entire life as a result of this play.”

Harrell said he saw “ReEntry” have that same healing effect on the family of a friend as it helped them finally understand changes in him after he returned home from combat.

“That’s why I am attached to this play and why I will always be attached to it -- because I know what it can do for people,” he said. “There is not a person on this planet that can tell me this does not have healing properties. So I am in it. I am in it all the way.”

“ReEntry” explores the many aspects of military service – the sacrifice, the pride, the unity its members feel:

-- A wounded Marine sees his combat wounds as a failure -- “the gunfight I lost” – and shares the pain of being determined unfit for service. “It stings,” he said. “No matter how much you are expecting it, it stings.”

-- A sister tells of sending care packages to her deployed brother and trying not to worry about him. She admits to saving his phone messages on the voice recorder. “It might be the last time I hear his voice,” she said.

-- A commander worries that he’s become impervious to death and developed a “stone mask” that hides what’s really inside.

-- A mother shares her need to telephone the family of the fallen Marine who died in her son’s arms and the one who was wounded in the attack.

-- A gunnery sergeant’s wife says, “I am not just married to a Marine. We are a Marine family.” And although she maintains a poker face to the world, she admits to going into the bathroom to cry in private without being discovered.

-- A Marine tells a comrade he thinks he has post-traumatic stress and assures him it’s OK to go “straight to see the wizard.”

Sanchez emphasized during a panel discussion following yesterday’s performance that she doesn’t intend “ReEntry” to speak for everyone’s experiences. But Hammer called the very real human experiences portrayed in the play a valuable tool to help military members deal with conflict they may feel, and for others to better understand them.

“‘ReEntry’ is an example of the creative use of performing arts to further our understanding of the challenges faced by, as well as the strength and camaraderie of, our combat warriors and their families,” he told the gathering.

The show made its military debut in May at the Navy and Marine Corps Combat Operational Stress Control Conference in San Diego, and is making the rounds at military bases and Veterans Affairs hospitals. The troupe presented it in November at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., where it received a standing ovation, and in February at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., where it was mandatory viewing for all drill instructors.

In September, “ReEntry” will go to Camp Lejeune, N.C., and eight family-day performances are on the schedule for reserve units.

“ReEntry” also played at civilian theaters in Red Bank, N.J., and Baltimore. It is scheduled to run in October at a civilian theater in Bethesda, Md., also home of the National Naval Medical Center, to be redesignated as the Walter Reed National Medical Center.

“It resonates with them,” Hammer said. “It’s telling the story, and allowing audiences to interact with the story.”

One Army civilian health care provider fought back tears as she thanked Sanchez following yesterday’s presentation for giving her new insights into the men and women she cares for every day.

“You opened my eyes and let me get inside their bodies,” she said. “Now I will have a better understanding and appreciation of how they feel.”

Navy Helo Squadrons Join Forces in Support of Operation Tomodachi

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

MISAWA, Japan (NNS) -- Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14 (HS-14) and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 51 (HSL-51) are continuing their humanitarian support for Operation Tomodachi from Naval Air Facility Misawa (NAFM), March 24.

The squadrons are providing additional rotary force to Navy ships off the eastern-Japanese coastline by transporting humanitarian aid. Their repositioning to NAFM has decreased their time in transit and increased their number of daily missions.

HS-14 and HSL-51 are performing their maintenance and operations from the same hangar bay at NAFM. While it is a unique environment for the squadrons, they say they are happy to be of service.

"It's great to be in Misawa," said Cmdr. Geoff Moore, commanding officer of HS-14 and a native of Middletown, Conn. "The base has been very supportive in receiving us. The base commanders for NAFM and Misawa Air base have been doing a superb job working hand-in-hand helping us get what we need to maintain our aircraft, and accommodating lodging for our people."

"Coming together here, our squadrons are combined on every level. The crews are briefing together, and departments are working in the same office space, we are seeing unparalleled cooperation," he added.

Based out of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, the squadrons' have a cooperative history providing support for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and Destroyer Squadron 15. Cmdr. Sil Perrella, commanding officer of HSL-51 and native of Fountain Valley Calif., said he and his crew have received tremendous support since their arrival to NAFM and look forward to their ongoing support of Operation Tomodachi.

"This has been a fantastic opportunity for us to assist in this mission," he said. "In Atsugi, our squadrons work in separate hangars, here that is not the case. We are all one team one fight, pulling together to get the job done and that has my crew excited. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Increasing their productivity and teamwork while at NAFM, Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman Gregory "Woody" Behrends, maintenance master chief for HSL-51, said the two squadrons working together has created a bond that will strengthen both sides efforts.

"Integrating the two squadrons had its hiccups at first, but we are molding like a unit now, brothers and sisters, working together for a common good. We know our mission and we are supporting to the best of our abilities, he said. "The support we have been receiving from the Japanese and the base here has been nothing short of outstanding."

For some crewmembers the proximity of working together had its challenges, but according to Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Christian Evangelista, assigned to HSL-51, overcoming those challenges was easy because of the task ahead of them.

"This is a new experience for some of the crewmembers, it is good to see everyone adjusting and making it work" said the Passaic N.J. native. "We all share one common goal, to get humanitarian relief to the Japanese people as fast and safely as we can.

Aviation Electrician's Mate Airman Apprentice Alvin Witt, assigned to HS-14, said he could relate to the needs of the Japanese people affected by the recent natural disaster.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the community of the Beaufort, Miss. native, leaving behind a path of destruction. Witt said working alongside HSL-51 to provide humanitarian aid is something he is proud to be apart of.

"This is my first command, and I feel really good about being here," he said. "I feel good to know that I am here helping better the situation the Japanese are going through. It is much worst than what I went through. For me to give back after something like this happening makes perfect sense."

America's Navy is committed to Operation Tomodachi and supporting our longtime ally. Humanitarian assistance and disaster response is a core competency of the maritime strategy.

DOD Issues Stop Work Order on the JSF F136 Extra Engine Program

The Department of Defense (DoD) today issued a stop work order in connection with the Joint Strike Fighter extra engine program.

The administration and the DoD strongly oppose the extra engine program, as reflected in the President’s fiscal 2012 budget proposal that was recently submitted to Congress, which does not include funding for the program.  In our view it is a waste of taxpayer money that can be used to fund higher Departmental priorities, and should be ended now.

The House of Representatives has recently expressed its own opposition to the extra engine in its passage of H.R. 1 including the adoption of the Rooney Amendment which removed all fiscal 2011 funding for this program.  In addition, funding for the extra engine was not authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2011, enacted in January.  In light of these recent events, Congressional prerogatives, and the administration’s view of the program, we have concluded that a stop work order is now the correct course.  The stop work order will remain in place pending final resolution of the program’s future, for a period not to exceed 90 days, unless extended by agreement of the government and the contractor.

Misawa Kennel Ready to Receive Voluntary Departure Pets

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jose Lopez, U.S. Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan Public Affairs

MISAWA, Japan (NNS) -- Misawa Air Base Pet Kennel is caring for pets, while families participate in the Department of Defense–authorized voluntary departure of Japan, beginning March 22.

The kennel workers will provide care services for pets of departing family members, and ensure that their beloved pets are safe and secure as they travel back to the U.S.

"Many pets will stay with the service member while the family has (voluntarily) departed," said Tanesha Wilcox, animal caretaker lead at the Misawa Pet Kennel. "But those service members have to work, so they will bring in their pets for us to look after. Many of them have been on long shifts since the earthquake and don't want to leave their pets alone."

The kennel has a capacity for 61 dogs and 18 cats, which was not enough to take care of Misawa family pets. Kennel personnel worked with the Post Exchange to acquire more kennels to keep the pets in.

"The flight could only take 100 pets, so we prepared to receive about 200 animals," said Meghan Skelton, a pet caretaker at the kennel. "We got new kennels, set up and we are prepared if [pets] do come in."

Animals that arrive at the kennel can expect good treatment. The kennel operators say the dogs get boarding, three daily walks and play time. They also get a bath and normally get a night walk.

Kennel workers say that in crisis situations like these, people have a tendency to leave their pets with friends. While they don't say it is a bad idea, they do add that pets will act abnormal when they are away from their family members. In some cases, the animals may feel the stress.

"While they are here, we make them comfortable and we provide food and water," added Wilcox. "If the pet experiences any problem, we will take them to a veterinarian if needed. They are completely safe here. Not that they are not safe with friends, but people do get busy."

Currently there are ten volunteers who assist the kennel operators with walking the dogs. The dogs, along with cats, also get play time. Kennel personnel are on site from to

"We also leave the radio on for them so it doesn't feel like they are alone," concluded Wilcox.

Face of Defense: Marine Finds Way to Help Tsunami Victims

By Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Cindy Fisher
Marine Corps Bases Japan

CAMP COURTNEY, Japan, March 24, 2011Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Yamile Brito is proving the truth of former President John F. Kennedy’s statement that “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

Brito, with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, is the driving force behind a food drive at the commissary here on the Japanese island of Okinawa for victims of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck mainland Japan on March 11.

Reading news reports of the devastation in mainland Japan affected her deeply, Brito said, and she knew she needed to help. One article she saw hit her particularly hard, she added, as it detailed the experience of a Japanese man who had been in the water for four days and saw his wife die in the tsunami.

“It made me feel horrible, terrible,” she said, admitting she’s come close to tears several times reading some of the articles and seeing the images of destruction. The news stories and photographs burned into her memory also created in her a strong desire to provide some kind of aid to those in need, she said.

“Half the platoon left that weekend, and I was really frustrated, because I wanted to go with them,” she said. “I kept thinking that there has to be something I can do.”

Brito told her fiance, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cameron Perry, also with Headquarters Battalion, that she was disappointed at being on Okinawa and unable to help. “He suggested I do a canned food drive,” said Brito, from New York City.

Perry, of Natchitoches, La., said he got the idea for a food drive based on what people in New Orleans needed following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While he wasn’t in Louisiana for the hurricane, he said, he has clear memories of the devastation and the shortfalls that ensued.

“I knew Katrina victims, and I knew what they needed when they were in shelters,” he said.

Brito said she had never coordinated a food drive or done anything like this before, but she jumped on the idea and brought in Perry and another friend, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Erin Hollingsworth, from New Virginia, Iowa, to help. By March 12, Brito had contacted the commissary for approval to place donation boxes at the store’s entrance. Michael E. Shannon, the store administrator, said he gave the go-ahead and by the next day, donation boxes were in place requesting canned food for mainland victims.

Shannon said he was surprised someone was willing to give time out of an already busy schedule to spearhead this effort, but that he admires Brito and the Marines helping her for what they are doing. Brito and Hollingsworth remind him of his daughter, who is about the same age, he added, and he found it heartening to see them start the effort to help others.

He also was amazed by the generosity of the people in Camp Courtney’s military community. “We were overwhelmed at the response of our customers,” he said.

More than 15 grocery carts of food and other items were donated by March 18, Shannon said. That’s more than $4,000 worth of goods, and the donations are still coming in, he added.

The response has been unbelievable, Brito said. In addition to canned food, people also have donated diapers, hygiene items, boxes of rice and other foods, she said. After the Kadena Air Base youth center announced March 15 it could no longer accept donations due to space issues, people also began donating blankets and other items, she added.

Brito and her assistants have been collecting the donations from the commissary and boxing them up for shipment to the mainland.

The operational tempo of Brito’s unit has increased, as Marines are being sent to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. And the canned food drive is consuming more of Brito’s off-duty hours. But all the extra work is worth it for the peace of mind it has given her, she said.

“I needed – for me – to be OK with not being there. I needed to do something,” Brito said.

She said she thinks others felt that way as well, as evidenced by the donations she has received. For some, she explained, “this is the only opportunity we have to make a difference. It could have been us but it wasn’t, and there are thousands of people that will really appreciate the help.”

Brito said she hopes to continue the food drive throughout March and then reassess to see if there is still a need before continuing the food drive in April.

One-of-a-kind Navy Ship Participates in US/Korean Exercise

By Edward Baxter, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs

ANMYEON, Korea (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command offshore petroleum distribution system ship MV Vice Adm. K.R. Wheeler (T-AG 5001) participated in a combined, joint military exercise off the coast of Anmyeon, Republic of Korea, March 23.

Combined Logistics Over the Shore 2011 demonstrated the U.S. Navy's ability to project power over the sea in coordination with host nation military forces.

Part of the annual Korea peninsula defense exercise Foal Eagle 2011, this year's CJLOTS was the first conducted in partnership with the Republic of Korea and the first conducted off the peninsula's west coast.

The one-day exercise included demonstrating portions of both the at-sea and ashore operations involved in pumping fuel from a tanker to shore, as well as the deployment of military cargo aboard barges onto the beach .

More than 200 U.S. Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines worked side-by-side with 26 civilian mariners aboard Wheeler, to simulate delivering fuel to military forces operating ashore from a tanker at sea - a vital capability for sustaining operations where port facilities are inadequate. While CJLOTS was conducted in a single day, exercise planners have been on the ground at Anmyeon for the past week making final preparations.

Wheeler, which is specially designed to serve as a pumping station capable of transferring fuel from a tanker at sea to shore through eight miles of flexible pipe stored on the ship's weather deck, trained with a South Korean fuel tanker for the first time.

Operating about 3.5 miles off the coast of Anmyeon, the 165-foot Fast Tempo, a powerful offshore supply vessel designed to support Wheeler in real-world operations, ran a tow line to the tankers' stern, securing the ships together the same way they would be during a real-world scenario.

While neither the float hose connecting Wheeler to the tanker, nor the flexible pipe connecting Wheeler to shore were deployed, hooking up with the South Korean tanker provided valuable training for the ship's civilian mariners working for a private company under contract to MSC.

"In real-world operations, we may work with a South Korean tanker, so this training validates that we are ready if tasked," said Wheeler's civilian Master Capt. Jon Skoglund.

Ashore, U.S. soldiers practiced setting up equipment used to receive, distribute and store the fuel that Wheeler would pump to shore. The key piece of equipment is a receiving device called a Beach Terminal Unit that would hook up to Wheeler's flexible pipe, and relays the fuel pumped ashore to inflatable bladders used to store large quantities of fuel. No fuel was pumped during this exercise.

Five Reserve Sailors from Bronx, N.Y.-based Expeditionary Port Unit 102, one of MSC's highly mobile units that set up port operations even under the most difficult situations, deployed to Anmyeon.

"Our mission is to ensure that Wheeler had everything it needed to complete the mission," said Lt. Sean Strawbridge, EPU 102.

Marines and Sailors from Task Force 76; U.S. Naval Forces, Korea; MSC Office Korea; and Expeditionary Strike Group 3 also participated. Personnel from the Korea-based U.S. Eighth Army established a living support element and set up the Beach Terminal Unit, while U.S. Air Force members provided weather information services.

Simultaneously, 270 South Korean army and navy personnel deployed cargo to the beach from commercial barges and military landing craft. A crane lifted palletized cargo onto the beach, while wheeled and tracked vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, rolled down the barge's ramp onto the beach.

MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, U.S. merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces.

USMAP Serving 50,000 Active Apprenticeships

By Ed Barker, Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- After 35 years of providing sea-service military members with journeyman-level certifications that document their skills through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) reached the milestone of 50,000 current active participants on March 18.

The USMAP team works closely with DOL to provide nationally-recognized apprenticeship programs that result in journeyman-level Certificates of Completion for members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. During their apprenticeship, service members document their military duties while working in their rating or military occupational specialties (MOS). Earning the DOL certificate costs the service member nothing and does not normally require working additional off-duty hours.

"We've made significant upgrades to the program, making it easier for service members to sign up, manage and complete the program," said Cmdr. Mitzi Ellis, Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) Detachment Saufley Field site director. "With the recent improvements, we've seen an increase in weekly program completions of 68 percent over the last two years and an increase in the interest level, bringing us up to 50,000 service members actively working toward their USMAP certificates."

One Sailor who has embraced the program is Chief Hull Technician (SW/AW) Jonathan Purvis, Executive Department leading chief, aboard USS Stout (DDG 55). Purvis currently holds five DOL certifications, ranging from Plumber to Welder.

"I started working on USMAP apprenticeships during my first enlistment, when I wasn't sure whether I was going to stay active duty, and I knew that it could help me get a job in the civilian sector," said Purvis. "But throughout my career, working on several apprenticeships has helped me focus on different skill areas and made me a better technician. That focus and knowledge has also helped me train my junior Sailors."

USMAP enables documentation of a Sailor's formalized and structured training. It combines on-the-job training (OJT) and related technical instruction. All the individual is required to do is regularly document the hours worked in the various skill areas either in a hard-copy log or electronically through the Web and have it verified by their supervisor. In addition, the service member submits a report every six months and a final report once their required OJT hours are complete.

"Each apprenticeship requires anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 hours of on-the-job work and training," said Marybeth Whitney, USMAP senior registrar. "Working a typical 40-hour week, many individuals can complete an apprenticeship within a year. There are 123 trades available, ranging from aircraft mechanic to x-ray equipment tester. More than 96 percent of Navy enlisted rates, 85 percent of Coast Guard enlisted rates, and 232 Marine Corps MOS' are eligible for these trades."

USMAP trades apply to virtually all members of the services, including those who have been serving for several years.

"Pre-registration credits can be awarded to those who have time-in-service and can even be applied toward college credits," said Tom Phillips, USMAP Certifications and Credentialing Program lead. "The maximum credit a service member could possibly receive is 50 percent of the required OJT. For example, an E-6 with ten years of service interested in an apprenticeship requiring 8,000-hours can receive a maximum of 4,000 credits toward their certificate, cutting their requirements for hours of logged OJT in half."

"It's about quantifying what you've accomplished," added Phillips. "Service members are already doing the work; it's just a matter of documenting what they do. Now they have their work 'on the record' and a completed apprenticeship shows significant professional development, and can look good to promotion boards. Certificates can also open doors once a service member decides to hang up the uniform."

Any active duty Sailor, Marine, or Coast Guardsman can become an apprentice as long as they have been designated in a rating, have sufficient time to complete the program while on active duty and possess a high school diploma or GED. The selected trade must be their primary job at their current command.

Ho-Chunk warrior, Guard member promoted

By Tech. Sgt. Sarah Ellis
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

In a ceremony complete with ceremonial Native American raiment and music, a Ho-Chunk Nation warrior was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Army National Guard Saturday (March 19) at Joint Force Headquarters in Madison.

David James Whitehorse Klauser of Madison, an assistant staff judge advocate assigned to Joint Force Headquarters and a state public defender in Janesville, was lauded for his 14 years of service to the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

"He is a good example of a Ho-Chunk warrior and officer in the Wisconsin Army National Guard," Robert Mann, veterans service officer for the Ho-Chunk Nation, said of Klauser. "He served his people, his country, and the Wisconsin National Guard proudly. He has earned the status of warrior ever since he signed up and went into the military."

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, agreed.

"It was not hard to realize his tremendous effort and dedication, what he has already accomplished, what he has done, what he has been, and the value he has provided to this organization and nation," Anderson said.

Klauser is one of 74 Wisconsin National Guard members of Native American or Alaskan native heritage. Mann related how, during a 2007 deployment to Iraq with the 332nd Rear Operations Center, Klauser raised the Ho-Chunk Nation flag over the headquarters building.

"That just shows the type of person he is," Mann said. "He is very proud of his heritage."