Military News

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will attend the announcement to launch a year-long campaign in support of military families, “Joining Forces,” at noon EDT at the White House.  Media interested in attending should RSVP to firstladypress@who.eop.gov.

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

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen delivers remarks at 6:30 p.m. EDT at the USO-Metro 29th Annual Awards Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, Arlington, Va.  Media interested in attending should contact Melissa Benik at 703-696-4827.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Command Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard and Commander, United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal 2012 and the Future Years Defense Program at 10 a.m. EDT in room SD-106, Dirksen Senate Office Building.

This Day in Naval History - April 11

From the Navy News Service

1783 - Congress declares the end of war with Great Britain.
1900 - The Navy accepted its first submarine, USS Holland (SS 1).
1970 - Launch of Apollo 13, commanded by Capt. James A. Lovell Jr. Former naval aviator Fred W. Haise Jr. was the lunar module pilot. While 200,000 miles from Earth, there was an explosion on board which forced Apollo 13 to circle the moon without landing. Mission duration was 5 days, 22 hours and 54 minutes. Recovery was by Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 4 from USS Iwo Jima (LPH 2).
1991 - A U.N. ceasefire ends the Persian Gulf War.

U.S. Navy Leap Frogs Drop in on San Diego

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class(PJ) Michelle L. Turner

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 33,000 San Diego Padres baseball fans watched eight members of the U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, parachute into Petco Park in San Diego during the opening ceremony of the Padres' 2011 Military Opening Day, April 10.

The game, part of Major League Baseball's opening week, marked the Leap Frogs' first performance in their home city this year.

"It was fantastic," said Karen Madden, the Padres' entertainment coordinator. "It was an honor and a privilege to have the Leap Frogs as part of the Padres' 2011 Military Opening Day."

Fans clapped and cheered as members of the team entered the baseball stadium with the word 'SEAL' embroidered on their blue and gold canopies.

"I loved it, it was so amazing!" said Verna Brawley, a Padres fan. "It looked like they were being blown away from the wind and then they all came together and landed in the stadium with such precision. They made it look so easy."

The Leap Frogs stacked their parachutes in the air to form 'biplanes' during the performance and the last jumper flew a large American flag to close the show.

The Leap Frogs brought the crowd to their feet and were followed by the Marine Corps Band San Diego's rendition of the national anthem shortly afterward.

"As SEALs, we're really America's away team," said Chief Warrant Officer (SEAL) Keith Pritchett, a member of the Leap Frogs. "It's always great to be able to perform at home and to be able to show San Diegans how much we appreciate their support."

The Leap Frogs are based in San Diego and perform aerial parachute demonstrations across America in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy Recruiting.

Comics on Duty Entertain USS Ronald Reagan

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Comedians from Comics on Duty performed standup comedy shows for Sailors and Marines aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) April 10 and 11.

Celebrity comedians Tom Foss, a 20-year comedy veteran, and Danny Villalpando, a comedian for more than 16 years, visited Ronald Reagan to help crewmembers relax and boost morale through laughter. The comedians were flown onto the ship took a tour, greeted crewmembers, and also observed flight operations before performing.

"I love the ship. I think the ship is great," said Villalpando. "We got to go inside the bubble [flight deck bubble] which was definitely entertaining. Everyone aboard Ronald Reagan is as sweet as can be."

Ronald Reagan's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Fun Boss Kendra Smith helped plan and coordinate the event.

"They say laughter is the best medicine, and it's helpful when you've been at sea for awhile," said Smith.

Yeoman Seaman Jasmin Moraleslicea was appreciative that entertainers would make the journey to Ronald Reagan while the ship is underway.

"They put everything they were doing in their lives on hold to come here and entertain us," Moraleslicea. "It means a lot to the crew that they would take time to do that."

Villalpando performed first, sharing a comedy routine he said was inspired from his personal experiences in life. He was followed by Foss, who delighted the crowd with his comedy routine, which he described as "mistakes" from his life that everyone can laugh at.

"I don't write many jokes, I just re-tell stories," said Foss, with a laugh.

With every seat in the mess deck filled, and standing room only during the event, the Comics on Duty event was a success with Villalpando and Foss creating many new fans.

"It was great to see so many of the ship's crew attending the comedy show," said Smith. "I'm curious to see how many people have clicked the "Like' button on Tom Foss and Danny Villalpando's Facebook pages after last night's show."

After the show the comedians took pictures with the crew, handed out Comics on Duty patches, and autographed photos.

"It is an awesome feeling to be able to help raise morale," said Villalpando. "You guys have been out here for 67 days; you need a good laugh."

Foss expressed his feelings on performing for service members.

"As a comedian I use my freedom of speech to make a living," said Foss. "To get to entertain the people who defend my most precious freedom is very rewarding."
Villalpando agreed with the sentiment.

Comics on Duty, sponsored by Navy Entertainment, has been entertaining troops around the globe since 1992.

The Ronald Reagan strike group is currently deployed and operating in the Western Pacific Ocean.

Navy Medicine Makes House Call During Dallas Navy Week

By Valerie A. Kremer, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

DALLAS, Texas (NNS) -- The Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System (VANTHCS) and Navy Medicine examined shared initiatives focused on best practices in patient centered and veteran care as part of Dallas Navy Week, April 7.

Rear Adm. Richard C. Vinci, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, deputy chief, Logistics and Installations, met with leadership, staff, and patients, and toured the VANTHCS facility during the visit.

"We are grateful Rear Adm. Vinci visited our facility during Dallas Navy Week," said Mark Doskocil, acting director, VA North Texas Health Care System. "The opportunity to share information about best practices, advancements, and the exceptional health care we provide to our Nation's veterans was a bonus," said Doskocil. "Our patients and employees were also honored to salute and meet the Admiral."

During the visit, leadership from VANTHCS and Vinci shared similarities and best practices in the Navy's Medical Home Port model. In this model, patients are assigned a team of health care providers that monitor their needs and continued care of the patient. The model leads to better coordination of health care services and decreased emergency room visits.

VANTHCS's similar initiative is called Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT). The model is comparable to the Medical Home Port model, assigning the veteran with a professional health care team that plans care and life-long health and wellness needs for the patient.

"Gaining this shared knowledge and learning best practices from the VANTHCS PACT model provides insight as to how both organizations are providing the same type of care and moving in the same direction when it comes to patient centered care," said Vinci. "As Navy Medicine fully implements the Medical Home Port model across the Navy Medicine enterprise, we will continue to share these best practices with the VANTHCS."

As the Department of Veterans Affairs' second largest health care system, VA North Texas Health Care System serves more than 100,000 veteran patients each year, delivering more than one million outpatient visits. The award-winning facility prides itself on providing exceptional care to America's heroes in 38 North Texas counties and two counties in southern Oklahoma.

Dallas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy weeks to take place across the country this year. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they make in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

Dempsey Lays Out Themes for Tenure as Army Chief

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2011 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wanted an Army chief of staff willing to challenge the status quo, and he believes he has one in Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

Dempsey succeeded Gen. George W. Casey Jr. as the Army chief of staff during a ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., today. Due to a family tragedy, Casey and his family did not attend the event.

“Whatever challenges confront us in the future, your Army will respond with the same courage and resolve with which it has responded over the past 235 years,” Dempsey said.

Gates extolled the new chief of staff saying that he was impressed with Dempsey’s “keen mind, strategic vision, quiet confidence and the energy he brings to every assignment.”

Dempsey served as the commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad in 2003. He then helped put in place the Iraqi army and police. He served as the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command and stepped in as acting commander when Navy Adm. William Fallon resigned.

“While serving as acting Centcom commander, General Dempsey reorganized the headquarters, published new theater strategy and campaign plans, all the while managing the rotations and deployments of tens of thousands of troops throughout his command’s [area of responsibility],” Gates said.

He moved to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command where he “spread the gospel of adaptation in a world, where, as he is fond of saying: ‘Uncertainty is the only certainty in life in this century,’” the secretary said. “He has pushed the Army to become more versatile and decentralized, and overhauled its approach to war-fighting, publishing a new capstone concept that elevates adaptation to an institutional imperative.”

Today the Army is in transition, which is not a new phenomenon, Dempsey said in his remarks. The Army is always in transition, but this one is unique because the Army is entering its 10th year of war with an all-volunteer force. The general called that an “incredible testament to America’s soldiers and their families.”

The way ahead will be tough and the service must “center its sights on who we are as an Army.”

Dempsey spoke about themes important to him and the service moving forward. “We will provide whatever it takes to achieve our objectives in the current fight,” he said. “We will win in an increasingly competitive learning environment -- that’s the domain in which we must prevail.”

The service must develop a shared vision of the Army in 2020. “We will design units and prepare leaders to over match their adversaries,” he said. “We will master our fundamentals and develop deep global expertise.”

He said the Army will continue to change, but that the service will change only when it contributes to the versatility and relevance of the nation’s military instrument of power.

In an era of constraint, the Army must maintain a reputation as a good steward of America’s resources. “We will remain connected to America, and we will succeed in all of that because we will re-connect, engage, empower and hold our leaders accountable,” he said.

Between now and June 14, the Army Birthday, Dempsey said he will engage the senior military and civilian leaders of all services. He will publish “a document that charts our way ahead including a portfolio of initiatives that chart our way ahead to deliver on the themes.”

Trust is the heart of the military, the general said. “My commitment and expectation to this great Army is that we will work on strengthening the bond of trust among those with whom we work, among whom we support and among those who march with us into battle,” he said. “On the foundation of trust we will overcome any challenge we confront in the future.”

U.S. Military Remains Ready to Help Japan

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2011 – The U.S. military remains ready to help Japan, even as it has repositioned many assets since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake marked a chain of disasters there one month ago, military officials said.

Numerous aftershocks have rocked northeast Japan since the March 11 earthquake, including a 6.6 magnitude aftershock reported today and a 7.1 magnitude quake reported April 8.

The U.S. military has not been called to help with the most-recent aftershocks, but continues to give support and remains positioned to respond to requests by the Japanese government, Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan told reporters today.

“We continue to provide some measure of assistance to Japan, but certainly not at the level it was at a few weeks ago,” Lapan said.

The military sent some 20,000 troops, 140 aircraft and at least 20 ships in support of Operation Tomodachi since March 11, according to military officials.

While no U.S. ships are directly supporting Operation Tomodachi today, several are forward deployed to Japan as part of their regular operations, officials said. About 50,000 U.S. troops are based in Japan.

“U.S. forces remain committed to the government and people of Japan and are positioned for sustained support,” DOD public affairs officer Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said. “U.S. military forces throughout Japan maintain the capability to provide rapid response.”

The repositioning of U.S. military assets “is an indicator of the tremendous progress the Japanese government and the Japan Self-Defense Forces have made on the ground in dealing with this catastrophe,” she said.

The initial earthquake was followed by a tsunami and a partial meltdown of some of Japan’s nuclear reactors, as well as multiple aftershocks in the past four weeks. The U.S. military responded to Japan immediately, with assistance to Japanese forces, as well as more than 2 million gallons of water, 189 tons of food, 11,960 gallons of fuel and 100 tons of relief supplies, officials said.

Buddha’s War – A Vietnam Veteran’s Novel

With the addition of Sergeant Major Krystek, Military-Writers.com now lists 1249 current, former and retired US Military personnel who have authored nearly 4000 books.

Sergeant Major Dean Krystek, USA (ret.) “was assigned to the to the Special Security Group, MACV HQs, from May 68 to Dec 68; with the SSG detachment at the 25th ID in Cu Chi base camp from Dec 68 to Jul 70, and then again with the MACV SSG from Jul 70 to Oct 70.”


A Vietnam Veteran, he retired in 1995. Although he retired from the Army he says of his post-military career, “I may have left the military, but until recently I wore the uniform; working as a contractor in Afghanistan for nearly 5 years in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where I trained the Afghan military alongside US and coalition forces.” Sergeant Major Dean Krystek is the author of Buddha's War.

According to the book description of Buddha’s War, “SP4 Bruce Dudak, aka "Buddha" has been in Vietnam a while and feels it's time to go home. Originally flattered by the young bar girls who seemed to adore him in spite of his rather odd appearance (resembling the Chinese image of the Buddha), he's grown weary of their attention, and longs for an honest relationship. Bruce feels he's destined for a lonely life because he knows his chances of finding true romance are nil, but nevertheless, he he's tired of being a Saigon warrior.

Trinh, once a popular bar girl, has had her life shattered by the war. Her face, still stunningly beautiful on one side, is obscenely disfigured on the other. Betrayed by the American soldier she loved, she is also destined to be alone.

When fate brings them together, Bruce finds Trinh unexpectedly alluring. At first he denies his interest in her, yet he is compelled to be with her. Trinh does not want Bruce's pity, yet his sincerity offers her renewed hope. As they discover their love for one another, they also discover that the peace they seek comes from how they view themselves and not how they appear to others.”

Army Change of Responsibility

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Fort Myer, Va., Monday, April 11, 2011

Earlier today, we said goodbye to a valued leader, George Casey.  This afternoon, we welcome a new Chief of Staff, General Marty Dempsey, who will lead America’s oldest military service, the United States Army, into the future.

First, I too would like to recognize the Dempsey family.  His wife, Deanie, who has endured all the endless moves and extended absences experienced by so many of America’s military families.  Thank you Deanie, you have been a real friend to military families and a stalwart advocate for our wounded warriors and I know you will continue to champion the Army family.  I’d also like to thank the Dempsey children for their service, Christopher, Megan and Caitlin, who all followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the Army.

I’ve known Marty for some years now.  He has always impressed me with his keen mind, strategic vision, quiet confidence and the energy he brings to every assignment.

A real soldier-scholar, Marty earned a Masters in English from Duke University and then returned to West Point to teach English to young cadets.  But it was in the field, with mud on his boots and in the company of his beloved fellow soldiers, where General Dempsey truly shined.  His learning, training, and leadership experience prepared him for the challenges that awaited in Iraq.  First, as commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad during the difficult initial year, then heading up Multi-National Security and Transition Command in 2005, where he stood up the Iraqi Army and police forces that played such a key role in the success of the surge. 

During his 36 years of active service, General Dempsey is one who has never been satisfied with the status-quo – a quality I have always looked for when selecting our military’s senior leaders.  That is one of the reasons I was so comfortable having General Dempsey assume the leadership of CENTCOM – as a three star – when the position unexpectedly became available in 2008.  While serving as acting CENTCOM commander, General Dempsey reorganized the headquarters, published new theater strategy and campaign plans, all the while managing the rotations and deployments of tens of thousands of troops throughout his command’s AOR.

As leader of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, General Dempsey spread the gospel of adaptation in a world, where, as he is fond of saying: “Uncertainty is the only certainty in life in this century.”  He has pushed the Army to become more versatile and decentralized, and overhauled its approach to war-fighting, publishing a new capstone concept that elevates adaptation to an institutional imperative.

Before recommending him to the President as the next Army Chief of Staff, General Dempsey and I had talked about some of the same questions I posed recently to the cadets at West Point: In a post-Iraq and eventually, a post-Afghanistan future, how does the Army right-size itself to address future threats while maintaining hard-won battlefield experience?  And, how will the Army keep, challenge and empower those bright, young, battle-tested officers returning home so they will be around to lead it into the future?

The Army’s force design study he began while at TRADOC will, I’m certain, find the answers to some of those questions I’ve raised.  When it comes to developing and retaining future Army leaders, General Dempsey understands that a complex and unpredictable world will demand yet more agility and more resilience from our young men and women in uniform.  In turn, the Army must continue to challenge these young NCOs and officers to help them develop personally and professionally.

I’m confident Marty Dempsey will bring the same passion and dedication to building the Army’s next generation of leaders and guiding its future transition as he has to every other position during his impressive career.  Marty, you truly are a soldier’s soldier and I know the Army is in able hands.

Thank you and god bless you all.

International Surface Warfare Officers School Fosters International Relations

By Surface Warfare Officer School Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Fifteen naval officers graduated from the three-week Combat Information Center Watch Officer (CICWO) course during a ceremony at the International Surface Warfare Officers School (ISWOS) on board Naval Station Newport, R.I., April 1.

The officers were from Colombia, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tunisia, Trinidad-Tobago, and Uruguay. More than 150 allied nations send military students through selected courses at training centers and schools throughout the Naval Education and Training Command domain.

"The mission of ISWOS is simple; create the foundation for building trust through knowledge sharing for the purposes of international partnership and global security," said Lt. Cmdr. Jody Mandeville, director of the Surface Warfare Officer School International program. "The program is designed to foster international cooperation and prepare officers to serve at sea through professional education and knowledge sharing, and falls in line with the chief of naval operations' guidance for 2011, of establishing international relationships to increase security and achieve common interests in the maritime domain."

During their stay, students were immersed in the school's mission of preparing officers to serve at sea. The course emphasizes multi-threat warfare, combat information center equipment, special maneuvering, and navigation.

Students were taught how to plan, coordinate, and manage the supervision of all combat information center operations and training during routine peacetime steaming.

The school's high-tech conning officer virtual environment (COVE) and full mission bridge simulators gave the students a greater understanding of ship handling.

The students shared the same facilities and instructors with American students, and like their American counterparts, used the same modern classrooms and high-tech virtual reality trainers. The technology, along with hands on training, is used to broaden the scope of the students surface warfare knowledge, and ranges from basic seamanship to complex maritime operations.

Social and cultural events are included in the curriculum. Each student was assigned a sponsor to introduce them to American culture and foster personal relationships. During their free time the sponsors hosted students in their homes, took them to movies and gave them opportunities to experience American culture in an informal setting.

Students also participated in field service programs designed to promote an understanding of American society, its institutions, ideals and overarching commitment to basic principles of human rights. Trips included lectures at Salve Regina University, social gatherings with international students attending the U.S. Naval War College, and a Newport history and mansions tour.

Troops to Receive Full Mid-month Pay on April 15th

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2011 – All service members will receive their full mid-month pay they have earned in their April 15th paychecks, Pentagon officials said today.

“Basically, all active duty and reserve service members will receive full mid-month pay on the 15th of April,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan said. “It may be in two separate payments, but on the 15th everyone will receive their full allotted pay.”

Confusion arose about the April 15 payday due to the threatened closure of the U.S. government last week. Administration and congressional leaders came to an agreement that ended that action late on April 8.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service had posted “net pay advice” to some service members, telling them what to expect in their accounts.

“Those net pay advice statements were made … before we knew there was an agreement to fund the government,” Lapan said. “When those were posted they only showed partial payments, but again, everyone will receive their full pay on the 15th for the duty served and it may be in more than one deposit.”

Officials urge service members to check their end-of-month leave and earnings statements carefully. The normal end-of-month statements will be posted to accounts on April 22.

The finance and accounting service has restored access to all leave and earnings statements, net pay advice or advice of pay for service members on the Mypay website.

“The most-current advice of pay will still only show the partial payments for April 1-8,” the finance service posted on its website. “This will allow us to make sure we can still process pay for April 9-15 and take steps to ensure it is in bank accounts on the 15th.”

Continuing Promise Veterinarians to Provide Vital Training for Jamaican Counterparts

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st (SW) Kim Williams, Continuing Promise 2011 Public Affairs

USNS COMFORT, At Sea (NNS) -- Military veterinarians embarked on board USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), in conjunction with other civilian veterinarians, began facilitating diagnostic parasitology classes for Jamaican veterinary practitioners during a port visit to Kingston, Jamaica, as part of Continuing Promise 2011 (CP11), April 10.

U.S. Army Capt. Rachel Lee and veterinary health care technicians, Army Sgts. Heather Robinson and Bethzabe Delgado, will perform the first study of food animals the island country has had in the last two decades.

"In Jamaica, we are going to be teaching at the national diagnostic lab, so we will probably have a very big influence there since they haven't had a parasitology study in food animals since 1980," said Lee. "These studies are very important for condemnation reasons, because there are a lot of things that animals can get that would prevent people from eating their meat safely."

Lee said that she and her team will teach at least three classes and work one-on-one with the host country animal health practioners.

"I'm excited to be on this mission, because I've only had one other similar mission to the Philippines, which was very small scale, as far as larger animals goes, so working as part of CP11 will be very exciting for me," said Robinson. "I'm very interested in helping the locals learn more about how to better their livelihood and their food because their animals are their lifeline."

The CP11 mission consists of veterinarian care in addition to medical, dental, engineering and subject matter expert exchanges. The mission is focused on helping people and building lasting partnerships with nations throughout the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Comfort will also visit Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Peru.

COMUSNAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT 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.

General Casey Retirement Ceremony

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, The Pentagon, Monday, April 11, 2011

I’m honored to be here today to pay tribute to a truly dedicated soldier, General George Casey, as he retires after more than four decades of service to our country.

I’d like to start by saying a few words about the Casey family, which continues a proud tradition of service and sacrifice to the Army and to our country.  Always by his side, George’s wife, Sheila, has provided strong support throughout his career – through the triumphs and rough spots.  Sheila’s has been a powerful voice of friendship and hope for so many of America’s young military families as they endure the countless sacrifices and challenges this country asks of them.  Thank you Sheila for all you have given.  I’d also like to recognize and thank their sons Ryan and Sean for their sacrifices and support along the way, including Ryan’s service as a soldier in Afghanistan.

Today, we say goodbye to a valued leader who has served with honor and distinction throughout a long and successful military career.  Early on, George displayed an impressive endurance for hardship – not only did he get a Ranger tab, he also volunteered to spend a year in the Sinai as a United Nations observer, sharing cramped quarters with a group of Russian officers.  That posting, to one of the bleakest spots on the planet, with Ivan watching his every move, ably prepared George for later assignments at one of the planet’s other bleak spots, the Pentagon.  He survived several rotations within these walls, and his performance led to some of the most important joint positions in our military, including Director of Strategic Plans and Policy and, later, Director to the Joint Staff.

It’s a great testament to General Casey’s sense of duty that, well ensconced as Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, he took on one of the toughest assignments in recent military history: commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.   He led our forces in Iraq through a difficult and crucial period – the transition to a sovereign government, three elections, and the growth – in size and capability – of the Iraqi Army and Police.  His personal demeanor, steady confidence and care for the well being of his troops served as an important example for our young men and women on the front lines.

General Casey became Chief of Staff knowing full well the stresses and strains that had buffeted the Army during what he so aptly labeled an “era of persistent conflict” – the stress of patrolling Iraq’s narrow streets, never knowing where the next lethal bomb will be, or walking point in Afghanistan’s countryside, not knowing if the next step will be your last.

George and Sheila journeyed to installations and units around the world to speak to Army families and see firsthand how they were handling the strain of simultaneously fighting two wars.  They saw that the Army family needed care and attention.

Under General Casey, the Army expanded programs to help America’s wounded sons and daughters receive needed treatment and recover from war’s physical and emotional trauma.  George greatly increased the number of behavioral health providers and improved mental health screening for returning soldiers in order to identify those at risk.

He pushed the Army to reduce the stigma associated with combat stress and traumatic brain injuries and to treat them as the injuries they truly are.  General Casey led the battle to provide long-term support to survivors of the fallen, creating the Army Survivor Outreach Services.  He also implemented alcohol treatment and suicide prevention programs at Army installations around the country to help returning soldiers struggling to adjust to life at home.

When authorized to increase the size of the Army during this high demand period, General Casey did it rapidly – meeting or exceeding goals for both numbers and quality.  Because of his efforts, the Army was able to end the practice of stop-loss and increase soldiers’ home station dwell time – developments that have greatly increased force readiness.  Nearly 70 percent of the Army is now on a path to meet the goal of two years home for every year deployed.  As the drawdown in Iraq continues, and the transition in Afghanistan begins, I hope the Army will be able to achieve its longer term goal of three years home for every year deployed.

The Army George Casey leaves behind, a force that has borne the brunt of our nation’s wars, is more resilient, better trained, more balanced and vastly more lethal because of his leadership.  He served as a stalwart advocate and guide for thousands of brave young men and women, and their loved ones.

General Casey, as you retire after so many years of distinguished service to the American people and to your beloved Army, I want to express the gratitude of this nation, and, most importantly, the gratitude of the soldiers whose causes and concerns you made your own.  Yours is a record of dedicated and distinguished service – one that I am certain will be a source of great pride to you in the years to come.

I wish you and Sheila all the best as you begin this next chapter in your lives.  Thank you and god bless you all.

MCPON Sends Submarine Birthday Message

Special Special from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West released the following Submarine birthday message to the Fleet April 11:

"For 111 years, our Submarine Force has been protecting America's interests around the world, underway at sea on ships that sink by design, operating independent for weeks and months in the depths over the vast expanse of hydrospace. U.S. submarines are tasked with a range of missions including the collection of vital intelligence, operating as part of carrier strike groups, and defending our nations interests forward deployed.

At the heart of these operations, onboard every submarine, is a finely tuned crew of expert submariners and operators. It takes significant dedication and teamwork to maintain these ships, keep them at sea operating and accomplishing the Navy's mission. Those deployments and missions would not be successful without this team of Undersea Warriors we call submariners.

Let's not forget the submarine team ashore who work tirelessly to keep our submarines ready for tasking and on point. The submarine headquarters staffs ashore (Force, Group and Squadron), the nation's two submarine tenders, service support commands, and training commands, these organizations do the hard work it takes to prepare and deploy these ships into harm's way. They ensure we provide the support our combatant commanders require and continue to prove that our great Navy is a Global Force for Good.

Thank you, submariners, for what you do every day and for your continued service and dedication to our nation and our Navy.

Happy Birthday Shipmates!

Going Deep … Dolphin 36

HOOYAH!

Very Respectfully,
MCPON

Face of Defense: Airman Aids Japan Recovery Effort

By Air Force Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

SENDAI, Japan, April 11, 2011 – A little more than 14 years ago, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Fletcher, who then held the rank of airman basic, was lost on the streets of Tokyo.

It was the first weekend of Fletcher’s first week at his first assignment in Japan at Yokota Air Base.

Fletcher said two Japanese couples observed his predicament and escorted him to the correct train, and then rode with him all the way to Yokota.

When Fletcher tried to pay his newfound Japanese friends for their time and kindness, he recalled, they said they were just happy to speak English with someone and were happy to help.

Fletcher said that’s when he decided Japan would be a good place to be stationed.

"I've been in love with Japan ever since," he said.

Fletcher is an air transportation specialist with the 353rd Special Operations Group based at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Now, he's deployed to Sendai Airport, where he oversees cargo-loading operations with a four-person crew.

Fletcher and his team are supporting Operation Tomodachi, the relief effort that’s aiding the Japanese people following the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Fletcher was part of the initial team sent here to help the Japanese recover and reopen the airport.

Since Fletcher and his crew arrived, he said, air transporters have unloaded millions of pounds of water, food, blankets and other relief supplies, in addition to all of the equipment they needed to keep their part of the operation going.

"This is the kind of thing most of us joined the Air Force to do," Fletcher said. "I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing. We were told the Japanese people needed help, and well, they helped me the first week I lived here. Of course I want to do whatever I can to give back."

Fletcher and his team live in the airport’s passenger terminal along with scores of airmen, soldiers and Marines also supporting the relief mission. The group has an electric generator to run the computers needed for air traffic control and cargo shipment manifests.

There's little to no heat in the building, Fletcher said, so the days and nights are cold.

"It's freezing in the terminal, but at least I have a roof over my head," he said. "We see it snowing outside and realize that we're the lucky ones. We've heard there are half-a-million people displaced, out of their homes and living in shelters.

“So it's cold, but it could be a lot worse," he added.

The Japanese people’s strength, kindness and generosity greatly impresses U.S. service members involved in Operation Tomodachi, Fletcher said.

"One day, a Japanese man came all the way out here with a big bag of apples, just to thank us for what we were doing,” Fletcher recalled. “That was the first fresh fruit any of us had had in eight days. I swear that was the best apple I'd ever tasted. I ate everything down to the seeds."

Fletcher said he and his crew are optimistic and focused on the task at hand.

"Every time the back of a plane opens up and it's a pallet of water, I can say for a fact, 'Somebody needs that,'” Fletcher said. “So when we get supplies off a C-130 and onto a helicopter, we know this whole thing is for a good cause.

"If I retired today, this would be the highlight of my career," he said.

First Lady, Dr. Biden to Launch Family-support Initiative

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will launch a national initiative tomorrow that will call on all sectors of society to support and honor America’s service members and their families.

The initiative is intended to educate, challenge and spark action among citizens, communities, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic organizations and the government, a White House release said.

Following the initiative’s launch, Obama and Biden will embark on a two-day national tour to visit examples of communities, businesses and nonprofits working to support military families, the release said. Along the way, they’ll highlight the work of Americans –- from teachers and business leaders to neighbors and volunteers –- who are serving military families.

Obama and Biden will kick off their tour by speaking to 3,000 military and family members at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on April 13, the release said. Special guests Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos and Maj. Gen. Carl B. Jenson, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East, also will attend.

Following their remarks, Obama and Biden will visit with the organizers of Operation Shower, a nonprofit organization that hosts unit-wide baby showers for expecting military families in a deployment or high-stress situation, the release said. Obama and Biden will join in a celebration for 40 pregnant military spouses and deliver gifts donated through a White House Operation Shower donation drive. Special guest Martha Stewart will attend to teach scrapbooking to military moms.

Obama and Biden next will travel to San Antonio to visit with service members and families at the Warrior and Family Support Center. The center, built with private donations and run by community volunteers, helps care for family members while they care for a wounded warrior. Obama and Biden also will meet privately with wounded warriors and families at nearby Brooke Army Medical Center.

They’ll wrap up the day at an event at Coors Field in Denver. The Colorado Rockies and Coors Field has invited military families from across Colorado to a special viewing of the Rockies vs. Mets game. Obama and Biden will speak to the families and participate in activities with them. Special guests include entertainer Jessica Simpson and the Air Force Academy baseball team, which will practice with military children.

The next day, Obama and Biden will stop by the National Math and Science Competition at the Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. In conjunction with the National Math and Science Initiative, they’ll host a science competition where military parents will challenge the students at the school, which primarily serves military families. The event is intended to raise awareness of the challenges military children face and the need for advanced placement courses in math and science at schools serving military children. Joining them at the event will be gust participants from the Discovery Channel program “MythBusters.”

Next, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will join Obama and Biden for an employment event in Columbus, Ohio, to highlight how several major businesses have made commitments to ensure job transferability for military spouses. By enabling spouses to transfer, they can more easily retain their jobs at a participating facility in their new community, the release said.

Obama and Biden will wrap up their tour at a community event for military families in Columbus. The USO and Sesame Street will host a concert-style event honoring National Guard members and their families. Local organizations doing great work in their communities who need volunteers or donations to support military families will be recognized. The event will feature a performance from singer and producer Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers and Sesame Street Muppets including Elmo. Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, also will attend.

Earlier this year, Obama and Biden previewed their new initiative during a National Governors Association meeting at the White House.

“We’re very excited about this initiative because we think that this will not only help our troops and their families, but it will help us as a nation link together and be even stronger,” the first lady said at the time.

“It’s about showing our gratitude to that very small group of Americans who make such a tremendous contribution and sacrifice to this country,” she added. “And it’s about serving the people who sacrifice so much to serve us.”

Navy's Diveristy Working Group Ranked Nationally as Number One

By Lt. j.g. Lorna Mae Devera, Diversity Directorate Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy Strategic Diversity Working Group received national accolades from the Association of Diversity Councils by earning the organization's prestigious Diversity Council Honors Award, April 5.

The Association of Diversity Councils is the only entity that holds a competition specifically highlighting the value diversity councils bring to an organization's efforts.

Navy Strategic Diversity Working Group (SDWG) earned the council's number one ranking from amongst notable competitors such as American Airlines, ranked number three; FEDEX, ranked number four; Best Buy, ranked number 12; Wells Fargo, ranked number 14; and Pfizer, ranked 21.

Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, Chief of Naval Personnel shared his pride on the significance of the Diversity Council Honors award and the importance of the Navy's Diversity Outreach programs.

"This award is a representation of the hard work and dedication of the Navy's Strategic Diversity Working Group," said Ferguson. "Navy's ranking as number one is humbling and confirms that the Navy's program is recognized externally as one of the best in the nation."

As the highest honor offered by the Association of Diversity Councils, the Diversity Council Honors Award was created in 2009, to honor the outstanding contributions and achievements of diversity council groups that lead organizational diversity processes and demonstrate results in their Workforce, Workplace and Marketplace.

Outreach Lead and Operations Officer, Cmdr. Lori Roe, accepted the award at the 2011 Diversity Council Honors Award, sponsored by The Boeing Company, Johns Hopkins Medicine, PRISM International and other nationally recognized names.

"This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Navy, our council and our message of diversity and inclusion," said Roe. "This is validation for all the efforts our diversity leaders have made over the past year and a testament to their dedication and passion for the diversity mission.

"This evening we felt the excitement and pride that comes with being surrounded and appreciated by our colleagues in diversity across the spectrum of business and academia. We are honored and privileged to be counted among such diversity professionals," said Roe.

More than 100 organizations nominated their diversity councils for participation in 2011, an increase of more than 20 percent from last year. Competitors for the award must have been in operation for at least two years and have demonstrated contributions and achievements in four categories: demonstrated council results; demonstrated management commitment; measurement and accountability; communication and education.

The Navy's SDWG program began in 2007. Since its inception, the group has established a solid foundation for Navy units such as Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, Office of the Chief of Navy Reserve, and Naval Education and Training Command to collaborate and communicate effectively on how and what efforts need to be executed during national diversity events to include, Black Engineer of the Year Award, League of United Latin American Citizens, Federal Asian Pacific American Council, and Society of American Indian Government Employees.

The Navy Strategic Diversity Working Group first applied for consideration in 2009, and was ranked number 11. In 2010, Navy SDWG moved up the list to be ranked at number eight. The Navy SDWG is the only government entity recognized on the 2011 awards list.

USS Monterey Visits Naples During Inaugural Missile Defense Deployment

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

NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- The Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) arrived in Naples, Italy, April 10, during a regularly scheduled port visit.

During the port visit, Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet is scheduled to come aboard to speak with the crew.

"This is an important port visit for us because we will meet with Vice Adm. Harris and members of his staff," said Capt. James W. Kilby, Monterey commanding officer. "It is significant because many of the exercises and operations we will be conducting will help define the mission for following European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) ships."

Sailors from Monterey will also have the opportunity to visit Rome, tour the Colosseum, the Circus Maximums, and the Baths of Caracalla during guided tours.

"This is a good time to pull in, our Sailors will get to see Rome and it is just before Easter so Rome should be exciting," said Master Chief Keith Mahaffey, Monterey command master chief. "A lot of our Sailors have never visited Naples before, and I think that this will be one of our best liberty ports for our deployment."

The Monterey is the first U.S. Ship to participate in the 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.

Throughout her deployment, the Monterey will be touring NATO member states and demonstrating the ship's Ballistic Missile Defense capability.

Monterey, homeported out of Norfolk, Va., is on a scheduled six-month deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility.