Military News

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Sunday, April 10, 2011

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

USS Theodore Roosevelt Sailors Assist Special Olympics

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice John Paul Kotara, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Approximately 50 Sailors from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) volunteered, April 7 at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk to help more than 200 elementary school children from Norfolk Public Schools participate in this year's Special Olympics event, dubbed "Little Feet Meet."

The event was put together by Patrick Doyle, an Adapted Physical Education teacher with Norfolk Public Schools. Doyle has been the director of this event for the last two years, and explains that the attendance grew from 88 children last year to more than 200 children this year.

"This is a great opportunity to advocate for these children," said Doyle. "My goal is for this event to grow and include every child."

Doyle said he is proud of the turnout, both of the kids and support.

"This is the first year the Navy has come out and we are very proud to see them out here," said Doyle."

When TR Sailors took the field they were divided into groups, each assigned to a corresponding group of students.

From start to finish, the Sailors looked to enjoy every moment they spent there. Sailors did everything from running hand in hand, jumping and cheering alongside students in 18 events which lasted two hours. The events held were well rounded and offered a variety of exercises such as a 50-meter dash and standing long jump, as well as: softball throw, hula hoop toss, football throw, golf putting, tee-ball hitting, tossing station, parachute activities, obstacle course, soccer kick, weightlifting, bean bag toss, fitness station, ladder ball, track events, hockey shot and races.

"Just to see the smiles on their face, that's enough for me," said Engineman 1st Class (SW) Ryan Giddens. "This means a lot to me, it felt like something I had to do."

Giddens explained that while he does not have a special needs child, he loved spending time with them and was laughing, smiling and interacting with the students.

The Navy and other volunteers were not the only ones enjoying themselves. The students participating were alive with excitement.

"The kids love it, you can tell by the big smiles on each of their faces," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Mitchell Mackenzie.

Mackenzie said that throughout the exercises his child kept saying "I'm winning, I'm winning!"

Mackenzie said, "It shows that we care for the community and are willing to give back for everything we get from them."

With most of the year still ahead, TR plans to keep an active role within the community and keep giving back in any way possible.

Theodore Roosevelt is currently undergoing its scheduled mid-life Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) at Newport News Shipyard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. During the 39-month maintenance period, TR's fuel will be replenished and significant upgrades will be made to the ship's combat and communication systems to extend the ship's service life for 25 or more years. All Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through RCOH near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle.

DADT Repeal Training Proves Caliber of Military, Leaders Say

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2011 – Two months into training to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, the leaders of all four services say implementation is going well – something they attribute to the caliber of today’s service members.

“Our training is going very well,” Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, told the House Armed Services Committee today. “In those areas that we detected may be at moderate risk -- the expeditionary forces -- it is not at the level we had originally forecast.

“The types of questions we are getting reflect the maturity, professionalism and decency of our people,” he added.

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps began in February training all of the nation’s 2.2 million service members to prepare for repeal of the law -- known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” -- that precluded gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Congress voted for repeal in December and President Barack Obama signed it into law. The change will not take effect until 60 days after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of defense, and president certify the military’s readiness to implement the repeal.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz joined Roughead in reporting to the committee about how implementation is going. All said training is going well.

Chiarelli, appearing on behalf of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. who could not attend the hearing, said the Army has not completed enough training to say repeal of the law doesn’t come with some risk to readiness. But, he said, “We have put together a very, very good training package we believe will mitigate that risk.”

While the services are conducting their own training, all follow the guidance of the Defense Department’s comprehensive working group that found limited risk for repeal in its report released late last year. The leaders said they are in regular contact with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen on the progress of the training.

The department’s training guidance covers “99 percent of the issues” related to repeal of the law, Amos said.

The leaders described the training as being three-tiered, beginning with specialists such as chaplains and lawyers, followed by leaders, and completed with the force at large.

Success of the training “rests on the shoulders of our leaders,” Chiarelli said. It follows the “chain teaching” method, which places responsibility on commanders to ensure that “all are properly and sufficiently educated on this important policy change, its potential impact on them, and our expectation of them,” he said.

Chiarelli said Casey’s directive on the repeal is clear: “Training matters most.”

Casey, flanked by four other four-star generals, personally led the first training session in February, Chiarelli said, in which he also participated in.

“I can attest that this process works,” Chiarelli said. “The soldiers’ response so far has been generally positive, but we must assume there will be some resistance.

“We are mindful that if we are to mitigate risks to readiness, recruitment and retention, we must continue to do this [training] deliberately,” he added. “The entire process done properly will take time.”

Training is expected to be complete by early summer, the leaders said.

The Marine Corps, the smallest service with 202,000 members, has completed all of Tiers 1 and 2 and have more than 40 percent of Tier 3 people trained, Amos said.

A department survey last year showed that about 60 percent of Marines in combat units had concerns about the repeal, Amos noted, but those concerns seem to be waning. The general visited with Marines in Afghanistan over Christmas and spoke with their commander this morning on the issue, he said.

“I’m looking specifically for issues that might arise out of Tier 1 and Tier 2 and, frankly, we just haven’t seen it,” Amos said. “There hasn’t been the recalcitrant push back, the anxiety about it” from forces in the field.

Amos said the Marines’ commander told him, “’Quite honestly, they’re focused on the enemy.’”

The Air Force has trained about 117,000 airmen, so far, and Schwartz said he is less concerned about the change now than in December when Obama signed the law.

“The training shows we are mitigating risk,” he said. “I am more comfortable than I was on the 22nd of December, but we still have a ways to go, and it requires the attention of all of us to bring this home.

“The standards of conduct you expect of all airmen -- dignity, respect, and equal opportunity, and service above self -- they will not change,” Schwartz added. “We will implement this with the same professionalism that we put forth daily in all our endeavors.”

Family Matters Blog: First Lady Celebrates Military Children

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 – Last night, I attended a ceremony that celebrated five outstanding military children for their contributions, strength and resilience. Leaders honored a military child from each service during the 2011 Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year award ceremony in Arlington, Va.
Special guest First Lady Michelle Obama called the children “shining examples.”

“Each of you young people already knows that your families are proud of you. You know that your communities are proud of you. Your parents’ services are proud of you,” the first lady said. “But tonight I want you to know that my husband and I are proud of you -- very proud.”

I’d like to echo the first lady’s comments. In the face of difficult challenges – deployments, illnesses, injuries, household disasters – these children easily could have become discouraged. Instead, they pitched in to help not only their families, but others in their schools and communities as well. And I know there are countless other military children around the world doing the same.

I wanted to share just a few of the reasons these children were selected for this special honor. The Military Children of the Year, along with a brief description of their contributions, include:

-- For the Army, 16-year-old Kyle Hoeye, of Tucson, Ariz., worked to help other military children become more resilient during each of his father’s three deployments. He’s one of only two teens in Arizona certified to teach military kids how to use advanced technology through the 4-H program. He was instrumental in putting together Operation Military Kid’s Hero Packs and handwritten hundreds of letters to local military children, thanking them for their service.

-- For the Navy, 17-year-old Melissa Howland, of Millis, Mass., volunteers in the local hospital’s maternity ward every Sunday. Her father was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and stationed, unaccompanied, in California in 2007 and 2008. Howland keeps her spirits up during her father’s absences by doing community service. In 2010, she donated 498 volunteer hours to 12 causes.

-- For the Air Force, 17-year-old Nicole Goetz, of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., volunteered at the local youth center, the church, veterans and nursing homes and joined a variety of high school clubs. She also organized 21 local schools to create and send hundreds of homemade Christmas cards, cookies and care packages to troops overseas. At home, she helps her 10-year-old brother with his school work. And when he’s feeling down and missing their dad, who is deployed in Afghanistan, she takes him to the movies.

-- For the Marine Corps, 17-year-old Taylor Dahl-Sims, of Oceanside, Calif., helped her mother with her baby brother’s medical care after an injury. Her stepfather returned home from his fifth deployment with a traumatic brain injury and, again, she stepped in to help during his recovery. She also pitches in with her parents’ nonprofit called the North Star Group, helping to host baby showers on base and provide pampering for pregnant spouses whose husbands are deployed.

-- For the Coast Guard, 17-year-old Margaret Rochon, of Jacksonville, N.C., organized a seminar about the stresses of wartime deployment on students and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on families. The seminar was required for all teachers in her county and included a panel of six nationally known experts, including a retired major general. School administrators taped the session and have made it part of the formal annual training for teachers in her county.

USS Bonhomme Richard Sailors Participant in San Diego Padres' Opening Game Ceremony

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tiffany Sivels

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) participated in the San Diego Padres' Opening Game Ceremony at PETCO Park, April 5.

The Padres requested the Sailors of Bonhomme Richard to unfurl the Holiday Bowl American flag and to parade the colors before a sold-out crowd.

Among the Sailors of Bonhomme Richard who volunteered was Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) Airman Edrina White.

"It was a thrill and an honor to participate in an event of that magnitude," said White. "The ceremony was like nothing I've ever seen or done before."

The Holiday Bowl American flag is 100 by 50 yards and weighs approximately 800 pounds and takes more than 250 Sailors to unfurl.

The Sailors of Bonhomme Richard practiced the unfurling of the flag just hours before the ceremony.

"Unfurling a flag of that size was awesome," said White. "I was underneath during the ceremony and I was amazed at how well each Sailor was able to perform."

After the ceremony many of the Sailors stayed to cheer on the Padres in their 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

"I could not be prouder of these Sailors and how they represented Bonhomme Richard and the Navy during today's ceremony," said Capt. Jonathan L. Harnden, commanding officer USS Bonhomme Richard. "The Sailors were very professional and they did an excellent job, just like they do every day. I am honored to serve with them."

Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum celebrity recording artist, and San Diego native Jason Mraz sang the national anthem accompanied by an F-18/E jet flyover by VFA-137 Kestrels Super Hornet Squadron from Lemoore, Calif.

USS George Washington Conducts Small Boat Training

By Mass Communication Seaman Cheng S. Yang, USS George Washington Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN 73) Sailors conducted rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) training operations to help cement valuable navigation and search and rescue procedures, April 8.

While the training was a refresher course for George Washington's more experienced Sailors, the aim was to train those who are new to the ship's Deck Department.

The aircraft carrier pulled out of port March 21, with more than 100 new crew members and picked up more during a port visit to Sasebo, Japan, April 5.

"This is my first time on the RHIB while being out to sea," said Engineman Fireman Starr Tolbert from Spartanburg, S.C. "It's different out here, there are new rules, there is more focus and every little thing that we don't pay attention to can turn out to be dangerous."

Only a team of five Sailors are allowed to board at one time and each person had their own part to play. Positions in the RHIB include boat officer, coxswain, boat engineer, boat rescue swimmer and forward/aft line handler.

"We cycle the Sailors through the various positions, because it's highly important to be fully trained on all of the stations," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Gerald Goodman of Goodyear, Ariz., one of the ship's training supervisors. "Rotating a Sailor from one position to another allows them to get the proper experience, so when they embark on a RHIB, they can do any of the necessary jobs if the situation calls for it."

From more than 35 feet above the waves, Sailors lower the RHIB into the ocean down below. It takes more than a dozen well-trained Sailors to safely do this, but with a man overboard or a downed pilot's life on the line, they also have to be fast. Their goal is to be underway in the RHIB within seven minutes.

"We have some Sailors that take part in RHIB operations routinely, as well as fresh new faces that have never done this before," said Goodman. "This is another reason why we have this training, so that the RHIB veterans can help train the less experienced Sailors. Then when they get that experience, they can go out by themselves and know exactly what they're doing."

George Washington's RHIBs are not just for emergencies. RHIBS are used for a number of other missions including the transportation of passengers and mail between ships.

"Regardless of the how the boats are being used, this was great training for our Sailors, and I'm confident they can handle any situation thrown at them," said Lt. Alex Torres, USS George Washington first lieutenant.

George Washington has been underway since March 21, departing her forward-deployed homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, in response to the complex nature of the disaster that struck Japan, March 11.

George Washington is the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, ensuring security and stability across the western Pacific Ocean.

U.S. Forces, Assets Safe After New Japan Quake

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2011 – U.S. forces in Japan providing support after a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month appear to have dodged a bullet as yet another earthquake rocked northeast Japan today.

"We have received no reports of injury or damage to U.S. forces or assets in Japan,” said Army Maj. Matt Hasson, a public affairs officer at U.S. Pacific Command. “U.S. forces continue to support the government and people of Japan and are positioned for sustained support.”

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the strongest yet since the March 11 earthquake and follow-on tsunami that left almost 30,000 dead, struck off the coast of Sendai just after 11:30 p.m. local time, officials reported. It reportedly lasted about 30 seconds.

A warning issued for tsunami waves up to about 3 feet high was cancelled about an hour later.

Thousands of U.S. forces have been assisting Japan since the March 11 disaster during Operation Tomodachi.

Navy Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, told American Forces Press Service earlier this week the U.S. military will continue to stand squarely with Japan for as long as needed, even as the focus begins to turn from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to consequence management.

“This is an enduring commitment. This is an enduring relationship,” Walsh said. “So we are posturing ourselves for a long-term support and an enduring commitment.”

This Day in Naval History - April 08

From the Navy News Service

1925 - The first planned night landings on a carrier take place aboard USS Langley (CV 1).
1950 - An unarmed Navy patrol aircraft is shot down over the Baltic Sea by the Soviet Union.
1951 - The first of four detonations occurs during Operation Greenhouse nuclear test.