Sunday, April 03, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Monday, April 04, 2011

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

Troops in Parts of Japan to Receive Hardship Pay

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2011 – Service members in certain prefectures of Japan will receive hardship duty pay effective April 1, Defense Department officials announced.

Service members will receive $50 hardship duty pay per month if they are based in the Tokyo Capital Region and the prefectures of Aichi, Kanagawa, Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Iwate, Miyagi, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizouka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.

“The designation is in recognition of the hardships caused by the March 11, 2011, earthquake, the tsunami that followed and issues related to Japan nuclear reactors,” according to a letter signed by Lynn C. Simpson, acting principle deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. The letter went to the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force and to the director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Service members who are permanently assigned to the designated locations are eligible for the pay. Service members who are on temporary duty to the specified prefectures in support of Operation Tomodachi for longer than 30 days also will receive the pay. Those aboard ship are not eligible.

The pay is additional compensation paid to service members in recognition of the hardships associated with duty assignments in designated locations.

Those eligible will receive the pay automatically. Service members do not need to apply.

Seventh Fleet to Conduct Exercise Malabar with Indian Navy

By U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Naval personnel from India and the United States will participate in exercise Malabar 2011, April 3-10.

Malabar is a regularly scheduled bilateral naval field training exercise and has grown in scope and complexity over the years. Malabar 2011 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises conducted to advance multinational maritime relationships and mutual security issues.

The at-sea portions will be conducted in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Luzon Strait and east of Okinawa. The location coincides with the Indian Navy's western Pacific deployment. The exercise is designed to advance U.S.-Indian military-to-military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations.

Events planned during the exercise include liaison officer professional exchanges and embarks; communications exercises; surface action group exercise operations; formation maneuvering; helicopter cross deck evolutions; underway replenishments; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; gunnery exercises; visit, board, search and seizure; maritime strike; air defense; screen exercise; and anti-submarine warfare.

U.S. Navy participants include USS Sterett (DDG 104), USS Stethem (DDG 63), USS Reuben James (FFG 57) and a nuclear powered attack submarine. Indian Navy participants include INS Dehli, INS Ranvijay, INS Ranvir, INS Jyoti and INS Kirch.

Family Matters Blog: DOD Supports Families Departing Japan

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2011 – Robert L. Gordon III is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. In this blog, Mr. Gordon urges families who voluntary departed from Japan to stay in touch with their service so they have access to timely information and support.

By Robert L. Gordon III
Military Community and Family Policy
April 1, 2011

Earlier today, Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, wrote a blog post about the comprehensive support effort under way in response to the recent devastating events in Japan. Supporting an effort of this magnitude takes many hands across personnel and readiness.

As I write this post, your team in military community and family policy  is specifically focused on taking care of our military families who have voluntarily returned from Japan to designated alternate locations or their ultimate destinations. We expect that many more will depart in the coming days.

I want to assure all families everywhere that your military community and family policy team is focused on two things during this time of uncertainty: staying connected with you and ensuring your basic needs are met.

The impact on our Defense Department schools in Japan and our military students is a key concern. The Department of Defense Education Activity website is an outstanding ready resource that can help answer many questions, including issues involving voluntary departures, education records and school closures. Please be sure to pass this information on to those who may not know about it.

The staff at DODEA also has set up a crisis information center, available around the clock, to provide help when you need it.

Perhaps the most important thing for our displaced families is to stay in touch with your service. We can provide critical information or help with needed resources only if we can find you.

Remember that online accountability systems are currently “live” for each branch of the service to account for, manage, and monitor members and families impacted by the events in Japan.

Please update your contact and location information at the following websites:

-- For Navy and Marine Corps military, civilians, overseas contractors and families, go to the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System.

--  Air Force civilian employees, nonappropriated fund employees, overseas contractors and families, go to the Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System.

-- For Army military, Department of the Army civilian, NAF employees, overseas contractors and families, go to the Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System.

These sites also will allow you to identify your needs, and a case manager will be assigned to provide you with personal assistance. More importantly, your assigned case manager will stay with you as long as you’re away from home station and can continue to assist you, even as your needs change.

I strongly encourage you to continue following your command or installation website and social media pages, even if you've already returned to the States or your preferred final destination outside of Japan. This will allow you to stayed plugged in to your friends, neighbors and your local leadership.

Finally, Military OneSource has a Japan Earthquake and Tsunami page, and we have added a section dedicated to information for returnees.

These are challenging times, and having reliable and useful information is critical to helping us all band together and stay strong. As a result, I will be providing routine updates to this blog with the most up-to-date information that I have to ensure that you are informed. Until then, be sure to take care of one another. Thank you all.

Naval Air Forces Chiefs' Association Celebrates 118th Birthday Serving Others

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Joseph H. Moon, Naval Air Forces Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) Chief Petty Officer Association (CPOA) spent the morning of April 1, away from their usual duties to serve food at San Diego's St. Vincent de Paul Village.

The Village, designed as a one-stop center to address all the rehabilitative needs of the homeless, provides meals for its residents daily, via two separate kitchens with the help of volunteers, making it an ideal charitable choice for the CNAF Chiefs.

The CNAF Chiefs prepared and served food for the Village's clients as a way to honor their rank's 118th birthday.

"Volunteering to serve your country is along the same lines as volunteering to help out in your community," said Chief Electronics Technician (SW/AW) Gene Martin, CPOA master-at-arms. "It's about making things better."

The Village's two kitchens serve between 250-300 meals each at breakfast, totaling roughly 600 meals. The food service program requires a minimum of eight volunteers each day.

"Volunteers are a big thing … we don't always have the people to do the chores," he said. "If we don't have volunteers, we have to scramble around to get things done."

The work ethic of military volunteers is what the Village needs to succeed, noted Kitchen Supervisor Jacob Titus.

According to Titus, the CPOA provided 14 pairs of hands, making quick work in producing the "well-balanced, daily meals."

"We all worked together as a team," said Village Shift Supervisor Ronald Hawkins, who noted that he enjoys working with military volunteers because they are organized and are positive role models for the residents.

While CNAF CPOA members engage in community relations events throughout the year, the Chiefs' Mess gathers as a group to participate in outreach programs quarterly, stated CNAF CPOA President Senior Chief Yeoman (EXW) Kim Barr.

"As chiefs, helping our community and giving back honors the heritage we celebrate today – it's more than a responsibility, it's our privilege," said Barr.

Respect Highlights Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Training

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2011 – Respect for all service members is at the heart of training for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness said today.

Clifford L. Stanley and Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee about preparing the force for repeal of the law that bans gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

“My focus is total force readiness, caring for our people and creating a culture of relevance, effectiveness and efficiency,” Stanley said. He told the subcommittee that he views total force readiness as encompassing a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual state of preparedness and resilience.

“This policy change embodies that view of total force readiness. More simply put, it’s about respect,” Stanley said. “Respect is not a word I use lightly. It embraces the true meaning of honorable service. Respect is also a word that captures the indelible bond shared by all who serve, especially when serving in harm’s way.”

All services began training before March 1, Stanley said, and he expects all to be finished by the end of summer.

Because the training emphasizes leadership, professionalism, discipline and respect, Stanley said, he believes it “will enable any change in policy to be executed with minimal disruption to the force.”

Gortney spoke of the three-part process the military has put in place to repeal the law. The first step was implementing or changing policies. The second was training changes and the third step was actually training service members.

“The services have reviewed policies and directives that will require change, and are on target to implement them effective the date of repeal,” he said.

A repeal implementation team and the services developed the training for the force and planned how to put that training in place, Gortney said.

“The services have implemented these plans,” he said, “and are proceeding smartly with the training of tier 1, experts; tier 2, leadership; and tier 3, the total force.”

Gortney said the Joint Chiefs of Staff discuss the training and monitor progress regularly.

“Our intent is to ensure that a preponderance of the force, including the Reserve and National Guard, is prepared expeditiously, but in a careful and responsible manner,” the admiral said.

The repeal will take effect 60 days after the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the process should move ahead.

“The secretary of defense and the chairman will not certify until, in their judgments, the force is prepared to implement the new policies and regulations consistent with our standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention of the armed forces,” Gortney said

Both Stanley and Gortney said the military is being very deliberate to ensure all questions are answered before repeal.

USS Boone Begins Southern Seas 2011

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Stuart Phillips, USS Boone Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Boone (FFG 28) and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 44 Det. 4, departed Naval Station Mayport, Fla., April 1, to conduct Southern Seas 2011.

Southern Seas is a U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-directed operation implemented by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO) and carried out by Combined Task Group 40.0 (CTG 40.0).

Southern Seas involves the deployment of CTG 40.0, USS Thach (FFG 43), USS Boone (FFG 28), and HSL 44 detachment 4, which will sail the waters from the East Coast of the United States to the Caribbean, Central and South America from April through September 2011.

"We're scheduled to visit countries like Brazil, which is hosting the Atlantic phase of UNITAS," said Cmdr. Roy Love, Boone's commanding officer. "Chile is hosting the Pacific phase of UNITAS and of course Panama is hosting PANAMAX."

UNITAS, which means "unity" in Latin, is the U.S. Navy`s longest-running annual multilateral exercise, building ties with partner nation navies since 1960.

Supporting USSOUTHCOM objectives for enhanced maritime security in its area of responsibility, Southern Seas 2011 concentrates on strengthening relationships with regional partner nations and improving operational readiness for all assigned units. In addition, Southern Seas provides the opportunity for U.S. and other forces to operate in the multinational environment, refine coordination, improve interoperability and demonstrate flexibility.

"It's extremely important for us to strengthen relationships in these regions," said Love. "Part of the mission for U.S. 4th Fleet is to conduct theatre security cooperation exercises. This will be important, not just to protect the U.S. from terrorists who may try to come up through South America, but also in terms of drug-interdiction and the prevention of human trafficking. What we're doing is working to solidify ties and build cooperation with South and Central American countries."

"This is about building a partnership of education between us and these countries we'll be visiting," said USS Boone Command Master Chief Charles David Slaton. "We'll teach them a lot and we hope to learn a lot from them."

Love anticipates Boone's crew will benefit from this deployment not only in terms of training, but culturally as well.

"For the crew this is going to be a great experience," said Love. "Many of them have never been outside of the U.S. This will be a great learning experience, and it's going to increase their cultural understanding of other nations."

COMUSNAVSO/C4F supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

22nd MEU Air Combat Element Lands Aboard Bataan

From USS Bataan Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit's (MEU) Air Combat Element (ACE) completed a successful embark of aircraft and aircrews aboard USS Bataan (LHD 5), April 1.

The 22nd MEU ACE, Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263) (Reinforced), brought aboard a complement of aircraft that includes MV-22B Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions, AH-1W Cobras, UH-1N Hueys and AV-8B Harriers to support the ship and MEU's deployment to the Meditteranean Sea and anywhere else around the world.

"With this Blue/Green team together on Bataan, we become an extremely flexible force capable of a wide range of missions," said Capt. Steve Koehler, USS Bataan commanding officer. "Our Sailors and Marines are well-trained, professional, and ready to execute whatever mission they are called upon to perform."

The ACE is capable of providing air assault and personnel and equipment transport, as well as aerial reconnaissance. Bataan's Air Department is responsible for safely directing, launching and recovering the ACE aircraft.

"Our report card is based on how well the air plan is executed," said Bataan's Air Boss Cmdr. Dan Olson. "We were about an hour and a half late today due to weather, but we finished right on schedule, so I'd say we're all off to a good start. I think the ACE is already striking on all cylinders.

"We have one more aircraft than we did last deployment," said Olson. "The deck is full. The hangar bay is full. We haven't moved Osprey in 18 months, but today, we were able to land them, move them and stuff them like a day hadn't gone by."

Bataan and the 22nd MEU, including the ACE, previously operated together in 2009, during a seven-month deployment to U.S. 5th and 6th Fleets for the first at-sea operational deployment of the Osprey.

Leading up to the current deployment, coordination between leadership was ongoing.

"[Bataan's] Air Boss drove down to New River with the ship's air operations officer, and spent a day training our leadership, talking about best practices, asking questions," said Lt. Col. Chandler Nelms, VMM-263 commanding officer. "It was extremely valuable, both for the fly-on today and as we continue through the deployment."

"It's important to build those professional relationships," said Olson. "We've done that, and we'll continue to do that. We're ready, and the ACE is certainly good to go. They're pros."

Bataan and the MEU will conduct integrated training prior to arriving in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

"The training is a continuous process," said Nelms. "We're always honing our skills, training to each mission set. We want to be ready to go for anything."

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group/22nd MEU (BATARG/22MEU), which includes Bataan, along with the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) and landing transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), is scheduled to relieve the Kearsarge ARG/26th MEU, which has been on station in the Meditteranean Sea since the beginning of coalition operations in Libya.

Policy Aims to Better Identify, Treat Concussions

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2011 – A memorandum that took effect throughout the Defense Department in June is expected to have a major impact on efforts to identify and treat traumatic brain injuries in the combat theater faster and more systematically, medical officials reported at the recent Armed Forces Public Health Conference in Hampton, Va.

The directive memo, which sets policy and management guidelines concerning TBI in deployed settings, relies for the first time on events, rather than personal reporting, to trigger a chain of institutional responses, Army Maj. Sarah Goldman, the Army’s TBI program manager, told an audience of health care professionals.

“This is an absolutely revolutionary policy,” Goldman said. “This is really the first time in traumatic brain injury care, and certainly in the Department of Defense traumatic brain injury care, that we have an event-driven protocol. What that means is that you don’t have to rely on service members to raise their hand and say, ‘I am having some problems’ after they have been involved in an event.”

Instead, the new policy lays out a response whenever a service member experiences something that could cause TBI.

“This is an event-driven policy,” Goldman said. “So, for example, if the service member hits their head or is somewhere near a blast, they have to get checked out, they have to get treated and they have to get reported. There also is mandatory downtime.”

DOD officials have long struggled to find ways to more quickly identify and treat what has become a signature -– and often invisible -- combat injury. TBIs often result from bullet blasts, vehicle accidents that cause a jolt to the head or exposure to a blast. The most common symptoms are loss of consciousness, memory loss, alteration of consciousness and other neurological problems.

Moderate and severe TBI is relatively easy to recognize, Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) David Tarantino, director for clinical programs at Headquarters Marine Corps, told the group. What’s far more challenging, he said, is recognizing the 80 percent of TBI patients whose conditions are mild –- meaning they have suffered a concussion.

“In layman’s terms, you feel dizzy, confused, see stars and have some alteration of consciousness,” Tarantino said. Other symptoms, he said, include disorientation, headache, balance difficulties, sleep disturbances, nausea and vomiting.

Not diagnosing a service member with mild TBI can have serious operational impact, Tarantino said.

“You have difficulty following instructions, poor marksmanship, slow reaction time and decreased concentration. All of those have an impact on the battlefield,” he said. “If someone has a concussion, you don’t want to give them a weapon and send them right back to the front lines. That can do a lot of harm.”

It’s the same principle the National Football League uses to protect its players, Tarantino said. “You don’t want to have your quarterback in on a final drive if he has been knocked loopy,” he said. “It’s a similar kind of thing.”

But as the NFL and military are learning together, there’s another reason to identify and treat mild TBI as quickly as possible. Not only is it the best way to ensure a full recovery; it’s also the best way to prevent more severe issues if the patient gets another concussion before the first one heals.

Studies on athletes show that a history of three concussions increases their risk of chronic problems three-fold, Tarantino said. “We are starting to see from NFL players what the cumulative, long-term effects are,” he said, including early Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease.

“This is an issue we are concerned about and trying to prevent” in U.S. service members, Tarantino said. “We have a lot of guys exposed [to blasts] many times. So the question is: ‘How do we make sure that they get the proper rest and care and treatment before they get exposed again?’”

Goldman called the new DOD memorandum a major step in the right direction. Developed by scientific experts from around the country, “it represents what we understand is the best science to date to manage concussion,” she said.

“As the science continues to evolve, we certainly will be updating this policy,” she said. The first policy update is expected later this year, when the memo becomes a permanent DOD instruction.

The new memo requires commanders to ensure all service members involved in potentially concussive events receive a medical evaluation, even if they have no apparent injuries. It also authorizes commanders to refer a soldier, sailor, airmen or Marine under their charge who appears to be showing symptoms for evaluation.

It also mandates that all cases of TBI be documented into an electronic medical record. This, Goldman said, will provide a registry for the Defense Department and a tool to inform commanders whose units are about to redeploy.

Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Laura Baugh, the Air Force TBI program manager, called this leadership responsibility a key part of the new policy. “It requires leaders to recognize service members who have been involved in an event that could cause a concussion and to ensure they get a medical evaluation, and requires them to track these service members in the electronic database,” she said.

“Not only does this ensure service members get the follow-on care they need down the road,” she said. “It also helps [DOD] understand the true incidence of this problem in the theater.”

The policy establishes new protocols for service members with recurrent TBIs.

“If there is a service member who has sustained three or more concussions within a 12-month period, they are getting a four-hour neuropsychological battery,” Baugh said, including vestibular and functional testing.

“They get the entire ‘works,’” Goldman said.

“Don’t get me wrong. Certainly the ones who experienced just one event also are getting checked out,” Goldman continued. “But I will tell you, it is a much more intensive evaluation for service members involved in the recurrent concussion protocol.”

The memo revises the military acute concussion evaluation screening test, introducing a three-part score that includes patient history and results of cognitive screening and a neurological screening exam, she said.

In terms of patient care, it mandates two of the best-known treatments for mild TBI: rest and education.

Troops suffering mild TBI require at least 24 hours of rest before returning to duty, and often more as they receive their medical evaluations, Tarantino said. Ideally, that rest is offered in a “reduced-stimulus environment” –- a place that’s cool, quiet and comfortable and allows patients to rest and catch up on lost sleep, he said.

Often service members need to be moved to find these conditions, he recognized. “It’s pretty hard at a forward operating base getting shelled or [under] mortar fire, or where there’s no air conditioning or it’s noisy or loud of uncomfortable,” he said. “That, in itself, might be a reason to move the patient back to get rest.”

Tarantino cited the Marines’ Concussion Restoration Care Center at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, as a new approach to providing this respite in the combat theater. It offers comprehensive, interdisciplinary concussion care that includes sports medicine, occupational therapy, physical therapy and even acupuncture that he said “has proven very popular with the Marines and, at least anecdotally, very effective.”

The center tends to treat some of the more severe concussions, offering care that typically lasts about 14 days. However, 95 percent of its patients return to full duty, Tarantino reported.

As the military works to improve the way it diagnoses and treats mild TBI, it’s also focusing more heavily on educating service members about TBI. The education effort begins during the pre-deployment cycle and continues in the combat theater and on redeployment home. “The best treatment is education, providing information, counseling and instructions about common symptoms and expected outcomes,” Tarantino said.

Goldman said she’s enthusiastic about the potential of the new policy to help the military better identify and treat mild TBI and to ensure service members have the best chance of a full recovery.

“I just can’t overemphasize just how revolutionary this policy is,” she said. “We are really looking forward to the long-term results to see how this impacts long-term outcomes.”

DOD to Drop Social Security Numbers from ID Cards

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2011 – Beginning June 1, Social Security numbers on military identification cards will begin to disappear, said Air Force Maj. Monica M. Matoush, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The effort is part of a larger plan to protect service members and other DOD identification card holders from identity theft, officials said.

Criminals use Social Security numbers to steal identities, allowing them to pillage resources, establish credit or to hijack credit cards, bank accounts or debit cards.

Currently, the Social Security number is printed on the back of common access cards, and on the front of cards issued to dependents and retirees. Beginning in June, when current cards expire, they will be replaced with new cards having a DOD identification number replacing the Social Security number, officials said. The DOD identification number is a unique 10-digit number that is assigned to every person with a direct relationship with the department. The new number also will be the service member’s Geneva Convention identification number.

An 11-digit DOD benefits number also will appear on the cards of those people eligible for DOD benefits. The first nine digits are common to a sponsor, the official said, and the last two digits will identify a specific person within the sponsor’s family.

Social Security numbers embedded in the bar codes on the back of identification cards will remain there for the time being, and will be phased out beginning in 2012.

The department will replace identification cards as they expire.
“Because cards will be replaced upon expiration, it will be approximately four years until all cards are replaced with the DOD ID number,” Matoush said.

The identity protection program began in 2008, when DOD started removing Social Security numbers from family member identification cards.

ONR Promotes Navy's Diverse Opportunities at Conference

By Paula Paige, Office of Naval Research

Arlington (NNS) -- Office of Naval Research (ONR) officials said the National Society of Black Engineers' (NSBE) annual convention, held March 23-27, in St. Louis, offered a gateway for showcasing the U.S. Navy's diverse educational and career opportunities.

Programs and workshops targeted the more than 15,000 students, engineering professionals and exhibitors who attended NSBE's 2011 convention.

"NSBE is a perfect intersection for ONR," said Dr. Anthony Junior, ONR education programs manager. "We hope this partnership will benefit underrepresented minorities who are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and that this population will complete their education and put it to work for the Navy and Marine Corps."

Statistics showing the U.S. lagging the world in students who pursue STEM degrees and census figures forecasting a more diverse demographic population have fueled the Navy's investment in science education.

At the NSBE convention, ONR officials shared information about educational opportunities, such as its Naval Research Enterprise Internship and its Science and Engineering Apprentice Program.

"Investing in STEM careers is a key priority for ONR as the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps science and technology provider," Junior said. "We want this investment to pay off by producing the next generation of naval scientists and engineers.

Founded in 1975, NSBE serves African-Americans in engineering and technology and supports professionals, students and pre-college students.

According to the organization's website, its mission is "to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community." NSBE has more than 33,000 students, professional and pre-college members in over 430 chapters nationwide and overseas.

NATO Dignitaries Visit USS Monterey, Learn About PAA, BMD Capabilities

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Edward Vasquez, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

ANTWERP, Belgium (NNS) -- USS Monterey (CG 61) hosted 300 multinational dignitaries from NATO as a part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense while in Antwerp, Belgium, for a port visit, March 29-31.

While aboard Monterey, dignitaries were given the opportunity to learn about the ship's Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capabilities.

"The United States takes this seriously," said Rear Adm. Archer M. Macy, director of Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization. "This ship demonstrates our commitment to what we are doing, and [Monterey] is doing a great job. This is vital to the United States and its allies to prevent others from trying to coerce them by threatening them with ballistic missiles."

According to a release from the White House, the U.S. Navy is working with allies on integrating a European Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense architecture with NATO members' missile defense capabilities, as well as with the emerging NATO command and control network.

"Eighteen months ago, President Obama adopted a new approach to missile defense, when he decided that we need a missile defense that is smarter and swifter than the one the previous administration had in place," said Ivo H. Daalder, U.S. Ambassador to NATO. "This ship is a part of the first phase of that commitment to deploy missile defense capability in Europe to help defend our forces in Europe, and our European allies against the threat that already exists today."

This phased approach is developing the capability to augment the current protection of the United States and Europe against short and medium-range ballistic missile threats.

"We are the first ship to become a part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach of the missile defense mission," said Capt. James W. Kilby, USS Monterey commanding officer. "We went to Belgium to coincide with a NATO convention and they came to visit the ship to view our missile defense capabilities."

According to the Missile Defense Agency, the first phase consists of Aegis ships deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and a forward-based transportable radar surveillance system in southern Europe. This will help provide protection across much of southern Europe against medium-range ballistic missiles.

Modern U.S. Navy guided-missile cruisers perform primarily in a battle force role. The ships are capable of multi-mission support in carrier battle groups, amphibious forces, as flagships of surface action groups or operating independently. Cruisers are equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles that give them additional long range strike warfare capability. Some, like Monterey, have been outfitted with a ballistic missile defense capability.

Monterey, a Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser homeported out of Norfolk, Va., is on a scheduled six-month deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.