Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, April 14, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivers remarks at 10:30 a.m. EDT at the groundbreaking for the National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Va.  Media interested in attending should contact Rebecca Aloisi at 703-799-8607.

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

Commander, U.S. Pacific Command Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard and Commander, U.N. Command; Commander, Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command; and Commander, U.S. Forces Korea Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp testify at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea in review of the Defense Authorization Request at 10 a.m. EDT in room H-140, Capitol.

U.S. Army Col. Arthur Kandarian, commander of Regional Command South's Task Force Strike drawn from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, accompanied by Afghan Army Col. Ghalum Murtaza Sarwari, commander of 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps, will brief the media live from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, at 10:30 a.m. EDT in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to provide an update on current operations.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

This Day in Naval History - April 13

From the Navy News Service

1847 - Naval Forces begin a five-day battle to capture several towns in Mexico.
1861 - Fort Sumter surrenders to Confederate forces.
1960 - The Navy's navigation satellite, Transit, is placed into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and demonstrates ability to launch another satellite.

MCPON Testifies before Senate on Quality of Life

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Sonya Ansarov, Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The master chief petty officer of the Navy (MCPON) testified for the first time before the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee April 13.

MCPON (SS/SW) Rick D. West, along with the other top enlisted leaders from the Marines, Army and Air Force, appeared before the committee to discuss the health of their forces, quality of life programs, family readiness, continuum of care, Reserve force, and family housing.

"Current operational demands and high operating tempo have placed added stress on the force," said West. "Our many personnel and family readiness programs remain one of our Navy's highest priorities."

Navy's Homeport Ashore program, bachelor and Navy family housing, childcare, and Continuum of Care were important issues that were brought up to the congressional subcommittee.

"One area that has had recent significant impact on quality of life for our families that I feel the need to highlight is the Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year 2011," said West.

West detailed for the committee how the spending restrictions under the CR resulted in considerable delays in permanent-change-of-station (PCS) orders and more than 20,000 sets of orders were deferred. He said under the CR, the Navy has not had sufficient manpower funding to allow for normal lead times for Sailors to receive PCS orders, and the result is the average lead times have been reduced from four to six months to two months or less.

"While relief is on the way, lingering effects of the CR will continue to place emotional and economic strain on our Sailors and their families as they attempt to sell homes, seek follow on employment for family members, enroll children in schools, and complete necessary screening and training requirements prior to transfer," said West.

West continued to explain that though our leadership continues to be resourceful in mitigating the impact, the CR has affected funding for new construction and facility sustainment in barracks and base operating support.

West gave the committee a global snapshot of the Navy's current operations with approximately 60 percent of the Navy's ships underway, 40 percent being on deployment worldwide, and more than 28,000 Sailors are on the ground and at sea in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Naval forces are providing direct support of ongoing operations in the Mediterranean Sea, executing counter-piracy missions off the coast of Africa, and continuing to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the people of Japan.

Greater demand on Navy forces has lead to longer deployments and shorter dwell, or turnaround times, which increases strain on Sailors, Navy civilians and their families, West explained. West said he firmly believes that how the Sailors sent to war, the families they leave behind and those wounded and retired shipmates are supported, truly defines us as a Navy and a nation.

"Despite these challenges, our leadership remains focused on providing support to our Sailors and their families to foster resiliency as well as family readiness," said West.

In closing, West thanked the subcommittee for their steadfast support of our men and women in uniform.

The MCPON periodically testifies before Congress along with the senior enlisted leaders of the other services. This was his first appearance before the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

Korean War Actions Earn Medals of Honor

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 – President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to two soldiers for conspicuous gallantry nearly 60 years ago during the Korean War, White House officials announced today.

Officials said Army Pfcs. Anthony T. Kaho’ohanohano and Henry Svehlawill will receive the nation’s highest award for valor in combat posthumously in a May 2 White House ceremony.

On Sept. 1, 1951, Kaho’ohanohano was in charge of a machine-gun squad with Company H, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. When faced by an enemy with overwhelming numbers, he ordered his squad to take up more defensible positions and provide covering fire for the withdrawing friendly force.

He then gathered a supply of grenades and ammunition and returned to his original position to face the enemy alone - delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy. When his ammunition was depleted, he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed.

His stand inspired his comrades to launch a counterattack that completely repulsed the enemy, a White House statement said.

Kaho’ohanohano's sister, Elaine Kaho’ohanohano, and brother, Eugene Kaho’ohanohano, will join the president at the Medal of Honor ceremony.

Svehla was a rifleman with Company F, 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. On June 12, 1952, his platoon came under heavy fire. With his platoon’s attack beginning to falter, Svehla charged the enemy positions, firing his weapon and throwing grenades as he advanced. Disregarding his own safety, he destroyed enemy positions and inflicted heavy casualties. He died when he threw himself on an enemy grenade that landed among a group of his comrades.

His sisters, Dorothy Mathews and Sylvia Svehla, will join Obama at the ceremony.

Chairman Thanks USO for Service to Military

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 – For 70 years, the USO and its thousands of volunteers have stood as a compass for the nation and adapted to the needs of every war Americans have fought, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said last night at the organization's 29th annual awards dinner.

"To the thousands and thousands of volunteers who still make a difference, to those who serve and to our military families -- and I speak for the 2.2 million men and women who serve -- thank you, and keep up the great work," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told members of the USO in an audience of 500 people at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City.

"As we sit down and enjoy the evening -- and I know this is on everybody's mind -- we should remember the sun is rising in Iraq and Afghanistan," Mullen said. "As we speak, we have tens of thousands of military men and women who are putting their lives in harm's way, and they are the ones who afford us the opportunity to spend a few moments together [tonight].”

The chairman said he's greatly appreciative of public and corporate support for service members and their families during the past decade at war.

"I just ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers," he told the audience.

Mullen praised the “many special people here who care a lot about our troops -- professional football players, announcers, wrestlers, entertainers, business men and women.

"I'd like to express my appreciation to each and every one of you," the chairman added.

Mullen also saluted the defense industry for its support of the military.

"I've seen that [support of the military] in our defense industry for decades,” the chairman said. “When I visit the plants, they are truly extraordinary Americans who want to make a difference for those of us who serve. To all of you for taking the time to be here, recognize that we are grateful for what you have given us and what you have given our men and women and their families over such an extended period of time."

Mullen introduced Medal of Honor recipients Bob Foley, Drew Dix and Barney Barnum, calling them "special people."

"I know how much you care, and your being here tonight says a lot about that," he told the heroes. "I thank so many of you in your society who have stepped forward to mentor those who are in these wars and share your experiences.”

Mullen said America owes a great debt to its service members, their families and the families of the fallen.

"We as a people and as a country must make sure we do everything we can to make sure they are OK for the rest of their lives,” he said. “And we will live with these challenges that we've gone through in these wars for decades."

Mullen said today’s U.S. service members are an extraordinary generation of people geared to serve and make a difference and the nation must recognize and tap that potential.

"They're going to make America so much better over the long run," he said.

The $572,000 raised at the dinner will be used for USO-Metro’s programs and services, including celebrity visits to local military hospitals, programs for families with deployed loved ones and emergency support for service members facing financial hardship.

Family Matters Blog: Blogger Interviews First Lady, Dr. Biden

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 – Yesterday, I attended a briefing at the White House in which the nation’s top leaders announced a national campaign that aims to bring together every sector of this nation -– from individuals and communities to businesses and nonprofits -– to support and honor service members and their families.

Speaking to a packed crowd of government officials, troops and their families, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden each expressed their enduring admiration and gratitude for military families and their excitement at launching the “Joining Forces” campaign.

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with the first lady and Dr. Biden in an interview at the White House to discuss this initiative and what sparked them to create it. I’ve been an admirer of their family-support efforts for some time, and was excited that I had the chance to sit down with them one on one at such a pivotal time.

Seated side by side, they told me they created this campaign to raise awareness of military families and the level of sacrifice they make, and to ensure they’re offered the support and care they deserve.

Many Americans are unaware of the challenges military families face daily, they said. This is compounded by the fact that military families, accustomed to exhibiting strength and resilience, often won’t ask for support.

Obama and Biden would like to create a nation that offers that support in abundance so families never again have to request it.

“I hope we never ever have again a military family who says, … ‘I just don’t think Americans appreciate what we do,’” Biden said. “I want them to know and feel they’re appreciated.”

Through the campaign, Obama and Biden will call on every sector of society to take action to ensure troops and their families have the support they need and deserve. They already have numerous commitments, they said, ranging from the corporate world to the entertainment industry to government agencies.

“This campaign is about renewing those bonds and those connections between those who serve and the rest of those who live free because of their service,” the first lady said.

Today, Obama and Biden embarked on a two-day tour of the nation to spotlight America’s efforts to support military families and to provide examples for others to follow. At each stop they’ll ask Americans: “How can I give back to these families who are giving me so much?”

I’ll be traveling to Columbus, Ohio, tomorrow to attend one of their family-support events. Check back here for my coverage of that event.

Coast Guardsman Train aboard Boone

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith, Southern Seas 2011 Public Affairs

USS BOONE, At Sea (NNS) -- Three U.S. Coast Guardsmen from USCGC Escanaba (WMEC 907) embarked guided-missile frigate USS Boone (FFG 28) April 9, to experience first-hand how the Navy operates in a joint service environment.

Boone and Escanaba will join guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) and guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) for UNITAS Atlantic phase (LANT) in South America. UNITAS LANT is a joint exercise involving navies from Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and Mexico.

Days before the exercise kicked off, Escanaba and Boone used the time for information exchanges, training and familiarization.

"This is our first time exclusively working with the U.S. Navy," said Ensign Alicia Flanagan, Escanaba combat information center officer and communications officer. "We have a lot of the same equipment and a lot of the same standards and procedures. I'm actually quite surprised at how similar the two services are. It's been an easy integration."

During UNITAS, forces will participate in a series of theater security cooperation events, including military-to-military cooperation, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, combined exchanges, exercises and operations, and maritime security.

"I think we have a lot to benefit from each other, especially now, with the Coast Guard expanding its missions and the locations we are working," said Flanagan. "I know the Navy is heavily involved in anti-drug trafficking and that's also one of our primary missions, but we bring the law enforcement capability. It's important that we're able to work together."

Aside from the larger interoperability scenarios and exercise planning, much of the information came down to simple hands-on experience with the smaller issues. The Coast Guardsmen learned how to tie down a Navy helicopter on a Coast Guard cutter, travel as part of a battle group and basic Navy combat watch stations.

"It's always good to get a perspective from how different U.S. services operate," said U.S. Coast Guardsman Operations Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Fojtik. "You understand the capabilities and limitations of the other ships, for example, how often can they set flight quarters? They might not be able to support the same things we can."

The Coast Guardsmen spent four days aboard, standing the regular watch rotation in the combat information center (CIC) and on the bridge.

"I had a great experience cross-training with the Navy," said U.S. Coast Guardsman Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Goodson. "Understanding what the other ships that we're steaming with are doing is definitely a great experience. I found it very beneficial and would recommend it to other Coast Guardsmen."

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.

Navy Hospital Ship Arrives in Jamaica

By Senior Airman Kasey Close, Continuing Promise 2011 Public Affairs

KINGSTON, Jamaica (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Kingston, Jamaica, for its first stop for Continuing Promise 2011 (CP11) April 13.

Comfort's deployment to the region exemplifies the U.S. commitment to cooperative partnerships in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

For this mission, Comfort's hospital, called the Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), is configured with specialized medical equipment and staffed by multi-specialized medical teams of military and civilian health care providers.

These caregivers will provide a range of services ashore, as well as on board the ship for approximately 250 patients.

"The staff aboard Comfort is excited about their first country as part of CP11 and to get started on the humanitarian assistance," said Capt. Kathy Becker, USNS Comfort MTF executive officer.

Continuing Promise will offer a variety of services to each country it visits including surgical, general surgery, neurology, emergency medical technicians, orthopedics, anesthesiology, dental, family medicine, pediatrics, preventative medicine, diagnostics and veterinarian.

These efforts are intended to foster cooperation, collaboration and interoperability with U.S. regional partners.

Members of the Navy's construction force, known as the Seabees, will perform several construction and repair projects throughout the Jamaican community. Seabees can provide construction projects, utility system repairs and construction/technical assistance, drainage and trenching projects.

Utilitiesman 1st Class Kevin Geegan, Navy Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28, is participating in his first Continuing Promise mission, but has been part of several other humanitarian missions. He said he is looking forward to improving the lives of the people in the Kingston community.

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.

Airman Missing in Action from WWII Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Martin P. Murray, 21, of Lowell, Mass., will be buried on April 16 in Marshfield, Mass.  Murray, along with 11 other crew members, took off on Oct. 27, 1943, in their B-24D Liberator from an airfield near Port Moresby, New Guinea.  Allied plans were being formulated to mount an attack on the Japanese redoubt at Rabaul, New Britain.  The crew’s assigned area of reconnaissance was the nearby shipping lanes in the Bismarck Sea.  But during their mission, they were radioed to land at a friendly air strip nearby due to poor weather conditions.  The last radio transmission from the crew did not indicate their location.  Multiple search missions in the following weeks did not locate the aircraft.

Following World War II, the Army Graves Registration Service conducted searches for 43 missing airmen, including Murray, in the area but concluded in June 1949 that all were unrecoverable.

In August 2003, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) received information on a crash site from a citizen in Papua New Guinea while it was investigating another case.  The citizen also turned over an identification card from one of the crew members and reported that there were possible human remains at the site of the crash.  Twice in 2004 other JPAC teams attempted to visit the site but were unable to do so due to poor weather and hazardous conditions at the helicopter landing site.  Another team was able to successfully excavate the site from January to March 2007 where they found several identification tags from the B-24D crew as well as human remains.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used dental comparisons and mitochondrial DNA in the identification of Murray’s remains. 

At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans.  Today, more than 74,000 are unaccounted-for from the conflict. For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at or call 703-699-1169.

George Washington Sailors Assist in Sasebo

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheryl Callahan, USS George Washington Public Affairs

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN73) Sailors spent some of their liberty time in Sasebo, Japan, with residents of the Sakura Challenged Home for handicapped citizens, April 12.

The volunteers cleaned the grounds of the facility, washed windows and watered plants.

"This particular community service (COMSERVE) event was an excellent opportunity to give our Sailors a chance to meet with some of the local people and help the community," said Lt. Cmdr. Jose Pimentel, USS George Washington chaplain. "This particular project also gave them a chance to interact with people of a capacity that they may not be used to interacting with or may not be comfortable interacting with."

The Challenged Home has been in operation for approximately 10 years and has 25 volunteers who help out during the week. The residents consist of people that are either physically handicapped, mentally handicapped or both. The residents spend the majority of their time learning to cope with their disabilities while making bread to sell to the local community. This serves as a way to keep them gainfully employed.

At the conclusion of the visit, the residents sang several songs and danced to show their appreciation for the work the Sailors completed. Sailors were then given the chance to sample the different breads made by the residents.

"This was a really nice trip," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Samuel Bly, from Marais, Minn. "I'm glad we could help out and after this experience I plan on doing more COMSERVEs."

"One of the bonuses of having these COMSERVEs is that when one person participates for the first time, they're hooked," said Pimentel. "This is the case for many Sailors, and not just from George Washington. They tend to sign up for multiple COMSERVEs events in the future because the very first event they participated in was such a positive and rewarding experience for them."

George Washington has been underway since March 21, after departing her forward-deployed homeport of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, in response to the complex nature of the natural 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.

Reservist Sailors Complete Joint Readiness Exercise

By Capt. Bryan Lewis, Defense Logistics Agency Joint Reserve Force

FORT EUSTIS, Va. (NNS) -- Ninety-four Sailors, seven Marines and more than 80 additional DLA Reservists from the Army and Air Force participated in the fifth annual Joint Reserve Training Readiness Exercise (JRTRX) aboard Ft. Eustis, Va., April 4-10.

The objective of the exercise was to enhance total force readiness while simultaneously completing service-required training and promoting teamwork.

"Our goal is to take every service and put them in a pseudo deployment environment; increase the operations tempo, increase their training, basically put them in an environment that is alien to them," said Lt. Cmdr. Onofrio Margioni, JRF deputy director of training and readiness and JRTRX director.

"The JRTRX mirrors exactly what our Reservists will be doing at the CONUS Replacement Center (CRC) and Navy Individual Augmentee Combat Training (NIACT). The reason why we offer JRTRX is to enhance the training for our troops."

More than 110 Joint Reserve Force (JRF) Reservists are deployed for combat logistic support at any given time. Prior to deployment Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines attend stateside, theatre-specific trainings in order to prepare for the downrange demands and environment.

Much like CRC and NIACT, which deploying service members must complete prior to heading downrange, the JRTRX provides its attendees with Theater Specific Individual Requirements Training (TSIRT). This includes the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT), the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) 2000, the Leadership Reaction Course, weapon familiarization and firing range for M-4 and M-9 qualification, IED identification and reaction, Distribution Service instruction and joint physical training.

"We hit every milestone that we set out with the objective of ensuring our Reservists get a taste, and sometimes a bit more than just a taste, of what they'd be experiencing at CRC and NIACT, including an increase in ops temp that would give a familiarization of what to expect in theatre," Margioni said.

Adding flavor to the "taste" of the simulated deployment was the successful firing of more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition via M4s and M9s. Each Sailor, Soldier and Marine had the opportunity to qualify with the appropriate weapon for his or her rank. Of those who fired a M9, 90 percent qualified, with 72 percent qualifying with the M4. Additionally, Airmen were given the opportunity to complete weapon familiarization fire, and all attendees had a hands-on opportunity to safely aim and fire a weapon. .

Leading the way in qualification on the M9 range was Navy Reserve Rear Adm. Ray English, director, DLA Joint Reserve Force, who reminded participants of the most important aspect of this exercise – taking care of each other.

"Of all the experience and training you gained, the most important thing I hope you've learned and keep with you when you deploy is we take care of each other," English said. "If we take care of each other, everything else will turnout right."

The importance of team that English spoke about was lived out on the Leadership Reaction Course and the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer. The LRC challenges teams physically and mentally as they attempt to complete obstacles, such as maneuvering a wounded Soldier across a barrier. Much like the reaction course, HEAT recreates the physical sensation of a rollover to train personnel how to respond safely and quickly when exiting a compromised vehicle. The five service members must work as a team to safely egress the flipped vehicle.

The participants were intentionally divided into joint teams during the training to further demonstrate the nature of many deployed environments, especially those DLA members find themselves in.

The JRF's objective is to support the DLA mission worldwide, and it prides is self in being a "high-performing, customer-focused, globally responsive force." To further improve on this skill, members completed instruction on current activities by DLA Distribution. Members from this field activity's headquarters in New Cumberland, Pa., completed multiple hours of instruction for all attendees.

"This is more opportunity to hone your skills, and give you that confidence, so that when you are that DLA representative in theatre, you can do your best to provide that mission success; that difference helping the warfighter be successful," said Celia Adolphi, JRF deputy director. "You have the confidence in your combat skills to make your functional mission easier."

Members had additional opportunities to demonstrate their confidence as this year's event was two days longer than in previous years. The lengthened training schedule was a result of previous years' surveys and allowed for an extra day on the firing ranges, six more hours in the EST 2000, a full day of HEAT and a cookout to relax and celebrate all that the participants accomplished.

Upon completion of the JRTRX, members completed surveys about the training. A common theme amongst the comments was the high quality of the training, and that once again, they wished it was longer.

"In the end this was all about bringing people together and teaching them how to work together," said Margioni. "In the joint world if you can achieve that, you've done your job."

BATARG/22nd MEU Complete Integrated Training

From Bataan Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, Atlantic Ocean (NNS) -- The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BATARG) and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed three weeks of intensive training with Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic (SFTL) April 11 - 12.

The BATARG and 22nd MEU deployed three months ahead of their original schedule to relieve the Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU, currently conducting operations in the Mediterranean Sea.

An SFTL team of more than 60 active-duty service members and civilians embarked on board the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) to evaluate the ARG's ability to identify and respond to a broad range of operational challenges. Representatives from the Marine Corps' SOTG also embarked Bataan to conduct training and evaluate integration.

"This training allows us to test the ARG-MEU team's proficiency and decision-making abilities," said Rear Adm. Dennis FitzPatrick, commander, SFTL. "We're able to train, then assess their ability across multiple mission areas to include their ability to protect themselves, as well as their ability to project power."

Only 5 percent of Marines from 22nd MEU had been on board a Navy ship prior to their embarkation March 29. For many Sailors and Marines, the pre-deployment emergent integrated training (PDEIT) was their first experience operating at sea together.

"Things are coming together nicely," said Cpl. Leeland VanLeer, assigned to Easy Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd MEU, on board USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). "Over the past few weeks, we've become more comfortable with the ship and the crew, and I'm confident we're ready. I know we are."

In addition to learning each others' capabilities as an ARG-MEU team, watch standers from the three ships benefited from multiple air and surface defense exercises with guided missile destroyers USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and USS James E. Williams (DDG 95).

Complete focus was demanded of every Sailor and Marine as the exercises grew in scope and complexity including flight and well deck operations; replenishments-at-sea; air-defense exercises; non-combatant evacuations; tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel; medical evacuations; small boat operations, and visit, board, search and seizure missions.

"I've never been through a compressed training cycle like this before," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Terrance Bellock, assigned to Amphibious Squadron Six. "Everything comes at you all at once, and your body and mind have to adapt quickly to each event."

Because of all the pieces that need to come together to make each event successful, each person needs to understand his or her role and how that role contributes to the decision-making process, said Bellock, who is experiencing his fourth deployment.

"Communication is extremely important at the technical and procedural level and establishing relationships is critical for success," said FitzPatrick. "Watch standers need to know what information is important and how to make sure information flows through the correct channels to reach the right person or organization."

FitzPatrick expressed his confidence that a solid foundation had been established and that BATARG and 22nd MEU Sailors and Marines will continue to build upon that foundation throughout deployment.

"I am very impressed with this Navy and Marine Corps team," said FitzPatrick. "With their deployment accelerated, they have quickly and professionally come together and formed a powerful team."

The BATARG is comprised of Bataan, amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).

Face of Defense: Marine Answers Corps’ Call Twice

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jovane M. Holland
Marine Corps Bases Japan

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 – On Dec. 7, 1987, Derrick Butler raised his right hand and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, as a United States Marine.

More than a decade later, on July 6, 1999, he swore the oath a second time.

Although the circumstances behind each oath were radically different, both carried great pride and a sense of achievement, said Butler, a St. Louis native.

“My first enlistment was the result of a Marine Corps recruiter calling for my friend, and me picking up the phone. It was completely by chance,” Butler said. “The second time I enlisted, it was because the company I was working for shut down, and I missed the military way of life.”

Working as a cook throughout his first enlistment, Butler was unable to re-enlist at the end of his contract and left the Corps as a corporal. He moved to Missouri, where he worked at a manufacturing and exporting factory. When the factory closed its doors in 1999, he re-enlisted in the Corps.

The Marine Corps he returned to had undergone major changes since the late 1980s, but Butler, now a staff sergeant, said his love of camaraderie in the military has not changed.

“The Corps is still near and dear to my heart, no matter how much it has changed,” said Butler, who now serves as a construction wireman at Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler on Okinawa, a prefecture of Japan.

“No challenge I have faced since my return has been too overwhelming to face. I just adapt and overcome,” Butler said.

Butler’s comrades are glad he’s back.

“Staff Sergeant Butler is a mainstay in his junior Marines’ lives, because he has the ‘Marines are family’ mind set everyone needs when things get rough,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Benjamin Martin, a telephone surveyor who has known Butler since 2002. “He’s the Marine that gives you the safety brief and instills in you the pride in watching out for the Marine to the left and right of you. I couldn’t ask for a better staff noncommissioned officer.”

Butler said things have changed since his initial enlistment.

“We fought hard and played hard back in the day, but the day-to-day battle is much harder now than it was back then,” he explained. “I’m so glad the tools I acquired in the past help me to relate to and teach the new generation of Marines today.”

Butler plans to retire in five years and said he hopes to pick up promotion to gunnery sergeant before that time comes.

For young Marines who struggle with or experience regret over their decision to join, Butler shared some words of advice.

“Boot camp may not be a dreamboat, but to travel, see the world and embrace so many different cultures can be inspiring,” Butler said. “People look up to who we are and what we do for the world. Many of them only dream of living the life we live. We live it every day.”