Sunday, April 10, 2011

New York Army Guard members learn survival skills from Canadian Army

Courtesy Story
New York National Guard

GOGAMA, ONTARIO (4/5/11) - Hundreds of miles from civilization, New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wiwczar stood on a frozen lake gazing at the hole cut into the two-foot thick ice.

Snow, four to five feet of it, surrounded him on all sides, and the temperature of the winter air hovered well below freezing.

As he jumped in, Wiwczar could only think: This is going to be cold.

Wiwczar emerged from underwater. His wetsuit, buoyant and snug, brought him up to the surface, where he bobbed up and down, up and down; until he could catch hold of the icy ledge and pull himself out. With his instructor's approval, he left the icy water to join his fellow Soldiers.

“It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be,” Wiwczar said.

Practicing getting out of icy water was just one of the many training exercises Wiwczar and eight other New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry learned in the ice and snow of Canada.

They were part of Operation Wolf Pack Endeavour 2011, a winter warfare training exercise run by the 33rd Canadian Brigade Group of the Canadian Army Reserve from March 7 to March 21.

More than 450 members of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Rangers-composed mainly of Inuit Soldiers-and cadets from the Royal Military College of Canada took part in the exercise.

“Their whole theory is that you have to survive in the climate before you can fight,” said Wiwczar, a senior military instructor with the New York Army National Guard.

Giving Soldiers a chance to train with another Army is always a good thing, said Army Capt. Jeffrey Csoka, the operations officer for the 1-69th.

“The bottom line is that Soldiers, at some point in the future, could be deployed, and there's a good chance they'll be deployed with Canadians,” Csoka said. “Anytime you can expose Soldiers to other armies, it's a valuable thing.”

The nine Soldiers flew north to Ottawa, Canada's capital, where they met their Canadian instructors and peers, became acquainted with the Canadian way of doing things, and learned about their upcoming exercise.

The Americans were split into teams and placed within an element from Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, a Canadian Army Reserve battalion.

“Inviting our Army National Guard counterparts to participate in Exercise Wolf Pack Endeavour offered both training audiences a unique experience,” said Canadian Capt. Amber Bineau, the public affairs officer for the 33rd Brigade Group.

“It allowed the New York Army National Guard an opportunity to train in a cold and austere northern environment, while affording us the opportunity to share our winter warfare skill sets with our US military neighbors, Bineau said.

“Training opportunities between Canadian Army Reserve and U.S. Army National Guard units build upon the historically positive relationship that exists between our two organizations, writ large, " she said.

After four days in the classroom, the Soldiers packed their bags for their trip a 600 miles north into the Canadian wilderness, to a little town out in the middle of nowhere named Gogama.

In Gogama the Soldiers moved in to Arctic tents. The tents, roughly 14-feet in diameter, hold 10 troops inside.

For Army Spc. Marcin Pawezka, an infantryman with Company B of the 1-69th, working in teams to set up the large, pentagonal tent was something entirely new -- as were drills on tearing down and packing the tents small enough to fit on top of a toboggan.

And wherever they went in Gogama, their toboggans went too.

Like a dog sled with Soldiers replacing dogs, the sleds were pulled by two Soldiers on snowshoes: one pulling in front, and one guiding ahead.

In the toboggan was everything the Soldiers couldn't fit in their packs: the tent, spikes, and various tools: axes, an ice-saw, two small sledgehammers, and the stove, lamp, fuel and water cans.

“At the beginning, we didn't carry too much, just the assault pack to the campsite," Pawezka said. "

“When we moved out, we had to bring everything. Your rucksack, your assault pack, your vest, Kevlar, weapon. And you move to another spot, and you set it up again,” he said.

Pawezka said of all the challenges faced up north, the constant moving ranked among the toughest.

The terrain around Gogama is a mix of forest and hills covered with snow.

“You're talking about four, five feet of snow, and you're snowshoeing with 60, 80 pounds on your back, and the weight collapses the snow -- it's pretty tough,” he said.

In addition to sore thighs and burdened backs, another source of discomfort emerged: sweat.

Underneath each Soldier's clothes, under each Soldier's silk weight underwear, long johns, mukluks and fleece jacket, a war of hot and cold raged.

“It was cold, but you feel sweaty, but not too much,” Pawezka said.

Everyone had to drink water, even in the cold, due to all the sweat lost during marching, he recalled.

While temperatures at times dipped to double-digit negatives, the weather was more temperature, and the Soldiers had to adapt.

“Part of the issue is when you're exerting, you have to dress down, you have to take off a couple layers,” Wiwczar said. "And then you have to dry out before it gets cold, or you'll get chilled to the bone.”

The guts of the winter survival training came from members of the Canadian Rangers, a volunteer force formed in 1947 to keep an eye on the Canadian Arctic. Made up mainly of Inuit and Native Canadians, the rangers are experts on surviving in the north.

The Rangers conducted training on how to use and maintain a chainsaw; how to make fire without using matches or lighters; how to use smoke signals; how to build an improvised shelter; how to snowmobile; and how to get out of a frozen lake.

The Soldiers even learned how to cook and catch food in the winter environment.

One Soldier, Army Pfc. Joey Delancey, even caught a rabbit during snare training. That rabbit became dinner that night: a respite from the daily Army rations. But Wiwczar said any food is good after a day in the cold -- even moose, served one night by the Rangers.

“We had to get it fast though, because stuff would get cold in no time,” Wiwczar said.

For the last part of the training, food came on the go, as Soldiers participated in a two-day tactical training exercise.

Across the Canadian wilderness, hundreds of Soldiers woke up, got their orders, and for the next 14 or so hours, participated in a winter raid.

“I had never trained with foreign forces before, but I was struck with the similarities between the ways that we operate, more than the differences. We operate very, very similarly,” Wiwczar said.

"They went over backwards in order to make us feel at home,” he said.

Also Participating in the training were: Army Sgt. Peter Chan, Army Spc. Mamasi Yamakado, Army Sgt. Jose Cruz, Army Staff Sgt. Jairo Aquino, Army  Spc. Thomas Nicolson, and Army Spc. Tajua Wiwczar.

The Soldiers said the training will help them not only on the hills of Gogama, but also on deployments in the future.

“In the mountains of Afghanistan, northeast, near the Pakistan border, you have a lot of snow, even in summer time,” Pawezka said. “You get stuck up there, at least, with this training, you'd know how to survive.

“I'd recommend it for anybody,” he said.

DOD Releases Unified Command Plan 2011

The Department of Defense released today the updated the Unified Command Plan (UCP), a key strategic document that establishes the missions, responsibilities, and geographic areas of responsibility for commanders of combatant commands.  Unified Command Plan 2011, signed by the President on April 6, assigns several new missions to the combatant commanders.

Every two years, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is required to review the missions, responsibilities, and geographical boundaries of each combatant command and recommend to the President, through the Secretary of Defense, any changes that may be necessary.  As in past years, the 2011 review process included the combatant commanders, service chiefs and DoD leadership.

A revised map of the combatant commanders' areas of responsibilities can be found at .  Significant changes made by UCP 2011 include:

- Shifting areas of responsibilities boundaries in the Arctic region to leverage long-standing relationships and improve unity of effort.  As a result of this realignment, responsibility for the Arctic region is now shared between USEUCOM and USNORTHCOM rather than USEUCOM, USNORTHCOM and USPACOM as directed in previous UCPs.

- Giving USNORTHCOM responsibility to advocate for Arctic capabilities.

- Codifying the President's approval to disestablish U.S. Joint Forces Command.

- Expanding U.S. Strategic Command’s responsibility for combating weapons of mass destruction and developing Global Missile Defense Concept of Operations.

- Giving U.S. Transportation Command responsibility for synchronizing planning of global distribution operations.

UCP 2011 continues to support U.S. defense security commitments around the world while improving military responsiveness to emerging crises.

Navy Announces 2010 Training Excellence Award Winners

By Steve VanderWerff, Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Joseph Kilkenny, commander, Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), announced the winners of the 2010 Training Excellence Awards (TEA) for superior accomplishment in supporting NETC's vision, March 29.

The annual award recognizes commands that epitomize the highest standards of training excellence ensuring superbly trained Sailors are available to meet the needs of the fleet, and ensuring the success of the Navy as a global force for good.

"The choices underscore the tremendous talent, dedication and focused dedication to mission found throughout NETC," said Kilkenny. "Each of them represents unrivaled devotion and professionalism in their approach to applying training and preparing today's Sailors for the fleet."

This year's competition was different than in years past. After the 2009 TEA, Kilkenny directed that the competition be structured more like the Battle Effectiveness (Battle "E") competition practiced throughout the fleet that recognizes sustained superior performance in an operational environment within a command.

No longer do learning and training support centers "self-nominate," but each are assessed based on metrics assigned by NETC headquarter directorates. At the end of the year, the directorates assessed the learning centers and training support centers, and totaled their scores. Areas assessed include results of Inspector General (IG) and safety visits, and how well the staff manages training and student throughput, as well as correct handling of specialty items such as ordnance, radiation, and high risk training.

"The 2010 TEA resulted in more centers being recognized for the hard work that goes on behind the classrooms to ensure delivered training meets fleet requirements and demonstrate superior accomplishments as they relate to NETC's strategic foundation," said Board Coordinator Dean Taylor.

All NETC training activities and those that conduct NETC training courses are eligible. The TEA is composed of three categories: The Learning Center Training Excellence "T Award, The Training Support Center Training Support Excellence "TS" Award and functional excellence awards.

Functional award criteria are different for learning centers and training support centers. Learning centers and training support centers are measured against a standard which are the metrics listed in the new instruction. Centers that achieved a mark of 90 percent or greater are awarded the functional award. The overall winner is made by a comparison of the learning center with the highest score. So for functional awards, centers are competing against a standard. For the overall award, centers compete against one another.

"Center for Personal and Professional Development, the 2010 overall award winner, had a higher average score across all functional award areas, which put them above the rest," said Taylor.

The 2010 award winners include:

Learning Center Training Excellence "T" award: Center for Personal and Professional Development, Virginia Beach, Va.

Training Support Center Training Support Excellence "TS" Award: Training Support Center San Diego, San Diego, Calif.

Learning Center Functional Excellence Recipients:

Information Technology Award (Gold T):
- Center for Naval Engineering, Norfolk, Va.
- Center for Information Dominance, Pensacola, Fla.
- Center for Naval Intelligence, Virginia Beach, Va.
- Center for Surface Combat Systems, Dahlgren, Va.

Logistics Management Award (Blue T):
- Center for Naval Engineering, Norfolk, Va.
- Surface Warfare Officers Schools Command, Newport, R.I.

Planning and Programming (Gray T):
- Submarine Learning Center, Groton, Conn.

Training Production Management (Green T):
- Center for Naval Engineering, Norfolk, Va. (Tie)
- Surface Warfare Officers Schools Command, Newport, R.I. (Tie)
- Engineering Duty Officer School, Port Hueneme, Calif.
- Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training, Pensacola, Fla.
- Center for Seabees and facilities Engineering, Port Hueneme, Calif.

Total Force Management (Red T):
- Center for Personal and Professional Development, Virginia Beach Va.
- Submarine Learning Center, Groton, Conn.

Training Support Center Functional Excellence Recipients:

Information Technology (Gold TS):
- Training Support Center, San Diego, San Diego, Calif.

Logistic Management Award (Blue TS):
- Training Support Center San Diego, San Diego, Calif.

Planning and Programming (Gray TS):
- Training Support Center San Diego, San Diego, Calif. (Tie)
- Training Support Center Great Lakes, Great Lakes, Ill. (Tie)

Total Force Management (Red TS):
- Training Support Center San Diego, San Diego, Calif.

"This year's competition was particularly intense, due to the outstanding hard work and enthusiastic efforts of our trainers and educators throughout the past year," said NETC Force Master Chief John Snyder. "Resourceful and innovative efforts made these commands truly stand out."

A plaque and a burgee (pennant) will be presented to the award winners. Commands are authorized to display the burgee throughout the 2011 calendar year to indicate their outstanding accomplishment and excellence in the delivery of education and training.

Talking About Deployment: Five Tips for Communicating with Military Children About Transitions

Posted by DCoE Strategic Communications on April 8, 2011

For military families, dealing with deployment and separation isn’t easy and with children, discussing the topic can be a bit of a challenge. Taking the extra time to speak with children about what deployment means for the deployed parent and the impact it will have on the entire family is important. Check out these tips from DCoE’s Real Warriors Campaign on how to openly talk about the subject of deployment with military children of all ages:

■Be thoughtful about sharing your emotions: try not to share too much (by losing control) or too little (by showing no emotion) with your children
■Maintain normal family routines: regular activities like family games, bed times or celebrations are important to keep up
■Listen to your children and their concerns: kids can have concerns about their parents that are difficult to express, so be available when they are ready to communicate
■Monitor media coverage in your household: limit children’s exposure to media coverage of the conflicts around the globe to help reduce their anxiety about a parent’s deployment
■Take care of yourself: find time to relax and accept help from family or friends if you’re feeling overwhelmed—you can communicate better when well-rested
Find more guidance, resources and a list of fun activities to connect with your children this month—Month of the Military Child on the Real Warriors Campaign site.

Also, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress addresses commonly asked questions from parents about deployment in the “Helping Children Cope During Deployment” fact sheet.

Do you have tips? Share what has worked for you with others. Don't forget to check out the Defense Department’s page dedicated to military children.

Fisher House Helps Service Members’ Children

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 – Military children of service members who died or who were seriously disabled in the line of duty might be eligible for a college education through the Fisher House Foundation.

Foundation chairman Kenneth Fisher says the Heroes’ Legacy scholarships can be used by students to attend school in the fall. The application process is under way and open to the children of all branches of the military.

“We want to help these very special children go to school,” Fisher said. “It’s just one small way that we say thank you.”

The program is for children whose parent died while on active duty, following Sept. 11, 2001.
And, children whose parent became disabled while serving might be eligible, depending on qualifications for the Heroes’ Legacy scholarship, at

In general, the scholarships will cover tuition, books, lab fees, and room and board to accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions of higher learning, according to the website.

The Heroes’ Legacy scholarship grants are principally underwritten by the author's after-tax proceeds from the book, "Of Thee I Sing. A Letter to My Daughters," written by President Barack Obama. The amount awarded each year will depend on the amount of royalties and other donations.

Fisher Foundation offers two additional scholarships: Scholarships for Military Children and Scholarships for Military Spouses.

The nonprofit Fisher House Foundation has helped military families since 1990. As the foundation grew, so did its programs, with the scholarship its latest effort.

It was Fisher’s uncle, Zachary Fisher, who has since passed on, who founded Fisher House.

Zachary Fisher wasn’t able to serve in the military because of an injury, but began the Fisher House project when he saw how expensive transportation and housing costs prevented military families from joining their ill or injured service members where they were hospitalized.

Zachary and his wife, Elizabeth, built the “homes away from home” at military medical centers where families stay free of charge during the service member’s hospital treatment, Kenneth Fisher said.

”This was Zach’s way of serving,” Fisher said. “Zach believed the military was our greatest national treasure.”

The first Fisher House opened June 24, 1991, at the National Naval Medical center in Bethesda, Md. The second opened at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a month later, here, and the Air Force got its first Fisher House afterward at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio.

Fisher said he will continue to build Fisher Houses as the need exists. One such need had existed at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del. There was no place for families to stay to witness the final coming home of their deceased service members.

“In six months we mobilized and built a house for families of the fallen,” Fisher said, “which in many ways is probably our most-important house. Right next door we built a little family spiritual center so families can worship and pray in their own way.”

The Fisher House for Families of the Fallen at Dover Air Force Base was officially dedicated Nov. 10 2010, the day before Veterans Day.

DOD Announces U.S. Force Posture Revision in Europe

The Department of Defense announced today that it is revising its 2004 plan to withdraw two of its four brigade combat teams (BCTs) from Europe.  Based on the administration's review, consultations with allies and the findings of NATO's new Strategic Concept, the department will retain three BCTs in Europe to maintain a flexible and rapidly deployable ground force to fulfill the United States' commitments to NATO, to engage effectively with allies and partners, and to meet the broad range of 21st century challenges.  This decision will be implemented in 2015, when we project a reduced demand on our ground forces.

The three BCTs remaining in Europe after 2015 -- the Heavy, Stryker and Airborne BCTs -- offer capabilities that enable U.S. European Command to build partner capacity and to meet interoperability objectives while supporting the full range of military operations, including collective defense of our NATO allies under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

This BCT mix will be complemented by other capability enhancements, including the forward deployment of Aegis ships, land-based missile defense systems in Poland and Romania as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, forward-stationing of special operations aircraft, and a permanent aviation detachment in Poland.  Taken together, these measures will enhance and rebalance the U.S. force posture in Europe to make it more capable, more effective, and better aligned with current and future security challenges.

Deal Averts Shutdown, Normal Government Operations to Continue

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2011 – Government agencies are continuing normal operations after the administration, the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to a fiscal 2011 budget.

The continuing resolution expired last night at midnight, but the Senate and House passed a short-term funding bill that will allow both houses to finalize the full-year spending bill. Officials expect that bill to be passed and signed by mid-week.

“This agreement between Democrats and Republicans on behalf of all Americans is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history,” President Barack Obama said last night from the White House. “Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that.”

There will be no interruption in operations for the Defense Department, DOD officials said last night. Service members and civilian employees will receive their pays as normal, and no operations will be curtailed or eliminated.

“This is good news for the American people,” Obama said during an address from the White House last night. “It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform.”

The agreement calls for $38.5 billion in cuts from the government budget. This is $79 billion less than what the president proposed originally in February 2010.

“Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful,” the president said. “Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs – investments in our kids’ education and student loans, in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future.”

Obama thanked House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for their leadership in the process. “It’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit,” Obama said. “That’s what the American people expect us to do. That’s why they send us here.”

Had the government shut down, officials expected around 400,000 DOD employees to be furloughed and problems with pay and other fiscal obligations. The president announced the deal less than an hour before the continuing resolution would have run out and operations would have ceased. The last government shutdown occurred in 1996.