Military News

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Sunday, March 27, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appear on CBS Face the Nation and NBC Meet the Press at .

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

Navy Names Littoral Combat Ships Jackson and Montgomery

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

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.

The selection of Jackson, designated LCS 6, honors the great state capitol Jackson, Miss.  This is the first ship to bear the city’s name.

The selection of Montgomery, the capitol of Alabama, designated LCS 8, honors Montgomery, Ala.  This is the second ship to bear the city’s name.

Jackson and Montgomery 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.

Jackson and Montgomery will be 419 feet in length, have a waterline beam of 103 feet, displace approximately 3,000 tons, and will make speed in excess of 40 knots.

Construction of Jackson and Montgomery will be by Austal Shipbuilding in Mobile, Ala.

RadCon Team Ensures Safety at Misawa

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

MISAWA, Japan (NNS) -- The U.S Navy's Bioenvironmental Engineering Office began operations at Misawa Air Base Japan March 20, performing checks on all aircraft arriving to participate in humanitarian operations in support of Operation Tomodachi.

According to the Radiation Contamination (Team) Leading Chief Petty Officer, Chief Electronics Technician Michael Sanguinet, there have been no significant hazardous radiation levels on crewmembers or aircraft, but the post sortie assessments and wash down mission is necessary and a continuing success.

"The efforts by this office have been incredible," said the Honolulu native. "We are doing exactly what we need to do in order to meet the mission and support the humanitarian effort. I could not be prouder of the team here.

"It has been great working with our Air Force counterparts, they have been gracious hosts. We come from the same background with the same mission - to provide safety for the environment and people," he added.

With the arrival of naval personnel, the bioenvironmental engineering office has the increased capability to conduct more inspections. Regarding aircraft, the office is providing three types of decontamination.

One of the tests performed is spot decontamination. During the test, technicians use a cloth to wipe away any areas detected for abnormal levels of radiation. The contents are then controlled in a plastic bag and tested again to ensure safety standards.

Another decontamination effort is a coldwater rinse of aircraft in a designated location on the airstrip. This facilitates the removal of any dust or contamination that an aircraft may collect in flight.

The water from this rinsing is ultimately collected in large storage bladders constructed by Air Force engineers, and is sampled to ensure it is safe or needs to be treated.

The final service provided by the office is a wash with hot water and soap inside of a hangar bay. It is during this test that levels of decontamination to aircraft are at their lowest.

Each test is conducted according to the field team's findings on the aircraft. While every aircraft may not require each test, the coldwater rinse is applied to all helicopters that return to the base following their missions in support of Operation Tomodachi.

Sanguinet said the tests are important to ensure the environment and people operating around the aircraft are safe.

"The security of maintenance personnel is a top priority for us," he said. "They are the ones who are going to be the most hands on with the aircraft, climbing on and inside of the aircraft, providing essential maintenance. It is important for us to continue to provide these tests to ensure their safety along with the pilots and the aircrew."

Supporting the bioenvironmental engineering office is essential to continuing humanitarian efforts in support of Operation Tomadachi, said Machinist's Mate 1st Class Rich Klee, an Alden N.Y. native assigned to Naval Shipyard, Norfolk.

"We are here for the entire base and to support the humanitarian effort. As long as missions are able to continue and supplies are going to the people in Japan that need them, at the end of the day that is what really matters."

For more news from Naval Air Facility Misawa, visit https://www.cnic.navy.mil/misawa/index.htm or check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/nafmisawa.

NHB provides Consults and Care for Operation Pacific Partnership

By Douglas H Stutz, NHB PAO

SEATTLE, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) and other Navy assets remained ready to support Operation Pacific Passage and welcome returning family members from Japan at Seattle Tacoma (SEATAC) International Airport March 25.

To date, more than 2,600 DoD active duty service members, civilians, contractor and family members, along with pets, have arrived at the U.S. Army-led Joint Reception Coordination Center (JRCC) from Yokota Air Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Naval Air Facility Misawa.

Medical personnel from NHB, as well as the naval branch health clinics at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Naval Base Kitsap Bangor and Naval Station Everett; and Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC), have manned the medical station with around the clock preventive care for all returnees until passengers are checked in.

"I know that if I got on a plane to return back home, with children, the family pet, and only what we could carry, if there was no one there to help I would be lost," said Cmdr. Pat Taylor, NHB's Family Practice assistant department head, who was on hand to provide patient triage needs March 25. "We had a bunch of the returning passengers say that it was so nice to have people help them."

At SEATAC, all passengers are walked through an assembly-line screening process which includes checking their orders or providing appropriate paperwork as needed, assisting with transportation and relocation details, child care services, housing needs, finance concerns, and medical health-care.

"We did some triage work. Other volunteers or service members manning the JRCC would come and tell us if someone was feeling sick," Taylor said. "We would immediately determine what they needed and handled it appropriately."

Most of the incoming passenger needs have been simple primary care services such as upper respiratory infections and gastroenteritis, which were readily handled with over the counter (OTC) medications.

A few also had procedures scheduled or had chronic diseases that needed follow on care that were handled.
NHB's Information Management Department quickly established a secure network connection using the existing wireless capability at SEATAC to establish access to the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AFHLTA), the military's electronic health record management system, to respond to queries on any current medications, current diagnosis, recent or planned procedures needs.

"Having the flexibility to set up secure computer access anywhere for ALTHA access is a huge asset for us and everyone needing our help," said Pat Flaherty, NHB IMD department head. "We can immediately document, look up a patient's history, refill prescriptions, and even provide consults right there at the airport directly for other military treatment facilities."

NHB's staff coordinated care for passengers at Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, Naval Hospital Lemoore, Madigan Army Medical Center and their own facility.

"It might seem like just a little service to some, but for those returning passengers who are our patients, by being able to coordinate their care for them, that means they don't have to figure it out on their own. They certainly have enough to do. It made us feel good that we were there to help them out."

"I had the pleasure and honor to witness the heartwarming and compassionate assistance rendered," said NHB Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Brouker. "It is a beautiful thing to see how we take care of one another when a helping hand is needed. Many NH Bremerton staff are helping in this effort...directly on the ground at SEATAC and indirectly while here at the command. The entire command's – all hands - ability to juggle so many tasks and do them all extremely well is inspiring."

Along with evaluating and providing basic care and medical advice to 15 returnees, the medical professionals also backed up the Port of Seattle and SEATAC Emergency Medical Technicians and Fire Rescue team to evaluate and treat several patients at various locations throughout the airport.

"I was proud to be a part of the coordinated military, civilian and volunteer efforts that ensured that the transition of our service members' families was made as easy as possible," said Cmdr. Tony Battaglia, the provider who headed up NBHC Everett's medical support team. "Even with an event of this magnitude, the little things can make a difference, and we were frequently told we were doing that very thing. Medical care was only a small part of what we did, and with every encounter you could see some of the stress leave the family members."

"It was our pleasure to support the operation," said NBHC Everett officer in charge Cmdr. Doug Stephens, "We quickly staffed the medical areas down at SEATAC when we were called. For many of us, it was on a personal level as well. A lot of the staff here has served on tours in Japan and still maintain friendships there. We consider Japan part of the family so to help came naturally. From a medical support standpoint, the operation could hardly be improved upon."

Mullen Welcomes Medal of Honor Heroes to Pentagon

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2011 – Navy Adm. Mike Mullen joined service leaders today in honoring those he called America’s “bravest of the brave” in a Pentagon ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.

Thirty of the 85 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, along with their families, joined the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior service leaders in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, where their names are engraved on wall hangings among the 3,454 recipients. Today’s military leaders thanked the veterans for their service -- most rendered decades ago -- while an Army band played military marches, “America the Beautiful” and other patriotic songs before the ceremony.

“For those of us who serve, and have had the opportunity to meet many of you, we marvel at your service, marvel at your dedication, and marvel at your caring,” said Mullen, who stood nearby U.S. and service-branch flags and oversized replicas of the Navy, Army and Air Force versions of the medal.

The Medal of Honor recipients serve as mentors to the nation’s service members and are a bridge between the military and civilian communities, Mullen said. “Your help in connecting us to the American people is a very important endeavor,” he said.

Mullen called the characteristics that embody the medal recipients –- honor, sacrifice, and service –- “iconic and quintessentially American.” President Abraham Lincoln sought and received an act of Congress to create the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, Mullen said, noting the medal came from “one of the darkest chapters in American history, and from the man credited with saving” the United States.

The medal is “bestowed on the bravest of the brave for the most selfless and noble acts ever witnessed on the battlefield,” Mullen said. It is the most democratic of awards, he added, having no regard for rank, race or class of recipients. More than half of its recipients did not survive the battle for which it was earned, he said.

“These heroes –- and I do not use that word lightly -– have demonstrated how just one American can not only make a difference, but can often make history,” Mullen said.

“We give thanks that here, today, we live in a country where brave young Americans are still willing to give their all in defense of our nation,” the chairman said. He noted that the 10 years that today’s military has been at war is the longest period of war in American history.

Leo K. Thorsness, a retired Air Force colonel and president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society received the coveted medal for his actions in Vietnam. The 85 living recipients of the medal range in age from 26 to 90, he said, and they have the “common thread of passionate love of country.”

“We wear this for those who can’t,” Thorsness said, referring to the medals hanging by a light blue sash around the necks of the recipients. “Many more are deserving and didn’t receive it, either because they slipped through the cracks or there were no eyewitnesses” to their valor, he said.

Today’s ceremony marked a personal anniversary for one medal recipient. March 31 will mark 40 years since Brian M. Thacker of Wheaton, Md., was pinned down on a mountain ridge in Vietnam’s Kontum province, where he made a strategic decision to try to fend off his North Vietnamese attackers alone rather than risk the lives of all the men in his unit.

Thacker was a 25-year-old Army first lieutenant who had extended his time in college ROTC in the hopes of avoiding the draft, he recalled today. But while fulfilling his military commitment in September 1970, he was sent to Vietnam, where “from the American point of view, we were turning the war over” to the South Vietnamese.

On March 31, 1971, Thacker was the team leader of an artillery battery on a mountaintop observation fire base collocated with South Vietnamese units when they were overrun by a much larger contingent of North Vietnamese soldiers. The enemy used rockets, grenades, flamethrowers and automatic weapons, while Thacker’s group had just one machine gun. Three of his five men were killed in the first 15 minutes.

Thacker said he had known for some time he didn’t want to make a career of the military, but that did not hold him back in service or combat. “If I got any criticism, it was that I couldn’t be reined in,” he said.

It was with that focus and determination that Thacker encouraged his troops through hours of close combat while he directed airstrikes from an exposed position. By late afternoon, Thacker determined his unit would have to withdraw. He stayed behind -- alone, and with only an M-16 rifle -- to direct airstrikes on his own position to suppress the enemy while his unit climbed the steep terrain to a level where helicopters could reach them.

Wounded and unable to catch up to his men, Thacker made his way down the mountain and hid in thick vegetation, eluding the enemy for eight days until he was rescued.

Even after 40 years, Thacker said, he still thinks daily about the men who served with him –- and died –- on that mountaintop.

“I get to wake up to a new sunrise every day because of their sacrifices,” he said.

Chicago Bulls Host New Recruit Division

By Lt. Cesar Mantilla, Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs

CHICAGO, Ill. (NNS) -- Future Sailors from Navy Recruiting District (NRD) Chicago got a once in a lifetime experience when they took their oath of enlistment on the United Center court, before the National Basketball Association (NBA) Chicago Bulls played the Washington Wizards March 17.

The 86 future Sailors proceeded onto the court before tip-off, arranged themselves into a formation and listened to brief remarks from Cmdr. Russell Delaney, commanding officer of NRD Chicago, before being sworn in by Capt. Steve Bethke, commanding officer of Recruit Training Command (RTC).

Delaney spoke about the quality of the character found in each new recruit.

"They are among the elite one-third of people in this age group who can even qualify for Navy service," Delaney said. "They stayed in school, avoided drugs, remained in good physical shape and respected the law."

After Delaney's remarks, Bethke administered the oath of enlistment. The fans rose to their feet.

Seaman Recruit Mark Szczuka, 27, of Florissant, Mo., was one of the recruits sworn in. He said was overwhelmed by it all.

"It took a lot to restrain myself and hold back tears at times, especially with my chain of command there and roughly 20,000 people, almost all of whom were on their feet," Szczuka said. "There's nothing like it."

Chief Machinist's Mate (SW) Othoniel Calixtomontanez, Electrician's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Smith Predelus and Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class (AW) Rashay Stokes, Recruit Division Commanders (RDCs) at RTC, were on hand to train the new division and participate in the ceremony. They received the division at the Chicago Military Entrance Processing Station that afternoon and took them to an off-site location to train and mentor them.

"Pretty much, they told us how to compose ourselves in a manner of integrity," Szczuka said. "They told us not to mess around and joke around because we're not just representing ourselves and our division but the entire Navy. They also taught us how to line up and march. I particularly remember learning how to pivot."

After spending the afternoon with their RDCs learning how to execute the ceremony, recruits were bused to the United Center and observed pre-game warm-ups from the floor seats.

For Seaman Recruit Adam Comegys, 19, of Valparaiso, Ind., the pre-game VIP treatment was his favorite part.

"I enjoyed sitting down by the court before the game started," Comegys said. "We were close to all the action and the players practicing."

The recruits watched the players warm up for 90 minutes before they headed to a holding area just below the stands to receive final instructions. After Bethke swore them in, officially making them recruits, Johnny Bach, a retired Bulls assistant coach and Navy World War II veteran, presented a special Bulls team guidon to the lead RDC Calixtomontanez.

"The guidon bolsters team cohesion and esprit de corps," Bethke said.

Throughout the night, fans randomly congratulated them. Szczuka enjoyed that part.

"The best parts about the night were the greetings and cheers from just random fans," Szczuka said. "Every once in awhile, somebody would give a shout out to the Navy and to us in particular, so that was pretty reassuring."

After the game, the recruits got on a bus and departed for RTC to begin their training. When they successfully complete boot camp training, they will graduate and join the fleet.

For more news on Navy boot camp, visit http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/.

Registration for 2011 All-Military Wilderness Challenge Opens April 1

By Mark O Piggott, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown Public Affairs

YORKTOWN, Va. (NNS) -- Registration for the Mid-Atlantic Region, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department's annual all-military Wilderness Challenge opens April 1.

The Wilderness Challenge will take place, Oct. 6–8, in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and on the New and the Gauley Rivers in West Virginia. The event is hosted and co-organized by ACE Adventure Resort, West Virginia's largest outdoor outfitter.

More than 300 military personnel representing teams from around the World are expected to compete. Only the first 60 teams will secure a spot in the Wilderness Challenge, so teams are encouraged to register early.

"The MWR Wilderness Challenge continues to bring together the best athletes in the armed forces and puts them to the test," said Michael Bond, event coordinator. "The competition gets tougher and tougher every year as more teams battle for the title."

The challenge contains a series of five outdoor adventure races in a team format designed to bring camaraderie, competition and team spirit between all five branches of the Armed Services.

Teams participating in this year's challenge will compete in an 8K mountain run, a 14-mile mountain bike race, a 14-mile forced hike through the mountains, a 13-mile whitewater raft race on the Gauley River and a 7-mile kayak race on the New River. Last year's winner was Team "Amphibia" from the Office of the Chief of Navy Reserve, Washington, D.C.

"It is not an easy competition and only the strong survive, so the winning team will be the best of the best in outdoor recreation and physical endurance," Bond added.

Registration is open to all branches of the military. Teams must be comprised of four active duty military, one of which must be female. Registration can be made online at www.wildernesschallenge.net or by calling (757) 887-7256.

Study Makes Suicide-Prevention Program Recommendations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

HAMPTON, Va., March 25, 2011 – A new study commissioned by the Defense Department affirms many of the suicide-prevention efforts being made within DOD and the military services and recommends ways to strengthen them.

In preparing “The War Within: Suicide Prevention in the U.S. Military,” the Rand National Defense Research Institute examined data on military suicides, identified what scientific literature and leaders in the field consider the best prevention strategies and recommended ways to ensure existing programs reflect the state of the art, officials said.

“This is a very thorough effort,” Dr. Mark Barnes, director of the resilience and prevention directorate at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, said of the report. “Rand interviewed each of the services and went outside the military to look at suicide-prevention practices and identified gaps for the way ahead [and] recommendations for the military suicide-prevention programs.”

The study’s findings track closely with those in the Defense Department’s own DOD Suicide Task Force Report, Barnes told military health care professionals attending the first Armed Forces Public Health Conference held here this week.

“There is no disagreement. They are very complimentary in what they are recommending,” he said. “So we have a nice resource here with quality information that our suicide-prevention folks can refer to as we move forward with the task force recommendations.”

Navy Capt. Paul Hammer, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, called the Rand report an important tool in helping the Defense Department better confront an issue it takes “very seriously.”

“The Rand study helps us to identify areas that need improvement so that we can continue to provide the most comprehensive health care for our service members –- from the inside out,” he said.

The study, written for health policy officials and suicide-prevention program managers, recognized critical factors in a comprehensive prevention program. These include:

-- Raising awareness and promoting self-care;

-- Identifying people at high risk, including screening for mental health problems;

-- Eliminating actual or perceived barriers to quality behavioral health care;

-- Providing high-quality mental health treatment and specific interventions focused on suicide when needed;

-- Restricting access to firearms and other lethal means, with attention to how lethal medications are packaged and how door hinges and shower rods are constructed; and

-- Responding appropriately when suicides occur.

Evaluating the Defense Department’s suicide prevention programs, the study cited the potential benefit of a new DOD-wide surveillance program being used to track suicides and suicide attempts. The DOD Suicide Event Report replaced each service’s individual suicide-reporting system, Barnes explained, helping to ensure “apples to apples” comparisons as information is shared across the services.

“This is a data issue,” he said. “We need good data. The data informs us in how to be effective with prevention and health promotion. So we are continually improving our data systems.”

Rand also called for an evaluation of existing suicide prevention programs, along with a requirement that any new initiatives include an evaluation plan. Barnes acknowledged the challenge of assessing programs’ effectiveness, but called closer collaboration and information sharing across the Defense Department and services a positive step toward sharing best practices and determining what works.

The Rand study recognizes most military suicide-prevention programs’ focus on raising awareness, including telling people where to get help and helping them recognize peers in distress. However, it emphasizes the importance of also teaching military members how to recognize their own problems and refer themselves if needed to a behavioral health professional or chaplain.

“Raising awareness and promoting self-care is something we do and we can do better,” Barnes said, noting the value of resilience campaigns. “The ideas is to give people skills,” and know how to recognize signs of risk in themselves as well as others, and to know what to do.

The report also identified the importance of partnerships between agencies and organizations responsible for mental health and substance use and other known risk factors for suicide.

“We do fairly well in terms of partnerships,” Barnes said. “One area we are looking at is, on an installation, how well do all the different partners work together in the suicide [prevention] mission? Because often times you have … one person who is the suicide prevention person on an installation. They are not going to be able to check in on everybody. It is really the whole installation that needs to be on board to be effective with this.”

The study also cited the need to ensure there’s no gap in services provided during military members’ transitions -- between military bases, between commands or between active and reserve status.

“Ensuring a continuity of services and care is really important,” Barnes said. “One of the times of increased vulnerability is during transitions. … And we need to be covering all the gaps like this proactively for our service members and their families.”

The study called for formal guidance for commanders so they know how to respond to suicide and suicide attempts. It recognized the lack of any direct policy within the services and the risks of handling these situations improperly.

“It is really about our leadership,” Barnes said. “We need to empower our leadership, because they set the example. They set the tone. So we have to give them the tools. We need to give them the information, the data, so they know what is going on, where we think is the right direction to go, and then get behind them.”

Selective Early Retirement Board Exemption Deadline Extended

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy announced March 25, an extension to the deadline for those senior officers who wish to be exempt from the fiscal year 2012 Selective Early Retirement board.

Captain and commanders being reviewed by this board now have until May 15, to apply.

"High retention, reduction in officer end strength and low attrition among active component senior officers in the unrestricted line has led to an excess," said Rear Adm. Tony Kurta, director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy. "The board will select for continuation those officers who are best and most fully qualified, demonstrating superior performance in operational billets and possessing critical skills."

The Selective Early Retirement (SER) board, originally announced in NAVADMIN 006/11, is designed to balance the force by ensuing sufficient senior officers are available at the right time in their careers to serve in critical billets in the Fleet.

To accomplish this, the SER board will consider the records of all active duty Unrestricted Line (URL) captains with at least four years time-in-grade as of July 1, 2011, and commanders who have twice failed for promotion to O-6.

Officers selected by the board for early retirement will be required to retire no later than the first day of the seventh month following the secretary of the Navy's approval of the board recommendations. The target date for this approval is Sept. 1, 2011.

Current projections indicate the SER board will select approximately 120 captains and 120 commanders for early retirement. These numbers may be adjusted based on the volume of voluntary retirement requests received prior to the board.

Captains and commanders who submit a retirement request ahead of the May 15 deadline will not be considered by the SER board and can choose a retirement date no later than Sept. 1, 2012.

"By electing to retire ahead of the board, these officers will be giving themselves and their families several more months to prepare for a career transition," explained Kurta.

California Assemblywoman Tours Point Loma Replacement Fuel Storage Project

By Mario Icari, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest Public Affairs Office

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- California assemblywoman Toni Atkins toured the Defense Fuel Support Point (DFSP) Fuel Storage Tanks and Facility Project at Naval Base Point Loma March 18.

Atkins toured the above-ground storage tank fuel facility, the inside of Tank "6" (one of eight future storage tanks), the low temperature thermal desorption unit, and the sedimentation basins.

He also reviewed information about the current construction status, plume remediation, thermal desorption, and rain runoff measures that NBPL has implemented.

DFSP Point Loma complex is the largest Department of Defense fuel storage and distribution facility on the West Coast.

The facility currently serves as an important fuel station for the southwestern states and the eastern Pacific, providing vital petroleum fuels, oil, and lubricants support to the Defense Department and other federal agencies.

Construction is underway to replace the fuel storage facility with eight new multi-product bulk storage tanks with a total capacity of one million barrels.

A new Fuel Oil Recovery Facility will be constructed and the current project design incorporates new sedimentation basins to optimize storm water management.

Upon completion, the fuel tanks will have the capacity for one million barrels of fuel.

The project also includes the demolition and closing of existing above ground and underground storage tanks with extensive remediation of contaminated soil at Naval Base Point Loma.

Turmoil Brings Challenges, Opportunities, Gates Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, March 25, 2011 – During a week of visits with leaders who all are affected by simultaneous antigovernment protests in Middle East countries, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates focused on the opportunities that come with the challenges.

“We both face a region that is in turmoil,” Gates told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a news conference before a breakfast meeting today in Caesarea, north of Tel Aviv. “That will present challenges, but it also potentially presents opportunities, and I look forward to talking with the prime minister about that this morning.”

Gates arrived in Israel the same day that rockets and mortars from Gaza blasted southern Israel and the same week that a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem killed and injured people in that city.

“I was in Moscow yesterday and received a very warm telephone call from President [Barack] Obama,” Netanyahu said, noting Obama was very supportive and sent his condolences for the victims of the recent terror attack in Jerusalem.

The Israeli prime minister added that Obama “said squarely and plainly, ‘We stand with Israel in this battle against terror.’”

Netanyahu said he has since received similar messages from leaders of Russia, Italy and other nations.

“I think this says that civilized countries have a common stake in fighting terrorism, and we want to make sure that’s clear to the terrorists,” the Israeli prime minister said. “Civil society will not tolerate such wanton attacks on its civilians. Israel will not tolerate such wanton attacks on its civilians, and we stand ready to act with great force and great destruction to put a stop to it.

“I know the United States has been doing the same and would do the same,” he added.

“Let me simply add to what President Obama said, my own condolences to the families and victims of the terrorist attacks and during the rocket attacks in the south,” Gates said.

Netanyahu said he and Gates planned to discuss “so many areas in which Israel and the United States see eye-to-eye and in which we seek to establish security for the sake of the establishment of peace.”

The secretary noted that the longstanding partnership between the United States and Israel includes a defense and security relationship that has never been stronger, “and not just in affirmations, but in concrete ways of cooperation.”

After the meeting, Gates traveled to Palestine for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at his office in Ramallah, on the central West Bank.

“I understand that I’m the first American secretary of defense to visit Ramallah,” Gates said during a news conference, “and I look forward to our talks over the next few minutes … about political developments around the region, but also prospects for a two-state solution.”

“This is a time of great challenge and opportunity throughout the region,” Fayyad said, adding that he and his colleagues would review with Gates the progress the Palestinian Authority has made on its path to getting ready for statehood.

Before departing for Washington, Gates traveled to Amman, Jordan, for a private meeting with King Abdullah II. Gates also spent time this week meeting with officials in Russia and Egypt.

Mullen Accepts Award on Behalf of Armed Forces

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2011 – Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen accepted the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress last night on behalf of all members of the U.S. armed forces.

“Tonight, there are thousands upon thousands of young men and women answering our nation’s call in Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan and around the world,” the chairman said. “Off the shores of Libya, where they are flying and fighting to protect innocent people from their own government, they are doing a magnificent job.”

When the center selected Mullen for the award, the chairman agreed to accept it -– but only on behalf of the nation’s uniformed men and women.

Former Virginia Sen. John Warner, past chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, presented the award. President Barack Obama extended his congratulations to Mullen and U.S. service members in a letter.

“Throughout his extraordinary military career, Admiral Mullen has set an example for men and women across all branches of government,” the president’s letter read. “His outstanding leadership of our armed forces will be studied for generations to come, and as he accepts this award on behalf of our service members, I hope he takes pride in his enormous contributions to strengthening our nation.”

Mullen is a longstanding advocate of supporting U.S. troops and families during and after their service for the “needs they deserve,” ranging from medical care to education and jobs.

“You, your families, and all of the veterans you represent have my unyielding support and my deepest gratitude for all that you have done in service to our nation,” Mullen told veterans in the audience from the Disabled American Veterans and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Their actions and dedication to duty, Mullen told the veterans, “stand as stark testament to President Eisenhower’s words that ‘We cannot build peace on desire alone.’ I will take that one step further and say that while desire alone won’t build a better future for our nation or our world, you have.”

The center chose Mullen for the Eisenhower Award because “he is a forward-thinking, servant leader and grand strategist who, by looking through a long-term lens, has provided unparalleled leadership in navigating our men and women of the armed forces successfully during America’s longest war,” said Jonathan P. Murphy, the center’s communications director.

The chairman’s vision for the future includes jobs for veterans. Mullen said veterans are ready and willing to continue serving their communities, and when communities help veterans transition to civilian life, he foresees a “win-win” relationship.

“[That partnership] makes a positive and lasting impact on our nation and the young men and women who have served, for decades to come,” the admiral said.

Mullen challenged the Eisenhower Center’s fellows to find new, creative ways to “reach out to the great resources resident in our veterans.” Then, he challenged veterans to grab hold of the opportunities that are offered, “and bring your shipmates, battle buddies and wingmen along with you.”

Mullen also encouraged older veterans to mentor the younger ones. “Mentorship knows no rank or age limit,” he said.

Quoting Eisenhower, Mullen told the audience, “Our heart summons our strength, our wisdom must direct it.”

With that thought, the admiral said, he hopes the leaders of today and the future see the wisdom in keeping faith with those “who have bravely served the nation, as many more do so around the world tonight.”

“So when that time comes,” Mullen added, “our nation will have the heart to summon the strength needed to serve our nation and world.”

ETG Prepares Units for Deployment Using Synthetic Training

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SCW) Paul D. Williams, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Expeditionary Training Group (ETG) conducted Operation Bold Step for several Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) units, the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, her ships, and seven other military commands across Hampton Roads, Feb. 28 through March 10.

The exercise was the culminating event of the integrated phase of the Fleet Response Training Plan (FRTP) for these units. The FST is designed to use computer-driven war games to better prepare NECC war fighters to integrate with carrier strike group staffs, ship boarding teams, and joint and coalition partners to maximize capabilities during deployment.

Operation Bold Step brought together Sailors from Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron (MSRON) 10, Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 3, Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command, and Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training (MCAST). The units worked together for a series of "live" events embedded in the larger synthetic exercise. The live action included Visit, Board, Search and Seizure events, and interoperability training between NEIC and boarding teams at the Naval Station Norfolk piers and opposed insertion missions in a mock village at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, in Virginia Beach.

At the village, RIVRON 3 provided a Riverine Security Team (RST), along with Sailors from NEIC and MCAST, to conduct missions in the mock village. During these scenarios Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) from RIVRON 3 were in communication with pilots from the GHWB Strike Group to conduct simulated close-air support missions and suppression of simulated enemy forces in the village.

"Working with an NEIC and MCAST team ashore was very valuable because as we gain experience doing such missions we become more versatile and more employable by various commanders," said Lt. j.g. Robert Cameron, RST officer for RIVRON 3, Det. 1.

"It was great to get my JTACs some time talking with an actual pilot, and for the whole team to run a variety of different mission sets," said Cameron. "Most importantly, it was a good experience for us to work with other units on the ground."

FST-J 11-4, Operation Bold Step, was conducted to certify the GHWB Strike Group for Major Combat Operations and to certify MSRON 10 and RIVRON 3 as Maritime Security Operations Ready.

"It really is a great event; it's such a huge exercise," said Robert Hennessy, synthetic training specialist with ETG. "We make our own NECC units train together because the first time they work together shouldn't be when they are in theater."

Navy Reservists Fill Essential Role in Denver's Operation Pacific Passage Mission

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Bill Larned

DENVER (NNS) -- Reservists assigned to Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Denver have served as the Navy's official welcoming committee in that city for military families arriving from Japan since March 24.

NOSC Denver has a multi-service team of military professionals, caregivers and volunteers at Denver International Airport greeting families arriving as part of Operation Pacific Passage.

The Department of Defense recently established joint reception coordination centers (JRCC) in Denver and other airports to provide administrative, financial and comfort support to passengers who have voluntarily departed Japan.

"The active duty Navy can't be everywhere, every time. The Denver NOSC is the face of the Navy for Denver, and its role in Operation Pacific Passage," said Capt. Marcus Cromartie, commanding officer of Navy Region Southwest's Reserve Component Command. "Denver NOSC is sharply focused on Operation Pacific Passage and will be for the near future."

DoD families have been arriving in Denver on connecting flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and direct flights from Japan.

"The families are under extreme stress and we are here to do anything we can," Cromartie said. "No one planned to be a part of Operation Pacific Passage, it's not something we specifically train for. But the Navy trains to be anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances."

Most passengers arriving in Denver have been making connecting flights to their final destinations within 24 hours. While at the Denver reception center, they are met by military and civilian specialists at a diverse array of service tables and booths, providing everything from pay and finance assistance, travel and lodging aid, medical care, legal advice, daycare and pet walking services.

Navy reservists who are Sailors of many different rates and backgrounds, have been performing many of these tasks. Naval Aircrewman Mechanical 2nd Class Sergio Vesga maintains helicopters for Denver's civilian air ambulance squad in his civilian life, but to support Operation Pacific Passage, he was carrying suitcases, walking dogs and escorting exhausted passengers through customs as they disembarked an international flight from Japan.

"I don't mind helping these people," he said. "They've come all the way from Japan and they need a hand. Making their life easier is my job while I'm here, and it's a welcome break from maintaining helicopters."

Vesga reported to Denver International Airport with 37 other reservists from units assigned to NOSC Denver and NOSC Fort Carson.

"The reservists have been a key element in this mission," said NOSC Denver Commanding Officer Leith Kimmer. "Approximately 25 percent of this operation involves reservists. Without reservists here the mission could not be accomplished. They've performed flawlessly, manning this operation 24/7 in 12-hour shifts. They've met every requirement placed on them. There are folks staying beyond their shifts to make sure the mission is getting accomplished."

Lt. Jeff Williams, assistant officer in charge of the Naval Intelligence Reserve detachment in Denver, said the first priority for everyone concerned was to make the arrival experience for passengers as painless and efficient as possible.

"We're here to support military families," he said. "For this type of operation, a lot of work goes behind the scenes."

The Denver JRCC will remain open to assist military families with much needed support as more planes continue to arrive.

For more information on the voluntary authorized departure for eligible DoD family members from designated areas in Japan, read NAVADMIN 093/11 at www.npc.navy.mil

All Sailors or family members who are in need of assistance should utilize the NFAAS support site at www.navyfamily.navy.mil to ensure the Navy can track and assess support requirements for all parties affected.

Navy Fleet and Family Support Center has a 24-hour hotline available to provide family support information at 866-854-0638.

USS Constitution Sailors Tutor at Austin Boys and Girls Club

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

AUSTIN, Texas (NNS) -- USS Constitution Sailors tutored children from the Boys and Girls Club of Capital in Austin, Texas, March 24.

The event was part of Austin Navy Week that began March 19 and runs through March 26.

"Having the Sailors here shows the children structure and discipline," said Jose Sanchez, Boys and Girls Club of Capital assistant director and program director. "It lets them see that regardless of where they come from they can succeed."

Sailors also played games, signed autographs and answered questions about their jobs in Navy.

"As a father, this event was great," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Benjamin Hanson. "I helped three kids do their homework, and when homework time was over I got to have fun with them and some of our other Sailors. Overall, I hope this shows the importance of school and encourages them to study hard, and to stay in school."

Constitution participates in more than 50 volunteer projects annually. The ship is the recipient of the 2009 and 2010 President's Volunteer Service Award and Commander, Navy Region (COMNAVREG) Middle Atlantic (MIDLANT) Good Neighbor Flagship award for small shore commands in 2010.

COMNAVREG MIDLANT gives the award to commands that have the best year-round community service program or special project that encourages activities to provide humanitarian assistance to the less fortunate.

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

Mississippi Lawmakers Honor Navy, Namesake Submarine

By Lt. Patrick Evans, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs Officer

JACKSON, Miss. (NNS) -- The Mississippi State legislature commended the crew of Virginia-class submarine Mississippi (SSN 782) for its commitment to naval and maritime service in observance and commemoration of Mississippi Navy Week 2011, March 24.

State lawmakers praised the crew in a concurrent resolution read on the floor of both the house and senate. Cmdr. John McGrath, commanding officer of the Virginia-class submarine, accepted the resolution on behalf of the crew.

"The uniform outpouring of support we have enjoyed throughout the state has been wonderful and unlike anything I've ever experienced in my 20 year naval career," McGrath told lawmakers.

McGrath and several crew members are in the Magnolia State for Mississippi Navy Week 2011, which runs March 19 - 27. Navy Weeks are designed to showcase the investment Americans have made in their Navy as global force for good and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

The 2011 Navy Week season will also help commemorate the Centennial of Naval Aviation and continues as a year-long celebration with a variety of commemorative events planned across the country throughout the year.

Mississippi Navy Week events include Navy Band musical performances, visits to area schools and community service projects. Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, also participated.

"I think Navy outreach is crucial. We're the away team. When we're doing our job, Sailors and Marines tend to be away from home. I think it is really important that people really understand the great job that they do, how skilled they are, and how hard a lot of these missions are," said Mabus.

Crew members of Mississippi have traveled throughout their namesake state reaching out to the community. They were involved in events along the Gulf Coast and in Hattiesburg, Jackson and Meridian. Some of the highlights were visits to hospitals, veterans homes, schools and the Boys and Girls Club.

"It's been absolutely wonderful. The people of Mississippi have really opened their arms to us and given us great hospitality and just a great time," said Chief Electronics Technician Tom Driscoll.

"I actually love it. The hospitality really stood out. I'm from Jacksonville, Fla., and we have hospitality there. But here, they've treated us like we're family. I really do like it," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Darrius Jenkins.

"It's been terrific. We had a chance to come down and get involved in the community, meet some of the locals and spread the word that we have a new ship being built that bears the state's name," said Yeoman 2nd Class Joseph Earomirski.

Mississippi, the ninth ship of the Virginia-class and the fifth Navy vessel to be named for the people of the Magnolia State, is about 80 percent complete. Currently, there are about 100 crew members. When fully staffed, the crew will consist of 120 members. Delivery to the Navy and commissioning are anticipated by the summer of 2012.

Upon completion and commissioning, Mississippi will join the other Virginia-class submarines as flexible, multi-mission platforms designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the Submarine Force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; special operations forces; strike; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and mine warfare.

The submarine's sponsor is Allison Stiller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Ship Programs.

Warfare Center Plays Key Role in Newest Destroyer Combat Certification

By Troy Clarke, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS Gravely (DDG 107) and USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) completed Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT) in the Atlantic Ocean March 17, with technical support for the ships' live-fire missile exercises from NAVSEA warfare centers.

Experts from NAVSEA's warfare center divisions at Corona, Calif., Dahlgren, Va., and Port Hueneme, Calif., assessed key certification milestones at the Navy's Joint Warfare Assessment Laboratory (JWAL) in Corona, including the newly installed combat system upgrades to the Navy's Aegis missile defense system aboard Gravely and Jason Dunham.

"This CSSQT is a great example of how we bring together the many engineers and analysts from the warfare centers, as well as industry partners, in a single location at the JWAL, to provide the integrated picture of how our ships perform during qualification trials," said Capt. Jay Kadowaki, NSWC Corona Division commanding officer. "The JWAL is a key tool for the team of experts who provide the collaborative assessment the fleet needs."

CSSQT testing verifies combat and weapon systems performance for the new, converted or modernized ships, and NSWC Corona leads the CSSQT collaborative analysis teams, overseeing its data management. This capability allows the team to deliver overnight risk assessment reports for each day's air defense raids and live-firing test events. The assessment team also provides ADW weapon system performance directly from the JWAL for any fleet exercise around the world.

"Real-time, secure satellite communication gives the JWAL a powerful capability to connect the assessment team to the test ship, test conductors and decision-makers," said Performance Assessment Department Head Dan Bergstrom. "This is the nucleus for the Navy's collaborative analysis efforts."

Bergstrom said JWAL's secure global connectivity enables rapid feedback to the acquisition community and program managers, so they have the information needed for test and evaluation decisions, as well as the data to provide to the Aegis technical community for fault detection and fault isolation.

"CSSQTs are vital to ensuring our ships and their crews have the combat and weapons systems they need to execute their missions," said Program Executive Office for Integrated Weapons Systems (PEO IWS1) Combined Test and Evaluation Manager, Dean Kimelheim. "While the ships are conducting the tests at sea, our ashore team provides them and the acquisition community, rapid feedback on how they're performing as they go through the testing and qualification trials."

Kimelheim said CSSQT testing encompasses three to four months of ship equipment grooming, crew training and warfare-area testing. The last phases of CSSQT include Surface Warfare (SUW) testing and Air Defense Warfare (ADW) testing periods, culminating in live missile-firing tests.

"NSWC does the full spectrum of research, development, test evaluation and engineering, and whatever the U.S. fleet needs for offensive and defensive systems within surface warfare," said Naval Surface Warfare Center Commander Rear Adm. Jim Shannon. "NSWC is not just one place; it's comprised of 10 major commands geographically situated across the United States. This CSSQT is but one example of how we're integrated into a single NAVSEA team across the country."

NSWC Corona command is one of the Navy's newest federal labs and serves as the maritime service's independent assessment agent. It is responsible for gauging the warfighting capability of weapons and integrated combat systems.

Today in the Department of Defense, Saturday, March 26, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

This Day in Naval History - March 25

From the Navy News Service

1813 - USS Essex takes the Peruvian corsair ship Nereyda, marking the first capture by the Navy in the Pacific.
1898 - Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt proposes the Navy investigates the military application of Samuel Langley's flying machine, beginning naval aviation.
1915 - F-4 (SS 23) becomes the first American submarine casualty, sinking off the coast of Honolulu.

NMCSD Receives Highest Honor from Surgeon General

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph A. Boomhower, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Surgeon General of the Navy and Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., awarded the highest level of the Health Promotion and Wellness award to Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD), March 21.

The Health Promotion and Wellness award, also called Blue H award, encourages and rewards the promotion of health in the Navy and Marine Corps.

NMCSD earned the Gold Star level. There are three different levels that are awarded annually. From lowest to highest are the Bronze Anchor, the Silver Eagle and the Gold Star level.

"This award reflects the hospital in two important points," said Helen Metzger, NMCSD Health and Wellness department head. "One is that it is a command award. The second is that it's tangible evidence of our command's leadership, [and] value of its staff and patients. I think it's safe to say our command puts more emphasis in taking care of our staff and patients."

According to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), who manages the award for the Surgeon General, NMCSD earned the Gold Star for excellence in health, wellness and fitness activities and policies in Navy workplaces. The award also measures the conduct of evidence-based, best practice activities, health status of patients and staff, and return on investment.

All Navy commands are eligible for the award and are divided into three categories: Medical commands, Fleet commands and Semper Fit Health Promotion programs. The reporting period for the award is the calendar year.

Criteria for each level of award is taken from surveys by patients across the command and involve Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor, Safety, Nutrition, Staff Education and Training, Mental Health Cardiology departments and primary care clinics. These departments then take a self-reported survey on their specific objectives. The report is later reviewed and signed by the commanding officer.

To achieve the Gold Star level award, a medical command must accumulate at least 50 percent of the total available points for every topic and category, and must earn a minimum of 80 percent of the total available points.

"It makes me feel proud of our command, because to me it just reflects the care and compassion our command has for our patients and staff," said Metzger.

NMCSD has earned the Gold Star level consistently since it was implemented in 2007.

"I really believe it just speaks to the importance of collaboration and teamwork," said Monique Beauchamp, NMCSD Health and Wellness educator. "I believe that the entire command strives for excellence when it comes time to the patients and staff."

Health Priority For Women, Infants, Children Overseas Program

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Leona Mynes, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Overseas program on Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is promoting nutrition in an effort to promote awareness and positive nutritional choices to help service members and their families maintain a healthy lifestyle March 1-31.

WIC supports National Nutrition Month, an initiative of the American Dietetic Association, which is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

"WIC plays a part in this campaign, based on the fact that it is a nutrition education and supplemental food program," said Marty Bledsoe, a registered nurse and program manager for WIC in Guantanamo. "The goal is to increase public awareness on eating right and including daily physical activity to live healthier lives."

WIC provides participants and their families with nutritious food, tips on how to prepare a balanced meal, nutrition and health screenings, and access to other resources that will help members lead healthier lives, said Bledsoe.

Bledsoe said people should follow five steps to a healthier life:

- Eat right with color. "Add a variety of nutrients to your plate by choosing fruits and vegetables with different colors," said Bledsoe.

- Limit the amounts of foods you eat and drink that contain added sugars.

- Opt for low-fat dairy and lean meat products rather than their fatty counterparts.

- Do not skip breakfast. "Starting the day with a high-fiber, low-fat breakfast will help you consume fewer calories the rest of the day, and provide your body with nutrients and calories that are needed throughout the morning," said Bledsoe.

- Make exercise fun, and work out aerobically at least an hour a day, five or six days per week.

"The right kinds of food and physical activity will supply you with all the vital nutrients that you need to ensure your body's growth, vitality, fertility, and maintenance," said Bledsoe. "We can, therefore, eat our way to a healthier body."